Nothing Ever Happens
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by Sue Brown
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Andrew's life is a cliché: he's a gay man trapped in a loveless marriage, thanks to his religious, overbearing mother. Then a new couple moves in down the street, and Andrew finds himself falling for Nathan in a big way. Nathan is straight, married, and just about to be a father, but after one fateful night out together at a club, Nathan has to face the fact that his feelings for Andrew go way beyond that of a friend and neighbor. When Andrew's wife asks for a divorce, both men's lives are thrown into disarray. Arguments about their responsibilities to their wives and children, doubting themselves and each other, and some harrowing lies pull them apart? but they never leave each other's thoughts.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: April 2011
24 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [383 KB]
Reading time: 248-347 min.
Andrew watched the new couple with a cynical eye. Mr. and Mrs. Newlyweds, matching rings glinting in the sunlight, his arm around her shoulders, keeping her close. He could only see their backs as they were introduced to the neighborhood vultures, but Jesus, he was tall. Built like a brick shit house. His wife was tiny compared to Mr. Newlywed, barely coming up to his shoulders, yet from Andrew's perspective she had him on a tight leash, her fingers hooked firmly though his belt loops. She wasn't letting him go anytime soon. Andrew couldn't hear them, but he could see the guy laughing at some wisecrack Allison had made.
He knew how this would pan out. An introduction at the cookout, polite smiles exchanged, then they would vanish behind the front door, only emerging for work and grocery shopping. No one was really friends here, not unless they had kids, and then it was play dates, carpools, and sneaky gins at two in the afternoon. Still, they had to pretend for the newbies--Allison's orders.
If there was one thought in Andrew's head at any of these neighborhood parties, it was how soon he could escape. No matter how much he drank, or how much he tried to fit in, every party was long and tedious, even with the agreement with Stephanie that, after showing willingness, he could retreat to his dark room. He was so tired of pretending to be something he wasn't. Andrew Matthews, model husband, father, and town photographer. Andrew looked at his watch. Half an hour, then he could leave the neighbors to their amusements and disappear back to the darkroom. Twenty-nine minutes and thirty seconds. He took a swig of his beer. Idly, he wondered how long they had been married. A month? Six weeks tops. He predicted that in nine months time there would be a little Newlywed in a stroller, or... hello! Maybe next week, judging by the size of that stomach! Andrew found himself transfixed by Mrs. Newlywed's belly as she turned around. Either they had been practicing before the wedding or Andrew's intuition was way off.
Hidden in the corner, Andrew was able to stare freely at the woman, noting her slightly swollen ankles in their strappy high-heeled sandals. He was surprised she could get them on. Despite her advanced pregnancy, she was a slender woman with delicate bone-structure. Andrew could see how attractive she was. Then for the first time he got a proper look at the man. Shit, he was young. Too young to be married and expecting a kid. He looked like a college jock on his first date, all shaggy hair and rippling muscles, with broad shoulders and narrow hips.
"Don't they look cute? All hearts and flowers. Sooooo in lurve."
Andrew looked down at his wife. Stephanie was staring at them with something approaching dislike, her long fingers wrapped so tightly round a wineglass they showed white round the knuckles. He sighed quietly. They had never been like that. He watched the man, so young and in love, a big grin on his face as he hugged his wife close to his side. Andrew felt an emotion he hadn't experienced for a very long time. He was jealous, envious of the love they were showing each other, and the smiles, the goddamned fucking affection. He and Stephanie had never looked at each other like that--ever.
Taking another pull on the beer, he said, "Wait 'til the sleepless nights kick in. The hearts and flowers won't count for a lot then." Andrew looked at Stephanie's glass. It was empty, as usual. He wondered how many glasses she had consumed. "Want another one?" He waggled his bottle at her.
She nodded. "Yeah, why not. The booze is the only thing that makes this day bearable. I'm going to find out where Colin is. Be back in a moment."
Andrew took her glass, then wandered off towards the kitchen. Allison and Jim's house was the same as his, all gleaming white appliances in exactly the same place. He opened the large fridge to find it stocked top to bottom with wine. Allison was well known for taking these cookouts very seriously. Taking an open bottle of white wine, he topped up Stephanie's glass right to the brim--otherwise she'd only complain--and closed the fridge door to look for the beer bucket.
"Is there one in there for me?" Andrew looked up as he reached into the icy water to get a bottle. Mr. Newlywed was grinning at him, a hopeful expression in his eyes.
"Sure." Andrew passed over the one he had been rooting for, then acquired a second one for himself.
"Thanks." The guy cracked it open and took a long pull, his moan of pleasure as the cool liquid hit the back of his throat almost obscene. Andrew tried hard not to stare. "God, I needed that." He suddenly seemed to remember his manners, and wiping his hand on his jeans, he held it out. "Nathan Peterson. Just moved into number twenty-four."
Andrew refrained from his desire to laugh at him, merely shaking his hand and saying, "Andrew Matthews. My wife Stephanie and I live at number twelve." Andrew stood over six feet, but this man dwarfed him both in height and physique; his handshake was firm but not bone crushing. Idly he wondered what he would look like in black and white, shirt off and wet. Maybe washing the car. Andrew preferred to take his photos where people were actually doing something. He realized he was holding onto his hand for too long when he caught Nathan's amused expression.
Laughing nervously, Andrew tried to make small talk. "So, have you met everyone yet? Remembered all their names?"
"Not a single one. You're Justin, right?" He grinned at Andrew's appreciative snort. "To tell you the truth, it's kinda overwhelming. We've only been here forty-eight hours."
"I'll bet. Still, you'll soon get to know us all, and you'll be dragged to these events often enough. Allison and Jim love their 'aren't we all such good neighbors' shindigs."
Nathan frowned, trying to remember who they were. "Small skinny blonde and older grizzled dude?"
Andrew nodded. "Yeah. They run the neighborhood watch program. The rest of us just fall in line."
"Huh. Okay, I get the picture." Nathan looked at his bottle. It was empty. He waved it hopefully at Andrew. "Any chance of another one?"
Andrew waved his hand at the bucket. "Just help yourself. You never go home sober from one of these gigs. Not if you wanna stay sane." He watched as Nathan dug around eagerly in the bucket for another bottle. "So, expecting your first child soon?"
"You noticed?" Nathan seemed to be almost bouncing in excitement at the prospect. "Gummi bear?" He pulled out a half-empty bag of candy from his pocket. Bemused, Andrew nodded and dug into the bag. Pulling out a red one, he tipped his head back and tossed it into his mouth.
Nathan continued, "Alex looks like she's going explode any moment. I hope she doesn't. Explode, I mean," he added hastily at Andrew's bemused look.
"I guess this is your first then?" Andrew laughed outright. The dude was like a small kid himself.
Nathan laughed with him, not taking the slightest offense. "Certainly is. He's due in four weeks' time." He proffered the gummi bears again.
Picking a green one, Andrew bit the limbs off it before decapitating it and swallowing the body.
"Jesus, what did that bear ever do to you?" Nathan had been watching the whole process in fascination.
"Didn't get the chance. I got him first," Andrew said smugly, taking a drink although the bitter taste of the beer didn't really mix well with the candy.
"Remind me not to get on your bad side," Nathan drawled.
They grinned at each other, then Andrew asked, "A Texas boy?"
Nathan tipped an imaginary Stetson and said, "Yes boss. San Antone born and bred."
Andrew pretended to groan. "Oh no. A Spurs fan? I think I may never speak to you again." He spoke in a slow deep drawl, allowing the accent he normally suppressed to become more noticeable.
"Wait a moment!" Nathan's hazel eyes positively sparkled. "Do I hear me another escapee? Only, one from the wrong side of the tracks?"
"Born in Dallas, moved to Santa Fe when I was ten," Andrew confirmed.
"Ah, a Mavs then?" At Andrew's nod, the younger man hummed. "Not sure we should be talkin', but as we're both momma's boys, shall we put aside our differences, at least until I whup your ass at Madden?"
Andrew winced at the reference to his mother--Momma's black sheep perhaps--but kept his smile glued to his face. For once, he liked this new addition to the area. He hoped Nathan wasn't a hiding behind the front door type. "In your dreams, boy," he drawled.
Nathan whooped. "You are so on." A challenging light entered his eyes. "How 'bout we escape from here and you pretend you can try and beat me?" He lunged forward to engulf a startled Andrew in a bear hug. Arms flailing, Andrew found himself smushed up against a cotton shirt. He inhaled the scent of laundry detergent, and beneath it sweat, and something he couldn't define. His hands, trying to get a purchase on something solid, landed on Nathan's back. Fuck, this guy was packing muscle. He made Andrew look like a stick insect.
"Don't you dare run away, Nathan Peterson." A light, warm, female voice, trying to sound amused but with a clear thread of irritation, interrupted them.
Andrew tried to disentangle himself and retain some dignity. He felt rather than heard Nathan chuckling, his chest vibrating under his cheek; then an arm slipped across his shoulders and he was turned to meet Alex. Strangely enough Nathan didn't let him go, just tucking him under one arm as he said, "Hey darlin', meet our new neighbor, Andrew. He's a Mav, but don't let that put you off."
Alex rolled her eyes. "Sorry for my husband, Andrew. He's an overgrown puppy with the manners to match. Put him down, Nathan," she commanded, much as she would talk to a young dog.
"Drew doesn't mind, do you?" And Andrew was squeezed for a second, before Nathan obediently dropped his arm and moved over to his wife, bending down to kiss her on the cheek.
Andrew was torn between pointing out that if Nathan called him Drew again his balls would be in danger, and asking him to put his arm back. Then another arm went around his waist, sharp nails digging into his skin.
"So, I was waiting for you to come back with my drink, and instead I find you groping the new neighbor. Quick work, Drew." Stephanie had followed Alex into the kitchen and witnessed the whole display.
Andrew was determined not to give his wife the satisfaction of seeing him blush. "You're just jealous," he answered, "because I got a hug and you didn't."
Alex laughed, not noticing the undercurrents of tension between their new neighbors. "He mauls everybody." She elbowed Nathan in the ribs. "Believe me. He doesn't understand the concept of personal space."
Nathan held out his hands as if in surrender. "I'm just overly friendly. Anyway, Drew and I have a date for me to take him down."
Stephanie gave a thin laugh. "Much as I know he would love for you to manhandle him, Andrew's promised to take his son to the park this afternoon."
A broad grin split Nathan's face. Did this guy ever stop laughing? "You have a son as well?"
"Yeah, Colin, he's nine," Andrew muttered. "Going into the fourth grade come September."
"Hey, Nathan is a fourth-grade teacher. He's going to be teaching at Castleton Elementary." Alex looked at her husband with such pride.
To Andrew's surprise, Nathan went bright red. "I'm newly qualified. This is my first job," he admitted.
"That's Colin's school. You'll be teaching his class." Stephanie surprised everyone by going to the kitchen door and yelling for her son. After a minute a thin, lanky boy came to the door. He was wearing shorts, no shirt, and was as usual, filthy dirty. Even his hated freckles, which he complained about at every opportunity, were virtually unnoticeable in the grime that covered his body.
His mother steered him in the direction of Nathan. "Colin, meet your new teacher, Mr. Peterson."
"Jesus, he's enormous." Colin's jaw dropped as he looked at Nathan.
Andrew was amused to notice both teacher and pupil looked highly embarrassed as everybody laughed. Stephanie nudged Colin. "What do you say?"
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Peterson," he said politely.
His new teacher came to his rescue. "Nate, 'til September at least." Nathan held out his hand and Colin shook it as he had been taught. "We'll go back to Mister P the first day of school, okay?"
Colin nodded. "Can I go now, Mom, pleeeease?" he whined, desperate to get away from his parents and, even worse, his new teacher. It was still vacation. Way, way too early to be thinking about school.
"Ten minutes, then Dad is taking you to the park to play soccer." Stephanie was firm.
Andrew snuck a look at his watch, sighing inwardly. So no chance of the darkroom first. He had been so close to escaping.
Colin was out of the kitchen door the second he got permission, almost knocking down Jim and Allison, who had come in search of the new neighbors. They rocked back as he sped past, then entered the kitchen, pleased to see Andrew and Stephanie making an effort with Nathan and Alex.
"Hey there. How are you all doing? Has everyone got a drink? Jim, we need some more beer. Nathan is almost out." As usual, Allison took charge as soon as she entered the kitchen. She was considerably younger than her husband, but there was no doubt who was the driving force in their relationship. Jim seemed content to let her steam ahead, and in return she gave him a well organized home and affectionate, if bossy, attention.
Nathan gave them all his widest smile. Andrew was nearly blinded by the way the kitchen suddenly lit up. "I'm fine, thank you, Allison. I won't have another one. I gotta walk the dogs this afternoon, and Drew here has invited me to play soccer with him and his boy."
Andrew choked on the last of his beer. As he spluttered out his apologies, gasping for breath, an enormous hand patted him on the back.
"All right there, Drew? Trying to wuss out of our game? Give me ten to get changed and pick up the dogs and we'll be on our way."
Andrew looked up to see Nathan giving him a barely perceptible wink. Beside him, Alex looked thunderous. Allison beamed at them all. This was just what she enjoyed most, all her neighbors getting on so well.
He grinned back at Nathan. An afternoon in the darkroom hiding from the world, or an afternoon in the sunshine whupping the ass--extremely nice ass--of his new friend, at soccer? No contest. "Think you can beat me and my boy? Bring it on."
* * * *
From a distance, Nathan could see the concentration on Colin's face as he positioned the volcano. He was wearing his normal uniform of shorts and grime. His teacher had learned from one week of school that Colin spent more time in the dirt than on his feet, something he was supposed to discourage. Teacher and pupil had an unspoken agreement that they were going to ignore that directive completely.
He smiled as he watched Colin work. He was so obviously Andrew's son, from the full mouth to the pale, freckled skin and the bright, sparking blue eyes. Colin was more confident than Andrew though, with a cocky grin that got him into and out of many scrapes. Andrew rarely came alive with the same vibrancy that Colin exuded. Andrew always made Nathan feel slightly protective, whereas with Colin, Nathan wanted to high-five him half the time and throttle him senseless the other half.
Nathan had wandered over from his house, hoping Andrew was free. He'd been desperate to escape from the women in his house, who seemed determined to take over every room with diapers, powder, pacifiers, and baby paraphernalia that Nathan hadn't realized even existed. His idea of coming home and celebrating that, during his first week as a teacher, he hadn't been eaten alive by his pupils, had disappeared with a gaggle of female relatives and friends of Alex's, invading his front room and kitchen. After two hours of having his butt pinched by middle-aged women who'd had too many martinis, he'd been desperate to leave. Trapped on the sofa, Alex had glared at him as he'd waved goodbye, but a whispered promise of a hot bath, massage, and breakfast in bed had pacified her enough for him to escape to the neighbors.
The path to Andrew's house was well worn now. From the second Nathan had invited himself to the park, he and Andrew found a good friend in each other, spending as many evenings as Alex would allow trying to cheat on the games consoles, playing hoops with Colin, and generally acting like they were five years old whenever they got the chance. Even Colin wasn't too embarrassed about having Nathan for a neighbor, particularly one that helped him beat his dad at every game they played. The only thing he hadn't persuaded Andrew to do yet was come for a morning run with him and the dogs.
"Hey Colin, is your dad in?" Nathan asked.
Colin was in the front yard. He looked up briefly as Nathan went past. "Dad's in the den playing the guitar. Gary is over tomorrow." He frowned as he stepped back from his recreation of the school experiment. "Do you think this is going to work, Mister P?"
"You can call me Nathan or Nate out of school, Colin," his teacher reminded him. "Hmm, not sure. You may need more soda than that. Or if you want to make a real mess, try Diet Coke and Mentos. I didn't tell you that, of course. Who's Gary?" It was the first he'd heard of him.
They had spent the first week of the semester building rocket launchers, exploding water bombs, and discussing how to destroy the world. It hadn't done much to endear Nathan to the janitor, but even Colin had admitted to his parents that Nathan was kinda cool--for a teacher.
Colin bounced to his feet. "Dad's friend, Gary Stevens. He plays in a band. I'll ask Mom if she's got some more. See ya, Mister... Nate."
Nathan waved a lazy hand and walked round the side of the house to the door to the den, interested to hear what Andrew was playing. Technically this was the door to the basement, but the Matthews had converted it to a large room, complete with bed and sofa, where Andrew lived most of the time, Stephanie and Colin occupying the rest of the house. Their son seemed to divide his time between the two of them.
To Nathan, brought up in a large happy family home, this seemed completely incomprehensible, but Andrew had refused to discuss it, and Nathan hadn't wanted to jeopardize their growing friendship by prying any further.
As usual, the door to the den was open, and Nathan could hear the soft strains of a guitar and someone singing. He hesitated a moment before going down, knowing Andrew would stop the moment he knew Nathan was there. The twang Andrew tried so hard to suppress was more obvious when he sang, his voice richer and deeper than normal.
The song came to an end and he walked down the stairs, blinking a little as his eyes adjusted to the relative dimness of the den.
"Hey," he called out.
Andrew looked up from where he was sitting on the sofa, a big grin across his face as he realized it was Nathan. "Hey yourself. Survived to tell the tale then, Teach?"
Nathan was ridiculously pleased that someone had noticed what a big deal this week had been for him. Naturally at home, everything was centered around the baby and, with the birth so imminent, Nathan felt guilty even mentioning school.
He grinned back at Andrew. "I have not only survived, I've just watched your son recreating our lesson."
"You should have been here for the water bomb yesterday," Andrew said wryly.
Nathan winced. "Oh no, was it that bad?"
Andrew gave him a smirk. "Let's just say that if Stephanie had seen you at that moment, expanding your family might not have been an option."
"I think I'll stay down here then, while Colin is experimenting," Nathan said, deciding hiding was better than helping Colin. Changing the subject, he said, "Didn't know you played the guitar. Colin says your friend is over here tomorrow and he's got a band."
Andrew nodded. "Yeah. Gary comes by here occasionally. Sometimes I join him. I sing a little, and he repays me by not puking on my carpet."
Nathan raised one eyebrow. "Nice! So am I going to get invited?"
"What on earth are you doing digging up my front yard, Colin Matthews? And the mess!" Stephanie's anguished tones reached them. Nathan grinned innocently as Andrew rolled his eyes.
"Uh, anyway, guess so, if you want to come. Hadn't really thought you would be interested, to be honest. It's only the guys and a few beers down here." Andrew looked a little embarrassed at not thinking of it sooner.
"Why not? Beer and a chance to get away from the continual baby talk and the mad women. So do I get a beer now, or am I expected to die of thirst whilst you play me some of the tracks?" Nathan looked expectantly at his host as he sat down and stretched out his long legs.
Andrew flipped him off and continued playing the guitar. "You know where the fridge is. Help yourself and you can get me one as well."
Nathan poked around in the small fridge. "You're out. We drank the last of it two nights ago."
"There's some more upstairs. I'll go and get it." Andrew put the guitar down and went up the stairs to the main house.
Nathan sat back down on the sofa with a contented sigh. He was really glad to be away from the women occupying his home at the moment. There was something digging in his back. He put a hand round to try and push it down, discovering it was the corner of a magazine, mostly shoved down the side of the sofa. Nathan pulled it out, the back cover full of DVDs catching his eye. He looked at them, just to see if there was anything worth buying, and his eyes widened as he realized just what sort of films they were selling.
He flipped it over and stared at the cover, suddenly dry-mouthed. This type of skin mag was the last thing he'd expected to find in Andrew's home. Nathan turned the pages curiously, keeping one ear out for the sound of Andrew returning. He kept leafing through the pages, even though it was the last thing he wanted to look at. A name leaped out at him, and he took a closer look at the photograph. The model was undoubtedly designed for the job, but it was their expression that caught the eye, curiously vulnerable and sensuous at the same time. The photographer had captured more than just the body in that shot. Nathan wondered cynically if the readers ever looked as far up as the face.
"Yeah, I'll phone him later." Andrew was obviously yelling to Stephanie as he closed the door to the basement at the top of the stairs. "Sorry 'bout that. Gotta phone the electrician later on."
Nathan quickly stuffed the magazine back behind the sofa cushions where he had found it, concentrating on getting his reactions under control as quickly as he could. Andrew didn't seem to notice anything amiss as he chattered on about the problems with the electric that had plagued the house since they had moved in. Giving Nathan a beer, Andrew sat back down, picking the guitar up and placing it over his lap.
"So, do you still want me to play for you? You okay, Nathan? You look a bit sick." He looked concerned as he stared at his friend.
"Um, uh, yeah." Nathan stared at him, lost the power of coherent speech for a moment. "What the fuck?" didn't seem the appropriate thing to scream at a new friend he barely knew.
"I don't have to. I won't be offended if you don't want me to. It's not to everyone's taste. Do you want to watch a film?" Andrew sounded worried.
"No, no, please. I want to hear you play." Nathan realized that his lack of reaction was unnerving Andrew. "I'm just a little tired. I'll sit back and listen."
Andrew was giving him a curious look. "Okay then, but we can always stop."
Nathan leaned back against the sofa and closed his eyes, letting the music wash over him. If he was honest, he couldn't say he heard a note. He was too busy wondering why he hadn't asked Andrew what exactly he photographed in his small studio in town.
* * * *
"You invited Gabe--here? Now?"
Alex looked up from the pile of tiny vests and booties she was rearranging for the umpteenth time. They were enjoying a rare moment of peace in their house as the house guests had left, and Alex was looking forward to the prospect of an evening to herself, not one disturbed by Gabe, Nathan's best buddy, still firmly intent on reliving his college days.
"Yeah, d'ya mind? It's just for tonight. Andrew's got some friends over and I thought Gabe would enjoy it."
"Gabe might, but I'm not sure Andrew will. He's a nice, normal guy and Gabe--well--isn't." Alex hunted around for the missing pale blue and lemon bootie that went with the one in her hand. Nathan noted idly that the sock monster had struck even before the baby was born.
Nathan licked his lips, his mouth suddenly dry. Nice and normal, that was Andrew. The man who'd been married for a decade, lived in his own basement, had a nine-year-old son and a job taking photos of naked men for gay mags. Jesus, they were neighbors with a sleaze in the porn industry. Should he tell his new wife that?
"Gabe's a good guy, Alex. He's a bit of a jerk sometimes, but he's a good guy. At least you know where you stand with him."
Alex huffed at that. "As far away as possible, if you've got any sense. Where is that damn sock?"
"Here it is." Nathan bent down and retrieved the tiny knitted object from where it had fallen under the table.
"Thanks," Alex said, gratefully. Bending over was nigh on impossible now. She tucked the two together and placed them on the growing pile of small clothes.
The loud banging at the door made them both jump.
"Subtle as ever," Alex groused. "Can't he ring the doorbell like everybody else?" She heaved herself up and went to answer the door before Nathan had managed to make a move.
"Alex! You look more like a Thanksgiving turkey every time I see you." Nathan winced as he heard Gabe's less than diplomatic greeting to his wife.
Fortunately, Alex just laughed and brought him into the kitchen. "I feel like a turkey at the moment, stuffed and ready to be carved."
"Nate, you overgrown freak. Come here and hug me." Gabe threw his bag into the corner of the kitchen, hauled Nathan off his stool, and enfolded him a bear hug.
"Jesus, Michaels, you're uglier than ever!" He heaved Gabe over one shoulder and ran outside with him.
As he ran down the road, with Gabe banging his back in a vain attempt to get him to stop, Nathan spotted Andrew and Colin getting out of their SUV, parked as it was behind a lurid, bright green van. Colin tugged on Andrew's shirt to attract his attention. Andrew looked up to see his son's teacher weaving down the quiet street with a full-grown man flailing in his arms. "Uh, Mister P, whatcha doing?"
Nathan came to a halt at the end of the Matthews' driveway. "Hi, Colin. I'm just saying hello to my friend, Gabe," He swung round so that Gabe faced Colin. "Say hello to Colin, Gabe."
Gabe waved weakly at Colin. "Hi Colin." He banged on Nathan's shoulder again. "Put me down, man, or I'm gonna puke down your back." He slid down Nathan's front and came to stand on his own two feet, albeit rather unsteadily. He lurched to one side to discover father and son staring at him with startlingly similar expressions. He held out his hand, hoping it was in the direction of the man; according to his head, the world was still on frappe.
"Gabe Michaels. Nathan's best friend, college buddy, and life counselor to the good, the bad, and the feckin'--sorry Colin--ugly."
Andrew's mouth twitched at the last, then he introduced himself. "Andrew Matthews, neighbor, photographer to anyone who wants me. You've already been introduced to my son."
"Andrew Matthews? Why do I know that name?" He frowned as he shook Andrew's hand.
Nathan panicked, knowing his friend had an extensive selection of porn. The last thing he needed was for Andrew to find out Nathan knew his secret. "Gotta go, Gabe. Alex'll be waiting." And he started dragging him away from the Matthews. Fortunately, Gabe didn't resist, and he followed Nathan obediently down the road.
"Hey, wait a minute," Andrew called out after them. "Gary is already here. Why don't you come in and meet everyone now?"
Nathan hesitated a split second too long. Time enough for him to see the expression in Andrew's eyes as he realized Nathan was trying to back out of coming to his house, and time enough for Gabe to interfere.
"Sounds awesome. Is there beer? There is beer, isn't there?" For a moment Gabe sounded worried.
Andrew rolled his eyes. "There's a band in there. Of course I have beer. Colin, please take Gabe in to meet the boys. I just want a quick word with Nathan."
Realizing he'd been outmaneuvered by the promise of free beer, Nathan watched as Colin led Gabe around the side of the house. He only hoped Alex hadn't started cooking dinner, because nothing except an earthquake was going to part Gabe from his beer once he got started.
He looked up to see Andrew staring at him, an indecipherable expression on his face. "You saw the magazine."
Of everything he expected Andrew to say, that wasn't it. Nathan nodded, not knowing what was coming next.
Andrew dropped his voice. Of course, the last thing he wanted, thought Nathan rather cynically, was the neighbors hearing this conversation. "You've got a problem with a gay mag? I hadn't expected you to be a redneck."
"I'm not," Nathan protested, rather too loudly.
Andrew looked around hastily, checking to see no one was listening to them. "What's your problem then? I realized you found it when I tidied up this afternoon. Is it that I'm gay?"
"You're what?" Nathan's jaw hit the floor.
"I'm gay. I thought you knew." Andrew went white with shock, his freckles standing out in stark relief as he realized that this was news to Nathan.
Nathan shook his head, saying, "Dude, I had no idea. It's not that it matters to me, honestly. You just haven't really talked that much about yourself. I guess I've done enough talking for the both of us over these last four weeks."
He expected Andrew to look more relieved, but instead he hissed, "So what's your problem? One minute I'm your new best friend and the next you're looking at me as if I'm some sort of pedophile."
"It was the photo--in the magazine. Your name was in the credits. I thought you just did families and schools photos. You know, normal stuff."
"I do whatever pays the mortgage," Andrew said shortly. "I know the one you mean. I did it as a favor to the guy. I know his mother. She didn't want him to get ripped off."
"For... his... mother?" Nathan said faintly. He felt about an inch high, and Andrew was looking at him as if he had crawled out from under a rock. "I'm really sorry, Drew. I should have just asked." Nathan put out his hand and cupped Andrew's elbow to stop him walking away.
Andrew bit his lip for a minute, refusing to meet his eyes, then he said, "Come on. Let's go and get a beer before Gabe and the band drink it all. I'll introduce you to Gary. He's my Gabe."
It was only the relief that made him do it. Nathan was so pleased he hadn't wrecked his friendship with Andrew forever; he pulled him into a tight hug, hanging on until Andrew responded. "Thanks man. I just gotta let Alex know we'll be back later."
He let the other man go and ran back down the road to his house, not realizing Andrew was still staring after him, a troubled expression on his face.