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The Circle

Chapter 3

Toby's Secret

six months ago

I woke that first morning with Toby, spooned together, Toby in front of me. The nightmare of just hours before was the first thing I thought of. It worried me, scared me even. Toby hadn't been interested in talking about it last night, so I had made a note to keep it in mind for later. For now, I realized, Toby was here, next to me, his body heat, his smell surrounding me.

I remembered our last words to each other before falling asleep before his nightmare, spoken face to face and intimately together. We had never voiced it last summer, not directly. Our separation had answered any lingering questions or doubts about how I felt for him. His surprise appearance yesterday had brought the fire of his presence back to me, and rekindled the sense of wholeness he provided me.

My stomach quivered and my heart fluttered, just as they had the first time I had seen Toby on that park bench last summer. I had worried when the boy saw me looking at him, and he seemed angry, but then he shrugged and smiled. That smile had given me the courage, rare as it was, for me to talk to him. Before an hour had passed I felt like were friends, and seemed to have been forever.

The fond memories, and last night, warmed my heart almost to overflowing as I snuggled up to Toby. I put my arm carefully over Toby's shoulder and felt my morning wood nuzzle in between Toby's cheeks.

So familiar and so strange. Once more full and rounded, now slighter and flatter. Once he was my comforter, now I was his.

I rolled my hips forward and felt the warm pillows of Toby's butt cheeks spread apart around me. I pushed in between them a bit, not much, but Toby flew off the bed with an incoherent shout, banging into the nightstand and nearly falling off his feet. He brushed at himself as if here were covered with something painful and mumbled what sounded like, "Off me!" several times.

I was shocked! Not only at Toby's sudden movements, but at Toby's body. It was early morning, and sitting just a foot away from where he stood, the bright light of day upon his total nudity revealed how excruciatingly thin he was. He was so thin that his ribs and pelvis bones were nearly poking through his skin. His head seemed too big for his frail looking body and I wondered how he could hold it upright. Toby was close to looking like a skeleton with nearly flesh-colored fabric stretched over the bones.

His shocking behavior worried me the most; Toby had never done anything like that last summer. We had woken each other the same way many times, in either position, and nothing like this had ever happened before.

I suddenly remembered Toby's request last night, to not go back there, and I suddenly felt so guilty, putting the pieces of that puzzle together.

"What is it, Toby? What's wrong?" I asked, sitting up on the bed, naked and not caring, reaching out to touch him.

Toby stood naked along side the bed, shivering and pale, looking frightened to death. He wrapped his arms around himself as if he were cold as he sat down on the side of the bed. I moved up behind him, my erection forgotten, and put my arms tightly around him after noting the visible backbones, the ribs, and shoulder blades. The few muscles stood out like swollen spots across his back as he sat on the edge of the bed.

I pulled the black-and-white lion blanket over us, then placed my chin on Toby's left shoulder, like last summer. But now it was no longer the same comfortable resting place. Now it was a bony, bumpy place where I felt foreign.

I kissed Toby's earlobe and said softly, "Hey, come on. I ain't seen you in a while, but I can tell something's wrong. You look like a fuckin' corpse! And you haven't made any stupid jokes or done any real kiddin' around. You have some kind of freaky nightmare, and tell me it happens every night like it's nothing! Now you jump out of bed like it's on fire. What's the deal?"

My guts were twisted so tightly that it was hard to breathe. Just moments ago, I had been as happy and content as I had ever been, then suddenly I was as worried and concerned as I had ever been.

After a long pause, during which he shivered against me, Toby asked, his voice sounding stressed, "Got a joint?"

"Yeah. You know I do. We didn't smoke this one last night," I said, leaning as far as I could to grab the one from the nightstand without breaking contact with Toby.

I retook the hugging position from behind him, anxious for him to share with me, so maybe he could feel better. The lighter had been next to the joint on the table, and after I lit it I held it to Toby's lips for him to hit. I wished I knew how to help. I pulled the blanket back over us. I passed the joint from my own to Toby's lips in silence, waiting, hugging him tightly.

I was working up the will and words to say something more myself. I had to know what was bothering Toby. We had spent only hours together so far, but Toby clearly had something heavy on his mind. I knew people changed, and sometimes they were just down, but I also knew there was something odd about Toby. He looked terrible, and he wasn't anything close to how happy and fun he was last year. It was obvious something was wrong, or he would have been telling me to shut the fuck up about it.

I need to know why and how to make him the old Toby again, I thought as I tossed the roach on the table and put my arms around him with my hands on his tummy. My fingers stroked gently at Toby's treasure trail and around his navel. I pressed my chest to his back with my chin on his left shoulder. I wrapped my legs around his waist and crossed my ankles between his thighs. I hugged him tight and said nothing. I was trying to put confidence and calmness into him through sheer will and physical contact.

When I could stand it no longer, I said softly into his ear, "Toby. Don't be an asshole. I love you. I know something is wrong. You've never acted like this all last summer. I guess I don't know all about you, and it has been a year, but you seem wrong. Almost like depressed. I don't like it. Why are you so skinny? And pale? And what's with the nightmares and jumping outta bed? Please tell me!" I begged him, hugging him tightly, then began kissing the nape of his neck, his ear, his hair.

Toby sniffed and wiped his eyes. I worried, not wanting to hurt him, but wanting him to unburden himself. I needed to know. I hoped there was something I could do to help. Toby sobbed again, then leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, and his face in his hands. He started shaking hard.

"Dude! What the fuck's wrong?" I asked as I wrapped my arms under Toby's shoulders, my hands bent upward to Toby's shoulders, instantly near tears myself. "What is it?" I begged, my forehead on Toby's bony back.

I feared he would tell me it was cancer. I had seen and heard enough about it to know it and its treatment made people look differently. I knew that some became walking corpses, their hair gone, their bodies weakening to frailty and gauntness. Sickness and death coming to them in nearly every case. I saw how white his hair had become, losing it's wonderful strawberry-blond color. All of his hair, everywhere.

"Toby, you have to talk about it. Until you do, it'll own you."

Toby cried for long minutes before he finally began to explain. By that time I had joined him in tears, made even worse because I didn't understand why.

"My gym teacher. He caught me smokin' a doob after school. He, he, made me go to his office with him. He said I was in 'nough trouble already, and if I didn't do better an' not miss any days, I'd flunk gym. If ya flunk gym, ya flunk the whole grade! They won't pass you if you don't pass phys ed. He said if he, if he turned in the shit to the princ'pal . . . I'd get 'spended, or worse. If that happened, I'd flunk the class 'n the whole year."

Toby fought sobs and sniffles as he talked. His voice sounded strange with those emotions in it. Now he cried openly, shaking under me. He wiped his eyes from time to time and leaned back into me. I wrapped my arms around him and held him tight, not saying anything, trying not to cry onto his shoulder, trying instead to be strong for him.

"He told me I'd be a junior again next year even if he didn't tell anyone 'bout the pot 'cause my grades were so bad. It was jus' a joint he caught me smokin' behind the gym! But he made me stand up an', he, he, searched me. He did more 'n search me. He felt me up! Big time! He found the baggie 'n papers in my . . . where I hid 'em," Toby paused as he cried too hard to keep going.

I knew where he hid his baggie and papers, so I knew how thoroughly his teacher had searched him.

My own tears were brimming over my eyes as I feared what might be coming. More pieces came together, and the image it began to form was ugly. I started to understand what had Toby in such rough shape. If it hurt him too much to tell it, I didn't want him to suffer more, but I wanted to do what I could to make him feel better. I also badly wanted to share this with him, as if that would alone be enough to help him.

The parting at the end of Toby's visit last summer had been hard for both of us. We didn't know if we would ever see each other again, and that only made it doubly difficult. The first several months we called back and forth. Though we didn't actually say it clearly, I was certain we were both in love with each other. We spoke of how great it would be next summer, as if certain it would happen. Until the call after Toby's parents had told him that they had no plans for a return visit to Toby's aunt. By the end of that call, I was near tears, and Toby had sounded so too. There would be no visit this summer.

Now Toby was there with me, but hurting; the first time I had ever had to deal with such a situation with him, not including the parting last summer. That had been hard, but long expected, and was very different. Toby was affected strongly by whatever it was, and my heart was heavy for him, feeling his sorrow, wishing I could wave a magic wand and erase it all for him.

"If, if it's too much, you don't have to tell me. I, just wanna help, if I can."

"No. I started, I wanna finish, but you can't help," Toby said around deep sobs. For a while he fought the tears to lessen, eventually winning, then went on. "He made me take my pants down." Toby's voice wavered as he sobbed deeply again.

I hugged him tighter, my guts heaving involuntarily, tears falling on Toby's back. I dreaded, and knew, what was coming next.

"He groped aroun' 'n told me I had a big dick. He told me he heard some o' the other boys talkin' 'bout me. How I liked ta take it up the ass, how I was a fag and all. He said he was goin' ta fuck me good, an' I'd like it, an' he wouldn't tell anyone about the pot 'n I might graduate, if I, I,let him, do me. What could I do?" Toby wailed. "If I didn't graduate my dad said it was the army. I had'ta pass the class and the year!"

Toby broke again, tears streaming and deep heaves shaking his slender body under me. I trembled on my own, shuddering with fear and hurt for him. All I could think of to do was hold him, and feel like shit for him, to just be there for him. I felt sick, like I had ate something spoiled. I was incredibly angry at the coach.

"He made me do it all last semester. At leas' once a week. He'd tell me alone ta be at his, office, after school. That we had ta, talk, 'bout my grade. I hated ta go, but if I didn't, I know'ed he'd take my stuff to the princ'pal, an' I'd be in jail."

I remained silent, not knowing what to say, or if I should say anything at all. Suddenly, Toby swallowed so hard that I thought at first he was throwing up. He did that several times, scaring me. He didn't seem to be breathing during it. I was about to shake him and ask him if he was okay when he sucked in a deep breath, than a ragged second. When he was seemingly better after several breaths he wiped his face and continued, "He'd call me a pretty boy and 'n shit 'til he was done."

As Toby sniffed and tried to recover from his tears, I managed to offer, "Go to the police!"

Toby mumbled no, and unable to say anything more, he just shook his head.

"Buy why?" I asked, sniffing at my tears, afraid to brush at them because it meant breaking my embrace of Toby; something I was unwilling to do, even for a second.

"The sheriff has it out fer me bad," Toby explained. "He's just waitin' fer a reason ta take me in. He glares at me every time I see him, like he's huntin' me. And he 'n coach're friends. When I go back ta school, coach is gonna be there. Waitin' fer me too. I can't go back there . . . "

He leaned forward and held his face as he cried again.

"Tell the state cops!" I blurted out.

"I'm on probation already! Don't'cha get it? If I admit ta havin' pot I go t'jail for more'n a year. I got caught with pot 'fore."

"Tell a teacher then! Your parents! Someone!" I almost yelled in frustration to help somehow.

"Ain't no one t'tell who'd believe me over him. He's a volunteer firefighter an' on the county board. An' everybody likes him. I'm just a fag who says so. And sayin' anythin' means goin' t'jail. Fuck it!"

"Isn't there nothin' you can do?" I asked in a small voice, not believing it could be possible that this could really be happening, and there was no way to make it right.

"Nothin' I can think of. Nothin' squared is infinity, ya know? I can't tell anyone I had pot or I'd break probbie 'n go t'jail."

"You want him to get away with it?"

"What can I do?" Toby asked. He sat forward, enough to break my embrace, and said in a flat voice, "I got a plan. Don't worry about it. I ain't ever goin' back there!"

"What'd'ya mean?" I asked, moving to sit on his left while keeping an arm over his shoulder, not liking his tone of voice.

"I mean, I ain't goin' back there. Ever. I know what I'm doin'. Forget it, 'kay?" he asked, wiping his eyes. "Look't me. Cryin' like a little kid!"

He sat up straighter, sniffed, and wiped at his face, trying to look happy. He failed, but I understood.

"I didn't wanna tell you 'bout it. I just wanted this week t'be good," Toby said, looking into my face.

His beautiful green eyes were ruined by the red marks and the dark swelling around them. His cute face, once so soft and gentle, was so thin and strained. I knew I probably looked almost as bad. He rubbed his hands on his bare thighs, and I leaned into him.

"Hey, you should feel better now. I think I would. I think. We have to get him, somehow."

It was then that I knew that I truly understood the phrase I had heard President Reagan say; "Moral imperative."

"Forget it. Really. I have a plan. Let me take care a it, 'kay?" he said with a cold anger in his voice.

"You sure?"

How could he be? I thought.

"Yeah. Decided 'fore we came up. I know what I have t'do. Forget it. Thanks for makin' me tell ya, but forget it. It's my problem, and I'll take care a it my way," he said, not with anger, but with certainty.

"Okay. But what happened to my body?" I asked, poking and prodding at Toby's bony carcass with my finger.

"I just don't feel like eatin' often," Toby said, obviously still quite ticklish.

"Is that it? Is that all?" I asked, increasing the number and severity of attacks, sending Toby into defensive movements and laughter.

"Yeah, yeah, that's all!" Toby promised while laughing and fighting off my furious deluge.

"Dude, you had such a rad bod! You gotta get that back! You look like a zombie!" I said, now attacking Toby with both hands.

"Hey, so I lost sum weight, big deal!"

"Lost sum weight?" I asked incredulously. "Look at this! I can see all your ribs!" I said while poking at them all, one by one.

"Okay! Fine! I'll pig out while I'm up here!" he promised as he fell onto my lap in helpless giggles.

"And when you leave?" I wanted him to promise before I would relent.

I was enjoying it immensely, preferring this play to the horrible moments earlier. I knew this could only help Toby snap out of the horrible emotions just dredged up. I would do anything to make Toby happy.

"Fine! I won't stop piggin' out! Okay?"

"Promise!" I demanded, commencing a thorough wave of attacks.

"Okay!" Toby promised, sliding down across my lap and trying to roll face up.

"Just get that bod back!" I insisted, poking and prodding furiously.

"Okay! Stop it. I promise! I'll pig out from now on! Okay?" Toby screamed over his laughter.

He was now sprawled out, face up over my bare lap, naked and exposed, and growing excited I noticed.

"Good! But you're still cute as fuck!" I said, meaning it, pausing the offensive, placing once hand on Toby's chest between his pink nipples, the other hand on his tummy in the light path of hair from his navel to pubic hairs.

His body had been my fantasy come true for me when we had first me. Slim, taller than me, a pale complexion with lots of light hair, matching eyelashes, peach lips, and those green eyes. I looked him over from top to bottom, making note of every feature. The once light strawberry hair was almost white, and thin. The white-blond eyebrows were invisible, the strong cheek bones in the once-rounded face like cold marble sculpture, the light, smooth, fine skin and peach colored lips were almost translucent.

His green eyes seemed a darker shade with those slight, dark circles around them. My eyes wandered from Toby's face to his bony chest with those light pink, small nipples, visible ribs, then over his belly and light, almost invisible treasure trail, on down to his pink and red erection thrusting up out of the almost white pubic hair, then further, past his dark pink scrotum and down his thin, bony legs.

"Take a picture, It'll last longer!" he teased.

I looked back at his face and said, "I wish I could! I'd take all kinds of pictures!"

"I bet you would, wouldn't ya?" Toby said, raising his right hand to my shoulder from around my back.

"Yeah, sure would. Wish I had some of what you used to look like." I regretted it the second I said it.

That was probably the worst thing I could have said! I thought to myself.

It showed on Toby's face, too. His smile wavered and vanished momentarily, then returned diminished.

I agreed to ignore it too, and said, "I just wish I could help you feel better," meaning it deeply. I wanted Toby to feel good, happy, like last summer. "If I can help, let me know. I'll do anything to help!"

After a long, expectant pause, Toby asked, "Do you have some lube?"

"Sure," I answered, a bit shocked. I had packed that, and more, into the pack before leaving home.

"If you really wanna help, make it good again," Toby said, meaningfully meeting my eyes.


"Just, make it good again. Make it feel good again, t'do it that way," Toby almost pleaded, placing his hand behind my neck.

I was stunned. Of course Toby might feel different after something like that, but what could I do about it? I wondered, not wanting that responsibility.

It certainly explains why he asked that I not go back there on him. I love him. I love him so much! But how can I help him over such a thing?

"I don't know what to do. I don't know . . . how."

"I don't know either. Just, do it your way, our way, don't make it, like, that, ya know? Don't make it, mean. Or ugly. Or, rough," Toby pleaded, his hand on my shoulder and behind my neck, pulling me down gently as he rose to meet me.

"Never. Never like that," I said, starting to cry again.

Why had that bastard hurt my Toby? Why is that bastard even alive? I raged inside, hiding that rage from Toby, putting it away.

Toby softly placed the palm of his right hand on my right cheek and wiped a tear there away with his thumb. "I don't think you could," he said, coming in slowly to kiss me.

Our lips met and opened. We pulled each other closer, embracing, then laid back onto the bed. We lay facing each other on our sides, legs intertwined. We kissed and touched for long minutes, enjoying each other's bodies, neither in a rush that time either.

I let my left hand brush through Toby's short, almost white hair, and played with his nipples with the other. After a few minutes, Toby took my hand from his nipples and slowly pulled it down his chest, through his treasure trail, and as he neared his groin, around to his ass.

"Just, make, being fucked, make it feel good again, please," Toby whispered as he placed my hand across his butt cheeks and pushed it firmly between them.

I knew what he meant. He wanted to be loved. We had talked about that last summer; how it was different when it was someone you really wanted and loved. We had both topped and bottomed each other, and we agreed that with each other and what we felt for each other, it was far better with the emotions.

I wanted to do just that. I would do anything to make Toby feel better, but that, that I would do anyway! After what had happened, I was surprised Toby even wanted to do anything like it ever again. I hated the bastard that had done that to my Toby more than I had hated anyone before in my life.

I pushed away those bad thoughts, concentrated instead on the fact that Toby was there, back with me then, and I concentrated on making Toby feel good. I concentrated on washing Toby's bad memories away, and replacing them with what I thought belonged there.

Tuesday Afternoon: An Early Birthday Surprise, or Two