(C)Tooluser December 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, pt.17

Bill shifted in his chair and frowned, puzzled. “Apologize for what?” he said.

Lee managed another smile, but even in the cafe’s subdued lighting the effort was obvious. “For blowing so hot-and-cold. I know that’s an unfair thing to do, and I hope you don’t think I usually behave like this. In the ordinary way I would have backed out of our date completely, but it would have messed things up for Shayne, and he’s worked so hard to please you.”

“Date?” Bill said, mystified, but it seemed Lee wasn’t listening. He stared down into the straw-colored depths of his tea and the rest of his words came out in a rush, as though rehearsed:

“The swim-date sounded such a good idea and it fitted in so naturally with the rest of the day but in the end I just - I couldn’t.” Lee drew a shaky breath. “I should have told you myself instead of, well, putting things off. That was wrong. I’m sorry — I’ve been making a lot of mistakes lately.” He looked up. “Not that I’m counting the napkin as one of my mistakes.”

“I don’t follow,” Bill said. “What was that about you, or maybe Shayne? Telling me stuff? And a napkin?”

“The one with my phone number on. Oh.” Lee looked startled, and color mounted higher in his cheeks. “He didn’t tell you then, after all? Oops.” He shifted uncomfortably, avoiding Bill’s gaze, glancing over to where Shayne was charming the counter staff. He wet his lips nervously with the tip of his tongue and then looked back at Bill. “What did Shayne tell you about all this?”

Bill shrugged. “Shayne did say about meeting ‘a friend,’ but I’d expected - uh, someone his own age. He said it was a surprise - well I guess I can’t fault him on that!” His laugh caught in his throat and died.

Lee was crimson with embarrassment. “I’m so sorry; you must feel completely blind-sided.” He managed a shaky laugh. “And to think I’ve been sitting here trying to find a way to say that I, I just can’t, yet — date, I mean — and you didn’t even know!” He groped in a leather shoulder bag and pulled out a pack of Kleenex. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll be better in a minute.”

Bill doubted that, but he held his peace. Lee needed someone to listen, not to talk. He noticed that Lee’s fingers were trembling as he dabbed the tissue at his eyes and nose, and looked away, feeling like an intruder.

“You see,” Lee continued, “that day when you and Shayne came into Freddie’s I put my phone number on a napkin with your carry-out, but Shayne intercepted it. He felt simply awful about that: it played on his mind, and he ended up phoning me in a dreadful state. Please don’t blame him: he was so frightened and upset.”

Frightened? Bill thought. Shayne had been frightened of him? Maybe still was? He glanced over at the cashier. Shayne had been served and was fussing with the drinks at a little side stand where the sugar and creamers were kept — an obvious delaying tactic. Whether that was because he was scared the shit was gonna hit the fan over that napkin business, or whether he thought this “date” was all lovey-dovey over here, Bill couldn’t tell. Just what had his little buddy been playing at?

“Well I sure do wish he’d told me something about all this,” Bill said, and shrugged. “But we got to remember he’s a kid. Kids get a higher screw-up allowance.”

Visibly, Lee swallowed, the tissue balled tight in his hand. “I’d been thinking that if it was all too awkward I could leave my charge card and you two could have lunch here, but Shayne didn’t tell you anything?

Bill shook his head. “Not a thing. Even for an eleven year old, he’s kept his secrets real good.”

Lee flinched at even that gentle, unintended reproof. “Well, the, um, day as originally planned was for us to go swimming here and then go back to my place.” He flushed. “For lunch, I mean.” The blood flushed higher in his face and spread down his slender neck too. He resumed his fascination with his glass of tea. “I know how this must look,” he said. He shifted as though to look up from his long-cold tea, but picked it up and took a miniscule sip instead, avoiding Bill’s gaze. Bill watched the coil of dark hair shift aside, brushing Lee’s silken cocoa-powder skin as the boy lowered the glass again. His voice sank to a whisper. “You must be wondering how many other men I’ve met, uh, that way.” He drew a sharp breath. “And now involving a child-”

It took Bill a moment to catch on, and then several longer moments while he mentally tried out various ways of saying: it’s okay, I don’t think you’re a slut. He felt confused: didn’t gays pick each other up all the time for sex? He bet Lee could have his dance-card stamped every night if he wanted. He cleared his throat.

“I ain’t thought of nothin’ like that,” Bill said, and then realized he might as well have added, but I sure have now. “I mean, when Shayne said about meeting a friend, I figured it for a kid his own age, right?” And in fact, he recalled with a guilty flush, he had thought about sex.

Bill shifted uncomfortably, recalling the boys in the pool, and how Shayne had assumed he was trying to pick them up. And before that, too, talking to Dwight and his shy friend. If one of those lovely skater boys had given him the come-on, would he have blown them off — or just blown them? He was married, but he couldn’t fault Shayne for not granting that much weight, after all how much had he himself granted it? Lee was right: there sure was someone with low morals at this table. Now it was his turn to flush, and with way more cause than Lee.

“Look,” Bill said, “let’s forget about all this date stuff and start over, yeah?”

“Okay,” Lee said, far too quietly. “I understand.”

The quiet pain in his voice cut Bill like a knife, and he could have kicked himself. Poor guy, Bill thought. He comes in here feeling like crap, and you — dumb-ass! — go empty another bucket of it over him, saying it like you ain’t been thinking about what skin-to-skin with that hot, firm honey-gold body would be like. Not that he goes for that kind of screwing around anyway; he’s got way too much class for that. He felt honored that, however briefly and for whatever reason, Lee had wanted to date him.

Bill cleared his throat, wondering exactly what Shayne had told his friend. He guessed Shayne hadn’t said anything about sex; not only from not having cops beating down his door, but because Lee would figure himself too old to be of interest — especially now, when he was plainly feeling so shit about himself.

It was a relief in a way: ordinarily Bill would have been tempted to take the easy way out, to say that he “just didn’t swing that way,” but he could no longer lie to himself — and he didn’t want to start this friendship by lying to Lee.

Looking across the table at the beautiful, unhappy boy, Bill felt a peculiar, tight, hot feeling beneath his breastbone. He didn’t want to fuck Lee -

- no, that wasn’t right. Bill swallowed. Of course he wanted Lee that way, in every hot, sweaty animal sense he could possibly want to be tangled in those heavy-silk, firm limbs, teasing each other towards mutual ecstasy. Heck, who wouldn’t? In other places, other times he could see himself grabbing at a single night with this great guy; this tender, passionate, loyal boy-man.

For a moment, he glimpsed what perhaps could have been; with Lee eager and ready for new love, and himself free. Sure, he wanted a hot time, but more than that he wanted to wake up the next morning and go out to the kitchen and fix Lee breakfast knowing what he liked.

Perhaps Lee would always have been out of his league; but right now, adding up Shayne’s uncomfortably-smart assessment of his morals — Lee deserved better than he could offer.

Consciously, Bill restrained himself from glancing over at Shayne, the innocent, shining mirror that had reflected his image so clearly. Well, as a lover he was not Lee’s equal, but perhaps he could aspire to friendship.

The silence had already stretched too long: he’d have to wing it. Bill felt guts folding into an iron knot as he began, having no clear idea what he was going to say, only a determination that Lee was going to feel better about himself once he’d said it.

“Look,” Bill began, forcing himself to say what he’d never said before. “You know I’m into guys-” He broke off as Lee drew in a sharp breath. “What?”

Lee was holding up his hand. “You don’t need to say it,” he said, his voice curiously hard. “I’ve heard that speech, it’s okay. I don’t need to hear it again.”

No, Bill thought. Not hard: brittle, like something fine unbearably stressed. He’d heard construction guys talking about that; miners said that right before a collapse they heard the pit-props talking to them; crying out in unbearable pain.

Whatever it was, I wish I’d heard it too, Bill thought. Though I hope I would have had more brains than to say it to you right now: it don’t look like nothing you wanna hear. But all he said was: “What speech?”

“Nothing,” Lee said. “It’s okay, it’s not important.”

Bill sat back in his chair. “The hell it ain’t,” he said. He wished he was like Mary; she could always find the words she wanted. No, not like Mary — he wanted to be the opposite of her: to find the right words to help him, not gouge him deeper.

He shrugged. “But, hell. You don’t have to tell me one thing that you don’t want. Only I wouldn’t say nothing cruel to hurt you, not a-purpose, I wouldn’t.” He saw Lee swallow.

“Thank you,” Lee said, quietly. “I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. Shayne said you’re kind. A good man.”

Bill shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah?” His own definition of “good man” didn’t include lying to Lee, even by omission. Didn’t include a whole lot of stuff he’d been doing lately.

Lee smiled. “Well, “kind’s” a fairly free translation, you understand. Shayne’s description used ‘cool’ a lot more. And ‘big’. And ‘growly.’ I think he likes his big uncle bear.”

Bill looked down at his chest and up again. “Hey, it’s not that much of a rug!” he said, grinning. “You make me sound like a doormat.”

“Oh no, certainly not! I didn’t mean-”

“Hey, Lee. It was a joke. Not a good one, but- uh. Look, I’ve known you all of ten minutes, and already I know you don’t do mean.”

Lee blushed, and Bill found his smile broadening. “What? Too cornball? Shayne should-a warned you about that.”

He hoped Lee would laugh, and he did begin to, but Bill felt himself swallowing in a companionably tight throat as he saw Lee stop; evidently too close to that place where laughing and crying come out the same.

“What were you going to say, Bill? About why you didn’t, I mean don’t, um-” Lee flushed, and his hand clenched on the wadded tissue he still held. “I mean, why I’m not your type?” he finished in a small voice.

Deliberately, Bill sprawled in his chair and pitched his voice low and easy. “If I had a ‘type,’ you don’t think it would be good-looking, classy, kind guys what dress like a million dollars?” Bill spread his hands and smiled. “What kind of dumb-ass would that make me?”

But Lee hadn’t smiled back. “Ah, hell, Lee,” Bill said. “You gotta help me out here: tell me what’s buggin’ you, buddy, okay? Please? I just don’t get it, and I’m feeling really bad, here.”

Lee closed his eyes and breathed out. It looked to Bill like he was doing some kind of exercise. His breathing slowed, and the expression of tension and worry smoothed off his face and dropped out of his posture. When he spoke, his voice was quiet and somehow distant, as though he’d lost interest in the subject.

“How do you explain water to a fish, or flying to a bird? You just be yourself, right? And fend off the horny, wannabee boyfriends.”

Bill winced. “Hey, that ain’t kind. Guys have feelings too.” It was only after he’d spoken he registered the catch in Lee’s voice. The boy was upset; of course he didn’t really think like that. He more than liked Lee already, and found himself casting about to find the best way to make him feel better about all this.

“I appreciate you tryin’ to let me down gentle,” he said. “What with the troubles you got and all. I reckon you’re as nice a guy inside as you are outside. It’s not every guy would think of that, sittin’ there with his heart broke. And that’s what kicked off the whole napkin thing, I reckon. Right?”

Lee turned his head and stared out through the window. “Harmony and I’d had another argument right before I came on shift, and he’d said, he’d said-” He put his hand over his face and drew in a shaking breath. “It was the first time I really believed he might not be coming back. And then you were so friendly-”

Bill swallowed. That was why he’d married Mary: to put all this behind him, as well as to give his son a name. Ever since getting married he’d worked hard to be the good, normal, christian husband and father. He’d avoided good looking guys; he’d been doing that for so long he hardly thought about it any more. Guys as outright model-beautiful as Lee used to scare him to death. But that day he’d been intoxicated with Shayne’s company; and for the first time in a long time, too happy to pretend to be what he wasn’t.

Or maybe it was shock. Thanks to that little boy’s direct action, for the second time in two days he’d been close with Shayne, hearing him giggle and watching him lick his sticky lips as he worked Bill’s hard meat with his little fist. It had been the first connective happy sex he’d experienced in almost twenty years.

He hadn’t realized how much he’d yearned for someone who’d shift closer to him after the act instead of recoiling and escaping to the bathroom. He’d grown to loathe the sickly-sweet smell of the pink muck Mary always bathed in after their increasingly rare, brief, mechanical couplings. And for days after, sure as a dick’s deflation, she’d goad him; picking at everything he said and did; finding fault; sneering and belittling until things exploded in a furious screaming match and there was once again a yard of chilly no-man’s-land down the center of their marital bed that it was his task to warm again with obedience and deference and respect.

Ever since he’d met Shayne it was as if he was slowly waking from a dream: that blind state of denial he’d hypnotized himself into. He’d started noticing how pretty, gorgeous guys – and boys – were everywhere. After years of aping “normality” he’d finally found out what it really was: sex as a gift instead of a bargaining chip; companionship for pleasure instead of duty; trust and peace instead of suspicion and war.

“Look, Lee,” Bill said: “I figure you’re not gonna feel a whole lot better either goin’ off somewhere on your lonesome, or sitting round a table trying to make small talk with a guy you don’t hardly know. How about you come in the park with us for a spell? Shayne wanted us to be friends, and I reckon you’ve been a real good one to him, helping him out with all this when you must’ve been feeling like shit. Any guy who looked out for my little buddy that way is someone I’d sure like to get to know.

“You’d be doing me a favor, too,” Bill added, leaning closer across the table. “See, I got this bad head for heights, but I guess Shayne forgot. He hasn’t said, but I reckon he’s real disappointed. He could do with a ride buddy and-” his empty stomach pained him even as he said it, ”-we could do the meal later. What do you think?” He didn’t mention it would give Lee some private time to recover while he changed, and time apart on the rides, too, if he wanted to straighten stuff out with Shayne: Lee looked plenty smart enough to figure that out for himself.

He watched as Lee took another tissue from the pack and dabbed at his eyes, visibly collecting himself. “C’mon,” Bill said. “I reckon you could do with some friendly company. You can talk or not; and if you gotta bail, then you gotta; no sweat. As for me thinkin’ you’re some kind of easy lay; well, I don’t. I reckon what you wrote on that napkin was more to yourself, or maybe this guy Harmony than it was to me, that’s all.”

Lee looked up, his expression grateful. “Shayne was right: you’re a nice person, Bill. I think he was wrong about one thing, though: you do care about him; very much. ”

Bill felt his mouth hanging open, and closed it. “Yeah,” he said, glad he could agree with at least part of that. “I do care about him, that’s for sure.”

“So tell him,” Lee said. “He needs to hear you say it.”

“Who zat?” Shayne said, finally arriving with the drinks. “Needin’ to hear what?”

“You.” Lee said. “And Bill will tell you most of it, but right now you two are going to have something to eat.” He held up his hand to silence Shayne’s obvious protest, “My treat, while I get some swimwear and change.”

Shayne’s grin lit up his little face. “See?” He was triumphant. “I told you Bill would of wanted ya to come swimmin’. You’re gonna look real neat!”

“Mmm. Well we were going to go on some of the rides, rather than swimming.” Lee flashed a glance at Bill, who added:

“Yeah. Lee’s gonna go on the big ones with you and be your ride buddy. I’m only going on the small stuff. He said it would be okay to do the rest of the day like you planned, but later.”

“So, do we have a deal?” Bill said to Lee, trying to ignore the capering little imp dancing around in circles next the table. “Friends?”

Lee looked from one to the other. “Deal,” he said.

Bill was warmed by kind expression in Lee’s eyes, and pleased to have made him feel better about himself.

Lee reached down into his leather shoulder purse again, and took out a slim billfold. “Here,” he said, passing several folded notes to Shayne. “Buy something to eat with that and we’ll meet by the ‘Spray and Play’ area in an hour, yes?” He closed his laptop and slipped it into his bag.

“And when you’re picking out what to eat, try to remember they like to keep this place a barf-free zone, okay?” He ruffled Shayne’s curls and stood up, hitching the bag up beneath one arm. “I won’t be long.”

“It’s okay!” Shayne yelled after Lee’s slender retreating form. “I ain’t near so good a barfer as Dollar!”

* * *

After eating, Bill and Shayne waited for Lee in the family area, within sight of the changing rooms. Shayne had opened the little black bag he’d been carrying all morning, and presented Bill with a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic.

“You gotta put on this sun-stuff,” he’d said. “On account of you ain’t a ni– uh, well anyhow the sun's real hot ’n’ all.”

“Sure,” Bill said. They picked a sun-lounger a little ways away from the others, so they could talk with a little privacy, if they kept their voices down.

Shayne was still glowing and happy. Whatever happened now, he owed Lee big time for clueing him in about Shayne. Nothing beat the glow of having the right words to say to the one you love.

He’d said it in Lee’s phrase: that being “Special Buddies,” sure did mean he cared, only to have it echoed back in Shayne’s sharp, no-time-for-shit immortal phrase: “ain’t gonna let me be a dumb-ass no more.” That was real trust from a boy.

Now Bill leaned forward, caressing Shayne’s shoulders as he smoothed the sweet, coconut-scented lotion over the boy’s lovely skin. “No. Let Lee change in peace. He doesn’t need you in there, gawking at his butt.” Shayne had already been in twice to check and see if Lee had finished shopping and was ready yet.

Shayne giggled. “I reckon it ain’t me what wants to see Lee’s butt. Anyhow I already seen it, pretty much: them little stretchy undershorts what he wears don’t hardly hide nuthin’. I just knowed you’d like him! He’s real pretty, ain’t he?”

“Very pretty.” Bill reached behind his playmate and smoothed his hands down over Shayne’s back, reveling in the silky solidity of the boy’s body. With his thumbs touching over Shayne’s spine, he could still stroke the boy’s sides with the tips of his fingers. “He said you told him a whole lot about me.”

“Uhuh.” Shayne’s gut tensed and suddenly he looked nervous. “About you likin’ him a whole lot. I recalled, from that time in Freddie’s.

“Yeah.” Seeing the look on his little playmate’s face gave Bill cold chills at his stomach. This was the other, darker part of what Lee had said. “He said you were scared of me, too.” Bill paused, and did his best to sound gentle. “I don’t know what I ever did that you’d be scared of me, but whatever it was I’m real sorry. I don’t never want to hurt you, little buddy.”

“Yeah.” Shayne ducked his head and looked at him out of the side of his eye. “You said afore, in the pod. But I been real scairt.”

Bill stroked the boy’s silky shoulders again. “Of what, Shayne?”

The boy’s eyes were big: wide, and fearful. He shrugged.

“You don’t want to say? I scare you that much?” He wasn’t sure if Shayne shook his head, no, or was just wary of him now. He was pushing too hard. “Whatever it is, little buddy, if you tell me — or tell Lee, and have him tell me — I’ll stop doing it. I don’t want you scared of me.” He smiled.

“Cain’t,” Shayne whispered. “Only-”

Bill waited.

“Bill,” Shayne said. He swallowed and wet his lips, moving closer. “I been tryin’, real hard,” he whispered. “To be a good boy an’ that.” He tucked his head down, so that Bill could only see the top of his head. “But you ain’t fucked me Bill. I been scairt – a whole lotta scairt – thinkin’ on how you don’t wanna no more an’, an’ — I ain’t no good as a fuck.”

“Oh, Shayne,” Bill said, tracing the lines of the golden curls as they lay on his lovely neck. He leaned close and lowered his voice too, aware even as he said them, how few people would accept these words as the language of love. “You’re the best and tightest fuck I ever had.”

The boy was a lot more beside: the loveliest firm armful Bill had held in too long; and the soft sound of his pure, high voice was the surest way to make Bill’s heart lift, too, but he wanted to make sure Shayne heard what he needed to hear.

“Honest, Bill? It ain’t you didn’t like it?”

“How could I not like that cute little boy-butt, huh? It’s only I didn’t wanna hurt you again.”

“’S okay, Bill, it don’t matter. I like bein’ your fag. An’ anyhow you’re my guy now.”

Bill bit his tongue. He wanted to say it wasn’t okay with him; no way hurting Shayne was anything he wanted any part of. He reminded himself that there were other ways of hurting the boy. Plainly for Shayne, his hunger for contact meant he was already in pain.

He settled the boy into the crook of his arm, holding him close. “I wake up some nights recalling the feel of your hot little ass around my dick, squeezing.” He chuckled. “And your mouth, too. You’re a real good little cocksucker, you know that? Yeah,” Bill said, grinning. “I kind of thought you did. Well, you think you ain’t gettin’ me horny, you just lean against these shorts right now.”

He smiled as he felt Shayne cautiously press his leg against his crotch. “You feel that?”

“Uhuh.” Shayne smiled like the sun coming up. “Yeah. It’s nice feelin’ you all big. Bill? I been practicin’. I been stretchin’ my uhu with this old rubber dickie what we had before, so you ain’t gotta worry about all that hurtin’. I done stretched myself all nice inside. I think on that first time real often, Bill. S’like —”

Bill heard him swallow.

“Bill, with you bein’ my guy an’ all – I dunno if you figgered – but I been with guys, you know? Other guys. An’ Mom, she says as how when you’re with a guy, you gotta be with him or you’re cheatin’ him, only I ain’t Bill! I cain’t help but be thinkin’ on you an’ wishin’ how it was your hard, slip’ry guy-meat makin’ me feel all nice, and none of ’em don’t make me feel all kinda glowin’ inside from just bein’ around ’em an’ stuff.”

Gee. “You know, it’s just the same for me,” Bill said, then had to laugh at Shayne’s shocked -eyed look. “No, I ain’t been screwin’ around with hairy guys,” he said. “I meant when you’re around my heart just kinda glows too.” He stroked over the curve of Shayne’s lips with his thumb, following the line up to his dimple. Suddenly it was all so clear. “When I’m talking about not hurtin’ you,” he said, “I bet I’m sayin’ the exact same as you get to feeling when you’re thinkin’ about hurtin’ me. You just wouldn’t. Am I right, or am I right?”

He saw the understanding sinking into Shayne like rain into parched earth. If Lee had been with them right now he would have bowed down before him in gratitude. For a moment he felt true sorrow for Harmony – there was a guy who was going to have many long, deep regrets when he realized the treasure he’d thrown away.

“So you promise Bill? I ain’t done all that for nothin’ with my rubber dickie but you’re gonna fuck me too?”

“Too?” Bill said, distracted again by mental images of his little blonde cutie “practicing” at home. Damn, but he was such a sexy little boy. “You did that for me?”

“Sure I did, Bill! I want your hard dickie all stretchin’ my uhu all nice an’ fillin’ me right up in my butt. I wanna be a nice fuck for you, Bill, an’ make you go all growly an’, an’ stuff. So you gonna? You promise?”

“Hush, kiddo. Or we’ll get in trouble.” He stroked his little playmate’s shoulders, feeling the tension there. “Yeah. Only we gotta wait ’til we can go slow and have fun, huh?”

“You promise?” Shayne gave him an anxious look. “Even though Lee’s real smart an’ pretty? Prettier’n me? You ain’t gonna only fuck Lee?”

Bill tried not to wince at Shayne’s direct assessment of his morals. He hedged, for all it was the truth: “Lee’s hurting already. He needs friends right now.”

Shayne nodded solemnly. “Yeah. But he don’t want Harmony’s arm broke or nothin’ — I already asked. That’s when he freaked an’ told me all about fightin’ with that girl. I thought, just for a second, how maybe he weren’t a piller-biter an’ I got it all wrong but turns out it’s only just a hobby, like that movie, ’Fight Club,’ you know?”

“Right.” Bill suppressed an urge to smile. He could imagine Shayne sailing into combat on Lee’s behalf: knight-errant; a golden meteor with a flaming sword who wasn’t above grabbing his adversary’s nuts and squeezing, if that’s what it took. “I promise, Shayne,” he said. “You can stop worrying, but we’ll have to wait until later, okay?”

“Sure,” Shayne said, and looked down wistfully at the tent in Bill’s shorts. “Lee sure is one lucky guy.”

“Yeah.” It seemed like a good moment to plant the suggestion that Lee and himself getting together wasn’t the only gauge of success, here. “He’s a real nice guy. I’d like him for only a friend, you know? Even with no fucking.”

Shayne gave him a look so old it should have come out of the Stone Age.

“You like him more’n me?”

“Lee’s nice, but it’s not just about being pretty, Shayne. It’s about being a good person, and having good manners too. D’you think you could be more like Lee, and try for less shouting when you’re in a quiet place? And no bad words?”

Shayne hung his head. “An’ then you’d like me more’n him?”

Bill leaned close to whisper in Shayne’s ear. “You’re still my special buddy, and I couldn’t like anybody more than I like you. But if you go around telling Lee I like you best, would that make him happy, do you think?”

“But you do like me best?”

Bill leaned closer still and nuzzled Shayne’s ear. “Yes. But don’t tell him,” he murmured.

“Oh, I won’t. I just want to know it. I know you’re gonna keep your promise, anyhow.”

“Don’t remind me!” Bill groaned. “I’ve been trying not to think about things that stretch my new shorts. I mean, if I had ’em just one day and busted right out of them, that’s being kind of careless with a present I like so much.”

Shayne pulled back to look down at Bill’s crotch. He giggled. “I wouldn’t mind if I was there to see it! Pow!” His gesture graced Bill with a yard-long dick.

“Yeah! Extreme wardrobe malfunction!”

Shayne traced around a rocket ship on Bill’s thigh. “You really like ’em, huh? A whole lot?”

“A whole lot. You did really good, planning all of today out. I’m real proud of you and I’m always going to wear them in my pool at home.”

Shayne ducked his head at the praise. “Uhuh.” he looked up at Bill. “Bill? Will you say it again?”

“Sure.” Shayne had already asked him to say it again a half dozen times while they ate lunch and waited for Lee. “I like you a whole lot. You’re my special buddy, and I care about you.” He’d decided to avoid the word “love” in case it scared his little playmate somehow. He told himself that boys Shayne’s age often weren’t cool with “soppy” stuff like that.

“An’ I’m gonna do what-all you say.” Shayne smiled happily and leaned close. “An’ you’re gonna fuck me too,” he whispered. “You promise?”

“Sure,” Bill said, as he smoothed finger patterns in the oil over the boy’s back, pleased to see his little playmate happy again. “As often as you like, right up your tight little butt.” He slapped it, playfully. “There you go, all finished.”

Shayne giggled and held up his arm, the little black bag dangling from his wrist. “We still got some, I saved some of the sun stuff. You wanna put it on Lee?”

“Okay then, go see if he wants it. He might not: he’s pretty tan, like you. If he doesn’t, you can leave it in his locker.”

“Okay.” Shayne wrapped his arms around Bill’s neck. “The oilin’s fun. I really liked that.” He leaned closer, and Bill felt the boy’s hard little pickle pressing against him.

Bill kissed the coconut-scented skin of Shayne’s neck. “Yeah, well if he doesn’t want it, we can save it for another time. I’ll oil you up any time you like,” he said. “I’ll wait for you here.” He gave the boy a little squeeze, and once Shayne had let him go, leaned back against the sun lounger, smiling as Shayne scampered off to the changing rooms. He felt his eyes closing and leaned back, enjoying the comparative quiet of Shayne’s absence. He’d forgotten how tiring a boy could be.

“Bill. Bill!” Shayne’s voice in Bill’s ear jerked him awake. “Lee’s just comin’ now.”

Bill sat up and blinked as the changing room doors flapped open and Lee emerged.

Lee’s previous outfit hadn’t hidden much. Nevertheless there was a difference between speculating on how a guy was built, and actually seeing all that gleaming caramel skin smoothed over the neat definition of his body. After his reference to training, Bill was surprised at Lee’s physique: it was fit, and lean, but without the plates of muscle and swollen veins he associated with lifting. Or maybe it was just the way he moved, playful and light, like a dancer. That walk, Bill decided, watching the motion of those narrow hips, should be X-rated.

Lee had chosen a pair of plain black swim pants. The clinging material looked like a jersey knit, with a thin orange line that swooped down from the middle of the front to curve about the bulge of his package, giving a subtle Jockey-shorts effect, although the pants legs actually came just a couple of inches down his lean thighs. Bill found the outfit highly erotic.

“Cool it,” he said to himself as Lee approached. “This is just for Shayne’s benefit. We agreed: we’re just friends.” He managed to drag his eyes above crotch level by the time Lee arrived.

“Shayne says you haven’t been on any rides and he has to upgrade for the really big ones,” Lee said, smiling as he casually twined his fingers with Shayne’s. He held up his other hand, exhibiting his gold wrist band.

“No, we did the surf machine,” Bill said, pleased to see that Lee had recovered his poise, and conscious that he was trying not to stare at Lee’s bronzed, toned figure — and failing.

“Yeah. Bill, he fell over a whole lot and surfed sittin’ down on his butt!” Shayne said, wiggling his neat little rear by way of demonstration.

“Yeah, that’s me,” Bill said. “Fully paid up butt-surfer.”

Lee snorted laughter.

“What?” Bill said, tongue in cheek.

“Did you hear what he said, Lee?” Shayne squeaked, hopping from foot to foot. “He said he’s a butt-surfer!”

“Yes, he heard,” Bill said. “So did everyone else.” From behind them, he heard a high voice: “Dadd-dee, what’s a butt-surfer?

“Time for a walk?” Lee said, extending a hand to help Bill up from the lounger.

“I guess so,” Bill said, once again admiring Lee’s wiry strength as he boy courteously helped him rise from the low sun-lounger. He might be a swish and pretty as a girl, but he was no cream-puff. “Though the ticket guy when we came in said all those star rides were height restricted anyway.”

Lee lowered his lashes and gave Shayne a reproving look, and Shayne radiated innocence. “Can we at least go see?

“Well, if you pass the height test, I’ll spring for an upgrade,” Lee said.

“Yeah, and no tippy-toes,” Bill added. Shayne gave him a look of betrayal.

* * *

Shayne didn’t pass the height test. He dumped his consolation candy in the trash and sulked until Lee tempted him aboard the “Super Whirler,” a spider-like device with independently rotating passenger pods at the tip of each mechanical arm.

“Better stand well back,” Lee said. “The kids don’t call it the ‘Hurler’ for nothing.”

Bill took his advice and stood clear as the whole gaudy contraption rose spinning into the air. He’d seen versions which tilted until the spinning arms were vertical, but for either financial, legal or safety reasons this only tilted some thirty degrees before returning to the horizontal, and then to earth. The two of them emerged with Lee walking with the care of a tipsy ballet dancer, and Shayne looping around him making “jet fighter about to crash” noises.

“Thanks for doing this,” Bill said as he courteously took Lee’s elbow to steady him. “Shayne’s having a great time.”

“I wanted Lee to come all the morning too, but he wouldn’t,” Shayne said, running around them as they strolled through the crowd towards the concession stands at the foot of the concrete mountains. “I even got him a swim outfit.” He paused to eye Lee’s jersey shorts with disapproval. “Much nicer’n that one; even the one what I took back was nicer’n that one.”

Lee glanced at Bill. “Neon candy pink Speedos. With sparkles. All I needed was the pom-poms.”

“Oh I coulda got ya them, Lee, if you’d of said. But you liked the other one, right?” Shayne looked at Bill. “It was like our towels, so it kind of went together okay.”

Bill thought. “Bananas?” he ventured.

“One banana,” Lee said. “Strategically positioned.” He made a graceful curving motion over his crotch, and giggled. “Actually it was kinda cute.” He coughed, and straightened up. For a moment, Bill thought he looked like he was gonna apologize or something.

“And on the back?” Bill asked as they detoured around a stand selling junk aquatic jewelry and headed for the queue snaking out of the Little Big Dipper.

“That’s why I got it,” Shayne said. “It was like what my mom used to wear. There weren’t no back, only kind of a string. For over your, you-know. So you could see all of Lee’s pretty-”

“And that’s why I couldn’t wear it,” Lee said diplomatically, with an odd, deeper tone to his voice. “They don’t allow thongs in the park. Now hush while we join the queue.”

“Can we ask him now?” Shayne said. “It’s only a real small ride.”

“Ask me what?” Bill said, looking uneasily up at the serpentine track above their heads. It was a small roller coaster, but only by comparison with “DeadFall,” the looping, height-restricted giant behind. As he watched, a train shot overhead, the linked carriages turning momentarily completely upside down. He stared at the kids’ yelling faces, feeling dizzy, their screaming growing faint as gulls crying.

“I don’t think so, Shayne,” Lee said, as Bill looked down again, glad to feel Lee’s wiry, firm body supporting him. Lee was a head shorter than himself, and from this angle, seen this close, Bill noticed how long and lush his dark lashes were. He was wearing a light cologne: citrusy but with a sweet spiciness in there too.

“Can I go play in the fountains while you do the waitin’?” Shayne asked, pointing towards where the other kids shrieked and chased each other through the water sprays.

“Sure,” Bill said, before he thought. He looked aside at Lee as Shayne ran off. “Oops. I guess we just lost our chaperone.”

He’d expected Lee would laugh or make some teasing comment, but he didn’t. He moved away a little and withdrew his hand. He managed a smile, but there was pain in it.

Bill was already missing the warmth of Lee’s closeness. Easy there, he told himself. This guy’s hurting, and he’s young enough to be your son. “Wanna talk about it?” he said, as they joined the rear of the line.

“Yes and no.” Lee stared past Bill at a concession stand. “I’m sorry. I’ve spent a lot of time planning all this with Shayne, but somehow—”


”—Somehow I didn’t think I’d feel like this.” He glanced at Bill. “You know: guilty.” He smiled with one corner of his mouth, and tears glittered along his lashes again. “Is that stupid, or what?”

Bill shrugged. “I’d go with ‘what,’” he said. “I ain’t known you long, but I wouldn’t never peg you for stupid, Lee.”

Lee made a sound that sounded half laugh, half gulp. “You’d be surprised. All the signs were there, I just never — added them up. I never thought- I mean, Harmony’s always been that way, but it was just so-” he pressed his knuckles against his lips and squeezed his eyes tight shut.

A tear left a gleaming path down the curve of Lee’s cheek, and Bill forced himself to look away. He could think of several ways to end that sentence, and none of them would make his friend feel any good. The line had moved on, so he used the excuse of moving to touch Lee’s elbow. “What way’s this Harmony always been?” he said, conscious that he was more aware than he should be of exactly how good Lee’s warm, smooth skin felt against his palm.

“Oh-” Lee shrugged, and Bill took it as a request to let go. “He’s always been a, well - a ‘rescuer,’ I suppose.” Lee folded his arms, hugging each elbow with the other hand. “You know, the sort of guy people come to when their lives are a mess. He’d always be getting phone calls, or people showing up at his place, or scrounging money, or borrowing things from him. And they hardly ever paid him back or were grateful.” His face flinched. “I’d try to tell him not to be used that way; I’d tell him what was going to happen, just the same way it happened before and he’d say I was a spoiled little bitch who just wanted to pull up the ladder.”

“Hey, that ain’t fair.” Consciously, Bill kept his hands to himself.

“Isn’t it? Harmony didn’t get handed everything on a silver plate. He’s worked hard to get where he is; his dad worked two jobs and his mom sold cosmetics door-to-door to put him through college.”

“That’s tough.” Aware that hadn’t come out right, Bill tried again. “About your guy, I mean.” Shoot. Smart move, bigmouth. He ain’t Lee’s guy no more. “Well, I reckon you ain’t just sitting on that cute caboose of yours neither. You’re working, ain’t you?”

“It’s not the same,” Lee said. “The Thai side of my family’s got relations all over the government. Over here, my father’s got one of those jobs where if you ask what he does, I’m supposed to say ‘don’t ask.’” The line moved on again and they moved with it.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell, huh? The military, am I right?” Bill decided to lighten the tone, and leaned close, lowering his voice. “Or is it just you got a thing for soldiers?”

Lee’s delicate smile flickered into life again. Bill stood entranced, trying to pin down exactly how Lee’s lovely face got more beautiful still, but couldn’t.

“Since I was eight.” The gratitude in Lee’s gaze for his silly joke warmed him. “Daddy was called to an emergency meeting, and I got dragged along too. So while they talked, this gruff, hunky soldier with a buzz cut — probably barely in his thirties, but he seemed really mature to me — showed me all over the base. Well, the mess hall, the rec room and the bunk-house anyway. Of course, I didn’t know exactly why being around all those big guys made my heart go ba-zing! – just that it did.” Lee sighed, and the happy glow of memories warmed his face from within. “Best birthday I’ve ever had.”

“Did they let you play with their equipment?” Bill asked. A moment later his ears re-played how that sounded and he could have bitten his tongue out.

Thankfully Lee either didn’t notice or was too classy to sink to that level. “Oh, I was hopeless. Some guy would be patiently explaining what this or that lever did, and I’d be thinking about his voice, or how his hands felt or the smell of the laundry soap in his uniform. I think there’s probably an army record somewhere: ‘Lee Charoen; unsuitable for army recruitment by reason of being a complete ditz.’”

Lee paused a heartbeat, and when he continued, Bill noticed his voice was deeper again. “They were all very kind, though. When I told them what day it was, they sang Happy Birthday in the mess hall and then instead of giving me birthday whacks — they said they could only give those to recruits. It was years before I realized that striking a minor would probably have got them on a charge — they paraded me round the hall eight times on their shoulders.”

Bill chuckled, imagining Lee reveling in the attention of all those friendly guys. “Company mascot for a day, huh? But I don’t get it: if your family’s so high powered, how come you’re wearing a cardboard hat and pitching fries five nights a week?”

Lee shrugged, and his happy animation faded again. “It’s either because I’m ditzy rich-kid who pleaded with Daddy to let me keep my Jeep but forgot about the tax and insurance, or because I’m a shallow, spoiled little brat desperately trying to gain some credibility by slumming.”

Bill growled. “And I just bet when this Harmony really gets rollin’ you’re cheating some ordinary kid outta his rightful job, too.” He looked aside and saw Lee’s expression. “Sorry,” he said. “I know you think he’s a great guy, but he was being an asshole.”

Lee closed his eyes. “Please don’t say anything mean about him, Bill. I just can’t bear it.” He drew a shaky breath. “Anyway, he’s got a point. I could phone and my parents would wire me the money tomorrow.”

Bill nodded. “Well of course you’re not gonna do that. You fix your own screw-ups: show ’em they don’t need to worry about you, because I bet they do, right?” He waited for Lee to nod assent. “And you care about your friends and try to help them out, too.”

Lee hunched a gleaming shoulder. “Yes,” he said, bitterly. “I’ve made such a good job of that, haven’t I? He’s going to get disbarred, or struck off, or whatever it is.”

“Lee, you lost me - I’m not followin’.”

Lee looked at him a long moment, and then sighed. He moved closer and spoke softly, glancing at the people nearby. “Harmony’s not a student like me - he’s a councilor at the Rainbow Center on campus, and that little blond bitch is a client.” He smiled, or something close to it. “Sorry. They, uh, they don’t view councilors screwing the clients in a very good light.” Again, Lee twisted his lips in an apology for a smile that died before it reached his eyes. “Still, at least it gives me an excuse not to say his name: confidentiality.” The smile wavered and crumpled. “I can’t believe I’ve become so petty and mean.”

Bill gripped his hands together behind his back, the only way he could stop himself reaching out to hold Lee. “I don’t reckon you are. You seem like a pretty okay guy to me,” he said, trying to put as much feeling as he could into his voice.

Lee closed his eyes for a moment. “I used to think that too.”

They’d nearly reached the boarding point. “Are you still up for this?” Bill said. “We can go someplace else if you want.”

“No, I’m okay.” Lee grimaced, and tried for a joke. “Besides, Shayne would kill us.”

“Yeah, there is that. I’ll go fetch him.” Carefully, Bill reached out and squeezed Lee’s shoulder. “Quit beating yourself up, okay?”

By the time he and Shayne got back to the queue, Lee seemed to have his act back in the groove again.

“I wish you was comin’ on the ride too, Bill,” Shayne said.

Lee shook his head. His smile was as small as a catwalk model’s lunch, but it was there. “I don’t think we could tempt Bill aboard even if I were wearing the banana thong you bought me.”

“Well, I’d be tempted,” Bill said, bumping Lee’s hip with his own, pleased to see him still in there, fighting.

Shayne pouted. “Awwww! I wanted to ride one with all of us together.”

But Bill declined, and sat this ride out too; waiting at the ride’s exit and trying not to dwell too much on the pleasant, faintly scented warmth of Lee’s skin, when he’d stood close enough to tickle his chest hairs as they chatted together in the queue.

Shayne emerged yelling and waving a small white square, which proved to be the ride photo.

“Lee bought it,” Shayne said. “Look! Ain’t it neat? Can you guess the movie?”

It showed Lee smiling glassily, his his head tilted as though his neck was broken and Shayne mugging wide-mouthed for the camera. Lee had slid to the right hand end of the seat, beneath the double lap bar, and Shayne was on the seat behind. There was a palpable void in the photograph where Bill should have been.

“Hey, what is this, Final Destination?” he said as Lee joined them.

Lee nodded, smiling, making his pony tail bob and brush his shoulders. “We wanted to include you somehow,” he said.

“Yeah! I told you he’d get it! Did you see me? I was doing ‘dead by fallin’ out of a airplane!’

“Brilliant!” Bill said, and Shayne skipped around them in circles before dashing off to stare at the guys surfing.

“That was clever,” Bill said, falling into step beside Lee.

“Mmm-hm.” Lee glanced aside at him and smiled. “Finally my film studies course has a use.”

“Shayne really wants a group photo, huh?”

“Perhaps we could find a booth,” Lee suggested. “We could all squeeze in.”

“I haven’t seen one,” Bill said, trying not to imagine Lee’s lovely body pressed up close against him in such a confined space. And heaven alone knew what horny ideas it would put in little Shayne’s head! “Besides, he wanted one from a ride. He’d always look at it and think of the photo he hasn’t got. I bet there’s gotta be a slow ride somewhere we can all go on to chill out.”

Lee looked at him thoughtfully. “Well,” he said. “If we make the next ride the last one, could you manage the Jungle ride? It’s mostly a cruise through these kitschy canyons with animatronic bears and dinosaurs. There’s only one long down gradient, to the water-spray at the end.”

“Yeah, I know the one you mean,” Bill said, remembering walking past it on the way to look at the high-dive tower. “It’s great it’s an adult ride,” he said, though quite honestly he’d have climbed aboard one of the tiny tot rides if it would have made Shayne happy.

Grinning, he hip-bumped Lee. “We’ll have fun, huh?” he said. He found himself resisting the urge to put his arm around Lee’s slim waist.

Lee flushed and turned away, scanning the crowd for their little companion. “Shayne!” he called. “He said yes!”

Shayne ran back and did a little war dance around them both.

“This is the last ride though,” Lee said. He gestured towards a nearby stand. “Would you like some cotton candy?”

Blissful quiet descended after Shayne disappeared behind the biggest pink cloud the concession sold. Lee bought a much smaller one for himself, but Bill declined, already regretting the microscopic eggplant and aduki bean salad he’d eaten in the cafe while Lee shopped and changed.

Lee stood companionably close while they queued, and Bill was surprised how good that already felt. Lee’s teeth were white and even, and his tongue as pink as the cotton candy he ate in neat bites. Bill even accepted a piece, taking the sticky, tickling strands off Lee’s finger with his tongue.

As the snaking zig-zag of the queue inched towards the arched entrance in the fake mountains, he found himself admiring the smooth curve of Lee’s neck; the shining coffee planes of his shoulders and back; the graceful, nubbled, in-swoop of his spine and the enticing curve of his neat little rear, displayed so effectively in those tight jersey shorts. He had an increasing urge to not only put his arm around Lee’s slim waist but to pull him close; a desire to feel the warmth of his body and to tell him it was all going to be all right. If Harmony wasn’t bright enough to know a good guy when he held him, there were plenty of others who’d jump at the chance.

“—they were so Norma Desmond, and... You haven’t heard a word, have you?” Lee laughed, and his eyes sparkled. “You weren’t even listening.” From above came a shriek in unison. A moment later a fine, cooling mist descended.

“No,” Bill said as the queue began to move again, embarrassed at being caught looking. He felt Lee’s hip bump him, intimately.

“Relax,” Lee said. “It’s cool.” He leaned closer. “I’m glad Shayne took it so well. He was really looking forward to me wearing what he’d chosen.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, that thong,” Bill said, his imagination helplessly conjuring up the image of Lee’s neat, gleaming bronzed ass, the thong’s string running down between those taut, firm cheeks. He felt his dick twitch, and hoped Lee hadn’t noticed. “They were a bit extreme for a first date, I guess.” Not on a date, doofus! “Oops, uh - sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Lee leaned back against him, and lowered his voice. “This was a good idea. I’m sorry I fell apart on you, back in the cafe.”

“Don’t be.” Bill ducked his head so that he could murmur directly into Lee’s ear. “Everybody who’s been there knows how bad that love shit hurts. You just needed someone to lean on for a while.” Lee’s stomach felt warm and firm beneath his arm, and it was only at that point Bill realized what he’d done.

“Sorry,” he said, conscious of a dozen things at once: the smooth, comfortable firmness of Lee’s body; the floral sweetness of expensive pomade on his shining, blue-black hair and the graceful shape of his ear, and not least the warm, firm curves beneath the soft material pressed against his thigh. He hoped Lee couldn’t feel how hard he was, standing so close as all that. Bill shifted away and moved his arm awkwardly off that silken warmth. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

He shouldn’t have done that because he was married, but it didn’t seem the time to say so: Lee’s brief look of confusion said he’d already done enough damage.

“Will you two come on?” Shayne’s voice came from the aluminum stairway ahead of them. “You gotta scan your bands an’ you’re holdin’ everybody up.”

Lee gave him a rueful glance and swiped his band beneath the reader. Bill discreetly adjusted himself and then followed Lee’s neat, firm little peach of an ass up the gonging metal stairs and onto the debarkation jetty, where laughing teenagers were climbing out of the most recently arrived car, helplessly remembering the sweet fit of the boy against his larger frame.

Cool it!” Bill told himself, furiously, desperately trying to discreetly wedge his mammoth hardon beneath the waistband of his suddenly too-small shorts, cursing Shayne’s decision to buy him ‘Young Adult’ size. The only screwing going on here is you screwing it up, you moron!

Well, I hope you enjoyed that!

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