Closeness Ch. 03byPS_Lopez©
Stark, Jesse's marmalade cat, was pacing outside the bathroom door, meowing, when he opened it. He sighed.
"Yeah, yeah, supper's late," he muttered, heading to the kitchen, towel hanging from his hand. "Arrogant bastard."
Still complaining, Stark followed him. The cat hopped up onto the counter-end next to the direction the fridge door opened, where his food and water dishes were and pawed at the empty dry food bowl. Jesse dumped a quarter-cup measure of food into the bowl, then headed for his bedroom, rubbing the towel over his dripping hair.
While he considered what to wear, he checked his phone. It could either be an in night, which seemed likely considering how he felt, or he could get dressed and see about going out to eat, because he really didn't feel like cooking tonight—not after the day he'd had. Nothing had gone right, and he thought he might end up trying to beat his stove to pieces with a frying pan if he attempted to cook and it turned out like the rest of the day. It wasn't like his cooking skill was the best in the world in the first place, either.
He had two messages, one from his father, and one from—surprise!—Archer. Jesse frowned a little over the second message listed. Something must be up. Archer hadn't called without him instigating something since December. Before December. It was one of the things which had so disturbed Jesse about their relationship. The increased distance, even to avoiding calling him unless he did something first, as if Archer was trying to ignore him.
He listened to his father's message, which was nothing more than a reminder about his stepmother's birthday coming up in the next week. Jesse nodded. He'd have to figure something out. He felt about the same about his stepmother as Archer felt about his father: she was far better than her predecessor had been, and Jesse had been calling her "mom" since about a year after she and his father married. Like Archer with his father. Sure, there had been rough spots—typical teenage screamed declarations of the stepparent not being their real parent, but other than that, things had been stellar. He knew his father was going to take her out to supper, so he had to think up something different. Maybe ask Dad for a suggestion of what perfume to buy or get her a gift card for her favorite department store. And a thank-you for being so supportive.
Stark appeared, twining around his ankles, and Jesse shuffled a little, but his cat didn't leave. "You're getting yourself wet," he said as he opened the voicemail from Archer. His cat didn't seem to care, just kept twining around his ankles.
"Hey, Jesse. Dad told me you had a shift 'til seven today, and I know how you feel about cooking after such shifts, so I'm inviting you over for supper. I'm making your favorite." It sounded like Archer was smiling. "So hurry and come over. Bye."
Jesse blinked, watching Stark. A dinner invitation? Oh, that phrase had innuendo he didn't want to consider. He shivered a little, trying to shake the feeling of impending sexual involvement from his mind as he set his phone down.
He didn't consider refusing the invitation at all, however. He was too hungry, too disinclined to cook for himself, and wanted to spend time with Archer. Maybe the invitation was an indication Archer was opening back up. It would be nice. They could be real brothers again, instead of sometime acquaintances like they had been for the past seven months and more. Maybe Archer would actually look at him. Besides, Archer was making his favorite meal.
Jesse dressed quickly, stepping over and around his suddenly-lovable cat. "Sorry, buddy, no cuddles tonight until I get home." At which time Stark would likely be ill-tempered. He hated not having his after-supper cuddles. Jesse took a moment to scratch him behind the ears, though, before pulling a tee on, filling his shorts pockets with his pocket things, and going to brush his hair.
He drove at or a little above the speed limit on the way to Archer's place, but didn't question why he felt a need to. A thrill of excitement filled him, keeping his mood elevated, and he did his best to ignore it, telling himself it was just innocent. They were hanging out as brothers. But his desires wouldn't be quelled. They wanted him to be seeing Archer as a lover.
He could have gone into the parking garage, but he parked on the street instead, mainly because he found a spot right at the door, and it would have been a bit longer of a walk from the auxiliary space next to Archer's car. At the door, he used his electronic fob to get in, then sorted the key to Archer's apartment from his other keys one-handed while on the elevator to the third floor.
His nerves sang as if this was a date and not a simple invitation from his stepbrother to hang out. His desires put more weight on the situation than there really was. He couldn't quell his excitement over seeing Archer, and it hadn't been like this for years. The last time he'd felt like this, Archer had been nineteen, moving into this place with Jesse's help, and Jesse had felt privileged to have been asked to help.
At Archer's door, he stopped, considering the wisdom of just letting himself in. They'd exchanged keys at their father's suggestion; Dad had thought it wise for them to have an extra set of keys somewhere in case they locked themselves out of their homes at some point. Jesse had previously let himself into Archer's apartment following similar invitations to this before December. Now he wasn't so sure he had the right to just walk in. He fisted the keys and prepared to knock, then hesitated. Archer knew he was coming, had to be expecting him. He'd never refused a dinner invitation before. He sorted out Archer's key again and opened the door.
"Hey, Jess. In the kitchen."
Jesse entered and locked the door behind himself before tucking his keys away on the way to the kitchen. He stopped in the doorway; Archer stood at the stove monitoring a big, deep skillet. Bowls sat on the counter next to it with noodles in a sieve.
"Smells delicious." He pushed his hair back, dug in a pocket for a hair tie, and gathered the length into a pony tail at the nape of his neck.
"It's almost done. Would you set the table?"
Jesse tried to keep an eye on Archer as he did as Archer had asked. Things felt the same but different. More important than they had before, as if this was a turning point in their relationship and not simply the apparent return of their former closeness. It made Jesse wonder how close Archer wanted to be. Would they remain in the rut they'd been in before, during the years between Archer's eighteenth birthday and this past December, or would they regain the closeness they'd had before then? At this moment, Jesse wasn't sure which he wanted. They'd been very close before Archer turned eighteen, despite the self-control and distance Jesse had tried to insert. He wasn't sure he could endure that kind of closeness any better now, though he kind of wanted it back.
They sat and served themselves supper. Jesse tried to watch his stepbrother while Archer gave glances in return. After a few minutes, while chewing a bite of the beef Stroganoff, Jesse realized they were both trying to figure out where they stood. He swallowed.
"Thanks for inviting me for supper."
Archer smiled a little. "I figured you wouldn't want to cook tonight."
Jesse stared, captured by the realization Archer was actually looking at him without a confrontation. It sent a thrill through him, and it didn't fade. Archer offered a little smile and returned his gaze to his food. Jesse cleared his throat softly and filled his mouth.
"Dad said your shift tomorrow doesn't start until noon."
He nodded, stirring to better coat his noodles in the sauce which covered them.
"Want to go out to eat tomorrow? My treat."
"Please? If tomorrow is anything like today was, I won't want to cook then either."
Archer chuckled. "Okay. I'll pick you up around nine o'clock."
"On the plus side, I have Saturday off this week."
"Dad told me."
They glanced at each other, Archer smiling. Jesse found himself smiling back, feeling far more excited about the coming outing than he thought he should. Maybe they wouldn't be out clubbing or anything, but he couldn't get rid of the idea any time spent with Archer in any capacity was a good thing.
"Dress casual," Archer said, pushing noodles around in his bowl. "But to impress. Like you did last Friday."
Archer gave a secretive smile. "It's a surprise."
Knowing better than to let himself get caught up in trying to wrangle the information from Archer, Jesse sighed.
Jesse eyed his food. He hadn't been eating very quickly. "No, thanks."
"Okay." Archer rose and set to putting things away.
Jesse finished his meal as quickly as he could and put his bowl and fork in the dishwasher with the other dishes. They went out to the living room and Jesse dropped onto the sofa, slouching.
"Want to watch a movie?"
"Doesn't matter what."
Archer's sing-song reply made Jesse smile, and he dropped his head back, closing his eyes. This was so much like old times, the before-times. When Archer dropped onto the sofa and put his unshod feet in Jesse's lap a couple minutes later, Jesse sat up and looked at him.
Jesse glanced at Archer's feet in reply, then returned his gaze to his stepbrother. They'd once sat like this all the time when they were teens, but it hadn't happened since Archer turned eighteen. Jesse had to resist the urge to push Archer's feet out of his lap in a fit of uncertainty, and ended up gripping the nearest of Archer's ankles instead.
"Dad said you wanted to get our old closeness back."
Jesse nodded, head bowed.
"I want it back, too, Jess. I've missed it."
"It's just unexpected." Jesse looked at Archer.
Archer smiled a little. "Sorry. If you want, I'll go back to the way things were before."
Which way was that? The before-December way, or the after-December way, where Archer wouldn't look at him? Jesse gripped Archer's ankle tighter.
"No, it's fine. I've missed it, too."
Archer grinned. "Okay, watch the movie."
Jesse nodded and slouched back against the sofa again, sighing this time. His right hand slid back and forth over Archer's shin, but he didn't pay it much mind. They were perhaps half an hour into the movie when Jesse felt the urge to push the leg of Archer's jeans up to feel skin, and he stopped his motion to clutch at Archer's leg, doing his best to remind himself they were just brothers. Their parents would freak if they knew what Jesse was thinking. Archer would freak if he knew.
Archer shifted, laying down on the sofa, so his knees bent over Jesse's lap. Jesse realized his hand was now on Archer's thigh and withdrew it, tucking it between Archer's hip and the back of the sofa in a fist.
"Is something wrong, Jess?"
How could he tell the truth? "No, not really."
"You seem tense."
"I'm not. I'm fine."
Archer's hand found his fist and pulled it free. "Then go ahead and put your hand wherever you want. It won't kill you."
He glanced at Archer and found his stepbrother gazing at him with a solemn expression.
"I mean it, Jess. I don't mind where you put your hands." Archer smiled a little. "Nobody has to know."
The tease made Jesse smile and relax a little. He unfisted his hand, which Archer released, and placed it on Archer's leg just above the knee. They got back into the movie.
It took all of ten minutes for Jesse to start rubbing again, his hand this time sliding back and forth between Archer's knee and hip. He glanced at Archer, who seemed focused on the movie. In any case, Archer wasn't objecting or acting like he was uncomfortable. Jesse tried to relax further, arguing with himself. This was innocent, no matter how much he wanted to tease Archer's groin. It meant nothing. Archer certainly wasn't reading anything into it.
It was easy for Jesse to reason away his uncertainty and discomfort. Almost too easy. It frightened him a little, but he chose not to examine it too closely. He didn't want to upset Archer, and definitely would if he tried to put distance between them now. He'd said he wanted their closeness back, and he was getting it and then some.
They remained as they were throughout the rest of the movie. When it ended, Jesse reluctantly pushed Archer's legs off his lap and stood up.
"I have to go. You have to be up early tomorrow."
Archer held up his hands. Jesse grasped them and pulled Archer to his feet. They ended up very close, and Jesse closed his eyes for a moment, swallowing before making himself step back. The urge, the need, to kiss Archer was on him, and he resisted with every ounce of will he had, going to the door so he wouldn't follow through on the impulse.
Archer followed him. "You drive safely."
Jesse nodded, opening the door. "I will. You sleep well."
"Okay. You, too, when you go to bed."
He turned to face his stepbrother. "Bye."
Archer smiled a little, head tilted somewhat to the side. "Bye." He raised a hand and wiggled his fingers.
Jesse stepped out backwards, pulling the door shut in his wake, then stood there listening to the bolt land while he fought the need to open the door, grab Archer, and kiss him. No. Not his brother.
It took him a minute to convince himself to leave, and he did with regret, wishing he could have done everything he wanted.
At a quarter to nine Friday night, Jesse stood at his closet, toweling his hair while trying to decide what to wear. Archer had told him to dress casually, but to impress, and he gazed at those clothes, hung on the left side of his closet, thinking about how much he wanted to impress Archer. He wasn't sure he could spend the next few hours with his stepbrother and not do something he shouldn't. Not after having spent all day thinking about what he really wanted to do with Archer.
Going out to dinner and wherever else Archer wanted to take him hadn't been anywhere in the agenda he'd been contemplating.
He groaned and added his free hand to rubbing his hair mostly dry, then tossed the towel on the floor. Dress casual but to impress. Should be easy. He took out the black jeans he'd worn last week and tossed them onto the bed. There, half his outfit decided-on. Shirt next. He shuffled through what he had, taking a moment to hang the red dragon shirt aside. It was his favorite, but he suspected Archer would complain if he wore it again. He'd have to go without the boost of confidence wearing it would give him.
He needed confidence tonight. The assurance he could control himself as he had last week. It hadn't been easy, but he'd done it, and he regarded the dragon shirt with something akin to longing now, absolutely certain it had enabled him to resist his desires. Like a talisman.
Keeping his mind off of seducing Archer was proving more difficult than he'd thought it would be when he'd decided to make this bid for the closeness they'd once shared. The bid was, he realized now, just a ploy for his psyche to get him to push into Archer's life for more than Archer had been willing to give since December. The fact it seemed to be working didn't even matter any more.
Stark came in from supper and twined around his still-wet ankles. It didn't distract him from his dilemma, and he stood and endured the contact while gazing in distress at his hanging shirts. Why did he have to feel like this about Archer, and why did Archer have to cooperate with it now? He'd been expecting it to be an uphill battle all the way, not turn into an icy downslope on a snow-covered hill. It was all too easy, and the ease of the situation was giving him carnal ideas he didn't particularly wish to be entertaining.
He finally made an arbitrary selection and jerked a synthetic shirt which shimmered hues and shades of purple and blue out of the closet. This would do. He took it off the hanger and tossed it onto his jeans, grabbed his black leather belt from the hanger it hung on, and shut his closet. Distressed by his contemplations, he stepped over his cat and dressed without drying, not caring the shirt stuck to his skin and the jeans sucked to his rump. The jeans felt too tight, but he didn't change them, just slid the belt through the loops before going to brush his hair out and grabbing a pair of black socks and his black steel-toed boots to complete the outfit, using the discarded towel to wipe the grease and dirt from the leather.
He sat up, dropping the laces of his left boot, and glanced around. His closet was open, the smudged towel between the folded-open doors. Stark coiled around his other foot, which was already shod with the laces tied. The moment of truth had arrived.
"In the bedroom." It sounded half-choked as his mind filled with the innuendo of his location. If Archer had been any other man, it wouldn't have mattered. He could have suggested they change plans and not go out. Order pizza or Chinese delivered, or make a quick trip out for Indian take-out. Dine in, partake of his personal selection of alcoholic beverages, retire to the bedroom for fun.
Archer appeared, smiling, completely at ease and showing more confidence than he had since December. "Almost ready?" He came over and grabbed Stark, cuddling the cat and rubbing his face against Stark's fur.
Jesse bent over his untied boot and hooked the laces up the front, trying to pretend as if he was totally alone. It didn't work. He could see Archer in the corner of his eye, rocking from foot to foot, side-to-side. He could hear Archer cooing to the cat, making wordless murmurs of affection which he wanted to hear directed at himself; Jesse didn't know why, but he felt certain Archer would make similar sounds during sex. He could smell Archer, a hint of the same cologne Archer had worn last week on both Friday and Sunday, stronger than those days because it was apparently fresh when those days it had been the last vestiges from being worn all day.
Jesse's hands shook as he tied the laces. Beneath his awareness was the desire to drop off the bed and half-crawl over to embrace Archer's hips. Archer was wearing the same jeans he'd worn last week, and his erection was clearly visible. Jesse didn't want to know what had turned Archer on, but seeing the ridge of Archer's cock had him mentally licking his lips, thinking about breathing on it through the fabric of Archer's jeans and underwear. He wanted to nibble it, tease Archer, make Archer moan and whimper.
Somehow, Jesse managed to knot the laces like always. He remained bent over for a few seconds, eyes squeezed shut, trying to force the carnal contemplations out of his mind. He'd wanted to be friends with his stepbrother again, and he was getting just what he'd asked for. He had to control himself.
But it took a lot of effort, when he rose, to not just step over to Archer, pull him into an embrace, and kiss him. Jesse stood frozen for a moment, torn between that impulse and the more sensible need to fill his pockets with his daily accessories. Even when he finally convinced his body to go to his dresser for his wallet and phone and keys, he wasn't relieved. He had to spend the next at least two hours with Archer, resisting Archer. Right now, he wasn't sure he'd be able to do it.
While he was at his dresser, he put his name bracelet on. It added nothing to his ability to ignore the thoughts crowding his mind. When he turned to face the room again, to face Archer, he stayed by the dresser. Trying to affect the easy confidence he'd displayed last week, he leaned back, propping his rump on the edge of the dresser and folding his arms over his chest. Archer continued to love on the cat for a few seconds before letting Stark go on the bed. The smile he gave Jesse afterward bore a bare hint of his shyness.