Touching was easy. That’s strange, I guess. I’ve seen how you shy away from contact, how the easy intimacy between strangers–handshakes, hugging, simple kissing on the cheek–fascinates you even as you flee it. Your mother can touch you, but even that is learned, often endured rather than desired. When others try, you hunch and flinch and back away. For me, though, it was simplicity itself. I reached, you reached, and our hands fit together strangely, perfectly. From there it was no distance at all to embraces and walking hand in hand, to your warm solid presence against my side.


I wanted to kiss you very soon after we met. I can admit it now, but then I couldn’t–it was too foreign. Desire, for a boy? I should say man, I guess, but your face both then and now is, was, boyish. Always will be for me. Anyway. Desire for a boy took some time to filter through from my body to my brain. And more time to evolve from hidden and shameful and scary to the most natural thing in the world. Which it is, and now I know: I wanted to kiss you very soon after we met.


I didn’t used to be so careful about my words. I’m not, really, not the way you are, not the way you need to be. But I’ve learned from you–learned what power words have, and how they can be chosen and crafted and woven. I’ve learned it as much from your stammers and the frustration that engulfs you when the words won’t come, as from the power your words have when they come just right, and your eyes glow and your hands relax and your mouth softens around them. So now I’m trying to be careful like that.


It took a long time for me to kiss you. Partly I was scared of what it meant about me, my label–gay, queer, faggot, homo. Powerful words. And partly I was scared of what it meant about you–would you be hurt? Would your hand leave mine, would you flinch away? Mostly I was scared of what it meant about us. I thought–and I was right–that if I kissed you once it would be risking everything: the future, the past, my whole life and maybe yours. Risking my heart, which is the same as everything, isn’t it?


Your mouth was soft and surprised. I landed on one corner, then slid across to kiss you square. You smelled like bergamot and honey and the sea, and I wanted to taste, too, but I was afraid. I kissed you gently but firmly, and I kept my tongue to myself–time enough for that if I hadn’t ruined everything already, I thought. My body didn’t agree. It wanted you then and there, but I concentrated on your scent and the texture of your lips, and then it was over–our first kiss. I pulled my head back and looked at you.


Your eyes are hypnotic, did you know? They are. Sometimes I can’t look away from them. It is their colour, and their shape. Their focus, and when that focus is turned on me I feel myself blurring. Which I know makes no sense. And that day when I kissed you, your eyes were puzzled, and they sparked a bit, and you smiled. We were outside, your hair was bright, flying in the wind off the sea. You tilted your head at me just so, and I wanted to look away but I couldn’t, not from those eyes, so I laughed.


The second time we kissed we were in your room. I was lying on your bed, and you came and sat by me. “Do you want to kiss me again?” you asked. It’d been a whole day since that first one on the beach. I nodded, and you stretched out beside me and offered your face up to me, and I knew right then, my life was going to get complicated. Kissing you was drowning. We kissed for hours, soft and hard, intense and deep and quick and long, until your lips were swollen and red, eyes heavy and dark.


The third time we kissed scared us both. We were down in the empty dining room in the middle of the afternoon. We’d a snack set out on the counter, ready to whisk away upstairs, and you leaned over and kissed me–I don’t know why, I forgot to ask later. Your mother had come in, though, and she saw it. Well, you know the rest. There were tears, and recriminations, and then whole days where she looked at me as though I was a molester, and you as though you were a stranger. It was a bad time.

During those days I didn’t know whether to kiss you or not, touch you or not. Instinct said yes, but uncertainty stayed me, betrayed me. Us. I just didn’t know, then. Didn’t know you so well, and was half-afraid to ask. You were bent over yourself, and you didn’t talk much. Finally I gave up trying to know and I just reached for you. You climbed onto me and held on tight, and then I wondered why I had waited so long. I braced myself, and I held you, and I waited for your mum to find us like that.


When your mother came to me a week later, I tensed myself. I’d expected her earlier, I’d expected–what? A blow, maybe. Yelling, though she’s a soft-spoken woman as a rule. Did she learn that for you? She didn’t yell, didn’t hit me. I had a speech ready but she stopped me with a look–her eyes are the same shape as yours, you know, but grey where yours are green. “So.” Her face was sad, and a little old. “You love him.”


“Right then.” She nodded at me, once. “Just–be careful with him, aye lad?”

I nodded.


Your mouth is tea and honey. It tastes as sweet as I thought it would that first time, and it tastes… more. Your lips take my breath away, every single time. Sometimes I look at your mouth, stare at it steadily until we are both dizzy with desire, me from watching, you from being watched. Texture and colour and shape–soft and red and cupie-bow curved. When your tongue flicks out, nervous and pink, it takes all I have not to tackle you, but I don’t. I meet your eyes, and grin, and go back to watching. It’s strangely satisfying.


You touched me–really touched me–before I touched you. It’s not that I hadn’t wanted to. My hands already knew your public body well–how often had our fingers tangled, sweaty and sensitive as you hummed your pleasure into my mouth, our kisses winding on and on and on… How often? My thumb knew the soft short hair at the nape of your neck, and my fingers had caressed the smooth curve of your cheekbone a thousand times. Your shoulders, the long lovely sweep of your back and the surprisingly muscular lines of your arms had long been mine to know. Your hands–clever and small and neat, and due better words than I can weave–had touched me similarly, but we had kept the touches almost chaste by unspoken agreement, despite the want we both obviously felt.

When you finally slid your hand beneath my t-shirt and onto my skin I thought I might die. I gasped so loudly that you froze, and we both began to laugh.

“Should I stop?”

I regained my breath and grinned at you. “If you do I may go mad,” I said honestly.

“Then I won’t,” you said, and you didn’t.


You wanted to touch me everywhere, and you moved very quickly from my chest to my belly and my back and my legs, feet and ankles and hips, insisting that I touch you, too, squirming under my hands until we were both breathing fast, half-dressed, wholly roused, glazed and hard and delirious with it. “We should stop,” I breathed as you kissed my bare chest and ran your hand up my thigh; my erection strained against my briefs and yours was equally visible, pushing against your boxers.

“I don’t want to,” you said, and you didn’t.

And I didn’t either.


I got up to lock your bedroom door.

That’s when the both of us knew, but I sat down and stroked your hair back from your forehead. “Do you want to… do this?”

You smiled at me, and your face was so happy and content, sweat-sheened and rosy that I had to grin back. “I do,” your smile grew wild and shy, “but I don’t know just what I want to do.”

I lay down again and laughed. “Me either,” I admitted. “But I think we’re on the track of something lovely.”

“Yes,” and you curled against me, still glowing.


We were awkward, that first time. I can’t help grinning to think of it, and then of how we make love now, practiced and knowledgeable and sure in the way we touch one another. But that first time we pushed raggedly against one another, blind with heat and ignorance and desire, until your legs were round my waist and I lay heavy and desperate atop you. Our mouths were welded together, hands groping frantically for purchase as our hips followed suit, and finally our arousals lay alongside each other and we found a movement that worked. Oh, did it work.


You came first, your mouth an astonished O and your eyes flaring wide and then shut so tight that your lids creased. The rhythm between us was gone as you bucked beneath me, and my hips slid wildly across your suddenly slick belly, as out of control as a car on ice, spiraling me into my own climax as your breath whooshed across my face and I made a sound so hoarse, so fierce, and so loud that I am still amazed no one came to investigate.

I slumped atop you and we held each other for a long time.


Both of us were afraid to speak, but I knew you must be uncomfortable–you shifted slightly every few moments, though you never complained–and finally I lifted myself and rolled off, landing on my back with a little grunt, still pressed alongside you. You sighed, and rose up on your elbow to look at me.

“You’re all sticky,” you said, touching my stomach, where your semen and mine were mingled with our sweat. I shivered at the contact, but I didn’t have any words yet. “So’m I,” you added, looking curiously down at your own stomach.

You slapped your hand suddenly down onto my belly and laughed at the wet, sharp sound, at the shriek I emitted, at my expression.


You rubbed your hand around in the gluey mess, making a delighted, horrified face, and I curled up around you, laughing until tears ran down my face.


We got very good at that particular style of delight over the next days. We were both mad for it, and though I think we tried to be reasonably discreet, your mother must have known at least something of what was going on. We spent hours locked in your room, and we tried to be quiet, but it was hard–I wanted so badly to moan your name, and often I could not help the sounds I made when I came. I learned to smash my face into your neck when I felt the climax rising up over me, to cry out my pleasure into your warm, sweaty skin as your fingers dug into my back and you panted your own joy in short, hard gasps until you came, too.

I bit you once, not meaning to, and you came immediately, arching your back like a dancer and your legs going so tight around my hips that I cried out, half in pain, half in ecstasy.

“Do that again next time,” you instructed me, breath still ragged in my ear as your legs slid down to lie tangled with mine. I nodded, a clumsy, heartfelt movement against your hair.


All good things must come to an end. I needed to go back to school, though I promised I would return as soon as I could, on the first weekend break that allowed it. I’d spent almost all my money in Scotland with you, though your mother never allowed me to pay her for a room. “You’re in Jamie’s anyhow,” she said, surprised when I offered. “And you help me with the meals, Geoffrey. You should ask me to pay you. But I’m glad you don’t.” And she smiled and sent me away with a push. Still, the money had trickled away on ice cream and pop and gifts and necessities–shaving razors, toothpaste.

I had to earn more, and I had to be back in class; Mrs. W insisted and she was right. You kissed me at the station and gave me a drawing of us to take home.


Home. It didn’t feel quite like home anymore, which made me sad. I helped Mrs. W some, but now I was at university she didn’t like me working too much–said it would take me from my studies. My room seemed small and empty and crowded all at once, and I was restless, itching to be with you but knowing it was impossible right at that moment. It’s a miserable feeling, missing the person you love, comforting yourself with your own hand. I never enjoyed that sticky feeling when I was without you. It only made me feel irritable and careworn.


“Be still, Geoff.” Mrs. W’s voice was sharp. She had me pinned under that eye of hers–fierce, she is, that’s what makes her good at what she does–and Mr. W looked sympathetic. “Tell me what’s the matter, lad, before I tie you down to keep myself sane.”

I made an effort and stilled my jigging knee, my drumming fingers. My plate was clean–the appetite never suffers–and I was biding my time, hoping I could sneak the phone into my room to call you.

“Nothing’s wrong,” I said, then amended it. “I’m–I–drat.” I slumped. “It’s complicated.”


She took it better than I thought she would. It’s difficult with someone you love, you know. You want them to think well of you so desperately, and I suppose I’d taken all my own fears from when I’d first desired you and assigned them to her. I should have known better. In true Hetty style, she listened, assimilated, and moved directly on to the practicalities of the situation.

“And so what have you thought of doing?” she asked. “And if you say ‘nothing’ I’ll put you out the door.” She smiled at me, that thin little smile she does.

I half-smiled. “I’ve thought of some things.” I ducked my head and tapped my fingers restlessly on the tabletop until Mr. W put his hand briefly over mine.

It seems a strange thing, maybe, but it was that touch that did me in. I’d accepted the Wainthropp’s acceptance, really I had, but somewhere deep inside I guess I’d believed that if I once confessed out loud to this, this odd love, this frightening, new thing, that no one would touch me ever again except you. I was willing to live with that, because I could not stand, cannot stand, to live without you. But to know that I could still have the trust of the other people I loved the most–it hit me, in such a deep and hidden place that I hardly felt the blow. It was buried too far down. It was too precious to examine closely.


I applied to three new universities. I was surprised to be accepted by all three, but my enjoyment was buried in the flurry of paperwork as I tried for every scholarship and grant, scrounging for every penny of free money available. The school that offered the best value was in a small town two hours from you and three from me.

Now all I had to do was move there, find a flat, and convince you and your mother that you should apply to college, too.

Once I showed you the art history classes in the catalogue, the job was done.


You couldn’t sleep in our flat. We’d a week together before the December term began, and you couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know what to do. You told me over and over that you would be all right, but how could I believe you? After twenty-four hours your eyes were shadowy; after thirty they were pits. You stayed in the bed, and I stayed with you but I felt like such a traitor when I woke up and you were still staring into the dark or the light of the room.

“What do you need?” It had been forty hours. I touched your arm and saw you cringe–the first time you ever flinched from my touch, and I wanted to cry.

“I’ll be all right,” you said, and you curled away from me, into some place I could never go.

“I’m going to the store,” I said, and stumbled away, cowardice and guilt churning in my belly, because it was my fault. I’d uprooted you, harmed you.

Anger and fright sat with me on the cold stoop outside for a long time. I held my head in my hands, trying to work out the logistics of getting you home again.


You were still awake when I came in; I sat down and tried to read, listening all the while to your quiet, steady breathing. I listened so hard that I missed it when you did finally slide into sleep–I didn’t notice until you snored, just a little, and then I nearly shouted with joy, feeling relief pour into my body from some outside source as I sat still and shook, the book lying abandoned in my lap and my eyes wet as I struggled to be quiet.

I could hardly believe it when you woke up forty-five minutes later.


“This is awful,” you said softly, but you grasped my hand tightly and I felt a sneaking, guilty joy that I could touch you again. I hid it and nodded, undressing to slip into bed with you.

“Are you hungry? Thirsty?” I asked.

You shook your head and kept your eyes shut, the thin skin beneath them bruised and tender. Your poor sweet lips were chapped, and I pulled you closer to kiss them, run my tongue gently over the dry spots. You made a little sound and opened your mouth, and I felt your arousal against my leg. “Geoffrey, Geoffrey Shawcross,” you murmured, and you sighed.

“Let me,” I whispered, and I kissed my way slowly down your body, into the artificial night beneath the covers, until I could grasp and caress your erection. You didn’t have the energy to move with me, but I licked and kissed and sucked until your body gave in and you came, a shuddering, gentle climax into the wet warmth of my mouth.

When you fell asleep again, five minutes later, fierce joy welled up in me and I closed my eyes tightly, striving to hold onto the sense of triumph I felt.


That was the first time I ever used my mouth to pleasure you. When you woke up, ten hours later, it was four o’ clock in the morning, and you went to work with your mouth on my cock and your hands tugging gently at my balls. I woke up and came in the same moment, a rush of intense pleasure that banished drowsiness even as I choked on it, trying to cry out through a sleep-thick throat as my hips strained and my back arched. It lasted some little while, that orgasm, and your mouth worked and sucked until I twitched galvanically, suddenly too sensitive to bear it. Then you slid off my limp member and I felt you wriggling against me.

I lay still, blinking at the ceiling until your tousled head popped out from under the duvet.

“I’m hungry,” you said, and you kissed me, grinning widely.


Touch, taste, smell, feel, look–only five senses, and we seemed to need so many more. Humour, patience, proportion–three more we both required in indecent measure. You had to get used to my appetite, my impulsiveness, my sulks and frustration when things didn’t happen the way I thought they would. My need to be doing frightened and annoyed you– “Be still, Geoffrey,” you begged sometimes. “Please.” I had to get used to your silences, the dark days when you curled away, body locked in repetitive soothing and mind flown somewhere inarticulate and cloudy. We had to learn it all, face it head-on.

You didn’t know how to be angry. It scared you, and the first time you raised your voice to me I saw your face go white and you crumpled, folded into a tight ball of misery. What was the argument? I have no idea. It was lost when I saw you lost, saw your fear overwhelm the original anger. I leapt across the room to you, but it took hours to uncurl your hands, to ease the flutter of your fingers to your throat and let you look at me straight.

It was a lot to learn.


My thoughts about sex are so confused, so muddled. It’s a muddled act, though, isn’t it? If it’s between a man and a woman, there’s always the procreation excuse: continuation of the species. But between two men, there’s none of that. So why have sex at all? Well, because we wanted to, yeah. Because when I look at the tendons in your neck, or the crease behind your knees, or the little trail of hair from your navel down into your trousers, I just–I want you. As blindly and hungrily as I ever wanted a woman. More than I ever wanted any woman, or any man. Now that I know just what two men do, I’ve looked at other men. Seen you look, too, because–it’s interesting, I guess. I can look at a man and think, “Wow, gorgeous bloke.” Doesn’t mean I want to wake up next to him, or fall asleep next to him. Only want to do that, ever and always, with you. I guess that’s monogamy, yeah? Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard, but always you and me–never really been tempted otherwise. Don’t know where this thought is leading. Just wanted to set it down.


“I’ve been reading,” you said. I was on the couch, trying not to think about a looming examination, and you were beside me, surfing the Internet.

“What about?” I said. I slumped sideways and you shifted the computer so there was room on your lap for my head; you balanced it on your knees, propping your feet on the coffee table.

“This.” You angled the screen down, and I peered up and forgot how to breathe.

“I–huh.” I managed to say, and I think I even sounded fairly normal. “What–ah, shit.” I could feel my ears getting redder and redder. “Why?”

“Why,” you echoed. It’s something you do sometimes; I waited for you to decide what to say, and I looked away from the laptop, fastening my eyes on the ceiling and then onto your face; it looked odd at this angle, and I watched you chew on your lip for moment. “Wanted to find new things to do…” You bent your head to look at me. “New things to do with you. To you.” You smiled at me, wicked and clever, and I wondered why no one before me had ever seen it, seen how sexy you are, how sexual you are. How stupid were all those people who met you and walked by, befriended you or bullied you or pitied you? Quite stupid, I think. Thank god.

“Do you want to?” you asked.

The words came out too fast. “Yeahifyoudotoo.”

“We need… stuff.” You looked at the computer again. “Lubricant, I guess, mostly. And it may take a while.”

“Time we have,” I said, and you grinned at the computer and nodded.


We took our time. And finally one night when we were both hot and slick and dizzy with each other, I was inside you, curled behind you and around you even as you surrounded me, and it was so good–so strong and heated and tender and frightening and real–that it didn’t last long, for either of us. It couldn’t–I couldn’t feel that much without release, but I made sure you arrived there first. I moved slowly in you, wrapped my hand around your hardness, brought you there, to the edge; and when you tumbled over, shuddering in my arms, I let myself fall, too. I fell a long way, with the taste of your skin against my mouth, and the scent of your climax in my nose, and the sound of your voice, circling looping spiraling through my veins as I came, arrived, emptied myself into you.


You said you liked it, and we learned a hundred ways to fit together. You pushed me, always: faster, harder, stronger: “This way,” you’d say, and pull me into some new position, or: “I want you here. I want you. Here.” And so we learned. I loved the way you looked below me, your hair dark against the pillow, face flushed hot and red; your eyes clouded as you dove inside yourself to feel so intensely that it frightened me sometimes. I loved the curve of your back, the strong clean lines of your legs when you stood upright and pulled me close behind you, the perfect arch of your neck and how your nostrils flared as you breathed deep and took me deeper. I worried that my desire and ignorance would somehow hurt you, because you feel everything, with every part of you. But I didn’t, and we learned.


“What about you?” you asked, and I nodded, swallowing hard, afraid and yet already feeling myself open, wanting, shameless.

I have never felt shame alone with you, never. Fear and uncertainty, frustration, anger. Never shame. Never regret. You freed me from that, and although the world still has the power to bow my head with guilt and embarrassment, you spare me that and set me free.

When I thought of you, piercing me, claiming me, making me yours, I was frightened. But we trust each other–always have–and you opened me like a flower and touched the deepest parts of my body and soul with such kindness and generosity that it has branded me, changed me forever.

“Now breathe,” you said, and I did. It took an eternity but it happened too fast; somehow you were suddenly there, within me. Your voice was warm against my neck, and your hands were sure and certain as they stroked me and calmed me, soothed the shuddering away, replaced it with shivers of an entirely different nature. Your hips rocked against me gently and the stretch and burn of your presence melted into hot and slippery and yes, somehow, somehow.

You were brilliant.


It’s been a long time since those firsts. A long time since I first held your hand kissed your mouth slid my hands beneath your clothing rocked against you entered you opened for you. A long, long time since I first loved you. A long time since I first feared you fled from you came back to you fled you again and again, watched you flee, learned that just as I always come back, so do you.

We have a long time yet to go. We live in a different city now, and we take care of one another differently, too, but at the core it is just the same. At the core it is still the simplest thing in the world to touch you hold you be held by you, lend you my strength when you need it and lean on yours when I need to.

Touching is easy.