Gavin stood on the threshold of the front door, unwilling to step outside the house.
It was only a few hours out of his day, he knew. And it was definitely a small price to pay for being able to live at his parents' house rent-free.
That still didn't mean he had to like it.
And it certainly didn't mean he wouldn't complain about it.
"Mum, do I really still have to go to church?" he whined, sounding more like he was three than twenty-three.
His mother pushed against his shoulders and despite his struggles, he was shoved out the door. She'd always had a deceptive amount of strength in her slender frame.
"Yes," she replied shortly. It was an argument they'd had many times before.
One that Gavin always lost.
"Just because this is a new town doesn't mean we're going to break tradition," she continued, steering him towards the family car and ignoring his ongoing protests. His father shook his head silently, casting a pleading look up at the sky before getting in the driver's seat. Sullenly, Gavin got in the back, arms folded over his button-up shirt. His younger sister, Olivia, was already sitting in her seat. She rolled her eyes at him. This happened every time.
Gavin hated going to church.
It had less to do with the fact that he found it incredibly boring - which he did - and more to do with the fact that he was gay, and he didn't want anyone to find out about it.
He hadn't even told his parents, or Olivia, or his older brother, who was still living in the UK. Not because he thought they would judge him or throw him out of the house - they had always been accepting people, and he knew they would support him if he ever plucked up the courage to come out.
His concern lay more with the other people at the church. Homophobia had already been a big enough problem in his church back in England, he shuddered to think how much worse it would be now that he was in Texas.
He dragged his feet once they got out of the car. The church was small, at least. Gavin guessed he had that to be thankful for.
There would be less judgmental glares for him to deal with if his sexuality was discovered.
His mother selected one of the pews close to the front, and Gavin squirmed uncomfortably, slouching in his seat. His father shook his head despairingly once more, obviously thinking Gavin was being difficult just for the sake of being difficult. With a sigh, he sat down next to his son, his wife and daughter on his other side.
Gavin slumped further into the pew, wishing fervently he still had the long hair of his teenage years so that he could listen to music without anyone realising. He huffed an exasperated breath, leg bouncing with impatience.
"Homosexuality is not a sin," a deep, kind voice began, and Gavin's head shot up suddenly.
The priest at the pulpit didn't look anything like the ones at Gavin's old church. He had a full head of hair for one.
For another, he was in incredible shape. His arms practically strained at the short sleeves of his black shirt, and even though the fabric was looser around the waist it didn't disguise how trim his torso was.
His hair, a dark blond in colour, looked soft and wavy and Gavin wanted to run his hands through it, to caress that strong jawline and get lost in those blue, blue eyes.
Eyes that Gavin could swear were being directed at him.
He tried not to drool as the priest continued to talk, eyes shifting away to look at the congregation as a whole.
"The Bible is meant to teach us to value love and life above all. It is, in many instances, allegorical. It is not meant to be taken as literally as some are wont to do.
"Love is not constrained by gender or sexuality, nor should it be. Religion is meant to be a uniting force, but instead many use it as a tool for hatred and prejudice.
"Faith is about acceptance. Not just of God, but of others as well. True love is a spiritual thing, unfettered by the trappings of the flesh. There is no 'correct' way to love, and no one should ever condemn another for how they choose to do so."
Gavin was sure the priest was meeting his eyes again, and he couldn't look away.
"Love thy neighbour. That is the most important message that the Bible has for us." He smiled. "That is all."
He stepped down from the pulpit and the hushed silence that had fallen over the congregation broke into a low murmur. There were some scandalised-sounding voices, but most sounded like they were actually considering the priest's words.
Another priest, more the stereotypical elderly gentleman Gavin was used to seeing at the head of a church, stepped up to the pulpit now, clearing his throat.
"Thank you, Father Haywood, for that enlightening sermon," he said with a kind smile. His hand went to the rosary around his neck. "Now, if you'll join me…"
Gavin tuned out, limply holding onto his own rosary beads and mumbling words of prayer under his breath.
At the end of the service as everyone began to file out of the pews, Father Haywood approached them. Gavin nearly started hyperventilating, sure that the priest had noticed him staring during the sermon and was going to out him in front of his whole family-
"Good morning," he greeted pleasantly. "Are you new to the congregation? I can't say I've seen you folks before."
"We are," Gavin's father replied. At this distance, Gavin could smell the priest's cologne. He once more had to struggle not to drool. "I'm David Free. This is my wife, Amanda, and our children, Gavin and Olivia. We just moved over from the UK."
"Well then, on behalf of everyone at Saint Diane's Episcopal Church, welcome."
"I liked your sermon, Father Haywood," Gavin said shyly, and took it as a point of pride that his voice didn't crack.
His family looked at him, surprised that he was taking an interest in anything church-related.
"Thank you, Gavin. It's always good to know there's at least a few in the younger generations that are actually listening."
Gavin thought it was a little ridiculous that the Father was referring to him as a 'younger generation' when he couldn't be much more than five years older than Gavin, but opted for a smile instead of vocalising an answer.
"I have to say, you're a lot more open-minded than I would have expected for Texas," Gavin's mother said, and the Father gave her a self-deprecating shrug.
"The Lord has his challenges for all of us," he replied. "I'll admit, it hasn't been easy to get this community to accept some of my teachings, but most have come around to a more enlightened way of thinking."
"You're a good man, Father Haywood," David affirmed, shaking the priest's hand.
"Please, feel free to call me Ryan," the priest said, moving on to shake both Olivia and Amanda's hands. "You'll all be coming back next week?"
Ryan smiled and shook Gavin's hand.
"I look forward to seeing you again."
He clapped Gavin on the shoulder, then waved them off with a cheerful smile.
When they reached the doors of the church, Gavin could still feel the touch of Ryan's hand on his shoulder, and in that instant, Gavin knew that he was so, so screwed.
~* * *~
Months passed without incident, mainly because Gavin was too much of a wuss to do anything about his feelings.
He and his family settled into their new lives. Gavin managed to snag a job as a cameraman at a small local film studio, and became close friends with a film editor named Ray and an actor named Michael. After six weeks of knowing them, Gavin screwed up the courage to tell them about his sexuality. They were unfazed and accepting, and Gavin was grateful.
A few weeks later, he confessed to them about his feelings for Ryan. Ray made all the expected choir boy jokes, and Gavin was quick to counter with a rather gushy description of the older man.
Recognition suddenly sparked in Ray's eyes. "Wait, I know that guy! He volunteered at the Youth Mental Health program when I was in high school. You're telling me he's a priest?"
Gavin blushed, nodding. He just seemed to keep finding out new things about Ryan that made the older man even more attractive. It was entirely obvious to Michael and Ray how serious Gavin's crush was, and neither of them were particularly religious, so they figured he should just go for it.
That was easier said than done. The closest Gavin got to even flirting with Ryan was when he'd occasionally talk to the priest about his sermon that day. At least the older man always seemed pleased to speak with him, and his parents were over the moon that he wasn't treating going to church every Sunday as such an ordeal anymore.
After four months, Gavin finally hatched a plan. Through careful observation that wasn't at all like stalking, Gavin figured out when Ryan was scheduled for confessional duty. He picked his day, telling his parents he was going for a walk. Which wasn't a lie, really - he didn't own a car, and the church was only half-a-dozen blocks away.
The church was empty when he entered. Except for the confessional booth, of course, and Gavin gulped nervously. How had he ever thought he'd have the guts to go through with this?
A noise outside startled him, and he scuttled into the booth before realising it had only been a pigeon flying past the window.
He sat down, closing the little door behind him. He took a deep breath.
"I'm not going to say I've sinned, 'cause I haven't, not really," he blurted, his face colouring. "It's only coveting if you know you can't have it, or you keep wanting more and more if you do, isn't it? And I don't know if I can actually have it, but if I find out later that I can't and I just decide to stop wanting it, that's still fine, right?"
On the other side of the wall, Ryan was listening intently. Saint Diane's, being located where it was, had an overwhelmingly American patronage. He could tell instantly that it was Gavin in the confessional booth.
"I have something I want to admit. It might make you uncomfortable, though." The young Brit swallowed. "Just… knock on the wall or something if you want me to stop, yeah?" A shuddering breath. "I… I have feelings for Father Haywood."
Ryan had to stop himself from reacting audibly. Gavin was attracted to him? His heart raced. He'd noticed how much Gavin seemed to enjoy talking about his sermons with him - the Brit was an interesting conversationalist with strong opinions on a broad range of controversial topics, but Ryan hadn't dared to hope it was anything more than a cordial discussion.
"He's just really wonderful," Gavin continued wistfully, and Ryan struggled to breathe correctly. The Brit didn't actually know who was on the other side of the wall, surely? "He's so kind, and smart, and he cares so much about things like people like me not having to worry about what other people think when they find out I'm gay." The words tumbled and jumbled out of Gavin's mouth, and he took a short breath before continuing. "And I don't think he realises just how much good he does. Honestly, he's the only reason I actually like going to church. He's so passionate about what he believes in."
There was another pause, and Ryan held his breath as he waited for Gavin to continue.
"…It makes me want to know where else he'd be passionate," Gavin said, and Ryan nearly choked on air.
"I just… You've seen him, right? No offense, but he's the best damn good-looking priest I've ever seen by a long shot." He sighed dreamily. "He has that wonderful soft, wavy hair and those lovely blue eyes and that stupid perfect face… Don't even get me started on his body."
Ryan listened with a mixture of excitement and uncomfortableness. Whilst he'd never considered himself to be unattractive, per se, he certainly would never have expected someone with Gavin's looks to be singing his praises the way he was.
"I mean, he works out, right? His arms wouldn't look that good if he didn't, it wouldn't be fair. He has those broad shoulders, too, he couldn't have those without doing some push-ups or something." Gavin paused a moment. "I wonder what it's like to hug him," he murmured, sounding more and more like he was forgetting that he wasn't talking to himself. "I bet it'd be warm and solid and lovely. His lips look really soft, too. I bet he'd be a great kisser." Ryan licked his lips subconsciously.
"He'd be so gentle." Gavin let out a little huff of laughter. "Or maybe he'd let his hair down, be a little rough. Man alive, I wouldn't mind that at all."
Ryan felt sensation kindle low in his abdomen. If Gavin kept talking the way he was talking, before long the priest was going to start having problems.
He heard Gavin slouch against the confessional wall as he relaxed, and the older man could imagine the dopey grin lighting up Gavin's face. "Maybe he'd pin me against the wall as he kissed me," Gavin mused, entirely off in his own fantasy world. "Hold my hands above my head as he kisses down my neck. Or maybe he'd let me wrap my arms around him, around those fantastic shoulders of his." The Brit let out a little moan, and Ryan twitched, the front of his pants beginning to tent despite his best efforts. "Bloody heck, as much as I love what that black shirt does to show off his arms, he'd look even better with no shirt on at all. He's so fit." He hummed happily. "Really, I'd be happy to just run my hands over his chest and have him hold me all day. I'd feel so safe."
A hint of deviousness crept into the Brit's voice. "I definitely wouldn't object to going a bit further than that, though. We'd have to be married first, of course, and I'm more than fine with waiting. But we'd definitely consummate, if I had anything to say about it. Even thinking about having his hands all over me makes me feel so… I can't explain it. I guess it just feels right."
Ryan crammed a hand over his mouth to prevent any sound from escaping.
"And I'd make him feel good too, I know I would," the Brit continued, his tone almost innocent in its reverence. "I'd kiss him while he made love to me, put my hands in his hair and on his back. I'd want to try and hold him as close to me as possible, feel him all the way in me as he makes me his. I want to hear him moan my name as he fills me up."
Gavin continued in this thread for several more minutes, and Ryan grew painfully hard. The Brit stopped speaking suddenly, seeming to realise where he was again. "I-I've been talking for ages, I should probably go," he muttered, and Ryan wanted to beg him to stay, to continue talking. He remained silent, though, knowing where things would likely end up leading if he did. They couldn't consummate without being married, and definitely not on church grounds. Gavin left the confessional quietly.
This left Ryan with something of a dilemma. Namely, that the erection straining against the front of his slacks wasn't going to go away on its own anytime soon, and the alternative was to masturbate in the confessional.
His cock twitched once, the smallest of damp patches starting to show on his pants, and he made up his mind.
"Forgive me," he murmured, casting his eyes in a general upward direction as his fingers shakily undid the buttons on his slacks, pushing his underwear down just enough for his cock to pop out. His breath trembled as it left him, barely believing what he was doing, even as he messily licked the palm of his hand in lieu of having any lubricant handy and wrapping his hand around his cock.
He'd never done anything like this before.
Gavin's soft voice filled his head as he began to stroke himself, hesitance slowly fading into eagerness as he developed a steady rhythm. Whenever he'd jerked himself off in the past, he'd treated it as a simple biological need to be satisfied, and hadn't really attached any sexual notions to it. Now, with the way Gavin had been talking about touching him being the reason he was even hard in the first place, Ryan knew there'd be no way to stop himself from attaching pleasure to this act. He pumped his hand rapidly along his shaft, and before he could really consider whether or not this constituted a possible avenue for the sin of lust, he felt the sensation in his abdomen spike suddenly, signifying that he was close. A few more quick tugs saw Ryan bucking up into his own hand.
"Lord, help me," he whispered and came over the seat and the floor, somehow managing to avoid getting anything on his pants.
He was so, so screwed.