Authors: K.A. Mitchell
“So explain.” Nate put his half-empty bottle on the counter.
Life should really have a fast-forward button so Kellan could get to the part where Nate was on his side without having to rehash all this shit in a way that didn’t end up with Kellan wandering around Baltimore with seventy-five cents in his pocket and the clothes on his back.
A last-minute stay of execution arrived in a ball of gray fur leaping onto the counter. The cat sauntered between them, licked the lip of Nate’s bottle and sat down to aim an appraising stare at Kellan.
“Quan Yin,” Nate said, and Kellan assumed he was naming the cat and not starting a random discussion.
Kellan loved animals; Nate had too. There’d always been a few cats or a baby squirrel in need of nursing at the Grays’ house. Kellan was more partial to dogs, wished he had one growing up, but after Keegan didn’t come home from Kuwait, the Brooks’ setter T-rex died of grief, and they never got another dog. Slicking his fingers with the condensation on his bottle, Kellan held them out toward the cat.
She sniffed then licked twice with a rough, tickling tongue. Kellan rubbed her chin and cheeks, and she purred enthusiastically, bumping his hand in encouragement.
“Animals like me,” Kellan said in apology.
“That baby skunk you insisted we take to the vet? Remember?”
“You were the only one who could carry it without it spraying us.”
“Yeah. Still had to take tomato-soup baths. Made my hair orange.”
Nate’s laugh turned into a quick, sharp cough.
Quan Yin managed to twine herself around his forearm, and Kellan kept rubbing and stroking. Her purr rivaled the engine on the scooter and probably had more power. Between the cat on his side and Nate’s almost laugh, Kellan thought he might not end up in a homeless shelter.
“My father had some kind of meltdown after Delia and I broke up. I don’t know what caused it.” That wasn’t completely true. His father had been apoplectic about the pictures that popped up in an online rag of Kellan with his face between the tits of some waitress in Miami.
Delia had been nice and sweet, so Kellan couldn’t exactly tell her that the thought of marrying her kept waking him up with cold sweats—once he’d thrown up. He’d been saying that he wanted to make their wedding night special to explain away the fact that he hadn’t been able to get his dick hard enough to fuck her for the last month. So when she started picking out dresses, he’d brought some of his douchiest friends down to Miami, hit the skankiest clubs, downed Jäger mixed with Blast until he couldn’t think, and let nature take its course. This way Delia could tell herself she was lucky she found out now, be mad instead of crying. And hey, at least his dad should have been happy that he’d been out proving the fine qualities of Blast brand energy drinks, ensuring the family fortune.
Kellan would be a little more freaked about his dick’s performance than about why he didn’t want to marry a sweet girl who loved him, except he hadn’t had any trouble getting off between the lips of that waitress—or between those huge tits.
“So dad starts going on about the cost of the ring—”
Nate’s eyebrows shot up in disbelief.
“Well, I couldn’t ask for it back. And it was fifty grand. But then with her dad being a senator and the national bottle deposit shit happening—”
“Yeah, that’s a crisis, all right. Actually expecting companies to stop fighting recycling so we don’t end up on Planet Garbage.”
Talking about his dad’s company wasn’t the best way to get Nate on his side.
“So this morning he made me come over to the office in Dundalk to see him.”
Nate couldn’t get it. Would never get Kellan’s dad. Nobody said no to Geoffrey Brooks. Not till today. And still Kellan hadn’t managed to spit it in the old man’s face.
“Told me, whatever. When I got there, he started in on me about wasting my life and not accepting responsibility, and how I never had to work for anything in my life.”
“Shit, now you’ve made me agree with your father. Just when I thought I couldn’t hate you more.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t even think you would say you wished I’d never been born because I’ll never live up to Keegan.”
Nate bit his lip and looked away. “No, I wouldn’t have said that.”
“It’s not like I didn’t know he was always thinking it. He finally said it.” Kellan managed a shrug while the words still churned through him, stirring a rage he’d never known he could feel. Worse than what his father had said was the idea he’d put there, that Kellan had done something to dishonor Keegan.
Kellan remembered a lot about his brother Keegan. How tall he’d been. The way he could throw Kellan in the air, like he did when he got home from school every day. The Keegan in his head didn’t look anything like the somber picture of him in his uniform next to the boxed American flag that was always on the display wherever his mom was living.
Nate came along after the Brooks family moved away from the house with “too many memories.” Nate had only ever met Keegan next to the stone in the cemetery.
Catching Kellan’s eye, Nate asked, “Then what? Your dad threw you out? He’s done that before.”
“Not like this. None of my credit cards work. He told me the house is off limits, that he’d changed the codes and would have me arrested for trespassing. He said the same thing about any of my cars. They’re all in his name because—”
“You still don’t have a license?”
“It got suspended again. But I wasn’t drunk this time, man. This was for speeding.”
Nate’s lips flattened in a thin line. If he had been sorry for what Dad had said about wishing Kellan had never been born, it was all over now. Nate probably never got a parking ticket. Kellan stroked Quan Yin under her chin and poked at the puddle under his beer.
“Again, why are you here?”
“The old man said he’d give me one last chance before he washed his hands of me. If I could show some responsibility—like prove that I could do something without fucking it up—”
“He said a lot of shit. Stuff like ‘get a steady job’ and ‘stop whoring around.’” Then he said the something that had Kellan determined to throw it all back in his face. “Oh, and he says, ‘Maybe some woman will take pity on you and try to make you a man. God knows I couldn’t.’ Fuck him.” Quan Yin jerked her head away at the growl in Kellan’s voice and then licked his wrist as if to tell him to calm down.
“So what the hell does that have to do with me?”
“Geoffrey thinks he wins.” Kellan rubbed around the cat’s ears as he dug in his back pocket for the piece of paper his father’s secretary had handed him this morning. “That I’m going to follow his little action plan like one of his cubicle slaves. He’s in for a shock. What would make him shit his drawers more than anything?” He looked steadily at Nate. “What kind of organizations can always count on Brooks Blast Energy Drinks for a donation?”
Nate’s eyes widened. He’d never been slow to figure stuff out. “That’s why you wanted a boyfriend?”
“Uh-huh. I’m going to find someone to make a man out of me. A gay man. Geoffrey Brooks, CEO of the most homophobic corporation in America, will now have an out and proud gay son.”
For a second, the possibility shone as bright as Christmas morning in the most consumption-driven advertisement Nate had ever seen. He could screw Kellan Brooks and his gay-hating, environment-destroying father at the same time. One for fun, one for revenge. Except they’d both be for revenge. Nate could always come up with a reason for fucking, but revenge wasn’t a particularly good one. And there was that gigantic obstacle staring him in the face.
Kellan wasn’t gay.
“Great plan. Let me know how it works. I’ve got about a hundred bucks in cash. Take it, wave it around at The Arena and someone will suck your cock and video it. Forget the cash, just take off your shirt and I’m sure someone will do you for free. Have fun.”
“That’s not the plan.”
“Trust me. It’ll work. The papers will run with it.”
Kellan shook his head and kept petting Nate’s quisling cat.
“Really, man. This is my job. Hell, I’ll even print an article on your coming out.”
“He’ll only think I’m drunk.”
“So what’s your plan?” The question was uncomfortably familiar. How many times had Kellan proposed a plan when they were kids? How many times had Nate pointed out all the flaws in it? How many times had they gone and done it anyway?
“It’s perfect.” Kellan unfolded the paper he’d tossed on the counter, smoothing it over the condensation ring from his beer.
Nate picked it up and shook it dry while wiping down the counter around Quan Yin, whose look of exasperated resignation was almost a match for Kellan’s.
Kellan snatched the paper back and put it on the now-dry countertop. “See? Under personal?”
As an editor, Nate had no trouble reading upside down, sideways or on the back of a receipt, but Kellan read the action plan aloud.
“All physical conduct with the opposite sex is to be conducted in private. No public drunkenness. Maintain a fixed address and contribute to household expenses if dwelling is shared. Proof of expenses paid required—cancelled checks or bank statements.”
Nate pointed from his side of the counter. “You left off the part about stay out of the papers.”
“Yeah, well, it won’t be with a member of the opposite sex, and I won’t be drunk.”
“Somehow I don’t think that’s going to make Geoffrey happy.”
“Good,” Kellan said.
“Exactly what fixed address are we talking about?” Nate was pretty sure he knew what fixed address Kellan was thinking about.
Nate arched his brows.
Kellan looked over his shoulder. “I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“You’ll have to share.”
Kellan beamed at the cat. “With this beautiful lady? No problem.”
Kellan glanced from the couch to Nate.
“The couch is my bed. It folds out. It’s a studio apartment.”
“Oh. I could— We could— It wouldn’t be that long.”
On the queen-sized mattress, Yin barely left enough room for Nate. He couldn’t see the three of them crammed there.
“I’ll sleep on the floor,” Kellan said. “Or get an air mattress.”
“You said you were broke.”
“I could get a job.”
“I don’t know. Something.”
“Kellan, I’m sorry all this shit happened to you—”
“No, you’re not. You think I deserved it.”
“Yeah, I do. But even if I didn’t, you couldn’t stay here. If you really want to do this, there are lots of other guys in Baltimore—some that would probably do it for kicks.”
“None of them are you.”
For the second time today Nate was breathing beer. He held up his hand to stop another assault on his back. Kellan didn’t mean it like that. He probably had known Nate was headed there when they were thirteen, that Nate had a crush on him, and that more than anything had sent Kellan screaming into above-average adolescent male homophobia, but that was half a lifetime ago. No way could Kellan have meant that the way it sounded.
“Me being with you would make Geoffrey shit pinecones,” Kellan explained when Nate stopped coughing.
Nate’s ass clenched involuntarily at the image, but he had to admit Kellan was right.
“Especially after everything you’ve put in your column about him.”
“You’ve read it?” “Shades of Gray”, Nate’s weekly column, hadn’t put him in a position to get picked up by more than The Huffington Post, and his Queertiquette advice section definitely wasn’t making Dan Savage nervous about his empire. The idea that Kellan Brooks had actually read Nate’s column made him feel…something his overachieving vocabulary couldn’t find a word for.
“Sometimes.” Kellan shrugged. “You’re funny. A lot funnier than I’d have thought, knowing you.”
“Thanks.” Whatever that unnamed feeling had been, it was gone now.
“So, will you help me put the screws to my father?”
“There’s a lot more to being gay than simply saying you are and then moving in with a guy.”
“You always say being gay isn’t just about sex.”
been reading Nate’s stuff.
“It isn’t only about that. But yeah, having sex with guys is a big part of it too.”
Kellan stopped petting Yin, and she wandered off to the edge of the counter where she turned her back on both of them and began grooming herself. After they ignored the giant elephant dick in the room by watching the cat ignore them, Kellan finally pasted on a big smile.
“I’d do it.”
“If that’s what it takes, if that will convince you—my dad, the papers, whatever—I’ll do it.”
“Have gay sex.”
Kellan was bluffing. They might have been too young for poker when they were friends, but Nate knew Kellan was bluffing. He’d seen too many pictures of Kellan with D-list, D-cup actresses over the years to doubt the guy being anything but a one on the Kinsey scale.
Nate didn’t do straight boys. But he’d called lots of bluffs.
“Really. You’re going to have gay sex just to get back at your dad.”
“Gay, straight. I thought there wasn’t supposed to be a difference.”
Nate came around the end of the counter and stood in front of Kellan. “Oh, there’s a difference.” Nate ran his hand down the fly of his jeans. “A big one if you’re lucky.”
Kellan got those two bright red spots high on his cheeks, but he didn’t back down. “Well, obviously the other guy has a dick too, but a hole’s a hole, right?” He swallowed, making Nate want to set his teeth in the thick bob of Kellan’s throat.
“Not if the other guy’s a top. You think fucking will feel the same when you’re the one with a dick inside you? Exactly who do you plan to be having this gay sex with?”
Kellan didn’t lose his smile, but there was a hardness to his face now. The way he’d been when he got back that summer and turned into a stranger. “I’ll have it with you. C’mon, bro. You’ve had a hard-on for me since you figured out how to work your dick. This must be like waking up in a candy store.” Kellan used his bigger body to back Nate against the counter until their hips were almost touching. “Suck anything you want.”