The sun. The grass. The fence. Yes, he even hated the fence. Ben hated all of it. He hated the court, the rackets, the exercise. After three hours of practice, his arms had the consistency of spaghetti noodles made of jello. Ben had only played tennis before for a single week, in his gym class, two years ago. He had hated every thwack of the racket sending the ball across the court. In most cases, when Ben managed to hit the ball at all, it went diagonally into the other side of the court—of another set of players.
Ben sheepishly thanked the girl in the adjacent court as she hit the tennis ball back over to Ben’s side. He had hit it into her court four times already, and each time she had been exceedingly nice about his aim being worse than that of a blind monkey on speed. Ben’s reason for being on a tennis court ran up to him.
“Dude, your serve sucks,” said Seth. Sweat matted his black hair close to his head. “So like, aside from your sucking, it’s fun, right? And it means we aren’t wasting our summer indoors.”
“Yeah, it’s great. And shut up, I just haven’t practiced in a while.” Or ever. Ben had failed the physical education tennis test. “When can we play again?” Ben thankfully did not drop his racket and collapse upon the ground. He could do that once he got home.
“We’re going to John’s tomorrow, right? And then I have a music lesson the day after so… Wednesday?”
“That works. I don’t have anything else planned.” Which wasn’t true. His sister had an extra ticket to a concert Wednesday, and by some amazing act of kindness, she’d offered it to Ben. Ben, however, would skip it to play tennis. If Seth hadn’t been standing there, Ben’s racket would have met with his forehead.
The things one will do for love.
Seth was, in Ben’s mind, the epitome of masculinity. From his dark skin the shade of red-brown earth, to the corded muscles in his arms, to his eyes like liquid emeralds, to his catlike–
“Please, shut the hell up,” said Jason. Ben groaned as Jason shoved him to the other end of the couch. He’d just finished Wednesday’s game of tennis with Seth. His serve hadn’t improved, and it didn’t help that Ben got distracted for at least five minutes every time Seth reminded him how much he sucked.
“But he’s just so–”
“Look, I appreciate that you trust me enough as a friend to blah blah blah you want to fuck Seth. Get over it. Or stop describing him like a character from my sister’s romance novels. Why don’t you just tell him?”
“He’s straight,” said Ben. He shifted so that his legs dangled over the end of the couch.
“You don’t know,” said Jason, rolling his eyes. “I mean, most people assume you’re straight if they don’t know you. Maybe Seth’s at the back of a walk-in closet like you used to be.”
“He has a girlfriend.”
“Could be bi.”
“He has a gay cousin. He’d be out. No, I know he’s straight.” Ben stared at the ceiling as he composed (silently) how to compare Seth to a summer’s day. Except summer reminded him of tennis. Ugh. Except tennis reminded him of Seth. Mmm. Jason thumped him on the head.
“Then like I said, kindly shut the hell up. And help me with my book report. I think I broke my spellcheck.”
The next time Ben and Seth played tennis, despite Ben finally managing to serve the ball without hitting the net (he still had to work on getting it into the right part of the court), Ben had a far less pleasant time than the previous two play sessions. This time, Ben and Seth weren’t playing by themselves. Seth had invited John, who told Jason, who called Myra, and since Myra came so did Kaitlyn, and because Kaitlyn hated for anyone to be left out of a group activity, she not only called Sandra, Aiden, and Cole, she made sure they all had rides. Ben could normally have dealt with the addition of seven people. He could not, however, take eight–especially when the eighth person was Seth’s girlfriend Samantha (who was one of the strongest players on the tennis team, surprise surprise).
Ben didn’t even get to play with Seth; he played doubles with Jason on his side, against Cole and Sandra. Ben didn’t get to look at Seth much, either. Jason smacked him with a racket every time Ben started to get distracted. Sandra and Cole won four out of five games. Ben’s arms still felt like spaghetti.
“So I asked him for a one-on-one game. Said I wanted to get better, but didn’t want to learn in front of the whole group.” Once again, Ben was on Jason’s couch, this time playing Wii Tennis while he drowned in angst. If only his video game skills translated to real-life hand-eye coordination.
“Okay, again, friendship, trust, blah, your hormones, blah blah, Seth’s straight, blah blah blah, angst. I appreciate that you think you’re in love or whatever.”
“But please, can’t you fawn over someone else? If not someone actually gay, then someone who doesn’t have a girlfriend?”
“Who? You mean like Cole? Or Aiden. He’s not really bi, but Sandra did talk him into wearing eyeliner and making out with Danny.”
“You’re missing the point,” said Jason. “I’m telling you to find another guy who might like guys. You never know.”
Ben scowled as he missed the virtual tennis ball. “Never know what?”
A sigh. “How dense you are,” said Jason.
In terms of learning tennis, the one-on-one day went pretty well. Ben finally served the ball without hitting the net and could also get it to the proper rectangle on the other side. He was getting better at returning the ball. He scored higher than love on a few games. His arms didn’t even feel like jelly.
In terms of spending time with Seth, the day totally and utterly failed more than any other day in the history of time.
“You’re getting it pretty well. Just takes practice,” said Samantha. She smiled as she handed Ben a bottle of water. “I hope you don’t feel weird about me helping you. Some boys have problems with girls helping them. But Seth didn’t want to leave you hanging even though he had to work today.”
“No problem,” said Ben. Except I’m in love with your boyfriend. He didn’t hate her. He envied her, yeah, but she was a nice person. He did, however, wish that she’d turn out to be engaged to some European monarch and she’d be swept away leaving Ben to comfort Seth and… And maybe Ben needed to stop reading Jason’s sister’s romance novels.
“Here’s the thing. I ask nicely. I smack you in the head. Neither gets results. Can we please move on to a subject not relating to your angst over straight boys?”
For once, they were on Ben’s couch instead of Jason’s. Ben threw a Cheeto at him. Somewhat impressively, Jason managed to catch it in his mouth.
“You could do lots of things with your time. Learn a foreign language. Take up a pottery class. Do my term paper.”
“I’m still amazed that you literally destroyed your spellcheck.”
“Point is,” said Jason, “you could be fixing my computer right now. But no, you’re wangsting–”
“Internet word. Wank angst. You’re wangsting over a straight guy. How do you know you’re not missing out on a plethora of guys who want in your pants?”
“I’m not missing out,” said Ben.
“How do you know?”
“Because I know.”
“I don’t think you do,” said Jason.
“I do so,” said Ben. He chose to stare at the ceiling and ignore Jason. He tried to ignore Jason, at any rate. Ignoring Jason was pretty hard when the guy was unbuttoning Ben’s jeans.
“Jason,” said Ben, voice tight, “you’re not gay.”
“You wouldn’t notice a gay boy if you sat next to him on his couch every evening complaining about your love for a straight boy. Which has been driving me crazy.”
“You’re not gay.”
“Yeah, I hate labels. They’re counter-productive to equalizing the differences in society.” Jason pulled his shirt over his head. He wasn’t muscular, but was fit. The dwindling sun filtering through the blinds cast highlights across his chest, and Ben always had been attracted to the birthmark on Jason’s–
“You’re. Not. Gay,” said Ben, hands on Jason’s shoulders.
“And you’re not going to wangst again in my presence,” said Jason. He leaned up, kissing the corner of Ben’s mouth before urging Ben to lift his arms to pull off his sweatshirt. “I swear if you say any name other than mine, I’ll punish you. Spank you, probably.”
It was not until they were both fully undressed with Jason sitting on Ben’s legs that Ben finally admitted that Jason was maybe not completely straight. Jason ran his hands up and down and everywhere over Ben’s chest, at once calming him and ensuring he wouldn’t move. Ben spread his legs so Jason could sit between them. Jason’s hands moved to Ben’s thighs, and began kneading tense muscles. Breathing and Jason were all Ben focused on. He muffled a groan as Jason smiled, leaning down and puffing breaths of hot air against Ben’s flushed dick.
“Jas–mm, fuck,” said Ben, closing his eyes as Jason teased the slit at the head, lapped at the heavy vein on the underside of his cock. Ben moan a wordless assent as his cock was fully enveloped in Jason’s mouth, tongue swirling around the crown, all heat and wetness and want. Jason’s nails dug into Ben’s paler skin as he gripped Ben’s thighs more firmly to prevent him from thrusting. His cheeks hollowed as he sucked Ben’s cock. Without any warning, Jason pulled away, and Ben jerked at the loss of contact, at the sudden cool air.
“Why’d… why’d you stop?” asked Ben, eyes unfocused. He placed his hand on Jason’s shoulder; Jason pressed a kiss against his palm.
Jason shifted, bringing their hips together. “Because,” said Jason, panting slightly, grinding their cocks together, “you’re not the only one who’s been having wangst lately.”
Jason wrapped a hand around their dicks, thumb smearing their pre-come. He jerked his hand erratically at first, until Ben’s fingers joined his and forced a steady rhythm. The feeling of flesh on flesh, the pressure of their fingers, their body heat, all of it, all of it, Ben loved all of it. His free hand wrapped around Jason’s neck, and he drew Jason closer until their lips met. The kiss was rough, new. They didn’t know how to fit their mouths together, didn’t know how to deal with the heat and the muffled cries and the unfocused eyes and–and then it just worked.
Ben thrust his tongue into Jason’s mouth, they breathed each other’s oxygen, shuddered against each other. Their hands worked faster and faster across their cocks until Ben came first, and he broke the kiss to place Jason’s name on equal level with God amidst a string of other curses, and Jason came not long after, saying the same, and a white-hot mess had splattered across their stomachs, and everything was heat and pleasure and even if they had a hard time shifting to a comfortable position on the couch, it was good. It felt right.
Jason kissed Ben’s neck. “So. We should go out.”
The tennis didn’t go away that summer. The rest of the group really liked to play and spend time together. Ben, although he was getting better, realized he didn’t like tennis. Like, he really didn’t like the sport. Maybe he could get his friends to switch to Frisbee. There was still an advantage to tennis, though. Ben got to watch the object of his affection stretch and get sweaty, and he got to fantasize about other things to make the object of his affection hot like that. Ben’s mind wandered into fantasies dangerously close to the stuff of bad romance novels. Jason smacked Ben’s legs with his racket.
“I appreciate it, really, but quit staring at me. Pay more attention to the game,” said Jason. “If John and Aiden win they won’t shut up about it.”
Ben raised an eyebrow. “The game’s more important than thinking about what it would be like if we fucked against the chain-link fence that’s around the courts?”
Jason didn’t have a reply for that, other than to space out as much as Ben did. They lost their match.
The things one will do for love.