Rotate the pod, please, HAL.
Over the noise of the pod pedestal motor, Frank yelled, So what seems to be the trouble, Dave?
When I did a routine checkout this morning, I noticed some interference on D channel, he improvised. He had, of course, let HAL see him go into the pod earlier.
Well have a look.
Stop pod rotation, HAL, said Dave unnecessarily, to hide his nervousness. Open the hatch. He peeled his feet free of the floor and floated into the self-contained pod, with its thick double walls. Air in the pod bay, air in the pod, but vacuum between the walls. It should be completely soundproof. Frank, still standing on the rug outside, helpfully caught his ankle to cancel his momentum, making it easier to grab a handhold inside.
We may need to do a complete overhaul, HAL, and we could have some parts floating around, so please dont disturb us, Dave requested.
Lower temperature in pod bay by ten degrees, please, HAL, said Frank over his shoulder as he stepped off the rug and into the air. Dave pulled him in.
Close the door, HAL. Rotate the pod, please. He flipped off all of the switches controlling the redundant channels of the radio. Frank went to the environmental controls and flipped another switch.
Rotate the pod, please, HAL. Dave said loudly when he was sure the radio was off. As hed hoped, there was no response. He tried again, louder. No response. I dont think he can hear us.
Rotate the pod, please, HAL! Frank shouted. He obviously had the same thing in mind as Dave, and was even more worried about being overheard. Yeah, Im sure were okay. So! Here we are. Um, nice pod ya got here.
Frank, I wanted to... to apologize for what happened yesterday.
Apologize? For tackling me? Why? You owed me one, after all these weeks. Although the way you did it took me totally by surprise. You really got me good, buddy! He grinned. By the way, I want you to teach me how you managed to float like that. It must be a rush, flying around the carousel like that!
But I did more than just tackle you. And wrestle you. I actually stuck my tongue in your mouth, man! What do you call that?
Frank stared at him quizzically. Is that a trick question?
I dont know what came over me.
And I didnt know what hit me. Youre not feeling guilty, are you, Dave? You got me fair and square. You were just getting even. To tell the truth, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Yes, damn it, I am feeling guilty. How can you act like it was just just good clean fun? I obviously crossed way over the line. God knows what you must think I am, after that.
Frank hesitated. And what do you think I am, Dave?
What? What the hell are you talking about?
Dave, you moron, Frank said affectionately. Havent you figured out by now that Im homosexual?
Dave was shocked. Frank? He was almost the last man Dave would have suspected. He didnt show any of the signs Dave associated with homosexuality. And the almost offhand way hed made the confession...
My god, Frank! Are you serious? You dont mean that!
Sure I mean it. Im queer. Ive never been the least bit interested in women. Im very much attracted to other men. Or didnt you notice?
I thought you just... I cant... Did you ever consider seeing somebody?
I was seeing somebody, for five great years. But thats over now.
I mean, dont you think you need help?
Damn straight I need help! I cant really do it right, by myself.
Frank, cmon, this is serious. How long have you felt that you were... that way?
I had it figured out by the time I was sixteen, I guess, although I didnt do anything about it until I got to college.
Its hard to believe. I always thought that being homosexual meant you wanted to put on womens clothing.
For me its just the opposite. It means I want to take off mens clothing. The look he gave Dave seemed to suggest that this was not a purely theoretical consideration at the moment. Finally, he asked, Does it bother you that much?
I... Im just not used to thinking of you that way.
Thats too bad. I thought youd realized by now that I was, heh, taking a certain pleasure in our physical contact lately. To tell the truth... I got the impression you were kind of enjoying it too.
What are you implying? Do you think Im... that way too? Can you tell just by looking?
No, not just by looking. I usually cant, anyway. But you dont have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that you were enjoying the stuff we did together. Maybe you were enjoying it on a more limited level than I was, thats all. I didnt mean to insult you not that thered be anything wrong with it, if you were! Its just that there were a bunch of times that I started to think... to hope... that you might be one, too. But jeez, you dont know any of the codes, do you?
Daves mind was reeling. Homosexuality had been recognized as a mental disorder for around sixty years, he knew. Everyone knew what homosexual men were like weak, cowardly, superficial. Effeminate. Dave had no desire to imitate women, so hed never entirely believed he could have homosexual tendencies, despite his attraction to other men. Yet Frank was as masculine as any guy hed ever known, and hed just cheerfully called himself a homosexual and shattered Daves rigid stereotype. And Dave could no longer deny, to himself, his attraction to Frank. To Frank, another man. He was attracted to him because he was another man. It wasnt as though one of them was putting on a dress or acting as a female substitute. And it was sexual; he couldnt deny that; as a male, nature had given him a built-in barometer. So, by definition, what he was feeling were homosexual feelings. Well, if this be madness, then make the most of it.
As though reading his mind, Frank said quietly, Listen, Dave. I know what youve been brought up to think. What we all have. Hell, half the homosexuals I know believe it too. But listen to me: Loving other men does not make you less of a man.
I wish I could believe that! Although youre the best proof of it, Frank, he added shyly.
Thanks. And its nothing to be ashamed of, either. Some of the greatest artists and scientists have been homosexual.
Really? I never heard of one.
Okay... for example. Youve heard of Alan Turing, right?
Of course. One of the founders of the field of artificial intelligence.
Id say the founder. I dont think HAL would exist today without the groundwork Turing did in the fifties and sixties after he moved to the U.S. Which, rumor has it, was to get away from the harrassment he was getting from the British military because they considered homosexuals a security risk. See, hed cracked the German Enigma code for them in the war, and they didnt trust him with knowledge of his own work. He must have believed the bullshit about our country being the land of the free. Anyway, Turing is just my favorite example. I could name you a dozen more.
I never thought of myself as being... that way. Homosexual. Not until now, he thought, but he wasnt ready to voice that conclusion yet.
Well, Im not saying you are, necessarily. Its not a black-and-white distinction. Almost all men, if they only knew it, to some degree, at some time, have the same kind of feelings. Its a continuum. Im at one extreme; all Im saying its you may not be at the other. And it seems to me, in a situation like this, with no women around... well, if you have the slightest potential to be attracted to men, Id think this would bring it out. After all, its either that or be a monk for a couple of years.
Ah! Situational homosexuality. Ive read about that. Now that would be a convenient rationalization, if he could believe it himself. He licked his lips. I have to admit, Ive been having... feelings for you, specifically, Frank.
Good choice, Frank said dryly. Id hate to think you were a... cybersexual.
Or a... cryophiliac, he returned, and Frank chuckled. It almost looked, in the dim light, like he was blushing.
Seriously, Frank, I cant think of anyone Id rather be stuck in this tin can with. I feel really close to you. I held back from telling you that, because I was afraid youd see through it and figure out that Im... well, attracted to you. I thought youd kill me if you found that out. Or at least that it would ruin our friendship and working relationship.
Funny, I was worried about the same thing. Your friendship means everything to me, and I was afraid of what would happen to it if you knew I wanted something more intimate. Then, when I jumped at the chance to use exercise as an excuse to get... physical with you the exercise coaching was actually HALs idea, believe it or not you seemed willing to play along. But I wasnt sure how far you wanted to take it.
I wasnt sure either, Dave admitted. Im still not.
Not that we could have gone much further anyway, back there. We have less privacy than we think. The walls have ears. Frank glanced at the porthole. HALs camera eye was out there somewhere, but it was already hard to make it out through the condensation that was beginning to build up on the cold glass. Frank must have flipped off the defroster.
Thats why I made up the thing about the radio malfunction, Dave explained. So we could talk in private.
Talk? Frank laughed. Is that all you had in mind?
I dont know. What do you have in mind?
Well, this, for starters. He reached out and gently pulled Dave into a warm embrace, burying his face in Daves flight suit collar. Their chests were pressed tightly together, and their legs tangled together as if of their own accord. It was wonderful, just to be hugging each other, no wrestling, no tickling, no mock threats, no pretense that it was all part of a mission-approved exercise program. Dave felt like he could stay in this position for hours. He pressed his lips against Franks neck and inhaled the scent of his skin. He hadnt felt free to do that that when theyd hugged after the micrometeoroid. This time the smell was clean, not soured by traces of fear.
Franks fingers lightly traced the back of his neck, then the inside of his right ear. Dave hadnt realized how erogenous ears could be. Then Frank tugged his T-shirt down an inch and kissed his chest hair, then the hollow of his throat.
After about five leisurely minutes of this snuggling, Frank murmured, and this, and put his lips against Daves. This kiss was gentle at first, but they both slowly grew more passionate until Dave wished he could stop long enough to manually adjust the oxygen level. They werent giving their lungs much of a duty cycle. Finally, their heads bumped the ceiling, just hard enough for them to notice, and they broke off and caught their breath.
Dave couldnt believe it. He had actually kissed another man, and enjoyed it! Although, technically, he could be said to have kissed Frank before. He supposed sticking his tongue in Franks mouth under the dining table could be considered a kiss, sort of.
I can hardly believe Im here with you like this, Dave. If this gets as heavy as Im hoping its gonna get, were going to need to take some saftey precautions. Frank reached into his flight suit pocket. I brought these in case, ah, the radio turned out not to need repair. He pulled out some Velcro restraints.
Suddenly, Dave felt trapped. He was truly alone with Frank for the first time in the mission, he realized. In fact, no man had ever been quite so alone with another man since the dawn of time. When theyd entered the pod, Dave hadnt realized he was isolating himself with an admitted homosexual. As much as he longed for more intimacy with Frank, he suddenly felt he should draw the line at anything sexual with another man. Hed heard all about the thing that homosexual men did for sex, and it didnt appeal to him at all. Maybe that meant he himself wasnt really a homosexual after all, he realized. Now that he had a real one to compare himself to. Until today, hed been working to deny all the feelings he had for other men and for Frank in particular. But when it came to actual homosexual activity, he genuinely was repulsed by the idea.
He didnt suppose Frank would settle for their just jerking each other off, or would be interested in, say, giving him a blow job. Or Dave would gladly give Frank a blow job, as long as Frank didnt demand any actual sex.
Heavy? Frank, I dont know about this!
Frank must have heard the unfeigned fear in his voice, because he looked at him uncertainly. Dave? Relax, man. Im not going to force you into anything you dont want to do. Dont you trust me by now?
About as far as I could throw you... and at the hurt expression in Franks sad brown eyes, he added If we were out there, nodding in the direction of the hatch, and the pod bay door that would be behind it beyond which, both men knew, there was nothing but the unthinkably distant stars.
Franks eyes shone. And how far is that? I want to hear you say it.
To the ends of the universe.
Frank gazed at him warmly, his eyes glistening. Then his brow creased, and he said, Actually, were still in orbit around the sun. Escape velocity must be
Dave grabbed Franks head and covered his mouth with his own. For a long moment their tongues wrestled. Daves won. Thatll teach you to mess up my poetic imagery, he said.
You had me worried for a minute, there, pal. I thought you were gonna back off and never touch me again. I... want you to know that Ill respect whatever limits you set.
I... Dont take this personally. I like you, Frank. Id do almost anything for you. Hell, I admit, Im turned on by your body, and I like having your hands and mouth on my body. But I just dont want to have homosexual sex.
Frank stared at him, then said, Wait a minute. Define homosexual sex.
Embarrassed, Dave stammered out a definition.
Oh, yeah. Greek sex. A lot of guys like that. It stimulates one guys penis and the other guys prostate. Ive tried it once or twice, years ago, but I never really enjoyed it. In fact, Bill and I experimented with it when we first got together. We managed to get to the point where one of us found it mildly pleasant, and the other could tolerate it.
But Then what can two guys do, if not...
Well, all the same stuff a guy and a girl can do, except for the one obvious thing. Youve been with women, right?
Dave felt himself blushing. Dont tell anyone, but actually... Ive never actually had sex with a woman. With anyone.
I never got past third base.
Um, right. I must have left my straight dictionary at home. Whatever. Baseball isnt really my game.
To tell the truth, said Dave wryly, in Little League they always put me in right field.
Guess they never counted on you running into a southpaw hitter like me.
Dave studied his shoes. The view was partially occluded; now that he had relaxed, his erection had returned. So youre not after... what I assumed?
Nope. And if even I were into that, I would never force you to do anything you didnt want to.
PNP = 1, Frank said firmly.
Probability of no penetration equals a hundred percent. Dave grinned, wondering how many of Franks past lovers would have understood such an economical shorthand. Ah, the three little words Ive been longing to hear! But seriously... Frank, what do you want, if not...
To get more intimate with you, I guess. I think Id get pleasure out of almost anything youd care to do with me. That wouldnt be too hard, I have to admit, after months of no chance to so much as jerk off! But the idea of it being you is... real exciting. I feel about as close to you as I ever have with anybody, Dave, after all weve been through together, and what were working toward. And I want it to be something you enjoy. I want... I want to feel your body wracked with pleasure, and know that Im the cause of it.
Does that mean, said Dave, hardly daring to hope, youd consider giving me a blow job?
Huh! The way you say it, I dont know whether its me you want, or if Im just wearing a sign saying Last Chance for a Blow Job for 100,000,000 Miles! But he sounded more amused and excited than hurt.
Im sorry, Frank, I
Hey, I understand, buddy. I know its been a long time. He squeezed Daves shoulders. And believe me, on top of the pleasure of getting to suck you off, Ill enjoy watching your reaction as I give you the first orgasm youve had in who knows how long, and how many millions of miles knowing exactly how youre feeling.
Despite his arousal, Dave protested, I dont want you to feel like youre just I mean, it matters to me that its you, Frank. I want to get closer to you.
I believe you. And that means a lot to me. So do you want me to go down on you?
There is no up or down here.
And no top or bottom. Yeah, very funny. You dont have to evade the question. Ill take no for an answer. We can just... cuddle, if you want to. I can think of less pleasant ways to spend my day. Or we could... help each other jerk off. I dont want to push you; I want you to enjoy yourself.
I really want a blow job from you, Frank, he assured him, letting his excitement creep into his voice.
Great! He held up the restraints again. So let me just tie you up, and
Dave froze, and felt his erection suddenly subsiding. Uh, Frank, is that normally part of the procedure?
Not on Earth, no.
Oh. Yeah, I guess a sudden involuntary response could... Let me think about this.
Franks eyes gleamed, and he played with Daves collar. You said you trusted me, buddy. he reminded him softly. Besides, its not as though I havent had you tied up before.
Dave groaned involuntarily. Just the memory of it made him start to get hard again.
Stripped to your shorts, Frank reminded him evilly. Helpless. Spread-eagle. Your bare chest waiting for an icy lash from your own shirt.
Dave whimpered. At this rate, it would be all over before Frank could even get the flight suit off him.
Tell you what, Frank suggested, about five seconds before Dave would have begged him to strip him, tie him up, and finish what his verbal foreplay had started. Would you like to get your hands on me?
I got my hands on you yesterday.
Mmm! You sure did. But its obviously a lot more private here.
A hermetically sealed space pod, compared to under a table with our feet sticking out? Yeah, Id say so. The window was completely fogged up now, he noticed.
If you like, I can be the one tied up. You can do anything you want to me, Frank offered in a husky voice. I trust you not to hurt me. If I really want you to stop, Ill say Abort, okay? No, make it Avast; it means roughly the same thing, and I like the old-fashioned version better. Anything else I say, like stop, or no, doesnt count. You can be rough if you feel like it, or gentle, or anything you like. And Ill do anything you ask.
That... does sound like fun. Dave said, feeling his pulse race.
Do you want me to strip? Or do you want to take em off me?
Ill do it.
Frank handed him the restraints, breathing hard. Hands shaking, he put them on Franks wrists, raised his arms over his head, and rotated his body until he could stick the Velcro to two widely separated attachment points built into the pod wall. He then straddled Franks thighs, upside down, and gripped him with his knees so that he could tug off Franks shoes and remove his socks. When he had the second foot bare, he impulsively kissed the sole and ran his tongue briefly between his first and second toes, and was rewarded by a surprised gasp of pleasure from Frank.
Here he was, licking another guys body, and the other guy was actually enjoying it! And not just any other guy, but the man hed been lusting after every minute for a month or more, the comrade hed shared danger and triumph with. Excited, he wrapped the restraints around Franks bare ankles and attached them to the rug, leaving his legs spread as wide as they would comfortably stretch.
He rotated back and looked at his now helpless companion eye-to-eye. He reached out and ran his thumb possessively along an unshaven jaw. Ive got you now, buddy.
What are you gonna do to me? Frank whispered.
Dave grinned. Something wonderful.
He backed off and studied his partner from every possible angle. He had him spread-eagle in the middle of the pod, so he was exposed on all sides. Dave had a lot of experience in zero-gravity activities of the nonsexual varieties, of course and was pretty good at quickly convincing his brain that any convenient direction was down, without feeling the least bit queasy. Now he could put that skill to a novel use. He could choose to orient himself parallel to Frank, as though the other man were a prisoner hanging on the wall of a dungeon or a disobedient sailor suspended from the rigging. He could look down on him as though he were strapped to a table, face up or face down depending on the viewpoint Dave chose. He could stand at right angles between Franks legs, and place his face between them, something that would be hard to achieve on Earth unless one man was floating on the surface of a pool. (Years before, back when zero-gee training was still done underwater in pools in Houston, some of the divers that had trained Dave had had great bodies. But none of them had offered to train him in this position, which he figured would have interesting possibilities once he got Franks clothes off.) He finally buried his face in the hair on the crown of Franks head, while cupping the rough chin in his hand. His free hand ran down Franks throat, dove into his open flight suit and under his T-shirt, and played with his sparse chest hair. His fingers didnt have much freedom this way, so he withdrew and slid the zipper down a few inches, then slid his hand back in. Franks T-shirt still offered some resistance, stretched against the back of his hand, but it was unable to prevent his fingers from reaching down and sliding over to play with one of Franks nipples. Pleased with the sudden change in the tempo of Franks breathing, he slid the hand to the center of his chest and spread it flat, to feel the air raggedly entering and exiting Franks lungs, the strong heart rapidly pumping blood to every part of Franks body. Finally withdrawing his hand, he used the open collar of the Franks flight suit as an anchor while he slowly manuevered until he was floating in front of him, eye to eye, still gripping the collar. Franks eyes were closed, and his lips were parted. He looked as though he would have sunk limply to the floor if there had been any gravity pulling on him.
He then moved to the side of Franks head and explored his ear with his tongue. Frank tossed his head despite his promise of complete submission, and Dave kept finding himself pushed away with each toss. Even the slight pressure exerted by his own tongue pushed him away. He solved both problems by gripping a handful of Franks hair. Just as well he hadnt cut it lately. Meanwhile, his left hand fumbled to find the zipper pull again. Frank wasnt squirming much now, but he was breathing hard enough to make this a challenge.
Eventually, he was able to unzip the flight suit to the waist, and wrap his legs around Franks ribcage inside the open uniform. He grabbed his right wrist, tugged it free of the Velcro, and pulled the flight suit sleeve over it. Carefully re-securing it, he mouthed the hairs on the exposed forearm. Then he freed, stripped, and re-bound Franks left arm. As promised, Frank made no attempt to resist. Dave rotated himself until he was upside-down, and then, holding onto Frank by his biceps, hoisted himself up until he could take the hem of Franks T-shirt between his teeth. He squeezed Franks biceps and pulled himself slowly back down, inching up Franks torso, tugging the shirt with him, exposing belly, then chest. When it was bunched up as far as it would go, he planted a trail of light kisses from Franks navel down to the patch of hair at the center of his chest. Frank sighed deeply, his torso going through an interesting series of contortions. Finally, Dave used his hands to pull the shirt over Franks head and off of one arm. He considered leaving it on the other arm so it would stay put, but decided he wanted Franks shirt entirely off. He pulled it off and let it drift where it would.
He made another complete circuit of Franks body now that he was bare to the waist. It was fun to watch him, from every possible vantage point, as he arched his back and sucked in his stomach in response to various stimuli, such as a hand lightly tracing his spine or a tongue touching a nipple. Finally he placed himself face to face well, face to stomach with his captive.
Reaching down into the lower half of Franks flight suit, he anchored himself with two fingers hooked under the waistband of his shorts. With his tongue, he then traced a line from Franks navel, up his belly, over his right nipple, into his armpit Franked squirmed so hard that Dave was thrown off him off by this point; he recovered by grabbing Franks right elbow; hed have had to shift his grip soon anyway. He continued licking, up over his shoulder to his neck, over his throat, down to the other armpit, across the muscular back, then down between his shoulder blades and along the spine. He had to stop take a sip from the pods small supply of drinking water, from all the salt on his friends skin.
He was beginning to feel overdressed, and was getting uncomfortably warm in his flight suit. He stripped down to his underwear, with Frank watching avidly. Too bad; it might have been fun to let Frank take a turn at stripping him. Maybe it would be worth getting dressed again later, just for that.
He approached him from the side again and got a firm grip on his shorts and shoulder, with his thumb idly playing in the hairs of his armpit. Not very ticklish here, are you? But I havent forgotten your weakness. He ran his tongue vertically between certain ribs, and was almost thrown into the wall by the reaction. He shifted to an unbreakable grip, with one arm over the chest, the other under the back, and his fingers interlaced. Frank protested for the first time, between gasps for air. Stop! Not fair! No! Please, no! None of those were the magic word, so he went on mericlessly, pausing only to point out, I have the past few weeks to pay you back for. Youre lucky theres no ice in here.
He continued, giving no quarter, until it was clear that Frank was beyond having enough breath left to ask him to stop even if he seriously wanted it. Dave was forced to back off and let him recover. He actually considered turning the oxygen up to see if it would let him drive Frank past the point where tickling would become self limiting, but decided that this was a bad place to take any risks.
I feel like I ought to make you answer a few questions, he said when Frank had caught his breath, now that Ive got you at my mercy.
Poole! Frank! intoned Frank stoically. He bravely gulped in another a breath. Deputy Commander, Discovery 1. Serial number he lost control of his voice as Daves fingers unerringly returned to that spot between his ribs.
Ve have vays of making you talk, he observed.
Okay, okay! Frank gasped. What do you want to know?
The secret codes, of course. He was kidding, but suddenly it struck Dave that Frank really did know some secret codes.
I dont know what youre talking about.
That weird question about movies was one of the codes, wasnt it? On your birthday.
Oh. Yeah, youve figured it out. Its one of the ways we identify each other.
Yeah. Gay men gay is the code for homosexual are supposed to be fans of certain actresses and singers. Even the ones that dont give a shit about them will use it as a recognition code.
You mean you identify with actresses? I cant imagine that of you, Frank. It was especially hard, looking at him now, to imagine him as anything but male through and through stripped to the waist as he was, his trim, muscular body glistening with sweat. A powerful, strong man, though totally helpless at the moment. I know you dont mean youre attracted to those women. That wouldnt make sense. So you must be saying you identify with them.
A lot of it doesnt make sense to me either; Ive never gotten into it, personally. Want to hear my theory?
Frank thought for a minute. Everyone wants to identify with what they see in movies. Not just the adventure parts, but the romatic parts too; Hollywood always sticks in some kind of love interest. And every movie they ever made was designed to make that identification easy for heterosexuals; thats all theyre allowed to show. Even though rumor has it that the movie industry has more than its share of homosexuals, theyre afraid to show anything but heterosexuality on the screen, especially since the McCarthy witchhunts.
Dave was fascinated by this piece of intelligence. You mean a lot of actors are just pretending
All actors are just pretending, Dave. Thats their job. What I mean is that a lot of actors are homosexual men portraying hetereosexual characters. You never see it the other way around, of course. Hell, you never gay characters portrayed by gay actors. Slime creatures from the black lagoon, yes, but always heterosexual slime creatures from the black lagoon. Movies are filled with blatant hetereosexuality. If youre a homosexual man, you have two choices. One is to identify with the leading lady who gets the handsome leading man, which sort of turns a hetereosexual relationship into a homosexual one. That way has never appealed to me, personally.
And the other way?
To turn a nonsexual relationship into a homosexual one. Identify with a pair of close friends, and read more into the relationship than youre supposed to.
Like I used to do with Ben-Hur and other movies.
I take it you always liked movies about gladiators, sailors, pirates...? Cop shows?
Yeah. Im going to have to think about what this implies about me. Later. Right now Im busy thinking of, he cupped Franks chin in his hand, war movies. He ran his fingers up Franks upraised arms and over his naked torso.
Thats all youre getting from me, you bastard, Frank said on cue.
Well see about that, my friend. He began roughly pulling the flight suit down his legs.