Happy Birthday, Amber!
Thanks for this year’s invitation to your now legendary birthday bash! I hope this is your best year yet!
This time around I’m offering a little birthday bit about Elliot Mills and Tucker Lance from the All’s Fair series. Fair Play is out November 10th, so it seemed like good timing.
Readers, comment below to be entered in a drawing for the print edition of Fair Game. I’ll choose four lucky people from the entries — winner to be announced at the end of the month.
* * * * *
“Well, hell,” Elliot said.
“Yeah. Well.” Tucker was matter-of-fact. This was the reality of the job. Sometimes you worked Friday nights. And if Tucker wasn’t crying over not getting to blow the candles out on his birthday cake, Elliot probably shouldn’t make a thing of it.
But it was the first time they’d had a birthday to celebrate as a couple, and Elliot sort of wanted to make this a nice one for Tucker. He wanted…well, what he wanted didn’t really make sense. He wanted to make up for all those birthday parties Tucker hadn’t had growing up. Tucker, no doubt, would have hooted at the idea that Elliot thought he had to make up for a lack of clowns, ponies and paper hats. And Elliot would have laughed too. They were grown men, after all.
“So maybe you could take me out to dinner tomorrow night instead,” Tucker said. “Want to pencil me in?”
“Looking for my pencil right now,” Elliot said. He could shift their dinner reservations, no problem. He’d have to see if it was too late to head off the island bakery…
Tucker interrupted his thoughts. “You’re heading home to Goose Island tonight?”
There was something in that casual tone. Or was there? It was hard to tell on the phone. Elliot said, “If you’re working till late, yeah. I may as well.”
“Right. It doesn’t make sense for you to stay over at the apartment when I won’t be there.” Tucker sounded…like Tucker. Normal. Easy.
“Okay. Sorry about tonight.”
Someone was speaking in the background, and Tucker sounded distracted as he said, “I’ll talk to you later. Take care.”
That was Tucker’s code for I love you. And Elliot replied, “Take care.” He put down the phone thoughtfully.
* * * * *
Tucker’s apartment felt chilly. Elliot nudged the thermostat up a degree or two. Turned on a few lights. The air was a stale, the rooms a little stuffy, but then Tucker didn’t spend many nights here anymore. In fact, the place looked like Tucker had just moved in — or was in the process of moving out, which was about right. Tucker’s books, DVDs, CDs had all been relocated to Goose Island. His favorite chair sat in the sun porch at home. The Franz Schensky carbon seascape now hung in their bedroom.
This was probably silly. The decision to spend what would likely turn out to be a night all by himself at Tucker’s old place. He was probably over-thinking this, which really wasn’t something he was prone to. It was just that this whole thing, this whole living together and having a relationship thing was still new. He was still feeling through it. Not wanting to make too big a deal out of things, but not wanting to miss his cues either. He wasn’t sure there had been a cue this afternoon. Tucker had been updating him not crying on his shoulder.
Anyway, he was here now.
Elliot put the bacon, eggs, and bread in the fridge. He wasn’t sure if they’d be having a midnight supper or breakfast, but they’d be having it together.
He made himself coffee and graded papers until about eleven thirty. There was still no sign of Tucker, so it looked like they’d be having breakfast together.
Elliot washed up — shook his head at his mirrored reflection — and went to bed.
He woke to the pleasurable awareness of warm lips nuzzling the back of his neck. Elliot unstuck his eyelashes. The room was dark — very dark because Tucker had sunblocker drapes in here — but it was a comfortable darkness because Tucker was home at last.
Elliot rolled over and wrapped his arms around Tucker who was trying to do the same to him, so there was some pleasurable fumbling before their mouths latched on.
Elliot tasted Tucker’s pleased “Happy birthday to me.”
“It is home if you’re here.”
He almost missed the gruff words, mumbled as they were into his neck, but he didn’t miss them — and he hadn’t missed his cue today. Hadn’t got this wrong, made too much of nothing. The birthday of someone you loved was something, was worth celebrating.
Elliot held Tucker tighter, said against the thick, soft shock of Tucker’s hair, “I know we’re celebrating tomorrow –” He glanced at the bedside clock with its illuminated numbers and amended, “Today, but I didn’t want you to spend your birthday alone.”
“Awww. You didn’t have to do this.” Tucker drew back, pulling out of Elliot’s arms.
“No?” What the hell was Tucker doing? Then he laughed as the white blur of Tucker’s shirt went sailing through the air.
“No.” Tucker reached for him again. “But I’m glad you did.”
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