Wild Heart

By Dabeagle


I showered and paid close attention to grooming myself. I checked my nails, combed my hair eight times and brushed my teeth four times. I don't know why I was nervous. Travis and I had hung out before; I just hadn't landed a kiss yet. I planned on taking another crack at that tonight. At some point I was going to get it, too. I just knew it would be the most awkward, endearing thing ever and I'd love it.

I debated whether I should make my move before or after the movie - and I'd have to watch the movie. This wasn't an excuse to make out by having the TV on; no Netflix and chill. I knew if I did that, Travis's feelings would be hurt. I clearly recalled the first time we'd watched a movie at his house on a Sunday afternoon. I'd leaned in experimentally to nibble on him, and he'd stopped the movie, looking kind of like I'd struck him.

"What's wrong?" I asked in confusion.

"Shane. Do you...really like me? Hanging with me?"

I was doubly confused. "Yeah. I totally do. Why do you ask?"

He turned his head to me slightly. He opened his mouth and closed it before turning his face to me completely. His voice was filled with nervous warbles. "I'm enjoying this so far. Us. Um. But I want to...I screwed up my last relationship. I want to share things that are important to me. With you."

"I want you to share stuff with me, too," I told him, still a little confused. "What am I missing?"

Perhaps emboldened that I seemed to respect and want what he wanted, his voice steadied as he said, "I really do love classic movies. I seriously invited you over to watch with me. To share it with me."

I'd felt bad for misreading the situation, but I'd nodded and smiled at him. He relaxed slightly and resumed the movie.

Shaking myself from the thought I gave myself a critical look in the mirror. Was this face something Travis will want to kiss after that movie? I pursed my lips and smiled at the mirror, exposing my teeth. Ugh, I'm an idiot. Exiting the bathroom I returned to my room to pick out clothes.


I jumped and whirled to see Parker sitting on my bed.

"Jesus! Parks, you scared the crap out of me. What the hell happened to your nose?" I asked, transitioning from startled to concerned. His nostrils were ringed with blood, and some was still dried on his upper lip.

He swiped at his upper lip absently. "Did I not get it all?"

I approached him and took his face in my hands, trying to assess the damage, and he pushed my hands away with a little laugh.

"I'm okay, Mom."

"Who did this? I'll fucking kill them. Let me get dressed and we'll go even the fucking score," I fumed as I turned to yank clothes from my dresser.

"Relax, Shane," he said and laughed a little louder. "It was an accident."

I looked over my shoulder at him and he nodded with his hands up in surrender.

"Honest. You can get dressed for your date, no ass-kicking needed."

I frowned lightly. I decided to dress for my date, yet listen carefully to this story. If anyone had hurt Parker.... Christ. Add territorial to the list of things I was becoming.

I pulled on underwear under my towel and then discarded it as I dug through my drawers for khakis. "So, this story of yours?" I asked.

"Oh, right. So Angie and I went to the park like we planned. We started to bicker like we do, and I just kind of told her I was getting tired of it."

I turned to look at him. "Did she punch you?"

He chuckled. "No. Shit got serious and we talked for a while. I told her I wanted to just be able to hang with her and not do this fighting thing all the time, and she had totally misunderstood me. Turns out she was getting a little tired of it, too."

I nodded and tossed my khakis onto the bed and went to my closet to find a shirt.

"Shane. Would you say we had to work for our relationship?"

"Well, some I guess," I conceded as I flipped hangar after hangar. "I think we both weren't sure what to expect, considering we didn't cultivate friends. But, I know for me, once I saw who you were I totally relaxed. I think you're a pretty straightforward guy, at least to me."

"I kind of thought that too. I was explaining to her that I wanted that out of any relationship - that comfortable understanding. I know it takes some time, but it just seemed like we were heading the wrong way."

I selected a blue long-sleeved polo and turned to look at Parker. "And then she punched you?"

He laughed loudly. "She didn't punch me, man."

"That's good. I'm pretty sure she can beat my ass," I said with a snicker and sat next to him. "So, what did she say?"

"She...told me how much she liked me and wanted to, basically, start again." He paused and shook his head. "Feels good. That she likes me enough to kind of change the whole thing up."

"What's not to like?" I asked and pulled the shirt on, messing my hair up. I sighed as I thought about combing it again.

"Well, just because you love me doesn't mean everyone else will," he said and snickered.

"That's because they are stupid," I said as I stood and stepped into my khakis. "So what about the bloody nose?"

"Oh," he said and chuckled. "Well, after we talked we did the rock climbing wall. I jumped off too high, like an idiot, and hit my nose with my own knee. Stupid!"

I shook my head. "Break out the Parker Kit," I teased. His parents kept a first aid kit that they called the Parker Kit to tend to his various cuts and scrapes. He blushed slightly and nodded.

"Yeah, yeah. Look at you, though, going all white knight on me," he said as he stood.

"Hey, I protect what's mine," I told him in a teasing tone and tucked my shirt in before looking for a belt.

"So, um, looks like you're planning to make a move on Travis, huh?" he asked.

"I'm going to cuddle the fuck out of him, I can tell you that," I replied. "Are you and Angie going out tonight?

"Sort of. She invited me to dinner at her house. Meet the dad, that sort of thing." He frowned. "I guess we haven't been officially dating, because her dad has some weird rule about having to meet anyone his kids want to date. It hasn't happened, I guess, because she's been trading her brother alone time in the house with his boyfriend in exchange for him keeping his mouth shut about her seeing me."

I laughed. "You're Angie's dirty little secret?"

He rolled his eyes and wiggled his eyebrows in amusement. "I guess she was just not wanting to go through the whole dad gauntlet when we didn't really know each other."

I turned and smiled at him. "So I'll see you tonight?"

"If I survive," he said with a laugh.

"Pft. Like he won't love you," I said and threaded the belt through the loops. "It's actually kind of disgusting. He's going to love you right up until you get his daughter pregnant."

"Hey, whoa, slow down!" he said and laughed while pushing me. I wobbled a little before getting my balance back and grinned at him before going to my closet to look for casually dressy shoes. "Besides I meant she was cooking. Oh, random thought. She told me to tell you Travis loves blueberries."

I turned and looked at him in curiosity but he just shrugged. Yeah, that was out of left field.

"When do you think you'll be home?" he asked.

"No idea. Text you later?"

"Cool." He paused in the doorway of my room. I liked him framed that way and I wished I had my phone right then. He turned to me and said, "Uh. Look. I don't want this to be some competition between us or for whatever I do to put pressure on you or something. Angie and I...we haven't really messed around much. A couple of violent make-outs, but that's it."

My eyes pricked with tears. He was being silly and considerate all in one. "Well, I hope it means something to you when you get there, Parks."

He nodded slowly and then was gone. I really wished I'd taken a picture.


After hitting up my mom for a few bucks and pointedly not mentioning her discussing my personal life with someone who is a total stranger to me, I headed out. The days had gotten steadily colder, to the point I didn't want to leave the house with wet hair. Fortunately the snow and sleet hadn't started up, so I didn't need boots outside. I left early and walked over to a small bakery in the opposite direction of Travis's house.

The place smelled like heaven. I swear, if someone were to set a trap for me, just fill it with fresh baked goods. I walked along the case until I came upon desserts and picked out a pair of cannoli to bring. I carried them carefully as I walked, headphones plugged in to my new favorite song and...I started to cry. Not big heaving sobs, just a trail of wetness down my cheeks and blurry eyes.

My new favorite song was 'Wild Heart' by Bleachers. They did this thing where it built up to a crescendo with the music and the vocals together on the line 'I will find any way to your Wild Heart'. There was a brief hesitation between 'find' and 'any' that made me hitch my breath before the plunge of the rest of the lyric.

It sent me on another ramble in my head about hearts and that they, like most things, were wild by nature. I think mine had been tamed, to a degree, by Parker. I know he loves me and I love him, and I think my heart is better off for it. It's a connection that makes me more stable. Travis, though...his heart is still wild. I can't help thinking that I'd say those same words to him, confirming that I'm going to find a way to keep him, if only it wouldn't sound so damn stupid to say out loud.

I wiped my eyes as the song ended and, because I'm a masochist, I hit replay.

I'd only seen Travis' grandparents a few times. The one time I'd been over for a movie they'd been on the way out to go to a drumming circle. Whatever that was. Travis had told me they were going to a psychic fair tonight, so I expected some alone time with him. I ran my fingers through my hair as I walked and instantly regretted it. I'd spent so much time combing it. Why couldn't I keep my hands away? I needed to carry a comb. No, wait, I'd look like a vain idiot. Jesus, I am an idiot.

Travis's home had an attached single garage to one side and a short driveway leading to it. His grandmother drove a beige sedan with bumper stickers coating the entire back end. They weren't the fun kind of bumper stickers with something funny to say. I wonder how many people had sped up to try and read them only to be disappointed to read something about how she loved her garden or whatever. His grandfather had an old Jeep-like thing. An old hatchback with faded paint and a sagging rear end was parked crookedly in front of the Jeep-like thing and I wondered who had stopped by. I paused on the stoop to pat my hair down and take a few deep breaths before ringing the doorbell.

Raucous, unstable laughter came from inside, and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The door opened, startling me, and his grandmother smiled at me.

"Hello, Shane. Come on in. Travis is looking forward to your visit, honey." She smiled wider as she stepped aside and I thanked her as I stepped into the home. I say home rather than house, because it was more than a building. There were pictures everywhere and racks of records and hidden speakers that relayed whatever spun on the turntable. There were colorful cloth hangings, beaded curtains in doorways and plants growing wild, it seemed. It was a home, warm and vibrant.

Then there was that laugh.

"Hi, Mrs.-"

"Ah!" she chided while holding up a finger. I blushed slightly.

"Hi, Janet. Thanks, how are you?"

"I'll live, though I may need some calming later. You look so handsome - how old are you again?" she asked with a grin that was only partly serious. I blinked. She turned and I followed her into the house. Their house is laid out in a unique way, which kind of suits them I guess. The kitchen is sort of in the middle of the house, and the bedrooms are in a hallway beyond it. Travis was walking up the hallway from his room and I smiled at the sight of him.

His hair was a little disorganized, probably because he'd been running his fingers through his hair while playing a video game. He tended to do that during lulls in action or while on loading screens. It was an unconscious tic that made him cuter.

"Hey, Trav," I said with a smile and reached out to hug him. He kind of squirmed a little in my grasp which was kind of funny and kind of disappointing.

"Who's this?" The voice was kind of scratchy and belonged to the person with the disturbing laugh.

"Gloria," Janet said in a tone that I recognized as one of controlled warning. "This is Shane Blankenship. He and Travis have a date tonight."

"What, with each other?" Gloria snorted and then her eyes widened as her statement wasn't refuted. "Are you kidding me? Could you get any more pathetic, Travis?"

"Gloria, that's less than kind," her father said to her in a short tone. "If you can't be civil, go home."

Gloria smiled in a ugly way, or maybe she was just ugly. "Trav, got any nudie pictures of Shane on your phone? Those'd be fun to look at."

"Mom!" Travis said in a strained tone.

"What? Nudity is nothing to be ashamed of, right? Mom? Dad?" Gloria asked, looking around as if seriously asking their opinion. "Hell, if you weren't here my parents would be happy in some nudist colony in Costa Rica, for Christ's sake."

His mother was smiling back, happy she'd gotten under his skin, and he looked back at me. "I have everything all set to go. Let's go back to my room."

My stomach was tying itself in knots, but I wanted to not fight with this woman. And I also did want to fight. What would Parker do? Oh, yes. I turned to Travis, whose jaw was locked and his face a gorgeous red, and I wrapped my arms around him.

"You are so cute. She can't be your mom. She's not cute at all. Kind of the opposite."

He blinked a few times and looked at me.

"Be safe," Janet said as she walked toward the table. Travis jumped slightly at that, and I thought it odd to say. I mean, we weren't driving anywhere or...oh. Did she just? No.

"Someone thinks he's funny. Christ. Just as big a loser as his father," Gloria scratched out. I don't know if she was talking about me and my father or Travis and his, but it didn't matter. A hurt, embarrassed look was on Travis's face, and all I wanted was to hurt her back.

"You walked out. You're the loser," I said, my voice catching with emotion.

"Go away, Mom," Travis ground out nearly at the same time.

"I walked out? Why should I raise someone with a loser's genes? Fucking runt and-"

"Shut up!" Travis yelled suddenly. "I hate you!" His face was contorted, and he turned and fled toward his room.

"Sure, run away!" she called out.

"Gloria, that's enough!" Janet snapped. Gloria waved her hands dismissively, and her parents said a few terse things, but I missed the words. Only the tone registered to me, and it wasn't enough.

"You're not just a loser. You lost." My words were steadier than my knees felt. They hit the room like a thunderclap as all three heads turned toward me. I swallowed the tickle that suddenly flew around my throat.

"What?" Gloria asked.

"You lost Travis. You're so stupid you don't even know what you lost," I said, barely believing I was speaking to her like that. I would have never confronted an adult like that before my dad killed himself. Things had changed, though.

I left the room, deaf to anything she might say. At the end of the hall I didn't bother with knocking. I just went in and shut the door behind me. Travis was on his bed, arms around his knees and his head down. As I closed the door his head popped up to reveal his wet eyes, glasses having been tossed aside. I ached and wanted to pick him up and make him feel better. Well, why not?

Setting my coat down on top of my pastry, I approached him as he patted the quilt for his glasses. I snaked an arm under his knees and put one behind his back and lifted, wobbled, and then righted with him cradled up to me. The advantages of a little boyfriend.

"Hey!" he protested weakly. "What are you doing? Put me down."

"Nope. I just wanted to pick you up and cuddle you, so I am."

"I'm not a baby," he protested and wiggled his legs a little. I pulled him against me and he wiggled a little more. Then the unthinkable - I dropped him. It was on the bed, but still.

"What? My glasses! Did I land on them?" he asked frantically as he turned to scan the bed. Since he wasn't bent about being dropped I scanned the bed, spotted his glasses and snagged them as he reached for them.

"I have them," I said.

"Well...give them to me," he said and held a hand out.

"Nope. I'm holding them hostage," I told him.

"What? Why? For what?" he asked in confusion, leaving his arm dangling as if forgotten.

Rather than reply I placed his glasses on the nightstand and slid onto the bed with him. My heart was racing as I pulled him to me and held him loosely. He wiggled for a moment and then settled in, placing his hands around me and starting to shudder again. We lay like that, peaceful and recuperating from the insanity in the kitchen. I don't understand his grandparents and how they could allow that vile woman close to Travis.

"I'm sorry," he said, pulling away. I rolled to my side, keeping pace and not letting him get too far away. "For that," he said and waved a hand. "For crying on you. I don't think a date is supposed to be about crying unless it doesn't go well."

Travis was feeling down and responsible all in one. My heart ached for him, but in his sadness and defeat there was also something genuinely beautiful. The closest thing I can think of is how a day feels clean and bright after a sun-shower. He'd cried, still looked a little blotchy, and yet his eyes were bright and he was cuter than he'd ever been. Vulnerable. Time for that pedestal Angie had mentioned.

"Jesus, you're so cute," I said to him.

His gaze darted to my face and then away, flitting like a butterfly. His face colored and the ends of his mouth turned up slightly. "Stop," he said quietly.

I put a hand on his face and wiped a tear away with my thumb. "Can't. Cuteness overload." I leaned in and he giggled and backed up a bit, but he was flat on the bed and I trapped him.

"You don't have to baby me. She's been mean to me my whole life," he said. His hands stirred at his sides, yet still didn't rise to make contact with me.

"I don't like people being mean to you. I never have. Now I have a spine, and I'm not going to let someone just hurt you," I told him. "Besides, it's kind of in the boyfriend job description. 'Thou shalt protect thy boyfriend.'"

He sighed. "Don't take this the wrong way, Shane. I just don't understand you."

"Oh? What about me is confusing?"

"This," he said, waving a hand between us. "Us. I'm a short nerd, and you went to bed with Parker. Kind of a step down."

I mentally sighed and rolled my head on my shoulders, popping my neck in the process. Sitting up so I could look at his face I said, "Okay, easy to explain. Let's talk Parker. Yeah, he and I fooled around and it was good. Parker is a super guy and I love him. But we didn't date, and he's not my boyfriend."

"Is he...bi, then? You could date him?"

"I have no idea if Parker has ever gone too far down the road in terms of sexual self examination. I mean sexuality; I'm sure he's examined himself in a sexual way plenty of times." I snickered and Travis's lips curled in amusement. "But if you're asking how I could be attracted to him and you at the same time? Like on that list of mine?" I let the question dangle and Travis nodded.

"Yeah, pretty much."

"Well, even though the guys on the list are all pretty good looking, I think, I liked them for other reasons." I looked down at him and smiled. "I always liked your brain. I always liked your kindness and that adorable look of distraction you get when you're thinking. Since we started to hang I like how you mess up your hair when you're waiting for screens to load or thinking about what move to make next. Were you playing Zelda before I got here, by the way?"

He ran his fingers through his hair self-consciously. "Yeah."

"I'll grant you that you and Parker don't look alike, but I guess maybe I don't have just one physical type."

He looked up at his ceiling, appearing to consider my words. I decided to go ahead and just feed his ego with some more truth.

"I also don't understand the put downs. Like calling yourself a nerd and automatically thinking it makes you undesirable. If that means you're smart and like video games, well, smart is a good thing, and I think video games are, too. Besides, that means about half this country is part nerd, because lots and lots of people like video games." I paused and enjoyed the look of interest on his face. "I also like that you're short. I don't think of you as small or whatever. I think of you as cuddle-size and I like cuddling you. Oh! That reminds me!"

I hopped off his bed and pulled the bag out from under my coat. Turning to him I showed him what I had brought and, when he looked up in question I said, "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

A smile bloomed across his face like sunshine chasing away a gloomy day. "You got these because of the movie? Oh my God!"

Our first date had been a screening of The Godfather. The line I'd quoted was pretty popular, I guess.

"I'll trade you," I told him, setting the package on the bed but off to one side.

"Trade? Trade what?" he asked.

It wasn't easy to say the next bit. With as emotionally unstable as I'd become, I had a hard time choking out anything with real emotion. I didn't want to cry, but I sensed that now was the moment.

"We've been dating for about three weeks. Your grandpa picked us up from the movie, and I know better than to try anything while the movie is on so...can I kiss you?"

He sat up on his knees, eyes wide. "You mean you want to?"

I nodded. "I don't know if Angie was any good, but I'll do my damnedest to put her to shame."

He cleared his throat, maybe feeling a little emotional impact as well. "Angie and I never. Um, we didn't." He paused and then said, "I've never kissed anyone."

Wow. This was huge. I reached a hand out. "Would you come give me your first kiss, then? Can I have it?"

He blinked a couple of times and then walked on his knees over to me. It was awkward and wonderful. Noses got in the way. He tasted a little like blueberries. I didn't want to stop, so as each kiss ended I started a new one. It was perfect, and in my head I heard the rise of the lyrics, the crescendo that had been rattling in my head. 'I will find any way to your Wild Heart'.

It took me a moment to realize Travis had leaned back and was looking at me with a worried expression. "Was that any good?"

I couldn't help it. My eyes misted and I giggled and flopped on the bed next to him. "That was absolutely an order of magnitude better than good." He smiled tentatively and I rolled over, knocking him back and snuggled into him while also telling him how cute he was over and over.

He giggled a little and stretched under me. I wiggled against him and pulled him closer to me. He giggled yet again and finally nestled into me, his arms curled into himself and I ran my hands up and down his back and breathed in the scent of his hair. The moment was perfect in its innocence and simplicity. But, come on, I was holding my cuter than cute boyfriend, so that wasn't going to last. It started by me having to twist a little to relieve the tension on my erection and, when that failed, I had to reach down and make an adjustment.

Travis coughed lightly and sat up, leaning on one arm while I was stretched out on my back. His long sleeved tee and jeans didn't really reveal his frame as they weren't tight fitting. I wondered for perhaps the billionth time what he looked like sans clothes.

"I deserve a kiss," I told him. He blushed. My heart twitched. Total freaking heaven.

He shook his head lightly. "It sounds weird to me, hearing someone actually want to kiss me."

I drummed my feet lightly. "Travis. Come. Kiss. Me."

If anything his blush got deeper. He leaned over and gave me a gentle kiss and started to pull back.

"Uh uh." I pulled him down by the sides of his face, glorying in a deep kiss. His body fell onto mine and I was gratified to feel that he was just as hard as I was. He started to lift his head and I allowed it, looking up into his face.

"God. So frigging cute," I said with a smile.

"What's gotten into you? Why do you keep saying that?" he asked, smiling and blushing some more. He spent so much time blushing I wasn't sure how he maintained an erection.

"Parker," I said as if that explained everything.

"What did he say?" he asked, tilting his head.

"He told me I was being a pussy. I wanted to say things to you, and basically, he's right. If I want to tell you that you're adorable or cuter than cute then I should be able to. So, Travis my boyfriend, you're so frigging cute." Okay, that wasn't exactly why he called me a pussy, but it's in the ballpark. And hey, Travis was smiling about it.

"Movie?" he asked, sort of coughing the question out.

"What are we watching?" I asked, smiling stupidly at him.

"Godfather part two," he replied.

"There's a part two? Excellent!" I grinned at him and he beamed for a moment, then got a suspicious look on his face.

"Are you actually looking forward to this?"


"Why?" he asked and sat up on his heels. "What did you like about the first one?"

"Well, besides my cute boyfriend taking me to see it for our first date," I began and he broke eye contact, smiling and, yes, blushing. Continuing, I said, "But I liked a bunch of things. I thought the scheming was super interesting with everyone jockeying over their own interests. The wheels-within-wheels of trying to get somewhere and not get whacked." I looked up thoughtfully. "Also made me want to try a cannoli."

His jaw dropped and then he grinned widely. "You really paid attention! Okay, so, the sequel was made two years later, in 1974. It was the first sequel to win best picture at the Academy Awards, although critics said its non-linear story telling was confusing. I like it, though, because it fills in gaps in the early life of Don Vito Corleone and tells us what happened with Michael Corleone after the events in the original movie."

"Well, hit play and come cuddle with me," I told him.

He paused visibly. In a serious tone he said, "Watching the movie, though, right?"

I looked at him critically. "You may want to give me a few kisses to hold me over."

We split the cannoli as we watched the movie. I did honestly like it and, once it ended, I pulled out the bits I'd noted and made random quotes from the movie like 'Fredo, you broke my heart!' Travis was smiling and it pleased me to see him that way. The emotion also caused a stinging in my eyes and I felt stupid, but Travis had turned to eject the disc and was telling me about the third Godfather movie.

"A lot of people didn't like it, but I enjoyed it from a story perspective. It kind of closed the circle on Michael's life." He bubbled about the movie, and I wiped my eyes while he was busy and moved up the bed so my back was against the headboard.

He put the disc case away and flopped on the end of his bed, completely at ease. In fact he seemed more relaxed than at any time I'd ever seen him.

"There is pie in the kitchen, if you want to brave my grandparents," he said.

"Mmm, pie," I replied and followed him from the room. His grandmother was at the kitchen table with a joint smoldering between her fingers. Her eyes were closed and she was breathing in deep, slow breaths. She opened her eyes and looked at us.

"Hey, there's the handsome men in my life," she said with a smile. "How was the movie?"

"Pretty cool," I replied. "It's crazy to think about all the scheming some people do. Imagine being able to come up with stories like that - and then how much smarter you have to be to actually live your whole life being one scheme ahead of everyone else."

"You've got a live one," she said to Travis and let out a smoky chuckle before taking a drag on the joint. "You come out for that blueberry pie?"

"It crossed my mind," he said with an impish smile. He waved his hand at the smoke and she copied him.

She looked back at me. "We used to call him Berry when he was little. Blueberry, strawberry, raspberry - it didn't matter. If it was a berry, he liked it. We teased him that he ate too many strawberries and it tinted his blond hair," she said with a chuckle and blew out smoke away from Travis.

"Oh, that helped," his grandfather said as he entered the room and snagged the joint from his wife. He took a quick drag and handed it back to her. "I love my daughter. I can't help but see the little girl she used to be, but she upsets everything around her. A little meditation, a little grass and I feel right as rain."

"Berry wants some pie for him and his love. Would you like some, my wrinkled love?" she asked with a snort.

"Pie sounds like a great way to celebrate Travis falling in love," he declared, blew out smoke - again pointed away from Travis - and opened the fridge. I glanced at Travis, wondering how he was taking his grandparents' assumption that he was in love. He didn't seem fazed as he sat down at the table and I joined him. He glanced at me, blushed a little and a small smile crossed his lips. I grinned back at him, enjoying the idea that his grandparents thought he was in love.

His grandfather put plates on the table and cut huge pieces of pie and distributed them as he did. "Shane, you look a damn sight better than when we first met."

"I'm much warmer now," I confirmed. "Thank you for that, by the way."

"Don't mention it." He paused and looked at me and then shook off whatever he was going to say. "I remember the first time I was with a man. Such a new experience."

I glanced at Travis and he was looking down at his lap. It was hard to see if he was blushing but that was my bet. It felt weird to hear someone speak about sex so frankly as if it were an everyday discussion.

"Shane, can I ask if you're sexually active?" his grandmother asked.

"Um, no. Not really." I can't imagine repeating to them my experience with Parker.

"No shame in that, honey," she said with a smile and thanked her husband for the pie. Travis was already forking a piece and I decided I had little choice but to see how this conversation would play out. I supposed I could run screaming from the table, but that might not go over well.

"God, no," his grandfather agreed with his wife and slid a plate across to me. He sat down with his own slice and his wife hummed in appreciation of the pie.

"It's one of the most enjoyable things you can do with another person, and you boys are at that age where you want to try things. Your body is ready to try, but your mind might not be there yet."

I stared blankly at her. Was she nuts? My mind had conjured so many images of Travis in the nude I could probably make a pretty good drawing out of it.

"What she means to say is, emotionally. Some folks think sex is love, but it's not. It's an expression of it, but sometimes it's just rooting around and learning. I can tell you, from personal experience, caring about your partner has made for a more fulfilling experience."

Travis choked slightly and I turned to him with wide eyes and wondered exactly what was going on here. Travis looked equal parts amused and mortified, which is a truly odd expression. I imagined I had a similar expression.

"Travis and I haven't talked about...sex," I spluttered.

"There's no rush," she said with a wave of her fork. "But we don't stand on ceremony. Travis's body is his to do with as he sees fit. We just educate him, and if you guys decide you're ready, then don't worry about us. Have you had sex ed?"

With flaming cheeks I nodded.

"Good," he said. "Goddamn, good pie."

"If you want to keep Travis close, I can give you this recipe," she said to me.

I glanced at Travis and he rolled his eyes. I smiled at that and he rewarded me with a small smile as well. This was so bizarre. My mind bounced back and forth between embarrassment and some weird form of elation; it was making me feel a little faint.

"The reason I ask," she continued, "is that sex between men is different, and we want the best experience for you both."

My mind jarred slightly, and I wondered if I'd stepped into an alternate reality. I glanced again at Travis. He had his lips pressed together, and red spots were plainly in evidence on his face. He turned toward me and rolled his lips together before speaking.

"Sex, bodies and all that goes with them are pretty open territory in my house. I've already had this conversation a few times. My grandparents are very open people. I know not everyone is. Um. It's a little personal right now, so if you want to, you know, head out or go back to my room, it's cool."

I felt a rush of complex, conflicting emotions. Pride for Travis and his composure in a weird circumstance. He was offering me an out. Having a sex talk with his grandparents wasn't on my to-do list, and the idea made me nervous as hell. But....Travis did it. What would he think of me if I couldn't handle it?

Turning my head on neck muscles that felt rusted I took in his grandparents, who were polishing off their slices. "What do you mean different?"

"Well, the emotions are the same, right? Love, lust, excitement, nervousness. Everything gets mixed in, at least for a little while - and every time it's with someone new. But, as a man, being with a woman means I'm expected to be the penetrating partner, you dig? In that case, I don't have the knowledge of the other side of things. How that feels for her, what I should or shouldn't do. When you're with a man you get that understanding."

He paused and ran his tongue around the outside of his teeth and then seemed to remember he'd been talking. "What was I saying?"

Travis cleared his throat. "You were saying being with a man gave you an understanding."

"Oh, yes, right," he said and leaned back in his chair. "You start to understand the kindred relationship between surrendering your body, your trust in an individual and the ability to be very in control as the passive partner. It's fascinating."

I glanced at Travis and cleared my throat. "Well, I haven't gone that far. Just, um, fooled around a little with a friend."

"Did it change your relationship?" she asked.

I thought for a moment. "Not the way you'd expect. We were both a little afraid it'd be awkward between us but...I felt good, afterward. I think that there are only so many people he's ever going to share himself with, and I was glad he'd picked me. I was also glad I'd picked him. So yeah, it was...a good thing."

"Well said," his grandfather replied and pushed the plate away. He turned to his wife, "Do we have any of those macaroons left?"

"Above the stove," she said absently. Turning back to me she said, "There are other considerations, too. Did you know that some women also need lube before they have sex? Not everyone produces enough to just go at it at the drop of a hat. You boys," she said, nodding her head at us in general, "will need it every time. Well, that's my understanding anyway. Since you're both virgins in that respect-"

"Ah, jeez!" Travis muttered.

"Well, uh," I said and coughed.

"I'm not so worried about STD's," she continued as if we'd said nothing. "I advocate for safe sex. Even monogamous folks can pass things along, because we're talking bodily fluids, but you guys have to make that choice for yourselves. Either way, those things are in the hall closet. Use what you need. Respect each other; that's all we ask."

I felt bright red. I mean, literally, I felt like I was red all over. Everywhere. Even the crack of my ass was candy apple red. The conversation had been way outside of my ability to handle without embarrassment, yet I'd gotten through it. I hope Travis respects that!

"Um. Want to play a game or something?" Travis asked.

"It's late. Are you staying over?" his grandfather asked.

"Uh." I looked at Travis.

"If you want to," he said and blushed. Then he bit his lip. He knows I will move mountains over that lip-bite.

"I'll text my mom. She's at work by now." I pulled out my phone and shot her a quick message to ask permission. Of course, I was pretty sure I'd ignore her if she said no. "She might not get it until a break or something."

"Well, it's a weekend, so who cares if you're up late, right? Your mom works nights?" she asked.

"Yeah. She's bidding for a day job, but they aren't easy to get." My phone buzzed. 'Sure. I don't like you being home alone at night anyway. See you tomorrow. Love you.'

"Mom says I can stay," I said and then glanced at Travis. "You said there was a part three?"

He grinned widely. "Come on."

Back in Travis's room I texted Parker to let him know I was staying over and that I'd see him in the morning. He sent me a thumbs up followed by a peach and an eggplant. I am so going to kill him. We played a couple of games, but I don't think either of us was really into gaming right then. At eleven we dressed down for bed, and I don't think either of us was actually thinking about sleep. I cuddled him close and we started to talk.

"So, if you were an amusement park ride, what would you be?" I asked him.

"Um. Hmm," he scrunched his mouth off to one side. "I think a bumper car. Lately it seems like this series of bumps and jolts has been the story of my life."

"Huh." I considered his words and he nudged me.

"What about you?"

"Hmm. I think the fun house fits me. I don't look like myself in the mirror anymore with all the ways my life has changed lately."

"I don't think that's a ride, technically," he said.

"Okay. Well, if it has to be a ride, Mr. Technical," I said in a teasing tone. "I guess I'd be a Tilt-A-Whirl. Spinning around, up and down."

"Huh. I think most people would say roller coaster. Ups and downs, you know?"

"Yeah," I agreed. "Maybe I'd be like the corkscrew part of a coaster. I don't know. Why do you ask?"

"What? You asked first!" he said with a laugh.

"I did? I blame Parker."

He sighed. "It's cool you still see Parker so much. I barely see Clint and he's my best friend."

"That sucks. I just bounce back and forth between you and him. We should all hang out. I'd really like for you to get to know him and for him to know you."

"What for?"

"Because you guys are the most important people in my life?" I replied, though it was really more of a question. He blushed a little. That was enough for me. I'd been waiting to resume kissing him and, damn it, he was just too tempting not to get back to that kind of business.

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