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How well I remember,
The look that was in his eyes,
Stealing kisses from me on the sly,
Taking time to make time,
Telling me that he's all mine,
Learning from each other knowing,
Looking to see how much we'd grown.

Son of a Preacher Man
~Dusty Springfield

MARSHALL

Marshall had not seen Tay in fifty-nine hours and it was driving him up the fuckin’ wall.

He’d been sure he could talk Tay into seeing him Saturday afternoon to study like they’d been doing but when they talked, after his mom had finally gotten off the damn phone so Marshall could use it, Tay said, disappointment in his voice, that his family had sprung some kinda surprise restaurant trip on him and his sister and they were all going out to celebrate. He sounded kind of upset, actually and Marshall could picture the little line between the dark brows, the worried set to the pink lips that made Marshall want to kiss them better.

“You a’aight?” he asked, lying on the couch watching Nate color in a raggedy old coloring book with most of the pictures torn.

“Yeah, just. I can barely look at my dad, you know? I can’t believe I’ve got to go out in public and pretend to be all happy, like everything’s fine. I really wanted to see you.” His voice got even lower, private and he liked the thrill the words caused in him.

“Wanna see you, too.”

“And Sunday is out because we have such hard time being here at the same time that my parents are really strict about staying. We’re supposed to bond or something.” Tay continued.

“That’s dope.” Marshall said, meaning it. It sounded like on a those things families did on TV, the Waltons or the damn Huxtables. His family tried to get the hell away from each other as much as possible, as far as Marshall could tell.

“Usually. I’m just not looking forward to this time.”

“Catch you Monday morning, then.”

“Yeah- shit! No.” Tay corrected himself, voice agitated.

“Why not?” Marshall sat up in alarm and Tay sighed again.

“I forgot. After every competition we meet at my coach’s house to look at the tape and discuss what our next steps are. She picks me up and drops me off at home.”

And there hadn’t been a damn thing they could do about it.

He’d been walking around all day replaying everything that had happened, what they’d said, what they’d done, and wondering if people could tell. If he looked different, like he had a big sign on his forehead: KISSED A GUY! No one had said anything so he guessed not. Only Proof kept giving him these crazy ass stares when he thought no one was looking, but they didn’t bother Marshall. Proof wouldn’t call him out in front of the guys, not for something like that, and his best friend wasn’t even sure what ‘that’ was. Marshall kept right on watching Tay TV in his head which was how he ended up sitting on the bleachers in the middle of a major Tay Jones without noticing Von start to stare at his neck.

“Looky looky here!” Von’s voice brought him back to reality and he looked around himself, at the overcast sky and the football players on the field, his half-eaten lunch and
Von’s shit-eating grin as it leered at him, staring at Marshall’s neck like he was a vampire.

Marshall wondered if he’d missed something because all he’d been doing was watching the cheerleaders and thinking that Tay was prettier than all them bitches. For a second he wondered if he’d said it out loud.

Then Von had started cackling and pointing.

“The fuck’s up with you?” Marshall demanded, pushing aside Von’s accusing finger out of his face.

“Oooh! Marsh got some play, yo! Lookit his neck!”

Marshall clapped his hand on his neck averting his eyes. Fuck, the hickies! He’d seen them this morning and grinned to himself in the mirror, neck exposed so he could see the little red bit marks close to where his neck met the muscle of his shoulder. They weren’t huge and obvious like Jeanine liked to do, so bad Marshall started calling her ‘Jaws,’ but they couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. A shiver had gone through him in the bathroom when he thought of Tay’s mouth there, soft and sharp, warm and sucking and he’d had to close his eyes at how much he wanted Tay right then, right away.

“Lemme see!” Rufus loomed in front of him blocking out the sun and Marshall scrambled backwards almost falling off the wooden bleacher. His stare crossed Proof’s and a wave of realization passed between them before Denaun got into the act, reaching for the collar of Marshall’s t-shirt.

“Get offa me, man!” Marshall pushed, his ears hot with embarrassment.

“Who is she, Marsh? Where you hook up?”

“Yeah! Where you get the honey?” All three of them looked at him expectantly and Marshall looked over at Proof, the only person not leaning forward in anticipation but hanging back, quiet, the dark of his eyes unblinking and watching.

“You don’t know her.” He hunched down on the bleachers, tugging the collar of his hoodie protectively over his neck. Like that was gonna quit their snooping.

“We know everybody, dawg. Was it that chearleader hanging around the locker last week?”

There had been a chearleader hanging around his locker? Marshall didn’t remember that.

“Ooh! She fine, yo. There she at, down there, the one with the wristband.”

“That one?”

“Naw, dog, the wristband.” They had started pointing at the girls doing a drill team routine and Marshall pushed down their arms with both hands.

“It ain’t her, a’aight! I don’t even fuckin’ know her!”

“Aw, fuck, Marsh.” Von narrowed his eyes, “You tappin’ Jeanine again?”

“He ain’t tappin’ that crazy bitch!”

“He better not be tappin’ that beeyotch unless he got five condoms on, yo, I heard she…”

“It’s not Jeanine. Back off! I said you don’t fuckin’ know her.”

“You know what that that means.” DeNaun said knowingly. All three of them nodded at once, smirking so Marshall wanted to kick all their asses.

“Marshall in loooooove.” Rufus drawled out and Marshall’s entire face felt on fire as they fell over themselves laughing.

“Ooooh! Jackpot! Jackpot! Lookit him!”

“Fuck all ya’ll.”

“Dog, you know that the only reason you don’t give up the action.” Von said logically and Marshall realized that might be true. He hadn’t exactly gone all into details with Jeanine but the guys knew they weren’t just holding hands. It hadn’t seemed a big deal to hang out and talk about it.

“A’aight, a’aight, ease off, yo. Give the man his privacy.” Proof stood then shouldering them away, helped by the buzzing of the bell and Marshall had never been so glad to be going to class.

The guys were still talking about who Marshall might be tappin’ but the conversation turned to which of the cheerleaders was worth tappin’ and they forgot about his hickies for the moment.

He and Proof walked through the crowded halls to the lockers, dodging people and hall monitors and not meeting each other’s eyes.

At the locker Marshall got out his history book and a pen to transfer to his backpack, biting his lip as Proof did the same in silence next to him. It wasn’t pissed off silence like before when he’d been keeping something from Proof, but it felt big and kind of dangerous, too many unasked questions and scary answers floating around in it.
“Yo, look…” Marshall began before he lost his nerve even if he didn’t have idea one what was gonna come out of his mouth. All the words left when Proof slammed his locker shut and reached over, the warm, slightly rough texture of his fingers on Marshall’s neck as his best friend pulled the collar of his hoodie higher over Marshall’s T-shirt.

“Watch that. Don’t want no one seein’your hickies.” Proof dropped his arm and they stared at each other in the emptying hall, the inky dark of Proof’s eyes wordless and deep. Marshall looked for judgment, anger, disgust, acknowledgement but all he saw was himself in the black reflection, himself and some sadness. Maybe a little puzzlement.

The last bell went off practically over their heads and Proof nodded like they’d been discussing something then bopped him on the shoulder with a fist before taking off for class. Marshall watched him go trying to decide if the relief he felt was a good or bad thing.

*~*~*~*

Marshall slipped into the seat high up in the stands, bottle of Mountain Dew in one hand and his breath just starting to slow down.

Down below he could see Tay and Johnny on the ice along with a blond woman in a long black sweater. She made suggestions once in a while, demonstrating a move or gesturing to make a point, and Johnny and Tay would repeat what they did, which looked exactly like how they’d just done it to Marshall, but what did he know.

Tay wore a dark blue long sleeved shirt with a picture of a wolf in the front, black skating pants and a light blue scarf. Hair loose and flowing as he skated, pretty face serious with concentration until Johnny said something, and then he’d smile /Holy fuck he is mine./ The phrase kept coming up in his head. It had been doing that all day and he realized that, until he saw Tay again, it didn’t feel real. It wouldn’t feel real until Tay touched him again.

His stomach growled into the moment, not caring that his thoughts were all romantic, and Marshall ignored it. His burrito from the convenience store had been a long time ago but he’d wanted to get here as soon as he could and didn’t even look in the fridge at home for anything to munch. He’d grab a Milky Way from the vending machine before practice or something.

More hockey players started showing up and as soon as Marshall saw Johnny and Tay take off for the lockers he headed down.

He waited outside, hands in his pockets, heart speeding up a little. Hockey players walked by and he nodded, ‘Hey.’ Figure skaters walked out and looked at him crazy. Damn! How long did it take to change out of some clothes anyway? Tay could do it in, like, ten minutes when they met in the mornings!

Marshall wondered if this is what drug addicts felt like.

Sixty-four hours. That was too damn long.

Johnny and Tay walked out together, and he hadn’t expected that, but Tay stopped when Marshall pushed himself off the wall and they walked towards each other, smiling.

“’Sup?”

“Hi.”

Tay shifted his skating bag higher on his shoulder and flicked hair out of his eyes. Marshall watched him, the way his hair caught the light, the curve of his smile and shy way he dropped his eyes then lifted them; how happy they looked. He moved a little closer, just a little.

He meant to say ‘good practice’ or ‘how’d it go with your family?’ or something to make conversation but he got caught in Tay’s stare and zoned out for a second, playing with the sky blue eyes, the energy between them thick and electric.

Well.” A voice said loudly and they both turned suddenly to look at Johnny. The skinny little shit had a knowing smirk on his face. “I’m going to be right over there. Barfing.”

Marshall couldn’t even work up any annoyance for the little punk as Johnny walked away with that straight-backed little swish that might as well have ‘Look! Queerboy!’ written on his back.

“Ignore him,” Tay rolled his eyes as he turned to look at Johnny, “He’s just being himself.”

“He knows.”

Tay glanced back at him, the sky blue apprehensive. “Yeah. I told him. He won’t tell anyone, I mean, who’d believe him….”

“Hey, yeah, it’s a’aight.” Marshall fingered the tassels of Tay’s scarf because he couldn’t touch the curve of Tay’s jaw and take away the anxious tension. “I’m real fuckin’ glad he knows.”

“Oh. Okay.” Tay smile broke through again, dimples flashing and Marshall smiled back, his stomach going all funny right here outside the locker room, people all over the place, Zac, Tay’s brother, giving them a funny look as he walked in to change into his uniform.

/Tell him. Tell him you’re telling your friends./ But instead he tugged on Tay’s sleeve and started walking to the front of the rink.

“Come on.”

“Where?” Tay’s long legs kept up with his strides as he walked beside him, one hand holding onto the strap of his skating bag.

“Show you some homework.”

“Okay.” Tay said, voice doubtful, and Marshall walked out the door and around the side of the building where they went that time, one of the first times Marshall realized he wanted to do more than touch Tay’s back and look at his beautiful face. A lot more.

When Marshall stopped Tay turned to him with a knowing smile.

“You don’t really have any…” He pulled open a side entrance and yanked Tay inside, cutting off the rest of the sentence.

Tay gasped as Marshall pushed him against the closed door with his body, pulling aside the bulky skating bag, fingers threading, arms pinned tight as Marshall covered Tay’s mouth with his. His heart stuttered now, it tripped as Tay ‘mmm’ed opened onto his lips with no hesitation, wet inside, satiny and Marshall loved his taste, loved how Tay pulled at his lips, brushed them and licked at them until Marshall shivered helplessly. He let go Tay’s flexing fingers to touch the heated skin of his face, his chest, slip his arm inside Tay’s jacket and the warmth there seeped right through him, all the way to his toes and fingers, the tip of his nose. Tay had pulled up Marshall’s loose t-shirt, hands running over his back and Marshall’s arm circled the slim waist and crushed them together. He slid a leg between Tay’s knees and pushed up so Tay broke their kiss to make a rough sound and, fuck, he’d never needed to touch someone this bad.

They stared at each other, lids heavy, mouths glistening in the dim light, and Marshall’s hips pushed against the hard knot against his leg because his body demanded, it wanted and took, and ate up the way Tay’s lashes fluttered; way they panted each other’s breaths.

“You have…,” Tay tried to whisper. Marshall nudged the scarf out of the way with his chin and nipped at Tay’s neck, lips closing around the jut of Tay’s Adam’s Apple as Tay twisted his head to give him more access. “Practice. You have…oh, ah….,” he gasped, body straining against Marshall’s, “To go.”

“I know,” Marshall mumbled into Tay’s neck, then moaned when soft lips tugged at his earlobe, wet lick at the spot behind it that made his legs tremble. He slid his hands up Tay’s chest, past the strong thump of Tay’s heart even through sweater and shirt, to cup the flushed cheeks of his face.

“I gotta see you more,” he whispered, looking into Tay’s eyes in the dark.

“God, I know,” Tay agreed feverishly, pressing a quick kiss to Marshall’s lips, “I know. There’s never enough time.”

“I’m telling my crew tomorrow.” Marshall breathed, pressing their forehead close, because he was, he had to.

“You are?” Tay pulled back to look at him and even in the dark Marshall heard the alarm in his voice. “Is…,” Tay’s lips tickled his and he pressed his mouth to them because he couldn’t help it, “Do you want to?”

Tay’s hand came out from under Marshall’s shirt and Marshall met it with his, lacing their fingers tight between them. “I thought you wanted me to.” He whispered quietly.

“No!” Marshall pulled back, confused. “Not, no, I mean.” Tay bumped their foreheads together again lightly. “I thought you’d tell them we were at least friends.”

“That’s it?” Marshall asked, part of him getting ready to feel relieved and the other part calling that part a lameass coward.

“The rest is…it’s not easy, Marshall.” Tay reached back to smooth the short bristles of Marshall’s hair. “You need, like, a plan if it doesn’t go okay. A place to go if your mom freaks out. Enough money to get somewhere safe. You shouldn’t just do it because someone else wants you to. My parent’s don’t even know. Well,” Tay sighed, “Not officially. I haven’t told them anything.”

Marshall hadn’t even thought of all that. He’d been worried about what the guys would say but he didn’t even think of it getting back to his mom, or The Dumbfuck and what they’d say. He’d heard The Dumbfuck tell queer jokes before. It’s not like his mom ever told him to stop.

“I just want you to know I ain’t ashamed of you. ‘Cause I ain’t.” Marshall said firmly and Tay kissed him softly, gentle brush of his lips that sent tingles up and down Marshall’s arms.

“I know that,” he could hear the smile in the dark, “I know you’re not.” Tay’s hands settled on his hips in the dark and Marshall leaned into him, Tay’s lips like a magnet, soft and giving until they were pressed against each other, Marshall’s hands moving restlessly in the silk of Tay’s hair as they kissed.

/Beautiful, he’s so fucking beautiful…/ His mind murmured in the background and one of these days soon Marshall was gonna bust out and say that. He’d never said that to Jeanine. He realized he’d never thought it; not like this.

Tay broke their kiss just as it was getting intense again, hip grinding and clutching and the world slipping away until only this mattered. “You have to go.”

“Yeah.” He really did.

Marshall nuzzled at the soft skin of Tay’s neck and Tay smiled against his cheek.

“Have you ever tried to ride a bicycle while you have a hard on?”

Marshall laughed, snuffling against the fuzz of Tay’s scarf and Tay pushed them apart putting some space between them. They smoothed hair and pulled down shirts all the while grinning at each other like idiots.

“How does that work, yo? Pedaling with a hard on?” Marshall teased and Tay whapped him on the shoulder.

“It’s not exactly comfortable, wiseass. How do you play hockey with a hard on?”

“I got a cup. It helps.”

“Sounds painful.”

Marshall didn’t mention that sometimes, especially when they were really going, down by one or two points, everyone shoving and reaching for the puck skidding on the ice, he got hard anyway. He’d never told anyone that. He was real glad to have a cup on then.

Tay reached for the door after hefting his skating bag back on his shoulder from where it had dropped earlier and Marshall kissed him one more time before they left. Tay teased his lips, biting them, and rough sound escaped Marshall’s throat, his hand going to Tay’s head, pulling him deeper.

“Okay, no, come one.” Tay gasped, groping for the handle with one hand while the other fisted Marshall’s t-shirt at his waist. “You’ll get in trouble.”

“A’aight.” Marshall whispered, voice husky, leaning over for one more taste, catching Tay’s lips for a second before Tay yanked open the door and pulled them through.

“Go, you’re late. Go!” Tay laughed as Marshall played with his scarf tassels and Tay pulled them away.

“Calling you tonight.” Marshall said, walking backwards.

“Call me tonight.” Tay shooed him, “And study! I mean it!” Marshall grinned then turned and booked for the door, unable to wipe the huge smile from his face. He probably looked like a punk but he didn’t care.

 

“Where were you?” Coach asked as Marshall jogged to the dressing room past two other players who were also late.

“Talking to my tutor, coach. I got a ‘B’ in that class now.” It was a low B but it was a B.

“Oh. Alright. Shake your tail, warm-up’s almost over.”

Coach was looking him kinda funny but Marshall just grinned and ran to get changed. He should maybe tank the merry sunshine smile except he didn’t know if he could. He didn’t even want to.

Practice went kinda good, anyway. He wasn’t surprised. It felt like he was skating on air.

TAY

“You don’t look like you’ve been making out at all.” Johnny’s voice drawled and Tay turned to him startled out of his thoughts. Johnny was lounging against the wall near the bicycled rack even if the Lincoln Town Car waited patiently for him at the curb. “God, at least pull down your sweater!”

“I did.” Tay tugged it lower but it had been kind up rumpled in the back. Prickly heat came up on his face and he ducked his head letting the fall of hair hide the smile that wouldn’t go away. “So do you want a megaphone or something? Because a few people in Warren didn’t hear you.”

“Already in the closet?” Johnny asked archly and Tay gave him a sideways smirk.

“No more than we are.”

“Oh, right. Like he’s told his friends.”

“He offered.” Tay said smoothly, enjoying Johnny’s widened eyes. “I told him not to.”

“It was probably a bluff.”

“I don’t think so.” Tay heeled up his kickstand, getting ready to go. If Johnny planned to rag on Marshall non-stop then maybe things were going to change, and pretty quickly.

“Do you really think he’d do it?” Johnny’s voice got low and curious and Tay glanced up at him to his best friend’s inquisitive hazel eyes with not a shred of malice in them.

“Yeah, I think so.” Tay sighed, remembering the jolt of shock when Marshall told him. It’s the last thing he expected. “But he isn’t ready. I mean, he doesn’t have a plan B. He hadn’t even thought that far, I could tell.”

Until he and Johnny had gone to a coming out workshop for teens at the gay and lesbian community center in Ferndale Tay had been all for coming out right away, to everyone. He really did hate lying, he wasn’t ashamed of how he felt, and he wanted people to know that.

The cute guy with the earring and the ponytail said coming out was a good thing, but coming out when you were a teen-ager, living in your parent’s house, eating their food and wearing clothes they bought you, wasn’t that simple. “Work on your plan ‘B’” he’d said to the raptly listening audience. “What are you gonna do if they kick you out? It happens. Do you have at least one adult you’re positive, without a shadow of a doubt, is gonna be cool with your lifestyle? If the answer is no, then think about it. Until you hit eighteen your life does not belong to you, dudes. You’re minors and your parents or guardians have the final say in pretty much everything. You have very few rights as kids. I’ve seen kids kicked out; put in alternative schools, put in hospitals to get ‘cured,’ you name it. It happens, even today. Be proud of who you are, but be smart, too. It’s not fair, but that’s reality.” The talk had stayed with Tay and, though Johnny told, Sasha, Priscilla, his mom in quick succession, Tay opted to wait with his family.

“It’s not like his friends are going go, ‘Let’s go to the gay bar and dance!’” Johnny commented sarcastically, bringing him back to the present, and Johnny thought of the four tough, uncompromising boys that had invaded their McDonald’s table.

No, he couldn’t see any of them saying that, either. Besides, he wasn’t sure Marshall had even thought as far as labels: ‘gay’, ‘bi,’ ‘questioning.’ He wasn’t sure Marshall had thought through much except how their bodies spoke to each other when they touched.

Then again, neither had Tay.

Tay straddled his bike as they approached the idling Town Car and smiled at Johnny again. “Do I look okay now, or can you still tell I’ve been making out?”

“You mean besides the hickies?” Johnny sniffed and Tay quirked an eyebrow at him.
“You’ll do. You actually look disgustingly happy.” He didn’t sound thrilled at the idea but Tay just laughed and gave him a one-armed hug before taking off down the street.

“I am!” He called over his shoulder, pedaling faster, feeling the cold air in his hair and on his skin. His cheeks and his lips felt cold from the wind but he barely felt them. He was smiling too wide.