It was the sound of the shower running that woke Max, reminded him of what the day was supposed to bring. He snuggled further under the covers with a groan, already missing the warmth of Danny beside him. While he’d been looking forward to moving back home Max wasn’t sure he was ready to face his friends. They’d become the family he’d never had before. Maybe if he didn’t get up he could put off the inevitable?
He’d faced Orcs with strange powers. He’d faced them after they’d grown to the size of a multistory building. So why was the thought of telling his friends about him and Danny being a couple scaring him so much?
Max pulled the covers over his head. Danny was calm, he didn’t seem worried at all. Of course Danny had done the whole coming out to family and friends before, so maybe it wasn’t so scary the second time around?
He wasn’t getting up, Max decided. He couldn’t face his friends at a Christmas party hosted by Wes. He’d just put it off until they had their own place back in Turtle Cove. Alyssa said that they could stay with her until they found their own place. What if she didn’t want them to after she found out that he and Danny were dating?
Why did being a couple have to be one of those things he and Danny had decided to tell their friends in person? They could’ve sent a letter, could’ve mentioned something in their multiple postcards. No, this is what they’d decided upon and now Max wasn’t sure he could go through with it.
Max buried his head into his pillow as he heard the shower shut off. Maybe he could convince Danny that today would be better spent in bed? That shouldn’t be too difficult, but he knew Danny was looking forward to seeing their friends. He hadn’t really seen any of them in three years. He should be looking forward to it too, he told himself. Where was his excitement?
As the door to the bathroom opened Max hugged his pillow. He was tempted to peek, but then Danny would have him getting up. They’d be that one step closer to getting out to the car to finish the hour of driving they had before they got to Silver Hills.
“Max?” Danny’s concerned voice asked.
Max closed his eyes more tightly and gave a noncommittal noise as a response.
“Are you sick?” Danny asked before his hand had reached into the covers and rested against Max’s forehead.
Max smiled at the touch before he answered, “Does sick of heart count?”
After thinking about it a moment Danny told him, “Maybe.”
Then Danny’s hand was gone. Max huffed at the lack of contact and couldn’t stop his smile as Danny crawled under the covers to cuddle close.
“What do you think?” Max retorted.
“Bats or butterflies?” Danny asked.
Max ran his hand over his aching stomach, “Bats, definitely bats.”
Danny’s hand stopped his. Their fingers threaded together, “It’s going to be okay Max, you’ll see.”
“You can’t know that,” Max told him.
“They’re our friends,” Danny pointed out.
“So what?” Max sighed, “That doesn’t mean they won’t reject us.”
“Do you really think they would?” Danny asked.
“I don’t know,” Max replied with uncertainty in his voice, “I just know we saved the world together and I couldn’t stand not being friends with them, but…”
“It’s okay to be nervous.”
“You’ve lost friends,” Max pointed out, “Just because you’re bi.”
“Yes,” Danny admitted hesitantly, “and it hurts. It really does, but all it means is they weren’t the friends I thought they were. They’re missing out on a great friendship with me and that’s their choice. I can’t change who I am just because someone doesn’t agree with it.”
“I know,” Max said, “It doesn’t make this any less nerve racking.”
“No,” Danny agreed, “It doesn’t. You just have to remember…”
“Never give up,” Max finished as he turned to face Danny.
Danny smiled at him, “Whatever happens you still have me.”
“I know,” Max grinned, grateful for that one fact amid all the numerous uncertainties the day had brought with it, “But what do we do if Alyssa decides she doesn’t want us staying with her? What happens if Taylor gets all pissed off? Or Eric? Eric’s as scary as she is when he’s pissed off. What if Wes kicks us out? What if we have to explain to Cole? What if he just doesn’t get it? Or Merrick? Oh man, I didn’t even think about that earlier. Do you think people were gay three thousand years ago?”
Danny blinked at the onslaught of questions.
“Of course they were, duh,” Max answered himself, “What if Merrick…”
“Max!” Danny interrupted.
“Max!” Danny said sharply to get his attention.
Max’s mouth snapped shut. Danny gave him a reassuring kiss before telling him, “We’ll handle everything as it comes up.”
Max frowned, “But…”
“Never give up,” Danny reminded.
“Using my own saying against me,” Max grumbled fondly.
Danny smiled, ran a hand over Max’s cheek and pointed out, “You should go take a shower.”
“Or we could stay here,” Max tried, “We don’t have to check out till noon.”
“And we need to be on the road in an hour. You still need a shower and we should get a quick breakfast,” Danny told him in a voice that brokered no arguments.
“You’re no fun when you channel Taylor,” Max teased before he gave Danny a quick kiss and headed for the shower. Even as he showered, brushed his teeth there were multiple scenarios running through his head. Despite the fact that he knew dwelling was only going to make his stomach bats worse Max couldn’t stop the worry. He could barely eat the breakfast they picked up.
Finally they were there and Max realized there would be no turning back. Well it wasn’t like they were just going to announce it, but they weren’t going to pretend they weren’t a couple. They were just going to let it come up naturally. Their friends were an observant group, but not everyone noticed when something was right in front of their face. Maybe no one would notice? Maybe no one would care?
“Wow,” Danny observed, “Wes used to live in a really big place.”
“His new house isn’t exactly tiny,” Max pointed out.
“Yeah, but it’s at least normal size,” Danny said in awe.
Max nodded. The mansion where Wes’ dad was having him host a Christmas party for former rangers was bigger than he’d anticipated. Which was probably a good thing, Max concluded as he took in the number of cars parked outside.
They sat parked for a moment, just watching the other people walk in. Max wrinkled his nose, “I recognize Lightspeed, what about you?”
Danny just shook his head, eyes wide.
“Hey dude! Wait up!” a young man in yellow called to a friend in red as he ran to catch up.
A group of three teenagers walked past them. One was in red, another blue and the other white. The one in white frowned, “I still wish Kira was here.”
“She’s in New York,” the one in blue responded, with a roll to his eyes, “She couldn’t afford it.”
“We should have a road trip to go see her,” the one in red said excitedly.
This caused the other two to exchange a look and shake there heads, before blue pointed out, “I have school.”
“Work and school,” their friend in white protested.
“That’s why it’s a break,” the one in red argued back as they slipped out of earshot.
“What?” Danny asked.
“I am so not the ‘kid’ anymore,” Max told him.
“You never were,” Danny reassured.
“Maybe not to you,” Max said, before he admitted, “but to some people I was. Well enough gaping, let’s go in.”
Danny agreed. Their hands found each others as they left the car and headed inside.
“Danny! Max!” Wes greeted both of them enthusiastically, claiming hugs.
“Hi,” Max managed as he was let go. Danny echoed his greeting.
“I can’t believe you guys made it,” Wes grinned, “The pictures you’ve sent don’t do you justice. You two look great.”
Wes paused to look around, “Well Cole’s not here yet. He’s probably still getting Merrick here. Eric and Taylor are over there and Alyssa is…is…”
“Right here,” Alyssa spoke up.
“Hey,” Wes said giving here a hug too.
“You already gave me my hug,” Alyssa smiled and then shook her head as another guest commandeered Wes’ attention. She turned and greeted the both of them with hugs before hustling them over to where Eric and Taylor were standing. She bounced up to them, “Guys, look who it is!”
They both turned. Max felt his nerves spike again.
Taylor raised an eyebrow and stepped closer.
“Hi Danny,” she greeted before she walked around Max slowly. Max glanced at her a few times not sure what to say. She stopped in front of him before she glanced back at Eric, “Guess I can’t call him a kid anymore.”
Eric stepped forward and wrapped an arm around her before he agreed, “Nope, you can’t.”
“He definitely got taller,” Alyssa put in.
“I had one last growth spurt,” Max protested. He wasn’t really that much taller.
“You filled out too,” Taylor said, “Nope, not a kid anymore.”
Max felt himself blush especially since he’d been acting like a kid just that morning.
Eric nodded in agreement with Taylor before informing them he didn’t hug. He proceeded to shake their hands and welcome them back. Then silence descended over them.
“So…um,” Danny shuffled awkwardly.
Max frowned, trying to think of something to say besides the expected small talk of what they’d been up to while he and Danny had toured the world.
“Are you two together yet?” Taylor asked, bluntly breaking the silence.
“Taylor,” Alyssa hissed at her.
“What?” Taylor asked, “It’s a valid question.”
Max was stumped silent. Had she just really asked that? He glanced at Danny. His boyfriend had a blush creeping up his cheeks as he glanced at his shoes.
“You can’t just…” Alyssa started.
“Why not?” Taylor interrupted, “I want to know if their dating yet.”
“We are,” Max confirmed.
Danny nodded in agreement before finding his voice, “Yes, we are.”
“Oh, good,” Taylor nodded, “Alyssa and I had this whole elaborate plan involving mistletoe if you two hadn’t figured it out.”
“It was mine and Wes’ original plan,” Eric pointed out.
“Yeah, but it worked so well for Katie and Trip that we figured it could be used again and hey, this time it would’ve been seasonal,” Taylor reasoned.
“We traveled the world together over three years,” Max reminded, “Us was something we figured out early on.”
“You could’ve said,” Alyssa protested.
“We wanted to wait till we came home,” Danny explained, “So we could tell you in person.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t tell Cole,” Alyssa suggested, “He was really looking forward to helping out.”
“We don’t need a matchmaker,” Max laughed.
“I’ll go tell Wes we don’t need to borrow the mistletoe,” Eric said before he gave Taylor a kiss on the cheek and began to head over to where his teammate was greeting yet another newly arrived guest.
“There sure are a lot of people,” Danny observed.
“It happens when you have a new team practically every year,” Taylor said.
“But not this year,” Alyssa pointed out.
“There isn’t?” Danny asked.
“A few former rangers have looked, just in case, but they haven’t turned up anything,” Taylor shrugged.
“Wouldn’t it be hard to miss the oversized monsters and the bright color coded suits?” Max asked.
“You’d think,” Taylor agreed, “but some people aren’t ready to admit we might not be being attacked by evil.”
“It’s good if we aren’t,” Danny said.
“It is,” Alyssa agreed before she grinned, “They’re here!”
She raced off to greet Cole and Merrick.
Taylor’s shook her head, “The best part is that it means Oliver’s latest team is still the newbie’s. You should’ve been here last gathering. A few of his original teammates almost had him convinced no one considered him red anymore. It was hilarious.”
Max didn’t even have a chance to react because Cole was hugging him and then moving onto Danny all the while asking them so many questions they had no chance of keeping up. Max turned, caught the amusement in Merrick eyes. He took each of them in, his team, and smiled as he realized he’d had nothing to worry about.