Sleep took some time to come. I was fussed and flustered. This wasn’t working, and it showed no signs of ever working. I’d totally misread him. He might not have misread me. He might have figured out I was gay and wanted nothing to do with me now. Damn! Damn damn damn damn! I lay there being miserable, and when I finally did drop off, it wasn’t a good sleep; I was restless and unhappy and kept waking and then falling back to sleep again.
I was about half asleep and realized I was shivering. In all the tossing and turning I’d been doing, never getting comfortable, I’d managed to entirely work my way out from under the heavy blanket on the bed. I realized the air in the cabin was really, really cold. And then I realized something else. My eyes were adjusted to the dark by then, and I vaguely saw Scott get out of his bed and approach mine.
He must have seen I was awake because he said, “I’m too cold. I forgot to reset the electricity cutoff switch. It’s outside and I’m not going out there now. Can I get in with you? Maybe two of us together will be warmer.”
“Sure,” I said. I lifted the blankets and scooted over against the wall. He got in, turned on his side facing away from me, and shivered hard.
I hadn’t been able to avoid seeing he was as naked as I was. I dropped the blanket over us, gulped, and asked in a very small voice, “Do you want me to, uh, sort of, move up against you?”
In just as small a voice, he said, “Please? If you would?”
“Of course,” I said and moved up to enfold him, my front pressing up against his back. I was touching him from his shoulders down to his ankles, and I wrapped my top arm over his chest.
That caused a problem. It meant my middle was up against his soft butt. A butt I’d admired for months now. He was still shivering, and with the arm that was holding him, I gently pulled us tighter together. He wriggled a little, getting comfortable. His wriggling caused the problem any gay teen boy would have who was pressed against a naked boy he’d been falling in love with for months. Yeah, I was getting hard. I was getting hard quite rapidly. I had to adjust it as it lengthened or it would have poked him right out of bed. I moved it so it was pointing up toward my chin. It was now lying as though it belonged there, settling in perfectly along the crevice of his butt.
He felt it. How could he not feel it? He lay still for a moment, then wiggled again. Just his butt this time. I might have pressed forward a little. Well, if you’re a guy, you know what I mean. Someone, something, stimulates your main part, you rather automatically move into it to increase the stimulation. Automatic. Instinctive. Not my fault at all.
Scott took a deep breath. Then he wiggled again and this time pressed back into me.
Oh, my god! Did this mean what I thought it did? How could it possibly not mean that? But I was confused. Confounded, really. I’d been worrying that he was straight and afraid I’d try to take advantage of him. Now, even though it seemed he was trying to take advantage of me, I was still carrying that thought, and it made me very reluctant to do what my body was rather insistently insisting I do. Do what?
I wasn’t going to, though. Wasn’t going to reciprocate, that is, until I had this all straightened out. Uh, maybe that needs rewording. I was going to clear this up. No misunderstandings this time.
“Scott, really? I mean, I want to do this. God, do I ever want to. But all the signals you’ve been giving me all day say you don’t want any part of this, of me. So I’m getting mixed messages, and I don’t want to do the wrong thing. But I’ll say this: you wiggle that butt of yours one more time, and, well, let the fireworks begin. Once the fuse is lit, it’s best to step back and let the explosions go off without any interference.”
He giggled. About the last thing I’d have expected, but he giggled. Then he somehow managed to twist around so he was facing me. He was also stabbing me in the stomach with that wonderful sword he carried around with him.
“You’re gay?” he asked, almost breathlessly.
“Yeah! You, too?”
He giggled again. “Of course. You must be denser than a tree stump not to have figured that out. I’ve been coming on to you since we met.”
“No, you haven’t! When did you ever do that?”
“Ever since we met! I knew I liked you from the first time we ran together. Didn’t you wonder why I never beat you? All those training runs, that was me, flirting with you! Plus, I wasn’t sure how you’d take it if I finished ahead of you. I wanted you to like me. I was afraid if I beat you, you wouldn’t. I liked you from the first, and the attraction has just gotten stronger and stronger as I’d gotten to know you.”
“I did wonder why you never beat me when it was so obvious you could. I never considered it was your way of telling me you liked me. I liked you, too, right from the beginning. Probably, more than I should have. But you’re younger than I am, and you’re beautiful and sexy and wonderful and, well, I couldn’t make any moves until at least I knew you were gay. I’ve been trying to find out. That shower with Jensen? I set it up! I wanted to see if you’d get hard. If you didn’t, then maybe, probably, you were gay. But you did. Well, almost. So then, when I’d been thinking you might be, I sort of thought you might not be.”
“Yeah, I started to get hard, but it was from watching the other guys bone up! That was what turned me on, not Jensen. Well, duh, I’m gay. Of course seeing guys get hard was arousing. Not completely hard because I wasn’t attracted to those guys. But that’s the reason I reacted like that.”
“Well, mister, that isn’t all you need to explain. When I asked you about coming up here, you seemed mostly uninterested, and then when we got here, it was awful. What was that all about?”
“I just misunderstood you, Xander, that’s what. You seemed to want to come up here, but you just asked if you could have the cabin by yourself. You only wanted to come here to improve your running. I had to invite myself, and it was obvious you didn’t care about me coming. So I decided right then you’ weren’t interested in me at all, and I was bummed by that. Bummed and pissed and disappointed and it a really crappy mood, and, well, I guess I let it show.”
I growled, exasperated. “But that wasn’t what I meant at all! I’d thought coming up here with you would let me finally and for sure find out if you were gay. Asking if I could use the cabin and not asking if you wanted to come along when I did was just me being coy. I didn’t want to be too obvious. I’m not out and don’t want to be till college. That’s why I couldn’t ask you in the first place whether you were gay. If you weren’t gay, you’d think I was if I asked, and I couldn’t have that. Anyway, by the time I asked about this cabin, I was pretty sure you weren’t. Especially when you weren’t really looking forward to coming up here with me.”
You know that guy thing that was mentioned earlier? The one where if you’re excited you want to press your excitement towards whatever is causing the excitement? Well, I also said he was poking me with his, uh, excitement, and all the time we were talking he’d continued with the poking. Although rather quickly the poking had changed into a pressing and rubbing as his tumescence was now lying against me rather like mine was pressing against him. As we’d been speaking, our voices had been becoming raspier. I now had my hand on his back again and was continuing to pull us together in rhythm with our mutual pressing. He started pressing harder and faster, and then rather suddenly we were quite slippery, which is when I did reciprocate and the slipperiness reached maximum proportions and became quite sloppy.
“Oops!” he said, and laughed, and laughed some more, and I did too, because, as I said earlier, his laugh was infectious.
Needless to say, we got very little sleep the rest of the night. Hey, it was colder than a penguin’s pee in that room, and we had to stay together under those covers to survive. And two boys who liked each other more than a lot and both had just found that out and were being forced to be that close to each other by the elements, well, it wasn’t our fault. That’s all I’m saying here.
We didn’t get a hell of a lot of sleep the next night, either.
] 0 [
I wasn’t sure what the two days and two nights had done for my running. I did know they’d opened a door into a brand new world for me. We were together now, Scott and me.
“Are we boyfriends?” he asked.
“You’re asking me? You’re the brains of this outfit. You tell me.”
“Yeah,” he said, “we’re boyfriends. I’ve never had a boyfriend. This is neat. I’ve always wanted one, but the places I’ve lived have been really conservative. If there were any gay boys around, and I’d guess there must have been, they were so deep in the closet I should have known who they were by the mothball smell.”
“I’m in the closet,” I said. “Haven’t even spoken to my mother about it.”
“So am I. Without a boyfriend or even a chance of having one, why take the chance of saying anything? I have no idea how they’d react. I keep reading stories about boys who are pretty certain their family will accept them, and when they come out, the families do. I don’t get that. Is that really how it is? I don’t think the word ‘gay’ has ever been spoken in our house. My ‘rents just assume I’m straight. But what do they feel about gay boys? Would they accept a gay son? I have no clue.”
“I’m the same,” I said. “I’ve read how coming out takes a weight off your shoulders and makes you free. And it probably does to some kids. I’m not all that independent. I’m one who follows the rules, does what he’s told to do, doesn’t make waves, thinks things through in advance, and coming out . . . doing that with no idea how people will respond, that just isn’t me. I’ve planned all along to come out in college where I’ll be on my own a lot more than I am now.”
“But you and I are together now. Right?” Scott looked worried for a moment, a very unusual look for him, but then it faded away to be replaced by his almost perpetual smile. “Yeah, we are. You’ll just have to learn how to keep your hands off me in public. Tough job, but you can manage it. You’re strong.”
“Just like you to find a way to joke about this. We will have to be careful. Those smitten-eyed looks you give me will tell anyone with an ounce of brains how much you’re into me. You have to find a way to tone those way down.”
“Hey, you made a joke!”
“I have a sense of humor,” I said, mimicking outrage.
“Sure you do. Keep telling yourself that!”
I realized I’d never had a conversation with anyone like this before. I’d always been too cautious. Maybe hiding being gay was part of that, having to learn not to let that cat out of the bag at an early age when I’d realized I was different. Learning to be careful what I said, what I revealed of myself. It was a great relief to be able to say anything to Scott, to joke around, to hold nothing back. This is the way most kids were. Not me. Not before this.
I did tell him we were boyfriends. I didn’t want him to have any doubts about that.
We spent part of Sunday, most of the afternoon in fact, doing homework that was needed to be completed by Monday, and then my mom showed up and drove us home. Scott stayed to have dinner with us. Suddenly the whole world was feeling right to me.
I found out on Monday what the time spent at altitude had done. I had more wind than I’d had before. Suddenly, it felt like Scott couldn’t run away from me anymore. If he picked up the pace now, I could stay with him. It was glorious! Maybe this would only last a week or so, but that was okay. I only needed it till Saturday.
] 0 [
The race was being held on Saturday instead of the usual
Friday because of all the interest in it. The papers had played it up big. Two undefeated schools, though one with a tie on its record. The best two individual cross-country runners in northern California facing off against each other. The conference crown up for grabs. There was all kinds of drama here, and the papers were getting all the mileage they could out of it.
My team was stoked. Coach had been much more involved with us this week than usual, encouraging all the runners individually, telling them to run their own races and not get too emotionally overwrought. I’d been my usual low-key self, but inside, I was churning. I wanted the win badly, both for the team and myself.
The guy I’d be trying to beat, Collier Franks, was a senior. This would be his last school race. He’d go on to the state meet as a single entrant, just like I would. That race was for individuals, not teams. But as this was his last race representing his school, he’d want to win it as badly as I did.
I’d raced against him twice now, both as a freshman and soph. He’d won both those races. I was a better runner now, but so was he. However, my times in my races this year had been better than his. The problem was that the time depended on both the runner and the course. If he’d run tougher courses than I had, his times would have been slower. His times were slower, but not all that much. The courses could have accounted for the difference.
So I was psyched and pumped and ready but on edge as we came to the starting line. I was right next to him. Collier glanced at me, smiled, and stuck out his hand. I shook it, and he said, “Great times you’ve been putting up. Good luck today.”
“You too,” I said, then looked forward. Don’t let him in your head, I told myself. Maybe he’s a nice guy, maybe he’s playing with you, but this is your race. Win it!
The gun went off, and so did we.
As expected, Collier started off fast. That was my style, too, and I stayed with him, dropping just behind him. I wanted him to think he had me beat, that his experience would make this his race. I was planning on something else, something a bit more devious. Yeah, I had a plan. I always had a plan.
The plan was for Scott to take his attention away from me. And for that to happen, Scott had to be running with him. After the first 100 yards, it was a three-man race. Me, Collier and Scott. At that point, Scott passed me and was at Collier’s shoulder. We ran that way for the entire first kilometer, Collier and Scott together, me just behind.
At that point we’d been running fast, not in a sprint but at a pace that wouldn’t take us to the finish. Collier had to slow down . . . and he did, with Scott and me maintaining our positions. We ran a couple of hundred yards that way, and then Scott looked over at Collier and said, “Hey, how you doing?”
It’s not common for a runner in a competitive race to speak to the guy next to him unless it’s a teammate, and even then it’s rare. I’m sure Collier was surprised. He didn’t show it, though. He didn’t respond, either, just kept running, eyes front.
A few steps later, Scott said, “Well, it was nice chatting with you, but this pace doesn’t do it for me. See you later.” Then he sped up and started quickly pulling away.
Collier didn’t know what to do. He’d not been in the position before where a runner moved ahead so quickly and easily this early in a race. Should he maintain his present pace and let the guy go, assuming the pace would kill him and he’d pass him eventually when he faltered, or should he pick up the pace right then to at least keep the guy somewhat close?
Collier decided to do what I’d been pretty sure he’d do: he sped up. Now he was running at a faster pace than he was comfortable with. I stayed right behind him. It was a little fast for me, too, but I wasn’t feeling the extra pace at all. I smiled inwardly, thinking of my time in the mountains.
By the time we’d reached the 3K marker, Scott was still ahead. He was still in sight, and in fact a little farther in front, and Collier had another decision to make. Should he expend the effort to get closer, or leave it till later? Would he have enough kick to catch Scott if he didn’t close the gap a little? Would closing the gap now affect his kick? Decisions!
He again did as expected. He sped up, hoping to close the gap while guaranteeing that Scott didn’t increase it. I stayed my usual two steps behind Collier.
We came to the 4K mark with our positions unchanged. I knew Collier was timing his final charge. It had to be soon. Scott was still twenty yards in front. That was a lot to overtake. And so, this was my time. While he was figuring out what to do, I crashed forward, racing past him.
I was in full sprint mode. Yeah, it was too far from the finish to do that, but I thought I could do it, and I thought Collier couldn’t, not at the pace we’d been running.
I was really kicking it, shooting past Collier, gaining quickly on Scott. I caught him with the finish line now in sight but still a half a kilometer in front of us. When he saw me, he grinned.
“Come on,” I gasped. “Get the lead out.”
And he did, picking up the pace so he stayed next to me. He glanced back and said, “He’s coming, but,” two breaths, “nowhere near fast enough to catch us.”
And he didn’t. He was four seconds behind us when Scott and I crossed the line together.
Devin, Brian and Jensen all did their thing, and we won handily. Undefeated. First time ever for us. The coach couldn’t stop grinning and patting backs.
Collier never did shake my hand. I guessed that his nice-guy act at the beginning had been meant to be a psych-out. Hadn’t worked.