Image courtesy of Louise Docker

Maybe It's Love

A Sanitaria Springs Story

By Israfil & Dabeagle



I locked my car and tucked the keys away in my jacket pocket. I hadn’t had a great deal of time driving my new car since Jon preferred to drive us everywhere, but since he’d had detention today I’d walked home and decided to take my car out. I turned to the house and shivered slightly in the rapidly cooling weather - I should have worn a coat. Shoving my hands into the pockets I walked up the driveway to Austin ‘Hamster’ Hamilton’s home with my nerves keyed up. The last time I’d really had a personal discussion with Hamster and his boyfriend, Derek, I’d gotten a lot to think about that I hadn’t liked. My dad had told me it was hard to find people who would speak the truth to you, even if you wouldn’t like what they had to say. While I respected that they’d been honest, I’d also felt a little vindicated when they’d been proven wrong and Jon had become my boyfriend.

Now, my relationship was sometimes more complicated than it had been before. I wouldn’t trade what I had now with Jon for the world, but I sure could use some advice about how to manage. Jon wasn’t always that forthcoming with whatever was going on in his head. He’s a complex guy and it’s part of what I like about him; if he were simple I think I’d get bored. I could stand less of his being difficult, but the fact that he was working so hard for us to work out made it bearable. I worry a bit that the struggle will get old for him and he might think it’s not worth it. But until that day comes, I’m going to keep supporting him and working on us.

“Hey. You coming in or shall I give you a lantern and you can just go stand at the end of my driveway?”

I glanced up and smiled at Hamster. I liked calling him that versus his given name because it reminded me that despite his appearance and the way he held himself, he was just a guy and didn’t think himself to be above anyone else.

“I was just gathering my thoughts,” I told him as I walked toward his open door.

“So, fantasizing about your boyfriend. Got it,” he said and gave me a thumbs up. I shook my head and chuckled as he admitted me. I added my shoes to the pile by the door and followed him up a flight of stairs to his room. He had a nice, open space for a bedroom, with a full sized bed and a desk. The room was littered with books of all sorts, and that suited him very well.

“Uh, have a seat,” he said as he grabbed the stack of books from the chair in front of the desk and squeezed them onto the limited desk space.

“Have you read all these?” I asked as I took my jacket off and hung it from the back of the chair before seating myself.

“These?” he asked, pointing to the desk. “That’s my ‘to read’ pile.” He took on a solemn tone and said, “May it never end.”

We laughed and he offered me a drink, which I accepted. I followed him down the back stairs to the kitchen, where he grabbed us cans and, as an afterthought, a bag of chips. It was the same thing Jon did except Jon liked to pick up a beer just to get me to scowl at him. I swear, that boy….

“How’s the new car?” Hamster asked as he reclined on his bed. I sat and shook my bangs out of my eyes.

“Fun! I can’t wait to take the top off next spring. My dad says to leave it for now; he’s of the opinion the seal under it will start leaking the first time I take the roof off and that we should put that expense off as long as we can.”

“Man, a convertible. That’s on my bucket list,” he said with a shake of his head. “So, you wanted to talk?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said and rubbed my hands on my pants. “So, as you know, you guys were totally wrong about Jon.”

He laughed out loud and shook his head. “Yeah. I’m glad we were. I’m still sort of cautious, though. Jon was always kind of smooth before, but it seems like you flustered him a whole lot. A whole lot.”

I nodded and sipped my drink. “Yeah, that’s kind of what I wanted to talk about. I know you told me before that you were bisexual and that it feels good kissing girls or guys, right?”

“Totally,” he agreed and opened the bag of chips before turning the open end to me. I waved him off and he popped a chip in his mouth.

“So…” I turned the can from side to side in my hands. “Jon isn’t completely forthcoming with what’s on his mind.”

“No way,” he deadpanned. I stuck my tongue out at him in response. He just chuckled. “Is that what‘s got you worried? That he’s not telling you what he’s thinking?”

I tilted my head from side to side. “Yes and no. Jon has never really been a guy to talk about deeper emotions, you know? He would say things here and there, almost like he was putting out feelers to see how I’d react. The day we started dating that was like...a dam bursting. I pushed as much as I dared to be as sure as I could, but that’s just not normally who he is.”

“I get that,” Hamster replied before crunching another chip. “Still, he seems to be making a huge effort over you. I guess actions speak louder and all that, you know?”

“Oh, totally,” I replied with a smile. “I think he even likes some of the guys.”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

I sighed. “Jon’s complex, and his life is a little complicated. I know, everyone’s is to a degree but...well, his ideas about gay people come from his brother.”

“His brother an asshole?”

I chuckled. “Sort of, but not the way you’re thinking. See, Geoff - that’s his brother - is gay and kind of a stereotypical whore. He’s the guy that makes every bigot equate gay with sex and believe there's nothing else to it.”

Hamster nodded. “Yeah. Still, when straight people have a lot of sex they’re just healthy young people.”

“To some. If it’s a girl she’s a slut. If it’s a guy he’s a player. I don’t think the religious folks draw much distinction in condemning each group, though.”

“So this Geoff guy sets a bad example, and Jon thinks we’re all sex fiends?” Hamster asked with a chuckle and sipped his drink.

“Well, more like catty, backstabbing sex fiends,” I said and returned his laughter. “That’s why I wanted Jon to meet the guys and learn there were people who weren’t Geoff that were also gay.”

“Oh, we’re an example now? Great. So if I molest Derek in front of him he’s ready to condemn me for a sex fiend?” he said with a wry smile.

“No, actually,” I said with a shake of my head. “I think the guys have passed some threshold where he just doesn’t see you guys like that. It’s hard to shake having had that kind of example right in front of you for so long though.”

“Oh. I was kind of looking forward to being a deviant. So, what’s the problem?”

I drained my can and, lacking a place to set it on the table, placed it on the floor next to the table leg. I cleared my throat and girded my loins to have the conversation I came here for. I still wasn’t entirely sure how to vocalize it, so I knew I’d be winging it.

“I don’t know if Jon is bisexual or if he’s emotionally attached to me and all this is going to go poof or what. I was hoping to bounce a few things off you and see what you thought.”

Hamster watched me and nibbled a chip. He shook the bag and held it toward me again. I wasn’t hungry, far from it, but I took a few just to keep my hands busy.

“You know, I wondered what you saw in the guy,” he said finally. “You obviously knew him better than any of us did. I get that. He’s always been kind of a ‘keep your distance’ kind of guy. Not exactly unfriendly, but not super welcoming, either. Since you brought him around a few times I can see a different guy in there. I mean, he’s still not exactly inviting people to hang out or play video games or what have you. But I see, now, how he interacts with you.”

I sat forward, with nearly supernatural focus.

"It’s subtle. The guy doesn’t give away a ton about what’s going on in his head. But you could see he was sort of cautious at first. He kind of shed that quickly—maybe that threshold you mentioned. But he listens to everything you say, he’s conscious of everything said to you and he makes a lot of subtle, light touches, almost like he wants to verify you’re still there.”

I sat back and frowned. “He does?”

Hamster nodded. “It’s so cool, too. What he does is so natural you probably don’t notice. It’s nothing crazy. He touches your forearm or drapes an arm on your shoulder.” Hamster paused and then chuckled. “It just occurred to me that it was almost like he was trying things out to see what was okay, what was accepted. I have no idea if that’s what it is, but it’s an interesting thought.”

“Hm. So, you like him?”

He tilted his head from side to side. “More than I did. We’re not buddies, but I think I could hang out with him and find things to talk about or stuff to do so we wouldn’t be awkward or anything.”

I nodded and sat back. “I was hoping the guys would like him.”

“I think we all do,” Hamster said reassuringly. “We have no reason not to. He’s kind of funny and he’s making a huge leap of faith for someone he loves - it’s hard not to admire a guy willing to do that. Plus he makes our friend, and that would be you, happy.”

I grinned. “He does make me happy. I think I make him happy, too.”

“Oh, now we’re getting down to the good stuff!” he said with a cackle. “I’ll trade you one for one just like I do with Robin.”

“Uh, what?”

Hamster’s face fell comically. “Weren’t you about to tell me a sex story?”

Heat rushed into my face and I laughed nervously. “Not exactly, no. I was more...look, I know Jon is trying really hard,” I said as I tried to move past the idea of having sex with Jon, though it was sort of why I was here. “I know he cares, I feel pretty confident he loves me. In just a few weeks he’s gotten completely comfortable with kissing me and I love the confidence he has in just doing that whenever the mood strikes him.”


I sighed. “I know the idea of dating me was a hard one for him to come to terms with. I love him so much more for not taking the ‘easy’ way out and putting all the effort into this that he is. What worries me is that next step.” I paused and looked away. “I, um, like being little spoon with him. It’s really comfortable, really just….it’s not, like, blatantly sexual. We’re dressed. But it’s….”

“Comfortably intimate?”

I looked up, locking my gaze to his. “Yes. I could stay that way for just about ever. But I’ve noticed him squirming a bit and I realized he’s, um, getting hard.”

Hamster tilted his head to the side. “What’s the problem? Are you not getting hard?”

The heat went from just my cheeks to my entire face. “Um, no. I, uh, respond pretty fast when I feel his, um. Yeah, no, so,” I blubbered. “I just. I want to ask him if he’s….we haven’t done anything besides kiss, you know? I mean, a part of me is really ready, but I’m worried about him. So I was kind of wondering, since he’s been with girls and now is with me and you, well, you’re bi long did you and Derek wait? Did you have to adjust to the idea of sex with a guy?”

“Whoa, whoa,” he said with a chuckle and set the chip bag aside. “Look, man, I’m totally willing to have this discussion and help if I can. But let’s be clear right off the bat that Jon and I are two different people. I don’t know why he developed the way he did—hell, sometimes I wonder about myself. So whatever I did or didn’t do may not provide you any real insight.”

I glanced away. “Yeah, I know. I’m just...trying to get a grip on the situation. Control what I can. I don’t want Jon to get hurt.”

Hamster frowned slightly. “Jon get hurt? What do you mean?”

“Well, if Jon told me he couldn’t do this and we should be friends I’d be...well, devastated might be a touch dramatic but not far off. Right now Jon has reassessed who he thought he was for me. I’m afraid of what will happen to him if things go too fast or I do the wrong thing.”

“Um, okay, let me back you up for a second.” He held up a finger and said, “Yeah, some of Jon’s motivation was for you, no doubt. Anyone who watches you guys for an hour or so is going to know he’s protective of you, that he’s a little possessive of you and he cares. No question. But if this went against Jon’s grain, he’d have said ‘Hey, Jake, let’s be besties and you go suck dick and I’m going to bang this chick over here and we’ll talk after.’ Okay? Jon’s getting something out of this too.”

“Well, I hope so.”

“No, you’re not hearing me,” Hamster said and leaned forward a bit and gesturing with his hands. “Jon is dating you because Jon loves you. Jon is doing some of this for Jon. I’m all for people doing things for love and being altruistic, but Jon is dating you because Jon chose to. He wants to. So let’s not make this all about how he’s doing you a big favor.”

“I didn’t mean it like that!” I protested. “I’m saying I knew I was gay from the start and I wanted Jon. He’s in the process of changing or discovering more about himself, and change is hard.”

Hamster nodded slowly and then smiled. “Good. So what’s the problem then?”

I dropped my chin and glared.

He grinned. “Okay, so Jon has a bit of a history. From what I’ve heard, in the year or so he’s been here, he’s actually hooked up with two girls and rumors swirled about any girl he took out. I dated a little on the down low back before I got here to the Springs.” He twisted his mouth in a parody of a smile. “I was good looking enough to get interest, but the girls didn’t want to openly date trailer trash. Except for one girl, Liza. She and I had a thing, and then she moved away. Now, I’d have probably slept with her given the chance. Jon obviously was motivated to do so.

“Now my first experience was with a guy named Cole Darby. I sort of went out with him because, for the first time, I felt comfortable exploring that side of me.”

Fascinated, as this was all new to me, I asked, with my voice barely a whisper, “And?”

He shrugged. “It was touch and go for a while. In the end we broke up because I wasn’t moving at his speed. He liked the way I looked but wasn’t interested in much else about me—or maybe, to be fair, it’s more accurate to say he was bored by my interests. We fooled around some, did some oral and then broke things off.”

“ ended badly?”

“Eh, I don’t know about badly. I just wasn’t as into him as I should have been, or as I felt I should have been, to keep it all going.”

“Then what? Did you date another girl or was that when you met Derek?”

“I went stag for a while,” he said and leaned back against his bedframe. “I let my eyes wander over the people around me but didn’t find anyone that I really wanted to put myself out there for. Then Derek moved to town, and Robin and Lu adopted him. I got to know him and I liked what I found, so I invested more time in him. Now, we’re solid as can be.”

“See, that sounds like Jon and I. We’ve known each other for a while, now. The difference is I went in thinking he was arrow straight but, well, maybe not.”

He nodded. “It’s hard to be bisexual. People accuse you of being gay and just not able to handle it or that you’re name it. There is a reason people are afraid to tell folks they are bi. Now, with your boy, add in his fears about what he thinks it means to be gay because of his brother and you’ve got a hot mess on your hands.”

I nodded in agreement. “Geoff didn’t mean to make him think that, I don’t think. Oh, what do I know?” I said and threw my hands in the air. “For all I know Geoff likes fucking with him and making him afraid of gays.” I paused for a moment. “ there anything you could have done to make your first relationship—Cole I mean—work out?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. We were different people, that’s all. That’s why I say this isn’t a comparison, really, for Jon.”

“Yeah,” I agreed with a sigh. “I just kind of think things are going to start getting more intense and I hate that I’m making him so stressed.”

He shook his head. “He’s stressed because he’s going through changes, like you said. You aren’t doing anything.”

“Well, maybe, but I can influence things. Like if, when we spoon, I were to roll over and grab his erection I think he’d freak out a little. I don’t think he’s ready for that.”

Hamster fell silent for a moment and I let my eyes wander over the room and all his books. It sort of looked like one of those boxes that’s leftover after a yardsale filled with crappy romance novels that nobody wants.

“It’s hard to know what someone is ready for without talking to them.” Hamster was speaking without looking at me, sort of as if he were speaking to the room or his books. “I remember when Derek and I first moved to oral it wasn’t new ground for me. But when we were talking about full on sex, my only concern was to make sure it went right. I wanted it to be special for us both.”

“Um, how long did you guys wait?”

He looked up at me. “About three or four months I think. I wasn’t in a rush and Derek was worth savoring. But, you know, we had the conversation. Derek wanted to bottom—he’s always been more interested in bottoming.”

“I’m a little nervous about that,” I admitted. “I understand it hurts.”

He nodded. “It does; or at least it’s always a possibility. We asked our friends for advice on how to make it go as smoothly as possible, and nobody fucks more than Robin and Lu,” he said and then let out a belly laugh.

I grinned. “They’ve been together a long time, right?”

“As long as I’ve known them,” he confirmed. “They are the original high school sweethearts. I was kidding, by the way. They do way more than just have sex. They also had far more experience, at that time, than I had. They have their preferences too, so I talked to Lu about topping.”

“Lu?” I asked with my mouth hanging open. “I thought for sure Robin! He’s got more muscles and stuff. Taller.”

“Has nothing to do with it,” he said with a shake of his head. “Derek is, uh, bigger than I am and you might think he’d be obsessed with topping but he’s not. It’s all about what feels good and it’s a top's job to make the bottom feel good.”

With my face suddenly scorching with heat I said, “Well, I’ve certainly thought about topping Jon. Um, but I’d be willing to bottom for him, too.”

He nodded. “It’s natural, I think, to think to top first. First thing we do when we figure we can do more than piss with it is jerk off all day. The next logical step is putting it somewhere nicer than our hand.” He paused and then said, “On the other hand, having your prostate pulverized is enough to leave you weak. Trust me, even if you discover you prefer one to the other you should experience both. First, as a top, because you need to know how to please your bottom. By experiencing being a bottom, you better understand how to top well.”

“Wow,” I said and let out a breath. “You make it sound easy.”

He shrugged and smiled. “It is, when it’s just talk. When you get down to it and you’re fumbling in the dark and wondering if you used enough lube and then you feel horrible when your boyfriend cries out in can be hard to remember things like this.”

“Cry out it really that bad? I don’t want Jon to get hurt.”

He chuckled. “So concerned for Jon. The thing is, people have to focus on relaxing their muscles. People tend to tense when they start getting penetrated. You have to focus on those muscles and relax and take it slow. Once you get control over those muscles, it gets easier and easier to bottom.”

“I thought you topped in your, um, relationship.”

“Most of the time,” he said with a grin. “But we like to change things up sometimes, and Derek is an awful good top.”

“Is it because he’s...big?” I asked, gulping at such a forward question.

“No.” He shook his head. “Listen. Even BJs are better with Derek than they were with Cole. It’s got nothing to do with size. It has to do with knowing your partner, listening to them and working for their pleasure. If you both are trying to make the other feel good, you’re going to get some good results. Dick size doesn’t matter, especially as a top—the prostate can be hit by a finger, it’s not that deep. If you can hit that, you can be an effective top. Why are you worried? Is Jon a small fry?”

“No!” I said, scandalized. He laughed at me and I rolled my eyes a bit. “I mean, I haven’t seen it but it feels...solid enough. I’m think we just take things slow? I shouldn’t even acknowledge he’s spearing my kidneys?”

“Spearing….!” Hamster exploded in laughter and I joined him. Some of the tension I was feeling drained in our laughter. Eventually, though, he was down to chuckles and I waited to hear what he thought.

“Well, let me ask you. How far have you guys gone?”

I coughed. “Kissing. Um, some...uh, groping.”

“Okay, well, number one, you don’t need to rush things. Unless I miss my mark entirely, Jon won’t want to do anything that might hurt you. So, anal is off the table for now. Let’s focus on the other things. I think you should take things in really small steps and let Jon get used to them, or let him lead. Like you said, you’re gay and you’ve been horny for him since you laid your little gay eyes on him.”

“That’s not true!” I interjected and scowled at his grin. “I did notice he’s nice looking, but there are plenty of nice guys in decent clothes that are total douchebags. I know guys like that that made fun of me for years. Trust me, I see past name brands and a pretty face.”

He nodded. “But he makes you horny.”

I shifted. “Situationally. I mean—why are you making this sound like I only ever wanted his cock?”

He laughed and I scowled. “I’m teasing. I know you guys developed slowly, but come on. You want to sleep with the guy,so he turns you on.”

“Yeah,” I admitted. “There are some...well, like when he is just in jeans and his clean white socks? There’s something about the contrast of his pale skin and the muscles next to the denim makes it hard for me to think.”

“I know what you mean. For me it’s when Derek wears those polo shirts and you can see his hard nipples. Drives. Me. Wild. So, what do you do when Jon takes his shirt off and pushes your buttons like that?”

“Well, last time I stuck my tongue down his throat and demanded he date me.”

We both burst out in laughter at that. It was true. I always thought Jon was attractive, but certain things pushed that attraction to the Nth degree. Another was a green button up he has, left open over a white tee shirt and these somewhat tight canvas pants. It was a combination that made his eyes pop, accentuated his ass and set me to flights of sexual fancy.

“Well, here’s my advice. Next time you guys spoon do something different. Let him be little spoon or, when he spears you,” he said with a snicker, “roll over and make out with him. Making out is something you’ve done so it won’t be a surprise. Let him make the next move. I guess what I mean is, be available to take the next small step and let him decide when that is.”

“How is me being big spoon letting him take a step?” I asked in confusion.

Hamster leaned forward with a wicked gleam in his eye. “Is there any chance—any at all—that you will not bone up lying behind him?”

Heat rushed to my face and I slowly shook my head.

“Then you see what he does. Let him decide what he’s comfortable with. Let him bring up the idea of sex or oral or whatever.” Hamster leaned back and said, “Give him time to catch up. You might have had dreams about blowing, being blown, fucking and being fucked, but he’s still playing catch up. Give him time to do that. He’s going to try, both for him and for you so...give him that opportunity.”

I nodded slowly as I absorbed his words. They had the ring of truth to them. Jon was moving at a pace he may not be completely comfortable with. It was what he could do and it was up to me to support that. Goodness knows we were in a pretty good place at this point, and Jon was trying so hard that it made my heart swell.

I glanced at Hamster and nodded. “I think that’s good advice. You know, this isn’t really a sex story, per se,” I said with a cough. Hamster chuckled and rolled his hand, urging me to continue.

“Well, I pushed him at first to make sure he wasn’t just doing this for me. Then, that very first night he surprised me with a kiss on, um, the neck.” I paused and was very conscious of how hot I felt. My gaze flicked to Hamster who watched me with an indulgent amusement. I smiled a little in response to his expression and continued.

“He, uh, does this thing where he kind of swirls the, um, skin on my neck. With his tongue. While he sort of sucks. On it.”

I found myself incapable of adding anything else.

“I assume you like when he does this?”

“Oh. My. God.” I let out a nervous chuckle. “It’s the makes me groan every time and he seems to like that he can make me do that!”

Hamster grinned. “I bet he does. Your fellow likes control, but it seems like it’s in a positive sense with you. You done it back to him yet?”

I shook my head. “He’s been taking the lead, starting the makeouts. I should though, shouldn’t I? Just kiss his neck and see if he likes it just as much?”

“He probably had someone do it to him and he likes it, so he’s doing it to you. Of course,” Hamster said with a grin, “I’m sure making you squirm and actually kissing your neck are what’s in it for Jon.”

I felt pleased to have shared a small, intimate detail. It was true that Jon had been seeking out giving me affection and I was only too happy to return it. But when he started on my neck most of my other thought processes short circuited.


After leaving Hamster’s place I pulled up in front of Jon’s home at around six and ran a hand through my hair before climbing out. I was thinking I needed to get it cut, as my bangs were starting to get in my face. I wonder if Jon likes me better with longer hair or shorter? He’s never really mentioned physical traits he likes, especially where I was concerned. Thoughts like that always led me to wonder if he was actually attracted after all.

I knocked on the door and then opened it. “Jon? I’m here,” I called out as I entered the house.

There was some movement from upstairs, and then Jon bounced down to the landing. “Hey. Come on up.”

I followed him up to his room where he was, apparently, just finishing changing. He was wearing the tan canvas pants that made his rear end look so great and a print tee shirt. The green button up I liked that completed this outfit and made his eyes stand out was just being pulled on, and he began buttoning the shirt.

“Where were you?” Jon asked.

“Hanging out with Hamster,” I told him as I crossed the room. Pushing his hands away I took the bottom of his shirt in hand and said, “Nope. This is wrong.” I promptly began unbuttoning the shirt.

“Hey, I forget. Does he have a boyfriend?” Jon asked in a teasing tone, ignoring the fact I was basically undressing him.

Opening the shirt to my satisfaction I patted his chest. “He does. Not that it matters since I have a boyfriend myself, in case you hadn’t heard.”

“Oh?” Jon asked and reached out for me. I giggled and danced back a little, but of course the object wasn’t to get away and he quickly had me in his arms. “Gotcha. Now, who is this guy? I need to know because if he’s not good enough for you...I can break him.”

I laced my hands behind his neck and leaned back, an amused expression on my face. “Break him, huh? I don’t know, he’s kind of kick-ass.”

“Well, I don’t know if you’ve heard,” Jon replied and wiggled his fingers in my sides and I laughed, then jumped a bit closer to him. “But I’ve been known to take out two guys at once. I have a witness, no bragging!”

“Wow, two? That’s impressive,” I said mockingly and he replied by digging in his fingers again. I laughed and pressed even tighter to him and felt warmed as he stopped tickling and wrapped his arms around me.

“So...describe this guy so I can recognize him.”

I turned my head and rested my cheek against his chest. “Hmm. He has a fantastic ass.”

“Hey! How would I ever notice that?” he demanded indignantly.

“Well, I figured that would be easy since you just have to look. Do you need to investigate farther than that?” I asked innocently.

“Well, you know, I’m sure more than one guy has a great ass on him. Might need a little more to go on.”

“Oh. Well, hmm,” I said to him while letting my fingers roam up and down his back. “He’s smart, but very stubborn,” I started.

“I don’t know anyone like that,” he deadpanned and I laughed.

“He’s taller than average. Beautiful, thick hair and green eyes you could just drown in,” I told him dreamily.

“Man, it almost seems like a shame to beat this guy up! He good to you?”

I nodded rather than speak, my face rubbing against his shirt.

“So this guy...he have anything to worry about from Hamster? He’s kinda built. You like built guys?” He flexed his arms which effectively squeezed me. I giggled again and shook my head.

“Hamster’s in love. He does have nice muscles, I guess,” I teased and Jon’s right arm tightened quickly and then released. “But he doesn’t work out or anything. I guess when he lived with his mom, before she died, there wasn’t anything to do in the trailer park so he lifted a little bit out of boredom. Now he just does maintenance.”

“Huh,” Jon grunted. “So muscles aren’t your thing?”

“I like smart. We all can use a little more smart,” I replied. “But my guy’s no slouch. He’s got muscle but, you know, practical muscle. Not for show.”

Bemusedly Jon said, “I’ve never heard of practical muscle. I think you just made that up.”

I hummed in reply but was perfectly content to stay where I was, pressed tightly to Jon and holding him close. I could hear his heartbeat, strong and steady, and then it hit me that I’d just told Jon he had a fantastic ass. My face got warm and I was glad he couldn’t see. Then again, I should be able to tell him that, in all seriousness.

“So are we still going to look for shoes for you?” Jon asked and then coughed slightly.

“Shoes schmooze,” I said.

“Oh, we’re standing here all night are we?”

“That a problem?”

He paused. “Uh, no. I guess I could be persuaded. I mean shoe shopping? Really? Like I’m going to fight skipping that!”

I laughed and pulled back and looked up at him. “I do need those shoes. Besides, you look really nice. I want to show you off.”

“What, I’m a trophy now?” he said, a whine entering his voice.

“No, that implies some sort of competition. I’m not open to competition,” I told him as we parted. He reached down and adjusted himself and I wondered if it was just one of those normal adjustments we guys do a million times a day or if it had been caused by proximity.

Taking on a stuffy tone Jon said, “So my services weren’t won in a high stakes game but simply purchased? A servant is it now?”

Deciding to be bold, since he went there, I told him, “Jon, we both know things would be very different if you were my servant.”

“Oh? How’s that?” he asked as he flipped off the light and I followed him down the stairs.

“Skimpy uniform to start,” I said.

He laughed. “A French maid’s outfit? I’m not wearing any skirts.”

“Hmm. Since you’re a servant and it’s my choice, I just have to wonder if you have the legs for it?” I asked as I tapped my lips with my finger.

He paused, clearly torn between defending the shapeliness of his legs or being trapped into wearing a skirt. “We can compromise. No skirt, but I can wear a bow tie.” Opening the closet by the front door he withdrew his shoes and pulled them on and then grabbed a jacket.

“Like my own personal Chippendales stripper? I’m good with that. Um, it’s getting cold. You should wear a coat,” I said.

He glanced at me. “And you’re wearing a light jacket why, then?” It was not lost on me that he’d let the stripper comment pass.

I shrugged. “I wore it this morning, and now it’s colder than it was.”

He reached back into the closet and pulled out a thick hoodie and handed it to me. I slipped my jacket off and pulled the hoodie on and found the jacket was too small to go over the hoodie comfortably. Oh well, I figured I’d just throw it in my car.

“So really,” Jon said. “Do I need to go see Hamster tomorrow? Make sure he knows what’s what?”

I gave him a dead-eyed glare. “If you do that I will kick your ass.”

“Whoa, hit a nerve? This Hamster guy is special, huh?” Jon teased.

“Jonathan, you will never embarrass me again like you did with Trace. Hold it,” I said as he continued to walk toward his car. I snagged his arm and spun him toward me and he turned that into a spinning hug by grabbing me and lifting.

“Jon!” I said through surprised laughter. “Put me down!”

He set me down and looked down at me with a glint in his eye.

I shook my head. “What’s gotten into you tonight?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” he said, faking a stuffy accent. I grabbed the front of his coat and pulled him closer to me. He fell into me a little and we stumbled off balance and fell into the cold grass of his front yard. I rolled quickly so that I was sitting on his stomach and pushed his hands over his head. He wasn’t struggling much; he was too busy chuckling and asking me what the heck I was doing.

Looking down on him, smiling and being playful, I wondered just what had gotten into Jon. Whatever it was, I approved. Thinking briefly of Hamster and our conversation, I leaned down. Jon’s mouth parted slightly and I think he was ready for the kiss he thought was coming, but instead I gave him the kiss he didn’t see coming.

The skin of his neck was soft and warm and I gently sucked and swirled my tongue in a vague imitation of Jon’s own kiss. A slightly salty taste greeted me initially and then my focus was on the texture of his skin, the way the muscle was moving under my eager ministrations and how his head turned to open up more of his neck. I moved down toward his throat and back up until I was nibbling his earlobe.

It wasn’t until I made my second trip down the side of his neck that I hit something extra special for Jon, which was near the base of this throat. He gave a gasp and then let out a very low, breathy whine. No moans, no grunts, a whine.

“What was that? You don’t like it?” I asked, my breath coming quickly.

“Huh? Why—no, don’t stop!” he said, his voice laced with confusion.

I dropped my head and sucked quickly and then whispered into his ear. “That? Do more of that?”

He whined again and I grinned. I made Jon whine with pleasure. Not only that, he was begging for more. I no longer cared what had gotten into him, I was just going to—

“Guys, really? On the lawn? Want me to turn on the porch light for you?”

We both jumped and I looked up at the second floor window where Richard was leaning out.

“Your timing sucks,” Jon called out and then laughed. He levered himself up and we climbed to our feet.

“You guys better come back with a pair of shoes, damn it,” Richard grumbled as he closed the window.

We climbed into Jon’s car, of course, and once we’d pulled out of the driveway and started down the street I rested my hand over his, which was on the shift lever.

“You’re different tonight,” I said to him, not really expecting an answer.

“Yeah? Good or bad?”

“It’s kind of wonderful, honestly,” I said with a chuckle.

“Oh. Well, good. I was trying to be wonderful.”

“Mission accomplished.”

“How do you know that was my whole mission? How do you—”

“Jon, you better be careful because if you go much farther….” I looked at him and he glanced at me as he drove. I lifted an eyebrow suggestively and a nervous smile flashed across his face.

“Is it okay if I’m just wonderful, then?” he asked with a nervous chuckle.

I nodded. “Yeah. Although, unless you’re being difficult, you’re pretty wonderful. I mean, uh, my boyfriend is. You know, the kick-ass guy. Fantastic ass.” I blushed and started to laugh nervously at having brought up his butt yet again.

The car stopped for a light and he rolled his hand over and we laced our fingers together. “Your boyfriend, he’s a lucky guy. You sure you don’t want me to straighten him out?”

“Last thing I need is a straight boyfriend,” I deadpanned. He visibly paused and I thought perhaps I’d gone too far. Maybe he still thinks of himself as straight. I’d read about guys that sleep with other men and still call themselves straight. Was I looking at that right now? Or was this simply me pushing him where I wanted him to go?

“Sorry,” I said.

“What? No,” he said as we moved through the intersection. “I’m just...I’m working on it.”

“You’re doing an amazing job. I’m really proud of you.”

He lifted an eyebrow in amusement. “Proud? If I study hard enough you think I’ll make a good gay boy?”

I reached over and smacked his shoulder with my free hand. “I’m proud of you putting in all the effort for a real relationship. Lesser boyfriends would have failed by now. Not you, though.” I chortled. “I guess there is a use for your stubbornness after all.”

“Jerk,” he said and we both laughed.

We drove out to a small mall that was relatively popular and bought a drink before heading out to actually shop. As per normal, Jon refused to let me pay—in fact he blocked me bodily from the register. We wandered by the shop windows and poked our heads in anywhere either of us spotted something of interest. We stopped in front of a chain shoe store, whose prices would be higher than a regular store, but Jon wanted to look.

“You realize,” Jon said conspiratorially, “that we do have to come back with a pair of shoes or Richard will never trust us again. Especially after you were ravaging me on my front lawn.”

I widened my eyes. “He probably only came to the window because you were so noisy. If you could hold in that whine—”

“I didn’t whine!”

“Then maybe you’d have gotten a little more. As it is, you got his attention and we were caught. I wonder if your neighbors saw?”

“Hmm. I think Mrs Robertson across the street has a thing for me. Come to think of it, I think Mr Robertson does, too.”

“If they aren’t careful I’ll take away their walkers,” I said in a tone of warning. We both laughed as we walked past the expensive shoes on offer.

“Hi, guys. Can I help you find anything?” The clerk was dressed like a referee or an OCD zebra, take your pick.

“Um, not yet,” Jon said and then continued as if he hadn’t just spoken. “He needs a shoe with some aggressive tread, good arch support, and it can’t be too wide. Light for running and preferably an upper that breathes well.”

“I have several that might work for you. Come right over here, and I’ll point out some of the better models,” the fake ref said. I fell in behind Jon. I wasn’t buying anything here; why shouldn’t I let him indulge himself? Maybe he wanted new shoes too.

The salesman showed us some very nice shoes with stupidly large price tags. I had money to spend on shoes, but I wasn’t stupid—nor was I rich. I was not paying that kind of money for sneakers.

“Try these on, Jake,” Jon enthused. I accepted the shoe and flipped it over to check the price. No label. I looked inside the heel of the shoe and found it marked at one hundred seventy-five dollars.

“That’s okay. Why don’t we keep looking?”

“But these are perfect for you. They’re light, they have mesh sides so they breath well, and they should be narrow for your foot. Your old shoes are too wide, and your foot moves too much in them.”

“Thank you, Dr. Scholls,” I muttered. “I don’t like them. They look like a melted, neon ice cream cone. With sprinkles.”

Jon gave the shoes a critical look. “Guess they are a little out there. I’ll ask the guy if they come in another color -”

I cut him off again. “Wait, how about we look around a little more? See what else we can find?”

Jon looked at me skeptically but put the shoe back. We wandered out of that store and hit a few more, and each time Jon was suggesting very high end sneakers. I found a pair I liked on clearance and was moving to a chair to try them on when Jon protested.

“You can’t get those! Jake, what’s the matter with you?” he demanded.

I looked down at the offending shoe and then back to him. “They’re sixty-five bucks and I’m pretty sure I can run in them.”

“They’re leather with practically no air-flow. The tread is flat and it’s wide. You’ll have to yank the laces stupidly tight to make them fit right.”

I glanced down and he was right, they were a wide. “Well, maybe they have one that isn’t as wide.”

“Did you not hear the rest I just said? Look at these over here.”

I placed the shoe back on the rack and followed him. Oh, man. They were really nice shoes. Jon picked them up and pointed out all the features he thought I needed. It was gratifying to have him so focused on me having the right item for my needs, and I was pretty damn impressed he knew I had a narrow foot. How the hell had he figured that out?

The shoes were blue and white, and I really, really liked them. I flipped it over and looked at the price. One hundred and thirty dollars. I felt a little bummed as I had a hundred on me and hadn’t planned to spend it all. I would have, for these shoes, but as it was I didn’t even want to try them on.

“Come on, let’s get a pair in your size to try on.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said but he ignored me and walked the shoe over to the clerk. It was more of Jon being in charge, of course, but I let him have his way for the moment. The clerk left to go find a pair in my size and Jon came over looking pleased with himself and plopped down next to me.

“You guys got all your food bought for Thanksgiving?” I asked while we waited.

“Oh, no,” Jon said with a shake of his head. “We go to Boston—Rowes Wharf. The food is great—they have these bacon wrapped scallops! You should totally steal their recipe so we could have them year round. And there is a lot to do in walking distance, so it’s not boring like some places my brother likes to go.”

I hesitated. “Well, I guess you’ll get a chance to catch up with your old friends, huh?”

Jon shrugged and tilted his head. “I guess so. I hadn’t stopped to think about it, actually.”

“Sounds fun, anyway,” I said and forced a smile. “I didn’t know you weren’t going to be around for Thanksgiving. I’ll make you a pie to take with you. How long will you be gone?”

“Um. We come back Sunday.”

“Oh, wow. Mini-vacation, huh? Cool.”

“What about you? Are you cooking for your dad?” Jon asked. He sounded slightly uncomfortable and I didn’t feel bad about that. He could have mentioned he was going out of town.

“No. That company he’s been setting up stores for? I guess they were trying to sell themselves like he thought. Anyway, they want him to set up these two new stores—Kingston and Catskill. They're several hours away, so he gave me the choice of motels with him and finding a Chinese place open on Thanksgiving or staying home. If I stay home I think I’ll put up a tree that night. Want to help me shop for a tree?”

“Sure,” Jon smiled. “Have you ever been to Boston?”

“No. I haven’t really been anywhere. Here comes the guy,” I said as the clerk appeared with the shoes in a box. I busied myself with taking the paper stuffing out, putting the laces through the last few eyes at the top and then slipped them on and laced them up. I stood. Instantly they felt better than my old shoes, though there wasn’t much of a chance they wouldn’t. Naturally, Jon had been right that these shoes were narrower and fit my feet better. I took a few steps and wandered close by, looking at other pairs while I sized up the ones on my feet.

“What do you think?” Jon asked.

I walked around a bit and looked over at him. “They feel good. You were right about them fitting my feet better,” I told him, and a pleased expression settled on his face. I walked over to him and dropped in the seat beside him. “I think I’ll get the other pair, though.”

Jon frowned. “Those? You haven’t even tried them on. Don’t you like these?” he asked, pointing to my feet.

“Yeah, I like them,” I said. “They’re really comfortable, light and I imagine I can almost feel the air moving around my foot.”

“Then get them! They look good and they’re way better than those cheap shit sneakers.”

I looked down at the shoes and wiggled my toes inside. I really did like them and I did want them, but they were too much money.

“No, they’re too much. Don’t get me wrong; I like them, but they’re expensive.”

Jon blew out a breath. “I’ll buy them then, problem solved.”

“Jon, no!” I said quickly.

“How did they fit?” The clerk asked.

“Fine,” I said.

“He’ll take them,” Jon replied.

“No,” I said, glowering at Jon. “I won’t.”

“I’ll, uh, just give you a moment,” the clerk said and backed off.

“Jake! You like the shoes, and they look great on you. Let’s just get them,” Jon said in a reasonable tone.

“No,” I said firmly. “They're too expensive. I’m not letting you pay for them.”

“Can’t stop me,” Jon taunted.

I turned toward him and glared. “This isn’t a game, Jonathan! I’m not letting you blow money on me. It won’t take very long for people to think I just want what you can buy me.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it. Besides, why do I care what people think? I know you aren’t using me,” he said petulantly.

“Yeah? How about your brothers? How will they feel when you buy me shoes, which by the way you aren’t my parent and it’s not your responsibility to clothe me.”

Jon frowned. “Richard knows you better than that. If Geoff implies something, I’ll handle him.”

“Jon,” I said in exasperation. “I don’t want you in a position to have to ‘handle’ anything! It’s not a big deal. I have a hundred dollars to spend on shoes and these are out of my range. I’ll get the sixty-five dollar ones and we’ll go for ice cream, okay?”

His frown deepened. “You can’t distract me with food you didn’t make,” he said. “Besides, I can take you out for ice cream if you want that, but I want you to get these shoes.”

I clenched my fists. “Jon, listen to me. I don’t want your money.”

Jon rolled his eyes. “And you call me stubborn. I’m not giving you money, I’m getting you shoes.”

“Jonathan!” I said, raising my voice. “It’s sort of cute when you insist on buying us coffees or the occasional lunch but this is too much! You won’t ever let me pay for anything and I’m not some leech! I mean, Christ, I go to the bathroom and you order while I’m gone!”

“Hey, the line moved and I know what you want. Big deal.”

“That’s not the point. What’s next? Do I say ‘Oh Jon, look at that ring’ and you just buy it for me? Don’t you see how easy that is? I don’t want that!”

“Well, that’s good ‘cause I’m not buying you a ring. It’s only been a few weeks, babe. I love you but, let’s give it some time—ow!”

He lifted his arm as I brought a shoe down on his shoulder again. “I’m not some poor kept boy or something! I don’t have a job; I have to be practical. You will respect this, Jon.”

He frowned at me some more. “I don’t understand. I like getting you things that make you happy.”

I shook my head. “I understand what you mean, but I don’t need you to buy me things to make me happy.”

Jon tilted his head. “But you like these shoes. Clearly it would make you happy to have them, and it makes me happy to get them for you. I’m confused.”

I sighed and lowered the shoe I’d been hitting him with. “Yes, I like the shoes. They look nice, they feel good and you approve. Having something like shoes, though, is a temporary enjoyment, and they don’t truly make me happy. Yeah, I’d be pleased for a little while, but it wouldn’t last. You are one of two things that make me happy, truly. I’m not going to let money come between us.”

“But I’m offering! How is that letting money come between us?”

I tilted my head at him and tried to communicate with my expression how thick he was being. “You already told me you were used to people just using you. For money or because your family had money, for what you could do for them or for the things you had. One of the reasons we work, Jon, is I don’t care about your house or your TV or your video games. I’m totally happy just hanging out with you, like our runs. That costs us nothing but what matters most to me. Your time.”

He smiled. “Then buying the shoes facilitates our time together. I win!”

I raised the shoe and he leaned away for a moment. Lowering the shoe again I said, “That wasn’t the point and you know it. I hate when you deliberately ignore the points I’m making and wander off in some other direction because you won’t acknowledge what I’ve said.”

Jon wrinkled his brow and leaned back in the chair, studying me. I put the shoe back on the shelf and reached to start untying the laces when he grunted and sat forward. I glanced up at him to see his expression thoughtful and then his face brightened. “Let’s compromise. You always tell me we need to talk things out, so let’s do that. How about you pay the sixty-five you planned on and I’ll pay the rest? Then I’ll take you anywhere you want for ice cream.”

I reached for the shoe.

“Hey! No hitting!”

“Jon, you’d be paying more for my shoes than I am!” I growled.

“Okay, well, you pay a hundred since it’s what you brought, and I’ll pay the rest. How about that?”

I shook my head. “Why are you pushing this?”

He glanced around and then flashed me a shy smile. “You like them. It’s not like they cost a thousand bucks or something. Good sneakers cost and we exercise a lot. It’s like an investment. But, really, it’s ‘cause you like them. I want you to have them.”

I sighed and looked away from him. Was I being unreasonable? I think Jon knows I love him for him but I didn’t like the idea of taking money from him. I also didn’t want his brothers to think I was some sort of gold digger. They must talk, and if Jon and I were to work I think I’d need his family to support our relationship, not push doubts on it. What could I do? How do I balance those practical worries with pleasing Jon in the short term?

“Okay, how about a counteroffer?”

“Negotiation? That’s progress. Let’s hear it.”

“How about I put in ninety now and borrow the rest from you, to be paid back in a few weeks? Then we can take that ten bucks and I’ll buy us ice cream.”

“You don’t have to pay me back, Jake. I want—”

“Damn it, Jonathan,” I snarled under my breath. “Can’t you let me have a little pride, here? I love you, but it makes me feel bad that I never pay. It’s like you think I’m too poor to afford it.”

A shocked look settled on Jon’s face. “I—no. No! I just like taking...I mean, I like buying stuff for you. I like, um.”

I looked away from him, ashamed of myself. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I know you like to be in charge, and most of the time I don’t mind. Maybe you don’t care if your brothers think I’m leeching off you, but I do. I never want you to be able to seriously think I used you.”

“Jake! I never—”

“I know!” I hissed. “And I never want to give you reason to change that. But I’m serious, too. I’m not your little brother. I’m not a little kid. I’m your boyfriend, and we’re equals. You have to let me have a say, Jon.” I looked at him and softened my tone. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate it. I love how sweet you can be. I know some of this is control for you, too, but I need you to relax, okay?”

He cleared his throat and nodded. “Okay. You pay ninety and I’ll loan you the rest. Then we go halves on ice cream.”

“Jon,” I said my tone full of warning.

“No, halves. Baby steps. I never let you pay; you can’t just expect me to let you spoil me like that, can you? Then I’ll want it all the time. Isn’t that your logic?”

“I spoil you with cooking all the time, Jon,” I said dryly.

“Good point!” he said with a smile. “Ice cream is on me!”

I sighed and rolled my eyes at him. Sometimes he was just incorrigible. I nodded and he took on a smug look that nearly made me change my mind. Before I could box the new shoes back up, he’d discarded my old ones and told me to wear the new ones out. Humble in victory my boyfriend was not. I gave him the ninety in cash, and he put the shoes on his card. I looked down and admired my new shoes.

“They look good,” Jon said as we headed out of the store.

I bumped into him, a small shoulder check, and said, “Thank you, Jon.”

“You’re welcome, babe.”

I stumbled and then righted myself. “That’s the second time you’ve called me that.”


I blushed. “Babe.”

“Did I? Huh. I must love you or something.”

I blushed harder and smiled at him. He grinned, and we walked down the mall looking in windows. We passed a trendy store that had a style of shirt whose name I don’t know. It was a button up, which suited Jon, but the sleeves were pegged with some sort of bauble so that they’d likely show off his biceps. Jon has nice arms; not huge by any stretch, probably more lean than built, but I liked them. I paused and looked at the shirt and he idled next to me. I wondered if they had other colors because I liked the style and I bet it would look nice with his skin tone. I convinced him to go inside and try it on.

“I don’t know,” he said as he looked in the mirror. “You like it?”

I was standing behind him and checking out his butt. “Yeah, I like it,” I mumbled.

“I mean the shirt, Jake,” he said in a tired voice and I grinned before looking the shirt over critically.

“It looks really nice against your skin. Try taking the tee shirt off and then putting the new one back on.”

He frowned. “You can’t really see the tee shirt as it is.”

“Yeah, but if you leave the shirt unbuttoned without the tee, I bet it looks fantastic.”

He lifted an eyebrow at me and I grinned unrepentantly. “Do you like the shirt on me or not?”

“Yes,” I said. “You look very nice.” I approached him and needlessly adjusted the arms. “They show off your muscles. It looks like you have some, now.”

He pulled me into a quick headlock and rubbed my head with his fist. “I’ll show you muscles.”

I pulled away and laughed. “The shirt looks very good on you. I like it.”

He looked at me a minute more before pulling the shirt off to make the purchase. I wondered if I could use this to my advantage and get him to wear other things I liked on him. Jon had nice clothes and reasonably good taste as far as I could tell. But everyone looks better with certain colors and cuts and I know I had my favorites for him.

“You know, you could use a nice button up,” Jon mused.

“Didn’t we just have this chat?” I said in a bored tone. He had to be baiting me; it was almost like Jon enjoyed the mental struggle with me.

“Well, this isn’t for you. It’s for me.” He walked away toward a rack of expensive button-ups and began to paw through them, glancing at me periodically and grunting to himself. I just watched him, faintly amused at his game and just let him run with it. The boy hated not being in control and this must be his way to get some back.

“This—no, this!” he said as he pulled light blue shirt up and held it against my chest. “I like this, try it on.”

“No. I’m not buying it.”

“I told you,” he said patiently. “It’s not for you, it’s for me.”

“How is it for you if I’m wearing it? I thought that only applied to lingerie?”

“Will you just mind me for once?” he said, sort of whining and I couldn’t help but laugh. I pulled off the hoodie and slipped into the shirt. I buttoned it quickly and held my arms out.


“Perfect. Your eyes really stand out with this shirt. I’m buying it.”

“Jonathan,” I said in exasperation.

“Hey. You like certain things on me? Fine. If I want you to wear something and I’m paying for it? No, you don’t get a vote,” he said and took the shirt from me in triumph. As he walked away he looked over his shoulder and said, “You can’t have this right away, either. I’m saving it.”

I let him have his little victory, secretly thrilled that he picked out something he wanted to see me wear. Or was he just copying me, figuring this was how things worked? I hate myself sometimes. We wandered down towards the end of the mall where we’d parked and stopped to get an ice cream cone. I paid, though we pushed and shoved at the counter. Pretty sure the clerk thought we were related rather than dating, considering how we fought and giggled.

As we turned to leave I spotted Gina Torrez walking with a few friends. I’d seen her at school, of course, but this was the first time I’d really seen her since Jon and I became a couple. I eyed her, one of the girls Jon had either gone out with or hooked up with, I wasn’t sure which. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. She was pretty, I reflected, with her long dark hair and caramel skin color. I bet her skin contrasted really well with Jon’s pale skin. The image was in my head now and I grimaced.

“Hey, there’s Gina,” I said. I’m not sure why. I must have a self-flagellation streak in me somewhere.


It took me a second to realize who Jake was talking about before I recognized Gina Torrez at one of the tables.

“Huh, how about that,” I commented, suddenly feeling nervous. To see someone from school, let alone someone I’d hooked up with, while I was here with Jake had me wanting out of there. “Come on.”

I strode out of the ice cream shop at a fast clip, Jake hurrying to catch up. “Are you okay?” he asked. He was watching me carefully - I should have known he’d see something was wrong. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure it out after I bolted like I did.

“Yeah.” I smiled at him, but he didn’t look convinced.

“You sure?” he prodded, keeping pace with me.

“Never better,” I replied, knowing I looked anything but as I scanned the crowd for any more familiar faces. Shopping for shoes and clothes together, it had been like we were in our own little world. Seeing Gina had shattered that illusion, and suddenly the mall didn’t feel safe anymore.

Jake frowned. “You kind of booked it out of there.”

“What, did you want to stay and chat?” I snapped and immediately regretted it. Jake flushed.

“No,” he glared at me. “I guess I just forgot I’m not supposed to ask questions when you start acting weird. My bad.”

I stopped and sighed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I just… Please, can we get out of here?”

His expression softened. “Sure, but what's wrong?”

“I'm just...not feeling so hot. Need some air.” My boyfriend nodded, though I don't know how much he believed me. He didn't say anything else as we headed to the parking lot. So he didn’t get the wrong idea, and 'cause it made me feel better, I reached out and took his hand. Hand holding, the perfect mix of “I love you” and “hurry up.”

I knew people were going to find out about us eventually. It was just inevitable, and Jake had made it clear he wasn't going to hide. But that didn’t mean that I wanted the first person to be Gina Torrez. I wasn’t keen on meeting any girls I hooked up with after the fact, but Gina could clearly be labeled under my “fuck-ups” category.

“Whenever you’re ready, you can tell me. You know that, right?” Jake asked as he slid into the passenger seat.

“There’s nothing to tell,” I insisted, turning on the car and pulling down the brake, before I realized that was the wrong thing to say.

“Seriously, Jon? I’m not an idiot. You ran away from her. I’m not asking you to tell me why, but give me a little credit and don’t pretend that wasn’t it-”

“I wasn’t running!” I snapped, stomping on the accelerator and causing the car to lurch forward. The sudden motion cut off Jake’s response perfectly. The stony silence lasted for a couple minutes while I took us out of the parking lot and down the road.

“So is it going to be like this everytime we see someone you hooked up with?” he asked sullenly.

“What do you mean? No,” Yes, it is, corrected a nasty voice in my head. “I just didn’t want to see her right now, is all.”

“Would you if you hadn’t been with me?”

“Sorry, what?” The question caught me completely off guard and I glanced at Jake. His blue eyes were fixed on me, his expression dead serious.

“Would you have stayed to talk to her if you hadn’t been with me?” he repeated.

“Jake, what are you saying?” I paused for a moment before answering my own question. “You think that I’d try and hook up with her?” I turned to look at him again and he was staring out the window, his silence speaking volumes. I shook my head, starting to get angry. “Seriously?” I muttered.

“Is it so crazy?” he retorted. “You did before…”

“Yes, before I - we started dating.” The realization he didn’t trust me stung like hell. Of course he doesn’t, the voice whispered in my ear, sounding a little too much like Geoff. He’d trust you even less if he knew everything about that business with Gina… I shook my head as if to physically dislodge the imagined voice and took a deep breath.

“Jake… I know I’m new to this but...come on. I’m not a complete asshole. You and I are a thing. I know what that means.” I glanced at him from the corner of my eye. His expression had softened but now he just looked thoughtful. In the context of an argument that was just as scary.

“It’s not a question of being an asshole, Jon,” he began slowly. “You’re a good person and you’ll never hear me question that. I just mean if you understand how-”

“Okay, going to stop you right there,” I snapped. “This is what I’m talking about. I’m not like some kind of alien that has to learn about how ‘real people’ get to know each other and fall in love. I understand common decency. I know that when you’re with someone you don’t try and fuck other people. What kind of idiot do you think I am? Wait, don’t answer that,” I added before he could say something smart.

“Jon, I’m sorry.” Jake sighed. “You obviously don’t have to tell me everything, but something’s bothering you, and I guess….” He paused a moment. “Girls, especially girls from...before, will always kind of be a sore spot for me.”

I sighed before I could stop myself, even though I knew it would make things worse. It did - I could feel the temperature in the car drop a few degrees. “Jake, what do I have to do to show you I’m serious?”

He was quiet for a moment. Stopping at a red light, I turned to look at him. He was looking out the window again.

“I know you wouldn’t cheat, Jon. I mean, I trust you. It’s not about that, though.”

“Then what is it about?” I asked as the light turned green. “What can I do?”

“It’s okay. There’s nothing you can do,” came the cryptic response.

“Not if you don’t tell me,” I persisted. It was like we’d switched places in this conversation. Usually Jake was the one trying to pry info out of me with a crowbar.

“Jon,” he sighed.

“Aren’t you the one always saying we should be honest with each other?”

“And aren’t you the one always trying to dodge personal questions?” he retorted.

“Maybe you’re rubbing off on me.” I ignored his frustrated growl and continued. “If you don’t think I’d hook up with someone else then why are you acting like I did?”

Jake had opened his mouth to speak but shut it right away, slumping down in the seat.

“Shit, that’s what I’m doing, isn’t it?” I let that go without a comment. “I’m sorry, Jon,” he said for the second time in the last five minutes. “I can’t help that I get nervous seeing girls that you…” He sighed. “But it’s not fair to treat you like you did something wrong.”

Something told me it wasn’t a good idea to agree with him out loud, so I took a slightly different tack. “Jake...I did a lot of things I regret, but I can’t just wish away my past, even if sometimes…” I wish I could, I finished mentally.

“It’s just...I can kind of see how you’d find Gina attractive, and when you started acting weird, I guess I jumped to conclusions.” Jake still wasn’t looking at me, but I could even hear in his voice that this wasn’t easy to say.

“But you shouldn’t worry,” I insisted. “I like you. It’s simple.” I knew it wasn’t but it should be. Why couldn’t my word be enough? “And, you said it yourself, I ‘ran from her.’ If I had gone up and started flirting I could see why you’d get all jealous, but...”

“Excuse me? Jealous?” He frowned at me. Well, it’s better than blankly staring out the window. Progress, I guess.

“What would you call it?” I retorted and suddenly had a thought. “You know,” I continued before he could reply, “this isn’t that different from when you hang out with the Rainbow Brigade.”

“What the hell, Jon? This is totally different -” he sputtered.

“Really?” I couldn’t stop a tiny grin. “I can see why you’d find them attractive, they all swing that way. How can I not get nervous?”

“It’s nothing like that! 'Cause I told you, they’re all dating someone and I’m with you, but you still get all…” He stopped. “Oh.”

“Then how do you think I feel when you get like that?” I prompted. “I’m not even hanging out with those chicks. I’m definitely not interested in meeting them again. Fuck, Jake, I can’t even remember half their names.” I shut my mouth then, noticing I was getting a little carried away.

“Fine! I get it!” Jake huffed. “I’m unreasonable and crazy. Happy? Maybe you’re not the only one who needs to adjust a little, okay? I’m not used to dating a guy who likes girls and ever since I met you, you’ve been a…a....”

“Slut?” I supplied. When I saw his lips tighten, I gave him a grin as we turned into my driveway. “Call a spade a spade, man.”

“I mean,” he went on, “that you’re, we’’s different now and I’m still getting used to it.” We were quiet for a minute while I parked. “I like it. A lot. It’s just so new.”

I leaned back in the driver’s seat with a sigh. “Yeah, I might know something about that.”

Jake laughed. God, it was great to hear that sound again. “I’m sor-” he began but I put a finger on his lips and leaned in.

“I think we’ve both said that enough tonight. How about we do more showing, less telling?”

Who said you don’t learn anything useful in English class?


Having a study hall for the last period of the day is kind of cruel. I guess you could get your homework done, or some of it, but the temptation to just sit there like a lump at the end of the school day was pretty powerful. I was just about to follow through with that plan when my friend, or maybe just acquaintance, Theresa Riggles sat down heavily in the seat next to me.

“Hi!” she said with a big smile. In fairness, everything was big about Theresa. Growing up in town together we’d been kind of fat kid bookends and been made fun of, unconsciously paired up together by teachers, and the subject of withering comments by our peers for quite a long time. Maybe not friends, exactly, but a little more than acquaintances, too.

“Hey, Theresa,” I said and returned her smile. “What’s going on?”

“Well, I just had to come talk to you, my FFF.” She paused and looked at me expectantly. Theresa, despite all the crap everyone had thrown at her, was quite resilient and almost always positive—at least on the outside. I can’t imagine she didn’t have scars on the inside.

“What is that? Is it like a BFF only, what, failing?” I asked with a chuckle.

“Formerly Fat Friend,” she told me as soon as I’d finished. “Isn’t it great?”

I smiled at her. “I hope I stay that way.” I thought it not to be in good taste to ask if she were trying to lose weight—perhaps she was a person who’d accepted herself and was dealing in a healthy way.

“Well, dating Jon Ellesier has to be a workout!” she said, snorting in laughter.

I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “He keeps me on my toes,” I confirmed.

“I bet. Becca Stanton sent me the goods. Not a porn star but I bet he’s had some practice, right?” she asked and then switched tones. “I’m a little surprised he’s still sending that kind of stuff out, though. Or, wait, maybe this was before.”


“You knew, right? Please tell me you knew and I’m not totally ruining your day.”

I blinked a few times. “Theresa...what are you talking about?”

She slumped. “Aw, crap. I’m sorry, Jake.”

“For what?” I asked in confusion.

She sighed and reached down toward her knee. She was wearing rather long boots with some stretchy kind of pants and I was about to ask her, again, what she was talking about when her hand dipped into the top of her boot, wiggled, and withdrew her phone. She glanced at the teacher, who was working a crossword, and turned her attention back to me.

“What’s your number?” she asked, fingers poised over her phone. Confused, I told her and she made a few taps on her screen and then set her phone down. “Jake, I’m so sorry for just blurting this out. It never occurred to me that...well, I guess I just figured you’d tamed Jon and...this is kind of embarrassing.”

I opened my mouth but my phone buzzed in my pocket and I realized Theresa must have texted me. Whatever she was apologizing for had something to do with Jon and this text she’d sent. Had Jon done something and been caught on camera? I hoped he wasn’t fighting again. I pulled my phone out and opened the text message.

At first I wasn’t really sure what she was going on about. It was a little embarrassing to be looking at a dick pic she’d sent me, and it was a nice dick to be sure. She was right that it wasn’t what one might think of as a porn star type dick, but it was still nice looking as it jutted up, curved like a charging horn, from a trimmed thatch of brown hair.

“I’m not sure why you sent it. I mean, thanks, it’s a nice one, but….” Something tickled the back of my mind and I let my gaze wander over the image. Besides being curved and the head seeming to be less flared out as it tapered at the tip than some I’d seen online, it looked like a nice, average dick. The flesh was pale and creamy and the abs just above were quite—and then it hit me. There was a tiny mole on the skin of the stomach just on the upper edge of the shot. That wasn’t interesting by itself, but just to the left of the mole there was a small scar. I don’t know what it was from, it certainly hadn’t been from something major, but it had always made me think of a shooting star.

“Yeah, it’s nice,” she agreed.

When she’d sat down she’d known whose dick she had on her phone. It wasn’t even a question. “ did you get a pic of Jon’s dick?” I asked, my voice pitched at less than a whisper. I was confused, embarrassed and a little aroused which made me a little annoyed as well.

“Well, that’s what I was saying,” Theresa replied and scooted the desk a little closer. “I was in choir with Becca and we were talking about—well, that doesn’t matter, right? Anyway, she says that this friend of a friend had been sexting with Jon and she was passing around the picture as proof.”

I frowned. “As proof of what?”

“That he’d been sexting with her. She was all proud of someone wanting a picture of her vag, I guess,” Theresa shuddered and then covered her laugh with a hand.

Questions flooded my mind followed by my insecurities from last night. Was Jon sending pictures after we’d started dating? A sort of stand-in since he couldn’t hook up? Was this something that got him off? Was that part of the problem, that I wasn’t getting him off? The idea that people were trading his naked image around like some cheap trading card made me feel ill.

“Uh. Why was she trying to prove Jon was texting her?” I asked, trying to swim back into the conversation and try to get a handle on the situation.

“Hell if I know,” she said with a shrug. “When Becca said she had Jon’s dick in her purse, I just wanted to see, you know? I’ve got a few others on my phone, you want to see?”

“Uh, no. Thanks.”

“Ah. Jon does know what to do with it then, huh? Kind of not fair, since he looks nice, too. Cosmic advantages are really unfair.”

My screen faded as it timed off and I resisted the urge to turn it back on and stare. Instead I slipped my phone back in my pocket and got lost in wondering what the heck was going on.

“I hope you’re not mad at me.”

I glanced at Theresa. “I’m...well, it’s not your fault. It feels odd, and makes me sad somehow that people are looking at him like that. It’s cheap.”

She nodded contritely. “I understand. I know what you mean, even though I haven’t ever been in that position. I mean, look at me, right? I’m never going to see a nice looking guy's dick in my life unless it’s digital.”

It would have been easy to feed her a line or even go the other way and think I was being brutally honest. It’s true, overweight people aren’t often thought of as attractive by the population at large. But that wasn’t really the point I had in mind.

“Theresa I’m not going to patronize you. I do want to make one point, though. I was still overweight when Jon started to hang out with me and, even though I noticed he’s good looking, you and I both know how little that means when we have to decide if the person is an evil douche or not.”

“Amen,” she said with a little smile. “The nicer the clothes, the bigger the ego. You saying Jon isn’t like that?”

“I’m saying Jon’s looks aren’t what attracted me to him, not at first. After getting to know him I understand that everyone has pain of some kind. For you and me it’s the assholery of our classmates. I know I didn’t believe it when people used to say looks aren’t everything because I think we both know they are something.

“But Jon used to hook up with girls. Now he’s dating me. He’s my boyfriend. I’m in a relationship with a complex but...amazing guy. So, yeah, looks count for something but they aren’t everything. If a guy can’t see that about you, then he’s not worth it no matter how nice looking, how expensive his clothes or how nice the picture of his dick is.”

She giggled and I smiled at her. “You must have so many pictures of Jon on your phone, I guess one more doesn’t matter, right? I know I’d take pictures all the damn time!”

When class ended I rode the flow of traffic to my locker and picked up my backpack and everything else I needed for homework. I forced myself to focus on that so I wouldn’t think about Jon’s dick. On my phone. In my pocket where I could whip it out and look anytime I wanted. A picture that wasn’t taken for me nor sent to me. I let out a heavy sigh and and wove through the thinning crowd to the school parking lot.

I spotted Jon, head down and looking at his phone as he walked slowly toward his car. Was he looking at that girl’s vag? The one he’d traded a pic of himself for? The feeling made me nauseous. Would he do that? Who really knew? After all, Jon said he’d never done the relationship thing. He said he wouldn’t hook up with other people, but did he think sexts were okay? Did he even know what fidelity—okay, I needed to stop or I’d melt down before I could kill him.

He opened the car just as I arrived, and we settled inside.

“Hey. How much homework did you get?” he asked.

“Decent amount. Some math, a little reading.”

“Okay. I’ve got math, too, but I have to work on that stupid book report, too,” he said with a sigh.

I looked out the window as Jon backed out of our spot and got in line behind the other cars that were filing out of the lot. I saw Theresa talking to another girl. She was laughing as she was wont to do. Even though she’d never be so cruel, my darker imagination told me she was telling her friend all about how stupid I was to be thinking I was dating Jon while he sexted with other girls, presumably a prelude to hooking up.

“Hey. What’s up with you?” Jon asked.

I glanced at him and mumbled that nothing was wrong. I didn’t like the idea of starting another argument about girls after yesterday but this was an issue that just wouldn’t go away. What should I do? Can I even bring this up to Jon? Do I dare? My dad liked to say that you shouldn’t ask a question if you can’t handle the answer. Could I handle Jon….

“Yeah. Well, let me know what Hamster says you should do,” Jon said bitterly.

I turned toward him. “Huh? What are you talking about?”

We accelerated out of the parking lot and I was a little surprised. We only went a few blocks then Jon pulled over suddenly, braking hard, and threw the car into park. He punched the steering wheel, and a spike of panic flared in me. He could be scary when he was angry. Sometimes he reminded me of something else my father had said: when you’re a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

“Ow,” Jon muttered and rubbed his hand. I guess the steering wheel is harder than he expected.

“What are you doing?” I asked slowly, unsure if his anger would continue to rise or if he’d burned it out in one quick burst.

“Why can’t you tell me what the problem is between us, huh? That’s why you went to Hamster yesterday, right? To talk about me? To say things you can’t say to me? What the fuck?” he growled.

I felt small, and instead of rising to fight him like I might normally, I just felt bad. “You’re right, Jon.”

My meekness only seemed to frustrate him further. “I’m right, huh? You think I can’t do this, don’t you? I can’t handle whatever is going on in your head, right?”

His self pity lit off my own indignation and I turned to face him. “Well, excuse me for not wanting to put more stress and pressure onto you. Excuse me for trying to be considerate and not just make this relationship all about me. Excuse the fuck out of me, Jon, for giving a shit about your feelings!”

“Why can’t you talk to me about my feelings? What’s Hamster got to do with it? How come you won’t just tell me what’s bothering you today?” he demanded.

“You,” I said and flailed around as I tried to get to my phone, but first it was the seat belt restricting me, and then my coat got in the way, twice, and then the phone just wouldn’t budge. All the while I sputtered at him. “You, you want to know...damn it, stupid want to know what the problem is? Today’s problem? Okay, here we go, Monsieur Ellesier,” I snapped. “Here is our problem du jour.”

I turned the phone on and showed him the image of his own manhood. He frowned slightly.

“Where did you get that?”

“Where….” I just stared at him. “Your dick shows up on my phone, obviously not from you, and all you care about is who shared it?”

He looked slightly abashed, not nearly enough for my tastes. “They’ve probably gone around the world a few times. It’s no big deal.”

“They? They?” I sputtered some more.

He frowned. “So I took a picture of my junk, what’s the problem?”

I turned in the seat and glared. “The first of my problems is I don’t like the idea of people trading around naked pictures of you like some common trading card, like it has no worth. My boyfriend is a human being and not have no idea what word to use!”

“Come on, Jake! You have to trade with people, and don’t say you haven’t done it.”

I glared. Jon’s eyes widened the tiniest bit and his face went slightly red. That settled, I hesitated when it came to my next point, because I was so scared to voice it.

“Second, um, second I’m afraid to ask when this happened. Did you...have you….” I closed my eyes and tried to get a grip. Without looking at him I asked, “Did you send this after we started dating?”

“” His voice had shifted and gone soft. I opened my eyes to see guilt written across his face. “We talked about this last night. I’m still trying to figure this thing out but give me some credit, I wouldn’t do that to you.”

I let out a breath as my heart stopped beating quite so hard. I turned in my seat to face front and, just for something to do, I started to put my phone away. It’d have been easier if my hand wasn’t shaking.

“You know, not for nothing, but all you had to do was ask. You didn’t have to clam up and be all upset.”

I turned and glared at him. “How can you go from contrite to dickhead in a second flat? With me knowing everything you’re going through, is it really such a stretch to think you were sexting some girl you thought was hot?”

His face grew sullen. “I did that before we got together. I didn’t tell you about it, partially because I knew it’d upset you.”

“Well, not that I can tell you what to do, but don’t you think I get a say, now? Or something? Is it totally unreasonable to think be afraid that….” I ground to a halt and considered my words. “Jon, for you sending this picture wasn’t a big deal then or now. For me it brings up a ton of fears and guilt. It makes me wonder if...if you’d do that because I wasn’ weren’t….”

I couldn’t actually say out loud how I feared he didn’t actually find me attractive. I had a hard time even explaining how guilty I felt questioning if he’d done this while we were dating. The stress I was causing him even now was making me feel horrible. After all, I’d gone to Hamster to try and gain understanding, so I could be flexible and not make this harder on Jon. So much for that.

“How is this whole thing,” he asked, waving toward the pocket with my phone, “about being considerate of me? Is this what you talked to Hamster about? Why weren’t you pissed last night then?”

I frowned. Once again Jon dodged things and focused on some random item. “Where is this coming from? You weren’t upset last night, either, that I’d talked to Hamster. Why does it have to be about you?”

“Was it?”

“Beside the point!”

“Well, you like to talk about us so much, I figured you’d just have told me last night whatever advice he’d given you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said acidly. “Do I talk about us too much for you?”

“What? No. Jesus, you’re bitchy.”

My eyes popped open and I muttered a curse and reached for the door handle.

“Oh, great. Yeah, you’re pissed at me so just walk away and leave me like it’s all my fault.”

“Taking a dick pic is totally your fault. Not caring that someone sent it to me as proof they sexted you is your fault.” A small voice reminded me the picture hadn’t been sent for that purpose, but I was getting too pissed to worry about minor details. Right on the heels of that thought I was slammed with more guilt; I hated the idea of lying to him. “Okay, that wasn’t why, but don’t you think I should get to see your dick because you wanted me to rather than because it’s a trophy on someone’s phone, being passed around like a baseball card?”

“Well, it’s not like I meant for it to happen like that! I don’t even know who I sent that one to! I was trying to get laid!” Jon complained. Whined. I hated when he whined, because it was sort of cute, and I didn’t want to think of him as cute right then.

“Oh, so it’s okay your dick is being passed around school, then? What about the part of showing me yourself instead of—”

“Is that what this is? All you care about is my dick?”

I saw red. My tongue fairly danced with vile responses to such an inflammatory statement. In a fury I threw open the car door. I don’t know which comment I was going to make but as I turned to say it my tongue stumbled and, in that heartbeat, my mind screamed that Jon’s face and body language weren’t lining up with his words or tone. He wasn’t scowling, his arms weren’t crossed defensively. Instead he’d dropped his hands into a pile in his lap and his gaze was downcast, the look of someone who knows they just screwed up. I closed my eyes and took a few breaths before reaching out and closing the door.

“Don’t stay because I made you feel guilty,” Jon said petulantly.

“Shut up, Jonathan,” I said quietly. I paused, giving him time perhaps to argue some more, but he chose not to. I took a few deep breaths. That shit never works. Without looking at him him I said, “I know you’re going through some changes. Change is hard and I don’t want to pressure you or stress you but it seems like our relationship is a stressor for you.”

“A stress...Fuck. Are you….breaking up with me?”

I turned to look at him, his face crestfallen. Every dipshit thing he’d just said that had pissed me off got deep-sixed as my heart went out to him. “No, not on your life,” I told him firmly. “It’s why I went to talk to Hamster. He’s bi. I thought he might give me some insight into what you’re going through, so I can do a better job of supporting you.

“Jon, the basics of this are easy for me. I’m gay. I’m attracted to you. I’m in love with you. The basics of this are much harder for you. You are...were straight or something. You love me, now. I’m so unbelievably impressed with you that you didn’t take the ‘easy way out’ and just choose to be friends.”

“We’re not just friends,” he said softly.

“Yeah. I know, we’re family. I believe that’s real for you. But you fight with your family, don’t you? Well, stupid question,” I said as I rolled my eyes and he punctuated that with a snort. “But Jon, friends would have been the easy thing to do. Instead you made the choice to act on that feeling that we’re more than friends. I think that’s incredibly brave. The closest thing I can come to making a choice like that is having to tell Trace I was already in love with you and that’s why I couldn’t date him.

“Asking someone how to do a better job of matching your bravery...isn’t that a conversation I should have?”

Jon glanced at me and then nodded slightly. “I understand, but it should be something you talk to me about.”

I folded my hands one over the other. “I understand. I thought I was doing us a favor by not putting you on the spot. I’m sorry.”

He waved dismissively. “I be more open. I guess you must not think I'm ready for some talks.” He paused. “Was that all? All you talked to him about?”

Shit. “Um, no.”

He lifted his gaze and studied my face. “You don’t want to say.”

“I’m...I think it’s something we should talk about. Considering how...up and down we’ve been in the last twenty minutes, maybe we should go home and get something to eat and compare our homework before we hit another big subject.” I smiled at him wanly. “I’ll make grilled ham with that expensive cheese you like.”

He snorted but smiled. “You’re treating me like a little kid.” He paused and cleared his throat. “I, uh, I fucked up a bunch here. I know that. You want some truth from me? What’s for sure my fault?” He wet his lips and said. “I’m scared.”

“Of me?”

He shook his head. “Of me. I’m afraid I’m going to screw this up and you’re going to leave. I don’t want to screw this up.”

“Jon,” I said with deliberation and reached across the seat to pluck his hand from his lap. “There are a lot of different ways for people to be family. I haven’t had the best experience with the term. In fact my best experience is my dad, and I only trust him because I can see how guilty he feels for not being here for me.

“But, my mother is still my mother. It’s a fact that she’s my family. It’s kind of a forever thing. My dad will forever be my dad.” I squeezed his hand and he looked over at me hesitantly. “If you want forever from me, however that is, then we’re family. That’s the part of family I can believe in, when it means you.”

He glanced at me and then, just as quickly, looked away. “You mean forever, like, boyfriends?”

“I mean forever family. Boyfriend isn’t required. I won’t lie. It’d break my heart, but I’d rather do that than hurt you, Jon.” My heart flipped in my chest as I waited, offering him this out.

“And if we break up someday? You think we’d still be family?”

I barked out a laugh. “Sure. Then I can be the sane gay brother you hate, instead of it being Geoff.”

“I don’t hate him. Not always at least,” Jon replied with a little smile. “I like this boyfriend thing, though. I’m not ready to give up on it.”

“Yeah?” I asked, my chest filling with pressure and feeling lighter than air.

A sly look crossed his face and he said, “I’d like to make a crack about how I like someone to cook for me or how much I enjoy fighting in a car with you’s weird.” His hand fumbled awkwardly in his lap. “If I fight with my brothers I can usually hate ‘em for a good few hours, maybe a few days if they really piss me off. When I fight with you I feel guilty and sad and angry but when it’s over...I kind of just love you again. Like….”


“What? Why?”

“Because you’re about to ruin it. Right now you just said the most romantic thing, and if I let you keep going you’re going to screw it up,” I said with a chuckle.

He smiled. “I’m sorry. About the picture, for not thinking how stuff I’ve done will affect you. I’ve done a lot of stuff; I have no idea what’s going to bite me in the ass next with you.”

“You see? You should have stopped with the apology.” I adopted a stuffy tone and, pointing at the road, said, “Home, Jonathan.”

He laughed. He started to pull his hand away to turn the key and I held fast. He raised an eyebrow at me.

“Not with this hand. It’s mine for now.”

“Really?” he asked with a chuckle. I nodded and held fast when he started to pull back again. “Jake, I can’t...why?” he whined and laughed all in one.


He awkwardly reached over with his left hand and turned the ignition, then twisted over to reach the gear shift and put the car in drive. He glanced at me.

“So. Deleting that picture?”

“No way in hell.”

He glanced in the mirror, checked over his shoulder, and pulled back out onto the street. “It seems a little hypocritical to keep a picture of my dick, yet be mad at me for not sending it you.” He paused. “I also can truly say I never, ever thought I’d string those particular words together in that order.”

I laughed, and he smiled, pleased with himself.

“Well, Theresa told me she has a phone full of dicks. She said she’d send them to me for, you know, scientific comparison.”

Jon looked at me from the corner of his eye. “It’s going to be a damn shame when your phone lands in the toilet.”

I lifted an eyebrow. “Jealous?”

“Realist. Gay guy looking at dicks. I don’t need you picking out a favorite or something.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said slowly and he squeezed my hand.

“Seriously. I’m going to kill your phone.”

“But Jon,” I began.

“No, it’s a real tragedy,” he said with the air of someone lamenting a sad event. “I mean I didn’t even see it get placed in the microwave, and who knew it could start a fire?”

I narrowed my eyes and slipped my phone out of my pocket with one hand. With my thumb I made a few quick taps with Jon querying me as he drove. Smugly I put the phone back in my pocket and said, “God, I’m so glad I pay for cloud backup. That picture is mine forever.”

Jon opened his mouth and then closed it and turned his gaze toward the road. Who says he can’t be taught?

Once to his home I finally let go of his hand, but not until I’d made him exit the passenger side with me. It was funny, his grumbling and all. Once inside we kicked our shoes into the front hall closet and walked through the kitchen, dumping our bags on the dining room table beforehand.

“I’m going to get changed. You still making sandwiches?”

“Just for you,” I told him as I moved around in his kitchen, nearly as familiar as my own. He thumped up the stairs, and I placed a pan on the stove and flipped the burner on. I got the bread, butter, fancy cheese and ham out, as well as a few spices that really set this sandwich apart from others. As I began to prepare the first sandwich I reflected that it was sort of pathetic how much I liked cooking for Jon and watching him enjoy eating my creations.

I put the sandwich in the pan and it started to sizzle. My phone vibrated in my pocket and I dug it out, expecting a text from my dad asking if I were home and seeing how much homework I had. Instead it was from Jon, and as I opened it I grinned to see a selfie of him smiling slyly into the camera. The phone shook again and a new image popped up, one with his shirt off and the phone held at arm’s length. I decided to take a minute to admire his shirtlessness, but it wasn’t to be. Another image popped up, one where he’d held the phone up over his head and had hooked the front of his pants.

I flipped the sandwich, turned off the burner and surged up the stairs. As I approached his room I could hear him giggling. I slowed down and pushed his door open on silent hinges. My phone buzzed but I was more focused on what Jon was doing in real time, which turned out to be pulling on his shirt. The same one he wore to school and, oh, the same pants were still on him, too.

I frowned and looked down at my phone. His last picture was just darkness, a black blotch on the screen. I looked up at him in confusion. If ever it were to be said for Jon to have a satisfied smirk on his face, this would be that time.

“Uh,” I said and held up my phone. “What was that and why are you dressed again?”

“Well, I figured my best defense was to give you some other pictures to fill up your phone. Did you like them?” he asked, his faked sincerity so obvious I wanted to smack him.

“What’s this?” I asked as I showed him the black image.

“Oh. Not much lighting in my pants. That’s supposed to be my ass, since you already have my dick.”

In measured fashion I placed my phone on his dresser, turned and launched myself into a flying tackle that caught him enough to knock him backward and onto his bed, with me partially landing on him. Immediately a struggle began—teasing, tickling, swearing and wrestling combined into one glorious mess. I was immediately lost in the struggle, forgetting all about our fighting, his teasing pictures and pretty much the rest of the world. For a few minutes we were reduced to our best selves, playing with each other and just having fun.

It lasted for a while, actually, but I won. I tripped him up as we both had stood up on the mattress and, with a hefty bounce, he was on his back and I straddled his stomach. Rather than push his arms up like I’d done the night before, I just grinned down at him in challenge.

“I give,” he said a little breathlessly, grinning up at me. His hands fell to rest on my thighs, and I held my arms up in victory. “So, feel like being magnanimous to your defeated boyfriend and telling him what else you and Hamster talked about?”

I tilted my head as I looked down at him. “We haven’t eaten or looked at our homework yet. I thought that was the plan?”

He shrugged a little, his fingertips moving slightly on my thighs. “I’m...feeling like we should just talk. I know it’s not usually my thing but...I’m going with it.”

I looked down into his eyes and smiled at him. “Okay. Whatever you want.”

His eyes narrowed slightly. “Do you not want to tell me?”

I tilted my head to one side. “It’s not really about me wanting to or not. It’s a little embarrassing, I guess, but...listen. Two...well, not rules. Two things I’m going to ask of you for this conversation that spring to mind.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“First thing is you can stop me if things feel too weird. Secondly, please do not make any comments about me wanting you just for your body. You know for a fact that’s not the case and it really pissed me off when you said it today.”

His gaze shifted down from my face and he nodded. “Okay, deal.”

I let out a deep breath. “Okay, so I told you that I wanted to talk to Hamster because he’s bi. I hoped that his experience would kind of help me with how you’re feeling, because I don’t always know. I mean, I could ask but it’s not your favorite thing. I understand that. I try to respect not nagging you to tell me what you’re thinking.”

“Why not? It affects you, doesn’t it?” he challenged.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “But I figure you might not actually know, yet, what you’re feeling. Bugging you to clarify every little thing is going to get old, fast.”

He pursed his lips. “Are you saying that’s the way it would be for anyone in my...position or just me?”

“Anyone, Jon.”

He thought for a moment and then nodded in acceptance. “What did you learn?”

I blew upward, blowing my bangs from my face. “He said to let you lead with what you were comfortable doing. He reminded me, because I’m gay, the thought of fooling around comes much more naturally to me than to you, who is still deciding what you’re comfortable with.”

Jon started to laugh. His chest pulsed against me as I sat astride him and I looked at him in confusion. He shook his head and wiped his eyes with one hand.

“Jake, sorry, that’s just kind of funny,” he said with a chortle.

“What is?”

“Comfortable? Dude, my comfort zone got blown away the day we started going out.”


“Relax,” he said and pushed me with the hand he’d just wiped his eyes with and, simultaneously, he lifted his knees a bit to keep me from going too far. “I mean I’m on the edge of something everytime we kiss or cuddle or whatever. It’s like electricity on the edge of a blade. It’s exciting, makes me nervous and gives me the shakes, but it’s not comfortable!”

I looked at him uncertainly. “Um, that sounds’re okay with that?”

He chuckled again. “Oh, hell yeah. Adventure is way better than boredom. So, I have to ask, how did you get to that point? What was I uncomfortable with or whatever?”

I blushed a little and looked away from him.

“Oh no, you don’t,” he said teasingly.

“Jon, what’s up with you last night and today?” I asked suddenly. “You’re so playful and...I love it, but it’s so unusual.”

“Simple. It’s just you and me at home. I don’t have to hear some stupid comment in the hallway or see a shitty look in class. I don’t have to deal with whispered speculation or curious whack-jobs trying to figure me out. Here, now, I’m just hanging out with my boyfriend. It’s kind of liberating.”

A slow smile spread on my face and I was suffused with pleasure.

“So, quit dodging. How did you get to the point where he gave that advice?”

I coughed. “Um, well he asked how far we’d gone. I told him kissing and a little, you know, copping a feel.”

“Hm, who copped a feel?”

I narrowed my eyes and he chuckled at me. Not exactly the response I was looking for, but I suppose it’s hard to tremble in terror when someone is sitting on you.

“Anyway, I told him how I liked being little spoon. The term he used was perfect—it’s casually intimate. We’re enjoying a show or movie, sometimes just lying there with nothing on. I mean, nothing on the TV or radio, perv,” I said in response to his scandalized expression. He laughed and I smiled down at him.

“So I told him that I wasn’t sure if you were actually attracted to me, physically, but if we lie there long enough you try to shish-kebab my spleen.”

Jon’s face went a deep red and he coughed a few times before breaking down into gales of laughter. I rode it out on his stomach, looking down on him with slightly embarrassed amusement.

He brought one hand up to his face, his other still lingering on my leg. “I can’t believe you told him that. Why would you tell him such an outrageous lie?”

“Lie!” I pushed on his chest and he laughed harder. I twisted a nipple and he bucked under me and called me a bastard, but he kept laughing. I started pinching, twisting and tickling him and he just rolled about beneath me, neither fighting back nor trying to get away.

“What’s up, guys?”

I turned and was a little displeased to find Richard leaning in the doorway. It wasn’t anything personal; it just meant my moment with Jon was over.

“Babe. Is Richard eating my sandwich?” Jon whined.

I rolled my eyes. “I’ll make you another one.” So saying, I climbed off him and looked at Richard. “You want another one?”

“Don’t mind if I do. This is really good, and I missed lunch.”

I slipped past Richard and headed back down to the kitchen. In short order I had the pan heated up and had the first sandwich frying. I heard the floor squeak upstairs, but so far no one had come down. I flipped the sandwich and got the next one ready to slide onto the pan as soon as the other was done.

The stairs creaked and Richard appeared. “Want something to drink with that sandwich?” he asked.

I turned. “Is there any Coke left?”

“Yep.” He paused as he looked into the fridge. “Huh. That’s funny.”

“What?” I asked idly as I swapped the cooked sandwich out for the next one.

“Well, that single beer has been in here for a few weeks now.”


“’s Jon’s. He hasn’t asked me for more.”

I turned to look at Richard, who was looking at me with a raised eyebrow. I returned the look and went back to my cooking.

I heard the fridge close, and then a stool squeaked against the floor as he sat. “So. How’s things with Jon?”

I turned and arched my eyebrow at him again. “Are you asking me to gossip about my boyfriend, Richard?”

He chuckled and held a hand up. “Okay, using my own words against me will make me hate you, so stop there.”

I glanced at the stairs to see if Jon had appeared, and then I said to Richard, “He’s pretty wonderful, actually. I mean, not when we fought this afternoon, but other than that...gotta love him.”

I turned back and swapped in a new sandwich, setting the freshly cooked one on the plate.

“Must not have been much of a fight,” Richard said with a laugh. “You’re getting along fine, now.”

“Nope, real fight,” I said. “We screamed at each other on the side of the road. Pretty sure that’s an argument.”

“You...huh. That’s weird.”

“What’s that?” I asked as I placed the sandwiches in front of him and went back to flip the one cooking at the moment.

He picked up a sandwich and took a bite. Upstairs I heard Jon moving around. Sounded like he was hitting the bathroom.

“It’s just that as long as I can remember, when Jon gets angry enough to fight about something it takes him at least a few hours to cool down enough to talk to again. It’s just more arguing if you try too soon.” He took another bite and chewed idly. I heard the toilet flush and was seized with a horrible, wonderful idea that was too amusing to resist.

“Well, must be all the sex he’s getting,” I replied and turned back to the stove. I nearly fell over laughing at the choking sound that came from behind me, and then Jon thundered down the stairs wearing bright white socks, snug joggers and a sleeveless tee. He took up a station beside me, and I scooped a hot sandwich onto his plate.

“I’m was sort of hungry before, but after all that I’m starving!” Jon said as he tore into the sandwich. The sound of Richard coughing, sipping his drink and coughing some more nearly made me fall to the floor in laughter, but I held it in admirably. I have no idea what possessed me to fuck with Richard like that. I hope to Christ he’s a good sport about it.

“What’s so funny?” Jon asked.

“Richard?” I asked. “Do you need a glass of water?”

Richard, eyes watering and still letting out the occasional cough, pointed a finger at me and then waved it in a no-no sign. He left the room and I grinned to myself.

“Jeez, he must like these sandwiches, too,” Jon said as he took Richard's seat. “I mean, they’re great, but you don’t want to choke to death on one.”

“I agree,” I told him seriously. I scooped up another freshly cooked treat and plopped it on Jon’s plate. He was just stuffing the last bite of the first in his mouth and was already eyeing the new one. I made up two more quickly, and then shut off the stove and set the pan aside to cool. I sat down next to Jon, who was eating his second a bit slower.

“So, you and Hamster talk about anything else?”

I felt a flicker of disappointment that he wasn’t going to address whether he was attracted to me, sexually, or the fact that he regularly stabbed me with his erection when we spooned. Oh well, perhaps he wasn’t quite sure how to talk about that.

“Yeah. I told him I like your green button up open; makes your eyes pop.” I picked up my food and added, “Plus your canvas pants make your ass look fantastic.” I stuffed my mouth with food as he chuckled over that.

“Man, you didn’t hold back. Oh, and that’s why you were undressing me last night! It was the shirt!”

I swallowed. “Eyes, actually.”

He brushed his hands over his plate. “Anything else?”

I thought for a moment. “I wish I could have told him how I made you whine on your front lawn,” I said, a little pride tinging my voice.

“You caught me by surprise, that’s all,” he replied.

I turned to face him. “So I shouldn’t bother with that again?”

Stretching out the first word and placing a hand on my back he said, “Let’s not be hasty.”

I grinned. “Ha.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he replied. “Ready for homework?”

“Sure,” I replied and picked up our plates and deposited them in the sink. He grabbed the remainder of our drinks and brought them out to his dining room table. I was about to sit when he pulled me to him and gave me a chaste kiss.

“I love you.”

And Jesus fuck he turned me into a puddle. How does he do that? He does the most romantic...oh, wait, he’s going to step in it now.

“Shish-kebab your spleen? Did you really say that?”

And there it is, friends and neighbors.

“Actually I said spearing my kidneys.”

He laughed and looked at me affectionately, which took the sting out of his ruining another romantic moment.

“Anything else?”

I bit my lip.

“Oh, this is going to be good. What else is left?”

I stared at him.

His eyes got wider. “You didn’t.”

I tilted my head to one side.


I nodded.

“Well, tell me what he said, because I have no idea what you said to him,” Jon deadpanned and I pushed him as he chuckled.

“I talked to him about how I wanted to be ready, but not push you sexually,” I told him. There, it’s out there.

He paused and placed a hand on the back of his chair. “You did? I mean, you’ve..of course. But, really? I know how sex works, right?”

I glared at him. “Tab A, the dick, goes into Hole B, otherwise called the anus, or Hole C, commonly called a mouth, or as a last resort, D, the hand. Yeah, I think I have a handle on the mechanics.”

“Wow. Did you learn sex ed from an IKEA catalog?” he snickered.

“This is the last time I try to be considerate of you,” I grumbled and took my seat. I unzipped my bag with more force than was, strictly speaking, necessary.

“Aw, come on, don’t get mad,” he said as he dropped into his chair. “Was there anything else?”

I kept my voice low but didn’t look at him as I pulled out my math book and worksheet. “No, Jon. After turn ons, your erection and sex there wasn’t a whole to left to talk about.”

He coughed and shifted in his chair. The zipper of his bag unspooled and I heard him sliding things from it. I let out a small sigh and opened my book. Neither of us spoke as we focused on our school work, but I continued to be irritated that he’d been told everything I’d discussed with Hamster, and he hadn’t talked to me about any of them. It was almost like he wanted to know but not actually discuss any of them.

It was a little embarrassing to have told him all the things I’d said, but I guess at least I hadn’t told him about the jeans, socks and no shirt look I liked so much. Otherwise he’d dress that way just to win arguments, because my brain would blow a fuse and I’d forget to participate. The math homework was simple, and we were both done within ten minutes. I opened the packet for my reading project and started to read the requirements.

I was pulled from my swirling thoughts when Jon reached out and took my hand. I glanced at him, but he was looking down at his book report instruction sheet. His thumb began to swirl idly on my knuckles and my irritation with him evaporated. I squeezed his fingers lightly and went back to my work. It confused me a little how he seemed to know what would get him out of trouble or soften my stance to him was just for him to be affectionate. Of course, maybe I was reading this entirely wrong and he was being affectionate just for himself. Maybe some of his cynicism was rubbing off on me. Or maybe...maybe it's love.

The End

I hope you enjoyed the continuation of the Js storyline, as Israfil and I like to call them. Did you know there are email links at the top of each chapter to tell us what you thought? Did you know you can donate to the site for the upkeep and presentation of all the stories hosted at the top of the main page? Did you know you can buy your very own paperback copy of Wayward Son by Dabeagle? The more you know, you know?