“We can’t tell anyone about this ever.” Johnny says as they walk back to the house. Whatever his feelings are for Kai he is super ashamed of them now.
“Absolutely not. Never ever mention it. It was pretty fun though.” Kai grins.
“It was a moment of madness best forgotten.” Johnny says leaving Kai confused.
Blue waits in bed for Gervais, worried but not sorry for what he said. He still feels like a zoo exhibit, the house pet, not a real person whose opinions are valued, unless he’s making money.
Blue knows he’s lost and while he is enjoying the café it isn’t the job he would have chosen for himself, not long term. He loves cooking and creating meals but he prefers to share that through entertaining and not work. He is feeling trapped and has no idea how to change things. The animal sanctuary is years away and he’ll be expected to work all the time until then and that isn’t what he wants.
Gervais makes up a bed on a couch when he comes in. He needs some space from Blue and to think through where he is going and what he can do differently. He thought Blue would love the studio, they all did and the others really want the hot tub. Hell a few years ago Blue gave him a house and he paid for the renovations and fields at home, and they weren’t even dating. How can a nice studio be too much?
Blue cries a little and waits longer and longer, not wanting to go to sleep until Gervais is back but wanting him to have his space so not going to find him. Eventually he gives up and gets up, takes a bath and goes over to the café to get started cleaning the shellfish and making the stock for lunch.
He feels awful on no sleep and angry that he’s the one doing this anyway. He needs a day off but feels like he is never going to get one again. He’s not a control freak about the café, he’s be happy to let the others take care of it for a day or two. But he knows Chris would never cope with customers all day and Larry really isn’t a cook and Gervais would want to be where Blue is. Or Blue hopes he would.
Seafood prepared and stock reducing Blue washes up and gets started on the bread and vegetables. He can’t believe no one has shown up to help him yet. Not even to get the tables ready. Two hours later when everything is prepped and cooking Blue is seething. He doesn’t want to let down any guests so he gets the room prepared but he is not at all happy with Gervais, Larry or Chris.
When they said the food would be Blue’s Christmas gift to them he didn’t know they were ducking out altogether. He messages all of them to tell them to get down here and just before guests are due they come in.
“You’re fucking cunts all of you. Couldn’t even set the fucking table. You’re total assholes leaving me to do everything. Instructions are on the side for when things will be ready.” Blue says throws his apron at Gervais and leaves.
He knows he shouldn’t be driving after no sleep, but he has had coffee and needs to get out of here.
“Why weren’t you helping?” Chris asks.
“Why weren’t you?” Gervais replies.
“We slept in, had a late night.” Larry shrugs.
“Same, can’t believe we left him alone to do all of this.” Gervais says looking round the kitchen at everything cooking.
“Why didn’t you get up with him? Didn’t you notice he was gone?” Chris asks angrily.
“l slept on the couch, we’re in a fight.” Gervais says.
“Over the studio? Geeze he’s fucking ungrateful.” Larry says.
“I’m going to find him.” Chris says and takes off.
Blue drives for a while, parks up and sets off at a run. The cool air feels good and he feels free, his worries and anger start to melt away. He is beginning to see things more clearly and knows what he needs to ask for.
He runs on and even though he’s not dressed for the cold he finds the lake and sits on the shore starring at the water and dreaming of the homes he has lost. The family he cannot see. Why has he ended up with two people who have hurt him so much? Why did he expect anything to be different?
Why does he end up being second fiddle in all his relationships? Austin, Gervais, George and Birch all pushed him down, expected him to fall in with their needs and never gave back, never put Blue’s wants and needs first. Only Will treated him equally but Blue is sure if they had stayed together Will’s dreams would have taken precedence, however much Will protested they wouldn’t.
Why can’t he have a boyfriend who worships the ground he walks on, even just part of the time?
“Hey bro.” Chris says getting out of his car and coming over.
“Fuck off and leave me alone.” Blue says.
“Seriously?” Chris asks bewildered.
“You slack on helping me get ready and duck out on hosting. Fuck off. I am sick of you not pulling your weight. Leave me be. I don’t do Christmas and I want some time out.” Blue says.
“You have to come home, you’re being such a spoiled brat. Oh boo hoo my boyfriend wants to buy me a studio.” Chris mocks.
“With money he made off my name, my hard work, my reputation. You always wanted Gervais for his money, maybe you should date him.” Blue says.
“Stop taking your fight with G out on me.” Chris says.
“I don’t want to be around you. Not today, not ever. Hear my words and fuck off and leave me be.” Blue says getting more and more frustrated.
“You don’t get to push me away. We have to be together now, we have no choice. I am staying until we work this out.” Chris says.
Blue sits in silence, all the tension has returned and he’s feeling the cold. He gets up and sets off at a run back towards his car.
“Stop being so fucking childish. You cannot run away anymore.” Chris shouts at his departing back. Shakes his head and goes back home to try and salvage the day.
“Did you find him?” Gervais asks as Chris sits down with a plate of food.
“Yeah but he’s in one hell of a mood and needs to calm down.” Chris says.
“He must have been in here all morning to get all this done and it’s incredible. We suck.” Larry says coming over and kissing Chris’s cheek.
“He’s the one missing out on it, not seeing everyone enjoying it. What’s with Kai and Johnny? They keep looking at you and looking away.” Gervais asks.
“No idea.” Larry lies, figuring they are embarrassed about the other night.
The trio actually have a good time with the food and company. A few people ask about Blue and they say he’s under the weather, working too hard.
People stay late into the night and the guys go to bed in the early hours, not having cleaned up too well.
Blue sleeps in his car. Despite the cold he just needs some more space. More time to think, he’s been sleepwalking since Gervais reappeared in his life and although it is a little far down the line Blue knows he needs to take some proper time to think out his next move. What he really wants.
Every morning Blue does some yoga on the lakeshore and then takes a run. He is beginning to feel more like himself physically. He showers and does all the prep for the café for the day including the meals for the boarding house, he then gets in his car and drives before the others are even up.
Chris and Gervais are worried but agree to let Blue do his thing for a week. The three share the work in the café and boarding house. Serving customers and cleaning up, although each morning Blue leaves passive aggressive notes about jobs they have done badly.
New Year comes and goes and none of the guys feel like celebrating, they all feel in limbo while Blue is avoiding them.
On Thursday afternoon Gervais is checking out the competition, visiting coffee places and cafes closest to them.
“Uncle Vase?” Tommy, Spence’s nephew now a teenager says quietly.
“Tommy?” Gervais asks confused and suddenly very worried that his cover is blown.
“Do you live here now?” Tommy asks.
“Not far. What about you, you’re a long way from home.” Gervais says.
“l go to school out here, you know my Dad always thinking he’s going to change his career and be more family friendly and then being as much a workaholic as before. I got sick of moving around and asked to board.” Tommy says.
“Are you at Greystones?” Gervais asks.
“Yes I am. Have you heard of it?” Tommy asks excitedly.
“Some guys I know are working on the new wing. Are you not on winter break?” Gervais asks.
“Mom has brought me back today, she’s just over the street picking up a few things. I have a game tomorrow so am back a few days early.” Tommy says and Gervais starts to worry more as AB comes through the door.
AB looks at Gervais and blinks twice.
“It’s really you.” AB says.
“It is me.” Gervais replies.
“When we didn’t hear from you at Christmas we worried. Spence said you had gone traveling but I didn’t believe him, you always send the boys postcards.” AB says.
“l live not far from Tommy’s school, it would be safer to talk there if you have the time, you can follow me.” Gervais says.
“A café near to school will be awesome. I can ride my bike over.” Tommy says.
“Let’s go.” AB says with a small smile.
Gervais gets his car and messages the others that they need a house meeting that night. He sends a separate message to Blue telling him that it includes him, it is important and they can’t wait for him to snap out of his snit.
“Oh, this is so charming.” AB says as they step into the café.
Gervais takes over from Chris and gets the drinks and food sorted.
“Blue cheesecake.” Tommy gasps and Gervais sets the tray down on the table.
“Don’t say his name. I assume you have joined him and the travel is a cover story, Gary.” AB says reading Gervais apron.
“Yeah that is the short version. You’re not in danger. I think the danger is over but the twins are not convinced.” Gervais says.
“This is so good. I honestly thought it was a dream that we had this when Spence was in school.” Tommy says making short work of his plate and hovering his fork over his mom’s untouched portion.
“l can get you another slice.” Gervais says.
“He’s fourteen and a bottomless pit. Have you something other than dessert he can have?” AB asks switching back into mom mode.
“Sandwich? Omelet? Soup?” Gervais suggests.
“What soup?” Tommy asks.
“Pumpkin or veggie noodle.” Gervais says checking the pots.
“Pumpkin and a sandwich, is it all veggie?” Tommy asks.
“Yes, ish. Cheese and tomato?” Gervais suggests.
“Okay.” Tommy says.
“Thanks Uncle Vase that would be great.” Tommy says after a stare from his mother.
Tommy is soon happily tucking in and Gervais sits back down.
“Is it okay for him to still call you Uncle Vase?” AB asks.
“l think so, we just need to come up with a cute backstory that isn’t about him not being able to say my name.” Gervais says with a smile.
“I’ll come up with something.” Tommy grins.
“I can’t believe you’re boarding and in such a remote place.” Gervais says.
“I’m not entirely behind it. But Tommy researched the school and found one that isn’t too competitive but still has good destinations. And he knows what happened to you and Spence and isn’t afraid to call out bullying. He knows I would drop everything to be here if there is a problem. I can’t say I’m unhappy that you are nearby and I will get permissions in place at the school for you to be allowed to take Tom out at the weekends. You’ll need to give me your new name.” AB says.
“Oh cool. We can go fishing. If you don’t have to work. I mean if you want to.” Tommy stutters.
“Gervais might even have a job for you, earn some pocket money.” AB says.
“We might well need a busboy if trade picks up.” Gervais says with a smile.
“l am going to bring all my friends here. I bet half the school will be here on weekends.” Tommy smiles.
“As a parent I can say I’m delighted to have somewhere local, not having to pay city parking rates. I will send you the school calendar so you can be prepared for an influx of visitors.” AB grins.
“Thanks. You’re welcome to stay when you come up next too. We were going to open a b&b but for now we’re a boarding house for some of the crew working on the build at Tommy’s school.” Gervais says.
“Shame, we parents would pay through the nose for that but a few weekends a year would hardly sustain you.” AB says.
“Send me that calendar and we might kick the guys out for graduation and the like. Or put up some of those fancy yurts.” Gervais grins.
“That would work. Providing picnics for parent’s weekend or big matches would go down well too.” AB says.
“How are you guys doing anyway? How is Petey? W?” Gervais asks.
“We are all good. W works too hard, I get myself sorted and happy in a job and then he decides on a change of pace. Infuriating but I always knew who he was. I don’t have the same need to climb the career ladder I once did. Pete is doing great in school. Doesn’t want to board, is looking at online school and accelerated high school, he just wants to be in college, 12 going on 25.” AB smiles.
“It will be so embarrassing if he goes to college before I do but I have no intention of studying warp speed.” Tommy says.
“So you like school?” Gervais asks.
“Yeah it is mostly great. I’m pretty sporty, tall which helps and I’m no dummy, and how could I be with my parents?” Tommy grins.
“Unlike me who was always so tiny. Spence was too. AB here is the card for here, you can always leave a message on the business answer service. I won’t give you a personal number for obvious reasons.” Gervais says.
“l am so glad you are safe and well. Keep in touch through Tommy. Having you close by is a huge weight off my mind. I hate that he is away at school and am terrified he won’t tell me if he’s in trouble.” AB says as Tommy goes to the bathroom.
“I’ll keep an eye on him, I promise.” Gervais says.
“And Blue is okay? We’ve all kept him in our thoughts.” AB says her eyes pricking with tears.
“l wouldn’t say okay, not really, he’s very up and down. He’s been so isolated. I thought I could be a magic band aid and I’m not. It’s going to take a lot of time.” Gervais says finally admitting out loud that he might be in over his head.
“He still bakes like a dream. Do give him our compliments on the food. Anyone who can get my son to eat a big bowl of veggie soup like that is a miracle worker.” AB says and the pair hug tightly.
Gervais clears up once they’ve gone and takes the evening meal over to the boarding house. Loads their dishwasher from the day before and sets it off. Any of Ezra’s guys who need an evening meal pay in the morning and eat in the house to save them from needing to stay open later.
Gervais is giving the kitchen a scrub down when Blue comes in.
“What is this about?” Blue asks hostilely.
“Wait for the others.” Gervais says gently.
“Can you not just give your demands and let me go?” Blue asks.
“What kind of monster do you think I am?” Gervais asks.
“The sort promises me a wonderful open new life but in reality isolates and enslaves me here.” Blue says.
“I’m sorry about Christmas dinner.” Gervais says.
“No, you’re not. If you were you wouldn’t have left me to clean up the mess, without even leaving me a plate of food. You’d have apologized at the time and you’d have attempted to make it up to me. But you didn’t. You see me as a slave, give me pocket money of I’m a good boy.” Blue spits.
“Geeze Blue that isn’t true.” Chris says coming in.
“What happened between you two?” Larry asks shaking his head.
“Gervais couldn’t control me so let me go.” Blue says.
“Look I didn’t ask you all here to talk about my breakup with Blue. I’ve been made.” Gervais says.
“By who?” Blue asks, upset that Gervais is referring to them as broken up but not surprised.
“Tommy and AB. I ran into Tommy in the city, he is at boarding school here, AB was bringing him back.” Gervais says.
“Who?” Chris asks.
“Spence’s sister in law and nephew.” Blue says.
“Oh, well they won’t tell. They won’t be on anyone’s radar.” Chris says shrugging.
“They will tell Spence, and probably Andy if he asks who will tell Momma and Bea and who knows who else. There was a reason we didn’t tell anyone exactly where we were going.” Blue says unhappy and relieved. Maybe he can just go away again, back to existing and not having to deal with feelings.
“Shit.” Gervais says not having thought of the Spence and Andy angle at all. He knows AB and W are not close to Spence and haven’t been since the summer her worked for them but they are family.
“Let’s ride it out, I’m not moving until I have to, We can get cameras fitted or something.” Chris says.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Larry says.
“Can you call her?” Blue asks.
“l can call Tommy and ask him to tell her to keep it quiet.” Gervais says moving to pick up the café phone.
“Are we going to talk about what is going on with you?” Chris asks quietly as Gervais is on the phone.
“Nothing is going on with me. Just you lot taking advantage and being a-holes as usual. I cannot stand to be around any of you.” Blue says.
“That isn’t fair.” Larry says.
“l was working all day every day, cooking for you guys and cleaning up after you. You’d help for an hour with the morning rush but that was it and you wouldn’t even give me the time off to buy my own produce. I was trapped and drowning and Christmas was the last straw. I committed to the guys so I make sure their food is done but I am still doing way, way more than my share. You are all living like pigs in the house. We’re not in college any more, you are grown men and can clean up your own shit. I mean that literally, I should not have to clean anyone else’s shit.” Blue rants and Chris and Larry blush.
“It’s all okay, AB was still there, she promised not to tell. Tommy the same. She understood why I asked but told me she would never have told.” Gervais says coming back over and halting all other discussion.
“And you had to take up my evening with this? You couldn’t have phoned and sorted it? You had to make a big drama? I cannot live with you guys. I just can’t.” Blue says and walks out.
“What the hell do we do about him?” Larry asks.
“He isn’t wrong, he was working all hours and cleaning up after us and cooking for us.” Chris says ashamed.
“We didn’t let him get out and about.” Gervais says.
“Not even the Christmas deliveries that he wanted to do.” Larry says.
“And I offered him a studio which he just saw as another job to do, taking classes.” Gervais says.
“So how do we fix it?” Chris asks.
“Did either of you apologize before today for Christmas?” Gervais asks.
“We haven’t seen him, not really, just those stupid notes.” Larry says.
“Did you when you chased after him? You didn’t get him back so I imagine you didn’t try too hard.” Gervais asks Chris.
“We’ve all dropped the ball. Stop trying to assign blame. We were all so excited to be up and running that we didn’t think it through. Not properly and it has been really hard running the place between us and not doing any cooking. I don’t know how you two managed on your own with minimal help from us, and it hasn’t even been that busy.” Larry says trying to deflect from Chris.
“We can’t afford to hire anyone not financially or risk wise. And we have to have long hours for now while we’re getting established, he knew what he was getting in to, he’s done it before.” Chris says.
“And he didn’t love it then and he had so much more help. He cut down his hours for Heidi and he pushed to not do front of house in the parlor, not day to day.” Gervais says.
“G you go and track him down and get him back here to sort this out. Promise him the world. We just have to get this right and it has to be you.” Chris says.
“How will I find him?” Gervais asks.
“Oh please, I’m sure you have a tracker on his phone.” Larry says and Gervais goes pink.
“He’ll be up at the lake.” Chris says.
“Okay. But he was such a dick to me today that I doubt I can get him here.” Gervais says reluctantly.
“Fuck it I’ll go. I’ve never let him down before.” Larry says.
“Babe, that’s cold.” Chris says.
“So are all the things you two have done to him in the past.” Larry says worried that the risk he has taken is crumbling.