This short story was commissioned as part of a Dreamspinner Press contest. The story prompts were “chopsticks” and Emmett and Sky from Rebound.
© Chris Scully, 2014
“Like this?” Sky asked, brow creased in concentration. His tousled, surfer-blond hair fell into his eyes and he tried, unsuccessfully, to blow it out of the way without disturbing his efforts. Emmett’s chest swelled with a familiar warmth as he gazed at the younger man. Sky really was so adorable when he was focused on something.
“Not quite.” Emmett covered Sky’s hand with his own and positioned his fingers so they were just right. “There. Like that.”
“You make it seem so easy.”
“Had a lot of practice.”
Sky’s lips twitched. His indigo eyes bore into Emmett’s. “I still don’t think I’m doing this right.”
“You’re doing fine. Just take your time. Go slow.”
“It’s not going to work,” he insisted.
“Don’t give up now,” Emmett encouraged, his gaze falling to Sky’s parted lips. “Yeah, that’s it. You’ve got it…”
Just as Sky got the pork bite within reach of his mouth, chopsticks trembling unsteadily in his fingers, he lost control, and the morsel tumbled down his bare chest, leaving a river of red sauce in its wake. It came to a halt in the indent of his belly button, just above the elastic band of his briefs.
“Told you.” Sky plucked the piece of pork off his flat stomach and popped it into his mouth with a grin. Before he could wipe at the sticky sauce with a napkin, Emmett leaned forward and slowly, painstakingly, licked Sky’s chest clean.
When he sat back on the couch several heated minutes later, he noted with a touch of pride that the pouch of Sky’s briefs was fuller than before, even though they had only left the bed an hour ago. Ah, he mused, feeling a stirring in his own boxers, the benefits of having a much young lover. He smacked his lips. “Yum. Sweet and sour. My favorite.”
Sky’s grin lit up that empty place in Emmett’s chest. To be honest, it wasn’t so empty these days. In fact, right now Emmett felt as though he must be oozing contentment; lounging on his couch barely dressed, eating Chinese take-out from the carton and enjoying their last night together before Sky drove back to Iowa in the morning. He tried not to dwell on that—he hated the goodbyes.
Six floors below, a siren wailed, followed by the inevitable horns of irate drivers. In the apartment next door, the couple who lived there began one of their nightly arguments. Emmett dared a glance at Sky, but the younger man was too busy trying to chase down a piece of pineapple to be annoyed by the sounds of the city.
Emmett sighed. He’d always been an urbanite. Once, he’d loved the excitement, the fast pace. But now… Now he knew just how lonely you could be in a city of three million people.
He was never awakened by horns and sirens at Sky’s farmhouse. The nearest neighbor was a five minute drive away. There, he fell asleep to the sound of crickets, and awoke to the song of birds. Or sometimes Molly’s paws on his chest as she tried to smother him in his sleep.
The wave of homesickness caught him off guard. Homesickness. This gloomy apartment, with its noisy neighbors and clanging pipes was home, he had to remind himself, not Sky’s cozy house in the middle of nowhere. No matter how much he missed seeing the stars at night, or reading the newspaper in Sky’s sun-filled kitchen, or lounging in the claw foot bathtub built for two. No matter how much it felt like he belonged there. It was too soon to think that way. Right? They hadn’t even been dating a year yet.
But this long distance thing was killing him.
At first he’d tried to keep his visits to once a month. Play it cool. But by spring he was spending every weekend at Sky’s house, and by summer he was arranging his schedule so that he didn’t have appointments on Fridays or Mondays for an extra-long weekend. Slowly his belongings made their way down the I-88. First a toothbrush and razor. Then some extra clothing—just in case. Now he couldn’t sleep well unless he was tucked into Sky’s comfy brass bed, with Sky spooned behind him, and yes, Molly the demon dog standing guard at the foot of the bed.
Occasionally Sky would make the trek to Chicago, but it was harder for him—he had to board Molly with friends and finding parking for his monster pick-up truck was always a challenge. Sky never once complained, but Emmett always felt guilty afterward, and a little ashamed to have Sky see how he lived. This place was supposed to be temporary after his breakup with Andy, but one year had somehow turned into two. It still looked temporary though. His apartment was an empty shell compared to Sky’s warm and loving home. He didn’t even have a house plant.
But it had been Sky’s birthday last week, and Emmett had taken him to the theatre last night to celebrate. They’d had a great time. Until they ran into his lying, cheating ex.
“Something’s bugging you,” Sky observed, drawing Emmett out of his thoughts. “You’ve been kinda quiet since last night. Did I do something to embarrass you in front of your ex?”
“God, no,” Emmett burst. Seeing Andy had definitely made him stop and think, but not in a bad way. In fact, the only effect Andy, or the plastic Ken doll he’d been with, had had on Emmett was to make him realize how much he wanted to be with Sky. Full-time, not just on weekends.
“He’s pretty… sophisticated,” Sky continued. “I must be boring compared to him. And simple.”
Emmett blinked. Was Sky feeling insecure? What an awful thought. Sky was the most confident person he’d ever met. “You are ten times the man he ever was,” he said with vehemence. “Trust me.”
Sky nodded, but didn’t look up from his container of noodles, as if he hadn’t quite believed Emmett’s words.
“I like simple,” Emmett insisted, suddenly choked up. “A lot.” He took a shaky breath and set his carton of beef with broccoli on the coffee table. It was now or never. “In fact… the lease on my office space expires in two months. I’m debating not renewing it.”
“Oh?” Sky looked up then, his expression concerned. “Do you need money? Is that it? Because I can—”
“No. I’m fine.” Crap, this was hard. “I was thinking…um…about relocating. People in Iowa need wills too, right?” That was one of the perks of estate law. There was a market no matter where you went.
“I expect so,” Sky muttered as he absently rooted around in his cardboard container with his chopsticks.
Emmett waited, but Sky didn’t seem to catch his meaning. Was he going to have to spell it out?
“Yes,” Sky said suddenly.
“Yes, you can live with me.”
Emmett gaped in surprise. Now that he looked, he recognized the twinkle in Sky’s eyes and knew that he’d been toying with him this whole time. The presumption of the man. “What makes you think—?”
“It’s about time, too. No offence, but it doesn’t even look like you live here. I think we can fit it all in my truck.”
Emmett searched for signs of hesitation or uncertainty on Sky’s face, but there were none. Just that contagious grin and those irresistible dimples. He was as excited as a kid at Christmas. “It’s a big step,” Emmett cautioned, but inside he had no doubts. Well, hardly any.
One of Sky’s blond brows lifted. “Is it?”
“For me it is.” For a brief moment Emmett panicked. What if things didn’t work out? He’d be left with nothing again. But Sky was nothing like Andy.
Sky stared at his take-out container for a few minutes. Then he smiled and raised his head. “We’re like chopsticks, Emmett.”
“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this one,” he returned drily, but the truth was he’d come to appreciate Sky’s folksy wisdom. He always made a strange sort of sense.
“Alone, we’re useless.” Sky demonstrated by trying in vain to spear a piece of pork with one chopstick. “But together…”
“We’re a clumsy Asian utensil?”
Sky clucked his tongue indulgently. “You’re my other chopstick, Emmett. I don’t work without you.”
Goddamn. Sky was always doing that. Dropping these unexpected emotional bombs on him and making his heart leap into his throat. The sting of tears threatened. He blinked them away. “I, uh, don’t think that has quite the impact you were going for, given how chopstick challenged you are.”
Eyes dancing, Sky deftly pinched his chopsticks together and hefted a clump of noodles to his mouth. Without spilling a single one.
“You… you faker,” Emmett accused.
“I was just letting you show off. I’m not a complete hick, you know.”
Emmett struggled to find the words he wanted to say. Sky had changed his life; taught him how to believe again, love again. He leaned in close. “I don’t care if you are. You’re my hick.”
And I’m not ever letting you go.