Preparation Day, also called 'P-Day', is the day most missionaries look forward to in the week. While the intended use of the day is preparation to teach and proselyte through the rest of the week, it is also a day for rest, relaxation, and writing letters or emails to loved ones. Missionaries often see P-Day as a day off, even though they are still required to teach or proselyte in the evening hours.
Luke was no exception to the rule, and he had planned ahead when he decided he was going to serve a mission. While mission rules frowned upon him listening to music not spiritual in nature, he had brought along his old CD player and a case full of homemade CD's. He had labeled all of them with titles giving anyone the impression they contained nothing more than church music, but each one was actually a compilation of his favorite rock music.
His headphones did not project the sound anywhere but into his ears, though he wasn't sure that any of his roommates would even care about his choice of music. They seemed like mellow guys by Luke's reckoning; all except for Jason Hadley, anyway. He smirked as he glanced from his position on the top bunk to where Jason sat at the desk, furiously writing a letter to someone, maybe good Mormon girl who had promised to wait for him.
Luke rolled his eyes and returned to lying on his back. He would write letters later. He doubted his parents would expect one so soon, even if he didn't get around to writing this week. After is time away at college, they were used to him being aloof from family affairs. He had never been one to write often or in detail, and he wasn't about to change now. He'd only been gone for three days. They probably hadn't even missed him yet.
Besides, there were more pressing matters to think about than home. Something had stuck with him from their first night at the MTC, and he needed to reason out how to handle it. While he hadn't let on to Jason that there was anything to his suspicions about Gary's sexuality, Luke knew something that Jason didn't.
Something hard had most definitely been poking him in the ass when Gary stumbled into him, and it hadn't been anything Gary was carrying. Whatever had happened, accident or not, Gary had been erect and his body had been telling him 'yes', even though his religion was screaming 'no'.
Luke could not deny that Gary was attractive, and even his type if one were to remove religion from the equation. He had questioned his own sexuality for a long time before coming to terms with his bisexuality, and he guessed Gary was going through hell as he questioned whether or not he was gay. Luke wished they were in a different setting so that he could approach Gary and help him understand his sexuality, but the MTC was the worst possible place to be attracted to other men, especially when one didn't know what to do about it.
He doubted that Chris would have a problem with it. From the first moment they met, Luke was under the impression Chris was about as open-minded as he was, and that had been a welcome surprise. At least for the time being, Gary would be companions with someone who could support him. That would have to do until Luke found an opportunity to speak to Gary alone so he could offer his support.
The one thing he didn't want to do was offer that support anywhere within earshot of Jason. Whatever claims Jason made about his best friend being gay, it was obvious Jason was as homophobic as they come, even for a Mormon boy from Utah. Luke's eyes were drawn back towards Jason again as he turned the boy's evidently strong homophobia over in his mind. Could it be entirely the result of his upbringing in the church, or was Jason, like Gary, hiding a part of himself that he couldn't admit existed?
Luke closed his eyes and considered the likelihood of Jason being gay. While it seemed true that most homophobes were self-loathing, Jason had never given the impression he thought of himself as anything other than being an example of Mormon perfection. Luke almost laughed. The chances of having two gay or bisexual missionaries put together in one room seemed unlikely, and he was considering there being a third. No, he realized, Jason Hadley couldn't be gay or bisexual, or at least the probability was highly unlikely. Elder Hadley was simply an asshole.
I don't know if you expected me to write this letter. I'm not sure I expected to write it either. I haven't seen you since my missionary farewell, and I'm sure you're probably angry with me. Well, I guess you have every right to be.
I'm so confused right now. I wish I had one of our late night talks to give me some form of clarity on the issue. Everything seemed so much simpler when we were in high school and we didn't have to make choices the way that adults do. Now it seems like every choice I make has major, life-altering consequences.
When I said what I did in church, I want you to know I was speaking as a representative of the church. You know the church's stance on homosexuality as well as I do. You were raised in it too, you know it's wrong and that-
That sounded like I was preaching, didn't it? Maybe my companion, Elder Phillips, is right, and I am an asshole. Wow, cursing in writing feels as weird as it does speaking. Maybe I should scratch that out too? No, I'll leave that one there. You need to know that I'm considering things from a different perspective, and maybe a bit of colorful language would help you realize it.
I'm sorry for offending you and Kai. I'm sorry I pushed you away, and that I put our friendship in jeopardy. The last thing I wanted was to make you unhappy, and you know I've always supported your ability to make your own choice, even if I disagree with it, right? I thought that was why we were still friends. At least I hope we still are.
Well, I'm going to push forward, hoping you accept my apology. I promised that I'd write you every week when I first told you I was going on my mission, and this is my first chance to do so. I don't want to break my promise, even if you don't want to hear from me, so expect a letter every week anyway!
The MTC is crazy. It's a lot like high school but more work. There's a lot of studying and plenty of drama. It's almost like I've just returned from summer vacation to find classes waiting for me again. Only these classes are to learn how to teach the gospel or about the Korean language. It's only been two days, but already I'm starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the knowledge they've been throwing at us.
Remember Spanish class? Yeah, I know, you probably try not to, considering how much we both sucked at it. Well, Korean is nothing like Spanish. For starters, the grammar is completely different from English, and I swear that every sentence ends the same way. It's like nothing I've ever heard before.
But I feel like I'm really starting to get it. Elder Phillips is a linguistic genius, and I'm learning some just by watching him. He's kind of a weird guy in some ways, like the way that he-
Jason looked up from his letter, sighed, and glanced over at Luke, who was lying on his bed with his eyes closed and wearing his headphones. As far as Jason knew, Luke had dozed off, and was just as well. That way he wouldn't notice Jason's stare as he considered his companion.
There was something about Luke that Jason hadn't been able to figure out but it kept nagging at him, and only in his attempt at writing an apology to Zach did he begin to realize what it was. As much contention as there had already been between them, Jason had figured it was nothing more than their personalities clashing, but now that he was considering it from a new angle, he realized it was something different altogether.
Luke reminded Jason of Zach, and considering the sour note on which he and Zach had parted ways, Jason was projecting his feelings of discontent with Zach's way of life onto Luke. He wasn't sure what to make of it, but he did know that he wasn't being fair to either Luke or Zach, and it was time to start making things right between them. He scribbled out the last line he had written and continued again.
He's a pretty cool guy, really. He stood up for one of the other elders when I made an assumption which turned out not to be true, and he seems to be the kind of guy who looks out for everyone. He reminds me of you, actually, and that makes me start to think about how wrong I was for the way I treated you. I know you're a great guy, and even though we may disagree about some things, all I really want is for you to be happy. Maybe I'm a bit judgmental at times, but when it comes down to it, I hope you know my heart's in the right place.
I don't know if you'll ever forgive me, or if we'll ever settle our differences, but I want you to know I'm going to try to figure out how to do so. I don't want our friendship to end just because my church says what you're doing is wrong. Can you please just give me some time to figure it all out?
My emotions are spent, and I don't know what else to tell you. Oh well, I can answer a question you had way back when. The food here comes in two categories: absolutely delicious and totally crappy. There doesn't appear to be a middle ground. Hopefully, the food in Korea will be better than the bad stuff we get here every other meal.
Please don't be mad at me, Zach. I hope to hear from you soon.
Elder Jason Hadley
Jason read through the letter twice to make sure he'd said everything he wanted to say before he folded paper, found an envelope, and sealed it shut. He added postage to the envelope and wrote the address on the front before sliding his chair back from his desk and standing up.
He glanced over at Luke, who was still in the same position he had been in before. After walking over to the bed Jason reached up, hesitating as he considered shaking Luke awake. "Elder Phillips," he said softly. "Elder Phillips, are you awake?"
"It doesn't seem like it," Chris said as he swung his legs over the side of the top bunk on the other side of the room. He hopped down and stretched as Jason slowly lowered his hand to Luke's arm, but then hesitated again.
"Elder Phillips," Jason said again, a little louder than the time before. "Can we go mail letters? I really need to send this letter to my friend before the mail leaves today."
"I'll go with you if you want," Chris said as he stretched again. "Unless Elder Dumont has a need to go, but I didn't see him writing any letters."
"You didn't either, did you?" Jason asked. "I don't remember seeing you write any."
"No, but my dad said he would send me a package soon, and I want to see if it has arrived yet," Chris replied, smiling. "If you want to wait for Elder Phillips, I get it. I'm sure I could convince Elder Dumont to go with me."
Gary turned in his chair and faced them both. "Yeah, I mean, I'm totally okay with staying here if you two want to go, or I can go down with you, Elder Knight. Whatever you need. I have no reason to go myself, but..." He shrugged and added, "Just let me know what the plan is."
Jason glanced back at Luke's closed eyes and then took his hand away. There was no reason to wake Luke up if he was in fact sleeping. If their roles were reversed, Jason wouldn't want to be woken up from a well-needed nap, and he wanted to be considerate of his companion.
"If you're ready to go, sure," he said as he turned back to Chris. "The sooner I mail this the better."
"Let's go," Chris said, grinning. "You can help me carry the package if it's a big one."
"Great, so I just volunteered as cheap labor?" Jason asked, rolling his eyes.
"Isn't that what missionaries are for the church?" Gary chuckled and added, "I'm teasing. Let's get out of here."
Jason and Chris were almost at the mail room when Jason realized they hadn't spoken since they left the dormitory. He wondered what was on Chris' mind, but when he looked up he noted Chris was merely looking around at the scenery and did not seem otherwise preoccupied.
But now that Jason knew the silence was there, he couldn't ignore it. "So, how do you think you and Elder Dumont are getting along?" he asked.
"Pretty well," Chris said with a casual smile. "He's a good guy, and I think he definitely wants to be here. I can't say that we've had any major disagreements, but then again, I can get along with anybody."
"Yeah, I've noticed," Jason replied with a snort. "What's your secret?"
"You and Elder Phillips having trouble?" Chris asked.
"Well, not really." Jason shrugged and returned his focus forward. "Not since that first night. We had a long talk out in the hall, and I think it did a lot of good for both of us, but I wish it hadn't been so hard." He hesitated, and was grateful Chris didn't try to interject anything while he gathered his thoughts. "I've never been good at making friends," Jason continued after a moment. "I worry sometimes about how that's going to play out once I'm in the mission field. If I can't even make friends with the other missionaries, then how am I supposed to get strangers on the street to listen to me?"
"Have you tried not judging them?" Chris asked, chuckling.
Jason's eyes widened as he scoffed, "You don't beat around the bush, do you?"
"I try not to," Chris admitted. "I prefer to be honest up front if I can be. The only time I withhold the truth is if it could really hurt someone by telling it."
They arrived at the mailroom, and Chris held the door open for Jason before following closely behind him. They nearly ran into another pair of missionaries whose arms were laden with packages who didn't see them coming. With quick footwork they managed to dodge out of the way and proceed inside, where they found a short line of missionaries waiting to be helped at the mailroom counter.
"That's a good philosophy, I guess," Jason said when they reached the back of the line. "But isn't it our responsibility to preach the truth as well? Doesn't that mean teaching the gospel wherever we go? I mean, we're supposed to be ministering, aren't we?"
"Well, yes, but that doesn't mean we have to focus on the sin rather than the sinner," Chris countered as they moved forward a step. "What would Christ have done? I think he'd react with love before anything else, and that's what we should do, too."
Jason thought about Chris' words as they reached the counter and handed the smiling clerk his envelope. Chris asked if there was any mail for him or the others in their room. After leaving with only a single letter addressed to Elder Dumont, Jason's mind began wandering to thoughts of Zach, who had promised to write him every week in return to Jason's promise. The lack of a letter was troubling, though Jason had hope Zach's reasoning was that the first week didn't count.
"You said you've never been good at making friends," Chris said shortly after they left the mail room, catching Jason off guard. "But then when you were trying to wake Elder Phillips, you said you wanted to mail a letter to a friend. You must have some close ones then."
"Yeah," Jason said quietly. "I promised my best friend Zach that I'd write him every week."
"That's some dedication to friendship," Chris replied. "Do you think you'll be able to keep it up?"
"So far so good," Jason said with a half-hearted shrug.
Chris was quiet for a moment before replying, "He must be some friend to be worth that level of attention."
Jason nodded slightly and kept walking, as he thought about how much detail he wanted to give Chris. He trusted Chris, and had seen little reason to assume Chris would be anything but supportive, and with only a small bit of trepidation he explained, "I was kind of a geek growing up, and I was picked on a lot. Zach was the one who always stood up for me, no matter what. I owe a lot to him. It was hard for me when he decided to leave the church," he added with a sigh, "but I got over it because I knew he was a good person, and I figured he'd always come back."
"You know the church isn't for everyone, I hope," Chris said cautiously.
"What?" Jason asked, stopping in his tracks. Chris slowed and stopped as well, turning to face him as Jason continued. "Of course it is! Heavenly Father wants all of his children to come back to live with him again."
"At least that's what they taught you in Primary," Chris replied, smirking. "I never had that experience."
Jason let that thought roll around in his head for a moment. He hadn't considered there might be a different perspective on the doctrine before, and he began to wonder if Chris might have a point. It was a thought worth investigating, in Jason's opinion. "I forgot that you're a convert. I've never known anything else my whole life. Why wouldn't God want everyone to come back to him?"
"I'm not saying that He doesn't," Chris replied. He continued to speak clearly and methodically, and Jason found himself drawn in by Chris' soothing voice. "What I'm saying is, our path to truth may not be the path to truth your friend Zach wants to take, and you should respect him for that. He has to find his own way. That's what the principle of 'free agency' is all about."
"And so we're just supposed to disregard sin?" Jason asked, crossing his arms over his chest as he met Chris' eyes. "We're supposed to forget about it and forgive sinners even when they're doing terrible things?"
"Yes to the last, but no to the first," Chris replied with a grin. "Sin is a personal matter, Elder Hadley. It's between each individual and God. It is not for us to judge, and we are asked to forgive. Should we not turn the other cheek?"
"You may have a point, Elder Knight, but what if someone's choice to sin affects you directly?" Jason countered. "Don't you have cause to judge then?"
"Perhaps, but you have to ask yourself, Elder Hadley, can you really determine if it's truly a sin?" Chris asked. He then glanced up to the sky as if looking at someone above him. "That is the duty of God, and no one else. Our duty is to love, and nothing more."
Gary returned his attention to the book in front of him as Chris and Jason left the room. The book was homemade by his older sister the night before he entered the MTC. His family and friends had all written advice for his mission on small, black pieces of paper that had then been pieced together artistically to form the book, and his first P-Day was the first chance he'd had to go through them all.
Some of them made him smile, and others nearly made him choke up with emotion, but the one that had the greatest effect on him was the one his grandfather had written.
Kimchi is good for one thing, but I never figured out what it was, except for maybe getting drunk. Hope you enjoy the food more than I do and have the experience of your lifetime. I'm proud of you, Grandson.
He didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but he did know that he missed his grandfather. His sister must have known how it would affect him, he reasoned, as she had placed that piece of advice at the end of the book. He stared at it for a short time before closing the book back up and pushing it across his desk.
The feeling of a hand on his shoulder nearly made him jump out of his seat, and he turned to see an apologetic Luke who raised a concerned eyebrow and asked, "Elder Dumont, how are you doing?"
"Hey," Gary sighed. "Elder Hadley and Elder Knight went down to the mail room, just so you know. They didn't want to wake you."
"Oh, I wasn't asleep," Luke said, grinning. "I heard the door close and realized they were gone. I was actually hoping we could talk for a minute, and I didn't really want Elder Hadley to hear."
Gary frowned and turned in his chair so he was sitting sideways but facing Luke directly. "What do you want to t-talk about?" His voice broke near the end of his sentence, and he began to sweat. He was unsure of Luke's tone and what it might mean.
"Hey, I didn't mean to make you nervous," Luke replied, raising his hands, as he took a step back with his palms facing toward Gary. "Dude, you have nothing to worry about from me, at least, I don't think you do."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Gary asked. His fingers and toes began to clench as his nervousness increased, and he wished Luke would get to the point sooner rather than later.
"Well, I think we need to clear something up, but this is the first chance I've had you alone to do so," Luke replied, lowering his hands before leaning into the wardrobe to his side. "I wanted to talk about what happened the night that we uh..." For the first time in the conversation, Luke seemed uncertain, and he spoke hesitantly as he added, "bumped into each other?"
"Oh, that..." Gary's pulse began to race. "What about it?"
"Well," Luke began, looking away from him as Gary's cheeks colored. "I noticed something when you bumped into me and I thought that I should-"
Gary blushed a deep shade of red as he interjected, "There's really no need to talk about it."
Luke paused and looked up to meet Gary's eyes, which were pleading for him to end the conversation, but Luke hadn't said what he had meant to say yet, and he didn't like leaving a job half-done if it could be helped. "Elder Dumont, it's really not a problem. A boner is a boner, and it's not like you should really be ashamed of it. Everyone gets them."
Gary cleared his throat and looked away. He reached up and wiped his forehead with the back of his sleeve. "This is a really awkward conversation, you know."
"Aren't you glad I waited until Elder Hadley was gone then?" Luke asked, chuckling.
"Yeah, at least there's that." Gary laughed nervously. He shook his head and continued, "I don't really want to know what he'd think if he knew that I was, uh..."
"Aroused?" Luke finished for him, his grin spreading wider across his face.
"Yeah!" Gary agreed, turning back to Luke. As soon as he realized what he agreed to, he raised his hands and began shaking his head emphatically. "Uh, I mean n-no I, Elder Phillips..."
"It's okay, you know," Luke said as he took a step forward and put his hand on Gary's shoulder. "There's nothing wrong with being gay."
"Why do you assume that I'm gay?" Gary stammered. "I'm not gay..."
"Elder Dumont, you really don't have to hide it from me," Luke said, chuckling softly. "I get it. You're worried about what people will think of you here if you get found out, but it's not like I'm going to tell anyone. Hell, I'm bisexual so I get your fears."
Gary's jaw dropped as he digested the information. After a moment he began speaking, slowly at first but then his voice quickly started to rise. "How can you say that so easily? The church is like, so against it, and you're a missionary!"
"I wasn't always this into church, and during my time away from it, I had an opportunity to get to know myself a little better," Luke explained calmly. "When I was away at college I got to know a lot of LGBT students, and they became some of my closest friends. I never had a boyfriend though."
"Sorry, this is really weird for me," Gary said as he stood up and turned back toward the desk, leaning into it as he bowed his head, bewildered. "I've never heard someone speak about it so casually, and this is the last place I expected to have a conversation like this."
"Well, as I was saying, there's nothing wrong with you being gay," Luke said as he stepped closer to Gary and let his hand glide across Gary's back to his other shoulder. He leaned in close so that his face was only inches away from Gary's ear. "Whatever you were taught growing up, it's perfectly normal for a guy to feel aroused by looking at another guy," he whispered, as his hand started sliding up Gary's shoulder toward his neck. "Especially when that other guy is in his underwear and standing right next to him."
Gary's heart was pounding even harder than it had been before, and his erection was stronger than any he'd ever had in his life. The feel of Luke's hand as it reached the skin of his neck made him shudder, and he almost reached orgasm from the touch alone. Despite his physical reaction, years of conditioning at denying his sexuality caught up to him, and he stammered, "I-I don't know what you're talking about..."
"Oh come on, Gary," Luke purred as his hand slid to Gary's cheek and stroked it gently, "you don't need to hide from me." He reached out with his other hand and laid it gently on Gary's extended arm, sliding down toward Gary's hand.
Gary started to turn toward Luke. "Elder Phillips, what are yo-"
Luke's hand slid under Gary's chin and lifted, allowing their lips to meet as he pressed forward for a deep and urgent kiss. Gary tensed up at first, but then melted as Luke extended the kiss longer and spun him around so that his back was against the desk. Luke wrapped his hand around Gary's waist and pulled himself to Gary, grinding their crotches together as he pressed in with his tongue.
Gary's mind caught up with his body, and as he felt Luke's tongue enter his mouth, he pushed Luke off of him and stepped away. He wiped his mouth and met Luke's eyes, his own eyes smoldering. "What the heck do you think you're doing?"
"Just giving you a little taste of what you wanted," Luke purred, reaching out for Gary again.
"I don't..." Gary reached out his hand to stop Luke's approach. "I don't want that. I don't want anything to do with it."
"Your dick doesn't seem to agree with you," Luke said, glancing down at Gary's throbbing erection begging to be released from the cloth holding it prisoner. "Maybe you should tell it what your plan is, because it obviously wants me to kiss you again." He started moving forward again, but Gary put a restraining hand on Luke's chest.
"Don't-" Gary started to protest but his speech was interrupted by a shudder traveling down his body as Luke reached out and stroked his cheek. The shudder culminated in a familiar feeling in his cock as he creamed his slacks. He lost his balance momentarily and eased up on holding Luke back to regain control of his senses as he tried to comprehend what had just happened.
"Are you sure you want me to stop?" Luke asked as Gary relaxed the tension in the arm holding him back. He stepped into Gary, his mouth moving eagerly toward Gary's when Gary regained control of his senses again and pushed Luke away forcefully.
"Get away from me!" Gary snapped.
"Fine," Luke said, panting as he tried to control the adrenaline beginning to course through his system. He fought a frown away from his face and forced a grin there instead as he continued, "I'll leave you alone, but the offer stands whenever you want more, and I know you'll want more."
Gary crossed his arms over his chest as he stared at Luke, his eyes filled with anxiety, though he tried to fill his voice with conviction. "I'm going to talk to Elder Hadley about what you did as soon as he gets back."
"No you're not," Luke said as he turned to walk away. "I can tell."
"Watch me," Gary challenged, but there wasn't any strength behind it. Whether he believed he'd tell on Luke or not, he got what he wanted as Luke moved back to the other side of the room and returned to his headphones.
Gary watched him go, and then swallowed hard. He needed to change his underwear, and only after he cleaned the cum from his slacks would he be able to figure out what to do about Luke. As much as he wanted to deny it, he no longer could. He was definitely gay, and Luke had power over him by his presence alone.
That was what frightened Gary most of all.