That morning I woke up twice, the first time just around dawn. I lifted my head, looked around a bit. The outlines of the room, the furniture, looked a bit ghostly, flat, in the greyish light; it must have been overcast outside. I felt blank, fuzzed out, myself. What did I do? said a blank, confused voice in my head; it sounded young. I ran a hand over my chest under the covers, found it tacky.
You had sex, said another voice: flat, accusatory.
I felt an automatic surge of sick heat in my gut. Oh.
Nausea, fear. Anger. I’d let someone down: myself.
I exhaled and pulled my hands out from under the covers, pressed the heels of my palms to my eyes.
Next to me, Asher stirred slightly as the draft slipped under the covers.
I was actually startled to be reminded of him, snapped my head to the side, lowering my hands, to look at him. He was still deeply asleep. His head was tilted slightly to one side on the pillow, his curls tossed back, his pale lips parted. The skin of his eyelids was so fine that I could see his veins through it, and a slight tremble of motion as his eyes moved in his sleep. I could see the top of his small hand, the bent wrist, just at the edge of the comforter, and without thinking about it, I moved one hand to cover it, feeling his warmth, his fine bones.
I relaxed. Carefully, I pushed anything resembling a verbal thought out of my head. With nothing to feed it, the heat in my gut dwindled. I looked at Asher and held his hand until I fell asleep again, sliding down gradually as if beneath grey water.
When I woke up the second time, the light was brighter, but still grey. I guessed I’d fallen asleep for about an hour; this time I could tell that Asher was about to wake up because he was stirring slowly under the covers.
There was something I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about. It seemed perfectly reasonable to let things keep running that way, so I didn’t think, I just watched Asher until he woke up. It was as good as waiting for a sunrise.
Finally his eyes opened, and scanned the room gradually. Very, very slowly, he turned his head to look at me. “Hey,” he said, and smiled. Warmth bloomed in my chest.
“Hey,” I said, smiling back.
Asher started to pull his arm out from under the covers, but halfway through gave up and let it drop back heavily down between us. “I feel like a sack of potatoes,” he said.
I snorted. “Cutest ss-sack of potatoes I’ve ever seen.”
“Mm.” He succeeded in pulling himself towards me a bit with his arm. “Hey,” he said again.
I smiled even more, and gave him a kiss.
As I pulled back, he said, “Did you have a good time last night?”
I paused; I remembered what it was I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about. I couldn’t stop myself from recoiling slightly.
The look on his face was devastating. I felt as if there were tar in my belly, black, clinging, sour.
“Ssss… ss – sorry,” I said, as soon as I could manage it. “I’m rr-really s-sorry. That wasn’t about you. I ppp – pp…. I promise.” Fucking stutter.
Asher was clearly working to compose himself, his mouth open, his eyes flicking around, his bent right arm stirring against his chest. I reached out, took his left hand with both of mine. I coached myself: Relax your mouth. Relax your jaw. Know that the stutter’s there, but you can lean into it, slow it down, if you let yourself. And I moved my mind back to everything I had felt, everything I had seen, last night: Asher’s ecstatic smile as his head fell back against the pillow, the warmth of his body, his skin on mine, the rawness of his voice when he cried out. The frantic motions of his body, bewildering – when he’d first started shaking, I’d felt a deep stab of fear – yet deeply stirring. The nakedness of it. In one moment, it had struck me, it went through me with a shiver, that I was getting to see something, be part of something, about Asher that no one had ever seen before. I was getting to give him something new. I had felt flushed, rich with that knowledge.
I threaded words together in my head, over and over, and eventually I could say, carefully, “Asher – llll – last night was bb-better, even more m-meaningful than I could have imagined it bbb – being. Yyy – yuh – you mean so much to me. But – ss – sex comes www...” I had to pause again.
“It’s not s-straightforward for m-me anymore. I wish it w-wasn’t like that. I hate myself rrrr – rr – right now for s-spoiling your morning. B-but please know – everything about last night w-was...” I searched for the right word. “It was precious to me. A-and if you ssss – s – see anything negative in me now, it’s bb – because of my own m-mistakes.”
His eyes had moved back to mine after I’d said his name, and stayed there, as I struggled through what I had to say. At the end, he nodded, seriously. I could tell he had struggled to push down his reflexive hurt; but he had heard everything I had meant to say.
Slowly he said, “Is that why you waited so long?”
I had to think for a while, gently rubbing his hand between mine. I was grateful he hadn’t withdrawn it; I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had wanted to. “Mmm – mostly,” I said. “I f-felt like… anything I wanted to do might hhhh – hurt you.”
“You don’t mean just physically.”
I nodded, inexpressibly grateful that he understood. I mimed something smearing off of myself, squirming across to smear across him, too. He nodded in return, his eyebrows furrowed with concern.
His look renewed my sense of guilt; I almost wanted to turn away from the sincerity of his concern. “I’m s-sorry,” I said again. “I really wanted this mm – morning to be for you.”
His face softened, and despite everything, I felt a glow of pleasure, contentment, instantly rekindle inside me. “I love you,” I said, before I knew what I was doing.
A hush seemed to come over the room. “I love you,” he said.
We pressed our foreheads together. I felt his warm breath move out across my own lips as he exhaled.
We moved apart again. I ran a knuckle across his collarbone. “Do you sss – s – still feel like a s-sack of potatoes?”
He gave a startled laugh. “Yes, actually. Just so heavy, and warm.”
“I’ve never seen your bbb – body as… soft as you looked after you… f-finished,” I admitted.
“Love is the best muscle relaxant,” he offered.
I made a “can’t tell whether I should actually laugh” face, and he laughed. “Then w-we should get you on a rr – regular prescription,” I said after.
His smile faded slightly, the anxious look returning. “But what about you?” he said.
“That’ll take sss – some figuring out,” I admitted. He gave me a prompting look, and I turned my head slightly away on the pillow to think for a bit, during which he rubbed my jaw with his hand. It felt so good that I closed my eyes.
Mentally, I probed around carefully, testing which territories felt bad, which not-so-bad. I could see the beginnings of a definite conclusion.
Eventually I opened my eyes again; his hand on my face slowed, and he looked at me intently. “I think,” I said carefully, “it mm – m –might help if I focus on y-you instead of me.” He looked embarrassed, so I smiled with one side of my mouth, and then continued, “If I think about taking care of y-you, making things feel good for you. Sss – so it’s –” I made a gesture as if I were cradling something.
“Hmm,” he said. “So it’s like… making a different kind of space?” I nodded eagerly. “One that doesn’t have the same kind of associations, the bad ones?” Again, I nodded, and then dove to bury my face against his neck. “Hey!” he said, surprised, but clearly pleased.
“I’m just so hhh – happy,” I said against his neck.
Asher laughed softly. “Let’s keep it that way, okay? I don’t want it to be like… everything is The Asher Show, 24-7.”
“But taking care of you is more fun,” I mumbled.
“You’re such a dude,” he said, laughing, reaching up to deliver a joking slap, really a tap, to the side of my face.
I gave an appropriate wince, and said complainingly, “I l-liked it bbb – better when you were a bag of potatoes.”
This time he moved his arm into a chokehold around my neck, and squeezed gently until I poked my tongue out in submission. “Gotcha, you pig,” he said. “Potatoes strike back.”
The expected round of kisses and gentle tussling followed. He was so small, I loved being able to run my hands all over his bare skin, toss him around in bed a bit, and he seemed to enjoy it just as much, laughing breathlessly when I lofted him into the air, launching him towards the foot of the bed. He bounced on the comforter as he landed, still laughing helplessly, his eyes closed. His bent legs kicked out repeatedly, and his right arm moved in short jerks. I had to savor the fact that it was still one of very few times that I’d seen that happen out of excitement, rather than nervousness. I followed him in a pounce, planting my hands on either side of his face and bending to bite one of his ears.
I was getting excited again. When Asher recovered from his laughing fit and looked up – and down – at me, he actually bit his lip. I almost jerked from the bolt of desire that ran through me. He moved his hand to my thigh, gave me a questioning look.
I had to pull back and think about it for a moment, blowing air out through pursed lips.
“I think,” I said regretfully, “it would be bb – better to wait a bit more.” I could still feel, in the pit of my stomach, that sticky uneasiness, the sense that I was waiting for something to reach up and grab me again, a familiar darkness that I was eager not to look into.
“Yeah,” was all Asher said. I could see the regret in his eyes, the hunger, but also a kind of simple patience.
We shared a smile. And then I backed away from him - but was unable to stop myself from planting my hands on his thighs, still restlessly moving, and bending from there to press a kiss on the rosy-brown head of his cock. He moaned deep in his throat, and I could feel him twitch against my lips. I grinned as I pulled back and climbed off of the bed. “Ss-soon,” I promised.
“Better be,” he said throatily.
“I’m ggg – going to go shower,” I said deliberately.
He gave me an arch look, one that said, “yeah, because you’re so dirty.” I threw up my hands and strode away as he laughed on the bed behind me.