Nov 5, 2012

For Those Who Wait - Episode 2: Dig


Title: For Those Who Wait: Dig
Author: Azalea Moone
Genre: Non-explicit, sweet/fluffy
Warnings: None. yet...
Note:  This free 5,999 word story is inspired by Goodreads M/M Romance Group's Love is Always Write event.
Looking for the first episode?

----

I tossed and turned for the rest of the night. With Ben's phone number in my hand, I rolled to my back and stared at the paper in the darkness.
Wonder if he'd be awake right now?
No. I couldn't. He'd get pissed if I called at—I rolled over to spot the time—three in the morning. But lying there, I couldn't forget how high I felt when I kissed him. Every time I tried to close my eyes, I was still in the air, high above the trees with Ben.
I'd have to wait a few more hours to hear his voice. I turned and set the card on the side table. Leave it there. Then, I settled into sleep.

***

The birds outside my window helped to ease me out of sleep. I woke to the chirps and flutters of wings as robins flocked around their nests. Rays of sunlight shone past tree leaves into my window and onto the floor. Little specks of dust floated in the air, visible in the light.
Downstairs, I heard talking as the rest of the house was waking up. Then, a pound at my bedroom door.
“Chase? You up?” Jamie asked.
I turned on my back and a light beam blinded me. I grabbed my blanket and yanked it over my head.
“Breakfast is on the table,” Jamie's voice came again.
Just then, the delicious scent of maple syrup made my stomach rumble. I sat straight up in bed and sniffed the air. Coffee. Syrup. Pancakes. Wait. Jamie doesn't cook, and for the last week, we've been eating cereal or going out to IHOP.
I twisted towards the alarm clock next to the bed. Nine thirty. Ugh. It was still too early to call him.
After taking the quiet moment to stretch, I stood and grabbed a pair of clean jeans. Once they were buttoned, I snatched Ben's card from the table, along with my cell phone, and went to the door.
Peeking out, I didn't see Jamie anywhere. The teasing smell of maple syrup had also gone away. I stepped out into the hall and the voices from downstairs caught my ear.
I knew she was lying.
“Tricked ya!” She jabbed my arm from around the doorway.
I jumped back with my heart pounding into my throat. “Don't do that. Damn.”
“Morning, love bird,” she chuckled as she teasingly hugged herself and batted her eyelashes. When she was done with her show, she asked, “So...? How did it go? You gotta give me the entire scoop.”
That's right; she was already in her room when I came back to the house last night.
“Take a wild guess,” I said with a wink.
“Oh. Really?”
I nodded.
She clasped her hands and jumped around. “Awesome. So cool. Oh,” she grabbed me and hugged me tight. “I'm so happy for you, Chase.”
“Um, thanks.” Her happiness caught me by surprise.
“Cause you know,” she pulled away. “If you hadn't gotten your kiss, you would've owed me 50 bucks.”
And if it wasn't for that stupid bet in the first place, I'd still be wondering what it would be like to kiss Ben. “Thanks, Jamie.”
“So, anything else you want to tell me about last night?” She led me downstairs to the kitchen where Tim was pouring a cup of coffee.
“Well, you know. We hung out for a little longer. Went on some rides—“ I answered.
“There's the love bird.” Tim smiled, pulling Jamie into his arms. “What happened? You get your kiss?”
“I sure did.” I felt the flush on my cheeks as I snatched a cup from the counter and poured the black coffee up to the brim.
Tim kissed Jamie on the forehead. “Well, good. Now you'll quit bothering us about it, huh?” Then he pulled away and meandered to the dining table where Jamie's grandfather was reading the newspaper.
No, not quite. “Actually.” I turned to look at Jamie, who was stirring sugar into her cup. “Jamie. I was wondering...” God I hope she says yes. “Do you think we could leave a little early?”
Her spoon clanked on the counter. “Oh Chase. We can't.” She turned towards me, bright eyed. “You know that I promised Grandpa that I'd stay for the month. I can't just break my promise.”
I took a hesitant sip on my cup. I'd really hoped that I could persuade her.
“And besides, you'll have all year to get your man. Please be patient.”
Be patient? I'd been patient for six months already. After finally getting close to Ben, I'd wanted nothing more than to get closer. “Okay. We'll stay.” No!
I fettered towards the table and sat down next to Tim. Jamie's grandfather Charles shuffled his paper at the opposite end of the table and reached out to grab his coffee. “Well? What do we have planned for the day?”
“I'd like to visit Grans grave,” Jamie said.
Charles nodded and turned a page, never looking out from his paper. “A good idea. Should we have some breakfast first?”
Fiddling with the cell phone in my jeans pocket, I couldn't wait until ten o'clock. I sipped my coffee and pulled out the phone, checking the time every few seconds. Nine forty five a.m. Nine forty eight. Jesus, couldn't time hurry a little faster?
“Chase?” Jamie stared at me as I flicked my eyes away from the phone. “Do you want to go eat or stare at the phone all day?”
“I gotta make a phone call first,” I said. Nine fifty. I flipped open the phone.
“Oo, gonna call Ben?” Jamie cooed.
The card was inches from my pocket when I stopped and saw the playfulness in her eyes. “No.” I snapped the phone shut and peeled out of the kitchen chair. I had to get away. She'd pester me all day if I let her.
I walked into the living room. It had used to smell of spice when Gran was alive. The furniture had always been dusted and the drapes always clean of smoke and cobwebs. Now that it was just Charles, he'd taken up smoking his cigars in the house. It was particularly smoky around his favorite chair even after Jamie had tidied up.
Looking at my phone's small screen, I curled my nose at the strong scent and made my way outside. Nine fifty-five. Come on ten o'clock. My body poised. Excitement had me by the neck. Will the damn screen ever change? “Come on,” I whispered, pulling Ben's card from my other pocket.
I clutched the card, taking care not to bend it. Then I eyed the phone number on the back and Ben's hand writing. It was dark last night, so he'd scribbled the name and the number down. The five in the last four digits looked like a six if the bottom circle had been completed. I could only hope that the number was right.
Nine fifty-nine. I flipped open the phone. Hovering a finger over the numbers, I waited—so much damn waiting—for ten o'clock.
As the numbers on the screen changed, I pushed in the lit up buttons faster than I thought I could and pressed the phone against my ear.
Ring, ring.
Please, I hope he's awake.
“Hello,” his voice on the other end made my breath hitch.
“...” Come on, say something. “Hi.”
“Chase?”
“G'morning.”
Ben chuckled. “Morning.”
“Did I wake you?”
“No, I was already up.”
“Oh.” I'd run out of things to say already. “... Wh-what are you doing?”
Ben yawned, a rustling in the background. “Lying in bed.”
My heart seized into my throat, imagining him stretched out under warm blankets and wishing I could be with him. “Are you sure I didn't wake you?”
“You didn't wake me. I was waiting for your call.”
A thump, and I could swear my heart had stopped. “R-really?” I had to make sure I was still breathing. Taking one step across the porch, I slid into the porch swing. Yep, still alive.
“What are you doing?”
I looked out at the decorated porch in front of me with lights from Christmas still strung up on the rafters. “Having coffee.” But I'd left my cup inside. “Waiting until ten to call you.”
Ben laughed again. “It's ten now.”
“Yeah...”
“I'm happy you kept your promise to call.” Another rustle on Ben's end. “It was a pleasant wake up.”
“Yeah?”
“Uh huh.” I heard Ben shift, and then a muffling and the phone went silent. Seconds later, I heard another muffled voice. Then, he was back. “Well, I have your number on my phone now, so I'll call you when I get back to campus.”
“Oh-okay.”
“I gotta go. Talk to you later.”
“Okay,” I whispered, disappointed that I couldn't hear his voice any longer. “Bye.”
“Bye.”
I eased the phone shut and stared at the time. It was too short. I could have stayed on the phone longer, hearing his voice and talking about absolutely nothing. But at least he had my number now. And I wanted him to call back. Right now.
“Chase?” Jamie's voice came from the door. She stood in the doorway, cup to her lips as she finished off her coffee. “We're going to go have breakfast. Did you make your call?”
I stuffed the phone back in my jeans pocket. “Yeah.”
She chuckled. “You called Ben, huh?”
“Maybe.”
“Don't give me that. I can tell by the way your cheeks are all red that you did.” She smiled and stepped outside. “Come on. Let's go eat. Gramps has to get his medicine soon.” She led me down the porch stairs and to the driveway.
Jamie unfolded herself from my side. “Come on, guys,” she yelled towards the house. The door swung open. Tim helped Charles down the stairs; the old man swatting his hand and cursing that he didn't need help.
I couldn't help but smile. It was like this all the time.

***

At the restaurant, I sat quietly in my seat, watching as Jamie and Tim helped Charles with his pill bottle. We'd chosen a small cafe instead of IHOP, our plates brimming of eggs, sausage, and pancakes. The waitress came by often, refilling our cups with fresh, steaming coffee.
“Hold still now, Gramps,” Jamie said, pressing in the stubborn cap off his medicine bottle. “You don't need the childproof, you know.”
“Yes. Yes, I do. You never know when the damn thing is going to fall off a table. What if the dogs ate some?” Charles huffed. Stubborn old man.
“You're worried over nothing,” Jamie said as the cap popped off. “Here.” She tipped a pill out of the bottle and handed it to Charles. “Take it.”
Charles reached for his half full glass. He furrowed his brow. “Can I get some more water?”
Tim sighed and turned in his chair towards the counter. “Waitress? Can we get some fresh water?”
The waitress looked up from taking another customer's order and held out her forefinger. “Gimme a sec. I'll be right there.”
I waited for the phone to buzz in my pocket. I really wanted it to. Just a short conversation with Ben again would help me not feel like a part of this crazy gathering. But he was probably on the road to campus by now.
What struck me is that I'd barely known anything about him. I could only imagine. What kind of food he liked or what kind of music he listened to. If everything was perfect in the world—and I knew it wasn't—he’d love the same things I did.
He'd like to play basketball in the evening and the sweet smell of flowers in the spring. He'd have to like children. And dogs. But, of course, those were all the things I loved. Knowing my luck, he didn't enjoy any of those.
“Hey, Chase. You've barely eaten anything,” Jamie said. I turned my attention to my still full plate of food.
“Sorry. I'm just thinking.” The phone buzzed in my pocket, tickling my thigh, and I perked up. Could it be Ben? I pulled it out and flipped open the lid. The number looked familiar. But I'd forgotten to program Ben's number into the phone. “Hello?”
“Hey. Chase?” Ben's voice had me brimming with excitement.
“Yeah?”
“There's been a change in plans. My dad's truck broke down, so I'm gonna stay another day.” That was the best news I'd heard all day. “Do you wanna get together... hang out?”
“Yeah!”
He laughed. “Okay. I assume that's a yes, but is there anything you want to do?”
“Anything.” Jesus, just say something else than a one word sentence. “Whatever you wanna do. It'll get me away from these crazies.”
“Great...” he paused a moment before adding. “Do you like to swim?”
“Sure. Yeah I do.”
“Bring some shorts and we'll go swimming.”
“Okay. Um,” I eyed everyone at the table, at Jamie's curious look, and at Charles and Tim. “Give me about an hour though. We're having breakfast.”
“That's cool. Here, let me give you the address.” There was a shuffling in the background. “Do you have a pen?”
I wildly scanned the table for something to write with. Then, I nudged Jamie. “Give me a pen.”
“I don't have one,” she said. But she dug in her small purse, and pulled out her cell phone. “Here. Use my phone, then you can get it after your call.”
I snatched the phone from her hand, entered it into note mode, and anchored myself, ready to take the address. “Okay. I'm ready.”
“It's 2112 East Highway 81.” Ben started and I pressed in the address on the phone's keys. “Once you get into Wilber, get on East Highway 81. It's about two miles out of town. There are lots of trees close to the road, so it's easy to get lost out here. But the driveway is on your right.”
“Got it.”
“I'll see you in about an hour then?”
“Yeah... definitely.”
After hanging up, I hurried to type in the address on my phone. Jamie continued to stare curiously. She'd always loved to play match maker ever since I'd known her. I had to bet that she was completely interested in my get together with Ben today.
“Have a date?” she cooed.
I handed her phone back. “Not a date. A get together. We're just going to hang out. Go swimming.”
“Oo, skinny dipping?”
Our conversation froze the entire table. Charles and Tim quietly stared in our direction.
“Jamie!” I protested.
“Sorry. I'm just interested. That's all.”
“I know you are. Too interested.” I nodded. “Just so you know, I always tell you everything. This isn't no exception.” It was true. I'd always told her everything that happened. Not just to make her happy, but I'd always loved that friendship between us.
“I know you do.” Jamie leaned in, bumping my shoulder with hers. “I suppose we better hurry, then, huh?”

***

An hour and a half later, I was trekking down the highway with a small pack of stuff on the passenger's side seat. It wasn't another forty five minutes that we got out of the cafe. I had to shuffle everyone out the door, making sure they knew I had somewhere I needed to be. Charles had grumbled about not finishing his—what was it?—twentieth cup of coffee in the morning and leaving it half full.
When we finally got back to the house, I had scurried to my room and packed a small duffle bag. Clean jeans. Clean shorts for swimming. I may need a towel, so I stuffed that in, too. And sunscreen. I didn't like to burn. Once I was done, I swung the bag over my back.
“Spending the night, too?” Jamie chuckled.
I didn't think I took that much. “I'll be back tonight,” I said and headed out the door.
It was a good thing I'd been to Wilber before, so getting there took a total of ten minutes. But I'd never been east of town. And right away, I drove into a green, forest-like area. Slowing down, I looked around for the little driveway, or even a mailbox. But there was nothing but trees and shrub along the right side of the road.
Just as I thought I'd missed the drive, Ben came into view just feet ahead, waving me down. I cranked open the window of my old Honda and hung my head out. “Hey.”
“Hey.” He met me at the driver's side window. “You found the place.”
“Not really.” I flicked my eyes to the road. “I would have driven on by if it weren't for you.”
Ben chuckled, straightened his spine, and slapped the car door. “Well, follow me in. We'll get you parked.”
He led the way to the driveway, concealed between heavy willow trees and several blooming white bushes. I turned in, the dirt road lead towards a three story older home, and parked beside his father's blue truck.
The hot air balloon was still inside the bed of the truck. Wrapped up in the rope they had used last night. There were other trucks too; some with different colored balloons. And one truck with the stickers reading “Wilber Amusements” along with the address and phone number.
“So, you have a pair of shorts, right?” Ben asked at the driver's side window.
“Yeah.” I grabbed the bag I'd gathered at home.
Ben stepped away so I could get out. “Whoa. Preparedness. I like that.”
“I just brought a towel and some sunscreen.” And a few extra necessities.
“No. That's good.” He led me towards the house. “I'm always forgetting things, myself. Have to make little reminders all the time.” We stepped up on the large porch, larger than Jamie's grandfather's, and Ben swung open the door. Inside, his father sat on a chair in the living room, watching a football game. “You met my dad.”
His father turned a moment to wave and said, “Hi”, then turned back to his game.
“We're going out back. If you need me, holler. M'kay, pops?” Ben said, and then led me through the rest of the living room and into the kitchen.
“So where are we swimming at?” I asked, looking around my surroundings.
The living room was full of furniture. All older, maybe even broken. The flicker of the television was the only thing lighting up the dark. And the kitchen was small. With pots and pans hanging from the wall above the stove, a small table crammed in a corner, and an older refrigerator next to the green painted back door.
Ben bent down, retrieving a plastic grocery bag from under the sink. “You want something to drink? Pepsi? Sprite?” He opened the fridge and started digging. “We have some beer.”
“No beer. Um... Pepsi is okay,” I answered.
He grabbed a few cans, shoved them in the bag, and turned towards the cabinet. “Chips okay? We'll probably get hungry while we're out there.” Opening the cupboard, he snatched a bag of marshmallows and a big bag of crinkle-cut potato chips.
“Sure. But... where are we swimming?”
Without an answer, Ben tied the bag loosely, and then led me out the back door. Bushy patches of weeds and flowers grew scattered across the back yard among larger trees. Several old farm vehicles sat unused close to the back of the house: a large rusted, green tractor, a smaller red, less rusty tractor, and a newer-looking hedge cutter were among the most noticeable around the brush.
Ben threw the bag on the floor of the red tractor and hopped up on the driver's seat. The noise caused a black and white farm cat to scurry out from underneath the tractor. It ran across the weeds to an old metal barn a foot away.
“Come on.” He waved me in. I jumped up to sit in the smaller passenger's seat and he started up the tractor. “Pops owns this entire acreage,” he said loudly over the roar. As he drove away from the house, the trees opened up, revealing a half mile of untended field. “We used to grow corn out here.”
“Yeah?” Though I was used to seeing corn fields for miles out here in the Midwest, my folks had been a doctor and a secretary.
We were coming up towards another heavy gathering of trees. Ben twisted and turned along the bumpy dirt road as we passed by the field still covered in dried husks and dead plants. Getting closer to the tree line, I spotted the sun's flicker off a hidden pond of water.
“We also own this lake,” Ben said, slowing the tractor down to get around the brush.
“Wow,” I breathed, taking in the sight of the three acre large lake surrounded by trees. I could imagine the wildlife out here. Birds were already chirping, robins and a few barn swallows hovering over the lake. But, I'd wondered if there were deer. Or fish. Or even coyotes.
Ben parked the tractor on the sand near a fallen log that looked as if it had washed on shore. “I used to swim out here when I was a kid,” he said.
On the sandy beach, a cluster of small rocks were built in a circle with the remains of ash and charred wood from a fire. Out closer to the water, the sand turned to dark mud, leading into the lake.
I stepped out of the tractor and to the water's edge. A few feet away, a rope with a knot in the end hung from a tree branch. “Wish we had something like this when I was growing up.”
“It's nice, but I bet you guys went to the pool a lot, huh?”
I shook my head. “Daycare. All the time. Folks barely had time for that type of stuff.”
“Oh. That's a bummer. Well,” Ben unzipped his jeans. “If you need to go behind the tractor to change, you can.” He slipped off his jeans from his ankles, a pair of red, patterned swim trunks underneath. “I'll meet you in the water.”
I hesitated, watching him peel off his shirt and dart towards the water. The muscles in his taut back tensed as he hit the cool water. Lean shoulders curled up and he playfully swatted at the ripples next to him. Each step took him deeper into the water until his lower half had disappeared. Then, he dived underneath.
For a moment, I thought of jumping in right there, jeans or no jeans. Maybe I could sneak up on him? Hmm, maybe I won't freak him out too much if I grabbed him for another kiss?
Unhooking the bag from around my shoulder, I dodged behind the tractor. Quickly, I switched out of my jeans and into my swim shorts.
“Chase? You coming?” Ben hollered from the water.
“Be right there,” I yelled back.
Changed and ready, I ran out from behind the tractor and straight into the cool water. “Damn. It's cold.” I stopped just knee deep. I'd really thought the water would be warmer in the hot sun.
Ben smiled. His hand flicked at the water, splashing me. Then, he hit the water harder. “Gotta get used to it.”
I turned to shield myself from the spray. “Hey!”
Oh, he's gonna get it now.
I snapped the water back as hard as I could, sending streams at him. But he fought back. Soon, water was flying in all directions.
It didn't take long until I was used to the cool water, but the fight was too much fun. I ran back out to the shore, and then back into the lake, deeper this time. Ben kept splashing, laughing with wide eyes as I threw water back at him.
I stopped to catch my breath. The water surged against my chest, and then calmed as the fight ceased.
Ben stilled, his laughter turned into an exasperated chuckle. He stepped further into the water, closing in on me, until he was standing close. “Come here.”
Hesitating, I didn't know if he was going to splash again or hold me in his arms. But the devious look in his eyes had turned to need. So I stepped lightly, mud squishing between my toes as I went to him.
When I found him, he wrapped his arms around my waist, pulled me in, and found my lips. His fingers twitched against my skin. My heart thundered. I kissed back, though frozen like a statue. His warm body pressed to mine left me breathless.
Lips opened and his tongue sought out mine just like the night before. I tasted him—needed him—and soon I reached around his sides, grasping his wet skin underneath my fingertips.
Everything around me had seemed to disappear but for Ben. It was just us. The water seemed to make me feel lighter. Or was that his lips on mine?
Nothing could make me move. That is, except when Ben pulled away slightly. He settled his forehead to mine; his hands cupped my face. “You don't have to be so shy, Chase.”
Shy? Who's shy?
“Oh. I'm-ah-uh—“ Damn it. I was too shy.
Ben snickered. “There's fish in here.”
“Huh?”
“There's fish... in this lake. The county had it stocked.” Ben stepped back. I'd missed his warmth already. “We should have brought some poles.”
“What does that have to do with my being shy?”
Ben smiled coolly. “Nothing. I just wanted you to talk.”
Oh. That's it.
I narrowed my eyes, my hand dangling in the water as I walked up closer to the shore. With a thap, I splashed a handful of water towards him.

***

We sat close next to the fire with sticks in hand and blobs of marshmallow at the tips. The day had passed; we swam for hours, lost in the time and each other. After tracking down a school of bluegill at the opposite side of the lake, we returned to see if the rope tied to the tree could still hold our weight.
The rope held on, but the tree branch snapped when Ben swung out, sending him barreling straight into the water. I'd raced to check on him, but he straightened himself out and grabbed hold of me, assuring me he was fine.
Thank goodness.
My muscles in my arms twitched. Tired. It had been years since I'd spent so much time in a pool. My face felt dry around my eyes and my back burned. Guess I should have remembered the sunscreen.
But nothing really mattered. I'd spent the day with Ben, holding him, playing, and goofing off. Nothing could match that.
We relaxed together with the crackle of the fire and the chirps of crickets around us. The sun had disappeared behind the trees, behind the clouds, leaving only violet rays streaking over the navy blue sky.
“Need another?” Ben asked, the bag crinkled in his hand.
I chomped on a mouth full of marshmallow. “Yeah.” I held out the stick and he slid another white blob onto the end.
“They're almost gone.” He fiddled inside the bag, mashed a mallow on his stick, and held it in front of the fire. “Thanks for coming out today.”
Nodding my head, I tried to smile despite the mouthful of goop. I held out my stick next to his, a little too close to the flame and the marshmallow caught on fire. “Crap.” I pulled it back, blowing the fire out.
A smile spread on Ben's lips. “Don't you hate it when that happens?”
“I kind of like burned marshmallow,” I said, pulling the blackened mallow from the stick and shoving it in my mouth. Yeah, I could so be myself in front of Ben.
Another coy smile, the dimples in Ben's cheeks appeared like little shadows in the flickering firelight. He turned to snatch up the bag, dug for another marshmallow, but his smile faded as he waved the empty bag in the air. “All gone.”
“They were good though.”
Ben's eyes lit up as he shoved the last cooked mallow in his mouth. “Come here,” he said after choking it down and reached out for me.
Dropping the stick to the ground, I scooted closer to him and leaned against his chest. He wrapped his arms around my waist, setting his head into my shoulder. If I'd known that we'd be here, together, six months ago, I may have found enough courage to ask him out someday. I'd been waiting for this. But that bet was what truly helped. I suppose it couldn't have been any better.
Thanks Jamie.
“Do you need to be home anytime soon?” Ben's warm breath exhaled close to my ear.
“Not really. It's Jamie who wanted to visit her granddad,” I sighed. Though, I didn't know I'd be out this long.
“I thought you said your parents lived in Sommersville.”
“They did,” I said. “Th-they were in a car accident when I was fifteen. They didn't make it.”
“Oh,” Ben breathed, tightening his grasp. “Sorry.”
I lowered my hands, lacing my fingers around his. “No. It's cool. Jamie's grandparents are my foster parents. They knew my folks, so after the accident the state figured it would be better for me there.”
“Good.”
Turning my eyes to the lake, the rippling water caught the sparkle of stars from the sky. It was getting darker by the moment; the water turned a dark blue and trees began to appear like large shadows on the opposite side of the lake.
A pair of moist lips brushed the side of my neck. The heat rose through my cheeks. I turned my head a little more and Ben nipped at my skin, again. “I want to learn everything about you,” he whispered. “Like, I bet you had a lot of dates in high school, huh?”
“Hardly,” I answered and his soft lips pulled away. “I was too busy. My mom had me in tap dancing until I was a sophomore and my dad ordered me to go into Boy Scouts.”
“Heh. So your folks had a lot going on for you.”
“Maybe they figured that if they kept me busy, then I wouldn't notice they were gone on business all day? Or something.”
“So, when did you—?”
I chuckled. “Jamie's grandparents took in foster kids. When I was sixteen, I had a crush on one of the guys at the house.”
“Really?”
I nodded. “I don't think he knew though. And he was sent to a permanent home a year later. What about you?” I turned towards him.
“I've had a couple. Nothing lasted very long,” he murmured. His eyes flicked towards the fire, jaw clenched, and he went silent for a moment. “You're the first I've actually gotten to know.”
Something told me that I wasn't the only one who had a lousy time dating. And though I wanted to know more, by the sincere look in his eyes, I figured I should just enjoy the night and ask another time.
I unlaced my fingers from his and shifted until I was face to face with Ben. His inquisitive eyes narrowed, all the concern drifting away. I reached out, running my fingertips across his cheek, leaned in and stole his lips.
We kissed long and hard, seeking each others tongues, our breath heavy. His hands had found my sides, pulled me in, and our bodies were pressed close. I loved the way he made all the little moves. Though I wanted his kiss, I also needed his touch. I wanted more. Things I'd never experienced, maybe I could with Ben.
I could find out if he'd let me.
I grasped onto the back of his shirt, feeling his muscles tense. As our kiss deepened, I lowered my hands to his soft skin. Oh, so soft. And I continued to explore, tickling his back underneath his shirt. His arms twitched. A soft moan came from his lips.
Wandering hands settled on my hips. Fingers laced into the waistband of my shorts. Another wanton breath and he clenched onto my skin. Soon, his moist lips traveled across my cheek and down my chin.
Another gentle kiss on my neck and he swallowed hard before abruptly pulling away. “I-I'd kind of like to take it slow,” he whispered.
Feeling colder than I had all day, I answered, “Yeah. Sure. Okay.”
Ben smiled and lowered his head. “There's nothing wrong. I just like spending time with you, Chase.”
“No. That's okay.” I forced a smile. “We can... still hold each other?”
“Of course.” He pulled me close against him, again.

***

 I woke up to the sun's morning light peeking in through the trees. Ben lay behind me, his arm around my chest. We had talked a little longer before I began to get sleepy. Then, we lay down in front of the fire, watching it fizzle out.
There was nothing left but smoke rising into the air in front of us now.
“Ben?” I whispered and his fingers twitched. “Ben. Wake up.”
Carefully, I slid his arm away and picked myself up to my knees.
Ben rolled to his back; tired eyes opened and stared up at the sky. “Good morning.”
“I-I should go,” I said as I gathered my bag that was already packed and ready to leave the night before.
He turned to his side and propped his head on his hand. “Yeah. I should go see if dad fixed the truck.” But he didn't seem in any hurry to get up.
“Thank you, again, for inviting me out.” I stood, threw my bag into the tractor, and held out a helping hand for him.
“Anytime.” He took my hand and I helped him stand. He stumbled a moment, then sat down in the tractor's drivers seat. We were back on the small dirt road, traveling back towards his house.
It was a quiet trip back, despite the rumbling of the tractor. The bright sun sparkled across the watered fields. They seemed to stretch for miles, from the small untended field in Ben's back yard to the well kept soybean fields in the distance.
As we traveled closer to the house, a couple of farm cats scattered away through the tall weeds and into the bushes.
Finally, Ben parked the red tractor where we had found it. I jumped out and threw my bag over my shoulder. He was on the ground and in front of me before I could speak again. Narrowing his eyes, he leaned in and gave me a gentle kiss before pulling away.
A flush ran through my face down to my hands. I felt high again like I did on the balloon and yesterday when we'd held each other in the water. A part of me felt numb with excitement.
“I'll call you when I get back to campus.”
“Okay.” Back to single word sentences... Nice.
After a short chuckle, Ben led me around and out of the gate on the side of the house. My car was parked where I'd left it. And Ben's father was under the hood of his truck.
“Hey, son.” He lifted his head; face covered in grease. “Think you can give me a hand with this?”
“Yeah, Pops, give me a sec.”
I plopped down in the drivers seat of my car. Ben had leaned against the open window. “Maybe we'll get together when we get back to campus?”
“Of course.”
The little dimples in his cheeks were back—his usual coy smile that made my heart lodge into my throat. Jesus, do I have to leave?
“See you,” he said, straightening his spine.
“Bye.”
I watched as he went back to the truck. His father peered out, wiping off the grease from his wrench. Then, I pulled out, waving behind me.

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