It didn’t surprise Titus that Riveen walked in the house without bothering to knock. Titus was just glad that he and Draven had showered and gotten dressed minutes earlier, because he was certain that them being naked wouldn’t have stopped Riveen or embarrassed him.
“Aw, you two are so cute!” Riveen said in a syrup-sweet voice. “All cuddling and smelling like sex.”
“We showered,” Titus informed him, trying not to blush—to no avail.
Riveen smirked. “Still smells like spunk. Did y’all get it on the couch or something? Or did y’all just come and come and come and co—“
“Rive,” Draven growled, striding toward his brother. “I swear to the gods, I’ll toss you down the stairs if you don’t behave.”
Riveen didn’t appear to be the least bit intimidated as he rolled his eyes. “Yeah, right. Let me just point out that knowing y’all had sex and I didn’t is punishment enough for my smart mouth.”
Titus shook his head. “There are so many things wrong with your statement, I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe with, that’s not an apology.”
“Duh.” Riveen squealed and ducked when Draven swiped at him and all but pranced around to the other side of the room. “Missed me, missed me, now you gotta—well, wrong state for that next part. We’re backwards in Texas, but not that backwards. Some of the time.”
“Hey, don’t mess with Texas. It has some governmental issues, but the people are generally great,” Titus said.
Riveen gave another eye roll. “Calm your tits, Titus. Heh. I like that. You know if you take the U out of your name, you get tits?”
Draven growled and started for Riveen. Titus figured the brothers needed to blow off some steam or do whatever it was brothers did. Pick on each other, apparently. “I’m going to get the enchiladas going.” He needed food after all calories he’d burned off coming his brains out. “You two-- don’t break anything.”
“Just gonna break him,” Draven called out.
Riveen cackled and Titus left them to it. He had everything ready to make what he called ‘cheater’s enchiladas’. It was probably a casserole, because he was too lazy to soften the tortillas, then stuff and roll them. Instead, he used a baking dish and layered his favorite brand of beanless chili, then tortillas, Rotel, and lots of cheese. He kept repeating that pattern until the dish was filled, which didn’t take long.
Titus crossed over to the other cabinets and took the tin foil out of the drawer—and realized there were no more sounds of horsing around coming from the living room. Instead, he caught the low murmur of voices, and he wondered what the brothers were discussing that they didn’t want him to overhear.
Oh. Titus stopped mid-step and almost face-planted. They’re talking about me. Is… is Draven telling him—Titus gulped and felt shame wash over him. Of course Draven would tell Riveen about Joel. Draven and Riven were close despite all the sniping and teasing. Or maybe because of it, Titus didn’t know which.
Titus forced himself to move, to finish walking back to the dish he’d been readying for the oven. It would have been nice if Draven had asked me if I was okay with him telling Riveen beforehand. Is this a betrayal of trust? Did I ask him not to tell anyone? Should I have had to? Where’s the line between familial loyalty and—
“Dude, you’re gonna kill the tinfoil.”
Titus startled at Riveen’s voice. “What?” He blinked and saw that he’d crushed the foil he’d pulled out. Titus didn’t even remember unrolling it. “Oh. Uh.”
Draven was at his side in an instant. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he whispered, his breath warm against Titus’s ear.
Titus glanced at him then started unballing the foil. “Nothing.”
“Titus.” Draven touched his lower back. “Tell me.”
Titus pressed his lips together.
Draven looked at his brother. “Rive, give us some privacy.”
“No fucking,” Riveen said before muttered something Titus couldn’t quite make out.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” Draven demanded, then added, “please.”
Titus still didn’t’ know if he had a right to be mad or not. “I heard you two talking a minute or two ago.”
Draven stiffened beside him. “Fuck.”
Titus forced himself to spread the foil over the top of the pan then place the enchiladas in the oven. All the while, Draven stood rigid like he’d been turned to stone.
Maybe I’m making too much of it. Would I have said he could tell Riveen? Well, I think I’d have have agreed after I had time to consider it. What am I upset over? That he didn’t ask me first, even though I would have said yes?
When he thought about it like that, Titus felt like a jerk. He sighed and turned to lean against the counter so that he was facing Draven. Titus didn’t want anger or whatever this uncomfortable feeling was that was happening between them.
“Hey.” He nudged Draven’s foot with his toes. “It’s okay. I’m not mad.”
Draven shook his head and finally looked at him. “Not mad?” He blinked. “You’re not freaked out, either?”
Titus went for full-course honesty. “Well, I was at first. I don’t want you to have to keep secrets from your brother, though. I do wish you’d have asked me before you told him about Joel.”
Draven frowned. “What? Before I—“ His eyes went wide. “Oh, no! No, I didn’t—I wouldn’t, not without discussing it with you. I thought you heard us?”
Then it was Titus’s turn to frown. “What were you talking about? I thought…” He felt like an idiot. “Crap. I couldn’t actually hear what was being said, just murmurs, like I wasn’t supposed to be able to hear. I assumed, like an idiot, you were telling Riveen about… about Joel.”
Draven shook his head. “But I wasn’t. We were talking about family stuff.” He rubbed his face with his hands. “Shit. Shit!”
Titus got a bad feeling in the pit of his belly. “Draven, it’s okay. I don’t have to know everything you and Riveen talk about. I made an incorrect assumption, and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad or to intrude.”
“The thing is…” Draven took a deep breath. “The thing is—“
“Is it safe to come into the kitchen now?” Riveen bounded into the room. Draven grumbled and Titus patted his arm.
“It’s safe,” Titus said. “Everything’s okay.”
Riveen smiled but it wasn’t quite his usual one. “Oh? So… nothing’s… shifted between you two?”
“What does that mean, even?” Titus asked as Draven snarled, “Rive!”
Riveen held up his hands as if asking them to stop, though Titus didn’t know what they were supposed to stop doing. “Okay, okay, I just worry about you two lovebirds. Y’all are my inspiration, so you aren’t allowed to do…whatever that was y’all did. No weirdness. Only love.”
Only love. Titus’s gaze tangled with Draven’s, and yes, he knew he loved the man despite the short time they’d known each other.
He wanted to say the words, but not with Riveen right there. Titus slipped his hand in one of Draven’s instead. Later, once Riveen is gone. He’d tell Draven that he’d fallen in love with him.