by Cynus

Chapter 8

Better For All Parties Involved

Nothing made sense anymore. I didn't want to move, go anywhere, or even get out of bed. Thankfully, because of the school holiday, I didn't have to. I tried to text Clint a couple of times, but he didn't answer me. I tried to tell myself that everything would work out, and that Clint would let me apologize, but I had a feeling things were really over between us.

And so I wasted away in my room, staring at my ceiling more often than not, avoiding everyone and everything. Between Thursday and Friday, I did almost nothing, hardly slept, and probably spoke less than a dozen words.

Saturday morning arrived, and I was struck with the reality that I now had a Halloween party to host. I considered canceling it. There was no way I wanted to be around that many people, especially if I was supposed to be the one showing them a good time.

But I wasn't ready to make a decision yet, not without a little clarity. For the first time in three days, an absolute record for me, I headed down to the pool, for shower and then a swim.

As I approached the shower room, I heard the water turn off. I waited around the corner to see who was inside. Even though my family was rather comfortable around each other naked, I still tried to respect their privacy whenever possible. When I finally heard footsteps and my father came out wrapped in a towel, I was glad I'd waited.

In hindsight, I should've known he would be in here at this time of day. We normally avoided each other, and this was far from my usual time to swim or shower. He regarded me with contempt, which strangely faded away to some level of curiosity.

"I heard you shouting at that boy the other day," My dad said after a few seconds of awkward silence.

This was the absolute last conversation I wanted to have with the absolute last person I wanted to have it with. Ignoring him completely, I stepped around him into the shower room. I started taking off my clothes as my father continued as if I wanted to hear what he had to say.

"I'm glad you ended things with him," he said, "he was beneath our status and wasn't worth your time."

I paused with my shirt only halfway unbuttoned. Was this really the way to earn his approval? Alienating the person I had fallen in love with? Did this bastard get off on my misery or something? Whatever his deal was, I wasn't going to have any of it. "Fuck off."

"I told you not to talk to me that way, Zane," he replied.

This time I did turn to look at him, my eyes narrowed dangerously. "And I told you to fuck off. You have no idea what you're talking about. So fuck off, Stan, and go hide in your miserable little study, jacking off to your ego."

My response finally generated a measure of intense emotion in my father's eyes. He took a step toward me, his eyes blazing. "Don't you dare talk to me that way," he said, quickly closing the distance between us. "I am your—"

He pulled up short as I brandished my cane like a sword. "If you dare finish that sentence with the word 'father', I swear to God I will kill you."

His eyes widened in shock as he stopped in his tracks. "You're threatening me?" He scoffed. "You really are as worthless as I thought you were."

"Zane, is everything all right in here?" I recognized Greg's voice, and spared a very brief glance in his direction before returning my gaze to my father's face. A change came over him again, eyes glazing with that distant look I'd grown so used to, and suddenly the anger and emotion was gone from him once again.

"I don't know, Greg," I replied, watching my father carefully. "But," I continued, "I think so."

And then my father turned and walked away as if he'd never participated in the conversation at all. I closed my eyes and took a deep, long, calming breath, holding it for a moment then letting it out slowly. When I opened my eyes Greg was in front of me, his hand poised above my shoulder his eyes filled with concern. "What happened, Zane?"

I pulled away from him before he could touch me and resumed unbuttoning my shirt. "Nothing new," I responded, "except I suppose my father is showing more interest in me. It's not a good thing."

"Obviously," Greg said carefully.

I pulled off my shirt and tossed it onto the bench, then spared a glance at Greg. "What are you doing here?"

"You weren't answering my texts this morning, so I figured I'd drop by to see when we were planning on setting up for the party."

Smirking, I replied, "I was thinking of canceling, actually."


"What's the point?" I met his surprised eyes and added, "There's no point to anything anymore."

I hadn't believed Greg's eyes could widen further, but somehow they did. It didn't matter to me; I was as done with this conversation as I was with everything else. I started taking off my pants as Greg stood there in silence, aware of his stare but not caring.

"What are you talking about?" Greg asked. "As far as I knew, everything was going well with you."

"Well, my father just admitted to thinking I'm worthless, after telling me how proud he was that I broke up with Clint." I gave Greg a hard look before letting my pants drop, sitting down on the bench, and kicking them away from my feet. The leg brace soon followed, and I hooked my fingers in the waistband of my boxers as I added bitterly, "So, you could say everything is going great if I was a masochist, or if I was some evil person who deserved to be fucked over by the universe. I suppose it might be the latter, but I'm done caring either way."

I slid along the bench to where I could reach the guardrail, then pulled myself to a standing position and used the railing's support to walk to the shower head. Turning on the water, I tried to ignore Greg's presence entirely as I put my back to him. Greg, however, had other ideas.

"You broke up with Clint?" He asked. "I just talked to him today. He told me he was planning on coming to your party, so I find it rather surprising that you'd say that."

I turned slowly, putting my back to the shower head as I stared at Greg as if he'd lost his mind. "You must either be imagining things or lying to me to make me feel better. Clint's been ignoring me for several days. He doesn't want to talk to me, and I'm sure he doesn't want to be my boyfriend anymore."

Greg didn't answer immediately, so I turned around, shrugging as I resumed my shower. If Greg didn't have a response, then he was obviously lying to me. It made no difference whatsoever. He didn't really care about me. His focus was on his girlfriend and his life, on his religion, and on his precious morals. I spent nearly a minute in the water with my eyes closed, lamenting bitterly in my mind about how I had no one in my life who gave a shit about me.

Or so I thought.

One of Greg's large hands rested gently on my shoulder, and the other landed on the opposite side. He pushed gently on one side, indicating he wanted me to turn toward him, and so I did. As I turned, the spray of the water hit Greg directly in the chest. I watched the little droplets bounce off of his skin and back toward me, and then realized he'd stripped down to join me during the time I'd ignored him.

Although we'd swum together naked many times when we were younger, it had been some time since we'd last been in the pool together. I didn't realize how much I'd missed this close companionship we'd once had until he was standing in front of me again in this state. And then he did something he'd never done before. As soon as I was facing him, he took a step closer and wrapped his arms around me, crushing our naked bodies together in a tight embrace.

"I don't tell you often enough, Zane," he whispered, "but I love you. Don't read anything into this, I'm not gay, I don't want to have sex with you, but I love you. You're the first person who ever made me feel accepted, despite our differences in opinion. Please, don't shut me out now."

Initially when he took me in his arms, my own limbs had remained at my sides and I'd been frozen by the sudden tactile contact between us. Greg had hugged me many times before, but never so intimately, never like this. His words brought renewed strength to me, and I reached up at last to pull him into me. I didn't have words to respond to what he said, so I just let him hold me.

He had more words for both of us, as he continued, "I feel like there's some sort of wall between us recently, and I hate that. I don't know what's going on with you, or how I can help, but please know I'm willing to do anything to tear down that wall. I will always support you, my brother, even if it means stripping down naked and showering with you just to prove how dedicated I am."

I felt motivated to do something I'd never done before, and kissed Greg's cheek gently. "Thank you. I . . . I love you, too, Greg. I don't know what I'd do without you." I pulled back from him, sniffling before wiping a tear from my eye. "Fuck. I'm a mess right now."

"You have every right to be," Greg said, "Whatever shit that was with your Dad a moment ago . . ."

Wide-eyed, I couldn't erase the smile from my face. Greg raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth to question me when I explained, "You said 'shit'. You're just full of surprises, aren't you?"

Greg blushed and looked away from me. "Okay, now I suddenly feel awkward."

"But hugging your gay best friend while he's naked and in the shower didn't?" I asked, laughing. It felt so good to laugh, and I couldn't stop, especially after Greg joined in. I knew he now felt self-conscious about that, too, but he didn't let go. He just kept smiling, laughing, and rubbing my back gently.

"Never," he replied at last. "And I'll even prove it." He pulled me close again, pressing our bodies tightly together like they'd been a moment before. By this point the heat from the water and steam had done some work on both of our bodies, and his erection poked me in the hip while mine rested against his thigh. There's no way he couldn't have noticed it, but he kept holding me anyway until I finally started pulling back.

"Greg, I don't know how you pulled it off, but I feel way better than I have in a couple of weeks. I didn't think I'd ever be there again," I said when he finally let go. "Now, don't misunderstand, I'm not complaining, but I do kind of wish you were Clint right now so I could show my appreciation a little more . . . enthusiastically."

Greg laughed, blushed, and rolled his eyes all at once. "You're still trying to jump my bones, huh?"

I punched him on the shoulder and said, "You wish. I know you want me." We shared another chuckle and then I grew quiet, a question weighing on my mind. "Did Clint really say he was coming today?"

Greg nodded immediately. "I wouldn't lie to you about something like that. He has a surprise for you, too. I even helped him work on it."

My face fell and I avoided Greg's eyes, tears beginning to roll down my cheeks as I thought about the last time I'd seen Clint. "Greg, I fucked up, man. I yelled at him, called him an idiot . . . I fucking ripped into him, and he didn't deserve any of it. I'm so worried I ruined things with him."

"Clint's a pretty resilient guy," Greg replied, reaching out and lifting my chin. "Trust me, Zane. He cares a lot about you, and he knows you care about him. Things will work out, one way or another. But," he paused and I almost slapped him to tell him to get to the point, "but you'll never find out if you cancel your party. You better finish your shower so we can get started on the prep work."

"All right, you win," I said. "But I'm swimming today, too. It's about time I got back in the water. Care to join me? You're already wet."

"Not as wet as you," Greg replied, winking at me. He winced as soon as he realized what he'd said and added, "That was really creepy, wasn't it?"

"Yeah," I replied, "But don't worry; I won't tell Celeste that you want to jump my bones."

He rolled his eyes and laughed, and I joined in immediately. I'd missed laughing, and I couldn't imagine ever wanting to stop again.

The party went ahead as scheduled, and more people came than I'd anticipated. Thankfully we planned ahead for having extra people, and had plenty of food and drinks for everyone, and everything began smoothly. My costume – I'd decided to go as Sherlock Holmes – didn't earn me too much attention, which was the way I preferred it. Many of the other guests, on the other hand, had gone all out for the event.

Celeste, likely in direct correlation to her recent doubt regarding her faith, had come dressed as a devil. It was a bit rebellious for her, but she'd chosen a particularly revealing version of the costume and turned more than a few heads when she walked by. I wasn't sure the costume really fit her previously conservative nature, but it seemed she was having fun and trying new things. I was glad she was taking the time to explore other things, even though I was pretty sure this wasn't the new her she'd settle on.

Greg's costume took me by surprise. He traditionally played off his religion, despite the pagan origins of the holiday, and often came dressed as some sort of Christian pun. Last year he'd come as 'The Holy Ghost', a superhero with a prominent 'HG' in the center of his chest. I'd rolled my eyes at that one and let it slide without harassing him. Much. This year, however, he went a bit further than normal. Keeping to his religious theme, he came as a nun, complete with something under his clothes to give him the appearance of breasts. I raised an eyebrow when he came walking in, shrugged and said, "Thought it about time I gave women a little more credit. These things are heavy!" He then adjusted his 'boobs' and grinned at me before walking into the party.

I was more grateful than ever that my two best friends had put their best foot forward for this holiday which I loved more than any other. It helped distract my thoughts away from the growing anxiety I felt in waiting for Clint's appearance. Thankfully, there was plenty of that distraction to go around as party host.

There were three people noticeably missing when the party began, and I grew more nervous with each passing moment they remained absent. Clint, Angie, and Travis had become some of my closest friends, and I sincerely hoped that my fallout with Clint truly was temporary, and that I hadn't succeeded in alienating all three because of my incredibly insensitive choice of words.

My first glimmer of hope came when Travis arrived about an hour and a half into the party, though it dimmed slightly when I realized he came alone. At least he'd come in costume; I wasn't quite certain, but my gut told me he was dressed as Marty McFly from the Back to the Future movies. I planned to question that as my opening line before asking about Clint and started toward him, but Celeste stopped me partway with a hand on my arm and asked, "Hey, can I talk to you for a moment?"

I glanced back to look for Travis, but he'd disappeared into the crowd. Sighing, I turned and let Celeste pull me into the kitchen. Once we were behind closed doors, I asked, "What's up?"

"Greg told me he was here this morning for a couple of hours before I arrived," she began, biting her lip nervously. "First off, are you okay?"

I nodded. "Yeah, I'm doing okay. I really wish Clint would get here, though."

"Good. And don't worry, I'm sure he'll be here. He has some sort of surprise for you," Celeste replied.

"Oh, so you're in on it too, huh?" I asked, giving her an impatient look. "I really wish someone would tell me what the hell is going on."

She rolled her eyes and laughed then said, "Oh if only you weren't gay, Zane. You're so cute when you're petulant. You know, you might want to embrace surprises if you're planning on staying with Clint."

"You're one to talk, with what you and Greg are going through," I said with a laugh which faded quickly when I saw her face fall. "What's going on?"

"We broke up, actually," Celeste replied, smiling sadly.


"Yeah," she said, "late last night."

"How come you didn't tell me while we were setting up for the party? How did you even . . ." I paused, momentarily overcome by my disbelief in what was happening. Somehow they managed to keep it from me despite working side-by-side for the better part of the day. "You weren't even acting strange!"

Celeste shrugged. "We agreed to be friends and we were honest about it. The problem was that the relationship was hurting the friendship, and the friendship came first. So does our friendship with you, actually."

"What do you mean?" I asked, freezing at this weird declaration. My moment of vulnerability with Greg earlier in the morning came rushing back to me, then I wondered if there was more going on than I originally thought. "Did Greg . . . is he . . .?"

Celeste laughed boisterously, and when I gave her an impatient look, she only laughed harder. When she finally recovered, she said, "No, not that. Greg's as straight as ever. We just both know you've been having a rough time lately, and we haven't been there for you. I think I can speak for both of us when I say it's more important that we take care of the people we care about than continue a relationship neither of us really believe in anymore."

I shook my head, still having a hard time believing what I was hearing. "You seemed to be doing so well."

"Yeah, in public . . ." She said, sighing. "Greg couldn't let the religion thing go, though really that's as much my fault as his."


"I couldn't let it go, either," she said, "Every time he started to get used to the idea, I'd bring up how much of an asshole he was for giving me shit about it. We just kept fighting, so it simply wasn't worth it."

The door to the kitchen opened, and we looked over to see Greg standing there, staring at us awkwardly. "Are you two talking about me?" He asked, looking between us.

"Just telling him about our breakup," Celeste explained with a shrug, "since Travis just got here, it seemed the best time. We were supposed to be a distraction after all, and I figured this was as good an opportunity as any."

Greg nodded in agreement and replied, "Good plan. Although now he probably thinks we really aren't broken up, and that we just lied to him to keep him distracted."

I stared at them as if they were crazy, then said, "So are you broken up or not? And why are you distracting me from speaking with Travis?"

"We really did break up," Greg said and then ignored my second question, turning to Celeste. "That being said, one of our songs is playing, and I was hoping you would join me for a dance at least."

Celeste offered her arm to Greg and said, "Of course, Greg. That sounds lovely."

"Wait, you haven't answered my question yet," I said, hustling after them as they stepped back through the door and into the party. They acknowledged me only briefly, wearing matching mischievous grins as they glanced over their shoulders back at me before starting to dance.

Growling in frustration, I started after them but then caught a glimpse of Travis out of the corner of my eye. He and Rebecca were sitting next to each other at the dining room table with an empty seat beside Travis. Remembering what Celeste had said about being a distraction when Travis came in, I decided to investigate what Travis knew about Clint's whereabouts.

As I neared them, I began to hear their conversation and wondered if I should really stay or go. While pausing to deliberate about what to do, I couldn't help but eavesdrop.

"Your first breakup really does suck," Rebecca said, sighing deeply. She then reached out and took Travis' hand, squeezing it before letting go. "I can definitely relate."

"To be honest, I saw it coming, I just didn't want it to end," Travis said, chuckling mirthlessly. "Angie is . . ." He stopped, at a complete loss for words, and Rebecca smirked at him.

"Hot?' She suggested. Travis blushed and nodded vigorously. "Yeah, I noticed."

"I know I'm not supposed to ask, but are you a lesbian, bisexual, or something else entirely?" Travis asked.

Rebecca shrugged. "Honestly, I don't really know how to define myself anymore. I used to identify as bi, but then after my girlfriend and I started having problems I didn't really feel attracted to any girls. Of course, it's hard not to notice how attractive Angie is . . ."

"Yeah . . ." Travis sighed.

I was about to turn away then, realizing they might be about to start something and not wanting to ruin it when Rebecca said, "But didn't you say something about Angie thinking there was someone specific out there for you?"

Travis shrugged, "She did, though I don't know who she was talking about. I might ask you out if I didn't know you already had a thing for David."

"That's sweet of you to say," Rebecca replied, "And maybe if things don't work out with David I'll keep that in mind. I think we'd have fun together. You should've said something last week. Then you and David would've been given equal consideration, at least."

Travis snorted. "Angie and I were still together last week."

"Well, I think whoever finds you next is going to be pretty damn lucky," Rebecca said, clearly at a loss for how to console Travis. I noticed David moving toward them from the opposite side of the room, a wide smile on his lips as he kept his eyes on Rebecca. Even though he was behind her, she seemed to sense him as he approached, and as he neared she reached back for him and he took her hand. "I know David won't mind if I show my appreciation for how good a friend you've been to me," she said, grinning before leaning forward to give Travis a quick peck on the cheek. Travis was so caught off guard he giggled, then covered his mouth in embarrassment. "See, David? I told you he was cute when he laughed."

"You're right, Rebecca." David said, "He's going to do fine. I bet there's even someone who's already waiting to ask him out."

"You two are so full of crap," Travis said, giggling again. "But thank you, I really do feel better."

David smiled, then reached out with his long arm and rested a hand on Travis' shoulder. "You bet. We smart kids have to stick together, right?"

"Nerds forever!" Travis replied loudly, earning him several amused glances from nearby people.

David laughed and said, "That's right. One day we'll rule the world, and the dumb ones won't even realize it. Now, if you don't mind, I'd love to dance if Rebecca's up for it." Rebecca nodded and stood, and David nodded behind Travis to where I was standing. "Also, it looks like another one of the smart kids wants to talk to you."

Travis glanced over his shoulder and saw me standing there, then grinned a mischievous grin to match Celeste and Greg's from earlier. "Oh, he just wants to ask me where Clint is."

I sighed. "And you're not going to tell me, are you?"

"Sounds like you're in for a fun conversation," David said as he escorted Rebecca past me. He clapped me on the shoulder and added in a soft voice, "Everything will turn out all right, Zane. I have a good feeling about tonight. Something tells me your luck is about to change."

I gave him a weird look and said, "How do you know?"

He smiled knowingly and replied, "I've overheard a few conversations tonight, and I'm a good listener. Your boyfriend is one hell of a guy. Treat him well. He likes you a lot."

"Thanks," I said. David nodded and pulled his hand away, but I caught his arm and stopped him for just a brief moment and added, "Really, David. Thank you."

"Anytime, Zane," he said, nodding again. "You're worth it. Everyone is worth it."

I smirked and laughed a little at that, then said, "That sounds like something Clint would say."

"Yeah. What'd I say just a moment ago? He's one hell of a guy."

I let David go with Rebecca and then turned to Travis, who had turned completely around in the chair to face me, arms crossed over his chest and wearing a cocky grin. It was completely out of character for Travis, and I wondered how he'd managed it.

Leaning toward him, I said, "You're going to tell me where Clint is, or I'm going to get serious really quick."

"Oh, I'll tell you where he is," Travis said, "He's putting his costume on."

"And where is he doing that?"

Travis grinned and said, "He's done now."

"How do you know?" I asked, gritting my teeth in annoyance.

Travis leaned to the side and then returned to his original position. "Because he just walked in. You should probably turn around."

And so I did, and immediately I was confused. Clint stood at the entrance to the dining room, dressed in relatively nice clothing but nothing I'd consider a costume. He wore a light-blue polo over a dark T-shirt above black jeans which fit him perfectly. His hair was wet as if he'd just stepped out of the shower, and his guarded eyes met mine even as he grinned wide upon me turning to face him.

"Hi," I said carefully. "It's good to see you."

Clint nodded and replied, "Yeah, it's good to see you, too. I think we should talk, don't you?"

I was about to agree when Travis spoke up from behind me. "Don't worry about the party. Greg and Celeste have everything under control. We worked this out ahead of time."

Glancing back and nodding my thanks, I returned my gaze to Clint and said, "Should we go to my room?"

"That'd work," he replied.

He waited for me to walk forward and then offered his hand to me. I hesitated before taking it, searching his eyes for some indication of how he was feeling, but couldn't get a good read. After a second, I took his hand and let him lead me toward my bedroom.

Once we stepped inside and the door was closed, I immediately started in on my apology. "Clint, I was completely out of line on Wednesday, and I shouldn't have said what I did. I—"

Clint put his finger to my lips and said, "No, you shouldn't. Come on, let's sit down first. Please? No reason to do this standing."

I nodded and let him guide me to the bed, then sat down with him. "Can I apologize now?"

He shrugged. "If you want."

"I definitely do," I insisted. "I really fucked up, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean any of what I said."

"Are you sure about that?" Clint asked, raising an eyebrow.

His cautious tone made me wince. I'd hoped that by him showing up, he'd be ready to forgive me, but he was going to make me work for it. Of course, he was well within his rights to do so, and I deserved his skepticism. My eyes fell, and my hand started to sweat as my pulse quickened.

"Clint, I don't think you're an idiot. You're smart in a lot of ways I'm not. You're way better with people than I am, for one, and I wish I had some of that. I wish I had that right now, especially. There's so much I want to tell you right now about how sorry I am, about how that's not how I see you, about how amazing you are and how much I want you in my life, but I don't know how. The words . . ."

I looked up, choking on my words at last after my rambling, and saw the moisture forming in his eyes. I laughed awkwardly, nervously, wanting to run away and hide from my emotions but knowing I needed to face them. My shelf full of journals and stories caught my eye, and I remembered all the times I'd been able to release my feelings through writing in the past, and I knew I could do it now. This meant more than any story I'd written before; this was the moment I had to tell Clint everything I felt, because I couldn't hold it in anymore. He needed to know I was willing to give him my vulnerability and trust him with everything I was.

"I've written stories about love and relationships for a few years now, Clint, but I don't have a clue how to make one work. What I do know is that I'm crazy about you, I love you for all your quirks and flaws, for all your strengths and weaknesses, because the whole package makes you real to me. You open me up to new experiences and new perspectives, and you make me feel alive. The only t-times I've b-been h-happy in recent memory are the t-times I've b-been with you . . ."

Clint kissed me as my words devolved into sobs. The kiss lingered but wasn't forceful, it was just there, rooting me in the moment. Clint released my hand and his arms encircled me, pulling me into a tight embrace. It was then my nose first caught the faintest scent of chlorine on Clint's skin, and I inhaled the comforting aroma of my sanctuary with a contented sigh. The familiar smell had an immediate calming effect on me, and though I wondered why Clint smelled like a pool, I didn't immediately question it.

"Apology accepted, Zane," Clint whispered. He sniffled, then added, "I probably would've taken a simple 'I'm sorry' and gotten over it eventually, but . . . I can tell you're sincere. I do have a concern though."

"What's that?" I asked, my anxiety beginning to return.

He hesitated, which only made me more nervous, but then he said at last, "I'm worried that you're only happy because of me. I want you to be happy because of you. You're amazing, and I hate that you can't see that."

I pulled away from him and met his eyes, caught off guard by his words. "It's not that you're the only reason I'm happy, it's that being around you reminds me of what happiness is. When you're there, I remember how to see the good things."

The warmth of Clint's smile immediately settled my nerves, and he kissed me again, this time with a bit more passion and insistence. We continued like that for several minutes until we finally stopped to get our breathing under control.

Lying next to each other on my bed as we stared into each other's eyes, I finally asked him the mundane question I'd been dying to ask him since he'd arrived. "Travis said you were getting into your costume, but you're dressed normally. What am I not understanding?"

Clint laughed and rolled away from me, then slid off the end of my bed and stood up. He spread his arms wide and spun around, presenting his outfit to me. "What? You don't like it?" He asked.

"I just don't understand," Zane replied. "Though I suppose that's nothing new."

Clint grinned and said, "Well, I decided to dress like the old me, tonight. The real me is underneath, and I suppose you might want to see that, huh?"

"Well, duh. I do prefer you naked," I said, snickering. "But I love you either way."

"You prefer me naked, huh?" Clint asked, and then his movements shifted subtly. His hips swayed as he started to dance, his hands moving down his body slowly as he moaned sensually. "Maybe I should get naked then," he said as his hands paused on his belt. He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and then gripped the bottom of his polo. I watched with rapt attention as he lifted the polo up in one swift motion and then tossed it at me.

I laughed as the shirt hit me in the face, catching it and drinking in Clint's scent with my eyes closed for a moment. Then I heard Clint clearing his throat and opened one eye, meeting his stare. "What? I like how you smell!"

"Yeah, well, you missed my big reveal," Clint said, pointing at his T-shirt with both hands. I dropped my gaze to his chest and read the text; it read Zane's Boyfriend . It filled me with a strange glee as I let out a childish giggle. "You like it?" Clint asked.

"I love it!" I said. "So this is your costume?"

"Actually, it's the real me, provided you want me," Clint said.

I snorted. "Why don't you come over here and I'll show you just how much I want you?"

Clint's grin lit the room with how bright it was, but he shook his head and said, "I have a better idea. How about we head to the pool?"

"Hmm," I replied, "That doesn't sound so bad, but I get the feeling you're not telling me something."

"I did fib a little when I said you missed my big reveal. It actually hasn't happened yet," Clint said, and then his grin turned impish. "But, I think you still owe me one small request."

"Ah, you've already accepted my apology, but you still want to milk it, huh?" I said, sliding off the edge of my bed and walking to him, stopping just in front of him. Leaning forward, I stopped an inch from him and said sultrily, "Well, Clint, you can have anything you want."

"Promise?" Clint whispered, leaning forward and slightly to the side, his lips brushing my cheek but making no further contact.

My own lips hovered beside his ear as I replied, "Tonight you can have anything."

"Then start stripping. We're going to the pool, but we're going naked," Clint replied. "It's just a short run down the hallway to the pool, but someone might see us, and I'm in the mood for a little . . . excitement."

I thought about all the people at my party, going through each one briefly before I realized I didn't care if a single one of them, male, female, or otherwise, saw me naked. Although the immediate erection I gained at the thought of the brief streaking at my own Halloween party did quicken my pulse.

But this was a request I could honor easily, and I would stop at nothing to honor my promise to Clint. Less than a minute later, I opened the door to the hallway and stepped outside, extending my hand to Clint. He took it and followed after me, and I spared only a single glance back toward the party.

Travis stood at the end of the hall, grinning. I glanced at Clint and caught his knowing smile. "What?" Clint asked. "I told him you had a nice ass, and he was dying to know if I was lying or not."

I turned to Travis, giving him a full view of everything I had, erection and all, then laughed at his wide-eyed stare. "Seems he likes what he sees," I said, then took Clint's hand again and led him toward the pool.

"Yeah, but he doesn't get it," Clint said, and then he let go of my hand and pinched my naked butt cheek. I yelped in surprise and Clint giggled. "That ass is all mine."

I nodded. It was his, and if I had my wish it always would be. Once I opened the door to the pool and saw the surprise which awaited me, I was bound and determined to make sure Clint and I were never apart again.

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