Shan had been brought up to believe in the idea of feminine beauty. He had been taught to appreciate softness and curves. But there was nothing soft or feminine about the wet, nearly nude body pressed up against him, or the hands on his back. Or the small noises that Gage was making as he kissed him.
In his shock, he put his own hands on Gage's shoulders, to push him away, but his body refused to obey. He found himself responding even as his mind screamed in outrage. The kiss was not demanding; it was slow and gentle, and he could have stopped it at any time.
Instead he opened his mouth wider, and the felt the damp nudge of a tongue against his own. And against his belly, he felt something else pressing against him, and realized that something of his own had woken up, taken stock of the situation, and responded accordingly. It was that brought him to his senses with a jolt. That and the need for oxygen.
"Gage..." he protested weakly, turning his head away.
"Sh." Gage laid a finger against his lips. "Don't be afraid of this. Hate me for it if you want to, but don't be afraid of me. Please."
"I... I don't hate you. But..." Shan turned away and climbed out of the lake, his heart still pounding. "I'm not gay."
"Neither am I." Gage climbed out after him. "I'm bi."
Shan sat down on the ground, reaching for his glasses. "I'm not into other guys." It sounded lame even to himself.
Gage sat down on the shore next to him. "Good. I don't want you to be into other guys. Just be into me."
He smiled, and there was no mockery in it. "Even if you reject me, even if you decide you never want to see me again, you won't forget me. You'll always remember that your first kiss came from me, Shanny Boy, out in that lake. And that you kissed me back."
"How did you know that was my first kiss?" Shan felt his face turning red.
Gage laid on his back, and didn't speak for a little while. "Shan, I'm not exactly a virgin. I know when someone has been kissed before. I want to tell you something. It's not something... it's not something I want anyone else to know."
"I promise. Whatever it is, I won't tell anyone." Shan laid down next to Gage, so close he could feel the heat radiating off the other boy.
"When I was about eleven, this guy started hanging out near my school. An older guy, an adult. And he used to get stuff for the kids, stuff their parents wouldn't give them. Cigarettes, drugs, dirty magazines. His name was Chester.
"Now these kids, they all had rich parents, but not all of the kids had money to spend. Those that did, well, Chester accepted the money from them for his stuff. But he liked those that didn't have it better, because he could get something else from them, something besides money.
"My friends, I had some friends at the time, talked me into going to see Chester, and soon I was getting stuff from him as well. Shan, I was one of the kids who didn't have money to give him."
"I gave that sick SOB everything that he wanted. I did stuff to him, for him, that makes me want to puke. I let him do stuff to me. And after that, it didn't matter. I mean, I didn't care who I fucked. Why should I? I had nothing left to lose."
"Did you ever tell anyone? Your parents?"
"No one would have believed me. They would have thought I was making the whole thing up. And... I didn't want my uncle to find out. I could have handled my parents knowing, but I didn't want him to look at me and be disgusted."
"What happened to Chester?"
"He was found dead a few months later. I didn't do it, if that's what you're thinking. Maybe someone's dad found out, or maybe it was another dealer. I wasn't sorry to see him go."
Gage rolled over to face Shan. "I guess the reason I'm telling you this to because I want you to know that... Shan, when I first got here and saw you, all I could think about was how long it was going to take to get you into bed."
"I see." Shan said quietly.
"No, you don't! You ruined everything! You were supposed to be my summer fuck-buddy. And then we were both supposed to go on with our lives without a backwards glance. But you just had to be so damn... wonderful. I look at you, and I want you so bad, and I feel like Chester the Molester for it. Why couldn't you have been a jerk?"
Shan stared at the other boy in shock. "This is a lot to handle, you know."
"I know. All I'm asking is for you to give me a chance. I'm not talking about a one-night-stand. I'm laying it on the line here, Shanny Boy. You've done a number on me. If you need to turn me down because I'm a waste of space, or a juvenile delinquent, or because my mother is the Wicked Witch of the West, that's fine. I can live with that. But don't turn me down just because we're both guys. That's not a good enough excuse."
"I need some time to think about this. Right now I'm just too confused."
"I know. Take all the time you need." Gage got to his feet and started putting on his clothing. "But you're mine, Shanny Boy. You've been mine since we were little kids, and you'll always be mine. Sweet dreams."
He headed back to the farmhouse.
Somehow I made it back to my own house that night. I could still taste him. That sounded so corny, like something out of a bad romance novel, but it true. And I could still feel the ghost of his hands on my back.
I stumbled through the front door and right into a war zone.
Meishel had returned early from her friend's house, excited because her friend's parents were going to Earth until the end of the summer and they'd invited Meishel to come along with them. Mom didn't mind, but you would have thought Meishel had just told Baba that she was pregnant with quintuplets and Gage was the father.
They were all screaming at each other. Meishel's face was red as a beet and she was right up in Baba's face, and it looked hilarious to see my tiny sister making him flinch.
And as I watched them, unnoticed, I felt this overwhelming love. They were mine. They were unbearable at times, but they were my family, and I knew that even if I let them down, I'd still have them. That feeling was something I'd always just taken for granted.
But Gage, for all his wealth and privilege, hadn't even been able to trust his parents enough to tell them what Chester had done to him.
I went to my own room, and I locked the door, and I laid down on my bed, and I wept. For a very long time I cried and I cried. For Gage, and for myself, and for all of these feelings that I didn't understand. I was standing on the edge of something and if I jumped my life would never be the same. Meishel and my mother would be okay with it, but what would Baba think? I knew that he'd still love me, but would he like me any more? Was it worth risking that for what Gage was offering me?
I needed answers and I knew that I wasn't going to get them here. I needed to talk to someone not connected with the situation. Jazz would have been my first choice, but he was just too close.
I thought for a moment, and then headed for the transporter.
"So what's on your mind?" Luke handed me a bottle of water and sat down in his computer chair, raising one red eyebrow.
Luke is shorter than me, and he's pretty stocky. Jazz showed me some pictures of a bulldog once, and I think that best describes him. He's not the handsomest guy in the world, but he's got a good, honest look to him, and red curls that go in every single direction at once.
He wasn't much older than I was, and we'd grown up as playmates. That had lasted until a few years ago, when Luke had gotten into what Heero called his "terrible teens" and hadn't wanted to speak to anyone. We had drifted apart since then, but I knew that I could still trust him.
"Everything." I paced around the room. "Luke, did you ever think... did you ever spend your whole life thinking that you were one thing, and it turned out that you weren't, and you didn't know how to deal with it?"
"Sometimes." Luke sipped his own water, watching me. "I'm still trying to figure out who I am and what I am. If you figure it out, let me know." He nodded at the computer. "I'm being screamed at to pick a major and I don't have a blessed clue what to choose." He shook his head. "But this isn't about me. What's happened?"
"You won't tell anyone?"
"Shan, look at me. Have I ever broken a promise to you? I wouldn't dare; your sister would skin me alive for it. I assume you've told her..."
"No. I can't."
"Geez. Something you can't tell Meishel?" Luke looked both impressed and slightly afraid.
"I kissed a guy." I blurted out.
Luke blinked at me. "And?"
"What do you mean and? I kissed a guy and he kissed me and I really enjoyed it and all I want to do is go and kiss him again."
"So kiss him." Luke was grinning. "What's the big deal? It's about time you started seeing someone."
"Luke, it's a guy!"
"Yes, you've said. My parents are both men, too. I've grown up watching guys kiss and do other things that I definitely wasn't supposed to see. You should have seen the look on my face when I realized what all that wrestling was about!"
"My... father... will... kill... me...." I said in a very slow voice.
"Your... father... can't... change... the... fact... that... you... like... boys..." he replied in the same tone.
Luke suddenly paused, and gave me a searching look. "This has nothing to do with that Drummond kid, does it? The guy my folks are taking care of this summer?"
I didn't answer.
"HIM? You kissed HIM?"
"You haven't met him yet."
"You're right. I haven't." Luke said in a softer tone. "I just know what my parents have told me. He's trouble."
"No he's not! I mean, he can be. But he's not like people think he is!"
"It sounds to me." Luke said thoughtfully, "that you've already made up your mind about him. And I'm on your side; if you think he's great, then that's all that matters."
"Baba hates him. I mean, I guess that in time he might get used to the fact that Gage is a guy, but I don't think he'll ever get used to the fact that Gage is Gage."
"That's a possibility." Luke agreed. "I know I'm not being a whole lot of help here. But let's face it, Jazz is better at this kind of stuff than I am. My brother's the one with the people skills. Sure you don't need help with your building program? I could handle that."
"You've been a big help, thanks."
"So how's Meishel?" He asked casually. "I haven't seen her for a while."
I relayed the situation I had left. "She'll probably get to go."
"How are you going to feel about that? You two have never been apart before." He pointed out.
"Maybe... maybe we need to be."
"Well, tell her to stop by and see me to at least say goodbye before she goes."
I agreed to pass along the message, hiding my smile, and then I left Luke to the things that he could understand and took my confusing problems home with me.
The fight was winding down. My mother and sister had won, no big surprise there. My father might be able to beat either of them on a bad day, but not when they were united. He was trying his trump card, ranting on and on about unscrupulous people on Earth who wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of my poor, innocent, defenseless sister, which was a hoot because Meishel hasn't been defenseless since she was in our mother's womb, and even then I got a few good jabs and kicks if I tried to take up more than my half.
He finally caved in after she promised that she would contact Quatre and Trowa every day and let them know that she was still alive.
She ran up the stairs to go pack before he could change his mind, and I followed her, watching from the doorway as she rummaged around in drawers for things to take along.
"This is going to be so awesome." She was chirping. "There are so many places that I want to see! Reeree's family says we can even make a stop at the Great Wall of China. I'm going to be going to China! I've always wanted to go there. I'll see all the stuff from Baba's stories!"
She paused, and looked at me, as if truly noticing that I was there for the first time. "Why don't you come with me? I'm sure her family won't mind. And we can visit everything together."
I shook my head. "Not this time."
She stared at me with her mouth open. "Why not?"
"Well, I've kind of promised Jazz that I'd help him up this summer." That wasn't exactly a lie, but it wasn't the truth either.
"Besides, if I go Gage won't have anyone to talk to. It would be kind of mean to run out of him like that."
She looked at me, and looked through me, and she saw what I wasn't saying. She put down her shirts and raised her hand to me, palm up. I swallowed hard and placed mine against it, and our fingers locked. In the womb, although we were separated by two walls of membrane, we had done this. We had known nothing of the outside world, nothing beyond our own darkness, but we knew that we were not alone.
"I can stay home." She offered. "If you need me."
"No. Go, go see the Great Wall. Have a good time. I'll be fine."
"Be careful." Her eyes were worried, and I knew she wasn't telling me to be careful with Gage. She knew full well what we were up against. And this time, she couldn't be at my side fighting my battle for me. I had chosen this path, and I had to find a way to walk down it.
Because no matter what I tried to tell myself, the truth was staring me in the face.
I was falling in love with Gage Drummond.