“Goodnight, Mom,” I said as I closed the door to her room. I don't think she heard me, tired as she was. I paused outside her door to collect myself. Even though my extended family had given me every courtesy and I was grateful as hell, I felt odd accepting their comfort. I hadn't known them that well, especially my cousin – my dad forbade me to see him once he came out. I had a few weird ideas about gay guys before I met him, but now I don't like the idea of life without him.
I headed up the stairs from my mom's basement room and crossed the living room. My uncle was watching TV and my aunt was dozing on the couch. She spent a lot of time taking care of my mom once she came home from work. I was helping during the day, as long as my mom allowed it. She would frequently call Devyn to see if his boyfriend, Griffin, would come get me out of the house for a while.
Griffin was another unexpected find. He seemed equally fine with dropping me off to see friends as he was having me hang around with him and his friends while Devyn worked. I trotted upstairs and peered through Dev's open door, where he and Griffin sat, huddled around a tablet and laughing. I withdrew before they saw me – I felt bad that they didn't get that much time together, with my mom trying to recover in their basement and me hanging around like a ghost.
I flopped onto my bed and picked up my phone. Two messages from my friends, one from Hannah and one from Dylan. Both were essentially the same thing, just asking what was up, and both mentioned some kind of party that weekend. It was an exciting idea, both because I'd never been to one and because things had been wound so tight for a while, now. I could really use a chance to blow off some steam.
I texted back and forth with them, but things petered out, eventually. Out of all my friends, these two had stuck by me with all the things I was going through. It was a bitter thought, realizing so many of my old 'friends' had no time for me, what with all my drama. I was boring, now, with the specter of my shattered family casting a pall over things.
I sat in bed with my back to the wall and thought about the people I used to hang out with and wondering why they hadn't stuck with me. I thought about my mom and how everyone said quietly how she was such a fighter and how hard a road she had. After all, she'd barely gotten home from the double mastectomy when my stupid father had shot her. I had a brief daydream where my mother told me Frank wasn't my father – maybe she'd had an affair with someone who was now rich and famous. Hell, I'd be happy if it were Uncle Dale – then maybe I could stay here, at least.
One thing that had changed about me in the last month, though, was that I had given up on dreams. No one was going to magically make everything better. I was going to have to work to escape the coffin of a life my father was trying to make for me. I didn't want to come home and drink beer every night and watch TV and say rotten things about gays and women and whomever else my dad wanted to vent about right that minute.
No, there would be no revelations about a better father or money or fame. In the end, it was going to be up to me...and that made me feel pretty small, sometimes.
At some point I'd heard Dev and Griff going downstairs, but I stayed in my room. It wasn't easy to keep reminding myself that they needed space from me, too. The last thing I wanted to be was one of those people you put up with. There had been several nights where I'd snuck over to Devyn's room and just talked to him. He'd write answers on his boogie board, usually, since he charged his phone at night. He'd taught me a few things in sign to speed our conversation, and I was trying to pick up more from Griffin.
Some days I'd sit in the room and everything would hit me all at once – what an asshole my father was, how desperate our days had felt in our old home, how my mom seemed to be teetering; sometimes I just felt like it was too much. Dev helped, a lot. He was practical, and I was working to get myself to that point as well. I wanted to be practical and have a heart, like Dev, so I could make decisions and not feel like I was under so much pressure all the time.
I swear, some days it felt like the walls were closing in and all it took was some time with Dev to push them back. I'd even talked to him about my deteriorating collection of friends and, like magic, he understood that, too. He told me it had happened to him after he'd lost his voice and I was kind of stunned that anyone would walk away from him.
I decided to take a shower before I dropped off and, when done, I saw that Dev's door was open just a crack. His door latch didn't work quite right and it never latched. Heading into my room I saw the clock read just after ten, so I figured Griff must have gone home and was a little disappointed I'd not gotten to say goodnight – which felt a little odd to me. I mean, it wasn't like I wouldn't see him tomorrow, right?
My phone was flashing and I picked it up, seeing a text from Dylan. 'It's my cousin's party we're crashing. Think you can stay over?'
Oh, now we're crashing a party? I felt a little nervous at the idea. Who would be there? Would they get pissed and, I don't know, beat us up for showing up? My lips pursed and I wiggled my lips from side to side as I thought about what to do. I guess if it were going to be dangerous, Dylan wouldn't invite Hannah and me to go, so I guess an overnight is okay. I nodded and smiled to myself. That was a decision Dev would be proud of, I thought it through and made a logical choice. I think. As I dried my hair I started to wonder if I was making the right decision after all. I mean, it was a party with strange people – was that smart? Well, I reasoned, I was going to be there with friends – not like I was showing up alone. Still, I'll feel better about this if I talk to Dev, first.
'I'll ask my mom. What time you want me to come over?'
'Hannah will get here by seven-thirty.' He replied. 'Hey, I'm thinking of making an online dating profile. I think if I take a picture of my dick next to a pygmy banana, I'll look huge. Good idea, right?'
I buried my face in my pillow as I laughed. 'As long as you aren't hung like a field mouse.'
We exchanged a few more comments and then said goodnight, with him eliciting a promise that I would be there the next night.
I padded across the dark hall and pushed my fingertips against Dev's door; if he was asleep I didn't want to wake him. As the door started to open I saw there was just moonlight illuminating the room, and I was going to whisper his name, just in case he was still awake, when my jaw dropped and I froze. I can't say exactly what it was – embarrassment, maybe – but only at first. I started to back up, or my brain sent the order, I think, but nothing was moving. Well, except for...um...yeah.
My eyes were locked and wide – I'm not sure how long it was before I blinked. At first, I wasn't even sure, exactly, what my brain was processing given the lighting, but then there was movement. It was Devyn, on top of Griffin, and his...dick was pushing right into Griff. I couldn't see Griff's face, but I could hear his voice.
“There, Dev, right there. Oh. Oh, that's...yeeessss.”
The entire time I was watching my cousin screw his boyfriend, slowly I was thinking this was not like the little bit of porn I'd seen where the guy bangs the girl like he's trying to bruise her internal organs. No, Dev was sliding in and out slowly, pressing firmly and flexing his ass cheeks before pulling back and repeating the process. Griffin's feet were over Dev's shoulders and Dev was on his knees, lifting Griff by his legs a little, I guess, and then leaning forward and sliding – not plunging, not hammering...it was very gentle, tender and Griff was sighing in pleasure and murmuring at Devyn not to stop, that he was wonderful.
As I stared I wondered: why was I staring? I mean, this was wrong! They thought they were alone and all I could do was...stare and...I licked my lips and suppressed a groan as my dick grew harder than I'd ever felt it before. A pulse ran up my shaft and then another as the head became very sensitive and a drip of wetness hit my leg and began to trickle down.
“That's the spot, Dev!” Griff moaned softly and I saw him grind himself up into Dev's downstroke. “Ugh, so good...was never like this.”
The spot on my leg got wetter and, dimly, I realized I was pre-cumming a small river down my leg as I watched my cousin have sex with his boyfriend. I felt simultaneously ashamed and mortified at what I was doing, and yet I was absolutely unable to look away. In fact, there was a part of me that didn't want to stop looking. Part of me was comparing Devyn to the guys I'd seen in porn.
All I'd seen was older guys with lots of muscles and a spray-on tan. Dev was still pretty pale and slender. He was also defined, though, and the muscles of his legs stood out as he slowly dropped down into Griffin again. Light reflected off his dick, slick with lube, as he withdrew and pushed forward again in deliberate strokes. Griffin began to move under him, twisting a bit and arching to bring himself into closer contact, to push Dev deeper into him.
As he did, Griffin's face became visible in the light from the window. He was biting his lower lip and looking up at Dev with such...adoration. Dev made a grunt and Griff sighed deeply before saying, “It's okay, Dev. Fill me up. Do it, babe.”
Dev began to move faster and Griffin bit his lower lip again, eyes open wide on Devyn and he groaned – a sound that was like aural ecstasy. Devyn picked up the pace and then, with a final thrust, he drove forward and stayed in place with the muscles of his legs and butt quivering to push just a bit farther in. I pushed my hand down flat against my erection and bit back my own groan as my sensitive organ twitched in excitement. As Dev relaxed a bit, I could hear Griffin whisper.
“Stay there, stay in me.” Griffin's legs wrapped around the small of Devyn's back and the heels of his feet dug into Dev's cheeks, pushing him forward. Griffin was biting his lower lip again and I heard the unmistakable sound of him jerking off. My knees went weak and I wobbled back out of the room as Griff groaned and announced that he was cumming. To my shock and confusion, so was I. I moved awkwardly away from the doorway, still hearing Griffin praising Devyn. Going into my room I closed the door as quietly as I could and leaned against it.
The cooling cum on my leg and in my shorts was an immediate and totally unnecessary reminder that I, a straight guy, had just come while watching two guys fuck. Even worse, it was two people that have given so much of themselves to me in the last several weeks. I was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, confusion and revulsion. What kind of person spies on two people having sex? Not just any two people either, but two people that had a pretty reasonable expectation of privacy and who were...people I loved.
That was a little bit of a shock, too. I hadn't really thought about it because, the only person I really loved, before, was my mom. I had friends I'd liked, even crushed on, but no one was in the same class as my mom. My uncle Dale was being kind of a good guy, now, and I liked him more than I ever had. My aunt was being great with the whole thing and I always felt welcome, even at home, here. But Devyn and Griffin had been totally flexible to whatever I wanted or needed and they seem to understand me in ways that adults just don't.
A few weeks ago I had thought I'd wanted to hang out with Griff and his friend, Philip, for the day. But when Dylan and Hannah texted and invited me to do something, Griffin smiled and said he'd have no trouble dropping me off and to call when I was done. He didn't even get upset that I was, basically, flaking on him. Now I was sitting on my floor with soaked shorts after betraying that trust and watching them in their most intimate moments.
And, God help me, it was hot. Even thinking of it was causing me to stiffen again. I groaned and pushed myself off the floor. I wiped up with the shorts and put on a new pair, then lay in bed and let my mind run in circles about what this meant until I couldn't think anymore.
Devyn left in the morning with uncle Dale for work, and Griffin probably headed home as well. It was weird because, given Devyn's regular Monday through Friday schedule, sleepovers were a thing of the weekend. I guess his dad decided that it was okay, as long as Devyn got up and functioned at work, all right – it was just luck that I'd seem them. I was a little shaky on if it was good or bad luck.
I washed my face and got dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, then padded down to get something to eat. My mom was sitting at the table with my aunt and gave me a sunny smile.
“There he is,” she said as I closed the gap and hugged her. “Good morning, baby.”
“Morning mom, aunt Sylvie.”
“Good morning, Nathan,” aunt Sylvie said warmly. “Grab some food, your mom and I were just chatting.”
“Okay.” I took a few eggs out and hard boiled them, slicing an apple as I did so. A few minutes later I joined them at the table with my food.
“Devyn enjoys making simple things, but he's not all that interested in the art of cooking,” aunt Sylvie commented as she looked at my plate.
“Nathan has always enjoyed being in the kitchen, at least as a helper. If you want someone to pass family recipes on to, he's your guy.”
They chatted over coffee as I ate and then cleaned up the kitchen. Aunt Sylvie told me I didn't need to, but mom just told her to let me do it.
Once that was done I went up to my room and straightened everything, then grabbed my laundry to take downstairs – this was definitely a load I needed to wash myself. When I got to the basement I saw that my mom's door was open, so she'd probably come down to rest. I put my things in the washer, and felt a thrill as well as a streak of guilt at the sight of my stiff shorts. After starting the washer I poked my head into the bedroom.
Mom was reclining, a hand on her stomach. Uncle Dale had rigged up a TV for her, and it was on but muted. Instead, her eyes were on the doorway, waiting for me. She held her hand out to me and I crossed the room and slipped up on the bed and, sitting with my legs folded under me, I took her hand.
“Dylan asked if I could stay over, tonight. Is that okay?”
“Of course, sweetheart,” she said, patting my hand. “You spend too much time taking care of me; you need to go out and be a kid.”
“I do stuff,” I said, defending myself. “I see my friends and hang out, some. I'm okay.”
She lapsed into silence, looking up at my face. Her thumb was moving across my knuckles and, suddenly, stopped. “Are you happy here, Nate?” she asked.
“Living here you mean?” I asked, and she nodded in reply. “I like it. Uncle Dale and aunt Sylvie are nice; they're good to us. Devyn is...” I paused and then said, “he's the best. Griffin, too. I miss Hannah and Dylan, some, but yeah – it's good, here.”
She wet her lips slowly, as if her tongue were tired and a small smile ran across her face. “Not like all that tension with your father around, is it?”
My face hardened. “No. It's not.”
“How would you feel about living here for a long time?”
“Well,” I said slowly, stopping to think about it. “It would be good, I think. I start school in just over a month and there needs to be someone home with you until you get stronger. If Devyn weren't going to be moving to college I'd say it's perfect...but he'll still be here for at least a year. I kind of feel like I can't get enough, sometimes. Why? Are we staying for a while longer?”
Her thumb began moving again and her eyes became damp. “I had to go to the sheriff's office yesterday, while you were out. They had me film a deposition with the – well, that doesn't matter. It's for court, for Frank's trial.”
“Are you sure he's my father?” I asked, grinning at her.
“I wish I could say he wasn't, baby,” she said and sighed. “Honey...”
“He's not getting out or anything, is he? I don't want to see him anymore.”
“No, he's not getting out. After what he did last time, when he showed up here, the judge revoked his bail. He'll be in jail until his trial. But, he's demanding his right to see you, to have visitation.”
“I don't want to see him. I don't-” I frowned as my mom shook her head.
“The lawyer said it was his right to see you. I know,” she said as I started to shake my head, “ I know you don't baby. But, I need you to do it for me.”
“Because...” she trailed off and then sighed before releasing my hand and struggling into a more upright position. I moved up and grabbed an extra pillow to put behind her and she nodded in thanks.
“Honey, I'm not doing really well, you know that,” she said slowly and then she stopped and shook her head. Looking at me she said, softly, “Nathan, I love you more than life, sweetheart. I wish I could protect you from things, but...I saddled you with Frank for a father. I can't fix that. I don't want to hurt you, but I'm going to ask you to grow up a little bit right now, because things are going to get harder.”
My face clouded at her words and I asked what she meant.
“Honey, I know you're only fourteen-”
“Almost fifteen,” I interjected.
“Yes, almost,” she said, nodding. “But there are some things you're going to have to do, now. I'm sorry to have to put them on your shoulders but...this is the truth. Okay?”
I pursed my lips and nodded, “I'm listening, mom.”
“Okay,” she said, nodding. “Okay. The first thing is, you have to go see your father. I know you don't want to and God knows I don't want you to, either. But the law says he has to be able to see you. So unless we run off to Mexico and live on the beach under new names...” she said with a smile.
“Unless we do that, I have to go see him,” I said, sourly.
“Yes. I'm sorry, but it's the truth. I wish that was all, but I have more,” she said, and coughed. “This is going to sound a little selfish, maybe, but I need to save my energy and my money. I can't afford to fight to stop you seeing your dad. I asked the lawyer and he said we could try, but that it almost never works, so he convinced me I'd be throwing money away. Second...they found cancer in my lymph nodes.”
I sat up straighter. “What does that mean? More surgery?”
She shrugged lightly. “It means they have to get me strong enough to do chemotherapy. My body was already weak after the surgery and the radiation, but your....when Frank shot me, I wasn't in good shape to begin with. This is making it a lot harder to get well.”
“But...” My thoughts and emotions clashed together and I closed my eyes. “Are you going to be all right?”
She stayed silent and I opened my eyes to look at her. Her eyes were filled with tears and she said, softly, “I don't think so.”
I didn't want to go out that night, but my mother begged me to. “Life goes on, Nathan. All I'm going to do is rest and we'll deal with whatever comes tomorrow when it gets here, okay? I just want...I need for you to go have fun. Be a kid. Okay?”
With that request made, I packed an overnight bag and got cleaned up. We had dinner together, when Devyn and uncle Dale got home, and it felt kind of surreal. Before, it was kind of nice to sit together with everyone as they talked about their day. Now, my mom's health was hanging over my head along with being forced to see my father. I'd normally go talk to Dev, but looking at him filled me with guilt and, confusingly, a thrill.
Aunt Sylvie dropped me off at Hannah's, I told her I needed to go sooner than I actually did. If I'd waited, Dev and Griff would drop me off, but I felt too ashamed and confused to be near them. I think Devyn picked up on it, but there was no time to talk. My aunt waived as she drove off and I walked up the path to Hannah's front door.
In minutes her mother was hugging me and generally over doing the welcome, and then Hannah and I went in her backyard and sat on the patio furniture.
“I hope Dylan isn't going to get our butts kicked or something tonight,” she said.
“Me too. Do you know this cousin he's talking about?”
“No, but I don't really know anyone besides the family Dylan has at home. Did you hear Adam went into the air force?”
“Really? I thought you had to pass a drug test for that?”
“I don't know how he did it, but he's in. He leaves for boot camp next week – oh! I bet that's why there is a party tonight.”
“Oh, yeah,” I nodded, “That'd make sense. I don't mind celebrating that Adam is leaving,” I said, smiling.
“I know, he's such a dirtbag. So, speaking of cousins...how's Devyn?”
“Still gay,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Ugh. All the pretty ones are,” she said with a sigh.
“What? Are you saying I'm not pretty?” I said, feigning hurt.
“Hmm,” she said, putting a finger to her chin and then laughing, and I joined her. “So, given what you think about gays, how hard is it living with your cousin? Worried he's spying on you, yet?”
“Uh, no,” I said, hanging my head a little. “Actually, with everything that's happened I've kind of...well, I've been trying to figure out what things Frank taught me-”
“Yeah, he doesn't deserve to be called my dad,” I explained. “Anyway, when I met Devyn he was nothing like what my dad kept saying. In fact...I hope I can be like him.”
“No!” I said, but my mind filled with the guilty thrill of the night before. “I mean to be a good person. He's rational and he thinks things through – practical. I want to think better, not just repeat the things my – Frank – said. Devyn is awesome, and so is his boyfriend,” I said, jutting my chin defiantly.
“Griffin Douglas,” she said and pretended to swoon. “So, you're okay with the gay, now?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Are you about to come out?”
“Hardly. I'm strictly dickly,” she said, snickering. “But I know a few boys in the closet that are sniffing around about you.”
“Me?” I asked, my voice rising and breaking, displaying the gift of puberty.
“Sure. Why not you? Weren't you just upset I didn't call you pretty?”
“Uh, but...I mean,” I closed my eyes and took a breath. “It's cool. I think I'd be okay that a guy liked me.” I nodded and said in a firmer tone, “Yeah. I'd be cool. I just...I guess I never thought about someone finding me...you know, liking me.”
“Why not? You dated that skank, Tamara, last year. Still surprised you didn't catch anything.”
“Cut my tongue on her braces,” I said, grinning.
She rolled her eyes. “Skank. Oh, and Abby? I heard you felt her up.”
“Jealous?” I asked, grinning.
“As if! I'd never go out with you!” she said, giggling. She tilted her head to one side and regarded me. “You are kind of different, though. Not that you were horrible before, but I can see you dropped some of...I guess, some of your dad.”
“Frank,” she amended. “Has he showed up at your house again, by the way?”
“No,” I replied and laced my hands together. “He got his bail revoked, but...I have to go see him in jail.”
Her nose wrinkled, “What? Why?”
“I guess it's his right to see me, even if I don't want to.”
“That's bullshit. What if you refuse?”
I shook my head slowly, “I don't want to put my mom through the stress.”
“How's she doing?” Hannah asked, leaning forward in her chair.
I met her eyes and said, soberly, “Not great. She's fighting.”
She nodded her head slowly. We sat in silence for a minute and then her phone chimed. Glancing down she rose from her chair, “I better get ready. You might want to wait out here.”
I frowned, “Why?”
“My mom thinks we'd look cute together. If you sit with her, you'll be making wedding plans before we leave.”
“She...uh. Oh. Well, that explains why she seemed so happy to see me.”
“Yeah. Let's spare ourselves and you just stay here, okay?”
Guilt flashed through me as I thought of the night before again and I blurted, “Would that be so bad? You and me?”
Her eyes narrowed and she tilted her head a bit. She took a step toward me and my heart rate picked up. “Nate I think...well, there's two good reasons not to. First, I think we're pretty good friends and if we broke up – which, let's face it, we probably would – then our friendship would be over. I know we could find new friends, but why throw that away?”
I squinted at her. “You seem pretty sure about that breaking up, part.”
“Look at your track record,” she said, snorting. “Besides, Nate, you've never asked me out before. Why would you now?”
I instantly felt guilty as I knew I was motivated by how my body reacted the night before. I shrugged to cover and said, “I was just asking why it would be a bad thing to date me, that's all.”
I shifted uncomfortably. “What's your second reason?”
She pursed her lips and smiled, “I know someone else that wants a shot at you. Since they confided in me...you know, dating code. Maybe I'll date you when you grow up some, Mr. Kennedy.”
I snorted and shook my head as she smiled and excused herself to get changed. I felt a little badly about my abortive attempt to ask her out – that was just stupid. She was right, we had absolutely no romance in our past and, if I was honest, we didn't now. This was tempered with her second statement, however – who was interested in me? In a short while we walked over to Dylan's house and settled into the madness that passes for daily life there. His mom ran a daycare from the house, and there were still a few little ones hanging around; parents who worked later, I guess. Dylan led us up to his room where he tried on a few different shirts while chattering.
“This is going to be so much fun!” he said.
“Hey, which cousin is this? Hannah and I don't know any of your extended family,” I said as I tossed my bag into his closet.
“You don't know her. She's a hairdresser and her boyfriend is a tattoo...parlor...guy, whatever you call them. They rent a house over on River, so we can walk there, no problem.” He pulled his polo off and put it back on a hanger. He pulled on a light green v-neck tee and then reached for a white button up.
“How do I look?” he asked.
“I'd do you,” Hannah quipped.
“I wouldn't do you, but you look okay,” I said, smiling. Dylan punched me and called me a dick.
“Let me go brush my teeth and we'll go,” he said.
“Seriously? 'Cause I'm thinking he looks damn good, tonight,” Hannah said and waved a hand at her face.
“Jeez, you horny tonight or what?” I laughed and sat on the bed.
“When am I not?” she giggled. “I'm just saying, he looks good...I think those pants are new.”
“Are you guys going to hook up later?” I asked in confusion. “I'm supposed to stay over.”
She cocked her head at me. “Yeah, you're our cover. His folks won't know we're fucking if we keep you in the room, too.”
“Kinky,” I said and screwed up my face, “kind of disgusting, too.”
“Oh, come on, I'll bet you'd love to watch,” she laughed. Her attention shifted to Dylan as he entered the room, and I was grateful – she'd missed my look of shock, confusion and guilt. We headed out a few minutes later, and we talked as we did. Dylan was thinking of trying out for a school team this year, though I don't know why – he's never really been a sports guy, not like me. I love sports – playing, watching – it didn't matter.
Hannah was talking about the potential of certain guys for dating. Josh Ridley, Simon Dalton and Sean Kelly were at the top of her list.
“Hey, isn't Sean the brother of...Jamie? Oh, no, his name is Kirkwood, right? They look a lot alike, though,” Dylan said.
“Brothers,” Hannah confirmed. “But I heard Emily Baker was reeling Jamie in,” she glanced at me and winked, “Dating code. But, as far as I know, Sean only has some on again, off again relationship so I think he's fair game.”
I tried to picture the guys in question but drew a blank. Then I felt weird for trying to picture them. Jesus, I can't even think of a guy, now, without it being weird? Shit. I glanced at Dylan and he shot me a wide smile, almost like he knew what was running through my head. Wait. I was just feeling weird, nothing like kissing Dylan was running through my head – except, of course, now it was. Ugh!
“Of course, I could go for Scott Ellis,” Hannah said, then scrunched up her nose. “You know, I just named a bunch of football players. Do you think that means I have a type?”
“Means I'm not playing football,” I said, trying to get myself back into the groove of being with my friends.
“Yeah, uh huh,” she said. “Oh! You'll never guess who I saw this week working at Price Chopper. Jake Thayer.”
“Who?” I asked.
“That kid from our art class? The pudgy one?” Dylan asked.
“Yes! Only,” she said, dragging the word out, “not so pudgy anymore. I didn't ask, of course, but he's slimmed down and he's quite the looker!”
“I can't picture him,” I said, shaking my head.
“He was nice. Quiet, but nice,” Dylan said. “He did this cool thing with our painting project – there's the place,” Dylan said, his voice jumping with excitement.
The outside of the place wasn't anything to look at. There was a weathered wooden set of three steps, something that looked a few years old and not really well cared for. The house had faded siding and peeling paint around the windows. An air conditioner hung from a window, off. There were a few cars in the driveway and there was loud laughter coming form inside as well as some music. Dylan squared up his shoulders and led us to the front door, tapping on it and then walking in.
If the outside was unimpressive, the inside was worse. My house wasn't a palace, but this place...the carpet was dirty and threadbare – patches were worn through in places. The floor tilted unevenly in spots and the walls had an old, faded quality to them. The room the door opened into was the living room and people were sitting or standing all around – I thought maybe a dozen people. Adam, Dylan's brother, was holding a beer bottle and smoking as he talked to a group of people.
Dylan waved but Adam didn't notice – or didn't care. In fact, no one paid us any mind. We went into the kitchen where a keg was set up inside a box and packed with ice. A few people were in here also, but there was the added bonus of a bong on the counter. Dylan, with confidence I'd never have credited him with, filled three plastic cups with beer and we slid out of the room and through a flimsy door that opened into the back yard, after an over-long step down.
We clustered together and toasted being friends with our cheap plastic cups and sipped the beer.
“Ugh,” I said.
“Wow,” Hannah said, wrinkling her nose.
“Hey, it's better than the last time!” Dylan said, grinning.
“I don't know – why do people drink this stuff, again?” I asked as I sipped a second time. It was better on the second sip, maybe the first gulp had killed off some of my more sensitive taste buds.
We chatted about nothing important for a bit, enough that we all finished the beer. It was better to drink it while cold, warm beer tasted awful – especially when it was lousy beer to start with. Dylan slipped in and out, again, and returned with the full cups. We sat down in some crappy, stained lawn chairs and sipped as we listened to the laughter and yelling from inside.
“I didn't know your brother had so many people that liked him,” Hannah mused as she drank.
“He doesn't. They're celebrating because there is free beer and, if they know him, because he's leaving,” Dylan laughed.
“So, Nate,” Hannah said, drawing the words out. “What's most important to you in finding someone to date?”
I exhaled deeply and tried to consider the question, but my mind was working a little slower than normal. “Well, cute is important. You know,” I said, waving my cup and spilling a little, “like, cute the way I think...is...cute.”
“Yeah, cute is in the eye of the beer holder,” Dylan snickered.
I grinned. “Being funny or at least laughing at my jokes. Good kisser,” I said. Unbidden I suddenly saw Griffin, in my minds eye, biting his lower lip and looking up at Devyn and hearing the sound of him...oh, God, I was getting hard.
“Kissing is definitely on my list as well,” Hannah said. “I like a guy to be taller than I am, and I want to have bigger boobs between the two of us. I think a guy needs really good hands, though, you know?” she said, peering back and forth at us. “He needs to not be grabby, but know how to have a gentle, yet sexy, touch. How about you, Dylan? What are you looking for in a boy?”
I giggled and Dylan blushed, but didn't correct her. My eyes opened a bit wider and my laughter slacked off. Dylan looked at me apologetically.
“Wow, I have to pee.” Hannah stood up and glanced at the trees and then at the house. “Let's see. I'm pretty sure I can't squat in poison ivy in the house, so I'll take my chances there.” So saying, she set off. I was still looking at Dylan, trying to absorb that he was gay.
“Uh. Sorry I didn't tell you before. You, um, didn't used to seem very open to it.”
“Um. Yeah,” I said, shaking my head. “You're right. I'm, uh, sorry you...uh, shit.” I shook my head and looked down for a moment, then met his gaze. “Dylan, I'm sorry I wasn't the kind of guy you could come out to before. I'm working on me, man.”
He broke into a shy smile and exhaled deeply, turning his lips into an 'o'. “I was afraid, but Hannah said you'd be cool with it. I guess she knows us, huh?”
We sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Dylan broke it. “So, is this what it means for you to accept me?” he asked, his voice sounding hurt.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We were talking and then, now that you know, nothing. Be honest, Nate, are you freaked out?”
His face bore a hurt expression and I felt a wave of shame wash through me. “No, Dyl, I'm not freaked out. Promise,” I said, holding up a hand. “Frank taught me a lot of stuff I repeated without thinking, but now I'm learning that a lot of what he thought and said just isn't true. Did you know I have a gay cousin?”
“A cute gay cousin, yeah,” Dylan said, nodding slowly.
“Yeah, well, he's shown me that the things my dad said were wrong. Devyn and his boyfriend have been great to me. I guess I'm just surprised is all, and kind of ashamed you couldn't say anything before.”
“Oh. Okay, well, that's a relief,” he said and smiled. “I guess I should thank your cousin for showing you the light, huh?”
I chuckled. “He's pretty awesome. Ugh,” I said, and stood up. I felt a little lightheaded from standing too fast, but the beer didn't help. “I have to piss.”
“Me, too. Let's water the trees.”
We ambled over to the thin line of trees and stood a few feet apart. I felt a shiver pass through me as I released, grateful that I was a guy and thus couldn't get poison ivy on my dick, unlike Hannah. Wait, she couldn't get it on her dick, either. I started to chuckle.
“What?” Dylan asked. I told him what had run through my head and he laughed with me. Once done I zipped up and we walked back to the house and leaned up against the side. I was looking up at the stars, letting my mind drift when I was interrupted by the sound of Dylan's hands landing on either side of me, pushing flat against the side of the house.
“Gotcha,” he said, grinning.
“Yeah?” I smiled back dopily. “Now what?”
He grinned and then the ends of his mouth twitched, his grin faltering. A look of nervousness – fear – ran across his face and he leaned in closer to me. I was just wondering what he was doing when he pushed his mouth against mine and turned his head a bit to the side, pressing against me with gentle insistence. Suddenly I felt awake and the same mixture of confusion and being thrilled ran through me as I'd experienced when I'd grown hard the night before. In fact, as he pulled back momentarily and then pushed himself back onto my lips, I felt my dick responding to the stimulation on my mouth.
His mouth opened and mine followed suit, as if on auto pilot, and then his tongue was in my mouth. The kiss was intense, powerful and...wait, I was kissing Dylan Whalen. I was kissing a guy. I started to pull back, but my head was against the wall. Dylan slowly leaned back and I noticed him for, perhaps, the first time. I mean, if you'd asked me to describe Dylan before tonight I'd have just said...he looked like Dylan. But now I was noticing his shaggy brown hair and his warm brown eyes, the wetness of his lips as he glanced down shyly and bit his lower lip...just like Griffin had.
“Oh. Um. Shit, Dyl.”
He glanced up, the shy look moving to something less sure of himself. “I. Uh, Nate? You seemed okay with...oh, man. Are you mad?”
“Dylan...what...I don't understand,” I said and covered my eyes with my hand.
“It's not that hard, Nate. I like you. I've liked you for a while, now. You seemed so cool about me coming out...well, I decided to go for it. Um. Are you okay? Are you mad at me?”
I looked down at my shoes and said, “No, I'm not mad.” My tone was low and raspy. “I'm just...confused. I have a lot going on and I wasn't really...you know, prepared.”
Hannah stepped out of the back of the house. “Okay, they are getting stoned and there's some shit I'm sure is even more illegal than pot going around in there. The toilet looked like a petrie dish – I had to haunch over the toilet. We're leaving.”
Dylan and I glanced at each other, a grin beginning to spread on both our faces. He turned to her, “Haunch?”
“Yeah. You know,” she said, throwing her arms out in emphasis, “Like squatting but not letting my skin come into contact with whatever living, moving mass was on the seat?”
We dissolved into giggles while Hannah cursed us and we started the walk home. We made our way to Hannah's first, where she hugged us both and told us to be careful going home. By the time we'd gotten back to Dylan's the effect of the few cups of lousy beer had worn off. I was acutely aware of Dylan and began to wonder if he was going to want to kiss me again – and I began to wonder what I was supposed to do. Should I let him? What if he wanted more than that? How would Devyn figure this out?
“Hey. Um, you okay?” Dylan asked. I blinked and realized I'd followed him upstairs and was standing in the hallway outside his room. He was facing me, standing about a foot into his room. Slowly, his face crumpled. “You're freaked out.”
“Uh. I don't think it's that, really. Like, I'm calm,” I said, slowly as I tried to assess what I actually was feeling.
“Um,” he bit his lower lip again and looked at me with his big eyes. “Do you want me to set you up in Adam's room? I don't think he'll be home tonight. I mean...I'm guessing you don't...want to sleep in my room.”
He looked sad as he said that and I could almost feel the rejection I imagined he was now feeling. I paused to gather my thoughts and tried to ask myself, again, how Devyn would handle this. I slowly opened my mouth.
“Dyl, I've had a really tough day. I'm confused and kind of messed up. It's not all you, either. I, um. Look, the kiss was definitely a surprise. I don't want to make things weird between us by me sleeping in Adam's room – I mean, I trust you, you know? I don't think you're going to do something to me in my sleep or anything. I just...”
“You didn't like the kiss, did you?” he said softly.
I tilted my head from side to side. “Honestly? It was a pretty good kiss. I just don't know if that's...me. I'm kind of messed up about the subject right now.”
He bit his lower lip again and then asked, “Is that...my fault?”
I shook my head. “No, Dyl, you just added to it, some. But I don't blame you.”
He tilted his head, “You want to talk about it?”
I thought for a moment. My biggest sounding board was Devyn, but I felt like this would be hard to talk to him about, considering part of my problem was being a voyeur to his lovemaking. But, could Dylan give impartial advice, considering he...had a thing for me? I suddenly realized that Hannah must have known and that Dylan was likely the person she mentioned earlier that was interested. On the other hand, Dylan had always been a nice guy, decent guy and he'd stuck by me with all I had going on.
“Okay,” I said, nodding.
He gave me a tentative smile and we got changed for bed. We were both in tee shirts and underwear and he slid over to the far side, against the wall. I flipped the light switch, giving us just the thin illumination of the streetlight filtering through his curtains, and climbed in next to him. We lay in the darkness for a few minutes, and I know I was trying to figure out what to say. My confusion was honest and I just wasn't sure, yet, what to make of it. I tried to follow things logically, picturing one event after another in my head so I could make sense of it.
I wasn't dating anyone, right now, but I had dated...I scrunched my face as I thought back...six or seven girls, I guess. They weren't long term things and they didn't end badly, most of the time. It was just that things would come up, the initial thrill of dating them would wear off – kissing was nice, that one time I felt up Abby Wilson, that was something to remember. The thing is, I was just sort of doing whatever occurred to me at the time. Asking a girl out was usually spur of the moment. I didn't pine for anyone – male or female – I just, for some reason, seemed to realize a girl was pretty and asked her out.
“You're really different, now. Did you know that?” Dylan said in the dark.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You talk with your mouth closed, now, for one thing.”
He shifted a little and chuckled. “You said you wanted to talk, but you've clammed up.”
“Sorry,” I replied, “I was thinking.”
“There's that, too,” he said chuckling some more.
“What are you talking about?” I frowned. I glanced at him in the dim light and he was doing that lip biting thing, again. Had he always done that?
“No offense, Nathan, but if we're going to be honest...you don't have a reputation as a guy that thinks a lot.”
My frown deepened. “You think I'm stupid?”
“No, no,” he said, chuckling and sat up to sit with his legs folded beneath him. “You seem more like a guy that just does things. You make decisions or just go with the flow. You never seemed to have opinions, just repeated things you'd heard – like the crap from your dad.”
“Frank,” I corrected him.
“Frank,” he said, nodding. “It's not that you're dumb or can't think, it's more like you didn't seem to care much about doing it. Something's a little different, now. I like it.”
I considered that for a minute. “I don't like the idea that people...you thought I was, what?”
“I don't know what the word would be. You take the time to think, now, and I like that. Hannah noticed, too. She and I were talking – spending time with your cousin changed you.”
I nodded slowly and then propped myself up against the headboard. “Things have been really messy, but Devyn and Griff have both been really good to me. They definitely gave me some...I don't know. The made me realize some things I thought I knew were wrong. I'm trying to be a lot more like Dev, now.”
“Are you trying to be gay?” Dylan grinned.
My lips twitched, “Not exactly. I already know it's not something you pick, but they've also showed me that things aren't always as black and white as some people like to think.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, like, their friend Robin? I guess he doesn't call himself gay – even though he doesn't care if other people do. He's been dating this one guy, Lu, and I guess it really works for him. And there is this other friend, Hamster-”
“Hamster?” Dylan asked, laughing.
I smiled, “Yeah. I don't know why they call him that, yet. But, anyway, he's bi-sexual and is dating a guy.”
“What about Devyn and Griff? How do they fit into that?”
“I guess they both knew they were gay pretty early. Learning about their friends and how they feel has kind of influenced them, though, in realizing things don't have to be so locked down and defined.”
“Hmm,” Dylan grunted. “Do you think that's what's going on with you, maybe?”
I sighed. “I don't know,” I said quietly. “I've been trying to think about it; to be logical. But there are so many things running through my head, it's like life is changing faster than I can keep up.”
“Like what, Nate?” he asked, his voice filled with compassion. “Is it your mom?”
I nodded, “That's part of it. She told me she's not doing that well; the cancer is back.” Dylan took a sharp intake of breath and I continued, “Then she told me, legally, I have to visit Frank because he's pushing for it. Then...well, I saw something.”
Dylan's fingers came down on my forearm, feather light, and he said. “I'm sorry about your mom, Nate. I'll be here for you, you know?”
My eyes began to water and Dylan leaned forward and gave me an awkward hug, putting his head on my chest. I started to cry a little harder and hugged him back, grateful for the feeling of a live person that cared about me and what I was going through. Dylan was quiet, his fingers moving in small motions as he comforted me. Eventually I sniffled a few times and wiped my eyes and reasserted some control over myself.
“Thanks, Dyl,” I said quietly. His head moved, nodding on my chest.
“Sure, Nate. You want me to let you go?”
I paused and then replied, my voice close to a whisper, “No.” I cleared my throat and said, more forcefully, “No. This is good.”
“Cool,” he replied and snuggled into me. I slid down a little and enjoyed the contact, the simple human comfort he was giving me of just being there.
“Can I ask what you saw?”
I closed my eyes and saw Devyn and Griffin making love in the theater of my mind. “I saw...Griffin and Dev together.”
“Whoa. Um,” he coughed lightly, I think trying to cover a laugh. “That must have been different, huh?”
“Different. Yeah.” I grew more conscious of Dyl's body pressed to mine and, despite thinking I was sad enough about my mom to never get hard again, my dick began to twitch.
“So...what did you, you know, think about what you saw.”
“Well, that's where things get confusing,” I said. My voice was pitched low, as if we were discussing something I dared not have overheard. In a sense, I guess that was true but there was no real danger of that, here. Dylan's parents were, at best, inattentive. He could probably have an orgy in his room and they wouldn't care as long as he kept it down. Adam was a waste and was out, anyway. Still, there seemed to be a certain amount of...gravity to the talk we were having. There was a certain weight to the words, importance that could affect the two of us for a while.
“Did you, you know...like what you saw?”
“Um. Yeah. Well, some of me did.”
His body shook with laughter. “Some of you? Like the part between your legs?”
“Hey, I'm being serious, here,” I said.
“I'm sorry,” he said, not sounding the least bit sorry. “If it makes you feel any better, I boned up over straight porn.”
“Um, I don't feel better but...why would you watch straight porn?”
“Adam,” he said and accompanied his statement with a slow movement of his hand, moving it in a circle on my shirt instead of just his fingers. “When he found out I was gay he over-reacted. He figured he could turn me straight and he made me watch straight porn and tried setting me up with a slut he knew.”
“Yep,” he confirmed.
“You boned up over it, though?”
“Both times,” he said.
“Yeah. I was watching the guy in the porn, not the flappy pussy lips. The guy wasn't very attractive, but he was all I could focus on to get me through it. Plus, you know, it was sex and naked bodies,” he said and then snorted, “Besides, it wasn't like they were total trolls. Attractive people getting naked is still kind of interesting in a way, maybe because it's just different. Most people don't walk around without clothes.”
“Yeah, I guess I can understand that.”
“And getting a blow job, well, I just pretended it was a guy from school.”
“Wait,” I said, jerking in his arms. “You got a blow job?”
“Yeah,” he said, giggling. “Some slut my brother knew. He actually told her that I needed a woman to make me straight and she agreed to 'turn me'.”
“How'd that work out?” I asked, chuckling to myself.
“Well, they decided that, since she got me off, I was cured. I just let him go on thinking that because, well, I don't want her sucking me again,” he said and laughed into my chest. We chuckled in the dark for a moment and then, quietly, Dylan's hand was rubbing up higher than my stomach, moving the cloth of my tee shirt over my nipple, which was becoming sensitive, but keeping his fingers just shy of touching the hardening nub.
“So...was it kind of hot?”
“Was what hot?” I asked, growing distracted by the feeling from my nipple and the growing hardness between my legs.
“Seeing your cousin and his boyfriend? I always thought Devyn was cute, you know.”
I paused for a moment. It was hot, and I knew that – but saying it out loud seemed to have implications. Would that make me gay? Or was I admitting to...curiosity? Bi sexuality? What, exactly, did it mean?
“It's hard to describe,” I said slowly, licking my lips. “I was so surprised. I was going to talk to Devyn – he's really great at helping me work through things. I thought Griffin had gone home so...at first I was just kind of surprised.”
“What happened next?” Dylan said, a little breathlessly.
“I just...stared. It was so...” I sighed and decided I had to try and be as honest as I could. Maybe Dyl could help me sort things out. “It was really hot, or at least part of my brain thought so. I, uh, came.”
Dyl leaned back and his hand stilled as he looked up at me. “Like, you just came? Not from jerking or anything?”
“Nope,” I said, shaking my head. “I just...I was hard as a rock, leaking like crazy, and then...that was it. It was so different seeing someone have sex right in front of you instead of on, like, a screen. You know?”
“I'm not sure, but I think I get what you mean,” he replied.
“What do...” I hesitated and licked my lips again. “What do you think that means, Dyl?”
“The...you know, coming and stuff. Does that make me gay?”
He smiled. “I don't think so, Nate. Maybe...” he trailed off thoughtfully and when he resumed speaking, it was slowly, like he was speaking as he thought of what he was saying. “I'm thinking that Frank was telling you things and making you act and speak a certain way. Think of it like a pendulum, only you were being held in one direction. When you cut loose of his thinking, then it made you more open and accepting; maybe a little curious. Eventually you'll settle in the middle, whatever that ends up meaning to you. Does that make any sense?”
I started to nod, following his logic. “Yeah, I think so. I mean, it's possible. I was kind of – well, afraid is a bad word. Um, I was kind of thinking I was straight, all along or just thinking I was, you know? And then I saw this and it really threw me.”
“Can I have some credit, please? After all, I kissed you,” he said, chuckling.
I smiled, “Yeah, you did.”
He put his head back down on my chest and rested his open hand on my other pec. His legs were drawn up against mine, his upper knee extended over my own knee. He sighed and said, “This is nice. I could get used to this.”
I put my hand behind him, on his back, and murmured an agreement. We lay like that, in companionable silence, and the minutes ticked past in the dark. I looked at the window, the streetlight a bright spot shining through the cloth and then down to the top of Dylan's head.
“Could we talk in a few days?”
I frowned in confusion. “About what? Why do you want to wait a few days?”
He leaned back and looked up at me. “Nathan, I like you. I used to think you were just nice looking and you were a pretty good friend. But I like this new Nate. I'm thinking...how would you feel about something like...friends with benefits?”
“Friends with...you mean, like, dating? Almost?”
“Well,” he said, stretching and then pulling the upper part of his body away from me and resting his head on his hand. “I'm plenty interested in guys; I've known I was gay as long as I can remember. I've always, always liked the way boys look and move. I know you're not sure what you feel and, just being honest, I didn't really think of you in terms of kissing or fooling around, really. You're different, now though.”
He smiled at me and touched my arm with that feather light touch. “I started to like you a lot more with that change in you; that's why I told Hannah I had dibs.”
“Dibs?” I smiled.
“Yeah. So, anyway,” he said, smiling shyly and biting his lower lip – which was kind of endearing. “I liked kissing you. I'd like to do it some more. Maybe do some other stuff, if it feels right, you know? I just...I know you're figuring things out and I'm not, like, in love with you. So...I figure we could think about something casual? Something where I don't feel like I'm trying to convert you and you can get a little guy action and answer some of your own questions. You know?”
“Yeah,” I said, slowly nodding my head.
“So...think about it, a little. We can talk-” he said, but I turned and leaned into him, kissing him quickly. I leaned back just a bit and he smiled at me. Before he could start talking again, I leaned in and he met me in the middle. Kissing Dylan is different from kissing girls, but not in a bad way. I like it. It's kind of fun kissing someone that wants to kiss you back. We made out for a while, but it was late and we had consumed beer earlier, and that always makes me a little tired. In the end, that overcame our mutual hard-ons and general horniness.
In the morning I woke and turned slowly to see Dylan sleeping next to me, breathing softly. I rolled over and cuddled into him, pulling him to me. He woke, briefly and smiled sleepily at me. He pushed back, snuggling into my embrace and we both went back to sleep.
I felt good as I took the long walk home. I could have called Griff or Dev, but it was already mid-day and they probably had plans that had nothing to do with me. Instead, I enjoyed the sunshine and turned over the events of the night before. I was pretty happy with the results – even though it didn't settle anything for me about my suddenly less-than-concrete sexuality, I knew I had a safe way to explore it. Not only that, I thought as I smiled to myself, Dylan was also an attractive way to figure that out.
My cheeks heated up just thinking that. I felt about Dylan, right now, the way I felt about girls when I'd first start to date. It was a little giddy, a little euphoric but there was something new with this one – no pressure. We liked each other, but there was no pressure to say 'I love you' or some demand to be the center of attention. Dylan seemed okay with letting this be whatever it was going to be and I was okay with that.
When he brought up that girl blowing him – and then when we started to make out – I was thinking I was going to get my first blow job. It didn't work out that way, but I was okay with it. Here, walking in the sunshine, I wasn't sure I'd have been open to returning the favor. Kissing Dylan was one thing, blowing him was another – or was it? Before, I'd never have thought about kissing Dyl, so maybe sucking his dick was a step I'd end up taking. I wasn't sure, but as I thought about it, the idea became less outrageous.
I mounted the steps to my aunt and uncle's home about forty minutes later. Griffin's car was out front, so I guess I could have saved myself the walk, but I think it did me some good to think about things – like Devyn would have.
I said hello to all the adults – my aunt and uncle were sitting in the living room and drinking iced tea, and my mom was in a recliner. She looked a little better today, but who knew if there was any real truth to that. I gave her a hug and we made small talk for a moment about my overnight.
I went upstairs to put my stuff in my room and ran into Griff as he exited Devyns' room.
“Hey, Griff,” I greeted him.
“Nate, what's up?” he said.
“Just getting back from Dylan's,” I replied. I tossed my bag in my doorway and turned to look at him. “I thought you and Dev would be out, so I didn't call to see if you would mind giving me a lift.”
“I don't think we decided what we're doing, yet. Dev wants to go look at a few cars, and Lu offered to drive us around because, you know, why shouldn't car shopping be a spectacle with us?” he said, smiling and rolling his eyes.
“I think you just want Dev to yourself,” I said with a grin and leaned against the wall.
“Yeah, I do,” Griff replied and then pulled Dev's door closed with audible click. “Fixed the door.”
My eyes grew wide and my insides turned to quivering jelly.
Griff leaned back against the door.
“Griff...I'm so sorry.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “You're sorry.” He pulled his lips in and tilted his chin down. “At first I had some pretty mixed emotions. As far as breaking our privacy, you can't go much farther – I admit I felt pretty hurt.”
“I didn't mean...I was coming in to talk to Devyn and I thought you'd gone home and then when...I saw...I just...” I trailed off, trying to get control of my babbling.
“The more I thought about it,” he continued as if I hadn't said anything, “the more I began to realize it was deliberate. I started to think about it and wondered what I'd do if I could watch one of my friends having sex. I have to say, I really don't know. I guess it depends on the friends, you know? Like, Lu? He's really private about things like that, it'd probably hurt his feelings.”
I decided it was best to try and be quiet and see how angry he was, even though it didn't seem like he was headed toward killing me. Of course, some people get quiet when they are angry, and his voice was pretty soft.
“You just figured it was too hot to walk away from?” Griffin asked, cheeks tinged with red and his lips quivering in amusement.
I rubbed my face. “I was just kind of shocked and....and then – I knew I should have left, but I couldn't seem to. I didn't plan it, Griff. Jesus, you must be so mad at me...” and then my mind flashed with a horrible thought. “Oh my God, Devyn! Oh, shit, how mad is he?”
“Relax,” Griffin said, holding a hand up. “Look, I know that your hormones are raging and seeing two, admittedly hot guys,” he said, his grin growing wider, “going at it was probably overwhelming. I'm a little flattered, actually. But, Dev and I aren't for show and we're not there for you to rub one out over, okay? So, please, no more watching us.”
My face was hot and I felt a tear track down my face. “What about Devyn, Griff? Is he...does he...”
Griffin stepped up to me and put his hands on my shoulders. “Devyn loves you, Nate. Trust me, as important as you seem to feel like Dev is to you, the feeling is mutual. So, I didn't tell him...”
“He doesn't know?” I squeaked. “Shit!”
I turned in place and said, “I can't lie to him. I didn't know how to talk to him about that! I mean, how do you even bring up that conversation?”
Just then the bathroom door opened and Dev emerged, droplets of water on his skin and dressed in shorts. He looked at me and scowled, and began moving his hands. I didn't catch most of it, his movements were too fast and I knew too little – all I really caught was 'why'.
“He wants to know why-”
“I'm sorry, Dev! I swear I didn't mean to! I just wanted to talk to you,” I babbled. “Dylan wanted to go to this party and then he said we'd be crashing it and I got worried and I was trying to think it through, like you would, but I wasn't sure. So I wanted to talk to you and figure out the smart thing to do and then...and then...”
Griffin was laughing so hard he was leaning against the wall and Devyn was frowning at him and signing. Griffin stood long enough to say to me, “He wanted to know why you didn't call for a ride, not why you watched us screw!”
I blanched as I looked at Devyn, who turned to me and put his hands on his hips. Griffin sidled up to him and hugged him from the side.
“That's what I was trying to tell you, Nate,” he giggled. “I was kidding about Dev not knowing, I don't keep anything from him.”
“Seriously?” I asked, cautiously. “You're just mad I didn't call for a ride?”
Dev started making motions again and Griff translated. “He doesn't like you walking that far, not with the neighborhoods you have to cross through to get here.”
Dev hugged me, then, and I hugged him back automatically and my eyes filled again. “I'm sorry, Dev. For everything.” It felt good to hold him, and I drew comfort from his presence, his scent and the contact. He slowly disengaged and began to sign again.
“He says it's okay, he understands that hormones can be a weird thing.”
Dev turned and frowned at Griff who smiled at Dev and said, “I'm not repeating the rest of that!”
Dev made a bunch of quick movements and his face was a little hard. Griff's smile dimmed and he nodded.
“Yeah, you're right, I'm sorry,” he said and then turned his face toward me. “I sometimes forget that when other people can't sign, I'm Devyn's voice. It shouldn't be up to me to decide what people get to hear from him and what they don't. He wants you to know he's not mad, he understands and that it's probably something you guys should talk about – especially if it's making you question yourself. Um, for the record, I'm willing to talk about that, too, if you want.”
I nodded slowly. Glancing back at the stairs and still hearing the TV, I felt reasonably safe to speak. “There is a lot I'd like to talk about with you both. Things about my mom. About my future. About how you guys...made me feel and think. And, um, because I kissed a boy last night. I'm really confused.”
Dev put an arm around my shoulders and led me to his room, Griff preceding us. I was nervous, but with these guys to guide me, I knew I'd come out okay.
Tuesday came faster than I would have liked. Mom wasn't having a good day and Griffin volunteered to drive me to Broome County Correctional over in Dickinson.
“Nervous?” Griffin asked as he turned the volume down on the radio.
“A little, I guess,” I replied.
“I can go in with you, if you like.”
I glanced at him. For a short guy, he inspired a lot of confidence in me. “That's okay. I don't want you to meet him and he'll probably say some shitty things.”
“I'm not there for him, Nate. You've already told me what an asshole he is. Trust me, I've dealt with worse.”
I thought for a moment and then said, slowly, “I think I have to do this for me, Griff. It's not that I don't appreciate what you're trying to do, but...I think I just need to face him.”
“I understand. I'll be just outside, then,” he replied.
“Does that make me sound ungrateful?” I asked, after a moment.
He glanced at me and smiled, “No, Nate. There are a lot of things in life we have to do for ourselves. One of the trickier parts is realizing when we need the support of our friends and family and when we really can and should deal with things ourselves.”
I nodded and looked down at my hands. “Thanks for bringing me. All the rides and stuff. I know you don't have to and...” I trailed off, unsure what else I wanted to say, or if I actually had a point outside of expressing some gratitude.
“It's okay. You'll pay for it later,” Griff replied and laughed.
I looked at him uncertainly. “What are you talking about?”
“I'm just kidding...mostly. Listen, do you think you could do me a favor?”
“Yeah, of course. What could I do, though?”
“Well, maybe you want to hear the favor, first.”
“Um, okay. What is it?”
“Have you noticed Philip being...extra nice to you?”
“No, not really,” I replied. “He kind of flirts, sometimes, but I think he's joking around.”
“Ah.” Griff nodded his head. “I wasn't sure you picked up on that.”
“Well, I wouldn't have before, maybe. I had a long talk with Dylan and he said I was kind of dense, before all this stuff happened in my life. I don't know if that's true,” I said, waving my hand. “I do know that I've flirted with enough girls to recognize someone flirting with me.”
“Is he making you uncomfortable? Made any...explicit statements?” Griff asked tentatively.
“No,” I replied, shaking my head. “he's just been kind of dorky and obvious. He took a picture of me in my room – he said it was for the contact in his phone,” I said, rolling my eyes to show how much I believed that.
“He did what?” Griff asked sharply.
“Yeah,” I replied, shaking my head. “It was this past Sunday when I got the air conditioner, only uncle Dale wasn't home with it, yet. So I was sitting in my room in shorts and a tank top and Philip was leaning in my doorway talking, you know? I was texting with Dylan, kind of repeating what Philip was saying and Dylan was telling me that he's flirting. I was like, well, duh,” I said, laughing.
“What about this picture?” Griffin pressed.
I shrugged. “I was just sitting in the chair and Philip was saying my shoulders were broad and he was asking if I'd started lifting. Then he just asked if he could take my picture for his contacts. It was no big deal.”
Griffin was quiet for a moment and I prodded him.
He glanced at me and gave a small sigh and smiled. “Just like you're going through some changes, so is he. I try to help keep him focused, but it's hard if there are cute guys around.”
“Yeah. I figured he liked me, some. It's cool, he's a nice guy.”
“What I want to know was, where were Devyn and I?” Griffin mused.
“You guys were out getting the air conditioner. Remember? Phil waited since there wasn't enough room in the truck?”
“That's right,” Griffin replied, tapping his hand on the steering wheel. “Well, I'm glad you like him, he's working hard on his issues.” He paused and then asked, “Does he ever make you uncomfortable?”
“Nope,” I said, shaking my head. “He pays me some compliments, smiles a lot. Like I said, he's a nice guy. Why?”
Griff shook his head and smiled, “Uh, I just know being around gays is new for you. I don't want you to feel overwhelmed.”
“Too late!” I said, laughing. “I mean, my whole idea of gays has been turned around, I watched you guys screw, kissed Dylan – shit, I may as well kiss Phil, too! Why not?”
“You don't need to try kissing all guys, you know,” Griff chided, but laughed at me anyway.
“I know. I'll kiss girls, too, until I figure this thing out.”
Griffin laughed, “That's a pretty relaxed attitude since you just started kissing boys on Friday night!”
I shrugged and grinned at him. “It was fun. I didn't think about it before, but I don't think I thought I'd enjoy it. But...I did. It is what it is, so I'd better accept it and figure it out.”
“That's pretty mature.”
I shrugged again, “It's what Dev would do. So, what's this favor?”
Griff got a thoughtful look on his face. “Everyone...has their own story, Nate. I'd just ask that, if you like him, to work on being Philip's friend rather than...”
We pulled up to the lockup and Griffin dropped me off up front while he went to park. It wasn't a large lot, for visitors, and he told me he'd wait outside for me. I headed in and immediately had to go back out and get Griffin as they don't let anyone under 18 in without an adult. As I approached the car, Griffin was leaning against it and on the phone, but facing away from me.
“No, no. I'm not mad and you didn't do anything wrong. Mostly I'm pretty happy, I don't think you crossed any lines – but you should probably dial it back a notch.” He paused and I waited, letting him finish. “It's okay, Philip. No, he's not upset, either. I just know how hard you're trying and I wanted to tell you that, well, you did a good job but to keep focused, you know? It's easy to be who you don't want to be if things seem to go all right, that's all.”
I came around the corner of the car and Griff spotted me. I leaned on the car next to him and he held a finger up as he went back to the call.
“No, he didn't say anything. Look, you wouldn't be so worried about this unless you weren't sure either, right? I just wanted to talk to you before you had too much time to overthink, okay? It's good. I'm proud of you.” Griffin smiled and said, “Okay, I have to run. Yes, I'll talk to you later. Bye, Philip.”
As soon as he hung up Griff squinted at me. “Why are you here and how much were you eavesdropping in on?”
“I weren't dropping no eaves, sir,” I said and laughed. He squinted harder, though his lips quirked up in amusement.
“You are around every corner, in every open doorway. So? Going to answer me?”
“I need an adult to get in. We'll have to go back and find one, I guess. Second, I just heard you telling Philip you're proud of him and I don't know why – his flirting is so obvious!”
Griff chuckled and told me to get my ass in the car.
It took a bit, but I was back a few hours later with my aunt Sylvie, and then it was a few uncomfortable minutes later before Frank was sitting across from me at a table.
“Figured your mom would fight this,” he grunted.
“She's busy fighting cancer and trying to recover from that hole you put in her,” I said, acid dripping from my tone.
He opened his mouth and his tongue pressed his cheek, then lower lip outward. “I should have figured you'd take her part in all this.”
I sat and said nothing.
“I always wondered if you were my kid. I figure-”
“I kissed a boy,” I said suddenly. “I'm going to do it again, too.”
He closed his mouth and his lips pursed into an angry pucker.
“I'd be glad if I wasn't yours, either. But I guess neither of us gets what we want.” I pulled out my phone and inserted a headphone as I said, “The lawyer says I have to come see you; but he also said I don't have to talk to you. So, Frank, fuck you.” With that I popped the other speaker in my ear and turned on some music.
His eyebrow twitched, something that usually meant he was going to 'give me some discipline'. I was hoping he would, just because no judge would ever make me come back in to see this sorry asshole, then. He flexed his hands, tightening them into fists and then planted them on the table. He levered himself up and turned his back on me – and I hope it's for the last time.
I hung out in Devyn's room that night, with Griff and Philip. I was texting Dylan, who was working on his own flirting skills. Then Hannah started texting, as well, and making noises like maybe we should give us a try.
I thought about that for a minute but then decided to be honest with her. I don't know what I want and I don't feel any pressure to find out, yet. I'm just going to relax and do what comes naturally, right now. Besides, I was sure she was sharing my answers with Dylan – those two aren't fooling me for a second.