word count: 2629
summary: Carters’s favourite summer activity: summer homework (Adrian)
Inviting Carter over was probably not the smartest idea that Adrian ever had.
It seemed like a pretty low-risk idea. His parents wouldn’t be home until late. It would be a welcome reprieve from the bustling environment that was Carter’s house, where they had been hanging out most of the time.
They were still on summer break, but they had been working on their Personal Planning graduation requirements all week, getting it out of the way while they still had plenty of free time on their hands.
Working on schoolwork over summer was a pretty foreign concept to Carter, but he played along remarkably well. Honestly, Adrian figured he could get Carter to do anything if it meant spending more time with each other.
Adrian wasn’t complaining about that perk, either
“God, it’s hot.” Carter muttered, tugging at the front of his tank top. The living room fan had been going at full strength all afternoon, humming a rhythm that Adrian had composed mock resumes to. He glanced up, watching Carter push a palm against his sweat-slicked hair, resting the heel of his hand against his forehead. His eyelashes were low against his tanned skin, summertime sleepiness from 4AM gaming binges.
Adrian ignored the way his stomach jumped as Carter let out a low groan.
“I’m tiredddd.” Carter moaned, flopping against the coffee table, letting his arms loose over his work. Adrian, without looking up, moved his own work swiftly out of the way. “Can we nap now?” Carter asked, rolling his head to the side. “It feels like naptime.”
“No,” Adrian said. “Not until we’re done.”
“But there is so much to do.”
“There is less to do the more you do it.” Adrian said plainly, flipping his pages back to the requirements section. Reference letters next, god damn it. “I would start now if you want to do less later.”
He glanced up. Carter’s eyes were closed.
“Oi,” Adrian said, kicking his leg from under the table. “Don’t fall asleep on me.”
Carter’s eyes didn’t open, but he kicked Adrian back. Although it was less of a kick and more of a gentle caress on Adrian’s inner thigh by Carter’s toes.
“Carter.” Adrian said, staring him down as the foot slipped higher up his leg. “You can’t use…that stuff to get out of doing your work.”
The tiny smirk that tipped the corner of Carter’s mouth made Adrian wonder for a second if Carter could see right through him. He probably could, the bastard.
Adrian rolled his eyes, reached forward, and pinched Carter’s nose. That got him to open his eyes. He grinned up at Adrian, withdrawing his foot in defeat. “So mean,” he said slyly. “You started it.”
“I was trying to wake you up,” Adrian said. “Not distract you.”
“Oh, am I distracting?” Carter leered. His foot extended forward again, sticking Adrian somewhere around his stomach. His toes were warmer than Adrian imagined. For some reason, he always thought of Carter of having obnoxiously cold toes to suit the rest of his personality.
Adrian fought to keep his face neutral. Don’t smile, don’t smile. “Carter—”
The front door’s lock clicked.
Adrian froze. Across from him, Carter’s expression of horror was probably a mirror of his own.
“’Rents? Carter whispered.
“Probably.” Adrian hissed.
They scrambled, the coffee table bumping as they pulled their legs away from each other, reeling in their scattered papers. They had about a second of staring intently at their homework before the front door swung open, and Adrian’s parents entered the foyer.
“I’m not saying that either—oh,” Adrian’s mother paused, a bag of groceries in her hand, as she looked down at the two of them, hunkered over the coffee table. “Do you have a guest, Adrian?
Adrian and Carter exchanged glances. Then Carter scrambled to his feet, patting the wrinkles out of his jeans, and moved swiftly across the living room.
“Hello there Ms. Hlaváček,” Carter said smoothly, extending his hand as if he hadn’t been frozen in terror ten seconds earlier. “My name is Carter, Adrian has been tutoring me for the past few weeks.”
Adrian’s mother was a small lady, with curly hair and a soft face. Adrian took after her more, in her round features and sharp instincts.
None of that was on display as Carter extended his hand out. She smiled, hoisting her bag of groceries into the crook of her elbow, and shook his hand. “Lovely to meet you, Carter,” she said. Adrian watched, sitting at the table, as her eyes traveled over Carter’s shoulder, to lock onto her son.
Adrian swallowed and glanced away.
“You’re staying for dinner, right?” Adrian’s mother asked, moving towards the kitchen. “Are you vegetarian? I’m making chicken tonight, but I can always make more vegetables if we need it.”
“Uh,” Adrian said. “He really should be getting home soon-”
His mother ignored him. “You’ll stay, won’t you Carter?”
Carter smiled, his eyebrows tilted up as he glanced between Adrian and his mother, smiling in a way that faltered just on the edge of chill and happy.
Leave now. Adrian thought desperately. Leave. Oh please for the love of god, leave.
“Sure,” Carter said smoothly. “I can stay for dinner.
Adrian’s mother smiled gaily at that and moved into the kitchen to start dinner, as Adrian felt a corner of his soul wither away.
☂ ☂ ☂
It was mashed potatoes, peas and baked chicken. Garden salad. Normal. Bland. Universally acceptable.
Adrian focused on the bowls as they were each being passed around. His head felt like it was stuffed full of cotton. Beside him, Carter was dishing out potatoes. Across from him, Adrian’s mother and father sat, staring them down like the boys had been brought in for interrogation.
In a way, Adrian figured, they had been.
There were so many ways this could go wrong, Adrian couldn’t even focus on one thread of concern. What was his mother thinking? How much did she know? Was this an interrogation? Adrian wasn’t prepared for this, which meant Carter was definitely not prepared for this. All Carter knew was that his parents were strict. He didn’t know that they were smart.“So, Carter, tell us a bit about yourself.” Adrian’s mother said cheerfully. “What are you and Adrian getting up to in the living room?”
Adrian took the salad bowl with sweaty palms. From this angle, he could see a bite mark hiding under Carter’s collar that he wasn’t certain was hidden from his parent’s line of sight.
“Um?” Carter said, scratching the back of his head. “Uh, it’s kind of embarrassing, but Adrian’s helping me out with CAPP stuff. I’m pretty shit- I mean, I’m not very good at it.”
“Oh?” said Adrian’s mother, in a tone that sounded like how she might react to something a child had said. “He’s tutoring you?”
Adrian felt his pulse quicken as he chased a cherry tomato out of the bowl. Please make it not gay, Carter. His mind screamed. Please do your best.
“I guess, yeah.” Carter said cheerfully. “He’s really diligent, it helps me work. Sometimes I don’t understand something and he helps out. These mashed potatoes are delicious, by the way.”
Adrian’s mother didn’t miss a beat. “Thank you, dear,” she said smoothly, passing the bowl around. “Are you in the theatre too, then?”
Carter laughed out loud. “Uh, no.”
It was more of an accusation than anything else. It went in line with his mother’s assumptions. Musical theatre equaled homosexuality, or something. Whatever asinine connection there was, Adrian was grateful for that moment that Carter didn’t fit the stereotype.
Carter didn’t seem to notice what was going on. He just shrugged. “Not my thing.”
“Funny that you would find yourself friends with my son, considering that’s all he seems to care about these days.” His mother said lightly. “He must be expanding his horizons.”
Adrian swallowed and glanced over. Carter’s eyebrow twitched, but he didn’t say anything.
They ate, and the questions kept coming. Carter answered most of them with a sort of smoothness that reminded Adrian of how he talked to teachers about his failing grades or chatted with his mom about upcoming tests. It was a cheerful, open attitude that sounded too charming to be dishonest. Too candid to be a lie.
Of course, none of it was really a lie, but it wasn’t real, either. Not until his mother put down her glass of water, and asked the question of the night very plainly.
“So Carter,” she said, “What do you do in your spare time?”
There was no good response to this. Adrian knew well enough that Carter did nothing outside of school. He relaxed like nobody’s business. His work ethic was substandard at best. His free time was spent with video games and hanging around town with friends.
“Oh,” Carter said, around a mouthful of mashed potatoes. “Well, I play lacrosse.”
Adrian almost spat his peas out.
“Do you?” his mother asked, leaning across the table with a sparkle in her eye.
Carter nodded, swallowing his food. “Yeah, it’s kind of tough right now, since the season’s on, but on days like this it’s always good to take a break and get some homework in.”
Adrian willed himself to not stare at Carter like he was growing a second head. Be cool. Be cool. Oh my god that was a straight-up lie.
Adrian had to will his face to neutralize, not to blow Carter’s cover. He had underestimated his evaluation of his interpersonal skills. Carter was a calculating bastard.
“Oh, you like sports, then?” asked Adrian’s dad, brightening up. Adrian knew his dad didn’t speak a lot when new company was over. Adrian suspected he was still slightly self-conscious about his English, but when sports came up, he was always excited to join in. Even something like lacrosse, that Adrian was fairly certain that neither of his parents knew anything about.
“Yeah,” said Carter. “I play hockey in the winter sometimes, if my friend’s teams need a fill. It’s hard to manage it with my schedule considering I tend to stay up late with schoolwork. Early morning practices are difficult to manage with classes.”
Oh my god, he was going for the throat.
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” said Adrian’s mom. “See, Adrian here always played sports as a child. But he got interested in other things.”
Adrian smiled weakly.
He was still waiting for it. The inevitable question. They had traversed this far down the road of personal information, what would stop them from popping a question like “Do you have a girlfriend?” It was innocuous, it was devious. Adrian knew that’s exactly what his parents were getting at with this interrogation.
But then his mother was packing up the plates and taking them to the dishwasher, and the conversation ebbed out to a full silence.
That was it. Dinner was over.
☂ ☂ ☂
Adrian stared down at the soaked gravel road as they walked home, wondering if there was a way to burn the previous hour from his consciousness.
He didn’t want to talk, not when his mind was in overdrive, calculating all of the scenarios he would be faced with in the future. There was too much here that could go wrong, too many outcomes that felt more like reoccurring nightmares than reality.
So, he was quiet. He was quiet as they walked down the alleys on the way to Carter’s house, past slumping backyard fences and barking dogs. Carter was quiet too, whacking mosquitos off his shoulders, fingers pinched around a Tupperware container packed with mashed potatoes.
“That was intense,” Carter broke the silence when they hit the streetlight, jabbing the infrared button rapidly. “I thought they were gonna kill me.”
Adrian let out a huff of air, the remnant of a laugh that died on the way to freedom. “Yeah,” he said. “Same here.”
“But I guess I pass?” he said, turning to Adrian, grinning lopsidedly. “Unless these potatoes are poisoned, that is.”
“No,” said Adrian. “They like you.”
It was hard to figure Carter out sometimes. He came across as straightforward and honest with every word out of his mouth. He didn’t seem like the person who had internal introspections about people. But he still understood people, to some extent.
Sometimes Adrian just figured he was playing dumb.
“They like you because they think you’re straight,” Adrian said dully as the walk light flashed on. “They think you’ll be a positive straight influence on their wayward son.”
Carter whipped his head around to Adrian, before he burst out laughing.
“Oh my god, are you serious?” he cackled.
Adrian flattened his mouth out. “Would I joke about this?”
“I dunno, it’s pretty funny.”
“Well, at least one of us thinks so.”
“What.” Adrian grumbled, turning around to face Carter, and then he stopped.
Carter was standing on the sidewalk, backlit by the setting sun. His hands shoved into the pockets of his shorts, his hair stylishly messy, shoulders bare and tanned and face cracked into a smile that was as relaxed as it was charming. Then he was walking up to Adrian, circling his arm around his waist, pulling him up against him so their warm, sweaty bodies pressed against each other.
“We’re in public.” Adrian fidgeted, but there wasn’t anyone around. It’s not like it was something really weird either, just two dudes hugging in the middle of metro Vancouver suburbia. Maybe Adrian was just feeling self-conscious, what with everything else hanging over his head.
“I like you.” Carter lilted, breathing into the soft hair at Adrian’s nape. “A lot.”
“I’m shocked.” Adrian growled out, but there was no heat behind it.
Carter let out a little laugh, and pressed his mouth against Adrian’s ear. “I’d like you even if your parents were sharks.”
“Sharks are pretty nice, actually.”
“I’d like you if your parents actually tried to kill me.”
Adrian stared up at him. Carter was looking down on him with those bright eyes, smiling hard enough that they crinkled at the corners.
There was a tiny part of Adrian that wanted something dramatic to happen.
Not murder, nothing like that. But maybe he did want his parents to discover the nature of their relationship, wanted them to be offended and scandalized and try to ground him for months. He wanted that force to push back against, to properly rebel against, something to give him a reason to not want to be a good kid anymore.
He had run on that high a few months back, that rebellious anger. But now, it didn’t seem appealing. He didn’t want to get Carter into the middle of that.
“Okay, okay. Don’t joke about that.” Adrian groaned.
Carter squeezed him tighter. Adrian let his shoulder be compressed into a hug, let his feet be lifted off the ground, let himself be spun around a couple times before finally, being dropped in the grass.
Adrian stood there awkwardly on some random person’s front lawn, the setting sun beaming into the corner of his eyes, blinking at Carter’s happy, concerned face as he shoved his hands back into his pockets.
Maybe, Adrian figured, it would be better to think less selfishly sometimes.
To be mindful of what someone else’s worries were.
Adrian looked Carter right in the face.
“I still want to spend my time with you. I don’t give a shit what my parents want.”
He said it loudly. Defiantly. Like it was as much as a message to his parents as it was to Carter.
The worry between Carter’s eyebrows softened, just enough for Adrian to realize that he wasn’t the only one who was walking with a twist in his stomach.
“Yeah,” Carter said. “Same here.”