Characters: Quentin Graham and Tyler Jordan Graham
Word count: 5120
Notes: I wanted to write a cute little Valentine's story. And then it became 5000 words. Backstory and some sad feels, but a cute and happy story anyways.
Timeline: February 14, 2016
Donna had asked them to housesit while she was taking her well-deserved cruise to the Bahamas, and Quentin agreed only a little reluctantly after learning that Janet would be in California for the week. She left the day before Valentine’s Day, so they went over on Sunday after a lazy morning in bed to check on the cat and bring their bags to spend a few nights there.
Tyler Jordan had only been in the house Quentin grew up in twice before, when they had dinner with Donna for Quentin's birthday and when they'd helped Orly get his stuff into the moving truck to move to Colorado with Paul. Neither time had given him the opportunity to poke around, looking at the pictures on the walls or even seeing which room had been Quentin's, though it had long been repurposed before it was turned back into a bedroom when Orly came back from Iraq. Quentin walked through the house with a small but definite frown on his lips when Tyler Jordan requested a tour.
"It's not like your house," he said, leaning on the wall next to the door of the room that had been his and Orly's back when they'd had to share. "Your house is full of good memories and happiness. I couldn't get out of here fast enough."
"You said that was because of Janet," Tyler Jordan said, standing in the middle of the empty room and trying to imagine what it had been like when Quentin had been young. "You couldn't have had a completely miserable childhood."
"In this house I did," Quentin sighed. "We moved in here after Janet was born. This whole place is tainted. Before that things weren't so bad."
"Yeah? What was that like?" Tyler Jordan came out of the room to find Quentin staring at the ceiling, still frowning, and he touched Quentin's shoulder gently. "Before she was born?"
"It still wasn't great, but it was better." Quentin blinked and looked at Tyler Jordan, then shrugged slightly. "Things were easier when I was the baby of the family. I didn't have to fight for attention. I was kind of a mama's boy, honestly. I wasn't spoiled by anyone's definition, but she did kinda coddle me. I mean, we lived in the projects, I barely owned anything that hadn't belonged to my brothers first... but I didn't have to act up just for someone to realize I wanted attention." He shook his head and headed back downstairs, adding more softly as he went, "You probably wouldn't understand."
"Why wouldn't I understand?" Tyler Jordan was right behind him, and when Quentin paused at the base of the stairs he hooked his chin over Quentin's shoulder and wrapped his arms around him. "We were raised differently, but I don't fail to understand you all the time, do I?"
"No, you-- you're great, this isn't about you." Quentin shrugged out of his embrace and went to sit on the couch, tucking his legs up under him. "I don't know. Your dad cares so much about all of you, it's hard to imagine him playing favorites."
"He tried not to, but we all know who it is," Tyler Jordan said with a laugh, sitting on the other side of the couch. "Your mom cared the most about the youngest. My dad always had the strongest connection with the oldest. And, I mean, none of us fault him for it. Paul's probably the reason my dad is as protective of all of us as he is. Because at first he was always getting into trouble, and then he was-- he always knew he was gay, right away, never had a crush on a girl or anything, and Dad was just so fierce in defending him from anyone who tried to tell him he was wrong or bad or anything like that."
"I can't even imagine," Quentin said. "I mean, I found out that Rishi was interested in boys and girls when I was in middle school, but he never told Mom about it, he threatened to kill me if I told anyone. Orly... I had no fucking clue about Orly. When he and Paul started dating I was absolutely blindsided. And I tried like hell to ignore the way I felt about guys... pretty much until I met you." He shrugged. "It's not like Mom was anti-gay or anything. Grandma was, you know, casually homophobic like everyone her age. But it wasn't like I was being told I would go to hell or anything... I just saw the ways people at school treated anyone who was different, and I was already different enough to catch hell about it."
"I'm glad we met when we did, we met at exactly the right time for what we'd become to each other. But sometimes I wish I'd known you when we were younger. Before you built all those walls around yourself."
"You're inside all my walls," Quentin pointed out. "You're the only person inside all my walls."
"I'm inside a lot of them, but I don't think I'm inside all of them," Tyler Jordan said. "And that's okay. I don't want to bust them down. I want to help you deconstruct them when you're ready to. But I wonder what you were like before you got hurt so many times by so many people." Quentin stared at Tyler Jordan for a long minute, chewing on his lower lip, and then he sighed and stood up from the couch.
"I'm gonna show you something," he said. "But you can't laugh."
"I won't," Tyler Jordan promised.
"I mean it," Quentin said. "I looked like a total dork back then."
"You've seen my baby pictures," Tyler Jordan said. "I was right there when my dad went through the photo albums with you. You've already seen me at my dorkiest. I'm not gonna laugh at you." Quentin frowned at him for a second and then sighed.
"Okay. Yeah. I just... wanna let you see what I looked like when I was still a happy kid." The coffee table in front of the couch was actually a trunk; Quentin cleared the few things on its surface to the floor and popped it open, and his frown deepened. "Orly locked me in this thing once and sat on top of it. I was in it for an entire episode of Rugrats."
"Seriously?" Tyler Jordan stood up to look into it. "How old were you?"
"Five," Quentin said, and reached in to start sorting through the hardbound photo albums inside. "I was short for my age though... once I realized he wasn't going to let me out, I stopped screaming until I heard someone else's voice. Rishi made him let me out."
"Jesus." Tyler Jordan took the album Quentin handed him and sat down next to Quentin when he returned to the couch with one of his own. "Paul never did anything like that to me."
"And you never did anything like that to your sisters," Quentin said. "Because your family wasn't completely fucked up like mine was." He ducked his head in a familiar move, but his hair was tied back and didn't fall into his face, and he frowned down at the album in his lap. "So, uh..." He flipped through the pages until he came to a full page baby picture. "That's me."
"Aw, you were cute..." Tyler Jordan never would have been able to pick this baby out as the person who would become his husband; the infant was blue-eyed and had a full head of blond hair. "You had your mom's coloring when you were born."
"Yeah. Look, my hair darkened over the next couple of years...." Quentin flipped a couple of pages. "I'm the only one that did that. All my siblings were born with dark hair or no hair. She thought she would finally have one that took after her." He shrugged. "I started disappointing people before I could even talk."
"Q..." Tyler Jordan shifted closer and slid his arm around Quentin's waist. "You were cuter than your siblings."
"That's not even true. Sakura was the cutest of all of us. I was just the smallest." He flipped around in the book and tapped one picture, a passel of Kinley kids sitting together on a couch in fancy clothing. “That’s the first Christmas after I was born.” Tyler Jordan studied the picture, baby Quentin in his oldest brother’s arms, the rest of the kids lined up girl-boy-girl-boy.
“You never talk about your oldest sister,” he said, and Quentin shrugged.
“My grandmother raised her. Mom was too young and dumb and reckless to take care of a special needs kid when she was born. I mean, we saw her all the time because Grandma babysat all of us, but Alisha didn’t live with us and she never picked on me like the rest of them did. She still lives with my grandmother, actually. Mom’s pretty sure they’re planning on moving in here in the next couple of years, when Grandma needs more day to day help…” He looked around the living room and shook his head. “I hope she gets a couple years to herself. She’s been taking care of someone else for thirty-five years, she deserves a break from all that.”
“Well, she’s taking this cruise, that’s a pretty good start.” Tyler Jordan turned the page. “Oh, that’s adorable.” The photo was of Sakura kissing Quentin’s chubby cheek, and Quentin snorted.
“She was always sweet when someone was looking. Always so aware of how people saw her.”
“You don’t talk about her much, either.”
“I don’t talk about any of my family members much,” Quentin pointed out. “When we met her for lunch in New York, that’s the first time I’ve physically seen her since she moved there and that was over ten years ago. She never came back to Detroit after she got out. Not that I can blame her. Apparently she’s having a kid, that’s kind of a surprise. She’s too selfish to be a good mother.”
“Don’t you like anyone you’re related to?” Quentin slowly turned the pages, then tapped another picture, all the Kinley boys on a set of monkey bars. Rishi was hanging upside-down from one bar by his knees, Orly was climbing up to the top of the structure, and Quentin was sitting on the lowest bar with his arms around the vertical pole like he was afraid he’d fall off from that small height.
“Rishi,” Quentin said. “Rishi’s okay. Once he got his temper under control and stopped flipping out about little things, he’s probably the best adjusted of any of us. He’s very loyal. And I like my mother, most of the time. When I was really little, she was my favorite person in the world. I mean, I guess that’s most kids with their moms, really, but I was way attached to her. So it messed me up even more when Janet replaced me as the favorite.”
“I don’t think Janet is your mother’s favorite,” Tyler Jordan said. “I mean, from what little I’ve seen of your family, that’s not the way she talks about her at all. Not that I’ve even met Janet…”
“I don’t want you to meet Janet,” Quentin said firmly. “That’s the last thing I want. I know it’s gonna happen eventually but I’m not making it happen any faster.” He frowned. “And what do you mean she’s not her favorite? My mother bends over backwards to make her happy.”
“I’m just saying, from what I’ve seen of your mother, she clearly does love you a lot. She worries about you, she takes your side…” Tyler Jordan smiled slightly. “She kinda grilled me when you weren’t in the room the day we got married, she might have threatened me a little bit.”
“She told me that I needed to take good care of you because she knew how to make a death look like natural causes.”
“She did not.”
“She did, right in front of my father.”
“You’re full of shit. What did your father say?”
“He told her something I told him a long time ago. Something you should know very well by now.” Quentin arched a brow, and Tyler Jordan smiled and cupped his cheek. “That as far as I’m concerned, everything happens for a reason, and the reason we met was to make each other happy for the rest of our lives. And I fully intend to do that.” He kissed Quentin softly, and Quentin sighed and leaned into him. “She said she trusts me with you.”
“Good,” Quentin murmured. “You might be the only person she’s ever said that to.”
“It’s a big responsibility. You’re not easy to take care of sometimes. But you’re worth every scrap of trouble you put me through.”
“I’m not as troublesome as I was…”
“You’re still pretty troublesome,” Tyler Jordan laughed. “We both are, in our own ways. But we compensate for each other really well by now. You think things through that I’d rush into, and I pull you back into the real world when you get stuck inside your head. You give me a reason to be less reckless, and I give you a reason to be less sad. We’re good for each other.”
“Yeah, we are.” Quentin turned to kiss Tyler Jordan’s palm. “I know I keep saying this. But I’m gonna keep saying it forever. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. I like who I am when I’m with you. Who I’ve become with you.”
“We’ve got a lot of becoming yet to do. Imagine what we’ll be like ten years from now. Twenty. What we’ll be like when we’re retired on a beach somewhere.”
“I can’t,” Quentin said. “I can’t imagine myself old. I’ve never been able to. I honestly never expected to make it to thirty. I tried to kill myself once, way before I met you.”
“You did?” Tyler Jordan went very still for a second, then curled his hand around the back of Quentin’s neck and pressed their foreheads together. “I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah. It was bad, I-- no, you don’t need to hear about this.”
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want me to know. But you can tell me. I doubt you’ve told many people about it.”
“No. Only one. I don’t even think my mother knows about it… she might, Rishi might have told her. But I didn’t tell her.” Quentin looked down at his hands. “Is this really appropriate for Valentine’s Day?”
“We can change the subject,” Tyler Jordan said. “I won’t make you talk about it. But now you’ve piqued my curiosity.”
“It’s just kinda pathetic. I was twenty, I was sharing this old ramshackle house with like six other people, and I’d just been dumped. Kate was-- she was awful to me most of the time but she actually came after me when she broke up with me, she pushed me down the stairs and I sprained my wrist and knocked my head against the wall and I just, I wasn’t thinking clearly but I remember thinking that I’d rather die than have to explain that she’d been the one to mess me up that badly.” He shrugged, still staring down at his hands. “I broke into Maggie’s room and stole her sleeping pills, I had a bottle of cheap gin in my room, I figured I’d just never wake up again if I finished them both off. But I did. I was out for like thirty hours and I felt the worst I’ve ever felt in my life when I woke up, but the absolute worst thing about it was realizing that nobody even noticed. No one. And I couldn’t even kill myself right. I was such a failure that I failed at suicide. I just kinda… stopped doing everything for a while after that, I lost my job, I got kicked out of the house when I stopped paying rent. That was when I moved in with Rishi. I had to explain what happened to him, I begged him not to tell anyone. He couldn’t even put up with me for that long. He made me move out after three months. He was trying to help me but by the time I realized that I needed to let him do it he’d already gotten fed up with me.”
“Quentin…” Tyler Jordan didn’t know what to say, but he knew just what to do. He moved the photo albums off their laps and pulled Quentin into his arms, one hand stroking up and down his back. “I’m sorry things were so bad for you,” he said after a long moment.
“That was the last relationship I was in until you came around,” Quentin said. “And Kate wasn’t as bad to me as Alison was. But they both kept telling me I deserved to be treated that way, and I believed them. I thought that was all I was worth.” He tucked his face against Tyler Jordan’s neck, taking a few slow breaths. “Thank you,” he added softly. “For showing me that they weren’t right about me.”
“They were so wrong about you.”
“You saw something in me that no one else did.”
“I saw you smile,” Tyler Jordan said. “You have a beautiful smile, but you hardly show it to anyone. I saw the seed of happiness in you, and my first impulse was to make it grow. Even before I fell in love with you, I wanted to see you happy.”
“You’re so strange.”
“Good. I’m glad to be strange. I’m happy that I’m not like anyone else you know.”
“So am I,” Quentin said, and he lifted his head to look Tyler Jordan in the eyes. “You’re everything to me, you know? Husband doesn’t even cover it. You’re my best friend and my lover and my counselor and my companion and my partner in crime and my favorite person in the universe.”
“I think husband does cover all of that, actually,” Tyler Jordan laughed. “That’s what marriage is supposed to be, isn’t it? Being everything the other person needs you to be?”
“You’re the one who taught me about it. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the ideal spouse. I love you so much.”
“I love you too.” Tyler Jordan kissed Quentin’s forehead, the tip of his nose, and then kissed his lips, sweetly and slowly, then cracked up when Quentin’s stomach growled. “A little hungry?”
“A little,” Quentin said. “Did we have plans for dinner?”
“I had a plan I didn’t tell you about,” Tyler Jordan said. “Cause I wanted it to be a surprise. But I kind of forgot about it, so I have to run to the grocery store.”
“We could just order in.”
“No, I want to cook for you. I even practiced this recipe with Theresa. As long as you can hang on about an hour to eat…”
“I said I was a little hungry, not starving.” Quentin pushed Tyler Jordan’s glasses up his nose and smiled. “Don’t let me get in the way of your plans. If you need to run to the grocery store I’ll just find Cookie and bother her.”
“Don’t bother the cat,” Tyler Jordan said. “Be nice to the cat.”
“I’m always nice to the cat. I was gonna feed her and then give her some catnip. Cookie loves me.”
“Cookie has good taste.” Tyler Jordan stood up, then bent to kiss Quentin again. “Okay. I’ll be back in a flash.”
It took him about half an hour, actually, because the grocery store wasn’t the only place he stopped. But when he got back to Donna’s house, what he found in the living room made him tiptoe through to leave everything in the kitchen before he snuck back out to take a picture.
Quentin was stretched out on the couch, eyes closed, with a fat yellow and white cat curled up on his chest. His hand was buried in fur, but still, like he’d fallen asleep in the middle of petting her. When Tyler Jordan came closer, Cookie blinked up at him with eyes as green as Quentin’s, and she purred when he scratched her behind one ear. Tyler Jordan had only seen Quentin with the Grahams’ cats, which was enough to realize that Quentin was definitely a cat person, but Quentin clearly hadn’t been exaggerating when he said that Cookie loved him, and he obviously loved her right back.
Tyler Jordan let him sleep, familiarizing himself with Donna’s kitchen by looking into all the cabinets and drawers to find what he needed before he started cooking. Fifteen minutes later, he came back out to the living room to wake Quentin up with kisses. “C’mon, sleeping beauty. Dinner’s ready.” Quentin blinked slowly and smiled up at Tyler Jordan, reaching up to brush his fingers through Tyler Jordan’s hair.
“Sorry, I must have dozed off…”
“No apologies, you’re adorable. Come eat.” Tyler Jordan led Quentin into the kitchen, and Quentin paused in the doorway with a pleased gasp. There was a bouquet of stargazer lilies and pink hibiscus in the center of the table bracketed with candles, and full plates and open bottles of beer laid out at each end of the table.
“Oh, you got our flowers… Wow, this smells delicious. What is it?”
“Spicy tilapia tacos with avocado and cilantro… what?” Tyler Jordan swayed when Quentin snorted and pushed his shoulder.
“You made fish tacos for Valentine’s dinner for a queer male couple… you’re an idiot.”
“This is comedy gold, and also shut up until you taste it,” Tyler Jordan said, but he was laughing as he pulled Quentin’s chair out for him. “Seriously. I practiced these, I think they should be spicy enough to suit your taste.”
“Did you do it for the lols?”
“I did it because half the ingredients are supposed aphrodisiacs,” Tyler Jordan said with a smirk. “And not just for lesbians.”
“You think you need aphrodisiacs to score on V-Day?”
“I didn’t know if being in this house would have a chilling effect on your libido. Well? Taste it!”
“If you were any more anxious for me to put this in my mouth, I’d suspect you’d poisoned it,” Quentin said, but he wrapped up one of the tacos and bit into it. His eyes closed and he made a decadent sound. “Mm. Okay. Yes.”
“It’s delicious.” He took another bite and hummed happily. “And spicy enough.”
“Good, I tweaked the spice levels right.” Tyler Jordan beamed before digging into his own meal, and they made short work of it. Cookie came over to twine around Quentin’s ankles and meow plaintively, and he frowned down at her.
“Sorry, Cookie, this is too spicy for kitty tummies…”
“I didn’t forget about the cat,” Tyler Jordan said, and moved a small plate with a piece of unseasoned fish on it to the floor. “There you go, Cookie. Maybe you’ll appreciate me too.” Cookie pounced on the fish, and Quentin gave Tyler Jordan a slightly goofy smile.
“You’re so thoughtful.”
“It’s an advance apology for locking her out of the bedroom tonight.”
“She’ll sit outside the door and meow until we let her in.”
“Then I’m just gonna have to put on some music to drown her out, because I’m not letting a cat throw me off my game on my first V-Day as a married man.” Tyler Jordan gave Quentin a lingering heavy-lidded look. “Cause I’m planning on having you for dessert.”
“Oh really? I’m not very sweet.”
“Trust me, lemon drop, I know exactly how sweet you can be. Might have to drizzle a little chocolate sauce on you…”
“Don’t you dare,” Quentin laughed. “Last time you did that I was stuck to the sheets in the morning. If you’re gonna be lazy about licking me--”
“You did not just say that to me.”
“I one hundred percent did.”
“Well, that changes my plans.”
“Leaving the chocolate sauce in the fridge?”
“That too. I was planning on just starting with the licking, but I think that’s all you’ll get tonight.”
“You think I’m so lazy with my mouth, I’m gonna prove that I can make you come with just my tongue.” Quentin’s eyes went wide, and then he smirked.
“You’re gonna have to prove it, cause I don’t believe you.”
“Oh, this will be fun.”
“What if you can’t?”
“You’ve never done it before,” Quentin pointed out.
“That’s because you always beg for more before I get you there,” Tyler Jordan purred. “And if I know you, you’re gonna beg for more tonight, too. Only this time, I won’t give you everything you ask for like I usually do.” He stood up from the table and cleared his plate, standing next to Quentin with a hand outstretched. “Are you done here?”
“Ah… yeah,” Quentin said, nodding, and Tyler Jordan cleared his plate too, and turned back to find Quentin with his nose in a lily and his eyes heavy with pleasure. “These are beautiful.”
“Not as beautiful as you are,” Tyler Jordan said, pulling his hair aside to kiss the nape of his neck. “Anything else you’d like to do before I take you to pieces with my mouth?”
“Not a single thing,” Quentin said, and he reached back to hook two fingers in the collar of Tyler Jordan’s shirt. “Follow me…” He hesitated outside of the bedroom door, though. “Are we really doing this in my mother’s bed?”
“We’re gonna change the sheets,”Tyler Jordan said. “It’ll be fine. I’m not doing this to you on the couch, and if we’re gonna defile Janet’s room I want that to be something shockingly filthy. This isn’t shockingly filthy. This is practically romantic.”
“Eating my ass is romantic,” Quentin said dryly, and Tyler Jordan moved his lips to Quentin’s ear to breathe into it.
“Doing something that’s so intense it makes you giggle helplessly from how good it feels, while I’ve got you folded in half so I can see every gasp and twitch and shiver cross your expression and slow down to tease you or go harder to please you just by the look on your face, my hands wrapped around your wrists to keep mine and yours from doing anything that might set you off from anything besides my mouth on you…” He bit gently at the back of Quentin’s neck. “Just to prove that I know your body so well that I don’t need more than my mouth to get you off.” Quentin leaned back against him, already flushed.
“Could you--I mean, you’ll need--”
“What do you want me to take from you, hm? I’m not demanding.”
“If you’ve already gotten me off…”
“That’s the plan.”
“What’s romantic for you?”
“I like it when you use your hands on me,” Tyler Jordan murmured. “Cause you say the best things when your mouth isn’t full.”
“I can do that,” Quentin agreed, and Tyler Jordan gave him a hard kiss and a nudge toward the bed.
“Lose the clothes, loverboy. On the bed, on your back.” They could hear Cookie scratching at the door. Tyler Jordan pulled up a playlist on his phone and set it on a dresser playing music, ran a proprietary hand down Quentin’s bare body from collarbone to hip, and then folded him in half with his ass in the air and his knees around his head. “Oh, yeah. Beautiful. Don’t forget to breathe, Q, this isn’t over until I say it is.”
It was maybe two hours later that Quentin emerged from the bedroom on legs like jelly, wobbling across the hall to the bathroom. Cookie took advantage of the open door to jump up on the bed where Tyler Jordan was sprawled with a distinctly smug and satisfied look on his face. “Hello, Cookie-cat,” he said, holding out a hand which she came over to sniff. He smelled enough like Quentin that she rubbed her cheek against his hand and purred when he got under her chin. “Are you sleeping with us tonight, hm?”
“She sleeps at the end of the bed,” Quentin said, leaning against the doorway and regarding his husband with a smile on his face. “God, you look smug.”
“I have a right to look smug.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re very good with your mouth.”
“I learned something dangerous.”
“Mmhm. I love it when you beg me for things, I love giving you what you beg for. But I love when you beg me for things we both know you’re not gonna get.”
“I thought I might get them.”
“At some future point, I will absolutely give you every single thing you begged for tonight. But you knew what you were getting tonight.” Tyler Jordan pulled back the covers and patted the bed next to him welcomingly. “C’mon. I wanna cuddle before we sleep.” Quentin hit the lights and slid into bed, wrapping himself around Tyler Jordan warmly.
“You’re too good to me,” he murmured against the back of Tyler Jordan’s neck. “I don’t deserve you.”
“You do deserve me,” Tyler Jordan disagreed, “you deserve me and you deserve my love and you deserve every individual act I do to show that love to you. You’re worth all of it.” He reached back and wound an arm around Quentin’s waist. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Quentin. Was it a good one?”
“The best I’ve ever had,” Quentin agreed. “Thank you, Tyler Jordan. Next year it’s my turn to make it epic.”
“We’ll make it epic together,” Tyler Jordan said. “Teamwork. You and me against the world for the rest of our lives.”
“Yeah… yeah. Sounds good.” Quentin was nodding off already, breathing in the comfortingly familiar scent of Tyler Jordan’s hair in the unfamiliar venue of his mother’s bedroom. “One more week here,” he said drowsily, and Tyler Jordan hummed.
“I’m gonna win over your cat.”
“Not my cat.”
“Your mother’s cat.”
“I’ll get her to like me.”
“You’re easy to like.”
“I got you to like me.”
“You got me to love you. You got me to keep you. You’re mine.”
“Mmhm. I am.”
“The cat’s easier than I am.”
“Ha, okay. Good night, Q.”
“Night… Ty…” Quentin’s breathing evened out into sleep against the back of Tyler Jordan’s neck, and Tyler Jordan tapped his fingers against the bed until Cookie came up to investigate and settled down with his fingers combing through her fur. Warm, sleepy husband behind him; warm, purring kitty in front of him. Tyler Jordan fell asleep feeling completely content.