Now That You're Here - The College Years

Chapter 9


Zac was lying in bed next to Jason, watching him sleep and thinking about how everything had changed. Ever since the attack, Jason had been distant and moody, pushing Zac away every time he tried to get close. He also wasn’t sleeping well anymore. Zac had spent the last two nights being woken up over and over again by his boyfriend’s constant tossing and turning. Not that he blamed anything on Jason. He couldn’t imagine how horrible the attack must have been on him. He just hated that he was being pushed away over and over again. It was one of the reasons he offered to go home the night before. He couldn’t help but feel like he wasn’t wanted. Yet somehow they had declared their love for each other the previous night. Zac hated that the words were given so unceremoniously on the sidewalk outside Chris and Zan’s house. He’d always pictured a nice, romantic setting when he confessed to loving Jason. Yet one more thing that asshole destroyed when he attacked Jason. Yet the words had been spoken, and Jason returned them and tried so hard to let things go back to normal between them.

But things weren’t back to normal between them. Zac knew that the moment he tried for more than a kiss and felt Jason’s whole body tense up. He wasn’t stupid. He could sense the fear in Jason and once again wondered what exactly happened during the attack. Not that he would ever diminish a simple assault. Any type of violence against another person would be a horrible thing to endure. But this was different. If it had been a simple assault, Jason would be starting to put it behind him by now. Maybe he’d still be jumpy being in public places, but he wouldn’t be fearful when he was alone in his boyfriend’s arms. No, something more happened on that campus, and Zac was overcome with disgust when he imagined what that something could be.

He just didn’t know how to address the issue with Jason. The last thing he wanted to do was push him when it was obvious that he didn’t want Zac to know. The pain of knowing that his boyfriend would keep such a secret from him was something that was eating away at Zac’s mind. How can a person tell someone that they love him and keep something so personal from him at the same time? But they needed to talk about it. Jason needed to know that regardless of what had happened, Zac was there for him and would do everything he could to make it better. Zac just had to bite the bullet and tell Jason his suspicions. He had to do it before the distance between them grew even further.

Zac wasn’t sure how long he’d spent watching Jason before sleepy eyes opened and struggled to focus on him.

“Hey, are you watching me sleep again?” Jason whispered with a small smile. He always enjoyed waking up to find Zac watching. “How long have you been up?”

“Awhile,” Zac replied. “How did you sleep?”


“Liar,” Zac teased, although they both knew it was the truth. Zac took a deep breath. “Babe, we need to talk.”

Jason searched Zac’s face and could tell that whatever was bothering his boyfriend was serious. A tremor ran through his body. “What’s up?”

“Jas, I think we need to talk about what happened on campus,” Zac began.

“I thought we already did,” Jason replied.

“Why won’t you be honest with me? It’s killing me to see you so upset and I want to help you but I can’t do that if you keep lying about what really happened. Please talk to me,” Zac pleaded.

Jason’s heart raced as he thought about baring his soul to Zac. He didn’t want to. Of all the people in his life, Zac was the last person he’d want to talk to about what happened. “Can’t we just put it behind us, Zac? I really don’t want to think about it.”

“I wish we could,” Zac said softly. “But putting it behind us hasn’t been working. Jas, I love you and I want to help you, but you keep pushing me away. Why can’t you just talk to me?”

Jason sighed as a single tear rolled down his face. He didn’t bother wiping it away. He knew there would be more to come. He sat up, leaned against the wall and stared down at his hands before replying. “I don’t know. I just can’t.”

Zac waited until Jason was settled and then straddled his legs. He saw Jason tense slightly, but he didn’t push him off. It was a good sign. He took Jason’s face in his hands, using his thumb to wipe away the stray tear, and forced his boyfriend to look him in the eyes. “Babe, I love you so much. You can tell me anything. Please. Did he…did he force himself on you?”

The tears started coming before Zac even finished his question. Jason immediately looked down. He couldn’t look into Zac’s face as he nodded his head.

“Oh Babe,” Zac whispered as he took Jason in his arms. He knew the answer to the question before he even asked it, but Jason’s tearful admission broke his heart. He held Jason tight while they cried together, each of them wondering what to do next. Zac tried to pull back a few times, but Jason held on, his tears still falling as he let it all go. Time passed as they sought comfort in each other. Finally Zac noticed that Jason’s soft sobs were slowing and he was able to pull away and look at him. “I’m so sorry. I wish there was something I could say or do to make this all better. If I could go back in time and take your place, I would. But I’m here for you and I love you and we’ll find a way to make this bearable, I promise.”

“I love you, too,” Jason whispered tearfully. “And I’m so sorry that I didn’t…I tried to fight him off. I didn’t want him to…”

“Shhh,” Zac said as he wiped away more tears. “I know you didn’t want him to. It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault. Please don’t blame yourself.”

“But he…he took something from you, from us. I shouldn’t have…we shouldn’t have waited, you know? If I had known…”

Zac’s heart skipped a beat when he realized what Jason was saying. What he was apologizing for. “No, don’t say that. He didn’t take anything from us. When the time comes, and you’re ready, we’re going to make love. What he did…it wasn’t…that’s wasn’t…trust me, one thing has nothing to do with the other, alright? I promise you, he didn’t take anything away from what we have together.”

Jason nodded in understanding as more tears fell. Damn, was he ever going to stop crying over it all? “I’m sorry I tried to keep it from you. I just didn’t want you to…” he trailed off.

“Didn’t want me to what?”

“Um…do you see me differently now?” Jason asked tentatively.

“No, of course not. Why would I?”

“I don’t…know. I was just afraid that…you’d see me and think…I don’t know what I thought,” Jason admitted.

“Babe, you are still the guy that I love. I need you to believe that. I’m sure that going through what you went through is going to change you in some ways, but that’s okay. I’ll just love the new parts of you, too. When I look at you, I don’t see the guy that was attacked last week. I just see Jason, the hottest, sweetest, smartest and most loving guy I know. Nothing is going to change that, alright?”

“Alright,” Jason agreed.

Zac looked at Jason closely, relieved to finally know the truth. “You’re not coming back to school, are you?”

“No, not this semester. I just can’t,” Jason admitted. “Maybe after winter break things will be different, but I just can’t face the campus right now. You understand that, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do,” Zac said softly. “What about everything you’ve already done? Are you losing the semester?”

“No, luckily I’m not. I spoke with the Dean and a few of my professors. Under the circumstances, they’re going to allow me to finish everything up online. It’s probably going to be harder that way, but I don’t want to lose the time I put in. I just hate the thought of going back to Pittsburgh.”

“Pittsburgh? Why would you go back to Pittsburgh?” Zac asked.

“What else am I supposed to do? I’m obviously not going to move back to the dorms.”

“I figured you’d stay here,” Zac replied.

“I wouldn’t even ask,” Jason told him. “Chris and Zan were wonderful to offer up their home to me this week, but I can’t put them out any longer. I’ve taken over Chris’ office. He needs his space back. I’ll just go home until I can figure out what to do next.”

“But…we won’t get to see each other then.”

“I know, and I’m sorry, but it’s not like we haven’t done the long distance thing before, right? We’ll manage,” Jason assured him, hating the sadness that he saw in Zac’s eyes. He knew the feeling. The last thing he wanted to do was go back to Pittsburgh, but there was no way he’d ask Chris and Zan to let him stay. They’d already done enough for him. “In fact, I figured I could look for flights out on Sunday. You could drop me off at the airport before heading back to ASU. My mom packed most of my stuff up last weekend before I was discharged from the hospital. If you could just check in with my roommate and grab anything she might have left behind, that would be great. Then maybe I can fly back around Christmas for a few days.”

Zac couldn’t respond. He was too busy trying not to cry. His emotions were already too high after Jason’s admission and now to find out that he was going away…it was too much. “No, you’re not leaving,” he finally said.

“Z, I know that it sucks, but I don’t have a choice.”

“Yes, you do. Just ask Chris and Zan. I’d rather have you with me, but at least if you’re only three hours away… just ask them. They won’t mind having you here.”

“Maybe they won’t, but I can’t ask that of them,” Jason insisted.

“Well then, I will,” Zac said as he jumped up off the bed. He shrugged off the hand that tried to stop him and stormed out of the room, ignoring Jason as he called out. He found Chris in the kitchen, drinking coffee. He stopped short. “Hey Chris, how’s it going?”

“Hey Zac, what’s up? Are you hungry? I was just thinking of making breakfast. Brian and Justin aren’t here. Apparently they went and stayed at Matt’s last night.”

Before Zac could reply, Jason came marching into the kitchen looking furious. “Whatever he said, don’t listen to him.”

“Um…” Chris looked between the two of them and smiled. “Did I miss something?”

“Look, Chris…”

“Don’t listen to him…”

Chris stared at them as they tried to talk at the same time. “Okay you two, one at a time.”
“Really Chris, it’s no big deal. Zac is just butting in where he doesn’t belong.” Jason gave Zac a threatening look. “Just ignore him.”

“I’m not butting in where I don’t belong. This affects me too, unless you’re just trying to get as far away from me as you can,” Zac suggested before letting his own words sink in. “You’re not trying to get away from me, are you?”

Jason could see the sudden fear in Zac’s face and reached out to take his hand. “No, of course not. That has nothing to do with this. I just need you to let it go.”

“Alright, guys, now you have my curiosity stirred. Why don’t you both sit down and tell me what’s going on,” Chris said, giving them a look that said there was no room for arguments.

“Seriously, Chris, it’s not a big deal. Let’s just forget about Zac’s big mouth and go about our day. Are you hungry? I could make some breakfast.”

“No, I’m not going to go about my day. Either you talk to him or I will,” Zac insisted. When it became apparent that Jason wasn’t going to say anything, Zac continued, “Jason’s not going back to ASU this semester. He doesn’t think he’s ready to go back on campus. His professors are going to let him finish up the semester online.”

Chris looked over at Jason and could tell he was not happy with Zac telling his story. He almost wanted to stop Zac. If Jason didn’t want to talk about whatever was going on, that was his choice. On the other hand, he really wanted to know what had the two of them so worked up. “Well that’s good, right? I don’t blame you for wanting to take more time. I’m just glad that you won’t lose the time you already put in. So then, what’s the problem?”

Jason looked over at Zac one more time, silently pleading with him to keep his mouth closed. It didn’t work. “He wants to go back to Pittsburgh. He thinks that he doesn’t have a choice. I told him to ask you guys if he could stay here, but he doesn’t want to ask you. He thinks you did enough for him already. He can stay here, right? I mean, you guys wouldn’t mind if he stayed here a little bit longer, right? I’m sure his parents would send money or whatever for food and stuff. And when I come home on the weekends, he can stay at my house with me if it would help. He just can’t go back to Pittsburgh. Tell him that.”

“Chris, it’s no big deal,” Jason said, glaring once again at Zac. “Pittsburgh is my home. I’ve lived there my whole life. It’s not like I’m suddenly going to be sleeping in a tent in the woods.”

Chris looked between the two of them and sighed. Then he turned to Zac. “Hey buddy, can you give us a few minutes alone? I’d like to talk to Jason.”

Zac tried to read Chris’ expression, but he couldn’t. “Um, yeah. Okay,” he mumbled and then left the kitchen, hoping he had done the right thing. He already knew that Jason was going to kill him. He just hoped that it wasn’t all for nothing.

As soon as Zac was gone, Jason turned to Chris in utter embarrassment. “I’m so sorry about that. He’s just upset that I’m going to be so far away again. Please ignore everything he said. It’s fine. You guys have been so amazing to me. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done. I’m going to see about catching a flight out on Sunday. This way Zac can drop me at the airport on his way back to ASU.” When Jason was finished speaking, he stood up and headed towards the door, ready to go find Zac and give him a verbal thrashing. Chris stopped him.

“Jason, sit down for a minute. We need to talk.” He waited while Jason sat back down. “First of all, there’s no need to thank us. Family is everything to us, and you’re part of this family. Understand?”

“Yeah, thanks,” Jason smiled. “I feel the same way.”

“Now, what is it that you want? Do you want to stay here or would you rather go back to your parents in Pittsburgh?”

“Chris, I know that you guys…”

“Jason, stop it. I asked you a question. Don’t worry about anyone else. Do you want to stay here in Arizona?”

Jason felt himself choke up as his tears threatened to fall again. “God, am I ever going to stop crying?” he laughed as he wiped his eyes.

“Probably not for awhile,” Chris chuckled. “Now answer the question. Do you want to stay here with us?”

“Yes,” Jason whispered.

“Then you’re staying. You are welcome here for as long as you want to be,” Chris assured him.

“But…where would I stay? I don’t want to keep you from your office. You need that space to write. I don’t want to interfere with that.”

“You’re not interfering with my writing. On Monday and Tuesday I went down to Brian and Justin’s room and worked there. It was peaceful and comfortable and they’re not around during the week so it’s not like I’ll have any interruptions.”

“Yeah, but all your stuff is in your office. That’s where you should be. I don’t feel right taking up your space.”

“Alright, then you can move downstairs,” Chris suggested. “Again, Brian and Justin aren’t even around during the week, and I’m sure they won’t mind having you here.”

“I can’t intrude on them,” Jason said.

“Look Jason, correct me if I’m wrong, but you love being in Arizona. You enjoy being close to Justin again, you love Zac, you fit in well with everyone and you’ve been able to open up and start talking to Zan about what happened, right?”


“Well then why would you want to even consider moving away from all that? Look, we both know that the next few weeks or even months are going to be pretty tough. Do you really think moving back home and away from the life you’ve built here is a wise decision.”

“Probably not, but I really don’t want to be a burden to anyone,” Jason said.

“You’ll never be a burden to the people who love you. Now no more talk about Pittsburgh, alright? For now, just stay in my office. If it gets to be a problem for my writing, I promise to let you know and we’ll figure something out, okay?”

“Okay, thanks Chris. I hope Zander feels the way you do.”

“Trust me; Zan is the marshmallow out of the two of us. If it’s okay with me, it’s even more okay with him. Now why don’t you go talk to Zac while I whip something up for breakfast? I think he’s a little worried that you’re mad at him, and before you say anything, just remember. He only did it because he loves you.”

“I know, but he needs to take a step back and let me handle things on my own.”

“Oh really? If he did that, you’d be on a plane on Sunday, right?” Chris asked with that knowing smile of his. “You should probably thank him.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jason sighed. “I’ll thank him…after making him squirm for a few.”

“Hey, I never said you couldn’t make him squirm first,” Chris laughed. “How does French toast sound?”

“Sounds like heaven. Want any help?”

“Nope, I got it. You just go deal with Zac. Breakfast should be ready in about 20 minutes.”

“Cool, thanks, Chris.”

“You’re welcome. Now get going.”

Zac was pacing in the small room when Jason found him. He could tell by the tension in his boyfriend’s shoulders that he was really worried about how much trouble he was in. Jason quietly entered the room and waited until he was noticed.

“Alright, go ahead and yell at me. Maybe I deserve it. But I’m not going to apologize because I’m not sorry. I’m not letting you go back to Pittsburgh if there’s a way to keep you here,” Zac insisted. He was still pacing, but he kept glancing over at Jason to try and read his reaction. “And there is a way. If Chris and Zan won’t let you stay here, I’ll ask my parents if you can stay in my room at home. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll drop out of school and get a job and then we can rent a place for just the two of us. I’m not letting you go back to Pittsburgh, got it? I thought I was going to lose you last week, I’m not letting you go that easily.”

Jason was stunned by Zac’s declaration. It was sweet that his overreacting boyfriend cared so much. It made him feel loved and wanted. “Z, slow down. You don’t have to drop out of school. I’m staying here.”

“Oh thank God,” Zac exclaimed as he grabbed Jason and hugged him tight.

Jason enjoyed the hug for about 30 seconds and then pulled away. “Not so fast, buddy. I’m still a little upset with you. You had no right to go against my wishes and talk to Chris. I’m an adult and I’m old enough to make my own decisions.”

“True, but I wasn’t going to sit back and let you make the wrong decision. You belong here, with your friends and family. No offense to your parents, but they wouldn’t be able to help you like we can. They can’t be there for you like I can.”

Jason couldn’t stay mad at Zac when he looked so sweet and loving. He grabbed Zac’s hand and pulled him into his arms, hugging him tight. “No, they can’t be here for me like you can,” he whispered in Zac’s ear.

Zac finally took a deep breath and pushed away the panic that settled into his gut at the thought of Jason going back to Pittsburgh. They had a long road ahead of them to get past what had happened the week before, but having Jason in Arizona went a long way in getting past it all and moving on.


By seven o’clock, everyone was hanging out in Matt’s living room, eating pizza and drinking beer. David didn’t feel right buying beer for the group because he was the only one of age, but he couldn’t object to drinking a few of the beers that Dane had bought with a fake ID he’d had made over the summer. He tried his best to keep from staring at Matt, but it wasn’t easy. His eyes seemed to be drawn to the younger man whenever they were in the same room. Instead, David forced himself to watch Matt’s friends, enjoying the interaction between them all. David had grown up with Ricky, and even though they had plenty of friends, it was usually just the two of them. The closeness between all the people in the room was an amazing sight to see. He couldn’t help but be thankful for the support system Matt had. It would be horrible if Matt was disowned by his family for being gay, but at least he’d never be alone.

“So, what do you think of Arizona? Have you seen anything beyond the river and Matt’s house?” Steve asked as he approached David.

“I think I like it here. Matt took me for a drive earlier. I can’t tell you where we were, but it seems like a nice place,” David replied.

“It is. I missed it while I was in Jersey,” Steve offered.

“You were in Jersey? Can I ask what for or is that too personal?” David asked. “I’m only asking because I’m an east coast fan. I lived in New York for a couple of years and I really miss it.”

“Well, as embarrassed as I am to say this, in September I was a freshman at Princeton. I dropped out a few weeks ago,” Steve explained sheepishly.

“You dropped out of Princeton? Um…wow. That’s…”

“Stupid? Yeah, I know. I just didn’t feel like I belonged there.”

“That sucks,” David said sincerely. “What are you going to do now?”

“I have no idea,” Steve chuckled. “My father kicked me out, so right now I’m staying with Brian’s brother and working at Justin’s cousin’s store.”

“Wait, you’re living with, what’s their names? Chris and Zander? I thought Jason was living there? And Brian and Justin when they’re not at school. And Sophia? Right? The little girl? Exactly how many people are staying there?” David asked incredulously.

Steve laughed at the look on David’s face. “Chris and Zan are like their own little homeless shelter. I take it you haven’t met them yet, huh? You should. They are the coolest people I know. When I went to Chris after being kicked out, I didn’t know about Sophia, it was right before she moved in, and before Jason…well, before he moved in. But it wouldn’t matter. They would give up their own bed and sleep on the floor if someone needed their help. Once you become one of the gang, you’re family. No questions asked.”

“I definitely want to meet them before I go back to El Paso,” David said.

“You want to meet who?” Matt asked as he walked up to David and Steve.

“Chris and Zander. Arizona’s own versions of Mother Theresa.”

“Yeah, they are pretty amazing, aren’t they,” Matt agreed before turning to Steve. “Jason just told me that he’s taking the rest of the semester off and staying with you guys. Talk about a full house. With Brian and Justin going home every weekend because of Sophia, not to mention Zac being around…”

“You know the Morgan/Kinney/Taylor household. The more the merrier,” Steve said.

“Wait…Kinney? As in Chris Kinney? As in Christopher Kinney the author?” David asked, trying to put all the information together.

“Yeah, that’s Chris. Why? You know him?” Matt asked.

“Not know him, know of him. I love his work! I’ve read everything he’s ever put out…twice! I’m a huge fan! I can’t believe you know Christopher Kinney! That’s awesome!”

“I…guess. Truthfully, we’ve known him for what, almost five years now,” Matt looked to Steve for confirmation. “Before he started making the New York Times best seller list. We don’t really think of him as Christopher Kinney the author. He’s just Chris.”

“He’s amazing. I love to read and have followed him since his first book, Raging Against Time. In fact, when I was a kid I always wanted to be a writer. I spent my childhood creating characters in my mind and writing short stories.”

“Why did you give it up?” Matt asked.

“I don’t know,” David sighed. “I guess it was my family. My brothers and sister all wanted to pursue other interests outside of the family business so it was just assumed early on that I would be the one to step up and take over for my father one day.”

“That’s not fair. Everyone else gets to choose their direction in life, and you have to do what Daddy says,” Matt pointed out.

“Yeah, well it’s not really a big deal. I love computers and don’t have a problem with doing what’s expected of me. If I wanted to write on the side, I could. I don’t think I really have the talent to back up the desire, you know? I don’t have anything close to what Christopher Kinney does.”

“What about my brother?” Brian asked as he joined the group.

“David was just telling us that he’s one of Chris’ biggest fans,” Matt told him. “I’d like to introduce them before we go back to El Paso.”

“No problem,” Brian assured them. “I know you’re going to Scottsdale tomorrow, why don’t you come by when you get back? We can throw some burgers on the grill and David can talk to Chris a little bit.”

“That would be great,” David said, trying to hold back his excitement. “I was just saying that I’ve been reading his stuff since Raging Against Time and he’s amazing. I know he’s done a few book signings here and there. I kept hoping he’d do a real tour, you know? Maybe end up in El Paso?”

“Yeah, he’s not much of a fan of being away from home for long periods. His agent has been trying to get him to do a tour, but he refuses to leave Zan for more than a few days at a time. And now that Sophia is around, they’ll be lucky to get him to leave at all. Well, now you don’t have to worry about it. You can meet him tomorrow and you’ll have a lot more time with him than you would if you were at a signing. It’s so weird to think of him as having fans. I just think of him as the greatest brother in the world,” Brian replied honestly. “Don’t tell him I said this, but he’s kind of amazing.”

“Who’s amazing? Are you talking about me again?” Justin teased as he came up alongside Brian.

“No, but you’re amazing, too,” Brian laughed as he kissed Justin quickly. “We were talking about Chris. David is a fan.”

“Oh, well as long as you’re talking about Chris and not some guy in one of your classes or something, it’s okay,” Justin shot back teasingly. “You’re a fan of Chris’s work? He is great, isn’t he? I never read anything of his before moving here. I think I was too busy with my head in my sketch book, but I was blown away as soon as I started reading. I think it only took me about a month to catch up with what he’d done. Now it’s easier. I read it as soon as it goes to publication. Have you looked at his children’s book? It was a fundraiser that a group of author’s did. I even enjoyed that.”

“Are you kidding? I not only bought a copy for myself, but I bought one for all my nieces and nephews, too. It was amazing. Even the pictures were great,” David gushed.

“Those pictures were done by my sexy boyfriend, you know,” Brian told him with pride.

David looked over at Justin in surprise. “You did the illustrations for that?”

“Yeah, I had just moved here and was still devastated over losing my parents. I still think Chris offered it to me to cheer me up,” Justin said shyly, still finding it hard to accept praise.

“Oh, he did not, and you know it,” Brian insisted. “He offered the job to you because he was impressed with your work. You did an amazing job on that project and on the several others that you landed because of your talent.” Brian turned to David. “You’ll have to excuse Blondie here. I still can’t get him to accept praise for his work.”

“Seriously, Justin, you’re really talented. My sister’s an art history professor and knows her stuff and she couldn’t stop talking about your work. Have you done anything else?”

“I worked on a few projects for this guy Tom James, but they were mostly small scale projects. Chris’s book was the only thing that went to print like that,” Justin explained. “Although the children’s book sold so well that Chris is tossing around the idea of turning it into a series. If that happens, I’ll be very busy. He already told me that he’d only do it if I agreed to do the illustrations.”

“Really? I didn’t know he planned on more of the kids books,” Brian said.

“I know, he called me about it a couple weeks ago. You were out with Zac and by the time you got home, I guess I forgot to mention it. It’s still in the planning stages. He’s not sure if he’s going to do it. He said that he wanted to get his current book finished so that he can take a few weeks to try and put the ideas together.”

“His current book?” David interrupted. “Any idea what it’s about? And turning his children’s book into a series would be awesome! I can’t wait to meet him.”

Brian turned to Justin. “Matt and David are going to come over for dinner tomorrow. I figured we could throw burgers on the grill.”

“Sounds good to me,” Justin replied. “Listen Bri, I need you and Steve to come over here for a minute. Dane’s over there telling Sandy about the time that we all went to Phoenix for a few days and somehow he’s trying to make it like he was the fearless one.”

Brian immediately looked over to where Dane was sitting. “Oh hell no. No way is he going to come out of that story smelling like a rose. Excuse me a moment,” Brian said as he walked away. “Sandy, don’t listen to a word he says,” he called out.

David laughed as he watched Brian, Justin and Steve go over to apparently tell the real story of one of their adventures. He was glad to see that Matt stayed with him. “Your friends are really great,” he told Matt. “Even Brian seems to have mellowed towards me.”

“I knew that he would. He’s not an asshole. He just tends to be over-protective,” Matt said.

“That’s a good trait to have in a friend,” David assured him. “I like that he was trying to protect you.”

“Yeah, he’s cool.”

“So, while we have a few minutes alone, I just wanted to tell you how much I want to kiss you right now,” David whispered as he kept his eyes on everyone in the room around them.

“I know, me too,” Matt admitted.

David whipped his head around and looked closely at Matt. “Does this mean the no kissing rule is on the sidelines again?”

“Um…well…I can’t…”

David laughed at Matt’s nervousness. “I’m not asking if I can kiss you right here in front of everybody. I just want to know if I’m going to be allowed to taste those soft, beautiful lips of yours the minute I get you alone.”

“Um…yes…I guess,” Matt stammered nervously.

“Any chance we can throw everyone out? Tell them that we’re not feeling good?”

Matt chuckled. “No, we’re not throwing anybody out. Although,” he added as he watched his friends laughing over Brian’s storytelling. “We might be able to sneak into the kitchen for a moment alone.”

David smiled. “I’m right behind you.”

The moment they were alone, David pulled Matt into his arms and took his mouth in a heated kiss. He’d been half hard all evening watching Matt from across the room, knowing that he wasn’t allowed to touch. He was beginning to think coming to Arizona wasn’t a good idea. All he was doing was falling harder for the confused kid and he had a feeling that things weren’t going to turn out so well for him in the end.

It took everything David had to pull away, but he needed to be the responsible one. Anybody could just walk in on them and although there wasn’t a single person in the house that wouldn’t understand and be supportive of Matt, he wasn’t ready to come out. “Damn, your kisses are amazing.”

“Really?” Matt asked shyly.

“The best I’ve ever tasted,” David offered honestly. “And as much as I hate to say this, we’d better get back before we’re missed. Please hold onto those green light thoughts so I can kiss you stupid the minute everyone leaves.”

Matt blushed and nodded his head in agreement. He had been keeping his distance from David pretty much since they’d woken up earlier in the afternoon, but seeing the couples in their group, Brian and Justin and Jason and Zac made him want to be like more of a couple with David. He knew it was stupid. That leading David on when he still wasn’t sure what he was going to do next wasn’t right, but he couldn’t help himself. He wanted the guy like he’d never wanted anyone else in his entire life. It wasn’t fair. Having to hide who he was just because some people didn’t think that same sex love was as good as love between a man and a woman was bullshit!

“Oh God, cut that out. If you start blushing like a virgin on her wedding night, I’m not going to be able to wait until everyone leaves. Let’s get back to everyone else before I do something that will end up in me driving back to El Paso before the night is over.”

Matt didn’t argue as he followed David back into the living room. As much as he wanted to lose himself in kissing David until he was breathless, he knew he couldn’t. He’d just have to wait until they were alone…assuming that he didn’t panic and backpedal once again. With all of his back and forth he was starting to drive himself crazy.

Justin saw that Matt and David disappeared and smiled to himself. He had a feeling that they were looking for a few minutes to themselves, if the hungry looks they were giving each other right before they disappeared were any indication. The more time he spent with the two of them, the more he was convinced that his friend was going to be jumping out of the closet sooner rather than later. He just hoped that when he came out, everything would be okay and that his family would be supportive.

By midnight, everyone was starting to show the effects of the beer. Sandy had gone home a few hours earlier to take care of Julia. Dane’s parents had offered to watch her so they could both go out, but she never liked what she called taking advantage of them so she didn’t want to stay out too late. Dane stayed behind with his friends. It had been decided that everyone was going to spend the night instead of driving home after drinking. Once again Brian and Justin were staying in Mark’s room. Zac and Jason were staying on the pullout couch in the living room and Dane was going to sleep on an air mattress in what Matt’s parents considered a library/den. And of course, David was sleeping in Matt’s room. Matt refused to allow anyone to sleep in his parents’ room. He felt it was too personal.

Once Matt was sure that everyone had what they needed, he locked up the house and went upstairs, finding David lying on his bed looking incredibly sexy.

“Is it okay that I’m here?” David asked before Matt even got the door shut. “On the bed, I mean. I know you’re all over the place with us at the moment.”

Matt didn’t reply, instead he walked over to the bed, climbed on top, took David’s face in his hands and kissed him deeply. It had taken everything in his power to keep his hands to himself ever since the kiss they shared in the kitchen hours earlier.

David was momentarily surprised, but quickly opened up and met Matt’s tongue with matched passion. He gave Matt a few moments to pull back and when he didn’t, David grabbed him and rolled them over, taking the top position for himself. He groaned when he felt Matt’s hard cock grinding into his own, but he didn’t stop what he was doing. He’d been honorable the night before, but couldn’t find the strength to do the right thing after watching Matt all evening in secret hunger. Matt obviously wasn’t scared off by David’s taking charge, not if the way he was thrusting his hips up to increase their grinding was any indication. They continued to grind together for quite some time before David somehow found the strength to pull back.

“Matt,” he huffed. “We have to stop…now.”

Matt moaned, pulling David back to him. “I don’t want to,” he whispered right before meeting David’s lips.

“Babe…” David tried again.

“Please,” Matt whispered.

David lost what little bit of self control he had at Matt’s plea and reached down, rubbing his hand on Matt’s cock. When Matt still hadn’t come to his senses, David pushed further, popping the button on Matt’s jeans.

Matt pulled away slightly. “Oh God,” he whispered.

“Want me to stop?” David asked as he slowly lowered the zipper, hoping that Matt wasn’t about to stop him.

“No, please don’t stop,” Matt moaned. “God, David.”

David reached inside Matt’s jeans and wrapped his hand around the throbbing shaft he found. Matt pulled away and groaned as his back arched off the bed, nearly throwing David off of him. David sat up and pulled on Matt’s jeans, quickly removing them and tossing them on the floor. He took another look at Matt’s face, but he didn’t see an ounce of doubt in his deep green eyes. All he saw was lust, equal to his own, staring back at him. He pulled Matt up and then quickly slipped off his t-shirt before bringing their mouths together once again. Once Matt was on his back, David ended the kiss and looked at him closely. “If you feel uncomfortable at all with anything I do, say something. We can stop at any time.”

“Okay,” Matt said softly.

David kissed him on the lips quickly but didn’t linger. Instead he started placing small kisses across Matt’s jaw, along his neck, then working his way down his chest. The feel of Matt’s hands in his hair only added to the heat building in his gut. He only spent a few moments showering attention to each nipple before continuing down the path to his ultimate goal. By the time he reached Matt’s cock, it was hard, red and leaking pre-cum. He took it in his hand and began to stroke slowly, enjoying the moans that he was eliciting. He almost wanted to just jerk him off so he could sit back and watch the show, but the need to taste was just too strong to ignore. A few more strokes and then he engulfed Matt’s cock in his mouth.

Matt was lost in a sea of passion he’d never known before. A nagging voice in the back of his head tried to tell him that he shouldn’t be allowing things between him and David to go on, but he was powerless to stop it. Even when David tried to be responsible, he couldn’t bring himself to listen to reason. Not when everything that David was doing to him felt oh so good. In fact, he felt so good that he was sure there was nothing in the world that could feel better than what he was experiencing at that moment, but he was wrong. The minute he felt David take him in his mouth his body temperature shot up and he nearly jumped off the bed as his hands found their way back into David’s hair.

“Oh god…that…David…please…”

David took Matt’s ramblings as a good sign and increased his efforts to give pleasure. He increased his speed, taking Matt deep into his throat as he started fondling his balls. With his other hand, he reached down and freed his own leaking cock, glad that he had already changed into his pajama pants. He could tell by the increasing moans that Matt wasn’t going to last long, which suited David just fine. As badly as he’d been lusting after Matt, David wasn’t going to be far behind.

Matt could barely breathe. The things that David was doing to him with his tongue surpassed anything that he’d ever imagined in his jerk off fantasies. He was thrashing around, trying so hard to hold back his orgasm, but he was losing the battle. Suddenly he was right on the edge. David must have sensed it too, because he took Matt in that much deeper, causing him to thrust his hips and fall over that edge into the most intense orgasm of his life.

As soon as David tasted Matt’s orgasm, his own body released, leaving David torn between swallowing what was being offered to him or pulling away to lose himself in his own release. He quickly decided there was no contest as he sucked Matt dry. Once he was sure he got everything that was being offered, David pulled away and climbed out of bed, drawing Matt’s attention.

“Hey, where are you going?” Matt mumbled tiredly. He was still floating from his release.

“I’m just going to clean up a bit. I’ll be right back,” David promised as he grabbed his pants and quietly opened the door. After checking to make sure no one was around, he tiptoed his way to the bathroom. He cleaned up quickly and then made his way back to the bedroom. Matt was still lying in the same spot, blissfully staring at the ceiling. He climbed into bed and laid down on his side, his head propped up on his arm so that he could see Matt’s face. “You okay?”

“Absolutely,” Matt replied with a smile. “That was amazing.”

“Why thank you.” David leaned over and kissed Matt softly before continuing. “You’re not freaking out or anything?”

“Strangely enough, I’m not. How could I freak out when I feel this good?” Matt pointed out. “I guess I’m gay, huh?”

David looked at him with concern. “I thought you already knew that.”

“I did, but it was easier to deny it to the world when I wasn’t doing ‘gay things’, you know? Feelings are easy to ignore. Actions are another story completely,” Matt explained.

“Shit Matt, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…”

“Hey, relax,” Matt shushed him. “I’m not complaining. First of all, I could’ve stopped you. In fact, you tried to pull away and I wouldn’t let you, remember? And secondly, I’m not sure how I’m going to feel tomorrow, but right now I feel great. Let’s not ruin that by analyzing why I feel that way.”

David looked at him closely. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Now come here and kiss me,” Matt said as he reached out and pulled David down to meet his lips. And yeah, maybe there was a small part of him that was freaking out a little bit inside, but he refused to let it turn into full panic. Not when every other part of him was feeling like he was finally free to be who he wanted to be.


Zac was content lying on Matt’s pullout couch with Jason in his arms. The weight of his boyfriend’s head on his chest was one of the best feelings in the world. He’d felt so much better after their talk that morning, so much closer than they had been since the attack. He was glad he’d forced the issue that morning.

“What are you thinking about?” Jason asked, interrupting Zac’s thoughts.

“I was just thinking about how lucky I am to have you,” Zac replied softly. He placed his hand under Jason’s chin and gently forced him to look up. “And how much I love you.”

Jason smiled at Zac and then reached up, placing a soft kiss on his lips. He wished he could do more; hated that the attack prevented him from deepening the kiss and offering up what he knew Zac wanted, but he just wasn’t ready for that yet.

Zac sensed Jason’s hesitation and pulled back so that he could look directly into his boyfriend’s eyes. “Hey, it’s okay. I know you’re not ready for anything more than this, and I’m okay with that. I’m more than okay with it. All I need is you in my arms.”

“Yeah, but for how long?” Jason asked sadly.

“For as long as you need.”

“Thanks,” Jason whispered tearfully. “I hate that I feel this way. I hate that my heart rate speeds up and fear kicks in every time we kiss. I hate that you’re…”

“Shhh,” Zac soothed. “It’s all gonna be okay, I promise. We’ll get through this together. Please don’t spend your time worrying about me. As long as I have you, I’m happy. In fact, I’d take a vow of celibacy for the rest of my life just to have you in it.”

Jason giggled. “I don’t think you have to go that far, but thank you. That bastard already took so much from me. I don’t want to lose you, too.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Zac assured him. “I love you, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember,” Jason sighed as he hugged Zac tighter. “I love you, too.”

Jason just hoped that Zac’s love for him was strong enough to withstand the long road ahead.


Dane waited until he heard the silence through the house and then reached for his phone, sent out a quick text message, and then waited to see if he got a reply phone call. His phone rang minutes later.

“Hey, I wasn’t sure if I was going to hear from you this late,” Dane said softly.

“Yeah, she took a couple of sleeping pills and passed out. I could probably fuck you in the bed next to her and she’d never know it,” Michael laughed.

“Charming,” Dane teased. “So how are the girls?”

“They’re good. Shana has her birthday party tomorrow. I can’t believe she’s going to be eleven. And Courtney is walking around pouting because she doesn’t understand why she can’t have a birthday party, too. Having children with a six year age gap is hard sometimes. They want to be treated the same, yet differently.”

“I guess I can see that, although I’ll never have that problem. Julia is it for me,” Dane replied. “I’m just happy that I have her.”

“Being a parent is amazing. I just wish…”

“Babe, don’t do that,” Dane said softly.

“I can’t help it. I hate this. I hate having to sneak around. I hate that I only get to see you about once a week.”

“You get to see me more than that. We see each other at least four days a week,” Dane pointed out.

“I’m not talking about when we’re in class and I’m your professor. I’m talking about when I really get to see you. When I get to hold you and kiss you. When I get to slide into your tight little ass and finally feel like I’m home.”

Dane groaned as his cock twitched. “God, Michael, you’re killing me here. I’ve had just enough beer tonight to be really, really horny and you’re not here to help me.”

“Beer? Aren’t you a little young for that?” Michael asked as his instincts took over.

“Really? You’re gonna talk to me about right and wrong? Isn’t that a little…”

“I know. Don’t even finish that sentence. I know how hypocritical it is to lecture you about right and wrong when I’m a horrible human being,” Michael sighed.

“Oh come on, you’re not a horrible human being.”

“I’m not? Who are you kidding? I’m gay, yet I’m married to a woman who knows nothing about my sexuality. I refuse to come out of the closet and I’m cheating on my wife with one of my 18 year old students who I’m slowly falling for. How is that not horrible?”

Dane’s brain focused on just one of those excuses. “You’re falling for me?”

“Yes…no…shit…that’s not the point. The point is that…”

“I’m falling for you, too,” Dane offered, stopping Michael from going on. “What are we going to do? This was supposed to be just a fling.”

“There’s nothing we can do,” Michael said sadly. “I can’t leave my girls. I can’t come out of the closet and force them to have to deal with having a fairy for a father. Maddie would chop off my dick if she knew what I was doing behind her back.”

“So what…we just keep sleeping together when we have the time and ignore our feelings?”

“Dane, we knew going in that this was going to be hard,” Michael reminded him.

“No, you knew going in. I didn’t know about Maddie and the kids until after we’d already had sex and I started feeling something for you,” Dane pointed out. “Going in, I thought the hardest part of being with you was going to be hiding it from everyone at school until graduation.”

“You’re right,” Michael sighed again. “I’m sorry. Do you want to…stop seeing each other outside of class? Would that be easier for you?”

“It’s a little too late for that, isn’t it?”

The relief that washed over Michael was palpable. “Thank God. Listen Dane, I promise that we’ll find a way to make this work. I’m not sure how yet, but we will.”

“You’re a lot more optimistic than I am.”

“One of us has to be,” Michael chuckled. “I’d better get some sleep. We have 25 pre-teens coming to Shana’s party tomorrow. It’s going to be a long day. I can probably sneak away for a little while tomorrow night. Meet me?”

“Of course. Just text me and we’ll go to our place.”

“Great. Sleep well and think of me,” Michael said before hanging up.

“I always do,” Dane whispered to dead air.

And it was true. Dane always thought of Michael. He was still kicking himself for getting involved with his professor. He knew it was wrong from the moment they started flirting during the first week of school, but he couldn’t help it. At twenty-nine, the man was gorgeous and fun and definitely cooler than most professors in the culinary school. Allowing himself to get involved showed his stupidity, but in his defense, he had no idea how stupid he really was until almost a month in when Michael admitted to being married with two kids. Unfortunately by then, Dane had developed real feelings for the man. Listening to his story about how he had dated his wife all through high school to hide being gay, and then somehow managed to get her pregnant on prom night was heartbreaking. Maddie had been questioning him on why he wasn’t trying to get her into bed like all her friends' boyfriends were. Michael had to be drunk out of his mind just so he could force himself to have sex with her, all the while picturing Brad Pitt in his mind. Once she found out she was pregnant, things escalated quickly. Before he knew it, they were in front of a justice of the peace.

Dane could completely understand how a drunken night could end up producing a baby. He still thanked God everyday that he’d gotten drunk with Sandy. Despite the complications of having a child at eighteen, he wouldn’t change the past for anything. What he didn’t understand was why Michael allowed everyone around him to convince him to marry Maddie and be someone he was not. There’s no way he would have ever agreed to marry Sandy; even if that was what she had wanted.

And now here they were. Michael swore that he’d never cheated on Maddie in the past. He claimed that he’d been a faithful and attentive husband up until the moment he saw Dane walk through his classroom door on the first day of school. And Dane wanted to believe him. Hell, he did believe him when they were in each other’s arms. It was the times when they weren’t together that the doubts threatened to consume him. And he didn’t know what to do about it. He’d been telling the truth when he’d told Michael that it was too late. He’d told Michael that he was falling, but the truth was that he’d already fallen. Dane was in love with the twenty-nine year old married father of two, and he didn’t know what to do about it.

End of part 9

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