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oat327

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820 I Make This Look Easy

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About oat327

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  1. oat327

    Chapter 6

    California's my (current) favorite as well, though I think that's mostly a function of it being the most fun to write (and I find Matt so adorable.) Paris has been a surprisingly tough needle to thread because there's so much nuance in Duncan and Kevin's relationship--they're both into it, but both not into it, at the same time. And New Orleans is, despite being arguably the storyline most people are here to read, less fun for me just because it's a lot of rewriting and re-editing things I already wrote. (And man, "Best Four Years" is so verbose and flabby--I don't know how you all made it through.) I agree, though, that Kevin was much more consistently hurt by Becker than Becker realized in "Best Four Years." Lines like "fuck buddies with a romantic component" are played lightly, so to speak, in "Best Four Years," but are really a knife to Kevin's heart here. (In that sense, it's been fun to completely change the tone and interpretation of existing dialogue--the early scene where they're flirting at a bar is my favorite example of this.) But I think I've said it before in the comments: I always considered the New York chapter to be the effective end of their relationship--when Kevin tried to take them public, and Becker rejected him--and saw everything from that point onward as a slow-motion breakup. Kevin was struggling so much with having to go back into the closet after being out. And Kevin definitely would benefit from therapy, because there's totally a pattern. Becker and Matt are quite different, but still two sides of the same coin: people who are, generally, not very concerned with being true to themselves. Which is tough. (And yes, Becker's family is absolutely not the problem.) I always considered Duncan Kevin's subconscious way of deciding that he's not going to set himself up for a fall this time, but of course seems to be heading in that direction anyway.
  2. oat327

    Chapter 6

    Glad you're liking it! The story (in the summary) promises three men from Kevin's past, and I consider those Matt, Becker, and Kevin's dad. (Duncan not being "in the past," so to speak.) Kevin's looking for someone who can fill the hole his dad left in his life--someone who can love him unconditionally and permanently and openly. Duncan's, in that sense, a defense mechanism--someone who can't disappoint him by falling short--but, of course, that's not really working out so well either.
  3. oat327

    Chapter 6

    Glad you're enjoying it. Things are definitely destined for a blowup though... which is tough because Kevin really has gotten some bad breaks, hasn't he. Definitely not the happiest story, which it really could never be based on what we already knew about Kevin's history, but I don't think it's one completely without hope either.
  4. oat327

    Chapter 6

    Mixing timeframes was always the plan, because I knew I wanted to tell "Becker" from Kevin's story but also highlight his time in "the present" too. But, as I started developing Kevin's voice, it actually worked well with his OCD--the idea that he's constantly being bombarded by intrusive thoughts and rumination. So, in a sense, it's not even just that it's three storylines but that they're all constantly churning in Kevin's head together. (And increasingly so; there's been increasingly more jumping between the storylines in a single chapter.)
  5. oat327

    Chapter 6

    I think all three timelines pair together well--Matt's kind of Kevin's first romance, whereas Becker's his first real relationship. And I think he was burned by both of them for different reasons, which leads him to Duncan--which cannot, for a variety of reasons, really progress beyond friends with benefits. But there's still more to come: looking at about 9 or 10 chapters for this one (depending on how I handle the final scenes.)
  6. oat327

    Chapter 6

    It's been fun to revisit old chapters of "Becker." (Though it's really put it into high relief how, to be my own worst critic here, "Becker" should've been edited more tightly than it was--the New York sex scene, actually, goes on for like 8 pages in Becker but I got it down to maybe 1-2 in this chapter.) He and Kevin did have some fun chemistry though. And like I've said: regardless of how this story ends, Kevin will eventually be folded back into "Becker," so there's still more plot there.
  7. oat327

    Chapter 6

    Yup, pivoting over to "Becker" now. Glad you're enjoying it--it's been fun on my end getting to unwrap Kevin a little bit, because he was never designed as a leading character. But it's been fun getting to fill in what we already knew about him.
  8. oat327

    Chapter 6

    “Fuck.” One word: lingered between us, caught in the still, desert air. Good fuck? Bad fuck? Heart pounding. Didn’t have the courage to ask. I’d never been speechless around Matt before. Never been nervous. Not like this. I love you, I wanted to say. I’m in love with you, and I’ve felt this way since the moment I met you. He said: Fuck. “I’m sorry,” I told him. Without specificity. Sorry for what? Didn’t know. Hoped he wouldn’t ask. Matt exhaled. Looked away from me, cast his eyes down at the dark shores of Lake Perris. “Do you want to just chalk it up to drunkenness and forget it?” he said, finally. “Are you asking me if I want to?” I replied. “Or are you telling me you’re going to?” Matt didn’t have a response. He closed his eyes. Silent meditation. I didn’t want to lie. If this was going in that direction. This couldn’t be the moment I’d look back on for the rest of my life, wondering if I could’ve had him if only I’d let myself. “I’m not that drunk anymore,” I told him. “Me neither.” We sat. Still. So close to each other. Matt was still looking out to the lake. “Do you like guys?” “Would it change things if I do?” “Of course not.” But he still wasn’t looking at me. “I like girls.” I felt myself deflating. But not as much as I thought, because that kiss--that kiss was something, meant something. Couldn’t have been faked. Not like that. Not by Matt. “Only girls?” Matt gave me a long, crackling sigh. “I don’t know.” That. That. That smallest flicker of hope: Do you only like girls? I don’t know. We were still, for a long time. The silent ripples in the lake, the crickets and coyotes in the hills, Matt and me in dusty tuxedos. “I,” he said, finally, “think we should get home before my parents notice we’re late.” “So,” I texted Becker. “When are you thinking of popping up to New York?” “How about this weekend?” “Missed the boat--it’s already Saturday afternoon.” There was a pause. “No, this weekend: six days from now. June 15th.” “Next weekend, you mean.” “This weekend,” Becker repeated. “Mark your calendar.” “Done.” I closed my phone. “Look at you, all smiley,” my roommate Lizzie said, as she put two mugs on the kitchen countertop in our Harlem apartment.. “Someone special?” “I’m not at liberty to say.” I paused. “Well, actually, that’s stupid, because he’s coming and you’ll meet him: I’ve been seeing a guy at Tulane.” “Carver said when he met you last night that he thought you were gay,” Lizzie replied. “But Carver also thinks everyone’s gay.” “Yeah, I got that vibe last night,” I told her. “Sorry, I just--well, we’re not out. At school, I mean. Me and Becker. I’ve actually never told anyone I’m gay before. Well, I have, but that’s only because they’ve caught me. Or someone else told them first. You’re not the only person who knows or anything, is what I’m trying to say.” Lizzie put her hands on either side of my face. “Stop babbling. You’re okay.” I had to smile at that. “Sorry.” The tea kettle started whistling, so she let me go and turned back towards the stove. “It’s just a weird thing to tell people. ‘I’m gay.’ You know? It changes things. It changes the way people look at you.” “Not even a little bit,” Lizzie replies, filling our mugs with hot water. “It’s 2007, Kevin, sorry. I’m not here to gay-bash you.” “I know,” I told her. “That’s not what I meant. I just meant—” I smiled. “I don’t know what I meant, really.” “I’m going to tell you what I told Carver when he came out to me freshman year,” she said. “‘I still love you. You’re still you. And I’m so touched that you decided to share your secret with me.’” “Was it really that much of a secret, considering it was Carver?” Lizzie giggled, handed me the mug. “It took him until November of freshman year, do you believe that? It’s like, honey, you’re wearing a hot pink cardigan and just used the word ‘decoupage.’” “I like to think I pass a little better than that.” “You do.” She gave me an eager smile, raised her mug to her lips. “So. Your boyfriend. Tell me all the juicy details. Becker?” “Peter Adam Becker,” I told her. “Everyone calls him Becker. He’s cute. In a preppy, Republican sort of way. A little spoiled, a little quiet, but very sweet. It’s just tough in New Orleans, you know? We have to hide everything. And I mean: everything. He’s in this fraternity, with all of our mutual friends, and he is so scared everyone will find out.” “That’d be so fun,” she said, “to have a secret affair that no one can know about.” “It gets old, believe me,” I replied. “I’m just happy he’ll be up here. He knows no one in the city, so we can be an actual couple. Finally.” “Aw,” Lizzie said. “So you and your boyfriend are going to hold hands, Central Park carriage ride, kiss on the Liberty Island Ferry, that sort of thing?” I grinned. “Something like that.” “Of course, I haven’t seen Kevin since the cenozoic era. The Seine has proved to be an inpenetrable impediment to continued companionship. That, and Kevin is notorious for leaving people in the past where he thinks they belong.” Bringing Carver to Sebastien’s birthday party is already beginning to feel like a critical mistake. But it’s my first time hanging out with both Duncan and Sebastien together since that concert at the Bataclan, the night of our threesome, and I need someone in my corner who isn’t going to seep judgment the whole time. “Aren’t we still in the cenozoic era?” Aaron interrupts, thankfully saving me from having to answer Carver’s latest charge. “And I got a B-minus in geology.” Carver scowls. Doesn’t respond. “Anyway, it’s good to see you,” I tell Carver, finally. “I wanted to pick your brain on something. I think you can offer a perspective that no one else can.” “Kevin’s secretly fucking around with the birthday boy’s boyfriend,” Aaron tells him, icily, “and he wants you to tell him that’s okay” I glare at Aaron. Fucking Aaron. Who smiles at me. Proud of himself. “You are doing nothing wrong,” Carver tells me, nonchalantly. Aaron rolls his eyes. “If this man’s boyfriend opts to take an illicit lover, he’s the dishonest one, not you. It’s not your responsibility to keep someone else on the straight-and-narrow.” “Gee, I wonder why you wanted his opinion over mine,” Aaron tells me. “You’ve already registered your opinion,” I reply, “loud and clear.” Carver is studying the crowd. “So which one is he?” “Blue sweater with the gray plaid pants,” I tell Carver. “Duncan. The one trying very hard not to look at us.” Carver lifts his fake glasses and squints in the direction of Duncan Rinehart, not discreetly. If Duncan notices, he doesn’t show it. “I’m sensing you have a type,” Carver tells me, lowering his glasses again. “Is his father also a prominent elected official?” I roll my eyes. “Fuck off, Carver.” “And the gentleman he’s conversing with,” Carver says, “Mmph. Looks like you’ll have some competition tonight.” Am not going to say I regret bringing Carver, but. Suddenly he seems more like a liability than an ally. What was I thinking: that he would say, “Go to him, Sebastien be damned!” That he would otherwise stay discreetly un-Carverlike for the remainder of the evening? Aaron, for his part, is smiling, finds all of this very amusing. “I don’t know what you expected from Duncan,” he tells me. “Did you think he was just going to leap into your arms in front of his boyfriend?” “No,” I reply, curtly. But I can’t really say what I want. Other than that I don’t like this. I don’t like having to stand so far away from someone. Like I did with Becker, like I did with Matt, when all I ever wanted was them in my arms. You give me hope that I could be happy. “That’s precisely what he wants,” Carver replies. “He wants An Officer and a Gentleman ending.” He looks back to Duncan, then back to me. “No. Just go over there and tell him that you want him and you’re going to take him. He’ll love it.” “That’s terrible advice,” Aaron replies. “We’re at his boyfriend’s birthday party. Go hit on one of the other fifty gay guys in the--” But Carver is already walking across the room, directly towards Duncan. “Duncan, is that you?” Duncan wrenches his head out of his conversation, towards Carver. Utter confusion, until he sees Aaron and I quickly following behind. “Sorry,” I tell him. “This is my friend Carver, and I know I’ll be saying this a million times tonight--but I’m very sorry for his inability to act like a human being.” Duncan’s mint eyes stay concerned. Does not crack a smile. “Well,” he says, his voice more chipper than his face, “I’m glad you all came.” He motions to the man next to him. “This is Philippe Marchand--another doctor at my hospital.” And to us. “Philippe, this is Kevin Malley and Aaron Ackerman. Friends of Sebastien from his bar. Les Americains.” Okay: it’s not like I had expected him to introduce me as this is my teenage paramour, Kevin, don’t tell Sébastién, but maybe expecting a little more… what, exactly? Intimacy? Some vague recognition of the fact that I was up his ass twenty-four hours ago? Carver has his eyes trained on Philippe. Who is rather handsome: blond and broad-shouldered. “Um,” Duncan says, uncomfortable, to me and Aaron. “So how have you two been? It’s been a while.” Aaron’s face curls into a knowing smile. Says nothing. Still, his apparent knowledge throws Duncan for a bit of a loop. Tosses me scolding eyes. As if Duncan has been so discreet during this entire ordeal. He turns his head back towards Philippe, says something in French, and then turns back to us. “I think we’re going to get a refill and find Sebastien. But I’m sure I’ll see you around the party, boys.” And he brushes off. Carver continues to stare at Philippe. “Do you think he’s a top or a bottom?” “He did not even give a partial shit about you,” Aaron replies. “Not for me,” Carver says, “for Kevin. You know the best way to get even with someone is to get under a friend of theirs.” They only want you when they think they lost you. God, Kevin, don’t you know anything about flirting? “Or,” Aaron suggests, “enjoy the evening on your own terms, and don’t spend the entire night trying to make Duncan jealous.” He smirked at Carver. “I hope you know: when this night goes to hell, you’re the one cleaning up the mess.” July 14th: lured Nicky to In-N-Out so we could talk about Las Palomas. A topic I knew he didn’t want to discuss but we were running out of time. Lena was my backup. So I could sing the praises of our high school with a “blonde trophy bimbo of upper-middle-class suburbia” as a visual aid. Her words. I didn’t know how to begin. Maybe I was scared of the answer I knew was coming. “So,” I told Nicky, once we all settled into our burgers. “Tomorrow’s the last day to apply for a district transfer, so I just wanted to touch base and get your thoughts—” “Touch base and get my thoughts?” Nick repeated, look of disgust on his face. “Fuck, Kevin. Why do you sound like a fucking corporation?” Off to a great start. Promise me you’ll be strong for them. “I know it feels like everyone you know is going to Valencia,” I continued, “and I get that. It’s so much easier to do what everyone else is doing, but it’s not about today or tomorrow. It’s about your future, Nick. You’re a smart kid, and you should get the best kind of education you can. Because there’s so much more to the world than Colton. Better people to know than the La Cadena Crew. You deserve to get out. I want you to get out.” Nicky was scowling, but he wasn’t disagreeing. So there was that. “And I know it sounds like it’ll be hard,” I added. “Look, I spent my first week eating lunch by myself in the library. Not even eating, because I couldn’t bear the humiliation of waiting in the subsidized school lunch line. But a week later, I met Matt, I met Harry, Hiroshi, Tucker. And suddenly, it felt like I belonged there. I’ve never once regretted doing it. Not once. And I’ll be there for you, every step of the way.” Nicky took a sip of his vanilla milkshake. “Girls tell me literally every day they wish there were two Malleys,” Lena interjected, with a placid and complacent smile that dropped her IQ points by double digits. “I was Prom Princess last year, so believe me when I say: I know every girl on campus.” That made Nicky smile. But not in a friendly way. He sensed a pressure point. “You’re more than welcome to give me the phone number of some guera bitches from Moreno Valley,” he told her. “I see even the hot ones aren’t afraid to slum it with some thug from Colton.” “It’s a contingent offer,” she replied, flatly. Dispensing with the bullshit, she pushed the transfer form across the table. “Sign, Nicky.” “Don’t call me Nicky, what the fuck,” he said. “Kevin, I’ve told you fucking fifty times: I’m not going to Las Palomas, so just drop it.” “Okay, think about this another way,” I told him. The Hail Mary I hadn’t planned on using, but had readied just in case. “Over the past three years, I’ve made $43,227 from slinging weed. You’re going to be nothing but just another hood rat at Valencia, but at Las Palomas? You’ll be king. I can have J.C. set it up. I can.” “J.C.,” he repeated, still smiling, shaking his head. “I hang with La Cadena, bro. They fucking own J.C.--you think I need him and his piddly shit? So I can what, exactly? Sacrifice the next four years of my life to pay rent, so Mom can keep drinking away Dad’s pension?” I glanced over at Lena, who was sipping her milkshake and pointedly staring over to the counter. “I did what I had to do,” I told him, “to keep a roof over our heads.” “So you don’t feel guilty about spending all your time with your fucking jotos in Moreno Valley?” he replied. “Please. You can say you’re my brother, but you don’t have my back.” “That’s not true. You know that’s not true.” “I don’t need you to swoop in,” he continued, unabated, “with some phony concern about how you want some better life for me, because guess what? I like my life. I don’t need to suck the dick of the rich and the famous to feel like I’m someone. I’ve got people who have my back, who care about me, and that’s fucking more than you can say about your bitch-ass Prom Queen girlfriend who’s going to drop you the second she stops rebelling against her parents.” Lena’s chair slid out, hands on the table, face reddened like she was going to say something. But she didn’t. She stared at Nicky, for a second, two seconds, and then beelined for the bathroom. Nicky and I both watched her go. “Don’t bring Lena into this,” I told him. “Don’t bring my friends into this. You know what’s wrong with you? You’re deluded. And you think there’s nothing else outside of Colton, but there is. They’ve got you so brainwashed--” “Brainwashed?” Nicky repeated. “Because I can’t be bought with the promise of your stupid bougie little world? Full of some rich fake-friends and a bimbo girlfriend and her mom’s Lexus? You fucking sit there in some overpriced shirt from Abercrombie and tell me that I’m the one who’s brainwashed.” He shook his head. “I’ve got people who like me for me. What the fuck do you have?” “Okay so,” Becker texted, “I’m thinking June 23rd.” “Oh, and here I was still holding out hope you’d change your mind and come up tomorrow after all.” “I told you,” Becker replied, and I could almost hear the sternness in his words. “I didn’t realize it was Father’s Day Weekend. And it’s been hard with work and all.” Becker worked precisely fifteen hours a week at J.Crew, a place that seemed his shifts solely one the days he was planning on coming to New York. One of these days, I was going to threaten to visit him. See how quickly J.Crew became a flexible employer. “I don’t know, Becker, do you really think you can live without me for another week?” “I’ll try my best.” I closed my phone, looked back up to the group, who was staring at me. “Sorry,” I told them. “My dad was texting me.” Who knew why I said it was my dad. Of all people. Four of us, all interns at Smith Barney, at Phil van der Rohe’s apartment on Central Park West, drinking on a Thursday evening. Really, it was his grandmother’s apartment--she had decamped to the Hamptons for the summer--but he was occupying the whole three-bedroom spread. Rich people: allergic to the notion that an intern should spend the summer without a multimillion-dollar apartment to himself. I imagined Becker drifting through a place like this. “Is that a RAZR?” Phil asked, wrinkling his nose. “God, I’d kill myself if I didn’t have a BlackBerry.” I looked down at my phone, which suddenly seemed cheap, and slid it back in my pocket. “And you’ll never know the simple joys of T-9 word. How I pity you.” Kate grinned, set down her drink on the glass coffee table next to her iPhone. “Seriously, Phil, not everyone grew up in Greenwich.” “West Coast, best coast,” I agreed. “Where in California are you from, again?” Phil asked. Phil’s smug, fat face. Normally, in situations like this--when I was surrounded by acquaintances at Tulane, for instance--I’d say Moreno Valley, but I definitely wanted to smack the shit off his smile more than that. “Napa Valley,” I told him. “My dad owns a winery called Prairie Chapel. It’s not big or anything--my grandparents bought it for him for his birthday one year, I think. Something like that.” Phil’s smile flickered, and I reached for the bottle of scotch he had set in the middle of the coffee table. “And your grandparents are who, exactly?” he asked, maybe skeptical, maybe jealous. “If they just go around buying wine for people?” I tried to search my brain for some famous Malley that I could appropriate, and the only one I could think of was Ern Malley, who wasn’t a person so much as a literary hoax from the 1940s. Fitting, in its way. “And he was a multi-millionaire poet,” Phil repeated. “Apparently?” I poured my tumbler to the brim with scotch, because this was good shit and I wasn’t about to leave any of it for Phil’s grandmother. “Well, the money’s from my grandmother’s side,” I told him, with a smirk. “The Qantas family. Founded the airline. Why did you think my middle name is Qantas?” One thing I learned in my profession: people had no interest in the truth. You weren’t selling a product; you were selling a feeling, a dream, a life. If you sold it well enough, people would believe anything. J.C. told me that. I learned more from him than I did from Intro to Business. “Ern Malley sounds so familiar,” Dave bullshitted, taking the nearly-empty bottle of scotch from me. “I think I read him in high school.” “You probably all read him in high school,” I replied, eyes trained on Phil. “‘Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ Did you read that one?” “Oh, I definitely remember that one,” said Kate. “Shit, he is a big deal.” Phil looked irritated by this sudden turn of events. Good. Fucker. “That was his most famous poem, anyway,” I told them. “He never did like it very much.” I lay in wait. For Duncan. For Duncan to head downstairs to the restroom, away from prying eyes, and eventually he does. Something spylike. About this. As I follow him downstairs. (I’ve had a few drinks.) Duncan: waiting in the vestibule outside the single-occupancy bathrooms. “Oh,” I greet. “Didn’t realize I was here, did you.” Duncan gives me a thin smile. “Is that your way of criticizing me for not making out with you in the middle of my boyfriend’s birthday party?” More sober than I am. Fuck it. I don’t care. I lean in. I kiss him. He kisses back. Really does: grabs the back of my head, pulls me in just a little deeper. Just a short kiss, a quick one, an explanatory one. “Happy?” he asks, smile growing. “For the record, I’d much rather be curled up with you and a bottle of wine than be at this bar, if it’s any consolation. Not surrounded by Sebastien’s friends.” You give me hope that I could be happy. “I’d rather be with you too.” Sad eyes. Sad smile. Sad Duncan. “I’m sorry,” he says, softly. “You know what I want?” I reply. “I want to run away with you. And then, when we slam the book shut on Paris, we’ll still be together. Curse lifted.” Duncan giggles. “Tahiti, didn’t we say?” “No, I mean,” I tell him, “seriously. What if we did?” “Uh huh.” “What’s the point of doing this, if you don’t get to be happy?” “The point of what?” “The point of everything,” I reply. “Starting everything again. It’s like, you get something good, and then boom, it shatters into a million pieces. Over and over again, and I don’t get it. I don’t. I don’t get why take you and say fuck Paris, fuck New Orleans, fuck immigration, let’s just do something. The two of us. And be the last ones standing when everything goes to shit.” Duncan bites his lip. “I think you’re a few drinks further than I am.” The bathroom door opens, and a woman comes out. Duncan gives me a polite smile. “Well, bathroom’s free,” he tells me. “Is that an invitation?” “No,” he replies. Smile falls, just a little, for a second. “I’ll call you tomorrow.” “Okay, okay,” Becker texted. “Fourth of July. So we can have an extra day--what do you think?” “Hamburgers or hot dogs?” “Both.” “Done.” I snapped my phone shut, looked up at the rest of the group, who were gathered in mine and Lizzie’s apartment in Harlem. “Sorry about that.” “Was that the boyfriend?” Carver asked. “To tell you he’s not coming next weekend, or to sunder relations altogether?” “He’s coming up Fourth of July now,” I told him. “Sorry, Carver, you’ll have to keep your paws off me for at least another two weeks.” “I’ll put it on my calendar,” Carver replied. “Dear Diary.” “I think we’re getting off-topic,” Lizzie said, accepting the bong from Jesse. “Kevin, you were telling us how you intern with a bunch of complete idiots.” “Well, it’s all about the salesmanship,” I replied. “It wouldn’t be the first time I duped people into thinking I was a member of the patrician elite.” “Yes, you seem like a tremendously skilled liar,” Carver said. “But I refuse to believe anyone could be so dense as to think your family was run out of Australia by a coup in 1968.” Lizzie handed me the bong. “I don’t know,” I said. “It was the first thing that came to my mind. They keep shooting the shit about how rich they are, and what am I supposed to do?” “I mean, you could not keep embellishing your family history,” Carver replied. “Tell them you sell pot and play trumpet in the subway?” Jesse suggested. “Not going to happen,” I said. “This is Smith Barney. And believe me: no group of rich kids wants to be friends with the poor kid. They’ll treat you okay for a while, but at the end of the day, you’re never actually going to be one of them and they’ll just throw you aside when they realize you have no idea what you’re doing in that world.” “So why do you try?” Carver asked. “Why do you try to be one of them? If you think they’re going to expose you as some fraud, somewhere down the line?” “I’m not trying to be one of them,” I told him, icily. “I’m mocking them.” “Doesn’t sound like it,” he replied. “Spinning a very interesting but ultimately very fraudulent yarn about your life.” “I don’t like lying to people,” I said, “as a general rule.” Carver smirked. “Do they know you suck dick?” “Okay, Carver,” Lizzie said, “maybe we should hit the bar.” Lena pulled the Lexus in front of our house, and Nick jumped out without saying anything. But Lena and I stayed, silent in the front seats. “You know what, let’s go talk to J.C.,” I told her, finally, unbuckling my seatbelt. “Maybe we’ve been looking at this the wrong way.” I thought Lena would weigh in, but she didn’t. She pulled the keys out of the ignition, followed me across the street and up the walk to J.C.’s house. Laura, heavily pregnant and covered in a permanent glaze of sweat from the hot desert summer, answered the door. “Hey, you two,” she said. “Here for J.C.?” I nodded and, without saying anything, she ushered us inside. Followed her into the dining room, where J.C. was sitting at the head of the table. It amazed me how clean the house had gotten since Laura moved in about four months ago. Nothing like the places in Moreno Valley, like Lena’s house or Matt’s house, but less of a crack den and more of a home. Marginally. Laura went into the kitchen. She didn’t like to know what went on. “Please tell me you need more product,” J.C. said. “It’s a seasonal market,” I replied. “I’ve barely sold what you gave me last week.” J.C. shook his head bitterly. “Killing me, man.” Lena and I sat down at the table. “We just had lunch with Nicky,” I told him. “About Las Palomas. And it didn’t go well.” J.C. threw back his head. “Listen when I tell you: you don’t want to make waves with La Cadena. They want Nick where they want him, and he’s going to go where they tell him to go. It’s no longer up to you.” “That’s why I thought you might have,” I said, “an inside track. Some influence, I mean.” J.C. rolled his eyes. “You want me to, what, go tell Loco that he better let your baby brother go to some fucking rich kid high school or else? This isn’t The-fucking-O.C., Kev.” “His name’s Loco?” Lena asked, with a smirk. “That’s not very imaginative.” “Yeah, well,” J.C. said, “when he shoots you in the back of the head and rapes your dead body for the rest of the week, you probably won’t be too concerned about what they call him.” The small fell from Lena’s face. She had lost her swagger--a girl who, generally speaking, didn’t lose her swagger. “They don’t really do that, Lena!” Laura called, from the kitchen. “Babe, don’t tell her that!” “Lena,” I said, “maybe you should go see what Laura’s up to.” Lena rolled her eyes, didn’t move. “I’m a big girl.” I looked back to J.C. “Give me his number,” I said, “if you’re too pussy to call him up.” “Don’t Fucking Do Stupid Shit,” J.C. replied. “Rule number one. The only fucking rule! You’re going to get yourself killed, and then you’re going to get me killed, and then you’re going to get our two bitches killed.” He motioned to Lena, then to the kitchen. “Over what? Over what high school Nick fucking goes to? Let it go.” “He’s my brother, J.C.” Promise me one thing. “I’m your brother,” he replied. “Have I ever told you to give up unless it’s a lost cause? Give the fuck up. It’s a lost cause. I know what you promised your dad, and believe me, if he had any of the sense it seemed like he had, he’s proud as shit that you did as much as you’ve done for Nick and your mom.” He shook his head. “Take your girl back to the suburbs, fill out your application to UCLA or wherever, and get the fuck out of Colton and never look back.” Well. After that, I didn’t know exactly what to do. And I had nowhere to go. Matt, in Big Bear. Nicky, at our house. So I took Lena to my favorite spot in Colton: the dry, concrete riverbed of the Santa Ana River, under the overpass to the 2015 freeway. Secluded, tucked behind old warehouses and cracking asphalt--a place that seemed my own and no one else's. “I’ve never taken anyone here,” I told Lena, slumping against one of the concrete pylons holding up the overpass as I finished rolling a joint. “Real people, I mean. Las Palomas people.” Lena looked briefly surprised by that. “Not even Matt?” I shook my head. “You know all of our Las Palomas friends would find me trashy as fuck.” “You didn’t think I would?” “I don’t know,” I said, handing her the joint. “I guess not.” Lena exhaled smoke. “I don’t know how you do what you do.” “What, sell weed?” “No,” she said. “Live.” “Well, I don’t threaten Loco, for starters.” “No,” she said, again. “I mean, you’re seventeen and it seems like you have the whole weight of the world on your shoulders. And I can’t imagine that. I can’t. I’d do anything for my brothers--but you were, what, fourteen and your dad told you to support the family?” “That should give you an idea of what he thought about my mother’s sense of responsibility.” I paused. “Lot of good I’ve done. His wife’s at a bar at two o’clock in the afternoon and his son’s in a street gang.” “But then there’s you,” she said. “Maybe J.C.’s right. That you did as much as anyone could’ve expected you to do, and maybe you should stop blaming yourself because you weren’t able to make other people perfect.” Lena never looked so beautiful as she did in the ditch under the overpass, in an Abercrombie jean skirt and flip flops. I tried to give her a smile. “This is probably more rebellion than you had in mind when you took up with the likes of me, Marissa Cooper.” “I’m not with you because I’m rebelling,” she said, matching my hazy smile. “I’m with you because I love you.” The l-word. Something she had never said before. And God, I wished so hard that I could love her. Wished that I was straight, so I could sweep this beautiful woman up in my arms like a conquering force, and tell her: I love you too. Instead, I thought of the moment when I’d inevitably break her heart. Her eyes were inviting me to say it back. But I couldn’t. A kaleidoscope of a thousand emotions burst across her face. As she realized I had nothing for her. “Well, even if I was,” she deflected, breezy smile snapping onto her face, “it wouldn’t have worked anyway, because my parents are crazy about you.” On what planet was I good news for Lena Taylor? When we just came from a house where she was threatened with rape and murder? When did I not spend a day dragging her in just a little deeper, killing her slowly and methodically, a premeditated poisoning of her empathy? “Only because they don’t know who I really am.” “They do,” she said. “And I do too.” My phone buzzed. Another text from Matt Barber. “But seriously, dude, what’s the ETA on that burrito?” I had to smile at that. I couldn’t ever not smile at Matt Barber. “If you miss me, just say it,” I texted back. The response was immediate: “Fine. I miss you.” I looked up at Lena, who was no longer smiling. “I think we should head back,” I told her, “before it gets too late.” “Back to your place?” she asked. “Or back to Moreno?” I wrinkled my face. “To Moreno. I’m going to borrow Matt’s car for a bit.” “So I’m looking at my calendar,” Becker texted. “July 20. Are you around?” “I’m always around, Becker,” I told him. “You missed a fun Fourth of July.” “I told you, my mom already invited the Averys over for a barbecue,” he replied. “I couldn’t get out of it. But I promise: July 18.” “July 18,” I confirmed, and I closed my phone before I could text him what I actually wanted to say, which was less clerical. This is the third time you’ve postponed, and if you’re not going to come up to New York, then... I didn’t have an end to that sentence. Not really. I don’t want to be with her. I want to be with you. I knew why he postponed, each time: he didn’t want to tell his parents he was visiting someone. Lest it invite questions: who is this Kevin Malley? It had nothing to do with me. Becker was never going to care about me more than he cared about surface-level opinions, and that was it, and that was that. I leaned back against the tile wall, raised my trumpet, and began playing “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue.” One of my favorites. I remembered the first time I heard it. Preservation Hall, the night before I evacuated for Katrina. Music was so honest. Impossible to fake music. Not the trumpet, anyway. You blew, you pressed the keys, and beautiful music came out or it didn’t. No shortcut. No faking it. Becker or the interns at Smith Barney or Matt Barber, anyone, they’d have to start at the bottom and learn and practice, the way I had to. When I finished the song, there was some narrow applause from a girl in a red dress, maybe mid-twenties. She tossed a dollar bill into my open case, on top of the maybe fifteen or sixteen dollars I’d gotten from sitting here for far too long. “You’re not homeless, are you?” “I’m an investment banker at Smith Barney,” I told her, “who missed his helicopter to the Hamptons.” She smiled. Like she didn’t know if I was joking or not. She looked a little like Lena when she smiled. Or maybe I was just imagining that. “Well, you’re very hot,” she said, “and very talented. If you’d want to grab a drink.” I couldn’t tell if she was sincere, or if she was a prostitute, but either way, I had no interest in deep-sea fishing at this moment of my life. Not when I was thinking of Becker, aching for Becker. “Sorry, I suck dick,” I told her. “You don’t have a dick under that dress, do you?” Seemed a bit taken aback by that, smiled umcomfortably and hurried on her way. Carver was watching all of this, from over by the fare machines. “You look morose,” he said, approaching me, yellow MetroCard hanging limply from his fingers. “Thank you.” “Let me guess,” Carver said, “Once more, the boyfriend pushed his sojourn further into the future?” “The boyfriend did push his sojourn further into the future,” I replied. “July 18. Mark your calendar. Or don’t bother, because we both know he won’t actually be here on July 18.” “Maybe it’s time,” he said, “to reconsider whether or not this gentleman is the proper partner for you at this juncture of your life.” Carver was exhausting. Becker was exhausting. Everyone was exhausting. “He’s worth the wait,” I told him, resolute. “He’ll come around. He just needs a little push.” “If he doesn’t,” Carver said, fluttering his eyelids, “you’re very hot and very talented, if you want to grab a drink.” “Fuck off, Carver.” “Kitty has claws,” he replied. He looked down at the case, counted the cash silently in his head. “Wow, seventeen dollars. Now you can buy a whole lunch at Hale and Hearty.” “I thought ‘art isn’t worth creating if it’s going to be treated like a commodity’?” “It isn’t,” he replied. He took out a five dollar bill, tossed it in the case. “But this is just sad.” He continued to stand, looming over me. “I assume there’s a reason you’re here?” “Kismet?” “Try again.” “I’m just passing through,” he replied. “Going to the Village to buy paint. Come with me. You can see how an artist practices his craft.” “I know, your boss let you render the Nabisco logo in grayscale last week. You already told me.” Carver wrinkled his face. “So how’s trading stock? Everything you want and more?” “Don’t be a dick, Carver.” “You started it,” he said. “No, I genuinely want to know. You said your boyfriend pushed you into doing it, because he’s Richie Rich, and you didn’t want to remind him that you’re actually white trash. But now, you’d rather sit on the floor of the New York City Subway than go to your internship.” “It’s a Saturday.” “Do they all still think you’re the heir to Qantas Airlines?” I gave him a thin smile. “They treat me like one of them. It’s nice.” “Oh, who cares?” he said. “A bunch of vapid, shallow people think you’re swell. What does it matter if they care about you if they don’t know who you really are?” “Who said they care about me? These people are temporary. In five weeks, I’ll throw them away and go back to my actual people.” “Who also don’t know you’re gay.” “Not everyone has to know everything about everyone, Carver,” I told him. “Just because you’re in constant state of oversharing.” “You can’t unring a bell, darling,” he told me. “Once you’ve enjoyed la vie en vérité, you can’t go back to the way things were, and you know that.” He frowns. “Are you going to throw us away in five weeks?” “You’re getting dangerously close.” Carver said nothing. From below, a train approaching. “That’ll be the 2 train. Last chance to come with me.” I picked up my trumpet, and started playing “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” until Carver left. “So, Philippe, right?” I say, leaning against the side of the bar. Trying my best to look utterly beguiling. I was feeling the booze, hoped he was too. “Kevin,” he replies, thick accent, smile on his handsome face. “The friend of Sebastien’s.” “Well,” I told him, “I’m a friend of Duncan’s too. Really, I spend a great deal of time with Duncan.” “Oh,” Philippe replies. He orders a drink from the bartender, then motions to me. “Vodka-Red Bull,” I tell him. “Thanks.” He orders my drinks, puts some cash down. “So you’re an American?” “College student,” I reply. “Studying abroad. Only here until the end of the semester. So. You know. Lots of good chances to make some mistakes, and have them all wiped clean by May.” “Must be a nice feeling.” “Oh,” I told him, “it is. You have no idea.” There’s a woman, next to Philippe, trying to break into our conversation. “Kevin, this is my girlfriend Anne-Marie,” he says, motioning to her. “She’s also a resident with me and Duncan.” Deflating. Somewhere, Aaron is being smug, though I can’t pick him out of the crowd. It hadn’t dawned on me that Duncan would have straight friends. Though it probably should have. “Oh,” I tell him. “Nice to meet you.” And it’s another few minutes before I wrangle myself out of polite, drunken small talk with a couple of straight people. I can’t immediately find anyone I know, so I head downstairs to the bathroom. No one in line, but both doors are locked, so I stand and wait. Maybe I’m a little too drunk. I prop myself up against the wall. And it’s probably a good thing I don’t have a working cell phone because, in New Orleans, this would be the moment where I’d want to text Becker or Matt, though even in my drunken state I can tell that’s a bad idea. Chris Baker has a bad habit of texting his parents when he’s drunk, which I never understood. The last thing I think of when I’m drunk is texting Linda Malley. Maybe it’d be different if my dad was alive. If I’d get drunk and have this urge to connect with him, to see what he’s doing on Pacific Time, but I’d never get to know him as an adult. One of the bathroom doors swings open, and it’s Sebastien and Carver. Giggling, hands all over each other. Both looking roughly disheveled, drunk, and I stand there. “Oh, Kevin,” Sebastien says, turning a little red but still smiling at me, still leading Carver out of the bathroom by the hand. “Enjoying the party?” “Not as much as some people.” “How about” Becker texted, “August 3?” If your ass isn’t here on August 3, this is over. I wanted to say. I did not say. “Whatever works for you,” I replied. “I know your schedule’s so busy.” It was supposed to be sarcastic, annoyed, bitter, but none of that came through in text. “Should work,” Becker replied, matter-of-factly. I closed my phone. “Why don’t you just fuck someone else?” Carver asked me. “Don’t tell him to fuck someone else,” Jesse replied, coming back with four cans of Bud Light. We were at Whiskeytown, in the East Village. “He likes this boy, Carver,” added Lizzie. “Carver doesn’t understand human interaction,” I told them. “He thinks that, unless you’re giving into your base id, you’re being fundamentally dishonest.” “I don’t think I appreciate that,” Carver replied. He was scanning the crowd. He was always scanning the crown, like a Serengeti predator. “See that guy in the plaid? Fucked him. Has a girlfriend.” “You’re proving my point,” I told him. “No, I’m not,” he replied. “I wanted dick. He wanted ass. We both left happy and satisfied.” He shook his head. “You philosophers. Always overthinking everything. You’re not going to convince me that suppressing desires, and lying to yourself about what you really want, is at all healthy. Sorry to burst your bubble.” “I want someone to know me,” I told him. “Before we go to bed together. To actually care about me. I don’t want it to be meaningless.” “I don’t have meaningless sex,” Carver said, taking a sip of his Bud Light. “It always has meaning to me.” Aaron’s back upstairs, in the corner with Ross and Nina. “No Philippe?” Aaron greets. “He’s a straight guy,” I reply, “apparently.” “You mean there’s two of us at this party?” Ross goes, with a smirk. “I was feeling outnumbered.” “Welcome to our world,” Aaron tells him. He looks to me. “You okay, Kevin? Your eyes look… drunk.” “I’m fine,” I say. “I am drunk. But not too drunk. I just saw Carver and Sebastien coming out of the bathroom together.” “Oh, ho, ho,” says Ross, grinning. “Seriously, throw a bunch of gay guys in a room together and everyone can’t get horizontal fast enough. I’m jealous.” “You haven’t been exactly starved in that department,” Nina replies. “God, please, save me from the straight sex talk,” Aaron says. “I don’t mind your weird sexual deviancies, but just keep them to yourselves.” Ross pulls Nina in for a kiss--big, theatrical one, like that World War II Times Square poster. Aaron rolls his eyes at the conspicuous heterosexuality. “Won’t someone think of the children?” he tells them, as Ross leads Nina out to the dance floor. He turns to me. “I don’t think you’re quite in a position to judge Sebastien and Carver. For what it’s worth.” “I’m not judging them,” I reply. “They’re open. I just feel bad. For Duncan.” “Uh huh,” Aaron says. “What did Duncan say? When you cornered him by the bathroom? Don’t think I didn’t see that.” I give him a slight smile. “Said he’d call me tomorrow.” “There you go,” Aaron replies, rolling his eyes again. “I don’t know what you want.” “I want him to,” I say. My voice trails off. “I don’t know. He understands me, and I feel close to him, and I want to be with him.” I shake my head. “It’s like, I realize there’s a part of me that’s missing, and he’s there, and he fills it. Or maybe fills it.” Across the dance floor, Duncan and Sebastien are dancing. Smiling. Grabbing onto each other. You give me hope that I could be happy. But smiling anyway. “You fall hard,” Aaron tells me. “I get it. But you don’t need him. You’ve never needed him. You’re hot and smart and sweet—” And, with one eye on Duncan, I lurch forward. And suddenly I’m kissing Aaron Ackerman. Matt met me alongside Big Bear Boulevard, on the edge of a dusty driveway marked with handpainted sign: “LDS Youth Camp, 0.25 miles.” “Spring me from this hellhole,” he said, flinging himself in the passenger seat of the Eclipse. “Drive.” “Wait, can you just leave like this?” “I’ve got about ninety minutes,” he said. “Just have to be back for Shower Hour at five.” “Perv.” Matt looked at me, grinned. “You got the contraband, dude?” I handed him the greasy bag from Los Hermanos, and Matt unearthed the foil-wrapped California burrito. “My precious,” he said. “Hey, Kevin, thanks for driving two hours to bring me a burrito, how’s your summer been?’” I said. “I know how your summer’s been,” he told me, mouth full. “Dull. Keep heading down this road, I’ll tell you where to turn.” He took another bite. “I heard you caught a Dodgers game last week with your new BFFs Van, Brig, and Josh.” “Are you jealous that you’ve been banished to the wilderness all summer, but your dad and brothers took me to LA for a baseball game?” “Depends: field or box?” “Left Field Pavilion.” “Not jealous at all.” He took another bite of burrito. “Lynn didn’t give you shit about taking my car?” “Oh, I stole it,” I told him. “There was a high-speed chase down Perris Boulevard and everything--Lynn’s Honda Odyssey hot on my heels. Actually, I’m a wanted fugitive now. Dead or alive.” Matt was smiling. “Thanks for coming, dude.” “Well, you said you missed me.” Words hung. I thought about that kiss. Which I was thinking about constantly, even though we had never, ever spoken of again. Matt said nothing. He was thinking about that kiss too. Maybe. We drove in silence for a minute or two until he had me turn down a unmarked gravel driveway “You’re not taking me somewhere to murder me, are you?” We were weaving through trees, until out popped a lone, squat house on the lakeshore, dressed up to look like a log cabin. I parked at the edge of the gravel, looking out over the lake. “Jenna’s uncle’s place,” he told me, as we headed down the wooded hill towards the lake--towards the house’s small dock, cantilevered over the shoreline. “But they’re only here on the weekends.” “And you decided to just help yourself to it during the week?” Matt grinned, as we stepped onto the dock. “I mean, I can’t get in the house or anything, but the yard and the dock are great places to chill. Too far to go on foot from camp, but Harry was here a few weeks ago so we came here and smoked a little bit. No one around to bother us.” Matt peeled off his t-shirt. Showed me his sinewy body. Tanned from the summer, lightly muscled from swimming in the lake, trim from sparsely eating the camp diet. The waistband on his boardshorts hitting just below his triangular hip bones, just above the start of his pubes. He was staring at me. “You bring your swimsuit? It’s too hot to sit on the dock.” I shook my head. “I came straight from J.C.’s.” “J.C.?” Matt asked. Sat down on the edge of the dock, feet trawling in the water. “What’d he want?” “Personal stuff,” I replied. “Nick’s high school education.” “So he’s not going to Las Palomas, then.” “I don’t want to talk about it.” Matt said nothing. He jumped in the rest of the way, into the lake, then resurfaced, propping himself up on the side of the wood. “Want to light a joint?” “You’re going to smoke it in there?” Matt smiled, lazily splashing water up at me. “I’ll hold onto the dock. Come on in.” I began unbuttoning my shirt, looking down at Matt’s head. “What, in my underwear?” Matt didn’t say anything. Didn’t say no. Normally, this would be the part of the conversation where one of us would make a vaguely gay joke—”You just want to see me in my boxers, dude, ha ha ha”--but I didn’t, I couldn’t. Not after that kiss. That never discussed kiss, sempervirens. I peeled off my shirt, already sweaty. Pulled down my shorts to my boxer briefs, trying to will myself from getting hard. Matt had turned away was watching me out of the corner of his eye. Alone, at the edge of the lake: cut off from the world, from Las Palomas, Moreno Valley. “You know,” I said, setting the joint down on the edge of the dock, “I don’t really want to drive home in wet underwear though.” Matt flickered, for a moment, then looked nonchalant about it. “Well, it’s pretty secluded over here.” No opinion, not even a suggestion: just an observation. A deniable observation. But, like anything: it wasn’t a no. I yanked down my boxer briefs. And I was naked. Dick swinging. In front of Matt. By now, Matt didn’t, couldn’t, pretend he wasn’t staring at me. I jumped into the water. And when I surfaced, Matt had already taken off his board shorts. Was putting them in a wet clump on the edge of the dock. “What,” he said, casually, mouth creeping into a smile. “Couldn’t let you be the only one swimming free.” And there we were. Treading water. Naked. Both of us. I could see the outline of Matt’s pale dick, abstract under the gentle ripples of Big Bear Lake. Knew he could see mine too. “It feels amazing,” I told him. Small talk, apparently. Naked small talk, with my best friend. Who had a girlfriend. Both of us: girlfriends. “You’re right. It was too hot not to come in the water.” Matt kept treading water. “Yeah, dude.” Didn’t quite know what to do, for a bit, so he turned over, swam back to the dock, naked ass cresting just below the top of the water. I grabbed the dock next to him. Matt had picked up the joint, holding it between wet fingers. Beneath the water, Matt’s dick was rock hard. I moved close to him. So close that we’re almost touching. “I,” he said, his voice suddenly soft, “don’t have a lighter.” “I don’t really want to smoke.” Matt gave me a thin smile. “What do you want to do?” We both knew what we wanted to do. We didn’t know who was going to be the first one to go there. To make subtext text. To dramatically change our relationship in a way that couldn’t be explained away by drunkenness or teenage horniness. “Did you really miss me?” I asked him, quietly. One of the only times I’d seen Matt Barber sheepish. Awkward smile, vague discomfort. “I,” he said. He didn’t have to finish the sentence. In the clear ripples, both of our dicks were at full mast. So I leaned in. And, for the second time, I kissed Matt Barber. Our naked bodies, just barely submerged. My hand on the side of his thigh, his hand on mine, both of our dicks hard dicks rubbing against each other. Beyond jacking off in his bed. Beyond even a drunken kiss. Sober. And naked. And hard. We were full-on making out. Holding onto the dock, and holding onto each other. Naked bodies, submerged. Dicks, near the breaking point. My hand found its way to Matt’s engorged dick, poking out of the water, and he let out an involuntary moan when I grabbed it. Kept my lips on his, as I began to slowly stroke him off. Matt was moaning into my mouth, unable to stop--unable to break away, unable to do anything but feel the pleasure that I was giving him. Until finally, he threw his head back, grunted, and a geyser of cum shot up from his dick, striking us both in the chin. “Whoa,” he said, when I--not him--broke the kiss. Matt, startled. That look on his face. Unsure. But not disapproving. White cum, dripping down his chin. Dripping down both of our chins. “I suppose ‘whoa’ is better than the ‘fuck’ I got last time.” “I,” Matt sputtered. “That was unexpected.” We bobbed in the water. Holding on to the deck. Holding onto each other--not with our hands, but with our eyes, with our lust. “I miss you too,” I told him, finally, “when you’re up here.” Matt leaned into me. Kissed me again. Kissed, but this time, he wasn’t unsure. And I wasn’t unsure. His hand on my back, my hand on his, our tongues tangled together. Becker finally got to New York. August 3, like he said. For the first time, not bullshitting. Becker was Becker. “Okay, but after dinner, come out with us,” Lizzie said, setting down her beer. “Carver keeps asking me if he gets to meet your boyfriend.” Oh, God, no, Lizzie. The b-word? In front of Becker? Who was suddenly having a very silent, very visible meltdown inside his head. Smiling blandly through the entire thing. But I knew Becker. And, of course, he spent the next half-hour giving clipped answers to every question Lizzie asked him, stewing over the mental Holocaust that had suddenly clogged his neurotic little brain. Luckily, Lizzie didn’t need help filling the conversation. Kept his eyes trained on me. Smoldering. Each moment, his fury building, ruminating over the word: boyfriend. A word only Becker could take as an insult. And finally, Lizzie left to go meet Jesse and Carver, and I desperately hoped that the promise of sex--for the first time in three months--could drag Becker back onto Team Kevin, but: “I cannot believe you,” he said, the minute Lizzie closed the front door behind her. “You’re out now?” Why couldn’t Becker be like normal boyfriends? Oh, I’m so happy to see you, Kevin, whom I haven’t seen since the middle of May. Why was everything so dramatic? “It’s just for the summer, Becker.” My voice was calm, measured, like I was talking to an angry child, which was essentially what I was doing. “None of these people go to school with us.” “I don’t like you outing me,” he snapped. “That’s a terrible thing to do.” And fuck him. Outing? Your boyfriend telling a handful of people that he would never see again that he was my boyfriend was not “outing.” An entire locker row looking at you as if you suddenly had AIDS? That was outing. But I didn’t want to fight with Becker. I desperately wanted to stop fighting, so I could smother his face into a pillow and destroy his ass with my dick. Three months. Bone dry. “We’ve never used the boyfriend word, and you’re using it to everyone else.” “That was Lizzie’s word.” Oh, fuck it, did I really want to blame Lizzie? Who cared at this point. Becker sometimes needed a slap in the face. “We’ve been together for five months. How else would you describe us, exactly, Becker, if not boyfriends?” “I don’t know,” I huffed. “We’re, like, exclusive fuck buddies with a romantic component.” God. Did he listen to himself talk? Ever? “That’s boyfriends,” I told him. “We agreed to not fuck anyone else over the summer. We agreed that we’re both into each other. We talk every day. You’ve sexted me from the breakroom at J.Crew. So fuck off. Why can’t you just enjoy the weekend?” Becker had no rebuttal, and we both knew it. Beyond the Becker motto: “I’m just not ready for this.” I loved when I got the upper hand. When I sent Becker into a forced retreat, or sexy little game of cat and mouse. “You remember what you said at the beach--spring break?” I asked him. “That when it got complicated, we’d figure it out. Guess what: now it’s complicated.” “It’s not intrinsically complicated,” he sulked. “You’re creating complications. That’s not the same thing.” Calling my boyfriend my boyfriend--telling people I was gay, before said boyfriend arrived. None of those were manufactured complications, but I didn’t feel like pushing this fight any furhter than it had already gone. “You have forty-eight hours until train,” I reasoned. “You can be a pill about it, or I can fuck your brains out, and then we can go have dinner. Because I’m horny and hungry and tired of fighting with you.” I touched his arm. “Come on, Becker.” I lowered my voice. “Tell me you want me to fuck your brains out.” His fury cracked. Mouth turned up just a little. I had won. “I want you to fuck my brains out,” he complied. “And then dinner.” I picked Becker up, and he instinctively wrapped his legs around me--good little bottom. We both wanted this so bad. Ravenous in our mutual horniness. We kissed. Hard. A hard and sensual kiss, Becker’s arms thrown around my neck, pulling my lips into his. Lips on lips. God. I missed this man. Missed the way he kissed me, the way he felt in my arms. Threw him down on the bed. Climbed on top of him. Kissed him down the jawline. “I’m not going to leave your ass until Sunday,” I whispered. Becker. Rock hard in his shorts. Me. Rock hard in my suit pants. Tangled in each other, as clothes came flying off--as I sucked his engorged dick, as he sucked mine. Kissed more. Explored each other’s bodies. Becker’s milky skin, his flat stomach, his narrow frame. Until Becker uttered those three magic words. “Get a condom.” I propped myself up on an elbow, my mouth just an inch away from his. “Get on all fours,” I whispered back. Becker did what he was told. Climbed up on the bed. Ass facing me. Perfect ass, pink hole, ready and open and willing and desperate for cock. “Do you think you can take it?” I asked him, positioning myself behind him. “Or do you want a finger. It’s been a while.” “Just fuck me, Malley.” Fuck. There was nothing about this boy that wasn’t explosively sexy to me. No one as desperate for cock as Becker, in that moment. I grabbed him at the hips, slowly began to sink my dick into his ass. Becker was moaning. Almost uncontrollably, almost unstoppably. Started rocking my hips gently, forcing my big dick deeper and deeper. Faster, faster, harder. Becker. His moans, to his grunts, as I began to fuck my boyfriend--my boyfriend--in the ass for the first time in three months. God. Felt so fucking good. So tight. After three months. Began pounding him. Pounding him as hard as I could, and Becker’s grunts became louder, more sharp, as I pushed him closer and closer to the edge. Three months, and neither of us could last very long. I felt the tide rising, felt my dick getting so close. Reached around, grabbed Becker’s dick, stroked it maybe four or five times, and suddenly: collapse. Becker, a loud and guttural noise, as cum jetted out of his dick like a geyser--as I loaded his ass with what I could already feel was the biggest load I’d cum in quite a while. “We should get a move on anyway,” I said, once we both caught our breath, lying next to each other, looking up at the ceiling. “I got us reservations at Otto in the Village. I thought you’d want pizza in New York.” “Pizza and sex,” he told me, smile on his face. We leaned together, for a kiss. “What a great night.”
  9. Hopefully soon-ish. The timelines are slightly off between "Best Four Years" and "Against the World," so I need to reconcile that first. (There's a big plot point that factors into both stories, so they need to line up.)
  10. oat327

    Chapter 5

    I think that's totally it: Duncan is neither happy nor unhappy. He's very settled, very afraid of being alone--and in the back of his mind, he thinks that without Sebastien he would be, so he tolerates a lot. Kevin presents a lot of uncertainties for him, and Duncan's someone who likes to stay in control. They've both been hurt in the past, and I think they're both kind of skirting around the idea that they're developing feelings for each other--not just because of Sebastien but because Kevin is leaving in a few months. But like I've said, there's still a lot of story left--this is about the halfway point. And I have a pretty good idea of how each plotline is going to wrap up (which I really didn't when I started down this road--a change for me, since generally I'm a big outliner.)
  11. Could totally see this! I definitely thought of Uncle Pete as someone with a certain type of charm and swagger to him... even as he seethes with resentment.
  12. Haha, absolutely. It's funny because I was 24 when I started writing the very earliest drafts of what became "Becker" six years ago, so my relationship to these characters has changed a lot: from being of a similar age to being quite a bit older. Duncan gets that--like you said, he totally sees Kevin as a kid (and, conversely, Kevin sees Duncan as a mature adult who's settled and has his life mostly together.) I think they both realize it's never going to work, because of distance but also because of age and maturity... but that doesn't mean there's not a big chance that one or both of them could wind up hurt from the deal.
  13. oat327

    Chapter 5

    Definitely lots of story left--we’re only about halfway! (It’s plotted for 10 chapters right now, but it might be more based on how they break down.) Glad you’re liking the characters--they’ve all been very enjoyable to write. Glad you’re liking it too!
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