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The Circle

Chapter 16

Friday Afternoon: Preparations

Tim. Damn I'm going to so miss him. Best dealer ever! And I'm going to miss getting credit from him. And I have so much stuff I want to talk to him about. I'm going to his place Sunday. I want to. I have to! Not just to show I liked him back. Not just in case we can do anything. Because I want to just hang and be a friend.

I slowly walked out to the foyer and looked around the wide, two-story space. From down there you could just see the two hallways leading off from both directions above. On the first floor, glass-filled French doors led off at both sides and a third and largest set, opposite the front doors, led into the dining room. A chandelier hanging from the ceiling some twenty feet and more above the floor dangled to just out of reach in the center of the space.

I scuffed my shoe on the tiles under my feet. "No cheap vinyl flooring, anywhere," I muttered.

Many times better than where we used to live, or where Tim lives, or could probably ever expect to live. He's right, I shouldn't deal. I can do better than going to jail for dealing pot. I don't need the money. Pot should just be a hobby. No dealing for me. Just smoking it is risky enough for me!

I slowly went up the stairs, paying attention to the house around me as I rarely did. While it was no mansion, the four bedroom, twelve room house was far above average, and far beyond what I had been used to in the old house. It was in a good neighborhood, with top ranked schools. I'd not buy one like it myself when I was older, I knew, but I saw that I lived far better than many, and at times, better than I felt I deserved.

Not only did I live in such a nice home, I enjoyed having my own floor to myself. The third floor had been designed to be easily converted to living space, and shortly after we had moved in, Eric talked me into turning it into one. Friends of dad's had done the electrical, plumbing, and framing. After the drywall and trimming was done, I did the painting, carpet, and moved the furniture up. When it was done, it was as nice as the rest of the house; and all mine.

As I finished the stairs to my room - remembering the patches I had to make in the walls there after dragging the supplies and the furniture up the stairs - I heard Tom playing Asteroids. I sat down on the foot of my bed, at his left shoulder as he sat on the floor against the bed. He wasn't doing well, and I commented so frequently.

"Damn, you're pissy!" he said, and I laughed and shook my head. "You should be riding to Tim's," he said offhandedly in way of asking why I wasn't.

"He's out."

"Think he'll be back in time?"

"No. I mean, he's out."

Tom turned to look at me, letting his ship be smashed to straight lines.

"You serious?" he asked, looking comically shocked.

I recoiled a bit, surprised at the level of his surprise.

"Well, yeah. He had to quit when he got caught, ya know? And he can't smoke any, so he's sort of out of business, see?"

"You don't know anybody else?"

"No. Never ever needed to, ya know?"

"Yeah. Shit. Well, don't worry about it. You got enough?"

"Not really. Enough to stay a bit high probably, but nothing like I wanted to have."

"Damn. Guess we'll have to do with what we got. Got a roach for now?" he asked, turning back to the game.


I picked the largest one I had, one that was more a joint than a roach, nearly half it's length still remaining. I lit it and sat next to Tom. We passed it back and forth, actually finishing it to a stub. We agreed that it worked just fine.

"And now I'm fucking horny," Tom said leadingly.

I could smell Tom when he was that close by. It was that same, comforting, familiar smell that made me feel safe and secure. I was horny too, and decided to throw a bombshell at him.

"Can we go all the way? And can I be on top?" I asked, thinking I already knew the answer.

Tom always preferred to be on top when we went that far. Usually we exchanged hand-jobs, sometimes blow-jobs; anal sex was rare.

"Only if you're on bottom later," Tom stipulated. "I want some, too."

When he tried to waggle his eyebrows, I laughed.

"Come on," Tom said, moving from the chair to the bed.

He sat and kicked off his shoes as he pulled his shirt over his head. I immediately grew hard as I joined him on the bed. I kicked off my shoes and took of my shirt. By then, Tom had stood and had his jeans and shorts pulled down. Once my shirt was out of the way, I took in the sight of Tom from behind, and so close, as he bent over. The dark circle between Tom's pale, white cheeks was clearly visible. I drew a finger from behind his balls up past the dark center in a quick slashing movement on impulse.

Tom shot upright and smiled down at me over his shoulder. He threw his jeans and shorts on the floor and sat down, then started undoing my belt and jeans. I sat back to let him pull them off my legs and toss them behind him. He leaned down and reached for my erection and began to loosely slide the skin over the shaft. My legs tensed and extended in pleasure as I gasped softly. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes with a sigh.

Tom and I had done that enough that he knew how I liked it. His hand moved my loose skin along my shaft, his thumb and finger brushing the coronal edges of my head with nearly every stroke upward. In a surprise move, he bent down and slid his lips over my head and begun to suck. His hand continued to stroke me as his lips sealed tightly around the head. I lay mostly still as he bobbed and jacked me.

I had many questions regarding why Tom was being so . . . adventurous. Agreeing to anal sex both ways, and even performing oral on me without constant prompting to. I gave them a few moments of consideration before I relented to the sexual thrills coming from Tom's skills.

In no time, Tom had the first of my pre-cum leaking from me. Tom grabbed the jar of Vaseline from behind the bedside table and applied plenty of the lube to my cock. He took more time that was needed to simply make sure I was well lubed. I didn't mind, and let him. It certainly felt good.

Finally he handed me the jar and got on his hands and knees on the bed. I played with his ass for longer than was needed. Circling at first, then probing with my index finger, I lubed him thoroughly. Another small portion on two fingers next, taking my time before sliding in the second set of knuckles.

Doing those things with Tom always reminded me of Toby. I began to understand that perhaps that was a factor in the confusion over what I really felt for Tom. I was more comfortable with him on a sexual level than with anyone else, and nearly as much as I had been with Toby in our short times together. I was very close to Tom, we were best friends, and this level of intimacy with him confused his status with that of Toby. I thought that perhaps I understood.

Smiling at more than what I was doing with Tom, I returned to that activity with relish. He was well lubed, I was as well, so I removed my fingers and moved into position. It was easy to find his entrance, knowing where it was and with him pushing upward already. I pushed my cock against him, pushing through the tight circle of my own finger and thumb first, constricting my head and allowing even easier entry into Tom.

His ring of muscle gave way to me, and I continued to slide slowly and strongly, but so slowly, into him. After long minutes and many pauses my hips pressed against his buttocks. He only gasped as I had first entered. I leaned forward over him, placing my hands on the bed near his. I waited at that point, letting Tom grow used to it before beginning to slowly and gently slide in and out.

I asked again and again if he was in any pain, or if he was comfortable. He told me he was fine, it felt odd, but it was okay. He told me he knew how good it felt on top, so to shut up and start fucking him.

I did, slowly and gently. I loved it; the feeling of Tom, my closest friend, under me, was the best thing since Toby. For me it was not merely my friend providing a better source of an orgasm than my own hand. I knew Tom thought differently, considered this exactly that, and nothing more; helping a friend get off.

I wanted so badly to lick Tom's neck, nuzzle the nape, kiss the shoulders, nibble the ears. like I had with Toby. Tom's white skin below me was so enticing that I nearly did so as I grew near to finishing. I was concentrating on not pushing in or pulling out too far, or too fast, and nearly began to suck and nibble Tom's ears; just as I had to Toby when doing so. I had to concentrate on not doing two things while nearing orgasm.

I slowed even further as I began to release into Tom. I groaned only slightly, unable to prevent the sound of ecstasy from escaping. I wanted to cry Tom's name out loud, scream how I felt about him, tell him how much he meant to me. I had to hold all of that back as well, now concentrating on at least three things to not do at all at once during my orgasm.

I knew how Tom felt, and it wasn't the same for him. I held myself steady as my body pumped my cum into him. I fought not to whimper in ecstasy, to not kiss him, to not moan his name or nuzzle softly into him. Finally it ended, and I could think, and move.

"Aww, gawd, Tom," I sighed as I relaxed onto him briefly before falling onto my side next to him. "I can't believe you let me do that."

"Why?" Tom asked, propped up on his left elbow then.

"Because!" I answered after propping myself up on my right elbow to face him. "It just, I don't know. I thought you'd say no when I asked."


"Because you almost never want to."

"Yeah, well, been a while," Tom said as he smiled. "It was, well, I didn't mind," Tom said slowly. "Not again for a while, though! I ain't your bitch!" he said, laughing and then punching me on the closest shoulder.

"You are now, like it or not!" I said, as I laughed as well.

Tom stopped laughing for a moment then smiled and moved to sit straddling over me, forcing me to lay on my stomach. He reached for the Vaseline on the headboard and applied a portion to himself. Tom blushed when he noticed he was being watched.

"Don't watch me, perv!" he said as he applied the Vaseline to his erection.

"It's a nice sight," I said, also blushing.

Tom had been using his brother's weight set on a semi-regular basis, and lately riding bikes to school with me, he had lost the last of his soft weight and was almost buff. His arms and chest showed the results the most, his stomach was nearly flat, and his hips no longer wider than his shoulders. A full triangle of his black hair framed his smallish cock and balls and formed a wide but sparse trail upward to his navel. A light showing of the black hairs were also filling in across his chest, his thighs near his groin, and his legs. I watched Tom stroke himself, spreading the lubricant the entire length of his cock. His balls were swinging slightly from front to back in their scarlet sack.

Tom finished applying to himself and waited for me to roll onto my stomach and stop looking at him. Once I had, he leaned over my ass and I felt his fingers spreading my cheeks, followed by his lubricated first finger circling my hole. Tom had learned a bit about doing that by then, had in fact become quite able and proficient. He also knew how to give me the most pleasure at it. Instead of simply applying the lubricant sufficiently to do what was required, Tom slid his finger in and rubbed downward, onto my prostate. I groaned in pleasure. Tom massaged it for quite some time before adding his thumb on the outside as well.

The thrills ran through me, making me shiver and smile into the pillow.

"Shit, Tom!" I groaned.

"I had a good teacher," Tom replied.

He gathered another portion of the lubricant and pushed two fingers into me without warning, but gently. Another loud groan of pleasure escaped from around the pillow. Tom then did another thing he had never done before; he ran his other hand up and down, over and around my buttocks and thighs. That made me bite into the pillow even harder to fight back hisses and groans of pleasure. It seemed as if Tom kept that up forever. I had already grown  wet again. I was unable to stop my hips from moving, anticipating Tom's movements. As I worried I might cum from simply the anal stimulation, Tom removed his fingers and placed his head against me. As Tom pushed, I pushed, and he slid into me with nearly no pinching pains.

I groaned softly and nearly panted. He felt incredible in me, nothing like fingers or a candle, nor any other of the few objects I had tried by then.

Tom always slid in slowly until he was fully inside, then paused and tugged and pushed just the smallest amounts, taking longer and longer strokes over a prolonged period. His head, chest, and shoulders were kept up on his extended arms at first. After several minutes of slow and gentle movements, Tom would build up to stronger thrusts, his belly, and sometimes chest, would end resting upon me. To him it was probably nothing, but to me it was a powerful and wonderful sensation having so much of his skin against mine. He would pound like a rabbit as he neared orgasm, often pulling out, or nearly so.

As Tom moved from the first, slow, careful tugs to more certain and real thrusts that time, he did yet another something new.

Tom brought his legs inward of mine, prompting me to spread my legs apart, outside of his, accommodating him in a familiar way that seemed strange with Tom, and again brought memories of Toby in comparison. Tom then came down fully onto me, reinserted himself, then extended his arms around me. Tom's body was in contact with mine from our legs to our shoulders. His breath was on my neck.

Tom maintained a steady, almost slow pace, only his hips moving. He brought his arms over mine, his hands over my hands. It was wonderful! I felt the familiar tingles and thrills of a familiar and long-missed pleasure, but with Tom.

So like Toby, I thought.

I groaned a deep, from-the-gut groan I had not made for months, and then only with Toby. I didn't care. It was too wonderful. I sighed and hissed in pleasure, letting Tom hear it. Tom surprisingly kept that same pace up, only slowing or speeding up for short times. His breath came hot and tingling over my neck and cheek.

I shuddered involuntarily. I also clamped my ring around his cock, and he obviously liked that, as his cock often swelled and jumped in reaction.

 he groaned near my ear, another thing he had never done before.

I heard a difference in his voice, too, but could make no sense of it. Tom said the words in a way, with an inflection, he had not used before. Tom had spoken as he topped me before, usually phrases like, "Take it bitch," and other teasing, comic attempts. But, "Oh, gawd, this is so hot!" was nothing along the same lines; it seemed intimately sexual.

I expected him to begin fucking me rather harder and faster, since he was able to in this position if he used his legs. Instead, he maintained a slower, deeper rhythm, sliding himself slowly and pleasantly through me, his arching back his only real source of movement.

He was laying on me instead of holding himself over me, touching from heads to feet. Our only contact in his usual method was mostly his cock and my ass. He was on me as well as in me; touching me, brushing his fingers up and down my arms, breathing on me, moaning in my ear.

I felt his hot body against mine, unlike his usual more distant style. I felt his body's sweat on my back, and on my buttocks when his pelvis rested against them. Our skin stuck to each other, clinging between those moments. His hot breath blew over the hairs on the back of my neck or along the side of my face that he currently chose to be.

I pulled my legs up, like a frog's, and Tom responded by pushing himself deeper into me. He still maintained a slower pace, but took great pleasure in pushing himself deeply into me. I enjoyed it was well.

I expected Tom to last his usual while, but he didn't; another difference. I felt it had hardly begun when I felt Tom push firmly and deeply into me, pulsate and swell inside me, heard him groan and cry "Oh, shit!" in my ear as most of his body went rigid. I could feel how powerful it was for Tom; I could feel him shaking, during and after. Finally he lay down on me softly when it was over, panting and nudging his chin and face in against my face; yet something else new.

"Oh, man," Tom whispered so closely that his breath washed over my face.

I was stunned. That was as close to love-making as I had experienced since Toby.

Those few, brief weeks with Toby, I reminisced. And this was as close to that as Tom had ever gotten! And I love having Tom do it that way! That was great!

"Man, fucking great! I'm glad I tried it your way," Tom sighed in my ear.

"Yeah, you are!" I laughed.

"Got a good teacher," Tom laughed the old, familiar phrase.

I did a double-take.

"My way?"

"Yeah. Like you do it."

"I d-d-do it t-t-that way with y-y-you?" I asked, as deeply surprised as Tom had ever made me.

I was sure that I hadn't let myself be like that with Tom. I was always careful to not seem too into it when we did more than hands and mouths. I certainly was into it, but I was always careful not to seem to be enjoying it any more than anything else. Even after Tom had revealed that he knew about Toby, after I had told him even more about Toby, and even after telling Tom how I felt about guys and him, I was always reluctant to reveal just how much I enjoyed fucking him, or being fucked by him.

"Yeah. What? You don't know how you do it? And you Tillis'd. What?" Tom asked, tensing enough that I noticed it easily through our contact.

"Nothing," I lied transparently, at least to Tom, as I buried my face into the pillow. His cock slid out of me, making me feel suddenly empty in more than the obvious way.

"Oh, sure, yeah. I'm gonna believe that!" he said as he rolled off me and propped himself up on an elbow.

He began tracing lines over my back with a finger; still another new thing from Tom, but oh so familiar from Toby.

Oh my god! Tom, don't! It's too much like Toby! I wailed to myself.

I rolled away and sat on the edge of the bed.

I suddenly felt like crying. The understanding that I made love more than just fucked Tom, how that fit in with how I so confused him and Toby, and that he was aware I was so into it, on top of everything else, was all too much. I just wanted things simple and easy to understand - the way it had been with Toby. Instead, I was sitting in my bedroom, just hours before the big birthday parties, wanting to cry because I wanted to make love to my straight best friend. Not only that, but I was feeling what I could only describe as love for the cutest guy I had ever known, even Toby, I finally admitted to myself then, who was not only not gay, but moving away soon.

That's just the big stuff, I lamented. There's so many littler things, it's ridiculous! Why does it have to be so fucking confusing? Do normal guys have to deal with so much shit? Normal? Fuck that. Straight, maybe, but normal don't belong talking about straights. Like I'm normal, anyway. Fuck!

I was sitting on the edge of my bed, naked, trying to deal with things I felt I shouldn't have to, nearly bawling like a pussy in front of him, when Tom asked what could have been the only question that could have taken my mind off my own worries.

"Alex, do you think I'm gay?"

"What? Where did that come from? Because we, uh, just did, that?" I asked in as shocked a manner as I ever had to anything he had said to me.

After whipping my head around to look at him suddenly, I swayed a bit on the edge of the bed, hoping I didn't fall onto the floor, or that Tom didn't notice. He obviously wasn't watching me, though. He was turned into himself, I saw instantly; something I rarely saw Tom do.

"Yeah. Well, I mean, we've like, done tons of things, ya know? We, like, well-"

"Don't even think it!" I cut him off. "You want Helen, don't you?" I asked him, knowing full well that he did, as he talked about her nearly constantly.

"Well yeah. But, we've done, this stuff. What if when I do it with Helen, I don't like it?"

I almost laughed at that, but I saw Tom's expression and could read his body language, thanks to both him and Tim. I could easily tell that he was really worried. I began to regret doing anything with him; not only what we had just done, but all of it.

"Dude. Do you want her?" I asked.

"Yes. I do."

"Then, there's your answer!"

"Yeah, guess so."

I recognized the unconvinced tone in his voice and began to worry more.

What if I turn Tom gay? I wouldn't mind, but he might, or something. I don't know everything about psychology, but I wonder if he could end up hating me because of it. I can't let that happen!

"Tom. If you don't want to do this stuff anymore, I'd understand, totally, really, dude."

I wanted to say it, but still dreaded the day that Tom would want to no more.

"Okay," Tom said flatly, still looking at nothing.

My heart sank, and I didn't understand.

Did Tom just agree to stop doing it, now? Or did he mean it would be okay if we stopped? I know Tom only does it because it's better than jacking himself off all the time, we said that often enough. I have to know, though.

"So, you don't want to again?" I asked, trying not to sound disappointed, looking at Tom's hands laying still in his lap.

Tom shook his head and smiled a bit as he said, "I mean, I know you'd understand if I don't want to keep doing it. And when I don't want to anymore, I'll tell you, okay?"

"Sure. Okay," I said, feeling a bit better, but oddly, more confused.

"Hey, I'll wean ya off me, so you don't have to go cold turkey, alright?" Tom asked, laughing.

"Sure, great!" I said, and laughed as well.

Tom sat up on the edge of the bed next to me and said, "I need a shower, be back."

He gathered his clothes from the floor into a heap that he carried into the bathroom. I heard the shower running and thought of joining him. I had done so before, but didn't feel like it was the right time to. Tom wanted it to stop, didn't want to kiss, to cuddle, or anything emotional, or, "too gay." He had said those very things numerous times, but what had just happened threw so many confusing thoughts into my head.

My God! That was so Toby-like! Shit. Oh, shit! It's like everyone is working together to fuck with my head all at the same time! Tom says he wants to quit, but now he gets all touchy! And Jeff goes farther than ever before and it turns out it's too much for him and it almost, maybe has, fucked up our friendship! What if he and me ain't the same anymore? It could happen!

Don't start making more things to worry about! Man, just cool it. Think about other stuff! It's sure nice, though, having Tom being a fuck buddy. And it's fine with me. As long as he's cool with it, I'm cool with it. And who knows, maybe he'll still be into the occasional time even after Helen puts out after a while.

I was still dreaming and wishing when I heard the shower stop. I sat up and got some clean clothes. As Tom exited the bathroom, I got up and took my turn. When I came out after a fast shower, Tom was fully dressed and sitting at the desk.

"So, you gonna ride the bus tomorrow? Or you gonna make me freeze my ass off again?"

"You don't have to ride with me, you know. I know the way!"

"Sure, ass. But it would suck alone, wouldn't it?"

I knew it would. I shrugged.

"You ever gonna tell me why you stopped riding the bus?" Tom asked as he stood.


"It better be fucking good!" Tom laughed.

"I didn't want to ride the b-bus, okay?"


"Tom, like, just l-l-let it go, okay?"

"Let it go? You'd rather ride your bike in winter than the bus, and you're Tillisin' again, and I'm supposed to just let it go?"

"Yes. Please?"

Tom collapsed into the chair and sighed.

"You don't have to ride with me, you know," I said quietly.

"I know. You need to ride the bus. Geeze. I don't wanna freeze my nads off all winter! My little Tommies are at risk here!"

"Then ride the bus! I'll be fine!"

"Then ride the bus, and you'll be fine!"

"Just drop it, okay? Don't talk to Jeff about his going home, either. Just, don't ask him about it, just let it drop, okay?"

"Okay. I won't ask him anything about it."


"Now, can I ask you about it?"


"I'm going to. We have the time. I'll keep buggin' you, you know it."

"Damn it, Tom! Look, I'll tell you some of it, okay? Will you just let it drop if I do?"

"If you tell me enough so I know if it's serious or something!"

I told him why I felt so exposed and vulnerable on the bus, sitting in public with Jeff. I told him how I was sure I would only bring Jeff trouble. I explained how I knew I was easy to read as being gay, and I told Tom that I knew riding the bus with Jeff would only mean his being risked. I tried to explain the feelings of dread, fear, and worry that took me over when I was in public with Jeff, and how nearly crippling it was; emotionally as well as physically.

By the end, I wasn't near tears, but I felt much the same as if I were; all but the actual dripping eyes assailed me. Long moments passed after I finished speaking before Tom yet again vocally slapped me back to sanity.

"You're telling me that you won't ride the bus, you'd rather freeze your ass off riding bikes, because you're freaked out about being in love with Jeff? That you think you're making it risky for Jeff by being around him? And being around him makes you feel gay and putting both of you in danger?" Here, Tom sat up after ticking off his points on his fingers, leaned forward and said, "But, you don't care about getting seen everyday riding bikes to school and around town, in winter even, with the guy you just fucked, and even old shopkeepers think is your boyfriend?"

My brain stopped working - it just locked up, shut down, went blank. My eyes kept sending the image of my still hands in my lap, and I heard my pulse, and I felt the temperature of the room, even smelled the Cinnabar I had just put on as I dressed - I sensed it all just fine, I simply could not form thoughts or words. It was as if language no longer existed. Knowledge and experience were all intact, but there was no longer language or thought. All the machinery was there, but it was shut down. The circuits checked out, there was data flowing, but no computation was being executed.

When the machinery began to rumble back up to speed, as the computations began again, when thought and language returned, I understood. My feelings for Jeff were mine, not on public display. If everyone were to suspect I was gay, it would be from riding to school with Tom, whom I had been having sex with. We were seen everywhere together, and had been doing things together for over two years. Jeff and I had done nothing together by comparison, it was only my feelings and emotions for Jeff that were so much more revealing. My emotions. My feelings. Things inside me.

Tom and I had until recently joked openly with each other, calling each other fags, cock suckers, homos, dicks, cocks, asses, and more together in public and with the guys. On Tuesday, when Mr. Broft had revealed how Tom and I seemed like gays, Tom and I had decided to be far more careful about such things. Jeff and I had rarely done anything similar, not even in private. If there was anyone I was in risk of exposing my gayness with in public, or possibly had already done so, it was Tom. I only felt more exposed around Jeff because I was so much more attracted to him.

Everything moved left - or maybe right, or perhaps another direction altogether - by an infinitesimal distance; a fraction of the width of a photon, or just the distance between two quasi-quantum fragments.

There, in that place, for two weeks I had ridden to school in the dead of winter, ridden around town for a couple of years as well, with the guy I had been having sex with for nearly all of those three years. I would never have done that where I came from, but there, it was a reality. Undeniable and irrefutable fact.

I finally drew in my first breath in the new place. The momentary dizziness decreased to nothingness, the pain in my temple sharpened but didn't worsen, my stomach rumbled.


I realized that I wasn't alone. Not only wasn't I not alone, I had a party, two parties, to get ready for. And Tom was waiting.

"Um . . . what?"

"Um, what? Is that your answer?" Tom asked as if I had insulted him.

"What were we talking about?" I asked in all innocence, not having a clue.

"I asked why you feel like exposed with Jeff, but not with me."

"I don't know, really, but okay, I'll ride the bus."

"Really?" Tom asked, clearly not believing me?


"I don't believe it!" Tom whispered in awe.

"You'll see on Monday," I assured him.

Things were settling. There had been a whirlwind, I assumed, and the remnants died off as I seemed to come to rest from having been swirling deep in its midst.

"Not that, I think you will take the bus Monday."

"What then? I can't see when I'm being silly?"

"No! That it was so easy!"

We grinned together, and I felt at home there.

I leaned to the desk and pulled another roach out from under the statuette of the dragon. We had just enough time to smoke it and then begin decorating before my parents got home. I was glad the guy who was there until a few moments ago kept his stuff where I kept mine. I hoped he felt at home wherever he ended up.

We talked about plans for the big party later. I worked out what I wanted to say about him and I, with his help. Everyone at the second party would already know about us, just not what they thought they did. I asked Tom his opinion on saying more to Jeff, alone. He said he thought it was a good idea, but he didn't want to influence me either way. By the time I felt good with the speech about the two of us, we were running out of time to get any decorating done. After mentioning that to Tom, it was apparent there was more going on, yet.

"I said we don't have to do any," he repeated.

"I know you say that, but when they get home, how pissed are they gonna be?"

He rolled his eyes and started miming sign language at me.

"Your . . dad . . . said . . . no . . . decorations . . . in . . . the . . . house. Period."

"It's on your ass, totally then," I insisted.

I wasn't sure I believed him, but I didn't want not to. If Tom said dad called him at his house after school and said so, then he did. But I knew mom was going to be pissed. I knew her image of the party included balloons and confetti, and worse. It looked to be an interesting time before the first party.

"Well, dude, you wanna hit Atari, or what?"


We stood to walk from the desk to the bed, where the Atari lay at its foot. As I neared vertical, I knew that I wasn't going to make it easily. My belly began weaving, my vision darkened, and I started riding body rushes. I hoped to reach out to the desk and rest my hand on it to help support myself, and it was on its way in compliance, I hoped, because I was no longer sure I could feel any part of myself. The entirety of me, of whatever made up the me inside the meat, was riding on undulating waves of energy and essence. There were strange colors, and odd and pleasant noises, and sensations that made no sense whatsoever. Then there was darkness and dizziness.

I opened my eyes and saw that my hand was indeed on top of the desk, and that I was wobbling on my legs. After a snicker from Tom, and after riding out the last waves, I walked over to the beanbag chair and bent down to get the bag of grass under it.

I dropped the edge of the beanbag and stood with the grass in hand, then staggered as something made a popping noise in my head. Under a sudden onslaught of dizziness and waves of nausea, far more than I had just experienced before, I began to topple forward, downward toward the beanbag. I watched the beanbag grow nearer so slowly.

Oh crap! I'm gonna get sick! And pass out! I'm gonna pass out and choke to death on my own puke! I thought as the waves set my internal senses awash and I fell, spinning into a black vacuum.


An empty, featureless nothing surrounded me. There was a complete lack of any physical sensations, I distinctly noticed. No heat, no cold, no breeze, no warmth from the sun, no chill from the overcast, not even the feeling of the earth under my feet. I couldn't even see myself when I looked down to find what I was standing on, if anything. I could see nothing of myself, not even my hands when I was sure they were waving in front of me.

"You can't see yourself. You're not really here," Toby's voice said.

I held my breath.

"You can see me, if you look. I belong here. You don't, yet."

His sweet, sexy, southern accent was unmistakable. His slight drawl and the way he accented certain words for emphasis both were also individual only to him. I felt something then, but nothing physical; I felt the love I had always felt for Toby. It was like an enormous, glowing, intangible warmth around me.

My voice croaked, "Toby?"

When I looked up, he was there in front of me, cute as ever. His strawberry blond hair hung to just at his shoulders. His pale, pointed face with the nearly invisible eyebrows and piercing green eyes were all as perfect as I remembered. He was completely nude, and it seemed perfectly normal, and not sexual in any way; just normal.


"Man, for being so smart, you're sure dumb!"

I wasn't insulted at all, and even smiled.

"Just don't start the van, okay? Remember that. Not alone. Wait for your dad."

"What's with the van stuff? I never knew I was gonna get it when I first dreamed this up. So what's with that?"

He smiled, then shook his head.

"What? I'm so high dude!"

Toby smiled and shook his head more.

"I miss that. But look, listen, okay? Don't worry about replacing me or losing me. You're not replacing me, you're not losing me, dude, you're just moving on. Okay?"

"Uh, yeah, okay. If you say so. But . . ."

"What, dufus?"

"I miss you. A lot. I don't want to forget stuff about you. Or, even, you know, forget."

"If you do, then you do. I don't think you will. Do you?"

I looked at him, soaking in the nearly idealized Toby before me. His mannerisms, how he stood, how he moved his face and hands when he talked, all of it. I was a man dying of dehydration in a desert who had found a natural spring.


"Then just move your ass down the road 'n see who's next 'n don't worry 'bout me. Remember me, but worry 'bout who you like. Just like who ya like."

"I'm a good therapist."

"Now I got to ask what."

"Like you're real! Come on. You know I don't believe in this stuff! You can't come talk to me whenever you want to!"

"I didn't come here, you did. Don't say I did anything. And if I'm not me, I'm you, then why did you say that I know you don't believe in," he gestured expansively around us at the nothingness, "this stuff!"

"I was in my room all totally stoned, and I think my scab popped, and I passed out. This is my head messing with itself while all the outside stuff is shut off is all."

"Is it?"

He crossed his arms the way he did when he was sure of something. He would often bet everything he had when he stood in that pose, even against huge odds.

I copied his pose and said, "Yes, it is," very firmly.

"Then explain this."

I was in Tim's van. I was surrounded by everyone in the circle, and a few other friends, but Tim wasn't around. I was sitting where Tim always does in back; on the bed against the sink. Suddenly everyone laughed, and Jeff jumped out of the front seat. His shirt and pants were wet and he was glaring at someone in the front of the van.

Somehow I knew that only Eric and Tom were still up there, on the other side of the curtain, and wondered what had happened. Jeff's white shirt had turned brown and a stain spread across Jeff's lap as he brushed at his clothes.

Brent joked, "Geeze, Jeff! Need a diaper?"

"Ha, ha, ha, it is to laugh!" Jeff said back, anger apparent in his voice.

I was laughing. Jeff was so cute! His upper lip curled upward and to his right, exposing his white teeth and braces. Those large, soft, luscious lips stood out against his pale complexion. His light blond hair haloed his round, gentle face. My mouth was literally agape at his handsomeness.


Suddenly I heard the familiar sound of dad's ride pulling up outside, then the car door closing before it accelerated away.

Dad's home! We got decorations to put up! He and mom are gonna be mad, or let down! I thought, pushing myself up from the beanbag.

"Shit! We gotta get down there!" I mumbled as I finally reached my knees.

The cut on my temple was throbbing incredibly painfully. I was still dizzy, and a bit nauseous, and definitely weak and shaky.

"Huh?" I heard mumbled from the area of the desk.

"I said we didn't even get the decorations up and dad's home!"

I had made it to my feet and was recovering from the rushes as Tom held up a hand.

"No rush!" he said, stretching out in the chair.

"No rush?" I asked incredulously.

"Your dad said not to decorate, remember?"

Suddenly I remembered.

"Oh, guess you're right! Fuck! Good pot!"

I collapsed onto the beanbag. I tried fitting the weirdness of that hallucination into place, picking and poking at the memory of it, trying to expose some proof of my own mind at work. I felt I was open to the fact that it wasn't my own mind after all, that it was more than just my imagination, but I found it too hard to believe and rejected it.

And what did it all mean, anyway? Tim's van? The Circle guys and some other friends in it, partying. When? Where? How? Where was Tim? Why was it just . . . aha! Just guys from the party tonight? And what's it supposed to prove? That I can't stop thinking of Toby, I guess.

I love Toby, and I want to think there is a place we can be together some day, is all. I just can't just accept it, I need proof. And sickness and dizziness and then a hallucination with a head wound and a major buzz aren't enough! If there is a god, he proved himself a cruel and unjust one to me months ago. Why would he let two fags be happy and with each other in his heaven?

I shook off those thoughts, focusing on the fact that I heard dad's voice calling for me from downstairs.

"Yeah! We're up here! Coming!"

The effort of yelling made the cut throb, but I didn't want him coming up and smelling the pot. I realized I was again being silly.

Dad knows! He'd probably expect to smell it today, before the parties. He'd probably be surprised not to smell it! Even if he does know, I still don't like the feeling of him catching me. No way! Even if he did sneak some one time!

I laughed at the idea of dad toking my stash as I tried to walk. Tom didn't ask why I was laughing, but he did grin a lot himself. It was a long process, walking to the stairs seemed like I was hauling a train on ice. My headache was back, but dull and softly throbbing from its home near my temple, taunting me with the promise to make me puke and pass out at its whim.

 Tom waited patiently at the stairs, smiling suspiciously.

"What the hell now?" I asked in passing as I started down the stairs.

"Nothing you want to know about!" he said, patting me on the back.

We went downstairs and I headed straight for the kitchen. Dad was getting things out of the refrigerator, and I immediately asked why he didn't want the decorations up. I didn't mind not having decorations, as I felt they were childish and for younger kids anyway. It wasn't that I had a problem with no decorations, I simply didn't understand what had changed, or why I wasn't informed instead of Tom.

Dad said they looked fine, good job.

"What?" I asked, more confused.

"Don't worry about 'em. Go watch a movie," he said, making shooing gestures with his hands.

Tom and I headed to the den. I felt disconnected, distant from everything. I wondered if it was just me getting used to the new reality I found myself in. Having dad playing a mind game on me too made it so much worse.

"Are you gonna tell me what dad meant?" I asked, reading the description on the back of one of the movie boxes.

When Tom didn't reply, I looked at him. Tom was blushing a bit, and smiling his small, little, secret smile. My mood shifted from the gloom of feeling apart toward the warmth of friendship.

"Oh, great. Another little secret, eh?" I asked, dropping the movie back onto the table. I turned toward him, grinned evilly, and shook out my hands. "And don't tell me about no Sherlock, neither," I said, taking small, slow steps toward my friend.

Tom's small smile grew much larger, and his blush increased as I closed the distance between us. Soon, with each step I took forward, Tom took two backward.

"Don't try it," Tom warned, nearly laughing.

"Don't try what?" I asked slowly, smoothly, grinning innocently.

"Alex," Tom warned again, small bursts of laughter escaping from him.

"Tom," I warned back, taking faster, larger steps.



"Come on! I can't tell!" Tom said quickly, turning to run around the couch as I charged.

We were on opposite ends of the couch, feinting moves side to side, grinning and laughing.

"I can't say anything!"

"Oh, you won't be able to say anything, soon," I said, grinning evilly, feinting to my right.

"Come on, man! Your dad's right here!"

"Yes, he is, ain't he?" I said, undeterred. "Since he knows we're lovers, what's the problem?" I asked, grinning wider.

"I! We're not! We said so! And I don't want caught by your 'rents!"

"Caught? Caught what?" I asked as innocently as a toddler, then made kissing motions.

"I . . ." Tom said a bit loudly, cringing when he heard himself.

By now we had worked around the couch and were across from each other, he at the front, me behind it. I lunged over the back of the couch, grasping at any part of Tom I could latch onto; it happened to be his belt.

Lucky me! I thought as I slowed my fall forward by pulling upward with the hand on Tom's belt. I pushed up with my left hand on the couch, now pulling Tom's belt, thusly him, down to me. Tom had no choice but to come down with it.

Tom tried furiously to get away, but I had both hands around his belt in a tight grip. I was pulling us together, upside-down to each other, I draped over the back of the couch, Tom on his knees on the cushions.

"Come on! Your dad could see!" he said in a stage whisper, trying to uncurl my fingers from his belt.

I relented with my left hand, releasing Tom's belt, transferring it instead to Tom's crotch. I felt Tom's interest and excitement.

"You don't seem to mind, too much," I said softly.

"Don't! Been hard since we smoked that joint. Just leave it be for now!" Tom nearly begged, slapping at my hands furiously.

Tom was almost sitting normally, me still draped over the back of the couch, groping his package. Tom stopped defending himself and put both hands on my legs and pulled me over the couch. My feet slammed down on the coffee table, nearly breaking it. Dad called from the kitchen, asking what all the noise was and warning us not to break anything. As we both laughed, I sat on the couch next to him as he straightened his pants and belt.

My hand shot out and cupped Tom's groin again.

"Still hard?" I asked, feeling the obvious answer.

"Been hard since upstairs," he said quietly, not looking at me and still blushing.

"Wish I could do something about it," I offered, rubbing and squeezing it.

I could feel the familiar bulge of his hardness, could easily find the prominent head. I scratched at it with my fingernails.

"Oh, man, stop," Tom said, pulling my hands away.

I let him, positioning himself in a more traditional sitting posture. I was overly randy, and I knew it. I was also fantastically happy and tingling with anticipation. All aside from being as stoned as I could ever remember being.

"Why ya hard?" I asked, again looking through the rented movies.

"Because when you was laying there, I wanted to do somethin', okay?"

"Layin' there?" I asked, putting on my extremely curious face.

"On the beanbag chair. I got a woody and I wanted to sneak over and, uh, just did, okay?"

"And you keep saying you want to stop!" I said, grinning.

"You know I do. That don't mean I don't think about it. It just feels so great. You know!" Tom said, blushing brightly.

I looked at Tom, saw his blush on his pale, Irish complexion. His dark eyes were twinkling behind his wire-frame glasses. I wanted him. Right there and right then.

"Tom, you know," I cleared my throat before going on. "Tom, I really wish you were gay, too. I sometimes think I love you," I admitted, looking back at the movie in my hand, blushing brighter than Tom.

He was quiet, unnerving me. I hadn't meant to say so much with so few words.

I hope I didn't go too far! I thought furiously.

I glanced over at him from the corner of my eye to try and see his reaction, hoping not to find anger there. Tom was smiling a bit, which relaxed my nerves a bit.

"If I was gay, I think I would love you right back," he said slowly, blushing even more.

I had never seen Tom blush so furiously. He was so red that I was worried he might have a stroke, or something like it.

"Serious?" I asked, surprising myself.

There was suddenly more I wanted to say, unsure if I could say it, or should. Tom was my closest friend, my best friend, and he knew about me. I decided to say what was on my mind and to hell with what Tom thought. I wanted to say it, and now seemed the perfect time.

"Tom. I really do love you. Your the best thing I've got now. I can tell you anything, even talk about who's cute and hot and stuff. And I think I love you more for it. I think if you weren't around, I think, I think I would go crazy. Real crazy, ya know? Like locked up and lobotomized."

"Naw. You'd be okay if we never met. You'd have some other buddy to talk to. You know?"

"I do know. And I know without you, without talking to you, without you, I'd never do it."

"Never do it? You mean sex? Sure, right! You'd still be doin' my brother!"

"Jon? No way!"

We laughed, but I grew serious again quickly.

Tom's laughter was a joy. Since Toby had gone, Tom kept me sane, stable, and with Jeff so recently so remote, Tom had pulled double duty on that front. The events recently were piling up. I had learned I was transparently gay to my parents, at least since summer, and probably quite longer. I had done more with Jeff than ever before, and it had been too much for him, we were apart as friends because of it, and I was unsure how our friendship was going to go. Tom wanted to quit messing around, but wanted to still mess around for now. I was probably in love with Jeff, but I kind of loved Tom. And Toby hung over them all like a cloud, proving their unworthiness to float free and unencumbered above it all like him.

But right then, one thing was running through my head the most. I had one thing to ask.


"What? What is it this time?" he said, rolling his eyes in mock exasperation and smiling.

"Serious. I want to ask you something," I said, refusing to back down.

"So go ahead, man." Tom looked to the double doors leading to the dinning room and beyond. "You've asked me for blow-jobs and hand-jobs and we've, uh, done other, the real thing. What can you ask that's hard now?"

I paused, seemingly reading the movie box in my hand. Tom reached over and took the movie.

"What?" he asked, locking eyes with me.

I cleared my throat. I cleared it again after a pause.

"Tom. Can I kiss you?"

There, I asked. Just, don't freak out on me! Just say yes or no or maybe, but just don't freak! I pleaded internally.

"With your dad in the kitchen? And why do you want to kiss me? All we done and you want to now?"

"It just, I want to now. I've wanted to before, lots of times. When we were, um, you know. I, just, right now, you're so cute! I just wanna show you how much you mean to me!" I said, the emotions growing too strong to deny, tears forming in my eyes.

I had no idea why those feelings were so insistent right then. Maybe the chase, the play, the words we had just shared.

"Sure. But you gotta make it quick," Tom said, softly.

"Really?" I asked, not believing my ears.

In the sudden silence I could easily hear my heart begin to pump loudly.

"No tongue, ya fag!" he said, smiling and blushing.

I snickered and rolled my eyes.

"Are you sure? I don't want you to just to make me happy," I said before Tom leaned over and placed his lips over mine.

I never had the chance to close my eyes. I saw Tom lean in, and before I knew it, Tom's face was so close only his forehead and closed eyes were in my sight, and his small, narrow lips were on mine. It was brief, soft, and warm.

When Tom leaned back and opened his eyes, I sighed and tried to say something. Anything. My mouth went dry and my tongue locked in place against the roof.

"Was that enough?" Tom asked, only slightly blushing, still grinning.

"No," I said, leaning forward quickly and placing my lips on Tom's as I closed my eyes.

Our glasses struck together and Tom didn't pull back, to my surprise. I let my lips pull on Tom's. He leaned closer, opened and closed his lips in response to my movements.

When I leaned back, breathless, and opened my eyes, Tom was smiling, still blushing.

"Sorry," I said.

"No. It was cool. You're a good kisser! I'm gonna remember that for Helen."

"Really?" I asked.

I hadn't kissed anyone since Toby, and only Toby. I knew that I had missed and wanted that passion, that connection, that love.

"Really. Did I do okay?" Tom asked.

"Yeah. You did fine!" I said, smiling wider. "Wanna practice some more later?" I asked, laughing in that way we did to show we weren't serious.

"You are such a fag," Tom said overly clearly. "But I don't care. And I don't love you, not that way, but I love you, as a buddy, as my best friend. And I'll never care you're gay, ever."

"You know, you're probably the best buddy a guy ever had, really. I bet most guys would never take it as well as you. Let alone let me kiss you." I sniffed, tears wanting to start again.

"Maybe. Maybe not," Tom offered.

"Thanks, for letting me do that. I've kinda always wanted to."

"But why now?" Tom asked.

"I don't know. Good pot?" I shrugged. "Maybe because it's just a good day."

I was suddenly so glad for having Tom as my friend, that I seemed filled with fiery heat. I wanted to let it shine out of my eyes and mouth for all to see. I felt as if nothing could hurt me, not with Tom around. Even the mistake I had made with Jeff seemed less important, especially with him coming, not hiding from me.

"Tom, will you always be my best friend?"

"Yeah. 'Course! Stupid question!" he stated firmly.

Why did I have to do so much with Jeff? How could I be so stupid! And why do I feel like this for him! What is it with me? Why can't I just have a friend I don't want to fuck? And why can't I fall in love with someone who's going to stick around? I deserve no friends. I made a friend run away from me because I'm a fag! Why do I like boys anyway? Damn it! I won't fucking cry like a faggot boy! I demanded of myself.

"Thanks," I said, beginning to loose the fight against the tears.

"Why you cryin'?" Tom asked, scooting closer.

"I guess I feel like it!" I said, wiping at my eyes behind my glasses.

"Not sad?"

"No, hell no! So fuckin' glad I could explode!" I said, smiling through the tears.

"For the kiss?" Tom asked, obviously surprised.

"Yeah. And because you're here. And my best bud. And you don't care I'm gay, and you still hang around with me."

"Well. Not like it was a surprise!" Tom said, laughing, sniffling as well. "Okay," he said, patting my back. "Let's pick a flick and relax. You can kiss me again later, if it's such a big deal, big boy," he offered teasingly.

"And what if I really want to? Later?" I asked, seriously, adjusting my glasses.

"We'll see," Tom offered, picking through the movies again. "But don't get used to it. You ain't turnin' me to the darkside!"

"I don't wanna. I want ya t'stay just the way you are!" I said, slapping Tom's thigh quickly, not lingering to touch, just a friendly slap.

 "Good, 'cause I ain't changin'. Now which movie, fag?"

Friday Evening: Van Party