This is my third story on Nifty. How Martin Blunt Learned to Live and Climbing the Corporate Ladder are the other two. Since the whole story takes place in one day, I decided not to break it up into chapters, even if it is a little long. Hope you enjoy it, and would love any emails with comments or criticisms. Enjoy! -JJ jj.writer76@yahoo.com

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Objectified

"Let me see that one. Number 4".

"Number 4? Great. Keith, come a little closer".

Keith broke away from the line-up and stood in the middle of the room so the potential client could inspect him better. He could hear some of the models exhale in frustration, pissed they potentially lost this opportunity. He'd been there before, and every time he wasn't selected he'd rack his brain thinking of what he could work on, what would make him more attractive: teeth whitening, cut his hair, better pop in his arms and chest, facial scruff... It didn't matter. Clients like what they like, and this time they liked him. He fought against the nerves beginning to build inside him, trying to remain calm, indifferent, aloof, all of the arrogant attitudes which were so foreign to his sensible, southern Christian upbringing. His modeling coach told him he needed to be more aggressive, attacking, cocky. That was not his nature, but he was acting the part.

"Can he take his shirt off?" the client asked.

"Of course he can! Keith, the shirt". Keith obeyed, peeling off his navy polo shirt the way he learned in class, grabbing it from the bottom with his arms crossed, lifting slowly on an inhale, allowing them to see his navel and abs first, then his chest, and admire him like a headless statue. "For that second they can put whatever head they want on your statue body" his coach said. "Husband, boyfriend, lost lover, the minister at Church. Your body is their sexual fantasy. Keep your head covered just long enough for them to lust". Keith made sure his hair got messed up, so that once the statue of lust got his head back, he would toss the shirt aside and slowly run his fingers through his long bangs, combing them back in place. "Flex the bicep when you brush your hair back, and make sure the stomach is tight. That's what they are looking at: naked torso, arms, underarm, abs". The long hair is just an excuse to flex and pose.

It worked like a charm, and Keith saw the flash in the client's eyes as he looked him up and down.

"What do you think?" the manager asked. "He's got a great body, perfect for what you want".

"Yeah, he's very good looking. Hot, really". The client took a few steps closer and looked over expecting to find a flaw. He didn't. "Could he lose the pants?"

The manager nodded at Keith as an "ok". Keith was already barefoot. Another tip he learned in class: jeans and bare feet is a major turn on to many people. Who knows why... but it is. So when the other models were putting on boots or loafers, Keith left his size 11's bare. A risk- but it paid off. He'd take whatever risk necessary. This was serious money, and he really needed it. Plus, no one would have to know he was going to do it. Pictures weren't allowed, and he didn't have to put it on facebook. Still he couldn't imagine the ladies at Church asking his mom "How is Keith doing in Hollywood?" with her answer being "he takes his clothes off a lot". Still, he would do embarrassing, high paying jobs like this as many times as needed until he could land a real gig. Maybe one day when he was famous he could turn it into a movie plot like Magic Mike. Just without the dancing.

Keith loosened his belt and slowly unpopped each button of his fly, making the client wait with anticipation. "Your body language must say `I'm in control now'. You make them wait just the right amount of time, and you reel them in like horny fish" his coach told him in class. Dozens of times they worked on this, and Keith would practice in his bedroom, undressing in front of the mirror, recording it on his phone, watching his performance, critiquing it, then immediately erasing it because he was so embarrassed.

Sometimes he hated what he'd become to try to make it as an actor.

Behind him the 7 other models were watching, ready to copy his ideas, prepared to learn what worked and what did not. The slow unbuttoning of the pants... that worked. A few of the guys took mental notes to buy button-fly jeans. They hadn't given up hope that the client might still reject Keith and pick one of them. So they stood, posed really, ready to jump in should Keith not be to the client's liking.

Once he got the jeans passed his ass and hips, Keith let them fall and gather at his ankles. Those jeans cost a lot, and Keith spent an extra $100 to tailor them perfectly so they hugged his ass and highlighted his narrow waist and strong thighs, but then were roomy enough to still be masculine , almost a boot cut but more structured than a relaxed fit. He shifted his weight onto one foot and stood, like a Greek statue of a god or warrior, "contraposto", hips turned out slightly, a relaxed yet cocky posture with a nice meaty bulge in his briefs. He once again ran his hair through his long black bangs, which had somehow become mussed with the removal of his pants, and made "fuck me eyes" with the client. He saw that flash again. He was sure he had the job. He just needed the client to agree before his nerves took over. Standing in front of these strangers wearing only tiny black briefs made him uncomfortable.

The client cleared his throat, hoping it would stop the imminent erection. "Will he do full nudity?"

"Not full, no. We want some coverage of his genitals, even minimal. Though I can assure you minimal won't work on Keith". They both snickered. Keith ignored the comment, though was embarrassed by it. The manager had never seen him naked before. Few people had. "He'll be exposed enough so your guests will know he's naked."

"You mean like around the hips and thighs", the client said, indicating with his hands around Keith's body, lightly touching him.

"Exactly. All this", the manger did touch, and rubbed his hands along the side of Keith's hips, "will be uncovered. But not full genital exposure. Plus, we've found that it distracts during the dinner". Keith stood motionless, indifferent to being prodded. Aloof...

"No, that's fine. I think he's perfect. Done! I'll take it."

"Great. Thank you gentleman, you can go back now" the manager said to the other disappointed models dismissing them from the show room. "Keith, please stay".

Keith high-fived himself mentally. $800 for three hours. It was a ton of money for very little work. He was nervous about it, he'd never done a dinner, but he knew if he stayed calm and breathed carefully, he could make it through the entire meal without any problems.

When the others had left the room, the client became more assertive and insulting. "So how much for him to do other things for my guests?"

"My models only provide the dinner service", the manager said with a smile.

"If money is no object? Surely he'd be interested in more than serving food".

The manager smiled. "I'll let him speak for himself on that one and pretend I didn't hear this".

The client put his hand on Keith's shoulder and slowly let his fingertips run down his pecs. "Everyone has a price, sunshine. Think about it", he said with a wink. Keith tried not to recline at his touch. They'd all be touching him in a few hours, so he'd better get used to it. Still, there was something so slimy about the client. Keith could just tell he was a bad guy.

"Thanks Keith, you can dress. And Mr. Carr, Michael here will help you with your paperwork. Keith looks forward to tonight, and I thank you for choosing Atlas Models". When the client left with Michael, the manager turned to Keith.

"Nice work there, Kentucky. You do well tonight, and I guarantee you future jobs like this with even more money. Now, a couple of things. Make sure you go to the bathroom because once dinner starts, you can't leave. Don't eat or drink anything within an hour of the dinner just to be sure. And here's one thing I recommend". He lowered his voice to a whisper. "You don't want to spring a chub. It will give the wrong idea, even if it's what they probably want to see. So, you know, wack off like 10 minutes before just to help keep cool. Got me?"

Keith nodded, turning slightly red. He couldn't believe his boss told him to jerk off.

He patted Keith on the shoulder. "You'll be great. Just be comfortable and you can make a lot of money in this. It's becoming a huge trend. Now go home, wax everything well, and you'll be a star, Kentucky".

"Be a star". Keith couldn't believe he said that. He had quit college and moved to Hollywood to be a star. But not this kind of star. Keith Harper grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, hence the nickname he earned in L.A. His whole life, especially since he hit puberty, people told him how good looking he was. As a shy 15 year old, a mentoring baseball coach forced him to try out for a school play. The purpose was to build up his confidence and help him perform better in front of an audience. Keith spent a few hours running lines with his mom and reluctantly auditioned. It was a one-time deal. On stage the director, his English teacher, had him read again, had him read and move (what they call blocking), engaged him aggressively in the dialogue from the 4th row of the auditorium. Keith stood alone on stage, not just saying lines, but living the role.

He was cast in the lead.

Junior year his teammates told the same English teacher Keith could sing. "He sings all the time in the showers. He makes us all sing. He's really good". One private singing performance with the English teacher and the Music teacher led to Grease, Bye Bye Birdy, and then Godspell. His first two years of college local theater companies were asking him to audition for serious dramas. He was beating out Theater Majors and landing parts in Death of a Salesman, and Twelve Angry Men. His role as the Narrator in Our Town got him 11 consecutive standing ovations, and the Lexington Journal theater critic told her readers to "look out for a rising star". Everywhere he went, it was all the same. "You are SO GOOD. You should go into show business". Movie star looks, movie star voice... maybe they were right.

Lord knows his civil engineering major was not nearly as much fun.

So he made the big move, promising his parents that if in 3 years he hadn't made it, he would return to school. He didn't ask for money, only their support. They reluctantly gave it. Keith was a good kid, smart, prudent, and had tremendous talent. His mom told him to be careful. "You are too good looking and those Hollywood types may try to take advantage of you. Never do anything against your beliefs for any job". His dad's advice was a little more candid. "Look, son, you will get the chance to sleep your way to the top. Lots of Hollywood men would like a good looking buck like you on their arm. Never be anyone's object. You are too precious to your mother and me to be someone's toy".

When he first arrived to L.A. Keith still had too much southern drawl for a few casting directors' taste, and he was encouraged to get a voice coach. Another coach... in addition to an acting coach, a modeling coach, a personal trainer, and a two-bit agent who was supposed to find him auditions. Keith dropped the first agent, Ian, after he repeatedly encouraged him to consider porn.

"I'm not saying you don't have talent, baby. I'm just saying you have a hot face and a hot body and there's good money in it. You know how big the industry is? Look at you, you are Captain America. I can get you $500 a scene".

Keith wasn't exactly Captain America. But he did look good. He stood 6 feet tall and weighed about 185lbs. His body was muscled and defined with not a speck of hair in the wrong place. He grew his black hair long in the bangs, falling in front of his eyes and almost down to his nose, but wore it slicked back with short cropped sides and back. He had piercing green eyes and pale skin, and a strikingly detailed nose, thin, severe, chiseled. His modeling coach had taught him how to "look". The "fuck me look" it was called, to look through someone, make them stare, lock their stare, own it. "Yeah, you want to fuck me? You can't. But you want it" the look was supposed to say. It took Keith some time to get it down without laughing or becoming too nervous. Keith was at heart a slightly shy 22 year old. "Fuck me looks" were not a natural part of his personality.

"I think you are being short sighted. It's not like you don't like the pussy, am I right baby?"

Keith shook his head, and Ian paused. Then it clicked, and Ian thought as he always thinks. "I can get you $900 for gay porn, baby. Even better deal. You're suckin and fuckin anyway, might as well get some money for it. Am I right baby?"

That was the last of Ian. His new agent, a less sleazy sleaze ball Jesse didn't push porn, gay or straight, but he did push live modeling. Keith reluctantly accepted, but only for the money. Between auditions and casting calls, he was often subjected to the slightly uncomfortable, slightly against his beliefs, but always ridiculous live events.

He wore a speedo and bowtie and served drinks at a bachelorette party, and for 5 hours was groped by horny, drunk women. Holding a tray of drinks he was unable to stop the ladies from grabbing his ass, and yes, his balls, too. At a TV producer's "pajama party" he valeted cars wearing only silk pajama shorts and slippers. An older, wealthy gay couple had a pool party and hired him to be a lifeguard. He spent 3 hours in red trunks and sunglasses twirling a whistle with his nose painted white with Noxzema. A boring gig, but he did get a good tan. Twice someone "accidentally" fell into the pool and needed to be rescued. That part was annoying. He had to tell the drowning victims if they could ask for it, then they didn't really need mouth to mouth.

When A&F needed a model on sales weekends, Keith was on the short list to walk around shirtless and tell the teen girls how much he also liked Justin Beiber and that $85 tee shirt "would look so awesome on you".

Not exactly the "star" experience.

Still, it was decent money, enough to pay for coaches and live in a not very dangerous bad part of LA keeping him afloat while waiting for his big break. He had landed a few spots as extras, was in the background of 90210 at a beach party scene, had his first speaking role as the restaurant host in All My Children ("Table for 2?"), got stabbed in the first 45 seconds of CSI Miami (which is not filmed in Miami) and even had 3 callbacks for a new Tom Cruise action film. He ultimately didn't get the part, but he got on a few radar screens. He was out there, he was getting attention, and his break would come. Question was... when would that be?

Keith got home with 3 hours before the dinner, enough time to wax, shower, moisturize and do the other thing his manager told him to do. He decided to do that first, knowing he'd probably do it again in the restaurant bathroom just to be careful. Jerk off 2 times in 3 hours? Keith could jerk off 2 times in 3 minutes.

Grabbing a bottle of lube he lay down on his futon, and opened his laptop, knowing what would work quickly. He had that one bookmarked, and he couldn't believe it still got him hard and still got him off. Even he was embarrassed by how much he liked those guys... OK, he knew it was still porn, and knew it was still staged, but those two guys, they seemed so genuine. The way they kissed. The way they slowly undressed one another. It was the touching, the gentle, intimate, deliberate touching with a desire to make the other feel pleasure. Anyone could fuck on camera. But to be so enraptured, it was like a movie, a really good, triple-X romance.

How many times did he put on porn and whatever he was watching would just make his erection fall! Two hot guys, muscular, studs in every way, but the incessant crude talking, the "you like sucking my dick you little bitch? Yeah why don't you suck that fucking cock". He felt like a dirty Roger Ebert, naked on the bed, cock in hand, hitting the "back" button on the computer, complaining about the dialogue. He didn't want to see guys treated like dirt, treated like beef, treated like they didn't matter. He wanted two guys to have 1 action, not 1 guy using another for his own fun.

Keith was too na´ve to know it... he was a romantic.

But this one... this one he stumbled upon a few weeks ago... oh man was this one different. The way these two guys connected, the way they moved in unison, it's like their minds were one, their hearts were one, just in two bodies. (and Keith never even studied Cicero!) It was their eyes... the way they looked at one another with desire and affection and yearning, like death could be imminent, like the end of the world may be neigh, but nothing mattered more than the consummation of this action, this very now, this moment of flesh on flesh and heart with heart.

He mimicked the action on screen, stroking his hard cock as the actors stroked one another, adding lube when it turned to oral, inserting a finger when it turned to penetration. They spoke no words, they only made sounds, deep, base, instinctive sounds generated by feeling a level of pleasure only possible with intimacy. When they kissed, he closed his eyes, wishing he could feel lips on his. When they touched, he ran his sticky hand across his chest, feeling the hard muscle, the sensitive skin responding to the cold lube. And when they came, strong, powerful, rich volleys of fluid pouring generously onto one another's bodies, he released, letting his cock explode over his abs and pelvis. One of the lovers ran his fingers across both puddles combining their juices into one, coating his fingers and rubbing it on his lips so the other could kiss him and share their passion. Keith did the same vicariously sharing with a lover as his fingers found puddles of cum in the ripples of his abs, slowly bringing his fingers to his mouth and tasting the fruit of his lonely sex.

He'd jerk off again in a few hours, just to make sure nothing went wrong at dinner. He was pretty sure it wouldn't happen. This didn't turn him on, but still, with nowhere to hide, last thing he needed was an erection in a room full of strangers. Bad enough he'd be almost naked.

At 10 minutes to 8 he was ready to take his position having waxed carefully and jerked off one last time. He did 50 pushups and sit ups, and found a drainage pipe in the back he could use as a chin up bar to work on his shoulders. He stood in the private dining room wearing only a bathrobe waiting for instructions while busboys and waiters scurried around him setting the room.

"You must be Keith. I'm Lisa, the restaurant manager. I'll help you get into position, is that ok?" Keith nodded. "Great, why don't you go ahead and put this on". She handed Keith an enormous plastic head of lettuce with big bendable leaves in the shape of a bowl. It had an elastic band underneath. He turned around and faced the wall so he could fondle himself in private, stretching the band around his cock and balls and tightening enough to give him coverage and keep the bowl firmly in place. The band was a little too tight, and he knew after a few hours it would be uncomfortable. Still it was no worse than wearing a cup. He came back around the screen with his robe open, and from the front he was completely naked except for a lettuce bowl covering his privates.

"Great, so go ahead and lie down right here. We put some extra padding so it won't be so hard. And here's a small pillow for your neck. Just go ahead and drop the robe. I know it's a little cool but you'll just have to deal". Keith lay down on his back, arms at his side and looked straight up. "Beautiful. That looks really good. I'm just going to go ahead and adjust this a little", she said pulling on his lettuce front piece, bending the fake leaves this way and that to make it look natural, like the steam from his penis was causing it to wilt. He felt his privates being shifted and shaped and moved about under her hands. It was uncomfortable, both physically and psychologically. "Better. OK, I think we are set. Guys, ready to wipe down?"

Two busboys came with special clothes and rubbed him down sterilizing his body with a cold alcohol. They did not seem too happy about it. Neither was Keith. Each touch of the sponge made him shiver and his skin burst alive with goose bumps.

"Great. Really great. The guests will love it. OK, I think we are good to go. Now Chef Akinori will be behind you here making the sushi, and he will put it down directly on you. The guests have been informed they are not supposed to touch, but let's be honest, you know they will. And I can't blame them!" she laughed. Keith smiled feebly. "Jorge let's go ahead and put the dipping sauce in his lettuce bowl and Chef, if you want to start getting the food out? Keith one last thing, right before the guests arrive I'll cover your eyes. We find the guests enjoy it more. Eyes are too humanizing and this is all about desensitizing them so you aren't really a person. OK?" She smiled sweetly and turned to leave, unaware that she had insulted Keith, and all mankind, without so much as a concern.

He felt the chef begin to cover his body with small pieces of banana leaf, and on it place an assortment of sushi, sashimi and rolls. Before him a busboy spread a dozen sets of chopsticks, and another put a small pile of wasabi on his sternum and ginger slices on his thigh. He had a semicircle of whitefish around one nipple and a California roll around the other. Along his abs different pieces of shrimp and yellow tail were fanned out on each muscle. When he was ready to be eaten from, Lisa the restaurant manager returned. She was talking to the sommelier, and without even acknowledging Keith, without asking if he as ok, comfortable, crying inside, she covered his green eyes with several slices of cucumber, fanning them out up to his eyebrows, thrusting him into the dark. He was now an object. An inanimate, 98.6 degree platter. She was clearly desensitized.

Keith lay still, and with eyes closed tight, he thought about that audition when he would just nail it... and the scouts, sitting behind the table, they would look at one another and without need to communicate they would all know he was the one. They would know he was a star. Those thoughts, those images would make even this tolerable, even being a human dish, lying naked on a buffet table so overindulged strangers could eat a foreign food in an exotic way.

He would be a star.

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"Trust me. When you get to know him better, you'll find out he's really not like that". Justin held up two ties for his twin brother to pick. "Which one?"

"The burgundy one", Matt replied. He had just stepped out of the shower and was combing his hair in the mirror wearing only a towel. "It's just... I've met him like 5 times now, and I never hear him say anything nice, anything kind, like he puts up with everyone. Like he merely tolerates you".

"He says he loves me".

"And he's told you that?"

"Yeah, he has".

Matt looked directly at his brother, and it was like looking in a mirror. Both 5'10'', nice frames with brown eyes and short brown, wavy hair. Their skin had a beautiful color from their mom's Mexican heritage. "He's said `I love you Justin' or you've said "I love you Ty' and he's said `me too'. Which?"

Justin got quiet and looked away. "Doesn't matter. You are splitting hairs".

"Jesus, Justin I'm NOT splitting hairs. It's really different". He turned around and backed-up into his brother who, without needing an explanation, began to pull those long, random hairs that grow around the shoulders starting at age 30. Jane Goodall would be fascinated to watch twins groom each other... very primal.

"Not too many. Your back looks good. You still lifting a lot?"

"Yeah a couple of times a week".

It is curious how close brothers or even a close couple can weave three and four conversations together and never lose track.

Justin returned to the previous conversation. "Just do me a favor. Be nice. You know how much he means to me, and I want you to like him".

"I'm always nice".

"Be nicer, then. Please?"

"Ok, ok. But I'm telling you I hear one nasty word from him and I'm not being quiet".

"Too much gel. Brush a little out. Those extra 4 minutes of life you have over me still make you my protector".

Matt turned around rubbing his fingertips over his hair. He went to hug his brother. "Always".

"Don't, you're still wet". Matt removed his towel to dry himself. "I'm not hugging you naked. Jesus you're such a fag", he laughed.

"Says the gay twin. Who else is going to be there?"

"A few of Ty's friends. Two of my buddies Rob and Bill. You've met them before". Justin turned to face his brother.

"Yeah, they're nice guys", Matt said adjusting the dimple in his brother's tie and tightening it around his neck. "No girls?"

"No. It's a guy's night out".

"Turn". Justin turned around and his brother fixed the back of his collar. "Only in L.A. does a guy's night out have sushi and a dessert room. I like that shirt".

"Mom gave it to me. I told you to bring Jenny".

"She always buys you nicer clothes. It's discrimination. I did, but she's on call".

"I asked for a set of allen wrenches and got a shirt".

"Does he know how much you make?" Matt put one foot on the closed toilet so he could dry his calves and under his legs.

"He's got an idea, yeah. But, he's not dating me for the money".

Matt grunted. "I have an extra set of allen wrenches. I'll bring them over Saturday. Last time I met him his opening comment was about a watch you bought him for Christmas. He told me it was worth 3 grand. That's shitty to tell anyone, let alone your boyfriend's brother". Matt put on his boxers and pants and sat on the toilet to put on his socks and shoes.

"He just liked it".

"It's poor taste".

"Just be nice. I like him. I know he likes me. I want this to work".

"I know you do". Justin left the bathroom, and Matt sat for a second, still sitting on the closed toilet, thinking. He knew his brother wanted what he had: a spouse, a family (Jenny was pregnant) and that stability of a loving relationship. But, he knew Justin had a sweet, yet dangerous naivety that caused him to fall for the wrong guys. He'd always been a little self-conscious. Ever since High School when he came out, and was worried people would treat him differently. They didn't. Matt made sure of it. Besides, Justin was athletic, strong and was not going to be kicked around easily. And there were two of him.

The Gill twins grew up locally in Pasadena, and they spent most of their lives in the area, together, doing the exact same thing. After two years at UCLA Med School, Justin transferred and ended up with a graduate degree from film school instead. Matt had become an OBGYN and was just starting to make money to pay off student loans and live comfortable. Justin, however, was killing it. He was producing and casting TV sit coms and movies on channels like Hallmark and Lifetime. Not as glorious as the big screen, but he was raking in close to $2million a year gaining a foothold and reputation in the business as a good producer and savvy Hollywood executive.

That quasi-fame had made Justin a small target, and Matt worried that good looking, desperate actors were throwing themselves at him, playing on his heart strings, really only looking to land a job. He'd seen it before, in college, when people dated him because he was well off and had a beach house in Malibu. Guys felt they could use him, and Justin didn't always pick up on it until it was too late. Last year an actor who dated Justin for months was cast as the marine returning from war to discover his wife had cancer in the lifetime original "From Fallujah with Love". Matt didn't even think he was gay. Maybe bi. But definitely using his brother. Matt thought Justin too good and too oblivious to see it, and always interjected. They fought. "Stop trying to protect me" and "I'm only looking out for you" type comments were thrown back and forth over text message and phone calls... but in the end, once the movie aired, the actor was spotted with a Real Housewife and it broke Justin's heart.

One thing Matt never did: say I told you so. He loved his brother way too much, and in fact, he hoped all along he was wrong about the guy. After some bottles of wine and some tears, Justin had to spend the night in his brother's apartment to sleep off the drunken heartbreak. Matt remembered holding Jenny extra close that night and thanking God that he was very lucky to find someone.

Justin's newest boyfriend Ty seemed like all the others. Good looking, probably great in bed, fun and exciting, bringing Justin out of his shell and making him feel alive. But, chock full of ulterior motives. They had been together for a few months, and every time Matt was with him, Ty made several inappropriate comments about their relationship and money and material possessions. The watch was just one such item. Twice Matt went to the family beach house on a Saturday and found Ty with his friends spread out in all the bedrooms. There were weekends in Catalina, 5 days in Hawaii, New Years at The Palms in Vegas with 4 of Ty's friends (though somehow Justin footed the hotel bill). Yes, Justin seemed happy, and Matt knew that was the most important thing. But he was so afraid this was just another heartbreak waiting to happen.

They drove in separate cars from Matt's place to the restaurant where they were all meeting for Ty's birthday dinner. Matt was nervous on the drive over. Ty had mentioned "over the top" and "surprises" and for once he didn't care about the guy wasting his brother's money. He was afraid of an announcement like "we are moving in together!" or worse: "we're getting married". Please, God. No.

"You guys have met my brother, Matt", Justin said reintroducing Rob and Bill to his twin. They exchanged pleasantries at the hostess' table.

"Hey, guys, nice to see you again. You make it down here OK?"

They engaged in the typical small talk of friends waiting uncomfortably at the hostess table for the guest of honor to arrive. He did... 15 minutes late, and with a lot of fanfare and commotion.

"Here I am! The Birthday boy!" he exclaimed, clearly sporting a few drinks lead. He had 5 friends with him, and leaned in to Justin. "You need to tell them we will be one more. I brought Les as well".

"Happy birthday Ty", Justin smiled giving him a soft peck on the lips.

"Thank you. You'll tell them?"

That didn't go unnoticed by Matt. "Hi Ty. Happy birthday".

"The twin made it! Thanks for coming, Matt. The more the merrier to celebrate!"

"Wouldn't miss it. So big sushi fan?"

"Love the sushi. Wait till you SEE the surprise your brother got for me".

"Well if you already know it's not much of a surprise, right?" Matt said with a forced laugh.

"So cute", Ty said pinching him on the cheek. "Just like your brother. Justin we ready?" he asked noticing Justin's return from the hostess table.

"Yeah guys, we are all set. Let's go enjoy".

The handsome party of 9 men walked through the restaurant in single file navigating tables and waiters, heads held high, shoulders back, an air importance and "you probably recognize me but don't stop and ask because I'm in a rush". Ty's friend Les still had his sunglasses on and a skull cap with his long hair popping out of the front and back, and Matt who was the last in line wondered how he didn't trip in the dark. The hostess led them to a back room and opened the door with a gesture of grandness. Some of the initial comments were of shock and excitement. Some were of surprise and delight. One was clearly of disapproval.

Matt, seeing the naked man on the table covered in sushi didn't hold back. "Jesus Christ. Are you fucking kidding me?"

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Keith tried not to wince, but he knew the guys were doing it on purpose just because they could. And he complimented himself for his good judge of character. When he met the client earlier that day he knew he had a rotten feeling about him. He just seemed like a bad guy. And Keith was right. Recognizing the voice, Keith knew the guy poking him the most was the client from earlier, and tried to remain calm while Ty kept jabbing him with chopsticks pretending to miss the sushi. It was starting to piss him off. And hurt a little.

"The line-up was a-MAZE-ing. I asked for 8 to choose from. They were all hot. This one was the best. I wish you could see his eyes".

"Ew, I don't WANT to see his eyes".

"Yeah, how creepy would that be?"

Justin and Matt had formed a circle of four chairs around a low, central table and were sitting with Rob and Bill. They had made little individual plates of food, more comfortable than eating directly off the model. Ty and his friends, however, wanted the full experience, and the party had split into two distinct groups. Keith listened to the conversation trying to figure out how many men stood above him eating off him. He knew the client whose name was definitely Ty.

"This is like the hottest thing ever", a friend said sticking a carrot into Keith's lettuce bowl and poking down hard.

"I know. Don't you just want to rip that bowl off?" another friend replied.

"Check out his abs. Jesus he's so fucking hot. How much did you pay for him?"

"I didn't pay a dime", Ty responded. "He's part of my birthday gift".

"No. Way", someone said with a gasp. "Shit I want one for my birthday".

"Get a rich boyfriend and you can", Ty laughed.

"Shit Ty, you are going to have to do a lot of blowjobs to pay for this".

"No big deal", Ty laughed. "And trust me" he whispered so only his friends could hear, "it is not at all big". They all chuckled at the joke, a little too obvious for most good humor, and a little too cruel for someone to say about his boyfriend, Keith though. Man was this guy a dick.

"You think he's hung?" one of the friends said pointing to the platter.

"Look at the size of the bowl. I'd say yes".

Keith felt a chopstick slide down his hips towards his groin and then slowly start to life the lettuce bowl up. The elastic tugged at his balls, and the bowl started to rise.

"Please, Sir. You no touch model" the chef said politely and sternly.

"Sorry", the person said. The group snickered. "Mr. Miagi say no touch model". They all laughed.

"Well he wax off, wax on", Ty laughed, running a chop stick across his abs. "Not a hair on him".

"Oh I like them like that."

"Yuck, no. Give me some hair. It's like fucking a middle schooler"

"Ha! You would know!"

"Bitch!"

The guys laughed heartily as Matt came over with his empty plate. "Could I take those pieces of the spicy tuna roll?" Keith did not feel anything removed from off his body.

"You are supposed to eat off the model", someone snapped.

"Yeah, it's not my thing" he replied politely.

"Yeah but you would if it were a naked woman" someone snapped in a snarky, accusatory tone.

"I'm sorry have we met? I'm Matt. And you are?"

"Don't get snippy" Ty replied.

"Not snippy, just making an introduction" Ty replied

"Roy".

"Nice to meet you, Roy. And no, if it were a woman I still wouldn't be into it. I think it's degrading".

"Ugh, he's getting paid a lot for it" another voice said. Keith was struggling to keep the voices in order. Ty, Roy, Matt was a brother to the boyfriend...

"Doesn't make it less degrading. What is he? A 19 year old kid? Someone's son? It's just wrong to turn people into objects". Keith got a lump in his throat. His dad would be sad if he knew he was doing this.

"Here we go", Ty said with a wave of the hand.

"Here we go nothing, Ty. It's your birthday and you can celebrate as you like. I was asked what I thought, and I gave an answer".

"No matter what I did tonight you would find a reason to criticize it".

"That's not true and you know it", Matt answered a little too forcefully.

"Hey guys. How's things going over here?" Justin chimed in overly enthusiastically.

"Your bother doesn't like your gift to me", Ty said pouting.

"What the dinner? Matt you like sushi".

Matt smiled and looked at the chef. "The sushi is awesome, chef. Thank you". The chef gave a little nod as he thinly sliced a whitefish.

"Let's open a bottle of something" Ty suggested. "It's a party, right?"

"Oh they have Veuve. Get that" someone suggested.

Ty called over a waiter. "Two bottles of the Vueve" he said without making eye contact. "You guys can talk all you want. I'm going to keep eating until this platter is empty".

"Then I want to fuck the platter!" someone laughed. Keith could sense the Matt character had walked away as the conversation became more honest and closed.

"Why does he always do this?" Ty asked.

"He doesn't, baby. He's just protective of me".

"At 34 you don't need protection".

"We're not going to stop being brothers no matter how old I get".

"I just wish he would..."

"Shhh... Stop. Don't ruin tonight. I want you to enjoy yourself".

Keith heard a kiss.

"You want him to enjoy himself let him fuck the platter!" someone joked. The group laughed and resumed eating. Keith could feel the little pokes and stabs across his body and the chef reloading his body with additional pieces of food. A cork popped and a few guys let out a little cheer. The mood changed, and Keith sensed the brother had walked away leaving the original groups to continue offending. Someone poured a drink over him, and it spilled onto his neck and chin, a cold splash that made him wince. There was some tipsy laughter, and someone was roughly rubbing across his face with a napkin. He tried to lay still.

"I clean. I clean" the chef said politely. The hand stopped, and was replaced by a soft, gently dabbing. Keith felt his body relax again.

"Not the first time he's been splattered in the face I bet", a voice laughed.

"I asked him if he would do anything for us after", Ty said in a hushed voice.

"What did he say?"

"They said no... but I could tell he had to because the boss was there. The way he was looking at me, I betcha he would".

"No shit".

"Should we?"

They began to plot, and the more hushed the spoke, the more obvious it became to Matt that something was not right.

"Two more bottles!" someone yelled. Matt looked at a menu. Veuve was $110 a bottle in this place. It made him angry.

"No I'll just tell him to go home with his brother and then we'll go to The Elipse".

"You can't ask him to leave".

"Not on your birthday".

"He won't do it".

"Yes he will. It's my birthday" Ty protested.

"And what about him?"

"I don't know. What do you think. A thousand?"

"A THOUSAND?" There were audible gasps.

"Well he cost $800 just to lay here; he's got to cost at least that much if we are going to fuck him".

"Ask him". There was some snickering. "Oh sushi boy" someone whispered as the other tried to stifle their laughs. "If we can rent you for the night, ummm... wiggle your nose".

"He's not supposed to move".

"OK, then don't wiggle your nose!"

They burst into laughter as a waiter popped another bottle of champagne. Keith's mind was racing. He wanted to get out of there, and was hoping once they left he could change and sneak out a back door or something. Maybe they wouldn't recognize him with his clothes on. Or with eyes.

"Just the sashimi. Thanks, Chef". Keith breathed a sigh of relief. Matt was back. The other diners behaved better when he was there. "You gotta admit, he lies there really still" Matt said, trying to make pleasant conversation.

"He really does" a voice declared. Keith felt chopstick on his nipple, and then a pinch. "Boop!" The voice said. Keith shuddered. The chopsticks really got ahold of the very tip of his cold, pointy nipples. It hurt.

"Don't hurt the kid", Matt said politely.

"Boop! Boop!" the chopsticks pinched him two more times. He let out a tiny groan in displeasure.

"Stop!" Matt said loudly.

"Jesus Christ I'm just joking. Lay the fuck off".

"He's a person!" Matt thundered.

"Ugh, I am so sick of this, I'm leaving", Ty complained.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" Justin had scrambled over. "No, baby, it's OK. Don't go".

"No, I'm sick of this shit. I'm sick of him ruining everything fun I do".

"With my brother's money", Matt snipped.

A couple of the guys let out an "ooooo" like they were egging on a fight.

"Matt, stop", Justin said quietly.

"BEST. PRESENT. EVER." An exaggerated voice declared. Keith felt the chopsticks on his sore nipple again and he prepared for the pinch. "Boop!"

CRACK! The sound was undeniable fist on face, and before the echo died, Keith felt three people fall into him knocking over the table. There were a few screams and gasps and cries of "hold him back!" and "Get off him!" and "Holy shit!" and "Make him stop!" Keith scrambled to his feet with a pieces of sushi stuck to his body and a sauce running all down his legs. His bowl had snapped off, and it hurt his scrotum. The chef grabbed the naked model by the arm, lifted him to his feet, and led him out the side door.

"You OK?" the Chef asked taking off his apron and handed it to Keith who wrapped it around his waist. Keith looked over his body, wiping away the sauce with his hand. He had a cut across his thigh, long and bleeding, but not too deep. It didn't hurt too bad. They burst into laughter, more a reaction to the shock than finding any humor in what had happened. It was not at all funny.

Rob and Bill had taken Matt outside to cool off. They walked past the patrons, the same group of good looking, well dressed guys, only their attitudes were back on earth. People looked at them curiously having heard the screams and noise, wondering what happened, ready with camera phones for potential Youtube fame. Back inside the private dining room Justin was trying to pick up the pieces.

"Look at me. Stop moving. Look at me" Justin said calmly holding the bloody head of his boyfriend's buddy in his hands.

"Oh my God I think it's broken".

"He broke your nose!"

"No, it's not broken".

"I'm BLEEDING" the person screamed.

Justin replied calmly. "It's not broken. Swollen, yes. But not broken".

"This is so fucking ridiculous".

Ty's friend had blood pouring out his nose and onto his shirt, and Justin laid him on the floor and tilted his head back. "Just put your hands like this and hold tight".

"Oww, it hurts!"

"What an asshole".

"I can't believe he'd do that to you".

"I know. And on my birthday" Ty replied.

"Can one of you get some ice?" Justin asked.

"Someone call a waiter".

"I don't see one",

"He's coming".

"Get the bus boy".

"Just go get ice", Justin said emphatically.

"No, he's coming. Waiter! Can you get us some ice?"

"Ok, it's stopping. Just keep your head in that position". The waiter came with the champagne bucket from the corner, and Justin wrapped some cubes in a cloth napkin and put it on the person's nose. "What the hell happened?" he asked.

"I don't know like we were talking and all of a sudden he went nuts and started throwing punches".

"Hey was like a maniac".

"And he just hit me for no reason".

"That doesn't sound like Matt", Justin replied.

"Yup. Take his side", Ty said disgusted.

"No, baby, I'm not taking sides. I'm just saying Matt doesn't fly off the handle like that".

"I was THERE, Justin. I saw".

"He did. I saw, too". The other two nodded in agreement. Justin said nothing.

"You don't believe me".

"Ty, let's not fight. We'll clean this up, I'll pay for the damages and we'll go out".

"Someone has to take me home", the patient whined.

"Yeah we have to take him home first".

"I don't want to go out" Ty said. "I just want to go home now".

"OK, we can go home".

"And we didn't even get the full time here. You know how much I paid for this?"

"It's OK. I'll pay for the whole night. We can do it again sometime".

"Your fucking brother ruins everything all the time".

"Don't say that, Ty. It's not true".

"Oh, he does", someone whom Justin had not met until 2 hours ago piped up.

"All the time" said another.

Justin got defensive. "He doesn't, and you guys don't even know him. You never met him until tonight".

"See what I said? Always taking his side. I don't care how much this party cost. The whole thing was a waste thanks to your brother".

Lisa the restaurant manager came over and bent down to the floor where the group of friends was sitting with the nose bleed victim. "I'm sorry you guys had some problems, but it looks like we are going to have to ask you all to settle this account and go".

"We had problems because my boyfriend's brother is an asshole".

"OK. So I need to get this taken care of so we can clean up. This is includes the model, the food and bar tab, the private room charge and the damages". She held the black leather folder with the bill. Nobody moved.

"What name is it under?" Justin asked. She opened the folder.

"Ty Carr".

Justin stood up and patted Ty on the shoulder. "This is Ty Carr. Have a good night".

-------------------------------

It took a good 10 minutes for Ty to let Justin go. The disbelief turned into anger which shortly became pleading and sobs. When the manager threatened to call the police, Justin made one comment. "The nicest you've been to me all night is when the bill came. That says something about you".

Everything was in Ty's name, and he just assumed Justin would pay for it. And, had they not insulted his brother, he would have, even after the fight. But Ty went too far. And it would cost him their relationship... and about $3000. In the parking lot he explained to Matt and Rob and Bill what had happened, and they all got a huge laugh out of it. Rob and Bill confirmed he did the right thing, and they never really liked Ty. Matt was so proud of his brother standing up for him, and standing up for himself, he wanted to cry.

They got into their respective cars, but Justin decided to stay eyeing a dive bar across the street. When they offered company he insisted they leave, even his other half.

"I just really want to get a drink alone. Honestly I'm OK". And with a promise to text when he got home, they all departed, and Justin went into the hole-in-the-wall joint for a beer. He deserved one.

The bar was empty as Tuesday night in this part of town was not a hot night. Justin was glad. He didn't feel like noise, and a quiet drink with the TVs on Sports Center and ESPN was fine. He sat on a stool at the far end and ordered a Stella. What a night. He hated that his brother, whom he loved, always seemed to pick out guys better than he did, and he was the gay one. He knew Matt did it out of love and out of protective duty, but it bothered him he was such a bad judge. Introspection, real, honest self-evaluation, can be a painful journey. And right now Justin didn't like discovering that he had a tendency to get walked on. Love shouldn't be like that.

Lost in his head, Justin sipped his beer and picked at the bowl of pretzels. He hardly ate at dinner, and was still really hungry. He noticed a young kid limp into the bar and sit two stools away from him. He tried not to stare, but the limp caught his attention, then the face. He was hot. The kid ordered a Bud light.

"Yeah I'm gonna need to see an I.D." the bartender said. He scrutinized a driver's license. "Kentucky?"

The kid nodded, and got his beer. For about ten minutes the two men sat side by side sipping their beers, stoic, facing the TV's but not watching, not looking at their phones or at the door for a guest to arrive. An aura of serious pensiveness.

"Would you watch my coat while I run to the bathroom?" Justin asked. The kid nodded. He returned, about 3 minutes later. "Thanks". The kid nodded.

"So, has your night been as shitty as mine?"

Keith smiled. "You wouldn't believe it if I told you".

"Yeah, I had the same kind of night. Justin", he said extending his hand.

"Keith. So what happened to you tonight?"

"I had a fight with my boyfriend. It was an ugly scene. Kind of public".

"I'm sorry". Justin shrugged. "Well, I just got offered a thousand dollars for a bunch of guys to have sex with me. So, there you go".

"Holy shit. That's nuts".

"Yeah".

"They just come up and ask you?"

Keith thought for a second, wondering how to phrase it. "No, I was at a...um... modeling gig and they asked me".

Justin smiled. He may be a bad judge of character but he knew how to recognize looks. He knew this kid was hot. "So you're a model?"

"Sort of. I'm trying to be an actor."

"An aspiring actor from Kentucky. Welcome to L.A."

Keith laughed. "Yeah, thanks. I guess modeling is better than waiting tables".

"How long have you been out here?"

"Two years. I told my parents if I didn't do it in three, I'd go home and go back to school".

"Alright, that's fair. Any luck so far?" Keith mentioned a few call backs he had and the extra roles he had landed. Justin listened and nodded, and Keith was surprised he really seemed interested. Justin contemplated telling him what he did for a living, but decided to wait and see. The stranger was nice enough without even knowing he could help him land a real acting spot tomorrow. Justin wasn't playing him. No. But he'd seen, both personally and romantically, how aspiring actors always changed when they knew what he did for a living. And here was a kid, in that same boat, who was friendly and polite just by nature and not by plot. It was very refreshing, a reaffirmation that mankind was not completely lost.

"How's the adjustment been from back home?"

"That's the hard part, I guess. I grew up in a really conservative and really traditional place and, I don't know, we just treat people differently, I guess. My dad made my promise I wouldn't change when I got out here. He's worried that since I'm gay, like I'm more promiscuous or I'll do something just to land a job".

"Like take up an offer for $1000 to have sex with some strangers?" Justin asked with a laugh.

"Yeah, exactly. My dad, he's OK with me being gay. I just don't think he gets it. So like he'd never tell my straight brother not to sleep around, but he'd tell me. It's fine. I know he doesn't mean anything by it".

"That funny, because I have a brother, he's my twin, and he's straight, and he's convinced he needs to watch out for me. Like I'll do something stupid because only straight people know how to act responsibly when it comes to sex and relationships". They both chuckled and appreciated the similar ironies in their lives.

"You know, this modeling thing I had tonight, there a guy there who was looking out for his brother, and I thought it was like the nicest thing ever. It was so sweet to see, or to like, hear, someone so protective".

"Yeah, sounds like my brother".

"It was weird, too, because the guys who were there, they were like total dirtbags. And the one guy, who was the brother's boyfriend, every time he was alone with his friends he would say the meanest things about his boyfriend. I felt really bad for him like I wish I could tell him `hey your boyfriend's an asshole'".

Justin smiled. It was cute the way this kid wanted to be a hero. And it was eerie how much his night sounded like his own.

"The boyfriend was so nice, too. Every time he was there he'd speak really sweetly and call him baby. I swear it was so sweet. But the other guy, he didn't deserve him. Nice guys always date assholes".

"Now you sound like my brother".

"It's true though".

"So, what event were you working that you got to listen to so many conversations?"

"Nah, it was just a modeling thing. I just had to sort of stand there and pretend like I was a statue or something".

"Those crazy live modeling things. Yeah, once again welcome to L.A. My boyfriend, the one who I fought with", he looked at his watch, "45 minutes ago, he hired a model to be a naked sushi platter".

Keith got silent. The nerves started to take over. "Just now?"

"Yeah, tonight. Right across the street. So stupid, right?"

"What was he no good?" Keith was concerned. He immediately thought of his manager getting a complaint. Then he wouldn't get paid.

"No, he was great, I guess. I mean he just lay there. Great body. It's just a crazy expense. I don't know, it was a little humiliating for me, treating him like an object. I kind of felt bad for him".

"So the model didn't start the problem for you and your boyfriend."

"No- it was something my brother did. Somehow a fight broke out, and my boyfriend started blaming my brother, and I don't know, it was fucking crazy. I actually just came here to get a drink and pretend the night didn't happen. Drown my sorrows. I might call him tomorrow though, after he cools off. See if he wants to make it work and try..."

"No, don't do that" Keith interrupted.

Justin looked amused. "He's not a bad guy. We'll figure it out. Plus, I don't want to be alone anymore. I don't know. I'm just tired of the whole thing".

"Don't date the wrong person, even for the right reasons".

"That's easy for you to say with that face. But average guys like me, who don't get carded anymore, it's a lot harder than that".

"No, please. Wait for the right guy".

Justin got quiet. His disposition changed. "Kind of tired of waiting" he said with shoulder shrug. He dropped $30 on the bar, and his eyes clearly became a little teary. "Sorry, too much information. That drink is on me. Thanks for listening. Good luck with the modeling and acting and thanks for the chat".

Keith watched him leave. He couldn't let him go back to Ty. Yes, it would be embarrassing to tell him, but Justin deserved better. He leaped off the bar stool and scrambled to the door chasing Justin as quickly as his bleeding leg would let him. On the street he spotted him a few cars down, and Keith saw the lights of his BMW flash on. "Hey Justin! Justin wait!" he called.

Justin looked back, confused. Did he leave his coat in the bar? He watched the kid hobble towards him. "You alright?"

"I was your sushi platter!"

"Sorry?"

"Tonight at Ty's dinner. I was the sushi model. I heard the whole thing".

"No shit. That was you?"

"Ty is a bad guy. He's the one who offered me the $1000 to sleep with him and his friends and they were going to ditch you tonight, make you go home with your brother Matt and then go to a club called Elipse without you and they wanted me to go with them but there's no way I would do that and Matt started the fight because one of Ty's friends kept hurting me on purpose and Matt told him to stop because I was a person and the guy wouldn't stop so Matt decked him".

Keith paused. He needed to take a breath, and he could tell Justin was absorbing. "So don't call Ty he's a really mean guy and you deserve someone a lot better than that. You are the sweetest guy and any guy would be lucky to have you".

They stared at one another, Justin completely flattered someone would be so forthcoming and genuine, Keith concerned such a nice guy could make another mistake. Justin didn't know what to say. He wanted to hug him. He was so overcome that a stranger went out of his way to say something nice, to protect him, valued him as a person. But how does one say all that in the middle of the street to someone he just met?

"Why are you limping?"

"I cut myself when the table flipped?"

"Is it bad?"

"I don't think so".

"Get in the car. Let me see".

Keith hesitated. "You a doctor?"

"No, but several years of med school, and I feel like this is my fault, so let me just make sure. Please".

Of course Justin would say please, Keith thought. He is the sweetest guy in the world. They got into the car, and Keith pulled down his pants. "I guess you've already seen, right?" he said with a nervous laugh. Justin didn't reply. He did notice the nice bulge behind the young man's black briefs, but it was too hard to ignore the 8 inch gash that was still wet and discoloring. He poked at his exposed, hairless thigh and inspected the wound. It wasn't serious, but because Justin felt like he was the cause of it, he made the wound serious.

"It's not too deep, but it's getting infected already. You have something to clean this up at home?"

"Yeah I do" Keith said, pulling his pants up.

"Good. Where's your car, I'll drive you to it".

Keith smiled. "No, I took the bus. I just want to make sure you knew everything before you left" he said opening the door. "Just don't call Ty and wait for someone better. I should go".

"Wait. Where do you live? I can take you".

"No, you don't have to take me. I'm fine".

"It's kind of my fault you're hurt. Let me take you".

"I live kind of far".

"How far is far?"

"Long Beach area".

"Long Beach? Holy shit that's far".

"Yeah, don't worry about it. Thanks, though".

"Look, it's late and I can't let you take a bus at this hour. Tell you what, come home with me, I can clean up your leg, and take you where you need to go tomorrow".

"I don't know".

Justin looked at him. "You said the nicest thing to me just now, and no one but my brother has ever looked out for me like that. I just want to thank you, that's all".

"You deserve to know the truth".

Justin swallowed the onset of tears. "Thank you", he whispered. "Please, let me thank you. I'll take you home and take you back tomorrow".

"If you don't mind a house guest, yeah I'll take you up on your offer". This was nuts. They both knew it, but yet somehow they were both excited about the idea of it. They had clicked, no denying it, and something about the random chance of meeting in that bar and confessing so much to one another... it was meant to be.

Love always seems to work like that.

They drove a few minutes, what seemed to be straight uphill, and when Keith exited the car he couldn't believe the commanding view of the city from Justin's house. Hundreds of thousands of lights in every shade of white and gold flickered in the distance, and the soft chirp, chirp of crickets and the cool breeze off the hills reminded him of the serenity of his Kentucky home. He didn't know L.A. could be so bucolic.

"Let's get you cleaned up. Have a seat and I'll be right back". Keith sat on a white sofa in the living room, staring at the odd shaped furniture and objects around the room. When Justin returned he had a pair of running shorts and a first aid kit. "Take your pants off and put these on", he instructed. Keith did so, and Justin knelt before him.

"This is going to sting a little".

"Shhhhhh" Keith winced, and felt his body rise up off the couch, like a magnetic force was pulling him to the ceiling.

"I know. It's a little infected and I want to get it cleaned out well. Um, you've got this stuff all on your leg".

"Dipping sauce, from when I was knocked over".

"The lettuce bowl?"

"My privacy salad, yeah" he said with a laugh.

"You want to go shower? I can give you a towel and a change of clothes. You know it would be best to clean out this cut, too".

"Um, you don't mind?" Justin stood and pulled Keith to the feet.

"Mind? I'm the reason you're all beat up. The least I can do". He followed Justin up the stairs and brought him into a guest bedroom with connecting bathroom. "Did you even eat dinner?"

"No. I'm OK though".

"Bullshit. How old are you?"

"22"

"You are starving. There's soap and towels in the bathroom and I'll leave some clothes here for you. When you are ready, just come down and I'll have some food for you. Allergies?"

"Um, no, not allergic to anything. Cats."

"Good, I won't serve cat. Wash the cut out really well and take your time".

The hot water felt amazing, and slightly stung the length of the cut across his thigh. But Keith was relieved to wash the sushi feeling and the sauce off his body. He showered quickly, not wanting to waste his host's hot water, and with a towel wrapped around his waist he entered the bedroom finding several different pairs of shorts and running pants and tee shirts. He put on black Adidas warm up pants and a blue and white UCLA tee shirt, and headed down to the kitchen. From the top of the stairs he could smell it: bacon.

Justin was caught off guard, stunned really, at how beautiful Keith was. Freshly showered, his soft skin was rosy in the cheeks, and his long black hair fell messy in front of his striking green eyes. He didn't care if he was caught staring. He was sure Keith was used to it.

"You know, you really are very good looking", he said bluntly. Keith blushed a little, and his rosy cheeks flushed deeper. "Go ahead and sit at the counter. I put a plate down. I'm not a great cook, but I can do breakfast".

"It's technically morning, so breakfast is great. You know this is really kind of you".

"Here you go. Bacon egg and cheese on an English muffin. All part of my thank-you for tonight. Not just the dinner service, but telling me the truth about Ty. Means a lot."

"I just thought you should know. For the two years I've been here I feel like all I've ever met is bad guys. Bad agents, bad producers, bad people who just look and poke and rate me, and, I don't know, I could only hear you since my eyes were covered, but everything you said was so sweet and so nice, I just, I don't know, I thought it was nice to hear a good guy for a change".

Justin was visibly moved. He just smiled and swallowed hard. "Eat, before it gets cold", he managed to say. He watched the young model take a few very large bites of the sandwich, so glad to see him eat, so glad to take care of him, and be taken care of. "I've got more. I'll make you a second". He was eager to turn his back because he was starting to tear up. Why was Ty such a dick? Why was love so hard...?

After a few moments of silence, he put a second sandwich on Keith's plate, and Keith could tell he had wiped a few tears from his eyes.

"So, was it hard being a platter tonight?" Justin asked with an exaggerated chipperness in his voice.

"No, it only hurt when they kept poking me. And this one guy, I don't know which, he was pinching my nipples really hard. That's why your brother punched him".

"He really just out and punched him?"

"No, he asked him not to do it. Your brother is awesome. He was like `he's a real person stop hurting him' and the guy didn't so like the fifth time he did it, and I think he kept doing it just to piss your brother off, like the fifth time your brother just nailed him. I didn't see, you know".

"Yeah, you had your eyes closed".

"Yeah, so I only heard. But it sounded like a good punch".

"Oh he nailed him good. I cleaned up the blood".

"Did he hurt him?"

"Nah, he'll be fine. Some blood. Maybe a black eye. He deserved it. I'm sorry they kept hurting you".

"It's alright. Part of the job".

"Not the pain".

"No, but the whole, you know, be a platter, be an object thing. It's what they paid for".

"That's what I didn't like about it. And not that I'm talking to you, I like it even less. I'd have much rather had you join us and be part of the party than lay there silent".

"I've served food almost naked at so many parties, I guess I'm kind of used to it".

"Being objectified?"

"A little, yeah. Every job I've landed trying to make it as an actor, every one you get poked and grabbed and felt up and hand on my ass. Old people are the worst, too. Old men. One party I had my, you know, privates, grabbed so many times it was insane".

"God, that's so not right".

"I guess not, no. But, you know, I need the money and so I'll just put up with some nonsense until it works out".

"Well, still I'm sorry they hurt you tonight".

"I'm sorry they hurt you. You know the pinching and even the cut, that all goes away. But what they did to you, what your supposed boyfriend did to you, that's a lot harder to cure".

"Everyone warned me about Ty. Guess I just wanted to believe someone liked me. Lonely, I guess".

"You know, I think I'm a good guy and I can't seem to make it here yet, and I don't want to stop being a good guy to make it. You've made it, though. I mean I don't know what you do, but you've got a nice house and a nice car, and so you don't need to ever be poked or grabbed like I do. You're a good guy. You should only be with someone who sees that".

"OK, you're going to have to stop because I don't want to cry in front of you", Justin said laughing away another tear. He turned to put some pots in the sink. "FUCK! I can't believe this is happening again. I'm so tired of these relationships". He put his hands down on the sink, leaning with the weight of a heavy heart, and could feel emotion growing stronger. Keith walking over and tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around they came face to face, and Keith opened his arms.

Justin sobbed. For two or three minutes, Keith stood in silence as Justin cried on his shoulder, so mad at a person he thought loved him, so afraid to give him up risking loneliness to find someone else, so jealous that his brother, and Rob and Bill, had all found love and he couldn't, so ashamed he had been duped. It felt good to be hugged. It felt good to be embraced with no pretense or run around, no gaming or looking for something in return. Just a bit of human compassion offered at no cost.

"I'm sorry", Justin said pulling away.

"Don't be. Besides, it's your shirt", he said with a twinkle in his emerald eyes. Justin laughed.

"Go ahead, eat your sandwich". Justin cleaned up the dishes while Keith finished eating, nearly licking the plate. He would have eaten a third, if offered.

"Do you mind if I just go to bed?" Justin asked. "I want this day to be over".

"No, I'm tired too". Keith waited at the bottom of the stars while Justin turned off the lights and locked the door. Following him up the stairs he said "Thanks for the food, and for letting me stay here".

"Like I said it's the least I can do after what we did to you tonight". Justin got his guest a toothbrush and situated him in the guest room, then went to his own room to get ready for bed. Before turning out the light in his bathroom he threw out Ty's toothbrush, and put his, alone, back in the cabinet. Another lonely toothbrush. How many times had he seen that. He felt as bad for his toothbrush as he did for himself. Why couldn't Ty have been the one? Why couldn't Ty be like Keith? Why couldn't they all be as nice as Keith, who didn't ask for anything, didn't expect anything, just wanted to give and be nice because it's the right thing to do.

And then it clicked. Keith was right next door.

"Hey just checking to see if you need anything before I go to bed", Justin said in a hushed tone from the door to the guest room. The room was dark, but enough moonlight fell through the windows to see their silhouettes. Keith sat up, and Justin could see he was shirtless.

"No, I'm good thanks".

"You look better without raw fish on you".

"And this bed's a lot better than the table".

Justin came in and sat at the end of his bed. "You know I really want to thank you for tonight. I don't even know you, and you've been a better friend than my real friends".

"No. I feel the same way. I didn't know you but just listening I could tell you were a good guy and, you know, us good guys have to stay together".

"I'm not going to call Ty tomorrow".

"Good".

"Though I don't enjoy the idea of being alone again".

"You're not alone now" Keith said with a smile. It made Justin's heart race.

"Can I get into bed with you?"

"I'm naked".

"Oh".

"So, you should get naked, too". Justin stripped, and despite the dark, he was sure Keith could tell he had an erection. He was hoping it wouldn't poke him in bed, in case he didn't have one. Keith pulled down the covers to let Justin in, and then covered him up. He put his arm around him, hugged him tight, and wiggled his shoulder so that Justin's head naturally fell onto his chest. His skin was warm against Justin's cheek, and the newly showered scent of his guest soap comforted him as his head rose and fell with each breath. He threw his arm across Keith's smooth chest, and grabbed his waist holding him tightly.

"Can I stay like this?" he whispered.

"All night", Keith replied with a soft kiss on the head. "Sleep well".

Justin felt a tear form in his eye. "Hey before you leave tomorrow?"

"Yeah?"

"Remind me to tell you what I do for a living".