“Hey, Owen?” His friend, Penny, came up behind Owen and made him jump. “Are you still looking for an apartment?”
“Well, my brother’s moved into a new apartment a few months ago, and he’s looking for a roommate.”
“What’s he like? And where’s the apartment?”
“It’s down near the river. Nate’s really nice. He can pay the rent no problem, he just needs… company. Would you like to meet him, to see if you think you’d like to live with him?”
“Yeah. I might as well.” Owen shrugged.
“Are you free on Friday?” He nodded. “We’ll see you at Ruby’s bar, at six.”
Owen arrived at Ruby’s at six that Friday. He saw Penny sat at a table beside the window and went to join her. He kissed her in greeting, and slid into the seat opposite her. She handed him a pint of lager. He sipped it thankfully, before glancing around. “Nate’s not here yet?” Penny shook her head. “So, what’s he like?”
“Well, he’s shy. I mean, really shy.” Penny smiled. “It was an effort getting him to come tonight.”
“He doesn’t want a roommate?”
“I don’t think it’s that,” said Penny. “I think he’d love the company. It’s just…” She paused. “When Nate was fourteen, and realised he was gay, our parents threw him out. He went to live with our grandma. It was… a blow. He hasn’t spoken to mum and dad since. On the way to grandma’s, he… Well, there was an accident. It made Nate retreat into himself more. He was really quiet, even before the accident. I think the crash was just a… catalyst.”
“Was he involved in the accident? Or did he just see it?” Owen asked curiously.
“A car ran a red light and hit him as he was crossing the road. It threw him thirty yards.” Owen winced.
“Was he alright?”
“He lost his sight.” Said a beautiful, musical voice from behind Owen. He whipped around to see Penny’s brother stood behind him, scowling in Penny’s general direction. Nathan Weaver was about six two, with a slim build. He had dark brown hair, a smiling mouth and the most beautiful eyes Owen had ever seen. They were chocolate brown, and very expressive. They seemed to twinkle constantly. His torso was slender but defined, and he had long legs. A gorgeous golden retriever was stood by his side, wearing a luminous harness. Nate slipped into the seat beside Penny, commanding the dog to lie beneath the table, out of the way. “I’ve told you before about talking to strangers about me.” Nate growled in a low voice. Owen glanced away uncomfortably, forgetting Nate couldn’t see him.
“He’s not a stranger. He’s Owen. I’ve know him for years.” said Penny.
“He’s a stranger to me.” Nate snapped.
“Fine,” said Penny impatiently, standing up. “My friend’s over at the bar. I’m going to go and talk to her. You two can get to know each other, and then you won’t be strangers.” Nate rolled his eyes and turned away from her. Owen waited until she was gone, before he turned to Nate.
“Sorry.” He said apologetically. “I wanted to know what you were like.”
“It’s okay.” Nate said after a short pause. “So, what did she tell you?”
“Just that you were very shy and she thinks you’d like a roommate to help you come out of your shell a bit.” Nate raised his eyebrows. “She said your parents threw you out and you were in an accident on your way to your grandma’s.” Nate paused.
“Did she tell you why my parents kicked me out?”
“Yeah.” Nate flushed and turned away.
“Is that… going to be a problem?” He asked quietly. “I mean… Me being… and you… living with…” He shrugged and broke off, embarrassed. Owen smiled to himself.
“No. It’s not a problem at all.” He said gently. “You see… I’m gay too.”
“You are?” Nate blinked in surprise. “Oh… okay.”
“Well, you don’t… sound… gay.”
“Neither do you,” said Owen with a grin.
“I suppose.” Nate was quiet for a moment. “This wasn’t a set up, was it?” He asked suddenly.
“What?” Nate sighed in annoyance.
“Penny has been going on for a while now about me getting a boyfriend and settling down. She didn’t… She hasn’t told that I’m… looking, has she?”
“No.” said Owen. “She just said she thought you needed a roommate.”
“Oh… good.” Nate looked relived.
“So, you’re not looking?” Owen asked. Nate shook his head. “How come?” Nate shrugged.
“I just… sometimes I want a boyfriend. But other times, I think…” He shook his head. “I want someone who wants me, for me.”
“So, go find that.” said Owen.
“Yeah… Because it’s that easy.” Nate sighed. “People see Shadow and… they don’t want the hassle.” He patted his guide dog.
“That’s life.” Said Nate bitterly. “They don’t want the baggage.” Owen squeezed his hand gently. Nate looked surprised at the contact. After a second, he withdrew his hand and laid it instead on Shadow’s head. “Why are you so interested anyway?” Owen shrugged.
“You seem like a nice guy.” He said. “It’s not fair that people should judge you the minute they see you.” Nate smiled to himself.
“So, you didn’t judge me?” he asked. “When you saw Shadow?”
“No.” Said Owen truthfully. Nate snorted derisively.
“I don’t believe you.”
“I don’t care,” said Owen firmly. “As a doctor, I’ve learnt not to judge people for what they appear to be. My first week at work, I treated a woman who was really aggressive. She would shout, swear, and become violent towards us. I judged her to be a selfish cow who was used to getting her own way. It turned out that she had a brain tumour. We removed the tumour, and she was actually the nicest person you could ever want to meet.” He paused. “But… it’s more than just being a doctor. It’s… my past. The things I did when I was a teenager… if people knew about my past, they would judge me. And I’m not like that now.”
“What did you do?” Nate asked curiously. Owen grinned.
“I’m not telling you that yet.” He said.
“‘Yet’?” Nate grinned.
“When we know each other a bit better,” said Owen. Nate smiled shyly.
“So, we’re… we’re going to know each other better?”
“Yeah, I think so. If you’ll have me,” said Owen. Nate nodded.
“You seem nice.” He said quietly. “I get a good feeling from you.” Owen smiled to himself. Nate fell silent for a moment, and sipped his drink. “Do you want to come over tonight and see the apartment? To see if you like it.”
“Sure.” Owen finished his drink. “Do you want another drink, or shall we go now?”
“I think we’d better go now,” said Nate. “Shadow can’t handle me very well when I’m drunk.” Owen laughed.
“Okay. Hang on a second for me to pay, and we can go.”
“Hang on.” said Nate. He reached for his wallet. Owen batted his hand away.
“I’m paying.” He said firmly.
“No buts.” Owen went to pay, ignoring Nate's protests. He saw Penny at the bar and grinned at her. “We’re going back to see the apartment.” He said.
“I assume you want me to stay here.” Penny smiled. Owen shrugged.
“Well… I don’t mind going alone.” Penny laughed. “Shut up.” He growled.
“Listen, if something does happen with you two… go slow, alright. Nate's never really had a boyfriend before, so…”
“‘Never really’ as in he has, or as in he hasn’t?”
“As in he hasn’t.” said Penny. “That he’s told me of. And he tells me everything, so…” Owen paused to digest that information.
“So, he hasn’t… done anything? With anyone?” Penny shook her head.
“Not that I know of.” Owen looked over at Nate. Shadow was sat beside him, his eyes closed with pleasure as Nate stroked his head.
“How come?” Owen asked. “I mean, he’s gorgeous.” His eyes slid over what he could see of Nate’s body. Penny smiled.
“Just go slow. Alright?” Owen nodded, paid, and went back over to Nate. They left the bar together and headed towards Nate's apartment.
“So, where exactly is your apartment?”
“Just by the river,” said Nate. “On Oxford Row.”
“I know that area.” said Owen. Nate paused.
“Is it alright if we take Shadow for a quick walk before we go home?”
“Sure.” They walked down to the park together. Nate let Shadow out of his harness and the dog shook himself happily. Nate took a tennis ball from his pocket and threw it for Shadow to fetch. They played for a long while, before Nate and Owen went to sit on the grass while Shadow sniffed about in the bushes.
“So, how long have you lived here?” Nate asked.
“Erm… twelve years,” said Owen. “I came to live with Colin, my half-brother, when I was fourteen.”
“Where did you live before?” Nate asked.
“I thought so.” Nate smiled. “I couldn’t quite place your accent.” Owen smiled. “So, do you-” Nate broke off as a loud splash reached his ears. “That was Shadow, wasn’t it?” Owen looked over at the river and saw the retriever happily swimming through the reeds lining the bank.
“Yeah.” He said. He and Nate scrambled to their feet and hurried to the water.
“Shadow! Come here!” The dog paddled about for a few more minutes, before he clambered out of the river and shook himself. “Is it bad?” The dog trotted over, his head hanging low in shame.
“Well, I think you’ve got a black retriever, not a golden one,” said Owen. Nate sighed.
“Now, I’ve got to give you a bath.” He growled at Shadow, tugging the dog’s ear affectionately. Shadow whined softly.
“I’ll help you.” Owen grinned. The dog jumped on him, licking his face. Nate pulled the dog off Owen with a grunt. “Thanks, dog,” Owen said, getting up. “Now I need a bath too.”
“I’m sorry,” said Nate apologetically. “Let’s go home. I can get you some dry clothes.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Owen cheerfully.
They headed back to Nate’s apartment. “Wow!” Owen breathed, taking in the open plan kitchen/living room/dining room. “This place is great.” Nate smiled shyly.
“Well… I need space. Otherwise I can’t… navigate… very well.”
“Let’s give Shadow a bath,” said Owen. “He stinks.” They hauled the struggling dog into the bathroom, and heaved him into the bath. “Right.” Owen panted. “You start rinsing, and I’ll get shampoo.”
“I don’t have any dog shampoo.” Nate said, frowning.
“Mix a bit of washing up liquid with warm water. Works like a charm.” Owen went to make a jug of homemade shampoo and went back into the bathroom. Together, they rubbed Shadow’s coat into lather and rinsed him several times. They towelled him dry and Nate fetched an old hair dryer from his bedroom. Shadow lay patiently on the tiled floor as they dried him, then got up, shook himself off, and went to his bed.
“Right,” said Nate, standing and rubbing cramp from his legs. “You next.” Owen grinned.
“You gonna wash my back for me?” Nate blushed scarlet. Owen smiled to himself.
“Clean clothes. I know,” said Owen gently. “Just a joke, Nate.”
“Oh…” Nate blushed even more and turned away. He fetched Owen a towel and gave him an old shirt to wear while his dried. Nate then changed his own clothes. He liked the idea of Owen wearing one of his shirts. He found it incredibly erotic. “Would you like a drink?” Nate asked, trying to cover up his burst of attraction. Owen's deep, accented voice gave him shivers.
“Sure.” Owen replied. “Do you… need a hand?” He asked tentatively. Nate's eyes flashed in annoyance, before he took a breath to calm himself.
“No, thanks.” He said firmly. He made them each a coffee, determined to prove to Owen he didn’t need a guardian. “Listen.” He said quietly as he boiled the kettle. “If you’re going to be living here, it’s as a roommate. It’s not as a babysitter, alright? I don’t need help for everything.”
“Alright.” Said Owen affably. “I’m sorry if I offended you.” Nate looked a little ashamed of his outburst.
“It doesn’t matter.” He and Owen sat down together on the sofa, sipping coffee. “So… When do you want to move in?”
“Whenever you like.” Said Owen cheerfully. He was already in love with the apartment.
“Well, I’m free this weekend, if you like.” Nate said. “The spare room’s all ready. It has furniture and shelves and stuff. Just bring over your clothes and… knick-knacks.”
“Okay.” Owen wriggled deeper into the sofa. “This is a really comfy sofa.” He said. Nate grinned at Owen’s randomness.
“So…” He said softly. Owen smiled to himself. “This is good. Known each other two hours, and we’ve run out of things to talk about already.” Owen laughed.
“Well, we could do stuff instead.” Nate blushed furiously. “Wow,” said Owen softly. “You really are shy, aren’t you?” Nate shrugged bashfully. “You look cute when you blush.” Nate blushed further. Owen remembered what Penny said, and tried to back off a little. “Sorry.” Owen sighed to himself.
“What’s wrong?” Nate asked curiously.
“When I see a guy I like, I’m used to flirting with him. But Penny warned me that-”
“What?” Nate growled angrily. Owen blinked at Nate's tone.
“Just that you hadn’t had… many… boyfriends. And that you were, well, nervous around guys.” Nate bit his thumbnail for a second.
“Why did she tell you that?” He asked quietly.
“Well, she could see that I like you, and just… she just wanted to make sure I didn’t rush into anything with you, and… scare you.” Nate glared in his general direction.
“She had no right telling you that.” He growled.
“I’m sorry.” Said Owen, alarmed at Nate’s anger. “But… she was just looking out for you.” Nate turned away. He didn’t say anything for a long while.
“You’re not leaving?” He asked Owen finally, sounding surprised.
“Why would I be?” Owen asked. Nate shrugged.
“I figured you’d leave. Everyone else has. I mean, I wouldn’t be very good…” Owen stared at him.
“Why do you say that?” He asked.
“Well… because I wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t know… what to do. Or…” Nate turned away, looking embarrassed and upset. Owen put a hand on his shoulder, but Nate shrugged it away. “Just… Can you let yourself out?” Before Owen could answer, Nate went through his bedroom, slamming the door shut behind himself. Owen sat on the sofa for a moment, stunned at the rage in Nate’s eyes, before he went through to the bedroom. Nate was stood by the window, his unseeing eyes staring out of it. “I thought you were going.” He said coolly.
“I am,” said Owen. “I just want to say something before I go.”
“What?” Nate asked, his voice impatient.
“After what your parents did to you, Penny is just trying to protect you. See, I’ve been with a few guys in my time-”
“Make it better, why don’t you?” Nate growled angrily.
“Let me finish.” Said Owen firmly. Nate sighed, but nodded for him to continue. “I’ve been with a few guys. And… I’m confident around them. If I see a guy I like, I go after him. Now, if I’d’ve pulled my usual moves on you tonight, you’d already be naked on the sofa underneath me.” Nate blushed. “But because of what Penny said, I know to take my time.”
“‘Take your time’?” Nate asked. “So you’re still…”
“Interested?” Owen asked. “Yeah.”
“Wait,” said Nate. “Are you interested in the room? Or… me?”
“What happens if I say both?”
“Well, you get to move it, and I feel awkward around you.” Nate smiled shyly.
“How about if I move in...” said Owen. “And we… start dating?” He said slowly. Nate paused.
“I guess we could try that.” He said finally. Owen smiled.
“And what’s your policy on sex on the first date?” Nate blushed crimson.
“Well, I… I don’t…” Owen laughed at Nate’s awkwardness. He curled his fingers around Nate’s hand and drew their bodies together.
“We could change all that.” He said softly, his voice purring slightly. Nate blushed again, at the tone Owen’s voice had taken.
“Wait.” He said softly. He gently untangled Owen’s fingers from his own. He closed his eyes and slowly slid his fingers up Owen’s arms and neck until he reached his face. His fingertips gently moved over Owen’s warm skin, creating a mental map of Owen’s features. “You’re cute,” said Nate. He opened his eyes again. Owen grinned, forgetting Nate couldn’t see him. He leant in and kissed Nate gently. He slid his hand up Nate’s arm, to his shoulders, where his fingertips gently curled through Nate’s soft brown hair. Nate’s lips were warm against his own. He felt Nate freeze against him for a moment, before he began to slowly respond to Owen’s tender kiss. Owen’s hand slid around the back of Nate’s head, to keep him still, as Owen twisted slightly to angle for a better kiss. He heard Nate inhale deeply through his nose, and drew back with a laugh. “Sorry,” Nate gasped. “I think I forgot how to breathe.” Owen smiled, and rested his forehead against Nate’s.
“You know.” He said coyly. “If we do it with tongues and our mouths open, it’s easier to breathe.” Nate grinned shyly.
“Yeah. Perhaps we should try that.” Nate nodded. Owen leant in again, and their lips met in another warm kiss. Owen opened his mouth slowly, and began to lightly rub his tongue over Nate’s lips. After a moment, Nate’s mouth opened. Owen gently moved his tongue over Nate’s lips, just on the inside, waiting for Nate to move in his own time. Slowly, Nate began to push his tongue forwards. Owen greeted it eagerly, gently rubbing his tip over Nate’s. He was stroking Nate’s hair, and twisting his head to get a better angle. Owen took Nate’s bottom lip into his mouth and nibbled it, eliciting a soft moan.
“I could do this forever.” Nate whispered.
“Glad you like it.” Owen purred. “But you ain’t felt nothing yet.” Nate rested his head against Owen’s.
“You’re a really good kisser.”
“I know. You too.” Nate snorted softly.
“You are.” Owen stroked Nate’s cheek gently. “I bet you’re good at the other stuff too.” Owen purred.
“How do you do that?” Nate asked.
“That… purring voice.” Owen grinned.
“Well, I just… imagine things that turn me on.” Nate grinned mischievously.
“What sort of stuff?”
“Well,” said Owen thoughtfully. “Hot guys. Really hot ones, with… brown hair, and beautiful brown eyes, good bodies… golden retrievers.” Nate blushed.
“I’m not hot.” He said shyly. Owen lifted his chin and kissed Nate fiercely, his tongue sliding deeply into Nate’s mouth. Nate let out a soft moan of delight at Owen’s probing. Owen drew back regretfully.
“If you’re not hot, then how come you make me hornier than a… very horny thing?” Owen asked, his voice low and husky. Nate smiled. Owen stroked Nate’s cheek gently. He sighed softly. “I should go.” He said quietly. Nate looked disappointed.
“Yeah. I have to be back at my place by nine, before they lock the front gate.”
“Oh…” Nate paused. “What’s the time?”
“Quarter to nine.”
“No wonder I feel hungry.” Said Nate. “I’ve not had dinner.” He paused. “Do you want to stay? For dinner?”
“In fifteen minutes?” Owen asked. He smiled to himself.
“Well… I was thinking you could… perhaps… stay the night.”
“You mean… stay the night as in ‘stay the night’, or stay the night as in ‘there’s a bed in the spare room’?” Owen asked. Nate shrugged.
“Whichever… you prefer.” He said quietly, blushing.
“Nathan,” said Owen firmly. “If you want me to stay, then ask me to stay. If not, then I really need to go.”
“Alright,” said Nate slowly. “Will you stay the night?”
“Yes,” said Owen. Nate grinned.
“Sure. But if I’m staying, I have to go and fetch some stuff from home first.”
“Alright.” Said Nate.
“It’ll only take me twenty minutes to get there and back.”
“Okay. I’ll make dinner. Are you okay with-” Owen stopped him.
“How about strawberries, with chocolate sauce and champagne?” Nate blushed and nodded bashfully.
“That sounds good.”
“Alright. You wait here. I’ll be back in half an hour.”
“I don’t have any strawberries or anything though.” Said Nate suddenly.
“I’ll fetch some.” Owen kissed him gently, and left. Nate stood in the kitchen for a moment, his mind whirring, before he went through to his music room. He sat down at the piano and began to play softly to himself. He immediately felt the music begin to soothe him, just as it always did, flooding his sensitive hearing with its gentle tone, and he continued to play until he felt his heart rate begin to slow again. His phone ringing interrupted him after about twenty minutes of playing.
“Hello, Penny.” Said Nate, a little coolly.
“What’s wrong?” Penny asked, hearing his tone.
“What was all that you told Owen about me never having had a boyfriend before?” Nate growled.
“I just wanted to make sure you’d be alright. I didn’t want him to hurt you.” She said defensively.
“Would he hurt me?” Nate asked.
“Well, not intentionally. But… Owen’s a little bit of a player. Don’t let him rush you into anything, alright?” Nate rolled his eyes.
“So… Is he still there?” Penny asked after a moment’s silence.
“No. He’s gone home.” Nate decided not to tell her Owen was coming back.
“Is he moving in with you?”
“Yeah. Sometime over the weekend.”
“Good. I’m glad you’ve decided to let someone in.” Nate rolled his eyes again.
“I’m not a child, Penny. I can look after myself.” He told her firmly.
“I know, Nathan.” Penny said gently. “I’m just looking out for you. I think Owen will be good for you. He’s bring you out of your shell a bit.” Nathan made a noise in his throat. “Right… well, I have to go, honey. I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”
“Alright Penny.” He hung up. He heard a soft knock at the door, and went to let Owen in.