The next few days were quiet. Between school, practice and our jobs, I didn't get to spend nearly as much time with Walker as I wanted, and that was something to kind of know. I'd come to realize I'd been lonely without really knowing it, and now I wanted to spend all my time with Walker. It was so comfortable to belong to someone. At first I'd been a little...cautious, I guess. Walker hadn't just jumped to sex, and that threw me, but now I knew what the 'more' was that Vincent had talked about – and I wanted more of the more.
Derek's crew sat with me Tuesday in the library, but they were focused on some sort of project and didn't talk much outside of that. Lina stopped to see me in the library on Wednesday, and she tried to talk to me about how fucked up her life was, but honestly it was more like a laundry list of complaints than anything else.
“Is this what you'd be telling Walker? Like, when he's being your person?” I asked.
I chuckled. “Being someone's person is overrated.”
“Everyone needs a person,” she said. “When you need to talk something out or if you need advice or just to get a bunch of crap off your chest. Walker is a really good listener.”
I thought about that for a moment. So who listens to Walker?
After school I had practice, so I fell in beside Walker. “Want to come over after practice?”
He sighed. “Are you ever going to ask me on a date?”
I chuckled. “Sure. Kendra wants me to come to her birthday Saturday. Would you like a front row seat to the shit show?”
Walker looked down at me. “Very romantic, Noah.”
“We could...walk down by the river after. Maybe get coffee or an ice cream?”
“Then we could...cuddle and watch a movie.”
He seemed to think for a moment. “Will there be snacks during this movie?”
“Yup. You'll be right there.”
He broke into a grin. “Slick.” He paused. “But a movie? I expect better. You...think about it.”
Think about it? At first I was irritated, and then I was just trying to keep in his general area, but damn his long legs. By the time we were done I had forgotten about being irritated; somewhere along the line I remembered that I needed to listen to him. It had only been a few weeks, but he was asking me to do something...special? Out of the ordinary? Maybe just something that would be uniquely us. And I wanted to. I wanted to show him I was listening.
Walker couldn't come over for long after practice – and that was probably a good thing, because we were both kind of rank. He made jokes about borrowing clothes from me, and I told him I owed him one, since I wasn't returning the shirt from the other night. My mother, obviously stalking us, swooped in and greeted us.
“Walker, dear, I'm so glad to see you,” she said, and I was instantly on alert.
“We can fix that! Just put your glasses on!” he said cheerfully, and I laughed at him.
“Such a funny boy,” my mother said drolly. “Anyway, I was going through some bags from a shopping trip, and I realized I'd bought some things for my husband on sale – and now I don't know where the receipt is. Anyway, my husband doesn't need them, and I think they'd fit you.” She paused and made a dramatic sniff. “Dear God. Is that one of you?”
“Jesus Fucking Christ,” I said under my breath.
“Noah was going to wash my back,” Walker said with a grin.
“Noah had better just get you a towel,” she said, handing him a small paper bag with paper handles.
“Next time then,” Walker said, still grinning and undeterred.
“You're so weird,” I said to him. “Come on.”
“What?” he asked once we'd left my mom behind. “Don't you want her all wound up thinking how we're bumping uglies?”
I turned around and pulled him by the front of his shirt. “I don't want her thinking about us doing anything – especially when it hasn't happened.”
He took a step forward, bumping into me, and I held my ground, eyes locked. “And are you...thinking about things happening?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Holy fucking shit - you stink!”
The skin around his eyes crinkled and he grinned, something I quickly copied. I led him to the bathroom and left him to get clean. But before I left to gather my own clothes for after my shower, I stood in the doorway and said. “By the way. Yeah, I do.”
I walked back to my room with a curious feeling of satisfaction. Walker and I were playing a game, but it didn't seem to have a pace to it. We were just enjoying it as it happened, making the next move and seeing what the other did next. I can't say I was in a hurry to finish the game – meaning getting him in bed – but I wasn't exactly sure that ending the game equaled winning or that the game would even be over. I stopped while rummaging through my underwear drawer at the thought. Wasn't sex the goal? Was it a goal, but not the goal? I really wished I had someone I could ask – Ian was no help, and I think Victor meant well, but I was pretty sure we'd just end up fucking again, so that wasn't any help.
I was having second thoughts about this whole idea of having a person. I liked the idea, but I wasn't sure Walker and Lina were using it the right way. Or maybe-
“This is weird,” Walker said, startling me as he entered the room. I must have been lost in thought longer than I'd realized.
“What's that?” I asked, looking at him – and holy fucking shit. The clothes fit him well – tee shirt that was a little louder than something my dad would normally wear, and a pair of baby blue shorts that looked painfully soft to the touch – but that was nothing compared to the freshly cleaned skin of his face, the redness in his cheeks and the different colors of blond, depending on how wet certain strands were. I have never wished more than in that moment for true talent to draw what I saw.
He pulled at the bottom of the shirt. “Fits pretty well. Usually I need longer shirts than average people.”
“Huh. Okay, hang on. I need a picture. I can't promise I can ever draw your hair like that, but I'm in love with it.” I grabbed my phone, and he grinned at me while I took the picture.
Holding out his hand he said, “Let me see?”
I handed my phone over, and he tilted his head and then tapped my screen. “Just sending it to myself.”
“I'll get cleaned up and be right back,” I said.
“Okay,” he said and sat on my bed. “I'll text Lina so she doesn't feel too neglected.”'
I rolled my eyes, but he didn't see. I showered quickly, partially to get back to Walker and partly because I had a weird worry my mother would go talk to him some more. It was pretty odd for my mother to lose a receipt. My mother was almost pathological with bills, receipts, warranty cards, registration forms that got you support on a device – she was just hyper organized. In some ways it was really anal, especially when she tried to tell you how to be as anal as she was. I wouldn't mind being better organized. I just hate being told to do it.
But back to what was bothering me. The idea of my mother losing a receipt was crazy. She still had my macaroni art from kindergarten. So if what she said was a lie...why did she lie? To buy Walker some clothes? Why? Questions rattling in my head, I toweled off, pulled on my tee shirt and joggers, and headed back to my room.
“Okay, so there's going to be a poll,” Walker said, standing and walking to me with his phone. “Hold still.” He lifted his phone to take my picture, and I gave him an awkward smile.
“Uh, poll? What?”
He looked down at his phone. “I showed Lina the picture you took of me and told her how you liked it, so she says first we need one of you fresh from the shower to match with it, and then she wants people to rate our cuteness as a couple.”
My brain struggled to shift gears. “Rate us where?”
“My Insta.” He looked up at me. “I've had at least three people be upset to find out I'm dating.”
I tilted my head. “Wait. Am I about to find out you have a million followers or something? I don't remember seeing that many followers.”
“You have my private account,” he said and tapped his screen. “I just sent you the link for the public one. It's not a million, but it's a few thousand. Lina loves polls.”
I scratched the side of my head. “What if they don't like us together?”
“Then my followers have bad taste – not sure what that says for me,” he said with a grin. “I'm hungry.”
We sat at the dinette in the kitchen and ate from the meal my mom had made. It was weird – she'd asked me to have Walker over more often, and I wasn't sure it was connected, but it seemed like she'd made more food than normal. I felt like something was just out of my reach, but forgot whatever it was as Walker started to talk.
“So instead of watching movies or handing out candy, how would you feel about walking Matty around for Halloween?”
“Uh. Okay I guess. Should I see if Sandy wants to go? I'm not sure if my parents were going to take her this year or what.”
“Sure. After all, why should it be just us that has to suffer with my little brother?” he asked with a grin.
“All right. So that's what, three weeks away?”
“Yep. But...we'll have to dress up if we go out.”
I paused and thought for a moment and then set my fork down. “The next words out of your mouth better not be that we're matching Matty.”
He rubbed the back of his neck.
I sat back. “Really?”
He rubbed his chin and looked up at me.
“You agreed to this? What's he wearing?”
He ran his fingers across his lips.
I narrowed my eyes. “You're fucking with me.”
He grinned and nodded. “I am. But it's Spongebob, if you want to be Squidward or something.”
I waited a beat. “You're an asshole.”
He kept grinning as he ate, and if he weren't so damn cute – cuter than when we'd first met – I might have stayed annoyed with him. After we ate we hung out in my room talking about costume options. I'd never been big about dressing up – especially since every suggestion was usually something to do with me being a little on the short side. One of the seven dwarfs. A smurf. R2D2.
“How about if we go as storm troopers?”
“You going to make jokes about how I'm a little short for a storm trooper?”
“I wasn't,” he said with a chuckle. “But points for seeing the movie. Um, what about something piratey?”
“I don't....wait, how about if I'm Captain Hook-”
“If you say Tinkerbell you're going to be single,” I said, my tone full of warning.
He laughed. “I was going to say Peter Pan.”
I shifted. “Slightly better.”
He rolled toward me and pushed his forehead to mine. “How about we go as boyfriends?”
I smiled involuntarily. “You're just trying to smooth things over.”
“Nah. I'd be good with that,” he said quietly, then we were kissing. I mean it was serious kissing, not the quick kiss of a goodbye or even the hard kind of kiss just before clothes come off. This was a kiss that existed all on its own – a separate thing, wild and free from everything but us. It was a connection, only made stronger when he ran his hand up from my jawline to my hair.
Flopping onto his back he sighed loudly. “God, you're so fucking cute.”
He was so effortlessly able to say things. I rolled toward him and rested my head on his shoulder. “I really like this. Us.” I swallowed. “You.”
His arm crossed my back and pulled me closer. “Good, 'cause I'm going to need to kiss you again. Probably a lot.”
Eventually his mom called and told him she didn't think he was funny to ignore her texts and to come home. I drove him home, but for some reason tonight kissing in the car wasn't enough. I caught him at his front door and pulled his face down, leaning him against the door of his apartment and kissed him the way he should be kissed – intently. With meaning. With – the door opened, and we tumbled into the apartment.
“Oh, for Christ's sake!” his mom hissed. “You idiots were so busy making out you didn't hear the doorbell you were pressing? You're going to wake the dead!”
Walker looked embarrassed, but I grinned and apologized – unconvincingly – because I'd kissed him so well he didn't even know he was pushing the doorbell. With a reluctant goodbye, I said I'd see him in the morning.
Friday morning Walker let me know he'd taken an early shift at the diner Saturday, so he couldn't go to Kendra's if I decided to go. I wasn't sure I wanted to, but she kept up the messages – all about how we've known each other for years and blah, blah, blah. I worked Friday night, and I realized I did have someone I could talk to about these weird things – Darrion. We weren't alike in our thinking, but he seemed to be pretty open about accepting how other people did things. It would be more useful than calling Ian or Victor – and for all I knew, Victor had already found the battering ram of his dreams and would be too busy for me.
The coffee counter was slammed when I arrived, and I jumped in, making drinks and microwaving food. The store manager poked his head in and and told me to make sure the place was sparkling clean that night before I left, as the owner had been in and hadn't been pleased. When the rush fell off, Darrion and I set to work cleaning everything, but that didn't mean we couldn't talk.
“Hey. How many guys did you date before college?” I asked.
“Unf,” he grunted. “Well, I hook up more than I date. If you mean a body count, high school was lower – maybe five guys? But once I hit college things opened up. I turned 18, I started posting things online – which isn't as lucrative for everyone as you might think. I mean it's practically a rite of passage for every twink that reaches adulthood to open up an OnlyFans and show their winking brown eye to the world,” he said with a roll of his eyes. “And I did it. I went there. But it's a lot of work to maintain the success. Some guys have that look or that chemistry, and they can make it work for a while, but I didn't.”
“I don't think I could do that,” I admitted.
“And why should you?” he demanded. “Just because others do it?” He put a hand on his hip. “But if you do, I want the friends and family discount.”
I laughed at him, and he grinned. “How's things with Mr. Boyfriend?”
I smiled. “Really good.” I paused and glanced at Darrion. “Can I...like, bounce a few things off you?”
He smiled widely. “Like I'm your fruity godfather? Oh, honey!”
“Now, come on, relax,” I said as he kind of squealed and hugged me really quickly.
“I will stay calm. I will stay calm,” he said and shook himself and adopted a blank face. “Tell me everything.”
I cleared my throat. “This is kind of weird.”
“It is, however, completely natural. Everyone needs to be able to hear their ideas out loud from a non-judgmental space. Person. Thing. Whatever, just tell me,” he said with a wide smile.
I looked at him from the side. “Well, it's like this. Walker is...special. I know, that's so completely what everyone says, but I have a few things to back that up,” I said. He looked at me steadily, so I continued. “The first guy I was with turned out to be...well, I can't be sure. Like, his family is very...backward.”
He tilted his head. “How so?”
“Some people would call them traditional. But they think that mom and sisters have this divinely ordained place in the family, the kitchen, and that the father rules everything, so of course no room for gay boys in that family...I have no idea if he's gay, or if he even knows, but I do know he busted out that summer with me in every way imaginable.”
“Intriguing. Go on.”
I shrugged. “The next guy was a straight out fling. Somehow he read that I was interested in him, and after less than a day around me he's just like 'I'm going to need you to take me to bed, now,' and I'm just like, um, okay.”
“That never happens to me,” Darrion said with a sigh. “Continue.”
“Well...Walker's not like that. He's...fun to be with, like, just hanging out. He's...charming and he...seems to get better looking over time. Isn't that weird?”
“Hm,” he said, putting a finger to his chin. “Not as much as you might think. My friend Donova said something very like that about her husband. He was just there one day, and over time she began to notice he was looking better all the time.” He put a hand to his chest, palm flat. “Personally I think it's the whole love thing.”
I cleared my throat. “Love thing?”
“Yeah. Falling in love. Like, look,” he said, leaning back against the counter. “I fall in lust. Lust at first sight. Mr. Right Now. There are so many pretty guys, and so many that aren't worth a shit after you have them screw your brains out. It's a rare thing to find a guy that is just as interesting in the morning when you wake up after an all nighter as he was in the club the night before. Usually it's all 'Why are you here' and 'Please go home' or 'Get the fuck out,' and that's just sad, you know?”
“Well, you might not know,” he conceded. “I know this sounds hypocritical to say after all I've said to you before – you'll have to figure that out for yourself. But there's a big difference between liking what you see and liking the person.” He started swaying as if he were out at a club. “You get out for the evening, and you start dancing, and you notice this gorg guy with his shirt off, twisting out there, just waiting for you.” He stopped moving and frowned. “You go home with him, you feel good for a while, and then later – after – you don't have anything to say to each other. You might want to hook up again, but sex doesn't mean you have to be social – just means you got off.”
I cleared my throat. “Then why do you just keep hooking up?”
“Because finding someone who gets you and you get them...it's rare.” He shrugged. “Not impossible, but in my experience it's rare.”
I nodded and shuffled my feet. “Well, my...someone I've known for a long time wants me to go to her birthday party. She thinks she's my friend, but she's...really not. I'm debating on if I should go.”
He held his hand out, palm up. “Why would you?”
I shrugged. “Obligation?”
“For?” He waved his hands as if to erase the idea. “Look, you don't owe anyone anything, okay? Once you move out of your parents’ house, you don't owe them for raising you or for the bike they got you when you were seven. So if the person isn't your friend, you have no obligation to go and pretend that they are your friend.” He paused. “Why are they not your friend?”
I widened my eyes and blew out a breath. “Well, the first guy I hooked up with? She's dating him. She thinks she...turned him or something.”
“Huh,” he said and crossed his arms. “I've heard of that, but never met a girl that wanted to try and 'change' a guy. I don't think I ever got the point of that. They think they are so sexy they can change people's sexuality?” He shook his head. “Should send a lesbian after her and see what she thinks then.”
We both laughed. “I wouldn't waste anyone's time with her. But...they both used to be friends, but they've been kind of shitty friends. I don't blame him quite as much, not anymore. He's got his own shit to sort out, and I don't think his home life makes that easy. I really don't understand where she's coming from, though.”
“The question is, do you care? Because if you don't, gift her a box of tampons and move on – that's my advice.”
I laughed. “Nah. You're right – I shouldn't care.”
“Now,” he said with a grin, “tell me all about Mr. Wonderful.”
I laughed again. “He's just...confidently funny. Charming. He handles things that come up in life with grace I can't even imagine having. We both like music and hanging out together. He's...like I said, just looks better to me all the time.” I glanced at him. “Do you think that'll change?”
He shrugged. “Doesn't matter. You can't control it. What really matters is how you guys see each other after you've had your first fight.”
“Why would I want to fight with him?”
“Shit comes up. People make mistakes. One of you will be tired and the other one will step all over his nerves and – boom! Fight.” He leaned in closer. “But what I really want to know is if you still find him interesting after you guys have nutted. That's a big deal.”
We got a few more customers and spent the rest of the time cleaning up, taking the garbage out and trying to make the place sparkle so we wouldn't hear about it from the owner. Finally the shift was over, and I was sitting in my car. I texted Walker to tell him I was done with work, but he wasn't responding. He did that sometimes, falling asleep after he got home from the diner. Then he'd text me when he woke up, sometimes in the middle of the night while I was asleep. It was kind of nice waking up to something from him.
I got home and ate, still thinking about Walker. Darrion was definitely all about the hook up. I figured he'd either had a bad experience and was afraid of getting hurt, he just preferred trying all the dick that was available, or maybe he just hadn't connected with anyone. I felt kind of lucky in that moment to have found someone that got me, someone I could compare to previous people and know I was lucky to have him.
I went to bed thinking of him, thinking of Darrion's advice that if Walker was still interesting to me after we'd gotten off, it meant it was special. That got me to thinking...yeah. There's a reason I keep a box of tissues in the room. I held my phone up and took a picture of me on my back in bed, shirtless – not showing that I hadn't pulled my underwear up yet, but he could imagine that if he liked. Could have used a cuddle I texted to him. That was funny. I don't think I was much of a cuddler before Walker.
His morning message was nothing about me looking good or anything. Nope it was 'What's that at the bottom of your stomach?' I had to look closely, but it was what you'd expect. Shit. Now he knew I sent him a selfie after jerking off. About him.