Image from www.truenuffcomic.com

Politics

A Sanitaria Springs Story

By Dabeagle

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This is the final story that featrures idea Ryan had for where his characters would go. It's odd in a away, an extended goobye through his ideas and writing.

~~~~~~~~~~

The room looked a little weird. It wasn't easy to call to mind what it had looked like before Sean had moved in with me, but it was pretty obvious now that he'd moved over to Kale's old room. I thought I'd miss him a little since I liked sharing a room with him, but I had to admit the privacy was nice, too. Besides, he was always bitching that I put my laundry in with his. I mean, he was right, but that way I'd get some laundry done when he did his stuff. Of course, now that he was in the other room, I had to give the room a 'thorough cleaning', my mom said. Maybe I'd rearrange things, too.

I sighed. Washing walls was a crappy job. I'd laughed when Sean had to clean Kale's old room before he'd moved in there, but now it was my turn — and the shithead was laughing at me, now. I growled to myself as I thought of him telling me I was on my own with the cleaning. Was it really fair just because I hadn't helped him? I mean was it really fair? Maybe it was, but I'd be happier if he were here suffering with me. I mean helping. With another sigh I climbed on the step stool so I could reach the upper parts of the wall and started wiping things down.

“Hey,” Sean said and leaned on the doorway. “Asher says there's a football game being organized over at the park. Up for it?”

I glanced around the room. “Well,” I said slowly. “I have this room to clean. By myself.”

“No. I had to clean the other room. No help for you, brother mine,” Sean said and started to laugh.

“That's not fair,” I said with a grin. “You were here to make some of the mess.”

“On the wall?” he asked skeptically. “I don't think so.”

“Well, what about me, then? You just up and moved out and left me — did anyone ask what I wanted?” I asked, doing my best to sound offended.

“Yeah,” he replied with a grin. “I recall the idea you might get some alone time with Emily in your room as the whole motivation for you liking the idea.”

“Well, I just didn't want to hear you whacking off over Asher anymore,” I said dismissively.

“Excuse me? Number one, I had to listen to you whack about Emily. Second, you can't criticize whacking about Ash since you had his dick in your mouth.”

I paused and narrowed my eyes. “I hate that you know everything about me.”

He tilted his head. “So? Park or chores?”

“I suppose Emily would like another chance at seeing me be manly,” I said, feigning modesty.

“No doubt, since it doesn't happen very much” Sean said with a roll of his eyes. “I'm leaving in five.”

“You should really help me with this!” I called out to him as he walked away, but he spun enough for me to see his hand in the doorway, flipping me the bird. “You were a lot nicer when you weren't getting any!”

He didn't reply to that, and I'm sort of glad. Ever since Emily and I took that extra step, I don't really talk details about our private time, either. I talk the important stuff with the right people, but not every little detail. Before, Scott and I would talk a lot about who we'd like to get with, how often and what we'd do. But it's different, now that I'm in that category of a guy who's getting some. Was it that I was in a real relationship? Or was it that the guys who bragged weren't likely getting any, the way adults always tried to tell us if a situation like that came up? It wasn't that I didn't brag, a little. I mean, I think Emily is smart and beautiful; the fact that she wants a piece of me at the same time is pretty sweet.

Still, my bragging is confined to the fact that she's mine. I'm not ashamed of what we do together – we do it pretty well, as far as I know – but I kind of understand where Lu is coming from when he's not big about talking about details. Not that I've asked Lu for details, no more than I'd ask Asher to describe fucking my brother. It's just weird. I don't think Sean is into thinking about what Emily and I look like wrapped together, although he's bi so who really knows? I should ask him, just to screw with him – but he's more confident these days, so he'd probably pull a Robin and tell me something I didn't want to know.

I did wonder sometimes, though, how similar we'd look if we were side-by-side and naked. We were strikingly similar, but how far did that go? Was it just a resemblance in the face and the trait we all seemed to have of the pale skin and dark hair? Well, the eyes, can't forget the eyes. But beyond that...oh, eww. I shook my head, trying to dislodge the sudden train of thought that had jumped the tracks. It had just occurred to me that every one of my parents' kids were somewhat sexually fluid. Kale was probably the best defined of us all, as he'd never shown any interest in girls, but Robin was on his second boyfriend and I don't think anyone pictured that relationship ending. Sean had dated girls, even had sex with one, but seemed pretty happy with penis for now. I, of course, had some experience on both sides of the bed. I've heard some say there is a gene for that sort of thing, which makes me wonder if my parents had 'extra experience' that I both didn't know and didn't want to.

Cleaning provides too much thinking time. I needed some football. “Wait up!” I called out as I pulled on a a shirt and fresh socks.

~P~

“So you're saying no way?” I asked.

“I'm saying it doesn't matter because he'd never ask,” Sean replied.

“Yeah, but go with my hypothetical, here,” I insisted. “Ash gets turned on watching you kiss a girl – or a guy if that makes it easier to think about – and you say: what?”

“I say your girlfriend's kinks aren't my problem!” Sean said, laughing.

“Dick! Come on!” I say, laughing with him. I know it's a weird question, but I think it's worth knowing what others might do in my situation.

“Okay, okay,” Sean said, coming to a stop. “So if I had no feelings for this mystery person of either gender, and they had no feelings for me, then yeah, sure. Doesn't hurt me a bit to make Ash happy or get him horny. Of course, I make him horny so I don't have to resort to things like that.”

I punched his shoulder. “Dick!”

“I don't get the problem!” Sean replied, laughing and keeping out of range. “Just get Boomer to do it. He'd be happy to.”

“Not fair to him, and you know it,” I said.

“Boomer is a big boy. If he understood, he'd probably just enjoy breaking off a piece of you.”

“Jesus. Doesn't he know you're the easier one to get a piece of?”

“Ah, but you've caught his eye,” Sean said, his eyes sparkling with a mischief I'd not credited him with.

I stared at him, mouth open just a bit. “You're the evil twin. I don't know how you fooled so many people, but you are,” I muttered affectionately.

It's not fair, really. As I've gotten older, I've discovered I have weak spots and Sean is probably the biggest one I have. You'd think it'd be my older brothers since I've known them all my life, and I'd probably do just about anything for them, but Sean is different. Maybe it was just the combination of the time in my life when he showed up, the circumstances of his showing up – and the fact that he'd needed me. I can count on one hand the number of times I was needed. I won't say it makes me feel good, but I liked being there for Sean. I think he knows it, too.

By the time we arrived, the park was filling up with guys to play. There was a mix of guys from the football team and other kids who just liked a good game. I recognized most of the people.

“Oh, Christ,” Boomer said. “They'll let anyone in the park, won't they?”

“I don't know why you bitch so much – wait, 'cause you're a bitch,” I said, grinning at him.

“Oh, that's it. I'll make you my bitch today, boy,” he said, rising to the bait. We slapped hands in greeting and then he said hello to Sean.

“You might have to get in line,” Sean said to Boomer. “Right now, Jamie's my mom's bitch. After that I think Emily has dibs.”

“Traitor,” I said, shoving Sean. “Where's Ash to hold your leash?”

“Leash, huh? You all getting into role play and stuff?” Boomer asked, raising an eyebrow and shooting Sean a downright lascivious look.

“Look and imagine all you like, Boomer,” Sean said smugly. “It's as close as you'll get.”

“Fucking teases, the both of you,” he groaned, but smiled. He's a good sport about all that sort of thing, despite having nearly sucked my tonsils out last fall.

The field was filled with familiar faces: Nate, Jon, Jake, Nik and his buddy Mat among others. Someone called out to start picking up teams, and our banter gave way to on-field taunting as the game got underway. I'd like to say something momentous happened or there were awesome plays that really stand out, but honestly it was pretty friendly competition. Tempers didn't run high but for a couple of times, but they simmered down. We changed up teams a few times or traded guys around when others had to leave or just got tired of playing. I'd be willing to bet we played for about three hours. It was hot, I was sweaty and we agreed that the next touchdown would win. I intentionally lined up against Boomer because we like challenging each other. He's better than I am, but I'm getting better and every time I beat him it's a reason to celebrate.

The ball got hiked and the defense blitzed. I cut behind someone else to try and gain some space from Boomer. The QB threw the ball to a guy behind the line of scrimmage -a flea flicker play – and it was just in time as the QB went down under a pile of other dudes. I turned on some speed and held my hand up to signal to the guy to throw me the ball. He looked at me, looked away and cocked his arm.

“Over here!” I yelled. He pumped his arm, then turned toward me and let fly a craptastic pass. I zagged out to haul it in, stumbled and struggled to turn before Boomer planted me. I saw him coming on me hard, so I planted my foot to try and change direction, but instead of solid ground my foot sank down about six inches more than I was expecting. With a jolt to my joints, and a burst of bright pain, I came to a sudden stop milliseconds before Boomer piled into me.

White hot pain lanced through my right knee and flared jaggedly up my thigh and down my shin. I dropped the ball and screamed like I'd never done before, clutched at my knee and then screamed again as I hit the ground, my foot cocked at an angle from the hole I'd stepped in. My foot being caught caused my knee to twist even more, not to mention Boomer's weight on top of me, and I shrieked again.

There was a flurry of words and action around me. Someone said to stand me up to get my foot out, another said to just dig it free rather than stand me. It was all white noise to me as tears burst forth and I cried out again and again with the pain radiating from my knee. It seemed to go on and on, even though I started to become more aware of some mundane things going on and being said around me. Someone called an ambulance. Someone put the football under my knee to support it. Keeping it still made the lancing pain stop, but it throbbed with a horrible, bone deep ache.

“Fuck. I'm so sorry, Jamie,” Boomer said as he cradled my head on his thighs. I figured he was kneeling behind me.

“I knew you'd...do anything to get me between your legs. This is...a little nuts, though,” I said to him, pausing to grit my teeth when the muscle spasmed and the pain spiked.

“I'd never hurt you, Jamie,” he said quietly. “I'm so sorry. I couldn't stop. I didn't know.”

“Boomer, he knows,” Sean said as he squatted next to me. “The ambulance is thirty minutes away, Robin will be here in five. I called mom and dad. They'll meet us at the hospital.”

I groaned and fresh tears leaked from my eyes. I snorted, trying to stop my nose from dumping any more snot down my face. “Is it broken? Can you see?”

Sean looked down at my knee, then shifted over to get a closer look. Looking back to me he shook his head. “I think it's the knee, Jamie. The shin looks straight, I don't see any strange angles either in the shin or the thigh. The knee is swelling up pretty badly, though. It's all discolored.” His face looked pale and his voice had a quiver to it. It made me more afraid because I could tell he was scared for me.

When Robin arrived I was grateful to see he'd been brought by Lu with his bus. Robin's car was faster, no doubt, but it also had only two doors and I'm not sure how painful it would have been to get into the back, but I was pretty sure I didn't want to find out. Lu drove across the park green, stopping maybe ten feet away. Robin jumped out and ran over to me with worry plain on his face. Jesus, I was glad to see him.

“Shit. Shit. Okay, how do we get him in the bus?” Robin said, kind of muttering to himself.

“Hoodies,” Boomer said, stroking the side of my face. “Get three or four hoodies under him to support him so he doesn't have to get upright. We can carry him over.”

“On it,” Jon said.

“Genius,” Robin said while snapping his fingers. I was jostled around a little while the guys worked the hoodies under me, getting them situated so they could lift me. It was really annoying and I was ready to tell them just to lift me up or I'd walk if they didn't quit, but they did finish and lifted me as if I were a baby in a sling.

“Okay. Easy, smooth steps so we don't shake him up,” Boomer said.

“Take him to the back, I put the bed down,” Lu told them.

“Aw, man! Where you guys screw?” I asked, though I had no fire behind it. I was hurting too much to come up with something wittier.

“Okay,” Boomer said as he turned everyone so they held me with my head facing the end of the bus. “Let's lift straight up, and slide him back in. Sean, can you get in and grab him under the shoulders to help him get up there?”

“On it,” Sean said, scampering into the bus and then the guys lifted me into the back of the bus, Sean guiding me and me trying to use my arms to help myself, but they were shaking. Probably with stress. Pain lanced out from my knee and I cried out as I got settled. Boomer crawled up beside me and balled up a hoodie so it would cushion the back of my knee. Sean had taken Boomer's place cradling my head in his lap while Boomer looked over me as if ready to defend me while looking angry and sad.

“Boomer,” I said. He twitched a little, just enough that I knew he heard me. “Sterling,” I said a little firmer. The bus shook as we crossed the grass and started across the parking lot, and while that intensified the deep ache I felt, I was focused on my friend who turned his gaze toward me.

“It wasn't your fault,” I said. “I stepped in a fucking gopher hole or something, and there was no way for us to avoid hitting each other. Don't take this on.”

The anger went out of his face, and now he was just sad. “I'm sorry, Jamie.”

I grunted. “Me too. It was just an accident, though. I don't blame you.”

He nodded and let his fingers drift across the back of my hand.

I'm told Lu made good time, but I'd swear he was aiming for every pothole in the world for as many times as I had to grit my teeth against the pain – and it felt like forever. Literally, time seemed to go on, and on, and on. The guys got me out the back and into a wheelchair, and yes – it hurt like a motherfucker. My parents were there already, and we rushed to a window to check in, likely looking like the most screwed up group.

“My son hurt his knee,” my mother said, taking her purse off her shoulder.

“I'm going to need your insurance card and picture ID,” the bored woman behind the desk said.

“Hi! How are you? I'm sorry your son is in pain,” Mrs. Kirkwood said as she pulled her billfold out and started pulling out the required cards.

“Would you like me to be efficient or humor you?” the clerk asked.

“Human with a side of decency would work,” Sean snapped.

“I'll call security if you want to keep being hostile,” the woman said.

“Go ahead,” Mr. Kirkwood said. “Then call the county sheriff. Then let your boss know Judge Kirkwood would like to meet with them. Now.”

The clerk didn't appear to be intimidated, but merely set about her tasks, which pissed me off. I was already miserable, she was being kind of hostile and I was kind of sick of this shit.

Gritting my teeth, I flexed my thigh muscle and the spike of pain I expected shot through me. “Ah! Ow!” I cried out loudly. The woman behind the counter looked up at me, slightly alarmed by the noise. She handed my mother her things back and a clipboard with forms. I was hoping my pain would have scored her moving a little faster, but as I was gearing up to holler out – minus aggravating it intentionally – she said she'd go find an available room for us.

The rest of the time was just an unending nightmare of waiting with short bursts of people checking on us. My parents were asking how I felt every ten seconds, my dad was harassing the nurses for some pain meds, Boomer looked like he'd kicked a puppy. Sean cracked wise with me a little, and that helped. Robin and Lu went out to get everyone coffees and stuff – they laughed when they asked if I needed anything and I requested opium. We finally got a doctor, and I swear I'm going to kill Boomer if he keeps trying to take on the guilt for this.

“I'm Dr. Singh. What happened to your knee, my friend?” he asked.

“His foot went in a gopher hole or something, and I tackled him. I couldn't stop,” Boomer said.

I flushed with aggravation. “Sterling,” I said testily. “You're not strong enough to tackle me that hard. Stop acting like you're all that.”

“But-”

“Shut. Your. Pie. Hole,” I ground out. I looked at the doctor, who seemed mildly irritated. “I was playing football. I caught the ball and when I planted my foot to run, I must have put my foot in a hole. My friend was really close, we were both running, so he ran into me because I stopped so suddenly. He thinks it's his fault, even though it's not and he should get over it.”

Dr. Sing smiled, just a little. “I think I would like a friend who is concerned for me, even if his guilt is misplaced.”

Eventually I got wheeled off for an X-Ray, then they took me for an MRI, which was kind of weird, but really uncomfortable because they wanted to straighten my knee out. The nurse brought me some pills, which didn't really help the pain. Finally the doctor returned.

“Well, the good news is we know what we're dealing with,” he said as he settled down on a small stool with wheels. “Recovery rates are very, very high, but it's going to be a bit of a long road.” He paused with a look on his face that struggled between seriousness and compassion. “When you planted your foot while running more or less at full speed, and then the additional weight of a tackler moving at high speed, you gave the knee a pretty vicious twist. There is a medial and lateral meniscus, kind of horseshoe shaped, and you have one on each side of your knee. Think of them sort of as shock absorbers for the knee joint. The twisting motion your knee went through tore this cartilage badly,” he said, pointing and thankfully not touching my knee. “You have a grade 3 tear on the medial meniscus, and a grade two on the lateral meniscus. We're going to have the orthopedist come on up and talk to you, but the answer to this is going to be arthroscopic surgery and a long road of rehabilitation.”

My parents worked on getting everyone home. Boomer held my hand for a minute and told me he was sorry again, but I didn't feel up to fighting that battle right then. Sean wanted to stay, but my mom sent him home with Robin. The idea of surgery didn't scare me, but the long rehabilitation did. Even that was distant in my thoughts – I just wanted them to do something about the pain. They did, finally, bring me something stronger than ibuprofen and then it took a lot longer for them to get me a room.

My parents stayed with me, my mother running her fingers through my hair while the painkillers took effect and that lulled me into a light sleep. Unfortunately, it didn't last. The night that wouldn't end drifted into the morning I never wanted. I was scheduled for surgery at eight, didn't get wheeled out of my room until nine and ended up waiting in a hallway until nearly eleven before I went in. The actual surgery was supposed to take less than an hour, so I figured my parents were probably wondering what the heck was going on.

When I woke up in the recovery room, my folks were waiting for me. A few hours later, with crutches and a brace over my knee, prescription bottles, sheets of instructions and a wheelchair ride to the front door, I was headed home. I felt like I was eight years old again when my dad picked me up and carried me up to my room. Sean had my phone charged up on the nightstand and told me to call him if I needed something in the night.

I was grateful, but sore and not very sociable, so I took my pain meds and conked out.

~P~

“You really know how to get a girl's attention.”

I blinked the last of the sleep from my eyes and looked over at Emily. She stood and sat down beside me, brushing my hair back from my forehead.

“Hey,” I said, my voice croaking.

“Hey,” she replied softly. “How are you feeling?”

“Knee hurts. Have to pee.”

“Okay. How about the bathroom first,” she suggested and helped me into a sitting-up position. It was weird, my balance felt off and I was tired as hell. The only thing that felt awake was the pain in my knee. Em helped me shift my leg over. I tried to be manly and not wince, but I ended up swearing under my breath. She got me standing, getting an eye full of my morning wood, and got my crutches settled under me. I tried to move forward, but my balance just didn't seem to be there.

“Hang on,” she said and slipped from the room. “Boomer! A hand?”

I heard someone taking the stairs two at a time, Boomer no doubt – confirmed when he entered the room.

“Jamie, hey,” he said as he moved to my side. “What's going on?”

“He needs the bathroom, but he's a little wobbly on his crutches. I'll take his crutches downstairs and let his mom know he's hungry if you want to get him ready to come downstairs.”

“I can make it on my crutches, guys. I'm not a freaking...old man.”

“You're supposed to be completely off that knee for the first two weeks, buddy,” Boomer said gently. “If you don't have your balance yet, don't be a macho turd, and let me help you.”

Feeling a spark of my old self I stage whispered, “Not until Em leaves. I'm the man, after all.”

“Yes, you are. I'll go downstairs to spare your dignity,” she said with a laugh.

I put an arm around Boomer's shoulders and he did the same, and we moved slowly to the bathroom. He got me situated and turned away for me to do my business, then helped me back to my room.

“Jesus, that was exhausting,” I said with a groan.

He grabbed me some basketball shorts and helped me get them over the brace on my knee, then tossed me a shirt. Once he got me upright again I was a little startled when he picked me up.

“Hey! We're not getting married, so no carrying me over thresholds!” I grumbled.

“Yeah, yeah. You don't want to get jostled going down one step at a time, do you? Be quiet,” he said and turned sideways to get me through my doorway and then carried me slowly down the stairs. Once the stairs were dealt with he gingerly let me down and then we did the shoulder hug into the kitchen.

“There he is,” my mother said as she cracked an egg and started frying it. “I'll have breakfast in a minute, then you can take your pills.”

“Thank you, Nurse,” I grumbled. “Where's everyone else?”

“Sean went to Averi's house. They're hanging out, probably talking about guys or something,” Emily said as she took the chair beside me.

“Sean likes girls, too,” I grumbled needlessly.

“True. But guys tend to talk about whatever is being talked about. So if Averi brings up guys, Sean will go with it.”

I shrugged and tilted my head side-to-side.

“Robin went with Kale and Chase to the park. I think he's going to take Linc to some event for little kids,” Boomer added in.

“Why wouldn't Kale and Chase do that?”

It was Boomer's turn to shrug.

My mom put eggs and sausage down in front of me, and a small plastic cup with a few pills in the bottom. “Eat. I'll get you some juice.”

After breakfast I fell asleep on the couch to some movie. It was probably the pain meds, but I didn't mind since I couldn't do squat anyway. Em was sitting beside me, legs curled up and watching some crappy rom-com. That was kind of my life for the first week. I was a little down, slept a lot and needed help going a few places. The second week I started to balance out, mentally. Sean irritated me by being a good brother, constantly checking on me when he was home. Rob, not as much, but then he never did put up with my attitude.

Kale was a little aloof, and I found that odd. He's not exactly warm and fuzzy – more like a perpetual stick in his ass – but he'd been better the last year or so. Linc changed him. That trip he took totally did too, but now he seemed uptight again, for some reason. I'm not sure if he'd tell me why he had something up his ass again, but I was afraid he'd tell me and then I'd have to listen. I just wasn't up to it, not that first week or so. It was over a week before I got an actual shower, though not due to medical reasons. The doctor said as long as I kept the incision and bandage area dry, I could. My balance was weirdly off, though, so well-meaning people said I'd probably slip and fall in the tub. It was just another irritation.

A week and a half in, my mother had to leave for errands, so Sean hovered a bit, helping me get plastic over my knee to keep it dry through a shower. I couldn't see around my leg to set it all up right, but he was good about helping me out.

Showering felt so freaking good, but weird. I wasn't supposed to put any pressure on the knee, so had a freaking stool in the shower. I felt like so much crap; helpless. With a sigh I set about cleaning myself thoroughly – all the places that had been annoying me, not quite clean enough with just the sponge baths my mother had forced on me. Behind my ears felt greasy, the crease to either side of my balls, and oddly the back of my good knee. Jesus, I sound like an old man – me and my bum knee.

I did feel a good deal better with my hair clean. It was kind of amazing how being clean made me feel more normal, more me. I shut the water off and sat for a moment, letting the water drip off my body. I slid the glass door aside to reach for my towel, only to find it wasn't there. I grunted, spotting it across the room, hanging from the rod. I started to try getting to my feet, and I slipped, plopping my wet ass back down on the stool. Okay, maybe they weren't all that crazy with the idea I could fall in the shower, not that I'd ever say so.

“Sean!” I called out, feeling a little petulant about yelling for help.

“I convinced him I could look after you,” Emily said, only opening the door a crack. “Do you need help?”

I felt oddly exposed. She'd seen me naked before, but this was kind of different. “Um, yeah. My towel is on the rod, there. I can't reach it.

She stepped into the room, form fitting shorts and lightweight tee shirt clinging to her. She lifted my towel from the rod and brought it to me. I dried off as much as I could while sitting, and then had to ask for a little help to stand enough to pivot so I could climb out. I suddenly realized I'd have to drop the towel to get out of the tub, because I'd have to lean on Emily in order to put no pressure on my knee. I pointed this out to her.

“Hmm. I'm afraid I might drop you. What if we put the stool over the edge of the tub? You could sit and kind of swing one leg over at a time?”

“Yeah. Lot of dignity in that,” I grumbled, but moved the stool because it was a decent idea. It certainly beat sitting in the tub all day until someone stronger could lift me out. Once I was out of the tub, I tucked my towel in place and got my crutches under me. I had to stop every foot or so to readjust the towel, and finally just dropped it.

“Would you bring that in so I can finish drying off?” I asked, feeling stupid.

“Sure. You're getting good with the crutches,” she commented. I didn't respond, feeling a little conspicuous with my bare ass hanging out. Once I got into my room, Em closed the door and steered me away from my dresser and toward my bed. My dick was getting the hint faster than my mind as I looked up at her.

She smiled as she looked down at me. “Let's just put your brace on to be safe.”

~P~

A few hours later we were down on the couch watching a show when my mom came back. She smiled widely and came over to tut-tut over me, and I tolerated it better than I had for the past week. My knee still hurt, but my ego was feeling way better – no longer useless, that's for sure. I almost felt like I was buzzed, to be honest. Sex with Emily is good, but I think today was a little different. It kind of made me feel a bit more like myself, reaffirming who I am. Maybe I'm being weird, but I've never gotten hurt like this, never felt so...outside of things.

Later that night Dad talked to me for a while. “This is going to put a kink in your usual summer plans. Football camp.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I know. It's okay. I mean, it sucks, but it's okay. Sean only plays because of me, so it lets him off the hook. I heard Boomer wasn't going to play this year. I was kind of thinking, anyway, that I wanted to get into student government. What do you think about politics?”

My dad leaned back in his chair and sighed. “That's complicated. Politicians, at least the way they were envisioned when the country was founded, were supposed to be for short terms. You'd go, do your duty, and go back to your life. They didn't envision people making a career out of being a senator or what have you.”

“How come we have that now, then? I mean, didn't they build that into the constitution or something?” I asked. That seems like something you put into the rules right up front.

“No, actually. Even term limits for the president weren't put into place until Roosevelt won a third term. Now you have a variety of factors that keep people in office. Name recognition, corporate support, gerrymandering, and more. There are plenty of people who believe, and much evidence to support that elected representatives spend most of their time trying to be re-elected rather than doing their jobs.”

“Huh. That's bullshit.”

My dad smiled. “Yes. Yes it is.”

I thought for a moment. “What do you think about people getting involved in politics?”

“Generally, I'm in favor of it. We need new ideas, new blood in the system to try to make changes. Churchill is generally credited with the quote, 'Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others,' and it's true. The thing you have to remember about any man-made institution is that it will be flawed. There will be people that will abuse any system with no regard for how it might hurt someone else.” He paused and shifted in his chair. “I think that even people who genuinely want to do good, to make positive change, will get sidetracked by the less noble aspects of humanity.”

I grunted and thought about that so long that I didn't notice when my dad left the room.

~P~

I spent the evening hanging out with my family, and it was safe to say they were all over feeling badly for me. The number of times I was challenged to a race or something was tossed just out of my reach by snickering people wasn't nearly as annoying as it could have been.

Boomer came to hang out with me the next day and we played some video games in the basement. I think he likes carrying me places. It was kind of funny how he went out of his way to make sure I was comfortable, then our game became a matter of life and death. My mom brought lunch down to us, and told me we were being a little noisy.

Boomer put the controllers on their charging stand, then ran up to get us drinks. I didn't mind being waited on that much, but it still felt a little weird. Boomer brought down juice boxes for each of us, two apiece. He popped the straw into one and handed it to me.

“Jesus, Boomer,” I said with a laugh. “I can put my own straw in.”

He looked at me blankly for a second and then blushed. “Sorry. I'm just trying to...well, not take care of you, but....”

“You don't still blame yourself, do you?” I asked seriously. “Because it was an accident.”

“I know,” he said, looking down for a moment. Bringing his gaze back to me he said, “I know it's not my fault, but I still feel bad that you're hurt.”

I nodded. “At least you don't feel guilty, anymore.”

“Nah. Kind of makes some things easier, I guess,” he replied before taking a bite from his sandwich.

“Like what?” I asked.

He swallowed. “Football. I figured you'd try to talk me into playing this year, but I'm really not feeling it.”

Of course Sean had told me, and Boomer was right – anyone would want this guy on their team. Now that I wasn't going to be on any team, I guess it changed my perspective from talking him into it to wondering why he didn't want to play.

“So, what's up with that, anyway?” I asked, then shoved the last bite of my sandwich in my mouth.

Boomer tore open the bag of chips my mom had brought down for us and spread a few out on each of our plates. He popped one in his mouth and I waited, respecting him as he put what he wanted to say in order.

“My daddy wanted me to do boy things. Man things. Masculine. At least, what he thinks of as masculine. I like sports, exercise and stuff, so I played. I'm good at studying. I can get pretty good at stuff when I get a chance to understand it, and I think there are some parts of playing football that came naturally to me. An instinct, if you want to call it that.” He hesitated. I kept my mouth shut and waited.

He cleared his throat and ate another chip. Honestly, I was fascinated at seeing this side of Boomer. When he'd kissed me, he'd turned me away so I couldn't see him when he said personal things to me. It made me wonder if his dad had told him showing emotions wasn't being a man. I wondered how hard it was for him to tell me what was driving his decision now.

“Did I tell you how I got into football?” I asked, trying to break the tension I thought he was feeling.

He looked up and took a deep breath. “Um, no, I don't think so.”

I smiled. “My dad was talking it up, but not the way your dad was. Kale had done soccer and Robin couldn't care less about football, so my dad figured I was his last chance – and he loves football. Trouble was, I didn't care about football.”

He chuckled. “But you seem to love football.”

“Well, I've had a lot of fun, yeah. If I'm honest, it's been way more fun playing with you and Sean on the team – and I've made a few friends on the team as well. There's some guys that don't like that I made an early jump to varsity, and I get that. I mean, fuck them, but whatever, right?” I said with a laugh and he joined me. “So my dad couldn't seem to get me into it, so what did he do? He asked Alec to come over, and he threw the ball around with me, had me run some plays and showed me how much fun I could have and that I might be good at it.”

“Really? Alec got you interested?” He paused. “Wait, I think you said something about that at camp.”

“Yep. Plus, you know a guy looks pretty cool with the pads, helmets and all.”

He smiled at me and shook his head. “I had a couple problems here and there on teams,” Boomer said reflectively, his tone and demeanor no longer stressed. “I developed a thick skin and learned to shrug stuff off, maybe stuff I shouldn't have. I wanted my dad to be proud. After we met in camp,” he said, letting his finger point back and forth between the two of us, “I started to think that maybe I didn't have to be so closed off. Maybe there were guys who wouldn't care what I was interested in or attracted to as long as I could play.”

“I don't know,” I said. “If I were in a locker room with a bunch of girls, I don't think I could avoid looking.”

“Well,” he said with a smile, dragging the word out. “You may remember I did get caught looking at camp. Anyway, my dad wanted me to play, so I did. But I stuck with it because of Alec. I'd heard about him, and it inspired me that a gay kid could succeed and not have to hide. Meeting you guys confirmed the possibility for me. But,” he said and let out a slow breath, “I don't love football. I've loved the friends I've made, the good times that were shared, but my heart isn't in it. I might have gone back for this last year with you guys there. Now? I have less than no reason.”

“It's 'cause you can't ogle me in the locker room, isn't it?” I asked, just because.

“Nope, it's Sean,” Boomer replied immediately, just to spite me. We both laughed, since this was an old joke between us. We finished up the food and put a movie on. Boomer made sure I was comfortable, too comfortable, and it wasn't long before I was out. I didn't wake up until it was almost dinner time, and Boomer carried me back upstairs before he went home for his own dinner.

“Hey,” I said to him as he turned to leave. He turned back and looked at me in curiosity. “Does your dad still give you crap about being manly and all that?”

“Not since he saw me play with you. He said you look like you'd be at home in a skirt.”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “Is that so?”

“Yeah,” he said. He cleared his throat. “I told him to shut his fucking pie hole. We haven't talked since, or did you not notice I didn't go to Kentucky for the summer?”

A bunch of things flitted across my mind and died before reaching my lips. How he'd ended up breaking his relationship with his dad over a throw away comment about me, but one that he'd probably heard from his dad all his life. Probably one his dad had used on him. But Boomer wouldn't let it stand for his dad to say that about a friend – or the family, I was sure. I understood and didn't feel like I needed to drag all that out.

“I'm sorry about that situation,” I said, feeling that keeping it short was the way to go.

He shrugged. “Sucks not seeing all my half-sibs. For being so religious, he didn't bat an eyelash at divorce.” He paused. “I'll miss the rug-rats, though.”

I swallowed, getting more of an understanding of what he'd lost. “See you tomorrow?” I asked.

“Yeah, tomorrow,” he said with a small wave, and was gone.

~P~

Emily came over that night and we sat up in my room watching some TV series she was into and I was pretending to be for her sake. It wasn't...awful. Just kind of boring. After the second episode ended she hit the bathroom and went down to get us drinks. She came back up with the familiar little plastic cup my mom liked to use for my meds.

“Ugh. I could never be a pill junkie. Too annoying,” I told her as I accepted the pills and drink.

“Well, you don't need any little blue pills yet. I guess I wake you up enough,” she replied, looking a little devilish.

I chuckled a little, setting my drink down and resting my hand on her side. “You did surprise me. Turns out I like surprises.”

“Yeah, you seemed to,” she said and giggled a little, curling tightly against me. “So tell me something. What was it like having Boomer kiss you?”

“This again?” I asked, rolling my eyes and chuckling.

She propped herself up on her elbow. “I just have a hard time seeing it. Those pictures your brother made up were great, but what was it like?”

“I'm not sure I get what you're after,” I said slowly.

“Well, when I kiss you you're sort of this total gentleman. I can tell you're into it, and you use your body to make the kiss better, but not leaving me feeling like I'm trapped or something.” She brushed her hair back behind her ear. “Like, you move your body close, hold me, but not like you're afraid I'm going to pull away. It's more just sharing space, and it rocks. I've had guys kiss me like they wanted to fall on me – or worse, like they were clumsy enough to. One guy got my whole lower face wet. So I'm saying kisses from different people feel different. What was it like to kiss a guy? Like Ash? Like Boomer?”

Knowing she liked things like this, I was wondering about my chances if I got her wound up and how much trouble I could get in if we got caught. The possibility of sex really does make you take insane risks.

“Well, I told you the story about Ash before,” I said, more to tease her than anything.

“You didn't really say how it made you feel, though,” she prompted.

I thought about that for a moment, casting my mind back to that afternoon where I'd had my first same-sex situation. “It was odd. At least, at first it was. Like I told you, we'd been wrestling, got hard. He had me pinned, but started to let me go because it was kind of awkward. I saw....”

“What? What did you see?”

I tilted my head so I could look at her better. “His eyes. His expression. It was this weird, anxious mix. Of course, I was kind of horny because hormones, you know? So I figured, why not? I grabbed the back of his head and pulled him down. At first he was a little...I don't know, stiff about it. But he seemed to catch on that it was okay and he started kissing me back. It was pretty much in balance, I guess. Like, neither of us was in charge or something.” I looked into her eyes. “It was easy. I loved Ash, and that made the kiss easy. It made going with my gut right then, which was sixty-nining, take absolutely no thought.”

“How did you feel about it?”

I let out a slow breath. “While it was happening? I was completely in the moment. I had no real thoughts outside of feeling good and returning the favor. Even later when I realized Ash had some feelings for me, I was pretty determined not to let any of that get in the way. I've always known I liked girls, but I really didn't have a problem with Ash and doing what I did.”

“And you said because you guys were single, you'd be okay with doing it again,” she prompted.

“Yeah. I'm not saying like a regular thing. I didn't come out of that craving the D or anything, but I enjoyed it.” I paused and said, “I think it helped that Ash was into me. He wasn't faking anything, so that helped things not to be awkward.”

“So when the sex happens, you just blank out? No emotions?”

I shrugged. “I wouldn't say that. It was kind of a confusing mix of emotions. At first I had a feeling like 'Dude, what are you doing?' but...Ash felt good. It didn't make me want more of him, or intensify my feelings for him. Well, not totally true – made me realize I love him. How I need that kind of connection to do something like that.”

“Was it different with Boomer?” she asked.

“Uh, yeah. Totally unexpected. It was like an assault, some tongue monster trying to grab my tonsils. Boomer kisses nothing like Ash – he's all attack.”

“Did you like it?” she asked a little breathless, and I started to chub up.

“I...sort of. It was like being dominated, and definitely not something I was used to. I felt like I could have been washed away, in a sense. It was both freeing and kind of frightening all in one,” I said. “Well, maybe not frightening. Anxious might be a better word. It wasn't comfortable; it made me nervous. I guess it's like when people go on fast rides for the thrill of getting scared, that rush. It was like that.”

She was silent for a moment, but all I could think of was my raging boner.

“Do you think you could kiss him again?”

“Um. Not sure it's fair to him. I think he's kind of into me and I don't want to put something out there that would mess with him. He's my friend, after all.”

“Yeah, I understand. That was months ago though, right? Maybe he's over it?” she asked and squeezed my shaft through my shorts.

“Maybe,” I squeaked.

“You'll ask him?” she asked, speaking straight into my ear. “Ask him if he's over that. If he'd be willing to do it again, for me?”

I let out a tiny gasp as she pulled the front of my shorts down and slid down, moving her face ever so close and looking at me. “For me?”

I nodded as if my neck were on a spring. “Yeah, for you.” I groaned softly as she went to town on me. God, she's gotten good at this. I wiggled my hand down to try and get into her top and not make this completely about me, but she shifted away and really just focused – damn, maybe this was all about me. It was kind of exciting as I thought about my parents downstairs while I was up here – and then it was over.

“Ow, ow,” I said softly, reaching toward my knee.

“What?” she asked breathlessly.

“My muscles tightened when I came, tweaked my knee,” I said sheepishly.

She moved my shorts back up to cover me and kissed the corner of my mouth. “I love you,” she said.

For some reason that caught me off guard, kind of hit me in the feelings. “I love you too, Em.”

“I know. It's so cool you're not one of those guys that says it so often that it stops meaning anything, but you're also not afraid to be a human and tell me how you feel.” She paused. “I was mostly teasing, by the way. I think it would be sexy to see you with a guy, while knowing you're mine, but I also understand if you don't want to, and especially if you're worried about Sterling's feelings. I can respect that.”

“Really? Kind of seemed like you had a goal a minute ago.”

“I like pulling on your leash once in a while,” she said and giggled.

“Leash?” I asked, feeling a little incensed.

“Of course. It's not like you don't have one for me. You know I get a little unhappy if you start in about someone else being pretty or something. You enjoy that bit of control, too.”

“But I'm only teasing,” I protested.

“So was I!” she replied and giggled some more. “I'm not going to guilt you or bribe you with blow jobs to do something you really don't want to do. What do you think I am, anyway?”

I chewed on my lower lip a little. “What is it about seeing me kiss a guy that does something for you?”

She tilted her head a little and then snuggled into me, her head under my chin. “Some basic stuff, like the sexiness of two guys kissing. I like your vulnerable side. I think a guy like Sterling kissing you like that is a side I wouldn't really see.” She paused. “I also think that, given that you have some bi in you, that...well, partly you get to experience it without being, like, trapped into a relationship with me. Second I kind of get to experience it with you. I'd kind of look forward to hearing what was going through your head, what it felt like to you. I'm curious.”

I thought about that for a while. I hadn't had any thoughts of cheating on Emily, and I don't think she was implying that. But it made me wonder if that was one reason why some people cheated – the burning desire, at some point, to find out what they thought they were missing out on? After thinking about it for most of the evening, I decided to talk to Boomer about it. Kind of take his temperature on the whole thing.

“So I'm seriously thinking about this student government thing,” I said.

“Yeah? Why?”

“What do you think about politics?” I asked her, instead of answering.

She pursed her lips and pushed them off to one side of her face. “Was it your idea to put condoms in your nightstand, or Sean being a good brother?”

“Hello, non sequitur,” I said and laughed.

“Seriously,” she said.

“Well, me, obviously,” I said.

“Oh, so you just figured you'd get laid?”

“Uh. Sort...of. Hoped so.”

“Feeling the tiniest bit uncomfortable?”

I narrowed my eyes. “What if I'd said Sean did it?”

“I'd want to know how come your brother knows so much about your sex life, what you tell him about me. Shall I go on?”

“There really was no winning with that question, was there?”

“That's what I think of politics.” She smiled brightly. “Of course, I'm thinking to myself that you'd better put condoms in your nightstand because I want to get laid, but I also don't want to get pregnant. So points to you. Of course if Sean had done it, I'd think what an awesome brother he is to make sure we can do our thing. But not everyone thinks that way – and that's why I think of politics.”

I frowned. “I sort of think I follow you, but....”

“Okay, so it's this whole mix of opinions, okay? Take something that's a supposed hot button issue like abortion. If you and I manage to get me pregnant, like today sort of thing, I'm pretty sure you and I are on the same page. At the same time, I feel way too young to have a kid, and I don't want to put myself through a birth and jump into motherhood with a commitment that would last longer than I've been alive.”

“Okay, yeah, makes sense.”

“But the first thing I'd say is, it's my body. Even if you think it makes sense, I make no apologies for doing what I need to do for me.” She sat up. “I love you. I mean I really love you, Jamie. I had no idea who you even were before that whole train wreck where you babysat my brother and that Greg Becket jackass tried to feel me up.” She shivered in revulsion. “But to my point, I want to be with you and I respect you, and at the same time it's up to me to look out for my body. Maybe in ten or fifteen years I'd want to have a kid, and maybe you'll be his father. But not now.”

I swallowed. “I totally get where you're coming from. For the record, I'm not ready to be a dad, either.”

“Ah, but now the politics,” she said slyly. “Some groups will say we shouldn't have sex – shouldn't even have access or knowledge of birth control. If we know about sex, we'll only want to do it more!” she said, cackling evilly. “Other groups will say no abortions. Some will give you religious reasons, and some people will hysterically scream that you're killing babies.”

I frowned.

“My cousin Patty had a baby last year. It was sort of cute, I guess, if you like things that drool, shit on themselves and can't talk. But that's a baby, not the mass of cells that can't live unless it piggybacks off me.” She took a deep breath. “Politics seems to be about dividing people, distracting them from what's actually important and amplifying things that aren't important or aren't as important. Like, all these nut balls scream about abortion, while cutting programs for kids, encouraging income inequality and giving welfare to corporations. That's what I think about politics, and I've been paying a lot of attention the past year or so.” She tilted her head. “Why do you ask?”

I cleared my throat. “No reason.”

She laughed. “Your knee got hurt, not your balls. I think we both know those are working fine. So what's with the politics?”

I swallowed. “Well, I've been thinking about getting into politics. Trying to do some good things.”

“I'd vote for you,” she said. “You should get into the government club. They go to D.C. every year for a senior trip and meet one of our local reps, and you get to see Congress and the White House and stuff. Maybe it'll help you decide.”

I smiled up at her. “You're fantastic, you know that?”

“Yep!” she said and squealed as I dug my fingers into her ribs. She flopped down beside me and we exchanged a few kisses before turning her crappy show back on. I didn't mind. Instead my thoughts swirled about politics, how lucky I was to have Emily, and how best to approach Boomer. I knew I would, now. I had a bit of curiosity, maybe let loose by Emily's permission – or desire. Was I curious for me, or for her? Both? My mind swirled as my meds kicked in and I drifted off to sleep.

~P~

Sean hadn't really given me much in terms of his point of view on the whole thing, but I was kind of surprised when Rob started teasing me, asking who I was going to pick out for my three way.

“Sure, make fun of the crippled guy,” I said, flipping him off. “Sean also has a big mouth, and it's not a three way. Although, Rob, maybe you could offer some advice.”

“Actually,” Rob said with all the sincerity he could fake, probably, “you should talk to Kale.”

My jaw dropped. “Why would I ever do that?”

Rob cleared his throat. “Because he has more experience with things like that than I do.”

Okay, he was screwing with me. Had to be. “Humor me,” I said. “If you were going to ask, say, Hamster to join up with you and Lu – how would that happen?”

“Jamie, God's honest truth, I have no idea. Lu and I are completely committed to each other, especially when it comes to sex.”

I frowned. “Are you serious about Kale?”

“Completely.”

That was how I found myself up in the apartment over our garage where Kale lived when college wasn't in session with his husband, Chase, and their little boy – my nephew – Linc. Getting upstairs with crutches is a bitch. Had to be done, though, because there was no way I'd ask him over to the house for this chat.

“Jesus, should you be on stairs?” Kale asked as he admitted me to their little home.

“Trust me, it wasn't easy,” I muttered. I hopped over and sat gingerly on his couch. I'd plopped down once before, jolted my knee and decided that had been a really bad idea.

Kale sat down in a chair opposite me and Chase emerged from the short hallway, smiling when he saw me.

“Hi, Jamie! You must be getting around better if you're doing stairs,” he said and sat down on the couch with me.

“I'm doing all right,” I said. “Honestly, I wouldn't have done the stairs if I didn't think it was the best idea.”

Kale put his hands in front of his face as if praying. “Please. Please do not tell me she's pregnant.”

“What? No! We're not stupid,” I grumbled.

“Thank God,” he said.

“You should be thanking Trojan,” I said with a snicker.

“Did you hobble all the way up here just to brag that you got laid?” Chase asked. “I mean, congratulations, but really?”

“No,” I said a tad defensively. “I asked Rob a question and he referred me to you, but wouldn't explain why.”

Kale frowned, per usual, and asked what the question was.

“Well, Emily wants to see me make out with a guy, and I'm thinking about talking to Boomer about it, but it might be a little messy. Rob said he and Lu are completely committed to each other, especially about sex, but he said to talk to...hey,” I said, a bulb lighting somewhere in my head, “what the heck is he talking about?”

“There truly are no secrets in this house,” Kale said and hung his head.

Chase slid a little closer to me and placed a hand in the middle of my back. “Jamie, are you sure you want to consider this...option?”

“Uh. Well, sort of, yeah. I mean, I'm sort of curious, but Emily is really into the idea. Why? Why do you guys look so...depressed?”

Kale stood up. “I'm getting a soda. Chase? Jamie?”

“Coke, please,” Chase answered and I echoed him. Kale crossed the room to their tiny kitchen while Chase turned his attention back to me. “The reason Robin referred you to us for advice is because we have some...experience in that subject.”

I stared at him. “Is this a joke? Camera hidden somewhere?”

“I'm afraid not,” Chase said with a sigh and accepted a glass from Kale.

Kale took a large swig from his glass and poured more Coke in. He placed both can and glass on the table and laced his fingers together before looking up at me.

“I don't want to go too far into specifics, mainly because I'm a little raw and the details don't matter as far as your question goes. Doing anything with another...person, couple, whatever...it comes with some risk.”

“Like STDs?”

“Always a possibility,” Kale replied. “But just as likely is emotions. They can get tangled, even with the best of intentions. You might tell Boomer that it would just be some making out, and even tell him why. He might say it's all good. Then later it gets messy, because you've developed feelings, or he has or Emily feels jealousy she hadn't expected.”

“So...you're saying it's a bad idea?”

Kale sighed.

Chase squeezed my shoulder. “We learned a lot, most of it good. We grew as a couple, learned to appreciate our...partners, and I would definitely do it again. But, like Kale, I'm struggling a little knowing it's over. I think we both hope there is some possibility for something down the line, but we respect where they are coming from. I would say that our experience...taught us new and better ways to love, that we saw sides to loving someone we weren't aware of – even improving the bond we share between us. But when things end...it hurts.”

I leaned back into the couch, trying to wrap my head around the idea that Kale and Chase had been in some kind of extra relationship with someone – or someones – else. It was a huge pill to swallow. Later that night and most of the next few days I bounced the short conversation around in my head, trying to weigh the costs and rewards, but I wasn't really sure what those were outside of the things Chase had said – but those were kind of empty. How do you really understand what he was saying unless you have some context? Experience?

It took three days before I was alone with Boomer for any real length of time, and it was a conversation I didn't want to have cut short. It was weird, but in a way I was looking forward to the idea of kissing him; to wind up Emily, to satisfy whatever this itch was she had, but also to answer my own questions about what I'd liked about the kiss we'd shared. The way I'd felt dominated and how it was unusual for me, and yet exciting. It was almost like this was Emily offering permission, even though she was getting something out of it, too. Not only that, she was probably getting sex out of it later as well. Or something. Maybe I should spontaneously give her some oral sex, too. Balance, right?

That wasn't the only thing going on in my world, though. First was my doctor clearing me to start some minor exercises to start strengthening my knee. The surgeon said that, due to the severity of the damage I'd done, it would be months before I could seriously think about physical sports, however he did clear me to go swimming so long as I wasn't horse-playing or anything like that. He said the resistance in the water was good for me, as well as taking some of my weight off the knee.

I hadn't had anyone over to swim since the first week or two of summer. Nik had just had his friend Mat arrive from Romania and he had wanted to introduce him to the family. I hadn't seen anything of Nik since, with my injury limiting my social calendar and his time spent trying to help his friend assimilate, he'd been pretty busy. I liked having large groups of people over, though. Sometimes it was nice to exhale from the intimacy of spending a lot of one-on-one time with someone. Like, I love Emily, but I also enjoy the nuttiness of a group of people having fun, laughing and generally keeping things light.

With this in the back of my head, I decided now was the time to talk to Boomer. I was doing my exercises slowly because everything was still stiff and not entirely pain-free, and he was watching me like a mother hen.

After doing what I felt I could I headed down to the basement with Boomer to play video games. Or discuss hooking up, sort of. Whichever, depending on if I chickened out. We started out playing video games, which was the easy call, but he could tell I was distracted.

“Is this be nice to me day?” he teased. “I appreciate you standing still to up my kill total, but what's up?”

Ugh. Not ready. “Were you close to your step-siblings?”

He tilted his head from side to side. “Not that close. I don't live with them most of the year, and I figure my dad isn't going to let them talk to me now. Or I thought so. The oldest, Andrea, she sent me something on Instagram. Just her and the other two sitting at home, saying they missed me. It was nice.”

“How is it you have three siblings and I never knew?”

“You're self absorbed?” he asked and laughed at me. “Like I said, you'd never have met them since they are all in Kentucky with my dad and Karen, who is better known by her stage name, the Whore of Babylon.”

I grinned. “Did you tag her with that?”

“Mom and I kind of went halfsies. What brings on the sudden interest in my extended family?”

Well, here we were. I sucked on the back of my teeth for a second. “What do you think about politics?”

He leaned back a bit and gave me a speculative look. “Well, I think they're a necessary evil. Politicians have been pushed in recent years as some people chose the losing battle about gays in this country. It doesn't stop some toilet states from continuing to be toilet states, but there have been improvements. I just wish that kind of thing weren't necessary.”

I nodded. “Could you see yourself in politics?”

He shook his head slowly. “I don't know what I want to do, yet. But I think...politics...I'd be a reluctant warrior at best. Too many situations where you'd be forced to choose between two evils. Like voting for something you don't believe in so you can get re-elected and try again to make change. Seems like you'd need an ironclad soul for that, at least to do it and not lose yourself.” He looked at me seriously. “I'm from Kentucky. Just look at our politicians.”

I nodded again. “I've been thinking about it. I'm thinking I might try to get involved and do some good.”

He smiled. “You got my vote.”

I smiled back at him. “So listen...last fall you tried to pierce my spleen with your tongue via my mouth,” I said teasingly.

“I don't remember you protesting until it was over,” he said, sounding a little superior.

“Yeah, well,” I said, not really on my toes I guess. “There were some things said. I'm just wondering how you feel about me these days.” He raised an eyebrow at me, so I decided to go first. “I mean, I still love you, of course. You're one of my closest friends and you know you're family. I just wonder if that bit of, you know, romantic attraction is still there on your end.”

He studied me for a minute, his lips seeming to purse and then relax, his tongue shifting inside his mouth. “I'm tempted to ask why you want to know first, but maybe I'll just give you the long explanation.” He licked his lips and said, “I had just transferred to my second parochial school when we met, you might remember. At my first one there was this guy – Chris Licardi. He was handsome but not cute, if that makes any sense to you. Sometimes I think the word cute refers to things that are shiny and new, but handsome is a little more settled down – a wiser, better version of cute if you will.”

“Better looking than me?”

He tilted his head side to side. “You both have your pluses. I think I told you that Chris was always dating whenever I was getting up the nerve or found out he'd broken up, so I really felt like I missed my chance. I've talked to him a little on a chat, and he's really happy. He's got this all-universe boyfriend, who somehow manages to look utterly broken and completely beautiful all at once.” He paused, seeming to become lost in thought. I let him be, and then he said, “I told him how I'd always wanted to ask him out, and he agreed the timing had been bad. Who knows, right? If I'd had some balls back then, who knows?”

“Wait, you have balls now?”

“Shut up, Kirkwood,” he said with a chuckle. “My point in saying all that was that I changed my approach. I ask people out now, no need to spend time wondering what they would have said – now I'll know. I don't have much use for what might have been, stuff like that.” He brought his gaze up to meet mine. “At first, I thought you were kind of a fun pest. Maybe a little vapid, as you'll remember.”

“I really don't know why-”

“But you grew on me. You and Sean gave me something I didn't realize I was lacking, which was just being friends with someone and not really caring who I was attracted to. I didn't have much in the way of friends in Kentucky, and you know things weren't great in a Catholic school for me – so it was kind of a big deal.”

I shrugged and smiled. “Like Sean said back then, we reserve our hate for assholes. Or something like that.”

“Yeah, something like that.” He tilted his head. “I admit what you did for that boy with Down's...it had an effect. Right in the feels. To be honest, I think that single act kind of pushed me into a strange place, and with my new policy...I acted.” He hesitated. “I don't know if you're asking because you need an ego boost or what – I'm not sure I want to know what goes on in whatever passes for your brain.”

“That's the second time you've knocked my brain. What gives?”

“It annoys you,” he said with a wide grin. I grunted. He nodded a few times, as if building up to something. “I saw how you operate. Introducing me to Alec, getting Sean to speak to Nate after his mother died – knowing Sean had firsthand knowledge. That thing you did for Andy at the park. I don't know about your brain, but you do have a big heart.”

Pride swelled inside me, filling my chest with warmth. Shit, I needed to turn this before I was too emotional from him inflating my ego to dangerous levels.

“Okay, but are you still in love?”

He looked at me steadily. “I love you. I can say that because of what you've said. You understand. But I'm not in love, if you follow.”

I nodded. “Okay. So, explanation for why I'm asking. Emily wants to watch me kiss a guy. I was thinking maybe to ask you, but I didn't want to mess with your head, you know?”

He lifted his chin and looked at me. “You want me to kiss you while your girlfriend watches?”

“Well. Maybe. I was...what do you think?”

He tilted his head. “I think I want to know why me.”

Oh boy. “Well, I think you make the most sense.”

“Okay,” he said, standing up. “You were doing pretty well, but that line stank of bullshit. The most sense? Did you write down the names of all your gay friends and start making a pro and con list?”

“Well, no,” I spluttered. “But you've kissed me once already, so that seemed kind of like the way to go.”

He looked down his nose at me.

I shifted on my seat. “Okay, fine, “I said testily. “Yes, she wants it, but I want to give it a try. Happy?”

He tilted his head from side to side with a smug look. “Interested, maybe. What do I get out of this?”

I gaped at him. “Um. Making out with me?”

He laughed! “You are so full of yourself,” he said between his laughs. “As you've said, I've kissed you already.”

“If you say been there, done that I'll kick your ass,” I threatened.

He crossed his arms. “Where is this headed?”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Right now your girlfriend wants to see you snogging a guy, and you're hetero-flexible enough to roll with it. You might even enjoy it – is that what's going on? You enjoyed it, don't want to get the gay on you and this is the best way?”

I struggled to my feet, tottering slightly, but pissed. “No! Nine times out of ten I, honest to God, am thinking of girls sexually. I like girls, my girlfriend's a...well, girl. She wants to see this and it sort of opens the door for me to scratch her itch and mine at the same time. The thing is, I don't want to lead on whoever this might happen with, especially not you.”

“So do you want to kiss me or not?” he demanded.

“Yeah! That's what I'm saying!”

He studied me a few minutes and I worked my way back into a sitting position. Quietly he asked, “What happens after? Are we weird because of this...thing? Last time was a freak thing, now you're going into planning to make out, but with an audience.”

I jerked back. “No. I'd never do that to you. Like you said, we've done it before – I'll just be prepared to defend myself this time.”

He considered me for a moment and then sat back down. He let out a deep breath and rolled his shoulders. “After Phil and I called it quits, he came sniffing around. We fooled around a little, something to tide us over while we were single. That stopped, but I admit...missing having some of that. So...I'm in.”

“Yeah?” I asked, smiling.

He looked back at me, the corners of his mouth turned up. “Yeah.”

~P~

It wasn't as weird as I'd feared. I was fooling myself about being able to defend myself from his kiss; it was just as much an assault as it was the first time. The thing was, Emily was always asking about what I was feeling. Like with the story about Ash, it was always about the emotions. When Boomer kissed me – assaulted me with his lips and tongue – I wasn't having any deep emotions. I was lost in the feel. He was aggressive, but not out of control. He had me against the wall in my room, and it was kind of hot to feel him pressed up against me, lips to ankles. There was a violence about it, an edgy feeling that he was holding himself in check and we were walking a line as thin as a razor's edge. There was the unmistakable feel of our hardness pressing tight under our jeans, the pull of his hand in my hair and the weirdly opposite gentle touch of his other hand as he snaked it up my shirt to my nipple.

I was thoroughly conquered. By the time he backed off of me, I was kind of a worn-out rag. I mean, I still had a raging boner, but I also felt like I'd been wrestling for an hour and a half, and my muscles were just noodles.

“I'm, uh, going to the bathroom. For a few minutes,” Boomer said and departed. Once more Em had me unzipped and unloaded in minutes flat, and then I was well and truly spent in every imaginable way.

“I keep...thinking I should...spontaneously go down on you...just so this isn't one-sided. But....” I waved my hand vaguely in her direction and she grinned at me.

“Trust me, that show was definitely not one-sided. I mean, I won't turn down that tongue of yours, but that was really, really sexy to watch.”

“Of course it was,” I scoffed. “I was there, so that only makes sense.” She just laughed at me.

Boomer tapped on the door and entered, sweat on his forehead and his forearms looking puffy like he'd just lifted weights.

“Feel better?” Em asked him.

He flopped down in my computer chair. “Yeah. May have clogged the toilet.”

I flexed an arm. “I still got it.” Chuckles raced around the room.

“So,” Emily said to Boomer. “How did it feel to kiss Jamie?”

Boomer raised an eyebrow and then glanced at me. “Q & A session after? That's kind of weird.”

“Not really,” Emily said, jumping right on the conversation. “It has to do with these articles I've been reading where it says women are more about the emotions of the situation, and men are more about the physicality. It's obvious you have the physical part down – I mean, damn!” She fanned herself with a hand. “But I want to know what was going on in your head.”

He frowned lightly and looked back and forth between us. I decided to rescue him, or at least make this more comfortable, so Emily could get her fix.

“I actually forgot you were watching,” I said. Em turned to look at me, and Boomer watched as I continued. “I was a little nervous before. Like Boomer said when we talked about it, this was planned, and I've never done that before. I won't say my emotions checked out, but I was definitely more aware of the physical part than I was, you know, doing any thinking.”

“Weird,” she said. “Did you have any emotions you can think of?”

I shrugged lightly. “Some, yeah. I mean now that I can look back. I think it's pretty obvious Boomer liked what he was doing, and that made me pretty excited.”

“You mean horny,” Boomer said dryly.

“As if I were the only one,” I shot back. “But no, not just that. It was a rush. Being pushed up against the wall, trying to keep up and with all that going on you were awful gentle about tweaking my nipple.”

“I'm not into pain,” Boomer said, with a quick glance at Em before returning his gaze to me. “Some people like that sort of thing, but not me. I didn't kiss Phil the same way. I mean I guess I did to a point, but something about kissing you....” He stopped talking and we waited. I admit to being very curious. He cleared his throat and said, “I was feeling the excitement of trying something new. I've never had someone watch, not intentionally. Nerves were ratcheted up a little. But then we started to kiss, and whatever I was anxious about – maybe that the kiss wouldn't go well, or Jamie would act weird or something – that went away. I was honestly just riding the wave of the moment.”

The room was silent for a minute and then Em spoke. “Like you guys, I was excited and a little nervous. Once you started, though, the chemistry was amazing. My nerves went away and I felt so excited – partly because I can't see Jamie when we kiss, you know?” she asked, looking at Boomer. “So this was a new perspective. Plus two hot guys, am I right?”

“Of course,” Boomer said with a blush and nod of his head.

“But I also felt this deep...gratitude. Jamie would never cheat on me; I feel that deep in my heart. But here he was, exploring something he might never have because I asked. It says something about the level of himself that he's willing to give. And you, Sterling, I could feel your...emotion, no...” She opened and closed her hand as if trying to grab the words out of the air. “I'm not sure how to say it, but there was this feeling of desperation. To leave a mark, like this was the...I don't know, like this mattered to you. It was like this...moment, this brief time when everything about you was being communicated to the universe. Pretty great stuff.”

There was a very notable pause in the room and I said, “You got all of that out of him trying to crush me through a wall?”

“You weren't exactly fighting me off,” Boomer drawled.

“How do you fight a hurricane?” I snorted.

“Exactly!” Emily said, sounding pleased, but I have no idea why. “Boomer was like a force of nature, swirling all around you and you were like a huge rock, daring the storm and enduring it all at once. The immovable object meeting the unstoppable force. Very primal. Hot as hell.”

“I don't know,” I said, shaking my head.

“Well, let me ask you guys this,” Emily said. “Try it again in a few days?”

Boomer and I stared at each other.

~P~

I figure if I'm going to go into politics, I'm going to need to remember names. My friends are easy to remember, but I was looking forward to the new people coming to the house. Boomer had told me that he'd been in contact with his old crush, Chris Licardi, through an app and that the whole crew was coming to the Springs. I still wasn't super mobile, so I suggested they come over to swim and we'd grill out. Of course, I had to wheedle and beg mom a little, but it worked out in the end.

“Averi is looking forward to the party,” Sean told me over breakfast.

“It'll be nice to have a few people over. I'm overdosing on Emily and Boomer,” I said with a roll of my eyes, but smiling to show I wasn't serious.

“They've been pretty supportive while you hobble around,” Sean agreed and I threw a piece of cereal at him.

“Why's Averi looking forward to it?”

The corner of Sean's mouth pulled up. “She's into a guy. I went over the other day. Her mom was looking for a backup sitter, because Averi has an actual summer job and her mom doesn't want to discourage that, but she also needs someone to watch the little sister.”

“You're going to babysit?”

“Nah,” he said with a shake of his head. “While I was there Averi's mom figured out what Averi would make, how much it would cost her to hire a sitter, and they just worked a deal. Honestly, after that little terror went all hormonal on Micah? Wasn't looking forward to it.”

“Aww, afraid of girls' hormones now?” I teased.

“Considering your girlfriend's hormones are whoring you out, yeah, a little,” he said and laughed at me.

“Evil twin,” I said, narrowing my eyes at him. “Anyway, who's Averi into?”

“Mat, Nik's buddy.”

“It's the accent. Deadly.” I looked up. “So Nik and Mat are coming?”

He nodded. “Plus those guys we played football in the snow with last winter – remember? Their car broke down?”

“Oh, right,” I said. “Boomer said he had this guy coming from Binghamton, too. Guy and his boyfriend.”

“Yeah. They all know each other,” Sean replied.

“Who all knows each other?”

“The guys from the football game and Boomer's friends.”

“Oh. Really? That's strange. What are the odds?”

“A lot higher if you'd been paying attention,” Sean replied and burst out laughing at me.

The afternoon was a lot of fun. Emily had a new two-piece bathing suit that left me pretty damn thirsty. Boomer was hanging around, making sure I didn't tweak my knee in the pool and helping me, unnecessarily, to get in and out, keep me from falling and wiping my ass. I mean seriously. Averi had a pretty sweet bikini as well and it was clear Mat had eyes for her. The new guys were pretty cool as well. Chris had a really Zen-like quality to him, so I could see why Boomer would have been interested. Chris's boyfriend, Noel, was harder to figure, but he managed to dunk Boomer a few times, so he's good in my book. Declan and Corbin were the guys we'd met the winter before, and you couldn't really tell they were dating. Declan seemed to enjoy hanging out with Griff and Dev, until Corb would grab him and throw him into the pool. Corb hung out with this skinny guy with blond hair named Bellamy. Bell seemed sort of like he was in heaven, talking to various guys.

I vaguely recall Boomer saying something about Bell before, maybe about some interest, but they didn't seem to cross paths much that afternoon. Phil showed up, and I was kind of proud of Boomer and Phil that they weren't so awkward around each other anymore. Bell and Phil talked some, and later I saw Bell and Nik engaged in a pretty animated discussion. Looked like Bell figured out who all the single guys were.

Partway through I announced to everyone I was running for student government and they should all vote for me, and that I expected long hours of support from them with no compensation or recognition. Boomer threw me in the pool and then swamped me.

~P~

My summer included a bunch of other stuff. I slowly improved with my knee – not as fast as I could have, because I hated the exercises I was supposed to do. Boomer would annoy me into doing them most of the time, but I wasn't really enthused. Sean and Ash were around all summer, of course, but whatever had plagued them at the end of the school year with regard to their relationship seemed to be ironed out. When Sean had arrived he was super cool, a little on the shy side and about the nicest person you could want to have be your brother.

He'd grown in confidence, but then when he and Ash...developed, he'd gone off on this uneven spiral that ended up with him breaking down. I don't think I've ever felt as out of control as he had. I had tried to imagine it once in a while, just to try and not be a dick about the things he'd said and done, but I just couldn't imagine it. Still, he'd come through it and understood what he wanted and where he fit, for now. I wouldn't have blamed Ash for dropping Sean at the time, but something kept him in place and they'd come back stronger. I love my brother, but I love more who he's become with Ash behind him, so to speak.

Kale continued to be moody through most of the summer. I managed to put together that he and Chase had been sleeping with Alec and Sasha, and I was more than shocked. It opened a can of questions in my head. I mean, first I was kind of annoyed – they both have kids! It seemed weird, like if my parents suddenly did something like that, which...eww! I veered away from talking to Em about it – she'd probably just ask for video. I considered bringing it up to Boomer, but maybe it was too close to the things we were already dealing with. So I brought it up to Sean.

“Really?” he asked, his mouth hanging open.

“I know! I mean, what the hell, right?”

He jerked his head back. “Are you really judging them?”

I tilted my head. “You're not?”

“Uh, no. I mean, none of my business, is it?”

I frowned. “I don't get it. You seemed to be against this kind of thing when I was talking to you before, like about what Emily and I were discussing.”

He looked at me like I was being stupid. “You were asking about me and Ash. Call me jealous, but he's mine. I'm pretty sure his little kink about us is mostly teasing. Even if it weren't, it's something I don't want and he won't push that. That's kind of the thing, though – he and I decide that. Whatever you and Emily decide to do, that's your call.”

I frowned. “So you aren't allowed to have an opinion about this kind of thing?”

He shrugged. “Can't stop you, but what's the point? It's their relationship. It's not for me, but it worked for them. I admit I'm totally surprised, but when I think for a second I think I'm just surprised because it's different. I mean, we don't know anyone else like that, do we?”

“Logan, Seth and Gray had that thruple thing for a while.”

Sean nodded. “Yeah, that's true. It didn't last.” He sighed. “One relationship is a lot of work. I don't think most of us are built for more than one romantic relationship at a time, not one you really care about.”

“One day I'm going to call this Kale's slut phase, but he's kind of hurting over it right now.”

Sean groaned. “You can be such a dick,” he said and then laughed a little. “Besides, how is this different from you and whatever is going on with Boomer?”

I narrowed my eyes. “What do you mean?”

He tilted his head, chin down and his eyes looking at me like I was a little kid caught by the teacher. “Something more than just hanging out is going on. You may be fooling some people – I doubt it, but you could.”

“Fooling them about what?” I asked.

“I see you and Boomer acting differently to each other. I see Emily smiling like a fat cat. She's got you fooling with Boomer, and he's liking it. I think you are, too. Question is, if Kale and Chase couldn't make something like that work, what do you think your chances are?”

I frowned. “Well, for one thing, I'm not dating Boomer.”

“Kale and Chase are married to each other. So are Alec and Sash. Neither of them is dating the other, either.”

I frowned a little more. “I think things are laid out pretty clearly. Boomer knows whatever goes on between him and me is what it is. No hidden agendas; I'm not changing teams. Maybe just doing a little switch hitting for the moment. He's having some fun because he's single and not seeing anyone. I'm scratching a small itch that's conveniently one of my girlfriend's itches. It's all under control. We were smart about it.”

Sean looked at me for a while and then sighed. “I hope you're right.”

~P~

Midway through the summer Emily's aunt and uncle were in an accident, and Em's mom took her along to help them out for a few weeks, because they were struggling around the house. Emily told me about the chores, which weren't that bad, and how her aunt and uncle were struggling to adjust. We spent some time in the evenings watching the same show together so it was kind of like actually watching it together.

Boomer and I hung out a lot. He'd been great while I was recovering, but there was an undeniable sexual tension between us, now. I wasn't as into it with Emily not being around, and Boomer didn't push anything, but I could still feel it in the air. Unless it was just me and the talk Sean and I had rattling around in my subconscious. I noticed some stuff, though. Boomer would casually keep his hand on the back of my neck. We watched a movie or two, or even playing video games, and he was usually touching me somewhere. I didn't mind, but I was conscious of it. I guess it was kind of nice, especially without Em to curl up next to me. You couldn't call it cuddling with Boomer. It was just...extra touching, I guess.

The third week Em was gone, it happened. Boomer was over late. We'd been in the pool with a few of the other guys, played some video games and shared stupid stuff on our phones with each other. Eventually everyone else went home, and I told Boomer to see if he could stay over. He had brought the new MK game with him and I was looking forward to mastering a fatality, and besides – I wasn't tired.

That changed when Emily called. I won't go over what was said to get us to where we ended up going, because I'm sure I don't really know. Maybe I'm just one of those guys who can be led by the dick, sometimes. Whatever the conversation, the outcome was my laptop on top of my desk with a video chat open to Emily's room wherever her relatives lived.

Oh. Boomer and I were naked.

“Can you see?” I asked Em.

“Can you tilt the screen down a little? Maybe move it a little closer?” she asked.

I stood and adjusted the screen, then sat back down. “Now?”

“Yes, that's good.” What she was seeing was displayed in a small window in an upper corner. What I was seeing dominated the screen, and I liked it. She's got nice, perky boobs that aren't out of hand. I'm not into enormous tits, not like how Scott and I used to joke. I like what she's got, and I like that she's showing them to me.

I stretched my legs out on the bed and leaned over, and for the second time in my life, I put a dick in my mouth. It was really hot to hear Boomer groan and Emily let out a breathy gasp. I bobbed up and down a few times, tilting my head to look at Emily's reaction while Boomer's noises of approval filled my ears.

“Here we go, whole thing!” I said to Emily and pushed as much of Boomer's dick in my mouth as I could. I coughed a little as he hit the back of my mouth, but his satisfied groan was pretty worth it. I did it again, looking at the camera and Emily was licking her lips and rubbing one nipple. Hell yeah.

I pulled off his dick and stroked it a few times. “Look. Instead of lipstick, it's dickstick,” I said, rubbing the end of his dick over my lips and making a smacking noise. Emily giggled and I could feel Boomer shaking under me with laughter. I spent some more time going down on him, but eventually I recalled how things had ended with Ash and I pulled off again.

“Are you close?” I asked Boomer.

“Almost,” he said, running his fingers through my hair.

“Do you want to come?” I asked.

“Not yet,” he said a little huskily. “How about your turn?”

“I don't know if I can get hard,” I teased.

“Oh, I'll get you hard,” he muttered and I sat back and looked at the laptop screen.

“Em, are you turned on?”

“Completely,” she said.

“Show me?” I asked.

She moved the camera on her end down to show her finger stroking herself, wiggling over that nub that would take her to a happy place. Boomer had shifted while I talked to Emily, and I spread my legs involuntarily as he started lapping at my balls. Ungh, that felt good. I put my hand on his head, running my fingers back through his hair to grip the back of his head. He hummed, but I have no idea what it meant. One of his hands moved up to play with one of my nipples and the other was tugging on my balls and rolling them around by turns. I reached down with my free hand and stroked one of his nipples in return and he groaned again.

I looked back up at the screen and watched as Em played with herself, and suddenly I felt harder than I ever had in my life.

“Boomer, I'm close,” I said in a choked gasp. He pushed down, much like Ash had, and I unloaded in the back of his throat. “Oh,” I said, letting the small sound drift from my mouth. I wiggled a little, feeling sensitive. Emily usually pulled off after I came, but Boomer was kind of gently suckling, which felt nice as part of coming down from an orgasm. I've heard some guys are sensitive after they come, but I wasn't. No idea why. Boomer kept up his ministrations, moving his hand from my balls to my other nipple. Man, this was the life. Eventually, though, he pulled off my semi-hard dick and raised an eyebrow at me.

“Help me finish?”

“Adjust the screen!” Em gasped and I wiggled it a bit; I guess the hinge for the screen needed tightening or something. I sat in the computer chair and Boomer stood in front of me. I leaned forward and went back to work on him, checking the screen to see what Emily was doing. It's so unfair girls can have multiple orgasms. I wrapped one hand around the base of Boomer's dick and moved my free hand up to rub one of his nipples like he'd done for me.

“Jamie! Use your other hand! You're blocking my view, babe!”

I pulled off and looked at the screen while stroking Boomer with my hand. “Huh?”

“I can't see you sucking him with your arm in the way. Switch hands,” she urged.

“Oh. Okay,” I said and moved my other hand up, then held his dick and smacked it a few times against my lips like they do in pornos. That felt weird. Not bad, not exactly sexy, but weird. I looked up at Boomer, and he looked down at me, mouth open and his eyes focused on me.

“Look at me while you suck, Jamie,” he said in a gravelly voice and I shivered slightly. I looked up at him, locking our gazes while I slid him back into my mouth and started to bob. He let out a shuddering sound, but his eyes never left mine.

“So hot,” Boomer said under his breath.

“Very hot,” Emily agreed.

I guess it was. I was hard again and started to awkwardly stroke myself. Not easy when you're hunched over in a computer chair.

“I'm close!”

I popped him out of my mouth just as he let fly. It may have been better to let him come in my mouth and spit it out, but I hadn't liked that with Ash and had tried to avoid it. Instead I got some in my mouth, some on my lips, some on the side of my face and I could feel it dripping down like thick, warm paint drying. Then, he splashed my face with more, and then a third and fourth time. I had sat back a bit, so the second one took me in the neck and the third on my chest. Christ, he's messy.

I leaned back in the chair, wiping my tongue with my hand, and Emily asked if I was going to let my boner go to waste. I looked down at it, bobbing with my heartbeat, and gave it a couple of strokes. Boomer scooped up some of his spend and got on his knees, using it for lube. He started stroking me with a blinding speed, and I curled my toes and shot off in record time.

I sat slumped in the chair, covered in man juices, exhausted and sated.

“Emily? Em, are you still awake?” I snapped to the screen, hearing her mother and it went dark in less than a heartbeat.

Boomer flopped back on my bed and rested his arms behind his head. “I sure hope her momma didn't see any of that.”

I was still feeling a little dazed, but I could agree with a nod of my head.

“I mean, can you imagine? Walking in on your daughter rubbing one out over her boyfriend, on her screen covered in come?”

I looked down and then glared at him. “Have you been saving it up or what? Look at how you spooged all over me.”

He laughed and I couldn't help but smile. It was kind of stupid.

“You need a hand to get in the shower?”

“Nah.” I stood up and went to the bathroom for a quick shower. When I returned to my room Boomer had pulled on some shorts and was texting on my phone.

“That Em?”

“Yeah,” he said, handing the phone to me. “I told her you were getting cleaned up.”

I pulled on some shorts and sat down, asking if everything was okay on her end. There was a tap on the door and my mom poked her head in.

“Dad and I are going to bed. Keep it down, okay?”

“Sure, Mom. Goodnight,” I said.

“Goodnight, Mrs. Kirkwood,” Boomer chimed in.

“Sterling, it's been so nice having you here. I'll have to send your mother a thank you note for all you've done to help Jamie since he got hurt. You've been a real blessing.”

“Oh, uh, thanks,” he said, blushing. My mom smiled at us and left the room. I turned and raised an eyebrow at Boomer.

“A blessing?”

He crossed his arms and smiled. “That's what I am.”

Emily raved some about what she'd seen, told me everything was good on her end. I guess her phone had been under her sheets, so she'd been safe. Eventually we said goodnight and I plugged my phone in to charge. Boomer had been watching something on my laptop, which he closed when I climbed next to him.

“You all right?” he asked.

I looked at him in surprise. “Yeah, why? Are you?”

He nodded. “Best I've been in a while. Listen, Kirkwood,” he said and cleared his throat. “I don't mind what we have going on, but I want you to know...I'm going to start seriously looking for a boyfriend. Once I find one, this has to stop.”

“Yeah, I figured that would be obvious,” I said to him. “You don't sound okay, though. What's up?”

He looked at me for a moment, studying my face by the way his eyes were making little adjustments. Then he smiled, gently.

“I can see why Emily loves you. I can see it would be really easy to fall in love with you.”

I felt alarm rising inside me. “Sterling,” I said softly. “I do love you, man. But....”

“I know,” he said in the same gentle voice. “I can have you for a little while, but I can't keep you. Not like this. I admit it's going to hurt, some. But I like what you and Emily have, at the core. The trust. The fun you have hanging out, just like you and I do. I need to find that for myself. So even though it'll hurt, I'm going to keep having you for a little while longer. But I want you to know, I'm looking elsewhere. When I find it, I don't want to have us with any bitter feelings. I...know you can't feel about me the way I could feel for you. I'm not asking, not going there. But when I find something, please don't ask me to do this anymore.”

“Sterling,” I said, with my voice filled with compassion. “Why would I ask you to do that once you found a boyfriend?” I paused and then, worried I asked, “Are you...you love me.”

He took in a shuddering breath. “Yeah, I do. I have. Probably always will, in my way.” He looked down for a moment and then returned his gaze to me, defiant. “Right now it's okay. It's allowed. Later...you can't ask because I'll say yes. Until I'm over you and in love with someone else, when this is done – it has to stay done. We clear?”

I nodded my head, mouth open. “I never wanted to cause...to hurt....”

“You didn't. I don't regret this. I wanted it. I just need you to help me, later. After. When I find it, let me fall in love.”

“Of course,” I said with a whisper, wondering just what sort of fucked up I'd unleashed, and wondering why I hadn't listened to Sean.

We slept together, Boomer cuddling me to him. It felt good, and I felt safe and loved, but I also felt like an asshole. How was Boomer going to find someone he could love if he was doing this with me? How cruel would I be if I cut this off right now? Were there any good answers?

Fuck. This was like Em said about politics. It's all politics of a sort. But I could be good at this. It might cost me, but I'd take care of Boomer until he found what he was looking for. It wasn't a hardship for me, and when Emily and I next got some alone time, there would be fireworks. So yeah, I can do this, enjoy this, and I just need to stick the landing.

'The End'.