Hello there friends!
In celebration of my upcoming release, I wanted to go ahead and share the first two chapters of the book with you (along with a reveal of the paperback cover)! It’s available for pre-order on Kindle now, and I highly recommend securing a copy while it’s on sale for only $2.99! I will provide a link at the bottom of the page for your convenience, or you can click here.
A note: this story is intended for adult audiences, and while the content isn’t especially explicit, I don’t recommend an audience below the age of 18.
Thank you so much for stopping by. Without further adieu, here are the first two chapters of my nonbinary romance novel The Times We Fell in Love:
It started with a selfie of Jackson Mitchell mooning his friends, of all things. Nathan was sitting in the apartment he shared with his childhood best friend, Maverick, when that strange little event happened. He’d been in his room, innocently strumming fingers over steel guitar strings, generally avoiding all the work and deadlines looming above his head. They were college seniors now, finishing up their time in Boise. How Nathan had gotten this far was completely beyond him, but somehow he did. Things were much simpler for Maverick. He was always smart as a whip, and Jackson…well, Jackson tended to get by with smooth talking and a clever smile. It definitely didn’t hurt that he was tall, athletic, and bulky in just the right ways.
Jackson wasn’t a friend from their youth. This guy, this charismatic guy who looked like he ought to be a football player, actually studied law. He and Maverick met through shared classes, and where Maverick was eagerly, almost rabidly following in the footsteps of his father, Jackson was there more of his own writ. Nathan, from day one, always found the guy to be fairly okay. Kind of annoying and cocky for sure, but he had a good heart, was wickedly hilarious, and pretty sharp, too. In contrast to the historically easygoing nature of things with Nathan, Jackson often seemed to rub Maverick the wrong way. To outsiders it probably felt strange that they kept Jackson around, but Nathan knew Maverick well enough to understand. At some point along the way, Jackson had clearly been identified a rival worth keeping close. It would explain their dynamic, and the motive suited Maverick to a hideous T.
Those two were always bickering and arguing over nothing. In the early days it was all law, then it slowly escalated and flooded into every facet of their lives. They agreed on nothing, they were both right about everything, and it was absolutely imperative that someone admitted fault. Despite Jackson’s size and the fact that often times Nathan quietly agreed with him, it was usually Maverick who came out the victor. Nathan always felt Jackson gave that to Mav, like a little unspoken gift extended day, after day, after day.
In the flurry of constant agitation and conflict, it certainly didn’t help that Jackson was rooming with an apartment full of beautiful women. Mav bitterly told Nathan when he’d heard of the arrangement that Jackson was probably laying them, each and every one. Nathan didn’t doubt it. The vibe was there, and even though Jackson had his shortcomings, he was handsome and smooth enough to exploit it when he wanted. All of this to say, even though Jackson folded into relationships with Nathan and Maverick fast, he was never fully able to penetrate the solid nature of their rooted, childhood bonds.
At least, not at first.
Over their time spent in college, while Nathan and Maverick weathered the tides of growth and change, the things they disagreed on felt a bit larger than before. They remained friends. They often proclaimed one another as best friends even, but it was difficult to deny the fact there were ever increasing places they no longer seemed to click. Perhaps, at this point, it was merely familiarity that held them together. That and Julia, who continued to encourage them whenever things got shaky. She still came by once in a while, not as Nathan’s girlfriend anymore, just as a friend. That, and the occasional romp in his bed.
Things weren’t the way most would imagine after a split between former high school sweethearts. They didn’t make it as a couple in the least dramatic of ways, for example. They grew up together, quite literally, from the days of kinder into something just shy of adults. They changed, and explored, and figured out who and what they were in unison. She was the first to notice the softer things about him, the confusion he carried inside at the time. They were seniors in high school when she’d decided to start pressing him. She was gentle at first. She suggested small things, like putting on lipstick before kissing her, painting his nails, or trying on heels just for kicks when he took her shopping. He indulged her. It opened the door and made him feel more comfortable being honest about who he was. The first time he’d really said it out loud, they’d been laying in bed kissing and getting heated. She asked him, breathless, what he really was. It’d confused him, though not enough to get him to stop touching her body.
She’d had to prod him some more, he played ignorant at first, but he did eventually whisper those words against her damp, impatient skin. He wasn’t necessarily a man, nor did he feel like a woman, either. He just was. They loved one another ardently that night, and when they were through, they got more serious about what it meant for them; for him. She understood him in ways that he’d been terrified she wouldn’t. To assist, she’d confided in him that, sometimes, she wasn’t quite certain where her attractions settled. She accepted him, asked about pronouns and the like. He said it was okay to call him ‘he’ because that was the way he presented himself then.
In the comfort of her presence, he was able to explore parts of himself he’d otherwise pretended weren’t there his entire life. This worked for some time, and it bonded them in ways that still remained intimate and tender. Though they were closely tethered from stark honesty, when they’d gotten to college, it wasn’t enough to hold them together, and that was okay. It ended between them the day Julia realized she was falling in love with a female friend she’d made in her art class. Nathan didn’t mind, he’d fallen out of love by that point, too. Julia was and always would be an incredible friend, and she’d helped him grow into a hint of the person he truly felt like he was. They appreciated one another, and she still came over to sleep with him once in a while. It worked. It was fine. At least, it would be until he met someone who could sweep him off his feet.
He still wanted that.
Which was the thought he was having when that cursed selfie arrived on his phone.
Like a bomb, the notification that rang ‘round the world had gone off. Nathan set his guitar down and lifted the phone, his eyes wide while he took in the surprising image, in all its pale glory. There it was: Jackson’s bare butt for everyone to see. He was in a dressing room somewhere, looking over his shoulder and clearly snapping the picture from the mirror. It was captioned ‘think my ass looks nice in these…woops! Forgot the jeans!’ with an awkward smiley face at the end.
Dude…what are you up to?
Before Nathan could make any sense of it, he heard Maverick shouting from the living room. Nathan rolled his eyes, annoyed because Mav was bothered by Jackson the way he always was, which was obviously why Jackson had done it in the first place. It occurred to Nathan that the primary source of his contempt had less to do with predictability, and more to do with how juvenile it all was. For God’s sake, college graduation was just a few months away. When the hell were they going to grow up?
Nathan rose from the bed and walked into the living room, immediately accosted by Maverick’s high-pitched, indignant voice.
“Did you see it? Disgusting! Why the hell would he do that? He’s such a jerk…why can’t he just mind his own business!?”
Nathan shrugged, lacking the energy to deal with any of it. It was all so stupid and mundane. He trudged into the kitchen and pulled out a bag of chips, carelessly munching while Mav droned on, and on, so full of ire. He was clearly answering the group text, which Nathan figured he’d peek at later. He could hear the pinging and dinging, and it was all so terribly conventional. Maverick would continue to be furious, hurling insults about any flaw he could find. Nathan would zone out and ignore it until later when he had the spoons to deal with it. Jackson would be enormously gratified that he’d set Maverick off.
Boring, boring, so damn boring.
Nathan quietly sighed and went back to his bedroom. He fetched his cell phone, not bothering with the group text, and opened his conversations with Julia. He quickly hammered out a text:
Jules…help! Mav’s having a fit and I’m bored out of my mind. You free?
He waited and stared at his phone, pleased when she responded quickly.
You want an orgasm, love?
He grinned before responding.
Yes please 🙂
Be right there!
He smiled a little wider before tossing the phone back to the bed. He collected his guitar, put it away, then went back to the living room to wait for Julia. Maverick was settled by then, and Nathan couldn’t help but wonder why Jackson’s photograph had triggered him so much. He had a hunch, but he’d never have the nerve to accuse him of it. Still, he was kind of obsessed with all things Jackson. It wasn’t the behavior of a man who didn’t carry some tension about his sexuality, at the very least.
Still, he’d never seen Maverick with anyone outside the usual. He slept with women here and there, but not all that often. Honestly, Mav didn’t seem especially interested in sex. He was preoccupied with school, and his career, and his goals. He wanted to be a lawyer, like his father, but rather than defending any rando with the cash, Maverick had ideals of defending people who actually deserved it. He had higher ethics and aspirations that went beyond financial gain, which Nathan had to admit he did find admirable. There were still little things here and there he liked about his friend.
Nathan sat down on the couch and flicked the television on, mindlessly watching ESPN for a while. He didn’t really care about sports all that much, just enough to keep up with other men in conversation. He still tried his best to pass, to act like he was more of a man’s man than he felt like he was. Maybe someday he’d be ready for honesty, but today wasn’t that day. He was relieved, though, when he heard Julia’s knock at the door.
Nathan hopped up and answered it, then gave her a quick kiss. She and Maverick exchanged hellos before he awkwardly disappeared into his bedroom. Maverick knew whenever Julia came around it was only for a hook-up.
Once they were alone, she didn’t hesitate at all, taking Nathan by the arm and leading him to the privacy of his room. They shut the door, then got down to it, kissing and generously letting their hands roam. She shoved him atop the bed, taking charge as she was prone to do. He loved it. He absolutely loved when they got to be like this. The way she took control of him and had her way was the hottest thing in the world to him, and she always delivered. She never disappointed.
They took their time, and they took their turns, each making sure they got what they came for. When it was through, they collapsed into a salty, satisfied mess. He nuzzled up against her, resting his cheek near the top of her chest. She pulled the blankets over them and smoked her vape, holding it to his lips for a puff here and there.
“So, what’s the deal…what had Mav’s panties in a bunch?” she asked.
Nathan smiled and laughed, “Jackson sent a picture mooning us.”
“Ew…let me see!”
Nathan sat up and looked around, trying to locate his phone. An amused expression rested easily on his face while he dug around the sheets, eventually finding it before settling in close to her again. He opened the text and handed it over. She erupted with laughter.
“Why the hell would Mav be mad about this? Who cares? It’s funny! Everyone’s seen a healthy amount of Jackson’s ass by this point, anyway.”
Nathan took the phone and set it aside, still not ready to really look at it.
“He’s obsessed with Jackson, specifically his ass.”
Julia let out another laugh, “Yeah…he really is. Those two need to get it on and get it over with.”
Nathan rolled his eyes. He thought the same thing, but again, he couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud. He didn’t really like the idea of it, truthfully. Something about the thought of those two in a relationship really got beneath his skin, though he wasn’t exactly sure why. The subject was dropped, thankfully, while Julia casually moved onto other things.
“You seeing anyone yet?”
Nathan shook his head, “No, just you here and there.”
She sighed, “Nathan…you’ve got to at least try and put yourself out there. What about the Internet? Maybe that’d be a little bit easier…?”
He shrugged and trailed kisses along the skin of her collarbone. She let him for a while, then nudged him away, “Nathan…come on, I’m serious. You need someone you can love, not just rendezvous with me.”
He sighed, facing her with his cheek propped in his hand.
“I know. I’m comfortable with you, though. Where am I going to find a woman who gets me like you? And I’m sure as hell not ready to ask out a man.”
“Even if you knew he was gay? Like, seriously, Nathan. You could make an online profile…”
He shook his head, “No. What if someone I know saw? I haven’t come out yet. I’m not ready. I don’t know if I’ll ever be.”
Julia looked at him sympathetically. She ached for him. She wanted him to feel comfortable with who he was.
“Well, you can’t go on like this forever, Nate. At some point, you’re going to need more than just this.”
He lowered his gaze, “I know.”
They didn’t talk much further after that. She pulled him close and kissed him tenderly for a while because she knew it made him feel cared for, and she wanted to give him what little she could. It was lovely until it came time for her to leave. She re-dressed, collected her things, gave him a deep kiss goodbye, and then she was gone. Nathan was left lying atop his bed, regarding the ceiling and pondering the things she’d said. It took him a while to remember the text on his phone, but he eventually lifted it and opened up the group chat.
The photo was there, and so were the comments. They were exactly along the lines he’d expected, which made him want to roll his eyes. He considered tossing the phone aside once more, but instead, he scrolled back up to the photo and let himself look at it for a while. It was understandable, really, why Mav was so obsessed.
Jackson was gorgeous, and the view was nice.
He looked around the room, feeling as though someone might be watching him, that he’d somehow get caught. Once he was convinced there was no one there, he pressed his finger atop the picture, applied some pressure, and brought up a menu. He touched the button, making a folder and saving it. He labeled it: Jackson. He wasn’t sure if another picture would ever come, but just in case it did, he wanted to hang onto them.
He wasn’t sure why. He wasn’t about to question it. Sometimes things were just better like that.
Jackson strode up to the classroom as confident as ever. At least, that was the way he came off and he knew it. He approached Maverick, his backpack slung over his broad shoulder casually while he greeted his haughty friend unceremoniously.
He leaned against the wall and took in his surroundings. There were law students everywhere, working hard at becoming something, someone, anyone. Many of them were nearing the end of their undergraduate studies by this point, including Maverick and himself. Three more years of law school were lying in wait just ahead. At times it felt daunting. At others, it was an inexplicable thrill. Life could be like that, though. He just tried to roll with it and go wherever the tide took him.
By the time he stopped looking at everyone else, he could practically feel Mav’s hot-and-bothered eyes boring holes in the side of his skull. It was the response he’d wanted, naturally, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. Still, he had to psych himself up for it. Round one, so to speak, was about to unfold. Jackson mentally walled himself off and looked toward his frienemy, ready to hear it all: the comments about how pale, or hairy, or out of shape his ass was; the accusations about why he’d do such a thing; the rant about how disgusting and annoying he was. Blah, blah, blah. Maverick always delivered in spades.
“What the hell was that all about last night, Jack? Why’d you do that? For God’s sake…like my days aren’t crappy enough, do I really need to be assaulted with photos of your pasty, white-ass on top of everything else?”
Oh, how it hurt when Maverick would talk to him like that. Still, Jackson would rather endure this than the alternative, which was a total loss of Mav’s most valuable attention. Yes, it was true. Jackson would rather be belittled than ignored. Anything was better than a fate such as that.
“What’s the matter, Mav? You like what you saw? What’s the big deal? It was just a joke, dude…” he taunted, ready to spar.
Play with me, Maverick. Give me your attention. Notice me, notice me, NOTICE ME!
Maverick rolled his eyes and let out a frustrated groan. Jackson smirked and went out of his way to maintain a false air of cockiness. Truthfully, it was embarrassing and difficult to do. Sending out a picture like that, knowing it’d provoke Maverick to fury and insult was far from something easy to undertake. Jackson had opted to do it anyway, and it was fully intentional. He had a motive. He had a plan. It was all going to come to fruition eventually, so he hoped.
Maverick let go of it, checking his watch, “Come on. It’s time to get in there.”
Jackson silently followed Maverick into class. The two of them, though tense, chose to sit side by side up in the front row. Round one was over, now it was time for round two. As invigorated as Jackson had initially felt, he couldn’t help but sigh when he pulled out his laptop, thinking about the endless lengths he consistently went to for any crumb of Maverick’s attention. For example, though they already shared an abundance of classes, Jackson typically sniffed out what Maverick’s electives would be and signed up for them, too. They’d bicker in every one of them, but their classes on law were by far the worst. Predictably, they had very different ideas of the law and how to best represent it.
Maverick, ever the idealist, was passionate about defense. He had dreams of building a career around social justice. He wanted to defend those who were truly innocent, the ones that society was fanatical to incarcerate. Jackson, on the other hand, didn’t posses this rose-colored view of the world. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe innocent people went to prison. They did. They did all of the time. The fact of the matter was, though, there were monsters out there lurking. There were people who deserved a life in the slammer. That was more where Jackson’s passion burned. He wanted to be a prosecutor for the state. He wanted to put the bad guys away. He could do something good there, he knew it. It was just that when it came to Maverick, his ideals were usually scorned.
And so, throughout their classes, whenever there would be any semblance of social or philosophical debate they’d inevitably get into it. Jackson would be calm and collected, intentionally and genuinely pressing Maverick’s buttons. Maverick would cap his characteristic rage and opt for maturity in class, but often he’d get to a point where he was bested. It wasn’t because he’d run out of arguments, however, nor was it an inability to think of something to say. Rather, the reason Maverick always managed to lose was that temper of his. There was that frustrating point where, if poor Maverick kept going, that vein in the center of his reddened forehead might burst and hemorrhage all over the floor. Jackson had to hand it to him, even if Maverick couldn’t eradicate the rage, he was able to shut his mouth when it came down to it. Jackson wanted to keep pushing him, though, but not for mere entertainment (although, admittedly, there was that). No, the real reason Jackson pressed Maverick’s buttons was a noble one. He wanted to help him grow into the lawyer he had such high hopes of becoming. He’d need a tremendous amount of patience if he was going to accomplish it, particularly if they were ever to show down someday in court.
How delicious that would be.
On this day, however, class easily came and went. There weren’t any exceptional debates or altercations, which was kind of a shame, but also a relief. Jackson did have to admit, he had enough on his plate already with that picture he’d sent. It’d been on his mind all day, though he could tell it wasn’t affecting Maverick quite like that. In fact, Maverick seemed cold and unapproachable. It was actually starting to make Jackson wonder if something might be wrong.
While the two of them walked beside one another, much the way they always did, Jackson wrung the straps of his backpack and decided to ask about it. He could drop the game for a moment. He was capable of being serious now and then.
“You okay there, Mav? You seem kind of stuck in your head…?”
Maverick narrowed his eyes and glanced at him. He looked guarded and suspicious, like Jackson couldn’t possibly be genuinely curious about the state of his affairs. Maverick stayed like that so long it started to get awkward, but before Jackson could make any smart comments about it, he decided to answer.
“It’s this girl I’ve been seeing. She’s needy. I like her, we have fun and everything, but I don’t have the time to give her what she wants. I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about ending it. It just bums me out, I guess.”
Jackson’s stomach soured. He was more than aware Maverick was seeing someone.
“Why? Who cares? If you don’t like her, dump her. Why waste your time on someone who doesn’t do it for you?”
“I just said I like her, Jack. That’s not the problem!”
Jackson sighed and looked down at the ground. Maverick was already getting pissed. He’d pushed too hard, the same way he always inadvertently did. Dealing with him was like trying to negotiate with a volcano. Please, just this once, could you not blow your lid?
“Alright, okay, fine. I’m sorry. I’ll be a little more sensitive, or whatever bullshit you need right now. My point is, if you’re not feeling happy with her, or you think you’re not compatible, it’s probably best to just call it a day and move on. That’s all I’m saying. There. Is that better?”
Maverick shrugged, “Yeah, alright. A little.”
Jackson grinned and playfully nudged Maverick’s arm, “Lighten up, man. We’re young. It’s not like you’re gonna marry her. Don’t worry about it so much.”
Jackson watched with quiet fascination while Maverick’s pouty little lips moved into a smile. It made his heart skip more than just a beat. He loved seeing Maverick happy. He’d never admit something like that out loud, but it was true.
The two of them proceeded to talk about things of no consequence. They went through the motions of their days, sometimes separate, sometimes together. By the time classes were done they were tired, and their goodbyes were lackluster and thoughtless. Maverick didn’t have to work because his parents made total bank, but Jackson wasn’t cut from that cloth, so work was where he had to go next. He made his money over at the mall, at the loathsome weenie stand. He was subjected every shift to that ridiculous, tacky outfit. It drew so much attention it sometimes made him feel jokingly suicidal. All so he could sling a few hot dogs at some teens who were always rude to him. They joked about the outfits. They put down the employees with the confidence of their youth, and their parents’ bank accounts, assuming that they’d never be in his shoes. God, it was embarrassing. The only nice part about his job was the fact that Nathan worked there, too. Although, to be fair, Nathan’s personality was quickly becoming that of a wet blanket’s these days. Something was going on with him, of that Jackson was sure. The thing was, he’d just been too preoccupied with his desperate schemes to properly address it.
He couldn’t help thinking now that maybe he ought to. He did care about Nathan. He considered him his best friend, even though he knew Nathan didn’t regard him the same way.
“Hey, man…” Jackson sighed, tying his apron while he went behind the counter to clock in, thoroughly humiliated as always about the uniform.
Normally, Jackson was rather polished in his appearance.
“Hey,” Nathan listlessly responded, not paying Jackson much mind.
At least, that’s how it looked to Jack. The truth was, Nathan had been thinking about him a little throughout the day. That damn picture. He’d never really noticed Jackson like that before, but now that he’d seen more of him than he’d asked to, he was grappling with these tiny little pricks of emotion he didn’t quite know what to do with. He was playing it off, though, acting the way he typically did. Although, whenever Jackson turned around, or met his eyes, or smiled, or laughed, or just shot the shit, Nathan kept capturing these glimpses of something ethereal. It was making him feel all kinds of crazy, strange things that he couldn’t even begin to parse out.
Their shift carried on like that. It was dreadfully busy and trying for several hours. Teenagers mobbed them. They were rude. They didn’t tip. They made fun of their uniforms. Nathan remembered a time, not so long ago, when he and his crew used to do uncouth things like that. He felt both bad for it, and shamefully just a little bit nostalgic. Things were easier back then, on the other side of the counter.
Eventually, the crowds abated and the mall darkened. People trickled away with the sun, and the hour to close arrived. Nathan and Jackson were the closers, and they’d gotten pretty good at doing their thing. They tackled it the same way they always did. Jackson was the shift manager, of course, so he had the keys and he called the shots. He never did boss Nathan around, though, which he appreciated.
The lights went out. The work was done. They walked out to the parking lot and approached their vehicles. They typically parked near each other, both for safety and convenience. Before taking off, however, Nathan spun around and started to fidget with the keys in his hands. He looked like he wanted to say something, and Jackson could tell he was going to need some encouragement. Nathan could be shy like that, especially lately. Something had him really muted these days.
“What’s up, Nate? What is it?”
He bit his lower lip and looked away. Jackson started to feel a little short on patience because he still had to study and somehow get a decent amount of sleep. He swallowed it down, though, because this was Nathan and he had a little bit of give when it came to him.
“That picture you sent…uh…why’d you do that?” Nathan finally came out with it.
Jackson couldn’t help but let out a hearty laugh in his surprise, “Oh, that!? I was just messing around. It was nothing.”
Nathan eyed him doubtfully, and Jackson felt his stomach lurch.
“This wouldn’t happen to be about Maverick, would it?” Nathan asked, somewhat boldly.
Jackson sighed and shifted his weight. Shit. He may as well just level with him. If there was anyone in the world Jackson could trust with his secrets, it was Nathan. He turned around and leaned against Nathan’s car, looking up at the dark, starry sky. Nathan leaned beside him, looking up as well.
“It is about Maverick,” Jackson quietly admitted.
Nathan watched him, carefully taking in the sight of his friend. The moonlight was illuminating his face in this beautiful way. The colors he could see were interesting, and it made him stare perhaps a moment too long. Jackson didn’t notice. Nathan wished he could take a picture. Unfortunately, the moment was broken when Jackson sighed and dropped his gaze, carrying on with an explanation for his strange behavior.
“Sorry about sending it to you, too. It just felt easier like that, if it didn’t just go to him. I’m just…” he paused and held out his hands, like he was offering up his heart on a platter for consumption, “…I thought if I could get his attention, if I could get him to look at me privately, maybe it’d lighten things between us a little. I’m not stupid, I know one picture isn’t going to change the way things are. Actually, I’m planning to send some more, so sorry in advance for that, I guess.”
He glanced toward Nathan and shrugged, an apologetic and helpless expression on his face. Nathan nodded before dropping his gaze down to the ground.
Ah, that makes sense. You wanted Maverick to look at you the way I did. Of course.
Nathan folded his arms and crossed one of his ankles over the other. He pondered it for a moment before deciding to chime in.
“You know, maybe I can help you here. Like…look, I know you know Maverick super well and everything, but I don’t think this is the way to go about it. For one, from what I can tell, he’s not super interested in dating or sex at all, let alone with a man…and for two, even if he does have it in him to go there with you, throwing it in his face like that isn’t going to work. It’s just going to make him dig in his heels harder.”
Jackson folded his arms while he thought about it.
“Okay, so, what do you propose I do? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m pretty freakin’ good at directing people. I sent that photo right before dinner for a reason…you ever heard of Pavlov?”
Nathan suddenly laughed, knowing exactly where he was going.
“What? You think you’re going to Pavlov him into bed with you because dinner makes him think of your ass?”
Jackson shrugged and laughed, “I mean…yeah, that was the idea.”
Nathan put his hand to his forehead and kept laughing. Once he quieted, he shook his head and refolded his arms.
“I mean, theoretically, that could work, maybe…but I think you’d have better luck being less lewd and more romantic with him. Like I said, from what I’ve gathered, he’s not an especially sexual person.”
Jackson was listening, even if he wasn’t so sure about it. Nathan was one of the very few people he could trust and drop his guard with. There was no real sense in being anything short of authentic.
“What do you think he’d like?” he asked quietly, side stepping the fact that his own plan was flawed.
Nathan rubbed his chin while he thought for a moment, “Uh…I don’t know. What about, like, just taking him to get some ice cream or something? Take him out on a date without calling it one, but you’ve got to be nice about it, Jack. Don’t be an asshole like you usually are.”
“Ice cream, Nathan? Really? That’s your big master plan?”
Nathan shrugged, “I mean, it’s a start, isn’t it?”
Jackson shook his head and sighed, “Okay. He’s your best bud and all. I guess you’d know him better than me.”
They were quiet after that. They looked back up at the stars, lost in their heads. Nathan was just about ready to call it a night when Jackson turned his head and looked at him directly.
“What is it?” Nathan asked.
Jackson swallowed. He actually looked kind of nervous.
“Look, Nathan…no one knows this about me, okay? No one knows the way I feel about Maverick.”
Nathan squeezed his lips together, “How do you feel about Maverick?”
Jackson dropped his eyes, an unmistakable expression of sorrow crossing his face.
“I love him.”
Nathan was quiet. The crickets sang. He looked back up at the stars.
“Okay, so, let’s give this a shot. What’s there to lose?”
Jackson broke out in a wide smile, “You’ll help?”
Nathan shrugged, “Yeah, dude. Sure. I’ll help.”
Nathan pushed away from the car, fully prepared to get in and take off, when Jackson abruptly scooped him up in his arms and hugged him close. So close, in fact, that it was making it difficult for Nathan to breathe.
“Thank you, man…thank you, thank you…” he said happily, squeezing just a little bit harder.
Nathan would’ve hugged him back, except his arms were firmly pinned. He let the hug pass, entirely relieved when Jackson finally let him go. They each went to their vehicles after. Nathan sat quietly and watched while Jackson took off, realizing that he was feeling even stranger than before. He wanted to help Jackson. He felt good about it. He wasn’t surprised at all to hear he was in love with Maverick, and yet, something about it just wasn’t quite right. Something about this was terribly wrong.