In the meantime I tried to absorb the details of the image. Elliot had a little smile on his face that made him seem confident, and his fingers were defined, yet clearly in motion. Above and behind him I was in a pose, one hand flung wide and the other with my fingers splayed across my sternum. My mouth was open and I looked graceful. The other players on stage with me were blurred, as though this were a camera shot that had somehow focused on myself and Elliot. Although...that wasn't strictly true. Features of the stage and piano were clear, and off to the left, behind Elliot, was his boyfriend. Nate was leaning forward, elbows on his knees and his hands pressed together as he watched Elliot play.
I was amazed at how much Jack saw when he drew. How had he picked up on Nate as he related to Elliot? I assumed that to be the case because Nate was as clear as Elliot and myself.
It took time, but eventually the screaming stopped. There was a feel of tension in the air as I waited for Jack to return. My mind worked overtime developing scenarios about the state he would be in. Angry. Sad. Anxious. Maybe I was just describing myself. I won't go so far as to say Jack was emotional or over-sensitive, but he can get in his own way. He has a lot of doubt unless you're talking about art, then he feels safer – I think. For all I know he's as insecure there as he – or any of us – is the rest of the time.
A door closed somewhere in the house, and I heard quiet steps getting nearer. I wiped my palms on my thighs and stood to face whoever it might be – and my heart raced, froze and a million other things all at the same time – or maybe one after the other so fast that I couldn't tell. It was Jack. His eyes were red and his shoulders were slumped. He stood in his doorway, framed in a dangling moment of time that might determine what future we had.
We hadn't had enough time yet.
“Well,” he said and stopped as if he couldn't remember how to speak.
“Are you...is there anything I can do?”
He wiped under one of his eyes. “I'm sorry.”
Sorry? My heart ached. Was he breaking up with me? “Why w-would you be sorry?”
His hands fluttered uselessly at his sides. “For what she did. For your family.” He sighed. “For mine.”
“They made their choices,” I said softly. “It's fucked, but...I'm sorry I was the one to tell you. My dad said...he told me that....”
He nodded. “She admitted it. She got to drinking instead. Told me how much she loved me and how she didn't have the courage to confess to me. It...explains everything around here. How distant my parents are with each other. How my mother drinks. Why she lost her job. She's in pain, and I feel badly for her, but I also feel angry, and it's hard to figure out which one is right.”
I took a tentative step toward him. “Maybe they both are. Who says we can only feel a single thing at a time?”
The fingers of his right hand tapped his leg and a tear tracked down from his right eye as another welled in his left. “What about us?”
Here it was. Was he giving me a choice or asking to rip the bandage off a painful discussion?
“Jack, I love you. I hate what they did, but it changes nothing about what I feel for you.”
His tears only intensified as he crossed the space between us to engulf me. The hug didn't last as he pulled back and pressed his lips to mine fervently, repeatedly – demanding. I grabbed the sides of his face and wiped his tears with my thumbs, though my own vision was a bit blurry.
“I love you, Derry. So much,” he said quietly. “Will you stay with me?”
I kissed him lightly. “Yeah. Of course.”
He nodded and turned to close his door. He came back and reached around me for a tissue, first to clear his sinuses, and then a fresh one to wipe away some of his stray tears. I took one as well, wiping my eyes and tossing it toward his waste basket, which I missed. He tossed his tissue in, then snagged mine from the floor for me. He turned and snapped off the light, leaving us with just the glow from his computer monitor and the glowing numbers of his clock.
He stood before me and studied my face. “I don't know why you love me, but it's not something I question – I'm just grateful for you. Whenever I look at your face I find a new detail to love, and a feeling that I don't dare to call you mine. Like saying it out loud or thinking it too hard means the universe will take you away from me.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Let the universe try. I am yours. And you're mine, no matter what. Mine, Jack.”
He bit his lip for a moment and then reached for me. The kiss was filled with a quality I can't pin down. The moment was charged with all the emotions we'd been subjected to that night – the enjoyment of our meeting at my practice, the slice of time where I'd seen him as if he were singled out by a ray of light, the kiss and aborted whatever that was in the parking lot. Of course there were also the emotions, the exhaustion and the need to feel valued and loved that the disaster of our parents’ mistakes had placed on us.
The kiss lingered and then his hands were on my hips, moving up my sides to push my shirt up. I let my arms rise so he could pull the tee off and discard it. Emboldened, I pulled at the bottom of his shirt, and he obliged, letting me lift it away from his skin. I lowered my head and kissed the middle of his chest, taking in his scent. I stayed in place, my lips moving softly in small kisses, and he stroked the skin of my back, his breathing growing quicker.
Was this it? I wouldn't question it. It was time. This was right and I needed Jack deeply in my soul. I lifted my hand, brushing past his flank, and placed my fingers on his nipple, softly twirling my fingertips to tease the skin. He shuddered lightly and his breath hitched. I moved my mouth to his nipple, alternating between kissing, licking and lightly sucking on it. As I did I raised my other hand to find his other nipple was already standing up and it was...nearly indescribable. This wasn't even sex, but it was so...sensual.
He grabbed the sides of my face and pulled me up to kiss him, and now the kiss included a hunger I could name easily. We needed each other. His erection pressed into me behind the thin cloth of his pajamas, and there was no way he couldn't feel my own straining at the cloth of my joggers. I pushed on the waistband of his pajamas, forcing them past his erection, and then he was in my hand. He gasped, his breath hitching for endless moments as I slowly squeezed and stroked him. I was fascinated by the feel, the heat and the control I felt as I pushed my hand down, cupping his balls and then kissing him again.
“You, too,” he mumbled breathlessly as he broke the kiss and pulled at my waistband. He yanked them down awkwardly and then just stared at my erection. I looked down at him, wondering why he'd stopped and what was going through his mind. Was I too small? Did it seem deformed to him in some way? Was he regretting getting my pants down? He looked up at me and smiled shyly.
“One day I want you to lie back and let me draw you like this. You're the most beautiful person I've ever seen.”
“I'm not art, Jack. I'm your half-naked boyfriend who needs his naked boyfriend. Right now.”
“I love it when you talk like that,” he said and grabbed my hips, turning me awkwardly until he could shove me backward onto his bed, where I bounced once. He yanked my shoes off, then pulled my joggers the rest of the way off, until all I had left was a single sock dangling halfway from my foot. He stood, doing an odd jig to get out of his pajamas bottoms, and then we were in bed together, hands roaming and lips pressing. The heat of his body was like a radiator, leaving skin that wasn't touching him feeling cold and alone.
I rolled on top of him, his body beneath mine feeling as if he were my foundation. Our kissing intensified and we ground into each other – and it was ecstasy. I'd never been so hard, so turned on, and sooner than I'd have thought I felt him arch into me and his seed spilled between us; hot liquid that was quickly spread thin between our thrusting bodies. His hands moved to my behind and he pulled me harder against him, forcing me to grind harder. Perhaps a minute later I added my own seed to his, trapped between us and merging into one warm mess.
He pulled my head down and kissed me with a combination of tenderness and passion that is too hard to describe, or even to hold in my mind. We were breathing hard, and a sheen of sweat coated us.
“I need more, Derry,” he said softly.
“More?” I panted.
He twisted under me, reached down to the dresser beside his bed, and pulled the bottom drawer out. He fumbled, pushed up against me as he dug around, then pulled back and showed me a bottle of lube.
“I want you inside me,” he said. “Please, Derry. I need this. I need you.”
“I...you want me like that?”
“Yes. God, yes,” he said softly. He pushed my shoulder back and I sat on my heels, dick standing up and ready for round two. He popped the cap with his thumb and tilted it over my dick, telling me to coat the whole thing. I slowly worked the slippery stuff on my skin as he took a dollop and reached between his legs, lifting his knees for access and lubed up his entrance. He did this three or four times, continually adding lube and putting more in my own hand to add to my dick.
With a snap he closed the top of the lube and tossed it to the side. He urged me to inch forward and then he took me in his hand, guiding me to him.
“Go slow, okay?” he said softly as I made contact. I pushed forward and felt the ring of muscle against the soft head of my erection, and then I slipped off and my dick was rubbing against his balls. He realigned me and I pushed forward again. I felt the ring of muscle again, but this time he let out a slow breath and I felt the ring open a little at a time. I felt anxious to get inside him – amazed that he wanted this from me.
I hadn't really thought of roles for us in sex. I figured we'd both try having a go at each other and see what worked best. Plus, Jack was a bigger guy than me, so there was that idea that he'd be kind of...dominant. Those random thoughts swirled away as I suddenly popped forward and the head was in. He let out a hiss and held my hips; I had to work to stop myself from pushing forward, to finish sheathing myself in the heat of him. He puffed a few breaths out and I reached forward and stroked his nipples a time or two and then remembered how much I liked to touch his dick. So I did.
My hand was slick from lubing myself, so I used that to rub his dick and fondle his balls, stroking up with my hand flat until I started back down, loosely gripping his dick for a slow stroke. I felt his ring tighten on me, pulsing almost as I stroked him slowly. Then he pulled forward slightly on my hips and I sank in a bit farther. He hissed and let out a tiny gasp.
“Shh,” he said and gritted his teeth. I went back to my ministrations until he pulled me forward again. My cock was pulsing as if throbbing to the beat of my heart. Suddenly the sensory overload was too much and I gasped, arching involuntarily and emptying inside him. He gasped as well, probably at my sudden forward movement.
“Hold still,” he gasped and gritted his teeth again.
“Jack, you don't-”
“Shh. I want you.”
While my dick was sensitive, it wasn't softening. Not in its current environs. I went back to stroking his dick, and used my other hand to stimulate his nipple. A minute later he pulled me forward until I was fully engulfed. He moved a hand from my hip and up to my chest, stroking my skin.
“You're so fucking beautiful,” he whispered and moved his big hand up, slipping toward the side of my face. I moved forward to meet his hand and he slid his fingers behind my neck, pulling me down for a kiss. The movement caused me to slide back out of him a bit, but then the kiss ended and he lifted his legs back, changing the angle and I was once again sheathed to the hilt.
“Go slow, babe.”
I did as instructed, and my senses were pushed beyond my experience. Touching him, looking at him, making love to him left no room for anything else. No doubts, no worries, no fears. No past, no future – just here, just Jack. That was all that mattered. I settled into a rhythm and Jack started thrusting up into my hand, and I matched my strokes to my ministrations on him. It was too much and I felt myself pulsing, throbbing inside him and emptying anything I may have had left in my balls. Jack began to push himself, grinding against me, and I increased my speed and pressure on his dick, my hand a blur.
His lower legs wrapped around my lower back and pulled me to him. “Gah!” he grunted and suddenly he was spraying hot seed over my hand and his stomach. I continued to stroke him until he chuckled and pushed my hand away.
“It's sensitive,” he said.
I pulled back slowly and imagined a slight 'pop' sound as I left his warmth. I lay atop him, once more squishing his spend between us, and I pressed my cheek to his.
“I love you, Jack.”
“I love you more – I win,” he said confidently.
Eventually we cleaned up a bit before settling in under the covers, he in his pajama bottoms and me with my underwear. Somehow I think being nude would have been too sensual, and things were emotionally charged as it was. However, I also felt at peace. Tired beyond belief, but calm.
“Are you okay?” I asked him in the dark.
“From sex or our parents?”
“Either. Both. I don't know.”
He was quiet for a minute and I wondered if he was going to answer, but then he spoke quietly. “I've thought about us for a while. Somehow I still feel guilty about how we first met. It drags me down sometimes, and I can't believe that you want to be with me.”
“Jack. I love you,” I said with all the finality I could muster.
“I know,” he said softly. “It's...part of who I am, I guess. Tonight I was hurting, more than I can remember. I needed you. I needed the intimacy. I wanted it, but I also very badly needed it. You....”
“What?” I probed gently.
He cleared his throat. “You might think I see you just as...art. A muse. I do, to a point. But I also...want you. Sometimes it's all I can think about. I want to be with you all the time. I want to...touch you. For you to touch me. It's almost an obsession,” he said, trailing into a nervous chuckle.
“I'm glad,” I stated. “I want you to feel like that, and God knows I've wanted us to take some steps in the romance department. Jack, for fuck’s sake, you're my boyfriend. You're kind of supposed to want me.” I paused. “But it's fucking sexy to hear you say it. Just so you know. Also...I guess that means I'm obsessed with you, too.”
His lips curled into a smile that looked heartbreaking; I wasn't sure why. “As far as our parents...it's maddening. I hate it. My family was already hanging by a thread, and mom just pulled out a bazooka to finish it off. I just...have to be thankful I have you to get through this with.”
He pulled me to him and I rested my cheek on his shoulder and he kissed my forehead, which was oddly endearing. I curled against his warmth and drifted slowly into sleep.
I woke in semi-darkness, light filtering through the curtains and across the bed. I was on my back, covers just under my rib cage and there was no Jack. I sat up a bit and spied him at his computer, focused intently, and I shook my head in indulgent amusement. I had to pee, so I climbed from the bed, and he noticed me moving.
“It's early, babe. Go back to sleep.”
“I missed my boyfriend,” I said tiredly. “I'm going to pee, then you come back and warm me up.”
“Okay,” he said with a little smile.
I went down the hall and took care of my business, washed my hands and headed back to his room. He was still right where I knew he'd be – at his PC, working on his latest masterpiece. I leaned in, expecting that he'd be working on the one with me dancing and Elliot playing piano, but no. The sneaky bugger had sketched me as I slept.
“C'mon, stalker. In bed,” I told him.
He jumped, smiled guiltily and switched the monitor off. We settled back in and he molded himself to me. I sighed in contentment and...couldn't sleep. I was tired, and I do mean tired. But I couldn't sleep. Instead I let my mind wander, feeling Jack’s reassuring body pressed to mine and enjoying the scent of him in the room. My mind went back to our lovemaking – I was no longer a virgin, that was for damn sure. Neither was Jack – and I'd be able to remember that forever. I'd envisioned many ways to have had my first time, but having it spring from a mutual need under stress hadn't occurred to me. In some ways, it was the best thing – best way – that could have happened.
I started awake sometime later, confused as to how my inability to sleep had suddenly turned into sleep. I glanced at his clock and groaned.
“Shit! I'm going to be late!”
“Whatsamatta?” he mumbled.
“I have to go to work. Go back to sleep, babe,” I said to him and went about pulling on my clothes. Where did my shoe go? There! I leaned down and kissed his cheek. “Call you later.” He mumbled something incoherent and I headed out to my car. I had to run home to get my work clothes – no time for a shower. My crotch felt a little stiff – and then I realized I must not have cleaned everything away. Ugh, it was like having glue pulling my pubes. As I drove it occurred to me that the weight I was carrying the night before was lighter, if only because of Jack. That weight wasn't gone – the reality was still there, waiting for me to look at it, but for now I only had the weight of its stare.
Once home I changed in record time and dashed back out, arriving at work ten minutes late. I punched in and headed over to see Tonya – and hopefully avoid Ken.
“Oh, there you are!” Tonya said with a morning cheerfulness I find creepy. “I got your drawer. Ken said to take five today.”
I accepted the drawer, thanked her and opened my register. I breathed a sigh of relief, checked to see that I was unobserved, and adjusted my package. I really, really wished I could have showered. People checked out through my line at a steady clip, and it was making the day go by faster. I had no doubt Ken would bust my balls about being late, but as it was he seemed to be distracted with something in the back room. I was thankful that kept him there until well past nine, giving me a breather without his foolishness.
“Hey. Where's your douchebag boss?”
I turned in confusion, only to smile at the sight of Delia at the end of my checkout. “Hey, Delia. He's in back – some disaster or other. It's kept him there most of the morning, thank Cthulhu.”
She giggled. “Taking the Lord's name in vain is too much recognition for you, huh?”
“If you use it in an argument-”
“Yeah yeah, heard it all before.” She paused. “How are you? Really?”
I bobbed my head a few times. “Actually, I'm holding my shit together right now. I talked to Jack and....” I didn't want to tell her about our first time, not yet – and not here. “We talked. I still have him, maybe more than ever.”
She looked at me for a moment and then nodded. “Good.”
“What are you doing here? Not just to see me, right?”
“Well, it's not like you can answer your phone with that Nazi you work for, right?” she asked.
I stared at her. She put a hand on her hip. Oh, that's a dead giveaway. I stared some more.
She flung a hand in the air. “Okay, fine! The rugrats are with my aunt for a few hours so I can help my mom with grabbing some groceries. Happy? God! Control freak....”
“You just hate me being right,” I said smugly and turned to ring a customer out.
“Come over when you get off work, okay?” she said, starting to turn away.
The customer stopped and glanced in her basket. “Wait, I forgot the avocados. They're on sale. Be right back,” she said and left her shit on the conveyor while she speed-walked to the produce section. I turned to Delia, who hadn't made it more than a few feet away.
“Coming over might not be best, you know,” I said. She looked at me with the question plain on her face. I rubbed the back of my neck. “I just don't want there to be any expectations.”
“What the Jesus are you talking about?” she asked.
“Well. Last time you had a guy over to your house-”
“Oh, Christ, Derry!” she waved a hand at me repeatedly. “Say it louder so my mom knows, will you? Want to grab the microphone and announce it to the store?”
“Are you open?” someone asked, looking at my conveyor in confusion.
“Avocados are on sale, lady ran to – there she is,” I said.
“I'm here! I'm here! Sorry,” she said to me, to the person next in line, and then to me again as she put an avocado on the belt. One. I mentally rolled my eyes and got back to work. Twenty minutes later Delia and her mom went through my line. Her mom was super sweet to me – probably heard about my folks from Delia, so that explains that. Mrs. Hernandez is a nice lady, but not that kind of nice. It was like mourning nice, when you are gentle with someone after they lost someone.
It was creepy, and I was happy to see them go. Delia reminded me to stop by when I got off. In my head I wanted to say I'd already done that, but wow – that was totally not like me. I blame Jack.
All things considered, I was having an okay day until about ten-thirty. I saw Mr. Maddox come in with his wife, a pretty teenage girl and the skinny guy I'd noted with them before. Mr. Maddox went to the service counter, waved his hand at Kimberly-Anne and turned away from her, stuffing the plastic sleeve with his lottery slips in his pocket. Maybe ten minutes later my line filled up. Kimberly-Anne didn't so much as peek over from her spot at customer service, as if offering to ring out a few customers was beneath her.
I worked quickly, getting people through, but then it happened. This guy – an 'important guy' with muscles under a tight polo shirt and khakis who was on his phone so, you know, doing 'important guy' stuff – he plopped things down on the belt and ignored my greeting.
One of the dumber things we have to do as cashiers is to ask people if they want their meat separated from other products – I mean, what? The onions and ground beef may reproduce? There might be a garlic smell on your cooked pork chop? It was supposed to reduce cross-contamination, like germs and stuff from the meat infesting your baked goods, but really – what wasn't packaged anymore? I could see it if the thing were dripping blood. Another rule was to ask if certain items should be bagged, and one of them was milk.
So just as Ken appeared the scene is: 'important guy' is on his phone, and I go full on 'perfect employee', because Ken has entered the center ring of this circus where he looked at the front end and started directing some folks to customer service and to the self-checkout.
Most people hate the self-checkout.
“Good afternoon, sir. How are you today?” I inquired again so Ken could hear, and I began scanning his items. He didn't do more than frown slightly at me as he kept talking.
“Would you like the meat in a separate bag?” I asked. He ignored me, so I put it in with the detergent.
“Hey, hey – hold on a sec – hey, moron, don't put meat in with a cleaner. How dumb can you be?” he grumbled at me and went back to his conversation.
I moved the meat to its own bag and continued to ring him out, my temper simmering. And then I scanned the milk.
“Would you like your milk in a bag, sir?” I asked.
He kept talking on the phone, fiddling with getting his wallet out. Ken stepped up and started to help me bag.
“Sir? Would you like your milk in a bag?” I asked again, conscious of Ken being close by to catch me screwing up. I waited as the guy continued to talk, and then Mr. Maddox called out to him.
“Hey! Get off your phone and finish up, will you?”
The guy jerked slightly and looked around, telling the person to hang on again. He fumbled with his wallet and I took the opportunity to be excellent in customer service and asked yet again, “Would you like your milk in a bag, sir?”
“What? Whatever – yeah. Jesus, any other questions?” He stuck the phone back to his ear. “No, just this stupid clerk.”
That was it. The simmer went to a boil. I calmly snapped out a plastic bag and informed him of his total, uncapped the milk and poured it into the bag.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Important Guy demanded.
“Putting your milk in a bag, sir,” I said as blandly as I could. I then dropped the nearly full bag into his cart, soaking all his purchases.
“Derry!” Ken roared.
“Fuck you. I quit,” I said, walking to the door and dropping my apron on the way.