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Fall Anthology 2023 - Leap of Faith Due Sunday 10/1! ×
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

From Afar - 3. Chapter 3

I kept trying to focus on my games, or on studying, or anything else in my life... but no matter what I did, that unknown boy kept creeping into my head, stealing my attention, drawing me back to his presence. It was like how a person with strong cologne can walk through an area, and the scent would linger for a long time, sometimes hours... well, his presence was like that, an unshakable force that remained far after the actual encounter.

Despite telling myself otherwise, nothing I could do could keep my mind off him... which was doubly weird, to me, since I didn't even know his name! I knew nothing about him, I hardly even knew what he looked like -- despite the images burned into my mind -- but I just couldn't let him go.

After a couple hours or so -- according to the clock, at least, since it felt like an eternity -- I was about to give up and step outside for a cigarette when I heard a faint, tentative knock at the door. [i]No, it's not him,[/i] my mind immediately decided. [i]He isn't going to come running to me to help him... he made that clear already.[/i] My mind, however, didn't say who was at the door, so I got up and answered the door, only to find...

"Hi," he said softly. It [i]was[/i] him, but... I wanted to grab him, comfort him, the second I saw him. One of his beautiful eyes was swollen, as though he'd been punched in it repeatedly, and he stood with most of his weight on one foot, as though his other leg might be injured. He was wearing a black t-shirt and sneakers with long socks, so I couldn't be sure if there was damage elsewhere, but from what I saw, I didn't doubt it too much.

"Are you OK?" I asked. "Please, come in!" He seemed reluctant, but started to follow me inside, and I helped him into a chair. Yea, he was definitely favoring his leg, there must be some damage to it. "What happened to you?"

He tensed up, as if unsure what to say, and I placed a hand on his bare forearm, trying to comfort him. "Whatever happened, you can stay here if you want," I told him softly. "I won't let anyone hurt you, not if I can stop it. I promise."

He shook his head softly, a tear glinting in his uninjured eye. "How can you say that?" he asked, his voice quavering. "You don't know me... you don't know anything about me!"

"No," I agreed, "I don't." I paused, cupping his face with my hands, bringing his eyes up to meet mine. "I just met you, and I know nothing about you. But I can't stand to see people hurting like this. And something tells me, whatever happened to you, whatever you're not saying, it wasn't your..."

"Wasn't my fault?" he cut me off, his voice stronger with a hint of anger. "Let me tell you what isn't my fault. It isn't my fault that people hate me for who I am. It isn't my fault that my stepfather gets so angry he wants to kick my ass. It isn't..."

I pulled him into my arms, rocking him. "Sssh, sssh," I cooed, hoping to calm him down. "You're right, none of that is your fault, so please don't blame yourself. This is why I want to help you, why I want to protect you. None of this is your fault." I felt him start to tremble against my chest, and felt spots of wetness on my shirt. "It's OK, cry if it helps," I said softly, still holding him tightly to me. "I won't think any less of you for it, and I understand, it helps sometimes."

He pulled back, tears in his eyes, studying my face. "What do you understand?" he asked, his voice sounding suspicious. "What do you know about pain, huh? What do you know about suffering?"

I sighed. "I know, before I moved here, I had to hide who I am, because no one understood. People would've hated me for who I am, just for being myself. They wouldn't have cared that it was me, the same person they'd known since forever; they'd just see me as an enemy, someone to break, or worse, someone to kill." I nodded softly, feeling tears I'd thought were long gone over a situation I'd escaped long before. "My stepfather... he knew, I guess, or thought he knew... he used to beat me all the time, talking about getting rid of my sin. The sin of being who I was, and even then, I wasn't. I was hiding who I was, but just because he thought he knew something, he was beating me for it." I looked away, feeling ashamed that I was crying in front of this boy who just needed my comfort, and steeled myself, willing the tears away. It took a few seconds, but I felt them flow back inside, waiting for another chance to escape. "That's why I said I understand. I don't know if it's the same, or..."

He took the offered opening. "I'm gay, all right? Now you know." He stared at me, almost defying me, as though he expected me to kick him out over it.

I nodded. "It's OK, I am too. That's... that's why..." I felt myself start crying again, and felt him reach up and turn my head to face him. I looked into his eyes, those beautiful pools of shimmering compassion, and felt myself sink into them, even as I felt him reach up and comfort me from their depths.

He said something softly, just quietly enough that I couldn't make out what it was.

"Hmm?" I said, still looking into those eyes of his.

"Joey," he repeated. "My name's Joey." Well, now I knew his name, at least.

"Joey, whatever happens, I want to protect you. I won't let your stepfather hurt you like this again." I smiled, but underneath it, I didn't feel happy; instead, my anger was slowly boiling up, thinking again about his bastard stepfather's handiwork, and just because this perfect boy was gay! "Other than your eye, and your leg, does it hurt anywhere else?"

He nodded, pulling back from me a bit and slowly lifting his shirt. Where just earlier I'd seen a beautiful, perfect body, I now saw the same body marred by bruises, some obviously from fists and others... I couldn't tell, but they didn't look good.

"Um... not to change the subject," I started, not sure how to ask this, "but... how old are you?"

He looked at me, as though trying to figure out where I was going with this. "18."

"OK," I continued, with one less worry on my plate, "and do you go to school? Or have a job?"

"School," he said softly, "but all my stuff is at my friend's house, I'd have to go over there and get it." From the look on his face, he was worried what might happen if he did.

"I can go with you, if you want..." I started to offer, but he shook his head roughly.

"No, I'll do it, it's OK," he assured me, but made no move to do so. Well, after what he'd been through, if he didn't want to go anywhere, I wasn't going to force him.

"I meant what I said," I assured him. "You can stay here as long as you like. You should still go to school, but if you don't want to deal with that right now, I can understand. What school do you go to? I'll call and cover for you until you feel up to going again."

He looked at me, as though trying to figure out why I was offering this. I laughed softly. "It's OK, I won't tell them what's going on... that's your business, if you want them to know."

He shook his head at me, his eyes starting to tear up again. "It's not that... my brothers go to the same school, and if they told anyone..."

I pulled him back into my arms, his arms reaching around me, turning this into a true embrace and not merely my comforting him. "If you want, I'll help you change to a different school, one where they won't know about all this," I offered.

He sighed, and I felt him shake his head softly. "No," he said, "that would mean leaving my friends behind... I can't do that."

"But what if someone tries to start something at school?" I asked, concerned. "If it's there, I can't help you, and your friends can always spend time with you away from school." When I said that, he pulled away to look at me, and this strange haunted look came over his eyes. "What, is something wrong?"

"No," he started, "it's just that... well, some of my friends... no, it's all right."

We talked about a few other things, like rearranging the apartment to acommodate his stuff... and then it hit me. His stuff. At some point, we'd have to confront his stepfather and get his stuff... I'd simply buy him all new clothes and everything else... but I definitely couldn't afford that, not on my poor-student funds. Supporting him was going to be enough of a stretch as it was. Besides, what about things with sentimental value? You can't just replace those, no matter how much money you have to throw at the problem.

Eventually, the hour grew late, and the stress of the day had gotten to Joey. I got him into bed, snatching a pillow and a blanket before tucking him in, and started to get comfortable on the floor. I heard the soft thwump of clothes hitting the floor on the other side, and realized that he must've undressed and settled in. I followed suit, stripping to my boxer briefs and setting them off to the side before pulling the blanket over me. "What're you doing?" I heard him ask suddenly, leaning down from the edge of the bed to look at me.

"I'm letting you have the bed until I can get another one for you," I explained.

"No, I can't kick you out of bed," he replied, sounding upset.

"Well, [i]I'm[/i] certainly not going to make [i]you[/i] sleep on the floor," I reasoned, sitting up a bit to look at him directly. "And in case you hadn't noticed, the bed's not all that big."

"It's big enough," he replied stubbornly, reaching out to grab an arm and pulling me up to the bed with him. I sighed, giving up, and grabbed the pillow and blanket, bringing them back to the bed with me. He grinned at me as I pulled back the cover and climbed in, seeing him clad in nothing but a red pair of briefs. Even marred with bruises, his body was impossibly beautiful, and I felt my breath catch as I looked in awe at the boy I'd taken into my home.

I laid down next to him, but before I could settle in, he rolled over to face away from me, grabbing my arm and pulling me onto him, his body curled up against mine. I felt the smooth, warm flesh of his back against my chest, and he grabbed one of my legs with both of his, intertwining them. His touch, his smell, his warmth... in no time, I felt the inevitable reaction to this closeness, but I forced myself to put it out of mind... we had a lot to do the next day, after all, and getting to sleep was more important than doing something I might yet regret later.

As I drifted off to sleep, his body cuddled next to mine, all I could wonder was what I was getting into, and what this meant for both our futures...

2011 Mychyl Kime (KimeNet, LLC)
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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