Steal

The future is ours.. isn't it?

86 posts in this topic

The night was beginning to wrap up, and people were starting to trickle out of the club exhausted, drunk, or a combination of both. When the bouncer escorted the last batch of happy drunks outside to their taxi, the club doors were locked, and the employee’s inside tended to their final clean-up duties before gathering to leave.

 

Yusai sighed as he slipped on his jacket, relieved that the night was over. He had felt strange and flustered for most of the night, but now that it was all over, all he could think about was getting home and crashing into bed.

 

Oi, Steal!” Yusai called out, pulling his keys out from his pants pocket, “Let’s kick, shall we?”

 

Steal had approached Yusai from behind and placed his hands on Yusai’s back, letting him know he was there. The larger man turned and looked down, seeing Steal’s half-lidded eyes and lazy brow, and could immediately tell that he was exhausted, too. He barely looked able to stand upright. Swooping his arm over Steal, to which he reciprocated by wrapping his arms around Yusai’s waist, Yusai hollered a “Goodnight!” to the remaining employees, and was out the door, Steal in tow.

 

Yusai escorted Steal to his car, opened the door and guided him into the front seat. It was childlike, really, but Yusai couldn’t help but find it slightly amusing how Steal immediately yawned and reclined in the seat. He took off his jacket and draped it over Steal, who hummed approvingly.

 

That tired, eh?” Yusai asked when he had situated himself in the drivers seat. “Thanks again for helping me out tonight. It was nice havin’ you around.”

 

Steal hummed a reciprocation, saying it was no trouble. Yusai started the engine.

 

Did you hang out with Lance for long? I didn’t see him after you two finished your drinks,” Yusai asked, genuinely curious… Although a part of him was still glad to had seen him fuck off as early as he did. But Yusai tried to ignore that sentiment, and pushed it into the back of his mind.

 

Steal was quiet for a moment, be it half because he was tired or because he was mulling over his response, but he simply said that they had just hung out and talked for a little bit, and that Lance had to leave for whatever reason that he never specified. There was no mention of the flirting, or the kiss, but there was a manner that Steal had explained their conversation that Yusai was subconsciously picking up on, and it made his gut pang with jealousy. He brushed those feelings aside, and drove in silence.

 

Yusai pulled up to the familiar curb just outside his apartment complex and parked. He had to escort Steal out of the passenger seat, as he appeared to be too tired to walk upright on his own, and up the stoop, up the stairwell and to the apartment door. By the time they were actually inside, the full weight of exhaustion hit Yusai as well. He was quick to strip down to his skivs and slip between the bedsheets, Steal doing the same, and both of them soon embracing sleep.

 

----

Another week passed, and out of the blue, Steal expressed interest in going out for a little while. When Yusai had asked “Where to?” Steal had hesitantly explained that he was going to go out on his own for a little bit. He didn’t say where, of course. And for whatever reason, Yusai’s immediate suspicion was  that  he was going to go hang out with Lance.

 

His suspicions were right, but he’d never know.

 

Still, Yusai couldn’t help but accept Steal’s announcement with some bitterness. It wasn’t often that Steal and him were apart, and admittedly, Yusai had come to feel as though he could be the only person Steal should spend his time with. He caught himself in the middle of this thought and was taken aback by how possessive he sounded. It wasn’t as if he owned Steal or anything.

 

But, still… His thoughts lingered for a while, caught between some instinctual territorial thing and the other half trying to assure himself that he was being stupid about this. Steal was his own person, after all. He was an adult. He could make decisions for himself. He could go wherever he wanted, whenever he pleased. And though Yusai didn’t know for sure if Steal was going to go spend time with Lance, it was still his decision to do so if he liked.

 

Yusai, forcing himself to accept this, begrudgingly wished Steal a good time (a genuine sentiment) and to call if he needed anything. When Steal went to leave, he paused in the doorway, looking back at Yusai as if waiting for something—which Yusai, dim as ever, did not “get”—before exiting with a sigh, saying he’d be back by evening before Yusai left for work.

 

It was immediately strange being alone in the apartment. There was a stillness in the air that Yusai found unsettling. Besides the occasional patter of Prince’s paws, the apartment was deathly quiet. Even more bizarrely, Yusai had lived on his own before and could remember being completely fine with it, and when Steal moved in, Yusai remembered how strange it felt to have company with him all the time… Initially. When did the dynamic change, he wondered?

 

He looked down at the floor and saw Prince flopped over, licking his paws contentedly, unbothered by Steals absence. Such was the cruelty of cats, not giving a single shit who comes and who goes in their life, as long as their fed and sheltered. Yusai bent down and scooped him up, then flopped him over his own shoulder, despite his meowing protest.

 

Shush, you,” Yusai muttered, giving Prince long pet. “I’m gonna pet you, and you’re gonna like it.”

 

Prince accepted this for a few minutes, then wriggled himself free and plonked back onto the floor, making way for the couch. Yusai stood alone there for what felt like an eternity before deciding he ought to do something with his time besides torture the cat. But what? It was one in the afternoon and he didn’t have work for a few more hours. He didn’t have anywhere to go—and frankly, didn’t want to go anywhere by himself—so he was left in an awkward state of not knowing what to do with himself.

 

Then, a thought slithered into his brain that hadn’t been there for quite a long time. Something he almost forgot he could do by himself. Something he hadn’t considered doing since Steal moved in with him… Which when he thought about it, was a while ago. And it was sad to reflect on in its own pathetic way, knowing that he hadn’t done it in so long... And when he thought about that, Yusai started reflecting on his own miserable excuse for a sex life (which was non-existent) All in all, the further this thought crept into his mind, the more ashamed Yusai felt for even considering it.

 

Nonetheless, it was there, and Yusai was a man after all. Even he had a hard time fighting off this particular call of nature once the idea had been planted in his head. He swallowed and quietly made his way into his bedroom, shutting the door behind him and eyeing his laptop he had on the desk. Even looking at it there made him feel a twinge of guilt. Something about this seemed so… Sleazy.

 

Despite this, Yusai’s appetite for carnal pleasure was only growing, and he sat down at his desk and opened the laptop, powered it on, and after a moments hesitation, began browsing for things to satisfy his hunger.

 

~~~

 

He pulled up a folder of bookmarks he had set aside some time ago to “refresh” himself on the material. Thankfully, most of the links still worked. It wasn't long before Yusai was in a lather. But, it only seemed to go as far as a lather. In revisiting these video's, Yusai could remember why he had initially saved them for pleasurely reference, but, there was also something about them that just wasn't doing it.

 

He liked to watch the women in these videos perform on the men. He liked how they played with the men's genitals, he liked watching the many ways in which they could get a guy to squirm and beg for climax. He liked watching their muscles twitch and their faces cinch and their eyes glaze over with lust.. And he liked those moments just before climax where every inch of the man tremmored, seized, paused, and then the release... It was hot. But, there was an element to these video's that Yusai found distracting. Something about how they would cut to weird shots of the womans crotch, or there were boring shots of her tits being bounced around, or she'd start drilling him and would make obnoxious noises took Yusai out of the mood.

 

Still, he was hot and bothered and now had a need to release. He would just have to find the right video to satisfy that need, he thought, and so he began clicking around for new material. One title in a related videos tag came up that caught Yusai's eye--”Bar man beats bar”--and thinking it kind of comical, he clicked on it, wondering what it could possibly be.

 

The video started out innocuously enough. A man in clothing that looked a smidge too snug for his muscles was cleaning the counter of an empty bar, when three other gentlemen stepped in; One was tall and lean, the other similar in stature but had very pronounced facial features, and the third one a smaller man that looked about half the age of everyone in the room. The tall and lean man was wearing all leather, the similar looking one in jeans and a vest, and the smaller one in clothing that hugged and revealed parts of his body that Yusai couldn't help but notice with some interest. His cheeks felt a little flushed.

 

The three approached the bar and sat down, immediately making their drink orders. The bartender placed his hands on the counter, his chest bulging enough to make the hem of his shirt that was tucked into his pants pop out and reveal a slither of his belly, and said that the bar wasn't open yet, and that they should come by later. The men eyed each other, then eyed the man, looking him up and down salaciously  in a way that Yusai couldn't help but notice.

 

Come on big guy, just give us something,” the leather-clad man crooned, licking his lips.

 

Yeah, anything...” the other man chimed in, running his hand through his black hair.

 

The smallest of the three stood up, swaying his hips and meeting the bartenders posture. The camera circled around behind him, and Yusai couldn't help but take a good look at his ass. His snug, tight pants hugged every crook and buldge there. Yusai swallowed thickly, his interest piqued but a part of him telling him that this was wrong.

 

The bartender, examining the smaller man and after a moments speculation, shook his head, saying firmly, “No. I ain't open. Now get out.”

 

The smaller man smiled wickedly, as did the other two men who exchanged glances again, then stood up. They circled around the the bar and approached the tender behind the counter, who aggressively asked them what they thought they were doing.

 

“Just getting something to drink...” one of the men said, and made a grab for the bartenders arm. The leather-clad one did the same, and there was a brief, mock struggle resulting in the two men pinning the bartenders arms behind him. His chest was practically bursting from his shirt. Yusai could see his pecs twitch a little and he brushed his fingers along the tip of his cock, enticed.

 

There were some more exchanges of words, but most of the dialog was unimportant by now; The smaller man had mysteriously brandished a pair of scissors and had started to cut the shirt off the bartender, running his free hand up and along his muscles and then dipping down to the waist of his pants. The camera took focus to his hands exploring the bartenders buldge, which was only growing more and more firm. Yusai felt prickly along the back of his neck and on his shoulders and down the length of his back; Oh fuck, this was wrong, wasn't it? But it was like he was paralyzed. He couldn't stop watching.

 

The bartender made some vague threat about calling the police to which the other men responded with laughter. The smaller man unbuttoned and unzipped the bartenders pants and slipped his hand down the front, rubbing and fondling his cock until his bulge was practically popping out on its own. The bartender moaned. Yusai felt himself harden in response and, whether it was conscious of it or not, he began to stroke his own dick as he watched.

 

As the video progressed, Yusai watched as the smaller man stroked the bartender through the cotton of his underwear, fondling him until he was hissing for release. Yusai saw a small spot begin to darken in the bartenders briefs, and Yusai squirmed, unable to control himself. He was so turned on right now and every minute he watched was driving him wild.

 

More began to unfold on screen: The two men who had the bartenders arms pinned behind his back each  took a hand and pulled the briefs of the bartender down, exposing his erection, which was rather thick, hard, and throbbing to release already. The smaller man crooned, commenting on his girth before taking a playful stroke or two that  the bartender protested against, although he did nothing to resist. If anything, the smaller mans jocularity seemed to turn the bartender on more, as the tip of his cock sheened over with pre.

 

By now, Yusai was beginning to feel desperate for release himself, so he watched anxiously, though he was still struggling to come to grips with what he was watching. He knew that by now, he should’ve turned the video off and walked away, or at the very least, backed out and found some other wank material… But, he was so fucking hot right now, he couldn’t just stop…

 

The two men then lifted the bartender up onto the counter and laid him on his back. One man pinned his arms up above his head while the other pulled the remaining cloth of his shirt away, taking some time to tweek his nipples a little. The smaller man pulled the bartenders pants down around his thighs, then went back up for the waist of his underwear and shirked them down some more. He kissed and licked the crooks and twitching muscles along the bartenders thighs, deliberately avoiding his genitals, but his hand took a firm hold at the base of the bartenders cock and with his other hand, fondled his balls. He commented that he felt full, and said he had every intention of sucking him dry.

 

The bartender protested against this, threatening the men again. They simply told him to shut up and then slapped his chest, following it up with a rub. The bartender hissed again, but his hiss soon turned into a whooshing intake of breath as the smaller man, after a few pumps of the bartender’s cock, dipped his chin down and took his length into his mouth. Yusai’s whole body lurched, slightly but powerfully enough, and in a way that it had never done before when he watched porn. He was stroking himself at a quicker pace, both of his hands working his genitals--one at his cock and the other fluffing and caressing his balls--whatever inhibitions he had about continuing to watch had been completely disregarded, as he was now in a state of complete lust.

 

Yusai watched the smaller man suck the bartenders cock at an erratic pace. Sometimes he’d go in steadily and keep a good rhythm, then decide to go in long and low. Each time he did this, the bartender released a shuddering moan, his eyes rolled up into their sockets, and his whole body trembled. This went on for a little while until the two other men got their own hands involved, going for his nipples again each time the smaller man went for his low, slow suck, and the bartender threw his head back, his whole body splayed and shivering with lust.

 

Then there was that moment where his body seized, and Yusai watched intently as the bartender moaned and bit his lip, stifiling his cry as he spit, and the smaller man moaned too as he came up on the suck, his lips dripping with a thin stream of the bartenders spent fluids. It was here that Yusai couldn’t control himself, everything came rushing in at once; his whole body seized, he lurched forward, his hands working in small movements to bring about his release which was spilling out of him so, so hard. It was unlike anything he had ever felt before.

 

He hadn’t realized his mouth had been agape until he felt a small droplet of warmth there, and he looked down at his spent erection with a strange sense of awe as he was still reeling. Holy shit, there was so much cum. More than he thought possible for himself. Everything south of his navel tingled and throbbed dully, but still pleasurably… Physically, Yusai felt good. Wonderful. He had never been so turned on before in his life.

 

But, he sat there reeling for another reason, and that was because for the first time ever, he had come the hardest he ever had… To gay porn. There was no denying what he had watched--what was still playing, and Yusai quickly turned it off--and no other way to justify it to himself: it was gay porn through and through. He was in a strange state of shock, still trembling with pleasure but simultaneously mortified.

 

He didn’t know it then, but a seed had been planted in him then that was rapidly taking root and beginning to flower.

 

Outwardly, however, Yusai was just going to disregard this little incident, as it didn’t prove anything other than that he… He liked porn. Really… Well shot porn, he told himself. He wasn’t gay, he told himself, sitting up to stand and finding that his knees were weak and trembling. Fuck, that orgasm had hit him hard. He wanted to lie down and sleep for a little while (and forget about all this) but he had made himself a mess and a shower was in order first. A nice cold one, he told himself, thinking that maybe the shock of the cold would somehow ward off the thoughts circling in his head.

 

He shamefully shuffled to the bathroom, his pants still half around his thighs with one hand cradling his crown and jewels, and turned on the faucet for the shower. Peeling off his clothing, Yusai stepped into the tub and stood there for a while letting the water run over his body, his mind in a strange, staticy place where all he could think about was the fact that he had just watched gay porn… And had enjoyed it.



 

 

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Steal had been avoiding for a long time, the idea of going back out and seeing Lance again.  He was feeling bored and unsatisfied lately, Yusai was as oblivious as ever, and he was just not getting it.   No matter how many little hints were dropped by the younger man, Yusai always seemed to just kind of space out and miss everything.  Steal could put on his old club clothing, the whole net shirt and really short tight shorts, and Yusai just laughed and told him to put on something warmer.  Steal was starting to feel like he must look bland, or just have lost an edge he didn't even have the chance to use.

When the call came a few nights before, and Lance asked him to go out for a movie, Steal had hesitated but agreed.  He really didn't want to, but he rather liked feeling that he was something to be desired, even if just for a short time.  So as he got ready he checked to see, one last time if Yusai would stop him, if he would be asked to stay, but the other had just kind of nodded at his leaving, and so, rather forlorn, Steal had indeed left missing out on one hell of a show.   (If he had even the slightest idea of what would have happened he would have damned sure set up a camera to enjoy the footage later for his own pleasure.)

So it was that Steal went to meet with Lance outside the salon, not aware that he was being watched by a third party, one who had no intention of letting Steal keep the date that had been set.  The investigator headed toward Steal,  hands tucked deep into pockets looking sad as he just walked, eyes cast down.  Steal had to nearly jump out of the way of the sad looking man, who then stopped and stammered an apology.

"Uh, no need to be sorry, "  Steal said softly wondering what had this guy so upset.   It wasn't his business to ask, but something about him..  The man had red hair, deep green eyes and such a sad look that he was hard to ignore.

"No, really I am sorry, I should have been watching where I was going... it is just that, well, I just lost my cat today, and.. I guess I am just a bit sad about it."  The man peered at Steal from lowered lashes gauging the reaction that he knew he would get.   Steal was noted as being a sucker for felines, and just as expected the younger man teared up a bit.

"No, I am so sorry, I know how much that would hurt  I would be devastated if my cat passed on."

Score, just the right reaction, now to start reeling him in.  "Oh, you have a cat too..  I, I really miss my sweet girl already.. she was with me for years."

Within moments Steal was sitting on a curb talking with the other man, Lance already forgotten, until the hairdresser cleared his throat behind Steal to get his attention.  "Oh, Lance this is.. um.. sorry I didn't get your name."

"Ian, my name is Ian"  The red haired man gave a sad smile and shook Lance's hand before giving Steal his phone number.  "Maybe we can talk again later, you were a lot of help to me."  He wiped his eyes and got to his feet, nodding again to Lance as he headed off.   There, he had his in, now he just needed to wait.


To Steal the whole event was just a normal thing, helping a person who needed help, and it hadn't even came to his mind that anything even remotely devious could have been happening.  Lance even thought Steal was doing something rather nice to comfort someone, though he wished it had not been happening on what he considered his time.  Having finally reclaimed the young pale haired man, Lance took him to the movies, but didn't tell him that they were going to watch something.. naughty to say the least.

The movie seemed at first to be a horror movie, where some guys had headed out to the woods for a camping trip, but instead of being chased down one at a time to be killed...

One man headed alone in the woods, he thought it was a good idea, he walked to the edge of a lake and sat down, stripping off his clothing to go for a dip, when a robed figure headed up behind him, grabbing him around the hips.  The figure then snaked one hand down, fondlling the man's balls, breathing into his ear.  "Oh you were bad to come here alone.."

The man panted and tossed his head in mock fear.  "No, no don't hurt me.   I was wrong."

"Yes you were and now you have to pay for it."   The man roughly tossed his prey down on the ground and pushed his legs apart, holding down his arms he then dropped his head to take the man's already hard length into his mouth.

Steal's eyes widened and he glanced at Lance who was smiling.  "Wh.."  He shook his head and started to get to his feet, wanting to leave.   This was not the kind of movie he had agreed to see.

His eyes slid back to the screed again at the sound of some loud moans.

The man on the ground rolled his eyes and licked his lips begging to have a chance to do something to his captor, or at least have his captor do more to him. The man slid to his knees no longer restrained as the man in the robe tossed his garment off, showing nothing more than a mask covering his face as he moved to let the other man start sucking on his length.   He made a grunting sound as he grabbed the "victim" by the hair forcing him down.

Steal ran from the room.   It wasn't that he didn't like what he was seeing, but  more like he enjoyed it too much and this was not something he wanted to be seeing in public, let alone with Lance, who was confused by Steal leaving.  Steal ran to the street and shook his head as if to shake away the images.  What in the world was Lance thinking?

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Lance sat alone in the movie theater for a minute, face in his palms after witnessing Steal get up and leave. He could only guess why, and the answer was fairly obvious. Coming into the movie, Lance had a loose understanding of what the movie was about but had no idea how graphic and well, porny.. It would actually turn out, and although he found the sudden (and a little cheesy) turn of events bizarre and humorous, he supposed by Steals reaction that he did not find it as laughable as he did. 

 

So he sat there with a growing sense of mortification, suspecting that this would probably be the "thing" that drove Steal away completely. He was stupid to have ever approached Steal in the first place, he thought. He was stupid to have thought that after his little gaff at the club when they were last together, that he should reach out again to see him. It was like everything he tried to do with Steal just turned upside-down somewhere along the line... He was so stupid...

 

Getting up from his seat, Lance left the theater and headed outdoors, only to see that Steal was still outside pacing around. Lance froze where he was, unsure of what to do or say... If there was anything he could do or say. There was no real way he could approach Steal without looking like some sort of desperate creep, but at the same time, Steal looked genuinely discomforted. He didn't want Steal to leave this afternoon with any sour, bitter feelings.

 

Swallowing his pride and resolve, Lance uttered "Hey," which made Steal stop and look at him in what Lance could only read as shock. He looked like he was about to bolt at any minute--he had to make an apology, and quick.

 

"I'm sorry, I didn't know the movie would turn out like that," Lance said, rubbing his hand along his hot cheek. "I didn't mean for the afternoon to be like this."

 

He went quiet, thinking of what he could say next, and words simply not coming. He wished he could turn time back and re-do everything from the moment he met Steal and onward, but of course he couldn't. He was happy to have met Steal after all, but he would never have guessed that just trying to get a date with the guy would be such a social disaster for him.

 

Lance was not someone who considered himself particularly smooth or anything, but he had been on dates before, and landing them had been relatively simple. The dates were usually fun, non-descript, and at worse, dull, but with Steal... He was so smitten with him, Lance couldn't articulate why, but there was just something about him that he was attracted to and maybe that was playing into some subconscious part of his brain that decided fucking every imaginable thing up was the best course of action with Steal. 

 

Steal had no way of knowing that he was some kind of magnet for unbelievably stupid men, and here was another one standing before him, tongue-tied and unsure of himself. Lance could only dully hope that Steal could find it somewhere in his heart to forgive this incredible faux-pas... But he was afraid he had already used up all of Steal's graces.

 

--------

 

Yusai was showered and clean, but he didn't feel that way. He stepped out of the tub with his mind in a numb place after repeated attempts to quiet the voice inside him that was whispering his prior sin at him over and over. Sin may not have been the word for it, but thats what it felt like in Yusai's mind. He jerked off to gay porn. He liked it so, so much more than he thought he could ever like porn. Masturbating had felt good. How he felt during it was unlike anything he had ever felt before.

 

But... It was wrong. Not the act itself but what he had watched. How he had enjoyed it. How he wanted to feel that way again. Masturbating to gay porn was wrong. Being gay is wrong, he was telling himself, and every time he told himself this there was a distinct feeling in his gut like someone was wrapping their fist around his insides and clenching as hard as they could. He felt strange and sick.

 

A smaller voice inside him pondered, what was wrong with being gay? Yusai didn't have a sensible answer to that, it was just something he had always known, or been taught. In Australia, it was fairly common to have someone screaming "Faggot!" at you if you were weird in any way, and it was usually followed up by getting chased down and sacked until you could barely walk. It wasn't that much different in the states, either. The simple lesson he took away from all of this was that being gay not something he grew up thinking was okay, and that influence didn't just come from his peers or parental figures (although they never elluded to being anti-gay in the slightest), it also came from the religion he was brought up on as well.

 

However, he had abandoned religion long ago. He had grown up in a household that could loosely be called Christian and was fairly neutral to the dogma when he was little, but when Richard had died, he had left the ideals behind completely,  finding its teachings and influence either unnecessary or at worst, reprehensible and hypocritical. Yusai couldn't place this discomfort on religion's shoulders, although admittedly, there was a very teeny part of him that wanted to.

 

No, Yusai couldn't be gay. Not just because it was wrong in the vaguest of terms, but because he had girlfriends in the past. LOTS of them. Remembering this fact made the invisible fist in his gut loosen a little, and Yusai straightened himself up in front of the mirror and examined his features. Right, there was Alyssa from college, Tristan, Morgan, Crystal, Samantha, Molly, Rachel, Andrea, Pauline, Laura... Yusai failed to take into account that each relationship was as short as it was awkward and disastrous, each one ending with a woman storming out of his apartment, confused and dissatsfied by their boyfriend who never seemed to want to show them affection. Never wanted to be intimate, and never really seemed interested. Yusai remembered these relationships as short affairs with crazy women, the only sort of woman he seemed to attract.

 

But still, they were women. 

 

Doing his best to shake the thought of his mind completely, Yusai repeated this to assure himself that there was no way he could possibly be gay. That was that. Throwing the towel he had around his shoulders into the laundry bin, Yusai dressed and preened himself into something presentable and exited the bathroom, and was immediately stunned to see the time on the wall clock.

 

Two whole hours had passed since Steal had left. Just how long was that shower? Yusai looked down at his hands and saw his fingertips, pale and pruney. Holy hell. Sure needed a whole lot of time just to tell yourself you're not gay, the bastard part of his brain whispered to him, and Yusai reacted to the thought as if someone had said it into his ear. He shook his head violently and grunted.

 

Enough, ENOUGH--I'm NOT gay! He yelled at himself, suddenly aware how mental he was beginning to sound in his head. This whole mess was just insanity in its own right. Jerking off to ONE video of gay porn did NOT mean he was gay. He had wanked to other things in the past before that included women and that absolutely, positively proved it without a shadow of a doubt, that he was gay. Not gay. NOT gay!

 

Yusai put his hands to his temples as if trying to block out any further thoughts from entering his brain, which was now just a swirling, pulsing mess of jocular and belligerent pondering. God, he needed to do something to occupy his mind for a little while. He needed to get out of the apartment.

 

He quickly retrieved his coat and hat from his closet, and left Prince with an open tin of food that he neglected to portion out properly. Coming home to a pile of half-digested cat food barf was the last of Yusai's concerns right now, and he hastily exited his apartment, walking down the street to anywhere that would keep him busy and shut his brain the hell up.

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Steal continued to pace, his head spinning, his nerves jangled and his body.   No he would not think about that, at the moment.   He just had to settle his mind.  Just as he thought he would have a chance to do that, Lance came out and stared at him with those pathetic sad eyes.   For some reason that just wasn't working at the moment.  Generally someone looking at him with a sad face would be enough to make Steal melt and want to help but not now.  Fight or flight..  Steal grit his teeth tightly, his eyes squeezed shut.   Too much, this was all too much.  He was getting dizzy, his heart was pacing too fast.

What if I pass out?  What if I get sick?  What if I crack my head open when I fall because my heart is going too fast?  What if... What if?   Shit...

Steal staggered and finally found a wall to slide down, dropping to the ground hard and bowing his head in his hands.  Too much.  He should have stayed home.  He just wanted.. needed to be needed for a time but this was not what he had been hoping for.  He could hear Lance speaking but it was a distant murmur.  He tried to look up at the other man but his head spun again and he felt the colour draining from him, his skin going cold.

What am I doing?  I try to do something, to have a good time and I end up like this?  Lance likely thinks I am some kind of freak.  Maybe he thinks I am straight.  That sure was a homophobic reaction I had there.  Heh, I should just roll with that.  Go strai-  nope not going to happen. 

Now that the anxiety attack was fading a bit, something worse was sinking in.  Hysteria.  He couldn't stop the insane laughter and tears from bubbling out, and through it all part of his mind started to scream that he was going insane.  Lance had been trying to get closer to him but Steal curled up in a small ball, even workers from the theater were coming out wondering what in the world was going on with the man at the front of the building.

No, someone help.. I am losing it so badly.

"Should we call someone?  Call an ambulance or something?"

"Get some water and a paper bag or something try to calm him down."

"Does he have a cell phone with a contact in it?"

"Who is with him?"

The words danced around him and he still couldn't pull himself together, except to nearly wail out Yusai's name, wanting, needing his comfort.  Where was he?  Why had he ever thought of leaving the building?

~~~~

Across the street on a cell phone was Ian watching everything happening with an air of amusement.  He had no idea what had set the young man off, but this was certainly news worthy and something that would be good to report.  To think, the young master of the Masters' Estate was having a complete melt down in public and no one knew what to do.   He could have walked over and tried to help, but that would seem strange.  He had only 'met' Steal the one time earlier that same day, so there was no way he would have any right to step forward.   Brushing his red hair back he continued to speak into the phone recounting all he saw to a recording device in the phone itself, while seeming to just be talking to someone else.

Soon someone would think to call an ambulance or something and he would once more be taken off, likely this time to the crazy ward where his parents would be able to step in and take him back with no issue.  He would just need to tell them when he found out where the younger man was taken.

A moment after that thought the smile faded from his lips.   Shit.. that larger one eyed man was heading right this way.  If he got to Steal first... ugh.  He would have to start work again on a new plan.

 

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Lance watched Steal wordlessly crumble to the ground, shaking with a bizarre mirth that he thought was an odd response to his prior apology. Was he laughing at him? His stomach twisted and he felt his cheeks flare with heat.

 

This was just humiliating now. He was about to walk off without another word until he heard hiccups and sniffling coming out of Steal. Lance wasn't entirely sure of what it was he was witnessing, but his gut twisted with a new feeling, which was alarm. 

 

"Steal... What's wrong...?" Lance asked cautiously, keeping an arms length distance in fear that he was the cause of Steal's distress. "Look, I really didn't know, and I'm *sorry*. I didn't know this would turn out to be such a mess, I--" he had to pause as he was suddenly very aware that there was a small crowd starting to gather, concerned and talking among themselves about what they were witnessing.

 

Steal had lifted his face from his knees, and Lance saw that any color he had in his cheeks was replaced by a pale, pasty complexion. He looked sickly. He was gasping for air like he was choking for breath.

 

Lance knew then that whatever it was that was wrong with Steal, it wasn't just on account of their lousy date, but something more. Maybe he was a diabetic or was suffering from low blood sugar, or *something*. He tried to get an answer out of Steal, but he was more or less incoherent. 

 

He then shakily handed Lance his phone, half mumbling, half groaning to call someone. Lance took his phone and looked through Steals (extremely scarse) contacts list. All names, no connections, he had no idea who was whom but without thinking about it, Lance dialed the first person he saw on Steals most recently contacted list and waited for a response.

 

-------

 

Yusai had been aimlessly wandering around and trying his best to absorb the sights and sounds the west end of Brooklyn had to offer in an effort to deafen the thoughts in his head a little. It had worked to some degree. The only real downfall to tuning his own brain out and walking around town was that he noticed just how crummy of an area he lived in. He pondered that sometime in the near future, maybe he would move closer to Manhattan, just for a change in scenery.

 

There was only so much of his surroundings that he could absorb before the annoying thoughts from earlier started to pipe up again. They were especially prominent whenever he happened to catch the eye of a male stranger passing by. He’d notice the length of their hair, the jut of their jaw, the color of their eyes... Hover on a bodily detail for just a little too long and now he was hyper aware of it, and every time he caught himself doing it, a voice inside him whispered at him, “Gay.”

 

He was beginning to feel disheartened and agitated the more he continued walking, and Yusai was beginning to wonder if maybe he was developing a sudden onset mental illness of some kind. He didn’t have long to mull on these thoughts however, as the phone in his pocket began to vibrate. Thank God, a distraction. He hurriedly answered the phone without paying mind to the caller ID.

 

“’Lo?” Yusai answered.

 

Are you a friend of Steals?” A strange but familiar voice on the receiver asked.

 

Oi—who’s this?” Yusai asked in return, a small knot in the pit of his stomach forming. This conversation didn’t sound good. Whoever Yusai was talking to sounded like he was out of breath and alarmed.

 

Don’t worry about that, can you come and grab Steal? He’s having a panic attack, or something. Does he take medicine?”

 

No, he doesn’t,” Yusai said firmly. “Where is he? I’ll be there right quick.”

 

Lance relayed their location and Yusai began jogging down the sidewalk, forging the quickest path he could to the movie theater Steal was at. A panic attack, huh? Yusai could believe it. Steal had had more than a few in his time with Yusai and by now, he was fairly used to witnessing them and doing what he could to coax Steal out of one. He wondered briefly what could have set one off this time, as he had a vague idea of Steals triggers by now, but he didn’t keep that thought in mind for long. He just focused on getting there to help.

 

Yusai didn’t have too far to go—only 4 and a half blocks from where he had been wandering—by the time he arrived at the movie theater, a small crowd had formed outside and he knew that Steal must’ve been the center of their attention. Brushing past a peculiar redhead who grumbled something unintelligible, Yusai cut through the remainder of the crowd and saw Steal balled up against a wall and... there was Lance, too, squatted in front of him, rubbing Steals forearms in an attempt to calm him down.

 

I’ll take it from here,” Yusai said breathlessly to catch Lance’s attention. Lance turned to look over his shoulder and his eyes widened in surprise.

 

Oh, it’s you,” He said, pushing himself up to stand. “I should’ve figured as much. I’m sorry for the vague phonecall, I just don’t know what’s going on--”

 

S’ fine, don’t worry about it.” Yusai stated, then kneeled in front of Steal who was largely unresponsive outside of his heavy and erradic breathing. Saying nothing, Yusai took one of Steals hands and pressed his palm against his own heaving chest.

 

Wanna breathe with me mate? Just nice and slow here,” Yusai said gently, and followed by demonstrating the breathing pattern he wanted Steal to follow; Slow and measured. It took a little bit of time but Steal started to mimic his breath. He weakly looked up from his knee’s and into Yusai’s eye, who had been watching him intently the whole time.

 

Oi, you’re doin’ good mate. Just keep it up with me,” They continued to breathe together until Yusai saw some color begin to return to Steal’s pallor. This was usually where the shaking began, and Steal was right on cue. Yusai shuffled a bit to sit beside Steal against the wall and reached one of his arms over Steals shoulder, placing his hand down and working it in a gentle circular motion.

 

Movie must’ve been pretty bad, eh?” Yusai joked lowly, smirking a little. He heard Steal huff quietly in response. A laugh? Good, he was on the right track. Yusai manuvered his hand along Steal’s upper back and kept rubbing until he was sure he was collecting himself. He knew what would be coming next after the shakes subsided.

 

All the meanwhile, Lance stood by and watched curiously—and also a bit awkwardly—the sequence of events unfold before him, unsure if he even should be a witness to this but wanting to stick around and see for himself that Steal would be alright. Things were progressing alright so far, Steal was regaining color in his face and he didn’t look so desperate for breath.

 

He couldn’t hear the soft, low things being said to Steal, but he saw faint hints of emotion lick the corners of Steal’s parted mouth and strained brows. He looked like he was coming back around. Even in this state, Lance couldn’t help but think Steal was adorable, but in a whole new way; His vounerability made him appear almost angellic. For a moment, Lance could swear he was looking at a statue.

 

However, his reverie was broken in an instant when Yusai suddenly guided Steal’s head to the side, held is shoulders, and braced Steal while he puked on the sidewalk... And on Lance’s shoes. He was shocked for a second and backed away, wide-eyed and nose wrinkled. The angelic image he had of Steal was now tarnished with the image of him barfing all over his sneakers.

 

...He was still cute, though...

 

Lance excused himself, and started quickly down the sidewalk to find the nearest shoe shop to ditch this pair of soggy footware. He didn’t notice the same redhead Steal had been talking to earlier fidgeting with a tablet while he talked curtly on the phone.

 

And, by the time Yusai had gotten Steal wobbily to his feet to guide him back home, the man had dissapeared altogether. Whatever it was he had planned seemed to go up in smoke, much like his presence for the time being.

 

In the meantime, Yusai and Steal walked back to the apartment slowly, not saying much outside of Yusai asking how Steal was feeling. The smaller man was trembling still but that was generally how he was after a panic attack. Yusai would lay him down in bed and fix him up some tea while his nerves calmed down, per the usual routine.

 

Something about this occasion was distinctly off however, and that was aparent when Steal tried to slink his arm around Yusai’s waist—be it to brace himself better or for comfort—and Yusai shirked away, the sensation of Steal’s arm at first familiar and welcome, but then suddenly soured by that voice in his head telling him he was enjoying it a little too much, you faggot. His reaction must’ve been visceral enough, because even Steal seemed to hesitate and look up at Yusai with an expression he hadn’t seen before; He looked wounded, and confused.

 

Yusai was silent, and he ruminated on this. His mind was suddenly a buzzing mess of thought all clammoring to make sense of one another. One side was trying to rationalize that this was how Steal always was and that being a point of comfort to him was absolutely fine and normal. The other side was the one putting up the “better” fight, screaming that if another man even touches you, it’s gay. And if you like it even a little, you’re a faggot—and Yusai was no faggot.

 

There was a strange and distant memory suddenly bubbling to surface in the murky waters of Yusai’s brain... An after school sporting event... Bleachers... Jeering group of kids... Richard... He shook his head. Now was not the time to reminise about any of that. He had to say something now, something to dispel the uncomfortable air that had just formed between he and Steal.

 

Sorry, just... Me stomach hurts,” Yusai lied. “We’re almost home, anyhow. Think you can hold up then?”

 

They continued to walk for a few more minutes up the familiar curb to Yusai’s apartment. Once there, they stepped inside and Steal retreated to the bathroom and started the shower. Meanwhile, Yusai busied himself fixing up a pot of tea, his head in another numb state, and him desperately hoping that by the next day, these alien thoughts and feelings he had would be gone.

 

 

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The world was a spiraling blur for a while, Steal's whole body felt like it was frozen.  He couldn't tell that his phone had been taken, or even that there were others around.  It was like a stolen moment between heart beats in which nothing can possibly occur but soon enough he could almost FEEL that someone was near him.   Someone who knew what to do, and how to make things better.

"Wanna breathe with me mate? Just nice and slow here,”

Who was it... who.... Yusai?   Steal could feel him near, could hear the voice, feel the other as he started to breath correctly, the sobbing chest pain that felt like it was crushing his lungs was subsiding.  Yusai's calm voice soothed him more, bringing him down from the panic..  Then came the icy shaking that started his whole body vibrating all over. 

“Movie must’ve been pretty bad, eh?”

Steal gave a dry sounding half chuckle at that.   That was an understatement.  He closed his eyes and tried to bring himself back to something closer to normal.   The rubbing of his back helped a lot, feeling Yusai near him, knowing that he was supported.   It was as if it was just the two of them in this small part of the universe.  Then the shakes slowly started to clam down and with it came... came...

Steal's eyes closed tight even as Yusai turned his body away to ensure that when he vomited it wasn't on himself.  Only Yusai could know him that well.  Steal's body language was an open book for the other man to read.  Unfortunately not so for Vince who got the joy of wearing the mess.  Steal was dazed and turned his head against Yusai as he got to his feet.  If it wasn't for the support of the other man Steal likely would have hit the ground a few times, and so it was that Steal found himself reaching out to wrap his arm around Yusai to keep himself steady, only to find Yusai jerking away as if to say that Steal was not welcome.

Steal's pale eyes widened and he felt like he had just been stabbed.  Why?  What had changed? He felt as if his whole world in that one moment shattered around him a splinter of the ice he had felt before, lodging itself inside his heart.  Pulling away from the .. disgust?  Steal retreated farther into himself, building around him a wall of that ice and cold, he wasn't wanted anymore.

As soon as they got home Steal went to take a shower, to hide away from the pain he was feeling and for a moment openly weep about what he was sure was lost to never be gained again.  He knew that Yusai was the one he wanted to be with, but somehow yusai now knew what had been felt, and was rejecting it.   When he was done with the shower he retreated to the bed, curling at the very edge of it, farthest away from where Yusai slept.   Distance was now the key.   He would later turn himself over to his father.  Sooner to face those empty hollow halls, and cold seclusion than the look he had seen flash on Yusai's face at his touch.

Never before had Steal seen such a look of.. was it revulsion?  He had no way of knowing that it was not directly about him, but the look had been as a result of him and his contact.   Lucky for him the sweet kitty of his curled against him, there was at least that minor comfort.  The issue came when the next morning dawned.  How was he going to deal with this?

Steal took a deep breath and looked back at Yusai who was still laying in the bed deep asleep.  He walked to the sitting room and sat down to write out a note which he later gave to Otto.

Dear Yusai;

I am sorry about this.  I know you are going to be upset at me for giving no notice of my leaving but let me at least let you know why.  I have been holding you back so long, and it only really hit me yesterday.  I have been leaning on you, depending on you to help me and bail me out of things.  I never made it so clear to you that I am gay, I just assumed you knew and didn't mind.  Then you looked at me when I put my arm around you, and I saw how you seemed so disgusted.  I know it must be that you saw what theater I was at.

Please know I loved being with you but I didn't mean to hold you back so much.  I am heading back home now.  I think it will be best for both of us, so that you can move on, and not feel the burden of me being around.  I guess that means I wont see you again, but I need you to know that I am  not liking this at all.

(Tear marks smearing the ink) miss you a lot.  Please care for Prince.   If he becomes a burden.. let Otto know, he said he will watch over him if it is needed.  I had to leave this with him because I know you sometimes loose things.

Thank you for everything Yusai.

Stephen Masters.

Steal~

After writing the note, and hugging Prince, Steal dropped a mint mouse on the floor, grabbed his bag and headed out.  He had sent a silent text to Otto asking to be picked up, so that he would be taken home.  Soon enough he would lose his freedom, and he needed to see one last smiling face.  He handed the note over and bowed his head weeping as he tried to whisper his father's address.

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(double posting because WOO WOO SITE DONT WORK) 

 

Yusai went to work later that night, having another episode of distractions and forgetfulness. He was able to tune the annoying thoughts out of his head for some time, but that was just it: he expelled so much concentration into trying not to think about those thoughts that he was forgetting how to function normally otherwise.

 

He had come out of his shift feeling burnt out, worn out, and exhausted in a way he had never been before. His head hurt--actually hurt--and he felt sick, like he had strained something in his gut. Yusai drove home and crawled into bed, noticing briefly that Steal hadn't moved an inch from his spot on the far end of the mattress since earlier, and thought for a moment to stir him to see if he was alright. He decided against it however, not feeling so well himself, and besides, it was late. He instead opted to sleep. He was restless the entire night.

 

***

 Yusai was unaware of Steals activity early that morning. He was in too deep a sleep to notice the movement from the bed, hear the sounds of Steal scuttling around, or hear the click of the door as he left.

 

Meanwhile, Otto had been the recipient of a few bizarre early-morning texts from Steal requesting to meet him at a nearby street. He obligied, curious and a little alarmed. It wasn’t often Steal reached out to him personally but when he did, the tone of their conversation wasn’t typically so cryptic or serious. Usually it was just Steal wanting to vent, needing a companion to talk about what an oblivious idiot Yusai could be. He liked those conversations.

 

This occasion was immediately different; Steal met Otto outside in the parkinglot of a convenience store, his face already the picture of misery, and Otto quickly asked “What’s going on?”, and tried to parse together what was troubling Steal.

 

Unlike how their blunt, “bitchy” conversations usually went, this one was different. Steal was sullen and vague and he could barely look Otto in the eyes. It was like he was lost, and had given up hope. Otto tried to pry for more information but Steal, with tears in his eyes, handed him a letter and asked that he please give it to Yusai when he next saw him.

 

Without thinking about how personal the contents might be, Otto opened the letter and began reading. He was halfway through when Steal noticed he was looking it over, and he yelped, scrambling to retreive it from Otto’s hands before he could continue further. Otto simply raised his arm and read at an upwards angle, and Steal had tried to scale his body in a last-ditch and ultimately futile effort to get it back. He slid down Otto’s body like a firepole and Otto, having finished his reading, looked down at him and said,

 

I’m not giving Yusai this.”

Even though he couldn’t see Steals expression, Otto could tell by Steals head resting defeatedly against his knees, how affected he was by hearing that. He mumbled—practically whined—in protest. Why was he doing this to him, he asked, sounding genuinely confused and upset.

 

I’m not doing anything to you,” Otto retorted, bending at his knees and grabbing Steal by the shoulders. “I’m not giving him this letter because this is all stuff you should be telling him face-to-face. You can’t just up and leave him like that and use me to deliver the blow. The guy has abandonment issues as-is.”

 

He pulled Steal up to his feet, seeing something in his expression change; Steal looked contemplative, mulling over what he had just heard. Was it something that Otto said? Then the tears that had been welling in his eyes fell, and he began sobbing, and apologizing.

 

Otto never knew how to comfort a crying individual—even a friend—so his extended arm around Steals shoulder to an embrace was awkward and stilted.

 

Hey, don’t apologize to me,” Otto murmured, patting Steal, “You don’t have anything to apologize for. You’re in a rough situation with Yusai, I know. He can be a huge, huge idiot sometimes... But trust me when I say that he doesn’t have anyone like you in his life that could ever replace you. He needs you in a way that nobody he calls his friend, even me, does... Especially this time of year.”

 

Steal, swallowing down a hiccup, rubbed the moisture from his eyes and cheeks and asked quietly why that was, although his question seemed to be asking more why Otto believed Yusai needed him at all, as if he himself didn’t believe a word he had said.

 

Otto sighed, withdrawing his arm and tucking his hands inside his pockets, and took a brief, wayward glance up at the sky. Had Yusai really never, ever told Steal anything about his own life? Maybe this was why Steal thought Yusai didn’t want him around or didn’t value him as a friend... The ungrateful idiot. He looked down at the crestfallen Steal, who seemed to be pulling himself back together slowly.

 

He’s told you about his old buddy Richard, right? He died sometime in November. Yusai’s never talked about how... Doesn’t like talking about it much, I guess. It’s always a sensitive subject with him, too,” Otto said, recalling what he could from all previous conversations he had tried to squeeze out of Yusai since he himself found out. “Anyway... We’re getting off track. Steal, if you really want to leave Yusai, you can, especially if it’s hurting you. Your feelings matter most. But... Don’t do it through me. You have to look him in the eye and tell him you want to leave yourself.”

 

Steal seemed to be absorbing this, if his solemn nod was anything to go by. Otto asked him if he’d like to go back to the apartment, but Steal kept his silence, perhaps because he was still going over some things in his head. Otto folded Steals letter up and placed it in the breast pocket of his coat, and opened the door to his car, inviting Steal to hop in. He did, and sunk into the passenger seat, a contemplative expression reflecting from the window.

 

... Come on,” Otto said, starting the engine to further help break the quiet, “Let’s atleast get some breakfast while we’re up.”

 

--------------

 

Yusai woke up, dizzy and groggy. He rubbed his hand along his jaw, which ached dully. He brought the same hand to the base of his neck and swallowed, feeling a burning soreness there. He must be sick, he thought, and turned over on his side to get comfortable. He was immediately surprised to see Prince fairly up close, his golden eyes half-lidded at first, then widening when Yusai turned over. He sprung up on his feet and scuttled off the bed in a hurry.

 

It was quiet. Unusually so. Yusai couldn’t help but notice the empty spot on the far end of his bed where Steal had slept, and wondered if he was already up and wandering around the apartment.

 

He called out for Steal, but his voice was weak and hoarse. He tried again, his voice cracking this time, but there was no answer. Strange. Where could Steal be if he wasn’t here, Yusai wondered.

 

Turning over again toward the edge of his bed where his nightstand was, Yusai reached for his phone and tapped it awake to see if there had been any phone calls or messages from Steal. Nothing but the time showed up on his screen: 7:45AM. Only 5 hours of sleep... Yusai mused to himself, chocking some of his physical state up to how little sleep he had gotten.

 

Still, an increasing sense of unease was forming in the pit of Yusai’s gut. Where had Steal gone? Yusai tried to assure himself with some sensible scenarios that Steal had likely stepped out to grab something that they didn’t have in the kitchen, or maybe he was taking a walk... But then those scenarios twisted into worry.

 

What if Steal had stepped out to grab something to eat, but was mugged along the way? What if he had stepped out to take an early-morning walk, but was hit by a car? It was amazing how each little thing Yusai could think of would twist into something entirely different and by the end of it all, Yusai was now simply worried and feeling worse for wear.

 

Just as Yusai had started up, he heard the door to the apartment open, heard a murmur of voices, and then the door closed, and footsteps approached the bedroom. Yusai was very relieved to see a cold-chapped Steal saunter in.

 

Oi... G’mornin’,” Yusai rasped, relaxing back into bed. “Where’d you go?”

 

Steal plucked the fingers of his gloves, pulled them off his hands, and tucked them into his coat pocket. He quietly mentioned that he had gone out and had some breakfast with Otto. The news, while nothing especially major, was a little surprising for Yusai to hear.

 

Oh?” He wanted to embellish on the thought but his voice hurt too much to keep talking. Steal, peeling off his charcoal-gray coat, looked pitiably at Yusai and simply nodded at him.

 

Yeah, we just... Got breakfast and... Hung out a little bit.” Steal explained, abiet vaguely. He set his coat aside and—hesitantly?--came to crawl onto the bed, although keeping a bizarre distance. He said that Yusai sounded awful, to which Yusai hacked in agreement.

 

Sorry,” He apologized. “I feel as awful as I sound.” He turned his head and looked up at Steal, who was laying on his side and looking at Yusai, his big, blue eyes shimmering and his eyebrows forming a gentle crease. What was this look?

 

Steal then reached over and placed his hand on Yusai’s forehead, and when he lifted it away, he brushed some of Yusai’s short, stray hairs from his face. His fingers lingered a little, then he withdrew. He gently mentioned Yusai had a fever, which the bartender found unsurprising.

 

I’ll go fix up some tea and honey.” Steal said, and sitting up, made way for the kitchen.

 

Yusai moved to sit up and just caught the last moving glimpse of Steal’s back and his pert little bum exiting the bedroom. He stirred involuntarily, which with dawning horror, he realized what he’d just done.

 

Yusai groaned. Oh fuck. He could feel his mind begin to spiral. God, he couldn't do this again. He couldn't listen to his brain bleating at him like a broken record about what a sick freak he was. He couldn’t listen to his brain pestering him about a disgusting queer he was.

 

He turned onto his stomach and brought the pillow he had been resting on over his head in a vain attempt to drown himself out. What was wrong with him? Why couldn’t he just shut up? Why did he feel like he was losing control of himself? It was like a parasite had entered his brain and was picking away in there, and its first symptom was madness. An obsessive madness.

 

Still, he couldn’t help but remember how he had felt yesterday... He could still remember the video vividly, and even its fleeting thought made him salivate and squirm. He remembered the images, the sounds, how he had lost himself in it all entirely and let fly his release with such sweet intensity... He wanted to feel that way again.

 

But, a large part of him was embarrassed and ashamed of that admission, and fiercely denied the desire. No, Yusai would never, ever repeat yesterdays little escapade no matter how much his memory tempted him. I’m not gay, he told himself. I’m not.

 

He repeated it as many times as he could until he began to annoy himself... And run out of air from under the pillow. He unsheathed his head and squinted into the light streaming in through the window next to his bedside. Yusai still felt awful, his head a hot, aching mess and throat still incredibly raw. It was looking like a day he’d be spending indoors and getting rest.

 

Blearly, Yusai wondered what Steal would be up to today. He called out to him weakly but not hearing a response (likely because Steal didn’t hear him) Yusai stiffly sat up and hobbled out of bed, stepping uneasily out into the livingroom to see Steal filling a kettle across the kitchen island in the sink.


Oi, Steal...” Yusai beckoned, only now noticing a strange, crestfallen look on Steals face. His initial question interrupted by this, Yusai asked instead, “.. ‘Somethin’ wrong?”

 

Steal ran a hand through his short, silvery strands and his face twisted in momentary anguish, but with a deep inhale, Steal suddenly composed himself, saying that everything was fine.

 

Of course Yusai didn’t believe him for a minute, but he was having trouble processing things and was in a state of his own. He didn’t know if he should push for more information, or if Steal was even willing to talk about it. It seemed like lately, he was withdrawing. And as much as it bothered Yusai, he was one to talk: he couldn’t remember the last time he had talked to Steal about the things that were troubling him.

 

He’d certainly never talk to Steal about the biggest thing currently troubling him right now, even if Steal was the only one who’d understand.

 

Yusai still extended the invitation to talk about it, if Steal wanted, and for once Steal didn’t accept the invitation with the usual meek humility he normally would, but instead hummed noncomitaly. Or hopelessly?

 

**

At that moment, through lack of better jugement and diregard for boundaries, Lance fired a text to Steal. It was simple and indifferent, but he wanted to reach out to him just the same, if maybe for the last time.

 

Steal—I’m very sorry for yesterday. I hope you’re feeling better today. Please take care of yourself.

 

He wanted to say more—desperately—but he knew that he had over-stepped with Steal yesterday, and, still feeling like dog with its tail between its legs, he didn’t want to risk putting him off anymore than he felt he already had.

 

Lance glumly tucked his phone into his pocket and headed for his booth at the salon, resigned to work for the rest of the day.

 

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Steal still felt terrified and miserable.  He looked at the man who had taken him out to breakfast and shook his head weakly.  "Otto I don't know how to do this.  I don't want him to hate me but.. You didn't see his face yesterday, you didn't see the pure disgust."   He choked weakly hands covering his face a moment.  "He looked at me like he didn't, couldn't touch me."  Steal whimpered, his whole body starting to tremble. 

It was early and there were not too many people in the diner, which was not so surprising, most would just order and take their food to go.  The only ones looking at them were other tired diners who wanted to sleep or just finish up.  Steal raised his tear streaked face, and rubbed the heels of his hands over his eyes.  "I don't know what to do, I know that I need to go back, you are right but.. what if he.. what if he tells me that he can't stand me, that he has only been acting to.. I don't know out of pity."   Steal was babbling, his stomach was upset but he managed to eat a little, he didn't want to seem rude.  "If he, if he reacts badly, will you take me then?"

The thought of going back to his prison hurt, but it was a hard possibility.  The chances were high that he was going to be pushed away again and he would not be able to take it.   He was so worried that he hardly noticed Otto paying the bill and guiding him back to the car.  It was like a blink before he was in the Apartment, opening the door to see Yusai there, still atop the bed where he had been left.  He didn't look well and Steal said as much before he went to make the other man a hot drink.

When he returned though, that was when the tension rose.   He sat down on the side of the bed, handing Yusai the hot mug.  "So.. I went, with Otto for a bit.. I.. "  He swallowed again and closed his eyes.  "He said we should talk, something.. needs to be said."   Steal started twisting his hands in the bed sheets, in a nervous gesture that really didn't do anything to help at all.  He looked at the other man's sick tired face and felt bad.  Maybe this was a bad time?  He had been something he was putting off.  Well Yusai had said that he was willing to talk about it.

Steal curled his legs under himself, and looked at the other man, his pale face getting even more pale.  "I.. was going to leave today.  I mean, not because I don't like you, but.. It feels like you are starting to hate me."   His voice broke as he lowered his head even more, any lower and he would be laying face down on the bed.  "Usually when I touch you, you don't flinch, is it because I am gay?  Is it because... Yusai... I love you."   He started weeping openly, lifting his face to look at the other man.  "I am really, really in love with you but I know you can't love me back and.. if that is a problem I will leave, I will stop hurting you."

He buried his face in the bedding again, his shoulders shaking as he sobbed weakly.  He had said it, he had actually said that he loved Yusai.  "I.. want to be with you.. I want to be WITH you, I am.. I love you so much."  He trembled more and curled onto his side, not even noticing as Prince climbed onto the bed.

The whole time the phone was vibrating, a message had come in and he was not able to look at it yet.  He couldn't do anything other than cry.

Yusai was too silent.  He hadn't said anything, hadn't even moved.  Steal didn't know what any of it represented.  Was he being silently told off?  He murmured softly.  "S-should I leave?"

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After taking a leak, Yusai retreated to the bedroom again, his ovation having fatigued him more than he would’ve liked. It was rare that he was ever sick, but it was hitting him hard and he wasn’t exactly prepared for it.

 

He went to lay down on the mattress that he had only just stood up from a few minutes ago. Though the mattress and sheets were still warm from where he’d laid in sleep, the fever he had made the spot feel cooler than it was, and he greeted the coolness with some relief. Yusai shuffled under the cover and turned to his side, closing his eye and doing his best to drift back to sleep. At least in sleep, his thoughts wouldn’t bother him. In a morbid way, he was a little glad he was sick too, since it gave him something else to focus on. Like, how awful he felt, for instance.

 

It didn’t take long for Yusai to drift back to sleep, and when Steal entered the room with tea, he was somewhere in that haze of dream and barely-consciousness. He could hear Steal talking and understand what he was saying, but the haze of his fever and the state of his consciousness turned his confession into a bizarre dream.

 

He heard Steal say that he was going to leave him, but that he couldn’t. In his dream, he saw Prince on the floor looking up at him and talking, saying the things Steal was saying. Prince—Steal—said that he loved him, to which Yusai responded, “I love you too...?” puzzled by the cat’s profession, as it seemed unusual, given their rivalry. Yusai felt pressure and movement, and he looked down, noticing that the floor under his feet was undulating. That was peculiar.

 

There was loud rumbling—Steal’s phone on the nightstand—that Yusai’s brain turned into an earthquake, and he could see cracks starting to form in the floor. Steal had appeared and was standing in the middle of the chaos that had suddenly errupted. Yusai went to run toward him, but the floor was so unstable, it was cracking underneath his feet, and he couldn’t find balance. Steal was still talking, but all Yusai could hear was murmurs. He sounded sad. Yusai tried to get to him still, but his body felt like it weighed a ton. He couldn’t even move.

 

The weight of Yusai’s body somehow metamorphozied into a strange, abstract gravity that he could see pressing down on him, pinning him to nothing. He looked over and saw Steal still standing, still talking amidst the earthquake... Until the earth under his feet cracked, and then he saw Steal sink. Yusai, alarmed, tried to reach out to him, tried to sit up and go after him. But he couldn’t get up no matter how hard he tried.

 

He shouted for Steal. Shouted for him to come back. His throat hurt and he felt like his voice wasn’t working. He was desperate to get up, desperate to go after him, but still he couldn’t move. Yusai hoped in vain that the earth would give out underneath him too so he could search for Steal, but he wouldn’t be so fortunate. The pressure on Yusai’s chest slackened a little but turned into a different kind of sensation. Now he felt a fuzzy warmth there, and heard the sound of breathing.

 

I love you,” A familiar voice said again. Yusai tried to look down but for whatever reason, his head couldn’t seem to crane that way.

 

The fuzzy warmth on Yusai’s chest changed into another sensation: heavy again, but with sadness. “You’re not going to leave me again, are you?” he asked, unsure if he wanted to hear the answer, as he felt like he knew what the response was.

 

If I did, would it really matter?” the voice asked, something about his tone sounding strange to Yusai’s ears.

 

Yes!” Yusai yelped, hurt. “Of course it would! Don’t you know how much you mean to me? You’re me best friend, you... You... Were...” Yusai’s throat tightened, strangling around these words. He wanted to say more. He wanted to say... Anything. But his throat hurt. His body hurt. He hurt all over, but his head especially.

 

You were me best mate and now you’re dead.

 

Somehow, Yusai was able to lift his head and look down at the weight on his chest. He saw Steal there, resting his head. Yusai shook him. He didn’t rouse. He shook him again until he rolled over, and Yusai could see his face, pale and blue. He recoiled in horror.

 

“St... Steal!” He shouted, panic and sadness and grief and alarm coursing through him all at once. His stomach lurched. Yusai suddenly felt very ill.

 

He shot up in bed then, startling a napping cat. He clenched his hand to his mouth and in the daze of fever delirium and grogginess of sleep, Yusai trampled a clumsy path to the bathroom to empty whatever he could out of his stomach and into the toilet.

 

God, he hadn’t barfed since he was a teenager. His fourteen year puke-free streak had been broken and in the worst imaginable way. Yusai couldn’t remember a time he had felt so awful... Or he could, but he certainly didn’t want to think about it now, not while he was staring into the big porcaline oval. When he was finished, he shakily leaned against the bathroom wall, trying to bring himself down from the sick adrenaline rush and keep himself as level in the head as he could. It was hard to do with the fever. The dreams he just had were still fresh in his mind and at the moment, it was a little hard for him to tell where and when he was.

 

Weakly, he called out for Steal. In a way, he felt like he was still calling out to him in a dream. But Steal had appeared—or had he been there the whole time?--and he was running his delicate hands along the top of Yusai’s aching head, asking him what he needed. It was a loaded question that Yusai was too sick to answer. He needed him.

 

But instead, what ended up coming out of Yusai’s mouth was the sound of gagging as he convulsed into a fit of dry-heaving. Ugh, he couldn’t take this. He needed medicine.

 

Steal seemed to be a mind-reader and had gotten up to rummage through the medicine cabinet, looking for anything that would cure the flu, cure his fever, cure a cough... Anything. Yusai didn’t need to look up to see the concerned face Steal was sporting as he mentioned that they didn’t appear to have anything in the house for him to take. Yusai groaned.

 

“Steal... There’s money in me wallet... Can you... the store... please,” Yusai murmured with a shiver. “Just.. down the street...” Yusai jammed his eye shut, too pained to have it open while the room spun around him. He heard Steal shuffle around, gathering his things, stopping by the bathroom one more time to make sure that he would be alright before he left. Yusai tried to blearily assure him he would be, but he wasn’t making a lot of sense.

 

Before Steal left Yusai, he called him back to say “Don’t leave me.” But, he was lost in the haze of his dream, still, in some ways.

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Steal sighed weakly as he realized that his confession was pointless.  Yusai was just way too sick.  Steal closed his eyes and started to just rest, still not thinking of his phone, or really anything at all.  As he was half drifting off he became aware that Yusai was going to be sick.   He jumped out of bed and rushed inside the bathroom to sooth the other man.  It was only then that he realized that there was nothing to give him to make him feel better.  No medication, what kind of person has absolutely NOTHING by way of medications?  Steal gulped and pawed through the medicine cabinet.

Realizing he had no other choice Steal rushed to get the wallet that Yusai suggested before pulling out some money.  He ran back in to see if Yusai would be okay, then did something else.  Yusai was likely not aware that Steal called Otto, telling him that Yusai was badly sick.

"Otto, I am afraid, he is really bad off.. I don't know what to get him.  I don't want to leave him like this, what if he .. what if he gets worse!"  Steal was unsure what to do.  He had to go get something but how could he leave Yusai alone like this.  Steal in a scared fit of worry called on one of the neighbors that knew Yusai and him and asked them to sit with Yusai a moment while he rushed to get something.

If anyone was to see Steal running down the street they would have thought he was looking for the police or something.  He ran to the pharmacy and rushed around in a state of blind panic.  What do you get for someone with a high fever, who was vomiting?   He ran up and down the aisles and finally found something that would be suitable.  He paid for it and ran down the street back to the apartment bowling into a random person and falling on his backside from the recoil.   He winced and looked down at the package on the ground near him making sure nothing had happened to it, not even thinking of how badly he had tore his pants and scraped up his palms.  Grabbing the bag and running or rather pushing past the person he headed to the apartment, leaving a bloody streak on the other's jacket.

The investigator was baffled at why Steal was running so blindly.  He looked at the ground arching a brow at the blood.  Something was up to get him so worked to that point but he had no idea what it was.   The other thing on his mind was how this was the second time that the same car was coming to the building, the first time the driver had waited for Steal to come out and they had took of somewhere, this time the driver was heading inside.   He would have to find out who this person was.  More things to look up.

Steal fumbled at the door for a bit before getting inside, the smeared blood making it look like someone had been attacked but the pale young man wasn't even thinking about it.  He rushed to the bedroom, where the neighbor was sitting in a chair at Yusai's bedside applying a damp cloth.  "His fever is still up but not as bad as it had seemed.  You seem to have been a bit worked up for nothing, it is a touch of the flu and he will be fine."  She chuckled softly her attention both on the blond and on her young daughter who was baiting Prince with a piece of yarn.

Steal nodded and pulled out the medication to give some to Yusai only then noticing the road rash on his palms.  Embedded gravel and dirt mixed with blood made for a bad image, but he shrugged it off.  Yusai first then himself.   As he knelt on the bed and forced the older man to take the liquid that he had bought Otto walked in and stood by the door.   "Is he dead yet?   You made it seem like he was going to croak any moment."

All eyes turned to Otto who just shrugged.  "Well you did.."

With enough other people to take some of the stress off himself Steal finally broke down.  "I was scared, I never saw anyone so bad.."  He looked at his hands, mechanically rubbing at them as if that would clean the dirt off them.  "He.. I don't want to lose him.  What do I do?"

"Tell him?"  The neighbor suggested.

"I tried... he doesn't understand."  Steal took a wet cloth that was abandoned on the end table.  He wiped at the seeping blood and the gravel wincing as he made a lovely mess of himself, forcing Otto to grab the cloth and start cleaning them roughly.  "Gentle doesn't help, lets leave the room to Yusai so he can sleep.   When you are cleaned up take some med's yourself, I can guarantee you are going to get sick with the bug he has by this evening."

Less than half an hour later Steal's hands were bandaged, and he was sent to sit in the room and watch TV, while keeping Yusai company.   Well, talk about too much going on for one morning.

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The investigator watched Steal peel a path down the street in a rush, leaving a thin trail of blood for a few steps behind him. He called out to him, but Steal was both not paying attention and already too far ahead to have heard him among the busy early-morning New York traffic anyhow. He saw Steal barrel into a building a block and a half ahead and that was the end of that. Well whatever, the investigator thought to himself, taking a sip from his travel mug, searing his tongue with coffee. He withdrew the cup, hissing at himself from the minor injury, and while he inhaled the cool air to satiate the sting, he couldn’t help but notice a particular jet black car driving a peculiar path down the street ahead. He observed it curiously.

 

It was driving slower than the surrounding traffic, much to the aggitation of the general public having to navigate around it. When it reached a nearby 4-way intersection, it turned tot he left and circled around a municipal building across the street from the building Steal had darted into, and disappeared around the corner where the investigator couldn’t see. A few minutes later it reappeared, turning left onto the street next to the apartment complex, and continued it’s cycle. It was simply circling the building. But why?

 

The investigator squinted in an attempt to read the lisence plate number of the bizarre car, but he couldn’t see it from as far away as he was, and besides, there was too much surrounding traffic cutting in and out in front of it to get a good angle. He kept his eyes on it at any rate, just to see if maybe its suspicious driving pattern had any purpose, and he wasn’t disappointed—within 10 minutes of observing this, the investigator saw someone with rusty colored hair come out of the building across the street and approach the car, which had finally pulled over on the curb.

 

The red-head and the passenger of the car (the investigator couldn’t see them) talked for a minute, then the passenger window rolled up and the car pulled away, boldly cutting off oncoming traffic from behind and narrowly missing a red-light at the intersection. The car was coming straight down the road the investigator was on and he tried to get a better look at some details as it drove by.

 

A black BMW. Custom gold window trimming. Custom silver and gold rims. Lisence plate MA0002. Tinted windows. He was barely able to make out the passenger of the car as it drove by, but it appeared to be a woman. Yanking a pen out of his pocket, the man scribbled the lisence plate number onto the rim of his cup and shucked it away. He’d remember to run a quick search on the plates when he was at the office.

 

But for now, he took another sip of his drink. It was much more palapble this time.

 

~~

 

It was a few hours after Steal had administered medicine to Yusai, and he was still in the middle of sleeping while his fever subsided. He had woken up a few times to take sips at whatever beverage Steal had generously left at his bedside, and to dry-heave some more, but eventually that stopped and Yusai was still.

 

The next time he roused, it was because he heard another voice in the apartment that wasn’t familiar. Yusai lay in bed listening to the murmered conversation Steal seemed to be having with some stranger, who was pestering him with questions. He happened to overhear something about a cat in their dialog. Yusai wondered if the stranger somehow knew about Prince, which seemed suspicious since the cat never left their apartment since they brought him in.

 

Steal’s tone was becoming increasingly agitated, which he seldom ever was, so Yusai’s gut reaction was to be concerned. He leaned up, dizzy and groggy still, then came to stand. He felt awful, but, less so now that he wasn’t burning up.

 

He slowly made his way to the livingroom where he could only see Steals silhouette in the doorway, talking to a man who’s hair muddled Steals form a little with its volume. Behind Steal’s heel was Prince, trilling for his attention but receiving none of it while his preferred caretaker talked to this stranger who seemed intent on taking up as much of Steals time as possible.

 

Yusai could hear their conversation better now, but it was complete nonsense and it seemed more to him like whoever this guy was, he was either crazy or scamming for something. On occasion the apartment complex would get solicitors—some handing out pamplets for churches, some trying to sell some product or another, some looking for their dealer—and this occasion didn’t seem any different to Yusai.

 

However, he was much to sick to deal with it in a polite way. He approached Steal from behind and without any sort of warning, said very curtly,


“We ain’t bloody interested in any of your garbage,” and shut the door. There was a stammer of protest from behind it for a second, but Yusai heard footsteps receed soon. He turned to Steal, eye downcast at the floor since it was the only place he could look without feeling tipsy, and stared blearily at his feet and the cat still twirling around him.

 

“What did that git want?” Yusai asked, shuffling toward the sofa to lie down in defeat of his sickness. “He didn’t look like a tenant.”

 

Steal explained that it was a man he had encountered the other day who was looking for a cat, and that he had promised to help him find it. However, he said he wasn’t sure how the gentleman found him here at the apartment, and vocalized concern about it. Yusai hummed to agree, feeling none too contented knowing some stranger had somehow managed to track Steal down to his place and was harassing him about some animal he had lost.

 

If he comes by again, tell me about it. I’ll call the police or flog him meself.” Yusai reclined into the cushions of the couch, making himself as comfortable as he could for another round of sick-sleep. He heard Steal hum back at him, a contemplative look crossing his delicate features as he gazed at the door. Had Yusai been too hasty in turning away this guy? He didn’t feel like he had been. But Steal was a very sensitive soul, and if the story he told about a stranger seeking his lost pet was true, Yusai knew how quick he would’ve been to help. Steal always had a soft spot when it came to cats.

 

Still, something didn’t sit right about the encounter, and Yusai drifted back into a nap feeling restless and troubled about it all. He blamed some of those feelings on being sick, but the other part of him felt that there was something more to this than what was on the surface. He didn’t know what, but the feeling was there nonetheless.

 

**

 

 

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Upon dosing Yusai with the medicine, Steal was sure that he was going to at least get a bit of time to relax.   How absurd that thought was, resting was not something he was going to be permitted.  Steal had hardly sank down to a seated position, Prince climbing his leg, when his thoughts started racing.  There was just too much going on.  Hours soon passed with him just sitting like a stunned statue, looking no where and petting the cat who had taken up residence on his lap.   He was finally thinking of going to check on Yusai again when someone knocked on the door.   The logical assumption was that it would be Otto or the nice lady from across the hall letting him know something else, but he had not expected to see the man from the other day.

How did he get the address?  He wondered a moment, still not having taken care of his own hand, he opened the door with a shock of pain.  Hnn, must get that cleaned up.  He stood there in shock only to be greeted like a long time friend.  "Hi, I'm sure you remember me, you said you were going to help me find my cat?"  Steal blinked slowly, his head whirling.  Did he give this man his address and just forget?  That had to be the case.   He stammered something softly, in the negative, which the man didn't like.  "Come on, you said you would help, the longer I wait the less chance I will ever get of finding my cat again."

Okay that was true, the city was a bad place for cats.. but still something felt really wrong.  Steal shook his head.  "I, I am really sorry but that can't happen right now.  I have a lot going on and if I leave now it would be a bad thing.  I am sure you understand.."

Nope, understanding wasn't something that was happening right now.  For some reason, rather than letting things go, the man seemed to be getting mad.  "If it was your cat I would help you."

Low blow..

Steal's voice broke as he whispered.  "Come on, that.. that is so mean.. I WANT to help but my friend is sick.. I can't just leave him like this..."

The red head arched a brow.  "Is your friend a kid?  It isn't good for a grown man to be living with a kid you know, and if it isn't a kid then they can take care of themselves."

How had things taken this route?

"H-Hey, that isn't fair.."  Steal's voice was raising a bit as he shook his head.  "Look, I can't go.. why can't you understand that?  I can help later!"  Shouldn't the man be out looking rather than arguing?  Why hadn't he called instead of coming and wasting both of their time?

Just as things were starting to reach a pitch that cast Steal over the edge, a voice behind him made him snap his mouth shut.  Yusai.  When the other man told the red head he wasn't interested the other walked away in a huff.  Steal turned around shutting the door softly, leaning his back on it after.  "He.. he wanted me to help him find his cat.  I said I would but I didn't say when, he just didn't want to waste time I guess."

Taking a stabilizing breath the younger man walked toward Yusai and pressed the other down into the bed, cuddling up behind him.  He sighed weakly again wondering what had started this maze of mess.   His own soft nature it seemed.  He just couldn't stand the idea of a cat hurt.  Weird that he cared less for the owners than for the cats.  He hugged Yusai and took a nap himself, waking later to make something for them to eat and make sure that Yusai's next meds were ready.   He then hopped into the shower his eyes half closed as he stood there letting the water rush over his body.

This was nice, there were not many chances for him to just stand there and let the water wash over him and to think.   He started slowly processing the day, then not too long after the water eased his muscles and mind.  He then started thinking of other things.. like the man in the other room.  Steal lathered his body up and then slid his hand down, cupping himself a moment before pressing one hand against the wall and working his hand.   He had to bite back a soft moan as he wondered what it would feel like to have the other man's stronger hand doing what he was.  The feeling of a rougher palm against him.

}}i{{

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While Yusai napped, he could hear the water in the shower running and an occasional soft moan, and the sound of both made him stir in his sleep. The restless fever dream he had been having turned into something else entirely, and Yusai found himself behind the bar counter at work, cleaning things up at the end of a shift.

 

Just as he was wrapping things up, three men entered, baring the likeness of the men in the video Yusai had watched. They approached the counter and asked for a drink, and Yusai’s stomach—though it had been in knots most of the day—fluttered with a new feeling, something akin to nervousness, uncertainty, but also excitement. He said the bar was closed, and that they should leave.

 

Similar to how the video had played out, the three men wasted no time making their intentions known, and before they could protest, before Yusai could resist, there were three sets of hands on him, pinning him backwards onto the bar counter, peeling his clothes off, rubbing their hands up and down the skin that they bore. Yusai was absolutely helpless and could only squirm under their phantom touch, trembling with those feelings of uncertainty, with desire.

 

The smaller of the men climbed up onto him and sat on his lap, grinning at Yusai in a way that filled him with prickly twinges of adrenaline. Oh fuck, this was wrong. Oh fuck, this was happening. Yusai knew he shouldn’t want what he was anticipating but he could feel his cock stiffening and everything from his cheeks southward go warm. His mind was screaming one thing but his body defied him in every way imaginable.

 

Yusai was breathless when he felt movement on his hips, and when he looked down he saw the strangers buldge grinding against his own. He squirmed again, suddenly feeling electric. His eye darted up to look at the mans face, noticing that it had changed somehow. He resembled somebody he knew... But he couldn’t quite put his finger on who.

 

His eyes were a striking blue, and his lips drawn in a thin, soft line across his narrow, slightly feminine jaw. His hair had changed from dirty, spiked blonde to a longer silvery color that seemed to change in shade, getting darker sometimes—and when it did, his eyes and mouth and jaw seemed to change shape, too—but never keeping consistent. The only thing that was consistent was the smouldering look in his eye as he ground into Yusai’s pelvis, ran his hands up his chest, and teased him. Yusai slammed his eye shut and shuddered, swallowing thickly, unsure if he would be sick again or not. He didn’t feel like he was going to be, but he was vaguely reminded that he was ill.

 

Just as things were getting intense, something changed. Yusai heard a sound like a dresser being shut and he opened his eye gently, seeing the blurry outline of a pink, lithe figure fussing with something red. The figure bent over and lifted a leg, shucking on the garment and pulling it over their other leg, then pulling it up over their thighs. His eye was half-open now, focusing, and he could better see who he was looking at—Steal—but Yusai was still very much not lucid, not really processing where he was in reality.

 

Still, he watched Steal getting himself dressed. Watched Steal yank his underwear over his pert, cute butt. Watched him wiggle out the wrinkles and creases. Watched the reflection in the mirror as Steal adjusted his junk.

 

Yusai sighed and closed his eye again and was immediately thrust back into his dream almost right where he had taken off, only this time filled with the thought: What if Steal was the one sitting on top of him? What if Steal was the one grinding into his pelvis and crooning, driving him to sweet, forbidden pleasure?

 

He felt a jolt of panic then. No, that wasn’t right. Steal couldn’t be the one, Steal was his... Friend... None of this was right. Yusai wasn’t gay! He looked up at the man on his lap, silently pleading with him to stop, get off, he wasn’t—he couldn’t be—he--

 

Movement at his side and a faint, soapy smell came to Yusai and roused him awake, dispelling everything in an instant. Steal was settling into the bed beside him, looking surprised to see Yusai stirring. He asked if he was alright. Yusai, groggy, nodded and let out a low hum.

 

Yeah I’m... I’m fine,” Yusai said, soupily turning onto his back. “How long have I been asleep?”

 

Steal told him he had been sleeping for most of the day and that he’d been in and out of bed occasionally. He mentioned the time—11:30—and said he was just about to call it a night himself. He sounded tired, maybe more fatigued from the days events, which Yusai had been out for the count on.

 

Oi... Sorry if I kept you up. Thanks for takin’ care of me... That medicine earlier really helped.” Yusai blearily rubbed at his eye and massaged his forehead, still feeling the pang of a headache there, but luckily there was no fever present. He felt a rough palm rest on his shoulder gently, and Yusai looked down to see it was Steals hand there, giving him a little pat. When he lifted his hand away, Yusai noticed it was covered in bandages.

 

What happened to your hand?” he asked, turning back onto his side to face Steal, curious to what he would recount about the day.

 

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The shower, which had stopped being a shower and turned into a masturbation session after a while ended with another soft cry leaving Steal's lips, and the evidence swirling away in a milky haze down the drain.  It never felt like enough now, and he always felt.. unsatisfied after, and the reason for that was in the other room, sleeping away his sickness.  Steal sighed and closed his eyes his head touching the shower wall again for a moment before he got out and dried off, making sure that everything was cleaned up before he left the room.

When he returned to the bedroom he dressed in a light flannel set of pjs and sat on the edge of the bed, leaning back on his hands as he thought for a bit about what he would do the next day if Yusai was still sick.  Stay home again.. yeah that is likely what he would do.  A stirring beside him had him looking over to see the blond with his eyes open, the dark skin still seeming a bit pale.  He pressed one of his own hands to the other man's shoulder to make sure he stayed laying down.  Other than the bathroom there was no need for Yusai to crawl out of bed and he made sure to say as much.

"My hand.. oh.. um.. yeah, just took a bit of a spill.  Split my knuckles and such.. nothing bad."  He shrugged it off since it was actually a fairly normal injury for him.  He was a klutz and if there was something to wound on himself he was doing it.   Steal smiled down at Yusai and shifted close to him, resting his head on the other man's shoulder.  "I'm more worried about you anyway.  I will live through anything, not even a brick wall can kill me.."  He smirked gesturing to his head.  "Mmm, you really did have me worried.. I never saw you looking so bad.. glad you are actually awake now."

Should he be snuggled up to Yusai like this?  Part of his mind said that he should back off, make the split between them a bit cleaner.. stop clinging.  The other stronger part wanted to hold on to what he had right now.  It was only as he snuggled though that he noticed that Yusai must have been having a REALLY GOOD dream before Steal interrupted.  Oops.. Er.. well if he pulled back now he would make things awkward, and his knee was pretty much resting RIGHT THERE.... shit..

What could he do other than stay in place?  Well, part of him did want to tease...  He rubbed with his knee slightly as if unaware, his head still on Yusai's chest.  "Otto was here.. he seemed a bit let down you hadn't died yet.."  He shook his head a bit.  "I know he was really worried though.. He said you can have another couple of days off since you never take your sick leave.."

Steal yawned softly.  "I will make something good for you tomorrow, so you can stay in bed.. I will stay home with you.. maybe we can stream some movies or something.. just relax..  Heh, Netflix and Chill.."  He knew Yusai wouldn't understand the Chill bit unless he really paid attention in the bar to what the younger crowd was saying.   Even as he spoke though Steal's eyes started to close and he ceased moving and wriggling around to torture the other man, leaving things as is.. even if he was still longing himself.  Yusai likely had a sexy dream girl to get back to.

"Wish you could love me..."  He murmured.. "like I love you..."  As the words left him, so too did his consciousness. 

Unaware of things going on Prince streaked into the room, bounced off  a wall and then went tearing off back out again,   How that cat survived sometimes was a miracle..

~~~

Shit.. shit shit..

The blond was in the way now.  He had stopped Steal from leaving the house, kept him inside.  How was he going to get Stephen alone at this rate?  He would have to come up with something, and the best way to do that would be to go to the bar that Stephen frequented and find out what he did there.  If he just worked it would be a bit harder, but if he had something else going on there he could get in on it.

As things would have it, the first person the red haired man met, was Lance mourning over how Steal would not talk to him for the last couple days and how he blew it.  Interesting.

 

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***

When Yusai woke up the next morning, he felt considerably better. Physically, anyway. Mentally, he was still out of sorts. He leaned upright and his vision slid slightly—he was still a little woozy, it seemed—and he felt weight across his chest slip down to his stomach. Yusai looked down and saw Steals arm there. He must’ve fallen asleep curled up along his side all night.

 

Yusai wasn’t sure how he felt when he thought about that. He felt a twinge of uneasiness that was all too quick to sink in and dominate his frame of mind. Yusai hadn’t minded when Steal had fallen asleep next to him like that before, or with his head on his lap, or his head on his chest... Why did it matter now? In a way, it didn’t. He tried to assure himself that there wasn’t anything strange about this sleeping arrangement because it hadn’t been anything he hadn’t done before... But there was suddenly a strange, new doubt in the back of his mind. A strange part of him that felt panicked, almost alarmed even, unusual, when he thought about it. About another man cuddling up close to him.

 

It felt good. But, Yusai wasn’t ready to admit it.

 

Slowly and gently, Yusai lifted Steals arm away and placed it down beside him as he rolled to get up out of bed. His muscles were sore and his joints ached. Walking to the bathroom for a simple piss hurt more than it ever had. His head hurt too, with a combination of dehydration from yesterday and with the now-persistent beckoning of Yusai’s brain doing it’s best to convince him that he wasn’t gay. That was the most annoying part.

 

After finishing up in the bathroom, Yusai made his way to the kitchen and fetched himself a glass of water, resolving to shut his brain up once and for all today as he reached into the cupboard. He didn’t know how, exactly, but he was going to do something, anything it took to release himself from this barrage of self-inflicted harassment. He filled his cup and drank from it ravenously, not realizing just how thirsty he was until the cool liquid hit his mouth and parched the dryness there.

 

He was momentarily distracted when he heard his phone beeping from the bedroom, and Yusai put his cup down in the sink and went to tend to the noise. Coming back into the bedroom, he saw Steal just starting to rouse awake, shifting slowly and stretching like a cat before bringing the blankets up around his shoulders and settling back down. He murmured softly, making faint sounds of incoherent noises that almost sounded like a song. Perhaps Steal was dreaming of singing?

 

Yusai quietly stepped around the bed and reached for his phone on the nightstand, shutting off the alarm that was beeping. It wasn’t his morning alarm, but a reminder instead. “Take Steal to get stiches out--12pm”, the reminder read. Yusai looked at the clock on his phone and saw that it was only 9am. Still a few more hours before he had to worry about doing that, he thought. Although he wasn’t so sure he was feeling quite up to driving, or being out and about today... He supposed he could get Steal a cab, or give him some money for the subway. Yes, that could work he thought. Although a large part of him felt guilty for not feeling up to accompanying Steal while he went to the hospital. He knew how much Steal hated hospitals.

 

**

Two blocks away from Yusai’s apartment, Ian sat at a coffee shop and was gruffly sucking down a cup of some of the most bitter coffee he had ever had in his life, all while he was getting his ear chewed out over the phone by a client. Mrs. Masters wasn’t one to yell, but she had a stern manner of speaking like a teacher scolding an entire classroom that instictively made Ian clam up and just listen versus trying to protest against it. Besides, she was the one fronting his paycheck at the moment.

“I don’t care about who he’s sneaking around to see or who he’s sharing his affections with—I want him away from those creitens tempting him with that lifestyle. God only knows what sorts of dubious activities they get up to... The last thing I want is to be reading my child’s obituary in the paper about how he OD’d on heroin at some... Disgusting, all-male sex orgy.” Mrs. Masters said with a very clear tone of disgust painting her words.

 

Ian couldn’t help but smirk, finding her insinuation ridiculous (and if he were a better man, he’d find it offensive, too) but he tried to placate her anyway.


“Don’t worry ma’am, I’m working on getting him away from the guy he’s staying with. I got a lead with another guy he’d been talking to... If I can just get them together and away from the big guy, it should be a piece of cake.” Ian assured her, although in the back of his mind, he had some doubts. Short of outright kidnapping Steal—which he couldn’t do, even if he was getting paid—he wasn’t so sure the plan he had in mind would work, exactly. He was really banking on Steal being a sentimental idiot for a lot of this to even follow through.

 

“Whatever,” Mrs. Masters interjected, sounding more cross somehow, “I don’t care what the plan is—Just get him away from that nonsense and back into our hands. If I see another report on him in the news, I’ll just...” She trailed off and made a low grumbling sound, resembling an angry animal of some kind. And although she couldn’t see it, Ian was nodding. “I understand,” He said, and went on, “I’m working on it.”

 

And that is where their conversation had ended after some formal send-offs. Ian was oblivious to the keen set of ears overhearing parts of their conversation that belonged to a rugged young man standing in line for coffee. It was the detective from yesterday, who just happened to frequent this shop often enough that the barista at the counter was already making up his order.

 

“Logan!” She called out to him when his order was ready, and the investigator reached out to take it from her hands and thanked her for her prompt service. He was too distracted to engage in small talk with her today—his interest was too piqued by the conversation he had overheard coming from that strange red-hed that he swore looked familiar, somehow. Of course, he couldn’t exactly ask what his conversation had been about, but it sounded fairly severe, if not otherwise suspicious. He was going to keep his eyes and ears open while he was here with this guy.

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Steal continued to sleep, half curled like a kitten, his fingers even doing something akin to the kneading gesture, right up until his own cell phone scared the crap out of him.  A long guitar refrain started, getting a bit louder until the silver haired man's eyes shot open.   He sat up straight and glanced around only to find, to his shock and dismay a note and some cash on the nightstand beside him.  "Sorry, not well, cab fair."

Brief, to the point and a bit distressful.  He hated going alone, it made his anxiety shoot right up, but there was no one else to call.  Well he could call Otto and be treated like a sissy, call Lance and deal with  that level of awkwardness or...

He shook his head and got dressed mumbling softly to himself.  What would he do?   Cab?   He looked at the money and cringed, before tucking it back into Yusai's wallet.  He would figure something out, first he would feed Prince, and go get a drink.. an ice cappuccino with extra whipped cream. 

As he stepped outside he nearly ran right into the red haired man.  Was he being stalked?  Steal looked around, his mouth opening and closing a moment, his heart racing with uncertainty.  "Uh.. I.. I..."  He gulped and tried to step past him.  "S-sorry about.. I mean..  I know you needed my help but.. I have things I need to do too, did you find your cat?"

Ian, or that was the name he gave nodded.  "Oh yeah, she came home not a problem.  I just wanted to say sorry, and I wanted to ask something.  I hear you sing at a bar, and some friends of mine are coming down and said they heard you.  Are you going to preform again soon?  I'm new around here and it seems you are something of a living legend.."

Steal blinked a bit and turned his head, stopping to see of the man was mocking him, but the look was all seriousness.  People were talking about his singing?  That was.. wow..  "Umm, well I have been a bit busy lately.  I didn't know anyone cared.."   He shuffled his feet a bit.  "If.. it really matters I could likely go next week or something and sing.  I usually only do it for kicks anyway.  I gave up on trying to go pro. No one really seemed to care."  He shrugged and moved on, pressing on the door of the coffee shop.  "I'm sorry I need to go.. got things to do still.." 

Ian held up a hand.  "I get it.  Maybe I will see you next week."   Inside he grinned.  Next week, if Steal went to sing, he would have a chance to pull him aside and set up a 'private' show, for some party and he could get him then.   He was not going to risk blowing it this time and having Mrs. Masters chew him out more.  No one would miss him if it was a planned event.   He walked off feeling a bit smug and leaving a rather confused Steal behind.

Inside the shop Steal grabbed his drink and started thinking again.  If people were asking about him, heck talking about him maybe it was time for him to go the bar more often.  He could still try again.  He was young enough and had time to kill.  Things in his private life seemed to be grinding to a halt.  It was with this in mind that he left the shop and ran right into.. "Whoa.. Lance?"

He had to have some kind of magnet shoved inside him where the sun wasn't shining the way people were just popping up like weeds today.  Giving a bit of a smile he gave the same 'things to do' talk as he walked back toward home.  This time though he got an offer of a drive to the hospital.  "Hnn?  Really?  I thought you would be creeped out with me from the last time we met.  I was .. a mess."  He shook his head in shame.  "So much in my head right now I am hardly sure where I am half the time."

Lance nodded slowly and patted Steal lightly on the shoulder.  "I get it.  This is my day off anyway and it would be nice to spend time with you.  Maybe to make up for the mess of last time we can just have a drive and an early dinner.  Your appointment is in..  half an hour and there isn't time for the bus.  This will help."

Half an hour?  Shit Steal looked at his phone and swallowed hard.  "I took longer than I though, I... no money.  Gah!"  He started flailing around.  "Shit.. I.. please take me there.  I am doomed."   It was comedic the way he over reacted but that was all the invite Lance was likely to need to drag Steal to his car for the drive to the hospital>  On the way Steal texted Yusai.

 

Getting Drive to Hospital with Lance, then having a Dinner Date.  Be home a little late.

He didn't even think about how Yusai would take the phrase Date, but it wasn't like Yusai cared about him that way, and it really was time to start thinking of dating people. 

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Steal had slept through Yusai’s breakfast, and was still sleeping by the time he decided he needed a shower to refresh himself. While he gathered clothing to change into, he pulled some money out of his wallet and jotted down a quick note for Steal, just in case he left while he bathed. He hadn’t really given thought to the tone of the letter, but in hindsight it read very curtly.

 

He had hopped into the bath, shaved and freshened up, and when he stepped out to dress, he saw the blanket on Steals side of the bed bundled up and his indentation on the mattress. Yusai called out for Steal, just to see if he hadn’t left yet. He inquiry was answered with silence.

 

Once again Yusai was left alone with nothing but his thoughts, which were not something he particularly wanted to be left alone with at this time. But then, he had something to prove today, didn’t he? And he may as well do it while Steal was gone. It was better that he wasn’t there to witness Yusai’s bizarre, strange trial to prove his sexual identity was one way versus the other.

 

How was he going to prove he wasn’t gay, exactly? Well, he hadn’t quite thought of that yet. It wasn’t like there was a gay test you could take. No written exam, no series of questions, no blood that could be drawn or even a stick to piss on that would give you an answer. It was just something you’d know if you were... And how else do you know if you are? Yusai supposed there was one way, but he was nervous and hesitent to do it, subconsciously fearing the results.

 

But... God, he had to know. He had to do SOMETHING to convince himself that he wasn’t. Figuring the best way to do this was to watch more porn and gauge his reaction to it. It was silly, embarassing, and Yusai even felt more than a little guilty for considering this option, but it was the only thing he could think of to really prove it one way or the other.

 

He closed the door and walked around his room to shut the curtains, too. Subconsciously, he didn’t want anyone else to see this. He felt nothing but shame and apprehension doing what he was about to do, but he marched forward with this plan anyway, determined to reach some answers about his sexuality... Something he had never questioned until two days ago, and was already driving him mad. Just what was the big deal, anyway?

 

When his room was “locked down”, Yusai sat at his desk and flipped open his laptop. He stared at the screen for a minute, unsure what to do or where to go from this point onward. He opened up a browser and typed in the url of a website that he used to frequent that he knew had a wide selection of material for people of all sexualities. He figured he’d watch things he’d normally look at for starters, then... Briefly check the gay porn section and see if his reaction was any worse—or better, in this case.

 

So, he began browsing and watching his usual stuff. Woman dominates man, woman fucks guy silly, woman pleasures guy... It was all standard fair and Yusai couldn’t say that it wasn’t enticing. But he found that he wasn’t as into it as he could be, for some reason. He felt distracted in a way or like something was missing. It was hard to put his finger on, but he just didn’t find himself as turned on as he could be.

 

Before he decided he was going to leap into the gay porn section, Yusai thought it best that he maybe check out the lesbian porn first and see if that changed his mood any. He launched a video and was already reacting to it with displeasure; These women were obnoxious. There was absolutely nothing arousing about their acting, their physique, or even the things they were doing to each other. Yusai closed the video out and launched another, thinking that perhaps this one was just a dud. The next one he loaded was “better” but certainly did nothing for Yusai to entice him, even a little. He picked another one to watch. It seemed like no matter what he pulled up, there was always something about it that Yusai could nitpick or notice that was a major turn-off for him, so he scrapped the section altogether. Now all that was left was the gay porn.

 

Yusai hesitently clicked his way into the gay porn section, and was barely able to navigate around it as he kept averting his eye away from the screen. Just browsing this section for something to watch—to test himself with—was making him jumpy, nervous, and uneasy. He felt like the curtains weren’t closed enough, that the door to his room needed to be locked, that... He needed to exist in another plane entirely to go through with this. But he knew he needed to confront this, to prove himself wrong. Closing his eye, he clicked on a random thumbnail and let the video load to play.

 

He heard an innocuous conversation between two men, and the sound of fabric shuffling. They were talking about a workout they just had and how they needed to shower. They had a discussion about who would go first, which devolved into an argument. Then one of them suggested that they take a shower together so they could get clean at the same time and conserve water.

 

If Yusai wasn’t already feeling embarassed, he’d likely find the premise of this porn silly and even laugh. But he sat there, his eye looking at anything but the screen... Until he saw them begin to undress. They started by peeling off their shirts in unison, one of the men commenting that the others abs were looking really good, while the other returned the compliment by saying his back muscles were amazing. They were legitimate compliments to be made, Yusai had to admit when he saw them. But he shyed his eye away again when he saw them unbutton their trousers and remove their pants. In his peripheral vision he could just see their well-toned, brief-clad buttoms, and his eye was drawn over again to admire their physique. He felt the back of his neck prickle, and a deep inner warmth rose from his loins.

 

The video progressed with them removing their briefs, starting the faucet for the shower, and getting in together. Insofar, nothing particularly scandalous was happening but Yusai was now beyond the point of pretending he didn’t have an interest in what he was seeing, and like last time, was watching more intently than he realized. The way the water ran down their bodies, the way they rubbed themselves down and worked up a lather. Then one of the men turned around to face the other and asked if he could clean a spot he couldn’t reach. The other man simply nodded and asked where. Then the requesting gentleman placed his palms forward on the shower wall and presented his ass to the other. Yusai’s body suddenly felt electric and hot, and he squirmed in his seat.

 

The man worked some soap between his hands and began rubbing the other down with soap, massaging the lather over his supple cheeks, then running a teasing finger between his crack. The receiving man bit his lip while he continued to “clean” him using just two fingers that worked between his rear. The showerhead was brought down to rinse him off—they both rinsed off, actually—and the man reached for a bottle of oil.

 

“We should moisturize,” said the man who had been soaping the other down, and he flipped open the bottle and poured some oil onto his palm. He rubbed it between his hands and told the other guy to stand like he had before so he could grease him up, and he wordlessly obliged.

 

The video progressed predictably from there, with one man working his fingers into the others knot and reaching around to stroke him off while the other crooned with pleasure. What stopped Yusai from seeing it through to the very end was a huge discomfort in his crotch. He looked down and to his horror, saw a very obvious erection just stemming from his sweatpants. He closed the video out and swallowed, his mind over-running while similarly blank.

 

He couldn’t believe it. He... He... Just couldn’t be. He just wasn’t... This didn’t prove...

 

Yusai closed the tab he had open, done with this “test”. He opened up another tab and began typing into the search bar, determined to find answers to his head which was now brimming with questions and accusations. He didn’t want to listen to the nagging voice telling him he was gay, that he was a faggot, that he was different. He wanted affirmation that... That he was straight, that just because he found gay porn arousing didn’t make him gay, and that he was fine. That there was nothing to worry about.

 

He vaguely remembered a time in his youth when he went to meet his friend Richard under the bleachers after school. He remembered the sound of struggling and flesh-hitting-flesh.

 

***

 

Meanwhile, Lance couldn’t believe his luck. It was dumb luck of course, the worst kind he could hope for, but in a way, he had been grateful to run into Steal by chance at the coffee shop. Upon noticing him there—and how could Lance not, Steal was a very hard to miss person in a crowd—Lance tensed up; Should he say something? Should he greet him? He felt so much like a fool, that he had squandered any chance he had with the guy and that by this point, he’d just be freaking him out. But... Steal was there, practically irresistable.

 

Thankfully, Steal was the first one to approach him, which nearly made Lance leap out of his own skin. He stammered back a “hello” and engaged in some mild plesantries, asking Steal what he was up to.

 

The smaller (cuter) man said he was going to the hospital to get some stitches out, and revealed the spot on his head where he still had them. Lance hadn’t forgotten they were there, and too afraid to ask how he had gotten them, opted to ask him if that was all he was up to. They talked, and Steal was suddenly aflight, saying he needed to get going or he’d miss his appointment, then cursing because he had forgotten cab fair. Instinctively, Lance offered to take him to the hospital himself. Was that weird of him, he wondered?

 

Steal seemed hesitent to oblige (and Lance could understand why, reminding himself of his shame) but came around on the idea, and so Lance escorted Steal to the hospital. While they drove, Steal commented on Lance’s interesting music, which made him smirk. Were they going to have a normal conversation? Finally!

 

“Sorry if it’s not your thing... I just really like The Closing Curtain. You ever hear a band, or song, that just... Resonates with you?” Lance asked, getting a little lost in his own thoughts. “The Closing Curtain was the band that brought me ‘out’ into the world. Like... It was hard when I first came out. I got kicked out of my house and my parents basically disowned me. But this music made me feel... Like, I don’t know, that it wasn’t so bad? Like no matter how hard and shitty things were at the time, that they’d eventually turn around and... Well, they did for me, mostly.”

 

Lance flicked his gaze over to Steal and asked him if he could relate, curious if he and Steal could finally share a common bond.

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Steal was sitting in the car thinking.   It was interesting that Lance was finally talking to him in a more relaxed way, and he was glad that he had sent the message to Yusai to give him warning that he may be late in getting back.  If things stayed this relaxed he may actually be able to have a nice evening with a friend.  When Lance mentioned the band 'The Closing Curtain' , Steal had to think for a moment.  "I am not too into the group, but I did like their song "One Coloured Rainbow."   He hummed a bit to the chorus.  "For me the music was in me forever.  I loved singing from when I was little and no one else really knew.

"I was always big into Bon jovi."   He smiled a bit.  "I know some people think it is too mainstream to like a group that everyone knows.  I just felt for it, plus Jon is hot. his long hair stage was just... hmmm."  Steal laughed a bit and shook his head.  "Bad Medicine indeed."

Steal leaned back in the seat and checked to see if Yusai had responded to the message but there was nothing.  He shrugged a bit then pointed to the left.  "And there is where I shall have my stitches removed..  ahh what a lovely thing to be happening.."  He rolled his eyes.  "Anyway, I will be about half an hour."   He waited for the car to stop and park then skipped inside the building still making small talk.

~~~

"So, I have no idea what went on, but he was done fast and now I am done with that."  Steal sat down at a table in the restaurant and looked at the menu in front of him, he had sent out one more message to Yusai just hoping he had a good evening, and the location of the restaurant in case something came up.  He again mentioned that he was out on the date and that he would be back later.  

Things had still been easy with Lance and they were both laughing at the table.  The staff did cast a few confused looks at them taking a table for two but no one dared say anything, not when there was a chance of a good tip in the early evening.

"So anyway the guy who was before me was still screaming his head off as if someone was taking off his leg, and I was thinking that I may be better off just going home and trying to remove these myself, Two nurses go running in and they are both shouting, and when they came out, the guy was following them.  I swear the cut on his leg was so tiny and there was no reason for it, he was such a wimp.

The waiter then came over to find out what they wanted to drink.  He smiled warmly at Lance and then just gave a tiny glance at Steal as if he wasn't there.   Steal could only smirk as he realized that this guy was interested in Lance.   He leaned back and waited to see what was going to happen, since Lance seemed to not realize what was going on.   Steal ordered a juice and leaned forward.  "Sooo tell me why did you go into hair styling?  There were surely many other things you wanted to do, not that what you are doing isn't great.  I do go there for a reason."

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((ONE MILLION YEARS LATER))

Lance couldn’t believe what a great time he was having with Steal. The dinner date was going smoothly and they were actually finding things to talk about and connect over, and Lance didn’t feel as anxious, silly, or stupid as he had before. Things felt... Normal. He felt like he was finally making a friend. His charisma was getting a chance to shine through and it seemed that even one of the waitstaff was noticing. Lance was flattered by the casual flirting, but played naïve; He was with Steal and wanted to enjoy his company while he could.

 

The waiter left and Steal remarked that he was a little popular. Lance just laughed and shrugged, saying Steal must’ve been mistaken and suggested that if the waiter was interested, it was for more “exotic” reasons. Steal cocked his brow, and Lance waved his hands placatingly.

 

“I don’t mean that kind of exotic! I’m just saying he wouldn’t be the first white boy trying to get a taste of the ‘orient’. I swear, some people look at me, see that I’m Japanese and then think it’s okay to waltz up and ask for weird sexual favors.”

 

Steal gave him an empathic nod while he chewed a mouthful of food. He covered his mouth between a swallow and asked Lance how long he’d been in America. Lance had to smile, as it also wasn’t his first time being asked this particular question and while it was exhausting to have to keep answering it, he didn’t mind this time.

 

“I was raised in America since I was a baby. My mom is from Korea, my dad is Japanese. I was born in Japan and then they decided they didn’t want to raise a kid over there, so they came here. Then 17 years later, they resented America for turning their only son gay, kicked him out, and 3 years later... Well, I started working as a hair dresser in Brooklyn.” Lance explained all of this casually (the last part being a new addition to the typial speech) and took a bite of his katsudon. Steal asked him what got him into hair styling.

 

“Oh, well,” Lance began with a swallow, “I don’t know... There’s just something weirdly theraputic about brushing people’s hair, cutting it, styling it, you know the works. Plus it pays well enough,” He said. Steal nodded at him, seeming satisfied with this answer. They had a brief moment of silence while they finished their meals and mulled over the details they revealed to each other about their own lives, and Lance had a question about something Steal had mentioned earlier. He said he liked to sing, and Lance wondered if it was ever something he did professionally.

 

“So... You said you like to sing? Do you have a band, go out and do gigs and stuff? Have you ever played anywhere local?” He asked, curious what sort of life Steal had as a singer. He didn’t think Steal was a big-name celebrity by any means, but Lance wasn’t totally out of it and was familiar with some local bands that would get routine shows around bars and clubs here and there, and he couldn’t recall hearing about Steal prior. He’d like to think he’d remember someone as striking as Steal if he saw him before, anyway.

 

Steal explained that he had a small band and that they only did a few performances here and there, nothing major. He said that it had been a while since they had gotten together and done anything, alluding to some scheduling troubles and other things. But the low, wavering tone he used hinted at something more. It didn’t take Lance long to deduce that it was sadness.

 

“I bet motivation plays a big part in it,” He interjected, he himself familiar with how depression can affect ones work ethic. “I mean, if you’ve got other more... Pressing things in your life bringing you down, it makes it hard to even want to get together and do something you used to like doing.” He reached for his glass of water and brought it to his lips for a sip, then held it in his hands and stirred the icecubes inside idly. “Well, if it means anything, it’d be nice to hear you play sometime. You’ve got a nice voice, I bet your singing sounds great!”

 

Their conversation continued on for a little while longer until their bill arrived. Lance happily fronted the check and escorted Steal back to his car, asking him if he wanted to check anything else out around town before bringing him back home.

 

**

 

All the while, Yusai had barely budged from his spot at his desk. Ever since his “test” earlier, he had been on a frantic hunt for any kind of validation that the strange feelings he had, all the damning evidence that pointed to one certain conclusion, was in fact bullshit. It wa s a difficult search but Yusai eventually came across a forum where people had posed similar questions about their own sexuality and received answers and explainations that seemed very sensible... To him (complete pseudo-intellectual garbage)

 

He was relieved to find a whole community that seemed to have the same experience he was currently having. There were lots of men asking whether or not finding gay porn erotic actually made one gay, and sure enough, there were loads of responses from other users assuring them that they were not. That pornography is just an expression of desire, and desire is an abstract manifestation of carnal instinct. There were other explainations too, and Yusai had been combing through the majority of them during the day. He was finally starting to feel assured, that there wasn’t something wrong with him.

 

To any observer, it would’ve been fairly obvious that Yusai was in heavy denial and seeking validation from equally closeted peers trying desperately to squelch a natural expression of their sexuality. But to Yusai, this was the thing he needed to see, if not just to keep himself from going insane, and to keep some unpleasant memories locked away.

 

Still, one memory was paddling itself up to the surface. Every now and again, Yusai would vaguely remember a day he had cut out of P.E a little early to meet with Richard under the field bleachers to hang out. He remembered how the sun had been blazing and how humid the weather was. He remembered how he had looked forward to being somewhere shaded but dreaded the thought of having to hang out where there were so many spiders.

 

He remembered the sound of his sneakers thwacking against the gravel under his feet as he jogged toward the bleachers. He remembered slowing down a bit to catch his breath, as the humidity in the air was winding him more than usual. When he had slowed down, he remembered he could still hear the “thwack”ing sound, only duller and heavier sounding. It was followed then by grunting and a low, anguished moan, punctuated by a wheezing cough. Yusai remembered how the sound had unsettled him and sent a surge of curiosity, as well as adrenaline, through him. Despite his want for air, he began running again to figure out what was making that noise. It didn’t take him long until he was under at the bleachers and circling around to get underneath, where the sound got louder. It took Yusai a moment to descipher what he was seeing, but when he realized what he was looking at, he was horrorfied.

 

There were two boys that he didn’t know, and Richard. They were in a scuffle. One of the boys had Richard held by a wad of his long, black hair while the other had his arm wrapped around his neck in a chokehold. With their free arms, they were punching at him wherever they could land a hit, and Richard was only able to struggle, his face contorted with pain. Yusai watched these two guys beating up his best friend, wanting to do something, anything to help but his body wouldn’t move.

 

“--Fuckin’ faggot! Nob-suckin’ prick!” One of the boys hissed at Richard, releasing him from the chokehold and shoving him into the dirt. The other kid still had him by his hair so Richard’s neck craned back oddly while his body twisted to the ground. He let out a howl and pulled his head forward, releasing most of his hair from the kids grip. He tried to gather his strength to stand but the two boys were quick to pounce on him and begin their assult once again. Yusai saw one of the boys rear his leg up for swift kick, heard a shallow “thud” followed by a loud, pained hiss, and although Yusai couldn’t see, he knew his friend had been badly hurt by the blow. It was at this sound that he rushed forward, adrenaline finally working in his favor.

 

Yusai’s memory of events from that point onward were a bit fuzzy. He could remember Richard’s body slowly arching up to stand, his legs trembling to keep him upright. He remembered the huge bruises that blotted Richard’s neck, shoulders, arms, and ribs for weeks. He remembered the blood that streaked down Richard’s nose and neck that pooled into an even darker red crescent down the front of his red jersey. He remembered how he bitterly pleaded with Richard for details on how the fight happened, his own body boiling over with a feirce need to fight. He remembered how Richard didn’t say anything about it, only assuring Yusai that he was fine. He remembered how after the fight, Richard seemed like a different person.

 

Yusai was brought out of this reverie when he heard the door to the apartment open and shut, and the sound of steps coming indoors. He shook his head, unclouding his mind from this haze. Steal was back... Already? Yusai looked up at the clock on the wall and bawked; It was almost six. He had spent the majority of his day fretting over his sexuality and browsing the internet for assurance that he was “normal”. Speaking of which, he still had the forums he had been reading open when Steal came into the bedroom, his expression fairly chipper. Yusai scrambled to close his laptop and greet him.

 

“Oi—Hey, h... How’d it go?” Yusai asked, standing. “That took you a while, didn’t it? I thought they were just takin’ out stitches?”

 

Steal looked at him blankly and nodded. He said that they did, and pulled aside the locks of gray hair that had been covering the former string of stitches that had been a stark line along his head for the last few weeks. He mentioned that after the affair, he went out on a dinner date, and asked if Yusai got his text messages.

 

Messages? God, Yusai hadn’t looked at anything but a computer screen all day. He had completely neglected his phone and when he looked at it there still on his nightstand, he could see the little red notification light on it fading in and out to let him know he had messages waiting for him to read.

 

“Uh... I guess I didn’t, sorry.” He apologized, and walked over to his phone to dismiss the notifications. “I’ve been restin’ most of the day. I’m feeling heaps better though.” He was lying, but he didn’t want Steal to ever know what he had really been up to. Besides, how would he even begin to explain? He wanted to deflect from this particular avenue of conversation and asked Steal about his dinner date instead. He was surprised to learn he had gone out with Lance—and immediately dismissed any sort of romantic inclination the ‘date’ might have had, thinking it instead like a dinner date with a friend—and was simultaneously upsetted by the news. Not overtly, but he felt an unpleasant pinch in his gut.

 

“Well... ‘Spose you had your fill and fun then,” Yusai trailed absent-mindedly, hesitent to say anything more on the subject. He felt strange. He felt a mix of anger, sadness, and loneliness in one bizarre concoction that he had never felt all at once, and there was a jolt of fear, too; what brought this mood on so suddenly? He wasn’t sure, but observing Steal’s mannerisms—so casual and cool—made Yusai feel the sensation more acutely.

 

Jealousy was not an emotion that Yusai had ever been acquainted with, but he was feeling it now and to an outside observer, you could almost swear his hazel-green eyes had turned a shade or two greener as Steal talked about his evening out with Lance.

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Steal was a little surprised at how the apartment felt rather, still when he got inside, as if nothing had been happening in the place since he left, which was further revealed through the fact that Yusai seemed startled and had not got his messages.  What in the world had the older man been doing all day?  Maybe he still was feeling really badly?  Steal frowned a moment before checking to see if Yusai had a fever and asked if he wanted something to eat.

Turning back to the kitchen was all that had stopped him from seeing any sign that talking about Lance was making Yusai jealous.  He just kept rambling on about having something to eat and going for a walk.  Talking a lot and really just connecting with someone.   He puttered around getting something for his room mate to eat, then headed over to the sitting area and handed it over.  "So, it seems that Lance is half Korean and half Japanese, which is actually kind of cool.  I asked him if he would mind teaching me some Japanese and he said it was fine.  It is something I have wanted to learn a bit of for a while."   His speaking had an energetic animation since he finally had something new to talk about, and likely it got tiring fast.

No, there was no 'likely' about it, Yusai seemed to switch off after a while and Steal picked up on it after a bit of a delay.  He let his words trail off and he stopped talking, instead starting to play with Prince with a piece of yarn.   The cat bounced around having the time of it's life and Steal focused on it, letting Yusai be alone with the thoughts he was having.  Something had been bothering him for a time and it seemed that he didn't want to share.  If only he would they may be able to get past it together, but the more Yusai blocked him out, the harder it was to feel that there would ever be a moment when they clicked.

Just one word could crack this all open, but I don't know what word it would take.

The thought was nearly crippling but there was no getting around it.

"I was asked if I would be able to get the band back together for a show.. I figured I would send out messages to them.."  He shrugged a little as he walked to grab a laptop.   He wasn't sure what one he had picked up since he and Yusai were not set one one that they and they alone used, but when it opened Steal frowned at the page.   He didn't say anything but was a little baffled at the site.

Why would Yusai look at this site.. unless..  Shit, I must have left some porn open and Yusai is still denying that I am gay..  Crap.  How to deal with this?

No matter how Steal mentioned it to Yusai the other man seemed to block the words.  He was never sure if it was heard or just pushed to a deeply hidden side of his mind.  Steal closed the window and headed into the mail applications to send out the invite for another set as a group at the club, knowing that the others wouldn't get back to him until at least the next day.  In the mean time he had some studies to catch up on and he didn't want to put them off anymore.

"Sai, I am going to sit out on the balcony and do a bit of studying while there is still light, call me if you need me."   He waved one hand and headed out to sit in one of the rather uncomfortable plastic chairs they had set up.  The sight was great though, looking out into the clear sky.  There was a soft ripple of wind that caught his hair and let it fluff around a bit.  It was relaxing.

Who knows how long he was out there, surely enough that the light of sunset was a crimson and gold spectical across the sky.  He looked up and watched the amazing light show as the sun lowered and night came on strong. 

This would be romantic.   Just sitting here, sipping a chilled drink watching the sun go down...

He pulled his feet up to the lip of the chair seat, balancing his book on his knees.  There was so much going on, but so little he could do about any of it. 

 

 

Down on the street below, and certain red haired man was sitting in his car watching the building with a sense of regret.  He had been thinking of all the things he was doing and wondered why he was bothering.   The pay of course but, what had this kid done to be hounded so much when he didn't seem to be doing anything more than living his life.  He seemed to be keeping his nose clean, staying out of trouble, at least more than many others do yet he was still being hunted like some kind of rat who is living in the walls.   If he is not caught what is the worst he could do?  Get famous for his singing?  Oh the shame of having a gay singer in the family.   Then there was the pure denial of his family.   He is not gay just misguided.  Set him up with the right girl and he will realize his errors.  Families like that need to be stopped.  But the money.. shit, he needed the money.  He muttered and called the boy from the bar.

Hey Lance, nice to talk to you again, you ever get through to that singer guy from the bar?   Really.. can't wait to see him preform.  Yeah call me when he sets a date.. gotcha..

Ian felt like such an ass...

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The days ahead that transpired were strange. Yusai was officially better and his mind some-what clearer (especially after dedicating a few more hours to reading the forums he had discovered earlier in the week) He felt like he was normal again. As normal as he could be, anyway. He was at least able to focus on things that needed his attention without the nagging thought of being gay taking the forefront of his mind.

 

The days were strange because there was a distinct change in routine after all the events that had taken place prior. Yusai was waking up to an empty bed and to messages left from Steal mentioning that he was getting out to practice with his band, or hang out with Lance... Things which left Yusai feeling a culmination of happy (because he liked that Steal was getting back into a hobby of his) confused (because he wasn’t sure what had suddenly spurred this on) bitter (because he was being left out) and jealous (because Lance was spending time with his friend).

 

On top of this, Yusai had taken to spending his alone time getting re-acquainted with misses palmer and her five lovely daughters on a frequent basis. And why not? He had the apartment to himself for a few hours in the morning now, and Yusai hadn’t had a chance to express his sexual frustrations for so long... He had forgotten what the sensation was even like, sad as it was to admit. And, he could wank to whatever he wanted and do it without the guilt or shame he had only a week or so before. Not when he could rush to a community of like-minded individuals to confirm that their desires were natural and not at all homosexual afterwards, relieving himself of all doubts and inhibitions of his sexuality... For the time being.

 

The other strange thing was when Steal would return from his outings, how little they seemed to talk lately. It wasn’t that they didn’t talk, but the conversation quality they used to have—bizarre as it could be at times—had definitely taken a dive. They spoke to each other through metaphorical walls, and perhaps for the same reasons: They both had parts of their lives they were not completely comfortable confiding with one another over. Steal with his growing acquiantenceship with Lance, his familial troubles that no one could possibly understand, and Yusai with his mixture of grief combined with this new secret celebration of his sexuality. They were complex issues that could be resolved with talk, but neither of them seemed to know how to start the conversation. Only time would tell if they ever would.

 

Meanwhile, Yusai was back to work again, and it was a slow night coming to a close at the club. Yusai had spent his shift unusually quiet behind the counter: Tonight was a night where his thoughts had been filled with numb remorse, and memories of the friend he had lost several years ago. Strangely enough, the memories that were surfacing in his mind were not the ones he usually turned to when grieving for Richard. In fact, they seemed like new memories altogether. Things he had repressed or thought he had forgotten about were coming back up to light.

 

For instance, he was remembering occassions where Richard and he used to sit on the roof slope just outside Richard’s bedroom window, drinking beers they had secretely smuggled from the fridge and pretended to enjoy. They would sit out there and watch the orange-blue sky fade to the deep purple of night and talk. Not about anything in particular, just shoot the shit the way teenagers did. They talked about their classes, assignments, their shit teachers... One particular conversation Yusai was remembering with bizarre clarity was one they had about relationships.

 

Richard had asked (after choking down a swig of beer and forcing a casualty to his voice) if Yusai had an interest in any of the girls at school. At the time, it seemed like a strange thing to ask because Yusai had been of the mindset that girls were pretty much off-limits. They still had cooties, or whatever. But, he knew he was an outlier: Yusai had overheard many locker room conversations during lacrosse and knew that boys his age were girl-crazy. It was all his male peers could seem to talk about, and were obsessed with. Yusai had often felt left out, or thought himself weird that he didn’t “get” what his friends were so nuts over, and figured that maybe one day he eventually would.

 

But when prompted by his sporting buddies, he had put on a front and talked about girls like the rest of them, pretended he shared the same carnal interest in women as they did. He didn’t want to be labeled weird or a freak, after all. He saw how those people were treated, recalling a few hallway scraps throughout his high school years. Several of his locker room conversations went this way that it had started to become an automatic reaction: to pretend he understood it all, pretend he was one of them.

 

So when Richard had asked, Yusai had instinctively put up his guard and said “Of course!”, then immediately took a long swig of his own beer. Richard had looked at him strangely, keeping his silence for a moment before nodding and taking another sip from his drink. The talk had ended as quickly as it had started, but Yusai couldn’t forget the look Richard had given him in that night.

 

He looked miserable.

 

“Hey, Yusai—You alright?” a familiar voice cut into his reverie. Yusai shook his head and re-focused, seeing Otto staring at him from across the bar counter. Yusai nodded and unfolded a rag from his back pocket and began wiping down his work area, letting one non-commital grunt out before resuming his silence.. This response did not seem to satiate Otto’s conversational appetite, and he reached to take the rag out of Yusai’s hand.

 

“What’s up, man? You look pretty down and you’ve been quiet all night.”

 

“It’s nothin’,” Yusai said, unsure if he could even articulate his feelings at present. “I’m just tired, I guess.”

 

Otto gave him a long look, his chocolate brown eyes seeming to bare right though his transparent lies and see straight into the bullshit. Otto was usually good at reading people, but this particular mood on Yusai was one he was having difficulty deciphering. It was unlike him to be brooding, quiet, and aloof.

 

“You sure? You’ve been pretty ‘off’ lately... Is everything okay at home? Is Steal doing alright?” Come to think of it, Otto hadn’t seen Steal for the past few nights. Usually he’d come in a couple times during the week with Yusai and hang out, but he had yet to see him. He wondered if Yusai’s current mood and Steals absence were related, and resolved to text Steal tonight to check in later.

 

“Yeah, everythings fine.” Yusai answered, his tone a touch short. He didn’t know why but being asked about Steal bothered him. Maybe it was because he wasn’t sure how Steal was doing himself.

 

Well, this conversation wasn’t going to go anywhere, and with a sigh, Otto muttered “Okay,” and pulled his coat up off the edge of the bar counter where he had rested it, and began slipping it over his arms. He didn’t notice the folded note that he had taken from Steal a few weeks ago had slipped out and fallen on the counter and Yusai, who was still in wrap-up-and-clean mode, absent-mindedly picked it up. He was about to toss it in the bin when he happened to notice his name scrawled inside of it. Curious, he started to unfold it a little and saw some more words. A letter?

 

Yusai, I love you. I always have--” he read, and before he could read any more, Otto had made a loud sound and was reaching across the counter, and fiercely tore the note from his hands. It had all happened in an instant, but Yusai was baffled, curious, and a bit alarmed.

 

“Oi, what’s that note all about?” Yusai asked, suddenly feeling anxious and alert. Obviously it was a love letter of some kind, but who had written it? Why did Otto react that way? It was uncommon for Yusai to jump to conclusions but with his recent habits and thoughts, he couldn’t help but feel paranoid that he was being put under scrutiny. Otto bunched up the note and shoved it in his pants pocket.

 

“It’s—It’s none of your business, dickhead,” Otto shot, vainly attempting to deflect this interrogation into an argument. Yusai couldn’t know about Steals letter, and Otto was doing what he could to protect this secret.

 

“It is so my business, it’s a letter with my bloody name on it. Who wrote that?” Yusai was pulling the cleaning rag he had between his fists, his knuckles clenched tight enough to shine a shade or two lighter than his normally dark complexion.

 

Shit, Otto had to think fast. He couldn’t tell him Steal had written it, it wouldn’t be his right. But then... Ah, he was thinking too fast to come up with a decent lie, and before he could catch himself he answered,

 

I did.”

 

Yusai’s face twisted from what looked like confusion, to shock.


“W... What?” Was all Yusai could think to utter. He felt like he had just been dipped into cold water, buck-naked and in front of an audience.

 

SHIT, Otto had dug himself into a hole. How could he follow up? He was going to have to improvise and play everything off as naturally as he could... For Steals sake.

 

“Yeah, it’s my letter. I wrote it a while ago and just... You know, never gave it to you because I didn’t want to make things weird, I guess,” Otto said, warbling over this explaination a little. It was a bizarre lie he had to tell, which in general, he was not accustomed to doing. He had hoped Yusai would let the conversation drop into awkward silence at the very least, but surprisingly, the next question out of his mouth was one Otto had not expected.

 

“You’re... You’re gay?” Yusai had asked, quietly and with some hesitation. His tone was so earnest, hurt and confused, and it threw Otto off completely. Now he bore the stunned expression, but only momentarily. This conversation was about to take a whole new direction.

 

“No, bi, actually,” Otto corrected him non-chalantly with the truth. “But even if I was gay, what’s the big deal?”

 

Yusai didn’t realize, but his face was twisting into a look as though he was witnessing a horrific accident. What’s the big deal? What’s the big deal? He didn’t have an answer for that. Or did he? He was suddenly overwhelmed with various memories; fights and derrogatory slurs and bloody fists, bloody noses and lips, bruises among his peers that had been labeled freaks, faggots, queers...

 

Richard walking beside him silently, his blood-stained shirt thrown over his shoulder, scratches and bruises mottling his side and ribs.

 

He was overwhelmed by other things, too. This was all so sudden and mind-blowing to hear. His boss... One of his closest friends... Loved him? He was bisexual? This was all new information. It was weird. It was... Too much for him to process right now, in the midst of all his new sexual awakenings that he still was blindly wading through.

 

“Well?” Otto interjected, breaking Yusai out of his thoughts again. Those brown eyes were now staring at him, begging for an answer.

 

Well—I’m, I’m not gay,” Yusai stated firmly, his jaw tight. “I don’t feel the same way.”

 

That’s fine, I didn’t think you would,” Otto said. Although something inside him was set aflame. It was rare for Otto to ever get upset, and especially with someone he considered a good friend, but Yusai’s defensiveness and his... Revulsion to the idea of gayness was genuinely upsetting and brushed the part of Otto that was queer the wrong way. What was his deal? But still, he grit his teeth through this. He had started this mess of a conversation, after all. “And anyway, like I said, I wrote it a while ago. So don’t flatter yourself thinking I still got the hots for you.”

 

Stop it,” Yusai snapped. You could practically see the hairs on his neck standing up.

 

Stop what?” Otto shot back, now on the defense.

 

“This isn’t funny!”

 

I’m not trying to be funny, asshole,” Otto retaliated, “Just what is your problem, anyway? Are you bothered by this? The possibility that some half-a-fag had a crush on you?”

 

Yusai was now visibly agitated, unlike anything Otto had ever seen out of him. His face was red and he could see Yusai’s fists trembling around the rag in his hands, his eye darting here and there, but unable to look at Otto.

 

That’s not it! Just—I’m not gay, so just forget it!” His tone was angry, but his voice wavered, and Otto’s acute ears sensed that maybe there was something more to his friends protesting than he initially thought. His friend looked, and sounded like, a cornered animal. But why, he wondered? There was a pregnant pause, and during it, Otto took a breath to settle his own surge of adrenaline.

 

Okay, fine, I get it,” Otto said slowly, calmly. He wasn’t sure how to proceed with this clusterfuck of a conversation, but he now had a question he needed to ask if he wanted to continue being friends with the man he had known for several years now, whom he considered a brother. “Can I ask you something?”

 

Yusai didn’t respond verbally, but grunted as he clumsily returned to cleaning things up around the bar.

 

“Seriously... Does it bother you that I’m bi?”

 

Yusai had to process this question, and was running over a million and one things in his head. He felt like he was short-circuiting. Did it bother him? He wasn’t sure. Maybe it wasn’t that Otto being bisexual bothered him, but the fact that he was attracted to Yusai did? The slightest insinuation that Yusai was homosexual—even by extension—made him feel prickly, uneasy. But then again, Otto did say that the letter was written a while ago... Surely his feelings weren’t still the same, right? This was so messed up, he couldn’t think straight. All he could think to say was,

 

No, just... I’m not gay.”

 

To this, something in Otto’s demeanor changed. It was as if a light went off in his head or that he’d found something that he had lost after a long search. He had a creeping suspicion that Yusai’s protesting was coming from a certain place of insecurity, but it wasn’t like he could point it out to the moron, at the risk of aggrivating him further. Instead, Otto would take a different approach; He raised his hands in solemn protest and said lowly, cautiously,

 

Okay, good. I’m sorry. But you know Yusai...” Otto trailed, tilting his head and looking at Yusai from the side, who was still nervously buseying himself with wrap-up duties. “...If you were gay,” at this, Yusai froze. Otto continued, “...That’d be okay. I wouldn’t judge you for it. No one at the club would judge you for it. Steal wouldn’t judge you for it--” It was at this point in the conversation that Yusai made a sound, something like a bark, and threw his rag aside. He quickly turned to his coat, shucked it over his shoulders, and stormed out of the club, leaving Otto in stunned and bereft silence.

 

God, what had just happened? Otto shook his head and pulled out his phone, texting Steal the following message:

 

Yusai’s in a bad mood. Best to leave him alone tonight. Text me sometime.

 

**

 

 

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Steal had found himself so busy lately.  He and Lance had been hanging out, and Steal was trying to find the other man a boyfriend, someone to relax him a bit.  He had done all he could to make it clear that he had someone he liked and was trying to keep it open and available.  He made sure that didn't cramp their time though but what it did do, was distance him from the growing tension of Yusai.   The other man seemed off lately.  Like he had been tense and now he was just distant.  Steal sighed and settled down in a chair in the garage studio of his reformed band.    They were happy to be jamming together again.

When they finally went on break, Steal sat down outside and closed his eyes.  Even while playing music and singing his mind was plagued with thoughts.  He had been spending so much time with Lance, and he had been kind of hiding from Yusai.  With a shake of his head to toss the thoughts away he looked up, just as one of his band mates, Joel came out with his wife.  "Hey you two."  He waved one hand at them as they sat down on either side of him.

"You are pretending hun."  Kim said patting his shoulder a little.  "We can all see something is still eating you.  It doesn't hurt your singing but it does make us hurt a bit.  Is there something we can help with?"

Steal shook his head and sighed, rubbing one hand over his eyes, his glove worn and soft feeling like a comfort to him. "No, nothing that anyone can help with.  I just have to keep moving forward.  The gig is tomorrow anyway."

Joel nodded and glanced at his wife, both knowing that there really was no way to pull Steal out of the funk he was in.  "Gotcha.  Well the bar is sold out for the night.  It will be a big one."

The younger man nodded and looked down at his phone seeing that Otto had called.  He frowned and waved one hand.  "We are pretty much set, the new song I plan to cover sounds amazing so.. I think I will scoot for the night."  He looked again at the screen of his phone and tapped out a message.

What do you mean he is in a bad mood?  Something wrong?

Steal had no way to react to the next stream of messages that covered what had happened and the mistake.   He grimaced and sat down on a park bench, his stomach dropping.  He would have rather had Otto tell him the truth...  With the way Yusai reacted to the thought of Otto being bi, there was no way he was going to take well to Steal.  How in the world did Yusai not know anyway?

His hands trembled as he lowered the phone to his lap, no longer seeing anything around him.  Give him space, give him room, give him time.  The suggestions of others didn't seem to work.  If anything they just drew things farther and farther apart until it no longer seemed that they were anything more than two people who just pass each other by.

~~~~

The band was set up, the audience was waiting.  Steal looked down at his clothing.  Tight jeans, well worn and comfortable to move in, a loose button down shirt, with the top three buttons undone.  His hair had been styled, slightly spiky by Lance who was out there somewhere now, and he was wearing eyeliner.  It made him look more mature and more like a rock star, and the finishing touch, a light powdering of something that sparkled, courtesy of Kim.

He walked out and took the mike, singing three songs the audience was used to.   He moved gracefully like a wild cat on the stage, all movements practiced, even as he looked around at who was out there, and Yusai at the bar. 

Now was the time.  He started into a song he needed to sing.

 He tried to meet Yusai's eye as he started:

Say something, I'm giving up on you
I'll be the one if you want me to
Anywhere I would've followed you
Say something, I'm giving up on you

He was doing the best he could to put all his emotions into the song, his heart bleeding out with each word.

And I... am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all
And I... will stumble and fall
I'm still learning to love
Just starting to crawl

The world seemed to fade out, it was just him and the lyrics.  Him and the message he was trying so hard to pour out to the man who could never seem to understand it.

Say something, I'm giving up on you
I'll be the one if you want me to
Anywhere I would've followed you
Say something, I'm giving up on you

He didn't even notice as several people in the audience tried to follow his gaze, eyes growing moist.  He didn't realize as Ian stepped out beside him and lit up a smoke.  He was in his own world.  Maybe that was why when Ian reached over with a rag and pressed it over Steal's mouth and nose the silver haired man couldn't react with more than a slight struggle.  His hand lashed out, a silver bracelet with his name on it snapping off his wrist as Ian lifted him up and carried him to the parking lot.  To anyone who was just glancing over it would seem someone was carrying off a drunk friend.   The only evidence of something happening was the bracelet.

And I... will swallow my pride
You're the one that I love
And I'm saying goodbye

Then even Lance was in tears, reading the message, that he was pleading with all his might for Yusai to just notice, if even this once that he was feeling something,

Say something, I'm giving up on you
And I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you
And anywhere I would've followed you (Oh-Ooh)
Say something, I'm giving up on you

The room felt like it was empty to Steal, it was just him and the one person he was singing to, he didn't even care that he was starting to cry himself now.  This felt too much like the end for him.   Could someone miss a confession like this?

Say something, I'm giving up on you
Say something...

The words trailed off and the music stopped.   Once it did Steal turned and walked off stage, not able to continue.  He headed out the side door to sit down and think about everything.  He didn't realize as Ian walked out and lit up a smoke next to him, fiddling with something else a moment later.   With his head down he didn't notice as Ian placed a rag over his nose and mouth, and so was only able to struggle slightly.  He lashed out with one hand, his bracelet snapping off his wrist, hitting the ground.  Ian took no note as he caught Steal and lifted him, carrying him to the parking lot and his waiting car.   The only evidence of something wrong was the bracelet of thin silver with Steal's name on it, something he would not have left behind.

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It had only been 10 or so minutes since Steal's performance had ended, and he was no where to be seen afterwards.
 
Lance had been the first to go looking for him so he could gush and compliment his moving performance. He approached his band-mates as they were breaking down their set and asked where Steal was. They exchanged glances, quick conversations, and answered simply, "We dunno." Although one of them assured Lance that he was likely outside getting some fresh air or something, and if he wanted to talk to him privately, he should go check.
 
So, Lance went outside and looked around. There was no sign of Steal out in front of the building, but maybe he had left from one of the side-entryways that lead to the adjacent alleyway. He turned the corner and checked there. Nothing.
 
Well, he supposed he'd check the next logical place... The mens bathroom. Lance slipped back inside and hustled to the lavatory only to see a few tipsy men emptying their bladders at the urinals. There was no apparent trace of Steal here, either.
 
Lance was beginning to feel unsettled, but not wanting to give into panic just yet, he figured there was at least one more place he could check, or one last person he could ask: His roommate. Exiting the bathroom, Lance went and approached the bar and called for Yusai's attention.
 
Yusai was slow to notice Lance at first. His mind was in a whole different place right now--even moreso since Steals performance, which had put him in a strange, morose mood--When he did notice Lance, he regarded him very cooly, asking what he wanted.
 
"Hey, have you seen Steal?" Lance asked. "His band doesn't know where he went, he's not outside, and he's not in the bathrooms... I was wondering if maybe he was hanging out in like, the employee lounge or something."
 
Yusai's curiosity was piqued. Did Steal shove off somewhere after his performance without even telling anybody? It would be unlike him if he did, and Lance's suggestion--though unlikely, as Steal rarely liked to hang out in the dingy back room--had some merit if he couldn't be found elsewhere. Yusai promptly finished up an order and told Lance to wait a minute while he went out back and checked for Steal.
 
He was there and back shortly, having found no trace of Steal in the lounge. Yusai looked over the heads of customers and employee's for any trace of that unmistakable, un-missable hair, and saw nothing.
 
"You said you checked outside for him, ay?" Yusai asked, a pit starting to form in his stomach. Lance nodded, a troubled expression starting to form on his face as well.
 
"Checked out front and in the alley. He wasn't there. His bandmates don't know where he went, either."
 
Wordlessly, Yusai pulled out his cellphone and tapped through his contacts until he found Steal. Without hesitation, he began dialing his number, listening to the endless ringing.
 
 
---
 
Ian was ashing out his cigarette in his car console when he noticed Steal starting to come-to. The agent he had used to knock him out didn't last long, but that was all right: As long as he had the kid in tow, it didn't matter if he was conscious or not. He turned his attention back to the road.
 
"Sorry there, kiddo. I couldn't do this any other way," he half-heartedly apologized. "You and your buddies didn't make it easy on me."
 
Steal was soupily looking around, piecing together his surroundings, seeming to try and make sense of the world around him. He asked where he was and what was going on. Ian took a deep breath and held it for a minute.
 
"Well," He began, exhaling, "I guess it doesn't matter if you know, since you're about to find out anyway, but your mother wants you back home and asked me to go and get ya. Any means necessary, and all that. Don't know why, so I don't have an answerfor you there."

Ian could hear Steal sink into the passanger seat and make a low sound like a groan. He wasn't sure if it was in response to the information he had just divulged or if the fumes he had used to temporarily knock Steal out were having an affect. Either way, he didn't much care and continued driving. It would only be another hour before he arrived at the hotel his client was at, Steal in tow.

But then there was an interruption in the otherwise silent car ride. Ian heard a ringing and instinctively fished his own phone from his jacket breast pocket. He gave it a quick glance. There was no indication of an incoming call, so that meant... Shit. He had forgotten to frisk Steal's phone off him before chucking him in the car. He shoved his phone back into his pocket and blindly reached across the seat, patting around on Steal's body to feel for his pockets.

"Do things the easy way and hand over your phone." Ian said sternly, although the impact was a little lost as his focus was clearly torn between the busy, chaotic road in front of him and trying to coerce Steal into complying with him. "I don't want to have to do things the hard way. I'm not getting paid nearly enough for that..."

 

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Steal was feeling nauseated.  The fumes of the chloroform had not hit him well.   When he realized who it was that he was with, he was so confused.  He wanted me to help him find his cat... why?  Then the other words slowly sank in.  My mom.  He groaned audibly, not at all sure what this was really all about, he just knew that he wanted to get the heck out of here and back where he should be. 

The phone was ringing in his pocket and he watched as Ian frisked himself then reached over to try and get the phone from him.   He didn't want to give the phone back, that was a clear mistake but then again he didn't really want to be roughed up either. 

Wait, being roughed up was what was coming to him anyway.  Why wait for it?  "No..."   He said softly, "I will not give the phone to you.  There is no reason."

Ian gave him a look that clearly said that there is a reason.  "Give it over."

"No!"  Steal said, shaking his head, only to feel as the car pulled over and Ian undid his seat belt, reaching over and grabbing Steal by the neck.  "I said that no one cared about the condition you were in."   The phone was grabbed from Steal's pocket, and he was half slammed onto the door.  "Keep it up and you will not like it."

Steal cringed and bowed his head, watching as the phone was turned off and the sim was yanked from it before he pulled back onto the road.

~~~

Lance was terrified, why the heck was Steal missing?   His band had finally found out and they too were worried.  This was not normal for Steal, who liked to be there to help clean up.  Now that he wasn't able to be reached on his phone, they were picking up in panic.  There was only one more thing they could do, and they did it.  "Call the cops."

Lance sat at the bar chewing his lip, it was clear that Yusai was getting worked up.  There is only one possible thing that happened, or rather two and both were terrifying.  He was taken or he was killed.  He started pacing around, who would have done that and why?  No one was telling him anything.  Otto had clamped up, Yusai was brooding and had cleared the bar out of anyone not needed.  The band were doing something close to recon, walking around the bar to see if there was any clues, or rather they had planned to before realizing they may ruin some of the evidence.  Was there any?

 

((this post so sucks... I suck...))

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