So– if I want this to come out in Paperback, I need to finish the road trip stories by June. Who thinks I can get’er done?
These are part of the continuation stories from Regret Me Not, now available on amazon!
They stopped at an outlet store two days after North Carolina. Pierce said that it was getting cold enough that they both deserved something cozy after dealing with Hal’s parents, especially as they navigated up north where winter got fucking real.
“Will it help us deal with the frostbite of visiting my parents?” Hal asked dryly as they both tried on thick coats.
Pierce wrapped a bright fleece scarf around Hal’s neck and winked. “You’ll have to check my toes tonight to make sure.”
“Your toes? Is that a spot I’ve been neglecting?” Oooh… interesting. Hal had never known a guy with sensitive feet.
Pierce thought about it. “Not that I know of.” A dark red crescent formed at each high cheekbone. “I, uh, do like it when you massage my feet and legs though.”
Hal did a little happy dance in the store. “And not just in the, ‘Oh, thank you Mr. Professional I appreciate being pain free’ way, right?”
Pierce snorted and turned toward a row of hats, grabbing a bright orange and purple stocking hat to go with the yellow scarf. “Uh, no. Not in that particular way.”
Hal looked at the accessories with raised eyebrows. “Are you trying to tell me I’m gay?”
And those dark red crescents spread all over Pierce’s face and neck. “I think we’ve already established you like men,” he said primly. “I was just trying to tell you that you look good in bright colors. And…” Hal could practically feel the heat radiating from his body through the thick wool coat he was trying on. “And I like looking at you in them.”
Pierce’s flush seemed to be trying to spread to Hal. “Yeah?” he asked, suddenly shy. Would compliments like this ever stop turning his key? “Looking at me in them?”
“Yeah.” Pierce nodded, teeth sinking into his lower lip. “Looking at you in them.”
“Would you, perhaps, want to look at me out of them?” Hal prompted.
Pierce looked around the public dressing room–deserted in the week after New Years Day–and shook his head. Not surprising he wouldn’t be in for public sex–there was a core of prim conservatism in Pierce. Not the ugly kind that disparaged or shamed, but the quaint kind that kept their relationship personal and private. “Here?”
Hal had to kiss him. “Later,” he whispered, taking Pierce’s mouth gently.
Pierce gasped and Hal had to thrust his tongue in, tasting that shyness, that want. Pierce held himself a little aloof–in public, not submitting–but Hal could feel the conflict, the urge to give in, to go for the kiss like it was a world event.
Hal raised his hand to cup Pierce’s cheek and the tag dangling from his coat flapped a little with the movement. Pierce took a deep breath and stepped back. “Later,” he promised.
Augh! Hal was erect and aching in his jeans. In college, he and his ex boyfriend would already be giving blowies in the corner, and not regret getting kicked out of the store. But Pierce, blushing, shedding the coat into the mesh bag, fumbling for the plain blue scarf he’d picked out to go with it–Pierce would be mortified.
Hal wouldn’t change their banter, their playful conversation, their optimism about the future–any of it–for a public blowjob. He may be young, but he wasn’t stupid. Pierce was worth so much more.
“Not the blue one,” he said, voice rough.
Pierce was startled into looking up. “No?”
“It’s plain. The light blue one with the red pattern on it. See? Not plain. Not nipple-piercing yellow, but not plain.”
Oh, that shy smile would be his undoing. “Okay,” he said, and there was Hal’s pliant lover, the one who trusted him, even when his body was sore and his heart a little tentative. “We’ll take it.”
Hal took the bag from him so he could wield his cane and they grabbed some fleece gloves for Pierce–dark blue–on their way out. After two weeks of dealing with the mild cold of the south, they were ready to deal with the absolute real cold of the east coast.
They got back into the car again and drove, passing through Maryland and around DC reluctantly.
“I want to see the Natural History museum,” Pierce fretted. “I’ve never been. And the archives and the Capitol–“
“I’ve seen them,” Hal soothed. “But there’s a lot of walking. I mean, a lot. You can’t just stop and take a cab while you’re in the middle of the Air and Space Museum, you know? Maybe we can, you know…” For some reason his heart thundered in his throat. This led to the idea that this road trip–this vacation of sorts–was not the be all/end all of their relationship. They’d joked that it was a honeymoon before the wedding–but they weren’t planning a wedding, not yet. This was a “Next time we take a bucket list vacation together,” sentence, and he hadn’t realized it until it snuck up on him and grabbed him by the lapels.
“Next year,” Pierce said casually. “It’s easier for us to visit Sasha than for her to visit us, right? And I’m making progress by leaps and bounds. Next year, I’ll be up to more better travel. Besides, my house only has two bedrooms–they’d have to stay in a hotel.”
Hal swallowed, and that ache in his groin that had never really gone away since the department store, renewed again with a vicious throb. This man promised him a home, just that simply. Promised him forever. More trips. More holidays where kids played and hot chocolate was a necessity and people hugged each other after the count of ten. More of Pierce, dryly funny and needy–so needy–but giving that prim little gasp and pulling away because the things Hal wanted to do to his healing body were not meant to be done in public.
Hal would do them in Times Square, but that Pierce wanted those things, just the two of them, together–that was even better.
So, no Smithsonian or Washington Tour for them this trip. Instead they stopped in Delaware, driving through a heavily wooded section at Pierce’s direction. They wound their way to a clearing near a river, where the houses sat maybe every quarter of a mile or so, before pulling up to a two-story clapboard house with red trim and a rainbow of lawn art and wind chimes in the front. Hal got the “go bag” as they’d been calling it–the single small roller board with their shaving kits and pajamas and a single change of clothing in it–and they walked up the stairs to knock on the door together.
The door was thrown open by a middle-aged jovial man with thinning hair and bifocals and a mostly gray beard. “Pierce Atwater?”
Pierce raised his hand. “Yeah, that’s us. Jordan Waters?”
“Yes sir. You and your fella come on in. Here, young man. Let me get the suitcase– you two got here just in time for dinner. Here–hang up your coats, wash up and sit down, my wife is serving everybody in the main room.”
Jordan disappeared down the hallway and Pierce and Hal followed, taking his direction to hang up their coats on the pegboard by the door and make a right into the cheery yellow kitchen.
Mrs. Waters was a perfect counterpoint to her husband–plump, cheery, with graying brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, she smiled at them both then gestured with her chin because her hands were full with a platter of carved roast. “Go in and wash up, then come sit down. We’ve got a full house tonight, boys. Let’s meet everybody.”
Hal found himself smiling back and Pierce nodded. “Thank you much, ma’am. We’ll be right back.”
“This is nice,” Hal murmured as he soaped up.
“My buddy recced it,” Pierce said happily. “Said it was the friendliest B&B he’d ever visited.
“Mm. I don’t trust it.”
“Don’t trust it?” Pierce knit his brows. “What’s not to trust?”
“This looks like the family I should have had but got cheated out of. When do they turn to you and ask why you brought your nephew instead of a nice young wife.”
Pierce guffawed. “You know, I booked this place because it was friendly. Maybe I did that for a reason?”
Hal closed his eyes and inhaled–roast beef, potatoes, gravy, and some sort of green with cheese on it. “You’re trying to fatten me up to eat me?” he hazarded.
Pierce leaned in, an unexpectedly wicked look in his eyes. “Eat dinner with the nice people and behave. The eating will come later.”
Hal’s mouth dried up and he almost choked on his tongue. “I hate you. I mean, I love you but now I gotta go out and talk to strangers and eat roast beast with a woody.”
Pierce’s unrepentant chuckle led the way out to the dining room, where an assortment of strangers smiled pleasantly and talked about the historical sights of Pennsylvania and asked which plays they were seeing in New York and generally reaffirmed his faith in mankind again after the awful visit with his parents.
And the roast beast was orgasmically delicious and did nothing to diminish the fierceness of his woody.
By the time they made it past the stairs and to the one bedroom on the ground floor, Hal’s stomach was pleasantly sated and his cheeks ached from smiling.
But his want for Pierce hadn’t diminished one bit.
He moved just close enough to Pierce to brush his backside with a suggestive hand. “Mm… yes?” he asked, loving that Pierce would get his shorthand.
“Mm… shower. You first,” Pierce replied, voice breathy. “I have a plan.”
Hal sucked in a breath. “You have a plan?” Hal usually had the plan. He was good at the plan. He was excellent at the plan.
But that didn’t mean he didn’t look forward to somebody else’s plan. To Pierce’s plan.
Pierce’s heated gaze when he got out of the shower didn’t make things any better. Hal grinned and tightened the towel around his waist, feeling heat wash up his neck and across his chest as Pierce grinned back.
“You have a plan,” Hal said primly.
“Well, remember, whatever your plan is, I might double-go-down on it, so you need to shower too.”
Pierce laughed, letting his bathrobe fall as he stepped into the bathroom. “I’ll shower but only just in case.”
Hm… just in case? Hal pulled back the decadently fluffy, Monet colored comforter to find the also-decadently fluffy mattress covered in sky blue sheets. He spread the towel on the mattress, right dead center, because things might get messy, and then threw himself on the bed face down and sighed, the rigors of driving not washed away by the shower seeping from his bones.
He might have dozed off a little, because when he came too, Pierce was kissing his way from the back of Hal’s knee up his thigh.
“You’re going to tickle,” Hal mumbled into the marshmallow pillow.
Pierce upped the pressure–but otherwise didn’t stray from his course. Hal felt the bed depress behind him, and was unsurprised when Pierce nudged his knees apart.
“What’re’oo’doooing…” Hal mumbled, drugged by the warmth of Pierce’s body between his knees, by the feel of his lips in the soft upper part of his thigh, by the pulsing haze of arousal that had surround him since the store.
“I’m going to tease you,” Pierce promised, nuzzling that particularly sensitive spot right behind Hal’s buttock. He added a little tongue and the fullness of Hal’s erection returned with a vengeance.
“Just teasing?” Hal arched his hips and repositioned his cock, stopping to squeeze, and to shiver.
Pierce parted his cheeks and blew slightly into his crease, and Hal’s squeeze on his cock turned into a stroke. Hal moaned and Pierce smacked his bottom. “Stop that!”
“You’re taking too long!” Hal complained–but he put both hands up near his head, flat against the mattress.
“Stay right there.” The mattress shifted and for a moment Hal was exposed to the air, tingling with arousal. Another shift, and Pierce put a clean sock in Hal’s hand. “Hold onto that,” Pierce ordered softly. “And tell me no if you don’t wanna.”
Pierce licked boldly up his crease. Hal’s cock and balls were aching, and the stimulation in this other erogenous zone set his whole body on fire.
“I always wanna rim–job!”
Pierce did it again and Hal yanked on the sock between his hands to keep his hips firmly pressed against the bed. “Nungh!”
More licking–specific licking. A tongue concentrating in one sensitive pink space kind of licking. Hal lost himself in it, the tongue, the licking, the lubed finger… “Mmm?”
“Bad?” Pierce asked.
“Good,” Hal mumbled. He topped–Pierce. But in his other relationships he… hadn’t. This wasn’t about who was the dominant or who called the shots. This was about… oh God, another finger. Yes!
Pierce pulled both fingers out and Hal whimpered. “Roll over,” Pierce told him. “I have a–“
“You’d better say surprise dick,” Hal said excitedly, rolling over carefully so he didn’t whack Pierce in the head with his foot.
Pierce rocked back on his knees and laughed throatily, and oh my God, he was naked, in the light. A month and a half–really? It had been a month and a half–the thought was staggering–but a month and a half of making love in the dark, because Pierce was ashamed of his body, of his scars, of the muscles that hadn’t built back yet, and here he was, naked, a sex flush washing his freckled body from groin to his throat, his erection practically purple and shiny to boot.
Hal looked at him, drank him in, so beautiful, and swallowed. “Come here,” he whispered, holding out his arms.
“But I was going to–“
“You can top from on top of me while I kiss you. It’s why it’s topping.”
“I can not,” Pierce mumbled, stretching out anyway. Oh God. He could do that. Yes, he’d been in pain on Hal’s parents doorstep, but two days of recovery, of massages, of short drives, and he could move like a man who very much wanted to go body to body with his younger lover, and Hal groaned with the silken luxury of skin on skin.
He couldn’t even breathe before he kissed Pierce, their bodies undulating on the plush mattress, Pierce’s cock wasted in a pleasant free-for-all around Hal’s cock, which actually ached.
Hal’s asshole missed the stretch, the burn, and he needed. “Rock back on your knees,” he instructed, and Pierce did, carefully, but not wincing. “Now–“
Pierce thrust against his ring, breached him. “I know how to fuck,” he muttered, thrusting forward slowly.
“Ah! God! You so do!”
Pierce kept pushing forward, more, more, and Hal let out a low moan and a shudder. Ah, God, he loved this. He had forgotten how much he loved this, but… oh yes!
“Good?” Pierce rasped.
“Nungh! Gah! Yes! Don’t stop!”
A dreamy smile washed over Pierce’s lean features. “Never.” He set an easy pace then, not too hard, not too fast, just slow and sure enough to drive Hal out of his everlovin mind.
“Pierce…” He was pleading. “Can you?”
Pierce shook his head, half-regret, half-wickedness. “Fast as I can go, baby. You’re gonna just have to…”
“Ah! Ah! Ah!” They couldn’t yell or shout or scream each other’s names–but that quiet privacy that Hal had recognized in the changing room, here in a bed, in this fantasy bedroom, it became something more potent, something stronger.
Pierce’s body in his was intimate–as so many others had not been. The wickedness gleaming in his eyes was a charm only for Hal. Pierce’s smell–soap and Pierce–and his sharp little gasps as he thrust–those were Hal’s, made for him as nothing else in a life of monogrammed desk sets and embossed iPhones had been.
And because this moment, Pierce filling him, giving him all the sex his healing body could handle–this moment–was only theirs, it was enough. No pounding, no screaming, no raw animal sex, it was still almost more than Hal could handle. He gasped, sweating, needing, too full of emotion, of sex, of pleasure to bear it.
“Help yourself,” Pierce invited, arching his back and sucking in his stomach so Hal could fit his hand in.
But he didn’t need to. The change in position, the little ripple of his hips, and… Hal let out a sobbing breath and climaxed, the orgasm pulled from his body in a haze of pleasure and passion and need.
His come spattered, hot and sticky between them, and Pierce threw his head back, gritting his teeth. Hal kept clenching, still shaking, and that was what Pierce needed to send him over.
Hal could feel him, scalding and vibrant as he pumped inside Pierce’s body. The heat of it, the knowledge that this man would be inside him forever, visceral and real, sent Hal into one more spasm.
Pierce groaned and collapsed, still solidly lodged in Hal’s ass, and Hal whimpered.
“I hur you?”
“No. Just… so good.”
“Mmm… I may not be able to move tomorrow.”
“You’ll be great,” Hal told him. “God, the way I feel, tomorrow we can fly.”
“Course. For you, I’ll fly.”
Hal chuckled weakly. “You know something?”
“What.” With a grunt and a tiny pain sound Pierce pulled out of him and rolled off, and for a moment they were naked and cooling under the ceiling fan and the heating vent. “Besides me needing help with my shorts.”
“In a minute.” Hal reached over and traced an invisible line down the curve of Pierce’s shoulder, the gentle bulge of his bicep. Even at peak fitness, he’d still be lean. “This is important.”
“Hm?” Pierce turned his head, his eyes that clear green/hazel that Hal could only see with the lights on.
“You know how you promised me forever and we both believed it could happen?”
“It’s more than just belief, you know?”
“What do you mean?” A tiny frown knit between PIerce’s brows, and Hal rolled over just to trace it.
“It’s like we’re already living forever. It’s happening every day between us. We’ve been together six weeks, and it’s not nearly enough, but it’s a beginning. We’ve started. I mean, I kept thinking once we got to Sacramento that’s when it would start. But we’re already a beginning. We’re moving to the beginning of the middle, and I can’t wait.”
Pierce’s smile would always have that hint of shyness that made Hal want to squeeze him so tight nothing could hurt him again.
“Don’t have to wait. Just kiss me again. We’re on our way.”
Hal closed his eyes and took his mouth, letting the intimacy flow through him, permeate his bones. This was real. It wasn’t “happening”, it had “happened”, and they would make it continue to happen even after they got to Pierce’s home and they rediscovered normal in each other’s arms.
* * *
New York was–well, that really felt like a Honeymoon.
Pierce was good to walk carefully for a couple of blocks and they were near the theater district. Three plays in three nights–they didn’t get to see Hamilton, but Something Rotten was a go, and Hal was in heaven.
They ate at a burger place that served duck burgers and buffalo burgers one night, and at an Italian place that served a chicken parmisan to die for the next, and on the day after that, Korean Barbecue that Hal would never forget.
On the third day it snowed heavily, so on the fourth day, they took a cab to the Met.
“Really?” Hal asked. “You want to see a museum?”
“You don’t?” Pierce sounded stunned, like it was unthinkable that somebody wouldn’t want to go see… what? A bunch of old art? But whatever.
“No, no– we did the Statue of Liberty the first day, and the plays have been great! You want to see art, we’ll see art.” Pierce had sat on a bench in the cold and rested while Hal went to climb inside the statue, but when Hal came back outside, Pierce had such an amazingly serene look on his face. He’d needed to sit in a warm tub for an hour after they got back before he could get dressed for the play, but Hal would have skipped the play just to see the peace in his heart that came from taking Hal somewhere wonderful.
Pierce got a gentle smile on his face in that moment and for the first time Hal remembered he was older. “Sure,” he said, grabbing Hal’s hand and kissing his knuckles. “We’ll see art.”
Hal bit his lip and looked away. “There’s nothing wrong with art,” he said, trying to leach the doubt from his voice.
“Of course not,” Pierce said mildly before wincing. “Just like there’s nothing wrong with coming back a little early, taking a hot shower, watching some television and–“
“And having hot sex.” Hal nodded fervently– he knew how to keep his priorities straight.
“Well duh.” Pierce winked and wrapped a warm scarf around his neck and grabbed his new thick winter coat.
And the Metropolitan Museum of Art was… well, it was amazingly grand.
The great marble entryway inspired hush and reverence–even with the crowd. And Pierce looked at the exhibits and chose carefully–the Egypt exhibit had to wait, there was stained glass and Impressionist paintings to see.
Together they walked slowly through the stained glass exhibit, where some of the windows were backlit against dark backgrounds, so they could be seen as they were meant to be seen.
And oh, the colors were extraordinary, every shape a marvel in precision, every color placement an inspired bit of rainbow magic.
They came to one window, a three-paneled landscape, with vines of vinca wrapped around the panel edging, and a garden of wildflowers beyond, with a sunset peeking through purple clouds, and Hal actually stopped and caught his breath.
“That… that looks like what summer should look like,” he said quietly. “Like… like I think of your house, with a pool, and… and looking out your back door, and I know it’s stupid, but that’s what I think it should be.”
Pierce looked stricken. “It’s small,” he apologized. “But it’s going to fit a pool, and there are rosebushes and bougainvillea and marigolds that we pay a gardener to keep. But…” He grimaced. “It’s not glorious, you know. It’s just…”
But it didn’t matter. Something about the colors, the contract, the beauty so bright it hurt the eye, had already broken Hal’s heart and remade it.
“We can buy a print of this?” he asked hopefully.
“I”m sure.” It was one of the most prized windows in the collection.
“I want to frame it. Because… because coming home with you, this is what it feels like. Even if it’s all weeds and dirt and a giant hole in the ground… this is what the thought of home with you feels like.”
His eyes weren’t just burning. His throat wasn’t just swollen. He was crying with the exquisiteness of the dream.
But Pierce didn’t seem to mind. People streamed around them, but Pierce stopped and pulled the sleeve of his sweater over his palm so he could wipe Hal’s cheeks.
“It’s a map,” he said, his own eyes shiny.
“A map?” Hal asked his throat still thick.
“You know, people only get perfection in art, right? But it’s like… like a map to the soul. We’ll get the print, and this can be our map. This is what we’ll want our life to look like. And even if we get it wrong sometimes, and the pool gets shitty and the flowers die, we know that when we look in our hearts, we want this, and we’ll work to make it happen.”
Hal smiled through the stupid emotional tears that were starting to piss him off. “That’s how unicorns work,” he said soberly.
A tear tracked down Pierce’s cheek, but he nodded anyway. “And that’s us, right?”
Pierce kissed him then, their breath mingling with salt, and then he pulled away. “You ready to keep going?” he asked after a moment.
Hal nodded, remembering that night at the Bed and Breakfast. “I”m really ready for the beginning of the middle,” he said soberly.
Pierce bit his lip. “Well, you know, we were going to go north and see all the stuff up there, but you know something?”
Hal half-laughed. He’d seen the weather reports too. “It’s fucking January?” he said.
“Yeah. One more day in New York to sleep, and let’s just go home.”
Hal’s heart suddenly opened up to that stained glass vista. “So, like, we can be…” And the word made him catch in his throat, because he realized, right then in front of that image of unachievable perfection, that this thing in this window was a thing he’d never had. “We can be home?”
“Five days, balls out,” Pierce confirmed.
Hal threw his arms around him, holding him tight and shaking. “Being home with you is better than this picture,” he said.
“You haven’t heard me whine after five days balls-out driving,” Pierce gasped, but he didn’t struggle out of Hal’s embrace. They needed it too much, needed he contact, the promise, the affirmation of all the things they’d said on Christmas Eve–almost four weeks before.
“I’ll take anything you can dish out,” Hal promised–mostly because Pierce’s shitty moods were never as bad as advertised, but also because he could. He could be strong when Pierce needed it.
Mostly because in moments just like this one, Pierce could be absolutely everything Hal needed.
“Good.” Pierce went limp in his arms, in that way he hadn’t that day in the dressing room. “I want you home more than anything.”
Another breath. Another heartbeat. Another moment drawing strength from each other, and they drew apart. Logically they were headed for the food court for lunch, and then to see the Impressionists. But as they turned their back on that perfect view of the world for the admittedly imperfect world of their own hearts, they knew they were really taking their first real steps home.