“So you want to maybe come see me fight?” Dane was fiddling with his gear, not making eye contact with Noel. Two weeks had passed since Noel had started coming around again, and Dane had tried to be good. He couldn’t help that he found himself sneaking glances at the other man. His eyes seemed to do it all on their own, and before he knew it—bam!
—he had a stiffy.
It was really tough trying to train to be friends with Noel and not want to lay him over his table and kiss him like crazy. Noel wasn’t helping any either. Dane caught him looking over in his direction a lot. Once when he was bent over dusting the art books, his skin prickled and he looked up, and he could have sworn Noel was looking at his ass.
Hard to tell, because Noel had eyes like mice; they ran away as soon they caught your attention.
“I can’t believe you fight,” Noel said now.
“Why d’you say that? I got a chin, you know?”
“Yes, I possess one as well, but I don’t box.” Noel was smiling. Dane swallowed. It was like the other man was flirting with him or something. Made it kinda hotter in the library than it was already.
“Naw, you know, a chin. Like I can take a lot of hits. Don’t got no glass jaw. Lots of really prime contenders got promise, but you can lay them down easy.”
“Well…not exactly. When I fight, it’s not what you call an exact science.”
Noel sat with his chin cupped in his hand, listening. His curls were damp around his face, so he looked a bit like the angels Dane remembered from church. “Mmmmmm?” Noel purred.
Oh, man. Purred. Dane would not be responsible for his actions if Noel made that sound again anytime soon.
“As I was saying before you made that…sound, which you shouldn’t oughta do to a man in training, you know? Anyways, I don’t always win. Sometimes…sometimes I’m the Man. I can take down anyone, like I’m flying, and it’s as easy as breathing, you know? But others, I just don’t got the heart.”
“So if you aren’t in the right frame of mind, you lose?”
“Well, I think it’s like bein’ off balance or something. You ever notice how when you are doing your thing, happy as shit, then some bad stuff happens, and you get to feelin’ bad about it, and you want someone to make you feel better, like hugs-and-kisses better? You want your friends to be understandin’, only they aren’t, and if you have anything electrical, like…like a kettle, it will short out the same time all this bad is coming down on you.”
“Off balance…” Noel was thinking about Dane’s words! No one but Noel ever really did, ’cept Dane’s trainer, but mostly he just told Dane what to do. Noel took off his glasses. “I’ve wanted to get rid of these for a while, and whenever I feel bad about…about how I can’t walk like other people or how I wear them and not the contacts I really want, it seems like my father will say something that hurts me. Or I feel it more.”
“He hurts you?” Dane came over and sat down. He put a gentle hand on Noel’s wrist, and Noel blinked and looked at him, but Dane could tell he knew it was not a play to fool around. “I’m sorry. That’s not good. You want I should talk to him for you?”
“I promise I wouldn’t hit him or nothin’, on account he’s your father.”
Noel covered his mouth, shaking his head. At first, Dane thought he was crying, but then he saw Noel was laughing, which he guessed was good, but his eyes were also damp. Noel was like a rain shower, the kind of weather that was all confused, and he confused Dane, even as he made Dane feel good as a man. Feel good to be breathing and alive so he could look at Noel.
“That’s…uh, very sweet of you, Dane, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t listen. He thinks boxers are dirty, sweaty men.”
“We are,” Dane said. Then he blinked. “Do you think I’m dirty and sweaty? Is that why you don’t want to let me get close to you?”
Noel shook his head vigorously. “I’m so sorry, I was… I’m in a bit of a wild mood lately, and I repeated something I shouldn’t have and it hurt you. Please forgive me.”
“’Course I’ll forgive you. I’m glad you don’t think I smell bad.”
Noel shook his head. “You are a very beautiful man,” he said. Then he blushed, and the splotches of red in his cheeks delighted Dane.
“I like making you blush, Noel!”
“Ahem.” Noel took off his glasses, wiping his eyes. “How is your…your boyfriend scouting going?” Noel asked him that whenever he saw Dane.
“Not too good. I had to knock it off on account I was very depressed.”
“I’m sorry you were depressed.”
“Well, I’m going to be honest with you, since I ain’t got nothing to lose tellin’ you stuff. I had a date with a man who had Bambi on his head, and I thought it would be nice, only it wasn’t.”
“A date? Did you go out with him?”
“Yeah, around back.”
“Around back of what?” Noel looked confused.
“The club. He had amber condoms. I’ve never heard of amber before. I liked the color, but now it makes me sad. You know how it is sometimes with smells or colors that you always think of when they are mixed up with certain bad things? Well, now amber makes me sad, which is, you know, not amber’s actual fault, so that’s too bad.”
“You…had sex with him?”
“Yeah, only it wasn’t very nice sex.”
“Oh,” Noel said. Then, suddenly, he stood up. Gripping his cane in white fingers, he began to pace, while Dane watched him. “I don’t like that you engaged in…intimacy with this man. You could have been hurt!”
“Naw, don’t worry none. I don’t think we was what you call intimate. I just fucked him like he wanted, but I used a condom.”
“Oh.” Noel looked ill.
Dane reached out impulsively and grabbed Noel’s hand as he paced by him. He couldn’t think with all the pacing distracting him. “You weren’t around any. You didn’t want me, remember?” Dane shrugged, feeling the edge of resentment flare a little at flirty, confusing Noel.
“I’ve been doing some research about…” Noel coughed. “I don’t think I’m very gay. I tried to look at other men, like the dean? But I couldn’t seem to find him attractive.”
“Just how you’re made.”
“But I don’t like you ‘dating’ in this fashion. I want it to stop.”
“Because…” Noel’s hands fisted.
“Look. I need things spelled out. If it’s red, I stop. If it’s green, I go. I need it like that, right?”
“Because…I don’t want you touching other men or looking at them or even thinking about—”
Dane caught Noel and cut off his outburst. Noel looked pale and sick, except for the flags of angry color in his face. “Hey…hey, now.” Dane stood and put his hands on Noel’s shoulders, patting him so he’d calm. “You need to relax.”
“Oh, dear me.”
“Shhhh. Man, you are one tense dude, you know?”
“I’m not as bad as my father, I assure you.” Noel laughed, embarrassed. “It’s just that I’m so very…fond of you, Dane. It makes me angry if someone uses you.”
“You always look unhappy when you talk about your dad, but he ain’t here right now, is he?”
“So you don’t need to think about him when you’re with me.”
Noel rubbed his forehead. “He’s all I think about when I’m with you.”
“I remind you of your dad?” Dane shook his head. “I know some guys like that, but—”
Noel shook his head, smiling. Smiling was good. Dane was glad to see it. “No…er…not in that sense. However, I have been reading this morning.” Noel shifted to his books and held one out to Dane. It had a picture of two dudes wearing a lot of feathers. One was younger than the other, both male, and he was on hands and knees while his lover took him from behind. Dane felt color rise in his own cheeks, which he knew was dumb.
“From my anthropological studies, I remember reading about…” Noel cleared his throat. “Male Azande warriors married male youths who acted as temporary wives.”
“Oh, yeah?” Dane didn’t know what to say.
“A lot of my reading seems to favor a younger ‘boylike’ figure who is…the lover of an older man.”
Dane’s eyes widened. “Are you scared that I want you for my boy?”
Noel dropped the book. “No, I…erm…I was just reading.”
“I don’t want you to be my boy, Noel.” Dane’s voice came out throatier than he intended. It was all this talk about sex. He couldn’t be responsible for how it made him want to nuzzle Noel and lick his skin like he was a cinnamon twist.
“No…” Noel gave a weak laugh.
“You’re scared of me? I’d never hurt you, I told you that.” Dane was hurt; he’d promised Noel he wouldn’t hurt him, and Dane never went back on his word. Didn’t Noel know that? “You know, being big, everyone I’m with wants me to do them. Sometimes they want me to leave bruises or something, but I don’t like that. The truth is…” Dane broke off, not sure he could share this with Noel. What if he didn’t understand it? What if it made him not like Dane even more?
“What? You can trust me, Dane. I’m trying to figure things out, but I know you are a very gentle person. It’s why I sometimes forget you are a fighter.”
“See, that’s because you see me. Most people look at me and they see the body, the fists. You see me. It’s why I like you so much, and why I got so depressed that you don’t want me. ’Cause I think you’d be a very fine boyfriend for me.”
Noel reached out and brushed back Dane’s hair from his forehead. It felt good, like when his mother used to do that for him when he was little. Caring or something. “Tell me, please?”
“Well, I’d rather take it than give it, only no one I’ve ever been with expects that. I want someone to take care of me, and back when I let myself think about having, you know, sex with you, I thought about lying down for you. Thought it might be easier for you to be inside me. I’d let you do what you wanted so you’d feel safe. Told you I’d treat you like glass, so if we ever…you know, I’d let you inside.”
“You okay? You’re all flushed like you got a fever or somethin’.”
Noel took Dane by surprise by gripping his head and pulling it close to him. His eyes were a vivid blue, full of flames, like he was one of those people who thought he was right all the time. Dane looked into his eyes, and it was like seeing God or something, seeing Noel like this. He felt something shift inside him, but he didn’t know what it was.
“I want you, Dane. You’re all…all I think about. I am scared, and what I want is forbidden, and I know my father would never accept it, but when you offered yourself to me, I knew I wanted that. I want to have you… My God, almost to own you!”
“Noel, you’re all wild and… You’re sure you’re yourself? Not sick or something?”
“No, this is myself. The real me. You bring it out in me. You.”
“Oh.” Dane’s eyes widened as he found himself pressed against Noel’s desk by this sudden predator. This was quiet, shy Noel? Dane had angled for this, back when he’d tried to make Noel his boyfriend, but now… “I’m…uh, very glad.”
Noel laughed. “No, you aren’t. Now, you’re scared, a little. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I can’t seem to think. Before I met you, I was… I couldn’t even find relief easily. I get muscle cramps in my bad leg if I become overexcited, so I’ve since adjusted and trained myself not to think about sexual intercourse.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that,” Dane said, eyes wide. He felt a bit intimidated by this new Noel. He wasn’t used to feeling like that. Was this because Noel really mattered to him? It made him harder than he’d ever been in his life. Breathless. Waiting for Noel to do whatever it was he would do. “I just don’t want you to be scared with me. I want you to feel…free. I’d even lay down on your table right now and you could do whatever you wanted with me, and you’d know you were safe.”
“You’d place yourself under my hands and let me touch you however I want?” Noel’s eyes still glowed, like the center of a gasoline fire. Dane felt himself burning, changed, from that look; Noel looked at him like he owned him.
“Dane, climb on the table now, please,” Noel suddenly ordered.
In answer, Dane gently moved aside all of Noel’s books on his desk while the heavy silence held, and then he climbed up on Noel’s table, blushing a little himself. But he was a man of his word, so he lay down on his back and looked up at Noel. “I’m yours, Noel,” he said.