My thanks to Cole for editing and Ricky and Ryan for beta reading. The feedback was crucial in the finished product.
With just a few days to go before we all left for college, I was out of time. Even though things had been better – good, great even – since, I still struggled to speak effectively to my best friend. Well, my super friend, really.
Sasha, as always, was supportive and told me it wasn't surprising, really. After all, we'd both built up barriers for quite a while and we'd only known each other a few years. Still, it was less personal progress than I liked. That was why Sasha was on the way to pick up Chase as they were having their own night out – probably talking about how fucked up their boyfriends were – and I was headed to see Kale.
I pulled in next to his car, a silver Audi convertible, and felt another stab of uncertainty. Kale and I would never be in the same world, at least not financially. Did he ever feel...superior, I wondered? He didn't really act it, his snobbish ways extended more to the clothes he liked for himself and if he had a poor opinion of my clothes, he'd never said. But I was aware that we could never really know what went on in people's minds.
I approached the door and rang the bell. I could hear feet moving, approaching the door and then I was looking at Sean, the latest addition to the Kirkwoods.
“Hi, Alec,” Sean greeted me.
“Sean, looking good. How was practice?” I said, faking a couple of body blows but poking my fingers in his ribs instead. He giggled and twisted away, leaving the door open.
“Better. It's fun getting to do it with Jamie,” he said. I closed the door behind me.
“Hey, you're brothers. No doing it with your brothers,” I said seriously.
“You know what I meant,” he said, color rising in his cheeks.
“Yeah, but my way is funnier.” I quickly reached out and messed his hair before he could slide away again and he gave me a crooked grin.
“Kale's in his room. Want me to get him?”
“Nah, I'm sure you and Jamie have to get back to taking over the world or something. I'll go get him.”
With a nod of his head he was gone and I ascended the stairs to Kale's room. The door was open and he was looking in his bag, considering things in a serious, Kale-like way.
“Hey,” I said, tapping my finger on the door. Kale turned and raised an eyebrow at me, then went back to looking at his suitcase.
“Hey,” he replied.
“Something serious in that suitcase?”
He sighed. “No. Yes, I guess. I'm just having a hard time getting motivated for this. What's up?”
“Not much. Sash and Chase went out to try that...funky food restaurant. Figured I'd come hang with you.”
Kale frowned, “They like the strangest things, sometimes. Honestly, I'm glad Chase has Sash to do those things with.”
“Oh, yeah, I hear ya. So...want to get some take out and hang out for a while? Unless, you know, your suitcase can't wait.”
The corner of Kale's mouth twitched up. “The suitcase isn't happening tonight. I've been looking at it for at least twenty minutes. Let me get my keys.”
We headed downstairs and over to the local Chinese take out. The weather was warm and it was fun driving with the top down. We didn't say much, and I was okay with that for now. I figured it'd be easier when we had some food to occupy quiet spots in the conversation – provided I'd be able to get it started.
“Sick of people asking if you're excited to leave?” I asked.
“Completely. I feel like I did when I was a kid and every adult you met had nothing better to ask you than, 'How's school going?' I liked school, but come on.”
“I tell you, the best part about dorm life was waking up to Sash everyday. Everything else was just gravy.”
“I am really looking forward to that, actually,” Kale said with a nod. “Ever since you mentioned it I've been dreaming about sharing a room at college with Chase.”
The food was ready pretty fast and we decided to hang out in his backyard at the picnic table to eat. He lit the tiki torches, filled with their citronella cannisters, and we sat down on the table top, feet on the bench seat.
I took a few bites, steeling myself. I glanced across at his home, at the lights in the windows and the occasional person who passed by. I was looking for the right thing, the best way to start...it just wasn't coming to me.
“You're quiet tonight,” Kale commented.
“Is...” he paused and then said with more certainty, “there's something wrong.”
“No, nothing wrong. Everything is good, actually,” I assured him.
“I know. I was just looking for the best way to start talking. You know,” I bobbed my head, “like we should be talking.”
Kale's head nodded slowly. “Yeah. We've been working and all hanging out together, but...”
“That part's been better than ever,” I said.
“It has,” he agreed. “It's like, everyone is so much...closer.”
“Yeah. But,” I sighed. “We said some things, some good things, some important things...and I think we should talk about stuff before we're all too far away from each other.”
“I guess you're right,” Kale said softly.
“Have you and Chase...?”
“Yeah. The sex has been so great,” Kale smiled.
“I was wondering if you'd talked about it, but I'm glad to hear about the sex too,” I grinned.
“Yeah, we talked too,” Kale nudged me with his shoulder. “Did you guys?”
“Yep. It was right after sex, actually.”
“That's...weird. Us too.”
“You know, when Sash and I had this talk way back at the end of the school year, it was kind of awkward. I,” I said, placing a hand on my chest, “felt like talking about porn guys that turned me on was okay because they were just a fantasy. But when you guys came up in the talk, it was a lot more real and I was afraid Sasha would feel like it was more like cheating, you know?”
“I understand, totally,” Kale nodded. “When Chase first brought it up, he told me he'd noticed our little 'bromance' and I was afraid he'd thought you and I were cheating.”
“No. We'd never do that,” I said, shaking my head.
“Yeah, I was worried for nothing. He already knew I wouldn't do that to him,” Kale replied.
“So...there we were, Sash and I in our dorm room, and we were talking about...all kinds of stuff. But when we got to you guys, I was kind of uncomfortable until Sash convinced me that what I felt was okay.”
“What...did you feel?”
I sighed heavily. “I felt like you and I hadn't started so well, but then we had that great talk in the parking lot and I was thinking you and I...we're a little closer than we thought. I never told you but...after we talked, after you told me how you saw me...I felt pretty good. Like, it gave me a confidence boost to see things through with Lucien. The idea that someone I barely knew...admired me. Somebody that had as much going for you as you do...it was pretty powerful.”
“I never knew...”
“Yeah, I never said anything. Partly because we never really opened up again, but then it never seemed like the right time. We were usually all together and the few times we weren't we had stuff to do and...” I shrugged.
“I felt pretty good after that talk, too, truthfully,” Kale said. “I still don't like this scar and I sometimes dream there is a way to get rid of it. But what you said really hit home with me. It helped a lot.”
We sat in silence for a moment, letting that hang in the air. This was still hard to do, but it was progress. “So...Sash and I are in bed, just got done...” I begin.
“Can I close my eyes and picture this?” he laughed. I bumped him again and we giggled like little kids and I felt some of the tension I was holding let go.
“So Sasha and I start talking about how things are different in the bedroom, now. Better, closer,” I said.
“I was pretty scared,” Kale said suddenly. “I mean, Chase and I have always had a good sex life, I think. I do my best to please him and show him I love him. But there's always this part in the back of my mind...” he closed his eyes and I waited, shuffling just a little closer so we were shoulder to shoulder.
“The first time we were together...I thought for sure he'd go limp when he looked at my scar. You know, in the heat of the moment and everything. There was this...I don't know, this whisper in the back of my head that he was going to want to nail me and then just, lose it when he saw it. I even tried to keep my shirt on.” He glanced at me and I nodded, not willing to interrupt.
“It wasn't like he hadn't seen it before, he had. It was just this...fear.” He cleared his throat and said, “Of course, I was wrong. But I have to be honest, I always had that thought in the back of my head. How can someone look at me and not be...not feel put off?”
“I wasn't,” I said.
“Oh man, I was terrified when we started.” Kale chuckled nervously. “I started to calm down after you took my shirt off. I mean...you were looking right at it. This is going to sound stupid.”
“No, come on, none of that,” I prompted him. Kale covered his face for a moment, rubbed his hands up and down and then dropped them, smiling at me.
“When Chase would say positive things about the scar I always felt like, he had to say that. Like, your mom always tells you your the best looking or the smartest.”
“Wait, your mom's supposed to say those things? I got robbed.” We chuckled and Kale looked down before continuing.
“It's the same voice that said he wouldn't be able to keep it up, seeing that scar. It's...frustrating to have that self-doubt. It was that very feeling that kept holding me back, making me wonder – because, what was he going to say? 'Wow, Kale, that sure is ugly!'”
“I like it. It's sexy,” I said, bumping him again. He grinned wryly and shook his head.
“If we hadn't done what we had, I wouldn't be able to believe you. When you lifted my shirt and looked at my chest...the way you touched my chest it was like this light went on for me. I felt like Chase wasn't just trying to make me feel better, it was true. Someone could look at me and not be disgusted with the scar.”
“I told you, it's a super-sized happy trail.” I grinned and we pushed and shoved for a few minutes. I didn't want to waste too much time, though, now that we were talking.
“You know, after we were ready to get on the bed, I got pretty nervous, too,” I admitted.
“Why? You had me on my back with my legs spread,” Kale laughed.
“Not that the image of you isn't burned into my memory, but...well, it goes back to Sash and me talking back at school. I asked him if he regretted never getting to be with anyone else. I mean, I love sex with Sash but I had to wonder if I could do better with, you know, more experience.”
“That's a reasonable thing to think. I've actually read articles about people that save themselves for marriage and then, ironically, it's horrible sex lives that break them up,” Kale said.
“Sash said something similar. As we continued to talk, we both came to the conclusion we'd only ever be able to try if it was you guys. So now, you fast forward to the night we got together and...there you are, laying there and waiting for me and...”
I shook my head.
“What? Tell me.”
“It's kind of hard to get all the emotions down. That night was...overwhelming in some ways. Kissing you, making out with you – I was trying to tell you what you meant to me. We had made each other feel good, got some great foreplay but now we were down to it.” I sighed, “Usually Sash tells me what we're doing. Not, like, in words – he just sets us up and then we go. That's the only way I knew how. So you were lying there, totally open to me and trusting – and I start pumping away like I'm some kind of porn king, hurting you.”
“Well,” Kale shrugged, “I didn't want to tell you to stop. I was still thinking – 'cause your eyes were closed, then – that you didn't want to look down at my scar.”
“Jesus, we can even screw up sex,” I snorted. Kale laughed with me. “But I'll tell you this, Kale. Seeing you like that, vulnerable to me...you were pretty beautiful.”
Kale smiled tightly. “I've always thought you were...really, really good looking.”
“Okay, now I feel weird. Can we go back to talking about how we had sex?” I asked, drawing nervous chuckles from both of us.
“I was kind of surprised when it was our boyfriends that put us back on track,” Kale confessed. “But when you said you'd never hurt me? What I saw in your face? Man I just...I was blown away. When you started moving again I was so relaxed and so...”
“Yeah, things changed right then,” I agreed. “I became hyper aware of your body, your face. I was watching to see what felt best for you. I just wanted so badly to make you feel good, to make you feel how much you'd become to me.”
“It was pretty damn good,” Kale admitted.
“That was something big, you taught me there. When Sash and I were together the next time, I took that approach. I topped but he wasn't having to tell me where he wanted me, I paid attention to his body and he really responded. You'd think I'd have learned that, but...”
“I bottomed for Chase a few nights later,” Kale said. “He said it was better, too. I was way more into it is what he said, but I was just way more relaxed. It was more than me wanting him it was being able to forget about my scar, completely, and just...surrender to him. When I trusted you in there? It was complete and I realized I'd held that back with him. I was able to let go of any control and it was so, so good.”
“You know,” I said, tentatively reaching for Kale's hand. “Sasha and I were really scared that when we came home...you guys would have outgrown us or something.”
Kale's hand turned over and he accepted mine. “That's weird. Chase didn't say anything to me, but then he's always so optimistic. But I was afraid you guys would have had a taste of college life and not want to hang around with us little high school kids anymore. When I say afraid...I was terrified.”
“I can't imagine that,” I said in a whisper. “Going into this summer, I even told Sash, you've become so important to me...and I have no idea when it happened. You went from being this guy who was always grouchy and frowning to this...great friend.”
“I didn't do anything,” Kale protested gently.
“You did, though. I never had a friend to hang out with like we did – the wrestling and the name calling and...”
“Really, Alec? Name calling is what you remember fondly?” Kale laughed.
“I remember,” I said jerking his hand and making him bang into me. “That my friend was never worried if I was serious. I remember a friend that laughed a lot and did everything with me. I remember him bitching even as he climbed into the car with a smile on his face.”
“Yeah, I guess that does sound like me,” Kale grinned.
“I also remember a friend that trusted me with talk about him and his boyfriend. Stuff he wanted to try in bed, his dreams for a life after school...”
Kale let my hand go and stood, scrubbed his short hair and turned around, looking into the yard. “Alec, I need to get something off my chest.”
“Look,” he said, stopping and making eye contact. “I really, really liked what we did. Not only was it good sex but I think everything that has resulted from it is positive. Better sex lives, closer relationships and we got none of the downsides – no jealousies, no turmoil or drama. It was this,” he put his hands up, fingers pointing to the sky as he searched for the words he wanted. “Emotional explosion. I let go of so much fear and so much...I let myself really love you and trust you and I just feel so grateful to Chase and Sasha for being open to something we could never have done without them.”
“Yeah, I'm totally with you, Kale,” I said, nodding. “I feel just like that. When you trusted me, that look on your face, dude...what we all did wasn't anything as simple as sex. I don't know what to call it, but it was huge.”
“Well, here's my problem, though,” Kale said seriously. “I've been kind of knotted up about what we did ever since Sean got here.”
“Uh, I don't understand,” I said carefully.
“Look, I didn't expect the emotional release that happened and how...blown away I felt when I was able to tell you I loved you and to tell Sash I loved him. But you remember, when I said before that I felt like it was cheating – like, emotionally cheating?”
“Yeah, I know, we both felt that.”
“So now I find out my dad cheated on my mom,” he said, looking miserably at me. “And I'm scared that we're all going to be separated again and I love you guys so much...and I want us to all sleep together again and it's killing me.”
“Leafy, bud, why would that bother you so much?” I asked in genuine confusion.
“My dad's a cheater!” he hissed. “What does that make me if I want to sleep with someone besides my boyfriend?”
“Well, you aren't your dad for one. For two, we got together because everyone agreed. From what I've been told it doesn't sound like, when your folks took a break, they'd said it was okay for the other one to mess around. That's not how it is with us – we all respected our other halves and we had rules.”
“Yeah, and I get all that but,” he glanced down and said quietly. “I want to do it again. Did you miss that part?”
“No, I heard,” I said and stood, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I think we all need to talk about it – like tonight when our other halves get back.”
“They're...don't you think it's like saying I want permission to cheat? To act like my dad?”
“No. You're an honorable, stand up guy, Kale. I don't know what the circumstances were with your folks and I'm not going to judge them – things happen.”
Kale looked down and said, “Do you want to...do it again?”
“Yeah. I do.”
Kale's face lifted slowly until he made eye contact again. “Really?”
“Chase looks like he could be...satisfying,” I said with a smile.
“Are you asking if you can sleep with my boyfriend, Alec?”
“Actually, sort of. One of these times.”
“What do you mean 'one of these times'?” he asked.
“Well,” I said with a deep breath. “If Chase and Sash want to...we need rules. Stuff that keeps us safe from situations like what happened with your folks. Trust is the most important thing – we all discovered a ton of it and I think that's the key to everything.”
“I...I trust you.”
“I trust you too, Leafy. I trust Sasha and Chase, too. But I don't know if they both want to do this again. Have you talked to Chase about it?”
“Some, yeah. Mostly we talked about how it's affected us, the changes. I mean...” Kale smiled, color rushing to his cheeks. “You remember how I told you I wanted to try rimming?”
“Yeah. Did you?” I asked, grinning. “Was it awesome?”
“Well, Sasha did it to Chase and he was so good at it...he did it to me.” Kale was bright red now, his pale skin pink all over.
“And?” I asked, nudging him.
“Well, we'd been going at it pretty hot with foreplay already,” he said and finally sat back down on the table top. I joined him, totally focused on the conversation.
“Yeah? And then what?”
“Well, he lifts my legs and I was just watching his face – like I did to you, after you slowed down. But he put some pillows under my back and – this is embarrassing,” Kale laughed.
“Leafy! It's freaking hot! Come on, your legs are in the air – don't stop now!” Kale and I shared a laugh and he shoved me.
“Okay, okay. So he pushes a couple of pillows under my back and he lifts me by my butt cheeks.”
“It's a great butt, too. Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt, go ahead.”
Kale laughed with nervous energy again. “So he has my great butt, one cheek in each hand and I put my feet on his shoulders for balance – and he starts to rim me. Alec,” his eyes went wide and a grin split his face, “it was so freaking awesome.”
“How awesome was it?” I ask, like the setup for a punchline.
Kale delivered, “It was so awesome that I relaxed so much my knees were next to my ears – and he was still tonguing me.”
“Damn, no way!”
“Oh, Alec, it was great. I was so ready for him, it was just phenomenal.”
“Leafy. You're gushing,” I teased.
“Yeah, well, you wait.”
“Well, you asked if Chase and I had talked about it? You mean like, doing it again?”
“Yeah. And then again and again. What about it? Did you guys talk?”
“Yeah. I mean, don't get me wrong,” Kale looked down demurely, “I do want some more time with you. Time where I don't start off so nervous and scared. But, I think Chase is ready for some time with you and...Sasha really looked like he knew what he was doing.”
“Whoa. I don't know,” I said, putting a hand to my chin. “I was thinking you might want to even the score with me – but you are saying Chase wants to...”
“Yeah. He does. I don't blame him.”
“That's the most forward you've ever been, Leafy,” I chuckled.
“Hey, be honest,” he said, nudging me. “Were you watching any of what our boyfriends did?”
“Are you serious? Of course I was.”
“Didn't you want to jump Sasha's bones?”
“I could have eaten 'em both up, but I had my hands full,” I laughed.
“Do you think...are we most comfortable just doing, you know, you and me?” Kale asked slowly. “ I say that because, outside of that crack, you don't seem as excited about Chase.”
I thought about that for a minute. “Well, I could see being with Chase – Sasha is right, his body is really elegant. I just think I feel a little closer to you...maybe we just need to try new things. I don't know.”
“I just know I'm not done with you,” I blurted. “Not yet. I haven't learned everything I need to and I've only just started to tell you how important you are to me. I'd be willing to go with Chase, totally, but I want more time with you, too. I want a whole lot more – I think I need it. Does that sound fucked up?”
“No, I understand. I want more time with you, too.” Kale smiled, “It really feels good to know you want that too, though.”
“Well then,” I said. With a sigh I murmured, “If Sash or Chase says no...then we can't.”
Kale nodded slowly. “I know.”
“That's one reason why I wanted to make sure we talked tonight,” I said, turning my head toward him. “I wanted to make sure I told you that I loved you and not when we were in bed,” I sighed. “For some people saying something like that is a heat of the moment thing and you deserve to know that, no matter what we decide, I love you. That time with you was majorly important to me and I love you more now for giving yourself to me, for letting me try to show you how awesome and beautiful you are by making...by...loving you.”
“Wow,” Kale said, his voice trembling. “I never, ever thought anyone besides Chase could say something that just...hit me right in the heart.”
I looked down at my shoes. “Well, it's all true. I'm going to be heartbroken if...if they say no. But I want you to know, I won't do it unless we all agree to it.”
“I wouldn't ask you to, Alec.”
“I know, you wouldn't. But...I feel like I need to say it. To not leave anything unsaid. Sometimes,” I said in a whisper, “I can see you in my head. Lying in front of me. The way you looked up at me...like you said, I never thought anyone but Sash could do that. So I wanted to thank you for...letting me love you.”
“You act like you're the only one who got something here,” Kale said. “As long as we're going full on mushy – I'd do the same thing over and over. The only person that ever made me feel so physically loved besides you was Chase. Also...this is embarrassing, Alec...”
“Well, after tonight, we only have to do it when we get drunk.”
“We never drink!”
“Right, so say it or forever hold your peace.”
“Ugh. Okay,” Kale looked down and held his hands out in front of him like blades. “I'm a little embarrassed about how much...Oh, God, I can't believe I'm going to say this!”
“You were...are really, really good in bed.” Kale covered his face. I felt mine flush a little and I patted his shoulder.
“So are you, Leafy.” I sighed. “Well, I don't think I can take much more of this caring and sharing.”
“Thank you!” Kale burst out laughing. “Don't get me wrong, I like being told I'm good in bed too but...”
“Well, it's been building for a while,” I reasoned. “So, uh, have you talked to Robin since they all...saw us?”
“Fuck no,” Kale said. “Robin knows I can't figure out how to say anything to him either. I don't know how to explain it to him. He's so focused on Lucien that the idea of what we did is just alien to him.”
“Lu has been using it against me ever since. He's not letting me get away with any picking on him about sex. He's pretty thrilled it happened and took the focus off the lovebirds.”
“Yeah. Robin will hint sometimes, but I just lock up. I don't know if he'd understand.”
“Shall I tell him I porked his big brother?” I snickered. “Will that clear it up?”
“You know, I can't even threaten to tell Lucien anything – he'd just use it against me. You're cruel, Kutsenko.”
“You do kind of grunt like a pig, though,” I said with a smirk.
“Only when you're being rough,” Kale replied.
“No, no,” I said, holding a hand out. “I distinctly heard you squeal.”
“Uh, no, that was you.”
“Was it?” I pretended to think.
“Please! I thought you were dying.”
“What a way to go,” I grinned.
We sat in silence for a bit, no more than ten minutes before the headlights from Sash's car filled the driveway and splashed across us. The engine cut off and the interior was briefly lit up and then both car doors closed. Sasha and Chase were giggling and bumping each other as they walked across the lawn. They arrived at the table, wrapping their respective other halves up in hugs and rather deep kisses. I mean, I got a bunch of tongue. A bunch.
“Wow, why are you so happy to see me?” I ask with a grin.
“Oh God, we just had so much fun. We have to do that more often,” Sasha said with laugh.
“I agree,” Chase replied, “Did you guys enjoy your time together?”
“What's that supposed to mean?” I asked Chase, squinting an eye. “You know I wouldn't bang your boyfriend without your say so.”
“So, if I say so, you'll do him right now? I could get into that, I'm kind of horny now,” Chase said with a grin.
“What?” Kale asked amid the laughter.
“Oh, come on babe. For me? ” Chase pouts. “Outdoor sex is on our bucket list.”
I thought I'd pee my pants laughing.
“But...Chase,” Kale said, sounding distraught. “I already told Alec you wanted his ass.”
“You what?” Chase exclaimed.
“Yeah,” Kale nodded like he was seeking Chase's approval. “I told him if we all got together again, you wanted to ride his ass. He said it was okay as long as he gets some time with me. See? All worked out.”
Chase's mouth was hanging open. Kale's straight face began to slip as he cracked a smile and then burst out laughing. Chase began hitting him, calling him names.
Sasha leaned in and whispered in my ear, “Did he actually say anything like that?”
“And did you say...what Kale implied?”
I nodded again.
Sasha smiled. “That means I get Kale next. Are you going to be able to focus on Chase?”
I grinned, nodded and whispered back, “But, I was serious. I want more time with Leafy.”
Sasha turned to Chase who was looking at us with an arched eyebrow, “We were right. They haven't had enough of each other.”
They laughed at us. I mean, really, they laughed at us.
“What's going on?” Kale asked. Chase leaned up against him and smiled.
“The short answer is to show you a picture of your face when you and Alec were together, but since we didn't film it...”
“Speak for yourself,” I said.
“Hah,” Chase dismissed me and looked back to Kale. “Everything has gotten better this summer. This experience made us better lovers to each other and better communicators better friends – to be honest, Sasha and I were waiting on you guys to catch up.”
“What?” I asked, looking at Sash. “What's he talking about?”
“Babe, after the way you guys bonded you haven't talked to each other about it all summer. This was about pulling us all closer – but it would be destructive if the only time you guys could share what's in your hearts is when you're in bed together. This whole thing is about growing – all of us.”
“Oh yeah?" I said, challengingly. I looked at Chase, “And how did you grow?”
“Are you kidding? Sasha brought me to a whole new way of touching in the bedroom. I think Kale will agree our sex is far better – and you have no idea how good it makes me feel to see Kale feeling so good and so much more confident and relaxed.”
“For my part, Alec, you've turned into a very attentive lover – and I think you know what it's done for our sex life. Additionally, it's brought us all closer. I don't think any of us walked away from that encounter not wanting more – but we had to do it right,” Sasha added.
“Yep. Sasha and I have talked a lot and realized that, to do that, we needed you guys to make the connection you finally established in the bedroom out here. Now...we need to talk.”
We made room and Chase and Sasha joined us on the table top. “Are we all agreed we want to do this again?” Chase asked.
We agreed that we did.
“Okay, then I think we need rules. We all have to agree on them – the whole purpose of this is positive and I don't want jealousies or anything like that to develop. I've come to realize that the idea we might not be friends scares the shit out of me, and with us all leaving in a few days...” Chase trailed off, glancing at the rest of us.
“Wait, you were worried? Scared to lose them? You never said!” Kale protested.
“Kale, these guys...yeah. I was scared shitless they'd outgrow us at college. Fortunately for us, they were thinking the same thing. I guess it just proves we're all on the same page.”
“Even if some of us aren't sharing what's on their page,” Kale muttered.
“Why is this an issue?” Chase laughed.
“Because I just got done telling Alec how scared I was about losing them and telling him how you are always so optimistic and didn't seem worried at all.”
“So you're upset you spilled your feelings to Alec?”
“Yeah!” Kale laughed.
Sasha started speaking to get us back on track, and cut off my retort. “Chase and I were talking and we think that we have to take what we discussed before – that the rules of our relationship are ours to define and as long as we all agree, then we should be fine. The first rule Chase and I want is that we never pair up – this is always with the four of us together in the same room.” Sasha looked around at us and there were murmurs of assent.
“Second rule is that no one else can join us. If one couple or the other gets involved with a third, it's all off,” Chase said. “This works because of trust and love. We trust each other to be clean of STD's and drugs but we can't trust a third person like that – so if that happens, then we have to end this for everyone's sake. It's also a fail safe. If there is temptation to fool around with someone, we think that our bond will help us resist that and preserve what we're forming here.”
“Third, communication. There could be some complex emotions that come up. For instance,” Sasha said, “it's obvious Kale and Alec still have things they want to discover with each other – which is fine. I don't think we say, for instance, one time you go with one partner and the next you go with the other. I think it should be more organic than that and I think that, to a degree, we do gravitate naturally to one or the other.”
“Exactly,” Chase said. “For instance, I'm really looking forward to being with Sasha again, but I also think there are things I want to learn by being with Alec. But it has to be natural – Alec has to want that with me too. It might be that, right now, the best matches are the ones we've already tried. Over time, our needs or desires may change.”
“Lastly,” Sasha said, “We really don't want this to devolve into nothing but lust. The love and respect and trust we have so far, we want to use that to make our union stronger and our time with our lovers special.”
The night closed in on us and we looked at each other. “So, bottom line, I get to bend Leafy like a pretzel again?”
“If that's what he wants and you don't hurt him,” Chase glared at me.
“So, Leafy?” I grinned.
“How come you get to top again?” Kale scrunched his face up.
“Hey, if you want me...”
“Well, let's not get carried away,” Kale said looking away and we all laughed.
“Well, since it's going to be a while, no matter what, I have just the thing to tide us over in the car.” I dashed over to my car, with murmurs of nervous fear behind me. Part of my charm was you never knew what I was going to do next – at least I liked to think so. Coming back to the group I uncorked the cardboard cylinder in my hands and pulled out the rolled papers inside.
Checking to see which one it was I said, “This one is for Chase and Kale.” I unfurled the poster to reveal Sasha climbing from the pool. I'd stood on the edge and taken the shot with my phone and, though I was no one's photographer, I liked this shot – a lot.
“Oh. Wow,” Chase said, holding it out. Sasha raised an eyebrow at me and quirked his lips.
“Now, Chases picture the place wouldn't make into a poster because they said they can't do nudes,” I said offhandedly as I reached for the other poster.
“Wait, what?” Chase said, looking at me seriously.
“What? I've seen it before,” I said, trying not to break out into a stupid grin.
“Where did you get a chance to take a nude picture of me?” Chase asked, also lifting an eyebrow at me.
“Who said I took it?” I said, no longer able to keep the grin from my face. Eyes immediately turned to Kale who was protesting immediately, but Chase had him pinned with a look.
“I told you that you could show them, not trade them,” he said and then sighed and shook his head. Turning to me he said, “Alec, a nude of me? Really?”
“Nah. They're still on Leafy's camera. I'd really,” I lowered my voice, “really enjoy a copy, though.”
Chase narrowed his eyes and looked back and forth between Kale and I and reluctantly smiled. “I guess your birthday is coming.”
“Yes!” All eyes turned to a blushing Sasha. “What? Only the rest of you can enjoy pictures?”
“Sash,” Chase said, a laugh bubbling in his voice. “We're supposed to be the mature ones.”
“Sue me. Kale?” Sash said, quirking an eyebrow. “Black and white, please. It really brings Chase from 'pretty photo' to elegant art.”
“Seconded!” I said loudly. I looked at Sash and unrolled the other poster. “This is for us in the meantime.” The image was the one that had caused Kale so much grief over the summer – he was shirtless in the pool, skin glistening with water. One hand was caught as it ran through his hair and it was dead sexy.
“Alec, really?” Kale laughed.
“I want one of those!” Chase demanded.
“Sure,” I said and pulled another from the tube. “Sash's was expensive, but totally worth it. Kale's were way cheaper.”
“Oh, ha, ha. Why was that?” Kale asked.
“Everything's cheaper in bulk, Leafy.”
“Yeah. Oh!” I dug into my pocket and pulled out a ten and a twenty. “I almost forgot, here's your cut.”
“My cut. What are you talking about?” Kale demanded.
“For a modest fee I was able to provide those young ladies with a picture of their favorite summer lifeguard,” I said. I began to back away as Kale took a menacing step towards me. “For an additional sum I was able to include a personal message – now wait!” I said, running from Kale as I laughed. “Think of the potential!”
We ran in circles in the yard, Kale threatening me and I teasing him. I was really, really going to miss them. Thank goodness for Sasha.