Rules of the Road

by Geron Kees

Chapter 7

©2016 by Geron Kees. All rights reserved.

Jeff saved him the trouble of figuring it out. On Monday, as school was letting out, they were all standing near their cars in the parking lot when they heard the sound of a hot engine approaching. They looked up as the Camaro turned into the parking lot, stood and watched as it came around and pulled up behind the Bee.

Jeff shut the Chevy down and leaned out of the car's window. "Hey, Brian."

Brian smiled, feeling an unexpected pleasure. "Jeff. What's up?"

The other boy shrugged, looked at his dashboard, reached out and flicked some dust or something off the instruments. "I kind of wanted to talk to you."

"Okay."

Jeff looked up, frowned. "Well, a little more privately than this. Just us, I mean."

Ed put a hand on Brian's arm. "Don't trust this guy, Bry," he said out of the side of his mouth.

Jeff laughed. "I'm not deaf, man."

Ed made a face. "Well, how do we know what you're up to? You could get Brian off someplace alone and Mahowsky and his swastika bunch could be there to beat the crap out of him or something." Ed shook his head. "And then we'd have to come over and burn your school down and kill all you stupid motherfuckers."

Brian looked at Ed with surprise. "Ease up, man."

Ed shook his head. "I don't trust these guys, Brian. You shouldn't, either."

Brian looked at Jeff. The other boy tried to meet his eyes, seemed to have trouble with it. But Brian didn't think it was because he was planning something sneaky. It felt like Jeff was a little scared, and what he was a little scared of was Brian.

Brian was sure, somehow, that this was important. This was the first step he had been wanting to find, and that Jeff was offering it was something special. Brian knew that if he refused to go with the other boy, then that would end everything right here and now.

End what? an internal voice asked.

I don't know. And I'll never know, unless I go.

"Okay," Brian said. "You want me to follow you?"

"Yeah. It's about a fifteen minute drive. Is that okay?"

Brian nodded. "Okay. Take it easy, though. I don't want any tickets, and I don't drive my car hard before it warms up."

"Gotcha." Jeff started the Camaro.

Brian unlocked the Bee and got inside, started the engine.

"You sure you don't want me to ride shotgun?" Ed asked, bending down at the window.

"No. I'll be okay."

Ed clapped him on the shoulder. "You come by my house, or call me, or something, when you get done, okay?"

Brian nodded. "Relax, man. I'll be fine."

Ed stepped back, and Brian pulled slowly out of the parking space and got in line behind the Camaro. Jeff pulled out, crossed the lot slowly, and Brian followed.

In the rearview mirror, he could see the car crowd staring after him.

They went over to Route 5, headed down the strip. But when they got to the end of the developed area they kept on going, heading on out into the boonies. Jeff kept pretty much to the speed limit, and more than once Brian found himself admiring the other car. It still was one bad-ass looking ride, even if the mythical sheen had been burned off of it by the Bee.

It was longer than a fifteen-minute ride. Maybe Jeff was used to driving it in demon mode.

Brian was just starting to wonder what was up when Jeff slowed and turned right into a side street. It was narrow and winding, and led back into the woods, and Brian was just starting to think it looked like a good spot for an ambush when houses began to appear off in the woods, serviced mostly by gravel drives.

They were big houses, too.

Finally, Jeff slowed again, and turned into a black-topped drive. Brian followed, staring at the house visible at the other end. It was an English Tudor, maybe half-again the size of Brian's dad's house, and where the woods ended just before it the house was surrounded by landscaped lawns thick with shrubbery.

The drive split at that point, with the right-hand side looping up to the front door of the place and then circling back; and the left-hand drive heading around the side of the house. Jeff chose the left drive, and Brian followed.

The drive ended behind a screen of tall firs, in a large paved area before three garage doors. The paved area had parking at each edge, and a large Winnebago was sitting on one side. Jeff pulled up near the motorhome, shut down the Camaro, and got out.

Brian parked the Bee behind the other car, shut it down, and climbed out.

Jeff came over. "Not what you expected, huh? I can tell you, Mahowsky is not hiding in the bushes."

Brian smiled. "Is this where you live?"

"It's my grandparent's house, but I might as well say I live here, because I spend more time here than at home." He looked pained. "It's a lot more comfortable here."

Brian nodded, but decided not to go into that dark alley.

"So - why are we here?"

Jeff looked momentarily unnerved. "I...I just wanted to talk to you."

"You could have done that at the school."

"No. I couldn't."

Brian met the other boy's eyes, but Jeff looked away, over at the Winnebago. "Come on inside."

He unlocked the door in the side of the big vehicle and opened it, climbed up the steps into the interior. Brian followed, not sure what to expect.

The motorhome was empty. No enemies lurking behind the door.

"My grandparents are in Acapulco right now," Jeff explained. "There's no one here but us."

He went into the kitchenette of the motorhome, opened the refrigerator. "Wanna drink? I've got Coke, Sprite, and beer,"

Brian took a Coke. He followed the other boy to the sofa, and they sat down.

For a few minutes Jeff didn't say anything. But he watched Brian, until Brian started to feel uncomfortable with it. "So, Jeff - what's on your mind?"

Jeff frowned. "You could have fucked me up the other night. I didn't know you were a boxer. You could have hurt me bad."

"Mmm. How'd you find out?"

"Tim told me. He said I was lucky you were cool as shit." Jeff swallowed. "Are you?"

"Am I what?"

"Are you cool as shit?"

Brian laughed at that. "Hell - I don't know. That's not the kind of thing I can answer myself."

Jeff nodded. "Can I ask why you didn't hit me?"

Brian took a careful sip of his drink before answering. "I didn't want to hurt you."

Jeff looked unhappy at that. "I was trying to hurt you."

Brian shrugged. "You didn't."

"I know. I couldn't. I couldn't get a hand on you." He squinted at Brian. "What the fuck are you?"

Brian blinked. "I don't get that."

Jeff scratched his cheek. "You're fast as shit. Your car is fast as shit. There's something about you - something about speed. Something different."

Brian stared at the other boy. "I have good reflexes. I'm trained not to get hit. I spent a few thousand dollars to get my car to run like it does. There's no mystery, nothing strange about it. Any of it."

Jeff licked his lips, looked scared somehow. He leaned forward. "Are you gay, Brian?" he whispered.

Brian was shocked. Jeff had seen the It. Jeff had glimpsed past all of Brian's defenses, and seen the true him inside.

For a moment he froze, unable to say anything, unable to react. He stared at the other boy, who simply stared right back. Brian's mind turned a spotlight on Jeff's words, the way he'd said them, the look on his face as he'd asked. And he saw the truth of it, there in the glow.

Jeff's question wasn't threatening. It wasn't an accusation. It was simple and direct.

Brian stared at the other boy, saw the same thing in his eyes that he had seen in Chris's eyes two years before. Hope. Interest. Need.

Brian nodded. "Yes. You?"

Jeff closed his eyes, nodded in return. His anguish was plain to see.

"It's not a sentence," Brian said slowly. "It's not a prison that we're in. It just is." He nodded. "I learned that the hard way, but I learned it. It's only as bad as you let it be, Jeff."

Jeff opened his eyes, nodded. "Maybe. Maybe that's my problem. I let it be bad." He licked his lips again. "Can I come closer?"

Brian smiled. "Yes."

Jeff set his drink on the little coffee table, slid himself near. But then he stopped. "Am I wasting my time?"

Brian shook his head. "No."

Jeff smiled for the first time. "You're so easy to talk to. I noticed that when you were sitting in the car with me."

Brian leaned closer to Jeff, looked into his eyes. "What about that? Tim told me later I was the only guy you had ever let inside the car."

Jeff nodded. "Yeah, that's right. You are." He stared at Brian. "I saw your car drive up, and you guys got out. You looked right over at me, and it was like you could see me there. You started walking towards me, looking, and I started thinking, what's this guy doing?"

Brian grinned. "I was checking out your wheels."

"I know. But you walked right up to the car, and you walked around, and you bent down and you looked in the window. I got a good look at you, and..."

Brian waited. "And?"

Jeff nodded. "I liked what I saw."

Brian nodded. "Yeah. Can I ask you why you got so mad after the race?"

Jeff looked uncomfortable. "That whole thing was dumb. I'm sorry." He shrugged. "My feelings got hurt. I guess I felt like I liked you, and I trusted you, and you kind of did me dirty."

Brian sighed. "You challenged me to the run, Jeff."

"I know. I thought you'd lied to me about your car being stock, and that you'd come to talk to me just so you could get a line on what I had under the hood. When you trashed Mahowsky's car, I thought I'd been suckered."

"I'm sorry about that," Brian said. "I didn't trick you. My dad and I build a second engine and then we just put it in the car one Saturday. It was a quick change." He smiled. "I didn't put out a press release."

Jeff laughed. "You have a good sense of humor." He reached out and laid a hand on Brian's, looked up at him. "I don't know how to do this, Brian. I've never known a single guy I could talk to about this."

Brian sensed Jeff's loneliness now - an ache that went deep. He understood it all too well. Had Brian not been lucky to know Chris, he would be in exactly Jeff's position, too. To never have known intimacy, or love.

He looked into Jeff's eyes, saw a warmth there that he knew signified a sweet heart. Maybe one a little conflicted, though. Maybe one a little unsure.

Brian leaned closer, sharing the gaze more intently, smiling, letting Jeff know that he was safe. Jeff responded by smiling back, a smile of relief, one of hope.

Brian took that as permission, and leaned in until their foreheads came together. "Okay?"

Jeff laughed. "Hell, yes," he breathed.

Brian closed his eyes, feeling with amazement the utter satisfaction at being this close to Jeff. Two years it had been since he had been close to someone like this. He wanted simply to reach out and pull the other boy closer, wanted to -

Slow down, he thought.

Jeff needed to do this at his own speed.

"Oh, man," Jeff said softly. "This is good, Brian."

Brian opened his eyes. "Was it what you thought it would be like?"

"Shit - I don't know. It's just been make-believe until now. I imagined touching, being close - but I couldn't imagine the feel of it. You know - what it was like to really touch skin."

Jeff pushed his face closer, turned it gently back and forth against Brian's in a move that reminded Brian of Chris. He had done that same thing once, about a hundred years ago.

Jeff pushed himself nearer, put an arm around Brian's shoulders and pulled him close. "Tell me if I go wrong," Jeff said quietly.

"You're good. You're very good."

Jeff leaned his face into the crook of Brian's neck and breathed in, sighed out. "Fuck."

Brian put his own arm around Jeff, slid his hand inside the neckband of Jeff's tee-shirt, squeezed the warm flesh of his shoulder. He let his fingers start a slow and peaceful massage there, one that didn't ask for a single thing, but one that offered comfort.

Just to touch someone like this again was heaven.

Time went by, but how much Brian didn't know. He could hear Jeff breathing, feel his warmth, feel his need. Brian still had that little thing inside him that wanted to comfort the other boy, to be tender with him, to tuck him close and tell him the world was really pretty cool, and that everything would be okay.

But already that feeling was evolving. Jeff didn't need little-boy comforting. Jeff was as adult as was Brian, and what the other boy needed was someone that understood how his life was for him, understood how he felt about it, and would accept him and care about him and treat him as an equal partner.

Jeff needed a friend as much as he needed anything else. That the other boy had been walking a particularly dark and empty road was obvious to see. He seemed incomplete inside - a thing that Brian knew about, because he had been there himself.

Jeff turned his face up, pressed it into Brian's cheek, and Brian felt a small kiss.

He pulled back and looked at Jeff, who immediately looked contrite. "I'm sorry. Was that wrong?"

Brian smiled. "No. It was fine." He dropped his head, pressed his lips gently to Jeff's and kissed him back. Jeff was briefly immobile; but then his lips were pushing back, responding.

They spent the rest of the afternoon sitting together, touching and kissing, and getting comfortable with each other.

But finally, it was approaching the time that Brian knew he needed to go home to dinner.

Jeff didn't want him to go. "Call your parents. Tell them you're eating here."

Brian smiled, shook his head. "If I was going to do that, I should have done it hours ago. I don't want to do that to my mom."

Jeff frowned. "Can you come back after you eat?"

Brian considered that. He was allowed out in the evenings during the week, but had an unofficial curfew of eleven-thirty on a school night.

"Yeah. I can come back. You want me to?"

Jeff laughed. "Would fuck, yeah be too strong a way to say it?"

"Okay. I'll come back. About seven?"

"I'll be right here."

Brian got up to go. Jeff reached out a hand to stop him. "Brian - there's more to this, right?"

Brian looked down at him, grinned. "You mean sex?"

Jeff looked like a small thrill ran through him at the mention of the word. His whole face smiled. "Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Yeah."

Brian nodded. "Yeah. There's more."

Jeff's smile tightened. "Have you, uh, done this before?"

Brian nodded. "Yes."

The look of relief that flooded Jeff's face was almost comical. '"Great. Because I have to tell you I haven't got a fucking clue what to do next."

Brian had to smile. He patted his chin with a forefinger. "You haven't imagined?"

"Oh, hell, yeah. I've imagined a shitload of stuff. But that's not the same as doing."

Brian bent down, kissed Jeff on top of the head. "I'll show you. Relax."

Jeff got up and followed him outside to the Bee. Brian unlocked the car, rolled down the window and got inside. Jeff bent at the window and looked in. "I'm so glad I was right about you, Brian."

Brian pushed the key into the ignition switch, but didn't start the car. "What were you right about?"

Jeff shook his head. "It's weird. When you had me wrapped up there when we were fighting, you told me you didn't want to hurt me, and you told me to give it up."

Brian nodded. "I remember."

Jeff nodded, too. "And I was still trying to get at you. And then, you said please."

Brian smiled. "I remember that, too."

Jeff nodded. "It was the way you said it, Brian. It went straight the fuck inside me, and I realized what you were saying was that you really didn't want to hurt me. You did everything you could to not hurt me, Brian. And I wondered, why would you do that? And then I realized the way you had me, like you were hugging me."

Brian laughed. "It was a headlock, man."

"Yeah? Well it felt like a hug. It felt like one because you weren't trying to hurt me with it. You were trying to protect me."

Brian looked at Jeff. "You got all that out of what happened?"

Jeff shrugged. "Am I totally wrong?"

Brian thought about it, smiled. "No. I really didn't want to hurt you."

Jeff shook his head. "Why?"

Brian was silent a moment while his own thoughts caught up. "I liked you. And...when I thought I might have to hurt you, I realized how much I liked you, I guess."

Jeff nodded. "When you let me loose, and I looked at you, that's what I saw. How much you liked me."

Brian was silent.

Jeff looked thoughtful, reached inside the car and absently rubbed Brian's shoulder. "I couldn't believe it - not at first. I came back here and I sat right on that couch in the Winnie until I fell asleep, thinking about it. Thinking about you. And then all day Sunday I thought about you, and then I started to doubt what I had seen in your eyes."

Jeff closed his eyes at the memory. "I was scared, and I was kind of fucked up, because I wanted you to like me like that. And then I just didn't know." He opened his eyes. "So I decided to come to your school and just ask you." He laughed. "Well, not there, of course. So I brought you here."

Brian smiled. "Amazing. But I'm glad you did."

For a moment Jeff looked vulnerable. "Can I trust you, Brian?"

"Yes."

Jeff watched Brian's eyes, then smiled. He leaned in further, kissed Brian's cheek. "See you when you get back."

Brian had trouble concentrating on the way home. He nearly missed a red light, and had to slam on the brakes, and just missed going into the intersection full of cross traffic.

After that he was more careful, but still distracted.

Jeff. Holy fuck, had that situation changed in a hurry. Brian felt pulled in several different directions, didn't know quite what to focus on. Some of it was that it was just sinking in that maybe Brian was going to have a relationship again. Some of it was a kind of wicked amazement that this could have happened to him. Some of it was a pleased sense of anticipation about what might happen next.

Jeff had pretty much said he was interested in sex, and Brian felt comfortable with the idea of being with Jeff that way. Amazing how quickly Jeff had carved a little niche in Brian's emotions. The other boy was a fascinating mix of ups and downs, and Brian was till trying to sort some of that out.

But the bottom line was that Brian liked Jeff, he cared about Jeff, and he was attracted to the guy enough to want to kiss him - a thing he might easily enough lay on some chick like Annabelle, but never on another guy without damn good cause.

Brian smiled. He still had that urge to just put his arms around Jeff and hug him, give him a kiss, and tell him everything would be okay. Damn if it didn't sound like Brian had found himself a new boyfriend.

When Brian got home, his dad was relaxing out on the patio and his mom said it would still be about fifteen minutes until dinner. Brian went outside to tell his dad he'd be going out again after dinner.

"Oh, yeah? Just remember it's a school night, okay?"

"I will." Brian grinned. "I have a new friend, dad. I was over at his place this afternoon."

His father looked at him, maybe saw something special in Brian's eyes, thought he knew what it was. "Car guy?"

Brian nodded. "Chevy, too."

His dad turned in his seat, grinning. "Tell."

"Sixty-nine Camaro, 427 L-71, four speed."

His dad grinned. "Ouch. You run him yet?"

"Saturday night. I beat him at Zion."

His dad nodded. "Oh, that's the one you told me about." He nodded. "So you guys are friends now?"

"Yep."

His dad nodded. "I met more car buddies that way. That's pretty cool, Brian. So you're going back to hang out and talk cars, huh?"

Brian nodded. "More or less." Actually, less, but Brian couldn't explain his real reasons for going back to Jeff's. Oddly, he felt comfortable now with this small deception with his dad, knowing it was just a necessary thing in order for all of them to remain happy.

He went inside, glanced at the clock, and gave Ed a quick call to let him know he was still alive.

"I was gettin' worried, dude," Ed said, after he had answered. "Ready to send out the Marines, you know?"

"It was cool. We just went by his grandparent's place and hung out a little. I like the guy."

Ed made a sound on the phone. "He's kinda creepy, if you ask me. I still remember the way he was looking at you when he left that night up at Zion. Stone cold freaky, Brian."

"Well, he was okay today."

Ed laughed. "Well, I don't care, just so long as nothing happened to you. Are we doing anything later?"

Some evenings, Ed walked over and they hung out in the driveway, and Brian tinkered with the Bee while Ed shot baskets in the hoop above the paved tee across from the one occupied by Brian's car. Or, they might drive the strip a little, and hang out in the parking lot at Mickey Dee's a bit, watching the cars come in.

But not tonight.

"No, I got some shit to do this evening. I'll see you at school tomorrow."

"Okay, dude. I suppose I can get along without you one evening this week. Let's don't make that a habit, though, okay?"

Brian laughed. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"Sure. Stay cool, bro. Bye."

"Bye."

Brian hung up the phone and went to eat.

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