On Belay, Pt. 2

Disclaimer: Adult male-to-male sexual contact. If you are offended by such things, what are you doing here? If it's illegal where you live, vote until that changes.

email V10climber1@yahoo.com, if you like.

The next morning I woke and made coffee after a fitful sleep and as soon as I got the camp stove going, I heard Evan unzip his sleeping bag. I wasn't sure how we were going to handle things after last night's confessions and intimacy, so I let him get up without comment, and busied myself with breakfast things. But then I felt his hand on my shoulder and his kiss at the back of my neck.

"Good morning, babe," he said. It felt so good, both the touch and the endearment, I stopped what I was doing and leaned back against his solid chest. His arms came up to wrap around me and we rocked together for a moment.

"Good morning," I said. "Last night was amazing. I love you. I don't know what the hell happens now, but I love you."

He turned me around and we held each other.

"I love you, too, Mickey," he whispered into my ear. "I love you so much. I have loved you for so long. Whatever you have to do, I love you. Okay?"

We held each other another long moment as the sun turned the cliffs above us to brilliant orange. Then I handed him a cup of coffee.

"I guess we should break camp," I said. "I wish we could stay."

"Last night was hard enough," he said. "We'd never get through another."

I remembered him, golden and naked in the firelight, hand on his cock, remembered how he came for me, and it dissolved me inside.

"No, we would not," I said. For an awful moment, I hated my home, my wife, my family, the entire life I'd so carefully built and all the innocent victims therein. It had been a Mecca. Now it was Alcatraz. We started packing up as Hamlet raced up and down the river bank. Before we went, there were some things I wanted to know.

"Evan, when did you start thinking of me like this?" I asked.

"When I shook your hand hello," he said, smiling. "I don't think you know how hot you are. I thought you were straight, so I tried not to think about it, but by the end of the night, I was a goner. You were so interested in everything, me, what I was studying, hell, I gave you most of a dissertation on the influence of Islamic Sufism on the poetry of sixth-century mystic Christians and you acted like it was ESPN. And you were so un-phased when I said I was gay. And when you told me about how you'd gotten strung out and then sober and built this whole life and career for yourself, I was so impressed. And I was stoked you'd been where I've been. You looked so clean cut, but you could understand my dreads and politics and everything, it was amazing. I went home that night thinking that I'd finally met someone I thought I could be with. If only you were gay. And free. And every time I saw you after that, I was blown away how excited you are about everything. It's like you wake up every day in a whole new world and you're eager to get out and see it all by sundown. I love being around that. You make me see my whole world afresh, and when I see it through your eyes, it's a beautiful place. I've watched you climb and every time you hit the routes, you're better than you were the day before. You never stop growing, thinking, learning, listening. You are more alive than anyone I know. Every time I said good night to you, I could not wait until the next time we talked. The time apart seemed like wasted time, you know?"

"No one has ever said anything like that to me before," I said, stunned at the extent to which he knew me, had observed me. "Evan, I started thinking of you like that the first time we shook hands, too. It freaked me out. I'd never been so strongly attracted to anyone right out of the gate. And you were so generous. You said the nicest things and you actually meant them. You had the warmest, biggest heart I ever encountered. Everyone at the gym love you. Everyoone who I meet who knows you, the first thing they say is, 'Oh, Evan, he's such a nice guy.' And your body, My God! I would have bought tickets to watch you climb. Your dreads, tattoos, I nearly died of it. When you said you were gay I actually got scared. I knew if I said I'd gone there, too, it would be on between us in a matter of days. And I'd fuck a lot of good people over. But every time we go together it would get worse. You'd leave a five-dollar tip for a barista on a four-dollar drink without even thinking about it. You are so good to people, you and those Subway cards you give panhandlers. Your Greenpeace bumper sticker and your volunteering at the Needle Exchange. You walk your talk. And you are brilliant. I hear you talk poetry and it's poetry of itself. I would be so proud to be with you, to be yours. Just being your friend makes me proud. But you have grown so beautiful in my eyes it's like a drug. Seeing you climb with just shorts on all summer, you made me so crazy, I'd belay you up Gibralter just to watch you climb. And then last night..."

We jammed our sleeping bags into stuff sacks, the sun already hot on our backs.

"I know," he said. "Well, we got this far. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be, but we have to do this right. You need to find your way through your life with honor. I respect that. I have to do the same."

We loaded up the car.

"Once we get in the car, I'm gong to be a married man going home to his wife," I said. "I have a lot of thinking to do and a lot of people to consider. I don't know if I'll see you again. I honestly don't know."

His head dropped and I could see that had hurt badly, but it had to be said.

"Before I get in that car, though, I am going to take one minute of my own, just to be your boyfriend," I said. "I want to feel what that would be."

He slammed the door without a word and came around the hood. He crowded me against the passenger door and took my face in his hands and kissed me and put his whole soul into it and I knew how the sun feels when it rises in the morning and lights up the whole world, explosive, radiant. I put everything I had into kissing him back. We tightened our embrace until we could get no closer, he ground against me. I moaned without reserve and my mouth was full of his tongue. I felt his strong hands on my shoulders, pulling me close, and I felt the ripple of muscle in his back, hard under my palms. I loved him totally. He broke free of my mouth, kissed my eyes, nose, the side of my face.

"This is what it would be," he said. "This and so much more. I'd take care of you when you needed it. I'd love you with everything I had. I'd make your body feel better than it's ever felt before. We'd go out to eat together and read the news together and fold laundry together and climb all over the world together and fall asleep together, naked and out of breath because it had been so good. I'd tell you I loved you every day. That is what it would be."

He pulled my head to his chest and kissed the top of my head and petted the side of my face and when I finally looked up there were tear tracks under both his eyes but all he did was kiss me hard one last time and step back.

I felt like I was dying, getting in the car, and we rode home for 17 long hours. At first we were silent, and then I said I'd have to tell Jenn the truth and let her choose what she wanted to do. Evan agreed it was the right thing to do. We talked about whether we should continue to hang out and we agreed that it was best we didn't until Jenn had come to a decision. It wouldn't be cool, and we weren't the type to sneak. The idea that we wouldn't see other for a while after months of nearly daily contact was so painful I bent my rule and took his hand and we traveled 100 miles like that until he fell asleep. I drove up through Idaho and in Spokane he woke up and took over and I slept clear through to Seattle and arriving at my home in Maple Leaf was like showing up at my own execution. We unloaded me without a word.

"If you don't hear from me by next week, she wants to save the marriage," I said. "Either way, I'll love you the rest of my life."

"You too," he said, and I could tell he couldn't say anymore, he just shot me one last look with tears in his eyes and ducked into the driver's seat and I watched his tail lights disappear around the corner in the dawn.

Jenn was just getting up for work when I opened the door.

"You're home early," she said. Her big dark eyes took in my face. "Uh oh, is everything okay?"

"No," I said. "I'll tell you about it later."

"Did you guys have a falling out?"

"We won't be hanging out," I said. "I'll tell you about it later. I'm going to lay down."

Her concerned eyes followed me.

"I'll make some extra eggs," she said. "There's coffee when you want."

"Thanks, sweetie," I said. I felt like the lowest of slinking dogs. I went in and picked up Jacob and hugged his little body.

"Dad?" he said in the croaky voice of a sleepy five year old boy, and his arms tightened around my neck. "I missed you."

"I love you kiddo," I said. "I'm home."

"Dad, we went to the zoo," he said. "I got to see the iguanas. And a bear. He was big."

"Lucky boy," I said. I couldn't leave him. Jenn came and got him and I went and laid down until I heard her leave, and then I called Marcel.

"Wondered when I was going to hear from you," said Marcel's big African voice.

I usually call every couple days. It had been twice that.

"Marcel," I said, and stopped, and just cried.

"You home?" he said. "I'm coming over. Don't drink."

"I won't," I said.

Half and hour later he pushed a latte into my hand and perched his huge frame on one of my bar stools.

"What's going on, Mick?"

"Marcel, I went climbing with Evan down in Utah. Marcel, I'm in love with him. I didn't even know I was gay. I just thought I was bi. Well, I told you about that." There is nothing Marcel doesn't know about me. "We got down there, and I realized, I've been in love with him for months. I've never been in love before in my life. Not with Jenn, not with anyone. But I'm not the kind of pathetic slob that breaks up his marriage because he met someone. I came home and picked up Jacob and he said he saw a bear and I said he was lucky and I was thinking, 'no you aren't, your Dad is gay, he fell in love with a dude and wants to leave your Mom.'"

I was crying too hard to talk now, and Marcel put a huge hand on my back.

"Did you do anything with him?"

"Not like we wanted too. But yeah, we watched each other get off. We kissed. Then we agreed we wouldn't see each other again. I said I'd tell Jenn the truth and let her decide. But picking up Jacob, now I don't know if I should even tell her."

"Mickey, the truth isn't yours to hide," said Marcel. "If you're gay, she needs to know. And your feelings aren't things you can hide or change. Your feelings are facts, too. Facts she needs to know. I thought you might be gay. It's not the kind of thing you just say, though."

I sobbed and told the whole story of meeting Evan, how I felt, what we'd said. Marcel said Evan sounded like a good guy. I told him about me and Jenn, stuff he already knew, that it was stale, that something had never been right about it. I said that I thought because he was married to 'Shonda, even though he'd fucked around with dudes, I thought I could go straight, too.

"I fucked around with dudes to get paid, Mickster," he said. "You did it 'cause you liked it. You're right. You gotta tell Jenn."

Three days later I still hadn't told her. She was so busy making a cake for my birthday and wrapped up in secret plans with Jacob about surprising Daddy I just couldn't. But when they sang me Happy Birthday and brought the candles out, I hit a bottom I hadn't since I woke up in jail having wrecked my boss' van.

I got through it. I blew out the candles and kissed Jacob and told him I loved the mug he made with his handprints on it. I did love it. But after he went to bed that night, Jenn pulled me out into the living room and sat me down.

"You'd better tell me," she said. So I did. She cried. I hated myself. I told her I thought our family was beautiful. I told her we had more than a lot of couples had. We were best friends. We made a beautiful son. I told her it was up to her. I told her she deserved to be desired and loved the way a straight man could, that she was beautiful, that I had failed her because I hadn't known I couldn't love her the way a man should love a woman. I said that if she still wanted to be married on those terms, though, I would stay.

"I think it's best, for Jacob," she finally said. I felt the sun sink and the world grow cold inside.

I tried. I owed it to Jenn not to mope. I mowed the lawn the last few times before winter and started Christmas shopping and tired to act enthusiastic about it all. I deleted Evan's number from my phone and shut my Facebook page down. I tried not to think of what he was going through. Jenn had been there first. I put my climbing gear under some things in the garage. It hurt too bad to see it. I took Jacob to his first day of kindergarten and took pictures of him walking in to class. I taught him how to swing a bat. We carved pumpkins. I went to a meeting every day, to help me weather the worst of it. I went to work and told jokes, but I was empty. Every day found me hiding in the bathroom, trying to cry quietly enough so that no one could hear. Everything reminded me of Evan. Shopping, I found books of Rumi, and thought of his dissertation. I saw REI and felt like I'd been knifed. I saw a skater kid with dreadlocks and wanted to weep. Passing the exit to the climbing gym in Ballard reopened the wound. Dave Matthews undid me. Shaggy black dogs reminded me of Hamlet. Seeing a bicycle messenger stopped my heart.

We got through Christmas. Jacob spent more time playing with the wrapping paper than he did his presents. Everyone spoiled him rotten, but he remained unspoiled, a fresh, innocent little kid. I told myself it would all be worth it. This too shall pass, I thought.

On New Year's Eve, we woke him up in time to hear the whistles and see the fireworks. He slept all day the next day. When he woke up, I made him pancakes even though it was after noon.

Wednesday the second, I went back to work. Right after lunch, my phone rang. I didn't even look at the number. I just answered it.

"Mickey, it's Evan."

I leapt up and stepped away from my cubicle, walked quickly down the hall.

"Evan," I said. "Oh, my God."

"Mickey, Jenn's here. She came over."

"Jenn's there? At your studio? But how..."

"She 411ed me. We've been talking all morning. Mickey, she's giving us her blessing. Do you want to talk to her?"

"Yeah, oh my God..." I hated myself for how hard I hoped this meant my freedom.

I could hear her crying as she came on the phone.

"Hi Mickey," she said. "I came over here because I wanted to see for myself what you loved so much. You've been trying so hard, but the life has just gone out of you. I couldn't stand to see it any more."

"Sweetheart, it's not you," I said. "You're so great..."

"So are you," she said. "But you're gay. Baby, when we hooked up, you didn't know who you were. I wanted to save you. Now I'm killing you, trying to keep this family together. Look, Jacob won't be the first little boy whose parents split up. We'll do it right. We will always be friends. But I've spent hours now, talking with Evan. He's great. You are right. You belong together. He loves you so much. He's lost weight."

Trust Jenn to notice a thing like that, to be moved, and concerned, in spite of all this. We talked for a while more. I agreed to get a hotel for the next few days until I could find a place. I knew I wouldn't move in with Evan. We weren't going to play it that way. We were going to do this right. I told work there had been an emergency, drove home and cried like a child as I packed a bag.

I got a room in the city and cried all afternoon. At about nine, I called Evan. I'd never forgotten his number.

"Hi babe," he said.

"Hi." I said.

"How are you?" he said. His voice sounded so soft and tentative, as if he was trying not to scare me.

"God I've missed you. I've missed you Evan, every day. I thought I was dying." I started crying again.

"Where are you? Can I see you?"

"I feel like it would be disrespectful," I said. "Do you think it would be?"

"It might feel that way. Jenn's pretty great. I don't want it to be like the second she..."

"Yeah." My love for him tore at my heart. "Soon, though."

"I'll just stay on this phone with you right now. God it's so good to hear your voice again. When I didn't hear from you for a week, I thought I was going to die, it hurt so bad."

"I'm sorry. I thought about it every day, what you must be going through."

"Don't be sorry, babe. You did the right thing. I was so sad on your birthday. I had really wanted to be with you that day. I even got you a present. I still have it."

"I got you a Christmas present," I said.

"But we were..."

"I couldn't bear not to," I said. "What did you do when Jenn showed up?"

"My first thought was that she was going to call me out," he said. "I was ready to take it, too. I have some culpability here. But all she did was ask if I could talk, and I let her in and made her some tea. She was so shaken, I felt bad. And she just said she was there because she loved you and she thought I did too, and that the best thing about you, your joy, was dying. And she said you'd really tried, and that you were trying to hide your pain, but she could tell. It was like the color had gone from you, she said."

"Did she say why she talked to you instead of me?"

"She said she wanted to make sure I'd take care of you before she set you free."

"My God, Jenn, I never did deserve her," I said.

"She's pretty great," said Evan. "I think you guys will have a great friendship. I hope I'm part of that. I told her how much she mattered to you, all the good things you said about her, how grateful you were for the years she gave you."

"Thank you," I said. "Thank you for telling her."

My phone beeped. Jenn was calling.

"She's on the other line Evan. I gotta go. I'll call you back later, okay?"

"Yeah, call me back. I love you. Call me right back."'

I spent two hours on the phone with Jenn. We agreed to tell Jacob the next day. We cried, and reminisced and as we talked, the truth came out, she hadn't been fulfilled either. She knew something was wrong. She had thought it was her. I said I was sorry for that, too. At the end, cried out and exhausted, we both knew beyond the shadow of doubt we'd tried our hardest, and done all the right things, and that no one was at fault. We were sad, but at peace. She will always be my favorite woman.

A soon as we hung up, my phone almost uncomfortably hot against my ear, I called Evan back. He answered before the phone rang once.

"Are you okay?"

I told him everything. We talked until my cell battery died.

The next few days were occupied by apartment hunting. I found one on Capitol Hill, Seattle's Castro, for way too much money for a two-bedroom; one for me and one for Jacob. I went to Ikea and got all the kid stuff for his room and got myself set up with office stuff and furniture and a nice double bed. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Marcel, who talked me through the worst of the self doubt and agreed we'd all behaved well.

Jacob took it well, but he was too little to understand, I think. Evan and I agreed to wait until the following Monday, after Evan's first visit, to see each other. We spent a lot of time on the phone, catching up. I was horrified to learn he'd shaved his dreads. His hair was growing back out, he said, but he hadn't wanted to be one of those dudes still wearing dreads with a receding hairline. I laughed at him, and tried to imagine him with out that lion-like main of hair. I would miss it. It had been grief, really, that made him do it, I knew.

I took Monday off work, too. The office knew I had moved out, and were cutting me some slack. I was owed a lot of comp time, too. All day I got ready. I went to the QFC and got him a six pack of Corona and limes and and two fabulous steaks; Evan looks like a vegetarian but he loves a good steak. I got all new silverware, gift-wrapped the Bose iPod docking system I got him at Christmas, went to one of Broadway's sex shops and got lube, condoms, massage oil, candles, bath salts, everything I could think of. I hit the boutiques and got seven or eight new outfits, new shoes. I got a manicure, a haircut, I hit the drug store for shower and hygiene products, went home and spent hours getting ready. I was excited, not just about seeing Evan, but about my new life. I finally felt complete, as if until then I'd only been three-quarters of a person. I loved Capitol Hill, all it's camp retro shops and funky, low rent record stores and fetish shops, all the tiny restaurants and the clubs that raged all night.

At six, my door bell rang. My hands shook so bad I could hardly open it. There was Evan, sea green eyes more luminous than ever now that his hair was short. It was thick and spiky and dark blond with bleached tips and it looked amazing. He was just as beautiful, only in a different way. I meant to invite him in, get him a beer, put the steaks on. What I did was stare.

"Evan, you look gorgeous like that," I said. He was wearing a dark purple Guatemalan pullover jacket and black cargo pants, the same Evan as ever.

"You like it alright?" he raised his hand to his hair self-consciously.

"You look incredible," I said. I put my hand to his face to see if it was real, and he covered it with his own hand and then something snapped and we slammed into each other, kissing like we meant to swallow each other whole.

I backed him into the hallway and against the opposite wall as we bit each other's lips and ears and fingertips, staring into each other's eyes in awe.

"Oooh, someone's glad to see you." Two gay men holding hands chuckled as they walked past. I loved Capitol Hill.

Evan grabbed me and held me still and kissed my whole face, checking me over like a mother bear.

"I was so worried about you," he said. "You sounded so sad."

"I was," I said. "I'm happy now, though. Come in. Open my present."

I showed him the whole place, got him a beer. He loved Jacob's room. He loved my room more. I led him to his gift.

"Open it," I said, joyful. He did, and his face said it all.

"You got me one of these?! Holy shit! I saw these at the mall at Christmas. These are the coolest things ever! Oh my God, it works with my phone!" For several minutes he was lost, plugging his iPhone into the top of the tower shaped dock and discovering all the features and he played Ladysmith Black Mombazo and Pink Martini and Dave Matthews tunes, enthusing over the sound quality.

"Did you get one for your place?" he asked.

"No," I said. And I didn't add anything, but he looked up and grinned a slow delight. He knew I thought we'd eventually be sharing that one.

"Oh, oh, open yours," he said, standing back up and handing me an envelope.

Two tickets were inside. I couldn't believe what he must have spent. They were for the spring quarter, enrollment in dive school.

"You said you wanted to learn to Scuba dive," he said. "Do you still?"

"We're going to go together?" I said, listening to my voice go ridiculously high. I was still getting used to his new sleeker appearance. The more I saw it, the more I loved it.

"Yeah, I want to learn, too," he said.

"Fuck, yeah, are you kidding?" I yelled, and flung my arms around him. I could see him grinning as he hauled me in and then his mouth came down on mine. This time raw lust leapt to life. I was gasping with need, kissing him, and his hands at my waist were frantic, lifting my shirt, finding my body, my belt, pulling me in by the hips. I fought his pullover off, and got my hands under the t-shirt underneath, and felt his chest, the crisp hair, the six-pack abs and full pecs. When my palms skimmed his nipples, he sucked in air, and I grinned and did it again.

He filled my mouth with his tongue and put his hands under my ass and began to walk me back toward my room.

"I know you said you wanted to take it slow," he said. "So if you want to take it slow, now's the time. Because if I get you in that room, I'm not stopping."

"I said that three months ago," I said. "That's plenty fucking slow." I felt the door at my shoulders and reached behind me and turned the knob as he tugged sharply at my waist. I felt my belt come unbuckled, felt it hiss through the belt loops, heard it jingle to the floor. I grabbed the back of his tee and pulled it over his head as he raised his muscular arms and then he was naked from the waist up. I kissed his neck, my fingers found his nipples, and I pinched and tugged slightly.

His fingers nearly tore the button of my jeans off, unzipped me, pushed my pants down off my hips, both hands skimmed up my ribs and I raised my arms and my shirt was off. His thumbs found my nipples, rubbed, I jerked. Volts shocked straight to my cock.

"I've dreamed of seeing you like this so many times," he said. "Do you know how incredible you are? How you look? You have made me fucking crazy for so long."

His hand dipped low, slipped inside the waist of my boxers and grabbed my cock. I went still, lost in the pleasure of his firm grip, the slow sliding stroke. He started walking me backward until my knees hit the bed and i went down, pulling him with me. All I could hear was the sound of our breath. I rolled him over and unbuttoned his pants and he raised his hips and then we were naked together, hot skin against hot skin.

"I can't believe it, I can't believe this is finally happening," he said, and it finally sunk in, he really loved me. Oh, I was going to make this good.

"Evan, I love you," I said. "I am so happy."

I kissed my way down his neck to his chest, kissed a flat nipple, took it between my lips, flicked it with my tongue.

"Oh God oh God, fuck, Mickey," he said. I felt like the most powerful man alive. I did the same to the other one, holding nothing back. I was going to drive him crazy.

"Mickey, fuck me," he begged, but I made him wait. I kissed down down his flat stomach, paused and looked up at him, grinning. "Mickey, please."

I trailed my tongue up the entire length of him, tasted the moisture forming at the tip, took the smooth hard head into his mouth, and heard him sigh in profound pleasure. His hand came to the back of my head and I knew he was trying not to push me down. I slowly went as far as I could, holding his balls in my other hands, stroking, and then I opened the back of my throat and slowly fit him in until my nose was buried in his pubic hair.

"Jesus, Mickey!" There was nothing I wouldn't have done to hear that voice say those things. "God, you make me feel so good, you look so good, God, don't stop." I wasn't going to. I slowly slid back up, caught my breath, slid back down, picking up the pace, using my hands, rubbing underneath his balls, his shaft as my mouth left it, his thighs. Evan wasn't speaking in words any more, just sounds, and I could tell he was losing his mind. I kept it up, increasing in intensity, until I felt him start to shake. I pulled away.

"Mickey, no, no don't stop," he moaned, but I reached for the bedside drawer and took out a condom and a bottle of lube. I then did a trick I learned from a San Francisco hooker; I put the condom in my mouth and rolled it on down his cock with my lips and tongue 'til he was balls-deep in my throat again. I held it on with my fingertips, withdrew and worked my way back up his chest, and he was ready for me, rolling to me and cupping my face and kissing me, deeply and thoroughly.

"God, Mickey, I wish I thought I was going to last a little longer," he said, rolling over me and nudging my knees apart with his. "You give the best head in the world, do you know that?"

"It's been ten years since I did this last, so you're going to have to take it easy to start," I said.

"I'm going to take my time," he said. "I've waited for this for too long not to make it last." He made his way down my chest as I had his, and when he took my nipple in his teeth and bit lightly, I thought I was going to come. I told him how good it felt, watched him smile up at me as he traveled to the other side of my chest, saw the satisfaction in his eyes when my body jerked in response. I felt his hand on my cock and lost control of my major muscle groups, rising off the bed, trying to fuck his hand.

Then his mouth followed, and fantasies paled next to the real live sight of him taking me in, all the way down, the sensation of tight wet heat, the roughness of his tongue. He was an expert, but he kept it short, because he knew I was on the verge. He licked his fingers and then I felt him penetrate me, gently, readying me for entry. He followed with another finger, and a third, until I was relaxed, all while slowly working up and down my cock with his incredible mouth. After holding me on the brink for a few minutes, he came back up and went for the lube and I nearly died of excitement, thinking of what would happen next.

He positioned himself over me, looked into my eyes, told me how much he loved me, how beautiful he thought I was, and I felt the pressure and was ready, and he slipped inside and let me adjust. I wrapped my legs around his waist and grabbed his hips and slowly pulled him in to the hilt. It was a mix of pain and pleasure, and three strokes later, it was just incredible, mind-blowing pleasure, and I pulled him down for my kiss. He raised up onto his arms.

"Do yourself like you did that night," he said. "I want to see that again."

I obliged, telling him how good he looked fucking me, how good he made me feel, and the feel of him stroking into my body along with the pleasure I was providing myself brought me quick.

"Evan, I'm going to..."

"Oh, yeah, Baby, let me see you..."

I didn't even know if I'd survive the orgasm, it was so intense. I couldn't see for a minute, and I know I shouted his name, heard him calling mine, and felt him come inside me just as I came all over both of us.

He collapsed atop me, I felt the slickness between us, and we caught our breath for a second. Then his aqua eyes caught mine with a look of pure amazement and we both start laughing in stunned wonderment.

"Holy shit, that was amazing, oh my God..."

"That was...you are...I could never imagine..."

I felt him slip out of me and he reached down for the condom and threw it in the wastebasket and then we lay side by side kissing and touching, eventually getting in the shower together and soaping each other down and kissing, drying each other, putting our boxers back on, kissing.

I started the steaks in the broiler and got him a Corona and grabbed a Red Bull.

"This is just how I imagined us," he said, digging around in the cupboard for plates. "Just like this. Baby, we have to keep it like this. Promise me we won't let stupid bullshit pull us apart. Let's vow, right now, not to ever take this thing for granted between us. I'll tell you right now, I want us to feel this way 10 years from now. That's what I hope for. I know you are in a transitional state right now, and probably don't want to hear about commitment and promises and all that yet, but I'm telling you what's on my mind."

"Evan, I've sowed every wild oat I ever had," I said. "I'm done with all that. I'm about hearth and home, now. And you. Only you. I want it to work as bad as you do. You know how I see it between us? The same way it is when we're climbing. Sometimes it's me, watching you climb, holding the rope and and waiting to catch you if you fall. Then it's you, on belay for me. I see both of us, working our way up through the years, united by our teamwork and love for each other and trust in each other. Yeah, relationships are hard, fuck, it's a risk. But it's a risk I'm willing to take. I trust you with my body when we're 1,000 feet up in the Early Winters spires and I trust you with my heart, right now. So I'll take that vow with you. I'll work my ass off to never take this thing for granted, and start each day with a prayer of thanks for you, and what we have."

There was a shine in his ocean-colored eyes, and we embraced until I rescued the steaks just in time.