Happy Birthday, Jordan
Of the people I’ve written short stories for, Jordan is the one I’ve known the least amount of time. That being said, he’s been an incredibly inspiring person. He’s passionate about equality and rights for the LBGT community and isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
I spoke with Les, one of his very close friends, and she helped me brainstorm some ideas for this story. I googled a few things and found some inspiration pictures to use. Two men holding hands, a Ferris wheel, and a compass rose tattoo.
The story wasn’t quite what I originally planned, but your outspokenness wove its way into the plot. It took on a life of its own, like they do sometimes, but I sincerely hope you enjoy it, Jordan.
Danny wrapped his fingers around Ben’s narrow hips, pulling his boyfriend a little closer. He rested his chin on Ben’s shoulder and sighed, impatient already. He hated waiting in line, but Ben really wanted to go on the Ferris wheel and he couldn’t deny Ben anything when he pouted like that.
“I can feel you fidgeting,” Ben muttered.
Danny let out a huff of laughter. “Yeah. You know me.”
“I do, baby. You have the attention span of a squirrel on speed.”
“Asshole,” Danny countered.
Ben turned his head, his shaggy blond hair brushing Danny’s cheek. “Your asshole.”
Danny snorted. “I feel like there’s a bad pun in there somewhere.”
“There always is.”
Just because he knew it drove Ben nuts, he leaned forward and licked his ear. Ben shrieked and swatted at Danny, but he was laughing as he bent his head to the side and wiped his ear off on the soft flannel of his shirt. “Gross,” he muttered.
Danny chuckled. “C’mere, baby.”
Ben narrowed his blue eyes at Danny and shook his head, his lower lip sticking out in a bit of a pout. “You’re kidding me. You lick my ear and then you want to cuddle?”
Danny caught sight of a couple standing off to their right who were laughing at their antics, grateful that everyone around them seemed amused rather than disapproving. Sometimes, Danny forgot that the whole world wasn’t like their friends and his own parents. They’d had a few unpleasant reminders of that fact, but it seemed like tonight at least, they’d have some peace. He grabbed Ben’s hand and tugged his boyfriend back against him. “Come here. I promise I won’t lick your ear again.”
Ben huffed but wound his arms around Danny’s neck anyway, leaning in to speak in his ear. “I can think of somewhere better for you to lick.” He ended that dirty little suggestion with a sharp stinging bite to the ear that made Danny shudder.
“Tease,” he grumbled.
Ben responded with a raised eyebrow and a cock of the chin that never failed to make Danny laugh. Ben liked to tease, and when he was feeling especially good, he tended to adopt a playful, campy attitude. He’d been a lot more reserved when they first met, the pain from his past dulling the real Ben.
Danny’s coming out had been easy enough. His parents were initially surprised and slightly bewildered, but they were supportive. His father had bought out the entire self-help section of Barnes and Noble aimed at heterosexual parents who wanted to support LGBT children, and his mother promptly joined PFLAG. Although their support was often downright embarrassing—he could have lived his whole life never discussing rimming with either of his parents—he was grateful. Ben hadn’t been so lucky when his parents found out he was gay. They had been emotionally abusive to begin with and had broken his nose, arm, and leg when he came out to them. The best thing they’d done for him was kick him out of the house. He’d ended up moving across the country to stay with an older cousin who just happened to live in the same town as Danny. They’d met shortly after that, and they had been inseparable since.
Now both twenty-three, they were living together in a little apartment. Danny worked at a local radio station while he went to school for broadcasting, and Ben worked as a cook at a diner while he worked on his GED. Their life together was certainly nothing like he’d imagined when they were both seventeen, nervous and awkward, fumbling in the backseat of Danny’s beat-up car. They were just horny teenagers discovering sex together. They never dreamed love was what they’d find.
The line moved forward again, and Ben and Danny found themselves at the front. Fingers hooked together, they stood there in silence, mesmerized by the bright lights as they spun round and round. Danny glanced over at Ben and frowned at the melancholy expression on his face. “What’s wrong?” he murmured.
“Just reminded me of something from when I was little.” A shadow crossed his face. “Mom took me to the fair.”
Danny swallowed, his heart aching for the man beside him. Ben might have moved forward, but there was always a small part of him that hadn’t quite healed from his parents’ horrible reaction to his coming out. As far as Danny was concerned, they were monsters, but the pain lingered for Ben.
“One of the few good memories I have,” Ben said quietly.
Danny nodded. “Well, let’s add some more tonight. What else do you want to do after the Ferris wheel?”
Ben’s face brightened as he begged for a corn dog, a ride on one of the rides guaranteed to make Danny nauseous, and for Danny to win him a stuffed animal at one of the carnival games. Danny groaned, he hated all three of those things, but the brilliant smile on Ben’s face was impossible to resist. Ben lit up when he was happy, his eager enthusiasm pulling everyone along in his wake behind him. “Sure, baby,” Danny promised.
When their turn came, they settled into the gently swaying seats of the Ferris wheel, Danny’s arm closing around Ben’s shoulders as he snuggled close.
The wind ruffled Danny’s hair as the Ferris wheel rose. The heat of the day had dissipated, and the cooler breeze felt nice. When the wheel reached the top he could see out over the whole fair. Lights glittered in the darkening night, the sunset a deep, red-purple, the edges bleeding into black. He turned to look at Ben who was giving him the smile that always made Danny weak in the knees. “Thanks.”
“For what?” Danny leaned in, brushing his lips against Ben’s. “Waiting in line so you could ride the Ferris wheel?”
“Yeah, that, but for the rest of it. Being there for me when things got so hard.” Ben rested his head on Danny’s shoulder, and Danny tightened his arm around his boyfriend.
Things had been hard for Ben. He’d struggled with depression for years; some days it was so bad he could barely get out of bed. Danny had stuck by him through it. He wasn’t going to lie, it was hard. There had been days he’d thought about walking away, but he couldn’t imagine his life without Ben. Living without his sweet smile, without the familiar scent of the skin in the crook of his neck, without the sigh he always let out when Danny pushed inside him, was unimaginable.
His life might be easier without Ben in it, but it certainly wouldn’t be better. Ben had been there for him as well. When Nancy, Ben’s mother, had been in a car accident and Danny had been terrified he’d lose her, Ben had been there to support Danny and his father, Jack. Hell, Jack had cried on Ben’s shoulder, terrified he was going to lose his wife of twenty-seven years. Ben had been there through her slow, painful rehabilitation and that following year had cemented their relationship. Whatever rough times they’d had, they were both in it for the long haul now.
“I fucking love you, Benji,” Danny said hoarsely, pulling him closer and kissing the top of his head.
“You know I hate that nickname,” Ben muttered, but he snuggled closer to Danny anyway.
“Yeah, I know.” Danny grabbed Ben’s chin and turned his head, capturing his lips in a kiss. Ben still tasted like the elephant ear he’d devoured earlier, like cinnamon and sugar. He pressed his forehead against Ben’s for a moment. As much as he rolled his eyes at Ben’s child-like excitement about the fair, it was fun to see it through his eyes. Danny never regretted indulging Ben’s whims. And he couldn’t lie, kissing on top of a Ferris wheel was pretty damn romantic. Up in the air it was quiet, far from the din of rides and games, the excited shrieks of children, and the chatter of the adults. It felt private, like their own little glimpse of heaven. He shivered and he wasn’t sure if it was from the cool breeze or the moment.
When the Ferris wheel stopped and they stepped out of the car, Ben pulled Danny along the midway. Danny managed to convince Ben to go on the stomach-churning ride before they ate corn dogs, and gulped down a frozen Coke after, hoping the icy drink would keep him from yakking all over his boyfriend’s shoes. They spent a while wandering through the animal barns, Ben cooing at every furry creature there. Danny groaned, half-terrified they’d somehow end up with even more pets than they already had; two dogs and three cats was plenty, but Ben was a softy for injured and abandoned animals. At least the ones at the fair were well-treated, so Ben didn’t have that as an excuse.
Eventually, they wound up at one of the ring toss booths. Danny spent an obscene amount of money, but he finally managed to win Ben an obnoxiously large stuffed gorilla.
“Oh my God,” Ben gushed. “I can’t believe you won this for me. I am going to sleep with it every night.” Danny laughed quietly and shook his head, knowing that Ben would end up shoving it off the bed every night like he did with his pillows. Instead he’d clutch Danny in his sleep, narrow arms wrapped around him like he was terrified the other man would disappear in his sleep. As much as Danny hated that Ben needed that kind of reassurance still, he loved that he could be there for him. He’d grown used to the tight grip of Ben’s arms, the feel of his cheek pressed to Danny’s shoulder, and his breath warm against his neck.
Danny was just about to ask Ben if there was anything else he wanted to do before they went home when a loud voice shattered their peaceful night. “Isn’t that sweet? You won a big stuffed animal for your bitch. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, is that your girlfriend? I wouldn’t want to be politically incorrect.”
Danny gritted his teeth together, wrapped a protective arm around Ben, and turned to face the asshole who’d spoken. There was a small crowd of people around, and the man who spoke appeared innocuous enough, he wasn’t the redneck in the John Deere cap, or the one who looked like he hadn’t bothered to bathe after mucking out a barn. Just your average, ordinary asshole.
“I won this for my boyfriend, yeah. And you owe him an apology,” Danny snarled.
The man was clearly trying to bait Danny. Ben might carry himself a little more delicately, and he certainly had a slighter build than Danny did. Sure, Danny’s square features, dark hair and eyes, and heavy stubble made him look older and tougher than Ben, but they were dressed similarly in jeans and flannels. Nothing about Ben looked feminine. No, the man just wanted to get a reaction from Danny, and damn it, he was having a hard time not giving the asshole one.
He heard a low growl from Ben, who shoved the gorilla at Danny and squared off with the guy, arms crossed over his chest. Ben might be skinny, but he was a lot tougher than he looked. “So, you think that because we’re a gay couple, one of us must be the bitch, right? And clearly, you’ve decided that’s me.”
The man scoffed. “Come on, like it isn’t obvious which one of you takes it up the ass? Everyone knows you’re the woman.”
Ben arched a brow at him. “First of all, I’d like to know what right you think you have to ever ask someone a question like that. Do you see me inquiring about your sex life? I don’t think so. Besides, I’ve had my cock in his ass just as often. I may not be your idea of what a man is, but trust me, he knows I’m all man.”
“I’m just saying it’s unnatural,” the man spat back. “You should be praying to God you’ll see the truth before He punishes you.”
Ben’s face went white and his hands clenched into fists at his side. “Do you know who the last person was who said something like that to me?”
Danny’s stomach lurched, knowing he was referring to his asshole of a father. He clenched his jaw; it was a struggle not stepping in, but he held back, knowing Ben could handle himself and that he needed to let him fight his own battles. He’d be there waiting though, if Ben needed him after.
The man sneered at him and Ben continued. “It was my father. Before he split my lip, broke my nose, and pushed me down the stairs. Before he made me crawl out the door with a broken leg and arm, making me swear I’d never come back. He’s the one who deserves to be punished, not me.”
Ben yanked at the cuff of his flannel, ripping off the button in the process as he pulled it up his forearm and turned his hand so his palm was up. Danny knew the man could clearly see the shiny white patch of scars covering his arm where surgeons had placed the pin to repair the break. He cocked his head when he saw the white gauze covering Ben’s forearm. That was new though.
“You think God is going to punish me for loving someone?” Ben continued. “Just because he’s a man? That man over there has loved me more than anyone else in my life ever has. He’s stood by me through the kind of hell you can’t even imagine.”
Ben ripped away the taped-on gauze, not even flinching as it pulled at his skin and hair before coming away. Danny stepped forward, gazing at the tattoo underneath. It was red, clearly new, and Danny couldn’t believe Ben had kept it a secret from him. Danny’s eyes traced the mark, the sight of the compass rose made his heart feel so full. “Your north,” he whispered. It was something Ben had called him for years.
Ben glanced over at Danny and nodded once before he met the man’s gaze, unflinching. “He’s pulled me out of hell and back. He’s the love of my life and the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with. He’s my north; without him, I’d be lost.” He leaned in, his voice dropping. “I suggest that the next time you feel the need to make bigoted comments about a gay couple, you think twice. I’d happily be called his bitch any day of the week if it meant being with him, but you’re wrong. We’re partners, equals. You’re a bigoted asshole; I can’t change that, but don’t you dare tell me that my relationship isn’t every bit as important to me as yours is to you. If I could marry this man today, I would, but people like you have stopped that from happening.”
Ben’s voice cracked. “People like you are why so many gay kids are homeless, why I’ve lost friends to depression, drugs, and suicide; you’re why people have to hide who they are. I hope you feel good about yourself. All I wanted to do tonight was have a nice night with the person I love, is that too much to ask?”
He glanced around the crowd defiantly, and Danny stepped forward, wrapping an arm around Ben’s waist. The man had the courtesy to look ashamed, and he slunk away without another word. The crowd that had gathered around them was silent for a long moment, and then someone began to clap. It was hesitant at first, a lone pair of hands applauding, but then it grew, the crowd joining in.
Ben turned his head into Danny’s neck. He wasn’t embarrassed, but he wasn’t really used to that kind of attention either. The applause died down after a few moments, but people stepped forward, quietly thanking Ben, or telling him how much his speech had affected them. Danny felt a surge of pride for the quiet, timid boy he’d met six years prior who was now strong enough to stand up for what he believed in, to face down the bullies and haters, to proudly proclaim his love for Danny in front of a crowd of people.
Eventually, they escaped the crowd, hurrying toward their car, needing to be alone. Ben was silent on the drive home, but he didn’t seem upset, mostly quiet and contemplative. Danny threaded their fingers together and lifted their joined hands to his mouth, kissing the back of Ben’s hand.
Back at their apartment, Danny made love to Ben. Stretched naked on the bed, Danny let his lips trail from Ben’s mouth and down over his collarbone. Ben laughed, squirming as Danny licked his skin, and chuckled to himself; Ben was very ticklish. Ben’s laughter turned into moans when Danny reached his very sensitive nipples and the moans grew loud when Danny’s mouth wrapped around his cock. It was slow and teasing at first, and Ben continued to squirm under his touch. Danny prepped Ben just as slowly, opening him up just as gently as he had the first time. He brushed his cheek against Ben’s thigh, feeling the soft tickle of the hair there. Danny sucked him more deeply when Ben’s fingers buried in Danny’s thick hair.
“Stop, stop,” Ben begged after a while. He was panting and sweat coated his chest, his hair damp against his forehead.
Danny released Ben’s cock with a quiet, wet pop and walked his way up Ben’s body on his hands and knees. Kneeling astride Ben’s thigh he slicked his cock and then leaned down for a kiss. Ben’s lips and tongue kissed him back greedily, his hands grasping at Danny.
Danny smiled against Ben’s lip when Ben let out a familiar sigh as he pushed inside him. “Love that sound you make,” he murmured, pushing all the way inside. Ben grasped Danny’s body, pulling him even more tightly to him. Danny felt the other man’s heels dig into the back of his thighs, and he gasped when he began to move. He dropped his head, his temple pressing against Ben’s. Danny could feel Ben’s breath against his cheek and the damp slide of their skin together.
Unable to hold out any longer, Danny urged Ben to come. After a few deep, hard thrusts, Ben threw his head back, his shoulders and neck tensing with the pleasure. Danny dropped to his elbows, burying his head against Ben’s neck, his entire body going rigid with pleasure as he came inside his lover.
The strength left his body, and he collapsed onto Ben. Tangled together in a sweaty, messy heap of limbs on the soft blue sheets, they held each other tightly.
Danny gently traced the unmarked skin just under Ben’s fresh tattoo. “I can’t believe you got this,” he said reverently.
“That wasn’t how I planned to show it to you. I was going to do it tonight after we got home. When we were alone.” Ben frowned, clearly disappointed.
“It doesn’t matter,” Danny reassured him. “I just can’t believe you got it. What made you decide to do that?”
Ben shrugged. “I wanted you inked onto me. I realized I have all of these tattoos with meaning on me, but none that are specifically for you.”
Danny nodded. Ben had amassed an impressive collection of ink in the last few years and he was honored that Ben would carry that mark around with him for the rest of his life. “Why today?”
Ben blushed and it made Danny smile; he didn’t do it often. “It’s dumb.”
“C’mon, tell me,” Danny coaxed.
“It’s the anniversary of the first time you kissed me.”
Danny shifted on the bed, pulling Ben closer. “Oh, baby, I can’t believe you remembered the date.” He laughed softly. “I sure as hell didn’t.”
Ben shrugged. “It was a big deal to me. You were the first person who saw me. Not the scars, not the fucked up kid I was, but the real me. You kissed me, and I knew I’d found where I was supposed to go. Who I was supposed to be.”
Danny blinked back tears. It wasn’t the first time he’d cried in front of his boyfriend and it wouldn’t be the last. “I’m so fucking proud of you for tonight.”
Ben shrugged. “I was just doing what was right. He probably won’t learn anything from it, but you heard some of the other people there, I changed some of their minds, made them see things differently. It was worth it for that.”
“You’re amazing,” Danny insisted.
Ben flushed and turned over, brushing Danny’s hair out of his eyes. “I think I want to get involved at the shelter, or with a group for gay teenagers or something. I feel like I need to be a part of it.”
“Okay,” Danny agreed.
“Just like that?”
“Just like that. It’s important to you,” he said simply. “Maybe I’ll come, too.”
“You’ve never been the joining type.”
Danny shrugged. “Maybe not, but this is important. Speaking up, getting involved, it’s the only way things are going to change. We’re lucky, we have each other, but not everyone has that. I don’t like the thought of what would have happened if it wasn’t for your cousin, if we’d never found each other. I have nightmares about it sometimes, thinking of you alone on the streets.”
Ben squeezed him tighter. “I know.” He kissed Danny slowly and sweetly before sighing and touching his forehead to Danny’s. “Love you.”
“I love you, too.” Danny’s voice grew husky, wondering if he should get a matching compass tattoo. “You know, you’re my north, too. I’d be just as lost without you.”