"This is a disaster," Doris said.
"This is not a disaster," Dom said, though it was pretty bad.
"I'm a monster."
"You're not a monster," he reassured her, but if he was being very honest, she was depicting maybe some monster-like qualities. If you can't be a bitch and get away with it when you're pregnant, when can you? And as nice as it was that Malik's sister was throwing Doris a baby shower, the condescending way she introduced Doris to her friends as her sister-in-law with this eyebrow quirk that heavily laid on the well, they're not married implication every time was pretty awful.
"I want to cut off her head," Doris said.
"Here, drink this," Dom said, pushing a glass of sparkling apple juice into Doris' hand. Not being able to drink for the last seven months had been especially taxing on her. "Do you think they would call that a hate crime?"
"It would be," Doris said before taking a long swing, as if willing the beverage to have alcohol. "Because I hate her."
Dom chuckled under his breath. "It's just one day, and Patrick and Richie will be here. You're probably going to convince them they want a baby."
Doris snorted. "They're babies. Well, hell, so am I, so who the fuck am I to talk? Malik is the only adult in this situation."
"Excuse me, what am I?"
"Baby with a moustache."
Dom laughed. He had missed this. It wasn't as if he never saw Doris, but things were so different now. Malik was her support system. However, he either very much did not want to attend the baby shower or actually had to work (it was fuzzy which one, and changed depending on who you asked), so the task of keeping Doris sane for a few hours fell to Dom, who was very qualified. Though usually those instances involved giving her alcohol, and that was obviously not an option.
Doris moved through the kitchen with just a hint of a waddle, to look at the tunnel of pink streamers that coated the ornate foyer. "It looks like a goddamn vagina. Open the front door and head toward the light to reenact your own birth. What a great fucking baby shower game."
"Keep your voice down," Dom said, half laughing, but eyeing Malik's sister in the next room. When he looked at the tunnel again, he cringed. "Oh my god, you're right."
"Of course I'm right." She rested the plastic flute on her bulging stomach and it actually stayed there. "I have to fake nice, don't I?"
Dom wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Just think about all the free stuff you're about to get."
"Okay, you win."
"I've never been to a baby shower," Patrick said, as he climbed out of the rental car. It was a shiny black SUV they had been upgraded to at the airport, and while he could drive just about anything, he was used to his little sedan on wide Texas state routes, and perhaps had forgotten how narrow some of the San Francisco city streets could be.
This, however, was the 'burbs. He parked in a concrete gutter next to a white sidewalk in front of an impressive home.
"I've been to a bunch," Richie said. "When you have as many cousins as I do, you end up at them. It's pretty much just gossip and food. Sometimes there's games and booze."
"Oh, you know Doris will have booze. We're all going to be drinking for two."
Richie laughed. "Sounds about right. You ready for the big reunion?"
Patrick smiled and actually relaxed a little bit. "I didn't think it would be at a baby shower, but I actually can't wait. I miss everyone so much. Skype isn't the same and the people there aren't... it's just not the same."
Richie reached up and wrapped his hand around the back of Patrick's neck. "I know. It's not easy making friends like yours. It takes time. And they're still here for you."
Patrick leaned over and kissed Richie. It was freeing to be back on the coast. He didn't always feel so at ease to do that back home.
Home. It was still weird to think of Texas as home when he'd only been there for six months. Richie had gone first, found an apartment got the truck set up and got into business before Patrick came about eight weeks later. He worked from home, and Richie came back to the apartment every night by seven, and this is what life was. It was a series of days with someone you want grow old with.
"I love you."
"Love you," Richie replied, and kissed him again.
They walked up the driveway and Richie rang the doorbell, while Patrick held onto his ivory colored bag.
While Doris had announced that she was having a girl, Patrick had felt a sudden wave of inclusion and only bought gender-neutral items. His previously inactive Instagram was suddenly filled with pictures of baby clothes with gendered sayings on it and captions of astonishment. And straight people think we're the ones pushing an agenda one had said beneath a photo of a blue onesie with the words CHICK MAGNET printed on it in orange block letters.
A very polished looking woman opened the door. She smiled in a way that didn't quite reach her eyes and said, "You must be Doris' friends."
"We are," Patrick said brightly, and he was about to introduce himself, but the woman turned on a heel and left them standing there.
"I see what she meant about Malik's family," Patrick said. With the invitation, Doris had sent a message warning them that the baby shower was an example of posturing, and things were positively chilly between her and Malik's family.
"But she didn't miss the decorations," Richie said as they walked into the house.
"Oh my god," Patrick said, looking up at the barrage of pink streamers. "I think we've entered the physical representation of the gender binary."
Richie laughed. "Is this what a vagina looks like?"
Patrick covered his mouth to laugh so it wouldn't echo off the crepe paper.
"Get in here!" called the unmistakable sound of Doris' ringing voice. She waved them into the kitchen where she wore a flowing blue printed dress that clung to her protruding stomach in that way that makes pregnant women look pregnant, but somehow also perfect.
"You look beautiful," Patrick said, and then was hesitant as he went in for the hug. Was he supposed to hug around the belly? He should have asked Richie before they even got on Californian soil.
"I look like a whale," Doris said in his ear, hugging him tightly, with no regard for the belly.
"No! You're glowing!" Patrick said as he stepped back, and it wasn't all lines. Doris really did have a glow about her, but that might have been sweat, or her general happiness.
"I have fat ankles, I pee every twenty minutes, and I'm compelled to clean everything." Doris grabbed Richie and hugged him just as tightly, never minding that she didn't know him nearly as well. "I have never felt so OCD in my life. It's like if I don't clean every surface the baby might touch, it will die instantly. I'm driving Malik crazy, but at least he's into fat ankles."
Patrick laughed. "Is Malik here?"
"Oh, god no," Doris replied, pouring herself a glass of sparkling apple juice. "This was one of those times he was happy to pass me off on Dom. If there's anything he knows, it's that 21st century gays love babies."
"Yeah, the second NPH started poppin' them out, we were done," Agustín said as he came up behind Patrick. "A bunch of baby lovin' faggots."
Doris snorted and was about to say something, but was called away by one of Malik's relatives. "Save me," she muttered instead as she waddled off to the living room.
Patrick turned to face Agustín. He grinned and pulled his friend into a quick, tight hug. "I don't know if I'd put it that way, but hi."
"Which part didn't you like? Faggots or baby lovin'?"
"That's right, you live in Texas. Where 'faggot' is what you get called while white guys hurl beer bottles at your head from cars."
Richie said something quickly in Spanish, that Patrick didn't quite catch (god, he needed to get better at Spanish, especially now, with living in Texas), but it seemed to be in the tone of cool it. Agustín rolled his eyes, but appeared a little bit resigned.
"That has literally never happened," Patrick said. At least not those specific parameters. He'd certainly heard the slur said in his direction since moving, but nothing violent had ever happened. "And what the kind of thing is that to say?"
"I don't know? Accurate?"
"Why are you being so fucking hostile?" Patrick asked in a loud whisper.
Agustín ran a hand through his hair and looked down at the floor, as if all his walls were crumbling and he was just left with his real feelings. "I don't... I don't know."
A rush of sympathy ran through Patrick, and his anger faded just as quickly as it had appeared. "Is everything okay with you and Eddie?"
"No, it's not that. Eddie's great. He's here. I can't believe you can't hear him." Agustín sighed. "I fucking hate it that you left when you could have stayed here. There was a job and everything, and you still left. And I get you and Richie -- no offense, man -- but I need you too, Paddy."
"No you don't," Patrick said, actually feeling a little teary. "You have Eddie and Dom."
"Yeah, but they're not... that friend. You know?"
"I know," Patrick said and pulled Agustín into another hug. "I miss you, too."
Agustín held tightly onto Patrick, his face buried in his shoulder. "I wouldn't be so pissed off if you didn't hate Texas."
"I don't hate it," Patrick said.
"You don't hate what?" Dom asked from behind them. He must have been alerted by Doris that things were potentially breaking down
Patrick let go of Agustín and turned to face Dom. "I don't hate Texas."
"Yes, you do," Dom said, as though it were perfectly obvious. "We talk on the phone. We've seen your face on Skype. You hate it."
"You do," Richie said, resting his hand on the back of Patrick's neck.
"No!" Patrick turned to face Richie who was smiling fondly at Patrick. Like he couldn't get enough of him. "I don't hate it," he said.
"It's okay," Richie said.
"And that's how we know you love Richie, because if you didn't, you wouldn't have lasted a week in the red state." Agustín said. "But I guess true love is worth the homophobes."
Patrick stifled a laugh. "It's not that bad."
"But...?" Dom started.
"Have you ever seen a mosquito the size of your hand?" Patrick asked, and the dam burst. "It's always sticky. The humidity never goes away. Everyone has a gun. Everyone. Even the other gays!"
"That's true," Richie said with a nod.
"Do you want to move back?" Dom asked.
"No," Patrick admitted. "I mean, yes, but..." He smiled at Richie, who seemed to be waiting for a direct answer. "It's worth it. It really is. I've been trying to figure out why a place I hate feels like home, but I realized, you're my home. And if you ever want to come back here, or go somewhere else, that's home, too."
Richie touched his hand to Patrick's cheek and pulled him in for a kiss. "You're my home, too, he whispered.
"You two are so sappy I could die," Agustín said. "Dom, where the hell is the alcohol?"
"They didn't want alcohol at the shower," Dom said. "Other than some bottles of expensive wine, this is a dry house."
Dom grinned. "Don't worry, Doris wanted to make sure we can drink. There's a cooler outside full of cheap beer. It's a secret stash that you can't bring inside, or leave the bottles all over the yard."
"I knew Doris wouldn't let us down," Patrick said.
"I'll go get Eddie," Agustín said.
Dom shook his head. "He's already out there. He's probably wondering why we haven't joined the real party yet."
Patrick grinned and wrapped an arm around Richie's waist. He missed this, there was no denying it, and maybe someday he could have it all, but right now, this was good.