I wish to retain all rights to this story. However, I am delighted to grant permission for AwesomeDude, or any other person or entity, to publish this story as long as there is no charge to the reader and as long as no changes are made to the story.

Copyright 2004. All Rights Reserved.

“It’s OK to fall in love with your best friend.” – Davey Carlson.

PART ONE, The New Year

Chapter 4 New Year's Eve

The bed jiggled when Jake climbed from it. Brandon opened one eye, saw daylight, and closed his eye again.

Two hours later, he climbed from bed, slipped on his pajama bottoms, and padded down the hall to the bathroom.

Tyler let him in. With just a towel around his waist, Tyler was trying to shave in front of a steamy mirror. Once the door closed, Brandon jerked off the towel and swatted Tyler’s butt.

“Hey, Dude,” Tyler fussed. “Don’t make me cut myself.”

Brandon patted Tyler’s butt more gently. “Just admiring.”

Tyler rinsed his razor and watched in the mirror as Brandon started a shower and pulled off his pajamas. “I’m surprised you’re up to admiring anything. Dude! You guys went all night. That squeaky bed of yours kept us up.” He turned from the mirror, which was too steamy to see much through, and leaned back against the sink. His eyes traveled up and down Brandon’s body. The guy was hot. Tyler decided he’d need to get it on with Brandon again soon.

Brandon paused at the shower curtain. “Seems to me that I remember hearing more than one squeaky bed last night.” He winked and stepped into the shower.

“Well what’d you expect? It’s not like you were gonna let us sleep,” Tyler called over the sound of the shower.

Tyler rinsed his face and then dried it. He put the towel back in the rack and leaned against the wall, next to the shower curtain where he could look in. “Bran?” he asked thoughtfully. “You OK with the whole Michael thing?”

Brandon set the soap down and turned to rinse his back, facing Tyler. “Yeah,” Brandon said with a shrug. “Life goes on.”

Tyler looked Brandon’s body up and down, once more. And Brandon returned the favor with a wink.

“Yeah, I guess you’re cool with it,” Tyler said with a chuckle. He dressed and Brandon stuck his head back under the shower.

Brandon would be cool with it. It was just hard to not be… sad.

Rose set the plate with juevos rancheros, chorizo, and tortillas down on the table in front of Brandon. She liked her grandson’s friend. This one looked like a young man was supposed to look; like a young man… even if he did have red hair. She liked that he had a good smile and an honest face.

Rose had sent Jake to the store to buy groceries. The tall boy with the too-long blond hair was still asleep. The short one had eaten and disappeared again. Only the red head was in the kitchen with Rose. She sat down next to him.

“Jake says you’re his best friend,” she said, studying Brandon while he ate. He ate well. That pleased her.

Brandon chewed, smiled, and nodded. “He’s my best friend.” He liked Jake’s grandmother. She was a small woman, but was the type that spoke her mind, whether invited to or not. Her heavily wrinkled eyes didn’t miss much and she rarely smiled. But she smiled at Brandon.

“Jake hasn’t had many good friends. He hasn’t had a good friend in a long time,” Rose said.

Brandon paused in his chewing. “Neither have I,” he said. He studied his plate, and then took another bite.

Rose wondered what happened to make such a fine looking young man turn out strange… that way… like Jake. But she wouldn’t think about the things they did together. Rose liked Brandon.

Halfway through the afternoon, Brandon had to ask. “Just how many cousins do you have?”

Jake reached across to the passenger seat and patted Brandon’s thigh. “Just a few more. I’ve gotta show off my California lovers.”

“But to every one in Texas?” Tyler joked from the back.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if they all didn’t have so much food,” Brandon said.

“Isn’t there anything else to do in San Antonio besides visiting relatives?” Blair asked.

“OK, OK,” Jake said with a sigh. “No more cousins after today.”

“Thank you! Thank you!” Brandon sighed with exaggerated relief.

“Tomorrow,” Jake said, “I show you off to old friends. I’ve got lots of old friends.”

It was late that night when Jake pulled off his briefs and crawled under the sheets. Brandon lay on his stomach, and Jake moved up beside him, laying his head, nose to nose with Brandon’s on the pillow. He smiled and rubbed Brandon’s back. “You still tired from last night, Foxy?”

“Maybe a little,” Brandon said, and then winked. “But I wore my pjs tonight.”

Jake’s smile widened and he ran his hand down to feel over Brandon’s cloth-covered butt.

Grinning, Brandon rolled up onto his side, facing Jake, and threw back the covers. Then he held open his pajama fly.

Smiling happily, Jake scooted up on his side to Brandon and lowered himself in.

Tyler frowned across the breakfast table at both of them; Brandon and Jake. “You guys gotta oil that bed. You’re gonna wake your grandma.”

“Shsss!” Jake said, laughing, and looking around nervously.

“Dudes!” Tyler insisted. ‘You two ever think about sleeping?”

* * * * *

The crowd roared and Brandon’s thoughts returned to the game. He leaned left, toward Michael. “You saved us,” he said, gratefully. “Half of San Antonio is related to Jake and the other half know him. He’s been taking us to meet every one. I’m not a huge basketball fan, but this Spurs game was perfect. ”

“Jake must be proud of you,” Michael said with a knowing wink, “to show you off all over town.”

Brandon snorted. “He just likes people.”

Chase, sitting on Michael’s other side, cheered and wound his arm. Brandon smiled. The guy had a pleasant, if plain face with a too-long nose and a small mouth. But he was a friendly guy, with a great body, and Michael said he was smart. Beyond Chase sat his dad, Ed Armstrong, President of Carlson-Bentolli, Michael and Davey’s company.

When Michael called that morning to say that Ed had rounded up Spurs tickets for them, Brandon was glad, mainly for something different for them all to do. But he wasn’t anxious to be around Michael and Davey; to watch them make eyes at each other, to watch them… in love. But it hadn’t been bad at the steak dinner Michael treated them to. At the table, Davey sat between Jake and Hunter, while Michael sat next to him.

And now, Davey was almost at the other end of the row. Brandon turned to his right. Chase’s little brother, Hunter, sat next to him. The kid was young, but a looker. Unlike his brother, Hunter’s nose wasn’t too long, but narrow and straight. The kid was lively and looked smart as well as cute; his eyes were perceptive and animated.

At that moment, Hunter was regaling Jake, and beyond him, Davey, with non-stop Aggie jokes. The three of them were completely ignoring the game. And beyond them, Blair and Tyler paid mild interest to the game while their eyes roamed nearby seats and they discussed guys.

Brandon leaned back and rubbed his full stomach. If he didn’t go home from San Antonio fat, it’d be a miracle.

“Seriously, Bran,” Michael said, looking down the row of seats. “I think Jake is proud of you.”

“How do you tell if an Aggie’s gay?” Brandon heard Hunter ask and then pause. “If he follows boy sheep around instead of girl sheep,” Hunter said, laughing at his punch line.

Brandon winced as Jake howled. He sometimes wished Jake wasn’t quite so… flamboyant; especially when surrounded by straight basketball fans, and possibly Aggies. But yeah, maybe he was proud of Jake as well; though he didn’t normally think of it as pride. Jake was smart. He was attractive, and he had a cool body. Jake was much more than that though. He was unique. He was smart about people. He had a good heart. And he was devoted to Brandon. Brandon wasn’t so much proud of Jake as he was grateful. There certainly wasn’t anyone else he was close to… anymore.

“He’s a special guy, Bran,” Michael said from over his shoulder. “I’m glad you see past the front he puts up.”

Brandon turned back, surprised. “It’s not always a front, Bent. He really is that way sometimes. But I’m cool with it.”

Michael smiled, knowingly, and Brandon felt himself bristle. Bentolli was damn smug about him and Jake. Maybe it made Michael feel better, after dropping Brandon like he had, if he thought Jake was filling the gap. Brandon frowned. Jake was special, but Bentolli left a damn big hole. And even if Michael wanted someday to fill it again, it was too late. The damage was done.

Brandon’s frown deepened. He wouldn’t let himself feel that way about anyone again. Only Jake and possibly his little sister cared about what happened to him. He’d be a lot smarter about things.

* * * * *

Jake snuggled up to Brandon under the covers. They were both tired and didn’t even joke about making love. They had just closed their eyes when their bedroom door opened and closed. There were giggles and footsteps, and then the bed jostled.

Tyler pulled Brandon’s hair back from his ear. “We thought that if you guys were gonna make a lot of bed racket again, we’d help.” Then he pressed the thickening package of his briefs to Brandon’s butt.

Jake howled as Blair shoved an erection under his butt, between his legs and into the back of his balls. “Damn, Foxy! I’m being attacked.”

“We can attack ‘em back,” Brandon said with a sleepy smile. And then, for a moment in the semi-dark, their eyes met. Brandon kissed Jake’s cheek. “That OK?” he asked in a whisper.

“Yeah,” Jake whispered back, pleased that Brandon would even ask.

“Yeah,” Tyler echoed from over Brandon’s shoulder.

“Hey,” Blair whispered loudly. “Let’s do a daisy chain. I always wanted to try a daisy chain. You know, where you make a circle and each guy sucks the next.

“I get Jake,” Brandon whispered quickly. “He owes me dessert.”

“I get Brandon,” Blair called.

“You guys go ahead,” Tyler said, rubbing his hand over Brandon’s ass. “I like it back here. That OK with you, Bran?

“Sure,” Brandon said. “Just be gentle. Jake almost wore me out last night.”

“But, Foxy,” Jake protested with a grin. “You wanted it!”

Tyler watched three heads bob over half-twisted bodies. Their slurping sounds filled the room; and they looked hot. But then Tyler’s eyes and hands resumed their pleasure with Brandon’s incredible body, all sculpted muscles and smooth skin. He pressed his hips forward again and filled his lap with muscular butt, pushing deep; Brandon’s tightness stretching the condom over his cock.

He wrapped an arm over Brandon’s taut belly and pressed his own belly and chest against Brandon’s firm back. Tyler loved a hard body and Brandon’s was perfect. He chewed between Brandon’s shoulder blades, feeling muscles with his teeth. Brandon was so easy going, so friendly. Yeah, Brandon was close to Jake, but Tyler wondered if Brandon would consider being fuck buddies. They could have fun together.

Tyler wouldn’t give up Blair. Nah, he’d never do that. But damn, Brandon was hot. He drove in hard, and ground against firm buttocks.

* * * * *

On New Year’s Eve, it was too brisk to sit outside like Michael usually did when Davey gave him a haircut. Instead, they spread newspapers on the floor and sat Michael on a wooden chair in the middle of Maggie’s living room. By using newspaper and wearing only shorts, they hoped to make cleanup easier.

Maggie, Davey’s mom, passed through on her way to the kitchen. “You better not get that black hair all over my furniture,” she warned.

“Blame your son, “Michael said. ”The way he slashes with those scissors, he sends hair flying everywhere.”

“Well not in my living room,” she called back as she disappeared through the kitchen doorway.

“It’s Mickey’s fault,” Davey called out after her. “He grows too much hair.” Then he straddled Michael’s legs, sitting down on his lap, as he continued with the front of Michael’s hair.

Michael rested his hands on Davey’s waist and bent his head forward.

“Hold your head up,” Davey instructed.

“Which one?” Michael asked in a whisper and wiggled under him.

“You’re gonna make me mess up… and it will all be your fault.”

Michael reached with his fingers up the inside of Davey’s pant leg and tickled the side of his scrotum.

“You’re gonna be sorry,” Davey warned.

“Nah,” Michael said. “You always give good haircuts. And you make it fun.” He gently pinched Davey’s nipple with his other hand.

Davey jumped up from his lap. “I’m gonna give you a lopsided haircut. And it’ll serve you right.”

“You do and I’ll cut some of your hair, and it won’t all be on top,” Michael said with a grin.

Davey smiled and lowered the scissors. “You want to shave pubes again?” he asked in a delighted whisper.

“Not if we’re running cross country this spring. It’s already going to be tense enough in the locker room. Maybe we can trim them this summer.”

Davey sighed in disappointment, as he trimmed over Michael’s ear. “You’re… playful, today,” he observed.

Michael reached an arm around Davey’s waist and pulled him into his lap.

Davey laughed and held the scissors up and away so as not to poke either of them, and Michael used the opening to pull him close.

“I’m happy, Davey,” he said with a soft smile, and then added quietly, “and I’m in love.”

Davey grinned happily. They looked to make sure Maggie was still in the kitchen, and then kissed. Both Maggie and Gloria, Michael’s mom, tried to be understanding of their relationship, but there was no sense pushing it.

“Tonight’s going to be fun,” Davey whispered, his eyes dancing.

“Yeah,” Michael agreed, putting his forehead to Davey’s. “I’ve got a hot date.”

They heard Maggie’s footsteps and Davey quickly got up. He moved behind Michael, trimming hair up from his neck.

Maggie paused in front of them. “How late will you two be tonight?”

“Well,” Michael said, slowly. “We thought we’d just sleep over at the office. It might be late if we help clean up after the party”

Maggie chewed her lip. “We’re supposed to be at your mom’s for New Year’s dinner tomorrow,” Maggie said. “And I’m not sure I want you on the road that late.”

“We’ll be careful, Maggie,” Michael assured her. “It’s not like we’ll be drinking or anything.”

“It’s not you that I’m worried about,” she said.

“Don’t worry, I won’t let Davey drive,” Michael said with a wink.

There was a tug at the back of Michael’s hair, and Davey said, “Ooops!”

“Whaa?” Michael sat up, alarmed. “What happened?”

“Ooops,” Davey said again, backing up.

“What’d you do Davey?” Michael asked, grabbing the back of his hair. He looked questioningly at Maggie who looked over his head at Davey and frowned. “Where’s a mirror?” he asked.

Michael jumped up from the chair and headed for the bathroom, Davey close behind. “Did you cut off too much?” Michael asked.

“Just a little too much,” Davey said.

In the bathroom, Michael found Maggie’s hand mirror and held it behind his head, trying to see the double reflection in the big mirror on the wall. That’s when he saw the smirk on Davey’s face and realized he’d been had. He wheeled on Davey.

“Put down the scissors,” Michael said.

“Why?” Davey asked, giggling, and backing away.

“Put… down… the scissors,” Michael repeated stepping toward him.

With a yelp, Davey tossed the scissors away and ran. Michael followed and caught him as he tried to get out the front door. He wrestled Davey back and the two of them went over the couch, yelling and laughing, kicking up newspapers on the way. Black hair went flying in the air.

Michael was on top, tickling mercilessly when Maggie came at them with a broom.

With yelps, they sprang for the bedroom and locked the door behind them.

Michael turned on Davey and tried to grab the back of his shorts. Davey dodged and tried to grab the back of Michael’s.

“Even if I have to wait until tonight, doofus,” Michael warned, “you’re going to get wedgied.”

“I won’t wear underwear,” Davey responded.

“Oh,” Michael paused. “That’s an idea. Maybe I won’t either. It’ll be easier to warm our hands in each other’s pants.” He wriggled his eyebrows.

Davey giggled and lunged for the back of Mickey’s pants.

* * * * *

After spending much of the day helping Knox with party preparations, Brandon was tired and ready to relax, but Jake was excited about the party. He rounded up Blair and Tyler and sat them all down in Rose’s living room, while Rose worked on supper in the kitchen.

“I brought something from California; a surprise for the party,” he whispered enthusiastically. “Wait here.”

He was back in seconds with a black, plastic bag. “I’ve got one for each of us,” he said, lifting a pair of black briefs from the bag. “These are yours,” he said, handing the pair to Tyler. “And yours,” he said, handing a pair to Blair. “And yours,” he said, handing Brandon a pair. “And mine,” he said, pulling out the last pair from the bag.

Tyler held his up, stretching them out to see the writing on the back. “H… A… P,” he read.

“Mine says, ‘P… Y,’” Blair said.

“GAY?” Brandon asked, reading his.

“YEAR!” Jake said, grinning, and holding up his pair. “HAP-PY GAY YEAR!”

Brandon eyed Jake suspiciously. “How are you expecting anyone to read this?”

Jake howled. “Foxy, right at midnight, we all line up and…”

“Moon,” Tyler and Blair said, grinning in unison.

“But are they the right size?” Tyler asked.

“Sure, Baby,” Jake said, grinning. “I got you each the right size.”

“How’d you know the right sizes?” Blair asked.

“Dude!” Tyler said, grinning. “The Queen of West Hollywood’s had all our pants off.”

Jake looked like he’d been hit. He glanced uncertainly at Brandon and the smile briefly fled from his face.

“Don’t be an ass, Tyler,” Brandon said. “We’ve all been in each other’s pants.”

Jake dropped his head and quietly folded the bag.

“Sure,” Tyler said. “I didn’t mean anything by that.”

Jake shrugged. “I am the queen of West Hollywood.”

Brandon watched Jake carefully, a little surprised at the affect Tyler’s words seemed to have had. Jake had been different lately; maybe more serious at times. He put an arm around Jake’s shoulders. “Mooning in the New Year is a great idea, Jake,” he said. “It’ll be cool.”

Jake shrugged again.

Brandon studied him a moment longer, then lunged at Jake’s middle and lifted him over his shoulder. “Excuse us guys. I’m gonna go put Jake into his new underwear.”

Cheering, Blair and Tyler each swatted Jake’s butt, and Brandon carried him back to their room. After closing the door, he set Jake down gently on the bed. “Don’t let them take your bounce away, Tigger,” he said, giving Jake an encouraging hug. Then he sat down beside him. “You OK?”

Jake nodded and lay back on the bed, his eyes on the ceiling.

Brandon lay down on his side beside him and waited to see if Jake wanted to talk.

“How many boyfriends have you had?” Jake asked quietly.

“A couple,” Brandon said, studying Jake’s profile.

“Michael and who else?”

“A guy, when I first moved to California. It wasn’t real serious.”

“I’ve never had a boyfriend,” Jake said.

“So? Do you want one?” Brandon asked.

Jake didn’t answer. At least not the way he wanted to. “How many guys have you had sex with?” Jake asked.

“Shit. I don’t know. A few… well a lot, maybe.”

“I don’t know how many I’ve had sex with,” Jake said thoughtfully. “I mean, I like guys, but… well…” he glanced at Brandon. “Michael and Davey really have something special, don’t they?”

“Maybe,” Brandon answered and rolled to his back, joining Jake in staring at the ceiling. “If it lasts. But most guys can’t be like that. At least guys our age.” He scratched his stomach. “You know why I’m not looking for a boyfriend right now?”

Jake swallowed hard. “No,” he asked quietly. “Why?”

“Well,” Brandon said, “it’s like, stupid. Boyfriends don’t last. Sooner or later, they break up. And it all seems so fake, like a soap opera. I fell in love once, and I don’t want fake. If it happens for real again, it happens. In the meantime,” Brandon found Jake’s hand at his side and squeezed it. “I’ve got you Jake. And a best friend is better than a boyfriend any time.”

Jake stared at the ceiling and wondered if that was true.

* * * * *

Hudson eyed the reflection of his naked body in the mirror and sighed. Everybody liked his face, though he wished it were more masculine. He lost count of how many times someone told him he’d make a beautiful girl. But he could live with that. And he actually liked his thick red hair, dark against his light skin. But his body had always been a disappointment.

He wished he had muscles. Instead, he felt skinny and soft. Once, Michael Bentolli had told him he had a nice body and a bubble butt. And then explained what a bubble butt was. Hudson twisted to try to see his butt in the mirror. He wished he had a bigger cock, too. But he was a small guy, and what he had was probably big enough for the rest of his body.

He lifted his cock and then his balls and thought about jacking off. It wasn’t likely he’d lose his virginity tonight anyway. He was beginning to believe he’d never lose that. Maybe if he worked out with weights. Maybe then it would happen.

No, he decided, being honest with himself. He was afraid. He was shy, and he was afraid. He pulled on red briefs and decided he’d play his guitar before leaving for the party. It would calm him.

* * * * *

Blair’s golden hair had a pleasant sheen. Tyler decided he’d give it a few more brush strokes before he dressed. “You’re beautiful, Dude,” he assured Blair. “You’ll have guys drooling. Of course,” he added, grinning at Blair in the mirror, “we should probably stuff Kleenexes in your crotch.”

Blair elbowed back at Tyler’s own crotch, and Tyler hopped back out of range. He chuckled, and then stepped forward again, one hand on Blair’s shoulder as he raised the brush, then paused. “You want to find somebody together tonight? Or every dude for himself?”

Blair wished Tyler hadn’t had to ask. “We can see,” he said slowly. “But I’d like to stick together.’

“Cool,” Tyler said, and returned the brush to Blair’s hair.

* * * * *

Michael set down his drink. “Are you sure Little David and you can’t fly up to Chicago with Davey and me? I know Grandpa Bentolli would like to see him.”

Amy, sitting across the kitchen table, kissed the top of the baby’s head and shook her head. “I told you. He’s too young to fly with.”

“People fly with babies,” Michael pointed out. “And we could have fun. We’re staying on the lake and might do some other stuff besides see Grandpa. Grandpa wants us to see the sights.”

“You two have a good time,” she said, trying to be encouraging. Sometimes it was a little hard. Sometimes it was hard not to think that she got screwed and Davey got the prize. But then she kissed Little David’s head again and tried to clear her mind. She knew Michael was gay when they made Little David. And she loved their baby.

Amy looked out the kitchen window, unsure about why she had been feeling resentful lately. Maybe it was because she was trapped at home with the baby; their baby. Maybe because she had finally accepted that she’d never be together with Michael. Maybe because Michael was so damned happy with Davey.

* * * * *

Brandon winked at Jake in the bathroom mirror. “No makeup tonight? No glitter?”

“Do you want me to?” Jake asked.

The hairbrush paused in Brandon’s hand. He wasn’t sure how to take the question. He wasn’t sure what it implied. “You look hot either way, Jake. Dress how you want.”

Jake studied his own reflection in the mirror, and then glanced at Brandon. He wanted to look right for Brandon, like he belonged with him. “San Antonio’s not LA,” Jake said. I’ll go plain.”

Brandon laughed and swatted Jake’s butt with the brush. “Plain is one thing you’ll never be.”

* * * * *

Michael, already dressed, watched Davey towel dry. As Davey stepped to the bathroom mirror, Michael approached him with a small box. “You know what tonight is?” he asked.

Davey put the towel down and shook his head.

“Seven days. Tonight marks our first full week of being promised.” He placed a hand on Davey’s shoulder and gave him a kiss. “There’s something I needed to get for you, for a long time now.

Davey watched as Michael opened the box, revealing a white gold chain necklace. It was similar to the one Davey had given Michael two Christmases before, only that one was gold.

Michael lifted the chain from the box and fastened it around Davey’s neck. Then he leaned back and watched as Davey studied it in the mirror. “Do you like it?” Michael asked.

“Yeah,” Davey nodded with a widening grin. “Now I have to dance with my shirt off.” He reached behind Michael’s neck and pulled him forward to brush lips. “And so do you,” he said, and then kissed him, pressing his naked body to Mickey.

“I already can’t wait to get you back to the office,” Michael said, dropping his hands to Davey’s bare butt. “And if we stay like this, I won’t ever let you go.”

They kissed again. And then reluctantly parted.

* * * * *

Ethan wiped the shave cream from his head and studied the effect in the mirror from both right and left. A satisfied smile spread across his face, and the white of his teeth was a dramatic contrast against his dark skin. He’d start on his eyes next and reminded himself not to overdo it. It was easy, when accustomed to makeup for the stage, to overstate the eyes. Tonight, everything else needed to be understated. He was a dancer, and his body would be all the statement he needed. He would dazzle them all. He just hoped there’d be somebody there worth dazzling; maybe somebody new.

Stepping back from the closet, he frowned. Ethan had planned on the black slacks and the white silk shirt with blousing sleeves, but it was cool out and a jacket wouldn’t work with that. Then he smiled and pulled out a black brocade vest he’d kept from The Nutcracker. Maybe he’d leave the shirt unbuttoned to the waist. His black skin under the white silk would be dramatic. And the vest would keep him from freezing when he was outside. He could always lose it inside, if the dancing became… vigorous.

Milam, his dance instructor, had more than once told Ethan that he had a rare ability to make any music “stunningly visual” with his body; with his dance. “Problem is, Ethan,” Milam pointed out, “it’s always seems to be damned erotic music.”

Ethan felt good. He felt lean, striking, elegantly graceful. His muscles ached to dance. He would dance like no one else there could, and he would burn the house down.

He dabbed his face completely dry. Ethan loved an audience, and tonight he was sure he’d have it. He knew how good he looked, and he knew what teens were like in San Antonio. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that he’d be the center of attention at Knox’s party.

But Ethan also wanted to score. He hadn’t had a good lay in ages. And lately, it’d been all chocolate; dark skin and dark hair. Tonight, maybe, he’d like some vanilla; some white skin. He’d say white ass, but it wasn’t the ass he wanted. Ethan was a dedicated bottom. His older brothers had taught him to enjoy that. He loved a thick cock and the way he could dominate a guy by how he rode one.

He was optimistic enough about tonight that he talked Milam into letting him borrow his root beer-colored Cougar. He didn’t want to pick up a guy and have no way to get him home. Milam’s Cougar was cool as hell. Ethan would go in style.

He looked at his watch. No way was he going to be early. Entrances are made after everyone else has arrived.

* * * * *

Jake and the others came in shortly before the first song. Davey grabbed Jake by the hand and pulled him to the side. “Look,” he said, lifting the neck chain from the high, peaked collar of his shirt. “Look what Mickey gave me.”

“Oh, Baby, it’s beautiful,” Jake said, examining it in his fingers. “And it’s perfect for you, with the color of your hair and skin.”

“It’s for our promise,” Davey said, leaning close. “It’s been seven days.”

Jake let go of the chain and winked at Davey. “People will see it better if you take off your shirt to dance.”

Davey winked back. “I’m gonna.”

. . . . .

It was the first slow song of the evening. Michael pulled Davey close and nuzzled behind his ear. Their chests and bellies pressed tightly together through their light shirts as they swayed and circled under the large disco ball which Jake and Brandon had succeeded in setting up.

“Are you… happy, Mickey?” Davey asked softly.

Michael smiled, and kissed Davey’s cheek. “You don’t know?”

Davey nodded. “You’re happy.” He brushed his mouth over Michael’s ear and caught sight of a table of guys watching them. He squeezed Mickey tightly. “You belong to me.”

Michael chuckled.

“Why are you laughing?” Davey asked, leaning back in his arms.

“I’m laughing, doofus,” Michael answered with a gentle smile, “because we usually say that to each other right before we tear each other’s clothes off.” He nibbled Davey’s jaw. “You aren’t planning on doing that right now, are you? Because if you do, I’m really sorry I didn’t wear underwear.”

Davey giggled. “I’m just happy you belong to me.” Then he licked inside Michael’s ear. “And I want to tear your clothes off.” And with that, he unbuttoned Mickey’s shirt.

. . . . .

Surrounded by old friends, Jake howled when one asked in a whisper if Brandon was good in bed. “Baby, you got no idea!”

“So are you two together?” Another friend asked.

“No,” Jake answered, watching Brandon dance with Tyler. Then he smiled. “But we’re special friends.”

“Oh, Baby,” the first friend asked. “Is he available then?”

. . . . .

The door opened and Davey felt Michael tense in his arms. He turned to follow Michael’s gaze and saw a tall, juvenile version of Arnold Schwarzenegger enter the room. Even down to the short, dark hair and the square jaw, he could have been a younger version of the movie star. “Geoff,” Davey said with a sigh.

Geoff had once been Davey’s boyfriend. But then he raped Mickey, and stalked him for months. The stress and emotion finally ended with Mickey in the hospital. Davey tried to remember what Doctor Kazan called it. Panic attack? Mental exhaustion?

Someone else came in with Geoff; a tall, willowy boy, with thick black hair and a pale smile. He almost looked like a skinny, anemic version of Mickey. But quiet, and shy looking. And though he didn’t think it explicitly in words, Davey decided that Geoff had finally gotten his Michael Bentolli, in a soft, pliable package.

They headed for the bar. And then Geoff saw Michael and Davey and headed for them. “Look, Bent,” he said as they came up. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were going to be here. We just heard there was going to be a party for guys our age here tonight.”

Michael smiled, and anyone other than Davey, might not have known it was forced; might not have seen the muscles working in his jaw. The hardest struggle in Michael’s life had been to forgive Geoff. But forgiveness was something his grandpa taught him, and he loved his grandpa.

“It’s OK, Geoff.” Michael responded. “Everyone is welcome. We’re here as guests, too.”

Geoff’s eyes traveled down both Michael’s and Davey’s bare torsos. Michael quickly crossed his arms over his chest, self-consciously.

“Oh,” Geoff said, pulling the black-haired boy forward. “This is Troy. Him and me… we’re together these days.”

Troy nodded shyly, and Michael held out his hand with a sympathetic smile. Troy took the offered hand into his own thin, long-fingered hand, and gave a tentative shake. Michael’s shake was never tentative. His grandpa had taught him how to shake hands, and he always shook with a firm grip, a smile, and eye contact. And that’s how he taught Davey to shake. Davey shook Troy’s hand as well.

And Troy, who only knew that Davey had once been Geoff’s lover and that Geoff had something special for Michael Bentolli, felt completely outclassed. He pulled back to Geoff.

“Thanks, Michael,” Geoff said, putting an arm over Troy’s shoulders. “Troy here is a little shy. But he’s a hunk, isn’t he? Sorta like you.”

Not hardly, Davey thought.

Really? Michael wondered, as the two headed off to the bar.

. . . . .

“Hey, Bran,” Geoff said, coming up behind him. They had been best friends for years before Brandon moved to California. Then Geoff did what he did to Michael, and they hadn’t talked since.

Brandon frowned. “I saw you with Michael. You’ve got balls, Geoff, to show up here.”

“Hey,” Geoff said with a frown of his own. “Bent and me… we’ve worked things out. He forgave me Bran.”

Brandon nodded. “Yeah, he told me. I’m not sure I would have.”

“Fine,” Geoff said, turning away.

“Wait,” Brandon said, and touched Geoff’s arm. “Look, I’m sorry. If Bent forgave you, I guess I can’t hold it against you either.”

Geoff frowned. “I’m not the same guy, Bran. I’ve changed. Honest. Gettin’ outed at school, like you were… it can sure change things.”

“Yeah,” Brandon agreed with a sigh. “No shit.” He nodded past Geoff to where Troy leaned against the bar. “He looks young. How old is he?”

“Fifteen,” Geoff said defensively. “Well almost fifteen.”

Brandon thought about asking if that was about the age Michael was when Geoff raped him, but resisted. “He’s tall,” Brandon observed.

Geoff leaned close. “And hung like a horse.”

“And you’re what? Eighteen now?” Brandon asked.

“Yeah,” Geoff frowned. “Eighteen, just like you.”

It had once been the gay bar in San Antonio. Ethan had snuck in, under age once. But the action had moved to newer places and the upstairs club had been vacant for six months. As soon as Ethan climbed from the car, he heard the music, throbbing across the rear parking lot and echoing off the trees of Brankenridge Park. His pulse quickened.

As he started up the rear stairs to the second floor, he passed Pete Mendoza, a short, chubby guy with frizzy hair and unimaginative clothes. “How is it?” Ethan asked. “The party?”

Pete took a drag on his cigarette and smiled. “Oh, I think you’ll like it. That is, if you don’t mind some competition.”

Ethan’s eyes closed to slits. “There isn’t any competition, Baby.” He climbed the stairs past Pete without another word. The idea that there might actually be a good looking guy there gave him a flutter, but Pete didn’t need to know that.

Behind him, Pete smirked. Ethan was in for a surprise.

At the top of the stairs, Ethan opened the door to a blast of music and voices. He stepped inside and past a couple of perimeter tables.

There he paused and stood tall, his head up, as he surveyed the room and waited to be seen. An old song, Jive Talkin, was playing. The beat was distinctive, and the floor was wooden. Dancers, stomping, added to the throb of the music. Along the far side, an old, ornate wooden bar was stacked with sodas and ice. At one end was a bowl with condoms and trial sizes of lubricant, donated anonymously by a local family planning clinic. Knox had fought the idea, but finally given in.

A wide, sweeping staircase led up from the left to the top floor, while around the rest of the room were tables. And in the center of the room was the packed dance floor. The lighting was dim, supplied by a lit disco ball, blacklights, and a neon beer sign. On the walls were various hand-made, Happy New Year signs

Before he could be impressed with over sixty gay teens in one room in San Antonio, he was impressed with the ones he saw. The first to draw his attention was a tall, slender guy, with an elegantly long neck, thick black hair, and exceptionally beautiful features. He was dancing without a shirt, and lean muscles stretched as he moved.

He was even more beautiful because of his dance partner. Also shirtless, tall, and slender, with a thick shag of white hair; just as striking but in different ways. Together, the two drew stares from everyone in the room. The blond wasn’t outstanding as a dancer, but looked athletic, nonetheless. The two of them moved together as Ethan watched, pressing their crotches and seesawing their hips. Ethan felt a thickening in his pants. Shit, he thought, I hope they’re not together.

There were a half-dozen other shirtless dancers, but one in particular drew his attention. Tall, with red hair, creamy skin, and well-defined muscles; he had a handsome face, and his body was a match for Ethan’s. He saw Ethan and a smile played across his mouth. He looked even better smiling.

There were other new guys there; guys he didn’t know… cute ones. A few looked his way as the song was ending, so he waited for more to see him. The first couple, the blond and black-haired dancers, wrapped an arm around each other’s waist. They were obviously together. Ethan wondered if he could steal one away. But then Knox was beside him.

“Ethan!” Knox said, obviously pleased. Knox was a short, pink man with a thin, blond ponytail pulled back from under a bald pate. “Look how many boys made it!”

Ethan nodded agreement, making sure to stand straight to benefit from the visual contrast between him and Knox. “Who’s the tall guy with the black hair and who’s the one with him?” Ethan asked, careful not to show too much interest, and careful not to look at them or point their way.

Knox grinned. “Over by the stairs?”

Ethan nodded.

“I told you about them. The boy with black hair is my student, Michael Bentolli. The blond is his boyfriend, Davey Carlson. I told you they’re beautiful.”

“They’re boyfriends?” Ethan asked.

Knox shrugged. “They’ve broken up before. But they look like they’re together for now.”

“And the red head?” Ethan asked, glancing toward Brandon.

Knox laughed. “Yeah. I thought you’d notice him. He’s splendid, don’t you think? His name is Brandon. He and a couple of other guys are here from California, visiting Michael. One of them…” Knox looked over the room. “There, the slim guy with black hair and sort of a long face – looks almost native American; don’t you think? His name is Jake. He helped decorate and set up. Used to live in San Antonio. Brandon and he are friends.”

“Friends?” Ethan asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah, I think just friends.”

Ethan nodded and removed his vest. Brandon was dancing with two other guys, a tall blond and a short brunette. They were cute, too; and new. But nothing like the redhead. He watched, without looking like he was watching, for their reaction when they saw him.

The redhead laughed at something one of them said, and when he threw his head back, his neck was thick and muscular. Ethan decided he’d go for the red head. He handed the vest to Knox and headed for Brandon.

Knox looked at the vest in his hands, bemused, and tucked it over his arm to put away with his own stuff. It was a beautiful vest.

As usual, emails are greatly appreciated at btomandback@hotmail.com