He heard footsteps and then his mother was at the door in a bathrobe. “Tony, it’s 4 in the morning. What’s wrong?”
Tony frowned. “Where’s Riley?”
“Riley? He went home. It’s -”
“Yes, yes I know what time it is. Why’d he leave?”
His mother just looked at him, eyebrows raised. He turned away from her and started searching for his phone. Why would Riley leave?
Sighing, Rae said, “I’m sure he’ll be back tomorrow Tony. In the meantime, go get some sleep. Okay?”
Two hours later, Tony stole Dre’s phone and dialed Riley’s number.
“Hey Dre, it’s six in the morning dude. What’s wrong?” Riley sounded groggy but like he was waking up fast. “Is Tony okay? Is it your dad?”
“Why’d you leave last night?” Tony pulled on his lip ring. He suddenly felt nervous.
“Tony?” There was some shuffling and then, “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, everything is fine. Why did you leave?”
“I needed to sleep, Tony. It was three in the morning. I’ll be back later.”
“When?” He couldn’t understand why Riley had left in the first place. If he’d needed sleep, he could have slept here!
Riley made a sound that was half groan, half laughter. “I can be there in 45 minutes. Okay babe?”
Tony nodded, realized Riley couldn’t see him, then said, “Yes. Bye.”
He hung up and sat back in his chair. Staring at the phone, he realized what he’d just done. He’d called his colleague and demanded he come to his house, all because he felt an emotional attachment to him.
Tony got up from the chair and walked downstairs to the front porch to wait on Riley. Even now, knowing how far across the boundaries he’d stepped, he still couldn’t make himself call and tell Riley not to come. He needed him here. He needed his friend.
But, he promised himself, he would give Riley a choice. He would not force anything on him, no matter how one-sided it might be. Actually, especially because of how one-sided it might be.
Riley pulled up to the house in forty minutes. Tony tried to smile but he was tired and tense. He would tell Riley how he felt immediately, that way he could get to the important part of the day, saving his dad. Tony would take Riley’s rejection with professional courtesy, thank him for being a good friend this past year and that would be it.
Riley stepped up to him and smiled, “Did you sleep in your clothes, Tony?”
“What, no. That would be stupid.”
“But those are the same clothes you had on yesterday,” he pointed out.
“I didn’t sleep last night.”
Riley made a clucking noise and studied Tony. “What’s going on babe? You seem more tense than usual.”
Tony shrugged. How was he not supposed to feel something for a man who constantly called him babe? “Riley, I…”
Riley waited patiently for him to finish. When he said nothing, Riley narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?”
“Can we go inside Tony? It’s kinda cold out.”
Tony blinked. Was it cold? He felt too hot. Riley started to move past him into the house and Tony watched him for a minute. “Riley?”
“I like you.”
Riley smiled softly and reached for Tony’s hand, dragging him towards the door. “I like you too babe. Now let’s get out of the cold.”
Tony resisted. “No Riley. I mean, I like you, like you. As in, I would like to be in a relationship with you that included physical contact up to and perhaps involving, the occasional sexual dalliance.”
There, he’d done it. He’d told Riley how he felt.
Now they both stood, wide eyed in the front yard, the cold completely forgotten. Riley looked shocked. Tony wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t every day your boss told you he wanted to have sex with you. And not just any sex, but gay sex.
“I know that there are boundaries that I am crossing by feeling this way and I want you to know that I would never take advantage of you in any way. Your job is secure always. I just felt like I had to tell you before we went any further as colleagues because that’s what you are to me, Riley. I feel like we are equal partners at work, not employee/employer, otherwise I would never even dream of bringing my feelings up, that would be completely unethical of me.”
“Well that’s a relief.” Riley laughed.
He was laughing. Tony didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. He didn’t seem upset yet, but he didn’t seem thrilled either. Tony felt panic start to crept in. “I promise never to overstep Riley. It’s just, I’ve never had these feelings for someone I worked for before and this is all very new to me. You’re my best friend and I would never want to make you uncomfortable or do something to jeopardize our friendship.”
Maybe Riley was horrified… “Please allow me some time to adjust to these feelings, as I’m sure they’ll fade as quickly as they came. I think I’m just – lonely, I guess and I see you all the time. I mean, I know that you are not attracted to men, so I’m not expecting…anything.”
Except he had been, he still was. Tony stopped speaking and stared at Riley staring at him. He wanted Riley in a way that was very inappropriate in so many ways. And even if Riley wasn’t offended by his proposition, he still wouldn’t be gay. No matter what Tony may have let himself believe. “Forget I said anything at all.”
Riley had always called him babe, since they were in high school, it wasn’t a sign of any attraction on his part, it was just a term of endearment for a friend. Damn. He suddenly felt the cold and began to shiver. “S-say something.”
A car door slamming stole both their attentions and Tony turned to watch his mother rush towards him. “Tony, why don’t you answer your phone!”
“What’s wrong mom?”
“Connor was poisoned, not drugged. Brian gave me these samples to give to you. He asked if you would run some diagnostics for him. I would do it but I need to get back to the hospital. I didn’t want to leave in the first place but I couldn’t reach you.”
Rae reached into her bag and pulled out several vials of blood. Tony felt a huge wave of guilt crash into him. Here he was, making advances on Riley while his family needed him. He took the vials from his mother’s hands, his own shaking just slightly, and turned to walk inside, refusing to look at Riley. “I’m sorry mom. I won’t let myself get distracted again. I promise.”
This was so frustrating! He had no experience with live tissue samples. If his dad needed a toaster, or a vacuum or a hovercraft, he was the one for the job. But poison? He didn’t know the first thing about chemical reactions in the brain.
He heard some shuffling and looked up to find Riley standing in front of him, eyes narrowed, mouth slightly open. “Tony?”
“Y-yes?” They hadn’t spoken since earlier that morning when he’d made a fool of himself and for the past two hours, he’d been very aware of the fact that Riley was in the room with him, quietly watching as he worked.
“I know we talked about boundaries this morning and I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but…”
Here it was. Riley had had some time to really think about it and was realizing he couldn’t work with him anymore. Why had he said anything? But even as he thought it, he knew he would always tell Riley the truth. He’d meant it when he said he would never put his friend in a situation that might make him uncomfortable.
“I’m going to kiss you now.”
He started to say, “It’s okay, I understand.” Wait. “What?”
Riley grinned. “I like you too Tony. Have for a while and I’m going to kiss you now.”
“But Riley, you’re not gay.”
Riley raised an eyebrow and grinned. “That didn’t seem to bother you this morning.”
Tony blushed and stood up. “Wait, let me stand up.”
Tony shrugged. “I don’t know. Whenever I’ve imagined this, both of us were always standing.”
“Really? I’ve envisioned us standing, sitting, lying in bed.”
Tony sucked on his bottom lip. Had he really?
Riley groaned and pulled him closer. “I don’t care how it happens just come here baby.”
He leaned forward and pressed his lips against Tony’s. Riley’s lips were so soft; it was like Tony was melting into him. It took him a minute to realize he was actually pressing his body against Riley’s. He opened his eyes to find Riley watching him. He pulled back. “What are you doing?”
“I’m watching you kiss me.”
Tony laughed self-consciously. “That’s weird Riley. Close your eyes.”
“Aye aye captain,” Riley said softly and leaned forward again, this time with eyes closed. Tony checked.
Tony heard someone clear their throat and he jerked away from Riley. Looking up, he saw his mom standing in the doorway. Hadn’t he just made a promise to his mother not to get distracted again? “Mom!”
He reluctantly pulled away from his best friend but Riley kept hold of his hand. “Hey Mrs. L. Did you need to talk to Tony?”
Rae raised an eyebrow and shook her head, “I just wanted to make sure you boys were okay. And that you didn’t stay down here as long as you did last night.”
As she talked, her face flushed and she wouldn’t make eye contact with either of them. “I’m just going to go back upstairs now. I’m going to the hospital in an hour and probably will stay there.” Her face turned bright red. “There’s money if you want to order food…”
Tony had to stop this conversation right now. “Mom, we’ll be fine. I’ll call you later.”
“Okay sweetie.” She seemed to sigh in relief and turned to go but glanced back before walking out. “I love you.”
“Love you too mom.”
She paused. “You too Riley.”
Riley’s startled eyes flew up. “Umm, love you too Mrs. L.”
Rae nodded and walked out, closing the door with a firm pull.
Tony turned towards Riley, who still looked amazed. “Did we just get caught making out by my mom?”
“Holy shit. I think we did.” He grinned at Tony.
“I’m so glad you turned out to be gay.”
“Umm, me too?” Riley laughed. Tony liked him and wanted to be with him and he was a little worried he was still asleep in his bed, dreaming an impossible dream.
“What I mean is…how awkward would it have been if you were straight? I’m glad I read the signs right.”
“There were signs?”
“Well, yes, I think so.”
Riley looked at him expectantly, “Go on, I’m listening.”
“There was the need to eat lunch with me all the time, calling me babe, playing that awful music to get my attention.” Tony looked at him, “I could go on…”
Riley was laughing so hard it was getting hard to breathe. Taking a breath he said, “If we went by that logic then I’ve been into you since day one!”
He touched the corner of Tony’s smile. He had the sexiest smile Riley had ever seen. He leaned down and kissed Tony’s lips, unable to resist. They feel real enough…
Tony’s smile grew wider. “I think you were.”
“You are so conceited Anthony London. You and your brother must be twins.” He stepped back and pointed at the vials and paraphernalia in front of Tony. “Now back to work with you.”
Riley sat back down. Close enough to see but far enough away not to get in the way. Tony was right; Riley had been into him since high school. Hitting puberty had done a number to his libido and he’d chased anything female. His high school career was full of sports and girls. But then he’d seen Dre’s brother rushing into the boys’ bathroom, looking pale.
He’d never spoken to Anthony before then, not really anyway. His parents weren’t the friendliest couple and he and his brothers knew the Londons were not people they could bring over after school. Andrei, he knew from the football and basketball teams but Tony was a nerd and ran in different circles. It didn’t matter that day though, because Riley’s wolf had caught Tony’s scent and it had been different somehow. So out of curiosity, he’d followed Tony into the bathroom.
When he’d seen Tony as a ghost, his first thought was that the boy had died. But he didn’t see a body or smell one and Tony was just so calm about it. When he figured out what was happening, it had seemed like joking about it was the only way to make the situation less awkward.
He made some dumb comment and laughed it off. He royally freaked out later – hyperventilation and all. It took him three months to get up the nerve to talk to Tony again. They saw each other in the hallways and nodded but had never spoken after the bathroom incident. Which is not to say that he hadn’t quietly stalked Tony, hoping to see him turn again. When he found out that Tony was going to be home-schooled, he knew he wouldn’t have another chance. He would have to make the first move.
So he’d stopped the boy he’d been secretly watching for three months and asked him how he was doing.
Even that would have been a disaster if Dre hadn’t come along at that moment, boisterous and talking a mile a minute. Riley had exchanged a look with Tony and Dre dragged them both to lunch. It hadn’t been Riley’s lunch period, the Sophomores were on a different schedule then the upperclassmen but he’d gone anyway.
He’d also received an invite to their house to hang out and he’d immediately jumped on the chance to spend more time with Tony. He hadn’t been so self-aware at fifteen to realize any of this though. He just knew that he liked the London twins and liked spending time with them.
It took him another year to realize that his feelings for quiet, nerdy, Tony were different. He was more attentive to Tony, more attuned to his wants and needs. He’d been very confused, he’d never felt that way about a guy before. Girls yes, but never a boy. When Tony told everyone he was gay, Riley thought about doing the same, except he still found girls attractive.
He finally confided in his brother Josh, who joked that Riley was a Tony-sexual. He explained to Riley what being bisexual meant and reassured him that it was okay to have those feelings. Josh had really helped him get through that confusing period in his life.
“Yeah babe?” Riley answered, distracted by his memories.
Tony smiled a little. “You should just stay here. At the house, I mean. There’s no point in coming back and forth every day.”
Riley thought about that and agreed, it wouldn’t make sense, except he’d have to tell his mother. “I don’t know Tony. My mom is kinda excited that I’m home again…” He was stalling, he knew that.
“Oh. Right. Of course.” Tony turned back to his work.
Great, now Tony was hurt. Sighing, Riley said, “I’ll go home and grab my bag.” He stood up and gave Tony a quick kiss. Pasting a smile on his face, he turned to head out. If he had to listen to his mom bitching to make Tony happy, then fine.