They decided that it was time to leave the party. It had been fun, but the evening was wearing on, and no one but Ed was interested in getting high again. They checked the garret before leaving, just to see what the situation was there.
They found Dave Routh and Mike Zurka, both looking a little fucked up, and a few others they didn't know. All were poking through the remains of the plants, which had been scattered about all the way to the back wall of the room. Gone was the bounty that had blessed the garret upon their arrival. Word had gotten out to move the plants, and the result had apparently been a stampede. Brian just stared about the room, unable to quite imagine what it must have been like there in the hours since they had last visited. Crazy.
Dave and Mike seemed happy enough, though. The pockets of their jeans bulged all the way around, stuffed with whatever loot they had been able to pick from the last unsacked plants.
"Is this a party, or is this a party?" Mike asked them, grinning a little stupidly and patting his pockets.
Brian smiled and put his arm around Mike's shoulders. "You driving, Mike?"
Mike snorted. "I came with Dave."
Brian nodded. "Where's Molly?"
"I dunno. I lost her. She's here someplace." He patted his pockets. "Nope. Not there." For just a second the boy looked confused. "Will you help me find her?"
Brian nodded. "Yeah, we will. Just hold tight for a minute."
Brian went over to Dave, who was talking to Ed and Jeff and the girls. "How are you, Dave?"
Dave grinned at him. "I got a hell of a buzz, but I'm not drunk at all, if that's what you're asking."
Brian let loose a sigh of relief. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to pile up their car on the way home from the party. "Where's Molly?"
Dave leaned forward, glanced at Mike. "She's passed out in the front seat of my car. " He winced. "Man, I hope she doesn't puke there."
Brian felt concern over that. "If she's that drunk, you shouldn't leave her long. You going back soon?"
Dave nodded. "Yeah. Couple of more minutes and I'll tell Mike it's time to go."
"Good. You guys gonna be able to get home okay?"
"Yep. That's why I didn't drink tonight. I'm not riskin' putting even a scratch on my new paint."
Brian grinned. "Watch out for Mike, huh? He looks a little lost."
"Yeah, I will." Dave nodded back towards the stairs. "Jim Van Pelt is here. He brought Laura Littman with him."
"Hey, that's cool. I was hoping to see him."
Brian went back to Mike. "Dave says he knows where Molly is, and you guys can get her when you leave. Okay?"
"Great, great. Thanks, Bry." The other boy offered up a silly grin, which just made him even cuter than usual. Brian smiled, and rolled his eyes slightly. Mike was going to feel this in the morning.
Jeff came over as Brian moved away from the others. He shook his head, as though to clear it. "Man, I was stoned out of my mind. I'm not used to smokin' that stuff like that. I'm starting to feel the ground under my feet again." He grinned, gave a little surprised laugh. "I got naked with a girl. I still can't believe that."
Brian leaned closer. "Shit. I fucked one. And you think you're surprised?"
Jeff laughed. His eyes remained bright with humor, but his expression grew more serious. "How do you feel about it?"
"I don't know," Brian admitted. "It was too weird for words. It just...happened." He reached out and ran his fingertips quickly down Jeff's arm. "How do you feel about it?"
Jeff's face compressed in a quick frown, there and gone again in a moment. "Do you mean how do I feel about her...and us?"
Brian nodded. "I can't just go to her and say, 'whoops, sorry about that. Didn't mean it, really'."
"Yeah, I know." Jeff leaned a little closer. "Stop worrying, Brian. This will work itself out."
Brian suddenly smiled, realizing that there had just been a little bit of a role reversal here. Usually, it was him telling Jeff to relax, that things would be okay. It felt funny to be on the receiving end for once. "I love you more than anything," he whispered. "I just...don't know how to do this. Annie is my friend."
Jeff nodded slowly. "I like her, too." He watched Brian's eyes a moment, then smiled. "I love you, Brian. And I am not surprised that something like this happened. This thing with Annie has been kind of hovering near for some time, and it needs to be sorted out. I am okay with it, actually." He leaned closer. "My first orgy. It was really pretty wild."
Brian wanted to hug Jeff, but just touched his arm again instead. "It was different, all right." He shook his head, still a little amazed by the evening's events. "Me and a girl. Man, I never would have thought this would happen to me."
Jeff looked briefly over his shoulder at the others, and Brian could see that his boyfriend wanted to hug him just as much. But instead, Jeff leaned even closer. "Um, man, I gotta ask - was it good?"
Brian sighed, offering a small grin. "Well...it was. It was kind of like what we do, only I was completely aware that I was going in the front door instead of the back. It felt pretty good." He winked. "You might actually want try it sometime, just so you can say you have." He was just kidding, and so was surprised when Jeff looked like he was considering the idea seriously.
Jeff finally laughed. "I like Annie a lot. But I don't know if she'd go for that." He shrugged. "I don't know if I could, even if she wanted to."
Brian nodded. "I never would have thought I could, either. But...Annie's sweet as shit." A surprising thought came to him then. "Ohmigod. I could do it again." That the thought of having sex with Annie was not repellant to him was a revelation. Girls really didn't appeal to Brian. But Annie...the friendship he had with her was catalytic in some form, opening a doorway that Brian had never really known was there. That doorway had let something new in in the area of sex: tolerance.
And Brian had no idea how to deal with it.
Jeff sighed. "Horndog."
Brian looked around again to make sure no one was watching, and rubbed his fingertips down Jeff's arm again. "Only with very special people."
"Oh, you say that to all your boyfriends and girlfriends," Jeff whispered, feigning indignation.
Brian laughed, but didn't feel any real humor. "I'm lost here, Jeff. I don't know what to do."
Jeff's face relaxed, and he smiled, and Brian could see the affection there. "I don't think you need to do a thing just yet, Brian. What happened is...interesting. And I really do think it needs to run its course, or feelings will be hurt." He grinned then. "And you can't do that to Annie."
Relief and affection flooded into Brian. "Pretty sure of yourself, are you?" He wanted so badly so hold Jeff that it hurt.
His boyfriend nodded. "Yes, I am." He leaned closer. "Annie loves you, Brian. And love is made of glass, and has to be handled carefully."
"Yeah." Brian nodded. "I don't want to hurt her, that's for sure."
"Then don't." Jeff didn't even look around before rubbing his fingertips gently along Brian's forearm. "This doesn't affect what you and I have - not like you think it does. I have confidence in us, Brian." He nodded. "You put that feeling there."
Brian fought an urge to allow tears to well. He rubbed his nose, and gave a small sniff.
Jeff only smiled. "See? So stop worrying. This thing is going to do what is has to do, and then it will be done."
Brian bit his lip, and nodded. "Okay."
Jeff risked rubbing Brian's arm again, and nodded past him. "I think you need to talk to her."
Brian's own buzz had diminished considerably, and the slight feeling of paranoia he'd been experiencing was going away. He turned his head slightly, became aware that Annabelle had moved away from the others and was watching him now, probably wondering at what they had done, and whether it was going to impact the future of their friendship. Might as well get this out of the way right now.
He nodded at Jeff, who gave him a supportive look, and then went over to her, smiling. "Hi."
Her smile was a little weak. "Hi."
"Some pretty good pot, huh?"
She nodded. "Brian --"
He put a hand on her arm. "I wouldn't change a thing."
Her smile intensified, and she leaned against him. "I kind of knew about you and Jeff, Brian. I had a feeling."
He nodded. "I kind of knew you knew." He put an arm around her and squeezed her close. "You and I have been friends for a long time, Annie. I think I can honestly say I love you. But I hope you'll understand that I can't quite be with you the way you want me to."
She looked up into his eyes, and gave a slow nod. "It's okay. I have my own screwy things going on, Brian. Me and Missy" -- her face colored, and her smile twisted a little at the ends -- "have kind of a thing going on, too. It's weird. But I think that's why I understand about you and Jeff. I certainly won't tell anyone about it, and I know Missy won't either." Her smile relaxed then. "She's falling for Ed, and Ed would kill her if she did anything to hurt you."
Brian gave her a gentle smile. "A lot of things changed tonight."
Annabelle nodded, and circled an arm around Brian's waist. "You know how long I've dreamed of having sex with you?"
"I think maybe I have an idea." Brian felt a brief wave of embarrassment wash over him. "I wouldn't mind knowing if you enjoyed it."
She grinned up at him. "I'll say I did. Oh my god, Brian, you were excellent."
Brian's embarrassment deepened, but he managed a grin. "You did all the work, sweetie. But I gotta say I thought it felt pretty amazing, too."
Annabelle sighed, and gently nuzzled her face against his side. "Even if it was only one time, I'll never forget it."
Brian was shocked at what came out of his mouth next. "It doesn't have to be just one time."
The girl's face tilted back up at him, her eyes wide. Brian was just a little stunned at what he had said - he'd scarcely articulated that idea to Jeff, and here it was already out in the open with Annie. But...he realized then that he really did feel it. "I mean, I'd like to do it again sometime."
Annabelle just stared at him a moment, before a smile tugged at her mouth. "What about Jeff? I can't do that to him."
Brian nodded. "I was just talking to him about this." He squeezed Annie's wrist. "We really don't know what happened out there. But he and I both know we walked into it freely. So - for now - we both kind of want to see where it will go."
Annie stared past Brian, and Brian turned to look. Jeff was smiling at them.
Brian squashed a laugh, and turned back. "Well, it was the three of us that time. Maybe we can play like that again." He leaned his head down. "I think he's wondering about what it would feel like to...you know. Do something more with you."
Annabelle's mouth dropped open, and she gave a surprised laugh, her eyes twinkling in the light from the bare bulb overhead. "Oh my god, Brian. What have we started?"
He squeezed her again. "Something different, that's for sure. But something that needs to run its course, I think." He laid his cheek on top of her head. "I love Jeff," he whispered. "But I am pretty crazy about you, too."
She tilted her face up to him, her eyes shining and interested, and Brian kissed her. She offered her tongue, and they spent a minute exploring that.
Annie was pleasant to kiss, even if the feeling was different from kissing Jeff, the love of a completely different quality. Jeff energized Brian quite unlike anyone had ever done; while Annie was a more subtle, relaxed and restful flavor. He could feel her affection for him - her desire for him - and now felt no surprise that he felt some of the same for her. She had been around for too long, and too closely, to be anything but comfortable now.
"Just one thing I need to know now," he said, pulling back a little, "is how you feel about Jeff."
Annie laughed. "Well, he's not hard to look at naked, for one thing."
Brian laughed with her. "There's a start. But what I really mean is - you know."
"I like him." She smiled up at him. "And knowing you love him - and he loves you - makes him even more special."
Brian gave her a small squeeze. "I do love him, Annie. More than anything else. Do you get that?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I do." She looked up at him. "I understand that, Brian. Believe me, I do."
He sighed. "I don't know what to do, but I also know this isn't over yet. Could you...get along with the idea of hanging out with both of us a little?"
"Yes." She leaned closer and gave him a look. "And if you're asking if I could do that with the two of you again, the answer is also yes."
Brian grinned at her. "I thought this would be harder. I'm glad it wasn't."
"Yeah. I want to make it easy, Brian, not harder. Think I'm stupid?"
He smiled down at her. "Never. Okay...well, then, I know it's a little clichéd to say it, but let's take our time with this - go slow. I mean, I am definitely in some new territory here - we both are. Jeff, too. I don't want to step on any toes by accident."
Annie laughed, and her eyes were fond. "That's one of the things I like about you, Brian. No commitment, but really sweet in the way you go about it."
Brian shrugged, grinning. "I'm doing my best here."
She kissed him, and then nodded. "I know. Thanks."
He squeezed his arm around Annie, and pulled her along back to Jeff, who watched them come with a smile. "Looks like nice things were said."
Annie grinned. "They were."
Brian closed his eyes a moment, trying in his mind to see where he was going. He had never in his life doubted that he was gay. He still did not doubt that basic fact. So - what was happening here?
One thing he was certain of: this could not be allowed to get between himself and Jeff. But his boyfriend seemed also caught up somehow in what had happened, and interested perhaps in at least looking at where it might go. Brian sensed only support from Jeff. It eased his sense of guilt over what had happened, but only so much. Annie was, after all, Brian's friend. Jeff barely knew her by comparison. Still, what had happened in the cornfield had been the work of all three of them, not just Brian alone. That group spirit was somehow maintaining, suggesting that whatever was going on was not over yet.
Ed came over then. "Dave said Jim was here."
Brian nodded. "Yeah, he told me."
"He also tell you that Jim was looking for you?"
Ed gave Brian an odd little smile. "Jim got to the shopping center after we left. He was late because Laura couldn't get away from her house any earlier. Jim said he just missed us, but Bailey was still at the shopping center getting his beer together, and he had heard the directions. So Jim and Laura came up on their own."
Brian smiled. "I'm sure there's a reason for this story, right?"
Ed rolled his eyes. "Jim was coming up Route 5 when some Vette came along and messed with him. Jim got beat."
Brian narrowed his eyes. "Really? Must not be local talent. I don't know any really running Vettes around."
Ed grinned. "Dave said that Jim said it was a chick."
Annie laughed. "A girl in a Corvette beat Jim? I wanna hear about this."
Brian nodded. "Me, too. Let's go see if we can find him."
JohnyG, who had been silent until that point, gave Brian a little poke. "Mind if Gary and I tag along? We want to hear about this Vette."
"Hey, come on. The more the merrier, I always say." He grinned, letting the other know they were far from done yet.
They collected everyone in their group and headed for the steps. Brian gave Dave one last look, pointing at Mike, and Dave gave him the thumbs up.
They went back down through the house, looking into every room as they passed, trying to spot Jim and Laura. The party seemed in no way to be winding down; in fact, it looked like there were more people there now than when Brian and his group had arrived.
Brian was standing on the landing at the head of the steps to the first floor, trying to decide if they had hit every upstairs room, when he felt a curious motion. The others were still coming down the upper flight of steps; he turned and motioned to everyone to stop where they were. "Check it out. It feels like the floor is moving."
Everyone stopped, looking questioningly at him.
Brian was standing still, one hand on the stair rail. Just at the limit of his perception was the faintest of motions, as if the landing was moving gently back and forth beneath his feet. He frowned, not sure if it was real or his imagination, and let go of the rail, standing stock-still, his feet together.
It was there. Slow and regular, like the breathing of some giant living thing, the house was moving, causing Brian's head to experience a kind of reverse pendulant effect as it sensed the faint motion of the floor beneath his feet.
"I don't feel anything," Ed said, looking at him.
Brian grinned at him. "You wouldn't. The inside of your head moves on its own, anyway."
"I feel it," JohnyG said. Gary nodded, his hand on JohnyG's shoulder, as though that somehow gave accent to the movement.
"Me, too," Jeff added. "Like the house is slowly swaying back and forth."
Brian nodded. "That's it. The dude on the front porch said people were feeling this. I thought he was messing with us."
"You think the house will fall down?" Missy asked, alarm in her eyes.
Brian shook his head. "No. All buildings move a little. I think we're just feeling a sort of combined oscillation from so many people inside this one, walking around. Looking at the way this place is built, I can't imagine it would cave in or anything." But - better safe than sorry. "Let's go on downstairs. Jim and Laura have to be here somewhere."
They found them in the kitchen, by the beer, each with a red cup in hand.
"There you are," Jim said, as they came in. "Man, I was beginning to think we'd never find you in this mess." He grinned. "Isn't there a rule or something about having so many fucked up people in one place at one time?"
Laura Littman smiled at them, waving at Annabelle and Missy. Those two girls went over to talk to her while Jim came over to stand by Brian.
"You guys been here long? We saw Dave upstairs and he said he talked to you."
Jim shrugged. "About an hour." He laughed. "Dave still in the attic? I heard there was some huge pot harvest up there. When I saw Mikey he acted like he'd smoked a pretty good part of it himself."
Jeff nodded. "He was walking light when we saw him. But I think it was more the beer than the pot."
"Yeah, probably. " Jim didn't smoke pot - he was a beer drinker, when he partied at all. He looked at Brian. "Dave tell you about the Vette?"
Brian smiled. "Kind of. He told Ed some chick in a Corvette iced you on the way up here."
Jim nodded, holding up his beer as an accent. "No lie, Brian. It was a sixty-eight, pearl white, with black pinstripes and Cragar mags - pretty car. We were coming out Route Five, and I saw it coming in the rear view mirror, and I mean, it was coming fast. It went by us like we were parked at the Burger King eating french fries."
"That ain't no run," Ed said then. "Dave said this Vette smoked you."
Jim shrugged. "After it went by it disappeared up the road. I didn't think anything else about it except that the dude driving it was nuts. But we went around a curve in the road, and there it was, sitting on the shoulder. Waiting for us."
Brian's eyebrows bounced upwards. "Really?"
"Yup. As soon as we went by it came after us, and pulled alongside. I looked over, and there was this blonde chick driving. Cute, too."
Ed laughed. "Some woo-woo in that Chevy, huh?"
Jim grinned. "Yeah. Well, she waved a hand, like, 'let's go', and so we did."
Brian nodded. "What happened?"
"Shit, I pulled away from her at first, until we hit a hundred and ten or so, and then she caught me. After that, she just started to walk away from me. You know my car, Brian. I'm geared for the quarter. I top out at about a hundred and twenty."
"You hit that?" Brian asked, amazed. Jim's 'Runner was quick, but not terribly fast. "You must have been tached out."
"Pretty much. And I don't like to run long at the top end, either. So I just backed off and let her go. That's when I saw it."
"Saw what?" Jeff asked.
Jim grinned. "There was writing across the top of the tail of that Vette - black script, professionally done. It said, 'If you can beat me, you can eat me.'"
Brian looked at Jeff and Ed, and they all started laughing.
"I've heard of that car," JohnyG said, then. "She's way out of her territory, out here. She's from back my way." He nodded. "That Vette runs, but it's a top-ender. That chick likes to run for speed, not for the quarter. Nobody's claimed the date with her yet."
"That's why I was thinking of you, Brian," Jim said. "Your Bee doesn't seem to have a top end."
Ed laughed. "I'll vouch for that. We went over 130 once and I nearly pissed myself."
Brian grinned. "I remember. Scared the hell out of both of us." He looked pointedly at Jim. "I'm not in a hurry to go that fast again. The car felt like any gust of wind might blow it off the road."
Jim nodded. "My 'Runner's the same way. Those b-bodies push a lot of air, and a lot of it winds up underneath the car. Not a very secure feeling."
"So who is this chick?" Jeff asked, looking at JohnyG. "You know her?"
"Nope. Just heard about the car. No one has topped her for speed, and she doesn't stop and talk."
"Fuckin' Vette," Jim said, shaking his head. "The faster it goes, the more its aerodynamics push it down on the ground. No way a box like my Roadrunner can compete with that on top end. 'Runners are quarter-milers, and that's mostly it."
"Same with my car," Brian pointed out. "Now if she pulls up next to me at a light, I'll do the quarter with her. But I have no intention of running my speedometer to the pin. That's over 150 miles per hour."
JohnyG grinned. "I'm in the same boat as your buddy here. My Camino tops out around a hundred and fifteen miles per hour. But she likes to get there in a hurry."
Jim looked over at JohnyG, then back to Brian. "This guy with you?"
Brian nodded. "Sorry. Jim, this is JohnyG. He has a really nice seventy El Camino parked outside. He passed us on the way up here like we were, uh, parked at Burger King eating french fries. JohnyG, this is my buddy Jim."
Jim grinned. "Another lead foot? I think I saw your car outside. You got a personalized tag, right? Pretty blue color."
They shook hands, and JohnyG waved a hand at Gary, who was getting himself a beer. "Me and my buddy there came all the way from Albany for this gig. So far, it's been a lot of fun." His eyes moved over to land on Brian and Jeff. "Met some really nice people here."
Jeff grinned at Brian, and Brian couldn't help smiling himself. "That goes both ways, too."
Jim looked over Brian's group. "Are you guys leaving already?"
"Soon," Brian agreed. "Still time to cruise a little and stuff. This is the kind of party you visit, not take up residence at." He leaned forward though. "Way we heard it, this place will be vacant after tomorrow. I was thinking we could drive up here sometimes - just our group - and hang out. Great place to drink a little beer and catch a buzz."
Jim nodded. "Hey, that's a an interesting idea." He looked around the kitchen. "We could have a great time here."
Ed grinned. "Slim on the front porch said a bunch of car thieves used to run out of this place, and that the basement is loaded with old car parts."
Jim's eyes widened, as if Ed had said that there might be gold hidden under the house. "Oh? That will have to be looked into, of course."
"Of course," Brian agreed, smiling.
Jim shrugged then. "Well, maybe we won't stay too long, either. I'll talk to Laura and see what she wants to do. We might see you guys again down the road."
Brian nodded. "Anything going on at Zion tonight?"
"Huh? Shit, everyone's here. Nobody home to run." Jim made a face, as if to say figure that one out. Brian saw then that Jim would rather be at the car crowd's unofficial track, Zion Road, than at a party with a pretty girl. For Jim, cars came before everything.
"We're walking out to the cars here in a minute," Brian said. "If you and Laura stay and go upstairs to see the guillotine, keep back from the blade when it goes down." He indicated the tiny spots on the front of his tee-shirt. "Otherwise you'll get blood spattered on you."
Jim paused, his cup of beer halfway to his mouth, and his eyes widened. "What?"
Brian grinned. "You'd have to see. It's fun, if you don't get too close."
They showed Jim and Laura the secret stairway, and held the door open for light while the two went up the steps to the second floor to see the guillotine.
Then they headed back outside, stepping onto the front porch in time to hear a sudden popping sound and see sparks flying all over the place in the graveyard off to the left of the house.
"Stupid fuckers," Jed said, getting up out of his chair. "I warned them." He reached back to the other side of his chair and came up with a shotgun. Carrie put out a hand and grabbed the stock of the gun, causing Jed to pause and look down at her.
"Leave that," she said, firmly. "It's just fireworks of some kind. Just go and look, and tell them to stop. Fireworks aren't hurtin' nothin'" She gave a small tug on the gun. "This might."
Jed stared at her a moment, then nodded, relinquishing the firearm to her grasp. "Yeah." He looked further down the porch, at where another long-haired dude seemed to be asleep in another car seat. "Come on, Al."
That fellow sighed, and got up, and proved to be not the type of guy you would want to provoke. He came down the length of the porch, floorboards groaning beneath his weight. Brian gauged the guy at at least six feet five inches tall, and certainly well over two hundred pounds in weight. He actually felt the floorboards sag under his feet as the guy went by. He joined Jed, and the two of them stomped off towards the graveyard.
"You all have a good time?"
It was Carrie. She smiled up at them, looking less stoned now than when they had come in.
Brian nodded. "Probably the best party I've ever been to."
There was a chorus of "yeahs" from the others, and a group nod.
"Be careful on the road," she said. "Moon's out. Means it's dream time."
Brian looked at her. "Dream time?"
She smiled, and nodded. "Road's a strange place. Always off to somewhere, never stopping when it gets there. By day it's pretty clear where you're headin'. At night, it's never clear at all. But when the moon's up, it's in between. That's the time when the road shows you things. When you see things you might miss by day, and by night. You go long enough, you'll meet up with every dream you ever had." She sighed. "Don't get distracted and have a wreck."
Brian watched her a moment, trying to see if she was having fun with them. But the woman's eyes were clear, and her expression just interested. These were some strange people, having this party, he decided. He got the distinct impression that they had been around some, maybe seen a lot of things in life that he could only imagine.
He nodded. "Thanks. We'll be careful."
Carrie nodded, too, seeming satisfied with Brian's answer. "I'd say come back and see us - but we won't be here." She sighed, looked over at the dimly-lit trailer that she and Jed had called home for three years, then let her gaze slide off across the land. "Gonna miss this place."
"Good luck," Jeff said, from beside Brian. "Wherever you guys land."
Carrie smiled, returning her gaze to their group. "Thanks for that. Thanks for stopping by."
"Uh, thanks for sharing," Ed said. Brian smiled over at him, at first thinking that Ed meant the pot crop; but then he saw the expression on his friend's face, and understood that Ed just mean thanks for sharing everything.
Carrie nodded. "Our pleasure."
Brian nodded again, gave the odd woman a little wave, and started back towards the Bee, the others falling in with him.
"Kind of an amazing night," JohnyG said, as they pulled up at his car. Ed and the girls waved, and moved on towards where they'd parked the Dodge, but Jeff hung with them. JohnyG waved and smiled at them before turning back to Brian. "Not in a hurry for it to be over." His eyes settled on Brian's. "Where you guys off to?"
Brian shrugged. "Oh - I don't know. Cruise a little, probably. Drop by the shopping center and see if anyone is there." He grinned. "I feel a like a run after all that - but our whole crowd is here, so Zion is likely a wasteland. Maybe I'll wander over to McClelland Road and see if any of the Kennedy bunch is there."
JohnyG sighed. "Man. Nothing like the high school days, Brian. Enjoy 'em while they're here."
"I thought I was already doing that," Brian pointed out. He was getting that JohnyG didn't really want to part with them. Maybe the guy had seen a little something familiar among them - something he remembered from a few years back, and missed. "Hey," Brian continued. "You and Gary are welcome to tag along. We'll show you where we hang, and that way you can always drop back if the urge strikes you."
JohnyG turned and looked at Gary, who had been listening to the conversation. Gary grinned. "Hey, it's cool with me, John."
The El Camino driver turned back to Brian, nodding. "Yeah, we'll do that. " He gave Brian a small nudge. "If I ever decide I want to run that Bee of yours, I'll know where to find it."
Brian grinned. "There you go. Okay, cool. "
"Uh...one more thing." JohnyG waved a finger after the girls, and lowered his voice. "You two moved into some new territory tonight. You need to talk about it, me and Gary both have ears."
Brian sighed, and nodded. "Thanks. We might need that." He started off, Jeff falling in with him.
"Oh," Brian said, stopping as a thought occurred to him. He turned back, and JohnyG, who had opened the door of his car, looked at him.
"No driving on the shoulder, okay?" Brian said.
JohnyG laughed, and he and Gary climbed into the El Camino.
"Guy's a little nuts, you know?" Jeff said, as they headed back to their cars. "But in a cool way."
Brian nodded. "Those two have been around a little more than us, Jeff. I'm kind of interested in what they can tell us about " -- he lowered his voice and leaned closer to his boyfriend -- "about being gay."
Jeff looked shocked. "Are we gay?"
Brian grinned. "Well, you're gay. I'm bi, because I've screwed at least one chick." He was kidding, and Jeff knew it.
Jeff laughed, and grabbed Brian's arm and pulled him closer, until their shoulders bounced together. Brian returned the grin, wishing he could just say the hell with it and give his boyfriend a hug. But there were people about, everywhere, and he just wasn't that brave. Someday, maybe.
Ed and the girls were standing by the Bee. They smiled as Brian and Jeff came up. "What're we doing now?" Ed asked. "We could smoke another joint."
Brian laughed. "Never get enough, do you?"
Ed shrugged, letting loose a grin. "What's enough? When I keel over?"
Brian shook his head and turned to Jeff. "Can I ride with you? Please?"
Ed's eyes got big. "Dude, that'll work. I'll take good care of your baby." He showed some teeth in a horrendous grin. "Just toss me the keys, man."
Jeff laughed and gave Brian's wrist a squeeze. "Open mouth, insert foot."
Brian sighed. Just then, JohnyG's El Camino pulled up beside them. The driver killed the engine, but not before Brian heard the lope of the cam, and the whisper of air going down the carb. Lots of air. The car sounded impressive, and Brian was willing to bet that it ran like it sounded.
JohnnyG opened his door and stepped out on the sill, then straightened, holding onto the upper edge of the door. He grinned at them across the roof of the Chevy. "Hey, people, what do you get when you cross a midget with a prostitute?"
Brian blinked at the sudden change of direction in his thoughts, then smiled. He looked at Jeff, who just shrugged.
"What?" Brian asked, knowing better - but he couldn't help himself.
JohnyG pulled up his right hand and held it out, palm-down, about two feet above the Chevy's roof. "A little fucker about that high."
Brian grinned, and he heard the girls groaning.
"Hey, I don't write 'em," JohnyG said, grinning. "I just spread 'em around."
Jeff leaned a little bit against Brian. "Decided where we're going?"
Brian smiled at him. "Is it up to me?"
Jeff's eyes fastened on his, and he nodded. "Yes. Wherever you go, I'm right with you."
Brian could see the depth of meaning there. Jeff had already made it clear that they were in this world together. That he liked to repeat that fact every now and then only made Brian feel wonderful.
Brian looked quickly to his left, took in the multitude of cars parked in the field, and the lit house with its cadre of partyers passing back and forth behind softly-lit windows. His gaze slid over the fields outside the house, taking in the shadowy crowds of other partyers as they milled about in aimless circles that only had meaning to the deeply stoned. His eyes then moved quickly to the right, running over the eerie, serrated, moonlit landscape of cornstalks, to find the dark bulk of the mountain in the other direction, its crown still lit by the ghost lights of late-night hikers journeying about in pursuit of a midnight high under the stars.
No one was watching them. They were surrounded by a multitude, and no eyes were upon them - no one could see them. Brian felt an utter sense of surprise. Someday was here already.
He leaned forward, took Jeff into his arms, and kissed him. Jeff stiffened, obviously shocked; but then he seemed to melt against Brian, circling his own arms around to rub gently over Brian's back. The kiss was long, and it held life of its own, and Brian's body tingled with the utter delight of it.
They finally parted, grinning.
JohnyG immediately started clapping, and Gary whistled at them like an overawed teen at his first rock concert from the passenger window of the El Camino. Brian and Jeff looked at each other, and Brian was realizing that they had just reached another milestone in their relationship.
They had tempted fate. They had dared. They had risked discovery, and it had been oh-so-easy to do. And, somehow, it had felt right.
"That was just fuckin' awesome," Ed said, beaming at them. "Damn, I love love."
Brian and Jeff laughed.
"So where we off to?" JohnyG called. "Anybody decided?"
Everybody looked at Brian, who raised one eyebrow and smiled. "Um...back to the shopping center in Alna? Then maybe to Mickey Dee's for something to eat? Then over to McClelland Road, to see if we can catch a run?"
"Lead the way, jack," JohnyG said, getting back into the El Camino. He started the car, once again treating them to the humpty-dumpty sound of its idle.
"Car's cammed out the ass," Jeff noted. "I can hear some large air going down the hole, too. Big Holley, by the sound of it."
Brian stared at his boyfriend. "Can you really tell what kind of carb JohnyG's got by the sound of it?"
Jeff grinned. "Nah. It's a Chevy. What else would it be?"
Brian laughed. "Follow me?"
"Maybe for the rest for my life," Jeff said, tossing him a wink as he headed over towards his Camaro.
Ed came closer to Brian, gave him a little poke. "Guys got it for you, Bry. Way to go."
"Shut up, Ed," Brian said, sighing. He headed around to the driver's door of the Bee, unlocked it, and crawled inside, reaching over to unlock the passenger door.
To his great surprise, Ed got into the back seat with Missy. "Do you mind, Bry?" he asked, grinning.
Brian closed his door, smiled as Annie got in the front with him and closed her door. "Nope. Just hope we don't run into any injuns on the road, 'cause we'll be in deep shit without my shotgun rider."
"I can shoot," Annie said, smiling at him. "And pretty well, too."
Brian tried not to laugh. "Hmm. I'll bet you can, little girl. I forgot how well you hit the target earlier."
Annie's eyes sparkled at him as she reached out and gave his arm a small slap. "You be good now, Brian Temple. Don't make me get rough with you."
Brian imagined that for a moment, and whistled. "Owww! Mama!"
Annie slapped him again, but her smile said she was a long way from wanting to hurt him.
Brian heard Jeff's car start, and he started the Bee right after that. The tach jumped off the pin as the engine roared to life and settled down to a lope that sounded every bit as impressive as Jeff's or JohnyG's.
Yeah, that's right, Brian thought, smiling. Move over, Chevrolet. The Mopar has arrived.
He pulled the shifter back into first gear and let his foot off the brake slowly. The car edged forward at idle, the rear tires only turning once in the damp grass as the car got moving.
"Last thing I want is to get stuck down in this hole," Brian said, looking at the drive as it ran up the slope ahead of them. "Bet when that's mud, it's impassable."
He could see Jeff's Camaro in the rear view mirror as it pulled in behind him, and the headlights of JohnyG's Camino as it joined the line. Brian headed up the dirt drive, going slow, keeping the Dodge in first gear as it made its way in no hurry up the steep incline.
"Hell of a party," Ed said then. "I won't be forgettin' this one in a hurry."
Brian had to agree. It hadn't just been a good party - it had been a great evening. He had learned some things about himself and his friends - things of importance, things that mattered. And - he sighed. And, he had realized once again how much he loved Jeff, even as he was making room in his heart and soul for Annie to be closer to him. He looked over at her for a moment, and she caught it, and smiled at him. "What?"
Brian took his hand off the shifter, found hers with it and laced their fingers together. "Nothing. Hell of a night."
Her fingers tightened against his. "I'll say."
Brian gave her arm a small tug, and she slid closer to him, until their shoulders touched. He spared her a glance, smiled in return to the one she was offering.
In the rear view mirror, he saw Ed grinning at him.
"Don't you have something you should be doing?" Brian said, tossing his eyes pointedly at Missy.
Ed nodded, lifted an arm and draped it around Missy's shoulders, and made a point of looking down at Missy's breasts. She looked at him, her expression a mixture of pleased and embarrassed. "Window shopping again?"
Ed nodded. "Still hoping to sample the cabbages, sweetheart."
Missy's mouth worked into a full smile. "Maybe we can arrange something."
Brian let his eyes go back to the drive.
The Bee topped the hill, and Brian turned them into the corn. The moon was high overhead and off to their left now, its light strong enough in the flawlessly clear sky to paint shadows everywhere. The Dodge's headlights cut into them, slaying the shifting darkness on the drive ahead caused by the cornstalks waving in the light breeze.
They reached the road, and Brian stopped, looking both ways. The road was empty in both directions. This is the sticks, okay?
He turned left, goosed the Bee a bit, heard a satisfying squeal from the rear tires. He watched as Jeff turned out behind him, heard also the Chevy as it licked the road a bit; JohnyG of course, made the biggest noise. Brian grinned.
They headed back down Ridge Road to Route 38, and took that back to Route 5. Without the long line of cars behind them, Brian felt more comfortable going a little faster.
Until he got to Route 5, that is. As he turned right on that road to head back to town, he was careful to keep the Bee within a few miles per hour of the posted limit. All they would need would be one zealous cop to pull them over and find cause to open the trunk, and then all of them would be spending the rest of the night in the county lock up. And there was likely cause enough, what with Ed's bong and baggie in the car should they be discovered.
Jeff stayed with him, and JohnyG just behind. Brian would look in the rear view mirror every now and then, a little amazed at the El Camino driver's patience. He didn't pull out so much as a single time from his slot behind Jeff's Camaro. The minutes passed uneventfully, while the cars patiently ate road.
Traffic was non-existent this far out. There was no one going their way, and maybe one car would pass going in the other direction every five minutes or so. The road ahead was bathed in sharp moonlight, the landscape eerily spelled out with a clarity that twilight could not match. The moon hung lower now, having passed its zenith and begun its journey down the other side of the sky.
"It does look like a dream," Annie said softly, staring through the Dodge's windshield at the land beyond the wash of the headlights. "It's all one color, like something you'd see inside your head while you were asleep."
Brian looked at her, and gave her a small squeeze. "Don't let that lady on the porch get to you, little girl."
Annie looked at him and smiled. "She didn't. I've thought that moonlight was kind of magical my whole life. The world looks a little like a picture negative held up to a strong light."
Brian looked back out at the world ahead of them, and nodded. "It does, a little. Almost like it's not real."
He heard the bleat of a horn then, and looked in the rear view mirror. Jeff flicked his headlights to high and back to low in rapid succession. Brian turned to look into his side mirror.
Headlights were visible, far behind them. Brian checked the speedometer, realized he had let the car ease up to sixty again. He lightened the pressure of his foot on the gas pedal, and the Bee obediently slowed back to the posted speed of fifty. Brian checked the side mirror again. The headlights were closer.
"Ed, what'd you do with your mini?" he asked, glancing in the rear view mirror.
His friend was down out of sight, but sat up quickly, looking surprised. "It's here. Why?"
"Can you put it under the seat?"
"Uh - no. It has water in it. I thought we might need it."
Brian grimaced. "Give it to Annie - quickly. " He looked over at the girl. "Dump the water out of your window. Do it fast."
The Bee was a coupe model - the rear windows didn't roll down. Each glass pane was mounted on hinges in the front, and the rear of the glass pushed out about three inches and stopped on a latch. Most of the air was expected to come in the large front side windows - the rear ones were little more than vents. Only the hardtop Superbees had roll-down rear windows.
Ed handed the bong over the seat, and Annie took it carefully, leaned out her window, and emptied the water in the airstream alongside. She shook it once, and brought it back inside, turned, and handed it back over the seat to Ed.
"What's going on?" Ed asked. Brian looked at him in the rear view mirror. Ed appeared to be zipping up his fly. Missy was up sitting up now, too, looking bewildered.
"Headlights coming up fast," Brian said. "We want to be ready, just in case it's a cop. Stick the mini under the seat, and put your baggie there with it." Cops might look in the car if they stopped them, but they wouldn't search it unless they saw something illegal.
Ed frowned, and Brian could see his friend thinking about all the pot in the trunk. Ed stashed his stuff under the seat, then shook his head, sat back and put an arm around Missy. "Relax, babe."
Annie slid closer, up against Brian. Brian turned up the radio slightly - Jefferson Starship's No Way Out eased into the car. Brian put his arm around Annie and gave her a small squeeze. "Everybody relax."
The headlights continued to come up on them in the rear view mirror, and Brian was thinking they were going to zip right by them - but they slowed as they came up behind the El Camino, and hung there a full minute, while Brian let his eyes flick back and forth to the road ahead, watching.
"What's happening?" Ed said, softly.
"Checking us out, I think...no, here they come."
The headlights passed over into the left lane and moved forward. As the strange car came up alongside the El Camino, light spill from JohnyG's headlights illuminated it, and Brian could suddenly see the red and blue beanies on the roof, with the horn speaker in between, and the unmistakable shape of the car's front grille. Ford LTD.
Brian gritted his teeth, tried to keep his eyes on the road ahead, and still view the progress of the trooper in his side mirror. The cop car eased forward, came up beside Jeff, hung a moment, and then started to come up by the Bee.
"Be cool, everyone,"Brian said quickly, forcing himself to relax.
The car came forward, pulled alongside. Brian stared at the road ahead, and then realized that if it had been any other car pulling slowly alongside, he would turn to look. So he turned his head to look.
There were two troopers in the car, and both of them were scoping the Bee's interior. The passenger's eyes met Brian's, and Brian acted a little surprised, and said out loud, "Hey, there's a cop next to us." Somehow, he managed to smile.
Annie raised up a little and looked past Brian at the troopers, smiled, and lifted a hand and waved.
The troopers both suddenly smiled, and the passenger lifted a hand and returned the wave. The police car surged forward, and soon the taillights were disappearing around a curve in the road ahead. Brian kept the Bee right at fifty, just in case the cops pulled over to wait and see what they might do.
But they never saw them again.
After about ten minutes of serene sailing in the quiet moonlight, Brian suddenly realized he could breathe again, and sighed. "That...was a little rough."
Ed grinned at him in the mirror. "Imagination is a bad motherfucker, huh? I could hear the cell door slamming in my head, man."
Brian looked at his watch. It was five after eleven. "Made me hungry, I know that. We're just going to do a drive through of the shopping center when we get there, to show JohnyG and Gary where it is, and then I'm for Mickey Dee's."
He could feel Annie nod beside him, and saw Ed mimic the move in the mirror. But then his friend was grinning, and turning back to Missy. "Now - where were we, sweetheart?" And they both sank down out of view.
Brian glanced at Annie. "I think you did the right thing, waving at them. They saw a pretty, smiling girl, and they figured we couldn't be up to no good."
Annie beamed at him. "My Uncle Ray is a county mountie, did you know that?"
Brian laughed out loud. "Now you tell me."
She nodded. "He says a carload of guys can be trouble, but when they have their girls with them, they're thinking about other things."
Brian grinned. "Yeah? What other things might that be?"
Annie dropped a hand on Brian's thigh, rubbed it gently, let her fingers slide dangerously close to his crotch. "I can only imagine."
Brian smiled at the little thrill that ran throughout his body at Annie's touch. But --
"My boyfriend's right behind us," he said quietly.
Annie nodded, leaned closer. "And I'm right beside you," she whispered.
Brian laughed, feeling an inexplicably complicated sensation pass briefly through his head and then scamper away. He couldn't make up his mind whether he was delighted or scared at the prospect of having two people care about him like this. He couldn't quite see where this particular road was leading him - only that it looked arrow-straight at the present.
Arrow-straight, and coated in moonlight, like the dreams from which it was made.