Changeless

an excerpt



Prologue

After their slippery red gowns had been preserved for posterity via an expedient picture snapped on Mrs. Abelin's Polaroid camera, Sean sat on the front porch of his best friend Calvin's house. They washed away the sandy taste of "Pomp and Circumstance"--dusty but inevitable at any graduation, really--with the slightly sweet and hoppy taste of exactly one Sam Adam's beer apiece. Snorts of laughter escaped both young men as they viewed the pictures, because in each one a sliver of Mrs. Abelin's thumb showed at the shot's edge. His narrow face alight with pride at their achievement, Mr. Abelin gave them permission to have a second beer from the stash of micro-brewed beer he'd brought home from a business trip to Boston. Grinning at Calvin and winking at Sean as he ushered his wife and younger son out the door, his only stipulation about the beers was that Calvin and Sean not leave the house with them. Pffft. As if they were going anywhere.

Though Sean had invitations to every party worth going to tonight, Cal's list of invites could be counted on one hand. Mark Doyle, a truly stellar quarterback but an unpopular, homophobic ass, had grudgingly invited Cal to come to his party after he realized that Sean, his far more popular team-mate, would never come if his best friend wasn't invited too. And of course, long before Mark's party was planned, Sean invited Cal to hang out on graduation night doing nothing at the crappy little efficiency apartment he rented over on Presque Isle Avenue. Cal's parents were expecting them to be at some party until the wee hours of the morning, so the elder Abelins made plans to have dinner with their friends the Carters.

Cal and Sean's even still being at the house on Ridge Street to hear the silly, 1920's style phone in the Abelin's front hall ring the second time was a fluke. Ten minutes after the rest of Cal's family left for their 'fun-filled' evening of Monopoly or Scrabble, they were still side by side on Mrs. Abelin's new glider style porch swing. Sean flexed heavily muscled, chocolate brown thighs, bending and extending his knees to push the glider slowly back and forth. Cal was too short to reach the porch rail with his feet like Sean could, so he sat tailor style. The place where they touched, Cal's creamy, barely tanned knee and thigh pressed against Sean's flesh, sent sparks arcing through Sean. Cal drank his beer in quick, jerky motions, and jumped up at the first ring of the phone. Dropping his bare feet to the wide front porch, Sean stilled the glider. Then he followed Cal into the house, shamelessly listening to the conversation.

"Oh, hey. Mitchell Warner? Oh, you're the marching band guy who sometimes hangs out with the football team because your girlfriend is one of the cheerleaders, right? I--oh. I see. Okay. Thanks. I'll let Sean know. No, I won't. Yeah, sure. Thanks again."

Cal's face took on a more and more pinched quality the longer he spoke. Sean tilted his head to one side.

"Cal? What's that all about?"

Turning half toward the front door, Calvin twitched one narrow shoulder up.

"Mitchell--"

Sean clapped a big hand firmly on Cal's shoulder, pulling him partially back around.

"What did Mark do?"

Calvin glanced back over his shoulder, startled green eyes flashing up to lock with Sean's warm brown ones.

"How did you know?"

Sean snorted, smoothing a hand over his closely clipped afro. "Mark's like a generic baby wipe... no matter how careful you are with either of them, you're still gonna end up with shit on yourself. What did he do?"

Calvin bit his lip, dropping his gaze away from Sean's and turning his head back toward the door before mumbling out the gist of the exchange.

"He -- Mitchell said he heard Mark talking to some of the guys... the ones who say stuff to me -- and they were gonna 'have some fun' with me tonight."

A white hot arrow of fear slid between Sean's ribs, skewering both lungs. He attempted to draw in enough air to force the little black spots in his vision away. Wincing, Cal glanced back again. Sean's gaze dropped from the pinched corners of Cal's eyes to the taut line of his plump lips and the delicate line of Cal's collarbone. For a moment all he registered was the contrast of his dark fingers straining against the creamy skin there. Cal flinched, a small sound escaping him. Shit. He was hurting Cal. Forcing his hand to relax, Sean dredged a smile.

"Fuck 'em. We're out of here next week anyway, eh? Who gives a shit what those losers think. It's no business of theirs, not unless they're trying to get your pretty ass to go out on a legit date with them, eh?"

Calvin scowled. "I am not pretty."

Raising one hand to ruffle Calvin's already unruly mop of hair, Sean snorted. "Hah. So says the boy who broke the heart of every teenie and tweenie girl in all of Marquette County when he came out."

Calvin pressed his lips tightly together, sandy colored brows pulling even farther down his forehead. Rolling his shoulder as he took a step to the side, Calvin slid out from under Sean's hand.

"God, you are such a dick. I don't know why I put up with you."

Sean crowded forward into Cal's personal space, catching his friend's face between his hands. Cal's chest heaved once, full pink lips shining a little in the late afternoon sun. Something clenched low in Sean's gut as Cal's mouth opened on a gasp. Sean pressed his thumbs against the smooth edge of Cal's jaw, tilting the smaller man's head back until he was forced to meet Sean's eyes again. He braced his abs against the tremble rippling through his center. He needed to stop being so fascinated with the shape and color of Cal's lips, damn it. His concentration on keeping his thumbs from stroking lightly against the faintly stubble on Cal's jaw, he answered the unspoken question in Cal's statement.

"Yeah. I don't know why you do, either. Just dumb, I guess."

Closing his mouth with an audible snap, Cal nodded jerkily. "Yeah. Dumb. That's me. Yeah. So, Dad said we could have a couple of beers here, but I don't think he'd mind if we have a couple more since we're not going to go to the party... He's got more of that Sam Adams in the refrigerator. Do you wanna have another one with me?"

Sean read the lines around his friend's mouth, and the taut skin across his cheekbones. Calvin didn't want to talk about the aborted attempt to do -- what the fuck-ever those losers had planned. Okay.

"Yeah. Let's sit on the porch and pretend this is our house."

Cal's eyes lightened, as Sean had intended. He reached up to cuff Sean on the shoulder. Sean ignored the fluttering butterfly feeling in his chest to concentrate on Cal's expression. Cal grinned, the piercing green of his eyes fairly twinkling.

"Geez. You are the biggest dork. Nerdy Neddy. And for some reason, no one else in the whole of Marquette Senior High ever figured it out."

With the hint of laughter still playing around his mouth, Cal stepped back once more, this time turning toward the dining room and the connecting arch into the kitchen. His eyes locked on the gentle sway to his friend's hips, Sean followed.

Four hours later, with one more beer each and about a liter of soda apiece in them, they sat in the Abelin living room squabbling good-naturedly about whether to watch another MacGyver episode or a Scarecrow and Mrs. King episode after they finished off their two episode Cosby show mini-marathon -- the phone rang a second time. Cal grimaced, stabbing the volume button on the remote viciously as he jumped up and stomped out to grab the phone in the front hall.

"Crap. Why does someone always need to interrupt right when things get good on Scarecrow and Mrs. King?"

Sean laughed. "Cal, chill. We have a blank tape in and I started recording right at the beginning of the show. It's not like you're going to miss anything."

He couldn't have been more wrong.