"Isn't this the best Christmas day ever? And wasn't that the best Christmas dinner?" Angel said.
Ruffling his boy's light blond hair, Kael said, "You sound like Tiny Tim. And you said that last year."
With care Angel tucked glasses into the top rack of the dishwasher. "Yes, and this year is even better. I can't wait for next year."
Placing a couple of plates carefully in the dishwasher, Kael reached for another. "Daddy, you don't have to do dishes. That's my job." Angel looked up at him, his beautiful gray eyes bright with happiness.
Angel and Sharon had cooked their Christmas dinner while Kael wandered about trying to make himself useful, and they had done themselves proud. Even the sprouts, which Kael normally hated, were good. Angel had made them to a special recipe with chestnuts and a wine sauce. Sharon had looked tired after the meal was eaten, and Angel ordered her to sit with her feet up, insisting he would take care of everything.
Kael leaned his buttocks against the counter and crossed his arms. "So do you like your presents?" It was a stupid question. When Angel had opened his gifts that morning and had seen the latest Xbox, he had stared at it in disbelief and pure joy.
"Are you kidding? I love my presents. I still can't believe you got me an Xbox."
"I knew how much you wanted it. And you've been working so hard in school and at the firing range and all the other things I expect of you. You deserve a treat, but when we're home, you make sure everything else is in order before you play with it."
"Yes, Sir. I'll consider it off-limits unless I have nothing else to do."
"Good boy. But I've been meaning to ask you." Kael lifted the stylish, heart-shaped gold pendant on the short gold chain hanging around his neck. He never wore jewelry, especially not necklaces, though this one was masculine despite being a heart. He had been both surprised and touched when he opened the beribboned gold box. "How did you afford this?" The only money Angel had was his monthly allowance from Kael, and he could not have saved that much. It was an expensive necklace.
Angel put the last plate in the dishwasher and tossed in a soap cube. "I sold the Rolex watch my mom gave me." The boy hadn't mentioned his mum in months, and he had never worn the watch. "When she didn't get in touch with me on my birthday or even send me a card, I guessed I probably wouldn't see her again for a long time. I never liked that watch anyway, and I wanted to get you something special."
Love surging through him, Kael pulled the slender young man into his arms, pressing him close to his chest. "I've already got something special. I've got you. I love you, sweetheart."
Slipping his arms around Kael's chest, Angel tilted his chin for a kiss. "My Daddy," he said quietly.
The doorbell rang, and a moment later, Sharon called, "Kael, come and see who's here."
Holding Angel's hand, he walked into the living room and stopped dead. A man he had not seen in ten years took several steps toward him with his hand stuck out to shake. "All right, Kael. How are you, mate?"
Shocked to see Shawn standing in his mum's living room, Kael stared for half a minute before remembering himself. He shook Shawn's hand briefly and reluctantly. "I'm fine."
"Who's this?" Shawn asked. "Your boyfriend?"
Sharon ruffled Angel's hair. "Didn't I tell you Kael is gay?"
"Yeah, I think I knew," Shawn said. If anyone knew, Shawn definitely did.
Kael hated the word boyfriend. It sounded sissy. Worse still, it sounded casual, as if they weren't an actual couple but just dating. "This is Angel. He's my partner. He lives with me."
"Domestic partners? Isn't that what they call gay couples these days?" Shawn had always had a warm, intimate smile, a smile that had caused Kael's heart to beat faster when he was fourteen years old. Shawn had been thirty-five when they had an affair that summer, two years older than Kael was now. He still had the same sparkly blue eyes and boyish grin. He wasn't any taller, though being shorter than Angel's five feet ten by three inches. Kael's boy had gained two inches in the last year.
Shawn shook hands with Angel, but he looked at Kael. "You like them young, Kael?"
"Not as young as you like them," Kael said under his breath. Angel's hearing was as acute as his own. With a question in his eyes, he looked up at Kael.
Sharon had gone to the kitchen and could not have heard. She returned a moment later with a bottle of beer. "There you go, Shawn."
The only reason Shawn could be back in his mum's life was if he was at a loose end and looking for a woman to cadge off. Kael wanted to smack the fucker. Shawn went over to the big easy chair and threw himself down, looking very comfortable, which told Kael that he had been there before and probably spent the night.
Angel stood at the couch waiting for Kael to sit down first. It was a small, unobvious gesture of submission. That they were a gay couple was never hidden. Kael had been out and open about his sexuality from the age of fifteen. But when it came to Angel's submission, Kael had told him when strangers were present to behave as he thought appropriate depending on the situation.
Kael sat, stretching his long legs out in front of him. Angel sat beside him, tucking his legs under himself and leaning into Kael's side as he always did.
"So what have you been up to, Kael?" Shawn asked.
Completely unaware of the tension between them, Sharon said, "He teaches languages in London. Don't you, Kael?"
Though he had not taught languages since early in the year, Kael had neglected to tell his mum, and while he hated lying to her, he could not tell her that he worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service. He looked directly at her when he said, "Yes. I teach languages. I also translate."
"What do you do, Angel?" Shawn asked.
Quickly and briefly, Angel caught Kael's eyes, asking permission to speak. With people they knew well, he spoke freely, but with strangers he always asked permission. The smallest nod from Kael was sufficient consent. Sometimes Angel picked up such subtle cues that Kael wondered if he was psychic. Or perhaps it was that couple thing of reading each other's thoughts. "I go to college. I'm taking A levels," Angel said, his tone carefully polite.
"He passed all his GCSEs in June, didn't you, love?" Sharon was as proud of Angel as if he truly was her son. "He's clever, like Kael."
"What are you going to do with yourself after that?" Shawn asked.
The way Shawn was watching Angel made Kael want to leap up and smack him. It was the way Shawn had looked at him all those years ago, intimate and engaging. Angel smiled. "I'm not sure yet."
"He'll take Daddy's advice," Kael said, claiming ownership of his boy.
"Daddy?" Shawn half laughed, looking confused.
"Yes, Daddy. That's me," Kael said. "He calls me Daddy." Angel glanced up at him, slightly surprised but pleased that Kael had acknowledged the depth of their intimacy.
To Shawn Angel said, "I always take Daddy's advice."
"Whatever turns your crank," Shawn said, draining his beer. "When did you start shaving your head, Kael?"
"About six or seven years ago." Less chance of leaving evidence at a kill.
"Kael had lovely hair when he was little, all blond and curly," Sharon said.
Sudden laughter broke from Angel, and he looked at Kael. "You had curly hair, Daddy? I can't imagine you as a baby."
"I was adorable, wasn't I, Mum?" He grinned at her.
"You certainly were. And you still are."