About By Degrees
Written by JB McDonald
Orphaned at eleven and bounced around the foster system, Tim learned young that the only thing he could control was himself. It was a lesson he took seriously, and it's the only thing that keeps him safe from more heartbreak. Conner doesn't understand this desire to control things, but he doesn't need to. He loves everything about his control-freak friend, even the way he quirks just one eyebrow. He has for years.
With Con's arrival, everything starts unraveling in Tim's life. He's questioning his sexual orientation, wrangling with emotions from his past, and fending off questions from Con's well-meaning family. Drowning in a world out of his control, his one hope is to let go and trust that love will save him. But after so many years of burying his feelings, he's not sure it's possible.
Jane Davitt, author of Wild Raspberries, writes:
"And men are supposed to keep growing until they're twenty-five." Tim glared out the car window, his feet slipped out of their flip-flops and braced on the dashboard.
Con grinned, glancing again at his best friend. He hadn't been able to stop grinning since he'd flown in the night before. He'd been afraid that he would look at Tim, and Tim would look at him, and they'd realize that something had changed since the last time they'd seen each other -- over a decade earlier. They'd just been kids, then, tossed into the same boarding school before circumstances had pulled them apart not even a year later.
Somehow, they'd kept in touch.
But more than a decade without seeing Tim had made Conner anxious, worried that things might be different. They were; his boyhood friend had grown up. It was awesome. Suddenly, moving to a new state to start a new job wasn't quite so terrifying -- at least he'd have one friend here already. Tim was quieter than Conner remembered from their school days, more reserved, but that was all right. Solemn lines fit him, somehow. They matched the person Con had grown to know through email and phone calls.
In an odd sort of way, this sudden outburst about height fit, too.
"Well..." Con dragged his mind back to the conversation. "You're more than twenty-five, so of course you're not growing anymore."
"But I stopped when I was sixteen!" Tim protested. "That's just not fair! I should have a growth spurt now to make up for it."
Personally, Con thought Tim was just about perfect. Short, yeah, but not a shrimp. He had black hair and blue eyes, fair skin, a strong jaw. A body that was compact and well toned, testament to hours spent in a gym. Con really appreciated those hours. Really appreciated those hours.
"Stop your bitching." He grinned out the windshield as he maneuvered the rental through downtown San Diego traffic. "It's not like you're five-six or something."
Silence from the other seat pulled his attention around as surely as a scream. Tim's cool gaze regarded him steadily.
"Oh," Con said after a long moment. "Uh, sorry. Well, you look taller."
With a small noise, Tim went back to glaring out the window. After a while he frowned, glancing over. "Why were we talking about this again?"
"Because I outgrew my pants."
The statement had Tim off and running once more. "Yeah! You're twenty-fucking-eight! You're not supposed to be growing!"
"Swear to God, you stole my tall genes."
"Timmy, you never had tall genes."
"Fuck off." The words were a grumble, Tim's head turning as they passed a man and a woman walking hand in hand down the sidewalk, both of them half-naked. Both were extremely attractive. Con adjusted the rearview mirror to catch the man's rear view, and hummed in appreciation. Living in San Diego was going to be great.
"Here," Tim said suddenly. "Turn here."
Con swerved into the right lane, pulling into a parking lot. It took a moment for his heart, hammering after his dart through traffic, to calm. "Why don't you drive on the way home?"
"Hate driving." Tim opened the car door before Con had finished parking. Slipping sunglasses on, he stared off at the outdoor mall while Con closed and locked the door.
Only in California would an outdoor mall stay busy all year. Con grinned. "All right." He clapped his hands before rubbing them together. "Let's find me some California jeans. Money is no concern. Only style."
Tim gave him an unreadable look, then snorted. "Welcome to Fashion Valley."