Summary: Chad decides it's time Ryan came clean.
"I know you're not asleep, Ryan. I said get up!"
Ryan rolled over onto his back but made no effort to open his eyes. He cleared his throat and tried to focus on what Chad was saying.
"Now!" Chad demanded sternly.
"Get out of bed," Chad said slowly, carefully enunciating every word. Ryan opened one eye and peered at the clock. He groaned and laid an arm over his eyes.
"You cannot be serious," he said groggily. "It's not even eight o'clock!"
"I know what time it is and I'm as serious as cancer," Chad replied. "Here." He said, dropping a bag at the foot of the bed. "I'll be back in ten. I want you dressed and ready to go when I return."
"I can't possibly shower and dress in less than twenty minutes, much less --."
"I'm not interested in excuses," Chad spat. The door slammed shut before Ryan could speak again. He sat up and stared at the door, wondering what had just happened.
Chad returned twenty minutes later and scowled when he found Ryan still lying in bed.
"What the hell? I told you to be ready. I even gave your sorry ass an extra ten minutes," he said, pulling the covers away to expose Ryan's naked body.
"I thought it was all a bad dream," he replied meekly, blinking rapidly as he sat up and groped for the covers. Chad held them just out of his reach. "Fine," Ryan grumbled as he scrambled to the edge of the bed. He glared at Chad as he walked past him on the way to the bathroom, muttering about his ill treatment. He shut the door and used the toilet before starting the shower. "Hey!" he shouted a minute later with a mouthful of toothpaste. "There aren't any towels in here!"
"They're in the laundry," Chad replied from the bedroom, where he was putting the finishing touches on his hair. The shower was turned off and Ryan opened the door to glower at him. "If you want clean towels, you'll have to go downstairs and get them."
"Could you be a doll and just--."
"I have to go to work," Chad said smugly. "If you want towels you'll have to--."
"Get them myself--yeah, yeah, you already said that," Ryan replied, walking over to the bed and digging around under the covers. He found a pair of boxers and slipped them on before walking around to the far side of the bed to retrieve his jeans.
"All right!" Ryan pulled on his jeans and took a tee shirt from Chad's side of the dresser, ignoring his disapproving frown. "Okay, let's do this."
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
Ryan rolled his eyes and reached for the bag.
"Let's go," Chad said, reaching for his own bag. He led the way downstairs, moving so fast that Ryan barely had time to offer the Danforths a greeting as he strode through the kitchen. "Come on, Ryan," he called when Ryan stopped to inhale the scent of freshly baked biscuits.
"This is heavy, you know," he said when they finally came to a stop. He dropped the bag on the floor and folded his arms.
"Whose fault is that? I told you not to bring so much stuff over here."
"Forgive me for wanting to look good," Ryan said unrepentantly.
"Well, if you'd done your laundry sooner, it wouldn't have piled up so much, would it?"
"Listen, I had no--. Wait a minute," Ryan said, turning to Chad. "Doesn't your mother do your laundry?"
"Not any more," Chad replied as he opened the washing machine and stepped back. "Part of the deal I made with my folks to let you move in was that we'd both be self-sufficient this summer. Now load up your clothes. I have to leave for work soon."
"Okay, okay," Ryan said impatiently as he bent to untie the drawstring on his laundry bag. He pulled a handful of clothes out of the bag and began to stuff it into the machine, but Chad grabbed his arm.
"Sort it first," he said with a roll of his eyes. "Haven't you ever done this at all?"
"We have a live-in housekeeper. What do you think?" Ryan shot back.
"I think you're going to have a rude awakening when you get to New York."
"They have laundries that will do your clothes for you, you know," Ryan said as Chad took the clothing from him and dropped it on the floor. "Hey!"
"Relax, it's clean," Chad said with a sigh as he began to sort the clothes into two piles. "Besides, you're going to wash it all, anyway, right?"
"Why can't I just take this out to Lava Springs tomorrow and have it done out there like I planned?"
"Why don't you stop being a lazy brat and do your laundry?" Chad replied. He gestured toward the bag and Ryan reluctantly dumped out the rest. Chad measured out some laundry detergent, explained how to operate the machine and helped Ryan start a load of whites.
"How long is this going to take?" Ryan asked, mesmerized by the motion of the clothes through the circular window.
"About a half hour. You've got plenty of time to do both loads before you leave for work," Chad replied.
"Wonderful," Ryan said glumly as Mr. Danforth passed through the laundry room on his way to the garage.
"I've got to go," Chad said, pulling Ryan into his arms. "I'll see you tonight."
"Yay," Ryan replied noncommittally as Chad nuzzled his ear and succeeded in distracting him with a kiss. "You look really good," Ryan said as he drew back, noticing Chad's crisp pinstriped shirt for the first time.
"Thanks. You look like crap," Chad teased as he tousled Ryan's hair. "Why don't you take a shower?" He reluctantly released Ryan and bent to pick up his backpack. "I'll call you later."
"To apologize?" Ryan asked petulantly.
"What?" Chad looked up at him, frowning.
"You were mean to me--first thing in the morning, too," Ryan accused. "I was traumatized." Chad set the backpack down and pulled him back into his arms, chuckling low in his throat.
"I'll show you traumatized."
"Chad!" Mr. Danforth called from the garage.
"Remind me to show you later," Chad said with a wink before stealing one last quick kiss. Ryan hugged him tightly, just reveling in the warmth of his body until Mr. Danforth honked the horn. Chad grabbed his backpack and ran out to his father's car. Ryan sighed and watched them leave before he went back into the kitchen.
"Good morning," he said on his way to the coffeemaker. He filled a mug and joined Ms. Danforth at the table.
"What were you two up to in there?" she asked as he sat down and helped himself to a biscuit.
"Chad decided that I should do my own laundry," Ryan said with a pout. "He made me get up an hour early to do it. I guess I'm supposed to make the bed and vacuum the floor while I'm at it, too." Ms. Danforth fought back a smile.
"Well, it wouldn't hurt. You are sharing a room and someone's got to clean it," she said mildly. Ryan looked up sharply.
"I'm sensing a conspiracy here," he said suspiciously. She shook her head and pushed the jar of fig jam toward him.
"No, there's no conspiracy. But is it too much to ask that you share in the upkeep of your room?"
"No, I guess not. But he didn't have to go all drill sergeant on me at the crack of dawn." Ryan took a sip of coffee. "I mean it's not as though he ever lifts a finger to clean at my house."
"Have you ever asked him to?" Ms. Danforth asked amusedly. Ryan averted his eyes and shrugged.
"We have a housekeeper," he said softly. "And a cleaning service comes in once a week to help her out."
"Yeah," Ryan said sheepishly. He buttered his biscuit and slathered it with jam.
"For the record, I have to ride Chad's back for about three days before he'll pull out the vacuum cleaner," Ms. Danforth confided. Ryan smiled for the first time since he'd been forced out of bed. "He's pretty good about keeping his room neat, though."
"He thinks I'm a spoiled brat," Ryan said, staring into his cup. "He's probably right. I mean--well, I've never had to do laundry or make my own bed or clean up my room like other kids. Chad occasionally acts as though it's some sort of deficiency in my moral character."
"I'm sure he doesn't think that," Ms. Danforth protested.
"Sometimes I think he's right," Ryan continued, ignoring her comment. He sighed and picked at his biscuit. "He's so perfect, you know?"
Ms. Danforth spat out her coffee and quickly sopped up the mess with her napkin as she coughed and sputtered. Ryan leapt to his feet to grab a sponge.
"Honey, you know I love my son beyond all reason, but there is nothing perfect about that boy," Ms. Danforth said when she'd recovered her powers of speech. She lifted her hand to forestall Ryan's next words. "Believe me, I've made a life study of Chad Everett Danforth and he's as flawed as the rest of us. He's a human being, Ryan, just like you, and in my opinion you're both pretty wonderful, whether or not you clean up after yourselves."
"Thanks, Ms. D," Ryan said, smiling at the compliment. "But that's not what I meant, exactly."
"Well, what did you mean?" she asked, picking up her mug to take to the sink.
"Chad's so grounded. Your whole family is like that--down to earth and connected. I've spent my life in the rarified air of Palisade Hills, Aspen, Newport, Lava Springs, New York and anywhere else my dad's company builds resorts. You guys live in the real world. You're all so normal."
"Normal?" Ms. Danforth returned to the table and sat down again. "Define 'normal.'"
"Maybe that's not the right word for it. But sometimes I feel like I'm in a foreign country when I'm here. You guys are so honest and real. It's great just being around people like you."
"I think what you're really saying is that we're an average American family," Ms. Danforth said with a smile. "We've had a different experience of the world than you have had, but that doesn't make us 'normal,' Ryan. We're just--. We're just who we are."
"I love who you are," Ryan said warmly. "Sometimes I wish my family was more like yours."
"You wouldn't be who you are if they were," Ms. Danforth replied sagely. "Did you ever consider that?" Ryan reached for another biscuit and buttered it as he thought about it for a moment. "Maybe you'd be a better person for having made your own bed all your life," she said in a slightly mocking tone. "But if you weren't you, we might not be having this conversation today."
"Huh? Why not?"
"Well, if your family had been different you might not have become the person Chad fell in love with. And I don't think you'd give up what you have now just to make up for your perceived deficiency, do you?"
"I wouldn't give him up for anything," Ryan replied without hesitation.
"I didn't think so," Ms. Danforth said, rising to her feet again. "By the way, I don't think 'normal' families invite their gay son's boyfriend to move in," she quipped. "At least most of my neighbors don't think it's terribly normal."
"Maybe 'normal' is overrated," Ryan mused. Shortly after graduation, Chad officially came out, introducing Ryan as his boyfriend to his neighbors at a party and explaining that Ryan would be spending the summer with the Danforths. The fact that Chad was gay and living with his boyfriend under his parent's roof had been the talk of Eagle Point for the last two weeks.
"Are you coming in with me this morning?"
"I have to wait for my laundry to finish," Ryan said with a wry smile.
"Did Chad teach you how to use the dryer?"
"No; is it hard?" Ryan rose and put his plate and mug in the sink before he followed her to the laundry room. Ms. Danforth opened the dryer and pulled out four fluffy blue towels.
"That boy," she said with a sigh. "I guess you two are going to need more towels. I'll pick some up this weekend. Meanwhile, you can use some from our linen closet if you need them." She quickly showed Ryan how to use the dryer and then checked her watch. "I've got to get to work." She returned to the kitchen for her purse and headed for the garage. "Bye, honey."
"Hey!" Ryan called after her. "One more thing; can you tell me where you take Mr. D's shirts?"
"Oh, it's a little place on Sutherland and Pine. If you stay on our street and turn left when you hit Sutherland, it's about two blocks down, on the right next to Dunkin' Donuts," she said, pointing west. "I usually drop my husband's shirts off on my way to work and pick them up on my way home."
"Cool, thanks," Ryan said. Ms. Danforth left for work and he went back to the kitchen to wash the dishes and fold the towels while waiting for his laundry to finish. After putting in a second load to wash and starting the dryer, Ryan carried the clean linens up to his room and put them away before taking his shower. He dressed and went back down to check on his laundry. He put the second load into the dryer and left the clean load of white clothes on the bed to deal with later. When he was ready to leave for work he went into the bathroom to collect his and Chad's soiled dress shirts. He dropped them on the passenger seat of his car and called Chad.
"Still traumatized?" Chad asked when he picked up.
"That depends on what you're planning to do if I say yes," Ryan replied, smiling.
"Hmm… How does dinner and a movie sound?"
"Like a good beginning," Ryan said impishly. "I'll pick you up after work. We have to stop at the mall before our date, though."
"More shopping? Ryan, you've been living with me for two weeks and we've been to the mall like three times!"
"I think you miss your sister a lot more than you realize," Chad muttered.
"What does that mean?"
"Look, what more could you possibly need? You've bought new shades, a new hat, sandals, those plaid shorts I'll never wear--."
"I'll keep them, then," Ryan said insouciantly. "And that last trip was for you."
"Because you decided I needed black shoes. What do you think I need now?"
"We need towels."
"Towels. If we don't want to have to wash towels every other day we'll need to have more towels for the two of us. We may want to look at shower curtains, while we're at it. I bet you've had that boring blue thing in your bathroom since elementary school."
"What? We may as well take the opportunity to redo the room as long as we're shopping. It wouldn't take much to improve the space. Oh, and I need a little container or two for some of my stuff."
"Whatever you say, Ryan," Chad conceded with a smile. "We'll hit the mall and then I'll take you to that barbecue place we've been meaning to try."
"In your new shirt? No way!" Ryan cried, eyeing the pile of dirty shirts beside him. "I'll find another place. By the way, I forgive you for being a snarky bitch this morning."
"I was not a snarky--! Thanks," Chad said graciously. "I'm sorry I traumatized you."
"You should be. And you should be even sorrier that you tricked me into washing your boxers and tee shirts," Ryan continued. "Don't think I failed to notice that when I pulled them out of the washer."
"Hey, you wear my tees as much as I do," Chad replied. "And who do you think did all your stuff last week? Listen, I have to get back to work."
"I'll see you at five."
"I'm counting the minutes," Chad said before ending the call.
Ryan smiled and started his car. He backed down the driveway and paused to look up at the tidy house. He'd grown to love the place and the Danforth family that had made it a home--his home for the next eight weeks. But most of all, he loved Chad Danforth. His bathroom, however--not so much. Ryan drove off to the cleaners with plans for revamping the décor.