Chapter Eleven: A for Effort

"You know, I wonder if Tara watches porn," Ben says, breaking my train of thought. I realize I was spacing and look over at Jesse only to see him giving me this really cautious look from the corner of his eye, like he's worrying about something.

This realization takes a second to work through my brain, though, so by the time I realize that we're staring at each other, the time has passed to look away and make it seem casual. My only option is to keep watching him, to try to keep my face blank, to wait for him to look away.

But he doesn't. His eyes linger and search my face, and he's looking at me full-on, no longer disguising it.

"No, girls don't do that."

"Bullshit. Let's just ask her."

"She'd kick us, though. Wouldn't she, Matt?"

I break eye contact and shrug over at Roy. Nonchalant. "Likely."

"She wouldn't kick you," Ben accuses Roy. "Just ask her, come on."

"Matt can ask her. If she kicks him he can kick her back."

Roy balks at this suggestion and glances over at Jesse. We all do, actually. There are times when a person makes a disparaging comment clearly meant in good fun. And then there are times when clearly the person is utterly serious and the lighthearted remark is meant to stab.

"Good point. You know, it's too bad I left my steel-toes at home." I wave my hands at him, gesturing him to go ahead. "Maybe you should volunteer. Or do you need an appointment slip for that?"

He gapes, a little flustered but trying not to show how much that last comment bothered him. "What's that supposed to mean?" he demands.

"I'm saying that you should not pass judgments on what I would or would not do when you don't even know me."

"Judgments?" he splutters. "You've done nothing but judge me, and I've never done anything to you!"

"Oh, really? Maybe I should spell it out for you very plainly, then, so that you don't get it confused. Because it seems to me that every other day you're trying to pin us with a bunch of shit that we don't actually think. One second we're drug addicts and the next second Ben is a misogynist. Are you seriously trying to tell me you haven't judged me, not at all?"

"Matt," Roy says. "Just chill."

"No! I'm chill already!"

"If these people you just met started talking about selling each other cocaine, what would you think?" Jesse demands, ignoring Roy more effectively than me. The pitch of his voice lowers slightly when he yells; it's not announcer-smooth anymore, it's strained and bellowing. "You can't expect people to read your mind and know what you meant!"

"Exactly!" I crow. "This tiptoeing shit is stupid! So if you want to say something, just fucking say it!"

"I think you're an asshole!" he screams, right in my face. "I think you treat your friends like shit. I don't know why you're so threatened by me but you need to back off!"

"Or you'll do what? You can't even peel a fucking banana or catch a kickball, are you going to punch me with those hands of yours?"

I swear he clenches his fist with a murderous look on his face before Roy pushes between us. His hands are on my shoulders immediately, pushing me back. He grabs my face in one hand and forces me to train my glare at him, instead of Jesse, who's fuming over his shoulder. Ben is talking quietly to him, but I can tell he was hoping for a fight because there's too much glee in his face for someone who was worried.

"What the fuck is your problem?" Roy hisses. "Calm down."

"I'm calm. Didn't you even hear what he said?" I try to pull away, but Roy's grip tightens.

"Listen to me. You will not start a fight in my house." The tone of his voice makes me really look at him, really see him instead of seeing through him, seeing red. He looks…fuck, he looks really disappointed in me. And then his words sink through and I take stock of the situation.

Fuck. I really did almost start a fight in Roy's house.

What the fuck am I doing?

"Yeah, I'm good."

Roy scrutinizes my face before letting me go, so I guess he saw the truth in there somewhere. Or maybe what he saw was plain old shame, because that's sure what I'm feeling. We laughed at the beginning of the year when we watched two dickheads fight in the lunchroom. We said that only immature Neanderthals settle their problems like animals. Roy does not have a high opinion of violence. I wonder how bad I've fucked up my friendship with this petty little argument.

And what's worse is that my first instinct is to blame Jesse. My problems keep snowballing now that he's around. I can't believe I was seeing myself with him, even for a second. Even though I'm pissed, and ashamed, I can't help feel a little horny. It just won't go away, even now, as Roy gives me this incredible disappointed frown.

I've always been the only gay guy. There was just no possibility of having someone. And now that there is, and I can't help but react with interest, even though I want to fucking kick myself for it. In the balls. With steel-toed boots.

"Look," Roy says tersely, addressing both me and Jesse, who has seated himself on the edge of the bed. "Whatever problem you have with each other, work it out. And if you can't, then just stay away from each other. This is getting ridiculous."

He and Ben move toward the door, and I turn to stare after them, my attention fixed on Roy. He looks embarrassed on my behalf. "We'll be downstairs. And I swear, if you guys start fighting up here…" He doesn't continue, but pins us both with a very stern look. I won't even think twice about obeying.

When he's gone, Jesse sighs and looks down at his lap. "I should leave."

"Fuck that. Then it will somehow be my fault. No." I huff in annoyance, wondering how best to play this. "We'll just sit here for a while so it looks like we made an effort, and then go down and say it's hopeless. Then all of this bullshit can be over with."

"So you don't even want to make an effort?" He snorts. "Figures."

"Yeah, well I notice you said you should leave and then just sat there. Didn't even try to get up. Real effort right there, oh yeah."

"Well, I don't want to leave. I would be happy if we just got along. I tried really hard to be nice to you, but you make it impossible."

"I make it impossible?" I realize I'm raising my voice and hush myself on the last word. He follows with a near hiss.

"Yes. I don't know what I did to make you hate me, but it must have"—

"I don't hate you. I don't care about you enough to hate you. You're not worth that kind of effort."

He gapes like I've slapped him. "See? That's exactly what I mean. I haven't done anything to deserve those kinds of remarks. Neither has anyone else. You just do it. And I think you're right, you don't have to put any effort into it. You're just naturally a jackass."

"You're right! I am."

He doesn't quite know how to respond to that one. Finally, he shuts up for a second, trying to work out how that was an insult to him.

"I'm supposed to apologize to you," I continue. "So…sorry. Just get over it. We'll be civil."

"You think I don't know what you're doing."

"What am I doing?" I ask mockingly.

"You're…well, you're trying to make me seem like the asshole now!"

"No. See, you just hit it right on the head. I am an asshole. You admit it. You recognize it. It's not going to change. Just deal with it, and stop taking shit so personally. There you go, problem solved."

He gives me a look like this is a totally unreasonable proposition. "You can't say whatever you want and expect people to just let it slide off."

"Just watch me. From this point on, it is completely your fault if you get upset. Pretend you're in some anger management class. Be at peace with yourself." I add a helpful gesture to articulate what my words cannot. My hand flutters and Jesse follows its movement with bewilderment.

"It's not like you say things that are unintentionally hurtful," he argues. "You do it on purpose. That's not something you can just brush off. It's vindictive, and I only take it personally because you make it personal."

"Um, like I said. Intentional would imply that I care, which I don't. You just take it that way because you're gullible and way too sensitive."

"So what was that comment about my hands?"

I try to remember exactly what I said about his hands and come up blank. Something about punching him. Or him punching me. "I wasn't thinking about what I was saying. It wasn't some carefully planned insult on your disability. Is that what you think? That I was just waiting to rub it in your face?"

"My disability? Rub what in my face, exactly?" I don't like the tone his voice has taken. It's more dangerous than the yelling, somehow. I wonder if we'll really be able to avoid that fight. And just when I thought the conversation was going to work…that we were going to reach some sort of compromise.

"Well, you know." I gesture at his hands, which are completely visible. The sleeves of his loose light blue t-shirt put his arms on full display. "Your hands. I mean, it's true, isn't it? So why would comments like that bother you?"

"What's true, exactly?"

Isn't it obvious? "Well, they're imperfect. All twisted. You can't even move them the right way."

"I can use them just fine," he asserts acidly.

"You can't eat with chopsticks," I point out.

"There are people with perfect hands who still can't eat with chopsticks."

"What about writing?"

Almost cheerfully, but with that tight smile that I recognize, he chirps, "My writing is perfectly legible."

"Do you write with the one that's all crushed-looking and stiff? I doubt it."

"Again, plenty of people can't write with their left hand." His voice is so fucking patient and condescending that it just makes me grind my teeth. I need to think of something that needs both hands…


"I can type at a very reasonable speed. And, you know, it would amaze you how many people are slow typers. My aunt uses her pointer fingers and searches for each individual letter."

"Jack off."

He freezes and just stares at me. "You think I can't jack off?"

The look on his face makes me think that maybe I just shoved my foot in my mouth, but I stand my ground regardless, because now that I've suggested it, there's really no retracting it. "Well, I don't see how you can." God, I am an idiot. I know he can. I mean, come on. I don't even know why I said that—it just came out!

"I can jack off," he says indignantly, and also kind of like he agrees with me on the idiot thing. "Even if I had no hands, don't you think I would still find a way?" His face is really red, though I can't tell if it's from anger or embarrassment.

"Then prove it." I just keep digging myself deeper. It's like I'm suicidal. And horny. Oh god. Bad combo. I really am going to die. Fuck, I can't believe I just said that. Can't believe the speculative, dumbfounded look that's frozen on his face for a full second. The scoff he offers in response makes my cock twitch.

"What?" His voice is low and disbelieving, but to me it sounds as loud as eighty racecars buzzing by at 200 mph. I'm almost worried that Roy will come back up here…but then, in a weird moment of utter certainty, I'm sure that he won't.

"Prove that you can jack off." This idea is sounding better and better, though I couldn't really say why. I couldn't even hazard a guess—I just feel excited. Excited, in such a subtle way that has my whole body humming and aware. A yesss is hissing through my mind. I can't stop the smile on my face, though I try to reign it in for fear that it will come across as more of a leer.

"What, right now?"


He gives a little sarcastic laugh at the absurdity of it, but his smirk…it's not all that sarcastic. "What, you want me to whip it out right in front of you?" His voice, it's that low and husky one that I heard in the car.

"Shove your hand down your pants."

I expect him to refuse, but I underestimate how much I've insulted him. Or…something. I don't even care anymore. I don't even think it's about his hands anymore. He pins me with this glare that's stubborn, alive with hot fury, so, so hot. "Fine." It's low silk. Drawn out. It rubs past my ears and licks down my skin, warm and tingly.

His breathing is even and the progress of his zipper is slow in the sudden silence of the room.

That thumping noise is the blood in my ears, no cause for concern.

His left hand holds his shirt down, stretched across his lap to block visibility. That does nothing to damper the knowledge that he's doing this in front of me. He's doing it for me.

"What are you thinking about?" I ask quietly, laughing a little with nerves. His eyes are closed, thank god, as he begins a very familiar motion. He doesn't answer—on purpose, I think, not just because he didn't hear me.

He just bites his lip, tilts his head back, and the sight sends a jolt straight to my cock.

"Use the other hand." The sound of my own voice startles me.

He raises his eyebrows at me, his eyes still closed. The effect makes him look a little desperate. "Do you use your left hand?"

"Sometimes. Sometimes I use both."

"Both," he repeats, but his voice is musing, and his eyelids squeeze shut. His hand releases his shirt to join the other on his cock. "Like this?"

I gulp. "Yeah."

"What else does a personal with normal hands do?"

I almost don't register what he says because now that his shirt isn't pulled over his lap I can see the outline of his head and hands in perfect detail against the thin material of his shirt, and on each upstroke the motions draw his shirt up to reveal the base of his cock. But then the words get through and I'm consumed by them, imagining all the things I do, when I'm thinking of Roy. The few times I thought of Jesse, against my will.

"Um, pinch the head."

And he does it. Fuck, I can see him do it. The shirt, caught in a fold that leaves it suspended, offers no cover whatsoever. His cock is nice-looking: long and slender. I imagine what it would feel like as I watch the scarred skin of his left hand rub along his cock. Would it be rough? Slippery, like scar tissue sometimes is? The hand doesn't quite grip but I would feel it, the texture and the shape of it, teasing against my cock.

"Faster," I urge. He responds with a sibilant gasp and a quickened pace, and my cock absolutely throbs.

I could show you, I want to say. I want to touch myself so bad. I want to mirror his movements. I want him to watch me as I do it. But then he whimpers, jaw dropped open and slack, eyes rolling back and fluttering shut. This is just as good. His hips start jerking upwards, just erratic little thrusts, and the thought that he can't help himself, that he's so turned on that his control is slipping, is mind-blowing.

And then he opens his eyes, looks straight into mine, and comes.

When it's done, I turn without a word, and I just know he's looking at me, that he can see how hard I am. I'll deal with that later. I can't handle this anymore. There's only one room between Roy's and the bathroom, and I lean against the sink, quickly unzipping my pants. I'm so horny and disoriented that I only realize I didn't turn the lock when the door opens and Jesse steps inside, his eyes immediately going to my hand and the firm grip I have on myself as I back against the wall in surprise.

"What the fuck?"

"Shut up," he demands. But he doesn't give me the chance to comply; he puts a hand over my mouth.

"I've got you all figured out," he hisses. I wonder what he means for a second before I remember, fuck, I've got my hand on my cock. And then I'm thinking 'Oh Fuck' for another reason because that's not only my hand.

His hand, oh my god it's wet and slippery, and the reason why—of course I know why…I just watched him, met his eyes as he let out that long, dark groan—the reason why makes me shudder and fall back limp against the wall, knocking my head pretty hard but I barely notice because oh my god. He's everywhere, all around and on me, his breath on my neck, my face, swirling in my open mouth, painted against my lips. I can't see him but I can feel him there, paused in eternity, as if he's waiting. Warm. And his slippery hand is on me. All the rest, it all seems like a blur of warmth, and that hand of his, misshapen and ugly, is the hottest thing in my world.

He moves, and I was right, I can feel every single fucking thing about it, how it doesn't quite grip me, but the shape of it against my cock is teasing. His hand is all I know. The shape of his other hand on my shoulder blade, pressing my chest to his, the inner side of my knee against his outer thigh, the softness of his cheek pillowed against my collarbone and his breath against my neck—none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that hand as it strokes across my flesh, back and forth.

His hand presses harder against my mouth as I come, but I don't mind my teeth digging into the inside of my lips. I grip the back of his shirt with my free hand, pushing into my hand and into his. I can't look at him. I don't want to see his expression.

I can't block out his voice though, the soft, smug murmer that comes after he withdraws. "So was it as good as a regular hand?"

I nod, gasping and speechless, hating myself.


I hear the sink, and after that, nothing. It's another whole minute before I realize that the silence means he's left.

When I come downstairs after cleaning up, everyone is eating and Jesse is just beginning to spoon sour cream onto his plate. Roy beams at me as I take my seat. "So Jesse said you guys came to a resolution?"

Jesse's eyes are glittering with humor when I find myself unable to avoid looking at him.

Came to a…Oh yeah. Real clever. I nod, looking down at the empty plate in front of me. "Sure did."

I can't believe I let him touch me with those hands of his.

Those hands…oh god.

Roy changes the subject, asking me if I think that my project is finished. I shrug. "Good enough."

"Are you okay, Matt? You're so quiet," Tara comments worriedly. I glance up to see her give Jesse a questioning look. Jesse's eyes are wide too, and worried, but I'm sure it's for an entirely different reason.

It's him I look at when I say, "I'm fine."

When his eyes narrow cautiously before giving me a tiny smile, a cute little knowing curve of his lips, I decide.

Yes, I can settle.

AN: It's not gratuitous, I swear! The feedback I've gotten so far is positive, which is a huge relief, but I don't think people really tend to review the porny chaps. Plus I've been gone for a while. To those of you who have stuck around, I sincerely hope this was worth the wait.

I drew a picture of Jesse. I warn you, if you have this superhot version of him in your head and don't want it tainted, then do not look. If you want to see how I sort of picture him (limited by my artistic ability), take a peek. It's on my profile as "Jesse by me." and has the word (NEW) after his name.