They took Callan's car, since he somehow had the most gas, and parked on the street as usual.
"Wow, Cal, the yard looks amazing," Melvin breathed, getting out of the car. Callan rolled his eyes.
"Tell my mom, not me. I don't give a shit about the yard."
Angela bumped him on the arm with a scowl on her face. "Be nice."
"Trust me, I am."
Callan knocked on the door, as was his usual ritual, and then proceeded to fish his keys from his pocket. Scratching could be heard on the other side of the door, alongside Whiskey's ecstatic barking. Alice's voice followed and the door swung open.
"Down boy! Hello, kids, I'm so glad—Dammit Whiskey, stop it!"
Whiskey was out the door, running between their legs with a wagging tail before Alice could grab his collar. Callan and Angela patted him on the back but Whiskey's favorite spot was right under Melvins feet.
"You kids come inside! Dinner is almost ready," Alice said, taking Angela's hand and dragging her inside. "Cal, you help Melvin and get the dog under control."
Whiskey had jumped up on Melvin, paws on his shoulders, and was busy licking his face. Melvin could barely hold the dog up and kept making faces every time Whiskey's tongue touched his lips. Callan caught Whiskey around the collar and dragged him away, Melvin spitting and wiping his mouth as he laughed.
"This dog can be such a dumbass."
"Oh, it's fine," Melvin laughed, holding the door for them. "He is freakishly strong though. I guess he takes after you, huh?"
Melvin giggled as he ran inside to hold the door open. It was clear, by the look on Callan's face, he was still thinking about the comment. Whiskey barked and tugged Callan back to attention. Callan followed the dog into the house and he let Whiskey go, right back onto Melvins shoulders as the door closed.
"Cal! He's too heavy!" Melvin cried. He gave up and sat down on the floor, Whiskey in his lap, as he took off his shoes.
Callan grinned, kicking his shoes off, and snapped his fingers at the dog. With a wagging tail, Whiskey followed his hand and Melvin jumped back up.
"Thanks," Melvin breathed, straightening his shirt. He then lowered his voice, leaning in a little closer, "Hey, uhh…I know I already asked, but are you sure you're okay with us being here? I know your dad…"
"Mel," Callan groaned.
"I know, sorry!" Melvin cried. He kept his voice down. "I just wanted to make sure."
"Sort of too late now. You're already here."
"I know…I just felt a little guilty being dragged over," Melvin sighed. He offered a smile and Callan rolled his eyes, slapping him on the shoulder.
"Stop that. How was he at work, by the way?"
Melvin nodded his head, as if clearing his thoughts with himself first. "He was fine. In a better mood than yesterday."
One of the perks of Melvin interning at the hospital: Callan could keep tabs on his father without actually communicating with him. Though he was sure Melvin got an earful of "be a good influence on Cal. Make sure he sees what you're doing so he'll be motivated". And for that, Callan felt guilty.
But John also couldn't raise his voice at Melvin in the workplace.
"That's good, at least," Callan muttered, only so that Melvin could hear, as they walked into the kitchen. Alice was chopping lettuce for a salad, Angela sitting at the bar with a glass of tea in her hand.
"Mel, make yourself at home. You know where everything is," Alice hummed as Melvin slipped in the chair by Angela.
"Ah, thank you, Mrs. Robinson."
Alice smiled and kept talking with them. About their classes, their jobs, their spare time; nothing in particular. But it was calm (save for Whiskey) and pleasant. There was no yelling or fighting or shaming. Just simple talking, the way a visit should be.
"This looks amazing," Angela said, her voice raised in excitement as she peered at the plate before her. "I haven't had salmon patties in such a long time."
"Well I hope it doesn't disappoint," Alice replied.
"Oh, Mrs. Robinson, as if your food could ever disappoint," Melvin laughed.
Callan stayed quiet, eating his food and simply listening to them talk. It reminded him of when they were little. How Melvin and Angela would spend hours at the house and they'd all play. But for lunch they'd all sit at the table, Alice along with them, and she'd listen to their childish rambling.
And the scene before him now was no different. The same energy was there, though instead of rambling, there was actual conversation. Angela went on about her job and even a little about Maya. Melvin told them about his internship and the various amounts of coffee and espresso he was now familiar with.
Callan wondered, probably longer than he should, about his own relationship. Allice said nothing about Angela and Maya; she smiled and nodded and told Angela how happy she was for her. If Callan told his mother about Zachary—about a man he met in a bar, who gave him money, who was a successful lawyer, who was ten years older—could she easily accept him? Could she really accept him and Zachary?
"Callan, you're being really quiet," Alice said. "Is something bothering you?"
Callan shook himself from his glazed-over staring and smiled. "No, I'm fine. Just listening."
Alice smiled and nodded, returning to her food. But Angela caught Callan exhale and saw the tension leave his face. Melvin quickly spoke up, taking over the conversation before she could say anything.
For dessert, Alice made scones; homemade, blueberry scones they drank alongside cups of hot coffee (decaf for Melvin). They all sat in the sitting room, Alice and Callan on the sofa while Angela took the armchair; Melvin sat on the floor with Whiskey sitting proudly in his lap. The massive dog practically hid Melvin from view, save for his hands and legs.
It was so laid back that they didn't even hear the door open. They didn't hear the heavy footsteps or the briefcase being slung onto the kitchen counter. But Angela was the first to come to attention, as she sat facing the entrance way to the sitting area; Alice and Callan had their backs turned and Melvins view was obstructed by Whiskey.
"Good evening, Mr. Robinson," Angela said. Alice looked around first, eyes wide as John scanned the room.
Callan looked over the sofa at him, cup against his face. It was like hiding in plain sight. He felt his stomach tense and he curled his toes deeper into the sofa.
"Having a little get-together?" John calmly asked. He kissed Alice on the head, as a hello, and she smiled.
"Just the kids," she said. "I made you a plate. It's on the counter."
John nodded. "Alright. I'll get it later. I won't keep you from your company. Have fun."
And as quietly as he came, he left. Without another word. Callan felt his throat tighten and he sipped more of his coffee. He dipped his scone into the hot liquid and watched steam dance around his hand. He could hear John in the other room, shuffling through his office.
Callan looked to his mother.
"Cal, if you need to talk to him…," Melvin said.
"Maybe I should," Callan sighed.
"You don't need to," Alice said firmly, grabbing his arm. "Don't feel obliged to."
"I know but I can't just ignore him," Callan said, setting his cup down. Well, of course he could but then he'd be no better than John. He stood up and ran his hands over his jeans, wiping off his sweaty palms, and made his way to his dad's study.
He stared at the closed door, tall and looming. When he was little he remembered it being the same way. An unapproachable white fortress, protecting some god-like realm. He was never allowed to enter it as a child and he still felt the same now. It wasn't his place. He was forbidden to enter, with or without permission.
He reached out and knocked against that intimidating door and waited to enter before hearing a curt "Come in".
John didn't look up as Callan entered, but the sour look on his wrinkled face already told Callan he knew who it was.
"I just wanted to say hi," Callan said with a shrug. He let the door slide closed and leaned against the wall. "That's all."
"If that's all, then why are you lingering, Callan? What else is it? Money? I told you already you're cut off."
Callan turned, pressing his fingers to the doorknob and he stopped, shaking. He shook his head and inhaled deep, spinning back around and firmly planting his feet on the wood floor. He clenched his fists. "Actually, no, that's not all. And it's not money. I wanted to tell you that I sold a painting."
There was a pause. Whatever John had planned on saying had to be held back because it was clear, by the dumbfounded look on his face, that he wasn't expecting Callan's reply. He lowered his papers and sat back in his chair.
And even with his father giving him his full attention, Callan didn't get his hopes up. Where his heart should be racing in excitement, he was instead mentally bracing himself.
"Well aren't you lucky. And now you think you can live off of what you made. What was it, a few hundred? If that? You're just a beginning—"
"It was three thousand," Callan said. "And that wasn't the starting price, either, because several people offered to buy it that night. I know it's not enough to live off, but it bought groceries and paid the bills. And I had some left over for next month, too. I know I can't expect artistic stardom overnight, but considering that was my first try, I'd say it's a decent little push."
John made a soft noise of disapproval. "So which painting of yours was supposedly worth three thousand dollars?"
"I didn't think you'd care enough to ask. But since you want to know, you can ask mom to describe it to you," Callan said. John's lips thinned and Callan turned to the door, pulling it open. He smiled, feeling triumphant, and walked out of the office, closing the door as he left.
He leaned against the wall in the hallway, eyes closed, and his smile still plastered on his face. He didn't care about artistic stardom or whatever. He added that for effect. All he wanted was to do what he loved and for his father to accept it. But if John was still going to put it down, Callan knew he could at least drive the man insane with curiosity.
He bit back his grin and regained himself, walking back to the living room. As soon as he entered, everyone grew quiet, looking up at him.
"Everything alright?" Angela asked. Callan nodded.
"Everything is just fine."
Melvin had no problem staying quiet, but Angela was getting increasingly more curious as to where Callan snuck off to every chance he had. It was mid-October and she had never seen Callan so completely calm about his art and schoolwork and money. It was relieving, of course, but worrisome.
What was he up to?
"I've just gotten better at keeping my shit together," Callan said as he packed up his belongings. "I'm going out."
"Again? You just got back from work." She folded her arms and raised her eyebrows. "And it's early."
"Are you…doing anything illegal?" She squinted her eyes at him, watching his expression go from shocked to offended.
"What the fuck? Do you seriously think I'm that stupid?"
Callan rolled his eyes but Angela kept eying him, mainly his ears. There was no hint of red to them, so she knew he wasn't lying about doing shady business.
"If you're dating someone, you can tell me."
"I can," Callan mused, "but I'd rather keep that personal. Last time I dated someone, you tried to kill them."
"Last time you dated someone, you were in high school, you were fifteen and their name was Jean. I had a valid reason."
"He wasn't that awful."
"Not at first."
"Not ever. He was nice. We just weren't compatible. And I have to go," Callan hummed, running to the door. "I'll see you later!"
Angela opened her mouth to argue more but the genuine smile on Callan's face silenced her. She smiled to herself. He was happy, with whatever (whoever?) he was doing, and he seemed healthy and less stressed. Maybe it was yoga, she told herself, or maybe, just maybe, her brother had finally found someone.
Now if only she could get Melvin to eat instead of living off his textbooks and coffee.
Ever since his run-in with Angela while being dropped off, Callan decided that being picked up directly in front of his apartment was out of the question. He'd walk halfway down the sloping hill, just to avoid running in to anyone. Kyle stayed quiet. Same with Kevin. Neither of them dared to ask questions out of respect for Callan's privacy. But it definitely didn't stop them from being curious (that was obvious during any class when they'd expectantly sit next to Callan and make small talk). Never anything direct but they would casually drop hints.
The people Callan really wanted to avoid, while Zachary was around, were Jake, Luca, Jean and Alex. Three for teasing and one for the obvious.
And of course there was Melvin. There was no easy way for him to break it to his friend that he was (sort of) dating an older man. And for his money. Sort of.
Then Angela. She was already suspicious and Callan really didn't want to explain to her that he was fucking her adoptive cousin for gas money.
Callan hated bothering with titles and specifics for their relationship. He slipped into Zachary's car, setting his bag on the floorboard with a sigh. Zachary tapped him under the chin with an affectionate finger and Callan smiled.
"You look like a pleased little kitten," Zachary hummed, driving back down the hill. "With your shit-eating grin."
"You always do that," Callan laughed. "The finger-chin thing. Well…at least the last few times we've seen each other you have."
"I'm not allowed to kiss you. I needed some way of greeting you without making you uncomfortable. So it's either a chin tap or straight to fucking."
Callan's eyes widened and his cheeks heated up red. He looked down at his hands, nervously fidgeting with them as he sat back against the chair. He tried thinking back to every little tap on his chin; to every lingering touch.
"You didn't bring the Porsche today," Callan muttered.
"Well aren't you a spoiled baby," Zachary teased. "I need to take it to get washed. The thing is fucking filthy from when it rained. I wanted to get it washed and go for a drive but work has had me so fucking swamped."
Callan started to laugh. "You're so ridiculous."
Callan wiped a finger across the Porsche's pewter surface, leaving a clean-ish stripe in the dust. Zachary rolled his eyes as Callan wrote "Wash me, Daddy", complete with a sad face, across the window.
"Are you fucking serious?" Zachary asked, shaking his head, amused by the childish grin on Callan's face.
"If I wash it, can we go?" Callan mused, tilting his head back to look over his shoulder. He even gave his hips a generous shake to make sure he had Zachary's attention. And it certainly made Zachary narrow his eyes in a predatory gaze.
Callan hummed in approval and tapped his fingers against the car as Zachary rutted his hips against him. There was no real friction through their jeans, but the vulgar gesture left enough to Callan's imagination to make him grin.
"Why do you like this car so much?" Zachary mused, pushing his fingers under Callan's shirt to feeling his warm skin. "Do you like it because it's fast? Or because of the way it purrs on this ass?"
He punctuated his words with a loud slap to Callan's rear. Callan bit his lip.
"Both. But also because it's a convertible and I like riding with the top down."
"That was a strangely innocent answer," Zachary winced. "That's fucking weird coming from you."
"Do you want me to talk dirty about the car?"
"That's even weirder."
"Zachyyyy," Callan whined. "The weather is so nice. I don't want to be cooped up in the house all day. Pretty please, daddy, take me for a ride?"
"Persistent little baby. The bucket is over there. I swear to whatever god there is Callan, if you scratch my car—"
"I'm a good boy," Callan cried, clenching his fists in excitement. "I'm going to go change into something that won't weigh me down when it's wet."
But that daddy comment was even better.
By the time Callan had changed, Zachary was already sitting outside, his Porsche parked in the sunlight. The garden hose had been pulled out and the bucket filed with soapy water. All the cleaning supplies were neatly stacked in a small caddy right next to the bucket.
Zachary had stretched out in a lounge chair, a stack of paperwork in his hands. With the way his house sat, the wide driveway to the garage looped around to the back. And with the way Callan was dressed, Zachary was glad they were out of sight from the neighbors.
Callan pranced out in a pair of track shorts and a simple white tank top. He was all beautifully tanned skin and long toned muscles. Zachary lowered his papers to watch his cute pet bend over to pick up the water hose. There was nothing seductive about his movements but that innocence made Callan even more irresistible.
Because it was when the brat was completely natural, Caribbean-blue eyes blown wide and face oblivious to wandering eyes, that Zachary found him truly captivating. Breathtaking.
"Don't have a heart attack, old man," Callan teased, spraying the car down with water. "I'd hate to call Life Alert when you said we'd go on a drive."
"Stop rambling and get to your chores, baby," Zachary deadpanned. "Or else no rewards."
Callan pouted and threw the hose down, picking up the soapy sponge from the bucket. He leaned over the hood of the car, spreading his legs and arching his back, as he squeezed soap out of the sponge. Zachary raised an eyebrow, neglecting his actual work, to pay better attention to the show being put on.
Callan was doing a half-assed job of cleaning, as to be expected. Zachary could see streaks and he kept forgetting to rinse. But within minutes Callan was soaked and his thin clothes clung to his body, accentuating the dips of his lean muscles.
Zachary watched it all shamelessly, his papers lying loose between his fingers. Callan looked over his shoulder as he wiped down a window. With a grin, he reached for his shirt, pulling it over his head and tossing it aside. Zachary raised his eyebrows, pupils blown in interest and arousal because holy shit, Callan's body looked even better in the light with droplets of water trickling down his muscular back.
Zachary shook himself from his unblinking stare. "What?"
"I thought you said something," Callan said, spraying the car down with water. "I think I'm just about done."
"You did a shitty job," Zachary sighed. Callan threw down the water hose and turned to glare Zachary down. "But I'll give you a fucking A for looking good."
Callan certainly perked up at Zachary's words. Running a hand through his hair, to push back wet fringe, Callan proudly strutted over to Zachary. The moment he leaned on the edge of the lawn chair, Zachary let his papers slip from his fingers and onto the grass.
"So do I get my reward, daddy?" Callan hummed, straddling Zachary's waist. He may have been soaking wet and making a mess, but Zachary found touching him impossible to resist. He rested his hands on Callan's waist, fingers lingering over the top of his shorts.
He was pleased by the sight of the growing bulge poking through the thin shorts. "I think you should get a little treat before we go."
Callan gripped the back of the chair and moaned at Zachary's breath against his bare chest.
"Do I get daddy's cock?"
Zachary may be enchanted with Callan's innocence, but he easily fell prey to the boy's deliberant seductiveness, too.
He let his hand slip from Callan's waist to palm him through those wet shorts. A delicious moan escaped Callan's parted lips and he let his head loll back.
"I'll give you this for now and then you can go change," Zachary said, flicking a tongue against Callan's pert nipple. "Be a good little kitten for daddy and you can get some cock later."
"Ahh…fuck, Zachary…" Callan's voice squeaked as Zachary squeezed his cock through his shorts. His legs shook as he rocked his hips, his breathing heavy and his eyes hooded with desire. "P-Please…"
"Pretty please, daddy," Zachary demanded, tugging on the waistband of Callan's shorts.
Callan sharply exhaled though his nose as Zachary pushed his hand into those wet shorts. He starting moving his hips, just as Zachary's fingers barely grazed his cock and groaned at the lack of contact. Zachary grinned, still ghosting his fingertips over Callan's length, and enjoyed the pouting fit Callan was having on his lap.
"Zachary, I said please!"
"I know, but I love watching you squirm like a cock hungry kitten."
"I am cock hungry, fuck."
Zachary wrapped his arm around Callan's waist, keeping him still, and gripped his cock with his hand. He gave Callan a few long, slow strokes before he stopped the teasing. Callan's legs shook and his breathing grew ragged, completely wrecked within seconds. He thrust his hips into Zachary's hand, grabbing at Zachary's shoulders, his hair; anything he could get his fingers around.
"Don't bite your lip," Zachary snapped. "I want to your filthy little cries."
Callan let his lip slip between his teeth with a whimper. He dropped his mouth, panting harder with each jerk and twist of Zachary's hand.
"You love this don't you?" Zachary purred against his chest, swiping his thumb over Callan's slit, smearing precum down his length. "Being outside with your cock in my hand. Tell daddy how much you love this."
Callan tried to focus, his eyes closed and brows knit tight together. "I fucking love it, da—Fuck!"
Zachary turned his wrist just right, with just enough pressure to squeeze out a sharp cry and orgasm from Callan. The brunet fell forward, cum splattering on to his stomach as his shoulders slumped and his legs quivered around Zachary.
A gentle smile spread over Zachary's face and he ran his clean hand along Callan's shivering arm, up his neck and to his mess of wet hair. Callan sat back, Zachary's hand still threaded through his hair, and returned the little smile with a shy innocence.
Innocence because he was no stranger to a rough, quick fuck but he was still being acclimated to the intimacy that was meant to follow. That Zachary was showing him.
They held each other's gaze for what could have been an eternity.
Callan nodded, unable to find his words just yet. Zachary rested his hands on Callan's waist, drawing softer circles with his thumbs that made Callan squirm with a delightful giggle. The smile never left Zachary's face and Callan raised his eyebrows at him.
"W-What is it…?" His voice was small, and still trembling.
The soft, searching voice made Zachary tense up. His stomach dropped and a feeling of sickness came over him. Callan slapped a hand over his mouth out of fear, hearing the woman's voice as well. Zachary pulled his hands back in just enough time to see a woman walking around the sidewalk.
Her eyes widened once she spotted them.
Callan looked around at her, out of curiosity, and then back to Zachary. It was the same woman they had run in to the night they went out to eat. From the way she was dressed, Callan could see she was a professional, like Zachary; a skirt suit and heels, her auburn hair swept from her face and a stack of papers held to her chest.
His cheeks lit up red and he started to mumble in a voice only Zachary could hear.
"Fuck, I'm sorry, what do I do? What do we do? Oh God, Zachary…"
A gentle hand to the small of his back quieted Callan down. He took a breath as Zachary sat up straight, regaining his composure.
"It looks like you forgot we had a little meeting today?" Jenny asked, shaking the papers in her hand.
"I was distracted," Zachary replied.
"I can see."
Callan wanted to die. It was bad enough he was half-naked, coming down from his orgasm, and wet on top of Zachary, but now there was this woman. And from their tones, they weren't on good terms either.
Zachary slid from under Callan's body and picked up the towel he had placed out on the ground. He draped it over Callan's shoulders, pulling it tight to cover the boy up.
"Why don't you go inside, get dried off and warm and we'll head out in an hour," Zachary said, patting Callan on the head.
Callan nodded and held the towel cautiously around himself. He looked back to the woman, who was standing shaking her head. Without a word, Callan nodded, tried to smile at her and then ran off into the house.
He slammed the door behind him, breathing hard. It was terrible. Of all things to go wrong, it had to really go shitastic wrong.
Calln sat with his sketchpad open, doodling on Zachary's bed and waiting for the two to finish their business. He kept the door cracked, hearing an occasional snarky remark from Zachary or even Jenny laughing. He heard the same names repeated, over and over.
Callan recognized Linda's name as his own professor from Rose-Gold. Ken was someone new. But judging from what he could understand, Mick seemed to be the most important out of the others mentioned. There was tension, he could tell, but nothing that couldn't be smoothed over. They were going over legal documents, separating things equally…?
And then he heard his name. Muttering. "Isn't he a little young?"
Callan certainly perked up then. He crept to the door of Zachary's room on his toes and pressed his ear to the crack to listen. There was more mumbling, something he couldn't make out but it was Zachary speaking.
"Don't break his heart, too."
"I wouldn't do that intentionally to anyone. Especially not him."
Callan could sense the tension again. He swallowed hard, pressing a hand to his chest and to his racing heart, as if that would slow it down. The sincerity and concern in Zachary's voice made Callan's knees a little too weak and his heart flutter a little too much. He wanted it to stop; he didn't like feeling so…invested.
Yet when he looked down, he realized he was clenching Zachary's pillow to his chest. Not the pillow he slept on, but the pillow Zachary slept on because Callan liked the way it smelled. And when he looked at his artbook there were only sketched pictures of Zachary in it. He wasn't even wearing his own clothes; he had pulled on one of Zachary's shirts.
The feeling was sickening and he wanted it to stop. Even if it did feel a little nice…
He listened to what he could of the conversation and then heard chairs moving against the floor. Callan ran back to the bed, his sketchpad in hand, and heard the two mumble goodbyes. The door opened and closed. And then footsteps.
The door to the bedroom opened and Zachary stared at him, looking exhausted. He rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"You heard me. You wanted to go for a drive. Let's go. Get some shoes on."
Callan hesitated. "We…We don't have to. You seem really stressed. If you want I can go…?"
"You should know by now, baby, that I always have something making me fucking stressed and pissing me off. I'll cool the fuck down while I'm driving. So either get your ass up, shoes on and in the car or I'm leaving without you."
Callan quickly obeyed and found his shoes before Zachary could say another word.
It was a much needed drive indeed.
Within minutes of driving with the top down on his Porsche, Zachary's entire demeanor changed. His brow softened and he didn't press his lips together in such a thin line. He relaxed back in his chair, his arm on the car door and his head resting against a lazy hand.
Callan tried not to watch him. He kept his eyes on the lake they drove around, relishing in the cool air and soft waves of the water. They would pass by joggers and bikers and people with their dogs. Callan stretched out, raising his arms above his head and staring at the sun through his fingers.
"Is that my shirt?"
Callan looked to Zachary. The man didn't look at him, his eyes instead on the road. Callan tucked his hands behind his neck, glancing down at the St. Anger t-shirt he wore.
"It looks good on you."
Those certainly weren't the words Callan was expecting. He flushed and looked away as Zachary laughed.
"Cute little baby."
Callan rolled his eyes. "I never pegged you as the type to like Metallica until I saw this shirt."
Zachary snorted. "For your information, I've been a fan since before you were born. Back in college, a few friends and I went on a road trip to catch three of their concerts. Stupidest, fucking weekend of my life. I missed classes, stayed hungover, snorted more drugs I care to remember. But we had a blast."
"Wow…," Callan laughed, running his hands over the shirt. "That's intense."
"Never do that sort of shit. We did end up backstage one night and we got a few pictures with the band. That's how Linda met her husband, Tom. He was a roadie."
Callan knew enough about getting backstage from movies to know what that implied. He chuckled and turned back to Zachary, just to see that the man's faint smile had started to fade. As fond as that old memory may be, the pressing issue at hand was heavier.
Zachary parked the car, facing the lake, and rested his head against his seat. He scrambled through his pockets, pulling out his cigarettes and a lighter. Callan watched him light one and breathe a thin trail of smoke into the air.
"I'm sure you have a shitton of fucking questions about…what happened at the house," Zachary said. "So, for right now, I'm willing to answer them, darling."
"You're so cheery."
Callan rolled his eyes and grabbed Zachary's free hand, raising it to his head. Zachary started to run his hand through Callan's hair and Callan contently sighed, listening to Zachary's breathing even out.
"I would rather you not be a stick in a pile of shit and you pay me attention."
"Fuck, you're spoiled rotten," Zachary said. "And it's my fault but I'm honestly pleased with it."
Zachary's cigarette went unnoticed, ash falling away off the side of the car. Callan practically purred with Zachary's hand in his hair and in the most non-sexual way he could. It was gentle affection he craved and Zachary was showering him in it.
More joggers went by. More people walking their dogs. A few boats on the water. Zachary made snarky remarks where he could. Callan laughed and somehow ended up with his head against Zachary's shoulder; and Zachary's arm around him instead of in his hair.
It wasn't really cuddling. Even if Callan did link their fingers together to hold Zachary's hand.
"Godammit," Zachary sighed, "that woman is my ex-wife."
Callan's eyes widened. "Oh fuck."
"We weren't married long. Maybe about three years. And for about a year of that she was cheating on me with one of my office workers. We got divorced and now we're just taking care of a few remaining legal matters. Just property shit, nothing too awful."
Callan swallowed hard and tightened his grip on Zachary's hand.
"Is that why you wanted a cute play thing? To help you through this?" Callan asked. He tried to make his voice as calm and as steady as possible. But the mere thought hurt him more than he wanted to admit.
"I'm going through a fucking divorce. I went out drinking to cope with the stress. Taking in a stray to pamper wasn't on my fucking agenda. That's extra stress and money."
"So I'm a burden?"
"No but you are a beautiful, self-defeating brat. Stop thinking you're annoying me. If I didn't want you around, I wouldn't have you around. That's just it. The bottom line. I invite you over and take care of you for a reason."
Callan felt that same flutter in his heart that he had felt earlier while waiting for Zachary in his room. He still didn't like it and it still made him a little sick. But he was still wanted it…
"Jenny always said I wasn't affectionate enough. And so I'm making it a point to change," Zachary continued. "But I've made a promise to myself to never tolerate anyone ever cheating on me again."
A sickness came over Callan that had nothing to do with his feelings for Zachary. He squeezed Zachary's hand tighter because he suddenly hated himself even more. He really was the type of person Zachary didn't want. He was the type of person undeserving of Zachary's love.
No, not love. Zachary could never love him. The man was too good. So absolutely perfect.
And Callan knew he was so absolutely flawed.
But for the first time, in years, Callan craved the tenderness of someone's lips. He wanted to kiss Zachary right then. He wanted to taste Zachary's mouth and explore the wet cavern but just thinking about it made Callan tremble.
He resorted to curling in to Zachary as much as he could, to be as close as physics allowed. "I'm sorry you went through that. That's…that's awful…"
"Shit fucking happens."
They didn't say a word after that. Not for a few minutes. They watched more people pass, carrying about their business, but this time Zachary didn't comment. He lips thinned and he dragged on his cigarette.
Callan tensed under his hand. "Oh…"
"Not with my baby. His. Mick's. It's just…I should have saw it coming. All of it. They were supposed to be together and I knew it and I just fucked it up. Now I'm fucked up. I'm sorry I fucked myself up."
"You're not. You couldn't have known that would happen," Callan whispered. "It's not like you're a psychic or something weird. Shit just…fucking happens."
Zachary made a noise that could have been a laugh. Callan smiled.
"Zachary, we're dating, right? Sort of exclusively? I don't know what the rules are for this sugar daddy thing and I don't want to fuck up."
The words left his mouth before he could really think about them. But Callan had to make sure. He couldn't be the reason why Zachary hated dating for the rest of his life. He didn't want to contribute to more of Zachary's pain and distrust.
Zachary shrugged. "I guess." Callan sat up and turned to look at Zachary.
"It's not like I've been with anyone since we've been doing this…whatever we're doing. I just want to make sure. I don't want to hurt you, too."
Zachary didn't reply. He flicked away the rest of his cigarette and rested his arm on the car door. He propped his head on his hand and narrowed his eyes, looking out over the water. His features visibly sharpened and Callan knew that he was done. Closed up and locked tight.
The hurt was written across his face, as clear as the cloudless sky. It was the pain of someone who had been so hurt by someone and Callan could see just what it did. What he had been doing with Jean and to Kevin. And it was terribly wrong. He choked back a sob forming in the back of his throat.
"Don't apologize. Stop apologizing. You didn't do anything, Callan."
Callan shrank back into his seat. "I know but I brought it up. I'm sorry."
"For the last time," Zachary said, turning around to face him, his tone sharp enough to shred metal. "Stop apologizing for shit that's not your fault. It's annoying."
The word was on the tip of his tongue and Zachary knew it when he shot Callan an unforgiving glare. Callan bit back his "sorry" and Zachary threaded his fingers through Callan's hair.
"Thanks," Zachary said and a sweet smile spread right over Callan's lips.
Callan pushed forward to rest his head against Zachary's shoulder. Zachary draped his arm over Callan's shoulders, to keep him close, and turned his eyes back to the lake.
"You're welcome," Callan mumbled, his voice barely about a whisper. He felt Zachary's muscles tense and he knew the man was smiling.