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    W_L
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Love comes in many kinds and degrees, I hope I have done justice to this particular kind of love.

Stoking Embers - 1. Stoking Embers

First, I want to thank Talo Segura for being an amazing editor, beta reader, and friend in helping me get back into writing again.

This story series is being dual published on IOMFATS.org, feel free to read at: http://iomfats.org/storyshelf/hosted/wendell-locke/

Comforting Touch Series, Story # 2

 

Ben

Waking up with a naked guy after he and you professed a mutual desire to start some kind of relationship should have been amazing, this should have been the happy ending to a fairy tale romance. Too bad, the happy ending in those stories doesn't actually explore the reality of life that exists in the rest of the story. I loved gay romance novels and stories, they gave me hope and lifted me out of despair more than once in my life, but there’s always that little niggling bit at the end that bugs me. They assume everything works out, so boy meets boy will equal a happy relationship. I love the idea of formulaic stories, so I continue to read them and continue to believe in them, despite how obviously all those stories don’t actually explain how life really works out.

When I was around twelve, I discovered these stories through the word “gay” itself. The definition of the word “gay” intrigued the twelve-year-old me, when I saw it in the dictionary. Then, a quick web search of the word “gay” on my primitive Windows 98 home computer led me to things like naked images of guys and stories. The idea of stories about teenage boys finding one another and falling in love made a connection with me, so the primitive internet produced my first encounter with actual gay romance fiction.

The first gay story I read was about some teenage baseball pitcher and his friend a catcher, just messing around a little, then one kissed the other one. The kissing culminated in an unrealistic series of sexual Olympics between them. I learned about oral sex, rimming, and anal in under a thousand words. At the end of the story, they professed their love for one another and made vows that they’d be together no matter what anyone thought or whatever happened in their lives. That’s very romantic and very happy. Too bad for those kids, their story didn’t continue to talk about things like homophobic teammates, teachers, and parents. They didn’t talk about the possible social stigma that could be put on them for being together throughout their lives and the horrendous inequity that society had back then: no marriage equality meant they couldn’t be considered a couple for legal reasons, no employment protection meant that someone could just fire them for having a picture of their boyfriend in their wallet, and no adoption or surrogacy rights meant that the idea of these guys starting families was simply impossible.

Above all the facts that were not explained about being in love, there’s one thing that can happen to either gay or straight relationships, love is not a permanent emotion. People not only fall into love, they also fall out of love, which I quickly learnt early on happens faster for me than the normal boy. I wanted it to be permanent and I thought that’s something most people wanted as well, no matter what your sexuality or gender. Yet, I learned another lesson growing up, the world isn’t just gay, bi, and straight alone. Sexuality is not a permanent attraction for me. I can never like girls, but what I wanted with boys and later men never matched my desire or the stories I read. My experiences have taught me that reality is filled with more than desires for a happy ending, complex human interactions make it seldom possible.

My morning news briefing roused me into full consciousness from the smart device that I had in my living room. It buzzed with a flash briefing: a new African American Justice has been confirmed to the US Supreme Court on a narrow fifty-one to forty-nine senate vote. Good for him and his husband, I thought. A series of violent terrorist attacks occurred in Europe believed to be the work the newest group of disaffected migrants. The quagmire still continues, I reflected sadly. Local news came next, then the weather: a winter storm warning is in effect for the area with blizzard conditions expected in a few hours. I guessed that would clear up my work meetings, but it didn’t clear up my regular duties. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was just a normal course of life now, so snow days like the ones I had as a kid were gone.

It would have been awesome to have a day off just snuggling with Jason, getting to know him, finding streaming shows to binge, planning things out, and just doing the standard things most couples do. Of course, Jason having just literally left his life on the streets as a homeless gay, sexually abused, pre-med student, less than twenty-four hours ago. While I am just a low vision gay demisexual guy with paternalistic tendencies; we were as far from a standard couple as you could get. When I first met him, he wasn’t the same sinewy brown haired young man in my embrace this morning, he was hairy and wild, with a stench that would have chased away most people within a few feet. A combination of sympathy and emotional resonance kept me from running away. If we ever told people our story, they might think that Jason was lucky I found him, but the truth isn’t that romantic. I just wanted to help him and couldn’t let go.

As Jason’s arm began to move, I slowed my breathing and let him come out of his sleep. I might not be have been an expert on the subject, but I have been around enough guys to know that coming out of sleep is a disorienting experience for some, especially if they’ve had very little good rest for a while. I imagined sleeping in a trash container for god only knows how long was not equivalent to a comfortable micro-spring mattress, or even in this case, cuddling up close to your potential Chinese American five-foot-nine, one hundred and fifty-five pound boyfriend. I hoped he was warm enough during the night, I know I kept the heat up a bit yesterday anticipating that I’d have to bring him home out of the cold, but still, I thought he’d end up in my spare bed rather than sleeping cuddled up with me on my faux leather couch with goose feather duvet that which I put over the both us sometime during the night. Even though I was sleeping in a sitting position, I could get used to feeling a body snuggled up to me like that every night; it might not be comfortable, but emotionally it felt so right. I guess that’s another example of my demisexual side talking: pleasure from emotional response far exceeds the pleasure I gain from a physical one.

His head rolled up from my chest, his eyes glistening with fresh tears, and his raspy morning voice asked, “Am I still dreaming? Is this real? Am I real?”

I nodded, wishing he never had any of those thoughts again, “You are real to me and I think I am real. Though, I think some philosophers will disagree with me.”

Jason smiled showing some yellow plaque covered teeth, something I added to my inventory for him, he needed to see a dentist. “I think you could use another shower and so can I. I have spare tooth brushes and a family size bottle of mouthwash.”

He wiggled his naked body out of the comforter, revealing his warm flesh. “I feel cleaner than I have felt in a long time.”

I gingerly touched his arm, knowing he might not want contact anywhere else yet. “You should also put some clothes on, there’s a blizzard blowing and I need to shovel a path outside the house before I sign on my computer to work remotely from home. It’s a stupid city ordinance for homeowners with renters to keep paths cleared for pedestrians or else face fines. I could use a hand if you are interested.”

Jason nodded and took my hand in his. “Sounds fun Bingo, I shoveled snow when I was a kid and made good money clearing driveways.”

I patted his messy brown hair, pointing to the bathroom. “First we need to shower, I’ll get us some thermal underwear, jeans, and sweaters. We have three shovels downstairs, the red one is my tenant's from downstairs, the two blue ones are mine and my father’s own. I can pay you…”

Jason cut me off before I could finish, “Don’t."

I realized what I was about to say and do, cheapening some of what we had developed last night. “Sorry, we’ll need to talk about that later. You need cash Jason, but I don’t want to treat what we have like a business transaction or something. I’m not a sugar daddy or anything like that. I make decent money and can afford to help.”

Jason frowned at me, “You don’t have to, you’ve given me more than enough with the food and place to stay, least I can do is help you out and…”

I put a finger to his mouth to silence him. “Well, we've reached the first fight milestone. Let’s figure it out later. For now, I’ll accept your help with the snow removal without precondition, but if stuff needs to get done around the house later, we’ll talk more.”

Removing my finger, Jason nodded and smiled at me, “You’re bossy Bingo, are you like an executive or something?”

I laughed at his remark. This might be a good Segway into a deeper conversation later. “No, just an overworked accounting manager, who wants everything to be orderly and logical; even when it’s chaotic, I like to figure out why. Are you okay with that Jason, me setting ground rules and things for how we live?”

Jason nodded, “I trust you, Bingo.”

Jason didn’t know how he warmed my heart with his words. I wondered how far he was willing to go if he trusted me...Damnit, it was taking every ounce of my willpower not to break my “no-sex” promise to him from last night. He was not ready for that stuff and I was not going to push him into it. Trust is not merely a word, it’s a defining ideal between two people in a relationship, at least to me. I would never be happy knowing I broke his trust first, because of my desires on him. It might be a special catch-22 of my demisexual emotional connections, something romance novels gloss over with their depiction of demisexual people. I needed to trust my partner and I needed them to trust me emotionally, if I broke the trust, they put in me, it stopped being a mutual emotional connection and I started to drift away emotionally, because I knew I couldn’t connect with them. It’s happened before in some of my failed relationships, because I pushed for too much, too quickly, and violated boundaries that we had agreed to. That’s another reason why I was so dead set on rules and structure.

I composed myself and tried to shake the feeling away. “Jason, you should take the shower first, I’ll take it after you. Use as much hot water as you want. I’ll lay out some thermal underwear and winter clothes for you to change into here on the couch.”

I didn’t wait for Jason to respond and left him to carry out the instructions. I must have seemed like a real asshole, but I couldn’t screw this up. Hopefully a cold or lukewarm shower would calm my nerves and steady my resolve.

Jason

Ben was the first guy to ever really show interest in me for something more than sex, but there was something he was holding back from me. I could sense it; he wanted something that he was afraid to ask of me. I didn’t think it was sex, at least not based on what had happened. I wanted to give him sex, if that’s what was holding us back, but I was still really messed up with everything. If he really wanted it, I could get tested and we could try oral. He said last night, there were other ways of having sex. I wondered what that meant. I’ve read about hand jobs between guys, was that what he meant? I think I could handle having his hand on my dick, since I slept naked against his body last night. It’s not that my body didn’t want him, no I wanted him, but I was afraid of…something I can’t put into words.

The hot shower now was not as good as last night, the glow that I felt from my first hot shower was like a hot baptism. My parent would consider it sacrilegious, but I was reborn last night. Ben opened his heart to me, fed me, bathed me, and remade me. In a way, it was a very Christian thing; I wondered if someday a gay Christian splinter group would consider this kind of thing to be a core tenet of their faith. I knew there were gay Christians, trying to live a life of hypocrisy or worse, rejecting their nature in order to conform to a standard forced on them by a faith that preaches love and hope. It would be nice to see the gay believer just say screw it and break off like the Protestants did with the Catholics five hundred years ago. I can imagine my parents screaming now how these perverted sinners had dirtied the Christian faith with their new interpretations of love and rebirth. Ultimately, things like being good to one another and helping people find a new lease on life, I think that is what makes Christianity “good”.

I didn’t spend too long in the hot shower, but did what Ben had asked. I noticed he had laid out some toothpaste and a toothbrush, while I was showering. I didn’t even notice when he came in. I hadn’t brushed my teeth in months, my breath probably could have given my prior body odor a run for its money for the most rancid smelling thing in the world. I had never paid much attention to dental care; though I had felt pain in my mouth occasionally over the last month. Dental care wasn’t high on the priorities of the homeless, when you must had to struggle for food and scrounge for shelter daily. Brushing your teeth was a small luxury that people took for granted far too often, like hot showers and a place to call home. So, I took my time trying to get as much of the gunk out of my teeth as I could; I noticed my gums started bleeding a little, but I remember reading some dental health books that could happen after a prolonged period of poor dental hygiene. I knew the proper solution would be to get one of the special soft toothbrushes and tooth paste made for sensitive teeth and gums, but Ben has already been too good to me, I couldn’t ask him for that. I also didn’t want him to find out about the bleeding, so I did my best to rinse out the blood and used soap to try and wash as much of the blood off the toothbrush as I could. Maybe he wouldn’t notice the red tinge on the toothbrush due to with his poor eyesight. Fuck, I hated using his weakness like that, it wasn't right.

Ben interrupted my thoughts though and he noticed I was trying to clean the red tinted toothbrush., I sighed, “Sorry, I haven’t brushed my teeth in a while and the brush got a little dirty.”

Ben shook his head, he had noticed the color of the brush being bright cherry red in spite of his poor vision. “It’s my fault for not thinking about the condition of your teeth and the stuff I use every day not sufficing. I’m sorry Jason. My dad has some sensitive teeth toothpaste, which probably will be better for you and when the snow let’s up, we can get you a better toothbrush.”

My head drooped low and the brush fell into the basin, like a kid getting caught after doing something wrong. “You have been too good to me, Bingo. I don’t deserve…”

He placed a finger on my lips like he did earlier to silence me. “This is not a big deal, I know you probably were thinking that you could get by with what I gave you and didn’t want me to worry. I get it, but you’re studying to be a doctor someday, you know that getting by on a poor health decisions isn’t the right path to a good quality of life,” Ben surprised me again with how honest and sincere his caring nature could be, but he was not done speaking as he continued with his finger on my lips preventing a reply. “I want you to finish up with a shave, then I’ll jump in for a quick shower and we can get to shoveling out a path. I’ll make a quick breakfast of oatmeal for the two of us after that.”

He removed his finger from my lips and I nodded. “Thank you.”

Shaving was very simple as well this morning, since I took care of my excess facial hair last night. As I left the bathroom, I saw Ben standing to my side completely naked with a change of clothing in his hands darting into the bathroom for his morning routine. Even the quickest glance of his body was exciting, I had guessed correctly that he had a runner’s lean build, very little fat or muscle, except for his toned legs. He had seen me naked more than once in the last day, but this was my first chance at seeing him. I’ve got no problems being naked around Ben and hoped he was okay with that. I knew it was probably weird, but being trapped in the same dirty smelling clothes for a few months made the sensation of being naked very freeing. I felt so much warmer right now being naked than I did with those old rags. I knew having thoughts like that might make Ben uncomfortable with me and what we are starting to build right now. If it were anyone else, I wouldn’t have felt so comfortable being exposed, but Ben didn’t seem to take much notice of my nudity.

Looking at the thermal underwear, jeans, and sweater, I sighed knowing that I must put aside my own thoughts and put on these items of clothing. They were comfortable enough, which surprised me considering Ben was shorter than me by a few inches. All of these clothes were sized X-Large, perfect for a six-foot-one guy like me. Even the jeans fit, though they were a little shorter on the legs. After I got dressed, I looked around and saw a few pictures of a young boy, who I assumed was Ben. I noticed a few more recent photos of the same pudgy boy as an adult, which finally completed the mental image for me. Ben must have lost a lot of weight at some point in the last ten years and those were his old clothes from his larger days. Ben wasn’t massively obese in the older photos, just a bit wider and had a rounder face with the same baby fat I saw in his childhood photos.

I don’t think I’ve ever been fat in my life, my parents never allowed me to eat anything that was not approved by them; my activities were filled with track team meets and Christian youth groups. Even in college with my parents demanding I return every break, I had to be careful on what I ate and how much exercise I did. They threatened to cut off my meal plan after my freshman year, when I gained five pounds returning home for thanksgiving break. I can’t blame them completely on this part of my life though; strict diets and exercise regiments are healthy and a normal aspect according to most nutritionists. I think where they veered off course was when they took the concept of healthy living, then made it something as dogmatic as one of their religious tenets.

I must have zoned out looking at all the old fashion picture frames, when Ben approach me and whispered, “I know I look a lot fatter in some of those pictures.”

I turned my head to see him dressed in a winter jacket and holding another puffy winter jacket for me, which I gleefully took. “I’m just glad this stuff fits me so well. I don’t think you were fat though.”

Ben smirked and pulled a pair of old timberland boots over to me. “I know about body shaming and the arguments that goes along with false image projection, but sometimes a rose is a rose by any other name. I spent twenty years gaining my weight and spent six months of hell losing it.”

After those words along with the winter jacket and boots, Ben and I left the confines of his warm living room and exited the door into his closed patio. I didn’t notice that his home had a closed porch space, which was peculiar, since most homes I’ve been in had open patio porches, where air and weather could blow in freely. Ben’s porch was sealed by a panel of wood and a dozen windows facing outwards. There was a sofa on one side facing the street with a small table lamp on one side. It gave a very inviting feeling, like the owner of this home itself, the porch wanted to have a nice conversation with you no matter the weather outside.

Next to the couch was another doorway with an open door. Ben told me he had a tenant downstairs, so I assumed that this must be the second unit of his home. There were two blue snow shovels against the wall, which we both grabbed one each and headed outside. The weather was blustery and snow was blowing every way imaginable. An elderly man was digging a path outside the house, Ben called out in greeting and began to dig in earnest at the snow. I joined Ben on his snow drift and started making a steady pile of snow as best as I could under the conditions. After we had properly cleared space in front of the house and opened a path through the driveway of the home, where Ben’s tenant had a car situated, introductions were exchanged. Ben’s elderly tenant Chris was a very genial guy, who cracked jokes and made small talk with ease. There was something about his demeanor and conversational style that reminded me of my parents, except he appeared far more accepting when Ben introduced me as his boyfriend. We never talked about using terms or definitions for our relationship, but I was fine with the concept of being boyfriends. Technically, we had met a few times, had dinner a few times, and he invited me to stay overnight, at the same time we agreed that we wanted to start some kind of relationship. I didn’t even realize it, until he said the words, but we really were boyfriends.

We didn’t spend too long outside in the cold and I was grateful for that. The longer we stayed out there, even in the friendly company of Chris, it reminded me of what things could have been like for me out there alone. I wouldn’t have accepted going into a shelter or a church, I probably would be one of the many uncounted homeless guys dead on the streets every winter from exposure. I don’t know what those statistics are, but I’ve seen them carry off dead bodies in the streets from that one early cold front in November. I was in a shelter and things happened to me in there, but I lived, even if I didn’t feel like living afterward. People out on the streets, who didn’t want to be in a shelter, maybe for the same reasons I had, died of exposure to the cold weather. Ben didn’t know this, but he saved my life by being there for me. He’s more than a boyfriend to me.

Breakfast was a simple meal, Ben made a pot of old-fashioned rolled oatmeal with five eggs cracked in, which he said would boost both our protein. Oatmeal had been the staple meal of choice with my parents, they served it bland with just a little spoonful of honey. Rarely, they’d change things up with bland toast with butter or serve bacon and eggs for breakfast. Ben was anything except bland with his oatmeal. Beyond the eggs cooked with the oatmeal, he washed up blueberries and raspberries, which he asked if I liked before pouring a healthy portion of each into two large bowls. Then he added the hot oatmeal on top of the berries, I thought he was done, but then he pulled out a large bag of granola and coconut flakes, which he added a cup into each bowl. Finally, he had a container of chocolate hummus, which he asked if I had ever tried and I shook my head. He took a spoon and gave me a taste, it tasted like a grainy version of chocolate pudding, sweet and chocolatey. He got another spoon and put dollops of the chocolate hummus into both bowls of oatmeal. Then he stirred the concoction until everything had been mixed into an odd beigy paste.

Ben smiled at his creation, “I know it’s great to look at, but the taste is really good and it’s only four hundred and ninety-one calories, with a lot of the necessary vitamins and nutrients needed for daily intake.”

I dutifully took my spoon and tasted, it was sweet, crunchy, sour, and tangy, with a hit of chocolate, it’s an adult cereal. “Oh wow, you invented this thing Ben. This is the best thing I’ve ever had in my life, including what you made last night.”

Ben beamed with joy at my compliment. “It’s nothing Jason, I like trying out new things and just came upon the idea of mixing chocolate hummus with oatmeal. People have been putting eggs, granola, coconut flakes, and fruit into oatmeal for years.”

I shook my head, “My parents ate oatmeal every morning as religiously as they preached. It never tasted anything like this and they’d never mix all this stuff together. You don’t know how could good this is to a guy who only ever had oatmeal with a spoonful of honey.”

Ben swallowed another spoonful. “You must have had days when you had other things; pancakes, French toast, omelets, hash browns, and sausage. Aren’t those foods like a midwestern thing?”

I shook my head, “Yes and no, they’re not things I can eat every day and my parents kept tight reins on what I was allowed to eat, when I was home. To be a good picture-perfect Christian family, you have to project an image of perfect healthy bodies that shows off God’s favor.”

Ben slowed his chewing contemplating. “Did you hate that your parents kept you from eating and enjoying things?”

I considered the question as something I thought about earlier. “No, I think the idea behind a structured diet and lifestyle is healthy, but my parents went too far with it. They took upon personal nutrition and health like it was religious practice.”

Ben nodded, I noticed his brows furrowed. “Do you think you would be happy if someone sets rules and structure for you after everything that has happened?”

I knew this was no longer about breakfast and we were now circling around something he wanted, “Will that make you happy Bingo, If I follow your rules and structure? I know you would not be like my parents. I want you to be happy, too.”

Ben appeared to be considering my words, he wanted to ask something. “I would like that, but there’s some stuff about me that you should know. I’m not like your parents, who did things because they had a misguided sense of righteousness. I want to do things that are right for you and me, but it has to be structured and mutual for both of us. I need to trust you and I want you to trust me in those decisions.”

Nodding, I answered without reservation, “I do trust you with everything.”

Ben shook his head, breathing heavily and sighing. “The trust I desire might not be something you can offer Jason and it is fine if you do not. I will still help you and do everything in my power to get your life on track.”

I was confused by Ben’s statement, what kind of trust is beyond my ability to offer? I needed to show him my resolve. “Bingo, there’s a blizzard outside and I would have never gone into a shelter, because the last time I was in a shelter, some of the homeless guys raped me…”

I didn’t know what came over me, didn’t know why I admitted something I had not admitted to anyone, including myself. Memories flooded my brain about what happened late at night, the strong arms of a guy holding me down, stripping my pants and shirt off. I remembered the first guy fucking me mercilessly holding his hand to my mouth. He smelled like alcohol and made lewd remarks to his friends holding me down about having a young turkey early. When he was done, he switched positions with the one holding my arms, then the next one did the same thing, and the one after that. When after they all finished and I was curled in a fetal position on my cot, some homeless women came over to me. I thought they were going to offer me a little tenderness in the misery, but they did not. They took out plastic knives, safety scissors, and switch blades, then began slashing at me. They bit at me and said I was a juicy turkey. My torture continued at the hands of these ladies as others in the shelter ignored everything. I was no longer human even to the homeless, I was nothing. The days afterward were a blur of me looking for warmth and waiting for meager meals, while I cried at night at the memories of being raped and carved like turkey. I became no one and nothing...

That’s what Ben had rescued me from. That is why I was willing to do anything for him and with him. I wanted this man to know that no matter what he needed or wanted, I could be there for him just as he has been there for me.

Ben reached across the table for my hand. “I don’t want to hurt you Jason, because I think I am falling in love with you and for a gay guy with demisexual attributes that’s a lot of emotions. You have come out of a bad place in your life, your parents were overbearing and cruel, and you were sexually assaulted. None of those things makes what I want to propose a good idea for you and me. The amount of trust and control, might be wrong for you psychologically.”

Then it dawned on me, what he was asking, “You are into BDSM and that bondage stuff?”

Ben’s expression turned pale and he shook his head in negation, “It’s not that aspect, Jason. I am not technically a Dominant or Master, those are the most popular labels that everyone uses. I don’t want to physically abuse you, verbally insult you, or humiliate you in any way for my pleasure. My desire is to act as your partner and guardian, set rules and structures that benefit both of us, and always be open with one another no matter what the circumstances we are in, including circumstances when the truth can be unwelcomed. With this kind of relationship, we don’t hide things from one another. I don’t gain attraction from the normal flow of sexual stimulus alone, it has to be an open bilateral emotional connection, so the only way to create love for me is one where my partner and I accept a structure and a set of rules to live and love without reservation. I am putting controls on myself as well as you, if we do this.”

Ben’s words opened thoughts in my mind, concepts I had never considered about relationships or the ramifications of the sexual spectrum on people. I knew the concept of demisexual was a sub-spectrum of sexuality, which meant a person was attracted by emotional connection. However, I only considered the concept to be something akin to a person being able to be in a relationship due to love. Realistically, an emotional connection was like anything else needing to be maintained.

So, how would you keep that connection between two people with so many interpersonal issues and developments? Such relationships seem destined to fail at some point, because one or both people will not be able to maintain the emotional connection to allow the demisexual partner to maintain their attraction. Ben came up with a solution to this dilemma based on the BDSM model of control and cooperation with each participants expectation under a set guideline. Underlying this kind of relationship is a high degree of trust between partners. This was a lot to accept, it was a lot of responsibility that I didn’t know if I could deliver with all the other shit in my life. I could accept it if he wanted me to give him blowjobs, if he wanted my ass too, or even if he wanted to hurt me like…those men or the women. Ben was right, this wasn’t something I could just give to him, even if I told him I would and my heart told me that too, it’s not an easy thing to promise.

Part of me wanted to pull my hand away from Ben, but I didn’t want to deny him, I exhaled before speaking, “I don’t know, Ben. I really don’t know. I thought I could do anything for you and I am willing to, but this is not something I’ve ever experienced. I don’t want to…”

Ben released my hand and brought his finger to my lips. “I’ve had a lot of experience with bad relationships. I’ve been with guys who were needy and clingy. Guys, who wanted to be abused and dominated. People mistake my desire and my nature for other things they want for themselves. I love to offer support and want to help people, so it’s a curse that I live with. I don’t know why I am telling you this or why I want to be so honest with you about what I want after only knowing you for four days under these circumstances. You needed to know this aspect of me and decide for yourself if you wanted it. I will never force anyone into anything they don’t want. You don’t want this?”

Both my hands grabbed his finger in fear of what was about to happen. “I don’t know what I want, please just let me get used to it. You have to give me a chance. Please trust me as I trust you.”

Ben used his other hand to brush my forearms affectionately. “I just need you to know that if you ever feel like you are uncertain or unable, we can stop.”

I nodded my head and we finished breakfast without any further words or actions. Ben went off to his library, which doubled as a spare bedroom and his work area. It was a small partitioned space, probably half the size of a double occupancy college dorm. On the right side of the room, a small twin size bed sat with a simple black duvet. Three bookshelves filled with books of various sizes and shapes was aligned right of the bed. At the head of the bed, a makeshift table adorned with eye drops, a tablet computer, and a thick pair of reading glasses sat. On the left side of the room, a large computer desk was filled primarily by a thirty inch computer and several connected devices. There was a collection on paperwork on Ben’s desk, ranging from invoices from companies like W.B Mason to reports generated by AWS, Amazon’s web services division. This room was where he spent most of his time, his actual bedroom filled with both his books and work. At this point, I realized what he had offered my last night in staying here; this more than just the house itself was the representation of who he was as a person.

Ben logged onto his system and turned toward me. “I’ve got to work right now Jason, if you want to watch some TV in the living room, I have both Amazon Prime and Netflix set up outside in the living room. If you want to read, you can stay in here with me, I’ve got at least a hundred real books and probably have more than a thousand on my tablet. I also have an audible account with platinum plus membership with even more books on that if you prefer listening to stories rather than reading.”

I laughed at his erudition. “What kind of books do you like? You said you liked anime, so fantasy and science fiction stuff?”

Ben nodded and turned to frown at the screen before speaking. “I do like those genres, but most of my books are histories and gay male oriented stories. You will be surprised at the share sheer number of women, who enjoy writing gay male romances. There are a few gay guys, who write gay romances too, but it’s primarily straight women. They’re pretty good reads too, if you are into romantic fiction.”

My jaw dropped. “Straight women write gay romances, really? I thought all those things I read online were done by gay or bi guys. I can’t believe a straight woman can describe some of those things, like knowing you like guys or coming out.”

Ben rattled his head at the computer screen and laughed. “Now those are nice points, why are published mainstream gay romance stories written mostly by straight women? Then, on the other hand, are online gay stories of gay love for the first time and finding their sexuality done by the same demographic? Personally, I think the online stories were probably written by a mixed group of both gay/bi men and straight woman. There’s always an amateur romance straight woman writer, who can capture the essence of gay sexual experiences, but some of those stories are too visceral to ever be from imagination. Your need to have firsthand experience to write about things; fiction without realism can be nice to read, but a reader needs to buy into the story as well. Like, your first sexual experience is not always glamorous, but it is something that you will always remember for better or worse.”

I blurted out unthinkingly, “What was your first experience?”

Ben shrugged, “Depends on what type, first sexual experience was some old guy living in the same apartment complex touching my dick and putting a finger up my ass, when I was a little kid. First actual gay experience, I was in a sixty-nine position with my first boyfriend Carlos during freshman year in college. I view them differently as one being a physical sexual experience and one being the first real attraction I had with another gay guy, because Carlos and I had dated for a few weeks before we got to that place.”

I was shocked by Ben’s frankness. He just admitted to being molested as a kid and didn’t bat an eye at that. He was not looking for sympathy, not looking for acceptance, or trying to use it to connect with my experience. How can anyone be so nonchalant about being abused as a kid. It makes no sense, to me, based on all the stories I’ve heard or the stories I’ve read that something like that can just be shrugged off. I’ve seen pictures of Ben as a child, a cute chubby faced little boy with skinny arms and skinny legs. I think he gained his weight probably around ten or so based on those old photos I saw, was that what caused it? I could imagine little Ben, alone with some old pedophile. How can the world be this cruel and yet so kind? My mental images of Ben’s old photos began to mix with my own memories and the room felt disorienting. The books appeared to be jumping off the shelves towards me one second, then running away from me the next. Ben’s rapid keyboard taps sounded like loud drills in my head. Fuck, I needed to lie down.

I crept over to the bed. “If it’s okay, I need to rest a little more. I’ve got a headache.”

Sleep was fitful and depressing. I had dreams of my time on the streets looking for a warm place to stay, cold hands grabbing me and pulling off my old dirty clothes, and my parents’ final words about how disgusting and worthless I was in their eyes and God’s eyes. I cried in my dreams, I asked for absolution, I asked for help, and I asked for death, but Ben’s voice from the first time we met came back to me. “Are you okay?” In my dreams, I told Ben everything that happened, I confessed that I didn’t know what I was going to do or what I kind of person I was, if I was a person at all. I told him that even homeless people treated me like crap. He listened and let me know that he understood. I told him, I wanted to be with him forever.

 

Ben

Jason must have been exhausted from everything as he slept through most of the day; I didn’t blame him. It’s not easy for people to understand what I am and what I want. Too many labels and assumptions are thrown around. I hope he understood that I don’t want to dominate him or hurt him, but if we really want to have a relationship, I need a big commitment from him. In my head, I told myself it was a stupid idea to tell him everything and I should have respected him as a chaste friend, who needed my help and had too many negative experiences for what I wanted.

He woke around 3:30 PM, while I was finishing up a comparison report of a line of business actual KPI’s versus the forecast. I knew the time, because I was acutely aware that the Director needed this report by 4 PM, in order to make recommendations the next day for a senior management meeting that I was not invited to. An irony of American business, people who actually do the work and know what is really happening on the ground are not the ones presenting any of the data to stakeholders. People like me, in middle management, have to feed our insights to executives, who pretend they know what is going on and project a viewpoint that is acceptable to their peers. Thus, you’re trapped in an awful space of “Yes-man” mentality groups, because these people know what they want to hear and will take what you give them to create a reality pleasing to their peers’ perception. Of course, accounting is usually more conservative, so we always add “negative” scenarios and outcomes for all of our reports to curb enthusiasm just enough to keep the “Yes-man” mentality from endangering the entire business. That’s why in most places, accounting departments are considered the “Debbie-Downers”, an old Saturday Night Live reference to a skit about a woman that looks at the worst as everyone around her projects the best. However, when shit hits the fan, the accounting department becomes too optimistic and impractical, because we don’t see the “big picture” fears that executive management projects to everyone else. I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that realism is a foreign concept to the higher levels of American business executive mindset; either they’re too liberal with their spending and lavished operational goals or too conservative with their cost cutting and restructuring plans. My perfect work life would be run like a Swiss watch: pragmatic, realistic, and as close to accurate as possible with human constraints.

Hearing his stirring and the creaking of the bed, I chimed plaintively as at my own apathetic work life and our earlier conversation haunted my mind. “Jason, I am sorry if I overloaded you earlier.”

There was a palpable silence in the room even as I keyed the final series of formulas in to check my work, then he responded. “I am okay Bingo, I guess things got too much for me.”

Another few moments passed as I sent the email with the report at 3:46 PM, then I turned to give Jason my full attention. “I shouldn’t have thrown all of that at you. Like I told you earlier, I’m fine helping you out and just getting your life sorted. I don’t want to add all of this on top, if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Telling you everything was too much for you, but for me, it would have to be how a relationship between us would have to work. Like I said, I need that kind of mutual emotional structure continuously, but if you don’t feel it’s something you can give…”

In quick reaction, Jason swung his legs off the bed and hugged me, whispering, “It wasn’t what you want that made me uncomfortable, it was my messed-up thoughts about what you told me about you being molested as a kid. It triggered me to think that you had been hurt like me. I do want to share things with you and I wasn’t ready to hear that something like that happened to you.”

It never occurred to me that my throwaway revelation of an older man touching me could set Jason off. I know child abuse is one of those touchy subjects. I’ve seen the daytime talk shows of adult victims crying and opening up about their experiences, but it’s not what I feel. Did it affect me psychologically? Maybe, but I don’t feel sad about it or tear up when I think about what that guy from decades ago had done. I don’t condone what he did either, nor if I ever knew if something like that were happening would I allow it to happen again to another kid. It’s just a memory, a weird messed up memory that elicits no emotional response from me, except it marked my first sexual experience. I don’t even consider it my first gay sexual experience, because what that old guy did wasn’t out of any interest in emotional attraction or care; the old guy just saw a little boy outside his apartment as an opportunity. I could have been any other boy and he’d have done the same thing.

The real problem though was the one with Jason’s emotional health. I accidentally hurt him, because I was being honest with him. It wasn’t anything special to me, but to him, it brought up a lot of ugly memories. I didn’t know what happened to him in the shelter, I could only touch the marks on his body. My imagination could go into very dark places and none of them ended well for Jason. I’ve read enough books to understand the heavy toll this kind of thing has on people and the deep chasms of emotional uncertainty that it leaves. Unlike my experience as a kid, Jason’s experience happened as an adult and quite recently. With the abandonment that he must have felt from being kicked out by his parents and the end of his college life, I should have been more careful with what I said to him. It was my fault that he felt so bad right now.

My arms instinctively reached around him to return the embrace, tears welled in my eyes which is rare as I try to maintain my emotions, “I…I didn’t know that would trigger your memories. I am so sorry. I should have thought about that before telling you…I am so so…”

Jason didn’t let me complete my apology, he kissed me on the lips. This time, he did it passionately with far more desire and heat. I tasted his mouth, which had a mild earthy taste like really organic mushrooms or raw leafy greens from one of those special vegan restaurants in town with their own greenhouses. I’m a carnivore with an insatiable desire for meat, including rare steaks, lamb shanks, and controversial veal cuts, but I’ve grown to respect the taste of vegetables over the last decade. Jason tasted like a salad before the entrée, urging the diner to continue onto the meat course. I didn’t think it would be possible, but he was making me want to have sex with him right then, almost four days after we had met initially.

I’ve had sex with men just for physical pleasure and personal release without attraction. The body-on-body contact of those encounters allowed me to manifest sexual reactions, though they did not occur initially upon encounter unlike my sexual partners. With men I dated, it took weeks of long chats, dinners, and courtship to reach a level that Jason and I were sharing right then, where a simple kiss could create sexual stimulus. The romantic inside of me right then was ringing wedding bells and considering names for our future kids, but the realist in me knew that this had to stop, even if I wanted to push it onward into consummation. I had to retain control of my emotions and we needed to have a full conversation right then, since my largest project for the day was complete.

With Jason’s noticeable bulge pressed against me and my bulge pressing against him, I broke our intense kiss. “Jason, we have to stop. I need to talk this through with you. I am so sorry, but I need you to understand and I want to understand you. Remember what I said earlier, this has to be bilateral.”

Jason retreated breathing heavily back to the bed. “I love you Bingo. Is that what you need to know? I am ready for everything, for you and me to share everything, and give you all of me.”

I moved to sit next to him on the small bed, placing my hand on his thigh. “I know what I’m feeling right now and it is telling me, I love you too. I bet you’re feeling very aroused too, but we have to be realistic Jason. First, you need to get tested for STDs before we can consider sex.”

Jason’s face blushed noticeably as he realized what he had proposed out of impulse and his own words from earlier, he stammered “Oh my god, I didn’t think…I know I need to get tested…but I still love you…”

I patted his thigh, still covered in my soft cotton thermal underwear. “I know baby, believe me, my body wanted to strip you down and do everything we could to one another right now too. That’s just my body talking though, seeking sexual release. It’s not what I want or need from my partner.”

Jason nodded putting his hands over mine on his thigh. “Is that what you want me to be? Your partner?”

I wanted to soften my words, allow some backtracking for later, but if this thing was to work, I had to be completely honest with him and he with me. “I do want you as my partner from now until the end of my life. It’s a lot to ask of someone so soon into a relationship though. Most people wouldn’t ask this up front so quickly. However, if we want to build this structure into a working relationship, you and I have to be completely truthful in all things with one another. No secrets, no restricted access, and no obfuscations can be held by either of us.”

Jason breathed heavily and began to tell me his entire story from present to past. “I can do that Bingo. When I was sleeping, I dreamt about being homeless again, I dreamt about the rape, meeting you, and finally confessing to you everything that happened. I was raped about a month ago…That was the second time that I stayed at a shelter…During my first time, my stuff including my clothes and the money I saved were stolen...I’ve gotten STD’s before...I had to sell my body, because my parents had stopped funding for college last spring and I couldn’t get financial aid or extend my dorm room occupancy in the summer...When my parents kicked me out, they said I was a disgusting pervert in their eyes and God’s eyes, because they found an SD card I kept with gay porn and gay stories that I downloaded using a college laptop...”

His story came out in one go, there was no interruption. I took in every detail, accepted every fact he pointed, and felt hollow at every compromise he had to make in order to survive. The more I heard of his story, the more it reminded me of Victor Hugo opening lines to Les Misérables:

So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century—the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light—are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world;—in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use.”

I know people can be cruel, I know family can be hurtful, and fate can damn you so many different ways, like being born with a debilitating eye disease that keeps you from perceiving the world as others do. I resigned to my fate, long ago, but Jason did not deserve any of what had happened to him. He had so much potential to love and be loved; I wanted to be the one to help him get everything he deserved. He was like a modern version of Fantine and Gavroche from Hugo’s book. I couldn’t solve poverty or human despair for the world at large, but by God or whatever universal power that binds us to existence, I could do something for Jason. There’s no man that I have wanted more to help and love, because his need is the greatest amongst all the men that I had encountered in my life so far. To hell with the consequences, I would try to give this man happiness.

 

Jason

I don’t know how long I spoke for, but when I was done, Ben had already been snuggling against me. It felt warm and safe. There was still a sexual component to our touch in me, but I also began to feel something else as I told my story to Ben, the only person I have ever told the complete story of my path to homelessness. It’s not something I could put into words as an emotion or manifest into action. I remember something called Absolution from bible study groups that my parents had me attending. I can still remember all of it and the pain of being “forgotten” will never go away as long as I live, but having Ben know this about me and holding me, I didn’t feel alone anymore. Ben and I snuggled like that probably for hours, until he kissed me on the forehead and released me.

Ben returned to turn off his computer and grabbed his cell phone. “It’s Friday night, I don’t have to work tomorrow, so I think we should order in tonight. What are you in the mood for?”

While I would have been happy to just waste away if Ben continued to snuggle with me, my stomach betrayed me knowing I didn’t eat lunch. “Whatever you want Ben.”

“Do you like Wings, I can get a big order from Wing Stop and have it delivered.”

I hadn’t had wings in a long time, so Ben selected a nice mix of flavors for us to try. He opened an app on his phone and entered his order and a generous tip. We left his library/working bedroom to and went into the living room, where he asked me what shows I enjoyed. I told him my love of science fiction and he began streaming the first season of The Expanse, from Amazon. It’s a wonderful show and definitely perfect for two guys to enjoy with a large order of wings and French fries, which came far sooner than I thought as we were only into episode two, when the main characters are stuck in a little spaceship. We hadn’t talked much about anything except a few commentaries on how realistic the universe was, which Ben had the full novel series in his library. For a guy with extremely low vision, he reads a lot of books, which explains why he’s so intelligent on various subjects.

Around the end of episode four, with most of the wings were eaten, Ben paused the show. “We have to talk Jason about our relationship a little more. You shared a lot with me and I should be sharing stuff with you too.”

I nodded in response. “I am willing to do anything for you Ben to be happy.”

Ben laughed. “I had the same thoughts about you Jason along with making a few comparisons of your life to the characters from Les Misérables.”

Remembering the musical, I laughed. “I never had to sing as a prostitute though.”

“No, but your life was hard for no reason than other people’s choices. I want you to know I will do everything to make you happy. Love for me is hard to describe, but one of the foundations I need for it is emotional resonance. Your background resonates with me far more than anything you can do for me.”

My heart bubbled with his words, I knew for him it was hard to love someone. “You already told me that you will help me out with stuff, I’m happy already with the food, a place to stay, and you.”

Ben smiled at my satisfaction with our living arrangement, but continued, “That stuff is just basic needs, you also need to get health care coverage back, which shouldn’t be a problem now with a permanent address. We can also request replacement copies of your Social Security card and ID’s here as well. Also, some of my friends work with counselors and I want you to talk to them about some of your experiences. You don’t have to tell them everything you don’t feel like it, I’m happy to be your confidant on certain details. Still, I am not a mental health professional and can only do so much by providing what little knowledge I am able to offer.”

I placed his sticky habanero BBQ sauce fingers in my mouth, sucking it them as he spoke. Maybe it’s an innate natural response or a sign of regressive psychological issues, but it felt comforting have his fingers in my mouth. It felt really good to suck on his fingers and listen to him talk about getting health care for me. I knew the Medicaid stuff probably could be resolved pretty easily with an address located here. Getting new ID would be great, but I didn’t even consider social security or passport replacement. I’d need another photo ID to verify my identity first for that though, didn’t I? My parents would have proof back in Indiana, but they wouldn’t care enough to help me out and I doubt Ben could get them to release that information for replacements.

Ben was grinning wide at my sucking of his fingers. “Now, we need to reach out to your college. They would have your registration information and an old photo ID based on an image from last year, which will serve to verify your identity for the government. I also want you to go back to school, I have a few friends who are doctors and they can give you letters of recommendation for school. We can get your undergrad credits transferred if your college won’t accept you back in. January will be the start of a new FAFSA application cycle, you can apply for financial aid and entry into another program. Your parents might have cost you a year by what they did, but it’s not unheard of that students stop and restart their education after a gap year. I can’t cover everything like your parents did, but I can make a reasonable dent.”

Ben was too good to me and he had covered all the details for me. “Ben, I feel like you are giving me the world or something. I never thought I’d have a normal life or go back to school again. You can’t just give me everything back like this?”

Ben touched my face with the his saliva covered fingers. “I know this is a lot to take in Jason, but I had already set this stuff in motion after we met the second time. I knew I wanted to help you; even before I wanted to ask if we can start something deeper. So, you see, it’s not even the hard part for us, the discussion that we will have now is going to harder.”

I wanted him to know my feelings, without reservation. “I want a relationship with you Ben, what do we need to do together?”

Ben smiled at my response. “Telling each other what we think and what we expect is a good first step. We need to acknowledge each other’s need too. This relationship is something we are both in. The label of giver and taker, bottom and top do not work for me. It might appear that I give you more support and material need, but you are also giving me your secrets and your choices. If you want to ask for something, we can consider adding it into the framework of our relationship as well.”

I considered his offer, replying openly, “I want to be naked as much as I can, I hope that’s not weird.”

Ben grabbed a napkin to clean my face. “No that’s not weird, but I do need to compromise with you on that point as my dad will return from his trip to China after New Year’s Day. He lives with me in the other spare bedroom at the end of the hall. He’s okay with partial nudity and will probably get used to you like he does me wearing nothing except my boxers as he does sometimes. We can restrict complete nudity to my master bedroom and my library. Also, I do like physical contact as you may have noticed, so having direct access to your skin would be great even if it’s not for sex.”

I blushed a little, “Aren’t you going to ask me why I want to be naked? I am not an exhibitionist or anything, I just don’t like wearing clothes, since I was stuck wearing the same thing every day for months. Last night when I was sleeping naked with you, I felt really good.”

Ben smirked, “We can cuddle naked, once you get your test results back. I’d enjoy that too. For now, you can sleep naked with me. It shouldn’t take too long to get those tests though, so I expect we can probably try naked cuddling sometime next week. If there’s any issues we can work around it.”

I nodded and considered something else, “Is your dad open to having a live-in boyfriend?”

Ben pondered my question. “My dad, Tam, is not exactly a PFLAG parent, but not homophobic either. His family is from an old line of Chinese descendants going back to the Union Pacific railroad construction gangs, but my paternal grandfather left the West and joined up with the Communists in the 1950’s with my grandmother in tow. He spent his childhood in Communist China and is deeply influenced by some of those ideas. In a way, Communism is almost like fundamentalist Christianity, there are core tenets and faithful followers with a perfect image of what you ought to and not ought to do. Also, both under their extremes aren’t tolerant of LGBT people, Christianity for an abstract concept of tradition and sin and Communism due to the view that deviant sexuality is decadent and bourgeois habits created by a culture of elites. My grandfather has been gone for three decades now and my grandmother is senile; many of those old values still exist in my father, but he is trying to let them rest in the grave, along with other horrors. The only woman he was ever involved with was my mother. After their divorce, he has never taken another lover or been sexually active. I sometimes wonder if he’s asexual, but he doesn’t like to be considered as part of this “new age” spectrum stuff. I’ve brought home guys in the past and fucked a few in my bedroom, he didn’t mind that. If you like his cooking and Basketball, you and him will get along pretty well.”

Ben’s father sounded very complicated and far more nuanced than my own father. A believer, who has lost faith in his beliefs, I guess is the best way to describe what I’d associate with Ben’s description. His sexuality is also interesting, if Ben is correct in his assessment, then I wondered what it meant for Ben himself. Demisexual is sometimes associated with the asexual spectrum, so would that mean that if given a different set of circumstances Ben might be interested in women as well as men. I know what he has told about his sexual interests and past relationships, but there was a slight bit of worry in my heart.

I croaked out my question, “If you are right about your dad’s sexuality, being asexual, do you think you would…” I paused unable to ask.

Ben laughed, “Would I be asexual or into women possibly as well. You don’t have to worry about asking the question Jason, the benefit of what I have asked you to be part of is that we don’t hide our thoughts or words, no matter how it might seem. No, I think I would have always been gay in expression on some level. Without the complication of disability and experiences, the demisexual aspect for attraction may not have formed, but I am not a psychologist.”

Blushing and relived, I tried to change the subject, “How about the rest of your family?”

Ben scowled briefly, then sighed. “It gets more complicated. My mother, Cecilia, has been remarried five times, so you can imagine some of the drama involved in that. I‘ll tell you the full story of all her husbands and lovers at some later point. There were far too many and the horror stories would fill a metropolitan library. You’ll probably meet her during the holidays, she drops by infrequently and unannounced during the day time. She doesn’t work, since my last stepfather left her a trust fund giving her a ten thousand dollars per month allowance, along with property and artwork worth millions. From other former husbands, she has homes, yachts, and most importantly credentials across a certain segment of society. My dad was her first husband and the one who helped her get settled into the US, they divorced when I was eight years old. Even though she left the family, she felt compelled to come home and feed me: my diet as a child was filled with Chinese takeout, burgers, pizza, steakhouses, and just about anything. They were my only time with her during my childhood and it contributed to my weight issues, until I fought back the urge and realized I needed to learn to find love within. Nowadays, she still brings stews, baked bread, and other foods that she made for me, claiming I’ve not eaten enough. Part of me wants to believe this is just how she relates to loving me and another part feels like she knows she is losing her hold on me, so she wants the return of her “big boy”. I have moved to the latter view more now as I’ve grown older.”

I got closer to Ben, used my body to offer comfort. “I had no idea that’s part of your weight issues.”

Ben leaned into me,” I’ve beaten it and her back from my life, but I know it’s a toxic relationship that I have to face as long as she and I live. I can’t say I hate her, but I can no longer equate love with her. Beyond my relationship, she’s high strung, strong willed, and very hard to pin into any category from day to day. I’ve seen her act like a born-again Christian trying to get me to “convert” from being gay with friends from her country club with one of the husbands to an anarchistic atheist, who doesn’t give a crap about what other people think while her drug dealing lover is poisoning teenagers. Her only real motivation beyond an obsession to give me some absurd form of love through food is to satisfy her whims for the moment, no matter if they are consistent with her past actions or not. Even with money and status, she isn’t satisfied with life. Completely moral to amoral depending on who she’s with, never trust her completely and always keep an ear out for her.”

My eyes grew wide at the description of his mom. “She sounds like a Soap opera character, I thought those kinds of people were just fictional.”

Ben scowled, “My mom is that kind of person. If you try to classify her with a mental illness, she’s way ahead of you, claiming she was bipolar a decade ago to get away from one of her ex-husband’s debt induced bankruptcy claims to protect a luxury yacht in her name. She probably has some sort of real mental illness or is a pure sociopath, either way, I want to limit your exposure to her as much as I can. She may not be openly homophobic on most days, depending on which circle of friends she’s with, but she’s too conniving.”

I wondered which was better: a mother that abandoned you because of who you were, or a mother who stubbornly tried to connect with you even though she was a toxic mess of self-serving hypocrisy glammed up by wealth and a society too ignorant to see through bullshit. Wasn’t that the same thing though? My parents make their money peddling to everyone, rich and poor, morally upright and amoral assholes, who just so happened to give money to sweet talking Christians for grand causes, while flying on private jets and investing that money into corporations that exploited people and made life even harder on those that they professed to aid. If you went after them, they would claim that they spent millions on the poor and innocent with evidence in the form of testimonials and documents. They may have been doing good, but they were also doing just as much if not more harm. My parents could justify their actions to themselves, because they viewed what they were doing as good, no matter what evils they may also pursue in the same breath. Ben’s mom was using the same tricks and strategies, her wealth and power was gained through manipulation, she pursued her personal goals out of what she viewed as good, but in the end, when you looked at all these actions as a whole, they were incredibly toxic.

Weary now of a wealthy sociopathic woman, who would be my mother-in-law at some point, I pressed Ben, “Anyone else in your family?”

Ben turned to a picture on the mantel of a young woman with an odd exotic beauty, “My little sister, Jade. I have an even more complicated relationship with her. She’s very accepting and has a lot of gay guy friends; she’s a perfect wingman at a dance club too, if you are into the club scene, which I was never into. However, if her gay male friend turn out to have just a little curiosity toward the straight side of the spectrum, then things get awkward. She’s good looking according to those guys, what do you think?”

I focused my gaze on the photo, then turned away to look at Ben. “She’s got an exotic beauty about her, I am sort of surprised you and her are brother and sister. She looks more Eurasian than Asian.”

Ben placed his arm on mine, “She’s enchanting to look at first. Men with various sexual identities are drawn in first by her appearance, then they get hooked in by her personality. She knows how to sweet talk a guy into forgetting about his problems, run circles around pop culture topics, and pretend to have a vested interest in any subject that she probably has never even heard of until that very second. She inherited her chameleon and seductive nature from my mom. She uses those gifts to get what she wants, but unlike my mom, her goal is simpler. She just wants to gain love and acceptance from the men that are difficult, especially gay and bisexual guys, who she has turned a few completely straight and into her occasional fuck buddies. She’s the straight woman’s apex predator, her gay male friends know her reputation, but cannot detach from her. With a few looks, she can catch you in her snare. With a few words, she can make you forget who you are and what you want. With a little time and an opening, anyone who isn’t completely certain about their relationships or sexuality can be won over by her. Her favorite author is Robert Greene for a reason.”

I thought his mom was scary, his sister sounded even worse. “Did she ever steal one of your boyfriends?”

Ben shook his head, “No, she hasn’t as none of the guys I’ve dated have ever interacted with my family like we will soon, but it makes me uncomfortable to be around her knowing what she is capable of doing. The four bi and gay guys that she has dated, then reduced to the status of hookup targets, are still pining over her, swearing off men and women, except for her. Her straight male conquest is even more diverse and far reaching, from the humble repairman engineer she was engaged to for two years to the Italian heir of multibillion dollar fortune. When you meet her, you need to know her history of finding trophies, men are objects for the taking in her mind.”

I protested, “I am no one’s trophy guy, just tell her you picked me up from the trash. I am worthless to her.”

Ben’s fingers circled my chin. “You aren’t worthless Jason and never were. You were never worthless…” he took my hand and kissed the knuckle. “Money and emotions drives her libido, either men shower her with affections or objects. She’s currently working on some kind of Cannabis growing business with some new guy, don’t know the details if this one is straight, gay, bi, or pan, but according to her, she will easily make six figures in a year and be a multi-millionaire before she turned forty. With a new venture like that, you should be safe until you become a doctor in four to five years.”

Not being desirable never seemed so good to me. “We should consider a restraining order on your mom and sister.”

“Jade isn’t a sociopath; she’s just emotionally broken. Part of this can be blamed on my mom, because when my parents divorced, she went to live with my mom in her second husband’s home. It was a big mistake as my mother isn’t above playing the “single-mom with a kid” schtick that some straight men just fall for like bees to honey, Jade learned to play games at a very young age with the men that my mom courted. She used my mom’s potential lover to leverage things like money, snowboards, clothing, booze, and drugs in exchange for information and leverage on my mother. She was experimenting with everything from Weed to Ketamine in her teenage years, gaining a deep circle of friends of escalating social status as my mom’s fortune also turned. Her list of ex-boyfriends in her mid-twenties made mine look like I’ve been looking for gay guys on ChristianSingles.com. ” Ben smirked at me, “Ironic, considering I’m in a relationship with the preacher’s son right now.”

I blushed furiously at those words, then stretched out to kiss him, a quick peck for affection. “I don’t know if they even let gays on that website. My parents told me to try it out, when I turned twenty-one.”

Ben mockingly chided, “Did you enjoy being fawned over by virgin woman, who promised to be your one and only?”

I kicked Ben playfully for the remark. “No, I did not. Can you finish telling me about your Soap Opera family? I know people can have dysfunctional and weird families, but damn, are you going to tell me you have a Rockstar as a cousin or something too?”

Ben broke out in hysterical laughter, answering my question, “Only on my mother’s side of the family and my cousin, Seth, is an alt-indie rocker, which doesn’t really pay well as their band mostly does cover gigs. Haven’t seen him in a few years, kind of cute in the emo sort of way. Never hooked up with him, he had a girlfriend at one point, but broke it off and he always seemed the sort to be open to try stuff, I was just not that kind of cousin though. Seth’s mom, my mom’s younger sister, is a massive gambling addict with deep problems on money management and has family drama with her two brothers, including murder threats, and her older sister, my other aunt, who is single and wealthy in her own right with “connections” to the triads. Seth’s sister, Cate, has extreme self-esteem issues and she joined the US army a few years back, trying to figure herself out and find some kind of self-worth. I know my family dynamic is fucked up too, but it takes an extreme push for someone to run off to join the army in order to find self-worth as a young woman,” Ben sighed at all of this, “Other than that, most of my family are normal Chinese Americans from a mixed background with all the standard dramas of everyday life.”

Ben’s family was incredibly complicated at least on his mom’s side, almost to the point of being, unreal, but the details of it all formed an ugly web of relationships. My family had its fair share of drama, especially with the fact that they threw me out for no other reason except that I like to be with men. Ben’s family takes that to the nth degree in terms of complexity. I didn’t know if I could actually ever comprehend it all or, if he wasn't embellishing some of the more dangerous elements of his mother’s family, how can I reasonably be part of his family dynamic?

I cleared my throat trying to come up with words, “I…uh…I…”

Ben put his finger to my lips, a signal I was very familiar with now for silence. “That’s my family Jason, not me,” then he laughed at his comment, “Also, please don’t draw comparisons to me and Michael Corleone. I can never pull off wearing a fedora convincingly.”

He lifted his finger from my lips and I licked them as they slid away. “I know you are preparing me for your family stuff and I will try to keep all of that in mind, when and if I meet them. It’s just a huge disconnect with you and how you live your life. Your life seems really normal and calm compared to all of that stuff though, are your neighbors like former CIA agents or something?”

Ben tensed for a second, before breathing, “You brought up one point I have to share with you. You remember Chris from this morning.”

I nodded, “He’s your tenant from downstairs right, older guy with gray hair and talks really pleasantly. He sorts of reminds me of my parents a little, just he doesn’t seem homophobic.”

Ben’s expression turned serious. “You don’t know how close your intuition is to the truth Jason. He’s a former Catholic priest and is on the list.”

The words sank into me. Ben’s family seemed ready for Soap Opera, it was so fantastically dramatic compared to the drama free life of Ben Go, the demisexual gay accountant with a heart of gold. I thought maybe he was embellishing his stories about his family, maybe the world wasn’t so crazy that it would create a clan that completely dysfunctional. I was relating to everything through a rose tinted view of Ben’s caring, his earnest warmth, and his impossible to be true kindness. I picked up on similarities between Chris and my parents just because they seemed very approachable, they can speak to strangers about nothing with ease and gain trust in seconds. It’s a trait for people, who dedicate their life to religion that I’ve seen a fair deal of in my life. However, I didn’t expect what Ben just told me; the man I was talking with earlier this morning could be one of those priests I’ve heard about in the news. Why was he here? Why was Ben, being a victim of child abuse himself, willing to have such a man under his own roof?

My silence spoke volumes for Ben, who paused to briefly touch my forearm. “When he left prison, he was looking for a place to rent. My father was the homeowner at the time and he didn’t run any background checks. I did run a check on him with my resources. I learned who he was and what he did. My first reaction was shock, my second was worry about the neighborhood kids. I was tempted to tell my father not to rent to him and let it go, tempted to tell the world what I uncovered about this sweet old man, who was charming and kind. You know what stopped me from doing any of that Jason?”

Ben’s hands trembled as he spoke, I knew he needed to let this out and I lent him strength. “Tell me Bingo, why did you let him stay?”

Ben inhaled deeply, “You know what happened to me as a kid, it’s not a big deal to me, because I wasn’t actually at an age where sex had any impact on my mental state and the old guy who did it ran off into his bathroom after he came all over me and I ran out of his apartment as well thinking I had hurt him or something. If I had told anyone my story as a kid, the old guy would have probably been arrested and I’d have spent most of life talking to shrinks about my feelings. I never did tell anyone until years later and I didn’t even know the old guy’s name, but I wonder what my silence might have done for other kids, since he was emboldened with me. I personally am unaffected by what he did, but what about others, because I failed to act. I had to do something this time and letting Chris roam without someone knowing who he was or what he had done was unacceptable to me. Chris hasn’t interacted with any boys, preteen or teen, for the last six years, he’s been a quiet and reflective. Part of me hopes that maybe he somehow found clarity or found some kind of solution to his urges. I’ve kept a watchful eye on him for the last few years, made sure there’s no unsupervised visits with kids, and tried to not let on that I know. For a visually impaired guy, it can be a hard thing, but it is something I took upon myself. At least, I am doing something finally.”

I wanted to hug Ben, take this man’s pain and guilt away. “Bingo, this is too much a burden to hold alone.”

Ben’s squinty eyes beneath his thick glasses widened as if in recognition of me for the first time. “I’m not alone Jason, not with you in my life. You are the only one I have ever told this to and the only one I’d ever entrust.”

I took Ben into my arms and cradled him. “You are the most amazing person I’ve ever met, Bingo. The most dysfunctional-functional human being that could come out of your life. People say they will do good stuff with their lives, say they will help others, but you actually live it every day of your life, because you want to.”

We stayed like that for what seemed an eternity. I pondered everything that Ben had told me about himself, his family, and his tenant, Chris. Ben wasn’t a typical hero that you’d read about in stories or watch in long series, but he did care for other people before himself. His background wasn’t exactly pristine, but he appeared to normal to everyone else in the world. He did not lack for money or connections, but he prefered to live a mundane life, since he understood firsthand what extremes of fortunes could create in people. I wanted to spend the rest of my life unravelling this man, learning about him, and letting him learn about me. I didn’t come from such an extraordinary background, my family had been farmers, clergy, workers, and doctors forever. I didn’t have dangerous and exciting relatives, my most exciting uncle was the owner of a factory that made auto-parts.

When it came down to it, I was dull, except for my time on the streets. Those experiences were something I would share with Ben, I would let him know about my first time with a client, because I knew he wouldn’t judge me. He would love to know my thoughts on the horrible state of public services or the ease people can slip into the cracks of the system. He would learn how finding an intact gyro sandwich on a bus bench was the difference between starvation and fulfillment for me. He will know everything and I knew he could accept it, since he was Ben, he was the awesome superhero underneath the stuffy exterior of an accountant.

 

Ben:

I loved having him in my arms, but I knew I had to move on. “Let’s clean up, I want to do something tonight with you Jason, something I think we both need.”

It took about fifteen minutes to clear the living room, toss the wings, and wash our hands. I told Jason to hold off on the shower until after what I had planned to show him tonight. I told Jason there were ways of sex beyond the usual anal or oral play that was most common to gay men. He was not ready for heavy kink play yet, but I did think some simple things would open his horizons. Since we didn’t know what his status was in terms of STD’s, any genital contact with me was out of the question. Kissing doesn’t usually pass on any STD’s so we were safe on things like what we had been doing; even on the off chance that I caught a mouth sore or something, it would be a minor annoyance as Jason needed that interaction with me. What we were about to do though would be far more intimate and hopefully physically far more pleasurable.

Jason came into my, or should I say our, master bedroom undressing frantically and expectantly. He was very smart and we were becoming quite attuned to one another, even in the short span of time we had spent together. I laid out a towel on the floor along with all the instruments and supplies we’d need: the usual lube and condoms wouldn’t surprise Jason, but the battery powered vibrator and pump might. I seldom hear of sex toys used in regular gay porn, it’s a rare thing that far too few couples ever experiment or practice with; except under the subgenre of fetishes and kink. It’s a shame, because realistically there’s a whole world of items that people should consider adding into their sex lives, which can bring sexual pleasure in far more exotic combinations.

Jason spoke at me shyly, “I thought we’d just do hand jobs or something.”

I laughed, “Hand jobs are fun, but I had something far more interesting for you tonight, Jason,” I picked up the pump, “have you ever seen one of these before?”

He shook his head, “No, what is it?”

I began to explain as best I could. “A penis pump is a cylindrical tube where you insert your penis in one end and a pump is used to add pressure against it inside. The air pressure creates suction and simulates oral sex with higher pressure points. The partner in control of the pump is responsible for identifying the right pressure level, amount of time, and release speed to bring the greatest amount of pleasure to the partner with the penis inserted.”

Jason gasped, “Oh my god, who invented something like that? It sounds perfect for me, but what about you Ben? I want to make sure you are happy, too.”

I put down the pump and took the vibrator and box of ribbed condoms. “I will have fun at the same time you are. While I am using the pump, you will be using this vibrator with the ribbed condom on me. Ribbed condoms unlike regular condoms provide added friction against the prostate. You can control the tempo of the insertion at the pace you think I am enjoying it the most as well. I hope our first-time having sex will let us know exactly how far and how much it takes each of us to reach our pleasure points.”

We spent the rest of the night experimenting with one another, learning about our bodies, and our rhythms synced. I can’t say it was the best sex I’ve ever had, but I think it was the most fulfilling sex I have ever experienced, because it was with someone who wanted to understand me and I wanted to understand him. There is still so much more for us in the next few weeks, but I am cautiously optimistic that maybe this fairy tale gay romance won’t end that soon.

This is the second story in the Comforting Touch Series, if you want to continue, then I advise you read the third story, Fanning Flames

Copyright © 2020 W_L; All Rights Reserved.
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I hope you have enjoyed this story, feel free to comment if you have questions or emotions. Discussion thread link

I want readers to know that this story is one part of a series called Comforting Touch

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