This story involves sexual contact and male/male relationships. If this is something that you find offensive, you have no business being here and need to leave now. If you are under the age of 18 or not of legal age in your area, GET OUT. If this content is illegal in your area LEAVE.

This story is property of the author and is not to be copied or posted elsewhere without written permission of the author. All characters and plot lines are fictional. Any resemblance is strictly coincidental and should be noted as such.

Author's Note: To my collaborator, my sweetie, my little brother and best friend... You have been the one who has held my hand, without you this story wouldn't be what it is. Thanks Davey.

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From Behind Those Eyes - Chapter 12

“Dad!” I managed to get out, even in total shock. I didn’t expect my dad to know Jesse had even been here. It probably wouldn’t have been a big issue either if I had bothered to ask first, but now he knew we were together so I didn’t know how he would react. He had said that he didn’t have a problem with me being gay or with Jesse being my boyfriend, in fact, he even said to bring Jesse over more, but right now the look on his face was anything but a happy one.

His eyes were fixed on mine, a mixture of disappointment and anger behind them as he said, “Jesse, I think you better go home now.” Jesse looked between us, my dads’ face and mine, but my dad made no effort to look at Jesse at all

“Uh, yeah, I was just leaving,” Jesse said before he moved past my dad and headed for the door.

“Dad, it was my fault he was here,” I started. “I asked him to stay, I was… having a bad night,” I admitted. I hated telling him this, but I needed him to know that Jesse wasn’t here because we were doing anything he might be worrying about.

His expression softened a bit as he asked cautiously, “What’s going on then?” though he gave no sign that he was through being upset with the current situation.

I didn’t want to tell him, burden him with my sadness, but he didn’t seem like he was going anywhere until I gave him an explanation. It felt wrong to have to tell him that I was missing Mom and I didn’t want to bring up any bad memories for him either. I knew that somewhere inside him a little piece of him was wounded each time I mentioned missing her or that I was having trouble dealing with the sad truth that I was without her. It wasn’t rational or even possible for me to go through the rest of my life never thinking about her or missing the goodnight kisses on my forehead every night as she would fluff my pillow and smooth my blankets.

I knew that he knew I missed her, but I also knew that his pain came from being unable to give me what I wanted… my mom. It wasn’t that he wasn’t enough. In fact we had built a whole family and life since she died, but it was the one thing he could never give me. He could come to every parent teacher conference, school play, baseball game, and snuggle me into bed every night too, but he couldn’t bring her back.

I never wanted for anything, and except for losing my mom, I had a great childhood, a fulfilling relationship with my dad, and plenty of friends. He worked a lot, but he was always there for me and made time for us to be together, and when he wasn’t Linda and Jules were my family too.

“Well, you know how you asked me if Jesse’s parents knew about us?” I reminded him.

“Yeah,” he said waiting to hear my explanation.

“Well, when I drove him home last night he asked me if I was okay with telling them about us, you know, being… together,” I continued as I watched his face for some clue as to what he was thinking but he gave nothing away. It was clear that he really was upset to find Jesse here, realizing that he had been here all night.

He didn’t say anything. Instead he waited to hear what had happened. “I agreed that it would be okay to tell them since we told you, but when we got inside and he was telling his mom, about us, his dad walked in and overheard him say… well, everything.”

“Okay. So what did he say?” my dad asked me, seemingly concerned that maybe Jesse’s dad had said or done something to upset me.

“Well, nothing really, I mean, he didn’t exactly have a chance to say anything because then his mom said that she…,” I hesitated.

“That she?” he pushed, wanting me to just get it out so we could deal with whatever it was.

“…that she wanted to meet my mom,” I said more quietly than I had been speaking before.

“Oh,” was all he offered me as he processed what I had just told him. He tried to hide it, his frown, and he almost did too, except that I was looking for it.

“So, before I could say anything Jesse pulled her aside to explain…, well, why that won’t be happening,” I said, and he frowned a little more. “And next thing you know, she is hugging me,” I finished, as if that explained it all, justified my behavior. In my mind it was that simple. I needed him and he was there for me.

“Okay…, so that sounds like it went okay,” he suggested.

I nodded. “Yeah, it definitely could have been worse,” I admitted.

“So, what’s the problem then?” he asked, still confused as to why I had been so upset.

“Well…, have you ever thought you were okay about something? I mean, until you realize that you’re… not,” I tried to explain. I’m pretty sure that he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about as I watched his face contort into a confused expression that left his forehead wrinkled.

“Okay, back up a minute,” he said trying to regain some control and coherence in the conversation as he moved to sit on the big chair near my desk. “Jesse’s parents are okay with what he told them right?” he asked.

I nodded again. “And, obviously you two are fine,” he added, referring to the fact that I was half dressed and being led to the doorway as Jesse pulled me by the hand when we ran into my dad.

“Yeah,” I admitted, smiling gently. I guess he noticed my smile because he smiled too, even though he was trying not to.

“So, then what’s the problem? How was it a bad night?” He asked, repeating my own words to me, still trying to understand.

“I wanted to tell her,” I admitted. “I wondered what she would say,” I said before I stopped myself. I didn’t want this to become an emotional repeat of the previous night.

He thought for a moment before he realized that I was referring to my mom. “I can see how that would be… tough to deal with.”

“Yeah,” I allowed myself to agree out loud.

“So how come you didn’t come talk to me?” he wanted to know. I knew I could have, but I really wasn’t thinking all that clearly at the time. I probably hurt him by not talking to him, and I had hurt Jesse too.

“Well, I kinda ran out on Jesse,” I told him, looking down. I was still ashamed that I had been so selfish. I realized now though, that part of being a couple meant that you deal with things together, good or bad.

“You ran out on him?” he asked for clarification, though the shock was clearly present in his voice. “Why?”

“I shouldn’t have,” I said, letting him know that I knew that now. “So when I got home and realized what a jerk I was for leaving him standing there when he was only trying to make me feel better, I called him to apologize.”

“Good,” my dad nodded in approval, silently asking me to go on.

“Yeah, except he wouldn’t really say anything, and… I got scared,” I told him.

“Okay, that’s understandable,” he said, “but how does it go from that, to, he’s here in the morning after he was obviously here all night?”

“Well,” I shrugged, “I told him on the phone that I wished I could see him right then.” I was blushing now and my dad noticed and almost tried to hide his smile by biting down on his lips from the inside of his mouth, but it was no use. “So, he said he’d be right over and hung up before I could even say anything, but… to be honest, I really did need to see him and apologize,” I finished.

“Well, I can see why you would want to apologize, in person even, but you should have came and told me what was going on Stephen.”

I was making a habit of nodding. I was staring at the floor now. He was right and I knew it. We had always been able to talk to each other about anything, and we always respected each other enough to say how we felt and listen to one another.

“So, what are we gonna do here? ‘Cause I don’t really have a problem with Jesse staying over here as long as his parents are okay with it, and of course, there is gonna be some rules. We really do need to discuss this more,” he said, and I could tell where this was going. ‘The talk’.

“Well, I’m sorry I didn’t come talk to you. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone, not until I realized what I did to Jess, and then all I could think about was making it right with him,” I said honestly.

“Are you okay now then?” he asked.

“I think I am,” I said, “but I’m gonna skip practice today and go visit Mom’s grave instead.” He looked surprised by this, probably because I never skipped practice, but he didn’t make any objections. “Jesse’s going with me too.”

“Well, that’s… fine,” he said, not really knowing what to say to that. “Let’s just make sure that if you need to talk, that you come to me, okay. I know you care about Jesse a lot, I can see that, but we still need to communicate too.”

There was the nod again. “Thanks Dad. I should get ready for school,” I suggested, hoping we could refrain from having ‘the talk’ right now.

“Alright,” he conceded, “but we’re not finished here. We are going to talk about this some more tonight,” he assured me before he stood up from where he had taken a seat on my big chair.

I was face to face with him now, and he hugged me again, like he had the night before when I told him I was gay, and as much as I really did miss my mom sometimes, I melted into his safe, protective embrace every time.

My dad left for work, reminding me one more time that we weren’t through discussing this, and I showered and got ready for school. I wore a pair of jeans and a gray long-sleeved shirt with a white t-shirt over it that said ‘Lost and Confused’, they’re one of my favorite bands.

I was heading out to find Jules as she was walking in, so she turned around and followed me out again to my truck. She was being awfully quiet, I had noticed, not at all like she normally is, and I decided I would try to find out why.

“Everything okay Jules?” I asked her, implying nothing.

“Uh… yeah,” she answered, not at all believably. I frowned. I knew for sure something was up now.

“Did you and Sean have a fight or something?” I asked, reaching for some sign of why she was being so quiet, although she didn’t look sad, so I didn’t think that was it.

“No,” she said quickly.

“Okay, then what’s up?” I asked. “Something is obviously bugging you,” I pointed out.

She didn’t wait long before changing the subject and said, “So Jesse was pretty cool yesterday. I never knew he was so… sweet,” choosing her words carefully.

She was looking at me, waiting for my response, almost like she was gauging my reaction to her choice of adjectives. She was right though, Jesse really is sweet and I smiled as I thought about him, until I remembered she was watching me and then I suddenly felt like I was the one being questioned instead of her.

“Yeah, he’s a good guy,” I replied calmly, trying my hardest not to admit right then and there that I loved him.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she agreed before adding, “you seem to have spent a lot more time with him than the rest of us, well except Sean, so I guess you’d know.”

I was trying not to panic, she was just making conversation… right? I could feel my cheeks heating and I was hoping that I wasn’t blushing too obviously under her watchful eyes. What was the big deal anyway, two guys could meet and like each other, become friends… it happens all the time.

“I guess I have,” I admitted. “We’ve been studying together and he did that interview for Sean too,” I said trying to justify the amount of time we had been spending together. It occurred to me that she didn’t even really know how much Jesse and I had been together in the past week, but if she did, damn. How would I explain it then?

“I remember,” she said, acknowledging my explanation. “So do you think he’ll eat lunch with us again?”

God I hoped so, but I couldn’t tell if she wanted him around or if she was trying to see how much I did. I had to be careful.

“Maybe,” I shrugged, trying to act indifferent about the whole thing while inside my head was screaming ‘Be careful!’ and ‘Watch out or she’s gonna know!’.

I decided a change of subject was in order for a couple of reasons. I hadn’t spent much time with Jules in the past week and it seemed that she was okay about that since she had Sean to occupy her time. Besides, I was curious too, about what was going on between them.

“So are you ready to admit Sean’s your boyfriend yet?” I asked, hoping to shock her enough to get her to forget that she was looking for clues about Jesse and me. It worked.

Her blush as she turned to look out the window gave it all away. “Did he tell you?” she questioned me finally, like I was a witness to a crime. “He promised me he wouldn’t.”

“No,” I told her. “He hasn’t said a word,” and he hadn’t, that didn’t mean that I didn’t recognize what I saw in his eyes the other day though. I waited for her to say something, to confirm or deny it officially, although I was already quite sure I already knew.

“Then how did you know?” she asked, still avoiding my eyes, not that that was hard to do since I was currently driving into the school parking lot.

Instead of answering her question which would only force me to explain to her about Jesse, I asked her a question in return as I turned off the engine and we sat in the parking space that had my name painted on it. “Why didn’t you tell me? How come you made him promise not to tell something that he has been wanting for… forever?”

She shrugged, almost disappointed in her behavior. “I guess that was a shitty thing to do huh?”

“Well, if it’s any consolation, he still seems really happy to be with you,” I reassured her when I saw the look of regret appear on her face.

“Really?” she asked, looking more for comfort than for reassurance. She knew Sean was happy, he reminded her every chance he got.

“Yep, really,” I said. “Come on, let’s go find your boyfriend,” I teased her as I drug out the last word. She rolled her eyes at me and blushed bright pink before she followed my lead and we headed into school.

I left her as soon as she spotted Sean to find Coach. I headed for his office which is where he usually was before school. Finding him there, seated behind his desk reading the paper, I tapped lightly on the open door before he looked up and said, “What is it Cooper?”

He wasn’t a gruff man, or short tempered, but he was definitely a coach. He was almost always in guy mode, calling everyone by their last names and making comparisons and references to baseball whenever possible. Once he told me, ‘If you’re not happy with the call, don’t overreact, you’ve got to think, use your head. You can’t do anything if you get thrown out of the game’ when he had asked me how the campaign for school president was going and I told him that the other kid running was being underhanded and dishonest, spreading rumors and trying to dig up dirt on me like this was a run for the presidency of the United States, not for JFK High School.

Sitting behind the old metal desk it was hard to tell that he had been coaching baseball longer than I had been alive. It was only when he was walking around the field that you could tell if his bad knee was acting up or not. That same yellow baseball cap he always wore sat atop his head as his eyes met mine, his stray gray hairs hugging his ears.

“Hey Coach,” I nodded. “I wanted to talk to you for a second.”

“What’s going on Son?” he asked setting the paper aside momentarily before he found his coffee mug and raised it to his mouth, swallowing.

“Well, I think I’m gonna miss practice today,” I said, not at all as strongly as I had imagined it in my head.

“You think?” he asked, wanting a clearer statement from me as he leaned forward placing his forearms on the desk, folding his hands.

“Well, yeah. I kind of need to go to my mom’s grave today,” I told him.

He sat back in his chair as he said, “I see.”

I waited for his permission to be absent from practice, seeing as how I had a good reason to miss it when he asked, “When it’s a tie game and bottom of the ninth, bases are loaded and it’s three and two, you’re on third, what do you do?”

“The only thing you can do Coach, run,” I answered him, wondering how his pop quiz on baseball strategy related to my request.

He nodded, “See you tomorrow Cooper.” I guess that meant it was okay, do what you have to, as I retreated from his office to go about my day.

I had already agreed to meet Jesse by my truck when lunch started. I saw him standing there anxiously waiting as I walked up. He looked nervous, but I smiled knowing he was waiting for me.

“Hey,” I said when I got close enough.

He looked around quickly and then said, “Hey baby.”

I was glad he looked first, because anyone watching would have known that the way I grinned and blushed, meant that there was something more than two guys going to have lunch going on here. He laughed, knowing the whole time how I would react to hearing him say that.

“Get in,” I demanded as I unlocked the doors, rolling my eyes at the way he was almost gloating.

We drove to the cemetery where my mom was buried. It was about a half an hour away so we had some time to talk. I told him about Jules and Sean and that she had finally admitted they were together. He asked about practice and I told him that I had talked to Coach and we laughed for the next five minutes as I repeated what he had said to me.

Finally when our stomachs hurt from laughing so hard and we had released some of the nervous tension that had built up knowing that we were about to do something very personal and meaningful he said, “ You look really good today.”

I groaned as I started to giggle again but then I asked him, “I do? I just wore my regular clothes.”

“Well, I like it,” he said adamantly. “Besides, L.A.C. is a cool band.”

I smiled big. I liked learning new things about him all the time, even if they were simple little things like what bands he liked or that he hated peanuts but liked peanut butter.

“I wore it because L.A.C. are my mom’s initials, Laura Ann Cooper. I figured it was appropriate since we were coming here today,” I admitted trying not to sound too sappy. Besides the shirt sleeve had the initials L-A-C on it creating something that looked almost like an armband as it circled all the way around my arm and I liked it.

The way he was looking at me like I had just said the sweetest thing ever made me wonder who he was listening to since I didn’t think I had said anything particularly cute, but I suddenly didn’t care so much anymore when he slid closer to me and I felt his fingers slide against mine as his head landed on my shoulder. The comfort that seemed to echo through my body from the simple contact he had just made reminded me that this was right.

It seemed like Jesse was trying to ease his own discomfort with the whole situation at the same time. I realized this might be strange for him if he had never been to a cemetery before or if he hadn’t ever lost someone close to him, understanding what I was feeling would be difficult for him.

“Have you ever been here before?” I asked him as we drove through the tall, black, iron gate that helped the high, stone walls enclose the cemetery. The guard at the gate waved as we drove past slowly before I navigated through the small roads from memory.

“Nope,” he answered simply as he watched me finally pull over and park along side a small grassy hill topped with an elm tree. The tree wasn’t very big yet since it had been planted the day we buried my mom, but it had grown steadily over the past ten years.

“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” I asked him sincerely, offering him one last opportunity to back out if he wanted it.

“I’m sure, I’m going to be right beside you,” he offered.

I reached back and pulled my backpack over the seat and into my lap, opening it mostly out of instinct, as I pulled out a medium sized, leather bound book. I set the book down on the seat next to me as I returned my back pack to its’ usual place in the back seat. I know Jesse was wondering what was in the book as his eyes scanned the cover for some indication of its’ contents, a title or something, but there was no clues to be found but a plain black, textured cover trimmed in simple silver design.

“I don’t want you to go Mom,” I told her indignantly.

“I know sweetie,” she said, “but I have to. It’s just for a couple weeks and then I’ll be back home with you and Daddy again.” I didn’t call him Daddy anymore, at eight years old it was much cooler to call him Dad, especially when all the other kids would laugh if I did. Boys can be… dumb.

“But I’m gonna miss you lots,” I whined.

“I know, because I’m going to be missing you the whole time too,” she comforted.

I didn’t want her to go, to leave me. I know it’s selfish of me, but she’s my mom. We had already talked about this, a lot, and I knew she was doing a good thing, but that didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to her.

“You will?” I questioned her. “Do you promise?”

“I promise I will be thinking of nothing else until I get back home,” she vowed.

She was going to stay with my aunt and uncle since my Aunt Sandra just had a baby, my baby cousin. The baby was a girl. I wanted a boy cousin to play with, to teach stuff to, since I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, but it was a girl, Lauren. They named her after my mom. So my mom was on her way to spend two weeks with them and I’d be without her.

Linda and Jules had come over to stay with me while Dad drove her to the airport. I didn’t want to cry about it, but I couldn’t help it. It was the first time I would go more than a day without seeing my mom, feeling her soft lips as they placed gentle kisses on my forehead or how her fingers would constantly be running through my hair as I leaned back against her when she would talk for what seemed like forever to somebody we ran into in the grocery store.

“But what if I need to tell you something and you’re not here?” I cried, not at all concerned if anyone saw me or not.

She thought for a moment and then without hesitation walked over to the dark, wooden desk along the wall of our living room and pulled out a black leather book and said, “Come here Stephen.”

I did as I was told and ran over to where she was stooped down so she could look directly into my eyes. “I just bought this, but I think I’ll give it to you to use, and when I get back I’ll get another one for me,” she decided.

“What is it?” I asked since it didn’t look at all like any of the books I was getting pretty good at reading. In fact, when I opened it, there weren’t even any words in it or pictures.

“Well, it’s a journal,” she informed me. When I looked at her with confusion in my eyes, she continued, “You can use it to write down your thoughts. Whatever it is you want to tell me, write it down so you won’t forget, and when I get home we can sit down and you can tell me all about everything I missed, okay?”

I nodded as I held the book close to my chest. “Anything I want?” I asked her.

“Anything and everything, okay? I don’t want to miss anything,” she said as she informed me of my responsibility to keep her informed.

“Okay,” I acknowledged as my tears continued to roll down my cheeks.

With a tight hug and a kiss to my cheek, she was gone. “I love you,” she said as she walked out the door.

My hand rubbed slowly and gently across the textured cover of the book when Jesse’s hand landed on top of mine bringing me back to the present time as we sat in my truck just a few feet away from my mom’s grave.

“Sorry,” I said absent mindedly as I was remembering the day she gave me this book. “I guess I sort of spaced out there for a minute huh?”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “What were you thinking about?”

“The day my mom left,” I answered simply.

“Left?” he asked. I nodded. “I guess I’m embarrassed to admit this, but, I really don’t know what happened to your mom.”

I realized that we had never really talked about this. It had always hung there in the air around us, affecting certain situations or emotions, but he had never asked any questions and I had never offered any explanations. Maybe he had been afraid to bring up something so personal, something that obviously still caused me pain, so soon, but I wanted him to know. Besides, as new as this whole relationship was for both of us, I knew how I felt already and it was only a matter of time until he would know too.

“Do you want to know what happened?” I offered.

“Of course! I mean, if you’re okay with telling me,” he said sheepishly, realizing he sounded a bit too eager at the beginning.

I opened the door and got out of my truck and he took that as his cue to follow me. I waited for him to come around to where I was waiting for him at the front of the truck and when he got there I held out my hand for him to take as we walked up the small hill; me holding my black book, and him, holding my hand.

We got to the top of the small hill and stopped and looked down at the dark metal framed in a cement placard. I stooped down placing the book on the grass next to me and he followed me, bending down, since I hadn’t let go of his hand yet, as I traced the outline of my mom’s name with my finger like I always do. I sat down and he sat next to me, shoulder to shoulder, as I placed both of our still intertwined hands in my lap.

“So, my aunt and uncle live in New York,” I began explaining what had caused the biggest upset, the largest loss in my whole life so far, “and they had a baby, my cousin. They named her Lauren, after my mom. My mom and my Aunt Sandra were really close and so my mom was going to spend a couple weeks there helping with the new baby and visiting. She had a great visit and loved seeing the baby, all cute and dressed up like little girls always are, and she shopped in the city. The morning she was supposed to fly home, there was an accident.”

I looked over at him for the first time since I had started telling my story to find his eyes locked intently on mine waiting to hear more. I had told this story before, and usually when I did I was on auto pilot, I repeated the same words in the same order and received the same questions every time. This time though, he wanted to know not just out of want, but out of need; a need to understand me better, to connect with me, to protect me. Maybe eventually… to heal me.

“My Uncle Jim took her to the airport. Her flight was early and my aunt and the baby stayed home. He had parked the car and they were walking to the terminal. She stepped off the curb in the crosswalk and some person, who wasn’t paying attention, didn’t see her and couldn’t stop in time and… hit her.”

He was squeezing my hand now, tighter than before, as he tried to convey his own despair with the situation, realizing that it was nothing compared to mine and still it was almost too much to hear. I tried to offer him a small smile, to let him know I was okay, or at least trying to be, but I don’t think it helped.

“Someone called the paramedics, and they worked on her for a while and then when they thought she was as stable as they were gonna get her, they put her in the ambulance to take her to the hospital,” I paused before quietly adding, “she never made it to the hospital… she died on the way.”

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