When the Captain tells Wes and Travis that they have to go undercover as a couple in an attempt to take down a wedding planner who is suspected of stealing valuables from her clients’ homes, Wes at first thinks he is joking, but Wes’ life is never that simple.
“He isn’t getting near my car,” Wes says as Travis laughs, lagging behind, yet to realise that this is a fait accompli.
“I will leave you to negotiate amongst yourselves,” the Captain says generously, one hand extended, palm spread like he’s offering up a concession.
Travis stops laughing, humour draining from his face, looking between Wes and the Captain with growing surprise. “Is he serious?” he asks Wes. “Is this a serious suggestion?”
“I’m serious,” Wes says, and turns deliberately to face Travis, shaking his head in a slightly exaggerated manner. “You are not getting your grubby hands anywhere near my new car. Never let it be said that I don’t learn my lesson.”
“The last two times were not my fault!” Travis protests.
“Oh, yes, they were,” Wes says. “In fact, the last three times—“
Travis interrupts with an appeal to the Captain. “Do you see what he’s like?” he asks, blue eyes flashing earnest entreaty. “I know you have the best interests of the department at heart, Captain, I believe that with all my heart, so my question to you is, do you honestly believe that we will both make it through this assignment alive?”
“I haven’t given it much thought,” the Captain says indifferently, used to Travis’ dramatics.
“Can we get the Doc to ride along again? Because I feel like we’re going to need the extra, the extra assistance with not killing each other on this!”
The Captain puts his elbow in the palm of one hand, his chin in the palm of the other, and regards Travis gravely.
“Get out of my office,” he says seriously.
Travis starts to splutter. Wes gets to his feet quickly, and yanks on Travis’ collar until Travis is stumbling after him towards the door.
“On it, Captain,” Wes says, wrangles Travis until he’s on his feet outside the office, and then slaps Travis’ head, because Dr. Ryan has given them another ridiculous homework assignment this week, one in which they are meant to attempt to use the vernacular of the other to facilitate easier communication and understanding.
Wes is hopeful his chosen method will allow him some minor success in this endeavour, and also, has been enjoying it a great deal.
“Why!” Travis objects, rubbing his head. “Nobody ever communicated with me like that!”
“I’ve met Marisol.”
After they’d helped her current foster-child out of a sticky situation that would surely have lead to time in juvenile detention, she’d given Travis ten dollars to go to the 7-11 and get hot-dog buns, and when she’d caught Travis sneaking it back into her purse she’d grabbed his ear and slapped him on the back of the head. It had sounded like it hurt. Travis had laughed.
Wes doesn’t hit him that hard.
“You—“ Travis’ shoulders come up, readying for a confrontation, and Wes braces himself for the useless, frustrating attempts at worming out of this. When Travis points his finger into Wes’ face, Wes is expecting some hopeless objections, reasons why this won’t work and the Captain is crazy for suggesting it, but instead, Travis says, “I want a divorce!”
And then Wes has to pretend that half the bullpen isn’t staring at him in astonishment and speculation while Travis storms off.
Travis is waiting for him on the porch when Wes gets home.
“I didn’t even want your housewarming,” Wes says. “What makes you think I want you showing up with beer?”
“I can do a six-pack,” Travis says, looking between it and Wes. “You want a nice Zinfandel, baby? Don’t let me stop you, I know you got one waiting, calling your name.”
“Don’t pretend you know anything about wine.”
Travis’ smile is easy, and Wes leaves the door open so Travis can follow him inside.
Wes doesn’t have much in the house yet, but he does have a few bottles of wine. He pulls out his Rioja Gran Reserva and pours himself a glass. He doesn’t offer Travis any, but when he turns at the crack of the can, Travis is already throwing the ring-pull at the sink.
Wes bites off his curse, because he gets the impression the next few days are going to be difficult enough without adding anything, but he dives after the bit of metal as it bounces into the corner, and when he’s dropping it in the trash he can’t help demanding, “Why are you such a pig?”
“Why are you such an anal asshole?” Travis asks from where he’s sprawled on Wes’ sofa.
Wes scoffs dismissively, irritated at the question, and unwilling to deal with it.
He walks over to his sofa and shoves Travis’ leg off the cushion so he can take a seat. Travis knows better than to put his feet up on Wes’ furniture by now, but most of the time he does it anyway, so this is unusually courteous of him.
“What?” Wes asks suspiciously.
“Nothing,” Travis says, tossing a deceptively effortless grin at Wes that disappears when he remembers who he’s talking to. Now he looks uncomfortable instead. “Look, I get that this is a difficult situation for you.”
“It isn’t. You’re the one who threw a bitchfit in Captain Sutton’s office.”
“This is not his sanest, most logical plan. In fact, this is possibly in the bottom three of his sanest plans.”
“Five,” Wes says. “Gibraldi.”
Travis accepts the correction without protest, but only because Wes is so incontestably right.
“I don’t see why it can’t work,” Wes continues, but Travis isn’t listening.
“I understand how awkward this must be for you,” Travis says.
In fact, given Travis’ reaction to the Captain’s suggestion, Wes doesn’t know why Travis thinks he’s in any position to provide counsel on this; with the amount of women Travis still attempts to interest, Wes has been wondering if that was some sort of kneejerk revulsion to the idea of pretending to be interested in a man.
But Travis probably just doesn’t want to pretend to be interested in Wes.
“I mean, with your personal circumstances this has to be uncomfortable for you,” Travis adds, and Wes’ blood runs cold.
He takes a sip of wine to buy himself a second to think about what he’s going to say to Travis, to wonder what Travis might have noticed.
Travis has always been a good detective.
“I know you still haven’t dated anyone since Alex, man,” Travis says, his sympathy genuine. Wes wishes it weren’t such a relief that Travis, for all his charm of manner and facility with people, can be so oblivious.
“I haven’t met anyone I’m interested in,” Wes says, the truth. “It isn’t a big deal.”
“Still.” Travis rubs a hand over the back of his neck, a stiffness to the gesture that betrays his discomfort. “If you don’t want to do this I can talk to the Captain again, see if I can get him to send someone else in with me.”
Wes blinks. The natural assumption is that Travis is attempting to use the assignment as an excuse to pick up whichever female detective it is he’s got his eye on this week, but Travis isn’t selling it, won’t meet Wes’ eye, and the underlying currents feel treacherous.
Wes gets out of the water.
“I’m not letting you use this to come onto any rookies,” he says. “No chance.”
“That isn’t what I meant,” Travis says after a minute.
It sounds like he’s trying to be unconvincing. Wes doesn’t want to know what he’s attempting to hide, so he says, “Right,” and cocks his thumb at the door. “Out.”
“I got five beers left!”
“I have Italian to eat and a symphony to listen to.”
“I thought we could order pizza and watch last night’s game,” Travis says, like that’s something Wes might be into, like that’s something they do.
“No,” Wes says definitively.
Kicking Travis out gets easier once Wes reminds him that he still hasn’t purchased a television.
Travis takes his beer with him. Wes finishes his wine while he waits for his orecchiette pasta to heat, and thinks about going out to eat alone again.
He doesn’t let himself wonder where Travis has gone.
The next day, they walk into Bridal Fancies, Melissa Williams’ wedding planning business.
“Isn’t the name a little limiting?” Wes asks, casting his eye around the spotless white reception area, the sleek lines of the expensive furniture. The receptionist looks expensive too.
“Aw, Liz, don’t judge a book by its cover.”
“I’m not certain an organisation with such a specific name is capable of catering to our needs,” Wes says, aware of the eavesdropping receptionist.
“You always do that,” Travis says, “You always pick, pick, pick, you’re never happy with anything.” For a moment Wes forgets where they are and opens his mouth to respond like they’re sitting at their desks arguing over lunch, but before he can speak, Travis continues, “This is going to be worse than the time we tried flavoured condoms, isn’t it?”
Wes can’t help the flush that spreads over his skin at that. Travis’ eyes dart from Wes’ red face to the open collar of his shirt where the colour is spreading down his chest, and he looks amused, but he keeps speaking.
“And then you sent me back to the store to get the regular ones and you made me buy you a new toothbrush, too, because—“
“Mr Allen? Mr Branch?”
Travis swings around to face the receptionist, smile at full wattage, and she holds eye-contact for slightly too long, despite both knowing the purpose for which they are reputedly here and having heard Travis’ idea of establishing a romantic history with someone. She shakes it off quickly, at least.
“Yes! That’s us. We’re early, aren’t we? We’re always early.” Travis throws an affectionate glance over his shoulder at Wes, like this is a characteristic he is fond of, rather than one he complains about every single time Wes is in charge of getting them somewhere on time.
“Ms Williams is ready for you now,” the receptionist says, polite and pointed.
Melissa Williams is not ready for them, but the receptionist leads them in anyway, lowering herself to pour coffee from the carafe on the sideboard while Williams finishes her phonecall. Wes listens to her side of the conversation while Travis engages the receptionist, but he doesn’t pick up on anything useful.
“Thank you, Zoe,” she says, when she gets off the line. “That’s lovely.”
Zoe vanishes in a waft of perfume, and Williams gives them her full attention. She’d been flustered when Zoe had landed them on her unexpectedly, but there’s no sign of that now.
“Mr Branch!” She looks between them until Travis raises a hand. “And Mr Allen.” Her grip is firm and welcoming, but maintains a definite distance.
Wes judges everybody on their handshake. Travis held on too long, and touched the back of Wes’ hand with his free one. Travis has a tendency to use handshakes to encourage intimacy, but then Travis has a tendency to use everything to do that.
“What can I do to assist you, gentlemen?” Williams asks, settling back in her seat with a friendly smile.
Travis leans forward in his, but only so he can touch his knuckles to his cheekbone and smile into Wes’ face.
“Well,” he says, suddenly bashful. “We’re getting married.”
“How delightful! When’s the happy occasion?”
“Soon,” Travis says, “Very soon. Wes’ dad isn’t in the best health, and we really want him to be able to enjoy this. He’s looking forward to it so much.” Williams mmm’s understandingly. “He never thought Wes would ever get married, you know? Because you can’t tell this by looking at him—“ Travis and Williams pause to peruse his mien. “—but Wes is not usually the most passionate fish in the sea.”
Williams’ mmm is sympathetic this time, and Wes narrows his eyes at her.
“But Wes’ father tells me he has never seen a more passionate couple than the two of us, says we remind him of one of the great screen romances, like O’Hara and Butler, Smith and Smith, Burton and Taylor. You can call Wes—“
“You cannot call me Liz,” Wes says, heading that one off at the pass.
“Of course not,” Williams replies, smile crinkling her eyes.
“But you understand why it has to be soon,” Travis finishes. “This is the fulfilment of all Wes’ father’s hopes and dreams.”
“Not—“ Wes starts, and rolls his eyes when he realises how churlish he’s about to sound. “—all of them.”
“So we got engaged last week and we’re getting married the weekend after next.”
“Oh!” Williams says, startled.
“I realise it’s fast,” Travis says, reaching out to take Wes’ hand. Wes suppresses the instinct to withdraw with prejudice, and allows his fingers to curl around Travis’, nothing but awkward mimicry. “But that’s why we need you. We can’t do this alone.”
Williams covertly takes a breath while she considers; the rise of her chest is the only indication that she’s daunted by the task facing her.
“What’s the budget?” she asks, capitulation evident. Travis’ hand tightens, and he turns to include Wes in his blinding grin, triumph passing as pleasure.
“Negotiable,” Travis tells her, and that’s when things kick off.
Twenty minutes later, Wes is slumped in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose out of some sorry remnant of misguided optimism.
“—anywhere that prestigious at such short notice,” Melissa is saying. “I know you want a memorable day, but we need to be realistic here. You are not getting Marvimon. These places were booked out months ago, and to be frank, with the pressure you have me working under here, I could have gotten something useful done for you in the time we’ve wasted on this.”
“I know,” Travis says again. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. But I am not getting married in some shitty reception hall in the Valley, either.”
Travis turns his face to the ceiling obstinately. If Wes didn’t know better, he’d swear Travis actually had opinions on venues suitable for getting married.
“You’re going to have to compromise on this, and we need to make a decision, because I need to start getting your orders in and putting down deposits, and you’re going to lose a lot of money if I have to change things up because what we’ve arranged doesn’t suit the venue you settle on. We need to get this done.”
“Okay,” Travis says, “Okay.” He rolls his head from side to side, eyes still on the ceiling, then jabs his finger at Williams. “Descanso Gardens!”
Wes and Williams groan simultaneously, but he only smiles at her because he has to. Wes doesn’t get friendly with criminals, not even over justified frustration with Travis.
“Okay, okay, okay! I do know the bartender at Firmament.”
“No,” Wes says, and explains to Williams, “Ex.”
Travis had never made it anywhere with that bartender.
“He gets jealous,” Travis tells Williams, and she nods understandingly, something she’s been doing a lot of.
“Do either of you have anywhere you feel a personal connection with that would be appropriate for such an event?” Williams asks, a little desperately.
Wes thinks of the back lawn of the house he’d shared with Alex. She’s sharing her doctor’s house now, all the way out in Newport Beach. Wes misses his lawn. It would’ve been a good place to get married, if a little small, but then Wes doesn’t really like big events. His own wedding had been excruciating.
“Wes’ place has a nice garden,” Travis offers. “It has roses climbing up the walls and a sundial.”
“No,” Wes says.
It isn’t part of the plan for his house to be overtaken by wedding preparations; there are plenty of ways to get Williams over that won’t lead to him attempting to choke Travis with a flower arrangement or strangle Travis with his napkin rings. Wes doesn’t know how he ended up keeping those napkin rings, but he has been looking for a use for them.
“We can ditch the sundial,” Williams says, a speculative look in her eye.
“No,” Wes protests.
They ignore him.
“Wes hasn’t fully moved in yet. He’s been there five months, but it’s still a blank canvas. You could really do whatever.”
“No,” Wes says, loudly enough that they actually glance at him this time.
Travis looks injured, and normally Wes would ridicule that as the bullshit it is, but he can’t do that this time. Travis has already won.
“I understood this was to be a small wedding,” Williams says doubtfully. “Do you feel this will be an imposition? A wedding is always a disruption, and it is your wedding, taking place on an accelerated schedule for your father—“
“No,” Wes says. “But I want this to be our house, and I don’t want us to have to deal with the aftermath.”
“We can hire a cleaning crew, of course,” Williams says brusquely, relaxing incrementally.
“Aw, babe,” Travis says quietly, and Wes only realises that he may have made a slight miscalculation when Travis leans in to brush his mouth gently over Wes’.
A buzzing blankness sweeps over Wes, his mind emptying of thought. Travis nudges against him, a light, affectionate touch, and when he pulls away, Wes has to open his eyes and blink until reality rushes back in.
Travis’ body is still angled towards Wes, but he’s smiling at Williams, an open expression.
“If you can facilitate some housekeeping in our absence I don’t foresee a problem,” Wes tells Williams. He shouldn’t be agreeing to this, but he finds it difficult to care.
“Wonderful! What’s the square footage of the—“
“Would you like to come over and take a look?” Wes asks.
Maybe they’ll catch a break and she’ll try to lift his—he doesn’t have anything worth stealing. This is going to be a problem.
Pinching the bridge of his nose doesn’t help this time either.
She has another appointment in fifteen minutes, but she sends them out to Zoe to set up a time, and hands them a colour wheel and some fabric swatches on their way out the door.
“We’re picking a colour scheme!” She sounds excited about it. “I want you to have opinions the next time I see you! Think about this!”
She picks up the phone as they leave, but when she sees Wes watching her she stops dialling. He smiles politely and shuts the door.
They make their appointment for the next day and walk out of the building, gravitating towards each other like they should, were this real. Wes wants to back away. He can feel the heat of Travis’ body all down his side.
When they’re back at the car, Travis tosses his pile of fabric onto the backseat and stares at it darkly.
“What the hell is all that,” he demands wrathfully. “I’m pretty sure she invented some of those colours just to make extra money, and how the hell many types of cloth even exist?”
He turns the forbidding look on Wes. Travis doesn’t appear conscious that there might be any reason for discomfort, but it takes some effort for Wes to meet Travis’ eyes with a bland expression, nothing altered because nothing is.
He manages it.
“It’s a basic selection,” Wes says judiciously. “Rather well chosen. This is a fine taffeta, but—“ He catches Travis’ glare and finishes, “I’m not sure you can carry it off.”
“I can carry off pink taffeta,” Travis protests, snatches it away from Wes, and stares at it, perplexed. “What is taffeta?”
“You’re holding it,” Wes informs him.
“Which is why the question was not ‘Where is taffeta?’” Travis says, annoyed, and rolls down his window to toss the swatch to the ground outside. “No pink.”
“Yeah, you can’t handle pink,” Wes agrees, and then winces when Travis’ voluble arguments set off the pounding in his skull again. He’s glad Travis is driving today.
Travis makes an impatient noise and dives into his glovebox, surfacing with a blister of acetaminophen, which Wes accepts with relief.
“These are going to kill my liver.” He swallows two dry.
“I’m not giving you ibuprofen. Smart money says you already have an ulcer.”
Wes opens his mouth, but Travis jumps in with, “Because I’m giving you one, I know, I know.”
Feeling understood, Wes closes his eyes and relaxes in the silence while Travis drives them back to the station.
The next morning, Wes takes stock of his house. It’s a decent house. Structurally sound, two bathrooms and an en suite, great kitchen, acceptable stretch of lawn at the rear of the property.
It’s too big. Wes knows it’s too big. And he hasn’t done much to it; the kitchen was here when he moved in, warm wood and shining countertops already in place. Looking at it now, it does seem rather Spartan. The walls are still the off-white they were when he bought the place. He did make an effort to begin leaving his mark, but the desire sputtered out once he’d hung his only framed print, a Caravaggio in a corner where it won’t catch the eye.
It always catches Travis’ eye, though. Every time he comes over, he stares at the paper behind glass, all that trapped agony of emotion, just pixels on poster paper, gleaming in the low light; and then he stares at Wes.
That’s probably the only reason Wes has left the print up.
He doesn’t think Williams is going to be satisfied with a poster Wes bought in a museum giftshop when he was in college.
He phones Travis.
Fifteen minutes after Wes hangs up, Travis shows up with his TV.
He doesn’t even let Wes get his greeting out before he’s saying, “Hey, man, I am not carrying this thing in on my own,” like he thinks that’s something Wes is going to make him do.
“I have to shave,” Wes says. “I can’t let a suspect see me looking like this.”
He was always going to, but Wes makes Travis work for it.
He’s feeling pretty good by the time he hops in the shower. Travis is downstairs, trying to make his television appear at home. Wes likes knowing what’s happening. Wes likes knowing what Travis is doing.
When he’s dressed and downstairs, Travis is struggling with the remote control. He appears to be trying to tune a station in. Any station.
“Nothing! Nothing happened! Everything is totally fine.”
Travis hits some buttons, and the screen goes bright blue.
“Okay,” Wes says, and strolls into the kitchen.
Travis follows him, having hit the power button and successfully made the screen go black.
“Done,” Travis says, tossing the remote down beside the toaster.
“Do you know how to use that?” Wes asks, distracted from Travis’ utter failure. “I always burn mine.”
“I can do toast.”
“But can you use the toaster.”
“Why do you care how you get it?”
Wes jerks his chin towards the bread drawer.
When Williams arrives, Travis gets the door, because Wes has butter all over his fingers.
Travis got butter on his, too, but he licked it all off. Wes saw him.
“—did not look at the colour wheel,” Travis is saying when he returns to the breakfast nook.
Williams mmms disapprovingly.
“But I have opinions! No pink.”
“Goldenrod,” Wes says decisively.
Williams registers his presence for the first time.
“We’re not on flowers yet. And isn’t that a weed?”
“Doesn’t match my skin tone,” Travis demurs.
“Orange,” Wes says. “Does.”
Travis nods grudgingly.
“I can work with orange,” Williams says. “You’re not fussy, are you?”
“Orange is orange,” Travis tells her genially, though she was asking Wes, who watches as Travis plummets in her estimation. But then he continues, “I’d like you to tell me about our fabric choices,” and Wes has to watch him soar.
Wes has been keeping a close watch on Williams, but he hasn’t noticed her scoping out any of his stuff, possibly because he doesn’t have any. Travis’ television is a decent brand flatscreen high-def, but not that easy to steal unobtrusively.
“Where’s your tablet?” Wes asks mid-morning, when he can’t take any more discussion of tangerine versus orange peel.
“At home,” Travis says suspiciously. “Why?”
“You should bring it over.” Wes ignores all tonalities. “You should bring more of your stuff over.”
“Should I,” Travis says, eyes a squinty judgement on Wes’ character, morals, and regard for other people’s belongings.
This is easy. Wes had thought it would be difficult. He doesn’t know why he usually has trouble with things like this.
“We’re getting married,” he tells Travis earnestly.
“Doesn’t give you the right to use all my stuff to bait a trap. We should use your stuff.”
Wes opens his arms wide. “We’re using my house.”
Travis looks around again. “You should buy more stuff. What do you spend your money on?”
“Food, bills, mortgage,” Wes tells him, because Travis still lives in a trailer, so it’s possible he doesn’t actually get the concept.
“You don’t spend money on food. You didn’t even have any jelly.”
“Whatever,” Wes huffs. “I didn’t have to eat your boring toast.”
Travis opens his mouth, and then appears totally flummoxed.
Williams comes back from the bathroom just as Travis says, “Wait, you didn’t even have jelly!”
Wes settles in for a long day.
They pick up lunch at Togo’s on the way into the office. They eat it in Wes’ car, though he has a rule against that, because they’re late for a meeting with Captain Sutton, and if they go in there with food, he’ll take it away from them and make them watch as he eats it instead.
“You’re vacuuming this car,” Wes tells Travis, but Travis has a mouth stuffed full of food, and is too rapturously busy to argue with Wes.
Besides, Wes already knows he isn’t going to do it.
When they get into his office, the Captain shouts, “You’re late!” His arms are folded in judgement, and he’s glaring up at them over the thick frame of his reading glasses.
“We got held up,” Wes explains, though he gives up on expanding on that when Travis wipes mayo from the side of his mouth and sucks it off his finger.
“You’re always doing that,” Wes says, distracted. “Why are you always doing that?”
“Ruining your lies?”
“I’m sorry my house has become the location for this operation, Captain. I know we were meant to use the property out in—“
The captain waves him down.
“That is a matter of complete indifference to me. I am far more concerned with how very unbelievable it is going to be to a wedding planner, a woman surely of a discerning eye when it comes to couples such as yourselves—“
Wes tries to protest that description, but things get worse before he can.
“—that your house, Wesley, is the habitat of two people.”
“Wes barely counts as one,” Travis volunteers. He doesn’t back down when Wes glares at him. “That place looks like maybe a cat who knows how to use the bathroom lives there. On the weekends.”
“We don’t live together,” Wes tells the Captain.
“I’ve seen the paperwork, I know where you live.”
“No, I mean we aren’t claiming to live together. This wedding is an unexpected event—“
“Well, you’ll be living together after this unexpected delight, am I right?”
Wes doesn’t want to admit to that, because he can see where this is going, but Travis is nodding in agreement like a lamb ambling happily to the slaughter.
“We will,” he’s saying. “We will theoretically be living together after we are married.”
“No—“ Wes says, but it’s far too late. Maybe it always was.
“Nothing theoretical about it,” the Captain says, fixing Travis with a pointing finger. “You’re moving in.”
Wes is going to need more acetaminophen.
“I don’t want to bring my iPad,” Travis moans.
Wes sticks it under his arm with Travis’ old issues of Maxim, and picks up a golf umbrella and Travis’ yucca to bring on the trip out to the car.
“Not the yucca, man. I love that yucca.”
“I got you this yucca for secretaries’ day,” Wes says, surprised. He forgets what the message was supposed to be; possibly a suggestion that Travis do some paperwork, because Wes wasn’t his.
“And it’s still alive,” Travis says mournfully. “You would either kill a cactus or make it sprout flowers, and I don’t want my yucca finding out which one it would be.”
“You’re being ridiculous.” Wes shoulders open the door to Travis’ trailer and staggers down the steps.
“This situation is ridiculous.”
“It’s only for a couple days. Captain Sutton isn’t actually going to make us get married to support our cover.”
“I would not put it past that man.” Travis dumps a box of CDs on the backseat.
“I don’t have a CD player. You don’t even have a CD player.”
“I have an iPod.”
“So why do you still have—“ Wes cuts himself off. “Never mind, this is enough for tonight. Let’s go. I don’t have anything for dinner, but I can stop at Whole Foods and pick something up.” Wes has a month’s supply of delicious Italian in his freezer, but he isn’t giving Travis the ammunition.
“I’m not coming,” Travis says, like that’s the most ridiculous idea he’s heard yet.
There’s no reason Travis need actually move in, but it still stops Wes short. “You’re making me move your crap on my own.”
“Leave it in the car, I’ll come over and help in the morning.”
“Fine,” Wes says, baseless frustration welling up. He slams his car doors, and then Travis’, pointed punctuation of his anger. “See you then.”
Wes is at a loose end, the evening stretching long in front of him, so he stops at a bar he visits every so often, orders three drinks in quick succession, and leaves with a law student before he finishes his last.
He’s still home before Travis arrives in the morning.
Travis bangs on his door twice before Wes gets there, freshly showered and still wiping the shaving foam from his face.
“I am so sorry,” Travis says urgently, tumbling inside.
“I am so sorry, this was not meant to happen. I don’t even know how this happened, okay?”
“What happened, Travis?”
“I just coincidentally somehow happened to eat dinner with Melissa last night, and it wasn’t my fault, okay, I was drunk, she got me drunk, Wes—“
“Did you fuck our wedding planner?”
“What?” Travis squints at him. “No. I did not have sex with a suspect.”
Wes realises that wasn’t his first concern, and his heart sinks.
“How did you even wind up having dinner with Williams?”
“Stacey blew me off—“ Wes scoffs, but Travis doesn’t allow himself to become sidetracked. “She blew me off, so I went to this steakhouse for dinner alone, and Melissa was there before me, I had to stop and talk to her, how could I not stop and talk to her?”
Wes could have, but he does see that Travis could not, irritating as that undoubtedly is.
“And I think she was meeting somebody, but I ruined her plans, so we ate together, because who wants to eat alone, and she got me drunk, that woman can drink, it wasn’t my fault!”
“What wasn’t your fault?”
“I told her we were in group!” Travis says frantically. “I told her we were in group couples therapy!”
“She wants us to invite them to the wedding.”
“Absolutely not,” Wes says flatly, and that’s how Wes ends up sighing loudly while Travis invites the group along on their sting.
“It’s not so bad,” Travis tells Dr Ryan.
“I always wanted to go to a gay wedding,” Dakota says happily, one hand on her belly. “I’m so glad we know you now.”
“We’re not actually getting married,” Travis clarifies. Her face falls.
“Police partners,” Wes reiterates, the hundredth time he’s had to do so.
“I’m not sure this is the best use of the group as a support system,” Dr Ryan says.
Travis is gazing at the ceiling guiltily. Wes doesn’t ask, because he doesn’t want to know.
“It’s highly unlikely the wedding will actually take place,” Wes says. “Fake wedding! It’s highly unlikely we will actually have to fake a wedding, and your support, while appreciated, is highly unlikely to be necessary.”
“Well, we’re all crossing our fingers for you guys,” Peter says, making Dakota bubble right back up, and the rest of the group nod in agreement.
“I told Melissa Wes cheated on me a month after we met,” Travis blurts out.
The group gasps.
“Of course you did,” Wes says, resigned.
“She tried to talk me out of marrying you,” Travis confesses. “And I think I told her she sucked as a wedding planner if she always tried to stop weddings taking place, and then she said something about hating her clients and only wanting the world to be a happy place, and this was not what she thought she would be doing with her business degree. There may have been hugging.”
“You are a terrible police detective,” Wes says, and means it.
“This is not a productive—“ Dr Ryan starts, but Travis says, “I know.” He appears to mean it too.
“Well,” Dr Ryan says philosophically. “Always a pleasure to see you two in agreement.”
Melissa hugs Travis hello the next time they meet. Travis casts Wes a desperate gaze from where his head is resting on her shoulder. Wes ignores him, trading incredulous looks with Zoe, who is standing behind Melissa and politely ignoring the spectacle taking place by her side.
“We may not have discussed this,” Melissa says. “But Zoe always comes along on home visits with me. I get so much more work done with her here.”
“That’s fine,” Travis says.
“Is it?” Wes asks him disapprovingly.
“I just moved in!” Travis throws an arm around at all his stuff, cluttering up Wes’ empty spaces.
“Did you?” Melissa asks Travis, in much the same tone as Wes.
“I’m feeling really good about this.”
“Well, I’m here to give you what you want,” Melissa says, giving Wes a dark look. “Whatever that may be.”
“I want a chocolate fountain and a really big cake.”
Wes can’t help saying, “At least you’re being honest now.”
“I am always honest,” Travis says. “I’m just conflicted sometimes.”
“With reason,” Melissa says. “When we doubt our wishes there is always reason.”
“I don’t understand what is happening here,” Zoe says. “Should I be taking notes on this?”
Melissa invites them to the wedding of another client, and Travis agrees to go before Wes can come up with an excuse.
“I think their theme is exactly what you’re going for,” Melissa says breezily. “I don’t usually cross-pollinate like this, but I really think we’ve established the kind of relationship where I need you to come to this and tell me what you think.”
“Okay,” Travis grits out. He obviously has no idea what is going on. Wes smirks.
“Sounds like a great idea to me,” he says.
Melissa ignores him, handing Travis some kind of save-the-date.
“This is what I was talking to you about the other night.”
“This is the day before our wedding,” Travis says, frowning.
“I know we’ll all be busy,” Melissa says. “But it would really mean a lot to me.”
And that’s how Wes ends up as Travis’ date to a total stranger’s wedding.
Travis begins spending a lot of time with Melissa. This disconcerts Wes for many and varied reasons.
“She thinks I’m her gay best friend,” Travis says earnestly. “I can’t take that away from her.”
“You aren’t gay.”
“I could be!”
Wes doesn’t know how to begin to deal with that.
“And she thinks I am, and I’m not trying to screw her, so it almost counts. And you aren’t gay! You’re way less gay than I am.”
“She hates me,” he says instead, gloomy.
“Only because I told her you cheated on me and broke my heart, and now she thinks you’re going to hurt me forever, like you’re the eagle eating my spleen.”
It takes Wes a second to remember that Dr Ryan had discussed the myth of Prometheus in their session three weeks ago, as some kind of bizarre intro to a lesson on inappropriate punishments. That one had ended with Wes locking Travis out on the roof for an hour, a punishment he maintains was entirely appropriate.
Wes has been quiet for too long, and Travis says, “All my friends don’t have to like you, you know. We’ll still be buds.”
“We aren’t buds,” Wes says.
Travis’ smile freezes in place, and Wes can tell he’s hurt. It was a hurtful comment, but it’s the truth. He doesn’t know what to do, so he turns away.
Things are more uncomfortable than usual over the next day or two. Travis isn’t receptive to Wes’ attempts to brush the incident under the carpet, or even his oblique attempts to make reparations.
So Wes isn’t all that surprised when he gets home one evening and finds Travis and Melissa slumped on his couch, sharing a bottle of his best wine.
“Hey, asshole,” Melissa greets cheerfully.
Wes doesn’t really want to respond, but she is clearly addressing him; it would be impolite not to. “Hello.”
“We were just talking about your stupid awesome house,” Melissa says. There’s an empty bottle on its side by the wall.
“It is an awesome house,” Travis agrees. “Even if Wes doesn’t even want me here and the TV is mine anyway. I like the Wes-painting too. Wes-painting is very—“
He makes a swirly, explanatory gesture with his free hand; the other is sloshing wine all over Wes’ beige leather couch. Wes is glad he hadn’t gone for white, but that’s still going to stain.
“—Wes,” Travis finishes, belatedly.
“Wes’ painting is Wes, that’s great, that’s some real insight there, you should definitely bring that up at our next session.”
“I will,” Travis insists.
“It’s your fault you have to go to therapy,” Melissa informs him. “I don’t know where you get off complaining about it.”
“You could try and be a little professional, you know.”
“Liss is super pro—prosh,” Travis says. “I would never have known you hated your job if you hadn’t told me, babe.”
“Thanks!” Liss appears delighted by this praise. “I am totally professional. It is not usual for me to tell clients sush personal details about my life and invite them along to get their opinion, and—I kind of get why he forgave you for fucking around on him, because you are kind of hot, and everybody’s weak sometimes, but he says you’re a cold fish too, so I don’t—“
She trails off, but Travis yells out, “Usually!” like he thinks he’s shouting her down. “Wes is usually a cold fish.”
He staggers to his feet and lurches towards Wes, who has to catch him so he doesn’t walk into the wall.
And then Travis’ mouth is on Wes’ skin, brushing sloppily up Wes’ neck. He turns his body slightly, settling warm against Wes, and with his balance back his coordination gets better.
Wes isn’t sure who starts the kiss.
It’s startlingly good. Travis is really quite drunk, but Wes suspects he has a lot of practice at doing this in his current condition; he’s managing very well. He probably doesn’t even notice who it is he’s kissing.
Wes has no such excuse.
It’s too long before he pulls away, and even then, he wants to go back for more. Travis is swaying towards him slightly, and his eyes are on Wes’ mouth. Wes licks his lips, and Travis’ eyes dart up to hold his. There is stubble under his fingertips.
He tries to push Travis away, but Travis slumps all over him, hand creeping around his waist under his suit jacket, plucking at his shirt where it vanishes into his pants. Wes has to inhale deeply before slapping his hand away.
“Have to show Liss,” Travis says, drawing his tongue up Wes’ throat.
Wes remembers that they are not alone. He opens his eyes to check in on their suspect, but she appears to have passed out on his couch while he was making out with his partner.
That’s really the best outcome he could have hoped for.
Travis is mouthing at Wes’ jaw, working up to his lips. Wes tilts his head back to put them out of reach, but Travis is also excellent with a neck, and when Wes feels suction he jumps, knocking Travis away.
“Hey,” Travis protests, smiling warmly.
“Melissa is gone,” Wes tells him, nodding at her slumbering form.
She snorts in her sleep.
“Liss,” Travis says affectionately. “That is so Liss.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Liss is cool,” Travis tells him. “You should make friends.”
“I don’t do that.”
“Yeah,” Travis sighs. “I’ve noticed.”
“It’s late,” Wes says, though it isn’t, really.
“Bedtime!” Travis says happily. “I don’t think I’m making it home.”
Wes almost has to carry Travis up the stairs. Once he’s on solid ground again, Travis unerringly makes his way into Wes’ bedroom and onto his bed, out as soon as his cheek hits the pillow.
Travis has never been in Wes’ bedroom before. Wes looks at him for a moment, asleep in Wes’ bed, pillow pulled diagonal by his hands, heavy breaths stirring the valance. He’d obviously done some exploring in Wes’ absence, because there are clothes hanging in Wes’ closet that aren’t his, and Travis’ iPod is on the locker by the side of the bed Wes doesn’t sleep on.
Wes doesn’t know why he bought two bedside lockers; probably habit, some memory of the life he used to have. Hope, maybe.
Wes turns out the light and goes down the hall to the spare bedroom. He keeps it made up for occasions—well, not occasions quite like this.
The important thing is that he keeps it made up.
The next morning, Wes goes to the grocery store. He has breakfast ready and waiting when Travis stumbles down the stairs, one hand to his head.
“What did we do last night?” he moans, then spots Wes. “Oh, are we at your place? Were you there? I don’t remember you being there.”
“You were quite drunk when I arrived,” Wes informs him.
Travis groans, which triggers a round of groaning by Melissa, which triggers a retaliatory round by Travis. The groans get exponentially louder and more complaining until Wes snaps, and shouts, “Quiet!” He points at Melissa and instructs, “Wake up.” She rolls off the couch onto the floor, but she doesn’t groan, just shoves herself to her feet. “Thank you. Pancake?”
“I’m going to puke,” she says.
She staggers towards Travis’ yucca. Travis yelps, and starts squeaking, “Bathroom, bathroom!” shoving her in the right direction.
“Clean up after yourself!” Wes calls in after her.
“That was unkind,” Travis says in a disappointed tone. “You are unkind.”
Wes knows this is sometimes true, so he has no response.
Travis hovers over Wes’ shoulder while he prepares it, though the bagels are waiting on the island, ready to be eaten.
Wes is discomfited. He doesn’t really know what to do about that. He flips the pancake.
“How much do you remember about last night?” he asks casually.
“Everything up to a certain point,” Travis says, which is not an answer.
“What point would that be?”
“I remember calling you an emotionally retarded asshole who couldn’t find his own heart with both hands,” Travis says thoughtfully. Wes winces, which is probably what makes Travis continue, “but I didn’t mean it, I was just trying to work up a rapport with Liss. Oh! I remember she told me to call her Liss.”
“You can really be a douchebag sometimes,” Wes tells the pancake.
“Yeah,” Travis allows. “I know I can. Did you show up then? I remember you did show up, because Liss was kind of mean to you—she’s only mean because she cares. About me. Nothing personal.”
“Just your being a douchebag,” Wes tells the pancake tightly.
“Yeah, I know. And then—wait,” Travis says, but Wes is flipping the pancake already. “Did I kiss you?”
Wes drops the pan, which clatters to the floor, and the pancake hits the surface of his cooker, mixture spreading across the chrome. That’s going to be a bitch to clean up.
Travis reaches past Wes to turn off the heat.
“I did,” he says, voice low in Wes’ ear. He’s too close.
Wes clears his throat. “I believe you wanted to prove to your new friend that we were sexually compatible.”
“Not a bad idea,” Travis says evenly. His hand is still on the counter; Wes is trapped by the stretch of his arm. He turns anyway, into Travis’ hold.
“She fell asleep at some point during your attempt,” Wes says, exculpation offered, but Travis isn’t even listening.
It’s different to be kissed by Travis in the warm light of the morning, in his kitchen, the fading heat of his cooker at his back.
Wes has to breathe through the slow, deliberate push together, through Travis’ hands settling gently on his waist. He has to close his eyes because Travis doesn’t.
He thinks his hand is shaking when he reaches up to touch Travis’ jaw, to pull him closer, but he’ll never be sure.
It’s better like this, and it had been so good already that Wes had almost been sure he’d imagined it.
They’re still kissing when Melissa comes out of the bathroom. She has to cough to attract their attention.
Wes bites Travis’ tongue, spooked, and Travis’ hands clench around his waist, pulling him sharply closer, and Travis’ tongue pushes aggressively into his mouth for just a second before Travis pulls back, smiling easily at Melissa.
“Don’t call me Liss,” she says. “I don’t know why I ever told you that you could. Is there coffee?”
“There’s always coffee,” Wes says. “Is the toilet clean?”
“Gross.” Melissa wrinkles her nose. “I vomit in the sink like a real woman. How does anybody vomit in the toilet?”
“Did you wash out the sink properly?” Wes asks patiently.
“Fine, dad,” she says petulantly, and vanishes back into the bathroom.
When she’s gone, Travis opens his mouth, but nothing comes out.
“I think she got the message,” Wes says, and starts to wipe the cooker clean of pancake.
It isn’t coming up. He scrubs harder. When Travis says, “Wes—“ he throws down his cloth and grabs his keys from their drawer without looking at Travis.
“I’m going out to get breakfast,” he says, walking past the bagels and selection of spreads he’s already been out to get, and straight out the front door.
Travis is quiet and kind of sulky all day. It isn’t an improvement.
Wes is almost looking forward to their next session.
He makes the mistake of mentioning this to Travis, and Travis explodes.
“Because I am so damn hard to put up with you need therapy to help you tolerate me?”
“Isn’t that what this whole deal was about?” Wes asks blankly.
Travis picks up Wes’ stressball and attempts to feed it through the shredder, which sputters and dies. Wes could have told Travis that would happen.
“For me too,” Wes offers. Travis is not receiving.
He spins Wes’ chair around and pushes Wes through the desks, past the surprisingly shocked faces, and into the elevator. Wes stays in the chair. He feels getting out of here may be the best option.
“I meant, and vice versa,” he yells at Travis as the elevator doors close.
The last thing he sees is Travis doing something obscene to his computer.
“—just spreading it all over my keyboard and my screen, just slathering them in the stuff,” Wes tells Dr Ryan.
He’s feeling kind of brittle.
“I don’t even know why he had honey in his desk!”
“Not really my concern right now,” she says mildly.
“Why do you keep honey in your desk, Travis?” Mr Dumont asks curiously. “Do people steal it from the breakroom?”
“Yes,” Travis replies dully.
“People always steal my lunch from the breakroom.” Mrs Dumont shushes him, but not before he protests, “They do! Thieves! We’re friends with police detectives now, I should—“
“We can’t arrest people for stealing your lunch,” Wes says shortly.
“Why not! It’s a crime! Surely it’s a misdemeanour.”
“I was going to ask how you had been getting on, forced into such unaccustomed intimacy,” Dr Ryan says.
“As you see,” Wes says, as Travis stares mutinously into the distance.
“Have you invited Alex to the wedding?” Dakota asks cautiously. “I’m looking forward to it so much, I’m sure she would be too.”
“No, I have not invited my ex-wife to my fake gay-wedding,” Wes tells her.
“Oh,” Peter says, pleased. “You said ex!”
Peter and Dakota look at each other, overjoyed, faces full of mute happy squeals.
“Significant changes in the way we interact with our partners necessarily change the way we relate to them and feel about them also,” Dr Ryan says, which is such meaningless bullshit. “Intimacy makes us vulnerable, and some people have trouble allowing themselves to be exposed in that fashion.”
“I have no trouble with intimacy,” Travis bursts out. It’s a blatant untruth. Travis has never tried intimacy. “Wes is the one who can’t handle that shit!”
“That may be so, yes,” Dr Ryan agrees. “At least in the beginning stages. And you read his discomfort as rejection of you, and as rejection is something you find intolerable, this lead to your reaction.”
Travis’ chair squeaks as he shoves it back. Wes thinks he’s going to leave, is actually going to stand up and walk out, and Wes doesn’t know what he’ll do if that happens, so he says, “No, that isn’t it. Travis just figured out he’s gay. He’s freaking out.”
“Really?” Dr Ryan asks Travis, sounding interested.
“Just, dear?” Mrs Dumont says incredulously.
“Yes,” Wes says. “Just.”
He thinks the diversion has been successful. Travis is still in his chair.
“No,” Travis says, like that’s stupid. Wes would disagree; he wasn’t the only one in that kiss—kisses, they have had kisses, which, all right, is making him feel a little panicky. “I’ve always been bi.”
“Have you!” says Dr Ryan, brightly.
“Have you?” asks Wes, disbelievingly.
“That must have been quite difficult, growing up as you did,” Dr Ryan starts, but Travis waves her concern away.
“Not important. The important thing is that Wes is the one who’s freaking out, okay? Not me. I am fine with this, I don’t freak out over crap like this.”
“Why would Wes freak out because you’re gay? Are you accusing him of homophobia? I’ve never received that impression.”
“No,” Travis says. He stops there, refusing to out Wes in the middle of group. Wes wouldn’t care if he did.
“I’m not freaking out,” Wes says. That’s a lie, but it is true that he isn’t freaking out over discovering he is also interested in men.
“I think you’re probably freaking out, dear,” Mrs Dumont says understandingly. The group nod like marionettes. “That’s okay, we know what you’re like.”
Wes thinks about telling the group that they don’t know him; that in fact, he knows quite well how he feels about Travis; and if he hadn’t already known, he might have bought a clue when he’d picked up that guy last week purely because he had a jaw reminiscent of Travis’, and Wes had closed his eyes and touched the guy’s face while he was getting blown, and come harder than he’s managed in a long while.
He doesn’t say any of that. He doesn’t think the group wants to hear it.
He pretends to listen to Dr Ryan’s lecture instead.
Travis has apparently decided that their entire life is a therapy session.
He keeps trying to talk to Wes, at their desks, in the car, while the Captain is watching them, while Melissa is watching them try and agree on cake.
The latter is his undoing. Wes is a little afraid of Melissa; she keeps asking him about allergies, and he isn’t sure what she’s planning to use the information for.
“I really don’t like coconut,” he says again.
“Why are you so difficult, Wes?” she huffs, and goes to confab with the confectioner.
“Why are you so difficult, Wes?” Travis asks, hushed. “It’s okay if you’re gay.”
“I know it’s okay if I’m gay,” Wes says, longsuffering.
“I’m gay! Sometimes!”
“Is this a problem for you? Seriously?”
It isn’t a problem; it’s just—an anomaly. Wes had never thought this might be a possibility, and he doesn’t know what to do, now that it is. He’s—nervous. He’s just nervous.
“Because I’m not going to jump you or anything. We can both be kind of gay independently of each other.”
That isn’t really what Wes wants either.
He wants Travis.
He is fully capable of recognising that he wants Travis; he just doesn’t want Travis to know. He doesn’t know what will happen if they’re forced to confront his desires. He doesn’t know what it is that Travis desires. He knows he’s never seen Travis achieve anything close to the kind of relationship Wes wants. He’s allowed to be nervous.
He’s desperate enough that he almost wishes he could talk about this with Dr Ryan, but he doesn’t want Travis to know.
“You know you don’t ever have to act on it, dude, right?” Travis says gently. “Not if you don’t want to.”
Wes wants to believe that is true; Wes hates that they’re constantly talking at cross-purposes.
“I’m not discussing this with you,” he says, and hopes that will put an end to it.
But Travis looks disgruntled, so Wes isn’t surprised when he gets home that evening to find Melissa and Zoe there with Travis, dustsheets laid out and pots of paint stacked in a scary little pyramid in the middle of his living room floor.
Melissa coos menacingly when she sees him. “Wes,” she says meltingly. “We decided the most appropriate thing to do at this stage of the game was just to paint all your walls atomic tangerine.”
And that’s how that happens.
“Why isn’t Zoe painting?” Wes mutters to Travis.
Zoe is sitting on the couch. She appears to be fucking around on the internet on her work-related tablet.
“Zoe—doesn’t—use her hands,” Travis mutters back. “I don’t know.”
“This isn’t working,” Wes says.
“I think it’s a great shade.”
“This plan. Her iPad is newer than yours, come on.”
“I don’t see you volunteering anything in its place,” Travis says virtuously.
That’s because Wes doesn’t have—
He pours the last of the paint into the tray and picks out a new pot. He messes with the lid, not trying very hard to get it off.
“Hey, Zoe, can you grab me a knife? Drawer by the sink there.”
Zoe rolls her eyes, but she hauls herself over to the sink and pulls open the drawer to the left. It’s a junk drawer. She stares down into it.
“Other side, sorry,” Wes says.
She slides it shut and pulls open the correct drawer, bringing the requested knife over to Wes.
He bends to slice through the tape sealing the container shut.
“Why do you have a diamond ring in a kitchen drawer?” she asks.
“Why do you have a diamond ring in a kitchen drawer?” Melissa repeats, awfully.
“My ex gave it back to me when we got divorced,” Wes says. It’s easy to say that now. “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with it, because even if I wasn’t marrying a man, it would be sleazy to propose to a second wife with the first ring, right?”
“Right,” Melissa allows, in grudging agreement.
“I said we should hock it and pay for the honeymoon, but Wes says he doesn’t need the money.”
“I don’t,” Wes says.
When Travis smiles at him, Wes knows it’s at least partly because his iPad is no longer on the table.
The next few days are full of frantic preparations. Wes had been spared most of this the first time around. He’d been glad of it then, and he would be glad of it now.
“Why don’t people elope?” Travis moans, head pillowed on his arms on his desk.
“Because they are committing the rest of their life to their loved one, and they want to be surrounded by their friends and family so they can rub the success in their faces,” Wes explains.
“So why do people have divorce parties?” Travis asks. “Not you, obviously, because you’re no fun, but people.”
“To try and escape the crushing depression that follows such a failure.”
“Oh,” Travis says. “Sorry, man.”
Travis has been staying in Wes’ spare room since the night he passed out in Wes’ bed.
Wes isn’t sure how to make him go.
He hasn’t really tried. He doesn’t know how to try.
But things will be over soon; there are only a few more days of this and then there will be no reason for Travis to stick around. He’ll be gone.
“You know,” Travis says. “I think I might be friends with Melissa.”
“Good going, Champ.”
Travis groans again; Wes grins.
Wes gets home that night to find Travis brushing his teeth in the en suite.
“Seriously?” he asks.
“Ser-i-uh-see,” Travis tells him through his toothbrush. That toothbrush had been for potential guests, not for Travis, who hasn’t even put the wrapping in the trashcan. It’s sitting on top of the toilet.
Travis finishes brushing and comes into Wes’ bedroom. He’s wearing Wes’ pyjamas.
“You don’t even want me using your iPad for the case, and you’re inviting yourself into my bed?”
Travis flashes white, spearminty teeth at him, stretching out on Wes’ bed, wriggling around, making himself comfortable.
“We are supposed to be acting like a couple, Wes,” he says lazily, blinking up at him. “Which means what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine.”
“That doesn’t extend to sleeping with—“
Wes surely has a rebuttal that is less potentially disastrous, but he has to deal with the task in front of him. He flips off the light and lies down beside Travis.
Then he realises they’re both on top of the covers and he’s still fully dressed.
He gets ready for bed. When he returns, Travis is under the covers, on the side of the bed he’d claimed for his own days ago. His phone is sitting on the locker, charging. Wes stares at it like it’s a bomb, about to explode in both their faces.
He gets into bed beside Travis, and they lie there stiffly, until, at some point, Wes falls asleep.
Travis wakes first. This is unheard of.
Wes stretches out slowly, waking up gradually. He feels the indentation of Travis’ body, feels the lingering warmth.
He rolls over into the space Travis has vacated, animal comfort pulling him in.
He can hear the sounds of Travis in the bathroom, so there’s no real reason for him to wake up yet.
Not until Travis comes back into his room, wet and shirtless.
“Oh,” Travis says, digging through his closet. “You’re up.”
He is now.
“I’ve run out of shirts, I’m borrowing one of yours, okay?”
Wes opens his mouth to tell Travis it is not okay, to tell Travis how very not okay that is, but Travis is already exiting with his purloined clothing.
Wes watches him leave. His white towel is a startling interruption of Travis’ dark skin. His mouth is dry.
He swallows, and gets out of bed.
They have a wedding to get to.
“Why are we here again?” Wes asks, looking around.
This is the first wedding at the Grand Tradition Estate he’s been to in a while.
“What the shit is this?” Travis asks.
Wes supposes the Beverly Mansion might be a little overpowering if you aren’t prepared.
“This is a very reputable wedding venue.”
“The hell it is,” Travis says. “Unless you’re Princess Jasmine.”
“The couple sets the tone—“
“The bride is a bitch,” Melissa says bluntly, returning from dealing with whatever the problem with the napkin tassels had been.
“Did you say you thought this was the look we should be going for?” Travis asks, staring like she’s a stranger wearing his friend’s face.
“Did I say that? That was a lie.”
“That’s reassuring,” Travis says, earnestly.
Melissa grabs his arm, pulling him to stand behind a massive arch of flowers. Wes ducks behind there too.
“What are we hiding from?” he asks.
“We’re talking!” Travis says. “Privately!”
“We’re hiding from him,” Melissa says, pointing at someone out in the crowd. “It’s just—“
Travis’ face goes through a worrying contortion.
“It’s just what?”
“I’ve been working on this stupid girl’s wedding for a really long time,” Melissa says. “I told you.” Travis nods, like he has any memory of that conversation. “And—these things happen, so—I just brought you along to get your opinion. I really need a friend’s opinion right now, because I think I love him.”
Wes nods understandingly. “You’re sleeping with the groom.”
“No!” Travis gasps.
“No!” Melissa says. “The father. Didn’t Travis tell you? He said he wouldn’t, but I didn’t really believe him.”
“He did not tell me a thing.”
“Aw, thanks,” she says, grinning at Travis. “Anyway, like I said, Martin’s paying for the whole thing, right, and he wanted to know why it was taking so long, he thought it was my fault, so he started coming along whenever I was meeting with Isabella, and things just—“
“Happened,” Travis tells Wes, apparently done scrambling to catch up. “These things will happen.”
“And they kept happening, and now I think I might be in love and I don’t know what to do, okay, because just thinking about it makes me want to puke.”
“And it looks really unprofessional if I start something up with a client, right, even if he’s divorced and unattached, and his daughter is such a dick she’d totally trash me to everybody she knows, and she knows a lot of people.”
“You really don’t like the daughter,” Travis says. “I understand, but is it wise to start something with a father when you can’t stand his child?”
“Oh, it’s fine, he hates her too. She’s kind of a terrible person.”
“Okay.” Travis throws Wes a wide-eyed look, but nods along anyway. “As long as you’re in accord on that.”
“We are in such complete agreement on so many things! That’s only one of them.”
“What a lovely situation to find yourself in,” Travis says pointedly.
“Wait, are you complaining because I don’t hate my family now?”
“Not complaining,” Travis says. “Because I don’t complain. But it is a fault in you, because your sister, man.”
Wes chooses not to acknowledge that, or offer any opinion on his sister.
“I have to get back to work,” Melissa says. “I just—can you keep an eye out for Martin and tell me what you think?”
She gives Travis a peck on the cheek before dashing off.
Travis turns to Wes, slapping him on the shoulder. “Crap! She told me she was doing a dad! She did, I remember!”
“Not earthshaking news.”
“No, but that’s why she’s been kind of on the down-low with everything. You know, Wes, I don’t think Melissa was ever going to steal my iPad.”
“Nobody was ever going to steal your iPad.”
“You know what I mean! I don’t think she’s our girl.”
Wes also believes this to be true. He regrets subjecting himself to her presence for a week and a half. It has not been what he would describe as an enjoyable experience.
“We should leave,” Wes says, watching as the groomsmen begin to assemble. The celebrant is smiling indulgently as the flowergirls whip around the altar, playing catch in their fancy dresses. “This is a waste of time.”
“I have to check out her dude! She’s my friend.”
“Travis—“ Wes says, but Travis is already out in the crowd of guests, pushing through the throng. Wes follows, irritated.
Travis is craning his head, trying to get a good look at the dad, but also probably distracted by the massive tiered cake being wheeled past him en route to the dining hall, because he is Travis. Wes reaches out to grab his arm and jostles somebody in the crush, sloshing wine over the rim of a glass.
“Sorry,” Wes says, one hand tightening on Travis’ arm, the other steadying the glass. “Sorry, I didn’t—“
His mind goes blank when the man turns around.
“Wes isn’t usually so clumsy,” Travis says. Wes thinks he means it as an apology.
“Jared,” Wes says numbly.
“Jared?” Travis asks curiously.
“Wes,” Jared says, horrified, glancing over to where the dad is threading his way through clusters of people on his way to this cluster of people. “Oh my God, Wes. Please don’t tell my dad we had sex last week, he doesn’t even know I’m gay.”
Travis chokes on air. Wes has to pound him on the back. Travis bats his hand away.
“Wasn’t planning on it, Jared,” Wes reassures him.
“Weren’t you, honeybabe?” Travis asks, saccharine-sweet. Jared goes ghost-pale. “Can’t imagine why you weren’t going to announce to the father of the bride that you screwed his teenage son the week before our wedding.”
Wes pinches the bridge of his nose. “This isn’t what it—“ he tries to explain, but Jared is already stumbling backwards blindly in an attempt to escape the situation.
He trips over an older woman’s inappropriate train, grabs at her on the way down, shrieking, “Nana, no!” and pulls her into the cake with him.
The trestle table wobbles under their weight, steadies, and then collapses, sending icing and chunks of cake all over the celebrant, the groom and his men, the flowergirls, and every guest within reach.
“That was not what I meant to happen,” Travis squeaks.
Somebody starts screaming.
It might be Melissa.
“Melissa doesn’t scream,” Travis says, annoyed. “Of course it was the bride.”
She’d had them thrown out only after Wes had explained to her that she could not, in fact, have them arrested for ruining her wedding.
“Why does everybody always want us to clean up their non-legal messes?” Wes carps.
“To be fair, we did kind of cause this one.”
Wes doesn’t look at Travis as he pulls into his driveway and cuts the engine.
“Did you want me to drop you anywhere?” he asks, too late. “Only I’m not going into the office. I’m not explaining this farrago to the Captain until I have something good to give him too.”
“Ooh, playing hooky?” Travis gets out and slams his door. Wes has no choice but to follow. “Get you, rebel.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever done anything rebellious,” Wes says thoughtfully.
“Except guys,” Travis says, slamming the front door behind them.
Wes relaxes minutely. That was never actually a secret. He just doesn’t believe in discussing his personal life at work.
“That isn’t rebellious,” Wes says. “This isn’t the fifties.”
“Then how come you never told anybody!”
“You know how people talk,” Wes says, and Travis hesitates, because he does. “I don’t like it when my personal life—or lack thereof—is fodder for gossip.”
“That’s—how come you never told me?”
Wes hadn’t wanted him to know. Wes hadn’t wanted him to start speculating. Wes—doesn’t want him to know. He doesn’t think.
“You knew I wouldn’t care, right?”
“Yes,” Wes admits reluctantly.
“So what was it?”
Wes shuts his eyes. He can’t actually think of a reason that won’t give him away.
“Oh,” Travis says, and when Wes looks at him, he is staring into Wes’ eyes, stunned.
“No,” Wes says swiftly, too late.
It has always been too late.
He watches the realisation grow in Travis’ focussed eyes, and feels control leave his hands, feels his life spiralling out as he clutches at something he’s already lost. Wes doesn’t take risks: but Travis does.
“It’s nothing—“ he tries.
“You kissed me,” Travis says slowly. “You kissed me back. And you knew you were gay, you weren’t experimenting—“
Wes feels sick, and—Wes is terrified. He doesn’t know what to do about that, with Travis staring at him as something grows, as something surfaces.
And then he doesn’t have to do anything, because Travis is kissing him, and there’s only one way Wes knows how to respond to that.
His head hits the picture frame on his wall, knocking it off-balance, and Travis’ teeth scrape across his lip, making him pant.
Travis puts his hands on the wall behind Wes and leans up against him, leans into him as he licks at Wes’ injured lip, licks into his mouth and into his mouth until Wes is gasping and straining forward for more.
“Upstairs,” Travis says.
One of Wes’ shirttails has come loose, and Travis’ hand is on his skin. He stumbles on his way up the stairs.
Travis keeps kissing him as he directs them towards Wes’ bedroom, and Wes is afraid he’ll fall over, but Travis is watching him, too close, and Wes has to close his eyes against it.
He hits his shoulder on the doorframe as he enters.
He pulls Travis down with him as he tumbles onto the bed, and he says, “This is stupid, this is so stupid,” but he tilts his head back when Travis’ mouth touches his throat.
“This is fantastic,” Travis says, hands pulling Wes’ shirt apart. “This is going to be fantastic.”
It’s reassuring to know that Travis wants this, that Travis wants him this much, but Wes still hesitates on the brink, second-guessing until he remembers Travis’ coldness when he’d drawn back before. Wes can’t handle that, not when he wants this too.
“This is a really expensive suit,” he protests breathlessly, as Travis pulls it off him, heedless of quality and line.
“You are an expensive kind of person,” Travis says appreciatively. His mouth drifts over Wes’ shoulders and down his chest.
When Wes can bring himself to move, he pulls Travis’ clothes off roughly. It’s fine; they’re Travis’ clothes. They’re not deserving of careful treatment.
Travis helps, and then Travis is naked, and Wes wants to be naked too.
Once Wes is, once Travis is on top of him, pressing him into the mattress, Wes says, “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
He pulls Travis closer, tangles their legs together.
“I really do,” Travis says, grinning, and unhooks himself from Wes so he can skate down Wes’ body and put his mouth on Wes’ cock.
Wes—had something to say, but he can’t remember what it was, can’t think at all.
His hands settle on Travis’ face, slide over his hair and land on his jaw. Wes groans. He thinks his hips are rocking, but Travis is taking him, Travis is sucking him down. He can feel Travis working to take him all in.
“Travis,” he gasps. “I’m—“
Travis pulls off. That was not the intended outcome.
“Fuck,” Wes complains, and Travis is laughing when he makes his way back up, affectionate when he nips at Wes’ earlobe, and Wes turns his face to the side so he can go after Travis’ mouth.
Travis’ hands are everywhere he wants them, touching his cock, dragging over his ass, moving his legs so Travis can rub a finger roughly over Wes’ hole.
“Please,” he says, shuddering.
“Yeah, babe, I know, I know,” Travis says, reaching for Wes’ bedside locker, for the lube and condoms in his drawer, nothing but ridiculous, incredible hope.
Travis’ fingers are inside him then, and Wes is wild with it, and still lost inside his head.
“You don’t know what you want,” he moans, clenching as Travis’ fingers move, strike sparks from him, shake him apart.
“I want you,” Travis says, like there’ s no doubt, and Wes supposes there isn’t, now, and Wes is repeating it back to him helplessly, I want you, I want you, I want you, because he knows Travis wants to hear it; because it’s true and he knows Travis needs to hear it; and he doesn’t stop until Travis is kissing him again and he can’t speak.
Travis is sinking inside him then, and Wes clutches at him every way he can, and it just makes it so much better, Travis’ cock moving inside him, Travis’ body so warm and close in Wes’ arms. A fizzing feeling is overtaking him.
“What are we doing?” Wes says, shaky, as his mind starts to drift away as the pleasure spikes through it. “What are we going to do?”
“We’ll be fine,” Travis says confidently, fucking into him hard, hand coming down tight on Wes’ dick. Wes can’t decide how to move into the sensations, but his body takes over, and it doesn’t really matter, because he’s fracturing apart already, shaking and shaking as Travis says, “We always are,” and laughs, and Wes is coming.
The next morning, Travis sprints downstairs when the doorbell chimes.
Wes is suspicious enough to throw on yesterday’s clothes, somewhat the worse for wear, and follow him quickly.
Travis is directing florists. They are arraying birds of paradise all over Wes’ atomic-tangerine home.
“Would you like to oversee the positioning in the back yard?” a woman asks Wes.
He would not.
“The seating is already in place,” she assures him. “And we really know what your fiancé wants already, we just need someone to sign off.”
Wes looks at the colourful arrangements in front of him, because he can only deal with one thing at a time.
“How many stems?”
He does not like the answer.
“Neither of us can carry a bouquet,” Travis says, jogging up beside him. “I had to make up for it somehow.”
“Mmm,” Wes says.
Travis can recognise a danger sign by now; it’s just that he usually ignores them.
Now, he kisses Wes until Wes is incapable of caring about flowers, or seating, or anything but Travis. It’s disconcertingly easy for him to do.
“You should go back to bed!” Travis abandons Wes for the back lawn. “I know what I’m doing!”
Whatever. Wes is just glad he isn’t paying for this.
“Where’s Melissa?” he asks hopefully.
Maybe then he can take Travis back to bed.
Things don’t get better when Melissa arrives. She’s uncommonly waspish with Wes, even by her usual standards, and when Travis escapes from wrangling fairylights and gauzy garden draperies to greet her, she bursts into tears on his shoulder.
“Aw, Liss,” Travis says sadly. She sobs harder.
She tries to speak, but it comes out garbled.
Travis puts his ear close to her mouth. “What was that?”
“I hate that name!” Travis yanks his head back. “Don’t call me Liss!”
“Okay,” Travis agrees quickly. “Melissa it is, sorry.”
Travis pats her head consolingly and gestures Wes out the back door.
Wes does not even recognise his garden, so he comes back inside and offers Zoe a drink, but she’s too busy smoking into his sink.
The doorbell chimes. Nobody moves, so Wes answers it.
A not-insignificant contingent of their colleagues is clustered on Wes’ front doorstep in their Sunday finest.
“Are you really getting married?” Kate asks.
“Are you really marrying Travis?” Jonelle demands. “How the hell are you marrying him.”
“Round back, round back,” Wes says urgently, shutting the door sharply and directing them around the side of the house. “Did Sutton not tell you this was an op?”
“Well, he did,” Kendall admits. “We just didn’t—believe him. Exactly.”
Wes manages to run them off, but once he’s back inside, the doorbell chimes again.
It’s the group.
“You look like you got laid!” Rozelle says.
This is true, of course, but Wes gets laid on the reasonably-regular now, and nobody has ever noticed before.
“Yeah,” Travis says smugly, appearing like that was a clarion-call.
Her eyes widen. “Oh my God. Really? He looks happy!”
Oh, that might be it.
“You said I was incapable,” Wes reminds Travis, the months-ago slight casting a long shadow.
Travis shrugs and bumps their shoulders together. Wes relaxes; he can’t help it.
He’s smiling as he turns back to them. Even Dr Ryan’s eyes are wide.
“All right,” she says authoritatively, cutting into Dakota’s trill of joy and vindication. “We’ll discuss this next week. Let’s just stay out of the way, we all know why we’re here.”
A random selection of department-assigned guests arrive, and things start to come together. Wes has partaken of marriage before, so he knows what a wedding falling into place looks like.
He starts to freak out. Just a little bit. Nothing that counts.
The living room is almost deserted when Travis straggles up to him reluctantly and says, “I think we’re due out back.”
Wes lifts a restraining finger, because something is sure to occur to him.
“...I think we may be,” he says slowly, and then Melissa tumbles through the back doors, saying, “People were laughing at me, Travis, I know they were—“
Zoe finishes her cigarette and says, “I’m just going to,” and gestures at the front door. “I don’t stay for the weddings, because I hate weddings.”
“Fine,” Wes says impatiently, mind on more important things, and then Zoe picks up her work-related iPad and there’s a suspicious clink.
Wes spins around, and Zoe has frozen, eyes Bambi-wide. She jerks her thumb towards the door, hand fisted, plain golden band flashing, and Wes says, “LA—“ and she rabbits through the back doors.
“What is happening?” Melissa wails, as Travis pats her head and Wes pursues Zoe up the aisle, taking her down with a tackle into his wedding-appropriate sundial.
He hands her over to one of the many officers in attendance, ignores Watson’s, “So, wait—you’re not getting married? I brought a gift!” and goes back inside.
The doorbell chimes.
“Martin, thank Christ,” Wes says. “Can you do something about this?”
And that’s how Wes and Travis end up sitting in the front row as their wedding-planner and the father of yesterday’s bride hijack their wedding.
“This is a nice ceremony,” Travis whispers. “This is very well done.”
“It is,” Wes agrees, and not just because Travis’ hand on his thigh is a little distracting.
“And I like the atomic orange,” Travis opines. “I vote we keep.”
“Absolutely not,” Wes says.
“Honeymoon over?” Travis asks. “We didn’t even get married.”
And that’s why Wes is kissing Travis as Melissa and Martin say their I dos, and the crowd of strangers cheers, and Melissa throws her hastily assembled bird-of-paradise-bouquet Travis’ way.
Just in case.