steve: chapter 11

Here's the warning. If you're not 18 or your parents are in the room, don't read this story. If you don't like the thought of two guys doing it until the windows shake, don't read this story. If you're a dumbass, don't read this story. If you thought you could organize freedom, that was very Scandinavian of you. Otherwise, go ahead and read the story.

I looked down at Mike, then over at the clock. 4:18 AM. Not even a minute since the last time I checked. Mike sensed my movement and, if it was possible, moved in a little bit closer to me. I sighed. He didn't have any kind of a problem going to sleep. It was just that my mind was so bogged down with everything that had happened, not to mention the way people reacted. At first, I had been a bit of a minor celebrity, but now that things had quieted down, it was like nobody even remembered.

I wasn't really thinking of myself, though. I was more concerned about how it was going to affect the people I loved. Even though he hadn't said anything, I knew that Mike had a fear of losing me. I knew that Rachel would have one hell of a time with things. I wanted to make things easier for her, but I had no idea how. To some extent, though, I was thinking about Jeff.

There wasn't anything that could justify what he did. Still, I felt like I should have been able to stop him. I should have known that he was going to do something. There had been warning signs, there had been things that he specifically told me, but I didn't pay any attention to them. I was too absorbed in myself and what I wanted that I didn't even notice that he was practically begging me for help.

On that sour note, I managed to fall asleep. Mike's arms around me were of little comfort. In fact, I think they made me feel even guiltier than I had before. I was happy, and I really didn't think that I deserved it.

At 7:30, the alarm went off. I grudgingly followed Mike out of bed, and while he went in for a shower, I slipped on a pair of boxers and a t-shirt so I could go get some breakfast. His father was in the kitchen, having some juice and reading the paper. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and sat down across the table from him.

"Hey, Steve," he said, nodding at me. I nodded back, then started on my breakfast. About halfway through, Mike came out and kissed me on the cheek, then went to find his own food. His dad halfway looked at us, smiling. Mike sat down next to me and we ate, enjoying the quiet that the morning brought. I finished off my bowl, then went in for a shower of my own.

The warm water felt good. I couldn't shake my thoughts from the night before, but at least I wasn't shivering anymore. Without Mike's warmth cuddled up next to me, I hadn't been able to stop myself that morning. I soaped myself up and got partially lost in thought again. I always thought that was Mike's forte, but he seemed to be rubbing off on me.

I got out and got dressed. Mike looked phenomenal, as usual. Quite business casual. I was a t-shirt and jeans boy, but then again, I was also an unemployed boy. I kissed him, wrapping my arms around him and holding him close. It was a selfish gesture on my part, though. I just wanted him near me so I wouldn't be cold anymore. I knew that it was all a subconscious thing, but I didn't have the slightest idea how to stop it. Instead, I just ignored it and hoped that Mike wouldn't notice.

The ride to the office was quiet. It wasn't uncomfortable, though--things with Mike were never uncomfortable. I dropped him off with a few minutes to spare, so I got a really nice goodbye kiss. Then he was gone, and I had the entire day to myself. It would be the most time I'd spent apart from him in a long time.

There was something that I needed to do. I headed toward my house, hoping that neither of my parents were home. Dad would probably have left for work by now, but I didn't know about Mom. Luckily, she wasn't there. I pulled into the driveway--an act that should have seemed familiar, but didn't. Everything had changed, and I didn't know what the hell I was doing about anything anymore. I had gotten the one person I ever really wanted. I had been thrown out of my house. Just as fast as that, I had gotten a brand new, surrogate family. Then my own wanted me back. Not to mention the whole Jeff thing.

I wandered through the house. Everything felt different. It was like it wasn't even my home anymore. I wandered around a little, just touching things. Those ugly porcelain cats Mom kept on the mantle. Dad's chair. The lamp they had gotten from Grandma's house when she died. I suddenly remembered all of the stories about everything in the house. I flopped down onto the couch and just looked around the room. If it was all the same, then why did it feel so different?

I guess I drifted off to sleep, because the next thing I knew, it was three hours later. I sat up, a little startled. It took me a few seconds to remember where I was. I stood up and started walking down the hall.

My room hadn't changed, but even it didn't seem like the sanctuary it once was. I looked under my mattress, relieved to find that the magazines I had bought a few years ago were still there. It seems funny now, but when I first bought them, they were dangerous and exciting. Sure, it was just airbrushed pictures of bored 20-somethings having uninteresting sex with each other, but it was the first time I ever did something that acknowledged my sexuality. I kept the magazines more for the memories than the magazines themselves.

Taking a moment to steady myself, I went to the back of my closet and dug around until I found a shoe box. It was taped shut, hidden so well that even I had trouble finding it. With my pocket knife, I opened the box and looked inside. There was a stack of letters, some still in their envelopes. I took the one with the earliest date and started reading.

I met Mike for lunch at 12:30. He had an hour, so we went to a little cafe a few minutes from the office. He kept looking at me strangely during the ride over, but I kept quiet. I was conflicted - should I talk to him, or should I just try to deal with this myself? I decided to try and work things out myself, but I'd talk to Mike later.

"So what's the matter?" Mike asked as we sat down. So much for the work it out myself plan.

I chuckled a little. "A lot."

Mike shook his head. "So tell me about it. That's what I'm here for. Well, that, and lunch. Where's that waitress with our menus? I'm starving."

I couldn't help it. I tried to fight it, but to no avail. I cracked a smile for what seemed like the first time that day. Damn guy, can't leave me in my depressive funk.

"That's more like it. Now just tell me what's wrong and I'll try to help you." Mike looked up as the waitress came by, depositing a menu in front of each of us. It took us almost no time at all to decide on burgers. The waitress didn't even have to leave the table.

"Well, for starters, there's the whole kidnapped and beaten thing." I shook my head, almost disgusted with what I was saying. "'The whole kidnapped and beaten thing.' That doesn't seem nearly appropriate enough. There's also the fact that it was done by a person who I could have helped. Fuck, for all I know, I'm the one who pushed him over the edge. Jeff snapped because I--" my voice trailed off.

"So you're blaming yourself because he's a fucked up psycho? It doesn't matter what you did, someone with his problems would have gone off the deep end sooner or later. If you were still all that close to him, you might be dead." He shook his head. "It's not your fault, Steve. You couldn't have known that he was this fucked up."

"But I did." I closed my eyes and leaned back in the booth. "I did know. He told me about the things that happened to him, things that I couldn't even begin to understand. And still, I couldn't do anything. He was practically begging me for help towards the end, and I didn't see it."

"I get it," Mike said. "This is one of those guilt-trippy, what-if things that I used to be so good at. It's not 'what if,' it's 'what is.'"

"And what is is that I couldn't do a damn thing and wound up ultimately putting all of the people I care about into danger." I started getting angry. "Know when Jeff took me and pistol-whipped you? I could have stopped that. One swift kick to his hand and I would have had the gun on the floor and him in a headlock. But I didn't. And you know why I didn't? I was scared. I didn't think he'd kill either of us, but I was afraid that it would be just one more ineffectual attempt to stop him."

"Okay, even though I could have done without the smack to the head, I'm glad you didn't try to knock him down. That could have gotten one of us seriously hurt." Mike kinda smiled for a second. "Besides, I liked being the one who rescued you."

"Yeah, yeah, I get it." I stopped for a second. "I mean, I know that it wasn't my fault, but I can't help thinking that it was. I dunno. It's weird."

"I think I understand what you're saying. It might take a while, but you just need to come to terms with what happened. Jeff had a bad past, or at least I'm assuming. He didn't get the help he needed, but he'll be getting it now. It might not be the most ideal circumstances, but it'll help." Mike reached behind himself and pulled out his wallet. He took out a worn piece of paper, folded over on itself, and handed it to me. "Take a look at this."

When I took it, I realized that it was a picture. I unfolded it and saw a young kid, around 11 or 12. He was standing, but he was slumped over. He was looking down at his feet, something I could tell he did a lot. His hair hung down just past his eyes. The people around him were wearing shorts and t-shirts, but he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans. It took me a second to realize that it was Mike.

I looked back up at him. It was really hard to believe that the boy in that picture was the same person who was sitting across the table from me. Mike smiled and shook his head when he saw my disbelief.

"I used to look like that. All the time. That summer, I was 12 years old. It was the last summer I spent down at the cottage in Cape Cod before I moved here. That day, I think the temperature topped 90, but I still never took off that shirt." He reached over and took the picture, staring at it for a few seconds. "I didn't wear a short-sleeved shirt for the next two years."

"...right around the time you met me." I finished his sentence. "So, what, you're saying that I'm responsible for you coming out of your little shell?"

"No. That'd be stupid of me. What I'm saying is that even though you helped me out, even though you were the sweetest, nicest, kindest guy I'd ever met, even though I wouldn't have been nearly as ready to accept myself if it hadn't been for you, I still needed to come to terms with what had happened to me before I could." He reached over and put his hand on top of mine. "It's the same with Jeff. You might have been able to help him along, but he has to deal with things himself."

I looked at him for a second, squeezing his hand. "You do know how much I hate it when you're right, right?"

Lunch after that was uneventful, really. We talked about small stuff, mostly avoiding the topic of Jeff. When we finished, Mike still had half an hour left on his break, so we just drove around for a bit. I was still considering all of the things he had said, and I realized that he was right, but I still thought that there was something I could have done to prevent everyone from having to go through that.

It all came back to that letter. That one stupid letter that told me exactly what had happened, how he felt about it, how he dealt with it (or, more to the point, how he didn't), and basically a blueprint to his psyche that should have told me that he was going to do something. For some reason, though, it just didn't click. Was I that shallow?

That's what it came down to. I blamed myself for not seeing that there was something far deeper going on there. After dropping him off at work again, I had gone back to Mike's house and was lying on his bed, still reading through the letters. It was weird. I was reliving a part of my past that I didn't really want to go back to, but I was lying in the bed of the guy who I would be with for the rest of my life. His room, of course, smelled like him. Everything about it was reassuring and comforting in some odd way.

Some parts of the letters were barely legible. I think that was on purpose, sort of, because the parts with the worst aspects of his life were the messiest. The last one was almost entirely scrawled. It was the one that told me what had been done to him. It didn't go into too much detail, but there was enough that I could tell how he felt. It seemed like forever since I had read the damn thing, too.

Hey Steve. You know, I don't have any idea why I keep writing these things. I think it's because I've always been better at writing my thoughts out than having a conversation about them. There's nobody to interrupt me when I do it this way. Plus I won't have to see your face when you read this.

I know you know that there's something that I've never told you. It's not that I don't trust you, it's just that it's something I've never told anybody before. When I was little, I guess I was afraid that people wouldn't believe me, so I kept it a secret. Eventually, it faded from my memory and I forgot about it.

I guess I'll start where I first realized what had happened. I was 14 years old and still living at the house in Michigan. Mom had gotten both me and Paul in the custody hearing after the divorce and we were living with my grandparents for a little while until she could find someplace of her own. I had been having nightmares for a while, always dark and creepy and stuff, pretty much what you'd expect from a nightmare. There were familiar faces, too, but nobody that I could place, and I usually forgot what they looked like as soon as I woke up.

There was one night, though, when I remembered one of the faces. It was one of Paul's friends, I think his name was Justin. That really didn't matter, though. What did matter was that I was looking at Paul more closely. There seemed to be something strange about him. Not really about the way he was acting or anything, but there was just something off. He never touched me, and really shied away from physical contact of any kind with me. I mean, sure, we did the typical brother things. He'd punch me on his way through a room, I'd reach out and try to trip him as he walked by, stuff like that. It just seemed like he didn't want to get close to me.

Another night, a while later, I woke up and actually remembered some of the things going on in the dream. I was lying on my back on the ground, naked. I wasn't tied down, but I was trapped and I couldn't move. There were people all around me, and I saw Justin's face again. They were touching me, rubbing their dirty hands all over me, hurting me, and I couldn't stop them. I always woke up before they touched my face, but that night was the worst. I got up out of bed and I could still feel them there. When I closed my eyes, I could see them. I still can, sometimes.

I was a wreck the next day. I couldn't get the images out of my head. It all felt so real. During the day, I kept feeling those hands on me. When I tried to ignore it, it just got worse. I think I must have taken eight showers that day. I just felt... dirty. I didn't want to go to sleep that night. When I went to bed, around 2 in the morning, I just curled up with a pillow and stared at the dark room until I finally fell asleep. I remember looking over into Paul's bed and being jealous of him. He didn't have to deal with the dreams and everything. I resented him a little for that.

The next few days weren't any better. Everyone noticed, especially Paul. I kept staring at him, like I was trying to remember something. I couldn't. At least, not yet.

A week or so later, I was having the nightmare again. I must have been tossing and yelling and stuff, because Paul woke me up. He shook me until I was awake and stood over me. I rolled over onto my back and looked up at him. Seeing him in that position, standing above me with his hands on my chest, brought back the memories.

It had been a while ago, since we were still living in the apartment. The older boys always went up and played in the open storage area on top of all the apartments. I was young and always wanted to be included, but they would ditch me and I wound up playing by myself a lot. One day, I followed them up without them realizing. I hid myself by the doorway and watched what they were doing. They all took off their clothes and started touching each other. There were three of them. Paul, Justin, and Craig. I remember wondering what they could possibly be doing, so I tried to get a little closer. I tripped and fell on some of the insulation, and they noticed me.

Paul grabbed for his clothes and started to get dressed again, but Justin stopped him. He said something about letting me join them. Paul and Craig agreed and told me to come over to them. I did, of course, and they all started taking my clothes off. They pushed me down to the floor and sat around me, touching me and making me touch them. What they did... it didn't feel good. I'm not going to tell exactly what they did to me, mainly because whenever I think about it too much I wind up puking again. I'm just going to say that I felt very... violated.

I never confronted Paul about it. From that night on, I was scared of him. It got to the point where I finally asked Mom if I could move to Indiana with Dad. It took some work, but she eventually saw that I wasn't happy and I wasn't doing too well in Michigan, so she sent me here.

I haven't even talked to Paul since I left. Whenever he comes down to visit Dad, I hide at someone else's place until he's gone.

Yeah, I know it's a lot to take in. That's the reason I never really let you touch me in a sexual way. I just... I don't think I could handle it. I'm sorry, I know this is screwed up. And if you don't want to see me anymore because of it, I understand. I just wanted you to know.

Love ya,

I showed Mike the letter that evening. As soon as we got home, in fact. I just figured that if he read it, he'd understand how I was feeling. I showed him some of the other letters, too. One told me about his drug problem. Another told me how he liked it when I'd touch him, just in a friendly way. Eventually, Mike had read them all.

"Ya know, it seems to me like you two didn't really have that much of a relationship," he said as he put down one of the letters.

I gave him a questioning look. "How do you mean?"

"Well, from the way he wrote to you, I think it's pretty clear that he saw you as a really good friend and not much else." He reached over and touched my shoulder. "He was looking for someone to talk to, someone who he could actually trust. You were that person. I think he might have mistaken that trust for love."

"You're not just saying that to make me feel less guilty, are you?" I asked.

It was Mike's turn to give a questioning look. "Less guilty about what?"

I took his hand off my shoulder and wrapped my own around it. "That I was secretly in love with you the entire time. I never really felt that way about Jeff. I think, more than anything, he was an attempt to get over you, since I thought I'd never get to be with you."

"You were both looking for someone. Not someone to be with, but just someone to talk to. You both found it." Mike looked at me again. "You told me you had sex with him. When did that happen?"

"About two weeks after he gave me the last letter," I said. "And a few days after that, he broke it off with me. I don't really think he could handle it. We stayed friends and all, for a while, at least. Remember that first night when he delivered the pizza? That was the first time I had even seen him in months."

Mike didn't say anything, just pulled me over to him and hugged me. It was amazing, the way he always knew what I needed and managed to give it to me. I leaned my head down and rested it on his shoulder.

The rest of the night was spent out in the living room. I sat on one end of the couch and Mike laid down, resting his head on my chest in a half-reclining position. It took us a little bit to get adjusted, but we eventually did. Naturally, though, we were called into the kitchen for dinner. The family didn't really eat together that much, what with everyone's odd schedules, but when they could, they did. I liked that. I rarely ever ate with my family. While it wasn't exactly something I was sorely missing, it would have been nice.

After dinner, Mike and I got back into our position on the couch. His dad sat in his chair (I think every father in the world has "his chair") and his mom reclined on the love seat. We all just sat around and watched TV. It wasn't exactly quality time, but hey, it wasn't that bad. Around 10, his mom went to bed because she needed to be at work early the next day. His dad followed soon after.

"Looks like it's just you and me, babe," I said, reaching down to stroke Mike's chest. I slipped my hand under the neck of his shirt and ran my fingers across that cute little patch of hair he had right in the middle. "Whatcha wanna do?"

Mike stretched out, reminding me a little of a cat. "I was thinking we could just stay here for a while. Watch The Daily Show, maybe Leno's monologue, then head to bed. I like it here for now, though."

"I believe that you have a deal," I said, grabbing the remote to change the channel. I loved being able to just cuddle up to Mike and watch TV like that. It felt right.

"Mmm, you smell good," he said during a commercial break. "Of course, you always smell good. What's up with that, anyway?"

"I think it has something to do with the whole in love with me thing." I ran my fingers across his chest again. "Ya know, I think you always smell pretty good, too. Actually, I was just thinking about that this afternoon in your room. It's a very comforting thing."

Mike looked up at me, a very serious look in his eyes. "It's your room too, now."

"No it's not," I said, shaking my head. "At least, I don't think it is. My room is back at my house. It's got all my stuff in it, it's the place where I've spent the past 18 years. When we move out and get someplace of our own, then we'll have a bedroom that belongs to both of us. But for now, just enjoy your independence."

Mike shook his head a little, then rested it on my chest again. "If you say so. But you're always welcome there, ya know."

"Well, yeah, of course." I leaned down and kissed the top of his head. "How else would you get that hot sex you want all the time?"

"Bastard," he said, turning his eyes back to the TV.

When we went to bed, nothing even remotely sexual happened. I cuddled up to him, warm and secure. It was a very nice feeling. It was even nicer knowing that I'd be able to look forward to this every day in the future. I didn't have any trouble sleeping that night. Somehow, Mike managed to reassure me that there was nothing more I could have done. Sure, I might have been able to handle things a little better, but for the most part, I couldn't have changed anything.

I woke up before the alarm clock went off the next morning. I was tempted to turn it off and enjoy the morning in bed with Mike, but being that late to work on your second day doesn't make a very good impression. Instead, I just lay there and enjoyed him cuddling up to me for the next few minutes.

When the radio did go on, Mike opened one eye, reached over, and hit the snooze button just like he always did. Once if he got enough sleep, twice if he went to bed late. He never realized it, but when we were sophomores, I set his bedroom clock 15 minutes fast so he wouldn't be as late as he usually was. It still amazes me that he never caught on.

When the radio turned on the second time, he reached over and turned it off, then rolled back over to me. Even though he was still half-asleep, I could tell by the little grin he had on his face where the morning was headed. Mike climbed on top of me, straddling my waist, and leaned down to lick my neck. It was actually more funny than sexy, watching him do it while still trying to wake up.

"Mmm, I could skip work and we could just do it all day. Come on." He leaned down further, dragging his tongue down to my nipple. He took it between his teeth, gently biting it. Horny little bastard really knew how to turn me on.

"Right," I said, trying not to think about him writhing over my groin, "like I'd have sex with someone who has morning breath."

"You have before," he said just before scooting down and leaving a trail of kisses just above my navel. "Besides, your lips say no, but your dick says yes."

"It's morning. I'm a guy. It's hard. Get over it," I said, trying to ignore the fact that he was tracing the trail from my navel down into my pubic hair with his tongue. "Now get out of bed and go take a shower. Stop seducing me right now."

"I'll get in the shower if you join me," he said, trying to look as provocative as he could. He was doing a pretty damn good job, too. "I've still got an hour before I need to go to work, we could do some naughty things and I could still get there on time. You know you wanna."

Let's just say it didn't take him that much work to break down my resolve.

After dropping Mike off at work, I headed back to his house. His dad was still there, since he didn't need to be at work until 2, but his mom had left early that morning. I flopped down on the couch and started watching the morning TV shows. About three minutes in, I realized that I was intensely bored. I care about this child-rearing expert's new book why? But, wow, next they'll be showing me how to cook something that looks like utter crap and probably tastes even worse. I finally lowered myself to taking out Mike's Playstation and starting up one of his games. Final Fantasy Tactics, I think. It was actually interesting, minus all the reading.

Around 11:30 or so, George called. "Hey, Steve, glad I could catch you. Look, can you come down to the station for a little bit? There's something I need to talk to you about, and I think you might want to talk to Jeff, too."

The mere mention of Jeff's name made me feel a little sick. How could I handle seeing him? "I dunno. I mean, yeah, I'll come down there for whatever you want from me, but I don't know if I want to see him."

"I think you'll change your mind." He paused for a few seconds. "Anyway, you coming down? I've got lunch soon, we can talk then."

"Yeah, sure, I'll be down there in a few minutes." I hung up, suddenly nervous. I knew that, despite what I might have said, I would still wind up going and talking to Jeff. It just seemed like the next logical step in getting over blaming myself for what happened. I put on my shoes and grabbed my keys.

The entire ride to the station (maybe 5 minutes, if that) was weird. I drove on instinct and didn't really even remember how I got there once I was. I went in, talked to the guy at the desk, and sat down to wait for George.

A few minutes later, he came sauntering by in that macho way he has. "Hey, Steve. Wanna go grab a bite? Besides, I wanna talk to you somewhere more private than here."

"Yeah, sure, let's go." I stood up. "Oh, but I've only got like an hour. I'm meeting Mike when he has his lunch break. You know, what with him not having a car and all."

"Sure, no problem. This shouldn't take all that long anyway." We went out and got into George's car (well, the police department's car, I guess). I'm sorry, but it was just cool to be riding around in one of those. I kept asking if we could pull people over.

We stopped at Wendy's. George looked kinda nervous going in, which was odd for him. Once we ordered our food, we picked a table towards the window. When he didn't say anything for a few minutes, I figured I'd have to start the conversation.

"So, what did you want to talk to me about?" I unwrapped my burger and poked around at my fries. "You did seem pretty urgent, ya know."

"Well, okay." He paused again for a second. "I've been thinking about this for a while, I guess. I mean, umm... hell, I dunno what I mean. Okay, let's try it this way. Umm..."

"Heh, the only time I ever get all stuttery like that is when I'm going to ask someone a potentially-embarrassing personal question." The little light bulb went off over my head. "Which you're about to do to me. Just ask away, I promise not to be offended. Unless it's about that mole I have on my upper-left thigh."

George laughed. "Alright, here goes. How did you know that you were gay?"

That one took me by surprise. "Why? Do you think that you..." I let myself trail off.

"I don't know. I've just had the odd question or two about myself lately, and I have heard that being gay runs in families. There's more gay people in my family than all of Rhode Island, ya know." He looked down at his food again. "I just... yeah."

I was making sure that I handled the situation with as much delicacy as I could, but there always has to be a blunt question or two. "So what's making you think that you might have leanings toward the not-quite-fairer sex?"

He shook his head. "That was the question I was kinda hoping to avoid." He looked around, but we were pretty isolated. "If I tell you, you have to swear not to tell Mike. Ever."

"Yeah, sure." I nodded. "Why? Does it involve him?"

"Partially," George said, not making eye contact with me. "Okay, you know back when I let you two stay at my place? Well, you know that I walked in on you, but you don't know how long I stayed. I watched you... umm... fuck him. And it turned me on. A lot. I was jerking off for the entire rest of the day over that."

Well, I was shocked. I had never even thought about having an audience when Mike and I had sex. It was slightly exciting, but at the same time, kinda disgusting. I guess it wasn't so much the fact that he was watching us, but more the fact that we didn't know.

"That's... umm..." I was at a loss for words.

"Yeah, I know." He wouldn't make eye contact again. "I didn't mean to. I mean, I got back from my run and accidentally walked in on you guys. You didn't notice me, so I was just going to creep back out and wait for you to finish, but when I saw you two doing... what you were doing, I couldn't help myself."

I shook the thought of him watching us. That wasn't the main issue here. "Okay, so you think that you might be gay because you enjoyed watching me and Mike have sex. Really, I don't think you are. You might be able to get off with guys, but if your one point of concern is that you got excited by watching two people have sex, that just means that you're a guy."

"Do you get excited watching two lesbians?" he asked.

"Well, okay, I guess that's a good point." I thought for a few minutes. "Ask yourself this. Would you want to have sex with another guy?"

"That's what I've been asking myself since I saw you guys that day. I don't know. When I was younger, like 12 or 13, I used to mess around with a couple of friends, but that was stuff that every guy does. When I think back on it, I was usually the one leading things. I got as far as blowjobs with one guy, but that didn't last very long."

"I didn't ask if you've ever done it before, I asked if you'd want to do it now."

George shook his head. "I don't know. And even if I did, I don't know who I'd do it with. You and Mike are exclusive, and the only other gay guys I know are my brothers."

"Okay then, here's a question for you." I said. "Do you still want to have sex with women?"

"Yeah, I love women," he said without hesitation. "It's not so much that I'm worried about being gay, but I'm thinking about whether I'm bisexual or whatever."

"Well, you very well could be. And I want you to realize that what we're talking about here is just sexual attraction, not the possibility for a relationship or anything. That's a whole other issue right there." I thought for a second. "You know, if you're really itching to try something out with a guy, you wouldn't have much trouble finding one. You're a very attractive guy, and if you went to a club or something, you'd have 'em lined up."

"That's another thing. I really don't want to go pick up some guy, even though that's pretty much the only chance I'd have to try something out. Damn my lack of single gay friends." He smirked at me. "Not that I'd object to a hot 3-some with my favorite gay couple."

I laughed and shook my head. "Please. I can barely handle Mike's sex drive. I doubt I could satisfy him and still have energy for your 'experiments.'"

"Your loss, then. I'm a hottie."

We talked a little more about how I realized I was attracted to men. It wasn't awkward, like the few other times I'd had this conversation. I actually felt at ease with George. He was a good guy, and the fact that he felt comfortable enough with me to share what he had been feeling made me trust him more.

We finished our lunch around the time he had to be getting back to work and I had to be picking Mike up. He dropped me off by my car and we said goodbye. He also reminded me that I should come by and talk to Jeff sometime, but I avoided the subject. That was just something that I didn't have the strength to deal with right then.

When I picked Mike up, I was in much better spirits than I had been the day before. We went back to his house, where his dad was just about to leave for work. We caught him on his way out, actually. Mike went into the kitchen to scavenge around for food while I stayed in the living room and flipped channels on TV.

"You want anything to eat, babe?" he called from the kitchen.

"Nah, I had lunch with George," I said. "But you can bring me in a soda or something."

"'Kay." He came back out a few minutes later with a couple of sandwiches for him and a soda for both of us. He sat down next to me on the couch and started eating, watching TV with me and just being close. It was nice.

"What'd you two talk about?" Mike broke the relative silence (well, minus the TV) with the question I was hoping he wouldn't ask.

"Just stuff," I said, not wanting to lie to him, but not wanting to break George's confidence.

"Ah, I see." Mike chuckled a bit. "Planning a hot 3-way behind my back, eh?"

"How come it's always a hot 3-way? It's like the hot lesbian action, it's always gotta be hot. What's up with that?"

Mike just shook his head. "You're such a dumbass."

I took another turn for the serious. "George said that I should go see Jeff. I don't know why he was pushing it, but he sounded like he really wanted me to go."

He looked at me for a few seconds. "Do you think that you'll be okay with that? I mean, like, if you want to."

"I don't know." I scooted over closer to Mike. "I'm not sure if I want to, I'm not sure if I could handle it if I did, and I'm most certainly not sure what I'd say."

He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. "That's alright. I think it might be too soon. It's just that you've been through so much lately, you really shouldn't push yourself too hard. If you don't think it'll be alright to go, then don't go. It's not like he's going anywhere."

I sighed and leaned against him. "I know. I don't think I want to. But when I do, if I do, I'll want you to come with me. Okay?"

"Well, yeah. What, you think I'd let you go alone? Whatever." He kissed me again. "Whatever you decide to do, I'm in it with you."

No this did not take forever and three weeks! Well, okay, it did, but I have excuses. See... umm... it's just that... well... okay, so I don't have any excuses. And I apologize for making this chapter take so long, but I've overcome my writer's block a little, so let's hope to see more stories out at a faster pace.

By way of apology, let me make a musical recommendation: Fragments of Freedom by Morcheeba. I've been listening to it while finishing off the second half of this story. Hopefully it's funky goodness will help to make up with how horribly late I am with this chapter.

Just so you know, getting feedback makes me write faster. I swear it does.

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