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The Life Support of Wishing

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How many more times would Tony have to have this conversation? He ran his hands over his face, leaning back against his Mustang. He pressed into the door handle, just to feel it, to focus on anything beside having this conversation. One. More. Fucking. Time.

“Just tell me.” Brad was resting against the car and looked over at him. “Are you in love with him?”

Tony glanced down at his bruised knuckles. “Come on, don’t— let’s not do this.” 

Brad shook his head, letting out a sigh. “That’s not an answer, Tony.”

“You’re my boyfriend. You.”

“Doesn’t feel like that sometimes.” Brad pushed off Tony’s car and walked off, kicking down an overgrown weed as he went. 

Brad was making a bigger deal out of this than it was, wasn’t he? Tony thought after explaining the tapes, things would have gotten better and they did, for awhile. But when Tony didn’t spend any less time with Clay than before, more even, the jealousy cropped up again. 

“This is ridiculous.” Tony jogged after Brad. He locked a hand on Brad’s shoulder and spun him so they were face to face. “I don’t— it doesn’t even matter. Clay is straight.”

Brad snorted. “And if he wasn’t?”

Tony shut his eyes. What good would talking in hypotheticals do anyone? “He is.”

“You’re as clueless as he is.” Brad snorted. “You think Clay is bad for not realizing you’re gay? How about you? For not seeing how he looks at you?”

Stomach flipping, Tony bit back a curse. Clay didn’t… he was just… he was Clay. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“That’s the whole damn problem, Tony.” Brad rubbed his hand over his face. “I can’t do this anymore.” 

“Come on. I don’t want to lose you.” Tony placed a hand on his boyfriend’s cheek. He liked Brad. Brad checked off all the boxes a boyfriend should check off. Except that box in his heart. That one stupid box that just had Clay Jensen written next to it. Fuck. 

Brad clenched his jaw and then ducked away from the touch. “Stop. You have to stop lying to yourself or you’re never going to be able to move on. And you have to stop lying to him.” He turned away and started walking down the road.

Tears pricked at Tony’s eyes and his hands curled into fists, his body entirely unable to decide to between sadness and anger. Not at Brad. At himself. And maybe a little, unfairly, at Clay.

“What are you doing?” Tony called to Brad, who was becoming smaller in the distance. A fuzzy line like one of the trees in the field. “Let me drive you home at least.” 

“I can walk.” His tone was final, not something Tony would argue with. 

Tony slid to the ground, un-breathing, a knee tucked into his chest. This was right, even though it hurt, like brass knuckles to the chest. It wasn’t fair to Brad, for Tony to try to keep this thing between them alive— artificially sustained on the life support of wishing things were different. On just wishing he hadn’t given his heart away a long goddamn time ago. 






“Hey, you here?” Clay called out, skidding around the corner. His rubber soles squeaked on the concrete floor of the Padilla’s garage. “Tony?”

Something crashed out of sight, followed by a long string of fucks and shits. Near the far side of the garage, Tony was wearing a grey jump suit, surrounded by the spilled contents of a large toolbox.

“Whoa, you okay?” Clay jogged up to Tony. 

“I’m fine,” Tony mumbled, as he chucked screwdrivers back into the toolbox. “What are you doing here?”

Clay’s brow furrowed and he knelt down to pick up a fallen wrench. When Tony took it from him, their fingers brushed, leaving a streak of motor oil behind. Clay looked down at that line across his skin, at this evidence that they—

“Clay? You here for a reason or?”

Blinking, Clay gave his head a small shake. “Oh, yeah.” He pulled his backpack around and unzipped it to remove a calc textbook. “You, uh, left this in the library. Ryan found it. He gave it to me because he thought I’d see you, and I didn’t, which was weird, because we usually—”

Tony sighed, then looked down, taking the textbook. “Thanks, Clay,” he muttered. 

“No problem.” Clay smiled and knelt again to help Tony finish picking up the rest of the tools.

“I’ve got it,” Tony snapped.

Clay jerked back. “It’s really fine. I don’t mind helping.”

“And I’ve really got it.” 

Clay put his hands up and took a step back. “You want to tell you me what’s going on?”

“What’s going on,”—Tony slammed the toolbox shut— “is that I have a whole set of spark plugs to change and you’re distracting me.”

Stomach dropping, Clay stumbled back. That tone directed at him from Tony? Well, he didn’t particularly like it, to say the least. “You realize you’re being kind of a dick right now, right?”

Tony rubbed his face, leaving a little black stripe like the one on Clay’s hand right by his lips. Clay started to lift his hand, like he was going to rub that line away. What am I doing? He tucked his hand into the pocket of his jeans. 

“Brad dumped me.” Tony huffed. “Okay, you happy now?”

Clay squinted. “No… no. Why would—why would that make me happy?”

Tony shook his head. “It wouldn’t. I’m sorry. It’s just—”

“Hey, I get it, man. That really sucks.” Clay gave him another small smile. “And, I thought Brad was one of the good ones.”

“He was.” Tony sighed, then kicked the toolbox. “I’m the fucked up one.”

“You’re not fucked up.” Clay put a hand on Tony’s shoulder.

Tony tore away from the touch, nearly throwing himself against a customer’s banged up Camero. “Don’t.”

“Okay, jeez, dude. I’m sorry.”

“Fuck,” Tony spat and kicked the tire of that Camero. “Shit.” He kicked it again and kept on and on, kicking and cursing.

“Tony…” Clay breathed. An ache radiated in his chest. It sucked seeing Tony hurt like this. Like really sucked— in an awful, visceral sort of way. “I’m so sorry about Brad. I—”

Tony slammed his fist against the Camero. “Shit. Fuck. Can you just go, Clay, please?”

His instinct was to do as he was told, to turn and leave and give Tony space or whatever to deal with this Brad stuff. “I can’t,” Clay said, looking down. “You know that I can’t. Please don’t ask me to leave you when you’re…” 

Tony drew in a loud breath. “Okay, Clay. Okay.” He popped open the hood of the Camero. “Don’t go,” he said and then didn’t say another word after that.

Neither did Clay. He just sat down on the floor and stayed with Tony, like Tony had done for him so many times before. 

Chapter Text




The music blared hot in his ears, a hard repetitive riff of the guitar, and a beat that rattled through him. He’d parked his Mustang where no one would find it, hidden in darkness, beside a tree, over on the shoulder of a jacked-up road nobody liked to drive down.

Tony needed this. Needed the space. The space from the shit going on at school, the shit going on with ‘the family business’ and the shit going on with Brad. It had been a week since they’d broken up and he’d just grown more and more twisted and tangled, replaying that last afternoon together over and over in his mind. So yeah, he needed to get away from everyone’s shit. He needed to get away from the shit going on with himself too but unfortunately, like his grandmother always said, wherever you go, there you are. Still, the music pouring from the speakers and filling the Mustang, helped keep his rushing thoughts at bay— if only a little.

Tony was so damn tired of thinking. He just wanted to feel.

Reclining his head, he took a deep breath and shut his eyes. Nothing existed but the rolling music, nothing but the music and him and…and all his fucking problems. He let out a loud groan, slamming his hand against the steering wheel. The horn blared and he pulled away quickly. Tony had to do something…anything… literally anything to calm down. 

Sweat clung to the nape of his neck. He tugged the collar of his leather jacket away from the skin, feeling the wet tug of it as he did. His warm hands trembled as they traveled down the leather, nails scratching on the zipper. His hands going down, down, until they moved onto rough denim. His thumb touched metal and Tony plucked open the buttons of his jeans, one after the other down the fly. 

He slipped his hand under the tight band of his boxer-briefs, the soft cotton stroking his knuckles as his hand slid around his cock.

Fuck yes.

Tony jacked his hand back and forth, up and down, slow and steady, like his wrist was connected to the beat thudding through his speakers. It had been awhile since he’d done this, awhile since he’d needed it so badly.

Keeping his eyes shut, Tony tried not to think of anything, of anyone. He tried to just feel the music and the tight squeeze and suction of his own hand, his own fingers as they rubbed across the head, across the slit, drawing out just enough wetness to ease the friction of skin against skin. He wanted, desperately, to think of nothing but that. To not picture anything he’d seen online, certainly to not picture Brad, which is what he’d often done before. No. None of that, just physical, just feeling…

Electric energy buzzed through him, a molecular shiver, like holding a hand too close to an old television— but it wasn’t enough. Not goddamn enough to reign his shit in. Nothing was anymore. Breaking up with Brad had been the exploding dynamite in the dam of Clay… oh, he’s just a friend. Tony had no choice but to sit there while all the rubble crashed down on top of him. 

Tony took in deep, gulps of air as his hand moved faster and faster, keeping pace with thoughts flash-flooding through his mind.

Clay, all skin and soft freckles, falling back on Tony’s bed, falling underneath him. He’d taste like, God, he’d taste like soap and salt, his hands would taste like the rubber from his bike handles… Tony would lick his palms, draw hearts with the tip of his tongue on Clay’s wrists. Tony would grab the bed frame, pull himself up and put his cock in Clay’s mouth. 

He’d say, “You got it. You’re doing so good, baby.” …No, not baby. Tony wouldn’t call him baby because that could be anyone, that could mean anyone.

“You got it. You’re doing so good, Clay.” 

Tony’s breath hitched. There it was— that was right. He didn’t want just anyone. He wanted Clay Jensen. Clay. Fucking. Jensen. Hell yes. 

His dick in Clay’s mouth, spit dribbling down  his chin, as Tony moved faster, fucked deeper. “Fucking beautiful, Clay. Fucking perfect—“

Breath held, Tony jacked his hand harder. Faster. The fantasy he’d constructed becoming throat-burning words shouted from his dry mouth. “Fuck, yes. Right there. Oh my God. Fuck, Clay. Yes. Clay. Clay!

It hit like his Mustang at ninety miles an hour, like a freight train, like a goddamn hydrogen bomb. Impact. Hot, shuddering, atom-altering impact. 

His cock twitched one final time in his hand as he finished over his fingers, come dripping onto his rings. Breaths coming shallow and fast, Tony’s mind finally caught up with him.

“Fuck,” Tony hissed. “Fuck!”

The hell did I just do? How was he ever supposed to look Clay Jensen in the eye again?





Clay hadn’t seen Tony in nearly a week. Well, he’d seen him, ghosting around the halls, disappearing nearly as soon as Clay noticed him. But they hadn’t talked. They hadn’t gotten coffee at Monet’s, or ordered pizza and ate the whole thing in front of some campy movie from the eighties, or even texted each other. Well, Clay had texted Tony. Only to receive total dead silence in return. It was getting pretty fucking ridiculous actually. Had the inevitable already happened? Had Tony realized he was way too cool, like a badass Mustang superhero, to be hanging out with Clay’s skinny, nerdy ass? But come on, don’t all superheroes need a shitty sidekick? 

When the doorbell rang and Clay opened the door, Tony was the last person he expected to see standing on his welcome mat but there he was. Looking like… well, like that superhero Clay was talking about.

His aviator sunglasses were like his laser vision goggles. His leather jacket, his cape. His smile— it must have had some sort of supernatural power, some force that made anyone who looked at it lose motor function and—

Fucking nerd, Clay. You're a fucking nerd.

Clay leaned against the door frame, trying to look casual. “Oh, hey Tony, what brings you to my neck of woods?” Neck of the woods? Really? What’s wrong with me?

Tony blinked; his brow furrowed. He looked down at where Clay was resting against the  doorway. “Did you hurt your ankle or something?”

“What? No.” Clay shook his head, straightening himself out. “So what are you doing here?”

Tony ran a hand through his hair, a motion that released a scent— gasoline, charred wood and something sweet. Cherries maybe. Something shuddered through Clay, like a mouse skittering from his ribs down his legs and oh hell he missed whatever it was Tony just said to him.

“Uh, Clay? Pizza? Movie? If you have plans, it’s o—“

“Nope. No plans.” Okay, some plans. A new expansion pack of his favorite RPG game had just been released this week. The coolest one yet. The Elves of— Absolutely zero plans. I have never had less plans in my life.” Clay stepped out of the way so Tony could come in.

Tony gave him a strange look as he passed. “Pizza’s on me by the way.”

“Just no olives.”

“I’m paying.” Tony grinned over his shoulder. “So olives.”

“Half olives. Deal?”

Tony spun to face Clay as he made his way down the hall, putting his hands in the pockets of his jacket. He took a step backwards. “You drive a hard bargain but deal.”

So Tony ordered pizza, enough for Clay’s parents too because that’s just who Tony was, and they ate it around the table, easy conversation passing between all four of them.  After dinner, they dug through Clay’s dad’s extensive bad eighties action movie collection. Their movie nights were terrible. Like the anti-Oscars, but that was the whole point. 

Tony was sitting on the ground and pulled out a plastic case from the bottom shelf. “Missing In Action?” His eyes narrowed. “Oh God, is that Chuck Norris?”

Clay reached around Tony to take the DVD case for a better look at the cover. The move was more than it needed to be for its purpose. He was leaning over Tony, their heads against each other. He could feel the shape of Tony’s ear pressing into his cheek. He slid his hand over Tony’s, over rough knuckles. Breathe, Clay. You're still a carbon-based life form that needs oxygen. “Definitely Chuck Norris,” Clay finally managed, tugging the DVD from Tony’s hands. “Which means we have to watch it. We have no choice but to press play and just bask in its cheesy glory.”

“Actually, um, Clay.” Tony let out a long stiff, breath and stood. “I should be going.”

A sea-sick brick settled beneath Clay’s ribs. “What… I thought—”

“Yeah, sorry. I just, I forgot about some work Dad wanted me to do around the garage. There’s a carburetor…”

Clay raised an eyebrow. “There’s a carburetor?”

Tony a hand through his hair and down to his neck. “Yeah, uh. I’ll see you around.”

He’ll see me around? What? 

With that, Tony rushed out of the living room. A few moments later, Clay heard the front door open and shut. Clay sat down on the edge of the sofa, still gripping that Chuck Norris DVD. He’d come to think of his friendship with Tony as solid ground— as something even he couldn’t royally fuck. He should never have underestimated himself. 

Clay chucked the stupid movie across the floor. It slid under the shelf where he didn’t have to look at Chuck Norris’s shitty face for one more second.

Chapter Text



Tony curled his hand into a fist and swung it hard at the punching bag. When his knuckles connected with the bag, it swung, creating a blur of red through the air. He should have been wearing gloves but he didn’t want padding between his bones and skin and the impact. He wanted the sharp sting. Right there. Real. Where he couldn’t ignore it. So he could ignore everything else. 

He wiped dripping sweat from his forehead as exhaustion crushed down his shoulders and pushed its way through the rest of his body. It had probably been an hour, two hours, since he’d started beating this bag with his bare fists. He couldn’t be certain until he looked at the clock on his phone and he didn’t want to look at his phone because he knew what waited for him. Text messages from Clay. Not a lot, just two the last he’d seen. And one missed call. 

There would be no avoiding Clay forever. He didn’t want to avoid him forever anyway. Tony missed Clay, his absence like something sour and heavy twisted around his gut. He had to figure out how to set aside his feelings for Clay, make them friendship instead of this. But how could he do that? If being with someone as great as Brad couldn’t turn off that part of himself that screamed, “that’s him, right there. that’s my person” every time he looked at Clay, then what could?

Maybe Brad was right. Maybe Tony had to tell Clay. Maybe he needed to stand there, stand right goddamn there, in front of the boy he loved and listen to him say he could never return those feelings. That might be the only way for those feelings to stop and for maybe, someday, Tony to rebuild a friendship with Clay and maybe get to fall in love with a heart that could actually let him in.

Tony picked up his phone and sat down on the workout bench. Thank God his brothers were out on a job tonight so he had their whole makeshift basement gym to himself. He was not in the mood to plaster on a cocky grin and pretend everything was fine. 

He read the two messages from Clay.

Clay: Hey man, haven’t seen you since the other night. You doin ok?

Clay: If this is about Brad or, you know, anything I’m here to talk.

Tony ran his thumb over the blue messages on his phone, like he could somehow feel a connection through just that. He sighed— it felt like nothing but the hot screen of his phone. Fuck, I miss him.

Tony: Not about Brad. Long story. Thanks for checking in.

After a few moments those three dots appeared to say Clay was responding and, very much against his will, Tony’s heart fluttered. 

Clay: I’ve read the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy over four times. I don’t mind long stories.

Tony chuckled, a smile spreading across his face. He shouldn’t reply. He already let Clay know he was alive and still his friend and all that. Texting would just lead down a road he didn’t need right now. Not when he was still deciding between telling Clay the truth and burying that truth so far down it would suffocate. But, God, he just really wanted to talk to Clay.

Tony: Did you seriously just admit that?

Clay: Yes. No shame.

Clay: … a little shame. 

Clay: So, seriously dude, story time. 

Sighing, Tony shifted on the workout bench. A part of him just wanted to type the truth. To simply say: the story is I am in love with you and it all started back in fourth grade when you traded your pack of Oreos for one of the shitty bologna sandwiches I had to eat every single day. But you’re straight. You’ll never want me the way I want you and my heart is breaking. 

Tony: It’s nothing. Just family shit.

Clay: It’s both nothing and a long story?

Tony: You’re insatiable, Clay. Like a dog with a bone.

Clay: More like a cat, a cat with…what do cats chew on?

Tony snorted, another smile finding its way out. This text banter could only lead one direction, and that was to veiled flirting on his end that would end in stupidly dissecting everything Clay said to make a feeble, ridiculous case that Clay might be interested. But, God help him, Tony couldn’t resist…

Tony: In what way are you like a cat?

Clay: A love of lasagna and a hatred of Mondays.

Tony: Why do I talk to you?

Because you make me happy. Because you make me better. Because I love you. God, I love you so much.

Clay: The witty banter.

Tony: That has to be it.





It had been hours since Tony had texted him. So why was he lying in bed, his phone’s light glowing in his face, re-reading the texts over and over? Tingling warmth bit at his cheeks and urged him to smile. He fought against it. Not that anyone would see. Not that anyone would know why he was smiling. I don’t even know.

Still, he re-read a few of the last texts for probably the tenth time.

Clay: One of these days you’re gonna let me drive that car.

Tony: Now why would I do that?

Clay: I’ll convince you. I can be very persuasive ;)

Winky face? Oh yeah. Super cool, Clay. 

Tony: Prove it.

Clay: I will. 

And that was it. Tony never texted him back after that. That was normal, right? It’s not like he asked him a question that remained unanswered. It’s not like their conversation was anything important or there was anything to add to it. Tony was probably busy and Clay had just been annoying him with—

Clay groaned and rolled over, tossing his phone onto the nightstand as he buried his face in his pillow. Why was he overanalyzing this? Clay was, of course, prone to over-analyzation but about texts? From Tony? What the fuck?

Their relationship had changed over the last year. Deepened in a way he couldn’t have predicted. Clay had never had a friendship like that, the kind that ran all the way down into a person’s bones. That’s why this was so jarring, right? Why every fourth thought became suddenly occupied with Tony? Because ever since Brad broke up with Tony, Tony had pulling away from Clay…

Had Clay said the wrong thing at some point? Done the wrong thing? After Hannah, it was hard not to worry that, despite careful efforts to do otherwise, he could still be cutting chinks in someone’s armor without ever realizing it.

It was too late to text, and if he sent this text, it would be stupid. He’d regret it the moment he pressed send. Clay grabbed his phone back off his nightstand. 

Clay: I don’t know what’s going on. But I know something is going on. If I was somehow a jerk to you, please tell me. I’m sorry.

He pressed send, then started typing again.

Clay: Don’t push me away. God, Tony. I don't want to lose you.

Clay’s thumb hovered over ‘send’. He let out a sigh and backspaced until all the letters were gone.

Chapter Text



Tony pushed his fork around on the plate, the tines scraping ceramic as they moved around bits of egg and sausage he should be eating but couldn’t manage to swallow. 

His dad strode into the kitchen a perpetual scowl drawn across his face. “What are you doing?” He gave Tony a friendly whack on the shoulder. “Don’t waste your food like that.”

“I can’t eat,” Tony grumbled.

After piling a plate high with sausage, his dad sat across from him. “Don’t be a child. Eat your breakfast.”

Tony let out a quiet chuckle. He’d once said almost that exact thing to Clay. Wasn’t he too young to have already started becoming his father? Oh, well. With a subtle roll of his eyes, Tony took a bite of fried egg— and that was all he could get down.

His dad’s dark eyes narrowed. “What’s wrong with you? All my boys love to eat. You getting sick? You didn’t take one of those tapeworms, did you? I saw it on that show your mother—”

“Dad, I don’t have a tapeworm.” And wouldn’t I be eating more, if I had a tapeworm? Tony would mention it but he knew better than to correct his father. 

Those dark eyes narrowed even more. “This about a boy? Eyebrows? I never liked him anyway.”

“It’s not about, Brad,” Tony mumbled. “We broke up a few weeks ago. I told you that.”

His dad took another bite. “You know I can’t keep track of every boy or girl you kids drag into this place. ”

Tony snorted. His father had always made it abundantly clear that he couldn’t keep track and had no plans on trying. He’d waited until the wedding day before he’d called Tony’s sister-in-law anything besides “the one with the boots” because of an unfortunate pair of red stiletto boots she wore the first time she’d come to the house. The whole time they were dating Ryan was “Dr. Seuss” all because Tony made the terrible mistake of mentioning Ryan wrote poetry. And Brad was “Eyebrows”, for reasons unknown.

His dad made a face like he smelled something awful. “I know I’m going to regret asking this, but your mother is out of town for a few days so,”— he cringed again—“talk to me son. Tell me what’s going on.”

Tony should just force the rest of his eggs down and not have this conversation, but maybe it could be good to talk someone about it, to get it off his chest. His father wasn’t his first choice. His father wasn't even his fifteenth choice, but he was here. “There’s just… there’s a boy. He’s never going to… he’s, I don’t know, he’s…” A small smile drew across Tony’s face.

“He’s Clay Jensen.” His father’s voice was flat and rough.

Tony stiffened, scooting back in his chair. “I didn’t say that.”

His father stared down at his hands. “I was not happy when you told me you were gay. I was not happy because I knew it would make your life harder, and no parents wishes for the child’s life to be harder. But, Tony, I was also not surprised.”

They’d never really talked about this. When Tony came out to his parents, all his father had said was, “Are you sure?” and “You will use a fucking condom, you hear me?”

His dad continued on, “He was all you talked about, those first few months when they redrew the districts and you got bussed to the rich school. Clay has new shoes, Clay played tag with me today, Clay has every pokey-man— or whatever the hell—card. You were young, but I saw the way you looked at him when he’d come over here to play. I saw and my heart broke for you, son.”

Tony stared down at his plate. Have I really been lovesick for eight years? “I know he’s straight. I know… but I can’t keep lying to him, can I?”

His dad stood up from the table. “I can’t tell you what to do, son, but it’s not a lie to keep some things to yourself. Just ask yourself: what will telling him help, and what can it hurt? A friend like that boy only comes around once in a lifetime.” He walked out of the kitchen, leaving Tony alone at the table. 

Tony rubbed his hand over his face, his chest aching. A boy like Clay Jensen did only come around once in a lifetime. That was the fucking problem.





From across the hall, Clay spotted Tony digging into his locker. He grabbed a couple books, stuffed them in his bag and then turned, facing Clay. Without thinking, Clay gave him a little wave and dropped the notebook in his hand. He immediately bent to pick it up and his head collided with a sophomore’s shins.

“Ow, watch out!” the girl said, shooting him a glare as she swept off down the hallway.

His cheeks heated up as he muttered an apology. Maybe Tony hadn’t seen… why did it matter if Tony had seen? 

“Tony!” Clay called out, standing up. “Hold up.” He rushed over to where Tony was shutting his locker. 

“Oh, hey, Clay.” Tony sounded deflated as he looked down at his boots. His scuffed-up brown boots with their loose laces…Tony had a super cool boots. Would Clay look half as awesome as Tony in a pair of boots like that? Stop thinking about boots. “Did you need something?” Tony added.

Yeah, I need you to stop ignoring me. I need you to be my friend again. I need you to tell me what’s going on with you.

“So, there’s this auto show,” Clay said as casually as he could manage.


“And I don’t know. It’s tonight.”

Tony nodded, adjusting the leather strap on his bag. “I heard about it.”

“Well, I’m going.” 

Tony raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to an auto show? You?”

Clay rubbed the back of his neck, his feet shuffling. “I don’t know. I’m trying to expand my horizons— and I thought this could be fun. You in?”

Giving him a tight smile, Tony said, “I don’t know, Clay. I’m pretty busy around the garage and—”

“Look. You do what you need to do Tony, but I’m gonna be at that auto show at seven tonight. You can come or you cannot.” Clay paused, swallowed. “I hope you come.”

Tony stood there, looking up at him, brows drawn in together, bottom lip slightly fallen open. Clay looked back, as a rush shuddered through him. He shivered, goosebumps rising across his skin, his mouth going dry.

Clay thought about the space between them— about one foot. Thought about all the ways that foot could be counted. In inches, in seconds, in molecules of air. Twelve, two, who the fuck knows. How can I hate this one foot of space so damn much?

When Tony walked away, that space just grew and grew, leaving Clay wishing he knew how to ungrow the distance between them.


Chapter Text



It took until 6:58 for Tony to decide he wasn’t going to the auto show with Clay. It took until 6:59 to decide that he was going. Tony grabbed his keys from the hook by the door and rushed to the Mustang. He pulled into the parking lot, blending in with the color and shine of the other muscle cars. He parked and turned off his car at 7:15. His heart skipped. What if Clay had already left, thinking Tony wasn’t coming?

His boots crunched the gravel as he stood. The steeple of an old cathedral cast a sharp shadow across the large lot. The sun had begun to set and the dim light made spotting Clay in the crowd difficult. If Clay’s even still here… 

Tony walked for a while, occasionally shading his eyes with his hand. Maybe this was a bad idea. He still hadn’t decided between being honest with Clay and fighting to keep their friendship as it was. Maybe it was best if Tony just went home. This is a mistake…

A hand fell on his shoulder. 

“You came,” Clay said, his voice pitched higher than usual.

Tony pivoted toward him, his chest lifting, like it filled with helium. Clay’s skin looked pinker in the falling light, his hair ruffled by wind. Instead of his usual t-shirt and hoodie, he wore dark jeans and a slightly rumpled white button-up with the sleeves rolled. Tony flexed his fingers to fight the urge to smooth the wrinkles, to feel ribs and muscles beneath thin cotton. 

Tony let out breath through tight lips. “Sorry, I’m late.”

“No worries.” Clay tossed him a smile. “I’ve just been wandering around with a really serious face pretending to have some idea what I’m looking at.”

Tony laughed. “Trust me. Half these guys don’t know what they’re looking at either.” A lot of them were just rich, white guys who bought a car, then dropped it off at places like the Padilla’s garage whenever, inevitably, their carelessness ran it into the ground again. 

“I did, however, find a stand selling funnel cakes,” Clay said.

“How many have you eaten already?”

“None. I was waiting for you.”

Tony gave him a look. Sure, Jensen.

“Okay, two, but they were small. Like coasters.” Clay crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back on his heels. “I could go for another one.”

A tremble ran Tony’s spine and radiated out to his fingers. “Lead the way.” 

They navigated their way through the crowd. Tony’s gaze would occasionally catch on the shiny engine of one of the cars. He passed an electric blue Camero he would love to get his hands on. But most of his attention latched onto Clay. Onto the movement of his shoulders as he walked, onto the way his lips would curls and the soft flutter of his lashes.

I should not have come here, but a 500 horsepower engine couldn’t drag me out of here, away from Clay right now.

They stood in line, behind a few other people and a sign that read Funnel cakes and Corn dogs.

Clay’s eyes narrowed. “Do you think the funnel cake batter is just the corn dog batter with sugar in it?” 

Tony snorted. “You could always ask.”

“And take all of the mystery out of the world? I don’t think so.”

Nudging his arm, Tony said, “That’s the last of the mystery for Clay Jensen? Funnel cake batter?”

“That and Santa Claus.”

Tony smiled. “Clay, there’s something you should know…” This is a perfect opening. I could use it for… no. He wasn’t going to tell the love of his life how he felt about him in a funnel cake line. Love of my life? I am so fucked. Coming here was a terrible idea. This was a terrible idea.

“You want a corn dog too or—” 

I can’t eat a thing. “Uh.”

Clay’s brow furrowed. “How about we just split an extra large funnel cake.” He turned toward the cashier and smiled. “One extra large funnel cake.”

“That comes with a free pink lemonade,” the cashier said. “Would you like one?”

Flashing another smile, Clay leaned on the counter. “Now, what kind of person turns down a free offer like that?”

Tony’s eyes widened. Is Clay flirting with the cashier lady? He grit his teeth. Clay had every right to flirt with the cashier, if that indeed was what he was doing. A few moments later, the cashier handed them their food and Clay thanked the lady and walked away. 

“So tell me.” Clay handed Tony the lemonade and used his free hand to point at a lime green Charger with a bird painted on the hood. “Tell me, what kind of person drives a car like that?”

Tony thought for a moment. “Middle age, fake tan, tribal tats, sandals. Divorced at least once.”

Clay took a bite of the funnel cake. “And his name is definitely Chad.”

“Oh, one hundred percent.” Tony’s eyes flickered up to Clay, who was looking over at him. They stayed like that, a bit too long. “Okay, your turn. What about that one?” Tony pointed a finger at a slick black Pontiac GTO. 

“Russian spy?”

Tony raised his eyebrow.

“Batman?… I’m terrible at this game.”

Chuckling, Tony took a sip of the lemonade. “It’s your game.”

“My game is eating funnel cakes.” Clay broke off a piece of the cake and popped it in his mouth. “Want some?” He held out the sugary plate.

Tony broke off his own bite. “Thanks.”

“Don’t hog the lemonade.” Clay took the plastic cup from Tony and wrapping his lips around the straw, right where Tony’s lips had just been.

Tony forced a smile as Clay handed him the lemonade back. I am so monumentally fucked. 





Clay sat shotgun in Tony’s mustang. The window had been rolled down a few inches, letting in cool night air. He breathed it in, casting a look over to Tony.

Tony, whose head bobbed gently to the music, whose knuckles flexed on the steering wheel. He looked so at home in that seat. Powerful. Like he could drive to the edge the world and back in a weekend. Like he’d done it before. I wonder if he’d take his shitty sidekick with him?

The Mustang rolled to a stop in front of Clay’s house, and Tony pulled the car into park.

“Thanks for driving me back.” Clay shifted in the passenger seat as he unbuckled his belt.

Tony looked over at him and sighed. “Of course.” He had such brown eyes— like garden soil. How had he never noticed how brown they were before? And why am I noticing now?

“I’m really glad you came tonight. I’ve been worried that we, that we aren’t okay.” Clay skimmed his fingers along the door handle. “We’re okay, right?”

Tony let out a quiet breath and cast his gaze down. His lips tipped into a frown.

Clay’s stomach dropped to his feet like a lead balloon. “Oh.” Tonight had been good…really good, at least, that’s what he thought. At least, that’s how Clay had felt about it.“I get it. You were there for me, with Hannah, there when I needed you. And there’s no way I can thank you for that, but we’d been growing apart before, so I get it. No hard feelings, right?” Clay gave a weak smile as he pushed open the Mustang door. His throat burned, his head spun. “See you around,” he muttered, then nearly bolted toward the front door. 

Friendships didn’t always work out. That was life, right? People changing. People growing up and apart. But he didn’t want to grow apart. He wasn’t ready to give up his shotgun seat and shitty movie nights and fighting over pizza toppings. Tony obviously didn’t share that feeling, and there was nothing he could do about that. Not a damn fucking thing. Fuck.

On the porch, Clay fumbled for his keys in his pocket, his hands shaking.

“Clay.” A voice called behind him. Tony’s voice. “Clay.

He turned around to face Tony. In the porch light, Clay could see Tony’s hands trembling, his face paler than usual. He bit his lip. 

In a hoarse voice, Tony said, “Do you really want to know what’s been going on with me? Why I’ve been acting the way I’ve been acting?”

Worry gripping like claws into his spine, Clay stepped forward. “Of course I do. Talk to me.”

“I need you to…” Tony ran a hand through his hair. “You have to really want to know, Clay.”

Clay blinked. What the hell is going on? “Tell me. You can tell me anything.”

A step closer and Tony said, “I can’t tell you this.”

“Why not—”

“Can I show you?”

Show me? His mouth went dry. With a knot lodged in his throat, Clay couldn’t manage any words. He gave Tony the smallest nod. Show me. 

There it was again. That foot between them. That small, awful, hated distance. It was there, and then it was gone. 

Tony leaned in and caught Clay’s lips with his own. Caught them, just like that, like a lightning bug in a mason jar. 

Clay’s heart split into slivers, into shreds, burst like a bottle rocket. Stubble scratched against his cheeks. That’s new. That’s… The smell of motor oil, of sizzling wood, of aftershave. Big hands, rough and steady, running over his cheek to his neck. A man’s hands. That’s really new…damn…

The pressure lifted as Tony jolted away, leaving Clay wobbling, melting. Say something. Say anything. He couldn’t.

“Fuck. I’m sorry. Fuck.” Tony turned and bolted down the steps to his Mustang.

The Mustang’s engine roared and the car tore off down the street. Finally, Clay could feel his body again, could move again. Too late.

Holy shit. Holy fucking shit. Tony Padilla just kissed me. On the mouth and I’d…fuck.

Tony had kissed Clay and he’d done nothing. He’d just frozen. Mouth unmoving, hands stuck at his sides. If Clay hadn’t wrecked their friendship before, he sure as hell had done it now.

Chapter Text



Tony bolted through his front door and upstairs, his heart hammering in his ears. This isn’t happening. 

This isn’t…it is. Face it. 

He ran into his room. He threw open his closet door and tore shirts off hangers, tossing them onto the bed. His knees hit the floor and he dug through a pile of old boots to a torn up Army surplus duffle. 

I can’t stay here. I have to get out here.

He jumped to his feet and hurried to his dresser. The drawers squeaked as pulled them open and grabbed handful of clothes that he tossed near the duffle. Tony didn’t bother to shut the drawers, just took the scattered clothes and shoved them into the bag. He zipped it shut and tossed the thing onto the bed. 

If he tried to get his stuff from the bathroom, he’d wake his parents, and he didn’t want to talk to them right now. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. 

How had he let this happen? How had let himself fall so deeply for someone he knew could never love him back? He wasn’t angry at Clay. He was embarrassed… and he felt guilty. What if Clay thought their friendship hadn’t been genuine? That he’d been using what they shared because he wanted sex or a boyfriend or whatever…or that Tony thought Clay owed something?

Maybe I should go tell him that isn’t true. 

Tony’s stomach burned; tears pricked at his eyes. He should do that. He would but not yet. Right now, he couldn’t think. Not about Clay. Not about the broken heart in his chest that he had no idea how it was still beating. Maybe it wasn’t. 

Run. I have to run.

Tony pulled open his desk drawer to get a sticky note and a pen. His father would be furious at him for just leaving like this, but Tony was eighteen. If he wanted to leave, no one could stop him.

On the sticky note, he wrote:

I’m taking that job in Springfield. You needed someone to do it, right? I’ll be fine. Don’t worry. 

He stuck the note on his desk, grabbed his duffle bag and bolted back to his Mustang. Within minutes, he was blazing south down the highway, pedal pressed to the floorboard. Was ninety miles an hour fast enough to outrun a broken heart?




Clay didn’t sleep. Not even for fifteen minutes. He stayed up all night staring into the darkness of his room. Despite hours to unpack what had happened, he hadn’t managed one coherent thought. It was as if all the connections in his brain had been converted to one purpose alone— replaying that kiss.

Tony’s hands on his neck. The scratch of the callouses against his skin. The firm press of chapped lips against his. Steady, sure. Like standing in a field of cut grass, like a catching a baseball in a well-worn mitt.

It wasn’t until his alarm jarred him at 6:30 that a thought broke through the haze of Tony kissed me, Tony kissed me, Tony kissed me. A simple, sturdy thought. I liked it. I liked it when he kissed me.

But was that enough? Clay wasn’t talking about an experiment. He was talking about his best friend. He was talking about his best friend’s heart. Fuck— he didn’t want to break it. I probably already have. 

As he dragged himself out of bed, Clay considered telling his mom he’d come down with something so she could call him out of school sick. What would he do if he ran into Tony today? What would he say to him? Even if Clay enjoyed the kiss, even if he cared deeply about Tony, he still had too many questions about himself, he was still too confused, to say one way or another? What if he said they could try things and Clay ended up realizing he was totally straight and ruined their friendship permanently?…What if he told Tony that they had no chance together and regretted it for the rest of his life?

Clay rubbed his hand over his face as his alarm went off again. He didn’t know what to do, and if he saw Tony, that’s what he’d say. He would tell him he wasn’t angry or weirded out anything like that. He just needed time to think because he did. He really, really did.

. . .

The shoes on the school’s linoleum floor echoed louder that day and the hum of voices made him twitchy. Clay kept tossing glances over his shoulder, looking everywhere for Tony. By lunch, Clay had become certain that Tony hadn’t gone to school at all.

When Skye sat down at the lunch table, Clay asked, “You seen Tony? Or heard from him?”

Her eyebrows furrowed. “No ‘hi, Skye how are you? How was your day?’”

Clay sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m just worried about Tony, that’s all.”

Skye’s head tilted. “Worried? Why are you worried?”

“Well, he’s been acting weird and he didn’t show up today.”

Skye took a bite of an apple and then replied, mouth full. “I wouldn’t worry about it. He texted me this morning. Said he came down with a bad flu.”

“Flu…right.” Clay shifted on the uncomfortable school bench. Tony had seemed perfectly healthy yesterday. There was almost no chance Tony was actually sick and not just avoiding Clay. His stomach sank. Can you blame him?

After school, Clay plopped down at his desk and drown himself in homework. Algorithms seemed easier to solve than the twisting and tearing going on inside of him now. Once he finished up his math, he moved onto philosophy. He read the essay question: Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”. In 250 words, What do you think he meant by this?

Clay poised his pencil over the page. Know thyself. He scoffed, feeling in no way qualified to answer that question. A distraction was needed. Like immediately. 

With a groan, Clay stood up from his desk chair and stormed to the shower. He locked the bathroom door and pulled off his clothes with more force than necessary, then chucked them into a pile by the toilet. He turned the shower knob and hot water sputtered then rushed out of the shower head into the tub basin. The curtains screeched as he pulled them back and stepped under the hot, pelting water. 

Clay washed the day away, running soap over his body and working his hair into a lather. As he rinsed off he breathed in the steam, in big, deep gulps and tried to think. To understand. Know thyself.

He liked kissing girls. He kissed a few in his life. Some were just okay and some were wonderful. He’d even loved a girl before. He’d loved Hannah and he didn’t want anything or anyone erasing that. But did it have to erase that? Just because Tony was gay, it didn’t mean he was. 

But— Clay ran a hand up his smooth chest— that kiss. Tony’s mouth on his— his fingers caught on his bottom lip and pulled down, letting shower water pool under his teeth. He swallowed that water and tilted his head back, remembering Tony’s lips, remembering that though he hadn’t been able to move, he wished had. Clay wished he’d opened up, let Tony put a tongue inside his mouth.

Clay didn’t know much about sexuality. But he knew there was a spectrum and more options than just gay and straight. So maybe he was along that spectrum, towards the middle somewhere, because when Tony had kissed him…it had been like a struck match dragged across his lips, extinguished in a hiss of smoke on his tongue. 

Clay looked down to see his dick hard, flushed red, lying against his thigh. He reached down and squeezed it, leaning his head against the wall, his forehead on cold tile. A groan broke out of his throat and he bit the inside of his cheek to ground himself.

It would be easy enough to stand under this now-lukewarm water and rub one out against the wall. Wouldn’t be the first time. 

He reached over and turned off the water. That was not what he wanted. Not tonight.

Clay dried himself off just enough not to drip and wrapped a grey towel around his waist. He hurried down the dark hallway back to his room. Quietly, Clay shut and locked his door. His parents had lifted the no shut doors rule and he planned to take advantage of that. 

The only light Clay left on in bedroom was a dim lamp by the bed, casting the room in a warm gold. He dropped the towel onto the floor, sat down on the bed and edged back over the covers. Clay grabbed his phone and flipped on one of his favorite playlists, letting the subtle strum of a guitar and soft, even voices fill the space around him.

He let out a stiff breath between his lips and shut his eyes. Clay traced his fingernails over his skin, letting them catch gently on his nipples, then down over his stomach, curling over his hipbones. Goosebumps broke out over his body in waves chasing his fingers. He held his dick in his hand, slid up and down, giving into the touch.

Without asking for it, Tony’s face filtered into focus and Clay found he didn’t mind at all. His Coca-Cola eyes and his warm smile. A face he’d grown with, a face he’d watched sharpen with age and catch these incredible, strong angles. 

He liked Tony here. In a moment like this. It felt right. 

This all felt right.

A shiver running his spine, Clay pulled his knees in and let his hand drift lower, cupping his balls. They tightened at the touch. A bite to his lips kept him from letting out a too-loud groan. He stroked the backs of his fingers against his legs, against the insides of his thighs, gently, softly, calming himself. He’d never done this before…he’d never let himself do it before. Now, with Tony’s kiss wrapped around his memories, he was ready for it.

Clay reached into his bedside table and pulled out a small plastic bottle. He’d have worried more about hiding but his parents weren’t stupid and they’d never gone through any of his stuff anyway. He flipped open the purple cap and poured the cold liquid onto his fingers. He rubbed it, warming it against his skin. As he slid that hand down between his legs, he took his other hand to his lips and kissed his own fingers, the palm of his hand and he kissed the pulse in his wrist. 

He pressed a finger on his rim and pressed, pressed until it sank inside him, filled him. His back arched and he bit down on his wrist. The beat of the music shivering through him, he fucked himself, all sweat and trembles. It was…he wanted more. A second finger slid in alongside the first and Clay whimpered. The stretch tighter, fuller, now. 

His body instinctively pushed down on his hand, meeting his own movements. Clay smoothed his tongue over the toothmarks he’d just left in his skin, the coolness soothing the slight sting. Arching up he kissed his wrist again, nuzzling into his own heartbeat.

More. His body ached for it, and Clay worked a third finger inside himself. A little drier this time, he trembled, a jolt of fear shocked through him and he breathed through it. 

You can do this. You're okay. It was his own voice. It was Tony’s voice too, in his head. A chorus breathed into each other’s mouths. 

Clay cupped his face, ran his hand down his neck and followed a slow line between his ribs to the dark hair between his legs, taking his cock in his hand again. Clay squeezed tight, matching up and down, with in and out. Slowly, again and again, as long as he needed. He had every intention of being patient with himself and guiding himself through this the way he needed—


It built between his legs— sparklers on the Fourth of July, the bubbles in a freshly-opened bottle of root beer. It built and built as Clay imagined his own fingers transforming into Tony’s fingers. He imagined muscles, tattoos, stubble. A man, rough and carved, between his legs. Not just any man, his best friend, taking him through this like a boat along a river current. Up and up and up and over the rapids…

“Tony, Tony please,” he whimpered, tears prickling at his eyes. 

Deep, sharp breaths shuddered through Clay, shaking through his whole body as he came against his chest, up onto his chin, his ass clenching around trembling fingers. Keeping his fingers inside, Clay ran his other hand back up his chest. His fingers traced lines through the come. Warmth still ran through his veins and he painted his bitten-lips with come, sucked the salt of his fingertips until his heart came back down to earth.

Know thyself. 

Chapter Text



Tony nudged his way through a smudged door into the stale, peppery air of a dingy diner. He made his way to the counter and took a seat on one of the stools. A waitress in a mustard yellow uniform meandered up, pulling a pencil out from behind her ear.

“What’ll you have?” she asked, her voice smoke-roughened. 

“Coffee. Black.” It felt like Tony hadn’t slept in days— he pretty much hadn’t. “And bacon.”

The waitress nodded. “Coming right up.”

“Thanks.” Tony gave her a quick smile before his mouth stretched into a yawn.

As she walked away with his order, Tony rubbed his tired eyes. It had only been two days. Just two days since he’d kissed Clay and yet it felt like a lifetime. Like this heartache had always been a part of him. In a way, maybe it had been.

The waitress sat down the coffee without a word. Tony wrapped his hands around the warm ceramic and brought the rim to his lips. He took a long hot, drink and sighed. Caffeine, yes. He needed caffeine.

The neon beer light hanging on the wall flickered, drawing his attention to the left. Two seats down a young man sat at the counter eating fries. He wore ripped jeans and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. Their eyes met, and the man gave Tony a quick nod. Tony nodded back.

Several minutes later, the waitress brought out his bacon and, when he thanked her for it, Tony noticed the other man looking over at him again. When Tony turned back to his coffee and took another sip, he felt movement beside him. The Led Zeppelin man had moved over into the closest barstool. 

The man’s subtle grin sat above a strong chin. “Rough day?”

“You could say that,” Tony replied.

“I feel you.” The man extended a hand. “Name’s Drew.”

Tony looked down at his coffee, hesitating “Tony,” he finally said and shook the guy’s hand. 

Drew held on a little longer than he needed to. Tony tensed. Is this guy—?

“I don’t want to be presumptuous,” Drew said, dropping his hand away. He took some cash out and laid it on the counter for the waitress. “But, what the hell! You only live once right? You had a rough day. So did I. Maybe we could make it a little less rough on each other. Or rougher.” He winked. “If you’re interested.” Drew laid a motel card key down on the counter and walked out before Tony could even reply.


Tony stared down at the green key card— Dime-a-Dozen Motel. He’d driven past it on his way here. He picked up the card and flipped it over. Room number 115 had been written on the back. 

This wasn’t the first time Tony had been propositioned and he didn’t imagine it would be the last. One time, between Ryan and Brad, he’d even taken a guy up on the offer. But a quick, rough fuck in an alley had just left him feeling kind of empty. That was when he’d decided he was a boyfriend guy, a love guy. Not a one-night stand, sex with a stranger guy. That was before though. When he thought he could fall in love with someone who wasn’t Clay Jensen.

Tony laid out enough money to pay for his food and coffee and pocketed the motel key. 

What the hell, right?




When Tony didn’t show up to school again, Clay knew he had to go over the Padilla’s. Not that he wanted to finally return that kiss right in front of Tony’s parents— that seemed a little dangerous— but he couldn’t wait any longer and this wasn’t something Clay wanted to do over the phone or via text.

As soon as the last bell rang, Clay rushed to his bike and pedaled full-speed to Tony’s house. The Mustang wasn’t parked in the driveway, so he figured it was in the garage. Clay leaned his bike against a shrub and knocked on the front door. He waited, but no one answered, so he knocked again.

A few moments later the window slid open and Mr. Padilla’s face appeared behind the screen. “Go away,” he grumbled.

“Where’s Tony? Is he home?”

“There something too complicated for you to understand about ‘go away’?”

Clay’s stomach sank. Is Tony really that pissed at him? “Sir, all due respect, I can’t do that.”

Mr. Padilla’s eyes narrowed. “Why? Your legs broken?”

Clay’s heart pounded hard against his ribs, but he didn’t care. “I’m not going to do that,” Clay rephrased. “I really need to talk to Tony. Can you please tell him to come out here?”

“Can’t do that.” Mr. Padilla disappeared from the window.

Gritting his teeth, Clay knocked on the door again, and it opened a little, a chain near the top still locked. Mr. Padilla’s eyes glared through the small crack.

“Why not?” Clay asked.

“You’re not easily intimidated are you, Jensen?”

“No, sir.” Clay shook his head. He wasn’t. Not when it mattered, not anymore.

Mr. Padilla unlocked the chain and opened the door the rest of the way, but arms crossed, he stood there like a boulder blocking the way inside. “You beat the hell out of that Bryce Walker piece of shit, right?”

Clay huffed. “More the other way around but—”

“You get back up?” Mr. Padilla interrupted, his expression serious. 

“Yes, sir,” Clay replied, looking Mr. Padilla in the eye.

Lips tipping into a frown, Mr. Padilla stepped back and gestured for Clay to follow him inside. Clay walked through the doorway onto the short tile hall. Family photos in gold frames lined the wall.

“Uh, so where’s Tony?” Clay asked, swallowing down the knot in his throat.

“Not here.” Mr. Padilla stepped into the small living room.

Clay followed him. “When will he be back?”

Mr. Padilla grabbed the back of his couch and looked at Clay. “Just give him time. My son…he’s one of the strongest, surest people I know, but everyone has a vulnerability.” Mr. Padilla’s looked down at his rough hands. “And you’re Tony’s.”

A shiver rattled through Clay. “I need to talk to him.”

Mr. Padilla grimaced, like having to talk about emotions was actually slowly poisoning him. “Well, you're just going to have to wait. I know it’s not your fault. Neither of you are at fault, but it doesn’t change that Tony needs time to heal, to get over his feelings for you.”Clay stepped forward, panic sweeping through him. Could I already be too late? Did I shut a door that could never be reopened? “I don't want to give him time.”

“Well, we don’t always get what we want…” Mr. Padilla kept talking as Clay’s head spun, unable to make out any of the words.

“I’m in love with your son,”—Clay blurted—“…sir.”

Mr. Padilla froze. “What did you just say?”

“I’m in love with Tony.” Never in a million years did Clay think Mr. Padilla would be the first person he’d say that to. 

Letting out a hmph, Mr. Padilla turned and walked into the kitchen. “That bicycle all you got to get around in?”

Clay hesitantly followed Mr. Padilla. “Uh, yeah.”

He grabbed a keychain off a hook by the refrigerator and held it out. “You got a license?”

Clay nodded.

“Tony’s in Springfield. Doing a job for me.” Mr. Padilla dropped the keys in Clay’s hand and pointed a finger at his nose. “These go to the old jeep out back. Whatever happens to this car, happens to you.”

“Got it.” Clay started to turn away to get the jeep, to go after Tony.

“Oh, and Bicycle Boy, if you break Tony’s heart, I’ll break your bones.”

Clay looked back at Mr. Padilla, looked right at him. He wanted Tony’s father to understand that he understood. ‘I love you’ wasn't just a phrase you say. It’s a promise. A responsibility. 

“Yes, sir,” Clay said.


Chapter Text



With a shaky breath, Tony stepped out of his Mustang and onto an asphalt parking lot. He stopped his car under a neon sign reading Dime-A-Dozen Motel. He shut the door behind him with a heavy, final thud. He’d been circling the block for about an hour with a torn mind and an aching chest. His eyes were a little blurry from only getting two hours of sleep.

Grey clouds darkened overheard— it would surely rain soon— and he had that orange key gripped in his hand. Tony stared straight ahead at the dingy olive green building. Just one story high, its shingles were crumbling and black graffiti had been sprayed across part of the concrete sidewalk. 

He tapped his finger nervously against his leg, heart beating faster. The guy at the diner, Drew, he’d be…fine. His face was fine, his eyes were okay, his smile wasn’t bad. And there were no strings attached. Tony could do this, right? Drop out of school. Take up some of the further out jobs for his father. Meet guys in shitty diners and fuck them on scratchy hotel sheets that smelled like cheap liquor. He wouldn’t even have to kiss them or know their names or look them in the eyes. 

Tony’s legs wobbled as he stepped onto the sidewalk and under the awning. He stared straight ahead at the black door with its silver numbers reading: 115. The edges of the key card pressed into his palms as he squeezed it tighter. 

Just fuck him…or hell, let him fuck you. That’d be new. What difference does it make?

Rain pattered on the awning and against the parking lot behind him. Tony looked down at the red scabs dotting his knuckles and curled his hand into a fist. I guess I don’t have to knock. He had the key. But knocking would give Drew warning and give Tony one last chance to resign himself to what life was going to look like now. He lifted his hand, preparing to rap his knuckled against the door—

It makes all the difference in the world. He froze as thoughts slammed into his head. Knock on the door. Fuck or get fucked. Drop out of school, then what? Rinse and repeat? Is that what you want? Tony could run. He could spend the rest of his life running until it was all his legs knew how to do. Or he could turn around. Get in the Mustang, drive home and just fucking face his life, face Clay. Just work through it, no matter how hard it was.

Tony dropped the key card, his hand falling back down to his side. He’d seen what happens when you stopped believing that things couldn’t get better. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t, stop believing.

Drawing a deep breath, Tony turned to walk back toward the Mustang. He took one step and stopped dead still. 


It was. It was Clay, walking towards him in a rush of rain. Two hundred miles from where he should be right now. 

Blinking, Tony made his way forward into the cool falling drops. “W-what are you doing here?” He was unsure how he even managed the words as his heart beat so loud he could feel it in his hands, hear it in his ears

“What I should have done the other night.” Clay grew closer and closer until he grabbed Tony’s leather jacket with rain-soaked hands and leaned down, pulling Tony into a kiss. 

Clay Jensen is kissing me. He drove for hours, tracked me down, all so he could kiss me. Well, fuck.

Unable to contain himself, Tony smiled against Clay’s mouth and his hands slid up to Clay’s soft cheeks. Rain soaked them, but who the fuck cared? Not Tony. All that mattered was this— Clay’s hands threading into his hair, Tony opening Clay’s mouth with his tongue, their lips giving and taking. Tony slid a shaking hand up Clay’s shirt, rolling over the bumps in his spine.

They broke apart for air.

“We should get somewhere…dry,” Clay breathed. 

Tony kissed red-swollen lips. “You want to get a room?”

“Hell, yes.”




Tony had paid for a night and gotten a key from the front desk. Now, Clay stood behind him as the opened the door to room 127. Tony stepped inside, a duffle bag over his shoulder, and Clay followed him into the motel. The room had yellowing wallpaper, an antenna TV and a single king sized bed with a mustard-colored comforter. It smelled a little like condoms and cigarettes. 

Am I gonna lose my virginity in this room?

Clay shook the thought away. He didn’t really care where it happened, as long as it happened with Tony. 

And Skye says virginity is an out-dated, misogynistic concept anyway…

Tony dropped the duffle and turned around, a smile lighting up his face. “What do you say we get out these clothes?”

Clay’s stomach plummeted and his eyes went wide.

Stepping closer, Tony said, “Calm down. I meant because you’re dripping wet.” Tony laid a hand on Clay’s cheek and petted his skin with a thumb. “We can take this slow. We should.

Shivering, Clay kissed the top of Tony’s thumb, sucking it into his mouth just a little. Tony’s mouth fell open and he wobbled back. 

“Not too slow, I hope.” Clay laughed softly. “But you’re right. We should change. The last thing I want right now is denim chafe, though I didn’t bring a change of clothes.” He’d headed here straight from the Padilla’s house. 

“You can borrow some of mine,” Tony said.

Clay raised an eyebrow. “Will they fit?”

Tony gave him a playful punch in the arm. “Stop making cracks on my height, you little shit.”

“I meant because you’re so broad and masculine.”

“Shut it, Jensen.”

Clay smirked. “Make me.”

Tony grabbed onto Clay’s hoody and slammed him against the wall, rattling an sconce. Their mouths crashed together, sending electric jolts from Clay’s mouth to his toes. Tony’s body pressed against him. All strong, hard lines and muscles, holding him, pinning him, protecting him, a cage of calloused skin and sexy, fucking tattoos. 

Tony kissed a line down Clay’s neck, sucking the skin enough to burn.

Clay tensed. “Dude, you’re gonna leave a mark.”

“I hope so.” Tony nipped at his skin, making Clay hiss. 

A thrust of hips made Clay’s whole body go numb. Lips caught his again and Tony’s tongue slid between his teeth. He tasted just a little like coffee and a lot like chocolate peppermint. Clay let out a whimper as Tony thrust against him again.

“You’re hard,” Tony whispered into Clay’s ear. 

Heat burned across Clay’s cheeks and he looked down. “Yeah, erm…”

Tony took Clay’s hand, kissed his palm then guided that hand down between Tony’s legs. He pressed it to wet denim, to the rock hard bulge underneath.

Shit, his dick’s a lot bigger than mine. A lot bigger than my fingers too…would Tony fit? Clay’s mouth went desert dry.

“I’m right there with you,” Tony said, moving Clay’s hand away. “But we should stop.”

Stop? “You’re kidding, right?”

“You think you’re ready?” Tony raised an eyebrow, his voice gravelly and low. “You ready for me to put my cock in your mouth? You ready for me bend you over the bed and pound your ass? You ready for me to come inside you?”

All the blood ran out of Clay’s face and he felt like he was choking. “Um, uh…” 

“My point exactly.” Tony chuckled and walked over to where he’d sat down his duffle bag. 

Clay finally got the feeling back in his limbs and followed Tony. “There’s got to be some sort of happy medium. A beginner’s level. A tutorial.”

Holding out a white t-shirt and a black pair of boxers, Tony shook his head. “Your ass isn’t a video game.”


“Just put these on, Clay.” His commanding voice made Clay’s dick strain even harder against his jeans. 

Clay took the clothes with a little smirk. “Fine, jeez.” 

Tony held Clay’s hand and looked down at their locked fingers. “We’ll get to everything else, I promise. But tonight, I want to hold you.” Tony let out a long breath. “God Clay, I’ve been waiting so long just to hold you.” 

How could Clay say no to that?


Chapter Text



Tony woke with his nose pressed into Clay’s hair, an arm thrown over his waist. He breathed out a shaky breath against Clay’s neck. How am I here? He’d always wanted this— somewhere in the back of his mind— even if he denied it. He’d always wanted to wake up with Clay, though he’d never, not for a second, believed it would actually be possible. Yet here he was.

Clay mumbled in his sleep and squirmed under the thin sheet. Tony smoothed his hand over the cotton t-shirt he was wearing. My t-shirt. Clay was wearing Tony’s boxers too. When he’d bought those things, how could he have imagined they’d end up sweat-clinging to Clay Jensen’s gorgeous body?

With another soft breath, Clay squirmed again, moving back against Tony, and his ass brushed Tony’s cock. Shit. Tony got hard almost immediately.

Every part of Tony screamed for him to wake up Clay, hold him in place and rut his hard cock against Clay’s ass, but he still wanted to take it slow and enjoy this. So instead, Tony pressed his lips Clay’s neck, then slid them slow up to his ear.

Clay let out a gentle breath. “Morning, Tony.”

Tony chuckled, bringing another kiss to Clay’s neck, right above a tiny little freckle. “You’re actually here. I was worried I’d dreamed it.”

“You dream about me?”

Tony shut his eyes. “You have no idea.”

“Dirty dreams?” Clay laughed.

“Sometimes.” He’d had a few wet dreams about Clay when he was younger and first discovering his sexuality. “Not usually.”

“What do you usually dream about me?”

Tony pulled Clay in even closer, flexing his hands again Clay’s ribs. “This. I dreamed of this.”

Clay turned around in Tony’s arm, and breath escaped from Tony’s chest in a gasp. Clay looked beautiful like this, sleepy eyed and soft. He scooted down, just a little, to kiss Tony on the mouth. An easy, gentle touch. Clay threaded a hand through Tony’s hair and pulled. It ignited a spark that coursed through Tony’s veins. The kiss changed, transforming into something deep, forceful, a push and pull that lit under them like a fire. 

Clay slid cool hands under Tony’s shirt and his fingers caught on Tony’s nipples. Clay let out a shuddering breath and started to softly pinch. Tony growled and bit Clay’s lip. When Tony looked down, his heart jumped. The smooth pink tip of Clay’s dick stuck out from his waistband of the borrowed boxers.

“May I?” Tony asked, breathless. 


Shaking. Tony stroked the wet tip of Clay’s dick. “Please.”

“God, yes.”

Tony tugged the boxers down, exposing Clay’s cock. He just stared down at it. It was cut, unlike his own, and pretty straight. Pink and wet. Tony wrapped his hand around it and jacked up and down.

Oh God.” Clay moaned and curled into Tony. 

“You like that?”

“I’ve never…I…don’t stop.”

Tony kissed Clay, speeding up his hand. “You can touch me if you’d like, but whatever you want. I don’t mind either way.”

A smile stretched across Clay’s face. “I can?”

Tony couldn’t believe he could hear excitement in Clay’s voice, surprise. Clay actually wanted him and that would just never, ever stop surprising him. 

Clay pulled down Tony’s boxers and the cool air hit Tony’s dick. Clay’s mouth dropped and he stared.

Tony stopped his movements, but still held Clay’s cock. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Dude, you’re like…hung.

Pride swelled in Tony’s chest and he grinned. “Thanks, Clay.”

Slowly, Clay wrapped his hand around Tony’s dick and stroked. Clay Jensen is touching my cock…that’s….damn.

They laid like that, just facing each other, occasionally kissing, both their hands moving in matching, escalating pace. 

“I’m holding a cock…another man’s cock…” Clay said, sounding bewildered. 

“You freaking out?”

Clay shook his head. “Nah, I’m good.” 

Tony stretched his neck and kissed Clay hard again, sinking a tongue into his mouth and waiting for Clay to push back. He did— and it was on. Jacking and biting and touching with their free hands. Sweat and dripping pre-come and growling each other’s names.

“Close.” Clay gasped for air. “Tony, I think I’m—”

Tony scooted in, lining their cocks up and wrapped his hand around them both. Clay’s dick was squeezed against his own. They looked damn perfect together.

Clay hissed, throwing his head back. “Oh, fuck. God, I’m—”

“That’s it, Clay. Right there. You’re so good. So beautiful. Come on. Come for me.”

A few more slides of Tony’s hand and Clay let out a gasping groan as he came in hot spurts all over Tony’s hand.

The heat— the feeling—rocketed through Tony, like exploding gasoline. “Clay. Clay, yes!” he grunted and came, blood rushing from his face. His come mixed with Clay’s on their fingers, sticky and wet as it ran over Clay’s softening dick. 


As Tony laid there catching his breath, all he could think was that seeing Clay Jensen come had been one of the great privileges of his life. 




“That was…” Clay tried to think of words with his mind still blank. “…we have to do that again.”

Tony chuckled. “Oh, as often as possible I would think.”

Clay brought his sticky hand up to his mouth and started licking the come from his skin. It had a different tang to it than his own did alone. Muskier.

He was sucking on his thumb when he noticed Tony staring at him with an open mouth and the widest eyes he’d ever seen. 

“What?” Clay asked as he swallowed.

“Uhh…” Tony blinked. “You…what are you?”

Clay licked a little drop of come off his lips. “Oh God, oops…I guess that’s weird, isn’t it? Sorry if I—”

“That was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Clay blushed. “I was just…”

Tony held up his sticky fingers to Clay’s lips, drawing a wet finger across Clay’s bottom lip. “You like the taste of come?”

Well, this was the first time he’d tasted any that wasn’t his own, but he’d found that was even better. At least, Tony’s was. Tony’s and his together— perfect. Clay hesitated but drew Tony’s pointer finger into his mouth and sucked on it. Tony’s eyes fluttered shut and he tensed, his muscles rippling his tattoos. 

“Dammit, Clay,” Tony growled. “You should be illegal.”

Clay licked Tony’s pinky finger then said, “They tried. Congress can’t the get the bill out of the appropriations committee.”

“Nerd. You’re such a fucking nerd.”

“Well, you’re the one who wants to fuck this nerd.” Clay kissed Tony’s knuckles. They were bruised and scabbed. His stomach sank. He didn’t know exactly what the Padilla's did for a living. He’d known Tony long enough not to ask, but still Clay worried about him… “You’re hurt.”

Tony cast his gaze down and pulled his hand away. “It’s nothing. I’m fine.” He cleared his throat and his tone of voice changed. “We should get cleaned up and dressed. Check out is in an hour.”

Clay frowned. “No, I wanna stay here. There’s you, a bed. You and a bed.”

Tony pulled away from him with a smile and stood up, giving Clay the first real look at his naked body. His back tapered in to his hips so perfectly and damn he just wanted to trace each tattoo with his tongue. 

“As fun as that sounds,” Tony said. “We both have school on Monday and I’m assuming your parents are going to kick your ass as it is.”

Clay grimaced. Tony was not wrong. He’d simply texted him mom, “Sorry. I’ll be back. Something I’ve gotta do” and he hadn’t responded to the like dozen texts she’d sent him since then. “Oh, shit.” Clay sat up. “We have to go back to school.”

Tony pulled on some boxer briefs he’d gotten from his duffle. “We don’t have to tell anyone. I mean, I dated Ryan for months and you never noticed.”

An image of Ryan and Tony tangled up in a bed cropped up in Clay’s mind and jealously jolted through him. He stuffed the feeling away. 

“I don’t want to hide it,” Clay said quickly. “If you don’t.”

“I mean, I don’t think we need to make an announcement…”

Clay got out of bed and smirked at Tony. “I’ll have to cancel that sky writer I ordered then. I hope I can get back my deposit.”

Tony had dressed again and that just seemed wrong. Tony was too perfect for stupid clothes. He needed to be naked always.

“Seriously though Clay, it’s not just the school it’s also—”

“My parents. Yeah, I know.” Clay shrugged as he pulled on his now dry clothes from yesterday. They didn’t smell great but oh well. He was way too tall and skinny to wear a pair of Tony’s jeans. 

“How do you think they’ll react?”

“Well, I mean, they’re not homophobic. So hopefully fine.”

Tony came over and laid a hand on Clay’s shoulder. “I can be there with you when you tell them, if you want.”

Clay smiled.”Thanks!”

. . . 


Half an hour and a dozen and a half kisses later, they’d finally gotten out of the room and were walking toward their cars. The sun shone down brightly, a perfect contrast to the rainy day before.

“I hate that we can’t drive back together.” Clay sighed.

“Me too. But it’s just a couple hours, and we’ll be back together.”

Clay wrapped his arms around Tony’s waist. He still hadn’t gotten used to the feel of strong muscles, but he wasn’t complaining. Quite the contrary, to be honest…

An unfamiliar voice called out, “You gave up a chance with me for that skinny ass?”

Clay looked several yards away at a man in a torn t-shirt with big arms folded across a broad chest. Who the hell is that?

Tony spun around and spat, “Out of line, man.”

“You know this guy Tony?”

“He was about to let me fuck him,” the man said to Clay and then turned to Tony. “I saw you outside my door. Don’t pretend.”

Tony stepped forward, his hands curling into fist. He snarled through his teeth. “Go the fuck away. I won’t say it again.”

Clay laid a hand on his elbow. “Tony,” he whispered.

“Not worth my time.” The man spat on the ground and stormed off.

“What was that?” Clay asked. “Who was that? What was he talking about?”

Tony ran a hand through his hair. “Just a jackass from the diner.”

“And you were…you were gonna have sex with him, that’s why you were here.”

“I didn’t.”

Clay crossed his arms, feeling twitchy. “Because I showed up.”

“No,” Tony answered immediately. “I thought about it because I was hurt and broken-hearted and I just wanted to numb that pain, but when I went to, I couldn’t. It wasn’t right…I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just…”

“A little jealous?” Tony smirked.

“Shut up.” Clay grabbed Tony’s jacket, pulling him in for a kiss.

Soon, Clay would have to tell his parents and everyone at school would probably figure it out and it would be a thing, but, for now, nothing else mattered. Nothing but Tony’s kiss. 

Chapter Text



“You don’t have to tell them now,” Tony said as he stepped out of the Mustang in front of Clay’s house. Clay had just pulled up too and was waiting outside.

“I know, but I want to.”

Tony adjusted his jacket, his heart thumping hard. He wanted to be here for Clay, and he would be, but that didn’t stop him his prickling nerves. Of course, he already knew The Jensens pretty well, but it would be different speaking with them under these circumstances. Speaking with them not as Clay’s friend but as the man who was in love with their son.

You have always been in love with their son…it’s not that different. 

But it was different. And he hoped they would react well, but there was very little way to know for sure until the time came.

“You’re sure you’re ready?” Tony asked.

Clay gave him a gentle smile and a laid a hand on his shoulder. Tony wanted to shove Clay into his Mustang and speed off. He wanted to keep the world away from this new thing growing between them, but the determined look on Clay’s face told Tony this was something he needed to do now.

“I’m ready,” Clay said. “What? You chickening out?”

Tony snorted, trying to ignore the pit of worry growing beneath his ribs. “No. I’m here for you. Whatever you need.”

A blush appeared on Clay’s cheeks and he looked down. “I know, I know, but you’re still stalling.” He looked back up and winked.

Tony rolled his eyes and gave Clay a playful shove.Side by side, they walked up the front steps and Clay opened the door.

“Mom? Dad? I’m home,” Clay called out.

Clay.” Mrs. Jensen came flying in from the other room, her blonde hair blowing in front of her face. “Where have you been? How could you just leave like that? And not text me back? A text takes two seconds, Clay!”

Clay sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Uh, I did text you.”

She leveled a glare at him. “One vague text does not count.”

“I’m sorry. Seriously. Is Dad here? I have something I need to tell you both.”

Mrs. Jensen’s face fell, and her gaze moved to Tony. This was clearly the first she’d noticed him. “Oh, hi, Tony.” She looked back at Clay. “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, it’s…better than fine, actually. I just want to tell you and dad something.”

Mrs. Jensen’s eyes narrowed like she really didn't believe her son. “He’s here. I’ll go get him.”

When Mrs. Jensen walked away, Clay gave Tony a nervous smile. Tony took a deep breath and Clay matched him. They both walked into the living room and sat down on the couch to wait. Only a few inches separated the two of them. It was closer than they normally sat. Would Clay’s parents figure it out as soon as they saw?

He was just glad Clay didn’t have to do this alone.

Tony had had to do it alone— and, even though his parents reacted better than he expected, he still had never felt more scared than he did in that moment. He only hoped Clay didn’t feel that same fear now.





Despite the looks of concern on his parents’ faces, a strange peace washed over Clay as they walked into the room. He had Tony here with him, beside him. He loved Tony, and he wasn’t going to hide that from his parents. 

They stood shoulder to shoulder and stared down at the boys.

“You guys can sit,” Clay said.

His parents gave each other a look and then sat down stiffly on the sofa across from the boys.

“What is it, son?” his dad said, a little distractedly. He’d never been much one for getting too involved in Clay’s life, but he’d made an effort to connect with him more ever since Hannah. Talking to him still felt a little stilted and awkward but Clay appreciated the effort. He remembered when his dad had said Clay needed something to hold on to. His dad was right, and Clay had found it. Tony was worth holding onto.

“It’s complicated, I guess. I mean it’s not that complicated but I want to explain something to you. I’ve been figuring something out…for awhile, now, and I just needed you to know…” His voice trailed off. He couldn’t figure out the words he needed to say, how to phrase it just right to say what he really wanted to say. So Clay just reached over and took Tony’s hand. He squeezed it tight and stared right at his mom.

She blinked, her brow furrowing as her gaze dropped down to their fingers. “Oh…oh.”

“You’re not gay, son,” his dad said bluntly. “Are you?”

Clay looked over at Tony, and suddenly couldn’t manage to form words.

“He’s not gay.” Tony squeezed his hand tighter.

“Then, I’m sorry. What’s happening here?” his mom asked and Clay realized he came by his own obliviousness honestly. 

“I—Tony and I are together and I just wanted you to know that.”

“Clay…” his mom said tentatively. “I know what happened with Hannah was hard, but I don't want you to— you should be making big decisions right now.”

Stomach sinking, Clay stiffened. “This isn’t a decision, Mom. It’s not a choice.”

His mom pursed her lips. “That’s not what I meant. If you’re gay—”

“Not gay,” Clay said. “Bisexual.” He’d never said that aloud and fear shuddered through him but it felt right. It felt true. It was true.

“Okay, son,” his dad said. “Everyone experiments…my chess club in college.

Oh God, Dad. Shut up. Clay felt his face flush. “This isn’t an experiment. This is…it’s about Tony. We’re together, okay? I’m happy with it and I wanted you to know.”

His mom shot up from the couch. “Tony, I would like to have a word alone with my son.”

Without missing a beat, Tony replied politely, “I will go when Clay asks me to.” 

I love him so damn much.

Clay squeezed Tony’s hand, then said, “It’s okay. I’ll call you later.”

Tony’s brow furrowed and Clay was certain Tony didn’t want to leave him, but Clay gave him another reassuring nod. He could handle whatever his mom threw out him as long as Tony was waiting for him. 

With a sigh, Tony dropped Clay’s hand and walked out of the house. As soon as the door shut, Clay’s mom went off.

“You can’t be serious, Clay. What are you thinking?”

“I can’t be serious? What about you, Mom? I had no idea you were a fucking homophobe.”

“Don’t yell at your mother,” his dad said, but Clay ignored him.

“I’m not— this has nothing to do with Tony being a boy. I’m a little confused by that, but that’s not why I’m worried.”

Anger burning in his cheeks, Clay spat, “Well, what are you worried about?”

His mom’s face fell, her cheeks turning paper-white. “Clay…there’s something you need to know about Tony.”

Chapter Text



Tony paced his bedroom floor. Every few steps he would pull his phone out of his back pocket to check for texts from Clay. It had been several hours without a word from him, despite the five fucking texts Tony had sent.

There was no point in sending another one—no logic to it at all—but he couldn’t resist.

Tony: are you okay? I’m worried.

Tony sighed as he locked his phone and shoved it back in his pocket again. Now, he could imagine how Clay felt only a few days ago when Tony had been ignoring his messages. The rock in his stomach just kept growing and growing until it weighed him down so much he nearly collapsed onto the bed.

The Jensens had not seemed happy that he and Clay were together and Tony, who could normally remain calm under stressful circumstances, found himself biting his nails and tapping his foot. This was different. Clay was different. He mattered more to Tony than anything and, for all Tony knew, he could be losing Clay right now. Losing him now when he’d just found him.

“Just talk to me,” Tony mumbled under his breath. “Fucking shit.”

What was the Jensen’s problem with Tony? Was it that Tony was a guy? Was it that Tony was poor? Or Puerto Rican? Or what the fuck was it?

They can’t know…they can’t possibly know…

Tony shook his head. The Jensens had always been kind to him, but there was a difference between friend and boyfriend. One of his brother’s girlfriends’ parents had lost their shit when they found out their perfect princess was dating a mechanic’s son from that side of town. By that side of town, she hadn’t meant ‘lower income’, which would have been bad enough. She had meant that side of town where more people had brown skin than white skin. That family had seemed perfectly normal until friendship turned to something more. Could the Jensens be the same?

But Tony believed in Clay. Believed that Clay would choose him, even if his family didn’t want him to do that, but he couldn’t be certain. And he also couldn’t wish that on the boy he loved. Couldn’t wish for him to lose his family or to permanently damage his relationship with them. He loved Clay too much for that, didn’t he? He hoped he did.

The phone in his pocket buzzed and he pulled it out, his heart skipping when he saw Clay’s name.

Clay: We need to talk.

Bile burned the back of his throat. We need to talk. Were there any worse words in the English language? 

“Tenemos que hablar,” Tony breathed through shut teeth, hoping it would seem less foreboding in Spanish. It didn’t. 






When Clay arrived at the base of the climbing cliffs, Tony was already there waiting, pacing back and forth in front of his Mustang. Clay was shaking as he climbed off his bike and leaned against a tree. 

He had to talk to Tony about what his parents had just told him. He didn’t believe it…he couldn’t believe it…but Clay had to tell Tony what was happening— what was being said about him and his family, but especially, specifically, about Tony.

When Tony’s gaze caught Clay’s, Tony froze and he crossed his arms over his chest. He looked defensive—against Clay—and it made Clay’s stomach sink down to his feet. 

“Clay, please,” Tony said, sounding as broken Clay had ever heard him. “Just do it quickly.”

Clay’s brow furrowed and he blinked as he stared across the several feet between him and where Tony stood by his car. Do it quickly? Do what quickly? “What?”

Tony looked up, but not directly at him, over his shoulder. He wanted to put his hand on Tony’s cheek and guide their gazes back together. He could do that now, couldn’t he?

“I won’t make it easy for you,” Tony said. “I should, right? But I can’t…even if I want to be the good guy here, I could never choose to let you go.”

Let me go? What was he…oh…ohh. “Jesus. Fuck, Tony, No. I’m not breaking up with you.”

“You’re not?”


“But your parents want you to.”

Clay hesitated to respond because it was complicated, but in the end all he had was the truth. “Yes.”

Tony shook his head. “I always thought they liked me.”

Clay stepped forward and put a hand on Tony’s shoulder. He loved the feel of warm leather against his palm. “They did…they do. They’re concerned and after what my mom told me I honestly can’t blame them—”

“What’d she tell you?” Tony’s head snapped up, his eyes serious and focused.

His mouth went dry, making it difficult for Clay to get out of the words but eventually he did. “She said…well, she said you were on a list.”

Tony’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of list, Clay?”

“My mom’s a lawyer—”

“I know.”

“And she’s working this case. It’s pretty big, I guess. Has to do with some under the table shit with some auto parts dealers in the surrounding counties. I don’t know. She said it’s some really shady shit and it goes pretty deep.”


Clay couldn’t tell if Tony knew what he was talking about or not so Clay just kept on going. “And her firm got a hold of this list that’s been circulating around the area, my mom had just found about it, like today— so she was kind of freaking out, and I don’t really know how to say this, how to tell you this, but the list, it’s a—”

“It’s a hit list,” Tony said simply.

Clay’s mouth fell open. “You knew?”

“Knew isn’t exactly the right word, but I had my suspicions.”

Running a hand through his hair, Clay said, “How are you not freaking out?” Because even if Clay wasn’t showing it, he was freaking out. Somebody out there wanted to hurt Tony and terrified him, but more than that. It made him. Goddamn fucking angry as fuck. 

Tony sighed. “Because Clay, it’s honestly not the first time.”

What? “Look, man. I care about you…a lot, you know. And I don’t want you to talk about anything you don’t want to, but you can tell me. Whatever it is that’s going on, whatever you’re involved in, you can get out of it.” Clay sighed. “What are you involved in?”

“I thought you said I didn’t have to talk about it?”

“You don’t, but I’d like you to.”

Tony slid a hand down Clay’s arm to his hand. He twisted their fingers togethers. Clay loved how his narrow fingers looked beside Tony’s thick ones. 

“Do you remember when I told you that the police in my neighborhood weren’t like they police in yours?” Tony asked.

Clay nodded.

“My family…we’re the police in my neighborhood.”

“I don’t…I’m not sure I understand.”

Tony squeezed his hand. “I know.”

“I don’t need to understand. I trust you.”

A smile broke out across Tony’s face, wide and bright.


“You’re not even gonna try to tell me its dangerous? To try and talk me out of it?”

Clay shook his head, dropping his hand away from Tony’s. Was Tony upset with him? “It’s not that I don’t care, but I’m not going to ask you to back down from what you believe is right.” Even if a part of him wanted to, he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t take away a part of what makes Tony, Tony. He loved every bit of him, even the parts that scared him a little.

“I’ll keep you out of it,” Tony said seriously. “I promise.”

Clay wasn’t sure that was a promise Tony could actually keep, but Clay had already made up his mind. He’d made it up the moment his mother told him about the list. “I’m not really a back down kind of guy.”

Tony’s warm hand cradled Clay’s face, sending tingles across his skin. “You know I’m in love with you, right?”

Time split right down the middle— a fizzier in the fabric of Clay’s existence. There was before Tony had told him he loved him and there was after. It would always be that way. He’d been given a new clock to set his heart by.

Clay ducked down and kissed Tony hard, driving his back against the Mustang. Tony’s hands were everywhere. Over his shirt. Under it. Hands over his neck and sliding over the pulse of his heart. A blaze burned between them, charring Clay’s legs, bringing him to his knees. Clay looked up at Tony and put his hands on his belt buckle.

He didn’t care if anyone drove by or saw thing. Clay just wanted, needed, more. Clay didn’t care what his parents said, didn’t care what safety or logic said, he just cared about his heart, about holding onto something worth holding onto.

The look on Tony’s face as he looked down at Clay— there were no words to describe it. He wouldn’t even try. Music could describe it maybe. Or colors. Something. But not words. 

“Clay, are you sure?”

He nodded. “I’ve never…”

Tony skimmed a thumb over Clay’s bottom lip. “I’ll help you.” Slowly, slowly, Tony unbuckled his belt and then popped open the button of his jeans. Even more slowly, Tony tugged down his jeans and his boxers. He pulled out his cock, hard and stiff, and rubbed the top of his cock along Clay’s lips. “Open your mouth.”

Clay felt the drag of dick against his lips, back and forth, until his mind caught up with pounding heart. Clay opened up and felt the weight of Tony’s thick cock slide onto his tongue.

He had Tony Padilla’s cock in his mouth and all he could think was that he should have done this a long time ago.