Games People Play: Go Fish Copyright © 2009 by HT Murray All rights reserved. No part of this eBook may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address Torquere Press, Inc., PO Box 2545, Round Rock, TX 78650. ISBN: 978-1-60370-869-2, 1-60370-869-3 Printed in the United States of America. Torquere Press electronic edition / December 2009 Torquere Press eBooks are published by Torquere Press Inc., PO Box 2545, Round Rock, TX 78650.
Go Fish By HT Murray In hindsight, moving in with his best friend and lifelong partner in crime might not have been such a great idea -- a judgment that had nothing to do with Cal being gay. Well, maybe it had a little to do with Cal being gay. Ian wasn’t sure if bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (and hence, likely to impose upon the sleep of best friends and roommates) were card-carrying gay traits. Cal was the only gay man he'd ever lived with, but none of Ian's straight friends or roommates had ever awakened him at that time of the morning except to tell him that wasn't his bed and to get his drunken ass out. Right about then, Ian would gladly have made concession for his ex-roommate's moldy socks and half-empty beer cans if it meant he'd get to sleep in a little longer. Instead, he lived with a Tony Horton/Martha Stewart hybrid mandroid who was… God, what was he doing? "Caaalllll. Ugh." Ian peeked to see just what was so important that Cal needed to be in his room so early on their day off, and found out the hard way that it was well into mid-morning. The sun at that spot in the center of his window reminded him of the list of things he needed to get in order to officially finish his move in. Blinds were on it, solid lead if he could find them, dense enough that friggin' Superman couldn't get through, and they were so going to the top of the list just as soon as Ian dragged his ass out of bed. So, maybe tomorrow. For the moment, and likely for posterity, considering how diligent he was about following his own to-do lists, maybe he'd just stick the actual list up in the window to block out the sun. Grunting against the light saber boring a hole in his eye and out his skull, he crammed a pillow over his head, leaving just enough space over his mouth to keep whining. "What are you doing? It's our day off." "Shhhh. Oh, shit," Cal hissed, apparently realizing mid-shush that the dude he was trying not to wake was the one he was shushing. "Sorry, dude. Really. Go back to sleep. I was just doing some laundry, and I figured since you grilled the steaks last night, I'd throw some of your clothes in with mine." Ian shifted the pillow over enough to uncover one squinted eye. Cal was bent over his clothes hamper, one hip cocked, wearing nylon running shorts over black spandex leggings that went to mid-thigh. Probably chilly outside that morning. There were still sweat stains under the arms of his t-shirt, and it clung to his lower back in a way that really framed his ass. Not that Ian had ever thought about framing Cal's ass. "It's okay," Ian mumbled. "Just, you know, no mixing of the underwear. We don't want 'em comparing notes in the dryer." "I ain't touching your underwear, man; the skid marks would give me nightmares." Go Fish - 3 .
"Then I won't mention that I bought 'em at Wal-Mart. Last time I mentioned Wally World, I almost had to get you your Epi-Pen." Cal laughed and stood up, clothes basket under his arm. "What can I say? I'm allergic to cheap and ugly." He did a slow turn around, long brown hair falling across his forehead in sweaty stringers, his eyes on the floor. "You got any more around here?" "Um." Ian waffled for a second, having almost missed the question. Seriously, his brain seemed to have short-circuited, a transient ischemic attack due to his blood not being thinned with the proper amount of caffeine. "Check behind the dresser." Cal did, because he was way too gullible even after all those years, leaning way over to peek down the wall. "Don't see anything else," he said. Okay, so in hindsight, maybe moving in with Cal was the best idea ever. Ian hoped the pillow covered most of the smirk spreading over his face. He so wasn't checking out Cal's ass. Just seeing how gullible the dude actually was. He would've thought a guy who'd pulled as many pranks as Cal had would have been a little less oblivious. "Then, that's it, I guess. You'll make someone a good little wifey one day, sweetheart." "Fuck you." Cal laughed even as he said it, dry and exasperated, like the time Ian decided to ease his 'coming out' by taking him to IHOP and ordering him the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity breakfast. Not finding anything of substance to chuck at Ian's head, Cal hmmphed and said, "This place is bleak. Somehow, when I invited you to move in, I thought you'd bring a few more permanent fixtures than your wardrobe, stereo, and that ratty Dame poster. Hair bands have been out for over a decade." "Hey," Ian protested. "I'll have you know that's a limited edition." "Because they couldn't give the nasty things away and burned the rest. What was Scott thinking with the white leather pants? You can totally see the roll of quarters." Ian laughed. "Some chick put him up to it." He neglected to admit 'the chick' was Ian. Scott had been under the impression that Ian knew about things like wardrobe. Ian probably never should have mentioned that he'd done some modeling as a kid. (His mom's idea, not his.) He never got why people fawned over his plump lips and long eyelashes, even less why his mother knew people would pay to use his face. But there was a reason he gave it up -- one too many photo shoots in yuppy pink shirts and workout gear made entirely of spandex that required the waxing of hair he was just starting to grow. Scott never asked about the details of the great Ian Jeffries' modeling career before he asked for the wardrobe advice. Go Fish - 4 .
"Figures." Cal took the basket and started heading for the hall, stopped, and turned around again. "But seriously, you should get some… stuff. You're making me feel like a slumlord, here." After he left, Ian lowered the pillow and took a look around at his bare walls and surfaces. He wasn't really sure what the big deal was with having "stuff." Just more you had to move the next time your roommate got married and left you unable to make the rent, or sold your house out from under you. But if Cal wanted stuff, maybe Ian would get some. Maybe. After a few more hours of sleep. He rolled over and shoved the pillow tighter over his head. *** "Um, is that what I think it is?" Cal was tending the dog dishes at the wash sink in the laundry room, meticulously scrubbing each one before filling them with water and setting them down beside the dry food. He didn't wash his own dishes that well, an irony Ian found all kinds of amusing. And Ian didn't have to be standing there waiting to get to the sink. The one in Ian's bathroom would work just fine. But then, Cal wouldn't be giving him that what-the-fuck look, his eyes all wide so his bangs fell into them and he had to blow them off his forehead with his mouth because his hands were too wet. Ian wouldn't miss that expression for anything. The way Cal's nose and upper lip kept twisting in an attempt to dislodge the few stringers of hair was priceless, even if it made Ian's nose itch by power of suggestion. "It's a fish bowl," Ian said, hoisting it up on the edge of the sink. He grinned with one cheek and both eyebrows, because that sounded like a punch line. He just couldn't remember the joke. "You bought a fish?" Cal smirked. He straightened up with that little flinch that reminded Ian just what a pain in the ass it must be to be so damned tall. "That's awesome. What kind?" Ian wanted to tell him he had one little stringer of hair glued to his forehead that hadn't come dislodged with the gust of breath. But what would be the point? Cal's hands were still wet, his sleeves rolled up past his elbows. Ian did his best to ignore it, shifting his glance and then his entire posture from side to side before caving and reaching up to brush it away himself. Of course, he cleared his throat with a manly grunt at the same time. He wouldn't want to give the wrong impression. "No fish. Just a bowl." He shrugged. "You told me to get stuff for my room. Now I have stuff." He didn't mention that he'd actually wanted to buy fish, too, but the dude at the pet store said he needed to take the bowl home, fill it, and let the water cure for a few days before it would be safe for the fish. "Um." And then Cal did that other thing-- the one where he quirked an eyebrow up really high without changing the shape of the rest of his face. That was no small feat. Ian had tried to imitate Go Fish - 5 .
it, but his lips refused to be left out. They wanted to stay center stage in all his expressions, the way Cal's hair probably would if it had the same muscle tone as the rest of his body. "Why?" "Why what?" "Why get a fish bowl but no fish?" "I like the water. When the sun shines through, it makes little rainbows on the wall." Now he was the one making the what-the-fuck face. He could not believe he'd just said that. He cleared his throat again, because, what the hell, that couldn't possibly seem dodgier than the blush already burning up his cheeks. "And, um, I get chapped in the winter. Thought it would be like a humidifier." Oh, yeah, good save. Dermal hydration issues were way manlier than little rainbows. "Sure, sure, I guess." Cal finished with the dog dishes, now with both eyebrows at the tippy-top of his forehead. "Yeah." Ian hurriedly filled his bowl without taking the time to rinse out the store dust, and lifted it out of the sink with a hair too much oomph. Half the water sloshed back out into the sink. He just shrugged and took it back to his room. *** Next time they had a day off, Ian rolled over in his bed (the one Cal made him buy because Cal had an obsession with making Ian spend money on himself) and pulled the sheets up a little higher under his chin, intent on burrowing in for as long as the house stood. He cracked his eyes open just enough to get an idea how late it was, smacking his lips together, because, yeah, they didn't like to be left out (and, for what it was worth, they really were less chapped now that he had a fish bowl). He blinked once to clear away the film over his eyes, blinked again, because he couldn't figure out what was different, and then, "Yeesh!" He fell off the other side of the bed and hit his head on the wall. Something had totally moved over there. He was still rubbing his hand over the lump on his head and shaking the last trailing vestiges of sleep from his limbs when Cal and both dogs came barreling through his doorway. The dogs took his prone-ation as an invitation to play and pounced. Before he could sit up, he had paws in his stomach and tongues up his nose, a tail tap-tapping a little too close to the family jewels. Grant and Sherman were no lap dogs by any means, but someone had forgotten to tell them that. Then again, with those long legs and a lap the size of Cal's, it was probably never an issue. Great, now Ian was thinking about Cal's lap. And his legs. Long muscular legs, not at all neglected like a lot of gym rats tended to do. Cal was definitely proportionate, on top, on bottom, and, well, Ian had to assume, in between. "Ian?" Cal was there, somewhere on the other side of the furry flailing appendages and cloud of Go Fish - 6 .
doggy breath. "Dude, hey, you okay? C'mon you guys. Off. Let the man up." Ian had to hand it to Cal. His dogs were actually pretty well-mannered, if a bit on the affectionate side, and they backed right off when he told them to. Of course, not one but two paws managed to land where the tail was only threatening to go, and Ian was curled into a pathetic little ball in the corner by the time Cal leaned over him. He reached behind himself and pulled the covers down, wondering if he could just go back to sleep and wake up again like this was nothing more than a bad dream. "Ian?" Peeking out from beneath the covers, Ian noticed that Cal had been running, which would explain why the dogs' paws were all wet, and why, when he leaned over Ian, all his bangs dangled off his forehead, swinging toward Ian almost unnaturally in damp clumps, like Medusa's snakes. All except for that one piece. Ian gritted his teeth and curled his lips under, even curled his toes, but he couldn't resist. He reached up and brushed the strand loose so it dangled with the rest, and immediately got a drip of sweat right in his eye. Yeah, good morning to him. Cal took the hand Ian had raised and hoisted him to his feet while Ian blinked fiercely and rubbed his burning eye with the heel of his other hand. Cal's footsteps got quieter, and then the water in the bathroom ran for a second. He was back a moment later with a warm washcloth to press over the stinging eye. He might have had to pry away Ian's hand while Ian whimpered and keened like a little girl in order to get the cloth in place, but Ian was too traumatized, in theory if not actuality, to remember clearly. Anyway, he'd deny it ever happened, so there was no point even mentioning it. The warm water felt so good, Ian reached up to grab the cloth himself and ended up holding it and Cal's hand both. Cal didn't seem to mind. He did, however, seem to get tired of stooping down, and plopped down on the bed. When they were eye to eye, Ian suddenly felt very sheepish and released Cal's hand. He rolled his one open eye, feeling his face twitch into a smirk as it blushed hot. "Uh, good morning. Had a nice run?" Cal laughed, just a harsh exhale from his nose as the worry lines smoothed out. "Yeah, it was great. Got back just in time to hear you try to beat down the bedroom wall with your head. What the hell?" Ian was puzzled for a second. Yeah, what was up with that? Then he remembered. He dropped the cloth away from his eye and spun around on the bed, peering at the suspect fish bowl. "Something moved," he said. "Over there." He pointed, the wet rag dangling from his hand, then realized his eye was still supposed to hurt and pressed it back to his face. "I rolled over, opened my eyes, and, yeesh!" He jumped back again as the familiar little ripple distorted the rainbows on the wall. Luckily, Cal caught him before he went over backwards. Cal's arms wrapped around his shoulders before he tipped, and Cal's mouth was in Ian's hair when Cal said, "Oops." Go Fish - 7 .
"Oops?" Ian, exasperated, made no move to sit up. "I bought you a fish," Cal said. "Uh. surprise!" "You.?" Ian tensed, suddenly realizing what a giant girl he must look like about then. In an attempt to remedy that, he dragged his knees up to his chest, tightened his whole body into a coil, and heaved himself back with all his might. Twisting as they both fell back into his pillows, Ian landed perched over Cal's chest and straddled his hips before Cal could get a hold of himself. Ian grinned down at him, laughing at the way Cal looked so completely surprised, his arms flung one to the side and one over his head, his jaw slightly slack, chest heaving with the adrenaline rush. "Surprise yourself, jackass! I thought a spider or something had fallen into the bowl!" Ian kept Cal pinned to the bed with one hand on his sternum and whacked him over the head with a pillow. Twice for good measure. And then three times, just because Ian could. Cal started to move underneath him, and Ian braced himself, expecting to be bucked off and slammed against the wall for the second time that morning. Instead, just Cal's belly moved, a little rumble, then a roll, and then it was a whole lot like sitting on a trampoline while someone else bounced. Only Ian wasn't sitting on the trampoline; he was straddling it, which did all sorts of things to him that were totally gay. Laughing right along, he rolled off the side and sprawled out on the pillowless side of the bed. He'd been friends with Cal all his life. He'd lived down the block from him since pre-school. Being around each other was a little like breathing vapors. Inhibitions fainted dead away. They had the same propensity for 'losing' their swim trunks in Ian's family pool. They traded jerking- off secrets when they hit puberty. They sometimes got drunk and passed out in very close proximity to each other and in very sparse attire. Ambiguously gay was kinda part of their relationship, even after Cal came out. . When he jerked the pillow off Cal's face to cram under his neck, Cal's hair was all plastered over his forehead and knotted up. Ian dropped the wet washcloth on it with a sploosh. "You're a jerk." He laughed. "And you're a giant, screaming girl." Ian didn't have a comeback for that. Instead, they both just lay there staring at the ceiling and catching their breath until it started to get awkward. "So, you bought me a fish. Why?" "I dunno," Cal smirked. "If I tell you now, does it count as pillow talk?" Ian thought on that for a minute, realizing just how wrung out the last few minutes had left him, and said, "Yeah, I think maybe it does." "All right, then," Cal rolled over on his side, his head on one arm. Ian tried to avert his eyes, but he couldn't, and ended up turning his head to meet Cal's gaze. He hoped he was just disoriented Go Fish - 8 .
from the scuffle and that he wasn't so close his eyes were crossing, because Cal's face was all soft and hazy-looking from that angle, and he wanted to keep looking. Cal laughed and poked a finger between Ian's eyes, pushing him back a fraction of an inch until Ian felt his eyes uncross. "There, that's better." "So, uh." Ian had to clear his throat, because his voice had suddenly gotten all big and growly and wouldn't fit through it anymore. "Uh, you bought me a fish." "Actually, I got two." And then the moment was gone. Cal kicked up and levered himself off the bed. He walked over to the fish bowl, picked it up, and moved it over to the bedside table beside Ian's head. "I was in the pet store picking up those treats that Grant likes, and I remembered the water in your fish bowl was turning all green." "Was not," Ian protested. "Dude, it's still green." "That's not the water," Ian said. "It's the glass." He couldn't help making the 'like, duh!' face, even if it annoyed him to no end when someone else made it. "That's scum, Ian. They have fish that eat that." "Really? I'm actually growing food? That makes me what? A farmer, right? I'm a regular environmentalist. Maybe I could sell it. One hundred percent organic. slime." He felt pretty good about himself until Cal turned the bowl around, and he was eyeball to belly with what looked like a frog that someone stepped on, ripped the legs off of, and then stuck to the side of the glass. Grimacing, he said, "That's it? Cal, tell me you didn't pay money for that thing." "I did," Cal shrugged. "It's called a plec… plecos. pl. It's called an algae eater. I know, a face only a mother can love, but the guy in the store said it'll keep the glass nice and squeaky clean. And you know what that means?" "No. What?" Cal bounced and hitched his hip up on the side of the bed next to Ian. "Means you get to have your rainbows, unicorn boy." The way he said it, Ian was pretty sure he'd have reached around and pinched Ian's cheek if it weren't such an awkward angle. "And then, I read on the tank that it's a companion fish. So, of course, I had to buy a companion." Ian studied the second fish pretty indifferently. "It's a goldfish." Cal's jaw dropped. "Ian, that is not just a goldfish. That is a veil-tailed oranda goldfish. The fanciest one in the store." Ian took a closer look to see what the big deal was about that fish, but he didn't see it. Go Fish - 9 .
"It's just a baby," Cal explained. "The head cap doesn't grow until later." "Head cap?" Ian chuckled. "Fish need caps now? Why don't they just swim south for the winter?" He shifted to half sitting, his nose nearly pressed to the glass. "It's considered exotic," Cal explained. "Exotic, huh? So they're stripper fish. All they need are little G-strings." Even Ian knew it was one joke too many when Cal's face went slack. "You hate 'em. I can tell." Cal pushed the bowl to the far edge of the table. "Look, I can just take 'em back. Or, better yet, I can get my own tank and take 'em to my room." He deflated a little, his hands resting on his knees, and slouched against Ian. "No, dude, no, I do like 'em." He did. Actually, between the slow wiggle and shake of the goldfish's tail and the warm weight of Cal's back against him, Ian could totally make fish watching a hobby. "I'm just a little surprised. I mean, you're Mister Pound Puppy U.S.A., right? All 'don't buy purebreds when the shelters are full,' and here you bring home the fancy, exotic goldfish. Aren't you, like, worried you're funding goldfish mills somewhere? That there's some poor goldfish mama in a teeny tiny tank, hooked up to aerators behind a bubble screen getting her eggs squeezed out of her while some daddy fish is in the next bowl looking at centerfolds in Big Lips and Fins?" It was Cal's turn to whack Ian with a pillow, which he did until Ian could feel his hair get all staticky and crackly. "You're such a dick," Cal laughed. "I consider buying a fish from a pet store to be a rescue. Have you ever seen how many they scoop out of there when they open up in the mornings? But, point taken. Next time I come across a no-kill shelter for goldfish, I'll be sure to make a donation." Ian shoved the pillow off his face, watching his hair follow it, every strand standing on his head like caterpillar antennae. "That's what I like. A man who makes reparations." Then he poked Cal in the shoulder with his index finger. It made a bigger spark than any Wint-o- Green Lifesaver. "Ow!" "I win." "Dick." "Dick's going back to sleep." "That kinda makes you a limp Dick, then." Go Fish - 10 .