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Some chapters of this story contain explicit sexual activity between teen males ranging from 14 to 18. These ages are based on the real ages of the individuals in the events. Many of the events are partially or completely fictitious, though some are true.

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Track 5

"Heavy Metal Poisoning"

Part One


"My Sharona," suddenly blared into my consciousness.

I slapped off the alarm clock without opening my eyes.

"Oh, fucking hell," I growled. "Talk about rubbing salt in the wound, for cripe's sake."

To be woken up by a song that Jeff and I had so recently enjoyed together was intolerable. It was some form of cosmic psychological torture. If I hadn't taken a little yellow pill, I would have been in a foul mood indeed. Waking in such a state was the new normal, no matter the reason, nightmare or reality. At least my body felt as if I had slept some, instead of exercising all night. I still felt tired, though.

I sat up and swiveled my feet to the floor. A few coughs, a little to spit out. Clean clothes. Shower.

I kept my mind on the homework I had done, and what I had yet to do. I had done the earlier classes yesterday; only the later classes still remained to finish. I could get it done at the breakfast table and lunch, I knew. I thought about my computer teacher. I thought about everything I could, except Jeff. The moment he came to mind, even peripherally, I jumped that track and onto another.

Drying off. The only thoughts having to do with Jeff that I allowed myself were ones about our planned breakup fight in front of Tom.

Dressing, when Kevin Corless came to mind, again and again, I assure myself that Tom was right, that he wouldn't tell anyone that I had attacked him, and I would get away with only the warning the Dean had already given me.

Teeth, face, hair. I thought about the crappy Plymouth that my parents were going to spring on me someday, probably soon, and how I was going to have to act surprised. I practiced.

I headed downstairs for breakfast and new bandages with a full trash bag and a bag of laundry.

Over breakfast, I struggled with telling my parents about the fight, but since the school hadn't threatened telling them, I didn't want to. I also didn't want to explain the situation behind the fight, so I remained silent about it. I almost felt as if I were lying to them.

What kind of wimp am I? I wondered. All I'm doing is not telling them about something. So what. That's no lie. I didn't get suspended or anything, so what's the big deal? I reasoned with myself.

I was thankful that I had taken the little yellow pill last night, so that guilt was impossible.

The pancakes were heavy in my stomach, the butter greasy, and the syrup so sweet that I almost gagged on it as I forced myself to swallow. I managed to get down most of it, but couldn't finish. Each mouthful of milk made me nauseous. Both of my parents wanted me to finish, but I argued that I simply didn't have the room. It was pure agony to hold down that breakfast until they left. Once they were gone, I ran to the bathroom and threw up the entire mess.

I went upstairs and washed my face, brushed my teeth, and tried not to think about anything. I wanted to stay home. I put on my coat and scarf, slung my pack on my back, wondered if I could somehow get out of going to school. It was a rare thought for me, as I liked school more than I wanted to admit to myself. Or I had, before. Now it was becoming a daily nightmare, a source of fear and loathing. I knew I had no real choice in the matter; I had to go.

I wondered if I was in trouble, but I knew that I had done nothing that I should be punished for. I went over the fight with Kevin in my head, convincing myself that I was in the right and had nothing to worry about. Yet I still found myself running into the bathroom to throw up again, even though I was actually empty.

I wanted to sit there and cry, but I knew I had no such option. I managed to convince myself that I could get through whatever came. It was only a single day. I could get through a single day. I brushed my teeth again and hardly rinsed, then came close to running out of my room to meet Tom for the bus.

No hiding. What's the worst that can happen? I asked myself as I joined Tom in the frigid early light. The wind prevented conversation, and gestures filled in as we bore down and began the fight to simply stay upright. The slightly melted snow and ice from the previous days were smooth, slick traps. Some were slightly hidden by fresh blowing snow. Light, slick flakes still fell, being blown sideways so quickly they seemed a fog.

Thankfully the bus was on time, we were on time, and the frigid cylinder seemed warm. I sat down after saying the usual, "Hey" to Jeff. Tom carried on being upbeat and funny, Jeff seemed to join in, and though I tried to appear to do so, I felt as if I were filled with the ashes of hope. I hoped that our planned fight went well, and that Tom would swallow it, accept it, and leave me alone about it. I didn't tell them about the meeting with the Dean.

When we arrived at school, I told them I had something to do before classes, and that I would see them around. We split up and I got what I needed from my locker and put away what I didn't. The Valentine card fell off the top shelf when I pulled a new note pad out. I put it in a side pocket of my pack.

I felt dread and fear as I walked toward the Dean's office, again wishing I had taken the yellow pill last night much later than I had, so that it would still be working as I entered the offices. I was nodded at by the receptionist and pointed toward the chairs to wait. As I sat, I saw that the blue envelope containing the Valentine card was poking up out of the side pocket. I shoved in back in, but it was just longer than the pocket was high and I couldn't zip it closed. No one could tell what it was, so I hardly cared. Other things kept it a minor concern.

I tried not to sweat, or look as scared as I felt.

Another Joan Jett wanna-be was working behind the counter, probably doing time for some infraction or another. She kept glancing at me, and smiling a little. She wasn't the same one from the nurse's office last week. I knew this one's name was Elisabeth, and that was all I knew about her. I was made more nervous by her attention. I wondered what she knew that I was about to find out.

The receptionist finally called my name and pointed toward the Dean's door. I nodded and caught a glimpse of Elisabeth grinning at me again. I walked to the door, pack on back, wiping my hands on my thighs, then knocked.

After his invitation to come in, I opened the door, caught another glance at Elisabeth watching me and grinning, then closed it behind me.

"Good morning, Mister Raymond. Sit down."

I did, replied with a shaky, "Good morning," and awaited the verdict.

I noticed his blazing pink shirt and maroon tie, and nearly as maroon jacket, and wondered if he was wearing red slacks, too.

"Mister Corless' parents were sure, at first, that charges should be filed. Kevin has a badly sprained foot, a bruised nose, and a concussion."

I was stunned speechless.

"I gave them your explanation, and those of the other students I spoke with yesterday. They felt that their son was attacked and insisted on a police report. Last night he asked to speak to another officer and then described a much different series of events than his first story. This time he took full responsibility. This story of the events nearly matched your own, point for point."

Here Dean Green's eyebrow raised. I didn't try to decipher it, I was too busy processing the fact that Kevin Corless had eaten the worm.

"In the end, Mister Corless claims he owes you an apology, and claims he will deliver it this day. Publicly, he claims."

Now my eyebrow raised. I thought, he not only bit the worm, he chewed and swallowed.

"We'll see. He is aware that if he is seen so much as frowning in your direction, he may well face a suspension. You are not facing any disciplinary actions for now. So, you are free to go. I would ask that you try to control your temper, Mister Raymond. Any further threats or intimidation you are subject to should be reported to me, personally. If it comes to blows again, you will be facing a suspension yourself. You understand?"

I nodded dumbly, still surprised that it was over. Mostly. At least, until third period when I would see Kevin.

Indeed, it wasn't over. As I left the offices, Elisabeth gave me a nod and a grin, confusing and worrying me. I walked toward the lunchroom and the guys, I slowed, not wanting to join them. The ones still there, anyway. I had my books and homework for my first classes in my pack. I felt like being alone, but the best I could do was walk slowly through the halls toward the physics classrooms.

I'm sick and tired of having something huge hanging over me. One thing or another in one way or a dozen. Charlie Derek wanting to fight me, and ending up telling him and the whole school that I'm gay. Jeff and I having those repeated bouts of... what-the-hell-ever they were. Then dying and ending up in the hospital. Finally a couple of great weeks together. But then Jeff and I figure out we aren't compatible and call it off. Then school isn't all bad, but I lost a few friends. And one ends up trying to be a bully on me.

But that one's over! I said to myself. I can relax on that one. I just gotta hope Kevin isn't gonna fuck around with an apology and just do it quick and quiet. Just us is fine. He don't have to say anything in front of anyone.

I was dreading third-period geometry, little yellow pill or not.

First-period Physics class went by fairly normally. Chris helped me when he noticed I was having trouble. It was as normal as normal was, and I would have thanked him for it if I could have come up with some way to do so without it standing out as abnormal that I had done so.

Second-period German went badly, but not horribly. The little yellow pill was wearing off. I paid attention to the way the others read the newer words, trying to be ready for my turn. It didn't help, and my pronunciation was laughable, so many did laugh. Our teacher again asked if anyone would be willing to help me catch up on the last three weeks' vocabulary.

I was about to say that I had it covered, and it would just take some time to catch up.

"I got it. We're gonna work on it afternoons," Erich said loudly.

At least it seemed to me that he said it loudly. I almost flinched. The whispers in reaction to his statement also seemed to be very loud. The mix of emotions that welled up left me paralyzed. I was glad, elated in fact, that he had announced it to everyone. I was also extremely embarrassed at what I knew was going to be the talk of the school by the end of the day. I also wondered if Erich had any idea what he had just set himself up for.

I had agreed to carry Erich's books to his next class from several of our classes we had together. It helped ease my feelings of guilt that I could have prevented his injuries. He also had a math class next, so we usually walked most of the way together anyway. On the way, I wanted to find a way to say thanks to him for speaking up, but I also didn't want to rub what could easily be a sore point for him, so I made small talk instead. I left him with his books in his classroom and headed down the hall to my geometry class.

Rick asked if I had found out if I could make his birthday party. I told him I didn't know yet, but I was trying to find out if I could get out of what I had to do. Kevin's seat was empty, and I had horrible visions of him meeting with his friends, plotting my demise. I wondered if he was blowing the class off, to avoid me, or to avoid his own embarrassment. He arrived just as the bell rang.

His friend, Terry was carrying his books for him. I saw him only long enough to see that he was using a pair of crutches. I refused to look at him, humiliated that I had been the cause. I felt the prickly heat of an intense, horrifying blush, and started to sweat. I wished I had brought a little yellow pill with me.

"Before class starts, can I say something?" Kevin asked.

The teacher gave him permission.

I swallowed, and the sweat began in earnest. My face felt as if I were standing in an oven, not just from the sweat forming on it, but from the hot blushing. I shook.

"I wanna apologize to Alex for what I did yesterday in lunch. It was stupid, and I'm sorry I did it."

I never looked up or reacted, other than the new twitch. I had no idea what to do or say, so I hoped by doing nothing that it would end sooner.

"I'm sure Mister Raymond accepts your apology, Mister Corless."

I jolted then, realizing that I should have reacted with something along those lines. I panicked, hating to be the center of attention anyway, but really hating this kind of attention.

"Uh, yeah. Don't worry about it," I managed to say, staring at the top of my desk, wishing I had more eloquent or meaningful words - or that I would just die.

I heard the hushed voices, but I refused to so much as glance in any direction and see their faces, or worse, see Kevin. Rick asked about his party, and I told him I still hadn't been told if I could get out what I already had to do. The class went by agonizingly slowly. At long last the bell rang and I literally ran out of the classroom.

As tough as it had been having Kevin apologize in public, the attention in computer class was worse. Being a nineteen-eighty-three class on computers, it was filled with almost entirely geeks and nerds, and they all thought I was some kind of hero. Nearly every one of them had some kind of congratulation for me, making me feel even worse about the entire thing.

I kept thinking about the teacher, and what he had told me about himself. I wondered if there were other teachers at school who were gay. He had said that we shouldn't discuss the topic, but I wished that we could. I wondered what it had been like for him being gay at his school when he was there, if he had a boyfriend then, or if he did now, how many he had had, when he had his first, how long that lasted, a hundred questions about him. The class went by fairly quickly, and I got some programming done when I wasn't thinking about the teacher. As I left the class, I had to shove the Valentine's card back down in the pocket again, and decided to move it to somewhere inside my pack, even if it did get lost in there.

Lunch started all normal and boring. I was asked if I had seen Kevin, and the lunch-capade was relived as they all told the same story to each other. When lunch was almost over, there was a sudden hush of the guys at the table. They were looking behind me. That horrible sense of deja-vu began, and I dreaded what was about to happen.

"Hey, Raymond," I heard Kevin Corless say.

My guts wrenched.

"I wanted to apologize. You kicked my ass real good. I deserved it. And there's no hard feelings. Not from me. But, if you got any, I can't blame ya."

I turned on the bench and looked up at him. He really was a sight. There were faint bruises around his eyes at his nose, and his nose was red and slightly swollen. He leaned on the crutches, favoring his foot wrapped in a bandage.

"Apology accepted," I said, not knowing what else to say, until I was struck by the obvious. "If you tell me something."

He looked confused as he asked, "What?"

I stood up and walked toward the windows to the quad, nodding at him to follow me. Once there, away from anyone who could listen in, I asked him , "Uh, why the fuck did you get all mean and shit? I thought we got along. Is it just because I'm, gay?"

He looked hurt, and ashamed. He turned red and looked at his feet. Or foot. I crossed my arms, protecting myself from the cold that rolled off the huge windows overlooking the snow-covered quad, and to protect myself from all of the eyes likely watching us.

"I guess it is. Or was. I mean, you wear concert t-shirts for good bands a lot, so I figured you were pretty cool. I mean, I think I mean... well, shit. I mean, when I heard what you said to Charlie Derek, I thought... I don't know. I mean, you let me say hi and talk to you and shit in the hallways. And you never said anything that you was gay. And everybody's seen me talking to you and shit. And, well... I gotta watch my rep, ya know? Everybody knows me, and my band, and..."

"You were afraid they'd think you knew, and we was, uh..."

He nodded, though he didn't need to.

"Yeah, well, they're all seeing us standing here now, talking," I said leadingly.

"Yeah, well, they all know you kicked my ass, too, and I'm apologizing for it. So..."

I nodded even though I didn't think I had to.

"I wanted to ask, too. I heard you play keyboard to Styx?"

How the fuck can he know that? I wondered in anger. There's no fucking way unless one of the guys in the Circle told him. Or told someone who told him. I had to know, so I asked.

"Your buddy, Tom told me."

"And why'd he tell you that?"

"He heard us talking about it the other day. Said he knew someone who could do the synthesizer in Styx songs. Can you sing any?"


"How about the keyboard?"

"I can do most of their stuff. Haven't since before Christmas, though. Just been busy with other stuff. Outta practice."

"But can you do the piano or any synth on Paradise Theater?"

"I used to. Not perfect. Mostly played it on a cheap J. C. Penny one."

"The album, right?"

I nodded.

He nodded, then asked, "Think you can do it on a real synthesizer?"

I wasn't about to tell him that I had played it on an Oberheim OB-Xa, the model newer than the one Dennis DeYoung had used on Paradise Theater, or that I had played the songs on the album daily for almost two years.

"Probably. Used a friend's, at his house..." Every day for years? No, he don't need to know that. A lot? No. Some? Yeah, that's okay to say. "Some."

"What kind?"

I shrugged. "They got an ex-ay."

"Really?" he asked, obviously surprised.

I nodded, feeling embarrassed.

"Cool. You think you can show somebody how to set one up? You know, all the settings and shit? Make it sound right?"

I shrugged, then said, "Prob'ly."

"Tell ya what. Wanna come over and see how you do? We do a lot of Styx, all we can without the synth. Same with Foreigner, Journey, and Queen. We usually play a lot of that kinda stuff, but we don't have a synth player anymore. We lost the one we had. Hard to find. Piano players, sure, but they don't practice rock, just classical and shit. But got a guy who can do the piano parts for some, just don't know how to work the synthesizer. We need a keyboarder. Or at least someone who knows the synth to show him how to set it up. So wha'd'ya say?"

A band? Help out his band? Me? Ha-ha-ha-ha. I see. Wanna fuck with me some. Do some head games. Asshole. Wants me to suck ass so he can laugh it up. Okay. I bet I can do it. Fuck you.

"Well, maybe. What kinda synth ya got?"

"We wanna do Styx the most, so we got a used oh-bee-ex. You can set it up for all the Paradise Theater songs?"

Oh, sure, no problem. I can show you that you made a mistake trying to make a fool outta me. Especially if it's Styx. I might not be a musician, like you, but I can do that.


"And other Styx songs?"


"Great! So, can ya come by? See if ya can help our guy get it set up? Show him how?"

"Sure, I guess."

He smiled. I did too.

"Okay. We're playing in James Yarborough's place after dinner. You know him?"

I knew who he was, but nothing about him other than he was a junior, a major pot-head, he hung around with mostly losers, had money, and was a drummer.

How much am I biting off? I wondered.

"I'll pick ya up about six tomorrow. Okay? We'll go until, like, until nine or ten or so, but I'll take ya home any time."

"I don't know if I can give it that much time," I answered, meaning it.

"Hell, just come for tomorrow. If you ain't got the time, cool. But if you can, we need someone who knows how to set the damned thing up."

He sounds serious, not fucking around, I thought. Can't read him with those crutches, but don't see anything that looks like concealment. Not fucking around with the fag? He'd really want a gay guy helping out his band?

Then I almost laughed as the next thought came to me.

Not like there's never been a gay band member!

Bowie and his acts, that singer from Culture Club, Elton John, shit, I could go on and on. Maybe Kevin thinks gay guys all got music talent? Not like I know any other gay guys but Jeff. He doesn't play any instruments, but he's never tried, either. Maybe we all do?

Wow! Did I just think, "we" about being gay? Holy fucking shit! That's the first time I ever thought, "we" about gays. That I caught, anyway. Damn.

I experienced another one of those world-altering episodes. This time I seemed to see myself in focus while the entire world around me went fuzzy, shrunk to nothing, was replaced by an other, entire, expanding world where I was gay and everyone knew but not everyone cared. I very much felt motion sickness stirring briefly.

I really am gay. Fucking gay. And Kevin is standing here talking to me in front of the entire lunchroom. And they probably all know I'm gay. And I am gay. I'm one of them. I'm one of us. Fucking weird!

"... just fuck around with us. I mean, I always thought about asking you, but you never went to any music classes, or I never heard of you playing anything. We got a kick-ass drummer, best in school if you ask me, but he can be an ass. I'm good with guitars, got another power electric who can sing, another guy rocks and rolls on bass and rhythm guitar, but can't sing much, and another bass player and singer who does a lot of old stuff. Those are the regulars. Got another bunch of guys can play with us sometimes and do all kinds of stuff. And the new guy, David, ain't bad at piano, but he's never done synthesizer. And he can sing good. So, come on. Give it a try. We got to play Friday and Saturday, and David can play some good stuff, but don't know how to set the thing up for any of the synth parts in songs."

"What're ya playin' this weekend?"

I won't be getting on any stage, at least. I'll go mess around with you guys for the hell of it. Show your guy how to set up the machine. And show you I can. And I got two bad fingers on the left hand to beg out on, suckers. And that's only if there's no Circle this weekend. And there won't be, I thought with considerable disappointment.

"We're stickin' to the basic drum and guitar classics, man. Don't worry. Maybe something light for piano or keyboards David'll be comfortable with. Ya know? So just come see what you can show him, for a couple hours? Find out and see?"

I nodded.

"Cool. Where ya live at?"

That simple question rang alarm bells. I was suddenly concerned that he was saying all of this in order to find out where I lived, so that he could trash my house. Or wait outside for me one day. It didn't seem like him, though. Between my own ability to tell something about people, and what Tom had taught me about reading people from body language and the way they talked, I'd never pegged Kevin as anything but a decent sort of guy. I'd even let myself like him, even though all we ever said to each other was simple hellos in the halls.

I looked at him closely again, trying to detect something about the way he was standing or looking at me. Because of the crutches, I lost many body language clues he might be giving off. What I could read in his face and words only seemed honest and open.

I told him where I lived, and we agreed he would pick me up tomorrow around six. By the time we were done talking, the bell rang to release the period. We said later to each other and broke apart. The guys from the lunch table immediately surrounded me, asking questions.

"It's cool, guys. It's cool. He told me why he was pissed, and I straightened it out. It's cool. In fact, I'm gonna go hang out with him some tomorrow night. Check out his band."

That was met with the obvious doubts and speculations that I had felt earlier.

"Well, if I don't show up at school next day, you guys know what to tell the cops, huh?" I said with a laugh.

I got no laughs in return, only serious glares as we broke up and headed to our next classes. I had to return to the table for my books, I thought. But Erich, Thomas, and Wes were there. Wes held his own and Erich's books, and Thomas carried his own and my pack. I took it with a nod and, "Thanks." Thomas grinned oddly as he nodded back at me.

"So now you think the cool guys want you in their band?" Erich asked.

"You know they're gonna fuck with ya," Wes warned.

"I don't. And neither do you. Though, I've thought of it. Okay? And like I said, now a bunch of you know about it. So they'd be stupid to. Right?"

They had to relent to that logic.

I started to shoulder my pack, but the Valentine card was ready to fall out of the side pocket. I shoved it back down and reminded myself to put it inside, good chance of it being lost or not. If I didn't, it would more likely be lost somewhere outside of it.

Chemistry went by nicely. Erich and I worked on German, annoying the preppies across the lab table from us.

On the way to Erich's next class, I carried his books and asked him why he didn't get a backpack or something to carry them on his back.

"You ever try to put a backpack on without hands? Or take it off? Now imagine opening it and getting books out of it."

I relented.

"How about you come over to my place and we study the German vocab there? I got some great records, man. You'll probably like 'em."

"Where you live at? I can't bike far in this freaking cold, ya know?"

"Bike? I'll pick you up after school, man. You can ride home with me. I'll drop you off home, later. What'd'ya say?"

He looked like a puppy waiting for his master to drop the bone he was holding out. I'd never seen his house and had no idea where he lived. I was curious about those things, and more. Most especially what his room looked like. I had imagined it many times in fantasies about him.

For a moment, I worried about Jeff. I still felt a mix of emotions about him, and that still troubled me, too. But we'd called that off.


"Great! Today? We can work on the German and listen to some good music, and smoke some good stuff I got from Nena."

"I know her! I didn't know she smoked. Or you! Well, not for sure."

"Yeah, I'm not as obvious about it as you," he laughed.

"Okay," I said, feeling good about the plan.

"Great. Where you wait for the bus at?"

"West side, at the windows by the music wing."

"So, see ya there today?"


A sudden flash of brilliance lit up the entire world. I grinned. Evilly. Erich obviously noticed.

He grimaced and then asked, "What the fuck does that look mean?"

He hadn't been in on any Circle meetings, so he wasn't familiar with my thousand-watt-prank-idea grin.

"Erich, dude, can I ask a big favor of you?"

He looked suspicious. And a bit worried. And interested.

"Dunno... " he said slowly.

I laughed.

"S'okay, honest. Jeff and me got this plan to mess with Tom today. We do pranks on each other all the time. Kinda a contest. But, Jeff and I are doing this big one today. Uh, all you gotta do is when I come up to your car, I'll have Jeff and Tom with me. Just go along with whatever I say. Okay? But I'll just say something or other, you just say yes, or sure, or something like that. Okay?"

Is there anyway to find out if he's Puppy Dog from this?

His grin widened and he nodded. "Cool. Okay."

"You sure you're okay with it? It's just between the four of us."

"Sure," he said with a shrug.

"Awesome. Tom and Jeff are both gonna freak!"

"What're you gonna say? To me, I mean?"

"I don't know yet. I have to work on it. Probably something about going home with you. Ya know, making it look like, for, you know, sex. Okay? Just between Jeff and Tom and us. Just a private joke on them. Okay?"

He grinned, but looked worried, too.

"Don't worry. Just between the four of us. They won't think it's real and say anything to anybody."

He grinned wider.

"Okay, but don't go too far. Ya know?"

"Oh, don't worry. Just Jeff and Tom will hear. And they won't say anything to anybody even if they believe it. And I'll let 'em know it's a prank later if they even fall for it. You just go along and play yes-man. I'll think of things to say before then."

I left him and his books in his class, laughing about the plan, and then headed to Literature class.

I thought more on those things for the plan than Literature class. The class went by slowly, anyway. But I had the plan fairly set.

Gym class was the new normal, and looked to remain so until I probably began changing and possibly showering next week. Erich, Carl, and I sat on the bleachers, talking and doing homework. Carl had taken German, too, I learned, and was in his third year of it. He helped the both of us. I tried not to notice if anyone was pointing and laughing at us. I also tried not to worry that their being seen with me would lead to any trouble for them.

English and Civics went by mostly smoothly. At least nothing embarrassing or horrifying occurred in either class. By the end of Civics, I had perfected the plan for the public breakup with Jeff in front of Tom, with Erich's help. I needed to tweak Jeff's part a bit, and make sure the two of us were in synch. I had to see Jeff. In school.

I screwed up the courage and fought the emotions, and met Jeff after the civics class. I ran to where his class was held not far from my own civics classroom. He was talking to two guys I recognized as jocks, baseball apparently, as they walked out of the classroom. I didn't know what to do. It was Jeff, but he was with jocks. I didn't even know their names. Bob seemed right for the taller blonde guy, but nothing seemed familiar about the shorter one with dark brown hair.

I saw how cute they would be to the girls, all three of them, and probably most gay guys, but they didn't attract me all that much. One was taller than Jeff. The other, judging by Jeff, was just about the same height as me. They all had athletic builds, I saw. Jeff, too. Tall, broad, handsome, all that, but now, stunned as I was to realize it, not all that hot.

It was another one of those world-altering moments. Everything seemed suddenly different after a gut-wrenching, spine-chilling wave of nausea.

That wave turned into a tsunami as Jeff saw me and lost his smile. It hurt. I saw his emotions change as if he pulled off a mask. Or put one on. I saw his embarrassment in how he suddenly held his arms, saw his defensiveness in that same gesture coupled with the rise in his shoulders, saw his paranoia in his eye movements and glances around him, saw his own realization of his change in moods about seeing me in public while he was with what I guessed were his new friends.

It all hurt.

I felt my eyes growing wet and hot.

I reached for anger again. I needed its defenses and its power to resist other emotions. I looked for things to be angry about, and found plenty of them. Mostly, I found Jeff's change toward me, as well as my own toward him.

He said something to his friends and let them walk ahead of him down the hallway. I noticed.

He waited for them to be clear before he walked toward me. I noticed.

He looked around him defensively as he approached me. I noticed.

It all hurt, it all fed my anger. Tears were far now. I knew I would have to be careful with my words, and I knew I still wanted to prank Tom over our breakup. But now, our breakup seemed real, and nothing to prank about. But it was the only reason to be there.

"Uh, hi," he said as he got near, looking as if he were doing something illegal and was sure there were cops all around.

"Hi. Um, wanted to get a few things set up for the prank with Tom later," I said, trying to be as casual as possible.

There wasn't a lot to cover, and we were familiar enough with planning such things, so we finished the last details of the breakup plan before his class started. I stayed calm despite holding that anger. I told him nothing of Erich. As we broke up during the bell, I noticed his relief at being able to get away from me. Or at least that was what I was sure I saw.

I know I felt relieved. I also felt my heart hammering in my chest, after another breaking.

I spent the rest of the period in the library working on my lines for when Erich drove up, and trying not to be angry at Jeff. I still liked him a great deal, I still wanted his friendship, and I wanted more, even though I knew that was no longer a possibility. I held onto our brief talk Sunday. I wanted to be more than friends, but I knew it wouldn't be possible for him in any way, not for a long time at the very least. I bemoaned how I wanted changes, but not the kind I was getting. I went through my list of things I wanted to change about myself, and wondered how to go about making them happen. I went back to my plans for Tom, Jeff, and Erich.

When the last bell rang, I was at my locker. I knew Erich would have to walk to the student parking lot, and that would take several minutes, not counting the time he spent at his locker. Then he would have to wait to get out onto the street behind all the students ahead of him. He had said he would be about fifteen after three. As was usual, Tom, Jeff, and I were waiting in the long, empty hallway at the end of the music wing for our bus by then.

The ritual had already seemed strained to the breaking point. Ever since my return to school it had deteriorated, and now was obviously on the brink of extinction, even before Jeff announced that he would be busy after school and not waiting around and riding the bus home. We'd talked less easily, so we talked less. When once Tom would have punched my shoulder and called me a fag for something, now he pointedly didn't glance at Jeff and said nothing. Opportunities for jokes were now stumbling blocks. Small, innocent comments led to long, awkward silences.

Today, Jeff and I were going to let it be known to Tom that we weren't together anymore, so as we planned, we began.

"So what's your deal-e-o?" he asked me.

"You," I said flatly.

"Me? What'd I do?"

I smirked.

"It's what you won't do," I said rudely.

"What's the deal?" Tom asked.

"Jeff wants it all to be a big secret. Him and me," I said very quietly.

"So what does that matter?" Tom said, trying to be the mediator, as Jeff and I knew he would.

"Because it does!" I almost yelled.

"It does!" Jeff said angrily.

"We can't be anything together if we gotta hide it," I said, going on as angrily as possible while keeping my voice low.

I knew I had plenty of anger to vent, and that I had to moderate the flow or it could easily become a problem. I threatened anger with the pointy stick, but only gently.

"And I don't want everyone knowing I'm... gay," Jeff hissed lowly, scowling at me.

"You are gay, you dumb mother-fucker!" I hissed back.

"But I don't want everyone to know it, you ass-hat!"

"Then fine. If we don't go together, you can pretend you're not gay. So then we can ignore each other from now on," I said firmly as I turned to glare out of the windows. "I knew we wouldn't work anyway. You're too stupid to know when you got something good," I said angrily.

"Don't flatter yourself. Bet there's lots better guys around than you."

"Oh, come on guys, you gotta be kidding me!" Tom tried. "All the shit you got in common, and all the reasons you got to be together, and you're gonna piss it all away?"

"We ain't pissing nothing away. Jeff won't let there be. It's over between us."

I looked at the clock and kept a secret eye out for Erich at the entrance of the pick-up lane.

"Oh, bull," Tom said, not believing it.

"No shit, Tom. It just ain't gonna work out, man. We tried. Okay? Drop it," Jeff said venomously.

"It's why I didn't want any company Sunday night, dude. We talked about it and he went home. We're fucking done. Okay?"

"Wasn't ever really on, anyway. Fucking wimp, afraid of anything bigger than your own, won't even try," Jeff said snidely.

He had stepped out of the planned route with that comment, and I had to beat down anger, or risk its escaping and running amok.

"I can't help it you're a fucking mutant. Your mom take steroids?"

Tom laughed and cut it off immediately.

"At least I got the meat, dickless wonder," Jeff said with a vicious grin.

He was way off the planned trail, now. I couldn't see any way back to it, either.

"Fuck you."

"You had your chance."

"You never gave that a chance!" I said too loudly.

"Neither did you!" he yelled back.

"Hey, I tried! I gave that a shot. You're just a mutant!"

We were both being far too loud, and had both abandoned the plan. I saw Erich make the turn at the end of the pick-up lane. He'd pull up in seconds. I started the finale. Since Jeff had left the planned discussion, I had no reservations about doing so now, and beginning my own prank on him, as well as the one we had planned for Tom.

I finally turned away from the windows and said, "At least I can get someone else. You can't."

"What?" he asked.

He didn't know where I was going. I threw him off, as I had secretly planned.

"I can go home with anyone and get me some," I said. "You ain't got the guts, you'd get found out, and we can't have that, now can we?"

I delivered it with relish and energy, even more than had I intended, surprising myself as well. Anger had both paws outside the bars of the cage, and I was toying with it and the pointed stick, in more danger than I realized.

"What?" he asked again.

His face was white, his lips paled, his eyes wide, round caverns. I almost abandoned the line, but anger was growling loudly, and I was fueled onward.

"I said, I can go home with about anybody I know and have them naked and having sex before you guys even get home. And you'll never have anyone else because you won't let anyone know about you!"

"Al, what the hell?" Jeff asked, obviously now completely lost and hurt.

I knew I was paining him; and again, surprising myself, I was enjoying it.

"Really!" Tom said in agreement with him.

"Just watch!" I said, then turned away and walked outside.

I walked very fast toward the traffic moving along the busy lane picking up students. The winds had died down, but it was still frigidly cold.

"Hey! Erich!" I yelled as I got close to him.

He pulled the car to a stop and I ran up to it. Before Jeff and Tom were close enough to hear me, I said through the passenger window, "Okay, go along with this if it's okay with you."

He nodded.

"So I told Jeff the virgin here I could get anyone I know who pulls up to give me a ride home for a blow-job or whatever you want. What'd'ya say?"

He looked surprised. He blushed. He grinned. He shrugged.

"Sure. If you wanna. Get in, we can go to my house."

"Sure!" I said enthusiastically as I climbed in.

"And if ya want, I still got some rubbers," he said, almost making me blow my cover.

I nodded as I shut the door.

He revved the little engine of his Mustang II and dropped the transmission into gear. The wheels didn't so much spin as complain slightly. We sped away, though. Sort of. I looked back to see both of them resting their chins in the snow.

"How'd it go?" he asked.

"It looks like they're tasting the slush!" I said, laughing. "The condom thing was fucking brilliant!"

"Thanks! Just occurred to me, ya know?"

"Went awesome! Thanks! Jeff and I planned to fuck with Tom, so with your help I got Jeff, too, at the same time! Thanks! Man, I so owe ya!"

The rush of elation at being away from them, and sharing the laughs and grins with Erich, washed away the anger.

"You can pay me back with that blow-job, if you wanna."

I looked over at him in complete surprise. He was blushing bright red. His grin was as wide as ever. He glanced at me then away, then back and then away again, over and over.

"You serious?" I asked as cool as I could.

The very idea of giving Erich a blow-job was beyond what I considered possible. I had fantasized about it more times than I could have kept track of. He had been cute to my taste since I met him Freshman year. If he had ridden the bus instead of Jeff, I often thought I could have fallen in love with him instead.

The faint hope that I could really mess around with Erich began to swell up, along with a certain anatomical appendage.

"We can talk about it, at least, I guess," I said slowly, not wanting to seem as enthusiastic about the idea as I was.

He was bright red, and his ears looked painfully red. He was trying not to grin too much.

"I got the new Quiet Riot album. You heard it?"

"Nope. Just the songs they play on the radio. Rest of it good?"

"Hell yeah!"

His changing of the subject wasn't missed. I knew not to press it, but I decided to see what I could get out of this afternoon. If Jeff was so sure we weren't right for each other, then maybe I should find someone I was right with, I thought. And Erich was sure cute enough.

We talked about music, and I took what chances I could to get a good look at him. I'd always tried not to, not wanting to add another tease to my situations. And with Jeff so near, I just didn't care to look at anyone else, anyway. As I looked at him driving his little fake Mustang with his heavily gloved hands, I realized that when I talked to him at school, I had always looked away from him. And that was the only place I ever saw him.

But now we were in his car, junker it was, heading away from there, and to his bedroom. I wondered if anyone else would be at his house.

I was looking at him steadily as he drove. He glanced over from time to time, smiling, cute. He was at least an inch shorter than I, probably two, and had to weigh a good twenty pounds less than I usually did. His shaggy mess of nearly every shade of blonde hair stuck out here and there. His complexion was clear, almost white, but a bit of tan still, despite being in the depths of winter. His red lips were generous and framed a wide, white smile with a retainer. His coat hid his torso, but his pants didn't hide much. His jeans were stuffed. I had seen what lay there and under his coat every day this year in gym. And I liked it.

I started thinking that I really could mess around with Erich.

Jeff be damned, I thought, meaning it, and surprised that I did.

He lived close to the school, in a ranch-style house on a quiet, tree-lined side street just down the block from the trailer court. It was fairly small and had no garage. His room wasn't like I expected. It wasn't far off, but it was far more chaotic and messy, with more metal posters and fewer science-related posters or objects. I said as much as we entered.

"So what makes you think I'm a brain?"

"Who you hang around with. Our lunch table. Your classes you take," I said simply.

"Huh. Well, I ain't no brain."


"Nope. More of metal head than a brain, man."

"Huh. Guess I pegged you wrong a bit."

"Guess so."

"So if you're so not smart, how come you know chemistry so well? You have to study that shit, hard."

He grinned as if sharing a secret. I loved it.

"Mom works at Griffith Labs in Downers Grove. She's got chemistry degrees and specializations."

"So you just pick her brains?"

"Got any questions, I get 'em answered. And I better be able to explain it, too."

"You cheater!"

"Hey, it's not cheating! I just take advantage of a resource!"

I had to agree. I also had to notice that we were using German words at times, and occasionally he was using a word I didn't know, but understood by context. He was teaching me without teaching me. I was enjoying it.

At first I felt awkward, having only spoken German with him at school. Doing so outside of school was reminding me of Robert.

"Wann haben Sie zu hause zu sein?"

I had to be home by five, so I answered, "Funf Uhr," and followed up by asking why.

"Cannabis et musica laetificant cor" he replied, standing.

"Latin?" I asked, stunned.

"Take it, too," he said with a grin. "Jeff's in my class," he added, as if I should have been fully aware of that fact.

I wasn't. I knew Jeff was taking Latin, but not second-year. Nor that he was taking it with Erich.

I wasn't sure exactly what he had said in Latin, but I recognized enough to know it was something about weed and music and a good mood.

"Veritas!" I answered.

"This is cool. I've wanted to with you before," he said, pulling a joint from a black box on his shelves. "Hear ya talkin' about it, and know ya do."

He shrugged as he lit it, passed it to me, then pulled Metal Health from the shelf and handed me the cover. I looked it over as he started the record.

The weed tasted kind of flowery, but it worked. I had an amazing time as I sat next to him and got high in his room, banging heads to Quiet Riot.

He was so cute. Like Jeff, he looked as if his parents had met in the hills of Scandinavia, moving to America just before his birth. Blonde, long-faced, bluntly chiseled, strong-jawed, big lips and smile, and bright eyes. Like Jeff, but smaller.

By the end of the album, my neck was sore from overuse, and I was dizzy and nearly nauseous, and my temple was beginning to ache, but I felt awesome.

While he had gained many points that afternoon, he lost some when he asked, "Don't that kick Styx's ass?" with a wide grin.

I lost some of my grin and answered, "No. But it kicks ass, though!"

"Oh, come on! Styx are weak compared to that!" he said, gesturing at the album cover as he sat again next to me.

I could smell him. We both had worked up a little sweat over that period of vigorous upper body activity.

"Weak? Uh-uh. Just different. They rock, too, just not metal is all."

"Ah, bull-hockey. Metal is the only real music."

"Bull-hockey?" I mimicked. "Where did you pick that one up?"

"Where I grew up. Elysburg, Pennsylvania."

"Pennsylvania? I never knew you were from anywhere but around here."

I wondered what the odds were that I knew three people in my class who were all from Pennsylvania.

"Moved from there just before high school. No decent work there for dad, and he got this chance here, so we moved."

"Near a big city I might know?"

He laughed, then said, "Nope. Just farms and hills. It's the biggest town around. Besides Hazelton, Bloomsbury, or Sunbury, nothing near at all. And they're just little cites."

"Sounds pretty."

"Pretty boring," he laughed. Then, "Can I ask you something? Personal?"

He began nearly squirming as he sat next to me. I found it fascinating and alluring.

"I guess. I mean, we've known each other almost three years, right?"

"Yeah. But, I didn't know about you, being, gay. Ya know?"

I nodded, wondering exactly where he was leading, and just how far he would take it. He was red-faced, grinning in an odd, shy sort of way that was adorable. He was trying to meet my eyes, but having a hard time doing so. I could tell that he was having a hard time with the conversation, and I wondered how I could help him out. I wanted him to have an easy enough time of it so that he could ask anything he wanted to.

"Um, you ever had a, a boyfriend?"

I knew that I was blushing, but it was nothing compared to him. I had never seen his cheeks so red, and I wondered if I could light a joint on his ears. I wondered if I kissed them, if my lips would sizzle.

Boyfriend? Hmmm.

I wasn't going to divulge Jeff to anyone. He wanted it that way, so he could have it that way.

I nodded, trying not to smile too much.

"Somebody I might know?"

I shook my head. "He was from Georgia. Up here for summer vacation two weeks at family. Just over the summer."

"Oh. Nobody at school?"

"No. I'm the only gay guy at school," I intoned once again.

There was a long pause before he asked his next question.

"You wanna bet?"



"I know there's..." he said, taking a long breath before continuing. "... one more gay guy at school. 'Cause..."

I twitched. Right hand, right eye. I knew what he was going to say. I couldn't believe it. Tom's words came screaming at me. "There's another one if you'd just open your eyes. He's such a puppy-dog over you."

"... I better not say," he blurted out, looking at his heavily gloved hands.

I believed Tom. I believed Puppy Dog was sitting right in front of me.

Well, holy shit, I thought.

"Are you sure?" I asked dumbly.

He rolled his eyes and said, "Uh, yeah, I'm sure."

Because it's you, ain't it, Puppy Dog?

"Look, uh, I can't say, okay? Just, I know, okay?"

Sure ya do, Puppy Dog, I thought, working hard to hide my grin.

"Anyway, um, look... I, ah, is it okay, if..."

He trailed off, obviously in a great deal of discomfort. I still wanted to make whatever it was he wanted to say as easy as possible. I thought back to how I had done so for Tim, and tried to find a way to help Erich. I was sure Erich wanted to ask me for that blow-job.

"You, been able to pull it off?"

Another shake of his head and an increase in his already very wide grin.

"Wow. Blue balls to the max, huh?"

He laughed and held up his gloved hands.

"It's hard to piss, think I get much action, either?"

We laughed, breaking the tension.

"You really haven't? Since the fall?"

He shook his head.

"Well, yeah, but not, done it. Just... never mind."

He gave up with a shy, adorable grin.

I was incredulous. Surely he found some way to do it. His jokes about sucking himself came to mind.

"You should probably learn to get flexible enough to suck yourself," I said with a laugh.

His blush darkened and his grin widened. It was the sudden, short snicker that convinced me.

"No way!" I exclaimed.

He laughed.

"Always been flexible," he said, blushing even darker.

"You really can?"

He nodded, still not looking at me.

"Not all the way. Just the end of it. And I can't, umm, do it long enough to work by itself."

Now I was sure I could have lit a cigar off his ears. And he was so adorable when he was so embarrassed and squirming just so.

And Puppy Dog.

And I had to see if he would show me.

"You gotta show me," I said, surprising myself.

My guts fell, cold, into my ass. I nearly passed out and had to remember to breathe. His mouth fell open, then turned into a wide smile. His retainer glinted a bit in front of his square, white teeth, reminding me of Jeff. There was a moment of guilt, then anger, then loss, then anger again. Then I remembered that Jeff was the one with the problem, and the one who felt it was best that we, "cool it."

Then I considered that I was in some way a little responsible for his fall down the rope. Toby had told me that I wasn't, but that idea still nagged at me. And the chance to have sex with Erich was urged onward by the sense that it would somehow be reparations for my part in his fall.

Hell, he can't beat it because of the gloves, and he wears the gloves because I wasn't there to be his anchor and Carl had to do it. So if I can get him off, maybe pay him back some. Right? Plus I can add him to the data journal. He'd make a good addition to that journal, for sure. But, most of all, I wanna see him suck his own. Jeeze! Why is that so hot an idea? I fucking love it. I wish I could!

"And if you can't get it to finish, I'll help."

The words were out before I even heard them in my head. I felt as if I'd just pushed someone over a cliff; myself.

He was even redder. It was almost comical. I knew I wasn't pale, either, but he was an apple with a face on it, with a big, wide, white, square-toothed grin. With a retainer.

He's so cute! I want him. I always liked him. But I refused to let myself see what was in front of me; Jeff, and Erich. And Tom knew.

"Okay," he said softly.

Oh, my, God! Yes!

Those cold guts returned to their respective proper locations, and my groin fired up. I was suddenly worried about where this would go. I knew I didn't care about Erich in any special way, and I didn't have a problem with sex with somebody I wasn't in love with, oh hell no, but I didn't want him on the other side of the coin, thinking of love and a relationship.

"Okay, but, uh, this don't mean, uh, ya know? It's, just, messing around. Ya know?"

He looked confused at first, then surprised, then a bit angered.

"No way! I mean, I like you, Alex. You're a good guy, and all that, but, I'm not, like, in love with you. I ain't even gay, honest. Just, since you are, and, well, I could really use a hand here..."

He trailed off into nervous, snickering laughter, and I joined him. Without the thought to do so, I put my hand on his thigh, very near his groin. He started a bit, and visibly swallowed with difficulty.

"I really don't mind. I mean, to be honest and shit, I always thought about it. Ya know? I mean, I don't mean to make you worry or anything, but I've always, kinda, wanted to with you."

"Uh, well, I, uh, thought about it. You know, after the fight and you told everyone you're gay, I, well, kinda thought about it."

My heart was pounding against my chest, my breath coming quickly, and that certain appendage was swelling. I was curious, so I moved my hand upward from his thigh. He was obviously excited.

"You don't have to."

"Maybe. But what if I want to?"

He barked a laugh, looked at me, shrugged.

I was struck by how attractive he looked right then. I wondered how I had managed to ignore him for so long, to pretend I didn't see him.

"Why would you want to? Someone as stupid looking as me."

"You are not stupid looking. I, uh, I like how you look."

He grinned a bit again. Then he looked worried suddenly.

"You won't say anything to anybody, will ya?"

"Dude, Erich, no way. Don't even worry about it. But if you don't trust me, I won't do anything," I said, removing my hand from the heat rising from his groin.

"I trust you, man. I do. I like you, and I know you. I, just had to ask, okay?"

He looked sorry, and maybe a bit uncomfortable.

I nodded.

"If you trust me, and it's okay with you, I really do wanna, uh... giveyouthatblow-job."

Oh, my God! I do! So bad!

He nodded.

"We, don't have to, kiss, do we?"

"No," I said with a laugh. "Geeze. All you gotta do is lay back and let me do all the work."

He laughed. Slowly, he laid back on his elbows, grinning widely, blushing furiously, snickering repeatedly.

"I don't believe we're gonna do this," he said as I slid his shirt up, away from the waistband of his jeans, revealing his cute innie navel.

I couldn't believe it either.

He was grinning non-stop, and trying not to laugh. I was remembering the first time someone had done anything of the sort to me. Again, Erich was reminding me of Robert, someone I hadn't thought of for nearly three years. I saw then just how much he looked like Robert. They both had dark blond hair, light eyes, northern European features, and were slim. Both helped me with German. Both were willing to mess around, but claimed they weren't gay.

Putting the comparisons aside, I leaned over his groin, noticing that his erection was clearly outlined in his jeans. My hands were shaking as I undid the button and unzipped the fly. I tingled from toes to scalp, shivering inside. I wanted to look up and see his face, his reaction, but I was both too interested in seeing what was about to be visible, and too embarrassed to meet his eyes. I slid his jeans down to his ankles, Erich lifting his butt to make it easier. His erection pushed his white briefs up by a considerable amount, almost poking out from the waistband if it weren't trapped by it. The bruises on his thighs were surrounded by red burns. I felt more than a little pang of guilt, but tried to hold Toby's words to heart and not feel guilty about them.

I moved my eyes to his crotch again, and felt a massive thrill run though me. I couldn't believe what I was about to do. I had seen it in the showers numerous times, but now I was finally going to see it up close, and hard. I was so excited!

I gently pulled the elastic up and outward and down, revealing all his beauty. Up close for the first time, and fully hard, it was impressive. It wasn't very thick, and certainly nothing like Jeff's, but it was longer than my own or Toby's, and rivaled Tim's. His head was dark red and nearly covered by the foreskin. Only a smallish opening allowed just the tip to show. Just like Jeff's. It was straight, smooth, pale, so attractive.

I pulled his shorts to his ankles and then wrapped my right hand around his long, hard erection, then pulled the skin downward. The skin was slightly tight, and he hissed as the skin rolled over his head and down over the corona, uncovering his red head. The way it unrolled and revealed his head was wonderfully artistic and a natural wonder.

His glans was long and angular, like Toby's, like the head of a missile or bullet. The edges were smooth and subtle, rounded nicely. His cock was long enough to extend a good two inches above my fist as I pushed down against his pale blond pubic hair. It pulsed slightly as I held the skin back for a few seconds to enjoy the sight.

"That's a nice, long, dick," I said with admiration, my voice amazingly low.

He laughed, making it bounce in my hand.

"No wonder you can suck it," I hinted.

He sat up, blushed a bit more, then leaned over, put his gloved hands behind his legs, pulled himself downward, and then placed his lips over his head, sucking it in. He cheeks went concave. He slid up and down a bit, almost getting his lips over the edges.

I was entranced. Amazed, too. And unbelievably turned on. It was one of the most incredibly hottest things I had ever seen. I had thrills running through me, chills chasing them. I felt myself harden to the point of nearly being painful. I thought I felt my balls pulling upward.

He sat up and took a breath, then said, "And I can't breathe."

"Damn! If I could do that, I'd never leave my room!"

He laughed, making his long dick bounce up and down. His embarrassed grin was completely adorable.

"I wish I could do it long enough to, um..."

I nodded, somehow knowing what he meant.

"So, do you feel anything?"

"Yeah, feels pretty damned good!"

His grin widened, making it, and him, even more adorable.

"Wanna see what it's supposed to feel like?" I said, unable to stop myself, or stop my grinning.

He laughed out, "Yeah," going an even deeper red.

So I showed him. I leaned over him and did what he had just done to himself for about ten seconds, teasing him, his nice balls directly in front of my eyes. Then I slid slowly down, lips only, sucking. He groaned at first, then he hissed loudly as I slid my lips over the smooth, rounded edges of his head. He moaned again as I hit the half way point. I kept my tongue away from it. As his head slid into the back of my mouth and onto the back of my tongue, I pushed the rest of my tongue up against the top side of his head and started sliding slowly upward, sucking harder. He tensed and hissed. I tasted his salty pre-cum.

"Oh fuck!" he growled, deep shivers making his words start and stop repeatedly.

He was smooth, straight, and long. I only sucked gently, sliding up and down, keeping my lips fairly tight. I moved to be more comfortable, and that movement reminded me of how hard I was. I felt my own body thrilling all over. My stomach was awash with tingling sensations. I was elated, ecstatic. Not only was the usual dull ache in my temple missing, even the soreness in my hand was diminished to nearly nothing, even though I leaned on it as I held myself over Erich. My right hand reached for and fondled his balls, which were large, hanging a little so that they were very fun to handle. His scrotum was thin and supple, and allowed them room to move.

I had enjoyed giving Jeff head, but his massively thick cock was hard to wrap my mouth around. That width also made going very far down on him very difficult. My jaw always ached after a short time. As I sucked Erich's cock, I realized how much I had been missing. It was easier to work with, and it didn't make my jaw ache. His head was able to slide through my lips with ease, and I was able to lick around it easily. Also, it was far easier to take far more of it. I let it push against the back of my mouth, even trapped it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth. I was really enjoying having a normal-sized dick to play with.

I had enjoyed the way Jeff's foreskin didn't uncover his whole head, but now I was enjoying having a cock that let me get to the entire head, and the corona, and the sensitive area below. I was doing just that when there was more slippery, salty pre-cum. I was just beginning to wonder if he was getting close to cumming when he shivered all over.

"Oh, ga-a-awd!" he moaned, rising in pitch.

He tried to pull me off of him, but not very hard.

"It's going... " he managed to hiss as his entire body tensed.

His legs locked straight out, his back arched so that only his ass and shoulder blades were on the bed. His arms pushed his gloved hands down on my head, probably without any volition. I tasted that salty, slightly musky flavor.

He actually grunted, "Ow!" just before I felt his cock throb and his body stiffen even further.

I felt his head swell in my mouth, and then I tasted his slick, thick, musky, bitter cum.

He was silent, but jerked with each convulsion, and each one nearly filled my mouth.

I had given head to finish to six guys by then. I thought I had experienced large orgasms before. Tim had been twenty the last time I had swallowed his, and I thought he had cum a lot. Then the first times I'd sucked Jeff that way had been at least a fair tie.

Now, there was a new leader in that category, and in the lead by far. I swallowed as fast as I could, but my fist felt his cum sliding down his shaft before he had twitched out the last wave of slippery, sticky warmth. It was very thick, very bitter, and very musky, almost overpoweringly so.

His body trembled in waves that mimicked the timing of his orgasms. His legs and back suddenly gave out, dropping him flat onto the bed.

A huge, "Whoosh," of air and he started breathing again in gasps.

I slowly stroked him, pulling my lips upward. I couldn't resist licking at his opening and then around his head. He jerked, twitched, sat up, and begged me to stop.

With a, "Holy shit," he fell back and lay panting.

"Sure beats jackin' off, don't it?" I said, grinning, leaning over on my side, almost next to him.

"No fucking contest," he replied, still breathless.

I put my hand on his chest. I could feel his heartbeat pounding against his ribs.

"Wow," I said in awe.

"That's my line," he said, making us both laugh.

I enjoyed watching his long, almost hard cock bobble on his abdomen as he laughed. I reached out and played with it, tickled the smooth, rounded edges of his head. It twitched and bobbed, dripping a little onto the skin just above his blond bush.

"I wish we had time to again," I said, rolling it around in my hand, watching it actually grow thick and long again.

"Make it fast," he hinted.

I looked at his face, and saw he meant it. I shrugged. I slid my lips over his smooth, satiny head, licking and sucking, feeling it grow large and hard again. He grunted softly from time to time, trying not to make much sound. I bobbed viciously, sucked, licked, trapped his head between the roof of my mouth and my tongue and slid down him slowly, stroked his cock from base to head while I sucked just the tip, and took all of him deep into my throat.

My other hand was kept busy toying with his nice, sizable balls. They weren't large, smaller than Jeff's, larger than Tom's. Erich's sack was smoother than any I'd experienced, though, almost thin-skinned and soft. His balls moved around freely in it. I was tugging them, rolling them, squeezing.

He was almost thrashing around on the bed at times, other times holding the back of my head and pushing me far down on him. He began to fuck my mouth, quick and hard, and I knew he was getting close. I felt his body tremble, heard him stifle a deep moan, felt his cock swell in my mouth. There was more salty flavor and wetness.

"Holy, oh, fuck, yes!" and he exploded.

He pushed upward into my mouth each time he came, groaning deep in his throat. He came nearly as much that second time, and I again found it hard to keep up. I loved it. Except for the flavor. His semen was strongly bitter, strongly musky, very thick. Even so, I kept sucking even after he stopped shooting his cum, licking and cleaning his cock as it immediately softened.

"Please, fuck, please, stop!" he finally demanded, using his gloved hands to pull my head off of him.

After a few seconds of silence, I said, "Way better the second time, huh?"

"Oh, no shit!"

He lay there, working on regaining his breath. I sat there, admiring his body. And wishing he would do something to me. I wondered if it even crossed his mind or not. I began to think that maybe he really was straight.

He giggled again, then said, "Alex, man, thanks."

"Thanks?" I repeated.

"Fuck yeah. I mean, ya know, thanks. For... ya know."

He sat up with some difficulty and couldn't stop grinning or blushing. I was feeling embarrassed. He was looking it. I felt great, too. I found his clock-radio and saw the time.

"Dude, I hate to blow and go, but I gotta get home for dinner. Then Kevin and the band and shit."

And brush my teeth, I thought.

He laughed at my dumb joke and nodded. He stood up and I pulled his shorts up then I tucked him away with some reluctance. I was still ragingly horny and wanted to attack it again. But, I carefully tugged his shorts into place, then pulled his jeans up and fastened them. I throbbed in my shorts the entire time. After zipping his jeans, I couldn't resist running my hand over and then under his package, admiring it. He felt semi-erect again, I was amazed.

He shivered, then sighed deeply.

"Man, thanks!"

I was sure that he wasn't thanking me for helping him to get dressed.

"Ya, well, thanks, too," I said stupidly. "I never..." I wasn't sure that I really wanted to say what was on my mind, but I'd started and now couldn't think of anything else to substitute. "... never thought I'd get to do that to you."

I felt intensely embarrassed, and knew that I was blushing again. Or still.

"Why would you want to do... anything with me?"

"Because, because you're so cute," I managed to admit.

"I, am not, cute," he said firmly, and a bit sadly.

Another one! I yelled inside. Another cute son-of-a-bitch that thinks he's not! Am I a magnet for that kind of guy? Or do I like guys that only I find cute?

"Dude, believe me! You got that awesome, all-shades-of-blonde hair, and those excellent gray eyes, and freaking nice lips. Good skin, nice body, great ass... " I wanted to say it, but it seemed so bizarre to say. Only once I thought of how I wanted to be more brave and less wussy was I able to force the words out. "A fucking awesome dick, and great balls!"

He was red again, and I saw, or felt, that he believed me, at least somewhat.

I reached out and brushed down some of his mussed hair, then straightened his shirt.

"I, uh, I wish I could do this with you every day, man," I said, looking at his face, and into his eyes.

His mouth opened in what I expected was surprise.

"You really think I'm, uh..."

"Hot? Hell ya. You got a great bod, man. All over."

I was even more embarrassed. I'd almost said that I had always noticed his cock, since Freshman year in gym. But I didn't want to make it so obvious that I had been interested in him for some time.

"Sure," he said disbelievingly as he grabbed his coat.

On impulse and without thinking, I reached out and cupped his groin.

"Dude, I always noticed."

I massaged him gently, feeling where his parts were inside his jeans and briefs, even knowing, as I'd put them there. There was no mistaking that he was nearly fully hard.

"I always wanted to do this with you. Honest."

He was still furiously red and grinning as he said, "You're such a fag," with a laugh.

I didn't mind. I knew it was true. So did most of my school. And I didn't mind the way he had said it at all. It reminded me of the way Tom said it.

"You know I mean, I don't mean it mean, okay?"

I nodded, grinned.

"You can call me that, that way. Just not in front of anyone!"

We laughed.

"And I won't let on one fucking bit to anyone. Not even Jeff or Tom. I mean, right now they think... well, but they'll know it was a joke by school tomorrow. I'll let them know on the bus. Got that all planned!"

He looked at me and laughed.

"You have the most funny grin when you're plotting stuff!" he said, smiling.

I blushed. And grinned.

"You got the cutest laugh."

He blushed more. And laughed more.

"Alex, I really ain't gay. Really. But, fuck it, man, if it's okay with you, can we do this again? At least until I get my hands back?"

I thought for a moment that maybe I had misheard him. I thought that I couldn't be so lucky.

"Sure!" Oh, shit, too enthusiastic! "Uh, fine with me. Like I said, always wanted to anyway."

"You really think I'm, you know, not ugly?"

I rolled my eyes at him.

"Erich, man, you got like the coolest hair. Always messed up but always that way. All colors of blonde. So cool. Great lips. Nice face. Good body. Nice butt. Great, uh, equipment."

We laughed.

"Just don't go thinking I'm in love with you," he said, laughing again. "Just because I let you blow me."

His embarrassed grin was so very adorable. I punched his shoulder, though I wanted to wrap my arms around him.

We were silent until the front door. Even then we didn't actually say anything. Once in the car, he cranked more heavy metal music and we jammed along. I couldn't believe the volume level his stereo was capable of putting out. His type of music was beginning to grow on me. I'd always preferred more melodic, easier music, but that afternoon as we rolled east along Plainfield Avenue, Erich cultured my taste for heavy metal.

I wondered if he was really gay, but just too shy to say so. I wondered how to get him to admit it, at least to himself if he hadn't already. I knew I had to know him better, though, to do so, so I looked forward to getting to know him better.

A new question was raised by those thoughts; why hadn't some other gay guy at school come to talk to me?

If what I've read is true, and something like ten percent of the population is gay, then there are about a hundred gay guys in my class. Another hundred or so seniors. And that's just at north campus. Two hundred almost at south campus, too. If the other theory is right, and only two to five percent are gay, then that's still twenty to fifty in my junior class. Forty to a hundred at my campus. So if there's even that few, or many, how come not one has come talking to me? Or wanted to?

Am I that ugly? Is there something about me that keeps them away? Do I dress bad? What?

I thought those thoughts as we listened to and sang along to heavy metal, riding through the winter streets in his little fake Mustang. I tried not to let them bring me down, but they did, somewhat. I had the memory of what I had just done with, or to, him to fight off the melancholy.

It was great, I thought. I blew Erich! And he was fun! Great cock! Wow! Nice balls. Wonder why his cum is so bitter? But, what fun! I hope we do this every day! Too bad I don't care more about him, though. It'd be nice if I felt something for him, too. And him for me. Make the sex even better! Then he'd do something back to me. I'd love to feel his lips on my cock. Man, I'm still hard. Guess it might stay like that until I take care of it. Oh, that's gonna be so good! I'm gonna hit the ceiling! Yes! Just wish he had done something for me. He can't give me a handy, hell, if he could, he wouldn't've asked me to blow him. And that was so cool watching him suck his own! If I could do that, I'd never leave the house!

I kept thinking of what I had done with him until he pulled into my driveway and shut off the radio. He turned to me with a serious expression.

"How are we gonna be in school tomorrow?"

I hadn't given it a thought. I was impressed that he had. I shrugged.

"I can be okay about it. Won't give a clue and won't have a problem. You?"

"I might grin like an idiot for some reason sometime, but it'll be cool with me, I think."

He seemed sure.

I opened the door and got out. I wondered if Tom was looking out his bedroom window. I leaned in really far, as if we were kissing.

"Guess, see ya in school tomorrow. More German homework?" I asked, then snickered.

"This is so weird! But, uh yeah!"

"Gotta study!" I said with another laugh.

"Oral is always the hardest part with a new language!" he said with a laugh.

I was having the best time. And I wanted to kiss him.



I stood up and closed the door. He sped off, or did what passed for speeding off in a nineteen-seventy-four Mustang Two with a four-cylinder engine and single-barrel carburetor.

I stood there, watching him speed off, or what passed for speeding off in that car. I turned around to find Tom standing so close to me that I nearly jumped out of my skin.

"Geeze, dude! Ya freaked the hell outta me!"

"So did you, at first," he said with his patented smirk.

That was when I noticed his stance and his expression; he was on to me. Or, he thought he was on to me. I could tell from his expression that he was sure it had been a prank. He was sure Erich and I had set it up. He didn't have a clue that we'd made good on it.

"What gave it away?" I asked in exasperation as we walked up the driveway.

"Erich said he still had rubbers from before," he said simply.

"Fuck. Think Jeff caught it?"

"Don't think so. I didn't until I got home. He seemed more pissed than thinkin', ya know?"

"Pissed?" I asked, unlocking the door.

"Pissed. As in steaming from the ears. He was hot. Didn't hardly say a word."


"Yeah. I fucking don't believe you yanked his chain like that! What the hell, man?"

Tom was getting angry, and I understood why.

At least I still got that part of the prank to play with, Tommy-boy. He's probably laughing his ass off at how he yanked your chain the whole ride home. Or was he really mad? He hadn't expected Erich to be involved, or that I would be riding away with him. Jeff thought that we were going to fake a fight about how we decided to go apart over the weekend and be silent on the bus ride home, then tell him it was mostly a prank the next morning. Or, rather, explain that we really weren't going to be boyfriends, but we were still good friends. Again.

And the Circle would have a chance.

Shit. I wonder if I really pissed him off?

"Guess you'd better call him," Tom offered.

"You finally home?" Mom asked from the kitchen.

"Yeah," I said loudly.

"Dinner's almost ready," she said, and I could tell from her voice that she wasn't very happy.

"Sounds like I got trouble," I said to Tom.

He grinned, then said, "Deserve it, nut-sack!" then waved as he walked backwards out the front door.

I dashed upstairs and used the bathroom to firstly brush my teeth. Erich's strong, bitter taste hadn't lost its potency on the ride home. Next I took care of myself, quickly and violently. I thought about Erich and what I had done to him, picturing his long, smooth, hard cock, his soft, supple, warm sack and meaty balls. His light blond pubes. His cute groans and moans and noises, and how he writhed and twisted under my hands.

I remembered how his dick felt in my mouth as it pulsed and recoiled during his orgasms, especially the second one. I held my breath and fired numerous large, thick, heavy blobs of white against the underside of the upraised toilet lid. They began running downward in thick, lumpy rivulets as I regained my breath and laughed at the awesome intensity of the release.

I drove myself a little crazy by rubbing my cum-coated finger and thumb back and forth across my corona, forcing shivers to run though my laughter. I had to sit down and recover for a few moments.

After washing up, I headed downstairs. I winked at Toby as I passed.

"Just where have you been?" Mom asked as I entered the kitchen, sounding a little angry, but nothing to worry about.

"Erich from German class. Went to his place after school to work on pronunciations. Need to get caught up. Reading the words is one thing, knowing what they mean, but I gotta hear 'em to say 'em right."

"Well, next time, call, will you?"

She seemed calmed, and I nodded.

"Sorry. Lost track of time. Tons of words I gotta learn how to say by finals. Gonna work with him all week."

Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, butter-steamed carrots, garlic bread with cheese were all ready. Dinner was as normal as usual, even though I kept reflecting on how many other things were different from the norm.

I didn't know if I should tell them about Jeff and me or not. The fight with Kevin was settled, and I didn't feel so bad that I hadn't told them about it. Thoughts of Erich and sex would leap into my mind at the most inopportune times, but I managed to keep them to myself as I considered how to tell them about Kevin, and going to hang out with him and his band tomorrow instead of studying for upcoming finals. I came up with no answers, so I didn't tell them.

I was reminded of the usual things. Mom was insistent that I have dessert, and that I begin gaining my weight back. She seemed worried that I was still thin. I reminded her that once the burns and my lungs were done healing, that I would probably begin showing all the extra calories. I admitted that getting around in school was a lot of movement, especially with all the stairs.

After dinner and the dishes being put away, I went upstairs to my room. My first thoughts were of what I had done with Erich. I grew hard instantly, and needed to take care of it again. With Tom due to return at any minute, I went into the bathroom, closed the door, and went to work. I stood over the toilet with my shorts and jeans around my thighs and yanked myself almost violently for a second time in an hour. It was as powerful an orgasm as the first. I shook all over, standing high on the tips of my toes as I came. I had to hold myself up with my free hand as I ejaculated, missing the toilet, but hitting the back of it repeatedly. I didn't fantasize, just remembered what I had actually done. I had barely cleaned up, brushed my teeth again, then started homework when Tom arrived.

The first thing was to ask if I had called Jeff yet.

"Tom, ya know what? No. If he's pissed, I'll find out tomorrow. If he ain't, no biggie."

Tom looked stunned. I was almost ecstatic at surprising him, and probably would have been if it weren't for the topic.

"Tom, look. I'm really glad you some-fucking-how got the two of us together. It was awesome. But me and Jeff got things to work out that we gotta take care of ourselves. Okay? Right now we just, gotta take some time to figure stuff out."

He looked doubtful and still a bit surprised as he said, "Uh, okay, I guess. I mean, I don't know what all you guys got to talk about and shit, but, uh, yeah, if you gotta do what you gotta do, then I don't wanna mess that up."


"Uh, can I ask one thing, though?"

I saw the question burning in his eyes, and I knew what was coming. I only hoped that he would accept my answer.

"Are you guys, like, really gonna break up?"

"Tom, I don't think we were ever really together."

I was hurt to see how much my answer seemed to hurt him.

"Tom, he's just not ready, I think. It's too much for him to put up with. All the guys knowing about him is enough, but knowing about us, too? He can't deal."

Tom seemed to understand what I was trying to say. At least he didn't look confused or try to argue with me.

"And, Knight?"


"Promise. Swear. No trying to fix any of it. Okay? We will. We just need to do it our way. And in our time. Okay? Promise?"

He thought about it for several seconds before he nodded and promised.

I believed him.

He lit the joint he'd been holding and we smoked it in silence. I knew I was lost in my own thoughts, and I assumed that Tom was as well.

Jeff just ain't gonna be ready to deal with it for a while. Maybe someday. But I got Erich as a new close friend. Of sorts. And, holy fuck! Even if it don't become a relationship. Relationship? Boyfriends? With Erich? Not. He's cute, and hot, and sexy, and smart, and nice, and cool, and all, but, love? Boyfriends? What?

And the what the fuck do I do if Jeff wants to make us work? Do I tell Erich we just can't have sex again? Will it hurt his feelings? Are we even gonna do it tomorrow? Hope so. Yes! Shit. Do I act like we are when he picks me up? Or do I act like it never happened? We should'a talked about it more, so I would be sure! Shit.

But what if Jeff finds out? And wants to try being together again? I shrugged mentally. His problem. He wanted out. Why should I feel guilty I got lucky? Guess I'll see how it goes with Erich tomorrow. After I check out a band. A band? Me? Fucking wild. With Kevin?

Well, I wanted some changes. This is it. At least it's a couple decent changes for a change. What the hell kind of life am I living? What's that old Chinese curse? May you live in interesting times? Okay, what ancient Chinese philosopher cursed me? And for what? A past life? Probably not the one Thomas Bechtel says we knew each other in.

I always meant to talk about that more with Thomas. It was interesting. And when we had talked about it, I was sure it was all true. We really do have enough in common that we had to have known each other before. From that first time we really talked in freshman year, we both seemed to know each other already. We've sat next to each other in lunch and in the mornings ever since, and we hardly talk at all. We just like being near each other. Weird.

He looks so familiar, too. And so cute. Perfect sandy hair, great lips, soft, smooth facial features, perfectly proportioned body, just a bit small. If he were average height and not so shy and not so smart, he'd be in one of the popular groups and I would find him boring and ignore him.

He's smart as fuck, shy as hell, quiet, except if you asked him something he knew about. So short and slim. And into Dungeons and Dragons, and loves science. Perfect little nerd. And so cute. Wish he was gay. Left-handed, like Erich. Wonder if he's got a long one, too, like Erich. His fingers are longish, and his hands are pretty good sized for his height. Geeze, there I go again. Making a friend into some sex object. Quit it.

I gotta tell Tom I won't be home right after school tomorrow, either. Just studying with Erich. Do I tell him about the band, later? Or Kevin? I won't be riding the bus home. Won't see him until tomorrow night. Shit. We're gonna have less time together. Shit. Is that fair to Tom? I gotta get that sorted now!

"Uh, so, Tom. Uh, there's something I gotta go do after school tomorrow. Sorry."

"S'okay. Gonna tell me what?"

"Well, uh, gonna work on German over at Erich's and listen to Pyromania, then Kevin Corless wants me to help out his band. Seems he heard from some big-mouthed asshole that I can play Styx on synthesizer."

"Really? Wonder what kinda asshole'd tell him that?"

"I wonder," I replied to his Alfred E. Neuman's, "Who? Me?" expression.

"I said we'd have less time together," he said simply.

He looked to say something else, but then sighed and looked at his hands. I knew there was more. I waited.

"Uh, I always thought this would be great news, ya know? But, hey, I got the wagon."

"Got the wagon for the night? For what?"

I saw from his reaction to my question that I hadn't caught on to something.

"Jon got a car. So, the folks gave me the keys to the wagon. And, I told ya I can get a job at Burger King, right? Well, I called, and I can start tomorrow. Got to pay for gas and insurance if I wanna drive it."

I understood. He got a car, finally. But he got a job, too. He'd be earning money, but he'd be busy. Working. Gone.

I wanted to feel happy for him, but I also understood what he had meant when he said he always thought it would be great news when he got a car. It was, but it also meant that we were going to be apart a lot, very soon. I wondered when my parents intended to give me that crappy, green Plymouth, and thought how that would mean Tom and I would probably not see each other at all after that. Except for Circle meetings, and I was growing more sure they were over.

The ecstatic joy from the sex with Erich faded quickly, replaced by the sense of loss at knowing that Tom and I were growing apart, or at least were going to have far less time together.

"Give you a ride to school? I gotta go to Burger King right after school, probably be a while and have to do stuff, so you'll have to get the bus home."

"Yeah, thanks."

"I can take ya to school everyday, if you wanna. And home when I don't have to work."

He sounded funny. I couldn't peg it, but he sounded different.

"Okay. That's cool," I said flatly.

I was conflicted, again, and more sad than anything else. I wanted changes, but here they came, fast and furious, and I didn't like them all.

"You really think we're gonna have less time to hang out together?"

"Yeah, sure do. And soon you'll be more popular and shit."

I laughed.

"More popular? I gotta get any kinda popular, first!"

And I didn't want that, at all. I wanted to stay anonymous, hidden, unknown. Safe.

"Man, don't even try the loner thing anymore, okay? I knew it Freshman year. I knew that by end of high school, that you'd be one of the most popular guys in class."

He was using his plain-facts voice, and I believed he believed it. So I laughed some more.

"Fucking laugh," he said, flipping me off. "Who was right all the time? About everything. Even Jeff?"

And Puppy Dog, I finished for him.

I stopped laughing.

The last thing I wanted him to figure out was that had I figured out that Puppy Dog was Erich, and that I'd mounted that puppy, even if he's wasn't gay, or so he said.

"Dude. When I'm popular, I'll kiss your ass."

"Been there and done that, got the tee-shirt," he said with a grin.

"Fuck you!" I yelled, laughing.

"Been there..." was as far as I let him get before I jumped him.

It ended with me on my belly, arms pinned behind me, his knee in my back. And it ended pretty quickly.

"Didn't hurt your burns, did I?"

I shook my head as he helped me up, biting back a groan as the burns complained.

"You really did get lucky with Corless, didn't ya?"

I nodded and laughed.

"You don't know how it went! I mean, it was all, oh shit, I tripped, oh shit, I stomped on his foot! Just mistakes and accidents and luck! I didn't know what the fuck I was doing!"

We nearly collapsed with laughter.

"Steve Barrett thinks you're all ninja and shit!" Tom laughed. "And Corey Diamond said he saw you turn and do a perfect elbow to his face, then a jump over the seat and a kick to his foot, then you went all Bruce Lee and sat down and kicked his good leg out from under him."

I cracked up.

"Man! I barely kept from breaking something on myself! It was all by accident!"

After the laughter died down, Tom said, "Let'em think you're a bad-ass. It'll keep 'em all off ya. Ya know?"

I nodded.

"What if someone thinks he can take me out and get points or something?"

"Eh. You're not a fighter. You don't act all tough and shit. You just fight back, is all. Any other tough guys'll probably leave ya alone."

I hoped that Tom was as prescient as he seemed at times, and that he was being accurate right then.

"Hope so, Knight."

"Hey, I gotta do a shit-load of chores for the car, gotta go. See ya in the morning," he said, gathering his coat.

I said goodnight and sunk into the beanbag, feeling tired and suddenly alone. I was feeling okay, thanks to Tom, but still very confused about things. The fact that Jeff was no longer my boyfriend seemed almost unbelievable. The fact that I had blown Erich seemed almost incredible. The fact that I was looking forward to giving more oral sex to Erich was astonishing. The fact that I was going to help out a band seemed astounding. And, I realized, I might enjoy being immersed in music again, which seemed impossible.

After a shower, I told the journal as much. About Tom's car, going to have less time with him, him keeping secrets from me now, Jeff having secrets from me now, going back to gym class as a known fag and what would happen. Erich, and that. And a few other things. I told it of the changes I wanted to make in myself, mostly to be more like Toby. The last thing I wrote about was the band, and not knowing how much to trust Kevin. Or his friends.

I went downstairs in nothing but my robe and slippers and had my bandages taken care of while Mom was watching The Tuesday Night Movie, and took the night pills.

I went back upstairs and sat at the keyboard for several minutes before I finally turned it on. I naturally decided on my favorite album, Paradise Theater. I sat there for a while, struggling with the emotions that the synthesizer stirred up of Toby, and all the hours we had spent at it.

I crossed from anger at his death, to joy at the time we did get, and back. Those emotions of him weren't so horrible now, but they were just as strong. Now that I was sure of his continued existence, and of his continued love, I hurt only for myself, for my loss. I was nearly over-joyed for him.

Finally, I set the basic controls and levels on the cheap J. C. Penny synthesizer, then pictured the much more complicated settings on the OB-Xa for both rows of its keys. I tried the opening. With the sore fingers on my left hand, it was aggravating and painful to play at first, and that was on the simple synthesizer. I was making many mistakes, and having to pause far too long, far too often.

When I played it on the OB-Xa at the twins', one row of keys would be set to mimic the synthesizer that would speak later in the introduction, the other row set for piano, which played constantly through the entire song, even leading it, partnered with Dennis' vocals.

If I was having so much trouble with the easier synthesizer at home, I was very worried about having to show Kevin's player how to play any of it. I hoped that all I would be asked to do was demonstrate how to adjust the settings for each song. I suspected that he would only be wanting to play the piano sections for most of the songs, and only the synthesized sounds when there was no piano.

I had to repeat parts to get them right, but the album played on. I moved on to, "Rockin' The Paradise," having to work hard again just to play along in the easy sections. With each song, though, I got a little better, in ways. I tried to sing, but I sounded awful, breaking into squeaks and screeches.

By the time I was through the album for the second time, I wasn't missing as often in the single areas, still ignoring all the second-handed parts, and was smiling.

I rolled a joint and toyed with the keyboard meaninglessly as I smoked it. I let my mind wander through the many memories of those two summers spent with Toby. There were so many memories, and many had been formed right there at that synthesizer. I tapped and toyed with the keys, not making music, just touching them, as if I were touching Toby. As if the notes were Toby speaking to me. I frowned and nearly cried at times, and at others, smiled and nearly laughed.

I put the roach on the exact same place as when Toby and I had sat there playing. I started Paradise Theater with purpose and surety. I let my hands do the work, concentrated less, stopped coaxing or forcing it. I stopped looking at the keys, instead feeling and knowing where they were. I no longer worked for it, I let it come. I closed my eyes and let my fingers do what they knew how to do. I sang, but off the key, lower. I didn't care if it sounded right or not; it felt okay.

By the end of the album I was grinning widely, sweating a little, my fingers were nearly numb, and I was playing far better. I was happier than I had been in days, but I was also just as sad as I had been in days. Or it seemed that way. Felt that way. And that was unsettling.

I replayed the first songs of the album again, to see if I could do as well if I mimed the other keyboard with the other hand. I did far better, the songs and the music coming back from the hiatus I had placed them on even more easily.

Ready to please Toby, I rolled and smoked another joint, toying with the difficult areas, and then played as it played on my stereo. By the time I finished the album, I was spent, musically, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I hoped - knew - that Toby was happy. I was.

I wasn't ready to sleep, so I spent some time reading the books on dreams, finding a few interesting points and making notes. Then I checked some of my homework. Eventually I couldn't keep my eyes open, and stopped fighting it near two o'clock.

As I lay in bed, I wondered just how far I would go with Kevin and his group. I looked forward to showing them I wasn't ignorant and knew my Styx, and how to use the keyboards. I also wanted to show Kevin that I wasn't a wimp, or scared to try. I didn't know why I had to prove anything to him.

It didn't occur to me that it was myself I wanted to prove something to.

As I drifted off to sleep, I was thinking of Jeff, and the new situation between us, especially the revelation that he was taking Latin Two, and with Erich, at that. And Tom, how we were going to be spending less and less time with each other. Giving Erich head, and looking forward to the quite possible likelihood of doing so again tomorrow, and if he was gay or not, and Puppy Dog or not. The new question of why no other gay guys had come to talk to me, what was wrong with me that kept them from doing so. The end of the Circle, and not seeing Eric or the twins. And, of course, what kind of bizarre life I was living.

I also wondered how much I could take before it became too much to bear, and what would happen if I reached that point.

I never once considered taking a sleeping pill, or a little yellow one. The nightmare was never given a single thought.

Not until the stench of gasoline came.

"Sure," I said, leaning forward, moving the Styx medallion out of the way, grabbing the ignition key, and pumping the pedal once.

The engine turned for several seconds, almost catching, but not quite.

"Yeah. Old Chevy, not started for a few days, in cold weather, used to driving every day. She's gonna be stubborn," Dad was saying again.

Jeff stood near him in his uniform, tossing and catching the ball, nodding, grinning coldly.

I knew he had always been there. I knew there was nothing I could do, that I was fated to live it again and again, over and over, with Jeff there, watching, useless.

"See if you can pop that hatch cover, will ya, son?"

I pulled and yanked, afraid I might tear it off. The van was shaking from my efforts.

"Don't break it off. I tried. It's stuck good. Try to start it one more time then we get that clasp fixed so we can get to the engine decently. Go ahead and try starting it again."

"At least you know I ain't even started it," I answered with a sly grin.

He peeked around the hood at me with a grin. Jeff glowered at me from the other side of the hood, urging me to start the van.

Despite my best efforts to prevent myself from doing so, I moved the medallion and turned the key. The engine turned over and over, barely beginning to catch. Dad called for another pump of the accelerator. Knowing what was to come, I pushed and released the pedal. The engine turned faster, then caught with a pop.

I stared into Jeff's eyes, knowing what was about to happen and completely unable to stop it. Another, louder pop, then a loud, whooshing boom as there was a bright, orange light, and I was knocked against the van door, the side of my head hitting the pillar.


Things went fuzzy, and wobbly, and blurred. Dad yelling my name. Jeff laughing. Flames on the dashboard now. I could feel the heat of the fire on my right side. I smelled the odor of burning carpet, oil, rubber, and plastic.

I reached for the key, fumbled around with the medallion, and finally killed the engine. The flames only seemed to increase, sending out thicker, blacker smoke that curled up the windshield and rolled over my head.

I opened the driver's door, but Jeff was there, holding it shut, laughing at me.

"Why won't you let me fuck you?"

I tried to tell him that it would hurt me, I wanted to ask him why he would want to hurt me, but my lungs rejected the air they drew in, making me cough uncontrollably. I couldn't keep my eyes open against the smoke and heat, let alone breathe it.

Dad's voice calling my name again. Jeff laughing. I tried to yell for help, but my lungs refused the smoke and I began a horrible coughing fit. I rolled the window down to get fresh air from outside the van, but the crank came off in my hand. The smoke increased and billowed out of the partially open window, still choking me. I slid as far from the blazing engine and dash as I could, pressing myself against the partially open door, shoving my face out the partially open window in an effort to find air.

I felt the heat of the fire singeing my skin through my clothing. Images of my charred and smoking body being pulled from the van by firemen, my grieving parents held back by police, ran in my head. I clawed at the window, pushing my face out the opening, but Jeff kept pushing me back inside, yelling at me.

"How can you be so slutty? How can you suck off Tom and Erich?"

Real panic set in, forcing reason and rational thought to flee. Flames were spreading across the thickly upholstered dashboard, the carpet between the front seats near the engine bay, the overhead, and the curtains just behind both seats.

The coughing became constant and painful. Each inhalation burned terribly; each cough hurt even more than the last. The chemicals, burning ashes, and the heated air triggered uncontrollable and gut-wrenching coughs.

I tried to make my lungs work, to draw in and take what oxygen they could from the smoke, but they refused. My heart's efforts doubled. I pushed my face into the window, no longer caring if the glass broke and I was horribly cut; I only wanted the air. I clawed feebly at the stub where the crank had broken off, knowing that I could never turn the spindle, but trying anyway.

Jeff laughed maniacally, then declared flatly, "You're not man enough for it."

The pain in my temple flared with each cough. I felt the familiar dizziness come, and knew I was about to lose consciousness.

And somehow, my own thoughts were to blame it on God, worry about not being with Toby in the afterlife, and how unfair it was that Jeff just laughed and watched me burn.

The heat of the fire, the pain of my skin burning on my right side and back, the pain as drops of flaming carpeted dashboard burned through the legs of my jeans, the pain of my lungs filled with toxins and chemicals and hot ashes, the horrible suffocation.

The light of the fire was dimming, the roar of it fading, the smells and heat seeming more distant.

Clearly, I heard Jeff say, "I told Tom to wait for ya at school, that you was gonna pick him up in the van!"

No! How can he save me now? NO! WHY?

Then the only sounds were my thoughts and my stuttering heartbeat.

Soon, even those sounds grew faint, irregular, indistinct, then stopped.

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The Circle I is now available as an EPUB/EBook here, as a Kindle version here, as a Word .doc here, and as a PDF file here and R-rated version Kindle ebook here, or in EPUB format here, as a Word.doc file here, and as a PDF file here and at Amazon Kindle Bookstore and Smashwords.
Ask for it at your local bookstore or find it online in 2014!
Part II will be available after publication to Nifty is complete.
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