A Love Like Fireflies
by Xavier Mayne

 

“Models aren’t paid to think. You are paid to stand the way I tell you, and look the way I tell you, and breathe if I give you permission, got that?” This stream of invective was delivered in a choking cloud of cigarette smoke. “Now get the fuck away from me, you fucking meat puppet.”

Pete had no response prepared for such an overwhelming load of abuse being heaped on him at once. With a blank, glazed look, he returned to his mark in front of the cameras, next to his fellow model.

They were standing in a cornfield. Or, really, a field that had grown corn previously, but was now a stubbly wasteland, covered with drifts of snow. In the cold, clear sky above them the sun shone brightly but without warmth. It was not terribly cold, if one dressed appropriately. Pete was not dressed appropriately. He was wearing, at the moment, a tie. And a pair of white boxer briefs. And that was all. He was cold, and now even his asking an innocent question had been summarily rebuked by that reptilian photographer. This was turning out to be less fun that he’d hoped.

“Nailed ya, did he?” asked his fellow model, who was similarly attired, but did not seem in the least bothered by his state of undress.

“Hell yeah he did,” Pete replied. “He called me a ‘fucking meat puppet.’ What does that even mean?”

“It means you don’t ask questions, ever. It sucks, but it’s the way these gigs go, so you just learn to shut up and pose.”

“I’ve never done this before,” Pete offered, by way of defense.

“No kidding,” came the chuckling reply. “What did you ask him, anyway?”

Pete wasn’t sure that he should answer this, because it might expose him to more abuse. But this guy looked sincere, and how much worse could his reaction be than what the photographer had done?

“I asked what we were modeling.”

“Why?” He was laughing, but not cruelly, so Pete continued.

“Because I thought I could do a better job if I knew. You know, show the product off better. That kind of thing.”

“Look, we’re wearing exactly two items of clothing here: a tie, and underwear. That’s not a lot to work with in terms of creative expression. It may be the tie, it may be the underwear-ooh, here’s a thought-it may be both!” Here he bugged his eyes out and waved his hands in a faux panic. Then he dropped his hands to his sides and continued. “So what? It’s not going to change how you wear ’em, right?”

“But why have us just standing here in a barren field if they want people to buy their clothes? It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Have you been to an X&Y?”

“No,” Pete admitted.

“Have to been to an Abercrombie and Fitch?”

“Well, yeah. So?”

“Xavier and Young is trying to be the new A&F. So they’re basically copying everything A&F does. A&F has a sexy catalog, so X&Y has a sexy catalog. A&F’s models are naked, so X&Y’s models are naked. Heh,” he chuckled, “A&F has a two-letter name, X&Y has a two-letter name. Not a lot of creativity there, huh?”

“So, that explains us standing in a field-how?” Pete asked.

“Duh. We’re mostly naked, and that creep over there is taking our picture. If he thinks we’re sexy enough, then we get to be in every X&Y store in the country. The clothes don’t matter. What they’re selling is us.”

Pete considered this.

“Doesn’t that sort of make us, well, prostitutes or something?”

“Kind of, yeah. Cool, right? You work out, you pose, you get the money. Is this a great country or what? I mean, look at those guys over at the catering table. See them? The ones in ties and aprons? Well, they haven’t taken their eyes off me since I came out of the tent wearing these tight boxers. Every time I flex or smile or whatever they perk up like they hope I’m about to strip off and start beatin’ it for them.”

Pete saw the hungry, rapt attention of the three cater waiters. He turned back, intending to ask why provoking waiters was a desirable pastime, when he was interrupted.

“Hey-watch this.”

As Pete watched, his companion pretended to notice something terribly interesting on the ground; he turned, facing away from the catering table, and bent over slowly to take a closer look. His arched back caused his his muscular buttocks to be thrust out, and he slowly shifted his weight from one leg to the other.

“So, did they notice?” he asked in a stage whisper.

Pete turned to look at the catering table, and saw all three waiters staring slack-jawed at the white-cotton-covered cheeks. Pete wasn’t sure, but they didn’t seem to be blinking. Or breathing. One dropped a bottle of mineral water into a bowl of hummus. Clearly this display was having the desired effect.

“Uh, I think they noticed.” He turned back and saw that he was once again face to face with his fellow model, who was grinning widely.

“Awesome, right? I could do this all day.”

“Why? I mean, why does it matter to you that three waiters-” Here Pete lowered his voice to a whisper, “Who are probably gay-” He returned to normal volume and continued, “are looking at you? Isn’t that kind of creepy?”

“Hell no it ain’t creepy! Why have a body like this if no one’s going to look at it?” He breathed deeply and sighed. “This is the best job in the world, man!”

Pete was not sure he shared his new colleague’s enthusiasm. This modeling job had been his mom’s idea, to help him make some money for college in the fall; she had a friend who had some cousin who knew someone at the agency.

“You do this a lot?” Pete asked.

“As often as I can. But this is The Show, right here. The stuff I did before was all local-health clubs, sporting goods, that kind of thing. But this, this is the real deal. We get in the X&Y catalog, we’re set. If we can really sex it up, we might get put up in the stores. Sky’s the limit then.”

Pete was about to ask what it might mean to “sex it up,” but he was interrupted by the shrill rantings of the photographer.

“All right, bitches,” he shouted, meaning everyone of any gender in the range of his voice. “Let’s get this thing done. I want those assholes at Abercrombie and Fitch to fucking kill themselves when they see this.”

He approached the models, in a fog of cigarette smoke and obsequious assistants, and began to shout instructions.

“Okay, you, the blond one,” he gestured at the one who was not Pete, “Stand more to the left. No, you moron, my left! It’s always my left. Jesus fucking Christ where do we find this meat?” He paused to consider the shot. “Now, you, the dark one,” he pointed impatiently at Pete, who was momentarily caught off guard by being referred to by his hair color, “stand next to him. That’s it, facing him. Closer. Closer. Closer. Good. Closer. Closer!”

Pete and his fellow model had not been introduced, but they now stood together on the same square foot of cornfield, their bodies almost touching. Pete could feel warm breath on his face, could see goosebumps on the collarbone in front of him.

“CLOSER!”

There was really no way for them to get closer without wearing the same pair of underwear, but they tried. They were touching now, their nipples meeting, the fronts of their boxer briefs brushing against each other. Pete told himself it was the cold that made his nipples harden, but who could know for sure? He looked into the golden eyes of his counterpart, and knew he had to say something.

“I don’t think we can get any closer,” he whispered.

“Yeah, we can. Follow my lead.”

At this, the golden eyes slowly closed, as the face drew closer to Pete. Before he knew what was happening, he could feel lips a whisper away from his own. Not a kiss, not yet, but the hint of contact. A warmth spread through his mouth, his face, his body, and in the background, somewhere, he could hear the click-click-click of the shutter racing impossibly fast to capture this moment. Then, he suddenly realized, he was being kissed. His fear of the photographer’s anger kept him rooted in place as the kiss deepened and the shutter reached some sort of climax of clicking. Suddenly, the noise stopped.

“And that is how it’s done, bitches! Let’s get the fuck out of here,” shouted the photographer, who swept away with his attendants in tow.

It was only when the kiss ended that Pete realized he had closed his eyes as well. Suddenly, he didn’t feel well, and his knees gave way. He pitched forward helplessly, into the catching arms of “the blond one,” who kept him from crashing to the ground.

“Can we get some water over here?” shouted Pete’s rescuer. He was delighted to see that the three cater waiters fought over who should be the water bearer; in the end he had his choice of three water bottles handed to him by three waiters sporting three very visible hard-ons. Just another reason to love this job. He chose a water bottle at random, and brought it up to Pete’s mouth.

“Here,” he said to Pete, as he held the bottle of water to his lips. This act, of pouring water into Pete’s open and grateful mouth, caused the waiter whose bottle was being used to suddenly ejaculate in his pants. He turned and bolted for the catering van without looking back.

“Thanks,” murmured Pete, when he had swallowed several gulps of water. His strength was returning, and he stood upright once again.

“Looks like you’re feeling stronger.”

The smirk with which this remark was delivered worried Pete. He looked down to see, to his horror, that the head of his erect penis was now protruding from the waist of his X&Y winter- weight no-fly boxer briefs.

Oh, fuck.

“Oh, fuck,” Pete said, mortified. He tucked his stiff member back into the pouch as best he could, and blushed furiously.

“No worries, buddy. That kiss got me plumped up a bit too. My drawers are just too tight for the dragon to poke his head out.”

“But, but,” Pete stammered, “I don’t know how this happened. I’m not … I mean, I don’t …”

“Look, forget about it. The important thing is that Mr. Asshole Q. Photographer got the shot he wanted, which means that we have a shot at the big time. Thanks for playing along. Oh, and sorry about sticking my tongue in your mouth. I kind of got carried away.”

“Oh,” was all Pete could think of to say. He’d had another guy’s tongue in his mouth? What the fuck?

“I guess since we’re on such intimate terms, we should introduce ourselves. I’m Nick.”

Pete looked at the hand offered to him. He took it, haltingly.

“I’m Pete and I’m not gay.” Where this blurting introduction came from Pete was not sure. But he felt like it was something that he should say. Actually, he probably should have said it before Nick stuck his tongue in his mouth. His tongue! Pete’s head whirled a bit again.

“Well, okay then, I guess we’ll have to call you Straight Pete. Good to know you, Straight Pete.”

“Look, I just wanted you to know that I’m not … I mean, that kiss … your tongue … I …”

“Oh, that? Look, Pete, don’t get any romantic ideas. I’m a confirmed pussy hound from way back. That kiss was to get us in the book, pure and simple. It was a business decision, and I’m just glad you didn’t freak out. It’ll pay off, I promise.”

Pete did not look convinced.

“But damn your lips are soft. I’ve never kissed a guy with such soft lips. What do you use?”

Pete tried to parse out that statement, to make it make sense. Straight guy, notices my soft lips, compares them to guys he’s kissed before, wants to know what I use. There was no logic to it at all. At all.

“They put something on them in the trailer. I don’t know. It tasted like strawberry.”

“Strawberry! That was it. I couldn’t tell what the flavor was. Nice.”

Pete was completely overwhelmed, and just wanted to get away from this strange man, and these horny waiters (who are apparently flighty as well-weren’t there three of them before?), and this bizarre photography crew. Luckily, his reprieve came quickly.

“All right, we’re done here, people,” called the photographer’s assistant, whose voice was slightly less tobacco-tinged than her boss’s.

“Well, it’s been nice working with you,” beamed Nick, extending his hand again.

“Yeah, you too. And sorry about the, you know …” Pete gestured vaguely in the direction of his waistband. Nick laughed.

“Hey, I consider it a compliment. You have nothing to be ashamed of, my friend.” With that, Nick strolled off to the wardrobe tent to claim his clothes. Pete waited a few minutes before following, so as not to run into Nick as he was changing. Luckily, he didn’t feel cold anymore.

* * *

That night, as Pete lay in his bed, he tried to sort out just what had happened today. Specifically, he tried to figure out this Nick guy. He said he’s straight, but then there was the kiss. But that was just business, except that he compared it to other times he had kissed guys. And then there was the horrifying boner. Where had that come from? What did it mean?

He turned over in his bed, closed his eyes tight, and tried to sleep. He had school tomorrow, and needed to get some rest before gymnastics practice in the morning. But when he closed his eyes he suddenly saw himself back in that barren field-saw himself from outside his body, above, as Nick leaned in and kissed him.

“Oh, fuck!” he said, too loudly, and turned onto his other side. He screwed his eyes shut and tried to will himself to sleep. He was just starting to fade away when he smelled something odd- strawberries?

He sat up, looked around his dimly lit room, and realized he was imagining the sweet, pungent odor.

“I’m going insane,” he muttered to himself, as he flopped back on the bed. He resorted to counting the stars on his ceiling, even though he knew how many there were. He had put them up during a momentary flirtation with astronomy in fifth grade, and to this day 112 of them still glowed dimly in the 20 minutes or so after the lights were turned out. He counted them, twice, and then he was finally asleep.

He was back in the field, back standing toe-to-toe with Nick, back in the moment before Nick kissed him. This time he was not aware of trying to find a way out; this time he was fully aware of the constriction in his underwear. This time he reached up to Nick’s neck, and pulled him closer, closer, until their lips pressed hard and wet against each other, until the pressure in his crotch grew to an unbearable level, until he felt himself grinding his distended boxer briefs against Nick’s identical pair, feeling the heat and the firmness inside, until-

Pete awoke with a start. His sheets had been ripped off as he dreamed, and now he lay on the bed, his cock protruding from his boxers, rising from his body in the dark, straining. Before he was fully conscious, his prick began to pulse desperately, once, twice, and then the first huge glob of cum blasted from its head. Pete jolted, but was unable to stop the orgasm that was tearing through his body, through his psyche. He gripped the sheets on both sides of his seizing body, and thrashed with the force of it. His balls were drawn up tight, his every muscle tensed, and his cock shot out volley after volley of hot spunk.

Finally the spasms subsided, and Pete tried to catch his breath. Only then did he sense something on his lips, something wet. He darted his tongue out, and found his lips had been covered with his cum. Without thinking, he wiped his tongue across this lips, and then was horrified to realize that he now had a mouthful of his own ejaculate in his mouth. He bolted upright and sputtered, sending drops of semen all over his bed.

As he sat, in the dark, trying not to think, not to think at all about what had just happened, the semen on his chest began to flow down his body, leaving a cold trail behind as it went. Pete shivered in the dark, alone.

* * *

When the morning light flooded into Pete’s room, he awoke, peaceful in the quiet of the dawn; then he remembered what had happened the day before, and then what had happened later in bed, and the room spun a bit. Luckily, in the glare of daylight his powers of rational thought returned, and he found a way out.

“It’s been almost a week since I jacked off, so of course that would happen,” he rationalized. “It had nothing to do with that Nick guy. Just backed up plumbing, that’s all.” He ran his hand across his chest and felt the dried, crusted remains of his plumbing problem spread from neck to navel. He jumped out of bed and made his way quickly into the shower. As for Nick, he was washed out of Pete’s mind just as the cum was washed from his body. It was an episode that he was determined to put behind him, and he did just that.

The school year was winding down, and Pete had ahead of him the usual cycle of senior-year events: trips, dances, exams, and finally graduation. He managed to keep his grades up through the end of the semester, which was critical to his securing the gymnastics scholarship that had been offered him. Several other modeling jobs were offered to him as spring gave way to summer, but he turned them all down-he was busy with other things, and he had plans for summer.

Pete had signed up to spend the summer in a student exchange program, in which students from the US were sent to countries in need of development help. This is why Pete found himself at the airport one afternoon in June after graduation, waiting to board a plane to a country he’d not been able to locate on a map two weeks ago. It was in eastern Europe, he knew that much, but beyond that it was a complete mystery.

As he walked into the terminal, he spotted the group’s frenetic advisor, Mr. Patronus. He was currently pacing rapidly back and forth, waving his clipboard about and counting students over and over again. As Pete approached, the increasingly frantic advisor caught sight of him, and took great pleasure in ticking off his name.

“Oh, Pete, thank goodness! I was so worried!”

“Mr. Patronus, the plane doesn’t take off for three hours. We’re fine.”

“Oh, yes, yes, but you know how I worry! We’ve still got two of our people and three from the other high school to find, and then I can relax. Well, once we get through security I can relax. Okay, once we’re all on the plane, oh what a relief that will be!”

It was clear, Pete thought, that Mr. Patronus would never relax.

“Now, Pete, put on your t-shirt so that we can find you!” called out Mr. Patronus.

Pete had purposely not worn the shirt to the airport, as it was a color that does not occur in nature, and he did not want to look like a total tool when his parents dropped him off. Now he dug through his carry-on to find the shirt, and put it on over the white t-shirt he was already wearing. Planes can be cold, might as well layer.

“Hey, buddy, don’t you think you should find out the question before you answer?”

That voice was familiar, but Pete couldn’t place it right away. He swiveled around to see who had spoken.

It was Nick.

He stood there beaming, very pleased with himself for the joke he had made about Pete’s shirt. The group organizing the trip was called Youth Exchange for Service, or “YES!” and this was printed boldly across Pete’s startlingly bright yellow-green shirt.

“I mean, I might ask you something you don’t want to answer yes to,” Nick continued, as if his joke needed explaining.

Pete, for his part, was simply stunned into silence. He had no thought of ever seeing Nick again, and yet here he was. He was, obviously, part of the delegation from the high school in the next county that was participating in the trip. Pete’s conclusion was confirmed by the flustered arrival of Mr. Patronus, who made a beeline for Nick with his clipboard.

“Mr. Goodman! So glad you could join us today!” sang out Mr. Patronus, who ticked off Nick’s name with a flourish that seemed exaggerated, even for him. “Now, you need to put your shirt on like our Mr. Dorcey here. Quickly now!”

Nick grinned slyly at Pete, and grasped the bottom hem of his t-shirt with both hands. With a fluid motion, he whipped the shirt off over his head, and wadded it up. He stood, naked from the waist up, in a shaft of afternoon light that streamed in through the tall terminal windows.

Mr. Patronus’s sharp intake of breath surprised Pete, He turned to look at the trip advisor, who in turn only had eyes for Nick. More specifically, he only had eyes for Nick’s insanely developed chest and ab muscles, which were lightly furred and rippling with power. Nick caught Pete’s eye, and the sly half-grin widened. He searched for the shirt in his bag, taking his own sweet time, alert to every passing gaze that swept over his body, and there were many in addition to Mr. Patronus’s unblinking goggle. Finally he pulled on his own “YES!” shirt, which he had modified slightly by ripping out the neck, cutting off the sleeves, and slicing open the armholes almost to his waist. If Mr. Patronus thought his plane ride would be relaxing, he clearly hadn’t anticipated being able to see Nick’s powerful torso in profile throughout the flight.

“Err, thank you, Mr. Goodman,” Mr. Patronus struggled to say.

“Oh, Mr. Patronus, one thing. Could you make sure that Pete and I are rooming together? We’re old friends, and it would be fun to catch up.”

“Well, I don’t think I … it’s just that the lists were made up months ago and … I-”

Here Mr. Patronus trailed off, as he watched Nick rub his hand across his 6-pack abs. His fingers traced playful circles across his flat, strong belly, and in so doing lifted his shirt so that Mr. Patronus could see the rippled expanse of tan skin that lay underneath.

“Please, Mr. Patronus? I’d be grateful if you would consider it.”

Mr. Patronus looked unlikely to survive much more of Nick’s casual stroking. It was when his middle finger slid briefly under the waistband of his sweatpants that the trip advisor snapped.

“Oh, I see,” said Mr. Patronus. “Well, I guess we can make an exception, since it’s a special case.” He flipped the sheets on his clipboard, and with 10 seconds of scratching with a pen all was settled. The advisor then backed away, not wanting to lose sight of Nick but afraid to be caught looking at him. That he tripped over a carelessly placed carry-on was understandable.

“Why did you do that?” Pete demanded once Mr. Patronus had picked himself up and scurried off to greet two more latecomers.

“What, ask to room together?” Nick replied, innocently.

“Yes, that’s what. Why did you do it?”

“Because, Straight Pete, you’re the only person I know on this trip that my parents insisted I take.”

“But we don’t know each other,” Pete spat out angrily. Nick’s presence here had undone the tight knot of denial he had used to tie up and stow away the experience at the photo shoot, and he wanted to keep it out of his mind. That would be harder with Nick sleeping in the same room.

“What? We’ve been introduced, we’ve worked together, and, if I remember correctly, we kind of made out. That counts, in my book. What more would we have to do for it to count in yours?”

“Can you keep your voice down, please?” Pete hissed. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to hear Nick casually referring to the two of them making out, because, well, they hadn’t, had they? No, of course not.

“Sorry. I guess I’m just super stoked about jetting off to Whateverstan so that we can help them herd goats or something. ‘Cause that’s going to be awesome.”

“Look, I’m excited about this trip, and if you’re not then maybe you shouldn’t go,” Pete said, hopeful that Nick might actually take him up on it.

“I think you can put me down for ‘not excited.’ But I’ve turned down a couple of great gigs to take this stupid trip that my parents think will help me ‘grow,’ so there’s no sense staying and being bored and broke. I’m in for the duration.”

“Tickets! Tickets everyone!” sang our Mr. Patronus as he made his way down the line of YES! travelers passing out plane tickets. Because they were standing near each other, Pete and Nick would be sitting next to each other for the next 16 hours as they slowly made their way to the host country. Not surprisingly, when they boarded the plane they found Mr. Patronus sitting directly across the aisle from Nick. The better to keep an eye on the boy, of course.

They settled into their seats, and Pete busied himself adjusting his backpack under the seat, arranging his reading material, checking for the locations of the three closest exits, anything he could do to keep from having to have anything to do with Nick. Nick, meanwhile, sat back and watched this maniacal burst of activity with an amused grin. Finally, when Pete had exhausted every available distraction, he sat back in his seat with a sigh and looked out the window at the airport, where a gentle rain was starting to fall in the fading light.

“So, Straight Pete, how ya been?”

Pete closed his eyes, shook his head almost imperceptibly. This was going to be exactly as bad as he thought it would be. He turned to face Nick.

“Look, cut it out with that name, okay?” he said under his breath. Pete glanced around the cabin, trying to ascertain whether anyone had heard what Nick had called him.

“Why?” Nick asked brightly. This was fun. His face suddenly turned serious, a mask of concern. “Does Straight Pete have something to tell me?”

Pete felt an immediate heat in his cheeks. What the fuck? Suddenly he thought he could feel a wetness on his lips, and to his horror realized he was having a flashback-but was he remembering Nick or his own spunk on his mouth? Neither one was anything he wanted to think about. He felt sick to his stomach.

“Hey, lighten up, man, I’m just givin’ you shit,” laughed Nick. He was clearly having fun with this.

“Just don’t call me that, okay?”croaked Pete. If this was what the next three months were going to be like, he wasn’t sure he could take it.

“All right, all right-chill out, Petey,” came the smiling reply.

Pete made the most dismissive face he could muster and turned back to the window.

“So, what you been up to since the X&Y job? I haven’t seen you around, so I wasn’t sure if you were still working.”

Pete’s hopes of ignoring Nick into silence were dashed. It was clear he would have to go on the offensive.

“Look, I don’t get you,” he said to Nick, trying to keep his voice both low and laced with scorn. “Like what you did to Mr. Patronus back there. That poor guy just about expired while you did your stripper dance. What’s the point? Do you really want sweaty, closeted, middle-aged geography teachers drooling over you? Is that what gets you going? ‘Cause it sounds sick to me.”

“Dude! Why so pissed off? I was just having fun. You don’t think Mr. P was having fun? I guess you didn’t notice him limping off to the bathroom before we got on the plane. He came back five minutes later looking much more … comfortable. Wanna guess what he was doing in there?” Nick flashed his bright white, perfectly straight teeth in a smile of pure self-satisfaction. “I just like to help people. I think I helped an old guy out today.” He leaned back in his seat, with his hands behind his head.

Pete meant to fix his seatmate with an icy stare of judgment, but what he saw when Nick reclined was Mr. Patronus staring gape-mouthed at the broad expanse of tan, muscular flesh that was now exposed from Nick’s upstretched arms down to his narrow waist. The trip advisor would be joining the Mile-High Club, Solo Flight Division, as soon as the seat belt light went out.

Pete looked back at Nick, his icy stare of judgment tinged for only a split-second with wonder and perhaps even envy at what this guy could accomplish with the smallest gesture. It was only a momentary flash that Pete instantly buried, but Nick saw it. He saw it, and knew how the summer was going to go. He closed his eyes and settled in for the long flight.

They flew in silence and relative peace through the night. In the morning they landed, changed to a smaller plane for the flight further east, and then again about mid-day to an even smaller one, this one pulled reluctantly through the smoggy air by two asthmatic propellers. Flying had never been Pete’s favorite activity, and he was relieved when this last craft finally put down in the middle of a remote valley, at the edge of a small city far from the industrial urban center. This would be home for the next three months.

In the bustle of disembarking, Pete lost sight of Nick for a moment, and the hope rose inside him that he might escape his three-month prison sentence of rooming with that dolt. But Mr. Patronus, who had hardly gazed upon anyone or anything else for the last 16 hours, immediately located Nick making small talk with a ticket counter agent. Complete ignorance of her language didn’t hold him back, and the two looked ready to sneak off to a quiet broom closet for a personal study in foreign relations when Mr. Patronus descended upon them.

“Mr. Goodman! Please-the group is assembling over here. Thank you, uh-Svetlana, is it? Yes, thank you for your attention to Mr. Goodman, but I need him over here. I mean, our group is over here. Thank you!”

Mr. Patronus hustled Nick back to the group, and planted him directly next to Pete, who was less than thrilled to see the bane of his existence returned to him.

“Now, everyone, your hosts will be here shortly to take you to your accommodations. You have my phone number in your packet, so don’t hesitate to call me if you have any problems. I wish you the very best with your YES! experience, and I will see you in a month at our check-in meeting. Now go be good Americans, everyone!”

Nick turned to Pete. “Well, Petey, we’re here. Excited yet?”

“I’m tired, I’m hungry, and you smell,” cranked Pete. This was two-thirds true; Nick didn’t smell, and in fact had weathered the long journey suffering nothing worse than a becoming tousle.

“Now, you don’t sound like a good American, Petey. Don’t make me get Mr. Patronus on your ass.”

“I thought you were the one who wanted that troll on your ass,” Pete spat. “Or wasn’t that the point of making him drool over your stupid body?”

“Now, now, Petey. I was just having fun. I’ll try to behave appropriately from now on.” They both knew he didn’t mean it.

“Peter Dorcey? Nicholas Goodman?” The voice calling their names was accented, but still quite understandable. They turned to see two young men looking expectantly at them.

“Yes, here,” said Pete, advancing toward them. Nick followed.

“Pleased to meet you,” said the one of the pair who had called out their names. “I am Imre, and this is Karvaly. We will be your hosts this summer.” The two locals extended their hands, and Pete and Nick shook them in the firm manner that they hoped established them as Good Americans.

“Have you all of your baggage?” asked Imre, who spoke perfect, if somewhat BBC-inflected, English. Pete and Nick nodded. “Splendid. Shall we?” Imre gestured to the doors of the terminal.

“But, excuse me, Imre? Isn’t there supposed to be a, you know, um, adult person here?” Pete asked. “I mean, you seem very nice, but you’re our age.”

Imre smiled. “Yes, of course. My grandmother has hosted American students for years. But she had a fall last week, and cannot drive the car. So, Karvaly and I came.”

This seemed to put Pete’s mind at ease. He looked about for Mr. Patronus to catch his eye (this was easy because his eye was always on Nick) just to be sure that he saw them leave with Imre and Karvaly. Can’t be too careful in a foreign country. Mr. Patronus smiled and waved. Mostly, it seemed, at Nick’s departing ass.

* * *

The guys piled into the Imre’s grandmother’s car, which was a tiny, vaguely Ford-ish sedan of Eastern European origin, built with all of the craftsmanship that forced labor can muster. Pete attempted to close the door behind him, but found that it wouldn’t latch. However, Imre immediately placed all his weight on the accelerator, and the car roared, coughed, and then roared again down the street away from the airport. Pete decided he would just have to hang on and hope the door didn’t swing open. With his other hand he groped around for the seat belt, but instead found Nick’s hand. He recoiled, but not before Nick placed grabbed hold of it, and then held it as if they were a prom date in the back seat of their chaperone’s car. He smiled sweetly at Pete, who yanked his hand back.

With a whoosh Pete suddenly found himself hanging out over the street as the door he was holding swung open. He saw cobblestones rushing by below him, and he did the only thing he could think of: he screamed. Screamed like a little girl. Quickly Nick grabbed him by the arm and reeled him back into the car. Terrified, Pete panted and shook while Nick held on with both arms wrapped tightly around him.

“It’s okay, I’ve got you,” Nick said, with no trace of irony in his voice.

“Thanks, man. Holy shit that scared the fuck out of me.”

“Everyone all right back there?” Imre called brightly, as if people attempted to eject themselves from cars all the time around here.

Nick answered for them. “We’re fine. Beautiful city you’ve got here.”

“Thank you. With recent investments, primarily from the Belgians, it is less of a … of a … Karvaly, what was that word the last exchange students used?”

“Shit hole,” came Karvaly’s cheerful reply.

“Right. It is less of a shit hole now. I am glad you like it.”

Nick tried to suppress his laughter, with imperfect results.

“I’m okay now, you can let go,” whispered Pete.

Nick didn’t.

“Are you sure? Mr. Patronus would give anything to be in your place right now.”

“If Mr. Patronus had been in my place he’d be spread across the cobblestones in that square back there because there’s no way you could have lifted his fat ass back into the car. Plop, splat, no more fawning Mr. P. Now please let me go.”

Nick did, this time.

“Save someone’s life and that’s the thanks I get. Nice.” There was no bitterness in Nick’s voice- he was still just playing, and that infuriated Pete even more.

“Look, you got your wish and we’re going to be spending the summer in this shit hole, together. Fine. I don’t have to pretend to enjoy your company.”

Nick just stared, waiting for the next explosion from Pete.

“Stop looking at me that way. I could have gotten back in the car myself, and I wouldn’t have even needed to if you hadn’t been groping me in the first place. What was that all about, anyway?”

“You grabbed my hand, so I thought you wanted to get romantic. I was just trying to play along, Petey. No hard feelings.” Nick was enjoying this immensely.

Pete realized that he was being played, just as Nick had played with Mr. Patronus. But Mr. Patronus let himself in for it because Nick clearly gave him wood. So why was Nick doing this to him? Was it just to push his buttons?

“Whatever,” Pete spat conclusively, and turned to the view outside his window. They passed the rest of the drive in silence.

Imre’s grandmother lived in a small house clinging to the hillside above the town like a forgotten barnacle. As the car shuddered to a halt on the side of the road near the house, Pete could finally relax his grip on the door and step out.

It was late afternoon, exactly what time Pete had no idea as he had forgotten to adjust his watch for whatever time zone they now found themselves in. They were ushered into the house, which seemed to have been built around the time of the Vlad the Impaler. But it was clean and comfortably furnished, and Imre’s grandmother greeted them warmly and offered them food, as she would do twelve times daily for the next 3 months. They ate a light dinner, and then Imre stood.

“I am sure you would like to see your room, and get settled in after your long flight. Come with me, please.” He and Karvaly each hefted a suitcase, and led the guys up a narrow, winding staircase. The top floor of the house was divided by a narrow hallway, with doors leading to a room on either side. At the end of the hallway was a balcony that overlooked the city. As twilight claimed the valley, the lights of the city were beginning to twinkle far below them. Imre opened the door on the right side of the hallway, revealing a room with a bed, a dresser, and a desk. Large windows opened onto the balcony and the sweeping view beyond. It was beautiful. Pete hoped this would be his room, and Nick would be on the other side of the hall. He also hoped the door locked.

“This is where you will stay, and Karvaly and I are in the room across the hall,” Imre said.

“We’re sharing this room?” asked Pete, not wanting to seem ungrateful, but clearly alarmed.

“Yes. Is that a problem?”

“Well, there’s just the one bed,” began Pete.

“Which is just fine. It’s a great room, and million-dollar view. Thanks!” Nick spoke like a Good American.

“We will leave you to settle in. The bathroom is at the bottom of the stairs, to the left.”

“Yeah, thanks.” Pete managed to get out, his throat still clotted with the shock of this latest turn of events.

Imre and Karvaly left, closing the door behind them. Once their steps had died away down the stairs, Pete swiveled on Nick.

“Just fine? This is just fine? What the hell are you talking about this is just fine?” Pete’s voice rose steadily as he blustered at Nick, furious.

“Petey, buddy, chill. What are you going to do about it? It’s the room they have. Plus, I’m serious about the view-look at it!”

“But the bed! The bed! That thing is barely a double, We’re going to be sleeping on top of each other in that thing!”

“Heh, heh,” chuckled Nick, in his best lecherous growl.

“Oh fuck off!” Pete flung back at him.

“Look, Petey, you would be here no matter what. Are you pissed because it’s me you’re here with? If any of the other guys on the trip were here you’d still be sharing the bed, just with him instead of me. Does it really make all that much difference?”

“Nick, did you ever stop to think that maybe I was planning on rooming with a friend of mine, until you had Mr. Patronus cross off his name and write yours in instead? Did you even think of that before you did your cocktease shirtless bit and stuck me here with you? Did you?”

Nick, for the first time, looked contrite.

“Did you really have a friend lined up?”

Pete looked at Nick, angry but a put a little off balance by the genuine note of concern in Nick’s voice.

“Well, no, but I could have. You had no way of knowing.”

“I think you’ll find, Petey, that I have ways of knowing a lot of things.” Nick turned to unpack, leaving Pete to fume in silence.

About twenty minutes later, there was a soft knock on the door.

“It is Imre. May I enter?”

“Yes, of course, come on in, Imre,” called Pete, who was putting away the last of his things.

“As it is your first night here, Karvaly and I wondered whether you would like to go out with us to the city, or if you would like to rest.”

“Hell, yeah, let’s see the town!” came Nick’s immediate reply.

Imre and Nick turned to Pete, expectantly. He sighed.

“Well, I am kind of tired, but it would be nice to see some of the city. All right, let’s go.”

The four young men climbed back into the rattling car and started down the hill. This time, Pete made sure that Nick got the bum door. He slammed it shut, and it latched with a smart clicking noise. Bastard, thought Pete.

They entered the city just as the sky was darkening from the lapis blue they had seen from the balcony. The city was medieval in origin, and had been renovated, it seemed, at about the time that America was declaring its independence. There were columned buildings in stately disrepair on every block; it was a city of remembered grandeur. The car pulled up in front of one such pile, and Imre switched the engine off.

“On Friday nights Karvaly and I like to visit the baths,” Imre announced. “Come, join us.”

Pete and Nick climbed out of the car, and stood before the marble edifice that loomed above them.

“Baths?” asked Pete. “You mean, like swimming?”

“Yes, there is swimming. And baths for soaking in,” explained Karvaly. “We meet many friends here, and talk. Come.”

“But I don’t have a swimsuit with me,” said Pete, rooted to his place by the car.

“A suit? You swim wearing a suit?” Imre replied in disbelief.

“Not a suit like a suit of clothes. Like trunks, you know, shorts for swimming in.”

“Ah! I see,” said Imre. “No worries, Pete. No one wears a suit in the baths. Come now.”

“But,” Pete answered, to the backs of the other three as they walked briskly up the steps to the front door. He really had no choice but to follow.

He reached the others just as they made their way through the huge arching doorway. Imre paid for the four of them to enter, and then guided them to the dressing room. In the distance they could here splashing and animated conversation in the strange, crackling tongue of the locals.

The dressing room was functionally designed, with cubbies along all four walls and benches in the middle. Imre and Karvaly immediately began undressing, placing their clothing in a single cubby. Nick joined in immediately, never one to let a chance to get naked slip through his grasp. The three of them were completely nude before Pete even had his shirt off.

Pete had never been all that comfortable being naked around other people. He had competed in gymnastics since grade school, but in all those years he still felt some anxiety when changing in the presence of other people. And now he wasn’t just changing, but rather going completely naked. It’s not that he had anything to be ashamed of-he was in the best shape of his life-but nudity just made him anxious.

“Come on, Petey, let’s see that hot body of yours,” cat-called Nick, who was impatient to get to the water.

Pete had by this time figured that the best way to deal with Nick was simply to ignore him, and so he turned away and slipped off his last remaining item of clothing, his underwear. He placed them neatly in the cubby and then turned to follow the others out in to the main bathing area.

Here the architecture of the building opened up into a paradise of smooth marble, blue water, and bubbling fountains. It was looked less like a bath house than a set for an aquatic production number in a 30’s musical. And everywhere Pete looked there were naked men. Everywhere.

It suddenly occurred to Pete that the only thing that made him more anxious than being nude was seeing other people nude. But there was nowhere to look where he couldn’t see naked men. They lay on chaises talking, they jumped into the water, they paddled lazily in the pools. They were everywhere, and they were all about Pete’s own age. This struck him as a bit odd.

“Damn,” Nick breathed, as he took in the scene. As anxious as Pete was, Nick was elated to just the same degree. He loved being naked, and he loved being around naked people. “Look at these guys. I don’t see anyone here over, like, 21.”

“Friday nights are for the young men only,” explained Karvaly, helpfully. “It is when our friends are here.”

They made their way to the largest pool, and Imre, Karvaly, and Nick jumped in immediately, joyfully. Pete stepped in cautiously. He wouldn’t even attempt a naked cannonball like Nick had done. Who knew what that might do to one’s testicles? Pete shuddered. As he paddled about in the warm water, he realized what it was that struck him as so unusual-every single penis he saw, and he saw dozens, no matter where he looked, was uncircumcised. Pete rarely saw an uncut dick in his high school locker room, but here it was clearly the norm. There was something about penises in their natural state that made Pete even more anxious. He just wanted to get out of here.

Meanwhile, the other three guys were playing like kids in the pool, jumping in, dunking each other, splashing. They tried to engage Pete in their games, but he glided off into a calm corner of the pool to sit and soak and sulk in solitude. It was during one of their more boisterous games that Karvaly slipped on the marble pool deck and fell into the water, his head smashing against the edge as he went in. The noise was horrifying, and Imre immediately rushed to where Karvaly had slid under water. With Nick’s help he hauled him out of the pool and lay him down on the floor. Karvaly was not conscious, and Imre, clearly agitated, crouched over him, his hands on Karvaly’s cheeks. He slapped them gently, hoping to stir consciousness in his unresponsive friend. Finally, he leaned in close to listen for breathing; Karvaly suddenly grabbed Imre’s face and pulled him down to kiss him sloppily on the mouth. Clearly, Karvaly was going to be okay. The boys resumed their play, only slightly less recklessly than before.

After an hour or so of watery abandon, the foursome showered, dried, dressed, and headed out to the car.

“Would you wish to return home, or have a drink at our pub?” asks Imre, when they are all piled back into the sedan.

“Oh, hell, yeah, let’s get a drink,” Nick answered, without a moment’s hesitation.

“Nick,” whispered Pete. “We’re not supposed to drink while we’re here.”

“Come on, Petey, we’re legal here, remember? And who’s going to find out?”

“But we signed the contract that said we wouldn’t.”

“Pete, I swear. You need to live a little, bud. And I’m the guy who’s going to help you do it. Imre, my good man, drive on. To the pub!”

“To the pub!” shouted Imre and Karvaly in unison.

They were shortly parked in front of the bar, which was as shabby and dark as the bath house had been grand and airy. Inside, the Good Americans were treated to the local alcoholic speciality: the coarsest moonshine, perfumed with exotic herbs that grew high in the surrounding mountains. The effect was something like jasmine-scented gasoline. Pete and Nick were handed shot glasses brimming with the thick, kelp-green liquid, and the four touched their glasses together before slamming the shots down in one burning gulp. Immediately another set of glasses appeared, and that’s about the last thing that Pete remembered about his evening on the town.

* * *

Pete awoke with a start at the cawing of a breathtakingly ugly bird perched on the balcony. First light was just starting to break, and the room was filled with the pinks and oranges of the rising sun.

Pete blinked, and blinked again, wondering at what point in the evening his eyelids had been replaced with sandpaper. Then he looked around the room.

It was with some surprise that he noted that he was in bed. It was with some alarm that he noted he was naked in bed. It was with a rising sense of panic that he noted that he was not alone in bed. What the hell happened last night? The bulk next to him shifted, and he saw Nick’s face looking up from the pillow.

“Morning, sunshine,” Nick sang out, smiling, as he rubbed his eyes. “How’s Petey this fine morning?”

“Nick, I’m naked.”

“So?”

“I don’t sleep naked,” Pete explained.

“I do,” replied Nick. “I would have asked you your sleeping preferences last night, but you were a little out of it. Actually, since you hurled all over the inside of Imre’s grandma’s car on the way home, I had to get you out of those clothes.”

The enormity of what happened dropped on Pete like a safe in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

“You got me out of my clothes?”

“You’re welcome. Like I said, I would have asked you what you wanted to wear to bed, but I was afraid if you tried to talk you would puke again. So I just stripped you down and carried to you to bed.”

“Carried me?”

“Well, I had to get you up here from the bathroom somehow, right?”

“Why was I in the bathroom?”

“Pete, I just told you that you horked all over yourself in the car. I had to clean you up.”

Pete’s mind was racing. In the two minutes he’d been awake, here’s what he had learned: that Nick had stripped the clothes of his unconscious body, washed him, then carried him naked up the stairs and into bed, and then climbed in next to him, naked, where they then slept all night, naked. Oh my god.

“Nick, I don’t know what to say. I’m so embarrassed.”

“Ah, man, don’t be. See, I’m naked too,” and with this, Nick threw the covers off his side of the bed and confirmed that he was, indeed, naked. And that his morning erection had yet to subside. It throbbed angrily on his abdomen, reaching nearly to his navel. “Heh. I get kinda boned up in the morning.”

Pete ignored Nick’s rude tumescence. “I didn’t mean I was embarrassed about being naked. I meant I was embarrassed about how I acted last night.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. It probably wouldn’t have happened if we had given you a little more time to sober up before we left the pub. But once Mr. Patronus showed up we kind of had to run.”

“Mr. Patronus was there last night?”

“Yeah, funny coincidence, huh? Out of all the bars in the city, he goes to that one. But don’t worry, we slipped out the back before he saw us.”

Pete hung his head and wondered how he had managed to fall so far so fast. He was always the good kid, the solid one. Now he was being spirited out of bars, throwing up in cars, and sleeping naked next to this amoral thing with the huge morning wood. Fuck.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and got to his feet, stumbling a bit as his sense of balance returned from taking the night off. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do; it was clearly too early to go downstairs for breakfast, but he couldn’t stay in this room with naked Nick, who had drifted back into dreamland with the covers wrapped around his knees. His cock still stabbed the air as he dozed. Pete had to get out of this room.

He pulled on a pair of shorts, afraid that rifling through the dresser for a clean pair of underwear would awaken his bedmate, and a conscious Nick was the last thing he wanted. He pulled the door open silently, and walked into the hallway and out the door to the balcony. The morning view was breathtaking, the air a bit chilly. The freshness of the breeze brought Pete back to himself, and he started to reflect on what had happened to him in the last several days. One thing he knew for sure: wherever Nick went, trouble followed. How was he going to make it through the coming three months?

Pete was startled by a creak of furniture and a voice talking, somewhere, quietly. Someone else was awake at this ungodly hour. Pete wasn’t sure that this was a good thing, as he was finally starting to calm his jangled nerves in the solitude of the placid morning. He stood a statue, listening.

The sounds were coming from the room opposite his and Nick’s. He looked in that direction, and saw that the window of their room was separated from the balcony by a trellis with a flowering vine growing up its side. Pete approached the trellis, intending to take a closer look at the intricate flowers that pinkly dotted the vine; when he reached it he realized, to his horror, that he could see through the trellis directly into Imre and Karvaly’s room. His first instinct was to dodge back onto the other side of the balcony and pretend he had seen nothing, but it was what he saw next that froze him in place.

Karvaly was lying on the bed, in a recumbent pose much like the one Pete had left Nick in: lying on his back, the covers pulled off, and, yes, fully erect. Imre was walking back toward the bed, having just pulled the curtains open-that must have been the noise Pete had heard. Imre was, of course, naked. My god, Pete thought, does no one in this country wear clothes?

Imre reached the bed, and stood for a moment looking out the window. Pete panicked as Imre looked right at him, but he seemed not to notice that he was there. Perhaps the trellis hid him, Pete thought, relieved. It would be difficult to explain why he was looking through his hosts’ window while they got dressed in the morning.

Except that they weren’t getting dressed. In fact, Imre seemed to be getting back into bed. He put one knee on the bed, and craned over to where Karvaly lay. He lowered his had down to Karvaly’s and then … and then.

“Oh, fuck,” Pete tried not to say, but it slipped out in a whisper anyway.

Imre leaned down to Karvaly, and he kissed him. Not a “good morning we’re European so we kiss even though we’re both straight men” kind of kiss. This was an open mouth, full tongue action, hard-R rated kind of kiss. Pete, who had stopped breathing when the kiss began, was about to pass out from lack of oxygen to his brain when something happened that made him suck in a lungful, all at once. Imre reached down and wrapped his hand around Karvaly’s cock.

Pete desperately rationalized that perhaps Imre had lost his balance and had grabbed Karvaly’s erection to keep himself from falling off the bed, much as he had grabbed Nick’s hand by accident in the car yesterday. Except that Imre’s hand was stroking up and down Karvaly’s shaft, rising and falling slowly, making the already sizeable appendage grow even more.

Pete wanted to leave, but he couldn’t. He would tell himself later that it was because he didn’t want to make noise and give himself away as some kind of pervert voyeur, but he knew that the guys on the bed wouldn’t have noticed him even if he had started playing the trumpet. They were simply in their own world.

As Pete watched, Karvaly wrapped his arms around Imre and pulled him close. The two embraced, their entire bodies coming into contact, and they rolled around as if contesting good- naturedly for the upper hand, coming to rest sideways across the bed. It was Karvaly who ended up on top, and he neatly swiveled around, which brought him face-to-prick with Imre. He leaned forward, mouth open, and captured the head of Imre’s now-erect penis. His tongue danced around the tip, and he kissed up and down the length of it. He wrapped his hand around the base of Imre’s cock, and then stroked up, making the foreskin gather over the tip. That extra skin, which Pete was so conscious of lacking last night, disappeared into Karvaly’s mouth. He pursed his lips around it, and pulled back, stretching the foreskin until it thinned, veiny in the morning light. He then lunged forward and stuffed an impossible amount of Imre’s long, gracefully arching cock into his mouth. Pete could hear Imre moan and babble with pleasure.

Not to be outdone, Imre took advantage of his position between Karvaly’s powerful legs. The rather massive cock and balls of his friend dangled above his face, but that was not, apparently, what he wanted. He reached up, joined his hands around the small of Karvaly’s back, and pushed him forward so that his groin pressed down against Imre’s throat. That left his buttocks spread open wide, directly in front of Imre’s face.

Who’d want a view like that, Pete thought. He’s looking right at the guy’s asshole.

And then it became clear why Imre wanted that view. He lifted his head and jammed his tongue directly into Karvaly’s anus. Pete retched involuntarily, but luckily his gasping was completely obscured by Karvaly’s own as Imre attacked his ass. Pete watched helplessly as Imre pressed his mouth again and again into the cleft between Karvaly’s smooth, round cheeks. Until now, kissing someone’s ass had been a figure of speech. Now Pete had seen someone do it. And apparently enjoy it. This was fucked up.

Karvaly now pulled Imre’s legs up into the air, and he dove down between them to root out Imre’s own asshole. The two of them writhed on the bed, each attached by the lips to the anus of the other, clearly in a transport of delight. Suddenly, Karvaly released his lips from Imre’s ass and swiveled around again. Pete was astounded to see them kissing again. Didn’t they know where those mouths had been?

The two ground away against each other on the bed, their cocks rubbing wildly together. Each time Karvaly slid his cock up Imre’s hard stomach, his foreskin would roll back, exposing the glistening head of his prick. Then as he slid down, the skin would slide up to cover the tip, bunching up, while Imre’s longer, thinner tool did the opposite. The continued this for several minutes, and then Pete noticed both men stiffening. Their muscles stood out in stark relief as they gripped each other even more urgently, and then it happened. From both cocks at once jets of semen spurted out, as they continued to rub up and down each other. Soon their torsos were coated with their mingled seed, and still they kissed, and slid up and down, until the cum was rubbed into their bodies. Only then did they roll onto their sides, still kissing passionately.

Pete stepped back from the trellis, panting. What the hell was going on here? Had the world gone completely fucking mad? Did people really do that to each other? And what was that dripping on his foot?

He looked down and saw, to his horror, that the front of his shorts was darkening; a growing wet spot radiated from his crotch while drops of white landed on his bare feet. Pete staggered, loosing more of his own semen from inside his shorts, which rained down onto his feet. Holy fucking shit, what had just happened?

Pete numbly made his way back into the hallway, and opened the door as quietly as he could. Nick snored softly, still naked, sprawled across the entire bed. Pete took off his shorts and wadded them up tightly. He would have to find a way to discreetly wash the sperm out of those later. He mopped up his legs and feet, removing the drops and tracks left by the hot fluid as it ran down his body.

It was with relief that he was finally clean, though he wasn’t sure he would ever feel truly clean again.

Nick rolled over, and sniffed the air. “Nasty, dude,” he mumbled in a sleepy voice. “Good for you, rubbing one out. You’ll feel better.” And he promptly resumed breathing the deep breaths of sleep.

Pete sat on the edge of the bed, devastated. He had no idea what to think, no way to process what had happened this morning.

Across the hall, Karvaly stopped kissing Imre for a moment to ask, “Was that Peter on the balcony?”

“Yes, I think it was,” replied Imre.

“I would have expected that from Nicholas, but Peter surprises me.”

“Well, you know these Americans,” murmured Imre, drowsily. “Oversexed and repressed at the same time. I do not pretend to understand them.”

“Mmm,” grunted Karvaly, as the two boys drifted back to sleep.

* * *

At breakfast a couple of hours later, Pete searched Imre and Karvaly for any sign of the intimacy he had seen so exuberantly demonstrated in their dawn romp. He saw nothing unusual, which, as usual, made him start to doubt that he’d seen anything at all. He couldn’t trust his senses anymore, it seemed, nor could he trust his own penis, which seemed to have developed a mind of its own lately. He had never, ever, had so much as a wet dream-at least before the one involving Nick, who was at the moment wolfing down another of Grandma’s stony pancakes- and now his prick was burping up semen at the slightest provocation. Upon reflection, we was forced to admit that what Imre and Karvaly had done was hardly slight provocation , but still.

“You okay, Petey?” Nick asked, full of cheer.

“Yeah, fine.” Pete was sticking with his resolution to provide as little as possible in the way of raw material for Nick to work with, and to this end he accented his assurance with a chipper grin. Three more months of this, he thought through gritted teeth.

The weekend lay before them, and with Monday being the official start of their YES! work assignments, all four boys set out to see the sights of the city over the next two days. Everyone stayed clothed, no one got drunk, and they learned a bit of history along the way. Entirely satisfactory, to Pete’s mind; a horror show of boredom to Nick’s.

Their work began in earnest on Monday, and they quickly settled into the routine of it. Every morning Imre or Karvaly would drive them down the hill to the central market, where the YES! team would assign them to a work detail of some kind. One day they shelved ancient books in the sepulchral old library, another they fed lambs from bottles at a farm high in the mountains, and one day found them in the pouring rain, trying to free a milk truck of WWII vintage from a deep rut on the way to the orphanage. It was hard but satisfying work, and by mid-summer Pete and Nick were enjoying themselves. Nick had finally decided to ease up on Pete, and Pete had carefully built a wall in his mind around Imre and Karvaly and their ass-licking tendencies.

One late July morning found the two of them, alone, working to rebuild a goat bridge over a small creek. It was cool enough that the work was pleasant, but warm enough that Nick could strip to the waist. Of course, he would strip to the waist in a blizzard, gladly. He and Pete stacked stones in silence, as they did most things these days.

“Hey, Pete,” Nick said, finally breaking the silence.

This was the first time he had called Pete by his actual name in several weeks, and it took him a bit by surprise.

“Yeah, Nick?”

“You know, this isn’t bad.”

“What isn’t bad?”

“This whole service thing. I mean, I thought it would be a nightmare, but I actually kind of like it now.”

Pete stopped and studied Nick for a moment.

“What changed it for you?”

Nick paused, a 100 pound stone cradled in his arms, the muscles across his entire torso taut.

“I think it was that orphan milk truck couple of weeks ago. We were in the ditch, pushing and yanking on that thing, and all I could think about was how I was getting a great workout. I mean, look at these,” and here he flexed a series of muscles that would have blown the top of Mr. Patronus’s head off. “But then when we got the truck free, and we rode it to the orphanage, and those kids came up to us to thank us, I mean-shit, that was amazing. I just kind of felt something change in my attitude about this place, and it’s kind of been that way since.”

Pete was astounded by Nick’s thoughtful recounting of the experience. He had no idea that his muscle-headed roommate thought such things.

“Nick, I’m impressed. In spite of your best efforts, your parents may have been right to send you here. You may have grown.”

“Well, my lats have grown, and my delts and …” Nick grinned, flexing his pectorals on alternate sides, making his nipples jump up in turn.

Same old Nick after all.

“Bastard,” muttered Pete, and he went back to his stone pile.

Things continued pacifically for the remaining weeks of Pete and Nick’s service. By day they worked, and in the evenings there was often a cultural event, usually involving complicated dances to accordion music. Pete found an excuse every Friday evening not to accompany the others to the baths, and so avoided the most fraught parts of the experience.

As they completed their final week of service, they finally had a week of free time before they were due to return home. The four guys talked over some ideas for how to spend the week, and they decided on a backpacking trip into the mountains above the city. Imre had described a place that he and Karvaly often spent time late in the summer; they usually were the only ones there, because the weather in the mountains was notoriously unpredictable in August. That sounded ideal to Pete, who was looking forward to some peace and quiet in the wilderness.

There was, however, one thing he was not looking forward to, and on their last Sunday night in the country, as they organized their packs for the hike into the mountains early the next morning, Pete couldn’t hold his silence about it any longer.

“Nick?”

“Yeah, Petey?”

“Have you noticed anything … unusual … about Imre and Karvaly?”

“Like have they changed their hair or something?”

“No, I mean about the two of them together.”

Nick stopped cramming things into this pack for a moment, and looked thoughtful. “What do you mean, together?”

“Well, I’ve been watching them, and I think they might be together. You know, like a couple. Like gay.”

Nick considered this, then nodded as if something had been settled inside him.

“Good for them. Have you seen my socks-the gray ones?”

“Nick, did you hear what I said? I think they’re gay, and they’re lovers.”

“Yeah, I heard you. I know what the word means. And I say good for them.”

Pete was dumbfounded.

“But, Nick, they could be on the other side of the hall-right now-doing it.”

“Oh god, Pete, will you get a grip? I cannot believe that you are wound up so tight that the very idea that two people might be having sex somewhere in the same time zone as you makes you crazy. Get over yourself.”

Pete couldn’t think of how to respond to his outburst. He just sank to the bed and sat, looking at Nick.

“I just don’t get you,” Nick continued. “What is it about sex that freaks you out so much?”

“It doesn’t freak me out,” replied Pete, defensively.

“Oh the hell it doesn’t. You can’t stand the idea of those two guys having a little fun together, or anyone else for that matter. Good god, Pete, can’t you just have a wank and chill out?”

“I don’t do that.”

Nick burst out laughing. “Good one. You do it every Tuesday night, when you think I’ve gone to sleep. You get up out of bed, tiptoe to the corner over there, and then you take it out and beat it for 5 minutes, tops. Then you make this kind of ‘Unh! Unh! Unh!’ noise-three grunts, never two, never four-and then you mop up your load in a tissue and throw it away somewhere.”

Pete was horrified, but Nick continued, warming to his subject now.

“What I don’t get is that it never seems to help. You blow a load out of that, I’ll admit, impressive piece of meat you got there, but it doesn’t help you relax at all. Next morning, you’re right back to being the little Puritan.”

Pete’s face was on fire. He had no idea that Nick knew about his Tuesday night routine. He felt violated. He felt angry.

“Oh, and you’re the perfectly adjusted one. Tell me, have you had anything even remotely like normal sex this entire trip, or has it all been flashing your slutty body at dirty old men? Jerking off once in a while is normal-or do you need someone watching you in order to get it up? Perhaps you should call Mr. Patronus so you can give him a lap dance.”

“Fuck you, Petey. I’ve had more sex since we’ve been here than you’ve had in your entire life.”

“Oh yeah? How do you manage that?”

“Well you know that pretty girl in the market who sells us those gravel biscuits in the morning? Well, she’s been riding the Nick train three days a week-we do it in the back of her market stall while you wait for the bus to take us to work. And that convent on the east end of town? A gold mine. Every week a group of them ships out for a lifetime in a remote village way back in the mountains somewhere, and I’ve gotten my knob polished by just about every fucking one of them before they get on that bus. They’re animals, man-it’s like it’s the last sex they’re ever going to have. Heh, I guess it is.”

He paused, smiling at the memory.

“So don’t tell me I’m repressed because I haven’t jacked off with you watching. I’ve been plenty busy.”

“Ugh. Whatever. I don’t need to know. Look, I just don’t think I could be in the next tent over as those two churn each other’s ass to butter. So, could we please arrange it so that we split them up, and each of us share a tent with one of them?”

“I cannot believe you, Petey. Life offers those two some happiness in this shit hole of a country, and you just want to be sure that you don’t have to hear it. Whatever. I wouldn’t want you to be offended, so I’ll play along. But I get Imre, because if he loses control and tries to cornhole me in the tent he’s got the thinner dick. I think Karvaly would tear me a new one.”

Nick laughed, reveling in his ability to completely freak Pete out with his casual mention of anatomy.

“Yeah, thanks a lot. I appreciate the support,” Pete hissed as he stomped out of the room.

* * *

The next morning the group of four headed on foot up the road from Imre’s grandmother’s house toward the trail head about a mile away. It was a beautiful morning, and some of the bitterness of last night’s conversation had faded between Nick and Pete. Once on the trail, they walked in single file for several hours in silence. They had lunch, and kept walking. Imre and Karvaly’s secret camping site was certainly remote.

It was nearing evening when they finally rounded a bend in the trail and saw the lake. The waning light reflected off the still water, and it was clear they had the entire place to themselves. Tired and sweating, Imre and Karvaly stripped off their clothes and jumped into the lake. Nick followed suit.

“I do love these guys. Any chance to get naked, they’ll take it.”

He leapt naked into the lake as well. Pete turned to setting up the camp, hearing the joyful splashing of the other three as they cavorted, nude, in the clear water now ablaze with the colors of sunset.

During dinner Nick dutifully brought up the sleeping arrangements, and everyone agreed to Pete’s plan. Moments like this nudged Pete to reconsider his view of Nick, but then he would do something typically arrogant or narcissistic, and Pete would give it up.

Finally, long after darkness had fallen and the fire was dying away, the boys settled into their respective tents. By dim lantern light, Pete observed Karvaly going through his preparations for bed. These seemed to consist of shucking off all of his clothes and sliding, naked, into his sleeping bag. Pete kept his t-shirt and hiking shorts on.

“Good night, Peter,” Karvaly said, somewhat drowsily.

“Good night, Karvaly,” returned Pete.

But Pete couldn’t sleep, and tried for only a few minutes.

“Karvaly?”

“Yes, Peter?”

“Can I ask you something?

“Of course.”

Pete swallowed. This was not an easy topic to start.

“Karvaly, are you and Imre … um .. you know … errr-a couple?

“What do you mean, Peter? There are two of us, so we are a couple, yes.”

“No, I mean couple, as in the sense of lovers. Are you and Imre lovers?”

“We love each other, yes. Imre and I have been best friends for years.”

“That’s not what I mean. I mean, are you and Imre ‘in love’ with each other?”

Karvaly was silent for a moment.

“Peter, I am sorry that my English is not as strong as Imre’s. Perhaps I do not understand the question you ask me.”

“What I mean is, are you and Imre … well … lovers?”

Karvaly considered this for a moment.

“I love Imre, more than I love anyone else in the world. I have no family, and Imre and his grandmother have given me a home. We are different in many ways, Imre and myself, but that is what makes us friends.”

“Different in what ways?”

“Imre is more outgoing than I am, and his sense of humor can often be coarse. I sometimes must remind him to behave himself in public. But those qualities are things I lack, and so we balance each other. That is why I love him.”

There was silence in the tent. Then Karvaly spoke again.

“Do you not love Nicholas?”

“What? No! No, I don’t love Nick. He only loves himself.”

“But when you were sick, on your first night here, he took care of you. Imre and I tried to help him clean you and carry you upstairs, but he refused. He carried you in his arms, Peter, and he laid you on the bed as gently as one would place a baby in its crib. And then he sat on the bed with you and kept a damp cloth on your forehead and held you until you fell asleep.”

Pete was stunned. The idea of Nick caring for him that way made his stomach twist.

“Is that not love, Peter?”

“Look, Karvaly, all I was asking about you and Imre is whether you are gay.”

“We may not be happy all of the time, as life is sometimes hard in this country. But, yes, we are gay more often than we are unhappy.”

This was driving Pete insane.

“No, Karvaly, look. You and Imre, you are more than best friends, right? You have sex, right? That’s what I mean by gay.”

“Oh! I see!” said Karvaly. “You mean ‘gay’ as they do on television. No, Imre and I are not gay.”

“But you two … I mean I saw you …” sputtered Pete in return.

“Imre and I have-what is the word … fucking? Yes! We make fucking. But we are not gay homosexuals.”

“But, if the two of you have sex, then you are gay.”

Karvaly sighed in confusion.

“I do not understand what you mean by gay, I think, Peter.”

Pete was at the end of his rope.

“What I mean is that if the two of you kiss, and you suck each other’s dicks, and you fuck each other in the ass, that means you’re gay. Gay means that you do with Imre what normal men do with women.”

Karvaly stiffened in his sleeping bag, offended.

“Peter, Imre and I are normal men. We want to marry one day.”

“See, that’s what we call ‘gay marriage,’ and it means that you keep fucking Imre into old age.” Pete thought for a moment. “Do they allow that here?”

Karvaly laughed. “Men marrying each other? I have heard of such things in other countries, but that is not what we want. No, we will marry women, when we are older.”

“Why?”

“Because we love women. We want families. I want my children to grow up with Imre’s children.”

“But if you love Imre, and you have sex with him, why are you going to marry a woman?”

“Because that is what people do.”

“Not gay people.”

Karvaly sighed. He was beginning to think that the American school system had failed its charges in more than just mathematics.

“Peter, do you love women?”

“Yes,” came the reply, before Karvaly had even finished the question.

“Yes,” repeated Karvaly. “And have you had sex with women?”

“Yes,” answered Pete, “a couple, anyway.”

“And Nicholas, has he had sex with women?”

“A lot, to hear him tell it.”

“These women that you have had sex with-did you love them?”

Pete considered this for a moment.

“Well, one of them, I guess. I thought so at the time, anyway.”

“And Nicholas, do you think he loved every women he has had sex with?”

“I’m not sure Nick loves anyone who isn’t him.”

“This is what I do not understand. You and Nicholas have had sex with many women, with no love. And yet you will someday marry a woman, whom you love. Imre and I, we have sex, and we love each other. One day we will each find a woman to love, and have sex with her. For us sex and love go together. For you, they do not, but someday they will, of a sudden? This I do not understand.”

“But sex with women is different.”

“Yes, I imagine it is. I have never had sex with a woman. Tell me, what happens to all of those women who have sex with you and Nicholas? Will they find someone to marry, once they have lost their … their … what is the word?”

“Virginity?”

“Yes, virginity. Once they have lost that, can they ever be married?”

“Of course.”

“Ah. In our country, women who have sex without being married are sent to the convent. No one will marry them.”

So that explains Nick’s success with the Sisters of Valedictory Fellatio, thought Pete.

“But, Karvaly, in the US we don’t require women to be virgins in order to get married. That would be medieval.”

“Peter, we do not expect it just of women. Imre and I have never had sex with a woman. We have only each other. I will be a virgin on my wedding day, and so will my wife.”

“But you’ll have had sex with Imre. Doesn’t that count?”

“I do not know what you mean. I have sex with Imre because it keeps me from threatening the virtue of the women I know, and my own. I will love two people in my life, Imre and my wife.”

This was all too much for Pete.

“I need to get some air,” he mumbled, and he slipped out of his bag and through the flap of the tent.

There was an unexpected chill in the air as Pete stepped out of the tent; the moon that had lit their campsite an hour ago was obscured now and then by heavy clouds, and the wind was whistling in the trees. This, Pete remembered, was why no one camped this high in the mountains in August: sudden storms could sweep through without warning, dropping short-lived but still shocking drifts of snow.

But his need to get away from the tent, from this strange man and his mixed-up ideas about sex and love and marriage, overwhelmed his hesitation about the weather. As he walked past the cold fire pit, he could hear giggling and the rustling of sleeping bags coming from the other tent, where Nick and Imre were supposed to be sleeping but clearly weren’t. What were they doing? Pete didn’t want to know, didn’t want to think about it, and so he stomped away toward the lake.

The wind was definitely up now, and Pete was dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt, barefoot. He shivered slightly as he stood watching the wind make patterns on the surface of the water in the broken moonlight. He tried to think.

What the hell was wrong with everyone? What was wrong with him? Why did everyone have some bizarre relationship with sex that he couldn’t even imagine? Nick wielding his body like a weapon to make money or to turn Mr. Patronus into a drooling idiot, Imre and Karvaly having wild sex with each other in the interest of sexual purity, all of those uncut cocks bobbing in the pool at the baths. How did all of these people figure out what they wanted? When would Pete figure out what he wanted? Why did this all have to be so complicated?

He stewed on this for a while, then realized that what he had thought were insects bumping against him was actually something falling from the sky-sleet? rain? snow? Whatever it was it was cold, and he shivered over this entire body. Suddenly the wind roared and he was wet through with icy water, his hair plastered to his head. He turned and ran back to the tent as quickly as he could in the stormy darkness, guided by the lantern that Karvaly had placed outside the flap.

He threw himself into the tent, seizing with the cold. Karvaly sat up in his sleeping bag and began drying him roughly with a towel, but the shivering simply wouldn’t stop.

“Come,” said Karvaly, “Take off these clothes. They are soaked and you cannot warm yourself wearing them.”

Pete was too cold, inside and out, to argue, and he pulled his shirt off over his head. With shaking hands he tried to unbutton his shorts, but could not get his fingers to work properly. Karvaly pushed his hands away and worked the fly open himself, and with one strong yank he pulled Pete’s shorts and underwear down and off. Then he unzipped his sleeping bag, sliding the zipper down the length of his legs to his feet, and held it open.

“Come, Peter, this is the only way to get warm again.”

Pete stopped shivering for just a second to see Karvaly clearly in the dim lantern light. He was naked, of course, and so warm, and his arms were open wide, and without thinking any more about it he rolled over into the bag, his back against Karvaly’s chest, their feet tangled together.

Karvaly closed the bag over them, and then reached down and zipped it up. Having done so, he left his arm draped over Pete, who shivered less and less as Karvaly’s warmth swaddled him from head to toe. Exhausted, he drifted toward sleep.

“Thank you, Karvaly,” he murmured, then began breathing the deep breaths of sleep.

“You are welcome, my friend,” murmured Karvaly, just as softly, and then he kissed Pete on the head. “Sleep well.”

* * *

The morning brought the crackling of a campfire, the hushed but happy voices of Imre and Nick warming themselves. The sun shone through the fabric of the tent over Pete’s head, and as he adjusted to the light he reveled in the warmth of his sleeping bag wrapped tightly around him. It wasn’t, of course, his sleeping bag. It wasn’t even Karvaly’s sleeping bag that was so snug. It was Karvaly himself, whose arms were still around Pete, whose chest pressed and relaxed in slow cadence against his back, whose legs were entwined with his. And what, Pete wondered, was that knot of heat pressed against the small of his back? Oh. My. God.

Pete stopped breathing for a moment, panic pressing on his chest. But in a lightning moment of perception, he imagined himself telling Nick about how he woke up this morning, and how he had freaked out and pushed Karvaly off of him and called him a pervert and ran out of the tent with his virtue barely intact. He knew how the conversation would go.

“Wait, so this guy basically gives you the very heat of his body to save you from your stupidity- induced hypothermia, and you blow the rape whistle in his face?” Nick would ask. “Your sexual repression has finally made you insane-you’re aware of that, right?”

Pete knew how foolish he would feel as Nick wound up his mocking monologue, and he made a conscious decision to not give him the chance. He would stay right here, and he would be better for it.

Karvaly shifted behind him, a little stretching twist accompanied by a tighter hug around Pete. Pete, for his part, tried to focus on taking deep, calm breaths, and he was doing well at it until he felt it. Down in the small of his back he felt the pressure. Karvaly’s penis was waking up, and it too was stretching. It throbbed and grew impossibly hot as it grew improbably large. Pete pressed his eyes closed and imagined himself already out by the fire, where he would make small talk with Nick and Imre while the coffee brewed. Karvaly’s penis was now crawling up Pete’s back-it felt a foot long by this point. Focus. What would they talk about by the fire? Yes, it’s a fine morning-to think there had been snow on the ground at dawn! Pete could now feel the foreskin of Karvaly’s cock peeling back down the length of his shaft as it dragged on his warm skin. What would be for breakfast? Probably sodomy and eggs. What? Was Karvaly’s cock wet at the tip?

Pete jolted, unable to control himself any longer. Karvaly stirred, and turned a bit, which relieved the pressure that Pete felt on his back.

“Good morning, Peter,” rumbled Karvaly’s voice, thick with sleep. “You are better this morning?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” Pete replied, doing his best to turn away from Karvaly’s member, which was still pressing against him. At least it was now throbbing against his hip rather than his ass. He felt a momentary pang on behalf of Karvaly’s future wife who, in addition to having to share him with Imre, would have to find some way to accommodate that slab. Wait, was Pete really imagining people having sex?

“Karvaly?”

“Yes, Peter?”

“Thank you.”

Karvaly smiled broadly. “You are welcome, my friend.” Then he embraced Pete, an intimacy Pete was by now used to in normal, clothed circumstances, but which was complicated by the presence of Karvaly’s erection, now jabbing him in the navel.

“I think I’ll get up now. It sounds like Imre and Nick have the fire going.”

Pete unzipped the sleeping bag and slid out. He found dry clothes, dressed quickly, and left the tent. Karvaly, alone, whispered soothing words to his insistent prick, along the lines of, “Soon, soon.”

“Morning, Petey!” called Nick, who was pouring the first coffee. “Was that you I heard stomping around in the dark last night?”

“Yeah. I needed some air, and it just happened to start snowing at that moment. Bizarre weather up here, huh?” He sipped his coffee and tried to act like someone who enjoyed talking about the weather.

“How’d ya do with Karvaly last night?,” Nick leaned in and whispered conspiratorially. “Everyone behave themselves?”

“Yes, everything was fine. I did hear you and Imre having some kind of slumber-party giggle fest last night, though. Did you behave yourself, or did you get to know that long, thin part of our friend that you were talking about before?”

“Ooh, I’m wounded,” cried Nick, clutching his chest in mock horror. “Since when does Petey do sexy trash talk?”

“Since I’ve spent three months with this dirty bastard you might now. Slutty, vain, arrogant, you know the type. Complete asshole.”

Nick laughed, and raised his steaming mug in a toast. “Very nice. I am so proud of you, Petey. Apparently when Karvaly tore you a new one last night some wit slipped in along with his big dick. Cheers!”

Then Pete did something that shocked him. He laughed. He actually saw humor in what Nick said, even if it was at his own expense, and he laughed. Oh, how far I have fallen, he thought.

“The good news is that now I’ll be able to take that tiny thing you call a dick and not even feel it,” he said with a winning smile, and walked over to say good morning to Imre.

Nick was stunned, and filled with admiration. He’d have to remember that one.

Warmth returned to the mountain quickly, erasing any trace of snowfall and bringing the temperatures high enough that the guys could again swim and play in the lake. This time Pete joined them, even engaging in a game of chicken on Nick’s shoulders. He found he could block out the feeling of his balls pressing against Nick’s broad, tan neck if he worked hard enough at it, and he quite enjoyed himself. After a long swim, all four arranged themselves on rocks at the water’s edge to warm in the sun.

Pete lay near Nick, while Imre and Karvaly shared a rock on the other side of the small inlet that replenished the water of the lake. After a few minutes of sunning, the pair got up and, putting on just their boots, walked up the trail that led along the ridge above the lake. This left Pete alone with Nick, who was already asleep in the sun, stretched like a cat on the warm rock. Pete didn’t feel sleepy, and Nick was unconscious, so he too put on his boots and headed up the trail. The others were far enough ahead of him that he could have some time to himself as he walked-he had a lot he needed to think through.

Pete was reviewing all that had happened since he met Nick, and it dawned on him as he walked that over the last six months the only times he had really been pushed to consider life-not as how he assumed it should be but life as other people lived it-was when he was with Nick. Pete was eager to get to college, mainly because he wanted to be challenged, to be pushed to expand his view of the world; didn’t Nick provide that for him? Oh god-he stopped dead in his tracks- what if Nick was his Imre? He stood stock still for a full minute while the horror and strange exhilaration of this thought washed over him. He was nowhere near knowing his mind on that question, so he began to walk again.

He had just taken his first step when he heard a noise off the side of the path he was on. It didn’t sound like an animal; rather, it sounded human. Like a voice. Karvaly’s voice.

Pete edged closer to the precipice that overlooked the stream bed below, and then he drew back suddenly. Imre and Karvaly were down there, at the edge of the stream, on a mossy outcropping shielded from the view of the path but visible from the slight rise where Pete now stood.

Imre and Karvaly stood by the water, kissing. Pete had seen this kind of show before, and he stepped away from the edge so that he could return to the path and go back to camp. But then he remembered Karvaly’s conversation last night about the relationship that he and Imre share. Last time, on the balcony of Imre’s grandmother’s house, he though he was seeing two gay lovers; now, here, down there, there were two straight men who loved each other, and found this way to express it. Did that make it different? Did it somehow explain what he had felt for Nick after the photo shoot, a feeling he had buried and paved over so that he could get on with his life?

Bewildered by so many synapses firing at once, Pete edged back to the overlook. Imre was now holding Karvaly’s enormous prick in both hands, rubbing it up and down. Pete knew how it felt-the small of his back tingled with the memory. Imre then reached for his boot, from which he drew a small tube of something that he squeezed out onto Karvaly’s cock. He then kissed Karvaly, and turned around on got down on all fours.

Holy shit, Pete thought. He’s going to take it. How is that even possible? And yet as he watched, Karvaly placed the tip of his bare cock against Imre’s hole, and then Pete saw the muscles of his ass indent on the sides with the strain of pushing. Pete was horrified. Imre’s face was a mask of calm, but Pete could see small furrows playing across his brow. It clearly hurt, but it was a hurt he wanted. How could that be, Pete wondered. Karvaly pushed, and then relaxed, and pushed again, and waited. He spoke softly to Imre in words that Pete could not understand, whether because they were too soft or were in another tongue he did not know. But each time Imre nodded, and Karvaly pushed further, working more of his huge cock into his friend.

The guttural cry rose out of Imre’s chest, somewhere deep inside him, and grew until he was roaring like a wounded bear, his face red with effort. Then he took a deep breath, set his jaw, and pushed back against Karvaly-hard. The rest of that thick flesh slid into him, and finally his wide-open ass met his best friend’s groin. They were joined, and they stayed that way, still, panting, for a long moment. Then, gently, slowly, Imre pulled forward an inch, two; then back again to press firmly against Karvaly’s balls. This was, apparently, the sign that Karvaly was waiting for; he began to thrust into Imre. Slowly at first, but quickly gaining momentum until he was throwing the entire length of his thick, veiny cock into him and pulling it almost all the way back out. Again and again he impaled Imre, faster and faster.

Pete’s attention turned to Imre when he began making gasping noises in time with Karvaly’s thrusts. His first thought was that Karvaly had punctured a lung with his wild jabbing. But then he noticed that Imre’s own cock had stiffened until it clung to his sweating, rippled belly like a missile under a bomber. It began to bob up and down, and as Imre’s moaning reached an impossibly high pitch, it began to ejaculate, untouched. It shot out a blast of white every time Karvaly thrust, keeping perfect time with the monster that was working it from inside. Imre shuddered and growled, shaking as the orgasm tore through him. Karvaly stiffened as the spasms that shot spunk from Imre’s cock tightened his ass, milking his thrusting prick until it too exploded. He pushed one more time into Imre, whose cock responded by shooting out a final white jet. His orgasm was a study of silent tension, his every muscle steely, as he breathlessly, noiselessly, filled Imre with the seed that would one day create his children.

Spent, they folded together on the mossy bank, Imre jumping slightly when Karvaly’s cock slid out of him, leaving him empty, shivering, and wet. He turned over and they kissed, and smiled, and laughed, babbling sweetnesses to each other in their suddenly poetic tongue.

Pete stepped back from the overlook, and walked back to the path. His erect cock pointed the way, and it was with a perverse relief that he noted it had not, for once, come all by itself. He willed it to soften as he walked back to the camp, leaving Imre and Karvaly to their cuddling. His mind was a whirl; he was not proud of his voyeurism, and he was somewhat disgusted by what the two of them had done down there by the stream. But he was not totally disgusted-why? Pete kept coming back to that conversation in the tent last night. As twisted as Karvaly’s logic had been, it made a certain kind of sense, at least out here in the wilderness where things can happen that no one else ever needed to see or think about.

As Pete rounded the last bend in the trail, he saw Nick still stretched on his back in the sun, naked. He was about to go to the tent to put on some shorts, but then, with a thrill of naughtiness, he shucked off his boots and was as naked as Nick. He walked quietly over to where Nick lay sleeping, and realized that this was the first time he had really looked at him; sleeping next to him for three months he had never really taken a good look-had never wanted to. But now, here, alone, he could look and not have anyone, even Nick, know.

Nick was, of course, tan from head to toe. His body clearly declared his commitment to working out, though Pete realized that he had no idea what sports, if any, Nick played. One rarely developed such comprehensive musculature without a competitive goal in mind. Nick’s collarbones stood out in smooth relief above his chest, which was powerfully built and sported the largest nipples Pete had ever seen. He had a queasy moment as he thought that perhaps Mr. Patronus had had that very same thought, but he pushed that out of his mind. Nick’s belly was flat and smooth, with muscles that were not ripped but rather insinuated beneath the skin. His pubic hair, Pete noted with some surprise, was neatly trimmed-how had he managed to manscape in this remote country? Perhaps the nuns were a fastidious bunch, he thought with a smile. His legs were powerfully built, like the rest of him, but without the exaggerated development that sometimes results from overtraining. Overall, Nick’s body was built for exactly the purpose for which he used it: seducing nuns, cameras, and geography teachers.

Motion caught Pete’s eye, and he turned involuntarily toward it; it was in Nick’s crotch-it was Nick’s cock.

Pete stared at Nick’s member as it lazily stretched and repositioned itself, turning its head to point upwards, up his stomach. Nick mumbled something in a dream, and his cock began to grow in earnest. As it moved upward, lengthening and thickening, it exposed Nick’s balls, which were churning up and down as if pumping the cock above them to even greater size. Pete was fascinated by the changes Nick’s penis went through, as the skin tightened and grew glossy, swollen with blood and lust for whomever he was talking to in his mumbled dreaming. Nick was thrusting now, his dick pumping in the air, his balls drawing tight.

Then Nick said, simply, “Oh, oh, oh,” and his cock did the rest. The first streak of white, heavy and unbroken, laced up his torso all the way to his collarbone. It was followed by five or six jets of cum, each reaching a lower point on his body until finally the last flowed from the tip of his cock and pooled by the head.

Pete had never seen anyone ejaculate before. He didn’t even watch himself cum when he masturbated, preferring instead to close his eyes and pretend that someone else was doing to him what his own hand was doing. He was astonished at the force of it, at the sheer volume of it, and the smell of it.

Suddenly he found himself retching into the lake, heaving everything he had eaten that day into the water, unable to breathe until his stomach was empty and he could bring up nothing more than acid. What the fuck was he doing here? He had just watched two guys buttfucking, and now he had watched-sat there and watched-his roommate have a wet dream. The smell of Nick’s cum was in his nostrils! Pete hurled again, unproductively and uncontrollably. He made himself sick, and he had to get the hell out of here, back to his normal life.

He had to leave. Now.

Pete dressed and packed up as quickly and as quietly as he could, and left a note scrawled on a luggage tag he found at the bottom of his pack: “Not feeling well, heading back. Don’t worry. Pete.” He took off down the trail at a jog, putting as much distance as he could between himself and the others, distance that he hoped would allow him to put this entire experience behind him.

As soon as Pete reached the outskirts of the city, he hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take him to Imre’s grandmother’s house; the car waited outside as he gathered his things from the room he shared with Nick. He loaded everything into the trunk of the taxi and asked the driver to take him to the hotel where Mr. Patronus was staying. He would know how to get Pete home.

* * *

Pete found himself back home two days later; Mr. Patronus had been able to arrange for a medical emergency ticket, on the basis of Pete’s nearly catatonic state when he arrived at the hotel. He clearly needed to get home right away, and Mr. Patronus had taken him to the airport immediately. He slept a total of about three hours over the two days in transit, and when he reached home he collapsed into bed for a full 24 hours.

He awoke when his mom sat on his bed and shook his leg gently. “Honey, it’s time to get up and have something to eat. You need to start thinking about getting packed for school.”

The idea of having to pack his life into boxes and drag them to college didn’t thrill Pete at the moment. He’d probably end up having Nick show up and find a way for them to room together for the year. Fucking Nick.

“And honey, Diane called-remember, she’s Toni’s cousin’s friend who works at the ad agency? Well, she called and said that there’s going to be some kind of unveiling at X&Y down at the mall next Saturday, and some pictures from the photo shoot you did might be up in the store. Isn’t that great? You should go.”

Pete winced at the mention of the X&Y shoot, mainly because it brought back the image of Nick, and the feel of Nick’s lips, and the dream he had had right on this bed, where is mom was now sitting and-

“Oh dear,” said Pete’s mom as she watched him bolt for the bathroom. “I guess he’s not quite right yet after his trip. Poor thing.’

* * *

Pete didn’t want to be at the mall for the event at X&Y, but his mom had been so excited about his going that he gave in and agreed to it. A similar event was being held at X&Y stores nationwide, but this one was particularly well-attended because word had gotten out that some pictures shot locally were going to be displayed as part of the winter campaign. This brought a crowd of the young and trendy, who loved X&Y’s overpriced clothes, and the older and paunchy, who loved X&Y’s oversexed models. There was a crowd gathered outside of the store well in advance of the 8pm unveiling, and Pete did his best to remain an anonymous part of it. He didn’t want anyone from his school to see him here.

At 8:05, fashionably late, a tan, stylish, and dangerously underweight young woman in impossibly high heels tottered out from the still-covered storefront to address the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Xavier and Young’s celebration of the winter season!”

Ignoring for a moment the fact that the season would come whether or not X&Y celebrated it, the crowd dutifully applauded.

“It is my great pleasure to unveil the faces of the season!” She turned and made a graceful flourish toward the storefront, and the canvas covering it fell, revealing the the 8-foot-tall gilt frame standing at the entrance to the store that held the centerpiece photograph, in artistic black and white.

It was a picture of Pete and Nick.

The photographer had captured the moment just before their lips touched, but there was no doubt that their lips would touch. Nick’s eyes were closed, and Pete’s were open, but unfocused. The effect was one of total abandon to an illicit kiss, and that edge of the forbidden is exactly what X&Y’s agency wanted to convey. It was a risky move, but X&Y was pulling out all the stops in their battle with A&F. This was a serious frontal attack.

But Pete couldn’t care less about the retail marketing strategy of provocative, homoerotic photos; all he cared about was that, in his hometown mall, there was an 8-foot tall depiction of him about to kiss another guy. His life was over.

“Oh, hell yeah!” gushed a voice from behind Pete, who whirled around to see Nick standing there, wide-eyed, grinning.

“Oh, fuck me,” muttered Pete, who bolted for the quickest way out. The food court was close by, and relatively calm this time of day.

“Wait, Petey! Hold on!” Nick called, attracting the attention of several in the crowd, who immediately recognized him and shouted out that the models for the photo were right there among them. The crowd began to move toward them.

Pete was actually relieved to hear the shouts of recognition, because he knew Nick would not be able to resist the urge to press the flesh with his admirers. He’d start doing his slutboy act, and Pete would slip out the side door. And then go somewhere and die quietly of embarrassment.

But Nick didn’t stop. He followed Pete. And the crowd followed him. Soon they were all heading into the food court.

“Pete, here!” Nick called, gesturing to a restaurant called The Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Due to its child-focused theme, it was deserted at this hour. Pete ducked in, Nick followed, and they were far enough ahead of the crowd the no one saw them disappear. The mob rushed through the food court and ended up in the parking lot, wondering where the models went.

Pete and Nick huddled under a table until they were sure that the crowd had passed. They climbed up into chairs and sat panting for a moment. Nick was just about to say something to Pete when the counter attendant, wearing a teddy bear costume, asked if they were going to order anything.

Pete, thinking it rude to hide from a rabid mob in a restaurant and not order something, asked for a small Fancy Fries and a Cheery Cherry Slush. They returned to their table with their food, and sat in silence for a couple of minutes.

“So, was I right about that picture, or was I right? Center stage, baby! Pretty awesome.” Nick was clearly pleased with himself.

“Nick, they just unveiled an eight-foot-tall billboard that reads, ‘Peter Dorsey is gay, and Nick Goodman is the gay man whose gay kiss made him gay.’ How does that qualify as awesome, would you please explain to me?”

“Dude, it’s us. Up there. In every X&Y in the whole country. We’re set, man.”

“This is a fucking disaster. My life is over. Your life, apparently, was already so fucked up that this latest bit of fucked-up-ness doesn’t even register.”

“I have just one question for you. Who the hell cares? It was a job. It’s not us up there, it’s roles we were playing. Everyone knows that.”

“No one knows that, Nick. They see two guys kissing, and they think, ‘Hey, those two guys are kissing-what do they call guys who do that? Oh, that’s right: gay.’ This time tomorrow everyone in this town will know for certain that you and I are gay, and are totally into each other.”

“Again, I ask, who the hell cares? Why does it matter what people think about you, Petey?”

“Because it’s not true, that’s why.”

“What isn’t true? Nick asked.

“I’m not gay!”

“Well, duh, You’re Straight Pete, remember?”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck me? You want to fuck me? You’re the one who’s all concerned about people thinking you’re gay, and now you want to throw everything off the table and fuck me right here? Talk about mixed messages.” Nick was enjoying this, too much.

“I’m serious. This is a nightmare.”

“I’m serious too. You need to lighten up on the whole sex thing. It’s giving you wrinkles. Stop worrying and just relax about it.”

“That’s easy for you to say. Look, I’m not like you, okay? My body isn’t an amusement park that the whole world is invited to.”

Nick fixed Pete with a quizzical look.

“Have you even had sex? I mean, with another person? I know you jerk off on Tuesdays and all, but, damn. You should really try to find an outlet.”

“What, like Imre and Karvaly and their love nest in the mountains?”

“Sure, why not? Or maybe one of the, oh, I don’t know, twelve thousand chicks who are going to be on your tail once they see your picture at X&Y?”

“What makes you think that women are going to want me, when the photographic evidence clearly shows that we are-well, into each other?”

“Because sexy is sexy, no matter what. Trust me on this one.”

“You sound like Karvaly.”

Nick was silent for a moment.

“So, about that. What the hell happened to you up there? I talked to Mr. Patronus when we got back to the city, and he said you weren’t feeling well and had to leave on an earlier flight. That’s all he would tell us, even though I asked him-hard.” Here Nick winked at Pete, to convey just how hard he had asked Mr. Patronus. “But no details. So, what happened?”

“I wasn’t feeling well.”

“Yeah, I got that part. But look, Petey,” Nick said, touching Pete’s hand on the table. “Look at me. Something happened up there. Something bad. Now, what was it? Did one of them do something to you? I swear to god, if they did…”

Pete was astonished, both that Nick would say this, and that his saying it made Pete feel so tight in the chest. Nick really cared for him. That made Pete feel somehow lighter than he’d felt in weeks. He hoped his face didn’t betray what he was feeling.

“No, it wasn’t anything they did … not to me at least. But after we swam that morning, they went off on a hike, and I followed a few minutes behind them. You were asleep, so you weren’t much company, so I thought I’d just take a walk. Well, they took a little detour, and I saw them by the stream. They were …”

“Oh my god, Petey, were they smooching again? Damn them, damn them to hell!” Nick giggled and slurped his drink.

“No, they weren’t smooching. They were buttfucking, okay?”

Nick’s eyes widened. “Please tell me that Imre was the fucker and Karvaly was the fuckee because …” He saw Pete’s head slowly shake side to side. “Oh god. Imre took that thing?”

Pete nodded.

“Whoa. He’s more of a man than I ever imagined. That’s some serious bone.”

“I know!”

Nick closed one eye and looked at Pete.

“How? How do you know? Every time anyone got naked you freaked out and would only look at your feet. When would you have had a chance to see how Karvaly’s hung?”

Pete blushed. Nick noticed. Pete expected him to open up with all kinds of razzing, but he just sat, considering.

“Pete,” he said quietly. “Did you and Karvaly … ?”

“No! No, nothing happened. It’s just that when I came back to the tent from my little walk in the snowstorm, I was so cold that he wrapped me up in his sleeping bag.”

“Ah,” Nick nodded.

“With him still in it,” Pete continued.

“Oh,” Nick nodded again.

“And he was naked,” Pete whispered, looking down at the table.

“Uh-huh.”

“And so was I,” Pete mumbled, barely audible.

Nick looked at his friend for a moment.

“Are you all right? This seems like it’s crushing you,” he said softly.

“I don’t know if I’m all right. I don’t know anything right now.”

“When you were in the sleeping bag with Karvaly, was it okay? I mean, did it freak you out?”

“Yeah, when I woke up I freaked out a little. I could feel that monster of his pressed right against my back. It was all I could do to keep from screaming and running away.”

“But you didn’t. Why?”

“Because … because I thought of you. I thought of what you would say if I did, and that made me stay. I didn’t want to be the person you kept teasing me about being anymore.”

Nick took a deep breath. “Pete, I don’t know what to say. I hate to think that I made you do something you didn’t want to do.”

“I did want to do it. I mean, part of me wanted to be there with him. At least I thought I did. Oh, I don’t know. Once I got out of the tent, I thought everything was going to be okay, and then I saw the two of them fucking, and then I came back and saw you sleeping by the lake and I was watching you and then I felt like I was watching myself watching you and wondering why I wasn’t freaked out by you anymore, by your naked body anymore, and then you had this wet dream and I saw you cum and I smelled your cum and I just fucking freaked out and had to get away from it all and now I’m here with you and it’s all too fucking much, Nick, too fucking much!”

Exactly when Pete started crying he wasn’t sure, but his cheeks were now wet and his voice trailed off into a faint refrain of uncertain regret.

Nick reached his hand over to touch Pete’s, and though Pete pulled his hand back it was not as violently as when he had nearly thrown himself out of the car, and Nick reached out further and took it again.

“Petey, listen to me. Stop beating yourself up. None of this is any big deal. You have to stop doing this, or you’re going to kill yourself with it. You enjoyed being in a sleeping bag with a naked guy. So what? It was cold, and Karvaly was hot-very hot, I might add, dude was a racehorse-and you pressed up against him and it was nice. Good for you.”

“But, I’m not gay,” Pete choked out.

“I’m not saying you are. And honestly, I don’t even know what that word means. Imre and Karvaly, our eastern European butt pirates, kept talking at the baths about women, and who they might ask to marry them. I’ve only slept with women, but the idea of me and Karvaly in a sleeping bag together? Hot.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because I take pleasure where I find it. It feels good to press my naked body against another naked body-or two, in the case of the Marshall twins, those girls know how to … anyway- what does it matter who that other naked body is? Karvaly is hot. Imre is hot, for that matter, and you? You’re smokin’. Of course, I’m hotter than the rest of you bitches put together, goes without saying.”

“So you’d do anyone, anytime, no matter what?” Pete said, a note of accusation in his voice.

“No, of course not. They’d have to be hot.”

“So that makes you, what, then? Bisexual?”

“No, Petey, it makes me sexual, okay? I’m just sexual. We all are, even if you don’t want to admit it.”

“But what does that mean?”

Nick grew exasperated. “It doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t have to. Sex isn’t who you are, it isn’t what you do. It doesn’t matter who you do it with. Sex is sex, and it is what we are here for-if you think about it for a sec, it’s why we’re here in the first place. Don’t analyze it, don’t try to label it, just do it, Petey. Just do it.”

So Nick’s favorite philosopher is Nike. Good to know.

“It has to mean something. It has to. When Imre and Karvaly decided to start fucking each other, they became something different than they were before. When you kissed me-”

Here Pete gasped, shocked that he had started that sentence, but he was too emotionally drained to stop it now, so he just pressed on.

“When you kissed me I became something different than I was before. I need to know what that is, because it scares me not to know. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

The tears were flowing freely now, and his shoulders were shaking. Nick put down his teddy- bear shaped cup, got up, and came over to Pete’s side of the table. He put his arms around his shuddering friend, and pressed his cheek to his the top of his head. “Come on, Pete, let’s get out of here.”

Pete rose, allowing himself to be guided by Nick, who put his arm around him and held him tight as they walked out of the restaurant and to the exit. Standing between them and the door was a knot of X&Y fanatics who immediately recognized them. Their hormonal screams made Pete turn his face into Nick’s chest, away from the noise.

“Back off!” Nick growled as he charged with Pete through the middle of the group. “Leave us alone!”

Nick pushed through the doors and out into the late summer twilight. His car was close by, and soon he had Pete settled into the passenger seat. He started the engine and roared away from the mall.

They had been driving for fifteen minutes before Pete thought to ask, “Where are we going?”

“I want to show you something,” Nick replied, with a smile.

* * *

The car rolled on through the countryside that separated the small, boring city that Pete lived in from the small, boring city that Nick called home. Pete had never been this way before, and as the clouds of queasy emotion from the store unveiling began to part he wondered just where Nick was taking him. He looked over at his friend-he had to call him that now, though he had never used the word before, even in his mind-and felt safe. He trusted him, was confident in his goodness, and was content to let Nick take him wherever he wanted to go. He turned to watch the dying of the late summer sunset, the pinks and oranges giving way to a starless blue of deepest calm.

Nick steered the car off the highway onto a small, winding road, and after following that a few minutes he turned onto a dirt road that Pete hadn’t even seen as they approached. The ride was a bit bumpy, but Nick seemed to know the location of every significant pothole, and he steered smoothly through the slalom of disrepair. They reached a gate of sorts, a chain stretched across what was by this point little more than a two-track path through the woods. Nick slowed, and then carefully steered around the chain, his mirror barely clearing the large oak that stood guard at the path’s edge. Around another bend, up a rise, and he brought the car to a stop.

The sky had nearly finished its slide to inky blackness, and with the headlights off Pete could make out only the outlines of the trees that surrounded the car. Nick opened his car door, so Pete did as well and stepped out into the warm, still evening. He heard Nick walk around to the back of the car, open the trunk, and pull something out. When the trunk closed they were left in complete darkness.

“So, this is it?” Pete asked of the darkness.

“Not quite,” came the answer, Nick’s voice almost in his ear, startling him. “Follow me,” he said, and turned on a small flashlight. Pete followed as Nick climbed up the hill, through the trees and undergrowth, until finally he stopped.

“Now, this is it,” Nick announced. He spread on the ground the blanket he had pulled from the trunk, sat down on it, and switched off the flashlight.

“What is?” Pete asked, unable to see much of anything as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.

“Give your eyes a minute,” Nick replied.

Pete blinked several times, willing his pupils to widen.

“Here, sit down,” said Nick, patting the blanket. Pete sat. “Now,” Nick continued, “Look up.”

Suddenly Pete could see. They were in a meadow ringed with trees; in the sky above them were more stars than Pete could ever remember seeing at once. There were so many that they couldn’t be counted, not in any one lifetime, Pete thought.

“Oh,” was all he could think to say.

“I know, right?” said Nick, also looking up at the sky. “This place is surrounded by the hills, so there’s no light. Isn’t it amazing?”

“I never knew the sky could look like this,” Pete said, wonder in his voice. “How did you find this place?”

“I used to bike all through these hills when I was into cycling. I got completely lost late one day, and ended up here. I was too tired to keep going, so I just laid down right here. When I woke up, I saw this.”

“It’s amazing.”

They stared at the stars, in silence, for several long minutes.

“I’ll bet you bring girls here all the time,” Pete finally said, breaking the silence.

“No,” Nick replied simply. “I only come alone. You’re the first one I’ve ever brought here.”

That twisting feeling in Pete’s stomach returned, but this time it was also warm, and a little shivery, and he had no idea what it was or what it meant. But he knew, this time, he kind of liked it. Kind of a lot.

“Why? I mean, why me?”

“Because, Petey,” replied Nick, making the name sound like a term of endearment rather than a teasing diminutive, “I wanted to share it with you. You’re the only person who’s ever needed me, who ever needed my help. Lots of people want me-which I love, not gonna lie-but you are the first person I have ever met who needed me. I could tell from that day at the photo shoot. It was like you were brought into my life for some purpose, because there was something I needed to give you. It wasn’t until tonight that I realized what it was.”

Pete was overwhelmed. He’d never heard Nick be so serious, and so genuine, and so-human.

“So, tell me, then,” Pete began, not at all sure he wanted to know the answer to this question, but more certain than he’d ever been that he needed to know, “What is it that you were brought into my life to give me?”

“You’ll have to wait for a little bit longer,” Nick said, a note of excitement in his voice. “Come over here.” He gestured for Pete to sit in front of him.

Pete did, wondering as he did so why his legs were shaking. He sat in front of Nick, both of them facing out into the meadow, and then Nick wrapped his arms around Pete and pulled him back until he was resting on Nick’s chest.

“Um, Nick?”

“Shhh.”

“What am I-”

“Shh, wait for it.”

Pete took a deep breath, and waited. For what he didn’t know.

Then-he saw it. At the edge of the meadow, near the trees that ringed the clearing, a sparkle of light. It lasted only a second, but it was soon joined by another. And then another, and another, and a few more. As Pete stared in wonder, the meadow was filled with fireflies, dazzling yellow- green streaks and spots of light surrounding them. It was like they were inside a snow globe filled with stars.

“Oh, my god, Nick,” whispered Pete.

“Yeah, I know,” Nick whispered back, his lips brushing the top of Pete’s head.

The fireflies danced and glittered around the two of them, alone on a blanket in a meadow, and the world beyond the trees ceased to exist. Pete turned back to look at Nick, who was haloed by a hundred surging and drifting points of light. He was beautiful, Pete knew that now, now that he had seen the beauty inside.

“When I woke up here that first time,” Nick continued, “I just stared at the stars and thought about how people have done the same since the beginning of time, and I felt connected somehow to something larger than me. But I was kind of frustrated that I didn’t know the names or locations of more than a couple of constellations.”

Pete nodded, his head resting against Nick’s chest, his eyes dazzled by the floating lights all around him and the stars above.

“And then these guys showed up, and it was like the stars had come to play. With me! And it was like they brought me a message: that the beauty of the stars, of their refusal to fit human rules- stars don’t want to make a bear shape, they want to shine into the infinite!-is the beauty of all life. I sat here, surrounded by stars in the sky and stars shooting around me, and I saw it.”

Nick tightened his grip around Pete’s chest.

“This is why I brought you here. If I told you this you wouldn’t understand me, so I had to show you. Life is random, and it is beautiful. The stars are immortal, and fireflies live a few weeks, and we fall somewhere in between. We live long enough to forget we aren’t going to be here forever, and we let other people shape us, tell us what we mean, who we are. You can’t do that, Petey. You have to embrace this-this is life. Your life, and my life, and the life all around us.”

Pete was astonished. And he was grateful. And, he thought, maybe a little in love with Nick right now.

He turned around again, to see the fireflies dancing around Nick’s hair, giving his entire being a luminous glow, and he knew, right then, that he would do it.

He brought his face up to Nick’s, and he kissed him. And Nick kissed him back. A sparkling web of light surrounded them as they kissed, and the heavens shone.

Finally, finally, Pete broke the long kiss. He looked at Nick, into his eyes, and knew.

“I love you.”

Nick smiled, shook his head just slightly.

“I’ve never told anyone this,” he whispered. “I love you too.”

They kissed again, and again, until the meadow darkened as the fireflies tucked in for the night. There was a chill in the air now, as the hour grew late.

“I should get you home,” Nick finally said.

“Yeah,” replied Pete, with a sigh. “It’s been kind of a big day.”

They walked back to Nick’s car, and both, somewhere inside, wondered if they were returning to the world changed.

* * *

When Nick pulled up to Pete’s house at nearly 1 in the morning, Pete was surprised to see the lights on in the living room. As he was about to start college, his parents no longer waited up for him at night. Tonight-or rather, this morning-was different.

“Parents waitin’ up for you, huh? Awkward!”

Pete looked at him quizzically.

“Because you broke curfew making out with a boy! Explain that one, Petey.” The old Nick was back, and Pete was actually not sorry to see him return. He thought he might love this one too.

“Thanks for everything, tonight.”

“Anytime. I’m happy to have someone to share it with.”

Pete opened the car door, and was about to step out when Nick grabbed his arm and pulled him back in.

“Hey, there’s something I need to give you,” he said.

“What?”

“This,” he answered, and leaned in and kissed Pete one last time, so sweetly and softly that Pete wanted it to go on forever.

“Nick,” he said, breathless, when it ended, “What are we now? To each other?”

Nick grinned his crooked grin.

“Points of light, man, points of light.”

Pete smiled, and nodded, and got out of the car. Nick drove away as Pete opened his front door, to start life again.

“I’m home!” Pete called, knowing his parents were waiting up for him. They never stayed up late unless there was a reason, and he was almost always the reason.

“Peter! We’re in the kitchen,” his mom called, and Pete walked through the living room to where his parents were waiting.

They were drinking coffee (again, not a good sign) and they were standing at the counter, looking, well, awkward.

“Hey, guys, what’s up?” Pete asked, his hands thrust into his pockets, feeling the tension.

Desperate for somewhere to look other than in his parents’ eyes, he glanced at the counter, at the magazine that was open in front of them. Hold on, that wasn’t a magazine, it was a catalog. An X&Y catalog. Oh shit.

“How did the unveiling go, tonight, dear? asked his mom, haltingly. This was not good.

“Fine,” Pete replied, hoping that he sounded like he meant it.

“Your mother and I were just looking at the new X&Y catalog,” his dad said, trying to sound casual.

“Diane dropped it by tonight so we could see it,” added his mom.

The X&Y catalog was favored by fans of erotic, often clothing-free marketing for clothes. It was also favored by those who felt uncomfortable standing in the store masturbating. With the catalog, they could do this in the comfort of their own homes or prison cells.

Pete took a closer look at the spread that was open in front of his parents. It was familiar, somehow.

Oh, fuck.

The picture was of himself and Nick, naturally. It had been taken several seconds after the shot on display at the store; in this one, Pete’s eyes were closed as well, and the contact between their mouths was complete and firmly established. Their erect nipples were touching, though Pete was relieved to see that the other erect part of his body was not visible. Damn, Nick looked hot, Pete thought, allowing himself the luxury of feeling that for the first time. And so do I, he admitted to himself.

His parents were looking expectantly at him, as if waiting for him to say something about his mostly-naked, lip-locked, homoerotic image on the counter. But what was there to say?

“Well, good night!” Pete offered cheerfully, and turned to go up to his room.

“Pete, wait,” called his mom. “Your father and I want to talk with you.”

“Yes, mom, what is it? I’m kind of beat. It’s been a long day.”

“It’s about these pictures. Of you. And this other … gentleman.”

“Nick.”

“What, honey?”

“Nick, Mom. His name is Nick.”

“Oh, I see. Do you know this Nick person very well?” she asked, with a sidewards glance at the catalog.

“No. Well, at least not at the time of the photo shoot. We’ve run into each other a couple of times since then.”

“I see,” said Pete’s dad. “So, would you say that you and Nick are close?”

Pete considered this question for a moment.

“Yes, I guess you could say that we are. Probably closer than I’ve ever been to anybody.”

It was clear from his parents’ expression that this is exactly the news they had thought they might hear.

“Oh, honey,” his mom struggled to say, barely able to contain herself.

“We’re just so…” his dad interjected.

“So darn … happy for you!” his mom finished. His dad nodded vigorously.

“Gee, guys, thanks,” Pete said, bewildered by his parents’ enthusiasm. “I know I don’t make friends easily, but I didn’t think it was that bad.”

“Oh, dear, no! It’s not bad at all!” his mom nearly shouted at him.

“We are behind you 100%,” his dad added, also too loudly. They had clearly practiced this, though not quite enough.

“Um, thanks?” Pete offered.

“We just want you to know, Peter, that we are proud of you, and we love you, and we will be happy to welcome Nick into our lives as well. If he makes you happy, then we’re happy.” His mom beamed at him, eyes welling with…well, with whatever mix of emotions moms feel when their sons come out of the closet.

Pete, for his part, was dumbfounded. We wasn’t at all sure how to take this. He loved his parents for how hard they were trying to be supportive, but-but what? Was he what they thought he was? Then it hit him: constellation.

“Guys, I really appreciate the thought, but I’m not gay.”

His parents were taken aback. According to “So Your Son is Gay: A Manual,” which they had downloaded from the Internet 15 minutes after Diane handed them the X&Y catalog, this conversation should end with tearful hugs of acceptance. Pete had already admitted that he was closer to Nick than to anyone else (see “Best Friend or Life Partner?”, chapter 3 of the manual), and they did have the photos of them kissing (“He Got That Way from Kissing Boys,” chapter 6), and he had stayed out very late with Nick tonight (as in “Broken Curfew, Broken Heteronormativity,” chapter 17). The checklist in the back of the manual said that their beloved Peter was gay, and they were going to do everything they could to be supportive. Even if that meant convincing him that he was, in fact, gay.

“Peter, dear, there’s no need to hide anymore. We know all about it, and we’re fine with it,” explained his mom, patiently.

“Yes, a lot of things make sense now that didn’t in the past,” agreed his dad.

“Like what, for instance?” Pete, despite the seriousness of the topic, could not help but anticipate replaying this conversation for Nick. He wanted all the rich detail possible.

“Well, for instance,” his dad replied, not sure how graphic he should be given the mixed company. “We found an issue of Playgirl once under your bed.”

Pete laughed. “I told you at the time that the cleaning lady had a bad habit of leaving those around the house. That wasn’t mine.”

His parents nodded supportively, clearly not believing a word he said.

“And then there’s that poster on your wall,” added his mom.

“Which one?”

“That Johnny Depp person, in drag.”

“That’s a movie poster. He was dressed as a pirate, and I went as him for Halloween, and I put the poster up and took it down the same day, after I finished getting dressed, and now it’s in Lisa’s room.”

“OK, but what about tonight? You were with Nick, right? Diane said people at the mall were talking about the two of you leaving together, and now it’s after 1 in the morning. Where did you go with him? What did you do?”

Where Pete got the strength to answer this question was no mystery. It came from Nick.

“Tonight we drove out this deserted old logging road, and parked near a meadow, and we sat on a blanket together and looked at the stars. And then there were all of these fireflies, and it was so beautiful, and he looked like a saint with a sparkling halo and so I kissed him and then we kissed for, like, an hour. Then I came home.”

Blink. Blink. That was about all his parents could do-they certainly weren’t breathing.

“Well, good night,” Peter called out jauntily as he headed up to bed, leaving his parents to their confusion.

Pete brushed his teeth, put on his pajamas, and got into bed, a welcome exhaustion washing over him. He turned out the light, lay back on his pillow, and saw above him the stars glowing softly on his ceiling. They no longer spoke to him of fifth-grade books of constellations; now they were Nick, looking down on him, there with him, in his bed. He smiled to himself, pulled off his t- shirt, and threw it toward his dresser. Then he lifted his hips, hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his boxers, and slid them down his legs. He tossed those over in the direction of his dresser as well. He lay there, naked, under Nick’s stars, under his protection, and he felt alive for the first time in his life. He had no name for what he was now, but he was loved, and that was more than enough.

* * *

In the morning, Pete stretched luxuriantly in bed, reveling in the feel of the sheets on his bare body. He could get used to this. But then he remembered that he would be starting college in a week, and sleeping nude wouldn’t be possible in the dorm. Or would it? Nick would do it.

Pete retrieved his shorts and shirt from where they had landed last night, and after a stop in his bathroom he shuffled out of his bedroom. He stepped on something-a small pile of paper that had been left in front of his door. He bent down and picked up a stack of pamphlets, which bore titles such as “Safe Sex Can Be Fabulous!” and “More Than Friends?” and “Sodomy Laws in Every State and Canada.” He smiled and shook his head, but then he had an image of his parents, carefully printing out and folding each of these, and then he wasn’t smiling anymore. He wasn’t at all sure what he was going to say to them.

His arrival at the breakfast table was, apparently, an eagerly awaited event, like a coronation or a public hanging. His parents were once again arrayed at the counter, a mug of coffee firmly in hand, a smile firmly on each face. It was like they hadn’t slept. They probably hadn’t.

“Morning, mom,” Pete said as he kissed her cheek. “Morning, dad.” He kissed his dad on the cheek as well, something he hadn’t done since he turned 9. His dad was surprised, and happy.

“Peter, I’m so sorry if we intruded on your privacy last night,” his mom began, as she had rehearsed. “We just want you to know that we love you, always, no matter what.”

“Thanks, Mom. I get it. You guys are the best.”

They sat down to breakfast, the three of them and Pete’s younger sister Lisa, who could sense the heightened emotion at the table (she was 13 and had read the entire “Twilight” saga, so she was particularly attuned to teen angst), but could not quite grasp what had happened. Nothing more was said about the events of the previous evening, and they ate breakfast and talked about Pete’s impending departure for college.

Afterward, Pete’s dad asked him for help with the yard, and Pete was glad to have the chance for some exertion in the sun. It wasn’t as dramatic as delivering milk to orphans, but trimming back the late summer growth in the flower beds was still pleasant. As they worked, Pete could sense his dad trying to build up to something. He waited, patiently.

“Say, Pete,” his dad finally began, after an hour’s work. “About last night…”

He was clearly embarrassed, and at a loss for how to proceed (there was nothing in the manual about what to do when your son admits to making out with a male friend but insists that it doesn’t mean he’s gay-Pete’s dad was in somewhat uncharted territory), so Pete tried to make it easy for him.

“Dad, remember when you and I had that talk about dating? Dating girls, I mean?”

His dad chuckled at the memory. Things had been simpler then.

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you remember what you told me?”

“Honestly, son, I was so nervous about that talk I don’t think I remember a word of it.”

“You told me that I needed to relax, and just enjoy myself. Not to get all worked up about whether the girl I was dating was ‘The One,’ or to try to rush from being friends to being boyfriend and girlfriend. Remember?”

“Yeah, it’s coming back to me now.”

“You said I should focus on getting to know her, and respecting her as a person, before even thinking about where the relationship might go.”

“I said all that? Damn, I’m pretty good at this stuff.”

“Yeah, you are. And that’s why this thing with Nick is no big deal for me, and it shouldn’t be for you and mom either. I’m just getting to know him, and I have no idea where it’s going to go. And most importantly, I’m kind of getting to know me, too. I don’t know what I want right now, or what the future is going to be like. That’s okay with me, and I hope it is for you and mom too. I appreciate your support, I really do. But before we fly the PFLAG, can you give me some time to figure it out for myself?”

“Of course, son. I understand.”

“Thanks, dad. You’re the best.”

They turned back to their gardening, and talked of other things.

* * *

Later that day, as he lay in the backyard hammock, Pete’s cell phone vibrated with a text message. Most of Pete’s friends were still working summer jobs, so he rarely heard from them during the day.

“Miss u. Free 2nite?” It was Nick.

“Yep,” Pete could barely type, his hands were kind of tingly.

“No you aint. U r w/ me.”

Pete could hardly hold the phone.

“Ill drive. What’s ur addr?” he typed back.

Nick sent him his address.

“C u @ 6,” Pete wrote, and snapped his phone shut. It was 4 now, and Nick’s house was nearly an hour and a half from Pete’s. He needed to get moving.

“Mom, can I borrow your car tonight?” Pete called as he rushed into the house.

“Sure honey. But wouldn’t you rather take dad’s?” Pete’s dad had a sporty commute car that Pete normally preferred; his mom drove a large SUV. With lots of room in the back. Which is what Pete was really interested in.

“Well, he’s not home, and I kind of need to get going. Nick lives a ways away.”

Pete’s mom beamed. “Of course. You go get ready, and I’ll make sure I’ve got my stuff out of the car.” She worked as a veterinary products representative, and she thought that perhaps the case of foot-long horse de-worming syringes in the passenger seat might break the mood.

Soon Pete was on his way to Nick’s. As he drove the highway, he reflected for the first time that he was kind of going on a date. With a guy. This is something he could not have imagined himself doing, even yesterday. Nick had changed everything, just as he said he was meant to do.

As he drove, he noticed something sticking out of the ashtray in the center of the dashboard. Neither of his parents smoked, so he had no idea what it might be. He slid open the ashtray, and laughed out loud. His mom, his dear, sweet mom, had packed the ashtray full of condoms. My parents have gone completely insane, Pete thought. And he loved them for it.

The nav system in the SUV guided him across the open country and into Nick’s town, a place with which Pete had little familiarity. As he made turn after turn, he grew more and more excited-he had no idea what this evening would bring. For that matter, he wasn’t even sure what he wanted this evening to bring, When he dated girls, he knew what the ultimate goal was: sex, of course. But this was different. Or was it? Pete decided he’d be better off not thinking too much about it. The nav system charted a perfect course for him, but he didn’t know which way was up when it came to Nick.

As Pete neared Nick’s address, the neighborhoods grew less opulent, the yards a little more overgrown, the houses smaller, until finally he was driving through a section of town that could only be called seedy. Nick lives here? he thought. Pete wondered why that surprised him so much-perhaps it was because of Nick’s car, which though not brand new was still nice enough, or his clothes, which were all in good shape. Pete knew his family was pretty well off, and he was a little ashamed of himself for the hesitation he felt driving into Nick’s neighborhood.

Finally, the chime on the nav system announced that he had arrived at Nick’s house. But it wasn’t a house-it was a convenience store. And not a very nice one, judging from the bars on the windows that partially blocked the signs advertising deep discounts on high-proof liquor. Nick lived here?

Pete pulled into the parking lot, hoping that the broken glass that covered most of it wouldn’t puncture the tires on his mom’s SUV. He pulled into a parking place, and looked around. He didn’t see Nick, and he didn’t really want to stay here very long if he was in the wrong place, so he got out his cell and dialed Nick’s number. Before he could finish, though, there was a knock on the passenger-side window. Pete turned, and there was Nick, smiling and motioning for Pete to unlock the door.

Nick opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat. Pete was not expecting the rush of excitement he felt at seeing Nick again. He couldn’t take his eyes off of him, stunned by how different he looked after what they had shared last night. He truly was beautiful; how could Pete not have notice that before?

“Dude, you live in a liquor store?” Pete asked, as Nick settled into the seat.

“Yeah, it saves a lot of time on grocery shopping. I just pick up a big bottle of Jack and I’m good for the day.” Nick laughed. “No, it’s just that they’re tearing up the road by my house and it’s a pain to drive that way. This thing, though,” he gestured around the interior of the SUV, “Could probably make it. You got a pimp mobile here, Petey. This is what rappers drive.”

“Show me a rapper who drives one in pearl white with a sticker that says “Stamp Out Bovine Mastitis-Ask Me How!”

Nick’s laugh, the one that had been so annoying to Pete when he was the object of Nick’s teasing, was music to him now. Oh my god, Pete thought, I’m really doing this. I’m really falling for … a guy.

“So, where are we going? I don’t know this town at all.”

“Head back out 8th, and I’ll tell you when we need to turn. I got a killer evening planned, my friend. We’re going to do the town, and then find some chicks who will do us.”

Pete, shocked, turned and looked at Nick, who was barely able to keep a straight face.

“Just kiddin’ there, Petey. Tonight is all about you and me.”

“I’ve never been on a date with a guy before,” said Pete.

Nick’s mouth was suddenly dry. He faltered for a moment, but quickly recovered his accustomed wry manner.

“Well, this one’s on me, so you’re definitely going to be putting out tonight.”

Pete’s eyes bugged out a bit. He hadn’t seriously thought that-

“Hah! Gotcha! You should have seen the look on your face, Petey.”

Pete was either going to have a great time or he was going to kill Nick before the night was over. The odds were pretty much even.

Nick gave Pete directions to a relatively swank restaurant, far beyond what Pete was expecting. The food and the service may have been the best for miles around, and Pete would not have noticed; all he could think of was that he was on a date with a guy. It gave him a shiver every time he heard those words in his head, but the more he talked with Nick-about anything, anything at all-the more he found that shiver to be tinged with a pleasing anticipation. Where would this evening lead?

When the bill came, Nick grabbed it, and then excused himself from the table. He returned a few minutes later, having settled up. He and Pete left the restaurant and walked along the riverfront that wound its way through the downtown, stopping at a cafe with a view of gondolas sliding smoothly up and down the water.

“So,” said Nick, sipping an espresso so strong it made his eyes water, “How is your first date with a guy going?”

“It’s been pretty amazing. I don’t know how it can get any better.”

“I do.”

“How?”

“You’ll have to wait and see. Now, when we were on our little summer tour through paradise with Imre and Karvaly, you mentioned that you were going to the U. Is that still the plan?”

“Yep, I’m leaving next week.”

“What a coincidence! I leave for college next week too,” replied Nick, with a sneaky grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.

In the whirlwind of the past several days, Pete hadn’t even considered what would happen when he went to college-and Nick, apparently went somewhere else. He swallowed hard.

“So, where are you going?” Pete asked him, scared to hear the answer.

“The U,” Nick replied, then calmly sipped his coffee.

Pete reached across the table and smacked Nick on the forehead.

“Bastard! Why are you always teasing me?”

“Because it always works,” Nick gloated. “Come on, let’s get going,” he said, rising from his seat.

Pete rose to follow. He was practically floating now, breathless with elation-he and Nick would be able to see each other every day at school.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

“You’ll see.”

They were shortly driving down decidedly less populated routes, until finally they arrived at the entrance to a park that was completely deserted, as darkness had fallen an hour ago.

“Over there.” Nick pointed to a parking area well out of the range of the lone, feeble light that illuminated the park entrance. Pete drove there, and parked the SUV.

“So, what are we doing here?” Pete asked, once the car was turned off.

“Join me in the backseat and I’ll show you,” said Nick, as he vaulted over the console between the front seats and landed in the back.

Pete knew this was likely to happen, had prepared for it even, but the actuality of it-he, Peter Dorcey, was about to park with another guy-made his heart race. But nothing was going to stop him from getting back there.

He settled into the seat, and Nick, illuminated only by the pale moonlight now shining through the moonroof, drew close to him. His mouth was at Pete’s ear.

“Petey,” he whispered, the heat of his breath sending ripples of twitchy pleasure radiating out from Pete’s ear. “Do you want me?” he breathed.

Pete felt that twisting in his stomach, and this time he yielded to it completely.

“Yes,” he murmured.

“Yes what?” came the hot breath into his ear again. Another shiver, this one of rising excitement.

“Yes, I want you,” Pete struggled to find his voice; he could only groan out his desire.

“I can’t hear you.” Nick’s hot breath poured the words into Pete’s ear, which burned against Nick’s lips.

Pete turned to Nick, looked him deep in the eyes, and then pressed his own mouth against Nick’s ear. “I want you right now, right here.” It was Nick’s turn to shiver. “I want to feel you next to me. I want to touch you.”

Nick moaned, and his hand rose to grasp Pete’s neck, to press him even closer. Pete’s only reply was a low rumble of want from deep in his chest, their desire for each other having surpassed words. Pete pulled back from their embrace slightly, so that he could look Nick in the eye. Their noses touching, their foreheads pressed together, Pete probed the depths of those golden discs, searching for a sign that what they were about to do was the right thing, the best thing, the only thing he wanted.

“Petey,” whispered Nick, his voice husky with a desire that surprised him-he had never wanted anyone so badly in his life-“Petey…”

That was all Pete needed to hear. He pressed his open mouth against Nick’s, tasting him again, losing himself again in those firm but yielding lips. Last night, in the magical meadow, Nick had contented himself with caressing Pete’s cheek and cradling his neck in his hands; tonight he was not so demure. His hand plunged into Pete’s crotch, grabbing the healthy handful he found there-a handful rapidly on its way to becoming two, or more.

Pete was shocked, and his sharp intake of breath told Nick he had gone too far. He pulled his hand back, but Pete grabbed it with one of his and thrust it back into place, grinding Nick’s hand into his cock and balls, which were now painfully constrained. It was Nick’s turn to be surprised. This was shy little Petey? But he was not about to question it, preferring instead to trace the outline of Pete’s substantial prick through the thin khaki fabric of his shorts.

Pete moaned. The voice in his head that always counseled restraint and caution in sexual matters was silent now, having been bound and gagged by another voice, the horny one that desperately wanted to feel Nick’s hand-not through fabric, but in direct skin-on-skin contact. This new voice, the one whose earliest whisperings began when Nick had first kissed Pete at the photo shoot, was the dominant one in Pete’s head, and he was now listening only to it.

Pete released Nick’s hand, satisfied that its grip on his cock was not going to relent, and he grabbed the bottom hem of his shirt and pulled it up over his head. He wanted to be naked, naked with Nick, and he wanted it now.

Nick smiled as the shirt came off.

“You’ve come a long way, Petey,” sighed Nick. “You throw off your clothes like Imre and Karvaly. I love it.” And with that, Nick whipped off his shirt as well. The two of them, stripped to the waist, sat looking at each other and wondering how they could have missed this-Nick seeing the lithe strength of Pete’s gymnast build, Pete the coiled power of Nick’s slabs of muscle.

Pete threw his arms around Nick, and pressed their naked torsos together. Holding Nick was so different from holding the few women that Pete had been this intimate with. Instead of lush softness there was steely strength; in the place of delicate smoothness there was rippled muscle. Pete could get used to this. Did that mean he was gay? This is the kind of question that used to drive him to panic. Now he simply knew that he was in love with Nick, and he didn’t give a fuck what that was called.

They kissed again, and ran their hands all over each other’s body. Pete even ventured below Nick’s waist, and, for the first time in his life, laid his hand between the legs of another man. It was so strange, at first, to feel something there; with women, what lay between their legs was opportunity, a place for him to occupy, to possess. With Nick, it was a package full of raw, physical presence, a force with a will of its own. Pete was a little scared-okay, frankly terrified-at the power that throbbed within Nick’s shorts.

“Petey,” Nick broke their kiss to whisper, “You’re going to kill me if you keep doing that.”

Pete’s response was to place his hand firmly in the center of Nick’s chest, and push. Hard. Nick fell back on the broad, soft seat of the SUV, his head landing on the door armrest. Before he could say anything, Pete’s hands were tugging at the button and zipper of his shorts. Pete was a man possessed, focused only on tearing away anything that stood between him and his goal. He unbuttoned Nick’s shorts, then pulled on the zipper. Nick’s plaid boxers showed in a bright red and blue triangle as his shorts opened, pointing the way that Pete now wanted desperately to go. But not just yet. Instead, he threw himself on top of Nick, kissed him with a wild intensity, and then said to him, growling through clenched teeth, “Do you want me?”

Nick grinned, but at the edges of his mouth tugged the desire that was burning in him, desire for this strange repressed boy who seemed to have suddenly caught fire.

“I want you, Petey. I need you. And if you don’t fucking finish what you have fucking started I’m going to fucking kill you, got it?”

These were the words Pete wanted to hear, perversely. They were so opposite what any of the women he’d dated had ever said at this point in their progression toward consummation, and that was exactly what he wanted-for everything to be the opposite of what it had been before. To be so different that there would be no mistake about what he wanted, no hesitation in his mind about what Nick meant to him.

Pete smiled broadly, and slid his way back down Nick’s strong body. Reaching his waist, Pete grabbed onto the waist of his shorts and pulled. Nick lifted his hips, and allowed Pete to slide his shorts down and away. Pete sat back for a moment and looked Nick slowly up and down, taking in every detail of his beautiful body. He had seen Nick naked, of course, but this was different; this time the boxers hid what he was really looking for, and under that plaid fabric throbbed the culmination of his desires. He reached for the waistband, and was surprised to see his hand shaking. What he was about to do, what Straight Pete was about to commit himself to, was to remove the last piece of clothing from his friend, his lover, his Nick, and then there would be no going back. Pete wanted this, but everything in his past rebelled against his having it. He would have to overcome everything he had once thought of himself, his years of imagining who he was and what he wanted. As he slipped his fingers into the waistband of Nick’s boxers, Nick could feel the quivering, and his hands grasped Pete’s, pulling them to his chest.

“Pete, you’re shaking. Are you okay?” Nick asked.

“Of course I’m okay,” Pete replied, sounding less sure than his words would imply.

“Because I don’t want you to do anything you’re not ready for.”

“Nick, how can anyone be ready for this? This is huge. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. Do you think anyone does this for the first time and doesn’t feel a little nervous?”

Nick lay back against the door of the car, and smiled at Pete.

“What?” Pete asked. “What’s up? Why are you looking at me that way?”

“Because I knew exactly what this moment would be like. I could just see you, fighting whatever weird demons possess you when it comes to sex. And I just hoped that you would win-that I would win.”

“Be honest with me, Nick. Have you ever done this before?”

“What? Ended a date by parking and trying to get the most I can? I do it all the time.” Nick laughed, seeing the effect his teasing was having on Pete.

“No,” Pete replied, seriously. “I mean with a guy. I know you’re a complete slut, but have you ever done this with a guy?”

Nick grew serious as well, a sight that Pete was only just getting used to seeing.

“No. No, Petey, I’ve never made out with a guy before you. I’ve never been on a date with a guy before you. And I’ve never felt up a guy in a parked car before you. You’re my first, and my only, walk on the gay side. And I hope that before we’re through we’ll have a few more firsts to chalk up. Now, are you with me?”

Pete paused to consider this, and then he nodded somewhat tentatively. Nick rose up from his recline and grasped Pete’s jaw with both hands. He kissed him deeply, and then, with a swift motion that Pete did not see coming, he twisted Pete around and neatly changed places with him. Pete was now reclined in the seat, and Nick hovered over him. Pete knew at that moment exactly what Nick was about to do, and he could hardly wait. He could feel a wet spot in his shorts, spreading out from the head of his cock, which had been fully erect for what seemed like days.

Nick kissed Pete on the lips, and on the chin, and on the collarbone, and on the nipples, and on each ridge of his abs, and then he reached the top button of his shorts. With fluid motions he unbuttoned them and silently slid the zipper down. Pete’s brilliant white boxer briefs shone from the opening. Nick felt like it was Christmas, and he had gotten exactly what he wanted but never knew to ask for.

Pete, for his part, felt each moment of exposure as a chill up his spine. Nick’s touch was electric, and as he deftly worked to remove the last bits of clothing that Pete wore, Pete realized how much he trusted Nick, trusted him with his exposed and naked body, what he had never trusted to anyone, even the women with whom he had shared it.

Nick tugged at Pete’s shorts and his underwear at the same time, and Pete lifted his hips, giving up to Nick what he had hidden, even from himself. As he felt the air brush across his most private skin, he shivered again at the shock of the new. He was as hard as he had ever been, and as he looked down toward his groin he saw a thread of pre-cum drop glistening from the head of his cock to pool on his belly.

Nick pulled off his boxers and stretched out alongside Pete, who was amazed at how good it felt to be in contact with Nick along the entire length of his body. Nick reached out with one hand and traced his fingers delicately along the taut flesh of Pete’s erection. Pete squirmed and moaned and thrust his pelvis up, trying to bring himself into more forceful contact with Nick’s hand.

Nick whispered into Pete’s ear, “Do you want this, Petey?”

All Pete could do in response was growl and thrust. Nick took this as a “yes.” He wrapped his hand around Pete’s cock, and stroked it up and down, gently at first, and then more aggressively. He ran his thumb over the head, spreading the pre-cum around, using it to lubricate his hand as it tugged at Pete’s cock.

“Oh, god, Nick, stop … stop …”

“Why do you want me to stop?” asked Nick, who was not stopping.

“Because I’m almost there and I don’t want to-”

“But I want you to, Petey. I want to see you cum. I want to make you cum. I want to see you shoot your-”

“Oh! God! Nick!” same the staccato bursts of Pete’s passion, and Nick felt his dick, impossibly, get even harder as it prepared to shoot. It spurted a final glob of pre-cum, clear and slick, and then the semen exploded from the head. Pete’s entire torso tensed, every muscle standing out in relief, as his cock blasted out string after string of hot white cum. The first shot stretched all the way up to Pete’s throat and pooled there. The second blasted well over his head and splattered loudly against the window. The remaining spurts covered Pete’s chest with ropes of pearly cum, and Nick didn’t stop jerking until Pete began to twitch from overstimulation.

“Get on top of me. Now!” growled Pete, pushing Nick over so that his legs straddled Pete’s torso. Looking Nick directly in the eyes, he scooped up a handful of his own cum and slathered it on Nick’s massive erection. It was Nick’s turn to moan and Pete’s hands worked up and down his cock, coating it with his cum. He gasped three times in rapid succession, and then froze in a spasm of pleasure as his cock fired out several huge blasts of cum to mingle with Pete’s. He grunted with each shot, but the third was accompanied by a throaty growl and a thrust of his hips that sent his cum flying over Pete and onto the window.

Exhausted, Nick collapsed onto Pete, their abs and chests slipping against each other as they found new ways for their bodies to fit together. Both were panting, and when they looked at each other they could only smile in satisfied exhaustion. They held each other close and kissed while above their heads, making its way down the window, their semen mixed and became one.

“Not bad for a first date, huh?”

Pete smiled. “Best one ever.”

“We kind of made a mess in your mom’s car.”

“I don’t think she’ll mind. Though I should check the owner’s manual to see if there’s something special you use to get cum stains out of leather upholstery.”

They lay together for a while longer, kissing and reveling in the feel of their bodies pressing against each other.

“Yesterday, when I said I loved you?” Pete began.

“I remember,” replied Nick, somewhat cautiously. He wasn’t sure where this was going.

“Well, I just kind of blurted that out-I wasn’t really thinking.”

“Uh-huh…” Nick was studying his face, trying to see what was coming next.

“And now, now that we’ve done this-” Pete continued.

Nick was silent. He wasn’t even breathing. It shocked him how important this was to him. Everything-everything-hinged on what Pete said next.

“I know I do.”

Nick could breathe again.

“I love you, Nick. I love you more than I have ever loved anyone. All that time that you drove me up the fucking wall, I guess I was just trying not to see it-trying not to see that I was falling for you.”

He kissed Nick again, and Nick felt the truth of his words on his lips.

“Thank you for waiting for me to get here.”

“Here is where I’ve wanted you to be for a long time,” Nick sighed.

They closed their eyes, and held each other tightly, and once again the world outside the two of them faded to nothing.

* * *

“It’s right here, around this corner, on the right,” directed Nick as they neared his house. Pete pulled up outside the completely dark house, and turned to Nick.

“This is your house? There aren’t any lights on.”

“Yeah, my mom and dad get up super early, so they’re always in bed by 10.”

Nick turned to Pete.

“I had an amazing time tonight.”

“Me too. I could get used to this.”

“But, wouldn’t that make you kind of gay, Straight Pete?” Nick grinned.

Pete had quickly come to see the charm in that grin. He laughed.

“I don’t care what you call it. I don’t care what anyone calls it. It’s just you and me and that’s all I care about.”

Pete leaned over and kissed Nick, and a warmth spread all over his body. He hoped that would always happen when he kissed him.

“Look, um-I’m going to have to go around back and go through the back door, so don’t wait for me to get in, okay? My parents get crazy if I turn on any lights or make any noise once they’re down for the night.”

“How about you text me when you’re in, and then I’ll know you’re okay.”

“Petey, I’m not some delicate girl you’re dropping off after the church social. I’ll be fine.”

“Text me or I’m going to start honking for you.”

Nick looked at his-what? Boyfriend? Lover?-his Pete. He shook his head.

“All right, I’ll text you. Now stop worrying and drive safely on your way home.”

They kissed again. Nick opened the door.

“Nick,” Pete called. “I …”

“I know. Me too.” Nick kissed him again. “Good night.”

Nick jogged up the walk, turned and waved, and disappeared behind the house. Less than a minute later Pete’s phone buzzed.

“Im in all safe. Now go!”

Then a second message.

“Love you.”

Pete giggled, a sound that surprised him. He drove off down the street, punching the button for the nav system to take him home.

Nick waited until he heard the SUV drive away, and then made his way out of the backyard and down the street, into the darkness.

* * *

Pete pulled into his driveway, and, as was typical for a Sunday-now Monday-at 12:30am, there were a few lights on downstairs and none upstairs. The rest of his family would be asleep already, and that was fine with him. He couldn’t begin to think about how he would talk to his family about his date with Nick, nor how to answer the questions they would surely ask him about it. As he climbed out of the SUV, he remembered the ashtray. He leaned back in, and grabbed out the condoms that his mom had stuffed in there. Then, on second thought, he reached back and put two of them back. That would give his mom something to think about, he thought with a smile.

As he turned off the downstairs lights and made his way up to his room, he thought about how amazing it was to be with Nick, and how glad he was that they would be at the same school starting in just a week. Then an idea came to him-one inspired by Nick-and he knew what he would be doing the next day.

He rose early and showered and dressed, and came downstairs hoping to slip out before his parents were up. He left a note on the kitchen bulletin board: “Need to take care of something on campus. Took the car-hope that’s okay. Pete.” The car in question was the one that his parents had bought him for college, and that he was not supposed to drive until he started school next week. But Pete figured if he was going to campus, he should be able to drive it. He hoped his parents would agree, but he was determined to leave now before they could object.

He drove too fast to campus, as if racing to get there before his resolve failed him. He consulted the campus map when he arrived, and found a parking space near the housing office, which was attached to the Student Center. He took a deep breath, screwed his courage to the sticking place, and walked into the huge, mall-like building. Pete had been here before, for freshman welcome, but then his parents had been with him-even his little sister had tagged along, to his mortification-and his being here hadn’t seemed real. Now he felt a strange mix of being ready to leave home to join this bustle and being completely overwhelmed by its size and complexity. He had kind of forgotten in the rush of so many big new things in his life that he was about to embark of one of the newest and biggest.

He paused for a moment to get his bearings in the building. He stood directly in front of the cafe, and watched people swarm in and out. The variety of people surprised him. There were men and women of all ages, sizes, colors-his homogenous high school experience had not prepared him for such diversity. His dream had always been to come to college and suddenly find himself surrounded by beautiful women; there were certainly some prime examples on display today. A parade of feminine beauty passed before him, sipping their lattes, each clinging t-shirt a bouncing display of the college logo. But the familiar warmth that this produced in him was complicated by the presence of another kind of beauty, this of the masculine variety. A group of men walked past him, wearing nylon running shorts, drinking from water bottles. Pete noticed their musculature, which he compared to Nick’s, and the way they glistened, and the way their abs expanded and contracted as they breathed heavily, recovering from their run. Pete was shocked that words like “musculature” and “glistened” had forced their way into his head, and he was even more taken aback by the hint of that twist in his stomach that he associated only with Nick’s presence. What was happening to him?

As he watched the runners stroll by, he noticed a man in the cafe across the way watching them as well, his eyes scanning the departing calves, thighs, and glutes with what Pete could only describe as hunger. Oh my god, Pete thought, is that what I look like? The man picked up his coffee and trailed off after the nylon troupe, apparently determined to prolong his viewing pleasure as long as possible. Pete shook his head, trying to clear it of the images he had just seen.

He turned back to the building map on the wall, found the housing office, and headed off in the same direction as the runners and their voyeur. He found the office and entered, walking with what he hoped looked like purpose and not trepidation, and waited for the person at the counter to notice him. She did, immediately, both because it was her job to do so and because she thought Pete was about the cutest thing she had seen since all summer.

“Can I help you?” she asked, smiling her best smile. It said “I’m single.” She waited, eyebrows raised, hoping he would notice just how very much she wanted to help him.

“Um, I need to … I mean I wanted to see … I guess I’d like to … ” Pete stumbled and rambled, wishing he had practiced this in the car.

“Yes?” she prompted, sweetly. She was willing to wait for him, no matter how long it took, because then she could look at him longer. He was so cute as he tried to spit out whatever it was he wanted!

“I’d like to talk with someone about my roommate for the fall. I mean, there’s someone I’d like to room with, and so I wanted to see if I could talk with someone about that. I guess.” Pete, out of breath, fell silent, somewhat helplessly.

“Oh, I see,” she said, trying to nod gravely while still looking cute and available. “Roommate assignments are all done by computer, and they were run last week. You don’t really get a choice about them.”

She saw his crestfallen look, and pitied him. He just looked so cute and lost!

“But there may be something we can do-maybe. You would need to talk to the Assistant Housing Director,” here she nodded to the office behind her, visible behind a window.

Pete stared.

Through the window he could see the Assistant Housing Director, at his desk. It was the man who had followed the running club through the Student Center. He was now sipping his coffee and devoting almost as much attention to his computer screen as he had to the firm, round buttocks of the runners.

“Shall I tell him you’d like to see him?” she asked.

The plan came to him in an instant. All he’d had to do was think “What would Nick do?”

“Not right now,” he said, a little too harshly. He softened his tone, not wanting to offend her. “I need to run and do something first. Can I come back in, like, 10 minutes?”

She beamed. “Of course. He’ll be in all morning.”

“Thanks,” he said, and turned and left the office.

Nick walked briskly through the Student Center, looking for a bathroom. He found one on the other side of the cafe, and ducked in. He entered a stall, shut the door, and took a deep breath. From pocket he pulled out the Swiss Army knife his dad had given him for graduation, and he took off his shirt. With the miniature scissors he carefully cut out the neck of the shirt, trying to remember how Nick’s YES! shirt had looked in the airport terminal when Mr. Patronus just about had a heart attack over it. Once the neck was open wide, plunging to mid-chest, he turned to the sleeves. He cut them off, then slit down the sides almost to the waistband. It wasn’t until he had finished that he even thought about how he had just hacked apart an almost brand-new shirt. But that didn’t matter now. He put the shirt on, feeling exposed and a little bit dirty, and then he slipped off his shorts and underwear. He held his boxer briefs in one hand while he slipped his shorts back on. He stuffed the underwear into a pocket, but it made a huge lump that looked ridiculous. He took them out, and wondered what to do with them. As he exited the stall, he wadded them up with the scraps of his shirt and threw them into the garbage. He was fully committed now.

The full-length mirror near the door told the story. Pete’s gymnast build broke free of his remaining clothing, firm and abundant. His left nipple peeked out of the arm hole, and the outline of his cock was clearly visible through the fabric of his shorts. He looked into the mirror at someone else-someone he had become without his knowing it. He was a whore. But he was a whore for a good cause, and he knew it was something that Nick had been willing to do for him, so now he did it for Nick. He had no experience using his body to get things, but he was going to give it the old college try. He left the bathroom, and walked back to the housing office.

Along the way, he noticed people looking at him. Not just women, which was the only kind of attention he was normally aware of, but men as well. He was filled with pride, and disgust, and excitement, and fear, and determination. He entered the housing office.

The receptionist looked up and tried, without success, to keep her mouth from dropping open. Pete nodded to her, and she managed to nod slowly back as he took a seat in the waiting area. She fumbled for the right button on the phone, which she would have managed to do had the leg of Pete’s shorts not fallen open at that moment, giving her a view she had not expected. She dialed without looking and was suddenly on the phone with the campus heating plant.

“Oh, sorry, wrong number,” she mumbled into the phone. She hung up and walked into the Assistant Director’s office. “Mr. Duggan? There’s someone here to see you, about a roommate assignment.”

“Have those gone out already?” came the flustered reply. The Assistant Director of Housing was prone to flustering.

“No, they haven’t. But this gentleman here,” she pointed through the window to Pete, “would like to talk with you about it.”

Mr. Duggan’s mouth was suddenly filled with cotton. And lust. Lustful cotton, of course, is notoriously difficult to talk through. “Hend himmin” was all that came out. The receptionist rolled her eyes. This was not new behavior to her.

She walked out to where Pete sat in the waiting room. She had to allow Mr. Duggan his due on this one. He was delectable. “Assistant Director Duggan will see you now,” she told him. See you in his dreams tonight, she added in her mind.

Pete walked back to the office he had seen through the window. “Um, hello?” he ventured.

“Come in, come in,” came the chipper reply. “I’m Assistant Director Duggan.”

He motioned Pete to sit.

“I’m Peter Dorsey,” Pete said as he took a seat in front of the desk.

Mr. Duggan took in the sight before him. He traced along Pete’s broad shoulders, tan and still pumped from building stone bridges all summer, and gulped when he saw the delicate hollow at his throat where his clavicles met. His pectorals overflowed the skimpy shirt, and a hint of a nipple was showing on the right side. The legs were strong and solid, though still lithe. A gymnast, Mr. Duggan decided, based on several years of intensive field research into the effects of various sports on male bodies in their prime.

“And what can I do for you, Peter?” asked Mr. Duggan, who sat on the front edge of his desk. The view was much better here than from his desk chair.

“I was wondering, sir, if it might be possible …” Pete began, then trailed off, nervously.

“Yes?” prompted Mr. Duggan, who was already willing to answer yes to whatever this Peter Dorsey wanted from him.

“If I could make a request to room with a particular person this year.” Pete looked up at Mr. Duggan with what he hoped were puppylike yet sexy eyes. Nick made it look so easy-it wasn’t.

“Oh, Peter, that’s not really something we can do. You see,” Mr. Duggan began a well rehearsed speech about how the college needed to balance all sorts of factors in the assignment of roommates.

Pete knew he was losing this. He took a deep breath, and slipped his hand under his shirt to draw his fingers in carefully careless circles over his abs. The goosebumps that formed were mostly the result of his being so nervous putting on this crazy act, but to Mr. Duggan, who focused like a laser on Pete’s now hardening nipples, they were like a drug.

His canned speech trailed off without his knowing it.

“I’d be grateful if you’d consider it,” Pete said, repeating Nick’s words to Mr. Patronus in the airport. He hoped they would work here.

“Well, I don’t know, Peter, there are many factors that determine room assignments, and we would be risking all kinds of …”

Pete improvised. It was all he could think to do. He slouched off to one side of the chair, and raised his foot up to the seat cushion. This had the effect of opening the leg of his shorts, exposing his inner thigh nearly up to his crotch. It also had the effect of making Mr. Duggan’s heart skip a beat, and his dignity evaporate entirely.

“Well, I think we can do something to help you out, Peter. Let me just-”

The office doorway was suddenly filled with a massive form, which blocked out all light from the hallway.

“Mr. Duggan? Can I see you for-” boomed the voice, which halted abruptly when the speaker noticed Pete.

“Oh, Director Skinner, this is Peter Dorsey. He’s here with a quick question about his first year in the dorms, and once I get him straightened out I’ll come to your office.”

Director of Housing Skinner stepped into the office, and Pete was surprised to find that she was a woman. Sort of.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Dorsey. Welcome. How can we help you today.” It was a question, but didn’t sound like she meant it to be one.

Mr. Duggan tried to wave Pete off from answering the question, but he was so nervous he didn’t pick up on Mr. Duggan’s flailing hand motions.

“I came to see if I can room with my, um, best friend this year. Mr. Duggan’s been very nice,” Pete added, hoping this would help. It did not.

Director Skinner saw immediately what was going on, and she was not pleased.

“I’m sure, Mr. Dorsey, that Mr. Duggan explained to you that the room assignments are made well in advance using a time-tested set of criteria to ensure compatibility and overall hall diversity. We cannot make exceptions,” she said, slowly and emphatically, looking at Mr. Duggan more than Pete.

“But,” Pete began, seeing his victory snatched from him by this giant troll of a woman. “You see, Nick and I are, um, you see, we’re … um … that is we have …” He looked at Mr. Duggan for help, for a lifeline.

“Peter, are you trying to tell us that you and this Nick are in a … a relationship?” Mr. Duggan asked. He was beside himself-the cutest ones are always straight, and here’s this one who is not only humpy but gay!

Director Skinner’s head whipped back to Pete.

“Is this true, Mr. Dorsey? Are you and this person …”

“Nick. Nick Goodman.”

“Yes. Are you and Mr. Goodman in a-” and here she paused, as if reluctant to even wrap her lips around the words, “In a committed same-sex relationship?”

“Uh …” Pete panicked at the words. What the hell was this? He had no idea what his relationship with Nick was.

“Because if you are,” Director Skinner continued, obviously disgusted at having to say this, “Then the university, in its infinite wisdom and slavish devotion to diversity, and as the result of a recent lawsuit, would require me to place you together if you so request it.” She squinted at him, ill-hidden loathing welling up her eyes.

Pete saw his chance. He took it.

“Yes, yes we are. Fully committed. That’s us.”

“Fine,” spat the Director, who turned immediately to leave. “Duggan, my office, 5 minutes.” She swept out.

“Well, then, Peter, let’s just finish up this paperwork and you can be on your way.”

“Thank you sir. And thank you for …”

“Don’t mention it, Peter,” Mr. Duggan replied with an understanding smile. “We have to stick together, don’t we?”

Four and one-half minutes later Pete was on his way out of the housing office. The receptionist, who eavesdropped on all conversations that happened around her, watched him go, with some regret. “That Nick is a lucky guy,” she thought, as she turned back to her work.

On the drive home, Pete noticed two things: first, using his body to get what he wanted didn’t feel as bad as he feared it might, and second, that his balls tended to stick to leather upholstery. This latter thing he would need to keep in mind if he decided to go without underwear in the future.

The future. A future of Nick and himself, together. Pete was happy, and couldn’t imagine being otherwise for the whole coming school year.

* * *

Pete arrived home after the three-hour drive from campus. He hoped his parents would be okay with him not having asked permission to take the car today-they would have called him if they were upset, he reasoned, not altogether confidently. It was just about dinner time when he walked into the kitchen from the garage.

“I’m home,” he called, and received no answer. He walked through the kitchen, and saw his parents standing in front of the television, apparently arrested in the middle of doing other things: his dad held a spatula, his mom the newspaper. Their rapt attention was devoted to the TV.

“Guys, what’s-” was as far as Pete got. Then he heard the reporter’s voice.

“-asked executives at Xavier and Young for comment, but received no reply. At this point, no one knows whether the company was aware that underage models were present at the photo shoot, but the company has said it is investigating. Once again, we have confirmed that the model in question,” and here the screen flashed to a photo of a young man, from the rear, his buttocks blurred for family viewing, “was sixteen years old at the time of the photo shoot. Back to you, Chuck.”

Pete’s dad switched off the set at this point, and turned to Pete. “Well, son, it looks like that photo shoot you did turned into a bit of trouble for the company, huh? How was your trip to campus? Get everything squared away?”

“Uh, yeah, Dad, thanks. So what was that on the news?”

Pete’s mom explained. “Oh, they found out that one of the models they photographed that day was sixteen, and now some church group is saying that the catalog is, well-” she hesitated here, lowering her voice to a whisper. “Child pornography.”

“But the catalog isn’t porn.” Pete replied, mystified.

“Yes, but that young man is nude in it, and you can see his rear end,” his mom replied.

“On page 17!” chimed in his dad. Pete was a little surprised by that.

“Now they’re saying that they are gathering signatures to get the company to pull the catalog from the stores.”

“Well, there goes my modeling career!” joked Pete. His parents knew he wasn’t interested in modeling again, so they laughed along with him. Nick wouldn’t be laughing, Pete thought. He’d have to check in with him later. The controversy would probably play right into X&Y’s marketing plan, but then again an accusation of child porn was a big deal, Pete knew that.

As Pete’s dad returned to the kitchen to finish making dinner, his mom leaned her head close to his and whispered, “How was your evening with Nick?”

“It was nice, Mom, thanks. We had fun.”

“Ten times, apparently,” his mom replied, grinning conspiratorially.

Pete was stumped for a second, then remembered. There had been a dozen condoms, and he had left two in the ashtray. He blushed.

“Mom! Can we not talk about this?”

“Sure, honey, whatever you say. I’m just glad you’re being safe.” She walked off to the kitchen to help.

Pete wondered what he had done to get such meddling, supportive, annoying, clueless, wonderful parents.

That night he texted Nick about the news story, but didn’t get a response. He called after three texts had gone unanswered, but Nick didn’t pick up either. Pete was worried, but not terribly. Nick could take care of himself.

* * *

The next morning Pete came downstairs for breakfast and saw only his mom and sister at the table. They were conspicuously not eating their waffles, as if his coming down the stairs had put them off their appetites.

“What’s up guys?” Pete asked. He could sense something was wrong. “Where’s Dad?”

“Oh! He, um, had something to do early today. He’s … umm … gone already.” Pete’s mom was pretty much incapable of lying convincingly, and she was sure sucking at it right now. Pete followed her furtive glance out the window, and saw his Dad outside on a ladder.

“Dad’s painting? The house?” Pete asked. “He just did that last summer. What’s going on?” he demanded of his mother and sister, and got no response. His mom, in fact, seemed to be tearing up. Pete marched to the door and went outside to see what his dad was doing.

As soon as he got outside he saw it. His dad was painting all right, but not because he wanted the house to be a new color. He was painting over something. Pete wasn’t sure what he had already covered, but he could certainly see the three-foot-tall, black spray-painted “FAGGIT” scrawled across the front of the house.

Pete stood silent in front of his own home, that had been violated so completely, and he didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what to feel. His dad, who had been so intent on painting that he hadn’t noticed his son come out of the house, turned toward him only when he heard the retching. Pete was throwing up into the bushes, emptying his stomach in a fit of rage and embarrassment.

“Son! Oh Pete, you shouldn’t have come out here!” his dad said, as he dropped his paint roller and ran over to Pete.

Pete hurled until he could no longer breathe, and then he sat back, panting, crying, shaking. His dad put his arm around him, held him tight. Neighbors looked decorously away as father and son sat crumpled on the lawn, crying together.

Eventually, Pete’s dad was able to guide him into the house, passing by the three neighbors who had taken up the paint and roller and were already hard at work painting. Pete could see reflected in the front window of his house that more people were on the way, paintbrushes in hand. This made him cry even harder. All of these people had dropped whatever they were doing-Mr. Rooney from three houses down was already dressed in his suit for the bank, but had a paint roller in hand anyway-and come to help, to support the family of the poor faggit. Pete felt like throwing up again.

His dad deposited him at the breakfast table and hurried off to compose himself and then go thank the now dozen people who were obliterating any sign of the vile graffiti. Pete just stared at the table, exhausted. His mom had no idea what to say to him, nor did his sister. Lisa did, however, put her head on his shoulder and whisper, “I love you.” This made Pete start crying all over again.

What the hell was going on? Who would do this? And why? Pete wasn’t gay-at least, he didn’t think so. In any case, no one knew about him and Nick, so why would…

“Oh,” Pete said. As this was the first thing he’d said since staggering back into the house, his mom immediately took notice.

“What is it, Pete?” she asked, her voice a tapestry of concern.

“X&Y. The picture at the mall. That’s why they did this. That story on the news last night got somebody worked up, and they did this.”

“Oh,” she said slowly, considering. “You know, I’ll bet you’re right. This really doesn’t have anything to do with you, Pete. It’s just someone lashing out at the store.”

“But if this happened to me…”

His mom knew where he was going with this. “What about Nick?” she completed his thought.

Pete grabbed his cell out of his pocket and dialed Nick’s number. There was a recording that his number was no longer in service. Pete texted him and got no reply. Nick, as far as Pete was concerned, was gone. Holy shit.

“Mom, I don’t know what to do,” Pete whimpered, his voice shaky and small.

“Oh, honey,” his mom said as she came around the table and gathered him into her arms. “You just don’t think about all of this for a while, and it will all settle down. You’ll see.”

He wanted to believe her, wanted to believe that it would get better.

It wouldn’t.

* * *

Pete spent the day moping around the house. His life was a shambles. Having his parents think he was gay was odd enough, but then to have complete strangers (he hoped they were complete strangers, anyway) spray-paint his house with those horrible things, and then to have this entire neighborhood stand by him-it was all too much. It was all complicated by the fact that he had no idea if he was gay at all; he didn’t feel any different than he had been a week ago when he still considered himself completely straight, and in fact had never considered any other possibility. He certainly hadn’t taken up any interest in decorating, he didn’t lisp, and his wrists were still stiff enough to support his entire weight on the parallel bars. No, he didn’t fit the stereotype, and yet he had fallen in love with another guy, had convinced the housing office that they were in a committed relationship, and he had basically seduced an older man to accomplish it. His head was spinning, and all the while Nick’s phone refused to work. What the hell was going on?

It was with some anxiety that Pete’s family turned on the local news that evening. Luckily no one seemed to have found out about the graffiti incident-Pete had begged his parents not to report it to the police-and so that was not mentioned. But the child porn angle was being worked vigorously by the local news team, as that kind of thing made for great ratings. Tonight, though, the story had had a new dimension.

“Updating you tonight on a story from last night’s newscast: the Xavier and Young campaign that apparently involved underage models has now got a new headache. Another of the models on the shoot was apparently arrested last last year for lewd and lascivious conduct with another male in a car parked in a local wildlife area. The case was settled without a conviction for the young man, but the other person in the car, 24-year-old Tyler Banks, was sentenced to two years probation. The model in question, 18-year-old Nicholas Goodman, has not returned our calls for comment.” Here the screen helpfully displayed a shot of the front of the X&Y store, with Nick and Pete’s almost-kissing photo clearly visible.

Pete’s dad fumbled with the remote, trying to turn off the news quickly. He was heartbroken as he looked at his son; Pete’s face was ashen as he attempted to absorb this latest shock.

Pete got up numbly and walked up the stairs to his room. His parents didn’t try to stop him- what would they say? He shut his door and flopped down on his bed in the dark. He rolled over and stared up, trying to figure out what in his whole entire life was true anymore. Nick had lied to him. He said that he had never been with another guy, and now Pete knew that wasn’t true. What else had he lied about? Pete had fallen for a guy who made a habit out of fooling around with other guys in parked cars. The whole thing made Pete feel dirty.

His phone buzzed, and without thinking he picked it up and looked at it. It was a new text message, from a number he had never seen before.

“I’m sorry,” the message said. “Can we talk? Nick.”

Pete replied, his hands shaking with rage.

“U lied.”

Nick’s response came in quickly.

“No! I can explain.”

“I bet u can. FU.” Pete smashed the “Send” button with his finger until it turned white.

His phone buzzed again.

“It’s not what u think. Can I see u?”

Pete typed his final message and then turned off his phone.

“Never.”

He threw his phone down and went back to staring at the ceiling.

Morning found him still lying on top of his bed, still dressed. As he looked around his room, the previous two days came back to him in a rush. He had been a fucking idiot. What had he been thinking? He wasn’t in love with Nick-the thought made him sick. It had all been a psychotic episode, and it was all over. He would start life over again today. He made his way to the shower, and scrubbed harder than he ever had.

At breakfast that morning, Pete saw a front-page story in the local paper about X&Y’s troubles with the cursed photo shoot. The company had finally had to respond to the stories, and they had decided to remove all vestiges of the campaign from their stores. The picture of Nick and Pete was already coming down from storefronts all over the country, and the stacks of catalogs had been collected overnight. The erasure of the entire experience, the thing that had derailed Pete’s entire life, was underway. He was happy to see it go.

The morning news show caught his attention with its mention of what people were now calling the “X&Y Scandal.”

“We tracked down the young man in question, Nicholas Goodman, who has been homeless since his arrest for lewd and lascivious behavior last November. Reached last night at a shelter, Mr. Goodman insisted that he had no knowledge about the underage model. He also claims that the charges against him were the result of a misunderstanding with police, and that he was in no way involved in sexual activity with the other defendant. Executives at X&Y, meanwhile, have made it very clear that they will never employ the models or photographer from the campaign again.”

Pete wondered when he would ever stop hearing more bad news. He dropped his forehead to the table and covered it with his hands.

“Nick is homeless?” his parents asked, in unison.

“Well, that’s what they said,” Pete replied. “He apparently never told me the truth about anything.”

“But honey, isn’t it possible that he was just ashamed of being homeless, and covered it up with a few white lies?” Pete’s mom always tried to see the best in everyone.

“That’s not all he lied to me about, Mom. Not nearly.”

“Oh. I see.”

“Look, I’m going to just go back up to my room and try to start the day over again in a little while, okay?” Pete trudged back upstairs.

He realized that he had never turned his phone back on. He hit the power switch, and was informed that nine new messages had arrived. He reluctantly paged through them.

“Plz dont say never,” the first one read.

“Petey, I need to see u. I can explain everything.”

The next one came in an hour later.

“Pete, I couldnt tell u the truth bc the truth is a mess.”

An hour more.

“I just talked to the news guys. Now youll know all of it.”

“Pete, plz text me. I cant stand this.”

“UR killing me. I love you Petey. Plz don’t do this.”

Just after midnight, another message.

“I did some things Im not proud of. I know u think Im dirt. U were the 1 good thing in my life, and I fucked that up. I wont go back to life w/o u. I cant do it. Im not that strong.”

And then another.

“This is the end, Petey. I need to hear from u. If not, Im done.”

Then, at 2:30 in the morning.

“All right. U win. Have a nice life.”

Pete stared at the phone. What did Nick mean by not being strong enough? What did he mean by “done”? Why did Pete still care?

He did care, though. Damn it, he still cared.

He hit reply.

“Had my phone off. Can we talk?”

There was no reply. Pete tried again, and again. Then he dialed the number, afraid of what he would hear.

“Hello?”

“Nick?”

“No, this is the shelter at 10th and Margold. Who is this?”

“I’m looking for Nick Goodman. This is his number.”

“Well, I guess it was, but he’s gone.”

Pete gulped.

“Where did he go?”

“We don’t know. He left his phone here, and no one’s seen him since about 3 this morning. You a friend of his?”

“Um, yeah, I guess. Yes, I am a friend of his.” Pete was astounded that 24 hours ago he was describing Nick as his committed relationship. Now he struggled to call him a friend.

“Well, the people who talked to him last said that he was depressed, and that he told them he wasn’t going to see them again. They’re all pretty worried. Do you have any idea where he might have gone? He left all of his things here, which is really strange.”

“No, I don’t know where he would have gone. Sorry.”

“Well, please let us know if you find him.”

“I will, thanks.” Pete hung up.

He put his phone down and curled up on his bed. The tears came, hot and stinging, and his mind filled with horrible visions. He hoped that sleep would take him, but after what seemed like hours he gave up.

He got up from his bed, unable to keep still, and went down to the basement where his workout equipment was. He lifted weights until he could hardly hold them in his hands, and then he ran on the treadmill until sweat trickled into his eyes. He had hoped that exhausting himself would keep him from thinking about Nick, but it wasn’t working. He went back upstairs, showered, and collapsed on his bed, worn out but not tired. Finally he gave up, and went back downstairs, having spent most of the day trying not to think.

“There he is!” called his mom. Pete knew it must be late if his mom was home already.

“Hey mom. Got anything to eat?” Pete sounded pathetic, and he didn’t care. He was pathetic.

His mom ruffled his hair and kissed his cheek. No one ever said raising a teenager was easy, but Pete had been easy all along. Now he was making up for it, and she felt terrible about what he had been through. That made it all the harder to do what she now needed to.

“Pete, something came for you.”

Pete’s blood ran cold.

“What is it?” he asked, the color draining from his face.

“Someone put this in the mailbox today. I have no idea what it means.” She handed him a small box, which she had clearly already opened.

Inside the box was a shot glass, bearing the engraved name of the bar where he and Nick and Imre and Karvaly had gone that first night. It still smelled of that horrid green liqueur; it gave Pete a shiver to remember that night. There was a note folded in the box. Pete unfolded it, and read.

“From the first night of my new life. Now that my new life is over, I wanted you to have it.”

Pete recalled Karvaly’s description of how Nick had cared for him that night, and held him until he finally fell asleep. There were tears running down his cheeks as he dropped the note onto the table and sat-fell-into a chair, holding the shot glass to his chest.

Pete didn’t know what to do, whom to trust, what to feel. He was numb and wracked with pain at the same time; he both wanted to tell his mom everything and run away and hide it all, forever.

“Mom?”

“Yes, dear?” his mom replied, her voice shaking.

“How do you know when to trust someone?”

His mom sighed, and shook her head.

“You can’t know, honey. You just can’t. But when you love someone, you have to trust that they are going to do the right thing. Like your dad and I. All of this that you’re going through now, we just have to trust that you will make the right choices. We trust you because we love you. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard-it is. Really hard. But it’s all we can do.”

Tears continued to stream down Pete’s cheeks. He started several times to say something, but couldn’t.

“Pete, do you love Nick?”

Pete was silent, for a long time. Then, a slight nod.

“I think I do.”

His mom smiled, a smile tinged with both hope and regret.

“Then perhaps you need to trust him. Or at least give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Pete looked at the shot glass in his hands. He knew that Nick loved him, and had cared for him when he was completely helpless. He owed him the same.

“I need to find him,” Pete said, rising.

His mom nodded. “Take my car, dear. And please be careful, okay?”

Pete hugged his mom, and she felt her arms wrap around the boy, not the man. She hoped he would find his way through this-she had to trust.

“I’m going to go look for him,” Pete said, as he walked to the garage. “Don’t wait up.”

“Pete, honey, how can I not?” She watched him go.

Pete drove to the mall, hoping that he would be able to find his way from there. Had it really only been four days since that evening that started at X&Y and ended in the meadow? He had no idea where to find Nick, but he was going to try the only place he could think of to look.

From the mall parking lot Pete reconstructed the route they took. He had been kind of out of it for the first few miles, but those were also over the most familiar roads, so he was able to feel his way. Once out in the country, with the sun beginning to set, it got a lot harder. Still, he was able to pick out the smaller and smaller roads, only running into dead ends twice and having to retrace his steps. Finally, he was bouncing along the dirt road, hitting every pothole along the way. He arrived at the chain across the road, and found there was no way that his mom’s huge SUV could squeak past the oak tree that guarded the side of the road. He parked along the edge of the road, grabbed flashlight and the jacket his mom had insisted he take along, and walked the rest of the way.

At the meadow there was no sign of Nick’s car, and no sign of Nick. Pete wandered around the edge, calling softly to him, knowing it was hopeless. He finally sat down on the spot he remembered so well, the place where he had first, finally, kissed Nick. He pulled his knees up to his chest, and, with his forehead resting on his knees, started to cry. It was really over. The whole dream/nightmare of the summer was over. He was alone, and he would be alone until he was able to get himself figured out. When that would be he had no idea, but it was unlikely to be anytime soon.

“God damn you, Nick.” he said under his breath, under his sobs. “God damn you. I loved you and you’re gone. Fucking gone!” Pete trailed off, his eyes burning, his nose stuffed up, his shoulders shaking.

“Petey?”

Pete froze, uncertain. Had he imagined that he heard Nick’s voice?

“Petey, you came.” It was Nick’s voice all right.

Pete turned around, saw Nick standing behind him in the twilight.

“You lied to me,” Pete said slowly and quietly.

“I did. And I’m sorry I did. I just couldn’t figure out how to tell you the truth.”

“I’m not sure I want you to. I’m not sure I should be here.” Pete didn’t say, couldn’t bring himself to say, how relieved he was that Nick was here.

“Will you stay for a minute and let me tell you everything?”

Pete considered this. He honestly wasn’t sure he could stay. As bad as the last two days had been, he had to admit to himself that his life would be a lot simpler without Nick in it. He could go back to being Straight Pete and-damn it, why did everything in his head connect to Nick?

Nick knelt down behind Pete, put a tentative hand on his shoulder. “Will you let me explain?”

The touch hit Pete like a brick. It crashed right through his armor, through the wall he had tried to rebuild over the last couple of days, through his common sense and better judgment. It warmed him and reminded him of how good Nick felt next to him. He had to stay now.

“I’ll stay. But you have to tell me everything.”

“I will.”

“I mean everything. I have to know it all.”

“I know. I’ll tell you everything.”

“Okay. Better get started.”

As the moon rose, Nick began his tale.

“Okay, so, my parents are basically fuck-ups. My mom left when I was four, and my dad held it together pretty well, but the last couple of years he got into some bad stuff-drugs, mainly, but also stealing things to pay for his habit. Right at the beginning of my senior year, he disappeared. I think there was a warrant for him for something serious, but I don’t know for sure. But once he was gone I got kicked out of the apartment we were living in, and had to move into an old trailer my uncle owns. I was trying to earn money and keep going to school, but it was tough.”

Pete had forgotten all of his reservations now, and was listening intently. Nick’s life was like a foreign country.

“So, I got a few modeling jobs, which were great, but still not all that much. I was cleaning pools after school five days a week to bring in more money, and trying to work in modeling when I could. Then, one day, a guy whose pool I was cleaning offered me a bonus if I would work without my shirt on. I hated that stupid PoolMasters shirt anyway, so I was happy to. Ten extra bucks for working shirtless! Pretty awesome in my book.”

Pete was starting to see where Nick’s fascination with the power of his body came from.

“So the next week I get a slip saying I needed to do another cleaning for the same guy. Weird, because he had been a monthly customer. But I went, and he offered me $20 if I would clean the pool with no shirt and no shoes on.”

“The guy was into feet? Gross,” Pete opined.

“Yeah, I know. But $20 extra meant that I could actually go see a movie, which was something I hadn’t been able to do for a while. So I did it. Then the next week he offered me $100 extra to clean the pool naked. Now, the pool was clean enough to eat off of, so we both knew what this was about. But I did it, and, honestly, Petey, I really liked it. He just watched me, and I thought the guy was going to have a heart attack. He wasn’t that old, but he kept groaning like he was about to die. I pushed the vacuum thing around for a half hour, and then he got up and disappeared for about five minutes, and then came back with a $100 bill. Then he asked me if I would be willing to come back that Saturday for a “performance” for some of his friends. I asked him what that would involve, and he said that I’d do the same thing I’d just done, but for $250. Well, I was all over that. So I came back on Saturday, and there were about 5 men there, some of them older, some not so old, but all eager to see me sweep the pool naked. So I did. They kept wandering off behind the bushes, watching me while they jerked off.”

“That sounds disgusting.”

“Yeah, you’d think so, but actually it was kind of amazing. I mean, I was causing these guys to get all worked up and blow a load just by showing off my body. And by that point it was pretty clear to me that my body was all I had to get by on. On the scale of whoring, cleaning a pool naked is pretty tame.”

“Yeah, I guess so. So then what happened?”

“Well, I continued doing Saturday nights at the pool, and the audience grew-and so did the tips. About a month later one of the guys at the party, only a few years older than me, asked if I would consider a private performance for him for $1000. He wanted me to go with him in his car, and jack off while he watched. He said he wouldn’t touch me, just watch. And, Petey, a thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. That would mean I could stop doing the pool thing and just focus on modeling and finishing my senior year. So I went with him. We parked out at the wildlife preserve, and I stripped off and started jerkin’ it. He took his out at some point along the way, which was a little weird, but I just kept going. All of a sudden there was this bright light outside my window, and there were like three cop cars and everyone was shouting. They yanked me out of the car, completely naked, and threw me on the ground and cuffed me. It was horrible.”

“Oh god, Nick, that must have been awful.”

“Well, it got worse. Turns out they were really only after the guy who brought me there. They’d been trying to catch him for several months for doing this kind of thing. But it turns out that the cop who dragged me out of the car insisted that once they had me cuffed, they had to charge me. Asshole. Anyway, so they charged me, and I had to use all of the money I had in the world to get a lawyer to make a deal. I had to testify against the guy who paid me, but then they let me go, on the condition that I spend the summer doing that YES! thing-some church group paid for me to go, trying to turn my life around or some shit like that. And once I did that the record was supposed to be sealed, but obviously someone talked to the TV news crew.”

Pete was silent, trying to imagine Nick going through all of this alone.

“After I got arrested, my uncle, who never really liked me much, kicked me out of the trailer. Called me a fag and said I was dead to him. So that’s how I ended up in the shelter. Getting that X&Y shoot was really my best shot at making it all work-I stashed all of the money I got from that so I could pay for the first year of college. That was the best day of my life, because I met you. But now that’s all gone to shit.”

Nick paused, sighed, continued.

“So that’s the story, Pete. My sad story. I didn’t want to tell you any of it, because I thought I had gotten through the worst of it. But I didn’t lie to you about the important stuff. You really were my first-the only guy I ever fell for. You still are, and I think you will always be. Anyway, after I stopped by your house today I traded my car to one of the guys at the shelter and hitched a ride out to where the logging road branches off the highway. I walked up here tonight to take these,” here he shook a bottle of pills, payment for his car. “And lie under the stars until I fell asleep.”

Pete was stunned. Nick was really planning on doing this.

“Nick, I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. But that’s past now. You’re going to be okay now.”

“Not without you, Pete. I can’t do it.”

“But I’m right here, and I’m not going anywhere. In fact,” Pete chuckled at the memory, “I arranged for us to room together.”

“You what?”

“I went to campus on Monday and asked for us to be roommates. Like you did with Mr. Patronus. Actually, exactly like you did with Mr. Patronus.”

“You did that? So that we could live together?”

“I did. Whored myself out but good. It was kind of exciting, but also really, really dirty.”

“I don’t know what to say, Petey. Can you forgive me? Do you still love me? I love you more than anything in the world.”

“Yes, I love you, ya big clod. Of course I do. Why else would I be here, alone in a meadow, with a convicted sex offender?”

“My sex isn’t that offensive, is it?” Nick grinned.

“Your sex is just fine. Same as mine, as a matter of fact, which is what keeps causing all these problems.”

“So, what do we do now?”

“Now, we stop by that shelter where you left your stuff, and then you’re coming home with me. We’ll stay there until move-in day this weekend.”

“Petey, I couldn’t. Your parents-”

“My parents are dying to meet you. They are so overdosed on gay pride that they’ll completely flip out with joy. Promise.”

Nick was silent for a moment, and then he hugged Pete so hard that Pete saw stars inside his head. He felt the wetness on Nick’s cheek.

“Pete, I-”

“Shhh. I love you. There’s nothing else to say.”

“I love you too, Petey.”

“Now let’s go.”

* * *

Back at home, Pete parked in the driveway and shut off the engine.

“Here we are! This is where I live.”

“I know-I left you something in your mailbox today.”

Pete laughed. “I can’t believe you saved one of those shot glasses. God, what a night.”

“Hey, don’t laugh. That was the night that I knew.”

Pete looked at him, quizzically.

“Knew what?”

“That you were the one. That you needed me.”

Pete smiled, amazed at how the embarrassment of that night-of that whole experience-was washed away, replaced by the romantic notion that Nick made out of it. Amazing.

“Well, time to meet the parents. Ready?”

“You say they’ll be okay with me, right?”

“Promise.”

“Kiss for good luck?”

Pete leaned over and kissed him, perhaps once or twice more than was absolutely necessary for luck.

“Let’s go.”

Pete led the way up the walk, past the new paint job, and through the front door. Lights were still on, so he knew they were still awake.

“Mom? Dad?”

“In here, Pete!” came his dad’s voice from the TV room.

“Come on,” Pete said to Nick, who was hesitating in the kitchen. He really didn’t know what to expect from this. Pete took Nick’s hand, and led him into the room.

When the two entered the TV room, Pete’s parents jumped to their feet. They recognized Nick from the X&Y photos, and they knew that Pete had gone to look for him, but to have their son walk into the room holding hands with his … well, what? It was a lot to take in.

“Mom, Dad, this is Nick. Nick, my parents.” Pete skated across the frozen surface of Lake Awkward, hoping that his formality would serve to keep everyone’s emotions in check.

It was Pete’s dad who made the first move.

“Nick! Great to meet you, finally. We’ve heard, well, not nearly enough about you.” Dad pumped Nick’s hand fervently, hoping to convey through his energetic handshake that he was really, really, really okay with Pete bringing a guy home to meet him.

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Dorsey. Thank you.” Nick wasn’t sure what he was thanking Pete’s dad for-maybe for not immediately throwing him out of the house. That had happened once or twice when he met the parents of a girl he was dating.

“Nick, I am so happy to finally meet you,” Pete’s mom was saying, shaking the hand that Pete’s dad had finally exhausted.

“Mrs. Dorsey,” Nick nodded. “I’m a big fan of your work,” he smiled, looking at Pete. That set the entire group laughing genially, and the awkwardness seemed to evaporate. It became what Pete’s parents had hoped this occasion would be: normal.

“Have you two eaten?” Pete’s dad asked. He always asked that, of anyone who entered his house. Food was just another way he showed love, Pete knew.

“No, actually,” replied Pete. “We’ve kind of been running around.”

“Well, then have a seat and I’ll put something together,” Pete’s dad called, already halfway to the kitchen.

They sat. They made small talk with his mom, but Pete knew he needed to bring up the subject, and sooner was better than later.

“Mom, Nick doesn’t have any place to stay until school starts. I told him he could stay with us. Is that okay?”

“Of course!” She leapt to her feet. “Nick, I’m just so sorry that you … oh, I don’t mean to pry. We would be happy to have you stay here as long as you like. I’ll go make up the guest room.”

She dashed off, as she often did, leaving Pete and Nick alone in the living room.

“Well, you got two helpings of awesome in the parents department,” Nick said to Pete, shaking his head.

“Yeah, they’re pretty great.”

“Do you think they liked me?”

“Are you kidding me? They’ve been working up the whole Love and Understanding thing for days. They finally have an outlet, and they’re going to take full advantage. Mom’s probably trying to pick a color for her mother-of-the-groom dress right now.”

“Petey!” Nick yelped in faux shock, “is that a proposal?”

“Shut up,” Pete replied, slapping Nick on the forehead. Then he kissed him there, just to show he was joking. Mostly.

“Come eat, guys!” Pete’s dad called from the kitchen.

They walked into the kitchen and marveled at the spread Pete’s dad had laid out. Pete couldn’t remember if he’d eaten all day, and Nick hadn’t had a decent meal since their date two days ago. Pete’s dad was pleased to see that they ate even more than he had come to expect-Pete’s appetite was legendary.

As they finished, Pete’s mom came down from the guest room. “All set,” she said to Nick. “Your room is at the top of the stairs, to the right, next door to Pete’s. I hope you’ll be comfortable in it.”

“I’m sure it’ll be a million times better than where I’ve been lately,” Nick replied, trying to make light of his having lived in a shelter since before Christmas.

“Well, we’re just so happy you’re here,” she said, patting his hand. “Now, you two don’t stay up too late. We’ll see you in the morning.” Then she remembered that she was talking to 18-year- olds. “Or, if you sleep late, we’ll see you after work.”

Pete’s mom and dad both kissed him on the cheek, patted Nick warmly on the shoulder, and headed upstairs. Pete and Nick followed shortly, after cleaning up their dishes in the kitchen. They went to Pete’s room and shut the door.

“Here,” Pete said, handing Nick a pair of plaid pajama bottoms, “We don’t sleep naked in this house.”

Nick smiled, a grin that said both how grateful he was to be sleeping in a real house and how much he wanted to be naked. With Pete.

“You say so, boss,” he said, undoing his jeans and stepping out of them. He was naked from the waist down, a sight that Pete was unprepared for. Actually, he was unprepared for his reaction to it; he saw Nick’s bare body and that twist in his stomach connected to something in his groin and tugged. Hard. Yes, he was instantly hard. He looked away.

Nick knew exactly what had happened to Pete, and he was filled with pride. And love, and hunger to have Pete near him.

“There. Do I pass inspection?” He thrust his hips back and forth, causing a bump to appear in his crotch, and then disappear, and then bound back into view.

“I’ll have to check,” Pete said, as he stepped up to Nick. He grabbed a handful of Nick’s crotch, prompting a gasp. He added a second hand, just to be sure he had got it all. Nick’s face was a map of surprise and joy. He put his hands along Pete’s jaw, and pulled him close. They kissed, sweetly at first, and then with greater urgency until Pete released his hold on Nick’s throbbing basket and gripped him around the neck. The kissed until there was no more oxygen in the room and they had to break, panting.

“Okay, so one more rule. No sleeping naked, and no sex when my parents are home. Just too weird.”

“Aww, Petey, you’re killing me,” Nick joked. He was so happy that no silly rule could bring him down.

“Come on, let’s get ready for bed.”

“I’m kind of ready now,” replied Nick, glancing down at the considerable tent that his erection made in the front of his-Pete’s-pajamas.

“Slut. Let’s go.” Pete led the way into his bathroom, and found Nick a new toothbrush. He had left the shelter with very little, and Pete was determined that he would have everything he needed here.

Having finished their preparations, they stood in Pete’s room, a little awkwardly. They were both wearing just pajama bottoms, and though the sight of Pete’s gymnastics-toned upper body made Nick a little crazy, they knew they had to say goodnight.

“Stay for a few minutes?” Pete asked, a puppy-like supplication on his face.

“I’ll be wherever you want me,” he replied, smiling.

“Here, lie down. I want to show you something.”

“Pete, I think I’ve seen it,” Nick giggled.

“No, not that. Go.”

Nick sat on the bed, and then swung his legs up and lay on his back, with his head on Pete’s pillow. Pete turned out the light and joined him.

“Oh my god, Petey,” Nick breathed as he looked at the stars glowing softly on the ceiling. “It’s like we were living two halves of the same life.”

They lay quietly for a few minutes.

“Thank you, for everything,” Nick finally whispered.

“No, I should thank you. You changed my life, Nick. I can’t imagine being without you now.”

“You don’t have to,” Nick murmured, and kissed him, sweetly, softly. He put his arm around him, and just tried to figure out he had gotten so lucky.

It was an hour or so later when Pete’s mom made her rounds, checking on everyone before turning out the lights. She straightened Lisa’s comforter, then went to the guest room. The door was open, and she ventured in. She saw that the bed was empty, and hadn’t been disturbed since she had made it up. She didn’t know which worried her more-that Nick might be in Pete’s bed, or that he might be gone altogether. She went and got her husband.

Together, they stood before Pete’s closed bedroom door. Unsure of the best course to take-they were hoping for something dignified, yet supportive, yet firm, yet loving-they simply opened the door as silently as they could and slipped inside.

There they saw, in the moonlight, their beloved son and his beloved, together. Nick was pressed up against Pete’s back, his arm draped over him protectively. Pete’s hand gripped Nick’s arm. Pete’s mom was a little alarmed at how their bodies pressed together, but she saw the waistband of pajamas on both boys, and she was relieved. The two of them breathed the deep breaths of peaceful sleep, and Pete’s parents knew that, with all that they had been through, they shouldn’t be separated. They nodded to each other, and quietly retraced their steps to the hallway. They closed the door and returned to their own room.

“Our little boy is all grown up,” Pete’s mom said, simply.

“He’s happy. That’s more than I could even hope for him a couple of days ago.”

They hugged, and marveled to themselves that while this was not what they would have chosen for their son, he was going to be okay, and he was loved. That was more than enough.

* * *

True to form, Pete and Nick slept until well into mid-morning. The house was quiet when Pete awoke, and it was with some shock that he felt Nick next to him. Oh crap. Had his parents realized that they had slept in the same bed? Fuck.

“Nick. Nick! Wake up!”

“What? You always wake up in a panic, you know that?”

“You’re still in my bed.”

Nick looked around. “Yep, it seems I am. Fat lot of good it did me, though. Usually when I sleep in someone’s bed someone allows me to take advantage of the situation. You, though, no way.”

“I’m serious. My parents are going to be pissed.”

“Huh. I know what pissed parents look like. One guy managed to get the garden hose in through the window to show me I wasn’t welcome. Your parents aren’t like that.”

Pete wasn’t sure what his parents were like anymore. They’d all been through so much, and his parents had stuck with him. Perhaps this was going to be okay.

“Well, they’re at work, and Lisa’s school started last week, so at least we’re alone now. Come on, let’s get some breakfast.”

They made their way downstairs, and scrounged up some cereal and toast. Nick surprised Pete by grabbing a skillet and some eggs and making an omelette.

“Kitchen duty every couple of days at the shelter. Got some skills, man,” Nick boasted. Pete laughed and watched this shirtless, beautiful man, his man, make breakfast. For the first time, this was all starting to make sense. A strange kind of sense, but sense nonetheless.

After breakfast, they headed back upstairs.

“First shower!” called Nick.

“What, are you kidding me? This isn’t some shelter where you have to call ‘First shower.’ Here, we are happy to share. Come along, my good man.” Pete led the way into his bathroom, and cranked on the shower. As steam started to fill the room, he pulled down his pajamas and stepped in. He poked his head out of the curtain and looked at Nick.

“Well, you coming in or what?”

“Holy shit. Who are you and what have you done to Straight Pete?” joked Nick as he shucked off his pajamas.

It had been months ago and worlds away the last time they were in a shower together, that awkward night at the baths. Then Pete had been freaked out and repressed; this time he was wet, hot, and ready for some soapy fun.

He grabbed Nick and thrust him under the spray, rubbing his hands through his hair, trying to wash off the last remnants of the shelter and the life that Nick had lived before him. Then he squirted a huge puddle of body wash into his hands and scrubbed. His soapy fingers traced every muscle, every ligament of Nick’s tight body; he worked soap into his armpits, between his pecs, along his ribs. He ran his hands down Nick’s legs, feeling the power in those muscles, and he knelt to wash his feet. This, coincidentally, put Nick’s growing cock directly at eye level, and Pete continued his ministrations there. He made a circle with his thumb and index finger and slipped it over Nick’s thick erection; he was barely able to keep his fingers touching, and switched to his middle finger instead. Nick groaned as Pete slid his hand up and down the length of his cock.

Pete stood and cupped his other hand, gathering Nick’s large, loose balls into a lathered grip. He squeezed and caressed them with his fingers, feeling them squirm about inside their sac. Nick, transported to a place he’d never even imagined existed, could only moan and bite Pete’s shoulder. Then Pete reached around back with his soapy hands and rubbed them along Nick’s ass. He slowly made his way to the center, and finally his fingers entered the cleft between. Nick cried out in surprise and delight when Pete reached his anus. Pete didn’t enter-that seemed too much to him, too soon-but swirled his finger tips around the opening. Nick’s knees threatened to give way, and he spun Pete around so that he could take his turn.

Nick squeezed out body wash all over Pete’s back, and began working up some bubbles. He spread them all over Pete’s body, front and back, and his strong fingers massaged Pete all over. Pete was surprised at how firm Nick’s grip was-no one had ever touched him this way. And certainly no one had ever touched him where Nick now was, his probing fingers tapping at his back door, looking for the way in. Pete whirled around and grabbed Nick by the neck. Their foreheads touched, their hair dripping into their eyes, and they kissed. But none of this would deter Nick from his mission. His hands gripped and squeezed and stroked Pete’s cock and balls, working him into a frenzy. Nick broke their kiss, and looked Pete in the eyes.

“Only for you, man. Only for you.”

Pete had no idea what Nick meant, until he saw that he was getting shorter. Nick was kneeling before him, looking directly at his achingly hard member. Pete saw him wipe the water off his face, and study the cock bouncing before him. He seemed to consider something, and then with a grunt of determination, he put out his hand and wrapped his fingers around the base of Pete’s cock. He leaned forward, opened his mouth, and closed his eyes.

Oh. My. God. Pete’s head just about exploded when he saw the tip of his dick enter Nick’s mouth. He had never imagined that this would happen to him, that he would want this so badly. He also never imagined that having his dick sucked by a guy would be so different from how a girl would do it. The women Pete had been with had been tentative, and delicate about it. It was like they really didn’t want to do it, but felt they had to. It could have been that Pete’s cock intimidated them with its size; but mostly it was because no one who had sucked Pete’s cock in the past had wanted to do it as much as Nick did.

Nick, for his part, had never, ever pictured himself in this position. He loved having his dick sucked, and had been remarkably successful at convincing women to do it-even nuns, he remembered with some pride. But he had not once in his life wanted to suck one himself. Until now. Until Pete. Now it seemed like the most natural, most perfect thing in the world, and what he wanted more than anything. It was not really like he had expected it to be, now that he thought about it; Pete’s cock was substantial, and just getting into his mouth without biting it had been a challenge. But Nick had great experience with the variety of fellatio technique, and he applied those skills now to great effect. He was doing this because he loved Pete, and he wanted Pete to know that he did.

The message was getting through to Pete.

“Oh … god … Nick … You have to stop. I’m going to-”

Nick stopped. He wanted Pete on edge a while longer; it gave him a thrill to be able to get him right to the breaking point and then stop. Nick was a tease, and a fucking good one.

“Whatever you say, Petey. Happy to oblige.” Nick rose back up to Pete’s level, and looked in his eyes. What he saw were blue balls, and the effect was gratifying.

“You sucked my dick,” breathed Pete, amazed.

“I did. How’d I do the first time?”

“Fuck. Your mouth is amazing. I mean, what comes out of it is ridiculous, but what goes into it feels amazing.”

“Very funny, Petey. Now let’s finish getting clean so that we can go get dirty.”

Pete finished quickly indeed.

They toweled off, and Nick ran and jumped on the bed. Pete followed, but Nick stopped him from climbing on by grabbing his shoulders.

“Now, we have rules in this house, young man. No getting on this bed naked,” Nick scolded.

Pete’s response was simply to reach down and take hold of Nick’s balls. A little squeeze was enough to show he meant business.

“Well!” Nick screeched in a playful falsetto, “I guess we can make an exception for you!” He released his hold on Pete’s shoulders, but if he expected that Pete would let go of his nads, he was sadly mistaken. Pete pushed him down onto the bed, retaining his grip on Nick’s sac. He knelt between Nick’s legs, and considered the power he wielded over him. It made him smile.

“Now, Nick, it looks as though I have the advantage here,” Pete said, in his best James Bond villain voice. “I wonder how I should use this new power?”

“Oh, please, don’t have your way with me!” Nick begged in his falsetto voice. Then, in his normal voice, “What am I saying? You’d better have your way with me, dammit!”

Pete looked down at his hand, which still gripped Nick’s scrotum. He was amazed that it was his hand, that he could feel Nick’s balls squirming in their sac, that he was really doing this. And about to do more.

He lay himself down between Nick’s legs, stretching out to get a closer look at Nick’s body. He had never, of course, closely observed male genitalia, and the complexity and subtlety of it intrigued him. The skin of the scrotum was so soft, and folded so neatly into long pleats; the hair at the base of Nick’s cock was so neatly trimmed, while the hair below his balls was wild; from the tip of his cock, so recently cleaned, there appeared a small, clear jewel of pre-cum. The droplet caught the mid-day light, and sparkled. Pete looked up at Nick, who looked down at him, and he leaned his head close to the hot prick in his hands. Without taking his eyes from Nick’s, he extended his tongue and touched it to that glittering drop. Nick sucked in a breath, almost delirious with the slow, careful movements of Pete’s tongue on his cock. Pete, for his part, was surprised to find the taste of Nick so pleasant; he had feared that what came out of penises tasted as foul as it smelled, but Nick’s pre-cum was delicate and slick rather than thick and clotted.

“Nick,” Pete said.

“Petey?”came Nick’s ragged reply.

“Only for you.”

Nick’s throbbing cock surged. “Oh, god, yes! Only you!”

Pete opened wide, and plunged Nick’s cock into his mouth. He had much less experience with blowjobs than Nick did, but he did have Nick’s example to work from, and he was a quick study. He immediately had Nick moaning and clutching at the sheets.

Nick prided himself on his self-control; ever the gentleman, he could put off his own orgasm at will until his partner had reached her own desired level of fulfillment; however, now that Pete was on the job, all bets were off. Nick had never felt this way, and his mind flashed to the possibility that the sex was better because he was really in love this time. That it was with another guy was one of those strange moments in life when, like an origami, two parts fold together and touch that one never expected to. He loved Pete, and Pete made him feel better than anyone ever had. Nick decided not to look too deeply into it, and instead surrender himself fully to it.

Pete could feel Nick’s erection growing even harder in his mouth, and he figured that he was getting close. Remembering Imre and Karvaly, and inspired by their example, he sprang up on all fours, and rotated his body around the axis of his mouth on the pole of Nick’s cock. He brought his own cock to Nick’s mouth, dangling urgently in his face, and Nick immediately took it in. They sucked on each other’s cock, each responding to the increased sensation by working more vigorously, in a self-reinforcing loop. Within minutes Nick began to groan and thrust his hips, making Pete do the same, setting a rhythm that could end only one way.

Nick gave a loud groan, and one mighty thrust. Pete could feel the head of his cock grow even larger, and then the first blast of cum surged from it. He was overwhelmed with the heat and the volume of that first shot, which was nothing compared to the one that followed. By the third blast Pete began to think he was not going to be able to hold it all. But he surrendered to it, and in giving himself completely to Nick he was released into a mind-shattering orgasm. His cock began to spurt into Nick’s suctioning mouth so rapidly that he couldn’t even tell one spasm from the next. Nick’s surprise at suddenly having a mouth full of Pete’s cum caused him to thrust and spasm again, his cock flailing wildly in Pete’s mouth.

When the spasms finally subsided, both were breathing hard and trying to swallow as much as they could, but there was cum everywhere: on their chins, on their cocks and balls, on their cheeks, on the sheets and pillow. They gave up trying to control it and simply collapsed, Pete rolling off Nick and laying beside him. Then he swung his legs around and was once again face- to-face with Nick. He could see streaks of his cum on and around Nick’s lips, and he knew he looked similarly messy. He kissed Nick, kissed him on the lips and all around, feeling his own semen mix with Nick’s and all of it on his tongue, in his mouth, down his throat. Nick kissed him back, kissed him all over, and neither could tell whose cum it was he tasted.

Finally, Pete lay next to Nick, and they panted together in the sweaty euphoria of sex and surrender.

“Well, that was pretty gay,” Nick opined, kissing Pete on the nose.

“Okay, so now you’re the one with the rules? Since when does sucking some guy’s cock until he blows a load in your mouth make you gay?” Pete couldn’t keep a straight face when he said this, breaking up into giggles at the end. He figured he might not be able to keep a straight anything from now on. He didn’t care.

“Petey, you’re a new man.”

Pete considered this. “Yeah, I guess I am. I’ve turned into you-I don’t give a fuck what anyone calls me, or thinks of me, or spray paints on the front of my house. I figure I’m just gay enough to want you right here next to me, and that’s all I care about.”

“You’re such a romantic.”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

* * *

By the time Pete’s parents and sister returned from work and school, the boys were showered (again) and respectable. They had a nice family dinner, at which talk centered on their imminent departure for school. They were to spend the weekend packing, which wouldn’t take long in Nick’s case, and then head out on Sunday afternoon. They had several days of orientation at the beginning of the week (the very word made Pete smile-his whole summer had been obsessed with orientation) and then classes started on Wednesday. Both Pete and Nick were looking forward to starting college, mainly because they could get away from their smallish hometowns and the strictures of being where everyone seemed to know them. It was a chance to reinvent themselves, and Pete was both excited and daunted by the idea of figuring out who he wanted to be. Nick just wanted to move ahead, and this was the opportunity he thought he had lost.

For the next several days they settled into an easy rhythm of preparing for school; Pete was particularly excited about getting things for their dorm room. At bedtime, no mention was made of the guest room, and the unspoken agreement was that the boys could sleep together as long as there was no messing around. They did, however, sleep nude, pressed up against each other all night. Pete was in heaven, and Nick was mostly too-except in the morning, when their hard cocks pressed against each other, begging for release. With the weekend coming, there was little privacy for them to lay hands on each other, and quick handjobs in the bathroom while the shower ran for cover was all they outlet they could get. It was nice, but not nearly enough. Soon, though, they would be able to do whatever they wanted. Soon.

Sunday came, and Pete and Nick loaded up Pete’s car for the trip to campus, some four hours away. Pete’s mom and dad were sad and apprehensive about their first born leaving home, but they knew that he was not alone, and that was a comfort. Lisa was just happy to have Mr. Drama, as she had begun to call Pete to her friends, leaving the house in peace.

In the driveway, Pete hugged and kissed his teary-eyed parents three times each, assuring them that he would email all the time and text them if he got into trouble and yes he had plenty of clean underwear (this made Nick snort). His parents even hugged Nick several times, and by the end he was teary-eyed as well. He never dreamed he would have parents to see him off to college. Finally they climbed into the car and headed off down the street, Pete’s entire family waving energetically as they faded into the distance.

“Well, here we go,” said Pete, as they turned out of the neighborhood and onto the highway.

“This is so different than I thought it would be,” Nick said. “But good. Really good.” He looked Pete up and down. “Hey there, stud,” he growled, in his best Mae West voice, “Wanna sleep with me tonight?”

“I’m not that kind of girl,” Pete shot back, dignified. Then he laughed. “But I am that kind of guy. I’ll sleep with you every night, how’s that?”

“Fine by me,” Nick agreed, and turned to watch the countryside go by.

Arriving at campus, they followed the signs and found their way to student parking. They grabbed a few things and headed in the direction of the dorms, and shortly were standing in front of the mid-sixties edifice of industrial brick and dull metal that would be home for the coming school year. They retrieved their room assignment and keys from the somewhat harried Resident Assistant at the desk, and made their way up to the fourth floor, to a room almost at the end of the hall. As Nick held the stuff they had carried, Pete opened the door. It swung wide, revealing the tiny, musty cell that would be theirs for the year. It looked like paradise to Pete.

“What, are you waiting for me to carry you across the threshold?” cranked Nick, nudging Pete with the bundles we was holding.

“Hell no! I’d carry you but you kind of smell after lugging all that stuff around.” Pete bowed and stood aside. “After you.”

Nick walked in and looked around the room. “Well, I think I had more space at the shelter, but it’ll do.”

Pete looked at the bunk beds. No romance there. There was no way that the two of them could fit into a single twin bed. Pete was crestfallen.

Just then there was a knock on the door. Pete answered it, and found two University Housing employees with a huge box.

“Oh, sorry, we were hoping to get in here before you arrived,” the first one said. “Can we have a minute to set up the furniture?”

“I don’t think any more furniture is going to fit in here,” Pete said, glancing around the stuffed room.

“No, we’re taking out the bunks and putting in a double bed.”

Pete stared at him in disbelief.

“Why? I didn’t think dorm rooms had double beds.”

“Well, this one will. I have the work order here, with Assistant Director Duggan’s signature on it.”

Pete thought for a moment, then smiled. We have to stick together, he thought. He felt bad for a moment, then realized that what he had told Duggan was the truth: he was committed to Nick.

“We’ll get out of your way,” Pete said to the movers. “And, thank you.”

“All part of the job. Welcome to the U.”

Pete and Nick needed to be at their orientation meeting anyway, so they headed off to the commons.

The rest of the day was a blur of lectures, paperwork, ice-breakers, and awkwardly enthusiastic RAs clapping and jumping up and down. The best part was the session on “Roommate Relations,”which attempted to cover the issues that might arise when strangers suddenly have to share close quarters. It was presented in sex-segregated groups, so as to free the participants to ask questions that might be inappropriate for mixed company.

“Now, what should you do when one roommate needs some privacy?” the facilitator, an RA named Marty, asked.

“You mean, when he needs to tug one out,” Nick muttered to Pete, who stifled a giggle.

“I’ll bet my roommate’s going to do that all the time,” Pete muttered back.

“You should arrange for a signal of some kind that communicates the need for privacy,” Marty continued, seriously.

“How about, ‘Will you suck my dick, privately’?” Nick whispered. Pete struggled to keep quiet.

“Now, if roommates are of differing sexual orientations, then additional communication should take place.”

“Like, ‘How about you show me what a good cocksucker you are’?” Nick whispered to a red- faced and coughing Pete.

“Shut up!” Pete barked, under his breath.

“Can I help you two?” Marty asked.

“No, we’re good,” Nick replied, smoothly.

Marty squinted a moment, and then realized what their name tags said. Oh, these were the Section 28s, he thought. This was a reference to the section of the Student Housing Code that provided for cohabitation of committed same-sex partners. Figures they’d be a giggly pair. He ignored them and continued his awkward presentation.

Late that evening when Pete and Nick were finished with the meetings, all moved in, and settled for the night, Nick pulled out an envelope from his bag and climbed on a chair.

“What are you doing?” Pete asked.

“You’ll see,” Nick replied, and pulled something out of the envelope. He held the little star in his hand, and he peeled the back off of it and stuck it on the ceiling. He pulled out a second one, and continued until he had stuck dozens across the firmament of their little room.

“There,” he said, turning out the light to admire his work, “Now we’re home.”

Pete hugged him, and they spent the first night in their new home together.

* * *

They settled into a routine those first few weeks in school, Pete having to rise early for team practices and workouts, and Nick always getting up with him to go running or lifting on his own. Classes were challenging for both of them, but they found that their academic strengths complemented each other, with Pete’s analytical mind mastering the math and science side of things, and Nick the voracious reader and creative writer. About a month in, though, the prospect of money (or the lack of it, in Nick’s case) loomed on the horizon, threatening.

“Hey, did you get the email about next year’s financial aid?” Nick asked Pete one evening as they studied.

“Yeah, those forms are a pain.” Pete replied, not looking up.

“Well, I talked to the guy at the financial aid office, and I explained that my parents are basically out of the picture. I thought that would make it easier for me to get aid, but he said that they won’t even accept the paperwork without my parents’ tax forms.”

“How can they say that?” Pete asked.

“They said that everyone has to include their parents’ information no matter what. I’m kind of screwed. It’s going to take everything I saved to pay for this year-I can’t afford next year.”

Pete thought for a moment.

“Well, maybe you can find some modeling work. Like last time.”

“Petey, you may recall that our last modeling job kind of went down in flames. I talked to the guy at the agency, and he said no one would touch me right now. He said maybe to come back in a year or two. Nice, huh?”

Pete was silent. He didn’t know how to help. Well, he knew how he could help, but he didn’t think that Nick would accept his help.

“So, I was thinking…” Nick ventured. The uncertainty in his voice was a clear signal to Pete that he was not going to like what came next.

“No. You’re not going to go back to naked pool cleaning. No way.”

“You didn’t even hear my idea!”

“If it involves you parking with strange men for money, the answer is definitely no.”

“That’s not what I had in mind. It’s a kind of modeling-a kind of modeling I could still get hired for.”

“What kind of modeling would that be?” Pete asked, cautiously.

“Nude modeling. But, you know, tastefully nude.”

“What kind of nude modeling is tasteful?”

“You know, like modeling for art classes. Like that.”

Pete considered this for a moment.

“Well, I guess that would be okay. You probably couldn’t get into too much trouble that way. But,” Pete frowned at Nick, “You get so boned up being naked in front of people-how are the poor art students supposed to draw your dick when it gets longer every time they look at it?”

“That’s their problem. I can’t help being all virile.” Nick grinned. “As a matter of fact, I’m feeling pretty virile right now. How about you show me what a good cocksucker you are?”

“Did you really think that line was going to work?”

“I thought I’d take a shot.”

“Well, it did. Get those pants off, buddy. I’m goin’ in.”

Nick slipped his sweats off-he was wearing no underwear, so he was instantly naked from the waist down, just as Pete liked him. He hadn’t been joking about his virility, either: his cock was almost fully erect as it bounced merrily in anticipation of Pete’s attention.

Pete sank to his knees and shuffled over to where Nick sat on his desk chair. He never had gotten tired of this view-Nick’s cock towering above his groin, aching with need. Pete had come to love the taste of it, the smell of it, the heat that it gave off. He approached it, and licked up the customary droplet of pre-cum at the tip, and then slid it, comfortably, into his mouth. He loved having Nick in his mouth, more than he ever imagined he would. His cock fit so nicely, and he was able to take more of it in than he could at first. Nick groaned and thrust his pelvis forward. Pete enjoyed how transparent Nick was with his needs-he never had to guess what he wanted.

Pete pulled his mouth off of Nick’s cock, and kissed his way down to his balls. He had never really explored down here, but with Nick on the chair, he had such convenient access. He kissed the left nut, and then the right, making Nick gasp with anticipation. Pete, encouraged by this reaction, licked at each ball, and then flicked at them with his tongue.

“Ohhhhh, god,” groaned Nick, his buttocks tensing and releasing urgently.

Pete hooked his thumb under Nick’s sac, lifting his balls up and away from his body. He studied them for a moment, amazed at the network of veins and wrinkles that spread across the surface of this versatile and sensitive skin. Then, without warning, he closed his mouth around Nick’s left ball. Nick jumped in surprise, but Pete didn’t relinquish his grip, pursing his lips tight around their testicular quarry. As Nick breathed short, hot breaths, Pete ran his tongue over the nubbly surface of Nick’s ball sac, feeling it slide over the surface of the slick ball it covered. He pulled back a bit, let it slip partially out of his mouth, before sucking it back in. The pressure of his clasping lips on the surface of Nick’s nut left him breathless; all he could do was say “Oh, oh, oh,” softly, under his breath. It felt so good, and so unlike anything a woman had ever done to him. It takes someone with balls to know how to treat them, he thought with a grin.

Pete turned his attention to the other ball, and gave it the same treatment. This one was slightly larger, he noted, and had a much different feel to the back of it, where the coiled tubes gathered sperm-the sperm whose taste he knew so well. He loved this ball just as he had the first, and then he tried to gather both into his mouth at the same time. This made a suctioning noise that Nick found alarming, until he felt both of his balls slip into Pete’s mouth. The totality of the sensation, the pressure and the tugging and the wetness, was about enough to make him unload right then.

“Oh, god, where did you learn to do that?” Nick gasped.

“Just seemed like the right thing to do,” Pete offered simply, once he had disgorged Nick’s nuts from his mouth. He slurped them back up again, and swirled his tongue all over their surface, enjoying immensely the feeling of having the very essence of Nick’s manhood in his mouth.

He gently pulled back, and let the increasing tension of Nick’s scrotum pull the balls, one after the other, from his mouth. Nick jumped a bit as each one squeezed out-this was the most exquisite line between pleasure and pain that he had ever walked. He heaved a sigh as the cool air brushed against his spit-slicked ball sac, relieved and yet so horned up he could hardly stand it. His cock was drooling out a steady stream of clear, slippery pre-cum, which pooled in his belly button. Pete noticed this, and swabbed out Nick’s navel with his finger. Dripping a thread of pre-cum from his finger, he brought it to his mouth, but then, grinning devilishly, he put it to Nick’s lips instead. Nick opened his mouth and extended his tongue slowly. The pre-cum dripped in a long, silvery thread down to his tongue, and he let it collect there until Pete touched his finger to his lower lip. He sucked Pete’s finger into his mouth, wiping it clean with his tongue. Pete pulled it from his mouth with a pop, and then swiped up more fluid from his belly button and sucked it off his finger. Nick groaned as they shared the product of his aching cock.

“Ready for something new?” Pete asked.

“You know I am. What do you have in mind, Dirty Pete?”

“Put your legs up on the arms of the chair and I’ll show you.”

Nick wasn’t sure about this, but he did as Pete asked. He was sitting in a standard issue rolling desk chair, with arms designed for typing. The back reclined, allowing him to bring his knees up to his chest, and then spread them out, lopping them over the arms of the chair. This left him in an unusual posture indeed-his butt was thrust forward, and his legs were spread wide. That left his ass completely open, a position he had never been in.

It was exactly what Pete was looking for.

“Remember how when I used to say your sense of humor was embarrassing, and you said that if anyone was offended they could kiss your ass?” Pete asked.

“Um, yeah?” Nick replied.

“Well, now your wish is going to come true.” And with that, Pete was as good as his word.

Pete had never imagined himself touching anyone here, especially not another dude. But this was Nick, and rules didn’t apply to Nick. He traced the hairy, secret skin from the base of Nick’s balls down, down, down, licking and kissing his way along. Finally he reached the tight, pink pucker of Nick’s asshole. He looked at it closely, trying to imagine why everyone thought that asses were so dirty and gross. To him, it was beautiful, and untouched, and his alone. He planted a dainty kiss right on it, and Nick let out a deep sigh. No one had ever touched him there, man or woman, and he had no idea what to expect. But so far, so good.

Pete kissed on and around Nick’s hole, working his way along the ticklish inner stretches of Nick’s buttocks, washing the entire area with his tongue. Nick was in heaven; Pete was scratching an itch he didn’t know he had. Pete got bolder, kissing more forcefully, until finally he poked into the hole with the sharp point of his tongue. Suddenly, he was inside Nick, inside his most private place. Nick lurched and moaned as he was penetrated, and he suddenly knew that was what he wanted more than anything in the world. Pete pulled his tongue out, and pressed it back in, working in and out of Nick’s ass, feeling the complex map of gathered muscle that guarded the entrance, feeling the heat of Nick’s core. He flattened out his tongue, stretching Nick’s sphincter, applying gentle but insistent pressure on the opening. Nick thrashed, gibbering like an idiot, beside himself with the thrill and the pleasure and the violation of it all. Then suddenly, Pete was sucking-sucking his ass! And it felt amazing, like he was being consumed, eaten alive, worshipped.

Pete, sensing the urgency in Nick’s motions, reached up and grabbed his cock, while keeping his tongue inside his ass. It took two and a half strokes for Nick to shoot, and when he did Pete felt his ass close around his tongue, threatening to nip it off. He felt each ejaculation just before it emerged from Nick’s cock, as if he had somehow reached the place where orgasms come from, and he was feeling it before it happened. He felt closer to Nick than he ever had before. Nick, for his part, had never experienced anything like this orgasm, and his shouts of abandon were enough to alarm their neighbors on both sides.

As the waves of ecstasy faded, Pete withdrew from Nick’s ass, kissing it goodbye several times. He kissed his way up Nick’s balls, and all along his cock, and then up his abs, licking up all of the cum along the way. His mouth was full by the time he reached Nick’s smiling face, and they kissed, their tongues meeting in a warm sea of cum, sharing the product of Pete’s ministrations.

“You are fucking amazing,” Nick said, ruffling Pete’s hair and looking deeply into his clear blue eyes.

“You inspire me,” Pete replied.

* * *

The next morning, Nick returned to the subject of money.

“So, Petey, I think I’m going to go for that modeling gig I told you about yesterday.”

“The one for the art class?”

“Uh, yeah, that one.”

“Sounds fine to me. I mean, I’ll be insanely jealous that you’re sharing your body with other people, but I knew that you were a whore that way going into it, so I guess I can’t complain now, can I?” Pete smiled at Nick, shaking his head at his exhibitionistic roomie/lover/friend/whatever.

“Awesome. I start tonight, so I’ll be out for a few hours.”

Pete came to him, grabbed him around the waist, hugged him tight.

“How will I survive without you? Oh, yeah, I already made plans to go out with Abby tonight.” Abby was Pete’s closest friend from high school; he had avoided her completely while he went through his Nick crisis at the end of the summer, but now that the dust had settled they had picked up being friends again.

“Nice. I feel so loved,” Nick pouted. Then he flashed his trademark grin. “Have fun tonight, okay? I gotta get to class.”

“Buh-bye,” Pete said as Nick headed for the door. God, he loved that boy.

That night Pete and Abby enjoyed a late coffee after a perfectly horrid foreign film that had been shot in some obscure eastern European language, then subtitled in Korean, then sub-subtitled in English, as spoken by someone who learned English from a Korean. None of this obscured the basic incoherence of the plot, and Pete had drifted off to sleep about halfway through. As Abby filled him on on what he missed, he had no regrets.

“Well, I gotta get back,” he said, yawning. It was after eleven, and he still had some work to do.

“Nicky waiting up for you?” Abby teased. Pete hadn’t explained to her his relationship with Nick-he hadn’t explained it to himself, so how could he? There just weren’t words for it.

“No! It’s not like that.”

“What’s it like, then?” she asked. She was genuinely concerned for Pete. She only knew the broad outlines of what he had been through lately, but what she had heard from their friends back home worried her.

“It’s … just … well, it’s complicated.”

“Yeah, I get that. At some point, will you be able to explain it to me?”

“Promise. As soon as I can figure it out for myself, you’ll be the first to know. Now, I gotta run. See ya!”

He kissed her on the cheek and left the cafe, which was about four blocks from campus in a somewhat seedy district. He was about halfway back to campus when he heard the sounds of a scuffle coming from a side street. He stopped, and in the darkness he could just make out the silhouettes of two, no, three men who were gathered around something on the ground, kicking at it. Then, to his horror, he realized that the something on the ground was a person. He started down the side street without thinking. As he drew nearer, he heard the voices of the men.

“Get up! Get up you fucking faggot!”

That word. The word that had been spray painted on his house. The word that had been wielded against him as a weapon, that still had the power to punch him in the gut. He heard that word, and he saw red.

Pete’s gymnastics coach in high school had been a fanatic about cross training, and he required each of his athletes to take up a martial art. Pete had wanted something calm like tai chi, but that class was already full when he tried to register for it. He ended up in a mixed martial arts thing run by a kind of twitchy former cage fighter, and now he was glad for that.

“Get away from him.” His voice was calm, but definite. It stopped the men cold, and they turned on him. The biggest, clearly the leader of this demented pack, took several steps toward him.

“Well,” he said, exhaling a high-proof fog as he spoke, “Looks like the faggot’s faggot friend is here to protect him.” He placed his fist against Pete’s chest, and pushed. He was clearly expecting Pete to fall backwards. He was not at all expecting to be spun around and have his arm twisted behind him, painfully wrenched, grinding against the socket of his shoulder.

Pete growled at the others. “You get the fuck away from him or I’ll break his arm. I will fucking snap it in two, and you will hear it break.” He jerked on the man’s arm, and he yelped. The others stepped back.

“Now,” he whispered to the man whose arm he held, “I’m going to let you go, and if you don’t get the hell out of here, I will break every fucking bone in your fucking body. Is that clear?”

There was no response. Pete jerked up on the man’s arm, and a sickening crack echoed along the street. The man screamed, his knees buckling.

“I said, is that clear?” Pete repeated. “There are still two bones in your arm that I haven’t broken.”

“Y-y-yes, it’s clear. Just let me go, man! Please.”

Pete released his grip, and the man ran away, howling, clutching his arm. His buddies took off after him.

For the first time, Pete turned his attention to the man lying on the curb. He was crying softly, clutching both arms across his chest, rolled into a protective fetal position. Pete knelt next to him.

“Hey, are you okay?’ he asked quietly, unsure of what to do to help.

“I … I don’t know.”

“Where does it hurt? Do you need me to call an ambulance?”

“They … they pushed me down on the curb, and both of my wrists kind of snapped. I think they’re either sprained or broken. They started kicking me, then you came. I think you saved my life.”

“Can you get up? Can you walk?”

“I’ll try.”

Pete did what he could to help the man up. As he stood, he saw him in the streetlight for the first time. He looked about Pete’s age. Poor guy.

“Here,” Pete put the man’s arm around his shoulders, trying to take some of the weight off of him, but careful not to touch his wrist. “Can you walk?”

“Yeah, I think I can. I’m a student at the U. Can you help me get to the clinic?”

“Of course. I’m a student too. Name’s Pete.”

“Josh. Pleased to meet you, Pete. More pleased than you can ever imagine, actually. You were like the Terminator there. That was awesome.”

“I don’t think I remember any of it. I was kind of out of my mind.”

“You broke that guy’s arm, Pete.”

“Holy shit, I did? Whoa. I guess I did.”

They hobbled along toward campus. Luckily, the clinic was nearby, and Pete was able to deliver Josh there within a few minutes. They entered the clinic, and two nurses rushed out to take Josh from Pete. They whisked him behind the doors of the exam room, leaving Pete in the waiting room. He wasn’t sure what to do. He stood there for a couple of minutes, until a campus police officer approached him to give a statement about what had happened. He wasn’t sure whether to believe the part about Pete breaking the attacker’s arm, but otherwise the story made sense. He thanked Pete for his cooperation.

Pete approached the desk. “The guy I brought in, Josh? Is he going to be okay?”

“Are you his roommate?”

“No, I’m … I’m just the guy who found him. I just wanted-”

“Oh, you must be Pete. He’s been telling us about you. Why don’t you come back and see for yourself. I’m sure he’d be glad to see you.”

Pete followed her behind the counter and into the exam room. Josh was on the bed, both arms splinted, and his face was bruised. He looked terrible, but it could have been much worse, and would have been had Pete not come to his aid.

“Hey,” Pete said quietly. Josh’s eyes were closed, and he didn’t want to wake him if he needed to rest.

“Hey, Pete,” Josh said, opening his eyes. “Thanks for everything. I owe you, man.”

“No, don’t say that. I just did what anyone would have done.”

“Psssh. I don’t believe that for a second.”

“So, what happened? Why were those guys pounding on you like that?”

Josh took a deep breath. “I was coming out of a club down that street, and they were standing there. I tried to walk past, but they grabbed me. I should have just run at that point, but I was stupid and I tried to stand up to them. It wasn’t until I saw it in their eyes that I knew I was in trouble.”

“What did you see in their eyes?”

“The violence. Their eyes burned with it.”

“But why? Do they just go around attacking people?”

“People coming out of gay clubs, yeah, I guess they do.” Josh shook his head with disgust.

Oh. Pete saw it now.

“So you came out of a gay club and they jumped you. That fucking sucks.”

“Yeah, it kind of does. And it would have sucked worse if you hadn’t been there. Why did you do it?”

Pete was not sure what to say. But he looked at Josh, who was so hurt and so genuine, and he knew he needed to tell the truth, Or at least as much of it as he knew himself.

“It was when they called you faggot. I just lost it. It was something that happened to me at the end of the summer. Someone spray painted that on my house. Then there was no one to confront about it, so I guess I just locked that anger away. Until tonight, when I heard it again, and there was someone in front of me I could deal with. I guess I worked it out on him.”

“You sure did.” Josh was quiet for a moment. “So, Pete, are you … um … well, are you gay?”

Pete was startled by the question. When people had asked him that before, or had simply assumed one way or the other, it was always from the outside. But Josh was asking from the inside, as one gay man looking for connection and support from another, and it was an entirely different question. Pete had no idea how to answer it.

“Um, I guess I’d have to say that I, um … I don’t know how to answer that.” Pete paused. “I hope that’s okay. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being that, I just don’t know if, well…”

Josh chuckled. “It’s okay, Pete. I know what it’s like to get that question and not know the answer. I understand.”

Pete was taken aback by this. “You do? Seriously?”

“Of course. We’re so concerned with labels that we forget that everyone has a different experience with sexuality, and most of it doesn’t fit any label at all. It took me a couple of years to get the point where I can say I’m gay. Now I just have to be sure I don’t let anyone beat it out of me, that’s all.” He smiled wryly.

“You gonna be okay?” Pete asked.

“Yeah. They’re letting me go tonight. I’ll be in splints for a few weeks, which is going to make typing papers hard, but I’ll get by. You gonna be okay?”

“What do you mean? I’m not the one who got jumped tonight.”

“Yeah, but you broke a guy’s arm because he called me a faggot. That’s a lot of anger wrapped up in there, and you aren’t even sure what to call it. I’m a little worried about you.”

Pete smiled. “You’re the one whose bruised and splinted, and you’re worried about me? You’re something else.”

“Well I know who I want on my side next time I get into a street fight.”

“I’ll be there, you can count on it. Hey, where are you living? I should probably come by and check on you sometime. I’d hate to save a guy’s life and then have him fall out of bed and break his neck or something.”

“Pete, you are amazing. Cute and amazing.” Pete blushed at the compliment, and Josh told him which room he was in.

“Well, I’ll be seeing you,” Pete said as he left.

“I hope so,” Josh replied, smiling. Josh’s worst night ever had suddenly turned around.

* * *

“…And then I heard the guy’s arm break, and he kind of whimpered. Then I let him go,” Pete concluded his account of the evening to Nick.

“Holy shit, Petey! You’re like a gangster or something!”

“Yeah, well, I just did what I did-I wasn’t really thinking about it. So, how was your evening?”

Nick’s eyes darted around the room; he was clearly uncomfortable with this question.

“It was … um … good, good. I took my clothes off, people got what they needed, I put my clothes back on, I got paid. Done and done.”

“And your little exhibitionistic activity didn’t result in stiffness of any joints?” Pete asked, winking.

“Oh, yes, there was stiffness. But I worked through it.”

Pete laughed. After this evening’s conversation with Josh, it was comforting just to be here with Nick, sharing whatever it was they had.

“And now,” Nick said, a growling edge to his voice, “I have an experiment I need your help with.”

“Oh, god, not chemistry again!”

“No, no. This one is for my Human Sexuality class.” Nick leered. “We are learning about male sexuality this week, and I thought I knew all there was to know about the equipment, given my long and in-depth experience with my own, you see.”

“Yes, you are PhD of your own genitals. I get it.”

“But Petey, there’s stuff in there that I never knew about! And that’s what I want to try out. Tonight. On you.”

“Um, does this involve anything leather or pinchy? Because I’m not sure about that.”

“No! It just involves my fingers and a little lube.”

Pete’s eyes bugged out.

“Okay, a lot of lube. But, c’mon, Petey, you gotta let me try this. It’s supposed to be fucking amazing!”

“Is that what your textbook tells you?”

“Well, they don’t use those words, but I did some Googling and those are definitely words people use.”

Pete looked at Nick. Trust-it always came down to trust. Did he trust Nick enough to let him do … well, whatever he wanted to do?

“Please, Petey?” Nick asked again, with the puppy eyes turned up to eleven. Shit.

“Okay. But if it gets too weird you have to stop, okay?”

“Ooh, good idea. Let’s think of a word we can use as a signal that I should stop.”

“How about ‘stop.’? That’s a good one.”

Nick grinned. “Okay, you got it. Now, get naked.”

“You are such a romantic. Luckily, naked is what I already wanted to get, so I’ll do it.”

Pete shucked off his clothes and lay back on the bed.

“Now, I want you to pull your knees up to your chest, and then spread them apart.”

“How did I know this would involve my ass?”

“You’re a smart boy, that’s why. Now spread ’em, champ.”

“Kiss me first. That will make it seem less dirty.”

Nick kissed him, the kind of kiss that would make Pete agree to anything.

Then Nick grabbed a jar of vaseline-his lube of choice for his morning tug-job-and dug a huge glob of it out, which he then slapped onto Pete’s ass. Pete jumped at the cold, but Nick rubbed little insistent circles on his anus and he calmed down quickly. Nick then began to poke a fingertip inside Pete, causing him to draw in a surprised breath. Nick slowed down then, but continued to push. Pete had never had anything go this direction; for him, his ass had always been a one-way deal. But once he adjusted to the intrusion, he had to admit it wasn’t bad. Nick kept pushing, until he entire middle finger was in Pete’s ass.

“Are you ready?” he asked Pete.

“Ready? For what? What else are you going to put in there?”

“No, I’m not going to put anything else in there. I’m just going to find something.”

“What, did you lose something up there? I promise I’m not hiding anything.”

“Very funny. Now, I just have to turn my finger so that it is pointing toward your cock, and then curl it up a bit, and then I should hit-”

“FUCK!” Pete shouted.

“That’s it!” Nick called out cheerfully. He had found the little lump he was looking for, Pete’s prostate. He brushed along it again.

“OH FUCK!” Pete shouted again. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“That, my friend, is your prostate. It’s your new best friend. Because when I do this,” and here Nick rubbed against it, prompting another shout from Pete, “You do that.” He smiled broadly. This was fun. Pete was like a finger puppet-all Nick had to do was make a little “come here” motion with his finger, and Pete was cry out, his cock surging and dripping. This was awesome.

“How … are … you … doing … that?” Pete gasped, as Nick kept up a regular rhythm of rubbing.

“I’m just applying gentle pressure, and look what happens.” He grabbed Pete’s cock, which was leaking like a faucet. “Textbook, Pete, pure textbook. This is just what they said would happen. Now, get ready for this.” Nick spat in his hand, and stroked Pete’s cock while continuing to rub his prostate.

“Oh! My! God!” Pete groaned as Nick kept up his stroking, outside and in. He felt something happening inside him, at the tip of Nick’s finger; Nick felt it too, as the little lump he was rubbing got larger, harder. Then he felt it throb once, twice, and then Pete stiffened. Every muscle in his body went taut at once, and he gasped several times. Then there came a rumbling growl from deep in his chest, and goosebumps broke out all over his body. Nick felt the pressure of Pete’s ass clamping down on him, but still he kept rubbing and stroking. Pete exploded- there’s no other word for it. His cock simply erupted, shooting blast after blast of jizz high into the air, splattering down on him, and Nick, and the bed, and the wall, and several other places they wouldn’t find for days. Pete thought his heart would stop, his chest was clenched so tight. And then, miraculously, he came again, even harder this time. Nick kept stroking, and Pete kept spasming, and he lost count of how many times he came. Finally, the clenching subsided and he could begin to relax his tight muscles. He began to breathe again.

Nick slipped his finger out of Pete, amazed at how hot it was in there. He looked up at Pete, who lay panting on the bed, one arm covering his eyes. He lay there, motionless except for the rapid rise and fall of his cum-slicked chest, for several minutes. Finally, Pete spoke.

“I think you’re going to get an A in that class,” he murmured. “That was epic.”

“You should have seen it from here. You were like a fountain. And I could feel all of it from inside. You have an amazing ass.”

“I’m pretty amazed by it too right now. Who knew there was some magic button in there that could do this?”

“Well, now we know. The question is, will we use this knowledge for good or evil?”

“Ooh, let’s use it for both!” Pete laughed. How could Nick be so sexy and so goofy at the same time.

After cleaning up from their prostate exploration, they lay together on the bed.

“Nick?”

“Yeah?”

“The guy I helped tonight, Josh? In the clinic, afterward, he asked me something.”

“What? He wanted to marry you or something?”

“Funny. No, he asked me if I was gay. I didn’t know what to say.”

“You never know what to say. Your parents asked you and you didn’t know what to say.”

“Yeah, but this was different,” Pete said.

“Why?”

“Because it’s one thing when the question comes from someone who wants to classify you. It’s different when it’s someone who is looking for support. Or safety, or a connection with someone who won’t hurt him the way other people have. He asked me because he wanted to feel connected to me, and when I couldn’t answer him I felt kind of stupid.”

Nick turned to look at him. “Well, how should you have answered him? Are you gay?”

Pete met Nick’s eyes, looked deeply into them. “I still don’t know. We’re here together because I said we were. I helped Josh tonight because I took the faggot thing personally. I mean, my god Nick, we sleep together every night and the only sex I’ve had for months, the only sex I’ve wanted for months, is with you.”

“Does it matter whether you call yourself gay? Does it really make a difference for you?”

“I didn’t think so. But after what happened tonight, I’m not sure.”

“Look, you’ll know when you know.”

“But what if I should know already? I don’t think about women like I used to. I mean, there are a lot of hot women around here, and I hardly look at them.”

“Dude, you are shitting me! Can you honestly tell me that that hottie who checks IDs at the pool doesn’t give you wood?”

“The one with the-”

“Huge boobs? Yeah, that one. She’s fucking gorgeous!”

“Um, you know that when you’re in bed with someone, it could be considered rude to talk about how sexy someone else is. Just sayin’.”

“Petey, you know I love you. But you also know that I’m kind of, well-”

“A slut? Yeah, I know that.”

“Very funny. What I mean is that I love you, and I love sleeping with you. But I still think about women, and I still am attracted to women, and I may need to have sex with women. Are you going to be okay with that? I kind of assumed that we were on the same page about that.”

Pete’s silence told him what he needed to know.

“Oh, I get it,” Nick said quietly. “Look, we need to work this out, okay?”

“Do you think you can restrain yourself until we have a chance to? Or do you need to run out right now and fuck some chick?”

“Pete, don’t be like that. That’s not what I meant at all. But you have to understand where I’m coming from. We never talked about this being an exclusive thing. I can tell you honestly that I will never touch another guy. But I can’t make the same promise about women. I just can’t-I’m not wired that way. Are you?”

“I don’t know, Nick. I just don’t know. Look, I’m exhausted. Let’s talk about this later, okay?”

“Okay. You know I love you, right?”

“I know. And I love you too, god help me.”

They kissed good night, and slept close, even if Pete could feel them drifting apart.

* * *

The next day, Pete went to visit Josh at his dorm room in the next hall over. He was still pretty sore, and was tossing in bed trying to find a comfortable position to lie in. His splinted wrists lay useless on the covers, and he had tried to wedge a history textbook into a workable reading position, without much success. When Pete knocked, Josh was relieved to have a distraction.

“Come in!” he called.

“Shouldn’t you ask who it is?” Pete asked as he entered. “I mean, I could have been some attacker or something.”

“Pete, you don’t have to be my protector forever. I’m just glad to see you.”

Pete smiled. “How’re ya doin’ today?”

“Pretty good, for someone who was lying face down in the street last night.”

Pete looked around. “Nice place you got here.”

Josh laughed. “Let me guess-you have one just like it, right?”

“Pretty much.” Pete looked over to the other side of the room. “How was your roommate with what happened last night?”

“Huh. He didn’t even notice anything was wrong. This morning when he saw the splints he thought I’d been typing too much. Jerk.”

“Well, that sucks. If your roommate doesn’t give a shit, who will?”

“You, for one,” Josh replied, smiling slyly.

Pete blushed. “Come on, I’m concerned about everyone I pick up out of the gutter.”

“And how is your roomie? Did you get a better one than I did?”

“Hmm, yes, I guess I did. I kind of brought him from home.” Pete hadn’t told anyone about him and Nick, and wasn’t sure why he was telling Josh. But he was.

“How did you manage that?”

“Well, apparently there’s some rule about committed same-sex partners…”

“Section 28. I’m familiar with it-there was a lawsuit about that last year.”

“So I’ve gathered.”

“So, let me make sure I’ve got this figured out. You’re one of two couples I know of on this campus under Section 28, and yet you aren’t sure you’re gay? How does that work?”

Pete shrugged. “I don’t know. It just kind of did. I didn’t set out to do it, it just happened.”

Josh looked Pete up and down. “You are a pretty amazing guy, Pete. It’s like you have superpowers or something. You make things happen without meaning to.”

“No, it’s not like that. Me and Nick-”

“Nick’s your roommate-slash-life-partner?”

“Ugh. Yes, I guess you could say that.”

“Hey, it’s not me-you must have said that at some point. Otherwise you wouldn’t be Section 28.”

“Look, it’s complicated-”

“What’s complicated? Either you and Nick are or you aren’t.”

Pete chuckled ruefully. “Actually, it’s looking more and more like I am and Nick isn’t.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that I think my boyfriend wants a girlfriend.” Pete had certainly never used that word before. What was it about Josh that made him say these things? Pete realized that Josh was one of the very few openly gay people he knew, and it just kind of seemed natural when he was with him to open up this way. It was kind of scary, really. Pete had no idea what he would say next.

“Ouch. That’s gotta sting a bit,” Josh replied, sympathetically. “Was this a surprise?”

“Oh, no. He had slept with dozens of women before we got together.”

“And dozens of men, too?”

“Nope. I’m the only one. And he’s the only man I’ve been with.”

“Wow. That’s pretty … um, well, it’s super hot, first off. Second, it’s pretty unusual. So, you two are basically straight guys who fell in love? That just doesn’t happen. Does it?”

“I guess it has once, at least. Figures it would happen to me.”

“Worse things have happened than two guys falling in love. You’re pretty lucky.”

“I don’t feel all that lucky. But I guess I’ve had better luck than you.”

They laughed.

“You know what really sucks about these things?” Josh waved his splinted wrists at Pete.

“They don’t match your outfit?”

“Funny. No, it’s that I can’t, um, relieve myself with them on.”

“What, you can’t go to the bathroom?”

“No, stupid. I can’t relieve something else.”

Pete though about this for a moment. Then he realized what Josh meant. “Oh, that does suck. Do you have a boyfriend or something?”

“Nope. Completely available at the moment. Well, actually, there’s this guy I’ve kind of been seeing on campus. Not seeing in the sense of, you know, dating, but I’ve been watching him. He’s completely gorgeous, but I’m getting the sense that there’s not a gay bone in his body.”

“Well, I’ve never had a gay bone in my body either, but after last night I think Nick might be looking to change that…” After the success of the finger, he wondered what Nick would want to try next.

“You are a funny man, Pete. You’ve made my morning a lot happier.” Josh paused for a second, thinking. “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you,” he began.

“Yeah, what?”

“Would you be interested in joining the campus pride group?”

“What is that, the cheer squad?”

“No, it’s the campus organization for gay and lesbian students. I’ve gone to some meetings and stuff, but after last night I’m hoping that the group can make more of a difference. You know, try to make the town safer and more tolerant, that kind of thing.”

“Um, I don’t think so, Josh.”

“Why not? You could be the superhero mascot or something.”

“Funny. It’s just that I don’t really think of myself as gay, I guess.”

“But there are people of all kinds of sexualities in the group. You’d fit right in.”

“I don’t think so. This place should have a group for guys who consider themselves straight but sometimes have wild sex with each other. I’d join that.”

“Pete, every college has groups like that. They’re called fraternities.”

Pete laughed until tears formed in his eyes.

“Well, I gotta get to class,” he finally said. “Can I bring you anything? I mean, besides a hot guy with a thing for adorable wounded boys?”

Josh blushed. “You are the nicest guy. Thank you for everything.”

“Shush. No more thanking. Heh-no thanking, no wanking!”

“Well, shit, I was hoping I could convince you to…”

“Sorry, I ‘m a one-guy guy.” Pete laughed. But looking at Josh, lying helpless and horny on the bed, he wasn’t actually so sure that was true. The fact that he found Josh attractive troubled him a little, but not a lot. Not as much as he had thought it would.

The rest of the week, Pete made a daily stop at Josh’s bedside. They talked about a lot of things, and Pete warmed to Josh’s gentle flirting. By Friday, Nick was asking about this Josh guy and why Pete was spending so much time with him.

“I don’t know. I guess I started going because I kind of felt responsible for him. But now, I just like being friends with him. He’s a nice guy-you’d like him.”

Nick grabbed Pete around the waist. “Is this someone I have to worry about?”

Pete pushed his hands away. “Stop it. I don’t get you-a few days ago you’re all about making sure that you have free rein to get busy with the ID checker at the pool, on account of her ‘huge boobs,’ and now you pull this jealous thing on me?”

“But this is different. Josh is a guy.”

“Yeah, I noticed that. What the hell difference does that make?”

Nick stared at Pete, in disbelief that he didn’t see the difference.

“Because … he’s … a … guy,” Nick slowly enunciated.

“So what? You’re a guy, I’m a guy, he’s a guy.”

“But we’re only like that together! Only for you, remember? Or maybe you didn’t mean that.” Nick wanted to sting Pete, and he had succeeded.

“Where is your ‘only for you’ crap when it comes to Miss Boobs? Huh? Why doesn’t it apply then?”

Nicked rolled his eyes. “Look, Pete, you knew I was into women from the beginning. What you and I have is just that-what you and I have. I didn’t turn gay when you and I started up together. I don’t look at other guys. But women? That’s a whole different deal. But when you start talking about this Josh like you might be falling for him? Hell yeah that pisses me off. You’re the only guy in my life, and I want to be the only guy in yours.”

Pete didn’t mean what he was about to say, but he knew he had to say it.

“Well, maybe you’re not going to be the only guy in my life. Maybe I need Josh like you need women.”

Nick was stunned. He was beyond being able to form words. He had no idea who this person was in front of him. He pushed past Pete and opened the door.

“I gotta get out of here.” He turned down the hallway and was gone.

Pete slumped onto the bed. Their bed. “Fuck,” he said to himself. What was happening to them?

* * *

Nick returned late, after Pete was already asleep. He slipped into bed, careful to avoid waking him, without realizing that Pete was still awake, and could smell the scent of whatever woman Nick had been able to find still on him. It made him sick, but he lay there in silence, forming dark resolutions.

Nick, for his part, was experiencing something completely new: remorse. It hadn’t been worth it, this quick fuck with a willing chick he had picked up in the Student Center. Sure, it was pleasant, but it had none of the urgency, the intensity, of sex with Pete. He wasn’t yet willing to deal with what that meant, so he pushed it out of his mind and tried to find sleep. It would come slowly to both of them.

The weekend was better, a truce secured out of their mutual need for contact and affection, and they fell into a regular, if somewhat strained, domestic rhythm. When Monday rolled around, Nick announced that he was going to have another of his new modeling gigs that evening.

“Didn’t they get enough of drawing you last week? I thought they used different models every time,” Pete said.

Nick looked a little panicked.

“Well, remember when I said it was like an art class? What I meant was that it was like an art class, but not exactly an art class. It’s kind of a computer-based thing.”

“What, you’re getting naked on camera for people?”

“Yeah, that’s it. That’s it exactly.”

“Whatever. I don’t really need the details, I guess. Just no touching, right?”

“Right. I’ll see you later tonight.”

“I’m going over to Josh’s tonight. Just so you know.”

“Okay.” Nick turned to leave. “Just no touching, right?”

Pete smiled tightly at Nick, knowing that Nick hadn’t played by that rule.

“Right,” he said, as they each headed off to class.

That evening, Pete came to Josh’s room and, finding the door ajar, walked in.

“Oh!” Josh called out, startled. With his braced wrist he slammed the lid of his laptop shut.

“Sorry!” Pete said, aware that he had interrupted something.

“Oh, it’s fine. It’s just my dork roommate left in such a hurry with that girlfriend of his that he didn’t shut the door all the way. I swear, those two. At least they’ve got a place to screw each other silly that’s away from here this week-her cousin’s out of town or something. Gives me some peace and quiet.”

“So what were you doing on your laptop in your peace and quiet?” Pete asked, hoping the answer would be something kind of dirty. He wanted to break the rules a bit tonight.

Josh blushed. “Oh, I was just on one of my favorite web sites.”

“And that would be what, exactly?”

“You won’t freak out if it’s kind of gay, will you?”

“Josh, I think we’ve established that I’m okay with ‘kind of gay.’ I think I’ll be fine with whatever you find enjoyable.”

“Well, it’s kind of porny.”

“I expected that it was. Now, are you going to tell me, or do I need to wrestle that laptop out of your sprained little hands and find out for myself?

“No, I’ll show you.” Josh opened his laptop, typed in a password, and the site came up. The screen said “Str8 Frat Dudes.”

“They don’t know how to spell,” Pete observed.

“Yeah, I don’t care about that, amazingly enough,” Josh replied drily. “But this site has the most fucking gorgeous guys on it.”

“So, what, you look at pictures of them? Or videos?”

“Yeah, they have all that. But the best part is the live shows.”

“Live? Like sex chat kinda things?”

“Sort of. The guy comes on, and you can type things to him on the computer and he reads them and responds. It’s kind of interactive. It cost me all of my spending money for the month to get access to the live shows, but it’s totally worth it.”

“But wouldn’t you rather have a guy here with you, in person?”

“Well, duh. But I don’t have that, do I? I mean, I have a hot guy here with me, but he’s straight. Or sort of gay. I mean, he sleeps with a guy, but he’s not gay. Not really.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“Look, here comes the live show for tonight. Oh! It’s Rick! I love him! I caught his first show last week, and he was amazing. Totally hot. I got so worked up-that’s how I ended up at that club that you found me in the gutter outside of.”

“Good times,” Pete noted, deadpan.

“Well, wait until you see him. This guy is so gorgeous and fucking hot that even you might fall for him. Ooh, here he comes.”

Pete wasn’t looking at the screen, wasn’t sure he wanted to.

“Hey to all my buddies out there! It’s Rick, back with you for another hot session. Thanks to everyone who sent email after my first show last week-you guys are awesome!”

The voice.

“I want to send a special shout out to Josh, who sent me the hottest email. Hey Josh, I see you’re online tonight. How are you, buddy?”

That fucking voice. It had to be.

“Oh! Pete! Help me type a message back. Please? I’m so slow with these things on.”

Pete sat next to Josh, and dragged his eyes, unwilling, to the computer screen. It was Nick. He was naked, of course, and his cock was rising as he read the messages of adulation that filled the screen.

“Type, ‘You are so fucking hot, Rick, I can hardly stand it.’ Type that for me, okay?”

Pete did as Josh asked, his mind twisting into a knot, trying to figure out what the hell we was doing here, and what the hell Nick was doing there.

Pete watched Nick read the message.

“No, Josh, you’re fucking hot.”

Pete couldn’t believe he was hearing this.

“Type, ‘How was your date with that girl?'” Josh asked, in a husky voice.

Pete looked at him. “Why do you want to know about that?”

“Because he’s straight, and that gets me going. I love straight guys who do this kind of thing-it’s so hot.”

Pete typed the message, with shaking hands. Rage? Confusion? Sadness? All of it. He watched the screen.

“Oh, yeah. It was crazy. We fucked like three times, and then we were so sweaty and funky we had to get in the shower. All she had was this fruity body wash stuff, and I ended up smelling like a chick. It sucked.”

That was the smell. Nick was telling their lives right there on the screen.

“See? Isn’t he smokin’ hot? And just look at that grin when he talks about having sex. God, he’s killing me!” Josh tugged at the sheets, and Pete could see the outline of his cock clearly through the covers.

Nick was stroking his hard cock now, rubbing it slowly up and down using that lazy stroke that Pete had seen him use so many times during their time living together. He ran his fingers up and down the entire length of his cock, enjoying every inch. In spite of himself, Pete was getting hard too. He hated that his body responded to Nick, even in this bizarre setting. Fuck, what was he doing? What were they doing?

Josh was hanging on Nick’s every word, running his eyes over every inch of his body. One of the other viewers asked Nick to show them his asshole, and he obliged, turning around and spreading his cheeks. His asshole winked at the camera, as Nick looked back over his shoulder to talk to his viewers.

“You guys like having your hole licked? I never knew how good it could be until last week. Oh my god I got my hole worked over. It was fucking awesome!”

“Oh, fuuuuck,” Josh groaned. “How hot is that? I would totally bury my face in that ass.”

So, apparently, would Pete. And he had. And now Nick was telling the world about it. Something snapped inside Pete.

“Hey, Josh, I, um-”

“Yeah? What is it?”

“Could I, um, help you out with your, um, issue?” He gestured to the outline of Josh’s prick.

Josh was stunned. And more turned on than he could have imagined.

“You would do that for me?”

“Yes, I think I would. Something about Nick there on the screen makes me want to do it.”

“Rick.”

“What?”

“His name is Rick.”

“Oh, right. Yeah, that’s what I meant. Rick.”

“Isn’t your roommate’s name Nick?”

“Why, yes, yes it is. Now, enough about him. Let’s see what we can do for you.”

Pete lifted the laptop up and to the side of the bed, and then pulled the covers back slowly. Josh was naked under the covers, and his cock throbbed on his belly.

“There’s vaseline under the bed,” murmured Josh, beside himself with how boned he was, and how dreams he hadn’t dared to dream were about to come true.

Pete retrieved the jar, and noted with a surreal sense of humor that it was Nick’s preferred brand. He opened it, scooped up a healthy dollop, and turned to the task at hand.

Josh’s was about to be the third dick he had ever touched in his life, including his own. He took a deep breath, and reached out for it. Josh moaned, and his hips bucked with excitement.

“Whoa, there, big fella,” Pete chuckled. “No rush here. Let’s take this slow.”

“I don’t think I can do slow right now,” Josh muttered through clenched teeth.

Pete took hold of Josh’s cock, and rubbed up and down. It was then that he realized there was something different about it, different from his and Nick’s.

“Josh, you’re-”

“Uncut, yeah. It’s a little different. Is that okay?”

Pete remembered the baths with Imre and Karvaly. “Oh, I’ve seen plenty of them. I just haven’t ever touched one.” He slid his slick fist along the length of Josh’s cock. “It’s kind of awesome. I love how the skin slides up and down.”

Josh breathed in short gasps. “I kind of love it too, especially right now.”

They heard some groaning from the laptop, and realized they had completely forgotten about Nick. Rick. Whatever.

“Oh, god, it feels so good,” he was saying, as he stroked his cock up and down. Pete knew he was just a few minutes away-he could tell by the way his toes curled.

Pete matched Nick stroke for stroke on Josh, and Josh felt the synchronicity. He moaned, Nick moaned, Pete stroked, Nick stroked. He sped up as Nick did, as he always did toward the end, and he could hear Josh panting on the bed next to him.

“Oh, oh, oh!” Nick said, and Josh echoed him. Pete watched for the first spurt to shoot out of Nick’s cock, and when he saw it he tightened his grip on Josh’s prick. Josh groaned and a long rope of hot white cum shot out across his chest. Pete kept up a tight, fast rhythm, determined to completely drain his friend in need.

“Ohhhhh, that was fucking amazing,” Nick/Rick was saying on the screen.

“I have to agree,” panted Josh. This was the first time he’d been able to cum for a full week, and he was shivering in its aftermath. He looked up at Pete. “Thank you, Pete. You have no idea-”

Pete stopped him by pressing his mouth against Josh’s, kissing him fiercely, as if he were trying to reach through him and kiss the image of Nick inside him. He didn’t think, he just did it. And Josh was happy he did.

“-how much this means to me,” Josh finished, when the kiss had faded. Who was this not-gay, not-straight man he had found?

“Don’t mention it.” Pete paused. “I mean, seriously, don’t mention it. It’ll be our little secret, okay?

“But, Pete, I got off, and Rick,” he gestured to the screen, where Nick was rubbing his load into his chest, prolonging the experience for maximum effect (and maximum pay, Pete thought), “Got off. But you didn’t. Can I help you with that?” Josh winked at him.

“Yeah, nothing makes an awesome handjob like the rubbing of wrist braces.”

“Who said I’d use my hands?” Josh blew Pete a kiss.

Pete, Straight Pete, the one who used to hate getting naked, or even being around naked people, stood and dropped his pants without another word. Josh swung his legs off the bed, and Pete stood before him. Josh leaned forward, and Pete’s cock entered the mouth of the second man ever. This was getting to be a bad habit, Pete knew, but he also knew that he needed-that he deserved-this pleasure. And a pleasure it was; Josh was an accomplished practitioner, and he shortly had Pete panting raggedly and leaning on his bobbing head for support. Pete shot his load eagerly, urgently, without second thoughts. Josh took the entire load, and licked and suckled at Pete’s retreating cock as it returned to its resting size. Or almost that size-Pete was still so overwhelmed by the twisted events of the evening that his prick remained on hot standby-who knew what would come next?

Josh kissed the tip of his cock several times, and then lay back. Pete pulled his pants and boxers up from around his ankles, tucked his confused but happy prick back into its place, and stood awkwardly for a moment.

“Well, that was … amazing,” he finally said. “I’ve never done anything like this before.” He was pretty sure that no one else had either-an impromptu handjob while watching his straight boyfriend seduce anonymous gay men on the computer under an assumed name? Followed by a blowjob from an injured man whose life he may have saved? Yeah, that doesn’t happen.

“You’re amazing, Pete.” Josh said, laying back on his pillow, comfortable for the first time in a week.

“Well, I’d better get going,” Pete said. “Nick’s going to be home soon, and I think we have some stuff to talk about.”

“Things okay between you two?”

“Well, I think they just got a little more complicated,” Pete replied.

“Oh, sorry. I shouldn’t have-”

“No, it’s not you. It’s me. And him. It’s just kind of a mess right now. But that’s my deal. You just rest and I’ll see you later, okay?”

“Okay. Bye, Pete. And thanks. For the wanks!”

Pete laughed. That Josh was a funny guy. His smile faded once he was in the hallway, walking back to whatever would happen with Nick.

* * *

Pete was back in their room before Nick arrived. When he entered, Pete looked up from the novel he was reading for his English 101 class.

“Hey,” Nick said, hanging up his jacket.

“Hey,” Pete replied. “How’d it go tonight, Rick?”

Nick froze. He closed his eyes slowly, shaking his head. Fuck.

“What?” he said, knowing perfectly well what Pete had said.

“I asked you how it went tonight.”

Nick heaved a sigh. He was still facing the closet, unable to look at Pete.

“How did you find out?”

Pete considered how to respond to his. “Let’s just say we have a friend in common. Name of Josh. You remember him, right? The one who sent you the hottest email?”

Nick’s shoulders slumped, stricken.

“Yeah,” Pete continued. “Turns out that’s my friend Josh too. Small world, huh?”

Nick turned to face Pete.

“Look, Pete, you know I need the money. I’m only doing this because there’s no way I can stay here unless I earn enough to pay my way. This pays better than anything else I could find. It doesn’t mean anything to me-those guys don’t mean anything to me.”

“Well, you sure mean a lot to them. To one of them, at least. We watched you tonight, both of us. I watched you tell all of our secrets to a bunch of strangers; all he saw was a hot guy beating his meat. That’s all you are to those people, you know.”

“That’s all I need to be, Petey. They get off, I get paid.”

“But what about me?”

“This has nothing to do with you!”

“I know that now. I don’t know if I want to have anything to do with you anymore either.”

Nick sat down on the bed, exasperated.

“Look, I don’t get you. You knew what you were getting when we got together. You knew what I’m like. I never led you to think otherwise.”

Pete looked up at him, angry tears in his eyes.

“But you said you loved me.”

“I do. I do, more than anyone ever in my life. You are the one great thing I have going, and I thought we knew what we were doing here. But I guess I was wrong.”

“But if I’m not enough for you …” Pete trailed off.

“No one is enough for anyone! You are amazing, you are unbelievable. Fuck, Petey, you made me fall in love with you and I’ve never done that-with anyone. You’re a dude, for fuck’s sake, and I love you anyway.” He paused here. “Maybe I love you because of that. You’re not like anything else in my life, but you can’t be the only thing in my life.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It means that I still need to be with women. It’s just how I’m wired. But when I’ve done that, I need to be able to come home to you. You’re where I live, where my life is. The rest is just playtime, it’s motions and friction. This is love. This is where my heart is.”

Nick was tearing up too now. He had never put his relationship into these words, and it surprised even him to hear it. He continued.

“And you need to be able to do the same thing. If this Josh guy turns your crank, then you should go for it. But I just need to know that you’ll be back in my bed at night, and that we’re okay.”

Pete sniffled. “Yeah, about that …”

“Yeah?” Nick looked at Pete, reading his face. The grin played at the corner of his mouth. “Oh, I get it. He turned your crank tonight, didn’t he?”

Pete nodded. “And I turned his. It was because of you, you know. We did it along with you.”

“Oh my god, that is so hot.” Nick grinned. He had intended to seduce his web audience-he just didn’t know it would work on those closest to home.

“Yeah, it kind of was, now that I think about it,” Pete agreed.

Nick leaned down, and kissed Pete.

“So, we okay?” he asked.

Pete nodded. “Yeah, I think we are. Just do me one favor, okay? Take a shower after you finish with one of your women. You smelled like my grandma’s bathroom last time.”

Nick burst out laughing. “Deal.”

They lay down together, turned out the lights, looked at the ceiling.

“Petey, we’re going to be okay, right? I mean, we’ll always have each other.”

Pete counted the stars. “We will. And that’s more than enough.”

THE END

 

Feedback is the only payment our authors get!
Please take a moment to email the author if you enjoyed the story.xavier@xaviermayne.comĀ 

No votes yet.
Please wait...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.