“What happened? When you came out, I mean?”
“Some friends dropped me. Some didn’t. I got quietly pushed off the baseball team, even though I was a really good player.” He felt his lips turn up. “But I didn’t care. My folks had already guessed, so little drama there, and the boy I liked, liked me back. Oh yeah. He had a fair amount of experience for a sixteen-year-old, and he spent the summer teaching me what all my adolescent hormones were for. I didn’t mind at all.” He looked up at Dusty, who gazed at him with glassy eyes. He slowly wet his lips. Ben cleared his throat. “Uh, what about you? When did you come out?”
“Oh.” He raised his shoulders and dropped them. “Never, I guess. I always knew, so I just told people and that was all.”
Ben mimicked Dusty’s words from earlier. “Did you have a really tough time in high school?”
A look of pain crossed his face. “Not because I was gay, really.” He sucked a breath. “Back to work?” He pushed away from the counter.
In the bedroom, Dusty grabbed the bucket and carried it out, returning a couple of minutes later with clean water smelling like vinegar.
Ben wrinkled his nose. “You made a salad?”
“White vinegar’s great for cleaning wood floors. I found a bottle in your pantry and added a little to the water. You shouldn’t use much regular chemical stuff on these nice floors.”
“Anything you say.” He flashed his teeth again at Dusty, turned the music back on, and they went to work.
A few strokes in, Dusty glanced over at Ben and sped up his mopping. Ben got faster to match Dusty, and then added a little more speed.
Dusty started mopping like crazy, and Ben copied him, stroke for stroke. Dusty giggled as he wrung out the mop with super speed and went back to his mad moparama.
Ben gritted his teeth, slopped some water on the floor, and spread it around at double time.
Dusty yelled, “No fair. You can’t splash water on this floor!”
“Okay, okay.” Ben grabbed a cloth and dried the floor as Dusty got ahead of him in the race to the door. Ben grabbed his mop, wrung it out, and went into overdrive, swiping like a Mr. Clean fanatic.
Dusty laughed, and Ben laughed with him as they backed toward the wall, angling toward the door.
Dusty yelled, “I’m winning.”
“Don’t even dream it!”
Adrenaline rushed through Ben as he cleaned his last few feet of hardwood. His butt hit something hard and soft at the same time that turned out to be Dusty’s perfect ass. Dusty yelped and spun, thrusting forward his mop like a rapier. Ben met him and they began to fence with crossed mops, howling like loons.
Aluminum handles clanked and beads of water sprayed all over them as they danced around the room.
“Oh!” Suddenly, Dusty’s foot hit a damp patch, his arms flew up as his feet slid out from under him, and he pinwheeled backward, arms and mop flailing.
Ben dodged the swinging cleaning device and grabbed Dusty just before his head hit the wall. Dusty fell forward and landed against Ben’s chest, throwing him off balance despite the size difference, and the two of them careened backward like the tree that fell in the forest when no one was listening. Ben reached out an arm behind him and managed to hurl his body, still holding Dusty, toward the bed that had been pushed against the wall.
His butt hit the mattress, legs still flailing, but he managed to keep Dusty from landing on the floor by hauling him against his body.
“Whoa! Holy crap, that was close.”
When Ben realized they were both okay, he started to laugh—until his current position soaked in, and in, and in.