by Hiwaru Kibi (火悪 木美)
As he sat in the emergency room, trying not to bleed on the papers the intake nurse had handed him, Deshawn started to laugh.
“Don’t you start,” said Kellan. “Don’t you even start, you make me look enough like a crazy person already.”
That made Deshawn laugh harder, some sound of which vibrated out his nose — which hurt like fuck and made him snort out another little bloody spray, and that just made him laugh even harder, because yeah, he was a crazy person. “This is just not how I expected the date to end,” he managed despite lacking the ability to make any nasal sounds.
Kellan groaned and buried his face in his hands, and Deshawn laughed so hard he bloodied the whole inside sleeve of his sweatshirt trying to muffle it. At least with the zoo that was an ER waiting room three on a Sunday morning, his strange hysteria wasn’t too far out of place. His mom and aunt had both been night-shift nurses, so he knew as long as his outbursts didn’t involve anyone having to call down security on him, he was going to be fine. Everything was going to be just fine.
When they called his name some ten minutes later, Deshawn stood, then looked back down at Kellan, whose adorable face was no less adorable for the look of heavy misery weighing it down. “You don’t have to stay,” Deshawn told him. “I can get a cab or call someone.”
Bless him, Kellan responded to that like Deshawn had just smacked him in the face. “No way. I’m right here.”
“Thanks.” Deshawn gave him a little wave and what he hoped was an optimistic smile, then followed the nurse on in.
What transpired next was a little poking and questioning that punctuated longer stretches of waiting, and had it not been for the throbbing pain and swelling in his face, Deshawn might have just sprawled out on the exam table and gone right back to sleep. So instead he pulled out his phone and scrolled through his Twitter feed, resisting all the while the urge to tweet something along the lines of guess who just broke my nose? Kellan felt bad enough already.
Dr. Iverson was a diminutive white woman with visible neck tattoos poking over the collar of her coat, much in the way Kellan’s ink never could quite stay hidden beneath the edges of his clothing; the first thing Deshawn had noticed about him, in fact, had been the dark green-black ink that peeked out from beneath the cuffs of his sleeves, little hints of shadow against his light, freckled skin. She confirmed Deshawn’s suspicions: broken, not badly. She gave him painkillers and a prescription for more, then set it with tape and a little splint, one that didn’t even run the full length of his nose.
After that, though, she sat down across from him again and folded her arms across her chest. “You know, if there’s something you need to tell me, you can.”
And there it was. “Thanks, doc, but I swear, it was an accident.”
The way her mouth screwed up to the side told of her continued skepticism. “I know you think it might not be a problem, but you’re not alone. Studies have shown as many as a quarter of gay male relationships fit the criteria for domestic violence–”
“Doc,” he said, holding up both hands in a plea for her to stop, and to her credit, she did. “He did it in his sleep. Night terrors. …He was in Iraq.”
That changed her expression; the hard lines around her eyes softened, and she began to dig in her coat pocket. “Jesus,” she muttered, shaking her head. At last, she found a stack of business cards, then rifled through them until she found one and stapled it to the top of Deshawn’s paperwork. “I’ve got a good friend who works with vets. He’s a nice guy, gay-friendly, sliding scale. Get your soldier to call him, and if Leighton can’t take him, he’ll at least know who else you can get in touch with.”
Deshawn nodded and took the papers. Well, at least she believed him; maybe everybody else would on Monday when they saw his face. “Thanks,” he said, tapping them against his thighs to shift them all into place.
“So how long have you two been together?” she asked, her tone lighter.
“Um.” Deshawn looked at the floor. “This was kind of our third date.”
Shaking her head, she let out a long, low whistle. “At least he made it memorable.”
Deshawn smiled. “That he did.”
The sky was just starting to break pink with morning as Kellan pulled into the loading zone in front of Deshawn’s building and put the car into park. He drummed on the wheel with his fingertips for a moment before looking straight ahead and saying, “So I can understand if you, like, never want to see me again. I do.”
Deshawn laughed and reached over to put his hand on Kellan’s closer thigh. “Would you believe this isn’t the worst date I’ve ever had?”
“No,” Kellan said, though at least there was a bit of a laugh to his voice. With a sigh, he put his hand atop Deshawn’s, lacing their fingers together. “I’ll call the shrink. First thing Monday.”
“Damn right you will.” Deshawn’s voice still sounded funny and congested, but the drugs must have been doing their job, because all he felt was a dull ache somewhere in the vicinity of the front of his face. He yawned, and waited until it was all through to say, “Don’t beat yourself up over it. One of us is enough.”
“I just….” Kellan took a deep breath and let it out through pursed lips. “Guess I didn’t know it was that bad.”
“Bad gets better.” Deshawn squeezed Kellan’s hand before letting go and unfastening his seat belt. “So I’m going to go sleep some more, maybe all day and all night again, and if anyone asks me on Monday, I’ll tell them I fell down some stairs.”
That just made Kellan groan and whack his forehead lightly against the steering wheel, but when he lifted his head again, he was smiling. “I’d kiss you, but you’ve got a–” He pointed to his own nose, then broadened the gesture in a circular fashion, mirroring the whole of Deshawn’s face.
“Rain check,” said Deshawn. He kissed his fingertips and brought them to Kellan’s stubbly cheek, then gathered his paperwork under his arm and buttoned his coat around him. The icy front walk nearly did him in, but he made it into the lobby and up to his apartment, fumbled for his keys, managed to get inside, and passed out on the couch without even taking off his shoes. It had been a hell of a night.
When the concerned comments and inquiries began to flutter around him Monday morning, he didn’t say he’d fallen down the stairs; he had a better lie.
“A barstool?” asked Dolories, clutching a hand to her bosom.
Deshawn mimed slipping right off a tall seat and whacking his nose on a hard surface. “And, you know, thank God Kellan was there. Took me right to the ER.”
Lucille patted him on the shoulder. “You poor baby.” She shot a smile over in Kellan’s direction. “They ought to give you a medal for that.”
With a bashful shake of his head, Kellan kept right on sorting the various signed documents that needed to find a home in one client’s file or another. “No, ma’am. Glad to help out.”
Kellan wasn’t out at work; he wasn’t out anywhere. He’d barely graduated high school and showed up on the army’s doorstep the next day, the third of three brothers to enlist, and from the way he told it the most troubled of the bunch. He, like Deshawn, had been twenty when the Twin Towers had been hit, and now, at twenty-five, had a half-deaf left ear and a disability pension to show for the years in-between.
Well, that and trauma that made for some sleepless nights and awkward Mondays. “Doc says it’ll be fine,” Deshawn continued. “It’s barely even a bump. I just need to keep the splint on for a few days and try not to catch any more furniture with my face for a little while.”
That made the other secretaries and paralegals laugh, and with a few more good wishes and gentle pats, they shuffled back off to their own duties. That he and Kellan had been together on a Saturday night didn’t seem to have raised anyone’s suspicions, and he could be grateful for that. Deshawn made no secret of his own sexuality, but Kellan read so straight that Deshawn hadn’t even known their first date had been their first date until Kellan, who’d also been the one to ask if Deshawn wanted to go get a drink, had put his hand on Deshawn’s knee — at which point Deshawn nearly had fallen off his barstool, so as cover stories went, it wasn’t much of a stretch.
“Say, Kellan,” said Deshawn, not expecting to be overheard but not caring if he were, “I figure this should be off by Friday.” He tapped in the direction of the split, stopping before making actual contact; it was still tender. “What say I make dinner at my place? You know, a thank-you for your first aid skills.”
Kellan nodded and let a smile pick up the corners of his mouth. “You don’t have to do that.”
“Maybe not, but I want to.” Satisfied that they weren’t being watched, Deshawn shot Kellan a wink and was gratified to see his pink cheeks grow pinker.
“Another white boy?”
“A very cute, age-appropriate white boy,” said Deshawn with a sigh. Lord, his big sister would never let him hear the end of that one. “Army boy, too.”
He could hear Charlene roll her eyes all the way through the phone line. “He got a stupid-ass haircut?”
“No.” Deshawn sighed. “Okay, maybe a little stupid.”
Charlene laughed, then muffled the phone to answer some question one or the other of the twins had asked her. They were going to be six next month and kept both her and her husband occupied. “Sorry, just had to explain to Denise why she can not jump off the roof, even if Superman can.”
Deshawn laughed at the thought, then sighed as he realized that doing so made his injured nose crinkle uncomfortably. “Hey, um,” he began, hoping this wasn’t too much of a change of subject. “Roger got any kind of trouble from … I don’t know, like, his time in the service, in general? Trouble sleeping, like that?”
There was a telling silence from the other end. Ten years his senior, Charlene had always been the most trusted source of advice in Deshawn’s life. “Yeah, sometimes,” she said, her voice soft. “But, you know, I married him before all that. I promised to stick with him, and no part of that’s been easy all the time, but I made my promise. But what anybody can put up with changes person to person. And how bad it gets changes person to person. It’s not giving up if you can’t. …How long you say you and this boy’ve been together?”
“Two weeks,” said Deshawn, leaving out the critical detail of how their last romantic encounter had ended.
Charlene snorted. “Stop making yourself old. Have some fun now. Worry later.”
Easy enough for her to say; she wasn’t nursing a broken nose and wondering if or when the next one would come. But maybe she was, or she had been, and she’d just never told him. That was a strange thing to think, about everything that happened beneath the surface of a relationship, invisible to anyone not deep inside. “I’ll try,” he said, and it was true, he would.
It was too cold to take his lunch outside, but Deshawn still wanted some fresh air, so he ate his sandwich at his desk, then bundled up and headed out toward the city park a block over. The air still bit, but the sun that shone down through the clear February sky took away winter’s harshest edge. He stepped over a high bank of dirty, plowed-up snow to get to the brick path that encircled what in warmer months would be plots of grass. Bits of rock salt crunched under his feet, keeping him steady.
“Hey,” said a voice behind him, and he turned to see Kellan, whose nose and ears were bright pink. “Going somewhere?”
“Just for a walk.” Deshawn frowned at him. “You just come out here without even a hat on?”
“Yeah.” Kellan ran his hand over his close-cropped blond hair; the stupidest thing about his haircut at the moment was how little it protected his scalp from the elements. “Maybe not my brightest moment.”
Deshawn sighed and took off his own wool cap, letting his shoulder-length locs fall free, then shoved it over Kellan’s head. It was baggy and looked silly, but that was cute too. “You going somewhere?”
Kellan looked around the cityscape, which was filled with far more cars than people at this temperature. “Wherever you are,” he said with a shrug, hands jammed into his pockets. Plumes of white puffed from his mouth with every syllable. “I mean, if that’s okay.”
“No, it’s good. It’s nice.” Deshawn took a deep breath and coughed a little on the exhale, then started walking again, mindful to keep on Kellan’s right side. “If you like eau de Philly food truck exhaust.”
“Mm, my favorite.” Kellan leaned a little closer, and that was all right, because they were friendly and it was cold, and because Kellan had only drifted northward a few months ago, meaning this was his first honest-to-God winter. It was only natural he’d be cold. “How’s your, um, break?”
“Actually, not that bad. Doc says I can go in and maybe get the splint off tomorrow so I can be all pretty for our dinner date.”
In the chill air, it was hard to tell if the pinkness in Kellan’s skin was a blush or the earliest stages of frostbite. “You know, I’ve never done the whole home-cooked-meal date thing.” When Deshawn stopped in his tracks, surprised, Kellan nodded. “Unless you count the couple times a girl I was going with in high school had me over for Sunday dinner with her parents, and that … was just a whole different kind of deal.”
Deshawn smiled and nudged his shoulder. “Did you have to wear a tie?”
“And a jacket.” Kellan reached up to pull the edges of the hat down over his ears. “Fewer of those once I started being such a bad element. Even the Flirt To Convert girls wouldn’t go there.”
The idea of polite, quiet Kellan as anything approaching Deshawn’s West-Philly-raised standards would have been laughable had Deshawn not already seen him beautiful and naked, and covered almost from collarbone to wrist to ankle with intricate, grotesque black ink. Beneath Kellan’s starched, buttoned-up exterior lay a warm, soft sea of teeth and claws and snarling faces and intricate organic machinery that twisted as lay sprawled back on his couch and Deshawn kissed from his throat all the way down. He wasn’t above admitting that it was a lot easier to forgive a broken nose from someone who’d been such a great lay.
“Anyway,” Kellan continued after a moment, “is there something I’m supposed to do? Something I can bring?”
“I think the traditional dinner guest gift is wine–” Deshawn grinned as he saw Kellan’s face fall a little. “I, however, could never say no to opening my door and finding a handsome man with a six-pack.”
“Beer, I can do,” said Kellan with a laugh. “Never been much of a wine guy. Don’t really come from a wine family. Honestly, more of a Bud Lite family. But I’ll try and class it up a little.”
“You watch yourself, now. There’s only so much classy I can take.”
As they turned one of the corners around the park’s perimeter, they saw two of their co-workers approaching, and just like that, they shifted apart, until there was space enough between them for a full person to walk through. Not that anyone in the office would have said anything, of course, or likely found it anything but cute, but there was more to this than just workplace reputation, and Deshawn respected that. Kellan had a lot on his plate.
The pairs each waved as they passed one another, though the ladies hurried on past without exchanging words, wrapped up as they were in coats and scarves. Spring would be nice. It would change a lot.
“Toothbrush,” Deshawn added as they passed, and when Kellan frowned, confused, Deshawn just smiled. “And maybe a change of clothes. Isn’t that your army motto? Be prepared?”
Kellan barked out a laugh. “It isn’t yet, but I’ll put in a request and see what I can do about that..”
They wound up on either side of Deshawn’s small sofa after dinner, each with their backs against the arms and their legs twined together across the middle cushion. Kellan had one hand around a beer bottle and the other on Deshawn’s ankle, stroking the bare skin of his heel with his thumb. “You look good like this,” said Deshawn, smiling over the top of his own beer. “Smiling, relaxed. It’s a good look on you.”
“Feels good,” Kellan said, nodding. “Spent a lot of time feeling angry, and then a while not feeling anything, so … yeah. This is good.” He took another drink, then added, “And I called the shrink on the ER doc’s card.”
“Yeah?” Deshawn hadn’t not believed Kellan’s promise to do so, but he also knew how difficult things like that could be. He’d been planning to hold out another week or two before bringing up the subject himself, and even then only as a hey-I-just-remembered sort of thing, not something that had been living at the back of his mind every day since.
Kellan nodded again. “Seemed nice. Older guy, sounded like. We mostly talked insurance, but he had a few questions about why I was calling in the first place, so we talked about that a little. So next Tuesday I’m going to take a long lunch and go on by.”
“Good.” Without thinking about it, Deshawn passed his hand over his nose, feeling at the small support strip the doctor had given him in place of the bridge-to-tip splint. “So, uh, can I be honest with you for a sec?”
“Sure,” said Kellan casually, though a worry line furrowed his smooth brow.
Deshawn tapped the injury again, this time more deliberately. “Not the first time a guy’s broken my nose. Not the first time a guy I’ve been dating‘s broken my nose.”
The way Kellan’s big brown eyes went wide and his jaw fell a little slack made Deshawn feel better and worse at once — better that the idea was abhorrent to Kellan, worse that he’d visibly made Kellan feel guilty about it all over again. “Shit, I’m sorry, Christ.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay.” Deshawn leaned forward and gave Kellan’s knee a steadying squeeze. “It was — I mean, there’d been some bruises before that, but that, that was the dealbreaker. That was it. I got a dishtowel under my nose, turned around, walked out, never went back. Had a friend pick up my shit a week later. And that was a while ago.” Two years and change, actually, which he supposed counted as ‘a while’ in some calendars. “So when the ER doc started sidling up to do the whole ‘if your boyfriend’s beating you, you can tell me’ talk, I was here thinking like, look, doc, I know from abusive, and that ain’t it.”
With a weak smile, Kellan nodded, but he let his gaze fall to where his hand met Deshawn’s foot, and he didn’t look up again until he’d drained the last bits of his beer. As he did, the smile was still there, but it had grown a sturdier edge. “This is completely the wrong part of all that to focus on, I get it, but … that mean I’m your boyfriend?”
Laughing, Deshawn scooted closer on the couch, until he was sitting atop Kellan’s thighs. “I think that is the perfect part of all that to focus on.” He put a hand on Kellan’s chest and leaned down to kiss the top of his head; it was an awkward arrangement, but all the more honest for it.
“Never been a boyfriend before.” Kellan leaned back over the arm of the couch until they could see one another. “Or had one.”
Deshawn stroked Kellan’s cheek, enjoying the smoothness of his fresh-shaven jaw. He had the kind of face with an age impossible to guess; his bone structure and smooth skin meant he could have passed for a high-schooler, but he had a weary set to his countenance that aged him prematurely. Truth was that when Kellan had asked about going out for a drink that first time, Deshawn had barely refrained from asking if he was old enough yet to get into bars. “Are there things that make it better?” Deshawn asked, rubbing the skin between Kellan’s eyebrows until it smoothed again. “Or things that make it worse?”
“Stress,” said Kellan. “I get tense about something, even if it has nothing to do with my time in the service, and I’ll wake myself up with a black eye.”
“You stressed about the boyfriend thing?”
Kellan breathed in and out again, rocking Deshawn with his chest’s tidal rise and fall. “Maybe a little,” he admitted, glancing away. It was barely ten, but already his eyelids looked heavy, and despite everything he had in front of him to be awake for, Deshawn felt the same. That was what having a normal office job did to you: it made you old.
“I’ve got an idea.” Deshawn rocked back and climbed off Kellan’s chest, then held out his hands. Kellan took them and stood, and Deshawn pulled him in for a light, warm kiss. He tasted like beer and the lasagna they’d had for dinner: good, warm, safe. One of their earliest conversations had been about their both being short, but it was nice now, being able to kiss someone without risking a neck injury. Deshawn ran one hand across the back of Kellan’s head, smiling at the way the short-shorn hairs felt so soft. Stupid-ass fuzzy haircut.
When Deshawn broke from the kiss, he didn’t let go of Kellan’s hands, using their connection to lead him the twenty feet or so across the living room, into Deshawn’s bedroom, and onto the bed. Their feet dangling over the edge, Deshawn used his bare toes to strip off Kellan’s socks and drop them to the floor. Kellan laughed and wiggled his bared toes. “Little chilly.”
“You big southern baby,” said Deshawn, giving him a kiss on the tip of his nose. However, he grabbed the blanket he’d left tossed against the wall side of the mattress and drew it over them both, then wormed his way into correct alignment with the rest of the bed. Kellan followed, still smiling, and when Deshawn stretched his arm out along the half-dozen pillows he kept piled there, Kellan lay his cheek against it. Here was where the age and worry melted from his face. “You get carded a lot?” Deshawn asked, resting his free hand on Kellan’s hip.
Kellan snorted. “All the fucking time. For cigarettes, before I quit.”
“When’d you quit?”
“When I moved up here. Six bucks a pack, you bet I quit.” With a sigh, Kellan tugged one of the locs that had fallen into Deshawn’s face. “And my health and living a long life and not having my clothes stink and all that. But mostly, I was making minimum wage and I’m cheap.”
Deshawn smiled and tugged Kellan’s shirt up until his hand came to rest, unseen beneath the covers, against the bare skin of Kellan’s side. “Did your ink cost a lot?”
Kellan shook his head, smiling as he shifted into the touch. “Cheap again. Had a friend who was training to be a tattoo artist, and he needed someone to practice on. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Like the army. Dad did it, uncles did it, brothers did it. And God knows I wasn’t doing anything better with my life. Didn’t think I’d see action. Didn’t think I’d leave the country, hell. My first time out of the US, yeah? I got one stamp on my passport. There and back.”
That was the problem with what came between lines like Kellan’s; Deshawn could see something was there, but at the same time couldn’t read it. So instead he pressed a kiss against Kellan’s temple. “I like it. Makes you look all dangerous and sexy.”
“Oh yeah,” Kellan said, laughing. “That’s just what Travis — friend who did the ink — that’s just what he said. ‘The bitches are going to be all over your dick, man’,” he joked, slipping into a hoarse rasp unlike his own sweet tenor. “Yeah, that was what I wanted, right there. All the girls. A-plus deduction.” Kellan lifted a sarcastic thumbs-up, then sighed and snuggled back into Deshawn’s embrace. “I mean, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a little fucked-up about a lot of things.”
“A little.” Deshawn tucked Kellan’s head under his chin, stroking his side. “So thank God you’re cute.”
Kellan laughed again and cuddled close to Deshawn, until his breathing became a steady, warm pulse against Deshawn’s collarbone — so warm and even, in fact, that it began to take on the quality of sleep. Deshawn had made all sorts of big romantic plans for having Kellan with him again, but it had been a hard week and they’d had a lot of beer and pasta, and being so close and so comfortable here was relaxing to a fault. They were both still fully dressed, save Kellan’s socks and the shoes he’d taken off at the door, and Deshawn’s belt buckle had begun to dig into his belly. “Hey, um,” said Deshawn after a long minute, breaking into the silence. “You want to just … go to bed?”
“Maybe,” said Kellan — or he almost said, anyway, before the sound got swallowed in a yawn. “Can I take off my pants first?”
Deshawn kissed his head again, then began to excavate both their bodies from beneath the covers. “Go ahead. I have to go put the leftovers in the fridge and turn off lights. I’ll be back in a second.”
It was closer to five minutes later when Deshawn returned, teeth cleanly brushed and pajamas pants on, to find Kellan snoring hard, face-down in the bed. He’d stripped down to grey boxers that hugged his ass and did little to cover up the works of indelible art that scrawled across his skin. It was hard to see from this angle the number of hours that must have gone into them, the individual jabs with a needle, the countless drops of ink planted below his skin.
At the same time, in the light from the bedroom’s only lamp, Deshawn could see something he hadn’t noticed the previous weekend, fumbling as they had been in the light of Kellan’s single bedroom lamp. At places along his left side, the tattoos looked the way paper did when it got wet and tore beneath the slightest pressure of fingertips, exposing whatever blankness lay beneath it. Something wrong had happened to Kellan’s body there, maybe the same something that had taken some of his hearing on the same side, maybe the same something that ripped him up from sleep at night, clawing and shouting.
As gingerly as he could, Deshawn crawled in over him and settled between Kellan and the wall, then drew blankets over their bodies. He lay there in the near-dark for a while, watching Kellan sleep, wondering what was going on behind his eyelids as he twitched and dreamed. Whatever it was, though, it seemed peaceful now, so soon enough, Deshawn followed him into sleep.
When his half-opened eyes caught the glow from his bedside clock, his first thought was that it had to be wrong; the numbers said it wasn’t even three yet. But then Kellan thrashed again, tangling himself in the covers, and Deshawn pulled himself to wakefulness as fast as he could. “Hey, hey,” he said, pushing Kellan’s shoulder; he thought about grabbing instead of nudging, but realized he didn’t want to insert any potentially trapping elements into Kellan’s subconscious’ paintbox. “Hey, you’re safe, just wake up. Just wake up.”
With a jolt, Kellan did, though his arms stayed where they were and no part of him became a bludgeoning weapon. In the near-dark, lit only by the streetlight outside the window, Kellan’s eyes were white and black, wide pale seas surrounding blown-out pupils. “Fuck, fuck, get down, fuck,” he hissed, biting his lower lip.
“Hey.” Deshawn put a hand against Kellan’s chest, and Kellan jerked at the touch but didn’t pull away. “It’s okay. You’re awake.”
A full minute ticked by as Kellan lay there, stiff and alert, not even blinking as he huffed short, fast breaths into the darkness. Beneath Deshawn’s hand, Kellan’s heart ran at a machine-gun pace. Gone were his bashful smile and his sleepy calm; he was as terrified as Deshawn had ever seen another person, staring past what was in front of him into a far-off space Deshawn’s gaze couldn’t find.
And then it was gone, as quick as cutting the strings of a marionette, and Kellan’s body went slack. Sweat began to stream from his forehead, drenching his hair. Deshawn put a hand against his forehead, feeling the radiant heat of a breaking fever. “It’s okay,” Deshawn repeated, because he didn’t know what else to do. “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
The more he said it, the more it seemed to become true, as Kellan’s breathing slowed and took on a more regular rhythm. “Fuck,” breathed Kellan again, though this iteration of the word was a long, groaning exhalation. Calmer now, he began to extract himself from where he’d knotted the covers around him, and Deshawn sat up to help him out. He’d somehow managed to keep the comforter atop both of them, but kick the fleece onto Deshawn’s side while stealing all the top sheet for himself and using it to bind his legs. As acts of blanket theft went, it was impressive.
At last, Kellan was free and all but naked, and he sat there on Deshawn’s bed, shivering. With a few tugs to straighten everything out again, Deshawn sat next to Kellan and drew the blankets up over them. “You want to talk about it?” Deshawn asked, rubbing a hand across Kellan’s sweat-slick back.
Kellan took a deep breath and let it out again before responding. “Is it okay if I say no?”
“Of course it’s okay.” Deshawn kissed his shoulder, right against the swirl of a dragon’s spiked tail.
“Because I do. Just … not now. And I don’t think you want to hear.”
“I get it,” said Deshawn, hoping he wasn’t lying. “That’s what Tuesday’s for, right?”
Kellan nodded and smiled, though both were feeble. Deshawn kissed Kellan’s shoulder again, then moved up toward the curve of his neck with slow, warm pecks. He hadn’t meant the gesture to be anything but comforting, so he was surprised when he got to the line around Kellan’s collarbone where the ink stopped and felt Kellan shiver. “Is it, um.” Kellan took another steadying breath. “I’m really keyed up and — I mean, at home, I’d usually go do sit-ups or bench presses until I threw up or something like that, and I–” He clenched his hands into fists as Deshawn waited for him to finish. “Can I, um. Can I fuck you?”
The request startled Deshawn into a laugh, and when Kellan’s face fell, Deshawn grabbed him and kissed him hard, pulling Kellan back down to the bed and on top of him. Things at Kellan’s the week previous had involved hands and mouths, but no penetration; they hadn’t even had the discussion about who liked which end of what yet. Fortunately, Deshawn was flexible. “Top drawer,” he said, glancing over to the bedside table. “Make it good.”
With a deep, hungry groan, Kellan gave Deshawn a quick, toothy kiss before pulling off and heading straight for the indicated storage space. His gestures were clumsy, especially in the dark, but Deshawn just grinned and kicked off his pajama pants. He began stroking his cock as he saw Kellan unroll a condom onto his shaft, then slather it with lube. Oh, his sheets would need a wash after this, but he suspected it was going to be more than worth it.
Deshawn didn’t think of himself as a fan of rough sex in particular, but the way Kellan thrust two thick fingers into him was going to make him reconsider. It was a polite gesture, considering, but obviously only a formality, as a minute later Kellan withdrew his hand and brought it back to his cock. “Turn over,” he ordered, his voice deep and authoritative, and Deshawn had no thoughts in his mind of insubordination.
When Kellan thrust into him, it was with a force that brought a heavy gasp to Deshawn’s lips. His face still too sore to bury into a pillow, Deshawn brought his right arm up and braced his forehead against his forearm, giving him a place to rest while Kellan fucked him. He’d had the thought before, mostly while it was in his mouth, that Kellan’s long, narrow shaft was made for pounding ass; he was delighted to find his initial estimate correct. Kellan was strong and he was hot, and the intensity with which he rocked in and out of Deshawn was truly a force to be reckoned with. Ass in the air, Deshawn could do little more than melt into the sensation. He wasn’t even hard himself; that was barely even on his radar at this point. The good feeling here was far more general than that.
And yet, there was something that stuck in Deshawn’s mind, a bold thought that floated to the front of his consciousness even as the rest of his sense was getting pounded out of him. What Kellan had said about what he’d be doing were he at his house had no doubt been meant as a joke, but there’d been a harder edge to it, one of something Deshawn could only define as self-punishment. He liked Kellan a lot, he liked having sex with Kellan a lot — but he needed a line, and it was here.
Shifting his weight onto his side as best he could, Deshawn reached behind him and grabbed Kellan’s hand. When Kellan didn’t respond right away, Deshawn gave him another squeeze. That got his attention. “What?” he asked, startled and breathless.
Deshawn shifted forward, pulling himself off Kellan’s cock, then turned over and spread his legs wide. “Come on,” Deshawn said, and when Kellan hesitated, Deshawn reached for his arm and pulled him forward, until their bare chests were pressed together. “I want you to fuck me. I want you to fuck me.”
“I–” Kellan started, then stopped and drew back, his brow beginning to crease with worry.
“You give it good,” Deshawn said, locking his legs behind Kellan’s back and pulling him forward again. “But I’m not a bunch of sit-ups. I’m your boyfriend.”
For a moment, Kellan’s expression was unreadable — and then he was kissing Deshawn again, sweating as he grabbed his cock and drove it back into Deshawn’s ass. Deshawn reached for Kellan’s hands and grabbed them in his own, then drew them above his head so their bodies were joined long and lean. The intensity was still there, thrumming beneath Kellan’s skin, but already the sheer ferocity had begun to abate. He wasn’t somewhere else anymore; he was here, and they were together.
When Kellan came a minute later, it was with a sob — and then another sob, and then he was crying and shaking his head as he collapsed against Deshawn. Deshawn’s arms were around him in an instant, clutching Kellan tight to his chest. “I’m sorry,” Kellan sputtered, shaking his head, “I can’t — and — and I didn’t — and–”
“Shh,” Deshawn whispered, kissing his temple. His hands brushed Kellan’s back in long, steady strokes. “It’s okay. It’ll all be okay.”
It was several minutes before Kellan’s shaking finally subsided enough that Deshawn felt okay shifting Kellan’s body off him without giving the impression of abandonment. He’d gone soft with the condom still on, which had made a fair mess, and there was still lube everywhere — all in all, a gay sex scene disaster of fairly impressive proportions. Deshawn grabbed a towel from the hamper and did the best cleanup he could, then spread a fresh one down over the spot where his hips had been only a moment ago. There was lots still to be done, but it could wait for morning.
He awoke to find Kellan sitting up, legs over the side of the bed, so Deshawn used what little waking energy he had to rise, grab Kellan’s arm, and pull him back to the mattress in one clumsy gesture. The look on Kellan’s face was not unrelated to the one he’d worn in the hospital. “Morning,” said Deshawn, pecking him on his lips in a concession to how neither of them had yet made it to the toothpaste that morning.
“Morning,” mumbled Kellan.
“What time is it?”
“How long you been up?”
Kellan shrugged. “Not long,” he said, in the way that could have meant a few minutes or a few hours.
Deshawn stroked Kellan’s bicep; in the daylight, the strange and beautiful tattoos were mesmerizing, especially to someone not long up from dreaming. “How’d you sleep?”
“Um.” With a sigh, Kellan shrugged again. “Pretty good. You know. Once I got back to it.”
“Good.” Deshawn shifted, groaning a little. Mornings after getting fucked were always sore ones, but in a good way. The corresponding ache in his face, however, would need to be dealt with soon. There was always something. “Coffee, shower, pancakes? We can do all three, in any order.”
Kellan nodded, his eyes still downcast. “Sometimes,” he said, his voice still sleep-hoarse, “sometimes I kind of … lose where I am. Or what I’m doing.”
“I know,” said Deshawn. “But you came back. That matters too. Besides!” Sitting up, Deshawn gave Kellan’s shapely ass a playful smack, laughing as it made Kellan jerk and nearly fall out of bed. “I didn’t say I was going to let you put on clothes for any part of that, did I?”
The bashful, eager smile on Kellan’s sunlit face was all the answer Deshawn needed.