Though Brandon acted quite proud of me for my foray into the rec league, I wasn't fooled for one minute. He wanted me to play for the school - and you know what? He got me to. I didn't play much at all. Brandon said a large part of the team had graduated the previous year, so I figure they just needed some warm bodies. Speaking of, I have to admit my body does look better - a fact he likes to point out and I don't mind that he does.
Amy and Zack broke up over the summer, but reunited by the time school was back in session. Zack didn't really talk about the reasons, and I respected his right. The summer passed in a blur, really, and before I knew it we were in winter. Seth finished up his picture of us all sitting down on a rickety dock, our feet dangling in the water. Amy ended up taking the pictures Seth said he needed for details, but we all got copies of the camera shots. I had the drawing he gave me framed and hung it in my room, while Brandon did the same with the painting of the four of us. It was pretty fantastic, actually. I have no idea how to judge art, other than I like what I like, but it was fun to think we had early works from the next famous artist.
When I wasn't working or doing my homework, I was generally with Brandon. I was sitting with Seth and Amy while Zack and Brandon were playing basketball that winter, when Brandon came down on his ankle poorly and sent a sharp yell of pain across the gym. After a trip to the emergency room, he was sent home with crutches, ace bandages and pain meds. I got the chance to take care of him then, bringing him to school, carrying his stuff to class and rewrapping the ankle after he'd ice or soak it. He claimed a light massage was helpful, though I think he just liked the contact personally. He was a much better patient than I was, but taking care of him seemed kind of natural to me.
"How long did they say this would take to heal?" I asked as I gently massaged his ankle with some organic oil that his mom insisted was good for the sprain.
"Six weeks for the ligaments, but it'll take a little longer for all my muscles to get back in sync," he said, watching my fingers work the oil into his skin. I let my fingers push farther down, into the arch of his foot and then drag back up to just above his ankle.
"I wonder if this stuff actually works," I said absently.
"My mom swears by it. She uses it when she gets sore from going to the gym or when she's been gardening all day."
"Your mom? Garden?"
He rolled his eyes and smiled. "It's what she calls it if she goes into the yard to do anything."
"Hmm," I said by way of comment and kept stroking his skin. It took about ten minutes to get the oil worked in, and then I wrapped the ankle with the ace bandage before pulling his sock on, since his foot got cold if I didn't. I put a pillow on the table to prop his ankle up and get him situated on the couch.
"Thank you, Nurse," he said, teasing.
"Oh, asking for a sponge bath are we?" I teased back.
We laughed, and moved on. As much as I'd like to veg out and watch his stupid sci-fi crap, we had a project due and we were both behind on it. I dragged his book bag over, which elicited a groan from him.
"I think my ankle hurts too much for that," he said, trying to sound pitiful.
"I'll get you an aspirin," I said tartly. "We need to get this done, especially if you want to go to that college upstate you fell in love with."
"Can you imagine?" he asked with a smile and his voice taking on a dream-like quality.
"I'm imagining trying to get you to do your homework," I said, putting his notebook on his lap. He laid his hand over mine before I could withdraw, lifted my hand to his face and kissed my fingers.
"I meant living together. We'll get a dorm room, have privacy." He grinned at me and I couldn't help but to smile back.
"Yes," I said quietly. "I can't wait for that. Right now I'm focused on making that our reality. So open your book, Brandon."
"Yes, sir," he said with a sigh. It was a little irritating. After all, I didn't pick the college - he did. We got down to work, though, and soon enough we were making solid progress on a crappy assignment. We took a break to eat dinner and make out a little and then he asked me to work on his ankle again.
"How many times are you supposed to apply this oil?" I asked as I unwrapped the bandage.
"I don't know. It just feels good."
I looked at him askance, but all he really had to do was ask and I'd do almost anything. I put the oil on his skin and began to work it in, like I had for weeks, now. I assumed I would for weeks more, as well. If he wanted, I guessed we'd be buying massage oil and I'd massage him wherever he wants.
The rest of the school year is hard to recall with any real clarity. There were no more accidents, no more oddities in our lives. We worked hard, we played together and, as I had thought might happen, Brandon developed a fascination with massage oils. Graduation rolled around, and we all made it across the finish line, with flying colors. Acceptance letters started coming in. Seth got into an art school closer to the city, while Zack got into a college about a half hour away from the one B and I applied, and were accepted, to. Zack and Amy broke up after graduation because they were going to different schools. They still hooked up all summer, so I'm not sure what the point was.
We started college life with a bang, hitting walls with our boxes and crap as we moved into our dorm room.
"Shit," I said as I took in the space. "I have to organize this."
"Of course you do," he said with a laugh.
"You laugh, but you're helping," I told him. The first order of business was to push the two twin beds together. Then I had to improvise as there was a gap between the two mattresses that included wooden side rails. We had extra sheets, for now, so I used them for wadding and then put our mattress over the top of the dorm provided ones.
"You are determined to get me in bed, aren't you?" he teased me. I snorted, not deigning to answer that.
We organized the room all day, with our parents helping to bring things in and making runs to pick up incidentals we both needed and hadn't had room for when we'd packed. In the end our dorm room looked like a master bedroom, sans bathroom, but with its own work/eating area. The first few days were whirlwinds of getting to know the campus, buying books - which were utterly ridiculous - and acclimating in general.
Classes started and we slowly fell into a routine. We spent a few evenings a week working in our room, and usually one in the library finding things for classes. I kept Sunday as our clean up day, which mostly consisted of our laundry. We went to an on-campus club for gay students and were pleased to find that dancing was on their schedule. We participated more than we ever did in the GSA at our high school, though I couldn't really tell you why. Since we were far away from our friends, we played online games together on Friday nights, as much as we could. We traveled once a month to one of the other campuses for an overnight to maintain our traditions and bonds, which was pretty fucking cool if you ask me.
Around the beginning of November Zack came by to hang out on a Saturday. We got pizza, played games and drank soda. It was a pretty cool hangout time. Around three in the afternoon Brandon decided to run out for snacks; he had a craving. Once Brandon was gone, Zack cleared his throat to get my attention.
"So, listen. A guy asked me out to coffee at school," he said.
"Okay," I said, unsure what he was getting at.
He grimaced slightly and said, "It was, like, a date."
I widened my eyes. "Okay. What did you say?"
"Well," he said, "I said yes. I figured why not have coffee, right? People hang out because they like who they're with, not just because of the outside, right?"
"Yeah, but if you knew he was asking you out on a date...seems a little dishonest. Plus, he has no shot at you." I paused and looked at him. "Right?"
He tilted his head to one side. "We had a good time. He's funny. We're supposed to go to the campus theater tomorrow."
I tilted my chin down. "Why? What are you doing, Zack?"
"I just thought...well, he asked and I said, you know, never been with a guy. It was true! He's just cool to hang out with. My roommates are a bunch of cockbags, my friends aren't there...I'm just trying to find someone to hang out with."
I felt sorry for him for a moment. He was lonely. I had Brandon to stem the homesickness and quiet moments, but not so for Zack or Seth. "Yeah, but you can do other things. Maybe meet girls. This guy, he thinks he has a shot with you. Telling him you haven't been with a guy before, he might think that's a challenge or it gives him false hope. Why didn't you just tell him you're straight?"
He shrugged a little hopelessly. "All the gay guys I know are cool."
I softened my tone. "But Zack, what are you going to do when he goes to hold your hand? Or leans in for a goodnight kiss?"
"I don't know. Do you think it would be so bad if I let him?"
I stared at him. "You're fucking with me."
He stared back at me.
"You guys lasted longer than either Seth or me, as far as relationships go. Maybe-"
"Zack! That has nothing to do with gender. Where is this coming from? Are you attracted to this guy?" I asked as Brandon came through the door with a bag of goodies.
"Attracted to what guy?" Brandon asked.
"Zack accepted a coffee date from a guy that's interested in him," I reported.
Brandon looked at Zack with wide eyes. "Are you bi? Wait, doesn't matter. I'm glad for you, man. Who is this guy?"
"Wait, wait, wait," I said firmly. "Zack is lonely, not attracted. Right Zack? Zack?"
He shrugged with a single shoulder. "He's not bad looking, I guess."
Brandon set the bag on the little table and put a hand on Zack's shoulder. "Is this what you want. Zack? You know I back you one hundred percent. I'm just asking, is this really what you want for you?"
Zack took a deep breath. "I loved Amy, man. She says she loves me, too. Her parents, though...they were always against us. They always said I'd knock her up and her future would go out the window."
"Well, you didn't," I pointed out.
He sighed and nodded. "It's hard for me to think about being with another woman right now. I figure, why not accept this invite and see where things go? Maybe I'll make a friend. Maybe it'll be more."
"Are you open to that?" Brandon asked.
"I don't know. I guess I'm going to find out," he replied and smiled a little grimly. "I guess it's happening to all of us. Seth said he went to a party and ended up getting a blow job from a guy."
"He what?" Brandon asked in shock.
"Yeah. Guy was bi, was there with his wife and she was turned on by Seth, so was the guy. I guess he went back to their room with them, had an experience." He bobbed his head. "He said it was a good time."
"Why didn't he tell me?" Brandon asked.
Zack looked at him steadily. "After how hard we made coming out on you, he said it seemed stupid to bring these kinds of things up. I mean, we know you're not going to judge us, but at the same time...."
Brandon shook his head. "I wish you guys wouldn't hold back from me. And, what, you were going to tell J? Like he wouldn't tell me?"
Zack shrugged again. "Coward's way out, I guess. You pissed?"
"Fuck, no," Brandon said. "I do think it's bullshit you guys act like you can't talk to me about things like that."
"So what are you going to do?" I asked in the silence that followed.
Zack shifted on his feet. "I want to see what happens. I'm not really thinking I'm gay, or even bi maybe, but I think I'm going to see how it goes."
"Just don't let it get to the point of getting hurt, man," Brandon said. "That's all I ask."
Zack nodded, they bro hugged and that seemed to be that. By the time Zack left that evening, everything was back to normal - except Brandon was on the phone with Seth to ask about this blow job. I'd have never guessed, but I've always heard college is where you explore and find yourself. Brandon put the phone on speaker.
"Brando, what's up?" Seth greeted him.
"Not much, buddy," he replied and glanced at me. "So J and I just had Zack over for the day. Told us an interesting story."
Seth groaned and let out an embarrassed chuckle. "Zack always was shit at keeping things to himself."
"Seth. I'm kind of hurt you couldn't tell me," Brandon said, winking at me.
"Oh, stop," Seth replied with another laugh. "I'd have told you eventually. Zack was all weird because he went on a coffee date with some guy." Seth paused, perhaps in contemplation as when he spoke again it was in a more thoughtful tone. "I think he's just lonely. I doubt it'll go far. He and Amy are crazy about each other, so I'm sure they'll be hooking up as soon as they get back into the same zip code."
"Okay," Brandon said, nodding though Seth couldn't see. "I never thought either of you would go down that road. I guess I'm just...how?" he asked, trailing off with a chuckle.
"Oh," Seth said, dragging the syllable out and chuckling. "You want details. I get it now. Are you and J going to whack over this later?"
"I'm thinking you've had one three way, Seth," I intruded, letting the rest go unsaid. The point was clear enough as both Seth and Brandon laughed, though Brandon included an 'eww'.
"I was at one of these showings for a project we all did. There was a couple there. The lady was, like, Indian or something of that type, and she kept flattering me and kind of patting my arm, shoulder, whatever." Seth paused. "She was pretty, if older than I'd imagined being attracted to. She was kind of exotic, I guess. Anyway, she introduced her husband at some point and I'd had a couple flutes of champagne. When they asked me back to their place to consider painting a mural for them in their apartment, I went for it."
"Did you realize they were setting you up then?" Brandon asked.
"I had a wild thought they were up to something. But they pay for art, and I was hoping they'd pay for mine. So I took a risk." He paused. "I did, however, tell my adviser where I was headed so people would know where to look if I went missing or something crazy."
Brandon and I looked at each other with serious expressions.
"Anyway, they showed me the wall they were thinking of and brought out all these pictures of buildings from where she was from - I forget where they said that was. So we sat, talking and putting ideas out there for the painting. I was thinking about what sort of research I'd have to do so I could try to paint in that format, on that kind of surface." He chuckled and said, "Then we had a nightcap. Then she brought up the idea of fooling around. I looked right at the guy and told him I wasn't gay or bi, but that didn't seem to perturb him much. So I made out with this woman, things got hot and somewhere in there, he started to blow me."
"Wow," I said.
"Really," Brandon said with a nod. "Wow is about right. You were cool with it?"
"Uh, yeah, it was all right. I was distracted to the point I just realized something nice was happening down there. He didn't go farther, didn't try to get me to do anything. Didn't seem to mind when I fucked his wife." He paused. "Truthfully, it was strange."
Brandon and I looked at each other and I voiced what we were both thinking. "So are you going to go back?"
There was a pause and then Seth said, "You know, I don't think so. I don't need the money. I figure they've pulled this before, so I'm not sure how much good having them as patrons would do for me. Besides...I figure that was some kind of test. See how far they could go. They might want to go farther, next time. I don't think that's me."
"You could have gotten hurt, Seth," Brandon said, quietly. "That was stupid."
For a moment I didn't think Seth would reply, but then his voice finally came through the speaker. "You know, Brando, I'm aware. Not my best move. I know where you're coming from, but it's still my mistake to make, yeah?"
Brandon closed his eyes. "Yeah. Just please...promise me you'll be more careful, Seth. Please."
Seth cleared his throat. "I promise. I'm, uh, going to go. See you guys in a few weeks, right?"
"We'll be there," I said.
So as I sit in our dorm room recalling all this, I'm struck by how prophetic Brandon was when he said he thought parts of us knew we should be together, that we belonged, before other parts of us did. In my more romantic moments I think of the old saying about one soul in two bodies, because it's how we fit together. I've known for a while, now, that I wanted him and no other.
A few days before we were due to go home for winter break, we were doing laundry so we wouldn't get crap from our parents for coming home with a bunch of dirty clothes. With the last of our stuff folded, I put my plan into action.
We stretched on the bed, putting on the show we were catching up on with classes being over. I still don't understand why they call him Dr. Who. I mean, if his actual name is impossible for humans to pronounce, why didn't he pick something cooler than Who? It sounds like a question - Dr Who? Anyway, I reached into my side drawer and pulled out a bag of M&Ms, spreading them between us. He smiled at me before grabbing a couple and popping them in his mouth.
We sat companionably, watching his show and idly munching on my favorite candy. I was nice enough to wait until his episode was over, but I stopped him from hitting play on the next one.
"Oh, come on, you're enjoying it, aren't you?" he whined.
"I have to do this now, before we get home," I said to him, sitting up on my knees. He looked up at me, slightly amused with whatever I was going to do next. I pulled the ring from my pocket and held it up to him. "Will you share candy and kisses with me for the rest of my life?"
His eyes grew wide and and sat up, staring at the ring and then at my face. "How much candy we talking?" he asked.
I narrowed my eyes at him as he laughed and sat up, grabbing me and kissing my irritation away. He looked at me and said, "Yes. I will always say yes to you, J."
I looked him in the eye. "Are you sure, or is this all about the candy?" I asked archly.
His gaze softened and he smiled at me, that same more-than-beautiful smile that I couldn't name nor get enough of. "Nothing would make me happier that to marry you, J." He held his hand out for me and I placed the ring on his finger. It's kind of overwhelming, in a way. I'm going to make love to him - for the rest of our lives. Every day I'll show him that part no one else sees, down deep where our souls connected so long ago, even before we got the good sense to come together.
"You have the candy, here comes the kisses," I said softly. Then we danced.Previous Chapter