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The Conquered - Chapter 3: Truths & Lies

***** Sebastian *****

I woke up the morning after the competition alone. Don left early, and I really didn't remember him leaving. He had been so good to me. He held me and kissed me slowly, moving over me, making me forget. The lovemaking did a lot to restore my confidence that perhaps I hadn't screwed up too badly. I still felt down, but I could face tomorrow at work with my head held high.

I crawled out of bed, feeling limber and loose, nicely used and still remembering the slow, sweet lovemaking from the night before. I headed for the bathroom, needing the shower. I noticed Don's toothbrush was gone. It was ugly neon green, how could I have missed it. I really didn't think anything of it, so I crawled under the spray and opened my eyes.

Once I got out of the shower, I walked into my bedroom and noticed that the drawer I'd cleaned out for Don was askew. When I opened it, all of his clothes were gone. I wasn't quite panicking, but my chest got tight. I walked out into the living room, and even the CD he'd left was gone. I spent the rest of the day wandering around in a fog of confusion. What was happening?

The next day, after my morning shower, I sat on the couch, my towel loose on my hips, and began to feel odd. Why? What had happened? I was in love with him. The way he held me; the way he touched me that last night, it had to be the same. It must have been the same, please. What was going on? I sat and stared at the coffee table. Don was obsessed with his lips, keeping them soft. The man must have had five Chap Sticks around all the time. He'd left one at my place, and I'd put it into my catch-all bowl. The loose change, the remote control and my sunglasses were there, but his Chap Stick wasn't. I sat in a fog, lost in thought, numb and pained at the same time. It wasn't until one of my coworkers called that I realized how long I'd been sitting, staring at a fucking bowl where a Chap Stick should have been. I left for work and I walked through the rest of the day distracted and hurting.

I went to bed that night and sleep eluded me. The room seemed so very quiet. My entire house seemed to throb with silence. It made me feel lonely and insecure. I pushed those feelings aside. It wasn't going to do to worry about something when I hadn't even talked to Don. There was this fog that seemed to cover my eyes. On one side, I stood, staring into the mist, hoping to have a clue. The other side was the answers, and they were as elusive as a mare, running in the fog. The next day at work, I found myself wondering about it every time the day became idle.

Tuesday at class, Don was late and seemed really distracted. He came out and congratulated me for taking first in the forms. Sean was still absent, his flu must have really hit him hard. Mark and Steve gave me a lot of grief though. Their anger at losing kind of destroyed the confidence I had been feeling. I wasn't quite ready to leave, but I felt unwanted. Don's presence put a stop to it. He didn't look at me; in fact, he almost ignored me. But since we were friends, and had been working so hard together, perhaps he needed to distance himself. It only hurt for a minute or two.

We got through class. The tension was high and I was off. My concentration was shot. I got paired up with Mark for one of the moves, and his animosity caused me to back off. His anger was too much, and his lack of attention could cause him to get hurt. I wanted to talk to Don after class, but he stormed out a side door after class while I was putting my gear away. I know I stood in class, staring at him, wondering, wishing, and hoping. But he saw none of it. In fact when he did look at me, his scowl grew deeper, his disdain more intense. I drove home, wondering what was happening. I only sat up for two hours, hoping he'd come by. I thought about calling him, but decided not to. I spent my time wondering what caused him to leave. Was I not enough? No, the sex was pretty damn phenomenal. The only reason I kept coming back to was the competition. Mostly I wondered if my own petty fears had caused Don to turn away from me. But the way he held me after competition made me feel that it was all in my head. No one who spent so much time holding me could just walk away.

Now that we weren't practicing so much, I figured we were going back to the way it was before, some after class sex and dinner. It wasn't so bad. We're both pretty busy. It was okay. It only hurt a little, which was bullshit; I didn't want to go back to what we had before. This was so much more than it was in the beginning. It was true and I didn't want less. I felt a little better, but not by much. I knew what I wanted. But like Bonnie Raitt said in her immortal song, "I can't make you love me."

When I went to bed that night, my heart felt empty. I was lonely. Not the loneliness of being alone, but that gut-wrenching deep seated loneliness that comes from having had someone you loved in your arms night after night, and then they are suddenly gone. Before I drifted asleep, I decided that I didn't really want things to go back to the way they were. I liked having Don in my bed and by my side through the night. I loved the arrogant jerk. He was mine. My heart screamed out for him. This wasn't some affair or a series of one-night stands. This was love. It had to be. Otherwise, I was in for some serious hurting; because if it was one-sided, my heart was going to be ripped to shreds.

Thursday at class, Don decided to show the class why what had happened with me in competition did. He had heard the snide comments that Mark, Sean and Steve were giving me. He had me come up to the front of the room while he recreated the move the moron had done. But he seemed so agitated. I tried to smile at him, make him feel comfortable. He smiled back for a second before it was replaced with a scowl. I swallowed hard. I wanted so badly for the rest of the class to go away, only so I could ask him what was wrong. He lunged for me, and it was just as lousy and clumsy as the guy at competition. I pivoted and tossed him. He landed hard on his ankle; I could tell that he'd hurt himself. He went down, clutching his foot. I ran up to him, trying to help him up. Don got angry. No, angry was the wrong word. He was furious.

"Keep your faggot hands off me!"

My heart stopped. I could feel every emotion and expression on my face melt away into a mask of nothingness. I had to consciously draw air into my lungs. The pain sliced through me. Not only had I hurt him, but also disappointed him. I tried to smile, but it didn't work. I nodded and stood, then walked away, going back to my spot at the back of class. The journey was perhaps twenty feet. But each step was harder to take. One foot in front of the other, it's one of the first things we learn. Yet that simple walk back to my spot could have been miles for how my heart and body slowed me, taunted me with its unwillingness to cooperate. It was as if I was walking on fire, knew I was doing it and yet still moved forward. I really wanted to walk out. But I stayed. My heart wasn't in it though. Don took off again, as soon as class was over. I watched him leave. Before he hit the door, he called out for one of us who had keys to lock up. It hurt to breath. My eyes kept filling with tears that I had to blink back furiously. He had understood why I didn't want to compete. He'd held me afterwards, when I was feeling so low. As I untied my shoes I came to the conclusion that I wasn't enough. That perhaps it was all in my head. It felt like there was a heavy weight pressed against my chest and my throat was closed tight. I packed up my stuff and walked out to my car. Shock had given way to other feelings, more powerful, damaging feelings. My heart was heavy with remorse and self-hatred. Looking back, now I know that I always turn everything inward. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism, or perhaps it was how I was raised. All I know was that what had just happened was my fault.

I had gotten to class before the previous class was over, so had to park in the back, in the alley. I put my bag in the car, and sighed heavily. I was heading for the door when the voice behind me registered. "So faggot! No wonder you tanked it at competition." It was Mark. That voice, dripping with hatred; I would have recognized anywhere.

Then Steve put in his two cents worth. "Making passes at the teacher? No wonder you went to competition. You've always sucked up to him."

I looked up at the four men surrounding me and I realized I just didn't care anymore.

***** Don *****

"Over." I spent most of Sunday trying to figure out what that meant. Did I want Seb out of class? Did I just want to be friends, but back off on the sex? If I'd been man enough to admit it, I knew exactly what I'd wanted. I wanted to be back with Seb, hold his tight, hot body all night and wake up to his smile.

Yeah, I couldn't get his fucking smile out of my head. I couldn't erase his eyes either. I could find sex and replace his dick and his ass, but somewhere along the line I realized I couldn't replace the person. By the time I made it to the gym Monday, my gut was churning. I was a fag; not just a gay man, but an honest to God fag. I was hung up on a guy.

I hadn't been to the gym in over a month. I'd probably lost a little mass, but I was actually more cut than I'd been before. Five nights a week of intense forms work had reshaped me. I was still built like a brick wall, but my body was looking less like an attempt to imitate Arnold and more like something uniquely me. If I hadn't been in such a funk I would have liked what I saw. I'd liked what I'd seen in the mirrors at the school last week. Of course, last week I'd been with Sebastian; this week I wasn't.

Lee looked pleased as I came through the door. "Hey, Don! Long time no see."

A part of me wanted to ask Lee if we could talk, but I wasn't ready for that. I could do it on my own. My smile was genuine as I leaned on the counter. "Been doing hardcore training with a few students for the competition last Saturday."

Lee grinned. "How'd that go?"

I shrugged. I realized it wasn't as comfortable a subject as I thought it would be. "Our lead combatant came down with the flu, but we took home first in forms."

"Kick ass. Did you coach the combat or forms?"

My gut clenched. "Forms."

"Well, you'll have to introduce me to your protégé." He looked me over as I stood back up. "You know, I think I like the leaner look on you."

"Thanks." I finished signing in and headed for the lockers.

Andrew gave me a cocky smile as I came through the weight room. "Thought you gave up!"

I scowled. I sure as hell didn't need shit from 'spunk for brains'. Sure, Andrew was still hot as hell and he looked even more muscular than before, but his attitude bored me. Lee said that there was a real person in there somewhere, but I'd never seen him. Seb was never boring. I pushed that thought away too. That was over, I didn't need him, and I wasn't going to pine over the loss of a big dick and tight ass. That's all it was.

My workout was for shit. I had to drop my weight from what I'd remembered; only by five or ten pounds, but it hurt my pride. I suppose I should have looked at it another way: I was leaner and faster, and I could still bench 275 for a full ten reps. I wasn't a wimp, but I felt like one. I got out of there with only a few comments from Andrew.

Class was another matter. I'd had a fucking miserable day at work and I was almost unable to come at all. Being head of security meant that if I couldn't find a replacement for sick guards I was the replacement. The flu that had taken Sean out of the competition was also running rampant through the rest of the area. I'd managed to get the schedules redone and made it to class a few minutes late.

It almost hurt when I saw Seb again. I had expected to see hurt or anger, but all I saw was the same look he always gave me. What was worse, I could see it; I could see what he said in his eyes. I couldn't look in them; they were what haunted me. The feel of his skin also haunted me. I knew touching him would be the worst thing I could do; I'd probably lose it.

The other senior students, Mark and Steve, were giving Seb grief. It toned down when I was there, but I knew they had probably said worse things before I got in the room. That was totally unacceptable. I retrieved the award certification from Jackson's office and congratulated Seb before class started. That cut the attitude back a little. Unfortunately, it didn't stop it.

Mark and Seb worked on some forms that I'd taught Seb during our intense training. Seb was senior student, which meant he would work with the other advanced students while I helped those needing more attention. Mark was too aggressive and acting like an arrogant punk. Seb should have put his ass in his place, but he backed off. That pissed me off. He was nearly as good as I was, possibly better if he was to get over his fear of hurting people, and he was letting a nineteen-year-old intimidate him. If I didn't know he could flatten the kid, I'd have been over there in a heartbeat. I knew Seb's skill and strength; hell, he'd proven it in bed so many times I couldn't count them all. It infuriated me that the guy I trained wouldn't, not couldn't, stand up for himself.

I stormed out of the school right after class. I couldn't even look at him. How the fuck could I get hung up on a guy who was a doormat? I liked "men"; not boys and not fags. Why the fuck did Seb have to be one of those?

Thursday's class heralded Sean's return. Sean was Jackson's favorite and I liked the kid. He'd been at the school for years, and was normally respectful and dedicated. Apparently, Mark and Steve had been talking to him. He had never been overtly negative to Seb, but he was less than respectful. For Sean, that was down right hostility. I decided that the kids needed to learn why we practice proper form and what had gone wrong in the combat competition.

Seb looked anything but pleased when I had him come up to go back over what had happened. I'd been there and I was pretty sure I could imitate the guy's maneuver well enough to illustrate the flaws. I shouldn't have put my hand on Seb's shoulder before we started, but I did. It was like a hotline to my dick. I flinched; I wasn't going to get a fucking rage-on for Seb just from a simple touch. I wish I could say what I did was right, but it wasn't: I got mad. He had no right to be able to do that to me. It was my fault the maneuver was overdone. Seb did what he was supposed to, but I landed wrong. For a moment I thought I'd broken my damn foot.

That same look of horror that he'd had at the competition masked his face. I don't know why, but his assuming it was his fault made me furious. The world didn't fucking revolve around him; no matter how much my heart thought it did. Then he tried to help me. Oh, that was the wrong move. His touch was too caring, too full of emotion. Hell, I was too charged up for it and I knew it. I snapped.

"Get your faggot hands off me!"

Seb froze. You'd have thought I'd just done a drop kick to his gut. I should have said something else, anything to smooth out what I'd done. I didn't. My ankle was screaming at me and my pride was throwing a tantrum. I didn't need him, and I knew exactly how to prove it. I snarled my way through the rest of class after wrapping my ankle, and got the hell out. Both Sean and Seb, as senior students, had keys and I barked for one of them to lock up. Seb hung back, and I stormed out on my screaming ankle to deal with the situation.

I knew exactly where I needed to go.

***** Andrew *****

Don was back. I'd never, ever admit it, but I was damn glad to see him. The man was a first rate stud and probably the best conquest I'd ever had. The man knew how to take a cock and knew how to make my ass purr. He'd been missing lately, taken up with his martial arts classes. The hours of extra training had done him good. His raw muscles had been leaned down and toned into a steely hard body. This is what people spent money on me for. This was the look that Hollywood shelled out millions for. I almost threw a rod just watching him walk out of the locker room.

He was favoring his ankle and I could tell he was frustrated. He was angry. That's not the right way to do a workout. It was a great way to get hurt. After he did some work on the bench, he tore off his shirt and moved on to do some lat work. I couldn't stop staring. That chest was hard and tanned and hairy. The sweat pooled and dripped off his body. No shirt was a no-no at the gym, but there was no way in hell I'd have stopped him. This boy was taunting me. He was flashing raw meat in front of the tiger's cave. This tiger was going to take a bite. A big one.

Lee announced closing time. The last guy left the locker room and Don headed to the showers. I wiped down a machine or two then followed. He was already out of the shower, lying flat on the bench, with a knee in both hands, pulled against his chest, stretching. His hole was right there, inviting. The boy wanted it. He was getting it. I ripped off my shirt and dropped my shorts. I walked to him and lowered to him, pushing his leg against his chest, lifting the other to join its twin. "It's been too long Don. Time to drive you home."

I slipped inside him. The first thing I noticed was that Don had been getting some serious ass play. He was stretched and took me with little resistance. He still gripped me, practically milking the cum out of me but he was looser. I started to move, pounding hard and fast, just like he'd liked it that first night. I kept my head down, staring at his ripped chest. I pounded hard. Don seemed detached a bit. He wasn't whimpering and moaning like he normally did. I lowered my hips a bit so I was driving hard into him. I could feel the bumps of his prostate as I pushed past it. Over and over I drove into him. I looked up to his face when he finally moaned. His eyes were closed. What the fuck?

I got angry. I pounded harder into him, moving faster. What's going on here? I moved harder and harder, trying to make him cum. I needed him to cum. I was in charge. He had all but begged me to fuck him. What's going on? He started crying out, gasping when I'd pull out, and moaning deep when I pushed back into him. This was so fucking hot. This was better than the last time. This was incredible. The man was physical perfection. His ass was a milking machine. I was close. I was real close. Then Don cried out and blasted my belly. Watching his face scrunch up in pleasure had me lose it. I blasted his ass, spunking the walls with my cum. Goddamn! What a fuck!

I lowered my head. I wasn't into the kissing thing, but last time with Don, it had been kind of good. It wasn't as good as a long fuck, but it felt nice. I nuzzled his chin before I rose to take his lips. He didn't even open his eyes, but kissed me. It was hot, wet and was inspiring a second round. He mumbled as I pulled back to take a breath. "Sebastian." I was stunned. "I need you so much."

Who the hell was Sebastian? The anger took over. I'd just fucked him to nirvana. Who the hell did he think he was, closing his eyes and thinking about someone else? This was me. I was in charge! Don opened his eyes and was shocked to see me. He pulled away, lowered his legs and stood. He slipped on his shorts, pulled on a shirt and left. I sat on the bench and stared at where Don had just been. What the hell happened?

***** Don *****

I knew what I was doing when I got to the gym. Andrew was like a wolf with an insatiable hunger. Wave fresh meat in front of him and he'd follow you anywhere for a meal. I put the beef on display and did everything but spread my legs and whistle an invite. Andrew wasn't as big as Seb, but he was everything else Seb wasn't. He was bigger, stronger and meaner than me. He had no fear of using that strength, and he knew how to make a man's ass scream for more. I needed that. I needed to be reminded that raw sex was available anywhere.

There weren't any subtleties to what happened. I was glad that he was smaller than Seb, because without lube it would have hurt like hell if he'd been bigger. I gripped onto all that muscle and let him fuck me. I wanted to be purged; I wanted these soft, faggot feelings to go away. It wasn't working. I could almost feel my dick denying me, rebelling against the stimulation. It wasn't Seb. My whole body knew it wasn't who it should have been.

Andrew started fucking me harder. I'd heard about involuntary ejaculation; that was how some dom's broke their subs. My prostate was trying to tell the rest of me that there wasn't much choice; I was going to cum whether I enjoyed it or not. I wanted to enjoy it; I wanted to be washed away by it. I don't know when it started, but it started feeling like Seb. I imagined the Seb I wanted, the Seb who was strong and willing to fight for himself. I realized what I really wanted was for Seb to fight for me.

I retreated into that fantasy like a dying man running for a mirage. I knew it wasn't real, but I was desperate for it anyway. As I blew, I knew what I really wanted. I'd wanted a man who would do for my life what Andrew had done for me sexually. I needed someone to give me a reason to stop hiding from it. I needed someone to force me to face who I was and what I wanted. I needed Seb so bad it hurt.

I kissed him; desperate to know he'd be there. I needed his strength because I was so damn scared. He wasn't the faggot; I was. Seb was honest, open and willing to face his fears. I was the wimp; I was the one hiding and frightened. I begged him not to let me go. Then I realized where I was. The man on me and in me wasn't whom I wanted. I couldn't read Andrew's face when I pulled away. He seemed as disoriented as I was. I didn't have time for that; I needed to get myself figured out.

I had no idea what I did Friday; work was a complete haze. Finally, Saturday, I had to figure myself out before I went mad. I found myself knocking on Lee's door before nine in the morning. Tyrone answered, looking bleary eyed and less than pleased to be awakened by the banging of a door. Maybe I looked worse than I felt, but he didn't hesitate in letting me in. I don't think I stopped moaning and groaning about life for over an hour.

Lee just sat there in the living room and listened. Tyrone made the coffee and even did some bacon and eggs. I hadn't realized I was hungry till they handed me the plate and told me to eat. Finally, after some caffeine and protein, I paused long enough for Lee to get a word in edgewise.

"So, what do you plan to do about it?" Lee's voice was, as usual, calm and nonjudgmental.

"I don't know."

Tyrone wasn't as tolerant. "Well you better figure it out, because from where I'm sitting you majorly fucked up."

I didn't think my shoulders could slump further, but I managed. "I know."

Lee patted his man on the leg and moved over to me. "Look at me, Don." I did, and he held my eyes while he talked. "It's time you woke up and realized there is a lot more to being a man than the macho bullshit you've tried to hide behind. You know it, and I know it. No one says you have to 'come out', but I don't think that's what scares you. I think you're scared of being vulnerable. You're scared of needing anyone other than yourself." He smiled, reached over, and squeezed Tyrone's hand. "Real strength comes from trust and acceptance, Don. If you aren't man enough to be vulnerable and scared, and then push past it, then all the muscles and martial arts in the world won't make you feel safe. You won't know what that feels like till you know that no matter what happens there is someone who will be there."

I felt like "Grasshopper" from Kung Fu. "How the fuck did you get so together, Lee?"

He grinned. "Wise Chinese Grandfather." He dropped into a horrible, oriental accent that made me laugh. He smiled at me when I looked back at him. "Honestly, Don, I don't know if I'm all that 'together'. I just didn't let fear rule my decisions. I think it's about time you stopped hiding from them and faced them. We'll be here, I promise. Somehow, I think this guy you're so torn up about will be too."

Lee and Tyrone spent the rest of the day telling me about their coming outs, previous relationships, and what life was like for them as gay men. It really helped. I went home with a lot to thing about. A part of me wanted to call Seb, or drive over, but I wasn't ready. I knew I'd see him on Tuesday. I would catch him before class and straighten everything out. I spent Sunday really trying to figure out what I wanted.

I wasn't going to go soft. I knew that. I wasn't going to stop wanting to work out, do martial arts or be the buff, macho shit-head I'd come to see in the mirror. Yeah, the attitude needed work, but what I really needed was to be who I was and figure out who exactly I wanted to become. Maybe that was coming a bit late; I should have done it in the military, but better late than never.

I was nervous as hell when Tuesday rolled around. What the hell was I going to say to him? Would he even be willing to talk to me? I'd treated him pretty bad. Seb didn't come to class. I was going to call and find out where he was, but Jackson got to me first. He asked me to get with him after class. I wasn't looking forward to that at all.

Jackson looked up at me after I'd locked the doors and come to his office. "Hey, Don, take a seat." His smile was genuine but his eyes looked concerned.

"What's up, Jack?"

"I think we need to talk." My radar was up instantly. I think he saw me tense. "How long have we known each other?"

I shrugged. "Six, seven years?"

"Yeah, since you're punk ass was discharged." I grinned. I had been a real hardheaded guy when I got out of the army. The army had given me discipline, and a bad attitude to go with it. I was still trying to shed that one. "And you know I love you like a brother, right?"

I choked. Jackson had taken me from an angry, floundering twenty-year-old to a successful, solid twenty-seven-year-old. "Yeah, I know." Jack and his wife were family; at least they were to me.

"Then why don't you trust me?" I looked at him and I saw the hurt and concern behind his eyes. He knew.

I dropped my eyes. "What do you want me to say, Jack?"

"I want you to tell me who the man is I've been grooming to come in with me on this place. I want to know we aren't lying to each other." Sitting back, he shrugged. "I don't want another scene like at the competition. If we can't trust each other, there isn't much point in this is there?"

I didn't want to lose Jack. He was the only stable thing I'd had in my life. He'd never given up on me; even when he should have. I clenched my jaw and looked directly at him. "I'm gay."

We stared at each other for a while, saying nothing, and then he smiled. "Thanks."

To say that was less than I'd expected would have been an understatement. I was stunned. "Thanks? I'm a fucking faggot and all you have to say is 'thanks'?"

Jack frowned. "You're not a faggot, Don. Don't give me that shit. You're gay, big deal. You think I care who you sleep with?"

I shrugged, trying not to let my emotions get the better of me. "I thought you would."

Jack gave me a disgusted look. "I don't give a shit if you pitch or catch. I don't care if you wear a tutu, slut heels and a blond wig on weekends. I do care about what happens in this school, and I care about what's happening to you."

I frowned. "I'm not a drag queen, Jack. I'm not into that shit."

He grinned. "Good, because the thought of you in a slinky dress is disturbing as hell."

I tried to imagine it and I started to laugh. It was too ridiculous for words. I realized as I calmed down that Jack had been laughing with me. I wiped my eyes. "I love you, Jack."

He smiled. "Yeah, I know." Taking a deep breath, he gave me a serious look. "So, are you going to tell me about what's going on or am I going to have to beat it out of you?"

I was about to open my mouth when my stomach growled. I smiled. "How about we talk over a couple beers and something greasy?"

We found a back booth at Chili's and talked for a few hours. I tried not to bemoan or whine. I told him how it was. I told him everything, leaving out the details as appropriate, and caught him up on whom "Don" was. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders as we made it back out to the parking lot.

Jack smiled and gave me a rough hug. "I like Sebastian, Don. I should kick your ass for being such a complete fuck-up, but I think he'll be able to do that for me."

"I hope he does. I think I'd feel better." I was worried. What if I had really fucked it up?

Jack shook his head. "I'll be here; no matter how it turns out, or what you decide."

I thought about calling Seb on Wednesday. I really wanted to get it over with, but I still couldn't make myself do it. I guess a part of me wanted him to call. I needed to know that he was willing to meet me part way. He didn't call; neither did I.

I was more than worried when Seb wasn't in class on Thursday. Jack saw it, but said nothing. This was my problem. He was there if I needed him. I really didn't pay much attention to the attitudes till near the end of class. I realized something had changed. Mark was acting like he was king of the world. Steve, his ass-licking sidekick, was pleased as punch. Kevin was making far too many side comments. Sean looked, disturbed or conflicted.

It didn't make sense 'til I heard Mark remark cockily to Steve as the students were filing out. "I guess we showed that faggot."

My gut clenched. I knew Mark was a bigoted little shit. I lifted my head and forced a smile. "Have you four seen Sebastian?"

Sean looked immediately guilty, Kevin looked nervous, but Mark looked pleased as a man with the winning lottery ticket. "Nah, not since Thursday."

"Really." I tried to keep my tone neutral. "It doesn't seem like him to just drop out."

Steve snorted. "We don't want that fag here anyway."

I started having images of what might have happened. I didn't like what I was thinking; my gut told me I was right. "So, we picked the wrong guy for combat huh?"

"Yeah, he was a fucking wimp." Mark was looking so smug. I wanted to knock that smile off his face.

Jackson was watching from his office. His eyes were narrow and his lips were drawn. He was thinking the same thing I was.

"So, care to enlighten me on exactly what you showed the faggot?" I managed to put some smile into my voice. It was about time these brats learned a thing or two about "faggots" that would be an eye opener.

Sean stuttered. "I really need to get going."

I stepped around them and put my hand on the door. "No, I think you should show your teacher what you know."

Mark frowned. "We just let the faggot know he wasn't welcome."

I leaned in. "How?"

Steve was giddy. The other three had sense enough to know something wasn't right, but 'Mr. Brown-nose' was clueless as always. "Oh man, we kicked his fairy ass."

"Mr. Payne, you couldn't kick Sebastian's ass if I held it down for you."

Steve was incensed. "Like hell I couldn't. I already did."

My eyes narrowed. "I think you gentlemen had better show me exactly what you did."

Mark was getting worried. Sean was looking a little sick and Kevin was pale. Steve was just too stupid. "Come-on guys, he'd get a kick out of it."

Steve never saw it coming. I kicked his stupid ass about five feet back before he hit the floor. I probably broke a couple of his ribs. Kevin tried to run, he didn't get very far. I had him dropped and crying before he'd made it three steps. Mark tried to defend himself with his usual aggressive, arrogant moves. I let him play for a bit, blocking and kicking, because I really needed to vent. When I got tired of it, I spun his ass to the floor with a very satisfying crunch. He screamed.

Sean simply stood there, head bowed, waiting for his fate. I walked over to him and he lifted his chin and looked directly at me. He wasn't scared; he was ashamed. Of the four of them, Sean was the one I couldn't believe would do something so wrong as to jump a fellow student. "Why?"

I ignored the moans and whimpers from behind me as I waited for his answer. "I can't answer for the guys, but I was angry. I know they were jealous, because Seb had gotten so much attention and extra training. I did to, so it wasn't that." He paused, like he was trying to figure out what to say. "I saw how he looked at you. I saw how it bothered you and threw you off. I hated that. I hated that he was a fag and wouldn't leave you alone."

I wanted to hit him. I wanted to hurt him, but Jackson was watching me. Sean was his project; I didn't know why, but he thought the kid had potential. I stepped around him and looked back at the whining little shits on the floor. "Let me make this loud and clear. Your asses were just kicked by the biggest, baddest faggot in this school. If you come back, you'd better keep your punk mouths shut or I'll close them for you." I was shaking as I pushed the door open. "And I swear to God, if you've hurt Seb, I'll make you wish you'd never been born."

It was a miracle I didn't get in a wreck before I got to Seb's. My gut was trying to eat its way through to my pelvis. I prayed he was all right. I took the steps three at a time as I bound up to the door. I knocked firmly, resisting the urge to bang on it in a panic. What I saw when it opened made my heart drop.

"Oh my God..." I felt like I was going to die.

***** Sebastian *****

I stood staring at the wall-length mirror in my bathroom. Not out of any sense of vanity, but as a reminder. It was Thursday evening; a full week had gone by. For as long as I could stand, I'd stare at the mirror. That first day, I was in shock. This wasn't my face. This pile of raw hamburger and grape jelly was not my face. But I went back and looked the next day. The first few times it was out of pity. Slowly it became about focus and anger, perhaps even some guilt. My eyes followed the jagged stitches over my brow, all fifteen of them. At least my right eye had stopped looking like a swollen, rotten plum. Now it just looked like someone had taken over-ripe, mashed bananas and smeared them around it. I wanted to chuckle, but my ribs hurt too badly for it. I could list my injuries, but it would be pretty pointless. I didn't deserve to be beat up, but I did deserve all the injuries I got for not defending myself.

I had sat in the clinic, holding a rag to my face as the doctor took some x-rays. I was comfortably numb. I wasn't feeling the pain, I didn't see the look in Don's eyes, and I didn't feel the raw pain of lost love. Then they told me they wanted to shave my chest where they were going to bind my ribs. All I could think was that I wasn't as hairy as Don, but I was still pretty hairy. My numb mind released and I felt the pain, the humiliation. All I have to do is think about him and it all came flowing back. The raw hatred in his eyes the moment when I knew he didn't care. Why? Why? Why? Over and over all I thought was why? The tears flowed freely at that point. I couldn't stop them, even while they stitched my face up. It was all pity, pain and a deep sense of loss.

I lay in bed all weekend. It hurt to sleep. It hurt to sit. It hurt to breathe. I couldn't put a shirt on. I couldn't raise my arms above my head. The nurse at the clinic asked if there was anyone to help me. I lied to her, told her that my brother was staying with me. All I could think about was Don. He'd have taken care of me. He'd have helped.

Having nothing to do had given me a long time to think. Like I said, the first few days were pity. Eventually, the pity melted away and I got angry. Mostly with myself, but I was pissed. I should have defended myself. I'm better than they are. I could have deflected anything they threw at me. Wednesday night, I relived every blow, every kick and every punch. I knew how to deflect them. I even knew how to take them down and get away. I stood there and did nothing; absolutely nothing. I could blame it on shock and anger and hurt. I know now that I wanted to be hurt. The hurt in my body, at least temporarily, took away the pain in my heart.

By Thursday morning, I was contemplating going back to work. I knew I probably couldn't until Friday, but I was tired of nothing to do. Thursday night was painful; I wanted so badly to go to class, to see Don again. Even though I knew it was over with, I still loved the asshole. My thoughts were conflicted. I love him. But I hurt him or he hurt me. Unfortunately, I couldn't wrap my arms around it. I didn't want it over, but I also didn't know how to get him back. I was standing in front of the mirror, trying to decide what I should do about him when my thoughts were interrupted by a knock at my door. I made my way slowly and opened it. There stood Don. He looked worried and concerned. He took one look at my face and said, "Oh my God..."

He stood there in silence. I begged silently for him to hold me, to say something, anything to make the pain go away; but he didn't. I still didn't know what I wanted to do about him. After several moments of his shock and my pain, I slammed the door in his face. He called out to me a few times; he even banged on the door. But I was still a little too raw to face him. So I went to bed.

I'd slept so much lately, that by about four, I was wide-awake. I figured I might as well go into work; catch up on emails before business hours. I peeled the tape from my ribs, finally able to take a deep breath. I showered and dressed slowly and carefully in the loosest clothes I could find. When I opened my door to leave, I could have fallen over with how shocked I was. Don was curled up on my doorstep. Why had he stayed? He was shivering and he looked like hell. There were tear tracks on his cheeks. I stepped back inside, shaking my head to clear it of the confusion. The man was freezing, so I grabbed a blanket and I covered him up and went to work, more confused than ever.

That day, I sat in a stupor. Oh I did my work and returned email and phone calls. But I couldn't get the image of Don curled up on my doorstep out of my head. I couldn't quite fathom what it meant, but it did give me a sense of hope. I sat all day, thinking over the choices I had made in my life. In my heart, I knew it was okay to not want to fight. The fear I felt over hurting someone was okay. But it shouldn't rule my life either. I should have defended myself. By the time I was ready to go home, I knew that I should have fought more. I should have fought my fear. I should have fought off those punk kids. I should have fought for Don.

On the drive home, I decided that my feelings were enough. They were strong and sure and Don was simply going to have to accept them. I didn't want what we had to be over. In fact, I wanted more. I wanted everything. What I didn't have with Jason I wanted from Don. I wanted to wake up each morning with him. I wanted to share all my hopes, dreams and hurts, tears, joy and sorrow with him. If he wasn't ready, that was fine. I'd wait. I'd stay true and fight for him. Because fear was no longer going to rule me, I would become my fear's master.

I was shocked to find Don sitting in front of my door when I got home. He took one look at me and the relief in his eyes was a palpable thing. Oh he was angry and upset, but he was damn glad to see me. I could tell that. I did the only thing I could. "Why don't we go inside and talk?"

***** Don *****

Horror and guilt weren't harsh enough to describe what I as feeling. It was my fault. I'd outed Seb to those bigoted punks. He'd trusted me; he'd loved me, and I'd abandoned him. I couldn't make my mouth work before he slammed the door in my face. I could have broken in the door, maybe I should have, but I knew it would do nothing to help if he didn't want me there.

I didn't know how long I banged on the door and pleaded. He wasn't listening. I might as well have been the one throwing the punches. Every one of those wounds was mine; I'd caused them, the attackers had simply done physically what I'd done in every other way. I'd become worse than Andrew. I'd not only fucked Seb's mind and body, I'd fucked with his heart and left him to rot after I'd had enough. I remember crying against the door unable to get my sorry ass up and go back to the truck. I don't remember falling asleep.

My ass remembered it, my neck remembered it, my back really remembered it, and they were all telling me about it around six when I woke up. It took me a moment to realize I had a blanket around me. Seb. He must have put it over me. I clutched to the thing like it was made of gold. It even smelled like him; whether it actually did or not didn't matter, my mind smelled him in it. Getting up after spending the night on cement in the cold was a challenge. Everything hurt, and not just physically. Seb's car was gone; there was no reason to sit out and wait.

As I stumbled back to the truck, the blanket clutched tight about me, I started getting mad. No, mad didn't come close. I was so fucking angry I could taste the blood. I wanted them dead. I found myself back at the school, digging through Jackson's student records, when I realized what I was doing. I was actually going to hunt their bitch asses down and make them suffer. I sat down, shaking, and tried to get a grip. I still had Seb's blanket with me; I pulled it around myself, closed my eyes, and tried to feel him there. He was alive; he would heal; he cared. What good would that do me if I became worse than his attackers? What good would it do to be dragged off to prison for an insane act of violence? I needed someone to keep me from going over the edge. I grabbed the phone and called.

Jackson was at the school before seven. He must have broken more than a few traffic laws to do it. I was sitting in his chair, rocking and trying not to explode when he got there. I don't know what he did, what I said, or what he said. I don't think he said much of anything. I came out of it, crying, with him holding me. I was so fucked up.

Jackson had been through something similar with his wife; a burglar had caught her at home. The bastard had beaten her to try to keep her quiet, before grabbing a few items and running. She'd nearly died. That had been before we'd met. Jack knew the fury and rage; he also knew the guilt and sense of betrayal that came with it. I think if he hadn't been there, I'd have gone insane.

"Why does it have to hurt so much?" I was sobbing into his shoulder. I couldn't stop hurting. It felt like someone had taken my guts and tied them into knots.

He rubbed my back, and let my sobbing subside to sniffles and small choking sounds. Finally, he just kind of shrugged and held my face in his hands. "Because you're in love with him, you macho-shithead." I nodded. I hadn't said the words, even to myself, but I knew he was right. "You need to go home, get a shower and into some clean clothes. Get something to eat. Then go back over there and camp out till he gets home." He grinned. "The guy covered you up, bud; that means he's got to give a shit." As I got up to leave, Jackson snapped his fingers. "And call in sick." I grinned. He always did try to keep everything in order.

I spent the morning at the apartment. I cleaned up, changed clothes and felt like I was going to puke as I packed a bag. I didn't expect Seb to let me, but if I could stay, I wanted to be prepared. I stopped by Mick's on the way to Seb's and had a hearty Italian lunch. I doubted I would be eating again that afternoon, so I wanted to be sure I had enough in me to last. I was back at Seb's by two, and I sat down on his folded blanket and waited.

I was still arguing with myself over what I was going to do when his car pulled up. I waited and watched as he got out and saw me. He was confused; I couldn't blame him. At least he didn't look like he hated me. I studied his face, trying to swallow the rage that was welling up as I really got to study his injuries. I think the only thing that kept me from heading for the truck again was his saying, "Why don't we go inside and talk."

Nodding, I followed him in. All I wanted to do was hug him and feel him in my arms again. I didn't, I kept my distance. I'd wrestled with myself for the whole afternoon over what I would tell him. In the end, the cold hard truth was the only option. If he couldn't face me after that, what I felt didn't matter.

He put down his briefcase and walked into the kitchen. "Want something to drink?"

How could he be so calm? If it had been me, I'd have been all over my ass. I nodded. "Water, thanks."

He gave me a glass and took his to the main room. I followed, taking slow sips of the water to calm myself down. After he sat down, he looked at me. "I've got a lot of things to tell you, Sebastian. I need to get them out before you tell me how bad I've fucked up."

He nodded and waited as I took another swig of my water. I couldn't believe my hands were shaking. "Last Saturday, after we got back here, I realized we didn't have a reason to be together any more." I could see the hurt flash in his eyes, but I continued. "I was holding you, trying to sort that out, when it hit me. I didn't want it to be over. I didn't want to go back to fucking a couple times a week after class. That scared the piss out of me." I couldn't look at him when I said that. I took another sip of water and realized I was holding the glass with two hands to keep from spilling. "You said you loved me, and I freaked. I wasn't ready to hear it. I ran."

"I do love you. I have for a while now." He looked at me with cautious glances, and an unsure smile. "I didn't realize I had said it."

I choked. I still couldn't make myself say it.

After a few moments of my looking sick, Seb got more serious. "Why did you run away?" He looked confused, not angry or afraid, just confused.

I tried to stay focused; all I really wanted to do was be on that couch and holding Seb. I knew if I touched him, I'd never get out what I needed to say. "I should have talked with you, but I was too caught up with my shit to deal with it. I didn't want to admit I needed you; I've never needed anyone, and I was determined to stay that way. All it did was make the ache worse. I needed to prove to myself I didn't need you; I was convinced I could get what I wanted from anyone." I swallowed, taking down the last of my water. I held onto the glass for support. "Last Thursday, after blowing up, I went and got fucked." I looked at Seb. "I wanted to get you out of my system, so I found the biggest, baddest top I know and I had him fuck me." I couldn't face the hurt that flashed through his eyes; I looked at my feet. "It didn't work; I had to keep my eyes closed the whole time, and I only got off when I imagined it was you. I spent the whole weekend trying to come to grips with it."

Silent tears dripped down Seb's face. No sobs, no hiccups, and no noise. "I don't know what to say." His eyes looked so hurt, deep yet somehow shallow. "In a way, it's kind of flattering, that I could be so memorable, that you had to get me out of your system. But I'm not flattered."

How the fuck do you respond to that? A part of me wanted to beg, but I just stood there.

"Did you use a condom?"

"No." I really felt like an idiot. "I did with most people, but never with Andrew."

"What you did before you met me, is none of my business." He sounded concerned, and tense, but he didn't sound angry. "Were you fucking him the entire time?" The tone in his voice was finally something I'd expected. He was angry. No, it was more than that, he sounded almost jealous.

"No. I hadn't been with anyone for a while before we met." I wanted him to understand, even though I didn't. I wanted him to know that we meant more than that. "I used to fuck around a lot; but it was only 'us' once we started."

"We never made any rules of each other. It hurts, but I understand." He sounded resigned to it; hurt, betrayed, but as accepting as you can be when someone kicks you in the gut. "It looks like we both got fucked Thursday night." He let out a sad, bitter laugh, and he flinched from the pain it caused. I almost went over to him, but I was rooted to the spot.

"I wanted to talk with you Tuesday, but you weren't in class." I still couldn't meet his eyes. "Jackson talked with me, and I told him the truth." I did look up at Seb with that; I couldn't stop my smile of gratitude at the memory. "He didn't even blink. He was just glad that I didn't wear 'fuck-me' heels and slinky dresses on weekends. He said the image was too disturbing." That got a smile out of Seb, it wasn't much of a smile but it was something. I couldn't hold my good feelings as I thought about Thursday. "I didn't figure out something was really wrong `til Thursday. The little fuckers were gloating; well everyone but Sean." I clenched my teeth. "I think if I'd seen what they'd done before I figured it out, I wouldn't have held back. I kicked their pussy asses all over the room before telling them that they'd just been beaten by the biggest faggot in school." I realized I was crying as I looked back at Seb. "I wanted them dead. I wanted to hurt them so bad, Sebastian. The thought that I'd been the cause nearly killed me." I couldn't stand it anymore; I sank into the chair and began to sob. "I'm sorry, Seb. I'm so sorry..." I needed to know he didn't hate me; I needed to know we still had a chance. I needed him, and I was too scared to ask.

I had my face in my hands when I felt him touch my shoulder. It wasn't firm, and was almost fearful. Then he ran his fingers through my hair; tentatively, cautiously, but he was touching me in a way that let me know it wasn't hopeless. I looked up, meeting his hurt and lost gaze, and I pleaded. "I need you... I need you so bad, and it scares me to death."

***** Sebastian *****

My body, heart and mind fought a battle. On one hand, my body was ready to scream and jump up and down: Don was here. My body was drawn towards him. Damn it all, but my cock was even trying to stand up and wave. My heart was aching. All it could do was remember the hated words, the absence and loss. He'd broken my trust, and my heart was not ready to be hurt again. My mind was trying to be logical and make sense of it all. But when you have your heart telling you to seal it all away and protect yourself, and your body screaming to jump the man's bones, the mind just can't process. So I stood there, caressing Don's hair, running my fingers through it, feeling him relax and move against my hand before looking up at me. "I need you... I need you so bad, and it scares me to death." Well hell! How do you respond to that?

I didn't know what to say. My mind was still reeling, trying not to devolve into a morass of self-pity, hurt and anger. I opened my mouth several times to say... anything. My mind couldn't form the words. All that he had told me was still percolating in my head. I was hurt. I was angry. I was upset. I was in love. The scales were still tipping back and forth, trying to find the balance. I didn't know which side would win. When my stomach rumbled, I chuckled, remembering the last time this had happened; it was that first night. "Why don't we get something to eat?" He looked up at me, his eyes wet and rimmed red. "I think it would be a good idea if we took a break, before we say something we'll regret."

At his nod, Don and I settled on Thai food. Once the food got there, we both sat, not really talking, but glancing at each other with nervous looks and cautious smiles. Basically, it was the most uncomfortable meal of my life. After a few bites, Don turned to me with an ironic smile. "You know, this is what we ate that first night."

I chuckled, touched that he'd remembered. "You're a closet romantic, aren't you?"

Don's smile stayed, but it was sad. "Yeah, I guess I am." He looked down and swallowed. His smile faded before looking back in my eyes. "I feel like I've spent my life in the closet, Seb. You forced me out, in more ways than being gay, and it scares the shit out of me." He just stared in my eyes, and I could see his getting moist. "I don't want to go back, Seb; I don't want to live life in hiding any more."

I was touched by his words. I felt the tears prickle my eyes again. "I wouldn't want you to go back; ever."

I watched Don's lower lip quiver as he breathed. He swallowed, and his hands shook. "What do you want, Sebastian?"

I held his eyes. I saw so much there: hope; desire; sorrow; regret; need. I wouldn't have said what I did if I hadn't seen the love there too. "I'm not sure what I want yet, but I do know that I don't want us to be over."

Don exhaled in relief; he looked almost giddy from it. He hugged me, squeezing a bit too hard. It felt so good holding him again that I didn't want to protest, but my cracked ribs had other ideas. I whimpered, and Don pulled back fast. "Oh shit! I'm sorry. Oh God I'm so sorry."

He looked like a little boy that had just run over a puppy with his bicycle; I started to laugh, which only made my ribs hurt worse. After a few moments, he started laughing too. When it was all over, my ribs were screaming. I was tired, emotionally and physically. I wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for hours, but I was worried that if Don were to leave, he wouldn't come back. "Listen Don, I'm tired. I want to take a pain pill and crawl into bed."

His face fell; it would have been comical if it weren't for the serious nature of it. "Okay, Seb. I... I'll go... you can get some rest." He looked like he was going to cry again. "Let me clean up these dishes; then I'll go."

I stared, shocked. I wasn't throwing him out. "Actually, I was thinking of calling time out for a sleep break. I don't think you slept very much, or well, last night. I saw you stifling a yawn or two too."

His smile nearly engulfed his face, and then it sobered up. "I'll grab the couch if you've got a blanket?"

I couldn't have stood it if he didn't hold me that night. It had been a very lonely, very cold couple of weeks alone. After just a few short nights, he'd become indispensable. "I think my bed has more than enough room for the both of us." Just to be mischievous, I grinned. "Provided you don't bear hug me again."

He smiled so brightly. "Let me take care of the dishes, and I'll be right in." He looked me up and down, assessing me, and for once it wasn't sexual. "Do you need help with clothes?"

"The shirt is button-down, that's okay, and the rest sort of falls off." His concern was very touching.

"Go take your pill; I'll be there in a minute."

I went into the bedroom, took my pill and shucked my clothes. I thought about leaving my briefs on, but this was Don. He had honor and integrity. He wouldn't be raping me. I'd only half minded if he did.

The meds took effect quickly and made me feel warm and sleepy. I felt Don come into the room, shuck his clothes and crawl into bed with me. He eased in so carefully. I was almost asleep as his arms went around me, and dropped off the instant I relaxed into his embrace. For the first time since I got jumped, I felt safe.

***** Don *****

There was still a part of me telling me to run as I finished the dishes. I wasn't going to, but the panicked teen in the back of my mind was still screaming at me. Seb couldn't protect me; he wasn't the big strong defender I'd had to make myself into because I never trusted anyone else to do it for me. He was hurt, in pain and needed me as much as I needed him; at least I hoped he did.

As I pulled my bag from the truck, I wondered why I thought that. I wondered why I'd worked so hard to be physically invulnerable. I hadn't been afraid of physical harm for years, not since the military, and I certainly wasn't a wimp. Andrew would have never been able to take me, the first time or any other, if I hadn't been willing. Andrew had been everything physically I'd wanted in a lover; he was bigger, tougher and more powerful than I was. The problem was he wasn't stronger, not in the ways that mattered.

I looked at Seb as I pulled off my clothes. I knew why he was able to get places with me Andrew hadn't; unlike me, Seb wasn't afraid of who he was. He was willing to face everything and be true to himself, even if it caused him pain. He was so much stronger than I was. If I let him, he could do the one thing all my training and exercise couldn't; he could make me feel safe. That's what had scared me more than anything else; for the first time I could remember I'd felt safe, and I'd been terrified it would be taken away.

How he melted against me as I wrapped my arms around him had me hard and aching. The ache, however, wasn't in my dick; it was about two feet above my groin. That first night, all I'd wanted was in his ass. Now all I wanted was in his life. The sex was great, but the warmth and contentment of holding him was so much more. My running to Andrew had proved my point. I could get hot sex and get off with anyone; that wasn't what I wanted. What I wanted was what I was feeling as I listened to Seb breathe. I wanted to know I wasn't alone.

As tired as I was, I didn't sleep longer than thirty minutes at a time. I suppose a part of me was worried I might squeeze or press against Seb in a painful way. He'd been so fucked up. I spent a lot of time, crying softly into his hair as I memorized every bruise. Even if he sent me away, for tonight he was mine.

He rolled onto his back shortly before dawn, and I watched the light filter into the room as he slept. The sheets had slid down to our hips, and I really looked at him with the sunlight glistening against his dark skin. Bruised, bandaged and cut he was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. Not that I found the injuries beautiful, but something about the contented smile on his face, in contrast to his injuries, made my heart hitch. Even through the pain, he was happy.

He shuddered awake as I was watching him. I think he was surprised I wasn't spooned against him like I normally was when he woke. When his eyes met mine, I couldn't wait any longer. I slid over him, careful not to press against him, and I kissed him. God I'd missed his lips. He moaned softly into my lips and my dick started waking up. I wasn't intent on seducing him; I just needed the confirmation that he was still available. I pulled back, looked in his eyes for a moment, then closed mine, and dropped my forehead to his. I could do this.

"I love you." I refused to make it sound as desperate as I felt. I meant it, and it wasn't as hard to say as I thought it would be. In fact, the moment I actually said it, I realized I'd been trying to say it for a while and didn't know how. Why were three little words so fucking daunting? My fear now was that I was too little, too late. I refused to open my eyes. As the moments ticked by, I realized I was crying. I just wasn't sure if it was from relief or anticipation. If Seb'd have me, I'd never let go.

***** Sebastian *****

When a two hundred pound man is lying gently atop you, with his forehead lowered and crying after telling you he loves you, there isn't a whole lot you can do but watch the emotional ride he was going through. That night, I'd slept better than I had in weeks. There is this wonderful contentment and safety when you can smell your lover as you sleep. Your eyes are such important organs, but sight can mislead. It's when the other senses come into play that you fully realize everything about your world.

Having Don tell me he loved me was icing on the cake. I'd have never let him stay the night if I hadn't seen the love already there. The words were like "The End" in a book or the final tickle of keys on a piano at the end of the song. The meat of it was already there, now that he'd said it, this chapter was over, and we could move on. My mind wanders sometimes at inappropriate moments; this was one of them. Don was trembling by the time I focused. He was still scared and vulnerable. I cupped his face with my hand and raised my head so I could brush his forehead with my lips. I thought about playing with him by quoting Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back and saying, `I know.' But I didn't. "I love you too, Don."

His face was dripping with tears, but it was such a dear moment, I didn't wipe them away. His face lit up, as he looked at me, a rare smile, unguarded and full of hope and love. He kissed me. His body was gentle over mine, but he claimed me, harder, deeper, and more completely than that first night we were together. His fingers brushed my temples as his body thickened against mine. At this point, there was very little preliminary work that could be done, my favorite areas on my body seemed to be covered in bruises. Don seemed to understand that. He pulled away from our kiss and looked in my eyes. "I want to make love to you Sebastian."

It wasn't a question. I nodded my head at him as he moved his body, to reach into the bedside table. I loved how his thick, muscular chest looked as he moved over me. I latched on to his nipple, sucking and nibbling on it. He actually moaned. Don wasn't a silent person in bed, but he wasn't overly loud either. He'd never done more than hiss when I took his nipple. He sat on his haunches, between my legs, tearing open the condom wrapper with his teeth and then sheathing himself. Don took a pillow and gently raised my hips, letting them rest against it. He took some lube, something we used sparingly usually, and coated me with it. He worked his fingers inside me; the prep work was nice, but unnecessary. His love for me shined in his eyes as he smiled at me.

When Don pressed into me, I almost lost it. He moved so slowly, so gently over me that if I weren't watching him, I wouldn't have known he was moving at all. After seating himself inside me, he lowered his chest, bulging and pulsing with his strength, and kissed me. His kiss was long and drugging and left me panting when he was done. His body trembled over mine as he moved. His brow and arms started to sheen with sweat. He brushed my prostate so well; I could have blasted ten times over. With one agonizingly slow and deep thrust, I cried out, "I love you, Don."

Don moaned deeply when he heard me say it, pushing deep again. I said it again. "I love you." He moaned deeper; his trembling increased. "I love you." His body was shaking, his moans getting louder. "I love you." He refused to speed up, but I could tell he was teetering on the edge. I was too. "I love you." He cried out my name, not Seb, but the full name, Sebastian. The cords in his neck stood out, his back arched. "I love you." His hand slipped, but he caught himself. It pivoted his body just right and gave me a great jab at my prostate. That's all it took. My body convulsed sharply around his. My cock spewed cum against him as if I were trying to put out a fire. My hole gripped Don so hard, wanting him to lose it, find his release that was just as earth shattering as mine was. "I love you." Don lost it. His body bucked and he shuddered over me. I watched as his breath hitched as I could feel his cock twitch inside me. He stayed in place, not moving a muscle except for the one thrust inside me.

Don's body was shaking as his cock calmed. I knew he wanted to drop on top of me, how he found the control to stop, I don't know. He pulled out of me, ripping the condom off and flinging it into the wastebasket. He lay beside me, holding me like fine china as his body trembled and shook. I curled up against him, sleepy and drowsy from release. I lay my head against his chest, hearing his heart pound away. "I love you, Sebastian." My hand squeezed him tighter. This is bliss. I slowly drifted back to sleep, being held by Don, wondering when it would be my turn to hold him.

***** Don *****

I didn't know you could be ridden by words. Sure, I knew all about dirty talk; I wasn't a silent fuck by any stretch. When said he loved me, I'd wanted to put my words into action. When he cried it out as I was in him, it drove me hard. I wanted so badly to crush my self to him and feel it vibrate through his chest, but I couldn't. He'd never have taken my weight. With each thrust I drove him further, and with each repeat of those words I only wanted to give him more. That last, "I love you," after Seb'd quaked through his release, did me in.

It took everything I had not to drop as I blew. It was going to be a while before Seb would be able to physically meet my need for him; I would wait. He curled up against me as I trembled, managing to keep from crushing him by rolling onto my side. I finally rolled back, and he followed with his head against my chest. "I love you, Sebastian." It came out so easily. This time I actually slept. I didn't have to worry any more; Seb loved me, and we would work it out.

I woke a little before noon and stroked Seb's back as he snuggled against me. My stomach growled. I didn't want to let go of Seb, but my bladder began to complain almost as soon as my stomach quieted. Like it or not, it was time to get up. I was grinning as I flexed my pec. It was silly, but I kept up a soft rhythm and watched Seb's head bobbing a little against my chest. He made a couple sleepy noises of protest as the movement forced him to wake up enough to figure out what was going on.

I lifted his chin and kissed him softly before encouraging him to roll over. "I've got to go pee."

He groaned, and as I was getting up, his eyes came open. "You had to say that, didn't you? Now I've got to go."

I grinned wider. I was actually surprised he hadn't needed to go before this. Whenever I'd been well fucked, my bladder would usually send me on an emergency run later that night. "I'll be quick."

I was quick, and I kissed Seb as he got out of bed. I wanted to hold him against me, but I knew his need would probably be urgent if I didn't let him go. Reaching for my bag, I assess the mess on his body and knew mine was probably worse. He disappeared into the bathroom, and I followed with my stuff. I dropped my toothbrush in the cup, and he looked at it with an odd smile as he relieved himself.

"I missed that ugly shit thing."

I grinned. The toothbrush was a horrible green, but it made it easy to locate when I wasn't fully awake. I stopped and looked at our tooth brushes as he finished. I still had my other items in my hand; scrub, Chap Stick, mouthwash, brush, and my razor. I hadn't even realized that I hadn't unpacked my kit since I'd left. It sounded corny, but I looked back at him and asked, "Your place or mine?"

Seb frowned a little as he thought about it. "We'll have to figure that out." He looked at me for a moment and grinned. "I've never been to your place."

I blinked. He was right. The entire time we'd been seeing each other, I'd kept barriers up. They'd been little and mostly pointless, but they had been some layer of protection I'd felt I'd needed. "Yours is better, and closer to the school." It was true. I was living in the same studio apartment I'd rented after I'd gotten out of the military. I never took anyone there, not even friends. I think Jackson was the only person who'd ever been in it.

"I like it here; quiet, easy access to the highway, and a great neighborhood."

I felt like an idiot, but I shrugged and tried to get past my discomfort. "I feel more at home here anyway." I suppose that settled that. I grinned, "I guess I'll need a key."

Seb smiled, and I knew he could feel my discomfort. I wasn't going to run, but I was feeling vulnerable again. It was hard not to close up. How the fuck does discussing toothbrushes and house keys make your knees weak? He looked at the stuff in my hands and pulled out the Chap Stick. "It really didn't hit me you were gone till I noticed the Chap Stick was missing."

I was tearing up; I couldn't help it. There was something almost painful about the fact that he could love my stupid habits. "God, I love you."

He hooked his fingers in my hair and pulled me into a warm, wet kiss. My stomach went to goop. I may have been the big, tough guy in the relationship, but he could melt me like butter. That was another thing that had scared me; I knew if I gave in, I'd be the gay equivalent of "pussy whipped". I didn't care any more. If the kissing got any better, I'd spend the rest of my life as a puddle.

Seb pulled back as my stomach filed a complaint about neglect and impending starvation. He grinned. "Was that an editorial comment?"

"Yeah, I'm being reminded that as much as I'd like a constant diet of you, I need to eat something else to round out my meals." I had to lean in and savor him again. Ok, I was whipped; sue me. "Why don't I get a quick shower and make lunch while you wash up?"

He leaned back in and put his cheek against my chest. "I'd rather have help with the washing."

I chuckled, torn between my aching crotch and my complaining gut. "If we do that, we'll never get out of the bedroom, and they'll find two oversexed and starved bodies when they come looking for us."

Seb sighed, but made no move to let go. "Ok."

I'd found some bread and cheese in the fridge, and was making a couple grilled cheese sandwiches with soup when there was a knock at the door. Seb was still in the shower; I had my jeans on so there was no reason I couldn't answer the door. All the happy feelings drained away as I opened the door.

Sean looked up at me in shock. It was obvious he hadn't expected to see me, and I'm sure my wet hair, bare chest and lack of shoes made it fairly clear I wasn't just visiting. I would have said something scathing if I hadn't caught sight of Jackson sitting against the bumper of my truck. I frowned down at the kid; he looked scared. "What do you want, Sean?"

He swallowed and looked down. "I came to apologize to Sebastian." He looked back up and I could see he was near tears. "If he wants to press charges, I'll go with him to the station and turn myself in."

I hadn't seen that one coming. I looked past him at Jackson, but he just gave me the "up to you" shrug. I frowned. "I'll see if he wants to talk to you, Sean. I'm not making any promises."

I shut the door, and went back to the bathroom. How the hell was I going to break the news?

***** Sebastian *****

I won't confess this to anyone, but I was so happy, I was singing in the shower. Off key and a really cheesy song, but I was singing at the top of my lungs. I shut off the water and opened the curtain, and there was Don, leaning against the counter, jeans slung low on his hips and grinning from ear to ear. I must have turned ten shades of red. I noticed Don get serious.

"Sean's outside. He wants to talk to you."

I dropped the towel and stared at Don. "What does he want?"

He moved up to me and cupped my face in his hands. "You don't have to talk to him, Sebastian."

Sebastian? When did he start calling me that? "What happened to Seb?"

Don literally shook his head in confusion. "What?"

I laughed. "You used to call me Seb. Now it's Sebastian."

Don chuckled. "I didn't think you liked the nickname." He grinned at me. "And I also figured that Sebastian, taking the time to say it, was a bit more romantic."

He looked so sheepishly goofy. "I love it when you call me Seb. No one ever gave me a nickname before." I pulled his chin up to look at me. "I love it. Don't stop." He kissed me, deeply and passionate. I was lost in the kiss, contemplating ditching breakfast when Don pulled back with a very hoarse "shit."

"Sean's still outside. Jackson brought him over. He wanted to apologize and he even offered to go to the police with you if you want to press charges."

Well this was a surprise. I had Don help me get dressed and then we went back in the living room. Don opened the door to a very nervous and contrite Sean. He wandered in as Don came back to me, and slid his arm around my waist protectively. Sean stood, and was about to speak, when I noticed him staring at Don's arm around my waist. His eyes almost popped out. As I stood there, I watched as Sean's eyes tracked over Don's bare chest. I couldn't blame him; it was a magnificent chest. It was furry and muscular. There was no fat on it. All the work we did for competition really sculpted him. I began to have an idea about Sean. I turned to Don and suggested he go talk to Jackson and leave the two of us alone. Before he left, I grabbed his face and kissed him. He wasn't expecting it and it took him a moment to get into it. I took the opportunity to watch Sean. The kid was practically drooling. That boy was confused.

Once Don was gone, Sean started talking. "Sebastian... I'm... I'm so sorry."

I held up my hand. "I know you're sorry. I want to know why."

Sean looked down at his feet. "I can't honestly answer that. I was angry. I was confused." He looked up at me. "I don't know why I joined those morons out in the alley. I can't give you any one reason." He seemed very uncomfortable and very on edge. "Look, if you want to press charges, let's go. I've apologized. If you aren't going to press charges, I'll be going."

I stepped around in front of him, and stood between the door and Sean. "I don't think so. Why?" I looked right at him. "It's a simple question. I want an honest, straight-forward answer."

Sean stared at his shoes. I think if he could have melted a hole in the floor, he would have, just to escape. "I was angry." He said it so softly I almost didn't hear it.

"Why were you angry?"

He started shifting his feet. He looked like he was on the verge of tears. "I don't know."

"Yes you do."

He looked at me, practically pleading with me. "N-No."


The first tear fell down his cheek. Followed quickly by the second and third. "I don't want to be gay."

I nodded, stepped in and hugged Sean. He flinched at first, but then started sobbing in my arms. I rocked him; holding him as long as he needed it. After a few minutes, he stopped crying. "Are you going to press charges?"

I smiled. "No. I should have defended myself. I could have knocked all of you on your asses."

He chuckled. "I was waiting for you to do it, but you never did."

I hugged Sean again. "Forgive yourself, Sean. I do." I wiped his eyes. "We'd better go downstairs. I'm sure Don is pacing like a caged bull about now."

***** Don *****

Ok, so one of Seb's talents was not singing. I knew he couldn't be perfect; I was glad it was something minor: being tone-deaf. I told him about Sean and after some careful negotiations, he tried to distract me by kissing me to death, he came out to meet the kid. The brat seemed really nervous and almost disoriented after I let him in.

"Don, why don't you check on Jackson and give us a few minutes."

I was stunned. I knew Seb could take down Sean in a heart beat, but I didn't have to like leaving him alone with one of the assholes who'd attacked him. Maybe I wasn't giving either of them enough credit, but Seb was my man and I wasn't going to let anything happen to him again. His eyes told me everything would be fine. I was about to head out when he pulled me into one hell of a kiss. It honestly took me a few moments to catch up; I wasn't used to kissing in public. That didn't stop me; Sean could just chew on his sneakers if he needed, but if Seb wanted to kiss we were going to kiss.

I left, smiling and a bit breathless, and descended from the apartment to a patient but anxious Jackson. No one else would have noticed his concern, he had a perfect poker face, but we'd known each other long enough that I could tell. "I don't think Seb will press charges, Jackson. You can breathe if you want."

Jackson's tension seemed to melt a little and he took a slow, deep breath. "That's good; of all of them, I think Sean is the one it would be the worst for."


He grinned. "Let's just say I have a hunch."

Rolling my eyes, I looked back at the apartment. "By the way, switch my home number to Seb's for the school's contact info." I was grinning before I looked back at him.

Jackson just shook his head and smiled. "Once you come out, you go all the way don't you?"

I let out a contented sigh and sat back on the bumper. "My best friend doesn't have a problem with it, and I've got the best guy in the world ready to let me live with him, what's there to stop me?"

Jackson put his hand on my shoulder. "Big talk from the guy who was breaking down a day ago. Don't give me shit, Don. How are you really?"

My smile faded a bit, and I shrugged. "Honestly, I'm scared, but not like I was. As long as I've got my friends and Seb, I'll get through the rest of it." I grinned and flexed a bicep. "I may even get a rainbow-triangle tattoo."

"You wouldn't dare!" Jackson looked mortified.

"No, I wouldn't, but at least I can joke about it without freaking."

He just smiled and pulled me into a warm hug. "You're going to grow up into a really good man, Don."

I laughed as he let me go. "Yeah, in another decade or two."

"Nah, with Seb's help I think you're going to get there really fast." He looked back at the apartment. "I've watched the affect he's had on you, Don. I didn't understand it at first, but I knew something was going on. If he can take you from being a closet-case to being able to joke about who you are in only a few months, I'm looking forward to what you're going to be like this time next year."

I smiled and looked back at the door. "Yeah, I can honestly say: so am I."

The door opened, and Seb came out with Sean. As they got closer, Seb looked fine, but Sean looked worn out. I raised an eyebrow at Seb, but he just shook his head and mouthed "later". Sean stopped as I pushed off the bumper and looked up at me. "I'm sorry, Don."

I was perplexed. "Why are you apologizing to me?"

Sean shrugged. "I know if someone hurt a person I loved, I'd be really upset." He gave me a weak smile. "I'm sorry."

I frowned. "If Seb can forgive you," I paused and Seb nodded, "then I can get over it." It took every ounce of control I had to put my hand out, but I did. "It'll just take me a while."

Sean looked at my hand like it was about to bite him, then took it. It looked like his knees were about to give out. "Thanks."

Jackson reached out and ruffled Sean's hair. "He's a good kid, Don. A bit screwed up, but good. We should probably give him another chance."

I shrugged. "He's the only one with the integrity to face what he's done; so yeah, I think I can give him that."

Sean looked at his feet, but not before I could see he was trying not to cry. "I won't let you guys down."

Seb was looking at me significantly, and I tried to figure out what he was wanting as I looked over Sean's head. Seb finally did a small crab-like motion and I clued it. I couldn't believe what he was suggesting, but I wasn't going to question it. I felt like an idiot when I wrapped my arms around the kid and let him cling to me. That was so weird. I could feel the tension in him and I just kind of petted his head and rubbed his back while he mumbled something like "I'm sorry."

After a minute, Sean pulled back. He looked embarrassed, but he also looked a little better than he had before. "I better go."

Jackson gripped Sean's shoulder. "Let's get a bite, Sean." Jackson looked at Seb. "When you're feeling up to it, we'll really be happy to have you back Sebastian."

Seb smiled. "Yeah, probably in a week or two."

We watched them get back in Jackson's car and leave. It took me a moment to realize Seb had come up and put his arm around my waist. I'd draped my own arm across his shoulders. It felt so natural; at the same time, it kind of freaked me out. I had to focus not to jerk back. "This is going to take some getting used to."

Seb almost pulled back, but I squeezed his shoulder. "I like it; it's just weird."

"You sure you're ok with this, Don?" Seb eyed me for a moment.

I shrugged. "I will be. I meant what I said last night, Seb. I don't want to go back in the closet. I'll just need some help with it."

He squeezed me a bit and smiled. "You've got it."

I really wanted to kiss him. I'd never, ever, kissed a guy outside, in public, for anyone to see. A few months ago, the thought would have had me screaming into the night. Now it just made my stomach hurt. My heart said do it, my stomach warned me I'd probably puke. The love in Seb's eyes decided it for me. I turned into him and brought my hands to his face. "I love you, Seb." He looked shocked as I tilted down and brought our lips together. That didn't stop him from pulling me into a warm, long, deep kiss.

Yeah, I had a long way to go, but I'd come a long way too. As I looked into Seb's eyes, I realized as long as we were together, I could do it. I slipped my arm across his shoulders and grinned as we turned back to the stairs. "I bet I could get my entire apartment packed by tomorrow night."

"Who say's I'm going to give you that much free time?"

He didn't. It took me nearly a month to finally get everything out of my apartment. I didn't mind; the delays were worth it. So was the comfortable ache I usually had every morning when I went to work. Once I convinced Seb that I really preferred receiving; he made sure I never went without. Life's good.