Note to readers: Dan Kincaid, the author of It Started With Brian, died in late October of cancer. He was in his early thirties. Several months ago, when Dan decided he needed to discontinue work on this story to spend the remainder of his time focusing on family and friends, I volunteered to help him finish it. Dan had written out story notes through the end, and from Chapter 12 on, he handed over the writing responsibilities to me.

It was important to Dan that this story get told because, the Disclaimer at the beginning notwithstanding, this story is not fiction; it is his autobiography. I wish like everything that I could have finished it in time for him to see the whole thing, but in any case, he trusted me to finish out the story for him and I was honored by his willingness to put the project into my hands.

I want to dedicate this chapter and the remainder of the story to Dan and to his partner. I love you, buddy, and miss you like crazy. Rest in peace, my friend.

--Adam Phillips

Chapter 19

As insane as my life was during this time, my two bachelor's degrees had been relatively easy.  Because of that, I was unprepared for the experience I was having on my Master's project. To say that it was an exercise in frustration would be like calling the Pacific Ocean a reasonably impressive body of water. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. It was a first for me, academically, and I wasn't enjoying it at all. I was still working in Walt's lab, though, and he was helpful in encouraging me. In any case I was toying with staying in his lab and just going direct to my Ph.D. work, so I wasn't too worried.

Walt had turned out to be not just a guiding professor and an advisor; he was a friend and a confidant. All the way back to the first year in his lab, I'd told him everything about myself. Well, almost everything. I'd wanted to spare him the gory details of my sexuality and of my disastrous relationship with Neal.  But owing to the fact that I'd finally gotten comfortable with my sexuality on the inside, that state of affairs wasn't to hold.

One Friday afternoon back during the first year of my undergraduate study with Walt, I'd heard from Diane back home, the girl who'd dated Bryan, the guy with the same name as my old buddy from high school. Diane was going to be passing through town and she wanted us to get together. I was working out the details of my schedule with Walt and telling him about Diane's upcoming visit. He'd been looking over my work as I was talking to him, and I wasn't entirely sure he was even hearing what I was saying to him, when he looked up at me and asked, casually, "How do you know Diane?"

Without even thinking, I replied, "We had a mutual ex-boyfriend."

Then it hit me, what I'd just said. A lightning bolt of anxiety ripped through me.

I looked up at Walt, afraid of what I'd see in his face.

Without even looking up from my project, he said, "Oh, I didn't know you had an ex-boyfriend," in about the tone of voice he'd have used if he'd just said that he didn't know I wore size 8 shoes.

When I didn't respond, he finally looked up, looked into my eyes, and smiled faintly.

And that's all there was to it. He didn't even seem surprised. And, just like that, thanks to my idiot mouth, Walt knew everything about me.

He might have already known; Neal's cycles of havoc-wreaking at the University drew attention to him, and so that they could come to an understanding of what he was up to, I had to see to it that some of the authorities knew that I'd had a prior relationship with him. I never made explicit what kind of relationship it was; I hoped that people assumed that it was just a friendship gone bad. In hindsight, though, I realize that most, if not all, of the people in the know had to realize that psycho behavior like that doesn't happen between two people who were "just friends." So I'm quite sure that at least some people at the university knew what was up with me. But if Walt knew, he didn't say anything about it. And in the weeks that went by, he did his best to communicate to me--without words--that it made absolutely no difference to him. That went a long way in making me feel entirely comfortable.

* * * * * * * * *

One morning during the spring of my first graduate year, while I was trying to wrestle my Master's project into submission, Walt and some other guy walked into the lab.

They came up to me and Walt said, "Samuel, this is Jonah; he's been hired to manage computers for the department. I chaired the hiring committee, so I'm going around introducing him to our brightest and best." I reached out to shake Jonah's hand. Damn, he was good-looking. Sneaking a gaze into his blue eyes, I smiled and said, "I'm Sam. Nice to meet you."

I hoped my grip would be manly enough. Jonah grabbed my hand with his, shook it, smiled back at me, and said, "Back atcha."

This is about the place, when I'm meeting someone, where I get tongue-tied and start talking like an idiot. Before that had a chance to happen, though, I heard Walt say, "Okay, we have to make tracks." He escorted Jonah out the door and that was the end of that. Dazed, I went back to my work.

The next day, I was having lunch at the student center when Walt and Jonah came walking up to my table.

"Hey, guys," I said, standing up to greet them. "Wanna grab some lunch with me?"

"We just finished," said Walt. "Samuel, this is Jonah," he said, motioning his head in Jonah's direction.  "He's just been hired to manage our computers."

I looked at him, puzzled.

"I know, Walt," I said. "I met him yesterday, remember?"

"Yes, I guess you did," he said. "I just wanted to make sure you two met."

I looked up at him again; my face must have registered complete confusion. In response, Walt flashed just the hint of a cat-who-ate-the-canary smile. And it was hard to miss the twinkle in his eyes.

"Uhh...okay," I said. I reached out for Jonah's hand and shook it for the second time. "Well...uhh...nice meet you," I said. As they walked away, I shook my head. Walt must be work
ing too hard, I thought. He's losing it.

In the long run, the incident would probably never have registered with me. But the next day I caught Walt and Jonah standing just outside the science building, deep in conversation. I walked up and said, "Hi, guys, what's up?"

Walt smiled at me, patted me on the shoulder, and said, "Sam, this is Jonah. He's been newly hired to work with our computers."

I know my mouth must have fallen open, and my face must have been a mask of total confusion, but none of that even registered with Walt.

I looked at Jonah in bewilderment. He grinned, shrugged his shoulders in a whattya-gonna-do gesture, and extended his hand to mine. As we shook, he laughed and said, "Nice to meet you, Sam....again." By now I was thoroughly thrown, but as I looked back at Walt, it struck me that his smile was a little bit bigger than it had been the day before; his eyes flashed even more mischief than they had the day before; and it didn't escape my notice that he had practically pushed Jonah into my personal space this time when he was making the introductions...the third set of introductions.

When the same thing happened the very next day for the fourth time, I came to the conclusion that Walt was playing some abstract joke on me that I was too lame to pick up. This time Jonah looked genuinely uncomfortable. After just happening to run into me again while he was in Jonah's company, Walt started into his lame routine again, and this time, Jonah was actually blushing and squirming. I was clueless as to what Walt was doing, but I decided I could dish it out, too, so this time, I played it serious--and dumb--and simply held out my hand to Jonah as if I'd never seen him before. We shook hands and I thanked Walt for the introduction. That seemed to throw Walt a little bit, which I enjoyed immensely.

Twice more that week Walt went through this ridiculous farce, and he repeated the idiocy for the next three weeks.
I would have thought he was going senile at first if I hadn't known better. I never considered the idea that he was trying to hook us up. I mean, the technique was just too lame for it even to have occurred to me. And anyway, dating was so far out of my mind during those days that it wasn't even a theoretical possibility. But I was too self-conscious even to ask Walt what the hell was going on. I figured that whatever it was, if I asked, it would end up embarrassing me, and I didn't want to be the butt of a joke, even a friendly one.

It was a good thing figuring things out hadn't been entirely up to me.

I had Chris with me one day because his preschool was closed and his sitter was sick. It wasn't a fun time for Chris. Imagine taking a little kid to a day full of college lectures and labs. I had already made him sit through one three-hour lab that I was teaching. He had behaved perfectly, but his patience was wearing thin. After the bell rang, the two of us walked back to his office, and Chris started making noises about wanting to go home. I sat him down in the faculty lounge and tried to explain that I needed to be there a while longer.

"I know it's boring, Chris," I said, "but I don't have anyone else to watch you today." I opened his lunchbox full of plastic dinosaurs and said, "During the next class, why don't you set up your dinosaurs and play?" Chris shook his head and said, "I don't wanna play here, I wanna go home." His voice at that time grew more insistent, and it was becoming clear to me that I was about to have a rebellion on my hands.

Just when things looked like they were headed for a major battle of wills, Jonah came over to where we were sitting, crouched down, and said, "Wow, I like those dinosaurs. My name's Jonah; what's yours?"

Chris looked up at him; his little brow wrinkled. He seemed to be sizing Jonah up. Gradually the scowl on his face morphed into a tentative smile, as he answered, "Chris."

"Nice to meet you, Chris. Hey, do you and your dad wanna get some lunch with me? You can show me all your dinosaurs and tell me about each one."

Chris nodded his head, smiling big. He closed the "dinosaur bus," stood up, and said, "Where are we eating?"

I mouthed a silent "thank you" to Jonah, and we walked toward the student center.

Jonah spent his entire lunch hour playing dinosaurs with Chris, who was so impressed with this new friend that he completely forgot how miserable he'd been. As we were headed back to the science building, Jonah said, "Hey, why don't you let Chris hang out with me while you teach your next class?"

I looked at him. "Are you sure?"

"Absolutely," he said. We'd reached the doors to the science building. He pulled open a door, motioned us through, and said, "You can get back with us at the faculty lounge when class is over, Sam. I'll show Chris all the computers, and we'll play dinosaurs and have a great time; right, Chris?"

Chris grinned and said, "Right! Go teach." He waved at me, then proceeded to ignore me and turned his attention to Jonah. I was grateful beyond words. 

I had some late night work I needed to do the next night. After Chris went to sleep, I left him with a sitter and went to school.

I was running samples for my research project, concentrating on data and tuning out the world, when I heard a voice at the door. "Are you all work and no play?"

It was Jonah.

His smile lit up the room. Something in me felt a little weak. I stayed in character, though. "Look who's talking," I said. "It's a little after hours for you too, isn't it?"

"Well, yeah, but see, I'm a nerd. So my work is my play."

"Well, that's my excuse too," I said. "So if you promise not to call me on that lie, I promise not to call you on yours."

He laughed and said, "Deal."

He talked to me for hours while I ran samples. Our rapport was fast, deep, and genuine. I finally finished around midnight; with a final sigh, I said, "Well, that's the end of it; see you tomorrow, I guess."

"Yup," he said, as he turned to leave. He got as far as the door, and turned back. "Hey--what if we go get some coffee and stuff at Denny's?"

* * * * * * * * *

We talked at Denny's until they closed at 2 a.m.  I had a great time talking to him. It felt so good to have someone my age that I could talk to. My only social conversation partner these days was my son, and while I loved him madly, I had been craving some social time with a grownup. I had friends in the program, but we didn't really have time to socialize together, and in a way, the fact that we were all in the same field made me think of work, and not socializing.

It was different with Jonah. He wasn't a part of that whole "biology grad student" atmosphere. We talked about all kinds of other things. The time sped by without even registering. I was shocked when they started closing the place down.

We were wrapped up in conversation as he walked to my car with me. As we began to wind things down, I opened my door and turned to him to say goodnight.

Out of nowhere, he stepped into my space, leaned in, and kissed me. 

Damn, did he ever kiss me. 

My mind went completely blank.  When I finally recovered, I pulled him into me and kissed him back.

We stood there in the parking lot kissing for a full thirty minutes. The staff at Denny's had finished cleaning up and turned out the parking lot lights by the time we came up for air. 

I looked into his eyes, completely blown away. He looked at me as if he was waiting for a response, a report, an assessment, something.

I said, "Wow."

Yeah, I know. Very eloquent.

He gave me another quick kiss and left me standing next to my car with my jaw on the ground.

My brain didn't re-engage until I was most of the way home.  I was totally shocked and completely befuddled, but, oh man, had it felt good. I realized then that I had been attracted to him--intensely so--since our first introduction. Jonah had dark brown hair and blue eyes. I'd always liked that combination. He had a medium build and wasn't particularly athletic-looking like Brian was, but he looked just fine to me. And in any case I was about as sexually frustrated by then as I could be without going stark raving nuts. It had been a long, long time since I'd been with any sexual partner besides my hand. The last time I'd had any physical contact like that was with Erica, not long after Christopher had been conceived. 

There was something else, though. It wasn't just about the physical desire. I had spent considerable time in conversation with Jonah already, getting to know a guy I thought would be a good friend. He was smart and funny and easy to be around, plus he not only loved kids, he got along great with my kid.
Up until the moment he kissed me, I had no inkling that Jonah even liked guys. And as attracted to him as I was, I'd already had my fill of the heartbreak that comes with falling for straight guys, so I'd never even entertained the idea of more than friendship with Jonah.

And now, here I was, new friends with a guy that it actually seemed safe to lust after. After everything that had gone down in my life over the last few years, that blew me away.

* * * * * * *

Jonah came to my apartment the next night, and that's when Life decided to see if he'd hang or if he'd bail.

When he first stepped through the door, my dog Jake ran up to him and jumped on him. Caught off-guard, and off balance, Jonah fell backwards and landed with his back on the floor, his elbows propping him up a little. Jake then proceeded to climb on him and lick him all over the face. In the chaos, I'd noticed that he'd brought me some flowers. They hit the ground and I snatched them up before Jake trampled them.

I ran and grabbed a vase, put some water in, placed the flowers in the vase, and set it down on the kitchen table. Then I chased Jake away with a yell, and apologized profusely to Josh.

He stood up, shook himself off. "No problem," he laughed. "Although I was kinda hoping for that response from you."

I felt myself blush furiously, and looked around to see if Chris had heard. He hadn't; but the commotion had caused him to look away from the TV and turn in our direction. When he saw who'd come by, his little face lit up. "Jonah!" he cried with delight.

Jonah made his way to the couch and sat down. Christopher jumped in his lap, grinning from ear to ear. "Good to see again, buddy," he said. "You got more dinosaurs to show me tonight?"

I rolled my eyes. "Please," I said. "Don't encourage him."

"Fuhgeddaboutit," he said with a smile.  "I was an old dinosaur man myself back in the day."

I heard some noise at the table, turned to look, and noticed that Mister and Snowball, my two cats, were eating the flowers. Horrified, I ran to the table, waving my arms frantically to chase them away. Mister, the perennially clumsy cat of the two, knocked the vase over in his escape from Crazy Bisexual Guy On A Date. It fell to the floor and broke into three pieces.

At the sound of the breaking glass, I looked over at Jonah, half-expecting him to have one foot out the door.

He was laughing hysterically.  "Wow, Sam, you didn't tell me that life at your place was such a party."

I felt my face flush again. "Jonah, I'm sorry, man, that was so thoughtful of you to bring those. I can't believe my retarded cats sometimes."

"Nah, it's what I get," he said. "Flowers are too girly anyway. I was just nervous and wanted to make a good impression.'

"Well, you did just fine," I said, frowning. "But this is pretty much par for the course for me."

"Hey, I'm good with it," he replied with a grin. "It sets the bar lower for me, and trust me, once you get to know me better, you'll realize that bar needs to be pretty low."

He paused for a moment, then grinned and winked. "And anyway," he added, "the vase was cheap."

* * * * * * * * *

The hours flew by, and Jonah was everything I could have asked for. Christopher used him as a jungle gym all night; both cats found their way to his lap, and my dog came around regularly to paw at him.

Everything in the house with a pulse seemed to have an instant chemistry with him, including me. My initial positive feelings about Jonah grew even stronger that night; we talked as if we'd known each other all our lives. He even sat with me while I read Chris his bedtime story.

After Chris was down for the evening, we sat on the couch and watched TV for a while. Well, he watched TV. I was watching him. And wanting to kiss him. It was driving me crazy

We were talking and laughing through an old Bill Cosby rerun; I was trying to keep my head in the game, but I kept thinking about how his lips felt on mine the night before. He turned to me to make a comment about the show, and as he did, he put his hands on my shoulders and pulled me toward him.

He looked at me, smiled, and brought his lips to mine.

We kissed, sitting there on the couch for about ten minutes. Then he leaned back until he was lying on his back on the couch, and pulled me on top of him.

We made out for a good fifteen minutes like that.  The liquid electricity of our tongues dancing together had me amped up as I hadn't been in years. My dick was steel, and involuntarily I began rubbing it against his. He moaned and put his hands on my jeans-covered ass, pulling me hard into him.

For once I wasn't flashing back to Neal. For once I was headed down this path full-throttle.

And that wasn't a good thing.

He began to unbutton his shirt underneath me. I knew he wanted more. I knew I did too. And I knew I couldn't go there yet.

I pushed myself off him and stood up. At first, all I could say was, "Wow."

He looked at me quizzically and sat up. I sat down on the couch next to him and said, "I know you really want this."

"Yeah," he said. "I do. Don't you?"

"Yeah, I do," I said. "But we have to talk about some things."

"What kind of things?"

I took a deep breath. It sucked that that bastard Neal had to hound and haunt me even into future relationships.

"I need to tell you about something from my past," I said.

I looked into his eyes, hoping for some sign of reassurance. He put a hand on my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek. "Okay," he said, smiling, and rubbing my shoulder. "I got all night."

* * * * * * * * *

I didn't tell him about my abuse history, but I told him that I had a psycho stalker ex-boyfriend who hadn't been around in a year but who could appear out of nowhere any time and plunge us both into an insane and unpleasant ride.

I told him about my utter commitment to my son and how anything resembling an intimate relationship between me and someone else, no matter how casual or serious, would have to account for that, be shaped by it.

And as a potential deal-breaker, I told him about my allergy to latex, and I told him that in light of that, things were going to be pretty tame until we were both tested for everything under the sun, repeatedly. I also told him that after all that, I'd need a mutual agreement for us to be monogamous. I couldn't allow someone into my son's life who didn't take things seriously.

After I'd finished my dick-wilting spiel, I expected him to make some excuse, remember that he had some last-minute work he had to get done before tomorrow's deadline, or just say, "Wow, you got issues, I'm out of here."

He wrinkled his brow and frowned, and I waited for the next shoe to drop.

After a silence so uncomfortable it made my skin crawl--during which he stared nonstop into my eyes--he spoke:

"Tell me where I can go to get tested."

I was completely unprepared for that response, and my face must have shown it. He laughed, and pulled me into him.  "If that's the worst you got," he said, "I'm in."

He began kissing me again. The warm insistence of his tongue dancing against mine pushed past the layers of emotional protection I'd laid down for myself, and my dick went steel again. He'd been letting his hands wander all over me, always inching closer to my erection, but always respectful, always careful.

Finally he let his hand graze over my fabric-covered package. I jumped, and felt my whole body jolt with desire.

He backed off, smiled a little, and said, "That okay?"

"Uh...yeah," I sputtered. Tentatively, I put my hand on his crotch and began returning the favor.

After a while, all that clothing between us was irritating. Frustrating. Maddening, actually. Finally, he looked at me and loosened his belt. He undid the fly, then let his slacks fall down around his ankles.  He stepped out of them and let them lie there on the floor.

"We'll limit it to just-hands," he said. He lifted my shirt off over my head, folded it, and put it on the couch. Then he removed his, and put it on top of mine.

I stood up and said, "Be right back." I went to the bathroom, grabbed a bottle of lube, and came back. "Uh...I...we might need...I mean...see, this bottle is..."

"Yeah, I get it," he said, grinning. I felt like a total dork. He took the lube from me and sat it on the end table. Where the hell was I when they handed out the playbook on how to be smooth sexually?

He suppressed his grin, knelt down and took my shoes and socks off.  Undoing my belt, he opened the fly, and slid the slacks down around my ankles. Then, as I stepped out of them, he tossed them aside. He stood back up, faced me, and slowly, sensuously, seductively, lowered his boxers. Clearly he'd gotten the playbook.

My mind wasn't fully there anymore. Thankfully, it wasn't in some bad place; but I'm not sure any intelligent thought was going on in my head at this point.

He sat down beside me and massaged me through my boxers; our breathing got heavy and ragged.

After a while I pulled away, stood up, and slipped my boxers off. My dick was at full attention, and he watched as it came into view. After a few seconds, his eyes grew wide.

"You're uncut," he said.

"Yeah," I said, feeling myself blush for the third time that night. "That okay?"

"Okay? It's beautiful," he said. My face got even hotter; I felt like a heat lamp. A horny one.

He reached a finger out and slowly began to run it up and down the length of my cock. I took in a sharp breath of air when I felt him touching me, and reached over to touch him there too. He was already sticky with precum, I noticed. With my free hand, I grabbed the lube from the end table, squeezed some on his dick and my hand, and began working him. He moaned and collapsed back against the back of the couch.

We went at it like that for a minute or so.  The only realities that registered with me were his deep breathing, the velvet insistence of his cock, and the smooth, wet feel of my hand traveling up and down on it.

After a while, he sat up and said, "Lemme have the lube."  I replied, "You don't need so much with me."

He looked at me, puzzled. "Huh?" Then his eyes widened, and I could tell he got it. "Oh, yeah, you can just use your skin..."

"Yeah," I muttered, my eyes not meeting his. He grabbed my dick, and I put my hand back on his, and we began masturbating each other together.

It was the hottest thing that had happened to me in ages. And it was pain-free. There were no painful flashbacks; no ghosts.

Well, almost no ghosts. Occasionally, against my will, an image of Brian, naked and smiling, like I'd seen him that day at the canyon when I'd first seen him naked, would flash through my brain as I was giving myself over to the sensations. This happened a couple of times. When it did, I'd sigh and try to focus on the man who had me in his hands. It worked, by and large.

It was over all too soon. He got me to come, violently, because I'd been pent-up sexually for a while, and hadn't even jacked off in over a week. When I shot off I covered his hand in goo, which embarrassed me a little. Then I concentrated on giving him a happy ending. As his breathing got faster, I increased the speed of my pumps on his dick, until finally he went rigid and fired off about five shots. The first one hit him on the lips and the second on the chin. I was astounded.

After he'd shot the last volley, he laughed and blew a jet of air to clear the gunk off his lips, then wiped them with a hand. "Look what you made me do," he said. "I haven't shot like that in forever."

I cringed. Talking about sex explicitly made my Inner Shy Guy come raging to the forefront. But I smiled, too. Could it be that I was finally leaving the bad stuff behind and moving on to another, better place? It was the end of March; I began to hope that the coming spring would bring me a rebirth of sorts.

As best as I can tell, there are about five more chapters coming. I don't know exactly, because I'm working from notes that don't cleanly divide the narrative into chapters.

I know many of you might be saddened at the news of Dan's passing. I could never replace Dan, but if you'd like to contact me , you can do so at

--Adam Phillips