Un-Valentine's Day

A Sanitaria Springs Story

By Dabeagle


“No Marshall tonight?” Hal asked as he cooked. I was getting a drink from the fridge.

“He's grounded for sneaking over last night,” I said. Sunday nights his parents liked their kids to stay in. Marshall, true to his word about always wanting my spare time, had other ideas – and he'd gotten caught.

I glanced over at Hal, the younger of my dads, and thought about what I knew of their relationship history. They'd been dating when I started living with B-Dad, Brandon. I'd learned a lot about how a healthy relationship works from watching them – how they made decisions, how they treated each other. Hal, H-Dad, was more likely to want to go places or do stuff, while B-Dad liked being at home with us.

“Do you think my relationship is normal?” I asked him. Not exactly how I was thinking of wording that question, but I think it was close enough.

Hal glanced at me and smiled, then looked back at the pan of onions he was sauteing. “You mean how you guys are stuck to each other after two months?”

I leaned against the counter and popped the tab on my can. “Like...Marshall told me his other relationships hadn't lasted because he's like that – always wanting to be where the other person is.”

Hal slid the onions off the pan into a bowl and started giving the same treatment to mushrooms – we must be having steaks. Hal and Kari like onions and mushrooms on theirs.

“To be honest, most new or young relationships can be like that.” He gave me some side eye. “Usually it dies down or breaks the relationship, but Marshall is pretty persistent about you.”

“Were you like that?”

He laughed. “With my first boyfriend I was. It was okay for a little while, but later on it annoyed him to death.” He glanced at me. “Is Marshall getting to you?”

I sipped my drink and shook my head. “No. It's just that everyone’s telling me that he's always there. Like it's a problem.”

Hal shrugged. “If it is, it's their problem. You and Marshall decide what's okay between you.” He paused and glanced at me. “To a point. Sometimes friends see things we don't and try to steer us out of situations before they get worse or something along those lines. From what I've seen Marshall is mostly attentive to you and just...there.”

I nodded and shrugged as I sipped again. “He told me he was like this, and I said, like, then if I ask you to back off you'll know better. Except he said he wasn't sure.”

Hal set the mushrooms aside and looked at me fully. “And have you asked him to?”

I shook my head. “I like having him around. It's nice. Like...if I see something funny and I want to tell him, he's right there. If I want to nap, he's there for that.”

“And if you want to avoid your chores?” Hal asked, changing his tone.

I put a hand on my chest. “It's rude to do that in front of guests.”

“Who's a guest? And that smells good,” B-Dad said as he entered the room and grabbed Hal up in a quick hug. “If I'd known you could cook I'd have married you sooner.”

“Please. I had to ask you out,” Hal said with a snort.

“Are you ever going to let that go?” Brandon asked him, teasing.

“Maybe about the time Marshall realizes he can exist without Isaac for a few hours,” Hal said, bring the conversation back around to me.

B-Dad slipped behind Hal and wrapped his arms around him from behind and looked at me over one of Hal's shoulders. “He's around a lot,” he commented.

“He's my shadow,” I confirmed.

“And...how do we feel about that?”

“Honestly? I think other people need to stop telling me that,” I said. “Derry says it. Cole says he understands because he feels that way about Drew – so maybe it runs in their family, since Cole and Marshall are cousins?”

B-Dad chuckled. “Let me rephrase. Does Marshall being...clingy bother you?”

“No. I like him where he is.” I paused for a second and looked at them both. “It does make me wonder if that means there is something not right about this, though.”

“Like how? Grab that dish, Brandon? 'Zac, grab some plates please – Kari! Dinner!” Hal said, moving us along.

I sighed and set my drink down to open the cupboard for the plates. “I mean, do you think I like him being clingy because of some psycho reason like my mom leaving me all the time?”

B-Dad had been getting silverware, but he paused and glanced at me. “Well, it's possible you could be more accepting or might need more attention from a partner than what might be considered average because of that, sure. I mean I'm not a psychologist, but it sounds reasonable. Does that concern you?”

“No,” I said. “But isn't that kind of the point? Other people think this is nuts or should have worn off by now, and we're both like – nope, all good.”

We set the table and Kari joined us. “Where's Marshall?” Kari asked.

“Grounded,” I said.

“That's what it takes to separate you guys, huh?” she teased.

“Was that Alan's junk I saw on your cell phone?” I asked.

“What was that?” B-Dad asked sharply.

“Relax,” Hal said calmly. “It was small; I'm sure it won't get anyone pregnant.”

Kari eyed me. “Have you even seen Marshall's junk?”

I opened my mouth to reply when Brandon cut me off. “Enough! I don't want to hear another word or I shut off your phones and wifi!”

Okay, well, I do have my limits.

“Kari, have you decided what you're doing for Valentine's day?”

“Skipping school and getting laid,” I said under my breath.

“Jealous?” she said, smirking. Such an evil smirk. Raising her voice for the parents she said, “It's such a fake holiday. I told him to wait until the day after and we can go buy half-price candy.”

“I like that,” Brandon said with a grin.

“Pro move,” I said with a nod. “But what about the condoms he had made with his face on them?”

“Oh for Christ's sake!” B-Dad groaned. “Isaac, last warning!”

Okay, last warning was pretty close to the actual last warning, so I'd better chill. Besides, I didn't want to get grounded at the same time Marshall was. I hadn't given in to sneaking over to see him yet, even though he was practically begging, but I was so used to him being with me that it was only a matter of time.

We'd been together nearly two months, and I think anyone would have to say we'd done pretty well. There was some surprise and gossip when we were first noticed as a couple, but it's had been okay really. My friends Tim and Liz acted like Marshall had pissed in their cereal – and seriously, those two really needed to get over the idea they owned me or something. They both claimed to be upset I never told them about Marshall, but why would I? All they do is basically tell me I belong to them, and fuck that.

So yeah, things with Tim and Liz were a little cooled off these days. But I'd made new friends, and I guess sometimes that’s what happens – things change, and the people around you change. That thought scared me a little, not because of Tim and Liz, but because of Brandon and Hal and even Kari. I liked my life now. Things that used to stress me, like food or clothes that fit the way I wanted or if my mom would be home when I got home, were gone. To be fair, I'd reached a point where I hadn't really cared if my mother would be home, because it would just be a hassle if she was gone, not because she and I were all that tight.

But I think that's because she didn't really care all that much. I get it, I think. Maybe having kids seemed like a good idea at the time or something, but when we didn't go away she probably figured she'd screwed up somewhere. There are a lot of things that seem like a good idea at the time – like selling your used underwear online to some creep for a crappy laptop. Okay, I guess to be fair the creep part was him showing up and wanting me instead of just sniffing used underwear or something – fuck only knows what he'd have done to me.

But while Tim and Liz had faded a bit for me, Derry and Jack were right there – and after I got together with Marshall we hung out some with his cousin Cole and Cole’s boyfriend, Drew. It was interesting to see how the relationships were so different. Derry was kind of hot tempered sometimes, and Jack was really laid back. You'd think that wouldn't work – but they do. Derry loves Jack, and it's kind of just there, like a fact in a book. Jack loves Derry in this smiley, dopey way that I don't think would work for me that well.

Cole and Drew were different; in a way they were a bit more like Marshall and me. Cole just wants his boyfriend the way little kids want their blanket. Drew seems to want as much attention as Cole gives him, but not like a black hole or anything – they can still function as part of a group, so we don't feel like they are off on their own when we hang out. They are also different physically, just like Derry and Jack.

Derry is a red head with pale skin and a few freckles across his nose. It's a super interesting appearance, and he's turned into a really cool friend. He's been very interested in my relationship and is always there to bounce stuff off of. Jack is blocky and a gentle giant, really. He's softer spoken than Derry and sometimes looks like he's just lost in thought, but I've discovered he's usually just thinking about ways to draw something he's seeing. He did a really nice drawing of Marshall and me cuddling on a couch that I keep in my room.

Drew looks kind of like an average guy – dark hair, dark eyes, darker than the average white guy skin tone and a quiet manner. He was also really smart and successful at school, but I'd heard he also worked his butt off on studying. He was already applying to colleges, and he was talking scholarships. Cole is completely different – lighter skinned than Drew, but Marshall claims he tans to this stupid golden color that he's envious of – not sure why. Cole is also pretty sporty and pretty smart – I guess Drew has been on him to make sure they go to school together. Cole is blond and Marshall calls him the hairless wonder because Cole can't seem to grow much in the way of body hair. I kind of like that idea, because I found out the smell from sweat comes from dead bacteria clinging to your hair, so it doesn't seem like a big deal to me to have a little less hair.

I loved the aesthetic of my couple-friends though. Derry and Jack were both physical and personality contrasts, and so were Cole and Drew. I guess Marshall and I were, too. Marshall is totally what I thought he was in one big way – he's comfy as fuck. We lay all over each other when we watch movies or scroll through our phones. I never thought of myself as a touchy-feely kind of guy, but I like lying on him. I like the warmth, I like the weight of his arm on me, I like closing my eyes and feeling his chest move up and down beneath my head.

Marshall says I'm quirky. It's a strange sounding word and he likes to use it a lot in my direction. I can't disagree. I know I look at things in a way a lot of other people don't. I don't mind, since he seems to like me that way, and honestly I don't think he'd have dated a guy if I hadn't been like I am. Derry says he thinks Marshall sees me as non-threatening, maybe not challenging his masculinity or some weird shit. I think Marshall likes that I said I liked him and wanted to be with him – like, it was simple. I said what I wanted, he said what he did and we went from there.

Oh, and he's a good kisser. Nothing to compare him to, but I like it. I like the way I feel when he's kissing me. I like how there are no games about him wanting to kiss me, and I like how receptive he is when I decide to kiss him. In that sense I guess we're pretty straightforward. I thought about doing something intentionally sexual on Valentine's, but that seems kind of dumb. Kari isn't wrong – it' s a fake holiday. I saw some group wants people to wear white on Valentine's to show everyone else they aren't doing any sinful fucking, but that's just as stupid in the other direction.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to think about sex. I used to think about it in a kind of abstract way. Sometimes there was a person in my thoughts, but it was kind of like...when you watch the opening of a super-hero movie, they flip through these images really quickly, like from one comic book to the next. My brain could be like that, flipping through aesthetics I liked as a source of, as Brandon might say, sexual gratification.

Marshall is different. Marshall is a combination of abstract shit like the concept of comfy, and then there’s the actual Marshall. He pays attention to me – colors I like, knowing my birthday, how I like my coffee or favorite foods. But he also gets me to bone up with kisses and physical stuff that's kind of new to me, that makes me feel...wanted. It's kind of addictive to feel like that, and Marshall gives me all that. I'm still trying to figure out what I give to Marshall, except that this is how he likes to be in a relationship and I accept that, am even good at allowing him to be who he is.

I suppose there is some question about if that's healthy or not, but maybe he's doing what he needs to and I'm the right fit because I like it. I guess we can be unhealthy together.

Derry teased me endlessly about how Marshall and I couldn't be apart and mashed up our names for a single person entity dating name. That's what he called it.

Isall. M'Zac. Isam. Marshaac. Guy needs a hobby; I'm just afraid he thinks I'm his hobby.

After dinner I took a shower, then sat on my bed texting with Marshall. Kari walked into my room and plopped down on my bed, making me go up in the air a little.

“Jesus, put on a few pounds?” I asked as she snickered at me.

“So. Valentine's. What are you doing?” she asked.

“I don't know,” I said. “Might depend on if Marshall is still grounded.”

“But are you thinking dinner or movies or...some alone time?”

I just stared at her for a minute. “You're thinking about me and Marshall going at it, aren't you? Is this why you always wanted me to date a guy? That image works for you?”

She mimed throwing up. “God, you're so gross,” she said and laughed at me.

I pulled my legs up and wrapped my arms around my shins. “Are you and Alan...planning on alone time? I thought you were going to dump him.”

She hummed for a moment. “His parents had this huge fight, and his mom left home. For a minute it looked like they might divorce. I think it shook Alan up. I don't know if it's permanent, but he seems to have pulled his head from his ass anyway – and I like him better this way.”

I thought for a second. “You don't think he's just trying to get in your pants?”

“Oh, I know he is,” she said with a laugh. “But he always had that in his head. I don't think this is so much a change in tactics as it is...reality kicked him in the teeth. He acts like his dad a lot and I think he suddenly realized that if he does that, he might end up as alone as his dad was when his mom said, 'Fuck you, I don't need this shit,' and walked out.”

I nodded. “Sounds legit.”

“And for the record, I just wanted you to pick a side.”

I nodded again. “I still haven't, you know. I mean not that anyone should really care, but I'm dating Marshall for Marshall, not because he's a guy.”

She tilted her head to one side. “He's sweet. A little clingy, but it seems to work for you guys.”

I nodded. “Derry says we’re this balanced ball of needs. I swear, he takes one psychology class for a quarter and he thinks he's Freud.”

She stood. “Well, looks like you got lucky.”

She left, and I thought on what she'd said. I'd done my homework on Marshall – and about twelve other people, but Marshall was the one that worked best in my head. I guess the luck part had to do with him gambling on dating a guy. It took balls, I guess. Marshall was higher up the popularity chain than I was, but it didn't seem to have hurt him much.

My phone buzzed and I glanced down at Marshall's latest. I miss you so much. Come cuddle me until I fall asleep?

Well, I could do that.


“So, Drew had this box,” Cole was telling me.

Marshall was still grounded, but Cole and I were hanging out on his break at Diego's Everyday Taco. It was just down the street from where Marshall worked, so I sometimes would come hang with Cole on his break. Of course we'd talked about Valentine's coming up and he was telling me how him and Drew had plans, which led to the stereotype about getting laid on that day and how their first time had gone.

“He had a box of sex toys?” I asked, laughing a little.

“Not really. More like...stuff to better understand what he was getting into,” Cole explained. “Like, bottoming can be kind of painful, especially the first time. The box was to help with getting comfortable with all that.”

“Huh.” Not sure what else to say to that.

“Are you and Marsh thinking about, you know, a first time?”

I glanced at Cole. “After dating him for a few months I can say with total confidence...I have no idea what goes on in Marshall's head,” I said. “If he's thinking it, he hasn't said anything.”

Cole nodded quickly. “Well, listen,” he said and leaned in a bit. “I know he's my cousin, but you're my friend. Us having that box and more information was pretty useful, even if you don't go that direction. I can get that stuff for you, because it'd be good for you guys to know. If you want – no pressure.”

That was how I got the box and an evening with Cole and Drew about how everything worked. To be honest I was a little skeptical. I know the mechanics of sex between two guys, but I wasn't sure that was me. I'd never really thought about this part of dating and if Marshall would want this. If he did, was it my job to go through with it? I picked up the bulb that you were supposed to fill with water and squirt up your butt. It just sounded weird. The dildo looked ridiculous. It had a suction cup on it and felt kind of squishy with a harder core, but still. I stuck it to the side of my dresser and tweaked it with my hand, making it flop back and forth before falling to the floor with a smack.

I could understand Cole being a good friend and educating me, but I also felt like people were getting way too interested in the idea of me and Marshall fucking. I'm not saying if it happens it happens, but I am saying...I don't know what the fuck I'm saying.

Saturday was Valentine's, and even though Marshall had another day of grounding, I asked his parents if I could come over. Like with their permission instead of sneaking in his window. They allowed it, which was fair. I mean they could have stuck to their rules completely, and I get why he got in trouble – they said no. If my dads say no and I do it, I'm in trouble. It may be bullshit sometimes, but it's not like you didn't know you were going to get in trouble.

It seemed like everyone was curious about what I was doing with Marshall on the big day. I mean, Christ people, get a life. I shouldn't grumble, I guess, since they all told me what they are doing. Derry and Jack were going out for the day: brunch, a photography exhibit and a live band that evening. Cole and Drew had a horror movie marathon planned. Kari and Alan were going to this weird dinner and a movie thing where they showed the movie while you had dinner. I mean, hello? You can do that in our living room. The dads had reservations at a favorite place, so I guess it was only fair that they were curious what Marshall and I were doing.

I don't know what it really means to be 'ready' to have sex. Isn't everyone, more or less, once you hit puberty? Do you have to be horny or in the mood? What are the requirements to be 'ready'? Are they the same for everyone? Why does it have to be so complicated? Why do we have a day set aside with that as an expectation or goal to aim for?

Fuck Valentine's day, that's what I think.

That Saturday – Valentine's day – it was sleeting – that snot-like mixture of snow and rain that pleases exactly no one. I emptied out my school bag and put in my favorite pair of shorts that I'd stolen from Marshall, a really soft-to-the-touch tee shirt and my favorite sweatshirt that wasn't stolen from Marshall. Then I got my favorite cuddling blanket, folded it, and stuffed it in a plastic bag to protect it from the snot-a-geddon outside. I showered and combed my hair and more or less made myself look presentable, as my grandmother would say, and then I called a ride-share. I had it take me to this strip mall that had pretty much what I needed to make my first Valentine's day as part of a couple something that would be important to me, and I think to Marshall.

An experience, as B-Dad would say.

I hit up a few stores in the strip mall and carefully packed away my purchases before getting another ride-share to Marshall's house. I like his house, though not as much as I like my own. His parents had a Cape style house that was bigger inside than you'd have thought, but also managed to be smaller than you'd thought at the same time – mostly because of how awkwardly the rooms were laid out. Marshall's room had these weird angles in the ceiling that made walking a little bit of an adventure in not whacking your head. The house was built into the side of a hill, so even though he was on the second floor, he had a window that let out into his backyard – that was essentially a freaking hill. With little trees.

Their basement was unfinished. When you walked in there was a stairway right in front of you. To the right was a small TV room with a couch and a chair – because nothing more would fit. Walking through that brought you to the eat-in kitchen, which went right to the kitchen itself and then back around to the tiny dining room. I mean, why? Why a dining room and the kitchen especially when the dining room could seat two and a half uncomfortably? Especially with the stupid display cabinet for dishes you never use and a table that wouldn't fit in the room if you put in the leaf? It was designed for little people.

There was an upstairs, of course, and this tumorous add-on that had a play-room, basically, in addition to the bedrooms. Marshall's sister was off at college, so that 'playroom' space was where we usually hung out if we were at his place. Like I said, I prefer mine.

He opened his front door dressed in joggers and a tee shirt and grinned at me. “Babe.”

I smiled back, blushing because he called me that. He does it to tease me. I threatened him when he said 'bae' one time. I swear he looks up endearments to troll me.

He didn't offer to help with the bags I had, just leaned in and kissed me in the doorway. God that felt nice.

“Take some bags,” I said once he'd stopped.

“And close the damn door, would you please? Not heating the neighborhood,” his father grumped from the couch. “Hi, Isaac.”

“Hi,” I replied, lifting my bags as if to say I'd wave if I could, but your bone-headed son hasn't helped me yet.

Marshall grabbed a few bags and I told him not to look inside yet as I kicked off my shoes by the door and followed him up to the 'playroom'. His parents still called it that because his sister and he had used it that way, but it seemed kind of silly now. We set the bags on the floor and he pulled me into a really nice hug. He took a deep breath.

“Bro, I've missed you.”





“I don't hold your tits up.”


“I'm leaving.”

He laughed and kissed me, which made me feel less like leaving.

“What did you bring?”

“Not yet,” I told him as I opened my bag. “I'm getting changed first.”

“Ohhh,” he said with a grin.

I rolled my eyes and showed him my shorts, shirt and sweatshirt combo. “I only dressed nice for you to answer the door. Now I want to get comfy.”

He moved to block me from leaving, leaning back against the door. “You can change here.”

That drew me up a bit short. “You mean...you want me to take clothes off?”

He tilted his head to one side and gave me a thoughtful look. “Do you want to take clothes off?”

I wrinkled my brow. “I want to get comfy. Do...let me go get changed. We need to talk.”

He straightened but didn't move from the door. “We need to talk? Why? What did I do?”

I frowned. “Nothing. Don't you think there are some things we should always talk about? Two people in a relationship do that, right?”

He licked his lips. “So you're not mad at me?”

“Not yet,” I said pointedly and jerked my head to indicate he should move his ass from in front of the door. He stepped aside and I passed through to the bathroom, where I got changed. I wasn't wearing weird underwear or anything, and shorts are pretty close to underwear, but still – I think I need to process more the idea of what he wants to see, and to understand what I might want to.

I went back to the room and let the door swing mostly closed. He'd put my blanket on the couch and so I went to the rest of the stuff I had and started laying the items out on the little coffee table.

“Spicy chicken sandwich, hot fries, extra spicy wings and two cans of that cat-piss energy drink,” I said, laying out his food in front of him. “I get the fish sandwich, apple-smoked wings and sour cream and onion chips with cream soda Doctor Pepper.”

“And you say my drink is cat piss?” he asked. Before I could retort he pulled me close. “You did all this for our Valentine's? All my favorite things?”

“Well. Yeah.” He hugged me again and said something just too soft to hear, but it sounded like an 'I love you', which would have been a first for us.

We squished together on the couch and he started up a series we were both into while we had our food. The sandwiches didn't last, the wings took a bit longer, but then he paused the show so we could wash our hands. He went to his room and brought me back a standard Valentine's item of a small heart-shaped box with candy in it, a flower and a card.

The card was way too sappy to repeat. I felt good, but it was too sappy.

I handed him his hot fries and grabbed my chips as we took our seats, but I put my hand over his to stop him from putting the show back on. He gave me a questioning look and I decided I'd better just start puking out the things swirling in my head and hope we could sort them out.

“Do you want to have sex with me?” I asked.

His eyes went wide. “Um. I mean...yeah? Not really being romantic or anything here, Zac.”

I shook my head. “No. I mean yeah, but no.”

“You're doing that thing again where your words make sense only to you.”

I sighed. “I know.”'

“Wait...do you not want to do it with me? Is that it?”

I shook my head. “I don't think that's it, not really.” I looked at him. “Did you ever talk to Cole about the box he and Drew have?”

The reddening of his face was a dead giveaway. “Uh, yeah.”

I shifted my shoulders nervously. “It seems weird. I mean I never thought about putting anything in my butt or yours.”

He nodded. “Yeah. Seems like...kind of a big deal.”

“Right. But then there's....”

He put his hand over mine. “Are you okay?”

I looked up at him with a but of surprise. “Yeah. I mean it – I'm really happy with you.”

He smiled. “Well, that's good at least.”

I frowned. “Just to be clear, if I have a problem, I'll tell you. I just think there are things we should talk about – like before they become problems, if we can. I need to talk to you because we're together. You understand? Talking isn't a bad thing, not to me.”

He bobbed his head. “Yeah, I get it. Look, from where I'm at...I'm curious. You and me? I never saw that. Cole said he always knew he was gay and him and Drew just...he's been able to be himself, and he loves Drew with everything in him. But...they are also, like, active.”

I sighed and nodded. “That's what I wanted to talk with you about. I'm not so sure about...that stuff,” I said, thinking of the box in my closet.

“Do you ever think about...like...other stuff between us?” he asked hesitantly.

I nodded slowly. “Sometimes. Like, look, Marshall you already know I'm weird. I'm kind of really getting I'm weird compared to the rest of the world-”

“I,” he said, raising a finger, “actually don't think that. If it matters, I think you turn things over and look at it from ways other people don't think of. That's not weird.” He flushed. “Sorry. Keep going.”

I shifted a little and he pulled me closer, so I cuddled into him and felt instantly more at ease. “I say I'm weird because if I...before if I got hard or something it wasn't because it was someone, it was just the random things dicks get hard at. But when we kiss...and stuff, I think of you. So I guess on some level I'm thinking about that with you, but on another I'm like...not sure about some of the things guys do together.”

He cleared his throat. “I'm okay with that. I mean, if we get there, we get there. I'm not all in on doing that right now.”

I looked up at him, the side of my face pressed to his warm chest. “What about...other things?”

I watched his Adam's apple bob in his neck. “You mean like...getting naked?”

I swallowed. “Well, that. Other things.” I paused. “Like when you were talking before about me changing...were you joking or were you, you know....?”

“Horny?” he asked, chuckling with nervous laughter. He pressed his hand to the side of my face and I let him, dropping my gaze from his face. He ran his fingers through my hair, which was an amazing feeling that could put me to sleep if I let him do it too long. “I've had to do a lot of thinking since you came along. You've done everything...just right. I think if you'd have just asked me out that night I'd have said no, but you have this way of talking to me and listening to me....”

He went silent and I waited, though I was burning now to ask him again if he'd been serious about wanting to see more of my skin. Did I want to see his? I thought I did. I'd felt him hard through our clothes when we were pressed together. I wondered what it looked like. Not sure about what might come after that, but I was curious.

“I think I never thought of anyone like I do you,” he said eventually. “But you're not like anyone I ever met. You made me curious about things I never thought I'd ever be curious about. Like, even when I saw Cole and Drew – like, started to hang with them – I never thought about them together. I still don't,” he said quickly. “But...we've been dating for like two months and...I've gone from just being curious about how we might work to wanting us to work. To missing you if you're not with me. To thinking that you're really, really cute. To...wondering what you’d feel like if you didn't have on a shirt...or anything else.”

I squeezed him. He squeezed me back.

“Okay,” I said. “Just not on Valentine's, okay? We're not that kind of couple.”

He chuckled. “I tell you that I'm actually interested in getting you naked and you're just like 'okay'? That's the best you can do, Mr. We Need To Talk?”

Oh. That was a good point. I sat up and looked at his face. “When we got together I told you I'd talk about things as much as you wanted, and you do that with me. I think it's respectful and caring, and I need it.” I hesitated. “I know I'm not just with you because you're comfy, even though you are. I know my body is going places my mind hasn't really caught up with yet, but I'm okay with it as long as I have a chance to understand it with you. I'm...saying shit I feel like is embarrassing sometimes, but I wanted a relationship – with you – and this is what that looks like if you're with me. Does that make sense to you”

“More sense than some other things you've said to me.”

“Dick.” I sighed. “But fair. I'm saying I'm willing to try things with you, as long as you're good with trying and as long as it's not on Valentine's. That's so...stereotypical. I want tonight to be ours because we had our favorite stuff and we had each other, not because we fumbled to get each other off.”

He smiled widely. “Then get your chips and cuddle in, Zac. This is how we do Valentine's.”

So we got under my blanket and we hung out watching our show and eating our favorite snacks and being cuddled into our favorite person. It was better than buying cards and stressing about a fancy dinner or even just sending flowers. We could do that any time, and if I want to buy him flowers, I will.

By the time I went home the snot was just on the ground, but it was cold. I talked to my dads briefly, and everyone was in bed by about eleven-thirty. At eleven-fifty I snuck out of my window and went to the corner to get my ride-share. At twelve-fifteen I tapped on Marshall's window. By twelve-thirty we were figuring out what all the fuss was about.

But it wasn't Valentine's, not anymore.