It was the body. Well, the ass. And the broad shoulders under that shirt weren’t hurting, either.

It was the moves. Mr Shoulders wasn’t gonna be winning any prizes with his dancing, but Henry found his total, all-encompassing confidence magnetic.

But in truth, it wasn’t any of those things.

“How’s your brother?” Mr Shoulders called to the bartender, drawing Henry’s attention as well.

“Not so good, Matt.” (Only it sounded like he called the guy “Math”, but that couldn’t be right.)

“Man, I’m sorry to hear that. If you need anything, Bobby, let me know.”

That. That right there pulled Henry in; that spark of actual human empathy in the middle of a shitty club full of preening princesses.

Then the guy turned to him and his entire expression flipped. Oh, one of those. Hello, Mr Hyde. With a smirk and a wave to the bartender, Mr Hyde stalked back to the dance floor.

Asshole. Even assholes can have split second empathy, right? Or pretend to have it?

Henry checked his cell phone. He dimmed the screen and checked it again. 10:15? He’d only been in this stinking hole for twenty-two minutes? That wasn’t even close to enough to satisfy Luanne.

She’s your sister, not your fucking mother. Which may be technically true, but he didn’t want another “Why don’t you ever get out of the house for once and actually talk to people?” fight with Lulu. God. A thousand of those in one lifetime was enough.

Another hour. In another hour he could kind of get away with telling her he went out for “a couple of hours”, right?

He’d nearly forgotten about the guy—okay, be honest, he’d tried to stop noticing the guy—when he ran into him on the way back to the bar.

“Hey, man, you don’t have to jump me,” Mr Hyde said, with the kind of casually flirtatious laugh that made Henry’s skin crawl. “I respond to ‘nice to meet you’ and ‘my name is’ even more than I respond to random strangers accidentally walking into me.”

“It was a real accident,” Henry began.

“Listen. I’m almost at my curfew for the night, and you’re the only person here who doesn’t appear to be either high or drunk. Want to make out?”

“What the—”

Mr Hyde backed him up against the wall. They were the same height, but this guy had some strength in the body under his shoulder-hugging black shirt. “Am I coming on too strong for you? My name’s Math.”

“I thought that’s what the bartender said. How’d you get a name like—”

Oh. Mr Hyde—Math—kissed him, but for as aggressive as the first move was, the kiss was almost gentle. Henry found himself leaning into it, without thought, without making a decision and weighing his options.

“Matthew. But my parents didn’t want to name me after something people wipe their feet on.” He nuzzled against Henry’s face for a second. “I’m really only half-propositioning you. I just want to spend the last few minutes of my night with a person, with a man, with someone who’s not a twink or an otter or a bear or a pup. A man.”

Henry caught his breath. “I’m Henry.”

“Good to meet you, Henry.”

“Are you saying—are you asking me to come home with you, or—”

“I wish,” Math muttered. “No. I can’t. I don’t have time to go to your place, either.” He nuzzled in closer, his breath hot and itchy on Henry’s neck. “How’s right here, baby?”

“I’m not your baby. Right here in the club?” God, this was what he hated about all of gay life. No, I don’t want to make out with you up against a wall in a dismal little club full of hicks living the high life and slumming suburbanite fags. Was it really too much to ask for an ounce of decorum?

“My car? Your car? The bathroom? Listen, we can just kiss, I need—fuck, I just want to be with someone for a few minutes, okay?”

“Oh, thanks a lot, so I guess that makes me the big winner, huh? I’m the lucky, lucky boy—”

“Not a boy. A man.” Math pulled back again. “You keep looking at the time like you have somewhere to be.”

Busted. “No.”

“Well, I do. I have forty-five minutes to get home.”

Henry was about to say something else, some other snide comment on the topic of Mr Hyde’s selfishness, but something stopped him. Maybe the longing he thought he detected on the other man’s face. Maybe the longing he felt on his own.

“Are you married?” he asked.

“Married? No. Divorced, actually, but it’s amicable. I mean—never mind. I’m not married.”

Do something daring for once in your life, Henry. If nothing else, it’d make Luanne leave him alone for a little while.

“There’s a back room,” he said, and grabbed Math’s hand.

He took control this time, kissing Math up against the wall, running hands down his sides, then up under his shirt. Henry had no plan, no idea how far to take it, but as long as he was being rash and foolish, he was going to enjoy himself. He tweaked a nipple (no response), then scratched a line down Math’s chest.

“Want to play like that, huh, Henry?” Math, out of breath, flipped them so Henry’s back hit the wall. “What is this? A storeroom? I can’t see anything.”

“We should stay close to the door. I found it looking for the bathroom the first time I was here, but never saw the light switch.”

“So we could get caught.” Teeth latched onto his neck and Henry threw his head back. “Kinky,” Math mumbled, lips against his skin.

“Oh, shut up. If you have a better idea—”

“You talk too much.”

Math’s mouth moved down his body, hands keeping speed on his sides, and it was tragically too dark to watch the show, but the feel of someone unbuttoning his pants was unmistakable.

“Condom?” Henry asked, biting his own tongue so he’d have something to focus on besides the sudden shock of air on his cock.

“For oral? Uh, sure, yeah. Hold on.”

While Math fumbled in total darkness (save for a sliver of dim hallway light under the door) for a condom, Henry caught his breath and began to re-think this whole thing. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea, having sex with a stranger in public. Could they get arrested? No, be serious. He’d seen blowjobs out on the actual floor. Granted, those guys had been told to get the fuck out. Still, a storeroom—someone could need something stored here at any moment, was it really worth—

“Man, you’re all tense. Henry, you okay? You’re not having a panic attack, right?”

A panic attack. God, that would definitely get him a pass out of social interaction for a while, even with Luanne.

Henry reached out into space, hands encountering hair, then shoulders. “I’m feeling like an idiot.”

“Oh. Well, I can definitely help you out with that.”

Math groped around, one hand steadying Henry at his thigh, the other—yes.

“’Ere ou er. Ang en.”

Condom packet ripped open—in his mouth, yes, of course—then somehow rolled over his erection in the dark. And god, it had been months since the last time hands that weren’t Henry’s touched him there.

What he should do: politely decline and leave as quickly as possible.


Math shoved his hand inside and—Henry’s legs went weak—fondled his balls. “Yes?”

All thoughts of leaving fled.

“Are you just going to kneel there all night?” Henry asked, increasingly desperate. “Suck me!”

“Oh, hell yes.”

The hand on his balls moved back up, took hold of his cock, and fuck, fuck, Math’s smartass mouth took him in, took him down, let him bottom out and jacked him as he pulled back.

“That’s right,” Math said, in between little teasing sucks on the head of Henry’s cock. “Fuck my throat, baby.”

Not polite to correct someone who’s currently sucking you so deep you can’t tell where your body ends and theirs begins.


Math laughed around his cock, which intensified everything. His hand took over and he pulled back again. “Yeah, that’s right. Talk dirty to me, Henry. Say all those nasty words. I bet you usually do it in a bedroom with the lights on, right? Or candlelight?” The hand on Henry’s thigh disappeared and a second later his own hand was being pulled to Math’s head. “Fuck my throat, you sonofabitch.”

That wasn’t very—shit, fuck, hell. It was barely a choice. His body took over, pumping into Math, obeying his order, holding on now with both hands while he approached, then went over the edge of his orgasm. Math took all of it, grunting, rolling his balls the entire time, wringing him out.

“Oh my god,” Henry said, panting, letting go of Math’s hair. “I’m so sorry. I don’t usually—”

But Math was moving again, Henry’s cock still in his mouth while he shifted, then groaned.

“What’re you—”

“Stop. Talking. Oh fuck, yeah, that’s so fucking—” Words cut off and suddenly Henry felt a tongue, lips, teeth, on the skin of his groin, at the base of his cock. Another groan and Math’s weight pressed against him.

Masturbating. No. Jerking off. Rubbing one out. Math was rubbing one out right there kneeling on the ground at his feet, chewing on his skin.


Math came with a low sound of pleasure and abandon that Henry almost envied. What would it be like to make a sound like that? To come so hard you couldn’t control it? (Speaking of come, where was it? In his pants? On Henry’s? Dammit, no light. God, what if he walked back out with pants splattered in Math’s drying ejaculate? At least he could probably avoid the black lights if he skirted the edges of the bar.)

“How can you possibly be thinking that hard right now? Jeez, Henry. Take a break.”

“Excuse me?”

“You went all tense again. Which is kind of an insult to my blowjob, by the way.” Math sighed and got up, anchoring himself on Henry in a way that probably shouldn’t feel over-familiar, considering the afore-mentioned blowjob, but Henry found himself mildly offended by it anyway.

“I don’t do this often,” he muttered. Now to get out of here as quickly as possible.

“Never would’ve guessed. Oh, hey.”

A click. Bright white light took over Henry’s vision for a moment, then cleared.

Math grinned at him, the smirking flirt all over again. “Hey there.”

Of course, Math was completely reassembled in his clubbing ensemble, while Henry’s condom-covered cock still hung out of his pants. He flushed and half-turned away, humiliation turning swiftly to anger.

“No worries. I just couldn’t see before and didn’t want to make a mess. Sorry about that. Also, the biting at the end there. I, uh, didn’t think I could get off with the taste of latex in my mouth.”

Henry’s brain processed the words, but mostly shunted them off to mental storage while he dealt with his clothing.

“But hey, I found the light. That’s good, right? Next time you pull a trick back here, you’ll be able to see him go down on you.”

“There won’t be a next time.” I’m never coming here again, if it means I might randomly run into you, you pretentious ass.

“More’s the pity. This was a good find. Hey, so—”

Henry pushed past and opened the door, not looking up.

“Does this mean you aren’t gonna give me your phone number?” Math called down the hall after him.

Oh my god.

“Or at least a ‘good job’ and a pat on the head!”

Anything else Math may have said was lost to the thumping bass line of whatever drivel was pounding through the speakers.

Never again.

Henry escaped to his car and drove home.

* * *

What a fucking bust.

Math sat at a red light and tapped his steering wheel. What the hell just happened? Okay, so the guy had seemed a little uptight. But freaking the hell out and running off? Or shit, the look on his face when he saw his dick still out?

A bust.

So much for a last hurrah.

“Catch anything?” Sam asked as she let him into the house.

“Caught and released.”

“Sorry, babe.”

“How’s our girl?”

Sam shook her head. “Math. You gotta stop saying shit like that.”

He dropped his coat on the couch and flopped down. “Fuck it, Sam. I can’t do this right now.”

“Aw, bad night fishing?”

“I don’t fucking know. Seemed like it was going to be good, but—I don’t know, Sam. I think I didn’t take it seriously enough?”

“It-what? Tell me you didn’t go home with some stranger, Math. You have to be smarter—”

“I don’t need the ‘you’re a parent now’ lecture, Sam. She’s seven. And no, I didn’t.” But I would have. “It was just a fucking blowjob, but the guy skittered off. Hell, I don’t know why this is bothering me.”

“Uh huh.”

“You can’t read minds, Samantha.”

“No, babe. But I know you pretty well.”

She did. Undoubtedly. Math relented.

“I just thought, fuck, I don’t know, I guess I thought maybe since there’s literally no chance I could actually get serious about someone—” He broke off, aware of how superstitious and absurd it was.

“You’d meet Mr Right when you couldn’t possibly meet anyone?”

“Stupid, I know.”

“Still looking for the fairy tale, babe? Fuck him, whoever he was. You don’t need Mr Right.”

Math mustered a smile for her. “I’m gonna miss you too, you know.”

“You never know. Maybe I’m holding you back.”

“Oh, I’m sure that’s it. Now I can finally pretend I acquired Nova through a new surgical procedure implanting fertilized eggs in men.”

“Jesus. Shut your dirty mouth.”

They grinned at each other.

“What should I do about Nova? I mean—second grade feels big, Sam. Do you think she’s gonna have problems going into it after—not quite finishing first?”

“Nope. Have her do workbooks over the summer or something, she’ll be fine. And the new school will help, Math. She’s excited for it.”

“Yeah, I know. You’d tell me if this was a stupid idea, right, Sam?”

“It’s not a stupid idea. But you’re trading Mom and Dad for rolling hills.”

“I know. You sure you really want to spend the year in London? C’mon, Sammy. Stay here. We’ll get you a house down the street.”

“Maybe when I get back you can try to convince me of the merits of rural California, babe. Until then it’s fish and chips and the Tube for me.”

“Yeah, yeah. Anyway, the parents will come visit.”

“Only if you can promise they’ll have a gigabyte up-down and access to a Trader Joe’s.” She stood up and stretched. “All right. Move your ass off my bed, slacker. I don’t know if you realize this, but I’m moving to England in the morning.”

“Don’t remind me.”

They hadn’t lived on top of each other like this since they got divorced, but despite their mutual reservations, it had been a whole lot like summer camp. Between Math just getting his business rolling and Nova moving in permanently, he’d been deeply relieved to have Sam around for a few weeks.

“Sam, really. Thanks for putting up with me all these years.”

“Hey, I know, I’m amazing.”

“You really are.”

She kissed his cheek and shook out her blankets. “I’m gonna miss you, too, Matthew.”

“How poetic.”

“Go to bed.”

He raised a hand and walked down the hall to Nova’s room.

The house only had one previous owner, who’d had a little girl. The bedroom they left was light pink, with a strip of multicolored rabbits bouncing around the wallpaper trim.

Nova hated it.

“What kind of stupid jerk wants a pink room?” she’d asked tersely.

“I think—a little girl?”

Wrong answer. “Well, I’m not a little girl, Dad. I want black walls.”

“We’re not painting your walls black, Nova—”

“But we are having lunch. Come on, sous chef. Help me out in the kitchen.” After bustling Nova to the other part of the house, Sam had pointed at him and said, “You gotta learn when to shut your mouth.”

“But, she is—”

Sam didn’t even bother arguing. Sam just walked away.

Now, in darkness, only the Superman night light glowing in the corner, Math studied his daughter, snuggled deeply in her Avengers sheets. The walls were still pink, because they couldn’t compromise on a color (Nova would only agree to black; Math wouldn’t even consider black), but everything else in her room spoke of a little boy living there. Her rug featured Lego people in a Lego world; Sam had made her curtains out of a dark green fabric designed with many sizes of soccer balls; her bean bag chair was blue.

He’d demanded from Sam what the hell she was doing, but she’d shrugged and told him it was no big deal. This is the stuff Nova liked.

As he watched, she sighed and turned over, pulling her knees to her chest.

So fucking precious. So perfect. So confused.

Math walked quietly over and pressed a kiss to her cheek before back-tracking out of the room again.

The rest of the house was fully unpacked. Not so much the master bedroom. He grabbed his towel off the top of the bathroom door and stripped off his clothes. A shower. Bed. But before both, he checked his phone for messages.

Two emails, possible sites for a project he’d been coordinating. A voicemail message from—he glanced at the transcript—Moma Deal. Ha. Voice recognition had a ways to come, but Mom and Dad would be amused.

Had he fucked this up? He could probably live without Sam or without his folks, but he wasn’t really sure he could pull off this whole full-time father thing without either of them.

You’re about to find out, buddy boy.

But not tonight. Tonight he could take a damn shower in peace and think about the big breakfast he’d make in the morning for the three of them. Bacon, eggs, pancakes. They might even get to take a walk down to the Farmer’s Market before they had to pack Sam up for the ride to the airport. Or not. It was an hour and a half each way, now, not half an hour with traffic.

It’s not like Crown County was the middle of nowhere. It was up the hill from Sacramento. Rural, yes, but not totally isolated.


Because if they’d pulled Nova out of her overwhelming urban school, where the kids picked on her and the teachers had no energy to help, to drop her in some kind of backwater—

No. Stop.

He stood under hot water and let it pound on his scalp, thinking about the man at the club. Henry. He knew he was playing it a little too suave, but he thought the guy kind of liked it. Plus, that blowjob? Fuck, that was a magnificent blowjob. Screw Henry. If that was even his actual name.

He should probably get out. But since this was his last night standing in the shower without worrying that Nova might need something—his last night with someone else to rely on—he took a few extra minutes.

By the time Math climbed into bed, his brain had neatly put away the memory of sucking Henry’s latex-encased dick (and the memory of his hands finally coming home on Math’s head, when he let himself enjoy it). Now he was cataloging the things he still needed to do to get the house in order before school started, and all the loose ends from the old job that he could tie up before fully committing to the new one. He’d have to see about another dinner with Jen and Sandon once they were more settled. (Jen Li for Mayor! Li works hard so your money doesn’t have to! signs were all over town.) He didn’t want to rely too much on an old friendship, but it sure as hell wouldn’t hurt having a local perspective on development issues.

And schools.

Got any elementary schools up here where my daughter can pretend to be a boy? No?

Did such a thing even exist outside of San Francisco? (Should they have moved to San Francisco instead? Harder to start up a business, but easier to get laid.)

It was all done now, anyway. They were here. The house was great, the backyard put to shame the little square of grass and dog shit at their old apartment building, and more than anything else, this was what he wanted. For him. For Nova. He wanted her to be able to live in a house, in a neighborhood. Maybe they’d get a dog, even.

Or, okay, not a dog. Still. They’d be fine. He could take care of his daughter. Moms all over the world took care of kids on their own. Right?

And Sam was only going to be gone a year, after all.

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