Ash and Ember

Ash and Ember - Chapter 13: Growing Pains

Chapter 13: Growing Pains

26 November 2018, Monday 6:00 AM

Grant's phone chimed, and Troy reached across the sleeping man. He turned off the alarm, and he lay back down. Troy curled around Grant, and he enjoyed the last few moments of warmth and coziness before they both had to get up.

Grant was still out, and Troy smiled. He always loved this time of the day with John. He'd slowly wake John with soft touches, little kisses, and gentle prodding to get his man out of bed. Grant wasn't exactly "his." Troy knew that. But as he began to rub Grant's chest, he still found himself laying those sweet, gentle kisses on his neck.

'This isn't something you do with a hook-up. It's not something you do with someone who's just for fun.' Troy knew it. 'So what are you doing? What do you want from him?'

There wasn't much more time for self-reflection. Grant stirred, and he stretched against Troy's body. He made a faint sound, and he smiled. "I like this."

Troy grinned, and he got up on an elbow. He looked down at Grant. "Yeah?" His black hair was wild, and Troy patted his head. He giggled as it sprang up, back into its crazy shape. Grant lay on his side, had his eyes closed, and he frowned. Then he grunted as Troy continued to mess with his hair. "Oh, grouchy!" Troy laughed. Then he leaned down and put his face at Grant's neck. He rubbed his chin and lips against the skin and breathed in Grant's scent. "I like waking up like this too, Grant."

Grant and Troy lay together for a bit longer. But eventually, they had to get up. Grant stood. He looked so sleepy and handsome. Troy stepped close, and he put his arms around him. The two men stood together - Grant's head on Troy's shoulder, and his eyes closed. Troy rubbed the back of his head and down his back.

"You're warm," Grant murmured.

Troy grinned. "So are you." He pushed back a little and looked at Grant. "You're also gonna be late if you don't get moving." He patted Grant's rump. "Get in the shower. I'll go start the coffee."

Grant nodded. Troy started to walk downstairs, and Grant grabbed his wrist. Troy stopped and looked at him. Grant's brown eyes stared, then he pulled Troy in close. He looked over Troy's face, then he reached, put a hand on the back of Troy's neck, and he leaned in for a gentle kiss.

It lasted for a bit. And Troy enjoyed it immensely. When Grant pulled back, he smiled. "Ah, you just, you look so great." He laughed at himself. "I had to kiss you."

Their pelvises were pressed together. Troy was now hard, and so was Grant. But he knew they didn't have time for that. "Well, there's no accounting for taste." He laughed. Then he gripped Grant's butt and humped once. "You better get in that shower. You get me going, and you really WILL be late."

Grant grinned. Then he turned and stripped off his briefs.

With one final look at Grant's perfect rear, Troy walked downstairs. His cock tented his boxers and looked obscene as he walked through the house. He flipped on the coffee pot, and he blew out a breath. "God, I'm acting like he's my fucking husband." He leaned against the counter, and he stared at the coffee as it began to run through into the carafe.

'You don't really know him. You don't know what he wants, not really. You don't know what he's gonna do.' Troy bit his lip. "I don't know if I can handle this going wrong." He stood and rubbed his face. "Maybe I should dial things back."

'Do what you need to do, baby. But don't be afraid to chase whatever is gonna make you happy.'

John hadn't spoken to him in days. Troy's face slackened into a look of sadness mixed with surprise. "You aren't mad at me?"

No response. His hallucination of John had never responded to him directly, so Troy didn't expect it. But he still had to ask the question.

The shower cut off upstairs, and Troy wiped at his face. His eyes were heavy with unshed tears, and he didn't need Grant to wonder if he was okay. He took a few breaths, then he started up the stairs.

Grant walked, naked out of the bathroom, and they met as Troy made it to the landing. Troy openly looked Grant up and down. "Good god, get some clothes on." He shifted his penis as it began to wake up again. "You're a dangerous distraction!"

Grant laughed, and he gave Troy that lopsided grin of his.

As Grant turned to enter his bedroom and to find some clothes, Troy bit his lip. 'Okay. Let's just see where this thing goes.'

___________________________________

26 November 2018, Monday 12:10 PM

Grant just left the room of his last patient for the morning. Rhett brushed by him in the hallway, a tray of vaccinations in hand. "Twinrix and flu, is that it, Grant?" Rhett looked at Grant, and he put his hand on the door to enter the patient room and administer the shots.

"Yeah." Grant smiled at him, and he shook his head. "Damn, you're fast Rhett. I just put those into the computer a few minutes ago."

The small man grinned. "I'm motivated. It's lunchtime!" Then he pushed into the room and closed the door behind him.

Grant walked down the hall back toward his shared office, and he checked his phone. 'Oh. Facebook.' He entered the room, and he took a seat at his computer. He was now on his lunch break, so he opened the app on his phone.

Grant pulled his food out of his bag while he waited for his phone to load. He packed a can of tuna, an apple, and a few sticks of celery. Luckily there was nobody else in the office, so he felt okay about eating his fish. He peeled back the tab and opened the can.

He checked his phone and took a bite of his apple. There was an invitation to an event there. Grant snorted at the event title. 'Space Cowboys?' He opened the invitation. 'You're invited to partake of the greatest show to ever be canceled. Firefly marathon begins, this Saturday. Be there!  It's gonna be Shiny!'

The invite was from Brian, and the location was Georgette and Aaron's house, just next door to Grant's home. He looked, bemused at the invitation. "Firefly?" He chewed, and then looked at the invitees. He saw what he expected. He, Troy, Brian, Natalie, Georgette, and Aaron were all invited. Everyone but he and Troy had accepted.

"Hrmm." He pulled up his text messages. 'Hey, Troy. You see this invite from Brian? You wanna go?' He sent the message.

Grant put down his phone, and he began to eat his fish. He was nearly finished with the can when Troy responded. 'Yeah, that sounds fun. How about you?'

'I could use this as a chance to get to know Troy's friends better.' Grant swallowed his food as he thought. He nodded to himself. Grant tapped out a response with his thumbs. 'Sure. We should find out if we need to take anything over.'

He sent the message, then went back to Facebook. He accepted the invitation. Seconds later, another text from Troy appeared. 'I'll ask. This is gonna be fun!'

Grant smiled, then his face fell a little. He thought about how he was going to present to the group, and what, if anything, he would reveal about his changing relationship with Troy. It made his stomach turn to think about others knowing - even Troy's friends. 'They don't have to know.' Grant nodded to himself. 'Yeah. Just watch how much you drink, and they don't have to know. It'll be fine.'

Grant went back to his computer. He pulled up his first afternoon appointment and read through the chief complaint. He'd already done a lot of pre-work, but he wanted to be ready for the afternoon clinic.

He made a few notes to himself, and he crunched on a celery stick. As he did, he checked the invite on the phone again. He chewed, and he stared at the names on the list. 'Yeah. Nobody but Troy and me have to know.' That made Grant feel a little better.

___________________________________

30 November 2018, Friday 6:17 AM

The rest of the week passed, in much the same manner as it began. Troy and Grant continued to sleep in the same bed, and the men slowly grew more comfortable with one another.

Troy had a couple of jobs too, so he got to put a little money in the bank account. In fact, he had earned enough to pay Grant for his rent, just from one of those jobs. The rest was gravy and went directly into his savings. Troy happily watched his account balances climb.

He couldn't quite believe the difference now in his life compared to only a few weeks ago. He went from homeless and sleeping in a van, with almost no money, to living back in his old house, and with a few thousand dollars in the bank.

But the most significant change for him was the drastic shift in his happiness. He felt so good, and his optimism for the future continued to climb. And every day that passed, this thing with Grant increased in intensity.

He didn't know what to call it. It was far more than sex to him, even though they'd never actually done anything Troy would qualify as sex. Sure, they both got off with one another. But there was never penetration, and Grant had even shied away from oral sex. Troy wasn't sure when Grant would be ready for it, but Troy also still enjoyed what they were doing.

To smooth the way, Troy went and got himself tested. He knew he would be negative for everything, and there were no surprises on that count. He also let it slip to Grant that he'd been to the public health department. Troy could almost see how Grant filed away the information in his mind. He also noticed the slightly nervous look Grant gave him. Troy thought he understood it. 'It's becoming real to him. He's thinking about sex with me, and what that means for him.'

“I don’t expect anything from you, Grant.” Troy tried to reassure him. “I’m having a lot of fun with you. We’ll go at your speed, and do what you’re comfortable doing.” Troy remembered the conversation from earlier in the week. It seemed to help Grant relax a bit.

It was finally Friday. Troy knew Grant could sleep in on Fridays, and he lay quietly with the man. Troy often woke early, and today he used that time to listen to the quiet, rhythmic sounds of Grant’s breaths. Troy very carefully rose up on his elbow, and he gazed down at Grant's slightly stubbled face.

'God, he's beautiful.' It almost hurt Troy to look at him. He felt something so deep, and so powerful in his chest. It mimicked what he had once with John. And to Troy that was both amazing and terrifying. 'Can I really do this again? Can I burn that bright for someone again?'

Grant swallowed as he lay there, and his mouth worked as he woke up. Then he slowly blinked. He turned his head, and he looked up at Troy.

The two of them stared at one another. As Troy watched, Grant's eyes roamed over his face. Grant reached up, and he put a hand on the side of Troy's head. Troy leaned into his touch. Grant blew out a slow breath, and he blinked. A tear streaked down from his eye, to soak into the pillow under his head.

Grant squeezed his eyes shut, and more tears flowed from him. "I don't know what you've done to me." He opened his teary eyes and blinked to clear them. Then he refocused on Troy's face. "I've never, never felt like this." He shook his head. "I don't know what to call this, Troy."

"We don't have to call it anything, Grant." Troy rubbed his thumb on Grant's cheek and wiped away his tear.

Grant looked at him a moment more, and he wet his lips. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Ask me anything, Grant." Troy began to softly stroke Grant's face, his fingers barely brushed Grant's skin.

The black-haired man closed his eyes. He made a small, appreciative noise as Troy's fingertips moved over his face. "How did you know you loved John? What did it feel like?"

Troy kept petting Grant. "God, that's a question." He took a breath. "Okay, I'll tell you, but it's not a simple thing."

Grant smiled, his eyes still closed. "Okay."

"I first knew I loved John only a week after I met him, my first week of high school." Troy laughed quietly. "When I was around him, I felt giddy and weird. I felt like I couldn't say the right things. My brain just misfired. And sometimes, I'd be speechless. My chest felt like it would burst." He bit his lip. "When I wasn't around him, I'd miss him so badly. Even if we were apart for only a day - I would ache for him."

Grant had opened his eyes, and he stared at Troy as he talked. Grant had such an indescribable expression on his face. "How'd you tell him?"

Troy chuckled. "I didn't. I chickened out. He's the one who told me. We were both seniors, and we had been friends through all of high school. Both of us were 17, and that night we stayed at a mutual friend's place." Troy smiled sadly. "Both his and my parents didn't really want us being friends. So this was the only way we could hang out after school."

Troy smiled as he thought back on that night. "Ah, I'm pretty sure Stacy was trying to get us together. Neither of us told her we were gay, but she knew.   Her parents must have known too, because they didn't have a problem with us bunking in the same room as her.  Anyway, we were hanging out, all of us, in Stacy's room. Then it was time for bed. John and I took the extra bed in her room. And she said she was going to sleep on the couch. She said I snore, and that she couldn't sleep in the same room as me."

Grant grinned. "You don't snore."

"I know. John said the same thing after she left." Troy laughed. "Anyway, we're laying there. And John suddenly gets up on his elbow, looks down at me and goes, "'you know I love you, right?'"

Grant's eyes were intense, and he stared at Troy. "What'd you say?"

Troy grinned. "I couldn't even help what came out of my mouth next. I said, 'I love you too, John. I love you a lot.'" Troy took a deep breath and let it out. "And that was the first night I kissed a boy." He gave Grant a sheepish grin. "And the first night I helped another guy have an orgasm."

Grant smiled. Then over the span of about ten seconds, it melted. His eyes lost focus, and he blinked. "Were you scared? To admit it?"

"It was fucking terrifying," Troy observed Grant's face. "It was such a leap, especially for John, you know? What if I didn't feel the same way?" He shook his head. "I'm so glad he was brave."

Grant closed his eyes. Troy smiled down at him, then he lay back against Grant. Troy pulled him close, his chest to Grant's back. "I know what love is, Grant." He softly kissed the back of Grant's neck. "And I'm not going to wait four years this time." Troy breathed as he lay there. "I know it has only been a couple of weeks, but I love you, Grant. I know I do."

Troy couldn't see Grant's face. But Grant reached and gripped Troy's hand that rested on Grant's chest. He squeezed Troy's hand, and Troy heard Grant breathe slowly and deeply. After a few breaths, he rolled so that he faced Troy.

Grant's face held equal measures of fear and wonder. "I feel for you, all those things you described about John."

Troy looked openly at Grant. He stretched, and he lay a single, soft kiss on Grant's forehead. While his lips were against Grant's skin, he whispered, "will you trust me, Grant?" Grant nodded. "Okay." Troy rolled on top of Grant. "If you don't want this, then just say so."

Troy stood up beside the bed, and he stripped his shorts. Grant watched him, and he removed his own underwear. Then Troy climbed back on top of Grant.

The skinny man kissed Grant, and he rubbed his ass against Grant's groin. Grant pulled back, his mouth open and he breathed hard. Troy could already feel Grant's cock leaking precome, sticky and wet against his butt.

Troy was thankful they were in his room this time, as he needed an essential item for what he planned. Troy reached and opened the drawer in the nightstand. A small bottle of lotion was in the drawer, and he dispensed a generous amount into his palm. Troy stared down at Grant as he reached behind himself, and he took Grant's erect cock in hand.

Grant's eyes closed as Troy stroked him, and smeared the lotion over his shaft. Then Troy rubbed his slippery hand on his own backside.

Troy shifted until the head of Grant's cock pressed against him. He watched Grant's face. "Tell me to stop, and I will, Grant."

In response, Grant gripped Troy's hips, and he pushed his own pelvis up. The motion was gentle, but Troy felt the unmistakable sensation of a penis attempting to enter his body. He grinned down at Grant. "All right." He wriggled a bit to line up better, then he exhaled and attempted to relax.

He'd not bottomed in almost two years. John rarely wanted to screw, and so Troy was nearly exclusively the top in their relationship. Troy liked both screwing and getting screwed, so when John wanted to fuck him, it was always welcome. And luckily, his soreness and injured skin on his ass were all healed up now.

Thanks to the span of time that had passed since last he'd done it, it was a little tough going. But he was motivated, and he knew what to do. And it wasn't long before Grant entered him. Troy breathed. Grant's body was eager, and Troy had to hold his hips still. "Easy. Hang on." He grinned at the man beneath him. Slowly, Troy let himself settle on Grant.

Grant stared up at Troy. "I can't believe this is happening." His hands roamed over Troy's chest, stomach, and his hard, dripping penis. Troy leaked almost constantly, and precome drooled out of him, to run down his long shaft.

Troy's head went back, and he finally sat completely on Grant's hips. "Mmmmm." He reached down and gripped his wet member. Troy began to stroke himself, and he moved his hips to slide up and down on Grant.

"Ah, ah god." Grant stared in wonder up at Troy. His face was incredulous. "This is," he swallowed, and his eyes rolled back in his skull, "ah, god." His hands gripped Troy's waist.

Troy looked down at Grant. "You're so handsome, Grant." He never lasted long when he had a cock inside him, and today was not going to be any different. "I'm gonna finish soon." His voice had a desperate, husky edge.

Grant's head went back. And Troy felt the man push up with his hips. His cock speared deep into Troy's body, and Grant held his breath.

Troy felt him come. Grant breathed in a huff of air, and he continued to buck himself up into Troy's body.

Troy unloaded. And it was a massive amount. He shot all over Grant's chest, belly, and a long streak on Grant's neck. Troy groaned, and he kept at it. Grant stared at his cock in fascination as Troy came. Then, finally, Troy shuddered, and he sat still.

Grant's hands came up off of Troy's hips.  He held them up and off of his messy body as he looked at himself. "Holy crap! That was so much semen!"

Troy gave him a sheepish grin. "Ah, yeah. I've always shot big loads, and leak a lot of precome." He shrugged. "I guess my body really wants to make babies."

Grant laughed. "Wow."

Troy snagged a towel from the drawer that he kept handy, for just such a purpose. He mopped Grant up as best as he could. All the while Grant's hard cock was still inside him.

He finished with the towel, and he threw it on the floor near the door. Then he looked down at Grant.

Those brown eyes gazed up at him. They sat that way a moment, then Grant sighed. "Well, I think that settles it." He smiled. "I'm in love with you, Troy."

___________________________________

01 December 2018, Saturday 8:45 AM

It was Saturday morning, and Grant squinted against the heat of the oven. He used a couple of potholders to reach in and carefully remove the bubbling, cheesy mess that was in a baking dish. He put the heavy container up on the stove, and he looked at the oily surface.

"Is it supposed to be so greasy?" Grant looked over at Troy as he walked into the kitchen.

Troy stepped up next to him, and he slipped an arm easily around Troy's shoulders. "Yup. That's part of its charm."

Grant shot him a look. Troy made something he called buffalo chicken dip. Buffalo wing sauce, cream cheese, shredded chicken, and then a mix of grated cheddar and mozzarella. It was a party pleaser, according to Troy. He knew all of his friends liked it, and it was often his dish Troy contributed to get-togethers. Troy smacked Grant's ass. "It's not like you won't just burn off those calories anyway. You'll be fine."

Troy hugged Grant from behind, and he snuggled up against him. Grant laughed. "Okay, fine." He patted Troy's arms that were crossed over his abdomen. "I'm sure it's amazing." Grant looked at the time on the stove, and he shook his head. "We're seriously going to be over there for almost thirteen hours?"

"Yeah!" Troy squeezed Grant and shook him back and forth in his excitement. "It's gonna be awesome. I love Firefly!"

Grant had never seen the series, or the movie, Serenity. He had no idea what the fuss was about. But, he'd be with Troy. And this was his chance to integrate himself a little more with Troy's friends. Though there was something that bothered him, and he didn't know exactly how to bring it up to Troy. He figured the best way was to be plain and upfront.

Grant turned around in Troy's arms. "Hey, so I want to talk to you about, uh, about how we talk about you and me over there."

"Yeah?" Troy's eyes were hopeful. "Go ahead."

Grant grimaced. "Uh, can we just keep things between us?" Troy's face fell, and Grant hurried to amend his request. "Just until I'm ready. I'm sorry. I'm not ready for everyone to know."

Troy looked down. He was obviously disappointed. Troy swallowed, and he nodded, but he didn't look Grant in the eye.

"Troy. Come on." Grant put his hand under Troy's chin, and he pulled up until Troy looked at him. Grant smiled at him. "This is something I need to work though, without everybody pushing me, okay?" Grant got the impression that Troy had already fielded some inquiries from his friends, just from the way he acted, and he wanted things clear before they went over.

Troy bit his lip, then he sighed. "Okay. Sure." Troy gave him a tiny smile. "Don't wait too long, okay? I'm proud of you, and I kinda want to tell people. Well, just my friends."

"Yeah. I know." Grant made a face. "Look, I don't want you to lie for me. But if anybody asks if something is going on, tell them to ask me, okay? Does that work?"

Troy still looked uncomfortable, but he nodded. "Yeah. That works."

That'd have to do. "Okay, good." Grant gave him a big smile. "Thanks, Troy. I won't take too long, all right?"

Troy pressed his lips into a thin line, and he nodded. "Sure. Sounds good."

Grant frowned at him as he turned away. 'Man, this is really a downer for Troy.' He could tell keeping their new relationship a secret was a problem. And he understood why - those people were the most important things in Troy's life. And he asked Troy to keep something huge from them. Grant sighed. 'I'll fix it soon,' he promised himself.

The two guys gathered their coats. Then Grant walked beside him while Troy carried his baking dish of spicy, cheesy, chicken-filled contribution over.

"Brian and Natalie are already here. Cool." Troy noticed the car on the street beside the driveway.

They navigated the icy walkway up to the door. Then Grant knocked. Seconds later, Aaron opened the door. He lay an enormous grin on them. "Hey, guys!" He reached. "Here, I'll take it." Then his eyes widened. "Oh shit. Is this that chicken dip you make?"

Troy smiled. "Yep." He carefully handed the dish over, pot-holders and all. "It's still hot, so be careful."

Aaron made a hungry sound as he turned with the prize. He went inside, and the pair followed close behind. Grant shut the door after they stepped in out of the cold.

Grant heard happy chatter inside the house. He entered the living room, behind Aaron and Troy to find Brian, Georgette, and Natalie all talking around the coffee table.

"Hey, guys!" Natalie peeled off and intercepted Troy. She gave him a big hug, while Brian's attention was snagged by the dish Aaron carried to the kitchen.

"Bro, did you make your chicken dip?" Brian called to Troy and followed Aaron as he put the dish down on the kitchen counter.

Grant laughed. "Wow. You were not joking about that dip."

Troy grinned. "I told you!"

"The boys have missed your signature dish, Troy." Georgette waited her turn, then when Natalie released Troy she went in for her own hug.

Grant got the same treatment from the ladies. He had to admit, it was nice to have this built-in circle of friends. They all seemed to genuinely care for Troy, and that was precisely what Troy needed.

Brian came back with a small bowl of the hot, cheesy dip. He placed it on the coffee table where there were all sorts of snack foods. He snagged a corn chip and scooped up a bit of the stuff. "Good to see you guys." He eyed Grant. "Have you ever seen Firefly?" Brian ate his bite, and he gave an appreciative groan as he chewed.

"No." Grant smiled. "But I did a little reading on the series. It sounds crazy."

There were stone-cold severe faces around him all of a sudden. "You didn't read anything that gave away the plot, right?" Aaron's voice was almost panicked.

"Ah, no." Grant nearly laughed as everyone in the room sighed in relief. "Wow. You guys really like this series."

Brian put an arm around his shoulders. "Good. And yes, we really do."

"Some of us more than others." Natalie gave Brian a look. He shrugged, wholly unapologetic and grinned.

Conversation began again. It was natural, comfortable, and unforced. It was what happened with folks who knew one another well, liked each other, and appreciated what it was each brought to the group.

Brian struck Grant as the passionate one. He was the guy who stuck up for his friends, the guy who hit threats to the group head on. Natalie was his foil. She brought him back down to Earth and helped to ground him. They seemed to fit well. Grant also noticed that Natalie watched him when the others didn't. She was observant. Aaron was more flexible. He tended to take things as they came, and adjust on the fly. He was probably the closest to Grant's own personality, and Grant could see himself becoming better friends with him than the rest of the group. Georgette was another matter. She was brash, outspoken, and voiced what was on her mind. Troy tried to warn Grant about her. "Georgette can be a lot to handle at first. But just remember, she doesn't mean any harm. She's just, well, Georgette."

Grant watched the friends mingle, laugh, and talk. Each seemed to make a point to include him, and he appreciated that.

'Maybe I can tell them,' he thought as Aaron announced that they were about to start the Firefly marathon. 'Maybe.'

The friends settled in on the couch, an armchair, and a kitchen chair. Troy sat at one end of the sofa and Georgette moved the kitchen chair over to the end next to Troy. "Grant? You wanna take the chair?"

Grant had already planned to sit in the chair beside Troy, but something in the way she asked rang his alarm bells. He glanced around the room, and all of the other friends looked at Georgette with a sort of cringing expression.

She made a face and gave a watery smile. "Heh. Uh, or wherever." She quickly took her seat at the other end of the couch.

Grant felt the first inkling of embarrassment, and his skin tingled as he flushed red. He stood by the chair, and Troy was close by. The tall man stepped near him. "Grant? You okay?" Troy whispered to him.

Grant flexed his hands, and he could feel all the eyes in the room on him. "They all know." His voice was low, and it wavered with barely restrained anger.

Troy looked miserable. "Please, don't be upset. They figured it out."

Grant closed his eyes. It was out there now. There was no putting his sexuality back into the box. There was no going back.

"Excuse me." Grant stumbled toward the door.

There was dead silence in the room as he exited.  He closed the door, turned and walked quickly to his own house.

Grant entered, shut the door, and he leaned against it, his head back on the wood. He stood there and tried hard to calm his heart.

He jumped when the knock came.

"Troy, I'm not in the mood right now." Grant was angry and hurt, and it showed in his voice.

"It's Brian. Open up, Grant. Let's talk."


Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link.   Wayne Gray

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