Here are some excerpts from the true beginning of Ben and JC's relationship; the moment when they knew they could finally be together. And this is also the beginnings of the struggles they had with Ben wanting to live free and JC needing to hide.
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“I think we should spend the 22nd together. Movie, pizza and the fort. I’m brace free and should be pretty much good to go.”
"Good. I’ll see you then and I’ll call you tomorrow. Mom’s calling me for supper.”
“Okay, talk to you later. Ben… I love you.”
“I love you too.” He hung up the phone and hurried down the stairs. His smile lit up the whole dining room when he walked in. “Hey everybody!”
“Well, look at you. My happy son is back. That medicine must be starting to work,” Evie gushed.
“It’s more than that I think, Mama,” Dylan piped up. “He was waiting for a call from JC.”
“Oh really?” Cole asked. “You haven’t talked to him in quite a while. Is your fight finally fading?”
Ben smiled and looked around at his family. It seemed the secrecy would begin now, a whole month before JC came home. But they would be able to be together and that was all that mattered. Hell, his family was always so supportive and understanding he might just come out to them soon. It would make things so much easier. “JC and I are friends again. Best friends.”
Ben woke with a feeling that something was wrong. The sun shining through the curtains was too bright and the sounds coming from downstairs were louder than they should be for early morning. His brothers must have had enough of sleeping in on Christmas break. If he’d slept too late, his mom would have woken him. She knew how much it meant to him to be there to greet JC.
Rolling over onto his left side to try to go back to sleep, he was shocked to see that the clock read twelve, but then it was blinking which meant the power had gone out. Shit. What the hell time was it then? If his mother had let him sleep past noon…
Reaching into his nightstand drawer, he pulled out his watch. 11:53. Oh great. If he didn’t hurry, he was going to be late. Minutes later, he was dressed and headed down the stairs. “Ma! Why didn’t you wake me up. You know JC was coming in on the noon bus.”
“I’m sorry, I was on the phone with the insurance company all morning. I figured your alarm would wake you up.”
“But the power went out. My clock was flashing 12.”
“The power didn’t go out, Benjamin. Besides your clock has battery backup.”
“But then why is it flashing?”
“You probably need a new one,” Evelyn sighed. “I’ll grab one while I’m in town. Are you ready to go? You look like you’re about to explode.”
“Yeah,” he smiled big. “Let’s go already!”
Evelyn chuckled and hurried out of the room after her son.
Ben sat on the steps of the porch of JC’s old house. They’d been lucky enough to rent it again. His fingers wouldn’t stop moving, first up and down his pant leg, and then playing with blades of dead grass that poked up out of the mostly melted snow by his feet.
The minute he saw the vehicle turn down the street, he was up and waiting at the side of the driveway. He could see JC in the back cab of the truck but he didn’t want to look too close. Six hard months had passed since they’d seen each other and he wanted to be able to take in every nuance, every change all at once. Although he kept telling himself to breathe, he couldn’t help but hold his breath.
When JC stepped out of the truck, Ben’s gaze swept him from top to bottom then back up to rest on his gorgeous face. A small scar sat on his jaw line, his normally long, dark brown hair was cropped short and a big smile shined on his face.
“Benjamin,” he said with a nod.
“James,” Ben returned.
JC moved well considering what his body had been through recently and before either of them had time to think, they were toe-to-toe. “It’s really good to have you home,” Ben murmured.
“It’s good to be home,” JC whispered, reaching out to briefly embrace his best friend… boyfriend. They both now knew that to each other, home was together.
“God, we sound like we’re in love or something. I just wish we could shout it everywhere.”
“Me too…speaking of which, I want to come out to my family. I think it might make it easier. We would have one place where we could hold hands or hug, or kiss – within reason. We could have one place where we could be ourselves.”
“No!” JC exclaimed as he stood up and started to pace. “Do not tell your family!”
“Please, JC. I don’t like keeping things from them. They’ll support us, I’m sure of it.”
“But I can’t take that risk,” JC said, his voice panicked. “It could accidentally come out if even only one person knows.”
“I don’t mind her knowing, she’s one of us and she’s not here for more than a few months a year.”
“My family wouldn’t tell anybody if we asked them not to.” Ben felt sick to his stomach. He didn’t feel like there was anything to hide. Just telling his family was a good compromise. It would make him feel so much better.