Noel Bright has been seeing Wes Rivers since February and, as the holidays approach, Wes wants to ask Noel a question.
Though a same-sex relationship has been a new experience for the gruff police captain, Noel thinks -- with encouragement from his sister -- Wes is ready to take the next step in their relationship. Wes has plans to go to Maine for Christmas to see his family and Noel anticipates he will be invited along, but when Wes asks him to pet sit instead, and admits his family knows nothing about their relationship, Noel begins to rethink how serious Wes is about him.
When Wes’s plans change and he stays home after all, Noel does his best to make both of their spirits bright for Christmas.
“I’m not very good at this sort of thing.”
“Life?” Scott smiled to show he was joking.
Wes figured if he was going to ask O’Hara about this kind of thing, they may as well be on a first name basis.
He smiled wryly. “Yeah, maybe. But I meant, the dating thing.”
Scott nodded. “I see. So you’re just ... dating?”
Wes shifted uncomfortably. And that was just it. They all, everyone that was, wanted to put labels and terms on stuff he just wasn’t sure about.
In front of Scott was a seasonal flavor of coffee Joe’s had just started serving. Gingerbread. Wes had plain old regular coffee. Black. That was the sort of guy Wes was. Straight-shooting. Well, er, not as straight as he thought, anyway.
“Is that the wrong term? I’m honestly asking here.”
“Well.” Scott shrugged. “Dating someone implies a pretty casual, non-commitment kind of situation. Which is fine, you know, if that’s what you and Noel have.” He eyed Wes over his coffee. With whipped cream and chocolate shavings, Wes noted. “Is it?”
“No, of course not.”
“So you are committed to Noel?”
“Yeah. I mean, I consider him my ... significant other.”
“I see. But I’m guessing Noel thought your relationship was more serious at this point than you do.”
Wes deflated. “How’d you know?”
“It’s a good guess. Why don’t you tell me what happened exactly?”
“This year’s the first time in I don’t know how long I’ve been able to get time off around the holidays to go and see my family in Maine. It’s been probably a decade since I got to be there for Christmas and to see everyone, so when I realized nothing major was going on and I could do it, I contacted them and made the arrangements.”
“And you told Noel all this before making the arrangements?” Scott asked.
He frowned. “Should I have?”
Scott shrugged again. Wes was beginning to hate it. “Normally you do run those kinds of things by your significant other. Which brings us back to you and Noel viewing things about yourselves a lot differently. Okay, so you didn’t. Go on.”
Wes occupied himself with a sip of his coffee. He was beginning to realize he sounded like a big time asshole. Maybe he was.
He cleared his throat. “I didn’t ask him permission or anything,” he said, defensively. “But back at the end of October I had mentioned that I was considering it and after I spoke to my family I did tell him I had. Anyway, my family was all for it, and I bought my plane ticket recently. And that’s when it occurred to me I needed someone to feed and watch Kirby while I was gone. I have a house and Noel’s there a lot anyway, so I thought just having him stay at my place over the holidays with Kirby was the perfect solution.”
Scott said nothing but his expression kinda did anyway.
“I asked Noel to meet me for lunch so I could talk to him about it and I guess, I don’t know, I made it sound to Noel like a bigger deal than I thought I did when I said I wanted to ask him something. Noel spoke to his sister, Erin, who lives in Washington about my saying I wanted to ask him and she put all kinds of ideas in his head.”
The way Scott said it, got Wes thinking. There was something implied there. Wes was a detective after all. Before getting the captaincy, he’d investigated cases just like Scott now did. And yeah, he didn’t miss the way Scott asked.
“You think it wasn’t Erin who put those ideas there?” He paused. :”You think it was me?”
“What kinds of ideas did Erin allegedly put into Noel’s head?”
“That, um, I might ask Noel to marry me.” Wes shook his head. “That’s nuts. We haven’t even been seeing each other a year. I swear, Scott, there’s no way I could have given Noel the impression I would ask that at this point.”
Scott actually laughed. “Yeah, Cap, you don’t need to convince me. I’ll give you that the idea of you asking Noel that was definitely from his sister.”
“Well, okay. Did Noel actually really believe that was your intention his sister notwithstanding?”
“I don’t think so,” Wes admitted. “But he was under the impression that I intended to ask him to go to Maine with me to meet my family.”
“Is that so bad an idea?”
“My family doesn’t have any idea I’m seeing a guy, Scott. As far as they know, I’ve only ever seen women. They expect me to meet and marry a woman someday and have a family, just like everyone else in my family has done before me. There’s just no way this is the time for me to show up with Noel and say, well, here’s my boyfriend, Merry Christmas.”