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We Will Never Be Alone (In This World, No Matter What They Say)

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The mashed potatoes on Byrdie’s plate took their fifth distinct shape, this time resembling a tree trunk. He was almost grateful when Whitney interrupted him because he didn’t have any idea how to make the leaves or branches. Plus, nothing was going to come close to matching the set of realistic fangs two shapes ago.

“Is the food okay?” Whitney asked and Byrdie blinked.

“Oh, yeah, the food’s great. It’s perfect. I just have a lot on my mind this whole,” He gestured vaguely at himself. “Thing... Has been a lot to deal with.”

“Well,” Quinn replied. “We’re just happy to have you home and we can all act like a family again.” She smiled so earnestly that it broke Byrdie’s heart. There was a lot of that going around lately and, for that matter, he was pretty sure that Chase was holding something ugly up his sleeve. He needed to find out what it was and he was pretty sure it was going to suck when he did. “Byrdie?”

“Oh, sorry,” He winced. “I zoned out, what did you say?”

“I asked if you wouldn’t mind going tree shopping with your father.” Quinn repeated patiently and Byrdie suppressed the desire to say, ‘which one,’ especially once he realized that joke was no longer applicable. He swallowed the lump in his throat, nodding.

“Yeah, sure, when were you thinking of going?”

“Well, I’m busy tonight but maybe this weekend? You don’t have more things to do with your friends, do you?” Whitney asked. It was a thinly coded question, but Byrdie shook his head. 

“No, I don’t… Know if we’re going to be doing anything more for awhile.” He didn’t think telling his parents everything that had happened was a good idea, but he probably should have told them a little more than he did. Still, it could wait a little while longer.

“Perfect, then we’ll try to get out Saturday. There used to be more tree lots in town, but hopefully we can at least find one good tree.” 

“I mean if one lot is left it’s the best, right?” Byrdie asked, forcing a smile. Tree shopping didn’t actually sound exciting at all, but just now he was hoping that being a good son would do something about the karmic shitshow his life had become. His phone buzzed and he reached into his pocket, pulling out the wrong one at first followed by the one with the actual notification.

“I’m not sure why you need so many phones,” Quinn sighed. “I would ask if you’re living a double life, but I suppose I know the answer to that.”

“Ha-ha,” Byrdie rolled his eyes as he read Adrian’s message. 

“Are you busy?” Adrian texted.

“Do you guys mind if I,” Byrdie made a popping sound with his mouth and both Quinn and Whitney shook their heads. “Okay, I’ll see you later. And Whitney, tree date Saturday.” He gave Whitney finger guns and Whitney gave one back, using too many fingers for the barrel but doing his best. Byrdie smiled and walked out into his room. 

 

“No, what’s up?” He texted back. 

“I wanted to see if you were free to hang out.” Adrian replied almost instantly. Byrdie couldn’t keep the smile from his face, making him retroactively grateful to have left the dining room.
“Like a date? ;)” Byrdie wrote and immediately erased it, his heart doing a flip in his chest at the thought of sending it. Instead, he typed, “Sure, I’m free most of the time.” He sent, paused and added, “I haven’t been hanging out with the others. It’s been a lot.” Pause. “You know, since the incident.” Pause.
“I’ll be there soon.” Adrian replied as Byrdie was trying to work out how to phrase, ‘since Lance died and Chase killed my dad’ without sounding melodramatic. Maybe it was just dramatic or realistic or whatever, but it felt too heavy to just add to text. “Right, I know.” Adrian added and Byrdie frowned before realizing he had probably seen the messages after sending and went back to them. In the meantime, he went to get changed, throwing on a nice, warm sweater and unloading a few phones from his pockets. He had just enough time for a spritz of cologne before Adrian texted his arrival. 

Byrdie walked past Whitney on their way out and Whitney initiated the finger gun. 

“Go get ‘em,” Whitney said and Byrdie laughed.

“Get who?”

“You know,” Whitney pointed outside. “Whoever… is... Just have a nice night.”

“Will do, you too.” Byrdie said, smiling as he walked out to greet Adrian. He climbed into the passenger seat. “Oh wow, you look great.”

“You too,” Adrian said, his eyes forward. Byrdie frowned at his refusal to look at him.

“So, where are we going?”

“Do you want to just go somewhere and talk?” Adrian asked and Byrdie’s heart did another flip. 

“Oh, sure. Yeah, that sounds good. We could go get coffee. I think Ashleigh is probably working. Or is it Ashley.” Without varying his tone at all, he was pretty sure Adrian would understand.

“I’m more in the mood for my place if that’s okay?” Adrian did a one-shoulder shrug. “It’s just more private is all.”

“Oh, sure.” Byrdie said and smiled, clicking his seatbelt into place. “Yeah, let’s do it.” Adrian started to drive and they were about three minutes out when Adrian interrupted with the topic at hand. 

“I just kind of feel like…” He paused, took a breath. “So, sometimes there are two boats, right? And they go different directions and they’re kind of…” He gestured vaguely with his right hand. “They reunite eventually because eventually they go in the same direction?”

“Have you been hanging out with Chase?” Byrdie asked, frowning. “That’s a very Chase way of explaining absolutely nothing.” His heart was starting to look like it had a shot at the Olympics Gymnastics team. If it wasn’t more interested in exploding, that was.

“What I’m trying to say,” Adrian said, blushing as they neared his apartment. “Is I was wondering if… you know. Maybe we’re different enough people now that we should give it another shot.”

“I promise I’m not trying to be difficult, but I need you to say exactly what you mean so I don’t make an idiot out of my-” Byrdie said, getting most of the way through his sentence. 

“Do you want to try dating again?” Adrian asked and Byrdie’s entire body went hot.

“Yes!” He said. “Yes, I do.” He paused, realizing he hadn’t even considered the question, which would’ve been a terrible time to realize the answer was no. But after a moment he nodded slowly. “Yes, I do.” He reiterated. 

“Are you sure?” Adrian asked, throwing the car into park. “I mean, said it three times in a row, so I want to be sure.”

“I’m sure!” Byrdie said. “I promise. I’ve been thinking a lot about it too and I probably would’ve brought it up myself, but I feel like with all the times I brought it up in the past…” He shrugged. “Maybe it wasn’t my call to make. Oh, we can keep driving if you just stopped to have the conversation, we’re all good.”

“No, we’re here,” Adrian gestured through the windshield and Byrdie blinked. 

“Oh, wow. Time flies when you’re…”

“Yeah,” Adrian said, smiling. “Come on inside. I’ll make us some hot cocoa and we can just hang out.”

“I’d like that.” Byrdie said, following him inside. It was too soon for them to touch, as if their reforged relationship would break like a soap bubble. But the two of them went inside and Byrdie took a seat on the couch while Adrian made a pair of hot cocoas, returning with a  Season’s Yeeting’s mug and some tiny marshmallows. He explained it belonged to his roommate when Byrdie quirked an eyebrow at it. He took a sip. “Oh, this is good.”

“It’s the milk,” Adrian said, sitting a chaste distance away on the couch. “So, how… are you? I mean really, how are you?”

“I don’t know,” Byrdie said, staring down at the marshmallows doing their little dance on the chocolate waves.

“Oh, it’s okay if you’re not ready to talk,” Adrian said. “I know it was a lot.”

“No, I do want to talk, I just haven’t been thinking about it much. I think that’s out of like, fear you know? I haven’t told Quinn and Whitney about my dad yet. That sounds stupid, like it’s something big and important and they deserve to know, but…”

“But you want to keep them safe.”

“Yeah,” Byrdie sighed. “They worry so much and I made such a mess of things when I was dealing with being a vampire. I make such a mess all the time.”

“I think you should tell them.” Adrian said and Byrdie looked up at him over the rim of his own mug. “Not because they deserve to know or anything, I just think that they would love to help you with it. If you wait, they’re only going to be sad that you dealt with this for so long on your own.” He shrugged. “You have good parents.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Byrdie sighed. “I’m just a little gun shy about bringing them into the coming out room and telling them something again.” 

“You, shy?” Adrian asked, his grin disarming any bite to the remark. “Besides,” He reached out his hand. “I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

“You’ll come with me to the coming out room?” Byrdie asked and Adrian laughed as Byrdie reached out and took his hand. 

“And anywhere else you need me to go.”

“Thank you,” Byrdie said, his voice soft. “Really.” Adrian squeezed his hand and for a moment, the world stopped spinning.

In the end, Whitney and Quinn took the details in stride after Byrdie confirmed he wasn’t coming out another time. They hugged and invited Adrian over for Christmas, which he happily accepted. And for here, for now in this little slice of Ohio, there were no monsters to be seen. Only warmth and good cheer with where loving company surrounds.