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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 6

"Just Get Through This Night"

Part Two


I called Mom about eleven o'clock, while most of the guys were still asleep, the lightweights. A few had woken by nine, and we'd had breakfast together, laughing as we talked about the previous night.

The favorite story was about when Rick's parents' personal assistant had come knocking on the large double doors of the play room. We had ravaged the buffet remains earlier, and I had gotten some of them to sample the effects of cannabinoids. We had been experimenting with those effects for over an hour when someone knocked on the doors to the room. The firm knock came as a surprise, even to Rick, and in our paranoid state, the chaos that ensued had been hilarious to watch. Nothing was as funny as a dozen nerds and geeks, stoned for the first time, fearing themselves about to be discovered.

When he answered it, the man told him that his parents would be retiring after the late news. After his announcement, he left. Rick told us that it was something new for the man to tell him that. We took it as a heads-up - finally. We moved to the exercise and sports room, leaving the double doors to the hallway open. When his parents came to say goodnight, they found us easily in there. We were back in the game room shortly after, laughing hysterically in relief, and soon experimenting again.

More than once I wondered if any of them were also gay. I kept looking for winks or nods, listening for clues or hints. I caught myself looking at places I shouldn't, and as, one by one, they fell asleep, I wished that I could touch and explore. I caught myself imagining sneaking off with one of them, groupings with several at a time, pairings between them. Then I would berate myself for thinking of such things when I should just be enjoying their friendship and having fun.

By ten the next morning, some of us awake underwent another round of experimentation. It seemed that most of the guys had found the effects last night most agreeable. I left samples with them for further solo experimentation later.

We watched Doctor Who deal with the The Sun Makers. We found the parallel with George Orwell's "1984" very interesting, and even compared the show and the book to our current times. We weren't much pleased with the results of that contemplation, but the pot made it bearable. We discussed the new opening credits and theme music, and were more or less equally divided about them. I was asked if I could play the old theme, and I told them I could play along with it, but not the entire thing at the same time. I was asked about the new theme, and said it would probably be easier to learn than the old, familiar one, as it actually sounded simpler and less complex. Then we discussed the imminent episode, Logopolis. We had all seen it last year, and it had aired again weeks later, and now would air again very soon. This time, it would be followed by new episodes, and the new doctor. Most of us had seen All Creatures Great And Small, and were familiar with Peter Davison. We agreed he had potential.

Rick was an excellent host, and all of the guests, even the ones I didn't know from school, were friendly and fun. I had enjoyed the night immensely and was grinning widely when Mom pulled up.

"You look like the cat that ate the canary," she said as I got in the car.

I shrugged and grinned.

"So you had fun?" she asked.

"It was a fun night."

I then yawned expansively.

I wondered if I would manage to catch a little sleep later, and when. I wondered if part of my great mood was the lack of the nightmare, or if it was all just a great night and giddiness from lack of sleep. I wondered if I could get more speed from Erich soon.

"Oh, good. So you'll be in the mood for some chores later?"

I sighed, as teenagers do at mention of that horrid word. Fortunately, I had an out.

"Gotta go to the twins, remember? Study."

I didn't like lying to her, but I didn't want to admit to being in a band, either. Not yet, anyway. And I would be learning, after all.

"And what time will you be home?"

"Uh, uh-oh."

"What?" she asked suspiciously.

"Goin' to the student union, later. Forgot to mention it."

She sighed.

"Midnight, young man. How are you getting there and then home?"

"Twins. They got rare permission to be out 'til then. Ride to and from."

"Staying over there tonight, I take it?"

I didn't want to go home, knowing that it would be too late for Jeff to show up, and knowing that he wasn't going to. I was also just as sure that Tom wouldn't stop by after work, or whatever it was he was doing. And I was seriously wanting some time away from my room.

I nodded, wondering if I was pushing it by being out so much. She didn't seem to mind, or did but held herself back.

"Fine. Guess you can call and your dad or I'll pick you up. If we're home when you call."

"If not, I can get a cab."

"How are you going to pay for it?"

"Still got birthday money. Or maybe the twins'll give me a ride."

I wasn't going to tell her I still had the money she had given me for breakfasts. No way.

"Did you eat anything?"

Her question caused me to wonder if moms could read the minds of their offspring.

"It was a birthday party, Mom," I said with a groan. "Of course."

"You hungry? I would like to see you eat something."

I nodded. "How about Burger King?" I asked, knowing it was on the way.

I thought we were going through the drive-through, but instead, she parked. We ordered and then sat down. I looked for Tom but didn't see him. She wanted to talk, so I did. The usual things moms wanted to talk about. School, schoolwork, grades, finals next week, how things were going in school. She asked if Jeff was going to be at the twins today or the student union tonight. I nodded, offering no extra information.

I kept an eye out for Tom while we ate and talked. I hadn't seen his car in the parking lot, but he could have parked on the side where I couldn't have seen it. I didn't see him behind the counter or in the kitchen, and I could see almost the entire work area. When we left, I asked the girl at the register if he was working later. She looked irked and shrugged.

"Don't know him. Sure he works here? There's one on Archer."

I wasn't surprised, but it did hurt to know for sure. It still hurt.

Mom talked me into going home for a shower and change of clothes. It didn't take much talking. I ran upstairs, huffing and puffing as I undressed, rushed through the shower, dried, combed my hair, brushed my teeth, dressed, replenished the weed and speed supplies, put some clothes in my pack, and made it back downstairs in less than twenty minutes. I was unable to talk, breathing quickly, and my legs wobbled, but I was ready to go. Mom insisted I take the last night pill with me, that I not miss it. It was an antibiotic, and I knew it would probably not work as well if the last dosage was missed, so I agreed, wrapping it in paper towel and pocketing it.

I was dropped at the twins' with a reminder to call for a ride tomorrow if I needed it. I was looking forward to forgetting about Jeff, and Tom, and school, and everything else for a while, and to having fun.

"Heya, dip-wad duo," I said as I walked in.

"Heya, doper," Brent said from the drums.

"Get lucky last night?" Ryan asked from the flying-saucer-themed bar.

"Very, very funny," I said with a laugh, throwing my coat and things on the usual sofa.

"Probably got them all stoned for their first times, I'll bet."

I looked shocked and revolted at Brent.

"Who? Me? How dare you suggest such a thing!"

"Alfred E. Neuman, you are not."

"And not all of 'em. Some didn't want to, or fell asleep too soon."

We laughed.

"By the way, alright if I stay here tonight?"

"Hell yeah, be almost like a Circle meeting. Think Tom 'n Jeff can make it?" Brent asked.

"Doubt it," I said firmly.

I saw the question on their faces, but I shook my head, staving it off. More than ever, I felt the death of the Circle.

The intercom buzzed, then announced, "The rest of your friends are arriving, sirs."

They hauled their gear up with them, talking excitedly.

"Hey, Thunder Cats," Kevin said loudly. "Alex."

Greetings were exchanged, equipment was set up, doors were closed, joints were lit. David had brought his Yamaha SK-20 keyboard. It had several presets, few settings, and was capable of sounding very much like a piano and other common instruments with a little fiddling.

Soon enough, we were down to business.

"Okay, we gotta practice the usual songs for tonight," Kevin announced.

They went through their regular playlist, none of which had much if any synthesizer, though some had a little piano. Kevin wanted to add, "Cold As Ice," so we played it. Kevin asked David to play it first, and asked me to play the piano part the second time. David played it very well. The band played it again as I played it. I didn't do any better than David had, but I knew that I could do it even better. David said that I got some of it wrong in several places, especially where it was hard to hear the piano playing under the rest of the band. He played the parts I got wrong. I tried to re-learn what I had taught myself wrong. It was a disaster. David grew frustrated that I could play without knowing a thing about sheet music, so he couldn't simply show me what I got wrong. He played it, and it was close to what I thought it was, but different. I tried. It was like learning a new piece of music that was agonizingly close to, but painfully different, than a well-known favorite.

The band played it again, and Kevin sat it out. He said I should play it the way I know how to play it. When we were done, he declared that I did more than well enough to play on stage, but I should try to learn the right melody if I could. I agreed, and David agreed to teach me. I agreed to teach him the synthesizer's part.

"Wait. You don't mean I should actually play it tonight," I didn't so much ask as state.

"Yes, I do," he said simply.


"Don't give me any buts. You need more to do. David is doing almost everything," he stated firmly.


"Shut up," David said, putting his hand on my arm. "You play it well enough."

He was too cute to argue with. David and I were congratulated on our abilities to play. I was feeling that I could get along with them. They all seemed to get along for the most part, and seemed interested in getting along with me. I started to feel almost comfortable, though still a bit out of place. At one point, I joined Wil and Kevin in the bathroom for lines of coke. Back in the twins' music room, David made it clear that he didn't like that I had. And not subtly.

We returned to music, practicing the lineup for tonight. David and I had small parts from time to time, nothing too hard or challenging. The piano in "Cold As Ice" was the hardest thing I was going to do. The way Foreigner used the synthesizer was often closer to a piano, and David was showing signs that he would be able to catch on to it. In their newer songs, though, Thomas Dolby used the synthesizer in different ways, ways David wasn't able to handle as well.

I enjoyed being so close to him, watching his fingers go through the movements. His hair smelled like green apples, and he wore a cologne that was unfamiliar, sweet, and mildly spicy. I enjoyed it when he tossed his head to throw his hair behind him. While watching his graceful fingers work the keys, I was afforded a great view of his lap. His jeans weren't tight, but did create nice bulges that I found myself watching too often. I had to be careful not to show my excitement.

I was still feeling tired, despite the fun and excitement of playing music with others, but the coke and speed helped. I forgot about Jeff, and Tom, and finals, and all the troubles of late. I just listened and played, smoked and snorted, laughed and enjoyed myself. I didn't think about Svengoolie until it had already started. I wondered about asking the rest of the guys if they wanted to watch him, but I worried they would think it was stupid. Thankfully he was showing "Son of Dracula," so I wasn't missing a good movie. I felt badly about missing Sven, though, and I hoped I wouldn't stop watching him. I was willing to undergo changes, but some things I didn't want to change, and watching Svengoolie was one of them. I had watched last week's show alone, which had also been a change, and would rather do that than miss it altogether from now on.

At times, I felt that if I turned around quickly enough, that I could catch sight of Toby standing in some corner, or peeking out from behind something. It wasn't a bad feeling at all, even though it was a bit saddening. Once, as David sat next to me at the synthesizer, watching how I played the background effects for one song, I nearly called him Toby.

Kevin made a good band leader. He knew who could play what, and he let them. He played what he could, not trying to play when someone else was better. He shared hard riffs with others. At times, Wil or Terry took over lead vocals, lead guitar, or both.

Pizza arrived, paid for by the twins. I had no appetite, but was incredibly thirsty. We smoked dessert, and then returned to music.

When Kevin took off his guitar and said it was time to pack up and head to the student union, my guts swirled. I suddenly started sweating and got the shakes. It had been fun sitting there playing, but now, it was time to actually do it in public. My breath was coming fast and short as we packed. I ran out of breath more than once as we took things down to the cars. I had never known that being in a band was so much hard labor.

David and I rode with Kevin, which seemed to be becoming our normal arrangement. The back seat was filled with both keyboards, Kevin's guitar and amps, and two boxes of cables. We rode through the winter streets, Kevin chatting about the piano and synthesizer sections of the songs for tonight, David and I agreeing that we were up to it. I wasn't so sure about myself, not in front of an actual audience.

As we pulled into the back lot of the student union, I reminisced about working there in the kitchen for two years after school and on weekends. I was sure no one there would know what had happened over a year ago. I wondered if anyone from then was even still there. Staff rotated in and out with the freshman and sophomore classes, though some stayed on as juniors and seniors. The adult members were more permanent, and I expected Mrs. Menger and Mr. Chastain were still the staff advisers.

And now, here I was, not as an employee, but as a performer, as part of the band.

We hauled the equipment in and started setting it up on the stage. I was entranced by the difference - being on the stage working and watching the student union crew do their thing, instead of getting things set up out there, watching the band get set up on the stage. I didn't recognize anyone working out there, and it looked as if they were all frosh or sophs. I did see someone familiar walking across the far end of the building, but I didn't care to call out to him. We had gotten along, but were not friends. He was much more a pot-head that I had been, or even was now, and he looked it even more now.

Once we had things set up, we tested each instrument. I was bothered by something, and was almost too timid to bring it up. I admonished myself for my timidity, promised myself to work on it, and then pulled Kevin aside and aired my problem.

"Look, Kevin, man, I'm really glad you guys want me playing with you, but, uh, can we move my keyboard further in back?"

I was nervous, and worried he would ask me why. Instead, he put on a face that reassured me, then nodded. In minutes, my keyboard was nearly completely hidden in the back corner of the stage.

"Oh, no you don't," David said when he walked up to us. "I'm not sitting out there in front alone. I want back here, too."

"Why? You've played in front of people before," Kevin said.

"Not over 'ere! And noh in front'a whole bleedin' school!"

His lingual relapse didn't go unnoticed by me. I didn't see Kevin take note, but then, I didn't look at Kevin. I was too entranced to look away from David.

He looked adamant, so Kevin agreed. David exhaled in relief, so I did too. Soon, his keyboard was next to mine again, and we were both almost impossible to see, we were sure. I wanted to be very sure.

"Can we turn off these two lights?" I asked, pointing at the two that lit up that far back corner of the stage.

Kevin sighed, then walked off. In moments, the offending lights were dark. I sighed in relief.

"Much better," David agreed.

We headed to the backstage room. It hadn't changed one tiny little bit, but it still seemed like a strange place. The couches were the same, the posters were the same, the rug, the paint, all of it. Yet, I felt as if I were some place I had never been before.

The guys headed to the backstage bathroom in small groups. I knew nearly every band smoked back there from my days working the canteen, and the adult supervisors didn't bother doing anything about it. The heavy exhaust fan sucked the smoke out of the room so quickly that it often became cold in the bathroom during the winter. The stainless steel top was also used to chop and line cocaine, though I stayed away from that while David was in there.

Back in the backstage room, I tried to feel comfortable, wondering why it felt so strange. I knew the room well and thought that I should be at ease, at least a small amount. Instead, I was uncomfortable and feeling almost lost. I sat on the small couch with David on one side, Ryan on the other, and Brent on the other side of his brother. Kevin, Wil, and Terry were on one of the long couches, and Brian, Adam, and Riley on the other, with all their girls now on their laps or beside them.

Terry was attractive enough that it was no surprise that his girlfriend was the hot Kelly Addison. Brian, as dumpy and hairy as he was, had Cindy Flanders on his lap. Cindy was no cheerleader, was far more into music and pot, and dressed like it. She was pretty, though. Her dark eyes stood out against her fair, almost white face. Kevin was dating Carrie Woods, who was very small and cute, with lots of curly blonde hair and big, blue eyes. Wil had just started going with Linda Montgomery. Linda was nearly adorable. She was a little tall and a little on the thin side, and always friendly and laughing. Linda had even nodded or said hello to me in the past, and even after I had become known as gay. Riley was the only one whose girl wasn't there. I wondered who he was going out with.

I couldn't help but notice that there were six guys on one side of the room, almost all with girls, and four guys on the other side of the room, all alone. I tried not to feel conspicuous. I wanted to feel at home, or at least as if I had been there before, but it was no use. No hope. I started sweating again, and my guts wriggled inside of me. I had to use the bathroom repeatedly. Each time I looked out onto the main floor, there were more people there. The jukebox was playing music, the smell of pizza was heavy in the air, voices filled the space. So familiar. So strange.

I heard and felt my guts stir. I had to use the john. I rushed to it. I occupied the one stall and created a horrible miasma, and felt bad for the next user. I washed my hands and looked at myself in the scratched mirror. The same graffiti was still alongside that same mirror, and seeing it only made me feel more out of place.

"Fucking puss," I growled at myself. "You and the twins always talked about doing this. Even about playing here. And here ya are. Ya gonna do it? Or you gonna throw up and run away?"

I threw up. After cleaning up, I almost ran away. Almost. It was so very close.

I want changes to myself. Don't you? This is one you should definitely make. Don't be so pussy. The synthesizer is way in back. The lights won't even light you up. I'll be in the dark. Nobody will even see me. If you fuck up, nobody will even know it was me. If they even hear it. Just fucking do it. You want all the guys in the band to think the fag is a wuss?

The fact that they knew I was gay hit me hard then. They knew it, and they had let me try out anyway, and were expecting me to actually play. They had accepted me. And the twins were counting on me. How could I let all of them down?

That was the thought that I needed. I took a speeder and then walked out of the bathroom, still regretting what I had done to it. I hurried back to the backstage room. There was a small window overlooking the stage with four steps leading up to it. I took a turn looking out of it. I shook when I did. There were jocks and cheerleaders everywhere. Football jerseys, baseball jackets, soccer shirts, wrestling tees, all mixed with cheerleader outfits and preppy sweaters.

I'd seen the same thing from the same window, but on nights when there wasn't a live band. If it were a projected movie, on the large reel projector, it would sit in that window and shine onto the white screen that hung from the ceiling along the dividing line between stage and dance floor.

But a band was in-house tonight. I would have been in the canteen, as normal. Would have. But not tonight.

Tonight I was there for the first time in over a year, since even before I had given up on music. I had sworn never to go back after what had happened, but now I was back, and as a member of a band. And the twins.

But Tom and Jeff were gone. Mostly.

And the Circle was dead. Mostly.

And everything had changed. Mostly.

So strange.

I swayed on the steps and had to hold onto the edge of the window frame. It all swung around me and settled into that new sense of reality. Everything was still the same, but it was all different.

I was strumming. My body rang with some harmonic frequency, in synch with the crowd and the mood, but I was in a different mood, and ringing just a bit off key. I was dizzy, shaking, and sweating.

I staggered down the stairs.

"What's wrong?" David asked when I dropped next to him on the couch.

"Just tryin' not to freak, is all," I said with a stressed smile.

"Nothin' to worry about. You can play the songs fine. You sound fine."

I looked anywhere but at him, horrified that I might look at him and get dragged into further emotional turmoil. And I was worried about the violent shaking that was wracking my body. I was hiding it by holding my own arms down on my lap. I saw the gesture and recognized it. I already knew what state I was in.

I rolled my eyes and looked back at the high window, seeing only the lights above the stage through it from that low vantage.

"'Bout five minutes," Kevin said as he stood and walked out the door leading to the stage.

His going out there seemed to make the whole event real.

I don't have much to do. Just a few notes now and then. And some bells. You're just backing up. I'll be fine. Just get through this night, and you can relax. I'll be way in the back and nobody'll see you. Or even know where the sound effects are coming from.

When someone strummed a guitar, I almost threw up. I felt anger well up at myself as well.

Fucking pussy! You can do this. Just do what you practiced. I used to dream about having the guts to play in front of people. I ain't great, but you like it, and want to do it.

Terry and Wil walked out onto the stage, saying, "Good luck," as they passed, the others and the girls in tow. I began to shiver violently.

David said, "Let's do this," and walked to the door.

Brent joined him, looking as excited as possible.

"Comin', guys?" he asked us.

"In a sec," Ryan said, waving him on. "Hey, come on," he said, poking my shoulder.

I looked up at him.

"Whoa!! You look like you're gonna hurl!" he said emphatically, then sat down next to me.

He put a hand on my shoulder.

"Man, you okay? Too much smoke?"

I shook my head. I felt like I was going to throw up again.

Ryan looked around the room, making sure we were alone, obviously.

He leaned over and whispered into my ear, "Just get through tonight, and later, at home, I'll make ya feel better."

He reached out and snatched hold of my crotch so quickly that I had no time to flinch or react before he was holding onto me firmly. I stiffened, sitting bolt upright. He stared into my face, into my eyes.

Ryan had always been cute. To me. Even that day over three years ago as he was tied naked to a tree next to his brother. Now that puberty was well along, he was only getting cuter. I was glad we had started fooling around some, and his brother, too. Though Brent was now mostly done with that brief experimentation, Ryan was still quite interested. Since his announcement at my birthday party, we hadn't had a chance to get alone again, especially not with him and everyone else in the Circle still thinking Jeff and I were together.

Then he did something he had never done before. Something I never thought he would ever do. Not in a million lifetimes. Something so stunning, I was left dizzy and breathless.

He kissed me. Full on the lips. Quickly. Still holding my goods.

He removed his lips from mine, then grinned as widely as I had ever seen him. He was red-faced. His gray eyes twinkled. I was stunned breathless.

"I'll make it worth it. Come on."

He squeezed my package and then let go of it. He stood, waved me to stand up and follow him, then walked out quickly, as if nothing had happened.

I was left alone, stunned, gaping at vacant air.

That did not just happen, I told myself. I'm having hallucinations. Ryan would never do that. Ever. No way.

But, he did, I had to admit. He fucking grabbed my junk, promised sex later, and... kissed me!

I finally drew breath, needing to pant suddenly. I took deep breaths, instead, forcing my breathing under my control.

Ryan... fucking... kissed me.

"Hey, you going to join us, or what?" Kevin asked from the stage door, startling me.

"Huh? Oh! Uh, yeah. Just a sec. I'm, uh, thinking of something I can't believe."

I didn't turn to look at him when I spoke, still staring at the empty air where Ryan had been standing in front of me.

Shit. Holy shit. Shit.

"Well, hurry up! The crowd is rowdy tonight!" he said gleefully.

I forced myself to move, to stand, to walk. I did the zombie shuffle until I was sitting at the Oberheim.

"Alex?" David asked.

"Huh?" I mumbled, staring at the keys.

"You okay?"

"I think, I think I just got mind-fucked."

Yeah, that's it. Ryan stuck his hand in through my ear and pureed my brain. He wanted me to stop worrying about playing, that's all. But... I'm sure he was serious about sex tonight. He's always serious about that.

I'm gonna get some tonight! From Ry!

My mood lightened.

If I can do this!

"Hello!" Kevin shouted into his microphone.

He got a half-hearted cheer back.

My mood dropped.

"What was that? You sounded like a bunch of Argo wussies!"

A slightly louder cheer this time.

"Oh, come on! Hinsdale got your tongues?"

Bill rolled on the drums, and Terry, Wil, and Kevin hit mid notes.

"Where's the spirit? Roar!"

A louder cheer with a few sports slogans thrown in by the various jocks.

"Hey, we gotta get you guys in the right mood! Welcome to the student union, and have a good time!"

He started to tap out time, Wil took over and did the voice count.

The first three songs needed no synthesizer or piano, so David and I sat and waited. I tried not to look nervous and hoped I was succeeding. David looked calm, but his foot was bouncing. I knew he hadn't done any cocaine, so I knew that he was as nervous as I was.

They rocked, and got the crowd into it. The fourth song required David, and I watched him work the keys. He was pretty good, and obviously enjoyed playing. The song after the next required me to play several small sound effects, and I did fine. They played fast, rocking music, getting the crowd worked up and excited. Eventually I knew that "Cold As Ice," was next.

The pot buzz was weak, but the coke and speed were still working well. There were no lights shining directly on me, but I was sweating as if they all were. I could feel my heart racing and the blood rushing through my neck.

The song wasn't very hard, the same chords over and over. I'd practiced it at home enough, and with them just previously. That didn't matter. I could have played perfectly a thousand times before, it wouldn't have helped.

The current song ended, and Kevin grinned and nodded at David and me during the applause. I blew out my breath explosively, and began counting time. I was more than just nervous. I remembered to control my breathing, relax my shoulders and spine, narrow the world to me and the keys. And thank the teacher.

I hit the keys, starting the piano solo introduction. It was a very few of the same chords, over and over. And gliding stabs of synthesized sounds. Simple. Kevin began singing. I played the easy melody, over and over, strong and hard. The guys sounded great on guitars, and Bill played the drums well. Everyone's vocals on the chorus lines were clear and clean. The swooping synthesizer notes were simple, too, and David managed them on time and almost perfectly.

The same simple chords and keys, over and over, just keep it up, I thought.

By the end, I was pounding the keys, and as the song ended, I noticed that my volume was well up. I saw Adam grinning at me, nodding. I couldn't help but grin back.

Then I noticed the applause.

They liked it. Good! I didn't mess up bad, and it hardly showed, I'm sure.

"Thank you! So, how about we take a break, and we'll be back in a few minutes."

A small amount of applause followed us off the stage.

"Told ya you can do it," Kevin said, slapping me on the back as we entered the backstage room. "Shit, sorry. Did I hit a burn?"

I had flinched, but not because of any pain.

"No. Uh, barely," I said, covering.

"Sorry, man," he repeated convincingly.

"S'okay," I said, taking my previous seat on the smaller couch along with David and the twins.

They were all worked up and nearly delirious. Their girls joined them, laughing and having a good time. They began drifting off to the bathroom in small groups. David, the twins, and I took our turn, smoking the joint I rolled. I was feeling worn out already, and when it was clear, I used the bathroom again, but alone. I had been up almost all night the previous night, smoking grass with the guys at Rick's party, sneaking speeders, and had had a great time. Then I'd stayed awake all day, mostly practicing, staying awake on coke and speed. I was tired. I took another of the little white pills Erich had given me, hoping that they would help me just get through this night.

The break was far too short, and I found myself walking back out onto the stage again. I was very glad that I was in back, almost behind the drums, no lights shining on me, and about as invisible as possible. I said as much to David, who again agreed with me. We took our seats and played the second set. It was mostly slow dancing songs, and I had some small bits to play, but David had the largest share to do. He was good at what he knew how to play.

We played through our songs without many mistakes that I noticed. I flubbed a few times, and even stopped playing for short periods where I knew that I wasn't going to perform it well and it wasn't important for me to be heard. During the songs without anything to do, for brief moments, I actually enjoyed the fact that I was on stage at the student union.

More than once, the fun and excitement of playing were reduced by the thoughts of Jeff moving up the high school food chain, leaving me behind. Seeing the jocks in the crowd reminded me of that. I couldn't see any faces, not with the stage lights shining onto the front of the stage, but I could catch glimpses of the jackets as they moved around the sides of the stage, dancing or walking to and from the canteen. I tried not to think of it, but how could I not?

As we ended our last song before the break, Kevin motioned for Terry to keep a slow tempo background for an announcement or voice bit. I bent and re-bent my fingers, hoping the left ones wouldn't cramp or give out. They felt stiff and achy, but were working better than I had feared they would. When Kevin was done teasing the crowd about upcoming songs, and reminders that we would be back next weekend, possibly with a special treat, we took our break. David and I walked off the stage, followed by the rest of the guys into the small backstage room.

"So, see you're surviving so far," Kevin teased me again.

"So far," I said, grinning more than I felt like doing.

"Think you're up to doing the synth for Come Sail Away?"

"Hah!" I laughed loudly. "I told ya, I played it some, but it's been months."

"Yeah, just askin'. But can ya practice it soon? I wanna play it soon. Okay?"

"Sure," I said with a shrug, trying to be as nonchalant about it as possible, even though the very idea of playing it in public made me queasy. More queasy. I listened as they played it, David playing the piano sections almost flawlessly. He was talented to say the least. And he knew the part, obviously. I poked and pecked at the keys, working on remembering the song. I made sure the power was off.

I tried to relax, but things kept popping up in my head; I had no control over what I could concentrate on. I felt myself sliding downward emotionally, too, and didn't want to. I wanted to enjoy playing in a band at the student union. I wanted the whole thing to be great, and to have Jeff and Tom enjoying it with me. I was very glad the twins were there, though.

The speed was still working, but it did nothing to lighten my mood. Seeing the jocks had reminded me of Jeff, and I realized that the student union was reminding me of Tom. He had spent considerable time with me there as I had worked in the canteen, often helping out.

As if I had been slapped, I realized what was missing from the student union then, the thing that would have made it feel more like old times: Tom. We had taken time to go out on the floor and listen to the bands play favorite songs, and had gone outside to smoke a joint at the front corner behind the bushes. He would usually lean on the pole outside the side of the canteen window while I was inside working the counter. And there were all the hours spent after closing, cleaning up and then playing the arcade games and pool tables for free after hours. I tried to hold onto the joy of playing, even if it was in public, but memories of the place with Tom, and thoughts brought on by seeing the jocks, kept holding me down.

When David went to the restroom, Ryan scooted over to sit next to me.

"Hey. You okay?"

"Sure," I said simply.

"Ya look kinda bummed out. Ya sure?"

"Just nervous, I guess, is all."

He didn't believe me, and it was obvious when he quirked up the corner of his mouth and narrowed his eyes.

"What? I've never thought I'd be doing something like this. And I ain't played in you know how long. And I was up late last night."

His expression didn't change. I knew it was a price to be paid for having close friends; they knew you well enough to know when you were spreading crap.

After a moment, he said, "Okay, fine. If you wanna tell me later just let me know, okay?"

"Tell ya what?"

"Whatever is buggin' ya enough to bring ya down when you're on stage playin'."

"Dude, it's just nerves. Guess you never seen me nervous is all."

He laughed at me. Or at what I said. I couldn't blame him. He knew pretty damned well what I was like when I was nervous.

"It's not what I said earlier, is it? Or, what I did?" he asked, looking worried suddenly.

"Huh? No!" I said emphatically, trying not to smile so widely.

He grinned in return.

"Cool. Because I meant what I said." His grin was being fought as well. "So, fuckin' forget whatever it is that's got you so fucked up. And have a good time, man! We're playin' with a band! On stage!" he said with a wide grin and a slap on my shoulder.

I grinned back, and tried my best to make it look genuine. Either he fell for it, or he wasn't going to press it any further. He joined in the chat and talk about the show so far and what was to come. I tried to as well. I tried not to think of what he had whispered to me before the show had begun. I wanted to look forward to it, but I was too nervous to think about it, not with all the others so nearby.

I was forced to think about David once he returned. I loved hearing his awesome accent. Now I knew how much he suppressed it. He was part of the group, in on most all the inside conversations. He talked with the others, and the twins, as if they had all been friends for ages. I liked his easy manner, his openness, his general sense of fun. I wanted him. His mannerisms, his graceful movements, his long, deep red hair, his almost elfin features, everything about him was attractive to me. And that was enough of a distraction alone, but it didn't take into account that he was such a great guy.

With just a couple of minutes left in our break, I began yawning. I wasn't sleepy, but I was worried I might get sleepy out on stage, so I slipped the last speeder out of my pocket and faked a yawn in order to take it. I washed it down with a soda and followed the rest of the guys out to the stage.

Sitting in the back without any lights, I felt safe but still nervous and on display. Before I sat down, I could see the multitude of team jackets. I wondered if any of them were Jeff's new friends. Again and again as the night went on I would forget him for a time, until I looked out and saw those jackets. They seemed to draw my attention like neon lights. Each time I would look up from playing part of a song, or between songs, there they would be. I briefly wondered if Jeff had managed to get away from home and was out there with his new friends.

And now the ghost of Tom stalked the place, too.

I spent the short break drinking soda and smoking pot. The next set was short, and high energy songs to rock the night out. I would have nothing to do. I was feeling uncomfortable. Most of the guys had girlfriends, and most of them were there. David, the twins, and I were the only ones who had no girl sitting on their lap. I wondered if anyone there was thinking that David and I were together. The band guys knew otherwise, but their girls might not. I tried not to think about it, but that only made me think of it all that much more. I began to feel even less comfortable.

With nothing else to do with it, my leg jumped up and down on my foot. I fidgeted endlessly. The speed was working well, and I was full of energy.

"You pull another line of coke or something?" David asked.

I laughed and shook my head.

"No. Just worked up is all. I mean, I'm on stage at the student union for fuck's sake! How cool!"

He grinned, and I followed suit. I talked with him while we made bathroom rounds to smoke joints. Too soon, it was time to finish the night. We retook the stage and Kevin worked the audience a little, getting them ready to, "party the night away."

The rest of the night went smoothly, and I actually enjoyed my seat for the show. As they finished the last song in the set, I was wishing we had hours to play yet. We had several more minutes we could play. I was even ready to play the songs we hadn't polished much yet, as they had little for me to do and I could do it. Anything to make it last longer.

Riley, the bass player, walked onto stage as Kevin said goodnight. Adam walked on from the other side, carrying his sax, and they met behind Kevin. They were dressed in a white dress shirt, a black tie, black jacket, and a black hat. As Kevin talked, he picked up a black briefcase and removed a black tie and put it on.

"We wanted to do something different, kinda special for tonight," Kevin said, now taking a black jacket from Riley. After putting it on, he continued, "One year ago, the great John Belushi left us."

There was a round of applause that Kevin paused for, now taking a hat from Adam. When the applause settled, Kevin continued.

"I know you all miss him. From the Samurai Chef," Kevin paused for the applause. "To Kuldorth of the Coneheads, Larry Farber, Matt Cooper from Land Shark. And of course, Bluto." More applause. "But, maybe his most famous Saturday Night Live role, Jacob Papageorge."

Kevin waited as only a few applauded. I was stunned that so few knew the name.

"Okay, maybe you knew him better from the movie, and by his street name in it. Joliet... " Bill began a cymbal repeat, Riley held a note on the harmonica and Kevin donned the hat, "... Jake..." Adam began a low, slow note and Kevin donned the glasses, "... Blues," and then Kevin strummed a chord.

They began playing, "Sweet Home, Chicago," slow and smooth.

I was tempted to try playing with them. I wanted in on the tribute, but I knew that if they had wanted the piano to play during it, they would have asked David or me if we knew it. So I sat quietly, feeling a little maudlin. They simplified the tune somewhat, and the solos traded for all of them playing in tandem. It sounded alright, but not right. And without the keyboard, I thought it sounded empty. Maybe that was what they were going for, a missing-man kind of feel. And since they hadn't had a piano player, it would have been natural to omit that during their practices.

They played it for a long time, stretching it out, keeping it slow and mellow, but not too sad. I liked it, and there were plenty of girls slow dancing alone or with each other as they played. They trailed out the end, slow and almost reverent.

The lights came up, the sound system went dead, and the few people still there were heading toward the door. A few were coming up to the stage to talk to the guys in the band. David and I slipped quietly off the side together.

"Whew! Nothing like the rush from playing for a crowd!" he said, grinning widely as we entered the room.

I felt that old familiar thrill run through me at his smile, the same thrill I had gotten when first Toby, then Jeff, then Erich, smiled. I wondered just how bad I could fall for David if I let myself. I wished there were some way to tell if he were gay, and if I had any chance if he were. Or if there were any chance he might be interested in some experimentation. Briefly, I wondered what it would take to get him so horny and so high that he would let me into his pants. I choked off the thoughts, trying to just be a normal friend, a normal guy.

"It is cool," I said, trying to sound less enthusiastic than I felt, though the slow, sweet rendition of, "Sweet Home, Chicago," had left me with more than a little sadness.

"It was a nice tribute to Belushi. Wish I could've been part of it," he said, robbing me of the sentiment.

I could only nod agreement.

"Got to call for my ride. See ya for practice tomorrow," he said, nodding upward, smiling still.

I grinned and nodded back. I watched him walk away toward the pay phone, admiring him from behind. He was slim and a bit short, and his long hair ever so slightly weaved hypnotically as he swayed away. I tried not to stare, and had to force myself to look away.

"Take a picture," I heard Brent say from beside me.

I slammed my eyes shut, knowing I had just been spotted ogling a guy in public.

"Shove it," I said humorously.

"Yeah, I'm sure that's what you're thinkin', too," he said with a laugh.

"I'd say fuck you, but you'd turn that one around on me too. So, fuck off."

We laughed as Ryan joined us.

"Ready?" he asked us.

"Good work tonight," Kevin said to us as he walked up.

We replied in kind, making note of the Blues Brothers bit.

"Thanks," he said, grinning. "Practice tomorrow? Noon at the twins'?"

The twins nodded, grinning insanely widely. I nodded.

"Hey, Alex. Good job, man. Brent, Ryan, you guys are good. Lookin' forward to havin' ya all playin' with us," Adam said as he walked out, hauling one of his huge boxes behind him.

The twins and I helped break down the rest of the gear, box it up, and carry it out. David joined us after a few minutes.

As I carried one of the last boxes out to the cars with Kevin, I told him I was riding home with the twins. He said fine, and that he'd see me tomorrow, then shook my hand. I felt him pass me something. I pocketed it surreptitiously. I thought that I knew what it was by the size and shape. I wasn't sure, but I was confident of it, and unsure how to react.

"Consider it pay for tonight. I'll have your cash for last night sometime this week after I cash the guy's check."

I nodded and thanked him. He waved it off and tossed his crutch into his car, climbed in, and waved. I waved back and turned toward the twins and their Lincoln. The driver held the door for me as I joined them inside. As we rode to their house, we talked about the show and congratulated each other all the way. Brent and Ryan were still wired, and I wondered if they had sneaked a line or two of coke themselves, or perhaps gotten some speed. Once we arrived, Brent rolled a joint after I passed him the supplies, and I turned the huge projection television to channel thirty-two.

I headed into the bathroom where I did what I had to do, then pulled out what Kevin had passed to me at the student union. It was a piece of white, coated paper, folded several times. Inside was white powder. A taste proved it was cocaine. Feeling tired as I was, and wanting to spend some time with the twins before I went unconscious, I used a fingernail to form a portion of it into two lines and snorted it with a dollar bill. I felt like a rock star. When I straightened up, I saw myself in the mirror. I looked horrible, I had to admit. I smirked at myself, wondering what kind of bizarre turn my life was taking. I folded the paper and put it in my pocket, took the last night pill that I had been given by mom earlier, then went to join my friends.

I had a wonderful time. I'd survived two nights playing the synthesizer in public, and was now stoned with the twins at their place, safe and sound.

It was almost like normal. It was almost like a regular Circle sleepover. Almost, yet not even close. I thought of asking Ryan about what he had said at the student union, but I was having a good enough time, and I didn't want to feel like I was pushing him into something he probably only offered to get my mind off of my nervousness at playing in public. I was so tired, too. And both of them looked wiped out. I tried thinking of other things, but thoughts of Jeff, of his moving upward and leaving all of us behind, began pestering me. Then thoughts about Tom. Then finals and changing in gym. Then about being alone.

Soon, the twins were asleep. I felt even more alone. I got up to use the bathroom, and couldn't resist another line of coke for each nostril. I knew that I should go to sleep, that I needed the rest, but I wanted the coke. On my way back to the couch I looked at the sleeping twins. I was easily able to see what they looked like without their clothes. Both of them were slim and cute, Ryan especially. I remembered things we had done together, and the few times that the three of us had done something together.

The two of them had both slid downward a bit since dropping off to sleep. Their jeans had slid up high and were showing off their packages. I admired their bulges, knowing exactly what was making them. With Jeff wanting to chill out, I told myself I was more than free to daydream about them, and I let myself.

I toyed with my erection through my jeans, eventually even putting my hand down the front of them to play around a bit. I wanted to reach over and touch them, play with their bulges, pull up their shirts, maybe undo zippers and have a look-see. I immediately felt guilty about even thinking of it.

I carefully sat back down, more than two feet between myself and either of them. When Brent moved in his sleep, I started a bit and whipped my hand out of my pants. I considered jacking off right there and then. I thought about running my hand up Ryan's thighs and over his bulge.

Geeze! Fuckin' horn-dog! Give it a rest, already.

Ryan moved and woke up. I pretended to not notice, being engaged by the last of "Invasion of the Saucer Men."

"Oh, crap, that's still on?" he mumbled.

"Yup," I said as if bored, hands folded sedately over my lap. "Almost over,"

"Fucking dry mouth," he said, standing up.

He went to the snack bar and returned with two cold mini-sodas. After a few minutes the show ended.

"So, goin' back to sleep or want to find something to do?" I asked.

He grinned and blushed.

"I meant, well, something to do. Not... what you said at the student union, you know?"

I felt myself blushing.

Why did I even mention it? I'm so fucking stupid sometimes!

"I know," he said.

I caught his emotions in those words. I felt his sadness. I wanted to ask if he missed messing around, but I was sure from his words and how he said them that he did.

"Can I ask something?" he asked, looking at his fingers as they toyed with a bit of fluff on the cushion.

"Anything, as usual," I replied as usual.

"How come Jeff didn't come over tonight? I saw him at the student union with some jocks."

I shuddered inside. I had thought about his possibly being there, especially once I had seen his new friends there, but I hadn't seen him and hadn't seriously thought he could or would have been there. I didn't have any ready answer. My delay was probably all the answer he needed.

"Something wrong with you guys?"

I was delayed again by not having any ready answer. I wasn't willing to break the agreement Jeff and I had come to, but I didn't want to lie either.

"I, I mean... I really hope not. Okay? Honest. I do. But..."

I didn't know where he was going, and I didn't know what to say. For a few minutes I had forgotten Jeff, but now he was the topic, and I didn't know what to say at all.

"Are you guys okay?" he asked again, looking at me with something like pity or sadness.

I admired him face to face. His dirty-blonde hair was mussed a bit as his gray eyes met mine. His red lips were still moist from his soda. My libido was running wild, throwing the furniture around and screaming for sex.

"I don't know," I answered. "I really don't."

"What's wrong?" he asked, looking concerned.

"Just, I don't know how to explain it. It's just not going real well right now is all."

After a long pause, he asked if I wanted to smoke another joint. I nodded. We'd smoked one at the start of the movie, but that buzz had gone. We moved to the bar and rolled another that we smoked in silence.

I tried to quench the lust, but it was adamant that it had been ignored too long, and if I didn't do something about it soon, it would set fire to the place.

Somehow, as we smoked the joint, we ended up closer to each other. By the time the joint was down to a roach, Ryan was almost shoulder to shoulder with me.

"Uh, I got another question," he said as he put the roach on the bartop. "If it makes you mad, say so, okay?"

I nodded, wondering what stupid advice he was going to give me about Jeff. He met my eyes for a second and then looked back at his hands in his lap. I did too, noticing his bulge again. Lust screamed, "Reach out and grab it!" at me.

That made me feel like an ass for even allowing the thought.

"When I said that, at the student union? I didn't see Jeff yet. Honest. I didn't know he was there. And when I said it, uh, I kinda forgot you and he was, together. So, I didn't mean to, like, get between you guys. At all. I just, I said it before I thought. That's all. And, if you don't want to, I understand. I shouldn't even of said that. Jeff or not. I'm sorry."

He sounded sad, maybe hurt. That bothered me a great deal.

"Dude, you didn't know he was there, and you didn't mean anything by saying that. You just wanted me to be able to go play. Thanks. It helped. I was thinking of that and not all nervous for a while. It worked. Honest."

He looked at me and grinned a little, then nodded.

I started laughing.

"What?" he asked.

"That was fucking hilarious!" I said, suddenly venting through the laughter. "I thought I was gonna have a stroke!"

He started laughing. We carried on for a few seconds, and I felt much better.

"Dude," I said when I was able to talk without laughing through my words, "I almost freaked. But it worked. I got out there and played. Thanks."

"I'm glad it worked. I don't even know where the idea came from! I was just wanting to make you feel better, and I did it. Never thought of what I was doing. Or what to say. It just came out. And, I, did that."

A sudden vision appeared in my mind's eye. I had to ask.

"Did you think of Toby? When you thought of that?"

He looked stunned.

"Oh, my gawd! How'd you know? I thought he might do that to make you feel better, so you'd go play. What made you think of that?"

"Because it was exactly what he would have done in that situation. Exactly."

"Oh, shit," Ryan said softly.

"No shit," I said firmly.

"You, think... ?"

I nodded.

He swallowed.

"Man, sometimes, you're too spooky."

"Get used to it,," I said, the usual phrase making us both grin again after the serious topic.

"Or run like hell," he finished.

We laughed.

"Uh, so, is it okay if we go make good on what I said at the student union?"

I blinked. I tried to see why it wouldn't be okay, but there wasn't any reason. All I could come up with was that it would probably be a guilt trip for later, if Jeff and I worked things out. I found that almost laughable.

Jeff gave up sole rights, right? Erich? What would messing around with Ryan again matter to Erich? Even if he ever found out. I messed around with Erich already. Will more, I'm sure. I hope. So why not with Ryan again? And he's getting older and cuter all the time, too. And I ain't got no exclusive thing with Erich at all. At fucking all. Period. We're just messing around. Jeff's moving on, away from me. Ryan wants to. Again. Wants to! Is asking me to!

Lust screamed at me that I would be insane to pass it up.

"I mean, please don't get mad, okay? It's just, well, ya know? And ya don't have to."

His voice let his emotions through clearly. He was nervous and worried. So was I.

"If it was up to me, I'd carry ya next door and make you too tired to wake up until Monday morning."

I couldn't believe I had just said that. I also couldn't believe I really felt that way.

He grinned and almost laughed.

"So who's it up to, then?"

He had a good point there. I thought about it more.

It ain't up to Jeff. He gave up rights to make any such decision. He can't do anything public, and wants it to be like it was before we tried to be more than friends. He said it himself, he wished it was just like before, just messing around when we had the chance. Erich ain't got no right to expect me not to with anyone else and knows it and said so. Erich just wants to mess around when we have the chance.

Like Ryan wants to right now.

"Me," I said, grinning. "It's up to me."

I suddenly felt as if tons of bricks had fallen away from me, freeing me. My stomach churned with sexual thrills at the prospect of messing around with Ryan again.

"What if Brent wakes up?" I asked, suddenly worried about being found out.

"So what? If he does he'll probably not notice. If he does, not the first time. Right?"

That was true, but he would think I was cheating on Jeff.

"He won't say anything even if he does," Ryan said as if reading my mind. "If you wanna, we can say we was downstairs raiding the fridge and then went to play pool," he offered with a shrug.

Nice, I thought.

Lust was fighting with prudence, and prudence was in trouble. Lust threw several jabs and hooks, and before long, prudence was laying bleeding at lust's feet.

"Fuck it," I said, and followed him to his room.

He closed the door and led me to his bed. We sat down and snickered.

"Alex, uh, I wanna do something new."

He was forcing himself to face me, I could tell. He was grinning a little, but looked serious, too, and blushing a lot.

"New?" I asked.

Is he bored with what we've done? I thought. We used hands and mouths in every way I know. Could Ryan have learned something somewhere?

"What?" I asked when he hesitated.

He was nervous, and that was something new. He and his twin were rarely nervous. Even playing for a crowd the first time, they had been pumped up, excited, yes, but visibly nervous? Hardly.

"Alex." He swallowed with some difficulty, and forced himself to look back at me each time he glanced down. "Al, I, wanna, I wanna go all the way."

He again had to force himself to look at me. He was blushing wildly and obviously very nervous.

"All the way? What'd'ya mean?" I asked before thinking.

"I mean, I, wanna, do it. All of it. The whole thing. Not just a blow-job, or a handy."

With a flash, I understood. My hand twitched and my eye winked.

"You mean, real sex? I mean, sex?"

He nodded, then looked into my eyes. His gray eyes were full of nervousness, and I couldn't blame him. It had been hard to ask such a thing, I knew.

And staring into his eyes only reminded me of doing so with Erich, and what I had felt then. And suddenly I saw Ryan, behind his eyes. And suddenly I was sure he and I had no past that extended beyond the last three years, but that we had already left a trail to be sensed in future lives.

I suddenly worried that the kiss had meant more than I thought. I swallowed with difficulty, forcing myself to ask the question that I knew I had to ask. One way or the other, it had to be known.

"Ry? Uh, I'm gonna ask you something, and you gotta tell me the truth. No matter how hard it is. Okay? Only the exact truth? Okay?"

I stared into his nice gray eyes, darker and richer than Erich's bright ones. He nodded, looking even more worried.

I couldn't look into his eyes while I asked, so I looked to my hands in my lap.

"Okay. Ry? Do... are you in love with me?"

I looked back at him. He looked stunned.


"You gotta tell me the truth," I warned him sternly.

"Dude, I, like, I... no."

I didn't know if the pang in my chest was relief or loss, or something else, but it was there, and powerful, too.

And I was certain of his honesty.

"Dude. I'm not in love with you, okay? Honest. I, look, you said a bunch of times that you think it's stupid guys don't just say they love their best friends. That it's okay to say you love a good friend. So, I do love you, like that. And Eric, and Tom, and Jeff, and Todd. Like that. But, I ain't in love with you. Maybe, a little more than them, because, well, you know..."

He snickered and blushed a bit more, looking a little uncomfortable.

"But, really, I'm not in love with you, like that. Maybe some, because we're both, well, we both like guys. But, I don't think I love you that much or that way."

I nodded, feeling a bit relieved, and a bit disappointed.

"It's just that I want to touch you, and you to touch me. All over. And hug. And, cuddle, together. Before..."

He had started by looking embarrassed and unsure, even uncomfortable, and who could blame him, but he ended by suddenly looking as if had let the proverbial cat out of the equally proverbial bag.

"Before, what?" I asked, eyes narrowing.

I knew Ryan and his brother very well. The three of us had become close over the last three years. We all knew each other very well. Sometimes, too well. He had almost slipped. He knew something, and he wasn't supposed, or didn't want, to tip me off about it.

"Nothing. I just, I know things are gonna change soon. And we won't be able to then. So, I want to, now. Before we miss the chance."

"What's gonna happen?"

I could tell that he didn't want to tell me.

I sighed.

"Please?" he asked, almost pleading. "Just one time. We can go back to the old stuff next time and after. If we can. But, this one time, I wanna see what it's like. And, I wanna, with you."

His gray eyes were pleading. He looked almost worried.

"Are you really sure you wanna... go that far?"

He nodded vigorously.

"I wanna do it. Me to you and you to me. Both ways. I wanna know what it's like to be, to have, uh..."

I knew. I remembered. I had been several months younger than Ryan when I first went that far. With Toby.

"I know. I remember."

He grinned, his blush as cute as ever. I grinned at him. He grinned more.

I knew that I was unsure of what to do next, or how to get started. I assumed that he was, too. He actually asked.

"I guess..." I laid down on my back and pulled him down on top of me.

He lay on me, his hands on my chest. It was awkward, and bizarre. It was Ryan. And now he had asked to be more intimate. Not for a hand-job, or the usual blow-job, but for real, actual, intimate sex.

"Are you sure?" I asked tentatively, my guts churning, my dick throbbing.

I pushed his hair back from his brow, brushing it to the side. He snickered softly, grinned cutely, and nodded. His eyes met mine. He grinned a little more. He was flushed, a blotchy blush just on the center of each cheek. His face was just inches from my own. His weight was on me. I could feel his erection against my thigh.

Wow! I thought. Is this really gonna happen? Show Ryan what it's like? Please, yes! And show him the right way.

I put my right hand behind his head and pulled him close, then tucked his face into the nape of my neck. My other hand went to his back, rubbing and moving slowly downward. His hands went behind my head, cradling it. He moved to be more comfortable, or more in contact with me. I rolled onto my side, taking him with me. Our hands moved over each other, our lips over each other. Our breaths came quicker. We felt each other under our shirts, then helped each other out of them.

"Man, you got really skinny," he said, looking me over.

"You really think I did?" I asked, another shade raised.

He nodded.

"You gonna gain it back?"

"I'm workin' on it," I said, brushing his hair back again. "But maybe I wanna be a skinny, sexy little stud, like you."

He laughed and grinned shyly.

"You really think, I'm, sexy?"

I sighed profoundly, nodded.

"You, my friend, are very sexy. And cute. Hot, even. And don't try to act like you don't know."

He giggled, then we touched and tickled each other all over. We played with each other's nipples, navels, sides. He undid my pants and pulled them down, I did the same to his. We touched and tickled, but lower now. We helped each other out of our underwear, touched and tickled, stroked and sucked, licked and rubbed.

We lay down next to each other, upside-down to each other, using the bottom thigh of each other like a pillow, mouths full and hands roaming.

I asked him to go slowly, to take his time. He agreed readily. It was great fun. His body was nice, just not developed much yet. He was a little smaller and thinner than I. His cock wasn't long or wide. Yet. His bush of sandy blond hair wasn't full yet, wasn't even a triangle yet. His balls were still smallish in his almost hairless sack.

I loved his dick. It was almost perfect. It stood out almost horizontally when he was standing, and lay against the sparse, sandy blond hair when he was lying down. The shaft was nearly perfectly straight, very smooth, and pale. The last quarter of its length was reddish. It wasn't long, as he had more developing to do yet, but it certainly hinted that it would be something over average someday. His head was smooth, slightly pointed but mostly rounded at the end, and longish. The fine lines on it were subtle and faint. Its edges were gentle and subtle, smooth, rounded. The hole in the tip was a short slit, slightly indented, usually darker than the rest of the head, often open ever so slightly.

We touched and tickled, hugged and kissed, stroked, sucked, licked, rubbed, groaned, moaned. He had learned how to use his mouth well: he had always been a willing student, eager to learn any little trick or tip. We took breaks, only touching and teasing for minutes, stretching out the experience. It was something Toby had taught me, and something Ryan enjoyed doing as well.

During one such break, I wet a finger and teased at his sphincter. I slid it around it, over it, gently pushed against it. He giggled and squirmed, copied the activity. I slid my finger into him. He groaned and pushed against it, letting me bury it in him. I slid it through him, over and over. Soon he asked for another. I gave it. After a few moments and a few in and outs, I found his hard spot and played around with it. That made him leak pre-cum. After a few minutes, he asked me to take them out. He opened a cabinet and rummaged around in it. He came back with a smooth, featureless, slightly long dildo and a squeeze tube of lube. I was amazed.

"Where, when, and how?" I asked.

"Spencer's, summer, swiped," he answered.

"You did not!"

He nodded with a grin.

"Use it much?"

He nodded with a blushing grin.

"You want me to use it on you?"

He blushed more, grinned more, nodded more.

I held it as he squeezed some lube onto it and spread it around. He lay on his back and bent his knees, hugging them to his chest. He had lube in the fingers of one hand, and the dildo in the other. He looked incredibly hot, but awkward and uncomfortable. I grabbed both of his hands, took the dildo from one and wiped the other with tissues. Then I got him comfortably on his back, holding his thighs. He blushed very darkly, grinned, and when he giggled, it showed up at his sphincter.

I couldn't help but giggle, too. Once I had Tom in such a position, but that had been long after Toby and I had done it quite a few times. Now, Ryan was there, and while it was familiar, it too, was different. Ryan was smallish, but well made. His little pucker was pink and almost smooth, all the surrounding skin as un-tanned as most of the rest of him. His small sack was tucked between his thighs, and the bulge behind it was prominent, with an obvious line the whole way.

I remembered the dildo and placed it at his pinkish pucker. It flinched and I let it rest there for a bit, gently twisting it. Eventually I pushed so gently. He started breathing deeply and quickly. He bit his lip as I teased him with it, making him laugh. I pushed, gently, as he laughed, and it went in. It slid in smoothly, easily. I found out how far he tolerated it, and backed off some. He whispered a sigh. I began moving it in and out of him, varying speed and depth. He enjoyed it a great deal. I enjoyed doing it, too. Probably not as much as he did. No, definitely not as much as he did. He loved it. He actually squirmed on it, whining softly.

I played with his small sack and nuts with my other hand, or stroked the back of his thighs with my fingers.

"Okay, enough," he suddenly said, pulling it out of himself by pulling my hand away. "I want the real deal."

"You sure?"

"Now, damn it. I used that plenty, and it's nice when someone else is doing it, but I want the real thing. Yours."

He took the dildo from me and grabbed the lubricant. He applied it to me first, making me groan and hiss, then slipped his lubricated finger into himself.

"On your back," he said firmly, seemingly knowing what he wanted, and how.

I complied, surprised. He straddled me, then, with some awkwardness, he pointed me into himself. He had probably been using the dildo a lot, as he didn't miss. He slowly lowered himself onto me. He was tight, smooth, hot. I felt him relaxing his anus again and again, but tensing up between, swallowing me up. He had obviously been using the dildo, a lot. He slid down over me, taking me in so slowly that I found myself wanting to pull him down onto me. I resisted, letting him take his time.

I held onto his thighs, stroking them, rubbing them. He kept his eyes closed, kept grinning, biting his lower lip, grunting softly from time to time, until his ass was planted on my lap.

"Oh my gosh," he said huskily. "Yes."

I saw and felt his balls resting on my skin just above my bush. It tickled, and was incredibly erotic. His dick was hard and slightly pulsing with his heartbeat, the head red.

He put his hands on my chest, lifted slowly, pulling me nearly out of himself, then dropped just as slowly.

"M-m-m-m-m," escaped from him endlessly.

A drop of clear, sparkling fluid was beginning to drip from his opening. I spread it around his head, tickling him. He gasped, his hole tightened in a spasm around my erection. It felt great.

He started moving up and down faster. He panted with each drop of himself onto me. His eyes remained closed, his lower lip remained trapped between his teeth. His face reddened slowly. I played with his nipples, his flank, and his thighs with one hand and paid the most attention to his cock and balls with the other.

I grew near to orgasm, and asked him if wanted to change to another position. He nodded, and we moved around. Each time I grew close, we changed positions. Each time we changed positions, he took control. He inserted me into himself, never me entering him. When I was in the position to move, I always started out slowly. I was worried that I would hurt him. After a brief time, though, he would tell me, "faster," or, "harder," or, "deeper." Sometimes more than one, sometimes all three.

At times I couldn't believe what I was doing, or, rather, who I was doing it with. I had no idea how many times I had fantasized about going that far with Ryan, and others. And now, for some reason, it was coming true. And Ryan had literally begged for it to happen.

I had been sexually active very often by sixteen, and had lost count of the times I had given or been given head, or hand-jobs. But anal sex was different. Other than a very few times, Toby was the only person I had done that with, either way. The last time had been Tom, months ago. Other than Tom, only Toby.

Ryan had been more and more enthusiastic about messing around, while Brent had been less and less interested lately. His statement during my toga party, that he didn't see why he had to choose to like only men or only women, had been another huge gift. Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised that Ryan wanted to go so far.

But none of that bothered me as Ryan was laying on his front, and I was behind and on top of him.

He groaned and said, "Oh, man, it's like I'm fucking the bed at the same time you're fucking me! Oh, God, I can cum like this!"

I knew I could start fucking him harder, and I would finish off fairly soon.

"Do you want to?" I whispered into his ear, one hand around him, playing with a nipple, the other holding some of my weight off of him.

After a brief pause, he answered, "No, not yet," breathlessly. "You know more ways we can do it?"

"I know one more."

"Let's do it!" he said enthusiastically.

I directed him to sit on my lap, facing me, on his knees. He wriggled myself down onto me. When he was sitting on me and I was deep in him, I reached around him with both hands, hugging him as he began riding. His arms went around my shoulders and his face into the crook of my neck. His hot, rapid breath felt good on my chest. After a while I took hold of his hard cock. I moved slowly, in time with his movements. He groaned. He moved slowly, withdrawing almost all the way, sometimes bobbing shortly with just my head inside of him.

"Oh, yeah, man, rocks!" he said.

After a time, during which my hands roamed all over him, paying special attention to his cock to keep it hard, he said, "Harder," and began moving faster, our skin smacking slightly.

He was hot inside, smooth. Tight, but not so much that it was hard to do what he wanted. His round butt cheeks smacked against my thighs every time he dropped.

"Oh, man! So, good," we panted.

I cupped his balls with one hand, and stroked him firmly with the other, but always slowly. I rubbed his wetness around his head, stroked it tightly until it needed further lubrication, then spit into my palm. I stroked him firmly and slowly, making sure that I ran over his head each time. Every time my thumb and finger stroked over his sensitive head, his hole clamped down on me.

I felt my body readying to finish. I slowed my hips, not wanting to beat him to the finish by too much. More natural lubrication came from him, coating my fingers and his cock. I spread it around, rubbing it into his head. It dried, or soaked in, and I pushed my finger onto his opening, circling around there, moving the flesh, not moving over the surface.

"Yeah! Oh, oh, yeah!"

I made a circle of my finger and thumb and let the motion of my hips connecting with his round buttocks move his cock through it. I slowed. I was getting so close. The pressure and tingling beneath me was intense and nearly overwhelming. It was extremely difficult not to slam into him with all the force I could muster and explode inside of him.

I managed, though, to hold still as he dictated the pace. He began to speed up.

"Oh, shit, man, oh, shit, please, please!"

His face never left my chest, and his cock slowly slid through the circle of my finger and thumb in matching time with his hips riding me. His cock pulsed, wanting speed. My cock throbbed, wanting speed. His hole twitched, wanting speed.

"Oh, fuck, Ry. Man, so good! Is it okay for you?"

"Yeah! Okay? Fuck!" he laughed.

We both trembled. My legs were threatening to cramp. I wondered if his were, too. I tugged his balls. I felt his cock twitch in my fingers, then he grunted, then wetness. I worked it over his head. He hissed his breath through his teeth. I pulsed again as I pushed into him. The pressure built, the tingling built. I shivered.

His cock danced in my hand.

"Oh-h-h-h-h! Oh, shit!" he hissed, and I felt warm, wet, slippery cum between his cock and my fingers. I tightened my grip and concentrated on his head from the very tip to its smooth, rounded, subtle edges, his cum lubricating him and my fingers.

His balls pulled up and almost out of my hand. His circle around my cock tensed repeatedly in that familiar timing, tightening then releasing, over and over.

It was incredible.

He gasped, whined quietly, then held his breath as his cock danced in my hand, hot, sticky, slippery wetness coating my fingers and the smooth head of his cock as I stroked it tightly, tip to edges. His hole went into tight spasms around my hard cock. I pushed a final time, burying myself as deeply into him as I could.

My back arched, my legs locked. I held there, motionless, as the pressure mounted and raced through my cock, exploding into him. I released one long, undulating groan as I pumped my cum into him. He gasped and half laughed. His cock was jumping as I rubbed his cum into the head, making his hole twitch more.

I swelled and released into him, my body locked in position. All I could move was my hands, one stroking his wet, slippery dick, the other wrapped around his balls. Finally I was able to thrust into him again, the last waves of intense pleasure almost forcing me to.

I shivered, and I couldn't breathe, then I sucked in air in a rush, then expelled it just as quickly, my body still shivering.

I inhaled deeply, the last trembling quakes of my orgasm rolling through me. He whined as I rubbed his head, his body and anus trembling in reaction.

"Oh, God, please stop?" he begged, clamping his hand over my hand on his little cock.

He jerked powerfully, his hole clamping down on me tightly. Suddenly we were still, barely moving. Then I shivered, he shivered, then both of us sighed heavy breaths.

I pulled him tight to my chest with my arms around him. He looked up at me, smiling sweetly. I kissed him. He returned it. He jerked, his hole tightening in matching timing. He pulled his hips from mine, pulling my softening cock from inside of him. We nuzzled then, our breaths slowing. Both of our arms went around each other. We shivered again, together, sighing.

Finally, "Oh, man. That was fucking awesome," he breathed.

"Not done," I said menacingly.

He glanced up at me.


"You'll see."

I laid him down on the bed, then lay behind him. I put my arms around him, cuddling up tight to him. He responded with a soft moan and by snuggling into the curve of my body. He held onto my forearms and sighed contentedly. I nuzzled my face into the back of his neck.

"Ahh, nice," he whispered.

"I know."





"Any, time."

I wondered, though, what he had meant earlier by, "before."

Before, what? What's gonna change? What would make it so that we couldn't do this anymore?

I thought, trying to come up with some answer. He had given no clues that I knew of, so there were no puzzle pieces to move around. I was at a complete loss. Until one possibility came to mind. A horrible one.

I tried not to think of it, but it kept coming back. I had to know.


"Hmm?" so sleepily that I felt bad about bothering him.

But I had to know.

"Ry? You gotta tell me the truth about something."

"Okay," still so sleepily.

"Ry? Are you gonna stop, b-b-b-being my friend?"

I cringed at my stutter, and immediately tried to focus and center myself. It was extremely difficult, though, being so sleepy and so worried.


"Are you gonna, like, stop wanting to hang around? Stop wanting to b-be friends? Is that what you meant by, before? Wanting to do, this, before?"

"What are you talking about? Hell, no. Why'd you ask such a stupid thing?"

"Then, what did you mean by, before?"

"You'll see. Don't bug it. It's cool. You'll see, okay?"

He snuggled into me. I let him have my arm around him when he tugged it, brushed his hair with the other hand. He held my hand with both of his, his breath blowing across it.

I tried not to worry about it, was satisfied with his assertion that I had been wrong, but it still bothered me.

If not that, then what? I wondered.

I moved around puzzle pieces again, trying to find some pattern. Nothing made sense. I couldn't imagine what would change that would keep him from being able to do what we had just done.

Unless... he's gonna ask someone out! Cool! Ryan's gonna ask someone to go with him! Awesome! They better say yes, or they're too stupid for him anyway. Hmm, girl or guy? Guess I'll find out.

Feeling better, I relaxed. I gently snuggled more tightly to Ryan, glad for him, glad that we had done that together, and that we were doing what we were.

I felt the warmth of Ryan's back against my chest, his butt in my lap, his warm breath on my fingers. It felt wonderful.

I knew we wouldn't do stuff together forever, anyway. It's been awesome. Tonight, especially. But we got to do it this way before...

I grinned at the word, at using it then.

... before he starts dating someone. Good for him.

I grinned more and sighed. I was wired, and I knew the coke had been a mistake. I had nothing to do but think, which was always a mistake anymore. I fought the darkening mood, but it was no use.

Jeff. Tom. Eric. Erich. Gym. Plymouth. Lies. Band. Gay. Alone.

How much more can I deal with?

After I was sure that Ryan had fallen asleep, I slipped my arm out of his grip and slowly climbed out of the bed. It was hard to do. I stood there, looking at the back of his naked body, wanting to stay there with him, warm and comfortable, hugging him all night. But I knew that I would fall asleep, and that I would wake him up with my thrashing around, and I would have to explain it or try to explain it away.

I sighed profoundly, dressed, then went to the entertainment room. Things were off and there were no lights on anywhere else. I went to the music room at the end of the hall and sat at the Oberheim. I thought how just hours ago I had sat there, and had been playing music together with an actual band. And had then played in front of an audience. It didn't seem like it had been me.

I went to the bathroom and snorted a line with each nostril.

I closed the large doors, powered on the instrument, and toyed with it. I played, "Cold As Ice." I played almost decently. I played, "Tainted Love," not knowing why. I sang it, too. A little loudly, knowing the room was nearly soundproof., as were their bedrooms. And roughly. And again. And again. It hurt. I let it. I used that pain. It came back to me, sitting there at the familiar keyboard in the familiar room, alone as I had done so many times. Finally, I played it well enough that I hoped Toby was pleased.

I took the last speeder and smoked some grass.

I played Paradise Theater from start to finish, including both piano pieces that opened and closed it, as well as "State Street Sadie."

I did more coke and smoked some grass.

I toyed with, "Don't Let It End." I had heard it many times, and had been able to see the keys as I heard them played. I tried, but I needed to hear it as I sat at the keys to really learn it. Angered, I played, "Foolin' Yourself." It was hard, but not overly so. It was a song that felt angry as I ran my fingers over the keys; it always had. The tune was melodic, almost smooth and soft, yet it felt so angry to play. I wasn't good at it, being so out of practice, but it did help bleed off some of my anger.

I smoked more grass and found myself feeling melancholic again. The powerful organ from, "I'm Okay" always fit that mood, so I set the Oberheim and tried. Lack of practice made it awful. I gave up.

I had avoided it so far, but I knew it was perfect for my mood. "Jeopardy." I sang it, too. Low and rough. Loudly, too. I let myself feel the song, and what it had meant, and still did. Jeff. I poured myself into it. I let myself hurt. I let it come. I cried just enough to blur my vision. Again, and I threw myself wholly into the song. After another play of it while I sang it angrily, it was nearly six o'clock.

I was beyond tired. The coke and speed were burned away, the buzz gone. I turned off the Oberheim and left the music room. Each movement required effort and thought. I was so far beyond exhausted that I had no idea what to call it. My vision was blurry, my body felt fuzzy.

I hoped that I was too tired to dream. I returned to Ryan's room. I admired his body for a while, then laid up against him again, pulling the folded quilt from the foot of the bed up and over us. I snuggled up to his small, warm body. I dropped into blackness.

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