“Dude, forget the damn tie!” Ian said. “Val’s going to murder us if we’re late.”
Ian and Dusty had headed out from Chicago an hour early, expecting that it would leave them plenty of time to check into their hotel and get dressed.
Unfortunately, their plans had failed to account for a multi-car pile up accident on the highway caused by an errant cow. The standstill traffic had eaten up all that time and then some, leaving them cramped in a public bathroom stall in a mad rush to throw their clothes on and get to the ceremony.
Ian crammed his feet into his tight leather shoes. His rental suit was stiff and formal, inhibiting his movements as he struggled to lace them. His thick, curly dark hair was overdue for a haircut, but he never got around to it. Instead, for now, he had to keep it tamed in a little bun.
“Ugh! Fuck it!” Dusty hissed, yanking apart the knot in his tie.
Ian sighed. Even after a few years apart, he could tell when Dusty was distressed. Trying to fix his tie now was risky when they were cutting it so close, but Ian knew that if he didn’t step in now, Dusty would be sulking about it the whole night. “Here, just let me do it, okay?” he said, his voice soft.
“Fine,” said Dusty.
That was as close as Ian was going to get to a thank you, but he would take it.
Ian stepped in front of him and leaned in close. With practiced movements, Ian unraveled the lopsided knot that Dusty had thrown together and slipped it into a tidier shape. “There, that should do it,” he said, tucking the tail in and stepping back.
Even with the tie, Dusty’s outfit looked a little plain – a nice thrifted button-down and a pair of khakis were the best he could manage on his med student budget – but it would have to do. At least he’d had the foresight to iron his shirt before heading out, and a little extra swipe of deodorant certainly didn’t hurt. He swiped a comb quickly through his straw-colored hair and flung it back in the bag.
“Okay, let’s book it.” Ian hoisted his bag over his shoulder and flung the stall door open. He and Dusty scrambled out of the bathroom and rushed to the ceremony. For once, being from a small town had a distinct advantage: just about every wedding, memorial service, and graduation ceremony was held in the exact same set of hotel banquet halls, and they could sneak into the audience before the ceremony started.
They ignored the stares and whispers from the other guests as they darted towards the last pair of empty chairs and claimed a seat. “Shit, that was close,” Dusty wheezed, stopping to catch his breath.
“Way too close,” Ian agreed.
Seconds later, the music started. Ian was grateful to have the attention drawn away from him as the officiant walked down the aisle.
“Hey,” Dusty whispered into his ear. “Do you think she’s doing this for her mom? Having her wedding here, I mean.”
Ian shrugged. He never thought Val would come back to their hometown, let alone get married here. He always assumed that their small town peers – and her late father, once local reverend to the Methodist church – would not likely have taken kindly to her inclination towards women. But to his surprise, as far as he knew everyone here was just happy that she was happy.
Next, Val herself walked down the aisle, beaming. In some ways, it was the same old Val – she still had her demure smile and quick wit – but she had long since abandoned her waist-length braid for a short crop and her combat boots for a sensible pair of loafers. She’d cleaned up nice in her all-white tux, perfectly tailored for the occasion. Since she’d finally come out of the closet, her confidence had risen as well. She no longer carried the weight of her secret on her shoulders, and she stood tall and proud as she awaited her bride-to-be.
Back when Val, Dusty, and Ian were in high school, their hometown wasn’t exactly progressive. Being openly queer was risky when everyone knew each other, and there were already plenty of other ways to commit social suicide. While the rest of their friends had their first kisses and first dances and first sloppy handjobs under the bleachers, the three of them mostly just hung out and played video games while avoiding romantic relationships entirely.
For a small-town lesbian ceremony, Ian was surprised at just how ordinary it seemed. Everyone seemed supportive, or at the very least pretended to be, as Val married the woman of her dreams. Lack of a groom aside, the ceremony looked no different from the many straight unions he’d seen happen in this hotel, from the typical sermon readings to the sashes on the chairs.
“And with the power vested in me by the Universal Life Church and the state of Illinois, I now pronounce you wife and wife. It is my great honor to present to you: Mrs. and Mrs. Valerie and Sarah Lowell-Pedersen!” The officiant gestured towards the newlyweds, and the guests gave a round of polite applause.
After the crowd dispersed, Ian and Dusty headed next door for the reception.
“Sarah must have planned all of this,” Dusty said, looking around the venue. As far as they had remembered, Val had never been much of a romantic, but the site was packed with loving details. Tea candles and mason jar bouquets wrapped in fairy lights adorned the tables. Photos of the brides flashed across a projector screen. A handmade wooden tree sign laid atop the guest table, ready for thumbprints and guest signatures. An antique mirror, propped against the wall, had the table chart written out in white ink.
Ian found his and Dusty’s names listed under Table 12, down at the very bottom of the chart. The placement stung a little at first: after all, she did consider them her best friends in high school. But that was a lifetime ago, when their identities were still nascent and “best friends” were usually a matter of time spent in forced proximity. Considering that they barely talked since graduation, Ian supposed he and Dusty were lucky to be included at all.
“Aww, man, she put us in the troublemaker corner,” Dusty said. Val and Sarah had placed them in the nosebleeds, tucked away in the corner of the banquet hall with a few miscellaneous strangers who weren’t slotted in elsewhere. To their benefit and detriment alike, there was no one else from their school here that would know them.
After a mediocre catered dinner, a few forced conversations with the other strangers at the table, and heartfelt but ultimately forgettable speeches from the wedding party, Ian and Dusty abandoned their table for the open bar.
By the time Dusty had knocked back a few beers (and Ian nursed a single gin and tonic), Val’s mother approached the two of them with a glass of wine in hand. “Well, if it isn’t the neighbor boys. You know, I always thought it would be one of you,” she said.
“Hi, Carol,” Ian said politely. “Good to see you. What would be one of us?”
“Oh, you know,” she said, swirling the glass around in her hand. “Marrying my daughter.”
Dusty nearly spat out his own drink. “Haha, no way,” he said jovially, waving his hand. “We all know that she’s about as straight as I am.”
Ian’s eyes widened, and Carol’s eyes narrowed. Dusty had never come out to anyone in their hometown before, let alone so casually the conservative minister’s wife. She crossed one arm over the other, her mouth hardening into a tight line.
Dusty didn’t seem to notice the sudden change of atmosphere. “Yeah, I’m about as straight as–”
“Yes, yes, a Mobius strip,” Ian said quickly, half smiling and half grimacing. He grabbed Dusty’s hand. “We all remember your topology phase. It was funny the first few dozen times, Dusty, but I think we should–”
Dusty brushed his hand away. “Don’t be rude, Ian. I was going to say a Klein bottle this time. Do you know what a Klein bottle is?”
No, Ian did not remember what a Klein bottle was, but that wasn’t important right now. He had to change the subject quickly, before he could upset Carol any further.
“It’s that weird bottle-looking thing with the swirly neck. It’s got no inside or outside or edges,” Dusty said. He traced his forefinger in the best approximation of the impossible shape and grinned. “Not straight at all. You know. Like me.”
Carol took a sip from her wine glass. “So it was your fault, then. I should have known.”
Dusty blinked. “What’s my fault?”
She let out a long, weary sigh. “I knew there was something wrong with you boys. All that time you spent with my daughter, and neither one of you ever made a single move on her. It’s no wonder she turned out like this.”
Ian’s hair bristled on the back of his neck. “Turned out like what?” he said.
“You know what I mean,” she said sharply, furrowing her brow.
“No, I don’t think I do,” Dusty said. He slowly placed his empty bottle on the bar.
“You’re not going to make me say it, are you?” she said.
“No, ma’am, I won’t make you say it,” Dusty said.“I won’t make you say that we – a couple of fruity little queers in our good, god-fearing little village – turned your daughter into giant homo just like us.” He took Ian’s hand in his own, refusing to break eye contact with her as he drew it in and kissed the top of it.
“Dusty!” Ian hissed, equally impressed and mortified.
“You’re lucky Paul isn’t here to see this foolishness,” Carol muttered. “I always warned him that the two of you would lead her astray. Do you know how much I’ve suffered, knowing that I would lose my only daughter too if I didn’t go along with this… this mockery of the holy union of marriage?”
Dusty took a long, deep breath through his nose.
Ian could see him struggling to keep his cool. “Come on,” he said softly, squeezing his hand. “Let’s back off. This isn’t worth it. ”
Dusty braced himself, staring Carol dead in the eye. “Fine. But before we go…” He leaned in, kissed Ian hard on the lips, then dragged him onto the dance floor.
Ian, shell shocked, could do little more than follow along. “I can’t believe you just did that,” he said incredulously, touching his own lips with his fingertips. That was the first time anyone, ever, had kissed him, and it was in the heat of a petty feud.
“Sorry,” Dusty muttered, scratching the back of his head. “I didn’t mean to violate your personal space like that, I just… I spent so much time hiding who I am because of people like her. And on her own daughter’s wedding day, too.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ian said, the tips of his ears turning pink. “It was a good cause.”
And a good kiss, he didn’t add.
Val strode up to the two of them in her snow white suit. “Oh my god, you guys,” she said, going in for a hug. “I’m so glad you made it. It’s been so long! And since when have you two been a thing? If I knew, I would have put you both on the same invite,” she added, placing a hand on her hip.
“Oh, um, we’re not–” Ian started, but Dusty elbowed him in the ribs.
“Never mind us,” Dusty said. “I can’t believe you’re married, Val!”
“I know, right?” she said, clasping her hands together giddily. She looked back with a fond smile at Sarah, who was dutifully bouncing up and down with the flower girl and ring bearer. “I love her so much.”
“I’m glad you’ve found each other,” Ian said, and he meant it. It couldn’t have been easy, pursuing a love that came at odds with her upbringing then working hard to honor them both.
“Thank you. I hope you find happiness, too,” she said. “I missed you two. Let’s catch up soon, okay?” She hugged them again and went to go join her wife.
“Come on, let’s go dance,” Dusty said, taking Ian’s hand again.
At the end of the night, they hauled their luggage up the stairs and headed to the room. Ian swiped the key card and they walked inside. He turned the lights on, and what he saw nearly made him drop his bag.
In the middle of the room, where there should have been two beds, there was only one.
“I didn’t order this,” Ian muttered. It was bad enough his nerves were already on fire from that encounter with Carol. He wasn’t sure he could handle the tension of sharing a bed after that.
“Oh, shit,” Dusty said. “Don’t worry, man, I’ll take the pull-out bed.” He jutted his thumb towards the couch in the corner: a sad, flimsy looking thing which likely had a thin and scratchy blanket to go with it.
Ian couldn’t let him sleep on that awful couch. Surely it wouldn’t be so bad if they shared the bed. It was a king size. They’d have plenty of room to sleep if it came down to it. Even if Dusty was a loud snorer and kicked around in his sleep, it would only be for one night. And if he got cold, he wouldn’t have to cross the room to turn up the thermostat. He could just scoot up closer to Dusty and bask in his space heater of a body. It could be nice, in fact.
And then Dusty could wrap his warm, muscular arms around him, pulling him close to his chest…
Ian flinched. Where did that thought come from?
“It’s just a bed,” Ian said, before he could stop himself. “We can share it for tonight.”
“Oh. You sure?” Dusty said, cocking his head. “I know you like your personal space, and I’m a bit of a blanket hog, and–”
“It’s fine,” he said, even as the blood rushed to his face.
“All right, if you say so,” Dusty said, shrugging. He took a few tottering steps before he belly flopped into the bed, letting out a huge sigh. “My god. I can’t believe it. Did you see how pretty she is? Val looks so good, oh my god. She’s a total babe, Ian. She’s stunning.”
Ian laughed. “What happened to your…” He pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to remember. “Your, um… your bottle thing. The Klein bottle.” Fuck. Words weren’t happening the way he wanted them. He laughed again.
Dusty laughed too. “Dude, what?”
“I thought you were all… swirly,” he said. He mimicked a poor approximation of the Klein bottle’s shape with his fingers, then plopped down onto the bed next to him.
Dusty rolled onto his back. “Swirly,” he repeated, looking at him with a dumb grin on his face.
“Yeah. The Klein bottle. The Mobius strip. You know. Gay.”
He cackled loudly. “Oh, that’s what you meant. Yeah. I’m gay as fuck. But Val is hot. I’m gay, not blind. I am an equal opportunity aesthetic enjoyer of a good booty.”
“I think I might be, too,” Ian mumbled into the bedspread.
“Yeah, you gotta love a nice butt,” Dusty said, nodding.
“No, not that,” Ian said. He turned his head towards him, sinking his cheek into the starchy white fabric. “I think… Maybe I’m gay?”
Dusty’s eyes widened. “Whoa. Really?” he said. “Shit, man. I didn’t think you were into anybody. Like, ever.”
“I didn’t think I was, either,” Ian admitted.
“You happened,” Ian said. He blushed profusely, realizing just how ridiculous that sounded, and immediately tried to clarify what he meant. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t usually want this. I like being alone. I like having my own bed. But then you kissed me and I liked it. And I wasn’t ready for that thought, but I still had it. And then there was only one bed instead of two like I ordered. And then I realized that maybe I actually wanted there to only be one bed and maybe there is a little part of me that wants to be more than your friend but now is a really weird time to think about it and I didn’t want to freak you out so I’m trying not to think about it but the more I try not to think about it the more I think about it and–”
Dusty put a fingertip to his lips. “Shh. Slow down. Breathe,” he said. “You’re not freaking me out. It’s okay.”
Ian took a long pause.
“For what it’s worth, I like you too,” Dusty said, looking up at the ceiling, the corner of his lip curling up like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Always have.”
Now it was Ian’s turn to be surprised. “Really?” he said.
Dusty nodded. “Of course,” he said. “I’ve been into you since we were teenagers, but you never showed interest in anyone. I figured you just weren’t into people that way.”
“That’s a fair judgment,” Ian said. “I’m usually not.”
“But… you like me?” he said, his voice bubbly with excitement.
“Yeah,” Ian said.
“Is there anything you want to do about it?” Dusty said. He traced his cheek with his fingertip, trailing down to his bottom lip.
Ian froze. Wanting Dusty was one thing. Having him was another. “I don’t know,” he muttered, suddenly feeling very unsure of himself.
“Hey,” Dusty said, concerned. “You don’t have to do anything. I don’t want to pressure you. You’re my friend before anything else.”
“I… think I want to sober up before I do something stupid,” Ian said.
“We can do that,” Dusty said. He got up from the bed. “Let’s get some water, maybe watch some TV. When you’re feeling more like yourself, then we can come back to this discussion. Does that sound good?”
Dusty poured a cup of water from the tap and offered it to Ian, which he gladly accepted. They both sat at the edge of the bed, drinking in silence. Once Dusty finished his cup, he took his duffel bag into the bathroom.
While Dusty brushed his teeth and changed into pajamas, Ian flipped through the TV channels. He stopped on one of those home decorating shows, looking at the screen but not really perceiving anything on it while he replayed the conversation they just had over and over in his head. The buzz had begun to wear off, but he still felt exactly the same. He wanted Dusty in a way he’d never wanted anyone else, but the idea of acting on it was absolutely terrifying.
Once Dusty was finished, Ian followed suit. His body took him through the motions of changing his clothes, washing his face, and brushing his teeth, but all he could think about that whole time was how Dusty was waiting in bed for him. After taking a deep breath, he opened the door and saw him lying there, his features lit softly by the glow of the television. He was beautiful. Since when was he beautiful?
Ian joined him in the bed and slipped under the covers, leaving a respectable – but not too respectable – distance between them.
“I don’t bite,” Dusty whispered, patting the spot next to him.
Ian timidly scooted over, letting himself snuggle up to him. He pulled the blanket over both of them.
Oh. Oh, this was nice.
He was grateful that Dusty couldn’t see the flustered look on his face, and he could only hope that his rapid heartbeat wouldn’t give too much away.
“It’s okay,” Dusty reassured him. He wrapped an arm around his torso and pulled him in, pressing his lips to the top of his head.
Gradually, his breathing slowed, and he began to relax. The doubts in his head melted away one by one. Of course it was okay. Even after years of distance, he realized just how much trust they still carried in each other. Even if they woke up the next morning and there really wasn’t anything between them, he knew they would be all right.
The TV droned on, soothing them with boring visions of all-white kitchens and open concept floor plans. Eventually, Ian noticed that Dusty had gone limp, and his breathing had gotten significantly heavier. His own breathing slowed into tandem, and he felt his eyelids growing heavy. Little by little, he faded into the comfort of the rise and fall of his chest.
The next morning, Ian woke to a steaming cup of coffee on his bed stand. The bathroom door was closed, muffling the sound of running water behind it. He could also hear Dusty’s off-key humming in the background, something from that playlist they listened to on the way down. He sat up and sipped on his coffee, unsure what they would say to each other now that their heads were clear.
The water stopped, and soon after, Dusty walked out of the bathroom with fresh clothes and a toothbrush in his mouth. He tilted his chin up in greeting and walked over to the mirror.
“Thanks for the coffee,” Ian said, holding the cheap ceramic mug in his hands. Even after all these years, Dusty had remembered that he liked his coffee black. If his own memory was correct, Dusty had prepared his own with one creamer and one sugar before he’d swallowed it down.
Dusty gave a thumbs up and spat his toothpaste into the sink.
Ian cleared his throat and tapped his fingers nervously against his mug. “So… um… about last night…” he started.
Dusty scratched the back of his head. “Don’t worry about it, dude. I know we were both drunk and feeding off the wedding vibes, and–”
“I still want you,” he said, looking up at him.
It took a moment for the words to register, but then Dusty beamed. “Well, damn. I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Well, it’s true,” he said, sweeping one of his long curls behind his ear. “I’ll be honest, it’s entirely new territory, but I still want to try. Help me out?”
“I think I can do that,” Dusty said. “All right, let’s get naked. First one to get rid of all their clothes gets to kiss the other one!” He winked, grabbed the collar of his shirt, yanked it over his head, and threw it on the floor.
“What?! No fair, you got a head start!” Ian whined, but he played along anyway. He had a slight advantage, anyway, since he could pull off his pajama pants and underwear in one fell swoop.
It was a close race, but ultimately, Dusty’s belt proved too much of a hindrance. It took him a full five seconds more to remove his clothing, but he never looked happier to be a loser. “Uh –oh, looks like you win,” he said, shrugging. “Claim your prize.”
Ian couldn’t help checking out the goods first. It was a body he’d seen a hundred times before, but this time, he could really appreciate it. Dusty had always been the stockier of the two, with broad shoulders, freckles on his arms, and fine hair that trailed from his chest to his belly. He had such large, warm hands, ones that were eager to touch and be touched. Ian took one of those hands gently, drawing it close to his face. He touched his lips to his knuckles, following it with a reverent kiss on the back of his hand.
“You’re so cute,” Dusty said. “You gonna kiss me like you mean it, or what?” He pulled Ian in closer, pressing him up against his chest.
Ian felt the blood rushing to his ears, but he was grateful for the teasing: even at his most shy, there was nothing that Dusty couldn’t make Ian do if he threw in a friendly challenge. And this was a challenge he would gladly accept. He tilted his head upward, pressing their lips together. He’d had no idea how good something like this could feel. It was like going his whole life without an appetite, then finally getting a taste that sparked his hunger. A shiver ran through his body at the thought.
“You okay?” Dusty whispered.
Ian answered him with a deep, searing kiss. To accentuate his point, he let his hands roam over Dusty’s body, and invited him to do the same.
They made their way back to the bed, continuing to kiss and touch and explore. Dusty, now feeling particularly emboldened, slid his hand between Ian’s legs, rubbing gently at his swelling cock with his palm.
Ian gasped and rolled his hips forward, savoring the sensation. This was the first time he’d felt a hand other than his own stroking him off, and by god was it different. The differences were subtle, but so effective: a lighter pressure, a steadier rhythm, a warmer touch. Within a few minutes, Dusty gently coaxed him into coming for him. He laid atop the bed, spent and panting, and he took in the distinct afterglow of having someone else get him off for the first time. “That was amazing,” he said.
“Glad I could make it good for you,” Dusty replied, nuzzling into his neck.
After taking a moment to soak it in, he slipped his hand down and slid his fingers around Dusty’s cock. It was stiff in his hand, glistening with a bead of precome.
Dusty encouraged him to continue with a long, breathy moan.
Ian gladly obliged, copying the same deft strokes that had just been used on him. He watched as Dusty writhed atop the bed, and his breath became harsh and labored. He loved how quickly Dusty got worked up from his touch, relished the way his aching dick twitched with need. This was even more fun than getting his own rocks off.
To make Dusty squirm even harder, he let go of him, and instead, he wrapped his cock in the soft, wet heat of his mouth.
“Fuck,” Dusty whispered, arching his back. “God, that’s so good. Please, Ian. Please.”
He answered his plea by taking his entire dick in his mouth, all the way from tip to root. He bobbed up and down, slowly at first, and then built his way up until he found a quick, steady rhythm. He took Dusty to the brink, and kept going, even as he cried out and came into his mouth. To his own surprise, he even enjoyed swallowing it down.
They sprawled out on the bed together, naked and sweaty and flushed and spent. Ian sighed happily, basking in post-coital bliss. He looked forward to the next time.
There would be a next time, right?
“Hey,” he said to Dusty, tracing circles along the back of his hand.
“Yeah?” Dusty said.
He had a lot of catching up to do on this whole intimacy thing, and there was no one he’d rather take with him than Dusty. “Would you like to get stuck in the same bed again sometime? Maybe many times?”
“Does a Mobius strip have only one side?” Dusty replied.
“Um… yes?” Ian said, cocking an eyebrow. “I think so.”
Dusty snorted. “Yes, it does. And yes, I would.” He sighed happily and laced their fingers together.
This time, once they got back to Chicago, they wouldn’t drift apart.