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The Circle

Chapter 20

Friday Night: Toga Party

I felt something against my face and wondered what was so hard and cold. I wondered if I had passed out on the twins' pool table.

That would explain the pain in my head! I fell asleep with my head on one of the balls!

When I opened my eyes, I saw that I was laying face down on a bare, fairly dirty, concrete floor. When I rolled over, with difficulty, I realized that I was in the bathroom at Tim's. I sat up, surprised. That movement caused dizziness and nausea.

Tim's? Why am I here? I was at the twins' place for the Circle. No, wait, that was a while ago. Right? That was right before the day I... pushed Jeff too far. And now he won't show up at my birthday parties. NO! Wait, he did! He was at my party! I don't remember much of the party, though. Why? Did he and I talk there? What happened? The van! I got his van for my birthday! But that was on a school day. Right? Isn't this the weekend?

But what am I doing in Tim's bathroom?

The last I remember was he was out of the business and out of grass, and I didn't have to ride there to get any. Didn't have to ride here to get any. But I did? I was let down that I wouldn't have a lot of grass for the party later. The one where they wouldn't even give me a hint about where it was going to . . . Tim's! It was going to be . . no, it is at Tim's!

I heard music and laughter then, and remembered the party, having to pee, and going into the bathroom. I stood slowly and shakily, pulling myself up using the sink.

Memory flashbacks, huh? At least I'm not dreaming Toby again. I almost hope that's over. But maybe again . .  but that can't really be him. But how did I know about the van long before I got it if it ain't? And then seeing Jeff's soda accident?

My temple throbbed with each thought. I had been laying so that my glasses were pressed against the cut, irritating it. I looked into the mirror over the sink and adjusted them, wincing at the sharp pain. No fresh blood was evident, and I felt better not seeing any. I stared at myself in the mirror again, concerned.

I know I'm not that drunk. Or stoned. Not yet. But I sure intend to be, and soon. But what the hell? It's just the beer and the fucking kick-ass pot! And all the stress, I decided.

I turned on the water and wondered how long I had been in there. When I remembered the teasing about jacking off as I had entered the bathroom, who knew how long ago, I knew I was in for it.

Oh, great! Now they're gonna really think I just did! I'm so toast! Shit! How long? Can't be too long or someone would'a come knocked, or something. But, oh shit, are they gonna get me so bad! So, it can't be that bad, right?

I sighed out loud, still looking at myself in the mirror as I leaned over the sink. I stared hard at myself, wishing I had the real red hair and sexiness of a real redhead, or was born with the wonderful northern European genes, or at least had something attractive about me. 

But Toby liked me. And if someone like him did, then there has to be someone else out there who will too. And it's such a good sign that somebody as hot as Toby thought I was at least cute enough to talk to and start making, fuck man, he made passes at me. That's the only way to say what he did was; he made passes at me. Somebody as cute, wonderful, sweet, kind, adorable as Toby, wanted to make passes at me! Me!

I looked at myself, wishing that I had something attractive about me that I could see.

I knew I was only burning more time. I was giving them more time to prepare the bonfire, and more fuel for it the longer I was in there. I washed my hands and face, brushed some dust off myself, and took several deep breaths with my hand on the doorknob. The moment I opened the door I felt the atmosphere change; I heard the sudden hush of conversation behind the music. Most of the guys were looking in my direction, and I suddenly realized that I was the center of the nights activities. That was nice, but that sudden change immediately set off my warning systems.

"Okay, tell me you weren't just talking about me," I said as I walked to take my seat on the couch between Tom and Jeff.

"Not full of our self, are we?" Jon asked.

"Oh, come on! It got so quiet in here when I opened that door!"

"Well, what d'ya expect? You were in there like ten minutes! Must have been a good one!" Eric chided, making stroking gestures with his hand.

Several "Ooooo"s were offered in appreciation of his jibe.

"I didn't know you were timing me, Eric, again! Jealous still?" I shot back.

More "Ooooo"s, and louder.

"Yeah? What if I said that was the longest you ever took at it?" Eric countered.

The "Ooooo"s were a bit less enthusiastic that time; Eric had missed the bull's-eye, as everyone had heard it used before. Fresh material was of vital importance in such a contest.

"I'd say it was still five minutes longer than your longest time!" I riposted.

All the guys joined in the "Ooooo"s that time, becoming both spectators and judges of yet another sudden dissing competition.

"Did you wipe the seat? People hate when you leave your cum on it, you know."

 "No, I left it right where I always do, for you to lick up."

The "Ooooo"s shot up several octaves, the loudest so far. Most of the boys were laughing out loud as well.

When Eric seemed stumped, "Come on, Amish!" Todd teased him, using his Pennsylvania origins to irritate him. "Amish can't dis?"

"Okay! You win!" Eric conceded. "I can't think of anything to top that one. Todd better watch his ass, though," he added, trying to throw a menacing grin at Todd. "And I wasn't Amish!"

Todd ignored his glare and correction, except to roll his eyes at them.

 When I reached for one of the cold beers on the coffee table, Jon again slapped my hand away. We exchanged glares briefly, all four eyes mere slits. I relented with, "Fine, beer-bitch."

Tim reached into the pile and pulled out another sheet. He had to hunt for the tag before some of the guys yelled that it was on the floor. When he picked it up and read it, he smiled widely and bounced his eyebrows once.

"Bets!" Jon called.

Everyone shouted out names, mostly Tim's.

"Serious bets? If you're right, you're in on the next bowl and get another beer. If you're wrong, you're skipped, on both," Jon warned, always the bet master.

Tom and Ryan bet it was Tim, Todd and Brent agreed it was me. Eric bet on himself, Jon put his hopes on Eric, and I bet on Tom. Tim held us in suspense as the bowl was filled and lit. When it came to Tim, he took a long, slow hit and held it for some time.

"Alex," he said exhaling smoke.

There were catcalls as I was pushed and pulled to my feet and led around to the other side of the coffee table to stand next to Tim.

This is too bizarre! I thought, and "I didn't know I had to, too!" I pleaded.

Everyone catcalled and said to get on with it.

The idea that I was to change into a toga hadn't occurred to me. I had been too busy looking forward to watching all of them change. Suddenly, I was standing in front of them all of as they urged me on. I was intensely embarrassed and laughing as well. Having all of them laughing and watching me made me feel incredibly self-conscious. I found it more difficult than I would have thought, or, indeed had thought. Things along the same line had often been dares in Circle meetings; it was done quickly, though, and it wasn't anything like the toga changing. Something like the changing into the togas was also a frequent fantasy of mine, but in those fantasies I either performed beyond the merely possible, or was assisted by horny hands; often the hands of the very guys urging me to change. It wasn't my fantasy, but it was uncomfortably close.

Fine! They can just have a look, I thought. Not like they all ain't seen it before! Or touched it. Some sucked it. A couple got fucked by it. And I'm wearing briefs, so what the hell am I so nervous about? Just do it! I screamed at myself; and did, finally.

I kicked my shoes off toward Tim, who placed them in the line of others. I pulled off my Queen tour t-shirt, folded it carefully so that the images weren't folded, then handed it to Tim, who showed it proper respect. I unfastened and unzipped and let my jeans fall down. I stepped out of them, kicked them up to my hands, handed them to Tim, who took them, folded them, and placed them next to all the others on the shelves.

I felt my cock hanging in my shorts, and I knew it was more than soft, but thankfully not hard. I wished then, only momentarily, that I hadn't given up boxers. I felt as if I were blushing all over as I saw all of them looking at me. I had never stood in front of all them in nothing but my shorts before. Swimming trunks more than once, boxers a couple of times, and all of them had seen me change in my room one or two times, except Tim. It was vastly different standing in my briefs in front of all of them, slightly drunk, very stoned. I was thankful that my turn had not come just after someone else had just changed. I knew I would have been erect in such a situation, and could only be glad of my luck.

Maybe Fate doesn't totally hate me, I thought, as Tim handed me a sheet. He's handing me that far too slow! He's having a blast! Look at his fucking wide-ass smile! Oh my gawd! He's checking me out! He's bouncing his eyebrows! Oh my gawd! Well, he ain't seen me naked like I have him. Let him have a look!

I spread my arms and turned toward him, then wiggled my hips, sending my package jiggling. I laughed and asked, "See anything you like?"

He threw the sheet, more at me than to me. I laughed more, sure of having gotten the sheet sooner than I would have otherwise, and shook it open. It was only then that I realized I had no idea how to make a toga out of it! I was obviously having trouble, and the guys were laughing, some shouting directions that made no sense to me as I tried to remember what Jeff had done. Tim took charge of the sheet and started wrapping it around me. His hands were not shy about my person, and after several flinches and sudden jerks from me, the toga was arranged. As Tim adjusted it a bit more, he pinched my ass firmly enough to elicit an obviously resultant, "Hey!" Of course there was also a round of resultant laughter from the others.

Tim placed one of the white, blank buttons on my toga, said, "Your Majesty," then gestured with his arm for me to take my seat.

I sat again, between Tom and Jeff, on the long, worn, old, once gold and tan couch. Tom was on my left, Jeff, on my right. Eric was on the other side of Tom. Todd was on one of the old, wooden kitchen chairs he had moved near the large, green recliner where the twins were sitting. Tim was to my left, standing at the larger, blue recliner with the sheets on it. Jon was sitting on one of the old kitchen chairs backwards, with his arms over the back, between the twins and Tim.

I turned my attention to the white button I wore, that those in togas also wore. I hadn't thought much about it when Jeff and the twins received one, not until I received one myself. They were point shields, nothing new there, they had been used before during Circle games to keep track of scores. Every time you got a point for what ever reason was in effect for the night, you would get a hash mark on your shield. When the night was over, or sometimes the next morning, the points were totaled. Usually the winner dictated the actions of, or repercussions to, the loser.

Wonder what gets you points tonight, I wondered.

I was about to ask when Tim said it was time to pay off the bets. Tom drank an entire beer down in three goes, beside the one he already had open. Brent managed to get his down, but barely. They took several minutes to finish the bowl between them.

I looked down again at the button I wore as they worked on finishing their beers and the bowl.

"What the hell is the rules for 'em tonight?" I asked at it.

"You'll see," was the multiply supplied answer.

I sighed and took a swig of my beer. That was blatantly unfair, and everyone knew it, and they were supporting it. I knew it meant trouble for me - somehow. Tim pulled another sheet, and after finding the tag, Jon asked if there were any bets. There were, and eventually Tim read Tom's name.

He looked upward in horror for a moment, then seemed to shrug something off as he stood. He walked to the far side of the coffee table and tossed off his shoes, took of his shirt, and dropped trou, smoothly and nonchalantly, as if he had done so many times. I know that I saw nothing new, but I suspected that the rest did, especially after all of their comments.

Tom was hard. Not just kind of hard, nor just tenting his briefs, nor semi-erect. Tom was standing at full attention, pushing his shorts out so far that the waistband didn't touch his waist. He laughed, probably mostly in embarrassment, but his cock was pushing so hard against the material of his briefs that it didn't move with his laughter.

Once quite heavy, Tom wasn't any longer, but some muscles had replaced most of his fat as he had grown. He was very pale and contoured nicely. He was a few months older than me, but he was shorter by around two inches. His straight, dark hair was beginning to show as more than wispy traces between his nipples and below his navel. His legs were beginning to show more than mere traces of hair on them, mostly his upper and inner thighs. I knew that his hair looked heavier than it was against his pale skin.

I thought how every one of the guys would be watching me watching Tom. I thought that I could almost feel their eyes on me. I thought about how they had all suspected Tom and I were boyfriends. I considered that maybe they were all looking at Tom, having never seen him undressed, or rarely having seen him so, and probably had never seen him hard. I also considered looking around to see where they all were looking. I almost did, but I didn't want to know.

Their comments continued as Tom bent down and handed his shirt and pants to Tim, who stored them after giving him the sheet for his toga. Tom put the sheet around himself, quickly and with finesse, hiding the view of his tightly-tented shorts. Tim pinned a button on his toga and Tom took his seat. He still had not made a single comment to the numerous teases and comments that he, and thusly I as well for some of them, had endured. He toasted me with a "Happy sixteen, man," and downed his beer.

I returned the toast, along with the others. I also chose to ignore the comments, at least the ones that involved me peripherally, to say the least.

As I was nearly done with the beer, still chugging it down, Jeff leaned over to me, and with a hand on my thigh, whispered in my ear, "Who here would you fuck first right now if you were given the choice?"

I choked and spat beer from my mouth and nose. I took long moments recovering, choking and inhaling foam. The temple cut throbbed and pulsed with each effort, my vision darkened a bit, the nausea faintly threatened, the dizziness teased. I took several controlled breaths, coughing the air out each time to clear my throat. Someone struck my back a few times, and it did seem to help. I sniffed in through my nose to clear my sinuses. Someone handed me a towel, and I saw someone's hand cleaning the table with another. I coughed into the towel after wiping my front and chin. When I was sure my voice would work without cracking and causing me more coughs, I whipped my head to face Jeff. Everyone had already gotten quiet; I looked around at all of my friends, whom all were looking directly at me. I could feel the expectant hush, like a dense but invisible fog.

"What did Jeff just whisper?" Jon asked, smiling and obviously curious.

Blushing, I replied, "Nothing," totally, completely, and absolutely unbelievably, despite my sudden best efforts.

"Don't matter what, it only matters if he embarrassed you as much as it looked," Jon said seriously, despite the grin.

"What? Why?" I asked.

"Just, was it?"



"Yeah, it was, why?" I answered, as if to ask, 'So what are you going to do about it?'

Jon picked up the marker from the table and leaned across the wire-spool table and me. He put a hash mark on Jeff's button as Jeff proudly presented it for his point.

"What the fuck?" I exclaimed more than asked as I started to catch on. "Don't even tell me you get p-p-points for embarrassing me!" I pleaded loudly.

The smiles and the laughter were all the answer I needed. Everyone got a point then, Tim even putting one on the buttons still waiting to be given out. Jeff got one more than everyone else for the idea, he proudly announced: He now had three.

I glared at Jeff, letting him know there would be retribution.

Oh, yes, there will be retribution! I promised myself, tipping my beer at Jeff before finishing it off.

Jeff shrugged, picked up his own beer, finished it, then commanded Brent to get the two of us another one.

"Seventeen more hours," Jeff reminded his bet slave when he seemed about to object.

Brent returned, handing one to Jeff, one to me, and opening and sipping the third. Tom then demanded a fresh beer as he handed Brent his empty.

"Uh! Why didn't you tell me before I got these?" Brent demanded.

"Because, one, your my slave too, two, that was Jeff's order, not mine, and three, I don't care," Tom said haughtily.

Brent sighed, put his beer down, asked if anyone else wanted another beer, then grimaced when nearly everyone said yes. He went off to obey his other master.

"Only five more hours on your contract to me!" Tom shouted.

"Yay," Brent cheered, far less than half-heartedly, while waving a single finger in a tiny circle by his head; he knew that only meant that Tom was about to take advantage of his last remaining hours.

I refilled the bowl, Tim pulled another sheet, bets were made. Jon lost alone when Eric's name was called. We all shared the next bowl while Eric changed. He followed the same routine; shoes, shirt, pants. He showed off his semi-hardness, even shaking it in his white briefs.

"Got more now than most of you!" he bragged, to cries of 'bullshit' and 'liar'; which it was, as I knew.

Eric's becoming a good looking guy, and an unusual kind of good looking, too, I thought. He's gonna have a long one, for sure, but Jon and Tim will always be bigger. And Jeff will always have him beat for size. Ryan probably will, too. But nobody can come close as the group card. Nobody even comes close to how outrageous Eric can get.

At almost fifteen, Eric had little muscle, but even less body fat. He had the kind of build that mean he would be stocky all through his life; he was sturdy and squarely formed. He used to be called 'blockhead' until it wore thin in overuse; but it still fit him. His hair was coppery red, even all of his body hair and the hair behind his briefs, I knew. It was possible to see a hint of red around the base of his dick through his thin, worn, white briefs. There were fine, small hairs on his legs and arms, but were usually invisible against his skin; and it was growing rapidly. It was easy to see his freckles. I was always amazed at his covering of them. They were generally fairly large, and they nearly covered him; everywhere.

He was semi-hard, making it was easy to see he was enjoying the night, too. He wasn't long, having a way to go before he was done growing, but he did push out his shorts almost as well as Tom had. His dick pushed his shorts to the right, letting one of his balls slip out the left-side leg hole of his shorts. He laughed and pulled it back with his hand, then adjusted his shorts upward. He got his toga on, fitting it well and finishing it off quickly.

Gonna make a good frat boy, I thought as he sat.

"Okay, while you guys bet on who's next, I've got to go pee!" I said, standing to do so.

I weaved as I stood, almost falling backwards. A push from someone behind me on my back and butt kept me from doing so. I weaved a moment, then nodded and struck off.

"Again?" was asked by several of the guys. "You'll go blind," and other masturbatory puns were thrown like rice at a wedding.

"I'm just pissing! You guys are just pervs!" I yelled as I shut the door. "Like I'm not," I whispered on the other side of it.

My bladder had filled right back up after being emptied earlier; the beer was going through me quickly. I blamed it for the visions of Eric that were in my head. Images of the two of us two weeks ago, the last time we had gotten alone together, insistently ran through my head. Eric was the horniest and most willing of the bunch. I knew that if he had lived close enough, he would have been over for sex as often as Tom. I was very attracted to Eric's body, but I found his personality a bit irritating at times, even predictable, but still a great guy. He was a good friend, but I had no love or such deep feelings for him. His body was another thing. I was finding that I was more and more linking the redheaded guys, and Eric was a true redhead. Something about his red hairs all over, his completely pink nipples and cock, sack and hole, it was all very attractive to me. If Eric had lived next door, too, I would have fucked myself to near death between him and Tom, I was sure.

Eric was always willing to play around anytime he and I had a chance. He brought up the subject, made the offers, and talked about it first and far more often than I did. Eric clearly loved messing around, but he clearly liked girls. It was not easy for Eric to get their favorable attention, but he worked on doing so constantly. He considered himself something of a playboy, to the amusement of the rest of us.

Sighing contentedly once my bladder was empty again, I shook the semi and returned it to it's accustomed place and released the toga to fall in front again. I had gotten slightly dizzy and queasy upon standing up from the couch, and as I leaned up again from the toilet lever, more cautiously than last time, I felt it again.

I am not shaking my head again! Just small steps to the sink. That's it, slow, small steps. Now hold the sink's sides, and . . . oh shit! PUKE!!!

I did, until a few dry heaves ended it. Each heave sent pain through my temple. I took several deep breaths, then turned on the water. I washed out the sink before trying to rinse my mouth in the running water. I straightened slowly and took more steadying breaths. I was wobbly, but steady enough to whoosh out a breath and square my shoulders.

Better this time. Drunker but more under control. Get fucked up but don't fuck up! Now all that beer's wasted and I gotta start over!

My reflection in the mirror was pale and looked like it was glistening with sweat. I turned on the water again and washed my face and then my mouth again. I felt immensely better. Amazed at how well I had cleaned the lasagna and cake out of the sink, not to mention the beer, I turned toward the door.

I am not going to wuss out on my own fucking party! I stated firmly to myself as I opened the door and stepped out. I was greeted with a statement that I didn't understand the meaning of at first.

"Four minutes, seventeen seconds!" Jon declared.

My face instantly showed my confusion.

"New speed record! Must have some stamina, too. Twice in a hour and all!" Eric called.

"Oh! You guys are such perverts!" I shouted again over the laughter. "And how would you know if it was a speed record? You do time me or what?" I asked Eric.

"Oooo," from nearly everyone. Eric relented immediately, declining a second round of cut-down war.

"My turn! And stop hogging the bathroom, Al. Some of us actually have to pee!" Brent said as he closed the bathroom door.

"Oh, please!" I said, rolling my eyes as I retook my seat in the center of the couch; I managed to hide the winces well.

Another bowl, a round of bets, and Todd took his turn changing into a toga. He took center stage and was obviously embarrassed. After handing his shirt to Tim, he dropped his jeans slowly and immediately snatched the sheet from Tim's hands. His round, soft body was clearly still waiting to start puberty. The thick trunk and limbs, and the other Nordic signs were all apparent. His blue briefs hinted at what they held, but he was too young to make much of a bulge there. He covered himself in his toga and sat down, still red-faced. I wondered what he would develop into, and felt badly, knowing they were moving. I had never known Jeff when he was twelve, but I could imagine that he had looked much like Todd, as it was easy to see Todd growing into Jeff; slightly less blond hair, less piercing a blue of eye, smaller lips, but quite possibly.

Once the winners, Eric and Tom, had taken their spoils, Jon called for bets, and Tim shuffled the remaining two sheets. Both Jon and Tim bet it was the other's turn, and the rest of us were evenly split.

Tim won, and Jon changed. Being the second oldest, Jon was the second tallest as well; not to mention the second most developed. He wore boxers, so there wasn't much visible but a slight, intermittent bulging of his package. He was lean, almost skinny. He used his weight set, and that showed a bit. His arms and chest weren't flat, though they lacked the sculpted appearance of true weightlifters. He had gotten pretty tan over the summer, and the last vestiges of that were apparent as he stood in only his blue checked boxers and gray sox. His legs had a nice amount of his light brown hair, most heavily on his inner thighs and below his knees. His chest had very little hair even at nineteen. Those nice hairs appeared again at the top of his boxers to reach past his navel and then faded into nothing. He was sexy, and I very much liked his body.

I wondered if Jon had shared any of his secrets of me with his brother as he easily wrapped the toga around himself and then accepted his button with its mark.

Before Jon had reached his chair, Tim simply tossed off his shirt and began wrapping his sheet into a toga. Most of us began objecting immediately.

"What?" he asked, seemingly unaware of what we could be objecting to.

Shouts of, "You never changed," and "Not fair," filled the basement.

"Hey! I can't help it you guys wore more clothes!" he replied, still arranging his toga.

Everyone objected, booing and hissing. Our cries unified under the chant, "Not fair!"

Tim relented and removed the toga. He posed momentarily in his jogging shorts, and I, and I think some of the others, realized our mistake. He then dropped his jogging shorts. He was wearing nothing under them. Surprised gasps greeted the sight of Tim's long cock hanging full between his manly legs. His balls hung nearly the length of his cock and were impossible to miss. All his dark brown hair darkened his appearance somewhat, but his bright white skin where his shorts had been worn over the summer almost seemed too white. He obviously weighed more than Jon, but there was no fatty softness on him anywhere. His generous foreskin was wrinkled up around the base of his head, which was lighter than the rest of his cock.

Tim definitely looked the twenty he was rumored to be. He pulled up his shorts, wrapped his sheet into a toga, then pinned a button on himself.

He held his arms outward and said, "So, how'd you like a real man's body, Alex?"

I sat up, startled that Tim had addressed me directly on the topic. I knew almost everyone there knew I was gay, or at the very least had considered it a lot, but Tim's statement embarrassed me intently.

As Tim picked up the large, black marker, and I tried to relax a bit to cover my reaction, I understood why Tim had done it. I toasted him for his point as he placed a second mark on his button.

"Got me," I said after swallowing.

"Not yet," he smiled at me with a bounce of his eyebrows. I'm not sure what color I turned, but I could swear there was a crimson glow coming from just under my eyes. "Everybody, to Alex turning sixteen! Happy birthday!"

Everyone joined him in the cheer, embarrassing, yes, but nothing in comparison to Tim's recent handiwork. Thoughts of just how well he fit with my friends began. Then Tim grinned evilly and lifted his arms up, motioning everyone to stand. To my surprise, everyone did. I sat there a moment, again surprised. Tim waved at me to stand, too. When I did, Tim grinned even more, setting me into a sudden sweat. He reached under his toga, pulled his shorts down his legs, over his feet, then threw them over on top of his pants.

Everyone else did the same, waving them over their heads and then throwing them toward their own piled clothes.

I was stunned!

Jeff asked what I was waiting for. I considered telling him I was waiting for my guts to crawl back up my butt. I closed my eyes, inhaled, exhaled, opened my eyes, put down my beer, and stood up. I reached up and under, and pulled them down and off. I wadded them up and then tossed my briefs; they landed on top of my pile of clothes.

They all cheered.

"You always said the toga party in Animal House was the best party scene in a movie, so... " Jeff said, explaining that he had come up with the idea.

"TOGA!" they all chanted.

We lifted our beers and toasted again. Tim put a cassette in the stereo and turned up "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen. I groaned in cheesy horror, expecting the same from them, but was surprised as none of them joined me. The music had not been to everyone's surprise, I realized. Eric started dancing to it, and even more to my surprise, pretty well.

"Woooo! Eric! When'd you learn to dance?" Todd shouted.

Eric smiled and changed dance steps, impressing everyone with his ability to perform to the music. Most of the guys joined in and imitated him. For the next few minutes, Eric had the spotlight, and I didn't mind; I was tired of it for then. I was also feeling too good to feel any jealousy over Eric getting attention at my party.

I looked to Tim and thought of how it wasn't only my party; it was the last party that Tim would get before he left for the army.

How sad he had to party with a bunch of kids instead of his own friends, I thought. Fuck, though, his friends didn't bother calling him or coming over anyway. Some friends. Dealing don't make real friends, just mostly ones who want what you got. He was in on three pranks on me already. The van, the call about the pot, and this party. I bet there could be more. I guess this is better than what he would have got without my party here. Cool. This is Tim's bon voyage party too! But it should be more than that.

I started hushing everyone, making it clear that I wanted to say something. For a moment the thought of the speech entered my mind, but I wasn't ready yet and I knew it. When I got everyone's attention, I went with my first intention.

"This isn't just my birthday party. Tim leaves for the army on Monday. He's gonna be gone three years! No pot, no beer, no pussy. Poor guy!"

Everyone laughed.

"I'm gonna miss him. So this is Tim's going away party, too. I'm gonna miss having the best pot dealer in Cook county if not Illinois! And a good friend, too!" I finished, raising my beer in toast.

Everyone toasted to Tim, who grinned and finished his own. Tom had Brent hand out fresh beers where needed as I watched Eric teach some dance moves.

Eric can fucking dance! I thought, sitting on the couch between Jeff and Tom. He deserves some attention. He's a great guy. He cares about people, even if he does hide it well. He's gonna make some chick real happy. And she better fucking know how lucky she was!

The party rolled on, music and laughter filling the basement.

Later, I was working on filling the bong again, and watching the party, when I noticed Jeff sitting very close. We'd all been talking and joking, dancing and singing with the music, or playing Atari for hours. We'd all finished several beers, and the piles of weed on the table were noticeably smaller. I had long ago lost count of the bowls and bongs I'd filled or that had gone around the circle.

Tom sat to my left, less than a foot between us, about two feet open on the other side of him. Jeff sat nearly against me, almost three feet of open couch on the other side of him. The twins, Todd, and Eric were on the Atari playing four way Tank Battle, Jon and Tim were in the recliners. The stereo was up loud, tapes still playing mostly fifties roll and rock through seventies rock.

 Over the next few minutes I noticed that Jeff's thigh was always in contact with mine, his lower leg bent back toward his other foot. Only two wrinkled layers of sheet lay between our hips, but parts of our thighs were in direct contact. That was turning me on. Tingles ran through me, and I had to force back the thoughts and images of the forbidden sex and relationship. To top it off, Jeff's hand was apparently resting innocently on his own thigh, but most of the back of it was against mine. And it hadn't moved in some time.

I knew well that Jeff was a southpaw, which meant that his primary hand was being kept immobile there. He was drinking with his right hand, the hand that was known to drop a baseball more often than not.

What the fuck, I wondered. That's so gay. And so slick. No one would notice, it just looks like his hand's on his own thigh. The fact the side and back of his hand was in contact with my thigh is nearly invisible. It can't be like that! He's not. Not! No way. And he's moving away, anyway. No way, not getting into those thoughts with him moving away. Not even if he asked. Well, if he asked just for sex. That might - Stop it! No way!

When the bong made its way around to Jeff, he removed his hand to use both, as everyone had to. I was interested in seeing where it went after he passed the bong to me.

Jeff took his hit, then used his left hand to pass the bong to me. As I took it, I watched Jeff's hand head right back to it's previous location. It was interrupted, though, in its sudden rush to protect the nipple that Brent had chosen that moment to nurple. Jeff hissed inward and began defensive maneuvers with all available resources. His nipples were known for their sensitivity, and Brent was known for taking advantage of that. Why Jeff didn't take advantage of Brent's own nipple sensitivity I didn't know.

"Stop it bitch!" Jeff demanded.

"No!" was the reply as Brent intensified his attack.

"Bitch!" Jeff growled as he punched an elbow into Brent's unprotected groin.

He scored a direct hit, and Brent flinched back and away, covering his wounded pride.

"Owwwww! Low blow!"

"You begged for it, bitch!" Jeff laughed at him.

I repacked, hit, and passed the bong. I nearly shivered visibly when Jeff's left hand returned to lay against my thigh.

I tried to ignore it, looking at my friends around me, thinking again how lucky I was.

Good friends, good parents, good home, good school, now a good vehicle! A great birthday party rigged up by my best friends. Awesome games! They really thought this out! Good music, too! Good pot, some beers, buddies who, probably to the last one, know I'm gay, even if I ain't said so.

It's too perfect. The cops are going to bust down the door any second. The neighbors are snoops and will call them, knowing Tim is supposed to be alone. Everyone will go to jail and be called sodomite drug addicts on the news. Or dealers. And more. It would never end!

Yeah, right! Back to reality here, Alex!

I should tell them. And now would be perfect, I thought. Yes, now would be perfect. I mean, they know already! My parents know. Tom's known a while. Jeff has to know. Eric asked and I said as much. Same with the twins. I will! I will tell them. There's not all that much to prepare to say to them. Just the two words, really. I can't think of any way to say it that will make it easier. I can add a thousand other words, but it's just those two that matter; those two that are so hard to say. Even to these guys. But is it the right time? Right now? Or later? When?

"Hold Your Head Up" began playing.

Oh, please! How much more of a sign could I want? Hold your own head up and tell them.

I motioned for the floor again. My chest seemed made of Jell-O the way it seemed to wobble from my pounding heartbeat. The bong had come around again. I refilled it, delaying. The guys waited, mumbling occasionally to the song or each other. I hit the fresh bowl and passed it.

"Guys. This is really, really hard, okay?"

"I bet it is!" Eric said laughing.

I dropped my head and shook it.

"Seriously. Okay?"

The guys' laughter all subsided quickly.

"I wanted to say this... for a long time. Some of you guys asked stuff, and sometimes, I, uh, sorta answered, but not really."

I looked up and around at them all, seeing expectant faces, but little else. The humor was still evident, and they seemed to be willing to wait for me to be ready to say what I had to say. I shook so badly inside that it made it to my muscles. My arms and hands vibrated with weird muscular contractions. My lungs wanted to follow the same rapid, shallow pattern; I fought to keep it regular.

"I, uh, you guys know... you know how I, like..." I inhaled through my nose and blew the breath out explosively. I sighed and tried over. "You guys know I'm not all that into chicks, right?"

The tremors made it into my voice, but not too badly. I had hopes that they weren't noticeable, anyway. I was sweating badly.

Incredulous negatives and questions like, "Who? You? Not like girls? Really?" rained down on me.

I almost said it! I said almost as good as it! Bullshit! You coped out like a wuss! Fucking do it! I can do this! I want to do this! They're the guys. This is the Circle. It's them. Fuck, man! Fuck.

I was doing it. Finally doing it. I just had to force myself to keep doing it.

"I really don't. I like... guys. I'm... I'm, g-gay. Gay. I'm gay."

My chest felt tight, like they said it did at the start of a heart attack; I felt like a truck had just backed over me and parked there. My chest expanded and I sharply and deeply inhaled what seemed the first breath I was permitted, shaky as it was.

So now they all know I'm gay and probably thinking of ways to get away from me and the party as fast as they can, I thought sadly. Why didn't I think of that before! I'm a fucking idiot!

I felt terrible. I knew that Jeff would be distant from me for the time remaining before he moved.

Maybe he'll still stay over tomorrow, who knows? I sure hope so! We can't break up like this! Break up?

I shook myself visibly, nodded and smiled as best I could, and resigned myself to hoping he would indeed stay over so we could talk. I wasn't going to let anything ruin the party, not even if my friendship with Jeff was really over.

"No shit, Sherlock!"

"Who'd ya think you was kiddin'?"

"No, really? And I thought you just liked sleeping with guys is all!"

"No? You? I never suspected!"

"Yeah, and the Pope's catholic, so what's your point?"

"What a shocker!"

"Ya think?"

"Who told ?"

When my lungs functioned at my command again, after a sizeable silence following their retorts, I said, "Wait. I ain't surprising anybody?"

They looked curiously at each other, a few obviously trying not to laugh, before agreeing that I hadn't without saying a single word.

"Nobody? You all... know?"

Tim snickered quietly. I ignored him. Todd started soon. I ignored him. Eric looked worried and confused. Jeff wore his moderate, "You-got-to-be-kidding-me" smirk. Tom shrugged and sipped his beer, innocently grinning. Tim started snickering louder. I looked at him.

"Sorry! It's just so... funny! I mean, it's not that you show it, but they all know you. Ya know? This is like the closest bunch of guys I ever seen! I mean, come on," he finished with a shrug, still snickering.

"You are in for such a-" Eric started.

"Shut up!" Jon warned with a finger and his evil glare that promised torture.

"I'm in for such a what?" I asked.

"Surprise!" Todd announced. "It's no big deal if he knows another surprise is coming, right?"

"I guess not," Tim said.

"Might as well, since I can't surprise you guys," I moaned. "You guys all . . . know know?"

Shaking heads and groans were certain answers, but Tom clarified.

"Dude, you told everybody we ain't boyfriends earlier, but when you was in the bathroom we all said we noticed you didn't say you liked girls, just me. And, shit, everybody knew before, anyway," he said, shrugging at the end.

"Yeah. I mean, we never really thought you and Tom was together that way. We know he lives right next door, and you guys have been friends since we moved in," Jon continued. "Besides, he's my bro! I know he keeps Hustlers around to beat off to."

"Fuck you," Tom offered.

"Am I wrong? You gay too?"

"No! I just meant, bringing up my shit and all."

"Whatever," Jon shot back. "We all talked and figured stuff out. We all already know you're gay . . . I mean, come on, right? We don't mean we think you act like it, just we know. Ya know? We all done stuff. So we know. And besides, if you like girls you look the wrong way when a guy and girl walk by."

I had just taken a hit from the bong, hoping to help steady my shakes. Jon's words were another, different, and unexpected hit.

"I do?" I choked.

I was shocked. I thought that I had hidden that well. I knew that it was only rarely that anyone could ever notice. I knew it.

Then why do I worry so much about being with Jeff around people?

I felt another shift. It was the same party, the same friends, but it wasn't the same me. Everything was different because the me that sensed it all, processed it, considered, and responded to it all, was different. They were the same friends, but I had changed.

"Body rushes?" Tom asked, grinning knowingly.

"Uh, yeah! Fucking nice one!" I said, releasing the hit I had been holding.

I sat back, barely feeling the bong taken from my hand.

It's just how it is. It's just how you are. It's just that way. You're here, in this place now, deal with it. And deal with Jeff's hand against your thigh.

What's up with you, Jeff? You really flirting? Is that what it is? Does it mean that? How could it?

Jeff hit the bong and passed it to his right. His hand fell between our thighs again. I shivered. I felt something like an electric charge race up from my groin, spread outward through my body, and center itself in my chest at that touch. I sat as if simply enjoying the music and the buzz, but was inwardly only thinking of Jeff's hand.

I watched the bong make it's rounds from friend to friend. Tom got up and headed to the bathroom, and Jeff turned to face me.

"Nice party!"

We laughed when we heard the other say the same thing at the same time.

"Perdiddle!" I proclaimed, winning and breaking the curse.

I had blurted it out in natural reaction. I had last said the same thing to Jeff just prior to one of the episodes between us that had ended with his leaving and going home sooner than was planned. We both seemed to remember that and ducked our faces momentarily.

I had won, but there was nothing I was willing to make him do. There were plenty of things that ran through my mind in that instant, but almost all were hopelessly impossible. I had to come up with something, so as the bong returned, needing refilled, I handed it him and nodded toward the weed on the coffee table.

He gave me a grin and went to work.

"So how come you're smokin' the sin weed?"

Jeff's mom had called it that once when I had stayed at his apartment, warning us about the evils of the modern world.

Jeff laughed and said, "'Cause I want to. 'kay?"

I wondered how drunk he was as he opened another beer, and thoughts of taking advantage of that fact began before I violently slapped them down and stamped them out.

Stop it! Stop thinking like that, and you won't act like that. Just friends. Remember! He's leaving, too. Friends, like we were. Friends like we should be.

"Happy birthday, Alex," he said after opening the new beer, then leaned in and pecked my cheek before taking a sip.

I froze.

What the fuck? Wow! Do I kiss him back? NO! It was just a drunk buddy and he's stoned and having a good time. Nothing more to it. Nope. OH! Points! I thought, looking around and seeing the grinning faces. Tim made motions to toss me the marker.

I held up my hands and actually caught it. I put a fourth mark on Jeff's shield.

"I liked the idea of a toga party," I said when I was done.

"Of course you did! And you probably like that we're all swinging dicks right now!"

"You had to remind me!" I said in exaggerated agony.

I laughed as he pointed to his button. I marked it.

I wonder what he will make the loser do if he wins, I wondered, tossing the marker onto the table, oblivious.

Jeff laughed, and I warmed at its sound as I picked up my beer. The can was far fuller than I expected and it sloshed over my lips and chin.

Wow, I must be wasted! I thought, grinning and feeling the fool as the guys all laughed at me.

The toga made a decent towel in that moment. Laughing with Jeff, I took several swallows to fight the cottonmouth from the pot and my nerves. The twins crashed onto the couch and demanded I refill their bowl. I smiled and filled it for them. I saw that Tim was smoking another bowl with Tom and Jon, and that Eric and Todd battled on the Atari. Once the bowl was turned to ash among the four of us, I refilled it, and the twins flew off the couch with it and started dancing to Martha and the Vandellas singing "Dancing in the Streets."

Jeff and I talked about nothing in particular for a while, drinking our beers and hitting the bong as it came around. Song after song played, and with Tim splayed within reach of the stereo, the tapes were kept rolling. Jeff was especially cute in a toga. His legs sticking out of the folded sheet was a sight that should have been rated a hard 'X'. I did my best to ignore his chest, with his bright blond hairs barely visible above the curved linen. I did my best to ignore his strong, firm arms protruding from the white cotton. I did my best not to think of his naked body being covered only by that thin layer of cotton.

His piercing eyes and blond hair and broad build belong in a toga, I thought. His red, juicy, wet lips against his . .


The bong arrived and I filled it to pass around again, humming to the songs, thinking only of the songs unless Jeff spoke to me. They were all favorites, as if I had chosen what music to be played. A song started, cut off, then started again, much louder. in a very familiar way. I realized that it was my tape. I remembered what had caused the skip, and I suddenly knew that they were all my tapes. I had recorded them from the radio and tapes. I had loaned them to Jeff and had forgotten them.

When I looked suddenly at Jeff, it was obvious that he had no idea what I was thinking. Jeff looked behind himself, then at the twins as they danced, around at the other guys, then back at me. He shrugged, looking puzzled.

"You brought these tapes, didn't you?"

Jeff looked instantly guilty. He blushed again and ran his fingernail over the toga at his knee.

"Yeah. Guess you forgot about 'em," he said like a kid caught with his hands in the cookie jar.

I knew his taste in music, and it wasn't oldies. I wondered why he had kept them for so long. I took a drink from the cold can of beer as I wondered. It spilled a bit as I took the first sip, thinking it was emptier than it was. I laughed and took several good swallows.

"Hole in your lip? Well, you made more for weeks. I thought you had every song recorded over and over."

"I kept recording because I couldn't find the songs on the tapes I had! I forgot I loaned them out. I made others."

"Yeah, and who got you a pack of tapes for your birthday?"

I smiled and laughed, then replied, "Fair enough, dude. I didn't care, I just noticed is all. You can keep 'em if you like 'em."

"Thanks. Alex, I saw what you said about me in your journal today," he said flatly, still running his thumbnail over the surface of the white material at his knee.

"What?" I barked. I looked around, glad no one seemed to notice. "What?" I asked again, much softer.

My head began to spin enough that I couldn't help but notice it. I also noticed that my heart began to race, I was beginning to sweat, shake, and my vision was going dim.

"When I changed clothes at the party earlier. It was on your desk. I didn't know what it was at first. I picked it up by the cover and it flipped open. But, where it opened, it was, like, I don't know. It was like fate. I saw my name there."

"Where?" I asked, aghast, knowing, just knowing what would be on the pages where the damned thing had happened to open.

I was fully aware that coincidences plagued me by then.

"You said you loved me. Then you listed why. Since we met. That, like, you thought about me all the time. You described me. Like all real and stuff. I got kinda dizzy," he finished with an embarrassed chuckle.

I wanted to turn my head and look at him in that moment. I was unable to, though; I had no control over my body. I swayed on the couch.

I thought that was a metaphor, I thought, watching the room and everyone in it go into a spin, faster and faster. Rooms don't really spin around you! Why was the basement? Wouldn't it make a lot of noise spinning through the earth in a circle, tearing the ground up? It has to be me! I feel like I'm on the Roundup ride! What if I puke right here, on Jeff?

I felt then saw the hand holding mine. I looked up the arm, my vision blurring, growing dark.

Jeff's face, blurry . . . his voice, distant . . . "Alex?"


Then his face was . . .


But wasn't Jeff just here?

Jeff's voice again, more distant and warped, but the increased immediacy making it through, "Alex!?"


The dizziness and weakness increased, and I felt myself falling toward the floor. As I looked back up, I saw a reddish-blond halo of hair surrounding the head of the guy holding my hand. The rest of his form was all white, all bright, all soft...


"Alex! Alex! Hey! Alex!" Jeff's voice was yelling from the the far distance, fading with each word.

I saw my arm stretching away, Jeff's large, strong hand grasping my hand firmly. I knew if he let go, I'd fall. I would fall such a great distance, I knew. I tried to grab on tightly, but I could not feel my hand or any of my body, so I was unsure if my muscles were even responding.


The white, glowing, fuzzy one was suddenly back, his face blurry, but still that halo wafting around his head as bright as any sun that had ever burned. That light passed through me without shining on me, without a shadow, only warming me.


I saw that he held my hand, and I felt his love for me racing through that contact. I knew that he loved me. I did my best to silently share my love for him through that connection as he did. I knew I succeeded.



He let go...

... I fell...

A Fort Knight Gone