"So…this is what a gay club looks like," Brad says, awkwardly breaking the already awkward silence.
As soon as they'd walked into the dimly lit club, they'd all just stopped, unsure of what to do next. So they'd ended up huddled in a group by the door, glancing around nervously at the unfamiliar territory.
"I thought there'd be more, I don't know…cages and leather and stuff," Brad continues helpfully.
"Cages?" Holden repeats, eyebrow raised. Jack just rolls his eyes and smacks his brother on the back of the head.
"Try not to be a complete ass tonight," he says, tone exasperated. "Just this once, please."
"Hey, I was invited just the same as you!" Brad reminds him.
"To be honest, this doesn't really seem like Luke's scene," Aaron cuts in, still looking around. "Are you guys sure we're in the right place?"
But just then, a young man spots them and starts waving enthusiastically from the dance floor, slowly working his way over through the other dancers. He already appears to be quite drunk and seems to have lost his shirt at some point during the evening.
"Oh my god, I'm so glad you guys made it!" he shouts over the music, coming right up to Holden and planting a rather wet kiss on his cheek.
"Tony," Holden says, seemingly unfazed, "this is my son, Aaron, and my cousins, Jack and Brad."
"Oh, this is so great of you guys! Luke is going to be so surprised!" Tony shouts delightedly. Brad just stares at him, openmouthed, until Jack smacks him again.
"Luke and Noah should be here in like, the next ten minutes or so. Reg managed to snag a couple of tables for us in the back," Tony adds, still speaking directly to Holden (though his gaze does seem to keep lingering over Aaron). He points towards the far side of the club, near the rear bar, where another young man waves back at them. This one still has his shirt on.
"So, let me ask you something, Tony…" Brad begins.
"Okay!" Holden cuts in loudly, clapping a hand on Brad's shoulder. "I guess we'll head back and say hi to Reg then."
Tony smiles, nodding in agreement, "and I'll wait up here for Luke and Noah."
But while the Synder men head over to meet Reg, Tony works his way over to the main bar to order another quick drink, not realizing that Luke and Noah are actually already outside the club. He just counts on Luke being a little bit late, as always, and forgets to factor in Noah's annoying habit of punctuality.
"Remind me again why we let Tony throw the stag party?" Noah asks, sounding slightly cranky. He and Luke are slowly approaching the shabby looking brick building, a neon 'Q' flashing overhead to let them know they're in the right spot.
"Because he wouldn't shut up about it?" Luke guesses, fishing his I.D. out of his wallet to show to the bouncer.
"And we were drunk at the time," Noah mutters, flashing his I.D. in turn.
"Look, it's just a few drinks with Tony and Reg," Luke says, raising his voice slightly to be heard over the club music, "how bad can it be?"
"Famous last words," Noah replies under his breath, but Luke doesn't hear him. He's too busy looking around for Tony before finally spotting him at the bar.
"Hey guys!" Tony shouts happily, surprised and thankful that they spotted him first before the others. He slips off the bar stool and hurries over to them, giving Luke a more than friendly kiss on the mouth in greeting. Noah tenses at Luke's side but before he can protest he's met with the exact same treatment himself. He can still taste the tequila even after Tony pulls away.
"Got started without us, I see," Luke notes wryly, eyeing Tony's bare chest. His cheeks are slightly pink with embarrassment (or maybe exasperation).
"Oh, Luke! You are going to be so excited when you see what I've done," Tony says, smirking in such a way that alarm bells instantly start to sound in Noah's head.
"Done?" Noah repeats warily. "Tony…what did you do?"
Tony just grins and gestures towards the back of the club. Luke and Noah follow his gaze and Noah pretty quickly finds Reg sitting with a group of people at one of the tables. He's just about to take Luke's hand and start towards them when it finally registers…
"Oh my god," Luke breathes, realizing at the exact same moment as Noah. "You invited my entire family…to a gay club."
"I know, right?" Tony is so excited he's practically bouncing. "You're totally welcome."
Tony gives Luke a gentle shove forward and they slowly make their way towards the back of the club. Jack and Holden stand up as they approach.
"Hey, congratulations, you guys!" Jack offers in greeting, reaching out to give Luke a nice, manly, one-armed hug.
"Yeah," Luke offers, somewhat bewildered, "this is such a surprise!"
Holden smiles and claps Luke on the shoulder. "Well, we did have something a little different planned originally, but your friend Tony called and told us he already had everything taken care of. Isn't that great?"
"So…great," Luke manages to reply, hoping his expression at least vaguely resembles a smile. He's going to kill Tony. Or better yet, he's going to kill Reg for letting Tony do this. If Aaron had planned this, they probably would have all just sat around drinking beers at the farm. And even then, it might have still been a little awkward. But at least it wouldn't have been this.
Luke looks over at his brother only to find that a rather good-looking guy in his mid-20's has managed to pull Aaron away from the group and is whispering something in his ear. To Luke's surprise, Aaron smiles softly, but shakes his head firmly, gesturing vaguely at Luke. When the guy leaves, Aaron rejoins them, looking somewhat pleased with himself.
"This place is pretty cool," he comments, "I can't believe I never knew it was here."
Cool? Luke thinks, feeling rather disjointed.
"Yeah, I don't remember you ever mentioning it before," Holden adds. "Do you guys come here a lot?"
Noah opens his mouth, but Luke's "no" is out almost before his dad has even asked the question. "Really you guys, I'm so sorry. You don't have to be so…I mean, this is really Tony's –"
"Do you want to dance?" Noah asks rather pointedly, cutting Luke off quickly and effectively. He doesn't even wait for a response before pulling Luke onto the dance floor and away from his family.
"What was that about?" Luke asks huffily, once they're out of earshot (though he doesn't move to leave Noah's strong embrace).
"Me?" Noah retorts. "What about you? I was just saving you from yourself."
"I was trying to save them! I can't believe Reg let Tony do this." From the corner of his eye, Luke sees that yet another attractive gentlemen is currently chatting up his brother. He doesn't know which is more exasperating: the idea of his brother being in a gay club to celebrate his engagement, or the fact that Aaron already seems to be having way better luck attracting men than Luke ever did.
"Relax," Noah chides softly, his hands gentle where they rest on Luke's hips. "Everyone seems to be having a good time. You're just being dramatic." Luke stiffens at his boyfriend calling him "dramatic", but Noah just rolls his eyes as if to say, 'you know I'm right'. "This is our stag party after all. It's supposed to be fun." Before Luke can argue, Noah leans in and captures his mouth in a soft kiss. After that, it's just music and sweat and lips and there really isn't any more talking for awhile. Which is probably for the best.
Holden sits and watches Luke and Noah dance with an odd gleam in his eye. He's happy. Honestly, he never would have thought that he could be sitting in a gay club, watching his son dancing with – kissing – his boyfriend and be able to say that. But he is, and it's because Luke is happy. Anyone can see it, too – it just radiates from him almost any time Luke even glances at Noah. And while he and Lily have definitely had their ups and downs over the years, Holden knows that feeling.
Jack follows his gaze for a moment before bumping his cousin's shoulder gently. "You okay?"
"Honestly, yes," Holden tells him. "Luke is so…"
"Happy," Jack finishes with a smile.
"Yeah, but it's even more than that," Holden muses. "He's more…sure of himself. More focused. He's really grown up, you know? I'm proud of him."
"Well, you did a good job with him," Jack says fondly. Holden just smiles, continuing to watch the two boys as Noah pretends to dip Luke and Luke bursts out laughing. He hopes that laughter never fades.
Brad, on the other hand, seems less concerned with the guests of honor. He's instead fascinated with Tony and (to Reg's great dismay) seems to have an endless desire to hear Tony's stories, and to ask inappropriate questions about the intricacies of gay sex.
"So is there no foreplay?" Brad is currently asking, elbows on the table as he leans in with rapt attention. "I mean, is it all just 'let's do this' all the time?"
"No, no not at all!" Tony explains eagerly. "Sometimes it can even be all about the foreplay, you know? Like, okay, there was this one time, right? When Reg and I talked Luke and Noah into coming up to my parents' cabin and we –"
"Woah, um, maybe you've had enough, Tony." Reg can't seem to remember if that's the third or fourth tequila sunrise that the waiter has brought over, but either way the alarm bells in Reg's head are now on a constant chorus of danger, danger, danger. He's almost entirely sure that Tony was about to regale Luke's cousin with the story of the time they had all gone up to Tony's cabin and had group sex. He hopes that isn't a featured part of his reception speech.
"So wait," Brad interjects, pulling Tony's attention back away from Reg. "Does that mean that there's –"
Thankfully, Luke and Noah rejoin the table at that particular moment and Reg is saved from having to intervene once again. Luke sits down next to him, looking flushed but in a much better mood than when he first walked in. Noah is about to join them as well, when Holden stands and places a hand on his shoulder.
"Can I have a minute?" he asks, and Noah nods, looking confused but also sort of pleased.
They manage to find a slightly quieter corner, though conversation is still a bit difficult over the music. Noah smiles nervously and Holden once again places a hand on his shoulder.
"I just wanted to say…I. I know that you…well. I'm really glad Luke has you," Holden begins, fumblingly awkwardly in his phrasing.
"Thank you," Noah says, his smile gaining strength.
"And I…I mean, I don't really know if it's my place," Holden presses on, "but I know your dad has never been there for you the way he should have, and I just want you to know that I consider you a son too. I've had the privilege of watching you grow into the man that you are now and I couldn't be more proud of you."
Noah has to take a minute before he responds, and Holden pretends not to notice how watery his eyes have become, especially since Holden's not doing much better himself.
"I…thank you," Noah repeats lamely. Holden smiles and gives his shoulder a slight squeeze before dropping his hand. Noah returns to the table first while Holden stops at the bar for another beer (not for a moment to gather himself). When Noah sits down, he takes Luke's hand and Luke looks up at him questioningly.
"I love you," Noah says.
"I love you too," Luke echos, smiling. "What did my dad say to you?"
Noah shakes his head softly. "It's not important. He's just happy for us. …and I'm really, really lucky."
Holden rejoins them, sitting down next to Jack and Aaron (who's just brushed off yet another would-be suitor). Luke takes a moment to look across the table at his odd (and loving) family gathered there. "Me too," he says with feeling. He looks further down the table to find Tony whispering something into Reg's ear that's making Reg blush profusely, and instead of feeling the exasperation of before, Luke feels…grateful.
"Hey Tony!" he calls out, drawing Reg and Tony's attentions away from each other for a moment. Noah eyes him warily, but Luke smiles reassuringly. "I realized I didn't say thank you, you know, for setting this all up. Thanks, man. This is…really great."
Tony grins back at him and throws him a comically large wink before returning his attentions to making Reg squirm. Luke laughs and Noah's hand tightens in his.
Holden watches the exchange with amusement. He notices it all – Luke's discomfort at the beginning of the evening, the way Noah calmed him, the way their hands are clasped even now. He raises his glass and nods his head towards his son. His sons.
"To Luke and Noah!" he says.
"To Luke and Noah!" the table choruses, and when the two lean in to kiss, they look happier than anyone should even have a right to be.
And well...it's the same look they share on their wedding day.