It’s All Relative
Riding in an airplane with Danny Messer was, Mac reflected, an exercise in extremes. On one hand, commercial jets were so cramped that the two men’s bodies could casually brush against one another and no one thought a thing of it. On the other hand, being so close to Danny and not being able to do more than touch casually was frustrating as hell.
Especially when Danny so clearly needed to be touched.
Mac observed Danny as the younger man pensively stared out the window. No cloud formations were that interesting, so Mac knew it wasn’t the view that had so enthralled his lover. Danny wasn’t a jabberer by nature, but he usually had no problem voicing his opinion on any number of subjects. When he was this quiet for this long, then it was because he was thinking with that Messer intensity of his. And since they weren’t in the midst of solving a case, but were instead on their way to Chicago to have Thanksgiving with Mac’s family, Mac had a pretty good idea of what it was that Danny was thinking about.
“They’re going to love you,” Mac leaned over as he spoke directly into Danny’s ear and the other man jumped as he felt Mac’s warm breath on his neck.
“Sure,” Danny responded in a quiet voice. His tone, devoid of its typical sarcasm, was laced with defeat. “They’re gonna welcome me with open arms, the man screwin’ their boy.”
Mac suppressed a deep sigh. They’d gone over all of this previously, even before deciding to make the trip. Mac had thought he’d managed to reassure Danny; if he’d known the other man was still this apprehensive about it, they wouldn’t be on the plane.
“We talked about this, Danny,” Mac reminded his lover. He put a hand on Danny’s knee, which was bouncing up and down. In the crowded confines of the airplane, the twitchy movement was one of the few ways that Danny’s body could express the anxiety the younger man was clearly experiencing.
“I know,” Danny admitted. “I’m just not real good at this family shit.”
It was no wonder he wasn’t comfortable with the idea. Most families would be proud to have a son in the finest police force in the country. Or that had graduated at the top of his class at the Academy. Or that had moved up to detective at such a young age OR that was an outstanding forensic scientist. The Messers, however, weren’t most families. Instead of being proud of his accomplishments, Danny had been ostracized for choosing not to be a criminal.
Mac couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to the Messer family dynamic than the struggle between the mob and the law. If so, Danny wasn’t talking and Mac wasn’t about to press him about it, either. After Claire’s death, Mac had been hounded by well-meaning, but misguided family members determined to get him to open up about how he felt. Mac wasn’t about to do the same to someone he loved. Danny would talk when, and if, he was ready.
“Would it help if you heard more about them?” Mac offered.
Danny swallowed and nodded, the motion a sharp jerk that conveyed his nervousness. “Yeah.”
Since the back of the plane they were seated in was relatively empty, Mac took Danny’s hand with little fear of discovery.
“My mom is going to take one look at you and melt,” Mac started out. “You’ll spending most of the trip fending off her trying to stuff just one more bite into you.”
Danny looked skeptical. “Even if we’re sleepin’ together?”
“We won’t be sleeping together on this trip,” Mac reminded him. “Not because we’re both men, but because we’re not married. That’d be the case with anyone, man or woman, that I brought home.”
“That’s it?” Danny asked. “She really won’t freak because of the guy thing?”
Mac looked steadily at him, knowing what he was about to say might start a whole new set of insecurities. “She didn’t with another guy I brought home.” Danny’s eyes widened and Mac hastened to clarify. “I told you about him. His name was Mike and I met him in the Marines.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Danny acknowledged, obviously begrudging every word.
Danny had never shown an ounce of jealousy over Mac’s memories of Claire, but got very territorial over any mention of former boyfriends. Mac didn’t mind; he kind of liked that Danny felt possessive. Besides, Mac damn well knew he was every bit as territorial where Danny was concerned.
“If my dad were alive, there’d be a problem,” Mac admitted. “But my mother’s more open-minded.”
“There’s open-minded when said boyfriend is all the way in New York,” Danny pointed out. “That can be totally different than the open-minded that comes when the boyfriend’s in Chicago, in the flesh so to speak.”
What Mac really wanted to tell Danny was that his mother had a tendency to take in strays who needed a bit of tender loving care. She would sniff out Danny’s need of TLC like a bloodhound and take him under her wing, whether or not he and Mac were romantically involved. Not wanting to scare his lover off, Mac opted to tell Danny of the other major reason his mom would love him.
“Danny, I don’t think you truly appreciate what you’ve done for me,” Mac told him. “When Claire died, most of me died with her. I know Stella was worried sick about me, but that pales in comparison with how worried my mother was.” He squeezed Danny’s hand. “You were instrumental in bringing me back. I know it and I made damn sure my mother knows it too. For that alone, if not for the hundred other reasons why she’s gonna love you, she’ll welcome you with open arms.”
Mac was pleased to see Danny flush with pleasure, but disappointed that the younger man had to look away for a moment. He told himself to be patient, that someday Danny would be comfortable with positive emotions. When Danny looked back, though, his gaze was steadier and Mac could tell that he’d managed to reassure the other man. For the moment, anyway.
“That don’t sound so bad,” Danny admitted. “Your mom, she sounds like a good woman.”
“She is,” Mac assured him. “But don’t get cocky, you’ll still have to deal with Aunt Flossie.”
“Aunt Flossie?” Danny’s brow wrinkled in concern.
“She’s a cheek pincher,” Mac stated with a straight face. He waited until Danny relaxed to add, “And I don’t mean on the face, either.”
Danny looked startled and then grinned widely with the shit-eating grin that he didn’t allow to come out often. “So you’re not the only Taylor with wandering hands, huh?”
“I get it honest,” Mac claimed. Leaning forward again, he whispered, “Want me to prove it? I bet we’d both fit into that bathroom.”
This time Danny laughed. “That’s a good one. You, wantin’ to become a member of the Mile High Club.”
“You laugh now, but after almost a week of sleeping apart, you might take me up on it on the way home,” Mac teased.
“Maybe I will,” Danny speculated. “An’ maybe I won’t.”
Mac smiled, relieved that Danny had unwound enough to tease. “Come here,” he lifted the armrest that divided their seats and wrapped an arm around Danny’s shoulder. “Take a nap while we can still sleep together.”
“That’s all we’re doin’,” Danny warned as he settled himself against Mac. “I’m not getting busted for lewd ‘n’ lascivious behavior on the damn plane. Flack’d never let me live it down.”
“All right, I’ll keep my hands to myself,” Mac promised, even as he mentally acknowledged that it would be hard to do. The thrum of the plane made it seem like they were in their own little world and it was one he was loathe to leave.
He knew he’d told Danny the truth; Mac’s family would love him. Maybe it wouldn’t make up for Danny’s own family giving him the cold shoulder, but it was a start. And Mac had every intention of making up for the love that Danny had been missing.
Even if it took him the rest of their lives.
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