Seventh Year Anniversary (“A Purrfect Match”)
“Oh God!” Tony threw his hands up in exasperation.
“What?” Jim asked. He juggled two bags in his left arm, while he fumbled with his key ring, trying to locate his front door key.
“Dad's at it. Again!”
Jim stopped searching. He felt a smile tug at his lips when Andrew's voice floated toward him. “Are you really complaining about his singing voice?”
“Jim! He's singing love songs! At the top of his lungs!” Tony replied.
The nerve! Love songs. Jim cast an amused glance at his and Andrew's son. At the age of thirteen, Tony had reached the awkward, gangly teenager stage.
“What is it? That he's singing so loud anyone can hear him? Or his choice of songs?” Jim asked.
You know I love him but... why does he have to sing Whitney Houston songs? It's embarrassing! The others are starting to look at me strangely when we meet here and Dad forgets we're here.”
“Did you tell him?”
Tony shook his head. “No.”
“I don't want to hurt his feelings. You encouraged him to sing and he loves it. I just wish he'd tone it down a bit. Could you...?” Tony trailed off. He lifted his head to look at Jim beseechingly. Even though his eyes were hidden behind his glasses, he still reminded Jim too intensely of Andrew to be able to refuse him.
“I hate when you do that,” Jim groused.
Tony snatched the key ring from Jim's jacket-pocket, raised up on tiptoes and kissed Jim's cheeks. “You're the best.”
“Yes, of course I am.”
Tony flashed him a smile, then unlocked the front door, grabbed their orange-furred cat, Nika, to prevent her from running off, and hollered, “We're back!”
Instantly, the singing stopped. Jim walked in, shut the door with a swift kick, and carried the bags over to the kitchen counter. Andrew was drying the last dish, when Jim said softly, “Hey, babe, having fun?”
Andrew set the dish aside, came over to Jim and wrapped both arms around his waist. With a content sigh, he rested his head on Jim's shoulder, but not without Jim noticing his slightly embarrassed expression. “Tony's not happy with me, hmm?”
“He's perfectly happy with you, just not with your choice of songs.” Jim dropped a kiss on Andrew's cheek before he began to nuzzle Andrew's throat and face.
“You're not Mr. Frosty right now, so stop rubbing against me.”
“If I'd be rubbing against you, I'd be doing this.” Jim pressed his pelvis against Andrew's, intent on playing this game for a while.
“Guys, please! Easily influenced teenager in the room!”
“You're only easily influenced when you have to decide between 'normal' food and fast food,” Andrew replied as he lifted his head from Jim's shoulder.
“Are you going to make moony eyes at each other for the rest of the day?” Tony slapped his hand against his forehead in mock-exasperation. “Of course you will, since you're celebrating your seventh year anniversary today, though I really don't get the difference to any normal day at home. There are already hearts dancing and blinking around Jim's head.”
“Did he just say something about hearts and moony eyes?” Jim asked in a low voice.
“If you're smart, you better run,” Andrew said.
Tony erupted into motion when Jim charged him. He was halfway up the stairs by the time Jim caught up and threw him over his shoulder. Laughing, and hanging upside down, Tony drummed his hands on Jim's back. In between fits of laughter, Tony demanded to be let down while Jim walked back downstairs.
“Dad! Do something!”
“And what exactly should I do? I think I might be too busy staring at Jim in utter amazement. What with all the hearts putting on a show around his head,” Andrew replied.
“No! You're not!”
“Are you sure? I could completely lose myself in drinking in the sight of my most wonderful—”
“Dad!” Tony's voice grew shriller. “Please!”
“You interrupted me in the middle of my description of my wonderful—”
“I know he's wonderful and all! Now, could you please tell Mr. Wonderful to let me down? I'll even do the dishes tonight.”
“You're not home tonight,” Andrew objected dryly.
“That's why I'm offering it.” Seconds later, Tony squeaked because Jim dropped him several inches. “I'll do the dishes tomorrow when I'm back from Joey's!”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Jim gently lowered Tony to the floor. Nika rushed toward her owner and wound around him while she cast suspicious glances at Jim.
“She's pissed off because you treated me so badly,” Tony said with a cheeky grin. “You know what that means.”
Jim heaved a long-suffering sigh, which earned him an eye-roll and a grin from Andrew. “Go ahead. Make up with our cat. I'll unpack the bags.”
“All right, all right.” Jim shifted into his feline form, stretched every limb to the extreme, then slowly ambled over to Tony, who was sitting cross-legged on the floor. Nika and Jim exchanged a headbutt before Jim draped himself all over Tony's lap. Nika looked at them for a whole minute, then walked away with her head held high.
Jim heard Andrew talk to Nika, who meowed to announce her suffering. Whatever Andrew did seemed to appease her. Jim looked up at Tony, enjoying how deep Tony's fingers dug into his fur to pat and massage.
Jim was dozing off when Tony suddenly lifted him in his arms and whispered, “I want to show you something.”
Tony ascended the stairs with Jim in his arms and carried him to his room. There, he set Jim on the floor and walked to a drawer at his desk. His hand hovered over the drawer's knob for a long time until Jim noticed that Tony's hands were shaking. He hurried over to him and purred but it didn't do the trick.
When it became apparent that Tony needed Jim in his human form, he brought some distance between them, shifted, and then grabbed the throw blanket from Tony's bed to tie around his waist. Walking up behind Tony, Jim laid his hands on his shoulders. “Tony? What's going on?”
Tony shrugged but remained silent.
“Do you want me to get Drew?”
“No. I... I made something for him. Well, no, it's for both of you but... I'm not as good as you are and I don't know whether I should show it to you and... and I don't want to go to Joey's tonight. I want to be here with you and Dad and celebrate your seventh year anniversary as a couple. I've always been here for this day before, but I know you planned a night for two—”
“Tony! Breathe!” Jim interrupted.
Tony tore the drawer open, grabbed something, whirled around and shoved it into Jim's hands. After this outburst, he put as much space between them as possible. Jim watched Tony standing in a corner of his room, for all the world looking as if he'd been caught doing something horrible.
Jim glanced at the self-made book in his hands. Tony had inherited his father's talent, although he didn't see it that way—no matter what Andrew and Jim told him.
He read the book's title aloud. “How Mr. Frosty came into our life.”
“The title sucks,” Tony declared, his voice giving away his stress level.
Jim opened the first page and, to his astonishment, he discovered Tony had created a comic book of the events that had brought Jim into Andrew's and Tony's life.
Half an hour later, Jim had looked at each drawing and read every single world. Tony had inched closer to him the more Jim had smiled.
“This is incredible,” Jim whispered.
“Do you think Dad will like it too?”
“Like it? Tony, he'll love it! He's probably going to cry.” Jim chuckled when he imagined Andrew's face.
“Ah, I believe I can live with that, since I'll just give it to him before I leave for the night.”
“You said you didn't want to go to Joey's?”
“No buts. Call him and tell him your parents made you stay at home because there's a family celebration. Go on, sport.”
Tony's face lit up at Jim's suggestion. He hugged Jim before he bounded out of the room to retrieve the phone. Jim left the book on Tony's desk and, still in awe, walked downstairs, where he found Andrew lounging on the sofa with Nika curled up on his lap, purring loudly.
“Not that I don't enjoy the view, but aren't you cold?”
Ignoring the question, Jim said, “Change of plans for tonight. Tony's staying with us.”
Andrew's face fell and Jim quickly sat down beside him. After wrapping an arm around Andrew's shoulders, he whispered, “Believe me, it's worth it. Tony has an incredible surprise for us.”
“How do you know it's a surprise?”
“He showed it to me.”
“Then it's not a surprise anymore.”
“It is for you.”
“Why am I always the last to see surprises?”
Jim chuckled, then lowered his voice. “I promise I'll make your ass tingle surprisingly hotly later tonight. Sound good?”
“Yeah.” Andrew laughed, then kissed Jim. “I only got food for the two of us. Guess, I'll have to make something up so it'll be enough for all of us.”
Jim watched Tony walk upstairs, the phone in his hand, while Andrew got up from the sofa. Nika meowed in protest and strode over to her favorite place on the window sill, then began the laborious task of grooming herself. Andrew walked into the kitchen where he stuck his head into the fridge.
Jim smiled. How have I ever gotten this lucky?
After a delicious meal, Jim, Andrew, and Tony sat around their dining table. Jim patted his belly and sighed. “That was good.”
Andrew sent him one of his dazzling smiles; one of those that told Jim all he ever needed to know.
Tony cleared his throat, then said, “I, um, I know you wanted to spend tonight differently, and I promise I'll go upstairs soon.” He paused for dramatic effect. “I'll make sure to put on my headphones, too.”
“You better turn the volume up,” Andrew muttered.
“That's a first. You telling me to do something that might not be good for my health.”
“We all have to make sacrifices.”
Jim and Tony laughed, then Jim reached out for Tony's arm and squeezed. “Go get your surprise, sport. I'll get Drew situated on the sofa so he falls on soft cushions when he faints.”
Tony pushed away from the table. “You just want an excuse to have him on your lap.”
“I don't need an excuse. I'll have him sit on my lap whenever I want.”
“Right. Could you two not speak as if I'm not around? Thank you so very much. Oh, and I'm perfectly capable of sitting on my own. Whatever it is won't cause me to faint,” Andrew declared. He rose from his chair, walked over to the sofa, and curled up in his favorite corner. Jim watched him stare at Tony's retreating back before he asked in a low voice, “It won't, right? I mean, lead to me fainting?”
“I'm not sure about that, but if you don't get teary-eyed, I don't know who you are,” Jim replied. He seated himself next to Andrew, then crooked a finger.
Andrew stretched his legs out over Jim's lap, smiling. Jim pushed a hand between them, under the fabric, and stroked Andrew's calf.
“Better?” Andrew asked, amusement clear in his voice.
“I never thought you'd be such a touchy-feely guy.”
“I'm not. It's you.”
“Yes, you corrupted me.”
Andrew choked on a laugh. “Maybe you ought to punish me for that?”
“It'll be my pleasure to redden your ass later.”
“I'm very much looking forward to it.” Andrew tried unobtrusively to adjust his shirt to conceal his crotch.
Jim couldn't help but grin at the gesture. “I love how receptive you are. Even after seven years.”
“It's very addictive.”
Tony descended the stairs in a hurry, almost tripping over his feet at the bottom, which caused Andrew to inhale sharply. Tony skidded to a stop in front of Andrew, holding his gift as if it was a bomb that would go off any second.
Andrew stared at Tony open-mouthed and with growing concern visible on his face.
“Dad! You have to take it.”
“You're shaking,” Andrew stated. Jim watched the concern shift to fear when Andrew attempted to pull away to get up.
Jim clamped his hands down on Andrew's legs. “Drew, it's just a gift.”
“Ow. Stop playing bench vise.”
Jim lessened the strength of his grip, then smiled encouragingly at Tony. “He's going to love it, trust me.”
Andrew's gaze skittered from Tony to Jim and back again. “This is all very thrilling.”
“Move over, Dad. I need to sit down. This is making me nervous.”
Jim cut Andrew's protest short. He lifted him on his lap and ignored Andrew's surprised yelp. “He said to move over.”
“I hate when you just lift me and put me wherever you want,” Andrew huffed as he squirmed into a comfortable position.
“Dad, even I can tell you're lying. I never thought you'd be such a bad role model.”
Tony and Jim laughed at Andrew's flabbergasted expression. A moment later, Tony shoved his gift into Andrew's hands.
“I wanted to make something special for your anniversary because...” Tony trailed off and shrugged, then gathered his courage to add, “Even though you singing Whitney Houston songs drives me crazy, and Jim hogging all the warm water in the morning makes me grumpy, you still are the best parents in the whole world and I love you.”
Jim swallowed against the lump in his throat while he blinked away tears. Andrew scooted closer to Tony and wrapped him into a tight embrace. Jim couldn't hear what he said, but from Tony's watering eyes he deduced that he fared no better.
“Dad, don't cry. I'll never tell you again if it gets you that wound up.”
“I told you he'd be crying,” Jim chided.
“But only after he's seen the book.”
“I'm not crying,” Andrew protested. “I'm just... touched.”
“Babe, you're totally crying,” Jim cupped Andrew's chin in one hand after he'd released Tony. “Or, at the very least, you're on the verge of crying.”
“It's still not crying.”
“Okay, okay!” Andrew rubbed his eyes with his shirt sleeve. Jim let go of Andrew's chin to smother the wild affection that surged up within him into something tameable.
Jim wrapped his free arm loosely around Tony's bony shoulder while he circled his thumb on Andrew's right hipbone. Fine tremors fluttered through Tony and Andrew and, not for the first time, Jim was amazed by the intense love between them.
He felt Tony stiffen underneath his palm when Andrew took the book and gasped. Jim tucked Tony into his side while he waited for Andrew's reaction. His hands became unsteady and shaky the further ahead he got in Tony's book, but he still didn't say a word. Tony barely breathed next to them.
Come on now, Drew. Tell him how awesome this is!
After Andrew had finished with Tony's book, he carefully placed it on the coffee table, then said in a throaty voice, “That's what you spent so much time on lately.”
Tony nodded, which Andrew couldn't see because he was still balancing on Jim's knees with his back turned to them. Jim felt increasingly unsettled by Andrew's reaction to Tony's gift and, from the nervous vibrations he received from Tony, he felt the same way.
Tentatively, Tony asked, “Dad? Don't you like it?”
Andrew whirled around with tears streaking down his face. “What? I love it. I just... wanted to get a hold on me so I couldn't embarrass you.”
All the tension seeped out of Tony and he lunged for Andrew's neck to hug him. “It's okay for today, Dad.”
Andrew leaned into Tony and held him tightly while he—rather incoherently—thanked him.
It took Andrew a few minutes to calm down. Then they all huddled together on the sofa, Andrew and Jim fencing Tony in, with Tony's book open on his lap. Andrew captured Nika before she could paw at it, and they spent the rest of the evening talking about the scenes Tony had drawn, remembering how their family had started.