The next few days were tense for a number of reasons. Luke's ankle was in bad condition, and he was going to be on crutches for the next few weeks at the very least, though it was possible it could take even longer. Once Luke's ankle was properly wrapped and he had been dosed with painkillers, he was allowed to focus on other matters, like the threat their service project supervisor had made to Jason.
Brother Tally, the man in charge of janitorial and maintenance in the gymnasium, had indeed gone ahead and filed a complaint with the MTC regarding their conduct. Even though the zone leaders had backed Jason and Chris up as had several other missionaries, both missionaries had still been dragged to numerous meetings with Brother Evans and the branch presidency who had authority over them. When the dust had finally settled, Jason and Chris had received nothing more than a verbal warning about mouthing off to their supervisor, but everyone else, including Brother Tally, had gotten off without any action taken against them whatsoever.
Thankfully, the zone's service project had been changed to cleaning one of the dorms instead of the gymnasium, and it seemed as if everything was going to work out. The only thing which had yet to be determined was how they were going to deal with future gym times, and before they knew it one of those times had sneaked up on them.
Gary and Chris were getting dressed for gym, but Jason was sitting at his desk and didn't seem to be making any move to join them. Luke watched him for nearly a minute before he asked, "So, are you planning on going to the gym?"
"Not with you in that condition," Jason said, turning toward Luke with a look of surprise. He smiled and nodded down at Luke's wrapped foot and continued. "The doctor said you're supposed to stay off of it for the next few weeks, and that means I have to stay behind too."
"I'm willing to hobble to the gym and back," Luke said with a shrug, "They invented crutches for a reason, you know. I don't want you to miss out on your weight-training. You and Elder Knight seemed to be making a lot of progress."
"Yeah, but your injury is still fresh, so you should really stay here, and that means I have to as well, you know, the whole 'companion' thing that we were just lectured about?" Jason said, rolling his eyes. "I don't mind, really. What's one day going to hurt?"
"One day off of training can throw off your whole routine, and you've already lost two due to my injury," Luke replied as he reached for his crutches. "You need to do it if you want to keep up your progress. We're going."
"There's another way to handle this, you know," Gary interjected from across the room.
Luke and Jason turned toward him and asked in unison, "What?"
"I can stay behind. We can do a companion exchange," Gary suggested with a shrug as he turned to Jason. "You and Elder Knight can go to the gym, and I can stay here and work out in the room. I prefer working out on my own, anyway, and on top of that I can ask Elder Phillips for help me with my Korean."
"How do you feel about that, Elder Knight?" Jason asked, turning to Chris. "I mean, considering what they just spent the last few days lecturing us about?"
"I'm okay with it if you guys are," Chris said as he met the gaze of everyone else in the room, one after another. "It's not like we haven't switched companions a few times already when we've needed to." He grinned at Luke. "Elder Phillips, are you okay with that? We'll get Elder Hadley out of your hair for an hour."
"Hey!" Jason protested as he stood and folded his arms over his chest, frowning at Chris, "I'm not that annoying, am I?"
"Yeah, I'm all right with getting an hour, maybe even a day or two away from him," Luke said, ignoring Jason's offended expression. "Heck, figure out a way to get me a week and I'll be all over that!"
"Whatever," Jason said, throwing his hands up in defeat, "you guys are all jerks."
"You know we're just teasing you, right?" Luke said, grinning when Jason turned toward him. "I mean, it's true that we got off to a shaky start in the beginning, but you've grown on me."
"Oh great, now we're getting mushy, here," Jason replied, rolling his eyes, though a small smile crept onto his face.
"Elder Phillips is right, however," Chris said, drawing Jason's attention.
"You're an essential part of the team, and we're happy to have you. Now get ready, we need to get to the gym. We've only got an hour, you know."
Jason and Chris left, and Gary got down on the floor and started doing crunches. Luke watched from his position on bottom bunk. After his injury, Jason had agreed to switch beds since Luke could no longer climb the ladder to the top bunk, and Gary could feel Luke's eyes on him. He felt his shorts starting to ride up his leg, revealing more of his thigh with each contraction of his abdominal muscles, and he steadily grew more self-conscious about it.
He stopped and lay down straight on the floor, trying to stop thinking about Luke's gaze, but it only ended up bringing thoughts of Luke's lips on his, and his body started to respond. By the time he rolled onto his side and got up, he was at half-mast and well on his way to full.
"You know," Luke said slowly. Gary glanced over his shoulder to see that Luke was still watching him. "I'm grateful for the apology you gave me the other day," Luke continued, "but I'm still surprised that you agreed to stay here with me. Aren't you afraid I'll try and kiss you again?"
"No," Gary said as his erection reached full-mast. He blushed and made sure to keep his back to Luke as he tried to will the erection back down. "Well, maybe a little," Gary chuckled, "but I'm pretty certain I can outrun you right now."
"What's going on, Elder Dumont?" Luke asked cautiously. "You're acting funny."
I want to do naughty things to your naked body, Gary thought, and then blushed an even deeper shade as he tried to push the thought away. Much like his erection, the thought wasn't going anywhere, but he wasn't about to let Luke know that. "I'm not sure," Gary said with a shrug. "There's been a lot of questions swimming around in my head for a while now, and I just need to find some clarity."
"Questions?" Luke echoed. "What kind of questions?"
Gary scratched his head and moved over to his desk and sat down, hoping by sitting he'd be able to keep Luke from seeing his predicament while allowing him to face Luke and keep up his end of the conversation. "Can we just forget I said anything for a moment?"
"Sure," Luke replied with a half-frown, "whatever you need, dude."
Gary looked up and met Luke's eyes as silence fell upon the room. He felt an urge to keep the conversation going, and so he asked in a rush, "Tell me about your family. What was it like growing up in California?"
"It was pretty cool, I suppose," Luke said as he lay down on his bed and stared up at the bottom of the top bunk. "I lived a few hours from the beach, but as soon as I could get there myself I went all the time. When I couldn't afford the time or the transport, I'd go swimming at the local pool instead. I love the water, and it always seemed like there was a way to get wet, even when we were in a drought."
"I see you chose to dodge the family question," Gary said, laughing nervously. His mind was going wild with thoughts of Luke in the water, images of his gorgeously tanned body glistening in the sun as the water cascaded off his toned muscles.
"I suppose I did," Luke replied, as he reached up and fidgeted with the wooden slats of the top bunk. "I don't know, my family is complicated. I don't have to tell you that it's kind of taboo to get divorced in the church, but my parents split up when I was five, and my Mom remarried a year later. My brother was born not long after that, and I suppose we've been a happy family ever since."
"What's so complicated about that?" Gary asked, raising an eyebrow.
Luke sighed. "My stepdad and I never really see eye to eye. He's tried, many times, but it just seems like we're too different from each other. He likes football, I prefer swimming. He likes church and . . ." he trailed off as he adjusted his position on the bed so he was sitting on the edge of it and staring at Gary. With their eyes locked together Luke said in a serious tone, "I don't know if I ever really will."
"How can you say that?" Gary asked. "You're on a mission!"
"Yeah, I know, it's weird, right?" Luke said, rolling his eyes. "Do you really want to know, or are you just asking so you can threaten to rat me out to Elder Hadley again?"
"I . . ." Gary started but couldn't find any way to refute Luke's question and so he stopped trying.
"Don't worry, Elder Dumont, I'm just teasing you," Luke said, chuckling. "I'll tell you, if you're really that curious."
"Sure," Gary replied. "I'm willing to listen. It beats doing crunches or pushups."
"I like your style, Elder Dumont." Luke grinned, and the expression filled Gary with warmth. It was then that he noticed his erection had faded, though the revelation was quickly ruined by it starting to come back as he thought about Luke's smile. "Anyway, to be honest I'm not completely sure why I'm here," Luke continued as Gary returned his focus to the conversation. "I knew how I felt about the church, and it really hasn't changed. But when I became scared of the way my life was turning out, and I kind of reflexively went back to my roots, you know?"
"I'm not quite sure I follow."
"Well, when I was in college," Luke began, a distant look in his eye, "I attended a single's ward for a while, but I didn't really like it. I only did it because my parents wanted me to attend. No matter how much I wanted to please them, it eventually became too much and I stopped attending."
"What did your parents do when they found out?"
"At first I didn't tell them," Luke said, shaking his head. "I thought I was smart enough to live my life the way I wanted whilst keeping them none the wiser. I was living with another ward member, but I moved out, telling them that I was going to attend a family ward across town." He looked up and explained with a smirk, "What I really did was move in with my girlfriend from school and stopped attending altogether."
"Whoa, that's crazy," Gary said, leaning back, digesting the information. "How did that pan out?"
"It didn't," Luke said bitterly. "She got pregnant, and I-"
"Wait," Gary interrupted, leaning forward, startled, "you have a kid?"
"No," Luke replied with an annoyed tone, "and if you didn't keep interrupting me you'd already know what happened."
"Sorry, keep going," Gary said, blushing.
"At first I was freaking out because I thought it was mine, and she tried to tell me it was mine," Luke continued. "But sometime later I found out she had been cheating on me. It's funny, but I would have known right away that she was lying to me if my parents had invested anything at all in my sexual education. I'd never had unprotected sex with her, outside of oral and . . ." Gary was squirming in his seat as the thought of Luke having sex nearly sent him over the edge, and Luke noticed. He looked up and said, "You're getting uncomfortable, I can tell."
"Maybe a little," Gary said, glad that Luke had given him a way out.
"Well, I'll spare you any further details about my sex life with her then, but after I realized that she had cheated on me, I cut all ties with her," Luke said, sighing. "I was devastated, and I started to question where my life had gone wrong. For my then seventeen-year-old mind, it was easy to think that it was because I had abandoned the church. I went home from college and told my mother everything, and then I told the same story to my bishop."
"So, you're a believer now?" Gary asked, glad that his erection was starting to go down again. The words 'mother' and 'bishop' seemed to work wonders on his state of arousal, though he knew he'd be back to fantasizing about Luke naked and making passionate love as soon as the conversation was over.
"You might say I'm more of an agnostic," Luke replied. "I'm certainly not convinced of the truth of the church, but I do think I could benefit from a stricter moral compass than the one I followed at college. I'm in limbo now, and I thought it would be better for me to be doing something that at least felt worthwhile with my time."
"So you're here to do some good?" Gary asked, nodding at the explanation. While it seemed like a good reason, he wasn't sure how he felt about it.
"Yeah. I've always wanted to do some good in the world," Luke replied. He chuckled as he continued, "Wish I could say I was here because I actually believed in the church, though. It's really not my thing, but if I get to serve people and get away from home for a while, how can I complain?" His eyes brightened and he laughed loudly, "And hell, we're going to Korea! How cool is that?"
Gary smirked at that thought. While he supported Luke's desire to do some good in the world, he didn't like the thought of Luke lying in order to do it. At the same time, he knew his own reasons for coming weren't very pure either, and that only served to confuse him further. "I don't know what to think about that," he said after a moment.
"What? Are you judging me now?" Luke said testily, and then his next words hit Gary hard. "Come on, is your reason for going on your mission any better? I can see right through you, Elder Dumont. You came because you were afraid of disappointing your parents, didn't you?"
"How dare you!?" Gary said as he jumped to his feet. He shook his head as his hands clenched into fists. "I-"
"You what?" Luke snapped. "You're scared everyone is going to find out your secret and then disown you. You're terrified-"
"Stop it!" Gary growled as he started across the room, his muscles tensing as he prepared to make Luke shut up.
"-that your family is going to find out you're gay and then throw you out on the street!" Luke continued, refusing to back down even as Gary advanced on him, fists raised as if he were about to strike. "Elder Dumont, you've got to understand-"
"Don't!" Gary warned as he reached out and gripped the front of Luke's shirt.
"-nothing is wrong with you!" Luke finished in a hiss.
Gary locked eyes with Luke as the tension sparked between them, and then he leaned forward and kissed him, pressing forward urgently as he relaxed his grip on Luke's shirt and set his hand firmly against Luke's chest, pushing him backward. He held the kiss for a moment before pulling away from Luke, breathing heavily as his heart thundered in his chest.
He was about to say something when Luke reached up and grabbed the back of Gary's neck, pulling them together again. Gary started to resist but the instant Luke's lips were on his, all thoughts of resisting faded away. Luke guided him forward and onto the bed and Gary's emotions took over. Gary's kisses were awkward at first as he tried to make love to Luke's mouth, but Luke quickly took control and spun them both around so that he was on top.
Gary's body writhed with pleasure as Luke's mouth left his and a pair of soft lips touched his neck and began moving lower. The tip of Luke's nose tickled the skin of his neck as Luke slid down and kissed him just above his collar bone. Gary let his hands explore instinctively, and they slid to Luke's back, feeling the warmth of his body and the contours of his back muscles, defined enough for Gary to trace them with his fingertips through the two thin layers of cloth separating his wandering hands from Luke's flesh.
Luke slowed his kissing and then stopped altogether. He then rolled to the side and lay on his back beside Gary, breathing rapidly. "What's wrong?" Gary asked as his passion was dampened by rising anxiety.
"That was completely unexpected," Luke replied neutrally. Gary propped himself up on his elbows and looked over at Luke to see that his eyes were closed and his rapid breathing was beginning to return to normal.
"Why'd you stop?" Gary asked, and he held his breath for the answer, not liking where this was going.
"Gary, I'm not going to do this unless it's what you really want. I'm not going to play at this. If you're going to run away from me again . . ." Luke trailed off with a sigh.
"Elder . . ." Gary began, but then took a deep breath and started again. "Luke, I don't know what to do. My heart keeps telling me one thing, but my brain . . ." He shook his head and sat up, pulling his knees into his chest as he contemplated the conundrum. The moment they had shared was the most alive he had ever felt, and it had lasted for such a short time. He knew he wanted more, much more, but at the same time he knew that there would be complications if he continued.
"Gary," Luke said, reaching out and putting his hand on Gary's shoulder and rubbing it gently. "You've got to do what you think will make you happy. I can't make that call for you."
Tears came unbidden to Gary's eyes, and before he knew it he was crying, but he didn't really know why. "I think I need to know more before I can make that decision," he said as he wiped the tears from his cheeks.
"What do you need to know?" Luke asked. He sounded genuinely concerned to Gary, but Gary wasn't sure that would be enough.
"One thing I need to know is, if I follow my heart you'll be there to support me," Gary said as he turned to look at Luke. "I don't think I'm strong enough to do this without you. If we're caught, I'm going to need all the help I can get."
Luke held Gary's gaze for several seconds before he darted forward and planted a sweet and gentle kiss on Gary's lips. "That," Luke said with a grin as he pulled away, "Is a guarantee. I'll be right here for you to the end."
Gary nodded slowly and then wiped his face again before straightening his legs and leaning back on his elbows. He pursed his lips in thought, but it didn't take long before he gave one final resolute nod and rounded on Luke, catching him off guard with a quick kiss.
"We better get started then," Gary said, returning Luke's broad grin. "It's only a matter of time before Elder Knight and Elder Hadley get back, and I intend to make the most of it."
"I'm exhausted now," Jason said as they reached the door to the dormitory. He held the door open for Chris and then followed after, clapping his hand on Chris' shoulder. "Thanks, Elder Knight. That was a good workout. I'm definitely looking forward to my shower."
"Yeah, it's going to be nice to get under that water, that's for sure," Chris said, grinning. He had worked Jason hard, and it had worn him out almost as much. They had finished off their weight training with a few laps around the track, and his shirt was soaked with sweat. "You did really well today, by the way. You're going to be ripped by the time you get to Korea."
"You really think so?" Jason asked excitedly.
"No, probably not, but you'll be well on your way," Chris replied as they started up the stairs toward their room. "I hope you get the opportunity to keep lifting wherever you end up. I don't know if you'll have access to weights or anything, so maybe I should teach you some other ways to stay fit. Maybe some variations on pushups and pull-ups or whatever you want."
"Whatever you think is best, sensei," Jason replied with a slight bow.
"Hey," Chris chided, "we're supposed to speak Korean, not Japanese."
"I'm still learning," Jason laughed. "What is the Korean word for teacher, anyway? Has Evans Hyongjaenim," he drew out the Korean word for 'brother', annunciating every syllable to make sure he said it correctly, "ever taught us that one?"
"Yeah, I think so," Chris replied, scratching his head with one hand as he opened the door to their hall and held it open for Jason. "I don't remember it though, so I guess we'll have to ask Elder Phillips."
"I'll never get over how good he is at the language already," Jason remarked as he walked through the door and started toward their dorm room.
"Yeah," Chris sighed. "But you have to remember that he went to college at sixteen. He's obviously a great deal smarter than either of us."
"I guess you're right," Jason said as he started toward the door and then took a sharp turn to the right and away from their room. "Hopefully we weren't lied to as children and we've all got our own talents, eh?"
"Let's hope so," Chris agreed. "Hey, where are you going?"
"I gotta poo," Jason explained as he reached the entryway to the restrooms and showers. "All that exercise must have shaken everything loose, because I really have to go, now. I'll see you in the room. Wait for me and Elder Phillips, if you wouldn't mind, so that we can all walk to class together."
"Sure thing," Chris said with a nod. "If we're all late then hopefully Brother Evans won't know who to punish."
Jason laughed and said, "My thoughts exactly."
Chris shook his head and grinned as Jason turned away and walked into the bathroom. Jason was starting to grow on him, and he was going to miss him when they parted ways at the end of their training with Chris heading to Seoul and Jason going to Pusan. At least he'd still have Luke and Gary with him in Seoul.
He mused about all the fun times they would have together in Korea once they arrived in the country as he lay his hand on the door and stuck his key into the lock. As he started to turn the key his ears picked up on a faint sound coming through the door. It sounded almost feverish in its intensity, and someone was clearly exercising hard.
He shrugged as he figured he'd find Gary engaged in an intense workout and he opened the door without any further hesitation. He pulled the key from the lock and stepped inside, dropping it almost instantly as the door swung shut behind him. His jaw dropped to the floor along with the key as he took in the sight of Luke and Gary, both naked from the waist up, moaning heavily as their lips were locked in passion and their hands busily caressing each other, obviously in the midst of a passionate embrace.
They both looked up, startled and wide-eyed with horror, shock, and guilt as the door slammed shut just in time for Chris to regain control of his jaw and ask, "What the hell?"