As they pulled into the parking lot of the buffet, Andrew tried to put the awkward conversation behind him, deciding that he really didn't care.
Yeah sure you don't.
He ignored his ever interrupting conscience. It was not serving him well as of late. He had always had trouble with inner conflict, but it seemed to be even worse lately. It was a bit draining.
As they got out, Andrew smoothed his sweater, more out of habit than vanity. Kevin smacked his hand on the hood.
"So..." he said, drawing out the 'O', "I've been meaning to ask, but was a little shy, but I'm trying not to do the whole shy thing with you, so I'm just going to ask." He continued to look at Andrew over the hood, as if waiting for approval.
Andrew raised an eyebrow, "Oh really? Go on."
"Top or bottom?" Kevin asked with a sly grin. He had dropped his voice as if afraid someone would hear, although they were the only ones in the parking lot.
Andrew heaved a sigh. "Oh Lord, I wasn't expecting that. I'm versatile, but most of the time I prefer to be a big Nelly bottom. You?"
His grin grew wider upon hearing Andrews answer. "Well, I'm vers, but at heart I'm a top. Probably 'cuz I'm such an ass man"
Andrew laughed, "Noted."
They proceeded into the restaurant. The booths and tables lined the walls, surrounding the food service stations at the center. It was decorated with artificial plants and an oddly large amount of wicker baskets of various shapes and sizes. Andrew paid, even though Kevin tried to.
They were quiet as they made their way through the rows and rows of food. Andrew was surprised at how much of an appetite he had accumulated. Just the sight of all the different entrees made his mouth water. The smell was heavenly.
They sat and ate in silence for a while, Andrew just checking Kevin out. He was beautiful, a guy with basic, average looks, but with that all American sexiness to him. Andrew took a bite, imagining brushing his lips against the stubble on Kevin's chin. The thought sent a shiver through him, and causing him to catch his breath.
Kevin must have noticed. "You cold boyo?"
"Just a little chilly." he replied, trying to cover up the truth.
Kevin leaned back and began to take his thin jacket off.
Andrew dropped his fork with a loud clink. "No, no. I'm alright it was just a draft or something." He bowed his head, feeling the red creeping back to his cheeks and ears. "Thank you though" he added, fearing that he had sounded ungrateful.
When he spoke next, Kevin looked into his eyes, expertly destroying a baked potato at the same time.
"Are you always so unsure of yourself?"
"Are you always so critical?" Andrew spat, letting malice enter his voice.
Kevin shook his head and swallowed, "No, just when I like someone."
"Oh so you like me?" he asked dryly. "You’ve known me less than twenty four hours, most of which I spent comatose on your couch. You don’t even know me."
Ughh…don’t even remind yourself.
Kevin snorted. "You're quit the bitch aren't you? " The use of the word made Andrew see red, but Kevin continued, " If you didn’t seem intelligent, or like you needed a friend, I'm not sure I'd even be sitting here eating with you. You really don’t need to be so damn guarded and defensive you know. I'm not here to pick at you, I'm here to get to know you man."
He spoke without raising his voice, but it had changed. All traces of tender playfulness had been yanked, reducing the baritone to a lower note of warning.
Andrews lips had formed a tight, thin line. His right leg had begun to tap out a rapid, rythmless cadence beneath the table. He inhaled sharply, realizing that he hadn't breathed since the use of that disgusting word.
Who the fuck does he think he is?
Knowing all too well where this anger could take him, he exhaled through his teeth and spoke slowly. He tried his best to keep the rancid emotion from his voice.
"Will you excuse me for a moment?" his voice sounded calm but he was certain his eyes had been reduced to reptilian slits. He didn’t wait for a response, didn’t need one. He stood up so fast that he banged his knee on the table, coaxing varying clanks and sounds of protest from its contents. The anger acted as a painkiller. He turned sharply and strode toward the bathroom, all of his muscles as tight as stretched rubber bands.
He closed and locked the door to the empty bathroom and leaned against the cool tile wall. He let out a long sigh, feeling his muscles ease slighty. He took deep breaths until his heart rate had slowed down and he no longer felt capable of frying an egg on his face.
Who does this guy think he is, he wondered.
The guy who saved you douche bag.
That’s not an excuse to use that word.
You’ve no excuse to be so bitchy.
He winced at his conscience's use of the word. he hated that disgusting word. It was the one word he had forbidden David to use in reference to him. He hated it then, and even more now.
He saved you, so he has the upper hand now.
He could change that, couldn’t he? Could anyone in his position ever, change that kind of a dynamic? The debt of being saved is a hefty thing to ever fully repay. Besides, maybe Kevin was right. He was very defensive, more by nature than by intent, but he didn’t really monitor it.
He pushed up his sleeves and washed his hands and forearms in cold water, promising himself that he would be nicer, less defensive, and not just with Kevin.
Suddenly there was a light tapping on the door.
"Just a moment!" he called as he pumped the handle of the paper towel dispenser, furiously drying his hands. He opened the door expecting to see an impatient diner.
Kevin stood there, carrying two plastic backs that looked to be on the verge of splitting.
"I'm very sorry that I called you a bitch. It wasn’t right and I realize my mistake."
Unsure of how to handle the situation, Andrew stepped out of the restroom and allowed the door to swing closed behind him.
It doesn’t matter now.
"Don’t worry, it's all good, I know that I can be a cunt sometimes." he responded truthfully.
'I thought we could get out of here." he lifted the bags slightly, "and they have To-Go."
Not sure of what to say or if this was a good or bad idea, he just nodded, and wondered where they were going. Was he going to be dropped off at his guesthouse with a bag of cheap leftovers and a honk of the horn.
It might serve you right.
He wouldn’t argue the validity of that. They walked to the exit where Kevin backed out of the door, holding it open for him.
Trying to keep his promise to be nicer, he thanked him.
"Thank you for lunch." Kevin countered. "And probably dinner and tomorrows breakfast considerin' how much I packed into the box."
They both laughed.
"No problem." he said.
At the truck Kevin yet again surprised him. 'Do me a favor?"
Hesitating a moment, Andrew agreed.
"Come around to my side."
Andrew did as he was directed, thoroughly curious now.
When he reached the driver's side, Kevin turned his back to him, and held the bags at arm's length.
"Can you grab my keys from my pocket?"
Andrews heart sped up again just at the thought of it. thank God he didn’t wear that on his face. "Which pocket?
Andrew stood behind the guy and forced his hand into the soft pocket. He took a quick look around and wondered what this must look like. Kevin's pocket was warm and as tight as a glove.
And completely empty.
He groaned. "Lemme guess, it' in your other pocket?"
"Not at all."
You tease, I tease, he thought. Time for my own fun.
He reached into both pockets at the same time, causing their owner to chuckle. He was swift to find Kevin's testicles before he realized what was about to happen.
He gave the very large testes a squeeze that would cause discomfort but not real pain.
Kevin jumped, letting out a small yelp. "Careful now"
"Haha. You deserved it, calling me a bitch and then tricking me so soon after." He unlocked the door for him, before adding "Dickhead."
He kept the key in hand as he walked back to his side. He got in before holding it out as Kevin situated the bags in the center.
As soon as Kevin reached for it, he snatched it out of his reach. He looked ready to wrestle it from him, so he got to the point quickly.
"If you promise to never call me a bitch again, a fowl, and disgusting word might I mention; then I promise to be less defensive."
Kevin grinned and extended his pinky. Andrew returned the gesture.
"Pinky swear."Kevin whispered, and before Andrew could protest, he had kissed his hand.
"There ya go blushin' again." he echoed Andrews mind as he released his hand.
"Nervous habit." he answered simply.
"It's all good. I won't pick on you about that…too much"
"What a chode" Andrew replied with artificial exasperation.
"What's that mean?" he asked as he maneuvered the truck out of the small lot.
"You know…A chode." he said, surprised that Kevin had never heard the word. "It's an insult obviously, halfhearted as it was. It means short fat wiener."
Kevin laughed again. "Never heard of it, and you shouldn’t lie so soon after coming into contact with my 'wiener' as you call them."
Andrew rolled his eyes.
If the balls are any indication, then I'm definitely a liar.
In an attempt to get away from conversation on male genitalia, he asked where they were going.
"Oh I was gonna drop you off at home, then I was gonna go take a nice nap after all that food." he replied with a yawn.
What did you expect dumbass?
"That’s cool." he said flatly.
Kevin's head whipped around, "Seriously?" he asked sounding hurt.
Andrew's only response was to lift his eyebrow in confusion.
"Of course if you'd rather me take you home I can. But, seriously? I'm not fun to be around?"
"I didn’t say that," Andrew reminded him, "My response was 'That's cool', implying that your decision was fine by me."
Kevin pointed at him and laughed, "Gotcha!"
"I'm not sure I can take all of your pranking." Andrew said only half joking.
"Meh. Lighten up."
"Then where are we going?" he asked again.
Kevin shook his head. "Can't say. All I can say is its fun and cool. Very cool."
"Nope. Not a single one"
"Just a warning, I'm not very good at surprises." Andrew told him.
"That’s fine. You don't gotta be good at surprises to get one."
They rode in silence for a while, each turn leading them down a new road with breathtaking scenery. Despite it being winter, it was quite sunny with very few clouds in the pale blue sky. A thick snow blanketed the ground, dusted tree limbs, and left everything looking a bit enchanted.
Just the kind of place you like.
He was aware of Kevin's ever present glances, though he only returned a few. They would share a smile and then return to their silence.
Who is this guy, Andrew wondered. He was beautiful, that was certain. Strong, masculine, all the things that Andrew appreciated in a man. He was playful, seeming as if he were just a man child. All of this with no mention of the fact that he'd saved him from freezing.
You wouldn’t have minded freezing to death.
It was true. Losing David felt life a life sentence of heartache and hurt. Life couldn’t possibly hold anymore magic for him. All of his dreams of a beautiful relationship now gone. Some would say it was absurd to even think such things, but Andrew knew the validity of it. He would never, could never love someone the way he had loved David. He would never let someone so far into his heart, or let another person so near to his soul. That was the only way he could guard from having someone walk off with his heart, his soul and his life.
Like David did.
David had taken everything he had ever wanted, blew it up, tweaked and adjusted it. When he no longer felt capable of holding the relationship, he left, taking those revised dreams with him. The pain was fresh, and would always hurt.
He didn’t want to cry, especially not in front of Kevin, so again he turned his thoughts to where they may be going. They had been traveling for about twenty minutes and the houses were beginning to disappear. He asked if they were almost there.
"Two point five minutes left in the truck, then about fifteen on foot."
"Now I'm really curious."
Kevin seemed pleased that he was going along with all this spontaneous trip he had concocted.
"I'm confident that you'll at least appreciate it. It's pretty spectacular." he paused a moment. "It also happens to be my favorite place on the entire east coast."
His special place?
His conscious echoed through his vocal chords.
"It's very much my special place." he replied softly as he turned down a gravel road framed with mile high fir trees.
"Who else have you shown this place to?" He asked. Certainly he couldn’t be the only one to be brought here.
"Just my mother and an old friend who has long since moved to Vegas.
"So why show me?" he asked, not sure if he wanted to know the answer.
"I only show it to people who I think need to feel what this place can make you feel. Its really an experience."
Oh my. Now he knows what you need.
"Oh" It was all he could come up with.
Kevin stopped the truck by the side of the road and turned off the engine. "When we get close I'd like you to close your eyes if that’s cool with you. Ill lead you so you don’t fall."
Andrews curiosity had hit its peak, and Kevin was offering no clues. At that point he was just ready to see it.
Just go with it.
"Sure" he resolved.
Kevin gave a cute little grin. "Good sport."
He got out of the truck, and Andrew followed his lead, standing on the verge of the ditch beside the truck. Kevin dug around behind the seat, procuring two hats and two scarves, but only one pair of gloves.
He handed Andrew a set, including the gloves, explaining that it would be colder where they were going. It was already a bit chilly, the occasional gust freezing Andrews cheeks.
He searched Kevin's bright blue eyes. "I can do without gloves."
The guy brushed his comment away with a sweep of his hand, "Not necessary, now just put 'em on already."
Not liking the easy dismissal, "We will trade back and forth then."
Kevin laughed. "Or you could just walk with your hands in my pockets!"
Andrew couldn’t help but to roll his eyes. "You're really into yourself aren't you? I'd rather be frostbitten."
Kevin's jaw plummeted, "You don’t mean it!" He had pulled a snow scraper from the bed of the truck and was now brandishing at Andrew with poorly feigned menace.
Andrew wrapped the scarf around his neck and the bottom half of his face, thankful that it fended off most of the cold. He pocketed the hat, preferring not to mess up his hair. If he got too cold, he would put it on.
"This way boy-scout." Kevin declared as he set off into the forest that bordered the road. He checked his watch. "We have about two hours of light left. So we need to be out in an hour and fifteen at most."
"We won't get lost, will we?" Andrew asked with worry.
Cuz freezing in a forest is worse than freezing on a beach?!
"Not a chance." he answered reassuringly.
The woods were silent, save for the sound of the birds, and the occasional falling branch. They picked their way over logs, through low branches, and crops of boulders. Kevin focused on the back of Kevin's head, wishing more than anything that he could read the guys' mind.
Then you'd know if he was taking you somewhere to kill you and dump your body.
For a few moments he grew concerned about what he had gotten into. He hadn't told anyone where he was, he'd left his cell phone at home, not that it would work out here anyways. He worried what would happen if something happened to him out here. The horrible things Diane would think if he never returned.
Whatever, he told himself. What happens will happen whether I like it or not.
The ground began to incline sharply. They were about ten minutes in when Andrew began to sweat. He insisted that Kevin take the gloves. He was growing short of breath and Kevin offered an odd solution.
"What?!" he asked in exasperation.
Kevin was serious, "I said I will carry you. In the summer I run this with a bundle of shingles on each shoulder."
Andrew yanked the scarf down, inhaling the cold air. He let out a long low whistle showing that he was impressed.
"Besides, we are gonna lose light fast, and I wanna decent amount of time up there."
"You sure you wanna carry me?"
Kevin responded by standing with his feet shoulder width apart and crouching down. Andrew climbed on as gently as he could manage. Kevin handed him the scraper and gripped the back of Andrews thighs in his strong hands. He stood and wiggled a bit until he'd evenly distributed the weight of his passenger. Andrew wrapped his arms loosely around his thick shoulders.
Kevin took a few steps before asking if he was comfortable.
"Yes." he said truthfully. He was highly aware of the warm fingers embracing the fleshy underside of his thighs. Equally if not more aware of the muscular abdomen that rippled between his legs. Andrew could smell Kevin's hair, a soft pleasing herbal scent that sent snakes to writhe in the depth of his guts. He instantly wanted to bury his face in the locks.
"Alright. I'm gonna run."
"What!...N-" before he could protest, Kevin began running up the incline, leaning forward and plowing through.
God I hope I don’t get a boner. Or give this guy a hernia.
"Close your eyes now!" Kevin said after a minute or so.
Obediently, he closed his eyes. They went a few dozen yards at a walking pace. "Still closed." Andrew said before he was asked.
"K. I'm gonna put you down now and then lead you. Ill crouch til your feet touch down."
When his feet had touched the ground, he stood straight up and didn’t move. It was colder up here. It felt much higher than he expected. He could hear the ocean, and smell it too, the sharp scent of salt.
Kevin gently took the scraper from his hand, and a moment later Andrew heard the tinkle of heavy chains. Kevin startled him slightly by coming up beside him and placing an arm around him. His free hand covered Andrews eyes. Slowly he guided Andrew in turning around.
"Stop." he gently directed, when they'd stopped "Sit."
Andrew sat, almost falling when what he sat on yielded, fearing that he would fall.
"Whoah" Kevin said steadying him.
He quickly realized he was on a swing. He was about to open his eyes, and Kevin must have noticed, because he clapped his hand back over them.
"I'm on a swing!" he said with a little bit of excitement.
"Not just any swing." he said. "Hold the chains. I'm going to push you. Don’t open til I tell you."
"Ok." he was laughing now, and grabbed the cold chains in his bare hands. "I promise."
He felt Kevin pull him back and give him a large push. He fought the urge to open his eyes, waiting on the cue. The man pushed him a few more times, and on the upswing…
"You can open them!" Kevin called in a singsong voice.