“-and I just felt like, there must be something wrong with me, right? That I don’t like sex - can’t even stand the thought of it - but I do really like...this?” The woman sitting across from Alan, Patricia, makes a sweeping gesture that takes in the rest of the yoga studio, and there’s a murmur of agreement around the room.
Alan cups his hands around his mug of tea, just listening, for the moment. When Darwin had approached him to join this little group of kinky asexuals, he figured he’d give it a shot but wouldn’t find a need for it in his life. After all, he’s happily with Graeme, a partner who understands his needs and desires, who recognizes his gray asexuality and doesn’t suggest he has some type of medical problem. Who lets him be exactly who he wants to be, despite being an incredibly sexual person himself. They even have a system. He feels like he won the lottery on supportive partners and he couldn’t be happier.
What he hadn’t realized, though, is how much his soul has been craving someone else who understands, nearly perfectly, exactly how he feels. And while the group here represents aces from across the spectrum, they’re all kinky, and the intersection of kink and ace has been one he’s been navigating - sometimes with difficulty, sometimes with ease - for years.
The conversation of the circle reaches him, and there’s an expectant silence as he takes a fortifying sip of tea and prepares to talk about something he’s only detailed with Clarissa; even Graeme only knows the broad overview. “It’s- it’s incredibly difficult, being a young man in a world of toxic masculinity who didn’t feel like having sex. Even in the gay community, especially in the gay community, it’s about what you can do with your cock. Or if it’s not, then it’s about what you can do with your mouth, so that...was the role I took on- no, was forced into. Forced sounds extreme, and I don’t mean it to, but that was my college experience. At a time when everyone’s sex drive was insanely high, I couldn’t get it up, so I could either be a laughingstock among the gay guys at my college, or I could distract them from the issue by being a convenient hole.” Alan grimaces down into his tea. “I don’t mean to make it sound so dark. It’s the same sort of pressure I’m sure you’ve all felt at some point, right? When you’re young and all anyone cares about is sex and so you just, you know, force yourself to conform to it.”
Again, there are nods around the small circle. “If everyone else is having so much fun with it, there must just be something wrong with me,” a man named Tray sums up.
“Exactly.” Alan shakes his head, and takes another sip of tea. “It took a lot of work - and meeting lots of people like you folks - to figure out that I’m great just like this. That it was really my college boyfriend who- who I did those things for, who saw no problem in making me do those things - who had the problem.” Alan looks around the circle, then gives everyone a small smile. “I’m glad we’re doing this. My fiance is extremely understanding, but he doesn’t quite get it. Then again, he knows that he doesn’t get it but accepts me anyway, and that’s part of what makes him so amazing."
Alan knows his smile has gone all soft and goofy, thinking about Graeme, just the way it always does. “Early on, he tried-” Alan laughs at the memory, “He’d been working nonstop shifts and he was exhausted but he tried to seduce me because he figured I needed it. Really, he needed it, needed me to show my love for him in that way, he needed reassurance. But he never pressured me - has never pressured me - into anything. In the end, it comes down to anything else, right? My brain is wired very differently from Graeme’s, but not just because I’m ace and he’s allo. We’re kinky, we’re dealing with mental health issues, we’ve got a large age gap and very different backgrounds - basically Graeme and I need to be communicating at all times in order to keep this relationship going.”
“Amen,” someone replies, and there’s a laugh among the group that Alan joins in.
“Because I’m gray-ace, and because, even though I’m frequently not sex-repulsed, I still have instances when I am, we started using this rating system, not even for kink, just for vanilla sex...”
Some months ago…
It had been one of those mornings where waking up had somehow transitioned smoothly but directly into making out with Graeme. Graeme’s smaller body is nestled against his, their pajama-clad legs tangled together. Graeme had worn Alan’s oversized Hulk pajamas to bed, and one of Alan’s hands smooths over Graeme’s ribcage to gather the extra fabric in his fist and pull Graeme closer. He feels Graeme’s cock, hard and insistent against his stomach, and swallows Graeme’s sweet little moan.
He’s contemplating working his way down Graeme’s body and giving him a lovely Sunday morning blow job, really get them going before heading off to brunch, when Graeme’s hand lands on his hip. Immediately, without even really thinking about it, Alan pushes Graeme’s hand back to his own body.
Graeme breaks the kiss and blinks up at him. “Red?” he asks, before shaking his head. “I mean, um, no?”
Alan sighs, resting his forehead against Graeme’s. He closes his eyes and tries to figure out how to explain himself. It’s so much easier with kink - everything is pre-negotiated. This type of sex feels more like foreign territory for Alan. “I just- I’m. I don’t feel like...um.”
Graeme waits him out, staying silent, though Alan can feel Graeme’s hand come up to cup his cheek instead, a silent gesture of “It’s okay.”
Frustrated with himself, with his body, with his mind, Alan rolls over to his back and stares up at the ceiling. Graeme follows, nestling against Alan’s side, his chin resting on Alan’s chest so he can look up at his face. “Can I do this?”
Alan nods, because it’s moved away from sexual, and that’s fine. Cuddling is great. He loves cuddling.
He loves cuddling, and he likes kissing Graeme almost all the time, and pretty often he’s happy to bring Graeme to climax using whatever means necessary, and seldom, but still sometimes, he finds Graeme so irresistible that he wants to sink inside him and stay forever.
How does one explain that?
Biting down on his lip, then releasing it, he meets Graeme’s eyes and just spills the whole thing out. “I just- I just don’t want to be frustrating, or confusing to you. I don’t just fit in this easy-to-explain box.” He sighs. “And I worry that if I’m not clear for you, you’ll think I’m rejecting you, and I’ll trigger your anxiety, and…” He lets the sentence hang.
Graeme gives him a small smile. Beneath the blankets, his hand comes to find Alan’s and he winds their fingers together. “Now who’s spiraling? I thought that was my job around here.”
Alan can’t help but huff out a little laugh. “Baby…”
“No, I get it. It’s a valid concern.” Graeme’s sigh matches Alan’s. “I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel like...like I deserve you and what you’ve given me. I know that’s classic victim-of-abuse right there, but knowing that doesn’t make me feel it any less. Some part of me is always going to be waiting for the other shoe to drop.” His fingers come up to play at the white-gold chain of his collar. “I guess now the difference is, I’m pretty sure I’d land on my feet, as devastated as I’d be.”
Alan’s heart lurches at the thought of leaving Graeme, even though he knows it’s just a hypothetical scenario Graeme’s anxiety brain thought up. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that Graeme was sure he wouldn’t be able to survive without Alan, and there’s no small amount of pride welling up inside Alan’s chest at the fact that Graeme’s feeling so confident.
“Regardless,” Alan murmurs, squeezing Graeme’s hand, “It would be nice to avoid the whole situation altogether.”
“Why not use the stop lights?”
Alan frowns, thinking about it. “I feel like ‘green’ would cover way too many scenarios to be an accurate thing to say. Like, I could be green for getting you off, but I don’t want you to touch me, but if I just say green, how are you supposed to know that? Other than me just telling you. I feel like we could have a shorthand somehow.”
“Hmmm.” Graeme’s fingers leave his collar to tap on Alan’s chest thoughtfully. “We could add colors? Like, teal means you want to keep it PG-rated or something.” His fingers stop tapping, and he looks up at Alan. “Is it that obvious?”
“It might just be,” Alan replies, turning the idea of using the movie rating system around in his head. “So like, NC-17 would be fucking you, like, penetrative, right?”
“Or you being fucked, if you want me to.” Graeme shrugs.
They hash out the system for another few minutes in bed, before Graeme’s eyes widen as he looks at the clock. “Shit, we need to get ready!” He scrambles up off the bed, pulling off his pajamas as he goes and heading to the shower.
Graeme still has anxiety about being late to brunch and disappointing Alan’s family somehow. Alan finds it adorable, but he follows after Graeme quickly, because he’s ready to spend his life alleviating Graeme’s anxiety.
They pick up the ratings conversation while Alan washes Graeme’s hair, and again in the Tesla heading to Kent, and by the time they’re pulling up in front of Sam and Ricky’s house, they have something pretty well hammered out to try, anyway.
Graeme reaches to press the button that opens the door but Alan pulls him back, cupping his face and kissing him, long and sweet and smooth. “Thank you.”
Graeme, bless him, looks adorably confused by the gratitude - and flushed by the kiss. “Hmm?”
“Just, you’re the first boyfriend I’ve had who cares to spend this much time helping me figure out my asexuality.”
Graeme’s flush deepens. “You deal with this whole mess,” and here Graeme gestures to his head as a whole, “on the daily, so...you’re welcome.” He leans forward for another kiss. “And thank you.”
There’s a knocking on Graeme’s window, and they both jolt, looking over to see Alan’s mom waving at them. “Hey boys! If you don’t hurry up all the good pancakes with chocolate chips are going to get eaten by the twins, you know.”
Alan’s not sure he’s seen Graeme ever go so red in the time he’s known him. “Yes, sorry Linda,” Graeme basically yells, frantically pressing the button to open the door. “Yup, we’re right here, here we are, not doing anything in the car, nope.”
Alan follows at a much more sedate pace, his dad slipping an arm around his shoulders as they walk up the stairs together.