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I Can Fix Him (Complete story, 1/16/23, Bonus Material added 1/23/23)


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17 hours ago, MizarAlcor69 said:

I am honestly so glad there is an ongoing conversation surrounding a story on this site. I feel like discussion adds a great deal to the experience of reading.

In any case, my personal main worry when it comes to this story is the way Gabriel is handling everything. I truly believe both Auggie and Gabe can find a mutually beneficial relationship, but it is the speed at which it is happening that has me worried. The switch from a caring but platonic Gabe to one pushing for heartfelt romance just seemed too sudden. The fact that his room is filled with nothing but motivation sticky notes to keep up the charade doesn't help either. While Auggie may be able to find a fulfilling relationship, even if it is one that is rather uncommon, Gabe seems to be placing actual strain on himself. As such, if he breaks from the strain, I then worry for Auggie. Auggie was given a taste of what a classical relationship with Gabe can be like. So, if Gabe can't continue in his act, Auggie's emotions would have been played with and his desires left wanting. 

Honestly, this story has me uneasy (in the best way mind you) because of this "will-they-won't-they" scenario. Slow-burn romance necessitates investment in the characters and their relationship, which leads me to genuinely care for both sides. I want to see Gabe live happily and wholly without sacrificing himself, but I also want to see Auggie get everything he needs without flying too close to the sun.


In any case, this has been a wonderful story so far! It truly is novel-worthy! Remember to take your time posting though. Personal care and comfort should always come first after all!


A part of me wants to end the charade for both of their psychological well fare, but at the same time I hope for a VERY unrealistic "Oh Auggie I had sex with you and now I want it more and more and when I had the Fleshlight it was gross but with you it isnt" and I know that wont be the exact case but the dread I feel, knowing this wont end in the best way, but with at least one person hurt.... I want to know everything

The latest chapter show a Gabriel that tries to be something he isnt, and as a person who struggles with similar emotions I understand that he wants to make Auggie happy but its at his own demise and at his own mental state, I was in a similar state of mind (not body) and a 100% people pleaser, I WANTED so desperatly that people like me and want me to be near them that i destroyed a big part of my own innerself to be that, but I can finally see how wrong I was and that saying "I come first" isnt just a saying BUT A ACCTUAL THING TO NOT GET USED BY OTHER PEOPLE! Seeing similar things that Gabriel is doing makes me want to drag him back to his room and get all the notes, books and plans, RIP THEM TO SHREDS and then Burn them. I know he is fictional, and that I am over reacting, but all of me wants to put a protectiv blanket over Gabriel and tell him that he is "Perfect the way he is and that he doesnt have to change for ANYONE!" with a 100% Eyecontact so he can see in my eyes that I am not lying to him!

I also want to thank you for making this amazing story, sorry that I never write I just dont like to comment a lot as it takes away my energy to do day to day things (Chronic Illness is shit 😂). Again thank you for writting this and sorry for spaming you full with this comment 😂

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Chapter 35

            When the next morning came around, I was relieved to find Gabriel out and about and not at home.  I didn’t know how I would’ve handled that awkward morning.  Rather than make breakfast, I grabbed an apple and a bottle of water and hightailed it to work before Gabriel came back.

            I spent that whole morning distracted.  Rather than focus on the tasks I was paid to do, I kept seeing Gabriel dance through my head.  Sometimes, it was the literal naked dancing Gabriel from the video he sent me.  Sometimes, though, it was smiling Gabriel as he laughed at a joke I made.  Or Gabriel at the restaurant asking questions to the waiter I was too nervous to ask.  Or Gabriel with his arm around me on the couch.  Or Gabriel smiling delightedly after eating a meal I made him.  Or Gabriel in his all-black suit, his chin on my head, fondly discussing our wedding and honeymoon plans.  I could not shake him from my mind.

            Just before my lunch break, I got a call from the sex toy shop letting me know my reasonably sized vibrator and comically giant dildo were ready for pick up.  They used more discreet language than that in case I was in a public place, but that’s essentially what the call said.

            When I hung up the phone, my stomach sank.  More confusing pieces to add to the puzzle.

            But then, it hit me.  


            As soon as work was over, I drove directly to the sex shop.  Trinity was behind the counter, only her hair was now a stylish green bob.

            “I like the haircut,” I said as she got my box.  It was surprisingly large, but it had to be to hold a copy of Gabriel’s cock in addition to the vibrator.

            “How sweet,” she said, “you think my wigs are real hair.”

            I pulled out my card to pay for the toys, but she stopped my hand.  “Gabriel already paid.  They’re a gift for you.”

            I put my card back in my wallet, and slowly took the box.  I lingered at the counter, trying to figure out how to ask what I wanted to.

            “Is there something else?” she asked.

            Mustering my nerves, I said, “You’re a sex therapist, right?”

            “Board certified,” she said.

            “Can I make an appointment with you?”

            “I have an opening right now if you want,” she answered.   

            I nodded, and she led me to the back room.

            I’d been back here before, but this time it looked homier.  There was an overstuffed couch, a plush white armchair, a warm, walnut-colored coffee table with a box of tissues—even the light was sunnier and more inviting.

            “This place looks…”

            “I know,” she said, sitting in the armchair and crossing her legs underneath her.  “I made it look like a lab for Gabriel, to put him at ease.”  She gestured to the décor.  “This makes most of my other clients comfortable.”

            I crashed on the couch and put the box with my toys on the table.

            “What brings you here today?” she asked professionally.

            “I…”  Why was this hard to say?

            “Is it about Gabriel?”

            I nodded.

            “Are you having difficulty because you want to have sex with Gabriel but he doesn’t want to have sex with you?”

            I started to talk, but only a slight croak came out.

            She leaned forward and said, “Is this going to be a game of 20 Questions?”

            I sighed and forced myself to talk.  “Should I marry Gabriel?”

            Trinity looked surprised.  “I thought you had already agreed to marry him.”

            “Technically,” I said.  “But I only said that to shut up my brother and Hank.  I didn’t really mean it.”

            “Does Gabriel know this?”

            “He should, but he might have rewritten history.”  I then went into the whole story.  How we met as freshmen in college, how it took me years to learn he was ace, how it took me years to get over him, how I never really got over him.  I explained the drug trial, the House Rules, my failed relationship with Douglas.  After I’d been yammering for fifteen full minutes, I’d gotten to the conversation after Douglas dumped me.  “I told Gabriel I was moving out.  That as long as I lived with him, I wouldn’t let myself be open to romantic love.  I said I was moving out in three weeks.  And he said he was going to convince me to marry him before the deadline was up.  That was two weeks ago.”

            Trinity contemplated my story.  “That’s not how Gabriel explained it at all,” she said.  “He makes it sound like you chose marrying him over being with Douglas.”

            “Gabriel has certain illusions.  But he is right that I chose him over Douglas.  Because I chose living with Gabriel over being with Douglas, Douglas dumped me.  That’s when I realized I had to move out.”

            “It sounds like you’ve made up your mind, then,” she said comfortingly.

            “But I haven’t.  He’s been a completely different man these past few weeks.”  I explained everything, even the porn he made.  “If I could let myself believe it was more than an act, he would be the perfect man for me.  But I know unequivocally it is all an act he is putting on for my benefit.”

            “I see your problem,” she said.  “Correct me if I’m wrong.  It sounds like you’re worried that since his personality changed so suddenly, it’s only a matter of time before he changes back.”

            “That’s a big part of it,” I said.  “The bigger part is that if I cross the line now while he’s drug-addled and vulnerable, it’ll have horrible consequences later—when he does turn back to normal.”

            “Horrible consequences?” she asked.

            “We couldn’t be friends anymore,” I said flatly.

            She hummed thoughtfully, and said, “It seems to me like you’re not satisfied with your current friendship with Gabriel.”


            “The status quo wasn’t working for you.  As your relationship had been, you prioritized Gabriel so much that Douglas dumped you.  You told Gabriel you were moving out because your relationship with him was no longer working as it was.  Gabriel heard your complaint.  In response, Gabriel volunteered to change the nature of your relationship from roommates to husbands.”

            “I guess that’s true.”

            “You have a few choices in front of you, two of them obvious.  Move out.  Marry him.  Either of those choices will irrevocably change your relationship forever.  But your frustration to me sounds like you want to go back to your old status quo.”

            “If only,” I said, longingly.

            “But that too was a relationship you admit wasn’t working for you,” she reminded me.  “You tried to change for Gabriel by denying a part of yourself.”

            I shook my head.  “Isn’t that what he’s doing now?  Changing for me by denying a part of himself?”

            “I can see why you’d interpret it that way.  But he’s not doing anything he’s uncomfortable with.  He is the one making these romantic overtures, not you.  He bought you sex toys and made a dirty movie, not you.  Those are all choices Gabriel made.  You don’t control his choices.  You control your choices.”

            “Which is why I didn’t watch the video!” I said.

            “Those aren’t the choices I meant,” she said.  She adjusted her posture in her chair to get more comfortable as she thought up a new approach.  “How many apartments have you looked at these past two weeks?”

            My eyes widened.  “None,” I admitted.

            “How many listings have you read?  How many times have you investigated “roommate wanted” ads?  Or Craigs List?”

            “None,” I repeated.

            “Have you even fantasy surfed on Zillow?”

            I shook my head.

            “And yet in the same timeframe, by your own admission, you’ve spent a lot of time with Gabriel.  You’ve gone on a double date with him and your married brother.  You’ve gone dancing with Gabriel.  You went to the gym with Gabriel.  You’ve spent a part of every night this week in Gabriel’s bed.  You’ve showered with Gabriel multiple times.  You came to pick up the vibrator.  These are all choices too, Auggie.”

            I was stunned.

            “Do you see why Gabriel thinks you’ve agreed to marry him?”

            I nodded.

            Have you agreed to marry him?”

            “I don’t know,” I admitted.

            “Then you have to tell him that.  You’re very worried about hurting Gabriel’s feelings.  That’s admirable.  But, by withholding this fact from him, this fact that you still aren’t all-the-way committed, you are hurting him.  He’s trying to build a future with you, and you have one foot in his bed while the other one’s out the door.”

            Damn, she was insightful.

            Then, she added, “That sounds like exactly what you did with Douglas, just in the other direction.”

            That one hurt.

            “I can see I’ve gotten through to you,” she said.  “Please, then, take my advice.  Watch the video.  He made the video; he wants you to watch it.  Use the vibrator.  He made it for you; he wants you to use it.  He knows you respect his boundaries.  This far, no farther.  You’ve proven to him you can do that for seven years, even before either one of you knew he was ace.  Because of that respect, he’s making compromises for you.  Meet him halfway.  See if this is a compromise you’re willing to make, or if you need an allosexual partner.”

            “If I do this, and then I leave him…” I paused, afraid to say what’s next, “he’ll be all alone.  I love him too much to abandon him.”

            “Gabriel said something similar at our last session.”

            Last session?” I asked.  That implied they’ve had multiple sessions.

            She nodded.  “I’ve seen him four times in the last two weeks, usually when you’re at work.  I won’t share any secrets he’s confided in me.”  Then, she added, “You already know, though, that a lot of important people have left him.  He is very sensitive to abandonment.  That’s true.”

            “Everyone’s left him.  His mother left him.  He pretends it doesn’t bother him, but it has to have been a deep cut.  No one will just be his friend.  Straight people, gay people, bi people…they all leave.”

            “Why do his asexual friends leave him?” Trinity asked pointedly.

            I had no answer to give.

            “As I thought from my conversations with him.  I suspect he’s never made an asexual friend.”

            “I don’t even know if he’s met another asexual person,” I confessed.

            Trinity got out of her chair and walked over to her laptop.  She scrolled through a few files until she found what she was looking for.  “There’s an asexual support group that meets tomorrow in the basement of the library.  Do you want the details?”

            I nodded emphatically.

            “Is this the sort of thing I’d be welcome to, or is it aces only?”

            “The meeting tomorrow is aces only.  They do have meetings for aces and their partners, though.”

            “Why didn’t you suggest this to Gabriel?” I asked, somewhat relieved and hopeful.

            “I did,” she explained.  “He wouldn’t even take the details.”

            “Why not?”

            “I won’t share any secrets he’s confided with me,” she repeated.

            She sent me the link and resumed her seat in the armchair.  “It can be a lot of pressure to be someone’s entire support system.  Maybe things will come into sharper focus if Gabriel makes some ace friends.”

            “Thank you,” I said.  “How much do I owe for the session?”

            “Gabriel paid for it already,” she said.  “He had a hunch you’d need it.  I didn’t ‘have an opening.’  Gabriel booked this time for you, an hour right after work, in case you wanted it.”

            “He is too fucking thoughtful,” I replied, impressed.

            “A quality you want in a husband,” she reminded me.  “Or a good friend.”

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Chapter 36

            Via text, I told Gabriel I had a surprise for him and asked him to meet me at the basement of the library the following morning.  Yes, okay, I tricked him into going to the asexual support group.  I’m not proud of that.  But, as Trinity told me, I’m not responsible for Gabriel’s choices.  If he really didn’t want to go to the support group, he could just turn around and leave.

            The meeting was scheduled for 10 to 11 AM, and he still wasn’t back by 10:15, which told me he was at least giving it a try.  I decided to go look at an apartment I’d found online.  It was in a complex that was in the heart of downtown.  It didn’t have an official name, but most locals called it the High Rise.

            It was small, and a little grubby, but it was in my price range and within walking distance of my office, so it would do in a pinch.  And, apparently, this particular complex had several units open.  The landlord said that people were constantly moving in and out, which reassured me that if I did end up there, I’d only be there a short time.

            When I didn’t immediately commit to the apartment, the superintendent said I looked more like a “Cumberland Mills” type of tenant.  He meant it as an insult, but it piqued my interest, so I went there next.  Cumberland Mills was a much nicer complex full of many single, young professionals, but it was too far outside my price range.  With first month, last month, and deposit, I would need more than a roommate to afford living there.

            I considered looking through the classifieds in the honest-to-goodness print newspapers, but I wasn’t quite that desperate yet, so I went home, contented I’d looked at two apartments.

            When I got home, there was raucous laughter coming from the living room.

            I went in to see what was going on, and I found Gabriel sitting on the sofa, two other people in the armchairs.

            “Auggie!” he said when he saw me, bounding up to greet me with a hug.  “Thank you for making me go to that meeting.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!”  He gave me a big kiss on the cheek, lifted me up, spun me, and put me back down.  “Guys, this is my fiancé Auggie.”

            “Hi, Auggie,” they said.

            “Auggie,” Gabriel said and pointed to the person on the left with dyed black hair, pale blue eyes, a neck tattoo, and a denim jacket covered in pins.  “This is Gray.  They’re asexual, aromantic, and agender.  One more A than me.”

            “Gray,” I said, waving politely.

            “This is Nicky,” Gabriel said, pointing to the person on the right, a hunky, traditionally masculine-looking man with dark hair and eyes who had a nice chest and broad shoulders that strained his Penguins shirt.  He was perhaps a decade older than everyone else in the room, but he looked like a fun guy.  “Aroace like me.”

            “Nicky,” I said, waving to him as well.

            “Come, sit, join us,” Gabriel said, sitting with me on the couch across from Gray and Nicky.

            “I take it you made some friends,” I said.

            “We’re more than friends,” Nicky said.  “We’re The Quiver.”

            That made no sense to me.

            Gray groaned, saying, “God, I hate that nickname.”

            “I don’t get that nickname,” I admitted.

            Gabriel chuckled.  “We were the only three aromantics at the meeting.  We’re aros.  A group of aros.  Get it?”

            “Sadly, now I do.  And I’m with Gray on this one.”

            “Thank you, Auggie,” Gray said.

            “I don’t think my vote counts, though,” I added.

            Nicky chimed in.  “Gray and I have been going to these meetings for years, and Gabriel pulled us aside because he noticed we were the only other aros in a room in a room full of alloromantic asexuals.  I don’t think Gray and I had exchanged more than five words before Gabriel made us a little clique.”

            Gabriel made you a clique?” I asked.  “This was his first meeting.”

            “Yeah,” Gray said.  “Gabriel decided we should hang out outside of meetings too.  Be more than just fellow group members.  Be… friends.”

            “They couldn’t bring themselves to say, ‘Be a quiver,’” Nicky joked.

            “Gabriel made this happen?” I asked again.  When I first got home, on some unconscious level I had assumed it was an initiation thing, or a welcoming committee, but Gabriel had taken it upon himself to make friends and invite them back to the apartment.  He hadn’t invited anyone over since we stopped having poker nights, and I was the one who’d started poker nights.

            “Your Gabriel is a gregarious and outgoing man,” Nicky said.

            Gregarious?  Outgoing?  My Gabriel?

            “Thank you for making me go,” Gabriel said again, shaking me affectionately.  “I thought it was going to be a room full of sad, broken people, but I was wrong, and I’m going as often as I can.  I felt seen and heard, and everyone there was really cool.  Like, Gray, tell Auggie what you do.”

            “It’s not that big a deal,” Gray replied.

            Gabriel looked me dead in the eyes, “They’re a stunt driver for TV.  They drive motorcycles for stunts in cop shows, and they got their start in movies.  James Bond, Mission: Impossible…”

            “There was more work in TV,” Gray said, “so I made the switch, but, yeah, I was briefly in a James Bond film.  Blink, and you’ll miss it.  They cut my scenes from MI.  Because of my build, I get to stunt drive for men and women.  There’s always something they need me for on TV.”

            “I can see why Gabriel likes you,” I said.

            “Gray is impossibly cool,” Gabriel said.

            Gray shook their head uncomfortably.  “Gray also has a gambling problem that Gambler’s Anonymous wasn’t helping,” they said.  “Our asexual support group keeps me from hitting the blackjack tables.”  They looked me in the eye.  “Sorry, I get awkward if people heap too much praise on me.”

            “In that case,” I said, “I hate your jacket.”

            “Thank you,” Gray said, with a chuckle.

            “And Nicky?” I asked, turning to Nicky.

            “When Nicky shared in group,” Gabriel said, “it felt like someone was telling my life story.”

            Nicky nodded.  “There were a lot of new people today, so I decided to share my whole story.  I was just one of the guys until about junior year of high school.  I was popular, an altar boy, C-student, star of the hockey team, one of the cool kids.  Then, practically overnight, everyone around me became zoo animals, mating like monkeys.  Suddenly, I’m a freak.  People were hitting on me all the time; it was impossible to keep friends because everyone wanted more.  On top of that, I had a deep and abiding revulsion for all things bedroom-related that made it hard for me to talk to my male classmates for longer than 30 seconds.”

            “Tell Auggie the best part,” Gabriel said eagerly.

            “The best part?” Nicky asked, but then remembered, “Oh, right.”  He showed me his left hand; there was a ring on his index finger.  “I’m married.”

            “Really?” I asked.

            “I know.  Weird for an aroace guy.  Her name is Dina.  She was my best friend in high school.  Everyone, especially our parents, thought we were dating, but she’s just a hockey nut, like me.  We were mostly just talking sports.  We moved in together after graduation.  I got kicked out of my house, and she wanted to get away from her folks.  At first we moved in together just to save on rent.  Eventually, we decided to get married.  She’s my best friend and is the only person who’s never abandoned me.”

            “He has an Auggie,” Gabriel said, turning to me, excited.

            “Is she aroace too?” I asked.

            “Nope.  She’s a straight woman,” Nicky said flatly.

            “I bet that makes the marriage complicated,” I said.

            He nodded.  “Hence the support group.  I love her, I love our kids, but…”

            “Kids?” I asked, interrupting.

            “We have two kids, working on a third.  Georgie’s six, and Kathy’s turning four next month.”

            “Did you adopt?” I asked.

            “We both wanted kids, so, of course we thought about adoption, but Dina really wanted to give birth, nurse, the whole kit and kaboodle.  And neither of us was infertile, so…  The first time I did it was to make Georgie.”

            “You’ve had sex with your wife?” I asked.

            “Yeah.  I think I’m a bit more sex-repulsed than Gabriel here,” he pat Gabriel’s knee affectionately, “so that was quite a steep mountain to climb.”

            “So, you’ve had sex with your wife twice, then?” I asked.

            “Nope.  We currently have it about once a month; we schedule it.”

            “And you, Gray?” I asked.  “Have you had sex?”

            “A couple times, back in high school.  I was curious.  A few guys, a few girls.  It doesn’t turn my stomach like it does these two, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about, really.  Tits, ass, cock, pussy—it’s all funny looking.  Life got better when I admitted I didn’t want sex.  I’d prefer a good cheeseburger.”

            Nicky shifted uncomfortably in his seat.  “Can we stop talking about it now?  I’m getting a knot in my stomach.”

            “Holy fuck,” I said to Gabriel.  “He is you.”

            “Like I said,” Gabriel beamed.

            “How long have you and Dina been married?” I asked.

            “Ten years,” he announced.

            Internally, I mulled that over.  That meant they didn’t have sex for the first three years of their marriage.

            “And you don’t love your wife?” I said, correcting with, “I mean, romantically?  Obviously, you love her.”

            Nicky shrugged.  “I love her, that’s obvious to everyone.  I used to think maybe I was demiromantic and she was the only person I’d fallen in love with.  Then, we had the kids.  I don’t love her any different than I love my kids.  Not even slightly different.  Same level of intensity, same feeling in my heart.  It’s another reason I go to the support group.  Most of our friends would never stop judging me if I said things like that out loud.  Most of our friends don’t know I’m ace.  They think I’m a churchy prude who’s not a fan of PDA.”

            “Friends, plural?” Gabriel asked.

            “Yeah, I wanted to tell you that at the meeting, but then you invited us over here for lunch.  Once I got married, it got so much easier to make and keep friends because everyone just assumed I was a straight guy.  And they could invite me and Dina places without turning me into a third wheel.  I suspect once you and Auggie get hitched, people will just assume you’re gay.”

            “They already do,” Gabriel said.

            “The way you look probably helps that,” Nicky teased.  “You’re bigger than my entire high school hockey team put together.”

            “Speaking of lunch,” Gray said, turning to me, “Gabriel tells us you’re an excellent cook.”

            “I am.  What do you guys want?”

            “Make your fried rice,” Gabriel insisted.

            “He did say you made excellent fried rice,” Gray echoed, raising their eyebrows pleadingly.

            “Hank would not approve of you eating fried rice,” I teased.

            “But smelling fried rice isn’t cheating on my diet,” Gabriel said.

            “Do you guys like fried rice?” I asked.

            “It’s kind of why we came over,” Nicky said.  “Free food that I don’t have to cook.”  He then explained, “I own a small diner, and I do all the cooking at home.  If I didn’t, Dina would raise the kids on a diet of Dominos, Happy Meals, and leftovers she stole from her mother.”

            While I cooked in the kitchen, Gray, Nicky, and Gabriel had a lively conversation in the dining room.  I hadn’t seen Gabriel this happy in years.

            As I was just about to bring out our lunch, Nicky came into the kitchen.  “Do you guys have any beer?” he asked.

            “I doubt it.  There might be a cold one in the back of the fridge behind Gabriel’s prepped meals.  Some things get stuck back there.  Out of sight, out of mind.  If it’s not there, we don’t, have any,” I said.

            “That’s okay,” Nicky said, handing me a scrap of paper.  “It was just an excuse to come out here alone.  That’s Dina’s cell phone number.”

            “Why would I…?”

            Nicky interrupted.  “I’ve seen the look you have on your face.”

            “What look?” I asked innocently.

            “The look that says, ‘Am I making a huge mistake by marrying half a man?’”

            “I’d never…”

            Nicky interrupted again.  “I mean no disrespect, but I remember that look.  Dina had that look for months, God bless her.  The first time I saw it was after I proposed.  Yes, that’s another thing Gabriel and I have in common.  I proposed to Dina because she was going to move back home, and I was terrified of being alone.”  He rubbed my stomach warmly.  “Gabriel needed to meet us.  You need to meet Dina.”  He patted my stomach and continued, “Gray’s taking The Quiver out to a motorcycle track after lunch.  Use the alone time to meet my wife.”  Nicky looked in the fridge.  “What do you know?  You have exactly one can of beer.”

            The lunch was pleasant.  Nicky prayed before eating, which was a little weird for me, but the whole time, I felt that tiny scrap of paper weighing down my pocket like an anvil.  They were having a convivial conversation; I was in my head.

            As soon as they’d gone off to the motorcycle track, I called Dina.  I explained who I was and how I’d gotten her number, and she invited me over for a cup of tea.

            When I arrived, I was greeted by a pleasant, plump, full-figured woman with huge, curly hair and a pleasant smile.  She hugged me tightly, dragged me into her immaculately clean kitchen, and made us both a cup of tea.  “I’d offer you a nibble too, but Nicky’s the cook.”

            “So he said,” I responded, taking a sip of my tea.

            “The kids love Saturdays because while their daddy’s at group, they get McDonald’s for lunch.”  She put a finger over her lips in the shushing gesture and added, “Don’t tell their father.  He thinks we go to my mother’s.”

            I smiled.  I could see myself being friends with this woman.  “Nicky said I should talk to you because…”

            “Because you’re thinking of marrying an asexual.  I get it.”

            “Can I ask you about your marriage?”

            “Please, apart from my kids, it’s my favorite thing to talk about.”  There was a loud crash in the living room.  “Kathy, stop hitting your brother,” Dina said without looking.

            “How did you know?” I asked.

            “A mother knows,” she said.  “What do you want to know about my marriage?”

            “Why did you agree to marry a man who’d never love you the way that you love him?”

            “Fancy way of putting it,” Dina said, adding another spoonful of sugar to her tea.  “You have been dating an ace.  I married him because I love him.  He’s my best friend and confidante.  We were both raised in big families and wanted at least two kids minimum—we’re currently working on number three.  He was a member of my church, which was really important to me.  And have you seen him?  He’s gorgeous!”

            “He is quite attractive,” I said, afraid to confirm that her husband was, in fact, a smokin’ hot hunk.

            “You should’ve seen him back in his hockey days.  The rear end on that man!”  She took a sip of her tea.  “Girls like me don’t end up with guys like him.  I’m loud, and bossy, and I can’t cook, and I’m not that pretty.  I’m not ugly, but I’m plain and overweight.  And I was such a good church girl,” she said holding her hands in a pious prayer pose, “that I wouldn’t have sex until marriage.  Nicky didn’t care about any of those things.”

            “About that.  You didn’t have sex for three years after you got married.”

            “That is true,” Dina said, nodding.  She stood up and got a box of graham crackers out of the cabinet.  As if on cue, Georgie and Kathy came tearing through the kitchen.  She handed them a sleeve, saying, “Share with your sister,” and they left.  “I’d had fantasies about him ravaging me on our honeymoon,” she continued, not missing a beat.  She rejoined me at the kitchen table.  “We went to Toronto.  We wanted to go abroad, get a stamp on our passports, but we were on a budget.  We figured Canada’s only a five hour drive away.  Besides, Toronto has the Hockey Hall of Fame, y’know?  We did so much sightseeing, the theater, restaurants.  We were there a week, and we saw the inside of our hotel room maybe five times.  One of the best times of my life; I wouldn’t change a thing.  We’re saving up to go back for our 20th anniversary.”

            “You didn’t miss sex?” I asked.  “For three years?”

            “I’d never had it,” she reminded me.  “I was a happily married woman.  I didn’t care two figs.  Then, we decided to have Georgie, and suddenly I learned what I’d been missing.”

            “He’s good in bed?”  That was a surprise.

            She put her hand over her heart and looked up to heaven.  “He makes me tingle from head to toe.”

            “That good?”

            “The word I’d use is ‘thorough.’”

            I was impressed. 

            “Granted, I’ve got nothing to compare him to, but the third Friday of each month is now my favorite holiday.  One sausage lover to another, I can tell you I’ve done some window shopping.  I am one happy customer.”

            I think that was her way of telling me Nicky is hung.

            “You’re happily married, then?”

            “Of course,” she said.  “He’ll never cheat on me, he doesn’t make hurtful comments if I put on a few pounds, he doesn’t care if I don’t wear make-up, he’s a doting father and a good provider, and we’re best friends.  All my girlfriends are jealous of how good me and Nicky get along.”

            “Sounds perfect,” I said.

            She winced a little and put up a hand in a “Hold on” gesture.  “Like all marriages, it’s a mixed bag.  On top of the normal gripes over housework, money, and kids—he spoils Georgie!—we have some special challenges.  I kiss Nicky; Nicky doesn’t kiss me.  He’ll never throw me down on the bed because he has to have me in that Biblical way.  He doesn’t compliment me when I’ve lost weight or get glammed up or wear something pretty.  Even before we had the kids, he never wanted to do things just the two of us.  Since the kids, he always wants to bring them everywhere.  They’re probably coming with us to Toronto.  He talks to me like I’m one of the guys, not his wife.  He buys me hockey tickets for Valentine’s Day, y’know?”

            “But you’re happy?” I asked.
            “Very happy,” she confirmed.

            “You don’t regret marrying him?”

            “Hand to God, best decision I ever made.  I was terrified I was making the biggest mistake of my life.  He proposed at the worst possible time.  I told him I was going to move back in with my parents.  I was never going to get married with this gorgeous man living with me.  Half of the men I dated were intimidated by him.  The other half thought I was tarnished goods and just wanted to act on their carnal urges.  Everyone thought we were living in sin, and the judgmental biddies at the church were saying some very hurtful and untrue things.  I had to leave.  He dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him so I wouldn’t move out.  He didn’t even have a ring.”

            In some respects, Nicky was eerily like Gabriel.

            Dina continued.  “His diner was starting to turn a profit.  He promised me I could quit my job and focus on keeping house and raising the kids when the time came, but it felt more like a business proposition from a desperately lonely man, not a real marriage proposal.  At the end of the day, he was my best friend, so I took the plunge.  Here it is, ten years later, and I know I made the right call.”

            “Thanks, Dina,” I said.  “You made things very clear for me.”

            “No problem, Auggie.  Before you go, can I ask, is your Gabriel as handsome as my Nicky?”

            I showed her a picture on my phone.

            “Merciful heaven,” she said.  “It’s like God makes the hottest men asexual as a cruel joke.”

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Chapter 37

            When I got home from Dina’s, Gabriel was still out with his friends.  My conversation with Dina had shown me that there was hope for Gabriel and me as a couple, so I decided to take Trinity’s advice and watch the dirty video Gabriel made for me while he was out.

            I scrubbed through the video to the part where Gabriel was about to masturbate.

            It was the most surprising thing I had ever seen.  Three frames after I had originally stopped watching, Gabriel closed his eyes tightly and pistoned his fists with such force I thought he was going to rip his own dick off.  The expression on his face was one of discomfort and hurt, not sexual bliss.  There was no transition at all.  The sexy, seductive dance slammed into the violent and painful masturbation in an explosion of tonal whiplash that was not erotic in the slightest. 

            I scrubbed through the rest of the video, watching little clips that caught my eye.  Gabriel never lost that pained expression the whole time.  Even when he climaxed, the climax looked to be hurting him.  He produced a copious amount of jizz, and it took him forever to expel it all.  His face looked fed up, as though he was thinking, “Enough already,” and not anything even vaguely orgasmic.  And when he collapsed in post-coital release, he looked more relieved it was over than satiated.  The whole time he made noises that didn’t sound a thing like the noises I’d come to associate with Gabriel masturbating.  Maybe the camera gave him performance anxiety, but he was not having a good time.

            Then, because his erection didn’t go down despite ejaculating, he realized he was going to have to masturbate a second time.  So quietly I almost didn’t hear it, he said, “Not again.” 

            This time, he did rub his hands through his fur and make those groans of pleasure I’d heard him make, but it was somehow more bizarre.  His rubbing was perfunctory, not like a pleasurable caress but more like checking an item off a list.  More disturbingly, his face did not match the sounds he made.  With his face adding context, it no longer sounded like someone pleasuring himself.  It sounded like someone taking a painful shit. 

            In between his throaty, manly groans, he whimpered.  He actually whimpered like a squeamish child at the doctor’s office who dreaded having their blood taken.  He said things like “please” and “now,” like he was begging for it to be over, not like he was in the throes of ecstasy.  When he came the second time, he said, “I found it.”  He didn’t sound excited or happy; he sounded grateful to be finished. 

            He'd made this video to titillate and sexually satisfy me, but it looked like a video of a man torturing himself.

            I went into the living room to wait for Gabriel.  We had to talk.

            Ten minutes later, he came home from the motorcycle track streaked with dirt.

            I looked at him disapprovingly, and he smiled in apology.

            “Gray had a bike big enough to support me,” he explained excitedly.  “I haven’t ridden a new bike in months, Auggie.  Nicky had never ridden a bike before in his life, but Gray taught him how to do it, and it turns out Nicky is a whizz.  The Quiver is so cool.”

            Gabriel had just gone bike riding with two new buddies.  He sounded like a high schooler.  This Gabriel was so entirely different from the man in that video.

            “The whole time,” he continued, “no one hit on me.  Or pointed out a hot chick.  We were riding bikes for two hours, and it didn’t happen once.”

            “Sounds like you had fun,” I said.

            “It was more than fun.  It was liberating.”  He tore off his grimy shirt, revealing his giant, hairy pecs and rock hard abs.  “You know those holes I have in my sex knowledge?  How I constantly don’t know sex-stuff that makes common sense to you?  Gray and Nicky are the same.  Dina had to explain to Nicky how to make a baby.  He didn’t know she’d never get pregnant if he never orgasmed.  He went to a super religious Catholic school, and his sex-ed teacher had described ejaculation as ‘watering a garden,’ so he didn’t know orgasms were involved.  He was horrified when he found out.  Gray had to learn that people actually masturbated.  They thought it was an urban legend.”

            “I met Dina,” I said, interposing myself in his story.

            “Really?” Gabriel asked, intrigued.  “Was she as awesome as Nicky described her?”

            “I could totally hang with that woman.  She’s a little church-obsessed, but chill.”

            “I could say the same thing about Nicky,” Gabriel said, laughing.  “I think he prayed to every saint he could name the first time he rode a motorcycle solo.”

            “Dina pointed out some things that we have to address before we get married,” I said, redirecting.

            “Excellent,” Gabriel said, sitting down at the dining room table.  “Shoot.”

            I joined him at the table.

            “They didn’t just get married because they were friends.  There was a deeper connection,” I explained.

            “Meaning?” Gabriel asked.

            “They grew up in the same neighborhood.  They had a much longer history than we do.”

            “Seven years is nothing to sneeze at,” Gabriel pointed out.  “We know each other inside and out.  You know I hog the bathroom; I know you get sloppy and grumpy when you’re drunk.  You know I shut down in a group setting; I know you have a mean streak you have to actively work against.  You know I’m clingy and hate being alone; I know you hide food from me.  I’m unnecessarily rigid with a schedule; you’re bad with money.  But, you also know I’m dependable, honest, and hardworking.  I know you’re loyal, open your heart fully, and adventurous.  We know each other’s virtues and vices, habits and flaws.”

            “True.  But they also both went to the same church.  They have those core common values together.”

            “Are there values we have different?” Gabriel asked.

            “We’ve never really talked about our values.”

            “Auggie,” Gabriel said, “you’re a vegetarian who’s sexually liberated but made uncomfortable by lying.  I know your values.  And you’ve called me a squeaky clean Boy Scout enough times to know what mine are.  There are some frayed edges, but we share the important stuff.”

            “They both wanted kids,” I added.  “Deeply.  They wanted a whole houseful of them.”

            “And?” Gabriel asked.

            “I might want kids someday,” I said.  “That was a scary sentence to admit.”

            Gabriel took my hand.  “I’d be honored to have kids with you some day.  And, bonus points, unlike Nicky, I don’t have to knock you up.”

            “But I might not want kids.  I don’t know,” I added.

            Gabriel stroked my hand warmly.  “That’s okay too.  We don’t have to know everything today.”

            “Nicky and Dina work,” I explained, “because they knew where they were headed in life.  They were both on the same road, even if they were driving very different cars.  I don’t know where I’m headed yet.  If I’ve found my forever career, what I want my life to look like in ten years.  But you do.  You set goals and strive for them.  I kinda bounce along and go with the flow.  I might be subsumed by you,” I admitted.

            “Subsumed by me?” Gabriel said, laughing.  “Auggie, I’m the junior partner in this relationship.  You have ideas; I make them happen.  You make friends; I tag along.  It’s because of you that I’m in this drug trial, that Johnny is funding my Olympia run, that I contemplated having sex with Bridget and Douglas… that I went to that support group today!  Getting married will not change our dynamic just because I’m pursuing bodybuilding.  You’re an indomitable force I could never hope to outshine.  One of the things I love about you is your spontaneity.”

            I was so glad we were having this conversation, but I couldn’t get Gabriel’s pained masturbation face out of my head.  I breathed deeply, centering myself before saying, “Dina was a virgin when she got married.”

            Gabriel nodded.  “And?”

            “I’m not,” I said.  “I’m nowhere close to a virgin.  I never actually tallied up the number of men I’ve slept with in case it was so high I would slut-shame myself.”

            “I’m working on that,” Gabriel said.

            “I’ve seen that, and I’ve seen the ways you’re trying to satisfy me without having sex with me.  But Gabriel, I will not agree to a sexless marriage.  I would find it too frustrating.  I need to know that we would, at least sometimes, have sex with each other.”

            Gabriel sighed.  “I thought as much.”  He went to his bedroom and came back with a notebook, tossing it to me.  “Here’s the plan.  I wanted to keep it a secret, but I see how important this is to you.”

            I looked through the list.  It had some steps I knew he was already doing, like sharing a bed with me, being more physically affectionate, showering with me, making the vibrator, and filming the porn.  But it also had some items already checked off that I didn’t even know he had considered.

            “You’ve watched gay porn?” I asked, seeing a check mark next to that one.

            “I’ve watched five,” he said.  “I can almost do it without vomiting now,” he added.  “I know it’s not what real gay sex looks like, Trinity told me that.  But it’s intense.  And wetter than I expected.”

            “You got a lap dance?” I asked, seeing a check mark next to that one too.

            “That was weird,” Gabriel said.  “I picked the stripper who looked the most like you.  Now that I say it out loud, I don’t know if that was a creepy decision.  I apologize if it was.  At first, he asked me if I was there to apply for a job.  Then, he took me to the back room and gave me a lap dance.  It was uncomfortable and overly long.  But I made it through.  And then the stripper asked me if I was straight guy doing this on a dare.  He could tell how uncomfortable I was, and he pointed out that I hadn’t gotten hard.  I thought I was a hair trigger these days and the stimulation alone would make it happen.  But, no.  So, I paid him to do it again.  He told me to relax the second time, so I did.  It was less uncomfortable as a repeat because I knew what was coming.  He really ground into me, and I got hard.  Probably from the friction.  I tipped him 20%.  Is that the right amount?”

            I suppressed a laugh because I knew how vulnerable it made him feel to share that story.

            The next item he checked off sounded straight out of Clockwork Orange.  “You masturbated while looking at a picture of me?”

            “I picked my favorite picture of you, and I forced myself to look at it while masturbating.”

            “What did you hope that would accomplish?” I asked, concerned.

            “Positive association,” Gabriel said.  “Trinity told me not to do that one again.”

            “I agree with her,” I said, handing Gabriel back his notebook, too disturbed to look further.

            “I appreciate the steps you’re taking,” I said.  “But you want to have sex after we get married.  I want to have sex before.”

            Gabriel tapped his fingers nervously on the table and then replied, “I meant what I said the night I proposed.  If I’m not enough sexually, you can have sex with other men.  If you’re horny, you can bring home a guy from the club, and I’ll make myself scarce.”

            “If I have a husband,” I said, “I won’t want to have sex with other men.”

            “I was afraid of that,” Gabriel said.

            “I looked at some apartments today,” I added.

            Gabriel looked like I stabbed him in the chest.  Then he shook his head hard, like if he shook it hard enough, he would turn what I said into a lie.

            Since he said nothing, I kept taking.  “I’ll need to have sex with you before we get married, or I won’t agree to marry you.”

            “That’s six months ahead of schedule,” Gabriel said.  He looked like a deer in headlights.

            “I have to know if we’re sexually compatible,” I explained.

            “I don’t know what that means,” Gabriel said, still staggering from my recent confession.

            “Two people, even two people who love each other romantically, might be a bad fit sexually,” I explained.  “They might have no chemistry and not please each other.  And some people are just terrible at sex,”

            “You can be bad at sex?” Gabriel said, dumbfounded.  “You told me sex could be bad, but I didn’t know that.  That’s a whole other level of pressure.” 

            I saw him spiraling, and he saw me watching him.

            He took two deep breaths and composed himself.  Then, he looked at me, and, as if his mood had changed on a dime, rakishly said, “When?”  I could tell he was putting on an act, but I wasn’t going to call him on it.  It was surprisingly convincing.  Someone who didn’t know Gabriel as well as I did would’ve been fooled.

            “Wednesday,” I said.

            “Wednesday,” he repeated, like the word tasted delicious.  “You’re topping, right?” he asked for clarification, but there was a jaunty tone to his voice.

            “If that’ll make it easier for you,” I said.  “But I will be touching your cock at some point.  Maybe even with my mouth.”

            “Thanks for the warning,” Gabriel said in that same jocund tone.  The words and tone were dissonant.  Then, realizing he misspoke, he corrected himself.  “I look forward to it.”

            “If this is too much for you…” I started, but Gabriel cut me off.

            Calmly, coolly, collectedly, he said, “My fiancé is going to fuck me.  How could that be too much?”  He kissed me, and I could taste the dirt and mud on his face.  “I’m going to take a shower.  Solo, if that’s cool with you, babe.”

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Chapter 38

            The next day, a Sunday, I went about my normal business around the apartment—I didn’t know where Gabriel was—when there was a knock on my door.

            I opened it, surprised to find Nicky, Kathy, and Georgie.  Georgie was hiding behind his father’s leg; Kathy was in his left arm.

            “Can we come in?” he asked.

            “Sure,” I said, opening the door wide.

            “Kids, watch something on the nice man’s TV while the two of us have a grown up conversation.”

            He put his daughter down on the floor, and Kathy and Georgie gleefully ran into my living room and had some cartoon running before I could even point them to the remote.

            “Sorry that I didn’t call ahead,” Nicky said, taking a seat at the dining room table.  “I only know Gabriel’s cell number.”

            “Do you want a drink?  Or a snack?” I asked before I sat.

            “Maybe later, but I have to talk to you first,” he said, pointing to the chair nearest him.

            I sat, confused.

            Once I was seated, Nicky smacked the back of my head.  “What did you say to Gabriel?”

            “Ow,” I said, rubbing my head.  “What do you mean?”

            “He’s a sweet boy, and he called me last night—in tears, God bless him—because you made him cry.  I left that boy in the highest of spirits, and hours later, you’ve got him bawling!”

            “Was he really crying?” I asked, concerned.

            “He might as well have been.  I could hear the pain in his voice.  The panic.  What did you do to him?”

            “I told him I wanted to have sex on Wednesday,” I said.

            “Sh-sh-sh!” Nicky said, covering his lips with the index finger of his right hand while pointing the thumb of his left hand at his kids in the living room.  “Little pitchers have big ears.”

            “Okay.  Can I say ‘make love’?”

            “I’d prefer you say ‘hug,’ but I’ll take what I can get.”  Nicky relaxed back into his chair.  “You said you wanted to hug him, huh?  That explains the rest of the conversation.”  Nicky rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands.  “He asked me for hugging tips.  How I hug my wife.  What to expect from hugging.  The whole thing made me sick to my stomach.  And, frankly, kiddo, I was out of my depths.  I’ve never hugged a man, and I expect it’s different.”

            I shrugged.  “I’ve never hugged a woman.”

            “Why the sudden rush?” Nicky asked.  “When I met you yesterday, you seemed to have all the time in the world.”

            “When Gabriel proposed, I didn’t actually agree to marry him.  I gave him three weeks to convince me to marry him.  The three weeks ends Friday.”

            Nicky nodded.  “Okay.  Now, I get it.  Dina did something similar with kissing when I proposed to her.  I’d planned on kissing her for the first time at the altar, and she was having none of that.”  There was a short, shrill scream from the living room.  “Kathy, you do not hit your brother,” he said in a warning tone.  To me, he said, “She’s going through a phase.”  Then, he made a dismissive hand gesture and said, “Do you really need to hug Gabriel to know if you want to marry him?”

            “Yes, I do.”

            He rolled his eyes.  “You allos make such a big deal out of hugging.” 

            “I am not forcing him to have se…” I stopped myself.  “To hug me.  He could say, ‘Auggie, I don’t want to hug you,’ and I’d respect that.”

            Nicky grasped my shoulder warmly.  “There you go!  You don’t need to…”

            I interrupted him, “But I’ve learned that as long as I’m living with Gabriel, I’m not going to fall in love with another guy.  I tried; I failed.”  I held my fingers three inches apart.  “Gabriel is this shy of being my perfect partner, but I’m an all or nothing sort of man.  And if that makes me greedy, then I’m greedy.  If Gabriel doesn’t want to hug me, I’m going to have to move out and find a man who will.”

            “Let me try a different approach,” Nicky said.  “I only hug my wife because I want kids.  You and Gabriel could never have that happen.”

            “But Dina said…”

            This time, Nicky interrupted me.  “We’ve discussed it.  The second God blesses her with our third child, no more hugging unless we try for a fourth.”

            “She makes it sound like you don’t mind hugging.”

            “I put on a brave face for her.  Means to an end,” Nicky sighed.  “Every time we hug, I immediately need to take a shower.  It’s disgusting.”

            “She really likes hugging you,” I said.

            Nicky shrugged.  “Then I’m glad she’s enjoying it while it’s happening.  Once it’s over, it’s over.  I’m closing up shop.  I have other ways to make Dina happy.  Gabriel can too.”  He leaned in and got very serious.  “You keep trying to get Gabriel to meet you on your terms.  Have you thought of looking at the world through his eyes?”

            I thought I had been doing that, so I nodded.

            Nicky pressed me on it.  “What do you know about being ace?”

            “I can’t understand it on an instinctual level, but I get it.  I read the book Gabriel gave me in college.  He and I have lived together for seven years; I mean, we’re practically married already.”

            Georgie was suddenly in the dining room.  “Two men can get married?” he asked, wide-eyed.

            Nicky tousled his hair.  “If they love each other.  God loves love.”  Then, he asked, “What brought you in here?”

            “Gotta tinkle,” Georgie said.

            I pointed to the bathroom, and Georgie was off.

            “Can I see this book?” Nicky asked.  I got it from the living room bookshelf and handed it to him.  Gabriel had you read this?” he asked, surprised.

            “Yeah.  He got it in college, and he had me read it after he read it.”

            “Poor boy,” Nicky said, leafing through the book.  “This book has a reputation.  It was written by an allo to ‘understand’ aces.  It practically treats us as mental patients being diagnosed.  It doesn’t acknowledge grey-aces exist.  It pities aromantics, nearly calling them inhuman robots.  And it has a lot of advice on how to get us to hug like a ‘normal’ person.”  Nicky threw the book to the ground.  “The author meant well, but that book poisoned Gabriel’s mind.”  He kicked the book into the corner.  “There’s different types of aces.  Gabriel, like me, is hug-repulsed.  The thought of it disgusts us.  That’s never going to change for Gabriel.  You’re asking Gabriel to disgust himself, and you aren’t even getting a kid out of the deal.  Would you disgust yourself like that if Gabriel asked you to?”

            “Depends on what he asked,” I said.

            “What if he asked you to hug a corpse?  What if he said, ‘Auggie, I won’t be your friend if you don’t hug a rotting, putrefying, maggoty corpse’?”

            I knew he meant “fuck a corpse,” but the thought of just literally hugging a rotting, putrefying, maggoty corpse was enough to turn my stomach.

            “Now imagine he asked you to do it once a month,” Nicky said.

            I grew pale at the thought.

            “There.  You get it now,” Nicky smiled.  “I still think you should marry Gabriel.  You’re good for each other.  But if you really need to hug your husband to be happy, make a clean break now.  Don’t drag it out.”  He clapped me on the back in an avuncular away, and then said, “Kids, we’re leaving.”

            As soon as they had left, I called the superintendent of the High Rise to get an apartment.

            When Gabriel came home, he saw the boxes in the living room that I’d packed.  He didn’t look shocked.

            “I talked to Nicky,” I said.  “He explained it to me in a way I finally understand.  I’m sorry,” I added, embracing him.  “I can’t marry you.”

            Gabriel embraced me back, tightly.

            “I still want to be friends,” I said, letting go.  “Movie nights.  Poker.  Hell, I’ll come over and cook sometimes.”

            “Sure,” Gabriel said, finally letting go himself.  “I’d like that.”  He sounded so despondent.  I knew Gabriel well enough to know that he was once again putting on an act for me, that he’d be crying inconsolably the second he was alone.

            “Buck up, big guy.  It’s not the end of the world.”

            “It’s the beginning of the end,” he said.  “You’re going to find some guy.  He’ll sweep you off your feet.  You’ll fall in love.  You’ll get married.  That will be the end.”

            “I’m not going to dump you as a friend when I find a boyfriend,” I reassured him.

            “I’d love to believe that,” he said, collapsing on the couch.  “But it’s human nature.  It’s happened to me a dozen times.”

            “I don’t know what it’s like to be ace,” I said, “but you don’t know what it’s like to be allo.  I will stay your friend.”

            “Here’s hoping,” Gabriel said, raising an imaginary glass as if in a toast.

            “Let’s say you’re right,” I humored him, joining him on the couch.  “Let’s say I’m a fucking douche, and I dump you the second I get a serious boyfriend.”

            My word choice made Gabriel snicker, despite his sadness.

            “We’ve still got months of friendship until that happens.  Maybe years.”

            “Nope,” Gabriel said.  “Weeks.  Maybe days.  You’re amazing, and some guy is going to snap you up in a heartbeat.”

            “I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head.  “I’m picky.  And you’re a tough act to follow.” 

            Gabriel scoffed.  “Everyone does look puny compared to me,” he added, flexing his left arm.

            “I kinda wish we’d met Nicky and Dina years ago,” I mused.  “Avoid this whole heartbreak.”

            “Don’t you dare wish that,” Gabriel said.  “I wouldn’t trade our friendship for anything.”

            “That’s sweet.”

            “And I’m going to hold you to your promise,” Gabriel said.  “You are staying my friend.”  It almost sounded like a threat.  “I know how to push your buttons.  Once you get a boyfriend, you better not forget me, or I will give you such a guilt trip.”

            “You could just meet him in person, show him your bulging crotch, and tell him we’ve showered together.  That’ll scare him away.”

            “I don’t want to break you two up,” Gabriel said about my hypothetical future boyfriend.  “I just want to stay in your life, even if just a small part of it.”

            That reminded me.  “Do you still want me to come to your bodybuilding show on Saturday?”

            “The Quiver will be there; Hank will be there.  It shouldn’t be awkward between us I you do.”

            “That’s not what I was asking.  Do you want me to be there?” I repeated.

            “Always,” Gabriel said.  “But that’s the problem.”

            Then, I got close to him and said, “I don’t know what this will mean to you, but I have to say it.”  I looked him deeply in his eyes.  “You’ve been the love of my life.”

            “It means the world to me,” Gabriel said.

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TQuintA - thank you for this eye opening story.  From all the ups and downs, it was truly a compelling story that helped show what people go through.  The muscle growth and descriptions were fantastic as usual - and I’m glad that Auggie and Gabriel were able to reconcile their feelings and stay friends in the end.  Thanks for the story! 

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