Chapter 9: Connection
Harlan watched Bailey as the man ate his food. An offhand portion of his brain noted that they were being observed by Greg, but Harlan eliminated that as any sort of threat. Despite Harlan's earlier suspicions, it turned out that Greg and Clay didn't seem interested in Bailey - not sexually at least.
Bailey glanced at Harlan as he put a spoonful of the delicious beef stroganoff into his mouth. Bailey chewed, and he smiled at Harlan.
Harlan let half of his lips smile, then he looked back down at his own bowl. He resumed eating, and he enjoyed the warmth of Bailey next to him. Harlan tried to think about anything but how his heart thudded in his chest. Just being near Bailey made him giddy and distracted - both of which were different for the serious man.
Mason moved toward Greg. The two guys talked briefly over the kitchen counter, and Greg nodded at Mason. The lanky young man went back to Jeremy where he sat at the picnic table. Mason collected their bowls, and he dropped them off in the sink. Greg started to wash their dishes.
"Good night, guys." Jeremy stood up, and he smiled over the group. Mason came to stand behind him and put a hand on his lover's back. "Mason and I are on the way to bed."
Harlan could read people. The redhead was flushed, and though Jeremy's pants weren't tight and revealing, Harlan could still see that his crotch looked just a little fuller than it would have otherwise. It was evident to Harlan. He noticed things. Even in his distracted state, he still knew what was in store for the young men.
For a significant proportion of his life, he spent aware, cautious, and on edge. It was rare for Harlan to truly relax.
Yet, it was completely out of his experience for him to connect on any deep level with another human being. Harlan felt that such attachment was a weakness to exploit. Indeed, he had taken advantage of the emotional connections people had for one another over his years. Up until now, it was merely a weapon he used to accomplish the various tasks set before him.
He thought about how quickly he lost his ability to think rationally when he jumped to the conclusion that Greg and Clay were sleeping with Bailey. Harlan glanced at Bailey, as the black-haired man scraped up another bite of his noodles.
'This guy, he's got power over you.' Harlan felt both a disappointment in himself and a weird thrill at the same time. He tried to logically assess his emotional response. Which, unsurprisingly, resulted in a dismal failure. Harlan frowned to himself as he wrestled with his own conflict. 'Do I want this? Even if I'm allowed to have it, do I want it?'
Harlan realized that Bailey was now staring at him. Bailey put his bowl down on the bench beside him. 'You ok?'
Harlan swallowed. 'Am I? Am I okay?' His mind burned through various reasons why he shouldn't let himself sink deeper into an emotional connection with anyone. And, in seconds, based on nothing logical, Harlan rejected them all.
He smiled. "Yeah." He patted Bailey's knee. "I'm fine."
Saturday dawned. Rayne lay on the futon, and he blinked as the sunlight from the morning fell through the eastern window of the cabin. He had awakened, thanks to the light. And now he lay and watched as the room slowly brightened.
'Did I dream all of that?' He was almost afraid to get up and to look in the next room. Would it be empty?
Rayne took a breath, and he put his feet on the floor. He stood up, and Rayne padded over in his bare feet to the edge of the little half-wall between the spaces. He peeked around the wall.
Huck slept, his dark hair smooshed to the side from the pillow. Rayne swallowed, and he closed his eyes. 'He came for me. He really came for me.' He let his breath flow, in and out. Then Rayne smiled.
"What time did you finally crawl into bed, Clay?" Greg asked, and a grumpy, growly Clay frowned from his chair. They sat at their patio table in the bright, but chilly October morning and the big man clung to his mug as if his life depended on it.
"I think it was something close to one in the morning." Clay took another drink of coffee, and he shook his head to clear the cobwebs. It was now just after seven AM, so that meant the man only got six hours of sleep.
"Damn," Greg smirked at Clay. The two men sat close at the table, a fresh French press filled with coffee steamed in the center of the table. Then Greg reached over, and he put a hand on Clay's neck. He gently rubbed his husband, and Clay's eyes slid closed. "Why don't you go back to bed?"
Clay frowned, and he shook his head. "No. Too much to do." He smiled. "And, I wanna be awake when Huck gets up. I think he's gonna need to talk more."
Clay sat up last night with Huck while everyone else went to bed. The men talked long into the evening and into the morning. Huck asked many questions, and he listened to Clay's experience raising Mason, a gay son, in Alabama.
Clay knew that Huck had a long way to go. But, the important thing was that he was trying. Clay would be happy to help, as much as Huck wanted. The overall message he tried to deliver was a simple one. "Show Rayne you love him. No matter what. You don't have to understand it all right away. Just love him."
Huck seemed to get that. They even talked about that big bogeyman for gay men - HIV. Clay had experience here as well. Mason's partner, Jeremy was HIV+. Though, he was healthy, took medications to control the virus, and so long as he did, he couldn't pass it on to Mason. Jeremy's status was his business, so Clay avoided revealing that. But, he did reassure Huck that HIV infection wasn't a foregone conclusion for Rayne. And that many lived long, healthy lives with the virus. By the end of that conversation, some of the fear for Rayne had left Huck's face.
It was apparent, Huck was trying.
Clay still had his head down, and Greg continued to rub his neck. His head and trunk tingled with endorphins released from the pleasure only a gentle, human touch can bring.
"You've got chill bumps." Greg grinned, and he stood up behind Clay. He gripped the big man's trapezoids, and he squeezed.
Clay's mouth opened slightly. "Oh, that feels nice." Slowly he relaxed as Greg stroked his strong thumbs up and down the muscles on the side of Clay's neck.
Clay was in a haze of sleepy, tingly happiness, and his body prickled with chill bumps under Greg's hands. He rode the line between wakefulness and sleep, and he finally lay forward, so his head rested on his folded arms on the table.
Greg continued for a few minutes. And Clay drifted in and out of sleep under the ministrations of his attentive lover.
He woke to Greg's voice. "Well, good morning, Rayne."
Clay swallowed, and he sat up. He lay back, and he looked up at Greg. "Thanks, Greg."
Greg grinned down at him, and he leaned over. The men gently kissed. Then Clay looked at Rayne.
The dark-haired boy smiled. "Uh, good morning." He was dressed in flannel PJ bottoms and a fuzzy sweater. His feet bore thick socks and sandals. His eyes went to the French press. "Can I get some coffee for my dad? Does it cost money?"
Clay waved a hand at the press. "Go for it. No cost. Coffee's included with breakfast." Clay looked over at the kitchen. Mason was already there, and he worked on getting some eggs, bacon, and pancakes ready for their campers.
Rayne grinned. "Okay." The young man found a mug, and he carefully poured in the strong, hot liquid. He replaced the press, and he picked up the mug. "Thanks." He turned away, and he started up the paved loop, back to the cabin he shared with Huck.
Clay watched him go. "I'm not sure what happened, really, to bring Huck here. But, I'm glad he came."
"Me too." Greg's warm hands again found Clay's neck and his shoulders. "If you're not going back to sleep, then come with me." He patted Clay affectionately. "Standing here behind you made me want some skin on skin time."
Clay grinned, and he stood up. He pulled Greg in, and the men held each other, arms low around their waists and their hips together. "Yeah?" He leaned forward and rubbed his face against Greg's neck. "You wanna do a little hugging from behind?"
"Call it whatever you want." Greg laughed as Clay's bristly skin tickled him. "Come on."
He grabbed Clay's hand, and the big man let Greg lead him into the silvery Airstream parked beside the patio table. While anticipation of what was to come made a different part of him tingle and strain the material of his pants.
Bailey's perception switched on, part by part as he slowly gained awareness after his night of sleep. A body spooned his, warm and comfortable. That was something Bailey hadn't experienced in over two years.
"Good morning, Bailey," Harlan said from behind the taller man. They were both still a little damp, maybe a bit sticky, and they smelled like semen. That made Bailey smile a bit more broadly.
He rolled so that he faced Harlan. His hand rested on Harlan's naked hip, and the men's groins were together. Both were currently relaxed and soft, but Bailey had already felt the first stirring of his own body.
It was a little hard to sign while laying on his side, so Bailey only grinned at Harlan. Though, as he lay there, he realized that there were many things that he wanted to ask.
'What do you want from me, Harlan?' Bailey's smile slowly disappeared as he looked over Harlan's face. 'I know so little about you. I wish we could talk better.'
Harlan's green eyes took in Bailey as they lay on their sides. He swallowed nervously, and he blew out a breath. Harlan chuckled. "Ah, I don't really have much experience with morning conversation, Bailey."
Bailey smiled. 'He's so nervous.' Then he felt Harlan's erection against his hip. 'Well, he's not TOO nervous.' The tall man rolled Harlan onto his back, then he got on top of him. Bailey held himself up on his elbows, and he looked down into Harlan's face.
In ways, Harlan felt so worldly and knowing to Bailey. Then, in others, he seemed like a rank amateur. It was a strange combination of attributes, and oddly, Bailey found Harlan more and more interesting as time went on. Harlan had already shown a drive and willingness to learn to sign. And that alone, to Bailey, meant he was worth a second look.
Judging from his reaction below the waist, Bailey was definitely attracted to Harlan. That base was covered. And, while sex was great, Bailey found himself interested in Harlan himself, not just his cock. And that also meant Bailey wanted to know more about him.
Bailey leaned down, and the men kissed.
It drew on, and Bailey's jaw moved as he slipped his tongue into Harlan's mouth. The man under him groaned with approval, and Bailey could feel the vibration of the sound in the bones of his mouth and against his sensitive throat.
Ever since Bailey lost the ability to speak and to make those same sorts of noises, he was more sensitive to the sensation of sound as it passed through his body. It wasn't hearing, but it was the way sound waves interacted with flesh, skin, and bone. He knew some deaf people enjoyed music with a lot of bass for the same reason - the deep registers of the music can be felt.
Bailey loved how vocal Harlan was. The brown-haired man grunted, groaned, and made lustful, breathy sounds as they kissed and ground against one another. 'He makes me feel like a stud.' Bailey drew back, and he looked at Harlan.
The man's green eyes were intense and focused on Bailey's face. Then, Harlan surprised Bailey when he flexed with his core, twisted, and suddenly Bailey was on his back, underneath the smaller man.
Bailey's surprise was on his face. 'Shit, he's a LOT stronger than he looks.' Harlan seemed to have a hidden, wiry sort of power. Bailey already noticed that he had very little body fat. Harlan's muscles weren't big, but they were all very dense and hard. He was now on top of Bailey, and Harlan smirked down at him. 'Jeez, what does this guy do to stay in this sort of shape?'
Then his gaze softened. "Pat me, if I do something you don't like, Bailey."
Bailey nodded, then Harlan leaned down, and they resumed kissing.
As they writhed together, Bailey's desire and need slowly ramped up. His body was primed. He wanted sex, and he wanted it with Harlan.
It had been a very long while for him. But, as they kissed, Bailey shifted his pelvis until he lined up with Harlan's groin, and his legs went around Harlan's slim waist. That got Harlan's attention. He pulled back, and he looked into Bailey's eyes. There was a spark of aggression in Harlan's face, and Bailey's positioning had fed the flames. Bailey smiled at Harlan, and he nodded.
Harlan returned his smile, then he sat up. He got opened the drawer of the nightstand, and he soon had a condom rolled onto his cock. Lube followed, then Harlan resumed kissing Bailey. While he did, Bailey felt a slippery, warm hand rub against him. And then Harlan moved his hips forward.
A pleasurable, slight pressure started. Harlan moved gently, back and forth as they continued to make out. Bailey didn't know if Harlan could tell it had been a while for him, but the fellow didn't seem to be in any sort of hurry, and the pressure on Bailey increased in tiny increments.
Even with the most careful, patient work, there comes the point where there's a little discomfort if a guy hasn't bottomed in a while. Bailey pulled his lips back from Harlan, and he lay his head back on the pillow. He grimaced at the pressure.
Harlan watched him. "Want to stop?"
Bailey shook his head, then his eyes widened as Harlan entered him. There was a moment of pain as he adjusted, but it wasn't bad. Bailey breathed through it, then he nodded. 'I'm okay.' He signed from his back. Then he reached, and Bailey gripped Harlan's hip.
Harlan let Bailey control things. When the tall man pulled, Harlan moved his hips forward. And, slowly, his member disappeared into Bailey's body.
Bailey opened his mouth, and he breathed, the sound audible as the air flowed out of him. Harlan watched him, and he waited, his pelvis flush against Bailey's rear.
It wasn't long before the pain subsided. And, then, Bailey grinned. He nodded just slightly at a very attentive Harlan. The brown-haired man leaned down, and he kissed Bailey, then his hips began to move.
The stimulation from Harlan's dick, his body against Bailey's, and from their kissing made Bailey's skin tingle with an overload of sensation. His head lolled back, and Harlan moved to kiss Bailey's neck.
Harlan gently kissed Bailey's scar, and waves of chill bumps broke out over Bailey's body. His eyes were open, glazed, and unfocused. Coherent thought ceased for him, and his brain was all animal, all uncontrolled. Bailey reached and gripped his own long, heavy cock, and he began to stroke.
Harlan's teeth scraped the skin of Bailey's neck, just barely. Usually, Bailey protected his scar. The area around it was extra sensitive, and it was prone to causing him pain if it was overstimulated. But, now, he rode the line. Harlan seemed to key into Bailey's movements and breathing. Somehow, the man pressed that button perfectly, and Bailey's experience bordered on euphoric.
Harlan drew back a little, and he looked down at Bailey. "I'm close," Harlan whispered, and Bailey nodded.
Then it began. Harlan locked up, and he gritted his teeth. Then he continued to move his hips, a little faster during his release. Bailey's eyes opened wide, his lips parted, and he expelled a rush of air as a mind-blowing orgasm seized him.
Bailey unloaded on his belly, his cock firing in time to Harlan's thrusts. Harlan dipped his head, and they kissed while their orgasms finished.
Finally, they were both still. Harlan looked at Bailey, and he stayed where he was. Harlan's body was still pressed against Bailey's, still inside him. And the men stared at one another. Finally, Bailey grinned, and he mouthed a word.
Even Harlan could lip-read that, and he laughed.
Harlan wasn't used to staying in bed so late. But, he and Bailey had been up until nearly midnight, touching, playing, and physically getting to know one another. Neither hurried through their time together and then, the morning topped even that - so to speak.
They finally got on with their day. And they stood at the door, as they readied to leave the cabin. Harlan exchanged numbers with Bailey, and the mute man texted him.
'So, do you care if people know we're messing around?'
Bailey sent the text, and he looked at Harlan's face. The green-eyed man thought about it. "I don't mind." Harlan rubbed his own head, and he looked sheepish. "Greg already figured it out. So I'm sure Clay knows by now too."
Bailey smiled, and he nodded. Then his thumbs started to fly over his phone again. Harlan read the next message. This time Bailey's eyes were focused, and he paid very close attention to Harlan.
'Is that all we're doing? We just messing around?'
Harlan sighed. He knew what he should say. He knew that he shouldn't mire Bailey in his world, and all of the entangling things it brought to a person's life when they're pulled into the Family. Harlan knew this.
Yet, he couldn't fight the need and the desire he had to be with Bailey. He wanted more than just a few nights. Harlan shook his head, once, and only slightly. "It's not really just messing around." He looked down at his feet, swallowed, and he set his jaw. "Not for me." That last bit, he said so quietly Bailey almost missed it.
But, he didn't. Bailey stepped close, and he pulled Harlan in for a kiss.
'What the fuck is happening to me?' Harlan's mind swam with endorphins and a soup of other hormones as his tongue explored Bailey's mouth.
Finally, he pulled back, and he looked at Bailey. Slowly, the black-haired man smiled at Harlan. Then he pulled out his phone again.
'Well, then I think we need to schedule a date, Harlan. No sex. A dinner date.' Bailey watched as Harlan read the text.
Harlan had genuinely never been on a date. At his old job, he worked at a resort, and he bedded men and women regularly. But it was always without anything other than physical attraction and a sexual release. The prospect of a date should terrify him. It meant Bailey was going to want to know more about him, and that he would ask questions. But that wasn't the thought in Harlan's mind.
'Wow. He wants to date me?' Harlan grinned. "Okay. Yeah. A date sounds good."
Bailey grinned back, and he tapped out another message. "Okay. You pick the spot."
Harlan frowned in thought. Then he snapped his fingers. "Ah! Well, choices in Crescent City are few and far between. But, there's a great spot in Brookings, Oregon. It's not far." Harlan shrugged a little. "Do you want to go tonight?" Harlan couldn't help the hopeful expression on his face.
Bailey nodded affably. Then he reached down for Harlan's hand, his other rested on the door.
Harlan hesitated only a moment, then he reached and took Bailey's hand. And he let the mute man lead him out into the sunlight.
Elias walked toward the kitchen. He saw Mason there, cooking away, and Elias went to the counter. "Hey, Mason." He looked around the space. There were a few campers, yawning, drinking coffee, and talking around the picnic table, and one pair worked at building a fire in the pit. But, Elias didn't see the couple that he was after. "Where's your dad and Greg?"
"Hey, good morning, Elias." Mason made a face, and he jerked his head toward the Airstream. "I was over at the patio table looking for them a little earlier. And I heard them inside the trailer." He shivered his whole body as if he tried to shake something vile off of himself. "I'm sure they're probably done with each other by now."
Elias laughed, and Mason grimaced at him. "Hey, your dad's allowed! He's married to the guy, Mason."
Mason sighed, and he rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I know." He flipped a pancake. "I still don't want to think about it!"
Elias snickered. "Okay. I don't wanna take a chance on interrupting, so I'll wait." Mason nodded sagely in agreement.
Elias found a seat at the picnic table, and he pulled out his notes. The young man had a list of things to keep his mind focused and on track while he talked with Greg and Clay. He wanted to be sure he covered everything the first time around with the men. And, lately, he'd been distracted.
Rayne was something new to Elias. He could sense an attraction between them. And Elias didn't know if anything would come of it. He wanted, very much, to try a few things with the quiet, dark-haired boy. But, thanks to Elias' past as an abused boy, he had some self-imposed rules on that enterprise. And he refused to violate them in any way. So it remained to be seen if things would progress beyond comforting touches or hugging.
"Good morning, Bailey. And, uh, Harlan." Mason's confused voice brought Elias' head up.
Bailey had an arm draped effortlessly over Harlan's shoulders, while Harlan's was around Bailey's waist. Elias raised an eyebrow at Harlan.
The man saw the expression, and he flushed red. Then he grinned, and he looked down, awkward and shy.
'Whoa!' Elias had never seen Harlan act like that.
Bailey released Harlan, and he signed at Mason. Two, distinct signs. Then he looked over his shoulder at Harlan.
Harlan cleared his throat. "He signed, 'Good Morning.'"
Mason blinked. "You know ASL?"
"No. I know a tiny fraction of the signs. And even then, only if he goes slowly," Harlan admitted.
Elias was still a little shocked at the way they presented themselves. He felt a delicious little surge of orneriness. "Looks like you guys are getting along good." He grinned when Harlan glared at him. Mason laughed loudly, then he put his hand over his mouth, and he continued to snicker.
Bailey had no problems. He calmly signed again, and Harlan watched him. Harlan made a frustrated sound, and Bailey repeated the signs, a little slower. "Ah, got it that time." He eyed Elias. "Bailey said, 'yes, we're going on a date.'" Harlan looked at Bailey, unsure. "Did I get it right?"
Bailey grinned, and he held up a thumb. Harlan had just learned the sign for 'date' in the social sense of the word, and he wasn't yet confident with it.
Elias had never seen Harlan unsure of anything. The man had a calm, quiet sort of confidence and sureness about him. But, now, around Bailey, Harlan was a bit of a lovable, and lovesick wreck.
Before Elias could make Harlan squirm any more, Greg and Clay approached the table. Elias looked over at Joseph and Orson. The two men sat a the other end of the picnic table, quietly talking to one another. Orson caught the glance from Elias. His eyes took in Greg and Clay as they neared, and then he smiled reassuringly. Then Orson went back to talking with Joseph. Though Elias saw how the big cop reached, and he took Orson's hand into his own, their arms stretched across the table. To Elias' eye, it was almost as if Joseph was trying to comfort Orson. That confused him, but he didn't have time to think about it.
"Hi, guys." Greg smiled at the group and then he and Clay took a seat. He glanced at Harlan and Bailey, who were now standing close again, and Bailey's arm was back over Harlan's shoulders in a quiet, unmistakable claim. Greg smiled, but that was the limit of his reaction.
Various folks murmured their "good mornings" at the couple. Then Elias scooted down, next to them. "Hey. Can I talk to you guys for a minute?"
"Sure. What's up, Elias?"
Elias began. He would fund the building of a studio with a small, loft apartment. It would have the same footprint as one of the existing cabins, but the loft would have his living area, including a small bathroom. Elias found tiny house designs online, and he incorporated some of the ideas into his plan. He'd come up with the idea entirely on his own, and his artist brain naturally made efficient and elegant use of the space.
"So, I thought we could clear a spot, on the other side of the tent area." Elias pointed at a huge bramble of briars between the river and the loop that circled the campground. "That spot is flat. It'd work." He turned back to the men. "Anybody who wanted to learn pottery or ceramics, I could teach them. And we'd have a real ceramic studio. You could use the Clay cabin for something else, and I wouldn't be taking it up all the time. Then, I'd pay monthly rent, because you own the property, and I'll be hooked up to utilities." He tapped his pencil on his notes. "I looked up RV hook-up fees. And they're about $500 a month locally. I figured that's probably fair." Elias looked hopefully at the men. "What do you guys think?"
Greg and Clay both stared at him. Then Clay leaned back so that he could see Orson. "Orson? You approve of this idea?"
Elias turned and looked at Orson.
Joseph's hand tightened on Orson's in a quiet show of support. Orson took a breath, and he nodded. "We discussed it last night. And if this is what Elias wants, and if it's okay with you guys, then, yeah, I approve."
Clay's face as he looked at Orson shifted. He smiled, and Elias thought he saw pride on Clay's face. Before Elias really had a chance to figure out why, Clay turned to Greg. "Well? What do you think?"
Greg eyed Elias. "Okay, so I'll need to see your plans. And we'll have to have them drawn up professionally, then run them by an engineer for approval. Renovations are one thing. But since we're a facility that's open to the public, new structures will need to be approved by a certified engineer. I think that'll be our biggest obstacle."
Elias made a face, and he looked down at his papers. Then Greg frowned, and he pulled out his phone. Greg laughed, and he looked down the table. Bailey sat there, phone in hand, and he grinned at Greg. "Okay. So, Bailey's an engineer."
Harlan and Elias both looked at Bailey. The mute man only shrugged.
Elias bit his lip, then he addressed Bailey. "Do you think you can help me? With the plans?"
Bailey winked, and he nodded.
Elias grinned. "All right!" He stood up, his drawings in hand. He turned to Orson. "Dad, I …" Elias frowned, and he blinked. "Uh, I mean, Orson." He shook himself. "I'm gonna go find Rayne. I want to tell him about the cabin!"
Orson wordlessly nodded.
Elias turned, and he sprinted down the loop, toward the cabin Huck and Rayne rented.
Orson watched Elias go. He wasn't entirely sure he had heard correctly. Joseph got up, and he walked around to sit beside him. His arm went across Orson's shoulders, and he hugged the black-haired man. All the while Clay watched them. He still wore that small, proud smile as he watched Orson. Clay had watched Orson adjust to life on one leg, and then to the great responsibility of the guardianship of Elias. And Orson had truly embraced the opportunity to be everything the boy could need.
"I don't think Elias will ever entirely stop needing you, Orson." Joseph leaned over and kissed the side of Orson's face.
Orson blinked. "Did, did he call me 'dad?'"
Joseph grinned against Orson's skin. "He sure did."
Orson was having trouble processing that. He shook his head. "He screwed up. He didn't mean to say it."
"No. It just slipped out." Joseph put a hand on the side of his face, and he turned Orson, so they looked at one another. "But, I don't doubt that he meant it. Words spoken that easily, and that naturally aren't said without a reason."
Orson looked at Joseph's eyes. In them was such pride, love, and assurance.
Finally, Orson nodded. He allowed the thought to settle, and to take root in his mind.
"Dad," Orson said, testing the word on his lips. Then, Orson smiled.
Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link. Wayne Gray
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