The First With Feeling
Chapter 1

Disclaimer: This work of fan-fiction is not intended for personal profit. All characters utilized herein which are not creations of myself belong to S. E. Hinton.

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From Rumble Fish, Chapter 9:

That struck me as funny. I laughed and got up to leave. I wasn't going to pester him anymore. Steve walked with me to the door. "You better go to the doctor," he said.

"I been."

"You better let go of the Motorcycle Boy," he said. "If you're around him very long you won't believe in anything."

"I been around him all my life," I told him. "And I believe everything."

Steve sort of grinned at me. "You would."

"Bye," I said.

"Rusty-James," he said, really sincere, "I'm sorry."

"Sure," I said. That was the last time I saw ol' Steve.

But what if Rusty-James wasn't quite telling the whole truth?

Steve Hays turned away from the door, only to be surprised by the knock ten seconds later.

Rusty-James was there. Surprised, Steve blurted, "What? Did you forget something?"

Oddly, Rusty-James looked serious. He said, "Can we go to your room? I kinda don't want to be alone right this sec."

Steve had known of this trait of Rusty-James's almost since they'd first met. He simply said, "Sure. Come on back in."

Once the two were ensconced in Steve's bedroom, Rusty-James shut the door and sprawled on the floor, while Steve sat upright on his bed, his feet on the floor. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but Rusty-James seemed to shuffle a bit to get closer to Steve's feet. Steve's big toe could have touched the other boy's stomach if he moved it about a foot.

Rusty-James, his head propped up on his hand, said, "Steve? You know I always thought you were a good guy."

"Thanks. You are, too, in your own way."

"We know each other, you know? Even better than I know any girl. Even Patty."

Unsure where this was going, but feeling his own stirrings of something beyond just friendship, Steve said, "Yeah. I guess we do. Patty wasn't even around when you stopped those guys from pounding me."

Rusty-James waved dismissively. "Aw, don't sweat it. Guys do that for each other."

The feeling welling up within Steve, making his hands sweat, drove him to say the words. Why he said them would always be a mystery. "I'd like to do something else to show that, Rusty-James."

"Huh?" Rusty-James squinted in that so-innocent way. Steve wished he could be like that, so damn innocent he didn't know anything except how to fight and how to just be a good guy. But no, he had to be cursed, like the Motorcycle Boy was, with the kind of intelligence that would take him beyond the borders of this stagnant backwater northern suburb of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

And he knew something of the Greek legends Rusty-James occasionally complained about in past times. When they were younger, Rusty-James had complained once that his father and the Motorcycle Boy had made laughing references, saying, "What the Spartans did was accepted historical evidence, even if nobody admits Roy Cohn did the same thing." He whined he didn't know what that meant.

Steve hadn't had the heart to tell him it meant homosexuality, even as he got annoyed at Rusty-James's family for purposely talking over him while smirking about Roy Cohn. He had looked it all up at the library, at the young age of twelve-going-on-thirteen. The dictionary had said it was a psychological disorder that happened when men had romantic and sexual feelings for other men.

Those Spartans must have had one hell of a set of disorders.

And damn him if he didn't feel that for Rusty-James!

He said, "You remember way back when your dad was talking about the Spartans?"

"Something like that, yeah. Half the time he talks over my head, Steve. He must think I'm too stupid to figure that out."

Steve licked his lips. "Okay. You have to promise not to get upset, okay? I need you to promise."

Rusty-James sat up, his brow furrowed. "Steve, you hit your head or somethin'? I don't like doctors, but I'll take you to the free clinic, man."

Steve stood up, agitatedly rubbing his hands on his pants. "No, I didn't. Look, stand up, okay?"

The other boy did so, and Steve hesitantly put his hands on Rusty-James's shoulders. To his immense relief, Rusty-James didn't immediately knock his hands off. Trembling in fear and anticipation, he moved in closer than any guy should be to another guy, and watching Rusty-James's eyes go wide, he pressed the briefest of kisses on the other boy's mouth.

Steve withdrew just enough to look into Rusty-James's eyes, and he said, "That's what Spartans did, Rusty-James. They... they liked other men. Not women."

Rusty-James put his hand up to his lips and said, "They always said being queer's supposed to be disgusting. But, well, it ain't. I mean, I don't feel the same way as I do around Patty, but I still think I'd kiss you back."

Bless his simple heart, thought Steve.

Now Steve had been kissed, once before. But snatching a half-remembered kiss from a girl while under the influence wasn't the same. It had no feeling. He barely remembered crying out, "Is this real? Is this real?" at that party he and Rusty-James had gone to. God, that was so embarrassing.

Steve closed his eyes and nervously awaited Rusty-James's kiss. When their mouths touched, Steve understood viscerally, immediately, in his bones, why girls always rhapsodized that the Earth moved and the stars sang when they had their first kiss, or when they kissed a football jock at school.

Because glory hallelujah, it did. The world shrank to an infinitesimal point as Steve's consciousness was entirely focussed on the movement of his tongue and the hot wetness of their mouths.

Almost by mutual agreement, the two boys broke the kiss with a slow closing of their mouths, sealing that moment with a final peck on the lips. Steve, before he really realized what he was doing, wrapped his arms around Rusty-James, his chin on the other boy's shoulder. He said, high as a kite and choked with his own hormones, "God, Rusty-James, I've never loved a friend as much as you. Never."

Rusty-James returned the hug with his own strong grip and murmured, "That felt nice; it sure did, Steve. But don't start all that emotional shit, huh? That's for girls."

Girls. Steve chuckled. Yeah, he knew he was acting like one, but for the moment he didn't really care. He let go of the hug in relief and faced Rusty-James. He said, "I'm sorry again, Rusty-James. I know you're not like me. But... it was nice of you to put up with this."

Rusty-James smirked slightly, shrugging his shoulders. "If I haven't slugged you yet, I'm not gonna. I think I'll stick with girls, though." His eyes grew intense and flinty. "But Steve? Guys don't go kissing other guys and telling anybody about it. As far as anybody knows, this never happened. Right?"

A bit dejected, Steve mumbled, "Yeah. That's right. You better go. I gotta... I gotta think."

About how those Spartans handled it. About why we don't dare mention it today. Even in 1974.

Rusty-James looked like he wanted to stay a bit, but seemed to decide it'd be better to get going. He touched his fingers to his lips again and said, "Yeah. I'll go. And you do that, Steve. You've always been one for thinking, huh?"

Rusty-James let himself out, and Steve thought, as the other boy had predicted.

He touched his lips with his fingers, and thought about how he, Steve Hays, had been kissed for the first time, with feeling.

And he liked it.

Author Notes:

Thanks in particular are due rileysmomma for her Rumble Fish book referencing, as well as all others I have discussed this with and shown the draft version to. If I have neglected anyone in particular, please let me know and I'll amend this.