by George Gardner

 It shouldn't have happened. According to all the specs and the simulations it almost couldn't have happened. There was always the slim, outside chance but it was so slim as to have been negligible. They thought - and we believed in them.

 So, naturally, it happened. Four months out from Earth en route to the new colony on Sigma Beta Four – the godforsaken planet hadn't even been named. We were supposed to do that when we got there - and the ship hit...... something. Some sort of spatial anomaly, Steve says. Something that, one day, might be a Black Hole. Or a Wormhole or whatever. How should I know? I'm no physicist. They knew it was there and they chose to ignore it.

 Steve and I survived. Two of us out of six hundred and forty. I only made it because the man risked his own life for me. The ship was catapulted through whatever that thing was. I remember everything seeming to be grotesquely stretched out at first. Then space seemed to be leaking into the ship. There were stars all around me and yet the ship was still around me as well. Steve says quantum events are like that. Me, I haven't a clue. He says we survived because we were already on the other side. The others weren't and they died. They died plastered all over the inside of the ship like pink and purple slime. Trying to be in two places and two states at once and not quite making it, he says.


 And so we arrived here on this unknown world orbiting an uncharted star God knows where in the endlessness of space. Steve managed to put the wreck into orbit and he and I came down to the surface in one of the shuttles. There had been six of them. Only two of those survived also. For a month he ran back and forth between the ship and the ground, unloading whatever was still intact and might be of use to us. The seeds and the chickens survived. So did some of the pre-packed food we had on board but a lot of the stuff had been altered somehow or had been destroyed like the other colonists. I couldn't help him much because I was injured in the "event". Broken leg, burns and a dislocated shoulder. Between his runs to the ship he looked after me. Even when he was exhausted he always made sure I was comfortable and fed before he turned in. I was a hellish patient and he was a patient angel.

 Then the wreck's orbit began to decay. We knew it couldn't stay up there for long but when it finally took the fiery plunge into the atmosphere it was the final confirmation that Steve and I would never leave this world. The shuttle might make it to the next planet in this system but that would be its limit. We're here for good with no way back.

 That was three months ago. I'm recovering, thanks to Steve's care, and we're surviving pretty well. On the whole, this is not a bad world. Gravity is a wee bit less than on Earth, there's slightly more oxygen in the atmosphere and there are three moons but the landscape is very earth-like. Mountains, valleys, trees, grass, flowers. The sky is blue and there are the same big, fluffy white clouds. There are animals and insects. There are fish-like things in the river and, I suppose, maybe also in the oceans. We haven't ventured that far yet. There are predators, too, like some of the big cats on Earth only bigger still. They haven't bothered with us yet but we're being watchful of them. So far we’ve seen nothing resembling man. No apes or monkeys but this is a temperate zone and there may be jungles nearer to the equator where they might thrive. It’s hard to stop thinking like that. This planet is so like Earth.

 There's a problem, though. A problem with me and Steve. The colonists were a rich mix of mankind. Black, white, male, female - you name it. And what used to be called gay. That's the problem. Steve is gay and I'm not. Don't get me wrong - it doesn't bother me, his being gay, he's never so much as made a suggestive remark to me or come on to me in any way. He's looked after me when I need it and he's never complained. I like the man - a lot. He's one of the most selfless people I've ever met. He'd never dream of doing anything which might offend me and I wouldn't intentionally hurt him for the world. But I might do that unintentionally. The truth is, we have each other and that's it. He seems to be quite easy with our situation. He seems to accept that I'm straight and leaves it at that. I can't and it bothers me. After all he's done for me would it kill me to give him something back - something he can relate to? Would he even accept me if I were to try to make an advance to him? Gratitude isn't exactly a sound basis for an advance and he'd know it anyway. He's no fool. He knows what he is and what that entails. But our circumstances are unique. There's no chance that I'll find a woman here - not unless I wait a few million years till one evolves. He isn't going to find another bloke like himself either. But there is another man - me.

 It must be hell for him. At least, for me, there isn't the temptation of an unattainable female hanging around all the time. Maybe I'm being far too vain anyway - assuming that he goes for me just because I'm a man. Maybe I'm not his type or something. Why does that bother me? I've spent time watching him, trying to work out what it is that makes one bloke attractive to another, but I've never noticed him looking at me. Shit. Maybe he doesn't even like me in that way.

 Another week's gone by. This is killing me. I'm finding it more and more difficult to be around Steve. I shouldn't be the one having this problem. I'm not the one who's gay. There's no-one for me to talk to about it. Except him. I know he'd be sympathetic, I know he'd understand but that's not what I need. I need to understand. I need to know why I feel like this. I watched him working in our little field yesterday and I’m sure I got the beginnings of a hard-on. There was something fascinating about the way his body moved, the way his skin glistened with sweat in the sunlight, the way he smiled at me when he saw me looking. I felt so useless. I still can't help him too much. My leg and my right arm haven't fully healed yet. Radiation sickness saps my strength and he just carries on. The man denies me nothing and I deny him the one thing I could give him. I know I love him. He's my friend, my pal, my best mate but could I be his lover? Would he want me to be? He reckons I'll recover fully in a few more months but will he survive? He works so damn hard that he's out on his feet by the time we go to bed. Separately. Each in his own Plastiform dome. I hate this.

 I fell today. I was trying to help him in the field and I slipped on a loose rock and fell. Steve was with me in a flash, fussing and worrying, and it dawned on me that I'd never so much as hinted to him that I did, in fact, worry about him, too. That I was grateful for all he had done for me. That I owed him my life. That I cared for him. It dawned on me and it all came out in a rush. I clung on to him and I bawled like a big bairn. He put his arms round me and he held me close and he comforted me. I said it. I told him, straight out, I love you, Steve. He stroked my hair and he said it was okay, he loved me, too. He said he knew I was straight and not to worry about it he'd never try anything on with me. Friends were too hard to come by out here. He laughed then and asked me if I was okay. I said I was and he helped me up. I put my arm around his shoulder for support and he led me to the shade of one of the big trees which grow nearby. We always ate there. It was peaceful and cool. I watched him as he unpacked the food. He wore only a pair of cut-off shorts made from one of the coveralls we had worn on the ship. They were pale blue and they fitted him tightly. Now it seemed that the curve of his buttocks was quite pleasing to me. I noticed for the first time the way the front bulged out where his dick lay inside them. I realised then what I was feeling. I was beginning to know something of what it was that made one man physically attractive to another, at least, what made Steve attractive to me. I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering. Had I always been like this and not realised? Had the knowledge that he was the only sexual partner available to me thrown some secret switch in my head? Was this the fate of any straight bloke deprived of female company? In the circumstances, did it matter? I loved him. I was becoming attracted to him. I was getting turned on by him. But would he accept me and could I accept him?

 I let him help me walk home last night. I didn't really need it but I wanted to feel him close to me. I wanted to be near him. I could smell his sweat as we walked and by the time we got back to the domes I had a raging hard-on again. Steve helped me into my quarters and asked me if I wanted him to help me get my boots off before we ate. I said I did because I didn't want him to go. I didn't try to conceal my excitement from him. I was wearing a complete coverall with only the arms removed but the front was out like a tent. I knew Steve would never make the first move so I gently took his hand in mine and pulled him towards me. He didn't resist, he didn't argue. I suppose he knew and he, at least partly, understood. I kissed him as warmly and sincerely as I knew how. He drew away slightly and smiled at me. I looked at him and saw that he, too, was getting hard. I had turned him on and I felt....... good. But he wouldn't let me go any further. He ruffled my hair and said we could get back to it later after we'd eaten if I wanted to. I'd never wanted anything more in my life but I didn't try to push him. I had no idea of what I was doing. He did and I was willing to be guided by him.

 He went off to prepare our meal and I lay back on my cot and pondered. It wasn't as if we'd been strangers. I'd known Steve for a couple of years. We met during the colonist selection process and we'd always gotten along really well. I knew he was gay although that word, and the others like it, had fallen out of general use. Humanity is finally learning that the superficial differences between us are meaningless. We're all just people when you get right down to it. But we’re all different and it isn’t easy to cast off the old prejudices – especially when faced with something head on like this. I'd always had a big soft spot for him and I suppose he must have felt the same for me. He's a physicist, I'm a mechanical engineer. He's thirty-one, I'm thirty-six. He's an American, I'm a Scot. I think we're both pretty fair-looking guys - nothing really special. He's taller than me, fair-haired and brown eyed, well-defined musculature and, as I've said before, probably the nicest bloke I've ever met. Maybe I've always loved him. I have always loved him - of course I have. We're friends. That's what makes friends. Have I always been in love with him? That’s the real question. Am I really in love with him now? The warm feeling I get from thinking about him suggests that this is true. But is my sexual frustration deceiving me? Do I want him or do I just want to get my gratification from the only other human being available? In any case, would I even like being that intimate with another guy? My dick is as hard as a rock just from thinking about being with him as I write this down but dicks are treacherous things.

 We have a sort of communal dome set between our two personal ones. In that one we eat and spend the meagre amount of leisure time we have in the evenings. I joined Steve when he called me and we ate our meal in unaccustomed silence. I worried that I had somehow offended him. It was easy to see how I could have done that. I'd never shown any sexual interest in him until he was the only other prospective partner within a million light years. Now I had come on to him and maybe I had ruined our friendship forever. When we'd finished eating, Steve cleared up and then he went and sat down by the transparent panel which passed for a window. He asked me to come and sit with him and, willingly, I did. He put his arm round my shoulders and squeezed me gently. Then he told me he'd loved me from the minute we'd met. He told me he'd always wanted to be with me. He told me how difficult it had been for him to be around me, not being able to hold me or make love to me but he counted my friendship above his desire and he could show his love in other ways. And I knew he was speaking the truth. He had felt as I felt now. Yet I had failed him because I don't think I ever showed him that I loved him until today. He just smiled and said he knew I did anyway.

 I gave myself up to him then. With his arm still around my shoulders I let my head fall until it rested against him. I slipped my arm around his waist and held him. He turned his head and nuzzled my hair gently, asking me if I was sure this was what I wanted. I was sure. I faced him and I kissed him again. Again he didn't resist or protest. My cock rose rapidly and I could see Steve's stiffening inside his shorts. That sight gave me a tremendous thrill and my spine tingled in anticipation of what was to follow.

  He lay back, pulling me down beside him, and took me in his arms and held me tightly against himself. I thrilled at his touch. I had never felt like that before. So right. I had always enjoyed my experiences with women but they were paling rapidly contrasted with what I was feeling in Steve's embrace. When he touched my cock it leapt at his touch and I don't believe I had ever experienced such a powerful erection. The front of my coverall was darkening around the head of my cock. I watched in fascination as a similar wet spot appeared on Steve's shorts. I reached out with trembling fingers and touched him. It felt wonderful. I stroked his cock gently and it seemed to grow harder and jerked as my fingers explored its length. He lifted my hand away after a while and told me to stop for a bit or he would come. I didn't care, really. I knew that as soon as he touched me again I would be helpless to prevent my own climax. I told him and he just shook his head with a wry little smile and said yes, it had been too long for both of us. He put my hand back on his dick and reached over and gripped mine firmly through the coverall. It only took a second or so. Our lips met in passionate conjunction and as we stroked we both ejaculated  into our pants at the same instant. It seemed to last for ages, that first release. We lay together, breathless, not from physical exertion but from emotional relief. I looked and saw the white beads that had erupted through the fabric of his shorts. A white stream also showed on my coverall. We lay together for nearly an hour, kissing and hugging and just being together. Then he helped me to my feet and we went and got cleaned up. After that, Steve took me by the hand and led me through into his dome. Naked and together we slipped into his cot. I knew that from then on there was going to be some free space in our domes. I wouldn't be needing mine any more and I was happy about that. We have a whole world and we have each other.

 And the damn chickens, of course.

 The foregoing diary entries, and others, were found three months ago. Early indications suggest that the remains found in the hidden valley date to roughly the late twenty-first century of the old Terran calendar. By this reckoning they are almost seven hundred years old. Searches of the old colonising mission records have shown that the incident reported in the first entry of this journal is logged as having occurred on September 24th. 2098 when the colony class starship "Callisto" vanished into what was probably an unstable wormhole. It seems that these two men survived the transition and may have lived as long as sixty years alone on our new world. We thought we were the first to land here and now, it seems, two of our ancient ancestors beat us to it by seven hundred years. It was also strange to read, almost first hand, how the divisiveness in humankind still persisted. It was saddening to read how tormented the one who was Steve's friend - his name does not appear anywhere in any of the journals and other records they kept - felt concerning his feelings. In these current times such irrationalities no longer plague our lives. The remains of the two men were found in what appeared to be an embrace. Even in death they remained together and we, with the deepest respect for their lives, their love and their accomplishments, did not part them. They are buried together beneath the great oak tree which grows near their home.

 The diary also explains how it came to pass that chickens were already a thriving species on Thrace when we landed here twenty years ago. Six hundred light years from Earth they had travelled in a time when their ships could not even approach the speed of light. They survived a wormhole transit without the benefit of the shielding and safety protocols upon which we now rely to travel the galaxy.

 In their lasting honour we have reconstructed their likenesses from their bones and they shall stand forever in the beautiful valley they created all those centuries ago. A little piece of Earth that they nurtured with their love for each other. It is a grand example for us and for our children who shall follow us.


Copyright 2004  George Gardner