It was going to be her most favourite holiday, Deacon decided. Sure, Christmas would always hold a special place in Zig’s heart and he’d done his damned best on her birthday but Thanksgiving—this Thanksgiving—was going to break all expectations.
Because for the first time in Zig’s short, tumultuous hard life, she was in a place she called home and was elbow deep into the cavity of a thawed out twenty-pound turkey, shoving balls of Portuguese-sausage-and-mushroom stuffing into its cavernous hollow.
The cats were circling her chair, either hoping for bits of sausage or perhaps even thinking she’d lose hold of the bird and it would shoot off the table to the floor where they could pounce and feast at their leisure. It wasn’t a pipe dream. They had a precedence to base their hopes on. He’d lost a chicken that way a couple of weeks ago then spent nearly two hours chasing a growling Fafhrd who’d taken more than a pound of Deacon’s flesh before the shredded carcass was wrested away.
Grey Mouser wasn’t as engaged but he usually went along for the ride, shooting between people’s legs in some odd feline assassination attempt. As assassins went, Grey’s body count numbered in the negatives, having impregnated the neighours’ Persian when he’d been intact and somehow causing her owner to trip and break his leg in the process.
Deacon figured Grey was in it less for the chicken and more for the chaos he could cause.
“Can you peel the sweet potatoes?” Lang handed him a utensil that looked more like a switch blade than anything Deacon’d ever used on a root vegetable. “I’ll need to roast them before I put a praline on them.”
“What’s wrong with the canned ones?” The purplish-pink things Lang wanted him to peel were as far from potatoes as he’d ever seen. Lang’s sigh was a long-suffering one, the kind of sigh Deacon was getting very used to whenever the two of them were in the kitchen together. “Don’t look at me like that. Cans of sweet potatoes. They’re orange and white cans. Big ones. Really easy to find around this time of year.”
“Do you see that peeler?” Lang’s eyebrow crooked up, making him look uncomfortably like his minutes-only older twin brother. “That can be used on a body part you are very fond of peeing through. So just peel the fricking potatoes.”
“They’re pink, Didy. These potatoes are—” The look Lang gave him would have been smoldering if they’d been in the bedroom but standing in the kitchen with Lang holding a long, sharp knife, Deacon slotted it into the murderous pile. “Can I at least ask for half with marshmallows on top?”
That got him another look—possibly horrified or disgusted—Deacon wasn’t sure.
“Yeah, the mini ones.” Zig piped up, balling another bit of stuffing between her small hands. “And the corners get all burnt and—”
“Marshmallows.” Lang’s slight frown was cute. “My grandmother would turn over in her grave.”
“Luckily, your grandmother’s not here to eat it.” Deacon bumped Lang’s hip with his own. “Besides, from what I’ve heard about the old lady, she’d be all into the marshmallows. Compromise, Lang. That’s what’s going to make this whole thing work.”
“Do not use my words against me. Especially where Thanksgiving traditions come into play,” Lang growled back. “I don’t even know if we have marshmallows. Mini or otherwise.”
“Go ask your brother to pick some up before he gets here.” Deacon suggested slyly. “If his broom can interrupt its pre-programmed flight plan and he can land near a grocery store. If he knows what one looks like.”
“Mean, Deacon Reid. That was just mean.” Lang tsked. “And Marzo’s driving—”
“Of course he is. Because why would West Harris drive himself?” Deacon chuckled at Zig’s snort.
“Don’t encourage him, Zig. It’s like feeding the cats at the table. They just start to get pushy and demand more.” Lang picked up one of the potatoes Deacon’d peeled, inspecting it. “You both know West doesn’t drive. And try to leave more potato on when you do this. You’re just supposed to take the skin off, not make it look like it’s got road rash.”
“I think I’m done.” Zig sat back in her chair, her arms speckled with bits of stuffing. The cats were crouched at the chair’s legs, lapping up the bits she’d spilled. “I crammed all of the woosie one into its guts but there’s room. Sure we can’t put the chili pepper one in too?”
“Pretty sure,” Lang responded. “I have no intention of spending Thanksgiving in the ER with burns on my tongue from the peppers you and Deke put in that. It’s like your mouths don’t have any feeling left. Go wash your hands.”
“Go wash your entire upper half,” Deacon corrected. “Looks like you got more on you than you got in the bird.”
“Bird’s fine. It’s all fat now. Fatter.” She inspected the huge pale turkey then patted it on its plump breast. “It’s going to taste good.”
“I’ve got to get the butter and sage under the skin then we can put it in the oven.” Lang maneuvered the bird away from the edge of the table, safe from the scrambling cats as Zig careened out of the kitchen, stampeding towards the hall bathroom. “And she’s gone. You want to call West or Marzo and ask them to stop for marshmallows?”
“Do I have to?” Teasing Lang had to be one of the best parts of being married. Or at least in the top five of things Deacon loved to do with his blue-eyed, long-legged husband. He loved the exasperated sounds Lang made and he adored kissing the irritated frown off of Lang’s full mouth.
“Either you call or you separate the turkey’s skin from the meat and spread the sage butter underneath.” Lang held up the bowl of butter he was mashing minced herbs into. “Your choice.”
“Calling, it is.” West’s phone went to voice mail and Deacon left a message, hoping Lang’s twin would listen to it instead of hitting the delete button. They’d come to a truce of sorts over Zig of all things and West was slowly growing on Deacon. It was odd seeing bits and pieces of Lang hidden in the colder twin of the pair but they were there and could be found with enough deep scratching. “Request given but if he doesn’t get it, I’ll pop down and grab some. Might do that anyway because Angel’s probably got some funky kind of muffins down at the bakery.”
“Yeah, don’t get your hopes up. Last year he experimented with turkey-cranberry-bacon empanadas and I’ve been craving them ever since but the bastard won’t make them again. Said they were too much work or something.” Lang wrinkled his nose. “Wonder if I can pay him extra to make me a batch? I’d give him anything he wants for them.”
“What happened to the whole teach Zig money isn’t the answer to her problems thing we were trying to teach?” Deacon teased.
“If you tasted those empanadas, you’d toss that lesson right out the damned window. They were that good.” Lang leaned forward, peering down the hall. “And it looks like we’ve lost Zig to the TV.”
“Best thing I’ve heard all day.” Deacon hooked a finger into Lang’s belt loop then tugged him closer. His husband gave a little resistance but it was half-hearted at best. “Come here.”
“I’ve got butter on my fingers.” Lang held them up under Deacon’s nose.
“I can take care of that.” He closed his mouth over Lang’s fingers, suckling them clean. The butter was a greasy, pungent streak on his tongue and the herbs were sharp, stinging Deacon’s palate. Choking a bit on the taste, he swallowed then said, “That was a fuck of a lot sexier in my mind.”
“It usually is.” He chuckled. “And now you owe the swear jar.”
“I don’t have any change but I’ve got a buck in my wallet. Let’s see if I can’t come up with three more.” Deacon nibbled at Lang’s ear. “Damn, all the ones I can think of have to do with sex and you.”
“West is here!” Zig screamed from down the hall. “And he’s got presents!”
“God, I hate him so hard,” Deacon muttered, resting his forehead against Lang’s. “He only does that to piss us off. Fucking asshole knows he’s not supposed to bring stuff with him and he probably didn’t even stop for the damned marshmallows.”
“Hey, listen to me,” Lang ordered softly, cupping Deacon’s face. “Nothing West brings her is going to make her as happy as what we’ve got to tell her tonight, okay? There isn’t a Godzilla doll big enough to come close to her becoming our daughter. Do you understand that, Reid? Nothing. This is going to be the best Thanksgiving she’s ever had even if I have to kill all of you to make it happen. Now, you go out there, and play nice with West while I put the turkey in the oven.”
It was the best of Thanksgivings, one of a squillion best days they’d had since the first time Deacon stepped into a Half Moon Bay bookstore and fell in love with its fierce, gentle, bespectacled owner. Lang tasted as sweet now as he did then, opening his mouth when Deacon leaned in for a kiss. Lang took everything Deacon had to offer, returning as much heat as he got and Deacon felt his body ache for his husband, needing Lang wrapped around him until they both saw stars.
The very best of days…and nights once they got Zig into bed and kicked West to the curb.
“Today, that little girl is going to know she’s safe with us. That no one can take her away.” Lang reminded him. “Today, she officially becomes Zig Harris-Reid and no matter what happens in her life, we are always going to have her back.”
“Yeah, always.” Deacon reluctantly let Lang go, patting his husband’s ass before pulling away. “Okay, I’ll go make nice then I’m going to go to the store. Because, as much as I love you, I’m going to enjoy watching you and West choke down marshmallows and canned cranberry sauce.”
“Compromise, love. Remember?” Lang smiled sweetly, a saccharine grin Deacon now knew hid a ribbon of wickedness in his husband’s soul. “Because while I’m eating those cranberries? You’re going to be swallowing my grandmother’s creamed brussel sprouts. So… compromise… and Happy Thanksgiving.”
Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.
Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats, a black Pomeranian puffball, a bonsai wolfhound, and a ginger cairn terrorist.
Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and a red Hamilton Beach coffee maker.
But mostly to the coffee maker.