Jump to content

Roe St. Alee

Author: Author
  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Community Reputation

885 I Make This Look Easy

Story Reviews

  • No Story Reviews


  • Rank: #0
  • Total: 10


About Roe St. Alee

  • Rank

Profile Information

  • Age in Years
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Favorite Genres
  • Location
    Colorado, USA
  • Interests
    Skiing, weird hobbies, writing, food.

Recent Profile Visitors

1,071 profile views
  1. Only a few of the younger boys are still swimming as I pull myself up out of the pool. I have a strange realization as I do so. Even two months ago, when I came to Ogawa High School, I had barely been able to pull myself out of the pool without using the ladder. But my training has improved all parts of my strength and skill, not only swimming but also my power. It seems like a small thing, and a foolish one to be proud of, but I take note of it more as a change than an accomplishment. I gather around the other boys who have already gotten out and slide into formation with the rest of the first years. I would sometimes stand beside my senpai at times like this, but he has already left the pool, and is talking to Coach Kimura just off the pool deck. They are undoubtedly discussing our upcoming meet against a neighboring school this weekend. They must be, as it is all anyone has been discussing for weeks. Even among the younger boys such as myself who will only be swimming as an exhibition it has been an exciting topic of conversation. Exhibition or not, it will be the first swim meet of our high school careers, and we have all put forth our best efforts to prepare. When I joined the team during the summer I knew I would be putting in a lot of time with club activities, but I was still shocked by the extra practices, weight training, and everything else we have been doing to make ourselves ready. Not that I would ever let on that I was surprised. I saw several of the younger boys complain about the amount of work we have been doing, and their reputations on the team have suffered as a result. While it will not jeopardize their standing in the long run, I felt that putting on a brave face of determination would be better. I feel it is what Senpai would do. A whistle takes me from my thoughts and I see Kimura-sensei approaching, along with Uotate-senpai and a few of the other older boys who were involved in their conference. By the time they have arrived the few remaining swimmers have followed me out of the pool and the thirty or so boys in our swimming club are gathered around our coach. Kimura-sensei takes a knee in front of us and I try not to smile. Last week I heard a few of the older guys on the team talking about his habit of doing so. They suspect he may have acquired the habit from an American football movie they watched two years ago on a trip to the regional swim meet. It does give him a sort of Western, jocular vibe, and I try not to meet anyone else’s eye in case someone’s shared smile makes it harder for me to contain my own. “You have all worked very hard this year,” Kimura-sensei says to us, nodding appreciatively. “I have seen progress from our team, and I have no doubt that we are well prepared for our first meet on Saturday. Our starting swimmers are strong, and I am certain you will all represent the school proudly. “Tomorrow’s practice will commence at the usual time, but I have not assigned any drills for you. You can swim at your own pace and decide how much you need to swim. You should stay loose, but not overtrain yourselves.” He looks to our cluster of first year students and smiles. “Even if you are only swimming in the exhibition on Saturday, I want you to perform at the peak of your abilities. While your scores on Saturday will not affect our match result, it is vitally important that I have a chance to see how well each of you perform.” We all nod back in understanding. Even the best swimmers in our year are untested in Kimura-sensei’s eye. If any of us want to make the competitive roster this year, we will need to prove ourselves when the stakes are low. “Please ask me if you have any questions before the end of tomorrow’s practice. Eat well and sleep well today and tomorrow. Please work hard in your final training.” Kimura-sensei finishes his speech there, stands up, and gives three quick bows in a semicircle in front of himself. We all nod our heads in reply, and a few of the older boys reply that they will do their best. Sensei seems pleased, picks up his clipboard, and walks toward his office. I smile a bit internally at the end of his speech. His offer to answer any questions was not followed by any actual time to do so. You do not ask your coach if you need anything - you ask your senpai. I am lucky to have my senpai. He is not only a strong swimmer but also a proud teammate and a good teacher. He is a large part of the reason that I have come so far this year. Without his guidance I would not have been able to make such strides. In deed, so much of my progress is thanks to Uotate-senpai. You do not get to choose your senpai, per se, but from the first day of practice I was hoping that we would be together. He helped me with my kicking motion and from then it was almost an unspoken agreement between us. As the weeks went by it became more and more certain, and now it is beyond a doubt. I can speak highly of my senpai’s swimming and coaching, but perhaps more than anything, I respect him as a teammate. While many of the other senpais have gone to the locker room to start their showers, leaving the cleanup work to the younger boys on the team, Uotate-senpai walked straight from coach’s speech back to the pool. As we roll in the lane dividers and mop the pool deck, he is with us the entire time, directing and working with us side by side. Our school does not have its own pool, so we use the local community pool. We need to make sure everything is in order when we are done so we can retain our privileges. From what Kimura-sensei has said we get a good price on our time here, and our excellent care of this space is part of the reason. It only takes a few minutes to put everything away, but by the time we get into the locker room most of the third and fourth year boys are already done with their showers. They stand at the benches at various stages in the process, some still toweling off. I feel a bit intimidated by the older boys, so I do not mind that they shower before the rest of us. They are all bigger, taller, stronger, and more developed than we are. They are a testament to the advantage of years. Not only more time to practice and train, but more time to grow and mature as well. Senpai is no exception to this. As I step into the shower next to him I try not to stare at his body. His muscular arms, thick back, and strong legs. His hard, defined chin is even starting to sprout a bit of hair. Just one more measure of the man I am not yet. As I continue to watch him out of the corner of my eye, I see Uotate-senpai lean over and pull off his practice Speedo. As it comes down I get an unobstructed loof at the well-defined lines of strength running from his shoulders, across his back, through his glutes, and down into into his legs. There is so much power in his body. He turns around to rinse his other side and I quickly avert my eyes, but not before getting another view, one that impresses me perhaps most of all. Senpai’s thick member, nestled inside a full bush of hair. It is as strong and powerful looking as the rest of him, and try as I might to move the image of it from my mind, I cannot. As I strip off my swimsuit and look down at my own body, it is hard to believe I will ever be like that. So strong and capable, manly and complete. Will my skinny legs, thin arms, and hairless chest and stomach ever reach the level of my senpai? I cannot know for sure, but it is sometimes hard to imagine. I have made progress this year, and I should not forget that. Compared to the start of the season, I am bigger and stronger, and my times are faster in the pool. I am starting to get wisps of hair under my arms, a bit on my legs, and even a little bit down in my groin. It is nothing compared to the young man standing next to me, but it is a start, and all are pieces of the proof of my advancement. Senpai finishes his shower and sits on the bench, drying off. I have my back to him, but I can tell his eyes are on me. The thought of him looking at my body makes me nervous, but also excited in a way. Is he thinking the same thing that was just running through my mind? Does he think I am progressing nicely? Or is he worried that his kohai will never be anything but a kid? I make it a point not to flex my muscles or act differently than I normally would. I do not want him to know that I am so affected by his mere gaze. While contemplating my abilities and development is good, I should not pretend to be anything that I am not. A moment from several weeks ago still runs through my mind, and it reminds me to be honest with myself. My body is the shape it is. It contains the strength that it has. I can swim only as hard and fast as I am able. We were finishing practice and several of our veteran swimmers were racing. 800 meters of freestyle. Senpai was one of them. Their arms and legs churned through the water, propelling them at speeds beyond the capabilities of myself or any of the other boys watching from the edge of the pool. It was the first time the older boys had competed against each other like this, and they were all putting in their maximum effort. As they began their final lap we began to cheer for our senpais, and we craned our necks to lean over the water and get a better look at the finish. They crashed into the final wall and their heads popped up one after the other in a combined chorus of splashing and shouting. It was close between two boys in the lead, but the audience all pointed to the lane of Saato, one of the fastest swimmers on our team. While all attention was focused in the far lanes with the victors, however, I saw something happen in the two nearest to me. Almost a half a length behind the winning boy, two other swimmers were now reaching the end of the pool. They both emerged from the water and looked up to see that they did not win. They were not even close. One of the these final two swimmers was a boy named Muromori. He shook his head as he looked at the other swimmers and called out. “This is bullshit! How did I lose?” He threw up his arms and frowned, and a few of the other boys looked at him. He was faster than this, he seemed to be telling them, and he should have won. They looked down at him and encouraged him, telling him that he would do better next time, or that we should have a rematch next practice, or that Kimura-sensei already knew that he would be on the team. Kuromori is popular and emotional, and we know that he is a strong swimmer. The other boy, however, did not say anything when he saw where he had placed. He nodded once to himself, almost imperceptibly, and then began to stretch his arms against one of the lane dividers. It was a seemingly unimportant reaction, and vastly overshadowed by Kuromori’s outburst. But I understood what the other boy was saying without words or outward display, because the other boy was Uotate-senpai. He swam as hard as he could in the race, and he had been beaten. It was not anyone’s fault that he had lost, and he was not displeased with his performance. He was simply not as fast as the other boys. He had trained, prepared, strove, and lost. While I know that Senpai is not one of the fastest freestyle swimmers on the team, I also know that he did not resign himself to losing. He swam as fast as he could, doing everything in his power to win. But now that he had lost, he fully accepted responsibility for doing so. The results were true, and he was not the fastest. And that is what I try to keep in mind when I shower next to Senpai. He is bigger, stronger, faster, and more developed than I am. But I can only try to meet or surpass him. I can try as hard as I can, and I can (and should) pour every part of myself into my training. But if I still fail to do so, and if I fail to measure up in my own or his eyes, than I need to accept that it is the way of things. I turn back to see if Uotate-senpai is still behind me on the bench, but he is gone, rustling through his locker a few meters away. Perhaps I had just imagined his eyes on me earlier, sizing me up as I had done myself. It is hard not to be self-conscious about such things when you practice with someone above you. After one additional rinse to clean my body of the chlorine from the pool, I turn off the water and move toward my locker to grab my towel. Most of the other boys are finishing their showers as well, and many of them are talking and joking with each other, sharing their thoughts on how everyone would do at our meet this weekend. As I have come to expect, however, our area is quiet. It is rare that Senpai and I talk after practice while we are showering or getting dressed. Senpai is not unfriendly or anything like that, he is perhaps just more reflective and brooding than some of the other boys on the team. Since he usually helps us break down the pool after practice, he is naturally compared to the younger members of the team, which makes him seem even quieter. I finish drying off and getting dressed, noticing that Senpai is waiting for me. He must want to talk about something, but is hoping to have my full attention. It is most likely about the meet this weekend. Senpai has always advised me well, and I am excited for whatever he has to tell me. Uotate-senpai nods to the bench next to him and I have a seat. We are close enough that our legs are touching a little bit, and I am surprised when senpai reaches over to me and puts his arm on my shoulder. He gives it a light squeeze and I feel my cheeks start to heat up at the familiarity of his touch. “Tanaka-kun,” he starts, looking directly into my face, something common when speaking down to one’s kohai. “You are doing very well.” My cheeks have entered a state of molten magma. While Senpai is always kind to me, it uncommon to hear such a direct compliment from him. I lower my eyes and wave my free hand in front of me. “No,” I say, “I am trying very hard but I am not a strong swimmer.” I do believe that I am making strides, but it is proper for me to deflect the compliment. My statement is true regardless, I am still not a strong swimming, certainly not when compared to Senpai or the other older boys on the team. Senpai smiles and it reassures me, makes me feel less nervous. “I am not the only one who thinks so,” he says, “Sensei and some of the other senpais agree. You are developing very nicely.” I return his smile, in spite of myself. I cannot pretend to not be happy to hear news like this, and this praise is more in line with what I truly believe about myself. “I am progressing because of you.” He gives my shoulder another squeeze and then drops his arm. He reaches into his bag, sitting at his feet, and pulls out a small envelope, the sort I might get at the New Year from my grandmother. “There is one more thing we will need to do before the meet on Saturday,” he says, pressing the envelope into my hand. My intuition was correct, and I can feel a few heavy coins inside the package. “Get everything on the list before you come to practice tomorrow. If you have any extra, you can buy an eclair for yourself.” He knows that eclairs are my favorite kind of sweet, so if I was not already excited to help Senpai in picking up these items, I certainly am now. “Hai!” I say, with the intonation of a soldier. “ I will bring everything that you need. Even if there is not enough-” Before I can finish, he laughs. “There will be enough,” he says, with a smile. “Where can I go to get everything?” I ask. “Should I go right now or wait until tomorrow?” Senpai thinks for a brief second and furrows his brow. “Go tomorrow on your way to practice,” he says. “Any sort of yakkyoku should work in the city, and it will only take about five minutes to find everything.” I nod in understanding. “There is a drug store near my house.” He stands up and grabs his bag. He bows lightly to me and I return the gesture, but deeper and more seriously. He laughs. Sometimes I try and do everything right around Senpai, and usually, like now, he just thinks it is amusing. My textbook language and deferential bows probably seem a little bit funny to him, and I am glad no one else is in the locker room near us to witness it. It may be silly, but I know that Senpai is a serious person, and he appreciates it, even if it makes him chuckle. We exchange our goodbyes and Senpai leaves to catch his train. He lives farther out in the country than I do, and if he misses his train immediately after practice, he will have to take a local train the whole way back home. Even now he is probably cutting it close and I gently scold myself for holding him up at the end of practice with all my questions. As I make my way out of the gymnasium and walk to my bus stop, I find myself wondering what could possibly be on the list that he gave me. Could it be some sort of training supplies? Perhaps something that all team members get before their first meet. A badge, headband, or something like that. Although I have not seen any of the older boys with anything that fits the description, perhaps it is only a tradition for the first year swimmers. I get onto my bus and tell myself that I will not look at the envelope until tomorrow morning. The curiosity is eating my alive, but Uotate-senpai told me not to buy everything until tomorrow. Is it a surprise? Is it something that I can only get tomorrow and simply will not help me tonight if I have it? I am quite sure that there are two five hundred yen coins in the envelope. If I factor in a few common items from a drug store and enough to get an eclair - exactly one hundred thirty-one yen, then I imagine they will be small things, items that cost around two hundred yen each. But that does not rule out much in the store I am planning to go to. A toothbrush? A sports drink? What else would make sense? My whole ten minute bus ride is a back and forth of me holding the envelope in my hand and forcing myself to not open it. My obedience eventually wins out, as I convince myself that if I open the envelope now, I might lose the money inside. While I could easily afford the cost myself out of my pocket money, Senpai gave me what he gave me for a reason. I need to respect his wishes and use exactly what he gave me. At home it is better, but never far from my thoughts. I am still brimming with curiosity about Senpai’s ominous instructions. By the time I finish dinner with my family and go back to my room, the urge to open the envelope has dissipated a little, but while I am prepared to be strong of will, the envelope is all I can think about. I kept it in my pocket all through dinner and found my left hand often wandering down to feel its shape and make sure it was still there. My parents clearly could see that something was distracting me, and it took several repeated questions for me to focus enough on their normal inquiries into my day. In my room, I pull off my clothing and get immediately into my sleeping clothes. Even though I have one more full day until our meet, I want to get to bed early and be well-rested. Even though I am only swimming in a exhibition, I am determined to prove true the words that Uotate-senpai spoke earlier today. As I roll out my futon, my eyes drift to some of my omamori, sitting neatly on a shelf above my mattress. I look at them for a few minutes, and try to decide which one I want to put under my pillow. I have the typical good-luck charms that every boy and girl in Japan has, but I have a few that are a bit different, and I decide that one of those will do the trick. The one I pick out is a rabbit and a shark, and I cannot help but smile as I think of it. My brother gave it to me a few months ago when I joined the swimming club, and he said that it would bring me good luck in all my swim meets. I was very excited when he gave it to me. He is older than I am, and started university this fall. He does not usually make an effort to connect with me, but I thought that maybe he was growing more sentimental as he was getting ready to go to college several hours away in Tokyo. He is my brother however, and the omamori was anything but a simple swimming charm. I slept with it under my pillow every night for the first few weeks of swimming practice, and even brought it to practice once to show the other boys in my class. It was too special for me to keep on a keychain or anything like that, but I was eager to show it off to some of my friends. As the boys were looking at it, I quickly learned that none had ever seen one like it before. I fielded the inevitable questions about how a rabbit and a shark could be a swimming charm, as only one of them can swim. I was just in the middle of telling everyone my tale, as relayed to me by my brother, when I heard someone laughing behind me. I turned around and was surprised to see Kimura-sensei peering over my shoulder and chuckling. My face went red immediately, but Sensei’s eyes were only happy. He was not being mean spirited, simply having a good-natured laugh. “What?” I asked him. “Is the story wrong?” He smiled again and began to tell me the real story of the White Hare of Inaba. “One day a proud and cunning hare was preparing to travel. He found that he needed to cross the ocean to reach the city of Inaba. He, being a hare, had no means to cross the water.” Even with only that information, I was feeling very doubtful that my omamori would do much for me in the way of swimming. “The hare found a shark on the coast, and made a boast to him. ‘My people, the hares,’ he said, ‘are much more plentiful than yours. I want to prove it to you, but I have never seen all the sharks of the ocean gather in one place to be counted. Gather all your family in a straight line so that I might walk across your backs and count you all.’ “The sharks accepted his challenge and lined up all the way from the island to the mainland. The rabbit quickly hopped along all the sharks, but as he approached his goal, he could not help himself. “‘You foolish sharks!’ he cried out. ‘I have tricked you. I did not want to count you, just to walk across your backs.’ “He spoke too soon however, and the last shark in the line reached up and bit him. It took all his hair off, so only muscle and sinew were left.” He completed his story and laughed again. “Not much of a swimmer, the hare.” I did not know what to say. My brother’s version had been much more fortuitous for the hare, and even the shark had not been his enemy. It was less elegant of a story however, and unlike most folk tales, there had not been a lesson taught to one of the characters through hardship. Hearing Sensei’s version, I had no doubt whatsoever which was the more accurate of the two. At this realization, it suddenly sounded more like my brother was wishing that I might have my skin removed in a pool accident. “But sharks can swim,” Kimura-sensei added, seeing my downfallen face. “And no one ever told you if you need to be a rabbit or a shark. Perhaps you can choose.” I could not help but smile at this, and decided at that exact moment that regardless of my brother’s intention, I would keep using the omamori. In a way it was a perfect gift from him. Maybe there was even some aspect of a kind meaning to be found somewhere in the story, and either way I could interpret it however I liked. As I reach down to my pillow tonight, however, a different idea crosses my mind. There will be plenty of other times I can use the White Hare of Inaba. Instead, I pick up Uotate-senpai’s envelope and tuck it under my pillow. With a smile, I am asleep almost the instant I lie down. ------- ------- ------- ------- I have been nervous all day. Unable to focus, unable to concentrate on my school work, and without a doubt unable to take my mind off the small bag sitting in my locker. I left for school an extra fifteen minutes early and went to the drug store, just as Uotate-senpai had instructed. When I got inside, I opened the envelope he gave me and emptied its contents into my hand. As I had guessed, there were two 500 yen coins in my palm, and a small, folded list. I placed the envelope and the money back into my pocket, then carefully unfolded the paper. If anyone had been watching me, they would have undoubtedly seen my cheeks turn red. The list was not anything I had expected. It was only a few basic items, but somehow they made me feel a little bit strange and embarrassed. Maybe it was just a weird club thing to have to go buy them. Maybe it was something Uotate-senpai needs but he wanted to include me as some part of a ritual or tradition for swimmers. And those were the pleasant guesses and reasons that were running through my mind. My cousin is in the basketball club at his high school and he told me some of the things they did to first years. Some of the things were weird and even demeaning. I do not think Kimura-sensei would allow anything like that in our club, or that Senpai would partake, but it did nothing to stop my imagination from running wild. When the final school bell finally rings, I am glad, because I simply cannot wait anymore. I walk quickly to my locker, grab my swimming bag, and go straight to the pool. Sometimes I would stop to talk to my friends or see if I can rustle up a snack from our cafeteria before I leave school, but today is not the day. I need to get to practice immediately and see what is happening. But once I get to practice, there is no mention of the list or the items I bought. I am one of the first people at practice, and as I roll out our lane dividers with some of the other club members, no one says anything. I talk with some of the other first years as we work and try to get them talking without being too direct, but none of them mention anything. Either they did not have to do what I did this morning, or they are sworn to secrecy by their own senpais. When Uotate-senpai arrives, he simply says hello as he always does and then goes to change in the locker room. Kimura-sensei is the same way, and I am left to complete today’s practice with no answers. Thankfully, practice is short. Some of the older boys who will be competing tomorrow only swim for fifteen or twenty minutes, and Senpai leaves the pool to stretch shortly after that. I swim at an easy pace and take a lot of breaks, so I swim for a bit longer, but do not tire myself out or expend too much energy. As the last few swimmers are leaving the pool, I make my way to the ladder and begin to pull myself out. I am just reaching the top step of the ladder when Kimura-sensei calls out to me. “Tanaka,” he says, “you look like you are not fully extending your left leg when you swim today. Are you injured?” I flex my leg but do not feel any pain. “I do not feel any injury,” I say, “but I was swimming more slowly than usual and perhaps my form was a bit off.” Sensei nods and thinks for a moment. “Uotate and I both noticed as we watched you swim your last few laps. It is probably because you are swimming slow, but I would like to get this corrected before tomorrow’s meet. Are you too tired to swim a few more laps?” As I will not technically be competing tomorrow, I do not believe I actually have a choice in this. I nod my head to Sensei and drop back into the water. As I do, I notice that someone is right behind me. It is Uotate-senpai. I did not even notice him enter the pool, but he and Sensei must have already discussed helping me with a few more laps. “Thank you for doing this extra work,” Sensei says to us, then walks off toward the locker room, where I am sure he has another great football-inspired speech planned for the rest of the team. Senpai nods to Sensei and then turns to me. “We just want to make sure that your last lap today is done with the best form. Lie on your stomach like you are going to swim.” I push a few feet away from the wall and float on my stomach. As I do, I feel Senpai’s hands grab around my hips, holding me in place. “Take a few slow strokes,” he says. I stretch my body forward and pull back with my hands while Senpai holds me in place. His grip on my hips is powerful and steady, and I feel strangely protected as I swim. “Take a few breaths in stride,” he instructs. I take a breath and swim a few more strokes, then take another. As soon as I finish my second breath, Senpai pulls my hips backwards and I stop paddling and stand up. “You are not extending your left leg back after you breathe,” he says. “Think about stretching your body as far as you can each time, and focus on starting from that position after each breath.” I nod and start swimming again, and again Senpai has his strong hands locked onto my hip bones. I swim a few strokes, then turn up to breathe. As soon as I am done I make sure to pull my legs back and my arms forward as far as I can. I repeat the cycle three more times before Senpai again pulls me back and I lift up my head. “How was that?” I ask. “Very good,” Senpai replies. “Now take two more laps, slowly, accentuating that same form you demonstrated. After two slow laps, if I have not stopped you, take one more at full speed.” “Hai.” I kick off the wall and start my first lap. After two or three breaths I do not even need to concentrate on my form any more. I am not sure why I was not extending my leg earlier, but this feels like my regular stroke, and I know that I will swim like this tomorrow. I finish a lap and Uotate-senpai does not stop me, so I keep swimming, slowly but not quite as deliberately as before. Sensei was right to have me take the extra few minutes before the end of practice. Bad habits are hard to break, and it will be good to finish practice on the right foot. For my third lap I kick up to my normal training speed and everything still feels right. Senpai is a good teacher for me, and I am grateful for the extra time and attention today. When I finish my third lap I pull off my goggles to see Senpai nodding with approval from the side of the pool. “You looked good,” he says, “and even better when you were swimming at speed.” “Thank you for your help,” I tell him. “I know I can do well tomorrow.” Senpai smiles at me and reaches his hand down to help me out of the pool. The strength of his grip reminds me on the feeling when his hands were on my hips during our training. So strong and sure, the power and certainty of them almost seems to radiate into my body. “I told everyone that I would clean up the pool. Can you help me?” I look around and see that we are the last two in the pool today. We begin to put away our equipment, and it feels good to work like this, hand in hand with someone I so respect and admire. With only the two of us cleaning up, it takes almost fifteen minutes before we are finished, and by the time we are walking to the locker room there are only a few boys left. I say goodbye to a few of my friends as they are leaving and go to my usual shower area with Senpai just behind me. I feel a rush of excitement as I realize that Senpai will be showering next to me again today. I am always impressed with his body, and I relish any opportunity I have to sneak a few glances at it. It is inspiring in a way, to see what I one day might become. In the next instant, several things happen at once. I am just setting down my bag on the bench closest to the showers, when I see Takahashi-senpai step away from his shower. Takahashi is one of the fittest boys on the team, so I cannot fight the urge to look at him as he turns toward me. And while I notice all the things I usually do - his strong shoulders, rippling chest, well-defined abdominal muscles - I also notice something far more interesting. His body is completely shaved. From his legs, to his armpits, and most noticeably his groin, there is no hair on Takahasi’s body, where yesterday it was abundant. And that is when I suddenly understand what Uotate-senpai had me get at the store. The list was short and simple: - 2 disposable razors - 2 small bars soap - 1 can shaving cream - 1 jar talc powder Now it makes sense. “Do you see why I had you get buy those things?” Senpai must have seen the realization on my face when I saw Takahashi. “Everyone on the team shaves before the matches. It helps us go faster.” I think about Senpai and his body, and I cannot imagine him shaving it. It is one of the most distinctive features of him, part of what makes him seem so manly to me. The hair on his strong legs, the handful of strands on his broad chest, and the thick mound above his thick, powerful penis. “Even you?” I ask. I have only seen him during periods of training, and never while matches are going on. “Even me,” he responds. “But only for a match. Some of the older guys do it all the time, and several of the younger ones do not need to.” He looks at me up and down before continuing. “I noticed you yesterday in the shower. You are developing a lot, and you will need to shave. Your legs are starting to grow hair, and even…” Senpai trail off but points down in the vicinity of my groin and I feel it twitch. “Wait,” I say, as the reality of what is going to happen dawns on me. “We are going to do it right here? Right now?” I can feel my face getting hot and Senpai laughs. “My senpai helped me the first time I did it, and he showed me how. I will help you.” I gulp down the lump that is sitting in my throat. Of course I want Senpai to show me. Spending time with him and learning from him is one of my favorite things. But in such a public place. This could be embarrassing. “Do not worry,” Senpai says, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Takahashi is the last one still at practice. And because we ended early today no other clubs will come in for at least an hour. We will have time to do this without anyone else.” Senpai squeezes my shoulder before continuing. “We will have privacy.” Again, it seems like Senpai is reading my mind. The whole situation is a little confusing and scary, but Uotate-senpai has never led me wrong. I like him and I trust him, and I know he will not do anything that would hurt me. I nod. Senpai smiles at me. “We will start with a nice, hot shower.” Uotate-senpai turns on both of our showers to allow the water to heat fully before we get in. I pull my Speedo off and set it on the bench next to my bag and towel. I turn to the shower and stand, stark naked, watching the steam rise off the almost scalding hot water. And as I stand there, naked in the locker room with only my senpai, I realize that I have never felt more self conscious about my body. I look down at myself. My skinny chest, thin legs, and sparse hair across my legs and groin make me feel like a child next to Uotate-senpai. I look over at him and cannot help but be amazed, as I always am. I catch a glimpse just as he drops out of his practice suit and steps forward to join me in front of the shower. His foot thrusts forwards and I can see the muscles of his leg flex and contort. Even the minuscule movement of a single footstep tells of the hours of training behind the size, shape, and tone of the musculature beneath the skin. His thick member swings slightly with the movement, handing just in front of two full, gently hanging balls, ringed by a rich semicircle of coarse, dark hair. The muscles of his stomach flex and shift faintly in time with the extension of his leg. And he steps with pride. The sureness of his step betrays the confidence of his skill and seniority. The movement of a leader, a young man that I am proud to follow. All of this compared to me. My body, so young and just barely beginning to show the signs of training and discipline. There is a man standing next to me, and I am merely a boy. “Ready?” he asks. He catches my eye before I pull it away from his body, but nothing in his gaze is reproachful. Instead he smiles somewhat knowingly. I feel my cheeks get hot but do not truly feel embarrassed. It is only natural that I would look at his body, and his expression tells me that he understands this. His is the goal, the epitome, a sort of perfection that I can strive for as I train and develop. Why would I not take a moment to look it over and take it in? And he said it himself. He was looking at me yesterday. His eyes were taking in the dimensions and aspects of my body, assessing, and in a sense, enjoying what they saw. It is part of our bond as senpai and kohai, that we should honestly evaluate each other, and in doing so push each other to work harder and perform with more intensity and passion. I step forward with a renewed confidence into the shower. Senpai will not lead me wrongly. The water is hot. It burns my skin for a few seconds, but I will myself to stay under the water. It is hotter than I ever take a shower after a usual swimming practice. After a bit of time I adjust to the heat of the water and it starts to feel good. I close my eyes and step fully under the spigot, letting the water run over my face. Hot as it is, I like it. I slowly become aware that Uotate has stepped close to me. Even without opening my eyes I can feel the closeness of his presence. I move my head out of the spray and turn to him. “First,” he says, “you will need to wash yourself very well. It is easier to shave clean skin.” He reaches down and touches my thigh with his fingertips, feeling some of the hair that has sprouted there in the last year. It is not much, but I am somewhat proud of it in a strange way. “Make sure you get your legs.” His fingers move upward and run across my stomach and chest. As they slide over my hip, I feel my chinchin jump slightly. I realize my heart is beating rapidly, and I am sure Senpai can feel it as his hand pauses on my chest. The sensation of his touch almost feel tingly, like a tiny bit of electricity is passing from his fingers into my body. “I do not think you will need to do your chest,” he says, “but I will.” His gaze and hand drop back to my waist. “And you will certainly need to do here.” He does not touch me, but when his fingers drop near my groin, I know I feel it twitch again. He is only centimeters away, and something inside me yearns for him to reach out and complete the connection. Perhaps it is merely the hot water and the excitement of what we are about to do, but I only want to be closer to Senpai. He steps back under his own shower and grabs a bar of soap from where he set them earlier. He hands it over to me, and once again as our hands make contact I feel a small jolt of electric energy pass between us. I step slightly to the side of the cascade of water coming from my shower and cover myself with a thick lather of soap. I start with my face and neck, and work my way down. I cover my arms and shoulders, then my chest and stomach. Next I work my way up from the ground, washing my feet, calves, shins, over my knees, and up to my thighs. The sparse hair on my legs will be easy to shave, although I have never done it before. I am sure that Senpai will show me how. Last of all, I move up to my groin. As I do so, I start to worry that I may be getting a little bit aroused. The more my soapy hands slide over it, the more certain I am that it is getting harder. I begin to worry what Senpai will think if I get fully hard while we are here together. It does happen from time to time in the showers, as is unavoidable when you are with twenty teenage boys every single day after practice, but no one speaks of it. It is seen as natural, and nothing to be ashamed of, but nothing to be discussed or shown off. But here and now, it is just the two of us. Something like that would be so obvious, and given the intimacy of the moment, it would probably be impossible to avoid mentioning it. I know that Senpai would not do anything to make me feel bad, but I do not want to create an awkward situation for him. I look over at Uotate-senpai to try and gauge what he might be thinking, and immediately regret doing so. He is at the same stage in his washing process as I am, and only a short glance reveals that he is experiencing the same reactions in his body that I am. While this assuages my fears of being awkward by getting half hard in the showers with him, it does nothing to stem the flow of blood that rushes into my penis. I turn around to face away from him, now worried that I will become fully hard. I try to erase the image from my mind, but it is not possible. Senpai’s penis, already thick and manly as it is, has swollen to a greater size and length. Now it is clearly bigger than mine, and perhaps even the biggest I have seen on the team. Even only being part of the way hard, it is so powerful and impressive, hanging fatly in front of his full, round balls. “I can wash your back if you like.” I gasp at the sound of Uotate’s voice right behind me. I imagine his cock only half a meter away from me and approaching closer with every moment. If he washes my back it will be right there, almost touching me… Senpai’s hand comes to rest lightly on my shoulder, and he begins to work the soap onto my skin. I force myself to continue breathing. He is so close to me. I look down and see that I am fully hard now, my cock sticking straight out and throbbing lightly in time with the beating of my heart. It is nowhere near as large as Senpai’s, but the twelve centimeters are nothing I will be able to hide when I turn around. Senpai’s hands are slowly working their way downward. They pass over my shoulder blades, then across the middle, and finally into the small of my back. He works in rhythmic, circular motions, fully covering my rear half with soap. They stop just short of my butt, only just making contact with the top of each cheek. “It is done,” says Senpai. “Go ahead and rinse off.” I feel another wave of nervous energy course through my body. When I turn into the shower to rinse my back, my erection will be on full display for Senpai to see. So instead, I simply step into the shower sideways, figuring that there will be enough water to complete my rinse without exposing myself to embarrassment. “Rinse your whole back,” says Senpai. I do not turn away from the shower, but keep standing where I am. “You still have soap on your back,” he repeats. “Finish rinsing and then you can help wash mine.” I hesitate for another moment, but I can tell that I have no other option. I need to turn to face away from the flow of water. I push my hands over my erection, pushing it down and covering it as best I can, then turn ninety degrees. “Good. Now you can wash my back.” Senpai is facing me, and he must see my predicament. I keep my hands in place and wait for him to turn away from me. I turn to look at him and his hand is outstretched toward me, handing me the soap. If I take it from him I will have no way to hide my shame. I turn back to face the row of lockers in front of me. “Here,” he says, thrusting it closer to me. “Take the soap so you can wash my back.” I do not budge, and Senpai turns his head slightly to the side, a habit he has when he is trying to understand something. “Please, take it.” Slowly and carefully, I remove one of my hands and hold it toward him, the other hand still shielding his view from my groin as best I can. As I release, I feel my penis spring up, almost slapping against my stomach. It is so hard right now, I do not think there is anything I can do to hide my arousal. But Uotate-senpai does not hand me the soap. Instead, he takes a small step toward me. “I see,” he says lightly. “You got hard while you were washing.” I jerk my hand back down to cover up, but my penis is even harder than before, and it is even more difficult to push it down out of sight. “Wait,” Senpai says, placing a hand on my arm, “you do not need to hide it.” My breath catches in my throat and I cannot tell if my heart is pounding harder inside my head or in my chinchin. With Senpai lightly pulling me, I release my grip and move my hands away, revealing what has to be the hardest erection I have ever had. It must be some combination of the hot water, the intensity of the situation, and the fact that Senpai is standing, himself half hard, just a few centimeters away from me. “Wow,” he says, “you are very hard.” I nod slightly and turn to look at him, sure that my cheeks must be the color of a maple leaf in the autumn. Senpai is smiling, calmly and reassuringly. He does not look mad or embarrassed, or even worse - ashamed of me. “Tanaka-kun,” he asks, “do you ever masturbate?” I slowly shake my head. “No, but I have heard about it.” I know what it is, but I have not done it. Many of the boys at school talk about it, and I know it has something to do with touching your penis until it gets hard, and then making some sort of pee come out when it feels good. I do not know the specifics, but I do know that my understanding of it is rudimentary at best, so I do not share any of this with Senpai. “Sometimes it can be good to do it,” he says. “It can be hard to focus when you are like this. And it may be hard for us to shave.” I nod in understanding. He is right. It will not be easy to focus or shave in my current state. But as I look down at my inkei, I am not sure how to begin. I do not know what to do. “Let me show you how.” I take a moment to reflect on how strange this situation is. My senpai is naked with me in the showers, and showing me not only how to shave my body appropriately for our swim meet, but also how to masturbate. It is strange, but I like it. This is exactly what it means to have a senpai. Someone who can show you the things you do not know, and help you advance, both in matters of the swimming team, and other matters. I am happy that Senpai is showing me. Uotate-senpai turns to me and reaches his right hand to his own penis, still thickly swollen but nowhere near the state of my own. “First you need to get hard. And to do that, you just think of something sexy and start touching yourself, like this.” Senpai begins running his hand back and forth along his shaft, slowly but purposefully. As he does so, I am in awe as I watch his penis get harder and bigger, eventually filling his hand and then some. I feel a tingle in my own rock hard member as I watch him, noticing that he is looking at me the whole time he is stroking. Even at his direction to think of something sexy, Senpai is one hundred percent focused on me. “After it is hard, take your hand and stroke it back and forth, like this.” He is now moving up and down along his length, rhythmically moving back and forth in a practiced motion. I reach down to my own throbbing rod and try to imitate him. It feels good, but strange. Every time I get to the bottom of my stroke I can feel the pressure pulling hard on the tip. “You might need to pull back the skin at the end,” says Senpai. “Watch me and I can show you.” He comes to the tip and then seems to pull a little bit harder. As he pushes down I see his foreskin slide down farther and farther, until finally the bright red head of his penis comes free. He slides his hand back up and covers it again, then repeats the motion. I keep stroking lightly as I look back at Senpai’s amazing member, completely mesmerized at the manly, flared head of his penis being rhythmically revealed and hidden with the motion of his hand. The lines defining it are so strong, so powerful looking. I wish I could have a closer look. “Are you able to do it?” Senpai asks, snapping me out of my brief hypnosis. I look back down at myself and try to imitate his motion. I start at the tip and try to pull down harder, but it feels strange. I have never pulled the foreskin down while I am hard, especially while I am this hard, and I think it might hurt if I try it. It feels tight, like it will not go even if I pull more firmly. I look back up at Senpai and shake my head. I feel my penis twitch hard seeing his eyes locked on my dick as I move my hand back and forth. I want to do this for him, but I am not sure that I can. Senpai moves closer to me and then hesitates, as though he is not sure what to do next. I meet his eyes and give a slight nod. I trust him. He is my senpai. I know that he is going to do the right thing to teach me how to do this. “Let me help you.” The change of verb is striking. He has said several times that he will show me. But now he has said that he will help me. He will take action to assist me. It is hard to explain why this is so impactful to me, but I feel an instant change in the situation. Senpai is going to do something to me, to help me. “Keep going,” he says. I continue to stroke lightly up and down, while Senpai steps behind me. I feel his penis touch the small of my back as he steps into the space behind my body. His arm comes around me and he slides his hand along my forearm until it passes my wrist and comes to rest on top of my hand, slowly moving along in the same rhythm as my own. “Grip it a little lighter,” he says, “and let your hand slide along with it.” I loosen my grip and let the skin on my penis slip through my grip a bit as I move my hand. It feels better than it did before, almost like it extends the duration of each stroke, and prolongs the good sensations each time. But it also feels good, in a strange way, that Senpai’s hand is with mine. His hand is larger, and I can barely feel his hand directly touching my penis around the edges of my own. It feels different, but I like it. It adds a sort of confidence to the motion and feelings as I masturbate. “Now grip a little harder at the top as you start to pull down. Then start doing the same at the bottom. But release your grip each time, and move lightly between the two each time you do it.” With Senpai’s hand guiding me, I start adding force each time I pull down. Once I have that, we start adding a bit of force each time I start to pull up. Each time I do it I can feel that same pressure on my foreskin pulling over the crown of my karikubi. But it feels different this time. It is not a painful sensation, just a little bit of pressure each time. And the pressure kind of feels good. It gets stronger and stronger, until suddenly my foreskin pulls down, uncovering the soft, fleshy tip of my penis. The hot water, along with the movement of my hand makes the tip burn for a second, as it is so sensitive. But then we pull upward from the base of my penis with some force, and it covers it up again. I go back and forth with Senpai a few more times, and it feels better and better. The head is so sensitive, but alternating between covering and uncovering is creating a burning sensation in my loins that is making me dizzy. “Senpai,” I whisper, “I feel…” He laughs a little and starts moving our hands faster. “You are getting close.” “Close to what-” I start to ask, but suddenly I feel the burning sensation spread through my body. It starts in the tip of my penis and spreads back into it, down the shaft, into the base, and then into my testicles. My penis gets harder and harder, as though it is going to burst. The sensation pushes back from there into my butt and stomach, an intensely pleasurable burning, erasing any thoughts from my mind except those of pleasure. I cry out as the burning reaches a climax and then suddenly stops, leaving a numbing afterglow of tingling in most of my body in its absence. Then my penis twitches back to life, jerking hard in my hand six times before stopping. Senpai holds me the whole time, tightening his grip slightly as he feels my body stiffen. It feels good to be in his arms, and it is good that he had a hold on me, as I may have fallen down if he had not. “What happened?” I ask breathlessly when I can find the clarity to form a sentence. “You came,” he says.” “Came?” Senpai releases me and turns me around so I am facing him. “You masturbated until you came, and now your penis will get soft again.” He looks down, and I see that he is right. With each beat of my heart I can see it deflating back to its usual state. “See?” he says, reaching down and touching his fingers to the tip of my member. “You made it come out.” He holds his fingertips in front of me and I see something pale and sticky-looking on his fingers. “What is it?” I ask. I want to reach out and touch some, but it feels dirty. “It is your cum,” he says. “You only made a little now. But the more you grow up, the more you will make.” “Cum,” I repeat, tasting the word in my mouth. I have heard of something like this, but I did not know how it all fit together. You masturbate until you are hard, then you start to feel good, then you can make cum. And now I have done it. “Do you make a lot of cum?” I ask. Senpai laughs. “Sometimes,” he says. “It is a little different every time. I make more than you, but I am older.” I look down at Senpai and see that he is still hard. “Did you make any this time?” I ask. Senpai shakes his head. “I was helping you.” Looking at Senpai’s penis, I wish I could watch it come. He is so much more mature than I am. So much bigger, thicker, manlier. I imagine he makes a lot of cum. “Are you going to?” I ask. Senpai returns a look I have seen many times. It is a look he uses when he is trying to teach me something, or show me a technique at swimming practice. I would call it his ‘Senpai Look.’ “Don’t you want to feel good?” I ask. His look intensifies. “We need to get you shaved for the meet tomorrow,” he says. He is right. That is the whole reason we are here. Senpai is going to show me how to shave for our swim meet. This, while it felt good, was only part of that process. I got hard, and to help alleviate that, Senpai showed me how to masturbate. Now we can proceed. As usual, Uotate-senpai was right. It is already helping me focus better. The nervous, sexual haze that had clouded my mind for the last ten minutes or so seems to be clearing, and I am ready to get back to the task at hand. I was intoxicated by the heat of the showers, the excitement of trying something new, and the closeness of Senpai. But now it is fading. “Turn off the water.” I shut it off as commanded and when I turn around Senpai has pulled out the shaving cream and one of the razors from the bag I brought. I step toward him and he holds up his hand, motioning me to stop where I am. Uotate-senpai steps in front of me, then kneels down. He puts his hand on my shin and feels the light coating of hair on my wet leg. “We will need to shave this,” he says. Senpai dispenses a large amount of shaving cream onto his hand, and then begins to rub it onto my leg. He starts at the bottom, and continues all the way up to nearly my hip, where a few hairs have just recently started to sprout. Once he finishes one leg, he repeats the process with the other. “Once you have applied the shaving cream,” he says, ‘then you lightly use the razor, slowly and carefully.” He holds the razor up to my hip and pulls it down through the shaving cream. It feels strange on my body. I can feel the razor scraping against my skin but it does not hurt or feel bad. Almost like an especially wide fingernail is being dragged slowly across my skin. As Senpai shaves down I can see where the shaving cream has been removed, and the few hairs that had previously been in that spot are gone. After taking a few more strokes with the razor and clearing the top half of my thigh, Senpai stops and holds up the razor. “After some time, the hair will be in the razor and it will not shave well anymore.” I look down and see a few hairs jutting out of the layer of shaving cream on the razor blade. “You simply dip the blade into some water to clean it off. Senpai dips the razor into a cup of water next to my feet and flicks it through the liquid a few times. When he pulls it out, he holds it up for me to look at again. The twin blades of the razor are clean and free of hair, just like he said. “I will finish this leg, and then you can do the other,” says Senpai. After a few minutes he hands me the razor then sits back on the floor, giving me a bit of space to work but watching me closely as I begin. It is different shaving myself, but it only takes a small bit of practice before I am comfortable. I start moving faster, getting the top half of my leg done in no time. “Let the shaving cream guide you,” he says as I start to move down onto my knee, “and once you have shaved it all off, you know that you are done.” I am moving almost as fast as Senpai did when he was shaving me. Senpai was right. It is not that difficult to do. You just follow the shaving cream and continue working your way down. “Itai!” I cry out. I see a small speck of blood on the edge of my knee cap. “You need to be careful,” says Senpai. “If you move too quickly you can nick yourself with the razor.” He looks up at me. “Is is not a deep cut, but it may bleed a little bit, and it will hurt for a second.” I look at the cut and already the pain is fading. It was so sharp at first, but it does not look very deep. “Be more careful as you continue,” says Senpai, grabbing my hand that is holding the razor to guide it back to my leg. I feel strange now holding the razor in my hand, just seconds after cutting myself. I have lost the confidence that I had earlier, and now I know that I can cut myself if I am not cautious. “Just go slowly,” he says. I put the razor back to my skin and nothing happens. I move it slightly and get only the sensation of scraping the shaving cream off my leg like before. I shave a section and move past my knee. It is ok. I just need to be careful and work slowly. I finish my leg, rinse off the razor and see that the small cut on my knee has stopped bleeding. Only a drop or two had come out at all. “Good work,” says Senpai. “Turn around so I can make sure you got everything. I turn my back to him and he takes the razor from me. I feel it move along one small portion of my leg, near the back of my knee. “You are done with your legs. There is only one spot left.” I feel my stomach clench as I think about that one last area. The handful of hairs just above the base of my penis are the last ones left on my body. I was somewhat proud of them over the last few months as they have started to grow, the first visible sign that I am truly becoming a man. I was one of the first boys in my year to have them, at least of the ones I had seen in gym class and at swimming club. Now, however, I need to shave them off. I turn back to face Uotate-senpai and he is holding out the razor and shaving cream expectantly. I dispense a small amount of cream onto my finger and rub it lightly over my pubic area. After I have made a thick, even application, I take the razor. I move it toward my body but stop before it makes contact. In my vision past my groin I can see my leg and the small spot of blood, coagulated on the skin. The images come together, and my hand freezes. “I…” Senpai looks up at me with a questioning look. “What is the matter?” he asks. What if my hand slips while I am shaving? Getting a small cut on my leg is one thing, but this close to my penis, it is very different. Answering his question without words, I hold the razor out to Senpai. He has done this before, and I trust him more than I even trust myself in this case. He smiles knowingly and takes the razor from me. “It can be scary to use a razor here,” he says, “but you will do fine if you try.” I shake my head. “Please, Senpai.” He nods and moves in closely toward my groin. The movement returns many of the sensations and feeling from earlier. Senpai is only centimeters away from my penis, and he is about to shave my pubic hair. It is so close and intimate. A young man that I admire and respect is coming this close to me. I feel the blood returning to my groin as Senpai puts a hand on my thigh to steady himself. The razor connects with my skin at the edge of the shaving cream, just below my belly button, and moves slowly downward. He moves a few centimeters to the side and moves down again. He finishes the upper arc, only leaving the shaving cream immediately next to and on the very base of my penis. My penis, which is steadily inflating back to most of its peak size. There is no hiding it, Senpai is only centimeters away, and I am in full view. Senpai looks up at me, without a trace of reproach in his eyes. “I need to-” “Please, go ahead.” He nods to me and then returns his attention to the area just below my waist. He removes his hand from my hip and places it onto my penis. A surge of blood causes it to twitch at the contact, and it gets harder. Senpai takes the first stroke with the razor, down the last bit of my pubic area and carefully onto the first bit of my member. He repeats the motion a few times, moving to the right as he goes. As he reaches the far right side, he gently pulls my penis to the left, exposing the side of the base so he can shave it. At this point he is more directing than holding my penis, as I am fully erect in his hand. He repeats the process on the left side, then releases me, standing fully at attention just in front of his face. I expect him to step away, but instead he reaches forward and slips his fingers under my scrotum, pulling forward with his fingertips before letting go. “You do not need to shave down there yet,” he says, “but perhaps soon.” I swallow hard and step back from Senpai. I do not mind him touching me like that. In fact, it is odd to say that I feel the opposite. But even so, his fingertips brushing against the bottom of my testicles was almost more than I could handle. I felt some of the same tingling that I felt earlier, just before I came. “Rinse yourself and we can check to make sure you are all done.” I step back into the shower and within seconds the remaining shaving cream is washed completely off my body. I turn around in the shower one more time just to be sure and then I step out for my final inspection. Senpai has taken out the other razor and refilled his cup of water. He is ready to begin, but sets down his items, steps in front of me, and kneels down. He runs a hand up and down one of my legs and then the other. The skin feels extra sensitive, and his touch sends interesting sensations through my body as he moves his hands. And then he runs his finger across my pubic area, barely touching my erection as they move by. The sensations are even stronger there, but I try not to think about it. “You are all done,” Senpai says as he stands up. “You are ready for the meet tomorrow.” I nod deeply. “Thank you for always helping me,” I say. Senpai smiles proudly at me and looks me up and down. I notice that his glance lingers a half a moment longer than it needs to on the area just below my waist. “You have a lot of energy,” says Uotate-senpai. His tone is one of pride. “I was like that too when my Senpai showed me how to do this.” His comment washes over me and I feel a wave a gratitude along with it. Senpai always knows what to say to make me feel comfortable when I am self conscious. Whether it is about my swimming, training, or how I am feeling about some part of our team dynamics. And now twice I have gotten hard while we are in the shower together, and Senpai has responded only with acceptance and understanding, never doing anything to make me embarrassed or to scold me. And now, there is ownership in his voice. A sense that he is proud of me, in all aspects of what we are doing together. I feel my cheeks getting hot again, and my eyes feel watery. I am glad I am in the shower again, or perhaps he might notice that I am becoming overwhelmed with my feelings. How have I gotten so lucky to have such a perfect Senpai? And how can I show him my gratitude? “Please let me help Senpai.” He looks hard at me, frowning slightly. He seems to be contemplating my sudden outburst. After all he has shown me, I do not expect any reproach, but perhaps he does not understand what I mean. “Let me help Senpai like he helped me. Let me help shave Senpai.” After another moment of thought, his expression warms. “Are you sure?” he asks. “You are ready to dry yourself and go home. You do not need to stay.” I nod my head. I want to help Senpai. He hands me the shaving cream and the razor, and I grab one in each hand. “It will be a bit harder, since I have more hair. You should start with my legs, but carefully.” I nod and kneel down in front of Senpai’s naked body. I have never been this close to him before. Perhaps physically our bodies have been this close, but the context is quite different. I am merely a handspan away from Senpai’s wet, naked body, and he has invited me to shave him. To touch his body and assist him with something very familiar, and very personal. I spray a large dollop of shaving cream into my hand then set down the can and the razor. I spread the cream between my hands, then reach up to Senpai’s right legs, and begin applying it to his skin. As I push down his leg I feel the ropes of thick, solid muscle beneath his skin, the product of years of diligent training. I move along his quadriceps over his knee, then down his shin, letting my fingertips trace the shape of his lean, hard calves as I go. I cannot help but compare the size and shape of Senpai’s leg muscles against my own as I feel them. The muscles are so defined, so dense, and so powerful. I let my hands linger as I finish, savoring the impressive feeling. I pick up the razor and press ti to his skin just below his hip, just as he did for me. I take a deep breath and try to focus. I nicked my leg when I was shaving, and I must not be so careless when working on Senpai. I take another second to steady my nerves. A light pressure on my shoulder causes me to look up. Senpai nods down to me and removes his hand. I am ready to begin. I am surprised how much easier it is to wield a razor on someone else’s body. Uotate-senpai was correct in that he has more hair on his legs than I do, which makes for more pauses to clean the razor. But I am at a better angle shaving Senpai’s legs than my own, and I can see so much more as I am closer and directly in front of my target. After only a few strokes of the blade I am more confident than I was before. I make short work of his leg, and besides the remnants of shaving cream, it looks to be completely smooth, front and back. I put more lather into my hand, and within a few minutes I have finished the other leg as well. Now, all that remains is… I have been willing myself not to look at it. From the moment I kneeled down, I have been close to it. Just in front of my face, I would only need to reach out to touch it. And there it is. Senpai’s cock. I have always been impressed with it, and have often stolen glances during showers, or while it is snugly encased in his swimsuit at practice. But I have never been this close to it, and certainly not while it is fully uncovered and without a need for averting, or at least pretending to avert my gaze. But now, it is here, directly in front of me. And it is bigger than usual. It is not fully hard, but it is more swollen and plumper than usual, still somewhat aroused from earlier. While I was able to relieve my erection, Senpai was not. And while I have gotten fully hard again, Senpai is still in a state of semi arousal, and I can only imagine that it is drawing on his attention, the longer he goes without relief. I am not only able to look at it, but I am about to touch it, just like he touched mine. I will need to move it out of the way when I shave around the base, and I am simply not sure if I am ready. But as I am only moments away from doing so, I realize that I have always wanted to. While I have accepted in my conscious thoughts that I admire it, and am fascinated by it, I have always wanted more. To feel it in my hands, to experience that which I find most manly, and most impressive about Senpai’s body and physique. It is time. I squeeze a small amount of shaving cream into my hand and create a lather. I reach out and barely touch my fingertips into the dense bush of black hair just about Senpai’s groin. It moves. As my fingers make contact, I see Senpai’s thick rope of a penis twitch slightly. I begin to massage the shaving cream into his pubic hair, but I cannot take my eyes from his member. I can see it pulse with the beating of Senpai’s heart, and the motion is mesmerizing. I can feel the same thing happening in my own body and for a brief half of a second, the two rhythms become one. My concentration breaks and I remind myself to focus on the task at hand. I need to finish shaving Senpai. I place my hand on his upper thigh to steady myself, just like he did. I bring up the razor, slowly and carefully. I shave the first line. The razor almost instantly stops, caught in the hair I am trying to shave through. I clean off the head and try again. I remove a little more hair and repeat the process. Senpai was correct, I will need to be careful and take my time with this part. I shave around the outside border of Senpai’s pubic hair, leaving only a tight semicircle of black hair remaining, fully covered in a layer of shaving cream. This is the pivotal moment. To continue, I will need to move Senpai’s penis out of the way as I go, pulling it to the opposite side so I can easily reach the hair all the way to the base. I will need to touch his penis. I think about everything that has happened today. Most importantly I think about how Senpai has guided me, calmly and supportively, through the entire process. He has never rebuked me, or made me feel foolish for not knowing what to do, or for asking questions that must seem simple for other people. He has been with me the whole way, offering nothing but his genuine, caring assistance. And now I can repay, at least in part, some of what he did for me. He did not hesitate to touch me when he was shaving me, and I can do the same for him. It is beyond what I am comfortable doing, but it is something I want to do, and want to be confident enough to do. And so I reach out with my left hand, and grab Uotate-senpai’s penis. It is hot to the touch, and feels soft but solid at the same time. It is every bit as thick and weighty as it looks, and I instantly compare it my own as I get a feel for it. It is unlike mine, because it is a man’s penis. Fully grown and erotic, potent and powerful. And as I hold it in my hand, shaving carefully along the opposite side of its base, I feel it growing. It starts slowly at first, but I begin to notice it swelling even further, and beginning to straighten in my hand. I do not find it odd. Mine did the same thing as Senpai was shaving me. And it has seemed to be on the verge for the last few moments, ever since he showed me how to touch myself. It must have a lot of tension built up inside it, demanding release, even more so than my own. By the time I have finished with my razor, it is fully erect. But unlike last time it was fully erect, it is also in my hand. I like the way it feels, and I do not want to stop holding it, even though my task is complete. It makes me feel powerful just like Senpai as I hold it. It is like we are sharing it, and sharing the manliness that is emanating from it. I suddenly remember what Senpai did when he was shaving me, and I reach my free hand down underneath his erection, letting my fingertips gently graze the underside of his testicles. But unlike when he did it, I feel a few coarse hairs underneath. “Senpai.” My voice comes out in a croak, strained at the nervousness I feel at what I am doing, and what I am about to say. “We will need to shave down here.” I look up at him, and our eyes meet. My face only centimeters away from his erect penis, looking up into his eyes. He nods. His expression has changed a bit. He does not have the look he usually does. He looks a bit different, a bit flushed, as though he might be out of breath. I believe I know that feeling as well. I felt it too, earlier. It is hard to focus when you have a erection like this. I take a final bit of shaving cream onto my hand and gently rub it into the sensitive skin of his scrotum. I take my time, moving slowly and cautiously. Above, his penis throbs lightly in time with the beating of his heart. I take the razor and carefully lift his penis upward toward his tight stomach, to fully expose his sack. With a gentle stroke of the razor, I remove the hair from a section of the skin. Senpai shudders lightly from the contact, but not as if he is in pain. More as if a light jolt of electricity has gone through his body. Again, it is something I felt earlier, so I know how Senpai must be feeling. I continue. It only takes a moment more, but when I am finished, I am confident that Senpai is completely hairless. Just as he did earlier, I bid him to rinse in the shower. “Please rinse yourself,” I say. “And I will make sure that nothing was missed. He steps back into the water for a moment, and I set aside the razor and shaving cream, but remain on my knees. I am almost sure that I will not be needing them again. When he returns, I make a ring around his ankle with my hands, just as he did to me. As I slide up his leg, my hands cannot maintain their connection, as his legs are thicker than mine. I reach his upper thigh, and satisfied with one leg I check the other in the same fashion. Then I move on to the final area. Senpai’s erection has not subsided, and I wonder if it is harder to have it recede after being made hard for the second time. As I run my hands lightly over his smooth, clean skin, I admire the way it stands up, away from his body, so forcefully jutting toward my face. It looks even bigger without hair, and I find my mind filled again with the images of what it must look like to see it come. It must be incredible to see, something so impressive doing something so masculine. While Senpai stopped after feeling my pubis, I let my hands continue. He had more hair than me, and I want to make sure that I fully completed my work. I run my hand along the length of his shaft, letting the fingertips check for any last remaining hairs. I do not feel any. After that, I slide one hand down to his innou, and feel that as well. While shaving Senpai did diminish some of the grown up look that he had, his skin feels so soft and smooth. It feels good in my hands. I do not remove my hands. I simply let them stay where they are, resting firmly on Senpai’s incredible penis, and big, full balls. I want to see him come. “Senpai,” I say again, just as I did before when I asked to shave him, “I will make you feel good.” When I look up at him this time, I see even more of the look I saw earlier. Less confident, less like an elder, teaching me. More breathless, more flushed. He does not answer, but I move my hand lightly up and down, in a slow, deliberate imitation of the motion he showed me to masturbate. He does not answer, but I feel his penis throb heavily in my hand. While it would be easier to stand behind him like he did for me, I want to be closer. I want to see him up close. And I am close. My face is only ten centimeters away from the tip of his penis, sticking out directly toward me. I want to be right here, exactly where I am. I slide my hand up to the end of his steely rod, and then slide it back. The skin moves with my hand, and pulls his head free of his foreskin, much more easily than my own did. If his member looked manly and erotic earlier, it looks one hundred times that now. The well defined ridges of his hard head flare out magnificently. He is truly a man, and his perfect penis is the incontrovertible proof of that. As I see his head emerge, I feel the need to be closer. I am seeing Senpai so clearly and deeply with my eyes, but I want to experience it more. I want to be even closer than that. To make Senpai feel good, and to strengthen the bond between us, to fully appreciate Senpai’s sexual potency. And something comes over me. It tells me what to do. And I listen to this voice, or force that rises inside me. I am not sure how the idea comes to me, but before I know what I am doing, I do it. I lean forward, open my mouth, and wrap my lips around the head of Senpai’s cock. It fills my mouth, so completely and perfectly. It fills the whole thing, and sits heavily on my lips and tongue. The ridges and shape of the head rest on my tongue, and complete the sensation I felt when I saw it. I am truly experiencing the masculine power of Senpai. And it is apparent that he is feeling something as well. I continue to run my hand up and down his length as I let the end of his penis sit in my mouth. I imagine it must feel good, as I feel it twitch a few times against my lips as I do so. “Move back and forth.” Looking up, I see that Senpai’s eyes are closed. He moans lightly, and I am intrigued by the duality of him in this moment. He seems weak to my ministrations, breathing hard, flushed, and sighing weakly. But it is only more manly that he does so. It is a strange sharing of power. I am weakening him, but it is only because of his power over me that I can do so. “Use you mouth to move back and forth.” I understand what he means now. I match the timing of my hand with my mouth, and start to move back and forth like he said. Slowly at first, but after a short time I find myself moving faster, and taking a greater range of motion, getting deeper along his shaft before pulling off almost all the way and starting the process again. And the harder I start to move, and the more of Senpai I feel slide into my mouth, the more I like it. I am closer to him, and making him feel good. I like that I am doing something for Senpai, and like that he is feeling as good as he made me feel earlier. I am feeling good too. I reach down with my other hand and begin stroking my own rock hard penis, moving in the same rhythm. I am even harder than I was earlier, and almost immediately I begin to feel the tingling sensation rise through my loins and start to spread into the rest of my body. And as I feel my own sensations take over my body with a wave of unstoppable pleasure, Senpai places his hand on the hand of my head and pulls me forward. He plunges deeper into my mouth than he has been, and I feel the swollen head of his penis hit the back of my throat. As it does, I feel it swell, the entire thing getting fatter and firmer against my lips and tongue. He is coming. While I briefly think about letting him do so exactly where he is, I still want to see it. I love everything about Senpai’s big, thick cock, and I want to see it come. I pull my head away just in time. Within a half second, a thick, ropey jet of his liquid comes shooting out, straight across my lips and chin. I watch in awe as he shoots a second string, even bigger than the first. Then another, and another. It is even better than I imagined. The ultimate way that Senpai is older and more mature than I am. His rich, virile load spurting out across my mouth and chin, then onto my chest, and eventually onto the floor of the locker room. My own penis is doing the same in my hand, to a lesser degree. But I can tell it is more, and harder than the first time. Even so, it is nothing compared to Uotate-senpai. As we finish together, Senpai steps back and leans against the wall of the shower. The water washes over him and I am again struck by the perfection of his well-built body. It looks even better with his breath coming in ragged spurts. His eyes are still closed, so I take one last good look at him, committing this to memory. I will see him naked many more times, but perhaps never quite like this. I stand up and move toward him. “Did I-” I stop my question as he opens his eyes. They pierce into me. “Yes.” He pulls me into himself, embracing me. Our bodies press against each other, lubricated by the hot water of the shower. “You made Senpai feel very good.” It feels nice. Our bodies this close, our smooth skin feeling every contour and muscle of each other’s bodies. We are closer than ever before. Me and Senpai. Our training together has been good for us.
  2. Chapter 25 While we were on our way to the dance, the interior of the limo felt huge, like we could have fit ten more people in there. It seemed impossibly fancy, pristine and elegant, and we all felt the same way. It’s the same limo, with the same driver and the same people, but it doesn’t feel that way anymore. It’s just the way these nights end. Like when they turn on the lights at the end of the dance. The glitz and glamour are gone, and you’re left with the same old high school gym that it’s always been. Except in this case it’s the seven of us packed into the back of a car. The same people, but a little bit hotter, a little bit sweatier, and all completely exhausted. Our clothes wrinkled, hair out of place, and makeup faded. There’s no more pretense of dress up. We all just want to get home, get showered, and get to bed. That’s how I feel, at least. The sooner I can get away from all this and have some time to process, the better. After all the build up and how great everything felt tonight, I feel like I just took a punch to the stomach. And of all the people to take the wind out of my sails, it had to be Beth. For now, I’m not even sure what to think. I’m sort of mad and a little bit hurt, but also confused and tired and determined not to get drawn into Beth’s negativity, along with about a thousand other thing. Earlier I wasn’t sure what I wanted tonight, and now that it’s happened I’m still not even sure if I got it. So I’m right back to square one. As sure as I was about Carter during the dance, I just don’t know. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t have a good time. I did. And from the looks of the contented, tired faces around me, it looks like everybody else had a lot of fun too. Matt and Jackie are both leaning hard against each other. Partly in a way that they are trying to be close to one another, but partly in a way that they both look like they might fall asleep sitting up in the car. Gray and Heather seem like they had a good time, too. I’m not sure that sparks were flying or anything like that, but I don’t think she regrets taking that bet with Gray and getting suckered into coming to the dance with him. They aren’t wrapped up quite as close, but I saw Heather getting a little handsy with Gray throughout the night. She obviously isn’t completely immune to his charms. And then there’s Ricky. However things went with Caitlyn tonight, here he is, left high and dry. I would say I feel bad for him, but ever since we met up at the end of the dance, he’s been in such a good mood. If it were up to me, I would just let it slide for tonight, let him enjoy the rest of his evening, and follow up on exactly what happened next time we hang out. But the other guys aren’t going to let him off so easy. Gray’s the first on our docket to get dropped off, and he knows it. He doesn’t waste any time getting on Ricky’s case about it. “Where’s your girl, Rick?” he asks. Ricky shrugs nonchalantly. “She had to head home early.” “At least she’s real,” offers Matt. We all laugh, but Heather comes to her, or maybe Ricky’s defense. “She seemed sweet,” Heather says. Gray chuckles. “That’s exactly what Ricky looks for in a girl,” he says. The guys all laugh again and now Jackie jumps in. “She was pretty, too,” she says. The girls don’t seem to grasp what we’re getting at. She may have been nice and pretty, but… “There was no way she was letting me get anywhere with her,” Ricky finally concedes, looking thoughtfully out the window for effect. “I was thinking second base might be the cards, but alas.” The guys all crack up and the girls try to look shocked, but they’re getting a kick out of it too. That’s the crux of it, really. Ricky found a hot, prudish girl to take to the dance. While I’m sure he was hoping she would be some sort of unicorn - a sexually curious and adventurous virgin - that doesn’t seem to be the case. We drop Gray off at his house, since it’s the closest to the school. I think he’s hopeful that Heather might surprise everyone and follow him out, but she isn’t biting. She gives him a chaste, but not completely unfeeling peck on the cheek and sends him on his way. Next is Jackie and Matt, who both get dropped off at Matt’s house. Jackie and Heather hug awkwardly under the cramped ceiling of the car while Matt makes the rounds of high fives and fist bumps to all the guys before they step out into the night and we pull away. Heather is next, as she actually lives just a few blocks away from Ricky. We all say goodbye as she steps out of the car. She was really sweet, and Gray seemed to have a great time tonight with her. I wonder (somewhat hopefully) if we won’t be seeing more of her in the future. Which leaves only me, Ricky, and Carter. With the other guys and their dates in the car, it was easy to ignore the elephant in the room, but now, not so much. While we aren’t just down to me and Carter yet, Ricky is kind of a wild card in this situation, since he knows that something is up between us. Again, I’m not sure exactly how much he knows, but the instant Heather leaves the back of the limo, I can tell that he knows enough. “Who would have figured?” he asks, possibly to himself, possibly to us. “I’m the only one riding home by myself tonight.” It is a little strange, at least to me. Of anyone in the group, he’s the notorious Don Juan, maybe even of the whole school. He never doesn’t have a girl he’s with, plus a few on the sidelines all waiting their turn. “It won’t kill you to spend one night alone,” laughs Carter. “Maybe it’ll be good for you.” Ricky moves his hand up and down, clumsily miming jacking off. “That’s true,” he says, “I could use a good forearm workout.” Carter laughs again, and I manage to crack a smile this time. We pull into Ricky’s and the car stops in front of his front door. “Have a good night guys,” says Ricky as he moves toward the door. He eyes us both and opens his mouth like he’s about to say something, but stops. He laughs for a second before raising his eyebrows at us. “Uh, yeah,” he says, then steps out of the car. I can imagine what he wanted to say. Something about me and Carter. About how we’re going home together. Maybe even a suggestive comment about what we might get up to later tonight. Twenty minutes ago, it would have been funny. I would have laughed, maybe given Carter’s thigh a squeeze for effect. Hell, if I wanted to throw caution to the wind, I could have leaned over and kissed Carter, right in front of him. The fact that Ricky is in on the secret was one of the best things about tonight, the fact that Carter told one of his friends about us. I’m not his secret anymore. And now that Ricky’s gone, we have the rest of the night to prove it to each other. But Ricky’s departure has the opposite effect on me. Like he took with him the last possible way to ignore the sudden downhill plunge my feelings have taken on the emotional roller coaster that has been the story of my relationship with Carter. Now, sitting alone with Carter in the back of the limo and a fifteen minute drive ahead of us, there’s nothing else I can think about. Carter scoots a little closer to me as the car starts moving again, and I don’t return the favor. Instead I turn away from him and look out the window. Rationally, I don’t even know if I should be mad at Carter, but I can’t help but give him the cold shoulder, almost like my subconscious is reminding me that I’m not fully convinced. “What’s up?” he asks. He sounds concerned, but not overly so. Where to begin? I could tell him all about tonight. The way I started to feel. How he once again pulled me back out of the safety of my doubt and distance. Right back to him. Right back into wanting to be with him again. And then how, at the peak of my optimism and excitement, how it had all come crashing down again. But that’s not really what’s up with me, is it? I need to get right to what set this whole thing off. Beth. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask, still not turning to face him. If I look at Carter, I know all the emotions I’m feeling will be ten times stronger. I wait for what feels like a whole minute, then Carter finally answers. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I should have asked you about it, but I needed somebody to be in on it with me.” He sighs. “I know that there’s a good chance that the other guys will find out too.” He pauses. “But I’m ok with that, and I guess I didn’t think that you would-” “Not that,” I tell him. “Why didn’t you tell me that you didn’t break up with Beth?” “What?” Carter says in apparent disbelief. “I thought you knew that,” he says. “How would I know that?” I ask, still not turning to him. “I just thought that…” He stops whatever he was about to says and puts a hand on my shoulder. “I thought you knew. I should have-.” “So now you’re with me, because you can’t have Beth.” I say it like it’s the only obvious conclusion that I can draw. Carter doesn’t respond at first, and I know it’s because that hurt him. That’s the crux of the doubt that’s been worming its way into my heart for the last half hour, and it’s what takes everything he did for me tonight and renders it meaningless. “It’s not like that,” he says, quieter and more meekly than before. “She broke up with me. That’s true. But that’s not the point.” “How is that not the point?” I ask. I finally turn to look at Carter, and he looks thoughtful. I figured he would be bristling, or that he might drop into his state of aloof coolness, ready to explain it all away for the umpteenth time. But for once he doesn’t look like he has the answers already, he looks like he’s trying to figure them out. “It hit me as soon as she said it,” he says. “Like a huge weight came off of me. It became completely clear, like I was finally free to see what I really want.” He reaches up like he wants to touch my face, but he doesn’t. “What I really need.” “No it didn’t,” I say, shaking my head. “It just whittled down your choices from two to one.” “It gave me clarity,” Carter argues. “It took away your options,” I fire back. “Jackson,” Carter pleads, “hear me out-” “I thought you chose me,” I say, trying not to let my voice crack under what I’m sure are imminent tears. “I thought you finally figured it out. But you didn’t. You got backed into another corner, and I was the only person you had left.” “I did choose you,” says Carter. “No you didn’t!” Carter startles at the volume of my voice. I didn’t mean to yell, but he’s so frustrating. He keeps arguing the same thing over and over, and I can’t possibly understand how he thinks I can believe him. “You could have chosen me for months,” I say, “but you never did, and you still haven’t. You didn’t want to have to choose.” I blink my eyes hard to stop them, but I feel two big tears roll down my cheeks. “I know all of this is new to you, but you still know what you want, and what you don’t want. And you wanted her more than you wanted me. And once you couldn’t have her, I was all that’s left.” “I did know,” he says quietly after a time. “I always knew it was you.” “Then you’re weak.” As soon as I say it, I almost wish I could take it back. The words just tumble out before I can stop them. This time I feel a little bit of regret at how my words hurt him, but he needs to hear it. If he really wants to be with me he needs to hear it. “If you knew, you never told me,” I explain. “You never showed me, not really. And most importantly, you were never strong enough to make the decision…” I almost finish it with ‘when you had the chance,’ but I don’t. Instead I just wait. I let my words sink in and burn. He needs to feel it. I want him to feel the pain of the rejection that I’ve been feeling. Against all my better judgment I let my guard down again tonight, and I let Carter back in. I gave him another shot, even after all the false starts and confusion I felt the first time around. I let myself believe in us one more time, and once again I’m being thrown back into the same old world of worry, confusion, and uncertainty. “You’re right.” Carter looks up and meets my gaze. He looks different. The same way he looked that night two weeks ago when he drove me to the locker room and asked me to go to the dance with him. He looks anxious and unsure of himself. Of all his looks, this is the one I’ve seen the least. “I’m not strong enough for you,” he says. “You took a risk from day one. You put yourself out on the line for me, and I never took that same chance. You never had a backup plan. I couldn’t do it, and you did it every single time we hung out. “I was confused and I was so scared of what it meant that I liked you. But you never gave up on me, Jackson. You gave me a million chances, and I still couldn’t take you up on it. I liked you and I still like you, more than I’ve ever told you, and I finally feel like I can be good enough for you.” He sighs and looks down for a second before looking back into my eyes. His look has none of the cavalier confidence I’m so used to when he’s trying to convince me of something. He looks so lost, so fragile. “I don’t deserve another shot with you, but you can’t stop me from wanting it.” He’s never said anything like this. In the past it was always action. He would have given me what I wanted at that moment, which was his time, attention, and a little bit of sex. I don’t think he was consciously doing it to placate me, but he knew on some level that it would keep me within arm’s reach. It was the least he needed to give me to make sure that he could still have me. But tonight has been different. It was the opposite of Carter’s usual approach. It was slow and steady, and every time he gave me something, or was good to me, he followed it up with more. This is the first time he hasn’t taken the fastest, easiest way. It’s the first time I’ve really felt like he’s committed. He made our relationship feel real. And now he’s actually telling me how he feels. What he wants. It’s a completely different reaction to him making a mistake. He’s not trying to win me back, he’s trying to show me his cards and letting me decide if it’s what I want. And I actually understand. I’ve been so upset about Beth for so long, and now I think I get it. It’s the one thing that Carter’s wrong about. He thinks that I was strong and fearless, but he couldn’t be more wrong. I knew that Carter wasn’t ready to be with me, but I kept pursuing him, kept throwing myself at him over and over. I couldn’t break it off, even though I knew I should. I should have been strong enough to put my foot down or make demands, but I wasn’t. How is that any different from what he did? He says he knew that he wanted me, and he knew that Beth wasn’t the right choice for him, but he couldn’t break it off. Whether it was some obligation to her, worry about being with me, or just confusion about his sexuality, he was paralyzed. I was afraid of losing Carter if I stopped trying to win him over, even for a second. Carter was afraid of doing something he had never done before and could never take back. We were both afraid of losing, and it took both of us until about two weeks ago to figure it out. The car stops and I come back to reality. I suddenly realize that Carter is holding my hands in his own. He’s holding them tight, too tight, like he’s afraid he’ll be letting me go forever if he loosens his grip. He’s still frantically searching my face with the same look of anxiety from before. The door opens and I expect him to pull back, but he doesn’t. Another tiny sign, a small thing that would have been different before. I hear Anthony’s footsteps as he moves back away from the car. He can’t properly see in, but I’m sure he’s aware that he’s interrupting something. “Whenever you’re ready, gentlemen,” he says. Whenever we’re ready... Carter took me to the dance tonight. He danced with me. He flirted with me. He made me feel special, like he really, truly wanted me. Every bit of it felt real. Whenever we’re ready... He told Ricky about us. He told one of his best friends that we were together, that he’s with me. There’s no coming back from that. Whenever we’re ready… He offered to dance with me in front of everyone. He would have announced it to the entire world tonight. At the risk of everything, he would have danced with me. That’s how sure he is now. I’m suddenly aware that my heart is pounding, and I’m gripping Carter’s hands even tighter than he’s gripping mine. I swallow hard and take a deep breath. As I exhale, I feel my mouth slowly form into a tiny smile. I loosen my grip then give his hands a quick squeeze and he smiles back. I don’t know what to say, but thankfully I don’t need to say anything. We rise as one and step out of the car. Anthony nods to us as we walk past and closes the door behind us. Carter slips his arm around my waist and walks me toward the house. We’re ready. ------- ------- ------- ------- My feet barely hit floor from the last step on the basement stairs and Carter’s hands and mouth are on me. His left hand unbuttons my jacket, then my vest, while his right pulls my face into his own. His kisses are short but sweet, lacking the furious desperate need of the last time we were together, but still full of intensity. He pulls my outer layers over my shoulders and I let them drop to the floor. With just my thin dress shirt between us, he lets his free hand start to explore my body while his other undoes the buttons one by one. His fingertips trace across my collarbone, my pecs, my nipples, and my stomach. As he pulls open my shirt, he slips his hand inside and traces the same route, sending a shudder through my body at the touch. It’s the way I usually touch him. Like he’s trying to soak it all in, as though he’s memorizing me with his hands. It’s the same process he’s followed before, but I can feel the difference in intention, just like I could feel the difference in so many small parts of what he did and said throughout the night. I pull away from his kiss and start the same process on Carter. This way I get to see a little more of what I’m uncovering, the unbelievably sexy young man underneath these clothes. I unbutton his jacket and vest, then start to work on his shirt and feel his body. While I do it, his hands never leave me, sliding across my chest, stomach, and shoulders. I smile to myself as I pull his bowtie out of his collar to separate it from his shirt. He can keep that on, at least for a little bit. We stand for a few minutes, our hands feeling every square inch of each other’s naked torsos. We’ve been here before, but this time it just feels different. We aren’t here to take each other tonight. We’re here to have each other. I’m struck again by the word that pops back into my head. It’s the only word that I can think of that differentiates tonight from all the other times: Real. I can’t say exactly what was missing before, but it’s undeniably here. Our hookups from before feel weirdly stunted, like they were only half of what they could have been. I finally close my eyes and lean in for another kiss. His lips barely even touch mine to start, but the softness of our connection feels incredibly deep. There’s a gentle sureness to the contact between our lips. Maybe it’s Carter letting his guard down, or maybe it’s me finally, truly believing what I’m seeing. It’s not fireworks. It’s more of a solid, safe warmness. A deep, resounding glow. Carter pulls back from the kiss and smiles at me. He pauses and stares deep into my eyes. Without words he says so many things to me. He’s glad I gave him another chance. He’s glad I’m here. His smile repeats all the things he said in the car, and once again, they finally ring true. We kiss again, this time with more passion as I let my hands slide down below Carter’s waist. I unbutton his pants and let them fall, revealing a nicely filled-out package straining against the fabric of his boxer briefs. I slide my hand against him, cupping the bundle of flesh inside. Meanwhile Carter’s hands explore my ass, gently squeezing in time with the ebb and flow of our kissing. Before long we’re both completely naked (except for Carter’s black bowtie) and rubbing up against each other’s bodies. Mouth to mouth, Chest to chest, stomach to stomach, and cock to cock. We make out for another minute or two before Carter guides us both gently to his bed. His knees hit the back of the bed first and I push him down the rest of the way. I lie on top of him, still loving the sensations coursing through my body as I grind against him. I let my kisses drop below his mouth to his neck, then trace a line slowly down the rest of his body. I’ll never get tired of my lips brushing over his pecs and his well-defined abs. I kiss each one on my journey before finally reaching his lower stomach. While I near my final destination, Carter leans forward to grab my hips and pull them around him. I straddle his face, now on top in a classic 69. We’re both right where we want to be, our faces just inches away from each other’s cocks. I take a tentative lick down Carter’s shaft and inhale the musky scent of his manhood. God, it turns me on so much. It’s everything sexy about a boy, the perfect combination of all the smells that turn my crank. It’s so manly, so sensual, and right now, it’s all mine. As I take another long lick from the the base of Carter’s dick all the way to its tip, I feel an incredible wetness engulf my own member. I moan into Carter’s cock as he takes me into his mouth. I still can’t believe how good he is at giving head, and how good it makes me feel. I try not to let myself get too distracted by what’s happening down below my waist, since I have a perfectly good dick to suck right in front of me. I take the head into my mouth and flick my tongue around it, eliciting a moan from Carter. He’s great at this, but I’m no slouch. I start to bob up and down, while Carter does the same. We move in tandem for a minute, both simultaneously turned on by the hot cocks filling our mouths and the delicious sensations coming from our own dicks getting sucked. I think back to the last time we fooled around, and I remember a few of the other things I got to enjoy. I keep working on Carter from my end, but I try to pull my hips forward a little bit, to give Carter the signal of what I want next. He picks up on it and lets me out of his mouth. With one hand he keeps stroking me, while his tongue moves slowly southward. He licks across my smooth sack, sending a quick shiver up my spine. He follows past that and across my taint, finally arriving at the final destination. My ass. Without a second of hesitation, Carter digs in. His tongue feels like it’s everywhere down there, prodding, probing, and flicking across and into my ass. I can barely think about the blowjob I’m trying to give as he sends me into another world of pleasure. I grind my ass into Carter’s mouth, whimpering and moaning at his ministrations. I knew he could give head like a pro, but when did he get so good at this? My ass feels like it’s on fire, and the only thing I want is more. I think again about the last time we hooked up, and the finger that Carter put inside me. I remember how good it felt, and how it left me more than a little curious at what else we could explore. As unbelievable as it feels to have Carter giving me a rimjob, I lift up my hips and grab his hand, guiding it back toward my ass. For a second I don’t feel anything, but then I feel a gentle pressure, pushing against my hot, wet hole. I bite my lip to keep from yelling. I feel the pressure increase and then finally give way, Carter’s finger sliding into me up to the first knuckle. I push back against him, and feel another inch or so of his finger slide into me. I feel like I’m melting. And it just makes me want more. I return my attention to Carter’s dick, which is sticking straight up in the air just a few inches in front of my face. I push my mouth down over it, coating it with a fresh layer of saliva. I want to get it nice and wet for what I want to try next. I want to get it ready. I feel something push into my ass and realize Carter must have slid in a second finger. It’s an entirely new feeling. So much bigger. So much more full. Carter must be thinking the same thing. Up and down, I bob my head a few more times over Carter’s cock, suddenly so aware of its size, shape, and length. Seven inches long and perfectly proportioned, it’s definitely bigger than a couple of fingers. Still, the more I think about it, the more sure I am. I want it inside me. I flip around and straddle Carter’s waist, grinding my ass back and forth across his dick. It slides easily in the space between my ass cheeks and his stomach, thoroughly lubricated from our combined rimming and sucking. I am acutely aware of how empty I feel. Carter’s fingers left me with a throbbing void inside of me, and I am aching to be filled. I reach down and grab Carter’s cock in my hand and think about it going into me. I think about how badly I want to be filled up. Carter suddenly reaches up and grabs my face, pulling it down toward his own. He kisses me hard, then pulls away. “Are you sure about this?” he asks. I smile and return the favor with another kiss. “I’m so sure,” I say, thinking again about the needy void inside of me. “Are you?” “I want you, Jackson,” Carter says, “every part of you.” He runs his hands from my face, across my shoulders, and down my body to my hips. “But if you’re not ready, then I don’t want to-” I shut him up with another kiss. “Just don’t move,” I tell him, sitting back up. “Let me go slow, at my own speed.” “I, um…” Carter looks up into my eyes. “Before you do this, I…” I line him up underneath me and feel the tip land against my entrance. “I love you.” I smile and lean down for one last kiss. When I sit back up I increase the pressure on Carter’s cock and feel it pushing hard against my hole. It feels wet enough to slide in, but it suddenly feels huge. Two fingers is one thing, but this is… “Oh!” I cry out involuntarily as I feel the first inch of Carter penetrate into me. I feel like I’m already full to the brim, but I have plenty more to go. I catch my breath and push down a little farther, and this time my cry is echoed by Carter. It feels hot inside me, and the heat radiates out throught the lower half of my body. I look down at Carter. His eyes are closed and his head is back. He’s feeling the same way I am, consumed by the incredible, intense feelings as I slowly lower onto him. I push down again, and after another minute of so, I feel myself settle onto Carter’s hips. I squirm a little and can’t believe the explosion of feelings inside my body. I feel so amazingly, deliciously full. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I can hardly breathe, I’m so overwhelmed. I’m too stimulated to start moving up and down, so instead I slowly start to rock my hips back and forth, just a little bit at a time. The movement feels amazing, and it helps me adjust, at least a little bit, to the feeling of having seven inches of rock hard boy cock inside of me. Carter sighs underneath me and puts a hand on my chest. I can tell immediately that it’s not to stop me. From the glazed expression on his face, it’s like he’s just trying to make contact with something, to bring himself back into this world. As I get used to having Carter inside me, I increase the speed and intensity of my rhythm. I close my eyes and lean my head back, letting the unbelievable feelings wash over me. There’s an incredible pleasure radiating out from deep inside me, sending wave after wave of delight throughout my body. Carter’s hands continue to move across my body, sliding down my chest and onto my hips and thighs, holding me and caressing me. His moans and sighs get louder and louder and I move my hips harder. I can tell he’s close. I open my eyes and look down at him. He’s never looked sexier than this, with his flushed cheeks and his eyes closed. His breath is coming in ragged gasps, interspersed by sensual groans. He’s beyond the point of no return, and as I relish the control I have over his body right now, I know there’s only one more thing to do. I want Carter to cum inside me. I pick up my speed for one final push, and I don’t have to wait long. Within seconds, he tightens his grip on my waist and all the muscles in his body start to contract, as though they’re being sucked into the gravitational pull of his impending orgasm. I watch his chest, stomach, and arms tighten as he pushes himself up into me as hard as he can. But what I see, however, is nothing compared to what I feel. His cock swells inside me as his body stiffens, and I feel him get bigger and bigger, filling me up even more. After what feels like forever, I feel him explode. He fills me up with his hot cum, and it burns with pleasure. I launch over the edge only a second after he does, blasting the biggest load of my life onto his stomach and chest, almost onto his face. My ass convulses at least ten times around his throbbing cock as I shoot, milking every last drop out of him. I stay on top of him without moving for at least a minute, catching my breath and enjoying the aftershock spasms of pleasure as they shoot through my body. That felt better than I could have imagined, beyond my wildest dreams. And it was with Carter. The boy of my dreams, the ungettable stud. And here he is underneath me, barely able to speak or breathe, consumed by the pleasure we shared together. He never would have done this if he wasn’t one hundred percent sure, I have no doubt. I lean forward onto Carter and hug him tight against me. His arms encircle me as I do, pulling me even closer, then spreading out and gently stroking my back. It’s different than the other times we’ve been together. It’s possessive and tender, like he never wants to let me go again. Encircled in his arms, it feels honest and right. “Oh, Jacks,” Carter whispers against my ear, “I’ve never-” I turn my head into him, interrupting him with a kiss. “I love you too, Carter.” I feel his lips curl into a smile and he pulls me closer in his embrace. And I think… Nothing. My mind is quiet. The usual cacophony of doubt, fear, excitement, and anxiety is gone. Wrapped up in Carter’s arms, I feel calm, sure, and safe. We’ve both let ourselves open to each other, and finally we’ve both been ready for it. I take advantage of the silence in my head for once, and I try to savor the moment. The warmth of Carter’s body pressed against me. His heart beating hard against my chest. Lying here together, we have each other. And for the first time, I actually believe it. I have Carter. He has me. We have each other, and neither one of us is letting go.
  3. Roe St. Alee

    Chapter 23

    I’ve done way dumber things for love... but you make a good point :)
  4. Chapter 24 Dark grey, with more grey. I’m still not convinced this is going to work. I loop my tie through itself one more time and pull it down. I tighten the knot and push it up until it’s snug against my neck. I straighten my collar one more time and then slip on my jacket. I’m sure I’ll take it off again while I’m waiting, but I have to see one more time what everything looks like together. Sam helped me pick everything out, but I was reluctant to go for this look. I was all for the standard, classic black suit, but he insisted that I do something different. So I shelled out an extra fifty bucks for a grey, slim fit suit. He assured me that it would look great, a little different but not tacky, and that he had the perfect tie for me to complete the look. There’s a magical moment in every man’s life where he can put on dress clothes and look good. Sometime between fourteen and thirty you turn the proverbial corner and start to really look handsome in formal wear. As a little kid you look adorable wearing a tux, but eventually you grow up too much to look cute and not enough to look handsome. You spend a few years in between the two, and it isn’t a good look. I’m a little bit scared that I haven’t quite crossed the threshold yet. The last few times I dressed up, I felt like a little kid with a fancy sack draped over me. A boy trying to wear his dad’s clothes. Last year’s dance was the first time I wore anything like this since I was little, but for the life of me I can’t remember how I really looked. I didn’t have anything at stake, and I wasn’t worried about it. But this year, I want to look good. I take a deep breath, hoping to maybe fill out my suit a little bit more, and I take a look in the mirror. I can’t not smile when I see my reflection. Call me vain, but I look good. Really good. I pull my arms around, and everything feels good too. Snug but not tight. Everything fits just like it’s supposed to, and I don’t look like a little kid at all. I look older than normal in fact, and the grey suit looks great. That gives me hope. Even if tonight is a total disaster on every other front, I’ve got this going for me. Whether or not any of my dreams come true at this dance, at least I look good. So why do I still feel uneasy? I know the answer to that one. Because everything tonight really boils down to one question. Before I can even start to think about all my dreams coming true at the Winter Dance, I have to ask myself: What exactly am I hoping for? I still don’t know. I sigh as I put my jacket back on its hanger. But I also smile a little bit. Unsureness aside, it’s a miracle that I even get to worry about it in the first place. Everything has happened so fast I’ve hardly had time to wrap my head around it. Two weeks ago I was almost sure that I would never talk to Carter again. In fact, I would have gone out of my way to avoid him at all costs. The football game at Grey’s house was sort of a last hurrah in my mind. A final chance to see if I could even be with him in a group setting, let alone one on one. So there I was, on the farthest end of the Carter spectrum, ready to jump off into oblivion. Carter had chosen Beth, and I had chosen to put a stop to my infatuation with Carter. But then it all happened. Within two hours everything got turned on its head. Carter broke up with Beth. I got roped into going to going to the Winter Dance with Carter and the guys. Then Carter himself asked me to go with him, telling me he changed his mind and was choosing me. Who could have guessed? I had spent so much time psyching myself up to end it with Carter, and so much energy trying to convince myself to accept that it was the right thing for me to do. I wasn’t ready for a complete 180. Even though it looked like everything was coming up Jackson for once, I still couldn’t be happy. At least not right away. Bad timing doesn’t wait for anybody, I guess. I close my eyes and try to think about tonight. What would a perfect night be like? A minute goes by, and no perfect image comes to the surface. More like a hundred snippets. Do I want this to be romantic? Do I want Carter to really work for it? Or do I want us to just feel comfortable with each other again, and have a good time, as friends? Do I want him to kiss me when we’re done? Take me home and see what happens? The doorbell rings. I feel my stomach do a backflip. Carter’s here. I take a deep breath and put my jacket back on. I look in the mirror one more time and adjust my tie. I’m lucky that my hair looks good short, so I don’t have to worry about it. Everything is in place, my outfit is great, and I’m going to the Winter Dance with Carter Mulkins. This is it. I come out of my room and see, with some anxiety, that my mom has already gotten the door and welcomed Carter into the house. They’re talking and laughing as I come down the stairs, which is more or less every teenager’s nightmare. Carter is talking to my mom. He looks up and flashes me one of his biggest, best smiles. He starts saying something to my mom, but I can’t hear it over the pounding of my own heart. I see my mom smile at Carter and look up as well, beaming. I will myself not to pass out or trip and fall down the last half of the staircase. Carter looks amazing, just like I knew he would. Not just good, but ‘need-to-remind-myself-to-keep-breathing’ good. He’s wearing a simple black suit with a black bowtie. He’s still in football shape, so while the black slims him down a little, he fills his suit out perfectly. He has a bright red handkerchief in his chest pocket. He could have stepped out of a magazine. He’s still rocking that million-dollar smile, and I can’t decide if his teeth or his eyes are shining brighter. I feel dizzy, and I’m not sure what I want to do. Should I hug him? Kiss him? Rip off all his clothes and devour him right here and now? Luckily before I have a chance to do anything regrettable, my mom steps between us and gives me a big hug. “Oh, honey,” she says. I can tell from the little waver in her voice that she’s on the verge of tears. “Mom,” I say, my voice muffled in her embrace, “it’s ok, I’m just going to the dance.” “I just can’t believe that-” “I went to the dance last year,” I remind her, hoping that she’ll give me some space me and stop embarrassing me in front of Carter. She finally releases her grip and holds me out at arm’s length. “I know,” she says, tears welling in her eyes. “Just let your mom be proud of how handsome and grown up you look.” She looks over at Carter. “It’s what we do.” “Can we go now?” I ask. Mom looks me up and down one more time before taking a deep breath and nodding her approval. “You can go,” she says. “But be safe tonight and call me if you need anything, or if anything changes, or if you need a ride-” “Yes,” I say. “I will call you if anything at all happens.” With one more tight squeeze to my shoulders, my mom finally lets me go. She turns to Carter before we’re officially dismissed. “Carter, honey, so nice to see you again,” she says. Carter nods to my mom and smiles. “You too, Ms. Willard.” Carter opens the door and steps outside. I turn to follow him but my mom grabs my arm one more time. The door closes behind him, which leaves me and my mom. Oh boy... “Jackson,” she says, with a rising intonation. I know what this means. It means she needs to tell me something very important, and that I better devote my complete attention to whatever she is about to say. I turn to face her to receive my final instructions. But she doesn’t say anything. She just gives me a pointed look. Then she intensifies the look by raising her eyebrows a little. I roll my eyes. “Yes, mother,” I say, “I know.” She doesn’t have to say anything. I know exactly what she means. I didn’t say anything to her about this being a date, and in fact I told her the opposite. We’re just going as friends. But she’s my mom. She knows that I have feelings for Carter, and she is reminding me, nonverbally, to be safe and respectful in my interactions with him. Or however she would tastefully say it if she had to do more than give me a look. I also didn’t tell her anything about us having a falling out, but I’m sure she knew about it. She had to have picked up on how I was feeling for a few weeks, and it can’t have taken much of a guess to figure out what was the cause. When I told her we were going to the Winter Dance together, she seemed surprised. Even under the guise of going stag with a big group of our friends, she knew. At least she knew that there was more to it than that. Maybe some people can get away with hiding their personal lives from their moms, but I sure can’t. She’d never fall for that. With one last tearful look at me, and now confident in my ability to be safe, careful, upright, and whatever else the moms of the world require of their children, my mother finally lets me leave the house. I take my first step outside and am immediately assaulted by Carter pinching my cheek. “You’re so handsome,” he says to me in a crude imitation of my mother’s voice. He’s grinning like a maniac. I knock his hand away, but smile. Carter leads me out to his car, which to my surprise is not his dad’s Tesla. My heart sinks a little bit. I thought Carter would be pulling out all the stops tonight. Maybe I was wrong. “I hope you’re not mad,” he says as we get into the RAV4. I kick myself. I must have looked disappointed when I saw the car, and now Carter will think I’m a brat. Why can’t I ever just be happy with what I have right in front of me? “I figured I would just ask while I was talking to your mom.” I stop putting on my seatbelt and turn to look at Carter. “What?” “I asked your mom if you could stay over at my house tonight,” he says. That explains the look I got from her before she let me leave. “Not in a weird way,” he corrects himself as he starts the car. “I just told her that we were all hanging out after the dance.” “Oh,” I say, “ok.” I didn’t know that we were doing that, but it should be fun. Carter chuckles. “We’re not,” he says, “I just want you to come over.” Oh. That makes more sense. Still, it’s a little presumptuous. I wasn’t even sure about going to the dance with him, much less going home with him. “Only if you want to,” he adds, seeing the hesitation in my eyes. “No pressure or anything.” If I want to. This takes me back to my whole dilemma that I have with this night in the first place. Do I want to? Or rather, why do I want to? What am I looking for from Carter? What am I looking for from myself? I flinch in surprise as I feel Carter’s hand land on top of my own. He gives me a quick squeeze. “Only if you want to,” he reiterates. “I know you’re still thinking about all this.” If I want to. ... Yeah, that’ll work. I’m not sure why I’m letting myself get so worked up about it. He himself told me to take my time and figure out what I want, and that he’d be sure in the meantime. He’s finally being open with me and communicating what he wants. This is him being sure, and me getting to make the call. “Alright,” I say. “We’ll see.” I didn’t mean for it to sound coy, but it does, and Carter gives me another smile, a little bit playful, before he lets go of my hand. I love how many different smiles he has. From the heartwarming to the mischievous and everything in between. Trying not to think too hard about his invitation, I decide to change the subject. “I figured you would have the Tesla,” I say. He doesn’t turn to me but I see him cock his eyebrow a little. Now it’s my turn to be presumptuous, I guess. Or he’s remembering the blow job I gave him last time we rode in it. “We’ll have to leave the car overnight at Ricky’s place, so I wasn’t allowed to drive it,” he says. “That car lives in the garage any time it’s not on the road.” Makes sense. “I still got the limo though, don’t worry.” I almost forgot about that. Carter’s family has a driver, and I guess the company has other cars that you can rent. He mentioned it to me and Ricky after school last week, but I forgot all about it. Sounds like his dad was able to make it happen. “That’s awesome,” I say, thinking back to my ride from last year. Ko dropped me and Katy off in his MR2. Katy barely fit in it with her dress on. “It’s so cool of your dad to do that.” Carter scoffs. “Yeah, I guess.” He doesn’t continue, but I look at him until he decides to share whatever he’s thinking. I know he doesn’t talk much about his parents to anyone, but if he’s going to make a comment on it, he needs to follow through. “It’s just like him,” he finally says once he sees me staring at him. “He does what he thinks is cool, but…” He trails off again. “But what?” I say. “It’s really awesome that he got us the car for tonight.” I wonder if I shouldn’t press the issue any further, but I feel like he’s so close to opening up. I don’t want to make him upset, especially when we’re about to go to the dance, but he always told me about how I was the person he could talk to about stuff like this. And for all his talk about us giving this a chance, it would be a step backward if he didn’t feel that way anymore. I decide to try one more time. If he’s still keeping quiet after this, I’ll let it go. “So what’s the issue with the car?” I ask. I figure that question is neutral enough that he can still deflect it if he wants to. He thinks for a second and then answers. “I told him all about our plans for tonight, that I’m going with the guys, and their dates, and with you. And he didn’t know who you were.” I have to force back my laugh. Is that what he’s upset about? “That’s ok,” I tell him, “I’ve never even met your dad.” I’ve only been to Carter’s a handful of times, and his dad has always been out of town or working. Knowing what little I know about Carter and his parents, I never asked for an introduction. Carter shakes his head. “It’s not that,” he says. “It’s just how he is. I’ve mentioned you a bunch of times, but he… he doesn’t remember stuff like that.” He talks to his parents about me? “I’m sure he’d remember you if he met you,” Carter says, “he’s really good with people.” “Yeah,” I say. His last argument almost seemed directed more to himself than to me. “Me just telling him should be enough.” We ride in silence for a minute or two, both digesting the conversation. Suddenly he turns to me a little and moves his right hand toward me. I almost think he’s going to put it on my thigh, or reach for my hand again. But he doesn’t. He thinks better of it (or maybe wasn’t planning on it at all), and runs it through his hair instead. “I’m really glad you came with me tonight,” he says. I don’t say anything but I’m sure he can see my smile out of the corner of his eye. I have to admit, this feels good. Really good. This is what I always imagined a relationship would feel like. It’s not all about getting taken out on dates or have someone ask you to the dance. It’s the private edges around the main events. The car rides, getting ready, or the intimate moments after it’s all over. Everyone will be together at the dance, but this is when Carter and I get to be alone together. That’s what couples get to share that the rest of the world doesn’t. I’m still not sure what tonight is exactly, but this was the idea, right? I’m trying to feel it out and see if this is what I want. And whether it’s something I’m doing intentionally or not, my guard is dropping. Slowly but surely, I’m feeling more and more like I want to be with Carter. But am I willing to risk getting hurt all over again? ------- ------- ------- ------- By the time we get to Ricky’s, there’s already a flurry of activity all around the porch and the driveway. It looks like we’re the last ones to arrive, as I see all the couples accounted for and several sets of parents hovering around them. “Are we late?” I ask Carter, half joking. “It looks like everyone’s already here.” “Yeah,” he says as he backs into a suitable parking spot off the edge of the driveway. “I think we’re like thirty minutes late.” “What?” I ask. “You told me to be ready at quarter to five.” Carter laughs. “I sure did. Did you seriously want to sit here for half an hour while everyone’s moms take a million photos of us?” When he puts it that way, it makes a lot of sense. “I just hope there’s still food,” I mutter as we get out of the car. Carter makes a good point. Everyone looks like they’ve about had it with taking pictures. Maybe the girls are still having fun, but Gray, Matt, and Ricky get up and practically run over to us as soon as we walk away from the car. We make our way to the garage, where Ricky’s parents have laid out a massive spread for us. Ricky definitely acquired his cooking ability from his parents, as they’ve made a pile of burgers, dogs, chicken, and plenty of sides for us to eat. Clearly I didn’t have to worry about missing the food. Carter and I get started on our dinners, and the guys go for round two. We got here at the perfect time. The parents have corralled the girls and are doing separate pictures with them, trying to use the last of the good light for that. Luckily that leaves the rest of us free to grab some food. We don’t get much time, however, as Carter and I are only about halfway done with our food by the time the group comes looking for us. Leading the pack are the three girls. They didn’t know each other before toinght, but it looks like they’re all getting along, talking and giggling together, all with smiles on their faces. It’s more than I’d be able to say for myself after thirty minutes of photos with my parents. I instantly recognize Jackie, Matt’s girlfriend. I’ve hung out with her a few times, mostly at summer gatherings that I’ve crashed with Katy, since she and Matt are cousins. She’s a tall, slim brunette with big, doey eyes that make her seem meek, even though she isn’t as timid as she looks. Her dress is simple and black, cut just short of the floor but with an open back. Heather is the perfect complement to Gray, with a full figure and ample cleavage practically spilling out of her dress. She manages to pull it off though, as her look is still tasteful. She looks great, and she and Jackie seem to be hitting it off, which bodes well for the group tonight. The last girl in the pack must be Caitlyn. Ricky’s mystery girl. Her being here proves that she’s real, but it’s hard to know much more about her than that at a glance. She’s pretty, I can at least say that. She’s the most done up of the three girls, but her dress is also the most modest. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. After that comes a slew of parents. Ricky’s parents I recognize, as well as Jackie’s. I know Gray’s mom is older than most of our parents, so she’s easy to spot. Heather’s family is obvious too, as she’s the spitting image of her mom, down to their exact body dimensions if I’m not mistaken. Which leaves Caitlyn’s mom and dad, more reserved than the rest of the gang as they approach. I’m sure they’re a little bit concerned tonight with the obscenely handsome young man from another school who is going to be whisking their daughter away for a night of dancing. As expected, the person orchestrating the whole operation is Matt’s mom. We all know Marlene. Small but ferocious, she runs our local newspaper and does everything from photography to editing to ad sales. She’s at every event in town, knows everyone in a 50-mile radius, and doesn’t waste a single second jumping into the pack of boys and divvying us up for more pictures. “Gentlemen, there’s no time to lose,” she says, simultaneously moving my chin to the proper angle and adjusting my tie. “We only have a few minutes of daylight left. Nice to see you, Jackson,” she adds almost as an afterthought. She sorts us through several poses and setups, apparently making up for lost time after Carter and I missed the first thirty minutes of the photo session. No wonder the guys had looked so relieved to have a break when we arrived. This is exhausting. “Aren’t we done?” asks Gray to no one in particular, just on the off chance that someone will come to our aid and release us. “Of course not,” replies Matt’s mom, pushing Grey up against Ricky’s back in an effort to decide which one of them is taller. “We still need to do a big group photo now that everyone’s here.” She waves to the girls and moves them all back in front of her lens. “Now let’s see,” she mutters to herself, “why don’t you go here, and Carter, you stand next to Matthew, and…” Matt’s mom stops arranging us and stares at me and Carter shaking her head, as though she just noticed that neither of us brought girls with us to balance out the picture correctly. She starts shuffling us in and out of the formation, trying different places that will make everything look right with the other three couples. “Now why don’t two handsome boys like you have dates to the dance?” She takes a full three seconds out of her setup routine to put her hands on her hips and look at us sadly. “I’m sure you could-” “Mom,” Matt cuts her off. “They don’t want to have dates for the dance, ok?” She dismisses him with a wave of her hand. “Just look at you two,” she says, sizing us up. “I bet you could get any girl at the school to go with you if you wanted.” “Mom, they’re…” Matt physically intervenes and moves her away from us, back where she can stop adjusting the line up and take a picture. “They didn’t want to go with anyone, and no matter how handsome you say they are they’re not taking you to the dance either.” Finally satisfied with our arrangement as Matt moves back into position, she shrugs and picks up her camera. “Ok, Matthew, I’m just saying… Alright, let’s everyone squeeze in for the photo.” Everyone leans in and smiles. As overbearing as Matt’s mom is being, she’s making all of us laugh, which will be great for the picture. Everyone except Matt, of course, who is probably going to get caught mid eye roll. Matt’s mom takes a few shots, adjusts some settings on her camera, then takes a few more. As she does it, I feel a movement against my waist. With how tightly we’re all squeezed together, I’m sure you can’t see it in the pictures, but I know Carter’s just put his hand on my waist. I instinctively lean back into him, and we get closer. It’s our little secret in the pictures. That little bit of contact, signifying, albeit only to the two of us, that we’re here together. It’s another one of those tiny little things. Is this how it would feel if we were actually together? And just like before, I find myself really liking it. With what must be the one thousandth picture, we’re all distracted by a sound at the end of the driveway. A rumble in the gravel at this point can only mean one thing. The limo’s here. I hear a low whistle from someone as the car pulls up. It’s a gorgeous, jet-black BMW. Clearly washed and shined since the last time anyone drove it, we all get a clear view of our reflections as it pulls up in front of us. As the car stops, the driver’s door opens and I’m just as struck by the person who gets out as I am by the car. A handsome black man steps out onto the driveway and adjusts his jacket. He’s long and lithe in the body, with strong angular features. His movements are so practiced and graceful, even just getting out of the car looks like it could be some sort of artistic expression. Needless to say, the uniform doesn’t hurt either. As I’ve said, I’m a total sucker for that. “Hi Anthony!” calls Carter, and gives him a wave. The driver gives him a nod and smiles broadly, revealing a set of perfect, white teeth. “Mr. Mulkins,” he says. Carter rolls his eyes as he walks up to Anthony and they slap their hands together. “Just call me Carter. my dad’s not around, ok?” Anthony laughs. He has a great laugh. It’s deep and genuine, the sort of laugh that makes it impossible not to like someone. “You’ll always be little Mr. Mulkins to me.” He gives Carter a look up and down. “Even if you’re all grown up and dressed up.” Carter leads Anthony over to everyone’s parents and lets them all introduce themselves. I’m sure they want to know exactly who will be driving their kids around all night, what time he promises to bring everyone home, and all the other things parents are always so concerned about. As for the kids, we run straight over to the limo and start piling in. It’s not every day you get to ride in a car like this, and there’s a steady chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as everyone comes in and sees the interior, replete with leather seats, neon lights, and sparkling grape juice for us to drink. Plus, if we get in the car, they can’t take any more pictures of us, right? We all get situated in the back of the limo, and Carter joins us last of all, taking a seat next to me in the front-facing back seat. We roll down the windows as the parents approach, getting hit with one last burst of flash bulbs. We say our goodbyes to all the parents, several of whom are in tears, and Anthony slowly pulls out of the driveway. You’d think we were headed off to the war with the way the moms are getting choked up. Out on the road, we can all finally relax. The photos are done, we’ve eaten our fill, and all that’s left to do is enjoy the night. We pop a bottle or two of the faux-champagne and make a few toasts before settling back into our seats and hanging out. The Winter Dance, I think to myself as I sip on my drink. I’m going to the Winter Dance with Carter Mulkins, riding in the back of a limo. Who would have thought? As we continue to drive, my thoughts turn back to Anthony. It’s so cool that Carter’s dad could get this hooked up for us. I get how Carter might feel a little jaded about the whole thing, but you can’t deny that we’re riding in style, especially with a driver like that. He comes across as so smooth and sophisticated, it’s like he’s half of what makes the ride in the limo feel so legit. “How long has Anthony been your driver?” I ask Carter, unable to suppress my curiousity. He furrows his brow in thought. “Pretty much forever,” he says. “There was a different guy when I was really little, but he retired and then Anthony took over.” That would explain Anthony’s ‘little Mr. Mulkins’ comment. But still, it’s hard to believe Anthony is a day over thirty, which can’t be right unless he started driving for the family when he was still a teenager. “Do you know how old he is?” I ask, letting my curiosity get the better of me. “It’s crazy, right? I think he’s in his 40s, just because of how long he’s worked for us, but…” “There’s no way.” Carter shrugs. “He has to be. He’s worked for us for twelve years, and maybe it’s hard to say ‘cause I was a little kid, but I think he’s always looking exactly like this.” I shake my head in disbelief. Those are some good genes. If I look half that good when I’m in my forties I’ll be stoked. I’m not usually attracted to older guys, but Anthony definitely doesn’t seem like he’s forty. And his smile, his laugh, and that uniform… Forget having a driver if I ever get rich. If I’m loaded when I grow up, I’m going to make sure that I have a really hot driver. I feel like I could stay in the limo forever, but after what only feels like a minute, we’re making the familiar turn off the main road and onto our school’s campus. We pull up to the drop off area and enter the queue along with all the other cars (and a handful of limos) dropping off their kids. I can feel the excitement building more and more as we approach the school entrance, but I still feel mine mingling with plenty of anxiety. It’s too late to back out now. I’m going to the Winter Dance with Carter. For good or for bad, there’s nothing I can do to stop it. We pull up and Anthony dashes around the side of the car to open our door and assist everyone in getting out. Carter and I are last to leave, and he tells me to hold on a second. I stand on the sidewalk while Carter talks to Anthony for a minute, presumably about our exit plans once the night is over. Anthony gives him a slap on the back before sliding once again into the driver’s seat and pulling away. Left by ourselves, at least in regards to our own group of friends, Carter walks over to me and puts a hand on my arm. He flashes one of his most dazzling smiles and leans in a little closer to me. “Are you ready for this?” he asks. He’s definitely turning on the charm right now. I haven’t experienced it for a while, and it hits me hard. I’m putty in his hands when he does this. His quiet voice, sly smile, and the way his eyes sparkle. It’s too much for me to resist. And I let it happen. Whether or not it’s the right thing to do, I let him in. Carter steps in beside me as we walk into the school, and his hand finds its way to the small of my back. It’s inconspicuous enough to anyone who might see us, but I know that it’s possessive. Just like how he held me ever so slightly during our pictures, he’s claiming me as his date, if only privately. This is what it feels like to have Carter Mulkins take you to the Winter Dance, I tell myself. And it feels good. As we walk into the dance, I can’t help but smile. I know it’s just the gym with a bunch of cheesy decorations and other stuff that parents brought to dress it up, but it’s nice. It’s a facade, but it works. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think we were somewhere fancier, somewhere far away. That’s a school dance in a nutshell, really. It’s the same old people who come here every day for school, and the same old building around us, and it’s nothing special. But we’ve saved up our money, thrown on our best clothes, and tried with all our might to make this night something that we’ll never forget. We’re all tricking ourselves into having the most magical night of our lives. If we don’t look too closely, we’ll all be pleasantly swept away by the illusion. Again, I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do, but I let it happen. No one in our group seems like they’re in a big hurry to dance, and that’s fine by me. The gym is only about half full right now, and plenty of people are still wandering in. Once this place is packed I’m sure we’ll all be dancing, but for now our crew just posts up at a table in the back of the room and helps ourselves to some snacks. As we mingle around the tables, I start to feel more at ease. This isn’t as awkward as I was worried it might be. Not with Carter, I mean - that’s a whole different story. But more with me coming here without a date. Plenty of people go stag, but I wasn’t sure what the rest of the group would be like. Would they couple off as soon as we walk in the door and leave me to awkwardly shuffle around by myself for the rest of the night? But it’s not like that at all. I can hardly keep up with all the people coming and going from our table. There’s people from class, the soccer team, drama, and more of the guys’ friends from the football team. The girls all compare and compliment each other’s outfits as they go, and the guys all compare and compliment each other’s dates. After an hour or so of hanging out, the room starts to shift. The lights have gotten dimmer, they’ve turned up the music, and more and more people are slowly but surely finding their way to the dance floor. Finally our group comes to a consensus, and we all head out to shake our bodies. I take a deep breath as we migrate. This is the part I was most worried about, but also the most excited for. I like dancing. I like it a lot. And while you don’t need a date to talk to people, sometimes you need one to dance. It was so much easier with Katy last year, but now I’m more or less on my own. I mean, I can dance with Carter and all the guys when it’s more of a free-for-all out there, but I don’t exactly expect him to waltz me around the floor during a slow jam. And it’s a shame, because I’m a good dancer. I don’t like to brag, but I have moves. Pretty good moves. The trick is that I need to be feeling it. If I can get in the zone, I’m going to have a great time tonight. I need to turn off all the awkward feelings, and get out of my shell. Where’s a beer when I need one? A huge bass note hits, and the room starts moving again. I don’t know the song the DJ puts on, but it’s a heavy trap beat that’s almost impossible not to dance to. I’m not feeling it quite yet, but at least it’s a start. Halfway through the next song, I’m settling in and starting to get warmed up when my night takes a turn for the better. I don’t have to worry any more about mustering up my courage to dance, because Katy shows up. “Sorry we were so late getting here,” she tries to shout over the music. “I’ve been looking for you, but figured you must be out here already.” I flash her a thumbs-up in affirmation. I hate yelling. It doesn’t seem to bother Katy, so I’ll let her lead this conversation. She pulls the guy next to her over in front of us and he waves. It’s Jeff. I smile and mouth ‘Hi’ to him. “Are you guys ready to dance?” she shouts to both of us. We both nod. Katy leans in closer to me so she doesn’t need to yell. “Jeff is terrible at this, I need you.” I smile and give her a wink as she steps back from me. This is going to be fun. If Jeff can’t hang with Katy on the dance floor, there’s only one person who can. Me. We’ve been dancing together our whole lives, from our bedrooms with the stereo on, to last year’s Winter Dance, to a few more choreographed numbers in last spring’s production of “Anything Goes.” We get each other, and we both know how to boogie. Within minutes, I’m feeling a hundred times better. I have my dancing partner, the music is good, and everybody’s having a great time. Now that I’m not flying solo, it’s way easier to move around the floor, getting down with whoever you find in front of you at any given moment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like some spiritual thing for me. Nothing that deep. More like a silly, easy way to connect with everyone around you. The way Katy and I dance, it makes the place feel a little bit less like a dance club, and a little bit more like your cousin’s wedding. And it’s definitely working. The guys and their dates are all dancing harder now, and everybody is way less inhibited about dancing with everyone around them. Katy is the spark I needed to stave off my greatest fear about the night. The dance isn’t going to devolve into a bunch of one-on-one booty grinding, at least not with us working the crowd. After a few more songs, I start to notice Carter. We’re not dancing with each other per se, but I can tell he’s focused on me. Not overtly, and I don’t think you would notice if you weren’t looking for it, but he isn’t hiding it from me. He gets close to me as often as he can, and we dance with and around each other more than anybody else. I start to feel it again. I start to genuinely feel like we’re at this dance together. And once again, it feels good. We get the last thump of the bass from a DJ Snake song, and then the whole room quiets down. Slow music fades in, and I know what that means. A slow dance. This is where the reality of the night differs from what it feels like. This is where, in whatever fantasy it is that Carter is my date tonight, he swoops in and grabs my hand, pulling me back out onto the floor for a dance. But this is reality. Instead of waiting around to watch everyone pair up around me, I cut through the mass of people on the dance floor and make my way to the drink coolers. I grab a cup of ice water from some moms who are working the drink table and have a seat. I take a deep breath and sip on my drink. Dancing is hard work. It’s actually a good thing, I think to myself. As much as I’m enjoying myself, this is a good break for me to cool down. Not just from dancing, but from Carter. I have to keep reminding myself that he hurt me, and that I’m not sure what I want from him. Tonight’s a positive step for us, but I still need to think about things. This is about him being sure, and me getting to make the call. Not that I purposely want to play hard to get, but I need to make sure I give myself plenty of room to breathe, and ample time to think. When he’s laying it on, Carter’s charm is powerful and suffocating. It would feel good to let myself get swallowed up by it, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’d be drowning. I need to take it easy. I can have feelings for Carter without letting it eat me alive. I can pursue him without killing myself over it. Tonight is good, the perfect chance to just enjoy being here with Carter, and not getting myself too worked up about what it all means. For the first time in ages, I feel like I can actually do it. There’s something different this time around. I can’t say if it’s him or me, or a little bit of both. Whatever it is, it actually, honestly feels good. The first slow dance ends and I drain the rest of my cup. Thinking can wait until later, I tell myself. For the rest of the night, I’m not going to sit in the corner and brood. I’m just going to hang out with my friends, dance with Katy, and have fun. And if a few little sparks happen to fly between me and Carter, so much the better. The night flies by and it’s honestly perfect. Katy and I have a crazy good time dancing, even if Jeff is tripping all over himself trying to keep up. The whole crew we came with is tons of fun, and everyone seems to be getting along and having a great time. Heather and Jackie are both fun to hang out with, and even Caitlyn isn’t quite as weird as I thought she might be. I’m still not sure exactly what Ricky is getting himself into - or more likely not getting himself into judging by the big gold cross she’s wearing around her neck - but whatever. She’s a good dancer, and besides making Ricky stand significantly farther away from her than modern morals dictate during the slow songs, she can hang. I even manage to snag a few dances along the way. Obviously Katy grabbed me for one, during which we dramatically pranced around like we were at the king’s ball. She made me take two ballroom classes with her last year, and we show off our moves any chance we get. I had to give her back to Jeff at some point though, and just as I was getting ready to leave the dance floor, I bumped into Caitlyn and Jackie. They couldn’t find Matt and Ricky, so I took each of them for half the song, while Carter grabbed them for the other half. I know I’m gay and all, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy taking pretty girls for a spin around the dance floor. Late in the evening, just when I’m not sure I can dance for another minute without my legs giving out, the music stops again, and the DJ grabs a microphone. Perfect timing for me to get a breather. It must be time for the final thank yous, warnings, and advisements of the evening. “Who out there is having a great time at the Winter Dance?” he asks us. A cheer goes up from the crowd. I have to agree, this guy is killing it with the music. “We’re going to slow it down again now, for the next to last time tonight.” A hush comes over us all. “If any of you out there are still biding your time, you’ll only have one more shot at a dance after this one.” I chuckle to myself a little bit as I start to leave the dance floor. With that introduction I almost want to go find Carter and ask him for a dance. But no, I couldn’t do it. Even though he’s been great tonight, I’m sure he’s not ready to take that step. It makes me sort of sad to say it, but I don’t think I am either. It’s nothing to do with Carter or how the two of us feel about each other, it’s more because of our school. I haven’t seen a single gay couple out dancing tonight, and I know there’s a handful of us out here. Plenty of girls have danced together during slow songs, but not in any serious way. A few guys from the football team were promenading around earlier, but clearly as a joke. If two dudes actually pulled each other in close and danced, it would be a scandal. I shake my head and take a seat back at our table as I listen to the DJ make his last couple of announcements. It’s such a bummer. Even if I had a boyfriend and everybody knew it, I still don’t know if I’d be brave enough to get out there on the dance floor with him and announce it to the whole world. I’d love to say that I’m confident enough to do that, but I’m not. I’m not in the closet, but I don’t like being the center of attention. You have to leave the pioneering to people like Sam, people who are completely fearless. For me, maybe in a few more years when someone’s already broken the ice. “Dude, come on!” I look up to see Ricky standing next to me, panting. “What?” I ask him. I hardly have time to act indignant or surprised as he grabs me and pulls me out of my chair. With a conspiratorial arm around my shoulder, he guides me briskly away from the gym and into the corridor outside. I blink my eyes and try to get them to adjust to the bright lights of the hallway. I wish he’d slow down so I could get my bearings, but Ricky doesn’t let up, dragging me half blind through the school as quickly as he can. “Where are we going?” I ask. He’s really on a mission. “Just hurry up,” he says, pausing halfway through his sentence to gulp down a breath of air, “we’re already late.” We loop around a corner and I can hear the next song starting. The DJ must have wrapped up his announcements and we’re getting back into the music. If I know anything about school dances, we’re going to have this slow dance, then two more songs for everyone to dance to (one might even be a mashup of a bunch of dance tunes), and then one final slow dance to close out the night. The lights will come up, and then we’ll all walk out to “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire. I’d put money on it. “Almost there,” Ricky mutters to himself as we take one more left turn. Where is he taking me? I wonder if he has booze stashed in a store room or something like that and that’s where he and Caitlyn are hiding out. She seemed like more of a Goody two-shoes than that, but Ricky can be pretty persuasive when it comes to peer pressure. We finally arrive at our apparent destination. The auxiliary training room. It’s a little room right next to the gym where teams do workouts or have meetings when the full gym isn’t available. I know baseball will stick their hitting nets in here during the spring and the tennis team will use it for conditioning and stuff when it’s too rainy to practice outside. Without even breaking stride, Ricky leads me up to the door, opens it, pushes me inside, and slams it closed behind me. It’s dark. There’s a little bit of light in the room, but after the brightness of the fluorescent lights in the hallway, I can’t see a thing. I know it’ll take at least a minute before I can make out anything, so I put my hands out in front of me as I take a tentative step forward. There’s nothing in front of me, and it feels kind of like walking into an abyss… Suddenly my hands make contact with something. It’s a body, or least a torso. Before I can react, the presumed person in front of me grabs my hands and pulls me toward his or her body. Even without sight, I instantly know who it is when I get close. It’s the smell. A good smell, in fact the best smell. Sweet, musky, and manly. It’s Carter. I feel an arm slip around my waist as he pulls me against his body. He starts moving, gently gyrating back and forth against me, and it takes me a second to figure out what he’s doing. He’s dancing with me. After the shock of the darkness and stumbling into Carter starts to wear off, I realize that I can hear the music from the gym coming clearly through the wall next to us. It’s a little bit muffled, but still audible. It’s the perfect volume for the quiet of this room. I slide my arms up over Carter’s shoulders and let him lead me. We don’t do anything fancy, just the simple side-to-side swaying to the rhythm of the song that you see teenagers do. As we move back and forth, I let myself melt into Carter, putting my chin on his shoulder and leaning against him. Pressed so close, I inhale deeply, taking in another breath of his scent. We’re doing it. I’m dancing with Carter. “Sorry if this is-” “It’s perfect.” I cut him off before he even has a chance to say he’s sorry. I get it. I’ll admit it’s a little bit weird that we’re tucked away in this room, away from the dance, and out of the public eye. But it’s like I was thinking before. It just isn’t the right time for us to take that step. If we went out and danced in front of everyone, this dance will be all about everything and everyone else. There will be so much at stake, and so many distractions. I know we’ll both be thinking about the fallout and repercussions of us being together, and the reaction of the people around us will be more present than the dance. But this is good. It’s private. There’s nothing else in the entire world except me and Carter. Dancing together. And it affords another opportunity as well. I tilt my head up off his chin and back a little bit. He can feel me move, and even in the dim lighting, I’m sure he can see my face in front of his. I close my eyes, only needing to wait a second or two before I feel him lean down and gently meet my lips with his own. The kiss is so gentle, so light. It hardly feels like a kiss at all, more like another little part of us dancing together. Two bodies moving in harmony, from our feet to our hips to our lips. We break away and I put my head back on his shoulder, powerless to do anything but close my eyes, smile, and get swept away in the final minute of our dance. The last notes of the song play, fading into another heavy dance track, but neither of us move. We stay together, holding each other close until finally Carter pushes me back and plants another, firmer kiss on my lips. “I’m so glad you came with me tonight,” he says, still close enough that I can feel his breath against my lips. “I just wish I could have done-” I shush him and pull myself back into his body. I know he wants to tell me that he wanted to do more, but I don’t mind. I think he’s done enough. Enough that I’m really starting to believe him when he says that I’m his choice. It wasn’t just our dance, or something else that he said or did tonight. It’s been the whole package. He’s been real tonight. That’s the only word I can think of that describes it. He hasn’t been putting on a show or trying to convince me of anything. He’s just been wonderful and attentive, and everything he’s done has felt completely genuine. We finally break apart from each other, and my eyes have adjusted enough to be able to see, at least to some extent. I feel a familiar pressure in the bottom of my stomach when I see Carter’s face, something I haven’t felt in a while. It’s the kind of blind longing I used to feel when I saw him, but now it’s coupled with the idea that he might really be mine. That he just danced with me. That he kissed me, and he meant it. “I left my phone in the car,” Carter says, “so I’m gonna go find Anthony, and we’ll come pick you and everybody up, ok?” I nod at him and return his smile. “Again,” Carter says, “sorry if this was weird. I just didn’t want to leave tonight without dancing with you, and-” “No,” I stop him. “It was great. I’m glad I got to dance with you, too.” I can’t help myself and slide in for one last kiss before he leaves. I start out with a little peck, but Carter doesn’t let go, returning it with even more force and intensity. This one reminds me of some of our other kisses. The one on the couch at my house, for example. The needier kisses, the hot ones. The ones that make my head spin. “You know,” Carter says when he finally pulls away, “there’s going to be one more song. I don’t have to get the car.” My eyes go wide when he says it. Is he serious? He’d be willing to do that for me? “We don’t have to dance in this room,” he offers. “No,” I tell him before I change my mind. “This dance was perfect.” He doesn’t have to do that for me. Not tonight. We’re still trying to figure us out. We don’t need half the school breathing down our necks about it too. The fact that he offered was huge, but for now I want me and Carter to just be about me and Carter. We share one more little kiss before he steps to the door. “We’ll pick you guys up out front.” Wow. I take a minute to catch my breath before following Carter out into the hallway. It’s happening. Even with all the doubts I’ve had, and all the time and energy I spent convincing myself that ending it with Carter was the right thing to do, I feel like I was wrong. Whatever it was that made Carter see it, accept it, or be willing to go for it, I’m starting to feel it too. I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it is that’s different about Carter tonight. It’s just a feeling I get about him. Like he’s turned a corner. Like the thing - whatever it was - that was blocking him from wanting to be with me, is gone. I push the door open and walk back through the hallway and toward the gym. Part of me thought that the bright lights of the hall would sober me up, so to speak, but when I get back into the gym, I’m still buzzing with that positive energy I felt while I danced with Carter. It almost feels like certainty. Pushing my way back into the crowd of dancers, I find Katy and a few of her other friends. She gives me a smile and waves me over. We only have another song or two to dance, and right now I just want to lose myself in how good I’m feeling. Before I know it, the DJ is fading out the last upbeat song of the night, and fading in something a little bit slower underneath. I give Katy a big hug and let her go back to Jeff. I’m sure she’ll want to find him for the last dance. I weave through the crowd, which is slowly coupling up as I go. I feel a smile creep across my lips. I could have done it. I could have had this dance with Carter. He offered to do it. It’s fine that we decided not to, but he was willing. That means a lot to me. I’m just getting to the edge of the dance floor when someone grabs my arm. I turn back and am surprised to see Rachel, one of the girls from my English class. “Are you dancing with anyone?” she asks. I shake my head and hold out my hands to her. She slides into position in front of me and I put my arms around her waist. We start dancing, and I can’t help but think how much of a coincidence this is. Rachel was technically the first person who put the whole idea of going to the dance with Carter into my head. The path from point A to point B was nothing I could have imagined, but regardless, we’ve made it to where we are now. Rachel is a good dancer - nothing like Katy, obviously, but not bad. We move around the dance floor and both settle into a nice, easy rhythm. “Did you ever manage to snag a date for the dance?” she asks. I chuckle a little. “Yeah,” I say. “Or, no. I mean… sort of?” She laughs and I think from her smile she knows who I’m talking about. We weren’t obvious about anything tonight, but I’m sure if you were looking for it you could have noticed a few sparks flying between me and Carter. “What about you?” I ask. “It’s a long story,” she says. I raise my eyebrows. If it’s shorter than the rest of this song I want to hear it. She sighs, but it seems more tongue in cheek than exasperated. “Ben never asked me, but Tyler asked Jen,” she explains. “And it turns out that one of his friends has a crush on me, so Jen finally convinced him to just ask me.” “Who is it?” I ask. The real question being where is this guy now? She looks embarrassed. “So… that’s why it was kind of weird for him to ask me,” she says, “because he’s a sophomore.” I try not to, but I laugh. Luckily she thinks it’s funny too and joins in. “He had to leave early because of his curfew.” I laugh even harder and she half-seriously tries to put her foot down. “Don’t,” she says. “It was actually a lot of fun and he was really sweet. Cute, too.” She lowers her voice. “Even if he was a little short…” The last few notes of the song play and we stop our dancing. Rachel leans up and gives me a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks for the dance,” she says, and winks at me. “I’m glad you ‘sort of’ found someone.” “Thanks,” I tell her as she walks away. I smile a little bit as I think about it. I did sort of find someone. In the most convoluted way through the most circuitous route, I believe I did. The lights start to come up in the gym, which is our cue to leave. The music is still on, but drops low enough that the sound of chatter is louder. There’s no mistake, it’s time to go home. I make my way along in a crowd of people, shuffling slowly to the hallways. I’m about halfway to the door when Ricky barrels in next to me and puts his arm around my shoulder. “Did you have a nice dance?” he asks. “Yeah, for sure,” I tell him. As soon as I say it, I realize that he might not be talking about the Winter Dance as a whole, but the dance in the auxiliary gym with Carter. I feel my cheeks getting hot and suddenly wish the lights had been kept off during our departure. Ricky definitely noticed. “I bet you did,” he says, nudging his elbow into my ribs. Since when did he get so friendly? “Where’s Caitlyn?” I ask, hoping to change the subject. “She went home,” Ricky says, much less upset about it than I expected him to be. “Her parents wouldn’t let her ride home with us after the dance.” “Huh,” I say. I let the silence last as long as it can before we both start laughing. “Yeah whatever,” Ricky says. “She left like fifteen minutes ago. I’ve been looking for you ever since.” “Really?” I ask. “Why?” “‘Cause I didn’t have anybody to dance with on that last slow dance.” We both laugh again as we finally spill out into the hall. It’s the first time anyone outside of my best friends has ever joked with me about being gay, but Ricky manages to pull it off. Since our talk at his house I’ve felt like he’s an ally for me, but Carter must feel the same way. Ricky pulls out his phone. “Carter says they’re in the line outside to pick us up,” Ricky tells me, “but it’ll take a few minutes.” He grabs his crotch and grimaces playfully. “Which is good, because I need to piss.” I nod in agreement. “Me too.” We squeeze out of the queue heading toward the main entrance of the school and make our way over to the bathrooms. We line up in front of our respective urinals, and as I unzip my fly I have a second to think. This night has been amazing. There’s no other way to feel about it. Carter has absolutely made good on what he told me. He said he wanted a chance to show me that he was serious about us, and he did. We had our dance together, we kissed, and every second of it felt real in a way that it never has before. And he said something to Ricky. That might be the most important thing of all. I don’t know exactly how much he told him, but there’s no way that Ricky could have been involved with everything tonight and not know that something is up between us. That’s a huge step for Carter. It’s a huge step for us. Ricky and I both finish our business, wash our hands, and head back out into the hallway. We need to round everyone else up, and then we can find the… We round the corner and my heart drops when I see her. Beth. She’s standing in the hallway, talking to one of her friends. She sees us the second we come around the corner, and there’s no escape. There’s only one way to get back to the main entrance of the school, and it’s straight through Beth. It’s hard to see her up close like this. She’s the person I always figured was my arch-nemesis, and now that I’m standing face to face with her, there’s only one unfortunate thing that comes to mind. She’s pretty. Very pretty. Her look might come across as a little mousy on someone else, but she knows how to make it work. Right now she looks fantastic, with a tight yellow dress that perfectly complements her dark features and brown hair. She doesn’t have a ton going on in the chest department, but her dress puts everything on full display. She’s on point tonight, I can’t argue with that. “I hope you had fun with my date tonight,” she says. But then there’s her attitude. She always comes off as so unpleasant, it really just kills the vibe. At least it does for me. When she opened her mouth to talk, I almost expected a stream of sickly green venom to shoot out. It’s hard to tell if she’s directing her question at me or at Ricky. I’m probably just being paranoid though. I don’t think she harbors any specific ill will toward me. I think she’s just hating on us because we’re Carter’s friends. “Don’t worry,” says Ricky, completely unfazed by Beth’s words and attitude. “We did. It’s a shame you couldn’t join us.” He says it nicely. Much nicer than I would have said it, at least. It hardly sounds sarcastic at all, though I can’t imagine it isn’t. “I know you don’t like me, Ricky,” she says. She doesn’t say it in a shitty way, more in a matter of fact way. Ricky smiles sheepishly and shrugs. Looks like I’m not the only one who isn’t a big Beth fan. “Carter’s an idiot, but I’m glad you guys all had fun,” she says. She sounds sincere when she says it, and maybe she is. “Uh, thanks,” says Ricky. "I was worried about him,” she continues, “since I broke up with him right before the dance.” She nods curtly to both of us and walks away with her friend in tow. I do my best to contain my shock, but I feel like my blood has turned to ice. I feel sick. Carter broke up with Beth, I was sure of it. He broke up with her so he could be with me. That’s what happened, and that’s what tonight was all about. That’s why I’m here, giving Carter a second chance because he finally made up his mind. That’s why I could feel myself weakening, opening my heart back up to him, and letting him win me over. It was all predicated on this one, simple fact: Carter broke up with Beth. Apparently, I was wrong.
  5. Chapter 23 “We have to win, no matter what.” I nod my head. “Got it,” I say. “A must-win game.” “Exactly.” “And then you make the playoffs?” Gray holds up his finger at me and shakes his head. He looks dead serious. He wants to make sure I’m getting this. “It’s more complicated than that. Even if we win, we might not get a spot.” “But if you lose, then…” Gray puts one of his big, meaty hands on my shoulder. “If we lose,” he says, “we’re out no matter what. But if we win, we need Northside to lose, otherwise it doesn’t matter.” I get it. I just need to convey to Gray that I get it. “So you need to win, but you need Northside to lose?” “Yeah.” He still doesn’t look fully convinced. All I said to him was that I hoped they could make the playoffs. I could tell as soon as I said it that he was concerned. It wouldn’t be that easy, and he immediately appointed himself the guy who would help me understand. Now I’m stuck with him in the hallway until he releases me. He tries one more time. “If we win and Northside loses, then we get the last spot in the playoff bracket.” “Ok,” I say. Talking to Gray is different. He doesn’t usually engage people in conversation, but when he does, he goes all in. This is probably the most he’s ever talked to me at one time, but now all I can think about is what I can say that will allow me to walk away without incident. “The playoff bracket,” he starts, “is made up of eight teams. A lot of it has to do with who you play during-” “Gray!” We both turn to look and see Ricky and Matt jogging toward us down the hallway. Ricky makes eye contact with me and I breathe an internal sigh of relief. He’s here to rescue me. “He gets it, dude,” says Matt, squeezing himself between us to break the connection. It looks ridiculous and essentially creates a Matt sandwich, but I think that’s what it might take to end a conversation with Gray once he’s committed. “We just have to win the game, right?” I ask. Ricky’s eyes go wide and Gray tries to sweep Matt out of his way to resume our discussion. “I’m kidding!” I say. Now that the guys are here I can make a joke about it. “I get it.” All three of them laugh and Matt continues to lead Gray away from us in the direction of the locker room. “Seriously, he gets it,” Matt says as they depart. “This is like, twenty times less complicated than soccer.” These guys are all heading to the locker room, but I, on the other hand, still need to go to class. On game days the football players leave one period early so they can get ready. Part of me thinks it’s just a perk to get more people to play football. How long does it take to put on some shoulder pads? Unfortunately for me, after getting waylaid by Gray, I figure I only have about a minute left to get back to Chemistry. I hope Ricky makes it quick. “You coming to the game tonight?” asks Ricky. I nod. “Yeah, for sure.” “It should be a good one. I’m sure Gray told you all about it.” He winks at me and I try not to blush. He’s so handsome, I’m still not totally used to him talking to me like this. His wink is merely for my amusement, but I can’t help but feel that it’s a little flirtatious at the same time. “He sure did,” I say. I’m about to follow up with a joke about Gray, but my words catch in my mouth. It’s Carter. I choke down the bile as he rounds the corner of the hallway, hand in hand with Beth. She’s on her phone, so she doesn’t even look up, but Carter gives the two of us a nod as he goes by. Or rather, he gives Ricky a nod. I happen to be over here as well, but he doesn’t make eye contact with me. The half-hearted nod is in my general direction, and that will suffice to provide an acknowledgement of my existence. It’s been like that for the last week and a half. We haven’t spoken, haven’t texted, haven’t even really looked at each other. Even in Chemistry we did our last lab in silence as much as we could. A few times we had to communicate, but when we talked to each other it felt more like we were just addressing the room, and if the other person happened to overhear that we were moving on to the next step of the assignment or that the reading was .018 on the instrument, so much the better. This is the first time I’ve seen him with Beth though. I have to admit, it makes me jealous. As I watch the two of them walk away down the hallway, I still can’t help but wish it was me. That Carter and I were together. That he could have found the strength and the gumption to choose me before it was too late. Now he’s back with Beth, stronger than ever, and I’m all by myself. But I know that the jealous feeling will pass. It was just the shock of seeing them together, that’s all. Once I calm back down, I’ll be back on track. I did what I had to do, and deep down I know I made the right decision. It hurt a lot, and I keep reminding myself that it will continue to hurt, at least for a while. It’s like putting peroxide on a cut. It burns and bubbles, and feels worse than it did before. But you know it’s the smart thing to do, and you know that it’s working. A little bit of pain to get yourself cleaned up. So while I can’t say I’m happy, I know chasing Carter for the rest of my life wouldn’t have fixed that. Once they’ve passed, I look back at Ricky, hoping he won’t notice my discomfort. Much to my surprise, he’s rolling his eyes. “He’s been like that all week,” Ricky says. “What a sourpuss.” Huh. So it isn’t just a coldness directed at me. Ricky could sense it too. “Beth is with him,” he says with a grin, “so I’m sure he’s not happy.” He laughs and shakes his head. “That girl sucks.” My ears perk up when I hear that. Ricky thinks that Beth sucks? He’s made a few comments here and there, but never anything as harsh as this. “Yeah,” I say, “I don’t really get it.” Ricky laughs again. “You and me both, man. She’s never happy, she doesn’t make Carter happy, and they don’t even get to bang.” What? His statement catches me completely off guard. “What a waste, right?” Ricky nudges me in the shoulder. I guess I knew that Carter wasn’t satisfied with what he and Beth were doing physically. I mean, why else would he be hooking up with me all the time? A part of me wasn’t sure though. Carter’s a teenage boy, after all. It’s not crazy to think that he’d be getting it from both sides. But Ricky said it without any sort of irony in his voice, and if anyone would know it would be him, or maybe Matt. And assuming I’ve understood Ricky correctly and he’s telling the truth, then that means- RINNNNNNNG! My train of thought is brought to a screeching halt, because I’m late for class. “Sorry, dude, I gotta run,” I say, turning around to make a beeline for Chemistry. It’s well and good for Ricky to be late for an hour of getting ready for warm ups, it’s another for me to show up a few minutes late for the second half of Nizen’s class. “Wait, Jackson!” I turn around, but keep walking backwards. “We’re hanging out at Gray’s house after the game,” he calls. “Ok,” I say. “We’re gonna watch the second half of the Northside game,” he adds. “Got it,” I say. It’s taking all of my willpower not to turn around and sprint for my classroom. “Meet me in the parking lot right after the game!” I flash Ricky a quick thumbs up and make a break for the lab. There’s only a few other people in the hallways at this point, and more than half of them are football players. Of all the classes to be late for, it has to be Chemistry. If we had been talking about anything else but Carter, I could have excused myself and left, but I couldn’t help it. Since I already know I’ll be late, I preemptively pull out a pencil and my Chemistry notebook. Anything to make my transition into the classroom quieter and quicker. I wouldn’t want to clandestinely slip into my chair only to spend the next two minutes fishing through my backpack to find what I need. If I’m lucky, I might be able to pull this off with minimal problems. I get to the door and it’s already closed. Not a good start. If the door was open I could dart in and hope to get to my seat before Nizen sees me. If he’s looking at the board or writing notes on it, there’s a chance I could be sitting down before he even notices that I came in. He probably wouldn’t stop class to call me out for being late if I was already at my desk. He would cut his losses, be glad that I made it, and keep on teaching. Maybe he’d talk to me after class. But if the door is closed it’s a whole different ballgame. I turn the knob as slowly as I can, but I know the instant it moves that everyone’s eyes are on the door. They’re all waiting for it to open, to see who’s coming in. And if Nizen didn’t hear the door, he’ll definitely notice when everyone’s attention shifts away from him. I push the door open a few inches and my fears are confirmed. I can only see five or six people through the crack of the door, but they’re all looking at me. Stealth no longer an option, I push the door open and step into the room, moving towards my desk as quickly as possible. I manage to get about four steps in before Nizen calls me out. “Mr. Willard.” I turn around slowly and look up at my teacher. “Yes, sir?” “Thought you might have joined the football team.” “No, sir.” He’s not the type to ask for excuses, so it’s best to accept his scolding and move on. Not that my excuse is any good, anyway. Sorry, I was talking to my friend and he was explaining the high school football playoff system to me. That wouldn’t buy me any good will at all. “Your lab partner is counting on you to take notes for him today,” Nizen says. “Being tardy isn’t just hurting you.” I nod once and try to look as sorry as possible. “Yes, sir. I’m sorry.” He raises his eyebrows at me. “You can apologize to Mr. Mulkins when his study materials are incomplete,” he says, gesturing towards my seat. I sit down and open my notebook. Apologize to Carter? I don’t think so. He’ll be lucky if I even share my notes with him. ------- ------- ------- ------- I’m on my feet with everyone else as the clock ticks down through the final seconds of the game. You can’t ask for much more to finish the regular season. A commanding win against a division rival. We outplayed them on both sides of the ball. It was one of those games where the score is fairly close, 28-10, but Bay never really had a chance. They capitalized on all their opportunities, and still couldn’t manage to keep the game closer. It bodes well for the postseason, but I try to keep what Gray was telling me in mind. We only go to the playoffs if someone else loses tonight. Even so, step one is complete. We won the game. I take a last look around the stadium and am reminded of how much people here love football. I know it’s the last game of the season, but I’m amazed at how many people came out. Not for lack of support for the team, but because of the weather. Yesterday was mild, but a cold front swept in between now and then, and the temperature dropped almost twenty degrees this morning compared to the day before. Now it’s getting even colder, with lows tonight supposed to be in the teens. I shudder a little bit as I think about it. I’ve lived in this town all my life, and the weather gets like this sometimes. But that doesn’t mean I like it. “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THANK YOU FOR ATTENDING TONIGHT’S GAME!” A hush comes over the crowd as we listen to the announcer’s address over the PA system. “LET’S HEAR IT FOR ANOTHER GREAT SEASON FROM YOUR AMHEARST EAGLES!” The crowd roars at this, and the players all raise their helmets up in salute to the fans. “DON’T FORGET, YOUR EAGLES CAN STILL BE PLAYOFF BOUND!” The crowd cheers again. “TUNE IN TO WGAT AM-850 ON YOUR WAY HOME FOR THE ARCADIA-NORTHSIDE GAME. AN ARCADIA WIN WILL GUARANTEE A SPOT IN THE PLAYOFFS.” The fans roar at the news. “THE SCORE AT HALFTIME - NORTHSIDE 24, ARCADIA 21.” So much for ending the season on a high note. The fans start filing out as the announcer continues thanking the coaches, athletic boosters, and sponsors of the team for another great season, but the mood has definitely been a bit subdued since the announcement that Northside is winning their game. I don’t think it’s in the high school football mentality to ever be satisfied - for players or fans. While I’ve already been thoroughly indoctrinated into how the playoffs work and what’s at stake tonight, it seems to be news to most of the crowd, and it’s like all the joy of winning has been sucked out of them. Still, it was a great game for us, and a nice way to end the season. At least I think so. On the soccer team we tend to be happy any time we can win a game. Playoffs could happen, but we don’t have a chance at winning the state title. Honestly, when our season ended, we were mostly just happy to move on to other things. It’s high school, and there are only about five million other things we could be doing. As we file out of the stadium, I start to wonder how the rest of the guys will react to the news. I know they’ll be stoked at winning the game, but I’m sure they’ll be just as worked up about the Northside score. It leaves a lot up in the air. It’s high stakes, their season hinging on whether Arcadia can make up a three-point deficit and win. Their entire lives revolve around football for almost half the year, and now I’m going to sit down with them for an hour and possibly watch all that effort go to waste. And that’s not even mentioning Carter. This is the first time we’ll be hanging out since… Since we broke up, I guess. I mean, I know we didn’t actually break up, because we weren’t actually going out in the first place. But that’s what it feels it. We were together, at least in some sense of the word, and now we’re not. I sigh to myself and try to shake it off. The bad feelings come and go in waves. I have to focus on the positive and know that I did the right thing, even if it hurts. As I get out to the parking lot I can feel a little bit of the weight lift off of me. Tonight I’m just hanging out with the guys, and if Carter happens to be there I can deal with it. If I remember correctly, Ricky drives a yellow Toyota SUV. It’s the sort of car that’s just obnoxious enough for someone like him. Not over the top, but it is bright yellow. It should be easy to spot, at least. He texted me that he was in the fifth row, and I regret not asking for more information. Is that the fifth row of cars? The fifth row of parking, as each row past the first is parked with two rows of cars? It’s dark and cold, and I know I’m going to have trouble finding the car, even if it’s bright yellow. “Jackson, hurry up!” I look down the row to my right and see Matt and Ricky waving at me. I break into a jog and make my way over to where they’re standing. “Come on, dude, we don’t want to miss the game,” Ricky says. The car’s already running. I breathe a sigh of relief as I run up to the car. It’s just Ricky, Matt, and Gray. Thank goodness. Maybe Carter is driving himself. Or better yet, maybe he isn’t coming at all. “Coach let us go early to watch the game,” Matt explains, implying that I’m forgiven for holding them up, in spite of the urgency in Ricky’s voice. “We have to be back at school tomorrow anyway, so he’ll give us the rundown on today’s game then.” I forgot about that. I have to go to school tomorrow, too. It’s fall locker cleanout. The day after the last football game of the season they open the school all day on Saturday for everyone to come empty their lockers and make room for the winter sports, which officially start in the next week or two. It’s a little different for the football team, as they might still be playing. If Northside loses tonight, they have practice tomorrow. If not, they’ll be cleaning out their lockers like everyone else. With the way the temperature’s dropping outside, I’m glad our season’s over for soccer. Practicing when it’s below freezing is not fun, and I will not envy the guys if they have to do it. The boys pile into the car, with Ricky driving, Gray riding shotgun, and Matt and me in the back. As Gray loads into the car, I get an unexpectedly good view of his ass. He’s still wearing his uniform, albeit with a jacket over the top, and those pants leave very little to the imagination. I slide into the backseat and will myself not to stare too hard at Matt as he climbs in next to me. Boys in uniform. It might be my greatest weakness. They may have pulled out their pads and put on jackets, but they’re still wearing the pants. Football pants are something else. Tight in all the right places, cut high at the bottom to show off a good amount of calf muscle, and low enough at the top to show off some hip. And if they’re untied, just forget about it. That also explains another reason they were so keen to get going. They must have been freezing out here in their uniforms. As Ricky starts driving, I’m hit with the smell. Three teenage boys who just finished playing a game of football who haven’t showered or changed yet, packed into a car with the heat blasting and the windows up. It’s not a bad smell. It isn’t sweaty like it would be in the summer - it was way too cold to do much in the way of sweating tonight. More like the smell of boy. Worked out boy. Some people would probably say it’s a bit musty or even a little stinky. Most moms probably hate it, because they have to try and wash it out of uniforms and practice clothes every single day. But I think it’s sexy. It makes me think of locker rooms right after practice. Tight uniform pants like the ones the guys are wearing right now, and the act of peeling those uniforms off. Shirts with the sleeves cut out so wide you can see everything underneath. It’s all things youthful and masculine and athletic, and it’s intoxicating. I try to keep my eyes focused ahead of me, but Matt is sprawled out in his seat, doing nothing to cover the bulge in his skin tight pants. It’s hard to gauge in this situation, but I wouldn’t mind taking a closer look and seeing exactly how big it is… I close my eyes. It’s the only way I can stop staring. It doesn’t solve the problem, though, as my imagination takes over. Now instead of what’s right in front of me, I have all sorts of images in my head, mostly what the guys look like in (and out) of their uniforms. My eyes jerk open as Ricky’s car stops in the driveway of what I assume must be Gray’s house. We pile out of the car and I let myself have a quick peek of Matt’s ass before I turn to the other side and pull myself out the door. It’s right there in front of me. I can’t help myself. The shock of cold, wintery air puts the nail in the coffin of my fantasy and we all make a run for the front door. Anything to spend less time outside. If the guys wind up in the playoffs, this weather is going to be absolutely brutal. I’m relieved to feel how warm it is inside the house. I wasn’t sure if Gray’s family had been at the game and whether or not they would have had the heat on in the meantime. My mom usually keeps the house at a temperature just barely high enough to support human life, and if we’re out for even a few minutes she’ll turn everything off. Not so in Gray's house. The toastiness is a welcome relief from the cold of outside, and once the front door is closed behind us I'm already feeling better. "Is the game on?" asks Gray. "Still halftime," says a deep voice from within the house. "You just made it." The four of us file into the living room, and the source of the voice is revealed. I was expecting someone older, but instead we're greeted by a young man in his 20s. He stands next to a big leather armchair, watching us with his arms crossed against his chest. "What's up, guys?" he says, giving a quick nod in the direction of Ricky and Matt. His eyes land on me and he quickly looks me up and down. He furrows his brows in the way of a question, just like Gray does when he's trying to figure something out. Even though he has the same facial expression and general look that Gray does, his gaze is a little bit more piercing, like he's appraising me on multiple levels. It makes me feel a little nervous. "Who's the new guy?" Gray puts his hand on my shoulder, making me jump. I didn't realize he was right behind me. "This is Jackson," he says, and leaves it at that, moving around the couch and toward another big chair on the far side of the room. A typical introduction from Gray. No extra information. The man sticks out a big, meaty hand for me to shake. "I'm Derek." I reach out and do likewise. His handshake is firm. Not crushing, which I'm sure it could be if he wanted, but still powerful. He holds his handshake and makes eye contact with me and I'm again struck by the intensity of his gaze. There's no doubt he's Gray's brother. Along with the same facial expressions, they're built the same way. Tall, wide in the shoulders, and you can tell at a glance that he’s strong as an ox. While Gray works out all the time with the football guys, Derek has the advantage of years. It's impossible to know for sure underneath his heavy flannel shirt and jeans, but I would be surprised if he wasn’t every bit as ripped as Gray underneath those clothes. "You play football?" he asks. "No," I say. "I just know the guys from school." He slowly nods his head. "Cool." He finally breaks eye contact and turns back to his chair. I feel my breath come out and realize that I had been holding it. None of the other guys seem to have noticed anything strange about our introduction. They're already on the couch, waiting for the second half of the game to start. Must be my standard anxiety at meeting someone new. I remind myself that I felt the same way the first time I talked to Gray. He's kind of an intimidating guy. Physically, of course, but also in his manner. He doesn't talk much, and he doesn't go out of his way to make you feel at ease. But that doesn't mean he isn't friendly, only that he doesn't show it like most people do. And maybe Derek is the same way. He wasn't cold to me, I just felt a little bit overpowered in his presence. There's nothing wrong with that. The couch is one of those big L-shaped numbers. Ricky is on one side of it, and Matt is at the end of the other, sprawled out with his legs hanging over the top of the armrest. It makes me chuckle a little bit. My mom always tells me not to sit like that, but it's good to see that I'm not the only one who does it. I take a seat right in the middle and figure it will be good to have both sides to rest up against during the game. I turn to the TV and that's when I notice it. There's nothing on the screen. No one else is saying anything, so there must be something I'm not getting. Matt and Gray both have their phones out, so they aren't paying attention to me. I resign myself to sit quietly until something happens. I finally look back at Derek and he smiles at me. "It's a feed from the internet," Derek says, as though he senses my confusion, "nothing too professional. They only show the game, so there's nothing to see during halftime." I smile back at him and nod my head. "Yeah, I was gonna say something but..." He laughs. "Don't watch a lot of football, do you?" he asks. Maybe I misread his tone before, or maybe he just doesn't look quite as big and imposing when he's sitting down. Either way, his question comes off as friendly, and I don't feel as intimidated as I did the first time I spoke to him. I shrug. "I'm more into soccer, I guess." "Then why you hanging out with these clowns? I'm sure there's a soccer match on you could be watching tonight." Where to even begin on that one? I hang out with these guys because I thought I was in love with Carter. Since that went south, now I’ll just hang out with the rest of the crew. That's not exactly an easy answer. "He's friends with Carter," Ricky says casually. I think back to our conversation out on the porch at his house and wonder again if Ricky suspects anything was going on between us. I wasn't sure at the time, and I'm still not sure now, but his tone doesn't seem to imply anything. "Where's Carter at tonight?" Derek asks. "I wanted to talk to him about that play in the first quarter that he-" "Game's on." Gray makes the announcement and everyone stops talking and turns to look at the TV. No one follows up on the question or asks Derek to finish. The game is on and the boys are here to watch it. As the teams kick off the second half, we all fall into a lengthy silence. No one says anything, they just watch the game, fully focused. As the teams start to play, we get occasional comments. Something about the play they're running or one of the players on one of the teams. It's like the guys are watching film at school. To be honest, this is exactly what I expected from Gray, Ricky, and Matt, but even Derek joins in. Maybe that's why he was surprised that I didn't play football, because he knew what I was in for once the game got started. I don’t have quite as much of a vested interest in the proceedings. While I'm not completely disinterested in the game, I can’t help but be more focused on Derek's question from before it started. Where’s Carter? From Ricky’s invitation at school, I had assumed that Carter would be joining us. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s on the football team, he was at the game with them, and he hangs out with these guys all the time. Maybe he wasn’t hanging out with them as much for the last month or two, but that’s only because he was hanging out with me. The only other place he could be right now is… I feel a lump catch in my throat and I swallow it back down. There’s no reason to think about that. Even if it used to matter, it doesn’t anymore. That’s what Carter chose. I wanted him to choose. For better or for worse, he was the one who had to choose. A huge cheer goes up from the guys and I come back to reality. A player from Arcadia is on a breakaway for the end zone, and there’s only one man left to stop him. He jukes left then spins right, leaving his defender in the dust and darting in for a touchdown. The guys all get up and give each other high fives. I forget all about Carter for a minute and join them in the celebration. This is huge. The kicker lines up and drills the extra point, putting Arcadia up 28 - 24, with seven minutes left in the third quarter. It’s crucial to extend that lead past three points. Now Northside needs more than a field goal to win. We settle back into our places on the couch, and now the guys are even more intense about the game. Being behind is a challenge, but being ahead is stressful. I feel the same way when I watch soccer. When your team is down you have to wait to score a goal. There’s nothing else you can do. The pressure’s on, but mistakes on offense don’t ruin lives, at least until the final minutes of the game. You’ll make plenty of offensive errors and miss who knows how many opportunities on your way to scoring. You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to play hard until you get lucky. But when you’re leading in a critical game, it’s so much more stressful. Any little mistake could cost you. The only way you’re going home with a win is if you’re perfect. That’s where Arcadia is now. Granted they can slip a little bit and let in a field goal, but a single blown coverage could cost them the game, and cost us our chances at going to the playoffs. Unfortunately we don’t have to wait long for Northside to strike back. A holding call gets them out of a jam deep in their own territory, and then they keep pushing forward. Gray and Ricky are convinced that it was a bogus call, but it’s impossible to tell without the camera angles and instant replays of the NFL. This is a single camera experience, and we’ll never be able to settle that debate. A few more plays take Northside over the 50, but Arcadia finally manages to make a defensive stand and stop their opponents at the 22 yard line. 4th and 5 on the 22. It’s time for a field goal In the NFL or even college this would be a gimme, but in high school all bets are off. Kicking is hard, and most schools just wind up poaching someone from the soccer team to kick for them. According to Derek, each team has already missed one tonight. Especially in this weather, I can’t imagine getting up off the ice cold bench, taking off my jacket, and running out onto the field to kick a high pressure field goal. The kicker lines up, the ball is snapped, and he boots it. The ball has the distance, and it flies up towards the goal posts and… We all sit in silence, waiting to see if it got through the uprights. From the angle of the camera, dead on from midfield, it’s impossible to see where the ball wound up. It went far enough, but who knows if it was on the money. Finally, the referee runs out to the middle of the field and holds his hands up above his head. It’s good. 3 points. Arcadia 28, Northside 27. Matt sighs and slides himself a little bit deeper into the corner of the couch where he’s sitting. I see Gray punch his fist down on the arm of his chair. They aren’t happy, but at least it was just a field goal. Arcadia finishes the quarter with the ball, driving up to a little bit past the 50. The clock runs to zero and the teams leave the field for a minute or two of rest, and undoubtedly a pep talk from their coaches. Twelve minutes left to play, and this game could easily go either way. Matt sits up and shakes his head in disbelief. “This is too much for me,” he says. Ricky agrees. “I didn’t think it would be this close,” he says, “Northside should be crushing them.” “The weather sucks,” adds Derek. “Bad weather will equalize anything. Plus Arcadia’s line is good, and they got that kid back from injury last week.” “Oh yeah,” says Ricky, “that huge kid. I remember when we played them last year. It’s like, Mackey or McMann, or something.” He looks over to Gray for confirmation. If the kid they’re talking about plays on the line, Gray would know who he is. Gray isn’t paying attention though. His face is buried in his phone. He has a rather uncharacteristic smile on his face. “Yo!” says Ricky. “Gray!” No response. Ricky nods to Matt, who tosses him a pillow from the other end of the couch. Ricky winds up and throws it at Gray. “Dude, what the fuck?” Gray takes the pillow straight to the head. It definitely did the trick. “Who’s the guy on Arcadia’s line who-” “Ben Miller,” says Gray without missing a beat. He tosses the pillow across the room back to Matt and looks down at his phone again. He still has that weird smile on his face, even though he just got clocked in the face by a pillow. “What are you doing over there, brother?” asks Derek. “Nothing,” Gray says. “Don’t ‘nothing’ me,” Derek responds. “Why are you so smiley all of a sudden?” If Derek is anything like other siblings I know, there’s no way he’s going to let this go. When I have either of the twins on the hook about something, I’ll keep bugging them until they tell me what’s going on, especially if they want to try and pretend it isn’t anything. It’s your right as a big brother. Gray must realize the same thing, because he puts his phone down and turns to us. “I just got Heather to go with me to the Dance.” “What?” says Matt. “Seriously?” Gray nods. “I thought she told you flat out she wasn’t going,” Ricky says. Gray shrugs, and for the first time since I’ve known him, he cracks a sly little smile in the side of his mouth. Weird to think of Gray being coy, but maybe I don’t give him enough credit. “She did,” he admits. “But she also promised to go with me if we won the game tonight. I dunno if she was being serious, but a promise is a promise, and I just got her to own up to it.” Derek laughs and gives his brother a double thumbs up before getting out of his chair and leaving toward the kitchen. “Let me know when the game comes back on, I’m getting a sandwich,” he says. Even as much as I’ve been hearing about the dance from everyone for the last two weeks, this is a new one. Betting a girl that she has to go with you. Whatever it takes, I guess. Still, Gray should be stoked. Heather is a senior and she’s fairly popular and attractive, although she doesn’t hang out in any of the so called ‘cool’ cliques. I’ve only run into her a few times, but she seems like she would make a fun date. The reason Gray wants to go with her, however, probably has a lot to do with her huge tits. Not just big, but well shaped and perky too. No matter what she wears, they always look fantastic. I’m one hundred percent gay, but have to admit that they’re pretty damn amazing. “That’s good to hear,” says Matt, “then it won’t just be me and Jackie.” Jackie and Matt have been hanging out since the beginning of summer, and officially dating since the beginning of the fall. “What about Lucas?” I ask. He has a steady girlfriend, but from Matt’s comment I’m guessing they have other plans. “He’s going with Steph’s friends,” Matt says, “they roped him into that ages ago.” So it’ll be Matt and Jackie, with Gray and Heather. Should be a good time. “What about you,” I ask, nodding my head at Ricky. He’s so popular with girls, there’s no way he hasn’t figured out a date. He just broke up with his girlfriend, but it can’t take him more than a few hours to find a replacement if he needs one. Gray snorts with laughter when he hears my question. “He’s going with his made up girlfriend.” Matt giggles to himself as well. I haven’t heard about this yet, but I’m excited to find out. Ricky chucks another pillow over at Gray. “Fuck you guys,” he says. “She’s not made up. Caitlyn is going to be there and you guys are going to look so stupid.” Caitlyn? I look over to Matt for clarification. “You don’t know her,” Matt confirms. “She’s supposedly this really hot girl who goes to Trinity, and she’s crazy about Ricky.” “None of this is confirmed,” Gray adds, “in real life or otherwise.” “I told you,” Ricky says, “she doesn’t do Facebook.” Matt raises his eyebrows at me. “If that’s real, that’s fucking weird,” yells Derek from the kitchen. Ricky scowls at all of us before turning back to me. “What about you?” Ugh. What about me? I would literally rather talk about anything else in the entire world. “I’m not going,” I say. Hopefully the game comes back on and that will be the end of it. I stare intently at the screen, willing the players to take the field. “What?” Ricky says. “You have to go. It’s the Winter Dance.” “Yeah just come with us, it’ll be fun,” Matt adds. As much as I appreciate the offer, I can’t imagine going with these guys, especially if Carter is tagging along. Even if he’s not going with the guys, I know I’m going to hulk out and flip a table over when I see him and Beth taking a slow dance together. Just because I know we shouldn’t be together doesn’t mean I want to see him all over someone else. “You guys all have dates,” I explain. “I don’t want to be that extra guy who’s just tagging along.” Ricky dismisses me with a wave of his hand. “That doesn’t matter, it’ll be fun,” he says. I shake my head. “No, dude. That’s weird. I mean, it’s not ‘No Facebook’ weird, but it’s still kind of weird.” Ricky glares at me, but Matt leans over and gives me a high five. “Come on,” Matt says, “I promise you’ll have a good time.” “Yeah dude,” says Gray, “we want you to come.” “If you’re worried about going stag I could ask Caitlyn if she has any friends who…” He trails off as Matt and Gray start laughing at him again and he throws up his hands in defeat. Just then, the teams come back out to start the fourth quarter and the guys all turn back to the screen. Discussion is over, at least for now. The game’s on. Derek slides back into his chair, now with a massive sandwich on his plate. I can’t be sure, but I think he put an entire ham between two slices of bread. “You ladies sure get worked up about the Winter Dance,” he says. “Don’t worry, I’m sure all your dresses will be so pretty.” He gets shushed by everyone else. After a second Matt turns back to him with a funny look on his face. “Weren’t you prom king?” Matt asks. Now it’s Derek’s turn to shush him. “Game’s on,” he says. He dismisses it, but I see the slightest trace of a smile as he does. The guys have mentioned Derek a few times, and he seems pretty cool. Easygoing and laid back, with a good sense of humor. He’s definitely a good fit with the rest of this crew. I also get a sense that he has my back. Like he’s going to take care of us if anything happens - the big brother quality in him. For whatever reason, I find myself hoping I’ll have a chance to spend more time with him now that I’m hanging out with the guys more. The fourth quarter starts with a strong drive from Arcadia, but it gets snuffed out after a couple of bad penalties push them back out of field goal range and they’re forced to punt. Gray makes a comment about the lack of discipline, but the penalties seemed more like bad luck to me. Northside makes slow but steady progress up the field, and they look like they might be stalling out around the 50 yard line when Matt breaks the tense silence. “Oh, shit.” I look over at him and see that he’s on his phone. Nothing happening with the game makes me think he would have said that, so it must be something he saw on his cell. None of the other guys take any notice; they’re too focused on the game. My curiosity gets the better of me and I’m just about to ask what’s going on when I hear the front door open. I look toward the entryway and immediately turn back to the TV when I see who it is. It’s Carter. He doesn’t say anything when he comes in, save for asking the score of the game. Ricky tells him, and then he walks around the side of the couch to find a seat without another word. Luckily, Matt slides himself over toward me, leaving an empty spot at the end. Thank goodness for small miracles. I don’t have to sit next to Carter. Within seconds he’s just as absorbed in the game as the rest of the guys. Northside broke the defense for a first down, and they’re almost in field goal range, which is all they need to win. With everyone so interested in the game, I let myself risk a few looks over at Carter. It’s hard to gauge through the focus on his face, but he doesn’t look very happy right now. I wonder what he’s thinking. Is it because of the score of the game? Is it because of me? Or is it something else entirely? He didn’t change out of his uniform, either. That makes sense for the rest of the guys, since we came straight from their game. Heck, they beat me out to the parking lot. But Carter took an extra half hour to get here, and he’s still wearing his uniform too, albeit with a hoodie pulled over the top. I figured that’s what was taking him so long to get here, but I guess not. I turn away and look back at the television. I shouldn’t have let myself look at Carter for so long. I shouldn’t be letting myself wonder about what he was doing, or why he was late coming over. It’s not my problem anymore. I feel a familiar tightness creeping across my chest, and I will myself to focus on the game. Not here, not now. I can’t start thinking so much about Carter. It’s only happened a few times this week, and thankfully all of them have been at home, where I could easily go to my room and get away from everyone. It starts with a few errant thoughts. I wonder what Carter is doing, or if I could talk to him again. I think about why he couldn’t decide to be with me or how I could be good enough for him. I question whether I’ll ever find anyone like him again, or whether anyone will ever seem as attractive to me as he does. It’s a fast, steep spiral of thinking, and it doesn’t take long before I’m overwhelmed by the worrying and wondering. My head starts to spin and it’s hard to breathe. Next thing you know I’m bawling my eyes out. Not here. I can’t let it get to me. Just focus on the game and don’t worry about Carter. I take a few deep breaths and feel it start to pass. Of course I’m going to have strong feelings about it, and this is the first time I’ve been this close to Carter since it all happened. I have to weather the storm, and it will get easier. Being in the same place as him, talking to him, maybe even hanging out with him at some point - it’s going to be tough, but I can handle it a little bit at a time. Because I know it was the right thing to do. I have to keep reminding myself, but I know it’s true. It’s going to hurt for a while, but I can always cling to the knowledge that I did exactly what I had to do. My heart is just starting to settle back down to normal when I’m startled by a sudden chorus of shouts from the guys. I look up at the TV and catch what looks like the tail end of a broken up pass play. Northside’s quarterback made a lob for the end zone on a 3rd down play and Arcadia’s corner must have barely managed to break it up. At least that’s what it looks like. I have to remind myself that we aren’t watching the NFL, and if you miss an important play, you miss it for good. There’s no instant replay to show you what you didn’t see the first time. I must be right, because Northside brings out their field goal unit. A well-placed kick will put them in the lead, and there’s only about four minutes left in the game. The stop on that pass was big, but even a field goal could spell disaster for Arcadia. The kicker lines up and the ball is snapped. He makes solid contact and the ball sails up, up, up, and… It’s good. There’s no doubt about this one, as the Northside bench erupts. Northside 30, Arcadia 28. The guys look agitated. Maybe I was wrong about what I said before about it being tougher to be up than it is to be down. This last drive is going to be crucial. It’s the difference between a win and a loss for Arcadia, but it could mean the end of the season for our own team. It has to be brutal to sit here and watch, powerless to change the final outcome of your own season. Northside kicks off, and we’re off to a bad start. The returner slips as he catches the ball, and by the time the kicking team brings him down he barely manages to get past the 10-yard-line. 90 yards. 4 minutes. They are going to have to make every down count, and in this cold no less. I can’t imagine trying to throw or catch a ball in this weather. It’s bad enough in soccer on a cold day when you have to make a throw in. Now you’ve got to throw a ball with pinpoint accuracy 30 yards down a field and catch it in the middle of traffic. Surprisingly it doesn’t seem to affect Arcadia’s players. They string together a couple of quick passes and push the ball up past the 40. They just need to get into field goal range, which I’d guess is inside the 25. If they even get to the 35 they have a chance. On a first down Arcadia calls a short run to the left. They pick up maybe 4 yards, but there’s a pile up on the play. The refs are blowing their whistles like crazy and pulling players off the pile, but a few of the Northside players are waving their hands frantically trying to get the ref’s attention. They’re all pointing down to the opposite end of the field and jumping up and down. The referee pulls the last player off the stack and points his hand back to Arcadia’s end zone. It’s a fumble. The Northside bench erupts, and the players storm the field. The game isn’t technically over, but it might as well be. There’s less than two minutes left and Northside has the ball at midfield, up by two. We watch the clock tick down in silence as Northside runs it out. They get a final first down, kneel the ball twice, and the game’s over. Northside 28, Arcadia 26. For a while, no one says anything. This is it. The game’s over, and the season’s over. For Ricky, it’s the end of his high school football career. Just like that. One running back not holding the ball tight enough and it’s all done. For them it’s the disappointing end to a football season. For me, I suddenly realize, it might be the ultimate social nightmare. I’m stuck at this house with a guy I just broke off my secret relationship with, and now everyone else is upset because their football season is over. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no one to talk to. The feed of the game turns off, and we’re all left staring at a blank screen in silence. Finally, the last person I usually expect to speak, Gray, breaks the ice. “At least we don’t have to practice anymore.” We get a few more seconds of silence, then I hear a chuckle from Matt. Ricky starts sniggering too, and then everyone joins in. It was such a weak attempt to look on the bright side of things, but it hits us all just right and gets us laughing. Honestly, I’m sure all the guys are actually a little bit relieved that the season is over. And I’m just relieved that everyone isn’t going to be all bent out of shape for the rest of the night. Everyone except Carter, it seems. He pounds his fist once into the couch cushion and everyone turns to look at him. He has a deep frown on his face. More than I’ve ever seen him with, and way more than I would have expected from seeing the end of the football season. “What’s the deal, dude?” asks Gray. “You’re as sick of practicing as any of us.” Without answering, Carter gets up and walks out of the room. He doesn’t say anything, but you can feel the black mood radiating off of him as he goes. I hear the bathroom door close in the hallway. The other guys seem to notice it as well, and Ricky speaks up. “What’s with him tonight?” he asks. Gray shrugs. If anyone was going to be upset about the loss and the end of the football season, I would have guessed it would be Gray. Or even Ricky since he’s a senior. But Carter? I know he gives the game everything he’s got while he’s playing it, but I never thought it meant that much to him. Matt, however, looks out into the hall before leaning in toward the group. He lowers his voice to almost a whisper. “They broke up.” It takes the rest of us a few seconds to figure out what he said. “Carter?” Ricky asks in disbelief. Matt nods his head. “At least that’s what it said on Facebook.” What? Carter and Beth broke up? “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” says Ricky, “and that would at least explain why-” Ricky stops talking as we hear the bathroom door open. We lean back away from each and return to our normal positions on the couch, pretending as hard as we can that we weren’t just having a conversation about Carter. I can’t believe what Matt just said. Maybe he’s wrong, or maybe they just changed something on Facebook accidentally. After all that with the Winter Dance, why would they break up now? Whether she knew it or not, Beth finally had Carter back all to herself. And Carter didn’t have to be conflicted anymore. This doesn’t make any sense. Carter looks at all of us when he gets back in the living room and sighs. It can’t take much to guess what we were all talking about. “I was gonna tell you guys, but I didn’t want to interrupt the game.” Everyone stares at him, not sure if we should just admit that we were just talking about it five seconds ago. “That’s why I was late,” he explains. It isn’t much of a story, but at the very least it confirms what Matt said. The guys take a minute to process this, and it’s Ricky who breaks the tension this time. “You want to know the good news?” he asks with a tentative smile. The sides of Carter’s mouth twitch, and I can tell he actually wants to laugh. “What’s the good news?” he asks. “We can all go to the Winter Dance now…” Matt jumps on the idea before Carter or I have a chance to derail it. “Jackson was all worried about going as a third wheel, but now you guys have each other.” The rest of the guys look to us for confirmation, while Carter and I do everything in our power to avoid each other’s gaze. What a clusterfuck. It’s like all my dreams have come true in the worst possible way. In the course of the last two hours, all the pieces have fallen into place. I hung out with Carter’s friends, so now I’m one of the guys. Step one complete. Carter and Beth broke up. That’s huge. And now Carter and I are going to the Winter Dance together. A few months ago, that would have been my entire to-do list for getting Carter. Now it’s all here, and it feels like shit. But how do I get out of it? “We’ll get both of you laid, no problem,” says Gray. “Like half the couples break up at the dance, so there’ll be tons of single ladies floating around by the end of the night.” Ricky nods in agreement. “That totally worked for me last year.” “Yeah, but you also broke up with someone at the dance,” says Matt. “Exactly,” says Ricky, “it’ll be even easier for these guys.” I laugh, and I realize it’s probably the first time I’ve smiled since Carter got here. Ricky can be totally obnoxious sometimes, but you can’t say he’s not a good guy to have around when you’re feeling down. His energy and positivity are relentless. I let my smile wash over me. This will be fine. I can figure out an excuse not to go to the dance. No need to worry about it now, I’m sure the guys will understand. Tonight I just need to get home and get to bed. I can process all this stuff about Carter and the dance tomorrow. “Are we ready to go?” asks Matt, as though he’s reading my mind. He smells his armpit and grimaces. “I want to get out of this uniform before it fuses with my skin.” “I can drive you guys.” Ricky looks toward me and Matt and we nod in affirmation. “I’ll take Jackson, he’s on my way.” My heart misses a beat as I hear Carter say it. What the hell is he talking about? I frantically rack my brain for some way to get out of it, but he has me trapped. I can’t make a scene about this because none of the other guys know anything. None of them say anything or make any move to stop him, because to them it makes perfect sense. Ricky and Matt live north of Gray’s house, and Carter and I live south of Gray’s house. It’s a normal, sensible offer for Carter to make. But for me, it’s whatever the opposite of normal and sensible is. Inexplicable and insane, maybe? Nine days ago we had a huge blowup. I told Carter to leave my house, with every intention of never speaking to him again. I finally managed to pull my head out of my butt and see Carter and his intentions for what they really were: Confusion, nothing more. It was bad enough that we both came here tonight and had to sit in silence and watch a football game ten feet away from each other. But now he wants to drive me home. Matt and Ricky are heading for the door, and Gray and Derek both get up to show us out. It’s all happening and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I’m riding home with Carter, whether I like it or not. I look around for something, anything to get me out of this situation. I could always have Ko or Katy come pick me up, but that would take time, and I’d still have to explain myself to Gray. On any other night I could just blow Carter off and wait outside for a lift, but I’m not feeling quite proud enough to die of exposure just to avoid an awkward car ride. Or what if I act coy about it? I could ask Ricky for a ride, and then just make it seem urgent. Throw him a wink or a look that conveys how important it is to me. Then when I’m in the car I could explain it somehow. Like maybe I don’t want to ride with Carter just because of how grouchy he’s been today. It still makes me look a little dramatic, but maybe I can pull it… A big meaty hand claps into my back and makes me jump. I turn around. It’s Derek. “Good to meet you, dude,” he says. He smiles at me. He has a nice smile, and it weirdly calms me down. It’s like the big brother effect or something. It’s just like how I felt earlier tonight when I met him. Like he has my back. Somehow that reassurance is what I need. I resign myself to just sucking it up and getting in the car with Carter. I can handle it. It’s less than a ten-minute drive. If Carter wants to talk, then he wants to talk. If I get upset, then I get upset. The other guys won’t know about it, and maybe one or both of us will even get some kind of resolution from it. I’m sure he wants to talk to me about the breakup. I’m the guy who always listens to him when he’s having issues, and I’m the one who understands him. I don’t know if Carter deserves a chance to talk it out with me, but I’ll give it to him anyway. It can’t hurt to hear what he has to say. That being said, it doesn’t change anything. I wasn’t wrong in my decision last week. I did the right thing. If Carter wants to come crawling back to me now, we can talk, but I can’t imagine that anything would be different. He isn’t ready for a relationship. Not with me, at least. “Thanks,” I tell Derek, “you too.” We head outside and I climb into Carter’s car. It’s not the fancy Tesla tonight. Just a RAV4, albeit a nice one. Ten minutes. That’s all it will take. Ten minutes in a car with Carter, and then it’s over. I’ll be home. Carter backs out of the driveway and heads back toward the school, which we’ll pass on the way to my house. I keep my eyes straight ahead, not wanting to make the first move. If he has something to say, he can say it. I sure don’t. A minute goes by and the only sound is the engine and the air vents, blowing luke-warm air into my face. But he doesn't say anything. He just drives. In silence. What the hell was the point of taking me home if he doesn’t have anything to say? It makes perfect sense though. He wasn’t strong enough to make a decision with me, and it shouldn’t surprise me that he doesn’t have the guts to say anything about it now. I can tell he needs to talk this out, to get it off his chest, but as usual I’ll have to make the first move. “Were you going to tell me you broke up?” I see Carter flinch when I say it. I wasn’t trying to put venom in my question, but I’m sure that’s how it sounded. “It just… happened.” He purses his lips and doesn’t say anything else. That’s it? It happened? I know that it happened. We’ve established that fact. I’m about to follow up with something witty and biting when Carter surprises me and turns off the road into the school parking lot. What’s he doing now? He’s supposed to be taking me home, not taking me back to school. Or is he just pulling off the road so we can stop somewhere and talk? He doesn’t explain himself, so I have to keep wondering as he drives up to the far end of the school where the football practice field is. He parks in a loading zone and turns off the car. I brace myself for the conversation we’re about to have. A million different thoughts are swimming through my head. All the feelings and emotions, threatening to boil over the box I put them in when Carter decided to go to the dance with Beth. I did such a good job all week - not to mention tonight - containing my feelings and staying resolute in my decision to stop pursuing Carter. But now we’re stopped in the parking lot and I’m going to have to confront all of it. I haven’t had time to process all this new information. Carter broke up with Beth. They aren’t going to the dance. Carter and I are both going with his friends. Contrast my nervousness now with how decent I’ve felt all week. Besides a few rough patches, I’ve actually been really happy with my decision to end things with Carter. Again, I’ve been holding tight to the knowledge that I made the right decision. Maybe not to make me feel good now, but to make me ok in the long haul. But this is confusing everything. He was insistent on driving me home. And now we’re here to talk. Is he here to take me back? Or is he here to tell me that today’s events don’t change anything, and he still wants us to keep our distance? Either way, I’m not sure how I should react. As much as I know I still want him, I know I shouldn’t let myself try again. I have to be strong. My internal monologue is interrupted by the sound of the car door opening. “Come on.” Carter steps out of the car and starts walking toward the school. He stops after about ten steps and turns back to look at the car. He’s waiting. I sigh and shake my head. What the heck is he doing now? I don’t know, but I unbuckle my seatbelt, open the door, and swing my feet out of the car onto the pavement. I guess I’m following Carter. The wind hits me as soon as I step outside. I pull my jacket tighter around me as I follow Carter in silence around the back of the school. It’s so cold. Just the shittiest, bone-chilling cold. We walk for a minute or so until we stop by a door. The door to the locker room. Carter grabs the handle of the door and pulls on it. It’s locked. “Carter, what are you doing?” He pulls on the handle again and yanks the door hard. Nothing. “Hang on a second.” Hang on a second? This guy is unbelievable. I’m standing out here freezing my ass off while Carter is apparently trying to break into the school in the middle of the night and I’m going to just hang on a second. Whatever he’s doing, he needs to do it fast. “I want to go home-” “Can you hang on?” Carter asks again. “Please?” He looks tense. His jaw is clenched. He doesn’t do that unless he’s really stressed about something. I don’t know what he’s up to, but the look he gives me makes me decide to give him another minute or two to figure it out. He seems so on edge. Not angry or anything like that. More anxious. I have to fight the impulse to reach out and try to help him. It’s in my nature to care for people when they’re distressed, but I can’t let it make me feel bad for him. Finally, on his fourth or fifth try, Carter pulls the handle of the door down, then slams into it with his body. Even stranger than the fact that he just threw himself into the door, the impact actually releases something in the lock, and when he pulls on it, it swings open. I follow Carter inside and mercifully it’s about sixty degrees warmer than it is outside. Unfortunately it still smells like a locker room, but I’d much rather be in here doing whatever it is that Carter needs to do than outside. Carter leads me through the room and stops in front of my locker. He turns back and looks at me. “What?” I ask. “Open your locker.” I shake my head. “Carter, this is ridiculous,” I say. “What do you want?” “Just open your locker,” he repeats. “No.” I don’t know what makes me say it, but I’m done with him being cryptic. I was braced for the worst on this trip home, expecting that we were going to talk things out. As awkward as that could have been, this is even worse. Carter trying to play some weird game with me. Dragging me into the school and then asking me to open my locker. I know exactly what’s in there. My soccer gear. “Jackson, can you please-” “No,” I say again. “I’m tired of you doing this.” “Doing what?” I throw up my hands. “Every time you do something… or you can’t give me something I want, or can’t make up your mind. You just brush it off and distract me.” “Dude, just-” “Why didn’t you tell me you were breaking up with Beth?” He takes a deep breath and thinks before he answers. “I told you,” he says, “it just happened. I didn’t know-” “And now the dance,” I say, cutting him off. “How fun, we get to go together. Because your friends were nice enough to invite me.” “Jackson-” “Carter, I can’t be your fucking back up plan.” His eyes have the same look as when he was trying to get the door open. Anxious. Almost panicky. He tries to meet my gaze, then looks at my locker, then back to me again. I shoot him back daggers and he drops his eyes to the floor. “You can’t say anything?” I ask. “You don’t have any answers for me?” Finally he lifts his head and looks at me. “Open your locker.” “Jesus…” I mutter to myself as I turn to my locker. I can’t imagine what’s inside of here that is so important. Something to excuse Carter for his inability to even explain himself, generally the one thing he can do without trouble. I don’t expect action, but I can usually count on him for an explanation. I wheel through the combination on my locker and pull off the padlock. I open the door and look inside. I know what it is the second I see it. A piece of construction paper with words written on it in Sharpie. Minimal decoration, but some. And a flower attached. It’s just like all the other kids get before the dance. An invitation. “When I… When we broke up today I realized it,” Carter says, “and this is the first thing I did.” I hear him take a step closer to me. “Because you aren’t my backup plan, Jackson. You’re my only plan, and I should have known that, even before-” “Why didn’t you just tell me?” I keep staring at the invitation in my locker. In disbelief, or shock, or something. “I wanted to show you,” he says. “I was going to wait for you to find it tomorrow, but I couldn’t. I needed you to know that this is really what I wanted.” He pauses then corrects himself. “What I want.” “Carter,” I say, turning around to face him, “I’m not sure about this.” I stop short. He’s standing right next me, less than a foot away. I can’t tell if he’s too close to me or too far away. A part of me wants to shove him out of my way and a part of me wants to pull him in closer. Carter nods his head in understanding. “That’s fair,” he says. “You deserve to not be sure, and I deserve not to know.” I try to think of an answer but there’s too much in my head. My feelings, thoughts, and emotions - none of them agree right now. This is what I wanted so desperately two weeks ago, but now it feels like something I’d have to force myself to do. Carter’s eyes suddenly light up. “Don’t agree to come with me,” he says, “but at least agree to come with us. Just as friends.” It sounds crazy, but I can’t help but smile at that idea. It’ll be kind of weird, but maybe it would be doable. “That way there’s no pressure on you,” he says. “But we’ll both be there.” Carter reaches out and puts his hand on my shoulder. I flinch a little bit when he touches me, but it feels ok. I can let him in a little bit. That won’t hurt anything. “I owe you a lot,” he says. “So much time and patience.” His hand moves down my arm. “This time I can be the one who’s sure, and you can have all the time you need to figure it out.” I search his eyes and see only honesty. They aren’t shiny and alive like they get sometimes. He isn’t turning on his charm right now. Whether it’s a conscious effort or because he can’t, I don’t know. But either way, when I look into his eyes, I believe him. “Let me show you.” Carter lets his hand fall to my hip and brings the other up to join it on the opposite side. “If I can’t take you to the dance, at least be there so I can prove to you that I want to.” “Ok.” Some of the tension falls off of him and Carter almost manages to crack a smile. “Thank you.” He leans forward and I close my eyes, almost as a force of habit. He kisses me. It’s strange, the kiss we share in the locker room. It’s full of a thousand things, but feels profoundly empty at the same time. It’s the echoes of the kisses we’ve shared in the past, tinges of lust and longing, expectation and excitement, wonder and amazement. But it’s conflicted and uncertain at the same time. Our kiss is full of a void, and the void is full of questions. It has all the familiar parts of the kisses we’ve shared in the past, the ones that lit me on fire and made my head spin. But there are so many questions. And I don’t know the answers anymore.
  6. Chapter 22 “You sure about this?” I take a second to really think about Ko's question. Am I sure about this? The simple answer is no. I’m not sure. But am I unsure enough to let it stop me? “I get it,” says Ko, “but you could always just come hang out at my place.” I sigh. He's right. I could bail and go play videogames with Ko. That sounds nice. And easy. And safe. So while I know this isn’t a great idea, I need to do it anyway. Even now it's hard to tell if Ko is trying to tell me he supports me either way, or if he actually thinks I should stop what I’m doing and go back to his place to hang out. Don't get me wrong, I love the support I get from Ko, Katy, and Sam, but I can't help but push back when I feel like they’re getting down on my relationship with Carter. I don’t think they do it on purpose, but sometimes I feel like they talk out of both sides of their mouths. On one hand they tell me to go for it, don't hold back, and take bold action whenever I need to. Find what I really want and take it. But then when I go for it they get so concerned. They give me advice and try to talk me out of putting all of my effort into getting Carter. Tonight's a perfect example. The whole time we were at the arcade Sam and Ko tried to talk me into standing up for myself and making sure that I'm getting what I need. Seems simple enough. So I text Carter and try to get him to come over and see me. Next thing I know, they’re right back at me, wondering if it’s a good idea to let myself get so close to him. I figure I can put this on Ko's level. “I’m not calling him over to talk, you know?” Ko nods in understanding, but still looks skeptical. “As nice as video games sound…” He keeps nodding with that same dubious look on his face, but I see the faintest trace of a smile on his lips. He gets it. “I can’t argue with that,” he says. I take that as tacit approval and get out of Ko’s car. I wave as he drives off, then pull out my keys and let myself into the house. The instant I step into the entryway, I’m struck by how quiet it is. Our house is never quiet. I'm not like Carter. I don't have a huge house where you can get away from the other people who live there with you. There are only four of us that live at my place, but it usually feels like you're never more than a few feet away from another person. There’s always someone talking or making noise around here, especially with the twins. It's weird, because I’m almost never home by myself. With soccer practice I'm usually the last one back every night. By the time I get in, dinner's almost ready and the twins and my mom have been home for a few hours. So much commotion, so much always going on. Tonight, however, is a perfect storm. It’s the ideal time to have Carter come over. The twins are staying with my aunt since I wasn't home earlier in the evening to watch them, and my mom won't get home until after I go to school tomorrow since she’s working an overnight. Rare as it is, it's truly just me for the night. It’s even weirder to think that I have school tomorrow. The whole concept of a 'school night' seems to have gone out the window in the last year. When I was in middle school there was such a clear distinction. If you had school the next day you needed to be in bed by a certain time, come hell or high water. But now there are so many exceptions. Nights where I'm up late doing homework or working on a project. Or sometimes just taking an extra hour to watch TV or play video games. Even in my family things have relaxed a bunch, to say nothing of Carter’s home life. His parents don't seem to care what he does one way or the other. They let Carter do what he wants, but whether it's a product of apathy or trust, I'm not sure. It's part of the reason I even texted him tonight. I figured he'd be free to come over, and he was. But that begs the question: When is he going to get here? I sit on the couch and wait. Carter said he would be over soon, but what does that mean? Am I going to be waiting five minutes or an hour? And more importantly, what's going to go down when he gets here? I texted Carter fresh off of seeing Sam blowing Craig, so I clearly only had one thing in mind when I did it. But there's no telling what he's thinking, is there? I wish I had more practice at this. I know what I did. I made a booty call. There shouldn’t be any question when you hit somebody up just to ask what they’re doing and if they want to come over. If I wanted to watch a movie or something, I would have asked about watching a movie. If it was a girl, neither of us could possibly have a doubt. When a dude texts [ You up? ] there’s no mystery about what he’s asking for. A boy isn’t going to text you after 8pm and see if you want to come over and play video games. Intention isn’t as muddled when you’re straight. A dude texts you like that, he wants sex. But this is totally different in a way. Carter and I aren’t officially together or anything, and even though we’ve been hooking up pretty regularly, that’s not how things started. We’re still just two dudes who hang out, so it’s not out of the question that we might chill and watch TV or something. Yeah, right. Even if that’s how things start, there’s almost no doubt where we’re heading at the end of the night. The first few times we hung out were innocent enough, but even then I always wondered. My intention was to get as close to Carter as possible, with hardly a dream of actually making anything happen. But what was he thinking? The doorbell rings. I feel my heart stop beating. He’s here. I take a deep breath and get up from the couch. My stomach is tingling and I feel lightheaded. Carter Mulkins is coming over to my house, but why? I pull open the door and am greeted by the cutest smile in the world. Even in the light of our front porch Carter looks amazing. He’s dressed so casual tonight, and somehow it makes him look even better. A plain grey sweatshirt tightly hugging the shape of his torso, with a pair of black track pants showing off just the right amount of bulge underneath. On someone else it would look like nothing, on him it looks like a million bucks. I don’t know how he does it. “Can I come in?” I shake myself out of a daze and feel my cheeks get hot. I hope he didn’t notice how much I was checking him out. “Yeah, sorry,” I stammer, stepping back to let Carter come inside. Instead of walking past me into the house, he steps directly into me and puts one of his arms around my waist. I gasp at the sudden contact. “You could take a picture if you want,” he says, smirking. He definitely noticed. I look up into his eyes and I swear they’re sparkling. Maybe it’s the light, or maybe it’s simply how he looks when he turns on his charm. He smells different too. Not just the usual mixture of the body wash he uses and his natural smell. It’s all of that plus another smell, something manly, something almost… provocative. He leans his head down and kisses me on the lips. I return the kiss and feel my head swimming. I swear he can control it, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. He gets like this when he starts coming on to me. I’ve felt it before, but I’m so sensitive to it tonight, I feel like his entire body is exuding sexuality. His whole aura tells me that he wants me, and I am utterly powerless to push back against it. We pull apart from the kiss and I realize that I wasn’t breathing. As I force a little bit of air back into my lungs, I search Carter’s face. How does he do this to me? When he turns on his charm, it electrifies my sexual need. There are so many little tells that I’ve picked up on. His shining eyes, his mouth barely open with just the hint of a smile on his lips, his tendency to barely bite his bottom lip while he’s looking at me. Add them all up, and he’s the single most desirable person on the planet. I launch myself back at him and kiss him with everything I’ve got. Our mouths grind against each other and our tongues slip back and forth into each other’s mouths. Carter’s other arm moves around behind my waist and I reach up to touch his face. After almost a minute we break the kiss. My breath is coming in gasps already, just from a kiss. I look into Carter’s eyes and wonder if this is what he was expecting when he came over. I’m more than a hundred percent ready to go, but I can’t push all the doubts from earlier out of my mind. Here’s this beautiful, perfect specimen standing in my living room. Of course I want it, but… “What do you want to do?” I ask, praying that he’ll shut me up with another kiss and throw me down on the floor. Instead he laughs and pulls me in closer. “What do you mean?” he asks. “We could do something else if-” “Something else?” His half smile has fully morphed into a smirk. “Isn’t this why you invited me over?” “Yeah,” I admit, “but if you wanted to do something else, we could-” He lets my sentence finish without an ending, and he keeps watching me instead of answering. He’s teasing me, relishing how silly I sound. “What would I rather be doing?” he finally asks, chuckling. It should infuriate me, but when he toys with me it turns me on even more. “I dunno, we could…” It’s a classic battle between my lizard brain and my insecurity. What do I think Carter would rather be doing right now? Playing video games? Watching a movie? Hanging out with Beth? Would any of those not sound completely stupid if I said them out loud? Then why can’t I drive them out of my head and just… Carter interrupts my thoughts by grabbing my right hand and pulling it forward into his crotch. It’s not in an aggressive way, more like he can’t find the words to convince me of what he’s trying to say and he’s trying to show me instead. “It’s been like this since you texted me.” I let my hand explore him a little and I’m amazed at how hard he feels, even through his pants and what feels like a pair of tight briefs. They must be pretty tight, if he’s been this hard - otherwise I definitely would have noticed it when he walked through the door. I squeeze the package in my hand, so full, but so constrained. It’s been like that since I texted him? He’s seriously been this worked up since I asked him to come over tonight? That means it’s all that he’s been thinking about for the last two hours. But is it just a case of a horny sixteen-year-old boy waiting to bust his nut, or does he get this hard thinking about me? Carter must have read the question off my face, because he smiles at me. “It’s you, Jackson,” he says. “I’m like this for you. Nobody else makes me feel this way.” I let my hand slide up and down against the bulge in his pants. Two hours. He must be dying for release. “Feel like what?” I ask. Now it’s my turn to tease. I know he’s ready, but I want to hear him say it. “Feel like you make me feel.” I slip my hands into his waistband and pull out his cock. “Nobody?” I ask him. I wrap my hand around his tool and gasp. It feels like it’s been inside a furnace. It’s hot to the touch and the instant it springs free from his underwear it swells to it’s full size and shape. “No one,” he replies. I slide my hands up and down his shaft a few times savoring how incredibly sexy it looks in my hands before looking back up to Carter’s face. I want to say it, but I can’t. He says ‘no one,’ but I want to be sure. I want to ask him if he truly means it. If he means… her. “Just you.” I close my eyes and lean toward him. I feel his hands cup my face and pull me in. Our lips meet again, and this time I’m not thinking about anything else. He’s here for me tonight. Just me. To have me. To take me. We kiss for a moment while I let my hands explore all seven inches of his manhood and the perfect, soft orbs of his balls. I’m going to enjoy this. I drop to my knees in front of Carter and press my face into his crotch. His dick feels even hotter against the skin of my cheek than it did in my hands. I can’t believe how turned on he is right now. But we’ll get to his cock in just a second. Instead, I lick across the surface of his balls before pulling one into my mouth. It feels swollen, just like his dick, like it’s inflated to a larger size than usual, fuller and heavier than I’ve ever felt before. I wonder briefly whether that’s really the case or if it’s just me. I switch over to the other one and decide that it doesn’t really matter. I roll it in my mouth before letting it pop out and taking a long lick from the base of his sack back across the whole thing one last time. I could spend days down here, but I want to get back up to the main attraction. My tongue continues its trail up along Carter’s shaft, and I spread my tongue as wide as I can, trying to hit every square inch of the underside of his cock as I slowly move to the head. I reach my destination and let my tongue play around his dickhead for a few seconds. I look up and make eye contact with him while I do it. He watches me play with him and caresses my hair with his hand. Eventually his hand moves to the back of my head, and starts to gently push me forward. “Do it,” he whispers, “suck me.” I can’t help but smile. I love when he tells me what to do. My mouth opens wide and I let him push me onto his dick. It fills my whole mouth, and I try to open up my throat. I’ll take as much as he’ll give me. All the way to the base if he wants to. I need him to fill me up. “Oh, god!” My nose hits his pubes and I have to pull off before I choke. I’ve never had someone deep throat me right off the bat like that, but I bet it feels really good. I settle into a rhythm and enjoy the feeling of Carter filling up my mouth. It’s the best. A hot, hard, throbbing cock in my mouth. And not just any cock, but Carter’s. I’m sure it feels good for him, but it’s hard to imagine that he’s liking it more than I am. I love how big it looks and feels when it’s up that close. I love the taste of it, the lightly salty skin with occasional drops of precum mixed in. I love the smell of his crotch, amplified every time my nose gets close to the base. And most of all, the perfect ridge of his head as it slides across my tongue and past my lips with every bob of my head. “Jackson, you’re so good at this,” Carter sighs. I look back up at into his eyes and give him another deep throating. Carter rewards me with a shudder and a moan. I hold up my fingers in a pinching motion with about an inch of space between them. I want to ask him a question, but not enough to let his dick out of my mouth. Not yet, at least. “Oh yeah, I’m close,” he says, picking up on my gesture. Good. This time I was a little more prepared to take all of him in, and I hold my lips against the base of his dick for a few more seconds. I want to have him right on the edge, but I don’t want him to cum. Not yet. Carter gasps for breath as I pull off. His cock twitches once or twice in my hand before it stops. Perfect. He didn’t quite pull the trigger, but he was damn close. I want to savor this a little bit longer before I let him cum. Carter seems to be on the same page. Taking the lead, he helps me get up and guides me to the couch, kissing me the whole way. I feel my knees hit the edge of the seat and he sets me down slowly, until he’s lying on top of me. He breaks the kiss only to pull my shirt off before coming back at me full force. I feel his hands undoing my belt and pants. He starts to move from my lips to my neck, then down across my collar bone. I like where this is going. His mouth follows the obvious trail down my chest and across my stomach while his hands slowly work my pants over my hip bones, down my legs and off my feet. Before I know it, we’ve traded places from where we were a few minutes ago and Carter is bobbing up and down on my cock. He was never bad at it - Carter isn’t bad at anything as far as I know - but he’s gotten so much better. He’s so much more confident, more in control. Even though he’s technically in the subservient position, it’s almost like he’s still running the show, and with the way he can deep throat, he could probably get me off just about whenever he wants to. I let him go for a few minutes, just lying back and enjoying the wet, warm pleasure engulfing my cock. I’m about to get his attention and try to switch places again when he starts moving down my shaft towards my balls. As I feel his tongue slide across them, an involuntary shudder shoots through my body. “Are you-” I cut him off. “No, that feels amazing,” I gasp. “Don’t stop.” He doesn’t stop. He keeps licking, and I practically lose my mind as tingles shoot through my body. I feel him take one of my balls into his mouth completely, then switch to the other, just like I did with him. No wonder he was going wild for it. Then a new thought strikes me. Last time we did this, I didn’t just stop at his balls. I wonder if... I simultaneously try to lift up my hips to give him better access while at the same time lightly pushing down on his head. I want him to try something for me, but I figure he’ll stop me if he doesn’t want to. “Oh, fuck!” I can’t stop myself from crying out as his tongue flicks across my asshole for the first time. It’s like what I was feeling when he was working on my balls, but five times stronger. He licks across my taint for a few seconds before taking another pass across my hole. I manage not to yell this time, but just barely. I slowly start to get used to the feeling, but my hips are practically moving on their own, squirming and writhing with each lap of his tongue. This must be why Carter was loving it so much last time when I did it to him. Carter pulls off and licks back up the shaft of my dick and pulls the head back into his mouth. He uses one hand to stroke along with the motion of his mouth while the other plays with my balls, still extra sensitive from the bath they just received. His lower hand moves slowly backwards, now stroking lightly back along my taint. I grind my hips forward, subconsciously trying to soak up more and more of the erotic feelings shooting across my body. His fingers slide even farther back, and I feel them brush over my hole. Oh god, yes. I would never have asked for it, but now that he’s right there, I definitely want it. I’ve seen porn where they do it - a finger in the ass during a blowjob - but I never thought it would be this exciting. I’ve tried my own finger before, but it didn’t do a ton for me. Right now, however, with Carter sucking me off and my ass so warmed up from his rimming, I feel like it would make me cum the instant it got in there. I push my hips down farther, trying to relay the message. Carter keeps the rhythm of his mouth steady, but I feel the pressure of his finger increase a little. Not enough to push through, but enough to send another wave of pleasure through my body. “Do it,” I beg, “Carter, do it.” The pressure gets stronger and stronger until… I feel Carter’s finger slide in to the first knuckle. “Oh, fuck yes!” The whole lower half of my body feels like it’s on fire. I feel my insides tightening up, sucking on Carter’s finger. He pushes it farther and I feel the second knuckle slide past my sphincter. A massive tingling is building in my balls, but this time I can feel it in my ass, too. I’m about to… “Oh, god, I’m cumming!” I try to warn Carter, but it’s definitely too late at this point. He’s either taking it in the mouth or all over his face. Since we’re on the couch in my living room, I have to hope he’s ready to swallow. I unload into him and he takes every last drop of what must be a huge load. As I feel the last spurt, Carter sucks all along my dick, cleaning it off and making me shiver. I look down and am struck yet again by what I see. Carter Mulkins just swallowed my load. Amazing. From what I can see, he was enjoying himself quite a bit - it looks like he’s still hard as a rock. And as much as I’d love to watch him lick and suck the cum out of me for the rest of the night, I can’t let him have all the fun. I maneuver us around and get Carter to sit on the couch. I wasn’t mistaken, his raging erection hasn’t subsided in the least. It honestly looks like it might be even harder, if that’s possible. I don’t waste a second getting right back to it. I suck Carter and let my hands work over his stomach, thighs, and of course his cock and balls. Even after my own explosive orgasm I couldn’t tell you which side of things I like more. Blowing my load felt great, but I love having Carter’s fat, juicy cock in my mouth. And there’s one thing I might like even more than that. Carter’s ass. I slide down to his balls and let my tongue reach back as far as it can go. He gets the message and slides his hips up, just like I did, giving me full access to his beautiful back door. I nuzzle in underneath his balls and start licking his asshole like there’s no tomorrow. “Jackson, that’s awesome,” Carter says in between breaths. He’s twitching and squirming under my ministrations. It’s the same reaction as the last time I did it to him, and this time I’m not holding anything back. The taste, the smell, and the feeling of his ass are an intoxicant for me. The more I have of Carter, the more I want. I reach down and start playing with my own cock, already hard again. I’ve never jerked off twice in a row, and even all the times Carter and I have fooled around it’s just been one and done. Here I am getting turned on again so quickly just by eating someone’s ass, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Truthfully, I’d love to get Carter to play with my ass more, too. This is the first time he’s rimmed me, and the finger he put up there was amazing. It’s more than I’ve ever done with anyone, but I definitely didn’t reach my limit. If anything it made me want to explore more of what Carter can do to my ass, and how good he can make me feel. I wonder if… No way. Even as turned on as he is, I don’t think Carter would go for it. We’ve never talked about it. Aren’t you supposed to talk about that sort of thing before you do it? I just don’t know if… “Fuck, Jacks, I’m close.” Jacks? He’s never called me that before. It’s like, a pet name or something. I try not to let my smile interfere with what I’m doing. He called me Jacks. Suddenly, I have an idea. A perfect compromise to what I was thinking about before. A way to make both of us feel good. As much as it pains me to do it, I pull my head out from between Carter’s legs. I stand up then climb onto Carter and straddle him. Our mouths find each other’s and we start making out again. This time though, it’s a totally different kind of making out. It’s sloppy, steamy kissing. Just kissing each other like there’s no tomorrow, barely stopping to breathe in between. It makes what we were doing before look like a couple of chaste pecks. Sitting on Carter’s stomach, it traps his dick directly under me, pressing it between my ass crack and his stomach. I feel the heat radiating off of it against one of my most sensitive areas, and I’m amazed at how big it feels down there. I wiggle my ass a little bit to nestle it even further into my crack, and I feel it twitch when I do. With how close Carter must have been to cumming, it’s not going to take much. I slowly start to rock my hips, sliding my ass back and forth over Carter’s raging hard on. I can feel the ridge of his cockhead rubbing against my hole as I do it, and I hear an involuntary moan of pleasure escape my lips. The whole area is slick with spit from our combined blowjobs and rimjobs, and Carter’s dick slides up and down my crack with the perfect amount of friction. I pick up my pace and Carter’s breathing gets shorter in between our kisses. I feel his hand wrap around my cock and start stroking me furiously. I tighten my butt cheeks to put more pressure on Carter’s rod and speed up even more. There’s no question, we’re both about to cum. With a final thrust of my hips, Carter throws back his head and cries out as I feel his cock swell against my asshole. I can feel each pump of his orgasm, and his hot boy juice shooting against the base of my cock and onto his stomach. It’s more than enough to send me over the edge, and I unleash my second load of the night all over Carter’s chest. For a few minutes we sit like that, catching our breath and enjoying the contact of each other’s skin in the afterglow of our orgasms. My body still feels like it’s on fire. After some time, Carter looks up at me and leans in for another kiss. While the others were frantic and full of passion this one is light and emotional. Before we were trying to get off, now it feels like we’re trying to be close to each other. “You came twice,” he says, sending a glance down to his chest and stomach, which are more than a little bit damp with our combined loads. “I guess you make me feel pretty good too,” I say. We kiss again, just as soft, but longer. I never want this to end. The pleasant haze of sexual aftermath, shared between the two of us. It isn’t as physically pleasurable or intense as the deed itself, but these minutes together are the ones where I really feel intimate with Carter. The soft moments. The tender moments. Even though he isn’t sure about this, I know we’re connected to each other. I know he values me, and values what we have together. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t. He wouldn’t hold me so close, and wouldn’t share these long, affectionate kisses. I know he hasn’t made up his mind, but deep down in my heart I know he wouldn’t hurt me. I could stay here forever, resting my body against Carter’s. This could be heaven. ... That being said, we should probably go take a shower before any of this stuff gets on the couch. ------- ------- ------- ------- I get to be the big spoon tonight. Every breath I take is a good one, breathing in the sweet, warm smell of Carter’s hair. Even though he just took a shower in my house using my soap and shampoo, he still smells like Carter. He smells perfect. I pull him in tighter and lightly kiss the back of his neck. If you saw us right now, you’d probably think that we’re trying to fall asleep like this, but we’re not. The light’s still on and we haven’t gotten under the covers yet, even though it’s a cold night. We’re both stripped down to just our boxers, burning off the residual heat from the hot water of the shower. With us nestled so close, it’s slow to leave our bodies, and I secretly hope that it will take the rest of the night for it to happen. I guess we’re cuddling. For some reason I try to fight back the smile as it comes to my lips. We’ve never cuddled like this before. We’ve done it immediately before or after fooling around, or a few times as we’ve gone to sleep, but this is just being together for the pure sake of closeness. It feels like, I dunno... ‘couple’ stuff. Why do I always fight it? Why can’t I just be happy with this? In a perfect world, where Carter and I are ‘boyfriends,’ this is exactly what we would be doing right now. We would have just gotten each other off on the couch in a fit of passion that couldn’t even get more than a few feet past the entryway of the house. Then we would have taken a shower together, playfully washed each other’s backs, and now we would be right here. Exactly right where we are. I can’t help but laugh at myself on the inside. Maybe it’s beyond me to simply relax and be happy with what I have. [ Bzzzt. Bzzzt. Bzzzt. ] Carter’s phone goes off, making us both jump in surprise. He squirms his way out of my grip a little bit to see who it is. “Give me a sec, ok?” he says, propping himself up on his elbow then swinging his feet off the edge of the bed. “Yeah, no prob,” I say. Carter gets up and leaves the room as he answers the phone. “Hey, what’s up?” I hear him say as he closes the door. I follow the sound of his feet down the hallway and stairs until I can’t hear them anymore. I flip onto my back and shiver, suddenly aware of how cold it is in the room. I didn’t notice it before, partly because I was pulled up so tightly against Carter, keeping at least the front half of me toasty warm. The other part is just being close to Carter. It makes me... warm, I guess. I wonder what time it is. I grab my phone and take a quick look. 11:36. No wonder I’m so tired. It’s been a long day. School, then an hour or two chilling at Ko’s house before driving over to the arcade for our party, then a few hours of playing video games and stuffing my face with pizza and fries. I’m honestly surprised I’m not more tired. I don’t want to move, but I quickly decide I’m too cold to stay on top of my covers. I need to get into bed. But I haven’t brushed my teeth yet. Damn. I have to get under my covers because I’m cold, but I can’t get into bed until I brush my teeth, otherwise I’ll just have to get up again later. And to brush my teeth I have to get up and walk all the way over to the bathroom. What if it’s even colder over there? Ugh, talk about a total white-mare. I will myself up and over to the bathroom and start brushing my teeth, dreaming of the day when scientists have the technology to brush my teeth for me without needing to get up out of bed. I finish up, take a quick lap with a flosser, then put a bow on the whole process with a quick bout of mouthwash. Sparkling clean, I quickly scoot back over to my bed and get under the covers. The temps are supposed to get down below freezing tonight, and it’s definitely starting to feel like it. … … Alright, I’ll admit it! I don’t care about my oral hygiene that much. I’m just trying not to think about Carter and who the hell he’s on the phone with right now. At first I thought it might be his mom or dad, but from what I’ve seen they probably wouldn’t bat an eye at him leaving the house to crash at a friend’s place on a school night, any more than they’ve cared when I’ve come over to spend the night at his place. If they were worried about it, they would have called before 11:45 anyway, right? So maybe it’s a friend like Gray or Ricky calling. I’m sure those guys are still up. But they would have just texted if they needed something. That really only leaves one person… No. I’m not going to think about it. I’m going to think about something else. Plus, Carter’s been on the phone for almost ten minutes now, so he has to be finishing soon, and then I can just ask him who it was, and I’m sure it won’t be anything important. Sometimes I wish I could take all the negativity and confusion in my head, and just cancel it all out. Just get rid of it. Forget about all the things that make me sad, or make me hold back from doing what I want. How great would it be to feel like everything is perfect just the way it is? But ignorance isn’t bliss. Not even close. All those thoughts that won’t stop popping into my head, all that fear and worry, the endless wondering and constant need to analyze everything around me? That’s just me trying to protect myself. Because Sam and Ko were right when they were talking to me earlier tonight. I’m not happy, and I’m not satisfied. But somehow I keep convincing myself that I am. Even if it’s only for ten minutes or an hour at a time, I keep letting myself believe that things are going to work out just fine. Or is it the other way around? Should I be happy with what I’ve got, and it’s my negativity that’s the lie? I always try to write off the doubt, but it’s there to tell me something. Ko, Sam, and even Katy echo that voice in my head, and they help it get stronger. When I take a few minutes by myself, away from the distraction of Carter, I can hear it loud and clear. He always gives me just enough to keep me hanging on. A wink during a conversation in study hall. A hand on my back when he passes me in the hallway at school. A kiss, a blow job, and ten minutes of cuddling together. It’s enough pieces of what I need to make me think the thing is whole. And tonight? Tonight I felt we were closer than we’ve ever been before. He kissed me the second he walked in the door. He pulled me in against his body. We came together, held each other, and shared some of the sweetest, softest kisses I could imagine in the afterglow. And what did he say? ‘Nobody makes me feel this way. Nobody. Just you.’ Just me. I’m the only person he feels this way about. He said it himself. I can’t expect him to make a decision or figure his whole life out in a day, or even a month. He’s going to take his time, like we talked about last time I was brave enough to bring up the subject. He has to take his time, there isn’t any other way to do it. I still believe in what he said, and I believe that he meant it. I believe in the feeling I had as we laid together on the couch. He doesn’t have it all figured out, and I’m going to have to wait, and it’s not going to be easy. But he won’t hurt me. He knows there are boundaries, things I won’t be able to weather while I’m waiting. I could see the understanding in his eyes tonight, could see the importance of what we have together reflected in his heart. I believe it. I believe it even though I know. I know he’s talking to Beth. ... I can’t think about this anymore. I pull out my phone for a distraction, and I’m happy to see that I missed a few texts from Katy. After a quick read, I shoot back a response. It was nothing important, just something about a show we’ve both been watching on Netflix. She probably won’t get it until tomorrow morning, but it holds my attention for a few seconds. I check out my Snaps, but there’s nothing too exciting. Why do girls take so many pictures of their shoes? What are they trying to make us see? The world may never know. Then it’s over to Facebook. I realize it’s my cousin’s birthday tomorrow so I send him a quick message. I scroll through my feed and watch a short video about some delicious-looking dessert that you can supposedly make in the microwave. I watch highlights from a soccer game that happened yesterday in La Liga. Then I… I hear footsteps in the hall at the exact moment I see it. Each step I hear is a little bit louder than the last, and the crescendo mirrors the anger I’m starting to feel. By the time I hear the doorknob turning, I’m ready to explode. “Sorry, I had to talk…” He stops when he sees the look on my face. “What?” I’m too furious to even answer. If I open my mouth right now, nothing good could possibly come out. Instead I hold my phone up to him. I want him to see it. He needs to see it, just like I saw it. He needs to know what I’ve been looking at for the last sixty seconds. A picture of a dress. A caption that says, “Can’t wait for the Winter Dance with my boy!” Tagged in the photo: Carter Mulkins. The post is from Beth Beeler. “Jackson, I can explain! She surprised me, and was so excited. I can’t say no, it wouldn’t be fair to her-” “Go home.” Neither of us say anything after that. The words echo in my bedroom until all I can hear is the ringing in my ears. Carter looks like he’s in shock, too surprised to respond. How can he be surprised? After what he told me tonight. After how he made me feel. Not ten minutes later, he forgets about all of it, and goes running back to his girlfriend. And then to say that it wouldn’t be fair! Apparently Beth is the only person who deserves fairness from Carter, because I’m sure not getting any. “Go home, Carter.” I say it again, hoping that he’ll grab his stuff and leave. I want to have a meltdown right now, but I won’t give him the satisfaction of seeing me yell, punch the wall, or cry into my pillow. It would kill me to let him know how much this hurts me. “Jackson-” “I liked you,” I say, willing myself not to cry. “I liked you a lot. And I never thought you would like me back.” “I do like you, Jackson,” he says. “I just-” “No.” I point at Carter, and I can’t keep my finger from shaking. “Not like I did. And you convinced me, too. I thought we were…” I can’t bring myself to say it. I silently pray that he’ll leave, but he takes a step closer to me. “We are,” he says. “No,” I say. “We’re not. You’re too worried about…” It’s hard to choke out the words but I have to. “You just want to be ‘fair’ to your fucking girlfriend.” That word tastes like shit when I say it. It makes me so furious, but also makes me realize that it’s not all directed at Carter. I’m mad at myself. Carter is why this all happened, but I’m the one who could have stopped it. I could have listened to all those doubts in my head and let them protect me. He didn’t have the guts to tell me that we would never be together, but I didn’t have the guts to realize it for myself. Instead, I just kept trying. Stupidly, pathetically trying. I had to see what it was like to be with Carter. And now, I have to admit that I failed. “I was so amazed that you wanted to be with me,” I say, “that I was blind.” I feel a hot tear burn its way down my cheek. “Blind to the fact that you don’t.” Carter takes another step toward me and reaches out. “I do,” he implores. I pull away from him and instead hold the phone back up in his face. “You. Fucking. Don’t.” He won’t look at the phone, like the image on it will hurt him if he does. I hope he stares right into it. I hope it fucking kills him. “I can explain...” he starts to tell me. He could have said so many things, but ‘I can explain’ is the worst. Explain, talk, tell, compromise. It’s all bullshit, and the way he’s looking down and away tells me exactly how much conviction I should expect from a person like him. He could have said ‘I’ll cancel.’ Or what about, ‘I'll drop everything. I'll make my decision.’ Hell, he could have even said, ‘I’m choosing Beth.’ He didn’t. He just wants to explain. And I’m such a good fucking listener. “Go home, Carter.” He grabs his clothes from next to the bed, and walks out without another word.
  7. Chapter 21 I should have known better. I stayed up extra late last night and didn’t even play video games. I worked on my English homework like I was supposed to. I practiced my presentation and worked out exactly what I was going to say today in class. Apparently, no one else puts the same amount of importance on English homework that I do. When Mr. Boyle announced for the first group to get up in front of the class, they looked terrified. As he surveyed the room, he didn’t see a lot of confidence. So we got an extra ten minutes to practice with our groups. I like being an overachiever, but I like sleeping, too. I fish the notes I need out of my backpack and make my way back to the back corner of the room where the other two girls in my group sit. I grab the empty desk in front of them and take a seat. “It's not going to happen.” “Don't worry, you still have time.” Jen looks up at me and flashes an apologetic smile. I'm interrupting their conversation, but it's not like I have any choice. “I've been dropping hints all week,” Rachel says, “but he hasn't done anything.” “Ugh,” Jen rolls her eyes. “That makes two of us. Tyler's been avoiding me all week.” Rachel shrugs. “Maybe he's nervous because he's going to ask you.” “Or he's not going to and he wants to be as far away as possible when he asks some other girl.” Rachel turns to me now. “Sorry, Jackson. Winter Dance stuff,” she says. “Be glad you're a boy.” Jen gives me a dirty look, but not in a serious way. “Yeah, you get to ask whoever you want,” she says. “We have to sit around and drop hints, waiting for these oblivious boys to get it together and ask us.” If she only knew. Our school's Winter Dance is a few weeks away, and it's pretty much all the school is talking about. You can hardly walk to your next class without witnessing five proposals in the hallway. I'm not surprised it's on Rachel and Jen's minds. “Do you know who you’re going with?” asks Rachel, turning to me. “Um...” I can feel my cheeks getting hot. I've been fairly successful at not thinking about the Winter Dance, and I'd prefer to keep it that way. “I'm not sure yet,” I say, hoping they'll leave it alone. Needless to say, my situation makes it complicated. At this point my plan was to stay home and pretend it's not happening. “You have plenty of time,” says Jen. She lowers her voice and leans in closer. “Judging by the rate at which Tyler and Ben are operating, at least.” I can’t help but laugh at the way she says it. I know Jen from Drama Club, and she actually reminds me a little bit of Katy. Same sense of humor and a similar tendency to be dramatic about things, but mostly for comedic effect. Rachel is one of her best friends, and while I don’t know her quite as well, we’ve all had English class together since our freshman year. “I’m sure they’ll figure it out,” I offer. That earns me a pair of eye rolls. Boys are dumb sometimes. You won’t hear me arguing. “So do you know who you’re going to ask?” asks Jen. It’s an innocent enough question, but I was hoping they wouldn’t ask it. “Not... not really,” I say. Jen and Rachel exchange a look. It's like one of Katy's looks. I can tell that it means something, but I'm not sure what. It's in that secret best friend language that so many girls seem to have. “What?” I ask. They look at each other again and then back at me. “What?” I ask again. I'm equal parts amused and annoyed. It's so obvious that they have something else to say. “Are you gay?” asks Rachel. The shock of the question hits me and I instinctively start to put all my defenses up. I need to think fast to worm my way out of this one. But then I stop. I don’t need to run away, or create a diversion, or change the subject. I can just answer her. I can just say that I’m gay, and I feel like it’ll be fine. Maybe it's the way she asked the question. It was so neutral, like she could be asking me what color ink I'm using in my notes or what page number we should turn to in the book. But maybe it's just me. I haven't really thought about being ‘out’ at school in a while, figuring it would happen in its own time. I suppose that time is now. “Yeah,” I say, “I am. So that makes it tough. Not a lot of choices.” “I know, right?” says Jen without missing a beat. “We were just talking about that the other day - hypothetically, not about you. But what options do you even have?” “I mean, there aren't that many people you even could go with,” says Rachel. “Like, as a date,” she corrects herself. I shrug sheepishly. “I honestly haven't even thought about it that much.” I almost have to laugh at myself for getting worked up about telling them I’m gay. I should have known the girls would be more worried about who I want to go to the dance with than the fact that I’m not heterosexual. “Well, if you don't find anyone to go with, you're welcome to tag along with us,” offers Rachel. “Not that we have any idea what we're doing for it,” says Jen. “We'll probably end up going...” She looks at both of us with a confused look on her face. “What?” asks Rachel. “When a guy goes to a dance single it's called 'stag,' right?” asks Jen. We both nod our heads. “So what's it called when we get stuck going without dates?” Rachel shrugs. “I dunno. Crone?” Jen and I burst out laughing. “Excuse me, Mr. Willard?” Busted. Our English teacher looks at me disapprovingly over the end of his reading glasses. His look conveys an unspoken ‘Shouldn't you be working on your presentation?’ “Sorry,” I mumble as I turn back to the girls. Rachel and Jen lean in so we're quieter. “Anyway,” Jen says, “You're welcome to come with us one way or the other.” “And if either of us wind up going 'crone,'” Rachel says, “you can take one of us as your date if you want.” “Thanks,” I say. I mean it. That’s nice of them to offer. “But no pressure,” she adds. “With any luck we'll both have dates, but it doesn't hurt if we're all each other's plan B if we need it, right?” We all laugh again, but this time more quietly so that Mr. Boyle doesn't notice. We actually take a few minutes and talk about our English project. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who did my homework, and both girls are pretty much ready to go. It’s really just a matter of bringing our three parts together. After a few minutes of ironing out the details, Mr. Boyle calls the class back to order and sends the first group up to give the class an interpretation of the short story they were assigned. I manage to stay with it for about half the presentation, but then my mind starts to wander. Jen and Rachel brought up a good point: Who am I going to the Winter Dance with? I wasn't lying when I told them I hadn't given it much thought up until now. But it's not because I don't care. It's because I'm dreading it. The obvious choice is to go with Katy. We went together last year and had a good time dancing and goofing off all night. Only upperclassmen are allowed to actually go, so it was a good excuse for her to bring me along as a plus one. The best part was how low the stakes were for both of us. We didn’t worry about any of the usual drama that plagues people at school dances, we just had fun. While the entire school was completely wrapped up in who was going with whom and what they were going to wear, Katy and I were scouring thrift stores for a 'new' dress for her to wear. That's how little we cared, and it was awesome. But this year is different now that Jeff is in the picture. While he hasn't officially asked Katy to the dance yet, it's a no-brainer. And if she goes with him it means they'll go in a big group with the basketball kids. So while I can take comfort knowing that Katy will be there, she's not a valid option for who I can actually go with. My next best option, at least from my perspective, would be going stag with Ko. It would be fun, but mostly because of how much he would hate it. That would be amusing enough to sell me on the idea, but he wouldn’t go for it in a million years. If I even bring it up with him he’ll probably just tell me to come over to his house and play video games instead. Which, to be honest, doesn't sound that bad. But here's the problem: I really want to go. And let's up the ante on that problem, because I don't even have to mention what I actually want to have happen. I won’t mention it, because it's impossible. Completely impossible. If you made a Venn diagram with what I want to happen on the left and reality on the right, it wouldn’t even be a Venn diagram. It would be two sad, awkward circles about sixty feet away from each other. But even though there are about ten thousand reasons why it could never, ever happen, I still want to go to the Winter Dance with Carter. To start, it would basically mean coming out to everyone in the school. That's a huge deal, and regardless of how Carter actually feels about me and where this is all going, I wouldn't expect something like that to happen. Hell, I'm not sure that I'd want to be so public about it, much less make Carter go through the same thing. So I’ll give him a pass on that one. But even if we went as friends it would raise almost as many questions. If we were going with a big group of singles that would be one thing. If it was just the two of us, that’s totally different, and kind of weird. Even to me that seems weird, and I’m the one who’s over here fantasizing about it. You wouldn't be able to avoid some awkward speculation from the rest of the school. And if we wanted to throw a little cherry on top of all that, there's Beth. There's no way she would let Carter get away with that. Even with how little they're hanging out now and how tenuous their relationship might seem to Carter's friends, I'm sure she's going to lock him down for the Winter Dance. Anything else would be tantamount to a breakup, which Carter still doesn't seem like he's ready to do. So where does that leave me? No Katy, no Ko, and no Carter. Sam? It would be a good excuse for him to go, and we would have a good time. But it raises just as many questions as going with Carter would. If you're going to go stag, why choose to go with the only other openly gay guy in the entire school? Luckily I remember that I’m in the middle of English class before I let out a huge sigh. I guess I can wait a week or two and see how Jen and Rachel's plans work out. Plan B if we need it. With the delay caused by everyone else’s lack of preparation, we don’t even wind up presenting. Us and two other groups get pushed back to tomorrow, and by the time the bell rings I'm no closer to coming up with a good plan for the Winter Dance than I was the last time it rang, at the beginning of class. I gather up my books and head into the halls. I get to an intersection in the hallway and decide to take the long way to class. Next is a double period of Chemistry lecture, and I don’t really feel like sitting next to Carter with all this dance stuff so fresh in my mind. Even a couple extra minutes of walking around should be enough to clear my head. This route takes me through the fine arts part of the building, which is where a lot of the sophomore homerooms are. While they’re only a year younger than me at most, it still amazes me how much smaller the kids seem up here. Fifteen seems a lot younger than sixteen, or maybe it’s just another year of high school experience under your belt that makes you seem older. I’m passing by the drama classroom when I see Sam grabbing a few books from his locker. I figure I still have a minute or two to kill before class, so I move over to his side of the hallway and bump into him. “Watch where you’re going, sophomore,” I say in my deepest, gruffest sounding voice. “You’re not scary,” Sam replies, without even turning around. “What if I was going to beat you up and take your lunch money?” I ask, a little disappointed that he didn’t even flinch. If you can’t pick on kids smaller than you, what’s the point of high school? Sam laughs and turns around. “I would just curl up in the fetal position until you left me alone,” he says. “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” I can’t help but crack up. The best part is, that might actually be his defense mechanism of choice. He’s not exactly big and tough, more small and cute. “It’s lucky you’re not here to beat me up, because I cannot be late for History again,” he says. History’s clear on the other side of the building, so even now Sam might be cutting it close. I better not keep him. “I was just saying hi,” I tell him. “I’ll beat you up next time.” “I’ll grow out my fingernails,” he says, swiping at me like a cat. “Alright, dude,” I say laughing, “I’ll see you tonight.” Sam turns back to look at me and tilts his head to the side. “What’s tonight?” he asks. I shake my head at him. “You know what tonight is. Do you want a ride?” Sam pouts at me. “Yeah, fine. Pick me up at ten to six.” With that, he walks away in the direction from which I came. We have our end of season soccer party tonight, and for some reason Sam doesn’t want to come. I know he was trying to, or possibly actually hooking up with Craig, our soccer team captain. I wonder if things got sour. I can’t think of why else he wouldn’t want to hang out. I figure if Ko and I show up at his house to pick him up, he won’t have much of a choice. It’ll nice to get to hang out with him outside of practice. Between the play, wrapping up the soccer season, and all the time I’ve been spending with Carter, I haven’t seen much of Sam lately, at least socially. Not to mention, it might be a good opportunity to bring up the dance. Even if I don’t ask him outright if he wants to come, I can at least plant the seed and see if he’s interested. I reach the door of the Chemistry classroom and I vow that will be my last thought about the Winter Dance, at least until after school. Up until my conversation with Jen and Rachel it was hardly on my mind at all, but now I feel like I’m swept up in Dance fever like the whole rest of the student body. I’m not going to think about it. I’m just going to go to Chemistry, learn some science, and flirt with Carter. If anything can take my mind off of everything else, it’s him. ------- ------- ------- ------- “What is it we're doing again?” asks Sam, for maybe the fifth time. I sigh and roll my eyes. “It's the end of-” “Yeah, I know,” he says, “it's the end of season party. But what are we doing?” “We do this every year,” Ko says. “Trust me, it's really fun.” I see Sam shaking his head in the back seat out of the corner of my eye. “When I think 'fun,' I think 'roller skating party,'” he says. He doesn't make much of an effort to hide the sarcasm in his voice. “It's not a roller skating party,” I say. “It's just... at the same place where they have the roller skating parties.” All three of us laugh as I say it, and Ko takes a left turn into the parking lot of the aforementioned 'place where they have the roller skating parties.' It's been a tradition for as long as anyone can remember, maybe ever since Coach Finlan took over as the JV coach of our soccer program. That could have been twenty years ago for all I know. Regardless of when it happened, the result is the same. We have our team's end of the season party at Roller Palace. Roller Palace has been our town’s dinky little skating rink for ages. My mom remembers skating there as a kid. It’s the family business for Coach Finlan, and it’s a huge point of pride for the guy to host our party. Sam can be as sarcastic as he wants about it, but the end of season party is awesome. Coach gives everyone thirty dollars worth of game tokens, and we get to play all the games we want. We can trade in tickets for the normal prizes he has, plus a bunch of ones that parents donate for us to win. He puts out tons of pizza and snacks, and opens up the bowling alley and skating area for us to do whatever we want. It's like a playground, but for tweens. The best part though, is the classic games. The Finlans take pride in their arcade, and most of the games are straight out of the 80s, meticulously cared for by none other than Coach, and his father before him. We’re talking original arcade hits. Pac-Man. Whack-A-Mole. Space Invaders. Frogger. BurgerTime. It’s stuff you can’t play anywhere else, and most of them are still only 1 Token to play. Needless to say, at least some of us are excited for the party. Ko parks his car, and the three of us hop out. From the number of cars in the parking lot it looks like most everyone is already here, but we see one or two other stragglers coming in from the as we approach the front doors. Almost late. Pretty typical timing when Ko is involved. When we open the front doors, I’m hit with the familiar cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. Lights flash and alarms blare in every direction, with a multitude of games practically screaming to get your attention. The odor of bowling alley blends nicely with that of popcorn. It’s a strange mix, but a staple of my childhood. We check in with Coach at the prize area, collect our tokens, and hear a little bit about the prizes we can win. There's a really nice jacket with our team logo on it that catches my eye plus a cool looking iPhone speaker dock. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on either of those, but I secretly prepare myself to spend all my tickets on candy at the end of the night. “Same plan as always?” asks Ko, stuffing his pile of tokens into his pockets. I shrug. “I'm down if you are. Sam?” Sam raises his eyebrows at us. “What plan is this?” he asks. “We try to play every game in the arcade once,” Ko explains. “But we compete against each other on every one.” “If you beat the other players, you get to keep all the tickets from that game,” I say. “It should be even better with three people,” Ko adds. We both look at Sam expectantly, hoping he'll try it. It makes it a lot more fun, because you have to really crush it to keep the tickets from the game. “Alright, I'm in.” We stop in front of our first game, in the farthest corner of the arcade: Whack-A-Mole. I grab the whacker and line up in front of the machine. This game isn't my best, but it tends to spit out a good number of tickets. I take a few deep breaths and focus as Ko grabs a token out of my hand and puts it in the machine. The whole contraption erupts into life in an instant, blaring some circusey tune and flashing multicolored lights. Suddenly the first mole pops up and I nail it with the mallet. Another comes up, then another. I thrash the mallet in all directions, whacking mole after mole, only missing a handful throughout the course of the game. As the machine turns off, I check out my score. 210. Not bad. I grab the 21 tickets out of the base of game and step back to let Ko have a shot. He saunters up to the machine and feeds his token in. As I move in next to Sam to watch, I look over at him. He’s totally focused on the game, so he doesn’t notice me check him out. Not ‘check him out,’ but I take a look at him. As usual, he’s dressed impeccably, even for a thing like this. Well-fitted maroon corduroys with a slim gray v-neck. He’s so thin, but he makes it look pretty good. It’s hard to believe he only came to our school a few months ago. Maybe it’s because I see him so often at soccer practice, but it feels like he’s been around forever. Part of it’s the way he carries himself, though. He has a good sense of acting like he’s been there, and never making himself seem younger than the people around him. It’s probably because he’s switched schools a bunch. I imagine he doesn’t want to act like the new kid all the time. I can’t help but smile a little bit when I think about that. Sam came out to me the first day I met him, and soon after that I found out why he was switching schools. I never would have guessed that from the first time I saw him, the skinny little ginger kid coming by Nizen’s class so I could show him where the locker room was to get ready for soccer. What would this year have been like if Sam hadn’t shown up? He gets a lot of credit with my own comfort in coming out to a few more people. He makes it seem so easy and natural, and isn’t afraid to be freely out in school, which doesn’t seem to have slowed him down at all socially. And that’s not the only way he’s helped me assert myself this year. It was amazing to hear how candid he was about blowing a bunch of guys at his old school, and even wilder to have him tell us that he planned to do the same thing here at ours. And then he actually put his money where his mouth is, so to speak. It’s weird to think of a blow job as changing my life, but maybe it did. Something about Sam’s confidence and camaraderie in doing what he did empowered me. I doubt I would have ever had the guts to make a move on Carter. My now familiar mantra, “bold action, bold action, bold action.” He’s the inspiration for that, his blowjob the original ‘bold action.’ I'm taken back to the conversation I had this morning with Jen and Rachel. I don't know what made me think of it, but suddenly I can't get it out of my head. I need to find someone to go with me to the Winter Dance. If Sam’s oral was the original, somehow wrangling Carter to go with me to the dance would be the ultimate bold action. But how the hell could I make that happen? You'd think being somewhere like an arcade would help me to forget about that. There are so many noises and distractions. It's literally a place filled with machines that are designed specifically to grab your attention, and still I can't stop thinking about the dance. I try to shake it off and get focused. Winning these games is important right now, not finding a date to the stupid dance. Ko winds up beating me at Whack-A-Mole with a score of 240. Sam is terrible at it, and barely manages to get 150. Ko grabs our tickets and leads us to the next game. We play a few more and each of us manages to win at least one of them. For everything he was saying earlier, Sam is having fun. He didn’t even pretend to be bored when he killed us both at Jumpin’ Jackpot. The smell of pizza hits us, and we decide to take a break for some food soon. Next up is Skee Ball, then Super Skee Ball (which, as far as I can tell, is the same game but with all the points multiplied by 1,000), and then a break to grab some pizza. The best part about Skee Ball is that we can all play at once, since there are four of each game and the three of us are the only ones here right now. While we line up and fish out our tokens, I start thinking about the damn dance again. I can't get it off my mind. I finally decide that I have to at least talk about it, if only to satisfy the urge and get it out of my system. There’s no way I’ll win Skee Ball if I’m all bottled up like this. “You taking anyone to the dance?” I ask Ko. He throws his head back and groans at the mere mention of it. “Oh god, you too?” he asks. “That's all anyone would talk about today.” Sam nods in agreement. “Even a bunch of the underclassmen were,” he says. “Yeah,” I admit, “some girls in English cornered me about it today.” Ko picks up his first ball and moves to the starting line. “To answer your question, not a chance.” He tosses it right up the middle and sinks a 50-point shot. “There is literally nothing I want to do less than go to that stupid dance.” That answers that. Looks like I won't be going with Ko. Sam and I line up and toss our first balls, then I turn to him while he’s grabbing his second. “What about you?” I ask. “I'm certainly not that opposed to the idea of the dance,” he says. There’s something in his tone but I can’t tell what it is. Is it disappointment that he isn’t able to go unless an upperclassman takes him? “I guess as a sophomore you can’t-” “No.” I freeze in my tracks. Maybe that’s not what he was implying. “I won't go to the Winter Dance with you,” he clarifies. “Ouch,” Ko mutters to himself as he throws another one of his balls. I was trying to play it cool and build up to subtly hinting that Sam could only go if he went with me, and then I'd ask if he really wanted to go, and then I'd make a big show of realizing that he could just come with me as a workaround. But instead I've been sniffed out and turned down hard, in front of Ko no less. I decide to play dumb and cover my tracks. “What?” I ask in disbelief. “I wasn't asking if-” “Yeah you were,” Sam says, giving me a playful punch in the arm. “You're a pretty good actor, but not when it comes to boys.” I hold up my hands in confusion. “Plus you're all red,” he adds with a smile. I feel my face get even hotter, and I lean down to get another ball to throw. “Ok, I was,” I admit, “but I actually thought you might want to go.” “I kind of do,” Sam replies, “and I’m flattered that you thought of me. But I can't go to the Winter Dance with you.” “Why not?” “Because you're going with Carter,” he says. I shank my throw high and to the left. It clangs off the cage on the top of the machine and drops back down into the 10-point slot. “No I'm not,” I say. Why would Sam think I’m going to the dance with Carter? Obviously I would have told them if something like that was happening. “Why not?” Sam asks. He tosses his ball up in air and catches it. “Because he's...” I trail off. If I don’t say it, I won’t have to admit it to him or myself. “Because he's going with his girlfriend.” Sam finishes the thought for both of us. I lean down to get another ball and stay there so Sam can’t see the crushed look on my face. We both know exactly why Carter can't go to the dance with me, I'm not sure why Sam feels like he has to rub my nose in it. “Hey now,” Sam says lightly. He steps up next to me and puts a hand on my shoulder. “I feel like you need to say it out loud sometimes. You know what’s going on, you just need to admit it.” “Thank you,” Ko says as he launches his second to last ball. It hits a 100-point hole and the machine lets loose a siren wail. The noise snaps me out of it and I stand back up. I take a deep breath and turn back to them. “Ok,” I admit, “you're both right. Carter isn't going to the dance with me, and it's because of his girlfriend. Are you happy?” “No!” they both say in unison. I shrug my shoulders at them and throw my ball, way too hard. “But you shouldn't be happy either,” says Ko. “He means you shouldn't be satisfied,” Sam adds. “Carter likes you, there's no denying that. But for some reason he's still hesitating.” “Yeah,” Ko agrees, “you can't hesitate.” With that, he throws his last ball up in the machine and hits another 100. He totally cleaned up on Skee Ball. There's no way I'm going to beat him now, especially with my angry, 10-point throws. I chuck my next ball in even harder. “Can you at least try to get me some tickets?” Ko asks. I laugh and it makes me feel a little better. If Ko wants to get under my skin, I’ll get under his. “You're a nice guy, Jackson,” says Sam. “Maybe a little too nice.” He sees the look on my face and reconsiders. “That’s why we like you, and that’s probably why Carter likes you, too.” “Whatever,” I say. “He wouldn't be doing this if he didn't like you,” Sam says. “And you make it easy for him, because you're such a nice, understanding guy. But you can’t let your understanding get in the way of getting what you want.” It makes sense, but it doesn't really solve my problem. If I flip out and make demands, Carter will bail, and then I'm right back where I started. I throw another ball and manage to hit a 40, much to Ko’s delight. “So what do I do?” I ask. Sam strokes his chin for a second and thinks. “Here's the deal,” Sam says, having apparently hit on a solution. “Carter, for whatever reason, can't take you to the Winter Dance. And I guess you can live with that.” He pauses, then adds, “I couldn't, but I am a selfish, impatient person.” Ko and I both laugh, because it's true in a way. “Carter can't take you to the dance,” he says, “but he sure as hell can't take Beth.” Ko nods and points his finger at Sam in agreement. “So he won’t go with me, but he can’t go with Beth?” “Exactly,” says Sam. Ko finally chimes in. “He has to choose you, even if only means that he doesn’t go with Beth.” They’re right. Damn it, they’re always right. Sam has a way of telling me things like this. Things I already know but have been trying to avoid thinking about. And Ko knows me way too well to let me fool myself. Carter can't have it both ways. I can't keep letting him have that escape route, just in case he suddenly decides that I was some kind of mistake. It's my neck sticking out on the chopping block indefinitely while he gets to pick and choose what he wants to do, whenever he’s ready to do it. It's not fair, and I need to put an end to it. As enlightening as this realization is, however, it sort of just makes me sad. Sam notices the sudden downturn in my expression and he softens his stance a little. “It's just something you need to think about,” he says. “I know,” I admit. “I'm sorry,” says Sam. “I wasn't trying to make you upset.” He looks around as though he might find something to distract me. “Skee Ball?” he suggests, handing me my last ball. I sigh and turn to the machine. I don’t even feel like pissing off Ko anymore. Maybe we should table Super Skee Ball until after we get pizza. That might make me feel better. I take a step back to line up my throw, but bump into someone behind me. “If you really want to feel better,” Sam says softly into my ear, “I know just the thing that might do it.” I pause and try to think of what he might mean. He knows just the thing that might do it... I look up and see Ko cracking up, so I turn around to see what he thinks is so funny. Sam drops his hands to his side as soon as I see him, but not fast enough that I miss what he had been doing. He was moving his hand back and forth in front of his mouth, miming a blowjob. He wags his eyebrows up and down suggestively at me. “I will seriously throw this ball at your head,” I say, trying to look threatening, but my laughter gives me away. As much as they lay into me about Carter, Sam and Ko are my friends. It’s good that they have my back, and they always know how to cheer me up too. “Is that your solution to everything?” I ask. Sam shakes his head. “Sometimes you have to use violence to solve problems,” he says, “but blowjobs do the trick like, ninety percent of the time.” I toss my last ball and pull out the handful of tickets I managed to win. I can't be mad at Sam. He’s just trying to help, and he can always make me laugh by being his usual, ridiculous self. I'm actually thankful to have him around for stuff like this, since Ko isn't usually too interested in trying to psychoanalyze me. I hand my tickets to Ko, but he shakes his head and points to Sam. I look up at the scores in surprise. I figured he would beat me, but Sam actually beat both of us. He’s a Skee Ball natural. “Pizza?” I suggest. Sam and Ko both nod in agreement. Looks like I wasn’t the only one getting hungry. ------- ------- ------- ------- “What do you think?” I ask. Ko isn’t usually the best person to ask about stuff like this, but I still haven’t come to terms with our conversation from earlier. Now that Sam’s run off, he’s the only other person to talk to. Ko shrugs before throwing his ball. We’re back at Super Skee Ball, picking up right where we left off. “I think he's right,” Ko says. He turns around, for no other reason than to see the frown that appeared on my face. “Don't get all mopey about it,” he says, laughing. “But he's not wrong, ya know?” I nod in agreement, but I don't like it. Ko rolls his eyes and turns back to the game. “Dude, you'll be fine.” Ko sinks a 100,000-point ball to finish his game. It's a decent score, but nothing amazing. If I can focus, I can beat him. I line up my first shot and sink a 50,000. Not a bad start. “I think you’ll be fine,” Ko says. “I mean, I've been with people in way crappier situations. But I guess with less at stake,” he adds. I turn back to him and raise my eyebrow. “All you care about is what's on your stake.” Ko nods. “Hell yeah, man.” I can see him grab his crotch in the corner of my eye and my burst of laughter sends the next shot wild. “You can't grab your dick in an arcade,” I say. “That's how you wind up on one of those lists.” Ko laughs and I finish the rest of my game. I wind up beating Ko with my eighth shot, so I can afford to play aggressive on the last one, and I sink another 100,000 for good measure. He begrudgingly hands me his tickets and we head over to the next game on our tour. “Anyway, if you ever stop getting... ‘staked,’ that's when you should get worried.” “You think so?” I ask. “For sure,” Ko says. “If he's hooking up with you, then he wants to be with you. If he answers when you booty call, then you have nothing to worry about. Everything else is just details.” If anyone would know how these things work when you're doing a causal relationship, it's Ko. He's been slightly involved with plenty of people, but he's never actually gone for a girlfriend. This is the kind of stuff he has to deal with all the time. I shake my head as I think about it. How could you not get more involved? “I don't know how you do it,” I say. Ko smiles. “Usually with my cock.” “Gross,” I respond. “No, I mean like you have to deal with this every time you're with anyone.” He shakes his head. “It's not the same. You like Carter.” “And you don't like all the chicks you get with?” “I like them enough,” he says. “But you want something real with this kid.” He thinks for a second. “Don't you?” “Yeah,” I say without hesitation, but then I have to think about it. Do I? Do I want a relationship with Carter? This all happened so fast. A year ago Carter was just this hot guy that I knew from summer swim team. Three months ago he was a boy that I had a big crush on and drunkenly kissed at a party. Now he's a guy I'm hooking up with fairly regularly, but still won't commit because of his girlfriend. Do I want to try and turn him into the guy who's my boyfriend? After everything we've done and how far we've gone together, I pretty much have to. Why wouldn't I? He's the man of my dreams. Hot, popular, smart, and fun to be around. Half the girls in our school would probably jump at the chance to even get as far as I have with Carter, much less to have him be their boyfriend. And while we haven't quite ‘sealed the deal’ yet as far as that goes, I'm making progress. “You don’t sound very sure.” Ko's words bring me back to our conversation. It isn't that simple. This isn't an easy thing for either of us. Carter has plenty of reasons not to want to be in a relationship with me. He still doesn't seem confident with his sexuality, and whether he's gay or bi it's not an easy thing to figure out. It's not just a change for him, but for his friends and family, and then of course his girlfriend. Ugh. Even thinking of Beth puts a bad taste in my mouth. That's the nagging thing that I can't push out of my head. Beth. It's one thing to keep your options open, but usually that means staying single and avoiding commitment, not staying in an entirely different relationship. Not only that, but a relationship he doesn't even seem to like very much in the first place. From day one Carter's done nothing but complain about Beth, and for some reason he won't take that final step and end it once and for all. My phone vibrates in my pocket and I pull it out to check my messages instead of responding to Ko's looming question. He probably imagines that he stumped me with that one, and he's already playing the basketball game we’ve stopped in front of. He can think whatever he wants for the time being. It's a Snap from Sam. I pull up the app and wait for it to load. A photo. I tap it to check- Holy shit! It's a cock. And it looks like a pretty nice one. Why is he sending me this? Not that I'm closing it. I get a full ten seconds to look at this thing, and I'm damn well going to enjoy it. It doesn't look like Sam's, at least from what I've seen sneaking a few glances in the locker room after soccer practice. After we ate a few slices of pizza, Ko and I rallied up for the second half of our arcade tour, but Sam had other plans. He gave me all the tickets he had won - Ko was not thrilled with that - and took off. He said he’d see us later, but didn’t give any more details than that. I was going to grill him for more info, but he took off before either of us could really respond. Another Snap arrives, and I glance up to make sure Ko is still fully focused on his game. He got enough baskets in the first round to get another 30 seconds on the clock. He won’t be paying any attention to me for a while. Another photo. I look around to make sure no one else is walking around near me and I open it. This time it's not just the cock from the first picture, but Sam's lips around it, buried about halfway down the shaft. I contemplate taking a screenshot, but decide against it, instead just savoring it for the ten seconds it gives me. I can feel a throbbing in my underwear, and I'm glad I chose to wear briefs tonight. Even under jeans you'd probably be able to see a good sized lump if I was wearing boxers. “Yo, you're up!” I gasp as Ko jams a basketball into my stomach. I slip my phone into my back pocket and move up to the machine. I look up at the game and try to clear my mind. Don't think about Sam sucking a cock. Don't think about Sam sucking a cock. Don't think about Sam sucking- “You have to put money in it.” I look back at Ko and he's cracking up. I worry for a second that he knows what I'm looking at, but that's impossible. Of course he thinks it’s funny that my cage is so rattled I can't even remember how arcade games work. I pop in two tokens and wait for everything to light up. I slap the start button and get ready to make some baskets. I feel a vibration in my pocket. I just got a message. The machine springs to life and I start shooting the balls. I make one, then miss one. Make another then miss two. Sam is sucking someone off right now and sending me pictures of it. I miss another one. “Come on, noob! Get it together,” Ko says. I can't think about that. I can't think about the boner trying to push its way out of my pants, or the hot photos that Sam is sending me, or how I want to hook up with Carter, or anything like that. I just need to play basketball. The machine stops, and the gate comes down to keep the balls from coming through the return. I look up at my score. Pathetic. “Dude, I wanted to win, but I don't want you to suck this bad.” Ko grabs the few tickets that the machine spit out and and adds them to his pile. He looks like he has about two hundred. I might have seventy, and that’s including what Sam gave me. “Sorry,” I say, “I'm just, uh, not on my game tonight.” “Beating you doesn't help me if you don't win any tickets for me to steal,” says Ko. I shrug and we walk over to the next game. That last thing on my mind right now is tickets, or prizes, or anything. I have a message burning a hole in my pocket, and I want to see what Sam has in store for me this time. He made some cryptic comment at dinner about figuring something out to cheer me up, but I'm not sure if 'horny' really equates to 'cheered up.’ Maybe, maybe not. I let Ko get set up for his next game, this one an old-style shooting gallery. It's one of those ones that you point the gun down in the machine, and then targets pop up. It uses forced perspective to make it seem like the targets are really far away, but the machine is only about three feet deep. As a kid I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and I’ve wasted enough tokens playing the thing over the years that I’m pretty good at it. Maybe after I look at this picture I can get my head screwed on and actually win some tickets. It's not a picture, it's a video. I take a deep breath and another look over each of my shoulders, then I open it. My cock immediately pushes against the front of my pants, begging for release. It's a full on video of Sam's head bobbing up and down on the dick. It's from the top down, which means Sam got the person he's sucking to film it. Sam pulls off and lets the whole thing out of his mouth for a second, and I suddenly realize who it is. Craig. The captain of our soccer team. He's the only person I know who's here right now who could possibly have a cock this big. I’ve only ever seen it in the showers after practice, and even then I’ve only seen it soft. But it doesn’t disappoint, even then. Hard, it's got to be eight inches long, and pretty damn thick. I’d love to try sucking on something like that... Suddenly, with only 2 seconds left on the Snap, Sam jerks his head forward and buries it to the hilt in his mouth. Holy shit! Not even Carter could pull a move like that, and he's way better at deep throating than I am. I can't believe what I'm seeing. “Ugh, oh god!” I close my phone before the snap ends and try to look casual. I forgot I had the volume turned up, and in the din of the arcade I hadn't even noticed that there was sound on the video. But as Sam's lips hit the base of Craig’s cock, he decided to moan super loud, and right next to the camera at that. On one hand, it was enough for me to hear that it was definitely Craig, but unfortunately it was also loud enough that... “What the fuck are you watching over there?” Ko asks. He still has his face pressed up against the gun and is shooting targets as they pop up, but I can see the smirk on his face. “Nothing,” I say. The smirk spreads a little bit. I can act in a school play, but I wish I was a better liar. “Sounds like something pretty interesting,” Ko says. “No,” I say. I try to think fast. “Just a stupid snap from somebody.” Ko shoots his final target and the game spits out about twenty tickets. “Alright,” Ko says, gesturing me towards the game, “you don’t have to tell me what you’re watching. But I am going to need you to win me some tickets on this one.” I line up the gun and look down into the game. I play through the order of the targets in my head. It’s always the same, and I’ve probably played this a hundred times. If I can focus, I can win. “I haven't seen Sam for a while,” Ko says. The first target pops out. I hit it. I get the next one too. This shouldn't be too bad. “You know who else I haven't seen in a while?” Ko asks. “Craig.” My heart starts pounding and I mostly feel the blood pulsing through my cock again. I miss a target. “I swear I saw him earlier, but I haven't seen him since.” I can't get the image of the video out of my mind. Sam taking him all the way, the way he moaned when Sam hit the bottom and held him there. It's the hottest sound a guy can make, that yelp of surprise at how good it feels to get deep throated. A cry and a shudder. “I wonder where those two have gotten off to...” I give up. I take my hands off the gun and let the last few targets pop up without the threat of being gunned down. I turn around to stare daggers at Ko, who's wearing the biggest smile I've seen all night. “You're a dick,” I tell him. I point over to my tickets and let Ko have them. Ko laughs as he takes my winnings. He's smarter than he lets on, especially socially. He likes to pretend he doesn't understand things, or that he doesn't care. But he hears all the gossip going on around him and fills in the blanks faster than almost anyone I know. He knows about Sam, and he knows he's been tagging around with Craig, and he knows they're both here tonight, and he heard the Snap. So he knows. Or at least he knows enough to use this information to harass me. “God I love beating you at stuff,” he muses as he walks by. “Let's go look at the prizes and make some plans. Maybe we can pool together and get something cool.” He looks back at me and cocks his eyebrow. “If you can get your shit together, that is.” I turn to follow him and shake my head. You can't fool your best friend. As we walk over to the prize area I try to will my boner away. I still have most of a raging hardon in my pants, and I need that to go away before I even think of doing anything else. This is an arcade, not really an ideal place to slip away and jack off, but I'm not sure what other options I have. I haven't been jacking off very much lately since I'm spending so much time with Carter. It's more like quality over quantity. Probably since about eighth grade, I jack off once a day. Hooking up with Carter seems like it's worth about a week. But at times like this, when I get all pent up, I just need to get it taken care of. We take a seat at a booth in the dining area, and Ko gets up to start scoping out prizes. I take the opportunity to adjust myself into a slightly less uncomfortable angle in my briefs. All I can think about now is Carter. Last time we were together was amazing. I've never cum that hard before. And the way he reacted when he let me eat his ass – all the squirming and moaning. It was heaven. No. We just talked about this. Carter isn’t my best option here. He isn't really giving me what I want. He's being selfish and refusing to put himself out on the line for me, when I'm doing it for him day in and day out. He's still clinging to his girlfriend and to his 'options.' And I'm getting left out to dry. That's what we decided, right? But... Carter's the one who came back to me, not the other way around. I had sworn him off and was ready to be done, and he came back to me. He showed up at my play with flowers in his hand and an apology on his lips. He kissed me. I didn't ask for any of that, it was all Carter. And he invited me out last time. Actually, the last few times have all been something he planned. He wanted me to hang out with his friends, and then to stay at his place afterward. He threw me down on the bed and pulled my clothes off. Plus, maybe Ko has a point from before. If I'm getting it, why should I worry? I take my phone back out and go to my text messages. I was originally going to head home with Ko after the party and hang out at his place. But now I think I might have some other plans. My mom is working a double tonight, so she won't be home until later in the morning tomorrow. Since I’m not home to watch them, the twins got shipped off to my aunt’s house. She’ll take them to school. That means I have the house to myself from now until I go to school in the morning. I reach down to adjust myself again. I definitely might have some other plans. [ What are you doing tonight? ] I don't even have to put the phone back in my pocket before I get a response. [ Nothin. You? ] I smile to myself. [ Come over? ]
  8. Chapter 20 [ Yeah, they have somebody's ID. ] I send the text and immediately see the three dots on my phone, indicating that a response is coming. I lean out over the railing of the porch and look into the trees behind Lucas's house, but it's tough with my night vision being ruined from my phone. Just like the rest of his yard, the grove of trees behind his house seems bigger than it actually is. We can't be more than a few hundred feet from his neighbors back there, but I feel like you could get lost in the trees. My phone vibrates and I look back down. [ Gotta keep all you boys rowdy ] Katy happened to text me about something a few minutes ago and her timing was perfect. Carter and Gray had just left to do a beer run, and Lucas's parents called to check in. Before he went up to his room to answer, he shushed us – we need to be quiet while he's on his phone. Ricky and Matt turned down the volume on the game and started playing, so it was a good chance for me to slip out to the back porch and lay low for a couple of minutes. It wasn't that I needed to leave the party or anything, but I thought it would be nice to have a little alone time. I was able to put the beat down on these jocks in Mario Kart, but even winning, and thus solidifying my place in the group, wasn't enough to keep me focused. I kept thinking about Ricky. Why did he have to say all that stuff? Even if he didn't mean it, something like that doesn't just go away. It eats away at you. Even if I can convince myself he didn't mean any of it, I start wondering why he had to say it at all. I've heard a lot worse from a lot of people, and even then they're usually just messing around. But I can never be a hundred percent sure. If you call someone a 'fag,' I can't help but be uncomfortable with that. Even if the point was just to razz one of your friends, you chose that word for a reason. But there's something else too. It wasn't just Ricky running his mouth. It was Carter having to jump in and defend me. I know I'm the new guy here, and I'm only hanging out with all these dudes because Carter wanted to get me ingratiated into the group. But are they only cool with me because I'm under his protection? What would they be like if he wasn't around? And then there was the whole 'side action' comment. Am I side action? I had never thought of it like that, but it's true in a way. Or is Beth the side action? It's hard to know for sure. Obviously Carter spends more time with me, and obviously he's enjoying it – at least the important parts. And why should I care if he isn't shouting his love for me from the mountain tops? When we're alone together it's exactly how it should be, and I'm the only person who ever needs to know how Carter feels about me. But what good is love if it has to be a secret? ... So yeah, I needed a little time to decompress and think about all this stuff. [ What else are you kids up to? ] Katy's text manages to distract me from my thoughts. Ever since I responded she's been blowing up my phone. It's no surprise she was curious as to what a bunch of high school jock boys did when they were hanging out together. Katy is cool with a lot of the guys at school, but she isn’t tomboyish enough to ever get an invite to something like this. When she realized I was right in the thick of it, she immediately had a million questions for me. I get it. Up until tonight, I had sort of wondered about it myself. Ko and I hang out a lot, and even though we both play a few sports I wouldn't consider either of us to be ‘jocks,’ at least not like Gray and Ricky, or even Carter. Tonight would be educational, even if adding me to the crew was a total bust. Even if it hits the fan, I'm coming home with some stories. At least, that was Katy's idea. Neither of us were surprised that the conversation had turned immediately to blow jobs. Katy had plenty of questions about that, and I tried to fill her in as best I could. I wouldn't share all the secrets that the guys had divulged over the course of the night, but it wouldn't hurt to tease her with a few tidbits, right? “Yo, Jackson.” I turn around and see Ricky silhouetted in the doorway. I immediately bristle when I see him, and I tuck my phone back into my pocket. I'll catch up with Katy later. “I need to talk to you.” Carter isn't here to get my back, and the other guys are inside playing a game. It's just me and Ricky on the porch, and he looks like he's ready to pick up exactly where he left off after dinner. Ricky moves in closer and stands alongside me against the railing, but he doesn't turn out to face the backyard. He keeps looking at me. “You know all that stuff I said before?” I swallow hard and nod my head ever so slightly. “I didn't mean any of it.” I drop my guard a bit and let him continue. “I want to make sure there isn't any beef because of it,” he says. I study his face in the small amount of light that's leaking out from the sliding glass door. Even in the darkness it's hard to focus on anything but how attractive he is. That being said, it's tough to get a read on him, and even if I could I'm not sure what to say. Why is he doing this? Then it dawns on me. Carter. Carter must have talked to him before he left with Gray. I could tell he was still mad, but I figured he was just stewing for a while. Instead, it's Carter to the rescue, saving his dorky little friend – or whatever we are – from his crew. As much as I appreciate him trying to get my back, what I feel is anger. If he doesn’t mean it, Ricky saying he’s sorry only makes it worse. Carter brought me out to meet his buds, and now they have to pretend to like me because he said so. I'd rather not have any of it. I don’t need their pity. “Whatever, man,” I mumble, hoping he'll take the hint and go back inside. I resume my gaze into the darkness and wait for him to leave me alone. “Seriously, Jackson,” he says, “I'm sorry. I was just messing with you and it got out of hand. I never would have said any of that stuff if I thought that you...” I flinch as soon as I hear it, but he corrects himself. “If I thought that it would bug you.” Freudian slip or not? I'd rather not know. I'd rather just not be here right now. I turn to him, and I'm immediately struck by the expression on his face. With both of us turned sideways, there's a lot more light hitting him, and I can see him a lot better. And his face is talking loud and clear. He's earnest. “Look, I don't know you very well, but I could tell you took it personally when I said that stuff,” he says, “and I shouldn't have said it anyway, ‘cause I don't have any beef with people, even if they are gay or whatever. I don't have any problem with you, or Sam, or anybody.” He waits for me to respond, but I don’t. He goes on. “You don't have to talk to me about it or anything, but I want you to know that I'm sorry.” I finally find my words. “It's cool. Um, apology accepted.” He relaxes as soon as I say it. I can't believe he was so bothered by it. I never think of these jocks as being so sensitive, and even Carter has alluded to it before – they're not so into their feelings. But the change in Ricky is obvious as soon as he sees that I'm ready to clear the air. “Good,” he says, “that's a relief.” He nudges me in the arm as he leans back against the railing and I follow suit. “I was messing with you cause you're the new guy, and Carter's been talking about you all the time, so we had to like, give you the business, ya know?” I can't help but smile at that. Partly because I know where he's coming from, and partly because Carter's been talking about me. Either way I relax a little more, and I decide I’m willing to hear Ricky out. “It was the first thing you reacted to, so I jumped on it.” It makes sense. I could tell Gray was trying to get under my skin with his soccer comments, and I've heard the guys bust each others' chops about everything else under the sun. Maybe he didn’t mean anything by it. “We give each other a lot of shit,” he says, then laughs. “I think you'll be good though, you totally shut down Gray. He probably spent all week trying to figure out how to trip you up.” I laugh, thinking how he just read my mind. Gray wasn't dumb or anything, but he definitely wasn't quick on his feet during a conversation. Knowing that we're good, he reaches over and pushes something cold against my hand. I look down to see him offering up a can of beer. “I thought we were out,” I say, surprised. “Shh,” he says, holding his finger up to his lips. “I stashed a few for myself when I saw we were low.” I smile and grab the beer from him. It's the ultimate gesture from these guys. We each crack ours open and hit the cans together. “Cheers.” “Cheers.” They're ice cold and refreshing. He must have had them hidden in the freezer. I'm not a beer aficionado or anything like that, but I'm at least starting to get comfortable with the taste. We stand in silence for a few minutes and gaze out into the evening. I'm glad I put a jacket on before I stepped out. It's a cold, clear night. We can hear the last handful of insects out in the dark. Another few days of this weather, and there won't be much of anything left before the winter. “Can I ask you something?” Ricky pauses for a second and sips his beer. “Sure.” “Did Carter ask you to say something?” “Huh?” I can't tell if he's just processing the question or weighing his options as he pauses and takes another sip. “No.” “Ok.” It doesn't sound very convincing. We lapse back into silence, but this one is less comfortable than the last. I feel like he's not telling me something. It drags on for a minute before Ricky speaks again. “Do you remember my brother?” I rack my brain and try to think. He was older than Ricky, wound up going to college in New England, out of state. “Yeah,” I say, “but I didn't know him at all.” He waves me off. “After he left for college, he broke up with his girlfriend. She was still here, so I got to hear all about it from her.” “Yeah, wasn't that like, Tina?” I remembered her a bit better. She was only two years older than me. “Right,” he says. “She was really confused about it, but it was pretty obvious to me. He went off to college and didn't want to wait on some girlfriend back home.” I nod in understanding. Makes sense. “But I went to visit him a few months after that, right after the holidays. When I got there I met his roommate. But it like, wasn't his roommate.” He stops to let that sink in, but it doesn't register with me. What does he mean, 'wasn't his roommate?' If you live with somebody then they're your... “Oh, shit,” I say out loud as I make the connection. “Yeah, it was a total shock. He never said anything to me about it, and we were pretty close. He just like, let me see what was going on. And I was the first person from home he ever let it on it.” He sighs and shakes his head. “I was really freaked out by it at first. I wasn't mad or anything, but I was surprised. I've known my brother longer than I've known anybody, and I always looked up to him, wanted to be just like him. And now he was... gay. “But I got over that part of it. He was still my brother, and he was still the same guy I grew up with, he was just dating a guy now. And at the end of the day, that’s cool with me.” He looks at me and puts his hand on my shoulder. “So anyway, sorry I was an asshole before. I guess I'm not like, super sensitive all the time, but uh...” “I am.” My heart skips about ten beats as I feel the words slip past my lips. There's no going back from this one, but I'm getting the feeling that Ricky told me his story for a reason. “Huh?” I take a deep breath and steel myself for what's about to come. “I'm gay.” The words ring in my ears as I say them. “So you were right before. It was a guy.” “Ok, cool.” It takes me a bit to process it. Did he really just say that was cool? He senses my disbelief and laughs. “Yeah, it's cool.” Was that it? Is it really that easy to come out to people? They'll just hand you a beer and smile? “Jackson,” he says, “don't tell anybody about the stuff I just told you, ok?” “Yeah, of course.” “I don't think anybody else knows about Jake, and they all know him,” he says, jerking his thumb back towards the house. We both smile, now co-conspirators. “I guess we both have a secret.” Ricky chuckles and holds his beer out to me for another toast. “We sure do.” As we make contact and take a gulp of beer, Ricky shakes his head at me and smiles. “You're so easy to talk to, man,” he says. “Like, I never felt like you were going to be weird about what I told you.” “Uh, thanks,” I reply. It's the same thing Carter told me a few weeks ago. I hear rustling from the front of the house. The sound of a car pulling up the gravel driveway. The boys are back from their beer run. “Sounds like a delivery,” Ricky says, “and just in time.” He shakes his beer can indicating that it's empty. “You coming in?” I hold my own can up. “I've got a little left. I'll finish up and head inside in a few.” Ricky goes back into the house and I try to take a minute and decompress from what happened. I came out to someone. Not anyone I'm close to, either. But at the same time not a stranger. Someone I know, and someone who knows all the people I know. It's probably the most dangerous kind of person to share a secret with. I can't deny that it felt good though. It felt really good. It's one less person I need to be careful around, and one more person I know I've got on my side if it's ever an issue. Even though I don't know Ricky well, I feel like I can trust him. Part of it is knowing that he's Carter's friend, and part is because he was so open with me about his brother. But there's another part that's gut instinct, plain and simple. Ricky has my back. Just like Carter, there's more to these jock boys than meets the eye sometimes. Below the machismo and the playboy he pretends to be, there's a sensitive, empathetic, and accepting person down there. With that I finish the last sip of my beer and head inside, wondering what else I might find out about Carter and his friends before the night is through. ******* ******* ******* ******* “Hottest blow job you've ever gotten, huh?” I can smell the alcohol on Carter's breath as he places his fingertips against my chest, pushing me back slightly. It doesn't move me, but it makes me lean in toward him while he's talking. He shrugs and smiles. It's that damn smile of his. So coy. So sexy. “It's hard to pick favorites,” he says, “but I'd definitely put it in the top five.” I raise my eyebrows and slap his hand away gently, letting me lean in closer to him. “Top five?” With my face now only inches away from his, he leans down to complete the circuit and kisses me lightly. I push back into him and steal another kiss, and then another. His mouth tastes sweet. “Ok, top three,” he admits. I look into his eyes and think about how much I love when he's like this. When he's a little bit drunk or just feeling loose. His eyes get shiny and sparkly, and they crinkle up more when he smiles, making him look extra mischievous. I let my mouth get within a half an inch of his before I respond. “Top three?” I ask, this time barely in a whisper. I try to get as close as I can without touching him. He likes to be teased like that. He opens his mouth to answer me but our lips are touching and I give this kiss everything I've got. He responds in kind, and when I feel his tongue slip into my mouth I slide my hand over the crotch of his jeans. I don't have to guess whether he's interested – I can already feel the swelling outline of his manhood. Instead of an answer he pushes me back onto his bed. My legs hit the edge and I fall onto my back. Looking up at him I can see that his cheeks are flushed. He's breathing a little harder than normal. He's biting his bottom lip. It's all of his tells, and it takes all my willpower not to get back up and throw myself at him. As much as I want to give it to him, it'll be that much better if I make him come and take it. We're finally back at Carter's house. I was ready to leave ages ago, but none of the other guys were showing any signs of slowing down. Matt and Ricky were both crashing at Lucas's house, and we needed Gray to give us a ride home. In the end, a lot of puzzle pieces needed to come together before we could possibly get back to Carter's. Even though I was tired, I couldn't let it get to me. Partly because I didn't want to seem like a lightweight in front of Carter's crew, and partly because I knew what might be waiting for me once we got here. And I don't have to wait long. Now that he has me where he wants me, Carter shucks off his shirt and stands triumphantly at the end of the bed. My cock twitches as I sense what's about to happen an instant before it does. He jumps onto me and starts making out again, just as hot and heavy as before. He gyrates his hips as he does it, and I can feel the jolts of pleasure between us as our crotches grind against each other, even through a few layers of fabric. His hands slide under my shirt and feel around my stomach and chest for a few seconds before pulling it over my head. As our mouths reconnect, our tongues twist and spar, our bare chests slide across each other, letting me feel the muscles rippling underneath the skin of his upper body. I feel myself getting lightheaded, more from the sexual anticipation than any of the residual alcohol in my system. It's like the first time we ever made out. When he drunkenly fell onto me the in the woods at Matt's party. That night, that moment – it blew my mind. I made out with Carter Mulkins. We're here again, and this time he's not black out drunk. This time he knows exactly what he's doing, and there's no question that he'll be here with me in the morning. Most importantly, he probably won't pass out and fall asleep in the next thirty seconds. Just to be on the safe side, I start snaking my hands across the ridges of his shoulders, down his back, and then to the waistband of his jeans. I need to enjoy every inch of Carter while I have the chance, right? I slide around to the front of his pants and pull down the buttons on his jeans. I made the mental note that he was wearing a button fly earlier in the night, and it pays off as one fluid hand motion manages to pull the whole fly apart. Thus exposed, I let my fingers enter the newly-found opening. I can't help but smile as my fingertips make contact with the mound of flesh underneath the fabric of his underwear. “Uhhhh...” I moan out loud. I can't take it anymore. One of God's greatest, most perfect creations is in my hand, slowly being revealed in all its glory. I grab the innermost waistband I can find and start pushing it down, hoping Carter will get the idea. I want him, all of him, and I want it now. Carter catches on in a second, and with an impressively deft maneuver, he strips off his pants and underwear, all without breaking our kiss. He responds affirmatively as I pull his hips forward, guiding his now exposed member toward my head. He sits up fully before settling down on my chest, bringing all seven inches of him right in front of me, the tip bobbing with each beat of his heart, and just an inch away from my mouth. We make eye contact. It's one of those moments. It's like the first time we kissed, or the first time we fell asleep with each other. It's a moment that supersedes things like doubt, fear, and complications. It is a moment that is real. No matter what worries might plague my mind later, or what my friends might warn me about, or what might cause an all too familiar tightness in my chest as I lay awake thinking about it tomorrow, I can always know that this is real. At least right now it is – tomorrow and yesterday can be something different, but the look in Carter's eyes right now is one of love. In unison, I close my eyes and open my mouth, and Carter pushes forward until the perfect, swollen helmet of his cockhead is resting on my tongue. I swirl around it, feeling and savoring the ridges of it. He's so hard right now, so turned on by what's about to happen. I hate to correlate his inhibition with drinking, but it seems like when he can finally relax with a couple of beers he reaches a new level of arousal. I let Carter push forward and fill my mouth. It makes me feel complete to have him inside of me like this. He pivots in and out, and I bob my head accordingly, taking more and more of him in with each stroke. I reach around behind him and put one hand on each of his smooth, hard ass cheeks and help push him forward with each one of his thrusts. “Oh, god...” he moans in appreciation. I open my eyes and feel my own cock twitch at the sight before me. Carter's sculpted stomach and hips, rocking back and forth just inches in front of me. The pressure of his legs against the sides of my chest add to the thrill of looking straight down his shaft as I watch it slide in and out of my mouth. Like everything with Carter, it just makes me want more. When Carter reaches the bottom of one of his thrusts, I let him slip out of my mouth, then pull him back towards me, running my tongue from the tip of his shaft all the way to the base. I go back and forth a few more times, garnering another thankful sigh from Carter. As I move back to the base, I pull him in harder, letting my tongue wrap around one of his lovely, smooth balls. He doesn't make a move to pivot away from me this time, and I move my tongue over to the other, alternating back and forth between the two. I gently pull one into my mouth and suck on it, loving how big and full it feels. Carter slides even farther forward, granting me easier access to his goods. I greedily let him grind his nuts into my mouth, alternating between licking and sucking, popping one into my mouth and then the other. I'm in heaven. I move one of my hands forward and jerk him off while I bathe his sack with my tongue, and I feel Carter start to buck his hips again, ever so slightly in rhythm with my stroking. As he does it, I get new access to the back half of his nutsack and eventually can even feel my tongue going past that. He seems to enjoy it, so I let my tongue snake back with each gyration of his hips, reaching farther and farther along his taint. Suddenly, I feel the tip of my tongue hit something new. The texture of his skin changes, and Carter gasps. We both pause mid-stroke as we realize what's just happened. I'm licking his asshole. Carter slides forward ever so slightly, both giving me better access and wordlessly granting me approval to keep going. I take a few tentative licks and he shudders as my tongue slides across the surface of his rosebud. It tastes similar to the rest of Carter – a little salty, a little funky, and very, very manly. It's one thing to jerk someone off, and definitely something to put someone's dick in your mouth. But this is a whole new level. We've crossed another line, and I have no intention of going back. Nor it seems does Carter. His breathing gets heavier and heavier as I orally work my way around his back door, and half of his breaths seem to be coming out as whimpers and moans. He gyrates his hips into my face, grinding his dangling nutsack into my nose while letting me get even farther into his ass crack. He's loving it. Without warning, he pulls off and I start to wonder if it was too much for him. He unstraddles my face and swings a leg over me. “Do you want...” “No!” Carter says. He swings the other leg around me so he's facing the other direction. “I'm just turning around. Don't stop.” Now in a 69 position, Carter sets himself back down on top of me, putting his beautiful boy cherry right back in range of my mouth. From this position I have even better access, and definitely a better view. Carter's ass is just gorgeous. He has the perfect amount of definition but still with the right amount of cushion to it. It's soft when you touch it, but hard when it flexes. I hate to try and narrow it down, but it might be his best feature. And here it is, mere inches away from my face with an open invitation to dive right in. I reach up and grab his cheeks, one in each hand. I can't help but give a quick squeeze before I pull them apart, revealing the glory in between. Carter takes hold of my dick just as I start to lean forward in the space between those two flawless mounds of flesh in my hands. As I stick out my tongue I feel him start to stroke me. He makes contact at the same time I do, and his warm mouth on my aching cock is the perfect complement to the juicy, delicious ass that I get to eat. Honestly, I can't tell you if I eat Carter's ass for a minute or an hour. I lose myself, and let my lust consume every inch of my being, my world reduced to the warm, wet sensations of a blow job and the taste of Carter's cherry. When I feel myself getting close, I decide to change my tack. As much as I'm loving this – not to mention how much Carter seems to be loving it too – I want to make Carter cum, and I need it to be in my mouth. I reach up and grab his shaft, pushing it down towards my mouth. He's hard as a rock. He must be close to cumming. I put the head in my mouth and immediately have to swallow. He’s practically dripping precum, which leaves no question as to whether or not he was enjoying that rim job. I make a mental note to do it more often before turning my focus back to the task at hand. I bob up and down on his cock, loving how familiar it tastes and feels in my mouth. “Oh god, Jackson, I'm so close!” It turns me on so much when he calls my name. I slow down a little and try to savor the last few moments of the blow job. I'm getting pretty close myself, and it would be awesome to cum at the... Oh god! My cock feels like it's on fire as I feel it slip all the way into Carter's throat. He's getting so good at that, it's just ridiculous. I feel the burning spread down my cock and into my balls. I'm going to cum in about five seconds if he keeps this up. Without thinking, I slide a hand back to Carter's ass and brush a finger up against his hole. Already so wet from the lengthy tongue bath I gave him, the tip of my finger slides right in. It isn't much, but I immediately feel everything tense up, from the dick in my mouth to the tight squeeze his hole suddenly puts on my finger. Both of us fly over the edge at the exact same instant, and what has to be the biggest load of my life surges out from my balls and through my cock. I feel like I'm literally exploding. Carter, for his part, launches blast after blast of hot, sticky boy juice into my mouth. I swallow load after load, but both of us are still pumping away. I can't believe how much he's putting out, and I haven't stopped cumming either. Finally, after what has to be ten spurts apiece, I feel my whole body shudder and I know that I'm done. I clean Carter's cock off the best I can before leaning my head back in a post-coital stupor. Carter rolls off of me and flips around. Before I can react, he puts his mouth on mine and starts kissing me. I kiss him back, and before too long we're making again out, rubbing our still-tingling naked bodies against each other. As our kiss deepens, I can taste my own cum in Carter's mouth, and I'm sure he can taste his in mine. It's not really different, but I can tell that it isn't his. The different flavor and sexual energy of it kind of turns me on, and we both slide our tongues in and out of each others' mouths a few more times. Finally we break the kiss and Carter lets his head flop down on the bed next to mine. I push my back into him and make myself a little spoon. I fit perfectly into the space, and that's where we stay, too exhausted to do much of anything else. We stay in this position for minutes that thankfully feel like an eternity. It's one of those things. I need to get up and put on my PJs and brush my teeth and all that, but I'd rather just stay here forever, feeling Carter's chest expanding and contracting against my back with every breath. I almost hate to let myself think it, but it really feels like he's my boyfriend. ... He's not. He's fucking not. No matter how amazing it felt doing what we just did, and no matter how long I keep lying here with Carter nestled against my back, he's not my boyfriend. “Is that some pretty good side action?” The words come out before I can stop them, almost before I even have time to think about them. It was what I wanted to ask more than anything, and at the same time the last thing I ever wanted to let escape my lips. I close my eyes and brace myself for what's about to come. Carter stirs behind me, and I imagine he's lifted his head up off the pillow. I can't feel his breath on my neck anymore. “You know we can't...” “Yeah, I know.” I know we can't tell all his friends that we're dating, and that I'm blowing him, or that I just gave him a rim job. I get that. Even if we were out, those probably aren't the people I would choose to talk to about our love life. But that's not the point! “What's the deal with Beth?” Carter sighs. I'm sure he doesn't want to talk about it, especially not now, but I can't shake the idea of being “side action.” And unless I push the issue, I’m sure I’ll never get the closure I need to relax. Never go to sleep angry, right? “I'm sorry, Jackson,” he says. “I'm still working on that.” This again. I get it. It takes a while to figure out. I didn't wake up one morning and realize that I was gay, and even I wasn't ok with it at first when I thought I might be leaning in that direction. It takes time. But how long am I going to have to wait? “So what are we doing?” I ask. Carter tightens his grip on me. “Jackson, I'm still figuring this out. We're obviously more than friends at this point, but...” I cut him off. “Yeah, I know that we're friends, and we're something more.” I try to make words out of the thoughts that are going through my mind. “But I don't know if I can be both of those at the same time. Like, I don't know if I can be the person who's testing all this out for you... and then... and then there's still fucking Beth!” “Beth isn't important.” “She's your girlfriend.” “She doesn't matter,” he repeats. “So why are you dating her?” I ask. It's just like he told me when he was trying to push me away. “I have a girlfriend” is what he said. Back then it was kind of an excuse, but now it feels different. It's almost the opposite. It's like the last thing he's hanging on to, just in case he decides that's what he wants. That last little safety net if he wants to go back to how it was before. But how much is he banking on that? Why can't he just let go? It takes him a while to come up with an answer. I know this is hard for him, but I have to know how far he's willing to go. I can't just guess anymore. An answer from him directly is what I need right now, and I owe it to myself to get what I need. “Jackson,” he finally says, “if I go through all this and I lose her, I'm ok with that. Or if things go the other way and I still have her, that would probably work too, but...” He pauses to compose himself, and it’s a rare flash of vulnerability. “If it's you that I lose?” He doesn't finish the thought, and it almost makes me angry. He shows these moments of transparency, but can't finish his sentence when it's the most important one. I turn over to face him. “What?” I ask. “What do you lose?” “You're the one that gets it,” he says. “Yeah,” I say, “I know.” I'm not able to keep the venom out of my voice. It's exactly what I thought. “I know I'm the only person who gets it, Carter. And I get that you don't know what you want right now. But that's not fair.” He raises his eyebrows at me, not quite following me. He's so thick sometimes. “You get all the time in the world to figure this out, and I have to hang around and wait to see if you'll be here in the morning.” Carter smiles. “Don't worry, dude,” he says, “I'll be here in the morning.” “I'm not worried about the morning,” I say. Is he not understanding, or is he trying to avoid what I'm driving at? Carter thinks for a second. “You're right,” he sighs. “It's not fair.” I look at him expectantly, and he looks conflicted. “You don't have to wait,” he says. “What does that mean?” I ask. “You don't have to wait for me to figure it out. If you wanted, you could try-” “That's not what I want!” For some reason, that seems like the worst thing he's said to me. As though I want to be with someone else. Carter is who I want. Ever since the last few weeks when it's looked like it might actually be a real possibility, I can't pretend to myself that I'm not hopelessly, head over heels in love with him. I wish I was brave enough to say that to him, but I'm not. Even admitting it to myself is a tough pill to swallow. Luckily Carter jumps back in before I have a chance to betray my feelings. “It's not like that,” he says. He smiles at me. The real, genuine smile. “I need you to wait if you can while I figure this out. But I understand if you can't, that's all I'm saying. This is so new to me. And I'm really trying, because I know that I need to do it. For you.” I'm amazed as always at his vulnerability. He's so coy all the time with his friends, and he's so good at controlling situations and the people around him. But there are chinks in the armor sometimes. And when he lets you in, it's so endearing. I feel my anger being replaced with the need to care for him, understand him, and help him. Because at the end of the day, I really do get it. This isn't what I’d want to hear from him in a perfect world, but I have to respect that he's being honest. I can live with where he's at, at least for now. I turn around and nestle myself back into Carter, and he tightens his grip around me. It makes me feel better. More than I like to admit, I feel the tension and worry leave my body and mind. This is exactly where I want to be. Carter Mulkins. My pain and my pleasure. The wellspring of joy but the source of my sorrow. How can the person who tears you apart be the same person that holds you together? Carter gives me a quick squeeze and kisses the back of my neck. Fuck brushing my teeth. I'm not going anywhere
  9. Chapter 19 I can't believe I let him talk me into this. The second I hear Ko's tires rolling out the end of the driveway, I have to fight the urge to pull out my phone and text him: Come back and get me! I would never hear the end of it. I turn around and shove any thoughts about bailing as far away from my mind as humanly possible. I can do this. I can hang out with Carter's friends. I look up at the house and I'm amazed at how out of place it looks. Most houses in our town are straight out of suburbia. Cookie cutter sameness all the way across, from end to end. Our little downtown area has a few older houses from way back, but everything else has popped up in the last twenty years as rich folks fled the city looking for greener suburbs. Lucas's house is totally different. It looks like it should be about thirty miles outside of town in the middle of nowhere. It has a much more rustic style, but with big windows all around the front. Instead of a garage, they have a big, old-fashioned looking barn with four full garage bays, but the depth to easily fit twelve cars. In lieu of the picket fence or hedges that everyone else has around here, the property is neatly tucked into its own little forest, effectively blocking the view from the road and the neighbors, and making it seem like you're anywhere but a busy street in the middle of town. “Yo, Jackson!” I hear a voice and look up to see Lucas waving at me from the front door. He's a year ahead of me in school, but I see him around enough that I know who he is. I crunch through the gravel of the driveway and walk up the front porch steps. He slaps me a sort of high five handshake combo and gestures inside the house. “Take off your shoes,” he warns me, “or my folks will be all over me for having people here while they're out of town.” I lean down to unlace and take a look around. Their house looks more like a hunting lodge than a home. Everything is wood paneled and rustic, but in a way that also manages to look expensive. It's really nice. “My parents are from North Carolina,” he says, picking up on my appraisal of the room. “They sort of brought it with them when they moved here.” He laughs as he finishes and I do too. “We're out back, so come on.” Lucas leads me through the kitchen and to a sliding glass door, which he opens to reveal a good-sized back porch, complete with a grill, two tables, and a hot tub. Not to mention a bunch of teenage guys drinking beer and carrying on. I guess I’m late to the party. As Lucas leaves me to go tend the grill, Carter hops off the bench he's sitting on and greets me with a big smile. I can tell he's had a beer or two. He's so cute. “Dude! I'm glad you could make it,” he says, giving me a hug. Not a real hug, but more one of those bro hugs, with one hand clasped and a slap on the back. Still, it's something. “Yeah, for sure,” I say, and I can't help but mirror his big smile. As usual, Carter's mood is contagious. “This place is awesome.” “I know, right? They’re gone for like two more weeks.” He shakes his head in disbelief that any respectable parents would leave their teen son unattended for two and a half weeks. “Yo, guys!” Carter calls out. “This is Jackson if you don't know.” Everyone turns to looks at me. “That's Lucas, Ricky, Gray, and Matt,” he says, pointing them out as he moves across the patio. They nod and raise their beer cans up to me in response and acknowledgment. I know most of them already, although I've never actually talked to Ricky or Gray. They all give off a good vibe, at least so far. I wasn't sure if they'd be cool with me being here. “Jackson!” I turn to look at Ricky, just in time to catch an ice cold can of beer as it whizzes toward my head. After an appreciative nod to the thrower, I crack it open and take my first sip as we walk over to the table where everyone is congregated. I'm surprised at how easy it is to get along with them. Within minutes we're all talking about all sorts of stuff, sometimes three conversations at once. It's hard to keep up with at first, but I eventually get a handle on who talks when and how the conversations tend to flow, and I fit right in. It turns out that Ricky and Lucas are both huge soccer fans. They follow the Premier League even more than I do, and both of them pull for Everton. Thankfully I know a lot about the team this year and we get wrapped up in a lengthy conversation about all the issues they've been having with their keepers. Ricky and I keep the conversation going, and Lucas jumps in from the grill whenever something we say catches his attention. Before too long Lucas interrupts all our conversations by bringing over a huge platter of grilled chicken and pork. He sets it down in the middle of the table without a word, and the rest of us dig in without missing a beat. All our discussions are momentarily forgotten in a flurry of grilled goodness. That’s the sign of a good meal. When everyone shuts up and eats. Ricky was actually the guy I was most nervous about hanging out with at this thing tonight. He plays wide receiver on the football team, just like Carter, so they're naturally pretty good friends. You'd think that would make it easy for me. He's buddies with Carter and I know a surprising amount about the football team this year. We should have plenty to talk about. But that's not what's intimidating about Ricky. He's intimidating because he's insanely hot. If anyone at school could claim to be the typical All-American football player, it would definitely be him. He's good-looking, friendly, and has just a little bit of that country boy charm to him. The girls at school swoon over him, and I'll admit, I'm no different. He's a little bit cocky for my taste, but that's pretty much the only thing preventing me from drooling about it like so many other people at school. And yet, here we are, talking about soccer and the implications of relegation at the end of the season. Thank goodness. I'm glad it was so easy to find an in with at least two of the guys, because I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about this whole thing. Honestly, I was surprised when Carter asked if I wanted to hang out with the guys tonight. It's not like he's bringing his boyfriend by for dinner or anything like that, but it isn't nothing. No. I need to stop thinking like that. Tonight is just a bunch of dudes, hanging out, drinking some beers. They don't know that Carter and I have anything going, and this isn't a big deal. But on the other hand, he's testing me out tonight, at least a little. Making sure I'm cool with the guys, and making sure the guys are cool with me. I know it's more than just a simple get-together, because of how Carter was acting when he invited me over. He was all flustered and nervous, stuttering a little and getting flushed while we talked about it. It was adorable, and it made me feel special, knowing that it was important to him. It's how I would feel if our roles were reversed, and that's a good sign, right? I feel like I can check the box for Lucas and Ricky. I already sort of know Lucas from swim team, and Ricky and I are hitting it off. Matt and I are cool, with him being Katy’s cousin and how much I see of him in the summer. That just leaves Gray. He’s a mystery to me, quiet and completely outside any of the social circles I run in. I’m hoping I’ll have a chance to get to know him after dinner, and more importantly I’m hoping the two of us can find some kind of commonality. “This is amazing,” I choke out a few minutes later through a mouthful of pork chop. The rest of the guys chime in with their own praises, prompting Lucas to stand up and take a bow. I wipe my face, which is fairly covered in meat juice, with a napkin. “Seriously, this is good, man. Where did you learn to cook like this?” I ask. Ricky jumps in to answer before Lucas has a chance. “His parents have a deal. They buy the meats, he grills 'em.” I raise my eyebrows. That's a pretty sweet deal for a dude in high school. Lucas shrugs. “I've been doing it since I was like ten,” he says. “My folks stock our freezer with all this stuff for me, and I crank out the magic a few times a week.” “And they don't notice when a few packs of pork chops go missing,” Ricky adds, getting a laugh out of everybody. We eat in peace for a few more minutes before Gray speaks up for the first time in a while. “So, Jackson,” he starts, already making me bristle with nervousness. When I said Ricky was the most intimidating guy here, I meant that in a social sense. Gray is intimidating in a completely different way. He's a lineman on the football team, and if being absolutely massive in every way wasn't enough to make him a little bit scary, he also tends not to talk very much. He's not an easy guy to approach and conversate with, and I don’t know much about him. “Why don't you play football?” Everyone goes quiet and turns to me. Gray has spoken, and he's put me dead in the center of the spotlight. “Um...” Is this some sort of test? It's hard to gauge what my response should be, but I better think of one soon, otherwise things will get awkward. I fumble for another second, and I feel like my face is under a heat lamp made of five pairs of staring eyes. “I guess I'm just better at kicking stuff?” I say. I flinch internally and wait for Gray's response. He mulls it over and I hear a snicker coming from behind me, probably Lucas. Finally he slowly nods. “That makes sense, man.” I thought it would break the tension, but it doesn't. Gray just keeps looking at me. Testing me with his eyes, sizing me up. I start to wonder if he didn't want me here tonight, some outsider trying to wheedle my way into their crew. And now he's thinking about what he could say to cut me down, prove to everyone that I'm not one of them. Or he could just punch me in the face, which I’m assuming would instantly kill me. Suddenly his expression breaks into a grin and he laughs. I don't think I've ever heard him laugh, and it's kind of terrifying. Huge laughs, like James Earl Jones doing Krusty the Clown. The rest of the guys all laugh too and I remind myself again to relax. These guys are alright. They joke around, just like anybody does. I can't be so damn sensitive. “Do you have a girlfriend?” Gray seems to have a knack for asking tough questions. So much for relaxing. “A girlfriend?” I repeat back to him. “Yeah,” Ricky says, punching me in the arm, “they're these people who make you buy them stuff so you can make out with them.” Everybody laughs again at that and I use the time to think of what I want to say. Obviously the answer is no, but I feel like they won't just accept that and move on. “Nah,” I say as the noise dies down. “Too much work.” That gets another round of laughter from the boys. “I hear that,” says Ricky. “I had to give mine the boot.” The guys perk up at that. Ricky can have pretty much any girl he wants, and last I heard he was dating Jessica Barton, unquestionably one of the hottest girls in the school. I imagine half of the guys' interest has to do with Ricky's personal life and the other half has to do with the outside possibility that one of them could pick her up on the rebound. “Dude, when did that happen?” asks Matt. Ricky shrugs. “A few days ago. She kept giving me crap about some other girl I'm supposedly talking to.” He holds up his hand next to his head and spins it around, signifying that she was crazy. “Were you?” asks Lucas. “Of course not,” he shoots back, but then reconsiders. “At least not any more than usual.” Ricky has a reputation as a bit of a playboy, and with his looks it can't be hard. He has a long frame, but ever since about 9th grade he's been packing on a good amount of muscle. Not so much that it's all you notice about him like Gray, but almost a deceptive amount of muscle. Like you think he might be skinny at first glance, but then you start to notice all the various ripples and bulges around his body. At least that's what I notice. “But you fucked her, right?” asks Gray. Gray doesn't mess around. And when the questions aren't aimed at me, I'm starting to appreciate it. Ricky sadly shakes his head. “All I got to show for it was one terrible blow job.” The porch erupts with laughter. It's not just the fate of Ricky's relationship, but the true, powerful sadness in his face as he says it. “I don't understand it,” says Matt. “There has to be a way to tell. The hottest girl in the world can give the worst head, it just doesn't make sense.” The rest of the guys nod in agreement. I didn't realize this was a problem. You learn a lot when you hang out with jocks. “You're just upset that no one will ever compare to Louise,” says Carter, directed at Matt. Ricky stops what he's doing and stares at Carter, then back at Matt. Then back to Carter again. Then back to Matt. It's fairly dark out on the porch, but I can still see that Matt's face is a bright shade of red. “What did he just say?” Ricky asks. “He's just uh... talking about Louise,” mumbles Matt. “What?!” says Ricky. For a second I think Ricky is mad about something, whoever this Louise person is. But no one else is reacting to it. In fact, most everyone else is snickering. “You didn't know about that?” asks Carter. I know Carter well enough to hear the smirk in his voice. It seems like everyone is in on this joke except Ricky. “I need you to explain yourself right now,” Ricky says. Matt throws up his hands in defeat, but he can't help smiling. “I got Louise to give me a blow job last summer.” Ricky can't believe what he's hearing. He can't even sit still. He's pacing back on forth on the porch and flailing his arms around. He looks like he's about to explode, or scream, or punch someone. I've never seen him act like this. Like a crazy person, I mean. Matt notices my blank look and laughs. “I guess I'll tell you the story, but not because of him,” he says, jerking his head towards Ricky. “Hearing it might actually destroy him.” “Ugh, I'm not sure I want to listen,” Ricky mumbles. He thinks better of it and sits back down at the picnic table so he doesn't miss a fragment of a detail. “Louise is this girl we all knew last year,” Matt begins. “She went to Green Lakes, and she was two years older than us. We all just started like, hanging out towards the end of the school year.” Gray and Lucas are nodding in concurrence. They all seem to know the story already, but I've never heard of this girl. I don't know but a few people who go to Green Lakes, and they're all our age or younger. Matt continues. “I dunno why, but she just started coming to everything we did. Anytime this group was hanging out, she was there.” “It's 'cause she could drive,” says Gray. The boys laugh. “Yeah, but it wasn't like we were just using her or whatever. She was sort of invited to everything by default because she had a car,” he admits, “but she was cool.” Matt is interrupted by a weird mix between a sigh and a growl from Ricky. “I was getting to that,” says Matt, patting Ricky on the head. “She wouldn't sleep with me!” he yells in the night, like a wolf howling at the moon. The rest of us sit in stunned silence for a second, all startled by his outburst. Then the dam breaks and we all laugh our heads off. Even Ricky smiles at his own misfortune, clearly more interested in seeming upset than he actually is bothered by it. “She wouldn't sleep with any of us,” adds Lucas once he catches his breath. “The whole summer single and hanging around these horny dudes, and she never did anything with any of us.” It never ceases to amaze me. The expectation these guys have that every single girl in the world is secretly trying to get with them. I mean, they aren't miles off target or anything like that. They're probably one of the most attractive and popular groups of dudes in our school, but it isn't always just about sex for everyone. At least not that I know of. Ricky shakes his head. “It isn't possible that you...” He can't even finish the sentence. I think it would hurt him too much to say it. “Anyway,” continues Matt, rolling his eyes, “it wasn't just the fact that she was a girl, it was more her reputation.” “She was a legend,” says Ricky. The guys notice my confusion and Lucas jumps in. “She was a legend at giving head,” says Lucas. “Gray’s buddy knew a few dudes from Green Lakes and told us about it. They made it sound like it would change your life.” Ricky shakes his head sadly again. “From that point we were obsessed.” “You were obsessed,” Carter corrects him. “We were...” “We wanted her to blow us,” says Gray. Again I’m struck by how much I appreciate his brutal simplicity. “But Ricky more than anybody,” Matt adds. “And yet, he managed to find the one girl who wouldn't do it.” Now it makes more sense. Ricky never gets rejected. He’s the ultimate boy for every girl in school. He’s hot, smart, and very well-mannered – you could bring him back to your parents if you wanted, and they would love him too. But not Louise, apparently. And while I know it must drive him crazy to think about that one elusive girl he couldn't have, I know it must be positively killing him to know that Matt was able to make it happen. “Ok,” says Ricky, “Just tell me what happened. I can handle it.” He's calmed down a little bit, but he still bouncing up and down with nervous anticipation. While he hasn't fully relaxed, I think it's probably safe for Matt to finish the story. “It was Thanksgiving weekend and my parents took me out to the lake. It was kind of warm and some people down the street were doing a bonfire.” Katy has told me about the lake house before. Matt's family has had it for a few generations, so she's spent a good amount of time out there, but I've never been. It's a little cabin on the lake where you can swim and boat in the summer, then ice fish and snowmobile in the winter. Typical stuff that we do around here. “We get to the bonfire, and it's all just old people. My parents were having a good time and all, but I was looking for anyone my age to hang out with. All of a sudden, someone grabs me from behind in a huge hug.” Matt smiles at Ricky with a devilish grin. “Guess who it was.” Ricky has been keeping it together for the most part, but now he's getting more agitated again. “Louise,” Matt says triumphantly. “Her family is friends with this guy down the street and she was there for the bonfire too.” He leans in towards Ricky for dramatic effect. “And she was drunk.” “No,” Ricky says. “I don't believe it.” “Believe it,” Matt responds. Ricky takes a deep breath and composes himself. He nods to Matt to continue the story. “She was all over me. Within five minutes she dragged me off to the dock and three minutes after that...” Matt raises his arms in triumph. “Three minutes after that I was getting the best head in my life.” Looking around the table I get the impression that no one else has heard the story either, except maybe Carter, which makes sense, as he's probably the closest to Matt of any of these guys. Lucas looks floored, in awe of Matt's big win. Even Gray is emoting a little, his usually stoic features contorted in slight amazement. Ricky is lightly pounding his head against the table and moaning in agony. I look over at Carter, and he's just laughing. He's definitely heard this before, plus he looks a little bit buzzed too. It's a good look for him, a little looser and he smiles more. The best is his eyes though, and even in this light I can tell that they’re sparkling in the way they only do when he's had a few beers or he's really excited about something. In this case, both. “So, how good are we talking?” asks Lucas. Matt scrunches up his face in thought. “Like, five times better than anyone else?” he asks rhetorically. “Ugh, I can't listen to this!” Ricky says, throwing his head back and pushing his chair away from the table. “I can't even tell you how bad Jessica was. All this pulling and tugging and twisting.” He notices some skepticism from the other guys and elaborates. “Not in a good way,” he adds, “in a very, very bad way. “Seriously though, how hard is it?” he continues. “There's like three parts, and you can see them right in front of you. Just get down there and...” He bobs his head up and down to show us what you have to 'get down there and do.' The thought of him giving someone a blow job makes my cock twitch, so I try to put the image out of my mind, at least for now. “What about Stephanie?” Matt asks, turning to Lucas. Lucas has been dating a girl at our school, Stephanie, for about three months if I'm remembering right. She's cute and is a cheerleader, but I don't know much about her besides that. Lucas smiles sheepishly. “That's why I was wondering about Louise,” he says, “because Steph is really, really good. So I was kind of wondering how good it gets. She's definitely the best I've ever gotten.” Ricky sighs and mumbles something to himself, probably wondering why everybody else is striking gold while he's striking out. Lucas turns to his left and fixes his eyes on Carter, the next person around in the circle. “Well? What about you?” Carter blushes and plays dumb. “What do you mean?” “What was your best blow job?” asks Matt. He must know about most of them, but he's probably never gotten to hear them compared. I have my own stake in this story. Carter hasn't talked to me at all about his past experiences, or who he's done what with, and I haven't asked. It feels like a touchy subject considering the situation we're in. Too touchy to bring up unless I want to make a big deal about it, at least. Plus as curious as I am, I don't necessarily want to talk about how I stack up against the girls he's been with. As far as I know he's always had a girlfriend, as early as middle school. It's only been Beth since the end of school last year, so there might be plenty to choose from, and I don't want to know if they're better at it than I am. “Um...” He thinks for a second and I'm treated to his 'thinking hard' face that I like so much. “Quit stalling and get on with it!” says Matt. “I know it isn't Beth, so pick one of the other ones and dish up.” The rest of the guys have a laugh at Beth's expense and Carter turns a little bit redder. I'm a little relieved to hear that. I know she's not great, but I'll take any Beth-bashing I can get. “Faster, funnier, faster, funnier,” Ricky starts to chant. “Ok, ok!” Carter throws up his hands to quiet everyone down. “I've got one.” I feel my stomach clench up. Nobody likes to hear about the amazing sex that somebody's ex was dishing out. “It was a quick one, but a good one,” he says. “Uh... They just really went for it, and I wasn't expecting it, so it was kind of a surprise.” “Surprise blow jobs,” says Ricky shaking his head. “You guys lead a charmed life.” Lucas punches him in the arm to get him to shut up so Carter can keep going. “So, that's pretty much it. Fast and furious, and really good,” he says. “Best I've ever had.” “Did she swallow?” asks Gray. Carter nods. “Yeah, every drop.” Gray looks skeptical. “That's it?” he asks. “Just a quick little blow and you're done? That's your best ever?” Carter shrugs, but then I see his snarky little smile start in the very corner of his mouth. “I was driving the Tesla.” The patio goes mental. The guys are laughing and hooting, slapping Carter on the back. And me? I'm trying not to let my smile actually split my head in half. “Who was that?” asks Matt. I'm not surprised he wants to know, since it's a story he hopefully hasn't heard before. Shit. Come to think of it, this could be awkward. I hope Carter has a plan to deflect, because he obviously can't tell the truth. Before Carter can answer, however, Gray surprises everyone and speaks up. “He can't tell you.” Everyone turns to him, waiting for an explanation. “He was driving,” says Gray. Matt holds up his hands in a shrug. “He was driving,” repeats Gray. He tries to let it sink in for a few seconds, but even I'm not seeing where he's going with this. “He was driving a car that's still brand new, and it wasn't Beth.” Slowly it starts to sink in. I see Lucas nod, and almost as though his recognition it contagious, I suddenly realize what Gray is talking about. The Tesla is only about six months old. If Carter was driving the Tesla, and the person giving him head wasn't Beth, then that means... “You're getting some side action?!” says Matt. Carter turns to him and shrugs coyly. “Yeah,” he says, as though there's nothing strange or surprising about it at all. “Why didn't you tell me? Who is it? When did you...” Carter shrugs again. “I can't really talk about it,” he says. His entire manner has changed. He's so confident and mysterious suddenly. Running with the story, he’s turned on the charm to hammer it home. And everyone drops it just like that. I can tell Matt wants to ask him more about it, and I'm sure the other guys would love to hear the details too, but no one presses him for more info. It's that quality Carter has sometimes, to take over the situation with nothing more than an easy smile and a few words. He can make you believe or understand anything, if only he tries to make it so. And thank goodness. We dodged a bullet. The interrogation to follow a story like that could have been a disaster. “Gray?” Carter turns things over to Gray, who is already smiling fondly at what must be the memory of his best head. “Ugh,” says Ricky, “I already know this story.” Gray sticks up his middle finger. “Don't be jealous,” he says. Ricky shudders and holds up one hand, as though to stop Gray from telling us any more. “I'm not jealous of getting my butt hole licked,” he says. The rest of the guys lose it when they hear this, and it takes at least a minute before everyone's regained their composure enough to let Gray continue. He's not the type to talk over people. Once things calm down, he goes on. “This chick from summer camp,” he says. “She gave me head a few times and it was good. But the last night of camp she uh...” He looks around the room for help. “She moved around to the back, I guess.” Everyone cracks up again. Even I can appreciate what must be a typical story from Gray. Short and to the point. “Dude,” says Ricky, “that's gross.” “No,” says Gray, “it's fucking amazing. And if you don't believe me, then you're just missing out.” Gray turns to look at me. “New guy,” he says. “You ever get your asshole licked? That gets everyone laughing again, but this time all eyes are on me. Gray's brutal simplicity and directness are awesome when they don't put you under the gun directly. “Yeah, let's hear about it,” echoes one of the guys. I was secretly hoping they would skip me since I'm the new guy, but that probably only makes them even more interested. I try to think of how I can downplay this or weasel my way out of having to answer. My experience is so limited, there's really only one person I can talk about, and he's sitting three feet away from me. “I haven't really been with a lot of people,” I admit, hoping they'll just give me a quick ribbing for my lack of options and leave it at that. It's bad enough having to admit that I'm so inexperienced, so that will be good enough, right? “And?” asks Lucas. The rest of their faces mirror his curiosity, except Carter, who has his body turned toward me but isn't making eye contact. I'm glad. This will be weird enough with him in the same room, even if he isn't looking directly at me. “I dunno,” I say. “It was just a regular blow job, I guess.” I look back at the circle around me and realize that won't be nearly enough. “It wasn't just the head,” I mumble, trying to figure out what I'm actually trying to say. “I was more like...” I risk a glance at Carter and it pulls me back to that first time he went down on me. What was it that made it so important to me? I'll never forget it, but what was so memorable? A big part of it was that he was finally taking the initiative, and it was almost like another line he was crossing, one more sure sign that he might be into me. No, it wasn't that. Even now I'm not totally sure where we stand, and the blow job raised as many questions as it answered. But there was something about it that made it stand out, even better than Sam's. And Sam’s was undeniably more skillful, at least from a technical standpoint. What was it that Carter said and did to make it so special? It was his questions. He kept asking what to do, or asking what felt good and if he should keep going. He was so unsure of himself, and so far out of his comfort zone. He hates being bad at things, and here he was, taking a huge step off the diving board and jumping into something new. And more importantly, doing it for me. “I think it was just that they were really trying, you know? Like, they...” I suddenly realize my error and correct myself. “Like she was just trying to make me feel good, and making that the most important thing.” I try to think of the best way to sum it up, to put it in words that even a bunch of horny teenage boys will understand. “When a person wants to do it, and wants to make you feel good. That's when it's really good.” Half of me expects them all to start laughing at my sappy story, but the reaction is more mixed. I see Gray nodding in understanding, and Matt shrugs like he gets it, even if he isn't a hundred percent on board. Ricky looks skeptical. Lucas, however, is shaking his head. “I dunno about that, man,” he says. “I'll take my dick in a mouth when I want it over a special little love fest any day of the week.” Against my will I feel the blood rush into my cheeks. I must have overdone with all that sappy, feelings bullshit. Lucas surprises me though, and he seems to pick up on my discomfort. “No, I totally get it,” he says. “But I've had both kinds of blow jobs, and to me, they were both just blow jobs.” “So you're like a 'technique' guy?” Matt asks him sarcastically. We all laugh and it helps break the tension. I was able to getting away with being a little bit sensitive. The guys didn't seem opposed to it, but I make a mental note to go easy on the deep, emotional stuff in the future. Just blend in with these dudes. Beer, ribs, and blow jobs. If I need to share my feelings I can go hang out with Katy. “So, who was it?” asks Ricky. Shit. I steel myself against giving anything away and try to imitate Carter’s sense of easy dismissal. “It's not important,” I say with a shrug. “Not you too,” Ricky says, rolling his eyes. “Come on, just tell us.” “No.” As soon as I say it I know I’ve made a mistake. A one word answer is only going to make this worse. “What, are you embarrassed?” he asks. “No,” I repeat, “it's just not important. You don't know her,” I add for good measure. “Come on,” he insists. “We've all been with people we're not proud of.” He's grinning now, and I'm sure he's enjoying having me on the defensive. “Was it a dude?” I will myself not to react, but I must have done something, because the rest of the guys start getting in on it too. “Holy shit,” says Matt. “It was a dude, wasn't it?” “What was his name?” asks Gray, snickering. I shake my head and redouble my efforts to just let it slide off. They do this stuff with each other all the time. They're just poking fun at me, and as soon as someone changes the topic no one will ever think about it ever again. “Ha!” says Ricky. “I bet it was Sam. That dude's a total fag.” “No, he's not!” I say, more forcefully than I was trying to. I instantly feel the rest of the guys back off, but Ricky keeps at it. “Yeah, he is,” says Ricky, oblivious to how angry I am. “He sucked off Brian Myers in the locker room, he's totally gay.” “Don't call him that!” “What?” he looks around the room for support. The rest of the guys have gotten quiet. “He's totally gay,” he repeats. I think he's done, but he suddenly turns back to me. “So, was it him? Are you a-” “Shut the fuck up, Ricky!” Before anyone can react, Carter reaches across the table and grabs the front of Ricky's shirt. It pulls him off balance so he just sort of hangs there for a second before Carter pushes him back down. He hits the edge of his chair and bounces off on his way to the floor. He looks up at Carter, then at me, then back to Carter, bristling with anger, almost like he has one more thing to say on the tip of tongue. I hold my breath and wait for someone to make the next move. Ricky seems to have thought better of whatever else he was going to say. “I'm just kidding around, man. Take it easy.” Carter doesn't respond, he just stares down at Ricky. I've never seen him like this, so serious and angry. If I could forget about the situation, I'd have to admit that he's really sexy when he's fired up. “I'm sorry,” says Ricky, holding up his hands in deference. “I'm drunk, and I'm being an idiot.” “Ladies!” We all turn to look at Gray, who's holding up a six-pack of beer in each hand. “How about a little less fighting and a little more driving? We all stand in silence for a few seconds before Matt lets out a whoop and jumps up from the table. “I thought you'd never ask,” he hollers, giving Gray a nice, crisp high five. En masse, everyone gets up from the table, and without another word the confrontation seems to be forgotten. Even Ricky pops up off the ground like nothing happened and joins the rest of us as we head inside. What is Gray talking about that could defuse a situation like that so quickly? Driving? As I'm stepping in the door, Lucas grabs my arm to get my attention. As he's the only person behind me, we're alone on the porch. “Jackson,” he says, once he makes sure that we're alone. I swallow hard and wonder what this is about. “You play Mario Kart, right?”
  10. Chapter 18 Don’t worry. The story’s not over. I mean, if you want to freeze frame on this moment, and stop reading right now, that’s ok. It’s a happy ending if there ever was one, and I won’t blame you in the least. But it’s not the end of the story. And it’s not even some epic moment that’s burned into my brain forever. Honestly, it happened so fast I almost missed it. It’s almost like I didn’t know what Carter did until it was already over, like it never occurred in the present moment. He pulled away, took a step back, and then I understood that he had just kissed me. Don’t get me wrong. Holy shit. Carter Mulkins just kissed me. But it doesn’t sink in until a few minutes later. I follow up Carter’s kiss with my usual series of awkward noises and a complete inability to form coherent thoughts or words. I’m still in shock, and still processing. Carter has to take the reins after laying one on me like that. “Do you want to hang out this weekend?” he asks. For some reason, his question resonates with me even more than the kiss. He’s making the offer, and it’s my prerogative fo once. I’m in control, and my decision could turn him down. For once I have the power, even if I’m too shell shocked and surprised by what’s happening to effectively wield it. That being said, it’s simply an observation. Do you really think I’m going to say no? “What are you doing tomorrow?” I ask/ Carter laughs at me, but in that nice, genuine way that he pulls off so well. “You have the play tomorrow,” he says, “and I have football in Avon.” Shit. Why am I always so dumb around him? Oh course I have the play tomorrow. And Carter won’t even be at school for most of the day. The team has an away game that’s on the other side of the city, so they’ll leave after sixth period. “How about Saturday before your show?” he suggests. “That sounds good,” I say, like I never suggested Friday night to begin with. “The weather’s supposed to be nice,” he says. “You want to go for a run?” “Uhhhh…” A run? I falter again. We’ve never done anything like that together. I play soccer, but I wouldn’t consider myself a serious runner. The football team always seems like they’re doing more running drills than we are, and… “Don’t do that.” I look up at Carter and he’s grinning at me. “Don’t do what?” I ask. His smile is so pure, I can’t help but share it. “Don’t think so hard,” he says. “I can always tell when you’re thinking too hard.” Of course he can. It’s probably all the time. “Ok,” I say. “Let’s go running.” As baffling as his suggestion seems, there’s no need to complicate things. Not right now. His smile broadens. “Cool! I’ll want to loosen up after my game, and you’ll be ready for a little break from all your acting.” It does actually sound kind of nice when he says it like that. He continues. “I’ll text you tomorrow after the game to figure out details.” “Ok,” I say. Half way through the word, however, I start to have second thoughts. Sure, Carter just kissed me, but what is he really trying to do? He wants to hang out again, just like we were doing before everything happened. I haven’t talked to him in weeks, and now he wants to pick up like we never left off. Should I let myself jump back down this rabbit hole? “Jackson,” Carter interrupts, “you’re doing it again.” He’s right. I’m totally doing it again. “Just relax,” he says, grabbing my shoulders and smoothing down the edges of my shirt. It’s strangely comforting, like something my mom might do. “We can take it a day at a time.” Yes. One day at a time. I don’t need to worry about why I’m backstage with Carter right now and why he decided to come back to me. It’s ok. We can talk about it later. I can dwell on it some other time. right now it’s just me and Carter. He gave me flowers and told me I was amazing. He said he was sorry, and he wants to spend time with me again. I need that to be good enough for now, because it is. This time when he leans in for a kiss, I’m ready. Our lips touch, and I let myself ride a wave of happy, nervous energy. It’s quick and clean, but I feel it and taste it, and that’s the one I’ll remember. It’s real, I tell myself. Carter and I have had our first kiss - no booze, no games, and no problems. I wander out of the backstage area in a daze and find my family. I can tell that Ko and Katy know something’s up, but they do me a solid and leave me alone about it in front of my Mom. I get compliments from everyone, how good I was and how great the show was that night. Opening night was a smash hit, just like I thought it would be. But only one thing is on my mind: Carter came back to me. There are a million questions that I need answered, and there are a million things I’m not sure about. But Carter’s right. I can’t think so hard. I just need to take it one day at a time. ------- ------- ------- ------- “Ready to go?” It takes me a second to collect myself. It’s one thing to expect Carter to be standing there when I open the door. It’s quite another to see him. He’s wearing a bright teal tank top that only serves to accentuate the muscles in his arms and hint at the body that’s hiding underneath the parts that are covered. His shorts stop above his knee and hang loosely, just barely giving the impression of a nice bulge inside. It’s like a wet dream at the gym. “Just a second,” I say. I was in the middle of tying my shoes when the doorbell rang, and I squat down in the entryway to finish up. “Is your mom here?” Carter asks, poking his head inside. “Nah,” I reply, “she’s with the twins for some recital at school. I’m glad you’re here, ‘cause otherwise I’d have to go.” I stand up and step out the door, closing it behind me. “Ouch,” says Carter. “That’s why I’m here, huh? To keep you from having to go to a recital.” “No, I…” I catch the smirk on Carter’s face and stop fighting back. As usual, he’s just messing with me. Instead of parrying, I take off running and leave him standing in the doorway. If he wants to play games, then he can play catch up. I look behind me to see how far back he is and almost bump into him. I should have known better. He’s so athletic, there’s no way I could leave him in the dust. We settle into an easy pace and I start us out on one of my go to routes. I don’t run a ton, but I try to get out a few times a week when we’re getting ready for soccer season. This route is nice because about halfway through you can pick the long way or the short way home depending on how you’re feeling. That makes it either about three miles or five. Honestly, I usually pick the short way. The best part about today’s run, however, has to be the weather. For mid-November, this is insane. It’s in the upper 60s and the sun is shining so it feels even better than that. A few weeks ago I thought winter was in full swing, but as of this morning you would think it was barely even fall. Heck, Carter is wearing a tank top, and last week we were all decked out in our puffies. The pace seems to be good for both of us, but I hope I’m not slowing Carter down too much. I want to keep my breath so we can talk. From the looks of it we’re both starting to work up a bit of a sweat, but more from the heat than our actual effort. We swivel through a roundabout and I turn over to Carter. “How was the game yesterday?” I ask. Carter doesn’t respond but he shrugs. “You guys won,” I say. I get the feeling there’s more to it than that for Carter. He shakes his head. “It wasn’t a good game. We won, but if that’s how we play I don’t see us getting very far in the playoffs.” Last night’s game was a non-conference team. They were supposed to be pretty good, so I’m surprised that Carter doesn’t think a win was good enough. He’s such a perfectionist, it kills me. “I’m sure you were just working out some of the kinks,” I say. “You have two more games to make sure you’re ready.” “Yeah,” he admits, “maybe you’re right. What about you?” “I don’t think we’re going to make the playoffs,” I say. Our season started well enough, but we dropped a few big games and our postseason prospects aren’t looking especially good. I figure I won’t bore Carter with the details unless he asks. “Not soccer,” Carter says laughing. “The play last night. How did it go?” Oh yeah, the play. I think for a second. “It was good. Not like opening night, but it was good.” “You guys were incredible on Thursday,” he says. “It’d be hard to top that.” “Thanks.” Even mid run I can feel my cheeks getting hot in response to the praise. “No, seriously, like I said. You were amazing. It was like you were a totally different person up there.” That was what he said backstage. That I was amazing. And now he’s saying it again. Why would he say that? “Come on, dude, just admit it,” he says. “You were really good on Thursday.” He knows I can’t take a compliment, especially from him. “Yeah, ok, we were good.” Carter’s grinning at me and I can’t help but do it too. He always gets to me. “I’m glad you came. I don’t know if we’ll have a better night than that.” I hope it doesn’t sound like it was just because of what happened after that. I don’t think I’m supposed to bring that up. We’re just taking it day by day, right? I figure that means we’re not going to sit down and analyze every little thing that happens along the way. “Yeah, me too.” I try to read Carter’s expression, but I’m not sure what to think. He’s such an enigma. Here’s this beautiful boy jogging along beside me, telling me I’m ‘amazing’ and kissing me after the show the other night. Is this real life, or am I just imagining it? I smile a little and let myself get into the zone. We cover the next few miles without talking and I’m surprised how natural it feels to be with Carter again. I feel flustered and nervous when we’re talking, but actually doing stuff together feels easy. It’s just like it used to be with him. Here I was, all geared up to have a serious talk during our run, when all we had to do was hang out with each other. I’m surprised to see that we’re already coming around the final corner and back onto my street. We’ll be back home in just a few blocks. I slow my pace to a walk for a cooldown and Carter follows suit. Maybe I’m complicating things. We’re just going to see what happens. Carter as much as admitted he likes me, and that was a huge step. I can’t expect him to know exactly what he wants and needs right off the bat, anymore than I could expect to know that about myself. And that’s a whole different can of worms: What do I want? What do I… “Don’t do that,” Carter says, giving me a little push in the back to break my train of thought. “Do what?” I ask. He laughs. “Don’t think so hard. You’ll give yourself a headache.” I don’t even bother trying to deny it. Am I that easy to read? We step into the house and I start to unlace my shoes and take them off. It almost feels colder inside than it was outside. This weather is crazy. The whole front of my shirt is about soaked with sweat, not something I would usually expect in the middle of November. I look at Carter and he’s in the same boat. His tank top is wet and there are beads of perspiration running down his arms and the top part of his chest, visible in the V of his tank top. He looks sexy as hell covered in sweat. I’m sure it’s the same way when he comes in from football practice, but I don’t get to see nearly as much of him when he’s all bundled up in pads and a jersey. “You like what you see?” Carter asks, totally catching me staring. I look up from his body to meet his eyes. He doesn’t seem bothered by it. “Yeah?” I suggest weakly. He must not mind, because in response, he pulls his tank top over his head and tosses it down with his shoes. “I’m sweatier than I thought,” he says. He flexes his arms back and forth and twists his torso, checking himself out, presumably for sweat. He looks down at me and smiles devilishly. Something tells me he’s just trying to put on a show. If he looks hot with a shirt on, he’s twice as hot without it. I usually see the summer build of Carter. He gets a little leaner and longer during swim season, and tan since he spends more time outside running around, playing basketball, and all that stuff. It’s a damn good look. Mid-season football Carter, however, is a little bulkier, with maybe ten extra pounds of muscle packed on. He isn’t chunky by any means, but the extra weight makes him look so much more filled out, stronger, and manlier. It’s like having two different Carters, and there’s no way I could decide which one I like better. “We can go use my shower if you want.” It takes me a second to realize what I just said. I didn’t mean that we are going to use it at the same time or anything. Just that Carter can use it if he wants, and I’ll go hang out until he’s done. Honestly, can I go five minutes without saying something weird? “Sounds good, dude.” Again, if Carter noticed it he isn’t fazed at all. Instead he leads the way up to my room. I can’t help but notice his perfect ass in his running shorts as we go up the stairs, like two giant tennis balls trapped under the fabric, so firm. It’s all I can do not to just reach out and grab the thing. The instant we get into my bedroom Carter leans down and shucks off his shorts, leaving only a pair of tight, gray compression shorts with yellow trim. They’re a little bit damp from our run, and it makes them slightly more transparent than normal. Even after exercising, there’s a sizable bulge inside, and not a whole lot left to the imagination. “Well?” Carter asks, putting his hands on his hips. It juts his hips forward ever so slightly and I have to fight the urge to lick my lips. He definitely did it on purpose. “Well, what?” I ask back, somehow pulling my gaze up and away from the glory inside Carter’s underwear. He smirks and takes a step toward me. “Are you coming, or not?” he asks. I can’t help but look back down as he closes the distance between us. Those shorts give him the perfect amount of support. They make his bulge look so firm and solid. “Where are we going?” I ask. For the record, I’m not that thick. At this point, I can see exactly what Carter’s getting at, and I absolutely want to go where he’s headed. But he’s taking the lead for once, and it’s turning me on like crazy. I don’t want to give him what he wants, I want him to take it if that’s what he’s in the mood for. And apparently he is. He stops so his face is only about an inch away from mine, then he reaches down grabs the bottom of my shirt. I hardly have time to lift up my arms before he pulls it up over my head and throws it halfway across the room. A second later he pulls my shorts down to my ankles. “Get in the shower,” he says. I instantly chub up at his command. I can feel my cock straining against the tight fabric of my underwear. He’s never been like this before, so forceful and in control. I like it. I walk into the bathroom and I can feel his eyes on me the whole way. What’s gotten into him? Leaning into the shower, I flip the taps on to about where they need to be. We’ll have ten or fifteen seconds before the water gets… I stop moving and feel Carter push into me from behind. I’m still leaning slightly forward, so the only contact between us is what I assume is his semi pushing lightly into my backside. An erotic surge shoots through my body, and I push harder back into him. He reaches down and pulls me up to a standing position. He grinds his hips lightly into mine and runs his hands across my stomach and up to my chest. I go limp in his arms as he continues to explore my body. His right hand brushes over my nipple and I feel it stiffen. I can’t see him, but I know he has that same smirk on his face that he was using on me when we were in the bedroom. His hands slide up my ribcage then up to my back and… He pushes me into the shower. I stumble over the edge of the tub and flop down ass first into the shower. I’m soaking wet, and I didn’t even have a chance to take my compression shorts off. I look up at Carter, and he takes a second to laugh at me before glancing down at my crotch and raising his eyebrows suggestively. It’s probably quite visible at this point, wet and mostly hard inside my shorts. Rather than strip off his own underwear, Carter just steps into the shower to join me, helping me to my feet before pushing me back against the wall and pressing his lips against mine. I don’t even have time to react. For a second I stand there numbly, feeling his soft, wet lips pressed against my own, but then I grab the back of his head and return the kiss with everything I’ve got. I should have known that Carter would be a fantastic kisser. He’s good at everything he does, and there’s no reason kissing would have been any different. We shared a sloppy, drunken kiss a few months ago, but this is totally different. That was a tongue haphazardly getting rammed into my mouth. This is energetic, complex, and delicious. The whole experience is overwhelming, and I’m about to pull away to catch my breath when I think better of it and force myself to keep going. I’m afraid if I pause this, Carter might realize how crazy it is. We’re making out in the shower. I’m making out with Carter Mulkins, a straight boy who just a few days ago decided that he might like me and wants to see where it takes him. I can’t let this slow down or lose momentum for even a second. Instead of stopping, I slide my hands down Carter’s hairless back and pull his hips into me. He responds with a slight gasp as our cocks make contact through our tight, wet compression shorts. Mine is stretched tight against the fabric, and it feels like his is too. I grind forward and backward and side to side and a jolt of pleasure runs through my whole body. At first I thought it was weird that we were both still wearing underwear, but rubbing against Carter like this is even hotter with the little bit of clothing we have. As the erotic sensations grow, one of Carter’s hands starts to trace a line lightly down my spine. When he reaches my waistband, he slides his fingers under it and reaches down to gently cup my left asscheek. Given the tacit approval, I move both of my hands from his hips back onto the two perfect mounds of flesh on Carter’s backside. Even through his underwear, they feel amazing - firm yet supple. We pull each other in tighter and I relish the contact between our slippery, smooth stomachs when they come together. I slide myself up and down against Carter, causing wonderful, erotic sensations from our chests all the way down through our cocks. We’ve never had this much body contact before, and Carter responds by pushing his tongue into my mouth. This is my first real french kiss, and if things were hot before, they’re on fire now. I finally break the kiss to catch my breath, but I still don’t give Carter a chance to think about stopping. Instead, I drop to my knees in front of him and run my hands up his wet thighs. During our grinding, Carter’s now fully hard package shifted over to lie across his right hip, and as my left hand reaches the area, I roll my fingers across the highly visible ridge of his cockhead. The instant I make contact, Carter’s cock jumps in his shorts and a light moan escapes his lips. I wrap my hand fully around his rigid shaft and trace the outline of it down from the head to the base. It might be my imagination or just my raging libido, but he looks even longer and thicker than last time I saw him. I look up at Carter and he makes eye contact with me. His cheeks are flushed and the desire is written clearly across his face. Still looking up at him, I lean forward and wrap my mouth around the outline of his head. I follow the path of my hands and slide my lips all the way down to the base, never breaking our gaze. “Oh, fuck, Jackson.” Carter throws his head back and pushes his hips forward, trying to get more of himself into my mouth. I take a few more seconds to explore the shape of his manhood through his shorts before hooking my fingers up into the waistband and releasing him. His perfect cut cock flips out and sticks straight at me. I really missed this. While getting jacked off or getting blown feels amazing, I never enjoy it quite as much as I like getting to put my mouth all over him. The taste, the feel, the smell - I love every second of it. Warmed up from our run and then the hot water in the shower, Carter looks bigger and juicier than ever, like his cock is just begging me to put it in my mouth. I do. I take the head into my mouth, tasting it and loving how full it makes my mouth feel. I swirl my tongue around the end, savoring the contours and ridges of his big, flared head. I run the tip of my tongue up and down his exposed frenulum, feeling him twitch again under my ministrations. “Oh my god,” Carter moans, reaching a hand down to cradle the back of my head. He pushes forward gently, and I don’t fight him, instead driving my head forward onto his shaft. I bob my head up and down while Carter lightly rocks his hips in time with the motion, our smooth, toned bodies under the spray of the showerhead. This is heaven. Once we have a good rhythm going, I raise up my hands to explore Carter’s hips, stomach, thighs, and ass. He’s like an adonis, with all the right edges, ridges, and curves. I love the way his hip bones jut out ever so slightly. His rippled stomach is superb. His ass is taut with muscle but layered with the perfect amount of soft padding over the top of it. And then there’s the masculinity of the band of neatly trimmed pubic hair above his cock. “I’m so close…” Carter’s voice shakes me out of my reverie of body worship, and I look up to see what he wants, sliding back until just the head of his dick is resting on my tongue. He’s close, but does he want me to stop, or does he want me to finish him off? Carter looks down at me and implores me. “Oh God, dude, make me cum.” I don’t need to be told twice. I take him back into my mouth and take a few slow strokes over the first inch or two of his member. Then I extend to the first three inches. I know where I want to go with this, but I want it to build up a little bit. I keep up my rhythm, slowly taking more and more of him into my mouth. I can hear his breathing getting louder, and I know I have him right on the edge. It’s time to finish him off. I grab handfuls of both his asscheeks and pull him as far into my mouth as I can, burying him to the hilt. I hold him there in my throat, and I can feel his rod stiffening and swelling with the start of his orgasm. Here it comes! Finally I pull off just in time to take the first shot of his cum directly in my mouth. It’s warm and salty, just like I remember it. I swallow every drop, then hold him there for a few more seconds, gently cleaning off the last few drop of cum with my tongue as they leak out. Carter pulls out, probably overwhelmed by the sensation. “Holy shit,” he says breathlessly, “that was amazing.” He takes a few gulps of air and then pulls me up to my feet. I partly expect him to drop down and return the favor, but instead he turns me around so my back is facing him. He slides up behind me and reaches around to put his hands on my chest and stomach. I close my eyes as his fingers explore my body and bask in the sensations. He pulls away and I pop my eyes open, wondering what he’s up to. Then he’s back pressed against me, but now I feel a bar of soap in his hand as he moves across my torso. He sets the soap back down and resumes his explorations. The soap adds a new sensation to it, making everything slippery and erotic in a new way. Finally, his hands drop below my stomach and slip under my waistband. I relax back into Carter’s body and enjoy more of the flesh on flesh sensations that we were feeling before. He wraps his hand around my rock hard tool and starts gently stroking it, the soap acting as a lubricant. Needless to say, it feels amazing. As Carter continues jacking me off, I start to feel his dick perking back up, pressing lightly into my backside. It’s pushing directly into my crack, and I push back into him. The contact down there feels… weird, but good. To be honest, I haven’t done a ton in the way of self exploration down on that side of things. I’ve jacked off about a million times, just like any healthy teenage boy. But besides a handful of quick feels, I haven’t done much with my butt. I guess I always figured I’d be a top. I make a mental note to look into that though, because Carter’s semi pressing into the space around my ass is sending erotic sensations all through my body. I reach down and push my compression shorts down my legs to allow Carter free access. Now when I push back into him, I can feel his cock nestle directly between my cheeks. Feeling his fat, hot meat squeezed into my crack is all it takes to get me right to the brink. I twist my head around and let my mouth find Carter’s. He locks his lips over mine and I feel my cock start to swell in his hand. He stops jacking me, but holds his hand there as I blow my load, a huge explosion of cum blasting out across the bottom of my shower. I groan and almost lose my footing as I’m swept up in my orgasm, but Carter holds me in place, one hand around my waist and the other wrapped tightly around my spitting dick. My mind soars above the clouds through the height of my climax and comes to rest at a spot not too much lower than that. I start to catch my breath, wrapped in Carter’s embrace, with the hot water of the shower raining down on both of us.
  11. I've thought about that as well... Maybe one day
  12. Chapter 17 It’s finally here! Opening night. Or rather, it’s the early predawn hours of the day that will eventually turn into opening night. My alarm isn’t set to go off for almost another hour, but I’m so excited I can’t imagine I’ll be able to fall back asleep. Instead, I try to quiet my mind and focus on the day to come. I need to save some of this excitement for later. There’s still a full day of school. I have a math quiz. I need to turn in homework. After that, I can get stoked. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself being able to focus on anything. I’m already buzzing with energy, and after a few fruitless minutes of waiting for my brain to shut back off so I can snooze, I decide to get out of bed and officially make it an early morning. First things first. Breakfast. Usually I’ll shower and get dressed first thing in the morning, but I think today needs to start with a nice, hearty breakfast. I’m rummaging through the fridge for something to eat when my phone goes off. I pull out milk, yogurt, and an apple before checking my messages. It’s Katy. [ GET PUMPED!!!!!! ] Of course it’s Katy. She knows me too well. She doesn't even have to ask if I’m up already. Anytime I’m excited, I’m up and at 'em way too early. She’s the same way. [ I’m trying to get a jump start on my Tony acceptance speech ] She’ll get a kick out of that. I wolf down my food like any good teenage boy as we exchange a few more texts back and forth. Since she’s awake, I coerce her into giving me a ride to school. That’ll give me a few more minutes to get ready, so I run upstairs to shower and pick out clothes. During our breakfast, Katy and I also decided that we’re going to look good today, so I’ll need to pick something extra special to wear. I eventually decide on my favorite mustard yellow corduroys and a trendy purple sweater from Banana Republic. It’s a great look for me. Katy helped me pick out these pants, and the sweater was a lucky find at a thrift store a few months ago. I spend a few extra minutes getting my hair perfect and take a good long look at myself in the mirror. I look damn good. Not just regular good. Fantastic, in fact. And when you look good, you feel good. I’m sure part of it is the excitement of the show tonight, but there’s something else. I feel positive vibes, and it’s practically radiating out from me. Not just about the show. About everything. Today is going to be one hell of a good day. I’m sure of it. I shove my books in my backpack and realize, as I’m heading out the door to meet Katy, that this is the first time I’ve felt like this since… you know. I haven’t felt bad. But I haven’t felt like this. This is the feeling Carter used to give me. I used to pop off the pillow to a text from him and be energized to go to school, because I knew he would be there. I would count down the minutes until study hall when we might sit together, and then anxiously await the end of the day when we would both be in chemistry, whether we were working on a lab together or just going over some homework and casually talking and flirting in between problems. Even though we weren’t dating, I felt a genuine closeness to him. It was all friendly, besides the few times we fooled around of course, but he lit up everything inside me and made me feel like I was something really special. I mean, if you’re hooking up with a guy like Carter, you must be something special. In the weeks since, it’s been hard to tell if that feeling was only something I ever felt with Carter, or if it was something I was just now missing because my time with Carter had made it so strong. Had it been there before him? Was it inside me all along? Honestly, I don’t know. But today, I’m feeling it. I’m feeling it like I haven’t in weeks and weeks, and this time it’s making me even happier, because it’s just me. It’s not anything I’m depending on from someone else. I have myself and I have the things that are constant in my life - friends, family, and the play tonight. Those are all my things. Things that can’t get taken away from me. Damn that feels good. Before I can even blink it’s already lunchtime, and Ko and I are chowing down on today’s special, chicken alfredo. If anything it’s another omen pointing to a great day, as it’s one of the best things they ever make at school. According to me and Ko at least. Katy swings by for a few minutes as we’re finishing up to figure out our exact plans for tonight. We don’t have to be at the theater until a few hours after school ends, but Katy and I decide to head over there immediately after our last class. Opening night is a huge deal, and we want to savor and soak up as much of it as we can. The rest of the day comes and goes in a flash, and I’m back to practically purring with excitement by the time I get to chemistry. Today is a lecture day, and as riveting as Nizen’s discourse on valence electrons is, I can only think of one thing. In less than five hours I’ll be on stage. We wrap up class with about twenty minutes to spare, and I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’m so full of energy I feel like I might burst. And I need to sit here and pretend to do my chemistry homework for almost half an hour? Not likely. But I do need to get some of this homework done, and merely pretending to do it won’t help the time go by any faster. Tonight I’ll be busy with the show, and I already have at least half of tomorrow’s study hall locked up to finish an English assignment. I resign myself to my assignment. Tonight’s work is tedious, but not hard. I’m picking up well on this chapter, and my good mood surprisingly translates into a decent focus, so I knock one problem out after another. I should be able to get almost all of the assignment done if I don’t get stuck on anything. “Jackson.” I jerk my head up in surprise at the sound of my name. I get the impression that it wasn’t the first try to get my attention. “Yeah?” I turn to see Carter leaning over toward my desk with a piece of paper in his hand. “You’re really good at these, right?” he asks. “Does number seven look weird to you?” I grab his paper and look down at seven. His process is right, but he made a mistake on adding everything up at the end. That’s not like Carter. I’m more of a detail person than he is, but he still usually double checks all of his work. “You added it up wrong,” I say, and hand it back. Before he even takes the paper out of my hand, my focus is back on my own and I’m working on the next problem. I get the vague sensation that he’s still looking at me, but I ignore it. If he wants to talk to me he can say something. For now I have bigger fish to fry. This homework needs to distract me for ten more minutes, and then it’s opening night. I have to smile a bit as I get back into my work. Even Carter can’t distract me from my high today. This is what I was born to do. After what seems like a decade, the bell rings. From that moment, I feel like I’m floating through a fog. Out of the classroom and over to my locker. Then from the locker up to the drama classroom to grab a few things I stashed in there this morning. Then down all the way across the school to the auditorium. I don’t notice the people in the halls around me or the noise and commotion of the end of the school day. There’s a thousand little stories in a high school hallway, but for me it’s just a journey through limbo, the school day finally done and the big night only moments away. So let’s try that again: It’s finally here. Opening Night. I put my bag and a few other things in my cubby in the dressing room. A handful of other people have gotten here already, but so far no sign of Katy. I manage to finagle the promise of a few pieces of pizza from a senior on stage crew who’s leaving for a while to grab some food. I probably won’t have time to leave at all. Curtain is at 6pm for our show tonight, and I want to make sure there’s plenty of time to get my makeup and costuming done. Back in my freshman year, I had been pretty nervous about my first show. I hadn’t done much acting before, but thought that maybe theater was something I wanted to try. Imagine my surprise when I snagged a meaty role in my first ever show. The Reverend Hale in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” Not bad for a rookie. From the first day of practice, I was surprised at how comfortable I felt on stage. It was easy once I was up there doing it, and I was getting along with everybody in the company too. Things were going great, and I came into our last week of rehearsal with a full head of steam and all the confidence in the world. Oh, the naiveté of Jackson the freshman. Opening night hit me like a freight train. The whole day leading up to it had been pretty similar to today. I was riding high on what I thought was almost guaranteed to be my smash hit, break out performance. I swaggered into the auditorium after school laughing and joking with the other kids in the show, a big smile on my face. Everything was looking up. Until the moment I stepped out onto the stage. Luckily it was still a few hours before curtain. I didn’t even have my makeup or costume on yet. I just wanted to get a feel for what it would be like once I got up there to perform. I pushed out from behind the curtain and walked onto the exposed part of the stage. At that exact moment, our technical director decided she wanted to run through the lighting cues one more time. The house lights came down, and there I was. Under the stage lights, all my confidence flew straight out the window. The lights suddenly felt hotter and brighter than they ever had during rehearsal. Instead of squinting out through the glare to see our director and a few other people, I saw row after row after row of chairs. In a few hours, they wouldn’t just be chairs, they would be full of people. From the looks of it, half the town would be there watching me. Heart pounding, I ran back through the curtain and into the calming blue lights of backstage. How the hell was I going to do this? It’s like all the nerves I hadn’t been feeling about the show for the past few weeks suddenly came to life in a giant wave of fear and anxiety. I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe slow, even breaths. I willed myself not to cry, even though I wanted to. Maybe if I said I was sick, they would get someone else to... “Hey!” I looked around to see who was talking to me. I didn’t see anyone from stage crew, but I had definitely heard a voice calling me, a girl. “Up here!” I looked up into the grid and could just make out the shadow of a figure above me. There was a sort of catwalk above our stage where you can go to adjust lights, hook up set pieces, or even string up a harness for our school’s infamous production of Peter Pan. Let’s just say that having high schoolers in charge of your flying harness might not be the safest idea. But now there was a voice calling me from somewhere up there. I walked to the back of the stage where the access ladder was, and was surprised to find that it was open. Usually they kept it closed and locked unless someone needed to go up there to fix something. They didn’t want us kids wandering up there whenever we felt like it. I climbed the ladder and found the source of the mystery voice from above: Katy. At the time, Katy was a bit of an anomaly to me. She was a year older and seemed so serious about everything in theater. She was the person who showed up to the first rehearsal totally off book, and she wasn’t afraid to give you pointers if you needed it during our practices. Never in a snooty or off putting way, but it was still intimidating to work with her. She definitely wasn’t someone I ever had the guts to try and buddy up with. “First big show?” she asked as I popped my head through the ladder hatch and into the grid. “Yeah,” I said, shuffling over as best I could to sit next to her. The roof there was only about five feet tall, and there were loads of connectors, fixtures, and who knows what drilled into the ceiling, so you had to walk through all hunched over. “It’s a lot different when the chairs are out there, isn’t it?” she said. “Yeah,” I said again. Just a single word, but I could tell we were on the same page. An empty auditorium could never convey how many people were going to be out there watching me on stage for opening night. “Are you nervous?” she asked. I nodded and looked out again at all the empty seats. In less than two hours those would all be full. I’d have to walk on stage to deliver my lines, with all those people looking… “Good,” said Katy, giving my hand closest to her a reassuring pat. “‘Cause that means you’re excited.” I threw her an incredulous look. She made it sound so simple, and in my current state of near panic, I did not agree. That being said, she had been doing this for a while, so I figured I should hear her out. I still remember the feeling I got when she turned and smiled. I blushed. Not because a cute girl was getting close with me - even then I was pretty sure I wasn’t interested in girls - but because this girl who was so good at something I wanted to be good at was being nice to me. Even though I was nervous, I could feel the warmth from her smile. That’s the power Katy has, the same thing she does when she’s acting up on the stage. She can radiate a feeling straight over to you. “Don't worry, Jackson,” she continued, “you’re going to feel nervous for a little bit, but by the time we get out on stage, it’s all going to turn into a rush. When you actually step out into the lights, you won’t be nervous at all.” “Are you sure?” I asked, before I could stop myself from saying it. I sounded like an idiot, so unsure of myself. “I’ve done this before,” she answered with a wink. “Nervous and excited - it’s the same thing. Same feeling, just whether you’re scared or happy while you’re feeling it.” We talked for another fifteen or twenty minutes, until there wasn’t any time to spare. Katy took me down to the stage then back to the dressing room where she did my makeup for me. There was something so calming about being around her. Like she had done this a thousand times already, and that there was absolutely nothing to be nervous about. By the time the curtain rose, Katy was right. The nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach had morphed into an excited energy that wanted nothing more than to go out there and give those people the best show I could. Over the next few weeks we became best friends, and to this day she still does my makeup for me before every show. Usually she’ll do mine early, since it’s a little weird to have one of the actors doing makeup, instead of the girls on the makeup crew. Then I sit with her while she gets hers done. At this point we’re 3 years into the tradition and it’s still one of my favorite parts of a show night. “There’s my little superstar!” Katy’s voice pulls me back to the present moment and I turn around to see her practically strut into the dressing room with her makeup bag. She acts like she owns the place around here, which as a senior with her reputation and experience, she pretty much does. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s more like she’s invested so much of her time and energy here over the last few years that she’s as much a part of our theater as the dressing room itself. My makeup for this show is awesome, but it takes a while to get it right. I wear a mask over my eyes, but the bottom half of my face still shows. Katy colors it to match the mask, then puts deep, dark lines all around my mouth, giving my expressions a crazed, almost supernatural look under the lights. I don’t know how she figured it out, but I can’t wait to suit up. With a flourish, Katy pulls out the first couple items from her bag and gets to work. ******* ******* ******* ******* I know how it must seem to other people. Everything about the theater, from beginning to end, is cheesy and cliché. We put on musty old costumes with all sorts of velvety fabrics and tights and stupid looking hats. We speak trite, archaic words - you could just look them up in a book if you really care what we’re talking about - and prance around on stage between fake replicas of objects. Plywood and polyester, painted and sewn, with centuries old words that you’ve heard a hundred times before. And somehow, it’s magic. Everything we’re doing up there is fake, from the clothes to the set pieces, with our mediocre acting to top it all off. Yet somehow, on certain nights, with the lights shining down just right, a strange energy will take hold. On stage we start to feel it a few minutes into the show, and then it seeps into the audience and they start to feel it too. Then the actors start to notice that the audience is feeling it, and they feel it even more. And this magical, inexplicable feeling starts reflecting and intensifying back and forth between the two until no one’s noticing anything anymore. Maybe you’ve never experienced it, but I can assure you it’s very real. It doesn’t happen every single night, and most nights it’s not so intense. But every once in awhile it strikes a chord, like a low hum reverberating in a stairwell. And everybody feels it. That’s how opening night goes. There’s magic in the air from the moment we step on stage. By the time Quince and Bottom appear, there’s a palpable energy in the theater. We’re giddy with excitement as we wait for our entrances in the wings, and everyone on stage is on fire. When an audience is laughing at 400 year old jokes, you know you’re doing it right. The first half of the show flies by, and before we know it, the curtain is dropping for intermission. Backstage we can’t stop smiling and giggling. We’re crushing it tonight. As is our tradition, Katy and I meet at the ladder. ‘Our ladder,’ as we sometimes call it. We check to make sure the coast is clear, flip the latch that allegedly secures the ladder, and then climb up to the grid as fast as we can. I’m in the first scene of the second act, so we might only have a few minutes to take it all in. We scoot up to the front of the catwalk, which actually extends past the curtain. That way we can sneak a peek out into the auditorium without being spotted. This is where we first met, and ever since that first show we like to come up here during the break to people watch and get a quick breather. Within a few minutes I’ve spotted a bunch of my classmates and teachers, and even my favorite assistant principal, Ms. Zidnik. Nice of her to come out tonight. “There’s your mom,” Katy points out over the left side of the stage, near the front. I look over and see her with Randy and Sarah and my aunt. I told Mom to be over on that side of the stage since there’s a part of the show where I get to jump out at the audience in that corner. I’m hoping it will get a reaction from everyone, but the thought of scaring my little brother and sister is the best part. In the row behind them I can see Ko texting on his phone. At least he’s not asleep. Katy and I are pretty sure that he secretly likes coming to see our plays, but he always makes a big fuss about it, just like the football games. I know his mom and dad are coming to the play tomorrow and they’ll probably make him come with them too. Strange to see a play twice if you hate it that much. Closer to the middle section I spot Katy’s parents talking to a few older folks I don’t recognize. And sitting next to them… “He’s sitting with your parents?” I exclaim. Katy jabs me in the side with her fingers. “Don’t even start with me,” she whispers back. “He was picking me up to go to the movies last week and they asked if he had tickets yet.” “And they bought him one?” Katy sighs. “They didn’t really give him a choice.” Poor Jeff. Katy’s parents are nice people, don’t get me wrong. But that seems like a big step. Out to see a show with the in-laws. Yikes. I scan back across the aisles to see if I know any of the people coming back out of the lobby into the auditorium. I see the delivery guy from our favorite pizzeria and the lady who checks the parking meters in town. It’s not a bad turnout for a Thursday night… No. Shit! It’s Carter. He’s walking up the aisle. Why didn’t he say that he was coming tonight? He saw me in chemistry and could have mentioned it, then I at least would have had my guard up. Instead, I’m staring down at him and wondering if it’s too late to get an understudy to finish off the show. Slap enough makeup on him and people wouldn’t even know the difference. Just then, the lights flash in the auditorium, indicating the end of intermission and the start of the second half of the show. For the audience, that means it’s time to find your seat. For Katy and me, it’s time to get the heck out of the dusty grid and get back down to our dressing rooms. I try to shake the thought of Carter from my mind as I clamber back down the ladder. The same questions run through my head on repeat: Why is he here? Why didn’t he tell me he was coming? What does it mean? I’m not especially careful about checking to see if the coast is clear as we descend. Luckily no one sees until we’re almost to the dressing rooms, and we manage to slip seamlessly in with all the other actors like we were never even gone. I think everyone has something in their lives that can take their mind off of anything in a heartbeat. For Ko it’s his models that he likes to build. For Sam it’s archery. Thankfully, for me it’s acting. By the time I sit down for a quick touch up on my stage makeup, the thought of anything at all to do with Carter is miles away. I’m thinking of my stage directions, my lines, and a few key spots that I really want to turn up the intensity. I’m right back in the zone. Acting has always been like that for me. From the first time I was in a play - a ramshackle retelling of the story of King Arthur and his knights in second grade - I’ve always been able to get lost in the craft. When I was obsessing over Carter, Drama was always one of the best periods of the day. I would go an entire class without thinking about Carter once. Even when things were going well between us it was a welcome relief to get away for a little bit. And when it wasn’t going well, it was an absolute life saver. Tonight is certainly no exception. The first half of the show went well, and even in the dressing room I can feel the energy building back up. There’s a buzz around all the actors, and once something like that gets going, it sucks you right in. Forget about Carter. Forget about all of it. It’s time for the second act. It’s time to perform. The first half of the show was fire, and we need to keep it up. And we do it. If anything, the second half is even better than the first. I forget that Carter’s even here - hell, I forget about Carter completely. Katy’s not thinking about Jeff’s awkward date with her parents, and even Ko is probably sitting out there hanging on our every word. It feels natural, easy, and right. This is exactly where we’re supposed to be right now. The curtain swings shut as we wave our final goodbyes to the crowd. The applause is almost deafening. As the noise dies down, the cast and crew stand backstage together, basking in the afterglow of a great performance. I try to take a snapshot of the moment in my mind. That instant when the curtain closes and the world goes dark. Everyone is beaming from ear to ear, and we share one final, perfect moment together in happy silence. You can feel the energy and contentment radiating from everyone around. You might only get one performance like this in the entire run. It’s crazy that it’s opening night, but I’ll take it. We killed it, and a moment like this is a perfect one. The house lights come on, and that includes the lights backstage. The sudden return of our sight snaps us out of our reverie, but only partially. The success is still real, and the smiles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Except maybe mine. Because the instant the lights come up, there’s only one thing I can think about. Carter. He’s here. He’s out there. And after a whole night of not thinking about him for a second, it’s almost like my brain releases the flood gates and all of my pent up Carter thoughts and emotions come pouring out. Why was he here? What did he think of the show? Did he actually come to see me? There are thousands of questions racing through my brain, and I’m powerless to stop them. I should know better, especially now. The last few weeks have actually been great for me, and I’ve been avoiding Carter to the best of my abilities. My grades are great, I’m spending lots of time with my friends, soccer is wrapping up a good season, and tonight’s show was undoubtedly a smashing success. So why does thinking of Carter feel like opening up a massive hole inside of my heart? Ugh. I’m disgusted with myself for being so weak about Carter. I can’t even deny it. Ever since we split up I feel empty. Everything I’ve done seems drab and flavorless in retrospect. Perfectly decent memories, but suddenly whitewashed into blandness with the absence of Carter. Even now, in the middle of what should be the best feeling of my life - coming hot out of the gates with a killer performance in the play - I’m absolutely crushed by the thought of being alone. I make myself small and shrink back into the rear of the backstage area. I see my fellow cast and crew members shuffle out the wings, laughing and carrying on, floating away to the audience on the high of a great performance. I don’t want to rain on their parade. I grab a few props and try to sort them out, finding their homes in the cubbies we have on the wings. A few minutes, I tell myself, and I’ll be back to my normal self. I just need to keep busy and wait until my mind drifts back away from Carter and I can enjoy the success of the night. He’ll be gone out of the theater, and I can go see my mom and other friends from school, who I’m sure will stick around until I come out to wish me the best. I wonder if it’s always going to be like this. I’ll go the next few weeks feeling good and living my life and then… Bam. I’ll be struck with loss and resentment, and the inescapable feeling of missing a piece of myself. Something I feel even more stupid for, since I never even had it in the first place. I was kidding myself all along, and now I’m going to carry that around like a lead weight for the rest of my life. A few more minutes, I tell myself. I grab an extension cord up off the floor and start spooling it up. I decide that once I’m done putting it away I’ll head out into the auditorium. My mom, Ko, and Katy are probably waiting around for me at this point. I can tell them that I was putting some things away, or that I was trying to find my phone or something. Once I get out there I’ll be back to normal, distracted once again from the dark feelings that are always lurking beneath the surface. “Hey.” I freeze, and the half spooled cord I’m holding drops from my fingers back onto the floor. “That was amazing.” I turn around, and have to fight the urge to throw up or pass out, or… something! It’s a sight to behold. Carter, dressed up in khaki pants and a blue button up that fits perfectly, standing under the dim lights backstage. There’s an aura around him, a presence, and it takes my breath away. Not only to see him, but to see him like this. We haven’t been alone together since the morning after the football game. The last time we talked - more than just conveying information about chemistry back and forth that is - was when he told me what we were doing was gay. I agreed, but we both had very different opinions of what that meant. And that was that. Or so I thought. But now he’s standing here, one on one, and he’s absolutely resplendent as always. How attractive he looks only makes me angrier. At him of course, but more at myself. After all this, I’m still ready to bow down and worship this beautiful, infuriating boy. How stupid can I be? “You were amazing, Jackson.” He’s so earnest. He always is. He pauses before he says things, and it makes you think that he’s really thinking about it. He looks you dead in the eye when he speaks, and it makes you really believe it. And now he’s telling me I was amazing, and I’ll never ever forgive myself if I believe him for even a second. “Seriously. You were incredible.” I’m melting. My anger with him is withering with every word, and it only makes me madder with myself. I am in awe of this boy. His words, his looks, his sincerity. It’s all so damn infuriating. He broke my heart and I can’t even tell him off, I’m so busy getting butterflies in my stomach because he’s here alone with me backstage and he’s telling me that I’m amazing. Without saying anything else, Carter reaches out with a huge bouquet of flowers. I feel all the blood leave my head and I have to will myself not to pass out. With a shaky hand, I reach out and take the flowers. “Thanks,” I finally manage to sputter. “They’re beautiful.” I’m not sure what to say. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what’s happening here. Carter came to find me backstage, and then handed me a bouquet. Is it just some weird joke? I look back up at Carter from my flowers, and he’s smiling at me. He takes a step toward me, and now we’re only a few feet apart. “I don’t want to ruin your night, but there was something I wanted to tell you.” He tries to gauge my reaction, but I keep my face as neutral as I can. If what he’s about to say is going to ruin my night, I don’t want to hear it. “Go ahead,” I tell him. Since we’re both already here, he might as well get it over with. I can’t imagine what he could say that would ruin anything. We already aren’t speaking, and we’ve already blown up over the fact that I’m in love with him. How much worse could it get? “I’m sorry,” he says. His eyes drop and he stares down at the floor. A big part of me wants to really rub his nose in it and tell him that what he did to me was so messed up, and that I’ll never forgive him. But he’s so damn cute when he gets like this. “Hey,” I say, taking another little step in his direction, “it’s ok. I’m sorry too,” I add. “I shouldn’t have sprung all that on you. I shouldn’t have-” “No.” Carter cuts me off. “You don’t have to be sorry for anything. You’ve been…” He searches for the words. “You’ve been perfect, Jackson.” He moves a little closer, and our faces are less than a foot away from each other. “You’ve been perfect.” What does he mean, calling me perfect? He’s the perfect one! I’m the one who’s trying to pull him away from his normal, straight life. I’m the underdog here, trying to take our friendship to places it probably shouldn’t go. In his eyes, if nothing else, I can’t imagine how I’m perfect. “I don’t know what you mean, I tried to-” He stops me again. “You’ve been honest with me, and I know that was hard. The truth is, I haven’t been honest with you.” He shakes his head. “I haven’t been honest with anyone.” Maybe it’s just the stage lighting, but I’ve never seen him look this intense. His eyes are so powerful right now, bursting with meaning and sincerity. Fuck him, he’s so damn hot. “You can be honest with me,” I offer, drawn toward him, as though he’s going to whisper and I want to be sure I can hear it. “I wasn’t… I’m not... mad at you. You know you can trust me.” His eyes bore into me for a second, and his look intensifies. “I know I can.” Carter leans forward and kisses me.
  13. Chapter 16 This might not be so easy to explain. Sure, I missed Monday and Tuesday, and while I know that a visit to the principal’s office counts as an excused absence, it’s not ideal to be missing another day of drama class. Opening night is only a few weeks away, and it would be good to get a couple of extra hours under my belt rehearsing lines or practicing stage directions. That’s typical. Called to the principal’s office and all I can think about is how I’m not getting enough time in to practice leaping back and forth across a stage causing mischief. The priorities of a high schooler. But why couldn’t I have been called down during some other class, like English? I have a solid A in English, and a lost discussion on the finer points of Lonesome Dove isn’t going to make or break anything, so far as I can tell. McMurtry’s thrilling cast of characters will still be there when I get back to class in twenty minutes. Oh well. I did it to myself. Monday morning was a true test of my acting, as I had to feign illness for my Mom. Upset as I was about Carter, it was easy to get the important stuff - no appetite, constant discomfort, sweating, nausea. It was all there, just not caused by a fever or a cold. Just a broken heart, which did the trick. That got me through Monday. Tuesday was the same song, second verse. I was mostly better, but it wouldn’t do me any good to go to school only half recovered from my illness. Even a nurse like my Mom had to agree that an extra day of rest would do me good after such a bad day on Monday. Wednesday, however, I wasn’t fooling anybody. I faked it as hard as I could, but nothing short of a hospital visit was going to keep me from returning to my education. Not with my mom, at least. And so I came back to school. It was easy to avoid Carter when I was spending all my time at home on the couch, but things got trickier when we were spending eight hours a day trapped in the same building. I had to be very, very careful. My first challenge would be the hallways. I mapped out Carter’s schedule in my head and estimated where he might be walking and when, and then avoided those places like my life depended on it. We have study hall together, but that’s a no brainer - I can sign myself into the library instead of going to the cafeteria. After school there’s always the chance we cross paths in the locker room, but if I change fast I’m in the clear, as the soccer team almost always finishes practice before the football team. Problem solved, at least ninety percent of the time. And that leaves Chemistry. It would be one thing in a lecture. Lay low, keep to myself and avoid any interaction with Carter. It wouldn’t be the most comfortable thing in the world, but I could do it. But how do you avoid your lab partner? You skip class, obviously. Which brings us back to our current predicament and also explains why I’m sitting here in the principal’s office. I cut a few classes, and now I have to face the music. I’ve never been to the principal’s office, at least not for anything bad. A few administrative issues here and there, but never for punishment. Everything I know about it, however, tells me it can go one of three ways: Delling, Marcos, or Zidnik. Our high school’s principal is Don Delling. From all my experience he’s a pretty nice guy, although I’ve only ever seen him at friendly, public events like awards dinners, sports games, and pep rallies. He’s always in a good mood, and always talking amicably with students and parents. He could be a totally different sort of person when you get called into his office for cutting class, but something tells me he wouldn’t be. Option two is Mr. Marcos. That’s the bad option. Marcos has a body like a silverback gorilla and a personality to match. If he’s not working out and becoming as large and intimidating as possible, he’s roaming the halls and badgering kids half his age for being two minutes late to class. Marcos is without a doubt the most feared authority figure at our school, and his intolerance is matched only by the size of his pectoral muscles. No thank you. My imagination is running wild on what Marcos might do with someone as dastardly as a class cutter when Ms. Zidnik pops out of her office and locks eyes on me. “Mr. Willard?” she announces. “Come in, please.” I make my way over to her office and I’m already feeling about a hundred times better about my situation. Dwelling on the wrath of Mr. Marcos wasn’t doing anything to make me feel less anxious about my visit. Zidnik doesn’t have a reputation as a pushover by any means, but anything’s better than having a sit down with Mr. Marcos. By the time I get into her office and sit down Ms. Zidnik is leafing through a handful of papers on her desk, one of which I recognize as the note my mom sent to the school on Monday to excuse my absence. I’m guessing that’s not why we’re here. Missing two days of school is nothing a note from mom can’t sort out. After getting through the rest of her stack, she purses her lips and looks at me over the top of her reading glasses. The sharp lines of her face give her an especially “no nonsense” sort of look in this context. I’ve talked to her a few times in happier circumstances, but this could be totally different. Now I’m the defendant, and Zidnik’s the DA, judge, and jury. Maybe she won’t be so nice this time. What do they even do to kids when they cut class? I don’t know. Isn’t it a crime? Again it’s my head getting the best of me, and I’m feeling a lot less confident when Zidnik starts to talk. “Mr. Willard, I’m surprised to see you in my office like this,” she says. Me too, I guess. “I know you missed class earlier this week because you were ill.” She gestures to the note. “But that doesn’t explain your extended absence from Chemistry. Mr. Nizen brought it to my attention this morning, and quite frankly both of us are concerned.” She pauses and searches my expression, letting her words hang in the air. I’ve been prepping for this moment all week trying to come up with reasonable excuses for skipping two extra days of only one class, but now that I’m here being questioned they seem less than convincing. I decide not to answer until she comes out and asks. It’s like a murder trial - you don’t have to say anything unless they ask you a question. “Attendance is important,” she continues, “but with your performance in class and all your extracurricular activities, we aren't overly concerned.” Again she pauses, looking for me to make the next move. It's the oldest trick in the book. I can outlast her. Getting nothing from me voluntarily, Zidnik sighs and takes off her glasses. She wipes them with a piece of cloth on her desk then replaces them. “I suppose what I need to know,” she says, “is what have you and Mr. Mulkins been up to?” My next breath catches in my throat and I try not to let my face betray the sense of immense panic brewing inside of me. This is beyond bad. Where to even begin? I could give her the simplest answer, but it's also the most shocking: We've done some petting, jerked each other off, and even swapped a handful of blowjobs. When it looked like it might be about more than sex, Carter freaked out and we haven't spoken since. So I guess it's a purely sexual relationship that never came to fruition - that’s all it was, and all it ever will be. No, on second thought I don't think I'll be saying that to our assistant principal. Another version is a tale of unrequited love: The crush I've had on Carter for over a year. The way I started to befriend him. The strangely natural progression we took to start something physical. My own escape from my shell and into enough confidence to always push things a little bit further. Then I pushed too hard and everything fell apart. No, not that one either. As touching as it may be – the gay drama nerd following his dreams and almost getting what he wants – it's also a little bit creepy. A lot of me watching and waiting, then suggesting and manipulating. It's kind of like the religious conservative nightmare. One of the gays swooping in and turning their son homo. It's not illegal or anything, but they've kicked kids out of school for things like this. Just look at what happened to Sam. “Uhh...” It's not a good start. Zidnik isn't impressed, at least. “I'm waiting, Mr. Willard,” she says. How does she even know about this? I never gave the slightest hint of what was going on between me and Carter to anyone except Ko, Katy, and Sam. And they wouldn't tell anyone - I'd stake my life on that. So who said something to the school? Were we that obvious about it? My friends all knew when something started to happen, but did everyone else, too? Was it Carter? That’s the only other explanation, right? Did he go to the school and tell them what I did to him? What did he even say? That would put me in one hell of an awkward spot. If Carter came clean and told them everything… I don’t even want to think about it. There would be problems. Big problems. No matter how you frame it, it doesn’t look good. There’s only one thing to do now: Lie about it. I’ll say that none of it ever happened. Carter’s been making up stories, and for some reason he decided to involve me in the whole thing. Luckily, before I can make a complete ass of myself, Zidnik continues. “As I said earlier, both of you are doing well in school, so it's not the performance or missed work that we're worried about. But both of you are minors. And when you're completely unaccounted for several days in a row, it puts everyone at risk, especially you and-” “This is just because I missed class?” The question hangs in silence for a few seconds. It wasn’t the most tactful way to test the waters, but the possibility of this being a thousand times less horrible than it was two minutes ago is something I can't wait on. “Yes,” Zidnik assures me. “I thought I had said that already. What else would it be about?” I shrug and try to look as innocent as possible. Maybe I’ll get my acting practice in after all. “I was just afraid that I would be in trouble,” I say. Zidnik smiles at me reassuringly and her whole look softens. “Don't worry about that,” she says, “we just need to make sure that you're in class where and when you're supposed to be.” I relax, but only internally. On the outside I make sure to paint the picture of a concerned young student, cowed by the weight of the mere possibility of being on the wrong side of the law. “But that being said, I do need to know why you and Mr. Mulkins have missed almost an entire week of chemistry.” That’s news to me. Carter has been skipping class too? I make a mental note to fully revisit that juicy piece of information in the future. For now, however, I have bigger fish to fry. Time to take it up a notch. “I was sick on Monday and Tuesday,” I explain, “and then I guess I was still just tired out from being sick and everything else. So instead of going to chemistry I...” I hesitate. I feel like I'm betraying an entire generation of students, but the best lies are sprinkled with just the right amount of truth. “I went to the gym to take a nap.” That gives Zidnik a very real look of surprise. “What do you mean you took a nap at the gym?” I decide to come clean, at least about where I was during chemistry. I explain about how the basketball bleachers get put away during normal school days, and that when they're folded up against the wall there's still a few feet of space behind them. If you're skinny enough, you can squeeze into the place between the bleachers and the wall, and it actually makes a dark, quiet place perfect for taking a quick nap or hiding out if you don't want to participate in gym. Someone even threw an old wrestling mat back there sometime last year for a sort of makeshift bed. I'm not sure how many kids at the school know about it, but I've gone back there a handful of times during lunch or study hall to catch up on lost sleep. On one occasion there was already someone back there, curled up with a blanket and everything. I know I'm not the only one who's been snoozing behind the bleachers. Needless to say, Zidnik is highly disturbed by my confession. “Do they sweep back there?” she asks, unable to hide the look of horror on her face. Again, my dramatic flair gets the best of me. “It's not too bad. Sometimes there are candy wrappers and stuff from the basketball games.” She shudders at the thought before regaining her composure to continue my interrogation. She doesn't seem like the sort of lady who likes messes, or dusty sleeping chambers behind the bleachers for that matter. Besides giving me a weird sort of pleasure in performance, her reaction tells me something even more important: I’ve got her on her heels. “If you were napping in the gym – which I am going to look into, for multiple reasons – where was Carter?” Her questions are still tricky ones, but now they have a little less force behind them. “I don't know,” I reply with complete honesty. “Did he miss class all week too?” “He did,” she says. “And you don't know anything about that?” I pause. I can certainly speculate as to why he was skipping chemistry. Maybe he’s just as upset as I am about the whole thing. In a way it’s comforting to think that’s he’s so torn up about it. On the other hand it’s almost proof positive that he hates my guts. Even though I’m keyed in to the reason Carter is skipping class, I don't think the why will be much help to Zidnik, and it will probably raise even more questions than it answers. “No,” I say. “I was hoping to get notes from him when I came back.” Now that Zidnik has an even bigger problem tossed into her lap - like how many students at the school are regularly crawling into a grimy crawlspace to sleep while they should be in class - I don't expect her to press the issue much harder, and thank goodness. I have enough on my plate already, what with Carter hating me and all. “Alright,” she says, “I'll speak with him about his own whereabouts then. And as for you, Mr. Willard, make sure you go to all your classes.” “Yes, ma'am,” I reply. “And if you have any further issues with exhaustion, you can always check in with the nurse. I'm sure she can let you lie down for a bit if you need to, in a more... sanitary environment.” She wrinkles her nose again at the mere thought of resting on a filthy gym floor before turning back to me. “You're free to go.” I stand up to leave and I can't believe my luck. After my initial scare, that went better than I could have imagined. Maybe I'll cut class more often, although I should find a new place to hide out before I do. “And Jackson?” Zidnik says as I'm stepping out the door. “If you see Mr. Mulkins in the office on your way, can you send him in?” ******* ******* ******* It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Breaking things off, I mean. I was half expecting weeks of pain, anguish, and suffering, thinking it would take me months to get back to functional levels. But no, nothing like that. Thank God I’m so busy. There are hardly enough hours in the day to get done what I need to much less moan and gnash my teeth over a boy who doesn't like me. Busy is my new emotion, and work is the way I feel. Next time I break up I'll get a part time job to top it all off. I'll never be sad again! I figured the hardest part of all would be chemistry, but even that was easier than I had imagined. Carter and I instantly settled into a very functional rhythm. We don't talk unless it's about the lab, and we don't even look at each other unless it's absolutely necessary. Don't get me wrong, it's not fun. But I'll survive, and our grades won’t suffer for it either. Doing something wrong would only mean more time together and more talking. We can't afford mistakes like that. Nizen never mentioned our time away from class, and seeing two people working as efficiently as we do with so little chatter probably makes him happier than anything. Less talking, more science, as he likes to say when the lab gets too noisy. That logic applies to my life, even outside of our one class together. Less Carter, more focus. I'm actually doing better in my other classes too, and spending time with friends and drama stuff as well. We're only one week away from opening now, and I'm more than ready to let something I enjoy doing come in and take over my life. The time I used to set aside for Carter? It's like it was never even there. As for Ko, Katy, and Sam, they've been great about the whole thing. Especially since I spent the last month or two neglecting them. I totally put them on the back burner while I was getting into it with Carter, but can you blame me? As shitty as it feels now, I don’t regret any of the time I spent with him. But that’s what having best friends is all about. I was MIA for a few months, no big deal. I’ve dealt with the same sort of thing from Katy and Ko at some point. Ko’s never vanished for months at a time, but the way his love life plays itself out, it’s more like every other week. Hot and heavy, then bone dry until the next one. Katy’s the exact opposite, but she was out of touch for most of the summer with the whole Jeff thing and her program in New York. And it doesn’t bother me in the least. When Katy’s in Jeff-World Ko and I hang and get more time to play video games. When Ko’s off with whoever he’s into that week, Katy and I watch musicals and gossip about kids in the drama club. If they’re both doing their own thing, I actually get all my homework done for once. We’re best friends, and we’re not going to let some guy or girl get between us. Even Sam’s been on that level for me recently. While he’s less established as a friend, he gets it better than anyone. Just like everything else, he knew almost before I did exactly what happened between me and Carter, and pretty much any moment I’m not spending with Katy or Ko, I’m hanging out at Sam’s house. He’s been a huge help not only in distraction, but in supporting me through the whole “breakup,” if you can even call it that. Granted, that’s not stopping him from rubbing my nose in how right he was about it the whole time. Tonight I’m crashing at his house. My mom thinks we’re hanging out just like we would any other day, but really I’m doing Sam a huge favor. I guess I owe him one after all his help getting over Carter. His aunt and uncle are in town this week, and while they both seem like lovely people, it only took me about ten minutes at dinner to understand exactly why Sam concocted this whole elaborate plan to have me stay over tonight. They come off strong, to say the least. So he had the idea of making me come over to act as a sort of buffer. It's easy to get a little time away from the relatives when you have to get a group project done. So what if it’s completely made up? We’re not in any of the same classes, much less the same grade, but Uncle Eddie and Aunt Tess don’t need to know that. Having made our escape from the dinner table, we've retired back to Sam's room. He told me earlier that we could spend the time working on my lines for opening night, only six days away. I thought he was joking, but the second we got to the bedroom he pulled out my script and starting running lines with me. “When thou wake, let love forbid Sleep his seat on thy eyelid: So awake when I am gone; For I go now to Oberon.” I look up at Sam and he’s shaking his head. Eighteen lines of monologue, and I would have said they were perfect. “It’s not ‘does,’” he says. “It’s ‘doth.’ And you botched a bunch of the verbs. And you ‘must’ to Oberon, not ‘go’ to him.” I put my arms Akimbo and glare at him. “It doesn't have to be perfect,” I argue. “The meaning is there, so it doesn't matter if I say ‘sleeps’ instead of ‘sleepeth,’ or whatever.” Sam dramatically throws the back of his hand against his forehead. “Oh?” he cries with a flourish. “Methinks he protests for lack of trying!” “I'm trying,” I say as sternly as possible, even though it's hard not to laugh at seeing Sam's attempt at acting. It’s not exactly what I would call subtle. “It's Shakespeare!” he says, as though that alone should stop all ‘protesting.’ “It's fine,” I say again. “You can't change Shakespeare.” He grabs a softball from his desk and strikes a pose. That gets me laughing. “Is MacBeth trying out for the team?” I ask, snatching the ball out of his hands. “To swing, perchance to hit - ay there’s the run…” My monologue is interrupted by a text alert from Sam's phone. He grabs it and types out a quick reply while I put the ball back on his desk. “Which of your boy toys was that?” I ask when he's finished. He sighs and flops down on his bed, still looking at his phone. “None of them, unfortunately.” I look down at him on the bed and I can't help but be jealous. Sam's a full year younger than me, but somehow he manages to swing all these crazy hook ups with all sorts of hot guys at school. I’ve hardly gotten with anyone, while he has more guys chasing him around than he can even keep track of. The cherry on top? Half of them are straight! “How do you do it?” I ask. I can't help myself. I'm back on the market, and I'd kill to even get one tenth of the action that he does. “Do what?” he asks. “You know what I mean.” He smirks from behind his phone. Clearly he knows exactly what I mean. “It's not as crazy as it sounds.” He finally looks up at me and sees the disbelief on my face. “Seriously, it's not.” I shake my head and flop down on the bed next to him. “I don't believe you. You talk about all these guys. Like half the guys on the soccer team, I've seen you hanging out with a few dudes from baseball, and then there's the whole football team I know you have your eye on...” “Yeah,” he cuts me off. “Exactly. I talk about it.” “What are you saying?” I ask. “You don't actually get with all these guys you hang out with?” He puts his phone down and furrows his brow. “No. Definitely not most of them.” We sit in silence for a second, and I can't help but ask the next obvious question. “How ma...” “Two,” Sam says, before I can even finish asking. “Just two?” I say. “This whole year at school? You've only gotten with two guys?” Sam laughs. “Yeah, just two. I flirt with everybody I think is hot, but that's as far as it goes for ninety nine percent of people.” “But you always say how everybody wants it. Just get them hard and they're all yours.” “Yeah, they totally want it.” He gives me a knowing look. “Everyone's a little bit curious,” he continues, “but most guys don't get over themselves enough to actually try it. Or if they know for sure they're not gay they'll never let themselves cross that line, even if it doesn’t mean anything.” Sam sits up in bed and looks at me. He shrugs. “That's the sad truth. It's that the truth is never as fun as you think it is.” He studies my expression for a second before continuing. “So, no. You're not missing much.” As usual, he sees right through me. I was hoping to pick his brain. To see what else there is out there for me. If I can't have Carter, maybe I could start up something like Sam has, with all the fun but none of the work or involvement. “Huh,” I say. I rack my brain, but don’t have much of anything to say in response to that. Maybe it’s not as exciting as I thought. But I’m one for one so far. If I put myself out there, I could make something… “It’s not your style at all,” Sam says with more finality than I like. “What do you mean it’s not my style?” I ask. He shrugs. “I’m more the.. unattached type,” he says. “I can live my life one way or the other. I don’t get hung up on stuff. I like to live -” He spreads his arms out in front of his as though presenting his room to me. “I live out here. You live -” He taps his head. “In here.” I brood in silence at his comments. I try to look tough, but it probably just looks like I’m pouting “There’s nothing wrong with that,” Sam insists. “You’re just different. When I get with a guy it’s not important to me. It’s fun and I like it, but it doesn’t mean anything. And I’m cool with that. But you wouldn’t be.” “So that means I can’t have any fun?” I ask defiantly. My question elicits another shrug from Sam. “Here’s the tradeoff, Jackson. I’m having more fun than you right now, but it’s not amazing. You’re really not missing all that much when it comes down to it. You, on the other hand, are going to have a lot less fun. You know why?” “Why?” I ask. “Because you’re too busy thinking about Carter. And you’ll always be thinking about Carter. What you want to say to him, what you wish he’d say to you, when you should text him, wondering if he’ll call. Carter, Carter, Carter, all day every day. And it’s not going to be fun.” “But…” “Carter,” he says, as though there isn’t any other point he needs to make. Frankly, there isn’t. “But one day,” Sam continues, “you’re going to get Carter. And it’s going to be real. And it’s going to be everything you ever dreamed it would be. And when you have Carter, whoever it is, you’re not going to think for a second about all the fun that you missed out on in the meantime.” I blush. Even the thought of it gets me excited. Will I really have a guy like that someday? Will things really pan out like Sam says they will? “See?” he says. “You get it. We’re both waiting. You sit and brood while you’re waiting for your perfect boy. I go out into the world and do what I do. And yet we’re both just waiting.” Sam smiles like a devil and sticks his tongue out at me. “But I get to play with a bunch of cocks while I’m doing it.”
  14. Roe St. Alee

    Chapter 15

    Don’t worry! There’s more on the way. I’ll post the next chapter on Sunday
  15. Chapter 15 “Dude, I am beat.” Carter strips off his shirt and tosses it into the hamper next to his dresser. I get an unobstructed view of his rippling back, and I will my heart not to beat straight out of my chest. It’s like a fantasy. I’m sitting on the edge of his bed and he’s getting undressed. He turns around and I try my best not to stare at his chest, six-pack, v-lines, or the telltale bulge in his sweatpants. It’s a losing battle. He’s the sexiest person in the world, and he’s mostly undressing himself right in front of me. “Are you good?” he asks. He bites his lower lips and tries to gauge my reaction. “I’m wiped from that game. We can play video games or something, but I’m pretty much ready for bed.” “Yeah, that’s cool,” I echo, somewhat relieved. Maybe it was the weather, but even watching the game took a lot out of me. I’d stay up with Carter as long as he wanted to, but I could fall asleep in about a second. I sit on the edge of the bed and try to temper my expectations while I wait for Carter to join me. I thought tonight was going to be another exciting sexual romp for the two of us - and it was already - but maybe he really is pooped and we’re going to go straight to sleep. Disappointing, but I can’t expect too much from this, just like Ko and Katy were saying. After our bout in the car, I might be getting greedy. As usual, I catch myself thinking too hard about the situation at hand and shake myself out of it only to notice Carter staring at me with a weird expression on his face. He looks somewhat quizzical, but doesn’t say anything. It’s not an unfriendly look, just a bit unnerving. “What?” I finally ask, tired of the silence and glaring. “Aren’t you going to get ready for bed?” he asks with a smirk. Shit. So wrapped up in my own head that I completely ignore the thing that a normal human would do. I sheepishly get up from the bed and rummage through my backpack for all the stuff I’ll need for the night. I eventually manage to find some pajama pants, a t-shirt, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. That should be everything. In the bathroom, I change my clothes, wash my face, and brush my teeth. I take a last look in the mirror before I head back out and decide that I look pretty darn good. Maybe it’s just the light in the bathroom, but I think I’m starting to see some of what Sam said he could a few weeks ago. I wouldn’t say I’m glowing or anything, but I’m taken up by a new sense of confidence with what I’m seeing in the mirror. Why wouldn’t Carter want this? With an eleventh hour decision, I strip off my shirt and toss it back in the bag. When I get out of the bathroom, Carter’s already in bed, with the blankets pushed down to his feet and just a sheet covering him up to just below his hips. There’s no way it’s an accident - he couldn’t look hotter or more inviting if he tried. I tuck into the other side of the bed and try not to think about how I’m fighting off a boner. I mean, I want one eventually, but maybe not right this second. I match Carter’s supine position and hike the sheets up to at least cover my crotch for a little more protection. Carter turns over a little to face me better. He’s less than a foot away and whether he wants to or not, he’s radiating a sexual energy towards me. “You can pull up the blankets if you want,” he says, “I’m pretty hot right now, but I’ll probably cool off soon.” I’ll agree with him on that one. He’s hot as hell. He continues. “I think I’m still flushed from that car ride.” He lifts his body to prop his head up on his elbow. “Seriously, I don’t know if I’ve ever cum that hard in my life.” With that he reaches his other hand over to me and places it on my stomach. I swallow hard and know that there’s no point in even pretending that I’m not hard anymore. Even out of the corner of my eye I can see a tent forming down under the sheets, just a few inches away from Carter’s hand. “Yeah,” I sputter out in a daze, “I liked it too, so don’t worry.” He slides his hand downward to my waistband, then moves across it back and forth, letting the tips of his fingers slide under it just the slightest bit. It feels like there’s an electric current coming out of them and into my body. I twitch a little in anticipation. “You make me feel so good, Jackson, it’s… it’s crazy.” I don’t manage to get more of a reply out than a breathy sigh. I can’t believe this is happening. “I just came like twenty minutes ago, but I’m still so turned on,” he continues. He’s definitely not the only one. “Me too,” I say in between breaths. “Jackson, can I ask you something?” As I much as I love where we’re at already, I turn over to face Carter. It sacrifices the easy access that his hand has on my waist, but I have to look at him. I’m struck immediately by the intensity of his look right now. He looks so… vulnerable. Like a completely new part of him is exposed to the outside world. He’s being so open and emotional. “Of course you can,” I assure him. His face softens. “Can I…” He swallows hard and refocuses. “Can I try it?” Are you kidding me? I try as hard as I can not to laugh at how crazy that question is. Asking a sixteen year old dude if you can try to suck his dick? Um, yeah, that’ll probably be ok. You can try it as many times as you want. Right? But then another thought strikes me. What’s he really asking me? Why all the fear and vulnerability? Is he asking... Holy shit. Because at the exact instant I’m on the verge of having what I can only assume is about to be a game changing revelation, Carter reaches into the waistband of my pants and wraps his hand around my cock. “Can I?” he asks again, stroking gently up and down along my shaft. I tell myself that it’s not real. He probably doesn’t actually want me. He just likes the sex. He just likes getting off with me. He pushes his hand farther into my pants and lightly grazes his fingertips across my smooth ball sack. It sends another involuntary shudder through my entire body. He doesn’t care about me. He has a girlfriend. It’s physical, nothing more. Ko and Katy tried to warn me... His other hand reaches in and he starts going to work on both sides. One hand slowly and smoothly jerking me off, and the other caressing my balls. It’s not real. It’s not real. This isn’t what I want! “Yes!” The word passes through my lips and I am powerless to stop it. No matter what my subconscious is trying to say, my cock is sending a message loud and clear. The hottest person in the entire world is telling me how good I make him feel and asking to suck my dick. The answer from Jackson Jr. down there in my pants is “Yes, yes yes!” I roll onto my back to allow easier access for Carter’s hand and eventually his mouth. He turns fully onto his side and starts slowly stroking me up and down. He’s been here before. The first few times he did it there was some hesitation and awkwardness - it was almost clumsy at first. But now Carter has a smooth motion that he knows I like, and adding to it is a new and exciting sense of anticipation. The best is yet to come. As much as I like how it’s feeling already, I want to move things along. I lift my butt off the bed the slightest bit. Carter takes the hint and releases my dick long enough to slide my pants down onto my thighs and throw back the sheets to the bottom of the bed. Now fully exposed, Carter works back into a steady rhythm, sending waves of pleasure across my body. I look down at Carter, whose face is about level with my chest right now, and I see him assess my tool in an entirely new way. I know exactly what he’s thinking. It’s one thing to touch, hold, or look at someone’s cock, but it’s entirely different when you’re looking at it and trying to think about how you’re about to put it into your mouth. The first time I went down on Carter, as much as I wanted it, it was still a little intimidating to think about putting that thing in my mouth. “Dude, please do it,” I encourage, trying to snap his hesitation before he gets cold feet altogether. I see Carter shuffle downward and lean over me, slowing his jerking. As he stops altogether, I close my eyes and brace myself for what’s about to happen. Suddenly I feel an incredible warmness on the exposed head of my cock and a bolt of pleasure shoots through my entire body. It stops for a second and then comes back. My whole head slips into his mouth and I moan lightly at the warm, moist feelings all over it. He pulls off again and I feel a tongue slide along underside of the head. I twitch involuntarily and I know a big drop of precum probably just slid onto Carter’s tongue. He stops and pulls off for a second and I tense up, waiting for his reaction to it. To my relief I feel another lick travel slowly up my shaft, starting a little bit lower this time. After a few more of those he takes me back in his mouth and starts working his way deeper and deeper down my dick. Over the course of a few minutes Carter starts to get less tentative, and after a little bit of initial exploration, he starts to settle into a steady flow. I open my eyes and look down, and it’s all I can do not to cum as I watch his dirty blonde head slowly bobbing up and down in my lap. God, this is amazing. After another minute or so, Carter pulls off and looks up at me. “Is this good?” he asks. With his eyes rolled up toward me and his mouth hovering a quarter of an inch above the tip of my dick, it might just be the hottest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Carter Mulkins is giving me a blowjob! “Yeah,” I tell him, “it feels so great.” I catch the faintest hint of a smile from Carter and it makes my heart skip a beat. Could he be any more beautiful? “What else can I do?” he asks. It’s a fair question. I try to think of a good way to explain it. When I gave my first blowjob I thought about what Sam had done to me and how it felt, then tried to duplicate it. It shouldn’t be that different for Carter. “Do you remember what I did to you in the car?” I ask. “Yeah, of course,” he says smiling. “It was amazing” He looks back down to my cock and puts a hand around it. He works it up and down a few times as though testing something out. “How about this?” he asks. He drops his mouth back down around me and works his hand in tandem with his mouth, sliding up and down. His mouth is only hitting the top few inches as it bobs up and down, but his hand is working the bottom half of me and it feels spectacular. “Oh yeah,” I moan, “that’s great.” Encouraged by my praise, he picks up the pace and it’s not long before I start losing myself in the feelings of pleasure that Carter is creating down in my nether regions. I thrust my hips up to meet his motions and within only a minute or two I can feel my orgasm building. “Oh god,” I moan again. He has me close. Without warning, Carter pulls off with his mouth and releases his hand. My wet, hard dick slaps against my stomach. I’m about to look down and see what’s happening when I feel the smooth wetness of Carter’s tongue trace a line along one of my testicles. I jump at the sensation, unlike anything I’ve ever felt, and I feel a few drops of precum ooze out. “Oh fuck, Carter,” I barely manage to squeak out between violent shudders. He keeps running his tongue across my balls and I cease to function for the duration. It doesn’t feel as good as having my cock in his mouth, but it’s sending jolts of electricity through my body every time he makes contact. I never really knew how sensitive I could be down there, and I’m entirely at Carter’s mercy. Finally Carter takes one last long, hard stroke across my smooth sack with his tongue, then runs it the rest of way back up all the way to the very tip of my penis, which I can only imagine is practically gushing precum at this point. It doesn’t slow down Carter though, as he gets right back onto it and starts engulfing my cock in his mouth. He doesn’t put his hand back on it, but instead starts taking more and more of me into his mouth as he goes. I can feel his lips moving down across the first few inches of my length, then past the halfway point, then even farther. He doesn’t quite have the whole thing in there like Sam was able to do, but it’s damn close, and it feels damn good. I can’t imagine I’m going to last much longer if he doesn’t... “How did you do it Jackson?” he suddenly asks, taking a short breather, jerking me off in the meantime. “How did you get it all the way in? I want…” He looks up and makes eye contact. “I want to get the whole thing.” Is this actually happening? As if the blowjob in general wasn’t enough, I feel like I’m in a dream, living my wildest fantasy in real life. I never thought I would be looking down at Carter and have him ask me how to get the rest of my dick in his mouth. “I dunno,” I answer. “You just kind of relax everything and try to open up the back of your mouth and your throat.” I try to think about the first time I ever was able to do it and what I changed up to make it happen. It’s sort of like trying to breathe it in while you’re moving your head forward. “Maybe try to think of it like… Ahhh!” I practically yell out loud as Carter suddenly takes me all the way to the hilt, putting his nose down into my neatly trimmed pubic hair. Holy shit! Carter pulls off and before I can react pushes forward all the way again. He repeats the process three or four more times and I can’t believe how good it feels. How the hell did he learn how to do this so quickly? “Oh god, I’m gonna…” I can’t even finish the sentence, because he buries me deep into his throat one last time and holds it there. My dick has never felt this good. The strongest orgasm I’ve ever had in my life spreads like fire across my body and I blast my load into the back of Carter’s throat. My cock surges so many times I lose count and still Carter is holding me all the way in. “Ah, shit!” I pull out, overwhelmed by all the sensation in the head of my dick. I couldn’t stay for another second, and I’m shocked that Carter was able to deepthroat me for that long. I gasp for breath and fall back onto the bed, completely numb from the orgasm that just ripped through my body. I can’t move, I can’t talk - I can’t even think right now. I float deeper and deeper into the fog of post-cum contentment. “Jackson?” Carter’s voice cuts through the haze and brings me back to reality. “Wha... What?” I say dreamily. I hope it’s not a hard question, because I don’t know if I can form a complete sentence right now. I crack my eyes open and see him leaning over me. His eyes are wide and he looks so vulnerable and sexy at the same time. “Was that alright?” he asks. I put my hand on his head and stroke it through his hair once. “That was… amazing.” I say, repeating back to him the same thing he told me a few weeks ago the first time I went down on him. I see him smile, then relax down onto the bed next to me. He doesn’t exactly cuddle with me, but he slides in close to my side and lets part of our bodies touch. “Good,” he says. I try to lock in this feeling, this moment, the image of Carter’s smile. It’s perfect. Right now, it’s perfect. ******* ******* ******* I wake up feeling more rested and content than I have in a long time. Maybe it was the blowjob, maybe I was tuckered out after being out in the cold during the football game. But really, I know it’s Carter. It’s not just the blowjob, in other words. It’s where we are right now, right this second. Carter isn’t exactly spooning me, but he’s nestled in just behind me, as close as he could be, but with only the slightest bit of actual touching. We’re not quite at that point yet, but it’s still an incredible closeness, and a sense of ease with one another. What was it he said last night? That I “make him feel good,” I think. After a few minutes of basking in the feeling, I turn over to look at him. I can’t help but smile as I watch him sleep. He’s so peaceful, and as always incredibly hot. His whole face is totally relaxed, and I study each perfect line and contour of his sleeping expression. Beautiful is the only word I can think of that really does it justice. It’s almost like he can feel my eyes on him, because he stirs in his sleep and his eyes begin to flutter. Carter smiles up at me sleepily, and I know what I have to do. I lean down to him, and before either of us has a chance to sprint for the exit, I plant a soft kiss directly on his lips. As I break the kiss, I open my eyes hesitantly. We’re here at the precipice, and I’m so scared of what I’ll find. I can feel the familiar tightness of anxiety in my chest as I watch Carter’s eyes fully open, and brace myself as he makes eye contact. I’m finally here, and the two of us and our “relationship,” or whatever it is, are teetering on the brink of oblivion. And it falls straight off the fucking cliff. “What are you doing?” The bottom of my stomach drops a hundred miles at the sound of that question. I suddenly can’t breathe, and the tightness in my chest washes down across my torso and into my limbs with an uncomfortable, cold burn. “Sorry,” I mumble, willing myself not to burst into tears right here and now. It’s all happening, just like Ko thought it would. “I didn’t mean to…” “That’s not cool,” he says, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. It’s so matter of fact, like it’s in a science textbook or something. It is definitively not cool to kiss Carter Mulkins on the mouth if you are Jackson Willard. “It just… I don’t know what came over me,” I say, apologizing again. “That’s gay, Jackson.” He said it. It puts everything into perspective. I’m hit with the memory of him last night before he went down on me and he asked if it was ‘ok.’ Now I understand. He wasn’t asking if it was ok for me, he was asking if it was ok for him. Like he needed to know if trying it was going to take him past some mythical point of no return. Up to that point he was able to excuse himself for everything we’d done together, but he wasn’t sure if that would be possible to come back from. And that’s where I should have stopped myself. That look he was giving me last night and that question from Carter made it clear exactly what we were doing. He knows I’m gay and he knows that it’s no big deal for me to do down on a guy. That’s what you do when you’re gay. But if he, a straight boy, did it, then it would irreparably change something. Carter is loving how were getting off together, but doesn’t ever want to put himself in a position where he’s gay. He’s straight, and that’s all there is to it. How did I not let myself see it before right now? I’m a fool, and I’ve been letting myself fall deeper and deeper down the straight boy rabbit hole, and in the end I’ll be paying the price. I should have seen that Carter was trying to draw a line in the sand. He was pushing that line farther and farther along, letting us do more and more, but it was still there. And on his side of the line it’s straight. And on my side, it’s gay. There’s no crossing back and forth. But as the shame and fear washes over me, I feel something else. Anger. It pisses me off. It’s so fucking convenient for him to have this friend he can get with, and still not have it mean anything. Because that would be gay, and he’s not gay. He’s just using me. “You know what?” I finally say. “I’m not sorry.” Carter reacts to that. He’s taken aback by my sudden change in position, and I press on before I lose my edge. “It’s totally gay,” I declare. “Everything we’ve been doing, it’s gay. And I’m totally gay too.” “Jackson,” he stammers, now clearly on his heels. “I… I’m not… I mean… I have a girlfriend,” he says, as though if only I would understand that simple fact it would make everything ok. It doesn’t. “You have a girlfriend?” I ask venomously. I was almost hoping he would say that. “Where’s she at?” Carter recoils instantly at my words and I hope it hurt him as much as it looked like it did. “When’s the last time you did any of this stuff with her? When’s the last time she made you cum?” I ask, and I don’t care how deep my words cut. “It seems like it’s just been you and me doing all this over the last few weeks, and guess what?” Carter doesn’t seem interested in guessing, but I didn’t expect him to be. I’m sure he sees where I’m heading. “Everything we’ve been doing, Carter? It’s gay. G. A. Y. Gay.” He’s like a deer in the headlights now. Usually I love to have Carter on his heels, because it makes him look so cute, just tearing away that perfect, easy coolness he always seems to have. Now, however, his bewildered look just pisses me off. How is any of this a shock to him? It makes me so mad to think he was letting all of this happen without having any feelings for me. I take one last look at Carter, and I will myself not to cry. I’m so angry, so frustrated, and so hurt by what he’s trying to say to me. To negate any feelings we might have for each other, and to write it off as something purely physical, with apparently no emotions attached. My body is suddenly filled with a desperate need to get out of this room, this house, and get away from here. I get out of bed and grab my things, shoving them into my backpack. I pause just long enough to put on a shirt before I run up the stairs and out of Carter’s room. I head straight out the door, not even pausing to see if there’s anyone else home. It’s not until I step through the gate at the end of Carter’s driveway that it hits me. My eyes gush tears and I sob in big, stupid gulps as I walk down the street, vaguely in the direction of my house. The chilly morning air, the emotions of the last few weeks and especially the last few minutes - they all hit me like a ton of bricks. Everything built and built until last night, which I would have said was one of the happiest in my life. It couldn’t have gone better. But then this morning came, and everything I was holding on to and dreaming of came crashing down in a miserable heap on the floor. Everything he felt for me was a lie, and everything I felt for him was a mistake. Why did I do it to myself, even with everyone I know telling me that it wasn’t a good idea? I should have listened. I should never have gotten attached like I did. It should have been so obvious. I manage to fumble my phone out of my pockets and send a text to Ko. [ Come get me? ] it says. I only have to wait a few seconds before his reply comes through. [ Be there in 5. ] I sit down on the curb so I don’t get too far away from Carter’s house. I’m far enough that I can’t see it anymore, but I’m on the way from Ko’s place, so he shouldn’t have any trouble finding me as he drives by. I hang my head into the space between my knees and let myself cry as much as I need to. Ko will be here in five minutes, and I need to be finished before he arrives. I can’t have him see me like this. Even though he was right, he can’t know just how right he was. I promise myself I’ll be done by the time he gets here, but for now all I can do is sit on the side of the road and cry.
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..