Boyd loved the smell of things baking. There were only a handful of smells he loved as much: the first scent of spring, green and bright; cigarette smoke and coffee mingling on a cold winter morning; the smell of sex, thick on the air when Tye came in his arms; Marcy soaked in both their scents, tangled between them.
But the smell of the bakery—fresh bread, warm sugar, cinnamon, honey, berries—was what he had thought home should smell like, growing up. Everyone said the Withers boys had driven their mama into an early grave, but for all that small town folk were supposed to everything about each other, folk in Midsummer didn’t know shit.
If not for him and Tye, mama woulda died a lot sooner than she had. Mama had given up on life the minute they were old enough to get on without her, and then her only interest had been in her gin and tonics.
For as long as he could remember, the smell of home for Boyd had been stale, dusty air, dying plants, and gin. The dying plants had hurt the worst. A faerie neglecting his plants was…well, like a mother neglecting her children. He’d always tried to keep her plants going, but they’d wanted his mama’s touch, and she couldn’t be bothered anymore.
They’d grown up on whatever she could be bothered to dump out of a bag or can, until they were old enough they just started getting money together and going out to eat. Gradually, they’d gotten land together, planted all kinds of things. Fruits and vegetables, mostly, because he and Tye were good at those.
Eventually, they only went home when they had to, and otherwise spent their time everywhere—anywhere—else. Anything was better than going home to the scent of their mama slowly killing herself, too selfish and lost to give a damn about her sons.
Even before Marcy, the bakery had been his favorite—especially around the holidays, when all he ever seemed to see everywhere was depictions of happy families sitting around a table over-burdened with food, beaming at each other. Cheesy and stupid and asinine, those images. But they always stuck with him, cause that’s all he had ever wanted the three of them to be. He’d loved to find excuses to walk by the bakery, soak up the smells wafting out, and pretend for those few seconds that things were different.
He’d tried once, when he was all of twelve, to bring all those scents to life for Christmas. It was a disaster he preferred never to think about. After that, he’d done his damndest to ignore every last single fucking holiday.
Until Tye had kissed him one Christmas morning, one of the very few times Tye managed to take him by surprise. Home then had been the smell of peppermint and coffee, the taste of both in Tye’s mouth.
But he still loved the bakery, all the more after their Marcy started working there full time, after he became ‘the baker boy’ and had the entire town in love with him one way or another. Harridan Mary did not deserve her nephew or the profits he raked in for her, but Marcy was happy there.
In school, Marcy had always smelled like flour and sugar and cinnamon. They rarely crossed paths, then, being years apart, but Boyd had immediately noticed his scent, made note of him ever since. But nice boys like that had nothing to do with the Withers boys, and back then he’d still been distracted by the complicated twists and turns of his relationship with his brother.
Then had come the day they’d come across Marcy running like his life depended on it, crying so hard he couldn’t really speak, more scared than Boyd had ever seen anyone look. Fear left a sour stench in the air, but it was nothing like the foul odor of Milton—stale sweat and drying blood soaking his clothes, the remnants of lust left unsatisfied, and cheap beer as he’d tried to intimidate Boyd. The smell of fresh blood, hot and coppery, as Boyd had broken his nose and then a tooth.
And then the lingering hints of flour and sugar as Marcy trembled in his arms, a hint of something sweeter than could only be Marcy himself. After that, the bakery had smelled more than ever of the kind of home they’d never have.
Except now they somehow did have it.
Boyd pulled his Camaro into to the driveway and just sat there, slowly finishing his cigarette. Tye sat next to him, quiet and relaxed, still smelling of earth and plants, soaked in sweat and sunshine from working all day in the orchards.
The old McCarthy place—their place—was coming along nicely. He couldn’t believe they had Marcy, never mind a real house instead of their dilapidated trailer. The place had smelled awful when they’d first gotten the key, dusty and moldy and rotted—forgotten. But they’d fixed it up, and now…
He finished his cigarette, snuffing the butt out in the ashtray and leaving it there. They climbed out of the car and headed up the stairs of the back porch, stripping down to just their jeans to avoid tracking dirt and grime through the house.
The smell of warm blueberries struck him first, making his stomach growl. Marcy looked up and smiled, a bit of flour on his nose, more in his hair cause there was always flour in Marcy’s hair. There was also a small bit of blueberry juice on one cheek. Boy strode across the kitchen, grasped Marcy’s chin and tilted his head up, then licked the juice away, nibbling along his jaw, then took a proper kiss, hard and sure, soaking up the smell and taste and feel of the home they’d spent their whole lives trying to find.