“It’s not every day you get to dress a hot piece of ass up for a first date with your ex-boyfriend,” Brin announced as he dragged Lane into his bedroom. “You’re lucky I’m a nice person, or I’d convince you to wear plaid.”
Lane looked worried, but that was nothing new. Brin figured he was worried about being here, about his date with Derek, and about this whole fashion makeover thing. Of course Lane probably worried about everything: the fiscal cliff, how gravity worked, and whether or not Lassie really would come home. Not to mention that whole SEC investigation, which, to be fair, Brin supposed was actually worth worrying about.
“Is that…um, is that a problem?” Lane asked, warily casting his eye around the room.
Ferg had done what he could to keep the bedroom neutral, but Brin had made his mark. The bedazzled comforter, the growing collection of glass angel figurines that were ironic
, and the lampshade with candy-pink beads hanging off it. Ferg had been so boring before Brin. Apart from the bottom drawer of the dresser, of course. Brin had wanted to make a wall display of paddles and floggers, a kind of shrine to good old-fashioned ass-walloping BDSM, but Ferg had put his foot down. Mostly because his parents visited a lot. Mom and Dad McIntyre had already used up a lot of their open-mindedness since meeting Brin, and Ferg didn’t want to drain that well entirely dry.
“Plaid? It’s a huge
problem, Laney.” He pushed Lane toward the bed. “Now take a seat here, and let me work some magic.”
“I meant…” Lane trailed off.
Brin knew exactly what Lane meant, and he’d brought it up in the first place because there was no point ignoring it. Derek was Brin’s ex, and now he was Lane’s…boyfriend? Close enough, even if Lane and Derek weren’t advertising it. So acknowledge it, joke about it, and get the hell over it. Brin would always love Derek as a friend, but they’d both moved on. Well, Brin had. And this afternoon—getting Lane dressed up for his big first date—was Brin’s way of making sure Derek moved on as well. Other than sticking a bow on Lane’s ass and tying a gift tag around his cock that said Best wishes, love Brin
, he wasn’t sure how much more supportive and encouraging he could be. Which wasn’t to say that Derek had been heartbroken after Brin asked for time apart—they both knew that was the best decision—just that it had taken Derek a while to put himself out there again. He was busy with his work and his family and his comfortable rut. Well, not tonight. Tonight Lane was going to look hot as hell, and if Derek didn’t end up balls-deep in the kid by the end of the night, well, there was no helping him.
Brin flung open the closet doors. Ferg’s stuff was on one side. Boring, boring, boring
. Brin’s stuff was on the other side and in the back, slowly encroaching on Ferg’s like an untamed jungle full of weird, exotic creepers. Or maybe that was just the one vivid purple floral unitard that was part of a Halloween costume and therefore above suspicion.
Okay, there was also the rainbow halter top, which Brin hadn’t worn since his New York-club days. He rifled through the clothes. Lots of tank tops. He didn’t think Real Girls Eat Meat
would suit Lane. Or Let’s Get Weird
. Or the white Southern Bitch
cutoff tank with the Confederate-flag-patterned rose.
“What is that
?” Lane asked.
Brin looked. Lane was pointing to a lime-green ’70s-vintage prom dress, one puffy sleeve poking out from behind some T-shirts. “That
is one of my favorites,” Brin replied breezily, continuing his hunt, the hangers sliding over the bar.
“What do you wear it for, like, sex games with Ferg?”
Brin glanced at Lane. The joke had come out awkwardly, as most of Lane’s jokes did—not because Lane wasn’t funny but just because he rarely spoke with any real confidence—and Lane looked like he knew it. Brin grinned anyway. It was enough of a triumph that Lane was trying to joke with him. “No. I wore it for my appearance in traffic court last month.”
Lane stared at him, clearly trying to figure out if Brin was kidding or not. With Brin, it could very easily have been the truth, and Brin felt the familiar satisfaction that came with being so singularly outrageous that he might very well have worn a ’70s prom dress to court. And then a brief, even more familiar twinge of insecurity. How must it feel to be Ferg or Derek and be liked wherever you went because you were calm, smart, and normal?
In the end, Derek hadn’t been able to handle Brin’s flamboyance.
Not true. You were the one who ended it.
Because it hadn’t been working. And whose fault was that?
Probably not the mild-mannered photographer. Probably the guy in the bedazzled jeans and houndstooth ascot who couldn’t shut his mouth for more than ten seconds.
It really was okay. Brin was deeply in love with Ferg, and Derek was certainly fond of Lane. It was just weird, because he could remember exactly what it was like to go to dinner with Derek, and he derived some small, unfair measure of pride from the knowledge that he would have known exactly how to make Derek laugh just when he’d put a big bite of food in his mouth—whereas Lane would have no idea.
He shook off the thought. He didn’t take any joy from Lane’s social awkwardness. It had been a long time since Brin had had a close friend. He could chat up anyone, but as far as people he really wanted to spend time with, well, most of them were back in New York. Lane was pretty much it for Brin here. Yet he didn’t even know if Lane considered him a friend. Lane was so hard to read and so appallingly shy. Brin wanted to help him out of his shell, wanted to make him feel comfortable, wanted to…bedazzle
“You didn’t,” Lane said, sounding reasonably certain.
“You’re right.” Brin pulled out a mesh shirt and threw it on the bed. “I wore that. This”—Brin drew the prom dress out of the closet and tossed it at Lane. He snickered as the ruffled collar whapped Lane in the face—“would look great on you. Maybe you should wear it for sex games with Derek.”
Lane blushed, as Brin knew he would.
“Come on, Laney. Don’t you ever dress up for him?”
An odd look came over Lane’s face, and Brin wondered if he’d hit a trigger. He could never tell what was going to draw Lane out and what was going to make him retreat completely. He didn’t envy Derek. But suddenly Lane giggled. Like, an actual, uninhibited, girlie-ass giggle. Brin couldn’t believe it.
“Um, what does he like?” Lane asked.
Brin gave a delighted bark of laughter. “Derek likes it all. String bikinis. Perhaps a fuchsia negligee with a fur trim—or, no, a French-maid outfit. You’d look positively ravishing in a tiny apron and cap, puffy sleeves. I have one, if you want to try it on. You know, I once cleaned the whole house in that uniform with a feather duster that was stuck up my ass. Ferg’s orders.”
Brin liked to think sharing such details would make Lane feel more comfortable around him, but in all likelihood it just freaked Lane out. If Brin had had any filter, he’d have used it, but there was nothing—never had been. Lane laughed again, then quieted quickly and spent the next few moments in tense silence while Brin pretended to search the closet. Brin could tell Lane wanted to say something—why didn’t he, dammit?
“Do you ever, uh…” Lane started. “Those guys who dress up like dogs?”
Not even a full question. Still, the topic was unexpected, and Brin was curious. “Do I ever what those guys who dress up like dogs?”
“Those leather guys,” Lane clarified, as though Brin hadn’t known what he meant. “Do you think that’s weird?”
Brin very much liked to dress up and pretend—his closet was proof of that. Derek, although he had enjoyed a little bit of role-play now and then, was lighter on the costumes and heavier on the props. Which meant that any ideas about “those leather guys” and dressing up like a dog was coming entirely from Lane.
Not so much Lassie Come Home
as Lassie come hard.
Well, color Brin surprised.
“Laney,” Brin said, and it was probably the most serious thing he’d ever said to Lane, “do I look like the sort of person who is qualified to tell others what’s weird?”
It could have gone either way, but Lane laughed suddenly, breathlessly. “No, I guess not.”
Brin hauled a pair of jeans out of the closet and tossed them at Lane. “These, by the way, will make your ass look great. Not that you need much help on that score.” He grinned as Lane blushed again. “So are you going to tell me that Derek makes you sit up and beg?”
Lane hugged the jeans. “No…nothing like that.”
Brin folded his arms over his chest and waited.
Lane fiddled with the button on the jeans.
“Lord have mercy, the suspense is killing me!” Brin flung himself on the bed and put his chin in his hands. “Are you telling me that you want to wear ears and those paw things, and have a plug with a tail shoved up your butt?”
“I wonder how those work,” Brin mused. “Do you have to wag them yourself, or are they battery operated? Ooh, let’s get on the Internet and find out. Maybe buy ourselves a couple?”
He reached over to Ferg’s side of the bed, to where the laptop sat closed on the bedside table.
Lane almost dived on him to stop him. “I don’t want a tail up my butt!”
Brin shoved him, laughing. “Okay! Whatever you say.”
Lane hauled himself upright. “That would be…silly
, I think. I think it would feel silly.”
Brin sat up and shrugged. “Silly can be fun. And then awkward. And then unbelievably fucking hot.”
J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry