His head hurt.
Trip turned the fluffy red elasticated thing in his hand. He turned it this way and that, but no matter which way he turned it, he couldn’t figure out what the hell it was. Was it some kind of hairband? It was slightly wide on one of its three sides. Boone didn’t have long hair, and even if he did, Trip doubted his Enforcer lover would wear a fluffy hairband.
“Daddy! Daddy! How about this?” Robbie came skipping up to Trip and thrust a big, stuffed, black and red guitar at him. It was covered in red hearts with white letters stating, “You Rock!” It was the fourth stuffed musical instrument Trip had turned down in the last two hours.
“Although Boone does indeed rock, I don’t think so, kiddo.”
“Okay.” Robbie cocked his head to one side and scrunched his nose. “Why are you holding underwear?”
His seven year old pointed to the fluffy string thing in his hands.
“This isn’t underwear,” Trip said, holding it up. “I think it’s some kind of hairband or headband.”
“It is too underwear,” Robbie insisted, pointing to the shelf on Trip’s left. There was a big red tray topped with a cardboard cutout of a half-naked guy whose junk was about to spring out of the fluffy string, and next to him a woman with unnaturally large, gravity-defying boobs whose raspberries were shielded by two fluffy red dots matching Mr. Peek-a-Boo’s shlong-thong.
Trip let out an unmanly yelp, dropped the furry thong, and scooped Robbie up. He rushed his son around to the next aisle where he made sure it was safe and void of dudes with questionable packages, before setting Robbie on his feet.
“You didn’t see that.”
Robbie rolled his eyes. “You’re such a prude.” He ran off before Trip could ask him where he’d learned that word, but more importantly to argue the fact he was not a prude. He just didn’t expect to find soft porn while shopping for a Valentine’s Day gift, especially not in a greeting card store and certainly not in the same aisle as the stuffed rocket ships.
Wait a second…
“Those were penises!”
A woman entering the aisle stared wide-eyed at him before swiftly turning and walking briskly away.
“Sorry!” He called out after her. “It was an observation. I’m not a pervert!”
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to keep it down. You’re disturbing the customers.”
Trip turned, frowning at the small, beady-eyed man in a red employee vest and a lanyard around his neck with such an unnatural amount of cherub and kitten accessories hanging off it that Trip was surprised the guy didn’t topple over under the weight.
“It’s too late. They’re already disturbed. I’m disturbed. I’m all for artistic expression and merchandising and hey, I’m the last guy to have a problem with penises—fluffy or otherwise, but I don’t expect to find them next to the candy hearts and certainly not at my son’s eye level.”
“Sir, it’s Valentine’s Day.”
Trip stormed around the aisle, swiped up a red fluffy penis and marched back to the employee. “This is not what Valentine’s Day is about.” He waved it at the guy then paused. “Maybe it is, but in the bedroom, or an adult store, maybe a secluded part of the park, but not in a greeting card store!”
“Sir, I would appreciate it if you didn’t wave that in my face.”
“You’re the one selling it and it’s Valentine’s Day,” Trip replied smugly.
“Sir, if you don’t calm down, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Don’t bother. Take your penis.” He tossed it at the employee and marched off. “Robbie, we’re leaving this den of inequity!” He took his son’s hand as he walked out, calling out over his shoulder. “And your candy hearts taste like chalk!”
“Why did they kick you out this time?” Robbie asked, skipping beside him.
“They didn’t kick me out. I left.” He walked two stores down, maneuvering around strollers, and couples who annoyingly stopped in the middle of the walkway just to suck face, and entered another greeting card store. Standing on his toes, he did a quick inventory of their stock. No fluffy red genitalia from what he could see. And he was not a prude. “All right, let’s get to it.” Robbie groaned, but ran off when something shiny got his attention.
“Ugh, this suuuucks.” Trip let his head fall back with a moan, catching sight of the dangling, glittery red hearts twirling above his head. He narrowed his eyes accusingly. “I hate you so bad.” Stupid holiday with its stupid expectations.
Trip had never liked Valentine’s Day, not because of what it stood for, but because there was so much pressure to be perfect. Everywhere he turned, something was shouting ‘Buy this! It’s romantic!’ or ‘Look at this! Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.’ He snatched up a stuffed pig with wings. “How is this romantic?” He peered at the pink pig in distrust. “You have dead eyes.”
Why did he need a holiday to tell Boone how much he loved him? He didn’t. That was the short answer. They’d been to half a dozen stores, all pretty much carrying the same merchandise, and he was no closer to figuring out what to get Boone than he had been three stores ago. This was ridiculous. They loved each other, had been in love for twenty years. They’d fought side by side, stuck together through thick and thin. Hell, they shared a house together, were raising Robbie together. Boone got up earlier than Trip every morning just to make them chocolate chip pancakes. He made cool lunches for Robbie, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches shaped like zombie brains, or cupcakes with pink frosting made to look like brains. He worried about that boy. Then again, the strangle little apple didn’t fall far from the strange daddy tree.
With a sigh, he turned to face a huge display filled with more stuffed animals, hearts, things he had no idea what they were supposed to be, floating heart-shaped balloons, chocolate, and a big cardboard cutout of a woman feeding her man chocolate. Humans were weird.
“What about this, daddy?”
Trip knelt down in front of his son and arched an eyebrow at him. “What is it?”
“It’s a monkey! You press the button here, and he talks. He’s holding a heart.”
“I can see that.” Trip pressed the button and the monkey let out a series of shrieks, startling the both of them. The monkey then warbled something about love or bananas, who the hell knew. “That was extraordinarily horrifying. Why would they even make something like this?”
“That was kinda creepy,” Robbie agreed, a pout coming onto his little face. He dropped to his knees with an exaggerated gasp, like his whole world was coming to an end. “Daaaad, oh my gods, we’ve been to like a bajillion and one stores. I’m tired and hungry.”
“And we’ll go to a bajillion and two if we have to.” Trip sat on the floor next to him. “This is exhausting. Why is this so exhausting?”
“You two giving up already?”
Trip glared up at Hunter. “Where have you been? You’re supposed to be helping me.”
“I was. I sat at the coffee shop with my tablet and browsed the store online while sipping my vanilla latte.”
“This was your idea,” Trip growled, pushing himself to his feet and hauling Robbie up when his son went limp in his arms. “See what you’ve done? He’s turned to jelly. I have a jelly child now.”
Hunter laughed and scooped Robbie up, carrying him over his shoulder and tickling his belly. Robbie squirmed and giggled. “Did your dad get kicked out of another store?” Hunter asked, walking down the candy aisle with Robbie swinging his arms back and forth like a little monkey.
“Yes,” Robbie said with a giggle. “He threw a willy at a salesman.”
Hunter stopped and arched an eyebrow at Trip. “Why do you these things when I’m not around?”
“Because I know you’ll record it and it’ll end up online,” Trip muttered, stopping in front of the small jewelry section. Should he get Boone something practical? Like a watch, or a wallet? There were gifts for her, gifts for him, gifts for them, chocolate, teddy bears, fondue pots, heart-shaped cake pans, love coupons, furniture.
“What about a money clip?”
Trip snorted. “I didn’t realize your brother had turned into Scrooge McDuck. Come on, man. He’s your brother. Surely you can think of something he’d like.”
Hunter gave him a shrug, his arm around Robbie’s legs while Robbie inspected a stuffed heart strapped to some stuffed dynamite. The heart said, “You’re the Bomb!” Seriously? Who came up with these things?
“Boone’s never really done Valentine’s Day.”
“He’s just never been interested.”
Could it be Trip was driving himself crazy for no reason? If Boone wasn’t even into Valentine’s Day, why the hell was Trip worrying about it so much? Maybe Boone was just going along with it because of Trip. Boone was an expert at pretending he liked something. He did it all the time when Hunter cooked for them.
“I think he just never had much of a reason to celebrate when there was only one guy he wanted to be celebrating with. I bet he’s all nervous about it.”
Crap. “No pressure then.” Trip let out a heavy sigh. So much for that theory.
Hunter laughed and patted Trip on the back. “You’re overthinking this. It’s still Boone. Stop worrying about all this.” he said waving a hand at the assortment of pinks and reds, “and focus on Boone. It’ll come to you.”
Trip nodded as Hunter walked off with Robbie. As much as he hated to admit it, Hunter was right. With a broad smile, Trip knew just what to do.
Boone dropped his keys in the clay bowl on the small side table by the door. He smiled every time he saw it. Robbie had made it for him and given it to him for Christmas. It was pale blue to match his eyes, with his Husky paw print on it painted black, along with the words, ‘I Love You.’
It was astounding how Robbie had Boone wrapped around his little paw, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Besides, he was just as wrapped around Trip’s paw. Speaking of Trip, where was his mischief-maker? Boone couldn’t wait to give Trip his Valentine’s Day gift, though he was still feeling incredibly nervous about it.
While Trip, Robbie, and Hunter were out, Boone had spent a good deal of the afternoon running through Vucari Woods in his Husky form, attempting to expel some of that nervousness. Then he’d showered and changed at his mom’s house, since Trip had informed him he wasn’t to return home until exactly six in the evening. Not finding Trip around at the appointed time wasn’t helping his nerves.
He walked into the kitchen which was warm from the use of the oven but void of his sexy, smart aleck lover, so he headed down the hall into the living room, finding Trip’s tablet propped against the lamp on coffee table beside the couch, a sticky note in the center of it. He picked up the tablet, and read the note.
You turn me on.
Boone chuckled and pushed the power button. As soon as the tablet finished loading, a video popped up in the center of the screen. He took a seat on the couch and hit ‘play’, smiling at Trip’s wide grin.
“Hi there, handsome. You’re probably wondering what this video is about. It’s mostly about me, and you—obviously. So, it’s Valentine’s Day, but you know that. I let your brother talk me into going to the Human side of town to find you a Valentine’s Day gift.” Trip sighed, and ran his hands over his face with an exaggerated groan, making Boone chuckle. “Oh my gods, do I suuuuuck at this Valentine’s Day thing. Christmas? It’s in the bag. I can do Christmas. I am awesome at Christmas, and you know it.”
Boone thought about it and Trip narrowed his eyes. “Don’t give me that face. You know I am.”
Was this live?
“No, this isn’t live. I just know you.”
“Scary,” Boone murmured.
Trip winked at him. “I know. Anyway, like I said. Christmas? Awesome. Halloween? Even more awesome. Hell, I’d probably even be better at Groundhog Day. Insert inappropriate innuendo here.” Trip wriggled his eyebrows and Boone couldn’t help but laugh.
“You’re such a dork.”
“You’re probably calling me a dork right about now, so let’s get on with this. Today was terrifying. Your brother is even more of an ass than previously deduced. Deducted?” Trip shook his head. “Anyway, I was going crazy, worrying about what to get you, afraid I’d ruin our first Valentine’s Day together, and then your brother reminded me of something. I have you, Boone. Everything else is just icing on the cake. I love you and I hope tonight doesn’t suck.”
Boone braced himself. He knew what was coming.
“Actually, we both probably want there to be some sucking going on, if you know what I mean.”
“Oh gods,” Boon groaned.
“Sorry, I know. Boone?” His expression softened, and he shifted nervously. “Just follow the music.”
Just as the thought crossed his mind, he heard the faint beating of drums and the jingling of a tambourine coming from down the hall toward their bedroom. Leaving the tablet behind, he followed the melody, finding sticky notes with hearts and arrows scribbled on them along the way.
The song he heard was familiar, but one he didn’t know all that well. He had to admit, he was surprised to hear it was a song from the sixties. Quite frankly, he hadn’t known what to expect. He never did where Trip was concerned. He’d prepared himself for something over the top, or silly. Instead, his heart fluttered, and for a moment, it was like he was a teenager again, laying his eyes on his mate for the first time.
‘And Then He Kissed Me’ floated gently through the room, and just as Boone stepped onto the wood deck out back, he heard the lyrics,
When he danced he held me tight
And when he walked me home that night
All the stars were shining bright
“And then he kissed me,” Trip said softly, a single rose in his hand.
Words failed Boone, his breath pilfered. Trip wasn’t wearing his usual hoodie, but stood dressed in a white shirt with a black and white striped tie, dark jeans, and a trendy light gray vest. His hair had been tamed, and his lips curled into a beautiful smile that lit up his face.
Boone returned his smile. “Hi. You look… Wow.”
“Your brother helped me pick it out,” Trip said, soothing down his vest self-consciously. “He said if I wore my hoodie, he was going to strangle me with the laces.” His cheeks flushed, and he motioned around him. “I hope this is okay.”
Boon had been so enthralled by Trip that he hadn’t see all the white paper lanterns Trip had hung high around the deck. In the center, a rustic table for two was set up with dinner, candle, cold beers, bowls of sliced apples, and a pot of chocolate dip.
“Everyone does the whole strawberries thing, but I know you like apples more.”
“Trip, this is absolutely amazing.” Boone crossed the distance between them and took the rose from him. He kissed Trip’s cheek before placing the rose on the table behind him, then drew Trip into his arms and brought their lips together. He’d waited all day for this.
Now that he had Trip in his arms, kissing him, tasting the sweetness of his tongue, feeling the warmth of his skin, the heat radiating from him, Boone was no longer nervous. They kissed until they were forced to come up for air.
Trip let out a breathless laugh. “I should dress up more often. Before I forget, I got you something else.” He reached behind the table and handed him a stuffed gray and white Husky with blue eyes dressed in a little gray hoodie with a Husky pup on his back, a big red bow around both of them. It was the most adorable thing Boone had ever seen.
“The little guy was Robbie’s idea. He didn’t want to get left out.”
Boone took the Huskies, his smile unable to get any bigger. “I love it, Trip.” And he really did. There was nothing he loved more than his boys.
“I got it just before they kicked me out of one of the greeting card stores. The lady behind the counter yelled at me and said I shouldn’t be allowed to leave the house without a police escort.”
Boon stared at Trip, trying to figure out if he was joking. The serious pout on his face told Boone he wasn’t. Unable to help himself, Boone broke out into laughter. “I’m sorry,” Boone said, doing his best to get himself under control. “I didn’t mean to laugh.”
“It’s okay. It’s pretty sad, really.”
“How many stores did you get kicked out of?” Boone asked, following Trip’s lead and taking a seat at their cozy dinner table for two.
Trip’s face went bright red. “Um, three greeting card stores. The first one for checking the durability of their fuzzy handcuffs—not durable at all. Broke a ceramic bible in the process. The old lady who’d been standing beside me said I was the antichrist. The second for throwing a stuffed, furry penis at an employee, and the third for wrestling a teddy bear out of the hands of a ten year old.”
Boone gaped at his lover. “You stole a teddy bear off a ten year old?”
“No, I stole the hoodie. He didn’t even want the bear. He only wanted it because I wanted it. Then he offered to sell it to me for fifty bucks. Can you believe that? A little snot and an extortionist.” Trip shook his head sadly. “What’s wrong with our youth?”
Boone reached out and took Trip’s hand, giving it a squeeze. He was in awe. “You wrestled a child for my present.”
Trip chuckled, and took one of the slices of apple from the bowl, dipping it into the small pot of chocolate. “I also got kicked out of one of those fancy chocolate selling stores. There was an open box of chocolate on the counter. I thought it was a free sample.”
Boone burst into laughter and Trip joined him. As ridiculous as it all sounded, Boone knew every word was true. What’s more, he wouldn’t change any of it. When he managed to get a hold of himself, he wiped the tears from his eyes and let out a deep breath. “You’re amazing, Trip.” Trip leaned forward and held the apple out to him.
“Must be the company I keep. Open up, big boy.”
Boone did as asked, opening his mouth and accepting the crunchy apple dipped in chocolate, surprised by how much he liked it. “That’s really good.”
“I knew you’d like it. Let’s eat before our dinner gets cold.”
“Okay.” Boone decided he would wait until dessert to give his present to Trip. They talked as they ate, having to stop often so they didn’t choke while they laughed. They laughed at Trip’s antics, at Robbie’s too-smart-for-his-own-good responses, and Hunter’s shenanigans. Theirs was an odd little family, but it was filled with love and laughter. When they finished dinner, Trip was going to clear the dishes to make room for dessert, when Boone caught his wrist.
“Trip, thank you. I couldn’t have hoped for a better Valentine’s Day.” He reached into his pocket and took a deep breath. “I have something for you.”
Trip tilted his head as he watched Boone, a sweet smile on his handsome face.
“I was going crazy wondering what to get you and as much as I’d love to take credit, my mom helped me out.” He took Trip’s hand and turned it over, spilling the contents of the small black velvet bag into his lover’s palm.
“Wow, Boone. It’s gorgeous.” Trip lifted the black cord, gazing at the thick silver pendant engraved with the words “I Love You”, two small diamonds sparkling from their settings. It was half a heart. Boone showed Trip the other half of the heart hanging from a similar black cord around his neck.
“They fit together to make a whole. It belonged to my dad.”
Trip’s head shot up. “Your dad? Oh, Boone. Are you sure you want to give this to me?”
“My dad gave my mom that necklace when he confessed his love to her. She said she kept it for me, and she couldn’t think of anyone who deserved it more than you. I agree with her. I love you, Trip.”
Tears pooled in Trip’s eyes, and with a nod, he placed it around his neck. His finger stroked the silver half-heart and it was difficult for Boone not to get all teary-eyed as well. Trip understood how much this meant to him, which was why Boone had known right away he was making the right decision.
Trip stood, walked around the table to Boone, and carefully straddled his lap. He placed a tender kiss on Boone’s forehead, then one on each cheek, one on the tip of his nose, and finally one on his lips.
“I love you, Boone. You know, I learned something about today,” Trip said, wrapping his arms around Boone’s neck.
“That you should stay out of greeting cards stores?”
“Cheeky. No. That today isn’t about gifts or busting a gut trying to conjure up the perfect evening, because my evenings are already perfect. I have you. Happy Valentine’s Day, Boone.”
Boone kissed Trip, holding him close. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Trip.”
Published by Charlie Cochet
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Perfect Valentine’s Day
Copyright © 2014 by Charlie Cochet
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Charlie Cochet.