“Wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to go. ”
Gabriel Sarrano looked over at Erik Morrey’s words. They’d been roommates for a little more than a month and had mostly fallen into a comfortable state. Erik took care of most of the chores around the house while Gabriel was working, in between searching for a job. He just seemed to be having trouble finding one in this small town that would be flexible with his ongoing physical therapy.
Erik leaned against the door frame now, appearing casual. Although Gabriel could see the position took some of the weight off his right leg and the prosthetic attached to what was left of it.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he finally said. “I never said anything about not wanting to go to my dad’s for dinner. I go every Sunday.”
“Exactly. I don’t understand why he makes you show up every week like it’s a damn holiday. A bit controlling, isn’t it?”
Gabriel shook his head. Of course, Erik wouldn’t understand. He didn’t have the same family dynamic as the Sarannos. He was living here with Gabriel because Erik’s own father had kicked him out of the house. Because he wouldn’t just deny the part of him that was attracted to other men. There was nothing wrong or disgusting about that, but trying to relay that to old Jakob Morrey wouldn’t be an easy task.
“It’s not like that. He started this after Mom died.” His throat tightened at the memory of that time. They’d all been grieving, their father most of all, and they hadn’t known how to deal with it. “It’s probably the only thing that held us together as a family.”
“That was like a dozen years ago, though. Why does he keep it up? I just don’t get it.”
“They nearly lost me, too, if you remember.” He held up his right arm, wishing it was easier to stretch and flex his fingers. But, he couldn’t feel them. “He likes knowing we’re all still here. My family isn’t like yours, Erik. We actually like each other.”
“Really?” he asked, stepping forward. “Is that why they don’t know you like to kiss guys, too.”
Gabriel felt his face flame, but he started to turn away. “It’s not like that. They don’t know because it’s not likely to come up. I’m more attracted to women.” Gabriel knew Erik had a harder time hiding his bisexuality because it was the opposite for him. Not that either of them should have to hide it. But in this town it was probably better, considering what his younger brother’s friends had just been through*
Erik took another step toward him and Gabriel just barely caught his stumble from the corner of his eye. He turned as quick as he could and caught the other man around the waist. “You okay?” he asked when Erik was steady on his feet again.
“Yeah. Fine.” But, Gabriel felt a shudder go through the other man’s body. And he was a little hesitant to release him. “Shouldn’t still feel like I got a pail around my foot, though.”
“It takes time. You’ve only had that leg a few months. You’ll gain better use of it. It took me quite a while to do much with my hand.” Even now, there were some things he couldn’t quite manage.
Erik stepped away from him, appearing steadier now. “If you say so. I guess I should let you get to it. Don’t need your dad mad at me, too.”
Gabriel went to raise his hand and stop him, though. “Why don’t you come with me? Dad won’t mind one more person. I’ll just let him know to order more food.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that will go over well. Like a mayor taking in a vagrant.”
Gabriel shook his head. “Don’t start being an asshole again. That comparison doesn’t even make any sense. And we’ve been over this before. My family doesn’t hate you.”
“I spent my childhood hearing how much all of you: Sarannos, Hollands, Siddells, hated us Morreys.”
“No. We all hated your father. And with reason. Particularly Julian Siddell.” Erik nodded at that. They’d both heard the story, though different sides of it, of the fight Erik’s father’d had with Julian, all because of who Julian was with.** Jakob’s racism was about as bad as the rest of his bigotry. “I thought that was behind us when we first stepped on an airplane together, though.” They’d trained together, fought next to each other.
“It is,” he insisted. “I’m sorry. I tried seeing Mom yesterday, hoping to avoid him, and it didn’t go so well. She believes the story he told her, that I just didn’t want to remain in their house anymore. I shouldn’t be surprised. She’s always believed him over me.”
“Just come to dinner with me. You’ll see. My family isn’t like that.”
Erik sighed. “Fine. Let me change, and I’ll go. But, I’m sure you’ll be the one to see.”
Gabriel just hoped he could prove the other man wrong. But, sometimes it was hard to know what you’d get with his family.
*reference to something that happens in Love Who You Love and the problems Susan and Kendall face when they start a relationship.
**I actually wrote this last month for the A-Z Challenge
Wasn’t sure I’d actually get all the words to fit in there(particularly airplane), but I did. And this might even work for the opening scene of Break on Me. Which I’m now off to work on.