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Thank God he hadn't been born Catholic. With his luck his parents would have sent him to some parochial school filled with Sister Petes—a school full of "well-meaning" nuns. Christ. He would have needed to go out for martinis by the time he was 14.
Scowling, Toby hurried across the common area. He was late, and it wasn't his fault. When Sister Pete had stopped him, he'd thought she would make small talk for a few minutes and then go on her way. Oh how wrong he had been. Clearly, he'd underestimated how determined she was to convince him that trusting Chris was a mistake. Toby wished she would stop her efforts. Being back with Chris was what he wanted, what he needed.
He slowed down as he approached their pod, took a deep breath and cautiously opened the door. Chris lay on the bottom book, his eyes closed.
"Hey," Toby said, and Chris opened his eyes. "Been waiting long?"
Chris swallowed and sat up, the oddest expression on his face. Was that awe, fear—maybe anger even? Toby wasn't sure. The growing silence gnawed at him. Chris's gaze, intense as ever, remained focused on him, and yet he said nothing.
"Sister Pete grabbed me, and I couldn't get away," Toby said trying to dispel the silence.
Chris remained quiet.
"Are you upset with me?" What the hell was going on? "Chris!"
"Huh?" Chris blinked and rubbed a hand over his face. "What did you say?"
"I asked if you were upset with me."
"Nah. What time is it? It's gotta be time to eat." Chris stood. "Wanna go see what slop they're serving?"
"Sure." Toby eyed Chris warily. Something wasn't right. As he followed Chris out of the pod, he asked, "Are you sure you're not mad at me?"
Chris looked at him, lips curving slightly. "Do you want me to be mad at you? Wasn't what I had in mind for tonight, but hey, if that's what you're in the mood for...."
Laughing, Toby shook his head. "No, it's not what I had in mind either." His smile faded. "You just seemed a little distant." Chris had actually seemed somewhat off for the last two days. It was worrying. He didn't want to borrow trouble, but he wanted to be prepared if it had found them again.
"Just conserving energy for tonight. What did you say you'd been doing?"
"Talking with Sister Pete."
"Yeah? Did she have anything interesting to say?"
Toby snorted. "No."
Chris nodded but didn't ask any questions, which Toby found very odd. His uncharacteristic silence carried over into dinner, prompting Toby to ask, "Are you all right?"
"Yeah. I've just been thinking."
"Stuff," Chris said, as he nudged the food on his plate with his fork.
"Good or bad?
"Why's it have to be good or bad? Just thinking. It's no big deal." Chris took a bite of his dinner and then asked, "You hear from your Dad. How was Holly's play?"
Toby grinned and eagerly related the stories his father had shared, how excited Holly had been and how the crowd had clapped. Chris smiled and kept the questions flowing, and before Toby knew it, dinner was over, and he'd gotten no closer to finding out what was bothering Chris.
Self-indulgent was definitely a good word for how he felt right now, and who could blame him when he was lying here sweaty with the lingering taste of Chris in his mouth. The giving and receiving of blow jobs was a wonderful way to relax. A wry smile curved Toby's lips as he thought about sharing that insight at a dinner with some of his parents' friends. The shocked expressions would almost be worth dropping that bomb, not that he'd be sitting down to dinner with his parents' friends in the near future. Besides dinners with so called members of "polite society" were one of the few things on the outside he didn't miss.
He really should move and go back to his bunk, but he was too comfortable to attempt movement. Apparently Chris didn't have the same issues, as he nudged Toby off his chest, got up and walked to the sink.
Toby stretched out on the bunk, relaxed and uninhibited, and watched as Chris washed up. Lately he'd developed a fondness for being naked, around Chris at least. He'd never been the focus of such undivided attention before, never knew how much he could crave that attention. Just the thought of Chris's gaze caressing his body made his cock twitch. He smirked, being with Chris improved his recovery time. Toby ran a hand along his stomach, his body an invitation for Chris to return to the bunk and make a go at round two, but Chris didn't turn around.
"You remember the news a few days ago?"
"Do you want to be more specific?" Toby sat up, muscles tensing. He couldn't see Chris's expression from here, but the hesitancy in his voice was worrying.
"Do you remember that story about the house that burnt down?"
Toby frowned, trying to recall what story could have captured Chris's interest and why. "It's not coming to mind right now."
"House burnt down, but no one was hurt. The family came home to find the house on fire. Nothing they could do but watch the fucking thing burn. By the time the fire trucks were able to get through to their crap assed part of town, there wasn't anything to save. The news chick mentioned some sort of fund you could give money to, as everything they owned had been in that house."
Toby still couldn't recall the story. He wondered why this particular one had stayed with Chris. "Is this what's been on your mind?"
"When I was 'bout eight, we had a house."
Toby noted the way Chris emphasized "had."
"It burned. Just like that one. Nothing left."
"Was anyone hurt?"
"Nah, we were at church when the fire started. Well, except for my Dad. Ain't that ironic, there we were praying for forgiveness, and it comes in the form of our house burning down. I remember my sister and me ...."
"You have a sister?"
Chris shrugged, body posture growing tight. Toby let it go. One story at a time.
"Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt. Go on."
"So, I remember standing on the sidewalk, cross the street, watching the flames eat through the house. Seemed like the whole fucking neighborhood was there doing nothing. Of course what could you do? Throw handfuls of dirt at it? My Mom was crying. I had never seen her cry, never saw her cry again. The house was a shit hole, but she'd always wanted a house. It was hers and well, it was...."
"It was home."
"Yeah. So by the time the fire trucks arrived, all that could be done was to put it out and protect the other houses. Those next to ours got scorched, but ours there was nothing left but debris."
Toby wasn't sure what to say, sorry seemed inadequate. Chris sat down on the edge of the bunk, and Toby rested a hand against his back.
"I haven't thought about that house in years, but I saw that story, and well the timing. I guess it's sort of an anniversary. They got a card for that? Happy House Burning Down Anniversary?" Chris briefly turned and smirked at him before looking back at his lap. "I think that was the only place I ever lived in that felt like home. I ain't ever been able to find another place that's felt right."
"And here isn't exactly the place you'll find it."
Toby felt Chris take a deep breath, and he started to run his hand soothingly up and down Chris's back.
"But maybe home ain't a place. Maybe I wasn't looking for the right thing, or maybe it has to find you. You asked me earlier if I'd been waiting long. I've been waiting so fucking long, Toby, but I think that wait may be finally over."
The tightening in his chest made it hard to breathe. Toby got it. He was home. He didn't care what Sister Pete said, he believed this, wanted this, wanted to be Chris's home and wanted Chris to be his home.
"I don't think I ever quite got the concept of home either. I might be getting it now."
Toby moved over and pulled Chris back down onto the bunk with him. As they kissed, he slid a leg in between Chris's, getting their bodies as close as possible. By this point, he had kissed Chris so many times, and yet there was something different about these kisses, something more, a connection of whose strength he was only beginning to understand.
Chris's skin felt warm and welcoming beneath his hands. Yes, this is home, he thought. His snide internal voice whispered, how fucked up is that? Toby ignored the voice, instead maneuvering Chris onto his back and straddling him.
"Toby," Chris whispered. He reached up and cupped Toby's face.
At this moment, Toby had all the truth he needed. It didn't matter what Sister Pete or anyone else thought, didn't matter how fucked up this love might be, because home was home, and that should be enough. He kissed Chris.
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