Flawed Perfection Chapter 1

Chapter 1
Nathan

I found him on Craigslist. It probably wasn’t some place you were supposed to go to meet people. I mean, the personals were fun to look at, especially when you were drunk or something, and the section for trying to get in touch with that random stranger you saw on the street was hilarious. But no one actually met people from Craigslist. Well, no one except me.
He was interesting.

Sometimes I couldn’t decide if I liked him or not. Other times it felt like I might be obsessed with the guy. It seemed like a relationship where someone who was outside looking in would label it as unhealthy or odd. It didn’t feel that way.

It felt natural. Like I’d known him forever.

I’d read somewhere that good roommates were supposed to be like that. The article, or maybe it was a book…maybe an online magazine—that wasn’t the point—had said that a good roommate was like a lover.

You might know by just looking at them that the chemistry would be amazing. It might take you a while to get there, but in the end, it would feel perfect. Or they’d turn out to be totally crazy, and while you suspected that to begin with, you didn’t listen to the little voice in your head.

I wasn’t so sure about the lover analogy, but the article had gotten one thing right. I’d known that he was the perfect roommate from the moment we met. The lover analogy still confused me, even after we’d been living together for almost six months. I thought that once he’d moved in it would help me make sense of it, that I would finally just get it one day. But maybe I needed to have a lover first for the author’s meaning to sink in.

Not that I was going to have sex for the first time just to understand an article.

It had to be an article…maybe it was a blog. Oh, that would make more sense. Which blog, though? It was going to bug me until I could remember. Either way, I wasn’t going to do it just to figure it out. At twenty-three, I thought it was probably past time that I worked on the whole virgin thing.

I was kind of curious for firsthand knowledge of sex.

My friends said that I should have been curious about sex a long time ago. I disagreed. High school had been difficult enough without adding sex into the mix. College hadn’t been that much better. Everyone wanted labels and explanations about who you were. Gay—straight—bi—and endless other options that I really didn’t understand. If you fell into the confused category more than anything else, people weren’t so forgiving.

Aside from the hookup type people…of either gender…no one wanted to date you if you weren’t one hundred percent sure what you wanted. And I didn’t think I was the hookup type. But maybe I was? I wasn’t willing to explore it enough to find out. It just didn’t sound like fun. Sex with a stranger, who you have no idea is good in bed or not and you have no idea if they’ll take you asking questions well or not, was not my thing.

“I should say I’m bi.”

“What?” Gabriel looked up from the kitchen table, a confused expression on his face. “Did you say something, Nate?”

Please don’t let him have heard me. “Nothing. Just talking to the TV.”

He looked a little bit confused, but hopefully he was distracted enough by all the papers he had stacked in front of him. Gabriel was a history teacher at an alternative high school and there always seemed to be endless mountains of grading that had to be done.

The TV was on, thankfully, so it didn’t look like I was nuts. I wasn’t sure when the nature show on the lions started, but Gabriel couldn’t see it from where he was sitting. Besides, he was too polite to say anything if I had said something weird. Talking to lions seemed a bit much, even for me.

Gabriel was the perfect roommate. He picked up after himself and did his share of the chores. He cooked on a regular basis and always made enough to share. He didn’t bring people over that often and never had overnight guests. He was patient when I got distracted and never lost his temper. The perfect roommate.

My friend Matt thought that I was probably asexual.

I didn’t have many friends but every one of them had an opinion. Matt thought I was asexual. He and Allie had both hit on me when I first met them, and aside from finding both of them likable and very attractive, I hadn’t wanted to do anything with either of them. Allie thought I was just selective and I’d find the right person when I was ready. She was just nice and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. So I had no idea what she really thought.

Other friends weren’t so worried about hurting my feelings.

We’d all met in college and had just clicked. We’d managed to stay close after everyone had graduated. The group would meet up for drinks or something about once a week. Everyone would eventually ask about dates and stuff like that. I never had anything to contribute to that part of the conversation.

Every once in a while I would go out with someone. Sometimes a girl or sometimes a guy would ask me out, but it always ended up feeling like a business meeting or like two friends hanging out. It never went anywhere from there. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but I got the feeling I hadn’t found it yet. Not that there wasn’t a need to look at all.

To be honest, I’d had so much going on in school that dating and things like sexuality were on the back burner, as my mother would say. She’d been one of the reasons everything else had been pushed aside. When I was a freshman in high school she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Long story short, two years later she was fine. But by then, family and school were my focus. Once she was okay, I started focusing on school and time went by fast. I’d figured out early that I wanted to be a forensic accountant. Some people thought it was boring, but I loved it. It was a challenge that I knew would always make sense in the end.

However, to do what I wanted without being in school for years meant I had to work even harder than most kids. I’d finished up my bachelors and masters in accounting in four years. It hadn’t been too hard. I’d taken several college-level courses in high school and started more the summer after graduation. I was more than a year ahead by the time I’d technically started college that fall.

There was always something to study, so social things took a back seat. The couple of times I tried to become more outgoing (it was my New Year’s resolution when I was a junior in college), things hadn’t gone well. I had a tendency to mix up social cues. I didn’t always get it when someone wanted to date me versus be my friend.

That led to some awkward study sessions, let me tell you, and the LGBT Club members got frustrated when I couldn’t define what I was. They hadn’t added that Q part until I’d almost graduated. The whole Questioning thing would have been helpful earlier. So I focused on school and kept to myself. I picked up a few friends, like Allie and Matt, but for the most part, people got too frustrated with me to stick around.

But not Gabriel.

No, Gabriel never got frustrated with me when I became distracted and overlooked something. He’d just set an alarm on my phone for next time so I wouldn’t forget. Like the first time I forgot he was making dinner and had a hamburger on the way home. He shook his head and the next time he was going to make a special dinner, an alarm went off on my phone about fifteen minutes before I left the office to remind me.

And when he could tell I didn’t understand some kind of social signal I probably should have, he took a step back and explained it to me. He also didn’t ask questions that I couldn’t answer. Never any questions about sexuality, and he didn’t bug me if I didn’t have a date. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t so nice that he was a pushover.

He could get stern and would give me a look if he thought I was trying to get out of something. Like, say, the dishes. His voice would get deep and he’d stare with this intent look and it said more than if he’d yelled or something. It kept me on track more.

I wasn’t much for stuff like cleaning. There was always something more interesting to do. Like work or a book or even something on TV. But when Gabriel had moved in, one of his only rules was that you had to pick up after yourself, and we agreed that if he cooked then I’d do the dishes. It was fair, but I had a tendency to forget.

Gabriel called it selective memory and just shook his head at me. He was right, but I wasn’t going to confess to that. After a few times of playing dumb when he found the dishes from the night before in the sink, I started getting that look from him and he got sterner with me.

That was when I discovered that I didn’t like making him upset.

Pleasing him gave me this little thrill. Like when I’d finally finished a project at work and I knew I’d gotten it right. Making him…mad wasn’t the right word…disappointed in me, made my stomach hurt and gave me insomnia. So I tried to do it as little as possible.

“Nate?”

Gabriel was in the kitchen now, leaning around the door frame to peek out to the living room. When had he gotten up? A noise from the TV distracted me for a minute. Where had the lions gone? Wasn’t it lions just a few minutes ago? When had the program changed to fish?

“Nathan,” Gabriel called out in a smooth, low voice.

Gabriel, right. I tried to ignore the show that was on and looked over at him. “Yes?”

“You’ve been staring at the wall for almost ten minutes now. I think you should head to bed. You were up late last night working on that estate project. You’re more tired than you think.” Gabriel said the words in the same level tone he always used, but he gave me this stern look like he wasn’t going to take any fuss about it.

“You’re probably right.” He usually was. I had been up late last night finalizing an estate that the heirs thought was missing money. A significant amount of money. They were right, but it hadn’t been embezzlement or anything. Dad had a gambling problem and a mistress. No one realized how much money he was spending on either of them.

It took me a minute to get off the couch. Turned out I was a lot more tired than I realized. The thought of getting up seemed like too much effort. I was at the point of just reaching for the blanket on the back of the couch when Gabriel walked out of the kitchen, shaking his head.

“You are not sleeping on the couch again.”

I couldn’t tell what he was feeling. The look on his face was weird. He wasn’t disappointed or upset. I knew those expressions. Was something wrong with him? Did he think something was wrong with me? I was just tired. Now that he’d pointed it out, I could see why my brain had started wandering so much.

I’d been putting in crazy hours for the past couple of days because with a probate case there were strict timelines that had to be met. Especially if there were accusations of impropriety. Gabriel usually had exceptionally strong feelings about my choices when I worked late without a good reason, but even he’d understood why I had to work so much this time.

But it hadn’t meant that he’d approved. Nope. Gabriel had very strong feelings about lots of things like that. I thought it was nice that he worried so much about me. Allie had walked in one time on a conversation where he was calmly reminding me how important sleep was and pointing out that I hadn’t had enough, so I shouldn’t stay out too late.

I thought it had made sense. I’m easily distracted if it doesn’t involve work. Allie didn’t think it was sweet. She was actually kind of weirded out. She said it was clingy and that he had no boundaries. She might have kept going, but I tuned out after that and started making sure I kept them all more separate.

Hadn’t I read somewhere, though, that it was a sign of like an abusive boyfriend or something when you started keeping friends away? That wasn’t how it felt. Gabriel wasn’t mean to me. He just had different ways of showing I was important. I liked that.

So I kept Allie and everyone away from the house and made sure we hung out at other places. We didn’t stop going out and Gabriel never gave me any indication that he thought I shouldn’t go out. He just made sure when I was coming home, reminded me not to stay out too late, that kind of stuff.

What had we been talking about?

Gabriel must have seen the confusion on my face. He got this lopsided smile and shook his head. Leaning down, he grabbed my hands and hauled me off the couch. Oh, sleep. That’s right.

“You were sending me to bed. Now I remember.”

He coughed a little and shook his head again. “Come on. Bedtime for you.” He kept one of my hands as he walked me down the hall, towards the stairs.

“I’m not a kid.”

“The last time I sent you to bed when you were this tired I ended up finding you on the bathroom floor. You’d sat down for just a minute, God only knows why, and had forgotten to get up. We’re not doing that again. You scared the hell out of me. I thought you were dead or something.” He was giving me the no-nonsense look again.

“Oh. I forgot about that.” I had the ability to fall asleep anywhere when I was tired. The bathroom floor hadn’t been that bad. We had heated tiles, so they were warm. “Maybe you have a point.”

“I know I do.” He gave me another funny grin. “Now, off to bed.”

We made it up the stairs and stopped at the bathroom door. “You have five minutes, then I’m coming in to find you.”

I went in without arguing. Allie would say boundary issues, but he had been really freaked out over the whole bathroom sleeping thing. It was just his way of showing me he was concerned. It was kind of sweet. I realized that most people wouldn’t think so, but I wasn’t planning on telling anyone.

Having Gabriel outside the door kept me on track and I was done in a couple of minutes. Nothing like my usual ten to fifteen. He gave me a funny grin when I came out of the bathroom, but I wasn’t sure what I’d done to make him so happy.

I’d figure it out when I wasn’t so tired.

“Come on, Nate. You’re exhausted.” Gabriel took my hand again and led me to my bedroom. “If I leave you here to finish getting ready by yourself, am I going to find you sleeping at your desk or on the floor in the morning?”

“Of course not.” But that wasn’t a believable answer and we both knew it. Another time I’d been on a crazy deadline, he’d found me the next morning sleeping on the floor by the bed. The next day I’d come down with the flu. So maybe he had a point. “I’ll try not to.”

That was a more realistic promise.

It evidently wasn’t enough. Gabriel shook his head like he thought I was absurd and gestured towards the bed. “Where are your pajamas?”

I didn’t like sleeping naked so I wore cotton sleep pants. Well, it wasn’t that I didn’t like sleeping naked, it just seemed like something you shouldn’t do when you had a roommate. Gabriel was the first roommate to last a long time. I was still working out some of the social rules, but I think that had to be one of them. Right? It must have taken me too long to answer because Gabriel just went over to the dresser and started opening up drawers.

“They’re—”

“Here we go.”

He found them before I could say anything. I could hear Allie talking about boundaries in the back of my head but I just ignored her. Bossy and judgmental in my head but not that bad in real life. Honest.

It didn’t seem to occur to Gabriel to leave and let me change by myself. It was probably the bathroom thing again. And I was too tired to care. So I started stripping off clothes and getting ready for bed. It was all routine at this point so I didn’t even have to think. In minutes I had my sleep pants on and was climbing into bed.

For a moment, as Gabriel was watching me get under the covers, I almost wanted to ask him to tuck me in. It seemed right, but I managed to stop myself. See, I had some common sense. It was probably some leftover thing from childhood. Like when parents get you ready for bed. He wouldn’t have said no anyway. He was understanding like that.

But I wasn’t going to press my luck on it. At some point, he had to get tired of taking care of me. Right?

Gabriel watched me lay down and then walked over to the door, turning off the lights. “Night, Nathan.”

I had a thought. “Oh, my alarm.”

He chuckled. “Nathan, tomorrow is Saturday.”

“That’s right.” When did I forget it was Friday?

“Go to bed.” He sounded like a frustrated parent telling an overtired kid to go to sleep. It made me giggle a little.

“Okay. Night.” He was right. I needed sleep.

Too many random thoughts and worries. Tomorrow my head would be clearer and I wouldn’t be concerned about things that didn’t matter. Like labels and weird relationships without boundaries. I didn’t need a label and I didn’t want a normal relationship with Gabriel.

Flawed Perfection by MA Innes - Gay Romance Ebook Cover

Synopsis:
Nathan wasn’t sure why people were so obsessed with dating and sex. Sure it probably felt good but he just couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. It might have helped if he knew what he was looking for. But with so many labels and options, he just wasn’t sure. It seemed so easy to everyone else, but to him, it felt like something was missing.

Gabriel thought Nathan was absolutely perfect. Sweet, funny, sexy, and completely confused about what he desired—but absolutely perfect. He wanted to help Nathan. Would his sexy roommate be open to something that was completely outside of the box or would Gabriel ruin their relationship before it even started?

Story Contains: M/m sexual content, BDSM elements, and puppy play

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