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Gust splashed more water on his face, ran his hand down his face and looked at the mirror in the bathroom. He looked like shit. His red puffy eyes, paled out skin, quivering lips, had drained all his attractiveness at that moment. Yet again, a tear rolled down his cheek and he couldn’t help but break down again replaying the scene that was created in the living room few hours ago. He was so ashamed. He could feel the eyes over his back and guessed his parents were disgusted to find out truth, just like his brother, otherwise they would have said something. But the room remained silent for a long time before he shut his eyes tight, letting a tear roll out of them, and rushed upstairs to his room.
Since that time, he had locked himself in his room and cried his eyes out. At some point, he thought he heard low chatter outside the door, but it quieted soon, so he assumed he must have imagined it. He reflected on old, happy times that he had spent with his parents, laughing and crying at the same time, and began to feel lonely all of a sudden. As his thoughts went deeper, he imagined the worst situation. What if his parents wouldn’t approve of his orientation? Would they kick him out? Where would he go?
He considered calling Luke, but then he changed his mind thinking he didn’t want to ruin their first ever date by whining about his shitty situation and cancelling it. He had looked at the clock, astonished that it was 7 pm already. He checked his cell phone and smiled, seeing there was a text from Luke. ‘I will be waiting for you at the movie theatre. Movie starts at 8 pm, so don’t be late. Later!’ He needed to rush, but he was too weakened. He had skipped lunch too.
Somehow he had dragged himself out of the bed and to the bathroom, and now here he was trying hard to wipe that horrifying expression off his face. It was all in vain. He rubbed his eyes to stop them from tearing up, and with a last splash on his face, he was out of there. He changed into a good casual shirt and jeans to go with it, and came downstairs.
He slowed down as he descended the stairs, and by the last step he saw his parents look up at him. Their faces didn’t show any kind of emotion and it looked as if he had interrupted an important talk. Gust didn’t even wanted to guess what was it about because he already knew what was it about.
“I am going out. Don’t let me bother you.” He murmured, and turned to head for the door.
“Gust, sweetie ...” His mom called in a pleading voice to stop him, making him turn to them timidly. “We want to have a word with you.” She said looking at her husband as she said.
Gust nodded and took a step nearing them. He kept his head down low, ready to take whatever they said.
“You didn’t come down for lunch?” His mom asked worriedly.
He shrugged, not looking up yet. “I wasn’t really hungry.”
She nodded. “I-uh did come to talk to you before, but your dad stopped me because he wanted you to have your time alone with your thoughts. Maybe ...” His mom exhaled annoyingly and blurted, “Are you sure about this? I mean you could be confused about your sexuality, but that doesn’t make you ...”
Gust frowned seeing she had difficulty even saying that word. “Just say it, mom. The word is ‘gay’. Get in the habit of using it and hearing it, because I am damn sure I am not ‘confused’ about this.” He said making air quotes in irritation. He huffed and began to leave.
“Gust!” A stern voice called him. It was his dad, finally speaking up. He stood up, straightening his coat and approached him. His dad palmed his shoulder and made him turn to face him. He looked up into his dark, brown eyes, without any hope. But those brown eyes softened and smiled at him sadly. “My boy, don’t get your mother wrong. You should understand this thing is hard to swallow for us, and we are concerned about you, your future. And besides, you had dated several girls before ...”
“I didn’t know what I wanted at that particular time, but I knew I wasn’t happy. Never!”
“I know,” Gust’s dad released his hold on him and continued, “and I know that things will be different from now on, and we are ready to accept that change because we love you.”
Gust perked up hearing that, and looked with hope at his dad. His mom stood up from the couch too and stood behind her husband, “Yes Gust, we love you. I love you, and I have loved you since the first time you were given to me in my arms in the hospital.” Her eyes got watery and she squeezed her husband’s bicep, being reminded of that beautiful moment in her life. “You were so tiny and I just couldn’t feel anything but all the love for you. Back then it didn’t matter to me what you would grow up to be, and it still doesn’t matter to me, because I just love you for what you are and who you are as a person.”
“Mom ...” Gust was speechless. He had tears in his eyes, and he jumped to give them both a big hug. “I love you too mom and dad. I love you to no extent.” He began crying hard in their arms and all they could do was to shush their little child between their silent cries. “I was so scared. I thought I’d lose you. I couldn’t have lived a day without you.”
“Oh honey!” His mom rubbed his back, “You’d never lose us at all.”
He let go the hug and sniffed, saying, “But I did lose my brother in all this.”
“No you didn’t.” Gust’s dad said, “Give him some time. He will slowly accept it. He loves you, too, you know.”
“I know.” Gust smiled, sounding relieved now.
“Sweetie, will you be here for dinner, or do you have other plans?”
“Actually I do, mom. I have a date... with a guy.” He cautiously dropped it on them and waited for them to react.
There was slight surprise on both of their faces, but then they recovered quickly. “Oh! I guess you’ll be eating out then.” His mom said.
And his dad warned, “Well boy, you know the curfew. You better be home by then.”
Gust was pleasantly shocked to get such a normal reaction from them over this. He never expected that, so he was grinning wide. “I will. Thanks dad.” He hugged them both for a short moment and said a quick bye before he left. He had that unaffected grin still on his face, until he came face to face with Matt, who was right there on the door step. Matt was coming home from somewhere.
Gust lost his smile while looking at his brother’s face, which turned hard at his sight. Without a word, he sharply passed him, bumping him harshly and went inside banging the door behind him.
His behaviour screamed to Gust that he was not needed in his life. With a sad face, Gust walked away.
He saw Noah turn around with a smile, and shrunk his body to hide deeper behind the bushes. Luke had been tracking his moves for last fifteen minutes as Noah waited for his date to arrive. Most of the time, he would be just staring at his handsome professor, studying his habits – like how Noah would run his hand through his dark hair, or pinch his nose every now and then aimlessly, how his blue eyes would dart around looking here and there, searching for someone. It was utterly cute that he was oblivious of the fact that he was being watched, and according to Luke, that made it all dreamy for him.
But the dream broke by the arrival of a hunky dude, and Luke got cautious.
“I have been waiting here for so long. I thought you stood me up.” Noah said, putting on his rich smile.
“Nah! I am not a jerk to miss a lucky date with you.” He could see the sneer on Chris’ face even from between the bushes, and felt like punching his face to wipe it off. It was that unbearable to him.
And then something happened that made anger rush run through his vein; his body heated up, shudderingin wrath, as Chris stepped up and placed a light kiss on Noah’s cheek. The fact that Noah didn’t resist, added more fuel to his anger.
“What the heck!” he lowly grumbled.
While Gust was walking to the movie theatre, his mind shifted away from thoughts of Matt hating him, to wondering what the night was about to bring for him and Luke. He wondered whether Luke would be able to see through the sadness he has gone through today. He always did; it was almost impossible to hide anything from him. They were so close to each other that they shared almost everything, but he was determined to not open his mouth about today. He might tell him tomorrow, but not today. Tonight deserved to be a special and happy one night.
He began to think of all happy things while he walked, and soon he had cheered up. By the time he reached the theatre, he was in utter bliss; excited for this date. He checked his appearance while he walked to Luke.
Luke was with his back to him, standing at the entrance looking inside impatiently.
Luke almost jumped by his sudden arrival, and scowled at him. “For fuck’s sake, don’t you have the word ‘punctual’ in your dictionary? You are too damn late, dude.” Gust lost his smile and was shocked at Luke’s outburst, but he apologized.
Luke rolled his eyes. “Hurry up now or we will miss seeing them.” He blurted out, searching for someone inside the theatre.
Gust was confused. “What?”
“Uhm ... I mean, the movie. We should hurry up or we will miss the beginning part, and I hate missing the beginning; you know that.”
Gust chuckled, as Luke was literally dragging him inside. “Whoa! Slow down cutie, Let’s buy the tickets first.”
‘Cutie? Did he just call me that?’ Luke furrowed his eyebrows, but then shrugged it off. Other things were more important. “It’s taken care of, let’s just go.” He impatiently bubbled out.
Gust giggled the way Luke pulled him in. Luke was about to rush inside the movie hall when he caught a glimpse of a familiar face and he halted. Not leaving the sight of the man, he said to Gust, “You go inside and look for two seats for us in the back. I will ...” He struggled for an excuse and came up with, “I will get us some popcorn and drinks.”
“OK ... but, why the back seats?” He wondered aloud.
Luke looked at him funny. ‘So that I can keep an eye on Noah and the coach? DUH, dumbo!’ He wanted to scream, but he huffed instead, “Just do as I said. Go now” He pushed.
“Aye, Aye Captain.” Gust rolled his eyes and did as he was asked to do.
When he was gone, Luke turned to the sight of his beloved man again. He quickly reviewed his appearance one last time before approaching the counter. He took the other counter; different from where Noah was waiting for his order, and said loudly. “Large popcorn and coke for two, please.” He emphasised the word ‘two’ while he placed the order. It was strange, but his plan worked, because it got Noah’s attention.
Luke could see him looking at him from the corner of his eyes, and he smiled to himself. He was looking everywhere but at Noah. When Noah’s order arrived, he took it, but lingered at the counter for longer than normal, then walked at a snail’s pace to go in. Not long after, Luke’s order arrived as well, and he took it, thanking the server and briskly walked back in. He acted as if he hadn’t seen Noah at all.
Noah followed behind him with cautious steps, and saw him approaching the back row. He saw Gust waving at Luke, trying to get his attention, and felt an instant jealousy. He quickly recovered from that, and walked down to where Chris was sitting. He handed over the popcorn bucket to him, and took his seat.
All throughout the movie, Noah couldn’t concentrate. Chris would be talking to him occasionally, but he would just nod. His mind was somewhere else. His head would keep turning against his sane thoughts to spy on Luke and Gust closely. It would feel weird inside him when he would see them laughing, talking and ... touching.
He had turned swiftly, facing the big screen, when the sight of Luke with someone else became impossible to bear.
Luke was enjoying getting such reaction out of Noah. Even in the dark, he could see his head turning to them from the corner of his eyes. He was in bliss, but all his dreams were broken soon, as he saw Chris starting to caress Noah’s cheek.
Noah’s mind was pre-occupied when Chris had asked whether he could kiss him, and Noah nodded senselessly. Chris smiled brightly and cupped his face, holding it in his direction.
“Oh my God, they are going to kiss!!” Luke screeched in realisation.
Gust was taken aback by sudden change in Luke’s demeanour, and replayed of what he said. There was a scene going on, on the screen, where the protagonist male was conversing with his mother. He looked at Luke funny. “You think they are going to kiss each other?”
“What do you think? He is so close ... shit! I think he is almost there.”
Gust was sure now that he wasn’t talking about the film, so his eyes followed the direction in which Luke was intently looking. He couldn’t properly see in the dark, and since the two men’s faces were so close, their shadows were hiding the view of their faces. But suddenly, one man backed off and the light from the screen reflected on his face and he recognised him.
“Mr. Mayer!” He exclaimed in shock. “And he is with our coach? I didn’t know they were dating!”
“Pfew! Thank god... they didn’t kiss.” Luke exhaled in relief.
Now it hit Gust ... all of it. “No way! I can’t fucking believe you are using me in your little shitty game plan, you prick!”
Luke was caught and he felt culpable. “Gust, I can explain.” He said helplessly, but Gust couldn’t take it anymore. This was supposed to be a happy date ... but this broke his heart into million pieces.
“Go to hell!” He shrugged off Luke’s touch and got up, leaving the theatre.
Luke fought with his urge to sit there and spy on whether Noah and Chris were going to try ‘it’ again. But the love for his friend took over his heart, and he followed him outside.
“Gust ... wait!”
“What Luke? What is there to explain? You are messing with my heart, with my emotions.” Tears stung his eyes. “You damn well knew I had feelings for you, and you took advantage of that to make that queer professor jealous? Really? Didn’t you even once think of our friendship?”
“Woah! You gotta be shitting me. I thought you were over the childish best friend crush... What did you think, this was a date?” Luke smirked.
Now Gust felt like a fool. Thinking Luke was only for him, but he was proved wrong. Could this day get any worse for him? He couldn’t reply to Luke’s questions but the tears flowing uncontrollably, answered him and Luke felt sorry for being so harsh to his best friend.
Gust couldn’t stand there anymore so he scurried out. Luke wanted to go with him, but he thought since Gust wasn’t thinking clearly, it was not the right time to talk. And also, he had other matters to attend to right now.
Now that Gust wasn’t here, Luke had to think of a backup plan. He stressed his brain trying to think of something good, but his mind was blank. While he was busy thinking, he saw Chris running out of the hall, approaching the washroom, while rubbing the drink off his clothes. And it clicked ...
Gust was lonely walking on the streets, heading to nowhere in particular. He just kept walking, left alone with his gloomy mood and tears to accompany it.
Thinking of what Luke did to him, he thought he deserved it. After all, he did the same to Joe as well, and that innocent guy didn’t even know it yet. If he found out, it would hurt him as much as it was hurting Gust right now.
His dreams were shattered. Luke didn’t like him like ‘that’. He was only a best friend to him, nothing more. Going back in past, he knew all the gestures coming from Luke meant something else. He was so stupid to believe that it all were in romantic way.
Gust was near Olde Town when a car pulled to the side to where he was walking, and it honked trying to get his attention.
“Hey Gust! What are you doing out here so late?” Joe asked, getting out of his car and walking around to reach Gust. “Someone as precious as you, shouldn’t stay out so late. You can’t trust the muggers. Hey are you trying to get me robbed?” He teased.
Gust looked down, trying to hide his puffy eyes and sad look behind a fake smile. “I was just going home.”
“Yeah, that’s ok but ...” Gust sniffed without realizing it, and Joe picked on it, “Wait, are you crying, baby?” He looked down to meet his teary eyes. Joe had a worried look on his face. He held Gust’s chin by his hand, and made him look up at him. And that was what made the dam break ... Gust kept sobbing hysterically and mumbling his apology. Joe freaked and didn’t know what to do. He tried taking him in his arms, but Gust would shrug saying he didn’t deserve such kindness. Joe became helpless and couldn’t anything but try to soothe him, asking about what had happened.
“I am an asshole. I was so stupid to use you to make him jealous. I didn’t even think about how dreadful you would feel, when you realized what I was doing. But I swear I didn’t mean to hurt you. I know you’re hurt, but I never intended this. If it makes you happy though, it all backfired on me. And if you still feel I need to be punished more, go ahead, punish me to the extreme.”
“You are a bad guy, Gust ...” Joe said with a straight face.
“I guess I deserve that.” He wiped the tears off his cheek, casting his eyes down in shame.
“Yes you do, and I am going to punish you.” He suddenly raised his fist high up and Gust shut his eyes quickly. He was ready for whatever came his way ... but something unexpected happened. Instead of a fist hitting him, a warm hand caressed his cheek, and then he felt moist lips linger on his own puffed ones. He was shocked at first but gave in into the kiss, as it made him feel better. It all felt right.
Noah turned around once again. Luke and Gust were gone and his mind worked overtime thinking about them. Images of Luke and Gust making out in the stalls of restroom of the movie theatre, began harassing his mind. At one point, he even felt an impulse to go check on where they were. But he controlled his emotions.
After some time, Chris came back and Noah turned to him apologetically. “I am sorry for spilling the drink on your clothes. I was just nervous kissing you ... hey, why are you wearing the hood?”
Chris shivered “Are you feeling cold?” Noah asked, and Chris bobbed his covered head. “Well, if you are not feeling well, we can leave. It’s okay.”
Chris shook his head, twisted a bit in his chair facing Noah, and touched his cheek. Noah took the hint and got ready for it again. This was the third time he was trying this. The first two attempts were a disaster, but he didn’t want the third one to be embarrassing. He prepared himself mentally, and palmed Chris’ cheek too, nearing him.
Same as before, flashbacks of the ‘almost kiss’ with Luke that day, tickled his memory. The warmth he felt while nearing those tender lips, he was feeling it again now. The sensation he got when he had felt Luke’s breath on his lips, he felt it now as well. But unlike other times, he didn’t back off this time and kissed the inviting, luscious lips eagerly waiting him. They hungrily kissed each other like never before ... it was the effect that was divine to them. The world had stopped turning for them, and they were the only souls present in it right now. They both were unstoppable.
Somewhere between the hurried kisses, Chris’ hood fell off his head and revealed the blond hair hiding beneath it. When they broke apart, they were breathing hard but smiling wide. However a flash of light in that dark room revealed the person’s identity hiding behind the hood, and Noah lost his smile. “Luke?!” Noah’s throat went dry looking at his alluring student sitting beside him, with whom he had just shared a mind-blowing kiss.