By Tim Mead
Casey stiffened and stepped back. Dan thought his roomie was about to deck their neighbor.
"Dammit, Seth! What kind of a friend can't -- or won't -- keep a confidence?" He turned to Dan. "Sorry, Danny. Don't pay any attention to this guy. It turns out he's a busybody."
"But -- "
Dan wanted to ask what was going on, but Casey turned and, taking them two at a time, went up the stairs.
"What was that all about?" Dan asked, his heart thumping because Seth's near-command seemed to have something to do with Dan's and Casey's feelings for each other.
"I apologize, Dan. I thought I was doing the right thing. I've obviously fucked up."
Seth picked up his basket of clothes. "I've already said and done too much. You'd better talk to Casey." The look on his face showed his chagrin. He turned and went upstairs.
Acting more or less automatically, Dan moved Casey's wash to the dryer, started it, and then put his own clothes into the washer.
Upstairs he found Casey's bedroom door shut. Urijah, lying on the sofa, looked up at Dan and watched as he went to Casey's door and knocked.
"Case? Should we talk?"
The cat followed him and was rubbing against his legs.
"No, man. Not right now. I'm too pissed with Seth. Just give me a little time, okay?"
Thinking Casey might be in the mood for some comforting, Dan cracked Casey's door just enough to let Urijah slip in.
Then he went to his desk and turned on the computer.
After a while he found he was staring at the screensaver. Obviously he'd never gotten around to checking his email. He'd been caught up in what had happened downstairs. Clearly Seth wanted Dan and Casey to talk about something. And whatever it was, Casey had apparently been putting it off.
Oh God! Dan thought. Is Case sick or something? Please don't let it be that! Or is he in some kind of trouble? No, not Casey. He's too straight arrow to be in trouble. But what else could there be that he'd put off talking to me about? What if he wants me to move out? He's found a guy and wants him to move in? Yeah, that could be it.
He shut off the computer and stood up. Perhaps walking around would help the constriction in his chest.
Get a grip, Cole! You weren't in this kind of state before any of your fights. It's probably nothing. You're making too much of it.
He paced around the limited space in his room. He tried to jam his hands in his pockets, but the jeans he was wearing were too tight to allow him to do that comfortably. He tried sticking the fingers of each hand into a back pocket, but that didn't work either. So he continued to pace, his hands balled into fists.
What if Casey did want him to move out? He realized he'd had feelings for Casey for months. Of late they had become stronger. But he knew Casey wasn't interested, for Casey had told him so. Still, even if they could never be more than good friends, he'd hate it if they didn't live together. Dan counted on his steady, calm presence, his support, his . . . friendship.
But if there was a new guy in Casey's life, wouldn't he be eager to tell Dan about him? Unless, of course, he realized how much that would hurt Dan. And being the man he was, he wouldn't want to do that.
A new thought: perhaps the guy was Seth. Oh, shit! Yeah, that was probably it. Dan knew Seth and Casey had had sex at least once. And they were together a lot. Casey often went up to see Seth after work before he came to their apartment. So it stood to reason Seth would want Casey to tell Dan about their relationship, didn't it?
He heard Casey leave his bedroom and go downstairs. He came back into the apartment a few minutes later. Standing in the doorway of Dan's room, he said, "Thanks for taking care of my stuff."
"No problem. Can we talk now?"
"Sorry, Cool. I've just got time to get changed and get to work. It'll have to wait."
Dan swiveled and looked straight at his friend. "You'll probably be worn out, as usual, when you get back from the restaurant tonight. Or do you have plans with Seth?"
"No, I don't even want to see Seth for a while."
"Tomorrow's Sunday. We can both sleep in and still have time to talk, okay?"
Casey managed a weak smile. "Yeah, that'd be good."
"I, uh . . . never mind. Later."
Casey went back to his room, and Dan went to the living room. After a few minutes Casey came out in his working outfit, minus the black leather shoes, which he had taken to leaving at work. His black trousers looked funny with his sneakers.
Dan went to him. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Sorry I made a fuss."
"You should get some ankle boots to wear in the snow."
"Winter's half over. Maybe next year."
"Are you pissed at me?"
"No, not at you!" Going through a routine Dan had seen many times, Casey patted his pockets to make sure he had his keys and his wallet. Then he shrugged into his coat, turned up the hood, and put on his gloves. "What are you doing this evening?"
"I don't have a clue." He certainly didn't want to go to Nellie's. He wasn't interested in a casual pickup, and he doubted that he could make decent conversation if he ran into a friend. "I'll probably just veg out."
Casey actually grinned. "Yeah, you for damn sure wouldn't want to study on a Saturday night."
"Don't be sarcastic."
"Sorry, Cool. Maybe you should go out. Don't worry about what happened downstairs. Have some fun. Meanwhile, I'll get things sorted out and we can talk tomorrow."
"Okay. Don't freeze your ass out there. Think you oughta drive?"
"Nah. The walk'll give me time to think."
Dan flopped in what he'd always thought of as Casey's recliner. Urijah leaped onto his lap, but after a few minutes of Dan's perfunctory petting jumped down and went to the sofa, where he curled up and began grooming himself.
After stewing a while, Dan went in search of his phone. He found it on the table beside the door where he and Casey dropped their keys. Taking the instrument back to the recliner, he called Nicole.
"Oh, hi, Dan. Are you okay?"
"Sure. Why do you ask?"
"Come on, sweetie. You never call me on a Saturday night."
"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. Got a date?"
"Do I know him?"
"I doubt it. This is our first date. He's taking me to a party at his fraternity."
"Where he hopes to get you drunk and then have his evil way with you, no doubt."
"Give me some credit! I wouldn't date a guy like that. Besides, if he tries, I'll knee him in the balls and get the fuck out of there."
"So why are you calling me now? Is something wrong?"
"No, it's okay. I just wanted to talk. But it can wait until next week."
"Are you sure? I can break the date if you want me to."
"Don't do that! Go enjoy yourself. Within reason, that is."
"Thanks, Dad." She paused. "Look, you can call me tomorrow if you want to. I'll leave my cell on. Just don't call too early, okay?"
"Gotcha. Thanks, babe."
He thought about calling Arnie, but he was pretty sure Arnie would be with Bernie. And, though Bernie had changed his ways, Dan didn't feel he could discuss this Seth/Casey business with him. Besides, those two had been talking about another three-way, and he wasn't in the mood for that. If Casey had decided to kick him out or had a boyfriend, that would be another matter. Then he might want nothing more than uncomplicated -- or uncommitted -- sex.
He poured a glass of merlot, making a face at the first sip. It was too cold from the fridge to be good, so he set it aside until the chill was gone.
Two glasses of wine later, he decided he'd better eat something, but he wasn't hungry. So he fixed himself a salad. Might as well eat healthy since he didn't really care whether he ate or not.
At 9:00 PM he found himself watching a basketball game without knowing which teams were playing. He went to the kitchen, took a carton of ice cream from the freezer, grabbed a spoon and went back to the recliner.
Urijah was very interested in the ice cream.
"No, cat, milk isn't good for you."
Urijah curled up on the sofa, watching through slitted eyes as Dan ate.
When the ice cream began to cloy, he took the container back to the freezer and returned to the living room.
When Casey got home, Dan was asleep in the recliner with Urijah curled up in his lap.
"Whoa, now there's a nice domestic scene."
"Huh? Oh, Case." He waited for his head to clear. "How was work?"
"Saturday night busy. This weather's not bad enough to keep people home, apparently. Except for Harry, who's got the flu. So we were a person short."
"And you're beat."
"Yeah, I am."
"I know. All you want is to shower and fall into bed." Dan had visions of falling into bed with him.
"Uh huh. But look, I promise tomorrow I'll explain what that scene in the basement was all about. You have a right to know."
"Know what?" Dan knew there was faint hope of an answer to that question right then, but he had to ask.
Casey set down the cat, which promptly ran into his bedroom.
Casey went into his room. A moment later he set the cat outside and closed the door behind him.
I know how you feel, cat.
Even though he'd been dozing before Casey came home, Dan decided he might as well go to bed. He wasn't in the mood for SNL, much less the other stuff that filled up the channels at that hour on Saturday night.
It was a long time before he went to sleep, however. The late-evening nap hadn't helped. But it was thoughts about Casey that kept him awake. Thoughts about what a great guy Casey was, about his sense of humor, his steady friendship, his decency, his sense of right and wrong. His ass. . . .
Dan reached for his dick, which for some reason was demanding attention.
Even with his door closed, the aroma of coffee had worked its way into Dan's bedroom and his consciousness. He opened one eye. The clock on the night stand said a few minutes after nine, earlier than he usually got up on Sundays. Still, Casey must be up, and the coffee smelled wonderful.
Casey was up! Okay, now he'd find out what the great mystery was.
He got out of bed, pulled on a pair of boxers, and padded to the bathroom. Casey wasn't in the front room, so he must have been in the kitchen.
And that was where Dan found him after he'd done his bathroom business. He was sitting at the table with a mug of coffee in front of him and Urijah on his lap.
"Hey, Dan. I've got eggs whisked up, ready to make some French toast. Do you want your OJ first or coffee?"
"You don't need to wait on me, you know. But it's chilly. I think I'll go put on some clothes. Be right back."
Casey was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved tee shirt that showed his muscles almost as well as if he'd been naked. Though the house hadn't warmed up yet, Dan's real reason for putting on more clothes was that he didn't want to sit wearing only boxers while Casey was fully clothed. He might spring a boner.
When he came back there were both OJ and coffee at his place. Casey was at the counter dipping slices of bread into the egg mixture.
"There are some microwave sausages in the freezer. Want me to do some?" Dan asked.
"Albert would have a conniption, but yeah, they'd be good with this stuff."
So the two worked efficiently but silently together until the breakfast was ready to put on the table.
"There's syrup if you want, but I'm having raspberry jam, or framboise as Albert calls it."
"Um, I think I'll stick with syrup."
As he ate, Dan kept expecting Casey to say something about what had happened in the basement. Instead he ate his French toast and sipped his coffee in silence, occasionally casting looks that Dan would have sworn suggested apprehension.
Finally, they finished their breakfast and put their dishes, glasses, and utensils in the dishwasher.
Casey sighed. "Okay. Let's refill our mugs and go in the other room."
Dan didn't need the caffeine, but he took more coffee because the warm mug would give him something to hang onto as they talked.
Casey sat at one end of the sofa, gesturing for Dan to sit at the other end. Dan curled a leg and faced Casey, giving him his full attention.
Casey picked at a frayed place on the back of the sofa and took a deep breath. Dan could almost hear him saying to himself, "Here goes!"
Casey met his eyes. "Did you ever say something you wished you could take back?"
"Sure. I imagine we all have. It's easy to say something on the spur of the moment and then wish you could take it back."
Urijah came in from the kitchen, still licking his chops from breakfast. He sat in the middle of the room facing them. He studied them for a moment and then stretched out on his side.
"Um, it wasn't exactly spur of the moment."
Continuing to pick at the frayed spot on the upholstery, Casey hesitated.
"Case, look. I don't know what this is all about. Seth knows something or thinks he knows something he wants us to talk about. But I'm still in the dark."
Casey nodded. "I realize that, Dan."
"Well, realize this. I've never had a friend I feel as close to as you. I just can't imagine anything you could tell me that's going to upset me all that much. Whatever it is, just say it, and we'll deal with it. We're buds, aren't we?"
Casey looked at Dan through his eyelashes. "I sure as fuck hope so."
"That's the problem. I wouldn't want anything to spoil our friendship."
Barely controlling his impatience, Dan said, "That's not gonna happen. So just fuckin' tell me what it is!"
"I, uh, I have . . . feelings for you."
A strangely detached part of Dan's brain was struck by the stilted formality of Casey's choice of words. They sounded like something from an old novel. But the more central part of his mind seized on Casey's meaning and relayed a message to his body, which was instantly flooded with heat. A moment he'd been longing for had arrived, and he felt flushed, maybe a little dizzy.
"You're gonna make me say it?"
"I don't know what you're trying to say, Case." He knew what he hoped Casey was going to say, but he wanted to be clear about it.
"I've wanted you since the night we were in the ring together. And the longer we live together, the more I want you. Is that clear enough?"
Dan could see the sincerity in Casey's eyes.
"Oh, my god!"
"You want me?"
"That's what I just said, isn't it?"
"Yeah. But . . ." Dan remembered Casey's adamancy when he'd first moved in. As much as he wanted this to be true, he didn't want to set himself up for a major disappointment. "What about that stuff you said last summer about roomies not having a relationship. And about incest?"
Apparently deciding he didn't need a nap, Urijah jumped onto the couch. Casey grabbed him, pulled him onto his lap, and began stroking him. The cat's purrs were loud in the room.
"When you and I fought, I was attracted to you. That's why I invited you to go for a drink after the match. That's why I suggested we trade email addresses. And kept in touch. I knew I liked you from the get-go, so I thought maybe we could be friends, even though our lives at that point made any sort of physical contact impossible."
"Oh-kay." Dan's questions hadn't been answered, but he decided to wait and see where Casey was going with this. So far he'd been gratified and excited by what Casey had said.
"When you emailed me that you were coming to Colby, I was, uh, excited." He looked embarrassed. "I'm not used to talking like this."
"It's okay, Case. Relax." Dan tried to be encouraging. "So far I like what I'm hearing."
Casey's reaction was to raise his eyebrows, but he pressed on. "Well, I'd just gotten this apartment and decided it would help if there was someone to share the rent. But I've never had a roomie before. I didn't know whether I'd be comfortable with someone else coming and going, sharing the bathroom and the kitchen and so on."
An equal opportunity cat, Urijah came to Dan for petting. For a moment Casey seemed not to know what to do with his hands. After rubbing them down his thighs, he put one arm across the back of the sofa and left the other hand where it was.
"So," he continued, "your email made my day. Here's a guy I think's a stud, and he seems like a great guy, too. That's why I was quick to show you this place and ask if you wanted to share it."
Dan had heard all of that, but his question was, "You think I'm a stud?"
"Yeah." Casey blushed.
Which, Dan thought, was adorable, especially as it came from a pretty good MMA fighter. Still, there was the question. "Then what was that business about roommates not having a relationship?"
Casey seemed to be focusing on something behind Dan for a moment. Then he looked directly at Dan. "For one thing, I didn't want you to feel any pressure from me."
Dan thought about it. "Yeah, that sounds like you. What else?"
Casey smiled. "I wanted you to be able to sort of spread your wings here at Colby, to see how you fit into the gay scene. And you've gotta admit you've been . . . exploring. And that's one reason why I'm ticked with Seth. As far as I can tell, you're having a great time spreading your . . . wings. I was gonna give you more time. And maybe try to work up the nerve to tell you how I really felt."
"You're a good man, Casey Shaw. I love it that you were so concerned about me. Still, I wish you'd told me sooner."
"Because being around you keeps me horny all the time. Your ass drives me crazy. I jack off thinking about you. Do I need to go on?"
Dan set a startled Urijah on the floor and scooted toward Casey -- who moved to meet him in the middle of the sofa.
"You won't have to do that any more."
"Right. Now, shut up!"
They embraced and had begun a tentative first kiss when Dan pulled back.
"But what about the incest bit?"
"That was pure bullshit. I plead temporary insanity. Now, you shut up."
The long kiss they shared was at first introduction, affirmation . . . .
When it pretty obviously turned into extended foreplay, Casey panted, "Let's take this to the bedroom."
"Isn't that my line?" As he spoke Casey bent his knees, grabbed Dan, threw him over his shoulders in a fireman's carry, and hauled him off to the nearest bed.
Thanks as always to Tinnean, Drew, and Mickey.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org If you email me, please put "Cool" in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam.
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