The soft glow from the setting sun coming through the partially open curtains falling onto Britland’s face. Opening his eyes he breathed deeply, comfortable in the loving embrace of his lover. A soft blush deepened his cheeks. His mind replaying their first time together. His first time ever. He fumbled his way through it with trembling hands and was thankful for Carson’s patience. Not once had he been made to feel as awkward and shy he knew he was. Carson patiently guided him, making sure he was alright with everything they did before taking the next step.
He snuggled in close. His head comfortable in the crevice between Carson’s arm and chest. Their legs tangled together a gentle reminder of the passion they had shared. A low, quickly smothered sigh escaped Britland’s lips. He felt Carson shift beside him. Looking up he found Carson’s gentle lavender eyes gazing down at him.
“Are you alright” he asked sounding concerned as he pressed his lips to Britland’s forehead “no regrets?”
A small shy smile tugged at Britland’s lips “no regrets.” He brought a hand up to Carson’s torso drawing lazy circles with his finger tips. “I’ve never” he bit his bottom lip “I didn’t know” he looked up gazing into Carson’s eyes, cheeks heating up.
“What” Carson asked his fingers gently threading a trail up Britland’s spine stopping to tangle in his blonde hair.
“Nothing I just never knew it could be like that” he ducked his face attempting to hide. “You must think I’m an idiot.”
“What makes you say that” Carson demanded gently tugging on the blonde’s hair to get him to look up.
“Well you’re so …. and I’m so….” he lifted his chin up eyes focused on the rumpled sheet beneath them.
“You’re so….what” Carson inquired sensing the turmoil going on inside the blonde but unsure what the problem was. He wondered if he had pushed Britland to far too soon. He knew what Britland said but sometimes what he said didn’t match how he felt.
Looking up Britland met Carson’s eyes “I know what you’re thinking.” Determination making his voice firm “you think I regret what we did, don’t you?”
“Do you” his pulse racing he waited for the blonde’s answer. He knew he should have waited. Should have made sure he was ready. His hands felt shaky and clammy as he held Britland lightly in his arms.
Britland’s brow furrowed as he leant his ear against his chest. He could hear Carson’s heart race. Was he upset with him? Was he tired of catering to his neediness? “I’m sorry” he murmured sitting up pulling the sheet around his shoulders.
Carson blinked forcing tears back. What had he done? He pulled his knees up to his chest shivering from more than cold. “You have nothing to be sorry for. It’s me. I should have waited. I’m the one who should have known better. Stopped before we crossed that line.”
“I thought we were in this together” Britland stared at the floor trying to make sense of what Carson was saying. “I wanted it as much as you.”
“But I thought” Carson stirred behind him reaching for Britland he felt him stiffen at his touch.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t any good” he continued lost in his own thoughts “you could be with just about anyone and you chose me. An awkward first timer who had no clue what they were doing. You probably regret being with someone like me….”
Blinking Carson asked “is that what you think?” When Britland nodded looking miserable huddled inside the sheet Carson pulled him close “that’s the furthest thing from the truth. It’s a gift you gave me being your first. Experience isn’t everything.”
“You’re just saying that” the blonde mumbled eyes fixed on the floor at his feet.
Carson gently lifted Britland’s chin so he could look into the blonde’s troubled green eyes. Words would do little to reassure him at this point. Slowly he lowered his face to brush his lips across Britland’s. He slid his tongue along Britland’s lower lip until he opened his mouth inviting him in. Their tongues swept across each other savoring each other’s taste. Britland raised his hands to the back of Carson’s head letting the sheet fall from around his shoulders.
Felix sat stiffly beside Crystal on the small couch. Ryan sat across from them with looked like a permanent glare on his face. Charity was in the kitchen attempting to make them dinner. Crystal moved as if to get up “where are you going” Felix asked reaching for hand.
She smiled sweetly, squeezing his hand “Charity could use some help with dinner.” She giggled at the unspoken plea in Felix’s eyes “don’t worry. Ryan won’t bite.” She winked over at her brother “he’s really just an old softy.”
Ryan glowered at her crossing his arms in front of him. “There are two things I don’t take lightly. Anyone who hurts my wife or takes advantage of my sister.”
“He’s not taking advantage of me” Crystal shook her head at him. “Now behave” she admonished both of them before joining Charity in the kitchen.
The two men stared glumly at each other. Ryan broke the silence by asking “what do you do for a living?”
Jumping at the sound of his voice it took Felix a moment to gather his thoughts. What do you do for a living? Such a simple every day question. Yet Felix had no answer for it. He doubted Ryan would find the truth palpable. Up until this moment Felix never thought twice about his lifestyle.
“Let me guess” Ryan said sitting forward giving Felix a cold hard stare “you live off an allowance from your parents. No need to work right?”
“Yeah so” his voice was challenging even though inside he was squirming beneath Ryan’s steady gaze. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Tilting his head to the side Ryan considered the other man’s words. “I never said there was. You’re the one becoming defensive. So do you think something’s wrong with it?”
“I’m not defensive” Felix grumbled crossing his legs attempting to appear nonchalant. “I just haven’t found anything I like to do yet.”
“Have you been looking” Ryan asked “what kind of things do you like to do? I mean besides the obvious women, drink and money. I don’t like the idea of my sister dating a gigolo.”
Gigolo. Felix’s mind repeated the word over and over in his head. He wasn’t that bad was he? A man whore? Sure he liked sex. Lots and lots of hot steamy sex. He preferred it with a different girl each time with a few exceptions like the horny neighbor lady and that was primarily because she didn’t take no as an answer. His eyes moved involuntarily towards Crystal. Feelings of unworthiness nearly drowned him as if he had a cloud over his head.
She caught his gaze. Smiled at him giving him a thumbs up sign before turning back to whatever she was stirring on the stove. His stomach growled. Whatever was being prepared for dinner smelled fantastic. Felix appreciated a good home cooked meal even though his mother had never cooked a day in her life. Meals were either take out or catered events. It was odd that the person Felix found to be the most challenging appeared to be basic, domestic, sweet and innocent. All the things his mother was not and would frown upon.
“What are you thinking” Ryan asked intruding upon his thoughts.
“That my mother would eat Crystal for lunch” he shrugged “my mother doesn’t put much stock on the domestic arts. She would say that’s what she hires people for.”
“My sister isn’t hired help” Ryan sounded like he was speaking through gritted teeth.
Waves of anger and disapproval washed over Felix in waves. “I didn’t say she was or that I agreed” he mumbled unsure exactly what he said to give Ryan that idea.
“We may not look or act it but we do come from money” Ryan postured causing both girls to give him worried looks from where they were in the kitchen.
“It’s just never been important” Crystal added her brow wrinkled in concern.
“It’s not important” Felix assured her glaring at Ryan “I know your Dad is in some famous rock band.” He shrugged like it didn’t matter. “I know my parents. It’s not what they call old money. They like to tell everyone they’re aristocrats. Old money.”
“Ah” Ryan nodded relaxing “that’s explains it.”
“Explains what” Felix demanded somewhat confused.
“You’re lack of interest in doing anything useful” Ryan arched an eyebrow. The room seemed charged with tension while everyone waited to see what Felix would do.
“What’s that supposed to mean” he demanded “just because I don’t have to work or have any desire to do so doesn’t mean I’m not useful.” He had no idea why Ryan’s comments stung so much. Other people had said similar things. Almost always he had let their comments roll off his back. They were after all mostly true. He didn’t want to work. Saw no point in it.
Ryan crossed his arms waiting “have you done anything useful?”
“Well no” Felix admitted recounting what he had accomplished since he had been on his own.
“Don’t you think it’s time you stop playing games” Ryan asked sitting forwards expectantly. His green eyes smoldered “if you’re serious about my sister you should be…”
“Hey” Felix growled standing up “she knows what I am. I’ve made no effort to hide it. I don’t see why you have such a problem with me if she doesn’t.”
Standing Ryan towered over him “I’m her big brother. It’s my job to protect her from jerks….”
“Guys” Crystal shouted at them “I told you to be nice.”
“We are” they said glowering at each other.
“Doesn’t sound like it to me” Charity said giving her husband a disapproving look.
Ryan shrank a little under her gaze. Shrugging he gave Felix a brief smile. “Just giving you a small taste of what it’ll be like when you meet our Dad. I suggest you come up with some answers to those questions I posed. Dad’ll ask and he’ll want answers.”
The banging of the door as it hit the wall hard enough to dent the plaster made Britland jump in Carson’s embrace. “What the hell” Carson demanded looking into Britland’s shocked green eyes.
“Shit” Felix grumbled “this is a fine time for you to get some action.”
“Do you mind” Carson asked of the pink haired dynamo pacing in front of their open bedroom door.
Looking up Felix gave him a sour look that might have withered lesser men. “I need to talk to Britland” he announced seemingly unaware of the blonde’s discomfort.
“We’re kind of busy” Carson growled trying his best to block Felix’s view of the blonde who was doing his best to become one with the mattress. He glanced around for a blanket or sheet but found both wadded up on the floor. He could reach for them but that would leave Britland completely exposed. Not something he was willing to do even if it were only in front of Felix.
“Yeah I can see that” Felix snorted “if it weren’t important I’d leave you to have at it. You’ve both waited long enough to get some.”
The unusual entreaty and almost apologetic tone in Felix’s voice had Carson’s attention. “Is something the matter?”
“Yeah” shaking his head as if the world had lost all meaning. “Do you mind getting dressed? I think I’ve seen more of you then I’ve ever wanted.”
Chuckling a little Carson glanced down at Britland who was staring up at him pleading with his eyes for him not to move. “That kind of happens when you forget to knock. Doors are there for a reason.”
“It’s never been a problem before” Felix said in an almost whining tone. “How was I supposed to know that you two would choose now to get your freak on? I mean I kind of thought Brit would hold out until the wedding night.”
Carson looked down into Britland’s face to find it a dark emerald-green. His eyes were round and watery. Bending forward Carson placed a quick feathery kiss on the blonde’s forehead. “After this I wouldn’t be surprised if he does,” he winked at Britland “if you want to talk to him you’re going to have to leave so we can get dressed. Otherwise I think he’s going to stay right here and melt into the mattress.”
“It’s not like he has anything I haven’t got or seen already” Felix huffed “I’ve already seen more of his boyfriend than I’ve ever intended.”
“Fiance” Britland corrected from beneath Carson.
“Oh” this time it was Felix’s turn to be shocked as he bumped into the dresser “um yeah …. finish what you were doing.”
“Dude the door” Carson called after him “talk about a mood killer.” Carson grumbled loud enough so that Felix could hear wherever he might have retreated to.
He moved to get up and close the door when Britland wrapped his arms and legs around him preventing him from moving. “Babe you’re going to have to let me up. We can’t stay like this forever no matter how much we might want to.” He brought his face down to nibble on Britland’s bottom lip wondering if he could get the mood back.
“The door” Britland mumbled against his lips.
Nope guess not Carson chuckled pulling himself away from the blonde. “You’re going to have let me go” he said as Britland released him leaving him feeling somewhat cold and empty. By the time he closed the door and turned around he found Britland sitting on the bed with a sheet wrapped him.
Shaking his head Carson walked over to Britland whose face was a deep emerald-green. “One day you’re not going to be this bashful in front of me in the buff.”
Britland’s eyes grew even rounder at the idea “I don’t…” he stammered shrinking further into the sheet.
“It’s really not so different from walking around in your boxers” Carson grinned “you do that all the time.”
“There’s a big difference” Britland objected as his eyes followed Carson around the room as he collected his discarded clothes. A part of him envied the other man’s ease at walking around in the nude with someone watching.
“You better get dressed” Carson smiled over at him as he pulled his pants up “Felix isn’t known for his patience.”
“Do you think you could um” he bit his lips feeling rather foolish for his request considering what they had just been caught doing.
“What’s the matter babe” Carson asked walking over to him.
“I can’t” he gulped glancing away unable to meet Carson’s concerned gaze.
“Can’t what” Carson asked kneeling down beside him on the floor.
“I can’t” Britland pulled the sheet to his chin “not in front of you.”
“Babe there’s no need to be embarrassed” Carson chuckled softly “I’ve seen everything there is to be seen and ….”
Britland groaned remembering how his body reacted to having Carson’s hands and mouth on areas of his body that he was now desperately concealing beneath the sheet. “Go ahead and laugh” he mumbled “I know it doesn’t make sense…..but I just can’t.”
“Alright I’ll go” Carson’s shoulders shook as he tried not to laugh too hard. As he got to his feet he leaned forward placing a soft kiss on the top of Britland’s head. “I do love you and your many contradictions.”
“You changed” Carson said looking up when the bedroom door opened and Britland walked out.
“Well yeah” he shrugged glancing over his shoulder. He had stripped and changed the sheets, gathered his discarded clothing that had been strewn across the floor. He had tossed it all into the hamper ready to be washed.
Deciding not to pursue that line of conversation Carson glanced at Felix who was busy staring at his feet, knees bouncing a chaotic rhythm. Carson raised an eyebrow but wisely kept his mouth shut. He had no desire to agitate the little pinked haired dynamo anymore than necessary. While Britland had been in the hospital Felix had been there for him, offering support, a shoulder to cry on. Carson had seen a side of Felix he hadn’t thought existed and only existed in Britland’s imagination. “I’ll be in my room” he told them with a brief smile encouraging Britland to come sit instead of standing and staring.
“Is he gone” Felix asked without lifting his head up.
“Um yeah” Britland shuffled forward watching Felix in concern. “What’s wrong” he asked sitting in the opposite chair avoiding the couch still unable to rid his mind of what Felix and the neighbor lady had done on it.
“Is something wrong with me” Felix growled lifting his head up to glare at Britland.
“Nnno” he stammered unsure what was prompting the question. It was unusual for Felix to spend much time in self-reflection. It was even more unusual for him to let other people’s opinions influence him. “Are you alright” he asked his concern deepening as Felix buried his face in his hands moaning.
“I think there is” his voice muffled “I’ve never been in a relationship. Never had a job before.” His pale eyes were vague as his thoughts turned inward. “Am I really that useless?”
“Where is all of this coming from” Britland asked “did someone say you were? Did you and Carson get into an argument?” He knew the two didn’t really like each other. They had been getting along recently but he suspected that had more to do with him being in the hospital than them liking each other. “I’ll go get him. We’ll get to the bottom of this.” He got to his feet but didn’t get far before Felix’s voice stopped him.
“It’s not him” Felix shook his head “it wasn’t anything he said.” He ran a hand that appeared to be trembling through his disheveled hair. “Crystal deserves so much more than I can offer.”
“Maybe we should get Carson” Britland suggested feeling he needed some back.
“No” Felix shook his head “only you. Please.”
The plea in his voice had Britland sitting again “did Crystal say you weren’t good enough?”
Shaking his head vehemently, his eyes unfocused “no not her. Her brother kept asking me things. Things I had no idea how to answer. Things that normal people would know. What do I do? What do I like to do? Am I doing anything useful with my life?” He blinked several times “I realized then I wasn’t good enough. None of those things mattered before. I never cared before” he moaned hanging his head, elbows propped up on his knees.
“And you ran” Britland concluded. Watching Felix nod in agreement he realized he had never seen his friend so upset about anything in his life. In the past he had a revolving door of girls coming and going. It never occurred to Britland that Crystal would be any different. “I have a suggestion that might help you figure out some of the answers.”
Felix lifted his head eyes full of interest. “I’ll do anything,” his voice rising with excitement as he latched on to the hope Britland held out to him.
“I’m taking a few college courses at the university here in town” Britland explained “I don’t really want to model for a living. It’s not who I am.”
Nodding Felix leaned forward eager to hear more “do you think that might help me figure things out?”
“It couldn’t hurt” Britland smiled “maybe we could even take a couple of classes together.”
“I’ll do it” Felix jumped to his relieved to have made a decision about his future. He walked towards the door “I can’t wait to tell Crystal.” He stopped face twisting in pain “oh no I can’t go back. I ran. She said don’t come back.”
“Come on” Carson’s voice made both of them jump.
“Were you listening” Felix accused shrugging off the larger man’s hands, eyes filling with indignation.
“I needed to use the bathroom” Carson pointed to the door he just came out of. “I heard enough to know you have to go back.”
“She told me I can’t” Felix deflated just as quickly as his anger rose. “She hates me.”
“Do you like her” Carson asked ignoring his statement.
“What difference does that make” he demanded drooping against the wall like a plant in need of water.
“I repeat. Do. You. Like. Her.” He emphasized each word slowly and distinctly.
“She’s everything and more” Felix sighed “I ruined it just like everything else.”
“If you like her” Carson cut into the steady flow of recriminations “then show her. Tell her. Do whatever it takes to prove it to her.” Glancing over at Britland “under the counter by the coffee maker I have a bottle of wine my Aunt gave me. She thought it would go well with an engagement dinner I was planning to surprise you with. Can you get it for me?”
Nodding Britland hurried to do as he was asked. Retrieving it he held the bottle out to Carson who cradled it in his arms like baby. “If I give this to you, will you promise to do your best not to run again?”
Felix nodded although his eyes were suspicious “why are you helping me?”
Shoving the bottle into Felix’s hands he smiled “I don’t know really. I’m not sure I like you but Britland does. I have a feeling you’re in my life for good now.” He shoved Felix forward “besides I think everyone deserves a chance at finding love. If she’s the one and I think she just might be, I want to help you get out of your own way.”
Felix stood in the empty hallway. He heard the door lock behind him a signal that there was no turning back. Taking a deep breath he inspected the bottle of wine in his hands. It was an exceptional, expensive wine maybe Carson wasn’t the dweeb he thought he was. The thought brought a faint smile to his face. Knowing he had delayed too long he walked the short distance to Crystal’s apartment. Lifting his hand he froze. What if she didn’t want him there? What if she didn’t give him another chance? Did he deserve one? He ran twice in one day. How many chances did he deserve?
He half turned from the door sure he had let the best thing to ever happen to him go. It was better this way. All he would bring her was pain anyway. He should just leave and spare her. She’ll forget about him in few days. He’d go back to drinking and having wild anonymous sex with random girls. That was the only life for him even if it wasn’t what he wanted anymore. The thought was somewhat disturbing to him. He had never considered settling down before. The idea of it made him nauseous.
The door opened behind “what are you doing here?” Crystal’s voice demanded sending his heart rate soaring. What was he supposed to do now? Sorry didn’t seem enough. Yet that was all his overworked brain could come up with. Slowly he turned around, holding out the wine bottle, “I’m sorry” he mumbled holding his breath for her response.
Ignoring the wine she glared at him “you ran. Again.”
There was pain in her voice that he caused. He flinched when he looked up meeting her eyes. “I’m sorry” he repeated hoping his heart would stop beating in his chest so he could drop dead at her feet. Then his misery would be over and she could go on with her life.
“Tell me why are you sorry” she demanded hands on her hips voice rising. “I told you I didn’t give out infinite second chances. I told you to tell me when you were freaking out. Instead you ran.”
“I know” he cried eyes darting around like a cornered animal. “I ran. All those questions. I didn’t have any answers. I don’t know what I like to do. I never had to find out. I don’t know what I’m good at. If anything. I’m not a useful person but I…” He stammered to a halt “I want a chance to find out” his words came in a near whisper like he was afraid to jinx it by saying it too loud.
Taking the wine bottle Crystal smiled softly “what are you going to do about it?”
“I’m” he met her eyes encouraged by the gentleness in them he replied “I’m going to beg for a second chance. Then I’m going to explore my options by taking some classes. I don’t know what I’m interested in yet but I’m going to find out.”
“Good” she held the door open for him “you better come in so we can enjoy this wine together.”
Hesitating before stepping over the threshold it almost felt like he was starting over. He couldn’t believe she was giving him another chance. A chance he didn’t deserve. A chance he didn’t intend to squander this time.