Chapter 11

A lazy groan escaped my lips as I looked over at my alarm clock and noticed that I had overslept by almost fifteen minutes this morning.

I knew I slapped that snooze button one too many times.

I didn't feel like rushing to get ready at the last minute. Not now. I was sooooo comfortable.

Taking a nice long stretch, my extended arm reached out to feel a cool spot on the mattress next to me...and I instantly felt the ache of Dustin's absence. How I longed to see that messy mop of blond hair, and that groggy morning smile. Or maybe he'd give me the golden opportunity to just watch him sleep peacefully at my side for a few moments before opening those bright blue eyes of his. Yeah...not having him there created a gentle misery in the center of my heart. And yet...

...All I could do was lay back and smile.

I didn't want to move.

I just wanted to think.

Even better...to remember. Remember what it was like to love someone so completely, and have the object of my desires snuggle up tight against me. His sweet smile beaming brightly enough to blind me if I stared at it for too long. I groaned a second time...more of a whimper, actually...as I thought about how amazing it would be to wake Dustin up with a single kiss. I can't believe that I missed him this much already.

I tried to move, but the blissful comfort wouldn't let go of me. No wonder I overslept. My whole body felt limp, from head to toe. Not in an 'exhausted' type of way, like that youngster had totally worn me out yesterday. Hehehe! No...this was different. I was just really really...relaxed. That's the word. 'Relaxed'. Almost floating above the sheets, in fact. A numb tingle surging through me, starting at my heart and flowing out to every last inch of me. I heard myself sigh out loud as thoughts of being able to, someday, roll over and kiss my sweetheart on the lips every morning when I wake flooded my consciousness. Maybe it was a silly dream, but it felt so real So natural. There was a time when the thought alone would have filled me with such shame that I'd mentally punish myself to the point of tears. But not now. The guilt simply wasn't there anymore. I was in love with someone who loved me back. And it was getting harder and harder to feel bad about that.

I didn't want to be late, as I was going to be opening the store, and I'm sure that Jack would be five to ten minutes late like he always was. He's even less of a morning person than I am. So I took one last stretch, and forced myself to leave the comfort of my bed and start getting ready for work.

I couldn't believe that I was still smiling. I smiled through breakfast, I smiled while brushing my teeth, I smiled in the shower. And it wasn't just a facial expression. It was an electric rush that I felt all over. If I wasn't careful I was going to start giggling like a madman in the bathroom mirror. I swear...if anyone could just bottle this feeling and sell it over the counter, they'd be the richest people on Earth.

I stepped out of the shower and reached for my towel. But I had to catch myself as I forgot to put down a new rug. That floor was extremely slippery without a rug. But, even then, as I held onto the sink to get my footing back, I couldn't help but to chuckle to myself. I just felt...so full of sunshine. You know? I was actually anxious to get to work. Just so I could stand close enough to Dustin to catch the aroma of his hair. The scent of warm honey. God...the things that boy does to me.

The drive to work seemed a bit shorter than normal today. Then again, I practically made the whole trip on autopilot. My mind was just preoccupied, I suppose. You can't imagine how my heart swelled to the point of nearly bursting open when I saw Dustin waiting for me by the shopping mall doors. I guess he wanted to be the first one to greet me. He was a total sweetheart in that way.

"Where have you been?" He asked, standing up from the bench and coming over to stand right next to me.

"I'm sorry. I overslept this morning. I just didn't want to get out of bed, that's all." I put my arm over Dustin's shoulder and gave him a tight squeeze as we began walking down the hall.

"We didn't get coffee and cookies today." He pouted. "You have to buy me a snack now before we open."

"Is that so?"

"Yep!" He grinned. "You made me think you were ditching me or somethin'. I totally would have faked sick and taken the bus right back over to your house to see what the deal was."

I gave him another hug with my arm, so happy to feel the warmth of his slender body against mine again. "Ahhh, so you were what I needed then? If you had come over, maybe you could have helped me get out of bed on time."

"Fuck that. I would have gotten in with you." He smiled.

I looked him in the eye and watched as his face turned pink with a youthful blush. I said, "You wouldn't have gotten any complaints out of me. That's for sure."

It never really took much to flatter him. The simplest of compliments from me would sometimes overwhelm him to the point of speechlessness. He tried to hide his nervous excitement from me in an attempt to keep his 'cool', but his body was vibrating with such a boyish tremble that it let me know just how unbelievably happy he really was. It felt good to know that I can have the same effect on him that he has on me. We tossed that emotional ball of joy back and forth between us until we could hardly stand it any longer. And as our eyes connected briefly for a second time...I realized just how badly I wanted to kiss those beautiful lips at that golden moment...and have us, once again, tangle up together in a naked embrace.

A tiny little whine could be heard in the back of Dustin's throat, and he pressed his face into my chest as he hugged me around the middle. I felt his pace slowing down, and I asked him what was up. "Ummm...hehehe...I think I have to 'calm down' before I go to work."

"Calm down?" Dustin silently signaled for me to look down, and he was already sporting a rather obvious bulge in the front of his pants. He avoided my eyes by pressing his face back into my chest again and giggling softly with embarrassment. "You might want to sneak off to the bathroom and take care of that, buddy." I teased.

"Will you come with me?" I didn't expect him to take me seriously.

"Hehehe, I'm thinking NO!"

"C'mon! The mall's not even really open yet. Nobody will come in. Come on. Come with me." He was actually tugging lightly at my wrist. What the...?

"Dustin! What the heck are you doing? Hehehe, no. No. This is not happening. Get it out of your head."

"Aww, you're no fun. Big fraidy cat. Come on, I dare ya." He said.

"Yeah, you know, that trick doesn't really work outside of high school. So you're out of luck." I told him. Dustin stuck out his bottom lip for a moment, but couldn't keep himself from snickering for more than a few seconds. Besides, arguing with me seemed to distract him long enough to take care of half his 'problem'.

Of course, if it were up to me, I would have gladly gotten down on my knees and taken care of the other half right then and there. Hehehe! But...to be honest, as sexually attracted as I was to Dustin in more ways than I could count...I felt practically on the edge of orgasm just staring at the beauty of his smile. I could never absorb enough of him. I caught myself staring with a sense of wonder and fascination, almost expecting this total dream of a boy to suddenly evaporate into thin air right before my very eyes.

Nobody is that insanely beautiful from genetics alone. It just doesn't seem fair.

"I've gotta lift the gate and open the store." I said, but Dustin didn't wait to be away from me. He clung to my arm for another second or two.

"Wait...hehehe, it's almost gone. I promise. Hold on...it's going down..." He said, but I think he was a bit too excited to will it to go quite that fast. In fact, I think the physical contact needed to hold me still was making it worse. But it was BEYOND cute to watch him try. Hahaha, if he concentrated any harder, I was sure that random objects around us were going to magically start levitating off of the floor. "Just...a few more seconds. Wait." I raised an eyebrow as I saw Dustin practically wiggling his hips in an attempt to soften up on command. The look on his face made me suddenly burst into a fit of giggles. "Noooo! Hehehe! Eric, don't make me laugh!" I swear, he was like watching a puppy chase his tail on a slippery patch of ice sometimes. He's just too adorable.

I was able to lean in to give him a quick, but platonic-looking, kiss on the side of his head. I slipped my arm out of his grasp and told him to find something to lean against, and that I'd see him later on. His blush deepened for a moment, but he nodded bashfully and let me go.

Yeah...that's my baby. The prettiest boy alive.

The store phone was ringing before I even got the big gate open all the way, and as I suspected, Jack told me that he was running behind and would be there in about ten minutes. Go figure. I swear, I need a percentage of his paycheck after the number of times that he's pulled this on me. No biggie though. I was too infatuated with life's many blessings to entertain any minor frustrations today. I managed to catch a smile and a wink from Dustin as he finally got his situation in order and bent down to walk under the half lowered gate across the hall. He was right, you know? He really does have a nice butt. Then again, it's not like I didn't know that before I got a chance to see it in the flesh, so to speak. It was just a little something that I paid some extra attention to when he pointed it in my direction.

I started the timer on the safe to get it open and set up the registers. I turned on all the lights, got my morning paperwork together, and started the promo video running on all the TV screens. The place was pretty clean from the night before, so it was a pretty easy opening. But...every time I looked across the hall, I'd catch Dustin looking back at me. A few times he pretended not to be, but there were a few times when he just didn't care. He sighed to himself and would almost start bumping into things right in front of him.

It was so cute that I found myself getting a bit of an excited bulge myself. Not stimulated from anything even remotely sexual. It was just being close to him. Just thinking about him. This is really getting bad for me, isn't? I mean...I already had it bad, but I kind of figured that this puppy love sensation would have hit some sort of 'ceiling' at this point. I can understand Dustin being all wrapped up in his first big love affair...but why am I feeling like this? It's not like I've never had a crush before. It's not like I've never been in love. I mean...right?

It was a question that I was forced to contemplate for another minute or two. Because I don't think I've ever felt this way about anybody before. Maybe I haven't really been in love before. Not like this. Hmmm...what a concept. Dustin just might be my first...

"Sorry I'm late, dude. Phillip and I nearly pulled an all nighter last night. Hehehe! I barely got any sleep at all." Jack said as he hurried past me on the way to the time clock.

"No worries." I said. I think Jack kept talking, rambling on about how awesome his secret boyfriend was and what a hot time they had together...but I didn't really focus hard enough to absorb any of it. I'm sure it was just more of the same. No...instead, my longing gaze traveled back across that empty hallway. Craving another extended peek at my favorite boy.

He looked so slender from the side. His eyes glowing a sweet crystal blue. That soft, sunshine tinted wave of blond hair, sweeping back and forth in front of his unblemished face with every step he took in any direction. And lips...candied, rose colored, lips...that demanded your full attention, even when you tried to look away. That boy was a miracle in the flesh. And I couldn't wait to embrace that magic once again.

The stores opened not long after, and the mall began to slowly come to life with a swelling crowd of hungry consumers. As usual, Dustin did his job in short bursts, but was always trying to sneak over to our store to say hello to me. And when his manager put a stop to that, he would call on the phone. Hehehe! Right across the hall, and he calls me on the phone just to hear my voice. Pretending to be talking to a customer, of course. I really didn't want him to be to obvious or to get him into any trouble...but every time I told him to get back to work and threatened to hang up the phone....he'd get the sweetest little whine in his voice. Not a sad or hurt expression, really...just a bit disappointed. The kind of sound that little kids make at school when the bell rings and they have to come in from recess. It was utterly adorable. But if I didn't cut things short, I knew that he would sit right there at the front desk and talk to me until the end of his shift. And you want to know something? I don't think I'd mind one bit if I thought we could get away with it.

As the next hour passed by me...I found myself becoming even more lost in a dreamy haze of my own making. As though my affection had peeled back a few new layers, reaching the very center of me. I became increasingly smitten with that boy with every tick of the clock...and it was hard not to just lean over on the counter and sigh blissfully to myself as I watched his beauty gracefully glide from one end of that store to the other. He had a humble smile that could charm every customer that came into that store. It truly crossed all lines. I'm willing to bet that people bought more music from him than any other employee in that place. Not a single one of them left without a grin of their own. And the funny thing is..I don't think Dustin really had to try hard to pull it off. It was just a natural part of who he was. Open, and talkative, and sweet beyond measure. Who wouldn't fall in love at first glance?

There were times...when I allowed a few naughty thoughts to pass through my mind too. It was pretty automatic, to be honest. Normally, I would feel really bad about even thinking about that stuff...but I found it harder to bat the images away than just letting them come as they may. And that made for a few truly arousing moments in my morning.

No matter what my common sense told me, no matter what protests I made to protect myself and him from my evil clutches...nothing ever detoured him from getting to me in the most intimate way. Hehehe! The moment he knew that I wanted him too, he worked hard to find my every weakness, push my every button, worm his way around my every excuse. He was an expert when it came to manipulating me. And I LOVED it! I don't think I've ever had so much fun. Dustin was so...'open'. He told me what was on his mind all day, every day. If he wanted a hug, he reached out for a hug. If he wanted a blowjob, he asked for a blowjob...even if he giggled and blushed while doing so. He took a moment to test the waters to see how I'd react every once in a while...but once he saw that it was safe...he gave himself to me. One hundred percent. No restrictions. And at first, that level of complete and unwavering trust frightened me. Again...his feelings could be so fragile sometimes. But now? I think that may just be the most endearing and charming part of him. He opened up to you and inspired you to do the same. It was the very definition of a true 'connection'. Not many people can pull that off. But Dustin did it with all the grace and beauty of a sunlit swan, gently floating on the glassy surface of a placid lake. GAWD, how I loved that boy....

Jack and I were both pricing some new product at the register to put up on the shelves when our phone rang again. Naturally...it was Dustin.

I wish I had answered it first, but Jack beat me to it. He instantly rolled his eyes and put Dustin on hold. "It's the 'jailbait kid' on line one for you....again." He said with a huff.

Feeling energized with the anticipation of hearing his young voice again, I hurried over to grab the phone from him. "Hey, what's up?" I asked.

"Are you going to lunch now, or what? I'm hungry. Let's go to the food court." He said.

"Hehehe, I can't. I'm working on something right now. Give me about ten minutes?"

"Ten minutes? C'mon! I'm getting all weird and cranky over here." He grinned.

"Just ten minutes, maybe less. Then I'll come get you. Ok?" I heard Dustin give me a playful grunt, but I told him, "Hey...I'd be working on this right NOW, but you're gonna have to get off the phone for me to do that. K?"

I heard him sigh gently, and with a smile, he said, "Ok. But...like...hurry up. I miss you."

I melted inside. He really knew how to make me feel special, you know?

"You too..." I said softly, hoping that Jack wasn't listening. And I hung up to go back to work. I definitely put myself into second gear, pricing stuff as fast as I could. I wanted this DONE! And now! I've got an angel waiting on me.

"What do you two even talk about?" Jack asked me out of the blue.

I shrugged my shoulders. "I don't know. A little bit of this. A little bit of that. Why?" I didn't really think much of the question at first...but he seemed to think that was somewhat out of whack. That I could talk to someone younger than me and be interested in what he had to say. Why was that so strange?

Jack didn't seem to pursue the issue much, but his silence bothered me almost as much as his comments did. Am I supposed to feel bad? Just because Dustin is beautiful to me? Just because I notice an attraction and a sex appeal where Jack doesn't? It's not like I asked him to watch.

Instead of letting it bug me too much, I just priced and put sensor tags on the product as fast as I could. I wanted to get out of there. I needed freedom. It made me laugh to see Dustin across the hall, rubbing his flat tummy and giving me a pouty face while he reminded me of how hungry he was. Hehehe, he's so CUTE sometimes!

Jack saw me giggling to myself and asked me what was so funny. "Nah, it's nothing. Hehehe! Say, can you put this stuff away on your own? I'm gonna take my lunch break." Another roll of the eyes from Jack.

"Fine. Whatever. Just go before blondie over there gets all sloppy in the pants over you. Geez!" What? Was he jealous? Why does he care? I sit here and listen to him tell me how hot and how awesome his 'Phillip' is, day in and day out....why can't he be happy for Dustin and I hanging out for lunch whenever we get the chance? He can be so freakin' selfish sometimes.

I punched out for lunch, and Dustin was practically prancing at my side as we headed over to the food court to grab some grub to sustain us for the rest of the day. He was talking a mile a minute, occasionally stopping to ask, "I'm not talking too much, am I?" Hehehe, I doubted my answer would have any effect on him either way, but he always made sure that he was polite enough to ask. And honestly, I could listen to him talk al day. His voice was music to my ears. Music to dance to.

We only separated long enough to get our lunch from two different places. When we sat down together, Dustin had twice as much food on his tray as I did. That boy could inhale food like nobody's business. How the hell did he keep himself so incredibly thin? He must have the metabolism of a jungle bred cheetah. If I even tried to eat that much food in one lunch period, I wouldn't be able to do anything other than curl up in a corner and go to sleep. That's just crazy!

"OOH!!! You know what???" He said in a sudden outburst. "I just thought of something for us to do this weekend when I come over!"

Giggling, I said, "You're coming over? I had no idea."

"Of course I am. Don't be weird." He said, eating a forkful of chili cheese fries. "Dude...you know what we have to see? We TOTALLY have to watch 'Sharknado'! It'll be awesome!"

"What the hell is a sharknado?" I asked.

"Dude! It's like...this big tornado hits the ocean, and it pulls up a bunch of SHARKS, right? And it goes over land and starts throwing sharks everywhere! And the sharks are eating people up and stuff and it'll be GREAT!!!"

What the...??? I said, "That...sounds absolutely AWFUL! Hehehe!"

Dustin grinned. "It's supposed to be awful! We can watch it, and laugh and stuff, and you can make some more of those yummy chicken fajitas and stuff! I'll buy some soda or something! K?"

I said, "You're really serious about this, aren't you?" And Dustin giggled with a nod.

"Do have Netflix? If not, I can bootleg it or something!"

"Alright. Alright. I'll look it up tonight. Ok?" I said. And that seemed to make him relax a bit. "Sharknado...."

"YEP! Sharknado! It's gonna be so cool!" Dustin said, and I sat and watched in awe as he actually consumed every last crumb of food on that overstuffed tray without so much as a burp or a moment of pause to use a napkin. Hehehe! It truly was a sight to see.

When we finished and started walking back to work, Dustin kept leaning over to lightly bump my shoulder with his own. And eventually, he just gave into his desires and gave me a tight hug around my waist. Hehehe, he had the biggest smile on his face as he smashed his face into my chest. I had to hug him back just to keep my balance. And by the time we had to part ways, I nearly had to pry his arms off of me. It was like removing a fighting octopus for crying out loud.

"So....this weekend, right?" Dustin reminded me.

"This weekend. You got it."

"You promise?"

"Cross my heart. K?" I said, and Dustin gave me a bashful wave before hurrying back across the hall again. What a sweetheart. Honestly...my whole day becomes one long swoon whenever he's around.

When I walked back in to the store, Jack was giving me the oddest look.

What the heck was that about?

I walked to the back and punched in, but I wasn't too eager to go back to the register. I didn't want to have to answer any stupid questions. I didn't want to have to pretend that he wasn't staring at me with that...that LOOK! I was happy just a few seconds ago. Why can't he just...accept that and leave it alone? I can't believe that I'm making somebody else make me feel guilty for being a part of something so special. I shouldn't. It shouldn't matter at all.

But what can I say? Society has 'trained' me well. I can't just turn it off. The weight of suspicion is just too heavy for me to carry alone.

With a deep breath, I walked back out to the register and just hoped that Jack would 'tag out' and go to lunch himself the second he saw the opportunity to get away.

No such luck.

I hadn't even gotten behind the counter all the way before he started feeling around with that inquisitive tone of voice of his. "Sooooo...it looks like you and Dustin had 'fun' at lunch."

I turned my back to him, busying myself with a bit of cleaning to avoid his accusing eyes. "Yeah. It was a good time." I left it at that.

Jack didn't.

"Where'd you guys go?" He asked.

"Just the food court. Nowhere special. I went to that little Italian place. It's pretty good."

Jack stopped with the questions for a few seconds, but soon asked, "You've gotten to be awfully friendly, you two. Especially over the last couple of weeks."

"Uh huh..." I said. "Say, did you get the special order calls done? We've gotta have them done by three o'clock."

"Don't worry. I called them all in. It's taken care of." Jack assured me. But again...after a brief pause..."So, what have you two got going on this weekend?"

"Huh? Who?"

"When you guys were...um...snuggling out there in the hallway...he said something about this weekend. I was just curious. What's the big event?"

Grrrr, this is very quickly getting on my nerves. But I tried to answer as nonchalantly as possible. "No big event, really. Just a movie. That's all."

"Really? What movie?"

I couldn't help but snicker a bit to myself as I thought about Dustin's explanation of it. "Heh...something about a tornado full of killer sharks." Jack had the funniest look on his face. "Hahaha! I'm serious! That's what he told me. He wants to see it. Hehehe, what can I do?" I got all giggly just thinking about it. It was almost enough for me to relax and treat this situation as...you know...normal.

That didn't last...

"Why, on God's green Earth, would that put a movie like that up at the mal Cineplex?" Jack chuckled.

I made the mistake of telling him, "Oh no, we're not watching it here at the mall. I'm just going to grab it on Netflix. There's no way that movie would get the chance to play around the corner. Hehehe!"

There was a moment of complete silence.

That's when Jack asked, "Netflix?" Another brief pause. "Like...at your house?"

I said, "Yeah. Why?"

"You're having him over to your house this weekend?"

You know what? I was rapidly reaching a point where I just felt offended by this whole subtle interrogation. I mean, call it a moment of attitude...but I suddenly felt the need to speak up. For me, for Dustin, for the lovely times we spent together. "Yeah. He's coming over to my house this weekend. So what? What about it?"

Jack smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Which, for some reason, seemed even more insulting. He says, "Nothing. I just...I think it's a little strange, you know? I mean you've got to be careful about stuff like that."

"Stuff like what? What's strange about it? Tell me."

I stared Jack in the eye this time, and folded my arms while I waited for him to say something offensive enough to allow me to totally give him both barrels right here in the store.

He shrugged again. He's like, "People talk. That's all I'm saying. You might want to chill out with stuff like that."

"Why?" I asked. "What are we doing that's so wrong? We're just getting together to watch a movie. I don't understand what people have to 'talk' about."

"Look, you said that you guys are just friends. And I totally believe you. But not everybody feels that way." He said. "I mean...you're gay. You live by yourself. And you're having a cute underage kid over to your house without any supervision whatsoever...it looks weird."

"Why is that weird??? If I had YOU over to my house, nobody would think it was weird. Why is this so much different?"

"I'm not a little boy. That's the difference."

"WHAT 'little boy'???" I said a bit louder. "What is he? A FIVE year old??? Dustin and I have fun together. We talk, we laugh, we enjoy each other's company. Why does everybody have to turn that into some bullshit conspiracy?"

"I'm NOT!" Jack said. "Look, you know what? Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut on this one and just drop it."

I was quick to reply, "Yeah, why don't you do that?"

"Geez...you're awfully touchy today..." He said, sucking his teeth at me. I mean, who CARES??? It's not like I had Dustin tied up in my basement and forcing him to blow me against his will. What makes people think that everybody under the age of 18 is some kind of helpless idiot? I'm willing to bet that Dustin has more intellect and insight than Jack could ever HOPE to have. More charisma, more social skills, and a better sense of humor. I mean...is he jealous? Is that it? What's his problem? Then he has the nerve to say, "You'd just better be careful with you guys talking and giggling and hugging in the halls around here. I'm just telling you...it's not a good look. For either one of you, but for you especially. I've seen the way he looks at you, and all it takes one mistake and the rest of your life is over and done with."

"I thought we were dropping this." I said with growing frustration.

"Fine. Whatever."

I shouldn't have said it, but I made sure to add, "Maybe you're right. Maybe I shouldn't spend time with someone that I like and care about. Maybe our connection should be seen as something dirty and illegal and wrong, just to please other people's sense of paranoia and fear. In fact, maybe I should stop talking to him altogether. Maybe I should take the moral high ground and find myself a nice married man to FUCK me on the weekends and make me late for work like you did. How's that?"

"WHOAH! Hey!" Jack said with a gasp. "RUDE!" Ok...maybe I flew off the handle a little bit there, but I just...dammit...I wanted to make some kind of a POINT with him! He doesn't know a damn thing about us. Either one of us. To even have him suggest that I was some how molesting Dustin or taking advantage is bullshit. And the sad thing is...he'll never know it. Because society's laws are based on 'majority rules'. They always have been. Even if the so-called majority wants to burn witches at the stake, enslave African Americans, or push Jews into gas chambers and ovens. Just follow the herd and keep your mouth shut.

Follow the herd...and keep your mouth shut.

I walked out from behind the counter, and thankfully, Jack didn't ask any more questions for the rest of my shift. In fact, he barely talked to me at all. And I felt bad for jumping on him like I did, but...I don't know...I just wanted to take a stand this time. I wanted to be given the world's permission to love and be loved just like everybody else. Without being harassed about it. And if I can just get Jack to back off and leave Dustin and me enough space to truly experience our first true love together...then maybe my little outburst was worth it.

Maybe...for once...it has done some good.