Afterglow

By Dabeagle

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We were subdued after the hearing and went over to get a late lunch at a sandwich place that had opened in town. Parker was very quiet and I let him be. We glided through the streets, the car quiet inside and insulating us from the world. Once in the parking lot of the cafe, Parker hesitated and then said, "Do you think I did the right thing?"

"Yeah, I do." I hesitated. How much must it tear him up to have spoken against his brother, even though Steve is a grade-A jackass? "Look, Parks, I don't know what it takes out of you to do the right thing. Your parents...they're like my parents, too. The thing is, I've never been close to Steve or even liked the guy. How could you do anything other than what you did, though?"

He nodded slowly and glanced out the window. "The part that bothers me is that there was always this lingering question about a potential 'something' that my grandfather had done to him. No one ever discussed or speculated so I don't know if it was some kind of physical abuse, mental, sexual or what. I know my folks never let me see the old man."

"Okay...?"

He looked at me with a serious, defeated expression. "What if it's not Steve's fault? What if that screwed him up and all this is...from that?"

I sat quietly for a moment, not because I was considering it seriously, but because I wanted him to think I had. Or rather, that I was doing so now. I'd wondered about Steve before and I'd reached a conclusion quite a while ago.

"Parks, if your grandfather influenced him, he's had plenty of chances to try and work on himself. Unfortunately, like therapy, you only get out of things what you put into them. Steve is who he is. You can only be a victim so long before you have to question your actions and motivations." I licked my lips and continued, "I could understand Steve talking to your parents about your grandfather or asking for therapy or counseling or even just to talk. If Steve blames your parents for leaving him there, I'm sure your parents have blamed themselves far longer.

"But he didn't do that. Instead he attacked them. His rage is his justification. He blames them and he blames you for being born after him when your parents were more stable." I took a breath and looked into Parker's eyes, which were focused on me.

"What if I had-"

"No. None of this is your fault," I said definitively.

He looked at me steadily and then a tiny smile curled the corner of his mouth. "Are you about to pull up that shit where you claim I'm yours, now?"

"Damn right," I said and smiled at him. His smile grew wider and soon we were both laughing. "Come on, let's go in and eat."

"After lunch, we should go see the little guy's grandparents. They always had baked goods."

I shot him some side eye. "Was that code?"

"Pie, Shane. Not getting baked," Parker said with a snicker.

We had a pleasant lunch, a contrast to the morning mess of my job, the scene at the prison and our conversation in the car. We took a leisurely drive around the old town, stopping across the street from his old house.

"It's weird, you know," he said as he looked out the window. "It just doesn't look right anymore. I can't totally put my finger on it, but there's something wrong with the place."

I nodded and a shiver ran up my spine. "I've noticed it about the whole town. It all feels slightly off. Like we're in some alternate reality. I almost feel like I should be waking up and I'll be sixteen again."

We drove on, eventually stopping on front of a house I'd spent a lot of my late teens in. Travis's grandparents had been a shock to they system, initially. They were true hippies, domesticated only enough to hold down jobs and raise their grandson. Without his influence, or perhaps the perception of responsibility they'd felt, things had declined. The front lawn was longer than any in the neighborhood, the bushes were running wild and tree branches were leaning awfully close to the house.

I knocked and we waited as shuffling noises drifted through the front door. Travis's grandma was definitely showing her years these days. She looked at us in mild confusion and then her face lit up before turning into a thoughtful frown.

"I was certain strippers are supposed to show up in bow ties and tiny underwear. You're completely overdressed," she said seriously.

"Janet, you're incorrigible," I told her. She beamed at me and we hugged and then she pulled Parker in close.

"It's good to see you, boys. Come in, come in. I'll put on some coffee and see what kind of pie we have!" she said happily. We preceded her into the kitchen, which seemed to have stood still in time. We took seats and she puttered happily, setting up her coffee pot and getting cups out.

"Who was it? Oh, hey!" her husband said as he entered the room. We stood and exchanged hugs before taking our seats while she put plates and a cherry pie on the table.

"I saw this at the store, I couldn't pass it up."

"Janet, I've never met a pie you could pass up," I teased.

"Damn right," she said with a bright smile. "Fuck dinner, eat dessert first, I say. Life is too damn short."

We laughed and I caught a thoughtful look on Parker's face. I wonder if that old saw about life had tripped something in his head? About Steve or his parents? I wish I could read his thoughts, sometimes.

"Have you seen the photo of the ring? He posted it just a few hours ago." Her husband pulled out his phone and started pressing the screen. "It's quite a dandy." He turned the screen to show us Travis' girlfriend with a small diamond ring on her finger.

"Travis proposed?" I said in shock.

"I thought he'd do it here - he's coming for Thanksgiving, you know? I hope you'll find time to come visit. I'm sure he'd love to see you both," Janet said while pushing plates out to everyone. "Let me just get that pot."

I mentally shook myself. If I'd had any lingering hope that Travis and I would one day reconnect, it was dead, now. "So...you haven't met this girl yet?" I asked, grinning widely.

"Nope! I'm looking forward to it, though," his grandfather said as he put his phone away.

"Oh, I'm not missing this!" I said and grinned harder at Parker.

"What are you so smiley about?" Janet asked as she poured the coffee.

"Oh, I'm just remembering my first few times here. I think Travis proposing to her out there was a strategic move!" I burst out laughing and Janet looked at her husband before they both grinned.

"Now, Shane," Grandpa said as he put a hand out to me. "Are you saying we shouldn't tell her where to find the lube in case she's one of those ladies that needs a little extra moisture?"

Parker laughed, covered his mouth and snorted through his fingers before turning sideways and braying. His face went beet red while grandpa looked satisfied.

"Well, not that I would tell you what do do," I said as seriously as I could. "But I think a gift basket would be nice. With sex toys, batteries and that sort of thing. Spice up their experience."

"Hot damn, good idea," Grandpa said and looked at his wife. "What do you think?"

"I think Shane is trying to see if we'll shock the poor girl out of ever orgasming again," Janet said wryly and then started to chuckle. "I'm not sure Shane ever recovered from his first trip to our table, here."

"Hey, I had a healthy sex life after that, no question," I said with a hand in the air as if to testify. Well, I suppose I was, actually.

"Oh, I know," Grandpa deadpanned. "Berry used to smile so much it made me jealous."

My grin faded as I looked at him across the table, his expression somewhat solemn. "Um, what?"

"You could have spread the wealth, Shane," Janet said. I glanced between them and was on the verge of losing it when they started to laugh. "Did you see his face?" she asked her husband.

"Dude! You were turning on another generation!" Parker said and slapped my shoulder.

"You guys are twisted," I said with a smile and shook my head. I put a piece of pie in my mouth and hooked a thumb over my shoulder. "What's with the wilderness in your front yard?"

He let out a sigh. "Well, partially because appearances don't mean as much, but it's more that I'm seventy-two and it's a pain in the ass."

"We could do it," Parker said, glancing at me.

I nodded. "Sure. We don't have to be back in town right away. Besides, it'll cut back on whatever you do to get ready for Travis's visit."

"I'm not stupid enough to say no!" he replied with a scratchy laugh. "A lot of folks would have expected this stupid dance where I say you don't have to and you say you don't mind. I think we already know all that crap and I accept your help, gratefully." We enjoyed the slice of pie and coffee, catching up a little bit. Janet brought us some old sweats and sneakers of her husband's. Parker was struggling with a string in the sweats that had disappeared into the lining so I went out first and met Travis's grandpa by their shed in back.

"You know, Shane, Janet and I had hoped that Travis would end up with you. We've always loved you," he said abruptly.

I was a little startled. "I think the feeling is mutual," I replied. "Travis and I were over a long time ago, though."

He shook his head slowly. "No. In some ways you'll never be over. There is a place we all keep close for our first time. Flashbulb memory I think they call it, where you have clear memories of important events. Like remembering where you were when 9/11 happened or the Kennedy assassination." He glanced at me and squinted. "You were the first person to love Travis for who he was. You gave him the opportunity to believe that someone really could love him. Janet and I always loved you for that. We were glad you were his first. In many ways, we wish you were his last, as well." He paused and glanced toward the house. "You two make a fine damn couple, though. We're happy for you."

My eyes widened and I chuckled. "Parker isn't my boyfriend. Don't get the wrong idea, he's the best, but-"

He placed his hands on my shoulders and gave me a quick shake to stop my rambling. He looked me in the eye and said, "There is more. There was always more between you two. He did right by you, and maybe was true to himself at the time by letting you go to Travis and exploring who he was with that girl with the big boobs. I can see it, though. Open your eyes, Shane."

"I'm...going to start the lawn," I said a little uncomfortably. I pushed the mower toward the side of the house and Parker bounded out the back door, the waistband of the sweats a little askew.

"I'm setting trends, baby," he said lifting his arms and tilting his hips. I laughed at him, shook my head and headed out front. The next few hours were filled with the sounds of small engines - lawnmower, hedge trimmer, weed whacker and a blower. The work didn't really take my mind off of the old man's words and I kept stealing glances at Parker.

Back in high school I'd maintained a list of guys I was interested in. They all had different things I'd liked about them, but Parker had been the first one I'd actually talked to. We'd formed a great friendship, the best of my life. We'd fooled around once and I can honestly say it was the purest form of sex one could have. I'd felt great afterward and we hadn't become weird with each other. If anything, we'd bonded that night closer than friends, but not as lovers.

Then I'd dated Travis and fallen in love. Parker had dated Angie for a while, then they'd broken up. They'd dated other people, almost to spite each other, and then they'd date again for a while. I never understood it and I'm not sure they did, either. They had some chemistry, but it wasn't always combustible in a good way. Then, of course, Travis had left me and went to school. Parker did as well, but that had hurt less as we would see each other, at least every other weekend. Travis was in California and whatever we had couldn't stretch across that much space.

After graduation Parker had gotten a job with an agency that worked all kinds of events, and he traveled to announce competitions of all kinds. He came home at least once a year and we'd hang out like old times. We never lost sight of our relationship, and we slipped effortlessly back into it whenever we were around each other. I had expected that to change as we got older, that Parker's ability to be my Parker would wear off as the world and life changed us. But he was still my Parker. Travis hadn't come home much, by contrast. Summer courses, internships over a break - after he graduated he slipped effortlessly into working toward his masters. He was in a place that valued his mind and he was thriving.

As I looked at Parker now, he wasn't that solitary kid that skateboarded but didn't hang with the other skateboarders. He was a fit, attractive man with an obvious joy in him, and yet at his core he was still that same fun-loving guy I'd always loved. Maybe that's what Travis's gramps saw - just how Parker and I were together. I guess anyone might think we were in love - we do love each other, after all.

With the light dying we put away the tools. Janet shooed us inside and told us to go get cleaned up and dinner would be ready soon. "I assumed you'd both want fresh clothes in the morning, so I took your things and stuck them in the wash."

I paused. "That's going to put us in town late," I said to Parker.

"Stay here, go back in the morning," Janet said with a wave of her hand.

Parker shrugged and I joined him. "Okay. I'll hit the shower, I guess. Uh, what should I wear after, though?"

"Since you won't entertain an old couple and go in your birthday suits, I put a couple of thick robes in Berry's old room." Janet smiled at me winningly and I rolled my eyes.

We went back into Travis's old room, which was devoid of character with him gone. The bed was there, but moved as was the dresser. His games and TV were gone. It was as if he hadn't existed. I spotted my phone, light blinking to let me know I had something waiting. I grabbed it and thumbed through to my voice mail. Mike.

"Hey, Shane. Things went kind of fast. The board got wind of things, not sure if the senator's office had anything to do with it, but we're being folded into a new campaign that's tied directly to the senator. We're some kind of new entity, but reorganized and officially attached to his office. Looks like you saved some jobs, boss. See you on Monday - staff meeting at eight."

"Huh," I said as I dropped the phone.

"News?" Parker asked, flipping off the old sneaker and wiggling out of the sweats.

"Yeah. Looks like I still have a job," I said and explained the message.

"Sweet. You need to pay for our apartment, so that's good news," he said with a grin.

"Oh I do, huh? Wait, our?" I narrowed my eyes.

"God, you stink," he said and I rolled my eyes again. I pulled off the old sweats and kicked off the sneakers and yelped when a sharp crack landed on my ass.

"Hey!" I exclaimed and turned around to see an entirely unrepentant Parker smiling at me.

"Looks like you didn't entirely go to seed. I figured you'd be a total couch potato by now," he said with a snicker.

"Hah," I said with a snort and grabbed a robe before heading to the shower. Dropping my underwear to the floor I adjusted the temperature and climbed in. After all that work it felt fantastic to feel the grime and sweat rinsing off my skin. I simply stood under the spray, not wanting to clean just yet, but knowing I'd need to for Parker to have some hot water. The thought of Parker made my cock twitch, but I grabbed the soap and hurried to get clean rather than let my imagination take flight.

Parker and I swapped places and I wandered out into the kitchen.

"Just in time for my famous rosemary chicken, roasted potatoes and green beans with garlic, oil and vinegar. Oh, and a beer really completes this," Grandpa said from over by the stove.

"I'll take those old sweats and your underclothes for the wash - you didn't put them back on, did you?" Janet asked, horrified.

"No, Janet," I said with a roll of my eyes. She bustled off and moments later we heard Parker yelp as she opened the door to the bathroom while he was showering. I grinned to myself. Lecherous old gal.

Once Parker joined us in the kitchen, dinner was served. We both looked ludicrous in thick robes and nothing else, but it didn't seem to matter much. The food was excellent and the company fun. They liked telling stories about the days when Travis and I were a thing, which would morph into stories of their youth. They'd had a long and colorful life and their stories were strangely fascinating, like looking through a window in time. It kept us going for quite a while.

Then they wanted to do shots. I'm serious. We only did three, but tequila is strong stuff and I'm still not sure they didn't make up the whole 'lick it, slam it, suck it' chant. After three, though, Parker and I were both feeling the time, worn from our work outside and the long day as well as the nightcap. We headed back to the room we were sharing and Parker started to snicker.

"What?" I asked, trying to undo the little knot I'd put into the belt of my robe.

"We're in the room where you lost your virginity," he said and laughed.

"I did not," I protested, finally getting the knot undone. "I lost that at my old house. Thanksgiving night after you walked Zane home."

Parker let out a whistle. "You worked fast," he commented.

"Nah," I said as I let the robe drop in the darkness. "Travis stashed lube in the room ahead of time. It was all him."

I jumped as Parker's hand touched my arm and then warmed when he pressed his body to mine. My pulse raced even as my brain tried to muddle through what he was up to.

"Parks?"

"Mmm." His mouth on mine brought back instant memories of our one night together and it took me mere moments to put one hand in his hair, holding him in place and one on the small of his back. It was simultaneously odd and completely natural to be molded to Parker's body, to feel his tongue wrapped with mine. He broke the kiss, panting and leaning against me.

"Damn, Shane. You've gotten better at that." He pulled on my hand, dragging me to the bed hidden in the dark room.

"What are you doing?" I asked, not resisting at all. Parker pulled me down and rolled on top of me, stopping my questions with his lips for just a moment. He ground down into me and I up into him. Breaking the kiss he nibbled my ear a little and I giggled at the touch.

"Parker...what are we doing?" I asked quietly.

"After," he said insistently.

"But Parks," I said, in a final flimsy challenge. "We had wet sheets after last time."

"Don't worry. I have a plan." With that, his kissing grew to an assault on my lips and mouth and I let go of any final reservations or hesitations. Parker was in my arms and the world didn't matter, for now. No senators, no conniving bosses or stupid prisons. No traveling job for him, no feelings of abandonment in me. Parker's kissing had, in my memory, been a consuming affair I'd not wanted to end and that hadn't changed. I lost myself to kissing him. I imagined I could feel time stretching, touching that long ago night in my old bedroom. The excitement. The desire. Undeniably as well, the love.

I groaned lightly when he broke the kiss and moved his lips down to my chest, his tongue flitting about my hard nipples. When he continued his kissing - a direct line south, I knew what was up.

I put a hand on his shoulder. "Parks?"

"What?" he asked breathlessly.

"Are you...I mean," I said hesitantly and then my resolve firmed. Parker was a grown man, he knew what he was doing.

"I told you, Shane. We're both single and it might not be a one time thing. Took a few years to get to a second time, but hey," he said and grabbed my dick, waving it in the darkness. "Here we are."

"Flip around," I said firmly. He grunted a question, but then complied and moments later I was blowing my best friend. Neither of us could moan loudly with a dick in our respective mouths, but we still tried. I sure wasn't letting this opportunity pass and I did everything I could think of to bring pleasure to Parks without bringing him off right away. I licked his balls, stroking his dick and then reversed that. I cupped his ass cheeks, gripping them and sliding my hand around to drag across his perineum. Parker was a quick study and soon he was bringing me to the brink, so I focused on the slick hardness in my mouth, holding it taut at the base and sucked and slurped for all I was worth.

I suppose it was sort of a competition, but the end result was the same - no wet spots on the sheets. We kissed lightly afterward, snuggling in close and enjoying a true afterglow. I felt comfortable and sated, my energy levels dropping to near zero. Parker was nestled into me as usual and we drifted into sleep.

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