Daniel had gotten Arty’s signature from some mail he found around and sitting in bed, he painted over the black scribble on the bottom of the man’s thermos.
Sitting against his wall, his knees up, he looked at the signature and painted r in white paint, matching the writing.
A-r-t-y. The thermos read Arty again, in the man’s nice penmanship that Daniel had copied. The teen climbed out of bed, putting the paint and paintbrush on his desk before taking the thermos to his closet, where he set it upside down on the top shelf to dry.
He shut his closet doors and turned back to his desk, walking over to take up the paint supplies and take them back to the art room.
It was almost dinner time. Johnathon and Shelly had come in the morning and left at noon, and since then Arty had been cleaning the storage room, a little uncomfortable with its state after what Johnathon had said.
Daniel left the art room downstairs, going to the kitchen. When he was there, he grabbed the loaf of bread and some peanut butter; walking to the fridge, he got the grape jelly before snagging a butter knife and plate from the strainer. Taking everything to the table, he opened the bread bag and got two slices, putting them on the plate. He opened the peanut butter jar and started smearing it on a slice of bread with the dull knife. Then he wiped the blade clean with a paper towel before getting some jelly and spreading it over the other bread slice.
Twisting the bread bag to wrap it closed, he looked at the kitchen doorway when he heard soft pitterpattying. Geil came into the room, walking straight to the table like he was on a mission. Daniel raised an eyebrow at him.
“Hi, Danul,” Geil said, climbing into his chair. Daniel watched him while closing the bread bag. He ultimately decided not to answer, putting the bread down and closing the peanut butter and jelly jars.
“I’m hungry,” the boy sounded again. Daniel picked up the bread and jars, walking away to put them all up.
“Can I have a sandich?”
“Sandwich.” Daniel looked back at Geil, who was looking at the teen’s sandwich. The dark brunette rolled his eyes and put the stuff up before going back to the table, sitting down.
“Are you wanting mine?” he asked the child, looking at the boy’s light hair.
Geil looked up at Daniel and smiled, showing his growing teeth. “Can it have it?”
Daniel put his cheek on his hand, shrugging. “Are you allergic to peanuts?”
Geil nodded, his face getting sour. “Daddy says I can’t have peanuts.”
“Okay then, you can have it.” Daniel slid the plate to Geil, the boy perking up.
“Thank you, Daniel,” he said through a child’s smile before picking up the sandwich. Daniel watched him open his mouth to take a bite, bringing the food to his lips. Geil almost took a bite when Daniel suddenly put his hand out, putting his fingers against the child’s mouth to stop the sandwich from being eaten. Geil laughed like he was being messed with.
“You can’t have this one, it’s mine,” Daniel said, taking the sandwich from the child. Now Geil was confused.
“...I can’t have it?”
“No, not this one.” Daniel took the sandwich with him while he left the table to get the bread again, opening the fridge for some ham and cheese.
“You’re still sick, you need something warm,” the teen said, getting some butter. Geil lay his head on the table with a pout.
Putting everything down on the counter, Daniel took a bite of his sandwich, using one hand to get two slices of bread. He finished his own sandwich before buttering the new slices and putting them on a hot skillet to fry, butter side up. When the slices were toasted, he flipped them, the butter against the hot pan making a loud sizzling sound that made Geil sit up.
Putting the cheese on the hot bread, Daniel pulled some ham from the container and lay it over the shredded cheese. Then he put one bread over the other and cooked them, flipping the sandwich once, making sure the outside was dark and golden.
Turning the stove off, Daniel picked the sandwich up with his spatula and put it on a fresh plate, taking it to Geil, who bounced in his seat with a squeal of excitement.
“Sit still or you’ll fall. Don’t choke, either.” Daniel grabbed his own plate, taking it to the sink to wash it and the knife before putting them in the strainer to dry. Leaving to put up everything else, he could hear Geil humming and eating the sandwich at the table.
He decided to make another ham and cheese sandwich, taking it and a glass of of lemonade upstairs to the storage room, where Arty was making noises inside.
Knocking, Daniel peeked inside. “Arty?”
Arty looked at him from the table, which he was cleaning up. He had a few boxes empty and sitting flat against a wall, the room becoming more spacious. “Hey,” he smiled at Daniel, “What’s up?”
Daniel stepped into the room with the food and drink, taking them to Arty. “I thought you’d be hungry,” the teen said. Arty ruffled Daniel’s hair, smiling at him.
“Well thanks, Daniel! It looks good,” the man took the dishes and put them on the table, dusting his hands on his pants. Looking at Daniel, he motioned. “Do you want to hang out in here with me?” he asked, leaning his back against the table. Daniel shrugged and sat on a box.
Arty took the sandwich to take a bite, waving it at Daniel. “That’s good!” he said through his bite. Daniel smiled.
Daniel sat quietly, watching Arty as the man ate. The older brunette crossed his legs at his ankles, looking around the room while eating, seeing how much work really needed to be done.
“This is all stuff from my childhood home; I didn’t want to leave anything with my mom,” Arty stated, glancing at Daniel. The teen looked around at things.
“Why did you never unpack it?”
“I was in college, and then I was working. And then we adopted Geil.”
“When did you adopt him?” Daniel asked, leaning forward on his knees. Arty tapped his chin.
“Hm… he was almost two. Don’t be upset about your first day with my mom, she did that when we adopted Geil, too.”
“Could I ask you something of your parents?” Daniel asked and Arty nodded, shrugging.
Daniel stood up and left the room, prompting Arty to follow him. They ended up walking to Geil’s room, which confused Arty just a bit, until Daniel continued to the child’s bed, where the photo of Arty and his dad was on the nightstand.
Arty hummed. “You want to ask me about my dad?”
“Only if you don’t mind,” Daniel said, sitting on Geil’s bed. Arty exhaled before going after and sitting beside Daniel on the bed.
“My dad...” he reached out to grab the photo, looking at it. Daniel watched the nightstand, Arty sitting close enough for the teen to feel his body warmth.
“Can you guess how old I am in this picture?” Arty asked. Daniel looked at the photo.
Arty laughed a little. “No, but close. Twelve. This was taken a few months before my dad died- car crash.”
“It’s okay, it was a long time ago. Here,” Arty tapped Daniel’s knee before turning on the bed and lying on his stomach. Daniel followed pursuit, lying on his stomach beside Arty. The man held the picture over the edge of the bed, looking at it again.
“I don’t think my mom ever really cared about him, and my little brother was too young to know him that much. He was nice, though. He’d take me around on his motorcycle and we’d get free drinks from the town quick-stop. ...What about your family? Have any stories for me?” Arty looked at Daniel, who watched him.
“...My dad let me search for the basil, but I couldn’t find it.”
Arty smiled. “That’s a no, then, huh? Mysterious Daniel, so… mysterious.”
“Why do you think your mom didn’t like your father?”
“He liked to drink, among other things. My mom wanted to be noticed. I’m… glad he wasn’t around to see my brother. He really liked him, you know? ‘Little baby of the family…” He set the picture on the floor, the frame standing it up. Then he looked at Daniel, ruffling the teen’s hair.
“Don’t let me get you down, sorry about that. I just don’t talk about my family often,” the man said and offered Daniel a smile. The teen looked into Arty’s blue eyes.
“Why did you adopt me?” he asked.
Arty shook his head lightly. “To give someone a chance. It was really sad here, with all of our family history. Jack said once that it’s like we’re cursed, or something,” the man rolled onto his back, looking at Daniel, “I guess I wanted to prove him wrong.”
Daniel lightly touched Arty’s shoulder, looking over the man’s light face. The teen dipped down a little bit, looking at Arty’s lips. The man smiled some.
“What are you doing?” he asked, feeling Daniel’s breath ghosting over his face. Daniel looked back into Arty’s eyes, that were watching his in wonder.
Then the bedroom door opened.
“Arty, are you in here?” Jack sounded, coming into the bedroom. Daniel reached off of the bed to grab the picture, sitting up on the mattress and putting it on the nightstand, as though that’s what he were doing the whole time. Arty sat up, looking at Jack.
“Hey, you’re home early,” he said as the man walked over, a little quickly.
“I got the promotion,” Jack said, smiling. Arty jumped up from the bed, throwing his arms around Jack’s neck.
Daniel watched the two kiss, Arty obviously excited.
“No more working all night!”
“Well, there is one thing,” Jack said. Arty groaned.
“A business trip- two days, come with me?”
Arty blinked, clearly taken aback. Daniel looked at the wall, putting his chin in his hand.
Jack grabbed Arty’s arms, watching him. “two days. We leave tomorrow morning, stay in a hotel; they want me to represent the company at a board meeting.” He caressed Arty’s skin lightly when the man didn’t say anything. “It’s just a few days, please?”
“You want us to leave the kids alone for two days?”
“No, we’ll hire that sitter- Jenny.”
“We’ll hire Jessica. She’s good, right? Don’t you like her?”
Daniel stood up, stretching his arms. “You two should go,” he said, looking over at the two. “It’s a good impression, Arty; you want him to keep the promotion, don’t you?”
Arty sighed, looking at Daniel. Then he rolled his gaze back to Jack before nodding. “Okay.”
Sitting at the lunch table consisted of Laura, Daniel, and Joe.
Joe didn’t do or say anything, just eating his mashed potatoes and chicken steak. Laura looked at Daniel, obviously confused.
She mouthed “What’s he doing here” to Daniel, the brunette watching her. He simply shrugged.
“Joe, do you want my juice?” he asked, looking at the dark haired teen. Joe looked at him and shrugged, reaching over the table to take it.
Daniel looked back at Laura, who was even more confused now.
“Okay!” She leaned on the table, looking at the two. “What’s going on here?”
Joe opened the bottle of juice, drinking from it. “Can I sit with you guys?”
“Well… yeah, but-”
“He just wants to sit with us, now,” Daniel said. Laura huffed.
“Joe, I was looking for you!” Kaiden sounded, walking over to the table. He stopped once there and looked at Daniel and Laura before looking back at Joe. “What are you doing over here?”
“Sitting,” Joe answered.
“...Well, come on; Lonnie brought some stuff from his house we can look at.”
Joe raised an eyebrow at him, closing the lid of the juice. “Like what?”
Kaiden looked at the other two before just motioning to Joe. “...Stuff. Are you coming?”
Kaiden scoffed. “What are you even doing over here? You know he’s a fag, right?” He pointed at Daniel, who crossed his legs under the table. Laura shook her head.
“Kaiden, he’s not gay! Even if he was, why don’t you just go away!” She snapped at Kaiden, who laughed in response, although he sounded unsure, or embarrassed.
“Like, why are you sticking up for him?” he asked. This time, Joe spoke up.
“It’s annoying, Kaiden. Morrison is in the hospital and I don’t want to hang out with you guys when he’s still sick.” Glancing at Daniel, he could see the brunette looking Kaiden over, like he were reading him. Joe looked back at Kaiden. “We’re getting too old to be doing that “fag” shit anymore, anyway.”
Kaiden snorted. “So like, you want to hang out with the freaks now?”
Joe crossed his arms on the table, looking into Kaiden’s hazel eyes. “They’re only freaks if you don’t understand them.”
Kaiden watched Joe for a long time before turning and leaving the table. Once he was out of earshot, Laura gave a long breath.
“Wow. That was… something,” she said, looking at the table. Bringing her gaze up to Joe, she smiled, kindly. “So you’re not gonna be an asshole with them anymore?”
Joe shrugged. “Only if you want me to.” He laughed, making her smile a little more, because despite being smart, kind, and of average appearance, it wasn’t enough to attract many friends. Daniel stood from the table.
“Bell’s about to ring.”
Laura nodded, watching as Joe also got up, picking up his plate. She waved. “I’ll see you guys later.”
“See you,” Daniel said, tapping Joe’s arm for the teen to follow him. Joe waved to Laura.
“Hey man, how was the weekend?” Joe asked Daniel, putting his stuff beside him in art. Daniel shrugged.
“That’s it? Who was that dude you had me call? He called me back yesterday.”
“Mm. Did you answer it?”
Joe laughed. “Hell no, why would I?”
Daniel shrugged again before slumping in his seat, something that Joe immediately marked as out-of-character. The raven haired teen leaned over in his seat to Daniel.
“What’s up?” he asked the brunette. Daniel rolled his eyes to look at Joe. He sighed.
“I have a sitter staying at my house for two days.”
Joe raised an eyebrow. “Why? You’re old enough to watch things.”
“Yes, but I can’t drive to school, now can I?”
“Oh, yeah, I guess not. Do you not like her or something? “Her fondness for watching children is a little disturbing. Driving Geil and I to school, she got a ticket for speeding. And texting.”
“Hm.” Joe looked over Daniel’s pale face before looking at his hair, still dripping at the tips from his shower after gym. He reached out to touch some of the curly locks. “You hair looks black when it’s wet,” he said, dropping his gaze to Daniel’s dark eyes. The brunette moved Joe’s hand away.
“Oh, hey!” Joe sort of scared Daniel from how loud he was, but the brunette kept himself and just sighed.
Joe laughed. “Sorry, I just remembered. I can drive. Like, I have my driver’s permit.” Daniel gave him a look.
“Yeah, I have a permit. I don’t have a car, but my sister let’s me drive around with hers. I could like, drive you to school and stuff.”
“A permit doesn’t mean you can drive when or where you want.”
Daniel shook his head. “It doesn’t matter, she’s already been paid.”
Joe clicked his tongue and shrugged. “Okay. Well, should I come over?”
“Why would you?”
“Support, I guess.”
Joe turned in his seat and crossed his arms, looking at the table. He exhaled through his nose, making Daniel give him a look.
“What’s got you, now?” he asked.
“Nothing. I guess I just… Do you remember last Friday?” Joe looked at Daniel with his blue eyes and the other teen nodded simply.
“...Then, are we not gonna talk about it?”
“Talk of what, Joe? I don’t like riddles.”
Joe huffed, giving Daniel a look of annoyance. The other teen broke into a smile at the noirette’s misfortune. He ended up giving in.
“And what is it you need to talk about? Were the details not clear?”
“No, not that,” Joe leaned close to whisper to Daniel. “...That.”
Daniel closed his eyes for a moment, contemplating. He opened them again and spoke, “You mean, what I did for you, is that it?” Seeing the way Joe looked away shyly, he knew that that’s what the teen was trying to talk about. “What exactly are you asking about that? If it will happen again?” he asked, nudging the noirette when he didn’t look at him.
Joe glanced back at Daniel, lips pressed together. He reached up to run a hand through his dark locks. “...I guess, yeah.”
“Was it really that appealing?” Daniel laughed, making a girl look over from a craft she was working on. Joe gave Daniel a look.
“Daniel, I’m serious,” Joe whispered, looking at the girl. Upon being seen, she looked away. Daniel cleared his throat.
“I don’t know what to make of you. Are you shy, or aggressive, or lost?”
“Alright, I’ll stop teasing you. I need a cellphone.”
“So I can talk to people. Get me a phone, hm?”
Joe gave Daniel a confused look, so Daniel added, “Oh, I forgot: Get me a cellphone, and I’ll treat you.” Joe seemed to understand that, because he looked away and nodded. Daniel rolled his eyes to himself and looked ahead at the classroom.