He didn’t cling to me the whole time, unfortunately, but after the end of the first section of the newspaper, Seorus released my arm and leaned back against the wall. I continued on uninterrupted to the second section and had the impression that he was watching me closely as I read, perhaps trying to put his feelings and thoughts in order. When I finished that section I asked him, “Do you want me to keep going?”
“You don’t have to.”
“Tired of me already?”
I’d meant it jovially, but the distressed way his brow furrowed at me meant that was not how he took it. Though he had difficulty stating aloud what he wanted, I eventually found that if I asked the right questions, his glances and expressions said everything his words could not.
He didn’t want me to have to keep reading, but he didn’t want me to go. And he clearly didn’t want to talk. So I just stayed with him, quietly reading our own separate papers right next to each other, legs occasionally touching. I had ended up on his blind side, so I could safely look at him for extended amounts of time without him knowing or growing uncomfortable. Though my stillness when I wasn’t reading had a tendency to draw his attention, so I tried not to stare too much lest I give myself away.
I exclaimed every now and then over something I read, “Oh wow, did you know--” about a political event, law, murder, trial, or scandal, and with incredible frequency he could tell me more about it, delving into the history and details, with a little bit of prompting. His tone at these statements was mostly one of disbelief, perhaps thinking that I was a little dumb to not already know all this. He also didn’t like being interrupted from his own reading, but with a smile, a lean, and a head tilt to show I was sincerely listening, his irritation was smothered.
Seorus was always hesitant to talk, but in this one instance, with enough questions, he could start to speak freely. He was smart, he was surprisingly informed, and it was so incredibly hot .
Eventually he paused his reading, and when I glanced at him, I saw him looking over a crossword puzzle. He intently read a clue, counted the boxes with a finger, turned his eyes upward to think and gave a little nod. He continued on in this manner, silently contemplating the blank boxes.
“Should I bring you a pencil or something tomorrow for your puzzles?”
He folded the paper quickly with a sharp look at me, apparently embarrassed? “Why are you so focused on me instead of your paper?”
“Oh, s-sorry.” I scooted to the edge of the coffin to make myself as visible as possible. “I am reading it! We’ve been talking about it this whole time, y’know? But . . . I just like seeing what you’re doing.”
He seemed angry with me, then forced himself to breath and dropped the paper to the floor. “I-I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m not . . .” he covered his face as he said, “Ignatius I’m not sure I can do this.”
“You can’t be friends with someone?”
“NO!” He threw his hands down and looked directly at me like a plea.
I couldn’t help the exhale of a laugh I let out. “Seorus, you’re doing great!” My hand was millimeters from grasping his forearm before I froze, almost breaking my no-touching promise the very first evening. “Well . . . maybe we’re both doing okay.” I planted my balled fists firmly in my lap on top of my paper. “I think I’ve just stayed on a bit too long, perhaps? I do thank you for giving me so much of your time this evening. Would it be okay if I visited you again tomorrow?”
“I’m just . . . going to yell at you again.” He seemed disappointed in himself.
“Seorus, that was hardly a yell. And it’s okay to tell me to leave if I’ve been here too long, or you’re tired of having company. I’ll understand. You don’t just have to live in irritation.”
I stood and left my paper in my place stepping to his door.
“So . . . is it okay to come back tomorrow? I won’t stay as long!”
He fidgeted for a bit before speaking, only looking at my feet as he did so, “You must have something else to do. Something more important.”
“Seorus . . . right now what I want most is to spend my time with you.”
He noticeably blushed and clasped his hands together tightly between his knees struggling to finally say, “Then . . . I guess . . . I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I smiled broadly at him, even though he was pointedly not looking at me, and told him, “Good night, Mr. Fellick.”
I went back to my room that morning with a spring in my step. I’d stayed with Seorus for hours, the longest continuous time we’d yet spent together. I couldn’t remember the last time I had so innocently stayed with a hot man for so long, but I had already resigned myself that it would be this way for quite a few nights to come. And I was okay with that.
With my hand on my bedroom door handle I wondered if I had time to go out and find someone quickly, or whether I would, uncharacteristically, stay in and perhaps scrounge up those pencils I promised. My comfortable elation fell when I opened my door to find my brother sitting on my bed, his face illuminated by a phone.
He glanced at me sheepishly, “Hey.”
“Lochan.” I stood near the bed with my arms crossed.
“How’d it go?”
“As well as it could have, all things considered.”
“He doesn’t hate you, then?” he asked.
“No, but he’s gun-shy.”
“And how do you feel about me?”
“It depends, I suppose, on what you were waiting here to tell me,” I said as I leaned against the bedpost.
“I . . . I just wanted to tell you what happened. Yesterday, with Seorus. What I meant to happen.”
Lochan motioned to the bed hoping I would sit with him. He looked chastised enough that I accepted, but stayed out of arm’s reach. He gave a few sighs before beginning “I . . . tried to be you when I went to see him. I thought I could fool him with the twin schtick, but he knew it wasn’t you as soon as I spoke, before even seeing me! I had your shoes, your clothes, your scent, but he still . . . knew! ”
Lochan ran a hand through his hair, his expression one of discomfort as he tried to keep my eye. “I thought . . . he didn’t really value you, like I said before, that you were just wasting your time, and I wanted to see him and interact with him in a way that would convince me. And then depending on that, I thought maybe I could . . . I thought you just weren’t saying the right things to get close to him. You just weren’t being bold enough! If I could go to him, and be forward enough, he-he would agree to sex and stop being such a prude. Whether that was with me, or if I managed to slip out and grab you. And once he’d had it, he would of course agree to it again and again! Problem solved!”
“I know! I know!” He held up his hands as if that could lessen my anger, “It was gross. It was a gross thing to do, to think, to try! But . . . like I said, he knew from the start it wasn’t you! All my plans were ruined.”
I felt as mad as Seorus often seemed to, “So what then?”
Lochan’s shoulders slumped, “I . . . tried to talk to him. I tried to convince him to open up to you, to not be so shitty. I was still trying to get a measure of him, and he seemed . . . overwhelmed, kind of defeated, so I wasn’t really that impressed. I think I’d come to the conclusion that he . . . didn’t deserve your time, and I . . . kinda wanted him to suffer. A little. I thought I’d just . . . give him power to see how he reacted. And I guess my original sex plans were still lingering, but I also thought about just leaving him alone to deal with it.”
“I hope this isn’t a surprise to you,” I said through gritted teeth, “but so far I am not really feeling any less angry.”
“Iggy,” he sighed again, “the power . . . didn’t do anything to him. Not until you got there.”
This statement was such a surprise it shocked me out of my anger, releasing the tension in my body and the blanket I’d been clenching in my fists.
“I mean . . . he could feel the energy. He kind of . . . collapsed sitting down and was a little dazed, but it wasn’t . . . the normal reaction. There wasn’t any sexuality or horniness at all until you burst in. So I guess . . . what I’ve come to realize and am trying to say . . . is that he . . . he’s confused and inexperienced, but he clearly cares about you. A lot. I think he’s practically in love with you.”
“Iggy, he is! You’re like . . . the only thing he has. And I wouldn’t . . . I wouldn’t want that weight, of getting attached to him, but . . . I can understand if you do. I’m sorry I got in the way and almost messed everything up. And I’m sorry for trying to be you, and for going against your wishes, and for just being a really bad brother. I won’t interfere again, unless you need something.”
“Lochan, that was like . . . the shittiest thing possible. There’s almost nothing worse you could have done to him.”
Lochan traced a finger on the pattern of the blanket, “I know. I thought I was doing it to someone who deserved it though.”
“You’re going to have to give some of these apologies to him.”
He winced at that, “Yeah. Okay. If you want me to. Do you want me to go by myself?”
“Or--okay. No. When, then?”
I moved closer to him, putting my hands out as an invitation. He looked at me rather hopefully while taking them as we sat facing each other. “I’ll let you know,” I said. “Maybe in a few nights.”
He nodded with a small smile at me. We both leaned forward, our foreheads resting against the other’s. “So what salacious gossip do you have about him tonight?” he asked with a grin.
“We read newspapers, he is very smart, and it is unquestionably hot.”
Lochan threw his head back in a barking laugh, “ You read a newspaper? When’s the last time that happened?”
“Uuugh,” I covered my face in faux shame, “Don’t remind me. It’s been . . . decades.”
He grinned wide. “Me too,” he admitted. “Well, it sounds like a very cute and proper date.”
“It wasn’t a date.”
He gave me a look with a raised brow, “Mmmhmm,” he intoned as he slid off the bed, “which is why you’re definitely not blushing about it.”
I threw my hands up, “Would you stop pointing it out!”
“I can promise a lot of things, Ig, but I can’t promise that!”
He laughed again as I half-heartedly chucked a pillow at him. He ducked under its arc and retreated to my door. “Hey. Good luck tomorrow.”
He gave me a reassuring smile as he left, and everything, for the moment, felt right. So I set about finding some extra pencils.
The next evening I ran out to buy a new, small radio as well, hoping this one would last a little longer. I was at his door in short order with a knock and far fewer butterflies in my stomach. He answered more assuredly than last time, “Come in.”
“Evening, Seorus!” I exclaimed as cheerfully as I could.
His room had noticeably changed since the night prior when all of his torn and broken things were spread across the floor. All the garbage was pushed back into a corner under the table with his clothes in a pile next to that. On top of the table in the corner sat Peaches, reappeared and safe. It was almost the exact place I’d set him when introducing Peaches to Seorus. The chair was pulled out and facing the coffin, and Seorus sat on his closed lid in the middle, as if offering no invitation to sit next to him. As for Seorus himself, his clothes were changed. He had picked a long sleeved blue shirt that brought out the brightness of his blue eye and different black pants.
“Seorus! You look really nice. Is this for me?” I motioned to the obviously pulled out chair.
He nodded silently, looking self-conscious, and failing to subtly take in my outfit. I’d chosen a remarkably similar outfit to the day prior, just with a bit of a palette swap. Again, despite its casualness, he blushed beneath a swell of attraction. I was immensely curious, but perhaps tonight wasn’t the right time to ask him.
“I . . . I didn’t have a comb.” He said it almost ashamed, an explanation for his still messy hair.
“Oh! I’ll get you one! I can’t believe I forgot.”
I was half out of the chair before he stopped me, “It-it doesn’t have to be tonight.”
In other words, I thought he meant, “Don’t leave right now. Stay here.”
“I’d come right back,” I offered, trying to appease the unspoken fears.
He looked at me angrily, cheeks immediately red, “I--can you not--” He forcefully stopped himself with a long “ Mmmmmmh ,” staring hard at the floor trying to get his anger under control.
“I’ll . . . just bring it tomorrow then,” I offered, settling back down in my chair. “I’m glad to see Peaches is well,” I said as a distraction, reaching to pick him up but pausing when I noticed a small round object right next to him. “A button?”
“It’s . . . it’s yours, I think. I . . . broke it. Maybe you can sew it back on.” There was that lingering shame from the previous night threatening to make a resurgence. Were his memories of the night Lochan tried and failed to trick him as clear as mine?
It was my button. The one that had popped off when Seorus straddled me and forced my shirt open, hands on my chest, lips against my skin. There were a lot of erotic feelings tied up in that one little object. With a thrill I picked it up off the desk and said with all the nonchalance I could muster, “Thank you. I should be able to do something with this,” and pocketed it, switching places with the pencils I had brought. “For your crosswords?” I set them down next to Peaches and continued picking him up to sit in my lap with crossed legs and curled toes. I felt Seorus and I both needed something to tear our minds away from that night, so I continued talking about the stuffed cat as I pet him, “I was a little worried when he was hiding yesterday.”
“I wouldn’t hurt Peaches!” he snapped, finally looking at me from the corner of his eye. His shame, at least for the moment, was successfully smothered.
I took the opportunity to wave one of Peaches’ front legs at him, “Yes, he’s just too cute for that.”
Seorus’ anger evaporated and was replaced with warmth, worry, and then a small kernel of anger again. Though I’d banished his shame, his interest in me was like a magnet. I had a hard time keeping my thoughts focused when I was so horny and he was so attentive. His back and forth and anger and inclination came from a person struggling with attraction, either because I was a man or because he had trouble with anyone but now was NOT the time to make any more moves on him.
I desperately sought something else to do, “Shall I read to you again?”
“Could I . . . try a crossword then?” The pencils were here, just at my elbow.
He squinted at me, as if suspicious, but handed me a paper: the one he’d been reading yesterday.
“How do you do them?”
There was careful, silent consideration. All wavering emotions slowly settled down into serenity as he asked, dumbfounded, “ What?”
“I’ve never done one before!”
“I just need a little guidance!”
“You just,” his hands motioned helplessly before him, “you just fill in the boxes.”
“The white ones or the black ones.”
“The white ones.”
“Well what are the black ones for?”
“They’re just spaces you don’t fill in. They’re there to NOT fill in.”
“What are these little numbers then?”
“That’s . . . how you know . . . what clue goes where.”
“Okay . . .” I faced the puzzle to him and pointed to the rotated L shape of number one, “Does the answer for the first one wrap around like this? Almost all of them are straight. But this is bent in a weird angle? Does that mean it’s special somehow?”
He sighed like a deathrattle, his face in his hands. “Ignatius. Look at the clues. There’s across. And there’s down. They are two separate answers.”
“Ah! I think I got it. But what if I don’t know the answer?”
“You have to look it up. Or use the letters from other clues you do know to help you.” His voice was devoid of inflection.
“Can I ask you too?”
“Aye.” There was no resistance left in him. He listlessly picked up a fresh paper but could not seem to take his eyes off me in a horrified kind of way.
“You can call me Iggy if you want.”
A little bit of life blinked back into him, “Iggy. . . ?”
He’d said it only once before, on his knees feeling me up. It was foolish of me to bring it up now, being that we’d both just stabilized, and I couldn’t help but think of that quiet whisper and his hungry touch. “It’s just what . . . my friends call me. People I like.” I repositioned Peaches as I turned a little to work at the table. He made no response, affirmative or negative, but only looked quietly at me, finally turning to his paper.
I could see in my periphery, or when I leaned my cheek on my fist to think, him frequently flicking his eyes towards me. I decided to let him do this in peace, making no move or comment that I noticed. And besides, I did like being admired, if that was his intention.
I read through all of the clues, answering the few that were obvious to me, but quickly ran into a problem. “Seorus, something’s wrong.”
There was a soft, short sigh as he peered above his paper. “What.”
“Well, I have this one clue where the answer is clearly ‘chicken,’ and there’s another clue that overlaps it that should be ‘addition,’ but the letters aren’t the same in the overlapping box!”
“That means one or both of those answers is wrong.”
“No, these are so obvious!”
He held his hand out for the paper, and I gave it to him, rising to my feet to peer over the top to watch him look. He shrunk back against the wall, “Do you have to hover?”
“I want to see too!”
There was an almost imperceptible twitch to Seorus’ blind eye, but with a grumble he slid a few inches to his right leaving a big enough space for me to sit next to him on his sighted side. I happily accepted, sitting as close as I could without touching him.
“ Aw. ”
A sigh and a glare. “Iggy.”
I smiled brightly at him. He’d kept me at arm’s length so far this evening, trying to hold on to his composure, or to the denial of his feelings. If we were just far enough away, maybe it would be easier? But now, I was right next to him, our eyes meeting, and I had given him a smile.
He blinked rapidly, his next breath shaky, but managed to say without fumbling, “I can’t believe this is all you have done.”
“Hey! It’s my first one. And I didn’t get all the way through!”
“You filled in four things. And one of them is wrong.”
He pointed to ‘chicken.’
“That’s not wrong! The clue says, ‘The birds most commonly living amongst people.’ And that’s a chicken! People are always raising them for their eggs!”
Seorus glared at me. “Iggy. It’s ‘pigeons.’ It wants ‘pigeons.’”
“You’re telling me people raise more pigeons than chickens?”
“They don’t raise them! They just live in cities! All over the place!”
I steepled my fingers and drummed them as I considered this. “They . . . they are all over the place.”
He collapsed back against the wall with a groan, covering his face with the paper.
“Seorus,” I leaned back beside him, “Am I . . . distressing you? You seem stressed.”
He shifted the paper just enough so that his glaring eye was visible.
“Do you want me to go?”
He dropped the paper with a heavy sigh. “Don’t . . . talk to me anymore about crosswords. I can’t . . . take it.”
“Okay! I won’t. Can I have it back though, to see if I can finish?”
He pushed it at me with a skeptical glance, and looked back to his own paper. I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to go back to the chair or stay next to him, but given his level of irritation, I decided the table was the better choice.
We sat in silence for quite a long time from my perspective, but when I started humming out a tune, he finally snapped, “Okay! That’s it for tonight!”
“Oh. Can . . . I take this and try and finish it?”
“I don’t care.”
“Okay! I’m sure you noticed, but I got you this new radio too. Try to make it last a little longer?”
He grumbled some kind of displeasure as I got to my feet.
“Would it be alright . . . if I gave you a goodnight kiss?” The daggers he shot me were a clear indication of his disapproval, but I hoped to soften him. “As like . . . a reward for behaving so well tonight?” I gave a hopeful smile to try to add to my argument, “It . . . it could be anywhere you wanted! Forehead, temple, cheek. Though I was a little . . . inconsiderate with my last one, so I’d understand if it was a no.”
“You want me to reward you for not touching me tonight, by letting you touch me.”
“Oh . . . when you say it like that. . . .”
Without altering the intensity of his glare, Seorus stared hard at me. I turned the rolled paper hesitantly in my hands as I waited to see if he’d give an official response, but the continued stare was rapidly undermining me. A mere moment away from my breaking and leaving without an answer, however, he . . . melted. Just a little. He tilted his head, jutting his jaw toward me, good eye keeping close tabs on my movements. An acceptance and invitation?
I half-smiled as I bent down, hands behind my back, and slowly approached. With all the time to retreat, the only change in his demeanor was to roll his eyes as I closed in and pressed my lips to his cheek softly. All previous goodnight kisses were short pecks. This one . . . I let linger for a few seconds before slowly drawing back.
I heard his heart race as I pulled away, watched his rapid blinking, and asked, “Can I come see you again tomorrow?”
He helplessly replied, “ . . . Aye.”