(C)Tooluser August 2011

This story is fiction, and any resemblance to real people or places is entirely coincidental.

As always, comments and encouragement welcome, please email me at


Hope you like it, anyway.


Heaven Next Door,
part 15

Mindful of his healing cut, Bill carefully adjusted his position on the hard kitchen chair. He scooped up some mashed potatoes, speared a succulent piece of steak and lifted the forkful to his mouth. “Beautiful,” he thought, savoring it. Mary was a good cook; especially when, like now, she cooked the way he liked it: simple, plain food and plenty of it. That was often good in another way, too: signaling that if he wasn’t exactly in favor, then he at least wasn’t too far out of it, though often he had no idea exactly why. Mary was always unpredictable.

Oh sure; the other stuff she used to cook was well enough, but beyond a point it all tasted the same to him. Sauces that were light or dark; creamy or not; spicy or sharp – who cared? He liked to taste the meat.

Jay had loved all that crap. Wanted to know exactly what was in it; though he could often guess a whole load of things that Bill never thought of. Wanted to know how it was all made, too. When he was younger, Mary was forever shooing him out of the kitchen, telling him to go play ball or something with other boys.

He wondered why she was suddenly cooking again now, rather than leaving him to the microwave and a ready meal from the freezer. He stole a glance across the table at her. Yes, still the same sober expression she’d had since he’d packed Shayne off at the conclusion of their first reading lesson. In fact, she hadn’t spoken since saying grace at the beginning of the meal. Well, whatever she had to say, Bill had learned it never got better for the waiting. He drew a breath.

“Sorry about your laptop,” he said. “But I wouldn’t have let Shayne break it. He didn’t even touch it.”

Mary looked up from her plate, sighed, and set her fork down neatly. “It wasn’t that, Bill,” she said. “It was just, when I came in–” She looked away, color rising in her cheeks, and then, typically, she visibly forced down her discomfort to look him in the eye. “It wasn’t appropriate, Bill.” She held up her hand to stop him talking although he’d made no move to do so.

“I know, I know,” she said. “As the Lord’s my witness I don’t believe you’d harm that child, but there are plenty of men out there — evil men: deceivers — who would. It begins with that sort of innocent touch; with loathsome lust in the guise of friendship. Innocents give their trust too easily, and when deceivers take, they take too much, and poison what’s left.” She stared at him, but her unblinking gaze seemed turned inward, elsewhere. “If, in years to come, you found that child had been taken in sin; corrupted into a life of degradation, how would you feel?

She drew breath. “I know, for all your weakness, you’re a good man.” The corner of Mary’s mouth moved fractionally upward, the gentlest expression he’d seen on her face for years. “I even hope that perhaps one day you’ll return to the group and help us in the Lord’s work. You have a place with us, and a purpose; I see that now. Especially now, with our new project.” She shook her head, seeming lost in thought for a moment, and then focused on him again. “I know you, Bill: if you thought you’d set that child’s foot upon that downward path, the guilt would grow in you like a cancer; in your heart you’d pay a thousand times for every sin of his.

“So please, think of yourself and the child, both.” Her voice turned urgent, confiding. “Our Lord creates children innocent for a reason, Bill. Don’t confuse him. When a man — one of the deceivers we pray to be delivered from, a monster filled with unnatural lusts that only our Savior could forgive — when that evil reaches out to take him, for his own safety he should naturally shrink from that unnatural touch, and run to his family and the safety of his mother’s love.”

Bill sat, silenced by confusion and guilt, feeling the terrible weight of Jay’s name lying leaden between them, unsaid.

As a small boy Jay had been affectionate and lively, climbing on his daddy’s lap to be consoled after losing a toy; to have stories read to him or just to whisper a secret: the toad he’d found living in their back yard; the foreign coin with a hole in it he’d found: “does that make it lucky, like a holey stone, daddy?” how, when Mommy wasn’t looking he could hang upside down from the climbing frame using just one knee.

She’d been passionately protective of their son — strange, to use that word about her; but no, that wasn’t true. Mary had always been passionate: about antiques; about her father Marcus and his business interests; about politics or the church. She was always passionate; just rarely sexual.

In a way, it was a relief. He fought an insane urge to laugh; to say that the danger of corruption she feared for Shayne was impossible because that “bad touch” was long in his past, but caught himself, shocked, seeing again the face of the boy-angel in all those paintings. Feeling the body-shock of awe on first recognizing Shayne in his pool. No. Corruption was no part of anything Shayne did.

He frowned, casting his mind back over the forbidden things they’d done together. Recalling again the surge of comfort in the Pod as he’d realized Shayne’s expertise, focusing on Shayne’s well-deserved pride in his sexy, pleasure-giving skills. Was that, really, so different from any boy wanting approval and recognition?

Jay’s face swam up from memory. The look in his eyes. His son had worked so hard on his “surprise” for them, and then the horror of it when he’d skipped into the room to that music, twirling and jumping; staggering to an ungraceful halt as Mary demanded to know what he was doing, parading around in his undershorts?

Jay had looked at him, for support, for approval, and Bill had known it had all been there to read on his face; the cold fear as he prayed: Please no. Please don’t let my son be a fag.

Well, Jay was. Just like him. Bill felt a cruel satisfaction at using that barbed word against himself: Heaven’s impeccable justice. Oh, Bill had played around with other boys when he was growing up, and he and Adam had been good j-o buddies. But Adam had moved away, and Bill liked girls too. He hadn’t been with another guy until the ashram, just before he’d met Mary; in the haze of easy talk, serious politics and good pot it had even been fun to go back to being a teenager, rubbing dicks together in the dark.

He’d never sucked though. Never let it go beyond rubbing, even though this guy Zeke, a total pot-head, had made it plain he wanted more than being just buddies. Zeke had been good for him. A timely warning of what he might become, a muddle-headed, work-shy drop-out: useless to everyone. He’d decided to leave, to get back into the rhythms of hard work and hard play. He’d been walking around with half his mind trying to work out how he was going to break it to Zeke while touring the cafes handing out leaflets and flowers and talking politics, when the woman had looked up at him with a crinkled smile at the corner of her eyes and said:

“Don’t tell me you actually believe this junk.”

Class. That was the first thing he’d thought about Mary. In his preoccupation with Zeke, Bill had wandered beyond their usual circuit into somewhere more up-scale. He’d hesitated, and she’d said:

“Well, how about trade-for-trade? You tell me about,” she’d glanced at the leaflet, “the united will of the proletariat, and in return I’ll buy you a drink.” Still looking at him, she’d crooked a finger and a waiter had been instantly at her side. “Large Pinot,” she’d said to the waiter, and raised one eyebrow at Bill. He remembered how, prickly with dignity, he’d ordered a domestic beer, unsure what a Pinot was. He’d been absurdly young, and laughably mistaken in thinking he was recruiting her.

They’d met again the next day, in a place he felt more comfortable, and then again in a bar. It was strange how now, looking back, he could see that Mary had been nervous. At the time he hadn’t realized, just been happy to be able to see her without having to worry about making a jackass of himself.

He’d deliberately picked a place a little loud, thinking he needed an excuse to lean close, and when that drunk guy had kicked off he’d sorted it out without thinking anything much of it, only leery afterwards of Mary’s teasing about him being her “bare-knuckle champion” until he’d reassured himself she still liked him. When, a little later, emboldened by the beer, he’d risked a kiss, he’d been stunned by the ferocity with which she’d returned it. Looking at them now, who’d ever guess that their first time together had been on some nameless ratty sand-lot, rutting like crazed adolescents while she sank nails like talons into his arm muscles, hissing “Yes, yes, YES!” as he slammed into her?

He hadn’t been able to fathom her then, any more than now. When she’d been late to their next rendezvous he’d been worried, and on the point of getting up to phone her workplace when she arrived. She’d seemed wired, angry, and when he tried to talk politics she’d slashed through his arguments with a biting edge of contempt he hadn’t sensed before, and for the first time he’d felt not just wrong, but stupid.

He’d stammered into silence, wondering how best to excuse himself and leave, when to his surprise she’d put her hand over his. He’d looked up from contemplating his beer to see her smiling. She’d squeezed his hand and said not to take it personally; it was like in the bar. If he’d just given that drunk a little tap, the fight would have gone on, maybe gotten out of hand. He’d apparently cold-cocked the guy because he’d been a threat, maybe not a noble, but a worthy opponent, and it was somehow the same here: the toughness of her arguments a compliment to his strength.

They’d eaten at a taco stand, moved on to a couple of the quieter bars he knew, but Mary had been restless. They’d ended up at a place he’d been to with Zeke a couple of times. Sure, the “Wilde Bunch” looked rough, but it wasn’t. The guys there just liked dressing down, that was all. Sure, they might have dressed like construction workers or ranch hands, but he’d noticed they had soft, office bodies. He also noticed there weren’t many women there, but that hadn’t worried him: the place had an easy vibe. He’d been surprised Mary hadn’t liked it, but he’d liked the way she’d moved close, and, well, the other reason he’d picked the place was that it was close to the ashram. Their second night together had been better than their first: less rushed, and with Mary seeming somehow apologetic; a softer, kinder side to her that he’d very much liked. Zeke had hated her. With a shock of recognition Bill remembered how in the weeks between Mary moving into the community and them both leaving, she’d done her utmost to keep Zeke and himself apart.

With a cold shock Bill realized this had always been Mary’s concern; the reason she had made their son’s bed-times and bath-times her sole preserve. The reason she would come and interrupt when he and Jay had been alone together too long; with snacks or schoolwork or chores for Bill to do. He wondered if she was right: when it had been that some unintended caress, some look or smile or action in their play had made Jay become the way he was. She had, he realized, never once reproached him with it.

No wonder Mary had been so determined about Jay. Bill sat hunched at the table, forcing the memory away, trying to focus on his little friend, determined not to make the mistake of confusing Shayne with Jay again. He flinched as his imagination supplied scenes of Jay doing what Shayne had done; felt the fear climb up his back: my son’s out there all alone; with people who could hurt him!

More than you did? said a quiet little voice in his head. Oh, I doubt that.

* * *

The next morning, eager to begin the day, Bill hurried out of his front door a clear fifteen minutes before he was due to meet his little playmate, only to once again find Shayne already waiting, this time at the bottom of the drive. He was squatting in front of one of Mary’s fancy trimmed bushes, stroking the leaves and talking earnestly to it. Beside him sat an enormous black canvas holdall with a silver zip. The boy looked radiantly beautiful in the morning light, his child’s flawless skin seeming to catch the sun’s golden rays and shine them out again. His cute tee shirt, printed with a cartoon sun wearing cool Ray-Ban shades, looked crisp and new, as did his short camouflage pants, which were baggy-cut, just like the ones Bill himself was wearing.

Lovely as he was, the boy’s beauty multiplied a hundredfold as Shayne looked up and saw him: a brilliant smile lit up his little face; his cheeks flushed; his dimples appeared and then disappeared again. Bill resisted the urge to shade his eyes as the boy jumped up and ran towards him, the glorious, unnameable golden tangle of his hair flaring like a fantasy lion’s mane. He ran to an arm’s length of Bill and then pounced, wrapping his arms around Bill’s waist and hugging him tight.

“You ready to start, Bill? Huh?” Shayne said, grinning up at him, eyes sparkling. “I got today all planned out - all real special an’ a surprise!”

“Couldn’t be readier,” Bill said, allowing himself to rest his hand on the firm warmth of the boy’s back. He summoned his resolve and gently unwound Shayne’s arms, taking his hand instead.

At once Shayne began tugging him along, back down the drive toward where the holdall sat on the sidewalk. “I’m gonna pay for everything today Bill, okay?” Shayne said.

“You sure?” Bill said, trying not to focus so much on where the boy’s small hand rested so trustingly in his own. He allowed his thumb to caress the silken back of Shayne’s honey-gold hand. “I don’t mind paying my share.”

“No! It’s my treat, an’ I got it all figured out, and everythin’s a surprise, all of this whole day.” Shayne looked up shyly, his little face flushing. “I really hope you’re gonna like it all.”

Bill grinned and punched the boy lightly on the shoulder with the side of his fist. “A whole day hanging out with you? Sure, I’ll like it. Doing what?” Hearing himself, he’d coughed and flushed, once again remembering what they’d done together at the burger bar and later, in the pod. He hadn’t meant that, but didn’t know how to say so.

“We’re gonna have fun!” Shayne said, letting go of Bill’s hand and hefting the holdall up off the sidewalk. It was obviously heavy and he needed both hands to do it. “C’mon - we gotta get to the bus stop or we’re gonna miss it!”

“Miss what?” Bill said.

“The bus of course!”

Shayne grunted, leaning far over to balance the weight of the bag. “Or did ya think I was gonna drive, huh?”

Bill held out his hand. “Here -- you want me to carry that?”

Shayne looked doubtful, pushing out the startling pink of his inner lower lip. “Okay, but only if you don’t peek, or it’ll ruin the surprise. You promise?”

“Sure, I promise,” Bill said, taking the bag from Shayne, who grabbed his other hand and began towing him along again.

* * *

The bus’s destination board read “Tropicana O.P.” Bill had pretended not to notice, just following his excited little companion on board, where Shayne had stood on tiptoe to whisper the destination to the driver through the perforations in the plastic screen.

“Yeah yeah,” the driver drawled, bored. “One kid and one adult to the park.”

Shayne hissed the driver to silence, and Bill pretended an enormous interest in the dry-goods store opposite, struggling to control his smile as Shayne paid both their fares in meticulously counted small change.

The bus was about three-fourths full: a few lone adults, who looked to be swimming or fitness nuts; a sprinkling of families with little kids, but mostly teenagers too young to drive, separate groups of rowdy boys and giggling girls.

“So where is it we’re going?” Bill asked as he followed Shayne towards the back of the bus, cramming as much innocence into his voice as he could.

Shayne looked up at Bill over his shoulder. “You didn’t hear?” he asked as he slid into a vacant seat, opposite a large, red-faced man in a floppy orange straw hat.

“Hear what?” Bill said. “Move your butt over. I’ll put the bag in front of your seat, okay? I’m guessing it won’t hurt if you rest your feet on it, right?”

“No clues, mister Sneaky!” Shayne said, managing to hold a serious expression on his face for a whole ten seconds before breaking down into giggles.

“Okay, I’ll be patient,” Bill said, grinning. “You comfortable there, wiggle butt? Sure I’m not taking up too much room?” He looked down at where Shayne was sitting next to him on the bus seat. There was plenty of space, but the boy was pressed up as close to Bill as he could get. Bill felt the firm seductive warmth of that touch spreading through him and swallowed. Making the boy move away would spoil the mood, he told himself, stretching his arm along the back of Shayne’s coach seat, for all the world like a nervous teenager on a first date.

“Sure!” Shayne said, grinning happily up at him and nudging Bill’s armpit with his shoulder. As always when the boy smiled, he opened his lovely, sparkling brown eyes wide and Bill found himself catching his breath. “You mean you ain’t got any idea where we’re goin’ Bill? Not at all?

Bill shrugged as the engine rumbled and the bus pulled away from the stop. “You said it was a surprise.”

“You don’t wanna try guessin’?” Shayne giggled and bounced on the seat, pattering his feet on top of the holdall in little running steps.

Bill found himself watching the boy’s slender, pretty feet; bare within black webbing sandals just like the ones he was wearing. Shane was so excited he was even wiggling his toes, and Bill stared: mesmerized by their lean, dusty elegance.

“You can try guessing if you like!” Shayne said, busting in on his reverie. “Bet you’ll never guess it!”

“No,” Bill agreed. “I bet I never would. Somewhere nice though, huh?”

Shayne nodded happily and wiggled round in the seat so that he was facing out of the window, his back pressing up against Bill’s side. “Look! There’s Memorial Park.”

“Oh? We’re going there then?” Bill said over Shayne’s shoulder, trying to ignore both the warm point of the boy’s shoulder-blade pressing against his chest and the even warmer rush of memories from yesterday.

“Hah! So you did hear what that dumb ol’ driver said.” Shayne looked over his shoulder and his grin broadened. “No, we ain’t goin’ there. Guess again!”

“Hah - busted!” Bill said cheerfully. “Uhmmm - maybe to the roller rink?” he suggested, knowing it was clear across town in the wrong direction.

“No - ’s way better than that!” Shayne crowed. “Guess again!”

They’d boarded the bus at the last of the city stops on the route, and now were pulling out onto the highway. Bill hastily averted his gaze from the large sign reading “Airport and Tropicana Ocean Park only.”

“It’s kind of difficult,” Bill said. “Can you give me a clue?”

“Okay - I got you a present,” Shayne said. “Exactly like a present you gimme before, only a bit different.”

“That’s a clue?” Bill said, laughing. “You’re not exactly giving much away, are you?” He mugged, miming deep puzzlement as the bus hummed along the sunlit highway, its tires k-klonking rhythmically over the cement jointing.

“That’s on account of you’re so smart, Bill! If I said more, you’d guess, easy!” Shayne wiggled back around, kneeling up to face Bill, his eyes sparkling, his breath bubblegum sweet. It took all of Bill’s willpower not to kiss that goofy little smile.

“Uh - is it somewhere with mountains?” he said, desperate to break the moment.

“Kind of!” Shayne said, fizzing with excitement, “Only kind of made, you know?”

“Oh, so it’s cold then? So the holdall’s full of warm clothing, right?” Bill tried for his best wide-eyed and innocent expression.

“Wrong!” Shayne said, little white teeth gleaming. He imitated a game-show buzzer. “Eeeh-err! It’s all warm an’ kinda tropical!” His mouth snapped shut as though he’d given too much away, and Bill had to bite his tongue to keep his poker face intact while he thought up other credible but wrong guesses.

A little later the engine note changed as the driver slowed to turn off the highway. Shayne looked around, his mouth opening in comical surprise. He knelt up and put his hands over Bill’s eyes. “You got one last guess!” he said, leaning close and pressing his small, warm body up against Bill’s. “I c’n whisper you another clue, if you like!”

Bill gulped and managed to trade a moan for a snort. “After your last crummy clue? Gee, thanks! Uh, um - the airport! We’re going to watch the planes, right?”

“Haaa-ha!” Shayne bounced down onto his seat, clapping his hands. “You lose! Loo-oo-ser!” he said, pantomiming the “Loser L” against his forehead.” He pointed. “We’re goin’ there!”

The bus was now coming down the off-ramp overlooking a large parking lot, and Shayne shifted his shoulder, inviting Bill to look down along his arm. “There” turned out to be the gateway in the tall blue perimeter fence on the far side of the lot. It had a large arched sign above it reading “Tropicana Ocean Paradise and Park.”

“A day in Paradise, huh?” Bill said, smelling the boy's sweet, fresh scent and feeling the tingle he always felt when Shayne’s fine hair brushed and tickled against his neck. If he could turn his head, and kiss Shayne just behind the curve of his cute little ear, put both his arms around the boy and not move for the rest of the day, that would truly be paradise, he thought.

Shayne nodded. “And we’re goin’ right in through the gate,” he said, proudly. “All legal: not bustin’ in or nothin’, so you ain’t gotta worry none.”

Bill smiled. “That’s good. I probably couldn’t get through a little rat-hole like you could, anyway.”

“Oh no!” Shayne said. “You could get through easy. It’s the access gate back of the Mountain Log ride -- the lock’s been busted for ever so long.” He sighed. “Trouble is now, if you ain’t wearin’ a wrist band the security guys just chuck you out again. It ain’t hardly worth it no more, not while the park’s open, anyhow.”

“What?” Bill felt a shock of fear, and spoke before he thought. “You mean you’ve been breaking in here at night? That’s really dangerous, Shayne!”

The boy flinched immediately, ducked his head and looked round warily, and Bill moderated his tone. “Hey, buddy. I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to yell at you, okay?”

“Uhuh.” The boy’s body felt tense against him, and Shayne shifted, moving away. The gap between them felt like a reproach.

“I mean, I just don’t want you getting hurt, that’s all.” Bill slid his hand over Shayne’s back and squeezed his small shoulder gently until he felt the boy relax and lean a little closer once more.

“You ain’t gonna squeal on me?” Shayne said to his bare knees, his voice quiet.

Bill lowered his voice too. “I won’t squeal – but you promise not to go climbing around on the rides, okay?”

“Okay – it’s mostly the swimmin’ what I like, anyhow.” Shayne grinned and leaned close. “Sometimes I do it all bare,” he whispered. “Like in your pool, first time we met, you recall? That way the security guys don’t have nothin’ to grab ahold of, see?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t call it nothing,” Bill said, giddy with relief.

Shayne squeaked and elbowed him, collapsing into giggles, as Bill, mortified, struggled not to do the same, blinking and trying to dispel the images of Shayne, moonlit and naked, dancing away from the lumbering charges of the guards like some slender, exotic spirit.

He swallowed. “Uh, you’re not planning any skinny dipping today, right?”

“Maybe.” Shayne flashed him a white, teasing smile that made Bill’s hair stand on end.

“Uh, Shayne-” he began, but the boy just giggled and nudged him again.

“Gotcha! Ree-lax. I told ya I got it all planned. Ain’t gonna do nothin’ what’s gonna mess up and get us in trouble, Bill!”

“At least, not intentionally,” Bill added to himself as the bus pulled up to the stop in front of the gateway.

* * *

They descended from the bus along with the other passengers. Bill found himself exchanging more than one conspiratorial grin with other parents and surmised that his and Shayne’s guessing game had been the major on-board entertainment this trip. A few of the kids pulled faces, but Shayne seemed not to see.

They got in line for the turnstiles, and Shayne paid for two blue wrist bands.

“No show today,” the attendant said as Bill shifted the holdall to his other hand so that the guy could strap the self-locking plastic band around Bill’s wrist, “–the high diving platform’s still being brought up to code, but we’ve opened the Ocean Experience instead.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Bill caught Shayne’s expression, which plainly said that in his opinion “stuff in tanks” was no substitute for some guy having a satisfactorily gory diving accident. Bill reached out and ruffled the boy’s hair before he thought to stop himself.

“Still plenty of rides,” Bill said. “We’re gonna have a great time – and all the other pools are open, right?” he added to the attendant.

“Yes sir. You’ve access to all the pools, water-slides, and the junior surf machine. You’re restricted from any of the rides with a gold star — you’d need to upgrade to a gold band for those — but they’re mostly height restricted and I’d guess your son isn’t tall enough anyway.”

“Right,” Bill said. “Well, there’s no way I’d want to go on any rides without my little buddy, so these bands are perfect.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw Shayne’s face suddenly radiate happiness.

“Really?” Shayne said as they clacked through the turnstile. “You don’t mind not havin’ goldies?”

“Really,” Bill said, taking the boy’s hand and squeezing it. “You’re all the gold I want. I mean,” he added hastily, “on you it’d just look cheap, what with your lovely tan, and hair…” he broke off, aware he was digging himself deeper, and looked around.

Tropicana Ocean Park was a huge area shaped like a curving teardrop. Here, at the teardrop’s tail, it was shady and enclosed, planted up with towering palm trees and jungle foliage, with the warm orange of terracotta tile paths winding around between. The shouts and squeals of little tots splashing in the nearby “Sun Safe” shaded pool echoed off the green-blue mirror glass walls of the male and female changing rooms which formed the blunt “Vee” of the park’s tail. Beyond the covered area the lovely, sun-lit blue of the family pools beckoned, each set amidst the bright plastic candy-colors of its surrounding sun loungers. Beyond them, the pastel curve of cafes, arcades and restaurants. All of the fairground-style rides were further along the curve, out of sight.

“It’s fabulous!” Bill said, as the other passengers from the coach streamed around them. “Now I wish I’d come here sooner.”

“You really ain’t never been before?” Shayne sounded incredulous.

Bill shrugged. “It was so close I kept thinking, ‘oh, maybe later,’” he said, although he doubted that Mary would ever have agreed to the outing. “You know how it is.”

“Uh huh.” Shayne’s expression said he didn’t. Why put off fun for later? “We better go get changed or we ain’t gonna get to choose no nice place for sittin’,” he said, towing Bill towards the doors labeled “Male Swim”.

Inside, Shayne steered Bill away from the communal changing area, already a noisy chorus of men and half-naked excited boys, towards the gray plastic maze of private cubicles. These were similar to three-fourths height restroom cubicles, except that where the toilet facilities would be, these cubicles had instead a simple, broad, molded shelf; set low enough that it could also be used as a seat. Although the doors didn’t lock, merely staying closed on a strong spring, it was easy to tell which were occupied because adults and teenagers were generally visible head-and-sometimes-shoulders above the paneling, although kids like Shayne were totally hidden except at foot level.

“We got to share, or I cain’t give you your presents!” Shayne said, pushing Bill into an empty cubicle and crowding in behind him.

Mindful of Mary’s warnings Bill turned and drew breath to protest, but his voice faltered as he saw his little buddy’s anxious expression.

“I know it ain’t your birthday today,” Shayne said, “but I figured I could make it kind of like a sorry and a late birthday too?”

“The birthday fiasco wasn’t your fault, Shayne,” he said quietly, and squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “It was me: I screwed up. I wanted to give you something really special, but I gave you the wrong present: something I wanted to give to someone else, but now I–”

He swallowed. “Well, I can’t, that’s all.” Part of him wanted to tell Shayne about his son and the mess he’d made of being a father; a selfish impulse to confession. He restrained it.

Shayne looked up at him, frowning. “Some other boy? Like me?”

“Yes.” Bill felt his heart and his throat clench at the sudden memory of Jay at Shayne’s age. “Very like you.” As loving and as gentle, certainly. Jay hadn’t always been the prickly, secretive hater he’d been when he left for university. Bill stared out over the maze of cubicles, trying to master himself.

“You gonna take him back?”

“Hah.” The laugh turned in his chest, became half a sob. “Not my choice, little buddy.”

“But you would, huh? Bill?”

The urgency in Shayne’s voice got through to him, and Bill looked down. Shayne was staring up at him, his mouth downcurved, eyes like dark wounds.

“Hey,” Bill said, softly stroking the boy’s drooping shoulder. “It doesn’t change a thing between us, okay? We’ll be just like before.” Shit. Bill heard what he’d just said and bit his tongue. Well, this didn’t exactly seem the best time to get into that. In his experience— admittedly all with women— that “let’s just be friends” speech made nobody feel any better, and now, when his little buddy was already hurting? Bad idea. He’d just have to wing it.

He smiled with an effort and changed the subject. “Anyway, what do you mean? My birthday isn’t ’til December now. You recall?”

Shayne brightened a little. “You mean you’re still doin’ that birthday swap thing with me? I thought — when I messed up — you didn’t want to no more.”

“I told you: you didn’t mess up, Shayne. And yeah, I still want to.” Seeing that little lift in Shayne’s mood, like a little glimpse of sunlight on a gray, overcast day he did want to, only unfortunately not just swap birthdays. He could feel his breath short; a tingling over his skin and in his balls. He could feel himself hardening in his shorts. There was no doubt about it: Shayne was, and always would be, sexy for him.

“You mean it? For real?”

The blend of hope and pain in the boy’s voice was both familiar and elusive, but he didn’t have time to place it now. His little buddy was hurting. “Sure,” Bill said, recalling Shayne like this, in the study. “I wouldn’t lie to my special buddy.”

It was a relief to find the right thing to say. He saw Shayne taken aback for a moment, and then relax, blinking those huge eyes and obviously working things out in that clever little mind of his. The eager, trusting smile that flowered on the boy’s face made him quail. Mary was right: one day Shayne would trust the wrong guy. But not today.

Suppressing a wince, Bill swung the holdall up onto the cubicle’s integral molded shelf-cum-seat and took the opportunity to surreptitiously wipe along his eyes with the side of his hand. “You sure have been busy planning!” His voice came out husky and he had to stop and clear his throat. “Come on, let’s go hit the pool!”

When Shayne didn’t answer, Bill looked back and saw the boy was already half out of his tee shirt, tugging it over his head with impatient, jerky movements. Bill yanked his gaze away from the boy’s lovely skin and hastened to follow suit, careful to avoid accidental body contact. He removed his shirt, and reached out to hang it on the hook provided, but Shayne stopped him. For a moment Bill thought the issue was the strip of sticking plaster now covering his wound, but the boy seemed not to have noticed.

“Wait, Bill!” Shayne said. Squeezing forward past Bill, he unzipped the holdall and stuffed his tee shirt inside. “Gonna put all of our stuff in here, see?” He pulled out a small, drawstring pouch lumpy with bottle shapes and put it aside on the shelf. “O-kay, hand it over!” he said, holding out his hand.

Bill backed up a half step to give himself room, feeling his shoulders pressing against the top edge of the door; folded his shirt and handed it over. “Careful!” he said. “Or it’ll be all creases when I come to wear it again, and I’ll look like a bum.” He suppressed a smile as Shayne acquired a thoughtful expression and then pulled his own tee shirt out of the holdall again. Entranced, Bill watched the boy’s slender figure as his fingers caressed the white cotton. Inexpertly, but with great care, Shayne smoothed out the wrinkles and folded his tee-shirt the way Bill had done.

“Ready Bill?” Shayne said, reaching into the holdall and pulling out a small, floppy package wrapped in the most garish, sparkly paper Bill had ever seen. “This is for you!”

“Aww, thanks, Shayne,” Bill said as he accepted the gift. Part of him wanted to linger over the unwrapping, but a single glance at the boy’s face told him it would be pure cruelty to keep his little buddy in suspense any longer than he absolutely had to. He ripped open the parcel.

“Wow!” Bill said, holding up the Surfer-style swim-pants. “I didn’t know they did the rocketship pattern for adults!”

“Young adults, the guy said - but that’s you ain’t it? You ain’t old! I wanted ones the exact same as what you bought for me, only different sized!” Shayne said, jumping up and down. “You like ‘em, huh? Really? You ain’t just sayin’?”

“They’re just perfect,” Bill said, stroking the cotton with his thumb, overwhelmed at the thought and effort his little buddy had put into planning the day. He would have said more, but knew his voice would betray him.

“Come on Bill - gimme your pants! I wanna see you wearin’ ’em!”

Bill tried shushing his irrepressible little companion, but it was like trying to squash a rubber ball. Shayne just jigged on his toes as though he was on invisible springs, his soft curls bouncing counterpoint, brushing against his face and neck. He did manage to stand still long enough to fold first Bill’s pants and then his shorts, but then he said:

“Wait on, Bill - I wanna do it so we put our swim pants on together!”

“Shhh! Pipe down!” Bill said. “Don’t go telling everyone our business!”

Shayne turned his head and looked up at him blankly, his knee-pants and undershorts already half-way down his legs. The smooth twin mounds of his taut little butt were milky pale, but that just seemed to emphasize the golden loveliness of the rest of him. Bill could trace the exact area the boy’s little Speedos would cover — and it wasn’t much. The smooth curve of his little ass was impossibly beautiful. He was turned partly away, and the sight of the shadowed little “v” where his butt parted recalled to Bill not just the sight of his cock plunging between those small, firm cheeks but the feel of it too: the boy’s tight, gripping ring and the slippery, yielding blood-warmth of his inner body pressing around Bill’s aching meat as as he eased his big cock back and forth in his little buddy’s tight back passage.

“Darn!” Bill said, shielding his swelling groin with one hand. “We, uh, may have a problem,” he muttered.

Still half bent over, Shayne looked down to Bill’s hardening cock and grinned. “Oh, that ain’t no problem,” he said, and before Bill had quite grasped what he meant, moved the man’s hand aside and engulfed the broad cock-head in his clever, hot little mouth.

Bill’s refusal died in a gasp and shudder of in-drawn breath, and he looked guiltily left and right out over the maze of the other cubicles, but could see only two guys, both evidently getting on with their own legitimate business.

Shayne was already bobbing his head up and down on Bill’s hard cock, one hand curled around the thick shaft, the other fondling Bill’s hairy balls.

The sensations were just as intense as he’d remembered from the burger bar. He slid his hand up to Shayne’s hair, honestly intending to push him off, but the moment his fingers touched Shayne’s curls, the boy squeaked something around his cock and began taking him deep. Shayne seemed excited, urging Bill on to take him, tugging on Bill’s balls until he began humping the little boy’s mouth.

Lord, but the pleasure was sensational! It was pure torture having to keep his face impassive in case anyone else saw. There was no doubt about it though; his little buddy was an expert cocksucker. Despite himself, Bill found his excitement increasing as he speculated on how many guys little Shayne had pleasured with the expert, hot little mouth now teasing his own hard cock.

This was how it should be: excited, happy sex! Through the mounting pleasure he managed to wonder briefly what he’d done wrong in the pod, but the boy’s slippery, hot little mouth made concentration difficult.

“Kids, huh?”

Bill jerked his head around. The fat guy in the orange hat from the coach was stood in the aisle, watching him. Bill was glad the cubicle partition was shoulder-high and Shayne was completely concealed. Shaking his head ruefully, the guy said: “Take just forever with their clothes, right? If I had a nickel for every time my kids held me up fooling around, I’d be one rich guy.”

“Oh,” Bill managed, “he’s doing the best he can.” Down at waist height, he felt Shayne giggle, and stuffed his cock further into the boy’s mouth to muffle any sound, which Shayne took as a cue to wiggle the firmness of the back of his little tongue just beneath Bill’s throbbing cockhead and then move it back and forth.

“Hey, you okay?” the fat man said, eyebrows climbing.

“Just busting–” Bill managed, feeling the hot vacuum of Shayne’s mouth moving on him, and the guy nodded sympathetically.

“And you daren’t leave the little tyke. Just let go – you won’t be the first guy to take a whizz in here.” He winked.

“Still–” The guy hefted his clothes where they draped over one arm, and shrugged. “Hurry him along or you’ll spend all goddamn’ day in here, believe me.”

“Hear that?” Bill said with mock severity, looking down at where the white column of his cock disappeared between Shayne’s pink lips. The boy’s mouth was too wide-stretched for any expression, but as he looked up at Bill, his eyes sparkled with naughtiness. “You gotta hurry up, Sh- uh: son.”

Shayne mumbled something around Bill’s cock, the buzzing sensations humming along his shaft to the root. The little monkey knew what he was about, too: leaning closer until the sensitive head of Bill’s cock was pressed against the softness of his vibrating throat.

“Ain’t that just the way,” the guy said. “Talk to kids and they just grunt back.” He nodded, hat brim flopping. “Gotta keep ‘em in line,” he said, and strolled off in the direction of the lockers, whistling.

Bill’s gaze followed the man, the rest of him all too aware of Shayne’s slippery-expert tongue massage, no; he was doing something new now— oh, god! Bill felt his knees weaken. This was what Shayne had been doing in the burger bar. He looked down again to where his red-faced little buddy was now swallowing more of his cock, and realized that the exquisite sensations were Shayne’s throat, not his mouth. Bill found himself watching in horny astonishment at the pretty boy pushing his head steadily closer to his groin until practically the whole of Bill’s glistening rod had disappeared between his pink little lips: right down until his small nose brushed Bill’s pubes, and then back up again like a sword-swallower in reverse.

He watched, dazed as the boy’s now-reddened lips caressed his shiny cockhead, nursing at it as he gasped for breath, and then the boy’s expert tongue welcomed the invader into his hot little mouth again, teasing him so that Bill’s hips bucked of their own accord, sheathing Bill’s twitching hardness deeper in the soft-firm pressure of slippery-gulping heat as the boy reached up, and gripped Bill’s hips like he was never going to let him go, the boy wordlessly urging Bill to fuck his tight throat deeper yet.

“Nnguhh!” Bill gulped, forcing down the giveaway moan as he passed his hands across the silky smoothness of Shayne’s shoulders in a jerky caress, hips moving as he humped the boy’s face. “Oh yeah,” he gasped, as softly as he could, as he fucked the boy’s mouth with increasing urgency. He wanted to hold Shayne’s head, but what if he choked his little playmate? Shayne had to be holding his breath while he did that deep-swallowing trick. So instead, Bill leaned forward to stroke the boy’s silky, golden back.

Shayne bent at the hips, sticking his butt out and leaning closer as he made some muffled, inarticulate sound, his throat clenching and massaging, stickily hot around Bill’s cock.

Bill reached further, bending down and stretching until his fingertips brushed the lovely firm curves of the boy’s ass. The angle was awkward, but he could just slide one finger into the smooth valley between those pale little buns. There was the boy’s wrinkled hole, he could feel it! He rubbed his finger back and forth across the rubbery wrinkle, excited to notice the way Shayne was now on tiptoe, wriggling his little butt and, from the feel of the tingling vibration Bill could feel around his cock, squeaking with excitement.

“Gonna-” Bill managed, feeling his own asshole tense, his cock twitch and swell. He straightened up, gritting his teeth together, gasping through them as he held Shayne’s head; felt his cock pulse its first long shot, and then felt the boy pulling back, his hair rough and tangled beneath Bill’s fingers.

He came again, hard, both hands clenched in Shayne’s wild hair, pumping hot cum into Shayne’s mouth, moaning as the boy’s tongue thanked him for each thick jet, and teased his cock for the next, rubbing the slick, sticky shaft with both hands, milking and sucking him.

“H-hell!” Bill breathed as Shayne stood up, grinning, his cheeks bulging. A white trickle escaped one corner as the boy tilted his head back and then opened his mouth, showing the pearly, milky puddle inside. He closed his mouth again, swallowed and then smacked his lips.

“I like tastin’ your stuff, Bill!” he whispered, the sound echoing off the hard walls, far too loud for Bill’s peace of mind. He found, however, that he had neither the breath nor the heart to complain.

“I swear,” Bill gasped, hanging onto the partition walls for support, “Your grin is touching both your fucking ears!”

Shayne beamed wider as if in demonstration and wiped his reddened lips and glistening chin with the back of his hand.

“See, Bill – your problem’s all fixed, yeah?” He smiled stickily, brown eyes still dancing with naughtiness. “Don’t do nuthin’ just yet though, okay?”

Bill nodded yes, gingerly pushing himself upright again on wobbly, wet-noodle legs. Shayne scooped his camo pants and undershorts off the floor and draped them over the holdall, then rummaged within. He pulled out a pack of wet-wipes.

“You, you – huh! – ever been an Eagle Scout?” Bill asked, his gaze straying to his little companion’s butt once again. So nice to stroke — and even better that Shayne had seemed to like him touching it.

“Naaw. We kinda moved around a lot, an’ anyhow it’s a waste of money,” Shayne said as he turned back to Bill, and began cleaning up the man’s thick, softening cock; the tip of his pink little tongue protruding between his teeth as he wiped it with the tissue, stroking and fondling it as though it was his pet. “Okay! We’re both ready, I reckon.” He bent over and gave Bill’s cock a kiss; whispered something to it he couldn’t hear.

Shayne fetched his Speedos from the holdall and pulled them on, and Bill — rather more carefully, for his cock was still sensitive — stepped into his new trunks and did the same.

The “young adult” size trunks were a little small. Despite being just an average guy in that department Bill found he filled the netting pouch to capacity. Shayne stared wide-eyed and reached out to slip his hand up the leg of Bill’s shorts, but Bill caught the boy’s hand. “Let’s see you,” he said.

Shayne’s Speedos hugged his neat little butt, and when he turned around, Bill saw the boy had a “problem” too: a lovely, hard fingerlength of dick outlined beneath the thin Spandex that he longed to stroke.

“Don’t fret none, Bill,” Shayne said, backing away as he adjusted his little stiffie, “I knowed I was gonna be like this all day an’ it wouldn’t go down, so I gotta plan.” He rummaged in the holdall and pulled out a large, pacific-blue beach towel decorated with bananas. “I seen the bananas an’ I thought of you right off! That one’s for you, an’–” he pulled out a hand-towel sized version, “–I got one too! The guy said they make the big, uh, D-daddy-sized ones and then miniaturize ‘em down for boys, so they’re the exact same! I can wrap it around me ’til I go swimmin’ see?”

“Okay,” Bill said, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice. If Shayne didn’t want to be touched there, and plainly he didn’t, then that was the end of the matter. Still, it hurt that he couldn’t make the boy as happy as Shayne had just made him feel.

“You all right Bill? You don’t like it?”

“It’s lovely,” Bill said, stroking his towel’s soft pile in lieu of Shayne. “It’ll be my special towel. Every time after I shower I’ll use it and remember today.”

“Yeah, me too! Only problem is my folks say I’m in the shower too fuckin’ much already!” Shayne said, stuffing his things into the holdall. He zipped it closed. “C’mon, Bill, let’s go! I wanna show you the rides!”

Bill carried the holdall over to the lockers and stuffed it inside. Shayne paid even for that, punching in his “Special Number” that he always used, he said, “on account of it’s so beautiful.”

“Holding my clothes hostage, huh?” Bill said.

Shayne grinned. “Your bill-fold too,” he said, skipping out of reach. “Told ya you weren’t payin’ for nothin’ today.” His smile was triumphant as he tucked the rest of his money into the little waterproof pocket in the front of his Speedos. Bill noticed it wasn’t much and what there was jingled rather than rustled. Enough for a few sodas or maybe a fancy coffee or two. It made sense: Shayne had outright told him he was usually here at night; it stood to reason he’d never bought any food around here and didn’t know the rip-off prices they undoubtedly charged.

“Oh well,” Bill thought, resigning himself to a hungry afternoon: you couldn’t expect boys to plan the food too. In their world it was stuff that just turned up at meal-time. Anyway, Bill knew he’d happily go hungry rather than bruise his little buddy’s pride. The tricky part would be when Shayne realized: he’d probably think the whole day was ruined.

Meanwhile there was Shayne, tugging at his middle finger and urging him along, the mysterious little draw-string pouch dangling from his wrist.

Well, I hope you enjoyed that!

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