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Hope in a Hand Basket

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He imagined that he could still smell John on the pillow, even though he knew, rationally, that the sheets had been changed days ago. He saw, even though it had been weeks, John's indentation in the sheets, in the bed, could still feel the phantom warmth from his long, lithe body. Steven was, he could admit to himself, quite possibly obsessing, not that there was anything wrong with that.

Except that there was. There were numerous reasons why obsessing was a bad idea, the first being that he had just outed himself and John was nowhere even close to telling another person outside of Steven that he was thinking gay thoughts. John had been willing to hit him to keep his cover of being the normal, overachieving heterosexual male. John had hit him.

It had hurt, both the actual hit and the fact that John had been willing to go that far to stay hidden. It had HURT but not as much as John's declaration of love. Well, less a declaration, that would give the moment more romance and positive energy than it really deserved. John had confessed, as if it had been a crime or something, that he had loved Steven and that had hurt. Like John had punched through his chest and ripped out his heart, then stomped on it until it was a warm mushy paste of love and desire under his boot heel.

That may have been a bit melodramatic but Steven could feel the ache of it every time his mind brushed over the memory. The fact that he could remember every second that he had spent with John, every tender touch, every not so tender but equally pleasurable touch, every breath, every soft word, every soft, slow kiss that they had shared. He could smell John on his pillow and it was killing him.


Life was not entirely kind to Steven as he moved forward. He saw John but it was from far away and without any real recognition from his former lover. It was a difficult thing to deal with but Steven had to. He had no choice. The smells and feels were slowly fading from his everyday memory, to the point where he had to work hard to remember.

There was a moment, a time that he couldn't put his finger on exactly but it happened, he knew it had, when Steven realized that dwelling on the past was getting him nowhere but the center of Depressionville. He was tired and lonely; his life not any easier than it had been before, just a lot more public. Thinking of John was bad and not thinking of him was worse. He had to think of something to make this more bearable than where things were at that moment.

It came to him at an odd time, the middle of literature, when the teacher and the rest of the class were debating the true nature of the love in Shakespeare's sonnets.

"Steven, what do you think?" the question asked as if he, the only admitted homosexual in the room (and he said admitted because there were a few folks that he was beginning to wonder about) would know if the Bard fancied the boys team or the girls.

He hadn't given an answer, had begged off the question and the teacher had let it slide, seeing the pain flash across Steven's face. The conversation drifted to various scholarly works on the subject, including one from Oxford.

It was the Oxford bit that hit him the hardest. That was where John was going, where he would be at the end of the year. Oxford, with the long robes and the hats and all the history and grand tradition that made it such an incredibly hard place to get into, to survive at, to graduate from. Oxford, the school that turned boys into men or some such nonsense.

He waited till he got home, said hello to Mum and Dad, and went upstairs, to work on homework, or some other such nonsense. He had lots to do but that was the last thing on his mind at that point. Oxford flitted in and out of his head, the idea of the school, of the freedom that being away from home provided, the new and the old all rolled together. The idea, whether it could happen or not, that he and John could finally be together as soon as the rule and regulations of home life were finally stripped away and replaced by the freedom and self sufficiency of university life.

He dropped his bag to the floor and sat at the edge of his bed, eyes closed, brain whirring. There was something to this; he could feel it in his belly, all through his limbs, all through his entire body. It was like electricity, the sense of anticipation coursing through him. It was as if his body understood the conclusion that his mind had yet to arrive at. There was hope here, in dreams, in fantasies, and while he wasn't sure that he believed in hope yet, his body didn't want him to stop. He fell back against the unmade bed, humming to himself, and let his brain take him to where his body obviously wanted him to go.

A hand down his pants, the other sliding open his fly, he touched himself as though it were someone else, a certain someone else, and he was hard almost immediately. Eyes closed, he fumbled for the lotion on the bedside table, the reach a long one but one that he was used to. Soft fondling until he could slick up his hands, then the smooth slide and jerk that he preferred.

He imagined what it would be like to have John back, to have John doing this to him instead of going at it alone and he felt even harder. He imagined that John's breath was ghosting across the back of his neck, was whispering into his ear all the naughty things that they would be doing together later that night. He imagined John's hot, wet tongue snaking across his back, sliding down his spine, working its way back up. Steven shuddered and moved his hands faster on his cock while trying to slide his pants down his waist and over his knees.

He could feel John's hands covering his own on his cock, moving with him, keeping the rhythm, tongue now wetting the inside of his ear, circling the outer lobe, making Steven shake and hum with pleasure. He imagined trying to give back the pleasure to John, who declined, reminding Steven that John owed him more than he could ever repay, for all of Steven's waiting and hoping. He owed him and he was trying to pay back some of his debt.

That was hot and Steven felt the familiar tendrils of orgasmic rush begin to swirl inside of him. His hands were losing the smooth rhythm and were more erratic, more lust and feel than deliberate pattern. His breath came harsh and fast and the slick slapping sound of flesh on flesh resounded in his ears. His imagined John was silent now, only his imagined breath still in Steven's mind. He imagined himself reaching around, ignoring the grunts of protest, and taking hold of John's cock and helping him along. It was clichd and romantic but to come together would be... well, it would be incredibly hot.

Imagined John groaned in response and his rhythm on Stevens cock increased to such a pace that Steven could no longer hold out and came with a shout. Into his own hand. The post orgasmic brain fry forced all imaginings away and Steven knew that he was alone in his room. John had never been there, had never touched him or been touched in that way, which was sad and more than little depressing. But it had helped to think of things as happening in the future, as though there was still a chance for them to be together. And in all honesty, there was that chance, that one slim measure of hope that could allow for the two of them to overcome all that had gone on before.

Oxford was a new start in a new place where no one knew them, where minds were (hopefully) more open and there had to be more people like he and John there. There had to. And if there were, well, it stood to reason that they could finally be together. Until then, however, this was all that he had. And really, that was okay for now. The future had yet to be and there was nothing saying that it couldn't come to pass just like that. There were things that needed saying first, things that needed doing, and a few areas that needed clearing up before he would allow John into his bed again but that was okay. He could handle that.

He reached with a long hand for the first piece of dirty laundry he could find and wiped the come off his chest. It was cool now, after all his self-searching and he grimaced. The sweat on his skin was cold and clammy and he wondered just how funky he actually smelled. Slowly, he sat up and looked around the room. It was still his room, still his stuff, still the place that he had called home for as long as he could remember but there was something different now. It wasn't the room, though. It was him.

It wasn't that something big had changed when he came out, like he had shaved his head or gotten a tattoo or something. And really, it wasn't as if he had changed his day-to-day life all that much, just confirmed what people had been suspecting for years. No, what had changed was inside, inside him. He could wait for John, could wait for Oxford and see if his dreams came true. If they didn't he'd be upset, be angry and sad but his life wouldn't be over. He'd known that when he said goodbye to John at the school. Inside, he'd known that no matter what, he'd be fine. Good. Fantastic even. It was just that now, now he could be okay with that and that alone and that made all the difference.