A Lack Of Explanation For The Cognitive Dissonance Required To Self-Identify As Homophobic While Also Being Gay

They sit in the front seat of the barely-functional green Saturn, and Draven looks like he's about to break something.

"So—"

"—About your, uh." Draven squints at nothing, searching for the word. "Father-in-law. To be? Father-in-law-to-be. Sure, let's go with that. About him."

"About him."

"…About him."

James is grinning, now. He has no clue why. "Yes, babe?"

Draven takes a deep breath. "One, don't mention that it's Hanukkah, holidays piss him off. Two, he's going to ask you a bunch of weird questions, just roll with it, everyone just rolls with it. Three, he, uh, you might, uh, you might have heard of him? And, it's, like. Okay, let me start over. He's—"

"Drav, are you okay?"

"Yes," he grits out, then startles himself by accidentally slamming the horn with his elbow. "I. Okay. Shit. Listen."

"I'm listening." There's no reason this should be as funny as it is.

"Just…" He drags his hands down his face. "God. If we both cook we can probably clear out in like an hour, hour and a half tops."

"You sound stressed." James pats his partner's arm, half-facetiously. "Are you sure you want to—"

"—Yes. It'll be fine. It'll be fine. He's cool sometimes. It'll be fine."

"And I'll be there for moral support."

Draven groans, and pulls the key from the console. "That's the part I'm worried about."


They ring the doorbell to Kondraki's sensible two-bedroom apartment, and Alto "Fucking Satan" Clef answers, shotgun slung over his shoulder and half a crab leg in his mouth.

James stifles a laugh. Draven, with the expression of someone who's been through this song and dance too many times for it to be funny anymore, offers a nod in greeting to his stepfather seven-or-eight-times-removed.

"Alto."

"Draven Alejandra Ángel Kondraki." James is reconsidering his decision to dress up for this… whatever it is; Clef appears to be wearing a cowhide vest and a T-shirt with cartoon characters underneath it. "How've you been keeping, then?"

"Oh, the same," Draven replies, coolly. "Alto, this is my—"

"—Is this your little boytoy I've heard about?—"

"—My fiancé, James," he continues, patiently. "He's been at 118 for a while, so I wasn't sure if you'd met."

James, for his part, is still doing his best to process this course of events, and he's fairly certain there's a stupid-looking smile stuck on his face. He glances up at Clef, who he's only ever 'seen' in photographs, tries to study him without staring too hard. One green eye, one blue eye, and one hazel eye, and a grin like the cat that caught the mouse, just like he'd heard. He tries not to laugh again.

"I, uh, I don't recall that we have. James Talloran, it's a pleasure to meet you, Doctor." He shifts the Tupperware he's carrying to his left arm and offers a hand to shake, which is not reciprocated.

Clef is shorter than him by a good few inches, but somehow still manages to look down his nose at James as his hand dangles awkwardly in the space between them. He swallows the crab leg. "James, huh."

There's a silence, like he's waiting for a response. Draven coughs deliberately, and James slowly retracts his hand.

"…Yes. James. Uh, Ari, too, sometimes."

"James, my boy." Clef laughs, like it's the funniest inside joke in the world shared solely with himself. "Do you sleep on your back or your side?"

"Uh—" James is stuck in a default state of half-nervous laughter, having no context with which to process this situation. "Th—uh. On my side?"

"Pft. Amateur." Behind him, he hears Draven's palm smack his forehead. "Anyway, get your skinny ass in here, the food'll get cold."

Kondraki, on the other hand, knows James well, and it's a bit of a relief to see a more familiar face behind the stovetop. He throws the dial to low, tosses aside the apron embroidered with dancing lobsters tied around his waist, and greets his son with a hug and his son's partner with a hearty handshake. From the relaxed sort of happiness in Draven's It's so good to see you, Dad, James can tell he's been doing well lately.

"You brought food," Kondraki approves, ushering them to the kitchen island, where they deposit their respective Tupperwares. "Genius move, I might say."

"James's idea." Draven squeezes his shoulder, and James can sense the residual nervousness in the touch. "He made the pasta salad and I did the rugelach."

He recalls what Draven had said in the car. "I'm happy to help, uh, if you need any extra hands in the kitchen."

"Ah, leave me to the fuckin'—the main dish is my specialty, you know?" Kondraki grins, re-tying the apron, tightening the elastic gathering his hair. The main dish appears to be chicken-based, leaving James wondering where Clef had gotten the crab leg. "Leave it to me, why don't you two relax and… James, have you met—"

Faintly, he becomes aware of Clef's presence at the kitchen table, idly strumming chords. "Yes they've met," Draven says, tightly.

"Great, great, you can get acquainted, then." And Kondraki returns to the stove, resigning them to their fate.

James adjusts his glasses, his brain still catching up, and whispers, "Your dad is dating—"

"On and off. They're in kind of a honeymoon phase right now," Draven hisses, looking unfathomably tired as he shrugs off his coat. "It's, uh, you get used to it eventually. Dad'll probably set him straight if he says anything too out of pocket."

"What do you mean out of—"

He's smacked, hard, between the shoulder blades, and narrowly avoids biting his tongue. "Konny, don't you think your son's gotten to be a bit of a pansy?"

If James had been drinking something, he'd have spit it out, but all Draven does is let his head hit the counter, and all Kondraki does is mumble "Alto, we talked about this," from the kitchen, and James feels a little bit like he's in a fever dream.

"Mm." His back is still stinging. There isn't enough room at the island for the three of them, so, reluctantly, he follows Clef back to the kitchen table, feeling distinctly that he's being judged. Out of what James assumes is pure obligatory politeness, Draven distributes glasses of water to each seat.

"Draven," Clef states once they're all seated, plucking discordantly at the ukulele. He can hear Draven mutter a barely audible here we go under his breath, and Clef doesn't even wait for a proper acknowledgement before continuing, "That guy you've got. Awful high-waisted, ain't he?"

James starts coughing sharply.

"Alto," Draven says, flatly, then turns his attention to James, passing a glass of water his way. "Ugh. I'm sorry about… him." It's funny, though—James is used to stares and questions about other things, his scars or his lost weight or his skittish demeanor, and he has absolutely no clue how to respond to this.

"What? It's true."

"Alto, will you—" His boyfriend drags a hand through his hair, looking helplessly over his shoulder. "Dad. Tell him to lay off."

"Lay off," Kondraki repeats distractedly, and James can see Draven's eyebrow twitch.

He smiles faintly and touches Draven's shoulder, still not entirely sure he's not dreaming. It feels a bit like watching a ten-car pileup. "Drav, it's fine."

"Can't believe Ben raised such a fuckin'—"

"Alto."

There's a strained silence.

"Uh." Might as well try to break the ice. "So, uh, how did you and Dr. Kondraki meet?"

Draven's head hits the table again, and Clef grins fiendishly, and James regrets asking almost immediately. "Long, long story." He tosses back the glass of water as if under the impression it's something harder. "We, uh—shit, Konny, you remember that time in San Mateo, with the brake lines? Thought you were gonna fuckin' kill me."

"You still owe me like $70 for that."

"Ahhh, fuck off, honeybuns." He waves a hand dismissively, and does not elaborate on what anything he just said is referring to. "Anyway, he gets me over state lines, we get pulled over, finagle our way out of it at the station, they confiscate my gun so I go and break into the—"

Draven looks both exhausted and aghast. "—You what—"

"—arms—what, like you haven't? Anyway, after all that we couldn't get a hotel so he let me sleep in the car. And after that we had the whole thing in Dresden—"

"—shit, babe, that time I thought you were gonna kill me—"

"—with the horse tranquilizers—Yeah, the fire was kind of your fault—"

"What the hell are you talking about," Draven utters helplessly. James squeezes his hand, struggling to follow a poorly-strung-together series of events somehow involving a misdirected semitruck, "illegal Magic cards", a petting zoo, and no fewer than three distinct members of the O5 council, and eventually the lively discussion becomes barely coherent background noise.

"Are… they always like this?"

"Not always." Draven rests his head in a hand, sighing heavily. "This is the best of it, if you can believe that. It was way worse before I got old enough for him to know I could hand his ass to him in a fight. You should see their arguments."

"Should I?"

"Probably not." He closes his eyes, draws in a heavy, exasperated breath.

He's sensing Draven becoming more stressed, and squeezes his hand again, gentle. "And it's better now. Listen, I really don't mind, okay? Don't feel like it's on you to control, uh," James gestures vaguely, "whatever the situation here is."

The phrase fucking wasp nests is faintly audible, and the corner of Draven's mouth twitches upwards. "…I mean, this is kind of hilarious."

"It's, like, farcical."

"I have no clue where the petting zoo factored in there."

The argument(?) seems to reach a lull, and Clef states declaratively, "Anyway, like fifteen years after all that shit went down he was like 'we should go get dinner and a movie' and I was like 'yeah okay' and now we're here."

"…Was anything you just said related to that?"

Clef strums an E Major. "Nah."


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