Chapter 8: Acceptance
Caleb and Wren pulled in at Rachel's house. Caleb got out immediately and didn't look at Wren as he exited the truck. Instead, he shut the door and walked straight to the porch, tension in his neck and shoulders. Wren hesitated in the vehicle, seemed to think better of stubbornly remaining there, then followed a few steps behind.
Caleb opened the door to the house. The smell of bacon made him salivate, and the three stacks of bread, cheese, bacon, and tomatoes on the counter helped him forget a bit of his irritation at Wren.
Rachel smiled as he stepped into the kitchen, and her eyes flicked to Wren as he came in through the front door. "There are my boys." She motioned at the table. "Go on an' sit. I'll be done soon."
Caleb took his regular seat, the one on the far corner from the stove, closest to the doorway leading to the "man room." Wren hovered behind him a moment and Caleb felt his irritation mount. "Pick a seat," he growled.
Wren huffed. "I was, jeez." He pulled out a chair diagonal to Caleb, flopped down and glared at him from across the table.
Rachel glanced over her shoulder at them. She finished up their sandwiches, then put some potato chips on each plate along with a couple of mandarins. She put the dishes on the table in front of them and settled with a sigh. "There you go, boys." She smiled at them both. "Go ahead an' eat."
"Thanks for lunch, Miss Rachel," Caleb mumbled and picked up the thick sandwich. It smelled savory, cheesy with the acid bite of tomato, and his mouth watered.
"Yeah, thanks." Wren bit into his food, chewed, and a grunt of approval came from him.
They were all three quiet. Caleb knew Rachel felt the awkwardness in the room between them, and he felt bad about that. She didn't deserve their moodiness. He cleared his plate and looked up at her. "It was real good, Miss Rachel. Thanks a bunch." He stood and reached for Rachel's plate. "Here, I'll do our dishes."
She wiped her mouth and gave him a surprised smile. "Well, thank you!"
Caleb took their dishes over to the sink. He glanced down at Wren as he leaned back, finished with his meal. He stepped past him and began washing up in the sink. It was painfully evident as he neglected to take Wren's dish.
"Don't worry, I'll get mine," Wren grumbled.
"Yep, you will," Caleb answered, his back to the room. He was still irritated with Wren, and it showed.
Rachel wasn't having it. "Okay, boys." Her voice carried a tone that made Caleb flinch. "Y'all are friends, and I don't know what is goin' on, but is it worth actin' like this?" She looked back and forth between them. "Well? Is it?" Neither answered, and both appeared chastised. She motioned at Wren. "Give him your plate."
Wren stood and stepped over next to Caleb. He handed the ceramic dish to his friend. "Sorry."
Caleb wasn't sure if Wren was apologizing for his being forced to wash the plate, or for how he had acted before. Caleb was willing to call a truce so he nodded. "Yeah, me too."
Wren locked eyes with him, and the barest smile flickered on his lips. 'That'll do,' Caleb thought with some relief.
Rachel made a satisfied sound and pushed herself to her feet. "Good. Y'all got too much to do to be bickering." She put her hands on her hips. "Speakin' of which, I need help with the coop. Caleb, that support under the laying box looks loose to me. Can you look at it after you're done?"
"I've got it, Caleb." Wren walked by and bumped him gently with his shoulder on the way out - another little peace offering in the world of men. Caleb smiled as he finished up at the sink.
Rachel crossed her arms as Caleb turned with the dish towel in hand. She cocked her head at him. "You boys all right?"
Caleb thought a moment, then he nodded. "Yeah." He stepped over and kissed the side of her face. "Thanks, Miss Rachel. For everything."
She smiled. "Well, you're welcome. I appreciate your lookin' after Wren." She looked thoughtful. "Neither of you really got anybody else right now, an' I'm just glad he ain't by himself." There was a strange tone in her voice as if she waited for Caleb to say something.
He felt a weird panic. "Yeah." Caleb stepped away. "I'm gonna go see if he needs help." He crossed quickly to the door.
Caleb left the house. He knew it wasn't true, but he had the sensation that something chased close, right behind him.
"Wren, wait up." Wren stopped and Caleb bounded to him from the house. The guys fell into step and continued on to the coop between the house and the barn.
Wren glanced at Caleb as they stood next to the coop. When he did, he caught Caleb staring at him, a pensive look on his face. Wren wrinkled his nose. "What is it?"
Caleb bit his lip and gazed at the house. "Wren, does your mom know about you?" He waved a hand, his discomfort with Wren's sexuality on display. "About the gay thing?"
Wren felt his stomach drop. "No." He stepped close. "Caleb, what'd you do? You didn't tell her?"
"No." Caleb shook his head.
"Well, why would you ask that?" Wren folded his arms over his chest and felt his neck tighten.
Caleb cocked his head and grimaced. "It's just in the way she talked. About you and me, about us hanging out."
Wren's mouth was suddenly dry. "Look, there's no way she knows unless someone told her." He felt sick just thinking about it.
Caleb nodded, hastening to head things off when he saw Wren's steadily growing agitation. "Okay. Okay then."
Wren blew out a breath he didn't know he had held. Caleb still eyed him.
"What now?" Wren snapped. Caleb flinched, and Wren immediately kicked himself. He didn't need to start something again with Caleb. "I'm sorry," Wren sighed and ran a hand through his black hair. "It's just stressful. God, this is exactly why I didn't think I could do this, why I didn't think I could come back here."
Caleb nodded slowly. "I can see it's stressful, Wren." He rested his eyes on Wren, then he looked toward the house. "But I can't believe your mom would be anything but loving. Yeah, it might shock her, but…"
Wren stepped very close, and Caleb straightened in surprise. "No. No. She can't find out, you hear me?" Wren heard the wavering in his voice, but he couldn't help it. Caleb didn't understand. How could anybody understand?
"Wren, I'd never tell her." Caleb looked hurt. "You think I'd do that to you?"
Wren stood toe to toe with him for a moment longer, then he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders and slumped. "No." He sighed. "It's just that she can never know."
Caleb put a hand on his shoulder. Wren looked at it, his face miserable.
"Okay, Wren. If that's what you want." Caleb spoke in a gentle tone.
Wren hung his head. "You don't get it. It's not what I want." His expression slid into melancholy dejection. "I don't want to hide it from her."
Caleb cocked his head so he could see Wren's face. "Well, then why keep it hid?"
Wren felt a decade of doubt, shame, and guilt manifest in a sudden wave of disgrace. He closed his eyes. He couldn't say it, and he shook his head.
Caleb's arm slid around his shoulders. "Come on."
Wren let Caleb lead him to the barn. Caleb pulled him inside, and there, out of sight of the house, he did something Wren didn't expect.
Caleb folded him in a hug. At first, Wren's arms were out, hovering over Caleb, unsure if he should wrap them around his burly friend. Then he returned the embrace. Wren closed his eyes and lay his head on Caleb's shoulder.
Caleb held on, and Wren felt something crack. He broke as they embraced. Wren cried, and Caleb moved a hand up to the back of his head. "It's okay," he whispered. "If you don't want to tell me what's going on you don't have to. But, you can, and I won't tell anybody."
Wren had never told anyone, and he hadn't planned to. But as Caleb held him, he felt that dark secret bubble up. It had been with him so long, and it had eaten a raw, gaping hole in him.
He made a desperate sound. "I... god, Caleb." He squeezed, and turned his face down against Caleb's shoulder and neck, so only Wren's nose and mouth were visible.
"It's okay." Caleb continued to hold him.
Wren began to believe him. He wet his lips. "I can't tell her," he drew in a shaky breath, "because dad left us. He left because of me."
Caleb sounded confused. "What?"
"It was because of me." Wren gently shook his head against Caleb. "He must have figured out I was gay, and he left."
Caleb squeezed Wren. "Aww. Wren, I don't think that's true."
Wren had thought he was to blame for so long, he couldn't let it go. "It is. He, he must have known before I did." He sobbed. "He couldn't stand the thought of a faggot son, and he… he left us. It was so awful that he left us."
Caleb pushed him back to arm's length. "Wren." He stared into Wren's teary eyes. "Your daddy loved you. He loved you and your mom, both." He clenched his jaw "I know I was only twelve when he never came back, but I remember that much." Caleb gently shook him by his shoulders. "Your daddy loved you."
Wren continued to stream tears and he closed his eyes. Only one more question remained, one more riddle. "Then why'd he leave?"
Caleb's face fell. "I don't know." He pulled Wren back in and crushed him in his arms. "I don't know, Wren."
The repair for the coop was simple. The pair got back in Caleb's truck shortly after. Wren was very quiet, elbow on the sill of the passenger-side door, and he propped his jaw on his hand as he watched the world go by.
They were soon back at the tent and got out. Caleb looked past the barbed wire fencing. Up on the side of the sloping, hilly terrain above the house three of the cattle that came with the property grazed. Two had calves with them, born this year. He could see from where they stood that one was a little bull. Caleb noted it. They'd need to decide if the little calf was destined for castration and eventually the butcher, or if they'd sell him off to another farmer to stud out. There were a few possibilities, and Caleb filed it away as something to discuss with Wren later. They had other things to worry about at the moment.
His black-haired friend gazed sadly at the house. "I guess it's time." They had turned the utilities off, and they were ready to demolish the structure.
Caleb stepped up beside him. "Yeah." He rubbed his chin in thought. "But we should be able to use plenty from the old place. Windows can be reused for projects. Single-pane or not, we should remove all of those. We'll haul the wiring in for recycling. I think all of the plumbing is copper too. It won't be a total loss." He sighed. "But, I know what you mean."
Wren smiled at his friend. Caleb started to move toward the house, and Wren put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey," Wren took a deep breath. "I'm glad you're here." His eyes had an honest, unguarded quality in them. "Just, thanks for being here."
Caleb smiled. "Well, of course, Wren. I don't know where else I'd be."
They got busy. Wren called for a large, metal trash container for delivery to the property. While the pair waited for that, they used the hours of daylight they had left. By the time the truck with the container nosed along the gravel road, they had almost all of the windows removed in a careful stack leaned against the house.
The truck dropped off the container and Wren paid the deposit with the last of the cash he had left. As the delivery driver climbed back up into the cab of the big, flatbed truck, Wren shook his head. "I have almost a hundred thousand dollars in the bank and I forgot to withdraw any."
Caleb chuckled and wiped his face. They both sweated from their efforts. It was cool, thanks to the season, but they were working hard. Only a few windows remained. Though Wren had wanted to get them all removed before dark, they hadn't quite made it. The light was slowly fading and Wren wanted to do something before it was totally gone.
"Here, help me." Wren picked up a few loose bricks that lay about along the edge of the house. Caleb looked mystified for a moment, then smiled. He and Wren soon had a ring of blocks out in front of the tent. The evening had just gotten to the point of needing a light to see by when they finished.
Caleb hunted for kindling and other small pieces of wood, and Wren went into the tent. Wren found their camp chairs, hauled them out and set them up near the new fire ring they'd built. Caleb knelt and began to form a teepee of sticks, leaves and other detritus within the little circle of bricks.
Wren smiled as Caleb found the lighter in the pocket of his camp chair. Caleb bent to ignite the leaves stuffed under the teepee.
"Wait." Wren looked up the hill and saw the lights at the Shaw place a little over a mile away. "I should call Charles, see if he can come down and hang out for an hour or two."
In the dying light, Wren could barely see Caleb's features as he frowned. The expression quickly disappeared from Caleb's face. "Yeah. That sounds good." He refocused on the fire.
Wren hesitated. "Ah." He waved a hand at the house on the hill. "He's probably just winding down with Tracy and Oliver."
Caleb didn't look up, still trying to light their little pile of flammable tinder and wood. "Oh, yeah. Probably." His tone was noticeably neutral.
Wren tapped his foot, unseen in the growing dark. "Well, I'll just leave them alone." He took a seat in his camp chair as a tiny flame began to catch and cast light over their surroundings. Caleb snapped another few twigs and leaned them against their growing fire. He stood and looked down at it, the front of him illuminated in the orange-yellow color of the light.
He stared for a bit, then Caleb glanced at Wren and took his seat. Wren had set their chairs side by side, and Caleb didn't move away at all. Their hands on the arms of the chairs were so close, Wren could have lifted his pinky and touched Caleb.
The fire snapped and popped as it grew. Heat chased the chill from around the little refuge they had created there, though Wren still shivered as the sweat on his back cooled uncomfortably. He expected Caleb felt the same way, and he stood up. "I'll be back."
He'd carried the most precious thing from his grandmother around with him for years, and he retrieved the old faded quilt laying on his cot. Wren reverently moved it outside in his hands. He stood behind Caleb. "Here." Wren draped half of it over Caleb, walked around, and got under the other side. Now they both sat under the warm, comfortable quilt, with the growing fire before them.
"Thanks." It was almost a whisper from Caleb.
They both watched the fire, and to Wren, the moment had a dream-like languidness to it. The slightest motion on the arm of Wren's chair drew his eye. Under the quilt, he felt Caleb's finger slide against his. It was so subtle Wren thought he imagined it, but that touch gently slid up and down Wren's skin.
Wren looked over at him. Caleb continued to stare at the fire for a moment, then he turned his head to meet Wren's gaze. Caleb wet his lips and inhaled. "Yes."
Wren frowned. "'Yes?'" He swallowed, and Caleb continued to stroke Wren's hand, now he let his touch travel from fingertip to wrist in a gentle, back-and-forth motion.
Caleb nodded. "Yes." He turned Wren's hand over and Caleb slowly closed his around Wren's. He looked down at the lump where their clasped hands were hidden beneath the quilt. "You asked before, if I thought about fucking up. If I worried about it." Caleb's face moved as emotions rolled beneath the surface. "The answer is, yes. I worry about it."
Wren processed. He had known Caleb for so long, and he felt both the vulnerability and the cry for help. The possibility of another physical moment with the big Shaw boy also fired some baser pathways in his brain, but Wren tried to rise above that. His hand moved a little as he gripped Caleb. "Well, if we're both afraid of fucking up, then…" Wren flinched. "Then maybe we should just…"
"I want it to be you." Caleb interrupted.
Wren licked his lips. "Sorry?"
Caleb's eyes were unfocused and he audibly swallowed. "I think I just need to try it." He clenched his jaw and nodded. "I just need to try it, and I want it to be with you."
Wren blinked. "Sex. You want to have sex with me?" He knew that's what Caleb implied, but he couldn't quite believe it.
Wren reacted to the possibility of being with Caleb and his earlier apprehension faded. "Wh…" Wren cast a glance over his shoulder at the tent sitting in the dark. He felt the need for this moment to be something more than he was capable of giving. "We can't do this here. A tent. Cold, and dark."
Caleb's hand tightened. "That doesn't matter to me."
Wren's mind tried to blow itself apart as he thought. "I… we need a condom."
"Is there a reason for one?" Caleb asked.
Wren knew Caleb was a virgin, and he also knew his status. "N… no. No, I guess not."
Caleb breathed. "We don't have to." He lowered his head slightly and Wren had the impression of disappointment. "I can tell you don't want to."
Wren turned in his seat. "Oh, that's not it at all. I just... I just don't want to fuck this up." His face was pained. "I'm not the best at taking things slow, and I just… I want the best for you."
Caleb looked Wren in the eyes. "I've tried to push you out of my mind since you got back. I can't." He stood up and pulled Wren to his feet. Caleb's arms went around him, and one of his hands found the back of Wren's neck. He whispered, "Let me do this."
Wren tingled with desire, affection, and the need to do the right thing for Caleb. For the first time in Wren's life, the right thing coincided with his own attraction.
Wren gently kissed Caleb in the softness of the firelight. This time it was unhurried, gentle, and the difference in Caleb was pronounced. Wren felt it. The broad man allowed the pace to be set by Wren, and Wren was determined to give Caleb the best moment he could imagine.
He pulled away and Caleb's eyes were closed. They slowly opened, dreamy, focused, trusting. Wren swallowed. "Come on." He took Caleb's hand and led him into the tent. Wren clicked on the single camp light hanging from the main pole, and a soft, diffuse glow lit their sleeping area.
Wren pulled at Caleb's pants button and leaned forward again. He strove to avoid aggression as they kissed. Instead, his touches as his hands slid into Caleb's jeans were light, and Wren undressed them in slow, measured movements.
"Lay down, on your back." Wren smiled, and Caleb did. He stared up at Wren's naked body, his blue eyes glittering in the light from the lamp. Caleb bore an expression of amazement and awe, and Wren swallowed when he looked down at him.
'Nobody has ever looked at me like that.'
Wren found his lotion. Masturbation was a big part of his life, so he had prepared. He settled on Caleb's middle, and he smiled down at his friend. "You okay?"
Caleb nodded, and he ran his hands along Wren's slim, almost-hairless torso. Wren took the lotion and he let it warm. Then his slick, lubricated hand slowly stroked Caleb. Wren enjoyed the meatiness of his friend's erect cock and the way Caleb sighed. After a few languid passes, he lubed himself too.
Wren positioned Caleb against himself, shifted his weight back, and down, and began the process of relaxing his body. Caleb's hands slid down Wren's ribcage. One settled on his waist, while the other wrapped around Wren's wet, leaking dick. His eyes never left Wren's face.
Pressure mounted. Wren closed his eyes, bit his lip, then grunted when penetration occurred. Caleb froze. "A… are you all right?" There was a waver in his deep voice.
Wren smiled. He knew precisely what Caleb was feeling right now, and it was something entirely new. "I'm fine. We just need to go slow."
Wren leaned over to kiss his friend. Caleb's strong hands were warm and moved over his back as they made out. Wren relaxed, little by little, and over time Caleb slid into him.
Caleb lay his head back. "Oh, god." He appeared stunned at the sensation of Wren's body wrapped around his member.
Wren moved his pelvis, and both men groaned. A new dribble of precome leaked out of him, and Wren began to stroke. Caleb put his hands on Wren's waist and looked in abject wonder at him.
"You feel good inside me, Caleb," Wren whispered. The sensation of Caleb's cock gently sliding against Wren's prostate was almost pure pleasure. The fact that it was Caleb, his friend, it made things even more intense for Wren.
Caleb's jaw dropped, and he moaned. "Oh, I'm glad." Caleb wet his lips. "Fuck, Wren I'm gonna get off."
Wren grinned at him and began to stroke faster. "Good. Go ahead. I want you to."
Caleb's breaths were now audible and came in short, staccato gasps. He straightened his neck to look at Wren's face, bit his bottom lip, and he pushed his hips up - instinct driving him now. He groaned, mouth open, and Wren felt him come.
Knowing Caleb was close, then feeling his orgasm, it took Wren to the edge and beyond. He closed his eyes and arched his back, settling his full weight on Caleb. He shot on Caleb's slightly furry chest and added his own voice to the groans of his friend.
Caleb's hips continued for another twenty seconds, slowing until at last, he was still. He breathed, staring up at Wren framed by the illumination of the little camp light.
Wren was flushed with endorphins and the tingling sensation which accompanies a beautiful coupling. He put his clean hand on the side of Caleb's face. "I hope you're okay." He shook his head. "This wasn't worth it if you're not."
Caleb smiled. "I, ah," he wiped his face. "Fuck." Caleb put his hands back at Wren's waist. "I'm good." His voice wavered, and he cleared it. "I'm real good."
Wren grinned. "Okay."
They cleaned up as best as two guys in a tent can. Wren retrieved the quilt from the chairs outside, put out the fire, and he returned to find Caleb on the two-man cot. Caleb had moved over to one side, and he watched as Wren stood beside it.
After only a moment of hesitation, Wren clicked off the lantern and climbed onto the cot with him. He draped the quilt over the thin blanket covering them, then pulled the covers up to his chin. Wren rolled onto his side, his back to Caleb, and Caleb put a thick arm around him.
"Goodnight, Wren." Caleb nosed the back of Wren's neck, and chills chased over Wren's skin.
Wren listened and felt as Caleb's breathing slowed. Soon his friend was asleep. For Wren, sleep would be some time coming. He was fine with that. Wren found himself completely unwilling to let the moment pass. So he lay there, enjoying his new lover's body pressed to his for as long as he was able.
When sleep came, it was deep and peaceful - filled with pleasant dreams.
Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link. Wayne Gray
And thank you for reading!
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