Plan A: A Kiss at Night

by Driver

Chapter 4

If you do the right thing, even with the wrong attitude, you've still done the right thing

I was cutting it close when I left, and it was a few minutes after seven when I got to Aaron's house. His brother was in the driveway washing the car that Aaron had been yelling at the first time I saw him. He was barefoot, wearing shorts and a tank top, and he was really built.

When he saw me, he smiled, "Hi. You must be Evan."

I smiled back, "And you're Justin."

We shook hands, and he said, "Nice to meet you." He didn't let go of my hand. "You've got Aaron all excited, you know." He just looked at me for a few seconds, then added, "I love my brother, Evan. I just want you to know that."

I don't know what my face said, but my mouth came out with, "I understand. I like your brother, Justin. I'm not here to play mind games with him."

He smiled again, and let go of my hand. "Good. Billy says you're okay, so go knock on that door. Aaron's been all afraid that you wouldn't show up. I'll be there in a few. And don't worry about our parents, they won't interrogate you, I promise."

I smiled, surprised by that remark, said, "Thanks," and turned to the door. I took a deep breath and knocked, and it opened in about half of a second, revealing a nervous looking Aaron.

He smiled, "Hey, you made it. Come on in."

We were in a foyer with a stairway on the right, the door to the kitchen on the left, and the living room straight ahead, which is where we headed. It was a nice room, beige on the floors and walls, mostly dark blue furniture.

"Dad," Aaron said when we walked in, "This is Evan Smiley."

His father looked up, put down his magazine, and stood. He held out his hand and smiled, "Welcome, Evan. I'm glad you could come."

Now, I don't look all that much like my parents, but Mr. Castle's genes were obviously the dominant ones in his boys, which made him a very handsome man. His black hair was going gray around the edges, but he looked to be in great shape, with no gut, a good tan, and an overall healthy look to him. I smiled and we shook hands, and I said, "I'm glad I was invited. This is a nice house."

He smiled, "Thank my wife for that, she's the decorator." He looked at Aaron, "Introduce Evan to your mother, then go do what you were going to do." He looked at me again, "Enjoy yourself, Evan. Nice to meet you."

I said, "Thank you," and Aaron hurried me out a different door than we came in through, and we found his mother in the dining room.

She smiled when she saw me, and said, "Hi, Evan. I heard that you two finally hooked up. Welcome to our home."

I smiled, "Thanks," while I looked around. "I really like your house." I meant that, too, because the dining room was as attractive as the living room had been.

She beamed, "Why, thank you Evan." She made a little shooing motion with her hand, "Now, you two go and have some fun."

I followed Aaron, thinking that was easy enough. My parents always gave new friends the third-degree, trying to find out how they fit into things, and my friends didn't often come to visit with my folks. I'd just been made to feel welcome, nothing else, and I thought Aaron had a pretty cool family.

Aaron led me out back to a little patio, and he had a pool much like Billy's in the back yard. As soon as the door closed behind us, he turned around and smiled shyly. "I'm glad you came."

I could see that he was nervous, and I was kind of edgy myself, but I couldn't get my eyes off him to worry about it. This was the first time I'd seen him in the daylight, and I liked what I saw. The light showed up some imperfections, of course, mostly a little line of zits along his jawbone, but that only made him real. At least they weren't the angry, red type I often got.

His eyes captured me most, very brown and expressive, then came his mouth, which was ... pretty, a girl's mouth. Very curvaceous, very ... pretty, very kissable.

I was staring, and I had to give myself a mental shake. "I'm very glad I came, Aaron. What's to eat?"

He'd been looking at me, too, and he grinned. "I didn't ask what you like, so we have three choices; chicken, steak or salmon."

"You have steaks?" I asked excitedly.

Aaron seemed proud, "Yup, sirloin. Is that what you want?"

I said, "That's what I want. I hope you like it, too."

He smiled, "That's what I like, I'll be right back."

He hurried back inside, and I looked around, noting that this would be a party of two. There was a regular picnic table there, but a little round table was already set with napkins and silverware, salt and pepper shakers, a butter dish.

I smiled in anticipation, then Aaron came out carrying a plate with two steaks on it, nice, thick steaks. My mouth watered while he set them down, then got the gas grill going.

I knew the answer, but I asked anyhow, wanting to get Aaron talking so I could hear his voice again. "Nobody else is eating?"

He smiled, "They're eating, but this is just for us." He tossed the steaks on the grill, then closed the lid and wiped his fingers on a towel, and bent down to a cooler, which he opened, "Take what you want, Evan. There's Pepsi, iced tea and lemonade."

I pulled out a lemonade and cracked it open, sitting down. I said, "This is really nice of you, Aaron. I've been living on sandwiches for a month now."

He smiled, "I don't know why, but I kind of figured that. If I give you a good feed, will you tell me something about yourself? I mean, you're like the mystery man around here right now."

That made me chuckle, even though I could see the truth in it. I said, "If you don't over-do that steak I'll be putty in your hands, Aaron. You can know anything you want about me."

His eyebrows went up, "Really? What's overdone to you?"

I laughed, "If it can't still get out a weak 'moo', it's overdone!"

Aaron grinned, "You like it really rare? Hey, so do I." He jumped up and flipped the steaks, saying, "Dad calls them black and blue like this. Let me get the other stuff!"

He dropped the lid on the grill, then ran inside. When he came back out he had a tray with dishes, bread, a salad, and a covered casserole pan. He set it down on the picnic table, then asked me to dish up two salads so he could watch the steaks.

I did that, put the bread on the table, the dishes, then the casserole dish, which contained yummy looking potatoes that had been roasted with onions and peppers. My mouth watered, and in another minute it was chewing on a big bite of steak, which tasted wonderful.

Aaron must have been as hungry as me, because all we did for the first part of the meal was eat and smile at each other. And, ooh did he have a smile.

When starvation wasn't a factor anymore, I slowed down and said, "I met your brother when I got here, you know." I grinned, "He tried to intimidate me."

Aaron snorted, then picked up his napkin and wiped his lips while he giggled. He lifted his face to look at me, and it was full of mirth. "That's Justin for you, my own private guardian."

"I think that's really nice. My own brother is what did me in," I said gloomily. "I wish I had a Justin."

Aaron looked at me with a question, "Will you tell me, Evan?"

I already had food in my mouth, and I took my time with it, looking at Aaron's face, the openness and concern for me. I swallowed, "I'll tell you, Aaron, but let's finish eating first." I tried to smile, "This is all delicious by the way."

I was so envious of Aaron right then. He was gay in an obvious way, and his big brother looked after him, his friends looked after him, his parents gave him space to be alone with me, and I had the opposite. Oh, I got space alright, but not space to be gay in, just space to develop my 'other' interests. No, I had to get dealt a Bruce in my life, a mechanical little prick.

I tried to stay cheerful, which wasn't really hard with Aaron there, and we kept eating until we couldn't eat anymore. We'd been taking good looks at each other all that time, then we both, at the same moment, leaned away from the food, which caused us both to laugh.

I said, "Oh God, Aaron, that was good. Really good!"

He smiled, "I'm glad you liked it. There's a price to pay, you know."


"You have to tell me about yourself, remember?"

I asked, "Will you tell me about you, too?"

"Deal!" He grinned, his eyes all alight.

"Okay," I said, "Evan Smiley ... this is my life!"

We both giggled, and I said, "I was born on January third, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Seven. I was a ..."

Aaron interrupted excitedly, "Really? I was born the same day."

I jumped, "Really, the same birthday? That's incredible!" We grinned at each other, then I went on, "Anyhow, there's more. I was always good at sports, even when I was little, and that doesn't run in the family. Oh, I have two parents and three brothers, if that matters."

Aaron laughed a little, and I continued, "I guess I was ordinary as a little kid, too smart for my own pants sometimes, but just a regular kid."

Aaron laughed, "Too smart for you own pants? That's funny!"

I smiled at him, "That was my dad's expression. I'm the dimwit of the family,really. My brothers are all smarter, or at least it's easier for them" I settled in, determined to give Aaron the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

He was interested, I could see that, so I kept going, "Anyhow, I was an asexual little thing as a kid." I grinned at Aaron, "This is the part you want to hear, isn't it?"

He nodded eagerly, so I went on. "I kind of figured out that I was gay back in seventh grade. I'm really lucky, because my friend Chris has helped me deal with that from the start. He's been like my champion, helping me to understand myself, my reactions to guys. I never really got down about being gay, and I owe that to him. Anyhow, there's that part of me, and except for Chris knowing, I've been in the closet until last night."

I took a sip of lemonade, then went on to tell Aaron other things about me, my academics, the sports I played, the things I liked to do.

Aaron was a great listener, too, joining in sometimes, laughing at other times. I stopped short of telling him why I'd left home. When I said I was done, he asked, "So, you never had any gay friends before?'

I shook my head no, and he asked, "How did you stand it?"

I answered, "I had Chris, and I kept myself pretty busy. I had a lot of friends, and I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about being gay."

Aaron grimaced, "Sometimes I think that's all I am. It's all I can think about. I don't have any gay friends, either, and I guess that's my fault. I know some guys, but I never got very interested in any of them. I guess I'm like you in that respect. All of my friends are pretty straight."

"Pretty straight?" I chuckled, "I bet they'd like hearing you call them that."

Aaron giggled, "Okay, you're right, most of them are very straight."

It was my turn to giggle, "Most of them?"

Aaron snickered, then suddenly looked frightened, "Um, let's not go there, okay?" He looked in my eyes like he was trying to find something there, and finally said, "I guess Billy is like my Chris. He's been really good to me, Evan."

I hadn't really noticed, but our faces by then were only inches apart. We'd been leaning ever closer as we talked, and Aaron gently put his right hand on top of my left one, which just about made me melt. Aaron said, very softly, "Billy's no dummy, Evan, neither is Justin. They both know that I was all excited about you coming over, so if you come again they'll know about you, or at least think they do."

I had to think about that. Did I want them knowing, or even thinking that I was gay? No, I didn't, but I was developing feelings for Aaron, feelings that I'd never had before, and I wasn't ready to just walk away. So what if they knew? They were both cool with Aaron, and I knew that didn't necessarily translate into them being equally cool with me. I didn't know Billy well, and I didn't know Justin at all, so what I did was take a chance. Aaron was within reach.

I leaned forward the last few inches and kissed Aaron, right there on those pretty lips, then pulled back a little to see his reaction. His eyes got wet, and he had a wavering smile, croaking ever so quietly, "Do that again?"

Gladly! We both leaned forward this time, our lips moistened by our tongues, and we kissed again, longer this time, but still just a kiss. The first romantic kiss of my life, and it was a winner. My palms got wet, my fingers started trembling, and I think every hair on my body tingled. It was the most amazing moment of my life so far.

When we broke the kiss and pulled apart, I saw a look of bliss on Aaron's face, and I knew my own at least matched it. Aaron put on a sly smile, and said "Good answer," which made me let off some tension by laughing loudly.

We both ended up snickering and giggling, taking hopeful glances at each other. Aaron finally sucked in some air and asked, "Want to swim?"

I said, "My bathing suit's at home."

"You can wear one of Justin's."

I was easy. "Okay, then."

Aaron stood and held his hand out to me, and it was another first in my life. I was holding hands with a boy who I liked more by the minute, and he only let go to get through the door, then we walked to his room holding hands, and I was happy. The kiss had been one thing, but holding hands with Aaron seemed somehow more important, more connecting than a little kiss across a table, and I felt no shame, no fear, nothing except happiness.

If I was ever going to get struck down for being gay, that should have been the moment. I swear I felt the scrutiny of God and all the Saints on the back of my neck right then, but I wasn't too worried about it, and nothing bad happened. Justin saw us going by and only stood out of the way, saying nothing except "Hi" with a friendly look on his face.

We turned into Aaron's room, which was messy and unremarkable, then he went to get trunks for me from Justin's room. He handed them to me when he came back, then started unbuttoning his shirt.

I held the bathing suit and watched him, an appreciative smile on my face. He said, "Don't be bashful, I won't look if you don't want."

I leered, "Oh, I'm not bashful. I just want a show, then you'll get one in return."

Aaron stared at me, then smiled shyly, "You want to see me naked?"

I nodded eagerly, and he blushed, then pulled off his shirt, revealing a slim, well tanned torso, not totally without musculature. I knew right then that I'd be embarrassed when I had to take my shirt off, because I had a landscaper's tan, just my head, neck and forearms. We had to wear long pants, and weren't allowed to take off our shirts even on the hottest days, so I was a mass of pink with three very dark exceptions. I worried about scaring him.

My mouth went dry when Aaron got down to his underpants, and he wasn't into the boxer thing like me. No sir, he was wearing good old white briefs, and I made him stop right there. I wanted to catch up, and for this weird idiosyncracy of mine. I liked dicks, I really did, and I fantasied about them all the time, but soft ones did absolutely nothing for me. I did like underwear though, and Aaron standing there in his briefs was a definite turn on.

He was more fit than I imagined, and he was pretty smooth in the torso, though he had hairy legs like me. But what legs! We were looking at each other in a very curious moment, and I managed to ask, "Do you run or something?"

Well, that was a stupid question, and it cracked Aaron up. After a surprised look showed on his face, he just about doubled up in laughter. He gasped out, "Do I run?" then laughed some more, "what are you talking about?"

Now I was embarrassed, and I only managed to whisper, "You look nice, Aaron ... real nice."

That brought him down to earth, and he looked me up and down, then smiled, saying softly, "You look nice too, Evan." He grinned, "Kind of striped, but real nice."

He made striped into two syllables that sounded funny, but I didn't laugh. No, this was the moment ... show all and tell all, and I stepped out of my boxers, then turned around slowly, revealing all of Evan Smiley to Aaron before I pulled on the bathing suit.

Aaron breathed out, "Nice," before repeating the performance for me, and I echoed the sentiment.

My body had evolved through sports, not weight lifting or anything, and now through physical labor every day. I knew I looked good, even Chris said so, as did other guys.

Aaron wasn't nearly as muscular, but he sure was nicer, with smooth, tanned skin, except where he wore shorts, and I told him he had his own stripe, and we laughed.

I, for the very first time in my life, felt that I was in my own element, where I belonged, and nothing else seemed to matter. Not my situation, not my family, not my job, nothing else mattered. The real me, the one that had been hidden for so long, wasn't emerging, it was being blasted out of a cannon!

Aaron put on his musical bathing suit again, and I was wearing a plain red one, and it didn't matter. We giggled like girls, touched each other just to do it, and kissed again before heading out to the pool.

When we got there, hand in hand, and climbed up on the deck, Justin was there in the water, floating around on a rubber thing, earphones on his head and his eyes closed. Aaron put his finger in front of his lips, "Shh!" then did a cannonball, and the splash surprised Justin enough that he fell off the raft, coming up looking angry.

When he saw it was Aaron, he grinned and splashed him royally, then he dunked him, falling underwater himself in the process, and they both came up gurgling and laughing.

I liked what I was seeing, and cannonballed them both, coming up spitting water, then immediately got pushed under again by a laughing Justin.

I was gasping for air when I came up again, and Aaron was right there, steadying me with his arm, and when I could see, Justin was smiling at us.

Aaron asked, "What?" and Justin held his smile, then grinned.

"I'm off the hook? Finally?" He smiled his nicest, "You guys have fun, I'm out of here."

With that, he pulled up onto the deck and toweled off, then headed for the house.

I leaned up against the wall of the pool after Justin left, kind of stunned that Aaron rated such an understanding brother, and also that I was officially out of my little closet. I liked the first more than the second, but Aaron came to my side, asking, "Are you okay?"

"I don't know," I said, and then I looked at his hesitant smile and had to go for another kiss. "I'm fine," I said. Want to try that again?"

He did, and we did, and two nearly-naked boys kissing led to us kissing with passion, and I loved every moment of it.

Pretty lips, hell, Aaron had great lips, and making out was new to both of us, so it was kind of experimental, but what an experiment!

After we swam for awhile, we laid on the lawn on our towels and talked. Despite what Billy had led me to believe, most of Aaron's sexual experience was with Billy himself, save for two other guys Billy had brought there. I would have been the third, and neither of the other two had ever come back.

It was clear that Aaron thought the world of Billy, though, and he did sound a lot like the friend that Chris was to me.

We talked about a whole lot of things, and I got a real charge just from watching Aaron's face when he talked. He was very expressive, and he became animated when something got him worked up. I liked everything about his face, but especially his mouth, and I can honestly say that it was the first time that just watching somebody say words got me excited.

We talked and talked, learning all kinds of things about each other, and I found it to be very satisfying to learn about Aaron, to tell him about me. I had always hidden my sexuality, of course, but Aaron didn't really have that luxury. His brother was popular and an athlete, and Aaron said that he hadn't really been picked on since he was a little kid because of that. Also, Aaron's gym teacher was Justin's basketball coach, and Justin had arranged so Aaron didn't have to embarrass himself trying to play team games. Aaron either ran the track or did calisthenics during gym, which explained the modicum of tone he had.

Eventually it was time for me to go. It had gotten late, and I had to work the next day, and I wished that I didn't.

We changed into our clothes, then Aaron walked me home again, this time holding hands all the way, and he came into the bottom landing with me this time, and we kissed again ... and again.

When Aaron had to leave I wanted to stay with him so badly that I walked him halfway back home, and we shared one last kiss behind a bush in someone's yard, and I knew then that it would be hard every time we had to part.

I was tired, but I practically floated up the stairs to the apartment, which was silent. I was pleased to find my sack of laundry square in the middle of my mattress, and I got ready for bed as if I was in a dream.

What a dream it was, though. I was totally infatuated with Aaron Castle, and it was hard to think about other things, but I had to. I had new issues to deal with, but I tried to push them away, save them for thinking about at some other time, like when I was wacking weeds or blowing off sidewalks.

As excited as I was about meeting Aaron, I fell asleep pretty quickly. I'm sure I dreamed about his kisses all night, because I woke up all rested, and for the first time since I left home I was happy.

I pulled on work clothes, went to the bathroom and cleaned up, then went into the kitchen to make something for breakfast. Like the other guys, I didn't bother with morning showers, because all we did was work in the dirt all day.

I started the coffee, poured a glass of juice, dropped some bread into the toaster, and fixed a bowl of cornflakes. I was eating when Eli walked by on his way to the bathroom. He grunted at me when I said hi, then he stopped, "You're working with us today. Did you hear about Shane?"

"No..." I said slowly, getting a sinking feeling from the tone of voice he used.

"He got hurt yesterday. He's in the hospital."

"Oh, my God!" I exclaimed, "What happened?"

"He cut his ankle, the Achilles tendon. It's pretty serious."

Eli walked away, and I felt terrible for Shane.

I could only imagine how much pain he must be in. I'd been banged in that area often enough to know how excruciating it can be, but to actually have it cut was unimaginable.

When Kevin came in I asked him how it happened.

He got a coffee and sat down, then he looked at me and said, "Bees. He was trimming hedges at the Arbor Apartments, and some ground hornets got after him. He dropped the trimmer to get away, but it kicked up off the ground and got him somethin' good."

"Oh no," I said, "is he alright?"

Kevin shook his head, "I don't know. They operated on him, so now it's wait and see. He won't be back to work anytime soon, that's for sure."

Kevin hurried into the bathroom when Eli came out, and I finished up my breakfast halfheartedly, feeling bad for Shane. He was a good guy, and he didn't deserve something like that.

There wasn't anything I could do about it, though, so I went and put my clothes away, trying to focus on the night before and my time with Aaron. That turned out to be the best thing I could have done, because I found myself humming happily in no time.

I was still humming while I tossed sandwiches together and, having forgotten all about Shane, I even made his usual three. I looked at them, decided they'd keep, and put them in the refrigerator.

Work was a good deal for me that day, because I got to think some things out. I was mostly wary of what my budding relationship with Aaron would bring down on me if it became widely known. I had reason to be comfortable with Justin knowing, because I had the feeling he liked the idea. I wasn't really worried about Billy, either, although I was certain I was in for some merciless teasing, and I could only hope he'd save it for private times.

Huck would deem me a 'fruitcake', and probably wouldn't want me around anymore, which was too bad because I liked the guy. Billy was right, though. It wasn't against the law to dislike gays, and I couldn't really hold it against Huck that he didn't. As long as he didn't do anything about it, that was his business.

From my standpoint, disliking gays seemed almost like a national pastime for athletes, anyhow, and I was used to being around it. I don't know how many of them meant what they said anyhow, but hearing about 'gay' houses, 'gay' cars, 'gay' clothes got old and meaningless after awhile, at least when nobody knew I was gay.

I didn't like it because it was negative. Even straight guys called each other 'faggot' day in and day out, and they didn't really mean it, not even as a real insult anymore, just another term for loser, which isn't what they really mean either. I saw it as simple one-upmanship and not a lot else.

My real worry was about it getting everywhere. I had strong feelings for Aaron, and I knew I couldn't hide them when he was around, and I didn't want to have to hide them. Why should I? Everything with him so far had been a first for me, and if there was more to follow it would be more firsts.

The idea of all these first-time things really tantalized me, and I didn't want to be afraid of them, and I wasn't afraid of them, just the reaction of the world around me. Whatever we did, we wouldn't parade it out for the world to watch anyhow, but I had this little fear in me that the world tried too hard to find out about things that weren't any of its business.

My real worry was the guys I lived with and the people I worked with. Most of those guys were rough, rude and crude, and I couldn't imagine that the idea of them learning they had a gay boy in their midst would exactly endear me to them. I just tried to get along at work anyhow, not to make friends, and that was hard enough when I was always dealing with their hangovers, hearing about their exploits in bars. I'd worked on a lot of crews by then, and there wasn't anyone I specifically disliked.

There was no friend material there either, though, at least not for me. There was a measure of camaraderie, and I liked that, but I didn't really fit in. I was fifteen, faking sixteen. Most of the other employees were twenty and up, and I didn't even try to connect with them because I didn't want to.

I had them to worry about, though, and my concerns were very real.

I just hoped that I could stay far enough away when I was with Aaron, and just go to work every day. Nobody ever asked me what I did the night before anyhow, so it wasn't that. I just had to be at least a little careful.

Four hours of that kind of thinking had me well armed with ideas, and at lunchtime we took our buckets to the hospital to eat in front of Shane.

He was happier looking than I expected, in a room with three other patients, and he was very pleased that we'd come to see him..

"Hey!" he said brightly. "Look at me, huh?"

There were questions from all of us at once, and they all amounted to asking him if he'd be okay.

"Yeah," he smiled. "The doc said it went well and looks good." He grimaced, "I'll be down for a long time, though. Probably a wheelchair for a few weeks, then crutches for a long time. It'll be a year before I'm a hundred percent again."

"What'll you do?" I asked.

Shane grinned, "Watch lots of videos, little Dude!" He looked around at us, "Listen, I don't know about the apartment and those stairs. When I get out of here, it'll be two weeks to a month at a rehab place, then who knows how long after that?" He looked at Kevin, "The lady from the insurance was here, and I'll get 60 percent of gross 'til I get back to work, but I won't be climbing stairs for awhile." He suddenly looked sad, looking at Kevin, "You should give the room to Evan, then rent the porch to someone else."

Kevin looked sad, too, "Aw, man! It won't be the same."

Shane shrugged, kind of helpless to change things. I said, "I'll stay on the porch, Kevin. A room will be easier to rent."

I wasn't being altruistic, I just didn't want a real room anymore. The bedrooms were smaller, and all clustered together at the front of the house, and they had doors that opened into each other. I had privacy where I was, at least, and relative quiet, and I liked it.

Kevin looked at me, "You sure?" and I nodded.

We broke out our lunches, and Shane couldn't have any even when we offered him half sandwiches, so we ate and talked for awhile.

Then Harlan Blaine came to visit Shane, and when he saw me he said, "I'll be right back," then, "I need to talk to you, Evan. Let's go out in the hall."

I had part of my second sandwich in my hand, the other half on top of my little cooler, so I grabbed it and we left the room. I was nervous, but as soon as we got outside Harlan smiled at me. "I'm hearing good things about you, Evan. Everyone says you're a hard worker and, a fast learner. I like hearing that."

I smiled, wondering what was coming next.

"With Shane gone I have to make some changes. I can't put you on a mower because of your age. I don't know if you've met Rob Thomas, but he works in the yard and wants to go back out in the field."

I said, uncertain of what he was getting at, "... okay."

He smiled, "What I'd like you to do is swap jobs with Rob. He want's out, and it'll give you a chance to learn the machines. I really need this to happen, Evan. I'll up your pay fifty cents an hour, how's that?"

God, I hadn't even protested, because I liked the idea to begin with, and more money? I grinned, "Starting when?"

Harlan looked relieved, and he smiled, "Tomorrow." He poked me playfully, "I'm going to personally teach you how to move each and every one of those machines, and I believe," he crossed his hands over his heart and grinned, "you're gonna love every second of it!"

"Same hours?" I asked, chuckling.

Harlan looked surprised for a second, then said, "No, regular hours, but don't worry about that, I'll make up for it. You'll get the same average pay."

Now I was really excited, "What are regular hours?"

He looked at me, "Seven to four. Seven to nine on Saturday, just two hours to get the crews going."

Honestly, right then I could have jumped out of my skin. I'd been always wishing for more hours, more time to occupy my mind, and just when I met some friends, just when I got to know Aaron, I got less hours, and more time with them! Like, YAY!

I was excited, but I tried to play it right, "Whatever you want, Harlan. I just work here."

He laughed, "Cut it out. You know you want this!"

Then I grinned, and I blushed, and the grin stayed on my face, because Harlan was exactly right. I did envy those guys on the machines, and I always wanted to try them. I thought back, then forward, then asked myself, 'What could possibly go wrong?'.

I smiled at Harlan, "I'll do it!" and he smiled, and we shook on it, and I felt good.

He went in to see Shane, and I finished my sandwich in the hall, then had to tell the guys about my turn of luck on the way back to the truck. Arnie and Kevin appeared to be happy for me, but worried out loud that I'd earn less money without the overtime, and I kept Harlan's promise to myself. Eli was his usual, silent self.

The afternoon was unremarkable except for the fact that we finished early, and I was back home by a little after five, knocking on Billy's door just before six.

His brother answered. I knew of him from his pictures, but Billy had never mentioned him. He looked to be around seventeen, yet a watered down version of Billy. He was about my height, but much thinner, and he didn't come across as a very happy person.

"What?" he asked as he pulled the door open.

"Is Billy here," I asked, and he turned around and yelled for him. Getting no response after a second yell, he turned back to face me, saying, "Guess not. Try the park."

Then he just closed the door and left me standing there.

God, that steamed me. I stared at the door for a second, trying to remember if I'd ever been treated so rudely by anyone. I felt like ringing the bell again and confronting him, then thought better of it. After all, he was Billy's brother, and if I started something I might lose Billy's friendship. Maybe the guy was having a bad day, or maybe I rang the bell right when he was getting ready to pull his pud.

I turned away and decided to check the park, figuring I'd better go the way I had with Huck's dad. I'd chance getting lost by trying to remember how we'd got back to Billy's the last time.

It took awhile to get there, and I couldn't find Billy or Huck, even though most of the same guys were playing softball again. I did see Justin playing first base, and he waved when he saw me, so I watched the inning, then he trotted over to me when it ended.

He grinned, "Hi, Evan. You look lost."

I smiled, "Hi. I'm not lost, really, just looking for Billy and Huck."

He shrugged, "I haven't seen them." He leaned a little closer and lowered his voice, "You were a big hit with Aaron last night, you know." He put a hand gently on my shoulder, "He's been waiting for a long time for someone like you to show up in his life. I really hope it's mutual."

I was about to answer when someone yelled, "Hey Castle, you're up!"

Justin looked around quickly, then back at me. He patted my shoulder, "Hold on, I'll go strike out."

With that he ran and picked up a bat, then proceeded to strike out by taking three mighty swings at consecutive pitches, to the groans of his teammates, and then he was back to me, in close again.

"So," he smiled almost as an afterthought, "how is it, Evan?"

I tried to answer seriously, but all that came out of me was a dreamy smile at first, then I croaked, "It is!"

Justin blinked, "Really? You really like him?"

I nodded eagerly.

Justin cried, "Yeah!" and threw his mitt straight up in the air in exuberance, so straight that it plopped down right at our feet. He grinned at me, "Let me find someone to take my place, I want to talk to you."

He took off for a minute, talked to a few guys, then he was back to me saying, "Let's go to my house. You want an ice cream first?"

I smiled, "Sure."

We walked all the way out to the ice cream truck, where we both got coconut crunch bars, then I followed Justin to his car while we ate them. They were melting a little, so we didn't get into the car until we finished them, then Justin took my stick and put it in his pants pocket along with his.

His car was an older black Maxima, but it was obviously his pride and joy. It was spotless inside and out, and fairly reeked of Armor All. We started driving slowly down the street, and Justin asked, "So, where you from originally?"

It sounded like he was just trying to make conversation, so I changed the subject by asking, "Do you know Billy's brother?"

Justin glanced at me, "Dean? Yeah, I know him." He didn't sound too happy that he did.

I said, "He was damn rude to me earlier. I went looking for Billy, and he shut the door right in my face." I knew that slight bothered me more than it should have, and it was because I didn't have any context to put around it.

"That doesn't surprise me," Justin said, "Dean's been a pain for a long time."

I didn't say anything because I was trying to pay attention to the turn we were taking, then there was another one and then I knew where I was, which was driving right by Billy's house and turning into the Castle's driveway.

We walked down beside the house rather than going in, and sat at the same little table I'd eaten at with Aaron the night before. Justin was all solicitous of me, but I didn't want anything more than to talk about Aaron.

He started by asking, "You really like him?"

"Yeah," I smiled, "I do. A lot."

"You're gay then?"

I looked at Justin, and he seemed more hopeful than anything else, so I nodded, hoping I wasn't betraying myself.

He smiled happily and cried, "Perfect! Oh man, Evan, you don't know how happy that makes me." He twisted his face a little, "Um, don't take that the wrong way. It's just that Aaron was wired like I've never seen him yesterday, and it was 'Evan this' and 'Evan that' all day long."

I wanted to ask what Aaron had said about me, then decided I'd like hearing it directly from him better, so I just smiled.

Justin went on, "We're all used to his infatuations, and he always gets disappointed in the end, so it's really nice to see that something might work out for him."

I stared at Justin, who was really nice looking himself. I'd seen a demonstration of his strength already, and I was frankly surprised to find that he wasn't really a macho type, but rather a guy who cared that deeply for his younger brother. I asked, "It doesn't bother you that I'm gay? That Aaron is?"

Justin lost his smile while he thought about what to say, then it came back a little, "I guess," he looked down and started fiddling with his fingers.

"I used to be mean to Aaron. It was when we were little, but I made him cry all the time, just like everyone else did." He looked up at me sadly, "It wasn't about being gay then, it was way before we knew what that was." Justin looked introspective for a long moment, then continued,. "Aaron could never do what the other boys did. He couldn't throw, couldn't learn to ride a bike, and he got teased all the time, pushed around." He lifted his eyes again, "It's when we were seven and eight, Evan. Then Billy O'Shea knocked half the teeth loose in my mouth one day." He smiled wistfully and said, "You see, Billy saw the person in Aaron even then, when the rest of us just saw the sissy."

I barked out a surprised laugh, "Billy did?"

"Yeah," Justin said quietly, "Billy did. And after all the fuss about my mouth, he smacked me again the very next time I picked on Aaron in front of him, and every time after that." He smiled, "Think about it, here's a seven year old kid who defends his friends, and in my case against his own brother."

I said, "That's amazing."

"Yeah, well there's more, and it's kind of funny now. My folks went to confront Billy's parents about the abuse I was getting, and Billy had to make his own case. Billy said that I, the brother of the best colorer in the world, picked on my own brother, and it wasn't fair because I might hurt his hand someday. Then Billy wouldn't be able to see Aaron's coloring books anymore." He smiled at me, "How's that for logic from a little kid?"

I started laughing, trying to picture it, but wondering about Billy at the same time. So, he had a sense of justice, did he? And it was wired in at an early age. I'd seen pictures in his house of him when he was about that age, and the devil was there in his eyes even then. I was picking up pieces about Billy, but right then I was more interested in Aaron.

"Don't stop now," I urged.

Justin smiled. "Well, I don't remember all the details, but I guess my folks came up on Billy's side, and I was made to see what Aaron could do as opposed to what he couldn't do, and that turned out to be a lot. He could color for sure, and he could sing, and he could dream up little plays that made me laugh my ass off and ..." Justin looked at me and smiled, "... suddenly my little brother was an asset and not an embarrassment."

I started to say something, but Justin spoke first, "It goes back a long time, Evan. I guess brotherly love is supposed to be built in, and maybe it is, but it took brotherly appreciation for me to see what Aaron is and isn't, and the is side of that is what matters. I think when I was little I scorned him because he wasn't like me ... couldn't do the same things, but he could do his own things, things I was no good at. They were things I liked, too. Things that Aaron still entertains me with."

I had this gigantic WOW! in my head, but it came out as a whooshy, whispered, "Wow!" I added, "I wish my brothers were like that."

Wrong words. Justin leaned close, "Where's your family, Evan? What went so wrong that you're on your own like this?"

That was too direct a question to not respond to, really the first time it had been asked that way, and I fumbled in my head for a way to respond. Justin was a nice, honest kid, and I didn't want to lie to him, but I didn't want to tell the truth, either, so I just looked away.

There was a long silence, then Justin said, "Okay, so don't tell me." He got me looking back at him by touching my arm, and when I turned I saw a concerned face. He leaned really close, "Evan, if there's a problem come to me. If not me, then my folks. They'll help you."

I said, trying to sound neutral, "There's no problem." I almost went on, but decided that dropping it was better, and once again I changed the subject.

"When ... how ... did you know Aaron was gay? Why are you so okay with it? Why don't you worry about me being gay? I see how you are, but I want to know why." I pleaded with my eyes, "I want some of that for myself, Justin!

Justin smiled at me, and it turned into a grin. "You just asked me five questions in a row, did you know that?"

I blushed, "Sorry. Want me to do one at a time?"

He shook his head, "No, just remind me if I don't get it all. Hmm, I guess I thought Aaron was probably gay as soon as I learned there was such a thing." He smiled, "I knew for sure when he asked me what I knew about being gay. He'd been reading, and figured it out himself that way."

"And you don't mind?" I asked cautiously.

Justin hesitated, then said, "I do mind, Evan. I just know that's how he is, and there's nothing I can do to change it."

I said, "I'm confused now."

Justin smiled, "It's not his being gay that bothers me, really, it's just that I know what gay guys do with each other, and it's kind of hard to think of Aaron ... um ... " He looked at me, "Sorry, Evan. You know what I mean."

I nodded, because I knew, and I wanted to do those things with Justin's brother myself, so I left it with the nod and asked nervously, "So, it bothers you that I'm gay, too?"

Justin just looked at me, and said, "Let's change the subject, okay? It's my hangup and not yours, and it's not really a big deal." He smiled sweetly, "Just keep the door locked, okay?"

I smiled, "You saw us holding hands."

He said, "I saw you kissing, too. That I can handle, and you had clothes on." He smiled, "If I saw any more than that, I'd probably blush myself to death."

I laughed at the prospect, then we talked about sports for awhile, and we both welcomed the change of topic. Justin played basketball on the school team, but everything else he did was in the town leagues, and he was modest about his capabilities.

Aside from him liking the Red Sox, which made me think he'd been dropped on his head as a baby, we hit it off pretty well. I liked Justin a lot. He was bright, a good talker, and witty. And more than a little bit because he was Aaron's brother. I don't know that I'd ever tell him, but I thought he shared a lot of qualities with Aaron, too; his frankness, his sensitivity, and of course his good looks. Justin would probably grow up to look just like his dad, and Aaron would be a sweeter looking version of the same thing.

We'd been talking for quite awhile when Justin looked at his watch and said, "I have to pick up Aaron. Take a ride?"

I didn't have to be asked twice. Talking about Aaron, thinking about him all day, had me itching to see him again.

We rode into town, and going down the main street I saw an older building where the sign read, 'University Bookshop and the Attic Café'. I asked Justin, "What's that place?" pointing to it.

He said, "Just what the sign says. The first two floors are a book store, and the top floor is a coffee shop. There's a neat deck up there that looks over the river."

I asked, "Can we stop after?"

Justin said, "I can drop you off if you want. I, uh, I have a date."

Oh, I wanted to see that place, but it would have to wait. We'd driven about three miles already, and I wasn't about to try to find my way back at night.

The playhouse was an old cube of a building, almost under the bridge at the north end of town. Justin parked, and we went in through a side door that led right into the theater itself.

I didn't know what was going on at first, because Aaron was on the stage with several people, and he seemed to be having it out with an older woman, who he had cowering. He was really yelling at her, and gesturing wildly, and the others all looked nervous. Then it just stopped. There was a little applause, and a man's voice said, "Very good, Aaron! Very angry, very scornful. Nice job."

I couldn't see who was speaking, but he made Aaron smile with his words, so I already liked him. The director, no doubt. His next words were, "That's it, people. Monday at six."

Aaron talked with a few people on the stage, but they were leaving quickly, and he soon walked down, talked to another guy for a second, then we were to him.

His smile when he saw me there practically lit my heart on fire. He beamed, and stepped right up to me, almost whispering, "Evan!"

I smiled myself, "Hi. I thought you were going to kill that lady."

His eyebrows went up, and he said merrily, "I do. This is kind of a reverse, modern-day Romeo and Juliet. We're so rough on the parents that they commit suicide rather than deal with their evil spawn."

Right then, a pretty blonde girl walked up to us smiling, and she said, "Hi. You must be Evan." She held out her hand, which I took, noticing that Justin took the other one and stood beside her. She said, "I'm Cindy Knowles." She turned to Aaron and grinned, "You," she kissed his cheek, "were great, sweetheart."

Aaron's ears turned red, and I loved it. We walked out to the car, and Aaron and I got in back. I immediately took his hand, and I almost kissed him. I wanted to, almost desperately, but I knew I could hold out for the duration of the ride.

Justin and Cindy dropped us off, then headed out on their own. Aaron went to the front door and opened it, then called inside, "I'm home! I'll be out back with Evan."

I couldn't hear the response, but there must have been one because he listened for a moment, then called "Okay."

We headed to the back yard, and Aaron took my hand the moment we were away from the streetlight, and something like a trance descended on me. For a moment Aaron was his hand, and the only thought I could form was that he was holding mine, and it was a thought full of promise.

We walked around back, and instead of the table we sat on a little swing for two, side by side, still holding hands. Aaron asked, "How was your day?"

I told him about Shane, and he winced when I said what happened. Then I told him I'd be on more regular hours, and we celebrated that with a kiss, which we were involved in when his mother came out with a tray full of goodies.

She hadn't seen the kiss, thankfully. She smiled when she saw me, "Hello, Evan. Back again?"

"Hi, Mrs. Castle." I grinned, "Yeah, you can count on seeing a lot of me."

She sort of studied me for a moment, smiling all the while, then put the tray down and said, "That's marvelous. You boys have a nice evening."

With that, she went back inside. I smiled in astonishment because, well, because I was astonished. There I was, on their own property, fomenting plans of the lewdest kind for their younger son, and it was marvelous! In my house, if there were to be snacks of any kind, I'd have to find them and deliver them myself. There would be questions, too, and we'd both have to say what we had planned, then we'd have been warned about both messes and excessive noise.

I found Aaron's hand again, and said, "You're mom's ..." The rest came out as "Mmmmmph," because Aaron was suddenly all over me, and we were engaged in a super hot kiss. Lips engaged thusly, it was hands that took over, and we groped each other at the same time, both jumping at the first touch of the other, but not at the next one.

Oh, I don't know why I didn't have a heart attack. The poor thing was beating so hard in my chest that I thought it would explode. I thought I knew all about arousal from going down on Chris, but this was something different again. Very different.

Aaron's kisses, his gentle but insistent little fingers, then his mouth on me. It was incredibly otherworldly, and I was gasping for air to live on when I finally released. Oh Lord, it took a long time for me to come down, and when I did Aaron had his face gently against my shoulder, and was watching me with a little smile.

I kissed his forehead, then noticed that he'd spent himself on his shirt. I was regretful and thankful all at the same time. Regretful because I would have loved to return the favor, and thankful because I didn't know if I had it in me at the moment.

Instead, we kissed, and for a long time. During a little air pause, Aaron saw his shirt and mumbled, "Look at me," then he pulled it off and dropped it on the patio. That gave me skin to touch, and Aaron's was warm and a little sweaty, and I loved the feel of him. I really loved the feel of him, and I took my own shirt off so he could share in the sensation.

Unfortunately, it was a work night, and the practical part of my brain told me I should be sleeping. Together, we wolfed down the chips and dip, the carrot slices his mother had brought down, and gulped the now-warm cans of lemonade.

Then Aaron walked me home again, very slowly this time.

We were silent as usual until we were about halfway there, then I thought to say, "I forgot to tell you, I got a new job."

"Really?" Aaron asked, sounding concerned, "I thought you liked the one you had. What happened?" He smirked, "I thought you liked whacking and blowing!"

I barked out a laugh and shoved him, then I said, "Sorry, I wasn't clear. It's a new position, and it's good news. I'll be off earlier, and I'll have the whole weekend." I smiled at Aaron, and it went through my head while I said it, "I'll be able to spend more time with you."

Aaron leaned into me and whispered, "That would be nice."

I put my arm around him and asked, "So, what's up this weekend?"

He giggled, "Me?"

I pulled him closer and whispered, "Yeah, you." I had a sudden hesitation in my mind, and said, "I mean, if you're up for it."

Aaron giggled again, then pulled my free hand to his crotch, and said, "I'm up for it right now, Evan," then he laughed.

He was exactly, positively, one hundred percent correct, too. He was up, and his overall delicateness didn't translate into that region one bit.

I started walking faster, and when we got to the corner I pulled Aaron right across the street, past the front entrance to the house, and right to the back landing, and as soon as we got inside I pushed him down on the second step.

"What are you doing?" he cried, but I was down on him before he really got a chance to punctuate that.

Details aren't necessary, but for a slender boy Aaron had a healthy member, and I was only used to Chris, so I had to make adjustments.

Afterwards, we sat there for a little while, just sitting and contemplating. Aaron said, "I should go," and he smiled at me.

I asked, "Do you have to?" hoping he'd stay forever, even though I knew our reality was something different from perfection.

He licked his finger and touched my nose, "I could stay, but you have to get up in the morning." He smiled dreamily, then kissed me and said, "I can find my own way out."

I was in heaven, but thought to ask, "Did you see Billy today?"

Aaron smiled and said, "He said he was going fishing. He'll be back."

I felt like I was in a dream. "Do you like fishing, Aaron?"

He looked at me, "I don't know. Do you?"

I said, "Yeah, I like fishing," and Aaron just smiled.

He left by himself after awhile, and I stood there for a moment.

The last thing I heard was a shuddred, "Eww. Worms!"

That seemed funny to me, and I walked upstairs laughing quietly.

It had been four days, four days in July, and I was falling for Aaron Castle.

Falling fast and hard.

Continued ...

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