Payton sighed as she erased the hand once again, Damn it, even as a cartoon hands are hard to draw... she grumbled internally, her cheeks pink as she made her sixth attempt.
Well... hopefully Ian likes it... So long as I don't keep struggling with this stupid hand... Damn it finger, you're not supposed to be that thin!
The small girl was curled up in her room, laptop in front of her and drawing tablet in her lap as she drew Ian's requested Christmas present. It had taken a lot of thinking... Payton could never really decide what she wanted off the top of her head, she needed to be given suggestions and options first... but she finally made her decision.
It's pretty simple... but...
Three sharp raps knocked at her door.
"Payton?" Ian's voice called through the door. "Are you decent?"
She jumped a bit in surprise but quickly saved and closed the drawing, unplugging her drawing tablet and tucking it under her pillow, "Yep!"
"Darn," the door cracked open, Ian's head peeking through. He glanced around before before walking through. "I was hoping you'd say 'no.'" In his hand was a thin stack of papers, fresh off his printer.
Payton chuckled as she moved her laptop aside, "How can I help you sir perv?"
"Actually, you could help me make a decision," Ian held out the stack of pages, sitting on the side of her bed, "I'm looking for a new summer home, and I've got it down to three options."
"A new summer home, huh?"
Ian grinned and started laying out the pages on her bed, facing her, "Well, I could be living there in the summer, depending on how things go with the landlord tomorrow," he shrugged. He organized the pages into three piles, each with a picture on top. Payton recognized them as real estate listings, all from secondary sites for sub-leases and student networks.
"One's a duplex about a block from here," he recited. "Two bed, two bath, pet-friendly."
He leaned over to tap the second stack. "This one's an apartment just off campus. Two bed, one bath, a little older than our place right now, but it's pet friendly except for dogs over some size, I think."
He tossed the third stack over in front of her. "The third is a house about halfway between campus and your restaurant. Tiny place: two bed, one-and-a-half bath, and the current tenants got evicted for not maintaining the yard and keeping two loud dogs in the back. It's older, but looks like it's in decent shape."
Payton tapped her chin as she looked over the three options, her lips pursed, "The duplex is definitely the nicest.... what's the rent?"
"Your rent wouldn't change," Ian shrugged.
She glanced up at him, "What does that mean?"
Ian coughed, focusing on the pages.
Payton noticed the rent on each one was blacked out in sharpie.
"It means don't worry about it."
The small girl pouted, "That is not reassuring..."
Ian sighed. "Okay, one of the options is technically cheaper than this place, and one is the same price," he relented. "If you pick the cheap one, that's fine, we'll adjust rates accordingly... I just didn't want cost to be your deciding factor."
Payton let out a breath. The duplex was so tempting... they would only have to deal with one direct neighbor, it'd still be a full, though small house, they would have a yard, and it looked to be in good condition....
The second option was the least appealing... she had been apprehensive when she first began searching for an apartment after deciding to leave her dad's house because you never knew when you would get one or many crazy neighbors. And, if dogs were allowed, that more than likely meant there would be barking.
The third house wasn't as nice as the duplex, but it was still a good option. Not to mention they wouldn't have any immediate neighbors, which was perfect considering how... noisy... their activities could be... The yard was a mess, but she, and she was sure Ian also, knew how to work a lawn mower and rake some leaves.
"The third house... were the dogs an issue because they were loud, or because they had the dogs at all?"
"Pet-friendly," Ian nodded. "But apparently they didn't house-train them or teach them not to bark all night... neighbors called animal control on them, but they wouldn't get rid of the dogs."
Payton nodded. She assumed this house was likely the same price as the duplex. But, better to pay a possibly high price for a house of their own than only half of one, "Okay... let's check it out."
"I thought you might say that," Ian grinned, sliding pages away until a stapled packet at the bottom came into view, "So I took the liberty of printing a sub-lease agreement and filling it out. With my parents as co-signers, it's a guarantee."
She linked in surprise, "So... we're just waiting for a yes?"
"Well, I need your signature," Ian shrugged, "And we won't turn it in until we know whether we're getting evicted or not. But basically, it's a guaranteed back-up if our landlord decides not to let us stay."
Payton nodded, smiling, "Where do I sign?"
Ian folded over to the last page and offered her a pen from his pocket, "You know, while you're signing things," his voice drifted to the playful end of the spectrum, "I'm working on a contract you might be interested in..."
"Let's save the fifty Shades of Grey contract until after we know whether we're getting kicked out or not." Payton laughed as she accepted the pen, signing her name wherever it was indicated on the paper.
"Ooohkaaaay," Ian mock-groaned, collecting the stacks of pages. "If I have to."
She chuckled, but sobered quickly after, "So... when do we tell him?"
Ian was confused for a moment, frowning until he realized. "The landlord?" he shrugged, unconcerned. "We can swing by the office tomorrow morning, if you want. You go down in costume, we tell him the story, and if he doesn't like it we'll submit the sublease paperwork in the afternoon."
Payton nodded slowly, "Okay... sounds like a plan."
Ian set the papers aside and shifted over beside her, kissing the top of her head gently, "Hey, it's going to be fine," he whispered. "We'll do this together, and we're covered no matter which way it goes. Honestly, I kind of hope we get evicted."
"Because this new place? It'd be like... a fresh start, you know?" His arm snaked around her to give her a gentle squeeze. "It'd be nice... having a place that was definitely ours."
She blushed and smiled softly, sliding into his lap, "Yeah... no hiding or worrying." she whispered.
After a moment, her smile shifted to a playful one, "Plus... you won't have to gag me anymore."
"Don't count on that," Ian grinned down at her. "I need to be able to hear when I'm eighty, you know."
Payton pouted, "Just what are you trying to say?"
Ian's fingers drifted down to where her thigh met her hip, "I plan on making you scream my name," he whispered. "A lot... and I don't want you having to hold back."
Payton wet bright red, squirming in his lap. She attempted to give a response, but could only make a small squeak.
Ian couldn't resist, he collapsed back on the bed, laughing at her flustered expression, "Oh Payton," he managed between laughing, "What's going on in your head? I just meant you'd be yelling at me for leaving my socks in the living room..."
She blinked and pouted, reaching out to poke his nose, "Hmph... I was going to make a cake for our little Christmas, but you can forget about that now mister!"
"Aww," Ian pouted, sitting up to wrap his arms around her, pulling her down with him. "I'm sorry, does this make it better?" He started kissing her neck, then below the ear, up to the top of her head...
Payton giggled and squirmed in his arms, "Hmm... a little bit..."
Ian laughed and rolled them over until Payton was on her back. He let to and flung a leg over her, twisting to straddle her hips and lean over her, "How about this?" he grinned, as he ducked down to press his lips into hers.
As he did, his right hand drifted up above her head, where her tablet lay...
She intercepted his lips by pressing her finger to them, while her other hand grasped his sneaking wrist, "Ah ah ah... no touchy the tablet."
Ian's bottom lip jutted out, though his eyes were still bright with mischief, "Pweeease?" he begged. "Just one little peak.."
And then Ian went limp, squishing the small girl beneath him.
"Ack!" she squeaked, wiggling under him with a whine, "Iaaaaaan!"
"Oh Payton," he whispered pseudo-seductively. "Screaming my name already. What will the neighbors think?"
Payton blushed and pinched his side.
He jumped, caught off-guard, "Hey, no pinching!"
She laughed as she sat up, "Oh, but squishing is legal?"
"Absolutely," he sat up beside her, grinning. "Squishing is affectionate!"
"I couldn't breathe!" she laughed.
"Funny, you managed to scream alright," he stuck his pinkie in his ear as though cleaning it out, mock-wincing.
"No cake for you."
Ian just pouted at her, all trembling bottom lip and wide, begging eyes.
"Hey, that's my thing!" she pouted back.
They both sat there, pouting at each other, trying not to smile...
And then Ian stuck out his pointer finger and advanced it slowly, pointedly towards Payton's ribs...
She swatted his hand, "Heeey, no cheating!"
"Fine... but I call the corner pieces."
"Deal!" Ian hopped off the bed, smiling victoriously as he grabbed up the papers.
"Have fun drawing," he called as he made his escape before she could renege on the promise.
Payton shook her head with a smile, attaching her tablet and settling back to draw again, Living entirely alone with that goofball... it'll be interesting...
And hopefully he doesn't go overboard filling the basement with pervy things for our sessions.
The balding, heavyset man stared at her across the table.
"You've been living under a fraudulent lease," Mitch, the apartment manager and landlord, summarized with a furrowed brow,
"Pretending to be a guy this whole time..." his gaze slid to Ian. "And you knew about this?"
Payton sat, looking down at her lap....
Particularly, the wig she held in her hand.
"He didn't know in the beginning. He was unaware of my real gender when he let me in."
Mitch wasn't a mean person. He did his job, he managed people, and sometimes he had to do things as a businessman he didn't like.
But this one was eating at him.
"Miss Payton, I understand your situation," he offered, brow furrowed. "And believe me, I'm not unsympathetic. Not everyone has a home life they can count on."
He leaned forward, steepling his fingers.
"But if you need assistance, there are safer, better ways... I can give you the information for a half-dozen agencies that will put you up with housing short-term, help you get established-"
"Thank you, but that won't be necessary. Ian and I prepared for this... we already have a place that's pretty much ready to accept us." she assured with a smile.
That caught him by surprise.
"We?" He glanced between them, then leaned forward further, "Miss, it's not my business, but are you sure that's wise? It would be safer if you-"
"Ian and I have been through a lot together... he's helped me out a lot with my home issues, and we've been seeing each other for the last month. There's no reason to worry." She paused to grin.
"Plus, I can kick some ass if he get's out of hand."
The man blanched, "Well, despite how you feel about this situation, I'm afraid I have policies in place for a reason, and I can't knowingly exclude you from them without potentially causing issues for myself in the long run," he shook his head, "Thank you for coming to me with this... but I'm afraid I'm going to request you both move out immediately for knowingly and willingly violating your lease agreements." He paused to pull out a stack of paperwork from under his desk.
"Of course, it will take me a few days to process that request formally, and after that period you are legally entitled to a two-week period in which to find a new home and remove your belongings. Anything left after that point is forfeit and will be either disposed of or sold at auction. Your deposits are considered forfeit. Do you both understand?"
"Yes." Payton nodded.
"Yes sir," Ian agreed.
"I'm sorry, you two," Mitch sighed. "I wish you luck at your next place."
They both stood to leave before the manager called out to Payton.
"Miss Payton?" he paused. "If you reconsider, I'll have the shelter contact information available anytime. It's a safe place."
She gave him a small smile, "Thank you. I'll keep that in consideration."
Ian held the door for them, and together they left the office, both sad and a little excited.
"Well," Ian slipped his hand into hers. "I guess it's a new chapter."
Payton smiled and gave his hand a squeeze, "I guess so... it's going to be so weird not coming here every day after work. I know it's only been about five or six months... but this has been home."
"Yeah," Ian shrugged, "but to be honest? I never really loved this place. My roommate was a punk."
"I must agree... mine had a habit of peeping at my underwear."
Ian was affronted. "Hey now, there's no need for that... I was talking about my first roommate!'
Payton laughed, "Right, right."
Ian chuckled as they walked up to their apartment, "Alright, I'll go turn in the paperwork for the sub-lease," he nodded. "You might want to start on packing... you've got more clothes than Macy's."
She stuck her tongue out, "I can at least take the saggy pants to good will."
"Please," Ian groaned. "Burn them. Whatever it takes. Take them far, far away."
She rolled her eyes, "Oh come on, they aren't that bad."
"I prefer the wardrobe I picked better," he mumbled. "You should just wear that..."
She poked his side, "Keep it up and I'll make the boy disguise a permanent addition to my wardrobe..." she threatened light-heartedly.
"First thing I'm doing at the new place is hanging coat hooks," Ian decided. "Ones strong enough to hold you every time you wear boy's clothing."
Payton pouted, "Meany."
"I really dislike those clothes," Ian groaned, but laughed. "But don't worry, I'm sure you'll get to use those hooks for another occasion... if you're good."
Her cheeks went pink, "O-oh hush." she chuckled, heading to the elevator.
Ian just chuckled, happy to have that big unknown off their backs.
And to have a whole house full of opportunities ahead.
Payton's blush didn't lighten up as they went through the hall ways, passing by neighbors...
Who didn't seem surprised to see Payton with long flowing hair, a pair of jeans that were still a little big but more form fitting to show her hips, and a shirt with the same properties.
In fact, she got a few compliments of how good she looked. Did... did everyone know..? was her first thought.
But then, she started getting a few, 'congratulations' in there too...
...They think I got a sex change...
Ian, for his sake, was just about dying trying not to laugh.
"If you laugh, you will return to eating frozen pizzas..."
Ian physically bit his tongue to restrain himself, his face turning red...
Payton pursed her lips, "Alright alright, don't make yourself purple.... go ahead inside first, let it out, then let me know when you're done..." she grumbled, fighting back her own smile, How does he make being a bully endearing?
Nodding tensely, Ian rushed into the apartment, shut the door behind himself, and collapsed on the floor laughing.
She leaned against the wall with her arm crossed, hearing only the faint cackles as she shook her head.
Eventually, the door cracked open, Ian still lying on the floor inside.
"They," he gasped, "They thought-"
The door swung shut as he broke down laughing again.
Payton pouted, "I guess to be fair, it's been a rumor that I'm gay or have been transitioning."
Finally, the door swung open for real this time, "Okay, okay," Ian supported himself with a hand on his knee. "I'm okay..."
Payton grumbled as she shuffled inside, "Good."
"I'm sorry, Payton," Ian gasped as he shut the door behind her. "But that's just too good..."
She rolled her eyes, but cracked a smile, "I know I know..."
"Oh boy, wait til I tell my parents I'm dating a girl who got a sex change," Ian chuckled breathlessly.
Payton chuckled, "I'd be interested in that reaction too."
Ian shook his head, sobering. "Yeah, maybe I'll hold off on that one." He spotted the application on the counter, picking it up and turning towards the door, "I'm gonna go get us a new place. You want me to get anything while I'm out?"
"Maybe see if you can find some boxes? We'll be needing them."
"Will do," he called back. "Lucky we've got a truck."
The door shut behind him, and he headed down to his truck with a spring in his step.
Things are looking up.
Payton grinned as she slowly tiptoed into Ian's room, glad to see he was still asleep. It was close to the time he normally woke up...
But she wanted to wake him herself.
After a brief pause, the small girl jumped on the blond, shouting, "Merry Christmas!!"
Ian didn't normally wake up quickly, and even if he did he didn't have time to register anything before Payton was crushing him into his mattress.
"Ugh," he groaned, attempting to pull the covers over his head. "Weren't you the one who said 'no squishing?'"
"Are you calling me fat?" she pouted, moving to straddle his waist as she tugged at his blankets.
"I wouldn't do that," he mumbled, ducking down as far under the covers as he could.
Payton huffed, "And here I thought you'd be excited about me jumping on you with no pants on and blueberry waffles and bacon waiting in the kitchen..."
Ian's eyes perked up, peeking up over the covers and down at her.
"Did you say no pants?"
She put her hands over his eyes, "Nuh uh... no peaking unless you get up."
"Okay then," Ian nestled back into the sheets. "Let me know when you're topless, then we'll talk."
There was silence.
And then there was a finger poking his nose.
"That was quick," he didn't open his eyes.
Another poke on his cheek.
Sigh.... "Did you say there was bacon?"
"That'll have to do," Ian's eyes popped open as he sat up, revealing his bare chest as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
Payton beamed happily, straddling Ian in nothing more than a short sleeved dark green shirt that fit to her curves, and a pair of panties.
They were much different from her usual choice.
Rather than the cheekies with the cute childish designs on them, she wore a pair of red lace panties with a white bow on the front and white frills around the waistband and leg hole. Below the bow was a slit that ended just above her mound. Behind her, the panties were giving her a decent natural wedgie, showing a good portion of her butt cheeks.
Ian's eyes practically popped out of his head, "I'm awake."
He glanced her up and down, repeatedly.
"Merry Christmas to me," he decided, leaning forward for a quick kiss.
As through magnetically drawn, his hands snaked around her hips to dance across the lace to her backside. Payton blushed but giggled softly, pecking his lips, "Merry Christmas."
"These are nice," he praised, hands running across the patterns on her backside to her hips, then back again. "You pick them out for me?"
Her cheeks turned a deeper red as she ducked her head down, nodding meekly.
"Aww," he nuzzled her neck, fingers toying with the lace, lifting it to let it snap back down on her skin gently, "you didn't need to do that..."
Payton smiled, "I was thinking I might find a pair hot enough you wouldn't be able to bring yourself to destroy them." she teased.
"Well, they certainly don't make me want to destroy them," Ian agreed, placing a wet kiss on her collarbone.
"But it does make me want to take them off of you."
She blinked, her cheeks glowing bright as she shuddered, "R...r-really...?"
"Yes, but I don't think either of us is quite ready for that," he whispered against her skin before kissing the nape of her neck.
"But I should probably mention that I sleep in my underwear, and that my willpower is only so strong."
Payton laughed softly and kissed his nose, sliding out of bed, "Okay okay. I'll wait for you in the kitchen."
"No pants!" he called after her as she shut his door.
"Wasn't planning on it!"
Ian hopped out of bed, cursing once again man's inability to hide arousal in the morning. He pulled on a pair of grey and black checkered pajama pants, skipped a shirt, and followed his nose to the kitchen in pursuit of bacon.
Ollie was stalking the same prize, patting back and forth on the tile as he mewed an Ian for assistance.
"Good morning, Ollie," Ian greeted.
Payton was stood in front of the stove wearing an apron to protect her bare thighs from the splatter of bacon grease. She was currently moving the strips onto a paper towel covered plate sitting next to a stack of blueberry waffles.
"Good morning, peaches," Ian kissed her on the cheek, swiping a slice of bacon in the process.
Payton laughed softly, "Good morning grabby."
"Restless hands get a lot done," Ian quipped as he munched on his bacon and tried not to flinch as it scalded his tongue.
She smiled, "So cruel... not sharing with your partner in crime." she said, looking at the floor. Sure enough, Ollie was seated at Ian's feet, purring and swishing his tail as he waited for a nibble.
Ian frowned dramatically as his gaze switched back between cat and girl, "Oh, all right," he relented, dropping a small piece down for Ollie to pounce on.
The kitten purred louder as he happily ate his piece.
Payton chuckled and scratched his head, taking the bacon and pancakes to the bar.
Oddly enough, behind the scent of bacon, there was something else....
"Are you making lunch already?" he stared at her, incredulous. "It's barely... nine thirty!"
"Not for us." she said, shaking her head as she sat down.
"Oh," Ian sobered as he followed her to the bar. "Very generous of you... do you think he'll notice if I take some?"
Payton smiled, "Come on, I'm making us lasagna..." she turned back to the waffles, "Besides... this will be the first Christmas he'll be spending without me or mom... if he is considering recovering.... I'd like to at least give him the traditional pot roast. Dad was never a big fan of the ham mom and I loved, so when I was old enough to cook, I thought it'd be nice to make him something different that he'd like..."
"Well, I hope he appreciates it," Ian nodded. "Because if it tastes half as good as it smells, he's a lucky man."
Payton smiled, "I'll be sure to make you a pot roast sometime." Maybe one day you and dad could share the same one... "What time are we leaving?" she asked, starting to make her plate.
Ian shrugged. "It's about three hours to my parents', and I promised we'd be in time for dinner. I figure we leave here after lunch, we're fine."
He snagged another piece of bacon when Payton was focused on the waffles.
"Save some for me!" she laughed.
"No promises," he grinned. "Ollie was lucky he got any."
Payton rolled her eyes, drizzling syrup and quickly snagging two pieces of bacon, "Hurry and eat so we can do some presents!"
Ian smirked, grabbing two waffles and sandwiching bacon inside as he munched down on it, "No worries there," he mumbled. She chuckled and happily dug into her meal while Ollie relented that he wouldn't be getting any more bacon, going to Ian's chair. Ian made short work of his breakfast, including another bacon-waffle sandwich, before he was sated.
"That probably took a month off my life expectancy," he groaned happily, sitting back in the stool. "Totally worth it."
Payton grinned, finishing off her last strip of bacon and taking the plates to the sink, "I must agree.
Ian watched her walk, hypnotized by the lacy red panties over her pale cheeks.
She hummed as she rinsed them and placed them in the dishwasher; of course bending over to o so.
Ian groaned behind her, flushing as he realized what he'd done.
The small girl looked over at him as she stood, "What's wrong?"
Ian coughed, attempting to compose himself, pulling his eyes away as he sought something- anything- to distract him.
Of course, his eyes landed on the Christmas tree and its adornments, which didn't help any, "Nothing," he choked out. "I'm fine."
Payton held back a knowing smile as she took off her apron, "Uh huh... well good, lets get to presents!"
Ian's eyes brightened as he nodded, sliding off the stool and relocating to the couch. As he did, the tent in his sweatpants made him grateful for the baggy clothing. He sat down, contemplating their small collection of packages under the tree. One he didn't remember wrapping, and three he did.
The small girl scurried to the tree and knelt by the presents, grinning, "You wanna go first?"
"You have more to unwrap," he nodded towards a silver package, a larger box. "Start with that one."
Payton grinned and pulled the present in front of her, sitting cross legged as she eagerly tore into the paper. She immediately understood it was clothing when she was left with a white box. Oh boy... all she could picture under the lid were scanty little clothes....
After raising a suspicious brow at him, she opened the box...
And blinked at a bundle of familiar red cotton.
Ian grinned, beaming widely as she realized what he'd done, "Well, you're always cold," he shrugged, "and I never could find that picture I wanted..."
She chuckled as she stood and bent over to pick up and unfold the pajamas, the feet and shoulder lining perfectly with hers, "Thnk you Ian, I love it." she grinned moving to fold it up again.
And then she noticed the butt flap.
She didn't say anything, simply turned the back to him and rose a brow.
He put on his most innocent face, "Oh yeah, that's so you don't have to take them all the way off to go to the bathroom. Lots of long pajamas do that."
Payton pursed her lips, her brow going up even higher. In all honesty she was fighting back laughter... but, she knew that wasn't his real reason.
"I hope I got the right size," Ian ignored her stare. "I kept the receipt, if we need to take them back..."
"It looked like they'll fit pretty well." she chuckled.
"Good," he beamed. "Maybe you'll be able to use them over the break. We always do Christmas in PJ's there, too."
"I'll make sure to add them to my suit case before we leave." Payton smiled, kissing his cheek, "And thank you."
"You're welcome," he grinned. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas. Which one next?" she grinned, plopping down in front of the other two presents.
"The tiny one," he suggested, indicating a small, matchbox-sized package in blue paper.
Payton picked up the little blue package; this one she was a bit more careful about opening since she liked the paper; and came to another box. Jewelry? she thought with a smile. Though she didn't generally wear or collect jewelry, she would certainly never say no to it.
She opened the box, prepared to see a bracelet or necklace since she didn't have pierced ears.
She blinked when she instead saw a silver key, "A key?"
"To our new house," Ian clarified, smiling gently.
Her eyes widened, "We got it?"
"We got it."
She knew it was almost a guarantee they would be accepted... but that didn't make it any less exciting. Payton jumped up and into his lap, happily kissing his lips, "We got it!"
"Yes, we did!" Ian shifted her gently away from a more... sensitive... part of his lap as he kissed her back.
Payton grinned, "So we're free to go in any time? The place is ours?"
"Our lease starts on the first," Ian smiled. "But it's technically empty now. We'll be able to move stuff in as soon as we get back, and start living there a week before we're required to be out of this place."
She smiled, "Got any buddies that can help us with the furniture?"
"I know a few freshman who owe me a favor," he smirked. "I think I could round them up." His hand on her hip pat her rear gently, "But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, we've got the place."
"Okay." she smiled, kissing his cheek and going back to the tree, "Okay, last present for me!"
Ian chuckled at her exuberance as he leaned back into the cushions.
This ought to be good...
Payton picked up the last gift, a thin but long rectangular box that reminded her of what a wrapped watch would look like. She tilted her head but tore off the wrapping paper, coming to an actual, black velvet jewelry box. Oh? she flipped the lid open.
And her face ignited in a bright blush as she stared down at the black leather collar with a silver heart tag on the front.
With 'Payton' engraved in it.
"Th..this...." she whispered. This one isn't a dog collar.
"I think it's time," Ian reflected, watching her face with soft eyes. "You've more than earned it... if you want it."
The unspoken option, and implications, hung in the air between them.
Continuing to meet his eyes, Payton took the collar, crawled over to Ian until she was kneeling directly in front of him, and laid the strip of leather in his lap.
Without a word, she tilted her chin back and held her hair up in invitation.
Ian lifted the collar gently in both hands like it were somehow a delicate thing.
Of course, it wasn't. The soft black leather was elegantly stitched, and the interior was lined with felt, but this was undoubtedly as sturdy, quality piece. Payton would undoubtedly be upset with him if she knew what it had cost...
He raised the collar to her neck, wrapping the leather around and sliding one side through the metal buckle. By feel, he slid the leather through until it contoured her delicate neck without pressing into it and rested just above her collarbones.
His eyes locked with hers, he clasped the buckle and slid his hands around to cradle her face. He leaned forward to kiss the top of her head.
"Good girl," he whispered.
Payton smiled at the feel of the light-weight, soft fabric around her neck, the cool tag laying against her chest, "Thank you sir."
Ian sat back, still cradling her face.
"You're welcome, Payton. Merry Christmas."
She leaned into his hands, grinning happily, "Best one yet."
Ian's thumb stroked her left cheek, "It's not over yet," his brow quirked. "I still see one package under the tree. Be a dear and fetch it for me, won't you?"
"Yes sir." she chuckled. Rather than stand, Payton turned on her knees and crawled to the tree, her semi-wedgied behind waving at him. She picked up the red and silver striped package and crawled back to him, setting it in his lap.
Ian admired the view of her retrieving the package, though he itched with curiosity about what was inside.
Specifically, what fantasy had she encapsulated, forever, for him to own?
He accepted the package and pat the seat waited only a moment to admire the red and white paper before tearing it to shreds. He took the lid off the re-purposed clothing box, and stared in awe.
Ian lifted the picture gently from the box.
Payton stared up at him from it, but this was Payton as he'd never seen her.
This Payton wore nothing but a pair of frilly pink panties, which were bundled by the leg holes and pulled straight up by a faceless blond man behind her. She was bent over at the waist, wrists tied together in front of her and anchored to some low piece of furniture out-of-frame which kept her from raising her bare chest.
Her legs were spread just over shoulder-width apart, ropes on each ankle leading into the shadows and prohibiting her from bringing them together.
She even drew the brilliant blush of lust and embarrassment on her face, and the light crimson glow of a fresh spanking on the visible upper curve of her ass.
Ian had no voice with which to speak... all he could do was marvel at the artistry, the beautiful, naked honesty that had gone into this gift...
Payton - the real, physical one - had the almost exact same blush of embarrassment and lust on her face as she watched Ian examine the drawing, fidgeting, "I-it's simple I know, nothing too extravagant or exciting or much different from what we've normally done... but... I-I would be happy with something like that."
"It's perfect," Ian whispered, lowering the drawing to look her in the eyes. "Thank you."
She smiled bashfully, "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas," he leaned down to give her a quick peck on the lips.
He leaned back to appraise the drawing at arm's length, the paper blocking their view of each other, "I'm going to have to request one slight change, though."
She peaked a brow up, "Oh?"
He turned the page to face her and shifted it over, leaning forward to glance between her and the drawing, "It's missing something," he decided...
And then he reached forward and tapped on her collar.
Payton blushed and chuckled softly, nodding, "I'll be sure to add it in before it's posted."
"Wonderful," Ian set the picture in the box and set it on the end table, patting the seat beside him in invitation.
The small girl hopped up and sat next to him with a grin while Ollie hopped down to start playing with the discarded bows and paper on the ground.
Ian wrapped an arm around her and tucked her into his side, her sweater on his bare side as his hand rested on her side.
He rested his cheek on the top of her head.
"Merry Christmas, Payton. Sorry all I got you was clothing."
She smiled, "I love all of it. And I'm really fascinated to see how you put the footies to use." she laughed.
"I have no idea what you mean," he denied, chuckling. "I just wanted a picture of you in footie pajamas."
"That just so happen to have a window to your favorite part of my body."
"That's not true," Ian pouted...
Then he mumbled. "They didn't have any with boob windows..."
Payton snorted softly, "Uh huh. Well, what would you like to do now? Normally after presents we'd go to my mom's side of the family for a party, so I'm drawing a bit of a blank here."
"I'm happy right here," Ian sighed, his hand rubbing gently over her ribs and down to her hip, up and down again.
"But we could argue about who gets what room in the new house, if you like."
"Aww, I was thinking we'd share a room and turn the second one into an office area." she teased, laying her head on his chest.
"Office area? I was thinking more like a dungeon," he pouted above her.
"I figured that would be the basement or attic!"
Ian was surprised her first response wasn't an objection, but he wasn't going to question it.
"Basement is unfinished," he shrugged. "I don't think anyone's used it in years. We can look into it, but it's probably disgusting and potentially dangerous. Plus, I'd have to crouch all the time, it's a low ceiling. There's no attic."
"Oh, so if it's safe I could always clean it up and make it into my own little safe haven... good to know." Payton grinned.
"Alright, I'm going to steal from Adam again," Ian's hand stroked higher and lower with each pass, now, just shy of the side of her breast and tracing over the full lacy trim of her panties.
"Never safe, girly," he quoted.
She blushed, chuckling softly, "Won't stop me from trying."
"Hey, you wanna give me license to redden your ass, be my guest," Ian's palm fell on the fullness of her cheek. "But then, that's probably half the reason you misbehave, isn't it?"
Her cheeks went a few shades darker as she made a noise if indignation, "What? Me? How inconceivable!"
"Oh?" His hand slapped against her mostly-bare cheek.
"And what if I told you that teasing my by walking around pantsless- and in these oh so frilly panties- all day was very naughty of you? What if I told you that kind of naughtiness earned you a good, old-fashioned, over-my-knee spanking?"
He paused, whispering in her ear as his hand groped her cheek shamelessly.
"Would that make you more or less likely to put on pants?"
The small girl gulped softly as she looked down at her lap, cheeks glowing.
She didn't move from her spot.
"That's what I thought," Ian whispered as his hand pinched lightly at the pale flesh.
"The box is under my bed, Payton. Fetch it."
"Y...yes sir." she breathed, standing to head to his room.
When she returned, Ian accepted the box and took out the two leather cuffs and the leash he'd stashed in there, then set the box aside. "Over my lap," he instructed, indicating which way to lay. He made sure her face would be pointing to his left, giving his dominant right hand the angle and room to swing.
Payton meekly obeyed, making sure to lay so her bottom was pointed up.
Ian reached down to grab each wrist, wrapping it in a cuff in turn. Then he leaned forward to wrap the leash around his own leg several times, creating a short tether with a clasp on the end. He brought both her wrists to the clasp and secured the thin metal D-rings to the leash before clicking it shut.
Payton blushed as her wrists were bound to him, biting her lip.
And then his hand came down with a soft pop on her right cheek.
"Spread your legs," he commanded.
She drew in a small breath as she did so, cheeks going dark red. Her panties already had a small wet dot.
Ian shuffled his legs, spreading them as he angled his body so his left thigh resting just below her breasts, where her ribs could support her upper body. His right leg angled out so that his foot could catch her heel and hold it out and his knee rested between her legs.
Two quick swats, one on either cheek.
"Ah!" she gasped softly, cheeks bouncing slightly from the strikes. Payton squirmed a bit, blushing at the sting.
Ian's left hand rested on her back, his hand sliding down to finger the lace waistband. His hand slid to gather the back of her panties in a fist, lifting slightly up and away from her back.
Another pair of light swats, almost teasing her.
She squirmed again as the panties slid a little deeper into her, He's copying the picture...
Ian didn't tug, just maintained enough pressure to gather the leg holes of her panties in her crack and press them into her crotch as she settled from the last strikes...
And then, satisfied with how he'd set up the scenario, he began the spanking in earnest.
Payton yelped and whined as his hand rained down on her behind, her cheeks burning and stinging as the skin slowly turned a deep pink. Ian pulsed gently on the strip of fabric between her legs as he peppered her cheeks with swats. Every inch of skin glowed with the signs of his attentions, and his palm with stinging by the time he relented, still tugging gently on the Lacy fabric.
The small girl panted softly over his lap, her thoroughly punished bottom a vibrant red. The wet dot had grown significantly, showing the punishment likely wasn't taken as one. Ian's left hand kept tension on her panties as his right thumb slid between her cheeks, his fingers wrapping her right cheek as he gently kneaded the soft flesh.
And then his drawl returned.
"You've been naughty today, miss Payton."
Payton blushed and squirmed, "S...sorry sir."
"You've been teasing me," his right hand slipped down, rotating so his middle finger wrapped between her legs and landed on damp lace.
"Flaunting that pretty little ass in such lacy panties... do you know what that does to a guy?"
She gulped, fidgeting, "T-to be fair sir, y-you did tell me not to put pants on when I left your room."
"And you said you weren't planning on it," he reminded her, finger pressing firmly over her slit, "You knew what you were doing, Payton. You bought these specifically to do it."
"I...I-I..." Payton blushed, biting her lip.
Ian's finger started rubbing slowly over the taught panties as they slowly slid between her wet, parting lips, "Tell me, Payton," he demanded. "Tell me you're a tease..."
The small girl mewled softly as his finger brushed over her opening, "I...I'm a t-tease s-sir..."
"Yes you are," he drawled, finger slowly picking up speed. "And do you know what happens to little subs who tease their masters?"
She whispered, her thighs attempting to come together, "Wh-what s-sir?"
His voice was a whisper as he leaned down to her ear.
"They get teased right back."
And then his hand stopped, frozen over her dripping intimates.
Payton whined, trying to move her hips back against his hand, "B-but siiiiir!"
"Now, now, kitten... settle down," he chastised her, "You can still get what you need..." his finger returned, this time paired with the pointer as it stroked her, "But you've been teasing me, and I need some attention, too..."
She blushed and gulped, nodding, "Y-yes sir."
Ian's hands fell away, the lacy panties snapping against her lower back as he knelt to unwrap the leash from his leg.
"Up, Payton," he commanded.
Payton pushed herself up, standing beside with her blushing cheeks; both pairs. In one motion, Ian lifted his hips and slid his sweats to his ankles, leaving him in just his boxers. His rigid erection stood proudly up from the flap of his grey shorts.
She looked with wide eyes, surprised with how quickly he did so after going so long keeping his pants and boxers on.
Ian was impatient, staring up at her with hungry eyes, "Sit," he insisted. "Facing the tree."
Payton blushed and moved in front of him, looking towards the tree, and sat in his lap, his erection brushing up against her tailbone. Ian grunted, his hands falling on her hips. Less than gently, he lifted and guided her hips back, causing her to lift her legs and kneel on the couch, straddling him. Now, his erection came up in front of her, pressing against her mound. She blushed as she stared down at it, feeling the warmth pressed up against her skin as though there weren't any panties in the way... This lace suddenly feels a lot thinner.
Ian reached around to grab the leash connecting her wrists. He guided them up over and behind her head holding them there with tension on the leash.
His voice was low, husky, and with a trace of drawl as it whispered in her ear.
"Ride it, cowgirl."
Payton shuddered and slowly started moving her hips, slowly grinding herself against his length. She shuddered softly as he dragged along her slit.
Her arms held as they were, Payton's breasts stood prominent under her black sweater, contoured by the fabric.
Ian's hips bucked lightly under her as his left hand wrapped around her to cup her right breast as she bobbed, raising and lowering on her knees as her hips ground against his swollen manhood.
She moaned, her now slick panties making her motions easier as she started going faster.
Ian's hand on her breast flexed and massaged the soft flesh as his lips found her neck with quick, sloppy wet kisses as she rose and fell, emulating the act they were so close to, and yet so far from...
Payton mewled and tilted her head, "S-sir..."
Ian's face was pinched, red from strain...
Hearing her address him like that- in that tone, in this situation- didn't help either. He grunted in response, not trusting himself to speak.
She panted softly as she started grinding harder, moving her hips farther back to make her clit brush against him as well, sending shivers through her.
Ian managed to compose himself long enough to speak "A- Are you ready, Kitten?" He groaned, he was at his limit, dancing with the edge of his control...
"Y-yes sir." she breathed
That was enough for Ian.
His hand on the leash released and wrapped around her waist to slip one finger through the slit in her panties and directly onto her clit, rubbing against it furiously.
"Hah!!!" the small girl cried in surprised, her hips bucking wildly as the sudden forceful attention sent her over the edge, her juices soaking through her new panties and onto his cock. Payton's release was fortunately timed, as Ian erupted with a translucent geyser beneath her, spraying her sweater, though his arm shielded her face.
After being teased so long that morning, it was a wonder he didn't pass out from the magnitude of his orgasm.
Still, his finger worked at her nub as he came down off his high, milking her squeals and groans of pleasure.
The small girl whined and writhed in his lap as her orgasm was prolonged, attempting to bite down on her lip to quiet her cries lest the neighbors hear.
As Payton's moans finally faded into whimpers, Ian retracted his finger and instinctively wiped it clean on her sweater.
Only then did he slump back into the couch cushions. She did the same against his chest, her head lolling back on his shoulder as she struggled to catch her breath, bringing her arms in front of her, "Hmm..."
"Hmm... mmm mmm mmm," Ian's deep, satisfied groan gave way to an equally satisfied chuckling.
"Merry Christmas, Tease."
Payton giggled softly, "Merry Christmas Perv."
Ian didn't even bother to protest, even to insist on 'sir perv,' so caught up as he was in the afterglow of such a shattering orgasm. They just laid there, heavy breathing settling as hot skin eventually cooled.
Eventually, he spoke.
"Save this pair. I like them."
She smiled and kissed his cheek, "Yes sir."
"In fact," his eyes were semi-glazed, a loopy smile on his lips. "Wherever you got these, you should go back there. Often. My treat."
"Fine, but if I'm going to be going to the mall more often, I'm going to need to stop by the bookstore too. I don't want to just be the pantie prowler."
"I hear they sell bras too," Ian teased, arms wrapping around her stomach as he kissed the side of her neck, "If you need help picking, I might be able to find time, tag along..."
"Well, if you're okay being the pantie prowler, be my guest." she teased.
"As long as they're yours," he accepted happily. "I look forward to it."
Payton laughed, shaking her head, "Well, with how often you destroy my current supply, I'll probably have to take you up on that offer."
He chuckled lowly. "So you're saying if I rip them faster, we go shopping sooner?"
"And here I though you liked my butt." she snorted.
"Correction, I love your butt," his hands drifted down, flirting with the edges of her still-pink cheeks, promising to show her exactly how much he meant that particular statement...
She blushed and laughed, "Well if that's true, you won't destroy it with a bunch of wedgies in a day!"
"I promise," he chuckled. fingers relenting as his arms wrapped around her again. "No more than you can handle."
Payton leaned into him, "Much appreciated dear."
"My pleasure," his chin nuzzled her gently in return. "And hopefully yours too."
"No worries there." she assured with a blush.
They lay there a few minutes longer, speaking through soft nuzzling and happy sighs, content to simply be warm and happy in each other's arms. Sure, she was half-naked and he was still hanging out of his boxers with his pants at his ankles and no shirt, but in the afterglow of incredible gift-giving and even more incredible mutual pleasure, they were happy just to simply... rest.
Unfortunately, all things end, even the best ones.
In this case, their comfort faded as their thick excretions started to dry, sticky residue cooling on their bare skin and her lacy garments.
Payton groaned, starting to squirm in discomfort, "Aw man... now I have to try and take a shower without getting my hair wet." she pouted. As she had mentioned, she did indeed get her hair trimmed about five or six inches and gotten it blown out... she had mostly amused herself by enjoying the soft silky feel of her hair that came after a trip from the salon, even as she mourned the loss of her hair's length.
"You could take a bath," Ian whispered behind her, feeling the effects, himself. "Or save yourself some effort and let me take care of you with a washcloth."
His offers were half-serious, given their risqué nature (even considering their recent activities.)
She blushed, smiled as she slid out of his lap, "I think you'll be too capable of turning what should be a cleaning into something even dirtier."
"What if I let you wear the swimsuit?" he nudged the open shoe box with his foot, drawing her attention to the black bikini bottoms inside.
"Hands on the outside, only?"
Payton looked down at the box with a deep blush, "N...no thanks." she smiled, standing.
Ian sighed dramatically, attempting to pout even through a mischievous smile. "Awww, no fun."
"We just had fun!" she snorted, gesturing to his sticky lap...
and blushing deeply when she saw his still exposed member.
Ian blanched as she blushed, tracing her gaze to his now-flaccid penis.
His hands flew to his crotch as he tucked himself back into the spot-dampened boxers, "Who, uh" he fought to maintain his composure. "Who says... who says there's a quota?"
Payton looked up at him as he adjusted himself, smiling, "Well, we're supposed to leave after lunch, and you know I always pass out after two sessions in a row."
Ian pouted, but relented. "Ooohkaaaay..." he leaned to bring the waistband of his sweats up to his thighs, then shifting to get them to his hips.
"But pack plenty of spares."
She blushed, "Y-yes sir." she smiled, heading to her room for a change of clothes.
Ian waited until she was out of view, then stood to retrieve cleaning supplies from the cabinet again. Gotta start setting something down on the couch in advance.
Payton went to one of her suit cases; she had finished packing everything the day before; and took out a dark green skirt with white lace under it, black sweater, and white panties with a red and green striped waistband and snowman face on the front.
After tying her hair into a high bun to protect her hair from the water, she left her room and went in the bathroom.
Ian was scrubbing a spot from the couch as she passed though, "Next time, I'm taking the shower and you get clean-up," he teased.
She grinned, "Hey, you should be the one to finish what you started!"
The wordplay was too good to pass up.
"It's not about who starts, Peaches," he smirked, not looking up from his task.
"It's about who finishes."
Payton blushed deeply, opening her mouth for a rebuttal. When she couldn't think of one, she ducked into the bathroom and closed the door.
Ian chuckled softly, smirking as she retreated. He didn't mind cleaning up, anyways. It was totally worth it.
Still though, the idea of getting Payton a maid's uniform held a certain appeal...
About five minutes later, Payton came out dressed and smelling of body wash, her hair completely dry and spilling down her back.
Ian hopped up off the couch, change of clothes in hand.
"My turn," he passed her in the doorway. "Don't forget your new pj's," he reminded her.
"And the box."
Payton nodded meekly, reaching up to touch her collar, "A-and this sir?"
"Absolutely," he insisted. Turning to look down at her. "The panties, too."
"I-I mean what would you like me to do with my collar sir? Wear it for now? Or pack it?"
Ian frowned, considering...
Until a smirk of pride crept slowly, his eyes distant but hard.
"Wear it while we make the delivery."
Payton blinked, her cheeks going pink, "S-sir... h-he already saw my first collar and suspected, I-if he sees this one..."
Ian bit down on his lower lip, a wicked gleam in his eye.
She blushed deeply. "Y...yes sir."
At the sound of her meekness, Ian's eyes cleared. He shook his head quickly, returning to the moment as he looked down at her softly.
"We don't have to," he offered. "Around my parents, we'll have to play innocent and vanilla, so it's not fair of me to ask-"
"It's fine." Payton assured, taking his hand with a smile, "It'll be a little weird letting my dad know we're... like this. But, it'll let him know I'm serious about being with you."
Ian nodded slowly, flashing back to a conversation from long ago, in a smoky bar over barbecue after he was left alone with Payton's father.
"Kid," the older man broke the silence with a gruff voice, staring him down. "That's my little girl. You're a speck in time. Don't think she's yours, because I own her."
He sat back in his chair.
"She'll be back."
Ian could only fight not to squirm in disgust.
We'll see about that, he decided.
"Yes sir," he lied.
Damn right, it will, his lips curled into a thin, eager smile. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze in return, "Thank you."
Payton smiled and got on her toes to kiss her cheek, "Now, I'd like to cuddle with you before lunch, but, I'd rather you not be all sticky. Showers yours."
"I'll make it quick," he promised, leaning down into the kiss.
She grinned, "Good. Ollie and I will be waiting here." she said, picking the kitten up from the chair and sitting on the couch. Ollie seemed mildly disturbed, but easily settled into her lap.
Ian smiled gently as he shut himself in the bathroom and prepped his shower.
Cuddling, he snorted softly, shaking his head. What happened to me?
Whatever it was, he sure hoped it wasn't reversible.
Payton let out a soft breath as she held the warm crock pot in her lap, the smell of pork pot roast with potatoes and carrots making her belly rumble even though she had just finished eating, Hopefully he'll take it.... though I'm betting Ian is hoping he doesn't. she thought with a smile.
Surprisingly, she wasn't as nervous as she thought she would be. This could be either the last time she'll be seeing her dad before the New Year....
Or the last time she'll see him at all.
The second option made her sad. She loved her father despite what he'd done to her. But he had hurt her so much, that she was willing to let him leave her life if he wasn't willing to change.
Ian checked off the list of items in his head.
Suitcases? Check. Gifts? Check. Snacks for the road? Check. Ollie? Check.
It mostly served to distract him as he drove to Payton's father's house.
He wasn't nervous, per se. In Ian's mind, this inevitable meeting was set in stone and the result didn't matter.
Still, he was concerned about how aggressively her dad might react to the hard reality they were about to reveal to him.
He pulled up in front of the house and cut the engine, hopping out to walk around and get Payton's door for her.
We're doing this together this time.
Payton handed him the crock pot "Don't eat it." she teased halfheartedly as she slid out of the truck.
"Not too late to take it and run," he offered- similarly half-joking.
Payton simply chuckled as she took the pot back, heading to the bed to grab the groceries.
Just as she was grabbing a bag, she heard the front door open.
"Payton?" her father's voice called out. "What's-"
He stepped out onto the porch wearing a pair of faded jeans and a grey university sweater that had obviously seen better years, but was at least clean.
He blinked rapidly, registering the surprising difference between the last time she'd come by and this time.
"Merry Christmas dad." The small girl smiled softly, leaving the bag and walking up to him. She kissed his cheek and held out the crock pot, "Figured you might not want to miss out on this."
Hank's eyes misted as he registered the heft and aroma of the pot roast, throat catching.
There was silence as Ian walked up behind Payton with the bags of groceries to stand beside her, too close to be casual.
He caught his breath.
"Come in out the cold," he shook himself from his paralysis, turning to prop the door open and allow them to pass. His voice was somewhere between insisting and pleading. "You'll get sick out here."
Payton nodded slowly, "Sure. Just for a minute though. We're in a bit of a hurry." she exhaled, stepping inside.
Ian followed her through, the two men appraising each other as he entered the house, "Where do you want these?" he kept his voice neutral for Payton's sake as he shrugged with the bags.
"Oh, kitchen," Hank was still recovering from Ian's presence, processing and uncertain what this signified. The door swung shut, and he led the young man to the kitchen where he set the crockpot on the counter, leaving room for Ian to set the bags beside.
For a moment, they paused. Their tasks completed, they faced each other- alone in the kitchen- with tension in the air...
And then Ian turned around and left to find Payton in the living room.
Hank appeared a moment later, collapsing into an old recliner he favored as he waved to the floral-print couch.
"Sit, please, just for a minute," he called to Payton. "You don't need to leave immediately, do you?"
The small girl bit her lip as she sat, "Well... we promised Ian's parents we'd be around for dinner time..."
She paused, taking a breath.
"We'll be back after New Years... and then we're moving into our new house."
Payton's father collapsed back into the worn cushions as the impact of everything she'd just said washed over him.
Going to his parent's for Christmas. So they are for real. Part of him had wondered if Payton really was serious about this guy, and vice versa. She'd already admitted to faking dating him once.
Be back after New Years. More than a week away together... more than his weekly delivery mandate.
New house. They'd gotten a new place, one where his lifeline- his trump card to get her back home- was gone.
His daughter had a real suitor... and wasn't just leaving her old man, but actively working to be free of him.
He could have been angry... but it just felt like a punch to the gut.
And he knew it was his fault.
As Hank's face froze, then fell, Ian was moving to sit beside Payton on the couch. He took her hand to get her attention, then pat his knee.
Payton looked up at the blond and blushed, shifting into his lap. After clearing her throat, she looked back to her father, "This isn't me trying to get you out of my life... this is me getting you to work for us to be a family again. I told you... told you I'd be happy to come and visit you. I don't know why that wasn't enough, but... it wasn't and it didn't end well."
She paused, taking a breath, "This new place isn't far from where we live now. So visiting when I want to won't be an issue..."
Again, Payton took a breath as she looked at him, "So long as that's good enough for you."
Hank's eyes cleared as she spoke and he look up to see his daughter in a new light.
Sitting in front of him was a young woman: a strong, capable young woman who'd found a voice and the will to step up in ways the little girl he remembered never could have.
He wondered how much of that was her, and how much of it was the young man on who's knee she now sat, his hand resting reassuringly on her back.
He knew one thing... he couldn't take credit for it.
He'd screwed up so badly, and still she was giving him a second chance...
His breath hitched, "You're not a little girl anymore."
Payton shook her head, "I had to do a lot of growing up really fast after mom left."
His breath shuddered, eyes closing at the memory, "That's my fault," he confessed. "I was so deep in my own pain I didn't stop to think about you... And I pushed all of my crap onto your shoulders."
He looked up at her, eyes full of pain and sorrow too deep for even tears.
"I'm sorry, Payton. I pushed you away, and then blamed you for leaving, same as your mother. And then I was so desperate to get you back that I'd hurt you to do it."
By this point, the large man actually was starting to cry. He paused, digging his fingers into the bridge of his nose as he fought to regain control.
"You're right... you're absolutely right to stay away. I'd love for you to come home... even just once a month, for dinner."
"How about... after Ian and I have settled into the new house, I'll come by and help you clean up... after that, one day a week for dinner? Say.... Sundays?" she asked with a slight smile. It'd been a long time since she'd heard her father speak without that resentful, gruff tone...
Her father's head bowed, nodding jerkily as he didn't trust himself to speak.
He'd had enough, and needed time to process the change. Payton could tell. Fighting back her own tears, she stood, "We really need to get going... I'll call you later tonight, and on New Years... okay?"
Her father's head just bobbed, his shoulders racking as the weight of the past year crashed down on him.
Payton and Ian let themselves out, hand-in-hand as they walked slowly to the car.
Ian was helping Payton up to her seat when he finally spoke.
"I'll be coming with you, of course."
Payton smiled as she sat and buckled, "Good. It's always better having all the family together for meals."
Ian blinked but smiled as he shut her door.
Family... he mused.
It was a strange word to use, really. Two roommates thrown together by crap luck and circumstance, a relationship which started with such pain and deceit and misunderstanding...
But then... weren't families kind of great at that?
He thought about lazy days on the couch with Payton lying next to him, laughing as Ollie chased dust motes. Of shared meals and laughing banter and companionable silence. He thought of how they'd grown to trust and understand each other- even better than they understood themselves sometimes...
He thought of their partnership, negotiating rent and bills when her money got tight, how she cooked and cleaned and he reciprocated in support and affection. How domestic they'd become, and how much they relied on and enjoyed each other...
When it came right down to it, they really had formed an odd little family: Ollie included.
Ian opened the door and hopped up, buckling himself in.
He glanced at the pet carrier in the backseat where Ollie was snoozing, then at Payton smiling gently at him from the passenger seat.
Then he started the car, shifting to drive as he set out to take them both home to his parent's.
This is family, he nodded, smiling gently.
And it all started as Roommates.