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Comforting Touch

by Wendell Locke

Roasting Fires

Edited by Talo Segura


Do I still trust Jason? I want to trust him and I want to love him, but Jade revealed a side of him that neither he nor I realized he possessed. As I held Jason in my arms, through the night, comforting him after his ordeal; many thoughts crossed my mind. Did I push him into what happened? Could I have prevented this by being more attentive? Were my needs for complete openness and our common agreements doing more harm than good?

From his actions, I thought he was looking for the freedom denied to him by his parents and the ability to be a young man coming into his own. I knew he was scared right now after what had happened to him at the party and he didn't want anything except what he had with me. Personally, I wanted him to like what we had right then, I wanted him to be safe with me in our little bubble of naked warmth forever. It was a romantic notion; I supposed anyone could actually relate to those desires. Yet, in the real world, it was absolutely wrong to want those things. My logical brain told me this was selfish, if I cared about Jason, I'd let him live his life fully, even if what he wanted wasn't what I desired. It was so hard for me to accept and be selfless for him.

Gay and straight romance stories forget to mention this part of a real relationship; an honest selfishness that masks itself under the veil of romance. Love at its core is a selfish emotion made selfless by it being mutual. However, even when it's mutual, I've realized it limits personal development, freezing the lovers in relation to one another. Yeah, it wouldn't be a big issue if we met under normal circumstances, or if we were both at similar places in our lives. I'm happy with where I am emotionally and with what I want from Jason, but Jason never had my experiences, or experimented with things like I did. He might be happy with me, but his development was stunted. It was going to be even worse now, because he had experienced so much joy yesterday and suffered so much. I needed him to know what was good and what was bad, how was I supposed to do that?

Bringing out your partner's best was something I had only heard about; I had never seen it for real. My friends, who love one another and call the other person their "other-half, are able to relate to each other normally. Despite all those secrets and lies they invent to protect their loved ones, no one can deny there was love. We can't lie to one another without causing problems at the very heart of how I love and relate to Jason. My need for emotional connection with Jason gives an idealized impression of equality, but emotional equality is not the same as the practical kind. The reality is, Jason needs me to be his friend right now, just as much he needs me as his lover. I need to help him navigate his way through some of this stuff without bias. That was part of my ultimate mistake yesterday: I wanted Jason to have a social life, I wanted him to enjoy companionship, and I felt he needed more than I could offer at that moment.

As I woke up, I kissed Jason's forehead, feeling his muscles tense, "Good Morning, Jason, you feeling okay?"

My eyesight may not be great, but I could see at a close range that his face was scrunched up, "I feel sick, Bingo. Please grab your trash can, quick."

I got out of bed and retrieved the trash can, placing it under Jason's face. He vomited and convulsed vigorously. I wrapped my free hand around his back and comforted him as he released a bizarre content of green, yellow, and pink tinged matter into the trash. By the time his convulsions began to subside, the trash was half full of this material and it smelled even more putrid than Jason had the first time we met in the alley. I grabbed some tissue paper and wiped the drips of vomit from his face as best I could. I knew we'd need a shower soon. I checked my smart device for the time. It was 6:30 AM, we hadn't slept for more than three hours the night before and now I had to leave for work at 8:15 AM to get in on time. I lifted his head gingerly to mine and kissed him again, this time directed at his mouth, it tasted foul with a hint of blood.

He pulled away from my kiss, his raspy voice responding, "Bingo, don't kiss me…"

Memories of what he had told me before we slept raced back into my mind, anger boiled, "I love you Jason and you shouldn't feel ashamed about what happened to you. If anyone should feel shame, it should be Jade. This is the last straw; she can't stay in our house after the crap you went through. I don't care if Christmas is a few days away, she can pay for an expensive hotel room or couch surf with a friend. I am so fucking…"

Jason tugged on my arm to make me listen to his hoarse voice. "May have caught…something from the guy last night…Oral sex is still sex…Don't kick her out…Not her fault…. was mine."

It's a small risk that a little kiss will give me an STD, but it showed he cared, "I love you, Jason. If you want to go in for testing, I can call in sick and be there with you. We can get the results by Christmas Eve, make it my early Christmas present."

Jason smiled warmly at me, his voice clearing, "I don't think not getting something is how a Christmas present is supposed to work."

I ruffled his brown hair playfully, "It's how we make It work that matters most. I'm not joking about taking a sick day to be with you for testing."

Jason looked down at the floor, "I shouldn't bother you…"

I put my finger to his lips to silence him, something I've used half a dozen times on him, "If that's your response, I'm definitely taking the day off. You need a friend today. Hell, even if I can't be your boyfriend for sexual support, don't deny me being your best friend for emotional support. This mutual relationship means I'm not abandoning you. We need to talk about a lot of stuff today too, like how you felt yesterday about different things, what happened to you, and what do you want to happen going forward."

Jason's lips twitched and his eyes watered, I removed my finger from his lips to let him respond, "You still want me after I betrayed you, after I broke your trust in me. Why? How can you?"

I stood up from our small bed and knew we needed a better place to talk, "We can discuss all of that over breakfast, I'll just send in an email that I feel sick this morning and work from home today, and access my calendar to do video meetings. Then, we'll shower and I'll make us some food."

The days leading up to Christmas are incredibly busy for me, I knew that and still promised to be there for Jason, because no matter what anyone else needed from me, he needed me more, even if he denied it. It makes me feel guilty knowing that I am not working, knowing I am letting my obligations slide to the wayside. I'll do my best to make up the difference, but in my mind, I've already made my choice. I sent the email reporting myself sick and said I would be working from home today. Then I began rescheduling all my meetings into video conferences in rapid succession, for the afternoon.

With the administrative stuff done, I pulled on some clothes, grabbed Jason, and directed him to the bathroom. I told him to freshen up, I needed to get rid of the vomit filled trash bag in from our room. I don't use biodegradable small trash bags, preferring the simple plastic bags from supermarkets for everyday disposal needs. As I tied the bag up and gathered other similar little grocery bags around the house for consolidation into a bigger five-gallon more eco-friendly bag, I thought about the economics of trash and environmental factors.

I know it's bad to use these bags, but every ten dollars I save not buying those bags, I donate three dollars to Friends of the Earth. The way I think about it, supermarkets will still have environmentally unsustainable plastic bags either way, spending money on "green" biodegradable bags is just enriching their producers and will not improve either my situation or the environmental footprint. There are fifty biodegradable trash bags in a box at ten dollars, if I bought equivalent box of regular small trash bags, they cost four dollars for fifty bags. By using free bags from my grocery trips, I am going to split the difference with the earth, three dolars to her and three dollars to me. I am not an environmentalist or conservationist, but if I can do something decent and fair, why not? I wondered if Jason had thoughts on this stuff.

After tossing the five-gallon bag of trash into the waste bin, I came back into the house and quickly got naked. Jason had finished brushing his teeth and was waiting obediently like a puppy in the shower. I sped through my routine with my toothbrush and mouthwash, I don't tend to floss until night time or if the situation calls, after lunch. Then raced into the shower and turned on the hot water with Jason under the shower head with me. We've taken showers together a few times with and without sex. However, something was different this time. I rubbed more against his body to the point where I think he had three layers of body wash on him. My erection responded in kind very quickly to the physical contact, but that wasn't the strangest aspect to all of this.

Despite last night and his earlier reservation to the kiss this morning, I did feel an urge with the warm water cascading against us. I wanted my boyfriend in some way, like I had an animal's primal instinct to mark him after noticing another male had trespassed on my territory. I felt an urge to reclaim Jason as mine. This was so wrong and I didn't know why I was feeling like that. I knew it was foolish and highly inappropriate given the situation, especially with Jason outright telling me he was afraid of being affectionate right now, but Jason and I promised to always be honest with one another.

I told Jason softly, "I really want to do something with you, Jason. I feel like I have to make you mine or something, to make sure no one ever takes you or hurts you again," Jason turned toward me and placed his hand on my cock reflexively, but I batted it away.

He sounded worried as I held him by the waist, "Bingo, I can't have sex…"

I put my finger to his mouth as his brown brows furrowed in fear, but I would never force him to do anything, "Jason, I love you and do not want to have sex with you right now. This desire is different to sex; there's something more I want from you. I want to claim you. I want you to know what I'm feeling right now. I want all of you."

Jason's eyes were focused on me, "Are you…are you…proposing…?"

Fuck, I didn't even consider that was what I wanted, "Uh…let's finish showering okay. Everything is going to my head."

That was either the most awkward way of asking someone to marry you or I had been under too much stress from everything that had happened along with the realization that I needed to put Jason's need first. Maybe, my brain couldn't process everything correctly. Still, would it be so bad? Yes, it would according to my brain. The logical part of my brain was working out the scenarios of a marriage right now, they were all bad. Jason had just been assaulted again, he was an emotional wreck from being tempted by Jade into doing things he wasn't ready for, and I couldn't add the additional stress of a marriage proposal. I was not some hero riding a white horse about to sweep Jason up into a romantic fantasy where all the troubles of the last twenty-four hours, six months, or twenty-two years would disappear. Jason needed me right now as his best friend first, his boyfriend second. Maybe, I could add husband in a few years down the line, but only if he wanted that title, when we were not doing it under emotional duress.

Another fact gay romance stories doesn't talk about, the awkward emotionally spontaneous desire that you get with your boyfriend. I wonder how many people are like me, stupid in love and unable to filter themselves in the heat of the moment. Is this a gay thing, a demisexual thing, or just a Ben thing unique to me? Jason wasn't saying anything now, he must have been in shock at my almost proposal. I promised to share everything I felt for him and I wanted him to share everything with me, including the negative stuff. He's done that and I've done that, so why was he quiet? Did I jump the gun? Did I say something that had finally broken him?

As we left the shower together, I grabbed a towel for him, he said almost in a whisper, "If what you want is that I accept."

I have very good hearing with the vision issues, turned toward Jason, he turned to face away from me, I whispered back "You have a lot of life to live Jason. I want you to live it first, then you can answer me again."

I know he heard me as he froze for a moment, but then rapidly dried his body with the towel. We left the bathroom without any clothes and I directed him to sit at the dining table, while I scrambled six eggs and fried up some packaged sausage links. When the eggs were plated and the sausages were sizzling, I grabbed four slices of wheat toast, stacked them on top of each other, then carefully aligned my cutting knife at a forty-five degree angle. With eight perfect half slices of bread, I placed them in the toaster oven for three minutes exactly. I plated the sausage links and grabbed butter out from the fridge and some raspberry preserve. When all was ready, I brought over two plates of food and placed them at our usual spots. Jason had made two cups of coffee, while I was cooking. He knew exactly how much sugar I needed and the right amount of almond milk. I knew he drunk his coffee black usually and if he added sugar, it meant he was nervous. He had sugar in his coffee today, so he was nervous.

I knew we had to get the elephant in the room discussed first, so I went for it, "I love you Jason more than anyone I've ever met. However, I've done a lot in my life as you know and have had a lot of experiences that have shaped the way I am. I know what I want and don't want. You should be able to have experiences like that before anything else. I made a rash emotionally driven mistake in the bathroom, not because I don't love you or want to claim you or marry you. I want all those things. However, this isn't about what I want, it's your wants that should be addressed and it was selfish of me to desire that from you."

Jason shifted his seat closer to mine, placing his naked thigh over mine, "I love you, Bingo. I want to be claimed by you. I want to marry you. I want to build a family with you. I want to have kids, a dog, and grow old with you. I want us to share our lives together. Those are my wants."

I rubbed my hand against his forearm, "You also wanted to wear nice clothes, drive a luxury car, and go dancing. Those are fine things to desire, too."

Jason's muscles tensed, "I didn't want those things. I was tempted by them."

I rubbed his nipples and shoulder to loosen his tension, "Jason, don't let what happened at the party make you hate everything that you encountered yesterday. Kevin told me you enjoyed everything, while you guys hung out yesterday."

Jason sighed releasing the built-up tension, "He was a nice guy and got me the button-down shirt and pants."

"Thought it was Kevin's fashion choice. You are as blind as me, when it comes to matching shirts," I teased and he gave me a playful punch in the arm, "Okay, so you like wearing nice clothes and shopping. I can work with that."

Jason slanted his head, "You don't go shopping for clothing often. You're really basic with what you wear."

I shrugged, realizing he had been trying to gauge my interests, "Yes, I don't trouble myself with wearing anything fancy or eye catching. I want to make sure you get to explore what you like."

He nodded considering my offer, "Bingo, neither of us are fashionable gay stereotypes or have the predisposition for it. I like wearing nice clothes sometimes, I guess, but without help matching things, I wouldn't be able to know what works. I actually prefer being naked with you; there's no pressure to look good."

Damn, he was right, "Alright, how about a car? I can't get you an Aston Martin, at least on my own means. However, a Toyota Prius or something, I can make payments. You'd get so much range of motion and can go to more places."

Jason considered this idea, then frowned, "No, I don't want you to pay for it, unless you get an equal share in its use. I know you can't drive and I will start classes eventually, so it will just sit there. It would become a burden to you for no reason. We should eventually get a car, but not right now. When I have a successful practice, I'll buy my own Aston Martin and we'll be driving across the country together."

Alright, last idea, "Dancing then, you liked going to the club and enjoyed dancing. we can spend time doing that on Friday nights and weekends."

Jason laughed at my attempts, "You really are trying so hard to make me feel happy. I've never seen you dance and I just liked that I got the attention of others from the club. I think it was more a thrill of getting the attention rather than a love of dance. Bingo, why don't we do something you like?"

I frowned, this was meant to be about Jason, but he should know, "I was really boring Jason before I met you. I work a lot. In my free time, I actually just spend it at home. I read, workout, watch a streaming show, or learn new recipes from YouTube. If I do go out, I just volunteer, go online to hookup or date guys, or practice with my crossbow at an archery range. I am a really domesticated guy, if you believe in astrology, I fit my Cancer homebody crab sign perfectly."

Jason shrugged, "That's not boring to me. I like to read with you, we workout together, we've binge watched a lot of shows, and you taught me how to use a crossbow, so maybe we can do that sometime. Sex with you is more than enough. I'd like to volunteer with you and learn to cook better, too. Besides, I like crabs; I think my sign is supposed to be Pisces, it's the fish, I think."

Something was off with Jason; he shouldn't be this cool and collected with everything. He shouldn't be so relaxed. All of these things are logical and make perfect sense, they would fall perfectly into place with what I'd like for Jason and our relationship. However, I am not so easily fooled by the trappings of happy endings and perfect answers. It's been less than twelve hours since Jason had his first experience with drugs and sexual coercion, then nearly being caught outside with winter exposure again.

I cleared my throat concentrating on a simple question, "Are you telling me the truth?"

Jason did not hesitate with a response, "Yes, I am Bingo. I want to be everything you want and need. I am done with all of that now. I was nothing before I met you and I don't need those things now to be something for you."

A ghost of dread crept over me. This was worse than I had feared. Jason wasn't lying to me on purpose, he was lying to himself, like Zack used to do. Zack and I were happy together for months and I was tempted to open myself further to him, maybe to the extent that I felt for Jason now after only three weeks. However, I learned over the months that Zack had other desires, which subsumed his own. He didn't see me as his partner or an equal, he saw me as someone above him. He wanted to be subservient, found humiliation pleasurable, and needed more than love from me. I did not judge Zack for what he felt or what he wanted. I knew there was an entire subculture of gay fetishes dedicated to submissive guys like him; the sexual play never appealed to me due to my circumstances, though. I did enjoy what we had emotionally as I felt a sympathetic connection with him like Jason. Zack deserved a lot more than he thought he should have.

Zack had come out of the social services system, going from group home to group home, aging out at eighteen, then worked as a Barista at a coffee house. We met through a gay dating app and I felt attracted to him after he told me about his life. I guess when it comes down to it, my type of guy is basically someone who I know has emotional needs.

Even when I found out about Zack's needs, I wanted him to be happy at least to the best of my ability, until it became apparent, he would never be my equal. He tried to compromise with me, when I had confronted him on that. He told me everything I wanted to hear, including promising to do more with me, and I wasn't experienced enough to know it was self-deception. It got so bad that I had to cut off all contact with him, in order to end what had become something other than a loving relationship I desired. I don't know what happened to him after that, I still wonder with guilt if I could have done something better. That was why I had put a stop on dating, when I met Jason in the alley.

I needed to stop this before Jason became another Zack, I moved away from Jason and stood up for emphasis, "Jason, I have to call you out on our number one rule right now. I still love you and want us to be together, but we cannot break those rules if we want to keep this relationship going in a healthy way. Our first rule was and still is: we cannot lie, including in this case to ourselves, about what we want or need from one another. If one of us knows the other is doing it, he has to tell the other."

Jason blinked, "I'm not lying to you Bingo, I really want to do all those things with…"

I put my finger to his lips, "I love you Jason, I know you aren't trying to lie to me on purpose, you are lying to yourself though. I want to confront the route of it with you. If I didn't have my experiences, I wouldn't know what you were doing just now. First, you said you were nothing before you met me. That is not true, all life has meaning and worth, no matter what. Second, you said you want to be something for me. That is not what I want from this relationship, you are an individual and I want you as my partner, not my slave. Our relationship might be structured and rule based in many ways, but they are all meant to support both of us. I know what happened yesterday was bad and the points you made about not needing those things were well reasoned, but the way you reached those conclusions are incompatible with this rule."

I removed my finger from his lips, his head hung low and his voice trembled in fear, "I'm sorry, Bingo. I just want you to be happy with me. I feel like I need to do something. I want to love you even more after the shower and I want to show you I am ready, too."

I sat back down and slid my finger into Jason's mouth, I knew it calmed him, "Jason, I want to tell you about my last boyfriend, his name was Zack. You and I never talked about my past boyfriends, because I wasn't ready to open that area of my life. You deserve to know this, because it is related to what I want for us and what I hope we can have together," I paused to slide my free hand over his messy brown hair, "We met at a coffee shop he worked at and dated for months, I thought I loved him and he loved me. We shared a lot about ourselves, but not to the extent you and I have. Zack grew up in social service system and was never adopted. He went from group home to group home, there were times when he was abused physically by his caregivers and other kids abused him sexually. I felt sympathy for him and fell in love with him. It was after a few months of dating that I learned he wanted more from me than love and affection. He needed to feel subservient to me, be humiliated by me, and wanted me to hurt him physically. I confronted him and told him that I wanted to love him, but not in ways that would harm him. He tried to compromise by taking up my interests. He became very inappropriate around me and it made me feel uncomfortable. I had to break off contact with him and completely shut him off from my life in order to end things. I regret not realizing what he wanted or what he needed from me, it was just not realistic for me to give it to him. I also regret not realizing that I was being selfish, when we had our confrontation."

Jason sucked on my finger harder as I spoke, he moved his body closer to me to return a bit of my comfort.

I paused momentarily to collect my thoughts, "I haven't stopped loving you and I don't think I can break it off with you if I tried without deeply hurting myself. However, I don't want you to be anything less than what you are. You are a human being, a brilliant student with a bright future in medicine, and my beloved boyfriend, who I hope will one day want to share his life with me for as long as we both live."

Jason pulled my finger out of his mouth slowly with fear in his motions, trembling in response, "I didn't realize what I was thinking Bingo, what should I do about it? Am I…Is something wrong with me?"

I slid my finger back in his mouth knowing where his mind may be going now, "No, don't think that way. You aren't Zack with the things you want from me. Some things we do can be considered sexual paraphilias and maybe signs of psychological issues, but it's open to interpretation. You probably have had more psych courses than I did in college with your medical education, so I can only imagine how many disorders and conditions might be floating into your consciousness right now. However, I remember one thing my psych professor taught us on day one, he said "As long as what you do is not hurting yourself or others, it should never be classified as a disorder", before he went about listing how medieval the psychology discipline had been in the past. What we do and what you are doing like sucking my fingers right now is abnormal to most people, but it's not hurting us or anyone else. Do not classify a problem where none exists, or else it will become the problem."

Jason resumed sucking my finger, now more eagerly and I continued, "Jason, I do think with what happened to you last night and what happened before, when you were homeless, you have to speak with your counselor. Dr. Cassidy can provide you with a lot more clarity than I can and I trust her professional opinions. We'll go to get tested for STD's today, then check if she has an opening this afternoon. I want you to be physically and emotionally healthy."

Jason eventually stopped sucking my fingers, then we proceeded to finish our now cold breakfast. We left the house at 8:30 AM and took an uber to the medical center. Throughout all of this, my sister Jade slept soundly and I was tempted to barge in and evict her immediately, but Jason held me back every time I neared the door to my former bedroom. As we headed to the testing facility, I called Jason's counselor and gave her a brief description of what I knew happened to him, she offered to see him later that afternoon at around 4:30 PM. We both took blood and urine tests. We held hands in-between our tests, giving each other support and giving onlookers a public display of affection that might not be acceptable to all, but was reasonable enough not to spark conflict. We left the medical center at around 11:15 AM for home.

We got home to find Jade had packed her bags and placed them into a new luxury vehicle a different one to the one she had yesterday, she waved at us as she finished texting something, "Hey Bingo, I'm going to stay at mom's place for a few weeks. She's offering to connect me with a few corporate Execs at a Christmas function downtown. Don't know how she got a hold of an invite, but it's legit. Your house is great to crash, but not for inviting people from that world to sit down and talk strategy," she laughed turning her sight to my modest two-family home, "Anyway, I told mom about you dating Jason. She insisted that you bring him along with you to have Christmas dinner. She even arranged for an early flight for dad to come home, so we can have a family Christmas together. Mom expects you and Jason to come on Christmas day no later than noon, she's got presents and a few surprises for you. See you later."

She hefted her luggage into her new luxury vehicle and quickly drove away before I could say a word in response. Jason and I were shocked at the departure of our unwanted house guest. I knew it was only a matter of time until she pulled something like this. She never stayed at home longer than she needed to gather herself. My mother's home was a place that she went to for opportunity and new conquests for career, financial, or personal gain. It made sense, I live a modest middle-class lifestyle with few thrills and very little in the way of entertainment. My mother had a twelve-room home, a pool, hot tub, a games room, entertainment center filled with fancy gadgets, and countless amenities. The only reason why she doesn't like being there is my mother's presence. If my father were around, Jade might have stayed longer for some odd reason. I was just never entertaining enough for her.

Thinking about Jade's past and present actions made me angry. I wanted to yell at her and berate her for being such a selfish bitch for everything she did to me and Jason, but as always, Jade just knew exactly what to say and do to get out of facing tough questions or issues. It's been that way since we were kids, I was the steady guy and she was the wild girl. I was literally water, my western astrological sign being Cancer, and she was fire, being an Aries. Even in the Chinese zodiac we were enemies, I am a passive easygoing rabbit and she was an aggressive driven Rooster. There couldn't be two more dissimilar people born into the same family, but her fiery nature usually won out in the end, because my passive watery nature couldn't fathom why someone like her couldn't settle down and be happy with what life has to offer. She made double my salary, could probably afford several homes, and she had a well-known name among the competitive world of marketing as consultant with a golden touch. My mother may always be higher up on the social pecking order than Jade, but my sister was not a social climber by nature. Jade liked the thrill of the hunt and conquest to satisfy her whims of the moment. She could be interested in a billionaire heir one moment, then throw herself on someone more challenging. As much as my hatred for my sister seethed into my soul, I couldn't help sometimes feeling like she was missing out, why did she need to keep making and taking without connecting?

I spent the rest of the day on my computer, Jason was near me, naked on our small bed reading a book quietly, until it was time for him to leave for his appointment. I couldn't accompany him for the counseling session, but knew he'd come home later with details and we'd figure out what was best for him. His counselor and I had talked about the openness in our communications with one another, she applauded the concept and found my unique demisexual attribute very intriguing. Luckily, patient confidentiality was not an issue if the patient waived it to his partner directly in our case, but I thought it might be useful to keep what we all said to one another in a continuum. It may be better to help Jason work through his internalized self-worth issues and allow us to progress together.

After Jason left for his session, I tried to remain focused on work and ignore the final message from my sister regarding the Christmas invitation from my mother. It was an unavoidable consequence for Jason to have to meet her, but I would weigh it up later with him.


Dr. Cassidy's session was very inviting and warm as always. She didn't force you to tell your personal details or tell you something in order to gain your trust. She was from a school of psychotherapy that believed in self-actualization starts with self-acceptance, thus a patient can only get better when they want to get better. Her job was to guide and provide assistance rather than direct or force a response. I didn't share everything with her about myself or Ben, things like my interest in remaining naked around Ben or the finger sucking, I left it out of all our sessions so far and probably would in the future. Ben may be open about his demisexual emotional responses, but I also knew he didn't share with her details involving the sexual aspects of our relationship. Dr. Cassidy respected our personal boundaries, which I skirt or she advises me that I am near in our sessions to protect me from revealing something I didn't want to. When I go into practice, I probably will follow a similar philosophy to hers.

I told her exactly what I remembered and what I felt afterward. I told about my conversations with Ben the night before and this morning. Above all, I told her I felt like I wanted to be worthy of being Ben's boyfriend and husband one day, if we continued with what we planned out this morning. She noted all my points and guided me to questions about my feelings about my parents' abandonment that we discussed in prior sessions related to my self-worth. Then, she asked me about the sexual coercion and if I remembered any details about the man who did it. I know sexual assault is something she'd have to report under state law, but like the last time, neither one of us expected much to happen about it due to the lack of evidence and the other ugly truth, adult male victims aren't high priority. The societal assumptions about men in general, and gay men in particular, lead cases like mine to be buried until they get so cold, there's no real chance to investigate it anymore.

Still, she would file a report on my behalf and I will sign it. If I were lucky enough to get a sympathetic police officer to investigate, I could recognize his face, but not where he took me or where the party was without Jade or someone else's corroborating testimony. I doubted anyone would give an account due to the rampant drug use. During my retelling of events, I told her how I felt after what happened to me and related how it felt compared to what happened at the homeless shelter. When I was violated at the homeless shelter, it was raw and disturbing to the point I felt like I had left my body at times, just watching the rape and later the mutilation occurring from the viewpoint of an outsider. The forced blowjob at the party though was a different feeling, I felt like I did this to myself and I hurt Ben by doing it, because I made those choices that led me into a compromising situation. She told me what happened to me was not in my control during either situation. I knew she was right, but what happened last night felt like it was within my control. She explained that sexual coercion under the influence of substances, whether willingly accepted or not, was still sexual assault. Though, she admitted legally such details are usually overlooked in courts. I told her about my feelings of shame and guilt, we explored my religious views in context with what I consider to be my personal choices. We ended the session after an hour and she wished me a Merry Christmas. I texted Ben after leaving the office and headed home.

The house without Jade felt far warmer and cozier, like the first time I entered the house after living on the streets for so long. Ben had his little robot vacuum cleaner running a sweep of our floors for dust and I could smell a scent of curry in the air. Ben was making a pot of warm beef and potato curry with cumin and chili peppers, he told me before I left the house. I am still amazed at how well a visually impaired guy can cook. Within an hour of arriving home, Ben and I had settled in the living room, naked and enjoying Naan bread and our yellow curry stew. We had talked about what was discussed between Dr. Cassidy and me, like we usually did. Ben stayed silent for most of it, only interjecting to learn more about a subject that he was unfamiliar with.

When I was done reciting my conversation, Ben rubbed my belly, "Are you ready to talk to me now about what you want?"

I smiled at my loving boyfriend, "Bingo, I want to be with you."

He rubbed my forearm affectionately, "Alright, but let's talk personal desire. What is it you want for yourself?"

I sighed knowing I had to face some hard truths, "I want my parents to love me. I want people to see me as something more than a worthless homeless guy that they feel sorry for on the streets. I want to feel like I am worth being your husband one day."

Ben nudged my head toward his shoulder, "I can help you on some of those goals, but we both know somethings are not within our control. Your parents' choices are not things I can change."

"I know Bingo, I know."

Ben placed his finger in my mouth, which I greedily sucked, he spoke "You can do something good in the near term. Like helping out with an LGBT outreach center, they always need the support and there's many LGBT people with similar problem or worse that could use your help. Even if you can't help them, it is always good to be heard and not be left alone and abandoned."

I nodded, removing his finger briefly to speak, "You do volunteer work with a lot of LGBT groups it sounds like, why aren't you volunteering with them right now?"

Ben sighed, "Zack and I volunteered their together."

I knew without asking further what happened to sour him on remaining a volunteer at the outreach center. Ben's ex-boyfriend had certain needs that were at best socially unacceptable and at worst deeply disturbing for LGBT youths. When he told me about Zack, I shuddered to think that I was anything like him, but I realized that we shared disturbing similarities. I wanted to serve Ben in every way I could and I wanted him to be happy with me. There were lines somewhere between me and Zack, I wouldn't submit to sex if it could hurt Ben or if Ben ever physically wanted it from me by force, but he never did. However, emotionally, where our relationship was really founded on ; I did want to submit to him completely and let him lead me in anything he wanted. Maybe if time had elapsed without Ben noticing it, my personality might have been consumed by this as well. Zack endured years of physical and sexual abuse before he met Ben, my issues were no less severe, but I wondered if Ben might have been there just early enough before I became more like Zack. I will needed to do research in this area.

We spent the night cradled in each other's arms, me sucking his fingers occasionally for comfort and him rubbing my arms, belly, nipples, and chin. We could have had various kinds of sex, despite the STD test results. Ben had taught me that weeks ago, when he first showed me, he loved me. At that moment, Ben didn't want sex right then from me, he wanted me and who I was as a person in relation to him. I wish I had made a better decision, so I could have been with Ben intimately in that way without feeling like I messed up. I wanted to be better for him. Those things I knew would come in the future. We just needed each other that night. We were imperfect to the world and perfectly happy with one another.


The next two days were a blur of activity. I had invoices coming in and going out, rapid fire requests with impossible deadlines, and stupid calls from everyone. There were complaints about server problems interrupting financial transactions, but I was not IT and could not resolve technology issues. I was just the money guy, tell me what you want paid and I would figure a way to get it done, with or without a computer. Yes, I loved my job, but there was a time when I wished that we'd finally let the computers takeover completely. I'd even volunteer my job to our machine overlords, if they wanted to deal with the overload of human emotions and improbable complications. My IT department told me that they didn't have enough overtime to maintain that kind of system even for one position and especially not mine. People claim artificial intelligence will take over all aspects of life, but if our future relies on the overtime of IT departments with larger budgets for computers and software subscriptions than people, then we will always be a society staffed by human beings. That's the reality that Corporate America, Unions, and politicians forget as they are sold fanciful dreams by technologist with the hottest new tool to replace a human being. Maybe we'll all become IT specialists in the future as a result, but as long as human beings must maintain a machine to remain functional and efficient, we still have human staff and human problems.

Nights were when I retained actual recollections of memory, every dinner with Jason was indulgent, even if our meals were basically leftover curry on the first night and a simple meal of baked potatoes and Italian sausages on the second night. The indulgence of mutual empathy was far more filling than any meal ever could be. Though Jason and I discussed subjects ranging from asteroids to zoology like we did prior to the arrival of Jade; by knowing we lost this kind of freedom to be in each other's orbit once before, we cherished these conversations far more. Jason also felt far more at ease with asking for sex from me, he asked for me to use the penis pump on him the second night, which I obliged with enthusiasm. Jason had never asked for sex before, which I had to initiate in the past, so it was a great positive change and I enjoyed retesting his limits. Those were the things that made us boyfriends and probably on our way to being partners, if not already.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, I was looking forward to having a day off and got my first gift in the form of an email. Our STD tests came back negative, which opened up a larger world of play and entertainment for a day we'd have for one another. I had prepared for this eventuality and hoped that the results would come before Christmas. I had hidden a bottle of Strawberry-Jalapeno flavored lube, a variety of cock rings, and a hand-sized penis shaped rubber plush toy in a bag. I know Jason felt like I had given him way too much already and the smartphone was just the most recent example, so for Christmas, I wanted to get some stuff for fun. Every gay guy has their own unique flavor to sex, so every couple expresses what they want from each other very differently. I tended towards the more exotic brands of sex with a focus on sensory stimulation. Jason was still learning what he liked and didn't like, so I exposed him to what I could.

To me, sex should always be fun for both guys and continue to build on what was already done before. You can redo what you have already done, but it should never become a routine or scheduled. I knew for a fact that Jason's fastest rate to orgasm was three minutes nineteen seconds and his slowest rate to orgasm through a mixed routine of edging techniques was seven hours twenty-three minutes fourteen seconds as of one week ago. He knows my statistics as well, since I taught him how to time and log intervals. With those kinds of measurements in mind, sex becomes an exercise of either endurance or strength. Jason's initial orgasm time was between eight minutes five seconds to twelve minutes forty-three seconds, so I made it a goal to see how much faster I could get him off and how long I could keep him dangling on the edge.

That was something I never read or heard about online or in gay romance stories, why didn't people ever talk about how long it takes for their partners to orgasm or themselves? I am a runner and I clock my times and miles every week, then set new goals for what I want to achieve in the following week. I like to push myself on short sprints for distance and long moderate runs for duration. It helps focus your mind and push your potential capacity up to know your limits; maybe it's not an immediate result, but it will have long term rewards. Gay sex can be the same, if you knew how far you both could actually go.

Maybe I was in the minority on this stuff, most gay guys seem happy in stories with just standard sucking and fucking. In the real world, the same thing seems to play out with gay guys, they enjoy the sex for the moment and then after a few months dump or divorce a guy they feel is no longer compatible with them. Even straight couples don't seem so unhappy with their sex lives in streaming shows, they prefer the same old sex or if it gets boring dump their current lover for another. I know the statistics say that most relationships fail, but none of the statistics ever tell you analytically what the sexual reaction time was for these people. It seems bizarre to me. They can profess deep emotional connections one moment, then leave without even considering what led them to make that decision. I enjoyed loving Jason and he enjoyed loving me, we could prove it with statistics and reaction times if we were ever challenged.

Jason licked my shoulder as I presented him with the email of our results, "We're negative Jason. Guess Santa kept away any special deliveries."

He wrapped his arms around my naked torso, "Bingo, what do you want to do today?"

I rubbed his morning brown stubble of facial hair, "I have a few ideas, but let's get you proper. Beard burns are hotter in stories than they actually feel in real life."

He rubbed his chin against the back of my shoulder, "I can kiss and lick it better."

That was a tempting offer, but I had a counter, "I've got some new stuff for us to try today. I also got strawberry-jalapeno flavored lube; I know it's your favorite."

I could feel a stir of heat from his body and a stiffening of his erection, "I do like that kind. It's so sweet and spicy, then you add the salty."

I was hard the entire morning as we showered and finished our morning routine. For Christmas eve breakfast, I made French toast, bacon, sausage, and eggs. I went a little heavy on the protein, but I figured we'll need it for the rest of the day's activity. As we ate, I began to describe what I was planning for Jason and me.

I asked Jason, "Have you ever heard of a cock ring?"

Jason shook his head, "No, is it the toy you wanted to try?"

"Yes, it's part of the activities I was planning. I've got a few versions, including a vibrating one that vibrates up and down the shaft. It's meant to keep you on the edge of orgasm by restricting the blood flow. That's just the start of what I am planning for us today, I want to break our records."

Jason leaned against me, "Ben, you are too good at this, how am I supposed to ever catch up."

I smiled and rubbed my hand against his forearm, "Well the most important part of my day is going to be based on what you want to do Jason? I know you've told me that you've been researching stuff online about gay sex and trying to figure out what you might be interested in trying. I'm only adding the cock rings to keep our arousal at peak condition, you will have to be the one to come up with the activity."

Jason shifted at the plan, "Bingo, I'm not…"

I put my finger to his lips, "I love doing stuff with you and know whatever you want to do, we can enjoy it together."

In a show of passion, Jason kissed me, our tongues intertwined in each other's mouths, he panted his idea, "I want to do the blindfold and earplug thing again, but this time I want to give you a tongue bath all over. I want to taste every part of you, Bingo."

"I want to taste you too, if you don't mind a little manscaping before we do that. Pubes and armpits hairs have to go too for both of us."

Jason tugged my arm like a little kid who wanted to play with his new toy at Christmas, "Finish breakfast fast, I want to get going!"

That's how we spent most of our Christmas eve, we both had our orgasm around 8:18 PM and 8:24 PM respectively, which was a good thing, since I needed to go out and grab dinner. Dumpling Garden was one of the restaurants that remained opened at that time, so I placed an order for a nice Christmas eve dinner. I could have whipped something up, but after a marathon session of sex and pent-up arousal, I was too drained to actually cook. Another aspect of this kind of sex, even the online forums that had people discussing their experiences doesn't tell you, your stamina is so drained afterward. I've ran fifteen miles before in a day and that was nothing compared to how tired I felt from having Jason's amazing tongue all over my body and mine all over his. Everything was great from our mutual trimming session to reduce the amount of hair that could cause discomfort in our oral exploration to the eventual orgasms that were held off for hours with the cock rings. I wanted every Christmas eve to be as sexually stimulating as this one had been, for years to come.

Jason helped me pick up dinner, we passed by the familiar alley, then went in for a curious look. Of course, there was nothing there except a dumpster and a hot air vent. I don't know if it was spur of the moment thing or nostalgia that drew us in there. I was reminded randomly of Batman when he visited "Crime Alley", where his parents were killed and shaped his persona as a vigilante hero. Jason thought that was cute, considering I was his hero after all. We spent the remainder of the walk home talking about heroes and villains that we admired. I was a big Batman fan as a teen with the Nolan-era and I wasn't surprised that Jason was a Marvel-Disney fan. It made perfect sense. We were in the middle of a discussion as we placed the Chinese takeout on my living room table about the concept of how an Avengers or Justice League hero group forms.

Jason settled next to me on the couch with his ginger beef, "Bingo, these groups always seem to form when there is like an alien invasion or something none of them alone can deal with. It's always about the need being too big to be handled by one hero, just like the Argonauts and golden fleece in ancient Greek mythology. In all these stories, each hero brings a unique quality that further the greater goal to fulfill the need. It's socialism without people identifying it as socialism. I can't imagine a heroic group forming without such a concept."

I raised my salt and pepper calamari container and passed him a fork, "Jason, your namesake formed the Argonauts to reclaim his rightful throne. I like his ambition, but don't you think it's pushing it to claim he was channeling his inner Marxist."

"Bingo, the point is the guy created the group to fix something beyond anyone of them could, the golden fleece was just the pretext for the goal of gaining the throne and making the world right," Jason scooped a chunk of beef with his fork.

" Okay, I can concede that point. Western tradition stresses the concept of great deeds as justification for collective effort. However, Chinese classical literature considers the creation of heroic groups to be a byproduct of individual choices and collective efforts arise only when there is no other choice in common defense. It's an ironic twist, classical western heroic groups embody the essence of socialism and classical Chinese heroic groups embody libertarianism. Somehow centuries of history and development inverted real-world ideals formerly held by each into cultures prioritizing the opposite value of their classical equivalent."

Jason forked another piece of beef as I used chopsticks to eat a piece of fried calamari, he chewed and asked, "Alright, Bingo, name a Chinese novel that contains what you call a Libertarian heroic group forming. I've never heard of such a concept before and I've met self-professed libertarians. They value individual beliefs so much that sometimes I wonder how they can work with anyone."

I started laughing and choking at his commentary, "Alright, fair point to modern expressions, but individual liberty is not the only concept there is in libertarian philosophy. To me, an individual must serve a common purpose to be useful for their benefit in relation to their wider environment rather than a selfish goal to oneself, so maybe we can distinguish the classic Chinese version under the concept common libertarian principle. The novel, Water Margin, is considered to be one the four great novels in Chinese history. It challenged the society that strived for corrupt conformity and obedience to a standard of unethical behavior. The protagonists are viewed as villains, but they are individually heroic and persecuted for their ethical behavior. They all become outlaws and outcasts from society, because they want something better for themselves and others through their ethical ideals. They meet up as small groups at first in exile, then connected together as ever larger groups. They only formed into one group, when society attacked them all, so they needed a common defense. After beating back the forces of the Emperor, the symbol of the corrupt society, they decided to use their combined strength to make the world better by taking back property taken by corrupt politicians and businessmen, seizing stolen land from landowners, and distributing their gains back to those it was taken from. Being individual, holding high standards of behavior than society, having a sense of property rights, and using force to return lost property and material to those it was taken from. Yeah, it's basically a libertarian heroic group."

Jason considered my points, "Isn't that like Ayn Rand's stuff? My parents had me read a bunch of her books and the theme generally goes that way. Society is conforming to evil practices, only a few people can save the world through their enlightened idea."

I frowned at the mention of one of my least favorite authors, it set me off "This is completely different though. Ayn Rand stressed objectivism to justify "Good" by her enlightened few, while Water Margin argues for common welfare as the basis of "Good". Objectivism is a foolish notion. If beauty really is beautiful no matter what other people say or believe per her theory, then everything else must be eternally beautiful or ugly. Conservatives are so in love with her ideas, since it helps justifies their worldview. People can satisfy their ethical and moral beliefs without questioning whether any action is right or wrong. She created the very same corrupt conformity of ideas that she was fighting against from people in modernist and socialist philosophy. Without caring about common welfare of others based on your decision and choices, an objectivist can justify anything from fraud to mass murder."

Jason stopped eating, then asked tepidly, "That sounds a lot like my parents."

Realizing that I had gone a bit too far and my innate anger had overwhelmed me, I sighed and tried to explain myself, "Sorry, I absolute hate those ideas. I was once a Christian conservative, too. I get so fed up hearing the same old platitudes about this being "good" or "right" without anyone ever asking "why" at the same time they are eschewing the philosophy of Atlas Shrugged."

Jason put down his food container and tugged my arm, "I didn't know you used to be Christian conservative. I mean with your volunteer work and being gay, along with all the rest. It doesn't fit you."

I gave him a quick kiss to show I was coming off my anger, "I used to be and I guess part of it can be directed at me trying to figure myself out. I didn't like my Chinese background. My limited eyesight kept me from truly enjoying life, when I was younger. I was also a very lonely closeted gay kid. It was perfect storm for recruitment. I understand how it feels to need to believe in something. I get what a disillusioned Muslim refugee in Europe might be going through, the same concept applies. Imagine one of those kids in an alien culture and unable to connect because of who they are, then some local Iman offers comfort and in exchange you just have to put on an explosive vest or knife somebody. That's how I became what I was and I still carry part of that in me even now. I chose the side that most aligned with me at the time. The convictions of faith and absolute beliefs offered me something, when I was empty inside."

Jason pulled me closer, "What changed, Bingo?"

I didn't want to reveal this to him or anyone, but I had to tell him at least part of it, "I was part of a Christian group that harassed a gay teen, until he committed suicide. No charges were ever filed back then, since there was no hate crime laws. No one cared, except for me. I might have just as well tied the rope that he hung himself with. That's a burden of guilt I carry."

Jason pulled me into a hug, "I didn't know you ever felt like that, Bingo. I'm sorry."

I returned his embrace, "I'm not perfect Jason, I'm not a hero. I've got my own emotional history of things, too. That's what makes us human and capable of a lot more than others might imagine we can do."

We stayed cuddled like that for a while, forcing us to reheat the food around midnight to complete our dinner. We finished eating everything in silence, I didn't know what to tell Jason or what else I could say about my reaction. There's so much more to my life from that time, including my own suicide attempt. I had strong feelings for conservative ideology. Even now, I am not exactly a liberal bleeding heart, but I cannot help despising what I used to believe. Maybe it was my revulsion with the things I used to do, the things I used to say or proclaim. I had defended out of my love for God. I didn't want Jason to fear this side of me, nor what I was.

As Jason finished his last bite, I apologized to him, "Sorry for ruining our first Christmas eve dinner like that. We had such a great day and the food was amazing. I know I screwed up today, because I scared you."

Jason leaned against my shoulder with his messy brown hair brushing my chin, "You didn't scare me Bingo, I just wished I had a time machine, so we could have been there for each other like we are right now. I don't know why I felt what you were feeling, when you were talking about being so unhappy and alone that you accepted something toxic for you. It scared me to feel your pain like that, Bingo."

I slid my finger into his mouth, feeling the familiar sucking, "Jason, we have a long time to unravel our history and our baggage. I've dealt with many of my problems to varying degrees of success or failure, but I am willing to show you all of me, not just the good parts. I am not the hero you think I am."

Jason pulled my finger out of his mouth, "You are the hero I deserve and need, nothing else really matters beyond that."

We cleared the empty Chinese takeout containers from the table, then headed off to bed. Our first Christmas eve was filled with amazing love and cherished memories. It ended with something different, I'm not sure why but when Jason said "he felt" what I had felt, when I was younger, it made my body warm. It wasn't the erotic warmth that we shared earlier in the day; it was a more soulful warmth. This wasn't a hallmark movie Christmas eve, we didn't have a Christmas tree, Christmas feast, or actual presents except my bag of sex toys and lube earlier. I've had Christmas eves with my mom like that and even a few with my larger family, but this was beyond a doubt the happiest Christmas eve I had ever had.

Tomorrow though was Christmas day and I had to confront some uncomfortable things to bring Jason into. My past is complicated and unhappy on its own, but my mother is a force of nature. Jade maybe more manipulative, but she doesn't have my mother's power to shape destinies and destroy dreams.


Christmas eve was special to me, because Ben and I shared it together. When I lived at my parents' home, Christmas eve was fun, when I was a little kid. As I grew older, I gained "responsibilities". I had to be with them at events, had to wear suits and ties, and act like an angel. Yes, there were tons of presents at the end of all the pageantry: toys, bikes, video games, clothes, and books. We had a real Christmas tree, cut from an actual tree lot and draped with ornaments. We had Christmas lights and wreaths, too. My mom even made a Christmas spice bags, which she handed out at church to remind people of the three wisemen's gifts to Jesus. Our house smelled like mir and frankincense for weeks afterward. All of this seemed like what Christmas was supposed to be, a hallow and hollow tradition with materials and rituals celebrating someone or something beyond human.

With Ben, we kept things simpler. He had already given me everything I needed over the last few weeks and I couldn't get him anything that he lacked or liked. I didn't wear anything on Christmas, like usual, I preferred staying naked at home. Ben didn't ask me to do something for him, instead he asked me what I wanted to do with him, which ended being more than ten hours forty-three minutes twenty-four seconds of arousal and sexual exploration with our tongues, plus a few minutes of water breaks to keep hydrated. My parents would have been clawing out their eyes if they saw what we were doing, but of course, we wouldn't have noticed as we both had on our blindfolds and earplugs. The day ended with a reminder for Ben, I learned more about Ben's past and the continuing repercussion of his own choices that weigh on his soul. That Christmas Eve wasn't empty expressions in gifts and rituals, it held meaning and humble honesty for both of us. I think that is what this holiday was supposed to be about.

On Christmas day, Ben made a simple breakfast of his special oatmeal for both of us. He had done more fancy breakfast meals, but this was the first breakfast I had with him and he knew that it held resonance with me. As we ate our bowls of chocolate, granola, and fruit covered oatmeal, Ben brought up the invitation his mother had extended to us for Christmas.

Ben huffed out a slow breath, "I don't want to go Jason, but you will encounter her sooner or later. It's probably best to do it on Christmas day, when she's at her most hospitable. However, I feel like there's something going on with her; she wouldn't insist on inviting us over for Christmas like this through Jade. Add to the fact that she somehow managed to get my father to cancel his retirement trip to have Christmas with her. He hates going to my stepfather's former home and having a sense of inferiority. There must be a reason behind her maneuvers."

I nodded and took a hold of Ben's hand, feeling a bit self-conscious, "You said she's rich or something right, Bingo? I can understand if I am not like the ideal boyfriend."

Ben snorted, then kissed my cheek, "She's not what you'd imagine. Forget all those fantasy stories or movies you've seen of wealthy people in mansions with a household of servants. She's not as bad as that, yet. Her house is about four times larger than ours, but it's no mansion in the traditional sense. It was built in the nineteenth century for a successful unmarried sea trader, who wanted to settle down and start a family after making a fortune. He mysteriously disappeared a year after the house was built. I've read the historical notes on the house provided by the town historian, the original owner disappeared somewhere on the property according to eyewitnesses in eighteen twenty-six."

My shoulders tensed a little with the horror story premise, "Is it haunted?"

Ben put his finger in my mouth, knowing how comforting that was to me, "It's a creepy house and I wouldn't ask you to stay the night without me. I don't think of myself as being psychic or anything like that, but there's something about that place that gives me bad feelings, especially at night in the empty rooms that are filled with dusty old boxes. It's as if the house was never properly settled by anyone and anyone staying there is just visiting until it doesn't want you there anymore. It's the classic New England setting for a gothic horror story."

Ben paused, ruffled my hair, then continued, "I won't let anything happen to you, this isn't a re-run of American Horror Story," he sighed, "If you are wondering why my mother with her means and inheritance would stay there despite the eerie setting. The house is part of my stepfather's will. She has to stay at the house in order for her to continue getting her monthly ten thousand dollars in cash and access to spending from the multi-million-dollar trust fund, along with several other perks. While she has her own money and property, my stepfather's inheritance represents a major portion of her personal assets. My stepfather's trust also pays for all maintenance, utilities, taxes, and simple groundskeeping for the entire property. Along with the house, there's a few acres of land around her property. To one side of her property line, an old building that used to be a stable was renovated into a small bungalow. It has an additional three bedrooms and one bath, similar in size to one unit of our house here. She rents that place out during the summer to tourists. It's actually quite cozy for me personally. Toward the back, a small patch of woods and a little pond sits. Just so you know, even if it wasn't winter with snow on the ground, you should never swim in the pond. There are several nests of snakes around it and they love sauntering around the water's edge. According to my mother, they're supposedly very poisonous, but she likes having them around to keep away other predators and foolish people. If you want to swim in the spring or summer, you could use the indoor pool, which technically is only an indoor pool due to the plastic awnings and loose plexiglass fitted to keep dust and leaves out, but doesn't prevent heat from escaping. It's too cold to even pull the pool seal off, anyway. There's also a hot tub near the pool, same winter problem. The house has twelve rooms and four full bathrooms and two half bathrooms without shower or bathing capabilities."

That may not be technically a mansion, but it's a big house by the sound of it. It's bigger than my parent's five-bedroom home in Indiana, but around the same size as my grandfather's old farm and ten-bedroom home. I wonder why the nineteenth century sea trader built such a large house, when he had no family to support for it . I guess he might have wanted to build ahead, but there are only so many kids and occasional family members you can house. My grandfather's farm was worth a bit of money, too. It was a business, home, and large plot of land to his family for generations, but my dad and uncles didn't feel that was what they wanted going forward, so it was sold off to make way for condominiums and strip malls. Last I heard, those condominiums and strip malls were going to be torn down again, while Amazon warehouses were going in their place. It's a sad truth that the land I grew up around can be so much more progressive than the people I called family.

I wondered what Ben's mother was like. His description of her three weeks ago was "sociopath" and "self-serving" based on those she was around. I doubted Ben's description of his sister, which led to a series of unpleasant events. I'm not going to do the same with Ben's mother, but he did say that she was far less manipulative than Jade. She's a mother first though and loves Ben. All the stories I had read online or in Ben's library, along with watching tons of movies, told me that she would hate me, like any suitor for her son's love. However, my interactions with Ben had challenged all my notions on what was real and what was not in relationships.

I stopped sucking Ben's finger to ask him, "Bingo, how will she react to me? Your sister said she didn't tell her any details about how we met or anything about me."

"I don't know if Jade told us the truth, or if she really did keep how we met a secret. My mother would probably assume the worst of you, if she knew the truth, and there would be no invitation. I don't want this to turn into one of those stupid parents hates their kid's choice of lovers meetings."

I laughed realizing Ben had thought the same thing, "You too, I thought it was just me. I am so afraid of making a bad first impression. I don't even know what I'm supposed to say to her."

Ben returned my laugh with his own, "You don't have to say a word, she hates speaking English inside her home after my stepfather died. My sister and I only speak Chinese with her, so our conversations will likely be unintelligible to you."

I nodded, staring unhappily at my bowl of half-eaten oatmeal, "You never speak Chinese in front of me, nor did Jade. Was that normal for you two here? Or, did you change for me?"

Ben nodded understandingly, "No, Jade and I usually communicate in English. With my father around, we speak only Chinese with him, but translate back our conversations mid-sentence to each other in English. We've acclimated to speaking different languages around different people, but we don't have any set rules on that kind of stuff. You did not disrupt my life Jason."

If it were anyone else, I'd doubt the answer, but Ben's openness lifted my spirit, "Thanks, Bingo, can you teach me Chinese though, so maybe I can be part of the conversation."

Ben caressed my face, "I'll teach you if you want, but the most important conversations to me are the ones we have like this," he moved in for a quick kiss, "Now, let's finish breakfast and get ready."

Ben and I wore matching dark blue polo shirts and Chino pants, fresh from the dryer. Ben and I rotated to do laundry for one another, most of what I wore was Ben's old clothes from when he had a larger body. Luckily, modern sizes are utilitarian and his old "L" size clothing fits me despite I am me being taller than him by four inches or so. Ben was usually not much of a fashion forward guy, he was smart in so many other ways, but like me, his brain wasn't organized for aesthetic comparisons. Thus, the forward concept of Ben dressing us in similar clothing appeared to be a bit of his utilitarian nature coming through. I didn't mind wearing what he wore; it was kind of fun like we were twins or something. I wonder if gay couples ever do this and just spend days emulating one another's clothing patterns.

We put on our winter jackets, gloves, scarves, hats, and boots. Ben opened a small kitchen cabinet and pulled out a bottle of Dom Perignon champagned with a date stamp of two thousand and eighteen. I knew he had a small stock of alcohol, but I had never seen him drink alcohol throughout the month and I have never felt an urge to indulge on Ben's small collection of expensive liquor. Now I realize what he does with this innocuous collection, they're meant for token gifts, when he has to go to his mother's home. It may seem bizarre that, even for a visit to his own mother's home, he would feel the need to bring an expensive bottle of champagne as a gift. I know Ben well enough and his family a little more now to understand that there's a certain amount of pride, he doesn't want to let his mother feel like she can dictate terms to him based on her wealth. He cares about having a certain amount of limited control even if it's just a bottle of wine that they'd be enjoying.

Ben ordered an Uber around 11 AM; we reached his mother's home about forty-seven minutes later. It was not a mansion in the traditional sense, like Ben had said. However, it was a lot larger than a regular home or even my grandfather's farmhouse with a similar number of rooms. I agreed with Ben, the house from the outside appears creepy. There's old fashion gables and cobblestone line paths that lead toward the pond with viper nest and dark gloomy woods behind the house, giving the impression this house was built in a time when those things were fashionable like Henry David Thoreau could have been here to write Walden or Edgar Allen Poe would have written The Raven. It was a very open property to nature, but the nature that surrounded it was not idyllic. Maybe a century ago, this kind of home would represent a mild luxury of the successful middle class, but in the twenty-first century, it's peculiar naturalism and gothic style represented an unsettling contrast to modern sensibilities for closeness. It came off as feeling very lonely.

I also noticed a collection of vehicles on by the side of the house, eight in total. There were three black luxury Tesla, two Toyota Avalon, one silver and one blue, a black Lexus sedan, a blue ford truck, and a silver Chevrolet SUV.

Ben frowned at the sight of the cars, he asked me, "Are any of those cars luxury models?"

I nodded, "Yeah, Bingo, is there a problem?"

Ben sighed, "I figured out why she wanted us here and you won't like it," he turned to the Uber driver, "Can you drop us off at the small Bungalow that's further down the road, sorry for the last-minute change."

We got out of the Uber in front of the bungalow rather than going directly to the main house. I figured that the cars meant we had additional people to worry about beyond Ben's immediate family. I considered the possibilities of Ben's extended family being part of this celebration. He said he had aunts and uncles on his mother side with their own families, along with a bunch of complicated family drama. I think I remember Ben said there were murder threats between his aunts and uncles, a male cousin who was an unsuccessful Rockstar, a female cousin in the army, and an aunt, who was basically the Chinese equivalent to a "made man" in the mafia. It had all seemed so surreal, when he told me about that stuff, but now after my encounter with Jade and actually seeing his mom's landholdings, I was willing to believe it.

After a moment out of the Uber, Ben turned towards me, "I didn't warn you about this and I am so sorry."

I removed my gloves and tugged his off, clasping our hands together, "You told me about your extended family, I am ready to meet them."

Ben placed our hands into his jacket's pocket, "That's only part of it. I might not have great eyesight, but I can tell there's too many cars out there even for the extended family. I think John's children are also here," he sighed, "John was my mother's last husband and the one who owned this home last until my mother took it up. He had children from a prior marriage: Alex and Karen. I've only met them once and they deeply despise my mother and according to what I've gathered from Jade, they've tried to steal objects from the house to supplement their lifestyles, despite being given substantial allowances, like my mother, in the will. They had done something like this back in the summer around Independence Day, but Alex had pinned it all on his girlfriend at the time. My mother can't stop them from coming into the home as John's will allows them unlimited visitation, but he did not allow them, or my mother, to sell any of the artwork, tapestries, or other expensive objects in the house, without joint consent from all three of them. I am also assuming if they're here, then their mother is, too. She's been trying to launch a proxy fight through them to gain control over this property."

Nodding and holding Ben's hand tight, "Why would your mom call up her extended family and yours to come during Christmas if that's the case?"

"She probably wants to have a show of force; she's the type of person who prefers to demonstrate strength in sheer numbers. During Independence Day, it was just her, my sister, their mother, and them with Alex bringing a girlfriend. After that fiasco, my mother may not have wanted to be outnumbered like that again two to one," Ben took out his smartphone, "She obviously has gone overboard and I don't want to be a pawn in anyone's games. We can go home, get naked, and not think about any of this crap."

A familiar voice behind us said, "Or, you could just stay and do what needs to be done for a few days. I know Bingo has vacation until after New Year's Day."

Neither of us knew Jade was behind us, but Ben was unfazed by his sister, anger boiled over in his reply, "You bitch, you knew all along about this. You dragged me into this just like you dragged Jason into your stupid games of seduction. What the fuck is wrong with you? Why can't you let me live my own life and be happy without you screwing things up?"

Jade was not expecting such pure anger from Ben, she shifted back a little, "Look, Bingo, bro, she needed all of us here and no one wants Alex to steal the gold goblets for meth money or Karen to auction off a painting to help her deadbeat boyfriend get out of jail again. Let's not forget, Lauren would like nothing better than to screw us, mom, and her kids completely just to get back at John. Yeah, it's all messed up, but this is real life and everyone is playing their own games."

Ben was about to explode into anger, but I distracted him with a quick lick of my tongue on his neck, surprising him and I think Jade as well, it calmed him though in his response, "Fine, but before we get into another one of these games, let's end the last one. I want you to apologize to Jason. You screwed him over with your games, got him so drunk and high that a random asshole hurt him…"

Ben hesitated in saying more as he stared at me to complete what I wished to tell her, I nodded knowing I had to confront Jade, "The guy you saw me giving the blowjob to, I didn't do it willingly. The alcohol and drugs might have gone to my head or he might have drugged me, but I didn't want to do it. Then, he almost took me to his home and would have done more stuff. When he saw the scars on my chest, he kicked me out. I left my jacket in your car with my wallet and Ben's cash. I would have frozen to death outside if Chris hadn't been out looking around for homeless people to bring into a shelter."

Jade's expression changed from indignant to shocked surprise, she bowed her head, "Look, Jace…Jason, I never meant for that to happen to you. I thought you were having fun and it looked like any normal random hookup. A lot of my gay friends do that all the time and so do I. Like you and my brother have only met like a month ago and you're trying to get back into normal life."

Ben was fuming, "Did you think about that when you shrugged everything off saying "better luck next time" after Jason didn't come home with you? What the fuck were you thinking, Jade? I love him and I was fucking worried sick the entire night after I found the wallet. Get it through your narcissistic head, having fun does not mean screwing with everyone either physically or mentally. Jason has enough problems stemming from his time as a homeless person due to his parents without you adding to them. He's my boyfriend and we may not have committed to one another formally or legally, but we agreed to not sleep around. Knowing that we have each other's best interest at heart is how we have fun."

Jade was amused at Ben's outburst, then stared at me in wonder, "Sorry, Jason, I should have had your back. Sounds like you have gotten my brother to come out of his shell. Now, why don't you guys get settled in the Bungalow, like I said, we're going to have to stay here for a few days per mom's order. I know Bingo doesn't like staying at the main house, so I had the outsourced staff clean this place and restock it for your needs. Dad and I will stay here too, but you can have the master bedroom."

Ben still annoyed shook his head, "This is way too much for me and Jason, you know that. We didn't even pack for a holiday getaway or prison term, whatever you want to call this. We need clothes and toiletries."

Jade winked at him and then me, "I know you're a medium, Bingo, and he's a large. I was there with Jason, when Kevin was helping him shop. Unlike you two, I do have a good taste beyond this," she pointed with her finger circling our clothes, "You look like twins or clones, cute but too shabby for this scene. Mom paid for all the clothes, so just consider it part of your Christmas presents."

Feeling a bit cold and seeing few polite options to extricate ourselves, I tugged on Ben's naked hand still wrapped around mine in his pocket, "Bingo, let's just get inside and sort this out later. It might be good for your family to get used to us like this."

Ben pulled out his naked hand and raised a finger to my lips, I sucked off it reflexively, shocking Jade, "Yes, it might be good for others to recognize that we love each other."

Jade threw up her hands, "Alright, enough PDA, like this may be a liberal state, but even I am grossed out. Keep that to your bedroom."

We entered the little bungalow; it was a pleasant single-story dwelling with a decent size living room area that connects to an open kitchen with island seating. A small hallway held four doors. First room on the left led to a bathroom, followed by two bedrooms facing each other on both sides with simple furnishings and a twin sized bed. At the end of the hall, a larger bedroom with a king size bed that filled most of the room with two small table lamps on each side. There were two closets facing opposite sides of the bed, one had a sheet of paper printed "Ben" and the other "Jason". I opened the closet designated for me and found a complete wardrobe. Socks and underwear were sorted into cubicle shelves arranged apparently by seasonality as thermal underwear and thick wool socks were organized on the extreme left, while the right side held boxers and crew socks. There were also turtleneck, polo, sweaters, hoodies, and pajamas along with matching pants. I don't think I've ever owned that many clothes in my life.

I turned to Ben, who stood behind me apparently waiting for my reaction, "Bingo, there are way too many clothes here. There are too many outfits, what should I do?"

Ben smiled at me, closed the door, then pulled off his remaining glove, "Well, if we are going to be prisoners here for Christmas, let's at least get comfortable with the attire we like best."

I got the hint and was out of my winter clothing in moments. When our naked bodies touched the satin sheets, it felt like I was laying on a very soft pillow. We snuggled against one another in the large king-sized bed, knowing that any moment Jade or someone might knock to disturb our peaceful embrace. Yes, I felt at ease now with everything in my life despite all the uncertainties and the insanity that Ben's own family brought. Knowing that life is messy and incomplete made no difference to how I felt about Ben. I had resigned myself to being with him as long as he would accept me in his life and he had done the same.

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