Mutual Benefits – Chapter 15

“Wow, you really hit her?” Taylor asked me, smiling in shock.

I nodded and looked down in slight embarrassment. Our legs dangled over the ledge as we talked, sitting side by side. “Yeah. She seemed to like- wait, I shouldn’t be telling you this.”

Taylor rolled her eyes. “Quinn,” she began. “Trust me, she’s told me a lot more.”

“Well, she liked it… rough…” I began hesitantly, rewarded with a nod. “And, I… don’t know… some part of it felt good to keep going. I just wanted to… I mean, yeah. I just wanted to.”

“Huh. Wow.” Taylor’s gaze was straight forward, not on me.

“What?”

“It’s nothing, it’s just…” Taylor trailed off, her voice getting softer. “I got exactly what I wanted.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, my voice gaining defensiveness. “What did you ‘want?’”

“Remember what I whispered to you, right before?” she quizzed me.

“I didn’t think of you until after we were fully clothed afterwards,” I asserted, telling her the truth.

Taylor just shook her head. “Quinn, you don’t get it. You weren’t hitting her.”

I stayed silent. 

“You were hitting me.”

I awoke, breathing heavily, and immediately curled into a ball. For Kevin’s sake, I tried to keep any noises I could have made to a minimum, but I could feel myself shaking. I never shook before, even at my most upset. 

She had to go and put the thought in my head. And I had to go and do that. Taylor really won here, didn’t she? At least Morgan cared. Fuck, Morgan never didn’t care. Why couldn’t our first time be normal? Why did I have to go and… and… be my own Taylor like that?

***

“I’m really sorry our first time was like that.”

It wasn’t the most romantic thing to blurt out while we were spooning, but it had been on my mind all day and we had just found our first comfortable pool of silence to lie in. 

Morgan adjusted her head, but since she was being the little spoon, she couldn’t look me in the eyes. “Like what?”

“Do… do I really need to spell it out?” I asked gently.

She sighed. “Quinn, all guys don’t last long their first time. Don’t worry too much about it. We’ll practice and we’ll get better at it.” She stroked my clothed thigh up and down as she said her last sentence, trying to reassure me.

“Oh wow, I do need to spell it out,” I replied shakily.

“Oh shit,” Morgan replied immediately, realizing she assumed wrongly. “I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s fine. I meant the… hitting thing.”

She didn’t say anything for a while, then shifted so she was looking at me. I could see the seriousness on her face. “What’s wrong?”

I sighed and looked away. “I think that-”

“Look at me while you talk,” she asserted.

“No,” I immediately replied. “This is difficult. I can’t handle both looking at you and saying it.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “Go ahead. I won’t interrupt.”

“I think that… I feel as though… the weirdness between us reached… a kind of apex during our first time. And I don’t mean, like, between you and I. I mean the whole group. How we got together, the friends, Taylor, everything. And-”

“Okay, can I interrupt just once?” she asked.

“Well, you did,” I replied grumpily, wanting to carry on with my point.

“Just, real quick. What’s an apex?”

“Oh, it’s like the big point, the climax of a story, the peak.”

“Okay, that’s all I needed to know, go ahead,” she replied quickly.

“So, anyways… um… right, so it reached an apex, and I kind of regret the choices I made in hindsight. I, uh…” I shut my eyes. “I had a dream last night where Taylor and I were talking. I don’t know if this is good that I’m even telling you this, but in the dream Taylor let me know that when I was hitting you… I was actually hitting her.”

I paused for a long time. Enough time that Morgan felt the need to finally say something. “Well… you weren’t having sex with her. You were having sex with me.”

“No, you don’t get it,” I responded. “Like, I was hitting her. I was angry at her or something. Like I’m still angry for… feeling used. Even though I wanted it back then, just knowing how good we have it now, I think I felt angry at her, and I took it out on you, and you don’t deserve that, and I’m really sorry Morgan…” I couldn’t help it. I was crying again. My face hit the bedsheet and Morgan’s hand went to the back of my head, supporting me.

“Can you still hear me if I talk?” she asked in an emotionless voice.

I nodded into the blanket, still sobbing.

“Okay. This is a lot to process, but first, I think you’re overthinking it a little. We were in bed, I was responding to you being a little rough with me, you wanted to keep making it bigger. I think that’s normal for – please don’t take offense to this – a novice at sex. I get it if you feel weird about that being our first time. I definitely feel weird about it too. I didn’t dream about Arin telling me some ultimatum or something.”

“Who’s Arin?” I asked into the blanket.

“A fucking asshole,” she answered plainly, with no emotion. “An ex. Well, an ‘ex.’ I don’t wanna talk about him. Forget I said his name. I did think our first time was odd, but I also didn’t think it was, like, dangerously odd.”

“I hit you!” I protested, lifting my head up to look her in the eyes.

She raised an eyebrow. “I know. I felt it, you know. And you know what I felt? Care. Quinn, you didn’t slap me hard, you kept asking about what felt the best, and you’d occasionally stop to cry and call me beautiful.”

I felt my cheeks go red. “Uhm…”

“You’re adorable, Quinn. And I like you that way. I don’t know how toxic you felt you were, but you weren’t. Maybe this is my fault, since I have more experience. I should have insisted our first time be more vanilla, but you were enjoying yourself, and I-” She mumbled something I couldn’t hear.

“What was that?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes. “I like when you dominate me,” she replied with a huff. “I like being dominated, and I especially like having a guy who’s emotional but also, like, rational in the real world, then he feels comfortable being a different guy and dominating me in the sex world.”

My tears had stopped by this point. “We probably should have had this discussion before our first time,” I admitted out loud.

“I actually don’t agree,” she replied. “Quinn, we can’t have a debrief before every big event we share together. You will need to learn that as we do more as a couple. It’s okay to be spontaneous, and you know what else? It’s okay to regret. Maybe you don’t like slapping me, because it reminds you of Taylor or something. Though, I’m, uh, not going to say that isn’t weird. I didn’t like hearing that you made it about her afterwards.”

“It’s not that it reminds me of – I…” I paused. “Forget I ever said that part.”

“I don’t think I can. It’s probably going to be on my mind a bit more,” she replied.

“So is Arin, but you asked me to forget him, so I’m at least going to pretend like I forgot,” I replied boldly.

She smirked slightly. “Alright, you got me there,” she admitted. “Anyway, you can slap me if you want. I enjoyed it.” She blushed. “You actually have really good technique for a first-timer. But if you never slap me again, I’ll understand.”

“I think I just wish I could have my first time with you all over again,” I admitted.

She cupped my face in her hands. “You can’t,” she softly told me. “It happened already. You experienced it, you hopefully enjoyed it, and you learned about yourself from it. You can live with that, right?”

I smiled, though sadly. She saw the look in my eyes and let go of my face, turning away. “Look, I’m really trying here. I tell you it’s okay to do it and it’s okay not to do it. I don’t get what else you want from me. I don’t have a time machine.”

“I don’t know what I want,” I admitted.

“I don’t think that’s true either.”

“Well, since you know me better than I know myself, why don’t you tell me what I want? I blurted out. She turned back, hurt in her eyes, and I immediately caved. “Sorry,” I mumbled. “I don’t like being told my feelings. I don’t like being… spoken for.”

Neither of us spoke for a bit. “I can tell you a theory I have for what you want, and you can tell me if I’m right or wrong,” she added quietly. “If that’s okay with you.”

“Yes, that’s okay. I’m sorry for raising my voice,” I replied, just as quietly.

“You want us to pretend to have our first time all over again and make it more normal and less violent. Am I close?”

I paused to consider my own feelings and slowly gave a big dumb sheepish smile. “You’re, uh, dead on,” I admitted.

She didn’t smile though. “I don’t want to do that,” she told me flatly. “I’m okay if our second time is more vanilla or whatever the term is, but I don’t want us to pretend our first time didn’t happen. It’s childi- no, sorry, not that, but it’s unrealistic. Let’s just accept that we did stuff, even if that stuff made you realize you want to do other stuff. Painting over stuff like that is exactly what leads to the exact kind of drama you keep complaining that our group does.”

She let her words breathe for a bit, though when she saw I didn’t reply, she continued with, “and rightfully so. I don’t mean to say, like, ‘stop complaining about our drama,’ I’m just saying-”

“No no, I get you,” I said in a calm voice. “It’s a fair point. I, uh…” I stared at her for a bit, and she stared back intently. “Fuck words,” I concluded, moving in for a soft kiss. With her first smile in too long painting her face, she accepted it, kissing me back. 

After a few kisses, I pulled my face back and smiled at her. “I really care about you, Morgan,” I told her meaningfully.

She gave me a playfully confused smile. “I know you do, Quinn,” she told me with a laugh, as if it was obvious. “I care about you too.”

“I just… I dunno, I just feel really strong right now,” I admitted, blushing a bit. 

“You feel strong?”

I giggled in nervousness. “Like, for you.” 

She smiled back. “You really want that second time, don’t you?” she asked, the grin still on her face.

My blush only got redder. “I mean… it’s been on my mind…” I admitted.

“Remember when we were first starting to talk to each other, and I said I’d like that, but I’d like you to…?” She trailed off.

Initiate. I did remember that. “Crazy how that was only a few months or so ago,” I admitted softly.

“If that,” she agreed. 

My blush was definitely not gone. I smiled despite myself. “Hey, uh, kiss me,” I replied with faux confidence.

She giggled and leaned in, with the both of us kissing passionately from the get-go. It wasn’t even anything we said, but just what we felt. Both of us felt so comfortable with each other. It felt so right. In no time at all, we were both lying down, with me on top of her, making out with deep need and desire. If we weren’t making out, I was kissing and sucking on her neck, no doubt leaving marks, and grinding up against her, while Morgan panted, occasionally whimpered, and lightly ground back.

As my passion grew, the little voice in my head that told me to do more grew as well. I became bolder and bolder, eventually biting down on Morgan’s neck between kisses and licks, until eventually I heard, “Ah! Easy,” from her.

Even though I kept kissing her neck, I realized I was quickly falling into the same trap. I wanted to do more, and grew too desperate to do something physical. 

I smiled. That’s why I slapped her. It was this primal need to do more and be more physical. It had nothing to do with Taylor. I slapped her because it felt physical and primal, and I did it on autopilot. I just liked Morgan so much it made me go into overdrive. I had my answer, and it was a good one.

I came back up from Morgan’s neck and smiled at her, clearly more enthusiastically than she expected, because she chuckled and raised her eyebrows.

“What’s up?” she inquired.

“I’m just so happy I’m with you,” I told her, not wanting to bring this, or especially Taylor, up during our foreplay. I felt tears come to my eyes again. “You’re just really beautiful, and I’m really happy.”

A tear fell to her shirt. Her eyes followed it and looked at the stain, and both of us looked at each other and started laughing. “Could you get off of me a sec? If you’re going to get this all wet, I’m going to take this off,” she said, ending her sentence with a little teasing lilt to her voice.

“Well, if that’s your reasoning, then you should probably take off your pants too,” I quipped at her. 

“Ha, nice,” she replied, giving me a sly sideways smirk. “Well, since you seem to want me to…” She started taking her pants off, then hesitated. “But then again, why am I the only one taking stuff off?”

I grabbed the hem of my shirt and began taking it off. “Oh, you want me to match you?” I teased. I raised my shirt just a little, feeling a little silly, but nevertheless, showing off my abdomen to her.

Even while taking off her pants, she looked intently at me. “Mhm,” she hummed teasingly. “I do.”

Slowly lifting my shirt, I decided to tease her back. “I’ll get the shirt, but why don’t you help me with the pants?” I asked with fake innocence.

Morgan smiled and shook her head in an ‘Oh, Quinn’ way at me. With her pants now off, she walked slowly up to me, the both of us shirtless, and slowly sank to her knees. She reached out in front of her, and trailed her eyes up from my fly up to my face. I looked back at her and felt her hands at the front of my pants, leisurely groping me without making any attempt to touch my fly itself. 

In response, I gripped her head with both hands and, improvising, scratched behind her ears. At first she gave a confused chortle but quickly changed her tune.

“Woah,” she purred. “That actually feels super nice. 

I lightly scratched and petted behind her ears for a bit longer and she closed her eyes, enjoying the sensation, as her hands happily massaged my growing cock. Before long, I was at full mast, with Morgan eagerly aware of this fact. She opened her eyes and popped open my fly, smiling and moving my pants and underwear down to my ankles with zero subtlety. 

“Get them off,” she told me with a wink, getting up and going back to the bed.

“No look who’s ordering who!” I noted. “Your bra and panties are still on too.”

“And whatever will you do about that, Quinn?” Morgan asked me, getting on all fours on the bed, facing away from me. Teasing me, she wiggled her butt at me as I kicked my pants to the side. 

Deciding that her subtlety and attention to pacing should be rewarded and matched, I practically leapt forward, yanking her underwear down like a prankster, only pranksters didn’t stop to appreciate the person’s pussy after doing so. 

I’m sure Morgan expected me to fuck her immediately when she got on the bed, but clearly, from her moaning as soon as my tongue made first contact, she was not complaining. Something about eating her out from behind was so hot, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to start jacking myself off when I got really into it and was practically burying my face between her cheeks, savoring every lick almost as much as she was.

“Hey!” I heard her practically moan. “I see you. Hands off, that’ll be my job,” she joked. I would have smiled if my mouth wasn’t already busy. Morgan was the type of girl gifted with the perfect pussy – picturesque, inviting, and visibly excited. She even tasted better than Taylor, my only other frame of reference. I figured pussy was pussy, but nope, eating Morgan’s even just felt better on its own, though that paled in comparison to the person it was a part of. I would have eaten Morgan any time she wanted no matter what she tasted like, and it helped that her taste didn’t put me off at all. In fact, I bet I learned to love the taste, but that was because the taste was reminding me of Morgan.

My love, Morgan.

I retracted my face, not being able to wait any longer, and readjusted myself. “From behind?” I asked huskily, starting to rub my dick against her labia. 

She paused. “Actually…” she trailed off, flipping herself over. She moved so her back was on the bed, and smiled at me. “It would be nice to see your eyes, if that’s alright,” she cooed quietly. She looked so excited and happy there. I thought about the Morgan I met, the serious joyless girl who never smiled. Now, she smiled all the time. For me.

God, I felt so strongly for her. Smiling back, I aligned myself with her help and slowly slid in, feeling her walls close around me. It felt right, it felt like I was truly whole. Truly a person. She completed me. 

I breathed with difficulty, thrusting my hips back and forth slowly a few times to accommodate us. “You… are so amazing…” I managed, my eyes closed, now very aware of what Morgan talked about. I was crying and felt the urge to babble. 

“Could you open your eyes and look at me?” she asked, her own breathing labored. “I like seeing this…” I opened my eyes, definitely feeling a tad embarrassed, but less so when I saw her eyes.

I didn’t know if it was sympathy or something affecting us both, but her eyes were misty too. Upon seeing I’d noticed, her smile got bigger. “Yeah,” she confirmed, both of us chuckling to one another, even with me still thrusting in and out of her. I saw her shed a tear and it streamed down her face at the same time my second tear hit the skin of her neck. It felt comforting to see.

“You’re such a crybaby,” I joked, and the two of us laughed again. “But yeah, are you okay?”

“As okay as you are,” she murmured back with a smile. I leaned down and kissed her, gathering speed in my thrusts. Before long we were moaning together and both working our hips in a perfect harmony, my hands too occupied holding my body up to even think about thrusting. 

I thought that I would get self-conscious from looking her in the eyes, but something made it really… okay. Nice, even. We never looked away except for brief periods where we’d readjust or she would close her eyes and throw her head back for a bit or something. Apart from that, we just enjoyed each other’s company, and enjoyed the sounds, smells, and looks of each other. 

She was magical. I didn’t feel weird for crying anymore. Now it just felt sweet. Right. And even though we didn’t get super heated and physical like last time, it felt just as passionate. We still worked up a good rhythm and I was probably giving it to her as fast and deep as last time, but it felt more tender, more coupley. Interestingly, it made the other sex also feel more valid in retrospect.

I could see myself enjoying getting physical with her knowing she enjoyed it, like we were roleplaying as more extreme people or something. But I also really loved this. And I didn’t have to choose a preference. We were living in a world where we could choose how we felt and I could slap her, or I could tenderly give it to her and kiss her or something. I was in heaven, and based on the sounds she was making, so was she.

Too quickly, I could feel my balls tightening and my dick get more sensitive in that way I recognized. I started panting harder and did my best to warn Morgan, then opened my eyes and realized that I totally did not put on a condom. With zeptoseconds to spare, I pulled my dick out of her and immediately began shooting my load right above her pussy, with her still reacting from the sharp and jarring force of me exiting her to notice immediately.

A flash of pain then anger ripped through her eyes, until she adjusted and looked at the pool of cum on her. “Oh fuck!” she gasped in realization. “We were – you were -”

“I am so sorry, I totally forgo-”

“No no, I’m sorry, I forgot to-”

We spoke over each other for a bit, panting, then let out a soft chuckle together. “We both forgot,” Morgan asserted. 

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Good thinking pulling out when you did, I guess,” she replied. “Most guys would not have realized that. And I bet most of the guys who would have realized that would have wanted to cum inside anyway.”

“What?!” I replied in genuine disbelief. “B-but you’ve outlined that you don’t want me to cum inside you! That’s like a hard line for you. I felt bad for forgetting the condom in the first place! Who could be so selfish and just say fuck your feelings like that?”

Morgan grinned tiredly at me. “Hey look, it’s why I’m dating you,” she replied smugly, closing her legs and rummaging her middle finger in the pool of cum I shot on her. Winking at me, she brought her finger to her lips and slowly licked it off.

I nearly moaned. “Wow, fuck,” I mumbled.

“I can’t believe it,” she mused, looking at her finger. “You were inside me. Nothing between us. God, that’s sexy.” She realized the words she was saying and sat up, at least as much as she could without letting the cum pool run down her stomach and make a mess on the bed. “But, like, we need to be more careful. No offense, hope you enjoyed that, we shouldn’t do that again for a while.”

“Oh yeah, of course,” I readily agreed. “But, uh… wow. You… feel good.”

“You feel good too,” she quickly replied. “Fuck, now I know how good it feels. This almost sucks.” 

“Hey, it’s about to run down your stomach,” I pointed out, gesturing to my deposit on her skin. “Do you want a towel or something?”

“Uh, yeah, sure, thanks,” she replied. Quickly, I got up and got one for her, and watched her wipe it off while standing over the bed, looking at her.

“You are so sexy,” I murmured. “And so beautiful.” I turned away. “Fuck.”

She chuckled. “Careful, big guy, you’re starting to sound obsessed,” she teased. “You need to control yourself when I come over for dinner, you know.”

The dinner. Fuck. I forgot about that. Mother demanded Morgan needed to come by for dinner soon and that she was tired of only hearing of her and never meeting her, and Morgan being Morgan, she readily agreed with my mother the first time I brought it up. I wasn’t sure if I was more terrified of Mother disliking Morgan, or of them perfectly getting along. And every day, that moment of Morgan meeting Mother was getting closer and closer. I groaned, raking my fingers over my face, looking away from her.

She heard me and chuckled. “Hey, I’m looking forward to it. You met my parents like a dozen times. We nearly got caught by them onc-”

I remember, thanks,” I cut in, feeling myself blush.

“Hey, if they’re home now, we’re probably going to get the talk tonight,” she pointed out. “I told you doing anything at my place is a risk. Frankly I wish we could have done it today. It’s high time we started hanging out at your place more.”

Given her disdain for Kevin, I was amazed she was looking forward to coming to my house even once, let alone more often in general. Though, of course, it wasn’t Kevin I was worried about.

***

The entire time we drove to my place from Morgan’s was valuable. I couldn’t waste a single second. Anything I didn’t tell her could have been ammunition my family could use against us.

“…And unless you have a really good reason, like an allergy, don’t refuse anything they serve you,” I continued. “The rudest thing you can do in Chinese culture is deny food that has been cooked for you. Like, you could spit in someone’s face and it would be less rude.”

“Alright, alright,” Morgan soothed me. “But I serve myself anyway, right?”

“Everything but the tea,” I confirmed, nodding.

“Is there going to be a test on Monday?” Morgan joked. I could hear Doug laugh from the front seat.

“Trust me, it’s important to know this sort of stuff up front,” I insisted. “Okay, so, you know the stereotype about the Chinese mother? You know, like, the overbearing, really-cares-about-the-rules, strict Chinese Mother?”

“I know, I know, I won’t be stereotypical,” she said with a relaxing voice. “I get that your mother isn’t actually like that.”

“Oh no. She is. She one hundred percent is,” I quickly and emphatically said, while Morgan’s face turned to bafflement. “Like, this particular stereotype? Totally true. Painfully true. Like, she’s the mom the stereotype is based on.

Morgan smiled at me and adjusted the button-up shirt my parents insisted I wear for the day. “That’s fair for you to say, you’re their son, you would see your parents like that,” she replied calmly. She gave me a serious look and added, “And let’s be real, I can handle her. You know me.”

“God, I hope you can,” I replied.

***

I was a bit nervous bringing Morgan into our apartment in the first place. Morgan came from one of those white affluent families that owned a home. The kind of home that had white walls and things made from wood on the walls, and towels everywhere. And the home always smelled like air fresheners. I had no clue what our place smelled like, but it probably smelled like our home cuisine with low notes of cigarette smoke from the building. 

To her credit though, when she walked in I didn’t detect even an accidental look of belittlement or snootiness, at least not until she looked at Kevin. It lasted for less than a second, and she swiftly recovered, smiling at him as he quickly made himself the first one to greet us.

“Morgan!” he greeted her, attempting to go in for a hug, which Morgan quickly made into a handshake. “Good to see ya. Been hearing a lot about you from, uh, Quinn here. Only good stuff of course.” Finishing the handshake, he glanced at my shirt and snorted a laugh. “Nice shirt. Who made you dress in it?”

“Go to hell, Kev,” I told him with a mostly annoyed tone, though I could appreciate the humor. I probably would have told him the same thing.

“Already here, and Morgan, may I say, welcome to it. Fifth circle, if you’re interested.” He looked off to the hallway. “I think Mother and Father are in their room, I’ll go let them know.” He gave my shirt a once-over again. “And seriously, bit late to make her think you’re gay, don’t you think?” He slapped me on the shoulder then went down the hallway.

Morgan watched him leave, then looked back at me, releasing a giggle when she saw my face. “Hey,” she said to get my attention. “For what it’s worth, he tried putting the moves on Crystal last year and failed miserably. You got a girl from our group, and he didn’t.”

“He didn’t hurt her, did he?” I immediately asked. “Like, he was respectful, right?”

Her look turned to one of bewilderment. “How do you always care so much?” she asked, half surprised, half in admirement. 

“I care as much as you. You’re just better at tastefully hiding it,” I replied. She might have smiled, but my parents turned the corner, and rightfully, her attention was on them. 

Mother put on a big politician smile for Morgan as soon as she saw her. My dad also put on a polite smile, but stayed more silent than my bombastic mother.

“Ahh, Morgan!” She turned to me. “This is Morgan, yes?” I nodded, and she turned back. “It is so good to finally meet you!” She extended her hand.

“Mrs. Shen, it’s good to finally meet you too,” Morgan replied, gladly shaking her hand, though I was nervous if she was gripping too tight. Morgan shook Father’s hand too, being equally gracious to him.

“Ah!” Mother held her arms up in glee. “We were so happy to hear you were coming… we got a little something for you!” She quickly darted into the kitchen area and produced a box of green tea. “We did not have time to wrap it, I’m sure you understand…”

I swallowed hard. Did Morgan remember what I told her?”

“Oh no Mrs. Shen, I couldn’t possibly accept this…” Morgan replied in an almost overly gracious voice.

I exhaled quietly. She did remember.

Mother shot me a look, clearly getting what was going on. “Ah, did Quinn here train you what to do?” Holding the box in one hand, she used her other hand to dismissively wave at the air. “Bah, come now. No need to be such a měiguó guǐzi, there is no need to be so formal.”

Kevin and I shot each other a look, and Father seemed surprised too. Luckily, Morgan was the only one that didn’t understand the extent of what Mother had said, though, it was clear she was waiting for someone to fill her in. You could hear a pin drop at that moment. 

“Uh, Mother…” Kevin butted in. “That’s not really a… that’s not something you should say,” he said, as delicately as possible. 

Mother, interestingly, had a warm smile on her face, as if she just said anything but what she just said. “Ah, come now. It was a joke! Come now, you take it, yes? It’s getting heavy. We can pretend you declined twice like Quinn here taught you.”

Morgan was clearly caught off guard, but recovered quickly and took the box, with both hands, thanking her. “It’s very kind of you, Mrs. Shen. And, of course, I got something for you too.”

Morgan reached into the bag she brought along and produced a small package of her favorite candies, wrapped in red. The red wrapping was my idea, as was the necessity of getting the host a gift, but the candy was entirely Morgan’s idea, and credit to her, she didn’t question it, but came up with the idea immediately.

Mother’s eyes scanned over the package, and she smiled slyly. “You listened well when Quinn told you what to do,” she told Morgan as if it were a joke. 

Morgan shrugged, still holding the gift. “He told me a few things to keep in mind, but I just wanted to show thanks.”

“And should I play my part and refuse the gift a few times?” Mother asked in her usual tone.

Morgan shrugged again. “If you’d like.”

“Well! In that case, I could never accept, no,” Mother said with theatricality.

Kevin had slid over to my side at this point. “DEFCON what? Three? Two?” he joked. 

“You ever seen her act like this?” I whispered back.

“No, but I never brought my friends with benefits back to the house, so I guess this is a first for her,” he replied, half-jovially, half-serious. By the time we looked back, Mother had accepted the gift, and their conversation had progressed some. 

Just in time for her not to notice our whispering, Mother turned to me. “She is very polite, very polite!” she said happily, probably missing how rude she herself was being in the process.

“Yes, I’m very lucky,” I replied earnestly. 

“Mm, yes yes, very lucky,” Mother replied hurriedly. “Come, help set the table.”

“Morgan, perhaps you, uh, be so good to come to the living room?” Father asked. He knew slightly less English than the rest of us, and never spoke English if he could help it, but clearly wanted to put on a good front for Morgan, possibly especially after Mother’s… interesting choice of words. It was actually sweet to see him take initiative like that, and I could hear them chatting as I set the table. 

Father was actually the more lenient and less traditionalist of our family, and I could hear him asking Morgan a few things about school and marveling, instead of belittling, any differences from his own time in high school, though Kevin would occasionally cut in to point out his own high school experience was like Morgan’s, and that Father already knew most of these things. I snuck a few looks at Mother and didn’t see any genuine bother on her face – I couldn’t tell if she was being passive-aggressive, or if something else was going on.

After the table was set, Mother wanted to put the finishing touches on a few things, and I was encouraged to go to the living room and be with Morgan. She, no surprise, was being quite charismatic, and clearly won Father’s approval, as well as Kevin’s, though Kevin, for better or for worse, could see the good (and the use) in anyone. 

The only thing that brought me out of the conversation was the vibration of my phone. Frowning in confusion, I took out my phone to see what had set it off. It turned out, Lexi sent me a text.

Hey cutie 😉

The first thing I felt was nervous. Morgan was right next to me. What would she have done if she saw?? I didn’t want to glance in her direction! Shit, here of all places too! Fuck! What if she got the wrong impression? Hell, what if she got the right one? 

Thinking with the speed of a supercomputer, I decided to calm down and own it. I loudly sighed while looking straight at the screen, in a way that definitely would have captured Morgan’s attention. Knowing she saw the message, I glanced up at her with half-closed annoyed eyes.

Coming the closest to smiling since she arrived (aside from smiling at my parents out of politeness), Morgan gave me a shrug. “She sounds needy tonight,” she joked. “What a shame you’re occupied, guess you can’t keep her company.”

There was something in Morgan’s tone I couldn’t quite place, though of course Kevin also had his own opinions about what she said. “Who’s needy? What?”

“A friend of ours,” Morgan replied coolly. “Oh right, you know everyone. Lexi. She messaged him asking if he was busy today.”

“Ah,” Kevin replied. “Well, guess we should call the dinner off so you can see her, huh? Well, goodbye Morgan, good seeing you.”

“What?” Father asked, looking around. 

Kevin is making a joke about me leaving to spontaneously hang out with another friend,” I explained to Father in Mandarin. 

Father still looked confused, albeit for different reasons now. I looked at him, then at Kevin, then back to my phone, then at Morgan.

It was going to be a long night.

***

Morgan tapped the table as Mother refilled her tea. It was downright impressive how much she remembered to do. I told her all of those things hoping she’d remember maybe a tenth of those things. I guess I got so used to Taylor not remembering much that Morgan was a breath of fresh air. Not that I should have compared the two, at anything. Ever.

“So, Morgan,” Father began with a new conversation. “How much money do you make?”

Morgan’s eyes slightly bugged at the suddenness of the question. As much as I coached her, I guess “be ready for bluntness” wasn’t on my bingo card.

“Um, I’m actually between jobs now,” she replied, kind of quietly. “I just finished school after all, and I move to college in the near future, so it doesn’t make sense to look for a job just to drop it in, like, a month.”

Father nodded along, understanding, or at least pretending to. “Ah, I see, very good,” he commented.

“Now, you’re lucky,” Kevin replied casually. “I already had a job, so I probably gotta stick with it all the way until I’m outta here. I could have opted to enjoy my summer, but there were a few, uh, extraneous circumstances of a maternal nature that hindered the likelihood of such an occurrence.”

I glanced over at Mother, who was eating her food. Kevin played his cards well.

Morgan nodded. “I get that. I have a few similar circumstances, though they seem to be more… predictable.”

“Predictable, yes,” Father replied, nodding along. Bless him. This was probably the most he talked all month. “Ah – you said you were going to college? What were you thinking of doing?”

Here we go, I thought to myself. “Kinesiology,” Morgan replied.

Father stared at her blankly. “Studying human movement,” she embellished, and Father’s look only got more confused.

I took over. “It is the study of how our bodies move, so she will probably end up with a career related to fitness or health sciences,” I told him.

“Hey Quinn,” Morgan told me patiently. “I got it, don’t worry.”

Mother smirked at Morgan when she heard that. “Ah, Quinn,” she piped up. “I thought I raised you better to speak over your girlfriend!”

I didn’t even know what to say. “You did, Mother. I’m sorry,” I replied, my brain on default. 

“Thank you Mrs. Shen, but it’s not that big a deal,” Morgan replied, also with a new tone. “Quinn and I communicate openly like this all the time. We tell each other our feelings as they come, and we both try to adjust our behavior as best as we can.”

Kevin snorted a laugh and made a whipping sound and gesture in his seat between bites.

Morgan dropped her chopsticks to her plate in thought, never looking at Kevin, never losing her faux thoughtful tone. “Y’know, if I think about it, some people might think that’s a bad thing that we do, but I suspect those people are just teens that have never been in a healthy relationship before.”

Kevin immediately lost his humorous look.

“It’s actually really nice. He’s helped me grow a lot as a person. He’s helped me with a few bad habits I never even knew I had,” she continued. “But if I did it in a weird way this time, I’m sorry, Quinn.”

I smiled at her. “Nah, you were fine, s-sweetheart,” I replied, only nervous because I was calling her that in front of my family. “I love that you’re so thoughtful like that, and I like hearing your feelings. It’s why I trust you so much.”

“What is this, a therapy commercial?” Kevin asked with annoyance. “You’re making a point. We get it.”

“I don’t get it,” Father added.

Bì zuǐ,” Mother grumbled, then smiled at Morgan. “It is nice you both are so happy.”

“Thank you!” Morgan replied with a warm tone but no smile. “I think it’s nice too. I’m really lucky.”

When she went to reach for her chopsticks to resume eating, Morgan accidentally bumped the table. “Ah, bù hǎoyìsi,” she said, as casually as anything, with perfect pronunciation. 

Everyone looked at her, then at me. My mouth was hanging open in disbelief. I never taught her a word of Mandarin.

***

“So this is your room, huh?” Morgan asked as she looked around. “It’s cozy.”

“You know what I need to ask you,” I replied, closing the door. 

Morgan whirled around to look at me, an innocent look on her face. “Me?”

“Who taught you to say sorry like that? I sure didn’t,” I pressed on.

She shrugged. “You know. Just one of those things.”

“What was that you said at dinner about open communication?” I asked humorously.

“Ooh, good move,” she teased back, a small smile on her face. “Remember how I went to the bathroom right before dinner? I Googled it.”

“Okay, so… why?”

“I wanted to have a few small things memorized in case I needed to say it.”

“What do you mean by ‘needed to say it?’”

Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I just wanted to have something I could hold over your fucking mom.”

A triumphant smile grew on my face, but Morgan just rolled her eyes. “You win, she got under my skin, I’ll admit it,” she said bitterly, still whispering despite the closed door. “I mean, what? Was I not being polite?”

“I told you, I’m pretty sure it’s just a… a ‘she’s not Chinese’ thing.”

“We’re in America. Like no one here is Chinese. You’re not Chinese,” she insisted.

“Well, yeah, but that’s how I view it. She views it as, ‘we just happen to live in America.’ But under her roof…”

“The landlord’s roof,” she corrected me. 

“Wow, thanks – she rules, and she rules by tradition. I think she was expecting you not to respect things at all so she could gloat.”

“So… I take the time to learn all of the polite things to do, so she points out how I learned them from you and didn’t, like, know them inherently, and gloats anyway?!”

I shrugged. “Basically. Welcome to the family.”

“Ugh,” Morgan complained, flopping down onto my bed. “At least Kevin was nicer than I expected. And hey, I put in effort too.”

I smiled. “That was you putting in effort?”

She looked at me and lowered an eyebrow. “That was me putting in effort but also matching whatever level of positivity he gave me with my own,” she asserted.

“You’re cute when you’re mad,” I teased.

“If I’m so cute, kiss me,” she countered.

I chuckled and walked over to the bed, pulling her up by her shirt and kissing her. We softly kissed for a few seconds and broke away, with her looking around the room.

“I couldn’t ever fucking imagine sharing a room with Doug,” she said with disgust. “Where’s your privacy?”

“Very non-existent,” I admitted. “You just get used to it, I guess.”

“Well, I don’t, but I’m a may-go gooitsee,” Morgan joked lightly.

I turned pink. “Yeah, sorry about that.”

“Don’t be. I have no clue what it means. I can guess. Maybe don’t tell me though, it’s probably best that I can only guess,” she replied flatly. 

“Anyway, yeah, usually Kevin is in this room with me, and he’s almost always in the house, or at least he was until he started working,” I finished the thought.

“So how do you… you know…?” Morgan made a vague jacking off motion.

I chuckled. “Blunt.”

“I’m full of surprises,” she quipped.

“Um, to be honest, I really didn’t start until this year,” I answered honestly. “And when I did start, I had to plan around when Kevin had plans. I know he started way before, though. I used to, uh, catch him, and-”

“Gross. TMI,” Morgan urgently cut in, pushing me away with her hand. I laughed, then joined her on the bed. She pulled out her phone and started to casually text, so I awkwardly did the same, realizing that I only texted Lexi back a few times. “Oh, right,” I murmured aloud.

“What?”

“Oh, just, Lexi. She asked what I was up to and I kiiinda forgot to answer.”

I could hear Morgan chuckle in her throat. “Get ready for her to be pissed with you for the next four hours.”

“Great,” I replied. “And I swear I’m not imagining it, she’s being way flirtier with me lately. Like, I know you don’t see it as a big deal, but I feel like I should communicate with you about this. It’s, like, to that extent.”

Morgan put her phone away and sat up on the bed. “Yeahhhh,” she sighed. “Remind me, we need to have a talk about that when we get back.”

“So you’re finally going to talk to her about it?” I asked.

“…So if I had something to say, would here be the best place to bring it up?” she asked me.

“Um, if you’re going to phrase it like that, yes, I’m just going to worry until you tell me,” I admitted. “We can take the chance that Kevin has his ear against the door or something.”

“Yeah, fair enough, that’s my bad,” she casually said, getting up off the bed and stretching. She walked calmly over to the door and opened it super quickly in one swift motion. Upon seeing no Kevin, she shut the door, satisfied. “Can’t be too careful.”

“Honestly, I don’t blame you.”

“Okay, so…” She sat back down on the bed and drummed her fingertips on her thighs in thought. “Lexi… Lexi approached me already about whether it was cool with me if she could, y’know, do stuff with you.”

“She what?!” I asked, taken off guard. “Wait, she what?!

Morgan only nodded. 

“And… wait, I’m just finding out about this now?!” I threw up my arms, now angry. “Why is it everyone keeps asking everyone but me if I can be their, like, personal plaything?!” I only realized after saying it that Lexi did in a way ask me, at the clothing store, but I had too many opportunities to tell Morgan that, so I had to just let it be. It would have been too awkward, if not outright suspicious, to only bring it up now.

“She was drunk-”

“Big surprise,” I interrupted annoyedly.

“Hey, stop,” she asserted, then paused. “She was drunk and admitted her feelings to me in a very understandable way. She said she’d never want to take you from me but admitted she wanted to see what you were, you know, ‘like,’ but knew you’d never do anything outside of a relationship. I… was drunk too, so I may have admitted that you did casual stuff with someone else before we got together.”

“So you’re the one who told her about Taylor!” I accused her, more loudly than I should have.

She looked at me weirdly. “No, I never said Taylor. What do you mean, ‘you’re the one?’”

“Oh. Uh, sorry,” I admitted. “I guess she put the pieces together. At the party she told me she was jealous of what I did with you, and with Taylor.”

At that sentence, Morgan looked away, but only for a second. She looked back at me and coughed in discomfort. “Anyway, she asked me, and I thought about it. Trouble was, I already admitted the casual thing also happened during our relationship, so it would have made her feel bad to say no without a reason.”

“You could have just said no,” I pointed out. “It would be weird of her to question your feelings.”

“People do it all the time, whether it’s weird or not,” she countered. “Do you not even care whether you have my blessing to do something with her or not?”

“No, I-” I paused. For whatever reason, I paused. “I mean… you… you really love making our relationship so sexually complicated, don’t you? Okay, what did you say?”

“I said that I’m okay with it being in our friend group, but no one else. I just… don’t mind it,” she said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

I paused again, getting up from the bed and pacing. “…What’s the endgame here? Are you trying to get me a harem or something?”

“A harem?”

“Like, a group of women who all have sex with me.”

She shrugged. “Sweet deal, isn’t it?” she asked with humor and yet a deadly serious tone.

“But what do you get out of this? I don’t get it.”

“Overthinking, Quinn,” she pointed out. “I don’t need to get anything.”

“But if you don’t, this all seems one-sided. It makes me uncomfortable.”

“So then tell Lexi no!” 

“But then I’m the one disappointing her! You’ve shifted the burden onto me!” I protested.

“Do you see now why I asked if arguing here was the best idea?” she asked with heat.

“Yeah, I do!” I replied back with as much heat. We both paused. “So that’s the boundaries of our relationship, huh?”

She nodded. “I’m okay with you doing stuff with our close friends. I think, with anyone else, it would be weird.”

“Well,” I replied, “I don’t think I’m attracted to Crystal, and I’m not gay so I’ll pass on Milo.”

“So you’re considering not just Lexi but Taylor still,” Morgan coolly noted.

“…Fuck.” I felt completely defeated. I moved back to the bed and sat back down onto it, slumping. I felt Morgan’s hand supportively rub my back. 

After a while, I spoke again. “So, do you – fuck, I don’t know – do you want it to be reciprocal? Like, your friend group for me, my friend group for you?”

“Well, you don’t really have a group of friends that got close to me, so it’s not the same.”

“I’ve got Kevin,” I offered jokingly.

“Fuck no,” she immediately replied. We both laughed quietly. “I’m happy just being with you. I’m okay with it being monogamous with my side and polygamous on yours.”

“I think that would be ‘polyamorous.’ Or ‘polysexual.’ ‘Poly,’ maybe,” I thought out loud.

“Whatever.”

“I don’t know. Would you seriously be okay with me sleeping with Taylor?”

“No,” she immediately replied, “but that’s only because of the Joel thing. It’s still nuclear hot, and you’re smart enough to know that would be dumb. But if it helps, as long as they’re together, no blessing from me.”

“Yeah, I don’t need you telling me that to know it’s a bad idea,” I admitted.

“I figured.”

“And Lexi?”

“Yeah, I already told you, yes,” she replied, putting her head on my shoulder. “She’s-”

“Lonely, yeah,” I admitted sadly. 

“And clearly there’s something there,” she noted flatly. “Nothing that would replace me, but… something nice.”

“…I don’t get you,” I admitted.

“You don’t have to.”

“No, but until I do, I think this is only going to make me feel uncomfortable. I think.”

“That’s okay,” she replied supportively. “But I want you to know it wouldn’t affect me one way or the other. I guess I’m just built different.”

“Not like the other girls?” I asked her jokingly.

“Oh fuck, I’ve turned into that bitch,” she added. “Anyway, I feel like you think this is a test or it actually would affect me or something. If it’s purely for you, by all means, don’t do it. But it’s an option, and clearly you’re not a hundred percent decided either way, are you?”

I didn’t say anything, and slowly pulled out my phone, turning it on. A message from Lexi greeted me.

Are u busy this weekend? I found a new bubble tea place. U down?

I stared at my phone, then at Morgan, then back to my phone, and sighed.

________________________________________

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