“Hi. I’ve been trying to reach you.”
Those blue-green eyes flicked all over the room. “Sorry.
I was so busy. When I found I had this short window, I just came here. I
figured you’d be tied up, so I didn’t bother you.”
Raven crossed his arms. “What’s going on?”
“What?” Dennis swallowed hard.
“Come on.” Raven took his arm and pulled. Dennis pulled
back, but Raven was stronger, and Dennis obviously didn’t want to make a scene,
so he walked as if it was his idea. Raven pushed the side door open and half
guided, half hauled Dennis out to the smoking patio, where no smokers were
currently hanging out. He dropped him in a chair and pulled another one over
beside him. “Talk.”
Dennis crossed his arms. “About what, Raven? I don’t have
much time, and I need to get some more footage.”
“I don’t care if you never get another inch of video
That got his attention. “What?”
“Two days ago you and I were dissecting Pulp Fiction and planning a video for
the Gay Youth Shelter. Now you won’t look me in the eye. What happened?”
He shook his head but said nothing.
“Dennis? I’m serious. I’m not going to work with you like
Again he just shook his head, but damn, were those tears?
Raven reached out and touched his hand. Dennis yanked his
hand back into his own lap.
Dennis blinked. “Where?”
“We’re going for a walk.” He extended his hand. Dennis
didn’t take it, but he stood. Raven started walking, and Dennis fell in beside
The casino stood on a patch of land that abutted a flood
control channel. They’d planted bushes and trees in a strip along the channel
to make it a pleasant walkway, with benches here and there. Since it was a
weekday, nobody was out. Raven ambled quietly for about fifteen minutes. Dennis
walked beside him but hardly seemed relaxed. His shoulders bowed, and he stared
at his feet. Finally Raven flopped down onto one of the benches. For a couple of
minutes Dennis stayed standing, but then he gave in and sat.
Raven picked up a small rock and tossed it. “Want to talk
Dennis shook his head again.
“Something bad happened.” He didn’t make it a question.
“Did I offend you in some way?”
His head snapped up. “No. No way, man.”
“But I must be involved somehow, or you wouldn’t be
“Kind of. I mean, indirectly.”
“Would it make a difference if I said I promise to be
discreet? Tell nobody unless you say it’s okay?”
“You know, don’t you?”
Raven shrugged. “No. I’m just thinking about what might
be upsetting you.”
“I think I’m gay.”
Raven smiled. “Two-spirited.”
Dennis cracked a half grin. “Did you guess that?”
“Maybe a little.”
“Do I look like a fag?”
Raven glanced at him sideways. “Remember who you’re talking
“Sorry. I just thought it might be like a big neon sign
on my head or something.”
“No. But I’m not usually attracted to straight men.”
Dennis’s head swung toward Raven in an arc. “Uh, do you,
I mean, uh—”
“Am I attracted to you? Yes, very.”
“Holy shit.” The H
came out in a long breath.
Raven looked over. “Does that idea appeal to you?”
“I think so.”
Not a ringing
endorsement. “So that’s why I thought there was a chance you were gay. I
sensed the attraction between us. That’s all.”
“All? Jesus, that’s kind of amazing.”
Better. “So is
that why you’ve been avoiding me?”
Dennis nodded. “Kind of. Being gay isn’t really
convenient for me.” He laughed, but it didn’t sound funny.
“Have you got a girlfriend?”
“I know about that.”
That look of pain blinked in his eyes and was gone.
“So why do you think you’re gay?”
He frowned. “I thought you said I was.”
Raven grinned. “My word isn’t law on this subject. I just
said I thought you might be since I feel a pull between us. But maybe you’re
straight and I just think you’re gorgeous.”
Dennis swallowed. “Thank you. I think. I’ve kind of
suspected for a while. I don’t much like girls. Like that, I mean. Never have.
But I’ve never been with a guy.”
Raven smiled. “Are you asexual, or do you jerk off a
He looked uncomfortable, but before Raven could tell him
not to answer, he said, “I spank the monkey when I can.” He breathed. Weird.
Most young guys jerked off all the time. Dennis raised his head. “But I’m not
asexual. I’m definitely attracted to guys.”
“Surprised you haven’t done anything about it. I’m sure
you’ve had interest.”
He stared at his hands. “It’s complicated.”
“Look, just because you think you’re gay doesn’t mean you
have to start cruising West Hollywood. Take it slow. It’s your life, man. Live
it like you want.” He should listen to his own advice.
“I wish.” Apparently they had that in common.
Birds chirped and breezes blew, but Dennis looked like he
was at the bottom of a well with no ladder.
Raven put a firm hand on Dennis’s arm. Dennis jumped, but
Raven didn’t move. “Hey, I like you. We have to work together. Let’s just be
friends and not worry about the rest, okay?”
“Really?” He looked up with pleading eyes.
“Yeah. What do you think, I have to jump your bones just
because you’re pretty? We have two videos to make, right? Maybe, if you’ve got
time, we have some movies to see and shit.” Raven grinned.
For a second he thought Dennis might cry. Instead he
smiled like he’d witnessed the second coming. “I’d like that, man.”
“Good. So would I. Now let’s get back to the buffet and
video it right before we eat some of it, okay?”
Dennis smiled, but as they walked, he wiped a hand across