It was Monday afternoon and Eric sighed as he closed the door to the car and went towards the front porch. Sure, it was Monday and sure, it had been a long day and yeah, he was relieved to be home, but none of those reasons was why he was sighing. No, that was simply because it was Monday afternoon.
He had never felt particularly uncomfortable about that particular afternoon before. He had never been very annoyed with Mondays at all. Granted, they could be a nuisance at times, but they were not very different from other weekdays, really. And even now he was not uncomfortable per se, only bracing himself for something he knew was coming that he could not evade or protect himself from. Because today was Monday, and ever since it had been decided that Scot would stay with him and Sam, Mondays were Movie Mondays in the Latour-McNally-Miller household.
Still, a rational part of Eric's mind gently reminded him, it was a good agreement. Before it came into being, Scot would watch his beloved musicals over and over on his one allowed T.V. night of the week (Sam was still as convinced as ever that television was a bad influence and should only be permitted in small doses, if at all), leaving Sam with migraines and Eric with songs like Aquarius and the horrible Oh my god looping in his head throughout the entire night and following day. After about two months, Sam and Eric had conspired in desperate secrecy and presented Scot with a deal.
The result was Movie Mondays.
If Eric had not already had a notion about the difficulties in negotiating with a twelve-year-old boy, that particular discussion had made it pretty clear. It had been almost a week's worth of interrupted evening meals, shouts, door-slammings and sighs before the give and take resulted in a few rules:
Every Monday after dinner, they would sit down and watch a movie together. Each person had one Monday per month to choose which movie to see. Since there were only three of them, and four or sometimes five Mondays per month, the one or two redundant days were rendered void and therefore quiet. There were no restrictions as to which movies were okay to choose, but afterwards the three of them would sit and discuss the movie for at least half an hour. Eric had been hesitant regarding that particular part, but it soon became clear that Scot took this part of the deal very seriously. After each movie they would sit and talk about it and Eric was kind of impressed. Not only by how Scot would interpret words or entire plotlines (sometimes brilliantly and sometimes just… absurdly) but also by how Sam had completely rid Scot's life of the bad television influence and filled the weekly two hours of television exposure into something almost purely educational.
Of course, the three of them had completely different tastes in movies. Sam would often choose historical dramas or interpretations of classic works while Eric often picked comedies, claiming that humor was often a way of dealing with serious issues but sometimes failing at finding them. Scot, on the other hand, always and without fail, chose musicals.
And this Monday was Musical Monday.
"I'm home" Eric called out as he opened the front door and stepped inside, instantly wrapped in the warmth of the house and a tempting aroma emanating from the kitchen.
"Eric!" Scot's voice from the kitchen, not yet breaking but still as high pitched as ever, made him smile as he took off his jacket and gloves. "We're making pie!"
Indeed they were. The counters were all full of cooking utensils and Scot was busy mixing ingredients in a big bowl, so focused on his task that he was completely unaware of the flour that had stuck to his auburn curls. Sam was spreading the crust but looked up and gave him a smile.
"Thanks. How was work?" Eric asked as he eyed the number of bowls and ingredients towering every surface. It was at least twice as much stuff as Sam would ever use while cooking and a lot of things did certainly not belong in a pie of any kind.
"Oh, nothing special. Lots of paperwork. And you?"
"Much the same. What kind of pie is it?"
"Shepherd's pie!" Scot exclaimed with a smile that went from one ear to the other. "Do you like it Eric?"
Eric and Sam exchanged glances, sharing a smile before Eric replied: "Yeah, I like it. But you didn't put cocoa in it, right?"
"Scot convinced me that brownies would be a great snack for the movie tonight. They'll go in right after the pie is done. Hey, Scot, why don't you tell Eric which movie you chose?"
There was something else underneath the encouragement, something obviously meant for Eric but impossible to decipher. That was, until Scot replied in an easy voice: "Rent! I haven't seen it before but Carla said she thought I would like it since it's a musical."
Again, Eric and Sam exchanged glances and Eric understood perfectly what Sam's caution was about. Neither of them was particularly knowledgeable about musicals but if there was one they knew about, it was this one.
"So…" Eric said slowly, trying to get some kind of indicator from Sam if this was the right way to go about it but without receiving any sufficient hint, "do you know what it's about?"
"Well, Carla said it was about some people living in New York and that they were poor and couldn't afford to stay in their home and that one of the guys was more like a girl who drummed a lot."
Eric was unsure whether or not he should be thankful that Carla seemed to have missed the major points of the story. Sam had obviously said nothing about it and Eric decided to let it be.
"Okay. Should I clear some stuff away?"
Come what may – at least he would not be starved.
Eric had actually seen Rent. Not the movie, he had never liked musicals much, but Danny, a friend of Sam's – and later Eric's – had been an active member of the gay rights' movement and had been a driving force in bringing about a stage production of Rent in Toronto. Of course, not only LGBTQ people but any person identifying with any letter of the alphabet had flocked to the theatre – even Eric.
Well, Sam had practically forced him since Danny had given them two tickets and not using them would have been rude and no, no one would recognize him in the darkness of the theatre and what did it matter if anyone did?
This was a little different.
They had eaten their dinner and Eric had declared the shepherd's pie delicious, to Scot's great happiness and Sam's more silent pleasure. The table was cleared, the dishwasher stacked and the brownies put on a plate and brought to the T.V. Eric, as usual, made himself comfortable leaning against Sam, and Scot, as usual, made himself equally comfortable building a small nest in the sofa using pillows and blankets and a stray feather boa. They started the movie and it was like five years ago, only worse.
He was more comfortable and more relaxed than when he had been sitting in that theatre, sure, but he had been so occupied with his own problems then that he had not engaged that much in the actual story. Seeing it again, now, Eric was acutely aware of the fact that his closet-casedness was probably one of the main reasons why he had never been very affected by the HIV-epidemic. Not like Sam, who had lost several friends – Danny included – to aids and who Eric could feel stiffen and take a deep breath every once in a while during the movie. Perhaps Eric was not the only one who had braced himself for this. As for Scot…
It was hard to tell what he was thinking. He was cuddled up in his nest, his full attention on the television screen and the action going on there. Normally he would sing along, or at least hum in an off-key note with the songs, even during more serious musicals like the Phantom of the Opera. Perhaps it was because he had never seen Rent before, but Eric could not help but wonder what went through that head as incurable illness, drug-addiction and death filled every other second of the movie. It was only at the end, when they brought Mimi in, that Eric thought he saw something glinting in the boy's eyes, but it was hard to tell for sure.
And so it ended.
As the credits started rolling, Eric could feel Sam shifting behind him, so he sat up. Sam cleared his throat and said "I think I'll make some tea. Do you want some?"
Eric shook his head.
"Excuse me." Scot crawled out of his nest. They could hear the lock clicking on the bathroom door.
"Maybe we should have said no…" Sam said and rose from the couch. "He's only twelve after all."
"You said it yourself Sam, no restrictions. And don't you think it's better that he's seen it with us than on his own or with just Carla and Joey? Or Ryan?"
"You do have a point there."
"Of course I do. Go make yourself that cup."
For a couple of minutes Eric was alone in the living room. He turned the T.V. off and listened to the sound of Sam bustling about in the kitchen. He did not feel as confident as he had tried to sound. It was one thing to talk about Sam's historical dramas and the impact of the real events on the world, or even the important themes of High School Musical 3, because as grownups he and Sam could always take comfort from the fact that they had more experience. While this was the sad truth about Rent as well, perhaps it was too closely related to them? And the topic closest to Scot was one neither of them was at all familiar with.
It was perhaps five or ten minutes before they were all assembled in the living room again. Scot seemed to have washed his face in cold water for at least half that time – probably not though, he said it dried up his skin to use anything colder than lukewarm water – and unlike most other times, he did not start off the conversation but silently bit into one of the brownies which had been sadly forgotten about throughout the movie.
"So, Scot" Sam said, "what do you think we should begin talking about?"
Needless to say, the silence was thick with discomfort.
"Let's start at the beginning" Eric said. "Why do you think people don't want to pay their rent? Or why can't they?"
Scot did not answer, but the way he fingered on his charm bracelet suggested he was deep in thought. Had he worn that before? Or had he put it on during his bathroom break? Eric did not know and he did not ask. He did not need to know.
"That's not really what we should talk about, right?" Scot's words sounded very sure all of a sudden and he looked up from his fidgeting. In some ways, he was older than twelve.
"What should we talk about then, Scot?" Sam asked again. The boy swallowed but seemed to gather strength from some inner source.
"You're okay, aren't you?"
Eric looked at Sam but he seemed as surprised as Eric felt. He had not expected that question and none of them dared answer it because they did not know what it was really about.
"How do you mean?"
"Well, you're… healthy, right?" Now Scot's eyes darted between them, big worried eyes like a scared animal frozen in its place, desperately hoping that whatever danger was in front of it would pass if it was only still enough. "You're not sick?"
"What? No!" Eric exclaimed and half a moment later, Sam put down his teacup while saying, like a magic spell: "No Scot, no no. We're not ill."
"Honest? You promise?"
"Yes Scot, we promise" Eric said, once again immediately followed up by Sam's attempt at assurance:
"I'm perfectly healthy and there's nothing wrong with Eric except for the creaky shoulder."
It was impossible to tell if this was any actual consolation to Scot. He hid his face in his hands and even though he was completely still, Eric was convinced that there were tears on those ruddy cheeks. For a moment Eric wondered if he should try to comfort the boy but decided against it. Scot was trying to keep the tears to himself and Eric would not force them from him. Sam did not move either, but when he spoke it was in an even softer tone than usual.
"Is that what you're worried about? About us?"
"But you acted so strange!" it came in a strangled, definitely teary voice from behind the hands and the wild auburn curls. "And you were so serious all through the movie and all those people were sick and then Angel died and-"
A snivel brought an end to the list of things that had gone wrong and Sam put his hand on Scot's tangled hair.
"Many of my friends died from that disease, Scot. I remember all of them and I know that I will never meet them again. But Eric and I are healthy and that is not about to change. I promise."
"And I promise as well" Eric filled in. "I'm sorry if we scared you, but we thought that, well, with all the things going on in the movie, not the aids but, well, you know, how Roger and… Mimi?"
"Well, how they use drugs. We thought it might be difficult, you know, that it might remind you of your mother."
There. He had said it. But saying it did not remove the burden from his back, and perhaps he should have let Sam ask instead? Sam had always been better with words – there was a good reason why Sam was the lawyer and Eric the sports jock.
Scot looked up at them now, first at Eric and then Sam, not bothering to wipe his tears away. His eyes were blank and he looked really, really messed up.
"Well…" he said hesitantly, "it did. But mom won't come back, so I can't lose her again."
"And you won't lose us" Sam said. "Never."
Scot looked down for a moment, clearly thinking this over, and then looked up again, this time with a smile on his tearstained face that somehow made him look as awkward and lovely as he had ever been.
"Alright" he said. "That's good."
"Yeah" Eric agreed. "It is."
They did not discuss anything else, perhaps sharing the feeling that the most important subjects had been taken care of and that everything else could be left for another evening. Scot was sent upstairs to brush his teeth and put on his pajamas while Eric and Sam tidied up and turned off the lights.
Bedtime did not have as many routines as many other aspects of their daily life: normally, Scot would yell his goodnight down the stairs and go to his room, leaving Sam and Eric with about an hour of alone time before turning in, and the same held true for this night. After about an hour of remembering old acquaintances long gone, Eric put their glasses in the sink and his arm around Sam's shoulder in a sideways hug before going upstairs. They did not speak much, just went about their usual bathroom procedure before climbing into bed.
"That was… some movie night" Eric concluded.
"Yes" Sam agreed, and he sighed as he sank down into the mattress. "But I am kind of glad we made it through."
"I guess. Are you okay?"
Sam nodded and smiled, a smile which reassured Eric more than any words could have done. Not that he minded the words that did follow.
"Perfectly fine. I have you, and Scot, and everything I could possibly wish for."
"You can have something else as well."
"What would that be?"
The kiss was soft, tentative – a caress as well as a promise, like the one they had given Scot. This life, their life, was good, and Eric would do anything to keep it that way, to stay there, just like that, in Sam's arms as they had turned off the bedroom lights and pulled up the duvets. He pressed one of Sam's hands and closed his eyes, feeling sleep looming close by. However, his eyes had not been closed for more than ten seconds before a knock on the bedroom door made him open them again.
"Yeah?" he asked. "Scot?"
Clearly recognizing this as an invitation, the door was opened and Scot's familiar frame was discernible in the crack and the strange not-darkness provided by streetlights outside. The hair was even more tousled than usual and in spite of the lack of light it was clear that he was outgrowing the pajamas.
"What's wrong?" Sam had sat up in the bed and turned his bedside lamp back on, worry written on his face. "Did you have a nightmare?"
"No" the boy said, "I just wanted to- sorry, I'll go to bed now."
He retreated, hand on the handle as he closed the door, but Eric found himself calling Scot's name, and the head popped back into view.
"Hey, it's okay" Eric said. "We're still here. And we'll be here tomorrow when you wake up, and the day after that. We're not going to disappear."
"Yeah" Scot said, smiling in the strangely endearing way that revealed the gap between his two front teeth. "I know. Good night."
"Good night" Eric and Sam echoed, and Scot closed the door. They could hear his footsteps as he went up to his room again, and the soft but unmistakable sound of him humming some tune from the musical.
Eric considered that a good sign.
"Ready to try again?" he said.
"More than ready" Sam replied, and yawned. "And I'm so happy it's another month until next time."
"Don't say that. Next month could be worse."
"I saw an advertisement the other day. Score: a hockey musical."
Sam laughed and turned off the lamp again.
"You shouldn't be so critical. You might like it" he said as he made himself comfortable in the bed again.
"I hope not. Scot is already rubbing off too much on me."
"That tune he was humming just now. I remember some of the lyrics from the song."
"Really? What were they?"
Eric snorted quietly, but brought one of Sam's hands to his lips.
"Live in my house, I'll be your shelter" he recited. "Just pay me back with one thousand kisses."
He could feel Sam's breath on his shoulder as the man came closer, soft lips on his skin.
"Be my lover and I will cover you" Sam finished. "I know that one. It's a classic."
Their fingers mingled together, entwined, for a brief moment of silence. Then Sam said:
"Come here. I have a thousand kisses to cover you with."
And soon enough, Eric was too preoccupied to think about musicals or deceased friends or anything other than the man in bed with him. Movie Mondays, even Musical Mondays, were not that bad after all.