Now That You're Here - The College Years
He was hot. It was the first thing he noticed as he started coming to. But then the temperature was the last thing on his mind as his cock was swallowed up by a wet mouth. He wanted to say something, but the feel of being deep throated stole his words, releasing a cry in its place. He reached his hands down and buried his fingers through the head of hair he found there. His breathing became labored as he arched his back, his head rolling from side to side.
“Chris,” he gasped as the tension began building higher and higher. He was just about ready to let go and dive head long into his orgasm when Chris pulled off him. “Oh God, why’d you stop?”
Chris chuckled as he reached over to the dresser and grabbed a bottle of lube. “Relax babe, I’ll get you there in a few minutes.”
Zan continued to lie there, trying to control his breathing, when he felt his cock being enveloped again. Only this time it wasn’t being enveloped by a warm wet mouth, but by a cool, slick lubed hand. He lifted his head and tried to focus on his partner. “Chris?”
“I’m in the mood. Do you have any objections?”
Zan smiled at the glint in Chris’s eyes. “Not at all.” He tried to sit up and was surprised when he was gently pushed back down.
“No, just lie back and enjoy it. I want to ride you.”
Zan looked at Chris in confusion, but he didn’t say anything. Instead he watched closely as his partner straddled his lap and lowered himself down. “Oh God, you’re so tight,” he moaned.
Chris took a moment to adjust to being filled and then leaned forward and grabbed Zander’s hands, pinning them above his head. “You like that, babe?”
“Yes, oh please…ride me. I’m aching for you. I need to come so badly. Please, baby, please.”
Chris’s desire was fueled by Zander’s begging as he picked up speed. It had been so long since he felt Zander inside of him and that, along with the high of being in control had him racing quickly towards orgasm. He took both of Zan’s wrists into one of his hands and continued to hold the younger man down as he took his free hand and grabbed his own cock, pulling it with almost brutal force. Somehow he managed to hold onto his control just long enough for Zander to explode and then let go and followed him over the edge into ecstasy.
“Babe, you need to let go of my wrists,” Zan finally said softly as his heart began to return to its normal rate.
“Shit!” Chris exclaimed as he let go of Zander’s wrists and looked at his partner. “Did I hurt you?”
“No,” Zan assured him. “It was hot. Very, very hot. I just know me and you were holding on really tight. I’m sure I’ve already started bruising.”
Sure enough, Chris could see the darkening skin around Zan’s wrists as he grabbed his hands to take a closer look. “I’m so sorry, babe. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Hey, it’s fine. You didn’t hurt me, I promise. You know my fair skin bruises easily. If I was in pain, I would’ve said something.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m positive,” Zan said as he pulled his hands away. “But I kind of have to pee, so if you could get off, that would be great.”
“Oh, sorry,” Chris said sheepishly as he eased himself off Zan and got out of bed. He went to the bathroom and grabbed a towel before going to Zander and cleaning him off. “A kiss before you go?”
“Well, I’m only going to the bathroom, but I’m not about to argue,” Zander replied before grabbing Chris and pulling him down into a heated kiss. He would’ve deepened the kiss if his bladder wasn’t screaming for release. “Gotta go.”
Chris laughed as he watched his partner run to the bathroom. “I’m going to go start the coffee,” he called out as he pulled on his robe and then made his way down to the kitchen. He was happy to find Steve and Brian sitting at the table, a half a pot of coffee sitting between them. “Oh, thank God. I need coffee.”
“Rough night?” Brian asked as he got up and grabbed a mug for his brother. He thought about it then grabbed a second one, knowing that Zander wasn’t going to be far behind.
“I just haven’t been sleeping too well lately,” Chris offered as he took one of the mugs and filled it with coffee. He poured in a drop of milk and then took a seat at the table.
“Is everything alright?” Brian asked in concern.
“Truthfully? Things couldn’t be better. Sophia’s an angel, things between Zan and I are great, I’m well ahead of schedule for my book and I’m in discussions about the children’s book series. I don’t know why I’m up and down all night.”
“Maybe it’s us,” Steve spoke up hesitantly. “Maybe the stress of having Jason and I here under foot all the time is getting to you.”
“No, that’s not it. I love having you guys here. I wish it were under better circumstances, but otherwise it’s fine.”
“Don’t worry about it. You do this every year at this time,” Zander said as he walked into the room. “You’ll be fine in a month or so.”
“What? I do not,” Chris replied and then looked at Zan closely. “Do I?”
“Yes, you do.”
“I don’t remember doing it last year.”
“Last year we were separated, remember? Neither one of us was sleeping much, but we both knew why. You’ve been like this every year since we met,” Zander assured him.
“Well, I’m no psychologist so maybe you should mention it to Patti, but I would imagine it goes back to your parents,” Zander said.
“My parents? Why would my parents be causing me problems sleeping?”
Zander poured himself some coffee and threw in a little sugar before going over to stand by his partner. “Well, if you think back to when you came out to them, it was at the end of the summer. By the holidays, I think you had convinced yourself that they were going to come to their senses and welcome you back. You were sure that they’d want you home for the holidays. So every day leading up to Christmas, you’d get more anxious waiting for the phone to ring. You’d be even more restless in your sleep, tossing and turning a lot. I felt so bad, but I didn’t want to mention it to you because I don’t think you realized how much it was affecting you. After the holidays you seemed to settle down. I figured that it was over and let it go. The following year you did the same thing, and every year after. I’m sorry I never mentioned it before. I guess I didn’t think it was a big deal. You never complained about it before. I probably should have brought it up in one of our sessions with Patti, though.”
“It’s okay. I have an appointment next week. I’ll talk to her about it then. I hate the thought that those two still have so much power over me,” Chris admitted.
“Yeah, especially when they don’t deserve one ounce of power,” Brian told him.
“I know. Don’t worry, I’ll deal with it. Besides, Christmas is only a couple weeks away. At least I know now that once it’s over, I get more sleep,” Chris joked.
Brian glared at him. “Seriously Chris, it’s not something to joke about.”
“Bri, calm down. I’m fine. Maybe my subconscious is stressing a little bit, but I’m really okay. You don’t have to worry about me,” Chris assured him. “Now, who wants breakfast?”
“Hey Bri,” Steve said, trying to distract his friend. “You said that Justin was up late working on a project, right? He’ll probably sleep in a little. Wanna go grab some breakfast, just the two of us? We haven’t done anything alone for a while.”
Brian stared at his brother a moment longer and then turned to Steve. “Yeah, that sounds good, actually. Let me just jump in the shower real quick and leave a note for Justin, and then we can go.”
As soon as Brian was gone, Chris turned to Steve. “Thanks. I know he’s just worried, but he doesn’t have to be. I’m fine.”
“And I’m here to make sure he stays that way,” Zander added as he sipped his coffee. “What time are you scheduled to go into the store?”
“If you guys want to hang out longer, let me know. I can always go in for a few hours for you,” Zan offered.
“I wouldn’t ask you to do that. You put in enough hours during the week. You don’t need to cover for me,” Steve replied.
“Steve, it’s really not a problem. I know you’ve been really down lately. I think it’s good that you and Brian are going to get some alone time. If you guys get caught up and want to hang out longer, call me, alright? I really don’t mind.”
“Alright, I’ll call if I need you,” Steve agreed.
By the time the boys left, Sophia was awake and watching TV. Zander had made her breakfast and was cleaning up the dishes when Chris walked up behind him and held him close. “I forgot something this morning after I finished riding you.”
Zan smiled as he leaned back, enjoying the feel of Chris’s body pressed up against him. “Oh yeah, and what’s that?”
“To tell you that I love you and that you mean the world to me.”
Zan put down the dish he was holding and spun around, taking Chris’s mouth in a deep kiss. “I love you, too. More than you will ever know.”
“Good, glad we’re on the same page,” Chris chuckled and pinched Zan on the ass. “Now get back to those dishes, slave. I’m gonna go watch cartoons with my best girl.”
Zander laughed as he watched Chris walk away. Life was good. He just hoped it stayed that way.
“We really need to do this more often,” Brian said as he took the last bite of his pancakes. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a shitty friend.”
“A shitty friend? What are you talking about? You haven’t been a shitty friend,” Steve told him.
“Yeah I have. You’ve been dealing with all this personal crap lately and I’ve been so wrapped up in school and Justin that we haven’t spent a single moment alone.”
“Bri, it’s okay. I know school is a big adjustment and you have to focus to do well. I also know that you’ve been a very good friend to Zac lately, and that’s important. He’s dealing with a lot now, too. I know that if I really needed you, you’d be there for me, but I’m fine. Really.”
“Well, it’s over anyway. I’m going to be around more for you from now on. And winter break starts in less than two weeks and then I’ll be back in Sierra Vista for a month. We’ll have more time for just us,” Brian promised.
“Again, I’m fine, but I won’t object to having my best friend around more,” Steve said. “So, I talked to my mom yesterday.”
“Wow! How come you didn’t say anything last night? Do Chris and Zan know?”
“No, I didn’t tell them. It’s not like it really did any good. I mean, I’m not allowed to move back home or anything,” Steve said sadly.
“Well, what did she say?”
“Basically that she’s disappointed in me. That she expected better from me. That I’m throwing my life away,” Steve replied.
“Shit, you already knew that’s how they felt. Why’d she bother calling?”
“Guilt, I guess,” Steve sighed. “And she asked me not to drag my brother into this. Truthfully, I hadn’t even thought about calling Eric. We used to be close, but after he moved away and then didn’t bother calling or coming for a visit for six months, I don’t know. Our relationship just isn’t the same anymore.”
“Maybe you should think about calling him,” Brian suggested.
“Um...why? I just said that our relationship isn’t what it used to be. Why drag him into the mess with my parents?”
Brian chose his words carefully. “What if there was more to his leaving than you originally thought?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I thought that Chris just walked away from the family because he didn’t care. Turns out that he didn’t leave. He got kicked out.”
“Yeah, but this is different. Eric is obviously still in touch with the family. He just moved away. You saw my parents’ reaction that first time he showed up at the house. They were thrilled to see him. That’s not the sign of someone who kicked out their son,” Steve pointed out.
“Maybe not…but what if they were behind it somehow. What if it was Eric’s choice to leave, but he did it because they made it impossible to stay?” Brian asked. “I don’t know. I just think you should talk to him. Especially since your mother went out of her way to tell you not to talk to him. Look, your parents are turning out to be…not what any of us expected. Maybe there’s more to the story than you know.”
Steve didn’t respond right away. Instead he considered what Brian was suggesting. It could be possible. His mother was adamant that he didn’t call Eric. Maybe there was a reason why she didn’t want him to. “You know what? It does seem like there’s more to the story. I’m going to give Eric a call.”
“Good. Maybe he left on his own, but things are starting to seem a little off. It couldn’t hurt to check it out,” Brian said. “So, how are you doing otherwise? How’s the store doing? I never thought I’d miss it, but I do. I haven’t worked a shift in months.”
“I’m alright, I guess. Living with Chris and Zan is awesome, of course. Jason and I have been getting a little closer lately. We didn’t really get to know each other very well before. He’s pretty cool.”
“Yeah, he is. I feel so bad about what happened to him. I can’t even imagine…well, it just sucks.”
“Yeah, it really does. But Chris and Zan have been doing a good job keeping an eye on him and I think spending time with Sophia has been good for him.”
“Good, I’m glad,” Brian replied. “So…I don’t want to push, but do you know what you’re going to do next? I know Princeton didn’t work out, but you are planning on going to school somewhere, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know. I still have a lot to work out. Besides, I don’t have access to my college fund so I can’t afford school right now anyway,” Steve told him. “My father had made it perfectly clear that I was dead to him until I was back at Princeton.”
“Wow, that really sucks.”
“It’s fine for now. I really like working for Zan and with construction starting after the holidays, it won’t be long before the coffee house is up and running. I told Zan I’d be around to help him navigate both until he got the hang of things.”
“As long as you’re okay with everything for now, I’ll let it go. I just want you to be alright.”
“I am, I promise,” Steve assured him. “Now, how about if we head out? I have some errands to run. You can either come with me, or I can drop you back off at home. It’s up to you.”
“I’ll hang. Let me just call Justin and let him know what I’m doing.”
When Steve and Brian got back to the house, Steve still had almost an hour before he had to leave for the store. Taking Brian’s advice, he went up to his room and pulled out his phone, dialing his brother’s number.
“Hey, Bro, what’s going on.”
“Not too much. How are things with you?”
“I’ve been running around like a crazy person trying to pack and tie up loose ends here, but otherwise I’m good,” Eric replied.
“Pack? You’re moving?”
“Yeah, didn’t Mom and Dad tell you? I got a great job offer in Sierra Vista. I’m moving back home. Well, not home to the ‘rents house, but back to town. I’ve rented a condo downtown,” Eric said. “It sucks that you’re not there anymore, but Princeton gives you a winter break, right? I should be there right before Christmas.”
Steve was stunned. “You don’t know?”
“Eric, I dropped out of Princeton back in October.”
“You what!” Eric exclaimed. “Why did you do that? I thought it was your dream to go there.”
“No, it wasn’t my dream. It was Dad’s. It just wasn’t right for me. I was miserable there, so I left.”
“Wow…I just…wow. How did Dad take it?”
“You really don’t know, do you?” Steve asked incredulously.
“Don’t know what? Steve, what’s going on?”
“Eric, dad threw me out. He basically said I was dead to him until I was back at Princeton.”
“That mother fucker!” Eric yelled.
“Eric, relax. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“The fuck it’s not,” Steve growled. “Why didn’t you call me? Where have you been staying? You’re not sleeping in your car or anything, are you?”
Steve was touched by his brother’s concern. “No, I’m not sleeping in my car. I’m staying with Chris and Zan.”
Eric actually chuckled at that. “I should’ve known they’d take you in. So, why didn’t you call me?”
“I don’t know. I guess I just thought…well, you moved away and we hardly ever heard from you. I guess I figured you wouldn’t care what happened to me,” Steve admitted.
“Bro, why would you ever think that? My moving away had nothing to do with you,” Eric said.
“How was I supposed to know that? You just left, and then when you came back, you seemed different. Our relationship was different. I used to think that I could talk to you about anything and then you were gone and I just thought…” Steven trailed off.
“Shit, I’m sorry, man. I never should’ve just left without talking to you about it first. It wasn’t you. It was the ‘rents. I just couldn’t live under their roof anymore.”
“Really? Why? What happened? They didn’t kick you out, right? I mean, they seemed really happy when you finally came to visit.”
“No, they didn’t kick me out. They just always made me feel like I wasn’t good enough, you know? I just got tired of living in your shadow,” Eric said softly.
“In my shadow? What’s that supposed to mean?” Steve asked in confusion.
“You were the baby of the family. You were the smart one, the well behaved one, the sweet one. I was the disappointment. I didn’t bring home all A’s, I got into fights, I went to community college. I wasn’t Princeton bound. It just got to be too much. I heard ‘why can’t you be more like your bother’ one too many times. I couldn’t take it anymore so I left.”
“But…but…I never knew,” Steve said. “I never heard them say anything like that. I would’ve stood up to them. That’s not right. We’re two completely different people, but I’m not any better than you. Hell, how smart could I really be if I dropped out of Princeton?”
“Steve, it’s alright.”
“No, it’s not alright. I am so sorry that they treated you like that. They suck,” Steve sounded like a five year old. “If it helps, I never thought I was better than you. I always looked up to you and thought you were awesome. You were always so cool. I wanted to be just like you.”
“Thanks, Steve, I appreciate that. And for the record, I think you’re pretty awesome, too. My poor communication skills had nothing to do with you. I guess I just needed time to figure out some things. I never held anything the ‘rents said against you. You’re my baby brother. It’s not your fault our parents are assholes,” Eric laughed. “So, my condo happens to be a two bedroom. How would you like to come and live with me?”
“Really? Are you sure you want your little brother cramping your style? I’m good here with Chris and Zan.”
“Seriously? I’d like having you with me. Things have been weird between us for the last couple of years. I’d like to fix that and what better way than to live together.”
Steve blinked a few times, barely noticing the dampness around eyes. “I’d really like that.”
“Cool. I was pretty bummed thinking that I was moving back to town and that you were over on the east coast. It’ll be fun living together again,” Eric said.
“Yeah, it will,” Steve agreed. “Listen, I’ve gotta get going. I’ve been working for Zan and my shift starts soon. Um…I guess I’ll talk to you later.”
“Yeah, I’ll be in town one day next week to sign some paperwork for the condo and drop off the deposit. Maybe we can grab lunch or something.”
“Sounds good to me. Just let me know when you’ll be here so I can rearrange my schedule if I have to.”
“I will. Love you, Bro.”
“Love you, too!”
Steve smiled to himself. He was so glad Brian suggested he make the call. As great as it was living with Chris and Zan, he was excited to be moving in with his brother. Screw his parents. He had his friends and now he’d have Eric. That was all he really needed.
“So, how was your night?” Dane asked Sandy. They were upstairs in Sandy’s room; Julia was happily playing in her playpen.
“It was really nice. As much as I love our daughter and enjoy being a mom, it felt good to be a girl again,” Sandy said. “What about you? Did Julia give you any trouble?”
“Not really. She woke up soon after you left, but I eventually got her calmed down and back to sleep. Then she was out until six this morning,” Dane told her. “She was pretty much perfect.”
Sandy chuckled. “You are so biased. She could rob a bank and you’d still think she was perfect.”
“This is very true, but she really was last night,” Dane laughed before sobering. “Listen, there’s something I want to tell you.”
“Uh oh, sounds serious. Is something wrong?”
“No, nothing’s wrong. There’s just something that’s been going on with me and I haven’t really told anyone yet, but I think you need to know.”
“Okay, go ahead.”
“Um…I’ve been seeing someone. For a while now. We’ve gotten close. Like really close,” Dane replied nervously. “I’m in love with him.”
Sandy smiled. “Dane, that’s wonderful. I’m really happy for you. Tell me all about him.”
“Well, that’s the thing. He’s one of my professors so we’ve been keeping it on the DL.”
“Oh, um…okay. Well, that’s not the best situation, but he won’t be your professor forever, right? Please tell me he’s not some 60 year old guy.”
Dane laughed. “No, he’s not 60. He’s only 29.”
“Well, eleven years isn’t too bad.”
“That’s not all,” Dane said softly. “He’s also…kind of married.”
“Kind of married? As in separated?”
“Not quite.” Dane could see the disgust in Sandy’s eyes and continued. “But he will be. He got his wife pregnant on prom night. It was an accident. Everyone pressured him to marry her. No one knew he was gay. So he buckled under the pressure and married her, but he hasn’t been happy. He finally realized that he needs to be honest. After the holidays he’s going to come out to his wife and move out. Then we can finally be together.”
“Oh Dane,” Sandy whispered.
“No, it’s okay. Everything is going to be fine.”
“Sweetie, do you have any idea how many men cheat on their wives with a million excuses on why it’s not wrong? And they always promise to leave their wives, but they never do. Every time the day comes when they’re supposed to leave, something always comes up. Gay, straight…it doesn’t matter. I’m worried for you. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“I’m not going to get hurt. Believe me, I know how messed up it is. I actually broke things off a couple weeks ago, but then…he said that he’d leave her. That he couldn’t live his life in the closet anymore and that he was leaving regardless of whether or not we were together, but that he loved me and wanted to be with me…I couldn’t say no, Sandy. I really love him.”
“Does Brian know?”
“No, no one knows other than Chris and that’s only because he caught me at a bad moment, but what does Brian have to do with this?”
“Are you kidding? Aside from the fact that he’s the love of your life, he’s your best friend. I’m sure he’d have plenty to say about this and you seem to listen to him when he talks,” Sandy replied.
Dane stared at Sandy in shock. “Brian’s not the love of my life. We dated for a while, but that’s it.”
“Oh honey, it’s okay to admit it to me. I’d never say anything to anyone.”
“There’s nothing to admit…I…he…we just didn’t…” Dane sighed in frustration. “It doesn’t matter. That’s not the point. The point is that I’m in love with Michael and we’re going to be together as soon as he leaves his wife. And he is leaving his wife.”
“Alright, alright. If you say so. I just want you to be happy. That’s all that matters. But if you need someone to talk to, I’m here for you and I promise not to judge.”
“Thanks Sandy.” Dane hugged her tight. “Do you need me for anything? Michael has the weekend free and we were going to spend it together.”
“No, go ahead. As fun as last night was, I missed my baby girl. I think I’m going to take her to the park and just spend the day with her. Go take advantage of the time you have with Michael. We’ll be fine here.”
“Thanks. If you need me, call my cell. Otherwise I’ll be home sometime tomorrow.” Dane walked over to the playpen and picked up his little girl, kissing her until she giggled. “I love you, princess. You have fun with Mommy and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“You know, you’re a really great father,” Sandy said as she watched Dane say goodbye to Julia.
“It’s easy with her. She amazing.”
Dane reluctantly put his daughter down and then went over and gave Sandy a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“By sweetie. Have fun.”
That was exactly what Dane planned on doing.
Jason woke to the sound of his cell phone signaling that he had a message. He rolled over and grabbed it, smiling when he saw it had been from Aiden.
Aiden: Just checking in to see how you’re doing. Don’t forget to call if you need to. Or if you don’t need to and just want to.
Jason wasn’t the one who bared his soul at the diner in the middle of the night, but he appreciated the concern. He didn’t bother typing a reply. Instead he hit the call button. Aiden answered halfway through the first ring.
“Miss me already?” Aiden teased.
“Very funny,” Jason chuckled. “I got your text. I just wanted to say thank you again for last night…or this morning…whenever it was. I really appreciate it.”
“It’s no big deal. I told you I’m usually up late anyway. Besides, I didn’t have anything to do today anyway, so I was able to sleep in. I actually just woke up about thirty minutes ago.”
“I just woke up now. What time is it, anyway?”
“It’s almost two,” Aiden told him.
“Shit!” Jason exclaimed as he quickly sat up. “Zac must think I fell off the face of the earth.”
“I’d better let you go then so you can call him,” Aiden offered.
“Yeah, he’s probably worried,” Jason replied. “Um…anyway, thanks again. I know you’re usually up late but that doesn’t mean you want to spend your nights holding my hand.”
“You’d be surprised,” Aiden mumbled. “Okay, go call your boyfriend. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.”
As soon as the line went dead, Jason called Zac. He answered almost immediately. “Hey, glad to know that you’re still alive.”
“I’m so sorry, Z. I had a nightmare last night and it really freaked me out. I didn’t fall back to sleep until after six. I just woke up,” Jason explained.
Zac sighed, feeling a little foolish for giving Jason an attitude. “It’s alright. I’m sorry that you had such a bad night. You should have called me. I would’ve kept you company while you couldn’t sleep.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell Zac that he had called Aiden, but he decided against it. He didn’t want to have to explain who Aiden was. He hadn’t told anyone about what went on in the group meetings. He wasn’t sure why. It was just something that he wanted to keep for himself.
“It’s okay. I just worked on some of my homework and then watched TV until I fell asleep. So what have you been up to today?” Jason asked, changing the subject.
“I’ve been helping out around the house. My mother has been thrilled to actually have me home for a change. I miss you, though. I’m going to see you today, right?”
“Of course. I was thinking, how about if we go out for dinner tonight?” Jason suggested.
“Really? Are you sure? I’d love to, but I know you’ve been a little wary about going out in public. I don’t mind staying in with you.”
“I know, and you’ve been so patient with me. I’ve got to start getting my life back. I thought we could go to that little Italian place over on Thompson Street. They usually aren’t too busy before the dinner rush. I can be ready in about an hour.”
“That sounds perfect,” Zac replied. “I’ll see you in an hour. I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
He ended the call and sighed as he got out of bed. The last thing he wanted to do was go out to dinner, but he didn’t have much of a choice. Guilt over calling Aiden instead of Zac caused him to make the suggestion without really giving it a lot of thought. Luckily Gino’s really was kind of empty before the dinner rush so hopefully he could get through the meal without too much trouble. Dragging himself out of bed, he went to the bathroom and then headed to the kitchen to get something to drink. He found Zander sitting at the table reading the paper.
“Hey, sleepyhead,” Zan said as soon as he spotted Jason. “I was wondering when you were going to roll out of bed. Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, I just didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. It’s no big deal,” Jason told him. He went to the fridge and pulled out the orange juice, pouring himself a tall glass. “It’s so quiet around here. Where is everyone?”
“Steve is at work, Chris and Sophia ran to the store to get some ice cream. Apparently they decided that tonight would be a good night to make banana splits. And Brian and Justin went to the art store. Justin was running low on supplies. I was just taking advantage of the peace and quiet and reading the paper.”
“Oh, I won’t bother you then.”
“Don’t be silly. Sit your ass down,” Zan chuckled. “When I think about the people I need a few moments of peace from, you and Steve are the last people on that list. So, what are your plans for the day?”
“Zac and I are going to Gino’s for dinner.”
“Really? Wow, that’s a pretty big step for you,” Zan pointed out.
“Yeah, but I think I’ll be okay. We’re going in an hour so it won’t be too busy and I’m sure Zac won’t mind if I wig out a bit.”
“No, he won’t mind,” Zan agreed. He folded the paper and pushed it away, focusing more on Jason. “So, I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to you lately. How are things going with you? I mean, you’re going out for dinner. That support group seems to be helping some, huh?”
“Yeah, a little bit. You know, hearing other people talk about…” Jason trailed off.
“Jas, what’s wrong?” Zander asked as all the color drained from Jason’s face.
“Your wrists…what happened…are you…” Jason stammered.
Zander cursed as he pulled his sleeves down to cover his marks. “Jason, it’s okay. I’m fine.”
“Did Chris…did he…did he hurt you?”
“No…no, of course not,” Zander assured him. “Jas, look at me…look at me. I’m fine. Chris didn’t hurt me. He would never hurt me. You know that.”
“But how…why…” Jason was subconsciously rubbing his own wrists, his body shaking almost violently. “He did that to me. I had…he held me down…oh God.”
Zan jumped out of his chair and went to Jason, pulling him into a hug. “Jason, I’m sorry. It’s okay. It’s over now. You’re here with me, and you're fine. I’m fine. Chris and I were just fooling around. I promise.”
And then Jason broke, his sobs so heart wrenching that they had Zan crying with him. He held on to the boy tight and rubbed his back in a circular motion, trying to calm him down, but it didn’t seem to be working. If anything, the sobbing seemed to intensify, leaving Zander feeling helpless and worried. A noise to the left told him they weren’t alone and Zan looked over to see Chris in the doorway, looking concerned. Sophia was hiding shyly behind him.
“Why don’t you take her down to our room and get her settled in with a DVD?” Zan suggested softly. He doubted Jason even heard him.
Chris disappeared and Zander sighed as he refocused his attention on Jason again. It was another few minutes before the sobbing started to ease. By then Chris was back and standing off to the side, ready to offer his own comfort if needed.
“Hey, shhh…it’s alright. You’re alright,” Zan soothed.
“I’m…so…sorry…I don’t…know…what happened…to…me,” Jason said between hiccups. He pulled back and wiped his eyes, suddenly feeling foolish. “I didn’t…mean…to…”
“Shhh, it’s really okay. I’m sorry, too. I would never want to do anything that would cause you any pain. I didn’t think about…I guess I just didn’t think,” Zan replied.
“It’s not your…fault. I shouldn’t have…I’m sorry. I think I need to go…um…lie down for a while. Can you…um…do you think you can call Zac for me? I can’t deal with him right now. Just tell him…I'll call him…um…later.”
“Sure. You go get some rest and I’ll be down to check on you in a little while, okay?”
And then he was gone, leaving Zander to drop down in the nearest chair and groan.
“What the hell happened?” Chris asked incredulously as soon as he heard Jason’s door close.
“Oh God, babe, it was awful. We were sitting here having a nice talk. Jason was actually going to go out to dinner with Zac tonight. He was in the middle of saying how he thought the support group was helping when he noticed the bruises on my wrists. He just kind of froze…and then he asked if you hurt me…all the color left his face and he started rubbing his own wrists. I never really noticed, but I guess he had some marks on his wrists from…fuck! It was terrible. He was so scared. I’ve never seen him like that before. Not like that.”
“Oh God, I never thought…I wouldn’t have…I’m an ass,” Chris replied, his voice full of self-loathing.
“Babe, it’s not your fault. First of all, in the heat of the moment, neither one of us thinks about the marks that might be left on me. Second, who would have thought that he would see the marks and have that kind of reaction? I just feel so bad.”
“Damn…that poor kid.”
“I know. I don’t even know what to do for him anymore. I wonder if maybe he got the number of someone from his support group. You know, like a contact person if he needs to talk in between sessions,” Zan said. “I’d better call Zac and let him know what happened.”
Chris pulled out his phone and handed it to Zander. He had all of Brian and Justin’s friends’ numbers in his phone. Zan took it gratefully and found Zac’s name. Taking a deep breath, he hit the call button and waited from Zac to answer.
“Hey Zac, it’s Zander.”
“Hey, what’s up? Is everything okay?”
“Well, yes and no. Everyone is fine, but Jason kind of had a meltdown and wanted me to call you and let you know that he can’t make dinner. He said he’d call you later.”
“A meltdown? What happened? I talked to him less than an hour ago and he seemed fine,” Zac replied. “Is he okay?”
“He’ll be alright. He’s lying down right now, but I’m going to go check on him a few minutes. I’m not exactly sure what happened. I had some bruises and they seemed to trigger a bad memory or something. I got him calmed down now and hopefully he’ll sleep for a little bit,” Zander said. “I promise that he’s okay though. And Chris and I are both here to keep an eye on him.”
“Should I come over?” Zac asked hopefully.
“Um…I don’t think that’s a good idea right now,” Zander admitted. “I’m sorry, Zac. I know you’re worried, but he seemed to want to be alone. He asked me to call and tell you he’ll call you later. I think it would be best to wait for his call.”
Zac sighed. “Yeah, you’re probably right. I don’t think I’m his favorite person these days.”
“Oh Zac, that’s not true. He just has a lot going on right now and he’s not too sure how to deal with it. Just give him his space when he needs it and he’ll come around.”
“I guess I don’t have much of a choice, do I? Thanks for calling me. Maybe I’ll see you later.”
“Bye, Zac.” Zander handed back the phone. “Well that was awful. Poor Zac feels so cut off from Jason. All he wants to do is help and all Jason does is push him away.”
“That may be, but Jason has to deal with this on his own terms. Zac just needs to be patient.”
“That’s funny coming from you. I can’t see you sitting back being patient if I was the one hurting,” Zan said.
“We’re not talking about me,” Chris chuckled.
“That’s what I thought,” Zan laughed. “So what did you say to Sophia? She seemed terrified. I better go check on her.”
“I told her that Jason wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t know what else to say. At that point I didn’t know what was going on, even if I wanted to tell her.”
“It’s okay. Jason not feeling well is all we can tell her. Let me go talk to her. You should probably get the ice cream put away. By the way, don’t think I didn’t notice all the bags you brought in. How many banana splits were you planning on making?”
“Brian, Justin, Steve, Jason, Zac, Sophia, you, me…we’re a houseful these days, babe. Better safe than sorry.”
“You’re so cute,” Zan said as he kissed Chris’s cheek. “I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Chris smiled as he watched Zan leave the kitchen and then started putting the groceries away as he thought about poor Jason. He wasn’t sure what to do for the kid, but something had to give. Otherwise the attack was going to end up destroying him. He needed advice. He needed someone to tell him what he should do to try and make things easier on Jason before the kid lost it completely. He just had to figure out exactly who that someone was.
Dane was lying in Michael’s arms, utterly content to just be with the man he loved, when his cell phone rang. He reached over to the nightstand and grabbed it, noticing that it was Brian. He hit the ignore button and put the phone back down.
“Who was that?” Michael asked curiously.
“Oh, it was just Brian. I can call him back tomorrow,” Dane replied.
“Baby, I don’t want you blowing off your friends for me. Maybe it was important. You should call him back now,” Michael encouraged him. “I don’t mind. I get to hold you all night.”
Dane didn’t mind putting Brian off, but since Michael seemed to, he grabbed his phone again and called his friend.
“Hey, there you are,” Brian said.
“Here I am,” Dane chuckled. “What’s up?”
“I was just wondering what you were up to tonight. I haven’t seen you this weekend and I won’t be around next weekend. Justin and I are staying on campus to study for finals. We won’t be back home until the Friday before Christmas. We’re hanging out at the house tonight, having a banana split party. Pretty cheesy, I know, but it’s mostly for Sophia. Wanna come hang out?”
“I’m kind of busy tonight. Maybe…” Dane saw Michael signaling for him and paused. “Hang on a second, Bri.”
“What does he want you to do?” Michael asked.
“They’re just hanging out at Brian’s house, having banana splits. It’s no big deal,” Dane explained.
“It sounds like fun. Could you maybe bring a plus one?”
“You want to go hang out with a bunch of teenagers and eat ice cream?” Dane asked.
“No, I want to go hang out and meet your friends,” Michael said. “Look, Dane, I’ve been saddled with a wife and kids since I was your age. Getting out and meeting your friends sounds like fun.”
Dane took the call off hold and brought the phone back to his ear. “Hey, Bri, would it be alright if I brought someone with me?”
“Of course. You know Sandy’s always welcome with you.”
“It’s not Sandy. It’s my…my boyfriend,” Dane admitted.
“Your boyfriend? You have a boyfriend? Why am I just hearing about this now?” Brian asked incredulously. “You’d better bring your boyfriend. How are we supposed to pass judgment on him if we don’t know him?”
“Bri, please be on your best behavior,” Dane pleaded.
“I’m not promising anything. See you around seven?”
Dane sighed. “We’ll be there.”
Dane put down his phone and turned to Michael. “I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into. My friends are pretty…overprotective…and judgmental…and weird. I have no idea how this evening is going to go.”
“It’ll be fine. You’ll see,” Michael assured him with a kiss on the nose. “So, when do we have to be there?”
“Not until seven.”
“That’s great. We have plenty of time to go another round,” Michael smirked as he pulled Dane to him.
“I had no idea you were this insatiable,” Dane laughed.
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” Michael replied. “But don’t worry. Once I leave Maddie, you’ll have all the time in the world to learn it all.”
Dane turned serious. “And you’re sure you really want to leave your marriage?”
“Of course I do. We discussed this yesterday, didn’t we? I told you that I’m doing it a few days after Christmas. What’s with the doubts?”
“I don’t know. Sandy said a few things today that made me wonder…you know what? Never mind. I’m not going to let her get into my head. Forget I said anything.”
“No, I don’t want to forget it. Dane, if something’s bothering you, we need to talk about it. What did Sandy say?” Michael prodded.
“She just said that married men, gay or straight, always make excuses for why they cheat and promise to leave their wives, but never do. I told her you weren’t like that, but I guess her voice is still ringing in my head. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. What she said is true in a lot of cases, but not mine. You have nothing to worry about. I’m going to be leaving Maddie in a few weeks and we are going to be together. You just have to trust me, alright?”
“I will…I do.”
“Good, now come over here so I can have my wicked way with you,” Michael growled.
Dane pushed thoughts of Sandy, Brian, the rest of the gang, and banana splits out of his mind. All he cared about at that moment was Michael and how much he loved him. Everything else could wait.
“Are you sure, Mr. Hopkins?”
“Of course I’m sure. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t,” Trent replied angrily. “I thought this was all taken care of. Maxwell told me that it was all arranged.”
“Well, it is. I just wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page. This is very unusual. You do realize that, right? You’re nineteen years old. Not exactly the clientele we normally deal with,” Jones told him. “Maxwell paid a lot of money to bypass all the red tape, but that doesn’t mean that we’re without concerns.”
“I realize that,” Trent assured him. “The circumstances are very unusual, but this is what I want. It’s what Zenaida wanted. I just want to follow her wishes.”
“And what are your plans from here? Will you be staying in Somalia long?”
“No. I plan on being back in London the day after tomorrow and then on a plane on to the U.S. soon after that. When I left Arizona in June, it was to back pack through Europe and find myself. I somehow found so much more. I think it’s time I go home.”
“But what about…”
“It’ll be fine. Maxwell arranged it all. You know how thorough he is. Everything will be fine. I appreciate your concern, but if you could just tell Kaleb I’m here, I’d appreciate it. I’d like to get on the road. My hotel is pretty far from here.”
“Fine,” Jones agreed. “But please don’t hesitate to call me if you change your mind. I’m not very comfortable with this arrangement.”
“Duly noted. Now, Kaleb, please?”
Jones walked away in a huff, but Trent didn’t care. He was going to follow through with his plans, regardless of what anyone thought. It was what he and Zenaida agreed upon before her death and he wasn’t about to let her down. He cared too much for that.
End of part 14
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