Friday morning I woke up before Evan, as usual. He'd flung the sheet partway off and was on his back, mouth open slightly, one arm curved up around his head, the other out of sight on the far side of his body. In the dim morning light, his skin was the color of milk, white and smooth on the inside of his upper arm and the side of his chest. In his armpit, dark hair was visible, blacker than the shadows. As he breathed, his diaphragm rose and fell in the depression between the lower arcs of his ribcage, and I found myself altering my respiration to match his slower, deeper breaths. His beard, twenty-four hours old now, was thick along his jaw.
I didn't want to wake Evan up, but it was hard laying there looking at him without touching him, so I swung gently out of bed, pulled on shorts, and went into my office to kill Nazis until he woke up or 7:30am rolled around, whichever came first. My email icon was blinking when the desktop came up, so I fired up Outlook to find an email from Brendan.
Guess what?!?? Happy birthday to me thats what. I turned 15 last week. Only one more year until I can drive. Yay!!! I got a cell phone -- finally! And school will be out in 3 and a half more weeks. Yay!!! So Im happy. What are u doin?
I smiled at his enthusiasm, remembering when how old you were was so important. You couldn't be plain old fifteen. First it was `I just turned fifteen.' Then it was `I'm fifteen and a half.' And finally, `I'm almost sixteen,' or `I'll be sixteen in a couple months.' And driving -- that had spelled freedom for me, and the day I hit sixteen, I was first in line at the DMV to take the test. Bought my first car -- a piece of shit Toyota a month later -- and was never without wheels again.
I'd forgotten his birthday was in April and still didn't know the day, since his email wasn't that specific. I thought about sending him something, but decided I didn't know him that well yet and settled for replying promptly to his email.
Congratulations. I remember 15 -- sorta. lol But I was 18 before I had my own cell phone, you lucky little
I almost wrote `shit,' but figured I better keep it clean in case Barb read it, so I deleted `little' and typed
guy. I'm not doin much -- just killing Nazis this morning before I go to work. Are you gonna get a summer job? First job I had was cleaning up the drugstore after school. That's when I decided to start studying a little more so I wouldn't be stuck sweeping floors my whole life.
For a moment I debated whether or not that sounded preachy, but then clicked `send' and went back to my game. As I was crawling along a low wall looking for the sniper who'd killed me three times in the last five minutes, I felt the fine hairs on the back of my neck prickle and turned to find Evan watching me from the doorway. He was wearing an old faded pair of jeans with his hands deep in the front pockets, his hair was sticking up here and there, and he had a pillow crease down one cheek. A shaft of sunlight from the window blinds cut across his bare chest, illuminating the nub of one pink nipple, and reminding me of another room in another house. I must have smiled oddly because he asked, "What?"
I shook my head a little as I gazed at his chest. "Just you. Do you remember that first morning at my place? I came into the kitchen while you were makin' French toast and the sun was coming in that high back window. Seeing you just now made me think of that."
I looked at him carefully, seeing all the little things about him that I knew and loved. The small scar on his cheek from a bicycle crash when he was ten; the little tuft of hair that curled up into his belly button; the long, lean length of his body, shadowed here and there by the angle of the sun. "I thought you were beautiful."
"Beautiful?" He flushed and his jaw tightened momentarily before a shy grin tugged up one corner of his mouth. "Really? No one's ever said that to me."
"Well, I'm sayin' it. And that was before I was in love with you."
We looked at each other across the ten feet of my office. I wanted to go to him, but his hunched shoulders and the hands shoved in his pockets told me that we still weren't finished with Conrad, so I stayed where I was and waited for him to get to it. He finally broke our gaze, looking down to where his bare toe scuffed along the seam between two floorboards.
"So... do you think he lives around here?"
No need to ask who `he' was. I sighed. "I don't know, but I guess so. I mean, why else would he be in that little gym if he was just passing through?"
Evan lifted a bare shoulder. "Maybe he's just in town on business or something."
I could hear the wistfulness in his voice. How nice it would be if Conrad was here for just a few days and I'd caught him on the one day he'd gone to the gym, but somehow I didn't figure it was gonna be that simple.
"Maybe. I could ask the guy who runs the gym. I guess he'd know if he joined or not."
Evan nodded and met my eyes again. "Wanna shower?"
"Sure. Let me just shut down in here."
Later, in the kitchen, as I was pouring coffee for both of us, he slid another question in. "When you gonna start working out?"
"Probably Monday or Tuesday. My ass needs another few days."
Evan let it go then, kissing me goodbye in the driveway as we went to each other's cars, however I suspected the topic of Conrad would surface a few more times before we got it all sorted out.
Kenny eyed me when I came into the office, but didn't say anything and the rest of the day passed uneventfully as we concentrated on meeting our deadline.
Evening was another matter.
I was surprised to see my Jeep already home when I pulled in the drive around five fifteen. Evan wasn't putting in full days yet, but I still sort of expected him to come home later than me. He didn't come out to meet me on the porch, and he wasn't in the living room, but the dining room table was set with two places, Ella Fitzgerald was crooning on the stereo, and the house smelled of garlic and tomatoes, so I knew he was around somewhere.
As I was setting down my keys and emptying my pocket change into the bowl on the little table by the front door, Evan came into view in the kitchen, carrying a head of lettuce from the fridge to the counter. A full bottle of red was airing on the kitchen counter, so it appeared that he was waiting for me before having a glass himself, which wasn't our norm. Although we didn't have wine every night, when we did, whoever got home first would usually be a glass up on the other guy by the time dinner was ready.
He hadn't seen me, so I slipped off my shoes and walked to the archway into the kitchen to watch him for a moment. He had already changed into jeans and a t-shirt and was standing on one bare foot with the other propped atop it, hip-shot, leaning into the counter and gazing out the window as he tore off lettuce leaves and ripped them into bite-size pieces before dropping them into two bowls. From the angle I was at, I couldn't see much of his face, but his movements were slow and seemed unhappy somehow.
Just as I was about to announce my presence, Evan heaved a huge sigh, his shoulders lifting and falling with the effort. A twinge of... something -- guilt, fear -- twisted in my chest. As he put the lettuce back into its container and turned toward the fridge, he caught sight of me and our eyes locked. Normally, I would have gone to him for a hug, but this evening... this evening Conrad seemed to be in the kitchen with us, and I just stood there looking at him like an idiot. After a few seconds, he put the lettuce away and went back to the counter.
"I didn't hear you come in."
"We havin' spaghetti?"
Evan glanced at me quickly. "Yes. If that doesn't sound good, I can-"
"It sounds fine, Evan."
God, I hated this -- this overly careful awkwardness between us. When Evan went back to stirring the sauce, I crossed over to the counter and got out a couple wine glasses, the big balloon glasses that had been a house-warming present from Sharon, and poured us each a glass of the red. As I handed Evan's to him, I kept my grip on the stem, and when he looked at me questioningly, I leaned in and kissed him.
"I love your spaghetti," I said against his mouth before I kissed him again. "The house smells great."
He flushed with pleasure, smiling at me over the brim of his glass as we sipped, and I felt a huge wave of resentment at Conrad for making Evan insecure enough that he felt he had to go out of his way to please me. Because I'd bet dollars to donuts that's what this was. Not that Evan never cooked dinner, but the fact that he'd set the dining room table and waited for me before pouring the wine smelled like more than the usual effort to me.
We finished making the salads, cooked the noodles and sliced the bread, then carried everything through to the dining room. I didn't comment on the fact that we rarely ate in here when it was just the two of us. If Evan felt the need to do this, I was going to give him all the satisfaction from it that I could.
It was a pleasant change to eat in there with music on the stereo. Evan must have been feeling retro because now Etta James was singing Stormy Weather. There was a vase of flowers on the table that looked smaller than the standard bouquet that we bought now and then from the store. Evan followed my gaze and rolled his eyes at me.
"Max. They were at the fence when I got home, so I walked back to say hello and you know how they always stick the flowers in at the top of the bag so that the blooms don't get crushed? Well, I guess I got too close and Max ate half the flowers. Just ripped them right out of the bag and snarfed `em down. It's a good thing we don't own a gun caused I'd've walked right back out there and shot him."
Evan's face became an irritated scowl as he spoke. I tried hard to keep a straight face, but the thought of Max with Evan's flowers sticking out of the side of his mouth was too much. I managed to keep it to a few snorts, but he shot me a dirty look anyway.
"Sorry, sorry," I said, forcing a properly contrite expression as I squeezed his arm. "It's the thought that counts, and it's really nice to eat in here. Good idea."
"Yeah, well, we always eat in the kitchen, so I thought it would be nice cause there's really no reason not to eat in here, and I don't know how busy I'll be once the Center opens, and you usually get stuck with all the cooking, at least dinners, and we haven't had spaghetti in a while, and the wine was on sale, and... so I thought... that..."
He finally trailed off, and in the silence that followed, I could hear the soft `tick tock' of the clock that Sharon's grandpa had made for his new wife fifty-odd years ago. Surely they'd had their share of awkward meals around this same table during their long marriage and had managed to live through them to have a good life together.
Evan was staring miserably into his spaghetti, and when I grasped his wrist, his eyes, dark and wide and just beginning to fill, shot up to mine.
"I'm not going anywhere, Evan. You don't need to tempt me with spaghetti dinners and half-eaten flowers." That got a watery smile. "I'm here because I love you, because you and I fit like... like ham and cheese, like cookies and milk, like..."
I finally managed to stop. Oh, Jeff, you smooth talker, you. Etta had moved on to A Sunday Kind of Love, and in the pause that followed my brilliant little speech, we both listened to the lyrics.
And my arms need someone, someone to enfold
To keep me warm when Mondays and Tuesdays grow cold
Love for all my life, to have and to hold
Oh, and I want a Sunday kind of love
When the last note had faded away, I loosened my grip on Evan's wrist and slid my hand into his, lacing our fingers together. "That's what this is for me, Evan. For all my life."
I felt a little corny saying that, but I meant every word of it. We stared at each other for another few seconds before Evan nodded slowly. He squeezed my hand, then eased loose and picked up his fork. I watched him for a moment, but he clearly didn't want to talk right now, so I took a long pull on my wine and contemplated all the awful things I'd like to do to Conrad.
Problem was, he'd probably enjoy most of them...
We cleaned up dinner - Evan washing, me drying -- still quiet with each other. When the dishes were done, Evan began to wipe down the stove, but I took the towel from his hand, tossed it on the counter, and led him out the front door. I always think better on the hoof, so we headed off down the driveway. How many miles had been walked down this lane, I wondered, since people had lived at the Farm? I'd put a good many on it myself since we moved in, and that was just a handful of months.
"I used to love chili dogs," I opened, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Evan's eyebrows rise slightly. "When we'd have chili dogs, I could eat four of `em, at least. Then one day, I ate like six or something, and I got sick. Chili dog sick. You haven't lived until you've urked up six chili dogs."
Evan was smiling now.
"I thought I was dyin'. I'm sure my sister wished I woulda died cause I was barfing all over her bathroom. Since then, I can't even look at a chili dog. Just totally lost my taste for `em. Even the thought... Bleh."
I shuddered. Evan had been watching the ground as we strolled, and now he swung his head sideways to glance at me, the little smile still on his mouth.
"The stuff Conrad's into was kinda like that for me. I liked it a lot for a while, but then one day it was... too much, and I was done. Literally. I packed up my stuff and left town the next morning."
We were quiet as we reached the road and started back toward the house. I didn't know how much detail Evan wanted to hear, if any, and I wasn't going to volunteer it unless he asked. Chewy scared up a couple quail that exploded into the air in a burst of beating wings. The three of us watched them soar out across the corn field, finally dropping from sight into the green stalks.
"What... what was `too much' about it? It hurt too much, or...?"
"No, actually you'd be amazed -- well, you prolly wouldn't be, but I was -- at how much pain you can take and still have it feel good. Anyway, no, it wasn't that. He wanted me to... to do some things to him, and that's when I realized that I just didn't wanna hurt people -- even if they liked it, even if they wanted me... asked me to. And once I started thinking like that, I wondered why the fuck I liked to have someone hurt me, and I just sorta freaked, I guess. I had an old Ford Falcon then, and by the time I threw everything in the back, I looked like the Clampetts."
No smile this time. Evan had a thousand yard stare going as he walked along next to me, putting one foot in front of the other without seeing a thing. I left him alone, and soon we were back at the house. The horses were at the fence for their evening treat, and Evan took a long look at them before saying, "I'll get the carrots."
I took that for the dismissal that it was and didn't follow him into the house. Instead, I wandered into the side yard by way of the garden, stopping to pull a few weeds and inspect the plants. No tomatoes yet, but there were tidy lines of tiny green leaves poking up in the rows of seeds we'd planted. The next time I glanced up, Evan was feeding the horses, elbowing Max out of the way as he tried to make sure everyone got their fair share. I wandered over to the swing and sat down, moodily pushing myself into what could barely be called `swinging', but it was all I was in the mood for.
Evan came over when he was done with the horses. He stopped by the garden for a look, bent over for a moment, then walked toward me. As he got close, I let the swing slow, then stopped it quickly with my foot when Evan walked right up to me. He stood close, staring down into my face as I gazed back at him, wondering what was coming next. I wasn't sure I could take any more drama over Conrad, at least not right now. I was worn out with trying to think of ways to reassure Evan that the man meant less than nothing to me, and getting a little resentful that it was necessary. Putting the shoe on the other foot, I hadn't gotten all weird about Luke.
Although I guess comparing a live and lurking Conrad to a dead and gone Luke was a little unfair.
Evan slowly brought one hand out from behind his back and presented me with a single marigold, brilliant orange with rusty brown tips at the end of each petal. I smiled at it and then up at him, but instead of reaching for the flower, I reached for Evan, turning him around and pulling him onto my lap with my arms tight around him and my face pressed to the back of his t-shirt. He bowed his head and dropped his hands down and back to grip my hips, and there we sat, the distance between us finally breached by the marigold still clutched in Evan's hand.
After a bit, my legs started to fall asleep, so I shifted a little to get Evan to stand up. He pulled me to my feet, smiling at my grimaces as pins and needles shot through my legs. As we started to the house, Evan offered me the marigold again, and this time I took it in my left hand as I draped my right arm over his shoulders. Inside, I stuck the bloom in a little glass of water, a silly gesture maybe, but right then it was more than just an everyday flower from our vegetable garden; it was a gift from Evan to me, a peace offering, and I needed to see it for a while. Tomorrow would be soon enough to put it in the compost pile that Callie had started when she was here.
Neither of us was in the mood for TV, so we went into the living room and read for a while. At least Evan read. I mostly watched Evan over the top of my book, but I got the feeling that he was watching me, too, because sometimes I'd catch him looking back down just as I looked up. Finally, I just stared at him until he glanced up, grinning at his expression of mock surprise. He tossed his book on the table and crawled to me.
"Are you done reading?" he asked, since I still had my book in front of my face. "Because I'm done." He slid a knee between my legs. "But if you wanna read some more, that's ok." He nudged my thighs apart as he slid a hand under my shirt, his hand warm on my skin. "I can go do something else." He tickled the corner of my mouth with the tip of his tongue, leaving a cool, wet spot. "Like laundry or something. Or I could finish cleaning the stove."
"No, I'm done." I was chuckling by this time, my book forgotten as I tried to wiggle down so that his knee came into contact with my nuts, but he stayed tantalizingly out of reach. "Come here, goddamnit."
I dropped my book on the floor and hauled him up onto me by the armpits as I scooched down a little. The weight of his leg came to rest between mine and I pushed gratefully up into the pressure, groaning softly as he sank down. We humped slowly against each other a few times, and then Evan pulled back to look at me. His expression was serious, but his eyes were warm as he studied my face.
"This is for all my life, too," he said.
I didn't bother with words. I slid a hand around the back of his neck and pulled him down to me until his eyes closed, and then I kissed him as gently as I knew how, savoring the taste of his mouth when his tongue met mine. Unlike last night when I had needed the unspoken consent of his response, this evening I knew that we were ok, that there was no question of Evan wanting what I had to give.
The sofa isn't the best place to have sex; it's too narrow, and it's covered in fabric that you don't want to get cum all over, but on the plus side, it has two arms and a back to make use of. We ended up with Evan kneeling on the couch with his forearms along the top and his cheek resting on his stacked hands.
The view from where I was standing between his spread feet was delicious. First there were those long thighs rising to meet at the whiteness of his ass, smooth and soft in my hands as I gripped him. His heavy ball sack swung into view as he rocked against me, but I had to imagine his cock, which was out of sight up under his belly. Luckily that wasn't difficult since I knew it -- the smell, the feel, the taste -- as well as I knew my own.
My hands slid up his back as I leaned over him, thumbs in the groove of his spine, fingers bumping over the washboard of his ribs. He'd lost several pounds during the last few weeks of tax season, making his already tight body seem almost thin. As my hands reached his shoulders and my hard cock settled into the cleft of his ass, he let out a quiet 'mmm' of pleasure and pushed back into me. I massaged his back and neck for a few moments, but my thoughts had centered on my dick, currently drooling a thread of precum onto Evan's lower back.
Suddenly, I didn't want to do it this way. I needed to see him, to watch his face as he climaxed. I dragged my hands slowly down his back, my grip narrowing as I reached his waist, then widening again at his hips before I gave him a little push sideways.
"Sit down," I said. "I wanna see you."
He rolled down onto the couch and I settled in, my spread knees on either side of him so that we were pole to pole. Much better -- I could kiss him, tweak his nipples, play with his cock, which was leaking, too, and between that and a big dollop of spit, we were in business. I kept our dicks together with one hand at the base and stroked with the other, slow and loose at first, gripping just enough to keep both of us in my fist, sliding my hand almost all the way off so that my fingers bumped over the ridge of our dick heads. Now and then Evan jumped as I hit a particularly sensitive spot, a little 'uhn' coming from his throat, as his eyes met mine for a moment before dropping back down to watch my hand.
We hadn't done it like this in quite a while, and we were both feeling the effects of the rift Conrad had managed to create between us, so we put a lot of effort into it. Evan slid a hand under my balls, kneading and squeezing until I was grunting with every stroke. It usually takes me a little longer to get off than it does him, but his orgasms are a bit lengthier than mine, so it all sort of works out. He began to cum in big open-mouthed gasps, lifting me from the couch with each thrust, his cock pulsing between my dick and my palm. Four shots into it, I joined him, and we hit the finish line about the same time.
A few minutes, a lot of kissing, and two cummy t-shirts later, we staggered down the hall to the shower, and then to bed.
I didn't have any idea how things would go the next time I saw Conrad, but I was damn sure that no matter what happened, Evan and I were solid. Each time something tested us, every time one of us had doubts, we came out the other side stronger and more secure. Even though I was sure I loved Evan, I was only now starting to believe that we really could make a life together - that ten years from now, maybe even twenty or thirty, there'd still be an 'us.'
I planted a last kiss on Evan's shoulder and settled down to sleep. Just as I was drifting off, his voice came soft and low, and I could hear a smile in it.
"`Like ham and cheese'?"
Sorry it's later than usual -- work is kicking my butt lately. At the rate I'm going, Ch 29 is prolly 3 weeks away.
Thanks a lot for reading. I'd love an email if you're still enjoying the story. Qwb224@gmail.com