Dec. 1st, 2010 07:56 pm
maculategiraffe: (Default)
[personal profile] maculategiraffe
Well, this took longer than I thought, but hopefully those of you who voted for "something involving Lee and Andrei and Jer [and possibly Mona]" will enjoy it. Takes place somewhere in that logistically eventful period between chapters 49 and 50 of "Lee."

“Jer!” Mona shrieked from the general direction of the front door, and Andrei, coming into the foyer, saw her leap up into Jer’s arms like a little girl whose father had just come home from a business trip. Jer caught her, grinning, and hugged her while she clung around his neck, her feet dangling inches off the floor.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded. “Put me down, you big lout. I thought you’d fled the country or something, after Judgment Day.”

“I did,” ” Jer said, setting her down and looking past her at Andrei. ”Hello, my lord.”

“Jer-- or rather-- Mr. Hansen, isn’t it?” Andrei asked, trying not to stammer. Jer had always intimidated him, but seeing him in the clothes of a free man, standing in Andrei’s house without Holden around, upped the intimidation factor considerably.

“Ah, the hell with that,” said Jer. “I’ll never get used to that on top of everything else. Just call me Jer.”

“Thank you,” said Andrei. “And I hope you’ll call me Andrei.”

“That’ll take some getting used to, too,” said Jer, smiling at Andrei, an oddly shy smile. “Sorry to just show up like this. I didn’t know your phone number.”

“Holden has it,” said Andrei.

Jer shrugged. “I haven’t been by there. I sort of-- I just got back into town. I wanted to-- Is Lee around?”

“Of course,” said Andrei. “He’s upstairs. I’ll tell him you’re here.”

“He’s been writing me letters,” Jer said, as if by way of explanation. “I hope it’s okay-- I mean, it’s your house and all.”

“Of course,” said Andrei again, puzzled, and then said, “Oh, were you-- did you need to stay here?”

“No, no,” said Jer hastily. “I’ll head over home for tonight. I just meant, you know, coming over here unexpectedly-- and you didn’t invite me-- but Lee kind of did.”

“It’s his house too,” said Andrei, and Jer looked pleased. So did Mona.

“Go tell Lee he’s here, for heaven’s sake,” she told Andrei, and grabbed Jer’s hand. “And you, come sit down and give Mama a travelogue.”

Lee was lying face down on his bed, poring over a book, and it took him a moment to look up at Andrei’s light knock on the open door. Once he did, though, he sat up and closed the book, looking alert and poised, entirely intent on Andrei. Andrei smiled at him, feeling the pang of mingled joy and trepidation that the sight of Lee’s fragile beauty and dark, shining eyes always seemed to give him, however often he entered a room with Lee in it.

“We have a visitor downstairs,” he said.

“Who is it?” Lee asked, a flicker of alarm crossing his face. Lee didn’t like disruptions to their peaceful routine, and he generally preferred not to see people other than Mona and Andrei; though he loved them dearly, even visits from Holden and Bran seemed to unsettle his delicate equilibrium.

“It’s Jer,” said Andrei.

Lee’s eyes widened, and his body stilled to an almost unnerving degree, as he sat staring up at Andrei, the translucent skin of his face pale but for two flushed spots at his feline cheekbones.

“Did you invite him here?” Andrei asked, hoping it didn’t sound accusing.

“I--” Lee swallowed. “I-- guess I did. I-- I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” said Andrei quickly, because apparently it had sounded accusing. “This is your house, you can invite people here if you want. I just wish you’d told me.”

“I didn’t think he’d come,” said Lee, still holding himself unnaturally still. “I just said-- in my letters-- I missed him-- I said-- he should come back. Because I missed him. I didn’t know, though-- he was coming.” He cleared his throat. “Is-- are-- is anyone with him?”

“He’s alone,” said Andrei. “He said he came straight here, from-- wherever he’s been, I didn’t quite catch. He came to see you. Shall we go down?”

Lee rose, abruptly, and came jerkily towards Andrei, halting a few steps from the door as if waiting for Andrei to lead the way. Andrei took Lee’s hand in his, and they walked together down the stairs and into the drawing room.

Jer and Mona were talking animatedly over each other, Jer’s low chuckle mingling with the bright peals of Mona’s laugh, but when Jer looked up and saw Lee, he jumped immediately to his feet, still smiling.

“Hey,” he said.

Lee’s hand tightened on Andrei’s; Andrei squeezed his hand back, and then let it go. Lee walked forward, still with that strangely jerky gait, as if he were being pulled on strings, until he stood right in front of Jer.

Jer reached out and touched Lee’s face very gently, and Lee stepped forward and put his arms around him, pressing himself hard into Jer’s chest, his sleek dark head dropping down on Jer’s shoulder. Jer hugged him back, stroking his back with one hand and clumsily kissing his ear.

“Hey,” he said in a gruff, slightly hoarse voice. “Hey, Lee.”

After a minute, he pulled Lee back by the shoulders and held him at arm’s length, scrutinizing his face.

“You look good,” he said. “Did you gain weight?”

“We’re doing our best,” said Mona cheerfully. “He has more color in his face too, don’t you think?”

Lee acquired even more color in his cheeks and looked down, embarrassed. Jer reached up and ruffled his hair affectionately, and Lee smiled at his feet.

“You look good too, Jer,” said Mona. “You’ve got a tan.”

“Yeah?” Jer glanced around distractedly as if for a mirror, but didn’t find one. “I’ve been outside a lot.”

“He went south,” Mona volunteered. “Sit down, all you crazy men. One of you needs to get married, so I have another woman around. Sit sit sit.”

Lee glanced from Jer, already sitting back down, to Andrei, his smile fading.

“Lee, you come sit by me,” said Mona, patting the couch next to her, and Lee lowered his head and went to her; she put an arm around him and pulled him close. “Honey, I”m kidding, you don’t have to get married. Unless you want to marry me, which I’d definitely be up for.”

“Okay,” said Lee softly, and Mona laughed.

“You heard him!” she said, pointing from Andrei to Jer. “You both heard him! I want a lacy gray dress with a train, and I want the reception in the big ballroom--”

“Who’s coming to this reception?” Andrei asked, smiling. “We only know about six people.”

“Mr. Larssen and Ms. Jamesen, Yves, Greta, Bran-- Valor,” said Mona, inspired, “and oh, what’s their names, those nice people, starts with a K--”

“The Kareyevs,” said Jer dryly. “Obviously some of your closest friends.”

“Yes, we’re very close,” said Mona, “and they probably know some other people, too, who should all come to my beautiful wedding to my one true love here. Lee, you’ve made me the happiest woman in the world, I hope you know that.”

Lee was smiling now, too; Andrei was grateful to Mona for banishing the worried look from his face. Andrei just hoped he was keeping his own face pleasant. Just because he wasn’t sure exactly what Jer was there for, or what kind of invitation Lee had issued to him, or why Jer had come to Andrei’s house before even going to Holden’s, or why Lee seemed so worried about how Andrei might react to whatever Jer had come for and Lee might be planning on giving him, was no reason why Andrei couldn’t be pleasant right now.

“So,” said Jer, looking at Lee. “I got your letters.”

“You never answered,” said Lee, without looking up.

Jer shifted awkwardly. “Yeah, well, I’m not that good a writer, I do better face-to-face. So I thought-- well, I wanted to see you.”

“You’re seeing me,” said Lee quietly.

Jer frowned. “I kind of hoped we could talk, uh, alone.”

“Whoa there, Svaðilfari,” said Mona. “Smile when you proposition my fiance.”

Jer peered at her, looking about half amused and half annoyed. “I didn’t proposition anybody.”

“So you say,” said Mona, “but Lee is easily led astray by handsome men. You should see what Andrei’s gotten him to do.”

Andrei felt himself blush and saw the blush mirrored on Lee’s face. Jer’s expression was definitely leaning towards annoyed now.

“Okay, I can take a hint,” he said, starting to rise. “Good to see you again, kid.”

“Sit your suntanned ass back down, please,” said Mona with a sudden note of steel in her voice, and Jer sank back into his seat, his eyebrows shooting up. “You’re not going to show up here and give Lee a nice hug and then flounce out on him because everything’s not exactly like you pictured it in whatever daydreams you’ve been having while you ride the rails. I just happen to believe in speaking frankly about what’s been going on here while you never wrote and never called.”

“Mona,” said Lee pleadingly, putting his hand on her arm.

“Sweetie, I know how you feel about Jer,” said Mona, laying her own hand over his. “I love him too. He saved your life, and if he ever needs a kidney, he can have mine. But he can’t just come busting in here and then sulk because you don’t hop aboard his big romantic reunion scene. Whatever it is you want, Jer, it’s something that affects us all and it’s something we all need to discuss.”

“So I have to put my proposal before the committee?” Jer asked, looking at Lee, who looked down again.

“Andrei and I aren’t a committee,” said Mona. “We’re Lee’s family. So are you, for that matter,” she added, her voice softening. “Which is all the more reason for us all to try and get along and actually communicate, don’t you think?”

Jer stared at her for a moment, and then, unexpectedly, smiled.

“I like her style,” he said to Andrei, who startled at suddenly being addressed directly. “Okay, then. Lee, kid, listen. I didn’t come here to fuck up your life. I’m glad you’ve got a good life. I came because I missed you, and you said in your letters that you missed me. Nothing more complicated than that. I wanted to see you. I wanted to talk. I’m not going to say that’s all I wanted, but that’s up to you. It’s all up to you. If it’s all too weird and you want me to leave right now, I will.”

“I don’t want you to leave,” said Lee, without looking up.

“Well, okay, good,” said Jer “So what do you say-- can we talk without the audience?”

Lee looked up at Andrei, and Andrei was distressed to see that his large black eyes were swimming with tears.

“You don’t need his permission any more,” said Jer, not angrily, but as a simple statement of fact.

“He’s right,” said Andrei gently, to Lee. “But if you did need my permission, you’d have it.”

After a moment, Lee gave a barely perceptible nod.

“All right,” said Andrei, and rose. “Mona, shall we go to the kitchen and see what we can find for our guest?”

“Lays should be sung about you,” said Mona, heading for the coffee machine as Andrei settled himself in a chair at the kitchen table. “In fact, I’ll sing one about you myself, as soon as I can think of some kennings.”

“I don’t think they sing lays about men for being pleasant about unexpected visitors,” said Andrei vaguely as Mona measured a scoop of coffee grounds.

“Well, autumn-maple-leaf-silk-crown, they should,” said Mona. “It’s better than singing them about men for killing people.”

“You’re the hero of the hour,” said Andrei. “Without you, the three of us would just have sat around staring at each other until Lee burst into tears, and then Jer would have yelled at me and I would have cried too and Lee would have gotten so upset he ran out into the snow and got lost and died.”

Mona filled the coffee pot with water. “It’s summer.”

“So he dies of a sunstroke.”

“No he doesn’t., clear-day-sky-light-gazer.” Mona set the coffee to percolate, and then came over to rest her hands on Andrei’s shoulders from behind. “He’s just fine.”

“Do you really think so?” Andrei asked, not because he doubted she thought so, but because he wanted to hear her elaborate on just how fine Lee was and what signs made it obvious to anyone with half a brain.

“Of course,” said Mona, her fingers slipping under his hair to massage his neck, but added unexpectedly, “Poor little Lee. For seventeen years he gets punished for looking like he might want something, and now he no sooner gets up the nerve to want something in a letter than it pops up on his doorstep and scares him half to death.”

Andrei frowned. “You think Jer scares him?”

“I think the idea that he might get what he wants scares him,” said Mona. “Because that means he’s in control of something, and he’s never really had the chance to learn how to cope with that. Being in control.”

“Whereas I have the opposite problem,” said Andrei. “I suddenly feel like I’ve lost control. Of-- everything.”

Mona laughed softly, behind him. “Andrei, you don’t want control. You never did. It’s just-- well, I guess it’s security, that you’ve lost. I hear that happens a lot when you fall in love.”

“I do love him,” said Andrei, his voice cracking unexpectedly.

“Oh, Andrei,” said Mona, dropping to her knees beside his chair and looking up at him with such tenderness that he suddenly felt like bursting into tears. “I know. I know you do. And he loves you, too.”

“But what if I’m not what he wants?” Andrei asked, blinking back the hot moisture prickling in his eyes.

Mona took his hands and kissed them, softly, one after the other.

“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry solstice,” she said, and Andrei laughed instead of crying.

He was still smiling at Mona’s chatter over their coffee when Lee came in, flushed and breathing quickly, and unaccompanied by Jer.

“Hey, I’m going to take Jer some coffee,” said Mona, and disappeared so quickly that Andrei had barely registered the sentence before he was alone with an obviously agitated Lee.

He rose and went to Lee. When he touched the boy’s shoulder, meaning to guide him wordlessly to a seat, he could feel that Lee was trembling.

“Lee, are you all right?” he asked, and Lee looked up at him, eyes red-rimmed and still wet. “What happened? Did Jer say something to upset you? Did he--”

“He didn’t do anything,” said Lee, moving mechanically in response to the gentle pressure of Andrei’s hand to sit down at the table. “It’s me. It’s my fault.”

“What’s your fault?” Andrei asked, the dread that had kindled at the pit of his stomach when he first saw Jer at the door leaping from a smolder into a veritable blaze. “What happened?”

Nothing,” said Lee, shuddering a little under Andrei’s hand on his back, as if he could feel the touch as vividly as Andrei did, imagining the delicate scarred skin under the soft layer of his clothes. “Nothing happened. He just-- he misses me-- but he won’t stay, he says he can’t stay, not for long, he has to go, places, I don’t know-- and I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-- I’m sorry--”

“Lee,” said Andrei, and knelt down by Lee’s chair, taking the boy’s cold hands in his. “What are you sorry for?”

“I wrote him those letters,” said Lee miserably. “I-- I wanted him to come back-- I asked him--”

“Why shouldn’t you ask him?” Andrei asked gently. “You missed him, and he missed you-- so it’s good that he’s here, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know,” Lee whispered. “You’re not-- you don’t-- mind?”

“Lee,” said Andrei, and bent his head to touch the fingers of Lee’s hand to his own hot cheek. “I love you. I want you to be happy. If you’re not happy here-- with me--”

“I am!” Lee cried out. “I love you too, Andrei, you know I do, please--”

“Lee.” Andrei lifted his head again, holding Lee’s hands tightly. “Dearest, please don’t say it like that. As if you’re afraid.”

“But I am afraid,” said Lee, fresh tears spilling out of his already raw eyes.

“Don’t be,” Andrei whispered, his voice having deserted him momentarily. “Please. Not of me.”

“I’m not scared of you,” said Lee.

“Then what?”

“Because I love you,” said Lee. “I love you, and Mona, and-- and my whole life-- with you. And we’re so happy. I never thought I’d be happy like this-- not ever-- I never even thought about being happy like this. I never thought anything like this was-- for me. And I’m here and it’s all so good but I couldn’t just be happy, I had to write Jer and ask him to come home, but he can’t stay and he was fine where he was until I wrote, we were all happy until I had to write and-- and ruin--”

“Dearest,” said Andrei again, “you didn’t make Jer do anything. He came because he wanted to see you, because he missed you. And you have this-- with me, and Mona-- for as long as you want it. Nothing’s ruined. Whatever you want, it’s all right, Lee. I only-- I only ever want you to be happy.”

“I want you to be happy too,” said Lee unsteadily, and Andrei smiled up at him.

“I’m happy right now,” he said. “There’s nowhere on earth I’d rather be.”

Lee finally smiled back, the corners of his eyes crinkling up and diverting the last of his tears down his jawline.

“Me either,” he said. “But-- Andrei-- Jer wants to-- he wants to come see me, sometimes. Is that-- is it going to make you unhappy?”

Andrei considered this.

“Not as unhappy as I’d be if I tried to stop him,” he said finally. “I know you love him, darling. It doesn’t mean you love me any less. We’ll work something out. Something that works for all of us. An-- arrangement.”

Lee made a sound that might have been a laugh, though it sounded strangely like a sob. “Jer isn’t-- um-- easily arranged.”

“If he loves you,” said Andrei, “he’ll make it work. We all will.”

Lee laughed again, a little more naturally. “I think we should put Mona in charge. Of arranging.”

“That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day,” said Andrei, and lifted his head towards Lee. “Kiss me?”

Lee bent down and obliged, his lips hot and wet and tasting of tears. Andrei wouldn’t let him pull away for a long time, and when the kiss finally ended, both of them were smiling.

“Well,” said Andrei after a moment. “We should attend to our guest.”

“He can wait,” said Lee. “Come upstairs with me.”

Andrei felt his eyebrows go up. “Now?”

“If he shows up without any warning,” said Lee, “he can’t expect us not to have any-- prior engagements.”

He leaned down to kiss Andrei again, his hands sliding their way down Andrei’s back this time, and drew Andrei somehow upward, tugging gently but inexorably till they were both on their feet.

“Come upstairs,” he said again, and his arm went around Andrei’s waist. “Just for a little while.”

“Why?” Andrei asked, resisting a little; he didn’t want Lee seducing him out of anxiety to keep his place in the household, or to prove his love to Andrei, or even to prove a point to Jer, much as Andrei would have liked that point demonstrated.

Lee pulled away slightly and favored Andrei with an expression of such utter incredulity it was almost scornful; Andrei thought he’d even rolled his eyes the tiniest bit.

Why?” he asked, laughing a little. “Really, Andrei?”

Smiling, Andrei let Lee guide him towards the staircase, up to Lee’s own immaculate room, and down onto the bed.

Lee didn’t seem to be in any hurry to get back downstairs; he was slow and deliberate and thorough, and even when they were both satiated, he made no move to get up, just lay quietly in Andrei’s arms, breathing steadily.

“Don’t fall asleep,” said Andrei, though he would have liked to himself. “We should go back down.”

“Okay,” said Lee, but he still didn’t move. “Andrei?”

“Yes, dearest?”

“I--” Lee hesitated. “I don’t know-- I never had to-- think about what I wanted. Before-- before you. Even with Mr. Larssen, he didn’t really-- I mean, he took good care of me, but he didn’t really-- You’re the one who--”

“Set you free?” Andrei suggested, when Lee trailed off.

“Yes,” said Lee, “and-- loved me-- like this.” He kissed Andrei’s neck. “Nobody ever-- the way you-- like you, like you’re hungry, like-- like Mr. Larssen is with Bran, you know, the way you look at me, and touch me. Like I’m so-- like you’re thirsty, and dry, and I-- like I’m water.”

“Yes,” said Andrei, his heart beating fast. “Yes, it’s like that.”

“Nobody’s ever loved me like that,” said Lee. “Not like that. I never had to worry about-- hurting people. I’m sorry, Andrei-- that he came here like this, all of a sudden, I’m sorry I didn’t-- but I didn’t think Jer would be coming back, not for me. I didn’t think he-- but he loves me too. Not like you do-- I mean, it’s not the same, he’s nothing like you-- but he does. He came back to see me-- just for a little while-- but it was because he loved me. He can’t stay, but-- I think he’ll need to keep coming back. For me.”

“I don’t blame him,” said Andrei, reaching up to stroke Lee’s damp hair. “How could I? I-- understand. Loving you.”

“I don’t, really,” said Lee. “And I’m not very good at it yet-- but I’ll get better, I think, once I get used to it.”

“Used to what?” Andrei asked.

Lee wriggled in a little closer. “Well. Being-- being loved.”

“I’ll make sure you get lots of practice, then,” said Andrei, and Lee laughed against his neck, kissed it again, and sat up.

“I guess we should really go back downstairs,” he said. “Even Mona must be running out of things to talk about. Andrei, do you think Jer could stay for dinner?”

“It’s all right by me,” said Andrei. “Just warn me beforehand the next time you invite people over. Even if you don’t think they’ll actually come.”

“I will,” Lee promised, smiling down at him. “But I won’t. Invite anyone else over, I mean.”

“What about your wedding guests?” Andrei teased, and Lee giggled.

“I want a very very small wedding,” he said. “Just you, and Mr. Larssen and Bran, and Ms. Jamesen and Yves and Greta, and--”

“And Jer,” said Andrei, sitting up finally. “Immediate family it is, then. Let’s go down and rescue the bride.”
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