Disclaimer: Not mine, just borrowing. Not getting paid, not expecting to get paid, got no money otherwise either. :)
Notes: The obligatory Christmas story. It's only one day late…Sorry for the wait. Look, I made a little poem. :P
More notes: Someone on a list I was on mentioned that is would be so cool if Deaq's father were Lincoln Hayes from the old Mod Squad. I thought that would be cool too, so I went with it. Wish I could remember who it was so I could give credit, but I can't. If anyone knows, let me know. Also, this has not been betaed because I'm already late with it. In addition, this kinda follows in a sequence behind On the Rocks and another story that I am STILL working on. It stands alone, but builds off a few facts in those stories... Van's new house and cat. The house is from On the Rocks, and the cat is from the second story. Just know he has a cat...Deaq is not fond of the cat. So there.
Constructive criticism welcomed.
He'd put up lights. They were brand new after he discovered that the few decorations he used to have were missing in action. He'd gotten a tree… a real one even, the ornaments on it also new. Then he'd called his mother. She was going to Tahoe with the new boyfriend. It was a sure bet that his dad wasn't going to magically appear. If the old man did… well, he supposed he couldn't arrest him on Christmas. No, he couldn't do that. Especially since right at the moment any human contact would be very welcome.
Van was contemplating just how bad it sucked to be alone on Christmas Eve as he watched the twinkling lights on his tree. Even his cat apparently had other plans. He picked up his beer and downed about half of what was left. He'd be alone tomorrow, too, he thought with a frown. He was going to need more beer. Maybe if he got completely toasted he could pass out and sleep through the whole fucking miserable holiday.
Was the tree on fire? He sniffed the air again. Something was definitely on fire. The tree looked fine though. He looked around the room before it finally hit him. His dinner! Damn it! He jumped the back of the couch and headed for the kitchen. Too late, he realized as he snatched open the oven and stared at the smoking remains of the Banquet frozen turkey and dressing dinner. He shook his head. The perfect fucked up end to a perfectly fucked up day. He grabbed an oven mitt, and using it, pulled the ruined meal out of the oven and tossed it out the back door in the general direction of the garbage can. He missed. That figured. He slammed that door and then kicked the oven door closed even as he spun the dial above it. Screw it. He'd just have another beer. And another after that.
Aquarius turned the Mercedes into the driveway and grinned at the Christmas lights lining the front window, the perfect frame for the tree silhouette. He grabbed the packages from the passenger seat and got out. Rounding the front of the car, he nearly tripped over one of the occupants of the little stucco cottage.
"Meow!" she complained.
"What's up, Sweet Thang!" He reached down to scratch her head. "What are you doing out here? You're usually inside by dark. Let's go see what your daddy's doing, Abby. He might be missing you, girl." He continued on his way to the door only to nearly trip over the small gray cat again. "Damn, girl, trying to kill your uncle 'Quarius?"
The cat only meowed at him again then ran to the front door. She turned several times in front of it and then stretched her front paws up toward the doorknob.
"Still ain't liking that cat door, huh? Your daddy went through a lot of trouble to put that door in, Miss Thang," he scolded as he took the steps. He knocked on the door and waited with Abby now yowling at his feet. No response. "Van? Hey man, it's 'Quarius. Merry Fucking Christmas, man! I come bearing gifts for you and your 'catwoman' out here. Let us in." Still nothing. He could hear the television on inside. He put down the boxes and stepped back to peek in the big front window. He could just see someone's feet past the brightly lit limbs of the Christmas tree. "Asleep. Oh well, we got a key, don't we, girl?" He pulled his keys from his pocket and used them. Immediately, he was hit with an odd odor. It took about a second for him to identify it. "Holy shit!" he exclaimed even as Abby yowled again and ran down the steps away from the danger. Aquarius pulled his shirt over his mouth and nose and ran inside. Moments later, he ran back out carrying a not sleeping but unconscious Van. He dropped his burden as carefully as he could. Was it the lack of light or was Van blue? He fumbled with his cell phone, his hands shaking as he tried to dial 911. "Damn, Van, breathe please."
Deaq was still laughing at his father's joke as he answered his cell. "Hayes."
"Deaq, man, you need to come to Freeman Hospital."
"Yeah, Deaq. It's bad. I don't know, man. He wasn't breathing. He was blue."
"Whoa! Back up. Who? Who wasn't breathing?" His family suddenly surrounded him even as he held up one hand to stave off the questions.
"Van, Deaq. I stopped by his place and found him. The gas was on. He was already unconscious. I called 911, and I'm here with him now at Freeman."
"Okay, okay, I'm on my way." He hung up. "Something's happened to Van. I gotta go."
"Not without us!" his mother said as she ran for her purse. His father already had keys in his hand.
"Yeah, yeah, okay. I should call Billie."
"Do it on the way." His father pushed him toward the door. "I'll drive."
Deaq didn't even argue.
"Anything yet?" Deaq asked as he ran to meet Aquarius where he stood in the waiting room.
"The doctor ain't come out yet."
"What happened?" his dad asked before he could.
"I don't know. I went over to give him and Abby their gifts, and she was outside acting funny. I didn't think anything about it at first, but he didn't come to the door when I knocked. I looked in the window, and there he was on the couch. I used my key and went in and got him out. Gas was everywhere, Deaq. The firemen said that the oven was turned on, but all the pilot lights were out."
"Jesus," Deaq muttered, running one hand over his head.
"And, Deaq, there wasn't anything in the oven, man. They say he might have done it on purpose."
"No." The protest came from both Deaq and his dad as his mother gasped, her hand over her mouth in shock.
"I know, I know, man, but that's what they're saying."
"Where is this Abby? Maybe she can answer some questions about this." His father demanded.
"Can you speak Cat, Linc? Because I can't."
Great, Christmas Eve in a hospital, wonderful time and place to air family dirty laundry. Deaq sighed. "She's a cat, Dad. Abby's a cat. Van's cat. Annoying, gray and white fur ball."
"A cat." Now it was his dad's turn to swear under his breath and run his hand over his head. Well, now Deaq knew where he'd picked up that little habit.
"Why do you have a key to Van's place?" Deaq changed direction. That tidbit of information had clicked in his head. "I don't even have a key to Van's place."
"You never asked for one, and who do you think feeds Abby when you two are doing your Five-0 thing? You can't. You're with him. Your boss lady don't strike me as the kind that is going to drive all the way to Venice to feed an 'annoying, gray and white fur ball' as you call her."
"Right." He needed to change direction again. "He did not do this on purpose. Van did not try to kill himself." He turned and walked away. If he stayed there with them, they might see the doubts that were creeping into his head reflected in his eyes. What if he did? What if his partner had walked into his kitchen and turned on that oven and lay down to die? It was Christmas. More people committed suicide around Christmas than any other time of the year. Fucking Happy Holidays. Happy Fucking Holidays. Or just Fucking Holidays. What if—he should have invited Van to his family's Christmas celebrations the way his mother told him. But he hadn't. He'd forgotten, and then just decided that surely Van would have plans. The boy did have relatives after all. Not great ones apparently, but everyone spent the holidays with their family whether they liked said family or not. Right? Wrong. Van was alone. Deaq hadn't even called him, hadn't gone by his house, hadn't even thought about him all day. Aquarius had. Aquarius had found him in a gas-filled house alone. What if Van thought no one would think of him; no one would come by; no one would care?
The room was suddenly deficient of oxygen, and Deaq had to sit down, dizzy at the possibility that Van would ever decide to give up and check out.
Billie arrived just as the doctor stepped through the ER doors and approached Aquarius. He looked a bit surprised when five people began to assault him with questions at once. He held up his hands. "It's too soon to tell what, if any, damage has been done. Please, sit down, and I'll go over his condition with you." He waited until they were seated before starting again. "I'm Dr. Miller. I've been in charge of Mr. Ray's care. He's been exposed to methane gas and a few other nasty little chemicals. Methane is an asphyxiant, which means he's been deprived of oxygen. We have him on 100 percent O2 now. He is still unconscious, and we won't know until he wakes up how this is going to turn out."
"That's not good, is it?" Deaq asked, actually afraid to hear the answer but needing to know just the same.
"Well, it's not great. Like I said, we have no way of knowing just how much or how long his exposure was."
"What's the best case and worst case scenarios?" Leave it to Billie to cut right to the chase.
"Best case, he wakes up, feels a little nauseated, coughs for a week or so and then goes on with his life. Worst case, he never wakes up, his brain and other vital organs shut down, and he dies."
Goddamn Billie always cutting to the chase, Deaq thought uncharitably. He could have gone the rest of his natural life without hearing that worst-case scenario. "Can I see him?" he asked without knowing he was even going to speak.
"Yeah, for a minute or so, each of you. Two at a time."
Deaq stepped into the cubicle first, Billie right behind him. A ventilator forced oxygen into Van's lungs, and a heart monitor beeped steadily. Deaq took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Van had to be all right. He just had to be.
"I spoke to the captain of the engine that responded to his house," Billie whispered. "They suspect he did it on purpose. Did he seem off to you yesterday?"
Deaq thought back to their little Christmas gift exchange at the Candy Store. Van had been a little quiet now that he thought about it. "He was quiet maybe, but he seemed happy, I guess. He said he liked the gifts. Smiled when we thanked him for ours. I don't know, Billie. I just don't want to accept that he tried to commit suicide."
"Well, we may have to. The fire department is going to investigate. We probably should too. We need to know. He may need help."
"Yeah. As soon as he's out of the woods, I'll go."
"No, Deaq. You're too close."
"Then who? IA? Hill? You want to see Van locked up in a mental hospital, and his career ruined?"
"Of course not."
"Then let me go take a look. My dad was a cop. I'll get him to go with me."
Billie seemed to consider that for a moment then nodded. "Okay, but you'll need to go ahead and get there now. The fire department had to report it already as a possible suicide attempt."
"Damn it." Deaq sighed, "I should have invited him to Mom and Dad's. They invited him."
"Why didn't you?"
"I don't know. Thought he'd have plans."
"You wanted him to have plans, Deaq, but you know he didn't."
"Well, you didn't invite him to go with you either."
"Actually, I did. He said he didn't want to intrude, that they didn't know him, and he didn't know them. Plus, I was spending a few days in San Diego, and he didn't want to have to bother anybody to feed Abby while he was gone."
"Oh." Damn, he really was a jackass.
"So, why didn't you invite him over?"
"I guess there are a lot of reasons. He reminds me that Dre is gone sometimes. I figured the holidays would only make it worse."
"Cop out." Billie stated.
Deaq glared at her.
"And don't try the whole 'we're partners, not friends' thing either. That ended with Mckussick."
"Okay, you want me to admit that I care. Okay, I care. Happy. Of course I care. We are friends. Sort of. He's still a weird, bouncing, jabbering white boy, but he's got my back. And I got his. There. I just spend the vast majority of my time with him, and I wanted a break."
"You know why I chose Van?"
"He was expedient; he had a score to settle that worked to your advantage. Just like me."
"Not exactly. There's more to it than that. I knew in Van I had someone who could walk away from his past and not look back. He had no ties. I had watched him for a while. I planned even before your brother's death to approach him. Your brother was actually an obstacle for me. He would try to hold onto Van, and I knew it. I couldn't recruit both of them though, because your brother had ties, a wife and a kid. But Van… his father was in jail; his mother was distant, and other relatives were few in number and estranged."
"So I guess Dre's death was to your advantage too then." Deaq was torn between rage and disgust now.
"I'd be lying if I said no. I even feel guilty for it, but I didn't kill your brother. The circumstances sucked, but I took my chance just the same. Then you fell into our laps, and you were expedient. You had a score to settle that worked to my advantage, and you were estranged from your family too. Van screwed that up for me, though. Being Van, he couldn't leave well enough alone. You know, I think it was his own loneliness that led him to try to reunite you with your family. He cared enough to want you not to be alone like he was—is. So, now you have ties. And even though he gave you those ties, he pulls you away from them. That's why you didn't invite him. You wanted your time with your family untainted by the life you have to lead when he's around."
"That's not fair, Billie. I don't blame Van. I chose this, remember?"
"You chose this to get revenge for your brother."
"But I stayed. I chose that."
"So no blame directly at Van?"
Billie just shook her head, and Deaq had to rein in his temper. How dare she try to psychoanalyze him! She interrupted his silent indignation though. "You better get out to Van's before Hill."
"Yeah." He took one more look at his unconscious partner then walked out before he got himself fired.
The fire trucks were gone when Deaq and his father arrived at Van's home. Only the fire marshal and two investigators were left.
"We did find a burned TV dinner near the garbage can out back, but the oven was cold so it could have been thrown out earlier. As for the pilot lights, they seem to be working just fine. The stove is old, and the knobs aren't the greatest. The numbers are faded, but that doesn't explain every single light being out. It would be a hell of a coincidence. I don't know what to tell you, Detective. It could have been intentional and probably was," one of the investigators explained.
"Is it safe to go inside?" Deaq heard his father ask the question from the porch.
"Sure. If it wasn't, we couldn't have tested the pilot lights. Go ahead."
He nodded and disappeared through the front door. Deaq thanked the investigator and followed his dad. "What are you looking for?"
His father looked at him as if he had asked a really stupid question. "Evidence that says Van didn't try to kill himself. Think about it, Deaqon. He's a cop. He has a gun. Every cop I have ever known who has committed suicide did so with his gun. Ask any cop who has even thought about it, and he'll tell you that he'd just eat his gun."
"Dad, can we not talk about this? Just tell me how we are going to prove he didn't try to kill himself."
"Let's start with the stove." He headed into the kitchen. "They left the pilot lights lit," he announced as he opened the oven door. "The numbers are rubbed off this knob, and this thing is stripped pretty badly." He spun the dial in question. "Hmm, looks like I've turned it on, but nothing's happening."
"And just who are you?" The voice was unmistakable. The arrogance alone caused Deaq to grit his teeth.
"Lincoln Hayes. Who the hell are you?"
"Dad, meet Roland Hill, IA."
"Hmmph. And they said they found a TV dinner out back?" he continued as if Hill had never arrived. Deaq grinned at the irritation on Hill's face.
Deaq opened the back door only to have a salty ocean breeze greet him. The strength of it nearly pulled the door from him. He spied the burned food splattered across the ground near the garbage can. He grimaced. Van was going to eat that for Christmas? He turned and went back into the house and fought the wind to get the door closed. He faced his father who was smiling.
"Look at the stove, son."
Deaq looked into the open oven and then lifted the ancient olive green top of the stove. Sure enough, the pilot lights were all out. "It was a fluke. He pulled the burned stuff out of the oven and tossed it out; the wind blew out the oven flame and the pilot lights, and the stripped dial didn't quite make it around to the off position. So gas fills the house."
"Shouldn't he have noticed the smell?" Hill asked.
"Not if he really did fall asleep. Look, 4 empty beer bottles in here. Another one by the couch. More than two or three beers make for a sleepy Van. He's fine as long as he doesn't sit down, but as soon as his butt hits something soft, he's out like a light."
The fire investigators had come back into the house and were listening. "Sounds plausible," one of them said. "I'll run this by the marshal." He left as the other approached the stove.
"You know, we didn't even think about the wind off the ocean. It's strong tonight, and that stove is in a really bad location, right by the back door. Maybe you guys could suggest an electric stove."
"Don't worry. He'll have one," Deaq swore. He wandered out of the kitchen and plopped down on Van's couch. He ran one hand over his face and head. He let himself fall back into the cushions and sighed. He felt rather than saw his father sit down next to him, one big hand coming to rest on his knee.
"Well, at least we don't have to pay the department shrink overtime for this one." Hill passed by them and out the door.
"I hate that guy," Deaq muttered.
"Damn it. I tell you, Dad, Van is—" He gestured into the air, not sure how to finish that statement. Trouble magnet maybe? Cursed? That one would work.
His father chuckled. "You know, Dre used to say that Van was work, but he was good work."
"My brother obviously had more patience than me."
"Probably. Why didn't you invite him to dinner?"
"Aw, man, I went through this with Billie already. Can we skip it?"
That was his father—a man of few words and no compromises.
"I wanted my family to myself. There, I said it. I wanted a break from the job."
"And Van is part of the job." It was a statement, not a question, but Deaq felt compelled to respond just the same.
"But Van is also family. Like it or not, Dre brought him into this family. From now on, your mother and I will handle the invitations since you seem to choose not to pass them on."
"That won't be necessary. McKussick nearly killed him after I treated him like crap. I thought I learned my lesson then, but I forgot it. But tonight, thinking that he might have been lonely enough to kill himself—tonight I will not forget. Dad, I do care about him. I do. I didn't want to, damn it. It happened just the same. He really doesn't have anyone else, does he?"
"Not that we ever saw when he was partnered with your brother."
"Well then, I guess I'm it, huh?"
"No, son, we're it," he corrected. Deaq smiled. "Let's go see your partner." He would have gotten up then, but suddenly, he had a lapful of cat.
"Meow!" Deaq would have sworn she was pissed that they were there, and Van was not.
"Dad, meet Abby, annoying gray and white furball."
His father actually scratched the cat's head. "Well, Van will be happy to know that she's okay and home safe." He gently picked her up then and placed her on the couch. He stood and headed for the door. Deaq followed. "She's cute. What do have against cats, son?"
"Cute? Yeah whatever."
Deaq's mom met them in the hallway outside the ER. "He woke up," she announced with a shaky smile.
"Is there a 'but' in there?" Deaq asked as she hugged him.
"Well, he was disoriented and in a lot of pain. Headache. And he was nauseated. They gave him something, and he's sleeping now. Billie is sitting with him. What did you find out?"
"It was an accident. We're almost certain of it now," Deaq told her.
"I am certain of it," his father spoke up then. "It was a strange accident. Nothing more."
Tension left his mother's body, and she leaned into her husband for support. "Oh, thank god."
Deaq's eyes strayed down the hall. "Where's Aquarius?"
"He went home after Van woke up. He asked that you call him and let him know if anything happens though," his mom explained.
"Okay," Deaq mumbled, obviously distracted.
"Go see him, son," his father tapped his shoulder with the hand not wrapped his mother's shoulder.
Deaq nodded and let his feet take him to the ER entrance. He circled the nurse's station and stopped just outside the glass door to exam cubicle 7. It was there that he uttered a short prayer of thanks that Van was going to survive. He crossed the threshold then, and Billie looked up at him and smiled.
"Hill called," she told him. "He's satisfied that it was an accident."
"That kind of shit could only happen to Van, you know?"
"Yeah. He woke up. Did your mom tell you?"
"Yeah, she said he was sick and disoriented. Had a bad headache, too."
"The doctor says it's to be expected. He thinks he's going to be fine."
"Good. I'll sit with him for a while. You know, you could still make it to your family for Christmas."
"I can't leave Van alone."
"Billie, he won't be alone."
She glared at him for a few long moments as if trying to decide if he could be trusted. She nodded finally. "Okay. If you need me, I'll have my cell. Tell him I said Merry Christmas and get well soon. Let him know I was here."
She grabbed her purse from the counter behind her and moved to stand in front of him. "Merry Christmas, Deaq. Don't fuck up."
"Merry Christmas, Billie. I won't."
She left, and Deaq moved to the chair she had vacated. He sat down and sighed heavily, leaning forward to put his head in his hands.
An hour later, Deaq was pacing the room when a groan from the bed caught his attention. He turned hoping to see Van's eyes open. They weren't; instead his eyes were closed tight and his forehead wrinkled in clear signs of pain. Deaq stepped to the bed and hit the call button. The nurse's voice came over the little speaker.
"Can I help you?"
"Yeah, I think he's hurting. Could you—" Deaq stopped as he realized Van had indeed opened his eyes. He smiled at his partner then continued, "Could you ask if he can have something else for the pain?"
He was about to greet Van, but his partner cut him off.
"What happened? Van's voice was like gravel and broke at the end of his question. He coughed, his hand going to his head as he did.
"What do you remember?"
"What day is it?"
"Well, this is going well," Deaq sighed. "It's late on Christmas Eve."
"I burned my dinner."
"Anything after that?"
"Decided to get—" he stopped and looked at Deaq oddly.
"Don't yell at me. I have a really, really bad hangover apparently."
Deaq shook his head. "I'm not going to yell."
"I decided to get really drunk, hopefully pass out and sleep through Christmas. Guess that didn't work out for me, huh?"
"No, it didn't. Van, after you burned your um—dinner, what did you do then?"
"Why do I think you know this better than I do? What the hell is going on?"
"Just talk to me, Van. What happened after you burned dinner? You threw it out the back door then—"
"I turned off the stove, got another beer and sat down on the couch to proceed with my plan. Why? What the fuck happened? Tell me now, Deaq."
"You didn't get the stove off, Van."
"Oh shit! Fuck! My house? My neighbors? Abby!" He started trying to get out of the bed only to realize that he still had oxygen tubes in his nose. He reached up to snatch the strap from around his head, but Deaq grabbed him quickly.
"Chill! Chill out, V. The house is fine. Everything is fine. Abby is fine. Aquarius found you. It wasn't an explosion or anything." He got Van pinned on the bed. "Are you going to chill out?"
"I'm chilled." Van took a deep breath and relaxed.
Deaq let go. "It was gas, Van. The wind blew out the oven and all the pilot lights so when you didn't get the knob turned off, gas filled the house. Or that's the way it seems."
"Gas. Oh. Wait, what do you mean, 'that's the way it seems?'"
Deaq felt terrible, but he did still have doubts. "It's just that it's a pretty big coincidence, and it is Christmas."
"You've got to be kidding me. Tell me that you're kidding, Deaq." Van looked so hurt.
"No. Just no. Let's get this straight now. I did not try to kill myself. You think I would risk my neighbors like that? What about Abby? Really think I'd kill my cat along with me?"
"So you've never thought it?"
A pause and then Van turned his head away.
"I've thought about it. When I was a kid. Even when Dre died. Happy? But I didn't do it. I couldn't. I had to clear his name and get the bastard who killed him first. I decided to do that first. Then I didn't because Dre would have kicked my ass all over the afterlife, and besides, I had a new partner and a new job to do. Truth is I think I would have found a reason not to do it no matter what. But, just so you know, I would never take anybody with me. I'd just eat my—"
"Shut up, shut up, shut up! Don't fucking say it, Van. My dad said that, you know? That cops—they do that."
"So he didn't think I was trying to off myself, and you did. What does that say about our partnership?"
"It says that I'm feeling guilty as hell about leaving you alone for fucking Christmas. You were invited to my family's, and I didn't tell you. It says that I should have thought more about my partner's feelings. I was scared, Van. Scared that I hurt you so bad that you would—that you might."
"Deaq, I never thought of it that way. Sure, it would have been nice of you to come by, but it's Christmas. Christmas is family time. It's not your fault my family sucks. You should spend Christmas with your family. I'm not saying I wasn't lonely, but that's not your fault."
"Yes, it is. Stop trying to make me feel better, V. I know that you spent the holidays with Dre and with my family before he died. Don't let me off the hook, okay, because I can assure you that my parents aren't."
"You're not Dre," Van whispered.
"No, but that doesn't mean I can be an asshole to you."
"Maybe not, but why change now?"
Deaq glared at his grinning partner. "Funny."
Van started laughing, but it quickly dissolved into coughing. His hand went back to his head. "Ow," he managed to hack out.
"You almost deserve that," Deaq muttered sourly, but he moved to the call button again. He was about to press it when the nurse entered the room.
"The doctor says you can have a little more for the pain. Are you nauseated still?"
"A little." He started coughing again.
"What about that? Can he have something for that?" Deaq pointed.
"I'll check. This should help with the pain and nausea. It will also mean he'll be asleep again very soon." She held up a syringe and took off the cap. She injected the meds into the IV port they had inserted earlier. She smiled, then turned to dispose of the needle. "In the morning, if he's feeling better and his lungs are clear, he may get to go home," she told Deaq before lifting one hand to sweep Van's hair back from his face. "Sweet dreams and Merry Christmas." She left them alone again.
"So, before you fall asleep, there is something you should know. Consider yourself adopted. From this point on, your presence is required for all major holidays at the Hayes house. You are not ever to make any other plans, as I will be the one to catch hell if you don't show up. So Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's… well, maybe we both can skip out on New Year's Eve, but we'll have to make lunch on New Year's Day; it's tradition. Anyway, Fourth of July, Easter… what else? Can't think, but just know that if my mom decides to make a big deal out of Cinco de Mayo, you will be there. Clear?"
"Clear." Van's eyelids were already drooping.
"Are we okay, V?"
"Good. Just rest for a while. You have a real Christmas dinner to attend if they let you out of here."
Van's sleepy smile was his response, and then the green eyes drifted shut. It was a few moments after he was sure that Van was asleep when he heard Van's quiet question. "What time is it, Deaq?"
Deaq turned to look at the clock on the wall. He smiled. "It's 12:01. Merry Christmas, Van."
"Merry Christmas, Deaq. Love you, man."
Deaq felt a little twist in his chest. Damn touchy-feely white boy. "Love you too, V. By the way, you're getting new stove."
No response. Van was truly asleep. Deaq shook his head and smiled. He smoothed one hand over Van's forehead before wandering out to find his parents. It had been a rough start, but it was going to be a nice Christmas.