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Rated: GC · Book · Gay/Lesbian · #1890537
A story about a guy who grows and learns to see his life and socialization differently.
#776136 added March 10, 2013 at 3:44pm
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Introductions
Nate was standing by the door leading up to his apartment as i drove toward his building Friday night. I pulled the car over about twelve feet from him and hit the power locks. He opened the door and leaned toward me so we could share a quick kiss. As our lips parted -- too soon for my liking -- he tossed the backpack he was carrying into the back seat, then settled in and buckled up. He touched my shoulder as I pulled back into the driving lane. “Are you sure you don’t mind me spending the night?”

I smiled. “Well, let me see. Do I mind the fact that I get to spend the night curled up with with a guy I’m totally into and who makes me feel wonderful when we’re together? I don’t know.”

“And here I thought I was the smartass in the couple.”

“Maybe you’re contagious?” I suggested.

“Nah. My doc says that I’m safe as long as I keep taking my pills.”

“And the smartass balance has been restored.” He rustled my hair and I continued, “No. I’m actually excited that you’re staying the night. It means I get to spend more time with you. Plus it’ll save me the trouble of having to take you home tonight, as we’ll probably end up taking Tina home.”

“Yeah, I forgot you had mentioned that. And I’m looking forward to spending the night with you too.”

“That makes me happy,” I said as I patted his knee. “Of course, I hope you feel the same way when Katie hogs half the bed.” Katie had been quite friendly with him Sunday night. I eventually had to lock her in my bedroom so he could pose for my drawing.

“Not a problem, as long as she doesn’t get away of our lovemaking.”

I blushed at that. I was still getting used to how openly he talked about sex. “I’ll make sure she leaves us alone. If nothing else, we’ll lock her out of the room for a couple hours.”

“Sounds good to me.” He paused for a moment. “So how long have you known Tina?”

“About three years now. I met her through an ex of mine. The three of us went to the pride parade together that year.”

“It’s good that she remained friend with you after you and your ex broke up.”

“Yeah, well, Kent pretty much broke off all contact with her, too. She’s never told me why, though.”

“At the same time.”

“A couple months later, but yeah. I kept hearing rumors that he was being a real ass all around at the time.”

“Well, if he dumped you, it seems to me that he lacked good judgement at the very least.”

“Thanks,” I said, my face turning red again.

“You’re really not used to compliments, are you?”

“No, not really.”

“Didn’t your parents used to give them to you when you were growing up?”

I considered his question. “From time to time. I certainly knew they were proud of me whenever I did well.” I considered for a bit longer, then added, “I guess it’s not so much that I’m not used to them as I just don’t want them going to my head. You know, it’s a humility thing.”

“The church thing, eh?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I offer an opinion?”

I paused for a moment, praying this didn’t turn into our first argument. Finally, I said, “Sure.”

“I’m all for humility, or at least not being a raging egomaniac. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging that you really are a great people, or allowing other people to point it out without squirming. There has to be some sort of happy medium between the two extremes.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. I’m just not sure how to find that point.”

“Well, I’d offer to help you, but to be frank, I probably tend to fall too far on the raging egomaniac side of the equation.”

I laughed at that. “Well, at least you can poke fun at yourself. I think that helps you balance things out.”

“Or at least makes the imbalance a bit more tolerable,” he said as he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.

“And me? Do you find me tolerable?”

“Tolerable doesn’t being to describe it, stud,” he said, as he give my thigh a quick squeeze with his hand.

“Keep that up and we might end up being late to the club,” I warned, grinning.

“Would that be such a bad thing.”

“Well, Tina might wonder where we are and get impatient.”

“You’re giving her a ride later. I think she can survive such an ordeal.”

“All the same, I’d rather get there as soon as possible.” This time, I squeezed his thigh, and added, “That way I can get you back home that much sooner, where I can really enjoy things at my leisure.”

“Mmm....I like the way you think.”

***

I parked the car in one of the lots near the club. Tina was waiting outside as Nate and I approached, holding hands. “It’s about time you got here!” she called out.

“My fault,” Nate responded, his voice feigning remorse. “I slowed us down trying to seduce him before we got here. I’m Nate, by the way.” He extended his hand, which Tina shook.

“Well, if there was sex involved, then I suppose I can forgive the delay,” Tina said.

“Alas, I tried, but did not succeed,” he said hanging his head. Tina laughed.

“I like you, Nate. You’re funny.”

“Why thank you, my dear,” he said. Then he wrapped his arm around my waist and added, “I should point out, however, that I am a happily taken man, and my boyfriend here is the possessive sort.” My face turned bright red. I began to suspect that the color would taint my cheeks for most of the night.

“Anyway, now that you two are here, I want to get my dance on. Let’s go inside!” With that she turned and walked through the door.

“She’s something else,” Nate observed, tightening his grip around my waist.

“Is that good or bad?”

“I’ll get back to you that in a day or two. Shall we?”

I nodded and we walked inside together. The bouncer carded us. “Five each,” he said.

Nate reached toward his back pocket. “I got it,” I said.

“You sure?”

“Hey, you paid for a couple meals for me last weekend. I’d say it’s my turn. Besides, I probably have more disposable income.”

“Just don’t think I’m out to get a sugar daddy.”

I laughed. “I wouldn’t dream of it.” I handed the bouncer a ten and he gave us each a wristband. Once we had them on, he waved us through.

“Where’s Tina?” he asked.

I scanned the bar. “She’s not getting a drink, so she’s probably already out on the dance floor.”

“Sounds like a good place to be. Let’s go.” I hesitated as he began to walk that way. When he realized I wasn’t moving, he turned back to me. “Don’t tell me you don’t dance.”

“No, I dance. Just not very well.”

“Well, I’m not here to grade you and no one else’s opinion should matter. So come dance with me.” He ran his hand along my asscheek and my body responded to the sensation pleasurably. “I promise to make it worth your while.”

I began to move and he led me to the middle of the dance floor. There, he stepped behind me and wrapped his arms around me. We swayed and danced like that for a few moments. My heart raced, partly from the closeness, partly from the pulsing music and lights surrounding us, and partly because our relative stances reminded me of other things we had done together last weekend.

He leaned forward and spoke into my ear. “That’s it. Loosen up.” He kissed my neck. And I half squirmed, half danced. Soon, he spun me around so we were face to face. He smiled, and I began to dance my best, wanting to do well for him.

***

We had been dancing for about half an hour when I walked off the floor, sweat dripping from my face. Nate followed and caught up with me. “You okay?” he asked.

I kissed his cheek. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just overheated.”

“Want a drink?”

“Just a bottled water, maybe.” He took off toward the bar before I could object and say I’d get my own drink. I shrugged and leaned against a nearby wall, trying to get my heart to slow down a bit.

“Hey, remember me?” came a voice beside me. I turned and saw a guy that looked familiar, but my mind kept drawing a blank. “Brandon?” he suggested.

“Right,” I said as I placed his face. “We talked briefly a couple weeks ago over by the bar, right?”

“Yeah, I think you were looking for your friend. Is he here tonight?”

“She, actually. And yeah, she is. I think she’s still dancing right now.”

“And you’re not looking for her?”

“It’s not time to leave yet. I figure I’ll let her be until then.”

“So why aren’t you dancing.”

“I needed a break.”

“Cool, can I get you a drink?”

“Thanks, but my boyfriend is already getting me one.”

Brandon seemed to deflate a little. “Oh, I don’t remember seeing your boyfriend the other week.”

“Yeah, we just started dating last week.”

“Oh, cool. So it’s new. Is it serious?”

“I’m not really sure, to be honest. It’s so new. I’d like to think so.”

“Maybe the three of us could hang out sometime,” Brandon suggested.

“It’s possible.”

“Sure, you could come over to my dorm room, where the three of us could share a joint and fool around.”

I blinked and did a double take. “Um, I think I’ll pass. That’s really not my scene.” I wondered if it was Nate’s scene. After all, he was several years younger than me.

“Which part? The pot or the threesome?”

“All of it,” I said. Breathing a sigh of relief as I spotted Nate walking my way. “Excuse me,” I said to Brandon as I began to walk toward my boyfriend. When we met I put my arms around his neck and kissed him. “Thanks for the water, hon.”

“No problem. So, who was your friend?” he asked, his voice casual.

“Um, his name is Brandon. We’ve talked a couple times. I don’t really know him that well, though.”

“It looked like he was coming on to you,” Nate said.

“Would that make you jealous?”

“Only if it worked,” he said, then kissed my cheek. I blushed.

“He actually did. Then when he found out about you, he suggested we could all fool around.”

“Well, he’s certainly not shy, is he?” Nate laughed. “So, did you accept?”

“No!” I said, a bit shocked at how nonchalantly my boyfriend seemed to be taking this. “Why, would you want to do that?”

He shrugged. “Honestly? Been there, done that. Not with him, mind you,” he added quickly. “Honestly, I didn’t find the experience as hot as pornos would have you believe. I have no interest in doing that again. I’d rather just enjoy my time with you alone.”

“So, why’d you ask me that?” I asked, somewhat confused.

“Well, because I didn’t know how you felt about that sort of thing. And while I’m not really interested in threesomes or anything like that, I wasn’t going to shoot the idea down if you really wanted to give it a try. I’d go through with one if it meant keeping you happy.”

I hugged him. “It wouldn’t make me happy. In fact, the whole idea would stress me out.”

“Now I know that,” he said and kissed my forehead. “Now, here’s your water.” I took the offered bottle, unscrewed the top, and took a large gulp. “Thanks. For the water and the reassurance.”

“You’re welcome. You cooled down enough to go back out there? Or do you want to step outside for some fresh air or something.”

“I’d like to dance a bit more, I think. I’m having fun dancing with you.”

“Then lead the way,” he said as he took my hand.

***

We spent another hour dancing. I thrilled at the closeness we shared as well as the sensual moves we made for each other. Several other people complimented us on how well we did. Every now and then, one of the younger guys would try to get between the two of us in order to dance with Nate. Each time, he danced with them for a few seconds, then guide them out of the way so that he could rejoin me. He would often immediately get behind me and wrap his arms around my torso and grind his crotch against my bottom. The guy who had tried to make his move would look crestfallen, then shoot me a dirty look. I simply smile, both happy and surprised that Nate had chosen me over whatever guy -- who I often felt was much cuter than I was -- had tried to pick him up.

One time, the guy in question actually made his move on me, totally surprising me. I wasn’t sure how to respond, not being as smooth as Nate. I looked at him, praying my expression communicated just how lost and out of my league I felt at that moment. He grinned at me, then artfully stepped around me, took my hand, and gently tugged. I spun into his arms and we kissed again. He looked at me with the expression of someone profoundly satisfied, then guided me off the dance floor.

As we got away from most of the crowd, he asked me, “You looked almost terrified. Do you need a change of underwear?”

I laughed and shook my head. “I just didn’t know what to do? I mean, I’ve been watching you handle situations like that for the past hour but just couldn’t figure out how to do it myself.”

He nodded. “I got that impression. I hope you’ll forgive me for saying it, but it was actually kind of cute.”

I rolled my eyes. “Glad to know you weren’t worried about losing me or something.”

He ran his fingers through the hair covering my left temple. “Well, your reaction made it pretty clear you didn’t want to go with him, so I saw little reason to worry.”

I smirked. “Well, at least you didn’t assume there’s no way I’d leave you, I guess.”

“No, there’s always a chance that could happen.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “You say that so casually. Doesn’t that make you worry?”

He shrugged. “A little. But it’s not something I can control in the end. So I figure the best thing I can do is be the best boyfriend I know how to be and hope for the best.”

I considered that. Part of me wanted to believe it. Another part of me wondered if he really felt that way. He was an amazing guy, and I thought I’d be hard pressed to find anyone better than him even if I wanted to. And the chance that another guy would be as into me as he seemed to be seemed pretty slim. I figured that he must see that too.

“Hey, Curt? I’m sorry to interrupt,” came a woman’s voice. I turned and saw Tina’s friend Kendra standing there. Her lips were drawn tightly and her demeanor was of someone with unpleasant news.

“Oh geez, what has she gotten herself into now?” I asked as I shook my head and gazed toward the ceiling.

***

Nate and I stepped outside and found one of the security guards talking to a somewhat disheveled and rather drunk Tina. One of Tina’s friends was supporting her. Her friend spotted me and said, “There’s her ride now.” I glanced at Nate apologetically. He shrugged and squeezed my waist.

The security guard turned to me. “Is that true? Are you taking her home?”

“Yes sir, I said. I take it she needs to leave now?”

“I think that would be best,” he said, his tone making it clear that it wasn’t a suggestion.

Tina slurred her words as she spoke, “It’s that bitch Erica’s fault! She started it.”

Her friend spoke up, “It doesn’t matter who started it, Tina. You’ve both been asked to leave.”

The security guard spoke, “Plus this is the second week in a row I’ve had to ask you to leave. And Erica had nothing to do with last week.”

Tina opened her mouth as if to speak, but I cut her off. “Duly noted, sir. I didn’t know about last week. I’ll talk to her about it sometime tomorrow when she’s sober.”

“That would be a good idea,” he said. “If she keeps this up, she’ll be barred.”

“What? That’s bullshit!” Tina protested.

“Shut up!” her friend hissed. She turned to me, “Curt, can you please get her out of here before she really fucks things up?”

“Sure. Can you help me get her to the car, Nate?”

“Sure thing,” he said as he walked over to Tina and placed her right arm around his shoulders. Her friend stepped back and I took her left arm. Together, we helped her stagger to my car while she cussed and complained about Erica and the security guard the entire way. I kept telling her to hush, but it was no good. I kept glancing at Nate, wondering how he must feel about this turn of events. He said nothing the entire time.

“Well,” I thought to myself, “It was a fun week while we lasted.”

***

I hopped back into my car after helping Tina into her apartment. Nate sat quietly in the passenger seat. I turned to him to fervently apologize. “I’m so sorry about this.”

He smiled and took my hands in his. “You didn’t do anything? I do have to ask though, are all your friends such a hot mess?”

I laughed. “Thankfully, no. I’m just sorry we had to leave. You were having such a good time.”

“I’m with you. I’m still having a good time.”

“Thanks, that means a lot.” I leaned forward and we kissed. “So, the club is open for another hour. Do you want to go back?”

He ran his fingers through my hair before speaking. “You seem a bit frazzled. What will be better for your nerves? Going back to the club or going back to your place?”

I smiled. “Going back to my place.”

“Then let’s do that.”

“Okay.” I started the car and put it in gear, then a thought occurred to me. “Do you still want to stay the night?”

“Does this answer your question?” he asked as he ran his hand up the inside of my left thigh. I shivered. “Or we can just cuddle all night if you prefer.”

“Let’s just say I’m open to numerous possibilities.”

“Then let’s play it by ear. Or whatever other body part presents itself.”

I laughed as I pulled onto the road. I was feeling better already.

***

Sunlight was streaming in my bedroom window when I woke up. I felt a weight pinning my right arm and was about to command Katie to move so I could get up when I realized that it wasn’t her that had my arm pinned. I smiled at the handsome man sleeping next to me as I carefully extricated my arm from underneath his back. I glanced around the room, but didn’t see Katie. I rolled onto my left side to glance at my clock. It was a little after nine. I felt Nate’s chest against my back and he snuggled up against me and draped his arm over me. His hand massaged my abdomen as he spoke. “Good morning. What time is it?”

“A little after nine. I’m a bit surprised I slept so long. Katie normally gets me up to take her out around six.”

“It was closer to six-thirty. I was awake, so I took her out for you,” he said as he maneuvered his head and torso to kiss my cheek.

“Thanks, but you didn’t have to do that.”

“It’s not a problem. Besides, it’s not a problem, was it? I mean, you’re not worried that my neighbors might have seen me, are you?”

“Only if you didn’t put any clothes on before you took her out.”

“I knew I was forgetting something,” he said as he kissed my neck.

“You’re joking, right?”

“Of course. Though I’m tempted to leave you wondering.” I thrust my elbow backward, jabbing him in a lower rib. “Mmmm....feisty. I like it. Anyway, what’s on your agenda today.”

“My only plan is to meet Ted at the dog park. You’re welcome to join us. Ted would love to meet you. And he’s sane,” I said, thinking of last night’s abrupt ending at the club.

“I’d love to meet him sometime, but I have some stuff I need to take care of today. Actually, if you’d like, I can probably catch a bus back to my place.”

“Nah. I have plenty of time. I’m not planning to meet Ted until twelve-thirty.”

“Oh, so we don’t have to get moving for another couple hours then?”

“Nope. We can relax here and watch a movie or something.”

“My vote is ‘for something,’” he said as the hand on my abdomen began to wander further down my body.

***

Ted and I sat at the park together. I had just finished recounting the events of last night and this morning -- sans juicy details -- to him. “Sounds like you two had a great time. And I hope you realize that I would’ve understood if you were late or even canceled our meeting today.”

“Yeah, I know. And yeah, it was a great night. Except for the whole fiasco with Tina.”

“Ah yes, Tina.”

“So do you really think Nate didn’t mind?”

Ted studied his hands for a moment before speaking. “I’m not a mindreader and I’ve never met the guy. Based on what you said, I think he’s interested in you enough to overlook Tina’s drama this time.”

“I hope so.”

“Me too. All the same, I’d suggest that you not test is tolerance for his nonsense much beyond last night.”

“It’s not like I can control her, Ted,” I protested.

“No, you can’t. But you can control how much time you spend with her, especially when you’re with Nate. Plus you can control how much she’s allowed to drag you into her problems.”

“So you’re saying I should have refused to take her home last night?”

“No. You already agreed to that. But in the future, you might want to consider letting her know up front that you’re not available to take her home and she needs to make other arrangements for herself. I mean, why couldn’t one of her other friends take her home?”

“Most of them don’t drive. They either take a cab or have other friends drive them.”

“Well, then Tina might just need to take a cab or find other friends with cars, too.”

“Yeah, I guess. I just hate putting a friend in a spot like that.”

“Too bad Tina doesn’t seem to share your reservations on that count.”

“Harsh.”

“Am I wrong?”

“No. That’s why it’s so harsh.”

Ted laughed. “I’m sure. Seriously, though. I know how you feel. But you seem to be hitting it off great with this guy. Personally, I’d much rather see you spend more time building something the two of you enjoy together rather than getting wrapped up in the drama of someone who only ever seems to bring drama into your life. You deserve much more of the former and much less of the latter.”

“I know,” I said. At that moment, Katie ran over to me and ran her nose over my hand. “I think she’s looking for her ball,” I said.

Ted raised his hand, which was holding a tennis ball. “You mean this one?” Katie spotted the movement and immediately began to prance in front of Ted. He threw the ball and Katie went bounding after it. “In the end, it’s your decision about what you’re going to do. But I hope you make your decision based on what you want and what’s best for you. Not out of a feeling of obligation to Tina.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, I promise,” I said. Katie returned and stood in front of me. I tried to take the ball from her and we playfully struggled over it for a few seconds. When she finally let go, I lobbed it again, this time in a different direction. “So, how about you? Have you seen Paul again since last Friday?”

He laughed. “As a matter of fact, yes. We got together last night again. We went and saw that new Vin Diesel movie.”

“You saw an action film? I didn’t think you were into those much.”

“I like the occasional one. Besides, he wanted to see it. He kept mentioning it all through dinner.”

“Dropping hints?”

Ted paused before replying, which gave me a chance to wrestle the ball from Katie and throw it again. “He might have been, but it didn’t feel that way. He had mentioned several other movies we could go see together as well. And he kept talking about seeing this one alone. But to be honest, he was so wound up about it, it got me curious to see it too.”

I glanced at him. “You almost sound like you’re actually falling for this guy.”

“You might be right about that.”

“Well, good. You deserve to have a great guy in your life, same as me.”

He laughed. “You enjoyed finally getting to say that, didn’t you?”

“You bet.”

“Enjoy your victory then. But yeah, it’s strange. I’d always assumed that after Zach, it would be too much to hope to meet another guy I could feel so great about. I figured no one could get that lucky twice.”

“Wow, this is sounding pretty serious, Ted.”

“Yeah, I know. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not planning on moving in with him or anything yet. Things may still fall apart. But I admit I could actually see myself getting serous about Paul. All my defenses tend to crumble around him.”

“That’s really sweet.”

“Thanks, man. So, any news on the youth project front?”

“Actually yes. Steve, Jessica, and the parents managed to twist enough arms. I’ll be meeting some of the youth tomorrow afternoon to introduce myself and start talking about plans.”

“That’s awesome. Do you know how much of a fight the pastor put up?”

“Not exactly. I did have to agree to a few concessions in the end, of course.”

“Breaking up with Nate wasn’t one of them, I hope.”

I laughed. “That would have been a deal-breaker for me.”

“I should hope so.”

“I doubt they even know about him. It’s mostly just a don’t ask/don’t tell situation. Which is basically how I had to agree to leave it with the teens.”

“Not the best bargain, but livable I suppose.”

“I think Jessica is right. It potentially hurts the teens more than me.”

“Yeah, I see her point too.”

“Jessica also mentioned to me that Steve has taken a lot of grief for sticking up for me so much.”

“Oh how so?”

“Well, I guess a couple of the elder have questioned his fitness for leadership. Plus, they suspect that he and I are having sex.”

Ted rubbed his chin for a moment. “Didn’t I meet Steve at that Christmas party?”

“Yeah, he was wearing the red-and-green sweater.”

“And they think he’s gay?”

I snorted at that. “You have to understand that it’s how some of the elders think. The only reason they can imagine for someone to be pro-gay is because they are gay themselves. And possibly want to justify having wild orgies.”

“Justify them? I’d like to know where to find them.”

“Ted!” I said, horrified.

He grinned. “I love messing with you at times.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m almost afraid to let you and Nate meet. God only knows what the two of you will say to embarrass me.”

“I’m sure at least he will make up for his teasing, though.”

“You have no idea.”

“So, when are you going to see him again?”

“Tonight, possibly. He has a paper he’s working on right now. If he gets done early enough, he’s going to come over for pizza. Plus, he may let me draw him in another pose.”

“That’s cool. You’re getting to combine two of your favorite things. Seeing a cute guy you’re totally fawning over and drawing.”

“Yeah, though I have to think about something he’s asked me for.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, he wants a nude photograph of me.”

“That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. You have a drawing of him and are talking about doing another one. It’s only fair that he gets a picture of you too.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just,” I paused.

“Curt, the guy has already seen you naked. By the sounds of it, he’s even had an up close and personal view of just about every inch of your body. What’s your hangup?”

“He doesn’t want to take the picture himself.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, he thinks that since a talented artist drew him for me, he should get a quality photograph of me, taken by a professional.”

Ted chuckled. “Oh, I can see where that would embarrass you. But to be honest, I still see his point.”

“I know. That’s the bitch of it. I see his point to.”

Ted paused before responding. “You know, maybe I know someone who can help out. Do you remember my friend Alice?”

“The CPA? Yeah.”

“Well, she’s quite the hobby photographer. She’s also quite good at it. I know she’s taken erotic photographs for a few mutual friends.”

“For you?”

He laughed. “No. I didn’t meet her until after I had no need for such pictures. But I have seen a couple of the shots for friends. She’s great at it, and they’re tastefully done. Plus she would give you a good deal and let Nate be there for the photo session.”

I pondered the idea. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea, but the thought of knowing the photographer made the thought a little more bearable. “I’ll think about it.”

“Cool. In the meantime, I’ll ask Alice and find out what she’d want for doing it.”

“Ted, I’m only thinking about it.”

Ted gave me a smug look. “Yeah? Because you really consider telling Nate no an option?”

“Well, no.” I felt like I owed it to Nate to go through with it at this point. “Damn. I guess there’s nothing to think about after all.”

“That’s what I figured.”

“Damn you for being right.”

“Another reason I’m damned,” he said, grinning. “Anyway, I best get going.”

“Thanks. And let me know what you find out from Alice.” I leashed up Katie and stood to head for my car.

***

Around six, I got a text from Nate, letting me know that he had to finish working on his paper. I sent him back a text wishing him luck on the work and that I loved him. I decided that since I’d be spending the night alone, I’d catch a movie. I called and arranged to meet Steve at the cineplex around nine. We stood in front of the marquee, discussing which movie we’d like to see.

“How about that thriller with Nicholas Cage?” Steve suggested.

“You sure? You complained about me drooling all the way through the last movie of his that we watched together,” I said, feigning a tone of hurt.

“Only because my knee was getting soaked,” he quipped back.

“You’d prefer I drool over your crotch?”

“Maybe. I mean, it’s been a while for some of us, you know.”

I laughed at that one. “Okay, let’s get our tickets.” We walked toward the ticket booth.

“So, you’re really okay with the leaders’ stupid rules?” Steve asked, his voice becoming more serious.

I paid for my ticket before answering him. “Well, no. Not really. I think they’re being stupid and a huge part of me is tired of that kind of stupidity.”

“And yet you’re going along with it,” he said as he paid for his own ticket.

“Because my only other choice is to turn down something that actually sounds like fun to me. And let’s face it. If I never did anything that required me to put up with their stupidity, I might as well take Patty’s advice and change churches already.”

“I can’t argue with that logic. I just hate watching you keep on sacrificing like this.”

“I know. And for what it’s worth, I appreciate it. But until I’m ready to become a Unitarian or run off to the MCC, this is just something I need to deal with.”

“Or until they change.”

“Or hell freezes over.” This time, Steve laughed.

***

“That was a pretty good show,” I said to Steve as we walked out of the theater.

“Yeah, I rather liked it.”

“How’s your knee?”

“How’s your crotch? Did anything get bent out of shape due to running out of room?”

I blushed. I turned on my cellphone and saw I had a message. “Excuse me a moment?” Steve nodded and I held the phone to my ear as the message started playing. It was Nate. He had gotten done with his paper half an hour ago and wanted to know what I was up to. I relayed the information to Steve.

“Hey, if you want to run, I totally understand,” he said.

I called Nate. His voice came over the phone. “Hey babe! What’s up?”

“Not much. I just got out of a movie with my church buddy Steve.”

“Oh cool. You two going to hang out some more.”

“Well, we often go to Denny’s after a movie. But if you’d like to hang out with me.”

“Or the three of us could hang out together at Denny’s,” Nate suggested.

“Let me check with Steve.” I turned to him and asked, “Hey, how would you feel about hanging out with a couple of queers at Denny’s.”

“As long as you don’t try to molest me,” he said, winking.

I spoke into my phone. “Okay, Steve’s up for it. But he wants to make it clear that he only tops.”

“That’s fine. The two of us can just keep you in the middle. You’ll be in heaven.”

I turned bright red and handed the phone to Steve. “Ask him to repeat what he just said.”

“Nate? This is Steve? What did you say to turn him this interesting shade of crimson?” He listened. “I’ll have to remember that one. Nice to meet you by the way.”

I snatched my phone back. “I’ll come get you in ten minutes, okay?”

“Sounds good. See you then.”

***

We sat in a booth in one corner of Friendly’s. Nate and I sat on one side and Steve sat across the table from us. Our server, a twenty-something woman name Carrie, had already taken our orders.

“So if you don’t mind me asking, Nate,” Steve started, “What first drew you to Curt?”

“Well, I admit probably the first thing that drew my attention was when his online profile said he was an artists. I have this huge thing for artsy types.”

“And to think I almost left that out. Thank goodness Patty convinced me to include it. I’ll have to thank her on Monday,” I said.

“Well, that and he has an adorable face,” Nate said brushing my cheek with his fingertips. I winced, suddenly embarrassed. Nate’s brow wrinkled in confusion.

Steve laughed. “You’ll have to forgive him, Nate. I think he’s worried about how I’m going to react. He tends to expect the worst from people he knows through church.”

“I’m sorry. I know you’re not like that, Steve. It’s just habit.”

“I know,” Steve said, holding up his hands. “In fact, I was going to point out that in many cases, you have good reason.”

“You guys go to the huge church over on Avon, right?”

“That’s the one,” Steve said.

“Yeah, you’re a lot different from the college kids I’ve met who go there.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I’m involved with the LGBT student union on campus. I was one of the organizers for the National Coming Out Day festival we held last October. A few of your congregants,” he paused.

“Made royal asses of themselves?” Steve offered.

“Well, I was going to say they were rather confrontational and tried to disrupt the festivities, but I like your version better.”

Steve nodded. “I’m guessing they were led by one Ron Chadwick.”

“I don’t know if he was their leader, but he certainly was the loudest one in the group.”

“Not surprising. He’s one of the elder’s son. He’s pretty much following in his father’s footsteps when it comes to alienating those he finds immoral. I’m sorry you and your friends have to put up with that sort of thing.”

“I appreciate that,” Nate said. “So, mind if I ask why you’re so different from them.”

Steve sighed and fiddled with his fork for a minute. Finally, he said, “Well, it’s partly because I did some serious Bible study and read some gay-affirming theologians who convinced me of their views. But a much larger part of it is due to my cousin, Rick.”

“You’ve never mentioned this to me before,” I said.

“It’s not something I like to talk about.”

Nate said, “Well, if you’d rather change the subject, we can.”

Steve shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. I’ve encouraged Curt to be open about plenty of things, I think it’s only right that I share this.” He paused. Both Nate and I nodded. He continued. “When I was growing up, my parents and I very much believed the same as the Chadwicks do now. I was quite stubborn about it, though I hope I wasn’t as obnoxious or hurtful as I’ve seen Ron be. I have an aunt and uncle who live in Indiana. Their son, Rick, is about three years younger than me. When we were teenagers, we were tight. He and I would spend as much time visiting each other as we could every summer. Up until my freshman year in college.”

“Did the two of you drift apart?” Nate asked.

“Not exactly. I got an email from him that January, just after I got back to school for Spring semester, telling me that he couldn’t wait to see me at the family Easter get-together at our grandparents’ home. He said that there was something he wanted to tell me.”

“That he was gay?” I suggested.

“I assume so, but he never got to tell me, unfortunately. So I don’t really know.”

“What happened,” Nate asked.

“Well, I got a call from my mother a couple weeks later, visibly upset. She told me that Aunt Kristen had come home from work early two days prior to that and caught Rick in bed with one of his classmates. I was completely floored. At that time, I had some pretty weird ideas about gay men. I couldn’t believe what my mom was telling me, because Rick was an athlete. There were rumors that colleges were already looking at him for for track and field scholarships, and he was only a sophomore at the time. But the real shocker was what my mother said next.”

“What was that?” I asked. I had a sinking suspicion I could guess.

“Well, if you’ll both forgive me for using such words, her exact question was, ‘Are you a fag too? Is that why you two spent so much time together?’ I was shocked and dismayed. I couldn’t believe my own mother was ready to interrogate me and turn on me. Just like my aunt and uncle turned on Rick.”

“Did they disown him?” Nate asked.

Steve shook his head. “No. To be honest, I think that would have ultimately been more humane on their part.”

“Therapy then,” I said.

Nate blinked. “As in ex-gay stuff?”

“I’m afraid so. And that was horrendous enough. But the treatment he got at home was horrible in its own right. They started keeping close watch on him. They had to approve of all of his friends. And if he had any guy friends over, they wouldn’t give him and said friend any privacy. Hell, the only reason I know about any of this is because he’d send me quick emails from a school computer every now and then.”

“Sounds rough,” I said.

“I think the worst part, based on what Rick said, was how Aunt Kristen and Uncle Ben became extremely cold toward him. And the way they talked about him that Easter was horrible. They didn’t even let Rick come with them. They made him stay at some sort of program. On Easter weekend. Can you imagine that?”

“Sounds pretty harsh,” Nate said.

“It’s cruel,” Steve said. “So between the third degree my parents were giving me and the hell that Rick went through, I started taking a long hard look at what I was raised to believe. I just couldn’t believe this is what God wanted families to put their own children through.”

“So, what happened with Rick?” I asked. “Did he ever break free? Did he come out? Or is he still trying to turn straight or stay celibate?”

Steve shook his head. “He eventually came out. His brush with death a year later changed everything for him.”

A lump formed in my throat. Nate croaked out the question that was on my mind, “He tried to kill himself?”

Steve nodded. “Very nearly succeeded, too. I got to talk to one of the paramedics a week later. She said that if they had gotten to him even ten minutes later, he would’ve been in the morgue rather than the hospital. As it is, he’s never been the same.”

“I’m so sorry, Steve,” I said.

He looked into my eyes. “Now you understand why I’m so passionate about your place in the church. I don’t want anyone I know -- or anyone at all -- to go through anything like Rick did. Plus, I’m embarrassed that it took something so tragic to get me to rethink things.”

After a long moment, Nate said, “At least you rethought things. I suspect some people can watch what you saw your cousin go through and still hold to their prejudices.”

“Nate,” I cautioned.

Steve snorted. “No, Curt. He’s right. Kristen and Ben still think being gay is a horrible thing. That belief almost cost them the life of their own son and they’re still holding onto it.”

“Ouch,” Nate said. “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks, though I’d say you’re not the one who should be sorry,” Steve said. After a minute of silence, Steve spoke again. “So Nate, Curtis says you’re an atheist. Have you always been one?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. My parents are both atheists as well. Some of my earliest memories is sitting with my father and watching Carl Sagan on television.”

“I suppose that must have made your coming out process a bit easier,” Steve said.

“Well, my parents didn’t scream about me being immoral, if that’s what you mean. Though I wouldn’t call it a breeze. My mother went through a major funk because she felt like her hopes for having grandchildren were ruined.”

“But she adjusted?” I asked.

He chuckled. “Oh yes. Now she keeps a running list of which states and agencies are most open to allowing gay couples to adopt.”

I laughed. “I could almost see my mother being like that if she can ever come to terms with my being gay. I’m not sure whether I’m hopeful or horrified at the possibility.”

“Well, given the fact that I still have two and a half years of school ahead of me, I find it horrifying. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m fully adult yet myself, and she already has me raising a kid of my own in her mind.”

Steve nodded. “No doubt. I’m probably fifteen years older than you and I don’t feel ready to become a father, either.”

“Do you parents ever pressure you about it?” Nathan asked.

“Surprisingly, no. I think it helps that my older sister already has kids. That takes the pressure off me, for the most part.”

“Anyway, I strongly recommend you check out the movie sometime, Nate,” I interjected, partly because I wanted to guide the topic onto something a little less major. “I thought it was pretty good. I’m not sure what Steve thought about it, though.”

“I liked it well enough. I felt they could have done a bit better to build the suspense, though. The special effects were awesome.”

“Yeah, I want to see it. I was actually considering asking Curt to see it with me next weekend?”

Steve winced. “Sorry about that, man.”

“I’ll gladly see it again. Especially if I’m going to watch it with you,” I said, smiling at Nate.

Steve grinned, “Cool, the two of you can hold each other during the intense moments.”

***

After we had finished eating, Nate excused himself to use the restroom. I took the moment to ask, “Okay, so what do you think of him?”

Steve rubbed the cleft of his chin. “He seems like a pretty good guy. A big improvement over some of the dating disasters you’ve told me about before.”

“Ain’t that the truth. He’s a real sweetheart.”

“And he seems to be pretty into you, based on how he keeps holding your hand and rubbing your thigh.”

I blushed. “You noticed, then.”

“Yeah. He was pretty subtle about it, but I saw. Which is fine. As far as I’m concerned, the two of you could stand to be a bit more overt about your affection.”

“Thanks.”

“Do your parents know about him yet?”

“Oh hell no. I can’t imagine how Mom would react. Besides, it seems to early to me. I mean, we’ve only been dating for a little over a week. For all I know, things could fall apart tomorrow.”

Steve shook his head. “You’re probably right that it’s too soon to tell your parents. But as for the possibility that your relationship might fall about tomorrow, I don’t think that’s very likely. Don’t sabotage yourself with thoughts like that.”

“I was kidding!” He looked at me with a skeptical expression, and I added, “Mostly. Okay. Point taken.”

I turned my attention back to Nate as he approached our booth again. He grinned. “Did you miss me?”

“Maybe a little,” I said teasingly.

“Hmmm, maybe I should go back and wait a little longer,” he said, and slowly turned as if to head back to the restroom.

I grabbed his wrist and pulled him toward me. “That’s quite alright. I’d rather not miss you at all.” As he sat, I leaned toward him and gave him a quick kiss on the lips.”

“Ew!” Steve said in mock disgust. We all laughed.

Nate winked at him, “If you’re feeling left out, one of us can kiss you too.”

“Well, you know, it has been a while,” Steve said.

I glared playfully at Steve. “I’m sure not kissing you, and I’m not really in the mood to share my boyfriend.”

Steve grinned. “Guess I should’ve gone to the bathroom with you, Nate.”

Nate shrugged. “You snooze, you lose.”

“You’re both nuts,” I said.

“Just crazy about you,” Nate said, kissing my cheek.

We said our goodbyes to Steve and I made arrangements to meet him in the church foyer before the morning service. Nate and I then climbed into my car. Nate immediately said, “He’s a pretty cool guy. It’s hard to believe he’s one of your friends through church.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. I wouldn’t be able to be affectionate in front of most of the people from church. And he’s certainly an improvement over the last friend you met, I think.”

“No comparison. I hope more of your friends are more like him than they’re like Tina.”

“You really don’t like her, then? You never really said much last night.”

He took my hand. “It’s not that I don’t like her. She seemed pretty nice and fun to talk to when we got to the club last night. I just,” he paused as if to consider his words. “Well, I’ve dealt with a lot of fellow college kids through the GSU, and that’s meant dealing with my share of drama already. I get the impression that Tina would add to that if I let her.”

I smirked. “I’d say your assessment is pretty dead on. You also sound like Ted. He thinks I let her drama affect me too much.” I studied Nate’s face, trying to determine his thoughts on the matter.

“I feel that’s something you have to decide for yourself, Curt. That’s why I kept quiet yesterday. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably put a bit more distance between myself and her. Or I’d at least make it clear what she could reasonably expect from me and what I expected from her in return -- like not getting kicked out of a club before I’m ready to leave if she wants me to take her home. But in the end, it’s your life and she’s your friend. That means you get to choose how to handle the friendship you have with her.”

I nodded. “Though it does affect you too. I mean, you had to leave early too last night.”

“Yeah, there is that. Last night, I didn’t care because I’m really not into the club scene anyway. So I was perfectly happy to leave.”

I did a double take. “Really? You seemed to enjoy dancing with me. And you seemed to have a good time.”

He laughed. “I didn’t say that I didn’t enjoy myself. And if I’m going to go out to a club, I prefer it if I’m going with someone I care about and can dance with. But I would’ve been just as happy going to a movie or talking at your place.”

“So why didn’t you say so?”

“Because I assumed you wanted to go dancing with me. Plus you wanted to introduce me to Tina. You’ve accommodated my needs and wishes before. I figured it’s only right that I do the same for you.”

I sat there with my hands in my lap for a moment. “I’m not sure I cared about you meeting Tina. It’s just that she kept pestering me about when she’d get to meet you. It seemed the easiest way to shut her up.” I fidgeted. “I’m really starting to see Ted’s point.”

Nate leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “So, what’s the plan now?”

“Well, you didn’t bring any clothes. Does that mean you don’t feel like staying at my place tonight?”

“Actually, I’d love to spend the night with you again. I just didn’t want to presume, what with you having church in the morning.”

“I’ll need to get some sleep, so we can’t stay up half the night. But I admit I rather like the idea of having you in bed next to me while I’m sleeping.”

“Then mind if I stay the night?”

“I’d like that. Do you need to go grab some clothes from your place first?”

“I assumed we’d be sleeping naked again.”

I laughed. “I meant for tomorrow, dork.”

He shrugged. “I’m a college student. I can manage doing the walk of shame.”

“You’d have to be capable of feeling shame first.”

“Good one,” he said, kissing me on the lips. “Now, let’s get back to your place, if you don’t mind.”

“It’d be my pleasure,” I said as I turned the key in the ignition.
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