Disclaimers:    The Get Real characters remain the property of Patrick Wilde and Paramount
Classics. Written for pleasure, not profit. For adult readers only, please.

Notes:  Thanks go to Kat Allison and Dawn Pares for beta-reading, and Penny and Fern deserve
major kudos for providing me with info on terminology -- any remaining mistakes are my own.

Pairing:        John Dixon/Steven Carter

Rating: NC-17 for male/male sexual content and language

Summary:        See title. ;)

Reunion

by Bone

November 2000
 

I still run.

I've been running all my life. My mother told me once that my first steps were actually a
halting gallop across the lawn, but I've only run with purpose for the last, oh, twelve years
or so. Since I had a choice between football and track and field at the start of sixth form and
decided track would be less work. I didn't know, when I started, what it would come to mean to
me.

I used to run to win. I loved the lunge for the tape, the thud of that first footstep across
the finish line. I never felt the weight of myself until then, until it was over, and then I'd
wonder how on earth I'd carried myself so far, so fast, when each step that didn't matter felt
like it might shatter me -- jarring, arrhythmic, heavy as lead, as if my body only knew one
speed and never wanted to slow down, never wanted to stop.

I don't run to win anymore. Haven't done since I started college and realized that what was
fast in Basingstoke meant eighth place at Oxford. I never did like looking at the back of
someone else's neck, feeling the sand their heels spit up stinging my legs. But winning wasn't
the only reason I ran, and the great thing about running...the beauty of it...is that the only
person I really have to beat is myself.

My best time. My smoothest stride. My fastest pace, or farthest distance. I don't really need
any more competition than my own self. No, I can beat myself just fine. So I don't run on
teams, or on tracks, anymore. I run in the streets, dodging puddles and passersby. I run in the
park, through the woods, wearing the scratches on my legs like tattoos. I run every morning,
rain or shine.

All my life, I've run.

I ran from Basingstoke to Oxford, and from Oxford to London.

I ran from the boy I was, and from the man Steven Carter wanted me to be.

I've been running, seriously, for ten years now, and what I'm just now figuring out is that if
what you're running from is yourself, you never get very far.

It wasn't quite a lightning bolt discovery, but close. It came in the mailbox, of all places.
Vellum envelope, familiar seal. We hardly ever get first class mail through the post anymore;
it's all automated now, e-mails and electronic funds transfers. But a few things -- wedding
invitations, baby announcements, and the like -- still get hand-delivered, quaint relics of the
way things used to be.

This time the heavy cream paper didn't require me to send a gift of any sort. This time it came
from my old school, trumpeting the ten-year reunion of the class of 1998.

Ten years. It's been ten years. And suddenly, all those weddings I didn't go to, and those
babies I've never seen, seem...real. In the ten years since I left home, my classmates have
gone on and made real lives for themselves. Got married, had children. Settled.

What have I done? Graduated Oxford -- undistinguished, without honors. I did the extra work
required to qualify as a solicitor, then disappointed my father (again) by joining a firm he'd
never heard of.

I don't mind the work. It gives me something to do, a good excuse when I need one -- everyone
knows the hours solicitors keep, the deluge of work. "Sorry, love, duty calls" can get me out
of just about anything I don't want to do.

In the time it took most of my former teammates to meet girls and marry them and have
honeymoons in Majorca, I dated a succession of tall thin women with short dark hair, who
thought I was chivalrous for taking them out and then leaving them at the door with a kiss. I
liked them -- they were all smart and funny, and I enjoyed their company. Sometimes, when I
couldn't dredge up any more reasons not to, I had sex with them. If I turned them over and took
them from behind, I could even come.

I never stayed with any of them for very long.

Staring down at the invitation, with its polite 'please respond', I realize that I've been
running in place all this while. I haven't accomplished anything.

Maybe if I go, confront the ghosts of all I can't bring myself to admit, and the vividly real
reminders of the things I'm supposed to want, something will change. I'll either be able to
stand firm and confess all, or I'll finally give up, accept the life my parents want me to have
and my friends assume as a given.

I think it's time to go home.

Time to find out who I am when that first stuttered footstep falls; time to see if I can hold
up my own weight when I'm no longer running.

I've gotten very good at not thinking about Steven Carter. I buried him, deep as I could, which
isn't ever quite deep enough.

I don't swim anymore, for example. The smell of chlorine makes me hard to this day

I still see him sometimes, in the fine bones of someone's back, in a wing of smooth hair,
half-seen on the Tube, turned away from. A cheekbone catches the light in a restaurant and
ensnares me. Mere glimpses of traces of moments that still lodge sharp, dodging bone, piercing
deep.

But I do manage, on a day to day basis, not to think of him directly.

So the lurch my heart gives as I set foot on school property startles me. I can't mistake it
for anything else. It's only ever responded to one person that way: immediate, instinctive,
utterly uncontrollable.

It's not Steven's reunion, I remind it. He's two years behind, undoubtedly many miles away.
This isn't about Steven. It's about me.

Of course it is, my heart retorts.

It's got nothing to do with him.

I don't think either of us really believes that.

I came in a day early. I told myself it was so I could spend more time with my parents, who I
see less and less of as the years go by, and never here at home. But really, it's so if I just
can't stand it, I can still leave, with no one the wiser. If setting foot on school property on
a Friday afternoon makes my heart feel it's going to clamor out of my chest, that may have been
good thinking.

Walking past the track sends a chill across my arms, up my neck. It looks so...insulated. Round
and round we used to go, all eyes on us; everything we were laid out before them. We had no
secrets there. Not for long, anyway.

Looking back on it, I wonder that we managed to pull it off as well as we did. We weren't
exactly careful, were we? What's really shocking is how long it took for the whole shaky house
of cards to come tumbling down.

Tumbling. Stumbling. Shoved into a locker.

I don't know that I can do this. I'm not sure I'm strong enough.

I'm probably being dramatic. It's just a dirt track and some bedraggled stands. It's hardly the
scene of the Apocalypse, no matter that it seemed just that then. We make more of things than
we should, don't we, at that age?

Was it really so bad?

Was it?

I go sit on the very bench where I saw Steven last, drawn to it by some residual,
still-dramatic kernel inside that appreciates the irony.

The deep breath I take just reminds me that my heart is still pounding.

There's no dismissing him now, no turning away from the face I can still conjure with absolute
clarity. In my mind, he's always sixteen -- gangly limbs and smooth skin, sharp planes and soft
lips; all burning eyes and narrow shoulders and cutting wit, his own need balanced against the
comfort he always offered.

What I told him was true: I never loved anyone so much. It's true to this day. And I never had
anyone frighten me the way he did. He shook me, took me from what I knew, showed me what I
really wanted, then told me the price for it.

I knew I couldn't have it. Couldn't have him. Not out loud, not in public.

I bruised him. He dismissed it, shook it off with a gibe. Then he dismissed me. Because I was
afraid. Because I wasn't strong like him. Because I had no idea who the fuck I was, or how to
get what I needed.

I wanted it all at eighteen, and what I've learned at twenty-eight is that I can't have it all.
The way I'm going about it, I won't have anything.

Despite the many things I'm unsure of, I do know this: I can't live the rest of my life the way
I've lived the last ten years. I must have something of my own, whatever it is. I can't keep
glossing over the surface of my life. I can't...I just can't...keep running.

So I'm here. The first lap's done. I'm on school grounds, sitting on our bench, consciously
raising him to the surface, thinking about him, letting him soak in.  Against my own will and
intentions, he's there in me.

I stand, put my hands in my pockets and turn my back on the track, look toward the school.

It's good that I'm here. Maybe I can exorcise this ghost once and for all.

Maybe I'll find that, yes, it was adolescent angst, not so bad, really. Water over the dam.
I've probably built it up in my mind more than I should. If I'd come back every Christmas, been
to a few weddings, a couple of christenings, it'd be no big deal. It couldn't possibly be
as...intense...as I remember. Surely time has given all of it an emphasis it lacked in its
present.

I'll meet and mingle, and it'll be okay. Normal. It'll probably be all right. Now if I could
just get my heart to stop leaping at every step I take closer to the building.

The school hasn't changed much. It still smells of floor cleaner and gym socks. It's quiet now,
classes out for the weekend, students scattered to their million activities. I do hear a hum in
several classrooms as I pass by -- clusters of students tending to their various clubs, I
suppose.

It feels strange to pass the trophy cases and see my name on a dozen different awards. But
that's not as strange as seeing it on the plaque for Head Boy. I earned that title, respected
it. And by the time I graduated, I felt completely unworthy of it. It seemed just for show, a
name they pinned on someone else, someone not entirely me. A Head Boy should be strong, and
true, and brave, and by the time I left, I felt none of those things.

But there it is, engraved, polished. And above it are nine other names now. Nine other Head
Boys. I wonder if any of them felt like I did.

There's not much else to see at this time of day on a Friday. I'm headed back down one of the
classroom corridors, trying to decide how to waste a few more hours so I don't have to spend
them in stilted conversation at home, when I hear a student's voice ring out through one of the
half-closed doors: "Mr. Carter, the scanner's not working. Again."

The name arrests me. I shake my head. It's a common enough name, certainly. The thought stirs
that it could be Steven's father, helping out with some photography project or another. I stand
still outside the door.

Then the response comes, in a voice that, despite its deeper timbre, I would still know in a
dark room: "Have you tried turning it on, Elizabeth?"

No one else sounds like him. I've listened through the years, trying to hear that combination
of humor and affection and sarcasm in other voices. I haven't heard it again until now. The
thumping sound echoing his voice in my ears is my heart, which is painfully asserting 'I knew
it! I knew he was here.' It beats so hard I can feel it in my throat, and makes me cough.
Loudly. The hum inside quiets.

Bollocks.

It takes a startling amount of courage to open the door.

Steven's standing at a table, bent at the waist, pointing something out to a student. All I can
see is the top of his familiar head, and his hands, also familiar.

He raises his head. He looks...different. The image I've carried of him for ten years shifts,
expands, molds itself onto his new, older face. I see afternoon stubble on those fine, fine
cheeks. His hair is shorter, and the clean lines of his cheekbones and jaw aren't as strict as
they once were, but his eyes, when they meet mine, are exactly the same. I've seen that
expression before, too. I saw it when he turned to look at me, standing in the doorway of the
loo in the park.

Shock widened his eyes then, and it does so now. For an instant, I can again see the boy in the
man's face. For one heartbeat, he lets me see inside, then something new slides across his
face. I think it's distance, but I can't be sure. I've never seen him distant before.

Then he straightens and comes around the table. Now it's my turn to be shocked. He's tall.
When he gets close enough, I have to look up a little to meet his eyes. He's actually even
taller than me now. His narrow shoulders have filled out; he seems to have finally caught up to
his elbows and knees. He looks...good.

He puts his hand out, smiles. "You look just the same," he says.

I take his hand, pump it once, twice. Even his hand seems stronger, bigger. He's a man now.
"You don't," I blurt out.

He laughs. "We can't all be finished at eighteen," he says, then gestures to my hair. "What've
you done?"

I run a rueful hand across my short hair. "Got tired of it," is what I tell him. Got tired of
women talking about it, wanting to touch it. I never wanted anyone...else's...hands in my hair.
So I cut it off.

"You're a teacher?" I ask. I'm sort of dumb-founded, not just at finding him here, but at the
whole Mr. Carter bit. This is the kid I remember needing a hand to get over the park wall.

No. This isn't the kid. This isn't a kid at all anymore.

He smiles again, and like his eyes, his wide, clear smile is the same. Seeing the blend of
familiar and unfamiliar makes me feel off-balance, and I have to concentrate to hear what he's
saying, not just get lost in the things I recognize -- his eyes and his mouth.

"Yeah, hard to believe, I know. They moved Hutton up to senior English and yearbook, and here I
am, back on the school magazine," he says with a shrug.

There's a pause that I'm probably supposed to fill, but after too long a minute, he says, a
little more softly, "I wondered if you'd come." There's another momentary pause, then he adds,
"For the reunion."

I nod. I'm having trouble putting thoughts into words. He backs up a step, which helps, then
turns back to the table. The students busy themselves suddenly, and the increased noise makes
me realize how quiet it had gone while we talked.

"We've gone entirely digital," he says. "Have a look."

I don't care much about the school magazine, but I'm grateful for the awkward space he's
filling, for the attempt at normalcy. Seeing him is...I can't even describe it. I listen as he
gives me a quick tour of the program they're using now, demonstrates the digital cameras, the
recalcitrant scanner, and I must make appropriate responses, but mostly I'm just watching him
-- the ease with which he talks to the students, his comfort level with his job.

He's always been relaxed in his body. Now he seems relaxed in himself.

Steven always did have his shit together better than me.

He's been talking for some time now, and I realize the tone of voice of the last part was a
question, but have no idea what it was. "Sorry, what was that?"

He's maneuvered us to the far corner, away from the students, where he's been showing me the
latest in digital readers. He looks away, focusing on the keyboard, and says, "I wondered if
you'd fancy having a pint with me, later on? Unless you're meeting your old mates?"

"No, no, I haven't made any plans," I say.

"Do you keep up with them?" he asks. "Kevin, and the floppy-haired one, what's his name? Dave?"

The git and the prat.

"No," I tell him. "I don't."

I could say more, but not here, about what I think of Kevin and Dave, and of myself when I was
with them. Maybe later I can tell him. He doesn't say anything more, and I know it's my turn.
He's carried the conversation so far, and I never did answer him, so finally I say, "A pint
sounds good."

I'm sure I imagine that his shoulders relax a little. All he says is, "Right, then. How about
O'Malley's? Around nine?"

O'Malley's is a good spot. Been around for ages, but it's not a place most people we know would
go. I'm surprised at how easily my mind slips into its furtive channels, already lining up
excuses, wondering what people will think if we're seen together. Wondering how long people's
memories are.

Wondering why the fuck I still care what people think.

"John?"

He's turned to face me again, still maintaining his polite pose. I swallow. "Yeah, nine. All
right."

He nods, but before he can say anything else, his attention is claimed by a student, and as I
leave, I hear him saying, "I think you'd do better to put it in right side up."

It makes me smile. I can hear the 'you pillock' that he's refraining from saying out loud.

It looks like Steven's learned discretion after all.

He's waiting for me outside O'Malley's, hands in his jeans pockets, rocking from one foot to
the other, just the way he used to. Some things have changed, but some things stayed the same.
When he sees me, he smiles, and that's familiar, too. Then he's tugging his hands out of his
pockets, reaching for me, and instinctively, I draw back, look around to see if anyone's
watching.

That it was the wrong thing to do is immediately apparent. Steven steps back, lifts his empty
arms and laces his fingers behind his head, leaning back into his hands. "You really are just
the same, aren't you?" he asks, turning away, his voice low, angry. "You haven't changed a
bit."

Before I can change my mind, or even question the wisdom of it, I've closed the space between
us, turned him toward me with the rudder of his elbow, and then I'm sliding my arms around his
back, just long enough to feel the new stretch of muscle, the unexpected breadth of him,
startled again at finding him so big. I squeeze him, too tight, probably, and let go before
he can untangle his fingers enough to touch me.

"You're right," I tell him. "And you're wrong."

He's still angry, and worse, wary.

"Come on, let's get a beer. I'm buying," I say. I turn toward the door and look back to see if
he'll follow. He drops his arms, hesitates, then shrugs and comes toward me.

"You'd better be buying. That jacket would cost me a month's salary," he says as he passes me.
Yes, that's better. That's the Steven I know.

The place is crowded, noisy, smoky. Busier than I remember it being before. I take a quick
glance around the patrons, but most people aren't looking at me. They're looking at Steven, and
then I can see what they see: a tall, handsome, confident man. No wonder they look at him.

The bartender obviously knows Steven well, because there's a pint -- Caffrey's, by the look of
it -- waiting for him before he even reaches the bar. He raises the glass in acknowledgement,
then gestures it in my direction and says, "Matt, you remember John Dixon? Couple years ahead
of me?"

Matt's short, Irish, and probably around fifty or so. He looks me over, narrows his eyes and
says, "A runner, weren't you?"

"Still am," I reply, leaning over to shake his hand.

"In town for the reunion?" he asks, and I nod, even as I turn my head, looking to see if I
recognize any faces in the crowd.

Steven sees right through me. By the time I've finished perusing the faces, he's got a pint in
his hand for me, and he's leaning over, getting close enough so I can hear him say, "Matt says
the patio's quieter."

I slide a fiver onto the counter and say "thanks" in response to Matt's, "Welcome home."

Then we're back outside, where it is indeed quieter, and proportionally darker. I wonder how
often Steven's brought men here, how often 'quieter' has meant 'more private.'

Yes, I do understand that I gave up all claims to jealousy ten years ago.

The patio stretches from the front down the side of the building, and I suppose in the summer
they call it a garden. Now it's just a few round tables and some chairs, mildewed umbrellas
stacked in a corner. We have the space to ourselves. I guess most people don't enjoy sitting
out on a brisk September night.

I rather like it.

Steven arranges a couple of chairs at a table, then drops down into one with a sigh, and starts
talking. Nothing personal, no questions, just an update on Basingstoke, circa 2008. I remember
some of the names he mentions. He tells me his friends Mark and Wendy got married and have a
pair of red-headed twin boys who will undoubtedly wreak havoc as soon as they learn to walk.
Wendy, I remember vaguely: tall, thin, short dark hair. Mark, I don't remember at all.

He tells me about Linda's beauty shop adventures. I do remember Linda: big girl, with a sly
grin. I only know some of the names he mentions -- I never did pay much attention to
underclassmen, but I don't mind. It's good to hear his voice, and I try to do my part to hold
up the conversation.

I stutter out a question about Steven being like he is and teaching. He quirks a smile at me
for my inept phrasing, then tells he might not have been hired under the old head of school,
but the new one, who started his tenure just as Steven was ready to take his first job, has a
more evolved view.

I let his voice relax me. The Caffrey's helps, too, I can't deny that. Soon, I've even stopped
looking up at every footstep. Customers come and go, just inside our line of sight. A couple of
them raise their hands at Steven, and he raises his hand back.

"So, you're happy here," I finally say, interrupting a story about the dedication of the new
playhouse.

He takes another swallow of beer. "Yeah, I'd say so."

He looks at me. We're not sitting directly under the one meager patio light, so his face is
mostly just planes and shadows. "And you?" he asks.

I want to look away, but don't. I came here to discover certain things, and there isn't an
easy way to do that. There are only hard ways.

"No," I say, so quietly that he leans forward. "I wouldn't say so."

More light catches his face the closer he gets, and I'm struck at how... beautiful...he is.

"You were right, before," I say, swallowing the last of my beer. I put the glass on the table
and do my own bit of leaning. "I haven't changed much. I'm still-"

God, I can't even say it. I suck in a breath. It's quiet. No one's around. If I can't tell him,
I'll never tell anyone; I know that.

He tilts his head. "What?" he asks. His anger from earlier has bled away, and I know the
expression on his face now. It's sympathy. I've seen it a lot on him, and it melts something
inside me, loosens something up.

"Scared to death," I say in a rush. "I'm still scared to death. I'm...paralyzed."

His eyebrows knit together. "John -"

"All I do is work, and run." I can't stop now that I've started. "I...I don't know what to do.
I'm alone all the time, and I don't..."

He's got his hand out now, firm on my arm, away from the light, and he's making shushing
sounds. "It's all right," he says, wrapping his hand around my arm, holding on.

I knew it wouldn't be easy, letting go of some of the things I've been carrying all this time,
but I didn't know it would physically hurt. My chest feels tight, my throat's sore. I lick at
dry lips and try to breathe.

"Something has to change," I whisper, and he nods, his eyes locked on mine, his hand warm even
through my jacket.

Laughing voices coming out the door break the spell. He leans back in his chair, taking back
his hand, and I shiver a little.

The voices wane as the patrons wander off, and I realize we've been sitting here a long time.
Some pubs still close at eleven in Basingstoke, believe it or not, and it's almost that now.

The light on the patio goes out abruptly, and we're left in darkness, with only a nearby
streetlight's glow to see by. Matt appears around the corner, then stops when he's sees us.
"Sorry, mates, just came for the glasses."

Steven picks them up and takes them over to him. Matt smiles at him, then raises his chin at
me. "Just put up the chairs when you go," he says.

"Sure, Matt," Steven says. "Good night."

And then we're alone.

"He's...okay," I say. I'm not sure why I'm so surprised by that, but I am.

"Yeah," Steven says, sitting down again, stretching out his legs. "He's a good guy."

Quiet descends. I can see my breath now, when I talk, but I make no move to leave, and neither
does Steven.

"He probably thinks..." I can't quite get it out, but Steven knows what I mean.

"That bother you?" he asks, not looking at me, and if I hadn't known him well once, I might not
hear how carefully he's listening for my answer.

"Not right now," I finally say. I guess it was a good enough response, because he turns his
head toward me, lets his gaze rove over me.

Abruptly, heat steals through my body, throwing off the chill. I slide down a bit in my chair,
trying to ease the sudden constriction of my jeans, and I know he sees that, too. My mouth's
dry again, but it's got nothing to do with fear now. It's arousal, pure and never, ever simple.
I start to lean forward, then check myself.

Steven drops his chin, raises his eyes to mine. "Your call, Dixon."

That voice, saying my name like that, seems to reach in and pull me forward, and then I'm out
of my chair, crouched in the space between Steven's legs, wrapping one hand around the back of
his neck, tugging him down, and sending my other hand straight to his cock.

He's rock-hard under my hand, the insistent heat obvious even through his jeans. He's been
sitting there for I don't know how long, long enough that his jeans are warm to the touch on
the outside, sitting there...wanting me.

After all this time. After what I did to him. He still wants me.

His mouth slams into mine, driven there by the pressure of my other hand on his neck, and he
makes a soft, smothered sound, presses his lips to mine for a sharp, sweet second, then breaks
away.

"John, John, Jesus, not here," he moans, pulling back, his mouth saying no, but his hips make
their own vehement plea, thrusting up into my hand.

"Where, then?" I ask, stroking the back of his neck. He closes his eyes, rolls his head against
my hand.

"Oh, Christ, I don't know," he says.

"Where's closest?"

That gets a shudder from him, and he shakes his head. "Your car. My flat. I don't live far."

I press harder between his legs.

"I think it's dark out by the rubbish bins," he gasps.

Amazingly, that makes me laugh, and then he opens his eyes and laughs, too.

"My car," I hear myself say, and then I'm uncoiling from my crouch, letting him go reluctantly,
wondering if I'll really have the balls to do this if I stop to think about it.

He stands, too, and then he's right there, perfect height, and I can't stop myself from leaning
toward him, kissing his open mouth. He tastes like beer, but underneath, he tastes like he
always did, and I eat at his mouth, suddenly ravenous. God, we fit now; it's easy, so easy to
brush against him, our hips level now, groins bumping, catching.

He takes my head in both hands, tilts it, and strokes his tongue into my mouth. The fumbling I
remember from our early attempts has disappeared. He knows exactly what he's doing; where to
touch, how deep, how hard.

He's very, very good at this.

I push him away before I forget where we are completely. I have to look away from his
glittering eyes, his swollen mouth. I rub impatiently at my crotch, then motion him toward my
car.

I don't give myself time to think about it. I just unlock the doors and usher him in, then I'm
in, too, and the car's started, and we're moving. He directs me to a place beyond the city
park, an off-road that leads to a grove. Here, we only have moonlight.

I twist the ignition off. I swear I can hear my heartbeat thrumming in my chest. I hear him
breathing fast through his mouth. I turn to look at him, and he's almost a stranger. I hone in
on his eyes, on his mouth, searching again for accustomed things in his unaccustomed face.

The air between us feels charged. I'm close enough now to smell him, the scent of his arousal
heady in the close space. He unbuckles his seatbelt, and the soft click makes my cock twitch. I
undo mine, too, and turn to him. Now that we're here, I wish we'd gone to his flat. We're two
big men in a small car, and there's not enough room to move, let alone to take any clothes off.
But going to his flat seemed...I don't know. More serious, somehow. More deliberate, less
spontaneous. I'm ashamed to admit I'm still looking for ways to excuse this.

He's waiting for me to decide; I know he is. If I turn the car back on and drive him back into
town, he won't be surprised. I think he's probably expecting that, even as his body tells me he
hopes it won't happen. He's forcing me to choose.

Your call, Dixon.

I reach for him.

He sighs into my mouth, and smiles a little against me, then licks at my lips until I open wide
enough to suit him, and I let his luxurious mouth drag me under. The need that had never really
abated leaps forth again, shunting aside everything but my desire to get closer. I chafe again
at the confined space, banging my elbow on the dash in an effort to bring him closer, our knees
cracking painfully as we each squirm toward the other.

Bloody hell. It's not going to work like this. It can't. I let go of his mouth, push him back
against the seat, and start burrowing through his clothes. If I can't have everything I want, I
will at least have this. He drops his head back, panting, while I unbuckle his belt and unzip
him, reaching for him, and then I have him in my hand, hard and thick and noticeably larger
than the last time I saw him.

"Good Lord, Steven," I say, running my hand down the considerable length of him.

He looks down at me, then at himself in my hand, and grins. "Yeah, I had a bit of a growth
spurt in college."

"I'll say."

I think it's beautiful, and that in itself is a revelation. It really isn't just that the women
I dated were lacking; it's that I want what men have. I want this, this strong indication of
need, this unmistakable, ungovernable evidence of want.

I can't deny that I love being here, looking at Steven's cock, feeling the pulse in it, the
slickness at the tip. Before I even know I'm going to do it, I've bent down to him, licking
him, sliding the plump head into my mouth.

He goes rigid underneath me, every muscle seizing, and he groans, "Johnny."

Yes, yes, that's what I wanted to hear. I didn't even know until he said it, but that's who I
want to be for him. I did this for him only once, but then I was so nervous I don't remember
enjoying it, and I can't even tell you for certain whether he did. I'm enjoying it now, and
there's no question that he is, too. I love the helpless thrusts he's making, love the hand
that grapples for a grip in my too-short hair. Finally he settles for holding my jaw, and I
feel the brush of his thumb across my cheek. When I realize that he can feel himself there,
feel himself moving in and out of my mouth, I moan, splinters of pleasure searing from my mouth
to my own cock. He likes the hum of me around him; he tells me so. Well, murmurs it, and that's
it, that's all I need -- his voice in my ear, his strong, hot cock in my mouth, his hand on my
face. I come without warning, soaking my jeans, my hips thrusting wildly into empty air.

It's all I can do not to bite him, to maintain some control under the force enveloping me, but
before I've even pumped out the last of it, I'm sucking him down, farther than I have been,
farther than I knew I could, drawing on him as if he's my only hope for survival.

Maybe he is.

Steven's hand moves from my jaw to the top of my head, pushing now, urgent, no longer so
sanguine, and his other hand grabs at the dash, bracing himself so he can thrust harder,
faster. I let him, open as wide as I can. I'm still not taking him all, but it doesn't seem to
matter. Four heavy thrusts, five, six. I'm starting to see stars, but I can't stop, I won't,
and then I feel it, tunneling up the shaft, bursting forth; streams of it, it feels like.

I cough him up instantly, spitting the stuff all over both of us.

"God, I'm sorry." I'm mortified, but he's laughing, even as his hand goes to his cock, stroking
himself, milking the last of it.

"No, no, I should have warned you," he says. I still hear laughter in his voice, and when I
look up, breaking the fascination of watching his hand on himself, he looks...satisfied. Happy.
I have to kiss that laughing mouth, and it's not until his tongue moves with purpose in my
mouth that I realize he's tasting himself there, cleaning me inside.

It's not until he wraps his arms around me as well as he can given where we are that I realize
I'm shaking. He nudges me back into my seat, then matter-of-factly brushes his hand across the
front of my jeans. I know he can feel the wetness there; know he knows what happened.

"John, how long's it been?" He sounds incredulous.

"I haven't been with anyone -"

He scoffs, and I don't blame him.

"I have. Some. With women," I stutter out. He goes still, his hand still cupping me. "But I
haven't been with anyone -"

"Male," he interjects.

"--anyone who...mattered."

He stares at me.

"Since you."

I always wake up at the same time. Weekdays, weekends, holidays; it's all the same to my
internal clock. My body wakes up wanting to run, needing it, and today's no exception, despite
the late night.

It's a ritual by now, damn near a religion.

I tug on shorts and a shirt, tie my shoes in a half-asleep daze, then slip past my parents'
room, down the stairs and out the side door. I stretch out in my old familiar spot, leaning
against the stone wall by the road.

Then it's one foot in front of the other, slow at first, working out a few up-too-late kinks,
waking up, but it doesn't take long to find the rhythm, especially on roads I know as well as
these. Then I'm free, floating, body humming, mind clear, and there's no way to explain it
unless you've felt it. The best way to describe it is that it makes me feel like the world's
tilted right, for just that length of time. That whatever else happens in the day, there's been
something pure and good about it as long as I have this time.

It's the only time I'm truly comfortable with myself.

Usually, I try not to think of anything when I run. I count steps, or repeat some phrase whose
cadence has stuck in my head. Today, though, my mind wanders -- too many things to think about, but I don't mind. I wonder if all that effort of pressing Steven deep in my subconscious
weighed me down, because thinking of him now, purposefully drawing him forth, makes me feel
lighter, faster. Remembering what we did sends a bolt through me, spurs me on.

So while my feet take the straight path towards town, my mind heads elsewhere, back to the car,
our continued conversation, and the calm of the ride home, with Steven's hand steady on my
thigh.

I dropped him at the front door to his building. He invited me to come up, but it was late, my
head felt like a million small soldiers were holding target practice inside it, my crotch felt
like a swamp, and really, all in all, it had been a pretty long, electrifying, exhausting day.

So I just dropped him off. He didn't ask if he'd see me again, didn't ask how long I'd be
staying. It made me wonder, briefly, if most Friday nights went like this for him -- a few
drinks, some conversation, a quick suck-off in the car.

He just said he hoped I'd enjoy the reunion, and wished me good night.

I turn the corner past the school, then give in to the impulse to go round the track one last
time. One lap leads to another, and then another. My feet seem to recognize the track; they
want to go faster, they want to sprint.

My feet, after all this time, still want to win.

The last time I ran here, I was so scared, and so angry, I could hardly breathe. I felt
trapped, caught in the eyes of the onlookers, torn between wanting to go after Steven, to erase
that awful look on his face, and the need to prove myself in the only way I knew -- by running
as fast as I could.

I disappointed my teammates, my coach, my parents, and myself.

But what I did to Steven was worse.

I force myself to slow down. My heart's jumping in my chest, and my legs feel shaky. I haven't
run that hard for a very long time.

I lowered Steven's expectations of me ten years ago, and I don't think anything I've done in
the little time I've been back could have changed his mind about me. I disappointed him, then.
I may not have done it yet this go-round, but I think he's braced for it, expects it.

And maybe that can be the catalyst I need to make those difficult decisions. He may be the
catalyst. He may not need to be a ghost I exorcise after all.

He may be what I needed to come home to.

They're holding the reunion at the same hotel where we had our post-graduation party, and if
you were in the right frame of mind, you might think it had never stopped, that we've all been
living here for the past ten years, making do with crab puffs and bad champagne.

It hasn't been awful. It's even been kind of fun. Those seem to have been a pretty important
ten years. That is, I don't think our 20-year reunion will be as much of a shock. It's almost a
cliche -- seeing the athletes who've run to fat, the disappearing hairlines on some men, the
bulges of pregnancy on some women. There seem to be lots of ordinary-looking spouses showing
pictures of ordinary-looking children, but a few stalwart singles eye each other over the
buffet table.

Many of them look older than they are, and listening to them reminds me that my life isn't the
only one that has disappointed, that's been difficult in some way. Compared to many, my life is
easy: I don't have financial worries. I don't hate my in-laws. I don't have in-laws, which,
from the grousing I hear, is a good thing.

Mostly, though, I've spent the evening feeling like I belonged somewhere else. That I'm
standing somehow outside them, watching, but not really a participant. I can't seem to find any
commonality, any overlap. I can sum up my life in three sentences, which I've done multiple
times in the past couple hours, and so I've ended up listening more than talking.

I might have enjoyed it more if virtually every person who came up to me hadn't said some
variation of, "God, I'd know you anywhere. You haven't changed at all!"

I know they mean it as a compliment. It's obvious that most of my teammates haven't run a day
since they graduated, and deep inside I'm proud of my body; I know I look good. Steven thought
so. Said so.

But when I hear it (and I've heard it all night long), all I can think is that yes, I know, I'm
still the same confused, messed-up bloke I was in school.

Only after last night, I must admit, I don't feel quite as confused as usual. After last night,
I feel a little better about things. I'm not sure I'm ready to stand before the gathered and
out myself, but I do think I can now say, beyond any reasonable doubt, that I'm gay. Which is
more than I've been able to say before, even to myself.

I never could quite get used to the word in my mouth.

But I think given the fact that putting my mouth on another man's penis made me come without
ever being touched, I certainly qualify for the queer category.

We sat in the car last night for another couple of hours, and I found myself telling him about
my life, or the lack thereof. I always did end up telling Steven more than I meant to, more
than I'd told anyone else, always showed him more of me than anyone else got to see. That's
still true, despite the time spent apart, the distance. I actually told him about my few
pathetic attempts at a 'real' relationship, and hearing his hoots of laughter made me reassess
my own view of them, so much so that by the time 1 a.m. rolled around, I was laughing about
them, too.

Laughing more than I have for a long, long time.

One thing I managed not to tell him, one secret I kept for myself is that every woman I've gone
out with in the last ten years looked like him. Well, like his sixteen-year-old self. I'm
actually relieved, in a strange sort of way, at just how appealing I find his man's body. I
wouldn't want to be a perv, drawn to the half-finished, the barely formed.

I think I was drawn to Steven then because of the person he was, and therefore the package he
came in appealed to me. The same is true now, only it's even stronger. I want more. I want to
stand up with him, without any clothes on, with all the lights up, and look him over from head
to toe, read the changes in him with my fingers, my mouth.

I want that now.

To hell with the punch bowl, and the dress-up clothes, and the photos of babies in nappies.

To hell with all the things these people have, that they think I should want.

I just want Steven.

Right now.

I check my watch as I stand on the stoop of Steven's building. Just past eleven. He'll either
be out, or in, right? If he's in, fine. If he's out...I don't want to think of it, of who... of
what he might...

His name's printed in blue block letters over an intercom buzzer, and my hand's been hovering
over it for about five minutes now.

I left the party in full swing. Three hours seemed quite long enough to talk to people I no
longer have any interest in. I did see Kevin Granger, talked to him long enough to know we have
nothing to talk about. I was tempted to take him aside, tell him I spent last night with my
face buried in Steven Carter's crotch, just to see the look on his face, but I decided Steven
deserved better than that.

Hell, I deserve better than that.

I looked at Kevin's bloodshot eyes, his double-chin and padded gut, at the mouse he married,
and I decided he probably didn't need one more thing to be pissed about.

I'm procrastinating. Just press the damn buzzer, will you?

He takes so long to answer, I'm sure he's gone out. My heart jumps at the distorted "Yes?" that
I finally hear through the little box.

"It's me."

The door's buzzing open before the words leave my mouth, which makes me smile, and I hear him
say, "Back right on the second floor."

His place is nice. Small, but clean, with a courtyard view below. It suits him. He's dressed
down, in sweatpants and a ratty school t-shirt, bare feet. Obviously, he didn't go out. As
unfair as I know it is, that pleases me beyond measure.

"How was it?" he asks, motioning for me to sit down on the couch in the living area. "Want a
beer?"

"No, thanks. Maybe just some water?" Through a door, I can see into his bedroom. The covers are rumpled; a light on the nightstand shows a book face down on the bed.

I'd like to think he's been waiting for me.

He brings me a glass, then folds himself into the other corner of the couch, drawing his knees
up. He raises his eyebrows. "Well?"

"Granger's gone to seed," is what pops out first.

I do like hearing him laugh.

"I'm shocked," he says. He waits a bit, then asks, "Really, how was it?"

"It was fine," I tell him, stretching my legs out and resting my head on the couch. "None of it
seemed quite real."

He nods. "I remember the first time I saw Wendy's two pups. I couldn't believe they actually
came out of her. That they were Mark's kids, you know? I've known them both since we were
little kids, and here they are, making more."

He does seem to understand. It's quiet for another minute or so, then he says, "Was it worth
coming for?"

Steven's voice always has layers to it, his words have shades of meanings. Sometimes I miss
what he's going for, but not this time. I know what he's asking.

"No, it wasn't," I tell him, truthfully. "But getting to see you was."

I like being able to see him in light. I can see the flush that stains his face, brightens his
eyes.

I feel a rush of affection for him; no, something stronger than just affection. I want so much
to be like him -- confident, open. Maybe if I spent enough time with him, it would wear off on
me?

It makes me wonder who I'd be now if I hadn't been so afraid back then. If when he'd looked at
me from the assembly podium, instead of shaking my head, I'd walked up there with him, stood
there and faced them all -- my parents, his, all our teachers, our friends. If I'd been able to
acknowledge him then, and what we were together, who would I be now?

"I'm sorry, Steven," I say before I can think better of it. "For the way we left things."

"Old news, John," he says, waving one hand. "It doesn't matter."

"It does to me," I insist.

"All right, then. Apology accepted," he says. He stretches out his legs, pushing his bare feet
against my thigh, kneading me with his long, bare toes.

I put my hand on his foot, squeeze it.

"Steve..."

He's got one arm out already. "Come here," he says softly.

I stand up. "You come here," I say. I want to stand with him, feel how equal we are. He rises
slowly, tugging up his sweatpants with one hand, and I can see that he's  not wearing anything
underneath them. I can also see the swell forming beneath the soft material.

I start to draw him into my arms, but he urges me toward the bedroom. "Nosy neighbors," he
says, and I realize I would have happily kissed him, and more, in front of his living room
window.

For once, I hadn't given anyone else a thought. Sad as it is to say, that feels like progress
to me.

He closes the blinds in his room, and the door, too. We're cocooned now, in private space, with
no one to worry us, and nothing to stop us. I'm hard in the time it takes him to strip off his
t-shirt.

He reaches for the bedside light, but I stop him.

"Leave it on." My voice sounds hoarse, and the hands that drag my own shirt over my head are
trembling.

He turns to look at me, then sticks his thumbs under the waistband of his sweats and shucks
them off. He drops them carelessly on the floor beside him, stands up straight, and I'm stuck,
struck dumb by him. By the changes in him. I remember the vulnerability of him, then -- his
delicate collarbones, his visible ribs, the china-fine texture of his skin. I remember
straddling him, touching him, thinking he felt like a bird beneath me. I remember being afraid
to let him take my weight, afraid I'd squash him.

No worries there, now.

He looks bigger without clothes on, instead of smaller, like he used to. He's built in strong,
elegant lines now, long and lean. Muscular thighs, good shoulders. That cock that grew along
with the rest of him bobs to life, stretching toward me.

He's just standing there, letting me look at him.

"You're -"

"Oh, God, don't say it," he says, covering his face.

I go to him, pull his hands away. "Gorgeous."

"Nooooo," he groans, flushing almost purple, until his face just matches the shade of his eager
cock. It's fun, teasing him. I'll have to do it more often.

"You're a fine one to talk, Dixon," he says, and I wonder if hearing him call me by my last
name will always turn me on.

I've got his hands behind him now, our fingers laced, locked, his bare chest rubbing mine. He
rocks against me; the friction feels amazing. I reach over and up just a little, and take his
mouth with mine. I kiss him the way he seems to like, open and deep, and it's good; I like it,
too, like the strength of his tongue against mine, the breathy sounds he makes. I press against
him, tilting him back with the leverage of our hands behind his back, and his hips join in the
rocking.

"Get these off," he says, rubbing his leg against my jeans.

It means letting him go, but it's worth it to be naked. He leans toward me again as soon as I
straighten, and I gather him close, skin pressing skin now in a million needy places.

"You feel so good," I tell him, sliding my hands along his rib cage, feeling the firm muscle
and bone under my fingers.

"You have changed, John," he says, licking a warm wet streak up my throat. "You'd never have
said that, then."

"I felt it," I tell him. "I just didn't know how to say it."

He squeezes me, then rubs his hands up and down my back. "You did all right," he says. "I still
remember some of the things you said to me."

Now I'm the one blushing, and he's the one with the gleam in his eye.

The smartest move at that point seems to be to shut him up, which I can do quite well, and by
the time I pull back this time, he's not teasing anymore. He's dead serious, breathing hard,
cock hard, arms tight around me.

"John, I want..."

"All right."

I don't care what it is, what he's asking. I'll give it to him.

And it occurs to me, as he moves me to lie face-down on the bed, with my legs spread wide, that
this is what I should have done ten years ago.

I fought, when I should have surrendered.

I held back, when giving in might have made everything so much better.

I'm not fighting anymore, and I'm certainly not holding back.

But maybe he wasn't ready for that. Maybe he was more ready for most things than me, but not
that. Not this.

Maybe we had to grow into this.

I hear him now behind me, then the tip of one long finger traces my backbone, right to the
base, and beyond. I moan when he gets where he's going, and spread my thighs reflexively wider.
I feel two fingers there now, careful, but firm, then something cool and wet, and now he's
pushing inside, going slow, but going, not stopping, not pausing until he's buried them deep.

I hear my choppy breath, and feel his other hand, soothing on my back. "Easy," he says. "You're
doing great."

I thought just having him inside was pretty incredible, but then he starts to move, scissoring
his fingers, plunging them in and out. I pick up the rhythm, use it to rub my cock into the
bedspread, friction again, wonderful friction.

It's transparently obvious that Steven is fairly expert at this. I feel I'm in very good hands
for something as frightening as I imagine this to be. He uses his hands, inside and outside,
until I'm writhing on the bed, humping it, until sweat slicks down the hand on my back as well
as whatever the slippery stuff he's using inside does his fingers. My heart's lodged
permanently in my throat and I'm feeling things inside I had no idea my body was capable of.

I want more.

"Put it in," I mouth into the pillow. "Steven, put it in."

Then his hands are gone, and I'm cold, empty. I look over my shoulder. He's sweating, too, his
hair spiked with it, his chest and arms streaked with it. Bright patches of color smear his
cheeks, his throat, down his belly. I see the fine tremble in his legs, the unconscious
twitches in his very hard cock.

He steps to the nightstand and holds up a condom. "You have to use one of these. Always, John.
Every time. I shouldn't have let you...last night...without one."

"Don't worry," I say, dropping back to the pillow, rubbing my hips into the bedspread again,
seeking some shadow of that earlier feeling.

"I'm serious, John, if you're going to be doing this, you have to -"

"I don't plan to be doing this with anyone but you, Steven, so please, please, will you stop
talking and just put. it. in."

Nothing happens. I wait. He still doesn't move. Finally, I raise my heavy head again, make the
effort to look over my shoulder. "Please."

He takes a shuddering breath, then rips the package open with his teeth, and rolls on the
condom without even looking. My God, he's good.

I brace myself on my elbows, dig my cock into the bed and lift up for him. He wets me down some
more, so much I can feel the stuff dripping down over my balls -- we're making a hell of a mess
-- then I have the weight of him between my thighs, the heat of him, and finally, finally, the
press of his cock against me.

He holds me open with one hand and guides himself in with the other. Jesus, it hurts. He's big.
He was big in my mouth; but that's nothing compared to how he feels...there. My hard-on
retreats, aghast. He gets maybe a third of the way in before I'm squirming under him, trying to
get away.

"Take it out," I whisper, sure he's splitting me open.

"No, not yet. You can do this," he whispers back. "Relax, Johnny. Breathe."

I want to tell him he should try to relax and breathe with a club stuck up his bum, but bite
my tongue (literally) when it occurs to me that of course he knows how this feels, of course
he's done this before. He's the expert.

So I do what he says. I breathe, and try to relax. When his hand nudges under me, I let it in,
let him wrap his fingers around my poor defeated cock, let him hold it, stroke it. He drapes
himself on me, rubbing his mouth on the back of my neck, holding still, just inside.

I feel the first flicker of life in my dick again at the same moment I take my first deep
breath in a while. I wonder if there's a connection, so I do it again. Yes, that helps. I have
feeling again in front, and the back's not quite so distressed. I lift my head an inch, brush
against him, and I can feel him smile against my neck.

"Good," he murmurs, then puts the hand not occupied with my cock on the side of my hip and
bumps forward again, pressing slowly, slowly in. I heave another breath.

He moves a little, adjusting his stance, then tugs on my hip. "Get up," he says, encouraging me
with quick, hard strokes on my finally renewed erection. I'm not at all sure I can move,
especially with him wedged inside, but I try, and after a few false starts, I'm up on my hands
and knees and he's kneeling behind me, then he's got another couple of inches in, and it's not
hurting anywhere near as much as it did.

No, something's starting to feel pretty good. It starts as pressure, but then slides into
something better, lighter. He starts to pull back and then move forward again, little thrusts
that take him deeper, then deeper still. One especially deep, firm stroke creates a jolt that
makes my cock leap in his hand, makes my knees shake.

"That's it, John, that's it." He makes it sound like I did something good, but it's him doing
it all. He's the one doing something good.

Now every thrust creates that wave of sensation, the building pressure of pleasure drowning out
the last aches, the painful stretch. Now each time he plows forward, I push back, no longer
just taking it; trying to give something back. Then we're there, in a powerful rhythm, and
we're connected now, at the heart, at the very center of us. His hand on my hip keeps me
steady. His hand on my cock makes me shake. Deep inside, miniature explosions are going off
with every lunge he makes.

I can take it for about a minute, then I'm the one going off, grunting, coming raggedly on his
fingers, on the bedspread. I don't know how much longer I can hold myself up. My arms feel like
rubber, the backs of my thighs sting with effort, but I hold on, brace my elbows, lock my knees
and keep shoving back on him, keep the rhythm going until he breaks it, until he gasps behind
me, jabbing hard now, over and over and over until I'm certain I feel him swell up inside me,
certain I can feel his heat flood the condom.

Then it's done. He drops down on me, I collapse to the bed, and we lie there, gasping for
breath, melded together with sweat.

I've missed out on a lot in the last ten years.

I don't plan to miss out on anything more.

I don't know how long we stay like that, but he's gone soft inside me by the time I feel his
fingers holding the base of the condom as he pulls himself gently out. Even that lesser
sensation makes me shiver.

I roll over as he's tossing the condom in the wastebasket. He glances at me, and when he
catches my eyes on him, he slants me a grin. "Take it easy tomorrow. You might be sore in some
unexpected places."

I make a rude noise. "Unexpected? I can tell you exactly where I'll be sore."

Unexpected. Not hardly.

He snaps off the light, plunging the room into darkness, then goes to the window and opens the
blinds. He throws open the sash, letting in the cold night air. It feels like heaven on my
over-heated skin. His profile in the moon shadow is as seductive as his nakedness in light. If
I could, I'd draw him, just like he is now.

"I wish I could --" I start to say, but he cuts me off.

"This is enough, John. Really. It's more than I-"

Now he's the one who stops. I don't know what he was going to say. He didn't know what I was
going to say. We really should just talk in complete sentences.

I guess he thought of this as...what...a fling of some sort? A one-time thing. Maybe that's
what he's been accustomed to. Maybe that's all he's known.

"No, it's not. It's not enough. For me." I don't know how to phrase it, so he'll understand.

"John..." He sounds resigned, the patience in his tone just irritating enough to goad me.

"I want to try, okay? I want...I want to see you. A lot."

He just looks at me and blinks. A thought like a splash of cold water dashes over me. I've
assumed a lot here.  "Do you want that? If I could, would you?"

He continues to stare at me, then licks his lips and says, "Of course, you sod."

Oh. Well, good.

"You could come up to London sometimes. I've got a nice place, right on a park," I tell him,
wondering why in hell I'm extolling the virtues of my flat.

He nods, lifts one shoulder.

It's the easy way out, I know that. In London, we'd blend, just two in a sea of people. Maybe
that's not enough. Maybe I have to do it the hard way, too.

"Or I could come here," I offer, embarrassed at how tentative I sound, "if you'd rather."

Finally, he smiles. I did the right thing, saying that, I guess. If I'm going to do this...and
I think I am...I want to...I can't do it half-way. I know that. I just have to make myself not
think of it in global terms, encompassing my parents, and my old coaches, and my employer and
new colleagues; can't see it as a universal proclamation I face. I have to think of it in terms
of one person at a time meeting another person I care about.

It will help, I think, to be able not just to say, "I love men." The truth is that I love one
specific man, one unique individual. And I can't look at him and not imagine that everyone else
will love him, too. There's so much about him to love.

Yes, Steven being Steven will make it a lot easier for me to be John.

He drops onto his back on the bed beside me, then leans up on his elbows, and says, "I want to
make one thing perfectly clear, John Dixon."

I raise my eyebrows at him.

"If you break my heart again, I'll beat you bloody," he says, and I'm certain he's absolutely
serious, but all I can do is grin at him.

"You could, too," I assure him, sliding my hands up the bunched muscles in his arms, bearing
him back to the bed. "But I think I'm still faster. I could outrun you."

"Not by much," he mutters, but his arms have wrapped around me tight, holding me down.

With any luck, we won't have to test that.

With any luck, there will be no more running.

And there will be no breaking of hearts.

It's a beautiful day. Just by lifting my head a few inches I can see outside Steven's bedroom
window. It's a perfect morning for a run. The sun's just peeking over the horizon, so it won't
be too warm yet, and the grass will still be wet. I can feel it, slick under my flying feet,
drops splashing up. I can hear the quiet already, my own heartbeat and breath the only sounds
in the world. I want it. I want the peace of it.

Part of me still yearns, instinctively, to run.

It's what I've always done, and I do it well.

But I drop my head back down instead, onto the pillow made for it by Steven's arm. It's
comfortable. I'm comfortable, right where I am. Not as sore as I thought I might be, either.

Steven's good at what he does. Always was, but it's different now. The man is different from
the boy. He grew up and I wasn't there to see it. He stayed here, sure of himself, his place,
while I ran and ran and ran.

I lean back and find that the curve of my back fits neatly into Steven's chest. His arms
tighten around me. Strong arms, long muscles under the smooth skin I remember so well. His
knees tuck behind mine.

The lure of lying here with him is the first thing I've found in ten years that rivals the
peace I've only ever found on my feet.

I'm tired. Tired of running.

Today, I think I'll sleep in.

The end.

Comments are welcome at jbonetoo@yahoo.com