Rendered Relationships #01 - Ben and Tim (young)
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The Woodlands, TX

1997

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Ben pressed his back to the bedroom door and bit his bottom lip to stop himself from smiling. He would have to give in eventually, considering who was sprawled out in his bed. Tim had his legs hanging over the edge of the mattress, his body reclined and twisted to one side so he could read the back of a CD case. Alice in Chains, if Ben wasn’t mistaken. Okay, so he knew exactly which CD it was and had left it lying around intentionally after Tim had teased him about listening to girl music. Whatever that meant. Was it Ben’s fault that the ladies had the best voices? He didn’t need to prove his masculinity, but he did want to show that his music tastes were varied, and Facelift was one beautifully produced album. That’s why Ben had chosen it. Now he regretted doing so because Tim was still absorbed in the album art.

Ben casually reached behind him to push the little button on the door knob. This caused a metallic clink, which was enough for Tim to raise his head. He knew what that sound meant! Or maybe not.

“Why are you locking the door?” Tim asked.

“Why do you think?” Ben asked, slowly walking forward. The weather was heating up, and for whatever reason, that always made him hornier than usual.

“Your parents are home,” Tim said, eyes widening with trademark paranoia.

Ben shrugged. “So?”

“So they could hear us.”

“Oh no,” Ben deadpanned. “Like they haven’t heard us a million times already. We might be a secret to your parents, but mine are in the know. Besides, they’re cooking dinner together. We’ve got half an hour of guaranteed privacy, maybe more.”

“It’s a mood killer,” Tim persisted.

“Or an appetite enhancer,” Ben said. “I was hoping for some Mexican sausage myself.” He stopped his approach and made a face. “Does something like that exist?”

“Chorizo,” Tim said with a laugh. “And if mine looked anything like that, I’d have you drive me to the emergency room again.”

Ben sighed. “Fine, have it your way. Wanna see what’s on TV?”

Tim didn’t answer the question. Instead he was looking Ben over, like he often did when in the mood. “It is kind of hot in here.”

“Totally!” Ben said. “Way too hot for all those clothes. Here, let me help you out of them.”

Tim grinned, tossed the CD aside, and sat up. This made it easier for Ben to strip off Tim’s shirt. Nothing could restrain Ben’s grin as Tim leaned back again and casually tensed the muscles of his torso. Yum! Ben was about to fall to his knees and reach for a zipper when Tim spoke.

“Now show me yours.”

“My what?” Ben said demurely.

“Your muscles.”

Ben rolled his eyes. “You know I don’t have any.”

“You’ve got little tiny ones,” Tim said. “Take off your shirt.”

“Stop making fun of me and maybe I will,” Ben retorted.

Tim looked confused. “I wasn’t making fun of you. I love your body.”

Ben froze. Was that the L-word? The one that Tim had never ever spoken, or at least never applied to him before. The closest was two months ago during Valentine’s Day, when Tim had seemed to teeter on the verge of saying it. But he hadn’t.

“I mean it,” Tim added. Then he smiled. “You turn me on. That’s gotta be obvious by now, right?”

“Of course,” Ben said, trying to play it cool. He bent over and shrugged out of his shirt, letting it drop to the floor. Then he tried flexing, but instead of a gasp, he heard laughter. “You’re such a dick!”

“I am a dick,” Tim said, still chuckling. “A big fat hard dick.”

God that sounded good! Ben pounced, Tim lying flat to accommodate him. As horny as Ben was, he didn’t go straight for the jeans. Instead he pressed his lips to Tim’s, his mind drifting to the weighty implications of that word again. Love. Ben knew he couldn’t force Tim to say it. He had tried that before and failed. He shouldn’t be greedy either. This time last year Ben was alone and worried that he’d never find a boyfriend. Now he had one who just happened to be the hottest guy in school. At least Ben thought so. His boyfriend was one of the popular kids too! Never had Ben dreamt of such a thing. And yet, he still wanted more.

Ben pulled back, breaking the kiss. “Do you feel like you knew me, even before we met?”

“Sure,” Tim said, craning his neck for another kiss.

“Seriously!”

“Knew you before we met,” Tim murmured to himself. Then his head hit the mattress. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“It doesn’t have to.”

Tim furrowed his brow. Then he shrugged. “In that case, yes. Now keep kissing me.”

That was an impossible request to ignore, but after a few halfhearted smooches, Ben pulled back again. “Do you sometimes hear my heartbeat, even when we’re not together?”

Tim looked incredulous. “No! That would scare the hell out of me!”

Ben tried again. “Or maybe you say my name just before you fall asleep? Or right when you wake up?”

Tim shook his head. “Have you gone crazy?”

Ben rolled over to one side. “Never mind.”

“What? I don’t get it.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It must, because things were getting hot, but now you’ve gone cold.”

Ben exhaled. “It just that… Ronnie says the nicest things to Allison.”

“Like how he can hear her heart from miles away?” Tim snorted. “That’s one useless superpower.”

“It’s romantic!” Ben said with a glare. “You could learn a thing or two from him.”

“I just told you that I love your body!”

“Yeah, but that’s sexual.” Ben looked away. “You never say what else you love.”

Tim groaned. “Not this again.”

“Yes this again!” Ben said. “I don’t get why it’s such a big deal!”

Tim sat upright and reached for his shirt. “They’re just words, Benjamin. They don’t mean anything.”

“Then it shouldn’t matter. Just say it!”

“Fine.” Tim dropped the shirt and turned around to face him. “You know who I love? Do you have any idea who I want to spend the rest of my life with? The guy I’m talking about is my soulmate. He means everything to me. I love him more than anyone.”

Ben’s heart was thudding. “Who?”

“Bryce Hunter.”

Ben stared. Then he started to climb out of bed until Tim grabbed an ankle to stop him. “Let go!”

“Nope.” Tim did release him, but only to loop an arm around his waist. Then he yanked, pulling Ben back into bed.

“We’re so over,” Ben said, struggling to get free, but it was no use, because Tim climbed on top to pin him down. “Go back to Krista, I don’t care. I’m dating Ronnie Adams now.”

“You’re dating me,” Tim said.

“You’re a jerk!”

“I was trying to show you how empty words are,” Tim said. “Anyone can say whatever springs to mind—whatever they know the other person wants to hear—but that doesn’t make it true.”

“So what is the truth?” Ben said, feeling vulnerable.

Tim lowered himself. “Can I show you?”

“No,” Ben said, pushing at his chest.

Tim ducked his head beneath Ben’s arms. “Please. Let me show you how I feel.”

Ben hesitated. “So you do feel something?”

Tim’s face came closer to his own. “Can’t you tell?”

Ben stared into silver eyes, trying to discover the truth there. He thought he saw it too, but it was difficult to be sure. Maybe he was only seeing what he wanted to. Perhaps no one ever knew what another person truly felt. Not definitively, but Tim wasn’t attempting to kiss him anymore. He wasn’t grinding against him and trying to take things further. He simply held himself above Ben, his gaze never wavering, like a promise that what they had together would never falter. Like it would last forever.

“Okay,” Ben said, wrapping his legs around Tim’s waist. “Show me everything.”

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