Harlan watched Bailey as he ate. An offhand portion of his brain noted that Greg observed them, but he eliminated that as any sort of threat. Despite his earlier suspicions, Greg and Clay didn't seem interested in Bailey—not sexually at least.
Bailey glanced at Harlan as he put a spoonful of the delicious beef stroganoff into his mouth. He chewed and smiled.
A cocked smile appeared on Harlan's face, then he looked back down at his own bowl. He resumed eating, enjoying the warmth of Bailey next to him. He tried to think about anything but how his heart thudded in his chest; just being near Bailey made him giddy and distracted, both of which were new things for the serious man.
"Good night, guys." Standing, Jeremy smiled around at the group. Mason moved behind him and put a hand on his lover's back. "Mason and I are on the way to bed."
Harlan could read people. Jeremy was flushed, and though his pants weren't tight and revealing, Harlan still saw that his crotch looked just a little fuller than it would have been otherwise. It was evident to him. Even in his distracted state, he still knew what was in store for the young men.
A significant part of his life, Harlan had spent aware, cautious, and on edge. Though rare for him to truly relax, it was unheard of for him to connect on any deep level with another human being. He felt that such attachment was a weakness to exploit. Indeed, he had taken advantage of the emotional connections people had for one another over his years. Up until now, it had merely been a weapon he used to accomplish the various tasks set before him.
He thought about how quickly he'd lost his ability to think rationally when he'd jumped to the conclusion that Greg and Clay were sleeping with Bailey. Harlan glanced at Bailey, who scraped up another bite of his noodles.
This guy, he's got power over you. Harlan felt both a disappointment in himself and a weird thrill at the same time. He tried to logically assess his emotional response. Which, unsurprisingly, resulted in a dismal failure. Harlan frowned to himself as he wrestled with his own conflict. Do I want this? Even if I'm allowed to have it, do I want it?
Harlan realized that Bailey was now staring at him. Bailey put his bowl down on the bench beside him. "You ok?"
Harlan swallowed. Am I? Am I okay? His mind burned through various reasons why he shouldn't let himself sink deeper into an emotional connection with anyone. And in seconds, based on nothing logical, Harlan rejected them all.
He smiled. "Yeah." He patted Bailey's knee. "I'm fine."
Saturday dawned. Rayne lay on the futon, blinking as the sunlight from the morning fell through the eastern window of the cabin. The incremental change of brightness was a nice way to wake, and now he lay and watched as the room slowly brightened.
Did I dream all of that? He was almost afraid to get up and to look in the next room. Would it be empty?
Rayne took a breath and put his feet on the floor. He stood and padded over to the edge of the little half-wall between the spaces. He peeked around the wall.
Huck slept, his dark hair smooshed to the side from the pillow. Rayne swallowed and closed his eyes. He came for me. He really came for me. He let his breath flow, in and out. Then Rayne smiled.
"What time did you finally crawl into bed, Clay?" Greg asked, and a grumpy, growly Clay frowned from his chair. They sat at their patio table in the bright but chilly October morning, and the big man clung to his mug as if his life depended on it.
"I think it was something close to one in the morning." Clay took another drink and shook his head to clear the cobwebs. It was now just after seven a.m., so that meant he'd only gotten six hours of sleep.
"Damn." Greg smirked. The two men sat close at the table, a fresh French press filled with coffee steaming in the center of the table. Greg reached over, putting a hand on Clay's neck. He gently rubbed his husband, and Clay's eyes slid closed. "Why don't you go back to bed?"
Frowning, Clay shook his head. "No. Too much to do." He smiled. "And I wanna be awake when Huck gets up. I think he's gonna need to talk more."
Clay had sat up last night with Huck while everyone else had gone to bed. The men spoke long into the evening and into the morning. Huck had asked many questions and listened to Clay's experience raising Mason, a gay son, in Alabama.
Huck had a long way to go, but the important thing was that he was trying. Clay was happy to help, as much as Huck wanted. The overall message he tried to deliver was a simple one. "Show Rayne you love him. No matter what. You don't have to understand it all right away. Just love him."
Huck seemed to get that. They even talked about that big bogeyman for gay men—HIV. Clay had experience there as well. Mason's partner, Jeremy was HIV positive though he was healthy and took medications to control the virus. So long as he did, he couldn't pass it on to Mason. Jeremy's status was his business, so Clay avoided revealing that. But he did reassure Huck that HIV infection wasn't a foregone conclusion for Rayne. And that many lived long, healthy lives with the virus. By the end of that conversation, some of the fear for Rayne had left Huck's face.
It was apparent Huck was trying.
Clay still had his head down, and Greg continued to rub his neck. His head and trunk tingled with endorphins released from the pleasure only a gentle, human touch can bring.
"You've got chill bumps." Greg grinned and stood up to shift behind Clay. He gripped the big man's trapezoids and squeezed.
Clay's mouth opened slightly. "Oh, that feels nice." Slowly, he relaxed as Greg stroked his strong thumbs up and down the muscles on the side of Clay's neck.
Clay was in a haze of sleepy, tingly happiness, his body prickling with chill bumps under Greg's hands. He rode the line between wakefulness and sleep and finally lay forward, so his head rested on his folded arms on the table.
Greg continued for a few minutes, and Clay drifted in and out of sleep under the ministrations of his attentive lover.
He woke to Greg's voice. "Well, good morning, Rayne."
"Mmm." Clay sat up. He leaned back and looked up at Greg. "Thanks, Greg."
Greg grinned down at him and leaned over. The men gently kissed, then Clay looked at Rayne.
The dark-haired boy smiled. "Uh, good morning." He was dressed in flannel PJ bottoms and a fuzzy sweater. His feet bore thick socks and sandals. His eyes went to the French press. "Can I get some coffee for my dad? Does it cost money?"
Clay waved a hand at the press. "Go for it. No cost. Coffee's included with the reservation." Clay looked over at the kitchen. Mason was already there, working on getting some eggs, bacon, and pancakes ready for their campers.
Rayne grinned. "Okay." The young man found a mug and carefully poured in the strong, hot liquid. He replaced the press and picked up the mug. "Thanks." Turning away, he started up the paved loop, back to the cabin he shared with Huck.
Clay watched him go. "I'm not sure what happened to bring Huck here. But, I'm glad he came."
"Me too." Greg's warm hands again found Clay's neck and his shoulders. "If you're not going back to sleep, then come with me." He patted Clay affectionately. "Standing here behind you made me want some skin on skin time."
With a grin, Clay rose. He pulled Greg in, and the men held each other, arms low around their waists and their hips together. "Yeah?" He leaned forward and rubbed his face against Greg's neck. "You wanna do a little hugging from behind?"
"Call it whatever you want." Greg laughed as Clay's bristly skin tickled him. "Come on."
Greg grabbed Clay's hand and led him into the silver Airstream parked beside the patio table. Anticipation of what was to come made a different part of Clay tingle and strain the material of his pants.
Bailey's perception switched on, bit by bit, as he slowly gained awareness after his night of sleep. A body spooned his, warm and comfortable. That was something Bailey hadn't experienced in over two years.
"Good morning, Bailey," Harlan said from behind the taller man. They were both a little damp, maybe a bit sticky, and they smelled of semen. That made Bailey smile more broadly.
He rolled over so they faced one another. His hand rested on Harlan's naked hip, and the men's groins pressed together. Both were currently relaxed and soft, but Bailey had already felt the first stirring of his own body.
It was hard to sign while lying on his side, so Bailey only grinned at Harlan. Though, as he lay there, he realized there were many things that he wanted to ask.
What do you want from me? Bailey's smile slowly disappeared as he looked over Harlan's face. I know so little about you. I wish we could talk better.
Harlan's green eyes took in Bailey. He swallowed and chuckled. "Ah, I don't really have much experience with morning conversation, Bailey."
Bailey smiled. He's so nervous. Then he felt Harlan's erection against his hip. Well, he's not too nervous. The tall man rolled Harlan onto his back, then he got on top of him. Bailey held himself up on his elbows and looked down into Harlan's face.
In some ways, Harlan felt so worldly and knowing. Then in others, he seemed like a rank amateur. It was a strange combination of attributes, and oddly, Bailey found him more and more interesting as time went on. Harlan had already shown a drive and willingness to learn to sign. That alone meant he was worth a second look.
While sex was great, Bailey found himself interested in Harlan himself, not just his cock. He wanted to know more.
For the moment, the physical would have to do. Bailey leaned down, and the men kissed.
It drew on, Bailey's jaw moving as he slipped his tongue into Harlan's mouth. The man under him groaned with approval, and the vibration of the sound in the bones of his mouth and against his sensitive throat shot goosebumps down Bailey's spine.
Ever since Bailey lost the ability to speak and to make those same sorts of noises, he was more sensitive to the sensation of sound as it passed through his body. It was a supplemental way to experience sound—the way sound waves interacted with flesh, skin, and bone. Some deaf people enjoy music with a lot of bass for the same reason; the deep registers of the music can be felt.
He loved how vocal Harlan was. The brown-haired man grunted, groaned, and made lustful, breathy sounds as they kissed and ground against one another. He makes me feel like a stud. Bailey drew back to get a look at him.
The man's green eyes were intense and focused on Bailey's face. Then, Harlan surprised Bailey by flexing his core and twisting, and suddenly Bailey was on his back, underneath the smaller man.
Bailey's surprise was on his face. Shit, he's a lot stronger than he looks. Harlan seemed to have a hidden, wiry sort of power. Bailey had already noticed that he had very little body fat. Harlan's muscles weren't big, but they were all very dense and hard. He was now on top of Bailey, smirking down at him. Jeez, what does this guy do to stay in this sort of shape?
Harlan's gaze softened. "Pat me, if I do something you don't like."
Bailey nodded, then Harlan leaned down, and they resumed kissing.
As they writhed together, Bailey's desire and need slowly ramped up. He wanted sex, and he wanted it with Harlan.
It had been a very long while for him. But as they kissed, Bailey shifted his pelvis until he lined up with Harlan's groin, and his legs went around Harlan's slim waist. That got Harlan's attention. He pulled back and looked into Bailey's eyes. There was a spark of aggression on Harlan's face, and Bailey's positioning had fed the flames. Bailey smiled at Harlan and nodded.
Returning his smile, Harlan sat up. He opened the drawer of the nightstand and soon had a condom rolled onto his cock. Lube followed, then he resumed kissing Bailey. While he did, Bailey felt a slippery, warm hand rub against him. Then Harlan moved his hips forward.
A pleasurable, slight pressure started. Harlan moved gently, back and forth, as they continued to make out. Bailey didn't know if Harlan could tell it had been a while for him, but the fellow didn't seem to be in any sort of hurry, and the pressure on Bailey increased in tiny increments.
Even with the most careful, patient work, there comes the point where there's a little discomfort if a guy hasn't bottomed in a while. Bailey pulled his lips back from Harlan and laid his head on the pillow. He grimaced at the pressure.
Harlan watched him. "Want to stop?"
Bailey shook his head, then his eyes widened as Harlan entered him. There was a moment of pain as he adjusted, but it wasn't bad. Bailey breathed through it, then he nodded. "I'm okay," he signed. Then he reached and gripped Harlan's hip.
Harlan let Bailey control things. When the tall man pulled, Harlan moved his hips forward. In this way, his member slowly disappeared into Bailey's body.
Opening his mouth, Bailey breathed, the sound audible as the air flowed out of him. Harlan watched and waited, his pelvis flush against Bailey's rear.
It wasn't long before the pain subsided. Bailey grinned. He nodded just slightly at a very attentive Harlan. The brown-haired man leaned down to kiss Bailey, then his hips began to move.
The stimulation from Harlan's dick, his body against Bailey's, and their kissing made Bailey's skin tingle with an overload of sensation. His head lolled back, and Harlan moved to kiss Bailey's neck.
Harlan gently kissed the scar, and waves of chill bumps broke out over Bailey's body. His eyes were open, glazed, and unfocused. Coherent thought ceased for him, and his brain was animal, almost uncontrolled. Bailey gripped his own long, heavy cock and began to stroke.
Harlan's teeth scraped the skin of Bailey's neck, just barely. Usually, Bailey protected his scar. The area around it was extra sensitive, and it was prone to causing pain if it was overstimulated. But now he rode the line. Harlan seemed to key into Bailey's movements and breathing. Somehow, the man pressed that button perfectly, and Bailey's experience bordered on euphoric.
Harlan drew back a little. "I'm close," he whispered, and Bailey nodded.
Then it began. Harlan locked up, and he gritted his teeth. Then he continued to move his hips, a little faster during his release. Bailey's eyes opened wide, his lips parted, and he expelled a rush of air as a mind-blowing orgasm seized him.
Bailey unloaded on his belly, his cock firing in time to Harlan's thrusts. Harlan dipped his head, and they kissed while their orgasms finished.
Finally, they were both still. Harlan gazed at Bailey and stayed where he was. Harlan's body was still pressed against Bailey's, still inside him, and the men stared at one another. Finally, Bailey grinned, and he mouthed a word.
Even Harlan could lip-read that and laughed.
Harlan wasn't used to staying in bed so late. But he and Bailey had been up until nearly midnight, touching, playing, and physically getting to know one another. Neither hurried through their time together and then, the morning topped even that, so to speak.
They finally got on with their day. They stood at the door as they readied to leave the cabin. Harlan exchanged numbers with Bailey, and received a text.
'Do you care if people know we're messing around?'
Bailey sent the text and watched Harlan's face. The green-eyed man thought about it. "I don't mind." Harlan rubbed his own head, appearing sheepish. "Greg already figured it out. So I'm sure Clay knows by now too."
Smiling, Bailey nodded. Then his thumbs started to fly over his phone again. Harlan read the next message. This time Bailey's eyes were focused, and he paid very close attention to Harlan.
'Is that all we're doing? We just messing around?'
Harlan knew what he should say. He knew that he shouldn't mire Bailey in his world, and all of the entangling things it brought to a person's life when they were pulled into the Family. Harlan knew this.
Yet he couldn't fight the need and the desire he had to be with Bailey. He wanted more than just a few nights. Harlan shook his head, once and only slightly. "It's not really just messing around." He looked down at his feet, swallowed and set his jaw. "Not for me." That last bit, he said so quietly Bailey almost missed it.
But he didn't. Bailey stepped close and pulled Harlan in for a kiss.
What the fuck is happening to me? Harlan's mind swam with endorphins and a soup of other hormones as his tongue explored Bailey's mouth.
Finally, he pulled back and looked at Bailey. The black-haired man smiled at Harlan. Then he pulled out his phone again.
'Well, then I think we need to schedule a date, Harlan. No sex. A dinner date.' Bailey watched as Harlan read the text.
Harlan had genuinely never been on a date. At his old job, he had worked at a resort, and he had bedded men and women regularly. That had been nothing but physical attraction and sexual release. The prospect of a date should terrify him. It meant Bailey was going to want to know more about him, and that he would ask questions. But that wasn't the thought in Harlan's mind.
Wow. He wants to date me? Harlan grinned. "Okay. Yeah. A date sounds good."
Bailey grinned back, and he tapped out another message. 'Okay. You pick the spot.'
Initially frowning in thought, Harlan snapped his fingers. "Ah! Well, choices in Crescent City are few and far between. But there's a great spot in Brookings. It's not far." Harlan shrugged a little. "Do you want to go tonight?" Harlan couldn't help the hopeful expression on his face.
Bailey nodded affably. Then he reached down for Harlan's hand, his other resting on the door.
Harlan hesitated only a moment, then reached and took Bailey's hand. Then he was led out into the sun.
Elias walked toward the kitchen. Mason was there, cooking away, and Elias went to the counter. "Hey, Mason." He looked around the space. There were a few campers, yawning, drinking coffee, and talking around the picnic table, and one pair worked at building a fire in the pit. But Elias didn't see the couple that he was after. "Where's your dad and Greg?"
"Hey, good morning, Elias." Mason made a face and jerked his head toward the Airstream. "I was over at the patio table looking for them a little earlier. I heard them inside the trailer." He shivered as if he tried to shake something vile off of himself. "I'm sure they're probably done with each other by now."
Elias laughed, and Mason grimaced at him. "Hey, your dad's allowed! He's married to the guy, Mason."
Mason sighed and rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I know." He flipped a pancake. "I still don't want to think about it!"
Elias snickered. "Okay. I don't wanna take a chance on interrupting, so I'll wait." Mason nodded sagely in agreement.
Finding a seat at the picnic table, Elias pulled out his notes. The young man had a list of things to keep his mind focused and on track while he spoke with Greg and Clay. He wanted to be sure he covered everything the first time around with the men. And lately, he'd been distracted.
Rayne was something new to Elias. He sensed an attraction between them, though Elias didn't know if anything would come of it. He wanted very much to try a few things with the quiet, dark-haired boy, but Elias had some self-imposed rules on that enterprise—ones that he refused to violate in any way. So it remained to be seen if things would progress beyond comforting touches or hugging.
"Good morning, Bailey. And uh, Harlan." Mason's confused voice brought Elias' head up.
Bailey had an arm draped naturally over Harlan's shoulders, while Harlan's was around Bailey's waist. Elias raised an eyebrow at Harlan.
The man saw the expression and flushed red. Then he grinned and looked down, awkward and shy.
Whoa! Elias had never seen Harlan act like that.
Bailey released Harlan, and he signed two words at Mason. Then he looked over his shoulder at Harlan.
Harlan cleared his throat. "He said, 'Good Morning.'"
"Ah, good morning, Bailey." Mason blinked at Harlan. "You know ASL?"
"No. I know a tiny fraction of the signs. And even then, only if he goes slowly," Harlan admitted.
Elias was still a little shocked at the way they presented themselves. He felt a delicious little surge of orneriness. "Looks like you guys are getting along good." He grinned when Harlan glared at him. Mason laughed loudly, then put his hand over his mouth, continuing to snicker.
Bailey had no problems. He calmly signed again, and Harlan watched him. Harlan made a frustrated sound, and Bailey repeated the signs, a little slower. "Ah, I think I got it that time." He eyed Elias. "Bailey said, 'Yes, we're going on a date.'" Harlan looked at Bailey, unsure. "Did I get it right?"
With a grin, Bailey gave him a thumb's up. Harlan was still not confident with translating, even if the signs were familiar.
Elias had never seen Harlan unsure of anything. The man had a calm, quiet sort of confidence and certainty about him. But around Bailey, he was a bit of a loveable wreck.
Before Elias could make Harlan squirm any more, Greg and Clay approached the table. Elias looked over at Joseph and Orson. The two men sat across from each other at the far end, quietly talking. Orson caught the glance from Elias. His eyes took in Greg and Clay as they neared, and then he smiled reassuringly before going back to talking with Joseph. Though Elias saw how the big cop reached to take Orson's hand into his own, their arms stretched across the table. To Elias' eye, it was almost as if Joseph was trying to comfort him. That was confusing, but he didn't have time to think about it.
"Hi, guys." Greg smiled at the group, then he and Clay took a seat. He glanced at Harlan and Bailey, who were now standing close again, Bailey's arm back over Harlan's shoulders in a quiet but unmistakable claim. Greg smiled, but that was the limit of his reaction.
Various folks murmured their "good mornings" at the couple. Then Elias scooted down, next to them. "Hey. Can I talk to you guys for a minute?"
"Sure. What's up, Elias?"
Elias began. He would fund the building of a studio with a small loft apartment. It would have the same footprint as one of the existing cabins, but the loft would have his living area, with a small bathroom below. Elias had found tiny house designs online, and he had incorporated some of the ideas into his plan. He'd come up with the idea entirely on his own, his artist brain naturally making efficient and elegant use of the space.
"I thought we could clear a spot on the other side of the tent area." Elias pointed at a huge bramble of briars between the river and the loop that circled the campground. "That spot is flat. It'd work." He turned back to the men. "Anybody who wanted to learn pottery or ceramics, I could teach them. And we'd have a real ceramic studio. You could use the Clay cabin for something else, and I wouldn't be taking it up all the time. Then, I'd pay monthly rent, because you own the property and I'll be hooked up to utilities." He tapped his pencil on his notes. "I looked up RV hook-up fees. And they're about $500 a month locally. I figured that's probably fair." Elias looked hopefully at the men. "What do you guys think?"
Greg and Clay both stared at him. Then Clay leaned around so he could see Orson. "Orson? You approve of this idea?"
Elias turned and looked at Orson.
Joseph's hand tightened on Orson's in a quiet show of support. Orson took a breath and nodded. "We discussed it last night. And if this is what Elias wants, and if it's okay with you guys, then yeah, I approve."
Clay's face as he looked at Orson shifted. He smiled, and Elias thought he saw pride there. Clay turned to Greg. "Well? What do you think?"
Greg eyed Elias. "Okay, so I'll need to see your plans. And we'll have to have them drawn up professionally, then run them by an engineer for approval. Renovations are one thing. But since we're a facility that's open to the public, new structures will need to be approved by a certified engineer. I think that'll be our biggest obstacle."
Elias made a face and looked down at his papers. Then Greg frowned and pulled out his phone. Greg laughed, and he looked down the table. Bailey sat there, phone in hand, grinning at Greg. "Okay. So, Bailey's an engineer."
Harlan and Elias both looked at Bailey. He only shrugged.
Elias bit his lip. "Do you think you can help me? With the plans?"
Bailey winked and nodded.
Elias grinned. "All right!" He stood up, his drawings in hand, and turned to Orson. "Dad, I …" Elias blinked. "Uh, I mean, Orson." He shook his head at himself. "I'm gonna go find Rayne. I want to tell him about the cabin!"
Orson wordlessly nodded.
Elias turned and sprinted down the loop, toward the cabin Huck and Rayne rented.
Watching Elias go, Orson wasn't entirely sure he had heard correctly. Joseph got up and sat beside him. His arm went across Orson's shoulders, and he hugged him close.
"I don't think Elias will ever entirely stop needing you." He leaned over and kissed the side of Orson's face.
Orson blinked. "Did he call me 'dad'?"
Joseph grinned against Orson's skin. "He did."
Orson was having trouble processing that. He shook his head. "He screwed up. He didn't mean to say it."
"No. It just slipped out." Joseph put a hand on the side of his face and turned Orson, so they looked at one another. "But I don't doubt that he meant it. Words spoken that easily, and that naturally, aren't said without a reason."
Orson looked at Joseph's eyes. In them was such pride, love, and assurance.
Finally, Orson nodded. He allowed the thought to settle and take root in his mind.
"'Dad,'" Orson whispered, testing the word on his lips.
We get to catch up a bit with Elias, Orson and Joseph in this one. Life moves forward.
Let me know what you think of the chapter if you like. I always love hearing from readers.
Thanks for reading, rating and commenting!
23 May 2020 EDIT: Thanks to some good critical feedback I've changed how I refer to Bailey. He's not his handicap, and I'm going to stop referring to him by it.