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CONTROL and KAOS
EJ sat in AP Physics trying to amuse himself while Missy Clark asked yet another question to which the answer was obvious. EJ rarely asked questions in class. When he had a question he could usually figure out the answer if he just thought about it. If he couldn't, he'd wait until the evening to call his lab partner, Amelia. She was pretty smart. Together they could figure out pretty much anything.
Missy asked questions all the time. She asked questions when EJ knew she already knew the answer. Missy Clark very much enjoyed the sound of her own voice. EJ did not share in this delight. When he wasn't feeling annoyed by her he was feeling embarrassed for her. Mostly, though, it was the former.
Missy had no self-control. That was what pissed him off the most. EJ had a lot of self-control. You had to if you were going to manage three AP classes, sports, music, and a social life all at once. That's why he rarely got drunk and only took a couple of hits when a joint was being passed around. EJ didn't like the feeling of being out of control.
The teacher patiently answered Missy's question and continued the lecture only to be interrupted once again. EJ caught Amelia's attention and rolled his eyes. She suppressed a grin and turned back to face the board.
Being really smart and really good looking meant he rarely had to be out of control. On those occasions when one of those qualities failed to get him what he wanted, the other usually did the trick. There were those teachers, for example, who responded well to a quick mind. There were others who responded just as well to a wife-beater and tight pair of jeans. It didn't bother EJ, so long as they responded to something. They didn't realize he was manipulating them, of course. It had become so natural to do so that sometimes he himself forgot that he was doing it.
EJ had settled the whole Ethics-of-Manipulation question years ago. Most people, he had decided, were followers. They wanted strong people to come along and help them decide things. In return, they'd offer whatever recompense was in their means -- a free lunch, a ride (before he got his truck), a beer, a movie, a good grade. EJ was a leader. He wanted to be the one that helped them, and accepting their gifts was only fair. It made them happy.
Like it made people happy when he flirted with them. He flirted with pretty much everyone. It was a kind of public service, he felt. It gave people the impression, even if only fleetingly, that they had a chance, and that gave them a couple of nights of explosive, if solitary, pleasure. And even if not, he liked the attention.
There were three kids in the physics class who stared at him all the time. Two girls and a boy. EJ enjoyed that, too. The boy sat directly behind him. When EJ was feeling generous or bored, he'd lean forward in his seat so that his pants rode down in back. Sometimes he'd scratch back there just to call attention. Other times, he'd lean back, clasping his hands on his cap. That did really nice things to his shoulders and arms. The boy was always very friendly after such philanthropy. He'd asked EJ out a number of times. The guy wasn't his type, but EJ always deferred rather than refused. Why crush his dreams?
Football was all about control. Control of the self and of the opponent. To excel -- and EJ did -- you had to have a sharper focus of attention than the guy trying to stop you. Football was a mind game. Yes, it was strength and agility and guts. But mostly it was making the guy believe you were going left when you were going right, psyching him out before he ever made contact. That was the fun part. Stronger was helpful -- that was MacReady's strategy. Smarter won the game.
Missy asked another question. EJ sighed quietly and started doodling in his notes. The squiggle turned into a caricature of a rabbit.
The Rabbit expected him to control things, even in the beginning when he was learning. He had first approached him at a party in January of EJ's sophomore year. EJ was doing his best to look cool despite being one of the youngest guys there when this adorable little strawberry blond walked over to him and handed him a beer.
"What's your name, stud?" he had asked.
"EJ," he answered, doing his best to smolder and be suave at the same time.
"Well, EJ," the Rabbit had said, "drink up. When you're done with the beer, you're going to fuck my brains out."
"I am?" EJ asked.
"For Christ sake," the Rabbit said, "say it with conviction."
"I am!" EJ responded.
"There you go, stud. Now bottoms up. Then bottom's up."
At the start, for the first three or four times, the Rabbit had to tell him what to do. But EJ was a very fast study, and within a week he was on top to stay, telling the Rabbit what position he wanted him in and trying out moves that he had devised. Before long, the Rabbit was complaining of an itch whenever they weren't fucking. And as many times as not he'd be able to get him to forget his own name when cumming.
He kind of liked it when the Rabbit lost it completely like that. There were times when EJ would be throwing him a particularly wild fuck and the Rabbit's eyes would glaze over and he'd go all jelly. The Rabbit called it, "hitting the spot." Invariably, seeing the Rabbit respond to him that way would send him right over the edge too. It was a terrific feeling of power being able to do that to someone -- a feeling EJ liked, and wanted back.
He hated to admit it, but he really did miss the Rabbit. He missed the "study breaks" when Rabbit would show up at his house unannounced in the evening, go up to his room, crawl under his desk and start playing with his dick while he tried to study chem. Twenty minutes later he'd be gone again, they both a tad more relaxed and able to focus.
He missed the after-game parties when they'd all be down the cellar at Pic's house, or up in Topher's room, all paired up, all making out. The Rabbit fit in with the guys really well. They thought he was funny. And he had absolutely no shame. To the rest of the team's delight, he went down on EJ in front of everyone at one of those dimly lit late-night parties. They were delighted, of course, because it gave them the moral ammunition to be able to expect their dates to do the same. "Fuck, Lise, I don't know why not?! The Rabbit's doing it right over there..."
He missed the way he could get the Rabbit hard without touching him, just by a look. Once EJ learned that trick, he started to abuse it, getting the Rabbit to pop a boner in front of his folks or in school, or worst -- when they were fighting. The Rabbit would get pissed and threaten to cut EJ off, but he never did.
Seth was on his way to filling the gap the Rabbit had left. At first he was surprised by the little games Seth seemed to play. Then he began to see them as a challenge to his authority. Rather than annoying him, that just made it more interesting. EJ was smarter than the kid. Older, smarter, and more experienced. The kid would learn who was in charge, and it would be fun teaching him.
But the little games did make it more interesting. EJ doodled the pickup truck. That time he had face-fucked him was completely hot, and to his own surprise, he found himself somewhat shaky when it was over. The fuck was even hotter. And even if the kid hadn't quite begged for it the first time, that would change in quick order. EJ had accepted this about himself in the past few years: people wanted him to fuck them. Lots of people.
If it bothered the Rabbit that he fucked other people, he never let on. "So long as I get that dick whenever I want, what do I care where it is in between?" he'd say. The first dalliance came about a month after EJ and the Rabbit had started hooking up. EJ had begun noticing that all these people were looking at him sexually. At first he thought they could tell he had just learned how to fuck and wanted in on the action. Later he figured they had always looked at him that way, but until the Rabbit, he had just never recognized it for what it was. Once he clued into it, though, he found it everywhere.
There was the kid at the Taco Bell who would always manage to brush his hand while giving him change. There was the girl in the Gap who would smile goofily and be at an inexplicable loss for words whenever he was around. There was the boy in gym who would always shower for exactly the same amount of time as he did.
Finally, sitting in the food court at the mall one time with Topher, he determined to act. There was a blond kid wearing a varsity soccer jacket from a neighboring school sitting at the next table who kept looking over at him. Whenever EJ would spy him, the kid would look away, as if he hadn't been staring. EJ tried to make eye contact, but the kid kept pretending.
EJ cocked an eyebrow at Topher in a move the latter knew meant, "watch this."
"Hey," EJ called across tables. When the blond kid looked over, he caught his eye. "So, you want to fuck, or what?"
The kid's pupils went small as his eyes widened. He sputtered out some kind of response neither EJ nor Topher could decipher. Within an hour, EJ was in his pants. The very next Friday, the team met the kid's school's team on the football field where they pretty much did to their opponents what EJ had just done to the kid.
That night, at the after-game party and after a great deal of soul-searching, he told the Rabbit about it. The response shocked him. The Rabbit just shrugged and asked if the kid was good. EJ told him that he was, but not as good as the Rabbit, which seemed to be the correct answer. That was the end of it.
Next came a college student named Mara who taught him the difference between fucking a girl and fucking a boy. While she was fun, and by no means the last girl he did, he had decided he liked boys better.
He learned the intricate signals of hooking up. The Rabbit started it by telling him what to look for, but the student soon surpassed the teacher. It was all in reading the right signs, EJ discovered. Everyone's were different, of course, but when people wanted to get fucked -- guys especially -- they all pretty much acted the same. EJ could read it in the wan, self-conscious smiles, the nervous fidget of the hands, the way they tried to stand or sit in a position which accentuated the body part they felt looked the best. Mostly, though, he could read the longing in their eyes in those moments of furtive contact before they invariably looked away. It was the looking away -- the desperate attempt to seem disinterested -- that was the biggest give-away.
He learned that they wanted him to walk up to them, to take charge, to be strong, to tell them what they didn't want to admit they wanted, then to do it to them. EJ was happy to oblige. He developed a knack for being able to smooth-talk his way into the pants of pretty much anyone who caught his fancy.
He was a generous lover, if generosity can be selfish. It turned him on to know he could make the person he was with leave time and space behind, and he worked hard to find ways to tear them, if only temporarily, from the universe. He rarely took the trip himself -- there was always a self-awareness, a modicum of control, even in the depths of orgasm. Awareness of what the self was doing to the other was, after all, the basis of what got him off in the first place.
EJ was smart enough to understand all this. He didn't dwell on it, though. He incorporated his growth as a sexual being, his maturation into a talented entrepreneur of pleasure, his matriculation as a student of human behavior as it pertained to desire as easily as he did his success on the football field or in the science classroom. It was just another way in which he excelled.
He wondered, sometimes, if it was Rabbit who taught him to be casual about sex by being so casual himself, or if the Rabbit chose him because he recognized, somehow, a kindred spirit in that respect. EJ didn't know how he could have, but then again, no one really understood how he could read who wanted to get fucked and who didn't so easily. He had tried to explain it to Topher once, but it hadn't worked. Topher finally gave up trying to understand and just trusted that he knew what he was talking about.
The memory of the first time he had hooked Topher up with a girl brought a smile to his face. They were sitting together at a party. The Rabbit was off dancing with someone while they talked. EJ had pointed out that a girl neither of them had met before was standing on the opposite side of the room sending desperate signals to Topher. Topher didn't believe him because he didn't see it -- he couldn't read it like EJ could for some reason. EJ didn't think it was because he wasn't smart enough. Topher could read people incredibly well in other ways. It wasn't that he was bad at reading these particular signals, it was more like EJ was good at it. EJ finally convinced him to walk over to her and say hi. The look of sheer surprise and delight on Topher's face as they left together remained etched in EJ's mind.
Seth had sent out all the right signals, looked perfect, and had seemed like a great replacement for the Rabbit. When they started talking, though, everything went askew. Seth didn't defer like he was supposed to. He didn't let EJ orchestrate the conversation like he should have. He deep throated way better than he ought to have known how, and while he did, indeed, lose himself when EJ got him off, EJ had, surprisingly and against all odds, kind of lost himself, too.
The fucking will have fixed that. EJ had seen it before. Once infected, there was no cure of him.
Seth stood naked before the mirror, wondering if he looked different. Without question he felt different. Certainly his ass felt different. The ache that had set in had graduated into a pleasant tingling and he finally felt, a few hours later, that he had regained some modicum of control over the muscles there. Taking a shit had been an unexpected adventure as he realized that a theretofore mundane task had become suddenly sexualized.
He looked into his eyes trying to see if there were signs of his experience. The green stared back at him dumbly. He smiled at his own silliness, or perhaps because he was happy. The brightness spread from his grin to the rest of his body, and he bounced on his heels a couple of times in delight.
"You're a lucky, lucky boy," he and his reflection told each other.
But the giddiness passed as he began the nightly survey of his own body, this time trying to see what EJ saw. His public face may have been one of bravado, of braggadocio even, but his reflection knew better. He didn't deserve it. For Seth, self-confidence, like cheeriness, was an affectation. He knew he was supposed to be cheery so he was, like he knew people thought he was cute so he acted that way. But neither were deep-seated, intrinsic feelings.
He searched himself more closely, wondering, as he so frequently did, what would be there if he stripped off all the artifice he had built. What would he see if he could see himself objectively? How did EJ see him? Did he believe the public face? Did he like it?
There was something that felt so strangely right about their encounter. He couldn't put his finger on it like he couldn't put his finger on what was the central core of his own being. It was like he lived in a hall of internal mirrors, never sure which image was real, which was reflection.
He couldn't remember how old he was when he figured out that people responded to his being cute. It began with old ladies. Despite parental admonitions to the contrary, he was quite happy to accept candy from strangers. He found a coy smile or a dropped dimple were usually good for some kind of sweet. As he learned to milk it, his effectiveness spread to adults in general.
When he started school, he was an instantaneous hit with the distaff side of his class, with whom he learned that animation was key. The boys were not converted until he added cheer and humor to his repertoire. When he finally figured out that people wanted to hear what they wanted to hear, more than they wanted to hear the truth, his arsenal was fully equipped.
He got used to getting things, because when you come right down to it, when you give people what they want, they give you what you want. But what was the actual truth as opposed to what was the public truth began to get lost, and of all the people he knew, he was the only one who ended up not particularly liking him.
In fourth grade he had told Alice Cunningham what she wanted to hear when he discovered that her family drove down to Disneyworld every spring break for a week of fun. That was the first time he had ever experienced Space Mountain. In fifth he cutesied up to Howard Breznak to gain access to his new X-Box when it became clear that no amount of nagging would procure one from his own folks.
That's why he had become so close with Theo. Theo had his own agenda. While they had never explicitly discussed it, Seth understood that Theo understood that the games were just games designed as a means toward an ends. Theo cheated in his own signature way.
What did EJ want? What would be the best way to play him? And how could he play him if he lost himself the way he did when they were fucking? His reflection answered with inscrutable silence.
"I'll start doing push-ups tomorrow," he told it. His reflection winked.