Alec and Sasha stepped out of the parking lot and onto the sidewalk, and their hands entwined as if it were their natural state. The sidewalk was fairly busy with foot traffic and the shops were busy as people came downtown for a stroll, dinner or perhaps a treat.
“So, you think Kale is going to push back on this?” Alec asked.
“No more than usual,” Sasha replied, smiling at Alec. “I think, of all people, you could probably talk him into a nudist expedition to Alaska.”
“Talk about your shrinkage,” Alec snickered.
“I think the easiest part is, we won't miss any of the work we had planned. Who would have thought the pool developing that crack would have worked out to our benefit?”
“I know,” Alec agreed as he began to swing their hands together. “With those four days off, this should be a great time.”
“It's going to eat up a big chunk of our savings,” Sasha said, trying to look ahead and restrain Alec from overspending.
“It'll be worth it,” Alec replied, a whine entering his voice. “You're not going to take Kale's side, are you?”
“You think this will be about sides?” Sasha asked, laughing.
“Yeah!” Alec said, smiling and pausing long enough to kiss his boyfriend. “India was fantastic, and next year, maybe you and I can make a big trip on our own. But it's going to get tougher and tougher to get us all together, so we need to get the entire family in one place for a few days.”
“Kale will say we could do that at the Hilton,” Sasha said in a teasing tone and began walking toward the outdoor restaurant where they were to meet their friends.
“If I had his trust fund, I'd agree with him,” Alec said, snorting. “But, if he whines too much I'll remind him he slept on the floor of a mud hut with a pig sty ten feet away. Compared to that, this is the Hilton!”
Sasha laughed, “Well, I don't think he'd mind all that much, really. With all the things going on, who knows when he last got to spend some time with everyone? They've been busy this summer.”
Their conversation came to a stop as they entered the partitioned outdoor seating area of their favorite local eatery. The tables were pub tables, raised up high with tall stools surrounding them, and they had good food without breaking your budget. The boys were not entirely surprised to find Chase and Kale already seated and examining menus.
“There they are,” Chase said and smiled widely as he slid off the stool and stepped forward to greet his friends. Hugs and kisses were traded all around and Alec excused himself to the restroom as the others sat.
“So, what's he up to, Sash?” Kale asked as soon as Alec was out of earshot.
“Kale, honey, you know I can't spoil all his fun. He's so looking forward to your opening scowl,” Sasha replied, laughing.
“Haha, very funny. You're lucky you're pretty,” Kale laughed and the others joined him. Moments later Alec rejoined them and the waitress came to take their drink order. Once she'd departed Kale fixed Alec with a steady look.
“So, what kind of trouble are you about to get us into?”
“Me? I'm shocked you'd even—”
“Okay, fine!” Alec laughed and pulled an envelope from his coat pocket. “Now, as you all recall when I nearly died, you all agreed to go camping—”
“Fuck no,” Kale said and started to stand up. “That was coerced. No camping.”
“Kale,” Alec said, an injured tone entering his voice.
“No,” Kale said, pointing a finger at Alec for emphasis. “You specifically said 'hey, I almost died here, can't I get a sympathy vote?' I never said yes.”
“Where are we going, Alec,” Chase said, smiling indulgently at his husband and pushing him back down into his chair.
“Chase,” Kale whined. “I was just getting started.”
“I know, baby,” Chase said and patted Kale's cheek. “But we all know we're going, so let's start seeing how we're going to mitigate Alec's madness.”
“Hey!” Alec said indignantly while the others laughed.
At the others' urging, Alec placed a few papers down on the table and began to explain. “Okay, so the place is in Chenango Valley State Park and it used to be a Girl Scout camp. Look at this picture,” Alec said while sliding a shot of the main building across to Chase and Kale.
“That's the building we'd be in. It sits right next to the water, maybe a hundred feet from the little beach. It has multiple bedrooms–five of them, with two double beds in a few. They are spread out all over the house. It also has a kitchen and an attached dining room, a living room and a reading room.”
“Wow. Uh, Alec, this is...” Kale trailed off. “What's the catch?”
“No wifi or internet,” Alec said, promptly.
“You mean...we have to talk to each other?” Kale asked, horrified. The group chuckled and Alec resumed his pitch.
“The building used to be where staff and visitors would stay. There used to be individual cabins, but a lot of them were cleared away—so we'll have our own little section of the lake to ourselves with a dock and a canoe.”
“Alec, this sounds wonderful,” Chase said as he flipped through the images Alec had printed out.
“It does look ideal for a getaway, doesn't it?” Sasha said.
“How much is this going to cost,” Kale asked as he looked at the pictures.
“That's the best part—all we really have to do is bring food up. I got the whole thing arranged!” Alec said, leaning back with a smug expression.
“Hang on, Alec. You can't seriously think we're going to let you pay for all this, do you?” Kale asked seriously. They were interrupted by the waitress coming back to take their orders and they fumbled through the menu quickly to find selections. Once done, Kale resumed giving Alec a hard stare.
“Hey, remember you paid for India, so don't start.”
“The magazine covered that trip, and even so, if we had paid, it was for all of us.” Kale reminded him, a mild reproach in his voice.
“So is this, the whole found family.”
Chase, who had been eyeing Alec with amused suspicion, said, “You got it for almost nothing, didn't you?”
“Who, me?” Alec asked, acting innocently.
Kale looked back and forth between his husband and Alec and then leaned forward on his elbows. “Alec, not that your finances are any of my business, it's just that I'm concerned because this looks like it'll be a lot even before the food. I'm just concerned.”
Alec looked back at him steadily and then let a grin spread across his face. “I'm still not telling!”
Kale's mask broke, “You dick, come on! I sounded completely sincere!”
“Okay, before you two get us thrown out of here,” Sasha said between giggles. “My dad's covered it. It turns out that one of their bosses owns a stake in it and, if you request it and it's open, you can use it for a nominal fee. So, relax.”
“See? That's all I was asking,” Kale said smugly.
“How much was India going to cost you?” Alec asked.
“So, when do we leave?” Kale asked.
Soon Kale and Alec were going back and forth and Sasha moved his chair closer to Chase, who did the same.
“Alec wants us to bring Robin and Lu—he keeps going on about having to get to know everyone and, somehow, feeling a lack of knowing Robin.”
“That'll be fun. We usually see them when we convince them to babysit,” Chase laughed. A thoughtful look crossed his face and he said, “You know, if we're taking Robin, though, we should take the twins—they count, don't they?”
“Of course they do,” Kale and Alec said at once, then turned to look at each other and simultaneously said, “Jinx! Agh!” They then resumed their arguing.
“Okay, so,” Chase continued, holding up his fingers, “that makes, what, two bedrooms, right? We'll share one?”
“That's what I was thinking,” Sasha replied. “So Jamie and Sean can room with—oh, no, probably not a good idea. I'm sure Robin and Lucien will want their space. How many bedrooms are there?”
“Oh, and Austin has to come,” Chase said suddenly. “I'm sure he'll want to bring Derek.”
“Naturally,” Sasha agreed. “Well, the nice thing is there is this little bedroom just...let me see, here, see? It's just right for Linc and we'd be right next door.”
They pored over the documents until their food arrived. At the end of the meal they adjourned back to the Kirkwood's, where Linc happily greeted them. Alec had called Lu and he'd agreed to come over later, with Robin, though he didn't know yet what Alec was up to. Chase called Austin, and Kale did the same with Jamie and Sean, who would be home anyway since it was Tuesday.
This was how they all ended up around the table and, before Alec could say a word, Sasha cleared his throat to get their attention. “I know everyone is aware we almost lost Alec last winter. At that time he asked that we all go camping together.”
“I still say it was coerced.”
“You're going, so what does it matter?” Alec replied and stuck his tongue out.
“Maybe I won't!” Kale said, defiantly.
“Moving on, Sash?” Chase interrupted.
“Chase!” Kale said, whining.
“Honey, you can fight with Alec about if you're going later. Right now, we need to plan for the trip, okay?” Chase laughed as Kale pretended to pout.
“Anyway,” Sasha continued, smiling at Kale, “the time for the camping trip has come. It's going to be over four days and we're leaving Friday.”
“Um, Friday is date night,” Jamie piped up.
Alec glared at him. “Stabbed, Jamie. Stabbed. Right here. Want to see the scar?”
Jamie rolled his eyes. “Fine, I'll call Emily.”
“If you don't want to go, you don't have to, Jamie,” Chase told him.
“No, I do,” Jamie replied, “I just like my date nights. But, if you need me,” he said sighing and looking at his fingernails.
“Stabbed, Jamie,” Alec repeated.
Jamie looked up and he grinned, “I know. I wouldn't miss it.”
“Well, Jamie, I appreciate it because...” Sasha took a moment to look at the assembled people and said, “This is about the found family. Alec points out, with good reason, it's going to get harder and harder to get us all in one place. I know I would miss you, Jamie.”
“Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,” Sean groused and Alec reached over and messed his hair.
“I'd miss you, too. Even though Jamie had the crush on me,” Alec laughed.
“Alec? If we're talking found family, we have more people that need to be invited,” Lu said. “And can we just go ahead and call it family? Do we really need the found part?”
“Good idea, family it is. And, yes, we figured there would be more—that's why the place we chose has plenty of room. So! Let's get a list of people so no one gets left out, shall we?”
Lu said immediately. “I think we have to invite Griff and Devyn, right babe?” he said, looking at Robin.
“Of course.” The corner of Robin's mouth lifted in amusement. “I feel bad for Philip, though, since you're taking his two friends away.”
Sean leaned over to whisper to Jamie who frowned. “Hey,” Jamie said, “besides Phil it's all couples. Are they the only ones that count?”
“No, buddy. Who are you thinking of?” Chase asked.
“I think Ash should come with us and I wouldn't want to leave Scott out, if we're all going.”
“You know who else I just thought of?” Robin asked. “Lucien, what about Devyn's cousin?”
“Hey,” Sean piped up, “What about Trent and Teddy?”
“Yeah, they'd probably like a chance to hang out with everyone—hey, who's going to be talking to everyone's parents?”
“I could—” Alec began.
“I'll do it, if you want any chance of your friends going,” Kale interrupted.
“Kale,” Alec said patiently, “I've been fooling parents about my maturity and responsibility for years. Why the doubt, man?”
“Moving on, Nathan definitely counts. How many people is that, though?” Lu interjected, scrunching his face up and thinking. “Oh! And what about Elliot and Colby?
“Nineteen,” Alec said, a smile spreading from ear to ear. “Twenty with Nickolai. You know what, guys? I should have thought to call Hamster and Derek to this—but what's going to make this even more special is that there are some folks who you guys brought into the family that I haven't even met. I can't wait!”
The arrival Friday afternoon was chaos, albeit with a lot of laughter and screaming, joking and more laughter. Rooms were divvied up by the oldest, and the younger ones—Jamie, Sean, Asher, Nate, Nickolai, Trent, Teddy and Scott all headed down to the beach to play soccer and then jump in the lake. Alec and Chase set about putting the food away and Hamster and Derek retired to the reading room while Eliot and Colby went to he living room to check out an aged upright piano. Griff and Dev got food ready for grilling while Kale and Sasha took Linc down to the water and Philip sat in an Adirondack chair, watching everyone play. Eventually he dozed, and Teddy and Trent quietly lifted his deck chair and carried him down to the lake, where they waded out and gently set him down.
Later that evening there was dinner, more laughing and teasing, and then s'mores around the fire outside. All in all, it was an exhausted group that collapsed for sleep the first night.
Kale woke up and was mildly scandalized that his underwear was missing. He didn't recall taking them off the night before, but he'd been so tired he couldn't recall. He got up, noting the other bed was empty, and went to the closet. He frowned as he did so, as the closet was empty of clothes. Reaching for his suitcase, he found it to be empty, as well. Damn, Alec!
Going back to the bed he grabbed a sheet and wrapped himself in it before walking down to the kitchen. There were several waist high counters, and there he could see Alec, Philip, Nathan and Chase getting food ready and ferrying plates and whatnot to the table in the other room. Everyone had their shirts off, which wasn't such a big deal, but an icicle of dread went through him as Alec smiled cheerfully at him.
“Hail Caesar! Little overdressed for a Leafy salad, aren't you?”
“Alec, where are my clothes?” Kale growled.
“Leafy,” Alec said, waving a finger at him. “You know this is a no clothes zone.”
“Yeah, uh huh. Where is my stuff?” Kale demanded.
“Jamie walked in, shirtless as the rest and grinned at Kale. “Dude, are we having a toga party?”
“Alec is trying to convince me we're not allowed to wear clothes—and he stole all mine!” Kale said, pointing at Alec.
At this point only Alec and Chase were still in the kitchen with Jamie, and they were all behind the counters. Jamie tilted his head, then turned and backed himself up to the counter and hopped up. Kale was presented with Jamie's bare backside on the counter top and a smirking Jamie looking over his shoulder.
“Strip down, big bro,” he snickered.
Kale's face clouded, but before he could say anything Philip re—entered the room and stopped dead, staring at Jamie.
“Dude! You're naked!”
Jamie's head whipped around and, with a quick 'Aw, shit!' he hopped down and bent over to pull up his swim trunks. Alec and Chase were in stitches, with Alec holding his hand up for a high five.
“Dude, pulling your drawers down while hopping on a counter? Excellent. Doing it so well you fooled Kale? Priceless!”
“Hah, funny. Now where are my clothes!” Kale demanded. Chase approached him, dressed in just shorts, and escorted him back to find his things.
Alec wasted no time beginning his found family reunion right after breakfast. He approached Robin and Lu, who were just sitting around the table chatting after breakfast, and tapped Robin on the shoulder.
“Robbie? You remember I said we need to get to know each other?”
Robin's lips twitched, “I guess now's that time?”
Alec nodded and Robin turned to Lu. “I'm going to go hang out with your brother. See you later?”
After a quick kiss, Robin left the group behind and he and Alec left the house and picked a trail. They were quiet as they walked through the trees. Shortly the trail brought them to a rocky outcropping that looked out over the water. They removed their shoes and dropped their feet into the cool water and leaned back.
“Alec, I honestly don't know why you feel the need to talk to me one on one. We know each other, we've hung out a hundred times.”
“Always as a group, though. Besides, you could be, legally, family someday. I need to know if there are any skeletons in your closet or illegal sex toys under your bed.”
“Alec, they aren't illegal,” Robin replied with an eye roll. “We only order from that catalog you gave us.”
“Hey, speaking of books I gave you—”
“I said catalog.”
“— what's number 17?”
Robin laughed. “Are you still stuck on that?”
“Yeah! He said you'd 'whimper and tremble if he did it right.' That's a direct quote.”
Robin burst out laughing. “Well, if that's the case, he isn't a liar!”
“Come on, Robbie!” Alec whined.
“Nope.” Robin giggled and looked out at the lake. “This was a cool idea, thanks for inviting us.”
“My pleasure. I really meant it, you know? This group has so many...interdependencies. So many stories and love and support. So many good times.”
Robin smiled, “They are a remarkable group of people.”
“So. The breakfast table?”
Robin laughed. “Did you really arrange all this to ask about Lucien's sex life?”
“No, not really,” Alec chuckled. “It's just that everyone seems to have a funny story revolving around sex, you know?”
Robin grinned widely, “Yeah. There's a few in this group, that's for sure.”
Robin's smile changed, no longer expressing amusement but a happy fondness. “He's as crazy as you are, I think. Not a wise guy like you, of course, but I'm pretty damn lucky.”
“Yeah. You guys happy?”
“Well, I know I am,” Robin said, and then his voice got softer. “You know, when I first met him he was so in your shadow and wanting your approval. When he gave me that flower...” Robin shook his head slowly, “I knew he was a good friend, had a crush on me. But right then, I knew it was more. You know what's...amazing about that?”
“He still treats me that way,” Robin replied and looked up at Alec. “Every day is like the first day, with him. He still looks at me like I'm everything to him, like I'm all he wants.”
Alec smiled and they lapsed into silence.
“I appreciate you getting him to burn all his briefs, though,” Robin snickered. “I like him better without them.”
“Is this leading up to the table?” Alec laughed.
“It wasn't,” Robin stopped and laughed. “Look, we didn't even stop when the table broke. It was like, we finished and there was butter in my hair and your folks were honking in the driveway—they wanted help with the groceries.”
Alec laughed loudly, lying flat on his back and letting the laughter trail off into chuckles.
“How about you and Sasha? How are things?”
“Better than ever,” Alec replied promptly. “I can't wait to put a ring on his finger.”
“That still sounds so strange to me, considering,” Robin said, shaking his head. He became very still and then asked, “Do you love Kale?”
“Course I do,” Alec replied, closing his eyes. “Chase, too.”
“How can you...I don't understand.”
“It's easier than you might think,” Alec replied. “Some folks think of love as this finite resource, like they only have so much to give. But, like, before Sean, you guys all loved each other, right?”
“Yeah, so to speak.”
“I wasn't being perverted. But, now that you brought it up...”
“Alec,” Robin said, rolling his eyes, “get back to the point.”
“Right, so. You loved your family. Then Sean gets there, and you love him, right?”
“Well, yeah,” Robin replied and kicked the water with his feet.
“And before that, Lu came along—and you love him, right?”
“More than I ever thought I could love someone,” Robin confirmed.
“Well, see, you always have more love to give. Kale and Chase didn't take some of their love away from everyone else and give it to Linc. They just...made more.”
“I get that part,” Robin said, and pulled a leg up out of the water and rested his chin on his knee. “It's the physical part that confuses me. Like...okay, Lucien is very private about our sex life. The only reason I'm saying anything to you is because you seem to have gotten the message about, you know, making trouble about that.”
“Yeah, I'm sorry about that. I just wanted to bust Kale's nuts some. I had no idea he'd go all sex cop on you.”
“Well, I won't say it was all right, but that's over, now. So,” Robin said, taking in a breath. “Intimacy especially sexual intimacy, is very private to Lucien. That story about the breakfast table mortified him,” Robin said and then thinned his lips and said, “For a while, anyway. He's getting a little better. But, you saw what happened when that girl kissed me.”
“Oh, I know,” Alec said. “I was surprised, too. I mean, Lu's pined for you since the first day I met him. I admit, I thought it would slack off some. There is a point where it turns into stalking or something, right?” he said and chuckled. “But he doesn't want that part of your relationship to be shared with anyone and there's nothing wrong with that.”
“That's the part I struggle with. Don't get me wrong,” Robin said, holding a hand up, “I don't mind what you guys do. I've seen how much Kale has grown and he's happy, so it's not hurting anyone and you're all happy with it, you know?”
“Well, there's been some problems—we're not perfect, you know? Sometimes it's actually important that we're with our mates rather than sharing it. We have our ups and downs.” Alec sighed and shook his head, “But, you were saying?”
Robin continued, “Lucien isn't wired that way. He wants all of that strictly between us—which I'm happy about. I never have to worry about him straying. But, here's my...I don't know, I guess problem for lack of something better. I don't understand how you can want to marry Sasha and keep sleeping with Chase and Kale. Isn't that what marriage is about?”
“Well, not really,” Alec replied. “I mean, yeah, a lot of people expect that from a relationship—and as long as the other person is in agreement, then you're good to go. The bottom line is, really, that we four want it to be between us, rather than between just two. As much as I love Kale and Chase, Sasha is even more special to me. If he said he wanted it to be just us, it would be. If any of us said that, it would be. And, like I said, it's not always perfect—no relationship is always copacetic. Adding a couple to it has made for positives and some, you know, issues.
“But we all kind of depend on each other, Rob. We have unique relationships: honest, loving, solid relationships. We lean on each other as friends, family and lovers. Making love isn't an exclusive term, just like I was talking about love not being a scarce resource. Making love...it's that way no matter which one of them I'm with.”
Robin shook his head. “I just...I can't imagine. I mean, I think I could kiss someone, maybe, but that's about it. It would break Lucien's heart—and so break mine—if anything else were to happen. I promised Lucien I wouldn't even kiss anyone else. I can't imagine sharing ourselves with another couple.”
“That's okay, though,” Alec replied. “That's the way you guys want it.”
Robin fell silent and glanced out over the lake. “What happens when you guys graduate? What do you see, then?”
“You mean for the four of us?”
Robin nodded and then glanced back at Alec.
“Well, we haven't talked about it a lot. Kale has one of those professions where he might have to travel for work. I'm going to be coming back to the Springs and work for the county, if I can. I know Sash wants to come home, but I think Chase wants to be where Kale is. I...”
“What would it be if you could have it the way you wanted?”
Alec smiled and said, “We'd all live together. Maybe get a town house, just to keep busybodies happy. But we could have a door...I just want us together, you know? For all the wonderful things Sash and I give and get from each other, sometimes...Chase is what I need. Sometimes I just want to kiss Kale, take his breath away. At the end of the day, I want to be in Sash's arms. I want us four to be together as a family.”
“I see,” Robin said and nodded slowly. “Um, what do Kale and Chase think?”
Alec shrugged, “We have a few years of school left. We'll see what they want to do, then.”
“So...you won't talk to them about it? You'll just wait and see if they want what you do?”
Alec twisted his mouth. “Sash and I want them, need them. But, yeah, they have to want that, too. It won't be easy. Some folks won't understand. Plus, you know, things don't last forever. Like—you and Lu are doing your best to understand and not judge. But what if our parents found out? How would we feel if they said 'we totally get the whole gay thing, but this is too much'? What if they didn't think it was healthy for Linc to be around that or if it would confuse him?”
“Yeah,” Robin said, nodding his head. “I guess you're right.”
“In the end...I'll always love them. Being able to express it by making love to them is just the icing, man.”
They lapsed into silence and then Alec pushed Robin into the water. As soon as Robin surfaced, Alec jumped in and splashed him. Robin attacked Alec and they tumbled in the water, splashing and laughing as each tried to dunk the other. Alec went under the water and grabbed Robin by his legs and lifted him, tossing him a few feet farther out into the water. Robin stayed under, but swam over beneath Alec and yanked his shorts down before surfacing and laughing at Alec as he struggled to pull the wet shorts back up. Eventually they climbed out of the water and hung their shirts and shorts up to dry. They stretched out on the warm rock and took in the sunshine.
“So, Lu tells me you guys are going to RPI next year, huh?”
“Yeah. I think we'll try to rent an apartment. I can't wait to live with him,” Robin said, smiling.
“Well, he's kind of messy, you know? You're going to be cleaning up after him, a lot.”
“I'll train him,” Robin said assuredly. “I already have the clothes washing thing figured out.”
“Yeah? Are you better than Kale? I heard he had a little trouble adjusting to a domestic life.”
“My plan is foolproof,” Robin said confidently. “We'll have a 'no clothes in the house' policy. It'll cut right down on laundry.”
“That ought to work great when your parents come over, Robbie,” Alec laughed.
They lay in companionable silence for about fifteen minutes before turning over.
“So you guys will move in together, huh?”
“Yep. I'm going to marry him, Alec.”
“Yeah, I heard,” Alec smiled. “You guys are good, though? He hasn't driven all the way up to see me in a panic since that one time.”
Robin laughed, “No, he's gotten a lot better about talking to me. You know what, though? He's more confident, now, after his mom tried that shit on him. Have you noticed?”
“Actually, yeah.” Alec sat up and faced Robin. “You know, the reason I asked is because you always seemed to have all the power in your relationship. Lu was always worried about what you think, what you want and how best to make you happy. I used to wonder—”
“If I felt that way about him?” Robin asked. “Yeah, I do. I mean, it makes me laugh, sometimes, how he can be so earnest about something small, just to make me smile. But, at the same time, I do lots of things, too, with the express purpose of making him happy.” Robin sat up and looked at Alec. “I know you're asking because you love him and, maybe if we talked more you'd know better. But, he's my heart, Alec. I totally love him.”
Alec snorted, “You must be, driving all over hell's half acre looking for car parts.”
Robin grinned, “When I first saw it, I thought 'what a piece of crap'. But you know what? He loves it. He's done all the work himself and he's always getting one of us to help do something. I get the idea that bus isn't just a vehicle to him. It's like this patchwork thing that all the people he loves had a hand in making.”
“Very poetic, Robin.”
“Fuck you, Alec,” he smiled, sunnily.
“Well, I think I'll limit myself to your brother, when it comes to your family,” Alec said and snickered.
“Seriously, though. I think the only one of us that hasn't worked on that bus in some way is Griffin. He tries to say that letting Lucien borrow Devyn is his contribution,” Robin said, snickering. “But it's only a matter of time.”
“Hey, how come you always call Lu by his full name?”
Robin glanced at Alec and twisted his lips. “Are you trying to trick me into being all poetic again?”
“Nah. Just curious.”
Robin sighed, “The day of his adoption, when I met him out on the front porch? Remember?”
“Yeah. I remember 'cause he conned the folks into letting you stay over and you guys screwed each other silly.”
“Yep, that's the night,” Robin said, pointing at Alec and winking. “So, anyway, he was hugging me and wouldn't let go. I called him Lu, and he told me not to.”
Robin's face softened. “Because he said that when I called him Lucien it sounded like I loved him.”
“Huh. So, every time you say his name, you're saying you love him.”
“Pretty much,” Robin nodded.
“So, uh, when you going to propose?”
“Propose?” Robin asked. “Lucien already knows I want to marry him, why would I do that?”
“Because you guys are incurable romantics,” Alec replied promptly.
“Yeah, I guess so. I don't know, maybe I'll come up with something.” Robin stood and stretched. “My underwear's dry, now. Maybe we should get dressed and go back for lunch.”
“Okay,” Alec said and stood up. Moments later Robin had pushed him into the water and, as Alec surfaced, Robin grinned down at him. “I'll see you at the house—be thankful I'm leaving your sandals,” he laughed as he scooped up their clothes and headed back down the trail.
“You shit! Come back here, Robbie!”
Back at the house, Jamie volunteered to help Chase clean up after breakfast. They decided it would be done in shifts so that no one got stuck with doing it all the time.
“So, tell me about this Emily chick,” Chase asked.
“Ugh, she's so pretty and smart and she has a completely twisted sense of humor. She's great,” Jamie said.
“Yeah? Why's she dating you?” Chase teased.
“I am the man,” Jamie scoffed and then grinned. “It's because I'm a gentleman. I don't kiss and tell.”
“But you have kissed her?”
“Of course! Do I look like a loser?” Jamie laughed. “Where are the garbage bags? This one is full.”
As Jamie tied off the old bag, Chase laid out a new one for him. “So how's twin life treating ya?”
“Sean is almost as cool as me, Chase. That's saying a lot, you know,” Jamie said, grinning.
Chase leaned back against the counter and, after glancing to be sure no one was nearby, asked, “Is Sean seeing anyone?”
Jamie opened the new bag and began to put it in the garbage. “Um, no. I mean, he has this on again, off again thing with Ally Marcus, but...I don't know, they don't really click.”
Chase pursed his lips and looked out the window at the crowd of boys moving down to the water.
“Why?” Jamie asked, following Chase's gaze.
“It's nothing,” Chase said, smiling at Jamie.
“Come on, Chase,” Jamie said seriously. “I'm not ten anymore. What's up?”
Chase moved his lips from side to side and began puttering and arranging things in the kitchen. “I was just noticing that he and Asher seem very close. Just set me to wondering, is all.”
Jamie looked pensively out the window and observed Sean taking Ash by the hand. “They are really close. Ash went through a lot of shit, you remember.”
“Yeah,” Chase replied, “I do.”
“Kind of a long story, the rest of it, but the short version is that Ash had just wanted to hold Sean's hand. So, Sean told him to do it whenever he wanted to or needed to.”
“Really? Hmm. I knew I liked that kid. He seems to be good for you, too.”
Jamie didn't reply, but continued to look out the window at his brother holding hands with Ash.
“So, looks like Linc has a hero, huh?”
“What?” Jamie asked, pulling his eyes from the window.
“Linc. He's taken a real liking to you.”
Jamie grinned, “He's my buddy. I never thought I was, like, a kid person. But he's a lot of fun. Where is he, anyway?”
“Kale took him down to the water for a bit. Linc discovered sandcastles yesterday, so he and his daddy are down by the water's edge, building away.”
“Kale's a pretty awesome dad, huh?”
“He really is,” Chase confirmed. “Well, let's check the dining room, make sure we got it all, but I think we're done, here.”
“Hey, Chase?” Jamie asked, coming to an awkward stop. Chase turned and was surprised to see Jamie appearing almost shy, something he'd never seen before and never thought he would.
“What's the matter, Jamie?”
Jamie glanced out the window again and said, slowly, “Did you always know you were gay?”
“Oh. Um, maybe we should sit down.”
“Okay,” Jamie said, absently, and pulled himself up onto the counter. 'Not what I was thinking,' Chase thought, but hopped up onto another counter top.
“Why do you ask, Jamie?” Chase asked, but Jamie was staring out the window, lost in whatever he was staring at. “Jamie?”
“You were asking about being gay?”
“Oh, uh, right. So, like, were you ever into girls?”
Chase leaned back and spread his hands on the counter. “I've always thought some girls are pretty, but I've never found one to be sexy. Why?”
Jamie chewed his lip and looked outside again. “Can I...talk to you about something private?”
“Of course, Jamie. I'm always here for you,” Chase replied as he leaned forward. “What's on your mind?”
“Well...there's this guy, okay? And I kind of fooled around with him some, okay? For me, that's all it was. Or, that was mostly what it was. Like,” Jamie closed his eyes and said, “I love the guy. I really do. Just, not to date.” He opened his eyes and met Chase's steady gaze. “If I was single, I'd totally be open to doing it again—but only with him. Does that make sense?”
“Sure,” Chase said, and smiled reassuringly. “People are understanding more and more that sexuality isn't as nailed down as people would like to think. I think there is always an exception to every rule.”
Jamie pursed his lips and stared out the window. Chase turned and looked, as well, and saw Sean and Asher still holding hands. Chase watched them for a moment and then asked softly, “Does that usually last that long?”
“What?” Jamie asked, his voice sounding far away.
“I asked if they always hold hands that long.”
Jamie turned and looked at Chase. “I...yeah, they do, sometimes. Ash is...well.”
“Was Ash the guy?”
“Uh, yeah. That's not the important part, though—and Chase, don't say anything, all right? I'm serious.”
“Of course, Jamie. I'm just trying to understand what's bothering you so much.” Chase tilted his head and took a calculated guess. “Do you think something is going on between Ash and Sean?”
Jamie's face contorted and he let out a big sigh. “I don't know. I want to ask, but I don't. All I can think of is how messed up I felt for a day or two after Ash and I...fooled around. Sean is way more sensitive than I am and...I worry about him.”
Chase smiled. “I think you're more sensitive than you like people to know,” he said. Glancing out the window, he took in the two boys, standing barefoot in the grass and watching their friends. “They look good, together, don't they?”
“Yeah,” Jamie said softly. “They do.”
“Want to go for a walk?” Sean asked.
Ash smiled shyly, “Sure. Let's get our shoes on.”
They walked back to the front of the house and retrieved their shoes from the entryway. Stepping back out they ran into Philip, who was dripping and laughing.
“Shit, sorry guys,” he said, dancing out of their way.
“No problem,” they said and headed out. They passed Robin on their way to a trail, and he was moving quickly and laughing. Moments later Alec, clad only in his underwear, came running down the trail.
“You guys see Robin?”
“Uh, yeah,” Sean said and pointed back toward the house.
Ash chuckled, “What do you think that was all about?”
“No idea,” Sean replied. He took Ash by the hand and they continued down the trail. They picked their way slowly, taking their time.
“This is cool, huh?” Ash asked.
“Yeah, actually,” Sean replied, letting his mouth curl into a smile. “I'm enjoying it. I'm glad the old guys wanted to do this. Usually guys their age don't want to have guys like us hanging around.”
“That's true,” Ash agreed. “I like how they talk about us being family though. Feels good.”
They passed a space with a large flat rock that jutted out into the lake and kept going. The path inclined a touch, moving from flat ground to rough rock, exposing it to the open sky, and then led back under the canopy of the trees. Coming out from under the leafy cover the two boys found a tiny stretch of shoreline that appeared to be a miniature beach—plenty of space for just the two of them. Sean kicked off his shoes and waded in up to his calves and Ash followed suit.
“Football starts next week. Have you thought any more about trying out with us?” Sean asked. “Jamie won't let it go, you know.”
“I don't think it's my thing,” Ash said, shaking his head. “I'll come to your games, though.”
Sean looked out across the water and spoke, not looking at Ash. “What if I want you there?”
“What do you mean?”
Sean was silent for a moment and then dropped his gaze, looking at their feet through the filter of the water. “I'm going to be playing football with Jamie. I understand you don't want to play but...I kind of want you there.”
“Oh. Um, I could come watch the practices?” Ash offered.
“Like one of the girlfriends?” Sean asked, his voice low and raspy.
“Something like that,” Ash agreed.
“I don't want to treat you like that. I want you to be a part of this.”
“Well, maybe we can talk to Jamie. Maybe he knows of something I can do, besides washing jocks or something, to be part of things.”
Sean brightened. “Yeah, we should ask Jamie. He'll know what to do.”
Ash smiled at the dark haired boy. “You are such a Jamie fanboy,” he chuckled.
Sean smiled at him, “He's pretty good at what he sets his mind to. Hey, I should just tell him you need convincing to play,” Sean said, grinning wickedly.
“No,” Ash replied, smiling and shaking his head. “Football isn't my thing.”
“Play or...I'll dunk you.” Sean teased. He lifted his hands and spread his feet out on the sandy bottom and Ash smiled and shook his head. Giggling he lifted his hands to fend off Sean as the dark haired boy closed the distance. They locked hands and pushed back and forth, trying to gain an advantage. Finally, Sean pulled back ward and dragged Ash, screaming, into the water with him.
They stood up, now waist deep, and began to tussle anew. This time, Sean simply tackled Ash, who fell over with a howl. As they surfaced Ash dunked Sean's head and then turned to run for the shoreline. He took two giant steps before Sean tackled him around the legs and brought him to his knees in the water, both of them laughing. Ash flopped around and was backing up in the water when Sean flopped on him, preventing from getting out of the lake.
There was a pause, as both boys grinned at each other. Then, Ash's hand snaked up into Sean's wet locks and pulled his face down to meet his own. The kiss was brief and Sean pulled back, a smile on his face.
“That's cheating,” he said.
“Says you. I have to use the weapons I have,” Ash said as he flipped Sean over and landed on him.
Sean spluttered and wiped the water from his face. “Two can play that game,” he said with a grin and pulled Ash down for another quick kiss. Before long they had escalated into a full on make out. Ash opened his mouth and Sean copied him, tongues wrestling as they crossed from one mouth to the other. Moments later, they pulled apart, panting.
“Damn, Ash,” Sean said, laughing.
“God, that was awesome,” Ash said, flopping on his back in the shallow water.
“Better than Lisa Flowers,” Sean said in agreement. “She couldn't kiss for shit.”
Ash fell silent.
“It's okay. How about if...let's just start back, huh? Sitting in water with your clothes on gets old.”
“It's okay, Sean. It's...fine.”
Sean stood and grabbed Ash's arm as he turned to climb out of the water.
“Ash. I love you.”
Asher paused and looked back at Sean. “I love you more.”
Then they hugged, falling together in their wet clothes. A breeze stirred and the surface of the lake developed small ripples as the air disturbed it, but the two boys took no notice. Right now, this moment, belonged to them.
Philip continued past Sean and Asher and headed for the stairs, trying to towel his hair and soak up some of the water. Devyn and Griff had tossed him into the water, but he'd been dressed in actual clothes. From now on, it was swim trunks twenty—four seven. As he mounted the landing he paused to pull the clinging, wet underwear from his crack—yeesh, that felt weird. He opened the door to the room he was sharing and was startled to see a bare, pale white ass with the most beautiful, tanned legs supporting it bent over in front of him.
“Yah! Shit, sorry,!” he said and closed his eyes.
“Oh, no big deal,” the other boy said. Philip opened his eyes to see that the ass in question belonged to Nate Kennedy, Devyn's cousin, and he'd finished pulling up his underwear. “I figure with this many people, we're probably going to see everyone's ass by the time we leave.”
“God, I hope so,” Philip deadpanned and then chuckled; Nate joined him.
“My cousin and his boyfriend get you?” Nate asked as he rummaged for a pair of shorts.
“Yeah,” Philip said, eyeing Nate's backside. “Um, bastards got me with real clothes on. What are you in here for?”
“Uh, that guy, Alec? I guess he left the stuff for s'mores out last night and some little critters ate the chocolate and crackers. Kale needs to run into town, I guess his little boy wants to make some more, tonight. He says it's the first time his son has been camping, but I think he just likes making his kid happy. I thought I'd ride with him, get a chance to say thanks for inviting me and stuff, you know?”
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Philip agreed and peeled off his wet shirt and hung it on the windowsill. “I'm glad you reminded me, I want to make sure to thank them, too. If they hadn't invited me, I'd just sit home for four days missing my friends.”
“Yeah, I hear you,” Nate said as he pulled on a tee shirt. “Dev and Griff are pretty important to you, huh?”
Philip, feeling daring, shucked his shorts and boxers and wrapped the towel around himself quickly before adding the clothes to the window sill.
“Dude, they are the best. Best friends I ever had.”
“Yeah,” Nate replied, absently. He sat down on his bed and separated a pair of ankle socks and then lifted a foot onto the bed. “Why do you think that is?”
“What do you mean?” Philip asked as he dried himself.
“I mean...” Nate let his bare foot drop back to the floor and held the forgotten sock in his hand. “There are all these assholes running around and they call you 'friend' without knowing what that really means. How come you have to deal with so many assholes to get to the really good people?”
Philip slowed down his vigorous drying and looked down, suddenly feeling embarrassed. As he'd spent time with Nate he'd grown increasingly curious about him. He seemed like another straight guy, but he was cute and didn't seem to mind—or maybe didn't notice—Philips clumsy flirting. Griff had teased him about it, from time to time, but never indicated he was crossing any lines.
“I was one of those assholes,” Philip said slowly.
Philip cleared his throat. “I was one of those assholes.” He looked up and fixed his gaze on Nate. “Before Griff took the time to be my friend...I was not a nice person.”
“You seem nice to me,” Nate said, tilting his head unconsciously and making Philip think, again, how cute he thought the guy was.
“Nate...can I be honest?”
“Um, yeah, sure, Phil.” Nate started to put his foot in the sock again, but froze as Philip spoke.
“Don't call me Phil,” he snapped. Closing his eyes he said, softly, “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap.”
“It's okay. I didn't know it bothered you...Philip.” Philip looked up at Nathan to find him smiling at him. He let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.
“You have to understand,” Philip said as he rewrapped the towel around his waist and sat down on his bed. “I wasn't a nice guy. Did...no, he wouldn't have.” Shaking his head and looking away from Nate he said, “Um. When I met Griff, I thought he was so freaking hot and I was kind of a dick about expressing it. I, uh...man, this is embarrassing.”
“Philip, you don't have to tell me,” Nate said gently. “You don't owe me anything.”
Philip sighed heavily, “I do if I'm going to be your friend. And I do want to be your friend.”
“Okay,” Nate replied and set his feet back on the floor, socks forgotten. “What do you need to tell me?”
Philip took a deep breath. He raised his eyes and met Nate's gaze and trembled. This was the first time he had to confess to someone who knew nothing of how he'd acted before. “So, when I met Griffin I thought he was really hot. I, um, swiped his underwear and put a note with a condom on his locker and suggested we...um...you know.”
Philip started to nod his head and slowly stood up. “It was worse than that, really, but that's not my story to tell. But, after I did that to Griff, and after Devyn kicked my ass—”
“Whoa, what? Devyn fought you?”
“Yeah,” Philip said, grimacing. “I had it coming, too.”
“But...Devyn really likes you, I don't get it.”
“Well, he was defending Griff,” Philip said.
“Yeah, yeah, I get that,” Nate said and rolled his eyes. “But this part about the way he feels about you now—how'd you get from there to now?”
“Griffin,” Philip said with a shrug. “I went to his house and gave him the stuff back I swiped and apologized.”
“He forgave you just like that?”
“Not exactly. We talked a little, and he kept Dev from kicking my ass again. But, I guess he saw something in me I didn't know I had. I'm a better person, now. But when you go back to school...some folks remember me just for who I used to be. If you, you know, wanted to be friends I figured it was fair to tell you that.”
“Oh. Right, I can understand that,” Nate said. He picked up his foot and pulled the sock over and then repeated the process. Philip, shoulders slumping, pulled underwear from his bag and pulled them on under the towel.
“So, if I have underwear missing, does that mean you like me? Is that how that works?” Nate asked.
Philip turned to face him, expecting his face to be filled with scorn. Instead Nate was smiling and backing up toward the door.
“Uh, no. I will just tell you.”
“Oh,” Nate said, pausing.
“But...I do. Like you,” Philip said, haltingly.
“Wait,” Nate said and reached down, pulling up the band of his underwear and letting them snap back. “You're losing your touch, Philip,” he said, chuckling. Philip smiled back.
“Okay, well Kale is probably waiting,” Nate said as he opened the door. He paused in the doorway and looked back at Philip. “Um, I like you too. Thanks for telling me, Philip. I won't turn my back when we get to school.”
The boy closed the door and Philip felt as though his face were going to split wide from the grin on his face. He'd told Nate the truth and he still liked him! And that ass!
Well, at least he hadn't said that part, Philip chuckled to himself.
Lucien walked into the library room to find Hamster stretched out on a couch with a book held in his hands. Derek, Hamster's boyfriend, was asleep on another couch, with an open book spread out on his chest. Lu took a seat in a comfortable looking chair and waited for Hamster to mark his page and look up at him.
As he did so he watched his friend sleep. Derek was slender from all his running, but he ate enough to rupture a horses stomach. Lu smiled, thinking of the dark days when his bio—mother had come out of no where and Derek had confessed just how much Lu meant to him. As Derek's chest rose and fell, Lu felt a swell of gratitude for his brother in planning this weekend for all of them. Right then, he decided, it would be an annual affair.
“He's mine, Lu.”
Lu glanced over at Hamster, whose book was now closed on his lap and a grin played about his lips. “Robin is all I need,” Lu said, chuckling. “Still, he's adorable.”
Hamster looked at Derek fondly, “Yeah. So much more, too.”
“We talking about...?”
Hamster flashed an amused look at Lu. “You? The shriveled prude is asking about Derek's dick?”
Lu colored. “I am so tired of that,” he said, whining. “I don't understand how Robin can talk to you so easily about stuff like that.”
“It's just guy talk, Lu,” Hamster said with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Yeah, that's what he says, too. But,” Lu leaned forward and, glancing to see that Derek was still asleep, softly spoke to Hamster. “How come everyone else seems to think it's okay and I don't? How come I'm so...weird for not wanting to tell people about Robin like that?”
Hamster smiled and propped himself up a little straighter against the arm of the couch. “Let me ask you a question—not a loaded one, just one wanting a straight answer, okay?”
Lu nodded and Hamster continued, “Do you think I'm attractive?”
“Well, yeah,” Lu said slowly.
“If you were single, would you consider dating me?”
“I...don't know,” Lu said, leaning back in his chair. “I can't imagine a circumstance where I wouldn't be dating Robin—I'd do anything to keep him.”
“Let's skip over that part, right now, Lu. Don't worry about why you're single in this scenario, just assume that you are. Would you be interested in dating me? Or Derek?”
Lu glanced at the sleeping boy again and then back to Hamster. “I'm not sure. I mean, I love you both—you know that. But, sexually and romantically...I don't have any room for anyone else. I mean...” He stopped, scrunching his face up while thinking. “I mean, yeah, I'd probably date one of you if things had never...if I were single.”
“See, that's natural to wonder. It's okay to find other people attractive or to fantasize. The important thing is where you draw the line. Like,” he said, smiling, “your line is 'no touching', whereas your brother's line—with respect to Kale and Chase—is a little different.”
Lu looked down at his clasped hands. “It would kill me to see Robin with someone else.”
“I understand,” Hamster replied. “I think most people are like that. You're just lucky that you fell in love with someone that sees that the same way you do.”
Lu pursed his lips. “I'm not always sure about that. Don't get the wrong idea,” he said quickly, forestalling Hamster's reply. “Robin would never, never cheat on me. He knows that I...well, he knows. But I know he's attracted to others, sometimes. I don't worry about him...I worry about those others, though.”
“Lu, haven't you ever fantasized about one of us?” Hamster asked softly.
“No, not...well, not really,” Lu said, his face turning pink. “Robin is...”
“I know, he's my half—best friend, remember? I'm not saying anything against Robin, Lu. He's a really nice looking guy and he's sweet with a good sense of humor. Hey, in a world where he and I were single? I'd date him.”
Lu's eyes narrowed and then he shook his head and grimaced. “I know I should be more relaxed, especially here with the family. I...” Lu paused and sighed, “I want to try and get over some of that.”
“Okay,” Hamster said, nodding. “What do you have in mind? Want me to kiss him?”
“No!” Lu replied and stuck his tongue out. “I was just thinking...I don't know, maybe we could talk like you do with him?”
“I have no trouble talking about Derek,” Hamster said with a grin.
“I know,” Lu said with a sigh. “Robin likes to tease me about it all the time.”
“Dude, according to Robin, you screw like a porn star,” Hamster said with a chuckle.
Lu covered his face with his hand and laughed nervously. Nodding a little he looked up at Hamster and said, a little shyly, “I always want Robin to get the most out of being intimate with me. But, you have no idea how it makes me feel.”
“You mean, how it feels to have sex with him?”
Lu shook his head and smiled, “Hamster...Austin, listen, every time I touch him, it's with love. But I would be the biggest liar if I didn't say that he turns me on like no body else can. I can just...look at him and want him.”
“I can relate,” Austin said and chuckled. “Derek gets me like no one else quite does, you know? Like, with the books,” he said and shifted in his seat. “I'm reading this series and you get to know the characters. Well, just like people, you like some and hate others but by and large you don't have a strong opinion either way for the majority. You follow me?”
“Okay, so, I was reading this series and I loved this character—I mean, he was flat out awesome. Smart, clever, dry sense of humor and really loyal. They way they described his appearance in the book, I kind of thought of Devyn, you know? So, I get to the last book, right? They killed him.”
“Yeah. I was so mad,” he said, chuckling. “But, Derek understood. It's the things that are important to you that aren't important to anyone else that make the real magic possible, you know? Well, no, you might not.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Robin is the only person you've ever been with, right?”
“Well, you know I did a few things with Cole. Cole wouldn't have understood. Cole...Cole was really into the sex, but only because he liked how I looked. As people—our personalities and interests—we weren't a good match. But with Derek,” he said, sparing another loving glance at him as he dozed, “he gets me. Touching him, kissing him, sex...it's hard to describe the difference if you have nothing to compare it to.”
“Jeez, I'm starting to wonder if I need a fling to understand,” Lu said, laughing.
“Nah,” Hamster said, waving his hand. “There is such thing as bad sex, like what happened to our Griff. But, by and large, sex feels good, you know? Cole gave a great blow job because he was into me—or, the physical me. Derek? Derek is so much better in every way.”
“Robin said you guys...well, that Derek topped you.”
“Yeah, he did,” Hamster said, smiling and blushing.
“Now, how come you blush? Do you do that with Robin?”
“Sometimes,” he acknowledged. “I'm not totally embarrassed or anything. I start to think about it, how the whole thing finally happened and it just... it's a good memory, but not one you share with everyone, you know?”
“Okay,” Lu said and sighed deeply before saying, “Want to trade?”
“What do you mean?” Hamster asked, leaning forward a bit.
“I'm trying to, you know, loosen up some. I'll trade you stories. You tell me about your first time bottoming and...I'll tell you one.”
“I want the table story. Robin still hasn't told me the whole thing.”
“Um. Jeez, okay,” Lu replied, blushing deeply. “Y—you first, though.”
Hamster shifted so that his feet were tucked under himself and he said, “Well, Robin probably told you that Derek had said he wouldn't top me, right?”
“Yeah,” Lu replied, his tone showing interest.
“Okay, so, Derek told me it was because he's bigger than I am. Now, before you start thinking he's like an Anaconda or something, it's not that big a difference.”
“Compared to you, though, right? Or compared to Cole?”
“Either, I guess. I mean, you don't need dimensions, but my boy is healthy, okay?” Hamster said, grinning. “So, anyway, I love sex with Derek but he was just being stubborn about it.”
“Maybe he just liked you topping him?”
“He does,” Hamster confirmed. “But, I thought it wasn't fair he wouldn't even let me try, you know?”
“Yeah, I agree. I love topping Robin, but anytime he wants to, I'm happy to bottom for him, too.”
“Right,” Hamster said, pointing at Lu. “So I was talking to Chase about it and he told me to kind of sneak up on Derek about it.”
“How do you sneak up on getting someone to fuck you?”
“I asked almost that exact question!” Hamster said, chuckling. “Chase suggested handcuffs, actually.”
A noise caught both of their attention and their eyes turned to Derek, who was grinning and shaking where he lay.
“Hey!” Hamster said, grinning and throwing a pillow at his boyfriend. Derek sat up, laughing and crossed the space between his couch and the one his boyfriend was on. He kissed him quickly and sat next to him, reclining against him.
“Sorry, guys,” he said, obviously not sorry. “But, like Devyn says, it's so much fun to hear hot guys talking sex!”
“So...did you?” Lu asked tentatively.
“Did I what?” Hamster asked.
“No, he didn't have to handcuff me,” Derek said, laughing. “I was lying there, legs spread and waiting for him and he started to lube me up, instead.”
“Surprise!” Hamster chuckled.
“I was!” Derek said, looking first to his boyfriend and then at their bespectacled friend. “You have to understand, Lu, I've never really been into topping, much. When we first talked about going all the way, I volunteered to go first, you know? Austin took your advice and it was great. So much so that I've never wanted to stop doing that.”
“But...like he said, that's not fair.”
Derek's mouth twisted. “I know, I do. I was selfish, but I also know it hurts, some, going in. I didn't want...well, I didn't want to hurt him but I also,” he stopped and glanced back at Hamster. “I didn't want him to get discouraged and think about going back to girls. I mean, for all I know, he was getting a little tired of sex with me.”
“You never said—”
“I know.” Derek patted Hamster's chest, then turned to face Lu. “We have our insecurities, Lu. You worry Robin will want someone else someday? We all have some of that fear. But like you said—I know I'm safe here with the family—and I trust Austin.”
Lu leaned back and sighed. “Wow. So, um, that worked out for you guys then?”
“Yeah. Although,” Hamster said, laughing, “at first I was like—what's the big deal? It hurts and I'm still impaling myself because...?”
“I knew it hurt!” Derek tried to turn and admonish Hamster, but Hamster just wrapped his arms and held the smaller boy.
“Yeah, yeah. But like you said, at first, it does that until you get used to it. So, anyway, it worked out and now I know what he was keeping from me, the little shit.”
“Now he wants it all the time,” Derek said, rolling his eyes.
“I said we could trade,” Hamster replied, laughing. Moments later, both sets of eyes were on Lu and Austin prompted him. “So? The table?”
Lu rubbed his hands on his legs and sighed. “Well, Robin went with me to see the egg donor and my sister at my lawyers office. I was pretty unhappy when we left and, thank goodness, Robin stayed over that night.” Lu looked at his friends earnestly, “You guys were so supportive and you helped me so much, I can't even tell you. But when Robin is with me? Especially during tough times...” he spread his hands and shook his head, “the best I can say is it's like breathing in pure heaven. I feel like I can do anything.”
“I'm glad we were there to help,” Derek replied and Hamster nodded.
“You guys were huge, you have no idea.”
“Okay, enough with the emotions—get to the table sex!” Hamster laughed.
Lu cracked a small smile and said, “You get this story from me, it's my way. Um, so, Robin stayed overnight and we cuddled a lot. He had said something about his being angry with Little Phil, and he decided to make out with me instead of telling me.”
“Sounds reasonable, considering,” Hamster replied.
“Not to get us off subject, but isn't it amazing how much Philip has changed? I mean, I actually like him!”
“Me too,” Lu agreed. “So, anyway...waking up to Robin is a little rare, and I really like it, you know?”
“I do,” Hamster said as he squeezed Derek. “This morning was like getting a look into my future.”
Derek blushed, “You're not getting a blow job as a wake up call every morning, Austin!”
Hamster chuckled at his boyfriend and turned his attention back to Lu.
“Well, as it happens...Robin woke me up the same way,” Lu said, blushing fiercely. “All I can say about that is...Robin knows how to make me happy.”
“Really? No details? No ball rolling or finger in the ass?” Hamster teased.
“Anyway,” Lu said, loudly. “We went downstairs for breakfast and my parents were gone.”
Derek patted Hamster on the knee, “This is the good part!”
“You want me to tell this or not?” Lu grumped.
“Yes!” both boys replied in unison and laughed.
“Well, quiet, then,” he said and crossed his arms. He pursed his lips thoughtfully and looked out the window at the trees outside. When he spoke, it was clear he wasn't telling his friends, he was reliving the events as if they were happening now.
“We were barely dressed, just in our underwear. Robin just looked so...so goddamn sexy. I was just taking the time to stare at him, whenever I thought he wasn't looking—it's silly, I know. I'm dating him, I should be comfortable looking at him anytime I want. But...he doesn't really know how beautiful I think he is.”
Lu shook his head slowly. “He was being sexy without knowing it. And, like you were saying, I was picturing this being our life—waking up together, sitting down to breakfast together. But under all that...domestic bliss, I had a raging hard on just looking at him. His hair was messed up from sleeping and the sunlight was just kissing his skin.”
He looked down, blushing. “Then I sat down next to him—I just couldn't control myself, and I didn't want to. I wanted him. I stood him up and blew him. I was on my knees while he was leaning against the edge of the table, and I was looking up at him. His head was thrown back and it was the most erotic thing, to see him in ecstasy.”
“I got him up on the table, I was pre—cumming so badly I didn't even need lube. I worked into him slowly, as slowly as I could, but he kept telling me go, do him. I grabbed his hips and dragged him to the edge of the table and...his eyes were on me the whole time. Everything we are was looking back at me. He was gripping the table and pushing his hips against me and...”
“Whew!” Derek said, waving his hand at his face. “Goddamn, Lucien! I didn't know you were going to get that detailed! God, I need a good fucking, now!”
Lu looked at them, confusion and embarrassment warring on his face. “Isn't this what you guys talk about? Don't you say it like that?”
“Um.” Hamster cleared his throat, his face splotchy. “We don't go into quite that much detail. I can tell you, though, that he says your prowess is...uh, legendary. It sounds well deserved.”
“Shit,” Lu said, his face turning purple as he leaned forward and put his face in his hands. “I can't do this right. I don't think I even want to!”
“Hey,” Derek said, slipping over to his friend. “You don't have to, Lu. I'm sorry if you thought this was some kind of requirement.”
Lu looked up at Derek, “I just wanted in on that, you know? You guys have this, I don't know, and I just wanted to be part of it. But I can't even...ugh! It's going to bother Robin eventually, right? Me being such a...prude?”
“Then don't, sweetie,” Derek said and kissed the top of his head. “We know Robin is sacred to you, that's enough, okay?”
Lu nodded and exhaled deeply a few times. “I'm going to go up and lie down. I'm feeling a little exhausted.”
“Okay, Lu,” Austin replied.
As soon as Lu left the room, Derek spun on his heel, a look of glee on his face. “Holy shit! Tell me you are not horny after hearing that!”
“Why do you think I have a pillow over my shorts?” Hamster giggled.
Derek looked over his shoulder and then glanced around the room. “There. Closet, come here!” He didn't even have to drag Austin there.
Meanwhile Lu headed up the stairs feeling guilty and, yet, aroused. Confused as to why he had these conflicting emotions, he opened the door to his room to find Robin lounging on the bench seat by the window. There was a flat cushion flanked by two cylindrical pillows and Robin had his head on one pillow and his feet on the other, toes scrunching the pillow. He was wearing boxer briefs, having returned a short time ago from stealing Alec's clothes, and had yet to redress and join the group.
Lu slowly closed the door and drank in his boyfriend. His eyes roamed as if it was all new, again, from the messy hair down to the toes that were curling and relaxing as Robin listened to music on his phone. His sea blue eyes were closed and Lucien was savoring the moment. Eventually Robin opened his eyes and spotted Lu looking at him. His mouth curled into a smile and he pulled the headphones from his ears.
“Hey. Looks like you're happy to see me.”
“I'm always happy to see you,” Lu replied, allowing a smile to come to his face. “I was trying to be less of a prude. I told Austin I'd trade stories with him.
“Oh?” Robin asked, “how'd that go?”
Lu made a waving motion with his hand. “Take your underwear off.”
Robin lifted an eyebrow in amusement and carefully set his phone down. Then, staring at Lucien he hooked his thumbs in the waistband and slowly dragged them down, revealing that he, too, was growing happy to see Lucien. Pulling them past his feet, he tossed them aside and leaned back, exposing himself to Lucien's inspection.
“So,” he said, “how did your story trade go?”
“Kind of weird,” Lu said, as if in a trance. He walked to their nightstand and rummaged inside without taking his eyes from Robin. “I guess I added in more detail than you're supposed to. Hamster and Derek looked pretty worked up—they're probably screwing somewhere, right now.”
Robin watched his boyfriend remove lube from the drawer and then, oddly, sat down on the bed. “Lucien?”
“I just...this is different. I love looking at you. All of you.”
Robin stretched an arm up behind his head and smiled. “I hope you're going to touch all of me.”
“Oh, I am,” Lucien said, firmly. A smile unlike any Robin had seen from his boyfriend before flashed onto his face and he felt his heart shiver with the possibilities. “Robin, you take my breath away. I'm so confused, though — Austin wanted to hear the table story.”
“Everyone does,” Robin snickered.
“But...I have mixed feelings about it. You know how I feel about us being intimate.” He paused, and Robin could only guess where his boyfriends eyes had locked, so strange were his tastes, sometimes. One minute it would be his ankles, another the front of his hip. He could more easily understand the chest, abs, ass or penis—but Lucien seemed to find unusual things about his body fascinating. He elected to stay silent as his boyfriend's eyes resumed roaming; making a slow catalog of his form.
“But, then something funny happened.”
“What was that, babe?”
Lu's eyes moved up and locked onto Robin's. “I wanted you. It was overwhelming. Telling them about blowing you, how you looked when I did that and then how we moved on the table? It was so...thrillingly erotic. It was like I was there, all over again—and it was like they could see it happening. I can't explain it, I just got hit with...a wave of desire for you. And right now? I feel like I'm on the edge of a cliff and the only thing keeping me from jumping is how goddamn beautiful the view is. Jesus, you are so sexy.”
“Why don't you come here and tell me that?”
Lucien dropped his clothes on the way to the bench and proceeded to do his best to make Robin moan and groan in pleasure; to murmur heated words of encouragement. Lucien paid special attention, making sure to take his time and push every one of Robin's buttons as firmly as he could. When he had Robin panting, leaking with desire, he popped the lube and sat down, taking Robin inside himself.
Framed in the afternoons sunlight, with the trees waving and obscuring the view, Lucien rolled his hips slowly, languorously, almost tortuously. Robin groaned and struggled to speed up his strokes, but Lucien kept the pace deliberate. With a growl Robin grabbed Lucien by the hips and thrust upward, causing Lucien to cry out his name which only increased his desire—a desire reflected in Lucien's eyes.
Later, with Lucien's spend cooling on his stomach and chest, Robin held his boyfriend as they lay on the bench in the sunshine.
“If that's how you're going to react by swapping sex stories...I'm going to insist you do it more often.”
Lu chuckled. “I'm trying to process it. You know how it bothers me—I'm jealous, I guess.” He paused and sighed before saying, softly, “I guess that's not one of my more attractive features. Is it?”
Robin smiled wryly, “Actually, it's fucking annoying, babe.”
“What?” Lu replied, jumping. Robin had been prepared, however, and held him close.
“Babe, it goes back to those talks we've had about trust. You and I can't control if someone likes one of us—and you have nothing to be jealous about. I could understand it better if I was always talking about other guys or if I'd cheated or something like that—but be honest, have you ever felt like I'd cheat on you?”
Lu sat up slowly as Robin relented in his grasp. Lu's hand dropped onto Robin's thigh and began to stroke the skin. “You're right, it is fucking annoying.”
Robin waited for his boyfriend to continue. After a moment, Lucien met his gaze.
“I did some of this to myself, but you're right; I can't ever control how others see you. I guess I realize how easy it is to want you and I can't deny that worries me, some. But, I guess, if I'm wasting my time worrying then it's time I'm not spending on us—enjoying us.” He pursed his lips and twisted them to the side. “I guess that can be a little suffocating.”
“Well, I wouldn't go that far,” Robin replied. “You're a little more relaxed, at least with our friends. Mostly things get said to tease you.”
Lucien studied him for a moment and asked, “Do you think any of our friends are cute?”
“Duh!” Robin replied, laughing. “If I was single, there's a lot of people I could be interested in—and more than one in our group. We know some great people, you know?”
“Yeah, we do,” Lucien said, his voice a little stronger. “I'm sorry I'm so...insecure about this. That's actually why I went to talk to Hamster, to try and get over some of it. I know their relationship is strong and since you and he already talk...”
“Yep, that was a safe place to go.” Robin got a speculative look on his face and he said, “Hey, Lucien? When you heard about Derek topping for the first time...did you picture it?”
Lu's face reddened. “Yeah.”
“Me too,” Robin confessed. “There's nothing wrong with that, babe.”
Lucien sighed and said, “That's where Alec's line of reasoning for their foursome thing started. I'm okay with them doing that,” he said firmly, holding Robin's gaze steadily, “They're happy and it's not hurting anyone. Hell, I can even see some practical advantages considering they have a kid—more hands to help, 'it takes a village' and all that.”
Robin's lips twisted into a smile. “But?”
“But,” Lucien said, nodding, “I don't want that. I realize that I need to loosen up, some. But I don't want to have a three way or do whatever it is those four are up to. That's their relationship, this is mine—ours. We get to set those limits, right?”
“Of course. Are you sure about the three way?” Robin teased.
“Nobody gets you but me,” Lucien said, raising an eyebrow.
Robin laughed and grabbed Lucien's hand. “We already knew that. I just want you to be able to trust me—trust us. I mean, babe, everyone knows we make love. If Hamster says they did it on the beach, maybe I want to try that, too?”
“Hamster had sex on the beach?” Lu asked, eyes wide.
“No. Want to sneak out tonight and beat him to it?” Robin asked, grinning wickedly.
As night fell the oldest boys built a fire in the pit and everyone gathered around. Kale, having gotten more supplies for s'mores, was helping Linc to make them. Others were toasting marshmallows and laughing at silly jokes.
Two small tables were set up and there were veggies with dip on them and the boys were helping themselves. Chase and Sasha had cut up all the veggies earlier, but Scott had snagged a cucumber without them seeing him. Walking toward the light, with the vegetable making a serious bulge in his shorts, he approached the fire. Jamie spotted him first and burst out laughing and pointing. Soon the group was laughing as Scott tried to flex and show off, but the cucumber fell out of the bottom of his shorts and hit the sand.
“Dude! I told you to quit playing with it!” Alec hollered.
Scott picked it up, laughing, and Alec reached out and plucked it from his hand. Turning to Kale he said, “Kale? Vegetable or—”
“Alec! Not in front of the b—o—y!” he said, covering Linc's ears.
“Daddy? I can have cucumber?” Linc asked. There were giggles around the fire and Kale rolled his eyes. Linc soon became tired—it had been a full day of playing—and Kale carried his exhausted son to bed. By the time he'd returned, Alec was holding court.
“Okay, so, I'm Alec Kutsenko and I don't know all of you. Most of you guys probably do know each other, but maybe not everyone. I want to take a little bit to talk about why we're here, explain to you why I'm so awesome, and we'll go from there, okay?”
The crowd of boys tittered uncertainly.
“Okay, so, let's see—who are you?” he said, pointing at a young man with brown hair and a round face.
“Um, Nate—Nathan Kennedy. I'm Devyn's cousin.”
“Nate,” Alec said and stepped over to him before pulling him up and giving him a bone crushing hug. “Welcome to the family.”
“Uh, thanks,” Nate replied, chuckling nervously.
“Listen, guys, I have something really serious to talk about for a minute,” Alec said and walked around the group, making eye contact with his audience. “Most of you know what happened to me over the winter and the important part is I'm still here with you guys. A lot of us have gone through some horrible things. My pal Leafy,” he said, pointing to Kale, who had just resumed his seat beside Chase, “he went through heart surgery when he was just sixteen. Of course, his whole family was scared right along with — and for — him.”
Alec turned and spread his arms out. “That's what this family is about. Each of us is here because someone else reached out to us—or because you reached out to someone. Guys, you have no idea how huge that is. There are kids in this country that are killing themselves because they don't have people just like you!
“Just take a second and think about why you have these friends.”
“I was born into it,” Jamie quipped, to the amusement of his friends.
“And you welcomed me and helped me out, jerk,” Sean said, shoving him.
“He hasn't done dick for me,” Scott said, laughing as Jamie punched his shoulder.
“Not to give Jamie a swollen head, because I'm pretty sure Sean had more to do with it,” said Teddy from his seat, “but Sean and Jamie played a big part in Trent and me getting together.”
“That one was more Sean,” Jamie admitted. “He picked up on it and decided to play matchmaker.”
“Yeah. He's more sensitive, considerate, kind—all the things you aren't,” Trent said in a teasing tone.
“Aw, Trent,” Jamie said shaking his head, “stop hitting on my brother—I told him it's bad luck to date third string quarterbacks.”
“Even worse trying to throw to a short receiver,” Trent snorted.
“I'm not short. You want to see short?” Jamie said with a snort. Before he'd gotten far, he was being buried by Griff and Devyn. “Help! Hobbits are attacking me!” Jamie cried. It took very little time for Jamie to surrender, though it was easy to understand as Devyn was holding his face in the sand.
“Christ, Dev!” Jamie groused, wiping the sand from his face and hair. “I can't see you asking me to give up if you plant my face in the dirt!”
Dev signed and Griff interpreted, “He was just letting everyone else look at your ass—he didn't care about your face!”
“Jamie, you also stuck up for me, got into a big fight,” another said, once the laughter and taunting had died down.
“What's your name?” Alec asked.
“Um, Asher. Asher Ellis. I'm Scott's brother.” He smiled as he looked at the boys seated around him, “Um, I'm here because of Jamie, Scott and Sean.”
Alec grinned and said, “Welcome to the family. Wow, we got a weird vibe here, huh? Anyone else feel like they might be at a tent revival?” A tittering laughter ran around the group.
“Preach it!” Chase called out, laughing.
“Okay, that's too weird, even for me,” Alec said, shaking his head. “Listen, guys, us helping each other is the whole reason for our family. We're bound with love, respect and compassion. There is a lot of bravery here, and a lot of — hey, what's wrong? Why are you crying?”
Philip was wiping his face and Alec dragged him to his feet. “Hey, Phil—there's no crying at camp!”
Philip choked out a laugh, but it was Nate that said, “Don't call him Phil. He's Philip.”
Philip nodded at Nate in thanks, and Alec pressed him as to why he was here and why was he crying?
“I'm here because of Griffin, mainly. He forgave me, volunteered to be my friend. I have Devyn and Nate because of him. The other guys,” he waved his hand at the group, “they're all giving me a third chance. Tonight I...I confessed who I used to be to someone that never knew Little Phil.”
“He said that was okay. That he l—liked me.”
“Philip, welcome to the family,” Alec said and hugged him. “Now, seriously, no crying at camp.”
Philip sat back down beside Griffin, Devyn and Nate. They patted him on the back and he nodded, blushing and wiping his eyes.
“We've had some really good luck, too, guys. Like, my friend Leafy? The one with the heart problem? What a good thing Chase didn't give him his first blow job before heart surgery. Am I right?”
“Oh, screw you, Alec!” Kale called.
“We got lucky again when we discovered this hot guy on a website and drove all the way to some little burger shack to check him out.”
A few people looked around, but most laughed and looked right at Hamster.
“For the record, you can still vote for me,” Hamster said with a grin.
“Oh, but you got some competition, didn't you, Hamster?” Alec said.
“Alec!” Kale said warningly.
“Now, don't worry Leafy, don't worry. I wasn't going to tell them they could see you shirtless and wet online,” he said and the group chuckled at his words. “I was just going to tell them that, for a small fee, they could take home a poster of that very moment before you became famous!”
“Alec!” Kale said and tried to struggle to his feet, but a laughing Chase and Sasha held him back.
“That's not all!” Alec said, impersonating a TV pitchman. “I also have extra copies of his print ad! Yes, you too can drool over him wearing just his Calvin's and a smile!” Laughter raced through the group and Kale was shaking his head, smiling, but calling out he was going to get even.
“Oh, before I forget!” Alec said, hitting his forehead with his palm. “I think that you all should know that if your boyfriend gets a crush on Kale—I mentioned his ad, right? Just jeans and a smile?” he glanced around, hamming it up with his eyebrows and hand gestures. “Devyn has a surefire method for getting your boyfriend back. Dev? Demonstration?”
“Alec you're a—” Griffin's words were cut off as Devyn kissed him, and kept right on kissing him.
“Okay, moving along,” Alec said, laughing.
“That's it,” Kale said, laughing as he stood. “Let me tell you about Alec, here. If it weren't for him, yes, we wouldn't have gotten to embarrass Hamster before he knew enough to avoid us.”
“Hey, I got us a picture with a celebrity,” Alec retorted.
“Whatever,” Kale snorted. “But Alec, here, also found Lucien—who he talked his parents into adopting. Don't let him fool you,” he said, wagging his finger at the seated boys. “His heart is bigger than his brain.”
“Chase, control your man,” Alec whined.
“Come here, baby,” Chase said, laughing. “But I do want you to know—Kale had his first blow job before that heart surgery.”
“Babe!” Kale exclaimed.
“Well, at least we know what caused it,” Alec said, cheerfully, to another round of laughter. “So, yes, I found my own little brother. Have you all met him?”
Lucien climbed to his feet and gave the group a half hearted wave. “Hi, I'm Lucien Kutsenko and I survived growing up with my brother.”
“Jesus, Lu,” Alec said, looking pained. “That sounded like an AA introduction!”
Lu smiled and leaned over on one hip. “I also had to burn all my underwear because my brother kept stealing them to go meet—”
“Less is more, Lu, less is more—sit your ass down,” Alec interrupted. Lu laughed and pointed his finger at Alec before sitting.
Robin stood up quickly before Alec could recover and said, “Hey, I'm Robin Kirkwood. If you don't know me, I'm the guy that stole Alec's clothes today.”
Chase wolf whistled and he and Sasha leaned on each other, laughing.
“I'll get even, Robbie.” Alec warned.
“When I met Alec, I was sure he was off his meds,” Robin told the group. “Next thing you know, he's infected my brothers and handed me a boyfriend—or should I say, fiance,” he looked down at Lu, who grinned back up at him. “But let me tell you, life isn't easy in this group.
“We've survived rape, abuse, death, depression, knife wounds, gunshots and cancer.”
Alec burst out singing, “Here comes Hamster with his pecker in his hand, he's a one ball man and he's off to the rodeo!”
“Shut up, Alec,” Robin said as the group laughed. “We also survived Alec and my fiance's bus.”
“And we not only survived, we thrived.”
“Can I get an Amen?” Alec asked the group, doing his best impression of a preacher.
“Alec, you don't have a religious bone in your body!” Robin laughed.
“No, but I bone a religious—”
“Alec, shut up!” Kale yelled, laughing.
“Hey,” Lu said as he climbed to his feet and pointed at the newer members of the group. “Nobody joins the fam without doing some work on my bus. I got my eyes on you.”
“I let Devyn do my share,” Griffin said, chuckling.
“Nope, I'm going to get you, Griffy—and your little dog, too!” Laughter raced through the group again as Lu sat down.
Griff stood up to take his place. Glancing around at the group he said, “I'm here because...” he paused and then said, slowly, “when you talk to someone, anyone, and you say—what would you do if you saw...and then fill in the blank. What's the worst thing you can think of? Animal abuse? Rape? Some kind of assault? I think that, a lot of us would like to say we'd step in or get help.”
He cleared his throat and stood a bit straighter. “I'm here because some wonderful, ordinary people acted the way we all hope we would in that situation. They didn't walk away and hope that things just get better on their own. They didn't look down on me because I wasn't...they didn't sit in judgment. They could have; a lot of people knew what was happening to me and I wasn't strong enough to help myself. My family, here, gave me that strength.
“Those of you that are new to us...Nikolai, Nate, Philip...these are the most extraordinary ordinary people you'll ever meet. They aren't perfect, but you'll never be alone, whatever you're dealing with.”
He nodded at his friends and was going to sit, but Devyn was rising to his feet.
“Did you just call me extra ordinary? Like, extra plain?” Alec asked, teasing Griff. Griff opened his mouth to respond and Alec jumped in, “Griff, I have extra copies. What page was Kale on?”
“Page 36,” Griff said, blushing and sticking his tongue out at Alec. In the meantime Devyn had been signing to Griff and he spoke to the group. “Devyn wants to say that he's here because of Lu and Robin, but that some special consideration goes to Elliot who was a friend to him when he needed one most.”
Elliot blushed, but was unprepared for Griff's next statement.
“I should add that I'm grateful for Elliot, too. I didn't know Dev when he went through all that, but I'm glad you were there for him and that you're so welcoming to me. I know I felt bad,” Griff said, giving Elliot a hesitant smile, “when Devyn told me things hadn't worked out between you. I felt bad that you guys had been through that, even though we all experience it. But I'm also grateful to you, because Dev is also who he is because of your influence.”
“Um.” Elliot coughed and an embarrassed smile twitched on his face. “Devyn was my first boyfriend, he opened my eyes, so I owe him a lot, too. Like you said, Griff,” he said ducking his head, “I'm glad I could think about who to go to for help. I was pretty...heartbroken after Dev and I didn't work out. But, in the end, I think we both got what we needed—he got you, and I got Colby, here.”
“Am I supposed to say something now?” Colby asked and the group chuckled in response. “Because all I can say is positive things—I met Elliot after the dumbass tried to go running in a storm—”
“Hey!” Elliot protested, laughing.
“I had to patch him up and take care of him,” Colby said, and then smiled and patted his boyfriends cheek, “It's been my pleasure to keep doing that. I have to admit, you're kind of cute.”
Colby kissed him and merely grinned at his boyfriend.
Sasha made his way out to Alec and hugged him. Speaking to the group, without taking his eyes off Alec he said, “It's very easy to find someone who says they'll go to hell and back for you. It's even rarer to find someone that will.”
There was a chorus of 'aww's' and Alec blushed deeply. As soon as quiet had settled in he said, “Sash, it's okay. Leafy's cooking isn't that bad.”
“Hey!” Kale said, standing up straight. “You love my cooking!”
Sasha intervened, turning away from Alec and toward Kale he said, “And I love a lot of other things about you.”
“Sash, is this really the time?” Robin chirped.
“Shut it, Robbie,” Sasha said, and then winked at him. Turning back to Kale he continued, “I have Alec to thank for all of you. I've gotten so much, and done my best to contribute to you all, but my best friends in the world gave me something—someone—that I can't ever hope to repay them for. For fourteen years, Nikolai heard about the son his parents gave up for adoption. The one who went to America for a better life. Nikolai lost our parents four years ago—at just ten years old, he thought he was alone in the world except for a brother he never knew.
“Because of Kale and Chase, he's not alone anymore. Even though many of you have likely met him, I'd like to formally introduce you to Nikolai, my little brother,” Sash said, holding his hand out. The teen stood slowly and, shyly, stepped out to take Sasha's hand.
“Sasha, what is this talking?” he asked, trying to be quiet.
Sash smiled at him and put an arm behind him. With the other, he gestured to the boys seated around the fire. “You thought you were alone, for a long time. Then, Kale and Chase found you and brought you to me. Now you have dads, and brothers. But,” he said, pointing to the group, “these boys—they are your family, too.”
“Um. Papa's are adopting all them?” he asked, eyes wide.
Sasha laughed and hugged him close. “No, sweetie. They are all adopting you.”
The boy glanced around, mystified and asked, “Do dad's know?”
“Yes. These guys are going to be here for you. You can count on them.”
He looked uncertainly at the group, most of them people he had only met this weekend. His life had been upside down since Kale and Chase had showed up at the orphanage, and now...
Derek pushed himself to his feet and walked over to Nikolai with a welcoming smile. “You want to play soccer with me at school this year?”
“Yes, but,” he said, shaking his head. “Football. I play football.”
Derek smiled wider and glanced at Kale and Chase. “Hey, old guys. I bet my buddy and I can beat you. Grab the ball and come on.”
“Did he?” Chase asked, standing up. “He did. Derek, you little shit! You just called me old?”
“What are you going to do about it? Hit me with your walker?”
Chase's eyes went wide. “Honey, get up. We have to beat them. Come on!” Shortly everyone was down on the beach, cheering one side or hopping in, quickly turning the game from a two on two to a whomever on everyone else.
Later, tired and sweaty boys made their way back to their rooms. Nate, however, was waiting quietly in a darkened alcove. His heart was hammering, and yet he was grinning in excitement as he waited for Philip to stop talking with the other boys and walk past him. He'd decided that he was going to kiss the older boy, after all he knew Philip was interested—why not have fun with it? Wasn't that the point of figuring out what he liked?
It felt so taboo, though, knowing he was lying in wait for the other boy. Nate knew he didn't want to have any awkward moments of conversation beforehand, and he didn't want to try this in front of the other guys—and he didn't want Griff and Dev knowing. He understood that Philip had acted a little kinky, but it didn't seem that God—awful a thing to do, the way it was described to him. Besides, Philip was kind of pretty—pretty enough to kiss.
He heard good nights being said down the hall, and he watched as Elliot and Colby passed him, on their way to their own room. The only flaw in his plan was that he needed Philip to walk by on his own, but with Teddy and Trent already in the room, Philip would be the last one to arrive. Then, he heard the soft footfalls of someone in socks or bare feet. He tensed and timed his attack perfectly.
He reached out and hooked his arm and, before he could do more than grunt in surprise, turned him against the wall and kissed him—much the way Dylan had done to him just a few weeks ago. He closed his eyes and molded himself to the other boy, who'd seemed stunned but, now, was starting to respond. Nate opened his mouth and then their tongues met.
Philip wasn't a bad kisser, but he didn't seem like he'd had a lot of practice. His hands came up behind Nate, pulling him close by the shoulders, momentarily, before pushing him back. Nate sighed and said, “Man, that was so good,” and leaned back, tilting his head toward the ceiling.
“Yes,” said the other boy, panting. “Is very good. Surprise, but I like.”
Nate's eyes popped open and he looked down to see Nikolai across from him, face flushed and sporting a shy grin.
“Is American way? Not bad?”
“Uh. Nikolai,” Nate said slowly, an embarrassed smile on his face. “What are you doing here?”
“Uh,” Nikolai sputtered awkwardly, “I was saying—I was coming here say to Derek goodnight. He nice, start game. I like, want to tell him.”
“Derek's room isn't down this hall, oh lord,” Nate said and covered his face, chuckling. “Are you okay? That must have been strange for you.”
“I...maybe,” his face reddened and he said, very quietly, “maybe like try again?”
Nate pursed his lips and, blushing furiously at the dark haired boy, said, “I think I'd like that, too.”
Later, with the majority of the boys inside, Derek and Hamster found themselves slumped into chairs outside with Griffin and Devyn. Initially they were just catching their breath from all the madness of the so—called soccer game. It had quickly turned into more of a free for all than anything else, but Derek felt it had been a complete success as it was something Nikolai was familiar with and he'd relaxed enough to just have fun.
“I like Nikolai, he's sweet,” Derek said to Hamster.
“Jeez, babe, another one?” Hamster chuckled.
“What's this?” Griffin asked. He glanced at Devyn as he signed and then chuckled.
“He said he thinks hot guys are about to talk about hot guys, again,” Griff chuckled.
“Devyn, I don't think I realized you dated Elliot before,” Derek commented. “He's so pretty.”
Devyn nodded and Griff translated. “He says Elliot was his first kiss with a boy and he's really good at it, but not compared to me.”
Devyn smiled and pushed Griff, who laughed. “Okay, I might have added that last part.”
“Aw. What happened to you guys? Breaking up isn't exactly a trait of our group.”
Devyn took on a pensive look and began to move his hands slowly. Griff translated, his voice soft, “When I met Elliot I was feeling pretty down on myself. After I lost my voice, I ended up losing a lot of friends—or people I thought were friends. You two,” Devyn nodded at Derek and Hamster, “had just started dating—and I hadn't even known you were available, Austin.”
“Yeah,” Hamster replied, “I'm not exactly a 'stand on a table and come out' sort of guy.”
Devyn nodded, 'I know. I can remember being kind of upset because I wanted a boyfriend, and watching Lu and Robin was bad enough; after you guys got together, I was pretty bummed about the possibilities.'
“Are you saying you had a crush on my Austin?” Derek asked, snickering.
'Sure. You have to admit—he's pretty.'
“Uh, I'm right here, you know,” Austin stated, rolling his eyes but smiling.
'It was right then I went through the abuse with my Home Economics teacher, and I met Elliot.'
“This is the good part,” Griff said. “I've never really heard about them as a couple, but Elliot always seemed nice. I didn't want to ask in case you wanted to go back,” Griffin joked.
Devyn grinned at Griff, 'I'd never trade you in, but I wouldn't mind kissing him again. See,' he signed, and looked at their friends, 'Elliot had never kissed a boy before. He felt like he was the problem when he was kissing girls—and he sort of was, just not the way he was thinking. It wasn't that he was a bad kisser, he just wasn't enjoying kissing girls.'
“Aw,” Derek cooed. “So you gave him his first kiss?”
Devyn nodded, but then his face clouded. 'He wasn't ready, though,' he signed and Griff translated. 'He struggled with the idea of being with me and, even though we took it slow, that's what undid us. I still care for him, deeply. He's a good friend and he was there for me when I needed someone—when I didn't have anyone. But I'm glad he's happy, now.'
“That is kind of sad,” Griffin said. “Of course, I'm glad I ended up with you.”
Devyn smiled and leaned into Griff, who hooked an arm around him.
“So,” Derek said, drawing the word out and curving his lips into a mischievous smile. “Devyn, do you still have a crush on my Austin?”
Devyn let out a wheezing laugh and signed, 'Of course, who wouldn't?'
Griffin laughed as he translated and then looked at the other couple. “I'd think it'd be pretty easy to get crushes in this group. Did you take a look at Nikolai? How many hearts do you see him breaking?”
“Oh, I know!” Derek exclaimed. “Your cousin, too, Dev. Poor Philip—he's trying so hard! — but you can tell he's crushing so bad on him!”
“I've talked to Philip about that, actually,” Griff replied, “and he realizes it's not a smart thing to do, right now. I mean, he wants to—and I think Nate might even welcome some of it, the cute little shit.”
“What's the story with Nate?” Derek asked.
'His mom isn't well. He's struggling with his sexuality,' Devyn signed and shrugged. 'One of his friends kissed him and he's opened up to the idea of boys, somewhat—at least, he wants to kiss a lot of them. I'm worried he's going to come onto Philip more than I am the other way around.'
“If I were single—and his age—I think I'd have trouble being good,” Derek snickered.
“Jeez, Der. First Lu, then Nickolai and now Nate? Am I not taking good care of you?” Hamster said, laughing at Derek's scowl.
“I'm allowed to look, you!” Derek said, poking Hamster in the chest. “Let's not forget, I know things about you too, mister.”
“Hey, not that I don't want to know all that, but can we get back to Derek crushing on Lu? That's news!” Griffin asked. “Besides, for all the shit I take for drooling over Kale's photo shoot...”
Derek rolled his eyes and smiled at his friends, little red spots appearing on his cheeks. “It's not that big a deal. Robin talks to Austin about sex, and some of the things are pretty hot—like the table.”
“Oh, yeah,” Griff agreed.
“So I was telling Austin that, when you mention something like that, I can't help but think about it. Lucien has some shy qualities that are endearing, but I guess he really is passionate with Robin and it's kind of hot to think about.”
“Yeah,” Hamster agreed. “Robin and Lu were my first friends in town, and they both claimed me. I always thought they were nice looking, but in different ways, you know?”
'Robin has more muscles from sports, but he never went for the body building. Lu is more toned,' Dev offered.
“How close have you been studying them?” Griff teased. When Dev replied Griff giggled and covered his mouth. Both Austin and Derek wanted to know what Dev had said, but it had to be teased out of Griffin.
With a sigh he said, “Devyn has been pushing me, some, because—well, sometimes I'm his voice, you know? I can't censor him—even though I'd like to, sometimes.”
“Aw,” Derek cooed. “So, what did he say?”
“Well—this is kind of...I kind of have to give you some, you know, context. Okay, so, you know Dev and I took things slow, given our histories,” Griff said haltingly. Hamster and Derek nodded, both familiar with their friends abuse. “It took us, like, four months to get to oral.”
“I bet it was amazing when you got there, though, right? You guys are so good together,” Derek said.
Griff smiled at Dev and took his hand before looking back to his friends. “It was. But one of the things we discovered soon after was that, well, I had some ideas about how relationships should work that weren't, strictly, healthy.”
“Well, like when we should go all the way. I was kind of thinking we were overdue, you know?”
“Griff,” Hamster said gently, “You guys went through hell. There is no timetable for when you want to make love or anything else.”
“I sort of know that, now,” Griffin said, bobbing his head. “But, at the time, I was having a lot of weird ideas that Devyn might get frustrated with me and our lack of intimacy.”
'For the record, I was fine with blow jobs,' Dev signed and Griff translated.
“And, yes, he wasn't pushing me. I was the one that did that,” Griff said, blushing furiously. “I figured, kind of like Philip said once, I had all the experience bottoming and I'd do that, for Devyn, because I loved him. And because I was starting to get afraid of losing him.” Griffin waved down his friends, who tried to object.
“I know, I know. I talked about it in therapy, too. Part of the problem was what I went through with Royce. In some twisted way I was trying to use sex to keep us together—which, I know now, there wasn't any danger of losing. But, at the time, it felt real. I built it up in my head and I thought, well, I'd do this thing for Devyn because I love him, not because he's hitting me or degrading me. I was making a choice, even if it wasn't for all the right reasons—you see my logic?”
The boys nodded and Devyn merely squeezed Griff's hand. Griff continued, “So I was pushing the issue, some, and trying to get Dev to top me—but he wouldn't.”
“God, that sounds so familiar!” Hamster laughed and Derek shoved him.
“Don't be rude, Austin. Hot guys are talking sex,” Derek replied, breaking a bit of the mood. In a few moments, Griffin resumed.
“So, anyway, Devyn was telling me that we'd wait until it was right and I was asking if he actually wanted me—I practically demanded he fuck me,” Griff said, tilting his head with a look of chagrin. “Instead, he kind of tricked me into topping him.”
“Now this,” Derek exclaimed, “this sounds familiar!”
“Shut it, you.” Hamster grumbled. “Go on, Griff.”
Griffin smiled at his friends and then leaned into Devyn. “He gave himself to me and, I think, it just slammed the door on so many of my fears. This wasn't going to be all about me bottoming to keep him—he's just as interested in my being happy and comfortable.”
“You know what I don't understand?” Derek asked, “How come people kind of look down on being a bottom? I love bottoming.”
“I think, for me,” Griffin said, slowly, “it's the lack of control. I guess you have plenty of it, in an equal relationship, but all I was used to was being fucked and not really enjoying it or getting anything out of it.” Griffin sighed. “When Royce and I got together I thought sex would be great, but the first time he fucked me...it was probably the most impersonal thing. He never bottomed—it was all about dominating me.
“Dev just shattered that, though. He made us equal, even though I was throwing myself out there to be submissive,” Griffin said, quietly. Looking at Devyn he said, “I think...Devyn showed some real wisdom, there. I'm not sure where my thoughts would have gone if he'd taken me up on my offer, then.”
Dev grunted and signed, 'You were demanding to get laid, I just decided if you wanted it so bad, you were getting it!' He wheezed with laughter and Griff twisted his mouth in amusement.
“Not that I don't enjoy talking about sex, but...where is this all leading to?” Derek asked curiously. “I mean, we were talking Robin and Lu and how cute we think they are...?”
“How cute you think Lu is, actually, but...well, this goes back to me censoring Dev,” Griff replied and blushed. “So, ever since we actually made love the first time we've been, kind of, not able to get enough.”
Austin whistled and Derek laughed. “And?”
“Well,” Griff said, smiling shyly, “Devyn finally did top me and it was so much better, so much...anyway,” Griff said, fanning himself dramatically for effect. “We were going at it and I realized—Nate was standing in Dev's doorway, peeping at us!”
“No way!” Derek exclaimed and Hamster's mouth dropped in surprise before he started to laugh.
“What did you do?” Austin asked.
“Well,” Griff said, drawing the word out and glancing at Dev. “It was actually kind of...hot. Dev was feeling really, really good and then I realized that Nate was standing there, tenting out his shorts and he had this huge wet spot...I swear, it sounds weird, but I was kind of flattered,” Griff laughed, nervously. “I hope that doesn't make me sound too messed up, but it was kind of a turn on. It was like...he was seeing me and Dev doing something vulnerable and beautiful and sexy and he was loving it. I felt...I don't know, it's hard to describe.”
“I can relate,” Austin replied. “Derek has a thing for Lu, in case that wasn't obvious.”
Devyn and Griff glanced at each other and grinned back at their blushing friend.
“So, Lu comes down to talk to me earlier today, right? Derek, here, is pretending to sleep so he can listen in, right? So Lu tells me he is trying to not be so tightly—wound about Robin and intimacy. So, he wants to try talking sex,” Austin said, snickering. Griff and Devyn were covering their mouths and laughing, picturing their reserved friend—at least when it came to talking about Robin.
“So, he wants to swap stories. So, I told him about Der topping me for the first time and I told Lu, in trade, I wanted the table story,” Austin said. “Now, Rob already gave me the idea, but I wasn't prepared for Lu—he went full detail! Sweating, grunting, licking—it was stupidly hot!”
All four were in stitches by now, picturing both Lu as he related the story and picturing their friends in such a steamy situation.
“So, Lu heads upstairs—and by the way, he was hard as a fucking rock, we all were—and Derek, here, pulls me into a closet. Ever try to sixty—nine on a closet floor?”
They burst into giggles, quaking with the silliness of the situation and the sexual tension in the air. Derek glanced devilishly at Austin and then said, “I'm not the only one who likes someone in our group.”
“Oh?” Griff asked. He noticed Hamster squirm a bit and a smile broke out, “Oh, Austin! Who is it?”
“Der, come on,” Hamster said. “At least Lu wasn't here when I said it.”
“Well, if that doesn't give it away!” Derek laughed.
“Uh. Crap,” Hamster said and laughed with embarrassment. “Okay, fine! Devyn's pretty cute—sue me!”
Devyn's eyes popped open. He pointed at himself and mouthed 'Me?'.
“Yeah, you,” Austin said and rolled his eyes. “Look, you remember when I took that road trip with Chase?”
“You went to get Sean and Jamie from football camp, right?” Griffin asked, curiosity plain.
“Right. Well, Chase was pushing me a little on anyone besides Derek that I, you know, was attracted to.”
“But...why? I mean, how would that subject even come up?” Griffin asked.
“Um.” Austin glanced at Derek, who was looking at him with curiosity. “Well, it just sort of did, you know? Long drive, weird topics?”
“That sounds lame, but I'm going to let it slide for now—just for now. Get on with this finding my boyfriend hot.” Griffin grinned wickedly at Hamster's nervous shifting in his chair.
“Well, we were going down the list of friends I have and I was ruling them out—”
“Did I get ruled out?”
Griffin took on a thoughtful look, glanced at Derek and then back. “May I ask why?”
“Well...I'm still kind of protective over you. I don't—can't—really see you like that. Too much of Royce and...That's just how I feel. It's nothing personal, Griff. You know I love you, man.”
“Of course I do!” Griff said, quickly. “I wasn't trying to start anything. I was just...well, I was curious. It's such a weird topic.”
“Yeah, I know. Anyway, by the time we worked through things, Dev was the only one left standing in this theoretical 'who I'd date if I were single' exercise. That's all.”
Griffin looked at Dev and then back at Hamster. Then he fixed his gaze on Derek, whose mouth slowly spread in a a smile at least as devilish as the one Griffin wore.
“I have an idea,” Derek said.
“I think I know what you're thinking. And I like it,” Griffin replied.
“Um. What are you guys up to?”
“Griff...you said it was hot when Nate was watching, right? Do you think it'd be hot if—”
“They kissed? Yes. Yes, I do. And since they both like each other and we know they aren't going anywhere...pucker up, boys!”
“Whoa,” Hamster said with a chuckle. “Slow your roll, little man.”
“Austin, let me ask you something,” Derek said. “Did you picture Nate watching them go at it when Griff told the story?”
“Exactly. It was hot. Now, I think...” Derek smiled, and Griffin returning it with a gleam in his eye. “I think that Griffin wants to see if it's just as hot if he's watching. Now, it's just a kiss—and if it'll make you feel better, I'll kiss Griff.”
'Do I get a goddamn vote?' Devyn demanded. His hand motions, sharp and decisive, were like cold water on Griff and Derek and they both began to murmur and stutter apologies. With a slashing motion, Devyn effectively cut them off. He looked Hamster in the eye and motioned back and forth between them, challengingly.
“Um. You asking if I want to?” Austin asked.
Devyn nodded sharply. Austin glanced at Griff and Derek, who seemed unsure what emotion was acceptable.
“Um. It's just a kiss, though, right? We all understand this is, you know, not anything more. Right?”
Devyn nodded twice, brisk motions. Then, he held his hand out, palm up, and tilted just the tips of his fingers in a 'come here' motion. Hamster laughed. “You're a cocky little fucker.”
Devyn grinned and signed, and a blushing Griffin translated. “He says he wants to get me hot before we go to bed.”
Hamster shook his head. “Okay, then.” He began to stand, but Devyn pushed him back and slid forward onto his lap, sliding his knees up beside Austin's hips. Austin made a surprised noise, and then Devyn was kissing him. And kissing him. And kissing him. Eventually Austin moved his hands behind Devyn's back and gave himself to the experience of kissing the shaggy-haired blonde. Griff and Derek, for their part, were hooting at them and proclaiming the hotness of their act.
Minutes later, Devyn leaned back and grinned at Austin, whose lips were swollen from Devyn's aggressive kiss. Hamster let out an embarrassed chuckle and said, “Now I know why you kiss Griff when he's staring at Kale's ad. No one could focus on anything else!”
Devyn snapped his fingers after climbing off Austin's lap and waved his hands at Griff and Derek, making motions to push them together.
“I need a sec,” Griff said, slumping down onto the arm of the chair. “That was hot!”
Derek, perhaps to take advantage of his weakened state or in order to get it done with and take Hamster off to bed, stepped up to Griffin, and leaned over the shorter boy, cupping his chin and gently kissing him. The kiss was slow and languorously erotic, and as Derek pulled back he said. “Okay, that was satisfying. But, I have to say, after Lu's story and the kissing out here, I really do need a good fucking.” Turning to Austin he held his hand out. “Austin? I want you, baby.”
Taking his hand Hamster stood and, on impulse, winked at Griff before aggressively kissing Derek. He placed one hand behind his head to hold him in place and his other hand cupped Derek's behind, lifting him closer. Derek kissed back just as aggressively and, pulling back for a moment, said, “Unless we're fucking on the beach for an audience, let's go inside now.”
“Dev? Come on,” Griff said, also holding a hand out. There was no doubt that sleep would not soon find these couples as they hurriedly headed for their own rooms.
Sunday morning found the boys not quite as chipper and up a little later than the day before—except for Kale, Chase, Sasha and Alec. Since they were sharing a room, the human alarm clock more commonly known as 'Linc' had them all up earlier than they'd have liked.
They decided to start breakfast and, with the smell of coffee and food wafting through the air, movement could be heard in the other rooms. Soon, the kitchen and dining room were awash with the boys as they ate and teased one another. In the kitchen Hamster was filling his plate as Robin and Lu entered the room. Derek was getting coffee for he and his boyfriend, but Hamster decided to zap his friends awake.
“Rob, you guys are freaking noisy,” Austin teased. “Your headboard isn't even against our wall, man.”
“That's because Robin fucked me standing up against the wall instead of saying good morning,” Lu said and then stopped, blushed and looked around to see who might have heard.
“Holy...that was the noise?” Derek said, plopping down both cups as he began to shake with laughter. “Jesus! I guess we know Rob's not short on ram power.”
Lu, realizing they were alone for the moment, smiled a little shyly at Derek. “No, he's not.”
They filled their plates amid their giggles and Lu fought to control the waves of insecurity and embarrassment, as well as the thrill of speaking of something so intimate. He felt somewhat sure that speaking to Derek and Hamster was okay—or getting to be—but he thought Robin would understand if he didn't want to tell, literally, everyone. He thought, shaking his head, who does that besides, maybe, Alec?
Chase decided it was his turn to help out with the sand castle—building, after all he was studying to be an architect he reminded them. With that, he took the buckets, shovels and other equipment down to the beach to play with his son.
As the house emptied, Kale stood in the living room and admired his family as they began swimming, playing and generally enjoying their company. He glanced behind him as he heard soft footsteps and nodded at Robin as he entered the room.
“Admiring your work?” Robin asked, flopping into a chair.
“India was my work,” Kale said with a shake of his head and took a seat facing his brother. “You'd think I'd have done this, I guess—the choice being Alec or I. But, no, Alec wanted this.” With a final glance out the window he said, “I can't say I blame him. So far there's been no food poisoning, nothing has caught fire, no one's come close to drowning...”
“It's only Sunday, we still have time,” Robin chuckled and Kale joined him.
“So, you and Lu seem solid as ever,” Kale said, settling into his chair more comfortably.
Robin pulled his legs up onto the couch. “Yeah, we are. Changing, some, but good change. I like that Lu is willing to try to grow, to change a little. It's not easy for him, sometimes.”
“He's always seemed like he'd do anything for you, though,” Kale replied, thoughtfully.
“Yeah,” Robin said, slowly. “Sometimes I have to remember that, too. He doesn't always stand up for himself, to me. But, overall, I think we're solid.”
“I, literally, heard how solid you guys are, this morning,” Kale replied, lips fighting a smile.
Robin blushed. “I guess, at some point, we might get over some of that. But...this weekend? Going to sleep every night with him next to me and waking up with him in the morning?”
“Yeah,” Kale said, nodding, “Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“Life seems good with you and your...quad,” Robin said, trying the word out. Kale lifted an eyebrow, and sported a flush of his own.
“It is. We're solid, too.”
“Okay, now that we got our own relationships out of the way,” Robin said, slapping his thighs, “let's talk about our brothers.”
“Please tell me Jamie's girlfriend isn't pregnant,” Kale moaned and covered his eyes.
Robin laughed at him, “Not as far as I know, but he's found a smart one this time, it seems. She might be able to tame the wild James Kirkwood.”
“God, someone has to. He looks good, though. Happy. Sean's been good for him.”
“Oh, totally. Jamie is really protective of him—like, no one can tease Sean but Jamie, that kind of thing. It's not one way, either,” Robin said, shaking his head. “Sean defends Jamie just as much. They have each other's back, that's for sure.”
“That's good, Jamie needed that stabilizing influence. I always figured it'd be the right girl, but...” he shrugged, “Sean is just as good.”
“They both come to me for advice, with you out of the house,” Robin said with a sigh. “Anything they can't go to the parents with, I get.”
Kale snorted, “I'm glad. Last time I tried to help was when we thought Jamie was crushing on Alec, remember?” Kale mimicked Jamie's voice, “Kale? What's the best way to take it in the pooper?”
Robin burst out laughing and Kale grimaced, but chuckled. “Yeah, thanks for sending him to me, after.”
“You don't flinch when he says things like that,” Kale grinned as he defended himself. “Besides, I heard you got even with him for me.”
“I did,” Robin said, a little smugly. “I explained exactly how to take it in the pooper.” They both burst out laughing as Robin related Jamie's facial expressions as Robin had explained to his younger brother how anal sex worked—with a lot more detail than necessary.
Kale's chuckles trailed off. “So, Jamie found a decent girl, huh? What about Sean?”
Robins' brow furrowed. “He's a little harder to figure. That's partly because he's not totally sure anymore.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Well,” Robin said as he leaned forward and placed his forearms on his thighs, “Sean's been talking to me a lot. He's developed some feelings—I guess they've been building for a while—but I don't know if it's curiosity or something more concrete. He won't just straight out tell me everything, but I think I pieced together a pretty good picture of what happened.”
After a beat of silence Kale spread his hands out. “Well, are you going to tell me?”
Robin canted his eyes to one side and tilted his head. “Well, it seems that our brothers have gotten curious about things, because both their older brothers are involved with other guys,” Robin began. “That led to some...conversation. I think they both...experimented with the same boy.”
Kale leaned back, dumbfounded. “They did? Are you jerking my chain?”
Robin sighed. “No. From what I've observed and from the little slips here and there in Sean's visits to talk to me, I think Jamie...satisfied his curiosity. Sean, not so much.”
Kale shook his head and lifted his fingers to his lips. “Sean is so much more emotional than Jamie; you only need to spend a few minutes around them to figure that out. It makes some sense Jamie's strong enough, emotionally, to move on and that Sean...might not be.”
“Yep,” Robin nodded. “Although,” he stopped and shook his head. “I have no proof, just a nagging suspicion that Jamie's not as over it as I might think or...maybe he's just, I don't know, made peace with whatever it is. I can't tell—he throws up screens of bullshit so it's not always easy to tell where he comes down on things.”
“Wow.” Kale said and let out a deep breath. “So, how's Sean handling things?”
Robin shrugged. “So far as I can tell, he's doing okay. He keeps asking me things, looking for ways out of what he feels or something...and he's dated a few girls this summer. Still,” Robin said with a sigh, “something's up with him.”
Kale steepled his fingers, “Do you think I should talk to him?”
“You could try, I guess,” Robin shrugged. “Some of this I'm guessing at. You have so much going on, I don't know if he'll open up to you or not—but having another friendly ear can't hurt, right?”
“Yeah,” Kale said and nodded slowly, deep in thought.
“So...I talked to Alec yesterday. He, um, sure does love you.”
Kale nodded and lifted his gaze to look at his brother. “Yeah. You knew that.”
Robin's lips quivered and he said, “He says he's ridden you more times than a professional jockey.”
Kale's mouth dropped open. “He what? He did not! Did he? That fuck!” Kale stood up and frowned. Glancing at his brother, who was grinning gleefully, he said, “There's no shame in bottoming!”
“Oh, I know!” Robin said, grinning like a loon. “I love it.”
“I'm still going to kick his ass!” Kale declared and departed the room. Robin moved to a window and watched as Kale called for Alec and, when he'd drawn close, there was a lot of hand gestures and frowning—heavy on the frowning.
“What are you doing?” Lucien asked, peering out the window next to Robin.
“Screwing with Kale,” he replied, snickering.
The middle of the day was passing with some kicking of the soccer ball, swimming, people getting tossed into the lake and plenty of horseplay. Here and there couples or groups would head off on a trail for a few hours and lunch turned into less of a group meal and more of a free for all. Scott and Jamie had progressed from seeing who could jump farthest off the dock to trying to see who could land on—and stay on—a boogie board. That lasted until one of them snapped the styrofoam board in half.
Elliot and Colby were laying out in deck chairs, enjoying one of the last weekends of summer, and both Nikolai and Nate were appreciating the view, unbeknownst to each other, and from different vantage points.
Nate was growing slightly troubled by his sudden obsession with members of his own sex, but a brief chat with Devyn left him feeling that it was simply new and he'd calm down. Eventually. Besides, being at camp like this felt different than being in the real world. These guys all liked kissing guys—and a whole lot more, if the pounding on the wall that morning was any indication. He'd liked kissing Nikolai, even though it hadn't been his intention, and he was hoping to find some time to do it again before they went home.
For some reason Philip was sticking closer to Devyn and Griff today, but that was fine with Nate. Long term, Philip would be around the house—he'd get a chance to kiss the boy with the awkward flirting skills. Spotting Nikolai down at a picnic table, sitting with Sasha, he grinned and headed out of his room and downstairs.
Nikolai, for his part, was confused. While he'd been overjoyed to be brought to a safe place, these people were all new to him. Coming from the place he had—hiding himself, losing his parents—he was finding it difficult to trust. However, many of these boys were like him, so he thought they might understand. He decided to try to work through things with Sasha, and when Chase got up with Linc to go back to the water, he tapped his brother on his forearm.
Sasha turned and smiled from within as his gaze fell on his brother. “Did you get enough to eat?”
“Yes. Is good food.”
Sasha put an arm around Nikolai and pulled him close. “I'm so happy you're here with us. Are you having a good time?”
“Yes. I am having good times,” Nikolai replied and relaxed a bit. “Sasha, I am speaking with you, please?”
“You want to talk? Sure!” Sasha replied, beaming.
“We go?” Nikolai pointed inside and his brother merely nodded and stood. On the way in they passed Nate coming out.
“Hi, Niki...uh, Nik...Nikolai. Um, want to go swimming?”
“No,” Nikolai replied, his accent making the word sound harsher than it was. “Sasha and I must speak. Swim later, yes?”
“Sure. Um, see you.”
Nate went to join his cousin and Sasha led his brother through the house and to an enclosed rear porch where they settled onto the wicker furniture.
“Is everything all right?” Sasha asked.
“Yes,” Nikolai said, slowly. “I am thinking is okay. But, I am having many questions. I do not think to ask when so many peoples are close, yes?”
“A private conversation. I understand,” Sasha said, nodding.
“Private, yes.” Nikolai nodded and glanced quickly in the direction of all the boys out on the beach and then returned his attention to Sasha. “Is...true that,” Nikolai paused and searched for a word. Failing to find it he tried again to speak, avoiding using that word he couldn't think of. “In Romania, boys like me—boys like these boys,” he said, waving his hand to encompass the camp. “We go to special places. They tell us we do bad things; we bad people. We burn after we die, forever.”
Sasha leaned forward, his stance no longer relaxed. “Sweetheart, that's just not true. Any bad things we do, it's not because of who we love or who we're attracted to. Being gay is just part of who you are.”
Nikolai nodded slowly. “But, in Romania, they say...gay? Gay is bad.”
“It isn't, Nikolai.” Sasha reached out and clasped his brother's hands between his own. “You don't really know us all, yet, Nikolai. This is a good group. We make mistakes, we're not perfect—but we're not bad.” Shaking both his brother's hands at once, Sasha added, “And neither are you.”
Nikolai smiled, just a small one. Knowing his next words would test that he said, shyly and with a tremor in his voice, “Boy kiss me.”
Sasha's face went from mild surprise to somewhat sly as he asked, “And did you kiss this boy back?”
“Yes,” Nikolai whispered.
Sasha smiled widely, “Was it your first kiss?”
“Did you like it?”
He nodded and then said, “Was surprise.”
“I'm confused. You're surprised you liked it?”
“No, no,” he replied, and pulled his hands from his brothers grasp. “He was waiting for other boy, was going to surprise him. I walked by, he kiss me on mistake. Oops.”
“Really?” Sasha said, a small chuckle escaping him. “What boy was this?”
Nikolai looked back at him solemnly. Sasha had responded positively, so far. What would he think of the boy that kissed him? Would he be good enough, now that it was okay to have kissed a boy?
“Nathan,” Sasha said, looking up to think. Smiling and bringing his gaze back to his brother he said, “Nathan as in Nate? Nate Kennedy?”
“Yes. Is...is okay?”
Sasha looked at him in confusion. “Is what okay, sweetie?”
“Is okay I kiss him?”
“As long as he wants to kiss you, too, of course,” Sasha said, laughing musically. “Nikolai, this isn't Romania anymore. Some people don't like gay people, but a lot, most, are okay with it; plus you have friends and family, now. We take care of each other.”
Nikolai nodded slowly, feeling his comfort level with Sasha grow by leaps and bounds. There had been no judgment, no recriminations or disapproval.
“So, Nate's kind of cute, huh?” Sasha asked, wiggling his eyebrows playfully.
Nikolai blushed deeply and was unable to resist smiling in return.
“Is so. I don't know him, but kiss was very good. I...want kiss more.”
Sasha smiled indulgently. “Well, take your time, okay? There are lots of boys and I don't want you to get...well, just take your time, okay?”
“Yes. Thank you, Sasha,” he said and launched himself, eyes wet with emotion, onto his brother. Sasha was ready and caught him, holding him close and silently thanking Kale and Chase for this miracle in his arms. Nikolai had a long way to go, and learning to navigate the ups and downs of relationships would start sooner rather than later. Sasha worried that Nate, who he thought had been straight, might be having some summer fun with Nikolai which caused him to worry for the fall his brother might take.
Everyone has to experience that, though, so he'd just have to be here in case he got hurt. Releasing him, Sasha beamed and straightened Nikolai's hair. “I think Nate's down in the water, why don't you head over there?”
As he turned to comply with his brother's suggestion, Kale poked his head through the door way and glanced around. “Have either of you seen Robin?”
“No, sorry,” Sasha replied. Nikolai shook his head.
“Hmph. Okay, if you see him, don't tell him I'm looking for him. I'm going to kick his butt. Do you know what he said to me?” he said, addressing Sasha. Nikolai took this as his cue and darted back through the house and out the front. Heading down to the beach he found many of the boys still playing on the beach and in the water. He quickly spotted Devyn and Griff, simply because they were shorter than the rest. Philip was lifting Griffin up with the intention of dunking him and Nate was dragging his cousin into the water.
Nate spotted Nikolai and, as he struggled with his cousin, called out, “Nik! Help me!”
Nikolai grinned, pulled his shirt off and plowed into the water.
Colby and Elliot were stretched out, sun tan lotion spread and soaking in the sun. They were close enough to keep up a low conversation and Colby was speaking.
“You were turning on the little freshie, El,” he said, teasing.
“It's my finger muscles,” Elliot replied, flexing his hands. “It gets all the boys excited. Honestly, it's why I play piano.”
“Yes, I'm sure that's it,” Colby teased. “Your fingers will have all the freshman boys jealous. They'll start rumors about your grip!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Elliot said, chuckling.
“Of course, he might have been looking at me,” Colby said.
“He might have been,” Elliot agreed. “Not everyone has a wet spot over their dick.”
“What?” Colby said, sitting up. Narrowing his eyes he slapped his boyfriend on the arm. “You're such a shit.”
They relaxed again and then Colby said, “This is nice, though. We don't know a lot of them that well, and I was a little...not nervous but, kind of wondering why they would invite us, you know? Especially free?”
“Yeah, I hear you. I was kind of wondering, too. I know a couple of the Kirkwoods to talk to, and they've come over here and there—and Dev and Griff, of course—but, this was unexpected.”
Colby reached across and took Elliot's hand. “I'm really enjoying it, though. For the first time in my life who I love is the standard, not the exception. That feels really good.”
Elliot was quiet for a moment and then said, “You're right. I've been trying to put my finger on it, but that's all of it right there. All the couples, seeing them together...the single ones sneaking glances. Linc running around, happy and healthy with his parents. I really don't know how I could feel more...normal.”
“Imagine that,” Colby said. “Normal.”
“Was nice that we got our own room, too,” Elliot observed. “I'm kind of thinking I might go take a nap.”
Colby turned his head and glanced at Elliot.
“Coming?” Elliot asked.
“Not yet,” Colby grinned and stood up.
No sooner had the boys vacated the deck chairs than Nate, Philip, Nikolai, Dev and Griff flopped onto the deck and chairs. Griff glanced at Dev's back and frowned.
“Dev, looking a little red. Want me to put some lotion on your back?”
Dev nodded and Griffin stood, looking around. Spotting a bucket left out with sun block and sun tan lotion he decided to bring the whole thing over.
“You usually burn, Dev. Want me to put sun block or sun tan lotion?” Dev motioned with his hands and Griff nodded, digging into the bucket.
“Nikolai? Do you need sun block?” Nate asked.
“What is?” he questioned.
“You're so tan, I bet you don't need any, right, Nate?” Philip asked, his voice wavering slightly. Nate grinned at him.
“I could use some lotion, Philip. Grab one, I'll do Nikolai while you do me.”
“Easy, champ,” Griffin snorted. Nate blushed, Philip dropped the lotion and Nikolai was still asking what the lotion was for.
Around four o'clock a thunderstorm rolled in and chased them all inside. The rain settled in to a steady downpour, but it suited everyone just fine. After a long few long days of playing, most of the guys were a little tired. Linc was yawning and Chase was bringing him to his room to take a nap before dinner, when he happened upon the cutest thing—the living room was covered in boys draped over the furniture, floor and each other. Asher was sleeping on Sean, who was half on Jamie. Jamie was sprawled across his brother and Scott, but a hand had drifted over and lay on Asher's chest, slowly rising and falling with his breath.
Derek was cuddled into Hamster, a book open and forgotten as he slept. Hamster had an arm over him, but his other hand was holding a book as he took advantage of the silence to read. Nikolai, Nate and Philip were squished into a papasan chair, and all three were out, mouths open, and small snore emanating from one of them. Dev and Griff were almost in a ball, with Elliot's back up against Devyn's and Colby asleep, head in Elliot's lap.
Robin and Lu were awake and talking softly. They both glanced up at smiled at the sleeping boy in Chase's arms. Chase passed through the room quietly and put Linc in bed. Drawing the door partially closed, he went to his room where he found Kale speaking to Sasha while Alec dozed.
“Kale, get your camera and come quick,” Chase said gleefully and waved to his husband. Kale, never far from a camera, wasted no time asking questions, but instead followed his husband back down to the living room and it's sleeping occupants. With a grin, Kale set about taking photo's of their family as they rested from their exertions.
That evening the power failed and, after cooking on the gas stove, everyone gathered up for a game.
“My phone has an app for 'spin the bottle',” Philip offered.
“I'm not kissing my brothers,” Kale said firmly.
“Yeah,” Jamie stated. “I'm not kissing the crypt keeper.”
“Jamie,” Alec said, teasingly. “You don't have to hide it—I know you want me.”
“Jesus, you sound like Boomer!” Jamie said, laughing. “One time...Look, if we play, no brother kissing.”
“But, Jamie,” Asher said, plaintively. “Twins?”
“Dude!” Jamie said, laughing. “I'm not kissing Sean!”
“Hey, um, hello? I don't want to kiss anyone—no offense.” Scott said.
“I already kissed Devyn, so I'm good,” Hamster said and there were sounds of shock and a tittering of laughter.
“Did you really?” Chase asked his cousin. Hamster beamed.
“Yep. Got Derek all hot and—”
“Shut it!” Derek said, clamping a hand over his boyfriends mouth amid laughter. “I don't know what you're laughing about, Griffin Douglas.”
“I'm laughing because you're embarrassed,” Griffin giggled. “It was hot.”
“Jesus,” Colby said, shaking his head. “First Elliot kissed Dev, then Griffin, then Austin. Has anyone here not kissed Devyn?”
“Me!” Jamie and Scott said at once.
“Were you volunteering?” Colby asked, springing his trap. Jamie and Scott made noises in the negative, laughing at having been caught.
“Okay, even though Jamie sounds willing with conditions, Scott doesn't want to play so we need a different game.”
“Really, Scotty?” Jamie asked. “You're going to take all the gay boys fun away?”
Scott squirmed. “I just don't want to kiss you!” he blurted.
“Yeah, I'd rather kiss a dead bears ass than you. But what the hell, it's a game,” Jamie said. “Come on, grow a set.”
“Fine,” Scott sighed. “No tongue, Kirkwood!”
“Shit! Nooo,” Philip whined.
“What's wrong?” Nate asked.
“My phone! It's dead and the power's out!”
“Well, we could use a real bottle,” Alec mused. “Imagine that? Spin the bottle with a real bottle?” There was some more discussion, but all in all there were too many people that weren't all that excited to play. Alec brightened and said, “I know! How about a game of 'Never Have I Ever'?”
“It goes like this. I say something that starts with 'Never Have I Ever' and if one of you have done it—well, you're supposed to drink but, put your hand up and tell the story or eat a chip or something. No, wait! Kiss your boyfriend or your partner if you've done it.”
“Losers can kiss Scott, now that he's open to the idea,” Jamie snickered.
“Twins, Jamie,” Asher said.
“Will you—damn it, Sean, control him or I might just get sick of him and kiss you!” Jamie said, threatening his brother.
“Okay, okay, come on,” Alec said. “I'll go first. Um, okay, 'Never have I ever...performed anal lingus on a train.”
“I quit!” Kale said and the room erupted in laughter. Chase kissed him and Alec called out that they'd paid up their debt to the game.
“What's that?” Nate could be heard asking.
“It's like cunnilingus, but in the back,” Alec supplied, helpfully.
Griff leaned over and spoke to both Nate and Nikolai, who were mystified. Quite suddenly they both drew back, identical looks of horror on their faces. “You do what?”
“Never have I ever,” Kale said, glancing around the room and, with a gleam in his eyes, settled a look on his brother, Robin. “Had sex in Lu's bus.”
There was another round of laughter, and then shock and more laughter as not only Robin and Lu kissed, but Griffin and Dev, too.”
“Dev! You slut!” Elliot said, laughing.
“This is silly, none of this stuff applies to me,” Jamie said with a grin.
Robin narrowed his eyes and said, “Never have I ever been blown by the Hoover.”
Jamie's eyes bulged and snickers ran around the room, more so when Scott raised his hand, as well.
“Dude! You never told me!” Jamie accused.
“It wasn't my proudest moment,” Scott said, defensively. “I figured if she'd suck you, she'd definitely suck me!”
Then Jamie rolled his eyes and said, “I'll get ya, Robbie,” and planted a lighting quick kiss on Scott. Scott began to splutter and wipe his face dramatically.
“Wow,” Sasha said. “Who knows how many STD's you guys just swapped?” The room broke into laughter again and, once they'd settled somewhat, Jamie got their attention with a wave of his hand.
“Hey, so, is it like whoever get's 'got' goes next? It's like there is no order.”
Alec shrugged, “Sure, let's just have fun with it.”
“Well, let's see...” Jamie said, glancing around the room evilly. “Never have I ever...had sex on a piano.”
“You haven't had sex, period,” Alec teased. He was nearly drowned out, though, as there was laughter and clapping as Chase kissed a red faced Kale and Elliot did the same with Colby.
The game continued on for an hour or so, with much laughter and some embarrassment. People began drifting toward their rooms or, in the case of Hamster and Derek, to the library to read by candlelight. Nate observed Nikolai going outside and decided to follow him. The rain had stopped perhaps thirty minutes before, and moonlight bathed the beach and reflected off the water. Nikolai walked out to the dock and sat down, dangling his feet into the lake. Nate followed him and, moments later, dropped down next to the foreign boy, dropping his feet in the water as well.
“You were following?”
“Yeah. I wondered where you were going,” Nate confirmed.
“I wished think,” Nikolai said. “I speak to my brother about kissing boys.”
“When he speak, I think I understand. But now, I think and think and I am sure he try to warn me.”
“What do you mean?”
Nikolai kicked his feet in the water for a moment and then brought his gaze up to meet Nate's. “He say I have time. That there are lots of boys—but he not finish. I think he worry that I kiss you instead of other boy, maybe?”
Nate bobbed his head and, as the weight of the words settled on him, he felt a little bad. “He might. Depends on how much he knows about me, I guess.”
“Why say that?”
Nate inhaled deeply and then, thinking of his words, couldn't help but chuckle.
“Why is funny?”
“It's...” Nate chuckled and smiled at Nikolai, “in this country, if someone wants to say they are gay, we call it coming out. But...I'm not gay.”
“If not...why kiss?” Nikolai asked, his voice wounded.
“I...Nikolai, my friend Dylan kissed me just a few weeks ago. First time with a boy!” He said, grinning and raising his hand. “I didn't know I could like kissing boys. When you came around that corner, I thought you were Philip.”
“He is boy, and you want kiss but no gay?” Nikolai asked in confusion.
“Well...I feel a little mixed up,” Nate admitted. “I decided that I was just going to see what happened; I was going to kiss boys and girls until I figure out what I want.” Nate frowned and continued, “Although, I have to admit, I'm not sure about some of the things the guys talk about doing. That anal lingus thing? Ew.”
“Yes, it is no sounding good,” he agreed.
“Anyway, my point is, I guess I'm coming out as confused,” Nate said. “I was going to kiss Philip because I wanted to try it and because I know he likes me. He's safe. After I kissed you by mistake,” he said, snickering, “and you said it would be okay to kiss more, then I was happy to kiss, more.”
“But...you not gay. Not wanting boyfriends,” Nikolai stated.
“Not at first,” Nate said, ducking his head. “At first the idea sounded weird to me. But, if you think about it, when I have a girlfriend we kiss, hold hands and go to the movies and stuff. I can do that with a boy, can't I?”
“But you are not gay.”
“Well...maybe I'm a little gay. Being here with all these guys has made it a whole lot easier to think like that.” Nate looked at Nikolai, who was studying him intently. “Why?”
“I am understanding Sasha's speaking to me. He warn me not to wish you for boyfriend, I think. He worry I like you too much.” He shook his head and looked down at the water, wiggling his toes. “Was first kiss from boy. I am wanting for it to be special, not...mistake.”
“Hey, I might not have planned to kiss you, but it wasn't a mistake,” Nate replied. “I like kissing you.”
Nikolai studied Nate in the moonlight, his eyes tracking across his face, searching. “In Romania,” he said slowly, “they call me bad. But, I am thinking it was not so bad.”
“I don't understand. Bad for being gay?”
“You will kiss me now?”
A corner of Nate's mouth pulled up. He slid into the thigh deep water and stood between Nikolai's legs. They kissed, taking the time to savor the quiet moment, the solitude and the warmth of the other's body. Minutes later Nikolai pushed forward and dropped into the water with Nate. Their kissing increased in passion, tongues long since having started to duel. Nikolai turned and broke the kiss, panting, and pulled Nate deeper into the cool water.
“You want to swim? Now?” Nate asked, breathlessly.
The water was up to the bottom of their rib cages and Nikolai turned, his face turned down shyly as Nate closed the distance between them.
“In Romania, they say this bad.”
“I thought we—oh!” Nate gasped as he felt Nikolai's hand settle over the length of his erection. He shuddered as the hand moved up and over the elastic, down and then, with a jolt, Nikolai was holding him in the most intimate way possible—not even his girlfriend's had ever done this much. Nikolai's other hand pushed the waistband of Nate's shorts down and, freeing him, began to stroke.
The feeling was overwhelming. The water moving over him sensually and the hot grip of Nikolai had Nate in thrall.
“You think this is bad?” Nikolai asked in a breathy whisper.
“No. No, oh, so good,” Nate replied. Nikolai leaned in and resumed kissing, and Nate suddenly recalled that he possessed hands. With this revelation, he quickly pushed Nikolai's waistband down and eagerly gripped the erection he knew would be there. Nikolai's gasp was gratifying and brought Nate to a higher state of arousal.
They boys stroked one another, kissing sporadically, as they were overcome with the first experiences of touching another so freely and openly. Gasping, breathless as they reached the end, they leaned on one another for support. As Nate recovered, his grip on Nikolai increased as he tried to keep them pressed close.
“Water is cold,” Nikolai said softly.
“I...don't want to let you go,” Nate admitted.
“We go warm up on couch?”
Nate pulled back and looked at Nikolai, studying his eyes. “Yeah. Let's do that.”
Philip turned away as Nate stepped between Nikolai's legs and began kissing the boy, who sat on the dock, holding Nate in place. His lip trembled and he rubbed his eyes as thoughts of Nate with the other boy ran through his head. He'd never been like this, before, he groaned internally. He'd always just...wanted other guys. He'd actually felt like Nate liked him, though, and he'd been hoping something was developing—but it seemed Nate was free with his affections at best.
He wasn't sure how to handle what he was feeling. He'd had no claim on Nate, just a growing feeling that the other boy liked him—that's what hurt. The letdown. Releasing a shaky breath he left the room. He needed his friends, and as nice as they seemed to be, Teddy and Trent were not close to him. He threaded through the quieting house and knocked on his friends door.
“Come in,” Griffin called. Philip stepped through and froze; both his friends were dressed in just underwear. Devyn was toweling his hair dry and Griffin was moving things around in his suitcase.
“What's the matter?” Griffin asked.
“Um. Nothing,” Philip said. “I'll just...it was nothing.”
“Oh, for Christ sake, Philip,” Griffin laughed. “We've been in swimming trunks and nothing else for most of the time you've seen us—underwear isn't that much different.”
“I'm just...” Philip's face fell. “I'm just having a hard time. I mean,” Philip closed his eyes and swore under his breath.
“Okay, take it easy,” Griff soothed. “Let me pull on some pajamas. Dev? Here.”
Minutes later, with his friends more modestly dressed, Philip sat on their bed. “I'm sorry. You must think I'm such a...I don't know. I'm sorry you had to cover up from me being such a pervert.”
Dev reached out and slapped his shoulder and wagged his finger at him. Philip looked at him in confusion as Dev signed. Glancing at Griff, who was grinning, and translated, “He says he'd be more offended if he was stripped down and you didn't look. He's not a troll, after all.”
Philip guffawed and covered his mouth with his hand. His eyes were feeling hot, again and he said, “I'm just so...I'm trying so hard. Thanks for cutting me some slack.”
“Philip,” Griffin said, taking on a more serious tone. “You're going to notice attractive guys—that was never the point. Doing it in a socially and morally acceptable way was the point. I don't mind if you find us attractive, but there are appropriate ways of showing that—which changes when people are in a relationship, of course, as well.”
Philip was nodding and sniffled.
Devyn signed and Griffin translated, “He's asking what's wrong?”
Philip looked at Devyn miserably. “Promise not to hit me again?”
Devyn lifted an eyebrow and pushed his mouth to one side. Looking at Griff he signed quickly and his boyfriend nodded.
“I know,” Griffin said to Dev, “and maybe you were right.” Addressing Philip he asked, “What's the problem?”
Philip looked guiltily between his friends. He was feeling threatened, and wondering if lusting for Dev's cousin was going to be too much.
“Um. Well. You see...”
Dev signed and Griff said, “Did Nate hit on you?”
“Did he hit on you?”
“Um. No. I mean. I was...I flirted, a little. I was trying to not be a...perv,” Philip said, haltingly. “He flirted back, some and —I thought he liked me, okay?”
“He does,” Griff shrugged. “But he's in a different place than you are. We were kind of worried that Nate—well, that doesn't matter. What's wrong?”
Philip let his gaze drift to the floor as he shook his head. “I thought he was flirting with me. He said he liked me. I was hoping for something...to develop. I was doing everything I can to not be a...perv. But...”
“But what?” Griffin asked softly, sitting next to his friend.
Philip looked up at Griffin. “He's outside kissing Nikolai,” he said, his voice wavering. “I thought he liked me, but he's kissing him.”
Griffin sighed and looked at Devyn, who sat down next to Philip, his boogie board in hand. He began to scratch on it and Philip looked at the highlighted text.
“Nate is in a weird place, right now. It was only recently that his friend kissed him so the idea of guys is new, for him. In fact, he's gone a little overboard.” Devyn grunted and tossed the boogie board away and signed to Griff.
“He says writing is taking too long. Um,” Griff watched his boyfriend as he communicated and then said, “Nate is experimenting and, with all the gay guys around, it's become really acceptable for him to try a little of everything. Devyn is sorry you got your feelings hurt—Nate isn't in a position to return your affections, not in a mature way.”
Dev waved his hand at Philip, and began to sign again. Griff translated, “I know you're lonely and I know you think Nate is cute. Nate really does like you—but he's also two years younger and just realizing guys could be an option for him. You're farther along than that. You know you want a boyfriend—Nate's not there yet.”
Philip nodded. “I guess you're right. I was just...” he glanced at his friends and blurted, “I was afraid you'd be so...angry that I liked him. I was afraid to come talk to you, but I don't have anyone else.”
“Philip,” Griff replied, rubbing his friend's back. “We know you're trying hard to work on you. Like I said, it wasn't the fact you liked guys it was how you expressed it and the lack of respect that went with it. The fact of how you're talking about Nate shows how hard you're trying—you didn't say one thing about taking advantage of him; instead you felt like you had an emotional connection and were hurting that it wasn't working out the way you'd hoped.”
Philip hung his head and nodded. “I'm glad you guys aren't mad. I just wish...”
“Yeah, I know,” Griff said, hugging him.
Sean and Asher had fallen asleep almost immediately, but Jamie lay awake. He was finding it sad that this weekend was coming to an end and he was trying to figure out why, exactly. True, many of his friends were here and he'd enjoyed hanging around with them. He did miss Emily, some, but not to the point that it distracted him from enjoying himself. Did that say anything about him, he wondered?
“You awake?” Scott whispered.
Scott shifted and sat up next to his best friend. “What are you doing?”
“Ah. New territory, huh?”
Jamie snorted and pushed him, but with no real force.
“Whatcha thinking about?”
Jamie shrugged. “I half didn't want to come to this thing so I could hang more with Emily but...I'm glad I came and I haven't missed her, really.”
“Well, gotta admit, there's been stuff going on all the time,” Scott replied. “I'm glad I got invited, even if I was forced to kiss you.”
“Dude, you know no one will ever kiss you better than I did,” Jamie snickered and then covered his face. “I don't believe I just said that.”
Scott leaned forward and looked at the bed next to theirs, where Sean and Ash were cuddled together. He shook his head, “We seem different. You think we're, I don't know, getting more mature or something?”
“What do you mean? Oh, and just so we're clear, there isn't anything mature about you. Me? Totally.”
“Yeah, uh huh.” Scott glanced at his brother and his friend again and said, “It wasn't all that long ago we'd call Kale or Robin names for being gay or whatever. Now look at us. I convinced my parents to give me a gay brother and we're both hanging out with, I think, no other straight people—and we're totally chill.”
“Well, being admired is good for the ego, and we all know I'm getting checked out,” Jamie chortled, covering his mouth as Scott shoved him.
“You know what I mean.”
Settling down, Jamie nodded at his friend and said, “Yeah, I know what you're saying. Maybe it's maturity, maybe it's just...realizing we were saying stupid shit. I mean, we've grown out of lots of things I guess, right?”
“I never figured you'd grow into sucking dick,” Scott laughed and fended off Jamie's punches. They both paused suddenly as one of the other boys groaned in sleep.
“You better take it easy, Kirkwood, or people will hear and think I'm fucking you.”
Jamie snorted, “Please, we all know you'd have your legs in the air if you thought you had a chance with me.” They looked at each other for a moment and burst out in giggles, burying their faces in their pillows. Once they'd recovered they turned onto their sides and faced each other.
“I can't believe you sucked a dick,” Scott said.
“Believe it,” Jamie replied.
“Just...how? I mean...” Scott wet his lips and, shaking his head, said, “That just came out of left field.”
“Well, Ash blowing you wasn't exactly expected, either,” Jamie retorted.
“I didn't see it coming,” Scott agreed. “But, dude! I was pissed at you for messing with him like that! You already knew he liked you guys.”
“Trust me, man, I didn't see it coming, either.” Jamie paused and said, “We were just lying in bed, looking into each other's eyes...” And they fell into giggles again, faces buried in their pillows.
“So...how was it?”
Jamie quirked an eyebrow. “Giving or receiving?”
“Um, both, I guess.”
Jamie propped his head up on his hand and looked at his friend. “It was good. Better than good, actually. It taught me a few things.”
“I want to bust your stones...but, continue.”
“Seriously, though who was better—Ash or the Hoover?”
“Ash, no question. See,” Jamie said, “Ash loves me, man.”
“You think everyone loves you, Jamie,” Scott laughed, covering his mouth.
“They do!” Jamie smiled. As Scott's mirth faded, Jamie's smile did as well. “But, seriously, the Hoover just wanted a hard dick. To Ash, it mattered that it was mine. To be honest...I've liked Ash for a little while.”
“You mean...liked him?”
“Yeah. Um, not like, to date. Just...”
“To hook up with?”
“No! How can I say...all right, listen,” Jamie said, propping himself up and taking a quick look to ensure the other two were still asleep. “I wondered what Kale and Robin see in getting it on with a guy, you know? Ever since that video was out, I've felt kind of protective of Ash. As time went by, though, I started to notice him a little different. Maybe...part of it was because I knew he thought I was good looking, true, but I think more because he's turned into such a good friend. He's trying so hard—and be honest, Scott—how many people really try to be someone's friend?”
“I'm not sure I know what you mean. The easier answer is not many, but what's he done to be your friend?”
“Well, he listens, for one. You just want to talk? Ash is your guy. When Theresa Banks was trying to cheat on me, Ash let me know. If we need someone else for football? Ash will play.”
“Why is that such a big deal?”
“Seriously? Ash couldn't give two shits about football,” Jamie said, snorting. “He knows my favorite foods, color, remembers my birthday—it's a lot of stuff. He took the time to get to know me, he didn't fake it and just say he was my friend.”
“Yeah, now that you mention it, he does pay attention to things. Huh, that's interesting that I never really noticed until you pointed it out.” Scott frowned and said, exaggeratedly slow, “When is your birthday, anyway?”
“Poor bastard was looking to you to show him how to be a good son. Jesus, talk about your shitty role models,” Jamie snorted and Scott shoved him.
“Okay, so being a great friend, fantastic. But we've been friends for years, you never offered to suck my dick.”
“Dude,” Jamie said, shaking his head. “I told you, it just happened. We were wrestling, we got horny and...”
“Hey, not like you ever offered to blow me!” Jamie replied, smirking.
“Hey, far as I know, I'm the only guy in the room who hasn't had a dick in his mouth!” Scott snickered.
“Don't talk about Sean, man,” Jamie said, shaking his head.
“Seriously? You think for one second they didn't check each other out? Like Ash would settle for either of us if Sean was on the table?”
“Why are you picturing my brother on a table?” Jamie asked suspiciously.
“You know what I meant!” Scott retorted. “Besides, I had my one and only experience with a guy.”
“Yeah. Ash said I was better,” Jamie chortled.
“Well, I wasn't as into it as you were,” Scott said, defensively. “I mean, yeah, I was interested in getting a blow job but...it was just strange.”
“Yeah, I can see that. I wouldn't blow Sean.”
“I don't know, I don't think it was just that he's my brother,” Scott said, shaking his head. “Maybe it would have made a difference if it had happened like it did with you, but it was more like some weird alternate reality thing...I wish it hadn't happened.”
“I'm glad Ash and I got together,” Jamie replied promptly. “He made me understand that I loved him, and how much of a difference love makes when you get intimate with someone. Plus, I really felt his pain when he was looking for something more to happen between us.”
“See, that's part of what I didn't like. You knew you'd never date him or even mess around again. He was such a mess afterward!”
“Yeah, I'm not too sure about the dating thing, but you know what? I'd do it with him again, if I were single. Plus, it's not like I set out to break his heart—we both got a little out of control and, I think, we fixed it. I know we're better friends because of it.”
“Better friends because you had sex?” Scott said, skeptically.
“Better because of what we went through, after. We had to talk and connect about things that are really personal in order to save our friendship. I've thought about this,” Jamie said, “and there was a real chance our friendship could have died right there. But we had to work through the awkward stuff that came after, the fear, the confusion. All I had to do was show him I wasn't going to turn my back on him, that I cared about him, and...we worked through it.”
“Hmm. You really think it was a good thing, huh?”
“Yeah, totally,” Jamie said and then yawned. “I'm going to hit the light, okay?”
Switching the light off and plunging the room into darkness, Jamie flopped onto his back and sighed heavily. He listened to his brother and Ash breathing and wondered if there was anything between them. Scott was, probably, right in that they'd done something together. Jamie felt a little petulant that Sean hadn't shared with him, but he couldn't blame him since Jamie'd not shared his experience either—not right away. Maybe when school started, Boomer would like Ash and Ash would return it and this whole thing would be over.
Of course, in a way, it would never be over. Jamie still felt attracted to his friend and wondered if that would fade.
A small sigh floated in the darkness and Scott said, “It was weird when Ash was, you know, blowing me. It felt good but it also felt...it's complicated.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean—except it only felt complicated to me afterward. When it was happening? Everything was pretty clear. He wanted me and I, surprisingly, wanted him.” Jamie waved a hand in the dark, “I had a hard time accepting it for what it was—and accepting that what Sean and I had decided was right—and wrong.”
“Well, he was right that Ash liked us both and we'd be opening up a can of worms for us all. I felt even worse when I realized Ash was hoping for something more from me, after. I just...didn't think it through. But, now? After he and I did the work to get through this...he's more than just a friend. He's the only guy I ever did that with and that's...something.”
He thought back to the feel of Ash's mouth on him and, of course, began to harden.
Scott shifted next to him and he heard the sound of something brushing the sheet and then...a tentative hand touching his stomach.
“Hmph?” Jamie grunted.
“Jamie,” Scott said softly, his hand sliding down and touching Jamie's hardness. “Just this once?”
Jamie turned his head in the dark, unable to see his friend, whose fingers were now wrapped around his length. “Just...once what?”
“Please, Jamie?” Scott whispered, squeezing and stroking Jamie's dick, slowly. Jamie reached out under the cover...
“You what?” Ash asked, stunned.
“I jerked Jamie,” Scott mumbled. “But it gets worse.”
“I wanted to...blow him. I mean,” Scott waved his hands, “I'm over it now. I swear! Hanging out in an all gay environment is messing with my head.”
Ash glanced at his brother as they sat on the dock and dangling their feet in the water. Scott had clearly been troubled this morning, so Ash had made it a point to corner him and give him the opportunity to unburden himself.
“So, what? Hanging out with gay guys makes you gay?” Ash teased.
“No! I mean...it's...” Scott sighed. “You know, it made more sense when I was talking to him last night. But when you sit down here in the sunshine, the logic is...a little wobbly.”
“Okay. Well, what was the logic?”
Scott fidgeted. “We...were talking about how you and him had hooked up.” Scott glanced up and then, hurriedly, away. “He was going on and on about how important it was, how much closer you guys are and—honestly, it's enough to make you throw up!”
Ash laughed and Scott scowled in response. Giggling, Ash said, “So far it sounds like something that really isn't your kind of discussion.”
“You talk about weird shit in the dark, sleep—overs, stuff like that,” Scott said, shrugging. “Besides, you and Sean were practically spooning in your sleep—that's how it got started.”
“Okay. So...the logic part?”
Scott's face scrunched. “I didn't understand the 'being closer' thing. Still don't. He claims he learned a lot from the whole thing—did you? Learn anything?”
“Yeah. Jamie sucks dick like a wood—chipper,” Ash laughed. Scott smiled, but stayed quiet as he waited for his brother to get serious. Sobering Ash sighed and said, “It was complicated. Sean and Jamie are really different people and they have different qualities that make them worthwhile. Do I feel like I'm closer to Jamie? Yes, definitely.”
“But...why? I've known him all my life and, now I know what his pecker feels like, but so what?”
Ash looked down at his hands. “It's because of what happened after. Yeah, what we did...that's something you only share with so many people, so that made it special. That he of all guys chose me; that made it special, too. Jamie has turned into such a surprise—a fantastic person. After, though, that's when I really learned who he was. He came to me. He'd wrestled with what we'd done, what it meant, and he came back for me, knowing I'd be hurting and confused.
“I'm still a little confused. I don't think anyone with Kirkwood genes is entirely straight, and Jamie has enough good qualities that it made me want more. I have some peace with that, now, though. I'm just lucky to have him in my life—to have that kind of support and loyalty and love. It counts for a lot.”
“Did...is that why you offered, you know, with me?”
“No,” Ash said, shaking his head. “At the time I had been waiting for Jamie to come around. I was kind of thinking that, well, we blew each other—it might go somewhere, right?” He shrugged and continued, “After what happened with Edward, being able to have a...consensual...whatever you want to call it; it was amazing. But, Jamie wasn't going to come around and, I guess I had a weak moment where I thought...you might.”
Scott's eyes widened and he looked away quickly. He scanned the house and the few guys wandering in the mid—morning sunshine. Then, his body slumped as he turned back to his brother. “I just had about eighteen dick—headed thoughts go through my brain. Ash, you're my brother and I love you like you were born with me...but that—”
“Relax,” Ash said, putting a hand up to stall him. “I think we both know that was a bad move based on a bad idea in a weak moment.”
Scott nodded slowly and sighed. “You'd have gone okay with Jamie, though. He'd have treated you right, I think.”
“Yeah, I think you're right. But...explain how this has to do with you stroking him?”
Scott grimaced. “I've been thinking about that all morning. Um, in the end, I guess I was just a little jealous.”
“Of what?” Ash exclaimed.
“Well, Jamie's my best friend! We've never done anything like that and I got to wondering—was I missing out on something? Was, you know, there something I should know? Would this bring us closer or make us better friends?”
“Okay, that sort of makes sense. What about the, uh, blowing?”
Scott shook his head, “It was just this idea that ran through my head. Like I said, we'd been talking about you guys having hooked up and, well, having someone jerk you off feels good but...I didn't feel any closer to him or anything like that.” Scott jerked his gaze up quickly and said, “For the record? When I came, I totally didn't want to blow him anymore. It was a, what do you call it? Heat of the moment thing?”
“Okay, well,” Ash said, slowly. “I'm not sure why you're beating yourself up or what's eating you. So you guys jerked each other off. So what?”
“Dude...so, it felt okay and all that, different—but I definitely don't want to do it again.”
“Okay, still not seeing the problem.”
Scott sighed and closed his eyes. “Did you know Jamie'd be willing to hook up with you again?”
“Yeah,” Ash replied, slowly. “If we were both single. I don't understand why that bothers you, though.”
“What if he wants to...jerk again?” Scott licked his lips and looked at his brother. “Isn't he going to feel like crap if I don't want to? Something that was supposed to make us closer?”
Ash smiled. “Did you get that from the encyclopedia moronica? Of course it won't change anything. Look, he's not going to come onto you or anything—in fact it sounds like you started it.”
“Well,” Scott spluttered.
“Scott. I'm sure Jamie is cool. Look, he's over there playing with Linc. Just go over there, I guarantee the weirdness you feel will be gone in record time.”
Scott looked over at his friend uncertainly. Jamie spotted them and, making sure Linc didn't see, flipped them both off, with a grin.
“See?” Ash laughed, “Nothing to worry about.”
“Leafy, you know you're going. Why do you always have to make me work for it?”
“I'm not getting in that tiny boat with you,” Kale retorted.
“Come on, it'll be fun!” Alec enthused.
“No. My folks will be here soon—along with yours! We need to get food ready and make sure none of the guys look like they have been living in the wild.”
“Sweetheart,” Chase said, snaking an arm around his husband's waist. “I can't stand listening to Alec whine anymore. Would you please go argue about going in the boat while you row out onto the lake?”
Kale gave Chase a suffering look. “Why does everyone assume I'm just going to do what he suggests?”
“Because,” Alec said, linking his arm in Kale's and dragging him forward. “I named you my Leafy and you shall be my Leafy.”
“That...makes no sense!” Kale said, trailing off into laughter.
A few minutes later, after strapping on life vests, the pushed the canoe out into the lake. Kale was up front and Alec anchored the back end.
“I'm not rowing,” Kale said, teasing his friend.
“Than we'll go in circles, dummy,” Alec laughed. “Come on, pull your weight!”
They rowed out only a short way. Kale pulled his oar from the water and, carefully, worked his way around to face his friend.
“Okay, what are you up to?”
“Leafy, you wound me.”
“Yeah, yeah. Get on with the plan.”
Alec grinned widely. “Are you having fun?”
Kale grinned and stuck his tongue out. “Now, come on. What are you up to?”
Alec leaned forward, resting his arms on his thighs. “We've been friends for a long time, Leafy. In some ways I feel like we raised you from a seed—”
Kale dipped his paddle in the water and, laughing, splashed Alec and saying, “You're such a dick!”
“No,” Alec replied as he wiped water from his face. “Really! You were this little gay plant that needed the awesomeness of my rainbow...um...thing to help you grow.”
“Kutsenko,” Kale said, blushing and smiling despite his tone of voice. “What's your point?”
Alec grew quiet, waiting for Kale to meet his gaze. “Kale R Kirkwood...hey, what's the 'R' stand for?”
“Really? You brought me all the way out here to ask about my middle initial?”
“It's important!” Alec snorted. “If you're going to be my best man it can't be something weird.”
“I don't have to put my middle name down for it to be a legal signature, Alec.”
“Come on!” Alec whined, stamping his feet.
Rolling his eyes, Kale said, “It's actually two R's. My parents were kind of stuck about deciding which grandfather to put in as my middle name—of course, now I don't want anyone to know because they compare me to that Game of Thrones guy.”
“So, wait...you're Kale R. R. Kirkwood?” Alec asked, grinning.
“So...what are your middle names?”
Sighing Kale said, “My full name is Kale Randall Ryan Kirkwood.” Kale braced himself, perhaps expecting Alec to tease him further. Instead, he was surprised when Alec spoke.
“So, why do you care if people mix you up with this author?”
“Are you kidding?” Kale nearly exploded. “The bastard makes these great characters that you grow to love—then the heartless bastard kills them off! He's a sadistic fuck!”
“Oh,” Alec grunted. “Well, I guess I won't read that, then.”
“Like you read,” Kale snorted. Narrowing his eyes, he said, “Now why did you haul me out here?”
“Oh, I almost forgot!” Alec said, grinning. “Kale Randall Ryan Kirkwood—jeez, that's a mouthful!”
“I'll give you a mouthful,” Kale muttered. Alec lifted an eyebrow, but let it pass.
“Kale...I need you to be my best man.”
“Alec, you asked me that a long time ago. Why are you—hey! Sit down! You'll tip us over!”
Alec ignored his friend's exclamation and stood up in the little boat, making it wobble drunkenly. He said, “Look! The old folks are here! And Bobby!” Then, he began waving energetically to the group that was gathering on the beach.
“Alec! You idiot sit—oh, shit!”
With a splash the little boat rolled over and the two men found themselves bobbing to the surface in their bright orange vests. Alec burst out laughing and Kale, per usual, frowned.
“I wasn't dressed for swimming, idiot!” he growled. “Let's get this thing turned over so we can go back in.”
They struggled and, once got close to getting back in, but in the end it proved too difficult for them. Kale, swearing he was going to drown Alec if he caught him, began to push the canoe back in toward shore. Alec, pulling on a lead rope, assisted and together they slowly returned to the beach.
As soon as their feet touched bottom, Kale was on Alec, pushing him back into the water and questioning his sanity. Alec merely grinned back, insolently, and it took several minutes for Kale to realize they had an audience. Blushing he turned to the gathered crowd. Almost immediately he noticed that Chase, Sasha, Nikolai and Lucien were dressed more nicely than they had been for the entire trip. He jumped as Alec's arm landed across his shoulders and steered him forward till they were back on shore.
Shaking his head and chuckling Judge Kirkwood said, “Will you want to get changed, Alec?”
“Nope. I've waited long enough, Judge.” So saying he took both hands and placed them on Kale's shoulders. “Stay, Leafy.”
Sasha stepped up to them, shaking his head and standing to Alec's right, Kale to his left. Chase and Nikolai lined up next to Sasha, while Lucien joined Kale.
“Friends, family. We're here today to witness the union of Alec Kutsenko and Alexander Buchanan—”
“Wait,” Kale exclaimed, rounding on Alec. “You're getting married now? And you!” he said, pointing at Chase, “You knew?”
Chase smirked at his husband. “Remember when you didn't tell me about their engagement? Payback, lover—boy.”
“But...I'm all wet! I'm not...Alec!”
“Leafy...” Alec smiled. “We're here, man. I need you to stand up here with me, right now.”
Kale shook his head and sighed, a smile slowly crossing his face. “I'll get you back.”
“I hope so,” Alec grinned.
Judge Kirkwood resumed the ceremony. When it was time for the rings to be presented, Alec called out for 'Hobbits', and a scowling Griffin and Devyn proffered the wedding rings, held on their middle fingers.
“I now pronounce you married. Everyone, may I present the Kutsenko's!” the judge finished.