Terms & Conditions 7


Taking Tad for a walk around the neighborhood, and down to Martin Park probably wasn't the best idea for me considering the workload I need to get through, but I couldn't resist him when he said he wanted to show me how he could swing all by himself so we walked the four and a half blocks down the street and went swinging on the swings for at least an hour.  It had been a while that I'd been able to see him just playing instead of going from school to soccer or to some other activity that Timothy and Delaney always seemed to have planned out for him.

"I can do the stairs and skip a stair."  Tad brags a lot when he's with me, probably because I haven't seen all his "tricks" that he's learned.

"Ok," I say.  I stand behind him as he skips the steps, just to make sure he doesn't fall backwards and get hurt.  I remember when he couldn't even crawl up the steps in the house and now he's trying to take them by twos.  It makes me feel old for the first time in a long time.  I'm heading towards thirty and fast, but normally don't notice it until I'm reminded by something like this.

"Aunt Tammy?"

I've been day dreaming a lot lately and I find myself doing it again when Tad's voice breaks into my thoughts, "What Tadpole?"

"I think someone is at your house."  Tad points at the door as we come up the steps to the apartment door.  It's cracked open a little.  I also think that I smell fire, but knowing the nice weather its just probably someone barbequing.  My reactions are normally quick, but before I can stop him from going into the house he's already pushed the door open and disappeared inside.

I pull my phone from my pocket and poise my finger over the auto button that will automatically dial 911 as I walk into the house.  I know better than to go in the house if the door is cracked open and I can hear Timothy yelling at me from where ever he is to be careful.  I also can hear Tad inside and I know that I need to get in there and save him before something happens to him.

"Tad?"

I move into the house and when I don't hear anything anymore I get scared.

I put the phone away though as I hear Lance yelp a little.  I can tell that he didn't expect to see a little kid in the house.  "Who the heck are you?"

When I make it into the living room I find Lance looking like he's been home for a while.  He's changed out of what he was wearing earlier and now is in jeans and a t-shirt with no socks on sitting on the couch with a beer in one hand and the TV controller in the other.  It's an Al Bundy scene if I've ever seen one.  It's also the first time I've seen him semi-relaxed in two days.

Tad sticks his hands on his hips and tries to look bigger than he is.  Too bad his hair is sticking up in the back making him look like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals.  His voice is firm though and I roll my eyes knowing where he's gotten this from.  It's pure Timothy.  Pure, I'm the big man on campus and you're not.  I wish he wouldn't act this way.  It's sweet and all that he's being protective, but I'm afraid sometimes that he's going to take on someone that is going to squash him.  I'm sure that Delaney is aware of this and as far as I know he's going to be signed up for self defense when he starts school, but for the moment he's using his voice instead of his body to intimidate.  "Are you supposed to be at my Aunt Tammy's house?"

"I'm supposed to be at Tammy's house," he says carefully, "I'm supposed to be at my house."

"AUNT TAMMY?"  Tad screams.

I move to touch his shoulder.  "Tadpole, I'm right here.  You don't have to yell."

"Sorry."  He leans back against my legs and wraps an arm around my leg suddenly becoming  a bit shy.  He looks up at me.  "Your boyfriend is home."

"Yeah," Lance said, "What he said."

"Tad you remember Lance don't you?"  I look down at Tad and he still looks nervous.  "He was at the picnic after your first soccer game this year.  Remember, the one where your team beat the Jets."

Tad leans and scratches his leg, fixes his sock a bit then looks back up at me.  I don't know if it's because he's thinking or processing it all, but it's definitely another Timothy does that when he's really nervous.  He distracts the person he's talking to then uses the pause in motion and conversation to organize his thoughts.  Tad looks at me then looks at Lance.  "Do you still not like mustard?"

Tad is in love with mustard and can't understand how anyone else could hate it.  He couldn't believe that at the picnic at Timothy and Delaney's house after his first soccer game that Lance could possibly have a turkey sandwich without mustard.

"Yeah."  I've only see Lance around little kids once before in person.  I'm amazed that he seems so confident.  Most adults get nervous with children.  Either they underestimate their ability to understand or overestimate their abilities.  Unlike Lance's conversation with Tad, many adult child conversations are uncomfortable interactions.  I'm glad to see that he's getting along with Tad even if his first words were a bit shaky.

I look down at Tad and move his hair so it's laying down.  "Tad why don't you go in the bathroom and wash your hands then we'll figure out what we want to do for dinner."

"Ok.""  He skips off and Lance moves off the couch towards me, leaving his beer on the coffee table. And when I say on the coffee table I mean on it.  I would have told him to put the bottle on a coaster, but when I see the way he's moving towards me I know that it's been a long day.  He rarely comes home in a horrible mood, but today seems to be one of those days.  He shuffles his feet almost stubbing his toes into the carpeting and moves to put his arms heavily around me.  He hugs me quickly then leans his head on my shoulder.

I put my hand on the back of his neck and massage the muscles there.  "Long day honey?"

His groan comes from deep in his throat.  It's probably the worst groan ever which means that he's probably had the longest day ever.  The only thing that has ever come close was when he was on location in Miami for a video shoot and flew in after an 18 hour day of being on the set.  While I'm thinking about him he leaned and kissed me, quick little kiss that tastes of his beer before his eyes dart towards the master bedroom where the bathroom is.  "You have no idea Seven."

"Sorry about Tad being here."  His arms stay around me and his hips press against mine.  It's a clear sign that Tad is going to hinder his plans for the evening.  I   My brother dropped him off for the night.  Cassy has the chicken pox and Tad is getting bored at home and you know Timothy.  He's going out on assignment and Delaney is really taken up with dealing with one sick one, she doesn't need to see to a little rascal--"

I don't think that he's too excited about hanging out with a little kid after a long day, but he smiles and kisses me again, "What did you guys have planned for dinner?"

I move away from him and slide out of my shoes.  I look towards the coffee table and notice that Lance moves to put the beer on a coaster.  He smiles up at me.  "Nothing."

For a moment I think he might ask us to go out, but I know that won't happen.  We've hung out causally around our neighborhood and go over to friends houses, but for the most part in the last four months we haven't really gone out on any dates.  It's not totally because of the whole publicity thing, although that plays some part it in.  For the most part our careers keep us so busy that when he's not working and I'm not working we're too tired to do anything else.

He looks out onto the back porch then back at me.  "Want to barbeque?"

"Sure," I say then look and see that the fire is already lit in the grill.  "You were already--"

He leans and kisses me.  "Steaks and potatoes and corn."

"You went to the store?"

"Jake did," Lance smiles, "I thought I'd make dinner since I definitely could use a beer and a steak after today."

"What happened today?"

"Would you like to hear about the great morning I had with almost six hours of interviews and a quick lunch or would you like to hear about the three hour meeting--excuse me--gathering--I went to this afternoon."  He groans again.

"Six hours?" I ask.

"Six hours of answering the same fucking questions all day long--"  His eyes drifted towards the master bedroom to see where Tad was.  "Not as great as three hours in the afternoon stuck in a conference room."

"Three hours?" I ask.

"Sonia and the producers and director of Quincey's Promise--"  He paused for a moment and scratched his head and half his mouth curled into a smile.  "They want me to Executive Produce the soundtrack for their next project Stolen Summer."

"OH MY GOD!"  I scream and throw my arms around him.  "That's insane!  That's amazing!"

The way Lance hugs me must be considered art.  His arms slide around me and pull me to him and lift me up a little off the floor.  When his arms squeeze me against him his breath comes out of his mouth next to my ear.  It's a happy sound and I love the fact it happens when he hugs me.  "There's the reaction that I was looking for last night."

I pull away from him and stare at him.  Sometimes men are so blunt and so completely obvious and clearly Lance is being both.  His expression is clearly relaxed as if he doesn't have a clue as to why I'm pulling away from him.  His eyes are the only thing that give him away.  His pupils focus then widen and he blinks a few times before I speak.  "Why'd you have to go say something like that?"

His hands fall to his sides and one hand shoves into his pocket.  He looks at his feet, takes a deep breath and looks up again and looks me straight in the eye.  "Like what?"

I sigh and move away.  "Why'd you have to bring up the awards?"

"I wished that you would have stayed and listened--"

There are so many reasons that I had to leave the room.  If there were any less I would have stayed, bit my lip and taken it all.  I couldn't though.  I couldn't face that podium and see him ignore me yet again.  I know I know I don't need sympathy about this since it's partially my fault that he couldn't say anything, but his side of it doesn't help any.  If he could treat Jasmine the way he did in front of me then I could take the liberty of not watching him play it up in front of the cameras.   "I couldn't."

"Aunt Tammy?"  Tad comes into the room. "Can we have macaroni?"

"I was thinking that we'd have steaks and potatoes and corn," Lance said.

"Popcorn?"

"Corn on the cob."  His eyes trail to mine and there is a certain understanding that this conversation isn't going to take place in front of Tad, probably not only because he didn't need to see us fighting, but also because the rest of my family would also hear about it later from Tad.

Tad sighed, "Can I have pepper on mine?"

Lance smiled and patted him on the head.  "You can have mustard on yours if that's what you want."

"Really?"

"If that's what you want."

Tad shook his head.  "I don't like mustard on my corn."

Lance shook his head.  "Neither do I."

****

I look back at Tad where he's watching a movie then slip out onto the porch where Lance is flipping over the steaks.  The whole evening has been tense, Lance drank the rest of his beer and was working on another and as much as I wanted to have a beer, I didn't have one because I knew that Tad would notice.  "How are they coming along?"

"Should be done in about ten minutes."  He keeps his back to me.  Its the one thing he knows I hate, when people don't face me when we're talking.  It's a respect thing and I hate that he's standing there watching the grill instead of truly talking to me.  "Is Tad getting hungry?"

The bullshit is at an all time high and so I skip the conversation and get right down to what needs to be said, "Did you talk to Sonia--"

"It was busy Seven," he said.

I almost get caught up by the nickname, but I'm so angry that he would pull it out at this point that I turn to all the anger that I've had over the last few weeks comes out.  “You were with Sonia all day and didn’t mention it?”

He sighs.  He's sighing.  What the hell does he have to sigh about?  In all the world this man is the one that is the least likely to be needing to sigh and yet he stands there and sighs like I've just let him down.  Me.  Let him down.  Yeah right.  I told him the situation when he started this with me and he agreed.  He agreed that keeping things on the down low wasn't going to be an issue with him.  Quite differently he explained that it was the ideal type of relationship.  Something that he could enjoy and keep out of the public eye.  It all seemed too easy at the time and I should probably have not believed him instead of falling for him again.

“I was in a meeting with the producers and director of Quincey’s Promise.  There wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to bring that up in front of them.  It’s none of their business—“

I want to throw something at him I'm so upset.  Yeah of course it wasn't really on his agenda of the day to speak to Sonia, but I would have assumed that it might have at least come up.  “What about in the car?”


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