The following story is for adults and contains descriptions of sexual contact between teenage males. If you are a minor it is illegal for you to read, or if you find the subject objectionable, read no further. All the characters, events and settings are the product of my over-active imagination. I hope you like it. Mail me or if literary analysis interests you visit Eliot's Space.



by eliot moore

Chapter Twenty-one

The Measure of a Man


Come together, right now, Wednesday, May 11th

Laine only listened to Peter with half an ear. Most of his attention was focused on the outline of Daniel sitting on the same window bench where they had spoken four weeks before. Daniel had not exactly been avoiding him, they usually exchanged words in the hallway and when they ran.

Laine had joined the cross country club. He looked forward to it now and the twice weekly runs at school had provided him with the incentive to seriously train by himself. It was a joy to run again, the other boys and girls seemed to accept him and of course, it offered Laine access to Daniel.

Laine thought the electricity between them was still there. Laine pushed himself harder on the runs, but he always began the run in step with Daniel. It remained much like the first run, Laine offering conversation and Daniel grunting out monosyllable replies. By their third run Laine was growing discouraged. He found Simon better entertainment. Daniel's friend Simon had easily connected Laine with Arlo, and Laine could imagine the tough boy's reservations, but Simon had weighed Laine in some way and quickly accepted his presence. By unspoken agreement Laine and Daniel showered next to each other after the runs. Simon filled the gulf of silence between Laine and Daniel with an acerbic wit that weaved the illusion of shared conversation among the three of them. Laine took his lead from Daniel and on the rare occasions when one of the other members of the running club tried to belittle Simon the bigger boys formed a common front.

Daniel had stopped running after his suspension for fighting and they had not really talked in over a week. It was a problem. Their relations had taken a huge step back to trading glances and haunting each other's footsteps about the school. Laine was not sure what to do. "Laine, dude, I'm talking to you."

"What?" Laine turned back to Peter. Hank and Darcy seemed to be waiting for him to say something. He had no idea what the question was. "I was zoned out for a minute, what's the problem?"

"I asked if you were going to come over to Hank's after school." That meant Hank's mom was on late shift and the afternoon had possibilities. It sounded like a good idea to Laine. "I don't know probably... sure, sounds good to me." Peter leered at him. Laine turned back to Daniel and caught him looking at him. Daniel shifted his gaze quickly and seemed to study the tray beside him.

"I want you to meet Dominic. He's another jock like you. I told him you run and I think he got interested."


"I think you two might get along."

Laine tried to listen while he puzzled out what to do about Daniel. Daniel was still looking at him. He was sure there was something there still. Damn it, Laine concluded, it was back to his making the first move. He pushed himself heavily off the bench. He would just have to talk to Daniel again. "I'll catch up with you later dudes."

Daniel's eyes were on him as he came across the room. Laine was so intent on the other boy he cannoned off two seniors moving past him in the hall way. A startled Laine froze for a moment. The seniors barely glanced at him as they continued on their way. Two months previous and there would have been different resolution to the accidental contact. Laine watched the older boys move on. Just another moment for Daniel to see. Laine flushed with embarrassment at the thought Daniel had yet again seen him reduced to a klutz. He continued on to the bench where Daniel sat waiting with a faint smile on his face. Laine felt shy now that he was standing in front of Daniel. There was an awkward moment until Daniel spoke with a carefully controlled tone, "How's it going?"

"Good" Laine felt slightly more ease. It was dumb, Laine reflected, but just hearing Daniel say a few words helped make the rest of the conversation easier. "Are you feeling okay?" Daniel still looked rough. There was the remains of a bruise on the side of his face and his lip had not quite healed. Laine tried to imagine the fight. "So what have you been up to?" Let's stop all this nonsense. I want to be with you again. "The guys are wondering when you are going to start running again." I miss seeing your ass in the shower. The equally battered Simon had already returned to running almost immediately. He had actually assured Laine that Daniel would be back by their next run.

"I'll join you guys Thursday." Daniel looked away before going on. Laine realized Daniel was nervous for some reason. It saddened him and reminded him of all the people who shunned him. "Been keeping busy?" Daniel was not making it easy for Laine. "Looks like your friends are leaving." Laine turned to catch his friends exit. Daniel's words almost suggested he wanted Laine to leave. Laine steeled himself and made a move.

"Not a problem; look, are you up to anything after school?" Laine shuffled his feet nervously waiting for Daniel's response. This was the test. If Daniel did not want to hang out with him he would know in a second.

"Not much I guess." Daniel left him hanging for a moment. "Do you want to come over?" Daniel actually smiled at him for a second. There was still something between them the fluttering insects seemed to assure Laine. Laine decided Daniel was uncomfortable with what they had done and they just needed to talk about it. This was a start.

"Sounds good, I'll meet you on the front steps." Laine stood for a moment uncertainly. He was not sure why they were so uncomfortable with each other. Laine wondered if he had become too casual about fooling around. Laine, Peter, Hank and Darcy made out all the time. At one time or another Laine had even slipped away with Peter for a private moment like the one Daniel and he had shared in Daniel's bedroom. It did not feel awkward after. Daniel might feel differently about it Laine worried. Daniel ended the stalemate by gathering his things and walking away. Laine sat for a minute in the spot where Daniel had sat. Laine was confused about his feelings.

* ** *

Daniel tried to control the fluttering in his chest as he moved away from Laine. Laine's glittering eyes and red lips brought back the memory of his bedroom too easily. Daniel's harried conscience gibbered panicked warnings when Laine was in sight. Sex made little sense, Daniel thought in frustration as he plodded toward his locker. This total paralysis only came to him with one other person: Mandy. The passion he felt for her was an added dimension to the deep friendship they had come to share. Daniel understood that his feelings for Mandy had grown over time. Laine had come out of nowhere. Laine was a stranger and Daniel groped for an explanation for why the boy made him ache. Perhaps, thought Daniel, the explanation was something simple. They had had sex together. Only Daniel had had sex with Arlo too. Even more perplexing, Daniel was drawn to Denver physically; he realized Denver did not leave him breathless.

Daniel considered talking to Denver about it. He was confident that Denver would understand exactly what he was going through. Unfortunately Daniel was also confident that Denver would not approve. As much as he tried to avoid the thought, Daniel knew the situation with Laine was exactly like the situation with Daphne at the YMCA pool. Relationships required honesty and forced choice, Daniel reminded himself in misery. He owed Mandy that, so why was he still so drawn to Laine?


An Understanding, Wednesday afternoon

"What's wrong Daniel?" Laine slumped in the chair and watched Daniel across the room on the sofa. They had danced around it for an hour playing a game and sharing the self defining stories that build a friendship.

"I don't know what you are talking about." Daniel had filled time on the bus ride home with details of his fight with Nolan. Laine had mostly listened, satisfied that things were better between them. When they had reached Daniel's apartment his frustration came back.

"Yes you do. I thought we connected with each other."

"What do you mean?" Daniel evaded the question. He thought about Laine naked in the shower beside him. It was a good thing he saw Laine surrounded by the other boys, Simon yapping at both of them, his thin face framed by soap-suds dreadlocks. Otherwise Daniel would have pulled Laine's lean frame close and probably lose his mind. Daniel knew Laine's flavor and apparently it was addictive. He wished things were not so complicated. Each eyed the other as the need for sex grew.

"You know what I'm talking about." The exasperation was clear in Laine's tone. Daniel was throbbing against the confining fabric. The draw between the two boys was becoming irresistible.

"Yeh" Daniel gave a little ground.

"So what's the problem? You said you'd like to see me again. Am I wrong?" Daniel remembered his words on the street outside the Brass Lantern. He had been eager for more. Laine turned him on more than any boy he had met. He had thought about it later that night after seeing Denver and Mark together. Daniel was there with a beautiful girl yet he had felt a flash of annoyance when Mandy tried to interest Mark in his new-found Laine.


Laine could hear the conflict in his voice. Laine had not been wrong; there was something there between them. He wanted the talk to end. All Daniel had to say was blow me, and things would be fine again. Laine wanted to kiss his lips and feel his body again.


"I told you I have a girl friend." Laine nodded wondering where Daniel was leading with that obvious admission. Daniel stared helplessly at Laine and then Laine got his point. Daniel was a romantic, thought Laine. He wants to be in love. Laine had an impulse to tell Daniel that love hurt or love was for adults. Love was Arlo, and Laine did not trust anyone with his heart now. He recognized the strength of his attraction to the battered blond across the room, but he had been there before and ripping himself away from Arlo's dark sexual fantasies had taken something important out of Laine.

"I know. I told you it didn't matter. Is that's what's bothering you?" It's just sex Daniel, Laine thought. He had to get Daniel over this hurdle. He sighed and watched Daniel fiddle with the controller. Laine tried to be patient with Daniel. He realized he should not judge Daniel's feelings.

Daniel suddenly blurted out "I don't want to be an asshole."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if we get into something and you think I'm serious when I'm not. Do you remember Mark?" Laine and Mark had not hit it off. Mark was another one of those parading drama queens Laine couldn't connect with. "I kind of screwed Mark over and I don't want to do that again." Laine was not sure what he was talking about, but he let his confusion pass.

"So like this whole avoid Laine thing is you trying to protect me?" Laine was touched by that, but Daniel simply did not understand him.

Daniel struggled with the whole conversation. Mandy was the only person he talked to like this. When Simon had confessed their friendship was important to him in the vice-principal's office, it had been easy to smooth it over with a joke. He could not seem to do that with Laine. Dealing with this had become important to him. He wanted to have Laine. He needed him. "That makes it sound gay."

"I am gay Daniel." Laine dreaded the next words that would reject him and close the door between them. It had happened so often before.

"I'm not, so it would be really shitty if I led you on." Daniel did not want to hurt Laine's feelings. He did not want Laine to end up angry at him, and he really did not want another Arlo shooting his mouth off where Mandy might hear. Mandy might pass Arlo off as some freshie thing. Laine would be harder to explain.

"So why did you invite me over?" The door was still open.

"You kind of asked me today."

"So? Oh, I see, you were waiting for me to make a move." Laine saw where this was leading.

"I guess. I don't know, I think about you all the time. It's really hard watching you in the shower now or watching you sit with those other guys." The feelings were out finally. It was okay for Laine to move across the room and sit closer to Daniel. He sat with his knee touching Daniel's thigh. Laine's cock responded.

"Same here" Laine whispered. Daniel and Laine locked eyes.

"I can't do what you do. I'm not interested in letting people know I like guys." He had Mandy and things were getting good between them. The thing was, Daniel accepted being bisexual now. He liked this other side of himself too. He needed someone to explore this with.

"Daniel, we all have to make that choice for ourselves. It's a major step. I wouldn't out you. Most days I wish I had kept my mouth shut. People treat me like crap." Laine did not see Daniel's problem. Laine had stopped telling people he was gay. Guys like Mark, Carlos and Victor wanted you to join the parade. That was one reason he hung with Peter and his friends. They were enthusiastic, but more discrete. Now he got along with the guys and girls on the cross country team because they did not know about him and maybe, Laine thought about Simon, because it did not matter to them. If the word got around and it did matter to them, he would just have to deal with it

"So I act like I don't know you when I'm at school? Wouldn't that make you mad?"

"I want to be your friend. Don't ignore me like I'm your secret whore. I don't care if we hide the rest. That's our business not theirs."

"And what about Mandy?" Back to Daniel's woman, thought Laine. She was a girl. Girls were possessive. Sex was romance and love to them. Laine did not have to deal with that. It was Daniel's problem. He put a hand on Daniel's thigh.

"I might see other boys. Does that bother you? I could be somewhere right now if I wanted to be."

"Sorry" They were just talking now. Their first time had been primal; a sudden rush they could barely control.

"I was hoping to be with you."

"I'm so fucked up." Daniel felt stupid. He grabbed his head between his arms and bent forward. Laine moved his hand to Daniel's back and stroked it once before hesitantly touching his head.

"Don't be. Don't you want to be with me?" Laine was ready to get past the words. He thought they almost understood each other now.

"Yes" Daniel sat up and looked Laine in the eyes.

"But okay, I don't want to be the only one doing the asking. If you want to be with me then I need to hear it from you." This had to be a pact between them. Daniel and Laine had to be partners. No games that one was chasing the other.

"You won't be mad if I ditch you for Mandy sometimes?"

"You won't be jealous if I make out with a friend? We're just going to be cool about it?"

"Yes" Laine closed the distance and kissed Daniel. It had been a long time coming. Laine did not lie to himself as Daniel pushed him backward onto the couch. He liked Daniel's body pressing down on him almost as much as he wanted to bury himself deep in Daniel and leave part of himself forever there. Daniel was heady wine and Laine was a thirsty alcoholic. Laine was hooked on Daniel and he would have to be careful.

Daniel needed Laine. He squeezed the boy's bicep and pushed his groin against the satisfying hardness of Laine's erect cock. Laine was content to kiss for a while, but Daniel wanted Laine's cock in his mouth. Laine watched as his new partner shifted to the floor beside the couch slid down to his waist. Daniel smiled at Laine and pulled at his belt and zipper. Laine jumped when Daniel's fist sheathed his cock and his foreskin slid free exposing his soft crown. A moist breeze washed his cock followed by a tongue flick that sent Laine's hand in quest of Daniel's tousled hair. He closed his eyes and trembled as Daniel's soft lips began nibbling on him. Laine's hips pressed insistently against Daniel's fist as he lifted himself off the couch. Laine's muscles rippled and his breath staggered. Day worshiped night and the Laine whispered shadowed words urging Daniel on.

They both heard the key in the lock at the same moment. Daniel slid off Laine suddenly and lunged for a controller. There wasn't time to do his pants up, so Laine rolled over on the couch and buried his throbbing cock into the soft cushions. Daniel found the other controller and tossed it to him as his mother came into the kitchen. "Daniel, can you put this stuff away?" She left the room and Laine took the opportunity to close his pants. Daniel walked around the couch, checked to see where his mother was and leaned down for a quick kiss. Daniel's own erection strained the fabric of his pants.


"Next time"

"Shit" But it was better now. It was far more than better. Laine soul sang songs to the happy dragonflies fluttering joyfully about him. Laine helped him put things away and they bumped against each other giggling about their close call. Daniel reflected on the long shower he was going to take when Laine left.

"What are you doing tomorrow?"

"Mandy and I are going to study together after supper."

"What about after school?"

"Come on over, please"


Connections, Wednesday night

From: Garrett (

Sent: Wed 5/11/05 1:22 PM
To: Daniel (

I went next door to hang out and watched Leon play World of Warcraft. Damagemaker is a big Orc. I'm Warmaster, I'm a human. We are going to play against each other tonight. So mom goes ape when she finds I went next door. Is it alright to say Colored? It would be awesome if you played World of Warcraft too! We could talk to each other while we play. I told a few guys about you. Mom said poor people live down town and they are members of gangs. I did not tell her about you though. Are you poor? Dad says we are poor all the time. I don't think he really means it. Are you a member of a gang? I bet you are not. Where do you buy your clothes? I liked them. Did your mom get mad when she saw your pants? My mom grounded me because my shirt was dirty. She makes me mad all the time. How is Mandy? I would like to meet her. Do you want to here something funny? I told you about Leon. He is my new friend next door. Leon's sister looks at pictures of boys on the internet. Really! Honest! Leon showed me some before Emma got really pissy and yelled at him. There was this one picture I swear it is you. No kidding. The guy looks like you and he is standing next to another guy. Do you go camping Daniel? Do you look at pictures of girls? I bet Mandy would be mad at you. Am I supposed to like looking at girls? When did you start looking at girls? Would you like to hear me play guitar? I could send you one of the songs I made up. To be honest I have put some of my songs on Peer Volume. A guy said they were okay. Mom makes me use headphones all the time because she does not like the noise. Jamie and I hate gym. We were playing basketball in gym today. Nobody would pass me the ball so I took it off of Chip. He was so surprised he just stood there. I didn't make a basket. I just suck. They let me play with them though. Did you watch Family Guy last night?


Daniel stopped reading. The kid could talk endlessly with this perfect grammar like he was an old man. Daniel closed the file. That stupid picture; he would have to email Evan and tell him about that. He didn't feel like answering Garrett. He ran a hand through his wet hair and thought about his history homework.

"You should put some clothes on if you are going to sit there."

"Turn the heat up."

"It's warm enough. Do you have any work to do?"

"History" Daniel turned to watch her until she finally closed his door. He decided to put some boxers on. Jacking off had relieved the afternoon's frustration but he still felt horny. He dropped backward on his bed and stared at the ceiling. His hand slipped down his boxers and he stroked his cock.

Tomorrow; Laine and Mandy, he wondered what Laine would be willing to do. Daniel wanted to screw. Would Laine be interested? Would Laine let him try? It had been a long time since he had screwed with Arlo. Daniel lifted a leg and slipped a finger onto his tight pucker. He remembered Denver's probing finger and how it had felt. Daniel stroked his cock and pressed into his sensitive flesh. He thought about Laine's cock pressing into him. The thought of a sure thing made him harder. With Laine it wasn't a matter of if, but when. He could think about it all night and dream about it during class. His cock was still sensitive from the shower and he stroked it softly.

After supper he had Mandy to himself, none of her friends to distract them. The only thing that could screw up the next day was some senior and thanks to Nolan the last of them had just backed off. It wasn't open season on Daniel anymore. He cupped his balls and fantasized about finishing the night screwing with Mandy. No; it would be making love. They would make out after they had worked for a while. Her mom was on nights right now so they would have the place to themselves. He still remembered his first time at Denver's party. He would be better at it this time. Daniel arched his back slightly at the thought of entering her. It was going to be awesome.

He relaxed his body again. Mandy was not going to go all the way yet. Daniel did not want to push her. It would happen soon enough though. Respect women, his grandfather always stressed. His grandpa had been vague about what had happened to his mom in high school, but it was clear it had not been what she wanted. You do not push yourself on people. He had never worried about that before. He pulled his hand away from his crotch and considered it for a moment. What if she had never wanted him? What if he was just a problem she had been forced to deal with?

Daniel rolled off the bed and went into the living room. She was sitting at the island reading a book. He watched her as she turned a page and sipped from her wine glass. He had always thought she looked good compared to his friend's mothers. It occurred to him that she must be younger, "mom?"

Heather turned away from her book. He looked so mature. She tried to ignore the vestiges of his latest battle and admired his clean limbs and muscular chest. He stood in his loose boxers, leaning against the corner, one foot propped on the other. She was conscious of his masculinity. He was rapidly losing the last of his baby fat. "What is it sweet heart?"

Daniel came closer and leaned against the island. Something was on his mind, but he did not say anything. Instead he looked down and shifted his weight from time to time. Heather recognized the mood. When Daniel was little he would sit on her lap. The fourteen-year old could not do that now. She chanced a touch and quietly scratched his back.

Daniel was reassured by the contact. He took the stem of her wine glass and pulled it close. Her nails felt good as they gently traveled his back. He took a sip of her wine. "I didn't think you liked wine" Daniel considered his answer.

"It's okay; I guess I like the hard stuff."

"A Scotch drinker like your granddad?" His mom paused and then continued her scratching. She had never really talked to him about drinking. He shook his head. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine." He slid over and gave her a strong hug. "Thanks mom" he whispered. She felt his heat and breathed in the scent of his freshly washed body. He felt hard and strong against her body. He was her miracle.

"Your welcome" he broke the contact and turned to leave. She watched him go the fridge and rummaged around. He surfaced with a large plastic container of dry ribs and a jug of cranberry juice; "use a glass." He ignored the comment. Daniel's fridge raid took most of the sentiment out of the moment, but as he padded back to his room she let the memory of Daniel's spontaneous hug warm her.


Being pulled back under, Thursday, May 12th

The morning started badly when Daniel got off the bus and bumped into Arlo on the school steps. After trying to intervene in Arlo's life he found the comfortable distance he had put between them had threateningly shrunk. Laine had been right. Arlo misunderstood his sudden interest as infatuation. He found himself fending off advances.

"Daniel, wait up a second." Daniel paused on the steps and sighed to himself as people brushed by with annoyance. Arlo pushed past a pair of twelfth grade boys and Daniel winced as an open book bag spun through the air and landed under the feet of the moving crowd. Arlo ignored the encounter and moved up the steps.

"Hey, dip shit, get my bag." Stop and do it Arlo, don't make a scene here. He watched willing Arlo to stop moving up the stairs toward him. He had an impulse to turn and walk away. He had plans; he did not want trouble today. Inevitably Arlo did not stop until he was standing a step below him. He punched Daniel in the arm just in case the threatening senior did not make the connection. Daniel closed his eyes in frustration.

"Get it yourself; you shouldn't have been standing there like a moron." Arlo took a couple of steps toward the heavy set youth. "Daniel" fuck Arlo had used his name, "and I don't need your freshie bullshit."

This is what Laine had been talking about, Daniel realized. Arlo was pushing the grade twelve. The guy only cared about his book bag, he was not thinking about hassling ninth graders. "Lighten up kid." Encouraged by the conciliatory words Daniel was moved to action. He crossed the steps to retrieve the lost book bag. A number of items had come free and he listened to Arlo with growing despair as he tried to put a guy named Zach's carefully organized binder back together. Zach Taylor neatly written in the corner of each printed assignment, the date meticulously recorded on each paper. It was all pretty much the way Daniel's was. He looked at the sheaf of soiled papers and knew the guy was going to be angry. He could not straighten the mess out. He carried the bag and binder back to their owner.

"Look at this fucking mess." Zach turned to his friend. "I had this all organized to turn in this morning." He took Daniel in with the sweep of his gaze. Daniel tried to look sympathetic as he edged away from the group.

"Suck my dick, it's only school work." Arlo drove the last nail home before Daniel could make his exit. He could have drilled Arlo for creating the situation. Zach's friend beat him to it. The huge boy took a quick glance around to see who was watching before snapping the back of his hand into Arlo's face. Arlo doubled over as Daniel looked back and forth in alarm. When Arlo straightened up the blood was running down his face. "Pussy" his friend mumbled.

"Lamont you're going to get us suspended." Zach warned his friend. The older boy turned to Arlo and continued with a snarl "Just walk away you ignorant little fuck." Arlo grinned through the blood and pushed Zach down a step or two.

"We're going to go to the office, you assholes are fucked."

"Shut the fuck up Arlo." Daniel tried to step between the two boys, but Lamont grabbed a handful of his coat and swung him out of the way. It had all seemed to happen so fast. They were too far away from the doors for the harassed security guards to take an interest. People were still moving past them and Daniel cast about desperately hoping to see an older friend or a teacher who might help.

"Let's take this somewhere else." Lamont commented and started leading Daniel down the steps. Arlo followed them with Zach poking him in the back from time to time.

"I didn't do anything" Daniel protested. The seniors were huge. Lamont had probably played football in the fall. He did not reply, but he let go of Daniel's coat and ruffled his hair in a friendly fashion. They walked together toward a sheltered corner of the school. Daniel struggled with the impulse to run or argue with the seniors. He had been grateful for the peace he had earned after his fight with Nolan. Jake had confined himself to dark stares and the occasional leer. Daniel had sworn he would not put up with the bulling from Jake any more either. He thought of digging in his heels with the two older boys. Still, Daniel did not want to ruin his plans for the perfect day. Then too Arlo was really worrying him. As much as he deserved to get put down Daniel couldn't walk away from his friend. If Daniel stayed close he might be able to talk their way out of the mess Arlo had created.

The procession ended in a dead end between the old block and the pool. Cigarette butts littered the gravel along with a scattering of food wrappers. The ninth graders turned away from the bricks and looked up at the wall of flesh created by the two twelfth graders. Daniel was afraid they were in for a beating and his dream afternoon began to recede. "What now you black faggots?" Zach finally lost it and kneed Arlo in the groin. Arlo collapsed on the cold ground.

"Cut it out, can't you see he is just asking for it? I'm sorry, we'll leave you alone." Daniel blurted it out desperately. It did not have to be this way. They should all be inside getting ready for their first class. Zach just turned and gave him a little push to shut him up. He leaned down close to Arlo's ear and quietly said, "I think I know who the queer is here. Now you crawl over to your friend there and suck his lily white cock." As Arlo crawled over Daniel started to protest. Lamont shut him up by throwing a heavy arm across his chest and pushing him against the wall. Daniel was easily pinned by the huge senior. As Arlo loosened his belt and pulled his pants down, Daniel looked for a way out. There was no easy answer.

"Please stop this."

"Shut the fuck up kid."

Finally Daniel closed his eyes and slumped against the wall.

Arlo shivered with anticipation. He pushed Daniel's pants down to his knees and gazed at his friend's groin. The cold air shrank Daniel's love rod and sack tight against his hard belly. The muscles in Daniel's calves were tense. Arlo was sure Daniel was anticipating his lips and he did not disappoint him. He slid his hands around to cup Daniel's perfect buns and lapped the cool head into his mouth. Daniel's cock was slow to respond to his tongue. Daniel did not seem to find the public sex as much of a turn on as Arlo did. The two seniors were having a conversation as he worked. It annoyed Arlo a little because they were not really watching him.

"Chelsea's got a new boy friend. Mom's giving me grief about it." Daniel kept his eyes closed. It was easier to bear the humiliation that way. He thought of Laine and then pushed the idea forcibly away. He would not bring the people he liked into this moment.

"She's a fine bit of ass, no offense Lamont."

"Don't be talking about my baby sister that way." There was no threat in his voice. Arlo had him erect and despite himself Daniel began responding to the blow job. Arlo had learned a bit over the winter. "Bad enough she made you take her as your freshie so I could keep an eye on her. Now she expects me to keep the brothers away from her."

"Shit, what does she plan to do next year when you are at State?" Arlo was trying to worm a finger up Daniel's ass. Daniel could do something about that. He gripped the finger and slowly started to twist it backward and away from his body. Arlo whimpered and intensified his assault on Daniel's cock. Daniel released Arlo's hand only to have to grab it again. Each time Daniel fought Arlo's effort to bury his fingers in Daniel's cleft he had to twist harder. Each time he twisted harder Arlo went deeper on his cock. Daniel realized in horror what Arlo was doing. Could anyone grow to need this Daniel wondered?

"I don't know, I guess that is Eric's problem. Say kid, do you know Chelsea Garvey?" He nudged Daniel with his elbow to get his attention. Daniel opened his eyes and turned his head to look up at Lamont. He drew a blank for a minute. Arlo was beginning to really distract him now. His voice quavered a little when he replied.

"Tall, wears black beads in her hair, plays basketball?"

"That's her."

"She's in my science and math class." Daniel didn't really know her, but you notice the good looking chicks. "She's hot."

"Told you so" Zach volunteered helpfully. Lamont turned a warning glare toward Daniel and pressed him harder into the wall. Daniel flinched as Arlo grabbed his balls.

"Now don't you go thinking about my sister while that turd is sucking your prick. You still got that sweet girl friend?" Daniel had not thought Lamont remembered him. He nodded his head vigorously. He could not talk any more. He was close now and his legs were quivering from the tension. "Well you just keep your mind on her." Daniel nodded again and then opened his mouth and groaned softly as he began to pump his cum into Arlo. He slumped slightly as his legs gave way. Lamont let him go and ruffled his hair a second time like he wad been a well behaved puppy. Arlo stayed attached to him until Daniel pushed his head away violently. The seniors were watching the street so he turned his back on them while he pulled his pants up. He had to push Arlo away again when he came close. Anger burned in his chest at Arlo's stupidity and the brutality of the older boys. When he was older it would be different. He glanced at the seniors and cast around for his book bag. He picked it up and then tried to push his way through them. Zach stopped him with a hand to his chest. He stripped the book bag away from him and pushed his mangled binder at him.

"You look like you can read better than your friend. Fix it by period two and meet me in the cafeteria. I'll bring your bag. Daniel stared at him a moment and then looked back at Arlo. Arlo was leaning against the wall watching him. Daniel had had enough of his old friend. He turned and stalked away. The first period bell rang as he heard Lamont comment, "That was an interesting performance. Seeing as I have a first period study hall how about coming along to my car for a while." Daniel admitted sadly that Arlo knew what he was doing. His words had been wasted. If he stayed to argue with the two boys Arlo would just pull him in deeper. Would Laine want to know what had happened? Suddenly Daniel never wanted Laine to know that this moment had happened. He could not bear Laine's look.

Mr. Lafferty, his first period teacher was not going to let him into class late so Daniel sat on a bench and looked the binder over. The rings had sprung. It was a cheap binder. Daniel sighed and stopped at the SRC bookstore and bought a new binder with the school logo on it. He wasted a little more money on some reinforcements before heading for the cafeteria. There was always a chance someone would catch him out of class, but after the way the day had started he didn't much care.

John Cobb noticed Daniel sitting at a table with stacks of paper spread around him. He was carefully organizing them into overlapping lines. The boy was clearly out of class. When he stood across the table Daniel looked up at him for a moment with a resigned expression on his face and then returned to sorting the Chemistry lab book. "So what happened here?"

"I'm just helping someone" which, John knew, was likely an incomplete explanation. He picked up one of the papers and read the name.

"Is this something you need to tell me about?" It had only been a few weeks since he had suspended the boy.

"No, everything is fine." The boy didn't offer an explanation for why he was away from his class. John watched a moment and then sat down opposite the boy. Daniel glanced at him and then returned to sorting the papers. From time to time the ninth grader would stop to add reinforcement to a page. John checked over the table and started to help him sort. It was oddly satisfying when Daniel silently handed him some reinforcements. They finished quickly and John watched as Daniel carefully returned the papers to the new binder. They sat looking at each other over the finished product. "Thank you Mr. Cobb." The boy was still a mystery to John.

"You are welcome." He decided it was time to go. Before leaving he added "you'll be in period two right?" Daniel nodded his head.

Daniel sat with his head on the binder waiting for Zach to return with his book bag. Zach did not care that he had an assignment due in first period science. Half his day was screwed if he did not bring the book bag back.

He felt Zach sit down across from him and sat up. "Tired out kid? Need a cigarette?" Daniel felt like telling him to fuck off. He had not deserved the treatment outside the school. Instead he pushed the binder across the table. He watched while Zach inspected it and then shoved it into his book bag. "Nice job Daniel."

"Can I have my bag now?"

"Not so fast Daniel Murrell." Zach opened Daniel's bag and bulled out his science binder. He flipped it open and seemed to take great interest in the contents. "I pegged you right. I never thought I would meet a straight boy as neat and tidy as you are. My, oh my, this is nicer than my binder kid. Are you sure you're not a little gay?"

Daniel resisted the impulse to snatch the binder away. "Arlo's a real pig. You can't read anything he writes."

"Arlo is your little butt-sex friend? He's got issues, that one."

"Leave him alone."

"No, he's a little whacked if you know what I mean." Zach put the binder back in the bag and pulled out Daniel's agenda book. "You are an organized little pecker aren't you?" He flipped through the slim book. "I turned your science paper in; boring, but not bad." He continued to flip pages while Daniel watched on a slow simmer. "Well maybe not gay after all." Zach flipped the book around so he could show Daniel the page where Mandy had drawn hearts and kisses around Friday night. "Who picked the movie?"

"She did" Zach cracked an imaginary whip in Daniel's direction and smirked at his frown. "So does she do as good a job as your queer friend? Daniel's anger was about to boil over. It was hard to contain the rage.

"Don't go there" he warned. Zach looked at him unimpressed.

"Who is Laine? You got a cannon shooting off next to his name with Daniel written on it. You planning to bust a cap in someone?"

"History project"

Zach flipped the agenda book at Daniel and handed him his book bag. "You're okay kid. Take care of yourself." He pulled himself up from the bench and walked away dangling his book bag. Daniel watched him go and then checked the bag before heading for his class. He fervently hoped the rest of the day would go much better.


Laine and Daniel, Thursday afternoon

Laine and Daniel met at the end of the day and caught a bus to Daniel's place. By the end of the last period Daniel had shaken the memory of the morning and he was ready for his afternoon with Laine. They filled the ride home with the inconsequential moments of their day. The only discordant moment was riding the elevator with Francis and Jason. If Daniel's brand-name fashions did not impress the pair, then Laine's relentlessly Wal-Mart knock-offs left them contemptuous. Laine wilted a little under their prep school stares.

The talk had stopped as soon as they were in the apartment and they fell into each other's arms. Laine let Daniel take the lead. When Daniel had stripped Laine to his briefs he let Laine fall across his bed while he pulled his own clothes off. Laine stretched, crossed his legs at the ankles and put his hands behind his head. Daniel stripped down to his boxers and sat on the bed beside Laine.

Daniel explored Laine's legs first. Laine had dark hair on his calves and Daniel tickled the palm of his hand with them. He shifted to Laine's groin, tracing the outline of his cock beneath the tight fabric. Daniel looked suddenly shy. He sighed and concentrated on the hard length beneath his palm. "Have you fucked a guy before? I mean... you know had anal sex?" He blushed and pulled the front of Laine's briefs down so that he could touch the soft head. Daniel explored Laine's foreskin gently.

"Arlo and I did it a few times." Intercourse was something Laine was wary about now. He had not trusted anyone since then. Laine had been thinking about it though and he thought he could do it Daniel. "What about you?" He liked lying there letting Daniel explore freely. He loved the look on Daniel's face. Daniel made him feel beautiful; not like some piece of white trash like the boys in the elevator.

"Well" Daniel leaned down and kissed the crown of Laine's cock. He sat up again and held the shaft tightly while he looked at Laine. "I done it, but you know this is kind of new to me."

"Was it a senior?"

"No, just a friend" Daniel was reluctant to tell Laine it was Arlo. That would complicate things between them. "It was only once." Daniel gave a little laugh to cover his embarrassment.

"Did you like it?" Laine lifted his hips so that Daniel could pull his briefs off.

Daniel stroked his balls before he answered. "Yes, but" Daniel could not go on right away. He distracted Laine by kissing his belly and nuzzling the soft hairs above his groin. Daniel's fingers rolled his balls before returning to his salivating shaft.

"Is that what you want to do?" Laine sat up and grabbed Daniel's boxers. Daniel helped him take them off. His cock rose tall against his belly. "Daniel, have you slept with a girl?" Daniel nodded.

"It wasn't Mandy. It was some other girl." Daniel didn't add anything else. Laine wondered what that had been like. He wrapped his hand around Daniel's shaft and tried to imagine it buried deep in a girl. The thought actually turned him on a little.

"Jeez, what a stud" They were about the same age, but Laine felt inexperienced beside Daniel. "Do you want to do it with me?"

"Would you do it with me?" Daniel's face was bright red.

"Do what?" Laine released Daniel's cock and looked at Daniel. Daniel rolled his eyes and threw himself face down onto his pillow. "What?" Laine repeated. Daniel scooped the pillow up and pressed it into his face as he shook his head. Laine traced Daniel's shoulder blades and let a finger trail down his spine until it reached the glorious cleft dividing his soft mounds. "Make love?"

Daniel finally nodded his head. He glanced back at Laine. "I'm so embarrassed."


"Well I feel stupid asking you."

"Why, we have to tell each other what we want Daniel." Laine slid his hand between Daniel's thighs and Daniel shifted a leg to encourage him to continue. Laine squeezed a soft thigh. "I know I would love to have you in me." Laine's words sent Daniel's face back into the pillow for a moment. Laine amused himself while he waited for Daniel to resurface.

"You don't understand." Daniel finally replied. He would not look at Laine as he spoke. "I want to feel you in me. Oh God!" Daniel buried his face back into the pillow. Laine smiled, straight boys... or whatever Daniel was... they thought there was something wrong being on the bottom. It made them weak in some way.

Laine lay down across the back of Daniel's thigh and slid a hand up to cup Daniel's shaft and soft bag. "Nothing wrong with being on the bottom." Laine began covering Daniel's cheeks in soft kisses. Laine was not too worried. He could tell from Daniel's voice that the other boy saw the humor in this all and that he was not really falling apart. Laine stretched out over Daniel. His cock left a small trail as it slid up Daniel's thigh before it sank into his cheek. Laine kissed a convenient shoulder and then softly kissed Daniel's ear. Laine smiled. This was like his dreams. There was some ethereal author at work here allowing Laine to finally satisfied the hunger he had for that boy in the grass one moonlit summer night. Laine imagined Daniel in moonlight. Laine rolled Daniel over so that he could see reach his face. Daniel grinned apologetically for his embarrassment and rolled his eyes. Laine kissed him lightly on the lips. It was hard admitting you wanted to be possessed. Laine could understand that.

"I could so easily do you Daniel Murrell." The words echoed Jake's, but they were said so softly and with such fierce joy that all Daniel could do was press his lips closer against Laine's. Laine broke free finally to breathe out his wonder at the boy beneath him, "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?" That too echoed other voices. Daniel tried to tell Laine that it was really the other way around but Laine silenced his ridiculous protests with another kiss.

They kissed for a long time simply enjoying being twined in each other's arms and legs. Daniel finally pushed Laine up. "So?" Laine stole another kiss before asking what Daniel meant. Daniel prodded Laine's groin gently with his thigh. "You are going to make me ask you again?"

"You are such a shy boy Daniel Murrell."

"Shut up" Daniel replied softly.

"Okay, I didn't bring a condom or anything." There was a renewed awkwardness between them. Laine wondered if they were rushing things too much. "I never thought I would be this lucky."

"I have some stuff" Laine reluctantly allowed Daniel to escape from beneath him. Watching a naked Daniel stretch on his toes to scrounge around in his closet was almost worth letting him go. Daniel came up with a bottle of hand cream. "Here" He lay back on the bed next to Laine. Laine explored Daniel's anus with a slick finger.

"Tell me if it hurts, okay?" Memories of Arlo haunted Laine.

"You'll be the first to know dude." Laine suggested that Daniel put some lotion on his cock and massage it. Every adolescent boy is an expert at this and before long Laine was throbbing urgently. Laine sensed it was time and he pushed Daniel back down while he lay beside him. Laine rolled a lubricated condom over his swollen member and slowly entered Daniel. Daniel tried slowly taking deep breaths as if a nurse's needle was being inserted. Once his ring had stretched to accept the latex covered crown of Laine's cock Daniel realized that the rest was possible. Laine pushed in the rest of the way carefully and then moved slowly around.

Laine swelled in the familiar warmth and tightness and began some gentle strokes. He made the coupling slow and gentle for Daniel. Daniel felt the push and pull on his muscles with each movement. The boy's started to respond to each other. Laine kissed Daniel's neck and ran his hand down to Daniel's groin so that he could cup his loose balls. As Laine's orgasm began to build he shifted to stroking Daniel's cock. He had dreamed about this moment for weeks and the gentle closeness felt good. The orgasm grew and he rolled Daniel so that he was on top of him. Daniel had not complained yet so he let his thrusts broaden. Arlo would have told him how he felt. Daniel's silence left him uncertain. When Laine came he collapsed on Daniel's smooth back and sighed. There was a silence between them. Laine remained deep in Daniel and nuzzled the soft hair on his neck. He chanced a quick lick along Daniel's shoulder and tasted the clean salt taste of his sweat. He loved the way it mingled in his mind with the rich smell of their coupling. "That was good." Daniel finally commented absently.

Laine finally pulled out and stripped the dirty condom off. Daniel immediately grabbed his soaked cock and played with it. Laine's seed coated his hand. Daniel wished Laine had left it inside. It had been more intense than he had expected. Daniel felt the unfamiliar sensation of his sphincter muscles relaxing back into their normal position. Laine was playing with the fingers of Daniel's free hand. Daniel was surprised when Laine timidly broke the comfortable silence between them, "You're sure I wasn't too rough?"

"No really, it was fine." Daniel needed time to absorb the new experience. Laine was now staring at him. Daniel smiled at Laine and touched a finger to Laine's lips. Without a thought Laine's lips parted and he swallowed Daniel's finger. Daniel's heart surged.

They slowly necked on the bed for a while until Laine suggested he was ready to try Daniel inside of him. He was frightened, but he wanted to give this to Daniel.

"Just take it easy will you?" Laine could not hide the anxiety in his voice. Daniel was very gentle. The second time they coupled face to face and learned more about their bodies. Laine found the position uncomfortable and Daniel slipped out frequently until he finally propped Laine's legs on his shoulders.

"I feel like a pretzel" Laine chuckled. Arlo had preferred being a bottom and on the occasions when he entered Laine it was from behind.

"Dude, stop farting"

"I can't help it" Laine chuckled

"You want to switch positions?"

"No, it just takes getting used to. Aren't you supposed to be rubbing against something?"

"Hey, I'm rubbing here." They both started giggling. It lifted Laine's spirits. It had been so dark with Arlo. Daniel took some pressure off of Laine's legs by sitting up. He pulled Laine close and then played with his cock as he continued his stroke. When Daniel was close to orgasm he pushed back down on Laine to share a kiss.

After Daniel came they lay beside each other. Laine wiggled down until he could reach the condom. When he pulled it off he sucked Daniel's cock deep into his throat. The aroma off Daniel's body was heady. "So?" Daniel asked.

"I think it takes practice." Laine replied.

"Are you saying I'm a crappy lover?"

"No, it's just it wasn't like the stories I've read."

"Fiction" Daniel snorted.

"I suppose."

"I don't mind practicing." Laine suspended his interest in Daniel's limp organ and crawled back into Daniel's arms. Their flat chests slid across each other on a slight sheen of swet. Daniel stroked Laine's cock enjoying both the similarities and differences. "My mom will be home soon. I'm afraid we need to clean up." Daniel stripped his sheets and dumped them in the laundry while Laine opened the bedroom window. The boys shared a shower and, sated for the moment, continued to satisfy their curiosity. Heather found them in the living room eating left-over pizza and watching Daniel's first season of The Family Guy DVD. It had been a long time since Daniel had relaxed in the house with a friend and she enjoyed the sound of their easy banter.

Daniel was reluctant to see Laine leave when five came around. He accompanied Laine to the elevator and then found himself wedged into the corner of the old elevator when Laine dragged him through the doors. They broke a long kiss when they reached the lobby. Daniel decided that since he had gone that far he might as well meet Laine's mother. The pair bumped shoulders out to the street where Laine's mother waited by a car. She smiled at Daniel warmly and he turned his charm toward her.

"Mom, this is Daniel. We run together and he's a friend of Arlo's."

Daniel was taken a back by a distinct drop in the temperature on the street. His smile faltered at the woman's eyes and he mumbled a quick goodbye. As he walked away he felt suddenly transparent. Laine's mother had eyed him shrewdly as if she could read the boy's recent coupling on his face. That might have been unreasonable, but he could not shrug off the feeling she disapproved of him in some way.

Laine missed his mother's disapproval until they had pulled to a stop at the third set of lights. "So he is a friend of Arlo's?" Laine nodded and smiled happily as he thought of Daniel.

"He's cool" He glanced at his mother as she accelerated through the intersection. She had a slight frown on her face. "I think we are going to be friends," he added studying her uncertainly.

"Laine, be... careful."

"What do you mean?" Laine felt suddenly uncomfortable.

"I don't like seeing you disappointed again."


"Arlo seemed like a good friend too." She had given Arlo a chance. She had liked him. Daniel was so much better Laine could not understand her sudden worry.

"Arlo and I were not interested in the same things. He... made new friends."

"We'll as long as you remember that happens sometimes."

"I'm not sure what you are getting at mom. Daniel has his stuff and I have mine. We just seem to connect. I like hanging out with him. You're acting weird here. What's the big deal?"

"Oh Laine, I'm your mother. You should know by now that everything about you is a big deal to me." They continued on in silence. Laine puzzled out his mother's words. "He's a good looking boy isn't he?"

"I don't know. Yeh, I guess." Laine replied evasively.


A man can stand up, Friday May 13th

Youth violence continues to haunt city streets
Riverside Journal, May 14th

An unidentified fourteen-year old was assaulted late Friday night in what appears to be a continuation of gang violence in the city. The youth

reportedly experienced superficial injuries to his face and a broken arm. He was admitted to the University Hospital for observations. Police were called to the scene in response to a 911 call. The name of the youth has been withheld pending an investigation. Spokesman for the police department say a tip identifies the Meiyu-kai a local Korean gang as responsible for the assault. Bloods and Meiyu-kai soldiers have been on the streets lately as the Meiyu-kai attempts to squeeze the Bloods out of the River front and down town core.

The evening brought a welcome break from the grind of homework and studying. June was just around the corner. Daniel was glad to have Mandy to himself finally. Dream Thursday had ended with hurt and angry feelings between Daniel and Mandy. The evening, no thanks to some malevolent author, had brought his day full circle.

Buoyed by his afternoon with Laine, Daniel had caught a bus over to Mandy's only to find she had asked Arlo to join them. Daniel banked his anger and tried to make the best of it for Mandy's sake. It had been hard. Mandy had split her attention between Arlo and Daniel as they sat and watched a movie and pretended to work on their homework. The more Arlo talked, the more Daniel retreated into silence. It had been foolish to think that his day would end in bed with Mandy. Daniel knew he could not have gotten that lucky. But he had counted on her attention. As he listened to them talk he found his thoughts returning to Laine in his bed.

Mandy misinterpreted Daniel's silent disapproval. She hammered away at the painful topic of Arlo's feelings trying to get Daniel to accept Arlo's sexuality. Arlo, Mandy diagnosed, needed a better boyfriend. She had urged Arlo to go back to Laine and turned to Daniel for support. Daniel had not welcomed the idea at all. It infuriated him suddenly to have Arlo play for Mandy's sympathy after using him so badly in the morning. When Arlo actually detailed their morning on the steps Daniel exploded. After a confused three-way shouting match that left Daniel angry with both of them he had left her house and walked the long blocks home.

The breach was not yet healed when they met the next day for lunch. Daniel knew there was something on Mandy's mind when she suggested they go to a movie. They were a wiser couple now. When things broke down they moved quickly to set them right again.

* ** *

Mandy held Daniel's hand as they sat over the remains of a Greek pizza. "Arlo was really sorry that you got so upset at him."

"Look Mandy, I have no problem with his being gay." Daniel almost mouthed the word he dropped it so softly. "You have to believe me about that." Mandy nodded her head slightly. Perhaps, thought Daniel, she did understand.

"I asked you to promise not to fight with the seniors. So of course this would happen."

"And mostly I have tried Mandy."

"I know"

"And I don't like it."

"I know"



"He told me I had to let Arlo go. He said Arlo would drag me down with him if I tried to stop him. You should have been there Mandy. It was unbelievable. He was pushing and pushing at these two guys yesterday like he wanted them to push back. I've never seen anything like it."

"You really like Arlo don't you?"

"He was my best friend for a lot of years."

"But you still really like him, right?" Mandy went on quickly before Daniel could say anything. "Daniel, I know you like me, don't get me wrong. It is just, I want you to know that I love you and I love Arlo too. You are such a sweet boy and he is nice. If he is important to you then I guess... I guess I could understand."

"Well I guess Arlo and I are still friends... what?" There were tears in Mandy's eyes as Daniel stared at her blankly. She smiled at him softly before continuing.

"After you left, Arlo broke down. He was really hurt that you were mad at him. Daniel, he told me about you and him." The fucking crazy bastard, Daniel screamed to himself. She rushed on as if the words needed to come out. "I don't blame you Daniel. I remember suggesting you needed to help him. I see I brought you two together. It must have been awful for you when he got raped."

"Mandy, get real, he is screwing around with this Donald character."

"He told me that was hard for you." Daniel struggled with his rage and anguish.

"Mandy, the guy is delusional. Arlo and me, you know me better that that. Why would you believe this?" Daniel struggled with some way to repair Arlo's damage. "I care about you, not Arlo."

"He said you slept together." She was so understanding about it, she was not the angry girlfriend from Ms. Cannon's classroom. This was Mandy Cole, his friend. He looked her in the eyes and something gave way. Friends were honest with each other. She read it in his eyes before he slowly nodded.

"Okay, that's true." Odysseus and the Sirens; he had let Penelope down. "But that was a long time ago." She nodded " I guess that is part of me Mandy." It was something he thought he would never have to admit to her. He tried to gage her reaction.

"Like Denver "

"I'm not Denver, Mandy." She smiled a little wistfully. It bothered Daniel sometimes that she knew him so well. When they rose to go to the movie Daniel took her hand. Each day they seemed to learn something more about each other and themselves. Sometimes it was about how they handled their disappointments. High School had turned out to be yet another time when you learn your dreams don't always come true. Daniel had come to terms with the fact that he wasn't going to be the star athlete in high school. He was looking forward to the spring football camp, but it didn't seem as important to him as it had in September. He smiled at Mandy with new respect for the way she had handled Arlo's lies and half-truths. Mandy had learned there were many actors at Riverview High and this month he had helped her accept being in the background and not on stage. She didn't take losing well and he had stood by her as she struggled with it. They had both learned you just need to move onto the next thing. Still there was always the next try-out for Daniel and the next casting for Mandy; because High School had turned out to be a time when dreams do come true.

Daniel chanced a kiss and found Mandy was still open to him. The trick, it seemed, was trying to understand which dreams to follow.

* ** *

The 1st Avenue Paramount had been lovingly restored by the city. It was a final reminder of the constellation of glittering movie palaces that once sprinkled the downtown core. Young people preferred the modern comforts of the Cineplex's ringing the city and there was talk of building one down by the river. The architectural charms of the cavernous theatre were not completely lost on Daniel, but its chief recommendation was its location. The vehicular-challenged Daniel had found the old Paramount conveniently within walking distance of his apartment. Today, Chrystal, gilt molding, and crimson wallpaper passed unnoticed as Daniel made his way back into the lobby to get Mandy another drink to wash away the heavy flavor of the buttered popcorn. It was yet another movie picked by Mandy so it was no hardship to leave her transfixed by elaborate period costumes and rooms that revealed the Paramount for the shabby imitation it was. Daniel detoured to the restroom to deal with the inevitable results of a super-sized ice tea that had cost him half the admission price of the theater.

He was barely through the restroom door when he was caught in a tight embrace from behind. Daniel rammed an elbow lightly into someone's stomach. There was an outside chance the large figure holding him was Denver inadvertantly bring Mark to the same historical romance. The British-born lead was a particular favorite of Mark's. The smile that had begun to play across Daniel's lips mutated into a snarl when the stench of tequila accompanied Jake's whispered words, "Alone at last."

Daniel felt Jake's hand slide down his body and before the long fingers could slide beneath his pants he ground his heal into Jake's instep and twisted free. Jake muttered a curse and stepped back to regain his balance. Daniel followed up with a high haymaker that connected beside Jake's nose and made the tall boy's head snap back. Daniel danced back a few steps and stood fists clenched wary of his tall tormentor. Jake shook his head slightly and touched his face. Bloodshot eyes focused slowly on Daniel as he swayed slightly. Jake checked his fingers for blood and then satisfied that he was intact, looked back at Daniel, "Don't be that way baby," Jake crooned softly.

Daniel's blood ran cold. It was like Lamont and Nolan, Daniel was not that small yet his fists could not make a dent on them. "You drunk bastard, what are you doing here? Why can't you leave me the fuck alone?" Daniel hated the high pitched whine in his voice. Tears of frustration trickled down his cheeks. Why couldn't he break free of this? Jake stepped forward and Daniel shuffled sideways toward the door. He scanned the immaculate restroom for anything that could help him.

"I heard you and that tight gash planning your little date. She's a sweet-heart babe, but she has nothing on you. Still if you would rather..."

"I swear to God Jake if you do anything, I'll..."

"... what babe? What will you do? Your eyes look so beautiful when you're crying."

"I'll do what I should have done the first day I met you." Daniel screamed for all he was worth as Jake stood blinking down at him. It must have been the right thing to do because moments later a heavy set man in a white dress shirt with a gold name plate poked his head through the entrance way. His frown melted when he saw Daniel's boxing stance and the grim look on his face. Jake swiveled around when the man spoke.

"What is going on here boys? Is this young man bothering you son?"

"Yes sir, yes he is." Daniel suddenly did not mind the awkward crack in his voice. The man eyed Jake suspiciously.

"Are you drunk young man?" Jake turned back to Daniel and his bleary eyes sharpened dangerously for a second. Daniel dropped his fighting stance and shoved his fists into his pockets. He tried to stare Jake down. Jakes eyes slowly softened and Daniel recognized the ever-present lust and hunger. It was a look he had respond to in the past, but he felt nothing for Jake now. All Daniel felt was the last of his anger and the ache in his bladder. The silence in the room dragged out until the manager barked at Jake. "You stay right there young man. I think I had better phone the police." Jake turned back to the man with a snort. Jake did not wait for the man to continue. He pushed the man back into the wall and stalked past him. The man ignored Daniel and followed Jake back into the lobby. Daniel was left alone.

Daniel finally turned to a urinal and in a few moments his stream splattered free. Tension drained away and he leaned his forehead against the antique tiles. Fucking restrooms, he thought and shivered. He was free of Jake now. He took a ragged breath. Jake was history.

The manager stopped him on his way back through the lobby but Daniel put him off. He wanted to forget the moment and return to Mandy and the task of repairing Arlo's damage. He lied and told the kind man that Jake was a stranger. After accepting a free drink for Mandy and some more apologies for the incident Daniel escaped back into the welcome darkness of the theater.

* ** *

Daniel pushed Jake out of his mind for the rest of the movie. When it was over they walked hand in hand back toward his home. They had talked each other into the walk so they could be alone for just a while longer. Arguments were common enough between them, mostly silly stuff like Mandy's shopping or which movie to see. Arlo's revelations had shaken them both. It was quieter on the streets than he had expected. Daniel looked around uncomfortably. They should have phoned a friend or parent to pick them up. It was later than they thought when they left the theater and the security of the crowd on the street had dwindled quickly as they walked on toward Daniel's apartment. It was dark and the traffic was light.

Mandy stopped Daniel on the side walk and drew her to him for a kiss. They would work things out. He reassured himself that Arlo had not done too much damage. Life was getting better. Daniel was fourteen and he had a girlfriend and a new friend who understood him. Mandy's soft lips met his and her breasts crushed themselves against his chest. He let his hands slide down to her hips while hers slid up his back. It was spring. Anything could happen still.

"Hey I think I want some of that. She's too fly for a jerk wad like you."

Daniel and Mandy quickly broke their embrace and Daniel reflexively moved between the strange young man in a green jacket and Mandy. He figured if the guy was serious he could hold him back while Mandy took off. He didn't look that big. Mandy grabbed him and swung him around like a shield when a battered blue Chevy jumped the curb and blocked their retreat. It looked like two people were in the car. Daniel scanned the street and buildings for a way out and cursed himself for not being careful. "Get in the car pussy and we'll let your boo go." It looked like they didn't have much choice.

"Follow me" Daniel urged Mandy and he pushed her down the sidewalk toward the first boy. He heard the car doors open as he watched Mandy dodge the boy. The boy turned to reach out to her and Daniel took him down with a block to the knees. He didn't wait to see what was happening. He rolled back to his feet and caught up with Mandy. The girl couldn't run he thought in despair. He calculated the risks of running down the dark alley toward the Brass Lantern. Eddie would likely be there and it was only two blocks away. He grabbed Mandy's arm and directed her into the alley just as the first of the boys grabbed his collar and hauled him off his feet. He fell to the cement with a jarring smash to his tail bone. Daniel cursed when he saw Mandy had stopped running and was waiting for him. The guy in the green jacket ignored Daniel and grabbed her by the hair. The young man's friends walked past and Daniel stared in confusion as he recognized Jake when the tall boy turned back to point a finger at him.

"Step away babe." Jake stared at Daniel as the other two youths closed in on Mandy and started pulling her back into the shadows of the alley. Daniel finally found his voice.

"What are you doing Jake?" Panic fought with rage. His voice rose an octive with each phrase he uttered. "Tell them to leave her alone Jake. This has nothing to do with her."

Mandy screamed before a meaty hand covered her mouth. Daniel scrambled to his feet and ducked around Jake. He crashed into the two men screaming at them to leave her alone. Someone sent him reeling with a backhand that spun him back into a pile of trash. A figure came to stand over him as he floundered in the mess.

"Why don't you just stay there and see how it's done right. Feel free to jerk off while we do your pussy," Daniel recognized the voice as the boy called over his shoulder. Frank, Daniel should have guessed he would not be far from Jake's side. The third boy, they were just boys not men, looked slightly familiar.

"It didn't have to be this way babe." The three boys were very drunk. Frank was fumblng awkwardly with Mandy's belt. He appeared unequal to the task and Mandy was doing a better job fending them off than her slender frame should have managed. The thought gave Daniel some hope.

Jake turned back to watch his friends trying to subdue Mandy. One of them was tugging at her jeans now. Daniel felt a light pipe beneath his hand and swung it with all his strength at Jake's leg. He was trying for the knee but hit just below. Jake bellowed as he dropped like a stone onto the black top of the alley. Daniel scrambled to his feet a second time and charged Frank and the other boy with the pipe. He tried for another knock out blow but the two boys danced away.

"Mandy run" He screamed desperately at her. She came out of her shock and hauled her pants back up before running for the street. She paused again to wait for Daniel at the corner of the building.

He wasn't running.

The three boys were circling him wary of the pipe in his hands. As he eyed his enemies Daniel screamed out to her a second time to run. She knew what he was doing and she didn't want it to happen. One of the boys turned toward her and started walking slowly up the alley as if he didn't want to frighten her away. She watched him approach transfixed until Daniel flung the pipe at the boy's back and wailed one last time for her to run. She looked into his pleading eyes and knew she had to run for help. Daniel stood, empty hands open, balanced on his toes, a brightly colored shirt ripped open to reveal the firm muscles of his slender body. She was struck by the fury in his eyes as he urged her to leave. She glanced at the street where the traffic flowed by indifferent to the moment and on the lonely city sidewalk she called his name once in despair and began to run.

Frank had turned back cursing him. All Daniel wanted was to keep them with him for as long as possible. The pipe was gone so he grabbed whatever he could find and started flinging it at the boys to keep their attention. He needed them angry. Daniel shifted his position and picked up a garbage can. He needed to draw them further into the alley. Come on you sweet bastards just a little further now. He knew that Mandy would have found somebody by now. He just had to hold them off for a little bit longer.

Jake limped painfully closer to Daniel, "It didn't have to be this way babe."

"Fuck you Jake. You better end me because I am going to end you for this."

"You sure have a death wish kid." The guy in the green jacket stooped to pick up a length of wood. He started forward with a snarl on his face. This was no Nolan ready to tell him he had done a good job. Daniel tried to use the can like a shield to fend them off. They flanked him and he felt the can wrenched away. He blocked the club with his arm and then tried to protect his head as they started working him over.

Daniel may have blacked out because when he recovered his senses Jake was staring into his face with a puzzled look. "Daniel, are you okay babe?" Jake cradled Daniel's head and stroked his matted hair. "Oh babe I didn't mean to hurt you." Jake let Daniel's head drop painfully to the ground as he turned on the other two boys. "You fucking morons. I didn't tell you to hurt him. Look what you did to the kid."

"Get a grip Jake. Here, pop this, it'll smooth you out."

"I'll pop you Frank. Jesus Christ what are we going to do now. We are right here on the fucking street."

"Well I think the technical term for it is getting the fuck out of here."

"Yeh, Spencer's right Jake, we should fly" Jake turned back to help Daniel up. "What the fuck are you doing Jake?"

"We need to get him to a hospital."

"No we do not need to get him to a fucking hospital. How much shit have you been taking, man? We need to fucking jet here before that little blong pussy brings down the fucking cops on our asses. Jesus I could have really laid it into that little cunt." Spencer giggled for a moment. "Is he breathing? Good, leave your little faggot friend where he is. I need to find some hot pussy."

"This mess was your fucking idea so get in the fucking car before I fucking loose it." Frank contributed in a thick voice.

"Fuck you Frank!" Jake screamed. Jake turned back to Daniel "It'll be okay babe. I'll take care of you."

"Get... your... fucking hands... off... of me you... son of..." Daniel passed out.

* ** *

Where is a cop when you need one? Oh right, I forgot! There were lots of cops outside on the street during the freshie party in June. Mandy's mom was right there in uniform to watch me give Mandy a beer later though. Always a rent-a-cop in the hallways at school ready to ask you why you are not in class not in the restrooms of course. You would not want to intrude on a young boy's most private moments. Oh God Laine, what are you doing tonight Laine? Are you thinking of us? I hope you are doing better than I am. I don't think I'm doing so good here.

Daniel was staggering down the alley cradling his arm against his chest. The three boys were gone. You get knocked down, but you get up again he thought inanely. He stumbled into the next street. Daniel was too dazed to notice the traffic. The occasional car weaved around him as if he was walking road kill: just another unwanted street person shattered by drugs. He stumbled on into the next alley. Safe soon he thought as he passed the familiar doors that had protected him the summer before. All he had to do was to keep walking and he would be at the Brass Lantern.

Daniel became aware of the headlights and the purr of a motor behind him. He ignored it and kept moving. Mandy would be safe now. He didn't notice when the Chevy stopped. Someone grabbed him and swung him around. "Well who knows where the fuck that hot snatch of your got to. Since your bitch isn't here we figure you owe us a fuck tough boy. Spencer wants his brown belt." When they slammed him down on the hood of the car the pain in his right arm was unbelievable. Daniel cried out weakly and for a moment didn't pay attention to the tugging at his waist. He struggled weakly, pushing himself up away from the hood of the car. A rough hand grabbed his hair and bashed his face down into the hood. Daniel blacked out briefly. More hands held him down as his hips were forced into the car and his pants were stripped off past his shoes.

Daniel screamed silently when the first boy's cock penetrated him. The new pain just seemed to blend into the general haze. Their comments and conversation didn't filter past the throbbing of his arm, the numbness of his face or the agony of the assault. It was dry penetration and until the blood began to flow Daniel had nothing to equate it to. It bore no resemblance to the Laine's loving possession. It might as well have been a pipe.

"What about Jake?"

"He's freaked out in the back seat. Fuck him."

"Funny, it feels better than I thought it would."

Daniel endured the first and lay against the car helpless to resist a second. Time stretched out and then he became aware that the hands left him. Daniel lay frozen for a minute, looking across the length of the hood. Laughter filtered through the pain and he lifted his head. Jake stared blankly at him through the windshield. Beyond Jake he saw the other two were in the trunk of the car. Daniel gathered his strength to stand up. He took a painful step away from the car. There was no response from Jake. The two boys stared at each other until Jake closed his eyes and his head fell back against the seat. Daniel turned back toward safety. Daniel had gone some distance toward the back door of the Brass Lantern before the boys must have noticed him. Now they eased along in the car trailing him down the alley. He flinched at their drunken whoops. He did not know what they intended to do next. One foot in front of the other, it seemed to just continue on like a bad play in slow motion. The entire team had watched him get sacked five times. It had seemed that funny to them. No more instant replays please. No more alleys. Finally light flooded through the door ahead and a figure with a white halo came out. Touchdown, thought Daniel as he crumpled.

"Bloodfire" Eddie muttered and slipped his hand into his pocket. He stepped past Daniel and put himself between the half-naked boy and his assailants. A huge boy pulled himself drunkenly from the passenger side of the car and staggered up to Eddie.

"Back off you old fuck. This is none of your business." Eddie sized up the young punk. All he felt was the familiar weariness at the predictability of life on the streets. The room at the Brass Lantern was his refuge from this shit.

"Time to go home Bait, the fuckery is over." The large boy had blood on his nose and a wild look in his eyes. Eddie waited patiently for him to lurch the inevitable step forward. When he did Eddie eased his knife out and its old fashioned blade sprang free with a sinister snick. "Yu wanna romp wit me?" Eddie held it loosely in his hand like a familiar companion. The boy hesitated before moving confidently forward.

"Go find a bottle or something you old wino."

Eddie didn't waste anymore words on the punk. The knife slid smoothly through the blue windbreaker into the soft flab of the boy's side. Painful, but harmless thought Eddie; old skills hadn't failed him. The boy jumped back from the sudden sting. "Jesus he stuck me Spencer" he yelped. Eddie relaxed to see what they would do next. They were just drunk boys playing at being tough. A guy in a green jacket popped his head out of the car and called the other one back.

"Frank, we have to bail. I think there is trouble coming." The boy looked back down the alley and piled into the car without a backward glance at the Daniel on the ground or the old black man who had just stabbed him.

Eddie watched them go, carefully closed his blade, and then dropped to Daniel's side. He felt him gently to find his wounds and broken bones. The arm was broken, but the rest was not so bad. Daniel had taken few blows to his head. Daniel was still conscious but close to the edge with pain and shock. He was a nice kid this Daniel, always a smile for old Eddie. Karl liked him and Karl did not like anyone. Denver ... well, Daniel was a good boy. Eddie propped the small boy in his arms, "Hush bwoy, look what they've gone and done to you." The boy would be okay. Eddie calmly watched the red and blue strobes of a police cruiser at it slowly make its way up the alley. Ah the Man, always gets there at the right moment.

"Mi always inna crosses." Eddie muttered to himself.

Daniel stirred for a moment and his eyes fluttered. He mumbled, "It hurts mom." Then he drifted away.



(to be continued)


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