This is the fifth chapter of `Learning with a Man'. A new chapter will come out every week. Any comments or questions can be directed to the author at nothlit-at-hotmail-dot-com

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or events is entirely coincidental.

Learning with a Man
Chapter 5

    Dad drove to the restaurant happily with me in tow, convinced that Ray and I were still looking forward to the trip and all. He tried starting a conversation once or twice, but I was too busy worrying about how Ray would react to seeing me so soon to really be able to talk with Dad. What would Ray say? He'd been really angry in the morning after my little defiance stunt. I kind of wished I hadn't done it.
    No. Wait. I'd been right to do it. I hadn't even done anything wrong!
    "Jeff? You okay?" Dad asked.
    "Yeah, I'm fine," I said calmly. Or tried to.
    We were driving right by the restaurant by then. As Dad parked the car, I tried to calm down. I hoped Ray and his dad hadn't arrived yet.
    "Right on time," Dad said as he stopped the car. "Let's go on in."
    "Yeah," I said glumly. "Great."
    We stepped out of the car and walked up to the restaurant's main entrance, Dad walking ahead and me dragging my feet behind him. If I hadn't been so nervous, I would have looked forward to eating at Friday's. I liked the sandwiches there. Right then, though, if somebody had shoved a sandwich under my nose I think I would have puked. I kept looking around anxiously, trying to spot Ray's car.
    We went inside to the bustle of dinnertime and the comings and goings of many waiters and waitresses. The hostess greeted us, and Dad was about to ask her for a table when we heard a loud, "Mike! Over here!"
    Dad looked and, sure enough, there was Ray's dad waving. Oh man. I steeled myself for the meeting and followed Dad through the bustle of the aisle, the smells of delicious food cooking, and the increasingly tight knot in my gut.
    "Hey Mike!" Ray's dad said, extending his hand.
    "Rick!" Dad answered, shaking hands. "It's been way too long."
    "I know! And we're practically next-door neighbors. Come on, sit down. Jeff! How have you been?"
    "Hi, Mr. Savage," I said, shaking his hand.
    We sat down. I realized Ray wasn't there yet with a huge surge of relief.
    "How's everything going down at the plant?" Dad asked Mr. Savage.
    "Well, you know how it's been everywhere lately, Mike," Mr. Savage answered. "Budget cuts... working overtime to make up for the layoffs and so on. Kind of makes me wish I'd set up a business of my own like you did."
    Dad grinned. "I can't say I didn't try to talk you into it. Construction material contracts keep coming."
    Ray's dad nodded. "Rubbing it in my face again?"
    Dad laughed. "It's never too late to jump in, Rick."
    "I don't think so. I'm aiming for early retirement at the plant. It'll pay off in the long run, you'll see."
    I blocked out the adults' talk. I stared at the menu someone put in front of me like I couldn't read the letters. I wondered where Ray was, and I wondered what I should say to him. Should I play it cool? Or maybe deliberately talk about this morning, and about the mall yesterday? I kept craning my neck to look out the window but I didn't see his car anywhere, and he hadn't come with Mr. Savage.
    We ordered and they brought the drinks. After the waiter left, Dad said, "Hey Rick, where's Ray?"
    Mr. Savage shrugged. "Dunno. I told him to come, but you know how teenagers are. He's probably out with his friends and he forgot all about it. I swear, sometimes I don't know what is going through his head. One minute he's okay, the next he drives off in that car and I don't hear from him all day. His mother says it's normal teenager behavior, though."
    Dad was nodding, and knowingly looked my way. "Tell me about it."
    There was some more boring talk about this and that, which was mostly Dad and Mr. Savage catching up, thankfully ignoring me. By the time they brought my sandwich, though, it was obvious Ray was either not coming or he'd forgotten about the dinner altogether.
    "Let me give that kid a call," Mr. Savage said, taking out his phone. "I'm sorry he's this late. Should have shown up by now."
    "No problem," Dad said, digging into his burger.
    "Ray? Where are you?" Mr. Savage said, talking on the phone. "What? No, I told you to be here almost thirty minutes ago! Mike and Jeff are here already, we're starting without you. Alright. Okay, but hurry up. Right. Bye."
    He hung up.
    "He forgot?" Dad asked between bites.
    "Yeah," Mr. Savage said. "Said he should be here in a few minutes."
    My stomach twisted a bit more at those words. I looked at my sandwich like it was trying to hurt me and sort of nibbled on the fries it came with instead.
    When I saw Ray's car appear, I almost choked on a half-eaten fry. Okay, Jeff; time to calm down. Easy. I drank some of my soda and tried to appear less anxious. I didn't succeed very well.
    Ray came in, his hair all messy like he hadn't combed it. He spotted our table and grinned. My heart did its skipping-a-beat thing—Ray looked really handsome in that denim jacket and tight white T-shirt underneath. Without really meaning to, I pictured him taking off that jacket, and that T-shirt... and blushed fiercely when I realized I was still sitting right next to my dad.
    "Hey," Ray said as he sat down, his chair scraping the floor. "Sorry I'm late."
    "Hi, Ray," Dad answered.
    "How're you doing, Mr. Irons?"
    "Doing fine. This burger's great."
    "What were you doing, Ray?" Mr. Savage asked. "I texted you about dinner here with Mike and Jeff. You said you were coming."
    "I know; sorry, Dad," Ray answered. "I just forgot."
    "Again," his dad grumbled.
    I noticed Ray hadn't said hi to me. In fact, he was not even looking my way, which was hard since we were seated right across from one another. He seemed nervous. Twitchy. Not angry like I'd expected.
    A sudden thought occurred to me. Maybe Ray was freaking out! Maybe he was scared to hell that I'd tell on him. His dad was here, after all, and so was mine. Perfect time to talk about everything that had happened. That was it! The thought was surprising, but it seemed true, especially from the stammering way in which Ray ordered his meal when the waiter came and the now-ridiculous way in which he kept avoiding my eyes. He was practically clinging to the menu as a last barrier between us.
    Seeing his nervousness, my own agitation vanished. Maybe this dinner wouldn't be so bad after all.
    "Hi, Ray," I said casually.
    He looked up briefly, then back down. "Hey."
    "Well," Mr. Savage said, "I guess now that we're all here it's time to talk about something important." I saw Ray go slightly paler, but of course his dad only meant the trip. "This is the first trip you two boys will take on your own, and Mike and I wanted to go over the details with you."
    "I had almost forgotten about this trip, Rick," Dad said. "Good thing Ray remembered and told us last week."
    "He didn't remember, I had to remind him," Mr. Savage told us. "As a matter of fact, I'd forgotten all about it too. We bought that damn coupon around Thanksgiving and I hadn't given it a single thought until last week. Then the guide called me to remind me of it; real nice of him, too. He gets paid whether the kids show up or not. That's when I sent Ray over to your place to remind you."
    "Who's the guide?" Dad asked. "Do you know him?"
    "His name's Chris," Mr. Savage answered. "Chris Taylor. Nice kid; responsible. He's a couple years older than Ray. He's in college now, but he works as a guide during summer to help pay his tuition."
    "Does he have any experience leading people up Mount Adams?" Dad asked, slipping into overprotective parent mode. "Is he trustworthy?"
    "I can vouch for him," Mr. Savage said. "He's a good kid. He's even certified at something or other. I talked to his father a few times when the boys were younger and he and Ray were in the track team together. Remember, Ray?"
    "Yeah," Ray mumbled.
    "So they're in good hands," Mr. Savage said. "The only thing, though, is Chris told me yesterday they have a huge tour group coming on Saturday. Asked me to switch the boys' trip to Sunday and I said yes. Seemed reasonable, since they're both not doing anything now that summer's started."
    "Sounds good to me," Dad said. "What about you, Jeff?"
    "Yeah," I said. "Great."
    "Great," Mr. Savage echoed. "That'll give the boys something to do. I hate to have Ray doing nothing all summer. He should be doing something productive, like getting a part-time job. Right, Ray?"
    Mr. Savage elbowed Ray playfully as he said it. Ray only rolled his eyes.
    "Jeff already has a job," Dad said proudly.
    I raised an eyebrow. "Huh?"
    "Mrs. Wheatley told me, Jeff. You're walking her dog again for her in the afternoons. She told me she's glad to have you do it because you're always so attentive. And that way you get to make some money for yourself."
    "That's great, Jeff," Mr. Savage said. "That's what I keep telling Ray to do. Show some responsibility."
    "Whatever," Ray said under his breath.
    "How old are you now, Jeff?" Mr. Savage asked me.
    "Fifteen, Mr. Savage."
    He nodded appreciatively. "You've grown a lot this past year. Right, Mike?"
    Dad grinned. "Yeah. He might yet outgrow his old man."
    Mr. Savage looked at Ray. "We're of a height, Ray and me."
    "That's right, Ray," Dad said, as if he'd just remembered, "you're off to college next year, right?"
    Ray shrugged. "Maybe."
    "Maybe?" Dad asked.
    Mr. Savage sighed. "He still hasn't applied to any school, can you believe it? All through senior year, nothing. I keep telling him he's bound to land a sports scholarship or something if he just tries, but you know how teenagers get."
    "I don't need to go to college," Ray said defiantly. "It's not an obligation."
    Mr. Savage gave Dad a look that seemed to say, see what I told you?
    The conversation lulled for a bit then as everyone ate. I found my appetite had returned now that I wasn't freaking out and finally started enjoying my sandwich. Ray still refused to look my way unless he had to, though.
    "We're actually thinking of transferring Jeff to a new school," Dad said eventually, when most of his burger was gone.
    "Why?" Mr. Savage asked.
    "There's been some... problems," Dad told him.
    "What kind of problems?"
    "Well," Dad said, "it's mostly bullying. Jeff's counselor told me about it. Jeff had been bearing it in silence, but from what she told me, it had gotten pretty bad. I'm actually amazed Jeff hadn't said anything earlier. Must have been hard for him. We've been talking, and if Jeff wants to, I'll transfer him somewhere else to finish high school next year."
    Mr. Savage looked at me. "I'm sorry to hear that, Jeff."
    I shrugged noncommittally and drank some soda to avoid the need to say anything.
    Mr. Savage then looked at Ray. "You hadn't told me anything," he said thoughtfully. "You're best friends with Jeff. You must have seen something, known it was happening."
    Dad also looked at Ray. "That's right. Didn't you see anything, Ray?"
    "If you did see it happen, son," Mr. Savage said, "you should have done something. You should have told us. You're Jeff's friend."
    Ray got all pale like his worst fears had come true and he tried to answer. He stammered, "I... I didn't see anything, really... I just heard a couple things some of the other kids said about Jeff. That's all, I think..."
    "They said what about him?" Dad demanded, and edge in his voice.
    Ray swallowed. "I... um... well... that he..."
    "He didn't know," I cut in. Everybody looked at me. "You know how it was, with Ray's training schedule and the classes and all. He was really busy all the time. We almost didn't talk all year, there was no way. Ray didn't know it was so bad at school or he would have done something. Honest."
    I said the last part looking right at Ray. He was surprised, and was looking right at me for the first time since he'd sat down.
    "But he's been there for me," I said. I heard the sarcastic edge in my voice but I couldn't stop myself from talking. "Always there. I'm sure he would have stood up for me at the park yesterday. We're best friends. And if I hadn't told anyone about  wanting to transfer to another school it's because I wanted to be in the same school as he. But now he's going to college, so I guess it's okay if I transfer. We'll still be friends, though, even if he goes away to some other state. I know I can always count on him."
    I saw how my sarcastic comments got right through Ray's fake indifference. His initial surprise had faded, and I spotted a spark of the earlier anger from this morning in there.
    "I'm glad to hear that," Mr. Savage was saying, clueless.
    "Yeah," Dad said. "That's good to hear."
    I smiled innocently at Ray. He bit down on his food viciously, glaring at me the whole time.
    When the food was gone and Dad and Mr. Savage had done enough catching up, Dad excused himself and said we'd best be leaving. I left with him, saying how much I was looking forward to the trip on Sunday. I felt Ray's eyes on the back of my head as I left. I knew he was staring, and I knew he was angry. Too bad. I hadn't ratted him out, and he should have been thankful. After being such a jerk and all... whatever. I didn't even know if I was going to go on this stupid trip with him anymore. My feelings about him were, if possible, even more confused now. The only thing I wanted was to go to my room and be alone for a bit.
    Dad drove us home and talked enthusiastically about the trip the whole time. I escaped as soon as I could and went upstairs to my room. I shut the door firmly behind me, and finally relaxed.
    Ray's angry face haunted my thoughts and I felt a small stab of regret about having been so sarcastic right in his face. I'd never done anything like that before. And what he'd do now... I sighed. I wanted, and needed, to take my mind off it all for a while; it had been a long day. I thought about maybe watching some TV, but Dad was probably downstairs and I didn't want to have to talk to him right then. Instead I turned on my computer and started Pandora up. I hit play on one of my stations and cranked up the volume on the speakers. Then I lay down on the bed and closed my eyes.
    I listened to some songs I liked mixed in with songs I'd never heard from the recommended suggestions. That got my mind off the day's events pretty quick. Most of the new stuff was pretty crummy, but a couple of songs kind of stood out. I knew I should probably stand up and see what I was listening to, but I was too comfortable in my bed and I felt kind of tired. I'd done a lot of stuff today and I felt like going to sleep.
    The songs went by and my mind drifted off. A long time passed and I began to pay less and less attention to the music. I think I actually did fall asleep with the music on at some point, even if only for a minute or so. Then a noise startled me and I woke up right away. I thought maybe I'd imagined it, and I held my breath, listening over the sound of some song I didn't know. Nothing. I relaxed and stood up to turn the computer off. The clock said it was nearly midnight. Wow. Maybe I had fallen asleep for longer than I'd thought.
    Then I heard the noise again. A sharp tap on my bedroom window. I turned the music off and looked through the glass. There was someone in the back yard, looking up at me. He waved when he saw me and dropped the other small rocks he was still holding.
    I opened the window to the warm air outside. I poked my head out.
    "What are you doing here?" I said. It was quiet out, and my voice carried well. I wondered if Dad was asleep.
    "Come down," Ray answered.
    I hesitated.
    "Come on," Ray insisted. "I need to talk to you."
    "It's late," I said.
    "Come on, Jeff. It'll only be for a bit."
    I looked at my bedroom door. Then at Ray. "Okay. Wait a sec."
    I climbed out the window. I could have gone downstairs, but if Dad was still awake he'd ask me where I was going. And I'd climbed out this window a million times before. So I barely thought about where I was putting my feet as I climbed out and then hung on to a sturdy tree branch that was close by the window. I was thinking about Ray and what he could possibly want, showing up at my house at midnight.
    I climbed down quickly, slid down the tree trunk for the last few feet and plopped down onto the grass in the back yard. I was in the shadow of the tree, but Ray was right in the moonlight and I could see his face clearly. I couldn't read his expression, though. His eyes were fixed on me with an intensity that was almost frightening.
    "Hey," I said, now thinking that maybe this hadn't been such a good idea.
    "What was all that back at the restaurant?" Ray said immediately.
    "What do you mean?" I asked, playing dumb.
    "All those sarcastic things you said. `He's always been there for me'," he parroted. "What was that all about?"
    So he was angry.
    "I... um... I didn't tell on you or anything," I said unevenly. I silently berated myself. What was the matter with me? Why did my confidence evaporate each time I saw Ray?
    "Right. You didn't tell on me. All you did was spew that bunch of crap at both our fathers and act all innocent."
    "Well... uh..."
    Ray glared at me.
    "What's the matter with you, Jeff? What are you playing at?"
    I backed against the tree. "What?"
    "Oh, come on. You can drop the act now. You know what I mean. The Starbucks thing, for one. What were you thinking? Now everybody's asking me if you're stalking me for real."
    "I'm not," I said, too quickly. But his tone was getting to me.
    "Right. And the mall—"
    "The mall was you," I interrupted him loudly, surprising even myself. Now I was getting angry at his being angry. "Remember, Ray? You were the one who acted like a total jerk."
    Ray sighed, like arguing about it was beneath him. "Just...stop, okay? Whatever it is you think is going on, it's not. I came to tell you that. Set things straight."
    "What do you mean? Stop what?" I demanded. I stood up a bit straighter. The anger was making some of my confidence come back.
    He seemed to struggle with the next words. "Just stop. It's not funny. That stuff with my dad, for example. They way you lied to his face."
    "I lied to protect you," I told him evenly.
    "Well, don't. I don't need you to do that. I don't need your help, and I don't need you to do anything else for me. Okay?"
    That did it. I remembered why I was mad at him. I understood why I'd lied in the restaurant, and I knew I wasn't going to let Ray walk out on me with his fake moral righteousness intact. Not this time.
    "Why did you come, Ray?" I asked him. The sound of my voice helped my determination. "Today. It's the middle of the night and you're here. And last week, too, right after school. You didn't have to come and give me all my stuff, you know; and that stupid thing about the trip was just an excuse and we both know it. You came because you wanted to. But why did you come if you don't want anybody to know we're friends? Why did you come?"
    "I don't know!" he exploded. "I don't know, okay? I felt bad for you and... Whatever. I just want it to stop. The rumors, this thing with you thinking stuff that isn't true... You and I can't be friends anymore, Jeff. That's... that's what I came to say. It's not good for either of us."
    I wasn't even surprised he said it; I knew it had been coming. But I was surprised at how angry his words made me feel. "You mean it's bad for you, Ray. At least be honest about that. It's bad for your reputation if your friends see you hang out with me." The next words hurt even before I uttered them, but I made myself say, "You can't be seen hanging out with the fag."
    Ray wouldn't meet my eyes. There was silence for a second, as if he was wrestling with himself and couldn't figure out what to say. But then the silence was over and Ray said, "Whatever. It has to end. All right? Everything. And this trip thing; I'll tell my father I can't go. That way we don't have to see each other again anymore. I don't know you, you don't know me. Got it? We won't get in each other's way."
    "You sound like you're trying to convince yourself," I said calmly. Much more calmly than I really felt.
    "Whatever. I just... that's what I came to say. And I said it. Also, don't tell my dad or anyone anything else. All right? That stuff you did in the restaurant, it wasn't cool, Jeff." He ran a hand through his hair. He actually looked around to make sure nobody was watching us.
    "I didn't tell him anything, Ray," I repeated. "And I could have. You were right there. I didn't tell on you."
    "I know. I know. Then just... keep it that way. And, also... make sure you don't tell anyone about that night when..." he struggled with what he was about to say, couldn't manage to say it out loud, but it was obvious that's what he had been driving at all along.
    "That night when what?" I prodded, although I already knew what he meant.
    "You know what," Ray said impatiently.
    "I don't. Say it."
    "You know. Don't push it." He was agitated, and he clenched one of his hands into a fist.  "Don't tell anyone, okay? I've got it hard enough as it is."
    "Don't tell anyone what?" I insisted, getting closer to him. "Oh, I know! I just remembered. Don't tell anyone that we jacked off together last week, right?"
    Even with only the faint moonlight, I saw Ray blush. He was livid, and it probably wouldn't be good for me to keep pushing him, but I was going to see this through.
    "Why can't you say it, Ray?"  I went on, my voice rising. "We jacked off together last week. Say it. That's what you meant anyway. You liked it. I know I did. And I also know that you were looking at me right at the end. It looked like you liked what you saw."
    "That's not true!" Ray yelled, his voice way too loud. His eyes were wild. He shoved me, and I had an awful déjà vu of the day at the mall.
    This time I stood my ground, though. Or tried to.
    But Ray wasn't done. His face inches from mine, his voice shaking, he said, "I'm not a fag. You got that? I'm NOT a fag!"
    He tried the shove again, but I was ready. I caught his wrist and wrenched his arm away.
    "Let go," Ray warned me, glaring.
    I glared right back. He was bigger than me, and stronger, but I didn't back down, not this time. Ray was surprised at my defiance—I could tell, and when I let his arm go, he was the one who took a step back.
    "Fine," I said angrily. "Have it your way. I won't say anything to anyone ever. I won't talk to you anymore, and we don't even know each other. Is that better for you? Huh? Good-bye, Ray. You're done here. I thought you were my friend."
    Ray's determination cracked. He looked at me with a mixture of such fear and hurt that I was completely caught off guard. I'd expected him to leave right then. Instead I saw, shocked, as his lower lip trembled slightly.
    Then Ray came forward, right up to where I stood, and before I could react he took me in his arms and kissed me.
    My mind stopped working. With Ray's lips pressed against mine so suddenly, my thoughts went blank and all I was aware of was us. Him. I felt Ray's strong arms around me and melted in the warmth of his body so close to mine. Ray's scent was all around me, wonderful and masculine; I felt him shiver, in fear or passion I didn't know, and his lips were hungry, desperate, his kiss an act of irrepressible desire that locked us in timeless passion for two, three eternal heartbeats.
    Then my mind kicked back into working mode and I pushed Ray away. I was shaking a bit now, too, and at first I was too overwhelmed to talk.
    "Jeff?" Ray asked, his voice so different from before. Vulnerable. His face was a fragmented painting of conflicting emotions.
    "You need to go now, Ray," I said, with far more strength than I felt.
    Ray opened his mouth as if he was about to say something, then didn't. He nodded slowly, shoulders slumped in defeat, and under my relentless scowl turned away.
    I watched him leave, saw him jump the fence. I heard the sound of his footsteps fade away. Only then did I let myself fall down on the grass; I just couldn't stand. I lay down on the soft grass, on my back, and looked up at the stars.
    My mind was a whirlwind. I felt awful; I felt great. He had kissed me! I couldn't... wouldn't... just couldn't bring myself to believe it. I brought my hand up to my lips, the lips Ray had kissed not a minute ago. I tried telling myself maybe I'd imagined it, but it had been way too real for that. And Ray had meant it. I had felt it when he kissed me, he— he liked me.
    He liked me.
    The thought brought surprise, and then a flood of unexpected happiness.
    Ray liked me. He did!
    But he'd come to say we shouldn't speak again, I remembered, and my happiness dimmed a little. Why had he said that, and then kissed me? It didn't make any sense.
    He had meant it when he said he didn't want me to tell anyone about that night. He'd been angry, too, and then the way he'd acted...
    I stood up, suddenly aware that my dad might have heard us and it would be impossible to explain why I was out in the yard at this hour. I went back into the house, but before I did I had a last look at the yard. Ray wasn't there, of course.
    I went back to my room. I couldn't decide if I was happy or devastated about what had happened. It seemed unreal in some way. But the kiss...
    I closed the door quietly so I won't wake Dad. I sat on my bed in the dark, seeing nothing, my thoughts going round and round in circles. What did it mean? It was like my wildest dream had just come true, right along with my worst nightmare. Ray didn't want me around anymore; he'd implied as much. And then he'd shown me how much he liked me.
    "Oh, man," I said to no one in particular.  
    My mind was a mess. And then, my phone buzzed.
    I took it out, squinting a bit at the bright glow of the screen in the dark room. It was a text from Ray.
    `Hey Jeff. R u awake?'
    My heart began to beat faster. Should I ignore him? Should I answer? It had been me who'd told him to leave, after all. But I hadn't been thinking straight. Or had I?
    I held the phone in my hands for a long time, staring at the text. I'd already made my choice; I just wouldn't admit it to myself. I began to answer Ray before I really realized what I was doing.
    `yeah,' I wrote.
    A pause. Then:
    `im so sorry'
    I waited.
    `i dont know why i said all that,' he wrote.
    I didn't say anything still.
    `u there?' he wrote
    `what was that about?' I asked him.
    It was his turn to pause. I waited for more than a minute, began to type `r u there?' when his text came.
    `what do u mean'
    `the kiss'
    I waited. Nothing. Then another text came from him.
    I hesitated. Maybe Dad would hear... I almost said no. But I typed:
    `sure. 1min'
    `ok. im online'
    I put my phone in my pocket and stood up in the dark. I walked to my computer and turned it on. I sat down on the chair, grabbed the mouse. Then I hesitated, the pointer hovering over the Skype icon. Should I?
    I clicked on it. As soon as I logged in, a call request came through. Ray. I took my headset from the desk, plugged it into the audio jack so Dad wouldn't hear the noise and put it on. Then I clicked on Answer Call.
    "Hey Jeff," Ray said.
    The screen showing his webcam feed was dark, but I heard Ray stand up, and a second later he turned the lights on in his room. Then he walked back to the webcam frame and sat down.
    "Can you see me now?" he asked.
    "I can't see you. Your screen is dark."
    "I can't turn the light on," I said, glancing back. "My dad will see."
    "Oh. Okay," Ray said, a bit disappointed.
    "What did you call me for?" I asked him, maybe a bit more forcefully than I intended.
    Ray looked down, then back at the cam. He took a deep breath. "I wanted to apologize, Jeff. About how I acted just now. I kind of lost it back there."
    My heart sank. He hadn't meant to kiss me, then.
    "Okay," I said dully.
    "I'm sorry I said I didn't want us to be friends anymore. And the stuff I told you. It's just hard for me; the way my parents expect me to be... and my friends... I don't know. I guess it's complicated."
    "And... that last thing?" I made myself ask. I had to be sure. "The kiss?"
    "That... well, did you like it?"
    "Did you?"
    Ray hesitated. A long time. It seemed he was making this incredibly tough decision. And then, he gave the tiniest nod, looking right at the webcam. "Yeah. I liked it. I'd wanted to do that for a long time."
    I smiled in the dark, relieved, happy, glad he couldn't see me. He'd liked it! He liked me!
    "I... wanted to make it up to you," Ray said. "The stuff I said. So I thought... I know you probably don't want to see me right now, but I thought... maybe this will help."
    He looked right at the webcam, and through it at me, and Ray began to take his shirt off.
    I watched, spellbound, as Ray unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged it off, exposing his strong, sculpted chest. As I watched, Ray brought one of his hands up to his pecs and started caressing the smooth, firm skin over the rock-hard muscles.
    I couldn't have been more surprised if he'd suddenly run straight at the window to crash through it and fall to the ground in a shower of broken glass. I couldn't speak. I couldn't blink. This was like another fantasy come true. But even if my mind was frozen, my body was reacting, and I suddenly had a painful, raging hard-on in my pants.
    Ray ran his hands over his pecs, touching his nipples with his fingers and pinching them slightly, sighing with pleasure into the mic. He ran his right hand through the slightly hairy patch between his ripped pecs and brought his hand up, caressing his throat, running his palm over his Adam's apple and then back down, throwing his head back as he touched himself with those big, strong hands of his. He brought his index finger up to his mouth and sucked on it, then brought it back down and began to rub one of his nipples in small, smooth circles with the wet tip of his finger. God, it was hot.
    Ray stood up then. I could only see him from the waist down. And he began to take off his jeans.
    I could see his big cock outlined even through the tight fabric of his jeans, and when he took them off, I saw his package straining against the white fabric of the briefs he was wearing. His hard shaft was practically poking out through the underwear, and his balls were cupped nicely by the shape of the briefs. His legs were strong and muscled, slightly covered with short, dark hair.
    I hurriedly took off my own pants, my dick springing forward, hard and throbbing. I put my hand over the shaft and began stroking myself, slowly, enjoying every second of it, watching Ray with my total and undivided attention.
    With his jeans off, Ray then adjusted the focus of the webcam and sat a bit further away from the computer so I could see him better. He grinned that seductive smile of his and put his hand over the shape of own hard cock. He began to rub it through his briefs, tracing the outline of his big shaft, teasing me, extending the moment and the wonderful anticipation that made me pump my own cock a bit faster, my grip on it a bit tighter. He knew I wanted to see him. And he didn't make me wait long.
    Ray took off his briefs, and his incredible, veined shaft was exposed to my eyes, along with his hairy low-hanging balls. I'd seen his hard cock once before, that night, but this was totally different, so much hotter, even if I was only seeing him through a webcam. This time Ray was looking right at me. Not pretending to look at something else like the last time we'd jacked off, or avoiding my eyes. This time he was doing it for me.
    "Wow," I whispered into the mic.
    "Do you like it?" Ray asked me, his voice low.
    "Yeah," I said. "Yeah."
    Ray placed one of his hands over the base of his shaft and began pumping. He closed his eyes with the pleasure it gave him and spread his legs slightly, so I had a perfect view of him touching himself, his fingers gripping that thick man cock, his other hand running lazily over his ripped abs. He began masturbating for me, and I mirrored his motions over my own hard dick.
    Watching him, I imagined it was my hand touching that beautiful body, my own fist around his cock. I was hornier than I'd ever been, beating off in the dark of my room to the sight of the friend I'd had a crush on for so long, even without really knowing it... I wanted to take his dick in my mouth. I wanted to taste him, to feel him, to touch him until he moaned with pleasure... and through the screen, it almost seemed I could. I was there with him, and he was here with me.
    Ray pumped his cock relentlessly, his hips moving up and down slightly as if he were fucking his own hand. The motion of his fist was a blur in the camera, but the sight of his body tensing up under the pleasure, building up to his climax, was crystal-clear. I saw him flush from the effort, eyes shut tight, his brow furrowed, as he began to go faster, and faster, driving himself closer to the edge. Soon his skin glistened with sweat, and his heavy breathing was loud in my ears. His other hand went up to one of his nipples again, and he touched himself in perfect rhythm, driving me wild with my own desire for him.
    I, too, was beating off as fast as I could go, as hard as I could. It felt so good that I moaned involuntarily, and at the sound Ray looked up.
    "Are you close?" he asked me, pumping that rock-hard dick between his legs, panting ever so slightly. The sound of his voice made me even hornier.
    "Yeah," I said. "I'm close."
    I saw his muscles ripple as he moved in time to the hand that flew over his dick. He was breathing faster now. I suddenly knew he was almost there.
    "Do you want me to come, Jeff?" he asked, his voice husky.
    I nodded in the dark, couldn't speak; I was so wound up. Then I managed to say, "Yes. Please."
    Ray shut his eyes. He used both hands to jack off and began to go in earnest, moaning under his breath as the pleasure coming from his dick intensified, thrusting slightly, his muscles tensing with the pressure of his climax, and with a sudden, loud gasp he suddenly came. He shot ropes of hot cum all over himself, sweat dripping from his forehead, emptying his balls as he spurted his load. His entire ripped body shuddered with pleasure.
    I couldn't hold back anymore. When I saw the first white gob of cum strike Ray's smooth skin, I came. I, too, shuddered with the mind-blowing pleasure of my orgasm, shooting so suddenly and with such force that some of my cum landed on my face. I moaned loudly, not caring about anything right then, shooting onto my chest, and my stomach, and when my rock-hard cock had spurted the last of its load it left me spent, ecstatic, my eyes glued to the screen where Ray lay just like me: covered in his own sperm, panting, his muscles glistening with sweat. I'd never seen anything so beautiful in my life.
    After a while, Ray grinned. "Did you come?"
    "Yeah," I told him, wiping some cum from my chin. "Right when I saw you coming."
    "I wish I'd been able to see you."
    "I saw you... and it was hot," I confessed.
    "It was," Ray agreed. "For me it was just knowing you were there, watching me. You made all the difference. Hey... Jeff?"
    "Let's go out together tomorrow. Just you and me. I'm sorry about everything from before. Let me try and really make it up to you."
    "Come on. I won't be a jerk again, I promise. I... I can't stand the thought of you never talking to me again. I'm sorry. Let me show you I mean it. Tomorrow, just the two of us. Deal?"
    I think he could tell I was smiling from the sound of my voice. "Deal."
The next chapter will come out on Tuesday!