Permission

Todd and Eric have been fooling around together for a while now, though it’s never got beyond much more than a lot of drunken fumbling. That’s about to change…

This is NOT safe for work, just to warn you. For those of you who follow/have followed me elsewhere, you might recognise this story in another guise 😉

There are very few instances in Eric’s life where he has felt truly good about himself, but here in this moment with Todd looking at him with such adulation in his eyes, that’s what he feels: good. Worthy of this, maybe even loved, if he lets himself acknowledge this is the word to describe what’s going on between them. It’s a feeling he’s never had before, and if honest is a little overwhelmed by it. But Todd’s smile for him is warm, and his hand, curled with a thumb tracing the length of his jaw is soothing, and hell, Eric is only human. He can’t stop his heart soaring and his stomach fluttering and his palms sweating like this is the first time he’s ever been touched.

Todd’s lips on his are gentle, so shy it feels like this should be a first kiss, when it’s far from it. Eric kisses back, just as nervous, just as hesitant. Jumps in surprise when Todd’s fingers catch on his neck on the way to cupping the back of his head. Todd nudges against him giving the tiniest of smiles before claiming his mouth again, a little firmer this time.

Eric waits a moment, then moves closer, winds his fingers through Todd’s long brown hair and holds on, tugging just enough to make him softly whimper, then press back at all the points he can with the way they’re sat awkwardly on the edge of his bed. He reaches to loop an arm around Todd’s waist to pull him closer, and Todd leans over him until Eric’s pressed back against the mattress. Eric opens his mouth to him, and Todd moans at the gesture, sweeping his tongue inside to catch the taste of him there. Eric shudders with the need he has to get closer to him, feeling those same trembles back from Todd. They press tightly against one another and kiss with growing urgency until Todd is mouthing down his neck, then mumbling reassurances in his ear.

“Let me undress you,” Todd requests after a moment, low and heated in a rumble against him. Eric swallows, thinks how much he wants that, but how he doesn’t know if he can handle that look of love that’s in Todd’s eyes as he says it. Doesn’t think he can let himself believe it. One beer too many on an evening that had led to a stolen moment of drunken fumbling that now seems like a lifetime ago, is when the tension between them had finally broken. But until now, it has never been acknowledged just how much they mean to each other. Taking snatches of things they’re both desperate to mean something so much bigger, but are both too frightened to ask if this is what they really have.

As though Todd is reading his mind, he’s whispering to him the truth of it, leaving tears pricking in the corners of Eric’s eyes. Todd kisses Eric so sweetly then it’s like he can’t believe he’s even allowed to, and Eric has to claim himself a harder kiss to reassure Todd that he is.

Todd’s hands are immediately beneath Eric’s shirt and rising, gentle fingers pressed into his stomach and chest as he strokes a path upwards. Eric lifts his arms to help him remove it and ends up with them light around Todd’s shoulders as he bends to kiss along his collarbone before kissing a path back to his mouth.

When Eric reaches for Todd’s shirt he sees him smiling, shrugging out of it seconds later and that smile widening as he pulls lightly on Eric’s hips until their skin is flush. “I’ve wanted to feel you like this,” Todd tells him as he strokes reverent hands up the flanks of his chest, and it’s said with such sincerity that Eric feels himself begin to blush.

They help each other out of the remainder of their clothes, and then Todd is throwing back the duvet and murmuring for Eric to crawl in. He stands to the side of the bed looking down on him, seeming to just drink in the sight of him for a moment, then with deliberate slowness pulls out the lube from Eric’s bedside cabinet and slams the draw shut until it rattles, clutching the bottle tight in his hand. With a tiny swallow that reveals a hint of nervousness Todd asks, “Will you let me?”

“Like you even need to ask,” Eric retorts, one firm nod of his head and his cock already twitching at the certainty of what Todd is wanting to do to him. Both their eyes drop to it and Todd smiles, kneeling on to the bed and immediately bending to nuzzle along his length, smiling harder at the way it jolts against his face. Eric is momentarily stunned, as he is always stunned by the ease with which Todd touches him, how natural it seems for him to know exactly what Eric needs, then smiles up at him in encouragement and earns himself a proud smile.

Todd presses Eric firmly on his hips to insinuate he stays on his back, then crawls between his legs, kissing his way up Eric’s chest. He sneaks a hand between them to grab their cocks and line them up together before thrusting against him, groaning into Eric’s neck as he does for a few rolls of his hips. Eric’s arms are up and around his back, and lets out a contented sigh as he continues, that sigh inching over into a moan as teeth and tongue replace the lips against his skin. Todd raises his head for just a second as though he’s considering asking for permission, then bends back down, sucking in a bruise there. Eric swears he hears Todd mutter mine against him, and feels himself stir and swell even harder.

They kiss, lazy and sloppy, their hips moving together in a languid roll as they’ve done so many times before – though always through at least partial clothing, as though that final barrier between them made any difference to what they were doing to each other. It’s easy yet feels so different, and Eric thinks it’s because they’re both really on the same page now, that they both know how the other is feeling. Honesty has turned their rushed fumbles into something enduring, and affectionate. It’s taken them long enough, he thinks, hands greedily skimming over Todd’s hips as he gives a particularly hard roll beneath him, making Todd’s cock slip and nudge between his cheeks. They both blast out a moan then look down as one over the trial of precum they’ve left over each other’s skin from rutting together, and that sight just stirs them both harder still.

Todd pitches over to his side though doesn’t break their kiss, a brief stroke over his own cock before he wriggles to reach for the lube he’d unconsciously dropped to the bed earlier, with Eric plucking it from his fingers for Todd to pop the cap so he can pour some over his waiting hand. Eric slides his feet up the bed until his knees are splayed, then hooks one over Todd’s leg, settling and nudging against Todd’s cock wedged tight against his side.

Eric hums at the first slide of Todd’s slickened hand over his cock, raising his head to get a better angle as he watches him stroke him over, letting out small hums of pleasure to encourage him on with every slide. He gives a particularly louder moan when Todd gives this little twist over his head that he already knows from multiple past experiences Eric really, really likes.

Eric surges upwards, claiming a harder kiss, drags his leg back over Todd then rolls on to his side as well. He makes quick work of lubing his own hand up and reaching down to wrap it around Todd’s cock, and soon they’re whispering encouragement into each other’s lips with slides of tongue and slickened grips forcing out the most sinful of moans.

Todd drops his grip on Eric, teasing a trail of fingertips up over his hip and down over his ass. He slides one up and down the crack of it smiling as Eric hums, then slips it between his cheeks, nudging at his hole, this time groaning when Eric tilts his hips back to meet it.

Todd rolls Eric onto his back again with a firm press of their chests together, arranging his legs splayed just how he wants them before bending and licking over his cock head, pausing to suckle until Eric’s precum is flooding into his mouth. He gives one firm drag of his lips up and off his length then rolls himself back up, lubing his fingers up again with Eric’s assistance then kissing him firm, nudging his cheeks apart once more so he can press a finger against his hole to slip inside.

Eric’s desperate to have Todd inside of him, and shows that need by straightaway thrusting his hips down so he’s impaled on that finger Todd is giving him. Todd grins, mutters soothing things to him about being patient and kisses him quiet with a steady slide of that finger in and out. At Eric’s whimper, he adds a second, and smiles hard at the thankful sigh Eric blasts against his lips as he tries to kiss him.

“You getting a little eager for me there, Eric?” Todd teases, grinning as he crooks his fingers inside Eric, seeing the way it feels from the look on his face, and hearing it in the whimper that falls from his lips.

“I want you in me,” Eric stutters, his feet slipping as he tries to splay his legs open even wider, “I need it,” to which Todd closes his eyes and lets out another groan, pausing to drop his head down on Eric’s shoulder for a second as though he needs to get himself composed. But then he’s back to opening Eric up in all the ways he likes; repeated scissoring of his fingers, occasional nudges at his prostate, and an eventual third finger that on receiving makes Eric stutter out a broken wail.

Todd is leaning his head against Eric’s shoulder once more, muttering there what Eric thinks is keep control. It makes Eric smile; he’s not seen Todd like this before, not with eyes so full of need and such closeness to not being in control of himself. He likes it a lot, Eric decides, lifting his head up to drop a kiss down on the top of Todd’s, earning himself a self-deprecating smile and quiet laugh.

Todd leans to kiss him, and a few moments are taken up only with that, a closeness that is steadying and reassuring for them both. Then Todd is slotting himself between Eric’s legs and arranging him how he wants him again, leaning down to give Eric’s cock one final mouthing over before straightening up, bracing himself briefly with warm hands against his stomach, then pushing on Eric’s thighs until they’re open enough for him to fit between.

Eric shifts a little himself. He wants to watch Todd sliding in to him; he’s been waiting long enough for it to happen and as well as feeling it, he doesn’t want to miss a second of seeing him disappear inside. His legs jolt as Todd strokes his fingers down the creases of his thighs to linger and nudge against his balls, then drops his hands lower, one thumb sweeping over his hole and briefly dipping in to him before it’s joined by the other in pulling him open.

Eric watches Todd duck his head, angle back a little to watch for himself as he nudges his cock tip against Eric’s hole and rolls his hips, until his cock head is plugging him. He gives one glance up to Eric for permission, swallows greedily when he receives it, then gives one continuous roll of his hips until he’s all the way inside.

There’s a delayed moan shared between them, Eric’s eyes wide and round at the view he’s got in front of him and the feel of Todd’s cock all the way up inside and stretching him open. They raise their gaze from where they’re joined up to each other’s faces and give a little smile before they look back down and watch, as Todd pulls out until his head’s catching against Eric’s rim, then is sliding all the way back in.

They watch through another few thrusts, through another few groans of encouragement. Then Todd is pitching forward and getting comfortable, grinning at Eric as he brackets his face between his elbows and dives in for a kiss. He gives a languid roll of his hips that he hums his approval at the feel of against Eric’s lips, the rumble of that joining Eric’s own as he settles his hands around Todd’s lower back.

They keep grinning at each other, stupid and silly, interrupted only by the groans they drag out of one another and the continual meeting of their lips. Todd presses a harder kiss on him then drops his head down to nuzzle over the bite he left on Eric’s neck earlier, raising it again to keep eye contact as he gives another thrust into him. Eric bites down on his lip, watching as a wave of pleasure shivers through Todd, ending with a loud, desperate groan.

When Todd looks back up again, Eric lifts one hand to slot his fingers through the back of his hair and pull him in for a longer kiss, which they keep up for as long as possible until their gasps take over. Todd drops another on his cheek and stirs his hips a little, smiling at Eric’s answering arch. “Wrap your legs around me,” he whispers at him, eyes fluttering closed when Eric does just that and the angle shift has them both cry out as it feels like Todd is sinking into him deeper still.

Their thrusts grow more rapid, kisses impossible for the need to keep catching their breath in between their continual gasps and groans, with Todd’s hips soon losing the smoothness of their rolls and giving way to erratic judders that unhook Eric’s ankles from where they’re crossed around him until his feet are back on the bed.

Eric begins rolling up to claim Todd’s thrusts desperately, them both building so fast, getting so close that their movements become purely instinctual, with no conscious thought behind them. Todd has just enough sense about him to shift until he’s wedged his hand between them to wrap around Eric’s cock, bringing him to orgasm with no more than a half dozen strokes, his hips beginning to jolt even more at the noises blasting out of Eric and the way his hole is fluttering around his length.

Todd picks up his pace, desperate and needy, staring Eric down the closer he gets. A couple more thrusts and then he’s coming, wailing it out as he grinds his hips against Eric, and Eric letting out his own whimper as he does, sure he can feel every spurt of Todd inside of him.

Todd gives out another grunt and collapses on top of him, pressing as close in and around Eric as he can get. He pets an idle hand along Todd’s back, pressing kisses to the side of his head as he flexes his muscles, grinning what he knows is probably ridiculously at his continual assessment of that wetness inside of him.

When Todd has recovered a little he’s shifting, kissing Eric triumphantly before kneeling back. He pulls out of him carefully, his face splitting into a smile as he tilts back to inspect Eric’s hole, plunging his fingers in and holding them up for Eric’s inspection to show him what he’s done. Eric bursts out laughing and reaches to squeeze Todd’s sides where they rest between his open thighs. “Why do I feel like I’ve just been claimed?”

Todd grins at him, lowers himself back down over for a kiss that turns into another hum of approval before nuzzling against him and dropping his chin down on his shoulder with a sigh and another kiss into his neck. “You have been; though long before now, though, I’d say,” he tells him, squeezing him tight for one more minute before rolling down beside him, and pulling Eric into his arms, content.

 

 

Tainted By Our Choices

Tarred by our choices is a contemporary romance that has flashbacks, sex, environmental awareness, and a slight fixation on dessert. Potentially all at the same time.

Meet Jack. A successful environmental officer working within an industry that is so very far from his childhood dream of saving the planet, that he no longer recognizes himself. How he’s found himself in Houston, Texas, where he has no one, and nothing but his work for company, he tells himself repeatedly he doesn’t know. But when the place that became home had the heart sucked right out of it, and all around him were the remnants of a life he wouldn’t get to have, Jack ran, at the first opportunity given to him.

On a bright, sunny morning, Jack sees a face so familiar to him that he knows it better than his own, one that takes him back first to a beach in his childhood home of Tampa Bay, and second to a college in Boston where Jack learned – and lost – his heart.

Tarred by our choices is the story of first crushes, loves, and heartbreaks, and the fallout that left Jack clinging to his past. Join him on his rediscovery of himself, as a chance meeting reminds him of the life he always wanted to lead. Is he brave enough to live it?

Goaded

For those of you who follow/have followed me elsewhere, you might recognise this story in another guise. And this is just as ridiculous and silly here as it was there 😉


“Jay. I am 34 years old. It is not a question of not knowing how to. Do you honestly believe that… just because I haven’t tried something before, that I couldn’t?”

Dean studies Jay’s face in that way he does when Jay knows he’s being an idiot but just keeps on talking anyway, and waits.

“Uh…” Jay stumbles, feeling lost for any kind of meaningful words.

He’s known Dean coming up to four years now, and on some days Jay still can’t work out how the two of them have become such good friends. Where Jay is practical, act-now-think-later, and very much a learn-by-doing, Dean is meticulous, researches and cross-references things he wants to know about to a point of obsession, and is the first to admit that spontaneity is a dirty word.

He’s also serious, thoughtful, loyal and compassionate to the people he cares about. Dean makes Jay feel he might be worth something, and that’s not something he’s used to being. And above all else, he’s patient with him, stays calm when Jay is close to panic, talks reasonably when Jay’s lost all sense of his. So it’s sort of funny seeing the slightest evidence on his face of being flustered that suggests for all of his blustering bravado, he’s actually a little nervous. It’s kind of cute, Jay thinks, then catches himself thinking it and pretends he isn’t.

“Yeah, Jay,” Matt pipes up next to him, grinning at Jay’s discomfort. Matt’s smirk drops instantly when Dean’s assessing gaze turns to him, as though Matt is being equally stupid.

This is what you get, Jay berates himself, trying to keep a lid on the whine that’s threatening to climb up out of his throat. This is what you get for arranging for your closest friend stroke not-so-secret forbidden crush to come over for dinner, and not forcing your kid brother out of the house you share. It’s inviting trouble, really, and he can’t blame anyone but himself for whatever’s about to unfold.

Dean continues to stare at him as this internal berating goes on for Jay, silently demanding an answer.

“Knowing the theory isn’t actually the same as… you know. Doing it,” Jay finally offers a little helplessly, flinching as Dean’s eyebrow raises a notch.

Jay looks longingly towards the doorway of the kitchen, to safety and escape.

He’s not going to get away from this that easily though, he knows that, acknowledges that the only way out of this is down. But he is going to have this out with Matt later, that much is for sure. How dare he bring up something like this, when he knows… Jay knows Matt knows… about… well. Things. About stuff.

“Well,” Matt relents after a minute, and Jay’s trying to concentrate on that, rather than the way his heart is attempting to leap out of his chest, “we’ve evidence, Dean. For example, from the last time you, uh… tried to help us cook. That… just ‘cos in theory you know how to do something? In practice, it doesn’t always work out all that well,”

“Omelette,” Jay blurts out, and for a moment, all three of them frown in sync, avoid looking at the black scorch mark on the frame of the patio door, and each other. Then Dean’s eyebrow cranks up a fraction more, in blatant disdain for their stupidity.

“I choose not to cook. It is not a question of not being able to,” he retorts, his scowl turning into a full on glare when Matt snorts, and Jay’s mind takes him back to the day of The Omelette pinpointing that as the start of so many of his current problems.

Dean had been insistent. Obnoxiously so. And most indignant, when Matt and Jay hadn’t believed he’d be able to do something as ‘simple’ as make an omelette. He’d raised an unamused eyebrow at both of them – very much as he is doing now – then shrugged out of both his coat and suit jacket in one fluid movement, and slowly rolled up his sleeves, all whilst Jay watched him open-mouthed like a man gaping at a beer after a taxing Dry January. Discreetly, of course. Discreetly.

Jay had continued watching Dean’s back as he’d walked over to the sink to wash his hands, dried them on kitchen towel like a pro, and then stalked over to the carton of eggs on the counter, bringing them back across the kitchen to leave next to the stove. Jay had swallowed roughly to see the pull of the shirt over Dean’s muscle and had stood, transfixed, willing himself to look elsewhere, but failing dismally.

Next, Dean had walked over to the fridge, bending down to peer inside in interest, and giving Jay a very distracting view of the way his pants tightened over his ass. Jay couldn’t help staring at things like that on any given day when he was around Dean, honestly he couldn’t, and at the time, Matt had given a delighted snort, grinning victoriously in his direction. Jay grimaces uncomfortably for remembering the look of comprehension on Matt’s face, still shrinking back from the wickedness emitting from his brother after all this time, wanting to turn quickly on his heel, and leave. Matt had that effect on him a lot when it came to Dean, Jay reflects then, fighting back yet another whine.

But Matt and Jay’s attention had then turned immediately to the bowl Dean clunked down noisily on the counter, and the way he threw in everything at once, before stirring the mixture vigorously and slopping it all over the sides.

Sure, in principle, the idea had been good; eggs, cheese, and bacon were acceptable – essential, ingredients perhaps, for making an omelette.

But, as Jay had sidled up to him, taking in the bits of shell floating on top of the mixture and the bacon fat sticking out like little white islands in a sea of yellow, he couldn’t help but laugh.

Even if Dean did spin on his heel and glare at him in contempt.

The second attempt, when the first had been thrown with some force into the trash, fared slightly better to start with. But Dean couldn’t seem to get to grips with the pan, and even Matt, who had been strictly forbidden from doing anything more complicated than reheating or nuking things in the microwave, howled in laughter, as Dean pushed stubbornly at the black mess that in a former life had once been eggs.

The third attempt, using up the very last of the eggs, had resulted in that black mark on the door frame that all three of them are currently glaring at, and Jay tactfully takes a slight step to the side, blocking everyone’s view.

“This is different,” Dean assures them with the most serious of expressions on his face.

“How is this different?” Matt laughs, boldy. This doesn’t really impact him one way or another, after all. Aside from watching his brother die from mortification. Unless it’s a really underhand way to get his share of the house, Jay thinks, considering just how evil Matt is, and what his limits may or may not be.

Dean stares at Matt curiously, and somehow that makes Matt laugh more. “Because, Matt. The omelette… incident…” Dean glares at them both for a second, daring them to comment. They do not. “I had never considered making an omelette before. It was not something I had ever spent a lot of time thinking about. You are both aware that I prefer to eat meals that are prepared for me,”

Jay straightens up from where he’s been slumped back against the counter, and his eyes narrow. “Wait,” he says, half-extending a hand towards Dean but curling his fingers back before they actually reach him. “You’ve been thinking about this? A lot?”

“Yes, Jay.” Dean tells him with utmost certainty, calm and assured as he is almost always calm and assured.

There is a look on Jay’s face that Matt instantly recognises as jealousy. He knows it, and has known it all his life; usually when Jay thinks Matt’s got more toppings on his pizza than he does, or has unknowingly poured himself an inch more wine from a shared bottle, it’s true. But still. He knows jealousy on Jay when he sees it, and finds himself smirking a little harder.

“With who?” Jay demands, stepping that touch closer, his voice tinged with bristling anger.

Dean’s face contorts, showing he’s really not sure what Jay’s problem is.

“I would have thought that would be obvious by now,” is all he can offer in answer. Which Jay growls, actually growls at, and Matt barks out a peal of laughter at, earning himself another glare from Jay.

“So,” Matt eventually manages when he’s finished his gleeful laughter from the safe step back he’s taken away from Jay’s mood. “What you’re saying, Dean. Is that. Is that. Unlike the omelette thing. You’ve been thinking about doing this. A lot. So you know exactly what to do here.”

“Yes,” Dean gives him simply.

Matt shrugs. “Prove it.”

“Matt,” Jay blasts out, eyes full of rage for Matt and spinning around, fully turning his back to Dean.

His eyes drop the second he feels Dean’s hand on his shoulder, and raise back up again in shock as Dean is pushing him back against the counter with no gentleness at all.

“Uh…” is all he manages, before Dean is against him bodily and kissing him firmly on the mouth.

There is a moment, a tiny moment, when Jay registers Matt laughing hysterically beside them. But it is only a moment, because right now, his brain has shorted out for the absolutely most impossible thing to be happening to him. Dean is kissing him. He’s actually kissing him, willingly, very ably, he’d very much like to add, and from the feel of… yep, that feels a lot like, well, interest, he seems to be enjoying it just as much as he is.

Unconsciously, Jay’s arms curl around Dean’s lower back, pulling him that little bit more firmly against him, making Dean moan into his mouth in appreciation.

I’ll die happy, is the only thought Jay manages, sagging under Dean’s weight.

Matt is doing all but cheering them on, resisting the urge to clap and forcing back the slight tears he’s feeling pricking in his eyes to see what he’s seeing before him.

Never in his wildest dreams would Matt have believed that what was a glib challenge to Dean about his never having kissed another man before, would have led to this. To seeing Jay, so utterly and thoroughly caught up in, well. Kissing Dean, like Matt damn well knew he’d been thinking about for an eternity. It made his little shipper heart sing, it really did.

Although.

Perhaps that level of enthusiasm was a little too much for his eyes, and oh hell he knows he just saw tongue.

Choking back the laughter that’s threatening to erupt yet again, Matt clears his throat, which neither Dean nor Jay acknowledge him doing.

“So, uh…” he tries pathetically, knowing there’s no way he’s getting their attention any time soon.

“Uh… you can thank me later, Jay,” he manages to half-call out eventually, backing up slowly towards the kitchen door.

Jay must be somewhat aware that Matt’s still standing there, because he slowly raises the hand he’s got wrapped hard around Dean up, flips him off, then slowly gives him the thumbs up Terminator two-style, before putting his hand back firmly on Dean, a little lower this time.

Matt’s eyes widen to see that, and he thumbs a gesture over at the door, making a quick exit with an absent wave, averting his eyes as he does.

Point of No Return

“You remember when we-”

He says, a reminiscent smile on his face as he leans on the terrace railing and stares out over the water. His voice fades away, but you don’t need him to finish the words, because you do; you do remember. A small boat, white with a navy blue trim around its flank. Sea spray striking your skin as wind whipped up your hair. Your hands on the steering wheel, though he was the one steering; pressed up tight against your back with his hands around your middle, gentle fingers slipped between your own.

A lifetime ago, you think, but it isn’t really. Can it only be three years since? Three years, for the love of your life to morph into barely an acquaintance? You don’t even know this man stood there in front of you, not really, not anymore. Not the lines of his back, nor the warmth of his skin beneath yours; nothing. You barely know yourself anymore, you defend, but it’s empty, as empty as you feel.

“I do,” you say, anyway, wincing at the words, because not so long ago, you thought you’d be saying them in front of witnesses. The ring still sits in its velvet prison, buried deep at the bottom of your sock drawer. You should have taken it back months ago, when you first accepted it was never going to happen, but you’ve talked yourself into and out of it so many times, clinging on for hope, which is what this weekend is all about.

You watch him in profile, and it brings the slightest amount of comfort seeing that reminiscent smile turn wistful before finally settling on just plain sad. You both did this, you tell yourself, though it’s nothing but fiction. Because some days it’s easier to pretend it just happened. Easier to act like you didn’t bring it all on yourself.

That small boat, with that deck so small, that you barely had room to step around one another. But that hadn’t stopped the wandering hands, the smiling faces, the teasing kisses under the fading summer sun. A lake house, a long stretch of decking to which that boat had eventually been tethered, and love made on a mess of blankets on that decking underneath the light of the stars.

You took that from him, you think, your stomach churning, as it always seems to be churning of late; you did that to both of you. Took something sacred, sweet, and centring, and turned it stale, and sour. And this weekend away, you hoped would claw it back. But how can you claw back what you took for granted? How can you regain the trust that you so viciously shred apart?

“I wouldn’t go back, you know,” he says then, quiet though firm, soft enough to make your heart both ache and pound, “I mean, I wouldn’t change it. Wouldn’t… guess I’m saying is, I don’t regret it; not a minute of it. Not even if this is where we’ve ended up,”

This, you think, tears choking your throat, then pricking in your eyes, as his hand reaches out to press over yours, slotting his fingers between your own as he once did, as he has done, so many times. This is over; there’s no point denying it, no point sprinkling it in sparkle and pretending the end isn’t happening when so obviously, it is. It has been happening, for months now. You’ve just finally run out of time.

As Nature Intended – Extract

Cover As Nature Intended

Elliot remembered with painful clarity the events that had led up to the exact moment he thought his life might be effectively over.

One early evening the week after his fourteenth birthday during a sweltering summer, Elliot was stood on his aunt Ellie’s porch in the still blazing sun, sipping on homemade lemonade, when he first felt an unfamiliar ache in his lower back. He and his cousin Sebastian had been busy playing with the family’s new puppy, chasing it back and forth across the lawn, and in and out of the small cluster of trees at the bottom of the garden for most of the day, so it had taken him a while to notice, acknowledging far too late that the pain had been with him since early that morning.

By the time the sun finally set, Elliot’s skin was glistening with sweat, and a fever raged just beneath the surface like an itch he couldn’t scratch. His pulse raced, his heart trembled with a sense of anticipation, and coursing through his entire body was the palpable need to be ready, all radiating out from a point deep inside himself that ached in a way he didn’t understand.

Aunt Ellie had sent him to bed with pain relief and a soothing kiss to his temple, a grim set to her jaw that told Elliot even then, that she knew something that he did not. And when the following morning came, when that ache and need had him writhing and moaning in unaccustomed agony, leaving him trying to seek friction, and fullness that he couldn’t place, Elliot understood. With quiet horror, he moved, feeling a leaking slickness coming from him that soaked straight through his clothes and the sheets beneath him on the bed, leaving him unable to deny his new truth.

Omega.

An oppressive stillness had come to him then, forcing up memories of biology classes in school that he’d thought he’d tuned out at the time. About how somewhere along the line of humanity, it had become possible for both men and women to conceive offspring, and that from that development was borne the Alpha, Beta and Omega dynamic. Betas carried on much as regular people always had done throughout human history, but instinct drove Alphas to impregnate, and Omegas to get pregnant, with those needs underwriting every aspect of an Alpha or Omega’s life. During a period of population crisis, the allele for Omega had shifted from recessive to dominant, and Alpha to recessive, with geneticists theorizing it was because a single Alpha could impregnate many Omegas, and were therefore in an evolutionary sense far less essential. Elliot remembered joking about telling that to his Alpha friends, and the laughs it had gotten around the class.

Elliot also remembered from those classes the apparent fucked up way the human body chose to reproduce. How once upon a time, many, many generations ago, when the world was evidently an even worse state than it was then in Elliot’s lifetime, women could carry a healthy baby to full term at around nine months. But in Elliot’s lifetime, male Omegas statistically proved stronger breeders, had overall better fertility, could endure gestation periods of almost eight months, where most Beta women, if they made it at all, could barely cope with six. Omega women fell somewhere in between, and considered very rare, but were still at higher risk of complications than Omega men.

That only two genders were legally recognized, when an entire spectrum of creation, and existing was possible between people, would continue to baffle Elliot, even then, in that moment, trapped in a sterile waiting room where he was waiting for his results to be confirmed and unable to stop his thoughts from wandering, desperate for good news.

He had already paced around the room several times, pausing once or twice to glare at his reflection in the mirror to critique his appearance, taking in the family trait of strawberry blond hair that on his cousin Sebastian appeared red in places yet on himself Elliot could only think to describe as dirty. Pale blue eyes stared back at him, accusatory and mocking, goading him into actions he wanted no part of, until he had to turn away, only to be drawn back once again to looking at all his flaws, seeking out a visible reason for his predicament.

Elliot strained to hear the nurse beyond the closed door, but only muffled voices taunted him. The waiting left him incensed with fear, because the last thing he needed was for what was happening to him then to really be happening. But he could feel it intensifying in him, his instincts fighting to be allowed to surface and force him into wanting things he really didn’t want to think about. There was no other word for it; Elliot was frightened. He remembered that first, overwhelming heat, when he’d thrashed and begged for things he didn’t know, couldn’t understand, as his family stood by helpless and unable to do anything for him, and that aching sense of hard arousal so out of place in his innocent fourteen-year-old body that left him feeling wrong, and broken. Corrupted.

He remembered scaring Sebastian, only a year younger than him yet almost the same height, his petrified eyes peering at Elliot through a crack in the door as Uncle Bernard and Aunt Ellie tried to soothe him, tried not to look at Elliot as though he was different, something fearsome to them, because they didn’t really know what they needed to do.

Elliot remembered hearing Uncle Bern’s panicked call to his already-absent father, Carl, and his subsequent though much-delayed arrival, only to glance over Elliot with callous eyes that told Elliot one thing; this was his final failure as a son being what he was.

Remembering all those things, Elliot couldn’t, wouldn’t allow the Omega in him to rise and force such mindless need on him. It would not be his reality, and he would do all he could to fight it, whatever it took. He closed his eyes to the final assault of his most painful of memories. Of overhearing snatches of a phone conversation between his aunt and a doctor. Of being given sedatives, then picked up and carried in gentle, loving arms, bundled into a car and driven to an imposing-looking clinic to figure this out.

The Heat suppressants prescribed for him at the time, a carton of pills pushed across a pharmacy counter into his trembling young hands and clutched there as though they were his lifeline, had worked ever since. He’d lived normal – as normal as he could do, anyway, and more than that, he’d lived well. They couldn’t fail him, not after how hard he had worked.

Those muffled voices he still couldn’t make out were ending their conversation. Elliot swallowed hard and straightened in his chair, then leapt up to follow the nurse as soon as she appeared to beckon him into an office. He sat rigidly and watched her work, precise fingers typing furiously at a computer, not paying him any attention until she had completed what she needed to do.

“So?” Elliot asked, the moment she looked up at him, because patience was not a gift he’d been blessed with. “Tell me.”

The nurse looked at him kindly, and it was the worst look Elliot could have hoped to receive. Without her even opening her mouth, enough hesitance in the nurse’s expression for Elliot to know what she was about to tell him.

“It would seem, Mr. Roderick, that the reason your suppressors have ceased working to full effectiveness is because your body is ready for you to breed,”
***

Sunday Thinking

Even on my darkest days, when all I feel is lacking, when all I’m aware of is everything I don’t have, I can’t even pretend to imagine the terror, horror, nightmare, fear, heartache – there isn’t even a big enough word to encompass what people caught up in the fire have been through, are going through, will continue to go through for probably all of their lives.

Home is supposed to be sanctuary, not tomb, it’s the place where we hold our loved ones close in love, not fear, it’s supposed to be the peace away from whatever struggles we face outside in the world.

This. Should not. Have happened.

There’s investigations to make, there’s analyses to be carried out, photographs to be taken and witness statements to be recorded. There is a process to follow to get to the answers and however long that takes, however much we recognise these steps are necessary, how is that ever going to feel like soon enough?

Speculation is rife at the moment, and because there doesn’t seem to have been a centralised point of information, all we feel, is frustration. True, those of us spectating this horror from a distance without personal involvement cannot appreciate what those in the middle of this are going through; this is not a situation we can empathise with because this is not something people experience, not today, not in this allegedly civilised country. But when we’re getting no clear answers, when we allow our press to bluster and blather and bullshit their way into every space occupied on our screens, it’s hard not to hate, point fingers, blame.

We need the press to keep us updated, not to invade personal tragedies. We need to know who is accountable for this, not through newsroom whispering but from those who have authority to speak on these situations. We need the press to report on this from a view of compassion and community, not who is going to score the biggest headline.

We need the authorities to speak to us. We need to know people are being heard, cared for, protected. How can people be anything but angry when it feels as though no one is being told anything? We need to know what’s happening, and it’s difficult to navigate between what people want to know and need to know when it comes to facts and figures on injuries, deaths, missing persons. But when we’re hearing the same figures repeated in our news, then hearing whispers from others telling a completely different story, it’s hard not to demand to know more, seek clarity on this nightmare situation.

We need to acknowledge that the poorest people in our society are being ignored. We need to understand why their lives are considered unworthy of just a little extra money to ensure renovations to their properties are done in their best interests and to keep them safe. We need landlords, social and otherwise, to provide homes for their tenants that are safe, fit for human habitation, not literal death traps. How is that a statement we even need to be saying; is that not obvious from a purely moral, humanitarian perspective anyway?

We need the alleged leader of this country to be a person. Not an automaton, not an approximation of what compassion is supposed to look like, we need to be able to trust them, see them in ourselves, see that they represent all of us. Whatever your political views at this moment, can any of us really say that we respect our leader? Trust them? Have faith in their abilities to lead us into an unknown future when they can’t even face these people who have lost everything in that fire? Who hides behind other people taking their flack, because they can’t handle criticism, and confrontation? Politics is not a game, and if confrontation makes you antsy, you are not fit to represent any of us, plain and simple.

But none of this. None of the bitterness, hatred, disillusionment, judgement, ridicule, is going to bring lives back. It’s not going to rebuild homes with a click of a fingers, erase the mental, physical, emotional scars people are left with after this ordeal. We can scream, and shout, and wail until our throats bleed, but none of that is going to bring those people back to us. None of it is going to ever be enough to console those left behind.

Sorry doesn’t seem like enough to say. Love not big enough to help. Kindness, continual thoughts, prayer, well-wishes; we will keep sending them in until they burst from our bodies. But right now, everything feels like it can’t ever be enough to help.

 

Tomorrow

When did tomorrow become too late?

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll tell him. Tomorrow I’ll find the words to sum up all the chaos that’s been turning paces round the inside of my skull for a lifetime.

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’ll stop making excuses, find courage that I tell myself I have for every other occasion when for this, courage seems like an impossible task.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll call, tomorrow I’ll say something, tomorrow I’ll be the person I could be, were I only to open my mouth.

Tomorrow. He’s… gone. Not here. No forwarding address, no call connecting, no way to make contact now I’ve found the strength to ask.

Did you want this? Me? Think of me for even one of the moments I’ve been dreaming of you? Did I occupy any corner of your mind, like you’ve invaded every one of my thoughts?

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I said, over and over and over some more, until tomorrow came, but you were already gone.

You couldn’t wait for me, and I understand that, in theory, of course I do.

But if I had just one more tomorrow. Just one more moment to hesitate.

Where would you be now?

On Being Guided

Jason’s recently acknowledged his attraction for men. His friend- now boyfriend, Michael, is helping him come to terms with that.

This is NOT safe for work, just to warn you. For those of you who follow/have followed me elsewhere, you might recognise this story in another guise 😉

“I’m sorry for being such a girl about this,” Jason mumbles, and instantly looks up at the click of disapproval Michael is giving him.

“I’ll never understand why being nervous about a new experience is something that is purely a feminine thing,” Michael tells him with a stern look, “or why being ‘a girl’ in this situation is meant to be something derogatory,”

Jason winces, instantly chastised, and reaches out his fingers to tangle around Michael’s. He’s not used to this, not used to watching his words, thinking before he’s speaking, and up until a few weeks ago, when he gave into his interest in Michael, Jason had thought nothing of the usual banter that he’d grown up hearing from his father and older brother. It’s been a steep learning curve, and Michael has been a very attentive teacher. In more ways than one.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it,” he says, grimacing to himself. “It’s just a… kneejerk kind of expression,”

“It is an outdated one,” Michael tells him firmly again, raising a shrewd eyebrow.

For a moment, Jason feels cornered, like he always does when he’s said something wrong. But soon Michael is relenting, rolling his eyes a little, but smiling as he nudges himself in between Jason’s legs where he’s sitting, and bending down to kiss him.

“There is nothing wrong with being nervous about this, Jason. It would be ridiculous if you weren’t,”

Jason purses his lips together and nods, trying to believe that.

It’s a few weeks into, what Michael still gets the strangest jolt in his stomach for acknowledging, their relationship, and while they’ve grown skilled with their fingers and mouths on each other, they’ve still been moving the physical side of things between them along at a slow, undemanding pace.

Yesterday, when Michael had trapped their leaking cocks between their stomachs and rolled down on Jason until they both came, Jason had allowed himself to wonder what it might feel like to have something more. The subsequent ache all the way up inside him for imagining that had him closing his eyes to it, and tucking himself firmly into Michael’s side.

Jason and Michael have known each other a couple of years now, forming an instant friendship when they’d been paired with one another in an evening Spanish class and gone for a beer afterwards. Speaking in Spanish is fairly easy for them after all this time, with neutral subjects such as ordering food and discussing opinions on whatever is in the news. But actual, honest speaking in his own native tongue, revealing what he honestly thinks and feels, is an alien concept to Jason. Yet another thing that Michael has been going out of his way to teach him.

So, because speaking is a thing they do with each other now, instead of loaded silences and so many possibilities for misunderstandings, Jason had said exactly that. How he thought he might be ready to take that further step between them. How he wanted to find out what it might feel like to have Michael actually inside him. The moment the words were passed his lips, Jason felt that aching clench again, and realised just how badly he really, really wanted that to happen.

Michael’s pupils had dilated to hear it, and Jason had watched as he’d swallowed repeatedly before he could speak. His kisses had been loaded with want, and promise, and carefully they agreed that it would happen sometime soon.

Very soon.

Telling himself they weren’t going to make a big deal out of this, Jason had mumbled a suggestion about maybe getting a room somewhere so they had privacy for it. Not that it was a big deal, or that they were making an event out of it or anything like that. Not out loud, anyway.

And as he’d packed up an overnight bag, Jason’s eyes had fallen onto the bottle of lube he’d brought with blushing cheeks at the pharmacy, and he’d had to drop down on the bed, clutching his head in his hands, and tell himself not to be such an idiot.

But here they were now, in a hotel much too nice not to acknowledge the importance of what was about to happen between them.

Michael uses the tangle of their fingers to guide Jason to his feet, dropping them to cup his face and pull him closer for a gentle kiss. Jason sighs into it, wrapping his arms around Michael’s waist and dropping his eyes closed as Michael presses right up against him.

Undressing each other has become something of a cherished routine between them, with every revealing of skin comes a brushing of lips or hands, leaving them both gasping for more. As always, Michael is the one who’s guiding them to lay down on the bed, and as his hand runs up from Jason’s knee, to his thigh, and rests lightly on his hip as he leans over him, the look he gives Jason is nothing but heated.

Jason reaches out a hand and wraps it around Michael’s cock, as Michael begins a trail of kisses over his skin. He doesn’t miss a spot; neck, cheek, ear, only pausing to give the occasional thrust into Jason’s hand and follow it up with a soft groan.

Michael reaches down and gently grips around Jason’s wrist, bringing it and his other hand to lie flat on the bed at waist level, and pins them there. He’s leaning completely over Jason and kneeling between his legs, and begins a trail of kisses down his chest.

When he’s at eye level with Jason’s cock, he glances up for a second, then flicks his tongue out and over the head, smirking at the stutter Jason gives in response. Michael wants to suck him into his mouth entirely, but already knows Jason’s body well enough not to overstimulate him all in one go. So, he moves on, raining kisses over his stomach, hips, and down his thighs, before pressing another kiss into each kneecap. With light fingers, he lifts Jason’s knees, encouraging him to lay his feet flat against the bed.

Michael presses lightly on Jason’s inner thighs until they’re parted as comfortably as he can get them. Only then does he look up and over Jason, and the look Michael gives him then makes Jason’s cock twitch just to see how much he’s wanted. With another kiss to his thigh, Michael leans up for a moment to reach for the bottle of lube Jason’s got next to him on the pillow. He kneels back between Jason’s legs, looking down at the bottle in thought before uncapping it.

“You know, Jason,” he begins, drizzling the gel onto his fingers, “I still can’t believe you’d never even used lube for you and me started… you know,” then raises his eyes to Jason and smirks. Jason’s cock twitches again, and Michael reaches out to swipe up the precum there, smiling again as Jason judders at his touch.

“I know,” Jason manages to choke out, “I know. But-”

“I’m not complaining, here. Seeing your face the first time I jerked you off with my hand all slicked up is probably one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen in my life,” he says triumphantly, scissoring his fingers in mid-air as he warms the gel. “Are you ready?” he asks then, glancing back up to Jason.

Jason sucks in a breath and nods rapidly, swallowing hard. His eyes are fixed firmly on Michael’s fingers as they dip between his legs, and as Michael uses one hand to hold him gently open, Jason’s juddering breath makes Michael pause, and look back up.

“Jason-”

“It’s okay. It’s good. Just… nervous,” Jason chokes out, nodding at him and opening his legs a little wider.

Michael looks back down, and slowly presses the tip of his finger in until the first knuckle disappears, glancing up again. Jason is nodding, so he slides in a little further, and a little more, until Jason’s blowing out a shallow breath, and flicking him a smile that tells him to keep going.

So Michael does exactly that, pressing his finger in as far as it can go. He stays there, letting Jason get used to the feel of the intrusion for a moment before withdrawing it again. He pumps it in again slowly, drawing it back out, then slowly in again, and it’s on the third stroke in that Jason gives a surprised moan that says he’s liking it.

Michael glances up, receiving another smile that encourages him on. He continues stroking in and out of Jason whilst holding eye contact, and Jason’s breathing becomes heavier as he watches. When Michael withdraws his finger this time and he feels him pushing in two at once, the strange, burning pleasured sensation it shoots through him has Jason dropping his head back against the pillow in a thud. Michael keeps stroking into him as though he’s in no hurry at all, smiling at the noises Jason is making.

It’s when he presses in and around Jason’s walls, scissoring his fingers and glancing them against his prostate, that Jason lets out a long, low grown, and arches up, unconsciously pressing himself down on Michael’s fingers with a grunt.

By the time Michael has drizzled more lube on his fingers and is sliding three fingers in and out of him at a steady pace, Jason is a whimpering mess, writhing and shaking his head back and forth on his pillow as his cock strains erect and leaking.

“Do you think you are ready, Jason?” Michael asks, and Jason’s grabbing for him as though he’s trying to drag him up the bed.

Michael shifts onto his knees again from where he’d sat cross legged as he’d worked Jason open, rolls a condom over himself, and with his fingers pumping into Jason to keep him used to the feeling, he awkwardly uncaps the lube and slicks himself up.

Michael kneels forward, lining himself up between his fingers to press bluntly against him, looking at Jason again, to make sure he is absolutely sure. When Jason nods, Michael slowly withdraws his hand, and he’s convinced he can hear Jason’s heart thudding. He presses his hole open with his thumbs and rests his cock head there, but doesn’t move any further until Jason nods again.

Michael rolls his hips only a touch, and only until the head of his cock slips inside him. He bites back the groan rippling through him at how good that feels, because Jason’s stuttering and tensing beneath him, and Michael doesn’t want to rush him. So Michael waits, until he feels Jason relax enough for him to push in again.

He gets a little further in, and Jason’s scrambling his hands out for him, calling out Michael’s name in a panic and gripping hard on to his forearms. Michael stops, slides his hands up and on to Jason’s stomach and rests them there, waiting again. He smiles when Jason unscrews his eyes and stares up at him in astonishment, and in another moment, he feels the give around his cock that says he can press in again.

Jason’s breathing out shallower and shallower with every inch that Michael is filling him, and when Michael is fully inside him, Jason lets out a soft, choked cry that immediately has Michael tensing up with worry.

He leans forward to kiss Jason softly, nuzzling against him. “Are you okay?” he mumbles into his lips, then pulls back enough so that he can see all of his face, to make sure that Jason is going to be honest about what he’s thinking, and feeling.

Jason nods his head frantically, shakes it a little, then laughs at himself. “I don’t know, Michael. It feels… I don’t know how it feels,” he says, and Michael knows he’s holding his breath, tensing against the feel of him buried inside him, not knowing what to do with it yet.

“Can we give it a minute?” Jason asks haltingly, his fingers fluttering anxiously at Michael’s sides, seeming torn between wanting to touch him, wanting to not offend him by not being more enthusiastic already, and just plain scared.

“Of course. We’ll take as much time as you need,” Michael reassures him, before smiling again, shifting so that he can brace himself against the bed better, and starts a long, leisurely kiss, that soon has Jason sighing out relaxed and reaching his arms up to loop around his neck.

“I think you can move now,” Jason whispers against his lips after a little while, and Michael waits another moment before doing just that.

Michael can’t stop the groan escaping this time as he rocks himself out and slides all the way back into him, because Jason feels so good, so tight, warm and slick, and everything feels so right, that there’s no way to not show how much he’s enjoying this. And after a few, purposefully slow thrusts, Jason’s giving that soft, surprised moan of appreciation he’d given earlier, letting his hands drift down Michael’s back and rest around his hips.

Michael rocks into him and does his best to keep his movements even, and steady, and Jason’s breaths are coming out more and more erratic and surprised. When Michael shifts how he’s kneeling, Jason lets out a stifled bark of a grunt, and Michael smirks, knowing exactly what, and where, his cock is hitting. He winks at Jason, and Jason gives a small burst of laughter to see it, then begins rolling his hips up in time with Michael’s, still with that look of utter amazement on his face.

And soon they’re a writhing, moaning mess, lips pressed into skin and glancing against one another as Michael reaches between them and begins stroking Jason’s cock. Jason lets out a noise that sounds a lot like a keening whimper, and he’s glancing down at Michael’s hand around him and up at his face like he’s about to burst with every sensation he’s experiencing at once.

Michael slows his pace a touch because of Jason’s expression, and now Jason really is whimpering, grabbing him impossibly closer, shaking his head, pleading brokenly for Michael to keep fucking him just there

At the encouragement, Michael is relentless, and Jason is choking out, tensing up, chanting his name hoarsely as his orgasm builds, and builds, and builds to an intensity where there’s a roar in his ear and a wave rushing through him, and he’s coming in a long arch that feels like it starts somewhere up at his throat and ends down at where Michael is deep inside him. Michael moans out to see it, and uncontrollably starts pounding into him harder, falling forward, growling out Jason’s name until he stiffens, arching hard against him, before spilling himself in Jason with a deep, rumbling groan.

Michael falls forward on Jason’s chest, and Jason gives a little huff at the weight of him, before pressing an absent kiss into the side of his head. He wraps his arms tightly around him, holding Michael firmly in place for a moment as his heart continues racing, before Michael is sliding himself out and falling heavily beside him.

The moment Michael hits the bed, he’s opening his arms wide to Jason and whispering for him to, “Come here,” then wrapping his arms securely around him as Jason buries himself into his chest. Michael rubs soothing circles into his back and repeatedly drops kisses down on the top of his head, until he feels the tremble in Jason subside, and knows that he is calm.

Michael waits a little longer, until Jason raises his head and looks up at him, his mouth curving up with a smile that is both shocked, and happily sated. It’s at that point that Michael grins at him, leaps up with a lot more energy than Jason thinks he should be feeling, and definitely doesn’t feel himself, and returns with a wash cloth to gently clean him down. Then he’s crawling back beside Jason, pulling him into his arms again, and kissing him firmly on the mouth, all while still grinning wide.

“Don’t know what you’re looking so pleased with yourself about,” Jason grumbles, although his grin has spread just as stupidly.

“Yes, you do,” Michael tells him, raising an eyebrow as he smiles once more. Then presses forward and claims another kiss.

Tainted By Our Choices

Tainted

Tarred by our choices is a contemporary romance that has flashbacks, sex, environmental awareness and a slight fixation on dessert. Potentially all at the same time.

Meet Jack. A successful environmental officer working within an industry that is so very far from his childhood dream of saving the planet, that he no longer recognizes himself. How he’s found himself in Houston, Texas where he has no one, and nothing but his work for company, he tells himself repeatedly he doesn’t know. But when the place that became home had the heart sucked right out of it, and all around him were the remnants of a life he wouldn’t get to have, Jack ran, at the first opportunity given to him.

On a bright, sunny morning, Jack sees a face so familiar to him that he knows it better than his own, one that takes him back first to a beach in his childhood home of Tampa Bay, and second to a college in Boston where Jack learned – and lost – his heart.

Tarred by our choices is the story of first crushes, loves, and heartbreaks, and the fallout that left Jack clinging to his past. Join him on his rediscovery of himself, as a chance meeting reminds him of the life he always wanted to lead. Is he brave enough to live it?

Waiting For the Right Time

When Evan’s brother is in an accident, he’s terrified, and doesn’t know where to turn, or who to ask for support. Which is stupid, really, since Peter’s been in his life for longer than he hasn’t, and has always been a rock.


 

It isn’t fair, Evan thinks, staring down at Tom laid pristine white in a hospital bed, willing himself to concentrate on the slightest evidence of his chest rising up and down. Tom’s the baby of the family, eight years younger than Evan is himself, and all Evan can think staring down at him then, is that he’s failed him for letting this happen.

It’s beyond not fair, he adds, eyes closing in anguish at the sight of the apparatus set around the head of that bed, proof that Tom’s only there because there’s machinery keeping him alive. The bandage wound around his head speaks of swelling that hasn’t shown any sign of lessening, and there are enough smaller ones dotted to his neck and arms to make him look tiny, fragile there in that bed.

Tom’s a good guy, the best of them, never done anything but try to live a good, honest life, and do the right thing, every chance that he gets. And okay, so maybe Evan’s a little biased because Tom’s his little brother and he’ll never see him as anything but a hero. But he’s also never willingly hurt anyone, and that’s a heroic quality Evan feels a lot of people in the world are lacking, turning a blind eye where Tom is always sticking up for people. Always jumping to the defence of others without any regard for himself, without ever being asked.

Which is apparently how he got himself into this mess in the first place.

Just a day ago, Evan had been putting the finishing touches to a customer’s garden, enjoying the many perks of outdoor work in the late summer sun, when he’d received the phone call. A quick glance around, his careful eye checking for any small details that needed fixing, was interrupted by the scream of his phone, and Tom’s near-hysterical friend Steven announcing he’d been hurt in a fight.

Evan had driven directly to the hospital, the mantra that Tom was against mindless violence doing nothing but terrify him even more, for all the images and possibilities it stabbed into his mind. Steven’s broken words when he’d collapsed into Evan’s arms, once he’d found him wide-eyed and startled on a hospital corridor outside the operating theatre, spoke of Tom standing like a fortress, when a guy at the table next to theirs in a beer garden had been attacked. Of course he did, Evan thinks to himself for the hundredth time as he reaches out to pointlessly straighten Tom’s blanket, of course he’d done that. Without even hesitating. Without even giving it a thought.

There’s only the two of them, Evan thinks then, his stomach knotting over and over, half-glad that their parents are already long gone and not having to share this burden with him, yet also desperately missing their support. What happens next? Who does he need to call? What can he do to fix this? There’s a thousand things he needs answers to, but no one there to tell him anything.

Thank god, or whatever is out there, he thinks, that Peter is there with him.

Peter is a calming, steady presence beside him as Evan stands watch over Tom, twitching, trying to anticipate whatever Tom might need, or want, even though he hasn’t yet opened his eyes.

“I’m here,” Peter says, seeming to sense how badly he needs him, not offering any platitudes about Tom being okay, knowing it will do nothing to soothe Evan’s nerves. Instead he drapes his arm around Evan’s shoulder and allows him to shuffle closer, the only acknowledgement paid to Evan’s frustrated tears being the circling of his thumb repeatedly against his upper arm.

***

When Evan gets Tom back to his apartment to watch over him as he recovers, Peter is still there beside him offering quiet support. He brings Evan coffee, swiftly grabbing the rapidly emptying whiskey bottle from Evan’s hands with a terse look that speaks volumes Evan doesn’t want to hear about, and replacing it with a large, warm mug he can wrap his fingers around as he quietly nods in thanks.

Peter empties the bowl Tom retches into sometimes, walks with him to the bathroom when he needs help getting there – when he’s sent Evan out on errands to force him into getting some fresh air, and continues his silent vigil over both of the brothers when Evan finally succumbs to much-needed sleep.

Peter is also there, when Tom is screaming, crying out in the middle of a nightmare, and Evan is leaking silent tears of his own for all the things he can’t do for him. Peter rests a hand on Evan’s shoulder, and Evan breaks, grabbing Peter to him and sobbing wrecked into his neck, clinging on with a vice-like grip. Peter soothes with words spoken softly into his ear, and gentle hands rubbing reassurances into his back.

At some point about a week into Tom’s recovery, Evan thinks that in a fear-fuelled moment late one night, he’s kissed Peter, seeking comfort, reassurance, and escape. But his mind is so twisted in confusion with all that’s happening, and so bone-tired, that he can’t even remember if the moment was real, or just an unrealised fantasy that’s taunting him. That has taunted him, for as long as he can remember. Either way, Peter resolutely stays by his side.

***

Tom is strong, and begins to show good progress, with strength returning to his limbs, and wit making a reappearance in his words. Evan looks on, smiling proudly, reminded of a thousand times he’d watched over Tom protectively in sleep when they were growing up, repeating his mantra of thank you over and over for having him there to still do that.

As Tom gets better still, Evan begins to leave him alone for longer periods as a solution to his argument that he should go home, get out of his hair. He’s never far enough away to be out of shouting distance if Tom needs him, or wants to yell at him some more for being an overprotective mother hen; but enough to give Tom what is surely much needed space.

Peter is still there with him, and Evan finds it aches thinking about him eventually leaving when things go back to normal. His overnight bag’s become a feature of Evan’s living room, his favourite shower gel leaves a teasing scent of him in the bathroom, and his attempts to force nutritious food on Evan have filled his cupboards with strange new worlds of ingredients for all the recipes he’s got him trying.

Evan pauses outside Tom’s room, one time, hearing Tom’s soft laughter and a bemused, gentle mirth in Peter’s low, gravelly tone, leaving Evan stuck between listening and leaving, both curious and afraid of what he might overhear.

“Don’t tell him, Pete, ‘cos I can’t handle justifying all his fussing. But I don’t know how I’d have got through this without him,” he hears, and Evan feels a lump form in his throat, that he quickly forces down.

“You too,” Tom adds, and from the rustling sound that follows, Evan’s sure Tom’s reached out to pat Peter on the shoulder, or something.

“Evan wouldn’t leave your side, Tom, not for a second. When we were in the hospital waiting for you to wake up, I had to drag him out of your room to make him take even a five second break. He was terrified for you. Kept telling me, he wished he could take your place there, wished he could be going through it all for you. And though I would do anything for you, help you in any way I can, it’s been… difficult. To have to hear him talking like that. It’s probably selfish, but… I’ve felt so helpless,” Peter finishes with a sigh, and Evan wants to walk in and wrap his arms around his shoulders, tell him how vital he’s been to him throughout all of this.

“You’ve been here for Evan.” Tom answers, stealing his words. “That is far from being helpless,” Evan hears Tom reply, imagines his smile, and closes his eyes, grateful that Tom is finally smiling again.

“He’d be lost without you too, you know?” Tom adds, and Evan freezes at his words, desperate to know Peter’s response.

There is a pause, but finally Peter gives a soft, breathy sigh that sounds like acknowledgement, and answers quietly with, “As would I without him.”

“You guys need to talk stuff out, you know,” Tom tells him, and Evan thinks he can picture Peter shuffling in discomfort.

“It’s not really the time, Tom. We need you to concentrate on getting better, more than anything else.” Peter’s tone is decided, and firm, adamant he’s right in his thinking. He is right, Evan agrees, but it doesn’t stop his heart sinking a little, even if he’s not worked up the courage to do anything about this – them, himself.

“Pete,” Tom’s talking in that gentle, patient, explaining-to-an-idiot tone of his, and Evan kind of loves him for it. “I’ve known you for… it feels like all my life. You two have been friends since forever now, and it’s obvious to anyone with eyes that there’s something between you even if you pretend that there isn’t. If you keep thinking about it like that, that now’s not really the time, there’s never gonna be a right time. So why not make it the right time now? What is it the two of you are waiting for?”

Evan doesn’t want to hear Peter’s answer, too scared it will be the confirmation of rejection, so chooses that moment to go in with the tray of food he’s prepared. But it’s not like Tom’s words don’t play over and over for Evan, or stop him sneaking continual glances in Peter’s direction for the rest of the day. Or give him any chance of sleep later that night.

When he’s admitted sleep is just not going to be happening for him, Evan gets up, sighing heavily at the early hour glaring back at him on his phone, and pads through to the living room, expecting to find Peter stoically asleep on the sofa where he’s taking up what feels like just as much permanent residence as Tom. But Peter is sat at the dining table, his face illuminated by the screen of his laptop, and his eyes raise at the sound of Evan entering the room.

“Can’t sleep,” Evan offers in answer to Peter’s silent question, “What are you doing?”

Peter pauses, then reaches over to flick on a lamp on the table, and silently closes the laptop lid.

“Nothing much,” he says, coming around to lean back against the table, his hands wrapping around the edge, as he watches Evan. “Couldn’t sleep either,”

Evan watches back.

The silence remains heavy, loaded with unspoken questions. And Evan decides he can’t stand just watching anymore, so takes a courageous step forward. He bends slightly to cup Peter’s face and tilt it up, slow to give him time to resist if that’s what he wants to do. And then Evan leans down, claiming Peter’s mouth in a kiss that feels very, very long overdue. Peter’s hands are immediately around his waist, gripping Evan as he adjusts the way he stands between his legs, and pulling him as close as he can get.

The silence between them might not be filled with words, but there’s soft gasps and gentle exploration in their place, and that adds more to the sense Evan has of them finally getting somewhere. Evan feels hopeful, and humble, and more than anything, home. And when they pull apart to catch their breath, Peter’s smile for him repeats the same thing back.

***

When Tom walks through in the morning, rubbing a tired hand down his face, he comes to a stop at the foot of the sofa, his head tilting to one side as he considers the view in front of him.

On the sofa lays Peter on his back, with Evan tangled between his legs and wrapped up in his arms, fast asleep in the crook of Peter’s neck.

Peter looks at Tom, and Tom looks on back at Peter, and where Peter’s smile is small and a little timid, Tom’s is wide, and beaming happiness.

They nod at each other in unspoken acceptance of the change in circumstances between them all, before Tom turns and heads into the kitchen, a spring in his step and a hum in this mouth. He rinses the cafetiere, measuring out a generous amount of coffee, then settles it down on the side, fingers drumming as he considers adding another spoon.

Tom pulls down two mugs from a shelf, leans over to fill the kettle, then leans back against the counter, a gentle smile lingering around his lips for how ecstatic he feels for his brother. And with that smile, and a barrage of teasing already forming in his head, he turns around, and reaches for a third.