Confessions Among Friends…
Dylan strolled through the front door of his family’s large faux-French Provincial home, a dance in his step and a grin on his face. Jake is gay, he sang in his head. My boy is gay.
Okay, so Jake wasn’t officially his boy, but a guy could dream. It made him feel much better knowing his feelings for Jake weren’t in vain and that a relationship might have a chance to develop between them. Possibly even more of a chance, if Dylan were to go by the cautious glances and shy uncertainty he’d picked up from the teenager. Jake had seemed extremely nervous about his reaction, and that should mean one of two things. He either worried that Dylan was biased against gays, which was a fair concern since they didn’t know each other that well yet, or Jake found him attractive and was offering a small scrap of himself for Dylan to grab hold of.
It was a big difference but, with his gaydar not fully operational, he wasn’t adept at reading signals from the other boy.
The only solution was for Dylan to be honest about his own sexuality and tell Jake that he was gay too. He should have come clean earlier with the guys, but he’d hesitated and lied to himself that he didn’t want to interrupt Jake’s story. But now? Yeah, he could do that. He could take that step out for him. The thought of being upfront with Jake actually brought Dylan a sense of peace, like a heavy load rolling off his shoulders.
It was everyone else he worried about.
Of all Dylan’s current friends, Spencer and Sage were his oldest, going all the way back to middle school after his family’s relocation from Anaheim. They were a year apart in age, but he and Spencer had met while sharing spots on the school water polo team. He even had an unrequited crush on Sage for a few months that he was never willing to explore, fearing it would spoil his friendship with her twin. Spencer hung out with Luis, and in his sophomore year, Sage began dating Noah. Sage also knew Kelsey, and Noah was ace with Marcus. It was like a growing vine that branched out and captured all of them into a tight unit of comrades.
So what were his friends going to think when he suddenly sprang his homosexuality on them? Part of him trusted them to be cool, but there was just enough doubt to make him wonder if the guys would accuse him of checking them out behind their backs. Dylan acted the part of the suave, upbeat college student who saw a silver lining in most situations, but to tell the truth, he’d always masked insecurity that being part of this crowd was a fluke that could turn on him instantly. It was the major reason he’d never told any of them, and now he saw the folly of waiting. Maybe better late than never, but never held a lot more appeal.
Of course, even if Dylan came out for Jake- only to Jake, that was just as wrong. If there was one thing Uncle Chris and Uncle Bruce had harped on, it was that closeted relationships were deep trouble and unwise for both parties. Hiding your feelings, sneaking around, always afraid of being found out. Love was difficult enough without the fear of discovery which was actually an offshoot of lack of trust. If you loved someone, you had to believe they would stand up for you and protect you. Being in the closet took that away.
Dylan sighed. Given that if he and Jake didn’t work out it might be all for naught, was he willing to open himself up to ridicule for the sake of a possible hook-up? Well, it wouldn’t be a hook-up. That sounded tawdry and seedy and far beneath the value he placed on Jake. Dylan was looking for full-on commitment, but for now he’d settle for his willingness to go out and see where it led. A smile, holding hands, a kiss. All the great romances through time had to begin somewhere.
So, hell yeah! Dylan didn’t know for sure that he was in love with Jake, but the roots were there. Jake had a depth to him that Dylan could get lost in, a vulnerability he wanted to protect and an openness that deserved honesty. Not to mention, they shared a lot of the same interests, and he was good-looking and had a wicked sense of humor. Dylan could see so much hurt in Jake due to the way his family, especially his father, had treated him in the past. Some of Jake’s mysteries remained untapped, and he wanted to explore them together. What Dylan truly wanted was a chance, but that meant embarking on a risk of his own, and soon.
Jake was putting the family room back to rights after Dylan and Noah left and hunched his shoulders to work the kinks out of his still-stiff neck. He had no idea what he had expected when he told Dylan he was gay but he felt let down. The only difference between now and three hours ago was that he wasn’t hiding anymore. But Dylan was not gay. He was not in love with him and, thankfully, wasn’t even aware that Jake was interested in him.
True, Dylan acted calm enough with none of the overreactions he’d feared, but an element was missing. And then he had to laugh at himself. Did he seriously suppose that Dylan was going to fall into his arms over his declaration? Announcing that he was gay didn’t mean squat to being in love with him if Dylan was straight. Not freaking out was not the same thing as reciprocation. It hurt.
He thought he’d feel better from having said it. Confession is good for the soul and all that. If anything, it piqued him that in so many ways, fantasy was a lot more palatable than reality. The fantasy was that Dylan was supposed to follow up on Jake’s announcement with one of his own. A flash of panic had gone through those beautiful silver-rimmed blue eyes the moment he really comprehended what Jake had blurted out, and then he took it all in stride and started to say something. Maybe he meant to ask a question, but then they shifted into George’s homophobia and why Jake was lying low in Aleppo Park. He had seen sympathy for his circumstances and disgust at his father, but no warm desire to take it to the next level. No spark.
Jake needed the spark.
On Saturday the telephone rang in the kitchen, and Marcus handed the receiver to Jake. “It’s your mom.”
Carolyn had called him several times since the surfing accident, whenever she could grab a few minutes to herself without her husband around. Thankfully, she and her sister, Patricia, were known for their long, light-hearted conversations, so George didn’t think the frequent communication odd. Both Jake and Carolyn knew it would be foolhardy for them to communicate by cell phone if they wanted his location to stay secret.
“Hi Mom,” Jake greeted her cheerfully.
Carolyn had come a long way since that May morning three weeks prior when she sent Jake south to stay with Pat and her family for his safety. First off, once her two older sons, David and Adam, located him and saw for themselves the bruises their father had painted on his body, they called her and gently remonstrated over how she could stand by and let him hurt Jake like that without coming to his aid. It was the wake-up call she needed. They urged her to seek out her own answers instead of simply accepting his bigotry as gospel. Jake, they told her, was perfectly normal and if she didn’t want to lose his respect and love, education would be a good place to begin.
A few days later, she happened to run into a friend at the supermarket. George had been ranting nonstop about Jake, and she was worried sick that he would guess his location, drag him home and beat him into submission. She broke down in the canned goods aisle, pouring her heart out about her son who was gay and terrified of his father. Her friend was sympathetic towards her but, more crucially, had an open mind and suggested several websites Carolyn could obtain information on homosexuality.
This led her to an ad for a church in northern Fresno and its pastor who agreed to set aside some time to counsel her. He was both friendly and knowledgeable, and when she explained her dilemma, his listened without judgment. He asked her a lot of questions, and she asked even more which he freely answered, backing his views up with Bible verses. She came away from the meeting not fully comfortable with Jake’s lifestyle, but she was at least convinced that his being gay was wired into him, not anything she as his mom had done wrong and not a choice he could make.
What Carolyn was not happy about was how her children had been driven away by George’s cruelty and rigid need for control. Childhood was so fleeting anyway, and now that her youngest was in college, she was having a hard time coping with her empty nest and how her boys had become adults practically under her nose. All three of them were beloved, and she never played favorites but Jake, her baby and the smallest, was special. Carolyn knew she’d have precious little time with him now that he was at Long Beach State- Christmas, maybe Spring Break and summer holidays, but she wasn’t prepared to give up his company completely. How distressing to realize that Jake, Adam and David would never willingly return home again, and it was her husband’s fault for driving them away.
His mother returned Jake’s greeting and asked about his sore neck. He thought he detected a nervous tremor in her voice. “What’s wrong, Mom,” he asked.
She laughed a little awkwardly. “I guess I should know better than to try to hide anything from you.”
Carolyn explained that she had been giving deep thought lately to marriage and family and came to the conclusion that she was unhappy and had been for a long time. “I don’t want you to worry, dear,” she told him, “but I’ve been to see a lawyer about getting a divorce.”
Jake wanted to congratulate her but thought it was the wrong thing to say. Why would you applaud the end of a marriage that had lasted for nearly thirty years? Instead: “You have a lot of strength, Mom, and I’m sure you’ll make the right decision in the end. Just promise me you’ll be careful because I don’t want Dad to hurt you too.”
Carolyn felt awful that Jake had to lump himself into the group of people George had hurt. “I will, Jake. And I’ll keep in touch to let you know how I’m doing.”
They assured each other of their love and support and rang off.
Jake returned to baseball day camp the following day. Even though it was challenging working with the campers, he was enjoying himself almost as much as the boys were. There were two eight-year-olds in the afternoon he had taken under his wing, neither of whom had ever played baseball before. Both had the talent and mental toughness for the sport, and he foresaw good things in their future if they continued on.
Jake and Dylan usually had their lunch break at the same time and tried to eat together. Nothing more was said about Jake’s Saturday night disclosure; it was as if the door had been cracked open and then slammed shut. Neither did Dylan ask about the abuse, as if by agreement to stick with lighter topics. They conversed about the camp in general and the children they taught. Jake usually finished in the afternoon before Dylan and didn’t stick around.
Noah phoned Marcus on Tuesday night and asked if the two of them wanted to surf a dawn patrol the next day. According to the surfline, the best breaks would be at Lower Trestles beach with four-to-five foot surf, a little on the inconsistent side with some short lulls between waves. Jake, who hadn’t been back out on the water since his accident, agreed it would be fun. It was decided he’d take his own truck separately because he had to leave earlier than Marcus for camp, and 5:30 a.m. caught him sitting the lineup with most of the crew.
All except Kelsey, a girl who hated mornings, and Dylan who gave no reason for his absence.
Jake found himself floating on his board more than going after the swells, maybe being a little overly cautious. Sage had caught a clean-up, a larger than average wave in a set, and had done this awesome backhand curve to get to the bottom and ride it until it turned to slop. When she paddled back out, she ended up right next to Jake.
“So I heard you’ve been keeping secrets from us,” she ventured timidly, cupping water over her wetsuit to rinse off a large blob of sand and unsure of how he’d take the statement. “Noah told me about your Xbox party last Saturday.”
“Secrets? What secrets?” Spencer squinted at them, unaware of what they were talking about. Sage’s voice had carried.
Jake shrugged and she threw an apologetic glance in his direction but it was of no account. “I’m gay,” he said.
Luis was watching them too and smiled. “Lo que haces con tu vida es ninguno de mis negocios.”
Everyone threw him a befuddled look. “In English, homey,” Sage urged.
“It means,” Luis was quick to translate, “what you do with your life is none of my biz. You don’t seem like a jerk, so…”
“Whatever,” Spencer said, laughing. “As long as you’re not ogling my ass, I can handle it.”
“And what if I was? Jake picked up the teasing tone in his voice.
Spencer leveled him a mock-threatening stare. “I’d have to sick Kelsey on you.”
“Speaking of which,” Sage suggested softly.
“I don’t care, Sage, honestly.” Jake knew it would be impossible to keep this information secret and doing so would cause problems. “It’s probably better if she finds out now. It won’t change how she feels about me anyway.”
A nice-sized swell appeared that was already forming a lip, and Jake signaled he was going after it. It curled and lifted, and he made the drop and swung on to the shoulder, right at the edge of the strong barrel. Nothing beat the freedom and exhilaration of surfing. He just wished that Dylan wasn’t always so busy at home that it kept him from spending time on the water. Bending his knees, he cut back and forth, taking it all the way in to shore.
He met Marcus up on the sand. His cousin stared at him as he pulled his shortie suit off to clean up and get ready to leave. Something in his longing for the man he loved must have shown on his face because Marcus snickered and shook his head.
“What?” Jake asked, checking his body out for stuck on pieces of seaweed or anything else that invited humor.
“I don’t know what’s up with you,” Marcus explained, “but you have been acting like a lovesick fool ever since you arrived here. I know you must have your eye on someone; I just don’t know who. So why don’t you tell me. I promise I won’t laugh.”
Jake blushed at the accuracy of his cousin’s statement, but there was no way. “Sorry, bro. Wild horses couldn’t drag that secret out of me.”
“Aha! So you admit there’s a someone.”
Jake grinned and tried to joke his way out of the corner. “Gotcha!” He picked up his cell to check the time. “No, I’m perfectly fine. But for now I gotta ghost or I’ll be late for work.”
“You can’t ignore me forever you know.”
“Yes I can, Marc, because there’s nothing to tell.”
Marcus observed him trudging up to the outdoor showers, his board nudged securely under his arm. It didn’t mean squat that Jake denied being in love, he was certain of what his green eyes told him and the vibes radiating off the boy. In his head, he considered every male friend that he’d introduced Jake to, like posting one of those online image slide shows. Next, no, not that one. Next. Dylan Moore. Hmm, possibly. No, Marcus had warned Jake that Dylan was straight before they ever met, so he was out. Next.
Shortly after twelve, Jake was sitting at a rec center picnic table eating a turkey and avocado sandwich from the local Subway shop and describing that morning’s session on the waves. “You should’ve been there,” he told Dylan. “The sets were fairly clean with nice walls. It was sick.”
“I wanted to be,” Dylan muttered sadly, taking a bite from his own ham sub. “Erin spent the night babysitting for friends of my parents, and I had to pick her up first thing.”
They passed words and information back and forth, swapping surf stories and experiences. This was Jake’s best time of the day. Sitting with Dylan and catching up, finding some subject to discuss where dialogue flowed between them, never uneasy or strained. The cadence of Dylan’s smooth voice was entrancing. One on one conversation gave him a legitimate reason to stare without having to explain himself.
He watched how Dylan’s face lit up in excitement. Every small nuance reflected on a different surface, the hollow of his cheekbone or the curve of his brow, making Jake shiver. The silver around the iris thinned out into the narrow ring so that the blue shone brighter. The sleek expanse of white-blonde bangs that he shook out of those eyes with a practiced throw of his head. His hands were so expressive when he spoke, his long fingers curving, the pads slightly puckered from spending hours in the pool and nails trimmed flat across. Jake could look and listen all day.
Young and inexperienced as he was, Jake knew deep devotion when he felt it. Being unable to share his feelings for Dylan twisted his heart because he yearned to be open and real with him. Admit it, come what may, and yet his courage failed him. Or maybe, his self-preservation kicked in, seeing as how calm acceptance that Jake was gay didn’t exactly equal joyous reception of his love. He had tried to be happy and carefree by damming up these unruly emotions but it was impossible. That Jake wasn’t loved back- could not be loved back- was like a stabbing pain in his gut. It depleted his soul.
I have to get out of here, he thought wildly. The only cure for his love was a physical break from Dylan, to not see him every day so his heart could heal. Of course, reality asserted itself right on the heels of unbalance, and Jake knew he couldn’t just up and leave Aleppo Park. He’d committed to the parks and rec day camp, and he had no place to go. He would have to stick it out until the end of August when the next university term started and keep his distance from Dylan up at Long Beach.
“Are you alright, Jake?” Dylan asked. He’d been watching him for several minutes as Jake sat quietly, mechanically chewing his bites of turkey, bread and vegetables. Several emotions flitted across his face, each one progressively darker and more heartrending. It was like seeing a cloud-strewn sky as the blue attempted to break through, only to be thwarted as the overcast covered it. Dylan sensed that Jake was withdrawing from him, inch by inch, without knowing why, but how to ask without exposing his own troubled thoughts.
Jake sighed and seemed to come back to himself. “I’m fine. Tired, you know. It’s probably because it’s the end of the week.”
Dylan nodded. “Sure. Working with kids all day tends to do that to you.”
So does tripping between the highs and lows of my emotions, thought Jake, and not being sure what to expect.
Friday night he climbed into bed and stretched out against his pillows. His neck had improved vastly over the past six days and now hardly gave him more than an occasional twinge of discomfort. He felt more than twinges in his shoulders and upper back, but that came with the territory of baseball. Even if he wasn’t actually playing with a team, demonstrating the right way to hold a bat and throw a ball and the constant, everyday drills at camp took its toll.
It had been such a busy five days, and he was glad it was the weekend again. The first session of day camp had ended the day before and, despite his enjoyment of working with the kids, Jake really was exhausted. He’d spent the morning at a pre-scheduled round-up meeting that would follow every camp session to discuss how the two weeks had panned out. The camp was deemed a success, and strengths and weaknesses were relayed to the appropriate assistant, but overall, Coach Abel was pleased by how well the boys meshed as a team and translated their individual skills. On Monday a new crop of students would fill up the morning and afternoon slots.
Jake was given the rare afternoon off and, after picking up some McDonalds chicken nuggets and fries, he went home to vegge out and watch a movie with Marcus. Jake was fairly sure something would come up with the guys over the weekend; it always did, and he hoped he found an inner source of energy to pull him through it. Summer was hopping right along.
Somewhere in the bleary, still-dark hours of the early morning, his bedroom door opened in near silence. “Jake.” The voice was a whisper. His only answer was a sigh as he turned over in his sleep and settled back into the coolness of the sheets.
“Jake.” The quiet voice came again, nearer now, and he perceived a presence near the foot of the bed. A lingering hand on the covers to guide his way up as the person crept closer, tiptoeing cautiously so as not to awaken anyone else in the house.
Without a thought of fear because of the familiarity, Jake knew the person was right next to him, and he tried to open his eyes, but his eyelids were stuck fast. “What?” he thought he murmured back.
Soft fingers reached out and stroked his cheek, and he nuzzled against their soothing warmth. The touch was both relaxing and arousing, and he could feel his dick twitch under the thin cotton as it quickly began to fill out and harden. He moved again on the bed to stretch and give his cock room to grow, and it arched up into a thick column that was like steel. The reassuring hand trailed down his throat to his bare shoulder and pushed him gently on his back. It was such a natural thing, he followed subconsciously as if the idea was his own. The sheet at his groin tented with his aching erection that lifted off his torso, and he reached to wrap his own fingers around the velvety shaft.
“No, Jake,” the disembodied voice breathed. “Let me.”
Beginning at his jaw, soft kisses skimmed down his body as the cooling hand pushed his covers down past his hips, exposing his stiff, throbbing cock. Jake gasped as the fingers drifted down his dick from tip to root, gliding through the trimmed ends of his pubes until they rested against his scrotum. Simultaneously, the flat of a tongue followed his sternum south to dip into the valleys and ridges of his abdominal muscles and circle his navel. Jake struggled to keep from thrusting, but his willpower was set on a low hum, and the twin sensations of digits and mouth felt so good.
“Please,” he moaned, his hips lifting off the bed.
He heard a low chuckle from below. “So impatient, Jake.” His groin tried to follow the direction of the voice. “Hold still.”
With bated breath, Jake lay as quietly as his tingling body would allow, willing Dylan to take in his cock and suck on it. The tip was already dripping precum on his belly, and it was agony. Precious seconds ticked by until finally a gentle puff of warm air descended across his weeping hard-on, and he tried not to cry out in frustration. Then he felt the head being nudged ever-so-slightly by a lip that slid easily over the precum welling from the slit. The tongue darted out to lick at the growing pool of pearly essence, tasting him.
“Mmmm,” Jake heard appreciatively, and he almost bucked from the glorious friction. He moaned again.
The moist tongue lapped tenderly at the spongy head, circling the ridge of the oval corona and tucked in behind to draw his cock into the moist warmth of a mouth. “Oh yes, Dylan,” he groaned as the lips sucked the hole like a straw and pulled more precum from him. The muscled tip traced over the top and down the other side, bathing him in saliva and brushing against the tender nerve endings found there. Jake gasped again, his hips perched for take-off.
Dylan’s fingers began to stroke his balls, raising and rolling each testicle in separate small circles while the little finger gently caressed his perineum between wrinkled sac and his puckered anus. The stimulation sent Jake’s bliss into overdrive, and he couldn’t help but writhe beneath his lover. He suddenly felt his entire cock engulfed between Dylan’s lips, and he screamed at the exquisite pleasure. Tongue and lips worked both the head and shaft as Dylan bobbed up and down above him, slowly taking ever more into his mouth.
Dylan’s lips pressed against his pubic bone as he swallowed the head of Jake’s penis, the tight throat muscles gripping and fondling him. It was too much; from his tailbone came the radiating explosion of a furious orgasm, causing the muscles in his pelvis and torso to clench and spasm, and he shuddered and moaned through his release. White-knuckled fingers scrabbling in the sheets, Jake gave in to the ecstasy as hot semen raced through his cock and splashed against his chest and belly in sizzling streams.
“Fuck, Dylan,” he groaned. His climax rolled through him in waves before settling into a gentle afterglow, and he opened his jade eyes to total blackness and an empty bed, save himself.
What? Where? It was real; Jake knew it was real, and his vision shifted blindly around his empty bedroom, seeking Dylan out in the dark corners. Finally his brain took in what his own sight was proving- it was all a dream, a very vivid and intense wet dream, but he was alone. His cock was softening back into his brown bush, his balls thrummed with the ferocity of their churning, and he felt a sated exhaustion steal over him. Jake was fairly sure he had cum without even touching himself. He groaned and dropped back into his pillows, his fingers absently running through the now-cooling sperm on his stomach.
Oh Dylan, I want you so damn bad, his heart cried out and his misty eyes followed as tears began to fall.
The next morning Jake was supposed to surf with the crew but begged off. After his impassioned fantasy in the wee hours, he had fallen into a conflicted sleep jumbled by desire and reality, and he rose four hours later washed out and jumping at every noise. Marcus was gone, but he left a text message saying the boys intended to meet at Denny’s in San Clemente for breakfast. He would text him the time, but Jake was expected to be there.
“Wonderful,” he griped, throwing the cell phone on his bed. What did it take to get some rest and privacy?
Still, when Marcus finally called at nine, Jake hopped in his Ranger and took the overpass to head across the I-5 to one of San Clemente’s most visible landmarks. He arrived just a few minutes behind them, and they settled into a table in the back. A waitress came by; the others had huge appetites from their morning on the water, but Jake tried to settle for coffee, black. His stomach was upset, and he wasn’t sure the strong beverage wouldn’t make it worse. Marcus ordered toast for him.
“Dude, you don’t look so hot,” Noah stated. Jake was pale and shaking. “Are you alright?”
Jake nodded weakly. “I just slept bad last night. I’ll be fine.”
“I’m glad you’re here,” Spencer said once the woman left. “I was just going to tell everyone what Kelsey said when Sage told her you were gay.”
Jake buried his head in the crook of his arm and swiped his hand along the back of his neck. “I can hardly wait. I’m sure it was nothing good.”
It sounded as if he was making a joke, and yet it didn’t. The rest of the men stared at each other over Jake’s bowed head. He was usually so carefree and buoyant, but today he really did look like shit. His face was getting whiter by the second and eyes, bloodshot, as if he’d been sleeping on nails.
“Are you sure you’re okay,” Luis asked.
“Yes,” came the muffled reply. “So tell me what Kelsey said and let’s get it over with.”
“It was okay for Sage to tell her, wasn’t it? Noah asked uncertainly, picking at his napkin. “She didn’t think you would mind.”
“It’s not a problem. We talked about it on Thursday, and I told her that if she tried to keep it quiet, Kelsey would freak.”
Seeing as how Jake was less than enthusiastic, Spencer decided to tone down his story. There was no use in telling him and the others how Kelsey had shocked Sage into total silence by going into a scary homophobic rant as soon as she heard about Jake. She didn’t use any labels, but her message was clear. Then apparently, noticing the quiet surrounding her, she quickly saw she was digging herself into another hole and backtracked. “I know I shouldn’t have said it like that,” she quipped as a big, fake smile pulled up the corners of her mouth. “It just caught me by surprise. Who would have known that Jake was gay?”
“So, what are you going to do?” Sage asked, everything hanging in the balance.
Kelsey broke into giggles. “Nothing, Sage, chillax. I have no desire to do anything that will hurt one precious hair on Jake’s head. His secret is safe with me.”
Sage had regarded her suspiciously. “It isn’t a secret. If it were, you would be the last person Jake would want to know.”
“Ouch,” Kelsey said coldly. “It’s nice to know I’m so wanted. But I guess I earned it.”
“Sage couldn’t tell how she’s going to act,” Spencer finished. “With her, it’s unpredictable.”
“Yup, that’s about what I expected,” Jake sighed to his annotated tale. “Kelsey will always be Kelsey until she meets a person she cares about enough to change for.”
“Don’t stress,” Noah added. “Sage didn’t fall for her shit and thinks you’re cool. She has your back.”
Jake nodded numbly. The only voice he could center on was Dylan’s. Calling his name in the dark. Taking his cock in his mouth and sucking him into oblivion. Waking up to discover he was still alone because he loved Dylan who didn’t…
“Jake, you’re worrying me, bro,” Marcus insisted. “You seem so distracted. Are you feeling well?”
He needed air, but he didn’t want to make a scene by getting up and leaving. He knew the guys didn’t understand and were trying to bring him out of his funk. But there was no getting away from this.
Breakfast came, and everyone dug in. Jake nibbled on the toast which, to his surprise, settled his stomach. Marcus even compelled him to take a couple bits of scrambled egg. Twenty minutes later, the table cleared, the crew was indulging in their food comas.
Dylan was worried about Jake who was acting decidedly un-Jake-like. In a moment of swift clarity he saw the real Jake, a man in a lot of emotional pain that he had been hiding. But why? There was definite tenseness over the past several days making Dylan speculate whether there was a correlation between his reserve and Saturday’s revelation when he told them he was gay. Knowing he was falling for the younger kid, was there was a secondary reason for Jake’s disclosure? Had Jake hoped for more support when he came out that had fallen by the wayside? Maybe he was feeling plenty alone after all his father had put him through.
“Look dudes,” Dylan said quietly, his face reflecting the stress from the secret he carried. “I probably should have told you this a while ago, seeing as how I’ve known for the past couple of years.”
Four blank faces stared back at him. All except Jake who still had a faraway look on his. He indicated the teenager. “And then he was brave enough last weekend to be honest with us, which is like… solid. So I thought, better late than never, right?” He let out a wry laugh, but nobody else caught the humor.
Spencer stared at him somberly and began to mist up. “Are you sick, Dylan? Because if you’re going to tell me you have cancer or some shit…”
Jake had been paying only minimal attention to the conversation, but he heard the word ‘cancer’ and his head popped up in alarm. Who had cancer?
Dylan grimaced. “What the… No, Spencer, I don’t have cancer. Where did you get that idea?”
“You’re acting kinda weird,” Luis explained, glancing at Spencer with concern. “It’s creeping us out.”
Wow, Jake thought, Luis is right- Dylan is kind of tense. He says he isn’t sick but he looks it.
Dylan shook his head, fighting the urge to snicker. “No… see, you’re all my crew, so I know we’re good. But this is important to me and Jake came along to remind me that I have to be true to myself. Now is the best time.”
Dylan’s hesitation reminded Marcus of a different person but a similar situation. The night Jake had arrived in Aleppo Park and had shared… That might be a stretch, but it would certainly explain some things. It was worth an educated guess.
“He’s not saying he’s sick, are you Dylan?” He gave a confident nod of encouragement.
Dylan smiled back, grateful that at least one of his friends was quick enough to figure it out without being told. He took a deep breath, steeling himself for a negative reaction from the others.
“I’m not sick. I’m gay.”
Dylan’s gay? Noah thought idly. “Really?” When he looked at Dylan’s tortured face, he had his answer. “Radical, bro.”
Jake had fallen back into his semi-aware state after realizing that nobody had cancer, but he couldn’t miss the near-total silence engulfing the table’s occupants and looked up. Everyone was staring at Dylan. Did he miss something important?
“So what was high school?” he heard Spencer ask awkwardly, and thought it an odd question.
Dylan shrugged. “I don’t know. Finding myself maybe? I didn’t even begin to suspect until the middle of my senior year. Until today, the only people I’ve come out to are my family.
Jake’s head whipped around to stare at Dylan who was looking right at him. Did he just announce what Jake hoped…?
“You’re gay?” He had to make sure.
Deep exhale because this was going better than Dylan thought it would. “Yeah.”
Jake couldn’t fight the smile that suddenly wreathed his face. He wanted to leap across the table and throw himself in Dylan's arms, but so not cool. Oh, man, this was the best news he could possibly imagine. Dylan was gay! Meaning that nothing was going to stand in his way now. It was better than the biggest Christmas present he could imagine, better than all his birthdays put together, all tied up in a blue and blonde ribbon.
He knew he was acting like a lovesick fool and tried to rein back on both his spiraling giddiness and what was certain to be a dead giveaway of his feelings for Dylan. Okay, realistically, maybe he being gay was definitely a huge step in the right direction, but it was still only one step. Being gay didn’t necessarily equal liking Jake back, but they could logically be together without fear of recrimination. Still, he couldn’t mask the hunger that sprang, full-blown, into his green eyes.
Marcus heard Dylan say it and confirm it. He could feel a piercing gaze slightly behind him from where Jake sat, and turned his head a little to see his cousin looking at Dylan like… like he was the only person in the room. Eyes dreamy, totally still, smiling as if all his wishes had come true. Four weeks of memories sailed through Marcus’ brain, and it all fell into place.
Jake was in love with Dylan.
How had they missed it? What with the way Jake was always ready to hang with Dylan and how he kind of went quiet around him? He probably had been from the start, even with his own warning that Dylan was straight. Well so much for that.
Noah had always been able to pick up on Marcus’ non-verbal clues. It gave their teachers fits in high school, and now he was reading his friend’s face like it was Braille. The smirks and snapping eyes had Noah’s own gaze settle on a serenely smiling Jake who was watching Dylan in a way that could only be described as needy. Sudden understanding hit him across the head like a two-by-four, and he had to immediately turn around so as not to give his wolfish grin away.
Dylan was watching Jake watching him, but he wasn’t picking up any signals from him. He was smiling but silent, not really listening. His eyes appeared to be sort of star-shot though, so maybe there was hope. Hmm, yeah, he might have a chance here if he was careful.
Gently Marcus moved his foot across under the table and nudged Spencer’s leg, making his friend give a quick glance at him. “Look at Jake,” he mouthed. When confusion crumpled the blonde’s face, he mimed it slower.
“Look. At. Jake.”
Slowly, surreptitiously so he wouldn’t be caught staring, Spencer slid his gaze in Jake’s direction. Not that the kid would notice. He was totally focused on Dylan with a beatific smile on his lips, lit from the inside out. And Dylan was smiling back.
Like Noah, Spencer ducked his head to hide his own smirk and stared at the crumbs of egg-washed hash brown on his plate. Under their very noses, these two? This was wild.
Another one bites the dust, thought Luis, humming the old Queen tune to himself. First Jake and now Dylan. It wasn’t a mean thought, just a stunned but factual one. He wasn’t exactly picking up the vibes between the two boys, but he was aware that the tension in Jake had dissipated. Dylan was grinning like a fool. A kind of peace had fallen over them all and it was a delightful feeling.
Dylan felt good. Everyone was cool, no recrimination, no noticeable prejudice. Luis was humming. Spencer, Marcus and Noah had funny grins on their faces and weren’t even looking at him. But Jake… Jake was staring at him with the most enchanting expression. Happy. Hopeful. Relieved. Maybe everything was going to be alright.
“Okay, now we all know,” Luis softly summed it up.
(To be continued...)