Read Divisions (Dev and Lee) Online

Authors: Kyell Gold

Tags: #lee, #furry, #football, #dev, #Romance, #Erotica

Divisions (Dev and Lee) (6 page)

BOOK: Divisions (Dev and Lee)
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“So you don’t sit with the players’ wives?”

I laugh. “Most of the wives don’t go to road games, unless it’s the playoffs. Some of the guys have a different girl in every town, from what Dev tells me.”

He’s halfway through his soup and I’ve barely started. So I ask him about some of the plays in the game, and about the Dragons game that weekend, while I finish my soup.

I’m just licking the spoon clean when my phone rings. I take it out. “Sorry,” I say. “In case it’s Dev.” Father nods while I look at the number. “Oh. Aunt Carolyn.” I frown. “Little early for her to call.”

He holds up a paw as I move to put the phone away. “Go ahead and take it. She’s probably worried.”

“All right.” So I pick it up and say hi.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” she says, and then waits.

“I’m with Father,” I say. “He just told me.”

“Okay, good. Listen, if you need to talk to someone, just call me. I can’t believe you were just here and we didn’t know a thing about it. Damn that Eileen. I gave her hell.”

I smile at Father. “I can’t imagine that did any good.”

“It did me good. If I thought I could change her mind, I’d still be on the phone with her. Look, I’ll let you and Bren get back to dinner. Just wanted to reach out.”

“Thanks. I’m okay, really.”

The waiter comes by to clear the plates and looks down his muzzle at me. “Sir, the club has a strict policy against cell phones in the public areas.”

“Sorry.” I say a quick good-bye and hang up.

“So you had a good time in Port City.” Father picks up the conversation.

I nod. “Dev was out late celebrating. Last time they had eight wins was in the nineties.”

“You didn’t go out with him?”

“Not on the team-only things.” I shrug. “Like I said. The wives don’t go along. I don’t want to get in the way.”

“Did you get to know any of the players?”

I feel like I’m being interviewed, but I don’t know what I’d ask him about other than the divorce, so in a way it’s sort of a relief. “I’ve met some of his teammates back in Chevali. Gerrard Marvell is a nice guy, and Fisher Kingston’s been a good friend to Dev. His wife’s nice, too. Gena. And Charm is great.”

“The kicker.” Father nods. “The one with the ‘guffaw.’”

“That’s him.” I chuckle. “So those guys are pretty cool. I haven’t met most of the offensive players yet, but maybe once I’m down there…”

My cell phone goes off again. Father grimaces. “Relatives will probably be calling you all night.”

“I’ll shut my phone off.” But when I pull the phone up, the number calling is Dev’s. “Oh, hang on.” I bring the phone to my ear. “Hey, handsome.”

He laughs. “Hi, fox. How’s Thanksgiving dinner?”

“It’s fine. I’ll tell you more later. What’s up?”

The waiter sees me and starts across the room. I pretend not to notice. Dev says, “You know how you were supposed to come up here tomorrow?”

Ah, shit, they decided not to invite me. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am a little disappointed. The waiter stands at the side of our table and clears his throat. “Yeah?” I say.

“Could you come up tonight?”

“What? Why?”

The waiter points to the phone. Part of me is amused that he is so insistently polite in the face of my rudeness. I hold up a paw as Dev answers. “Uncle Roger’s leaving first thing in the morning and he wants to meet you. Once he started in, Aunt Mariya and Aunt Ania did too. Then Auntie Za started in, and, yeah, that was that. So I said I’d call. It’s okay if you can’t make it up. They know you’re with family.”

“Let me ask my father and I’ll call you back. Love you.”

He rumbles and lowers his voice. “Love you too.”

“So sorry,” I tell the waiter, putting my phone away. “Last time, I promise. Look, I’m turning it off.”

“If it happens again,” he says in a low voice, but not low enough to keep the other diners from looking at us, “I am afraid I will have to ask you to leave.”

“Really.” I raise an eyebrow and look at my father. “What do you say? Want to get out of this place?”

 

***

 

As lovely and dramatic an exit as that would be, we do stay through dinner. But I call Dev and tell him to save us some pumpkin pie, and so about forty-five minutes later, after a stop at a liquor store to pick up a bottle of nice wine (my father is a traditionalist about being a guest), we’re on the road north.

Father was worried about dressing up, but he was already in a nice shirt and slacks for the country club, and I tell him they won’t care that I’m in jeans any more than the country club did. I have a nice shirt on too, after all.

“I’m guessing his family will be a bit different when they’re not in the hospital,” my father says. “Anyone else there you’ve met before?”

“Nope. I never got to meet any of his uncles or aunts, or even his brother.” My left paw flexes around the steering wheel. The ligament at the base of my thumb still feels stiff where Dev’s father grabbed and sprained it a couple months ago. We’d been arguing over whether I’d continue to see Dev; I won the argument, even though I ended up in the hospital dosed up on painkillers.

And when we drive into Lake Handerson, the first thing I recognize is the large white hospital building, lit up at night. I point it out to my father, and he gives a soft “heh,” looking in the other direction. “And there’s the jail you stayed in.”

“I have to remember to write my review for the Michelin Guide. ‘Lousy food, but at least the service was terrible.’”

“Please do me a favor and do not feel the need to embark on a comparison tour.”

I shake my head. “My fightin’ days are over, Father. Cross my heart.”

His eyes gleam with reflected street light. “No matter what Mikhail says? Or any of his other relatives?”

“I will be on my best behavior. We already discussed this and I promised. Every time I want to make a smart remark I am to go to Dev and whisper it in his ear instead of saying it out loud.”

“Sounds like a good system.”

We pass a baseball field, lit up and empty. Thanksgiving night, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for it to be on, but there it is. Most of the rest of the town is dark, all the inhabitants at home with family and turkey. One theater marquee shines down a street packed with cars; two blocks down, the street is empty, small flickering lights illuminating the signs of jewelry stores and pawnshops.

I remember the way to Dev’s family’s house, even without my father’s navigation help. There are cars packed out on the street here, too. I point out the large maple tree in his yard as we get out of the car. “That’s where Dev’s father’s friends waited while we argued. He called them over to beat me up.”

My father looks across the car at me, holding the wine in the crook of one arm. “Should we have stopped for a shiv before going in here?”

“Ah, me and Ivan are cool now,” I say. “He might be there too. Mikhail talks about him like he’s family.”

We walk up the drive, checking the maple tree first, but it’s clear of everything but maple seeds and fallen leaves, a smell of fall I know from home. On the porch, I remember standing with Dev and hearing his father tell him not to come back, the words penetrating even the blinding pain of my thumb. But we did come back, we didn’t give up, and here I am again.

The lights are on in every room on the lower floor. I glance up, but I’m not sure which window is Dev’s room, or even if he’s staying in there now. There’s the babble of probably a dozen voices and the powerful smell of tigers all over the porch, and it’s no trouble for me to sort Dev’s scent out of the rest. That overcomes my hesitation; I bounce up to the door and ring the bell.

For a moment, I wonder if anyone’s heard it over the noise. But after several seconds, the door opens, letting light and conversation and the smells of turkey, cranberry, pumpkin pie, stuffing, wax candles, and tiger drift out around us. Dev’s mother, Duscha, smiles when she sees us.

“Thank you for changing your plans,” she says. “Please, come in. Happy Thanksgiving. It’s good to see you, Lee.”

She holds her arms at her sides, tentatively out, and I choose to view that as an invitation for a hug. I step in, and she hugs firmly enough that I think I guessed right. “Good to see you, too.” I don’t add,
not at the hospital
. “Hope you two are well.”

Would Mother hug me that warmly? The thought bothers me as I step back from Duscha, but I resolve to put that aside and just enjoy the company.

“I’m Brenly,” Father says, holding out the bottle. “I brought this for you.”

“Thank you so much. I remember you.” Duscha is small for a tiger, but she is still taller than either of us. She takes the wine and beams down at us. “Please, come in.” She closes the door behind us and gestures toward the stairs. “You may put your coats in Devlin’s room. Lee, you remember where it is.”

Oh, very well I do. I hold out my hand for my father’s coat and look up to see Dev walking across the living room toward me, a huge smile on his face, almost pushing his relatives out of the way. And as he goes by, they turn in his wake to watch, a room full of tigers staring down at us. The conversation dies enough for me to hear the very soft music in the background, some kind of classic rock mix.

“Why don’t I show you where we’re putting the coats?” Dev says in his low rumble, and his smile, infectious, makes mine even wider.

“Sure,” I say, and then, “Well, no. I should stay with Father.”

Father smiles. “Go on, go on. I’ll be fine. There’s plenty of company here.”

“All right.” I beam, tail wagging, and fall in behind Dev. “Lead on.”

My father clears his throat. “Don’t be long,” he says pointedly.

“We won’t.” I look around, but I don’t see Mikhail.

Fortunately, Duscha takes my father by the arm. “I will introduce you to my brother,” she says.

I feel a slight pang of guilt at leaving my father alone in a party of tigers, but it’s not enough to resist being dragged upstairs by my boyfriend. We get to his room, he kicks the door closed behind us, and I’ve barely got the coats on the bed before he’s wrapped me up, squeezing so hard I gasp. I wrap my arms around him in return and lift my muzzle to his.

“So how long you think we’ve got?” I ask in the husky female voice he likes sometimes.

“Not long enough.” He presses his muzzle to mine, forcing my lips apart with his tongue, and I close my eyes for the kiss.

My whole body shivers against his, tail swishing, the warmth and his tongue and his body and his paws all sharp in my awareness. The scent of tiger overwhelms me, like coming home.

I’d been joking about having enough time to have a quickie, but I find myself just wanting to stay in his arms the whole night, clothes on or off. Sure, off is always preferable, but just standing together is more than we’ve had for two weeks and he doesn’t show any more sign of wanting to break off the kiss than I do.

Finally, I feel a snagging tug at my shirt. I pull my muzzle back to smile up at him. “Hey, watch the claws,” I say.

The snagging vanishes. He presses hard, clawless fingers into my back on either side of my spine. “I missed you,” he says, nosing down across the bridge of my muzzle to lick between my ears.

I laugh and work my muzzle under his chin. “Missed you too, tiger.” I sigh into his fur. “But I should go rescue my father.”

“What’s the matter with him? Problems with your mother again?”

I don’t want to get into the whole divorce thing now. It’s not just that I don’t want to drop it on Dev. It’s also that I don’t want to talk about it. “Yeah. I’ll tell you more later. So who’s here that I should know about?”

“Let’s see. My Uncle Roger…”

I giggle against him. “Someday I’ll have to introduce your Uncle Roger to my Uncle Roger.”

“I don’t know about that.”

I feel the rumble as he talks, the uncertainty in his shifting weight. My ears perk. “I thought he was the one who wanted to meet me.”

“Yeah. Um.” He rests his paws on my shoulders. “He and my dad argued about that. I think what he said was, ‘I gotta see this fox.’”

The room cools. I step back as far as his paws will let me, about two inches. “So I’m a sideshow.”

“Aunt Mariya and Auntie Za both actually want to meet you. Aunt Mariya says she has a gay friend back in Gateway. Or at least a gay hairdresser.”

“Really? A hairdresser?” I shake my head. “I’m surprised she doesn’t know any interior decorators or travel agents.”

“She might. She didn’t say.”

He’s half-smirking, so I don’t know if he’s serious or not. “All right. So one gawker and two Gayland tourists.”

“Auntie Za’s not…” He laughs. “Well, you’ll just have to meet her.”

“Will do. Anyone else?” I curl my tail around his leg. “What about your brother and…Marta, right?”

He reaches up to scratch behind his ear. “Gregory’s here, yeah. I think he is, anyway. He’s been…kinda weird this holiday.” He shrugs when I give him a look. “Just…cold.”

“On some kind of ‘you’re unnatural and going to Hell’ kick?” I say it a little more flip than probably I should, and Dev looks away, ears going down. “Sorry.” I step in and hug him again. “Let’s go downstairs. We’ll deal with ’em.”

Chapter 2: Family Meeting (Dev)

It’s funny, weird—Lee has a word for it, I’m sure. As we head for the stairs, I feel more worried than when I’m stepping onto the football field. In a game, I know pretty much what’s going to happen, how the eleven guys across the line are going to come at us, and Gerrard has twenty or thirty plays he can call that put us in a good position to deal with it. Worst case is we lose. Well, no. Worst case is one of our guys gets carted off the field on a stretcher. That happened to my buddy—mentor, really—Fisher almost two months ago, and to Corey a month before that (although I’m the one who replaced Corey in the starting lineup, so I guess it wasn’t a worst case for everyone). But anyway, I know kind of the range of what’s going to happen.

I’m walking down in front of my fox, and the range of what might happen is only limited by my imagination. Even that’s not enough to predict things, because there’s no way in hell I would’ve imagined that my dad would break Lee’s thumb. Sprain it, whatever. So I’m nervous, going down these stairs and hearing the conversations of all my relatives, and I know my tail is twitching. I don’t know how the team down there is gonna come at us.

And then Lee puts a paw on my shoulder and whispers, just for me, “Don’t worry, tiger. We got this.” That’s all it takes. It’s like Gerrard coming in with the playbook. Lee might have caused this tension, but he’s also the reason I can deal with it.

We meet up with Aunt Ania first, and my formal thought-out introductions turn into simply, “This is Lee,” when she turns.

Aunt Ania looks like my mom: same height, same stripes, just about, same build. But Mom is still on her first husband, and her older sister is twice divorced. “All the money and none of the dead weight,” Ania likes to say. She wears flashy jewelry that my dad grumbles about, and her dresses are always out of the latest Vogue.

Under all that, she is definitely family. She greets us with a smile as bright as my mom’s, and turns it full power on Lee. “What a pleasure to meet you,” she says. “So you’re the one turning my nephew’s head.”

“None of the running backs he’s faced have managed to,” Lee says.

Ania looks to me as she says, “How charming.”

“Football humor,” I say. “A ‘swivelhead’ is a guy who has to keep turning his head because the player he’s supposed to be tackling is running past him.”

“Oh, I see.” She plainly doesn’t. “So how did you two meet?”

He tells variations of this story three times in my hearing that night. “We went to the same college. I was a football fan, he was a player.”

“And how did you start dating?” Aunt Mariya wants to know, later.

“Well, I had to talk him into it.” Lee smiles, aware of Uncle Roger over her shoulder and the cup of buttered rum Roger’s holding in his paw.

“I bet you did.” Uncle Roger is not as big as me or father—not as tall, that is. He’s as big around as both of us put together. “I bet you were real fuckin’ persuasive. Foxes.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Lee lies with a long fox smile.

“Be polite, Roger, or he might put you in the hospital, too.” Aunt Mariya doesn’t sound like she’d mind all that much. She probably wouldn’t, from what I’ve heard about their lives since my cousins went off to college.

“Where are David and Darlene?” I ask, to head off drunk-Roger trouble.

“College,” Roger stifles a belch. “Hey, is Kingston going to be back this season?”

That’s to me, about Fisher. “He wants to be, yeah.”

“That bear’s doing okay for him. What’s his name, uh…” He scratches behind his ear.

“The cubs get Thanksgiving off, of course.” Mariya sighs, maybe at her children, maybe at her husband’s belch. “But Darlene is at her boyfriend’s, and David and some friends are flying to Hyeong-Kin. Adventure holiday package.”

“They better not come back with the clap,” Roger mutters.

“Honestly, Roger.” Mariya half-turns. “Why don’t you get another rum and see if you can make a complete fool of yourself?”

“Great idea.” Roger totters over to the kitchen.

Mariya beams at us again. “So you got together against all odds. How romantic. It’s so nice to see a young couple in love.”

Lee smiles. I look down at the floor. “The more I got to know Dev,” he says, then and again, to Gregory, later, “the more I wanted to spend time with him.”

Gregory, with Marta on his arm, is a little smaller than I am. An inch or two away in height, but he hasn’t spent the last five years bulking up his frame. The difference is only really apparent when we stand side by side. In my head, he’s still my big brother, so I get this uncomfortable awareness of his aging when I see him.

I used to look forward to being his height, to doing the things he did. Now, for the first time, I’m scared of the day when I’ll be that thin, a little hunched over, and constantly flicking my eyes around the room like I’m worried some tackle is going to jump out of the china closet and knock me down. It wasn’t this bad at Christmas, the last time I saw him in person, and he didn’t look this bad on his commercial, though of course then he was in a suit and sitting behind a desk.

Marta responds to Lee first. “That’s sweet,” she says.

“Yeah. Course, back then he couldn’t really keep a girl around.” Gregory eyes me, slides his glance to Lee, then over my shoulder. “Yeah, football player on campus gets a lot of action, but this is the first time he brought someone to Thanksgiving in like five years.”

“Well,” Lee says, “for the last two, he hadn’t been able to tell anyone who he was dating.”

Gregory’s face looks like he just ate a lime. “Personally, I’d be okay not knowing,” he says.

“Oh, honey.” Marta sounds slightly reproving, but doesn’t take it any further.

I just shrug and grin. “Don’t worry, we don’t have a big wedding planned.”

Lee arches an eyebrow at me. I showed him pictures of Gregory’s wedding last year, which led to an argument about whether I’d take him to a family wedding. After making up, we used the white handkerchief that was Gregory and Marta’s wedding favor to clean up.

This would be a great time to tell Gregory that, actually. If I were Lee. So I keep an eye on my fox as Gregory says, “I don’t see how you could have any kind of wedding planned anyway.”

“Oh, well,” Lee says. “There are a few civilized places around.”

“Legally…”

“Oh, boy,” I say. Marta tugs at Gregory’s arm.

“…the precedents have been—stop pulling—have been clearly set. This whole malarkey about it being an equal rights issue is just political posturing bullshit.”

“That’s an interesting take on things.” Lee keeps his voice even.

Gregory points a finger at him. “And any court that finds in favor of this bullshit marriage law is not doing it on legal grounds. They’re doing it to placate you people because you’ve finally started making enough noise that it bothers them.”

I clear my throat. “You mean ‘us people’?” I stand closer to Lee.

“Oh, come on, Dev.” Gregory’s attention is all on me now. “Don’t pretend like this is anything more than…than posturing for attention from the national media. You planned this together, I bet, right?”

I kind of want to punch him, but I can’t do that here, of course. Lee’s whiskers twitch like he’s thinking the same, but he responds smoothly. “None of this was planned, actually. It’s just worked out okay so far.”

“For you.” Gregory snarls down at him. “I know Dev. I knew him all his life, he was always into girls, always! You people say you’re born that way, so how come he never looked at a guy, not once, not until you came along?”

“Sounds like a Families United brochure.” Lee keeps his tone light.

“United family,” Gregory snorts. “Not since you showed up.”

“Honey.” Marta tries to pull him away, but he shrugs her off.

“You know how foxes are,” he says. Cider from his breath spills over both of us.

I put my paw on Lee’s shoulder. “Yeah, I do,” I say. “I don’t think you do.”

“I argued a case against this fox once,” Gregory shakes an unsteady finger at us, “and he tried every lowdown trick to get the case tossed out. But I held on and pinned him down and finally won.”

“Sounds like a fun night out,” Lee says.

“All right,” I say, because Gregory’s eyes are bugging out and I think he might take a swing at Lee in a minute.

“Those Family United people have the right idea,” my brother yells.

Before Lee or I can say anything, my whiskers twitch at a presence behind me, and Lee stiffens. A deep, familiar voice rumbles. “Gregory. Stop it now.”

Gregory’s eyes slide sideways, and he hunches in more. “So you’re on his side too now,” he mumbles.

Dad steps around Lee, staring down at Gregory. “It is Thanksgiving.”

“He’s not family.” Gregory stares stubbornly at Lee.

“He is a guest in our house. And he is important to your brother. You will behave respectfully.”

I exhale. I’d talked to Dad about Lee, he said he was okay, but you never know with Dad. “Okay” could mean a big range of things. But he came over here to take Lee’s side. Or at least, to take my side with him.

Gregory, too, sees where Dad is standing and with whom. “I was respecting the Lord,” he hisses. “Is Devlin?”

Lee, to his credit, is standing up pretty well, despite the cold tones and tension in the large tigers all around him. My father puts a paw on Lee’s shoulder. “His relationship with the Lord is his own business. I suggest you go to bed if you cannot maintain a polite conversation.” He shifts his gaze to Marta. “How much has he had to drink?”

“I’m not drunk!” Gregory straightens. “And he put you in the hospital, for Chrissake, Dad.”

“Don’t take the name of the Lord in vain,” I chime in.

Dad glares at me. “Devlin, there is no call to make this worse. Gregory, we have settled all that, and neither is that your business. Do we understand each other?”

“Yes.” Gregory lowers his eyes just a fraction.

“Good. Lee, thank you for coming.”

“It’s good to see you again too, sir,” he says. “Thank you for inviting us.”

Dad reaches down to shake my fox’s paw. I’m sure he’s deliberately doing this in front of Gregory, and my brother watches with that sour curl to his lip as Lee’s dark brown paw disappears into my father’s orange and white one.

“Come. Your father is talking to my sister and she would like to meet you as well.” Dad guides us across the room.

Behind us, Gregory calls, “You haven’t even asked about my commercial!” I don’t know if that’s to me or to Dad, but we both ignore it.

I lower my voice as I follow Dad around an armchair, Lee trailing behind me. “Is he okay? Is he just having a bad day?”

Dad harrumphs. “Bad month. He says business has been down. You have not talked to him?”

“I’ve been a little busy with football. I thought things were going well. The commercial and all.”

We circle Aunt Mariya, sitting at the coffee table with Mom, and walk over to my third aunt, Zarya—Auntie Za. She’s sitting with Lee’s father on the loveseat, but stands when she sees us. “Ah,” she beams. “So this is Lee. I see the family resemblance.”

Lee laughs, and before he can say anything, she’s wrapping him up in a hug. “You are a lovely fox. So handsome! And your father, Brenly, I have just enjoyed the pleasure of meeting. He tells me that you have made my nephew very very happy. I am so delighted for this.”

 

She steps back, leaving my fox a little breathless. “He’s made me happy, too.” Lee grins, his tail wagging.

I can’t help but match his grin. Auntie Za is awesome. She notices the wagging and points. “And you wag your tail for him! So adorable, so wonderful. Look how lovely you look together. Hello, Devlin, come give your Auntie Za a kiss.”

She hugs me and kisses me on both cheeks. “You are so big, so strong! You need it, to run into those other players on the field, yes.”

“It helps.” It’s not just how cheery she is; it’s how easily she’s accepted Lee. Dad is still standing off to one side, but he’s smiling—if only a little—and looking fairly relaxed. For Dad. Lee’s father stands up, too, with a smile. Auntie Za does that to people. “How’ve you been?”

“I am leaving in one month—two days before Christmas, so sad I will miss it—to go back to Moskva for one year. There is counseling center there for abused wives, I am going to help them. Exciting, no?”

“Very exciting,” Lee’s dad says. “Are you a counselor?”

Auntie Za laughs. “Oh, my stripes, no. But I will work with counselors, and I hope to talk to some of the wives myself. Officially my job is working in kitchen, but they have asked for people with ‘bright and cheery disposition,’ and prefer native Siberian speakers, so I am accepted quickly.” Her eyes catch the light of a nearby candle. “I am so excited!”

“It sounds really cool.” Lee smiles. “Is domestic abuse a big problem there?”

“Always.” Auntie Za’s smile fades, the stripes over her eyebrows creasing downward. “Is terrible problem. Only now is truly being recognized. Counseling center is first of its kind.”

“You never talked about helping domestic abuse victims before,” I say. “I mean, it’s great, just…I wouldn’t have expected it.”

She glances at my father. “When you reach my age, perhaps you will understand. I have been wondering lately if the things I do make a difference in the world. I love my life, you know, but I manage a restaurant. I go to parties. I have no family of my own, nothing to leave behind. So I want to do something that will…that will matter, that is making a difference. This center in Moskva, it is a wonderful thing. It makes a difference.”

BOOK: Divisions (Dev and Lee)
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