This is an outtake from Astounding! by Kim Fielding
***This contains spoilers for Astounding!, so read the book first!***
The turkey was roasted perfectly, but John and Carter couldn’t take credit for that. Nor could a supermarket. It had, in fact, been cooked by Chris, who was a friend of Ery and Karl. Via some twists that happened too quickly for Carter to follow, their quiet Thanksgiving for four ended up an enormous meal at the farmhouse where Chris and his partner, Dylan, lived. Of course, Ery and Karl were there, as were Drew and Travis. Freddy and Keith made it too. But so did a somewhat dizzying array of people’s relatives—Dylan’s brother, sister-in law, and niece; a bunch of people who were somehow related to Chris; Ery’s grandmother and parents. Some other people were there too, but Carter had no clue whether they were someone’s kin or just friends.
Chris was an excellent cook and Dylan was the sexiest man Carter had ever laid eyes on—except for his own John, of course. John was always going to be at the top of his lists.
Everyone ate tons of food and laughed and teased. After the pies were gobbled—Dylan’s sister-in-law contributed a blackberry pie that deserved to be memorialized in poetry—Drew and Karl gave an impromptu concert and, with considerable urging from Dylan and Chris, Freddy did a reading from one of his books. Turned out their hosts were big Stonesfire Saga fans.
Among those present, several people were aware of John’s true nature, but they treated him just like anyone else. Just like Karl, who John now knew was a water spirit, and Dylan, who was a goddamn werewolf.
Carter’s life had turned really weird.
But Carter had fun, and John glowed so brightly that even those not in the know should have suspected he wasn’t quite run-of-the-mill. It was a wonderful holiday.
Late in the evening, the guests filed to their cars. Freddy and Keith had turned down Carter’s offer to lend them the Dart; they’d rented something modern and boring instead. It was parked beside John’s Chevy. The four men exchanged hugs, and Keith insisted that John and Carter take one more look at the twin toddlers he and Freddy were hoping to adopt. Both John and Carter stood well back from Keith’s phone as he held it up for them. “Doesn’t it drive you guys nuts to be barred from the Internet? No texting? No Amazon? No streaming video?”
Carter chuckled and wrapped his arm around John’s waist. “The loss of Netflix is a very small price to pay, my friend.”
“Gee, I don’t know if I could give up YouTube and Tumblr for Freddy.”
Freddy pretended to be stricken. “That’s it. Lady Trethayne’s dying as soon as I get to my computer. And when the fans complain, I’m telling them it’s all your fault.”
Keith responded by sticking out his tongue, and then Freddy tickled him. John kissed Carter’s cheek. Carter just sighed, his heart full.
Eventually Freddy steered Keith toward their vehicle. “See you both in the morning. Bring me coffee, Car. Lots and lots of coffee.”
Carter had convinced him to do a Black Friday book signing at Far Out. It was going to be an Event, and everyone was expecting huge crowds. Karl and Drew would be there, playing their guitars, Ery was doing a silent auction of a few of his paintings to benefit a community center for LGBT teens, and some restaurant pal of Ery’s was catering with Polish-Pacific Northwest fusion cuisine. Whatever that was. Tammy was beside herself, especially because she was participating in National Novel Writing Month and had only a few days remaining before she was supposed to finish writing her book.
Figuring the least he could do was supply caffeine, Carter grinned. “Done.”
“Remind me why I agreed to this again?”
Carter smiled at his friend. “Because you love me.”
“Ah.” Freddy’s eyes crinkled. “I do, you know. You’re pretty lovable. When you’re not eviscerating my prose.”
“Sometimes your prose really needs eviscerating.”
The drive back into Portland was nice. John was behind the wheel, Carter’s hand on his right thigh. Light rain began to patter on the windshield, and if Carter closed his eyes and inhaled, his head filled with the scents of turkey, cranberry sauce, and mint.
With his eyes still shut, he asked, “What if I’m dreaming? What if I passed out drunk after writing a toxic rejection letter, and when I wake up I’m on my crappy futon in my crappy apartment in Seattle?”
“Then get dressed, brush your teeth, and drive to Portland to apologize to that poor author.”
Smiling, Carter dozed in a carb-fueled stupor.