The apartment is almost pitch black when Keith arrives home from the baseball game. He has to take a minute to discern what little light there is and to make his way carefully toward it. He can hear the surround sound booming with the sound of the ocean--that distinct underwater sound, like stuffing your head under a pillow--and remembers vaguely that it's the re-run of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. In the living room, the massive screen he and Anderson splurged on is alive with sharks, teeming around some idiot in a chain mail suit. The Christmas tree is twinkling merrily in the corner casting strange designs and crystals all over the white walls.
And two poor schmucks are sprawled, mesmerized on the couch.
"Did you know the sharks always have to keep moving or they can't breathe?" Anderson says, voice rough and slow.
"Yeah, I do, actually, because I'm Australian, also 'cause I read it in your book," says the other man, accent thick, voice as rough as Anderson's. He then breaks into giggles that put Anderson to shame.
His boyfriend, meanwhile, is staring at the other man with starry blue eyes and a sappy grin, "You read my book?"
It is something of a compliment, Keith is sure. Michael Ware spent six years embedded in Iraq. Deigning to read the outpouring of angst, melodrama, and telegram sentence structure was a huge compliment.
"There's something wrong with you two," Keith says, startling them both into blinking up at him, as though he appeared out of thin air. He supposes, in their baked out minds, he had.
"We're watching Shark Week," Anderson explains unnecessarily.
"I noticed," Keith says.
"Though, it's not actually Shark Week," Anderson feels he must tell Keith. "Because that's in the summer. Sharks are not Christmas animals."
He knows, to Anderson, this makes perfect sense. "So, didn't know you'd invited Michael over," Keith states casually.
"He just came over," Anderson says with a wave of his hand. The man in question is staring, wide-eyed at the sharks again. "We couldn't think of anything to do. And then there was a pipe and it's rude to let a man smoke alone. Plus, he managed to sneak it from Amsterdam, which is mighty impressive and I haven't had Amsterdam weed in so long."
"So, you smoked yourselves into the clouds," he states, more than asks. "I mean, Jesus, we should crack a window. The dog can't even stand," he hyperbolizes, pointing out Molly, laying in Keith's favorite chair. Her head is nestled between her paws and her eyes flick back and forth between her owner and her step-owner.
"Psssh, contact highs are a myth," Michael says, eyes still glued to the screen.
"Gorged yourselves as well, I see?" He says, taking note of the disaster area surrounding the couch. Chip bags and beer bottles, Cocoa Puffs and a half empty milk jug (no bowls or spoons to be found, which is suspicious and will have him checking the rug for wet spots) and a container of spinach dip, all gone. There is also an assortment of cheese, baby carrots, and pretzels--his gluten-free pretzels.
"To be fair, we didn't eat dinner," Anderson says, biting his lip. "Keith," he whines throwing his arms up and trying to, apparently, bend himself backward over the couch, asking for a hug. Keith sighs and leans down, kissing him instead. His lips are dry and taste like the cream base they made the spinach dip with.
"I do want to remind you that tomorrow morning I will not listen to you bitch and moan about your gastrointestinal system. Nor will I hold back your hair while you barf."
"'k, baby," Anderson says, looking innocent. Keith rolls his eyes, knowing that he'll be hearing it anyway. His partner turns back to the TV and he makes his way to the kitchen to see if there is any food left to eat. He puts together some leftovers and shoos the dog off the armchair. The two stoned, grown men are now leaning against one another. He shakes his head as he regards these two men. Alike and different.
He had been very anxious about their friendship at first, when Michael had left Iraq and had moved to New York. He had watched Anderson blow off lunches and meetings to go meet Michael. He had confronted him, hurt and bombastic, making entirely baseless accusations, but Anderson hadn't shut down or gotten defensive. He had sat Keith down and told him about Michael's problems.
"So, you know what," he had said, "I have no problem blowing off a lunch that will be repeated ad nauseam for years to come to go and help a friend. If you have a problem, well," he had shrugged then and had Keith not already lost all his resentment he would have known that this was a deal breaker. He looked in his lover's eyes and saw empathy for Michael. Of course, Anderson had never been through anything as traumatic as Michael, but he knew more about war and being in the middle of things, about being shot at, than most could claim.
So, coming home to find the two sacked out, practically on top of one another, stoned out of their minds, Keith is only indulgently amused. He finishes eating and looks over at the other two and chuckles to himself. Like a puppy pile they have fallen asleep, mouths open and rumpled like discarded sheets at the end of a bed. He gets rid of his dishes and then goes over to the pile.
He finds Anderson's arm and pulls a little. Anderson sleepily groans and follows his suggested movements. Relieved of his pillow, Michael stretches out, not waking. Anderson doesn't appear to be awake either even as his feet shuffle along with Keith's. They make it into the darkened bedroom and his lover simply slithers into bed, not even bothering to take off his jeans.
Keith sighs and gets ready for bed himself. He slips in to bed, holding back a groan as his tired muscles settle. He feels the mattress move as Anderson turns, clamping a hand over Keith's stomach.
"Thank you," he breathes, still mostly asleep.
"No problem," Keith answers quietly.