Second Toughest in the Infants

By Kai Wailbone

Author's note: A ***WARNING*** for this chapter -- it gets a little rough. If you're easily offended, I would just skim this chapter. It's not gratuitous, it actually has something to do with the story -- those of you who read it will (hopefully) understand.

ADDITIONALLY -- The stupid people at Excite Mail have screwed with my address book, so... if you wanted to be on my mailing list, and haven't been receiving updates, send me another note, and I'll put it in manually. My most profuse apologies for that.

To Rachel and Nicole -- for making me laugh and forcing me not to take O-Town too seriously


This isn't real. Leave if you're underage. I can't make it any simpler.

Once again, using stuff from "Moonshadow," specifically the strange little quotes I have between each section. See the previous chapter for copyright information.

Also -- Jacob is seen mouthing the words to a song he's listening to. These words are from the Live song "The Distance," by Ed Kowalczyk from the album The Distance To Here, c. 1999

The title is from the Underworld album "Second Toughest in the Infants." The chapter headings are from lyrics or song titles.

p.s. -- i like e-mail and encouragement.

Second Toughest in the Infants

Chapter Seven -- At the water's edge

"I'm aware what the rules are

but you know that I will run

you know that I will follow you"

Erik licked at the drip of melting ice cream, but some of it managed to fall onto his fingers anyway. Switching the cone to his other hand, he studiously licked his fingers clean.

Trevor paused, waiting for him to finish before starting to walk again. "So we're in agreement?"

Erik nodded, but still didn't look directly at Trevor. "Yeah, I guess," he said nonchalantly.

Trevor sighed in relief. It wasn't much, but he'd take it.

Behind them, a cameraman followed dutifully, a constant frustration as the conversation continued -- at least for Trevor. He was rapidly finding out just how bad he was at discussing things when he couldn't say exactly what he wanted to say. Taking a bite from his own ice cream cone, he nodded.

"Okay... so no meeting."

"Not yet, at least," Erik said looked studiously at the remaining lump of ice cream. "I still think there's a problem, and it needs to be dealt with. Soon. I mean, we learned what happens when we keep secrets, right?"

"Right." Trevor hesitated. It was going so well so far, with Erik agreeing not to antagonize anyone into talking about Jacob and Ashley... yet... "I totally agree with you, but... um... so, um... about you and Jacob..."

Erik laughed shortly and shook his head. "We're not going there. Just stop while you're ahead, dude."


"Not talkin' about it. Not now, dude."

"Why not?"

Erik shrugged. "It's just not something I feel like getting into right now."

"I think we need to work this out. I think this is a problem we need to deal with. Soon."



"Why?" Erik turned to glance at Trevor. "Why is it so important to you that we all get along?"

"Because..." Trevor thought quickly, searching for something to say. "Because we're a band, we need to --"

"Bullshit," Erik interrupted calmly. "That's such bull, and you know it. You've got something personal in this. So personal you've been acting like a fuckin' headless chicken running around trying to get people to like each other. What the hell's all this about?"

"Because..." Trevor trailed off, and remained quiet as he took another bite of his cone. After a few seconds he finally took a deep breath and said, "Because it's all my fault."


Trevor shrugged casually, a motion that contradicted his pained expression. "This... all of this."

Erik frowned. "How can this be your fault?" he asked.

"I..." Trevor took another deep breath, sorting through his thoughts, trying to find a way to say it without revealing the truth. "I told Jacob everything would be okay if... you know, everything was out in the opened."

Erik was silent for a moment. "And?"

"And... obviously it wasn't. Maybe it would have sometime in the future, after we'd gotten to know each other a bit better. Maybe it never should have come up. The point is... I told him it would be okay. And it wasn't. And now... now we've got even more problems, and I was the cause of it all."

Erik studied his ice cream cone, choosing his words carefully. "Trev... it... don't take this the wrong way, I'm not apologizing, but... don't take it like that. It wasn't your fault."

Trevor laughed bitterly. "How can you say that?"

"Because..." Erik sighed heavily. "Even though I am not apologizing... because it's my fault."

Trevor looked over at Erik sharply. "What?"

Erik shrugged. "Sure. You had no idea I would act that way... and really, I'm the only one responsible for my behavior."

"No, man, you don't understand... I told him you wouldn't react this way. I should have known..."

"Known what?"

"Well, that you weren't..." Trevor stopped short. "Um... no, I just didn't think... I mean, how you would react."

"Yeah... why did you tell him it would be okay?" Erik smiled slightly. "I mean, you do know how I felt about fags, don't you?"

Trevor hesitated. "Well... I guess, I just... I mean, I thought you..."

"You thought I what?"

Trevor shrugged and kept walking. "I thought you were just joking," he said weakly.

Erik watched Trevor walk away, then shrugged. Trevor wasn't telling him the whole truth, Trevor was transparent enough for anyone to see that. He just didn't feel like pursuing it. Taking a bite from the edge of his cone, Erik hurried to catch up with Trevor.


I turned my back on boyhood -- and took my first awkward steps toward... I hesitate to call it maturity or adulthood -- for both words carry with them a sense of joyless resignation that is, in it's own way, rather infantile.




"Who was it?"

"It was Lou."

"Oh... what did he have to say?"

"Not much... he asked some rather pointed questions, though."

"About what?"

"About Jacob."


"Specifically, if we'd noticed any behavior changes, suggesting he might be... well, he didn't say `gay,' but he might as well have."



"How did he --"

"I don't know."

"No one knows, except..."

"We don't know who knows. And we don't even know if he really knows. Let's just keep calm, and see what he's going to do."

"Do you think he knows about the contract plans?"

"The way he was talking, I would doubt it."

"Well, that's good, right?"

"I don't know... there's still a lot that's in the air."

"Which means?"

"Which means I might not be able to go with you."

"What do you mean?"

"To the contract table. At this point, I'll be lucky to keep my job if this all goes sour."

"So you're staying with Trans Con?"

"I may need to."


"Look, we've already risked so much already. Let's not get greedy."

"But it was your idea..."

"Maybe. But you can handle this just fine."

"You can handle it better."

"In the end, it's not about you or me."

"Okay, I'll accept that. But Jay..."

"No. We could all get in trouble if this blows up. It might sound self-centered, but you have less to lose if it comes to a straight-forward power struggle."

"No arguments here."

"Okay... let me call Jeremy, see what he has to say."

"Oh... yeah, look, um... that's another thing."


"I can't handle Jeremy. He hates me."

"Work it out."


"Work it out. You two will need to work together closely if everything happens the way I'm afraid it will now."

"I really don't think that's going to work."

"Neither do I. But that can't be helped. Tell him I had to go back to Florida, but let him know he can still take the guys for a couple of days to his sister's house. That'll put him in a good mood."

"He still doesn't trust me."

"And he has good reason not to. Earn it back."

"Okay... I still wish you were doing this yourself."

"So do I. But things are in motion, now, that we can't control. We just have to make the best of it."


I was alone. Around me, the mists cleared, and I saw that I stood in a familiar forest. "How did I get here," I wondered, "so far from the battlefield?"


"Yeah... no, I understand... as soon as I can, promise... well, they say we'll get a couple of days for Christmas... I don't know... yeah... yeah, I guess..."

Dan smirked at Ashley and rolled his eyes. Cindy was in one of her "I miss you more" moods, and as much as he loved her sentimentality, he felt the uncontrollable guy-urge to make fun of her in front of Ashley.

Ashley, on the other hand, barely paid attention. His head was throbbing painfully, and it was all he could do to sit still on the couch, a cold Coke in his hands. Dan had come in with his phone almost an hour ago and bounced onto the couch beside him. Silently, with an attitude that allowed no argument, Ashley grabbed Dan's legs and held them firmly in his lap, keeping Dan from moving the couch. After a moment of giving Ashley a questioning look, Dan just shrugged and continued talking to Cindy.

The television was on, and Ashley watched it mindlessly. Maybe it was the hangover. Or Dan's almost aggressive obliviousness to his discomfort. Or Jacob, who obviously made it a point to get up before he did and leave. Or... but it didn't matter. Ashley was still pissed as hell.

Last night was a blur of pent up frustration. He vaguely remembered Nick laughing at him as he got more and more intoxicated, and Jeremy looking at them disapprovingly. Then... something with Nick in one of the dark rooms, and...

"Mmmmmhhhhph..." Ashley moaned softly as he lowered his head, lifting his hand to squeeze his temple as if that would make the pain go away. Taking another sip of his Coke, he had to take a deep breath before he was able to swallow it without vomiting.

"Nah, that was just Ash... yeah, he's sick... what? No, he went to a party and got drunk last night..." Dan laughed. "Yeah, cute little Ashley got drunk." Glancing down at Ashley, he nudged his foot against Ashley's arm. With a swift motion, Ashley grabbed Dan's ankles in his hands and squeezed them firmly.

"What?" Dan continued. "Oh... I did not... no! Hah... yeah, I can... oh, you don't think I can? I can... you know me, and my miracle-working tongue..." Dan laughed again and when Ashley glanced at him from the edge of his vision, he saw Dan reach down and adjust himself in his boxers. "Yeah... okay, you do that... no, I'll wait... yeah, right now... no, I want to hear this... yeah..." Finally Dan looked up at Ashley and moved the phone away from his mouth. "Hey, Ash."

Ashley turned his head slowly. "Hey, Dan." Unable to help himself, he glanced down at Dan's boxers, but quickly looked away again.

"What was that?" Dan asked.

"What?" Ashley didn't turn from the TV.

"That look."

"What look?"

"Did you just look at my dick?"


"Yes, you did."

"No, I didn't."

Dan tried to nudge Ashley again with his feet, but Ashley held them still. "You're not going gay on us, are you Ash?"

Ashley laughed sarcastically. "Yeah, Dan, I'm going gay. All this time with girls has been an act, to gain your trust so I could get into your pants." Rubbing his temples with his fingers he took another sip of soda.

Dammit, Dan, he thought, I do not want to talk about sex right now. Nick had been such a bitch... letting Ashley get all hot and bothered, kissing his neck, rubbing his body real close... then, out of the fucking blue, asking who Jacob was.

Ashley resisted shaking his head in irritation, since every movement felt like broken glass was being ground in his joints. Why did Nick ask about Jacob? Who told him about Jacob? And why should it matter? It certainly didn't to Ashley -- but, apparently, it did to Nick. As soon as Ashley -- by this time intoxicated enough to say just about anything -- explained, in explicit detail, exactly what Jacob and Ashley were up to, Nick instantly backed off, cooling things down with that maddeningly calm smile he had, gently but firmly turning each of Ashley's advances away.

Then there was that kid with the accent, Dave...

"...for now."

Ashley looked up, startled. He hadn't even realized Dan was still talking to him. "Huh?"

Dan laughed. "I said you should have hangovers more often, if you're going to give me a massage."

"Wha --" Ashley looked down to where he was still holding Dan's ankles in his hands, except at some point in the past few minutes he had started unconsciously rubbing them with his hands. "Oh..." Ashley pulled his hands away.

"No, no, you don't need to stop." Dan grinned at him. "I don't mind at all."

"Oh, really?" Ashley asked, mimicking Dan's tone. "You sure you're not going gay on us?"

Dan chuckled. "Yeah, I'm going gay on you, while on the phone to my girlfriend."

"I don't hear you talkin'."

"She's going to get her yearbook, she thinks I wrote something I know I didn't write in it."

"Hmmm." Ashley nodded, and glanced up at Dan's boxers again. In spite of his headache, and maybe due to his pent-up sexual frustration, he was starting to get a little turned on by Dan's legs on his lap. Reaching down, he started rubbing Dan's ankles again, but this time, he did it slower, more purposefully. "You miss her?"

"Oh, yeah," Dan said, nodding.

"What do you miss most?"

"Her smile... her eyes... her hand," Dan said with a wicked grin.

"Uh... huh..." Ashley casually ran a finger up Dan's leg, stopping just below the knee. "You miss her a lot, I guess."

Dan's eyes followed Ashley's hand. "Yeah..." he said slowly.

"But you'd never... ever cheat on her, right?"

"Of... of course not."

Ashley smiled up at Dan. He was starting to feel a little better, and messing with Dan's head was turning a bad morning into a tolerable morning. "After all," he continued, "that's what God gave us two hands for, right? Oh, wait... or do you only use one hand?"

Dan sneered at Ashley and glanced away, but Ashley could see him shifting his body, trying to make the growing tent in his boxers unnoticeable without actually reaching down and adjusting himself.

"Da-an," Ashley said softly.

Dan glanced at him, trying hard to look annoyed. "What?" he asked.

Ashley just smiled sweetly at him.

Dan looked away quickly, swallowing hard. He started to pull his legs off of Ashley's lap, but Ashley held them in place, one hand still rubbing his ankles, the other gently stroking his calf. When Dan didn't try to pull away harder, Ashley's smile widened.


Dan jumped, startled, and dropped his phone. Ashley held his head and groaned.

"Trevor, please, not so loud!"

Trevor leaned over the back of the couch, smiling. "Sorry."

Dan picked up his phone, listened for a moment, then, satisfied he hadn't disconnected the call, glared at Trevor. "What do you want?" he asked.

"Sheez... just saying we're leaving for the photo shoot in ten minutes. You," Trevor nodded to Dan, "need to get dressed. And you," he leaned down next to Ashley's head, "need to take a shower."

"Ugh..." Ashley slowly stood up, dropping Dan's legs to the floor. "I'm up, I'm up... and I'll be down there in fifteen."


"Fifteen," Ashley said firmly, gulping the last of his soda. "Or I could just not show up at all."

Trevor paused, then shrugged. "Okay, it's your funeral... Dan?"

Dan looked up, feeling irrationally guilty and surprised. "Huh?"

Trevor looked at Dan strangely. "You okay, dude?"

"Uh... yeah, yeah, fine." Dan started to stand up when he realized he was still in his boxers, which did nothing to hide what was happening below his waist. Sitting up, he motioned to his phone. "Um... just on the phone with Cin."

"Okay... well, tell her we've got to go." Trevor turned and left.

Dan lowered his head into his hands. Through the door connecting to Jacob and Ashley's room, he heard the shower being turned on. The shower... Ashley... shaking his head he forced himself to calm down. It was just a hand... it could have been anyone's hand... it didn't mean anything... right?


I was weary; I was wounded; I craved a warm, dark womb. But no womb was forthcoming: my journey to awakening had many miles to go.


Jacob knew he was going to be late.

Walking along the sunny street, he immersed himself in the loud music coming through his earphones. Nodding his head to the beat and silently mouthing the words along with vocals, he made his way along the narrow strip of cement by the beach.

"Guess it's natural to feel this way, oh, let's hold out for something sweeter, spread your wings and fly..."

The photo shoot was a million miles and a hundred years away as far as he was concerned. The band was a dim and fading memory, his responsibilities, dreams, hopes, aspirations... none of it mattered. All that mattered was the song in his ears, his own feet... and Ashley.

He wasn't an idiot. He knew what he wanted. He knew how he wanted things to be -- he'd dreamed so many times over the past few months every different possibility and every scenario. All the good things. All the bad things. Everything in between. But this... this was different. It wasn't good, but he couldn't bring himself to think it was bad. It was what he wanted, what he had wanted, for so long...

But they could work it out. That much he believed firmly, without question or doubt. All he needed to do was sit down with Ash, talk to him, explain to him exactly what he wanted. He was sure Ashley was just like him -- a romantic who just wanted someone to stay with, someone to be with for the rest of his life. He could remember Ashley talking endlessly about Shelli for months, how he'd always imagined they'd be together forever... he wasn't the kind of person who wanted to be single, just having fun his whole life. All he needed was someone to hold on to...

"Oh, the distance is not do-able, in these bodies of clay, my brother..."

Then there was Nick...


What had he said?

I like the stray puppy-dog look... kinda like you...

What did he mean by that? And where did he get off, telling Jacob he was more of his "type" than Ashley? What was that, some sort of come-on? Well, it didn't work. Jacob was in love with Ashley. He was unavailable, no matter how cute the guy was.

Yeah... love. That which overcomes. That which survives through everything. Jacob had that.

But does he have it for you, too?

Stupid, fucking nagging voice... he blamed Jeremy for that. That nagging doubt, from Jeremy sitting there that day he'd first come out, way back in another lifetime, when Jeremy, so confident and knowing, said there was no chance. Told him not to even think...

Well he was wrong, wasn't he?

Jacob smiled humorlessly. Yeah, he was. He had Ashley, something Jeremy, self-proclaimed fucking guru on all things gay -- something he didn't know. Something he didn't see. Jacob didn't need him -- he had what he most wanted in all the world...

But are you happy?

Jacob shoved that thought aside. He was happy. He was content. He had what he most wanted in all the world. Nothing could be better.

All he needed -- all he wanted -- was some time alone with Ashley. Time where they could sit down and just talk, work out what they were going through, where this was all going. He was sure Ashley would understand, Jacob needed some certainty in this. After all, Ashley should understand -- all he'd wanted was a little certainty with Shelli. He would understand. Sure. Because he'd been through the same thing.

" a moment peace came over me, and the one who was beatin' my heart appeared..."

Turning away from the water, Jacob started walking back in the direction the hotel. He felt better, now. Now he could concentrate, now he could face the day. The photo shoot was important -- he'd be a couple of minutes late, but someone else would be later, so it wouldn't matter. So it would be okay.

Mentally, as almost an after thought, he made a note to talk to Jeremy later that day, ask him if he knew what Nick could mean by what he said. Not that it was important. He was just... curious.


I'll give you Oz! I'll give you Neverland! I'll give you Brooklyn and Satori! Oh, I swear, my little shadows -- I'll give you...

...once upon a time...


"Good afternoon?"

"Hello, Jeremy?"

"Speaking... who's this?"

"Mike Cronin."

"What? Mike, how the hell did you..."

"Jeremy, please, I don't have time for this."

"Then fuck you, I have no time to be bothered with this."

"Look, I have a message for you."

"Great, who from?"


"Oh... okay, what is it?"

"He's going back to Florida."




"He, uh... got a call from Lou."

"Really? About what?"

"About Jacob."

"About Jacob? Specifically? Are you sure?"

"That's what he said."

"Why didn't he call me?"

"He tried, you didn't answer."

"And he didn't leave a message?"

"I guess not."

"Swell... so what's going on, now?"

"Well, the guys have a photo shoot today, and he said that you could still take the guys for a couple days to your sister's place."


"But... Jeremy, he's worried."


"Yeah... that Lou might know about Jacob."

"What? Who could have told him?"

"We don't know."

"I mean, the only people who know are the guys and myself. At least that was my understanding."

"You never know what those microphones pick up."

"No, they would have been more careful than this. Unless you have their rooms bugged?"

"What? No!"

"Well, I wouldn't put it past you guys..."

"Look, I just needed to let you know what's going on."

"How kind of you."

"And we need you back, soon."

"I thought the video shoot was almost over. My part is done..."

"We need your help for the mastering."

"That wasn't in the deal."

"Jay said you wouldn't mind."

"He... damn him... okay, fine. We'll talk about it later."

"Okay. And Jeremy?"


"Just... did anything happen the other day with Ashley?"


"Just... he and Jacob don't seem to be getting along."

"Have they ever?"

"I guess not. Okay, thanks, Jeremy."

"Yeah, bye."


But, as childish absorption gave way to boyish curiosity, I discovered that contentment is a fleeting thing, easily slain by yearning.


"Okay, Trevor? Turn slightly to the side... other side... that's it. Now, impress me, talk to me, give me expressions with your eyes..."

Trevor looked at the camera, giving an exaggerated expression that made Erik laugh and Jacob roll his eyes. In the second before the camera flashed, Jacob turned away slightly, ruining yet another shot.

"Jacob, how many times must I say it... the camera is this way, please!"

Nodding sullenly, Jacob looked at the photographer.

"No, a bit closer to Ashley."

Looking down at his feet, he shuffled ever so slightly to his right.


Jacob shuffled over a little bit more.

Dan sighed loudly, but didn't say anything. He'd seen Jacob and Ashley shouting at each other before the shoot, arguing about something or another. Everyone had pretended not to notice, looking quietly and uncomfortably at the floor or the wall. Dan was starting to regret his decision to cancel the meeting to handle this, because now it was starting to effect their work...

"Erik, you could try smiling... yeah, that's it! No, not quite so... yeah... there you go, beautiful..."

After the flash blinked again, Erik turned and winked at Trevor. "What do you think?"

Trevor laughed. "So fake, man, so fake. You look like a jack-o-lantern."

Erik punched him lightly on the shoulder. "Shut up, man."

"Well, it's true. Your best smiles are without so much teeth, man."

"Could be worse..." Erik waited for Dan to come close enough to hear. "I could have these horse-teeth like Dan."

"Wha... hey!" Dan laughed. "I have really nice teeth."

"Oh, sure... they're just so huge!"

Dan rolled his eyes as Erik and Trevor laughed. "You two are horrible, you know that?"

"Yeah, well..." Erik calmed down a bit. "Look, dude... is it okay if I bail out on you tonight?"

"Bail?" Dan asked, confused.

"Gentlemen!" The photographer called. "Over here, please."

Flash. Flash.

"What do you mean bail?" Dan asked between flashes.

"I'm staying with Trev tonight, is that cool?"

"Uh... sure." Dan waited for the flashes to stop before turning to Erik. "Why wouldn't I be?"

Erik shrugged. "Dunno, just thought you should know."

"Yeah, no problem."

"Okay, guys, take a break." The photographer snapped the film out of her camera and walked off to the side, talking to one of the crew.

Dan sighed as he reached for his water bottle. "Too many lights," he groaned.

"Tell me about it," Trevor said as he sank into a chair.

"So... Erik, you're leaving me alone?" Dan asked.

"Yeah... Trev and I need to talk about stuff." Erik looked at Dan. "You don't mind, do you?"

"What? No!" Dan stretched a bit and yawned. "Maybe I can actually get some sleep tonight."

"Hey, my headphones were not that loud."

"No, of course not. That loud music must have been my imagination."

"Must have been." Erik grinned. "So it's cool?"

"Yeah, man, it's cool." Dan crossed his arms. "Having a room to myself? No complaints here."

"Um, Dan?"

Dan looked up, his heart leaping with an irrational lurch at the sound of the familiar voice behind him. "Ash! Uh... hi, dude, what's up?"

Ashley smiled innocently at Dan. "Um... hi. I have a favor to ask you."

Dan instinctively glanced behind Ashley. Sure enough, Jacob was standing a short distance off, staring at the floor. He was just close enough to possibly be able to hear, but he wasn't sure.

"Um... yeah, what is it?"

"Well..." Ashley shrugged. "Jacob and I... we're not getting along right now. And... well, I was wondering if I could stay in your room tonight. I wouldn't ask," he added quickly, "except I heard Erik was staying with Trevor tonight, otherwise I might have asked Trevor."

Dan glanced at Erik, who shrugged. Dan didn't feel very comfortable with this, especially with... well, with his... and the way...

"Sure," Dan heard himself say. "I see no reason why not."

Ashley smiled. "Thanks, Dan. Thanks a lot."

Dan shuddered. He didn't like that smile. It had been... knowing, and... well... he remembered the expression of smiling "like a cat who swallowed the canary." And that was the kind of smile Ashley had. As if he was a cat, who had just swallowed the bird.

Except that made no sense.

"Yeah... yeah, sure," Dan said with a shrug. "No problem."


Yet I must admit that I harbored doubts (tiny, persistent, and, ultimately, proved right) about even this noble notion. Though the seeds of cynicism had yet to be sown in my stubbornly-romantic soul, the first buds of skepticism were already opening...

...and I did my utmost to ignore them as we drew near...


Ashley laughed. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," Dan called.

"So I can use all the hot water?"

"Go for it."

"Okay..." With that Ashley closed the bathroom door.

As the sound of the shower coming on drifted to the bedroom, Dan leaned back and stared at the ceiling. What was he doing? What was going on? He'd roomed with Ashley a hundred thousand times over the past year, and never felt this way. Even in the beginning, when he wasn't sure if anyone was gay, or bi, or would be looking at him when he was in the dressing room. He'd always been comfortable and un-self-conscious, never caring what was going on as long as the job got done. Even after Jacob and Ashley started carrying on, he hadn't cared about changing in the group dressing rooms, or practicing without his shirt on, because... well, because he was straight, and Cindy...

Cindy was his saving grace. He could safely turn away all the girls who threw themselves at him with the blanketing, no-arguments-possible line, "I've got a girlfriend." No one even ever thought for a moment he would swerve from his devotion because... well, Cindy...


Dan closed his eyes. It had been a long time. Months. And he really was starting to feel the strain of not having someone... close... as it were. And after all, would another guy really be cheating? Because it was a different kind of situation, and after all it was just another guy...

What the fuck?

Dan shuddered with revulsion. What was he thinking? Having sex with Ashley? Or, for that matter, Jacob? Or any guy? That wasn't him. It made no sense. He had no desire whatsoever to do it. Flat out, straight out, he was straight. No arguments.

I have a girlfriend.

"Hey, Dan."

Dan jumped at the voice and sat up to see Ashley standing beside the bed, his hair still wet from the shower, dressed only in the towel he had wrapped around his waist. How much time had passed? Had he really been so out of it that Ashley had been able to take a shower -- from experience, he knew Ashley liked taking long, hot showers -- dry off, and come in without his noticing?

Come to think of it, how long had he been staring without answering Ashley? Dan suddenly realized he was staring at Ashley, and not just his face -- at his stomach, right where the towel was tucked carefully to hold it up.

I have a girlfriend.

"Uh... hey."

Ashley smiled, a mischievous smile that so nearly resembled a smirk, a smile that made Dan swallow hard. "You can use the bathroom, now."

"The... oh." Dan mentally shook himself. "Yeah, thanks." Getting up, he was suddenly aware of an erection pressing against the inside of his pants. Turning away quickly, he picked up his towel and held in front to hide it. "I'll... see ya'," he said, and, face burning in embarrassment, walked quickly to the bathroom.

See ya'? What, was he going somewhere? No, just to the bathroom. Dan closed the door behind him and took a deep breath.

Calm down, Danny boy. It's okay, it's all good. This is just Ashley, remember? And anyway, we don't really know that anything's going on between him and Jacob... after all, wasn't Ashley just all broken up over Shelli? A girl for Chrissakes! Get a grip.

With another deep breath, Dan felt so much better. Turning, he wiped the steam off the mirror and picked up his tooth brush.

I have a girlfriend, after all.


Poor child: I couldn't fathom why my dear friend had betrayed me. Was I such an awful companion, I wondered; such a vile boy? Or was this punishment for my sins?


Jacob stared at the empty bed, standing shirtless in the darkened hotel room, cluttered as it was, but still so cold and vacant. So quiet. So... empty.

With a sigh, Jacob undid his pants and let them slip to the floor, heading for the bed he and Ashley had shared until a couple of days ago. It seemed so cold, so large, and so uncomfortable, with each fold of the hotel-issue sheets digging into his skin like jagged rocks.

Shifting uncomfortably, he mentally berated himself.

It's my fault.

Always was. He always pushed too far, asked too much, laid that extra straw that breaks the camel's back. What was wrong with him? Acting like a little, bitchy girlfriend, wanting to talk about "where this relationship is going," needing to be validated and assured that everything was going just the way he wanted. How could he do that to Ashley? No wonder Ashley got mad and decided to stay in Dan's room.

For a brief instant, Jacob considered calling Dan's room to talk to Ashley. But he steeled himself against it. He didn't want to seem needy, co-dependent... and clingy. Because he wasn't. He was independent. He could give Ashley his space...

But still...

But still nothing. He wasn't calling. He could go one night without hearing Ashley's voice. He'd waited over a year for Ashley to be in his arms, he could wait another night.

But still...

Jacob turned onto his other side. He would give anything for Ashley to be back here tonight. He would do whatever Ashley wanted... no more gentle scoldings and delays, no more denying him what he wanted. He would go as far as Ashley wanted, and leave him alone, he didn't need to get off, he didn't need to be cuddled or held. He didn't care, as long as Ashley was here...

Because he was dying here, without him. It was true. The pain was pushing up from somewhere deep inside, and it was slowly but surely tearing him apart. And he couldn't even turn to God, who had comforted him and guided him his whole life, because what if God didn't like what he was doing? How could he ask God for help when God Himself might strike him down for even wanting it...

oh ashley

He would give it all up, all his dreams and goals and desires, he would even let these feelings tear him to shreds and give up his life if only Ashley would come back for this one final night

oh god ashley i need you

but he could take this. Curling tightly into a ball, he clutched himself tightly, bowing his head until his forehead touched his knees. As if he could keep himself together by sheer physical strength.

That's how he fell asleep, curled into a ball, that slowly loosened as his body relaxed, until it was merely a fetal position, and then, finally, when his conscious mind could no longer control his emotions, he cried silently into his pillow.


But the human (and inhuman, and semi-human) heart is a complex and unfathomable thing: a miniature G'L-DOSES, beating within us. Just when we believe we know someone, understand his motivations, the strange urges that drive him...

...he does the unexpected.


Ashley watched Dan come out of the bathroom from the edge of his vision, making sure to keep his face turned to the television. He saw Dan pause, probably noticing that Ashley was still in his towel, then crossing the room to the other bed.

Ashley smiled to himself. Dan was so cute, thinking he didn't notice the looks, the hesitation... the desire. This would be so easy.

"So... Dan."

Dan noticeably jumped, and Ashley had to hold back a giggle. "Y-yeah?"

"What's up?"

Dan shrugged as he sat down on the side of his bed, carefully taking his socks off. "Not much."

"Uh-huh..." Ashley stretched back on the bed. "So... did Cindy ever find that yearbook thingy?"

"Huh?" Dan looked up, startled. "What?"

"The yearbook," Ashley said slowly. "That she was looking for? Remember, when you were talking to her this morning?"

"Uh... oh! Oh, yeah..." Dan smiled nervously. "No, she didn't find it."

"Too bad," Ashley said, acting for all the world as if everything was perfectly natural. "What did she think you wrote in it, anyway?"

"Just... uh... something sexual," Dan said. Standing up, he made his way over to the set of drawers the hotel provided. "She was sure I wrote something... sexual."

Ashley laughed softly. "Poor girl... did she like it or something?"

Dan laughed, a more real laugh this time. "No," he said, "she didn't. She was even a little upset, which was why she wanted to show me."

Ashley moved to the side of the bed, sitting at the edge, positioned right behind Dan, who didn't notice. Leaning close to Dan's ear, he whispered, "Poor thing... girls just don't understand that guys are more sexual, do they?"

Dan jumped slightly at the first sound of Ashley's voice, but didn't move. "Yeah, I guess," he said as he rummaged through the drawer, finally straightening, pulling out a pair of jeans and a shirt, apparently his outfit for the next day.

Ashley mentally rolled his eyes in bemusement. Dan, laying his clothes for the next day... how could he have forgotten how anal retentive this guy was? But he pushed these thoughts aside as he watched Dan walk over to the chair. If he watched closely, he could see a level of self-consciousness that wasn't there before. Dan was definitely getting more and more nervous.

Standing up, Ashley made his way across the room to stand just behind Dan. Reaching out, he gently stroked Dan's arm.


Dan turned quickly, to find himself mere inches away from Ashley. Quickly, as if he was afraid to be interrupted, he said, "I'm not gay."

Ashley cocked his head to the side, and in his most sympathetic voice, said, "Oh... poor thing... I know that. And Cindy knows and understands that. It's just... well, girls don't understand that a guy has needs, you know?"

Dan couldn't seem to keep his eyes off of Ashley's face. "Y-yeah, I guess."

Ashley laced his fingers through the hair at the back of Dan's head and pulled him closer. "Not that we're... you know... but we know that a man's got needs, am I right?"

"Yeah." Dan's voice sounded hoarse.

Ashley's smile widened. "After all... we're just a couple of guys... and since we do it to ourselves all the time, it's not... really cheating if another guys does it, right?"

"R-r... yeah, that's what... what I... I thought..." Dan stammered slightly, staring at Ashley smiling seductively at him.

And that was when Ashley knew he'd pushed Dan across that invisible line, away from his fears and paranoia, to where he'd be opened to anything -- anything -- Ashley would do. Ashley was in complete control... and Dan didn't even worship him like Jacob. Feeling a surge of giddiness from the power he suddenly had, Ashley did something he hadn't planned on doing: pulling Dan's face close, Ashley kissed him on the lips. Naturally Dan resisted, pulling back and trying to speak, but Ashley didn't release him. Strengthening his grip, he held Dan's head in place and forced his tongue through Dan's lips. After a second, Dan stopped trying to talk, and, after another few seconds, even stopped struggling. More confident now, Ashley removed his hands from Dan's head and moved them to his shoulders, and as he pressed their bodies together, he felt Dan kissing back.

Ashley had to force himself to resist pulling away and laughing. Or... not laughing, but positively crowing in triumphant joy. Dan was kissing him! For a moment, as he sucked on Dan's tongue, he enjoyed the thought of how embarrassed and disturbed Dan would be tomorrow morning -- or, hell, later tonight. Dan, Mr. I've-got-a-steady-girl, kissing another guy. Ashley felt a thrill of excitement. This was going to be fun.

Pulling back, Ashley looked at Dan for a moment. Dan's eyes were half closed, as if he weren't quite sure what was going on. Leaning forward, Ashley started to kiss Dan's neck, sucking and biting on the sensitive flesh, making Dan jerk and grip Ashley's shoulders hard. Ashley smiled to himself. Dan had always been very vocal and descriptive of exactly what Cindy did to drive him crazy, and now... now, Ashley used that to break through the last of Dan's resistance.

"Ash... Ash... oh... God..."

Dan's grip got tighter, and Ashley felt the insistent pressure of Dan's erection pressing against his leg. Moving his hand down, he traced his fingers along Dan's stomach and down to the straining zipper. In some distant part of his mind, he noticed that Dan was bigger than Jacob -- much bigger. Pushing these idle thoughts aside, he gripped the sizeable bulge in his fingers, and he squeezed it hard at the same time he bit down on Dan's neck. Dan instantly bucked against Ashley, his head snapping forward. Ashley felt Dan's quick, deep breathing against his ear, which excited him even more. Pulling back, Ashley looked at Dan's neck. There were red marks where he'd bitten down, and he knew that in the morning, there would be even darker marks where he'd sucked on the skin. Carefully resisting a smile, he looked into Dan's eyes, which were still closed.

"Dan," he whispered.

Dan opened his eyes, his breathing still rapid and halting. "Yih?"

Ashley bit his lower lip, more to keep from laughing than from passion. "Take off your shirt, sweetie."

Dan instantly gripped the bottom of his t-shirt and pulled it over his head. His energy and desire was now so evident that Ashley couldn't help smiling as he prodded Dan forward and pushed him onto the bed.

"Good boy."

Lowering himself onto Dan, Ashley pecked gently at Dan's ravaged neck. Dan moaned softly and reached up to clutch his fingers through Ashley's hair. Ashley let him, but moved lower to Dan's collar bone, and then to his chest. Taking one of Dan's nipples between his lips and sucked as hard as he could. Dan's fingers clutched harder at the back of Ashley's head, as if to pull him closer. Ashley moved to the other nipple, and this time chewed it lightly as he sucked on it.


Ashley pulled back and licked Dan's nipple again. He'd never done that with Jacob -- he thought it would be too much like having sex with a girl. But now, he found himself enjoying it. There wasn't as much to hold onto as with Shelli, but Dan reacted the same way, if not more so. Looking up, he saw Dan's face, his eyes closed tightly, as if by not seeing it he could somehow deny that he was enjoying what was going on. Well, he'd put a stop to that.

Lifting himself up, he straddled Dan's chest and took off his towel. "Dan?"

Dan opened his eyes and saw Ashley, legs on either side of his ribs, naked. "Ash? What are you...?"

"Open up."


"Open up," Ashley repeated as he grinned and edged closer to Dan's face. Reaching down, he tapped Dan's chin. "C'mon."

You're going to suck it, Dan.


My dick. My cock. My throbbing man-pole. Ashley couldn't help but finally giggle at that last one.


"C'mon, Dan." Ashley leaned forward and laid a finger against Dan's lower lip. "Please? I promise I'll do you, too, right after."

You'll do it anyway, whether you like it or not.

Dan looked between Ashley's legs, an uncertain and slightly frightened look on his face. "I don't know, man... that's kinda..."

"Dan... c'mon, man. I promise, I'll do it to you, right after. Promise." Ashley giggled again as he held up two fingers. "Scout's honor."

Dan frowned up at him. "You were never a Scout."

"How do you know?"

Dan sighed. "Okay, fine, but... you promise you'll do it to me?"

Guys are so gullible.

"Sure." Ashley somehow managed to keep a straight face. "Promise."

This must be how girls feel.

Dan sighed again. "Okay..." Reaching out, he touched the tip. "And you'll pull out before you... you know..."

"Of course," Ashley said.

Hope you like the taste.

Dan took a deep breath, then tentatively stuck his tongue out and licked the tip of Ashley's penis. Ashley watched, almost clinical in his detachment. Jacob had been a bit more enthusiastic about it, but then Jacob was in love with him.

For just a second, Ashley felt a pang of guilt inside, overwhelmed quickly by angry desire. Jacob thought he was in love with him... but really, he was just a very lonely, pathetic guy who couldn't distinguish between what he wanted and what was available.

Looking down, Ashley pushed against Dan's mouth. "C'mon, Dan, wider."

Dan tried to say something, but his words were quickly muffled.

Dammit, your teeth, Dan...

Then he was in. Ashley noticed that Dan's mouth was a bit roomier than Jacob's, his tongue a bit wider. Smiling, he wondered if Dan would be able to use it better... but a glance at Dan told him he wouldn't. Dan was trying to pull back, surprised, but Ashley wasn't going to let him. Leaning forward, he gripped Dan's head with his hands and pulled it closer, pushing as far as he could down Dan's throat. Dan squirmed under him, his eyes plaintive and begging, his hands pulling at Ashley's legs and back, but Ashley didn't care. Somewhere in a distant part of his mind, Ashley heard Dan gagging.

Remember that time you laughed when my voice cracked?

Ashley pulled back, and shoved forward again, all pretense of gentleness gone. He held Dan's face in both of his hands, but he didn't even look down anymore. His eyes were closed, and just as securely his mind was far away from the struggling body under him.

And back.

And forward.

Fuckin' your mouth, Dan.

Ashley managed to work up a rhythm, alternately thrusting into Dan's mouth and pulling Dan's face towards him. Each time, he heard Dan gagging, but Dan's resistance to him became weaker and weaker. Dan slowly stopped trying to move his head out of Ashley's grip, and the desperate grasping at Ashley's back and legs started losing their insistence, until they finally dropped down to the bed, limp and exhausted.

Ashley managed to keep his triumph to himself.

You'll have a sore throat tomorrow, Dan.

He thrust forward again.

Do you like ice cream, Dan?

And again.

And again.

And again.

Because that's all you'll be eating for the next couple of days.

It didn't take long. All the pent up energy from the night before, the day before, and all day today took its toll, combined with the excitement of forcing Dan into this rolled over him, and in a few seconds Ashley felt his body shuddering with ecstasy.


Dan's muffled shout only served to excite Ashley more as he shoved forward one last time, as he felt as if his entire body was flowing down in the rapid, jolting flow down Dan's throat. Holding Dan's head in his hands for a second more, Ashley paused to catch his breath before collapsing to the side, at long last pulling away from Dan.

Somewhere in the distance Ashley felt Dan leap up from the bed and run to the bathroom. He heard him gagging and vomiting, but it didn't matter.

Nothing really mattered anymore.

Closing his eyes, Ashley fell into an exhausted sleep.


I left: Joy, Innocence, and Lightness of Spirit walked beside me, silent as Death. I begged them to speak to me.

They declined.

And with good reason.

Okay, a lot of you are probably not going to have liked that chapter, especially how it ended... so use it as an excuse to send me feedback! Actually, this was a rather non-subtle way of getting Dan into the actual story, but... did I over do it? Let me know what you think --- Kai Wailbone