A/N: This is a sequel to "Brennett" (Vol. 1 and 2 on my profile), but it can also stand alone. Feel free to read previous stories if you want the background of the characters. :D
Vanessa and I: we made a very important decision. If gay marriage isn't legalized in Illinois by the time Daniel graduates college, she and I are going to make a sex tape. Just to be ironic. And let's be frank: it'd sell big. Really…I think it would make a nice political statement. It would totally be more effective than when Rebecca Black released "Friday" as a commentary on consumerism and foreign policy…And also, it's a great decision because now if I don't have getting married to look forward to, at least I can have sex with a vagina.
The greatest part about having a bisexual boyfriend is that you can talk about stuff like that around him and he can't get mad at you. It would be hypocritical! Daniel would admittedly take up an opportunity to have sex with a woman. And he can't get mad at me for planning on having sex with Vanessa, because it wouldn't even count as cheating because I'm as gay as the day is long and she's most definitely female. Logic, people…
Of course, just because he logically wasn't allowed to get mad, doesn't mean he didn't get mad. But the only reason he went all bitch-tit on us was because he had his Calc midterm the next day and was really jealous of us because all we were doing was eating Red Vines and watching a VHS of an episode of Tila Tequila's reality show from back in the day that I magically managed not to record over.
Daniel didn't remove his eyes from the pages of his textbook as he offered his single comment: "That's a stupid idea."
"Its okay, Danny; the syphilis was one-hundred percent treatable. I won't pass anything along to you." Vanessa joked.
He glared up at her. "Can you guys just…stop?" He asked peevishly.
"Daniel!" I laughed, rolling my eyes. "If you want to leave and lock yourself in solitary confinement, I won't be offended." I didn't want to say anything, but I kind of wished he would leave so Vanessa and I could have a normal conversation, uninterrupted by his PMS.
"You're right," Daniel mumbled, closing up his books and stuffing them in his backpack. "There're too many distractions here."
"That's what you get for taking actual classes!" Vanessa told him bluntly. He ignored her and came over to where I was sitting on the floor, leaning down to give me a quick peck on the lips before he left, which was awfully nice of him.
"Love you!" I called obnoxiously after him as he went up the stairs.
I wasn't shocked by his feigned indifference, but I pretended to be so that maybe he would learn not to be so mean. "Unbelievable," I sighed.
"If only we could all be as happy as you two," Vanessa said tonelessly, staring at the TV and biting a piece of licorice in half.
Surprisingly, though, Dan and I were actually happy. We'd been together almost six months. Okay. Three…We'd been together three months. And that's really impressive considering my record of, you know, never being in a relationship ever. Maybe that's to say that Daniel Powell had some sort of inexplicable power over me. Actually, commitment in general was a lot cooler than I had thought it would be. My prior conquests were actually quite draining. A boyfriend presented an opportunity for down time.
And sure, Daniel was sort of a prude. We hadn't really talked about it, but part of me thought he was saving himself for marriage, which was honestly a real problem; one that forces me to assume that he still thinks he's going to end up with a woman. That was a problem itself; on top of the fact that he'd deprived me of sex for six months…okay, three. I mean, it was fun to see if I could even go that long, but at the same time…it said a lot that I was getting more action from Bennett while he was still in the closet.
It also said a lot that Vanessa was the body that kept me warm at night, and not him...
You see, Vanessa's house was usually empty, so she stayed over some nights because my Ouija board told her it was safer. She was basically living at my house that week: midterm's week. We both had a massive case of senioritis and couldn't bear to be alone and bored. The time passed much too slowly that way.
It said a lot about her relationship too, come to think of it; you know; that I was her warm body and not ole Jem.
"I forgot to call Jeremy back," She realized as we were getting ready for bed. I was sitting on the mattress, leaning back on the headboard.
"Will he care?" I asked.
She sighed. She was standing in front of the mirror I had hanging above my dresser, massaging her face with some over-the-counter acne cream that she always left a tube of at my house. "I doubt it…"
"Are you guys, like, broken up?"
She laughed. "To break up, you have to be dating first…"
They "hadn't been dating" since the fall musical. The two of them were really just exhausting. "But how are you guys?"
She rubbed the excess face-cream into her hands and bit the side of her lip. "I think he might be gay…" She told me.
I laughed out loud. Jeremy couldn't be gay. He was too awkward to be gay. "For serial…?"
She frowned. "I don't know. Lately he just seems…uninterested in me."
"Maybe he met someone else," I teased.
Vanessa laughed out loud. "Yes…I'm sure that's it," She knew how ridiculous it was that even she was willing to touch Jeremy.
"Well I can figure it out for you," Because I'm really just that good of a friend. "…If that's what you're asking me to do…"
"Oh god," She rolled her eyes, and turned to look at me directly, instead of just through the mirror. "…how do you expect to do that?"
I smiled smugly. "I'm magic. Remember Bennett…"
Vanessa just sighed thoughtfully. She needed time to consider my offer, but she'd cave. I knew she would. I watched her carelessly rip off her shirt and bra and throw them on the floor, nonchalantly exposing her small boobs. She leaned over and picked up the first T-shirt of mine that she found; one from a production of "You can't take it with you" that we'd helped build sets for freshman year. She didn't change out of her yoga pants; she was satisfied with the top. I rolled over on the bed to make space for her.
I didn't have a comforter on the bed anymore. I left it in the basement the last time Daniel and I crashed down there and I had never been motivated enough to carry it back up to my room. I never used it anymore. I liked combining throw blankets better. It was kind of a way to personalize my sleeping experience: like a sleep number bed for bums.
Vanessa grabbed a down-filled one that was in a wad at the foot of the bed and pulled it around her shoulders. As she settled back onto my pillows I shifted onto my side and put my arms around her, playfully wrapping a leg around her pelvis.
"I'm gunna kill you." She mumbled sleepily. "It's too hot in here for this."
"I can go sleep on the couch…" I suggested.
"No." She shook her head simply. "I want you here."
It made sense, I guess. Sleeping alone in other people's houses was awkward.
"Goodnight," I kissed her on the cheek.
The tests I ran on Jeremy were comedic, actually. It was so hard to take it seriously, but I was nothing if not an actor, and I was always committed to a good charade.
"You got that…?" I asked gently. I flashed a narrow-eyed smile down at Jeremy as he put the big-weights-on-a-pole-thingy on the pegs-that-hold-it-thingy.
"Yeah, thanks," He smiled back. I'm sure that he was very thankful that I was around to spot him as he lifted.
He climbed off the bench, his forehead glistening with beads of sweat. I picked up the towel that I'd set down on the floor next to my water bottle (that I'd purchased especially for this trip to the gym because Vanessa told me I couldn't carry my water there in her rhinestone flask) and I reached out and softly wiped the sweat away from his face. "There you go…" I said, grinning shamelessly. "You've been working hard, buddy…"
Jeremy pursed his lips, his eyes shifting back and forth. "I do this every day…"
"I bet you do…" I inaudibly choked back a laugh.
Jeremy shook his head, probably trying to convince himself that he had been imagining my advances all day. He walked ahead of me. "I was going to go around the track a couple times, you down?"
I let out a hearty laugh. "Jeremy, my dear; I don't do cardio…"
"Whatever, bro, I'll catch you in the locker room…" He walked away. I always forgot how awkward he was until he walked. He pumped his arms like one of those old lady power-walkers on the side of the road with the sun-visors and the dollar-store pedometers clipped onto their unnaturally high elastic-waistbands…
I grabbed my water bottle and took a swig before wandering aimlessly in the opposite direction. After glancing at a couple contraptions that were available for my use, I decided that I had no desire to sweat and decided to go down to the lower level of the center and buy a smoothie.
And it was really just perfect that I found Bennett Rousseau behind the cash register at the café.
I want to make one thing clear: I hadn't laid a hand on Bennett Rousseau, not even a chaste, platonic one, since around the time the two of us cling-wrapped all those pictures of naked men to Isaac's car…. Ah, Good times…Clearly, though, I was just caught up in all the excitement of the prank, and I needed a way to release all the excess energy, and Bennett was there…that's the only reason we did anything. I mean, that's the only reason we did anything that particular day. Who knows why we did anything all those other times?
But even though that particular sexual encounter didn't, like, mean anything, things still got pretty awkward with Bennett when Daniel and I got together. Bennett and I began to comfortably avoid each other. A long time went by where we just didn't make eye contact. Neither one of us had any complaints. It just worked, you know? And Bennett was always going to be a sort spot with Dan and I…I mean, if it weren't for my thing with Bennett, Daniel and I could've been together as early as October. We didn't talk about it, but I know it's something we both thought about sometimes.
This all being said, it was kind of weird to see him again. Not that I didn't see him every day in English class. But Mr. Harris had sort of let us get away with not making eye contact. I mean, after we both admitted in prose that we'd had a wild, illicit affair he began to humor us. It was weird to be in a setting and situation where there was no buffer, and we were actually expected to make conversation.
"Nice smock…" I said as I approached him. The building was sort of dead because it was still early for all the adults who had real jobs to come work out, so there wasn't anyone else in line.
Bennett looked down and his hideous beige uniform and sighed acceptingly. Then, he looked back up at me, clearly at a loss for words. I bet it was weird for him too. "Hi, Nolan," He said calmly.
"You have a job now?"
"College is expensive."
"I'm aware." I told him. "I'm sure I don't even want to know what one of those Ivy League places would cost me."
"Oh…Well…" Bennett stammered. "I ended up turning down Dartmouth."
"Oh…?" That legitimately surprised me, but I realized it shouldn't have, since he basically only applied so his little girlfriend's parents would love him even more than they already had.
"Yeah, I think I'm going to take this scholarship that Northwestern is offering me, you know…I kind of wanted to stay in the area."
"You know, gay marriage is legal in New York now," I reminded him, just because that was my only concern for him.
"Dartmouth is in New Hampshire…"
He was right. "Oh. Yeah…but I thought there were a couple states over there…" I shrugged, because it didn't really matter. I was just making conversation because I refused to allow any situation I got myself into to be awkward.
"What about you…are you still looking at ISU?"
Oh how sweet of him to remember. "Yeah….well, I got in…"
"…You and Daniel…?" He asked, rather than congratulating me. He was forcing a smile, because he actually wanted me to believe that he thought it was cute that we were going away together.
"Yeah," It was just messed up, though, for him to talk about Daniel, because I remembered how he acted when Daniel and I got together. I remembered the look on his face when I ended things. "Me and Daniel…together…"
"You're not, like…rooming together…are you?"
Wow, Bennett. You win all kinds of awards. "No," I said simply. "Look, can I have a berry blaster. No raspberries, though. They make it too gay."
"Too gay…?" He raised his eyebrows, chuckling. I wasn't laughing though. Raspberries were horrid. They stole away my dignity and I would not stand for it. "Okay, Nolan. Sit down. I'll bring it to you."
It only took a few minutes, since I was his only customer. When he carried the cup over to me, I realized I hadn't paid. Before I could say anything (or run out before he realized his fluke), he said. "It's on the house."
I suddenly felt like a whore. "Why…?" I asked tonelessly.
"The raspberries were the only ingredient of value." He said playfully. "We don't even loose a profit this way."
Whatever… "I'm sure you don't," I slurped boredly, waiting for him to retreat back to the counter, but instead he sat down across from me.
"Why are you here, Nolan?" He asked hesitantly. "You don't work out…"
"It's been awhile..." I sighed. "I could've started working out since we last spoke. It's plausible."
"Yeah, okay," He clearly did not believe me, so I tried again.
"I finally discovered the homo-erotic subtext of the Village People song and decided that the YMCA was a fun place to come."
"Shut up," Bennett mumbled, glancing over his shoulder quickly to make sure he wasn't missing any business at the counter. "You noticed that subtext ages ago. We even talked about it once when we were…you know…talking…"
"Yeah," I sipped again. God, he was awkward. "Well, if you must know. I'm on a date…"
"If you must know…" I repeated dramatically. "I'm on a mission…"
"Elaborate. Please." He looked like he was actually intrigued, which killed me.
"I didn't know you worked here, so you can just get over yourself. I didn't come to see you, you know?" His face didn't change, but it wanted to, I could tell. "I came with Jeremy."
"Ah…" He leaned back in his seat, his arm still resting on the table.
"It's for Vanessa. I won't get into it."
"Another one of the unstoppable duo's schemes, I'm sure."
"Right…" I realized I really didn't want to sit there with him anymore. I realized that now that all his questions had been answered there would be nothing left to talk about. And also, it was mortifying that he thought that there was even the remotest possibility that I'd come down there just to, like, catch up or rekindle our friendship. I picked up my drink and stood up. "Well, thanks for the smoothie."
"Did you finish your paper yet for Harris's class?" He asked as I was walking away. It was probably an attempt to get me to stick around.
I shot him a sympathetic smile. "No, Bennett. Not yet…"
And then I left him sitting there alone.
I went up and sat on a bench outside the locker room. I waited around like a schmuck for thirty minutes, until Jeremy was ready to go. I was really starting to pump myself up. I was extremely determined. I knew that the time-frame where I could get anything helpful out of Jeremy now was limited to our ride back to my house.
As I climbed into his passenger seat, I decided to be as blunt as possible, because that's how I worked best. "So…You and Ness haven't screwed yet, eh?"
He remained unusually collected. "No. We haven't."
"I'm sorry. I feel you, man. I have the same problem with Dan…"
"Nolan. It may be hard for you to believe, but some guys actually remain pure by choice."
…Pure? My lips curled. This was just too perfect. "Oh. Do they now…?" Vanessa hadn't mentioned this. She hadn't mentioned that he was one of those. I was almost offended that she'd kept it from me, seeing how she claimed I was her best friend. Now I realized that my flirtatious efforts were pointless because even if he was gay, he would never do anything about it because he was one of those.
"Yes. It's a valid decision." He really thought he was superior to me due to his sexual repression. This wasn't like Brenna Laurent's abstinence pledge, which turned out to be a load of crap; a charade to please her parents. Jeremy was for real. "As you know, Ness and I aren't long-term…technically, we're not even dating."
"You sure spend a lot of time not screwing with other people."
"Will you stop using that word…?"
I was really glad I'd never spent much time with Jeremy. He was a pain in the ass.
"You spend a lot of time not copulating with other people…" I corrected myself.
He rolled his eyes. "We have a very complex friendship, Nolan. I'll give you that…I'll admit, there was a time where I thought she could be the one."
"You're eighteen…" I reminded him disgustedly. The expression "the one" was sickening.
"Exactly." He sighed. "I'm still confused."
"What…?" His nostrils flared. He looked over at me, and then remembered that he was driving and needed to keep his eyes on the road. "Not even kind of."
"Wow. That's a whole lot of denial you've got going on there…" I taunted.
"I'm catholic, do you realize that?"
Um…Relevance…? "So is Bennett Rousseau, technically, and he's still gay."
"No!" Jeremy was getting really defensive now. It was pretty damn amusing. "That's not even what I'm talking about anymore. Look, Nolan, this has been a crazy year. This is when we've actually had to start thinking about what we're doing with our lives, and I realized that I can only really see myself doing one thing…"
"…Chippendale's dancer…!" I guessed enthusiastically.
"I think I want to be a priest…" And then everything clicked. Oh my god. This was priceless. "…Just…don't tell Vanessa yet. I don't want to freak her out."
"A priest…?" I couldn't even react. I was not expecting that. "…people still do that?"
"I love my religion. I want to inspire other people to love it as much as I do."
I was grinning like a fool, surprised that I had kept myself from laughing hysterically. Fucking…religion…I couldn't even…
He was going on, "There's this seminary in Mundelein…I ran a 5K through it last year and I was absolutely blown away by how beautiful it was…I felt so connected to god…"
I really…couldn't even…
We were coming up to my house, and I was glad that I'd gotten the truth out of him. I loved how he thought he could trust me with such explosive information. Before he let me out of the car he said, "Maybe I shouldn't have told you this…"
I understood why he did. He needed an alibi for the homosexual accusations I was making. "It's cool," I flashed him a grin and flung open the door, leaping out onto the pavement.
"Remember," He shouted before I could slam it shut. "Not a word to Vanessa."
I nodded. Yeah right, Jeremy…yeah right.
"…the gym…?" Daniel's nostrils flared unattractively, like they do when he's being unnecessarily judgmental and womanish.
"Yes, Dan." I sighed matter-of-factly. "The gym…"
"…the gym…?" He asked again, more loudly. Why?
"You don't think it's reasonable for me to want to stay fit?"
"Jeremy wanted to work out. I wanted to work out." I glanced over my shoulder at Vanessa, who was clearly amused as she stirred cocoa powder into her coffee. I winked at her and we both chuckled. Daniel caught on.
"You two are sick," He told us both. "Ness, this is sick."
"I don't see the problem," Ness shrugged, coming over to sit with us. "I've been waiting months for my boys to bond. Now they have a common interest."
"This is Nolan we're talking about," Dan cried, as if I wasn't sitting right there. "He doesn't care about physical fitness. Not his own, anyway… All that appeals to him is the…flexing…and the sweat. Just think of what he's really looking at as he's spotting your boyfriend!"
Oh, he was just so smart. "For the love of…He's straight, Daniel," Vanessa was nodding in smug agreement as I spoke. "What do you think is gunna happen…?"
"Nothing," He huffed. "I don't think anything's going to happen."
"So…" Daniel's eyebrows arched as if the rest was obvious. "Jesus Christ, Nols, it's the principle of the thing."
…the fuck? Principle? "Principle…" I rolled my eyes and looked to Ness to see if she was catching this. She was. She was watching us intently. We thrilled her. We were better than cable.
"You know that I know that you don't really like working out. This is just so typical!"
I cackled. Maybe it was. "You're insane, Dan."
"And you insult me..." He mumbled. He suddenly got up from the table and went to dump his coffee in the sink.
"Hey!" I jumped up and followed him. "What are you doing? There are starving children in Zimbabwe!"
"If I gave starving children my leftover coffee they'd, like, die, Nolan." He put the empty mug in the basin and turned to look frankly at me.
I stood in front of him, putting on my best "love-me-cause-I'm-adorable" face, which obviously worked because suddenly he was trying not to smile and it wasn't working. My favorite thing to do was make him crack. He was kind of adorable when he cracked…when he looked actually happy for a change.
"I love you," I told him, crossing my arms and smirking knowingly. He rolled his eyes. "No. Seriously…I'm in love with you."
He grinned, almost bashfully. "Come here…" He said softly, stepping at me so we could kiss and such.
Vanessa clapped her hands slowly in the background. "Bravo, you two almost broke your own record for the shortest argument ever."
I held tightly onto Daniel so he couldn't go back to the table after we pulled our faces apart. "So, do you want to know or not?" I asked Vanessa.
She sighed. "Just tell me."
"Do you promise you won't confront him?"
Yeah. Whatever… "Your boyfriend…"
She interrupted. "He's not my boyfriend. Go on…"
"He's thinking about becoming a priest…"
She laughed out loud. "This would happen!" She exclaimed. "Wait…are you serious? People still do that?"
"That's what I asked. Apparently they do."
"I understand, like, back in the sixties…but why now? Gay dudes are allowed to come out now? They don't have to use extreme Catholicism as an excuse not to have sex with women."
"Give him a break, guys," Daniel finally pushed me away and went back to the table. "I really don't think Jeremy's gay."
"Your gaydar is god-awful, Daniel. You didn't think Bennett was gay. You haven't even realized that you're gay yet."
"Oh for the love of god," He rolled his eyes.
"So, he wants to devote his life to Jesus." Vanessa sighed. "So, what…? I think that's great. I just want him to be happy, and to be honest It's kind of perfect. I didn't want a commitment, I'm just glad he doesn't expect me to make one. I just wanted to make sure that he at least finds me attractive and, you know, at least struggles to control his impulses…"
"You're so weird, Ness…" Daniel sighed. "And Nolan; what I've gotten from this conversation is that you totally went to the gym to try to hit on him so you could prove your theory, so quit trying to play innocent." He pursed his lips and widened his eyes. He really thought he'd told me off.
"I was taking one for the team," I defended myself softly.
"Well, you're lucky I'm a reasonably understanding boyfriend…"
I walked up behind him and kissed the top of his head. Yeah, I was really lucky indeed.
Ness left before Daniel that night. It was the fist time in weeks. I had this face I gave her when I wanted to be alone with him. It was her cue to leave. And after the way we'd been bickering all evening, I thought it might be constructive for us to have some one-on-one time. See, I was actually quite good at the whole "relationship" thing. I know you thought I wouldn't be.
We went down to the basement and I sat on the couch, patting the cushion next to me so he knew to sit down. He sighed heavily as he came to me and lay on his back across my lap. I put my arms around him and said, "You've been stressed this week."
"I'm just glad it's over." He closed his eyes and crossed his arms. I pulled an awkward maneuver and pulled my legs out from under him so I could lie next to him. I propped myself up on one arm and looked down at him.
"Hey…" I tried. He could be kind of frigid when he wanted to be. Being alone with him required effort, but really, I didn't mind.
Daniel's eyes fluttered open and his cheeks flushed. He propped himself up on his elbows so his face was closer to mine. "Hey…" He placed one of his inhumanely soft palms on my cheek and stroked it with his thumb. He bit his lip, watching me nervously for a minute before he initiated the kiss. I had to admit, I loved how sweet and cautiously he kissed. That was just another thing he had over Bennett.
"I love you." I said seriously; dead seriously.
He swallowed. "Yeah, I love you too…"
He only ever said it back when we were alone, and it was almost like a painful confession when he did. I really think it thrilled Daniel to pretend like it was some sort of secret; not that he was with me, but that it was 100% voluntary and I wasn't, like, blackmailing him. It wasn't that he was embarrassed by me. I think secrecy turned him on. Whatever…To each his own…
And then, there were those little lapses in character, where Daniel would pull me close to him and kiss me harder than I'd been kissing him. Those moments were what I strived for. They were the best I was ever going to do with him, and I acknowledged it happily.