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  2. It's never fun having to kill a character.

     

    Unless it's in a mystery or horror novel and then let the blood flow!

  3. Philippe

    Chapter 46

    Maybe an extra ration of coal, not should he deserves good boy status. 🤔🤔🤔👎 Nope just coal.
  4. Wayne Gray

    Acceptance

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jeffrey. I'm glad you liked the chapter, and the dialogue! Those scenes between Kent and Stanley... they've definitely gone just a little further than they had before. Kent exerted some control he never has. Not only did he find Stanley willing to hear him, but that Stanley NEEDED to. Stanley is happiest when he has someone who loves him steering things. That's what Kent did. In our trio, did you notice Tad? How he spoke individually to both Nate and Christopher, and how he asked them to go to him with their fears? Tad is the one going through the most terrifying thing of his life... yet, he is willing to take on all of their pain. As much as they'll give him, he'll take it. Out of all of the characters I've ever written... Thaddeus Coleman is the one I would have liked to have met the most.
  5. Wayne Gray

    Acceptance

    Hey, thanks for commenting, Bryan. I think you're right about Kent and Stanley. We're all formed from our pasts, and Stanley can't help but feel those echoes you spoke of. When it comes to Stanley, Kent has slowly grown protective. He can sense the need for it in his lover, and he grows into the void in Stanley's world. He's becoming the rock that Stanley needs. The graphic novel was something I loved, mainly because of the work I was doing with pictures associated with the story. Someday I'll release a version of this story that's edited, and that includes those "artified" pictures. They add a lot to the work. I tried to make them all look like art, and for the most part it worked out well. Story-wise, Tad felt the need to get his work out there. He wanted to have an impact on others in a way that wasn't preachy, or confrontational. Simple scenes of life between people who love one another. That's all he wanted to do. You're not rambling. 🙂 I'm looking forward to Sunday too!
  6. JeffreyL

    Acceptance

    You did a great job writing Stanley's and Kent's moments together! The dialogue was spot on. I enjoyed Kent being the one in charge for real not just for sex play. I am glad Stanley listened and understood. I was also happy to see the trio come to a better understanding of their relationship. All in all a great chapter! Thanks.
  7. . 1940, 1970 and Today Haibun A poem I wrote many years ago belongs here, in Pride Month and Other Haibun. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the three days of rioting before the Stonewall Inn. It was June of the following year that the first Pride March happened, cementing the notion of being out and visible. Photographs show the same boys and girls – for they were merely brave, wonderful kids in their late teens and early twenties – who fought in the streets with their bones and blood to secure our liberties in the summer of ’69 led the protest parade in 1970. Each time we take to the streets to reinforce our love, we should think of them. We should also recall the power behind the symbol of the pink triangle, for those who wore it also paid with their blood and bones. Poem: What if I were one of them, one of the ones bound in a line – on one side held by oppression, on the stronger side still, by a fact – bound because they couldn’t hide what others easily scurry into themselves. With shaven heads wrapped in soil and sweat-combed rags, the line without a sound conjoins into a row of wasted solitude, looking all calm, but beneath a bitter quake of the heart. One palm sweats where its own nails bite, longing for sweet revolt, or just a little courage to touch the mate it used to hold so often and so well. More spitefully, the living barbs cut his flesh, bringing blood to the face of constraint; sweat and purity mingle in the cupping want of his hand. Fear, alive within reach, his eyes feel sunken deeper in his brain, but focus worked by weariness brings an image to attention. That head before his groping eyes he sees as summers ago have seen – where the back of ears were once awash in sun-like hair – he would play like a child on a familiar beach, stroke a fingertip from nape around to the side of receiving lobe, then like a dalliance, retread the way to end in the sandy spot from which he began. Letting go, his eyes befell the faded stripes that downwards clothed the back before him, and beneath, the shabby remains of a body he used to feel his own. Down to himself, his own badge – the one they gave him as a shame – he sees the pink triangle gone a dirty emaciated hue of the time stolen from him. But movement from in front caught his ever-slowing glance, and a blink required a second to clear his vision, but movement he saw from the hand of he in front of him – from the one he so longed to touch. Perhaps not an invitation, perhaps merely a glint of movement hoping across a blind desert for the embrace of a loving eye. Three sides, the man mused. Half empty-hearted, one side denies; and if unfeeling can deny a life away, a second side is shame to only be alive when more than one, for a group in uncurable illness is a group in pathetic penitence strong. But the third and last is redemption, the one so few seem to find; the acquittal of nature, the strength to free her of any wrong, and that love of self is the only love to bring about blessed absolution. The man’s grip relaxed, and the nails undug their trench from his palm. With one finger slowly raising, his eyes re-found that distant glimmer, and made for it across the dead air of time robbed from them. Slowly, for the effort took much… slowly, no one must see, no one must, not for shame, not for grief, but for no other reason than a secret love ever wants its innocence. Again he woke his eyes to focus, only to feel the palm of his belovèd take the finger in affection. A moment only, but neither needed more. quickly, he drew his hand away and then saw a guard had seen their touch. To the man, the soldier boy was familiar – the same sweet look he knew so well – the look his lover used to wear so mildly and so openly in the Berlin of old. A lump hitched in his throat; not only had this boy seen, but he was one of them; one of them hidden and helpless. The man had no illusions; such types were the most deadly to his type – the caught, the unapologetic, the “uncured,” and the natural…. He feared the worst. He felt sorry it meant the same pain for his belovèd as himself, wishing he could absorb it for the man he loved. A flinch of pity appeared across the young face; the guard moved silently away. Eventually, the order came and the line of men trudged forward at a shuffling pace, their last movement, for outside the camp gates, a ditch awaited them. So the order was brought about against those – the accusèd Queers – by the un-accusèd ones in a place called Belsen. But what if I were one of them, the trickle in the streets who, by the end of morning, thousands found themselves. One of the ones who joined autonomous limbs and built an unhanded chain to sweep arbitrary subjugation aside. One who reveled in the sheer weight of all my companions, we being one, we taking power so long denied. Alive in the joy of freedom, itching for the chance to fight – whole, happy, strong – with the strength of newborns. What if I were one of them, the ones who matched on a bright summer day – one year to the day – after Stonewall. What if I were amongst the first takers of the Rights of Queers! Postlude: Sonnet But those generations are gone for me, Though less than one divides the former from The one that got all of our liberty; Thirty-year rebellion from martyrdom. And yet today among the crowd I saw Beauty has eyes and hands, and kept below Levi’s brand, are treasures near the draw, Handy enough to keep me in sorrow. Moving like one beyond their noticing, One boy saw and shyly knew the compliment – As shadows blew me his glance returning, Our commonest love with the crowd’s was blent. Though such days are past, those they loved I see; I’ll fight that these years belong to him and me! ◇ ◇ ◇ _
  8. BryanC

    Acceptance

    Great read! I can't say it's nice to read about someone' insecurities, but that's the balance, right? You can't accept something unless you're uncertain of it first. Kent and Stanley are probably how the majority of LGBT couples approach relationships. You look over your shoulder at first, you hear the echoes of past voices -- good and bad, and you ultimately rely on each other to turn your attention back to one another. Creating the Graphic Novel has turned out to be a great plot device. Its also a great way of communicating to a large demographic of people. That has a special place in my heart, whenever we arrive at those moments. Kind of rambling, but this a great chapter. Looking forward to Sunday.
  9. Today
  10. Wayne Gray

    Next Steps

    Thanks, Parker. The newly minted triad is sort of feeling its way along. Though Tad is the center, both Christopher and Nate bring something they all need. Kent and Stanley are slowly learning that trust it takes to express feeling and emotion to one another. I love telling their part of the story. 🙂 Markus... god. Yeah. I know how he feels too. I really know how he feels. He's a man in desperate need of some help.
  11. Wayne Gray

    Next Steps

    It is on the small side. A little one bedroom house. It was what he could afford. Does it meet the criteria of a "tiny house"? No. Though, it's small by US standards. A cottage, really. But it's what suits our Stanley. Thanks for reading and commenting, Bryan. 🙂
  12. centexhairysub

    Chapter 46

    I have decreed that this story shall never end. It must keep going with a posting ever week for all eternity. So saithe the Goddess... Really enjoyed the chapter and can't wait to see what happens next and where they are going, somewhere fabulous, I just know it.
  13. Parker Owens

    Next Steps

    This is a great chapter; Kent and Stanley learning tenderness; Tad, Nate and Chris learning to be three and one; and then poor Markus. I know how he feels. You bring us into each of these orbits, and show us their developing lives. Excellent.
  14. A wonderful story filled with so many emotions! I look forward to future installments!!!
  15. travlbug

    Chapter 16

    "Congrats on taking over the camp.” “Thanks, I still can’t believe it's mine.” “So why you?” [Spencer] asked. I thought about it for a bit, “I’m not really sure to be honest." Kessler then proceeds to rationalize why Bowden may have given him the keys to the kingdom, but could Bowden have a hidden agenda? The "amazing," "mysterious," "perfect," "unattainable," bisexual Spencer, who seems to attract even "straight" boys like Kes: When Kes asks Spencer--hypothetically, of course--if he would have a chance if he made a pass at him, Spencer pats his knee, squeezes it, and says, “Yeah, I think you would.” Is he giving Kess permission to make a pass or just messing with him? Once again, is Spencer just toying with people or being sincere? (His monotone would also make it more difficult to tell the difference.) Ah, so "Spencer" led Powers into the woods and abandoned him there. Was Spencer playing a practical joke? Was Spencer possessed (possibly by Claton's ghost?), such that he doesn't remember his actions? Was it the ghost, or doppelganger, itself which led Powers away? And why was Powers targeted? I think we just swerved into the Twilight Zone!
  16. Kitt

    Chapter 16

    👍
  17. nothric

    Chapter 16

    Thanks, I'm glad that you're enjoying it! 😁
  18. MJC

    Chapter 16

    Now, it really does start to get interesting... from a couple of perspectives lol. Ghosts from the past? Plus of course, the more than passing interest of Kes and Spencer for each other . Enjoying your good work, please keep it up .
  19. “He was definitely flirting with you.” Blake and Jasper both head into Jasper’s room, they’d been out for hours at the party but Jasper had overdone it quickly with shots, having snuck away from Blake to have a few more after he’d been told to slow down. The night had been kinda hazy but just before they left he’d been chatting with an openly gay singer that had brought him some water and was trying to comfort him on his relationship troubles. According to Blake he’d not said who he was dating, just that the person he was into was having drinks with their ex, something along the lines of ‘if I were them, I’d not have let you out of my sight.’ had been when Blake interfered, telling Jasper it was time to go home. Rather than the party he had been hoping for, he’d ended up spending 40 minute in a bathroom throwing up until he’d pretty much reached sober again and by that point, everyone was able to tell he was upset about something. He had been talking to plenty of people throughout the night and almost all of them wanted to talk about Ryan and the rumors early on that they didn’t get along, as soon as he explained that it was their manager he hated and not Ryan, the topic would turn to how amazing Ryan’s dancing had been at the show tonight. Having to continually talk about Ryan, while trying to forget he was out with another guy, wasn’t working very well for Jasper, which is why he kept smashing down drinks every chance he got. “He’s not here, he didn’t come to the after party. Has he texted or called?” Jasper sighs flopping down on his bed and looking over towards Blake who sits beside him trying to be supportive, he’d never actually helped Jasper deal with relationship issues that he genuinely cared about so he was both surprised and unsure about how to handle the feelings Jasper was expressing for Ryan. “Parties aren’t really his thing are they? Does he even have his own key yet? Maybe he couldn’t come home before us because he doesn’t have a key to get in.” Blake tries to reassure him but Jasper props himself up on his elbows and gives Blake a skeptical look. “Or maybe he’s gone back to Damien’s house.” He states before a knock on the door steals their attention. “Jasper.” The nerves in Ryan’s voice was unsettling to Jasper who was already a little highly stung about the whole situation. “Want me to go?” Blake asks. “Not yet. Come in.” Jasper calls out, neatening his hair and sitting up, he wanted to look like he had been fine, not like he’d been slowly becoming more and more paranoid as the 4 whole hours had passed of Ryan being out with Damien. Ryan opens the door and by the look on his face Jasper felt a lump building in his throat. “How was your catch up?” He asks with faked calmness. “I kissed him.” Ryan admits instantly, he had guilt written all over his face and looked as though he was about to cry too. “I feel like you guys should talk alone?” Blake asks Jasper gently, Jasper shakes his head and looks at Ryan. “So I did accidentally send you on a date.” He sighs, looking up at the roof to stop himself from crying. “Do you still have feelings for him?” He asks, blinking as he tries to hold back the tears threatening to streak his face. Blake places a hand on Jasper’s shoulder to try and comfort him but he felt truly out of place being in the middle of this couple’s emotional conversation. The tearful exhale from Jasper as he looks back at his silent boyfriend only made the discomfort more difficult to bare. “I shouldn’t have gone with him.” Ryan sighs, looking down at his feet ashamed for a moment before leaning back against the wall and sliding down to sit on the floor, his elbows on his knees and his hands over his face. “I was trying to be cool with you getting a drink with someone. I had myself almost totally convinced that I could trust you to do that, without me having anything to worry about. 4 hours I’ve been telling myself that someone who’s so insecure about his relationship wouldn’t be the one to fuck it up. You really did catch me off guard. You do understand that it wasn’t a hall pass, right? Do you want to get back with him?” Jasper’s emotions turn to frustration and annoyance, the way he always covered for feeling sad. “You have every right to be mad at me.” Ryan starts but is cut off with Jasper’s snarky reply. “Well thanks for your permission.” “I don’t want to get back with him, the feelings I have aren’t healthy. He did it on purpose because he knew I was with you and knew...” “How is it his fault if you kissed him.” Jasper snaps. Ryan looks up at Jasper, realizing how pissed off he was. “You’re right, I fucked up.” He stands up and turns to leave the room, deciding it wasn’t worth trying to explain himself to Jasper while he was so angry. “I’m really sorry.” He sighs. “No, hold on, don’t you dare walk out on me. I may have been wrong about letting you go ‘for a drink’ with an ex but don’t tell me I’m wrong about the kind of person you are. There’s some story behind this ex, you said he did this on purpose and that your feelings aren’t healthy. You owe me the story.” Jasper orders, nudging Blake. “I’ll talk to you later.” Jasper tells him quietly. “Good luck.” Blake gives a reassuring smile then gets off the bed and doesn’t even look at Ryan as he passes him, leaving the two to talk alone. “He was toxic. We dated on and off for a year, he cheated on me multiple times and would tell me it was my fault for not calling him back, not replying straight away, if I didn’t organize plans with him on the weekend or whatever he would wind up cheating on me and telling me it was only because I wasn’t there. We didn’t really break up when he cheated, he would just not talk to me for days and I’d end up sending him a message asking if he was still mad at me for whatever it was I didn’t do. He wouldn’t want me spending time with friends and I would have to justify everything I did to him. Eventually he had me so closed off that I wouldn’t talk to anyone else, spend time with anyone else, all my time not working was spent either with him or alone reading about him being at a party on Facebook when he had told me he wasn’t able to hang out. He started hanging out with this guy he worked with a lot and posting about it, liking all his photos and status’, I became paranoid about it and he loved rubbing it in my face that he was hanging out with the other guy. But anyone I mentioned to him, he would get jealous of and get mad at me for talking about.” Ryan walks over to Jasper’s bed, sitting on the very end and taking a moment to breath. Jasper was calming down, his annoyance now on hearing how Ryan was treated. “No wonder you have anxiety, you’re insecure and have trouble feeling good enough. You do know that ticks almost every box for emotional abuse right? What a piece of shit.” Jasper scoffs, shaking his head in disbelief. “If I knew any of that, I would have never sent you off with him alone. Now I get why you blame the kiss on him tonight. I treat you better than that, so it still hurts that you even wanted to kiss him.” “I can’t explain it, I am an idiot I guess, I let it go on for a year. Then he started pressuring me for sex, saying that he hadn’t cheated in a few months and that if I was going to make him wait much longer he would break up with me for good and be with someone who would in his words ‘treat him like a real boyfriend’. So of course I felt like I was letting him down by not taking that step with him, but I wanted him to tell me he loved me before we went that far and he hadn’t said it. One night he came over and my Mum was out so we had dinner, I wanted to watch a movie but before the movie even started it was obvious what he wanted to do. Then he finally asked what I was waiting for and I told him, he smiled at me and said ‘seriously? Of course I love you, that’s why it annoys me so much that you are holding back’.” “Tell me you didn’t.” Jasper leans forward, completely entranced by the story, he’d heard of this kind of thing happening to women, but never thought of it as something men would go through too, especially a guy like Ryan who didn’t look like the kind of person who’d be targeted for that kind of crap. “Like I said, I was an idiot. I wanted so badly to believe I hadn’t wasted a year of my life dating someone who didn’t care and I’d been feeling shit about everything else in my life so I just wanted to believe in something being good. Anyway afterwards he went for a shower and I heard his phone go off, I looked at it and it was a message from the guy literally saying ‘Can’t wait to see you’.” Ryan looks down at his hands. “It was my first time, and I wanted it to mean everything, and instead it was with someone I should have known better than to trust and who didn’t care about me., and had a back-up plan for the night anyway.” He sighs. “Did you punch him in the face?” Jasper asks, barely remembering why he had been annoyed in the first place. “No, but I did confront him. I asked him if he meant what he said when he told me he loved me and he said ’of course, that’s why I waited this long for you’.” “What a DICK! Waited? He was sleeping with other guys the whole damn time!” “Yeah. Then he thanked me and made some comment about how it wasn’t a big deal and now I knew he wouldn’t cheat because I would be able to fulfill his needs, then he left, presumably to go to the other guy’s house and cheat on me. I’m not really sure because I never heard from him again after that night. I always thought he just didn’t care of felt guilty because that was the night of my attempt. I found out tonight that he called the next day and my Mum had told him to stay away from me and to never speak to me again. He didn’t even get told about my attempt.” Ryan looks over at Jasper who was completely softened by the topic of Ryan’s suicide, the anger had no place in this conversation anymore. “That was that night? Because of him?” Jasper asks gently. “He was just the last straw, I had invited him over hoping to forget how empty I felt about everything else, and I ended up feeling robbed of love, self respect, and the hope I had for finding true love and sharing everything with them. I felt like I officially had nothing to live for. He ruined me, and tonight when he showed up, when he told me about my Mum and when he mentioned nothing about my suicide, didn’t even ask about my depression, but apologized for the way he had treated me, I felt lost. He asked why I hadn’t called. He accused me of breaking up with him to be in the band and he had me apologizing to him for not letting him know what I had gone through. He manipulated me and belittled me and made me feel guilty so much during our relationship that even though I’m now in a relationship I am genuinely happy in and I have tried not to think about him or compare him to you from the start, I felt so powerless that when he told me he missed me I felt like nothing had changed, like I was still begging for him to want me, to actually want me and he had come all this way and paid all that money to see me again, I felt like that was him finally showing me he cared and I kissed him. I never wanted to see him again, and then he turns up and I felt like I finally won, he finally actually wanted to be with me. But as soon as I had kissed him he laughed at me, said ’I knew you’d never get over me’ and I was back to feeling like nothing but a game to him.” Ryan starts breaking down, crying into his hands. Jasper moves quickly to behind him, he hugs him and kisses his shoulder. “It’s no excuse and I shouldn’t have done it, I’m so sorry I hurt you.” Ryan sobs. “I will forgive you right here, right now, no more guilt or need for apologies if you promise me something.” Jasper replies, moving to kneel in front of Ryan on the floor, he takes both of Ryan’s hands and waits for Ryan to look at him. “Anything to fix this. I don’t want to lose you. You are so good to me and you deserve to be treated so much better than I have but I can see everything I hoped for, in you.” Ryan takes a deep breath, sorrow on his face as he patiently waits for Jasper’s demands, for a moment Jasper considers how this would have played out if he were Damien, how the guilt and punishment would go for Ryan upsetting him somehow, he sighs, wishing he didn’t even have a reason to compare them. Here he was kneeling before Ryan, hoping he was showing compassion and empathy for what Ryan had suffered, and wanting to find a way to help him move past this, not to torment him with it, but somehow he could tell that the way Ryan was looking at him right now, was the same way he would have looked at and begged for another chance every time Damien had made a threat to him about breaking up. Even his choice of wording made him feel guilty now, he hated that there was anything in common with Damien, but at least he could say for sure, that his intentions were good. “I am saying this from a place of love and care, not from a want to control you. I think it would be best if you have no communication with your ex. He clearly upsets you and makes you feel weak and I never want that for you. So please promise me you will come to me straight away if he tries in any form, to get back in contact with you, and we can work it out together.” He pleads, Ryan starts nodding in agreeance. “And I promise you, that when I tell you I love you, those words are a promise that I will spend my life wanting what is best for you, and us as a couple. I will be selfish at times, and I will be a jerk and I will definitely have my fair share of bad moments, but I will never put you through anything even remotely close to what you’ve been through before. I use to say those words to Beth, so believe me when I tell you it will mean everything when I say them to you. I want them to mean everything this time. I won’t say it to you for anything less than honest, genuine love.” Jasper assures him. Ryan smiles at him and just mouths the words thank you. Jasper smiles back and stands up, leaning in close to Ryan’s lips, looking at them but hesitating on pressing his lips against him. “And these lips deserve better than to be wasted on him.” Jasper whispers before kissing Ryan softly. “I am so sorry.” Ryan whisper again. “No more apologies. I don’t want to hear it again. I forgive you as long as you keep your promise to me. Now it’s late, I’ve fucked up my liver for one night and feel drained in almost every sense of the word so I’m going to bed.” Jasper tells Ryan then smiles at him. “After the night you’ve had, I will let you decide, do you want to go to your bed, or do you want to stay in here with me? Either way, I need to sleep, but if you need reassurance that I am still yours and I still believe in us, you’re welcome to spoon me.” Jasper lets go of Ryan’s hands and walks over to the top of his bed, he pulls back the blankets and takes off his shirt then climbs in. “Can I stay just for a while?” Ryan asks. Jasper doesn’t answer, just rolls onto his side and flicks the blanket off his back. Ryan kicks his shoes off and undresses to his underwear before climbing in behind Jasper and snuggling in tightly against his body and presses a gentle kiss on the back of his neck. “I don’t deserve you.” Ryan whispers. “Well, luckily for me, it’s not up to you to decide what you’re worth is in my eyes.”
  20. nothric

    Chapter 16

    You said to jump to it so I did haha. I'll post the next chapter tomorrow morning.
  21. jaya1968

    Chapter 16

    One word -- interesting....thanks for posting so fast -- ready for the next when you have it ready.........
  22. nothric

    Chapter 15

    Smit's brain to mouth relationship, or lack thereof, is always good for a little humor here and there. Glad you're enjoying the story! ❤️
  23. It was Monday, and Kent stood with Nate behind the counter of the bookstore. At his earliest opportunity, Kent began his curious inquiry. "So, how's your friend, Nate?" Nate smiled. "He's good. He scared us, but he's good." That was now the second time Nate had said "us" associated with his new friend. Kent noticed. "Yeah?" He smiled. "I get the impression that this is a special friend." Nate nodded and looked a little uncomfortable. "Uh, yeah. He's really special." Nate glanced at Kent then chuckled. "Ah, they both are." "Both?" Kent grinned. "Are you dating a couple? Two guys?" Nate exhaled as if he couldn't quite believe it himself. "Yeah, I guess I am." He shook his head. "It's complicated, and I didn't set out to do it," he shrugged, "but here I am." Kent wasn't quite sure what to make of it, but he came back to a simple truth. "Well, are you all happy?" "Yes," Nate answered immediately, "we are." His eyes went dreamy. "It's hard. Parts of it." Nate refocused, and he looked determined to Kent. "But, I wouldn't change it." Kent could easily see the emotion on Nate's face. 'He loves them.' He smiled at Nate. "That's cool. I'm happy for you." "Thanks, Kent." Nate's head moved as the store owner, Mrs. Stewart came in. She smiled and waved at the men, before heading toward the office in the back. "Ah, I need to talk to Mrs. Stewart about something." Nate stepped around the counter and started after her. "I'll be right back, Kent." "Okay." Kent handled the desk solo for a few minutes. Nate reappeared with a smile on his face, and his phone in his hand. "That went well." Kent finished checking a couple of purchases for a pair of college students. "Yeah? What's up?" "Tad, one of the guys I'm seeing, is trying to get his comic published. And he wants to sell it out of here." Nate helped bag the items as Kent rang them up. "Mrs. Stewart was totally onboard. Once he gets it published, he can sell out of here and do a signing too." "Comic? What kind of comic? He draws them?" Kent asked, and he waved at the two students. "Thanks! Have a good day!" Nate smiled and waved at the departing customers, then he turned back to Kent. "Yeah, he draws really well. He's super talented." Nate's voice held such pride, and Kent couldn't help a smile as he listened to him talk about Tad. "And it's a comic about his life, with him and Christopher, our boyfriend." Nate made a face, and then he laughed. "Weird. 'Our' boyfriend." He and Kent grinned at one another and Nate continued, "Anyway, yeah, he just draws life. You know? I'm even in some of it now." "Oh." Kent frowned, unsure how to say what came to mind. He finally just went for it. "Well, it's not like, superhero stuff? It's just, uh, cooking, and drinking coffee, and driving to the bank and stuff?" Nate leaned over. "That, plus there are some sexy scenes too. Tasteful, always, but still, pretty hot." Kent grinned. "Ahhh." "I know, it sounds a little weird. But, Tad wants to put it out there so others can see and read about gay people. So they know that we're just, well, we're normal." Nate's expression changed as he looked at Kent. "And, it might make a big difference - for someone coming out. Someone who might not be sure how they feel about being gay." Kent swallowed. "Yeah?" He bit his lip, and he looked down at the counter. Nate watched him, then Kent felt a warm, gentle hand on his shoulder. "Would you want to take a look at it? I can probably get him to send it to you, broken into a bunch of PDFs." Nate patted his shoulder. "I think you'd like it, Kent. It's well done." Kent glanced at Nate, and he considered. "Well," he shrugged and tried to act nonchalant, "I'd be happy to take a look. Maybe I can help proofread for him." In truth, Kent was curious. Nate grinned. "Cool, thanks. I'll ask him to send it to you. Can you give me your email?" Kent gave him his email, and Nate happily typed out a text. "Okay. I sent it to Tad." He looked up at Kent and smiled. "Let him know what you think of it, okay?" Kent nodded. "Yeah, of course." Nate grabbed a stack of re-shelves, and he whistled as he walked away. Kent watched him until he disappeared around a shelf. 'Nate's trying to help me?' Kent smiled as he thought. 'That's really cool of him.' Kent was soon busy helping additional customers, but throughout the entire morning, his smile remained. ∞ Tad was alone at home. He didn't have any current projects for work, so he allowed a little time to putter around with his coffee in hand. Last week he’d had a scary bout with the flu. It had been nerve-wracking and frightening for Nate, Christopher, and Miranda, because it mirrored many of the symptoms they would likely see when his tumor began spreading aggressively through the tissues of his brain. But Tad was now completely recovered from that illness and he was ready to get on with his project. His pair of men had already gone to their respective workplaces, though they had spent all weekend together. They also had plans to meet up again once they got off of work. The three of them were going to meet at the apartment in Nate's building, and they'd get a look at the place they had discussed for their new living situation. He received good news from Nate shortly after the redhead got to work. The bookstore owner was more than happy to carry Tad's comic book. Nate had been sure to tell her the subject matter, and she was also on board with his book signing plans. Additionally, Nate asked if his coworker could see the comics. It was precisely the kind of guy Tad was trying to reach - a young, inexperienced person who might have issues coming out, or coming to terms with his sexuality. Tad happily emailed his base PDFs to the address provided by Nate. He had a definite curiosity concerning the feedback on them, and he requested as much when he sent the files. Tad finished his coffee, washed his mug, and then settled in his chair at his desk. Kali used the opportunity to jump on his lap, and Tad turned on the tablet while he absently petted her. Even though he wasn't working for money today, he was still working to a plan. He knew the requirements for Lulu, which was the self-publishing site he planned to use. Every page of his comic needed modification, tweaking, and rework to make them all fit and display correctly on printed pages. So Tad slowly plodded through his archive of art. He didn't even realize it, but two hours passed as he worked, and he had just completed page eight. Tad had already decided that he'd work and prepare at least ten pages of art every single day. The goal was to maintain that pace all the way through until he finished with it. He checked the time. "Whoa, monster." He put down the stylus and stroked the sleepy cat. "This is going to take a while!" He did the math quickly in his head. "Okay, so fifteen minutes per page, on average." He blew out a breath. "Alright. At least we know what we're in for, Kali." Tad smiled down at Kali, and he picked her up. She cried in annoyance at the awakening, but she soon enjoyed his hand scratching her ears and head. He stood up and stretched his back while he held the little black feline. "Ahhh. I should try to do fifteen today. Just to build up a buffer." On days he didn't have paying work, he'd do more and get ahead whenever he could. Tad liked the plan. Invariably, it wasn't long before his little furry charge wanted to run free. Tad released her and she scampered off into the kitchen. He sat back down at his desk, and he cracked his knuckles. "Seven more pages. Let's get it done." The hourglass continued to run, and Tad was determined to beat it. He set his jaw, and the dark-haired man got back to work. ∞ Stanley sat on his little porch in an old wooden chair that he had sanded but had yet to refinish, and he gazed thoughtfully out over his yard as it slowly darkened in the approaching evening. He felt a little bad about Kent always driving to Arcata to see him. Yet, the stocky fellow had no problems with that. "No, it's fine." Kent had waved off his concern. "You have a house, and I've got a tiny little apartment. It's better to hang out at your place." As time went on, Stanley felt the connection between them strengthen. He didn't know how much stronger it would become, but it was already more than he had ever felt for anyone else. He had never said that terrifying, four-letter word either. Stanley wanted to be sure - absolutely confident - before he ever said that he loved someone. When Kent told him how he felt, Stanley had been both thrilled and concerned. He just didn't know what to call what he felt for Kent. It was intense and steadily growing. But love? Stanley just didn't know. Thankfully, Kent didn't seem interested in pressuring him into saying it. He knew that Kent had his own problems with his sexuality and that he needed time to process all of the swirling emotions and thoughts around that. Mainly, Kent stressed over his father's reaction to the news. Stanley understood that. His own dad lived in Fortuna, about twenty-five miles south and the place where Stanley grew up. But it might as well be in a different state. Fortuna was conservative, very different from the liberal university town of Arcata that Stanley enjoyed. Yet, his own dad didn't have an issue. Stanley had agonized over telling him for a couple of years, and when he was seventeen, he finally got up the courage to do it. His father had looked over at him from his easy-chair after a long day of work and shrugged. "Stanley, you never dated, or even talked about girls. Ever." He went back to watching TV. "And I've caught you checking out the guys on the construction crew more than once." Just like that, it was done. But until then, Stanley had been terrified of his reaction. So he empathized with Kent's worry. A hand reached and unlatched Stanley's gate, which led into the yard. Kent entered and shut the gate behind him. He smiled, his bag over his shoulder. "Hey, Stanley." Stanley stood. "Hi, Kent." Stanley watched as Kent approached. 'What does he see in me? I don't get it.' Stanley's doubts ran through his mind as Kent stepped up onto the porch. "Hey, I've got to show you something." Kent grinned, and he patted the bag he carried. "I'll need to show you on my laptop." Stanley nodded. "Oh, okay." He turned to let them into the house, still ruminating over his own questions and worries. 'I'm a nobody. A nothing. There's no way I can keep him happy.' They went inside and Kent excitedly set up his computer. Within a few minutes, Stanley had him logged onto the WiFi, and Kent opened his email. "Man, you're gonna love this." Kent continued to smile and glanced at Stanley. There must have been something of how he felt on Stanley's face. Kent froze. "Are you okay?" Kent turned toward him. "What's wrong?" Stanley felt almost as if he had been caught doing something bad. A weird panic bloomed in his mind. "I, I just ..." He frowned as he tried to figure out how to express what he wanted to say. He looked worriedly at Kent. Kent put his hands on Stanley's shoulders. "Okay, tell me what's wrong." His eyes moved over Stanley's features. "Stanley, what's going on?" 'You need to make him see.' Stanley swallowed nervously. "I, I just think that you shouldn't say that you love me." He nodded to himself. "I think you need to be sure." Kent stared at him. "I, but, I am sure." Kent wet his lips. Stanley looked down, away from Kent's eyes. "Maybe you are right now. But I don't think it'll be the same later when you really get to know me, and when you realize how," he struggled for the next words, "how small, and average, and boring I am." Stanley clenched his jaw, and he plowed on. "I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to take it back." Kent was quiet for a long while. Stanley finally looked up at him, and silent tears rolled down Kent's face. Then Kent uttered the barest whisper into the space between them. "Mercy." It was their safeword. The young man shook his head. "I can't handle it if this is some game. I can't play this one." "It's not a game, Kent." Stanley was going to try and make him understand. "I don't deserve," Stanley began, then he stopped, a surprised expression on his face. He frowned as he realized what he was about to say, as Stanley realized how he really felt. He began to well up, and he hung his head. "It's selfish. I can't expect you to be happy with me. I don't have a degree and I never will. I'm not a handsome guy. There's nothing special about me. I'm just a mechanic in training, Kent." He wiped his eyes with his sleeve. "You should expect more out of life than Stanley Morris." He blinked to clear his vision, and he looked up into Kent's green eyes. "I can't let myself love you. I can't do that to you." Kent simply stared. He blinked when Stanley reached to wipe his face, then Kent did the same thing to Stanley, gently clearing the wetness off of his lover's cheeks and chin. It confused Stanley at first, but as his hand rested on Kent's face, Kent began to smile. "You are everything I want, Stanley." He shook his head, and his eyes narrowed. "And if you ever feel bad about yourself, or like you don't deserve to be happy," Kent's expression turned aggressive, "then you'll have to deal with me. Nobody is allowed to make you feel crappy - not even you." 'He'll never see. He's blind to the weak. The ugly.' Stanley looked in naked wonder at Kent. 'He only sees good.' Stanley clamped a hand over his own mouth and closed his eyes. That didn't stop the tears. Kent pulled him into an embrace. For a few minutes, Kent stood patiently and lovingly with Stanley in his arms. Stanley worked hard and got himself under control. At last able to speak again, Stanley lifted his lips to Kent's ear. Though his voice wavered, the words were clear enough. "Okay, Kent." Kent grinned, and he pushed back to look at Stanley. "Yeah? We're okay?" Stanley took a deep breath. "Well, there's no accounting for your taste, but we're okay." "Good." Kent pulled him back in, and he squeezed him once again. "If you need to talk more about this, we can." Stanley shook his head and enjoyed the feel of Kent's body against his own. "I'm alright. Sorry, I guess I'm being needy." "That's why I'm here, Stanley. You're allowed to need stuff from me." Kent's voice slowed during his delivery, and it became a sultry growl at the end. ∞ Despite what Stanley had said, Kent could feel the lack of certainty in him - his doubt and struggle to accept his own worth. The urge to prove what Stanley was to him burned in Kent's mind, and he let his hands stroke down Stanley's back to his small, yet perfect ass. Once there, Kent squeezed Stanley's butt, and he rubbed his face against the patchy beard on Stanley's chin. "The computer can wait. But I can't." All Stanley could do was to snuggle closer to his broad lover and mumble, “I'm yours, Sir." That was all the permission he required, and Kent quickly started unbuttoning and unzipping until he had both of them naked, piles of clothes lying around them. He pulled on Stanley's hand and led him to the bedroom. Their kisses were full of the angst and passion that they had just poured out to each other. They were needy. Kent needed to show Stanley how much he meant, how worthy he was, and how much meaning Kent found in their connection. Kent was in control, and he soon had his smaller lover flipped over on his belly. He pulled on Stanley's hips, and he forced the little man's ass into the air. “You're beautiful to me, Stanley.” Kent had never done anything like what he felt the urge to do, but it felt like such a small leap for him. He wasn't afraid, and he didn't have any sort of trepidation. "And I'm going to prove it to you." Kent's own feelings of denial and shame at his sexuality faded into the background. He had to help Stanley. He had to make him see. Kent licked the exposed, vulnerable ring of muscle in Stanley's butt. That elicited a moan and a shiver from Stanley. The sounds from his skinny partner made Kent want to continue, and he strove to shove his tongue inside him. "Ahhhh! Ah god." Stanley rolled his head from side to side. "Nobody's ever …" His speech cut off as Kent's tongue entered him, and he groaned. Kent grinned against Stanley's ass, and he continued to pleasure the writhing man. Kent reached under him and took hold of Stanley's drooling, hard cock. He began to stroke Stanley, determined to make this all about the man he had chosen for his lover. Kent pulled away a moment. "Do you doubt what I feel? Are you worth what I'm doing to you, right now?" Kent went back to Stanley, and he continued the intense play with his tongue, and his hand never stopped the slow, firm strokes around Stanley's dick. "Ahh. Fuck. Sir, I…" Kent interrupted him, and he turned Stanley onto his back. He quickly lubed his cock, and he pushed his slick fingers inside his squirming lover. While he worked Stanley's hole, he bent for a kiss. Stanley's eyes rolled in his skull as he made out with Kent, but the younger man's gaze was open, alert, and focused on Stanley. Kent pulled back, positioned his erection against him, and then he brought his hands up, one on either side of the small man's head. Kent held him still, and he stared into Stanley's blue eyes. "I won't give you anything you're not worth." Kent shook Stanley's head once, as if trying to wake him, showing for a moment the strength and power locked up in his broad frame. "Do you believe that?" Stanley stared back into his eyes. "Yes, yes, Sir." "Good." Kent shoved forward, and his cock entered the smaller man in one swift motion. Stanley yelped, and then he groaned. Kent knew that he actually liked a little pain, and Stanley's jaw dropped as he enjoyed the sensation of the sudden entry. "I wouldn't give this to you if you didn't deserve it." Kent started to move, and Stanley whimpered under him. "You hear me?" "Yes, Sir." Kent started how he knew Stanley liked it - rough and hard. He allowed the smaller man to stroke himself while he hammered away. "Come for me," Kent whispered, as he slammed into Stanley. "I want to make you come, Stanley. Show me you deserve this." Stanley gasped, and his neck relaxed while his back arched. "Oh, God." His free hand gripped the back of Kent's neck. Kent was determined, and he postponed his orgasm as long as he could. He neared his limit, and he felt his body prime itself for the moment. "Come for me, damn it," he growled. He was rewarded with a gasp, and then Stanley shot up the front of his stomach and chest. "There you go. Good boy." When Kent said "boy," a huge grin appeared on Stanley's face, all while his orgasm burned its way through his body and mind. The last straw for Kent was the way Stanley's muscles clamped on him, and the knowledge that he had helped his lover get to the goal. He grunted and shoved himself as far as he could into Stanley. Kent let Stanley pull him down for a kiss while he continued to thrust into the man under him. Both finished while they kissed and Kent's pelvis was now still. Then he drew back, propped himself up on his arms, and looked down at Stanley. His eyes roamed over Stanley's delicate features. Stanley's blue eyes looked up at Kent, and his prominent Adam's Apple moved as he swallowed. A light dusting of stubble was on his face, but only in parts - facial hair was something Stanley struggled to grow evenly. Yet his lashes were dark and full, framing his marvelous eyes as if they were exquisite works of art. Everything about him, everything, Kent loved. "Do you understand me, now? Do you get it?" Kent stared intently at him, willing Stanley to see. "You're mine. I'm yours. That's what I want." Stanley bit his lip, and he nodded. "I get it." He breathed, and he wet his lips. "I think I might love you, Kent." Kent blinked, then he smiled. "Say it without 'think.'" "I might love you, Kent." They stayed in eye contact as Stanley spoke. "One more time," Kent whispered. "Without the 'might.' Just try it on for size." Stanley worked his mouth. "I, I love you, Kent." He blinked up at Kent's green eyes. "Oh, uh." Stanley nodded. "Yeah. I love you." Kent grinned. "You'd better." Then he laughed, and he wiggled his hips, which made his cock slide back and forth, still inside Stanley. "You just love my pecker." Stanley laughed. "Oh, I love that too!" He grinned at Kent, then he made a noise of realization. "Wait, before I forget, what did you want to show me?" "Oh!" Kent released him, and he stood up. He reached a hand down to help Stanley up. "Come on." They walked back into the living room and Kent turned to his laptop. Stanley watched as he selected an email - one in a long list of them with attachments. "You've gotta see this. It's a comic, but not like superheroes. They're done by Nate's boyfriend." "Uh, okay?" Stanley smiled fondly, but a little confused at Kent's excitement. Kent double-clicked, and soon a beautifully colored PDF opened. Kent scrolled quickly through a few scenes, then he stood back. "Here, look. I opened it to the panel with Tad and his boyfriend together, before they met Nate." Stanley looked. "Whoa. Sexy drawing!" Then he cocked his head, and his mouth dropped. "Uhhh… I know that guy." He pointed at the taller of the pair depicted. "That's Christopher." He tapped the screen. "I work with him!" Then he frowned and shook his head. "Wait. Who is a boyfriend with who again?" In response, Kent only smirked. ∞ Christopher and Tad were on their way to Nate's apartment building in Chris's old GMC truck. Chris looked over at him as they stopped at a light. In the fading light of the sun as it kissed the horizon, a golden glow framed his lover, and Chris lost himself for a moment as he stared. Tad blinked, then he turned his head. "It's green." "Ah, yeah. Thanks." Chris refocused on the road and continued on. Tad reached over, and his warm hand rested on Christopher's leg. Chris put his right hand over Tad's and squeezed lightly. There was so much that ran through Christopher's mind. His thoughts were not exactly coherent, and many were nothing he could vocalize. Instead, he felt raw emotions, and flashes of memory played behind his eyes. Chris knew Tad watched him as he drove. Yet there was nothing Christopher could say. There was so much he wanted to get out that he didn't know where to start. They pulled up to the curb of the apartment building. It was beautiful. Thanks to a strong earthquake that had happened a couple of years ago, the building had to be repaired and retrofitted. While the owner was at it, he had also paid to have the original facade replaced on the front of the underlying brick structure. Chris put the truck in park and killed the engine, then he looked over at Tad. Those handsome, dark eyes seemed to peer straight into his soul. Tad always made Chris feel as if he were the only person in the world. Even while they were with Nate, somehow, Tad connected with Christopher in such a deep and profound way. Yet he managed to do the same thing with Nate simultaneously. Tad's hand rubbed Chris's beard and his face. "I love you, Bear." Chris closed his eyes, and he turned his head. He gently kissed the palm of Tad's hand. With his lips still against Tad's skin, he whispered, "I know. I love you." He bit his bottom lip, then he looked up at Tad. "Does it hurt you, that I need Nate too?" That thought had bothered Christopher, and he could no longer put off knowing for sure how Tad honestly felt. Tad grinned at him. "No." He ran his hand over Chris's brown hair, almost as if he were petting his tall lover. "Nate's good for us." Tad leaned forward, and he kissed Christopher's lips. He leaned back again to look at Christopher. "And we're good for him too." Tad let his eyes roam over Chris's face. "Bear, I know you're scared sometimes. And it's okay to be." He smiled and looked in adoration at Chris, then he sighed. "I just want you to talk to me when it happens. Okay?" Tad shook his head. "I worry about Nate, you know? I know you guys talk, and that's great. But the scary stuff, your worries, and your fears, you can bring them to me. I can take it." Chris swallowed the lump in his throat. He looked at Tad, and he felt the emotions run so deep as he did. He nodded. "Okay." "Good." Tad and Christopher kissed again, and they stayed with their heads together and communed in the simple, primal way skin on skin contact allows. Then, Tad chuckled. "I just don't want to run him off." Tad leaned back, and he grinned. "The sex is too good!" Christopher laughed. "You're right about that!" He looked fondly at Tad. "Come on. Let's see if this place is gonna work for us." With smiles, the men left the truck and started up the stairs of the apartment building. ∞ Nate had already been let inside the third-floor apartment by the manager, and he turned when his men entered. "Hey!" He grinned at the pair, and he motioned over the large living room space. "Come check it out." After some quick but affectionate kisses, Chris and Tad both walked around the room. Chris was pretty easy and had few needs or wants when it came to his living spaces. He quickly approved of the living room, and the tall fellow disappeared down the hallway to the bedrooms. Tad ambled around, and his artist's eyes looked at the last of the light as it poured through the western facing windows. He stood in the sun, and he smiled as he looked out of the large pane of glass. "Kali will love this window." Nate smiled at him. "Yeah, she will." He stepped over next to Tad and looked out over the street and old town Eureka below. Tad continued to gaze toward the west, at the horizon. "Do you like it, Nate? The apartment?" The redhead nodded. "Yeah. I love it. It has a great view, it's renovated, and super nice. The bedrooms are all generous." Nate put his arm around Tad's shoulders. "Come on, I want to show you the kitchen and the bedrooms." Tad smiled, and his eyes looked dreamily out over the view. "It's great. If you and Chris like it, then it's perfect." Nate frowned. "But, it's not just about us." He pulled gently on Tad. "Come on. You'll love the kitchen." Tad finally turned toward him, but he surprised Nate when he put his arms around him. Nate stood there, holding Tad, and the dark-haired man smiled in his ear. "It will be about you guys, and just you guys." Nate frowned as Tad spoke. "If you and Chris like it, then it's where we'll be." Nate fought the gut-punch sensation in his belly and squeezed Tad. "Maybe they're wrong? Maybe it's not what they think it is, and you'll be fine. You still don't have symptoms, right?" Nate still struggled to accept that Tad's time was limited, and he couldn't imagine life without him now. "Not yet. But don't let Bear hear you say that, okay?" Tad rubbed his back. "I know you don't want to believe it - neither do I, but we can't let Chris hear those doubts. He's just starting to accept things, and how they'll be." Tad pushed back, and he looked at Nate's sad, blue eyes. "You can be weak with me. But, with Christopher, we both need to be strong. Okay?" Nate bit his lip. He had so many things he kept to himself. Things that he didn't want to saddle Tad with - his worries, and his stresses. But Tad was so insistent, so Nate agreed with a nod. Tad smiled broadly at him. "Good." He gave another quick hug to Nate, then Christopher appeared in the hallway. "Hey! Come look at the tub. It's huge!" His bearded face grinned. "I bet all three of us could get in there." Tad laughed, and he glanced at Nate. "Shall we?" He put out his arm. Nate took a deep breath, and he forced a smile. "Yeah." He linked his arm in Tad's, and the two of them met their excited boyfriend in the hallway of what would become their new apartment.
  24. I left Lukas in command of the J-105. The three amigos headed down to the dock where we had left it tied up the day before and set out onto the lake. Spencer and I began the walk to the boathouse. “So what’s up?” he inquired. “What makes you think something is up?” I played innocent. “Because I have a functional brain and can tell when something is obviously up.” “I just wanted to ask for your help.” “My help?” he kicked at a pinecone and sent it clattering down the path ahead of us. “Well I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I have the feeling that Powers is going to be coming to you to discuss his preferences.” I kicked the pinecone and sent it down the path once again. “And what makes you think he will come to me?” “Well I am guessing that he feels you and he have something in common after that story about Italy.” “Very true.” “And I have the sneaking suspicion that he might find you slightly attractive.” “No. Really?” he grinned at me. “I’ve known Powers for a long time. He’s a good friend, and I am saying this as his friend, not your boss. Don’t mess around with his feelings. He’s a sensitive dude and I don’t want to see him get hurt.” Spencer thought about what I had said for a few moments. We reached the pinecone and he once again booted it down the path. “You’re a good friend.” “Thank you.” “You realize it’s a fairly thin line between showing acceptance and getting his hopes up.” I considered what he was saying. “I can see where it might be confusing for him.” “I’ll do my best to make him feel comfortable with himself and not break his heart in the process.” “You aren’t interested in him are you?” “Not like that, no.” “Okay, sorry for asking.” “Don’t be.” We launched one of the J-22’s and had it rigged in a matter of minutes. I could tell that Spencer had done this before. I didn’t even bother asking him where he had learned it. Knowing him, the answer would be “while sneaking some Navy SEALs onto the shores of Syria”. The others were mulling around in the middle of the lake waiting for us. I deftly piloted toward them and Smits challenged us to a race. “Can’t we be non-competitive for one evening Smits?” I hollered back. “I suppose, but where’s the fun in that?” was his reply. We sailed lazily around the lake. The wind was fairly calm and the sun was beating down. Spencer stripped off his shirt and relished the heat. “Congrats on taking over the camp.” “Thanks, I still can’t believe it's mine.” “So why you?” he asked. I thought about it for a bit, “I’m not really sure to be honest. I think it's because I’ve always been big on history and tradition. And I’ve always thought of Bowden like a second father. Mine wasn’t around much when I was a kid.” “Yeah I know how that feels.” We both trailed off into silence. “Please don’t fuck it up for me.” This comment caught him off guard. “Why would I fuck things up for you?” he sounded as though he was quite insulted. The floodgate of worries burst and I laid it all on him. “I feel like I never know what to expect from you. I mean you really opened up to me last night and that was great, but at the same time, there is so much to you and the whole Powers thing. I dunno, I guess I am just worried because you are the only unknown for me at this point.” “Well what could I do to remedy this for you?” he words sounded sincere, not sarcastic. “I don’t know Spencer.” He slid over beside me. “Kessler, I’m not going to make a promise that I can’t keep and tell you that I am not going to mess up at all this year, but I will promise you that I will do everything in my power not to make any mistakes.” “Especially with Powers?” “Especially with Powers.” “I don’t know what to expect from him but if you and I are on the same page I’ll feel a lot better.” “I honestly don’t think that you’re going to have much to worry about with him.” He made lazy tails in the water with his hand. The other boat was now far ahead and we were making no attempts to catch up. “Right now he is just going through a great deal of fear and euphoria. Give him a few days and he’ll be back to normal.” “Yeah, you are probably right.” Spencer laughed, “Of course I am. I am always right.” He beamed me a smile. I gave him a swat on the arm. He had managed to put my mind at ease somewhat. “So may I be blunt and ask you what your preference is?” “I suppose.” In typical Spencer fashion he delivered his answer in a cool monotone. I waited, assuming that he would answer the question without me having to ask it. I after a minute or two I realized that I had assumed wrong. “So what is your preference?” I couldn’t help but grin at the fact that he made me ask. “I would prefer to date Nicole Kidman.” He said nonchalantly. “Nicole Kidman?” “Yup.” “Isn’t she a little bit old for you?” “I like the more mature women.” “So you like women?” “Yes.” “Exclusively?” “No, not really.” “But primarily?” “Well I haven’t really tested the waters if you know what I mean, but yeah I think so.” “I don’t need to worry about you with the campers do I?” “Of course not.” “Ok, good.” “You on the other hand… Well, you’re kinda cute.” He grinned and winked at me. I was a bit surprised when there was a flutter in my stomach. “You’re barking up the wrong tree dude. I don’t bat for that team.” “I was joking.” He informed me with a smile. “I know. And don’t ever repeat this to anyone, but if there was ever a person amazing enough to make me consider trying it out, that person would be you.” He considered my words in silence for a few minutes. A ‘whoop’ echoed across the lake from the other boat. Apparently they were having a good time. “Really?” “Well it’s not like I’ve actually considered acting on it or anything, but yeah.” “Do you think that I have that effect on most people?” his question caught me a little off guard. I had assumed that my statement would shock him a bit, but apparently it didn’t surprise him. “I don’t know. Do you think that you do?” “I’m beginning to, yeah.” “Why, have other guys said something like that to you before?” “Yeah, enough to make me wonder what it is about me that makes them feel that way.” The look on his face was a mixture of confusion and pride. “Well I can’t speak for the others, but for me, I think it’s a combination of the fact that you are just amazing coupled with the fact that you have this mysterious aspect about you.” “Mysterious?” “Yeah, it’s kinda hard to explain.” He looked at me waiting for me to continue. It normally would have been too embarrassing for me to have this kind of conversation with a guy, but for some reason, having it with Spencer didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all. “Well I mean, you could kill me with your bare hands in a matter of seconds, right?” the thought of that was a little intimidating, but I was fairly sure that it was true. “Yeah.” He seemed disappointed instead of elated by his answer. “So you have this aura of machismo and other guys respect you for your physical abilities. But there is more to you, like that book of poetry and the fact that you draw. You are not just some blockhead tough guy.” He considered my words, “I suppose.” “And there’s more. It has to do with the drawing.” I paused considering my words. “It’s like we shared a moment while you were drawing me. And even though I’m not into guys, I can admit that we basically shared an intimate moment.” I looked at him for confirmation. “Yeah, I felt that way too.” “And one other thing that might be a factor…” I glanced at him and then back out at the lake. “If you repeat any of this, so help me God, I will seriously fire you.” My tone showed just how serious I was. “I’d never repeat any of this Kes.” “I feel like you are…” He waited for a few seconds and then decided that he had to egg me on, “I am what…?” “Well, out of my league I guess.” This got a bit of a laugh out of him. “Really?” “Yeah dude. I mean you’re like absolutely perfect.” This comment would have made most guys puff out their chests in pride, but it made Spencer shift uncomfortably. “So you think that when guys realize how unattainable I should be, even though they aren’t usually like that, they feel the need to act on it?” “Not even act on it. Like I would never actually make a pass at you, but I guess I just felt the urge to vocalize it to see if I was way off in thinking that I would have a chance if I decided to act on it.” Amazingly he decided to answer the question without making me pose it directly. He patted my knee and gave it a little squeeze. “Yeah, I think you would.” With that he stood up and went up to the bow of the boat and lay down. My mind was going a mile a minute. I had not planned on having that conversation with Spencer. I had not planned on telling him how amazing he was and I had especially not planned on telling him that I thought that I might have a chance with him. I really didn’t feel that way about guys, but there was something about him that made me think twice about it. I could only imagine how strongly Powers felt about him. The rest of the evening flew by. Everyone was having a great time and was getting along better than I could have ever imagined. Even Powers seemed to have relaxed. We all decided to turn in early in order to get an early start on the remaining guides. As I settled down into bed the enormity of what Bowden had given me started to set in. This was all going to be mine. The thought brought butterflies to my stomach and a smile to my lips. I awoke with a start. I glanced groggily at my watch and saw that it was 3 in the morning. I lay in silence for a few seconds wondering what had awakened me. Then I heard the sound of footsteps followed by a screen door slamming. Someone must have had to use the bathroom. The thought made me realize that I too needed to relieve myself. I hopped out of bed and padded outside. I opted to piss on a tree instead of walking around back to the bathroom. The cool night air sent a chill down my back as I gazed out over the mirror flat lake. It was then that I heard the sound of someone crying. I turned my head from side to side trying to determine where the sound was coming from. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was coming from Earth. I gave a light knock on the door and let myself in. Powers quickly turned in his bunk. I could see a sudden flash of excitement on his face. The excitement turned to disappointment when he realized it was me. “Hey, you ok?” I asked, taking a seat across from his bunk. “Yeah, fine.” His sniffing and ragged breath exposed his lie. I sat for a few moments listening to his breathing begin to even out, “Do you want to talk about it?” “There is nothing to talk about!” he began to sob again. I had no idea what to say to him. Not knowing what else to do, I climbed up into his bunk with him and held him. He clung to me like a rag doll for a few minutes, crying like I had never seen anyone cry before. Amazingly, I had no worries about the possibility of Powers not being fit to be a counselor. I was simply worried about the well being of a friend. The sobs slowly subsided and we both lay down. I desperately wanted to know what was going through his mind but at the same time I didn’t want to force him into talking if he wasn’t ready. “Hey Kes?” “Yeah?” “Can we sleep like this? Just for tonight?” he asked timidly. “Sure.” I have him a reassuring squeeze. As he gradually drifted off to sleep I finally began to realize the problem that this posed for me. I was going to have to find someone to replace him. “Hey Powers?” Spencer’s voice woke me. I sat up and suddenly remembered where I was. “Kessler?” There was a look of confusion on Spencer’s face that quickly gave way to a look of embarrassment. He turned and walked out of the bunkhouse. Realizing that he thought he’d caught us in a compromising position, I quickly hopped out of bed and went after him. “Spencer…” he stopped and waited for me to catch up. “Powers had a bit of a breakdown last night so I offered to keep him company.” He glanced back at the Earth bunkhouse and then motioned for me to follow him down to the dock. Once he was sure that we were out of earshot of Powers he explained. “Powers came into my bunkhouse in the middle of the night last night and when he found me asleep in my bunk he went nuts.” He sat on the end of the dock and I took a seat beside him. “I was half asleep so I’m not entirely sure what he was saying, but he seemed to be really pissed off at me.” “Did he say why?” “Yeah, he said something about me waking him up and telling him to follow me. He claimed I led him off into the woods or something and then ditched him. I guess he thought that I was playing a mean joke on him.” “And none of that actually happened?” “Jesus no. I was sound asleep. Besides, I have no clue how to get around these trails yet. The last thing I would do is go traipsing around them at night in the dark.” I nodded in agreement. “Perhaps he just had a dream or something.” “Yeah that’s what I told him. He looked dumbfounded and just walked out. I probably should have gone after him to see what the hell he was talking about, but I was so tired that I fell back asleep.” “He woke me up when he slammed the door to his bunkhouse. I went over and found him in pretty rough shape. He asked me to stay the night with him so I did.” Spencer nodded and we sat in our own thoughts for a few moments. “Do you think he’s going to be able to handle being a counselor?” “I honestly don’t know Spencer. It’s not looking like he is.” He gave me a reassuring pat. “Well don’t feel like this is in any way your fault. It’s not like you could have known this would happen. Hell, you didn’t even choose the counselors did you?” I shook my head no. “Well then this doesn’t reflect on your abilities as a head counselor or the future owner.” He had a point. There was no way that I could be held accountable for Powers having been chosen. The only thing that I needed to worry about being judged for is how I handled the situation. “I’ll give him one more day.” I had made up my mind. “If he can’t promise me that he’s 100% in control of his emotions then I’m going to have to find a replacement.” “I think that’s a wise decision.” The sound of a door got our attention. Lukas saw us and gave a wave on his way to the bathroom. Spencer and I adjourned to our own bunkhouses to get ready for the day. By the time I had showered and got dressed, Smits and Spencer had begun cooking breakfast for the crew. Judging by the laughter, it seemed as though they were having a great time in the kitchen. Bowden stuck his head into the dining hall and motioned for me to follow him. “I have some paperwork that I’d like you to look over.” He led the way back to his office. The thought occurred to me that it was technically going to be my office this year. “Here you go.” He handed me a stack of papers. “This is a revised work agreement for you and an outline detailing how I foresee the transfer of ownership taking place.” I took the papers and began to flip through them. “You don’t have to read them now. You can go over them tonight when you have the time.” He gave my shoulder a squeeze. I could see a tear glinting in the corner of his eye. I gave him a hug, “Thank you.” “No, thank you Kessler. Now go on and have your breakfast before it gets cold.” I returned to the mess hall to find the guys eating in an uneasy silence. Smits and Lukas both shot me looks of confusion. Spencer looked relieved that I had finally arrived. Powers sat at the opposite end of the table, stoically eating his breakfast. I grabbed a plate and started up a conversation about my plans for the day. It didn’t take long to break the ice and get the smiles back on their faces. Powers was making an effort but I could tell that his smiles were strained and that he was hurting inside. “You three want to start where we left off yesterday with the manuals? Powers and I will take care of the dishes.” They all nodded in agreement and Powers began collecting the dishes. After cleaning for a minute, I broke the silence “I talked to Spencer about last night.” Powers kept his attention on the sink, “And?” “And he said that he didn’t leave his bunk all night. He thinks that maybe you had a dream or something.” I tried to gauge his reaction. He seemed to be thinking very hard for a moment, “Kes, either I’m losing my mind or Spencer isn’t who he seems to be.” His statement sent a shiver up my spine.
  25. flesco

    Chapter 15

    Excellent chapter! The conversation between Bowden and Kessler about a gay counselor went better than expected, generational differences and norms aside. The ownership of the camp and it’s assets was a major surprise to Kessler. The investments that Bowden made have created quite an endowment for the camp and it’s owner. Bowden leaving his fortune to Kessler as his heir was touching. Smit’s outing Powers to Bowden at breakfast was just the latest issue with Smit’s and his inability to think before speaking, he really needs to get the brain to mouth relationship fixed. He’s eventually going to say something that will alienate the rest of the group. Spencer is the wild card at this point and I’m wondering what type of friend he wants to be. There is clearly more to him than we’ve seen up to this point. The sailing trip should give another glimpse into who he is and what he’s looking for. I’m definitely looking forward to the next chapter! 😃❤️
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