Now That You're Here - The College Years


Chapter 7




The day went by quickly with everyone helping to make the day special for Sophia. Dinner was excellent, as it always was when Zan cooked, and Justin couldn’t remember being happier. He was still concerned about Jason. He’d seemed unusually quiet throughout the day, but he didn’t seem sad or angry, just contemplative. Considering everything he’d gone through the week before, it was definitely understandable. Justin was just thankful that he’d agreed to go to the river with everyone after Sophia went to bed. Usually everyone hung around the house, but with a small child living there, Brian thought it was best to take the group somewhere else so that volume wasn’t an issue. Everyone was going to be there, including Trent, who came back from Europe for the holiday and Dane, who got Sandy to stay home with his daughter.

It was already almost seven o’clock and Sophia had gone upstairs to change for bed when Justin noticed Matt off to the side, staring at his phone. He was the other person Justin had spent his day watching closely. He seemed to be having a good day. In fact, up until that point, Matt seemed just like his old self, not someone fighting some inner demons. Justin hadn’t been sure if he should be concerned or not, but with the way Matt was watching his phone, it was apparent that something was going on with him. Justin walked over and pulled Matt aside, making sure to be out of earshot of those around them.

“Hey, is everything okay? You’re not worried about your grandmother, are you? Your mom said she came out of the surgery fine.”

“What? Oh no, I’m fine,” Matt told him. “I…uh…I kind of invited David to come and spend the weekend here with me….strictly as friends, of course. He should be calling me any minute to tell me he’s close.”

“Oh…okay…um, wow. I didn’t expect that,” Justin replied.

“Why? Is it wrong? Should I not have invited him? I shouldn’t have invited him. Shit, what do I do now? I can’t tell him to turn around and go home after driving five hours to get here. What am I going to do?” Matt rushed out in a panic.

“Okay, the first thing you’re going to do is relax,” Justin laughed. “I didn’t say you shouldn’t have invited him. It just surprised me that you did.”

“But I like him.”

“I know you do, which is why I’m surprised you did. Listen, last night you told me there was no way you could ever come out and be gay. Less than 24 hours later you’ve invited the guy that you’re really into, the one you blame for causing you all this confusion, to spend the weekend alone with you in your childhood home. It just seems kind of weird to me. That doesn’t mean that I think it’s a bad decision,” Justin explained softly.

“So you think it’s a good idea?” Matt asked nervously.

“Damn Matt, you need to relax.”

“I know, I’m trying. All day long I kept thinking about him being here and I was so happy that I called him…up until about twenty minutes ago when I realized that he’d be here soon. Now I’m a nervous wreck and I keep second guessing myself. I’m not ready to come out yet. I’m still not 100% sure that I’m going to come out. What if someone notices something? I mean, what if one of the guys sees us together and knows that we’ve kissed? Should I just stay locked up at home with him all weekend? I told him he’d meet my friends, but what if that’s not a good idea? What am I going to do?”

“Well, the first thing you can do is stop thinking too much, okay? Everything is going to be fine. No one is going to look at the two of you and know that you’ve kissed…not unless you kiss him in front of everybody. Matt, you’re one of my best friends, and you’ve confessed to me, and I’m still having a hard time believing it. You’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive,” Justin assured him.

Before anymore could be said, Matt’s phone rang, startling him. He looked at the screen and his heart skipped a beat at seeing David’s name there.

“You might want to answer it before he thinks you ditched him,” Justin chuckled.

“Oh…yeah,” Matt blushed as he answered the phone. “Hey.”

“Hey, I’m on Main Street and my GPS is saying I’m about five miles away,” David said as soon as he heard Matt’s voice. He wasn’t sure why, but he’d been getting more and more nervous as he got closer and closer to Sierra Vista. “Are you home?”

“No, but I’ll head over there now. Are you really tired from the trip? The whole gang is going to our hangout for a little while. Are you up for it, or should I just tell them to count me out?” Matt offered.

“No, I’m up for it if you are. You came home to visit your friends and family. The family part didn’t work out like you planned. I don’t want to interrupt your time with your friends. Anything you want to do this weekend is fine with me. I’m just glad to be here.”

“Me too…I mean, I’m glad you’re here, too. Okay, so I’ll see you in a few minutes,” Matt promised him before disconnecting the phone and looking at Justin. “Okay, so he’s almost at my house.”

“Alright, why don’t you go meet him and let him get settled? We’re probably going to hang out for about another hour and then head to the river. You can just meet us there.”

“Okay, that sounds good, I guess. Thanks for talking me off a ledge…again. I’m alright now.”

“Good…let me know if that changes and I’ll do it again.”

“Thanks, man,” Matt said as he hugged Justin quickly. Then he said goodbye to everyone, explaining that he had a friend from school coming to visit and that they’d get to meet him at the river. He was out the door in minutes.

The ride to his house was quick and seeing David’s car in the driveway caused him to once again second guess himself. He pulled in alongside the car and parked his truck, taking a deep breath before climbing out. His anxiety level increased as soon as he saw the man face to face.

“Hey, how was your trip?” he asked as he walked over and gave David a quick, but somewhat awkward hug.

“Worth it, just for the hug alone,” David teased.

“Yeah…um…I told you most of my friends are gay. We hug a lot in the group,” Matt explained. “Grab your bag and you can come in and get settled. We have about an hour before we have to go. Are you hungry? My mom always keeps the kitchen stocked in case my friends come by.”

“I could probably eat something,” David replied. “And then you can tell me about the friends I’m going to meet. Other than knowing they’re either gay or gay friendly, I don’t really know anything about them. Except for Justin. He’s obviously the one you’re closest to if you talked to him about me.”

“Yeah, he’s my best friend which is strange considering he’s the one I know the least, aside from Jason. Come on, I’ll make you a sandwich and then fill you in.”

A half hour later Matt found himself relaxed in David’s company. They were sitting in the living room on opposite ends of the couch and Matt had just finished telling him all about the group.

“Okay, so let’s see if I get this right. You’ve known Steve, Trent and Dane since grade school. Steve and Trent are straight, Dane’s gay. You’ve known Zac and Brian since high school. Brian’s gay and Zac’s bisexual. Justin just moved here before senior year. He’s gay and living with Brian. Then there’s Jason who grew up with Justin in Pittsburgh and is only here because he goes to Arizona State. He’s also bisexual and is with Zac. Did I miss anyone?”

“Wow, I can’t believe you remembered all that.”

“I have a really good memory,” David laughed. “So how did Justin end up out here from Pittsburgh?”

“His parents were killed in a car accident when he was seventeen. The closest relative that would take him in was Zander. They’re cousins. Zan lives with his partner Chris, who is Brian’s brother. Chris took Brian in when their parents kicked him out for being gay. Chris and Zan are awesome. They’re like a second set of parents to everyone.”

“Wow, that’s crazy, but they sound great. So, you weren’t lying when you said most of your best friends are gay,” David chuckled. “With all those people in your corner, it’s kind of weird that…”

When David didn’t go on, Matt jumped in. “Kind of weird that I’m not out and proud? Not really. I know they’d all have my back 100%. I’m not worried about losing my friends. It’s my family that scares me. My father, my uncles, my grandfather…they’re all cops; well, my grandfather’s a retired cop. I don’t see any of them being okay with me being gay, and even though I’m an adult, I’m not okay with losing them.”

“Of course you’re not, and I wouldn’t expect you to be, at any age. On the other hand, you can’t live your life being miserable to make other people happy. Look, I don’t know what you’re really feeling deep down inside, and I’m not going to ask you to tell me. Just think about what your future will hold if you don’t come out; getting married to a woman, sharing a bed with her. Having to pretend everyday that she’s the one you want, when in reality you’re thinking about the waiter at your favorite restaurant or the guy you see every day at the gym. There are a lot of old queens out there who have lived a life of lies to keep from disappointing their families. They’re confused and miserable and will one day wake up and realize that they wasted their life and it’s too late to go back and fix it. I don’t want that for you. Even if you decide you never want to see me again, I don’t want you to waste your life in the closet. No one should ever have to do that.”

Matt didn’t know what to say. David made it sound like coming out was the only option, but was that true? Realistically he knew that it was, but that didn’t make his decision any easier. Before he had time to reply, his phone went off. He knew who it was without looking.

“Hey Jus, what’s up?”

“We’re leaving now,” Justin replied. “You guys still going to meet us there?”

“Uh…yeah. David just finished eating. I’ll show him where he’s going to sleep and then we’ll head over.”

“Cool…you alright?”

Matt looked at David and smiled. “Yeah, I’m good.”

“Alright, see you in a bit.”

Matt disconnected the call. “Okay, they’re leaving now. Why don’t you grab your bag and I’ll show you where my brother’s room is.”


David followed Matt upstairs quietly. He’d already pushed enough for one night. Especially considering that he promised not to push at all. The room he’d be sleeping in was right next door to Matt’s room and David couldn’t help wishing that they were sharing a bed for the weekend. He dropped his bag, took a quick look around and then walked over to where Matt had been standing, causing the younger guy to take a step back. “Matt, am I making you nervous? You seemed fine downstairs.”

“Um…no…not really. It’s just…”

“It’s just what?” David prodded.

“I just…um…I really want to kiss you right now,” Matt admitted softly.

“Then kiss me,” David replied as his heart rate shot up a notch.

“But I don’t want to give you the wrong impression.”

“The wrong impression?” David asked.

“Yeah…I’m not sure…I’m just so confused right now and I really don’t know what I’m going to do next. Kissing you probably wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I’m trying really hard not to send mixed signals. I don’t want to make you think that we…that I…I really can’t say that anything is ever going to happen between us and I don’t want you…”

David gently shoved Matt until he was up against the nearest wall and then took his mouth in a soft but passionate kiss. He’d promised himself that he was going to keep his hands to himself through the weekend, but he couldn’t resist. Not with Matt standing there trying so hard to do the right thing by him. The kiss only lasted for about a minute, and David hated that it had to end, but regardless of how good it was, he wasn’t going to keep pushing. He pulled back and looked at Matt closely, trying to figure out what he was thinking.

“Um…” Matt murmured.

“Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have done that. I was just trying to get you to stop rambling,” David explained.

“Most people would just tell me to stop talking,” Matt pointed out, although he didn’t seem mad.

“Maybe, but you have to admit that my way is more fun,” David laughed at the blush that spread through Matt’s face. “Listen, you don’t need to worry about me, alright? I’m a big boy and I know how to take care of myself. I know where your head is at right now and I don’t have any expectations from you. That being said, you never have to think twice about kissing me. I’m up for it whenever you are. Okay?”

“Um…yeah…that’s…okay,” Matt stuttered, his mind still back on the kiss.

“Alright then, let’s go. I’m looking forward to meeting your friends,” David said as he quickly changed the atmosphere of the room without giving Matt time to freak out. He grabbed Matt’s hand, and led him down the stairs and towards the door. Matt stopped briefly to grab his keys off the kitchen counter and then they headed outside.

Once they were inside the truck, Matt looked over at David and smiled. “I’m really glad you’re here.”

“I’m glad I’m here, too,” David replied. “Now let’s go have some fun.”



Zac was standing by the garbage cans lost in thought. He was keeping a close eye on Jason, wondering when his boyfriend was finally going to open up to him. He kept saying that he was fine, but it was obvious that he was still freaked out from the attack. Every time Zac touched him, Jason would jump at the contact and pull away. The night before, after they climbed into bed, Zac tried to give Jason more than just a peck on the cheek. Jason pulled away, mumbled something about being tired, and rolled over as far away from Zac as he could in the small bed before pretending to fall asleep. Zac was trying not to take it personally, telling himself that it hadn’t even been a week since the attack, but he couldn’t help but feel that something more was going on. Yes, being beaten up by a stranger was traumatic, but Jason’s reaction seemed to go beyond what happened the week before.

“Hey, is everything alright?” Brian asked, appearing behind Zac.

“Huh? Oh yeah, everything’s fine,” Zac lied.

“Really? Is that why you’re standing all the way over here? Because everything is fine?” Brian pushed.

Zac sighed in frustration. “Bri, does Jason seem off to you? I know it’s only been six days since the attack, but he seems to be getting more distant. I mean, it was bad enough that he insisted that I stay at school while he came back here to recover, but I really thought he’d be getting better by now. He barely answered my calls while we were apart and ever since I got here, he seems to be pulling away from me more and more.”

Brian swore under his breath. “Yeah, I guess he seems a little bit distant, but after what happened to him last week, it’s probably understandable. It had to be terrifying to be attacked like that in a place where we’re all supposed to be safe. I know I spent more time looking over my shoulder the last few days…and I wouldn’t let Justin go anywhere alone. He didn’t fight me on it, but I doubt if he’s going to be so agreeable next week.”

“No, probably not,” Zac chuckled.

“But the point is that everyone’s world was changed on campus last week when that asshole hurt Jason, but imagine how much his has changed.”

“I guess you’re right,” Zac begrudgingly agreed. “I just hate that he won’t let me help him, you know? I was so happy when he asked me to stay over last night, but then when I went to touch him, he jumped away and kept as much distance between us as possible in the tiny bed. It hurt.”

“I know, just be patient with him. Everyone handles things differently, but he’ll come around eventually,” Brian assured Zac, hoping that what he said was true. Jason was still refusing therapy and in Brian’s experience, once a person lost his marbles, it took a lot to get them back.

Justin was standing there listening to David and Matt talk about school with a huge smile on his face. Matt was a goner. David was gorgeous, sweet, funny…everything that Brian was to him…and head over heels for Matt. His friend didn’t stand a chance. Especially since it was obvious that Matt felt the same way. It wasn’t obvious in that everyone else would pick up on the signs, but knowing what Justin did, he could see their attraction from a million miles away. He was happy for his friend. He knew that Matt had a rough road ahead of him while he sorted things out and got up the courage to come out, but there was no doubt that David would be there to make it easier for him. Between David and the gang, Matt would be just fine.

“So Justin, Matt told me you’re from Pittsburgh,” David said, pulling Justin from his thoughts.

“Yeah, I’ve only been here for about a year and a half. I hate to admit it, but I miss the snow,” Justin laughed.

“I know what you mean. I spent two years in New York. I’m one of those weird people who love the cold. I’ve thought about going back after graduation,” David paused and looked over at Matt with a smile. “But I think I might stick around Texas for awhile.”

“I love New York,” Justin replied, ignoring the blatant remark about David sticking around for Matt. “I was only there once, but it was great. I was hoping to make that our next vacation destination. Maybe over spring break.”

“That would be great. We could all go,” David replied excitedly before he quickly sobered. “I mean…I didn’t mean to invite myself…I guess I just got a little carried away. But you guys should definitely go.”

“It’s okay,” Matt said, putting his hand on David’s arm briefly. “Maybe we can all go. Brian, Justin, Jason and Zac took a trip together over the summer and I couldn’t go because of a family obligation. I’m long overdue for a vacation.”

Justin could tell that Matt was trying to make David feel included and jumped in to help. “Yeah, it’ll be fun. I’m sure Brian would be up for it. We’ll have to ask the others.”

“But I didn’t mean to…”

“Seriously David, it’s okay,” Matt insisted. “I’d really like for you to go with us. Look, I don’t know where I’ll be with…everything by the time spring rolls around, but we’re friends, right? I want all my friends to go. It’ll be fun.”

Justin kind of felt like he was intruding on a personal moment and turned to see where his other half was. Brian was standing over by Zac, lost in conversation. Justin immediately searched for Jason and found him sitting alone on the opposite side of the picnic area. He sighed and turned back to David and Matt. “Guys, I’m gonna go talk to Jason.”

Matt stopped him before he could walk away. “How’s he doing? Is he alright?”

“He’s alright, I guess. He’s just got a lot going on in his head right now. I wish I could do something to make it a little bit easier for him, but sometimes I think I’m just making it worse by constantly asking him how he is,” Justin replied.

“Listen, why don’t you let me talk to him? We haven’t really had a chance to talk all day. Maybe I can cheer him up a little bit,” Matt suggested.

“Okay, I’ll take David over to everybody else and tell them about our idea for spring break. See who else is interested.”

Matt nodded his approval and then made his way over to Jason. “Do you mind some company?”

“Have a seat,” Jason replied, trying to put on his happy face. “How’s school going?”

“It’s going okay. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I’m managing to keep my grades up. It feels strange living in the dorms though, doesn’t it? I mean, when I’m up studying late at night, I still expect my mother to come knocking on my door to tell me to go to sleep,” Matt chuckled.

“I know, me too,” Jason laughed. “It’s cool though. I thought I’d be more homesick, but I guess having Zac, Brian and Justin close by helps.”

“Yeah, you lucked out. My dumb ass had to decide to go where I didn’t know anyone,” Matt said. “It was pretty hard at first, but I’ve been making friends.”

“Like David,” Jason replied, gesturing to where David and Justin had joined the others. “He seems pretty cool. He’s not a freshman, right? He’s definitely older.”

“No, he’s a senior. I met him at a party during my second week there. He lives in a house off campus so it was his party. He also dated my RA at some point so he’s been around a lot,” Matt explained.

“You know he’s into you, right?” Jason asked softly.

Matt sighed. “Yeah, I know. How do you?”

“He hasn’t really taken his eyes off you since you guys got here,” Jason said.

“Do you think anyone else noticed?”

“Probably not. I’m the only one sitting over here by myself watching everyone,” Jason pointed out. “Matt, did Justin ever tell you about my family?”

“Um…not really. I mean, I’ve met your mom and dad and I know that you’re from Pittsburgh and that you grew up with Justin and all, but that’s about it.”

“My aunt is a lesbian. That’s why it was so easy for me to accept who I am and come out to everyone. I spent my entire life being shown that being gay doesn’t make you different. It just makes your choice of partners different. My aunt and I are very close and I’ve met a lot of her friends over the years. I always laugh when someone says that they don’t know any gay people, like we all wear signs confessing who we love. They know gay people; they just know that they’re gay. Lawyers, school teachers, politicians; some of them may stay in the closet because they feel they have to if they want to keep their jobs, but they’re out there. There are even gay cops. My aunt knows two. They live together and have been in a committed relationship for fifteen years.”

Matt swallowed, his panic quickly rising to the surface. “Why are you telling me this?”

“You want to be a cop, don’t you?”

“Jason, I’m not sure…”

“It’s okay, Matt,” Jason said, stopping him from continuing. “You don’t have to say a word. We didn’t even have this conversation if that’s how you want to play it. I’m just very good at reading people and I usually see what other people don’t. I was pretty sure Justin was gay from the time we were fourteen, even though he didn’t come out to me until last year. You have to do what you feel is right. Just keep one thing in mind. Life can be very cruel and unfair. Trust me; I know what I’m talking about. I was recently reminded of this. The only way to make the most of it is to do whatever it is that makes us happy, regardless of what other people think. We need the happy times to help us try to get over the not so happy ones.”

“Uh…I’ll…um…keep that in mind,” Matt replied, a little stunned by what Jason had said. For some reason, maybe because he felt like he needed to have something on Jason now that he’d made it clear that he had his own information, Matt found himself talking about something he swore he never would. “You know, I come from a long line of cops. My grandfather is a retired police chief in Phoenix. One of my uncles still works there. He’s a detective.”

“Really? That’s cool,” Jason replied with confusion.

“Yeah, Uncle Andrew actually called me earlier today. He had taken a few days off and just went back to work last night. He spent the night catching up on what he’d missed while he was out. He called because he came across the attack at Arizona State and knew I had friends there. I guess he was worried, thinking that maybe it was someone I knew. He’s working with the campus police to try and catch the scumbag that did it.”

“Um…that’s good. He…um…needs to be caught,” Jason stammered.

“Yeah, he does. Especially considering what he did.”

“Oh God,” Jason whispered as he jumped up from the table and covered his face with his hands.

Matt suddenly felt guilty. He jumped up and put a hand on Jason’s back, not really surprised when Jason jumped away from the contact. “Shit Jason, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Jason looked up at Matt with tears running down his face. “Please don’t tell anyone. I’m begging you. Only a few people know and that’s enough. I didn’t even tell Zac. Please Matt, please don’t say anything.”

Matt pulled Jason into what he hoped was a comforting hug. “Shhh, Jason, it’s okay. I would never tell anyone what happened. It’s none of my business. I’m sorry I even said anything to you. It was stupid and childish. I was just…I was scared. What you said to me…I’m not…I can’t be…shit, I don’t even know what I’m saying. I’m just so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Matt continued to hold Jason as his soft sobs slowly tapered off. He glanced up at one point to see Justin heading their way and motioned for him to stay away. He could see the conflict in his friend’s face, but in the end, Justin gave them the space Matt had silently asked for.

Once Jason felt he had regained enough control, he pulled back and wiped away his tears. “Sorry about that. I’m still not good at keeping myself from emotional break downs. Seriously, Matt, please don’t tell anyone what you know.”

“I wouldn’t, Jason. I swear. I don’t even know why I said it. I guess the only excuse I have is that I was so freaked out by what you were saying. Look, I don’t want to be…like this. And this thing with David…I don’t know what’s happening to me, you know?”

“Actually I do know. I’ve never been afraid of who I am, and I knew for awhile before coming out that I was attracted to guys as well as girls so it’s not the same thing as what you’re going through, but I think in the back of my mind, I always thought I’d end up married to a woman. In Pittsburgh, no one was out in our high school so I just dated girls. And that was fine with me until the moment I met Zac. Sometimes…I don’t know. Sometimes you just meet someone and in that instant your whole world changes. It happened to Brian and Justin. It happened to Zac and me, and from the sound of things, it happened with you and David. Now, which would you like first, the good news or the bad?”

“I guess give me the bad first,” Matt said.

“There’s not a damn thing you can do about it. You can’t fight a connection like that and you’d be a fool to even try.”

“And the good news?”

“Having a connection like that is the most amazing feeling in the world, and not everyone finds that. You need to consider yourself lucky and accept what David is so obviously offering you before you lose it for good.”

“But what about…”

“It doesn’t matter,” Jason said, interrupting before Matt could say what was on his mind.

“But I don’t…”

“It doesn’t matter. Matt, unless you can look at David and tell me unequivocally that you are not attracted to him in any way; all your arguments don’t matter. You need to find a way to accept who you are and to hell with anyone who doesn’t accept it with you. I know it’s easier said than done, but like I said before, life sucks. Embrace all the happy moments you can, just in case some scumbag comes along and takes it all away.”

Matt thought about what Jason said for a moment and then sighed. “For what it’s worth, I am so sorry for what happened to you. It’s awful and if you ever need anyone to talk to or vent to, just call me. And I promise that I won’t say a word about what happened. I wouldn’t do that to you or anyone. I’m really sorry I brought it up. I came over here to try and make you feel better, not worse.”

“You didn’t make me feel worse. You can’t make me feel worse. What happened is always there in my mind. It takes a lot for me to keep it inside. Having my little breakdowns are probably good for me,” Jason laughed humorlessly. “I just can’t…seem to forget, you know? Every time I close my eyes, he’s there. Every time someone touches me, it’s his hands that I feel.”

“Jas, you really need to talk to someone about this,” Matt suggested.

“I am. I’m talking to Zander. I just can’t walk into a stranger’s office and tell them what happened. It just doesn’t feel right to me. Zan knows me, he cares about me. For whatever reason, that makes it a little bit easier.”

“But…aren’t you majoring in psychology? Shouldn’t you be advocating for therapy?”

Jason could help but chuckle. “This falls into that ‘do as I say, not as I do’ category. I spent my childhood talking about every little thing thanks to my mother and her Masters in Psychology. I can almost tell you word for word what a therapist would say to me. It won’t help. I’ve admitted that I needed to talk to someone. Zander will do.”

“Well, as long as you’re talking to someone,” Matt replied. “As for Zac…”

“I know,” Jason said, cutting him off. “I know I should tell him, but I can’t. It may sound irrational, but I’m afraid that he’ll look at me differently if he knows.”

Matt thought about what he was going to say before responding. “He probably will look at you differently. How could he not? You’re not the same person that you were before last Friday, are you? That doesn’t mean he’s going to stop loving you or wanting to be with you. Look, I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong because I haven’t got a clue. I don’t even want to imagine going through what you did. All I’m saying is that one of the perks of having someone special in your life is to have them help you through the rough times. I would think this qualifies as one of the roughest times in your life. Wouldn’t you? How can he possibly help you through it if he doesn’t really know what happened?”

“I know you’re right…I just can’t explain it. Everything in me wants him to never know. Maybe I’ll change my mind later, but right now I have to go with what my heart is telling me. It’s the only way I can get through this.”

“Well then, go with your heart. You’re the one who has to get through this any way that you can,” Matt replied. “And you will. I imagine this isn’t something that you’ll ever completely forget, but you’ll find a way to live with it. Until then, just make sure you lean on everyone. We’ll all help you in any way that we can.”

“Thanks Matt. I really appreciate that,” Jason said as he hugged Matt tight once more. He pulled back and wipe at his eyes again. “We’d better get back to everyone. Zac keeps looking over here and I know he’s dying to know what we’re talking about. In fact, I’m surprised he didn’t come over here already.”

“Yeah well, Justin saw that I upset you and was getting ready to head over. I kind of shooed him away. He probably kept Zac away.”

“Then I’d better get over there and suck up a little. I don’t think he’s real happy with me right now. I’ve kind of been a little distant with him, and before you say anything, I know. He’d understand if he knew. I’ll just have to try and be extra nice to him for awhile. I know he’s just worried because he cares about me. Trust me, I’ll find a way to balance it all. I have to.”

Nothing more was said as they made their way over to the rest of the guys. Everyone stayed for another hour before deciding it was time to leave. Once they all agreed to meet at Matt’s house the following night for beer and pizza, they went their separate ways.




Brian, Justin, Jason and Zac had all gone together. As soon as Brian parked the Jeep in the driveway, he and Justin jumped out and went inside. Zac stopped Jason from following them in.

“I think I’m going to head home,” Zac said softly.

“What? Why?”

Zac sighed. “Look, Jas, I know you’ve been through a lot and I don’t want to make this about me. It just seems like you really don’t want me around right now. And that’s fine, I guess. I mean, it sucks, but I don’t want to be a dick so I’ll go and you can call me tomorrow or Saturday or whatever.”

Jason hated the sadness he saw in his boyfriend’s eyes. “Oh Z, I’m sorry. I never meant to make you feel like I don’t want you around. I do. I’m just kind of messed up right now and I guess I’m not the best company. Please stay with me tonight. I really want you here.”

Zac looked at him closely. “Are you sure? I don’t want to be here because you feel guilty sending me away. That’s why I offered to go home.”

“I’m positive,” Jason replied and leaned in, giving Zac a gentle kiss. “I know I’ve been kind of out of it lately. I promise you that it’s going to get better. I just might need a little more time.”

“You can have all the time that you need as long as you don’t completely shut me out,” Zac said. He took a deep breath before continuing. “You know that I love you, right? I mean, I know that we haven’t said that to each other yet, but you know that I do, right? And I’m not just saying it because of what happened. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now, but after you had those doubts last spring, I wanted to wait for awhile and make sure you were ready to hear it. When that cop answered your cell last week and told me what happened, all I kept thinking was that if anything happened to you, I’d never get the chance to tell you how I felt.”

Jason felt his eyes tear up. “I love you, too. And I promise, I won’t shut you out. Come here,” Jason cried as he pulled Zac to him for another kiss. This one lasted much longer than the first as he allowed himself to get lost in his boyfriend. He refused to think about anything but the two of them.

Zac deepened the kiss. It was the first real kiss they’d shared since the attack and Zac wanted to get as much out of it as he could. He wasn’t foolish enough to believe that all their problems were miraculously gone. Something was bothering Jason, something more than just the attack. He just wasn’t sure how to get Jason to open up to him. He’d have to work on it, but for that moment in time, all that mattered was that Jason loved him. They loved each other.


“Your friends are awesome,” David said as they headed back to Matt’s place. “Especially Justin. I can see how he’s your best friend. He seems really easy to talk to, you know? When he focuses on you, he’s really focusing on you.”

“Yeah, he’s great. I hate that it took his parents dying to bring him here, but I’m so glad he’s here,” Matt replied.

“That does suck, but he seems to have adjusted well. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have my parents. I don’t see them much since I moved out on my own, but I talk to them once or twice a week and I know they’re always there if I need them.”

“I know, me too. That’s why I can’t…well…that’s why…” Matt stammered.

“I get it. I do. It’s just that…you know what? Never mind,” David said. “How about if we spend the weekend not talking about it, okay? We’ll just be a couple of friends hanging out. No talking about anything serious until we’re back in El Paso, deal?”

“That works for me. After the last day and a half, I could use the break from thinking,” Matt agreed.

“Cool…just remember that the kissing thing still stands. If you want to kiss me at any time, I’ll always be a willing recipient. And I promise not to talk about it afterwards,” David laughed.

“Such a gentleman,” Matt teased. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

When they reached the house, David followed Matt inside. They had decided to watch a movie together, but when David went to get comfortable on the couch, Matt stopped him.

“Um…I thought we could lock up and watch the movie upstairs. Um…I have a pretty big bed and we’d be more comfortable up there,” Matt said nervously. “I mean, you know…we could just…or maybe we’d be better down here.”

David could help but laugh. “Matt, relax. After spending five hours in the car today, I’d be much more comfortable watching TV from your bed. I promise to behave. I know you’re not propositioning me.”

“I know, I just…”

“Am I going to make you nervous all weekend? Because if I am, maybe it would be best if I left in the morning. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable around me.”

“No, I’m not nervous,” Matt said quickly. “I’m just…it’s kind of weird for me right now. I’ve spent years watching my friends make fools of themselves every time they liked someone, but it never happened to me because I never really liked anyone before. And now…I like you but it’s such a huge deal because you’re…you know…a guy. And I’m still so confused over everything, and here you are in my house for the weekend and I know that I want you here, I’m just not exactly sure how to act.”

“You’ve never been with anyone before?”

“No, I have. I dated girls through most of high school. I just never acted like a fool around them because I never really liked them.”

“Oh, I get it. Well, can’t you just act around me like you act around the guys?”

“No, because I don’t want to kiss them…I mean…oh, forget it.” Matt turned away, mortified by his ramblings.

David’s smile was so wide, he was glad that Matt had turned around so he couldn’t see it. Taking a moment to stop looking so smug, he walked over and turned Matt around, giving him a quick kiss before speaking. “Hey, there’s still no reason for you to be nervous around me. Whatever it is between us, it’s your deal. I’m just along for the ride. If you want to kiss me, then kiss me. If you want to lie in bed and watch TV, we’ll lie in bed and watch TV. And if you want to stay on opposite sides of the room, we’ll do that. It’s your call and I’m fine with whatever you want to do. And if tonight you want to lie in bed and kiss me and tomorrow you want to sit on opposite sides of the room, that’s okay too. As long as you’re still figuring things out, I will take your lead, alright?”

“I’m sorry for being such a freak,” Matt sighed.

“You’re not a freak; you’re just finding your way. It’ll get easier, I promise.”

“If you say so.” Matt wasn’t sure he believed it. “Come on, let’s go upstairs and watch the movie. I’m sure you’re exhausted from the drive.”

“Lead the way.”

Matt turned off the lights, made sure the French doors to the back were locked and then headed upstairs with his heart beating at a quickened pace. The whole situation was so weird to him and he didn’t want to screw it all up. Like he had told David earlier in the night, he didn’t want to lead him on. He didn’t want to keep turning hot and cold, but that was where his mind was. One minute he was thinking that he’d have to tell his parents and follow his true feelings, the next he’d picturing himself watching his bride walk down the aisle. How was he supposed to make decisions on where his life was going when he had no idea where he wanted it to go?

When they got upstairs, Matt turned to David and smiled shyly. “I’m going to change into my pajamas and get more comfortable…if you want to…”

“Matt, I sleep in the nude,” David replied.

Matt felt the blood drain from his face and he started stammering. “Um…I didn’t…maybe you could…I don’t think…”

David laughed out loud. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist. Relax; I have something to sleep in.”

Matt stared at David for a minute and then started laughing as he lightly punched him. “You’re an ass, you know that?”

“I was just trying to lighten the mood a bit,” David explained. “Although, I wasn’t completely lying. I do sleep in the nude. Just not when I’m visiting. I’ll be right back.”

Matt was glad that David walked away and couldn’t see the blush that spread through him. David…sleeping naked…how the hell was he supposed to get that thought out of his head? Shaking off his thoughts, Matt went into his room and quickly changed into a pair of flannel pajama pants and a t-shirt. Once he was dressed, he opened his door to find David on the other side. Again his heart skipped a beat, but he tried to push his nervousness down as he went over to his entertainment system and set up the movie. Once it was ready to go, he grabbed the remote and turned around, stopping dead in his tracks at the sight of David, lying in his bed looking very comfortable.

“Is everything alright? Am I on your side of the bed or something?” David asked when Matt remained rooted in place.

“Huh? Oh…um…no. You’re fine. I just…it’s that…”

“Do you want to do that other side of the room thing?” David asked, realizing that his being in Matt’s bed was making him nervous. “I can sit in the chair or something. Or maybe going back downstairs would be a good idea.”

“No…no…no. I’m good…I mean, this is good. I just…it’s okay. Justin and I have lain in this bed for hours watching TV while Brian was working. It’s no big deal. Now, do you need anything before I press play? I should’ve asked before we came up here. Are you hungry or thirsty? I think we have some microwave popcorn downstairs.”

“Nope, I’m good if you are.”

“Alright, then let’s watch the movie.”

Matt pressed the play button on the Blue Ray player and then turned off the lights before climbing on the bed. He was a little confused about where he should lay. If it was Justin, they would’ve practically shared a pillow, but it wasn’t Justin. It was David. The guy he liked. The guy he had been trying not to think about kissing for the last five hours. Taking a deep breath and biting the bullet, he settled himself down on his side of the bed. As the previews finished and the movie started, he felt himself starting to relax and feel more comfortable. If he didn’t put too much thought into it, he could imagine that he was just hanging out watching TV with a friend. And David was a friend. At that moment in time, David was only a friend. There was no reason to be nervous.

And that’s what he kept telling himself as he felt his hand brush David’s. When he noticed that he’d moved a little bit closer to the man lying next to him. When he realized that he was missing the movie because he couldn’t stop thinking about how much he wanted to turn the TV off and kiss David. He suddenly jumped up, paused the movie and turned on the lights, causing David to look at him in concern.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I don’t know what’s happening,” Matt spit out in frustration.

“Oh, that’s easy. The guy on the left is an FBI agent and he’s investigating…”

“No, not in the movie. I mean me.”

David sat up and looked at Matt in confusion. “Okay, what’s going on?”

Matt sighed once again and sat back down on the bed. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. One minute I’m sure that I just want to be friends and the next…I’m lying here trying to focus on the movie and I’m so aware of being next to you that I can’t concentrate. I haven’t heard a word anyone has said since the movie started.”

“Okay, so you don’t want to watch the movie?”

“No, I do. I really want to see it.”

“Okay, so do you want me to go sit in the chair?”


“You wanna go downstairs?”


“Matt, you’ve got to work with me here. I’m trying to…”

Matt leaned in and kissed David, effectively stopping the conversation. He felt David’s surprise, but when he felt the other man relax into the kiss, Matt deepened it. It was weird. It wasn’t like he’d never kissed anyone before. Back in tenth grade, he and Melissa Grey were a hot item. Of course Matt knew that deep down inside he wasn’t really attracted to her, but he had to keep up appearances. Fearing that his true feelings would come out, he went out of his way to make people think that there was nothing wrong with him; even going as far as having sex on the night of their Spring Formal. He wasn’t an inexperienced kid, yet kissing David, taking the lead and deepening the kiss felt new and exciting in a way he never expected. Following his heart instead of his head, it only took a few moments before Matt had David on his back and was partially covering him. He wasn’t sure who the moans that began to fill the room were coming from, but if he had to guess, he’s say they each were getting pretty vocal about their desires. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed before David pulled back, ending the kiss.

“Matt, as much as I hate to say this, we have to stop.”

Matt looked at David in shock. “What? But I thought you said that if…I thought you wanted…” His passion was quickly turning into embarrassment. He sat up and tried to turn away, but David wouldn’t let him.

“I did say that if you wanted to kiss me, I’d be a willing recipient, and believe me; I wanted to…that was good. Really, really good.”

“But then what’s the problem?”

“This,” David said as he grabbed Matt’s hand and put it on his rock hard cock. He tried not to laugh when Matt pulled his hand back as if it was burned. “Sorry. I was just letting you know what the problem is. Matt, I’ve made no secret of my attraction to you. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since my party. Then you invite me to spend the weekend with you, something I never thought I’d get to do. On top of that, you’ve admitted to liking me and wanted to kiss me. That alone is enough to make me weak in the knees. Now here I am, lying in bed with you, in the dark, with you kissing me like that…I’m a man Matt, I’m not made of steel.”

“Oh God, you’re right. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”

“And I like that you weren’t thinking. I like that you finally felt comfortable enough around me to let go and just be yourself. And kissing you…hell, I’m a twenty three year old gay man with plenty of experience and I’ve never been turned on by someone so much.”

“You’re twenty three?” Matt asked, choosing to focus on David’s age instead of how much he turned him on. That was something he’d think about when he was alone.

“Yeah, technically I should’ve graduated last year but I took some time off after…well, after Ricky died. I needed to get my head together. I didn’t start college until I was nineteen.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to change the subject and bring up bad memories. I was just curious. I had no idea how old you were. I’m only eighteen. My birthday isn’t until June….um, I guess that doesn’t matter right now, huh?”

David chuckled. “You are so cute. How about we just go back to watching the movie for now? We can talk more tomorrow and maybe get to know each other a little better.”

“Yeah, okay. So that guy is an FBI agent?”

“You really have no idea what happened in the last fifteen minutes?”

“Nope…not a clue. Lying here with you turned out to be very distracting,” Matt laughed.

“Give me this,” David said as he pulled the remote out of Matt’s hand. He hit the menu button and restarted the movie. “Now pay attention. I’m going to quiz you later.”

Matt laughed as they once again settled down on the bed. This time Matt made sure to focus on the movie. He even managed to not think about how good it felt when he reached out and took David’s hand while they lost themselves in the movie.

End of part 7