By Tim Mead
They had made a big bowl of popcorn and were watching K-1 on HDNet. It was a Monday evening, one of the few occasions they were able to spend some time together, Casey having decided he could take a break.
"I don't think I ever asked how you got into MMA. Did you ever do any kickboxing?"
"One of the instructors at the place where I trained was a kickboxer, and I learned a lot from him. But I was never in a match. I started as a wrestler, just like you did. That's the only combat sport my high school had."
"I guess kickboxing's really popular some places."
"World-wide, it's more popular than MMA. Just never caught on much in this country."
"Do you like it?"
Casey looked at him and grinned. "Nah. It seems like they're fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. Think of all those techniques you could use. I like to see guys stand up and bang, but I also want to see `em get down on the canvas and go at it."
Dan reached for a handful of popcorn as both of them turned their attention back to the TV screen.
"If that guy in the camo trunks doesn't keep his chin tucked, he's gonna get popped," Casey observed.
"Yeah, and look, it's coming up on the end of the first round, and already he's not keeping his hands up."
"You think he's gassed already?"
Just then the bell rang and the fighters went to their corners. Casey turned and helped himself to the popcorn that was on the sofa between them.
"Looks like it," Dan said. "I'd like to know what his corner men are telling him."
The camera had focused in on the camo guy's corner. But since the fighter and his seconds were all speaking Japanese, they hadn't a clue what was being said.
The camo guy was knocked out by a kick to the head early in round 2. As the arm of his Dutch opponent was raised by the referee, Casey shook his head in disgust. "Whatever they told him, it didn't help. At least in MMA if he was outclassed on his feet, he could have taken his opponent to the ground."
"And rested? Face it, that dude wouldn't have been any better at jiu jitsu or grappling than he is as a boxer, prolly."
Another fight came on with more evenly-matched opponents and the two friends watched the rest of the program, munching popcorn, but not saying much.
Dan couldn't help glancing at Casey as he reached into the bowl between them. His friend had a great profile. Perfect nose, chin, and cheekbones. And eyelashes so long they looked like a girl's. Dan enjoyed watching Casey's jaw work as he chewed. Of course, he thought, his thick ear is on the other side. A minor flaw. Not as bad as my scar, though that seems to be fading, thank God.
"Case, are you gettin' any?"
After he'd blurted it out, Dan wished he could have taken back the question. He was sure Casey would make some sort of comment about his being nosy.
Instead, Casey sighed and said, "Not much, man. With my job, when would I? I get two or sometimes three nights off a week. I'm in class in the day and have to use those nights to study."
Dan grinned. "Like tonight?"
Smiling back, Casey said, "This is the exception, as you know. I'm caught up, for once."
"And you had to spend it with me instead of with someone you'd take to bed?"
"Yeah," he said, still smiling, "my life sucks bigtime."
On Thursday afternoon Dan and Nicole were having their after-lab beer at The Cougar.
"How are things going with the Foo Fighter?" Dan asked, grinning because he knew he'd get a retort.
"They're going fine, except . . . . And his name, as you very well know, is Gage."
She tossed her dark hair, and Dan wondered if Gage knew how lucky he was to have Nicki as his girlfriend.
"Well, he's great. I mean he's fun to be with, he's great looking, and the s—" She put her hand over her mouth. "Um, forget I said that."
"Oh, so you two have done the nasty, hmm? And you were about to say the sex is great?"
"I won't pry, but is there anything you'd like to volunteer?"
She took a swallow of her beer and said, "I think I've said enough already."
"Okay, `nough said about that. But you did say `except.' Still a little possessive, is he?"
"Oh, did I tell you about that before?"
"You mentioned it."
"When I'm with him, I can't let my eyes stray, like when a hot guy goes by. He gets really upset."
"So stand up for yourself. You don't need to put up with that. You can probably do better."
"But apart from that I really like him, Danny."
Deciding a change of topic was a good idea, Dan asked, "So, you going home for Thanksgiving?"
"I hope so. You know I don't have a car. But I can probably get a ride back to Strongsville with someone. I hate for my mom to have to come here and get me and then bring me back."
"Well, you've got a couple weeks to find a ride. Or maybe . . ." Dan cleared his throat. "Gage could take you."
She giggled. "I'm not ready to take him home to meet Mom yet. So what about you? I assume you're going home for the holiday?"
Dan frowned and nodded.
"I think I'm gonna come out to my folks."
"That takes guts, I'm sure. How do you think they'll react?"
"I dunno. It seems like nothing I do is good enough for my mother. She'll probably find some way to make me feel like a disappointment."
"Do they have strong religious views?"
"They go to church. I think I've told you Dad is the organist and choir director at a big suburban church. But they're not fanatics."
"Maybe it will go better than you think."
She finished her beer and set the bottle on the table.
"I've gotta go. Have a good weekend, Dan. See you Tuesday in lab."
"Yeah. You make Gage behave, huh?"
She giggled, leaned over to give him a kiss on the forehead, grabbed her book bag and was on her way.
Dan and Arnie got together briefly after their class on Wednesday. They agreed to meet for supper on Friday evening at the Commons, and the unspoken presumption was that they'd go back to Dan's place afterward.
As they sat eating burgers and fries, Dan said, "This stuff is so full of grease and carbs! I've got to make a point of having more salads. I feel like I should go work out for a couple of hours."
"Not tonight, man. I've got another workout in mind for you."
Dan grinned. "Okay. I guess I'll get to the gym at the crack of dawn tomorrow then, along with half the other students at CSU."
Arnie swiped a fry through a puddle of catsup, held it up, tilted his head back, and sucked it into his mouth.
"So, you heard about Caldwell's website?"
"Yeah, I saw it."
"Damn! I knew those guys were gonna do that, but they'd already taken it down before I got the URL."
"Don't you think that was pretty extreme?"
"Well, like I said, I ain't seen the site. Seems to me some embarrassin' pictures might get the fucker to keep his mouth shut. Somebody oughta make him wear a sign: "Don't have sex with me or I'll tell the whole campus."
"I wonder if they ever thought of just doing a kind of intervention. You know, two or three guys explaining to him what might happen if he didn't learn to be more discreet."
"So what's the harm in the way they did it?"
"He's embarrassed, for sure. How'd you feel if images of you sucking dick, getting fucked, or with a couple of loads of cum running down your face were on the web?"
Arnie chuckled. "I wish I'd seen those. But so he's humiliated a little. Serves him right."
"Yeah, but if his father had seen them, Bernie thinks his dad would have yanked him out of school and put him to work doing something menial."
"I hadn't thought of that."
"Well, the site's down. Let's just hope someone who knows Caldwell senior didn't see `em and save `em. And I guess they haven't been destroyed. Your buddies told him if they ever heard of him running off at the mouth about some guy he'd slept with, they could reappear."
Arnie held up his hands, palms forward. "Hey, they're not exactly buddies. They just mentioned to me what they'd done."
After they finished their meal, they walked to Dan's apartment. As they were coming in, they met Seth on his way out. Dan introduced Seth and Arnie.
Inside the apartment, Dan was thinking of Seth's suggestion that Dan might be a submissive by nature.
"My turn to top tonight?"
"How romantic! So much for foreplay."
Dan turned, pulled Arnie close, and stuck his tongue in Arnie's ear.
Arnie shivered. "Now that's more like it." Then he pulled away, put his mouth close to Dan's ear and with a breathy whisper said, "The night's young and your buddy Shaw won't be back until late, right/"
Tingling all over, Dan grunted, "Uh huh."
"Good! Then we'll have time to do it both ways."
And that's what they did.
The next day was a typical Saturday for Dan. The football team was playing an away game that afternoon, so he and thousands of others did their Saturday chores, crowding the gym, grocery stores, restaurants, and Laundromats.
Since they had a laundry pair in the basement, Dan was at least spared a visit to one of the laundry establishments. Casey was holed up in his room working on a paper.
Dan tapped on the door and was told to come in.
"Gonna do laundry. Want me to do any of your stuff?"
Urijah was curled up asleep the bed. Casey sat in front of his new laptop, a pencil clenched in his teeth. He ran his hands through his hair.
"I hate to ask you to do that, Cool," he mumbled around the pencil.
"You didn't. I just offered."
"There's a bunch of stuff in that basket in my closet if you're sure you don't mind. I'll do yours next week."
"Deal. And, uh, Case?"
"Don't forget to use the spell checker."
Casey grinned and, not taking his eyes off the computer screen, displayed an upraised finger.
Dan spent a good part of the afternoon running up and down the basement stairs, moving loads from the washer to the dryer, bringing loads back upstairs and folding them or putting them on hangers. He slipped in and out of Casey's room as quietly as he could.
As he was climbing the stairs with the last load from the dryer, he ran into Seth.
"All done down here, Dan?"
"Yeah, it's all yours."
"Are you staying in tonight?"
"No, I thought I'd stop by Nellie's and see what's happening."
"That guy you introduced me to, Arnie. How'd you meet him?"
"He's in one of my classes."
"He's a hunk. I'd like to photograph him sometime."
When Dan didn't say anything, Seth continued, "Have fun tonight. And good hunting!"
He arrived at the bar about 8:00. The crowd that came for beer and burgers before the early movie had already left, and the after-the-early-show crowd hadn't arrived yet, so the place, though busy enough, wasn't jumping yet.
On his way, he had called Bernie Caldwell's landline number but got the voice mail. When he tried Bernie's cell number he was told the phone was turned off.
Well, he thought, at least he's gotten out of his apartment instead of staying home and brooding. That's a good sign.
Looking around as he paused just inside the door, he spotted Bernie in a booth near the back. Two guys were sitting across from him, but Dan could only see the backs of their heads. One was light brown, the other black or dark brown. It was hard to tell in the subdued light.
Bernie spotted him, smiled, and beckoned him over.
When he slid into the booth next to Bernie, he recognized the guys facing them as Justin Quinn and Bailey Stone.
"Guys, this is Daniel Cole. Daniel—"
Justin interrupted, sticking his hand across the table to bump fists with Dan. "We've met Dan. First home game, right?"
Dan bumped Bailey's fist as well. "Yeah, that's when it was. But I saw you guys play ball before school started. Casey brought me. Said it was your last game of the summer."
Justin grinned. "So you saw the mighty Hammers play, huh? We did win that one, didn't we?"
"Yeah, ya did."
Bailey and Justin looked at one of the wall-mounted TVs as someone made a touchdown, so Dan seized the moment, turned to Bernie, and quietly asked, "Are you okay?"
"Yes. I'm fine. Thanks for asking. In fact, I was just telling these two about my brief appearance on the Internet."
"You told `em?"
"Yeah," Justin said. "He told us. But we'd heard about it anyway. I'm just sorry we didn't get to see those pix."
Bailey shut his eyes briefly and shook his head. "Jus!"
Justin nudged his partner. "Well, dude, you and I are probably the only two gay guys at Colby who haven't slept with ole Bern here. I wish I'd seen his moment of glory."
"Justin, I'm not that much of a slut."
"Caldwell, you're the source of my information. If you hadn't told everybody about each of your victims, you wouldn't have become a porn star! Seems to me you brought it all on yourself."
Bailey chuckled. His voice was deep, almost a rumble. "And this from a guy who's been in trouble more than once for shooting off his mouth."
Justin grinned at Bailey. "Yeah, yeah. But at least I don't tell everybody what you and I do in bed."
At that moment Justin jerked and uttered a dismayed squawk.
"And you won't ever do that, will you, lover?" Bailey asked.
In an exaggeratedly high voice, Justin said, "No, never! Now leggo my balls!"
Everyone laughed, and the conversation turned to more general topics. Dan studied the guys across from him.
Justin was about Dan's height, 5'9", with medium brown hair and blue eyes. He wore a small gold loop in his right ear. His black sweatshirt did little to hide his good shoulders. Dan wondered if Justin had ever wrestled.
Bailey, Justin knew, was around 6' and must have weighed 225. His hair was dark brown, almost black. His eyes, too, were very dark. They were nice eyes. Kind eyes. Dan decided Bailey wasn't really handsome in the conventional sense, but he was good looking . . . or at least good to look at.
Justin did most of the talking, and he was obviously a tease. Bailey was quiet, not saying much besides answering direct questions. But he smiled a lot. And as the evening went along, Dan understood that quiet didn't mean stupid. Bailey's occasional comments were intelligent ones.
What Dan sensed most about Bailey was his love and concern for Justin. He watched him almost as a parent watched a precocious child.
The four young men talked of a variety of things, complaining about particularly demanding professors, analyzing the situation in the Middle East, exchanging opinions on whether the Cougars' current win streak would continue. The final game of the season against traditional rival Toledo was coming up, and they talked about meeting up for that. They accepted Dan's suggestion that Casey would come along, too.
Then, out of the blue, Justin grinned at Dan and asked, "So, Dan, are you fucking Shaw, or is he fucking you? Or do you trade off?"
"Jus!" Bailey growled.
"Hey, just askin'. Two hot gay studs living together have got to be getting it on!"
"Justin," Bernie said, "even I know better than to ask a question like that."
"What the fuck, dudes. We're all gay. And this ain't a convent."
Bernie uttered a wry chuckle.
Dan was happy to see him laughing.
"So, you're telling me it's bad to tell but it's okay for you to ask?"
Bailey laughed. "He's got ya, babe!"
"You're a bunch of spoilsports. And Cole, you didn't answer my question."
Dan grinned. "Just no."
He glanced sideways at Bernie, who smirked back at him. He knew that Dan and Casey weren't fooling around.
"Well," Justin said, looking at the two opposite from him, "I know you two have done it. At least it was all over campus a while back that you had. And it came from an impeccable source." He looked at Bernie and stuck his tongue out.
"Let's change the subject," Bailey said.
About 10:00 Bailey looked at his watch.
"Jus, tomorrow's a big day. Think we'd better head on home?"
"What's happening tomorrow?" Bernie asked.
"We're fixing Sunday dinner for Brody and Dave," Justin said.
"And that's a big deal?"
"Well, they have us over there to eat a lot, but we haven't cooked for them much. So it's still sort of a big deal."
Bailey put an arm around Justin's shoulders. "Jus is nervous because he's still got this big thing for Brody. In fact, I think if Brody gave him the nod, he'd drop me and go running."
Justin smiled, snuggled against Bailey's shoulder, and said, "Babe, that's so not gonna happen."
Just then Bernie put his hand on Dan's thigh and squeezed.
"Well, don't let us keep you. And good luck with the meal."
The four slid out of the booth and walked together to the sidewalk, where the two couples split up.
"Thanks for coming to check on me, Daniel," Bernie said.
"I'm glad to see you returning to your old form."
"Then you would accept an invitation back to my place?"
Dan pretended to ponder the question.
Shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans, he said, "I reckon I might."
When they arrived at his apartment, Bernie surprised Dan by asking him to sit on the couch instead of going directly to the bedroom.
"I have more beer if you'd like some."
"No, I'm good, thanks."
Bernie seemed to have something on his mind, so he waited, trying to look encouraging.
"How do you feel about what I did and what those guys did to me?"
"It's over now, man. Why bring it up again?"
"Because, Mr. Cole, you were the only person who seemed to care about my humiliation."
"You dropped out of sight for a couple of weeks, and I was wondering about you. So when I saw the web site, I assumed you were hiding out. Or worse."
"I'm not the suicidal type, but you're sweet to worry about me. Does that mean you don't think what I did was so bad?"
"In a way, I do. What goes on in bed shouldn't be anybody else's business. And I feel sorry for the guy you outed."
"Yeah, I hear you. And I've apologized to him."
"On the other hand, it seems perfectly natural to ask a guy if he got laid. Even ask about the details. But if the guy you ask doesn't want to answer, he doesn't have to. What you did was tell people without asking the guys you'd slept with."
"I get it. But I didn't intend any harm, honestly. I mean, gay guys talk about sex a lot. Don't we?"
"I think all people our age talk about sex a lot. But whether you intended any harm, you do realize you talked about things that should have been kept between you and your, um, fuck buddies."
Dan sighed. "Now, a confession."
Bernie grinned. "Oh, I'm not the only bad boy?"
"I had heard about your reputation for `telling all' the morning after. One of the reasons I slept with you was because I wanted you to talk. I thought it would be a way to get to know other gay guys on campus. So I used you. And I can't criticize too much if I took advantage of what you were doing, can I?"
"You naughty boy! Did it work?"
"Yeah. The week after you and I were together the first time, some guys in my classes gave me nasty looks. But I met some guys as a result of it, too."
"Including the Compson hunk you're sleeping with?"
"How'd you know that?"
"Oh, I don't think it's anything Arnold said. But you've been seen together a lot. It's Friday nights, isn't it? Word gets around. There are no secrets in Colby, and certainly not among us queers."
"I'm just surprised you know about Arnie and me."
"Oh, yes, indeedy. You sleep with him on Friday and me on Saturday. Who are you doing the other nights?"
Dan grinned. "You mean you don't know? The queer network must not be as good as you think."
Bernie sniffed. "It's good enough that I think you're not fucking anybody except the black hunk and me."
"A gentleman never tells." A beat. "Besides, a guy's gotta study sometimes. Between classes and labs and working out, I have to hit the books most nights."
"Had you ever thought of having a three-way?"
"I'd have thought after your recent experience you'd want to stay away from those."
Bernie stood up and held out his hand to Dan. They went into the bedroom.
As they were undressing each other, Dan asked, "Who'd you have in mind?"
"For the threeway."
"Oh, your Friday night fuck. I'd love to have you both do me. That would sizzle."
"Um, I don't think so."
Dan slipped his boxers down.
"So I'm assuming you want me to top tonight?"
"When you came to me after the website fiasco, I know you let me top because you thought it would boost my spirits or my self esteem or something. But I really am a bottom. Okay, MMA stud?"
"Okay, power bottom!"
The two were lying side by side. Dan was wondering how soon he could get it up again. Or whether he just wanted to go to sleep.
"That was fabulous!"
"Thanks. It was good, wasn't it?"
"Definitely. But, Daniel?"
"You know I don't usually do repeats, right?"
"Well, I'm really grateful that you've become a friend, that you cared enough about me to look out for me when I thought the bottom might fall out of my world." He giggled. "No pun intended."
Dan turned on his side and propped his head on his hand, looking down at Bernie.
"But I don't think we want to become boyfriends. There's still a lot of guys to fuck. For both of us."
"Jesus, Bernie! Are there enough available gay guys at Colby for you to have a new one every weekend?"
Bernie smiled and put his hand up to touch Dan's cheek. "Honey, there are some weekends when even I don't get laid."
"So you want me to go?"
Bernie pulled Dan's face to his and gave him a gentle kiss.
"For now, yes. If you want a relationship, discuss it with your Friday night fuck. Or, better still, why not Shaw? He's seriously hot, and he's right there whenever you need him. Or do like I do. Play the field while you can. You won't always be gorgeous. You won't always have so many beautiful gay men around. If I wasn't already in the doghouse, I could share my list with you."
"That would so not be a good idea." Dan sat up and reached for his boxers. "But I think I can manage to get laid on my own, thanks."
"I still don't know why you and Casey aren't banging. He's almost as nice a guy as you are. And maybe a little better looking."
"Come off it! Everybody says we look like brothers," Dan said, grinning.
"Well, maybe you are as pretty as he is. And, seriously, you and he belong together. I mean, I know you two share an apartment, but, well, you should be, oh, shit, you know what I mean."
Swinging his legs around, Dan stood.
"Yeah, I know what you mean, but it ain't gonna happen."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because he's told me it's not."
Seth was getting back to the house just as Dan arrived. He unlocked the door and stood back to let Dan enter first.
"Jesus, Danny! You need a shower. Was the sex good?"
Dan winked at him.
"Yeah. Why, you jealous?"
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