Neal tucked the package inside his jacket and really wished he'd thought to bring a backpack or something. It was bad enough getting dirty looks from the cashier at the bookstore, but it would be ten times worse if anyone saw what he'd bought.
A copy of The Joy of Gay Sex.
He'd thought about getting it at the university bookstore, but that was just way too weird. He knew the cashier there – not as a friend or anything – but he was a frequent customer. While it was unlikely that the guy would say anything, or out him, Neal just didn't want him to know he was buying a sex manual.
Which was why he took the T into Boston and found a copy of the book in the brand new Barnes and Nobles near U-Mass. Which meant he had to carry it back to the dorm in Cambridge – a forty-minute train ride – without looking at it or letting anyone else see what he was carrying.
Neal thanked god that the cashier didn't ask to see a driver's license or ID or anything with a birthdate. Until next week, he was sixteen years old and it was quite likely that he'd get arrested for buying pornography or something like that – and then where would he be? No way he'd get into law school and then the FBI with an arrest record. He thought about wearing a suit but that seemed ridiculous – like he was on his way to church or something. But he didn't shave at all this week, which he'd hoped would make him look older – and maybe it did.
He sweated the entire trip back, certain that the pair of nuns sitting across from him could see through his jacket and the bag the book was in. Not that he was a practicing Catholic or anything – the last time he'd been to church was for his confirmation when he was fourteen. Aunt Ellen, although a lapsed Catholic, had insisted on the ceremony – that he should honor his late grandparents' beliefs, but that was it. He didn't go to mass on any of the holidays and found the whole idea of organized religion slightly nauseating.
But he still had an inborn respect for the clergy – and nuns in particular. It was weird and inexplicable, but he was certain that they knew what he was carrying under his jacket. Thankfully they got off at Park Street, just before the Charles River crossing.
Ten minutes later, Neal got off at the Harvard stop and practically ran back to his dorm. It was Saturday afternoon, and the dorm was empty of residents – including Peter, who was at baseball practice. Neal hid the book under his mattress and headed for the shower to wash off the stench of the flop sweat. He also shaved and decided he was never going to try to grow a real beard – other than the thick mop on his head, he had almost no body hair.
Which Peter liked just fine, and really, wasn't that the only thing that mattered?
He was stretched out on his bed wearing nothing more than a pair of gym shorts – the dorms were way too warm today – when Peter came in.
"How was practice?"
"Eh. It's a good thing that Harvard doesn't have to survive on revenue from its sports teams."
"But you're having fun, right?"
"Not really. Coach is an asshole and even though I've got the best slider on the team, he won't give me any time on the mound – I'm just a freshman. I've got to earn my spot."
"You're right, he is an asshole."
Peter had showered at the clubhouse, which Neal thought was a pity. He liked Peter when he was all sweaty from a good workout.
"So, how was your morning?"
"Fine, went into Boston." Neal played it casual.
"Oh? Just for the morning? You didn't go to the Museum of Fine Art?"
"Nope, needed to pick up something."
"Ah, okay." Peter was being particularly clueless.
"At the bookstore at U-Mass."
"And what would the bookstore at U-Mass have that the Harvard University Bookstore doesn't?"
"Oh, the bookstore here has the book I bought. I just didn't want to buy it here."
"Huh? Why wouldn't you want to buy a book at the store here?"
"Because the cashier knows me – I pick up my copy of the New York Times there every morning."
"I still don't get why that's a problem. Unless you're buying a book you don't…" Peter didn't finish the sentence.
"Ah, the light dawns!" Neal reached under the mattress and pulled it out. "One manual for gay sex. My birthday is next week. So, no more excuses about not fucking me. Seriously, Peter, how much longer are you going to make me wait?"
Peter sat down next to him and Neal handed him the book, still in its shrink-wrap. "I know, I know. I want this as much as you do, but I'm scared, okay? What if I hurt you?"
"Haven't we had this conversation? We're smart, we educate ourselves, right? So, what's the problem?"
Peter gave him a look that almost broke his heart. "What if you don't like it? What if you hate it? What if you hate me?"
Neal straddled Peter and buried his face in that wonderful space between Peter's shoulder and neck, kissing his way along his jaw, biting his earlobe, loving how Peter shivered. He kissed Peter's mouth, pouring all the love he felt into that gesture. "I could never, ever, ever hate you. I've loved you for half my life. It feels like this is where we're supposed to be. If it doesn't work out the first time, we keep trying. We experiment. After all, four thousand years of guys doing this to other guys can't be wrong?"
"Huh? Four thousand years?"
"Those ancient Greeks were all about men loving men. And have you ever really looked at some of those hieroglyphics in the Met? You worry too much." Neal kissed him again, biting those beautiful lips. "Love you, and I'm going to love it when you pop my cherry. If only because it's you."
Peter still looked unbelievably miserable.
Neal sighed and rested his head on Peter's shoulder. "Love you, you stupid, too-noble-for-your-own-good idiot. There's nothing you can do that will ever make me hate you. I know it sounds crazy, but I can't see my life without you in it. I hope this doesn't scare you, but you're it for me."
Peter wrapped his arms around him and the world tilted as they hit the bed. "No, it doesn't scare me. Not at all. I know it's crazy – you're sixteen – "
Peter ignored him. "And I'm seventeen, but I know that we're going to be together forever. I'm almost afraid to say it – like I'll jinx something. But I know that when I'm old – when I'm fifty – you're going to be sitting across from me at the breakfast table, bitching about my coffee or talking about some art exhibit or I'm going to be talking about the Yankees or something. I'm it for you, you're it for me. And the thought of doing something to hurt you terrifies me."
Neal stared into Peter's eyes, understanding the bone-deep truth of those words. "We're crazy, but the best kind of crazy. You're my best friend, you're the man I love. Please don't be afraid, okay?" He kissed Peter again, just pressing his lips against the corner of his mouth.
Peter still wouldn't smile, he still looked too grave. "There's something I need to tell you."
Neal couldn't imagine what it was. "Okay."
Peter ran his fingers through Neal's hair, cupping the back of his head, and whispered, "I'm kinda still a virgin, too."
"I've done it to another guy, but I've never – you know – well, I've never had it done to me."
Peter put a little distance between them. "I – I haven't. Last year, when we – when we weren't – when I was being an asshole to you, I had gone down to Christopher Street, thinking that maybe I should just find a guy and get it over with. But I couldn't. They were so old and creepy looking and I kept thinking that I really didn't want to be with anyone but you and that maybe when I was in college I'd find someone that maybe looked like you or I … I don't know. Don't hate me, okay?" Peter rolled over and it sounded like he was crying.
Neal sorted through a dozen different emotions. It felt like Peter had lied to him – but he'd never said that he'd had sex like that – just that he'd fucked Avery Phillips. Neal had assumed, and Peter had let him.
"I don't hate you – you idiot." Neal punched Peter on the shoulder before pulling him back into his arms. "You sound like you're ashamed. Why?"
Peter nodded. "I dunno – I feel like, well I should know what it feels like before doing it to you."
"Maybe I should fuck you first?" The words popped out of Neal's mouth without any thought.
To his surprise, Peter didn't reject the idea. "Maybe. I feel like I'm freaking out over this because I don't know what you're going to go through. And maybe we should do that. Maybe you should take my cherry."
"I love you, but now I'm kinda terrified." Which was true, but Neal couldn't help but think that this was a million kinds of wonderful.
Peter chuckled. "Maybe we'll both die virgins."
"Don't even say that. I'll make it perfect for you, and you'll make it perfect for me." Neal fished for the book he'd bought. "But first, we do our research…"
All their grand plans for cherry popping on Neal's seventeenth birthday were for nothing. His mom and dad, and Neal's Aunt Ellen made a surprise visit to Cambridge to take them out for dinner. They'd arrived this morning and the five of them spent the day doing touristy things. But they would be back very soon.
Peter sighed. "I don't mind a lobster dinner at Legal's, but …" He grimaced and fiddled with his suit jacket. It was getting tight across the back and shoulders. His shirt collar was a little tight, too. It wasn't really the freshman fifteen – just a lot of time spent on the weight machines in the gym, working out his sexual frustrations.
Neal, of course, looked perfect in a double-breasted navy blue suit and a snow-white shirt. His tie matched his pocket square, which matched the suspenders (or as Neal called them, braces) he wore to hold up his pants. In short, he looked like he'd just stepped off the cover of GQ.
Peter licked his lips as he got the most outrageous idea. Neal must have seen something of it in his eyes and asked, "What are you thinking?"
"I'd like to see you without the shirt, but in the braces, your pants open, your cock out. I'd really like to see that."
Neal's eyes glowed. "Don't you dare, family's coming back in like five minutes."
More like five seconds, because as soon as the sound of Neal's voice faded, there was a knock on the door – Peter’s father's patented "shave and a haircut – two bits" rap.
Neal gave him a look and opened the door. "Hey, guys – come on in." The little dorm room was crowded – especially since they had to reorganize the furniture, separating the two beds.
Of course, his dad commented on the lack of floor space. "Jeez, kids – it's a good thing you're friends, because you're really living on top of each other. I don't remember it being this bad when you moved in."
"Oh, hush, Joe, they've got all their books and stuff now. I'm just grateful it's clean." His mom chuckled. "I think that's Neal's influence."
"What do you say we get out of here?" Neal's Aunt Ellen was leaning against the doorway. "If I wasn't claustrophobic before, I'd be now. Come on, we've got reservations."
Neal walked with his aunt and Peter was between his mom and dad, and despite the disappointment, he was really, really happy. He loved his folks more than anything and he was saving up all of these memories for the eventual time when he would tell them he was gay and in love with Neal and they cut him out of their lives.
"Son?" His dad squeezed his arm. "You okay – you looked kind of upset for a moment."
Peter smiled and ducked his head. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking about things."
"Well, stop – especially if those are sad thoughts. No time for that tonight."
Dinner was fun, and delicious. There was lobster, of course, and birthday cake and champagne, and presents for Neal – a much longed for art book from his mom and dad (Peter had given them the hint) and something very special from his aunt. She handed him a small box and it looked like she had tears in her eyes.
"Jimmy – your dad – would have been so very proud of you. He got these when he made detective, first grade, but he never got a chance to wear them."
Neal opened the box – there was a pair of gold cufflinks shaped like little detective shields.
"I had teased him – no one wore shirts with cuffs like that anymore – but your dad insisted. He said that he wanted something very special to give his son when he became a man." Ellen broke down, crying, and Neal wrapped his arms around her. She repeated, "He would have been so very proud of you, Neal. So very, very proud."
Peter scrubbed at his nose and he saw his mom and dad wiping their own tears away.
Ellen pulled away from Neal. "Sorry, kiddo – didn't mean to make you cry."
"It's okay." Neal looked at the box and touched the bits of gold. "They are wonderful. I'll treasure them forever."
He started to put the box in his pocket, but then gave it back to his aunt. "I don't want to leave them in the dorm. Can you hold onto them for me?"
Ellen smiled. "Of course, sweetie. You're a smart kid."
The evening held one more surprise. From his mom and dad. "I know Spring Break is coming up. Do you two have any plans?"
Peter looked at Neal, who shrugged. "We'll be home, I guess."
His mom frowned. "That's fine, but we're going away that week."
"Yup. To Arizona – your uncle has a timeshare there and he can't make it this year, so he's letting us take it. We've made arrangements for the neighbors to take care of Satchmo, if you two want to do something."
Peter had ideas, but Neal seemed to beat him to the punch. "A lot of kids go to Florida for Spring Break, but I don't thing that's really our scene. Peter and I had talked about going to Cape Cod."
No, they hadn't, but it was an excellent idea.
His mom, ever practical, noted, "It's not going to be warm and sunny, you know."
Peter replied, since he was supposed to be in on these plans. "But it won't be crowded, and it'll be cheap, too. We can take a bus there and back."
His dad – always awesome – became the most awesomest dad in the universe. "Or, you can come home a few days before, pick up my car drive it back and have it for your trip. Otherwise, it's just going to sit in the driveway while your mom and I are away."
"Are you serious?" Peter couldn't think of anything else to say, and when he looked at Neal, he seemed equally gob smacked.
"As a heart attack, as you kids say."
"Isn't it amazing how perfectly things work out for us?" Neal leaned back in his seat, enjoying the sunlight that filled the car.
"Yeah. I must have been some wonderful person in a past life to have gotten such perfect parents in this one."
Neal realized that Peter didn't mean to sound like such an asshole, but he couldn't resist calling him on it. "I guess that means I must have been a serial killer or something, considering my parents."
"Shit, I'm sorry…"
"Nah, it's okay. And actually, my dad was awesome. Maybe if he hadn't been killed, my mother would have …" Neal didn't finish the sentence. Of course, if his father hadn't died, she wouldn't have married Vincent Adler and become such a cold-hearted bitch. "And yeah, your folks are wonderful. You are very lucky. And so am I."
"Yeah, we are."
Neal reached out and rested his hand on Peter's. Neither of them expected his folks to understand or accept their love, and they both knew that there was going to come a time when things weren't so wonderful, but for now – as long as they were careful – they would take whatever love they were given.
Peter, thankfully, changed the subject. "Can't believe we're going to Provincetown, of all places. To do it."
"Yeah, funny how things work out."
They hadn't planned on staying in Provincetown, a mecca for gay vacationers, but they actually needed to find a motel or hotel that was open before May first, and dog friendly. Aunt Cathy had been reluctant to leave the aging Satchmo alone or in a kennel for the week, and Peter had suggested that they take the dog with them.
When Peter picked him up in front of the dorm, with Satchmo chilling out in the back seat, Neal had commented, "You do realize, Peter, that we are going to have sex with the dog in the room."
"My folks upgraded us to a two-room suite. A thank-you gift for taking Satch with us."
"Nice." Neal reached back and gave the dog a pat. The dog was getting up there and it was only right that he come with them. "He'll have fun on the beach."
Two hours later, they pulled into the parking lot of the Sandy Inn. It wasn't exactly the Fairmont, but it was really kind of perfect. They had a two-room suite on the second floor, with a balcony overlooking the ocean. It was early April and there were just a few hardy souls out, braving the very stiff wind.
Neal went outside, shivered and came back in. "Well, I'm glad we weren't planning on sunbathing. Or swimming. Or playing beach volleyball, because it's definitely not the weather for it.
"Well, considering we came here to have sex, I'm just fine with that."
Neal laughed. "You're nothing if not blunt, Mr. Burke. You kind of make me feel like a call girl – or whatever the male equivalent is."
Peter shrugged. "Call boy? Don't know. And Mr. Caffrey, you are definitely not a one-night stand. Remember?"
Neal stepped into Peter's arms. "Of course. This is our first time-forever time."
"Yup." Peter kissed him.
Neal smiled into that kiss and said, "Wanna get naked?"
"Well, that was … interesting." Peter rolled onto his stomach. His ass was sore despite all of the careful prep and lube and Neal going really slow.
"You didn't enjoy it?" Neal looked stricken.
"I did. I came like the fireworks on the Fourth of July, but …"
"You'd rather be on top, right?"
"Well you'll have your chance soon enough." Neal kissed him. "I love you, even though you're a bit of a control freak sometimes."
"Yes! Yes! Yes! Fuck me, Peter, fuck me fuck me fuck me!" Neal couldn't help shouting at the top of his lungs. And it was a very good thing that they were the only guests on the entire floor. "Harder, please!"
Peter had him on his hands and knees and was plowing into him like a damn machine. It hurt, yeah, but it was the best kind of hurt. "Can't believe you made me wait for this, you bastard."
Neal thought he could do this forever, when suddenly, Peter started moving even faster and then he collapsed against his back, panting like a dog in the summer heat, but otherwise not moving.
"Wait? What? You're done? I'm not done!"
"Sorry." Peter mumbled the word against his neck, pulled out and collapsed on the bed.
Neal glared at him. "I hope you know I'm never going to let you forget this. When we’re old and fifty, I'm going to tell everyone that you came too soon our first time."
Peter looked up at him with sleepy eyes. "Give me a few and I'll make it up to you."
"Or I can finish myself and we can start again later." Neal straddled Peter and began pulling on his cock. "I'm going to make a mess all over you."
"That's fine – I'll blow you in the shower."
"Works for me."
He stroked his cock slowly. Despite Peter's rather precipitous orgasm, Neal wasn't in a rush. What they just did was really only a milestone, a checkpoint on their way to a long and happy life together.