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Here we go, we're at the beginning
We haven't fucked yet, but my head's spinning

Why Can't I
~Liz Phair

TAY

Tay did a single, then a double, fighting a yawn and tried to ignore the urge to look at the clock on the wall again.

He’d tried to sleep a little in the couple of hours before he woke up, honestly he did, but he just couldn’t. Marshall kept intruding on his thoughts and every time he did Tay’s stomach gave a little tremble at the memories: urgent, demanding mouth, eager hands, wicked fingers that found his nipples and made Tay react so intensely he blushed at the thought. After a while he was so hard he touched himself and came immediately, gasping as it ripped through him. He’d dozed off after that but just for a bit.

And it wasn’t like he’d forgotten what he heard in the hall. He didn’t know how he’d ever forget that, ever. He didn’t even know how he was supposed to look his father in the face after that. His heart gave a little twist, but just a little one. The hurt and shame of his father’s voice still hurt a lot, but it wasn’t so bad. He’d gotten something so, oh god, so unbelievable last night, and if that was the trade off, Tay would take it.

/Unless he blows you off today./ Tay pushed the stupid voice in his head away. Still, hadn’t he thought of that at least once since last night? He’d even thought of it pacing in the trailer’s tiny kitchen, refusing to ask outright, “What are we now?” “Does this mean anything?” “Will you freak out tomorrow?” Because if last night was all Tay was going to have he didn’t want it to end awkwardly.

Except it didn’t seem like that was all Marshall wanted. He’d asked about this morning. He’d wanted to know.

Only he wasn’t here now. It was getting close to when Tay had to leave and Marshall hadn’t shown up. It was a Saturday and Tay had a little more leeway than on weekdays, the rink activity not starting until eight instead of he usual six, but Tay usually wasn’t here on Saturdays, not until the afternoon.

Furthermore, he and Johnny always had the day after a competition off, particularly if a road trip had been involved. It was one of the only breaks Priscilla gave them, training wise, and he was grateful for it because if he had to skate today he was going to fall flat on his face. He could barely jump his body weary from the trip back, his ride cross-city, and the severe lack of sleep. Only adrenaline and the shivery energy from last night were keeping him upright.

/He’s not showing./ “Shut up.” Tay muttered, trying for a double and popping it.

Oh, yeah. He was beat.

And he was alone.

Oh, crap.

He hadn’t even given thought to what he’d do if Marshall did blow him off. What could he do?

No, no, he was overreacting. He was. Tay finally glanced at the clock and his stomach sank.

Okay, it was kind of late.

Breathe. Breathe and focus on the spin, faster and faster, arms high, the lights a blur—movement made him dig a toe pick in the ice to stop and the sight of Marshall walking down the steps, hands in his pockets, made Tay’s stomach start to tremble again. For a second the relief was so huge it made him dizzy.

Trying not to grin like a great big goofball he skated over to where Marshall leaned, arms propped on the ledge of the rink, his gorgeous hands clasped loosely, a faint smile on the pouty lips, and all kinds of promise in his eyes.

“Hi.” Tay breathed, gripping the sideboard as he slid to a stop.

“’Sup?” Marshall’s eyes took in his whole face and they had the same expression as last night when they’d kissed and touched each other, that slow wonder that didn’t help Tay’s tremble.

“I wasn’t sure you’d be here.”

“I overslept, yo.” Marshall said around a small yawn then ducked his head to run one of the gorgeous hands over the short dark bristle of his hair. Tay wanted to press his lips to all his fingers and lick his palm. “Almost had a heart attack when I saw the time. Thought I bailed on you, huh?”

“No, I didn’t…” Tay protested, cheeks blushing totally without his permission.

“Yeah, you did.” Marshall smiled knowingly as he reached out and smoothed Tay’s scarf between two fingers.

Tay had realized at four thirty in the morning that all his good skate clothes were dirty from the trip and had to scramble, in the dark, for what to wear that didn’t look like crap.
He’d ended up with an old pair of gray sweats and one of Zac’s bulky brown sweaters with a t-shirt under it. At least his scarf was decent, reversible beige and black with black tassels.

“Maybe a little.” Tay admitted, stepping off the ice so Marshall let the scarf go, and bending over to untie his skates. “I just thought you might have freaked out. You know, after you got home and thought about stuff.” /After you realized you kissed a boy, after you realized I felt you up, after you realized what we did/ his mind supplied helpfully. His fingers finished pulling the tight laces free and he stepped out of the skates standing to see Marshall’s eyes lift up quickly. He thought Marshall might have been looking at his ass and that made the blush come back and threw him into babble mode. “It would have been normal to freak out, I mean, most people would, at least a little. *I* didn’t freak out but that’s kind of different, I mean, I freaked a little…” he paused when Marshall threaded their fingers together and walked Tay backwards staring into his eyes the whole time. The hard resistance of the wall pressed against Tay’s back and Marshall pinned him there, close and tight, their hands entwined at their sides. Marshall’s lips brushed his gentle, gentle, until Tay parted wider, needing more, tapped his tongue to Marshall’s and a helpless, “mmm,” sounded, probably from him, when Marshall invaded his mouth.

He had no idea where he’d dropped his skates.

He’d forgotten he had to breathe by the time they pulled apart, fingers flexing in Marshall’s grip, already half hard against the leg that had found its way between the two of his. Swallowing gulps of air, Tay touched his forehead to Marshall’s, their eyes locked.

“I didn’t freak out.” Marshall said, voice quiet, thumbs rubbing circles on Tay’s palms and that shouldn’t be that hot, right?

“Oh. Good.” Tay breathed, watching the electric blue of Marshall’s stare travel all over his face. “Because I think I’m going to.”

“A’aight.” Marshall grinned, unlacing their fingers and sliding his hands up Tay’s arms, over his shoulders, to his face. “We’ll take turns. You go first.”

“Okay.” Tay agreed before his lips melted against Marshall’s and oh god he was in such trouble. He had to get a grip, he had to, he couldn’t even think when Marshall kissed him that way. He was the one with prior experience! He was the one out to himself! He shouldn’t be this…this…totally wrecked by…when…with…Marshall let go his mouth to press his lips behind Tay’s ear, his neck, nudging the scarf aside with his chin, and Tay brought his arms around Marshall’s shoulder and held tight. Tried to breathe. It wasn’t working.

 

Marshall hugged him back, arms circling Tay’s waist, hands sliding up his back where one tangled in his hair. For long minutes they stood there like that and he felt Marshall sigh into his neck, the warm breath raising chill bumps all along his arms under the sweater.

“I want this to be real.” Tay whispered with his eyes closed, almost like praying, giving voice for the first time to the fear that kept hovering in the background even as Marshall touched him and held him and couldn’t stop looking at him. Marshall pulled out of their embrace a little, expression serious as he cupped Tay’s face. The navy blue stare held his until Tay’s middle fluttered helplessly.

“It is,” Marshall said with finality. “I am.”

Tay covered Marshall’s hands with his then trailed them along his arms, feeling the muscles beneath the clothes, remembering the play of biceps and strong forearms and warm skin from last night.

“It’s just…what about your friends?” he asked with apprehension.

“What about Johnny?”

“What do you mean?” Tay asked, the question throwing him. He watched Marshall take both his hands and press them between his own, the navy blue eyes downcast. Some tension had seeped into Marshall’s shoulders and Tay waited while Marshall rubbed his hands like someone would worry a stone, sliding on the pads of his fingers with a thumb, feeling along the bumps of Tay’s knuckles.

“You held his hand in front of everybody. Almost killed me,” Marshall laughed, a chuffing, dry sound, lashes still lowered. “Then the picture in the paper, you were hugging. Thought you were back with him.”

“I’m not back with him.” Tay shook his head, his mind spinning a little because, oh wow, they really were talking about this here. “We had just gotten our medals at the competition, that’s all that was. And when we were kids we used to hold hands all the time, like when we were nervous or something. It was just a kid thing. And I was,” Tay chewed on his lip, knew he was blushing. Marshall looked up, blue sparking with emotion. “I was really angry that day. From before, at the restaurant…”

“That ain’t never happening again.” Marshall held his hands tight and Tay squeezed back, smiling.

“I know,” he whispered, moving closer to brush their faces together because he loved the feel of him and the scent of him, a blend of earthiness and reality and Marshall. Marshall’s scent was real.

“I know. I just…we haven’t talked about …what any of this means or…I don’t know…” he stumbled, braving through the persistent worry that if he said too much, or the wrong thing, he’d scare Marshall and Marshall would leave.

“I know you’re mine.” Marshall interrupted gruffly, arms linking around Tay’s waist as if to emphasize the point, pulling him close, navy blue stare electric.

“I am?” Tay couldn’t help smiling, the words sending a wave of warmth all through him. Marshall nodded, very serious and Tay encircled Marshall’s neck, touching his face with one hand.

“Just mine.” Marshall said, voice still low, eyes lowered now too, so Tay could see the long fringe of lashes against his cheek. They were standing as close as possible. Tay moved one hand over Marshall’s heart and felt the powerful beat surge against his palm.

“Does that mean you belong to me?” Tay asked, lips against the heated curve of Marshall’s ear. The faint tremble that went through the body in his arms bloomed tenderness in Tay’s chest like a flower and he pressed his lips to the soft earlobe, Marshall’s cheek, the corner of his mouth where the discoloration stubbornly clung, a fading yellowish smudge.

“Yeah,” Marshall’s voice was very low, still gruff, but hands splayed on Tay’s back, holding him close as if he might leave. For the first time Tay realized maybe they were both scared the other would run. He realized how huge this must be, how brave this was to admit all this when hardly a month ago Marshall had been going along all normal with his life and his friends and his perfectly straight exes.

But he had to ask. “Just me?” A whisper against the other ear and Marshall nodded, meeting his eyes.

“I ain’t hooking up with no one else. I don’t want no one else upon you.”

“Oh,” Tay breathed, and he really had to stop sounding like goddamned Scarlet O’Hara, “I think we can work with that.” He had the biggest urge to ask Marshall if he knew what he was saying, if he realized what this meant, really, but then Marshall’s mouth covered his, brushing, teasing before one of them breached the dance, a nip, a wet swipe against the other and they were falling, floating in tongue and teeth and hot and, oh. Marshall seemed to know exactly what he was saying and Tay was going to be so late.

But for now he didn’t think of that. For now all he did was stand enmeshed in this boy that held him so fiercely. For now he just swam in the amazing pull that they created together and belonged.

*~*~*~*~*

“Tay? Honey? Tay, are you alright?”

Tay pulled himself out of sleep, every cell in his body in grumpy denial that they were being asked to move again so soon.

He’d gotten back with literally minutes to spare, having just pulled the covers over up to his chin when he heard the alarm go off in his parent’s bedroom. Thankfully, his day off carried over to home, too, in addition to it being a Saturday, and he had the luxury of sleeping in as long as he wanted. Usually, though, he couldn’t go longer than eight or nine hours. His internal clock wouldn’t let him, and besides, the noise from the house woke him up regardless.

This time, though, Zac could have blasted ‘I Want to Be Sedated’ and flicked the light on and off disco style and Tay wouldn’t have cared.

However, for some reason, his mom now stood hovering over his bed while he blinked at her and wondered, for one crazy minute, if he’d dreamed everything after all.

“I’m okay,” he said rubbing his eyes and blinking at the bright sunshine flooding the room.

“Are you sure? You’re always up before this, even on your days off.” Her gentle hand with its slightly rough finger felt along his forehead as he sat up. He still felt fuzzy and drained, like he was moving through molasses.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” he mumbled, fragments of the conversation he’d overheard in the hall wafting in his mind like bits of dust. Thank god his father took off early on Saturdays to the store or Tay might have spent the entire day in the room.

“That happens sometimes,” she smiled sympathetically. “A person gets so tired they can’t drift off. But Johnny’s on the phone and says he’s twenty minutes away. Do you want to take a rain check?”

“Oh shit! I mean- crap.” Tay exclaimed, taking the phone from his mother’s hand.

“Well, good morning to you, too! We’re almost there.” Johnny’s cheerful voice hit his ear and Tay winced at the flagrant chirpiness when his head still felt like fog. He really did not do well on three non-consecutive hours of sleep.

“Yeah, okay. Um, take the scenic route I might need…a little time.” He nodded to his mother’s retreating form and she winked as she left. As soon as the door closed he jumped out of bed in his underwear and tried to find clean clothes, of which there were none. Most of them were still dirty from the trip like everything else.

“For what? Don’t tell me you forgot brunch! We’ve only been doing this since we were nine!” They’d started the traditional after-competition breakfasts before Tay even worked up the nerve to stop pretending to play hockey. Johnny would show up in the chauffer driven car and they’d head off for breakfast, Tay listening raptly while Johnny talked about the competition and the costumes and who was paired with whom and who had had a bitchfest.

“No, I didn’t forget, I just…had a strangest night last night.” Tay looked in Zac’s closet for the second time that day selected another oversized sweater. He just could not wear any of his jeans from the trip. They were wrinkled and smelled like hotel room. His almost-too-tight jeans from last year would have to do. Luckily he always lost a pound or two after a road trip competition from the activity and the stress. They should be okay.

He SO needed a shower.

“Really? I passed completely out the second I walked in the room. I don’t even remember undressing.”

“Look, I need to clean up but I’ll be ready. Come in if I’m not. You know it’s okay.”

“I know. See you!” Tay hung up, put the cordless phone on the bed table and sprinted for the shower.

*~*~*~*~*

Johnny must have taken the scenic route because Tay had time to shower, dry his hair, and get dressed with time to spare to play with Zoë before the Lincoln Town Car honked at the front of the house. Zoë began to fuss the minute he stood up with her in his arms and he made kissy noises against her head as his mom took her. Zoë always got a little clingy after they’d been gone.

“I’ll be back soon!” He kissed his mom’s cheek and waved to Josh and Avery who sat at a table in the living room sorting Fruit Loops into different colored piles and plotting the results. Zac had early Saturday practice and Jessica was probably still dead to the world in her room or already talking to someone on the phone. Gretzky the cat lurked around the edges of the coffee table hoping for treats, the weird animal.

“Have a good time, honey. And Tay,” She held his hand before he walked away and he turned back, meeting her upturned face expectantly. “We’re very proud of you.”

A small stab of sorrow pierced his chest, just a small one, and he bent down to embrace her, the scent of mom and baby, talcum powder and baking bread and lemon pledge overtaking him. All of a sudden he had to blink fuzziness from his vision.

“Bye!” he smiled, retreating quickly, and that’s why he had to get more sleep. When he was this tired all his emotions hovered right near the top.

*~*~

“Caffeine sustenance for you.” Johnny handed him a Starbuck’s cup the minute he shut the door and Tay grabbed it like a lifeline.

“Oh, my god, bless you.” Tay breathed before taking a long, restorative drink. Mocha latte with a shot of espresso. He felt the buzz of sugar and caffeine work into his system and immediately felt more awake.

“You’re welcome. You sounded like you needed something. Did you have insomnia last night? Because you look tired…but not.” Johnny peered at him speculatively while Tay chugged some more coffee drink. Johnny sipped at what Tay called a coffee slurpee, a caramel frapuccino with a cloud of whipped cream on the top.

The day after competitions were also when they could eat whatever they wanted. Even so, neither of them really binged badly. Tay’s conscience just couldn’t take it.

“I just—had a weird night. I didn’t sleep.” Tay rubbed at his eyes and wondered how much to tell Johnny, if anything. He really, really wanted to tell Johnny everything but wasn’t sure…okay, practically knew…Johnny wouldn’t approve, and he really didn’t want to hear Marshall put down. He was pretty sure he couldn’t take that either; he already wanted to kill whoever had given Marshall the bruise on the corner of his mouth.

It’s just that he and Johnny were best friend. They talked about boys all the time: who they found cute, celebrities they wouldn’t kick out of their bed, skaters they found attractive. He could feel the excitement and warm fuzzy tremors in his stomach just thinking of what Marshall had said, and it just wasn’t as much fun not sharing it.

*~*~*

The IHOP was kind of full but they were seated pretty quickly anyway and Tay scanned the menu, eyes hopping from tall stacks of pancakes to omeletttes to Belgian Waffles.

“Two waters, a coffee, a glass of juice, large, and a glass of chocolate milk. Do you want anything?” Johnny asked and Tay rolled his eyes and shook his head at the waitress.

“I’ll steal from you, piglet.”

Johnny widened his eyes comically and snapped his cloth napkin across the table. “Bitch! How dare you compare me to swine!”

“Well, you’re wide awake and perky, anyway.” Tay observed, loosening his scarf. It was the same one he’d worn a few hours before. It kind of smelled like Marshall.

“Are you kidding? Our stock just went through the roof coming in second and third. And, for the record, I think one of us could have taken first if the judges hadn’t been all ‘Wow! A quad!’

“The quad’s important,” Tay shrugged. He didn’t mention he’d been practicing it, could almost do it. Johnny probably could too; in truth, he jumped better than Tay and looked like he floated in the air sometimes, impossibly graceful. Johnny just disliked the quad. He distrusted anything that had the potential of causing foot problems because of the multiple revolutions and height. “Evan nailed it.”

“Evan needs to work on his artistry and has hair like a little rascal.”

“He does not!” Tay laughed, even though, well, a little.

“SO does. It’s almost a bowl cut, I mean, who let him out that way?”

Tay smiled his thanks to their waitress ‘Trevette’ as she brought their drink order and banked the question he was pretty sure was rhetorical anyhow.

After their order, Harvest Grain and Nut combo for Johnny and a short stack of buttermilk pancakes and bacon for Tay, Tay leaned back and took another sip of his coffee. If he mainlined caffeine he should be okay until tonight when he went to bed early. Like six.

“Anyhow, I’m sure by Worlds the judging system will have evened out and they’ll realize how stupid it is to judge—“ Johnny stopped at leaned over to peer at Tay, who blinked and moved back in response.

Before he could ask what that was about Johnny gave a sharp intake of breath and reached over to yank his scarf away from his neck with one move. “SLUT! Where did you get a hickey? We only got back last night!”

“Johnny!” Tay hissed, watching several tables full of people turn to look. He felt his ears flush and hastily re-tied the wool tight around his neck.

“Was it that Canadian kid Jason? I saw him making eyes at you, the hussy.”

“No, it was NOT Jason. Could you keep it down? I think they actually heard you in Canada.” Tay whispered in annoyance. “And don’t be ridiculous. What do you think I did? Sneak off to a broom closet during a bathroom break? We were together the whole time.”

“Where there’s a will,” Johnny replied thoughtfully, one fine-boned hand tapping his chin. “Troy? No, Asian boys have never done it for you. Savoin is too short, he’s like a hobbit…”

“Stop, okay?” Tay laughed. “It’s not any of them…”

“Was that why you couldn’t sleep last night?” Johnny asked in a shrewd voice and Tay lowered his eyes, taking another sip of coffee now lukewarm. He’d have to flag down their waitress.

“Partly,” He paused and replaced his cup before rubbing his eyes and pushing back his hair. “My dad knows.”

“Knows what?” Johnny drank some orange juice and promptly choked, eyes round in realization. “Oh, my god, knows knows? As in, knows you drive stick?”

Tay nodded ruefully before recapping what he’d heard last night, the trip to the bathroom, the voices, paraphrasing what his father had said. He left out the part about seeing Johnny and him on Tay’s thirteenth birthday. For some reason knowing how his father saw that had made him feel ashamed and dirty, even if they’d been just kids and hadn’t done one illicit thing. Of all Tay had overheard that was the thing that made Tay the most furious; that his dad could take something completely innocent and make it something perverted and wrong.

“Oh. Fuck.” Johnny breathed, speechless for once. While Johnny stared at him, dismayed their food came and Tay smiled at the waitress as she lay plate after plate on their table from where they balanced on her incredibly muscled arms. Marshall’s biceps had nothing on hers.

“According to my dad I’ve been a flaming queen right out of the womb.” Tay said with brittle, artificial brightness and, god, it felt good to give in to some bitterness.

“No, that would be me.” Johnny corrected absently. Tay raised his eyebrows and didn’t answer.

“And why didn’t you call me?” Johnny finally burst out after they’d been alone for several minutes and Tay had begun to spread butter on his pancakes. “You know I would have come gotten you, or met you somewhere, or we could have just talked. You didn’t have to go through that alone! Christ, it must have been horrible. And, wait,” Johnny scrunched up small, neat features, “what does that have to do with you having a hickey?”

“Nothing! Well,” Tay cut his pancakes in small squares to avoid looking at Johnny, then raised his eyes in resolution. “I went to see Marshall. Your food is getting cold.” He added.

Johnny immediately started pouring syrup on his stack of pancakes, brows still knit. Tay knew he would. They didn’t get to eat like this all the time and wasting the opportunity was not an option.

“I can’t believe you went to him.” He finally said after they had eaten in silence for a few minutes, making the last word sound like an insult. “Why would you go to him?”

“Because I wanted to.” Tay answered honestly and tried not to sound defensive. Though, really, he couldn’t even remember making a conscious decision. He didn’t even think about it.

“Even after he let you down?” Tay sat back, startled and Johnny managed to sneer and pop pancake in his mouth at the same time.

“Oh, please.” He said after swallowing. “Like I didn’t know something happened after your Not!Date. You were mooning about all over the place…”

“I was not!”

“And he kept pretending not to look at you. It was SO obvious and kind of nauseating.”

“He really helped me last night, okay?” Tay said quietly, eyes on the table. He thought of the black hoodie Marshall slipped around his shoulders and the hot chocolate. Now that he wasn’t completely out of it from shock he kept remembering things. Things like the stuffing coming out of the couch and the threadbare carpet and cracked linoleum. Things like the mismatched dishes in the sink, the lack of dishwasher, and the broken toys in the living room. Marshall’s family really didn’t have much and knowing that made his chest feel funny.

“Oh, yeah,” Johnny drawled out, cutting his food so hard the fork scraped the plate, “I hear hickies are good for what ails you.”

“Cut it out, alright?” Tay said, voice low. “You don’t know him. We got really close last night and I…” he bit his lip, and felt his heart speed at the next words, “I care about him. A lot.”

Johnny was staring at him as if he’d grown an extra head, “You care about him? When did this happen? You went from helping him with Math to caringabout him?”

“It didn’t just happen.” Tay insisted, catching the waitress’s eye and waiting until she’d poured him a new cup to keep talking. “It’s been happening more and more since we met. I told you we kind of touched when we studied and there was always this…thing…between us.”

“That would be your dick.” Johnny deadpanned.

“Shut up.” Tay deadpanned back and they glared at each other for a few seconds while their food got cold.

“I can’t believe you’re being this naïve.” Johnny stabbed at his pancakes.

“I’m not.” Tay mushed his pancakes and pretended they were Johnny’s head. “Being naïve.”

“Oh, come on.” Johnny whispered, exasperated, leaning over with the force of his words. Hazel eyes flashed with scorn but under that, because Tay knew what to look for, was hurt, and it was the only thing that kept him from walking out. “He made the first move. He had to. I know you wouldn’t risk it. He totally took advantage of you when you were an emotional basket case. Because you were, right?”

“I was upset.” Tay begrudged, coldly hating for the hundredth time how well Johnny still knew him and how he sometimes wished Johnny didn’t still have that currency.

“He shouldn’t have made moves on you when you were like that. It’s like coming on to someone when they’re drunk.”

“Thanks a lot.” Tay shot back, annoyed. “And he’s not the only one who made moves. I know what I’m doing.”

“Right. Are you together now?”

“Yes.” Tay said and something shifted in Johnny’s eyes.

“So, like, he said that? He called you his boyfriend? Or boo or ho or whatever?”

“He said,” Tay replied calmly, ”that I’m his.” Voicing that still made his stomach flutter.

“Not too possessive,” Johnny snorted, “That’s not the same thing.”

“Yes, it is!” Tay defended, his nerves grating against each other like sandpaper because he’d had no sleep and no rest and all he wanted to do was find Marshall and crawl into his arms some more. “We belong to each other. Just each other. We said that. I can’t believe you’re not at least trying to be happy for me….”

“I’m supposed to be happy about someone that’s going to hurt you?” Johnny clapped one hand on his chest, eyes round.

“Is that all you think of my judgment? Good to know.”

“Well it hasn’t exactly been great before, has it?” Johnny shot back and Tay narrowed his eyes because Johnny was getting really, really close to throwing stuff in his face Tay never thought he’d throw in his face and if that happened Tay was out of here.

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me any of this!” Johnny burst out suddenly, “I can’t believe you went to him! I thought we were friends!” The last word wobbled a little and Tay stared in surprise at the bright sparkle on Johnny’s hazel eyes turning them emerald. All the anger and irritation melted out of him in seconds.

“Johns,” Tay said gently, reaching for Johnny’s clenched fist on the table, but Johnny jerked it away.

“You know what he is, Tay! We’ve seen it. He likes how queers fuck but he doesn’t like queers.”

“It isn’t like that.” Tay said quietly. “And we haven’t even gotten close to that.”

“Did you at least touch it?” Johnny demanded rudely.

“Just from the outside.” Tay snapped back before his mind thought better.

“Really?” Johnny whispered, leaning over, eyes avid with curiosity and their gazes held across the cooling breakfasts and instantly Johnny was no longer the bitchy, judgmental pain in the ass from a second ago but his best friend who loved gossip and had always been there for him and was secretly romantic. The air got almost physically lighter and Tay felt a persistent grin trying to quirk the edges of his lips.

“Yeah,” he said, dropping his eyes to the table where his hands shredded a napkin.

“Is he big?” Johnny whispered and Tay gave in to the ridiculous smile.

“Maybe,” he whispered back, eyes downcast before they wandered up to Johnny’s. “He kind of…felt big. But he was hard…”

“Tay’s a size queen. Tay’s a size queen,” Johnny singsonged in a stage whisper and Tay threw at napkin at him, laughing in spite of himself.

“Shut up! I am not!”

“Are too! Are too!” Johnny insisted between giggles and they giggled together, barely getting under control when the waitress brought their check.

“Is he a good kisser?” Johnny asked, keeping his voice low but Tay saw a prune-faced matron give them a glare and couldn’t care less.

He started to answer and was assaulted by memories of Marshall’s hot, insistent mouth on his, the sharp spark of pleasure when Marshall nipped at his neck up near his ear, moist, warm, incredible.

“Oh, my god, it’s written all over your face,” Johnny said as Tay dissolved into his arms with a roll of his eyes and the wide smile he couldn’t stop, his hands clasping over his head as he laughed. “You found a straight boy who can kiss?”

“He…yeah…god, Johnny.” Tay whispered peering out from behind his arms. “He can SO kiss.”

“Well, I hope he’s worth it.” Johnny said, a sad smile softening the phrase.

Tay laid his chin on his folded arms and flicked strand of hair out of his eyes. He met Johnny’s eyes steadily. “I think he is.”

“If he fucks you over I’ll kill him.”

“I know,” Tay smiled at Johnny’s fierce declaration. “But he won’t.”

“Okay.” Johnny placed a VISA card on the bill and handed it to the waitress.

Tay reached over and held Johnny’s hand before it got too far away. Johnny’s solemn hazel eyes lifted to his. “This doesn’t change anything. Not between us, okay?”

“It changes everything, Tay.” Johnny shook his head and looked so sad Tay covered his hand with both of his.

“No, it doesn’t. Nothing has before.”

“This is different. It feels different.” Johnny sulked and Tay sighed then held out his fist with his smallest finger extended.

“Pinky swear?”

“You’re such a dork.” Johnny said but his dazzling smile was back reaching all the way to the hazel eyes, the color like moss covering rocks.

They had pinky sworn every five minutes when they were kids, to everything. To be best friends, to never keep secrets, to tell each other the minute they kissed, touched someone down there, when they first had sex. Most of those things they’d done with each other, so the promise was kept.

Johnny linked their pinkies together tight and they both whispered, “Swear,” at the same time, across the breakfast table and Tay told himself that nothing would change between them. Why would it? Nothing at all.