Tibial, after some hesistation, decided to go visit Chad the next day once he was freed from work. He was given light chores that day, with Lady Eva insisting that he needed the rest. He felt fine until he actually reached Chad’s building, then his nervousness hit, with his stomach jumping and sweat gathering.
Stop being ridiculous, he told himself.
He knocked on the door, shifted nervously from one foot to another as he heard the sound of footsteps from the other side. Chad opened the door, his face splitting into a wide grin. “Hey.”
Tibial smiled back as he stepped inside. Instead of his nervousness dissipating, it grew. He remembered his last time here, felt his loins grow hot and tight. Tibial shut the door behind him and looked at Chad, who was in a pair of sleep pants and a T-shirt, his hair damp.
“Come on in. Do you want something to drink?”
Chad turned and opened the refrigerator and Tibial could see how his hair had left a large wet patch on the back of his shirt between his shoulder blades and was struck by the ridiculous urge to touch the damp cotton.
“All I have is water and beer,” Chad said apologetically.
“Beer is fine,” Tibial said. Chad raised an eyebrow but tossed him a bottle without comment. “Don’t you dare tell your mother! Lady Eva will think I’m trying to corrupt you.”
Tibial smiled weakly and took a drink of beer. His taste buds and stomach recoiled but he drank anyway. He wanted to calm his nerves, which didn’t seem to understand that there was nothing to be nervous about.
“So what’s up?” Chad asked, taking a sip of his own beer.
Tibial looked down at his beer bottle. “I was wondering if you had that painting, you know, from the other day finished. I was wondering if I could see it.”
Chad looked surprised, and then a hint of color rose up in his face. "Yeah, as a matter of fact, I finished it a couple nights ago,” he said. “C’mon, I’ll show it to you.”
He led Tibial back into his bedroom, where Tibial’s eyes slid over the bed and a hot flush raced up his face as his mind filled with memories. Chad opened up a door that led to a small closet and separated one canvas from the collection stacked in there, pulling it out and holding it out to Tibial. Tibial leaned forward, taking the painting and carefully holding it on the edges with his fingertips.
The one unfinished piece, as Tibial had guessed, ended up being a window. From behind the clouded, dark glass of the window you could make out a figure standing on the other side, features and even sex indistinguishable. The only clear detail was one hand, pressed against the window glass… as if wanting a way out and being unable to find one. It was sad and heartbreakingly beautiful at the same time, Tibial thought and his heart ached for that lonely figure trapped in the room.
“What do you think?” Chad said, trying to sound nonchalant and casual, but even he could hear the tight anxiety in his voice.
“It’s beautiful,” Tibial breathed, not taking his eyes off it. “It’s amazing. I had no idea you were so talented.”
Chad felt himself blushing at the extravagant and unexpected praise. "Do you want it?” he asked.
Tibial looked up at him. "What?”
“The painting. I’ll sell it to you, if you would like.”
Tibial’s eyes grew wide. “Are you serious?”
“Don’t you like it?”
“I love it. But don’t you want to keep it?”
“An artist wants to share his work…preferably with someone who appreciates it. But if you don’t want it-”
“How much?” Tibial asked. It took a few minutes for the two to agree on a fair price, but once they did, Chad promised to get it framed and delivered in the next several days.
“So, what are you working on now?” Tibial asked, following Chad back into the living room. His eyes darted to the easel, but whatever was on it was currently covered.
“Nothing special,” Chad said evasively, taking another drink. “It’s not ready to be looked at.”
“Do you have your stuff on display anywhere?” Tibial asked.
Chad raised his hand to the back of his head to smooth out a tangle in his hair. Tibial found himself watching the motion, focusing on the blunt fingers, remembering how it felt when Chad stroked his hair on the night of the ritual.
“Well, I’ve done a couple pieces for some people--friends of mine, and the boutique downtown has one of my pieces--but I don’t paint things to put them on display," Chad explained. "I do it because I like doing it. Having people buy my stuff and appreciate it is nice, but it’s not my primary motivation.”
“How long have you been painting?” Tibial asked, sitting down on the couch. Chad sat down on the other end and Tibial automatically adjusted his body to turn towards him.
“I started when I was a couple years younger than you, maybe twelve or thirteen. My mom introduced me to it. She liked to paint, but didn’t have a talent for it. Later on, when she passed away, my dad didn’t allow me to paint anymore and he threw all her supplies out…bad memories, I guess or they made him miss her or something, I don’t know. I joined the art club at the school and took classes behind my dad’s back. It wasn’t hard, he wasn’t often around.” He shrugged. “I’ve just always liked it, creating something out of nothing.”
“I’m envious,” Tibial said. “I could never do something like that.”
“Well, what do you like to do?” Chad asked. “Do you have plans for a career?”
“Well, it’s always been thought that I would go into the family business and work in the vineyards. Terrasa is going to take over the business when Lady Eva and my father retire or pass away. I’m hoping to be able to handle some of the business aspects. I want to stay in the vineyard business but not the physical labor part of it. I’m hoping Terrasa will need my help, she never was good at math-”
Chad rolled his eyes. “You don’t have to tell me that.”
Tibial smiled. It was Terrasa’s miserable marks in math and science that had led her to seek tutoring help from Chad in the first place. “Anyhow, I’m hoping she will be letting me handle the books and finances, stuff like that. I’m pretty good with money and math, so I’m focusing on that and finishing school. It should work out, unless she couples up with someone who can do that for her, or who doesn’t want me around for some reason.” Tibial shrugged.
“It’s a good plan,” Chad said. “And it’s something you want to do.” Truthfully, he was a little surprised to see Tibial planning so far ahead. He hadn’t a clue what he wanted to do when he was that young. Still didn’t, truth be told. He was working in construction now, which was a good job, albeit a hard one, and it kept him fed, clothed and sheltered. It also allowed him a little bit of time and money to work on his art, which he loved with a passion unrivaled by anything else. It was far from perfect, but it was good for now.
They continued talking for a little while, about trivial things. Chad wanted to know some more about Tibial’s plans for the future, Tibial asked what Chad had been doing for the few years they had not been in contact. Both of them skirted carefully around certain topics--like what had happened the last time they were in the apartment. Tibial didn’t mention the girl he had meet at the coupling dance and Chad didn’t share Terrasa’s visit.
Tibial felt totally relaxed and at ease the longer they talked, his earlier nervousness evaporating like smoke. Chad was so easy to talk to, and he could say stuff without the automatic censoring he used with his sister and mother--especially with his sister. Terrasa was skilled at eliciting and distributing information, usually information that the informant had no intention of disclosing. And he liked the fact that Chad, who was older and more mature, was willing to sit there and listen to him.
Chad liked watching Tibial, the shy nervous boy gone, replaced by the energetic, animated teenager sitting before him. His eyes drank in details for later, his artists mind filing them away carefully…the way the slowly dying light coming in through the window shone off his dark hair, casted shadows over his face, the way it reflected in his eyes, making them seem to glow.
When Tibial noticed the growing darkness outside, he reluctantly said he needed to be going.
“Let me drive you back,” Chad offered.
“No, that’s alright. I’ll walk. It’s not that far.”
“Are you sure? It’s getting dark out.”
“Yeah, it’s fine.”
“Okay.” Chad waited until Tibial was almost out the door before he made up his mind to say what he wanted. “Tibial.”
Tibial turned and looked at Chad over his shoulder. “Yeah?”
“Feel free to stop by if you ever want to talk, okay? Consider me a friend.”
Tibial smiled at him. “I already do.”
Chad smiled back, reached out and playfully tousled his hair. Tibial smacked his hand away, smiling, then left, disappearing easily into the night. Chad shut the door slowly, frowning.
He shouldn’t have said that. Tibial did not need to be stopping by on a regular basis. He shouldn’t have even let him in today, except that there was no reason not to. Chad rubbed his hand over his face, frustrated. His feelings were not Tibial’s fault, not Tibial’s problem.
And Chad did want him to come by again. Wanted to see his face, hear his voice, feel his body under his hands…
This was exactly why he didn’t want that boy over here alone.
He sighed and went to his easel, uncovering it. He had lied to Tibial, about the painting. It was nearly done, close to completion, but he didn’t think Tibial would have reacted kindly to seeing his own face staring back at him. He added the finishing touches that were needed, knowing when to stop, when his mind knew completion even while his eyes and his hands wanted to continue to add, adjust.
He stepped back, put the brush down. No, this was good, this was perfect. Tibial stared back at him, lying on his stomach, his hair tousled, eyes half open and exhausted, a secret, knowing smile on his lips, his body and face lit in the hot glowing color of sunset.
Chad studied it, arms folded across his chest. What was he doing? Just what the hell was he doing? He was lusting, obsessing over a teenager, a kid, a boy that he hardly knew. Thinking of him and wanting him. And all the while having sex with his sister. Goddess, how messed up was that? He turned away from the painting in disgust.
Tibial was too young.
Tibial was too innocent.
And he was definitely too male.
He glanced at the painting, looked at the sexy, alluring smile he had put on Tibial’s lips. Imagined those lips on his, remembering how soft, how gentle they had been. Imagined them brushing down his chest, his stomach, pictured them wrapping around his cock. He unfastened his pants and took his growing erection in his fist. He pumped it as he pictured it in his mind, those sweet soft lips wrapped around him, sliding up and down his cock, smearing it with saliva and his own precum, imagined Tibial glancing up at him with those innocuously sexy dark eyes.
He came hard, his whole body drawing up tight, his muscles bunching up as he exploded wet all over his hand. He sank down onto his knees, resting his head on the arm of his couch as he slowly came down off his orgasmic high. He felt his cock softening in his loose grip, felt his senses return, filling his mind with a lonely despair. He had to get over this, he had to let this go.
No matter how badly he wanted this, he knew he wouldn’t be getting it. It would never happen. He wouldn’t let it.
* * *
Tibial was beginning to realize something was wrong.
He had gone to visit Mia that week, at her house, and was surprised at the number of brothers and sisters she had, children that had looked up at him with big curious eyes. Coming from a large family with lots of children was a good sign.
Mia was more than willing to pull him out the back door of the house, to a small cottage in a fenced off portion of the yard, where they tumbled onto a small bed that moaned and creaked while young fumbling hands peeled off clothing. Tibial pressed his mouth over hers as she came, muffling her cries then pressed hard, trembling on the sweet edge before tumbling over, tumbling into her and her tight warmth, with her long slender arms wrapped tight around his torso. They laid there, bodies intertwined, breathing heavily, skin dewed with sweat and Tibial thought that he had never felt so empty and unfulfilled as he did at that moment. He pressed his face against her shoulder and neck, kissing the damp skin absently, trying to hold back the tears that wanted to come. He felt immature and irrational, getting upset over sex.
“Tibial?” Mia’s voice was soft and hesitant, not her usual tone of playful coyness.
“Yeah?” He raised himself onto his elbows, and rolled off her onto his back, thinking maybe he was too heavy to be laying on top of her. She propped herself up on one elbow, looking down at him.
“Do you think I’ll take?”
“I don’t know,” Tibial said honestly. “I’m doing everything I can on my part though,” he said, bringing a hand up to rub her stomach. She smiled at him.
“If I do--you will stay, won’t you? Take care of me and the baby?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?” Tibial asked. She was staring at him with a line of worry between her brows and he brushed his thumb against her face, along her lip.
“Well, the man you met in the house--he’s not my real dad. He left after my sister was born. I was two. The rest of the children are from my mom and my step dad--half siblings.”
“Why did your dad run off?” Tibial asked.
Mia shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe he and Mom had a quarrel, or he just didn’t want to be around us, didn’t love us very much. I don’t know.”
“I won’t do that. I won’t abandon you and our children,” Tibial promised. “So don’t worry, alright?”
Mia smiled and leaned down to kiss him, then laid on top of him, wrapping her arms around his neck while her hair brushed his lips and tickled his nose. “You jerk,” she said, her voice muffled. “I think you’re making me fall in love with you.”
Unable to come up with a thing to say, he did nothing but hug her back and deep inside, his hottest darkest wish was that she was someone else. Someone with heavy muscles, a deep passion roughed voice and the rough scrape of a beard against his skin.
He realized he didn’t want to be with Mia.
And he couldn’t stop thinking about Chad.
* * *
It made sense, Tibial lied to himself later that day as he washed her scent off him in the shower. It was just that he liked Chad, he felt comfortable with Chad and he thought of him as a comfort, as a sort of safety when he found himself in an uncomfortable situation, with Mia’s insecurities and her surprising declaration of love that he just couldn’t return.
He sighed, hanging his head, water beating off his head and shoulders, streaming down his back and legs. No, that didn’t make sense. Comfort he could understand, but it wasn’t comfort that came to mind when he had thought of Chad. What did come to mind led to a physical change that Mia had noticed poking at her hip and had led to another round of coupling.
It wasn’t comfort he was seeking when he thought of Chad. Thoughts of Chad brought excitement, passion, desire. That had been easily explained away by it being his first sexual experience but that reasoning wasn’t fitting in right now. He could think of Mia, things that he had done with her and would get excited, but not like when he thought of Chad, never like when he thought of Chad.
He turned the water off and toweled dry, pulling on his sweatpants and T-shirt. He felt confused and the more he thought about it, the more confused and mixed up he felt.