Beginnings: Introduction

Jamie burst through the door from the garage. His head was hanging low and he looked beneath him to be sure not to let the animals out. He walked forward just a few feet and stopped in the middle of the hallway. His bag and jacket fell off him like autumn leaves from a tree. The hockey gear and clothing landed on the floor and stayed there, as he had neither the energy nor inclination to pick them up. The other members of the household absolutely hated it every time he did this, and doing this was far more common than not. He was sure he’d catch an earful about it, but right then he couldn’t have cared less.

He paused and cast a glance into the kitchen, finding it deserted. But the presence of dirty lunch dishes told him someone in addition to Al was awake, and he was willing to bet a week’s salary that it wasn’t Pit. So he passed over the door leading to a staircase and continued down the hallway. He made a pit stop at the bathroom to down some pain medicine, then finally arrived at the entertainment room.

Nik sat in his usual armchair, a newspaper half-folded on his lap. The pencil which he always used on his crosswords was chewed almost past recognition, but he was working on it still as he poured over the puzzle in the paper. Caught in concentration, he did not notice Jamie’s arrival. Sweetie did, however. The man was sitting on the couch, his body slightly twisted to the side as his laptop was open on the side table. The laptop snapped shut as soon as Sweetie saw his sweetie, and a smile sprang up. “How was practice?”

“S’okay,” Jamie muttered noncommittally. “But I’ve kind of got a killer headache.”

Sweetie cooed with the utmost sympathy. “Did you take something for it?”

Jamie’s head bobbed up and down, which only hurt it more. “Hasn’t had a chance to work yet.” Fingers scrubbed hard against his forehead and then his hand moved back and rubbed even harder at the back of his neck. He winced.

“Come here,” Sweetie said, patting the couch next to him. He opened the computer back up as Jamie walked over. When the thing woke up, Sweetie closed his e-mail program and saved his place in the video game he’d been playing with the volume muted. He instructed the computer to shut down and then patted the couch cushion beside him again. “Come here and let me rub your temples.”

Jamie had trudged over to the couch and hovered over it. “Actually,” he said, pressing his palm to his forehead and holding it there this time. “Could you rub my feet?”

“They hurt, too?” There was more curiosity and amusement than concern in Sweetie’s voice.

“Nah. It’s just a trick I learned from my mother and sisters.” All three of them were nurses, which came in handy considering all the injuries he’d been through playing hockey as a kid. But sometimes helpful advice seeped through to him, too. “There are pressure points or something. I forget what they’re called. But it’s a little-known remedy for a headache. Really takes the edge off.” He dragged the butt of his hand back and forth against his forehead. “And I’ve got a lot of edge I’d like gone, right now.” He sank down onto the other side of the couch with a pleading look on his face.

Sweetie looked less than pleased. “You want me to rub your wet, smelly feet?”

He sounded completely repulsed, but Jamie knew he was already being worn down. It was only a matter of time before the man caved, now. Jamie reached down and pulled at the ties of his sneakers. “I just showered and I put on fresh socks right after that. They’re not wet and they don’t smell.” He pulled a foot out of a shoe and could not resist touching it just in case. As he’d said, it was not wet. A bit warm, perhaps, but just fine and ready for a good rubbing. “Please, Sweetie?”

“Fine,” Sweetie relented. “But I get a kiss first.”

Jamie leaned over and Sweetie met him halfway. They kissed and then Jamie got comfortable with his head on a couch pillow and both of his feet in his lover’s lap. Sweetie’s hands closed over the bright, white tube socks and began rubbing. Initially, his touch was soft and Jamie winced again, restraining laughter at the tickling. But then Sweetie applied a little more pleasure and Jamie settled back, relaxed but in as much pain as pleasure.

“Who would have thought, when we met all those months ago, that we’d be here now like this?” Sweetie asked after a light chuckle.

Nik finally looked up from his puzzle and ceased his pencil-biting for a few moments in order to speak. “How did you two meet, anyway?”

“It was the first day of tryouts for my gay youth hockey league,” Jamie explained. His eyes were shut and he hand his hand still plastered on his forehead. “I was sort of auditioning coaches at the same time. Not that I had too many to pick from, mind, but I had a screening process all worked out. And I figured prospective coaches should at least see the players from the beginning.”

Sweetie picked the story up from there, as though he’d been telling it all along. “He was skating around center ice with a clipboard in hand. The lights were all on in the arena and I could see him clearly. I thought he was the most incredible man I’d seen in a long time. Those eyes… that hair… those muscles… it was twenty degrees in the building and I was hot, horny, and melting right there.”

“He skated over to me,” Jamie continued naturally, as if they’d worked out ahead of time who was to tell which part of the story, or as if they’d told it a hundred times before. “He collided with one of the boys who was warming up, but he stayed on his feet. And then he nearly fell for no reason at all, just his skate moving a little too quickly on the unusually smooth ice and getting out from under him, destroying his balance. I darted over and caught him by the arm before he had a chance to fall and crack his skull open.”

“‘Saved your life!’ he said to me,” Sweetie said, chuckling again. “Then ‘Gotta be more careful around here. Can you handle that?’ He talked down to me like I’d never been on skates before. I thought he was just there for the PR. I thought he was a condescending, egotistical asshole. Little did I know it’d be an asshole I’d know in the biblical sense pretty soon after that.”

“And I thought he was some scrawny, geeky yuppie and couldn’t figure out why he was there. Except that, during the tryouts, I found myself watching him more than the boys. I finally had to approve the guys who’d shown up to be coaches and send them up into the stands just so I’d give the boys proper attention.”

“Meanwhile, I’m up in the stands, paying attention to him. And about twenty minutes into watching him work with the boys, I knew I’d read him wrong.”

Jamie sighed at the memory, and smiled. “After practice, he skated over to me—”

“Gracefully, I might add,” Sweetie added.

“—and after about five minutes of flirting, he asked me out for a drink.”

“And after that, he asked me back to his place.”

“The rest, as they say, was history. But I definitely wouldn’t have thought I’d be falling in love and moving in with him a few months after that.” He took his hand off his forehead and opened his eyes, looking over at Nik. “Moving in with all of you, I should say. I never thought I’d be in a long-term relationship again. And never thought I’d find myself in a family like this.”

Nik laughed. He slid the pencil behind his ear and folded the newspaper. Then he placed it on the arm of the chair. He uncrossed his legs from left over right and crossed them again, right over left. “We all sthort of just fell into thisth family, let me tell you,” Nik said.