JASON CALLED THE food orders down: grilled chicken Caesar for him and grilled chicken sandwich for me. He had to argue with them to make sure they didnt put some weird cheese or sauce on my sandwich. Who the hell puts blue cheese on chicken? He sat down on the bed, finally undoing the cuff links and taking off his shirt. He followed with his socks and walked around barefoot for a few moments before he bounced down on the bed and said, Now, talk to me.

I got up, walked to the closet, and put my jacket on a hanger, while I tried to figure out how to start. Ive never had sex with you when we were alone, except when I had to feed the ardeur.

Okay, I guess thats true.

I turned and looked at him. He was lounging on the bed, propped up on one elbow. I admitted to myself he looked pretty cute lying there. I didnt want to admit it.

Get a grip, Anita, I thought. I made myself walk to the bed and sit on the corner so I could undo the stockings. I had to lift the skirt to get to them, and that, too, felt too intimate. My fingers felt clumsy as I tried to undo the garters.

Leave the hose, he said.

I looked at him, and I dont know what look was on my face, but whatever it was it made him slip off the bed and come to me on his knees. Anita, whats wrong? God, you look like Im going to attack you or something. You cant be afraid of me. Its Jason, just Jason.

I stopped fiddling with the garters, and tried for truth. It had always been truth between Jason and me. It was one of the reasons we were friends.

Im afraid of how I feel about you.

He gave me a look I couldnt read, and leaned back on his knees again, with them too wide, so his stomach muscles bunched again. I realized it was a position he used a lot on stage. It was either comfortable, or habit.

I dont know what youre trying to say, Anita. Normally, Id be the first one not to push, but Im a little stressed tonight. Just talk to me.

Im embarrassed that I want you, just want you. Not because of the ardeur, or any metaphysical thing, but just because you are Jason. I like you.

I like you, too, he said. He looked at me, sort of perplexed. But you feel bad that you want me, not because of the ardeur, but just because.

I nodded.

He smiled and took my hand, gently, in his. That you could still feel this nervous around me is sweet, Anita. Really, it is. He took my hands in both of his. But I need you to work through whatever issue this is. Well eat, but then I need closeness. I need you to help me drown out this day. Do you understand?

I did, actually. Sex is almost the only time that I relax completely. Nathaniel jokes that its my only hobby.

Jason grinned, and raised my hands up to kiss them. Its one of my favorite things to do, too.

I started to blush and tried to catch it, knowing I couldnt. I dont mean it like that.

He kissed me on the nose. You are so cute.

I pushed him away and stood up. I am not cute.

He lay on the bed on his stomach, gazing up at me, still grinning. You are cute, beautiful, but cute when you get like this.

Get like what?

Try to complicate your life.

Whats that supposed to mean?

Youre feeling all squidgy about wanting to have sex with me, right?

Something like that.

You have permission from every man in your life to be here with me. They all knew wed be fucking like bunnies if I had anything to do with it. So you cant be feeling guilty because youre cheating. Cheating implies lack of knowledge. Heck, one of your live-in sweeties volunteered you for this trip.

I crossed my arms under my breasts, and knew I was pouting but couldnt stop it. Thats sort of bugging me now, too.


I shrugged, arms still crossed. Its not just the sex.

What is it then? Tell me.

Im afraid that the way I feel for you will change.

That you wont like me anymore?

No, that Ill like you too much.

He rolled off the bed and stood in front of me. Anita, are you saying that youre afraid youll fall in love with me?

I shrugged, and didnt meet his eyes.

He touched my arms, peered under my gaze, so I had to look up and into his face. His face was a little surprised, and a little almost sad. It wasnt the look I expected. If I really thought that was possible, Id be the happiest guy in town, but you are doing what you always do. You want me for sex, and as a friend, but you want sex and Im here. But that makes you feel guilty for some reason, so youre starting to try to convince yourself that its more than just friendship.

How can you be so sure?

Because you do not watch me in a room the way you watch Jean-Claude, or Asher, or Nathaniel, or Micah, or Richard. Im a little ahead of Requiem and London, and Damian, but Im not ahead of the others. You see me now, your body reacts to me, and that is wonderful. I cant tell you how I hated being the invisible boy around you.

I saw you, I said.

You saw me, but you didnt see me.

I started to move away, but his hands tightened on my arms. Jason, Im not sure I know the difference between loving someone and just lusting after him.

A lot of people get that one confused, but honestly, Anita. If Nathaniel were here and it were a choice, youd drop me in a hot second, wouldnt you?

I wouldnt have to, he likes sharing.

Jason grinned. He does that, but if Micah were here youd choose him over me. My ego hates it, but its true.

Micah shares pretty well, too.

He shares you with Nathaniel, and Jean-Claude, and sometimes Asher, buTHE doesnt share you with me.

I thought about that. I guess its never come up.

Micah shares you, buTHE doesnt enjoy sharing you the way Nathaniel does. My best friend likes watching you with other men. I dont think the same is entirely true of Micah.

I thought about it, and said, Im not sure what Micah thinks about the sharing. Hes cool with it, but youre probably right. He doesnt prefer it.

Nathaniel almost does, Jason said. Sharing you appeals to a lot of his kicks.

I guess so.

Jason hugged me, and laughed. Dont talk us into a problem we dont have, Anita. Please, please, I need you to just have uncomplicated sex with me after the food, okay? I need you to be a friend with benefits; dont make it more or less than it is, okay?

I nodded. Most of me even agreed with him. There was just that tiny voice in my head that said, Be careful. Maybe I was borrowing trouble, or maybe Jason didnt understand thaTHE had charms of his own.