If you haven't read part 16, do so here. Or you can start from the beginning.It is Brandon, whether wittingly or unwittingly, who pushes my life from strained static and dooms me to climax and release. We have been spending my work hour together for months now; I am sure that the only reason that the head librarian resists interrupting is because she pities me. With Brandon I have a cheerful enough disposition to be grateful for my obvious social awkwardness.
I am laughing under my breath and shushing Brandon as he follows me around the library, reading aloud passages from an abhorrently bad romance novel. It's the kind whose covers feature bared chests, spilling cleavage, and embossed titles such as, "The Noble Bandit," or "His Secret Baby." He's supposed to be reading from the book Mr. Hale picked out, L'Étranger, but was distracted by the paperbacks I re-shelved earlier. Brandon is torturing me with a poorly written paragraph about itchy palms, perky breasts, and instant erections. To shut him up I hiss, "I am convinced that you like this stuff."
His brown eyes snap from the page to meet mine, mock horror written on his face. "Take it back!" he orders, glancing around to be sure that we are not disturbing library patrons. "I do not like this shit!" He shakes the book at me for effect.
I give him the fisheye, something I've perfected in his presence. "You could torment me with passages of other, more boring books. You're just waiting for someone to come along and rip your bodice."
In response Brandon's eyebrows furrow, his lips purse, and his eyes widen in mock anger. I muffle my response to this moue, which in turn causes me to snort, which causes Brandon to laugh and hit me with his awful book as an elderly gentleman glares at us from the periodicals.
Brandon holds an edifying finger in the air. "I had thought," he informs me primly, "that you would be my bodice-ripper."
Oh, what I want that statement to mean. He manages to catch me off-guard yet again, and I return my attention to shelving books.
"Sure," I say, glib. "If you're into that sort of thing."
"Tucker," Brandon closes his hand around my upper arm, suddenly serious. I force myself not to glance away from his open, earnest face. "You don't owe me anything, but if you're never going to leave him, please just tell me."
I drop the book I was holding and fumble for it, trying to find the right words. For what, indeed, am I waiting? The Tree of Knowledge? A lightning bolt? For Mr. Hale to tell me to get out and take my loincloths with me?
Seeing my discomfort, Brandon adds quickly, "I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll never just stop being your friend. I didn't mean for it to sound like an ultimatum or anything, but—" he cuts himself off and rubs his head. I love how he does that, as though with enough stimulation to his scalp, the right words will flow like water from his lips.
"I'm going to leave him," I tell the floor firmly. I'm going to leave him, and soon. For myself, not just for Brandon.
My only friend lets out a sigh, which to my burning ears sounds like relief, as though he was afraid I would tell him otherwise.
"I won't ask you when you'll do it," he says in a low voice as I continue to work without another glimpse in his direction. "The semester's over at the end of the month, which is awesome, but all my roommates are moving home for the summer. The exchange student who took Derek's place was only here for the semester, so I'll still have an extra room."
After a brief pause Brandon adds, "I talked to the librarian today, not to overstep my bounds, or anything, but she mentioned needing full-time help for the summer." He shifts, shakes his head, and groans. "Okay, so it really was overstepping my bounds, sorry."
He rubs his hair again and looks at the floor even as I finally raise my eyes to his. I have no clue how to respond to such genuine caring. I suppose that in my subconscious I was afraid that Brandon was going to give one of those prosaic, "It's him or me" speeches. I have never had to make that decision before, and am unsure whether I know how.
"I don't want you to feel burdened," I whisper. My heart is pounding in my ears.
Brandon laughs, and it is something between genuine amusement and sarcasm. "Tucker, if anyone can survive on his own, it's you. I don't want you to think that I'm trying to save you or anything; you can do that all by yourself. It's just, well, if you change your mind, I'm the first in line to—" he cuts himself off, then laughs. "Oh my god, that's a song by ABBA. I'm an ass. I'm trying to say that I'll be here as long as you need, however long it takes." Brandon pauses, rolls his eyes upward in thought, then adds, "And then some. After you're...Oh, fuck me sideways; I have no idea what I'm trying to say."
I know what he's trying to say. Something warm swells from my belly outwards, filling my legs and toes and fingers and the top of my head. Stop it, Tucker, I think, exuberant in spite of myself. You're grinning like an idiot, and you're staring at a book on cellular degeneration.
"What?" Brandon asks, smiling.
What, indeed, is it about him that makes me so fulfilled? Recklessly, I grab his hand and pull him down the aisle, his book bag banging against his thigh. We run through the back door, and turn us both until he is pressed against the brick wall in the alleyway. His eyes are wide, but sparkling as I grin at him, pressed against him so close that I can see myself reflected in his pupils.
I don't think when my lips meet his, sweetly, tantalizing, but I revel in the soft sound he makes in his throat. The first kiss is brief, and when I raise my head there's a cautious smile on his face.
"Tucker," Brandon asks, half chuckling, "Are you drunk again?"
"Not at all," I reply, feeling light. "Is that a problem?"
I don't think he realizes that he's biting his lip when he shakes his head almost shyly, and I lean in for another kiss. When I pin his hands above his head he exhales, something between a laugh and a plea, and I slant my mouth over his and delve to find his tongue with mine. I feel bigger than my physical body as I crush myself against him, knowing that I am arousing him, surprising him, teasing him, and shocking us both. There's a kind joyous agony in this embrace. Brandon presses himself against me, yielding and demanding at the same time, our breath mingling in the cool spring breeze that does nothing to chill the heat of our bodies.
I slip one hand around Brandon's back and pull him closer to me, pushing my thigh between his, kissing him urgently. His lips, his tongue, his touch are sending pulses to my groin; I can feel that he is as hard as I am. Brandon's chest is firm against my own, all youth and vitality embodied. He shudders and moans when I roll my hips against him lightly, and throws his head back. He only misses cracking his head against the wall because I release his hands to catch it, scraping my knuckles.
"Goddamn it, Tucker," he pants, and I steal a kiss from his open mouth, pilfering another taste. "I don't know whether to hit you or fuck you."
It sends a charge through me, knowing that I have wound him so tightly. I barely know what I want either, save for that I could die happy, savoring him here in the back alley of the pubic library.
Brandon grabs my shoulders and pushes me away from him, holding me at arm's length. "What the fuck has gotten into you, man?"
My ears are ringing. I shake my head. "I don't know."
It's a lie. I know exactly what has gotten into me, what has crept up on me since I forgot my money in the limousine, what exploded and devoured me when Brandon told me everything but what he meant. I think that he might know, too.
We stare at each other for a moment, my head pounding and my loins heavy and my heart aching for what we cannot yet have.
"I'm going to have a hard-on all day, because of you," he says seriously. "And I'm going to feel like an idiot after I jack off tonight, knowing that you're fucking some other guy."
I can't believe the words that come out of my mouth. "I don't care."
Brandon's eyes widen almost angrily then he bursts out laughing. "Oh my fucking god. Tucker Galen Jones. You are a crazy motherfucker."
I grin because he is clearly more shocked than he is upset, because he still likes me, and because I am fatuously in love with him. "I can help you out," I offer, emboldened. My exhalations tremble.
He groans enticingly, but pushes me further away from him. "There's no way I'm going to let you get me off in an alley while you're supposed to be working, idiot."
I shrug and try to frown, but my lips won't close over my teeth for all my efforts. "You realize that this is completely out of my character," I remind us both, feeling the need for reality to aid in detumescence, before I return to shelving books. "As soon as you leave I'll be a floor mat again."
Brandon stands so that we're eye-to-eye, brown to green, and curves his fingers around my neck. "I don't think so," he says thoughtfully. He leans in, and I close my eyes to feel his lips brush mine.
He steps back and readjusts his book bag so that it is sitting over his crotch, and I laugh. Brandon narrows his eyes and shakes his head.
"You're giddy as shit," he informs me. "I'd swear you're high."
I might be. "When is the exchange student moving out?" I deliberately inquire.
Brandon pauses; I think the first question off his tongue might have been why? otherwise. "His flight home is on Monday, the twenty-eight. I'm going to go to the airport with him that morning at nine-thirty.
I nod, thinking. "Will you be around on Tuesday?"
Brandon's hopeful, joyous grin flashes before he tries to smother it with nonchalance. "Yeah, should be in the afternoon. I have a final paper due, but I just drop that by the office."
"I'll stop by."