“Guys, did you know sharks have two penises?”
Ty coughed, choking on his Dr. Pepper. “What?”
Kelly shrugged. “Sharks have two—”
“I heard you just fine!” Ty said in a rush.
“Why do you know that?” Nick asked, smirking. “Seriously, why would you possibly need to know that? Ever?”
Grinning, Kelly flopped into his seat and opened up his own soda. “Because I am a fount of interesting trivia.”
“And you probably watched Shark Week while high again,” Digger said, chuckling.
“That’s beside the point,” Kelly said.
Ty frowned. “I don’t remember that part,” he said, cocking his head in thought.
“It was late night stuff,” Kelly told him. “Couldn’t sleep, turned it on, and hey, shark sex.”
“Oh God, save us all,” Owen said, rubbing at his eyes. “I’m way too sober for this.”
“No, it was really cool!” Kelly insisted. “They still only use one at a time, and they do this thing where—”
“Nick, make him stoooop,” Ty whined, leaning into his best friend.
Nick laughed, shoving him off with a gentle pop of his arm. “You know Doc. Once he’s got it in his head to educate us, we’re stuck.”
“What possible reason could we have for needing to know about sex between sharks?”
Zane sat back, watching the two of them argue about whether or not they really needed to know whatever Kelly had been about to explain. He felt a warmth in his heart that filled him so full he ached, but in all the best ways. Nick and Ty were better. Not perfect; Zane didn’t think they’d ever be quite what they were before they’d been discharged from the Marines. But they were a long way from where they’d been two years ago, when Nick had told Ty he didn’t know if he could still be his friend.
Ty’s hands were waving exaggeratedly as he argued his point, and Nick glanced at Zane. Zane smiled softly, knowing he’d been caught, but he also had a right to stare—he’d married Ty, after all, only a few months ago. It still felt so new and so strange, wearing a wedding ring again. Objectively, he hadn’t been without one for all that long: he’d worn Becky’s ring for sixteen years, as opposed to the four he spent between taking it off and having Ty slip a new one on. But regardless, the ring felt new and heavy and warmer than he remembered his first one being, and he couldn’t help the smile he got as he watched Ty turn his own around and around on his finger—a habit all married men seemed to pick up at some point, he’d noticed. Ty looked over at him, smiling. Zane nodded slightly, picking up his soda can and finishing the rest of it.
“Fine,” Kelly said, hands in the air. “But you remember this when you go on Jeopardy! and lose everything because you didn’t want to listen to me talk about shark cocks.”
Ty groaned. “That ain’t right man,” he said. “Why you gotta put that image in my head?”
“Because Doc loves to see us squirm,” Owen said. Ty held up his soda can as a toast, then took a drink.
“Well if I really wanted to see you squirm I’d talk about last night when Nick madufnnhgm—” Kelly was cut off by Nick’s hand over his mouth.
“Kels, you talk too much,” Nick said with a grin. Kelly’s eyes sparkled.
“And I believe I now owe Mr. O’Flaherty a drink,” Digger said. “For sparing us the details of his sordid love life.”
Ty leaned into Zane’s side. “You OK, baby?” he asked, voice pitched low.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Ty worried at his lip, and Zane hummed. “Oh. The mentions of Kelly being high and owing Nick a drink?” Ty nodded. “Well it’s not like they’re doing this in front of me. I like to think I’m strong enough to hear the mention of it without having to fend off cravings.”
Ty smiled at him. “I know. And you are. I just… I worry.”
Zane nodded. “I’m OK.”
“Good.” Ty turned back to see Owen and Digger standing. “You guys heading out?”
Owen nodded. “Yeah. Thanks for having us over though.” He reached out and shook Ty’s hand, then Zane’s. “Congrats on the store, Garrett. It looks great.”
Zane grinned. “Thanks. Couldn’t have done it without Ty.” He looped his arm around Ty’s shoulders, turning his smile towards him.
“God, get a room,” Digger said.
“We have one,” Ty said. “You’re standing in front of it.”
Digger laughed loud and deep, leaning forward to pat Ty’s shoulder. “You’re OK, Hillbilly.”
Ty leaned back, his head resting on Zane’s arm. “See ya later, Digger.”
Digger nodded, tossed him a lazy salute, and went for the door.
“Wait up, guys,” Kelly called, standing. He threw a nod to Zane and Ty. “The store’s fantastic. Congrats.”
“Thank you,” Zane said, holding up his soda. Kelly bent to kiss Nick. “Come on, babe. Let them celebrate their first week properly.”
Nick’s nose wrinkled, but he smiled. “You’re probably right,” he said. Standing, he looked over at Ty and Zane. “Seriously, congratulations,” he said, holding out his hand.
Ty stood, pushing his hand out of the way and hugging him tight. Nick’s face pressed into his shoulder, and Zane felt like he was intruding by watching. He looked to the side and saw Kelly watching them, a smile on his face. Ty’s voice was low enough as he spoke to Nick that Zane couldn’t make out what was being said, but he could hazard a guess as to the nature of the conversation. Nick was nodding against Ty’s shoulder, and their arms tightened just a bit before Nick stepped back, holding Ty’s biceps.
“I really am proud to know you both,” he said.
Ty swallowed. “Love you, Nick.”
Nick patted his cheek. “Love you too, Beaumont.”
Zane stood and shook Nick’s hand. “Thank you,” he said, trying to put everything into those two words.
“You’re welcome,” Nick said, and pulled him into a one armed hug. “We’ll see you both tomorrow.” He moved towards the door, Kelly right in front of him. They both tossed up a wave as they stepped out, and Ty moved to the window to watch as they all spilled out onto the street below.
Zane watched him for a moment, then moved to join him. “This was nice.”
“Yeah, it was.” Ty smiled at him. “So. First week as a small business owner.” He wrapped his arms around Zane’s neck, linking his fingers together. “How’s it feel?”
“Feels like I’ve won a lottery,” Zane said. “A job I love, friends to share my time with, you.” He smiled. “What more could I want, really?”
Ty bit his lower lip as he beamed at Zane. “I have an idea,” he whispered.
Zane’s heart raced. “Lead the way, doll.”
Taking his hands, Ty walked backward toward their bedroom.
Ty walked out of the bathroom, tongue running over his freshly brushed teeth. Zane smiled as he watched him move towards the bed. When he was peeling back the covers from his side, Ty paused, and looked up. Narrowing his eyes, he said, “I can practically hear you thinking it, Zane.”
“Thinking what?” Zane asked, looking wide eyed at Ty. “I can’t imagine what you’d be referring to.”
“Right.” Ty slid into bed with a rueful smile. Zane opened his mouth. “One comment about how useful having two cocks of your own would be, and I swear, you’ll sleep on the couch for a month.”
Zane shut his mouth.
“That’s what I thought,” Ty said, trying not to laugh. He turned and kissed Zane softly. “You’re so easy.”
“For you? Always.”
Ty did laugh that time.
“And you love me.”
“I do,” Ty admitted.
“You love me so much you bought me a bookstore as a proposal,” Zane said, poking Ty’s side.
Ty swatted at his hand, but he was still grinning. “Yeah, I did do that.”
“A bookstore where we could stock all kinds of books.”
“Like books on tigers.”
Ty’s eyes narrowed again.
The muscles in Ty’s jaw clenched, and Zane licked his lips as he fought back a few giggles.