tagGay MaleTenderness Ch. 03

Tenderness Ch. 03

byCruel2BKind©

*Sorry I haven't submitted in a while, I recently discovered web-camming and I've spent the last few days in a horny fog...

*clears throat* Anyway, no sex again in this chapter, but good things come to those who wait^_^

All characters are 18+*




--------AARON--------

I was so happy the next day; hell, I was downright joyful. I woke up at eight with everything feeling sore, and I suddenly remembered that I had completely forgotten to take my pain pill. It wasn't a laughing matter, because I had also forgotten the antibiotics, but it just made me feel so happy that Daniel could take away my pain like this.

I took my pills, and all day long, when I was going food shopping and doing some other errands, I couldn't stop smiling. I smiled at strangers and cashiers and other people in their cars. Sometimes they smiled back, a little confused, and other times they just gave me strange looks, but I found that I just didn't care.

Daniel called me on my cell, sounding a little bashful.

"I know that you're not supposed to call after the first date, thats supposed to be kinda clingy, but I couldn't help it. How are you?"

I laughed out loud. "Ugh, I'm just glad you called first! I think it's okay if we're both a little clingy!"

He laughed and asked me if I wanted to see the Firefly marathon at his apartment, since he had a large flatscreen TV. He sounded so excited. I agreed. I had been a little bummed about having to see the most awesome show ever (fangirl squee!!!) on my tiny little toaster of a TV.

We ended up talking for about twenty minutes, and we would have talked more but I had to beg him to stop because I had a crappy cell plan and we would soon talk me into bankruptcy.

---

After my talk with Daniel, I saw that I had a new message. This was pretty rare, only about half a dozen people had my number anyway. I listened to it, and I felt surprise and shock and sudden fear fill my chest. It was Dad.

"Hello Aaron." The stiff formal voice was so like him, ever since he started trying to bond with me again, Christmas and birthdays and a few rare occasions, our conversation was awkward and stiff and formal. "I'm in town today, like I said in that email... I hope you got that. I'm going to be at your apartment soon, at about five, and I brought some dinner, I remembered that you liked Chinese food? Anyway, call me back soon."

Take-out? He hated all Asian food with a passion. He was really trying to make me happy, and that made me a little scared and very grateful. The thing about Dad was that he really did love me, but my orientation grated on him so much. He hated this as much as I did, how fragmented it had become between us.

I felt a sick swooping feeling in my stomach. If he ever found out about Daniel... A boyfriend was bad enough. He was able to handle my orientation a little better when I was single, but when he found out about Bryce he had gone insane and slammed his fists into the wall, trying not to hit me or any furniture. He hadn't talked to me again until Bryce was history.

A boyfriend was bad enough, but one right after what had happened? He would call me a pervert. He would say that I liked what happened to me. He would be disgusted, maybe even to the point of violence.

I was in the laundromat down the street, and I had been laughing and giggling. I jumped in the air when a very pregnant redheaded woman tapped my shoulder, and timidly asked me if I was alright.

I realized that my eyes were full of tears and my mouth felt weak and trembling. "I'm s-sorry, n-nothing's wr-wrong."

I was totally lying, and beginning my first official breakdown of the day, but she was tactful enough not to bother me about it. She sat back down, glancing through a book of baby names and giving me worried glances.

---

I threw all of my clean laundry back into the mesh bag without folding it. I was too upset and I wanted to get back to my apartment before I fell apart completely. I nearly ran down the sidewalk, and within moments of closing the door I just collapsed onto the couch and had a little breakdown. That was one thing I hadn't been prepared for. I was crying all the time now, and at the most inconvenient times. I was just glad I had been at the laundromat and not at the grocery store, or somewhere even further away.

It was four thirty, shit. I was not ready for him to be over. I had to go around my apartment and hide any evidence, no matter how remote, of anything even slightly feminine. I scoured through my bathroom, hiding my little pink jewelry box that held my makeup and earrings deep in the cabinet. Ditto for the colorful hair binders. I rolled up the rainbow bath mat that Jesse had given me for my birthday and hid it under my bed.

I took down the posters on my wall. I had some band posters that were alright, but I couldn't keep the Elton John poster, or the XX Revolution (a local band that played at the Purple Rain) poster. I also hid the little iron artwork I had of two interlocking male symbols, you know, the circle with the arrows pointing up and to the right? I looked around my apartment and then realized that I was wearing a pink shirt and jeans that were far too tight. I dug through my laundry and changed into looser jeans and a baggy blue shirt. I hated leaving my hair down, but he wouldn't stand for it being in a ponytail.

Of course, he hated my hair, but that had been my very first rebellion against him, the first time I had told my father 'no'. So I wouldn't cut it for him.

I flinched when the doorbell rung, and my stomach felt weak and sick. I went to the door and looked through the little glass eye, hoping irrationally that it was my landlord, or maybe my neighbor, or someone other then Dad.

Nope, it was him. He had a rolling suitcase in one hand and a greasy bag in the other and I was reminded uncomfortably of when Daniel had come, unconsciously ordering my favorite food, and sweating bullets with anxiety. Dad was anxious-looking too.

I opened the door, and for a moment he just stared at me. He was only forty-two, he had married my mother when he was eighteen and she was sixteen, after they hadn't been careful enough at a drive-in movie. For a moment while he was staring at me, he looked shocked and very young.

He was staring at my black eyes and red nose, of course. I couldn't stop my hand from going up to cover my nose for a moment, then I forced it down.

I expected him to sigh and look away, I expected him to make an awkward hello and try to inch inside without touching me, I expected for him to break into his lecture about how I was living in sin there and then. What I didn't expect was for him to drop his suitcase and our dinner and enfold me in a desperately tight bear-hug.

"Oh Aaron!" His voice was so low and tearful that it came out like a groan. "I'm so sorry!"

Shocked and confused and grateful and crying, I held my weeping father in my arms as he babbled into my shoulder.

"Anything could have happened! That sick bastard could have killed you and I would have still been in Duluth trying to find fucking pamphlets to send you! Jesus I'm sorry, I don't want to stay away from you anymore Aaron! Anything could happen. I don't want to lose you!"

After that it became unintelligible with his deep sobs.

---

Dad pulled himself together and I invited him in. He sat on my bed with a ham sandwich that I had made him while I nibbled on Kung Pao chicken. We were both still sniffling a little. He was making an effort, and honest-to-God effort. He still hated my being gay, I could see him eyeing my hair, and I could tell he was biting back some comments, but he was trying! He was so afraid of losing me, that he wanted to make a concerted effort to be father and son again.

It was so awkward though. We had spent six years saying nothing to one another after he had kicked me out of the house, and two years of rare painfully awkward meetings that had often ended with me in tears. We ended up watching sports on the tiny TV and him asking me questions about my job, and if I had any luck getting a real job.

That hurt a little, but he was right. I had been trying over and over to be a teacher again, but there were few openings, and all of the schools that had openings had been warned against me by that dick principal. When I told Dad about him, he scowled a little, but didn't say anything. I already knew his thoughts on the matter. When I was fifteen, and pondering wether or not to come out to my father, he found some piece of news about a teacher who had molested a male student and went off on an angry tearful rant about how 'they should have never let a fucking fag like that into the school at all.' I agreed with his hatred of the man who had molested the kid, but it had hurt and frightened me deeply at the time, how he lost control like that.

He hesitated, and his shoulders slumped a little. "Aaron? I don't want to fight anymore, but honestly, how can you still think you don't have a choice? How can you still delude yourself that this...Lifestyle...is the only option after what that man did to you, and after what happened when you were twelve..."

I cut him off, and I was surprised by the vicious edge to my voice. I had never fought against my father, I had always just nodded and flinched. I had cringed against the wall when he started throwing furniture and beating his fists against the wall to stop himself from hitting me. I had agreed with him and wept when he was gone. I had never actively argued with him.

"Don't you dare! D-Don't you fucking d-d-dare! Th-That has n-nothing t-to... n-nothing to..."

I wanted to scream at him, to make him flinch away. I wanted to snarl at him about the injustice and inaccuracy of his words, about how being raped by a man didn't mean that all gay men were evil. I wanted to scream that I had been born this way, and to stop blaming the way I was on what had happened when I was twelve. I wanted to drown out his hurting words in my own fury, but I was crying.

I hated crying, I couldn't say what I needed to say, and I felt so fragile. He was looking at me with that look that was supposed to be comforting, but really it was pity at how 'deluded' I was. That look said that I was lost and needed to be guided, that I was broken and needed to be fixed. He had been trying, and he really wanted to help me, but I couldn't deal with this right now.

"Get out." I whimpered.

"Aaron, I have the right to speak my opinion, and you need help. I know that right now you are confused and you need my help more then ev--"

"GET THE FUCK OUT!!!"

I was screaming and crying and for a terrifying moment, I thought he was going to ignore me, but thankfully he got up and got out. His mouth was a trembling line in his stony face, and all of a sudden, my father seemed old.

He left my apartment, and I had a long cry on my bed. I wanted Daniel, but he wasn't here, and I didn't want to call him because then he would know how upset I was. I didn't want him to know how fragile I was right now. I didn't want his pity.

I cleaned my face carefully with a soothingly cold towel and I took my pills. For a moment, the three pill bottles stood on the shelf in a row, and I could feel a strange, frighteningly powerful, and seductive pull. An insidious urge to pour all of the pills in a bowl like brightly colored sugary cereal and just gobble them all up.

My fingers were trembling, and I clenched them into fists so hard that my long nails cut into my palms. I took slow whimpering breaths, shaky with sobs.

Then I imagined Daniel's face. I imagined him, laughing and shy, and then again, serious and gentle. I remembered how I had heard the steady powerful throb of his heart against my cheek. After that, I took one of each pill, and got ready for work.

I did not cry.

---

I worked that night, and thankfully, fewer people were asking me about my eye. I thought it was just because they were being more sensitive, but when I mentioned it, Jessie shook her head and told me that the bruises were fading. I went to the bathroom instantly to check it out, and it was true.

Earlier my bruises had been very dark, purple edging on black. Now they were a lighter plum-red color, and in some places, faded to pale lavender. I felt a little shallow, but I nearly started crying with joy. I was going to look normal soon! After such a miserable day, it was nice to have one little victory.

Even with my upbeat attitude after the wonderful date last night, I had still had a few minor meltdowns. I think that Dad had probably made it worse. They were brief and hard and miserable, like summer thunderstorms, but they had passed quickly. They happened with very little provocation mostly. I got two of the drink orders wrong, and after each one I ran to the bathroom and had a mini-meltdown. After I got home I tripped on the rolled-up rug shoved under the bed and had a slightly longer meltdown.

I hated feeling so fragile, like anything could break me in half. It was alright with Daniel, because whenever I felt breakable and weak around him, I knew that he was there to keep me safe. But now when I was alone.

I couldn't wait until tomorrow, when I would be safe again.

--------DANIEL--------

The apartment I lived at was owned by a man named Franklin who honestly didn't give a shit about how many animals you owned, as long as you cleaned up after them.

Noel, my ancient lazy husky was sleeping on his big doggy-bed in the corner. Malcolm the iguana (yes I named him after Malcolm Reynolds) in his cage under the heat lamp. Geoffrey, my tortoise lurking in a glass aquarium munching lettuce. Zoe (sigh, named again after Firefly...) my cat was sitting on the couch in front of the TV, giving me an ironic green glare. Kit and Kat, my corn snakes were curled into a ball of orange coils in their aquarium.

I was dressed and ready for the Marathon, jeans, sock-feet, and a brown t-shirt with a silhouette of a T-rex and a Stegosaurus on it. The Stegosaurus had a speech bubble that said 'curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!' God I was such a geek...

My apartment was fairly small, and neat because I had to keep it free of pet fur for my neighbor's allergies. I still worried and went around, cleaning the house as much as I could. I had pulled the big blue couch in front of the TV, but then I was panicking and wondering if that would be too close for him, and if he would want to sit somewhere else...

The doorbell rang at exactly seven forty-five when I was still panicking. I ran to the door and pulled it open.

Aaron was standing there, and suddenly my puffed-up sense of urgency and panic deflated. He was wearing those red plaid pajama pants, and a T-shirt with Jayne on it. Below his picture were the words 'Public Relations'. He had a bag of chips under his arm and his hair was in a messy ponytail. He smiled shyly up at me, and I felt the grin spreading unstoppably over my face.

"Come in!" I said. Noel stretched and trotted up to give a half-hearted sniff and a lick of Aaron's outstretched hand.

"Oh! You are a big squishy cutie aren't you!" Aaron got right down and started scratching Noel's stomach and rump. The big old husky just collapsed on the wooden floor with a moan of pleasure. He was in doggy heaven.

I took him on the tour, introducing him to my animals, showing him the rooms. He was delighted by my waterbed, and insisted on lying on it for a bit before we continued the tour. He was smiling a lot, very bubbly and upbeat, but I sensed that while he was genuinely happy, he was also a little bit down about something.

I got him a drink of Mountain Dew from the fridge, and he asked me if I had any dip to go with the chips. I dug around in my cupboards and when I turned around with a container of dill and garlic dip in my hand I saw him take a quick gulp of Dew and a big swallow. I was nearly 90% sure that he had tried to distract me so I wouldn't see him take his pills.

My heart throbbed painfully for him, especially when he looked up at me with such a shy sweet smile on his face. I reached out and tucked some hair behind his ear, and he smiled even wider up at me.

I liked being able to take care of him, little things, like tucking his hair, or wrapping my arm around his shoulders, pouring him a drink and tucking the afghan around him when he got a little cold. I liked his closeness of course, and I kept having thoughts of him naked, and pleasant little fantasies involving what would happen after he healed, but somehow the little things, the tender things, they almost seemed more important.

Alright, enough of the romantic sappy shit, and on to Firefly!

---

We had so much fun. We were geeking out over our favorite show so much, that if he hadn't been snuggled up tight under my arm, we might as well have been two nerdy friends, and not boyfriends. We were both quoting lines, laughing our heads off at Wash and Jayne. During the commercials, we discussed the mysteries of life, such as if women's clothing is designed to make them look sexy and strong, or vulnerable. Life on other planets, Hilary Clinton's secret sex life, how Firefly was more accurate then Star Wars, everything.

It was after a cute, romantically charged moment between Malcolm and Inara (Geez, why wont those two EVER get together...) when Aaron leaned up and kissed me, right on the lips. It was a sweet little peck, and then he ducked his face into my chest, blushing. We were snuggled up on the couch, him tucked under my arm with his head on my chest and his legs curled up under him on the cushion.

"What was that for?" I murmured, amused, and slightly alarmed because I was slightly aroused.

He bit his lip, taking the question very seriously. "For... I guess... For being there." He was completely unknowing of my boss's recent words to me, but nearly quoting her concerns. "Lately, a lot of shit has happened. People have been treating me weird, and...and I've been stupid and crying at the drop of a hat...and you're just... there for me. Is that stupid?"

"No, it's not stupid at all. After what happened, I think you're allowed to be a bit of a mess."

He giggled a little at that, and wiped his eyes. "Thank you Daniel." Almost everyone I knew called me either Dan or Arceiro, I kinda liked that. It wasn't exactly a nickname, it was more like a term of endearment.

The commercial break ended, and we shut up again. It wasn't an awkward silence though, it was a nice one. He was holding my hand and snuggling against my chest.

"I can hear your heart." He murmured.

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