written and illustrated by Renaissance Makoto J. (ルネサンス・真・J)
Kouki figured he was young and smitten, and therefore allowed to get drunk and sneak into his potential boyfriend’s room. Douglas would maybe be happy to see him, and they could hash out what they were to each other. It would be great. He ducked behind a tree and peered up at the big, classy mansion that Douglas called “the old house” to differentiate it from, Kouki guessed, all the other houses his family owned. How had he ever gotten mixed up with a rich guy and his rich family?
The tree, he realized dumbly, wasn’t actually wide enough to hide behind. He hiccuped and tried to think, but his thoughts were marshmallow fluff soaked in Exotic Berry wine coolers.
Wait, where was he? Oh, right. Sneaking.
He darted forward to the side of the house. It was just past midnight, but the party he hadn’t wanted to go to was in full swing. A crowd of young men and women spilled out onto the lawn and out of their clothes. They all looked very cool and Kouki sighed in envy. Avoiding them was the first task. This was a secret mission. Small-town America gossiped.
He walked as quietly as he could to the rear of the house. No one was back here, and Kouki had a perfect view of the rows of bright, clean windows. He found a rock and was just about to hurl it at the window he thought was Douglas’ when a deep, rumbling voice stopped him.
“You’re aware that pebbles are traditional, right?”
Kouki gasped, jumped a foot in the air, and dropped the rock. He tripped over his own feet, tilted backwards, and was set for a collision course with the ground. This was going to hurt. Or not, because strong arms caught him and held him tight.
Kouki’s exhale of breath was loud to his own ears—a sound of surprise and relief. The chest he was against was firm, warm and wide like an oak tree in summer. The arms around him were strong, and sensations buzzed through his shoulders and down his spine at the points of contact. When he tried to stand up straight, his glasses caught on the buttons of his rescuer’s shirt and they tumbled to the ground.
Kouki felt springy like a Slinky. He wanted to thank the broad chest and muscley arms for saving him from an embarrassing fall, but words were really hard and he could barely control his body.
Kouki leaned back, bringing the other man’s face into focus.
“Oh. It’s you,” Kouki slurred. “Hi!”
What a small world. He’d been startled and saved by Winston Huxley, Douglas’ enormous older brother and Kouki’s former high school gym teacher.
“Oh, Mr. Ishii,” Huxley chided him in his disappointed teacher voice. “What are you doing here?”
“I was gonna…wake up Douglas.” A beat and then belatedly he added, “Uh, if that’s okay, Mr. Huxley, Sir.”
Huxley raised a brow, then his eyes darted to the rock on the ground.
“By hurling a boulder at my window?” Huxley’s handsome face was amused, his full mouth quirked as if tugged up by Heaven itself. Kouki followed his gaze to the rock. And, yeah, he had a point: the rock was too big to throw at a window without an insurance agent getting involved.
“Not your window,” Kouki argued. “I was aiming for, um, that one.” He pointed and Huxley laughed softly. The sound rumbled through Kouki’s smaller body, making him very aware of their proximity.
“That’s my window.”
“Oh,” Kouki said. “Then can I throw a rock at that one?” His finger wobbled sideways.
“Still my window,” Huxley said, openly laughing at him now.
“Your room is really big,” Kouki said with a frown.
“Mm-hmm,” Huxley agreed. “It’s a big house. How much have you had to drink?”
“I’m Japanese. It doesn’t take much,” Kouki said with a hiccup. He knew his face was strawberry red, but he wasn’t embarrassed. It was genetic.
He swayed forward, rested his head on Huxley’s granite chest, and rolled it from side to side, enjoying the fabric of Huxley’s shirt brushing against his overheated forehead. “Okay, which window is Douglas’?”
“Douglas isn’t in his room,” Huxley explained. “Can you stand?” His big hands tried to push Kouki up gently, but Kouki just leaned into them. It was nice.
That was the problem with young teachers: it was difficult to think of them as teachers. Huxley had barely seemed older than the students. And he had always been cool and handsome. Practically perfect. All the students had idolized him. Or had a crush. Huxley had even made gym less painful for Kouki who got breathless just looking at a basketball.
“He said he would be,” Kouki whined.
“Did he?” Huxley asked, some of his good-natured humor disappearing. “Well he isn’t. He’s down at the party with…friends.”
“Nuh-uh,” Kouki protested, trying to understand the strange hesitancy in Huxley’s voice. Huxley was the most confident and certain person Kouki could think of. Huxley never hesitated. “He said he was gonna study.”
“How well do you actually know my brother?” Huxley asked with something like a warning in his tone. “You weren’t friends after middle school. You came over, what? Once? Twice?”
Kouki swallowed. “Um. Yeah. But after we gradu-gradumated…graduated,” he managed, “we went to the same college. We’re friends again. I help him with his math.”
“You’re the tutor that’s helped his grades come up?” Huxley asked. He was looking down at Kouki with wide, brown eyes. Was it dismay or shock? Both?
“Douglas talks about me?” Kouki asked and smiled lopsidedly.
Huxley sighed. “You need to sober up, Mr. Ishii.”
“Nah. Liquor makes me brave. Have to be brave,” Kouki said, giggling. “Why are you here, Mr. Huxley? I mean Winston. I forgot you told me to call you that now. Like I used to when we were kids. Before you became a Big. Shot. Teacher.”
Kouki laughed, poking at Huxley’s chest with a playful finger. He fondly remembered his childhood, how Huxley had made time to play with him, even though he was older, cooler, and obviously busy with his own things.
Huxley shrugged. “My parents guilted me into supervising the party while they’re away. I’m trying to keep my sister’s idiot friends from destroying the place.”
At that moment, there was a loud crash from inside the giant house. It was followed by howls of laughter and cheers. Huxley looked toward the sound.
“So much for that,” he mumbled. Suddenly, he stiffened, his gaze still locked on the house. Kouki couldn’t make out much of his surroundings, but he thought he heard voices giggling and whispering in the distance, the ruffle of clothing.
A familiar voice said, “Yeah, right here. Yeah, baby.”
But Kouki’s drunk mind couldn’t be certain. He leaned around Huxley’s big shoulders to try to see what was going on, but Huxley quickly shifted to the side to block his view.
“But Alicia’s old enough to be responsible,” Huxley said in a rush. “Right?”
Kouki chuckled. Alicia had been too little to play with them when they were kids, but she’d tried, running after them and crying when she couldn’t keep up. And now she was hosting a wild party and maybe dancing on a table somewhere. How time flew.
Kouki made himself leave the warm enclosure of Huxley’s arms. He felt cold without them, but he couldn’t stay here forever. He’d come to talk to Douglas.
“Now where are you going?” Huxley asked.
“Gonna find Douglas. Help him…study,” Kouki lied.
“Study? Sure,” Huxley said, skeptically.
“Uh. Yeah. Study,” Kouki muttered.
“Well, it’s admirable, but, ah, you’re pretty drunk. I don’t think you’d be much help. Besides, he…” Huxley began, but he hesitated again. Finally, he said, “He’s going to be hard to find. And you’re, well. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re in no shape to see him.” Huxley put a finger to his chin and studied Kouki critically.
“I’m not?” Kouki looked down at himself. He wasn’t dressed for a party, but he wasn’t wearing a garbage can like Oscar the Grouch, either.
“Not at all. You wouldn’t want him to see you like this, would you?” Huxley asked.
Worry pierced Kouki’s chest. “No! You’re right, Mr. Huxley. Winston. I should…be-be more present…presentable.”
“I have just the thing,” Huxley said. He kept darting looks at the house—were those moaning sounds coming from the shadows?—and Kouki really wondered what Huxley was looking at. He tried to step around to see, but Huxley blocked his view again.
“We’ll just go that way. Waaaay over there. I’ll drive,” Huxley said.
“We’re going somewhere?” Kouki asked confusedly.
“Yeah. Uh. Yeah. We are. Just follow me.” His hand wrapped around Kouki’s upper arm, steering him away from the house at a rapid pace.
“Oh, wait, wait,” Kouki cried.
“Hmm?” Huxley asked.
“Glassssshhhh,” Kouki tried.
“Oh, right. Your glasses. Hold on. You steady?”
“Yeah, sure.” Kouki swayed side to side.
“Right,” Huxley muttered, then dropped to one knee. After a moment, he stood and stepped close. His fingers brushed Kouki’s cheeks and ears as he placed the glasses over his eyes.
Kouki felt overwhelmed. “Oh, um. Thanks.”
“They look good. New?”
“On sale,” Kouki said proudly, flushing at the compliment.
“Smart and frugal,” Huxley teased, got him by the arm again, and marched him quickly to the detached garage.
“My car,” Huxley said unnecessarily, gesturing at the silver beast parked before the double garage. Kouki remembered the thing very well. Huxley had been the envy of students and staff with his expensive sports car. It was shaped like a bullet with muscles. Not a speck of dirt or a scratch ruined the shine.
“I get to ride in that?” Kouki wondered aloud. He was afraid to touch the door, but it wasn’t necessary because Huxley leaned across him to open it, holding out an arm like a footman for Cinderella.
“I’ll take you for a spin,” he said, smiling that bright white smile that Kouki remembered had melted all the girls’ hearts.
Kouki wobbled as he tried to bend low enough to clear the entrance without clonking his head into anything. Huxley was there again, his steady hands guiding him.
“There we are,” he said once Kouki was seated. He even buckled him in and Kouki didn’t remember Huxley being this touchy before. Not when they were kids, and certainly not when he’d been his teacher.
“Where are we going?”
“To get you Momma Huxley’s World Famous Sober Up Remedy.”
“It works?” Kouki marvelled.
“Fifty percent of the time when it works, it works one hundred percent of the time,” Huxley answered with a devilish grin. The beast roared to life, tearing down the road.
The World Famous Sober Up Remedy was, disappointingly, a burger and fries from a Burger King drive-through.
“I don’t want to eat this,” Kouki complained. The bag was greasy and the smell made his stomach scream in protest.
“Grease, carbs…nothing better to soak up,” but here he paused and scrutinized Kouki. “What were you drinking, anyway?”
“Wine coolers,” Kouki admitted. He chewed on a fry to cover his embarrassment.
“Kouki, you are hilarious,” Huxley chuckled, then took a big bite of his burger.
“Oh, right. You used to call me that. My name.”
“I did,” Huxley agreed. “I like your name. And you used to be thiiiiis tall,” he said, holding a hand just above the dash.
“Well, you were huge, even in middle school,” Kouki protested.
Huxley grinned at that. “You had this Power Rangers shirt.”
“I loved that shirt.” Kouki sighed blissfully at the memory.
Huxley laughed again and it was strange how familiar the sound was. The laugh had been a part of Kouki’s life for so long he’d taken it for granted. Now that his drunken adventure had thrown him into Huxley’s path after so long apart, he felt the years without that laugh like a hollow shell in his chest.
Kouki had been an oddball in school his whole life, the only Japanese child in a small town from the only Japanese family around. Meeting Douglas had changed his life.
He remembered gaping at Huxley’s parents, being surprised and pleased to learn that Mr. Huxley was white and Mrs. Huxley was black, making Douglas an oddball, too. There was definitely nobody else around here like the Huxleys. He’d wanted to be friends with Douglas and be like Winston, who exuded cool. Kouki had clung to the Huxleys like a castaway to a liferaft.
Maybe he was still clinging.
They ate in silence in the parking lot of the Burger King for long, silent minutes. Kouki watched the traffic pass, reminiscing. He was sobering up and that was a bad thing. He’d finally gotten up the courage to talk to Douglas about how he felt, and now all that courage was getting soaked up by a Whopper.
He remembered tutoring Douglas last Friday; Douglas hugging him so tightly and saying, “You’re a lifesaver. I’d be screwed without you.”
And Kouki had felt every year of longing smash into him like a wrecking ball. He’d decided all at once that maybe, just maybe, Douglas felt the same about him. Two wine coolers later, and here he was, sitting in a luxury car with his childhood idol, former gym teacher, and crush’s big brother. If he tried to explain this to anybody, they’d mistakenly think he was talking about three different guys.
Huxley wore a lot of hats in his life, Kouki realized.
“Where to?” Huxley asked after tossing their trash into the bin and settling back in behind the wheel.
“Uh…I dunno. Where do you want to go?”
“Arcade,” Huxley said and waggled his eyebrows. Kouki’s eyes lit up like a kid in a Power Rangers shirt.
Huxley found a barcade downtown, but only let Kouki buy sodas. “We just got you sober,” he explained.
“I hadn’t intended to be sober today,” Kouki complained. “I had, you know. Plans.”
“Now you have new plans,” Huxley boomed, caught him around the shoulders and dragged him to get quarters.
They played Skee-ball and Street Fighter and Whack-A-Mole. Kouki laughed so hard his sides hurt.
“Now where?” Huxley asked, shoving the giant pink gorilla he’d bought with his tickets into the tiny trunk of his sports car.
Surprised, Kouki glanced at the time. “I should get back to your house.”
Here Huxley froze, then spoke slowly in his deep, rumbling voice. “There’s nothing for you at that party, Kouki.”
“But Douglas…I should…”
“Maybe you’re exactly where you need to be,” Huxley said, his eyes serious and sincere.
Kouki frowned. There seemed to be something hidden in Huxley’s words. He felt flustered, but couldn’t quite connect the dots.
“We could get ice cream? Like we used to?” Kouki said, because it had just occurred to him that, minus the sports car and Huxley looking like a supermodel, this was just like the things they did as kids. Eating burgers; going to the arcade; getting ice cream.
“Excellent choice,” Huxley said. He buckled up and floored it.
In minutes they were leaning against the car with waffle cones, staring at the view of the sky from the mall parking lot.
“Pretty sky,” Kouki said but Huxley didn’t reply. Kouki turned to find Huxley staring at him.
“Do I have ice cream all over my face?”
“You shouldn’t let Douglas use you like this,” Huxley said, no humor in his eyes.
Kouki deflated. So Huxley was only spending time with Kouki to warn him off Douglas. The ice cream suddenly tasted awful.
“He appreciates my help,” Kouki said sullenly.
“And he’s stringing you along to keep getting that help,” Huxley said. “Open your eyes.”
And that…stung. Kouki ducked his head. He knew Huxley and knew he wasn’t saying this to be mean or hurtful. It just sucked that he had so clearly said aloud the words Kouki had been thinking to himself for a long time.
“Can you…can you take me home?” he asked instead of arguing.
“Sure,” Huxley whispered.
They only spoke when Huxley needed the address to Kouki’s apartment. Otherwise, the ride was as uncomfortable and silent as it had been warm and chatty before.
His apartment building was silent, dark. He turned the key, and wasn’t surprised when Huxley invited himself in. The man had made it clear that he wasn’t going away tonight. Kouki just didn’t know why, which was messing with his mind.
Huxley had issued his warning. He should just go.
Kouki locked the door and moved across the room, putting some space between them. He needed answers.
“Why are you doing this? Hanging out. Driving me around.”
Huxley crossed his arms. “I think you know why.”
Kouki stomped his foot and shouted, “No, I don’t! You’re nice and I’m confused and— ”
“You’re too good for Douglas,” Huxley interrupted, making Kouki mouth at him stupidly.
“You are. Look, I love him, but my brother is a child,” Huxley said.
“We’re the same age,” Kouki countered weakly.
“He’s a child. Selfish. A fool.”
“Oh, don’t say that,” Kouki begged in a whiny voice. He closed his eyes and shook his head. “Please don’t say that. He’s my oldest friend and— “
“You need a man,” Huxley interrupted. Shock jerked Kouki’s head up to look at Huxley, who was approaching.
“I…” Kouki started to say, realized he had nothing to add, and just let his mouth close.
“Someone who doesn’t take you for granted,” Huxley purred.
“Um,” Kouki tried again. Huxley was close and smelled amazing.
“Since when do you feel like this?” Kouki said, trying to sound fierce, but only sounding hopeful.
Huxley’s crooked grin was back. “Since I caught you. I always thought you were nice. Cute. But you felt right in my arms. You belong with me.” He hadn’t stopped advancing and he was so close Kouki thought he could count his eyelashes.
“Oh. Are you going to kiss me?” Kouki whispered.
“Are you going to stop me?” Huxley whispered back.
And he didn’t, which meant a heartbeat later, he was buzzing from the tingle of Huxley’s lips moving over his. His mouth was sweet. Ice cream, Kouki’s mind supplied, but then again, maybe not. Maybe Huxley just tasted as good as he looked.
“Okay?” Huxley asked, pulling back just enough to examine Kouki’s reaction.
“Yeah. Better than okay.” Kouki slipped off his glasses, placed them on the table. “They’re new.”
“Mm,” Huxley said and kissed him again, pulled him hard against his chest. “I want more, okay?” His hands were moving, making more very clear.
More was very okay with Kouki. He had a queen-sized bed, which was just fine for one guy, but Huxley was big enough to make it seem small.
“This is very fast,” Kouki stated, stripping off his shirt and straddling Huxley’s thighs. “Not complaining, but…”
“Nah. Long time coming,” Huxley disagreed and splayed his fingers over Kouki’s chest. Kouki pressed into them, rocked his hips forward and gasped at the friction.
“What do you want to do?” Huxley asked.
“Oh, anything,” Kouki said agreeably. He got both their pants unzipped, leaned low, wrapped his hand around them both.
“A good start,” Huxley agreed, but his words were strained as he twisted in pleasure. He reached his hand down and it engulfed Kouki’s. Then he squeezed, increased the pressure on their dicks, made Kouki shout. Their hands were moving fast and it felt like drowning and flying all at once.
“This might be over pretty quick,” Kouki gasped in apology.
“It’s brilliant,” Huxley said. He managed to smile, even though he was rocking their bodies together, chasing orgasm.
They came at the same time and Huxley cursed. It was messy and amazing and Kouki wondered how, exactly, this had all happened. The wine coolers, sure, but the rest was a mystery.
Later, Kouki marvelled aloud, “I have the coolest boyfriend.” He was wiping Huxley down with a damp cloth, counting the muscles of his stomach over and over.
“I don’t have to introduce you to mom and dad. They know you,” Huxley mused. “Douglas is going to be jealous.”
“Probably not,” Kouki said, pouting.
“Oh, he will,” Huxley said firmly. “But you snooze, you lose.” He opened his arms. “Come here.”
Kouki hurried to settle against his chest. Huxley was right: he belonged here. It was perfect being held by Huxley.
“This is it,” Huxley muttered against his hair. “This is how I knew.”
“You’re crazy, Mr. Huxley.”
“I am, Mr. Ishii. Now, good night. I’ll make you breakfast in the morning. Now sleep.“
Kouki could just reach the lamp and he pulled the chain. “Good night,” he said. “I want pancakes.”
“Deal,” Huxley agreed. He kissed Kouki’s forehead, then dropped off to sleep. He snored, Kouki noticed, but that was fine. Huxley couldn’t actually be perfect. That would be weird.