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Genre: Contemporary, Military, Romance
Troy and Dmitri have worked everything out - well, almost everything. Except for the part where Troy's family doesn't know Dmitri exists. Coming out to his family sounds scarier than going to war. And Troy would know.
Troy's been out of the Army for almost a year, and except for a few short weeks, hasn't been back to West Virginia at all.
Now Christmas is coming, and his mother can't be put off any longer, not unless Troy wants to break her heart.
But Troy's biggest fear is that going home with a boyfriend and service dog in tow will break his Momma's heart just as much.
Also in this series:
Dmitri didn’t often come to the waiting room area of the University Veterinarian clinic. He stayed mostly back in the lab, entering and exiting through a staff entrance in the back. It always caught him off-guard that there were people with their pets sitting in the room, waiting, as the name implied, to be seen by the vet students and their supervisors.
With Sweetie sitting at his feet, Troy blended in with the rest of them. Dmitri observed him, unseen, from behind a pillar.
Clutching Dmitri’s travel mug between both hands, Troy looked a little lost and uncertain. His forehead was wrinkled between drawn-together brows, and his leg jittered so hard, Dmitri was surprised the woman sitting next to him hadn’t moved or asked him to stop yet.
He was also gorgeous even in the stark hospital lighting. When he leaped up to grab the door for a woman struggling with a small kid in a stroller, a somewhat larger kid who clung to her hand, and what sounded like a very unhappy cat in a bulky pet-carrier, Dmitri sighed.
Troy was just so thoughtful, and kind, and dealing with crap Dmitri was just beginning to comprehend the depths of. Ron, the dog trainer and friend responsible for introducing Sweetie into their lives had cautioned Dmitri that the holidays would add an extra level of stress and that Dmitri was going to have to be extra-patient.
Dmitri watched as Troy gave the woman his seat and introduced the free-range kid to Sweetie, letting the kid pet the endlessly-patient dog. Troy’s smile at the sight was blindingly pure, and Dmitri felt as if a band had squeezed his heart.
How had he gotten so lucky? He didn’t deserve it. He was nowhere as nice and kind as Troy. But he could try to be the partner Troy deserved. Summoning his nerve with a deep breath, he walked into the room. He cringed as every eye turned to him as they saw his white lab coat and assumed he was one of the doctors that actually treated the animals. Sorry to disappoint you, Dmitri thought to himself. I wish I could help you.
“Hey,” he said, coming up behind Troy, touching him gently on the shoulder.
“Oh, hi.” Troy straightened up from the crouch that had brought him to the kid’s level. He held out Dmitri’s coffee mug. “You forgot your coffee. I know you hate the coffee here, and, well…”
Dmitri took the cup. “Thanks. Sorry, I was -”
“Sorry, I -” Troy spoke over his attempted apology.
Troy wrapped Sweetie’s leash over his hand and unwrapped it, over and over. “Can we talk?”
The woman looked between their faces, watching as if they were the best show she’d seen all day. He gave her a tight smile and led Troy away with a hand on his elbow. “Follow me.”
He ignored the glares from people thinking that Troy had jumped the line and guided Troy down the hall. He tried a few doors until he found an empty consultation room. He flipped the occupied indicator flag out and closed the door behind them.
“I’m sorry,” Troy was saying even as Dmitri turned around.
“No. Really. It’s fine. I totally get why you haven’t told your parents yet. You’re right. I did have it easy. Pretty much as easy as you can be without having gay parents.” He reached out and pulled Troy in for a hug. “So, you do what you have to do, okay?”
Troy nodded against his shoulder. Dmitri kissed the side of his head. “You are going to have to tell them about us eventually someday. Unless you’re planning on dumping me?”
“No! Don’t even joke. Besides, you’re going to dump me one day when you get tired of my crap.”
“Never.” Oops. He hadn’t meant to say that so seriously. They hadn’t talked about the future yet. Not really. Even the moving in had been framed as more of a way to save money than as a recognition that Troy slept over six nights out of seven and both of them liked it that way.
Troy’s arms tightened around Dmitri, and he could feel Troy’s heart beating against his chest. If only they could just stay here like this for an hour, a day. A lifetime.
Troy exhaled heavily and pulled away. “I know I have to come out to my parents. I know, and I will. That’s why I’m here. I’m scared; I’m just scared. You don’t know what it’s like; your parents were open to it from the beginning. From what I understand, they knew you were gay before you did.”
What could Dmitri say to that? It was true. Sure, he’d had to deal with some bullying at school and the general homophobia of Western society, but he never had to worry about his parents not loving him because of who he was
“As long as I know you’ll tell them eventually. I know it’s stupid, but I feel like you’re embarrassed by me. And, and I don’t know if it’s jumping the gun to say this, but I kinda want to be in your life for a long time. That means one day I’m going to have to meet your family.”
Troy set on the edge of the examination table, twisting his wool cap in his hand. “I know. And I don’t want to go without you. I need you there. I know I’m going to need you there as much as I need Sweetie maybe more.”
“So what do you want to do?”
Troy reached for Dmitri with both hands and Dmitri came to stand between his legs. Troy slid his hands around Dmitri’s hips. “Come with me? Come with me to my parents’ house.”
“As your boyfriend? Or friend?”
Troy took a deep breath. It seemed like every step he took required all the bravery he could muster.
Dmitri thought Troy had been brave in Afghanistan, but he’d told Dmitri that the things he had to do since getting back – admitting his weaknesses, admitting he was scared, and admitting to himself and others that he was gay – sometimes felt as if they dwarfed anything he had to do in the war.
“Can we start with friend?” he asked. “I know it’s cowardly, I know it. And I hate myself for even asking. But I need you there. With me.”
“Best friends, at least?”
Troy smiled. “Of course. We can get matching bracelets.”
Dmitri grabbed for Troy’s arms where they held his hips. “You know I’m there for you, babe. However, you need me. I can be just your friend if that’s what you need.” He pushed in close to Troy, sliding his hands up to Troy’s neck and tilting his head up and bending down for a kiss. It was a good kiss; he gave it everything he had. Swiping his tongue across Troy’s lips until he opened his mouth and let Dmitri in.
Dmitri cradled Troy’s skull in the palm of one hand while he kissed all the breath from his lungs. Troy’s hands tightened on Dmitri’s hips, and he pulled Dmitri flush against him. They made out pressing against each other until Dmitri felt as if he was two seconds away from having sex with Troy right on the table. With a groan, he pulled off of Troy and stepped back, glad for the white lab coat that he could draw around him.
The evidence of Troy’s arousal, however, was plain to see. Dmitri bit his lower lip and ran his hands over Troy’s erection, pressing hard.
Troy closed his eyes and groaned. He grabbed Dmitri’s hand by the wrist to stop him “God, stop. That’s not fair.”
“And it’s not something a best friend would do either,” Dmitri grinned. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep my hands off you the whole time we’re at your parents’ house. We’ll probably have to sneak off somewhere to make out, like teenagers. Is there a barn? Always wanted to have my way with some hot cowboy in a barn.”
Troy stood up adjusting himself in his pants. “There’s no barn, but I will have my truck. We’ll probably have to pick up groceries at some point, and it’s a long dark road to the grocery store.”
“I like the way you think, Detroit.”
Dmitri walked Troy back to the waiting room, keeping his hands to himself, figuring it was good practice for his Christmas break. “Wait a second, did you say we’ll have your truck? We’re driving?”
“Yep. I gotta take Sweetie, and I don’t think she’d do well on the plane. Plus it will be fun. I haven’t been on a road trip in forever.”
“How long does it take to drive to West Virginia?”
“With two drivers, we can do it in two long days.”
“But your truck’s a manual. I don’t know how to drive a stick.”
Troy hooked a finger into the belt loops of Dmitri’s pants and whispered into his ear. “Oh I don’t know, I think you drive stick just fine.”
Dmitri smacked him with an open hand. “You’ll be singing a different tune day two into a three-day road trip as the only driver.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll teach you how to drive before we leave. It’s easy. You’ll pick it up in a jiffy.”
“You’d better hope I do.” He planted a quick kiss on Troy’s lips. “Angel is going to be so jealous.”
“We’ll bring her next time.” Troy kissed Dmitri back. “See you after work.”
Dmitri watched him walk across the parking lot. It was a nice view. When he turned back to the room, the woman from earlier caught his eye and smiled.
“Going to meet the parents,” Dmitri admitted, raising his eyebrows.
She laughed. “At Christmas? Good luck!”
“Thanks.” Dmitri bent down to look into the cage. A small black kitten sat with her feet tucked up under her, eyes wide as she stared around the unfamiliar place. “What’s wrong with the kitty?”
“Oh, nothing,” she answered. “Just getting spayed.”
The small child tugged at Dmitri’s coat. “She has to get an operation, so she doesn’t get pregnant because cats have sex and make babies just like people. Only they have more kittens than people have babies because people only have one baby at a time.” He paused. “Usually. Mostly.”
Dmitri met the woman’s eyes, and they shared a smile. “That is one hundred percent correct,” he told the little boy. “Good luck with your cat,” he said to the woman.
As he walked back to his lab, Dmitri wondered if he had made a mistake by not having his own practice.