Light Me Up

an excerpt

I got up early the Wednesday morning the week after Thanksgiving, since I'd spent the night and Joe hates it when I sleep in-- like flips the mattress over on me if he thinks I'm sleeping too much, hates it. So I was standing in front of the big front window, wearing a thermal shirt and flannel lounge pants while drinking my coffee and staring out at the snow that fell during the night. First real storm hit this past weekend, but the tail end of it kept dusting powder. Thick, thick, thick.

I'd never lived anywhere where the snow came to visit me.

Joe's truck and mine looked like bears huddled under two-inch thick white blankets. The only signs of life were the tracks of a coyote running across the drive. Everything just felt really quiet, like the wind held its breath. That muffled stillness wrapped me up in a sense of the world being kind of okay.

I kinda turned around, looked over my shoulder at Joe. He sat in the kitchen having breakfast, all decked out in his uniform: Garfield County Sheriff…yum. Uniform shirt with the two chevrons on the sleeve--and a few little threads where he'd had to take off that third stripe when he lost his rank because of fucking around with me. But black turtleneck, utility pants, and black boots just looked hot on him. Can you say winter SWAT-team woof?

Uniforms and I, well it's not usually my fetish because it brings up two years worth of crap I'd just rather forget. Still, Joe in his, I don't know, it just fits him. Strong, stern, and protective; the kind of guy who looked like he could comfort a little kid while still keeping his knee dug into the back of some deadbeat.

Shivering a little--fuck, even inside it's cold--I swung my coffee cup across the expanse of the front window. "A tree would look great right here."

That drawled out cowboy twang rolled like surf over my senses. "What do I need a tree for, Kabe?" Joe mumbled over his oatmeal as he glared at me across the room. "I ain't got nothing to put under it."

Holy shit, no fucking presents? I didn't say that out loud, 'cause then he'd have gotten pissed. "Doesn't your family exchange gifts?" Getting him pissed would just leave us both frustrated, since he had to call himself on shift in another fifteen minutes and I had to head out to hit the lifts in an hour. If you're going to provoke your Dom, you have to do it when everyone has time to deal with the scene.

"Naw," he snorted up a laugh, "most cain't hardly afford to." Then Joe shrugged like it didn't mean anything. "They got kids and grandkids, they rightly spend the money on them." I got one of his smiles on top of it all…like the perfect wave you weren't expecting: big, almost embarrassed that you caught him smiling and a wilder ride than fucking hell. So goddamn sexy.

"You don't do anything with your family?" I probably should have dropped it, but I didn't.

"Cards." Joe pushed back from the table and crossed his arms over that broad chest of his. "If my folks were 'round, if I weren't working, I'd go over there on Christmas Day."

"Go to church with them, huh?" I kinda winced as I said it, 'cause I realized as the words left my mouth that they'd remind Joe that the Mormons had kicked him to the curb. First thought in my head and all, what could I say? But, Christmas equaled the only time my Grams and I, ever, set foot in a church and most times not even then…so open mouth, insert foot.

He looked at me weird, "Not unless'n Christmas fell on a Sunday." After he scraped the last bit out of his bowl, Joe added, "My momma usually gets me a shirt or something."

How sad was that? Even when it was just Grams and I…well it was never just Grams and I: there were always at least five or ten people sleeping off Christmas Eve dinner. Our house was the focal point for all her friends and most of mine. And while we didn't go overboard on presents for each other…it was certainly more than just a shirt.

I wandered back to the kitchen to dump the dregs of my coffee down the drain. "That's depressing." As I passed the table, I got his dishes too. "Really, depressing." I mumbled while I washed his bowl and my mug. I figured at that point I ought to just drop the subject.

Joe came up behind me then, slid his big hands down along the outside of my thighs. I breathed in the touch as he pressed his cheek against the back of my head. "It ain't but what it is." I felt his shrug on my own shoulders. Then he backed away and I could hear him as he got ready to head out to the station.

"Kabe." I looked up from racking the dishes in the drainer. "Call me when, you know, you can come around again?" He stood at the door and seemed, almost, embarrassed by that question.

Goddamn, do you know how much I loved that? All the guys I'd ever been with were so blatant. I wanted to run over to him and wrap him in bubble-wrap so he wouldn't ever change. Poll a hundred guys in the Castro and ask them what their ideal fuck would be: total straight acting, never had it before and a freak in bed. Joe got as close as real life would ever permit. Holy shit.

But, I couldn't ever say that, so instead I offered up a lopsided grin and said, "Okay."

And that's how it got left, sort of.

I couldn't stop hinting.

Come on, its Christmas season and, dude, Joe's place just seems so sad without a tree. My Aunt Sandy had me stringing lights the day after Thanksgiving. Grams was like that too…so it had to be a family thing. Growing up, Grams celebrated almost every holiday--including the Diwali light festival, even after my Dadaji died. He and I would do Holi in the spring when I was a kid: you know, India's excuse to throw tempera paint at everyone and laugh just because winter was over.

Grams even sent me a box of some of the junk I used to put on our tree at home so I could decorate here--rainbow flags, a collection of otter ornaments that my friends found around the Bay Area to tease me with, and bits of crap I picked up at Pride, Folsom and other places--maybe a dozen pieces of junk. Made me homesick, just a little, 'cause I realized there were a couple special ones, favorites of hers, she'd kept. Grams would be all alone this year. Not like she wasn't when I did my time in the Fed lock-up at Lompoc, but this felt different. I couldn't afford to go back and that sucked. Plus, where I lived belonged to Aunt Sandy and Uncle T. While no one made a big deal out of me being gay, any real expression of it caught a cold shoulder.

So I'd brought it over to Joe's place. I kept it there, stashed on a shelf in the pantry. There are battles you fight with family and those you don't. T and Aunt Sandy opened their home to me so I could have a quiet place, one without temptations, to finish out my probation. They did it, pretty much disapproving of everything I was--starting long before I was born when Grams married Dadaji and spiraling it down to me ending up doing two years in Lompoc minimum security. We all shelved a lot of shit, bit our tongues, because it was family. So, I held my breath and didn't push shit in their faces.

The one place I could be who I was, relaxed and out, was with Joe. I mean it went beyond just two gay dudes in a RED state, 'cause that equaled fuck-buddy status. No, Joe didn't come with the baggage, at least not the type of baggage I was used to. No preconceptions, no assumptions about what it meant for me to be gay. All my friends in the Castro, if I told them I was going to climb an eight-hundred foot sheer wall with no ropes, they looked at me like I just told them I enjoyed sticking needles in my eyeballs. Surfing and snowboarding equaled kinda cool to my crowd, but not the extreme way I pursued them. Let's not even talk about base jumping. I was a freak.