Caelan’s voice softened a little. “Zeke, you can tell me anything, you know that.”
“I know,” he whispered in response, averting his eyes to anywhere but his boyfriend.
“Come on, we’ll go out for a walk. We can talk out there.”
Caelan held his hand out to Zeke, who took it after a moment. Beth smiled encouragingly at Zeke when he looked to her.
“Oh, Zeke, can I talk to you for a second before you go?” she asked him.
He glanced to Caelan briefly, who smiled. “Yeah, sure.”
He released Caelan’s hand and walked out into the hallway with her.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“Do you have the ring?” she whispered as quietly as she could.
“I always have it with me so he can’t find it. Why?”
“You said that you’d give it to him after you told him. If you’re telling him now, you should give it to him. Sooner’s better than later, don’t you think?”
He sighed quietly and ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
“Good. Now, promise me you won’t come home until you’re engaged and happy.”
Zeke smiled, almost nervously. “Okay, I promise.”
“Good,” Beth said, hugging him tightly.
Caelan came out into the hallway a moment later and Zeke took his hand again, smiling at him. Caelan smiled back and glanced at Beth briefly before leading Zeke out of the house by his hand, looking back at Beth over his shoulder. She smiled at him reassuringly. She knew. She knew whatever it was Zeke was going to tell him, and that hurt. Caelan had known Zeke since he was born, had always looked up to him, had given him his heart when he was only eleven and Zeke had told Beth whatever it was.
Zeke seemed to notice. “I had to tell her. I knew she wouldn't flip on me.”
Caelan looked up at him as he shut the door behind them.
“Is it really that bad? What do you think I'm going to do?”
“I don't know,” Zeke whispered. “I've always been too scared to tell you.”
“It can't be that bad...”
Zeke shrugged and looked down at the concrete, his grip on Caelan's hand loosening.
“Hey,” Caelan murmured. He stopped walking and made Zeke turn to face him. He took his face in his hands and strokes his cheeks gently. “How bad can it be?”
“I just don't want you to freak out, that's all,” Zeke muttered, his beautiful blue eyes filling with tears, one spilling over. Caelan wiped it away.
“Are you secretly straight and you've been stringing me along for the past eleven years?” Caelan asked, smiling, trying to make a joke out of it.
Zeke laughed a little. “No, not that. Never that...”
Caelan looked up into his eyes for a few moments before pulling him into a tight hug, resting his head on Zeke's chest.
“I love you. You know that. If I love you enough to think about looking after Lilac as our own, do you think this is enough to scare me off?”
“Just promise me you'll listen to the whole thing.”
“Of course!” Caelan looked up at him. “Of course I'll listen to all of it. What else am I going to do?”