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Lawrence woke feeling warm and comfortable,
neither roasting nor freezing like yesterday.
A soft weight draped over his chest and
a source of heat snuggled against his back.
He would have basked in that
pervading sense of comfort indefinitely,
but he needed to pee.
He opened his eyes to discover Stan
draped over him like a particularly charming quilt.
When Lawrence moved, Stan stirred and said,
"Good morning. How are you feeling?"
"Much better," Lawrence said. His talent
had relieved most of the symptoms overnight.
Stan reached out to touch Lawrence's face.
"Yeah, you don't feel so flushed anymore," Stan said.
"I think the fever has broken, or if not, at least
gone down below what I can find without a thermometer.
Can't imagine you'd let me get away with that,
so an educated guess will have to do."
Lawrence wrinkled his nose at the thought,
grateful Stan hadn't tried that yesterday.
"I'm fine," Lawrence said, "still a little tired,
but basically back to normal."
"I'm happy to hear that," Stan said.
Lawrence's sleep shirt was sticking to his skin.
"Gross," he muttered, peeling the cloth away.
"You were sweating a lot yesterday, and
I didn't think you'd let me sponge you off,
so of course you're sticky now," Stan said.
"Get up and see if you've got your balance back."
Lawrence crawled out of bed and
climbed to his feet, with Stan's hands
hovering a few inches on either side of him
in case he wobbled and needed support.
Lawrence was gratified that the room
no longer swirled and swam around him.
"No problem," he reported.
"Okay then," Stan said, dropping his hands.
"I'll go downstairs to freshen up and start breakfast.
You take a shower. It'll make you feel better."
"Good idea," Lawrence said,
tugging at the hair tie.
It refused to come loose, and
his hair was still mostly trapped
in the wide woven braid.
"What did you do, glue this
when I wasn't looking?"
Stan chuckled. "No, all I did
was ask it nicely to stay put,"
he said as his gentle fingers
freed the stretchy band and
combed out the whole braid.
"Maybe your hair just likes me."
"Well, it has good taste," Lawrence said
as he scooped up the remaining cold meds
to stash in the bathroom.
Walking past the bedroom window,
Lawrence saw blue skies and sunshine.
The snow had stopped falling, and
now glittered in the morning light.
It was as if the cloud cover
had broken along with his fever.
When Lawrence opened the medicine cabinet,
he found three different painkillers, a box of band-aids,
antiseptic, first aid cream -- all in travel-size packages.
Stan isn't a puppy, Lawrence thought
with exasperated fondness,
he's a freaking hamster.
He stashes things everywhere.
But Lawrence left the new supplies
where they were, simply moving them around
to make room for the stuff from his bedside table.
It felt good to wash off the sweat,
his hair shining under vanilla-scented foam.
After the shower, Lawrence wrapped a towel
around his wet hair and tucked it expertly into place.
When he went downstairs, he found
Stan leaning over the stove and
fussing with skillets full of something.
"You didn't have to actually cook,"
Lawrence pointed out. "There's cereal."
"Omelettes are done," Stan said,
his deft hands tipping them onto plates.
"Thanks," Lawrence said.
His mouth watered as he looked at
the tiny, perfect omelette with cheese,
tomatoes, and mushrooms peeking out.
His stomach gave a tentative rumble,
its interest piqued by the comfort food.
"I can make more if you finish that
and you're still hungry," Stan said
as they headed into the dining room.
His own plate had what looked like
three or four eggs wrapped around
a fat mound of filling. "I just wasn't sure
how much your appetite had recovered."
Through the dining room windows,
more clear sky and bright sun
spilled over the winter landscape,
cheerful after the gloomy storm.
Lawrence remembered the dainty portions
from yesterday, just right for his mood.
Today he was hungry, but still
not as much as usual. "This is fine."
It was more than fine; it was delicious.
The egg was warm and fluffy,
the tomatoes and mushrooms juicy,
all glued together with cheese that
was definitely not the Velveeta which
Lawrence knew had been in the fridge.
He may or may not have
voiced a tiny moan of pleasure.
Stan grinned at him. "I'm glad you like it."
Of course that reminded Lawrence
about their interactions the day before.
"I'm sorry for being such a bitch yesterday."
"Apology accepted," Stan said. "You felt rotten
and I was kind of crowding you on top of that.
I'm just glad that you agreed to let me stay."
It would be so easy to let that pass,
to leave Stan thinking everything was fine,
but Lawrence couldn't help recalling
all the things that had gone wrong
because they just didn't know each other
well enough to work around their differences.
I have to tell him, Lawrence realized
with a distinct sinking feeling.
"I didn't really agree," he admitted.
"I was just afraid of what you might do
if I didn't give in and let you stay."
"What, why ..." Stan stammered.
"My mother is busy, all the time,
and we absolutely need her job
to keep this family afloat," Lawrence said.
"I can't afford to interrupt her at work,
or risk losing her because somebody
thinks she's neglecting me. It was ...
always Dad who looked after me,
but then he had problems drinking
and now he's gone, so I make do myself."
"I'm sorry," Stan said. "I didn't mean
to scare you, I just wanted to make sure
that you'd be okay. I was worried."
"I know. I'm not used to it, though.
It's been a long time since anyone
really hovered over me like that."
Lawrence explained. "When I was little,
Dad was great, it's only later that ...
he changed, and then I never knew
if he was going to hug me or hit me.
I just learned to get by on my own.
It's better than losing the people I love."
Stan looked miserable, flickers of
anger and sorrow shifting across his face.
Lawrence could feel his shoulders
curling in to protect himself,
and he couldn't even look at Stan.
He focused on the omelette instead,
chasing a cube of tomato across the plate.
"I never want to do anything to hurt you
or break up your family," Stan said.
"If your mother's having trouble keeping up,
then maybe I can help, we could work things out.
But if she hits you, that's not something I can ignore."
Lawrence shook his head. "No, she never
pays that much attention to me.
That was always Dad."
Lawrence missed him terribly.
How sick is that, missing someone
who hit me? he thought.
"Mom doesn't ... it's not her job,
really, she's not a nurturing person,
she doesn't like it when I bother her,"
Lawrence added aloud.
"If she's not there for you, it's bad,
but maybe not unfixable," Stan said.
"If she's forgetting major things like the rent,
that's also a problem we can't overlook."
Lawrence nibbled on his lip.
"Stan, if somebody decides that
my mother is neglecting me,
we are all in deep shit," he said.
"They could take me away and
we might never see each other again.
I can't lose anyone else. I won't."
"I didn't think of that," Stan said.
"You've led a sheltered life,"
Lawrence said dryly.
"Mine really ... hasn't been.
I'm not used to people trying
to take care of me or fix things."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Stan said.
"I want to be here for you.
Is there anything I could do better?"
Please don't leave me,
Then he remembered yesterday's
abandoned conversation about
what worked and what didn't.
"I don't like it when you coddle me;
too much of it feels uncomfortable.
I like attention but not when I'm sick."
"Yeah, I picked up on that eventually,"
Stan said. "My little sisters all like
being pampered when they're sick,
and so does my mother. I helped
take care of her when she was pregnant
because she felt awful most of the time.
So what do you like? I mean ... anything?"
"It's not so bad when you're quiet,
when you don't make a big deal out of it,"
Lawrence said. "I liked having you here.
I think I could get used to that part."
Stan gave him a pained half-smile.
"I'll take what I can get," he said.
"Sorry I'm not more normal," Lawrence said.
"No, don't be," Stan said. "It's okay
to need what you need, even if it's different.
If I'm doing the wrong things, that isn't really helping."
As long as I know what to do, I'll figure it out."
"You don't look like it," Lawrence said.
He didn't like the pinched look on Stan's face.
"I'll be all right," Stan said. "Yeah,
you hurt my feelings some, but
it wasn't on purpose. I'll get over it."
Lawrence forked up the last of his omelette;
Stan was about two-thirds through his own.
Not sure I could eat another one, but
that sure was tasty, Lawrence thought.
"Would you like another omelette?"
Stan asked. "It's no trouble to make."
"No thanks, I'm almost full," Lawrence said.
"How about toast?" Stan offered.
Lawrence wasn't keen on dry toast,
and they were out of jelly, but
he wanted to give Stan some hope.
"Sure," he said.
Stan popped two slices of bread
into the toaster and then went
puttering around the kitchen,
tidying up from the omelettes
and bringing out new things
that Lawrence couldn't quite see.
The toast, when it arrived,
was perfectly done,
dripping with butter and
swirls of a darker brown.
Lawrence sampled it, and
thought cinnamon toast at first,
but then recognized the apple pie spice.
The toast almost melted in his mouth.
"You're really good in a kitchen," he said.
"Thanks," Stan said, a blush
just pinking the height of his cheeks.
"I just wish yesterday hadn't flopped so much."
"Yeah, me too," Lawrence said.
"It's not that you did bad things,
exactly, but more like ... I don't know."
He gave a helpless wave of his hands.
"Too much, too soon, maybe?"
Stan said thoughtfully.
"Taking care of someone
when they're sick isn't sexy,
but it is pretty intimate."
Lawrence munched his toast,
mulling over what Stan said
and comparing it to what he'd read
in books about healthy gay relationships.
"That feels right to me," Lawrence agreed.
"We haven't been together very long,
and you have boundaries in some
very different places than I'm used to,"
Stan said. "It was like trying to navigate
an obstacle course in the dark."
Or being pinned by a spotlight,
Lawrence thought of his own experience.
"Sorry I was too fried to explain then,"
he said aloud.
Stan shrugged. "Well,
at least you could tell me
you weren't able to do that,
so I knew to quit asking.
What about now?"
the lazy, contented feeling
of not having to go downstairs
for the ginger beer.
"You can bring me things.
You can make food," he said.
"What about stuff not to do?"
"Really don't follow me into the bathroom,"
Lawrence said. He'd been beaten up
in the boys' room at school too many times,
not that he wanted to discuss that.
"Yeah, I got that all right,"
Stan said glumly.
"I shouldn't have been so mean
about it, though," Lawrence said,
reaching out to lay his fingertips
over the back of Stan's wrist.
Stan turned his hand so that
he could clasp Lawrence's fingers.
"I'm okay now," he said.
Lawrence finished the final corner of toast,
licked his finger, and began picking up
crumbs from his plate.
Maybe I'm hungrier than I thought.
Stan silently transferred
the last triangle of toast
from his plate to Lawrence's.
"Thanks," Lawrence said. "By the way,
I noticed the stuff in the bathroom too.
That was nice of you to bring."
It also reminded Lawrence about
the cheese and the apples.
"I should probably pay you back
for all those groceries."
Stan sighed and pulled a few slips of paper
out of his pants pocket. "I figured that you
would insist on starting this conversation,
so I saved the receipts," he said.
"You really don't have to, though.
I like taking care of people, and
I have plenty of spending money."
"I know," Lawrence said.
He struggled to articulate why
the thought made him itchy.
"It just makes me feel off-balance.
Sometimes gifts have strings attached."
He knew that Stan wasn't like that,
but knowing and feeling were
two different things.
"Compromise?" Stan offered.
"We could go half and half."
"Agreed," Lawrence said.
"You do the math," Stan said,
pushing the receipts toward him.
Lawrence pushed them right back.
"You do the math and I'll check it,"
he replied. "You'll learn better
by doing everyday things with it
than just problems in class."
It was adorable how Stan
actually poked the tip of his tongue
out the corner of his mouth while working.
The number, when presented to Lawrence,
was surprisingly low -- Stan had gotten
a lot of different things, but all in small quantities.
"You left off the cheese and apples,"
Lawrence pointed out.
Stan shook his head, saying,
"I had the apples in my pack already,
and I bought the cheese to feed both of us.
I don't want to mooch out of your kitchen."
Even with the fetish as a source,
Stan's Super-Strength raised his appetite,
and Lawrence could understand him
being sensitive about that.
"Okay," Lawrence agreed,
and Stan heaved a sigh of relief.
"We'll get the hang of this eventually.
I think ... it's hard, sometimes,
but it's worth it."
"I want you to know that I understand
what a precious privilege it is
to take care of you," Stan said earnestly.
"I realize it's not something you would
allow from just anyone."
"Thanks," Lawrence said.
He took his hair down and
lazily rubbed it with the towel
as Stan piled the dishes in the sink.
"Your hair is all tangled," Stan said
when he came back to Lawrence.
"I could comb it out for you?"
That brought up happy memories.
"Comb's in the top middle drawer
of my vanity table, under the mirror."
Stan grinned at being given
something to do, trotted upstairs,
and returned a minute later
with the ornate silver-backed comb.
Lawrence sat on the floor in front of the couch
while Stan carefully smoothed the comb
through his damp hair, starting at the ends
and working upwards until the tines
were scratching pleasantly along the scalp.
Behind him, Stan chuckled.
Afterwards, Stan carefully dried the comb
on the hem of his blue flannel shirt
before handing it back to Lawrence.
Looking at the rumpled garments,
Lawrence said, "Do you want to
change into something else
and throw your clothes in the washer?"
"Love to, but yours would never fit me,"
Stan pointed out.
It was hardly fair for Lawrence
to have clean clothes while Stan
was stuck wearing what he'd had on
all night in a gross, sweaty bed.
Lawrence thought about the little hoard
of his father's clothes that he kept
in his closet for comfort.
"I think I can find something
that will fit you," he said.
"Okay then," Stan said.
So Lawrence picked out clothes
for Stan to borrow, then said,
"Here, you can use my shower
while I go start the laundry.
Breakfast perked me up
enough to do that much."
There was no point in running
the machines for just one outfit,
so Lawrence gathered up a load from
hampers in his room and his mother's.
Stan came downstairs damp and happy,
and Lawrence started the washer.
The clothes weren't a perfect fit on Stan --
Lawrence's father was pudgier --
but they were close enough.
The track pants had a drawstring
and it didn't matter if the t-shirt
was a little bit baggy.
Lawrence was seized by
a sudden ache of homesickness,
not for the house he was in,
but for seeing Stan dressed down
and acting very much at home
in a way that made Lawrence feel
like he actually belonged somewhere
with someone who loved him.
"You look tired again,"
Stan said gently.
Doing the laundry had taken
what scraps of energy Lawrence had.
"Yeah, maybe," he admitted.
"Come sit with me," Stan coaxed,
patting the couch cushion beside him.
"We can watch a movie together."
"We don't have much to choose from,"
Lawrence warned as he sat down.
Winter sunlight poured in through
the living room windows, fragments
of blue sky showing between the curtains
to lift his mood with bright color.
"I stashed a few in my backpack,"
Stan said, fanning out a selection.
"I've got Galaxy Quest, Finding Nemo,
and Back to the Future. Take your pick."
Lawrence hesitated, then recalled
how much fun it had been
to watch Frozen with Stan.
"Finding Nemo," he said.
"Great choice," Stan said
as he put the movie on.
Then he returned to the couch.
Lawrence burrowed into Stan's lap.
Stan was warm and soft
and he smelled sweetly of
Lawrence's vanilla shampoo.
As the opening credits rolled,
Stan dropped a strong arm down
to pull Lawrence even closer,
a silent promise of shelter.
Lawrence felt better already.
* * *
"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive -- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."
-- Marcus Aurelius
Know what basic items to stock in a medicine cabinet. Stan figures that as long as he's discreet and moderate in squirreling things away like that, Lawrence's desire for the useful resources will outweigh his resistance to letting anyone help him. It's a good call.
Omelettes are made from eggs with stuff added. Here are four ways to cook an omelette, my instructions for an individual omelette, and a general omelette making guide. Omelettes are good day-after-being-sick food because they're mild enough to digest easily yet pack in more nutrients.
Apologies are a necessary part of a healthy relationship. Here are tips for how to apologize to your boyfriend after hurting his feelings.
Openness and honesty can improve a relationship, if you understand how to navigate the costs and benefits. Trust is an essential part of developing emotional intimacy, as people move along the intimacy scale. There are tips for using openness, honesty, and trust in the process of increasing emotional intimacy.
Healthy family communication includes knowing how to have difficult conversations.
The cycle of abuse can lead to a kind of Stockholm syndrome. Abused children may distance themselves from their abusers, or stay attached and thus very conflicted; Lawrence falls into the latter group. Understand how child abuse affects people.
Making cinnamon toast is easy. The same concept also works with other flavors such as maple sugar toast. Calorie-cramming tricks like this help soups keep up with their higher metabolic demands.
It's okay to say "slow down" if you find yourself moving too fast in a relationship. There are reasons for taking it slow, and tips on how to have a healthy gay relationship. These are things that Lawrence knows more about than Stan.
Negotiation and compromise are load-bearing pillars of a positive relationship. Sharing expenses can be a tricky topic to work through in this regard. It helps that these skills are more common in Terramagne than here, but the boys are so young that they know the concepts but are floundering through the execution. Know how to compromise with your partner.
See Lawrence's vanity table. It's a mahogany American Empire vanity with mirror from around 1840. Most of the nice things in his family are hand-me-downs.
Needing to feel loved is a basic human trait, but it can make relationships awkward. Everyone deserves love. You can learn how to feel loved.
The sense of home is a subtle and powerful thing, which may be based on the place itself, or on other factors such as favorite objects or people. It looks like Lawrence's hearthstone is going to be Stan. Understand how to feel at home wherever you are.
Most people have a need for belonging, although the strength of that need can very from low to quite high. There are ways to provide or create a sense of belonging.
Browse lists of comfort movies, favorite movies, and most rewatchable movies. Stan originally meant to suggest a movie as a reward for finishing their homework.