Taron is feeling nostalgic and takes the train from London to Aberystwyth, like he used to do going back and forth between auditions when he didn’t have any money. Elton offered him a charter flight, easily arranged and door-to-door service with luxury cars on either end, of course, but the last thing Taron wants for his birthday is a story in The Sun about how he, personally, is contributing to global warming and hates the planet. The train ride is long, but the tea is strong and he has time to put on his headphones and just unwind.
The house he bought his mam is nothing like where he grew up, and he doesn’t feel a particular sensation of coming home when he thinks about it. He could afford to have a place of his own in Aber, as well as London, and he probably will one day. But as it is he would never be there, so he made sure his mom chose a house that has a room just for him, far away from the girls and the telly, so that when he needs to decompress in his beloved homeland he has a soft, quiet place to land.
It’s not the house he knew growing up, but home is wherever his mam is, home is where the girls are. And as long as nothing else goes wrong on set, and they make the day in Fuerteventura, and there’s no general aviation strike leaving Antigua, it’s where Richard will be meeting him in a few short hours.
He gets one foot and one roller bag inside the door before he’s bombarded with two gleeful screaming armloads of little sisters, hugging him and yelling Taron’s here Taron’s here! loudly enough for the whole neighborhood to probably be aware that he is, in fact, in Wales.
“Did you bring us presents?” Rosie yells and Mari hits her in the arm.
“It’s his birthday, Mam said don’t be rude!”
“Yeah it’s my birthday, where are my presents? Where’s she?” Taron drops Rosie at his feet and she pokes her nose into his shoulder bag anyway, pulling out a pair of tinted sunglasses and immediately trying them on her small head. He tousles her hair and lets her keep them.
Mari takes one of Taron’s smaller bags by the handle and this is definitely new, her acting more and more like the adult of the two, and it makes Taron’s heart catch in his chest. He’s going to blink and they’re going to be teenagers, what the hell.
“She’s up to her elbows in tarts and sugar cakes and bara brith, wait ‘til you see…” Mari says, wheeling his case down the hall.
“Ahhhh perfect, gonna eat them all, every bite,” Taron says, grinning and rubbing his belly as he follows Rosie into the kitchen.
“Mam made you lamb cawl!”
“She did? Oh my god hi,” he says as his mam puts down two potholders and grabs him into a tight hug. “Hi mam,” he says quietly, kisses her on the cheek as she aggressively squeezes him and rubs his back.
“You’re here. Rwy'n dy garu di. I can feel your ribs, love,” she steps back and looks him over and Taron rolls his eyes.
“I told you I’d get skinny. I’m training. It’s alright, I’m here to stuff my face, it’s called a cheat day. Well, three days,” Taron says as she lets him go and places a wine glass in his hand. “Yeah now we’re talking,” he winks at her as she wipes away a trace of a motherly tear and pours him a big glass of red.
“Happy Birthday my sweet boy. Iechyd da.”
“Iechyd da, mam,” Taron grins, a twisty smile pulling at the corner of his mouth like it only does when he’s really happy. He remembers that Richard’s flight should land soon and gets even happier. “Mam, you made me lamb? Dickie doesn’t eat that kind of meat, remember?”
“I know exactly what kind of meat Dickie eats, love,” she says discreetly and sips her wine, arching an eyebrow daringly at Taron. He narrows his eyes and tuts at her under his breath, the silent standoff of two adults having a go at each other with little ones in the room none the wiser. She smirks and turns toward the fridge, Taron having to cede this round to her. He’ll get her later.
“Your tad got sea bass this morning and I made a leek and Caerphilly tart,” she explains with an innocent smile and Taron’s stomach rumbles.
“Ohh my god, when, when do we eat?” he asks with a hungry whine, eying the bubbly crumbly cheese on top of the tart, resting outside the oven.
“Sea bass is tha’ fish?” Rosie demands, pommeling back and forth over a kitchen stool and clamoring for both Taron’s attention and any kind of scrap of baked good she can reach. Taron can’t help it either and turns to help himself to a Welsh cake and some sort of shortbread biscuits, breaks one in half and shares it with Rosie.
“Yes it’s fish and no you’re not having biscuits before dinner, Taron, please!”
“Mam it’s my birthday. And I’m thirty. I can have a cookie - ”
“I mean her, not you. Everyone out of the kitchen, out out. Shouldn’t Dickie get here soon, love?”
“Yeah lemme see if he’s landed, c’mon Rosie we’ve overstayed our welcome.” He sticks his tongue out at his mam and she just refills his wine glass, shoos them all out toward the den.
Rosie grabs his hand and drags him onto the huge sectional sofa they now all curl up on. “Did you know there’s a Frozen Two? Can we go see it, Taron, can we?”
Mari looks up from the book she’s been quietly reading and rolls her eyes. “I put your things in your room, T,” she says helpfully, glaring at Rosie like a tiny annoyance.
“Well when did you get to be the little grownup here?” Taron asks her, flopping down next to her to see what she’s reading. His heart swells when he recognizes his own well-worn paperback copy of The Philosopher’s Stone. She’s over halfway through it and Taron can’t wait to quiz her about what’s happened to Harry so far.
“When will Uncle Richard arrive?” she looks up and asks him, putting on an air and elocution like Hermione inquiring as to the breaking of a school rule, and Taron has to laugh openly now.
“Uncle Richard? Good god Mari, please call him that when he gets here, he will die.”
“Mam says we’re very lucky to have a gay brother and we get an uncle too and we should be so grateful,” Rosie chimes in and Mari glares at her. Taron feels his cheeks go hot and pink.
“Is that right? Well that’s very kind of her to be so nice to Dickie and let him come to birthday dinner,” Taron says indulgently. He pulls out his phone and checks just as Richard’s text pops up.
landed just getting a taxi. starving xo
“And in fact…” Taron waits, makes sure he has Rosie’s full attention and Mari’s eyes on him before he finishes. “He’s on his way.”
“Is he bringing us presents? Will he take us to see Frozen Two?” Rosie asks, bouncing on the sofa.
Taron takes a swallow of wine and shakes his head preemptively. “I have no idea if he’s bringing you presents, I haven’t seen him in...well, a while, sweetheart. We’ve both been very busy, you know?”
Rosie nods emphatically and picks up her blue and white Frozen themed Kindle thingy. “I know, you had the music movie I can only see some of and Uncle Dickie’s going to be a superhero. Do you wanna hear the song from Frozen Two?”
“Oh god, please no more,” Mari pops up from Hogwarts suddenly, eyes wide at Taron and pleading with him not to let the song happen. Taron doesn’t know the new song, but he recognizes Brendon Urie’s voice immediately. “It’s only been out for three days and I think we’ve heard it a thousand times,” Mari says dramatically and pretends to cover her ears, but Taron can tell by her smile and how she put her book down to sing along that she actually loves it.
“Do you know him? Do you know Panic at the Disco?” Rosie asks seriously over the top of the dramatic Disney crescendos and soaring notes.
“I told you, he’s a person, his name’s Brendon,” Mari explains as if they’ve been through this before.
Taron laughs and shakes his head. “I don’t think I’ve met him but I love his voice. Should I try to meet him?” he teases her and Rosie shrieks in delight.
“Yes yes you should meet him and make a song and a movie I can watch all the way through!”
Taron grabs her and kisses her and makes her settle down with him, snuggling her on the couch while she’ll still let him do that, since Mari is clearly already over him completely. “Ok, I will put that on my agenda for next year. ‘Make a film Rosie can watch all the way through,’ very good idea,” he nods in agreement and she puts her small hand up to fist bump him.
His mam comes in with the open wine bottle and tops off his glass yet again. “Dickie on his way then?”
“Slow down Mam, I’m thirty now, can’t drink like I used to. And yeah he’s on his way,” he grins and winks at her.
“Taron, Tad says you and Mam drink a lot of wine and talk a lot of shh-tuff when you get together,” Rosie says, giggling at her risky near-use of a naughty word, and Taron makes a face at his mam.
“Does he say that now?” Taron asks, his voice cracking in a laugh.
“Mmm hmm Tad is right about that because that we do. Ti a fi, cariad,” she says with a wink and lifts her glass toward Taron again.
“Ti a fi, Mam,” he takes another small sip, trying to pace himself and not get overly emotional already.
Rosie plays Into the Unknown a dozen more times, and Taron knows every word and is fully ready to perform it at karaoke by the time his phone buzzes in his pocket.
on yer street. hide the wee ones xo
Taron pops up off the couch and sets his wine glass down, wiping his hand over his face and eying Rosie. She’s got something open on her tablet and seems fairly engrossed in it so he gives Mari a conspiratorial look and tilts his head toward the front door. She nods, taking this unspoken agreement obviously quite seriously as Taron quietly excuses himself from the den.
“Be right back, girls,” he says casually, ducking into the kitchen for just a moment to tell his mam. “Going to let Dickie in. Give us a minute?”
His mam wipes her hands clean on a towel and starts to untie her apron, gets another wine glass down. “You can bring him round back to your room if you need more than a minute, love.” She winks and pours a fresh glass, pushes it across the counter for Richard, and Taron thinks about it for a good few seconds.
“We’ll be fine. Just gonna...I’ll be right back,” he takes his mam’s glass from her hand and polishes off what’s left, hands it back empty and heads for the front door.
And then they’re on the sidewalk, in front of his mam’s house, and Richard is dropping his messenger bag in the grass and they’re in each other’s arms again. Finally.
“Oh, fuck, I’m gonna fuckin cry,” Taron says, exhaling hard into Richard’s shoulder. Richard envelops him in a breathless hug and Taron rubs his hands up and down Richard’s back, under his jacket, just getting the feel for him again and he feels different but Taron isn’t ready to think about that yet. “I love you, I can’t believe you’re here, this has to be a dream,” Taron is already babbling and emotional and thank god Richard has the good sense to stop him by kissing him.
“Love you, I’m here, T. Happy Birthday. Feck what have you been doing, you feel so skinny,” Richard says, finally pulling back so they can look at each other.
“You feel so...wow, Dickie, what,” Taron allows himself the briefest moment to glide his hands curiously over Richard’s chest, feel the defined pecs and edges of his ribs where they dip in at his tiny, tiny waist, what the hell…. “Uhhhh, shit. You’re...maybe I will just take you back to my room, love,” Taron tries to stop himself before he gets carried away in the front yard and Richard pulls him in close, puts his hands on Taron’s face and jaw and kisses him again, sweet and searching.
“I’m glad you like it. I feel...weird. Dunno T, this one’s quite a test. And I fuckin’ miss ye so much,” he says, sounding worn out and anxious about it all and Taron can’t wait to kiss him and put a glass of good wine in his hand and kiss him some more. He nods in understanding and picks up Richard’s bag, slings it over his shoulder, then leans in for one more, hopefully reassuring kiss to brace them both before they head in.
They grab each other around the necks and Taron goes up on his tiptoes just to be sure he’s giving him his all, kissing Richard until they’re both just starting to relax back into each other when Rosie screeches with delight from the front door, “Mam! Taron and Uncle Dickie are kissing!”
Taron laughs and bites Richard’s lip, looking at his face as he takes his hand to lead him into the house. At least half of Richard’s anxiety of a minute ago has melted away. “Come on, let’s go make our inner fat lads very happy.”
The girls are positively over the moon to have Richard in the house, ignoring Taron completely and peppering him with questions about Scotland and Angelina Jolie (Mari) and his hair and dragons (Rosie) and everything else in between.
“Do you wanna go see Frozen Two?” Rosie asks, scrolling through Richard’s phone and oohing over set photos of him and Lia, who she is most interested in, in their costumes, that literally no one should be allowed to look at. Taron is kind of scared to look, makes himself a piece of grilled bread with butter and trout roe instead.
“Sweetheart,” Richard says with a deep and rolling Scottish r and oh, Taron is so in love. “I’m only here for about thirty-six hours. I dunno if we’ll have time to go see a Frozen film, unless Taron really wants to,” Richard pokes his tongue in his cheek and looks at Taron beseechingly.
Taron grins and takes another bite of buttered toast. “We’ll see, but no promises, girls. Uncle Dickie and I need to spend some time together, ok?”
“You can kiss all you want in the cinema, like the older kids do!” Rosie points out and Taron watches the color rush to Richard’s cheeks.
“Do you know, that’s not a bad argument,” Taron laughs, leaning over to kiss Richard between bites of bread and sips of wine. Richard turns just slightly and kisses him too, squarely and chastely on the mouth but Taron can see his eyes are open and he’s still being silly and teasing the girls at the same time. He laughs and shakes his head against Richard’s mouth as Rosie explodes in giggles again.
“Mam they’re still kissing!” Her nose wrinkles and Richard reaches out to bop it with his thumb. He eyes Taron’s toast covetously and Taron arches an eyebrow, holds it out for him to take a bite. He’s being cautious, Taron can tell, easing into their planned evening of eating debauchery, just a nibble here and a bite there. He’s probably smart to do, Taron thinks, crunching on the rest of the toast and eyeing the table for his next snack.
“Leave them alone, Rosie, my god. Can we have some adult time? Your tad will be home soon, you can watch a program ‘til then. Here take these,” she tries, plying Rosie with a plate of cheesy leek cakes and sending her to join Mari again.
They finish the bottle of red and open a champagne when the Welsh rarebit comes out of the oven.
“Oh my god, Mam, what are you trying to do to us?” Taron asks, putting an arm around Richard and leaning on his shoulder, happily. It’s an empty argument, and he literally can’t wait for the gooey beer cheese to cool down before he takes one for him and Richard, and cuts into it.
She appears at the table with more champagne. “You said you wanted to eat bread, we’re having all the bread.” She raises an eyebrow at them both, then softens when she looks at them a moment. “My goodness, lovely boys you are. Eat more, you’re too skinny,” she says, topping their glasses off and going back to the stovetop.
Taron doesn’t have to convince Richard of this one, and they eat two whole slices of rarebit before Taron’s stepdad gets home. There is more riotous rejoicing from Rosie, and Mari puts her book down and wanders back in. He kisses them all hello, Taron too, and pauses with a friendly laugh and an outstretched hand when he gets to Richard, who stands to shake it and accepts a slap on the back as well.
“Good to see you again, sir,” he says, charming the shit out of Taron and his mom, twirling her champagne glass, looking on at her whole happy family and ready to feed them all a feast.
“Uncle Dickie we have lamb and fish and leek pie because Taron says you don’t eat meat,” Rosie explains as everyone finally gathers around the table.
Taron watches out of the corner of his eye, not trusting himself not to burst out laughing if he looks him straight on, as Richard blushes furiously and takes a long sip of champagne.
“Well that is very nice of your mum to go to all that trouble, Rosie. Thank you, Tina, wow,” Richard says graciously as she brings out sea bass and samphire on top of potatoes, swimming in lemon butter, her gorgeous leek and cheese pie, speckled with thyme and bacon, and so much more bread, cut into big chunks on a platter next to the huge steaming bowl of lamb stew. The table is positively groaning under the weight of the food, and Taron can’t wait.
“Um, Mam, Tad. Girls,” Taron looks at them both and Rosie beams in her seat. “This means, so, so much to me, I can’t even tell you. We’ve had…” his eyes start to tear up and he reaches for Richard’s hand under the table. Richard squeezes it, holds it tight. “We’ve had a really crazy year, year and a half. And I love you all so much, and this just...I’m thirty , and I’m an emotional wreck right now, and I’m going to eat my feelings, so iechyd da, love you all,” Taron trails off, toasting with his champagne and clinking glasses with everyone before he completely breaks down, leaning in for a quick peck with Richard on the corner of his mouth.
“Slàinte mhath, my love,” Richard says softly. They look up and both of their girls are eying them carefully and giggling a lot so Taron claps his hands together.
“Alright enough of that, let’s eat.”
Taron puts a huge chunk of bread in his bowl and lets his mam ladle cawl overtop of it, to soak up all the delicious broth of the stew. The lamb is tender and flavorful, and he shares forkfuls of sea bass and potato from Richard’s plate in between bites. Richard and his dad eat a whole fish easily between them, the girls mostly turning up their noses at it, but Taron notices Mari steals a few sea beans off her tad’s plate, and maybe a bite of fish with them.
They absolutely destroy a whole leek pie amongst them. Taron has already had so many snacks and cakes before, he leaves some pie crust on his plate, which Richard snatches up happily, crunching on the flaky edges with sips of champagne. “Tha’s the best part! How could ye?” he asks Taron teasingly, raising an eyebrow at him.
“I’m full!” he proclaims, to which his mam makes a dubious face.
“You’d better not be, Taron David, you’ve got a bara brith and a birthday cake in there,” she reminds him, picks up a chunk of bread to wipe the last of her lamb cawl from her bowl.
“I’ve been eating for hours before Dickie even got here, he had to catch up,” Taron defends himself, sits back in his chair and eats one last bite, all he can manage because he knows how many cakes are coming next.
“Aye, that I did,” Richard says, rubbing his stomach a little warily. “Our trainers are going to be absolutely livid, oi.”
“Ahhh what a bunch of rubbish,” Taron’s stepdad says. “You’re both in better shape than I’ve ever dreamed of and your trainers will be mad because you, what, ate a real meal? C’mon, lads,” he waves them off and starts helping pick up and clear the empty platters and bowls from the table. The girls take their cue and start picking up the first round of dirty plates and silverware, and take them to the kitchen.
Taron looks at Richard, lean and chiseled in the face, muscles bulging prominently under his clothes where they didn’t used to. He knows how hard he’s been working, and how much he’ll probably beat himself up later for indulging. He knows they’re both hard on themselves, and it’s Richard’s peak time to stress about his fitness and getting into a skintight costume. It’ll be his time, next, to have to run and do stunts and dodge bullets and god knows what else.
But still...it’s his birthday.
He reaches for him again under the table, puts his hand firmly and comfortingly on Richard’s strong thigh, feels his quadriceps, definitely firmer and more pronounced, good lord. “You’re working really hard. It’s ok to take a cheat day, as we clearly both are. If you wanna go for a run tomorrow...god help me, we can do that, ok?” he suggests to Richard as a conciliatory offering.
Richard turns and scoffs at him. “Don’ wanna go on a fecking run, do I? I want to hang out with you and eat bara brith and crempogs and take Rosie to see Frozen Two, and eat popcorn, love,” he bites his lip and grins and Taron has to lean in and kiss him, has to. He can’t believe he’s this lucky, in this many ways.
Taron’s stepdad clears his throat in the entryway and interrupts their very G-rated snogging, asking if they want cake now or want to wait a little while. Richard squeezes Taron’s shoulder, looks at him seriously. “Are we ready?”
Taron sits up straight in his chair, makes a show of rolling his head on his neck and cracking a few vertebrae. “Let’s do this thing,” he says as his mam and the girls approach from the kitchen slowly, bearing a birthday cake decked in thirty twinkling candles.
The bara brith is ceremonial and will be wrapped and saved for breakfast or tea tomorrow, thank god. There’s a proper traditional shearing cake, full of real butter and flavored with caraway seeds and candied orange peel, covered in a very non-traditional maple buttercream frosting and not a Rocketman fondant with his own face printed on it, thank you very much.
Taron’s stepdad pours them each a glass of his good Christmas whisky, absolutely delicious with cake and frosting. There are some flaky cheese tarts slathered in summer potted jam for the girls, and fancy little Welsh chocolates, also good with whisky. They eat until they’re absolutely aching, and Taron has to go put on his favorite baggy sweatpants, which he made sure to pack just for this reason.
He also realizes Richard must be absolutely gagging for a smoke by now, and he’s pretty sure he’s going to join him. Just one, to end a perfect meal. He’ll start his thirtieth year, officially, tomorrow as a non-smoker. He’s sure of it.
Richard is helping clear the last of the dessert plates and making the girls, who are already full of sugar, so giddy they’re never going to go to bed tonight. Taron feels bad for his mam - maybe they will really take them out to the movie tomorrow, and get them off her hands for a few hours, send her to the day spa or summat. It’s a nice idea, though he’s not sure how practical it is, Richard being here too. It’s not like Aber is crawling with paps but surely someone will notice the two of them out on what is clearly a date. Maybe they can buy out the whole theatre…
“Smoke, love?” Richard snaps him out of it and he realizes he’s just been staring wistfully at the dining room table, just reveling in the perfect feeling he’s felt here for the past few hours for just a little while longer.
“Yeah, yeah, you read my mind,” Taron says, slips his hand into Richard’s and heads for the back patio door.
“Where are you going, can I come?” Rosie demands to know from the sofa.
“Uhh, grownup time. Just a few minutes, love,” Taron promises, guiltily, grimacing at Richard as they sneak out like teenagers.
“Smoking causes cancers of the lungs and esophagus, you know!” Mari calls out from her corner and her book, finally piping up with her usual sass that Taron had, frankly, missed while she had her nose buried in the exploits of year one in Gryffindor Tower.
“Thank you, Mari, we did not know that,” Taron grits his teeth and follows Richard out, giggling, again, like teenagers.
“Smoking, ewwwwww!” Rosie yells helpfully as they make it outside and slam the door behind them.
Richard pulls out his smokes and his fancy lighter, hands one to Taron and grins as they both greedily light them and inhale.
“Last one. Ever. I mean it,” Taron says as he breathes out the smoke. The first ten seconds is always the best and after that, eh, he could take it or leave it. Richard is devoted, might be a lifer, if Taron’s honest.
“Whatever gets you through the night, love. Don’t have to justify it to me.” Richard purses his lips around the tip of his smoke and draws in, as horribly, lethally sexy to Taron here in his mam’s backyard as it was the first time they met, the first smoke break Richard took on set. It feels like a long, long time ago.
Taron is full of bread, and cake, and so much love he can barely breathe. He takes one more drag, puts out his cigarette in a flower pot, and takes Richard’s free hand in his.
“Are ye havin’ a good birthday, so far?” Richard asks as Taron draws close to him, kisses his neck and jaw even while he’s still smoking. Taron doesn’t care. He closes his eyes at Richard’s throat, feels the motion against his lips as Richard swallows, brings one hand up behind Taron’s back to press him to him. “Hey, yer alright, love?”
Taron nods against his shoulder. “I’m just...I’m full, and I’m so full, and I’m sappy as all fuck but I can’t...help it? I’m thirty. I’m so happy. It just all seems...I dunno, wild. I thought I’d have some kind of crisis,” Taron says distantly, holds Richard close.
“Still time for a crisis tomorrow, I s’pose,” Richard says with a soft laugh, pulls back from Taron’s arms to stub out his smoke too.
“You didn’t freak out? Turning thirty?” Taron wonders out loud, thinks in his head, delirious with an abundance of sugar and whisky and nicotine and Richard, are you someone out here who's a little bit like me?
“Well yeah,” Richard says, exhaling a heavy sigh. “I bought a stupid expensive car, got stupid drunk at a club, hooked up with….someone stupid. Doesn’t matter. Ye’ve got yer head on so much straighter, and truer, than I did a few years ago. I was a mess. Yer...you’re very good, T. Yer in a good place.”
Taron hums at that, bends to lay his cheek on Richard’s chest, swaying gently against him and thinking about his girls in the house, and his family, and his loving, incredibly hot boyfriend who’s going to take him to bed in a few hours and take his little sisters to see Frozen Two tomorrow. Maybe. They’ll figure it out.
He sighs, tilts his face up and waits for Richard’s lips to gently cover his. “I think I’m in the best place.”