Blue works long hours at the retreat, they have more than enough maintenance issues to fill every hour he has. Due to the state of the place he doesn’t feel at all guilty not helping Andy with the other jobs. Robin goes with Blue the first day but when he sees he has lots of company he doesn’t feel bad doing a stint in the café with Spence the next day allowing Roe a morning with Andy.
That evening they have dinner without Roe and Katelyn who has her friends over for a sleepover.
“Bea will be staying here from now on. She wants to see how we live close up. so you’ll need to shuffle rooms.” Clara says.
“Gervais and I can’t share.” Blue says.
“I know it’s not ideal but Bea needs all our support. Meeting me for the first time is difficult for us both. I’m sure you’ll understand if you decide to meet your biological father.” Clara says.
“I already met him.” Blue says quietly.
“Well then you understand what a big deal it is.” Clara says curtly, clearly in shock.
“I’ll go and stay at the retreat, that way Bea can have a room to herself or share with Robin whichever she chooses. There is so much work to do its better for me to be there and get an early start anyway.” Blue says.
“Is it that bad?” Clara asks happy to be back on easier territory.
“They’ve really let things go. Andy and I spend some time on the fences this summer but they didn’t have anything else for us. Probably because they didn’t want any of the cabins out of use but there is so much to fix I can’t do it all and while they are all good company they’re not much help.” Blue says.
“I’ll ask around.” Clara says.
“Thanks.” Blue smiles it’s the first civil conversation he and Clara have had since he got back.
“You can’t leave. I’m fine on the sofa.” Gervais says softly.
“It’s fine, really there is a lot to do.” Blue says.
“How do you feel about orchards instead of vineyards?” Andy asks changing the subject.
Blue looks at him blankly, they are yet to clear the air and Blue can’t imagine why Andy thinks they will work together again.
“Go on.” Clara says.
“I’ve been thinking about how fruit trees are more versatile with more options for business, selling the fruit or processing it for jams or juice or apple sauce, hard cider, lots of options if one doesn’t work out. I was also thinking it’s an easier way to start small. A few trees and selling a few products locally, part time. Where wine takes a lot of initial outlay and you need a lot of grapes to get a good yield and it would take years to refine the product. And even then what worked one year might not the next if the crop if different due to the weather. I like trees, there is for sure maintenance and harvesting isn’t easy but I like the idea of building something from the ground up.” Andy says.
“It sounds like you have the start of a good plan in there.” Clara says.
“There’s still the chance to refine the product, cross breeding varieties and I wouldn’t be so tied to location as I’m not worried about what fruit it is. So wherever Spence needed to be I could start.” Andy says.
“You’ve given it a lot of thought. I’ve a small plot you could start on. I’ll take you tomorrow.” Clara says.
“Excuse me I need to go and pack.” Blue says getting up from the table, his meal untouched.
“What’s his problem?” Andy asks.
“Don’t act all innocent. You just pissed all over his dreams and worse than that Clara is encouraging you and planning to help you get started on something you’ve been thinking of for a day. Blue has been planning his vineyard for a decade and she won’t even let him talk about it.” Gervais says and goes to find Blue.
“Can you not leave me be?” Blue asks.
“No I can’t. Not when you’re hurting this much. I’m coming with you.” Gervais says.
“Please don’t.” Blue says.
“I love it up there and I want to spend some time with everyone anyway.” Gervais says.
“I was leaving to get away from you and I’d feel bad leaving Robin.” Blue says.
“I am not leaving you alone when you are hurting so badly. Robin will be happy to spend time alone with Bea, you two probably need a break from each other. Come on lets go and leave the couples to it.” Gervais says.
The guys go up to the main house at the retreat and are greeted warmly. No one asks why they are there just accepts them.
“You know where the wood pile is. Take the end cottage it’ll be warmer than a cabin once you get the fire going. Come on I’ll get you some blankets.” Moonstar says.
“Thanks so much.” Blue says.
“It is good to see you both together again.” River says.
“We’re not together. Did you know I have a brother and sister? Gervais is dating my brother.” Blue says.
“There are three of Blue. Wow.” River says.
“Your energy is still entwined.” Moonstar says.
“Maybe it’s a twin thing.” Blue says.
“Double Blue.” River says.
“I saw your mom with a lady today. Was that your sister?” Moonstar asks.
“Yes that would be Bea, we’re triplets.” Blue says.
“Clara had 3 babies. That explains the loss in her aura.” Moonstar says nodding and Blue and Gervais try not to laugh.
“See you for yoga tomorrow?” River asks.
“For sure.” Gervais says.
“Thanks for the blankets,” Blue says and they go to the cottage. There are a few small stone cottages on the property that are used by the year round people.
“They’re so stoned.” Gervais laughs as they get outside.
“And they’ve supplied some for us.” Blue says.
“Oh that sounds so good right now.” Gervais says.
“You know which cottage they mean?” Blue asks.
“Sure down the track on the left.” Gervais says.
“You take the blankets, I’ll go and get some wood and then we can get our bags.” Blue says.
“Blue, thanks for not pushing me away tonight. For letting me be here.” Gervais says.
“Robin will kill us both tomorrow.” Blue laughs.
They quickly get settled and snuggle under a blanket together on the couch. Blue can’t think about how bad this is for him right now but he knows that great as Robin is Gervais is the only one who knows the full extent of his dreams and how big a blow Clara’s support for Andy is.
“I just wants to get stoned and cuddle.” Blue says.
“Are we okay?” Gervais asks.
“I am really sorry for what I said. I don’t wish you dead.” Blue says.
“I didn’t take it personally. I was glad that you were able to take it out on me. I don’t understand what is going on with Clara. She’s being a total bitch. That crap with Andy was unreal.” Gervais says.
“It’s normal,” Blue says.
“She was really upset you were left behind. Really upset, but now she’s acting like you’re an inconvenience. We had a great time before you got here, I did what you said showed her pictures of Chris and told her all about him.” Gervais says.
“Why are you still with him?” Blue asks.
“What do you mean?” Gervais asks.
“After using you to try and set me up. Things are rocky with us but I thought we both knew that was temporary, I’m surprised you’re still with someone who is so calculating and cruel.” Blue says.
“He isn’t cruel to me. I have to keep my relationship with him and his relationship to you entirely separate in my head. He’s my boyfriend and he’s your brother but in my head I’m not dating your brother and your brother is not my boyfriend.” Gervais says.
“Now I really need this.” Blue says lighting up.
“You met your dad.” Gervais says.
“But not your boyfriend’s dad.” Blue giggles.
“What was he like?” Gervais asks.
“Tall and a jerk.” Blue says.
“What did he do?” Gervais asks and Blue explains the sports thing.
“He ate all the cookies though.” Blue says.
“What flavor?” Gervais asks.
“Choc-chip-coconut.” Blue says.
“Why are parents jerks to you? Except Robin’s mom. All the rest are jerks to you.” Gervais says.
“You’re a jerk to me.” Blue says.
“But I love you.” Gervais says.
“You called me your baby.” Blue says sleepily.
“One day we’ll be in a cottage like this, drinking your wine and watching the snow fall.” Gervais says as flakes start to hit the window.
“You don’t love me, you love Chris. He will not be happy with you being here.” Blue says in a moment of clarity.
“No he won’t.” Gervais sighs.
“Are you recording this for him? Setting me up?” Blue asks.
“No. Blue have I broken you?” Gervais asks.
“Yes.” Blue says quietly.
“How can I fix it?” Gervais asks.
“Just leave me alone. I need to get over you properly. Every time I think I am I find out I’m not. Either take me back or leave me alone. Properly alone.” Blue says.
“After tonight.” Gervais says.
“After tonight.” Blue says pulling Gervais close.
They snuggle together on the couch watching the snow until they can’t stay awake. The move into the bedroom, it has two beds but it is too cold to sleep apart.
The cold walk to the bedroom wakes Gervais up a little and he lies awake in Blue’s arms worrying. He can well believe that Chris was trying to set Blue up. The way he went on and on about doing the plan makes a lot more sense now. If he leaves him where does that leave Blue? Chris will blame Blue regardless and could make life really hard for him and Gervais doesn’t trust himself to always be there for Blue.
Chris is lovely when they are alone, for the most part. It’s only when he rants about Blue and Clara or gets money grabbing that Gervais finds him hard to deal with. He is getting better at shutting both issues down. Once he comes up here and finds that Clara isn’t an atm, lives simply and wouldn’t have given him an easier ride he’ll back off. He loves Chris in his way, flaws and all.
Gervais snuggles back against Blue, remembering the number of times these arms have saved him and how much he wishes he could do the same for Blue. He cannot understand why Clara is being so cold. It’s a lot worse than the summer, and Andy and Spence, he wonders if he missed Blue doing something awful,
“Go to sleep baby” Blue murmurs as Gervais wriggles about, Gervais moves round to face Blue, almost falling off the bed in the process, lie looks up at beautiful face and wonders how Chris is so different yet exactly the same. Blue’s arms instinctively pull Gervais close,
“I love you so much.” Gervais whispers into Blue’s chest and kisses it lightly before finally drifting off,
They wake early it’s so cold and go and join the yoga in the main house. They smile at each other as they do it, it has been a while and they are both remembering the early days of their friendship, how early mornings brought them together.
“You two are back in synch.” River says, considerably more sober than the night before but no less of a hippie.
Blue nods, worried that yet again a night with Gervais sets him so much further back.
“We are, I am always grateful that Blue brought me to yoga and everyone here has helped me with my journey. I hated my body for the longest time and yoga empowered me, gave me control over myself. I always feel so much better after an early morning session. Thank-you for inviting us.” Gervais says making Blue smile and feel a little better.
“You guys are always welcome, open house here, you don’t have to be staying here to salute the sun with us.” Moonstar says.
Blue grabs Gervais hand as they walk back to the cottage.
“We’re okay. I can’t be around you right now but we’re okay.” Blue says.
“If you ever need to talk I will be there. I’d never report back to Chris, not ever. And I need you to know that I believe in you and your plans. I don’t care what your momma thinks or Andy thinks. I believe you can do it. You’re not a failure.” Gervais says firmly.
“Only with you.” Blue says.
“I failed. You were the best boyfriend anyone could wish for.” Gervais says.
“We failed to get the timing right.” Blue says.
“Exactly. Plus I was a dick.” Gervais says.
“Yes you were.” Blue says.
“I can’t leave Chris for you. I know it would be the fastest way to repair our friendship.” Gervais starts and Blue cuts him off.
“I know, I know it would cause more hassle. If you’d done it when you first found out, and I should have been brave enough to ask you to. We could have worked it all out but you didn’t and I didn’t ask, I’m sorry for pressuring you last night,” Blue says.
“I don’t know how to fix things. Really fix things.” Gervais says.
“I don’t think we can right now. I can’t be around you while you’re with him, I need to get myself back on track and when I’m stronger I’ll let you know. Thanks for coming with me last night, Robin is going to be so mad at me, he’s meant to be keeping us apart.” Blue says with a smile.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to help you here?” Gervais says.
“I’m sure. I really do need a proper break from you. I know how much it hurts. You take the car and send someone over to get me for dinner. I don’t want to be alone all the time.” Blue says.
Gervais hugs Blue close before kissing his cheek and heading to the car.
Gervais gets to the house just as they’re finishing breakfast.
“I need to get a few things done today. Robin I trust you’ll entertain Bea.” Clara says.
“For sure. We’re going for a walk at the lake if anyone wants to come.” Robin says.
“Could you take my sister and Spence? I don’t want to cramp your style but Roe asked if I could spend some time with her today.” Andy says.
“Actually I’m good here. I’m going mad for lack of exercise. Blue told me ages ago about the trails he used to run and I’ve mapped out one to try.” Spence says.
“You could run at the lake.” Robin says.
“No, I want the challenge of the climb.” Spence says.
“Gervais?” Clara asks.
“I am going to do laundry, bake for the café and then do the afternoon shift. So can everyone bring down anything they want washing. I brought Blue’s car back, can someone collect him for dinner later?” Gervais asks.
“They can drop Andy at Roe’s when they collect Katelyn so you’re fine to keep it. You’ll need it to take the food to the café. Can you also drop off the bags from the table to the store?” Clara asks.
“Sure. Do you need me to bring anything back?” Gervais asks.
“Probably milk, you guys are gluttons.” Clara laughs and gives him a hug. The others bring their clothes down and head out for the day. Clara hangs back for a minute.
“Everything okay? You okay with me being here alone?” Gervais asks.
“Of course. It’s your home. Is Blue okay?” Clara asks.
“Not really. Why haven’t you talked to him yet?” Gervais asks.
“He won’t listen to anything from me right now. We can’t have a simple conversation without an argument.” Clara says.
“You’re being too hard on him. You know you are. Is it a show for Bea?” Gervais asks feeling like he’s hit bingo.
“You think I’m showing her that Blue had a rough time so she doesn’t turn her back on her own parents? I’m not that clever. I think Blue is pulling away from me and our values too much and we’re clashing. We’re both struggling to pick the right battles,” Clara says.
“I still think you are too hard on him. He has far more to deal with than Bea and Chris. He needs answers far more than they do, they have always known. You know you have to talk to him. Right now he can’t process anything. He won’t talk to anyone until he talks to you. You’ve not asked about his Christmas. He had to tell you he met his dad in front of everyone. He is about to explode with unhappiness and you are causing so much of it.” Gervais pleads with Clara, desperate to make her understand just how much Blue is hurt.
“I know my son, I know what he needs. I suggest you step back.” Clara says and leaves.
Gervais slumps in a chair and worries he has made things worse.
Spence runs and runs he replays conversations Blue has had with him, he can picture where he is from Blue’s descriptions and stops at many of the points he remembers. The scenery is stunning. The snow isn’t too deep and crunches nicely under his feet. He runs and stops for breaks to enjoy the view and nature around him. He’s loving the clean air and the chance to work his muscles for something other than sex.
Despite the beauty Spence fails to see what Andy sees in this place. He guesses its better in summer. He can see Katelyn is settled and that is the most important thing to them both. That she isn’t happy with Andy is making life difficult and he hopes they can cut through the problems before they go.
Roe has arranged for Katelyn to skip school until they go back. Attendance is a much looser concept up here as so many of their courses are administered online anyway. Apparently a home study week or 4 is not unusual in a community that needs all hands on deck for harvest or other farming practicalities.
He runs on and stops again to look at the view but is distracted by a noise. He follows it,
Worried it’s a hurt animal or something. He finds Blue, sat against a tree sobbing.
His heart breaks for his suitemate and he sinks to the ground and wraps his arms around him.
“Can we go somewhere warmer?” Spence asks as Blue’s sobs subside.
“The cottage isn’t far.” Blue hiccups.
They jog down the trail together. Spence is pleased to see he’d ended up so close to the retreat. Inside Blue starts a new fire and offers Spence a towel and dry clothes. They change together, making sure to take a look at each other’s bodies as they do so.
“Hot chocolate? It’s the instant sort I don’t have milk.” Blue says.
“Sounds perfect.” Spence says not wanting to push Blue into conversation too soon.
“How come you’re on your own?” Blue asks when he comes back with the drinks.
“Andy and Roe are having a day together and I wanted to run some of the trails you’d told me about. Easy to see how you have such great legs. Hard work but so worth it.” Spence says.
“Cold though.” Blue says.
“I bet you have done the same a few times.” Spence says.
“Yeah. I’d have come with you. I’ve not done much work today its just too cold in the cabins,” Blue says.
“So you thought you’d sit in the snow and cry your heart out.” Spence says.
“Didn’t expect to be interrupted.” Blue says.
“Anything in particular or everything?” Spence asks.
“Everything feels impossible right now.” Blue says.
“I’m sorry I’ve not been there for you. This summer kind of screwed our friendship up. I was so jealous of your friendship with Andy and your relationship with George. And there you were trying to patch me and Andy up.” Spence says.
“And you got back together and he dropped me. Well George made me stay away but neither of you knocked at my door really.” Blue says.
“No we didn’t. You and I hadn’t been friends for a while and once Andy and I were back on track I wanted us to spend all our spare time together. It’s the way I am. He had more free time though and I know he was worried about not seeing you and blamed George but I kind of dismissed it as him being jealous that you didn’t have time for him.” Spence says.
“We grew apart and then he tried to screw me over.” Blue says.
“I have no idea what he was thinking going in on that plan. You two need to talk about that and I get you being angry with him, I would have been. It’s funny about George, this summer whenever we were both free we spent time together. He never wanted to do the group activities and I was okay with that I needed the downtime, the kids and coaching was pretty full on and I’m used to spending most my free time with just Andy or a small group. He’d always paint it as being best for me which was funny. I never felt like he was controlling me but I bet if I hadn’t gone along with him he might have pulled a stunt or two. I can see how things ended up the way they did for you, even though I didn’t believe it at the time. Being up here gave me time to think.” Spence says.
“Thank-you. The George thing was a pain and I’m glad its over. I’m sad I lost a friend. Your friendship with him petered out too with you so busy.” Blue says.
“I was the one to comfort him when you broke up. But yeah we kind of splintered apart.” Spence says.
“I’d never recommend it, given what happened with us but I really think you two would have been well suited. If things had been different.” Blue says.
“‘If Andy wasn’t the only one for me then I’d agree. I did fall for George in a way and I don’t know if you two hadn’t have happened maybe something would have. If you and Gervais had stayed together you and Andy wouldn’t have been so close and we might not have survived and I’d have turned to George.” Spence says.
“We’re friends now. You’re the only one who was close to having my back the other week.” Blue says.
“We are friends now. So why the tears? Gervais? Your mom? Who is a monster by the way, holy hell, how have you turned out so darn nice? The rich guys I know with overbearing parents all turn to narcotics and make a sport of spending all their parent’s money.” Spence says.
“I got high last night. I totally needed it.” Blue laughs.
“Come on I’m not dating any of your siblings and I didn’t collude to split you from George. I’m the most neutral friend you have.” Spence says.
“I love Gervais still, I don’t suppose that is a secret. I shake him off and he just creeps back into my heart. It kills me seeing him with Chris but if they broke up Chris would blame me for sure and it would fuck my family up even more. And I don’t know how I’ll survive next year with Momma and Robin’s mom making the three of us live together. How will I cope with Chris being round with Gervais? How will I deal living with Gervais at all. I know we do now but its not as hard in a big group and he’s been sensitive getting Chris in and out without me seeing but that can’t happen in a house together. I’ll see his car or whatever. But what else can I do? Stay in the suite with DeShawn? I find it a zoo now and with Dekes friends or whoever it’ll be worse. Even Robin thinks the living thing will be fine, Gervais and Chris could be broken up and he and I will have fun but we both know I won’t see him when he has a new girlfriend or whatever.” Blue says in a tumbled rush.
“Gervais is a selfish cunt being here while he is dating Chris. I get that Clara offered him a home but he can afford to spend the holidays anywhere on earth. He could have gone to Robin’s and then taken Chris away. I do not know how you can be around him at all. Fuck Blue no way can you live with him next year. Fuck no.” Spence says.
“Where have you been? I really needed that.” Blue says.
“Just so busy. No head space for anyone else. Sorry I’ve been a shit. I had no sympathy when you didn’t just drive up here and Gervais has pointed out since that I spent three quarters of our drive here asleep. I had no idea we were driving for so long.” Spence says.
“It’s okay. I am mad at Deke and Andy but I know from Gervais it wasn’t you. What is going on with Andy? He called me the other day and I knew he was worried about something but I was shitty with him.” Blue asks.
“Honestly I don’t know why he left you behind. I think he had some fantasy to play out with Deke and sometimes he can only think of sex.” Spence says.
“I thought he was over that since you’ve been doing so much better.” Blue says.
“Me too. Still it hasn’t worked. Deke has been practically under house arrest since his mom found out and we’ve not really seen him.” Spence says.
“Do you think Dylan is a bad influence on him?” Blue asks.
“I think DeShawn has gone to his head. Like George getting you. Two guys not knowing how to handle it when they swing guys out of their league.” Spence says.
“Why did you push me at George in the summer?” Blue asks.
“I thought you and Andy were on a path. He inserted himself into your vineyard plan and to me it felt like he’d cast himself in the spot Gervais left empty.” Spence says.
“And now he has a new dream and Momma is going to pay for it.” Blue says.
“He feels like shit for that, believe me. He thought he was building on your idea not obliterating it. He thought it was a way to win you over.” Spence says.
“He got that wrong.” Blue says.
“He knows. Lets hang out tomorrow, me, you, Andy and Katelyn. Sort this shit out. Please? I cannot cope with Andy moping around over you.” Spence says.
“I don’t know. I’m really hurt but Andy’s role in the George thing. Chris and I might never come back from that. Maybe that’s okay because as far as I can see Chris is a major asshole but Andy knows more than anyone how much Gervais hurt me this summer and I am finding it really hard to even look at him right now.” Blue says.
“But you seem to have forgiven Gervais.” Spence says.
“He apologized straight away and he didn’t actually do it. That Andy didn’t warn me that it could happen is what hurts the most.” Blue says.
“You’re being like Clara and holding him to higher standards but I get it. If I had known what the plan was I’d have told you. In a second. I promise. Andy didn’t know until the last minute, he had no time to tell you and he stupidly thought that it would work out for you that if Gervais told you he loved you he would remember that he did and follow through.” Spence says.
“And I’d forget everything and melt into his arms.” Blue shakes his head.
“You kind of did last night.” Spence says.
“It was one last night as friends before he leaves me alone and lets me get my shit together. We didn’t fuck.” Blue says.
“Well if you can spend the night with him, even not fucking, you can give Andy an hour and Katelyn is desperate to talk to you. If you and Andy can’t sort things out can you please fake it for her?” Spence asks.
“Okay. I miss that kid.” Blue says with a smile.