by Cynus

Chapter 6

The Family Business

Mr. Fjeldsted took us to my house first, where I was instructed to quickly drop off my things. Clint followed me inside with an extra bag his father had stashed in the back seat, and left it in my room. I asked him what was going on and he told me it was just his overnight bag because he'd be spending the night. Without any further details about his plans for us that evening, he grinned at me and left to rejoin his father in the driveway.

I stopped to use the restroom, and when I came out my father was standing in the hallway waiting for me. He wasn't watching the bathroom door, though, and instead was frowning down the hallway toward the front door. I wanted to ignore him, but he was between me and the way out; I wasn't about to take the long way just to avoid a simple conversation.

"Excuse me, Dad. I need to get past," I said, stopping behind him.

He turned toward me slowly, his frown frozen on his face. "What are you doing with that boy?" He asked, a dangerous edge to his voice. It was the most emotion I'd heard from him in a conversation with me since I was a little kid. If only it weren't negative.

"I'm going on a date, if you must know," I said tiredly, "And he's waiting for me."

My father snorted and said, "You can do better."

I balked at that and took an involuntary step back, nearly losing my balance until I managed to plant my cane and brace myself against the wall with my empty hand.

"What gives you the right to say that?" I asked.

"I'm your father," my dad replied. "And I know what's best for you. You're making a mistake with this boy."

I met his eyes. For the first time in many years, my father and I had prolonged eye contact, and it was the strangest experience I'd ever had. It was as if he were somewhere else, and he didn't quite know he was talking to me. I'd never seen this side of my father before, but I knew I didn't like it, which wasn't anything new. He was trying to control me, and I wasn't going to have any of it.

"I'm done having this conversation with you," I said, glaring at him. "I'm late, and you aren't stopping me." I started to move around him.

He grabbed my arm, forcefully at first, and then relaxed his grip enough for me to shake him off. I didn't say anything, I just kept walking and felt his stare on my back all the way to the front door. I opened the door and almost glanced back, but decided against it and shut the door behind me, stepping out into the cool afternoon air.

I breathed deeply as I walked away from my house, hoping it would still be welcoming to me when I returned.

"So, where are we going?" I asked as I climbed into the backseat with Clint.

Clint gave me a look that said I was asking too many questions, but he responded anyway. "We're going to dinner, of course. And I'm buying."

I rolled my eyes and asked, "but where are we going to dinner?"

He laughed and said, "Somewhere I've only been once, and I didn't have much of an appetite, but I thought I'd give it another chance."

I decided Clint wasn't going to spoil the surprise and settled in to watch the terrain. Since I'd grown up in this town my whole life, I knew most of the streets well, and I eliminated possible destinations as we passed certain streets.

Following suit, as soon as we'd turned down Elmwood Street, I'd known where Mr. Fjeldsted was taking us. Salvitici's, one of two pizza places in town. Most people came here rather than go to Domino's, who made most of their money from delivery, but I'd actually been here a couple of times. My family usually ate at home, unless my mother was onsite for an archaeological dig somewhere.

But Salvitici's had a reputation, and I had a feeling Clint would appreciate it. "You know, this place has mob connections, right?"

"Huh?" Clint asked, turning toward me with a confused expression.

I grinned and continued, "You know, the mafia? They use this place as one of their fronts. At least, that's what the rumor says."

"No way . . . do you think we'll see any action?"

"I'm sure it's just a rumor," Mr. Fjeldsted said as he turned into the parking lot. "I'm sure no one is going to kidnap and interrogate you while you're eating your pizza."

"I thought you'd be more worried about me running off to join them," Clint replied.

Mr. Fjeldsted snorted, "Worried? Why would that 'worry' me? I'd just be grateful someone else has to worry about you."

"Gee, thanks, Dad."

"All right, you know I love you. Now get out of my car and take Zane with you. I'm sure he's just as eager as I am for you to be kidnapped."

I smirked at the banter, but my smirk quickly fell. Once again I was reminded of how awesome a relationship Clint had with his father and of how my relationship with my own dad fell short. As the car came to a stop, I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door saying, "Thank you for the ride, Mr. Fjeldsted."

He looked over his shoulder and winked. "You're welcome, Zane. Happy birthday, too. You boys give me a call if you want a ride home, 'kay?"

"We won't," Clint said immediately. His dad shot him a hard look, which immediately softened as Clint rolled his eyes. "I mean, I appreciate the offer, but you remember I'm sleeping over at Zane's tonight, right?"

"Yeah, I do, now . . ." Mr. Fjeldsted chuckled. "I trust you boys to be safe, so be safe, got it?"

I blushed at his repetition of the word 'safe'. It was obvious what he meant, and I nearly protested that nothing of that sort would happen, but then I realized I might be lying if I said such a thing. Clint and I had barely stopped ourselves last time we'd kissed each other, so who knew what would happen if we started up again?

Instead of saying anything else, I climbed out of the car. Clint said something I didn't quite catch to his father before exiting the car after me. From the smug grin on Clint's face, I figured he'd made some sort of smart-ass retort to his father's most recent comment, and this made me smile in response.

"What're you grinning about?" Clint asked me when he noticed my expression.

"Just you. Come on, let's go inside so you can treat me to dinner."

"Oh, you thought I was paying?" Clint asked, feigning surprise. I knew it for what it was, and his grin returned a split second later. "Of course I am. Now, I hope you don't mind the anchovy, spinach, and artichoke pizza because that is my favorite . . ."

The sickened expression which replaced my smile was enough to send Clint into a fit of laughter. He held the door open for me and I walked past him into the restaurant. As my ear passed his lips he started speaking and I paused to hear him say, "Don't worry, I'll make sure to have a breath mint before I kiss you."

Unwilling to let him continue to pester me without some form of payback, I turned sharply and planted a kiss on his lips as he leaned against the door. My sharp turn had compromised my balance, causing me to start falling, but Clint sensed it and wrapped his arms around me, holding me upright and against him. I let him pull me up and then used the momentum to press my lips harder against his, pressing him up against the glass window set inside the door. His hands began to explore my back, sliding up and down as one of my hands reached in to wrap around his waist. The curve of his hip underneath my fingertips intrigued me, and I started to reach under his shirt to feel his smooth skin . . .


We stopped and turned as one, seeing a young man in his early twenties standing just inside the restaurant and watching us with a bemused expression. He had long, chestnut-brown hair pulled back into a pony tail. His smile radiated kindness and his eyes twinkled with delight. He wore a long-sleeved white shirt under a black vest with matching black slacks obscured slightly by the short white apron around his waist.

"Will it be just the two tonight?" he asked, his grin widening as Clint and I slowly separated from each other and walked toward him.

"Um, yes," I said awkwardly. "Just the two of us."

"We're on a date," Clint offered, earning a sharp glance from me. He shrugged and smiled at me innocently, then turned back to the man with the menus and added, "In case you couldn't already tell."

"I had no idea," the man replied, obviously stifling laughter. "My name is Luca, and I'll be your server tonight. If you'll just follow me, please."

We fell into step behind him as he led us through the semi-crowded restaurant. I could feel the eyes of some of the patrons on us, and figured we'd likely just put on a show for a number of them. While trying to keep my eyes mostly forward, I did risk one glance back toward the doors and realized most of the dining room could see them. I was suddenly self-conscious and wanted to leave, but then Luca took a sudden sharp turn and led us through the large double doors and into the kitchen.

"What are we doing back here?" I heard myself asking. Glancing at Clint, I wondered if this were part of his plan, but he seemed just as confused as I was.

Luca smiled as he held the door open for us. "I doubt you want to be in that dining room after your earlier . . . demonstration. Lucky for you, the owner is my cousin, and I can give you the chef's table for tonight. You'll have plenty of privacy, except for the staff, but they'll be far too busy to notice if you . . ." he paused, and I had the distinct feeling he was stifling laughter again, "get carried away again."

"Uh . . . thanks," I replied, blushing.

Clint took it all in stride. I don't know how he did it, but he didn't lose his cool at all. "You're just working for that tip, aren't you?" He asked, grinning from ear to ear.

"Does it show?" Luca replied without skipping a beat. He laughed as he led us further into the kitchen to a large table set right next to the action. The table was semi-circular and set into a half-circle booth built into the wall. Clint and I slid into opposite ends of the table, but then Clint kept sliding, keeping his eyes on me. I saw where he was heading and slid further into the booth myself until we met at the middle of the circle. As soon as we'd stopped, Clint reached for my hand and took it in his, and in an instant I forgot all the awkwardness we'd just experienced. I was back in his supportive grasp and had everything I needed.

"Truth be told," Luca said once we were settled, "A man called us a moment ago and said his son was making out with his date in our doorway. Imagine my surprise when it was two young men as beautiful together as yourselves." He regarded us with a fixed grin, but his eyes were as kind as ever as he said, "I know something of what you're going through. I simply wouldn't want you to get into trouble because of whom you love, and I hope when my son is older someone looks out for him that way. Hopefully this will accrue some good karma for me, eh?"

Surprisingly calm now, I rewarded Luca with a warm smile. "You have a son? You look so young."

"I'm nearly thirty," Luca replied, grinning. "My son Dante is two-and-a-half." I stared at him, and my mouth must've been hanging open as he chuckled and added, "I know, I look younger than that. Good genetics I guess."

"And you're old Carl's cousin?" I asked, glancing past Luca at the overweight chef tossing pizza dough in the air. His sweaty brow glistened in the dim lighting of the kitchen, and his face was marked by acne scars and a dozen moles. I'd have never thought such a beautiful man as Luca could be related to Carlo Salvitici.

Luca leaned forward conspiratorially and whispered, "Honestly, I think it's the pizza which ruined him. You guys might want to order something else." He glanced over his shoulder as if expecting someone to sneak up on him at any moment and stop him from betraying the restaurant's secrets. "It's the crack cocaine he puts in the dough."

"Whoa, you guys really are a mafia front, aren't you?" Clint asked, loudly. Luca closed his eyes and muttered some form of curse as the kitchen fell instantly silent. Each member of the crew stopped what they were doing and stood in place as if they were listening in. I was frozen in place, watching and waiting for everything to blow up.

And then I detected the faintest hint of a smile reappear on Luca's face as he opened his eyes and winked at Clint, clicked his tongue, and said, "This is just a good old family business, my friend. I was just joking about the drugs. The pizza is amazing on its own. Carlo's just ugly."

Then the whole crew burst into laughter and resumed working as if nothing had happened. Carlo, despite having just been insulted, laughed more heartily than the rest of them. After a short while the laughter subsided and I finally took another breath.

Clint laughed along with them, though there was a nervous edge to it now, and he eyed the crew warily. He wasn't done making fearless remarks, however, and he regarded Luca with a critical eye. "If you're not mafia," he asked slowly, "then how did they all hear what I asked?"

There was no reaction from the kitchen this time, though Luca laughed at the question and pointed to his collar where a small microphone was attached. I hadn't noticed it before, probably due to the awkwardness of our initial meeting, Luca's distracting beauty, or the color of the microphone wires camouflaging it against the vest he wore, but it made sense to me now.

"Ever wondered how Salvitici's has the quickest service in town?" Luca asked.

"I'm new in town, and this is only my second time here," Clint replied.

Luca grinned at that and said, "No kidding? I'm only visiting myself. My brother, son, and I are visiting from Russia where our father's business is. I didn't know how they had such quick service, either." He chuckled and added, "We place the order over the intercom so the kitchen knows exactly what we need as soon as we need it. It can usually shave off a few minutes."

"No kidding?" I asked, nodding in appreciation. "So the table's not bugged then?"

"Nah, we only do that when the cops are here." He chuckled and then stopped mid-laughter and stared at me coolly. "You're not cops, are you?"

I grinned, knowing this now for the joke it was and replied, "Do you get a lot of gay cops here on dates?"

Luca's smile turned wistful and his eyes grew distant as he replied, "No, but it's a distinct possibility." His wistfulness disappeared quickly and he returned to the present, then, at long last, he handed us our menus. "Feel free to look over your menu and make a selection, then I'll have a surprise for you. Can I get you started with any drinks?"

"You mean, you actually serve food here, too?" Clint asked, "Not just the drugs?"

"I'll make sure to mix some in just for you," Luca replied, bowing with a flourish.

He took our drink orders then left us to look over the menu, but we weren't reading anything. Luca had left us both smiling, and I couldn't help myself when I saw that radiant happiness on Clint's lips. I had to steal a kiss.

Of course, I could never have just one.

The surprise turned out to be a fifty-percent discount on the entire bill, but it didn't start that way. Luca returned, telling us everything but the drinks would be on the house, his treat. Although honored and grateful for his generosity, I'd felt bad about accepting this, but then remembered I wasn't the one paying. Clint rose to the occasion and surprised me again, and I'll never forget it or ever wish to.

He looked Luca straight in the eye and said, "I'm taking this boy out for his birthday, and I already owe him so much, please don't take this away from me, too?"

Luca nodded in immediate understanding, and withdrew his earlier offer, then made the immediate counter offer of a fifty-percent reduction. He'd cover Clint's meal if Clint covered mine. Clint agreed, and I was left in awe as Clint placed our order with Luca. Normally I wouldn't have appreciated someone giving my order on my behalf, but since we were sharing it made sense for only one of us to do it.

We'd decided on a pizza despite Luca's warnings about drugs in the crust, loaded with toppings on one half and with far fewer on the other. Once we'd finally stopped making out, we had our first disagreement. Thank goodness someone discovered you could split a pizza in half, because god damn Clint liked weird things! Pineapple, pulled-pork, black and green olives, an assortment of peppers, all on top of barbeque sauce.

My side, on the other hand, was a classic Margarita pizza, with delicious, fresh Mozzarella cheese, ripe tomatoes, and sweet basil on a robust and hearty tomato sauce. I was a sucker for the classics, and I couldn't conceive how Clint's side of the pizza could possibly be delicious at all. But then the food came, and I was caught in a dilemma.

"Come on, you have to try a bite," Clint said, lifting up a slice of his monstrosity. It looked heavy in his hands, and I wondered if he were struggling to hold it without it collapsing on him. The pain in my eyes must have shown through, because Clint sighed in exasperation and said, "Zane, you've got to try new things, or you'll never really live."

That struck me, and I knew he had a point, though I wasn't about to immediately admit it. After all, there's this thing called pride, and if you haven't figured it out by now, I have a lot of it. "What, you don't think I'm really living?" I replied, dropping my own piece of pizza to the plate beneath it. "What am I doing then, huh?"

Clint stared at me for a moment, his eyes questioning, and then he shrugged and stuck the pizza in his mouth, biting off a large piece before setting the slice back on his plate. He chewed slowly, moaning slightly as he devoured the unique batch of flavors in his mouth. Watching him eat was an aphrodisiac. I felt my body respond as I imagined being in his mouth, wondering if he'd do the same thing if he tasted me.

Then I wondered what he tasted like; not his lips but his essence. What flavors did Clint, my energetic, erratic, fearless explorer have within him, and would I ever get the chance to find out? Maybe not if I didn't have the courage to try new things . . .

"Oh, what the hell?" I said, reaching over and picking up the slice of pizza. I was right; it was heavy, even more than I'd anticipated. It looked like more than I could handle, but then I looked over and saw Clint's hopeful eyes watching me. Sighing, I closed my eyes and brought the pizza to my lips.

An explosion of flavor hit my tongue, an onslaught of piquant pleasure taking my taste buds captive and demanding more pizza for ransom. I couldn't believe how good it was, especially considering the apparently chaotic assortment of ingredients, but the experience was practically orgasmic. Forgetting where I was, I moaned around the food in my mouth, savoring it as I worked through it slowly, then finally swallowed and opened my eyes in surprise.

Clint was staring at me, his eyes lit up with excitement. "You liked it, I take it?" He asked. I nodded enthusiastically as he observed, "I have to say, that moan was . . . the sexiest sound I've ever heard in my life."

I blushed furiously and set the piece of pizza back on his plate so I could hide my face behind a napkin. Clint watched me, and then reached over to my plate to pick up the slice of my pizza I had there. He stuck it in his mouth and bit off a small bite, then set the piece back where it belonged. He chewed it slowly then digested it, letting out a satisfied sigh as he finished.

"I'm glad you like the classics," he said, grinning as he reached beneath the table and put his hand on my knee, rubbing it gently. "I think it shows your romantic side, and I definitely like that. Hopefully we can learn to appreciate each other's strengths?"

"Where is this coming from?" I asked, putting my napkin down and reaching out to mirror his hand placement. His fingers restlessly danced on my knee while I gently moved my index finger in small circles on top of his.

He looked down for a moment, then back up with a small smile. "I was thinking about our conversation at school today, the one about me annoying you?" he asked, making sure I followed. I nodded and he continued. "I just want you to know that I appreciate the unique things about you, and hope I'm not . . . I hope you see me the same way."

I pulled my hand away from his knee and lifted it to his face, brushing the hair away from his ear, then leaned into him so I could whisper to him. "Clint," I said, "Your uniqueness is intoxicating, and there's nothing I want more than to show you what I mean by that, but we're in public, and someone promised my mother there'd be no sex this weekend . . ."

He giggled at that and said, "Yeah, but do you know what's funny?"

"What?" I whispered.

"I'm the one who suggested it."

"I know," I said, pulling away and returning to my normal voice. "What I don't know is why."

He shifted uncomfortably. "I guess you could say that I'm a little bit nervous. Maybe it's because I've never done it before, or maybe I'm just nervous about doing it with you. I really like you and I don't want to screw it up."

"You don't have anything to worry about with me, Clint. I'm excited to explore things with you, but if you want to take it slow, I am okay with that too," I smiled at him encouragingly, but he didn't seem entirely convinced. Wanting desperately to make him feel more at ease with this conversation, I added, "You know, one of the things I really like about you is how easily you break the rules sometimes, especially when they're bad. I'm okay if you want to take back your promise to my mother, too." I grinned to show him I was joking and was rewarded with a smile at last.

"I really think things are working well between us. At least we're communicating, which is great, and I would never want to change that," he said, taking my hand again, "though there is still one thing I want to know. I'm really hoping you'll trust me enough to tell me, too."

I knew it was coming, and this time I wasn't going to react the same way I had before. I sighed and beat him to the question. "You want to know about my dad, don't you?"

Clint nodded. "Yeah, but you really don't have to tell me; I just feel that we should be honest with each other. I've always tried to be honest with you, and I hope you know that anything you say won't change anything for me. I'll still lo . . ." He hesitated and blushed, "Aw hell, fuck it. I'll still love you. What I feel for you, nothing's gonna change that."

I smirked at that and thought about it for a moment before responding. "You said we're going back to my house after this, right?"

"Yep. I'm staying the night, as long as you're okay with that," he giggled, showing that he didn't mean to seriously question whether or not I wanted him there.

My hand darted to his ribs and quickly began tickling him, giving him an excuse to giggle uncontrollably. This earned us several stares from the cooking staff, but I didn't care. The sound of Clint's laughter was as intoxicating any sound had ever been, though the wild flailing of his arms as he tried to stop me was starting to get out of hand, so I stopped.

"You bastard," Clint said as he caught his breath, "how'd you know I was ticklish?"

"How did you know I was a bastard?" I replied, crossing my arms over my chest defensively. Wiggling my eyebrows, I added, "don't worry, I'm joking. And I think this is probably a good time to say I'm sorry again for how I acted this morning."

"But are you going to answer my question?" Clint asked.

I shrugged and said, "Yeah, I think I will, but not here. Did you bring a swimsuit?"

"What does that have to do with anything?" Clint asked, shaking his head. "And no, I didn't."


"What is?"

"You'll see when we get back to my place," I said, grinning as I picked up the piece of pizza from Clint's plate again. "Tonight's the night for new experiences."

Clint's eyes widened, and I wondered what crazy ideas were going through his head. What implications had he drawn from my words? Either way, it seemed he was excited and eager, because he caught sight of Luca out of the corner of his eye, and called him over.

"Hey, Luca?" Clint yelled, "can we get that check now, please?"

When Luca turned toward us, he looked a little different. He had changed clothes, and was now carrying a toddler in his arms. The kid looked just like him and was obviously a relative, possibly even the son he'd mentioned before. He walked over to our table, the familiar smile on his lips, but when he parted them, he had a different tone than he is with us before.

"Sorry boys, Luca is checking on his other tables. I might be able to help you out, though," this new pseudo-Luca said. "I'm his brother, Nikola. He told me about you two, and said he had a very special table tonight. This is his son Dante. I was playing with him in the break room, and this little ball of energy wanted to come find his dad."

I stared at Luca's doppelgänger while Clint regarded him with a huge grin. "I have a twin, too," Clint said. "So, you two are both working here?"

Nikola laughed and said, "yeah, though I'm only visiting for a short time, while Luca and Dante will be here for a couple of months. Our family is spread out, but we like to move around and visit everyone, and we help out when we're there. Maybe it's an Italian thing, joining the family business, whatever that business happens to be." He laughed heartily at his own remark, and though that seemed to denote a certain level of ego, I found it endearing.

Luca walked through the swinging door into the kitchen, and came to stand beside his brother, taking Dante into his arms. He kissed his son on the forehead, and held him close, then said to Nikola, "Hey, could you get these two troublemakers their check? It's number 27."

Nikola bowed and replied, "Certainly, little bro. Anything for Dante's father. You know I like this little tyke more than you."

"The feeling is mutual, Nikola." Luca laughed and added, "He likes you more and he likes me, too. It's because you never have to punish him."

Laughing, Nikola moved away to go and get our check, and Luca grinned at his back. He then turned toward us and said, "I hope you enjoyed your meal. Doesn't look like you ate very much of it. Was it to your liking?"

"Most definitely," I said, grinning back at Luca, "we just didn't want to get too high of a dose from the drugs and the crust."

Luca chuckled and said, "I'll get you guys a couple boxes. Can't let those drugs go to waste!"

Clint explained to me that he'd intended to walk home, but with the pizza boxes in our hands he didn't find that a feasible option. I agreed and he called his father to pick us up. His dad arrived soon after we paid our bill, and a short while later we made it to my house. I took Clint inside and finally gave him the tour I promised him the last time he was here, but I strategically left the pool for the last stop. I also skipped the study on the off chance that my father was home. This morning's conversation made me want to avoid him at all costs.

Although I had already shown him the kitchen the last time he was there, it was easy to pass through there on my way to the pool, and I was glad I did when I found my mother home and preparing dinner for the rest the family, since Clint and I had already eaten.

She stopped me as soon as she saw me and said, "Zane, I'm glad you're here. It's just going to be your sisters and I tonight. Your father left this afternoon for a conference in Houston. He originally wasn't going to go, but I managed to convince him."

I grinned, knowing exactly why she'd done it. She had done it to get my dad of the house for my birthday weekend, and I appreciated the gesture. I embraced her and said, "Thanks for letting me know, Mom. And thanks for getting rid of him, too."

"Well, don't expect me to make it permanent. I still like your father," my mother replied, messing my hair with her hand.

I rolled my eyes. "At least someone does," I muttered. My mother's smile faltered, but before she could say anything else, I added, "Clint and I are going for a swim. I don't know how long we'll be." Before she responded, I took Clint's hand and started leading him out of the room.

"Behave yourselves!" My mother shouted after us as we left. There wasn't a lot of warning in her tone, despite her earlier admonition toward Clint. I knew she trusted me to make decisions in my own life. I wasn't that worried about her, even if Clint and I did decide to go further in our relationship tonight. We were communicating well, and we wouldn't do anything we weren't prepared to accept the consequences for. I wouldn't push him, and I definitely knew he wouldn't push me.

I led him out to the pool and watched his eyes grow wide as he took in the room. "I can't believe you have an entire indoor pool!" He said as he surveyed the entire room, and eyed the water with eagerness. "Are we really going swimming?" He asked excitedly.

"Well, that depends," I said, suddenly nervous. "You remember what you asked me the day we officially met?"

Clint glanced at me, blushed, and grinned. "You bet I do," he said.

"Then, I think now is as good a time as any," I said. "After all, I didn't bring a suit either."

"So we're really doing this then?"

I gestured towards the far end of the room and said, "We can store our stuff in the locker room over there. It's better than doing it poolside."

"I don't know . . ." Clint replied, "I think I'd be okay doing it poolside . . . Of course, I did promise your mother we wouldn't . . ."

I blushed furiously but couldn't help but laugh at the same time. "That isn't what I meant, Clint. But hey, like I said at dinner, I'm all for breaking the rules if you are." Wiggling my eyebrows, I started towards the indicated room, knowing Clint would follow.

As I walked into the locker room, I turned and said, "You can use a locker if you want, but no one's going to come in here, so we can just leave our stuff in the open."

"Do you usually skinny-dip here?"


"And no one ever comes in?"

I shrugged. "Sometimes my mother will poke her head in the room just to call for me, but that's about it. This room is like my sanctuary, and usually my family respects my privacy and doesn't intrude. Why? Are you worried about someone coming in? That doesn't sound like the Clint I know."

"No," he said quietly. "So, I guess this is the part where we get naked, huh?"

I nodded. Then I hesitated. It was different now that I had Clint here. I hadn't thought I would be nervous to be naked in front of him, however, now that I was faced with the possibility, my pulse was beginning to quicken.

But I wanted this. This was a day for new experiences, after all, and this was a new experience I've been craving ever since I met Clint. I wasn't about to waste it. Despite the slight tremor in my hand, I set my cane on one of the benches, and reached for the top button of my shirt. I undid my buttons slowly, watching Clint out of the corner of my eye. He was also watching me, and so this made me slightly self-conscious, it also aroused me.

By the time I had my shirt completely undone, Clint had slipped out of his shoes and tucked them under one of the benches. His breath was becoming more ragged, creating a beat to which my racing heart could dance. I pulled back my shirt, sliding out of it as Clint pulled at the bottom of his shirt and began to lift it up and over his head. We discarded them at the same time, and stood naked from the waist up taking in the sight.

Clint wasn't someone who had much of a chance of winning any beauty pageants or bodybuilding competitions, but there is something strangely alluring about the bare chest of the one you're falling in love with. It creates a certain level of vulnerability; it denotes a certain trust. It's not a matter of showing anything that our fragile prudish society would consider taboo, but it opens oneself up to judgment. We, as men, are often expected to have athletic builds, just as women are often expected to fit a certain dress size. But when you truly love the person, none of that matters. It didn't matter to me that Clint didn't have a muscular and toned torso, and if he had I don't think it would have fit him. He was skinny, scrawny even, but I loved every single detail.

Judging by his eyes, Clint felt exactly the same way about what he saw in me. I didn't feel self-conscious anymore. He looked at me the way a man might look at his spouse after 30 years of a happy marriage, still seeing the young person he married. He didn't look at my body like an object to be used. He didn't look at it with lust, envy, or any amount of derision or judgment, but instead he regarded me the way a pilgrim might view his holy destination. He wanted to get to me, to touch me, because he knew that in doing so he would become something more.

I'm not sure how I knew all that, except that maybe I was reflecting the way I felt about him. All my earlier judgments about Clint became completely meaningless in this brief moment of shared vulnerability, and it was only going to get better.

Pure serenity overcame everything else, as we slowly but deliberately began removing the rest of our clothing. We kept our eyes on each other, relishing each additionally revealed piece of the tapestry of skin, until at last the full picture was revealed.

It was a little awkward standing there, balancing on one foot, my leg brace discarded to the side, recently removed boxers laying atop it. Despite the awkwardness, Clint made me feel all right. I was semi-erect, and so was he, but that didn't matter to me at all. What mattered was his calming presence.

But we couldn't stand there forever. As much as I loved that moment, there was something more I wanted. I wanted Clint in the water; I wanted him in my sanctuary. I reached for my leg brace, ready to put it on so that I could make it easily to the pool, and that's when Clint stepped forward.

"Zane," he said putting his hand on mine and stopping it midair, "do you really need that now? You have me. Let me walk with you. Let me be your support."

I hesitated, wanting the security of my brace anyway. Clint didn't know what he was asking. He didn't know how much I'd come to rely upon that simple device; he didn't know how much it meant to me, knowing it was there. The only time I didn't wear it was when I was in the water.

"Clint, you have to understand . . . I never go anywhere without it, unless I'm getting wet." I didn't move my hand any closer to the brace, but I was beginning to feel more self-conscious with every passing second. "My brace is the only thing that allows me to walk with confidence. It lets me do things on my own. I'd be leaning into you the entire time if I left it behind."

Clint reached up with his other hand, grasping my chin gently and turning my head to face him. He spoke calmly but his eyes were pleading. "Zane, I know most people don't think I pay attention, but I've watched you a lot over the time I've known you. You always try to shoulder things on your own. You take on way too much weight, and never let anyone help you. Please, let me do something you'd never let anyone else do for you."

The pregnant pause which followed threatened my serenity, but my longing for Clint won out in the end. I turned my hand over, sliding it into his, and then reached for my cane with my other hand. "I need one or the other in order to walk at all, but if you take my arm, I'll give you what you want."

He smiled at me, not his usual mischievous grin, but with a slight, pleasant smile. After letting go of my hand for a second, he looped his arm with mine and we began the slow walk toward the pool. When we reached the side of the pool, I sat down and dangled my legs in the water, and then handed my cane to Clint. I didn't let go immediately as he took it from me, meeting his gaze and saying, "You don't know how hard it is for me to give this up."

"No. I couldn't possibly know," he said quietly, "but I do know how important it is to have one person in your life that you completely trust. I hope you let me be that person."

"I'll give you a chance," I said carefully, "maybe even more than one. But please, don't take away my support without being there for me."

He nodded, and I let him take the cane from me. He gestured with it slightly and said, "Zane, as long as you're willing to let me be there, I will be."

I told him where he could hang the cane, and he walked over to the row of hooks and hung it on the wall. He returned to me a moment later and sat down next to me, dangling his legs in the water next to mine. Our feet brushed against each other's and I felt a tingle of energy travel all the way up from the bottom of my foot to my head. I needed more.

Taking Clint's hand one more time, I grinned, and leaned forward, falling into the pool and pulling him with me. The serenity broke the moment we hit the water, but the fun had just begun.

We spent the next hour playing in the water and somehow managed to avoid any sexual contact. Sensual contact, on the other hand, occurred nearly every second we were in the water. We couldn't stop touching each other, but we wrestled, and tickled, and had a nearly endless water fight.

I had more fun with Clint and water than I had ever had swimming before. It was as if he were the piece I'd been missing; his childlike way of experiencing the world, wild and inquisitive, gave me a perspective I'd long been missing in my sanctuary. We had fun. I couldn't remember the last time I'd truly had fun before meeting this wonderful boy.

And then, when our energy began to wane, and it was time to take a break, I knew it was finally time to answer Clint's curiosity.

"My father hates me," I said, breaking a brief silence that had fallen between us. I don't know what made me say it at that moment, but it simply felt right to do so. "Do you have any idea what it's like to grow up with a father who hates you?"

Clint didn't answer. He reached out and ran his fingers down my back, gently stroking my skin. When I didn't immediately continue, he leaned forward and kissed my cheek. Regarding him curiously, my mind raced to all the different possibilities of what could be going through his head. It wasn't like Clint to avoid responding. He was always cracking jokes, making light of situations, or otherwise trying to distract from serious matters. Yet here he was, waiting for my next words. I didn't give him enough credit. Hopefully, I would remember that in the future.

"I don't know why he hates me," I continued at last. "It wasn't always like this, and in fact my very earliest memories involved him smiling a lot. You probably haven't noticed, but he has major back problems. He injured his back in the lab ten years ago, and after the injury he stopped smiling whenever he saw me. Just me, though. He never acts that way toward my sisters."

"Then why do you let him get to you?" Clint asked. "For the most part, you've always come across as a person who doesn't care what people think about you."

I shrugged helplessly. "I don't know, maybe because he's my dad? Maybe that's a stupid reason to care."

"As good a reason as any," Clint replied.

"Do you know why I got into swimming?" I asked. He shook his head, and I continued, "Originally it's because my Dad thought we all should learn how to swim. He taught me just before he injured his back, and we haven't swum together since. I fell in love with it, because it's the only place I really feel normal with my leg, but at the very beginning, before everything changed, it was something I shared with my dad."

Clint smiled but didn't say anything. I was glad he didn't, because I couldn't stop talking. Now that I'd finally started, I needed to get it all out. "Do you know why I want to go into Astrophysics?"

"Because you're really smart and it's something that would challenge you?" Clint offered.

"Thanks, but it's not like I don't have other options for that," I replied, "I chose it because that's what my dad did. I remember bedtime stories when I was very little, about space exploration and the cool developments in science to get us to other worlds. I didn't get nursery rhymes or picture books; I was raised on science fiction."

"What do you really want to do if not Astrophysics?"

I sighed bitterly. "Well, when I was really young I wanted to be an astronaut. With my defective leg I'd never be able to pass the physical requirements, but it is my nostalgic dream. It's one of the other reasons I like swimming so much. Astronauts often train underwater because it's the closest they can get to weightlessness on Earth."

"I didn't know that," Clint replied. "That's cool. I don't think you should let the physical requirements stop you from trying, though."

"At heart I'm a realist," I said, shrugging. "I'd rather pursue something I'd both enjoy and have a realistic chance of getting into."

Clint laid a consoling hand on my shoulder and asked, "Then why are you going into Astrophysics? Shouldn't you be doing something you love?"

"Because I keep hoping it'll make my dad notice me. Fathers are supposed to love their children, aren't they?" I said bitterly. "I just want his approval. I just want him to care. I just want him to fucking love me."

Clint kissed my cheek again. "I love you already, does that help?"

I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry, but all the came out was a strangled mix of both. "But why? Why do you, a person who is known me for only a month, love me when a man who has known me my entire life doesn't give a shit about me?"

"I wish I could answer that, Zane, I really do," Clint said, shaking his head. "Well, I suppose I could answer why I love you. Though, you might not like the answer."


"I love you because you are you. It's the entire package that I love."

Taking a note from his book, I decided to lighten the mood. "Oh, my package, huh?" I said, "So it's purely physical for you. I should've known."

He smiled, knowing I was making a joke, but he brought his point home anyway. "No, it's purely you. Pure you is fucking amazing."

I kissed him. Hard. Thrust my tongue into his mouth, twirled his in a close and sensual tango, and kept it going until I had to come up for air. And then there we were, two naked boys in love, in a private pool all to ourselves, out of breath but willing to suffocate if it meant our lips never had to be apart again.

My hand touched his chest and then slid down purposefully, knowing only one destination. Clint shuddered under my touch, but felt his hand on my hip, sliding along the curve of my pelvis until his fingertips brushed my pubes. My hand found his own short hairs a split second later, and there we both paused for a moment.

"I promised your mother," Clint whispered.

"Please," I replied, "the last thing I want to think about right now is my mother. Besides, is a hand job really sex?"

My hand darted downward and found his shaft, and Clint moaned as my fingers wrapped around it. It didn't take him long to follow suit, and for the first time in my life, I felt the loving hand of a boy I wanted more than anything, seek nothing more than my pleasure.

We established a rhythm, and we breathed and stroked in cadence. Our pace quickened as we lost ourselves to the movement. It didn't take long before our seed mixed in the water, and we collapsed into each other, panting, but so hungry for each other that our lips quickly resumed the tango they began moments before.

We finally climbed out of the pool sometime later. I'd completely lost track of the night and didn't care one bit. We showered together, him holding me, supporting me as he had said he would, and everything felt right with the world.

If only every night could be like that.

If only.

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