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Even Then

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David was going to kill Katie. Seriously. Yes, he was her best friend, and yes, he was gay, but she seemed to forget that he was incredibly shy, and between the two of them, she’d gotten laid waaaay more times than he had, and she was far less likely to burst a blood vessel and die of embarrassment going into an adult bookstore.

Eros Books at least looked like a classy joint. David stared at the doors for a long time, trying to make himself reach out and pull the door open.

This was for her birthday. She wanted to celebrate with her shiny new boyfriend (some redhead named Cameron, an anthropologist of all things), and she wanted to try something ‘new and exciting’. She could’ve ordered the book off the internet, but she’d set her plans in motion too late, so David was stuck doing the leg work.

“Are you going to stand there forever or are you going to go in?”

David turned.

All the color drained out of his face. It was Evan, the art major who’d lived across the hall from him freshman year. Evan had blue eyes and dimples and broad shoulders and an ass David could bounce a quarter off of.

And he was standing there, arms full of boxes.

“I, uh -”

“Could you get the door at least?” Evan smiled tightly.

“What? Oh. Sure.” David yanked open the door, and Evan stepped into the vestibule, but there was a second set of doors, so David had to open that, and then he was in the bookstore.

Which...looked like any other bookstore. Except instead of categories like ‘romance’ and ‘history’ and ‘mystery/thriller’, the signs over the shelves read ‘bondage’ and ‘roleplay’ and ‘gay/lesbian’ and ‘polyamory’.

Evan carried the boxes over to the counter and set them down with a sigh of relief.

The guy behind the counter was tall, slender, with stylishly messy hair and bright eyes. He was probably Evan’s boyfriend. Good-looking people stuck together.

“Thanks for picking those up,” the guy said. He reached into his pocket, handed Evan a knife. “Open them up, see what we have.”

Evan flipped the knife open like he’d done it a thousand times before, sliced through the tape. He pushed back the cardboard flaps and drew out a book with a bright cover. He flipped it around for the other guy to see. “A hundred and one things to do with scented candles.”

The guy wrinkled his nose. “I hate scented candles. Give it to Teyla. It’s her turn to do the book review this week anyway.”

“Poor Kanaan,” Evan said, shaking his head.

“You never help with the book reviews,” the guy said.

“That’s because I have no one to read the book with. Most of these books require at least two readers, if not more.” Evan handed back the knife and began unpacking the box.

The other guy waggled his eyebrows. “Some of the books only require one participant, you know.”

“Please, continue to make me feel terrible about my serious lack of a sex life.” Evan groaned.

“For an art major, you get surprisingly little action.”

“For a math major and a physics major, you and Rodney get laid an unfair amount,” Evan said without missing a beat.

The other guy noticed David then. “Can I help you?”

David froze. “I, uh - I’m here. To buy a book. For a friend. She, uh, she asked me to -” He fumbled in his pockets for the slip of paper Katie had written the book’s title on.

“Evan,” the other guy said, “I got this. You help the customer.”

Evan nodded. “Sure thing, John.” He lifted the half-empty box onto the counter - David watched his arm muscles flex appreciatively - and ambled across the room.

“What are you looking for?”

David handed him the slip of paper.

“Shibari, huh? Make sure your friend gets the right kind of rope, or some pretty nasty rope burn will happen, and that’s just not sexy. It’ll be over in bondage. This way.” Evan led David into the aisles. He glanced over his shoulder. “Oh, hey, David, right?”

“You know my name?”

“We were neighbors in the dorms freshman year, right?”

“Right. Um, Evan, was it?”

Evan grinned, delighted, and there were those adorable dimples. “Yeah. How are you doing? You on track to graduate?”

“Yes. Senior, this year. You?”

Evan nodded. “Yep. Getting ready for my senior show, in fact. What’s the plan after graduation?”

“PhD,” David said.

Evan scanned the bookshelves, plucked an innocuous-looking volume out from between a book on shackles and handcuffs and a book on silk ties. “That’s right. You’re a science major. Zoology?”

“Botany.” David accepted the book, flipped it over to check the price - and avoid looking at the cover. Good. Katie had given him more than enough money.

“Right. I remember. You always knew the latin names for plants. It was the cutest thing, the way you’d get all excited over them.”

“Cutest?” David echoed in a small voice.

Evan shrugged. “Yeah. Is there anything else I can help you find?”

“No. This is all she wanted.”


“My friend.”

“Right.” Was it David’s imagination, or did Evan look a little disappointed. “Your friend. Well, John can ring you up, and -”

“Will you go out with me?” Oh, heavens no. David’s mouth ran away from him sometimes, but this was -

He hoped the floor opened and swallowed him.

But Evan’s expression brightened, and he said, “Like on a date?”

No! David’s mind cried. His mouth said, “Yes.”

“Absolutely.” There it was, the unfair grin.

Oh no. David really was going to burst a blood vessel. He was going to faint. He was -

The world went sideways.

“Whoa, easy there.” Evan caught David’s shoulders, steadied him. “John, go get some Gatorade and a power bar.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing. Customer just got a little light-headed.”

“Wow, you really do know how to make them swoon.” John’s voice was muffled, distant.

Evan led David behind the counter, sat him down on a stool. John appeared with both requested food items, and Evan rubbed David’s back while he nibbled on the power bar, sipped the Gatorade.

“Better?” Evan asked.

David nodded, blushing furiously. “I’m so sorry. I just - I was nervous coming in here, and then I asked you out, and I’ve liked you since freshman year, and I -”

“Breathe,” Evan said. “It’s okay. And I’ve liked you since freshman year, so we’re even.”

David drank some more Gatorade, because his mouth was dry. “You must think I’m a total loser.”

“No,” Evan said. “But you are very cute.”

“How about you ring me up and I just go, you know, die of embarrassment back at my apartment.”

“I’ll ring you up,” Evan said, “but you’d better not die, because you owe me a date.”

“You’d still go out with me? Even after I almost fainted?”

Evan smiled. “Even then.”