K. J. Pedersen
(E-mail: KJPedersenManga@aol.com / Website: www.geocities.com/kjpedersenmanga)
THERE WERE EIGHT of us gathered on the platform together. Our duffle bags were clumped together at our feet. It was nearly midnight, and colder than usual. What was worse, it was raining. I had the collar of my great coat up, and my cap low. Cold or not, I was excited. The train would arrive soon. I had been looking forward to this getaway all week.
Arctic winds had swept south through Nova Carelia, then over Nova Scandia, and down across Liberia for the last nine days. The winds brought an unexpected chill to North Lancascir. And the icy front left snow in the Liberian Mountains and high mountain valleys further east, just beyond the Liberian Dead Sea. All that snow and reports of perfect powder in the mountains had given Matthias-Paulus an idea — one he was eager to share.
The Wudefordes, Matthias-Paulus’s mother and father, owned a two-bedroom cabin near one of the ski resorts east of Tiberias. His family went there every winter between Christmas and the New Year for a week. At other times during the winter, they’d steal away a weekend now and again for themselves. It was approaching winter, and Matthias-Paulus suggested a bunch of us go up to the cabin to ‘break it in for the season.’ He was certain his father would be okay with it, too, because his older brother, Philippus-Brandt, had brought friends there his last year at Sceofeld Academy.
“What time is it?” Andreas said.
“Five to,” I said. “The schedule says the train will start boarding at ten after midnight.”
“Fifteen minutes? Shit! Let’s go back inside the station. It’s cold out here,” Andreas complained.
“You’re complaining now?” Wolfwig said. His dark red hair, which he never tied back, was blown back in the wind and whipped at his face. “It’ll be below freezing when we get to Tiberias.”
“It won’t be raining there,” Andreas countered.
A mischievous smirk tugged at Lukas’s lips, and he reached for Andreas. “Come here, Andy; I’ll keep you warm,” he teased.
“Yeah? You’ll try, boy-fucker!” Andreas joked.
Lukas attacked and put the smaller boy in a headlock. There was some swearing, then laughter as Lukas poked Andreas’s ribs and tickled him.
To my right, Matthias-Paulus was ‘arguing’ with my brother. His physical, aggressive stance was ... well, it was his modus operandi. And my brother looked seriously pissed off. Unfortunately — and Matthias-Paulus didn’t seem to understand this — the mock belligerency of his flirting only made Matti angry.
Shane stood back, arms crossed over his chest. He watched them and shook his head with disgust. “Why don’t you two sleep together and get it over with!” he said finally.
Matthias-Paulus nodded. “We’ll get to that eventually,” he joked.
Matti slugged Matthias-Paulus in the middle of the chest, and then turned on Shane. He lifted his middle finger. “Blow me, Shane.”
“Fuck, Matti!” Matthias-Paulus cried and rubbed his chest. “Damn!”
Tórsten pointed at the pained look on his best friend’s face and laughed.
Shane returned Matti’s gesture.
The other would-be passengers on the platform probably thought we were just a bunch of spoiled, obnoxious teenagers. It wasn’t far from the truth.
The sound of the approaching train rang up from the cold tracks well before it was close enough to hear directly. It was, at once, an odd metallic sound and yet somehow also like that made when you rub a wet finger along the lip of a crystal dish. It was not as clear and musical though.
I was suddenly excited, almost like a little kid. Even then, from the time I was quite young, I had enjoyed taking the train. It was more enjoyable than flying because you could watch the trees and buildings rush past. It would be too dark for that, but I loved the feeling of the tracks underneath me just as well.
The forward cab of the train was sleek, white, and smooth. Considering that the average cruising speed was about one-hundred-ten miles an hour, the aerodynamic shape made a lot of sense. The green and blue stripes along the cab and following cars enhanced the impression.
After the train had come to a stop, the doors opened, and the crew and passengers exited, luggage in hand. From the outside, the crew opened additional baggage compartments located below the windows.
“Will you be carrying these bags on, or do want them stowed away here?” one of the workers asked me.
“Are the sleeping cars down further?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “The last six.”
“We’ll be carrying them aboard.”
“Let me see your ticket,” he said, “and I’ll show you where to go.”
I handed it to him.
“All of you are together?”
Lukas nodded. “All eight of us.”
“You boys are going on vacation?”
“Ski trip,” Matthias-Paulus said.
We boarded the second to last sleeper car and went to our cabins to stow our duffle bags. The cabin Matthias-Paulus, Tórsten, Lukas and I were to share was No. 2. Matti, Shane, Andreas, and Wolfwig were at the end in No. 5. There were two bathrooms, one between cabins one and two and another between four and five, each with a single shower stall, toilet and sink.
“We’re going to the dining car,” Matthias-Paulus told us as we made our way down the narrow passage to our cabins. “Let’s meet in a few minutes.”
“Matti and I are going up to observation deck,” Shane said.
“It’s too dark to see anything, man.”
“Suit yourselves,” said Matthias-Paulus.
The train had three stops between North Lancascir and Tiberias, and would stop at each for half an hour. In all, the trip would take just over eight hours to complete. That’s why we’d booked passage on a sleeper. If we were lucky, we might get six or seven hours sleep.
The cabins were cramped — ten feet long by seven feet wide (the car itself was about ten feet wide by sixty-two feet long) — but once I’d stowed my duffle under the bench and threw aside my great coat and cap, it seemed immediately cozy, too.
Matthias-Paulus and Tórsten threw their duffle bags under the bench across from mine. And Lukas was messing around with the latch that released our bench and allowed it fold out into a sleeping platform.
Lukas shook his head. “Look at how narrow this is,” he said to me.
There were a total of four sleeping platforms: Two above the double set of windows and two below. Tórsten and Matthias-Paulus would be sleeping on one side of the cabin, and Lukas and I would be sharing the other. And even though there were four ‘beds,’ I had pretty well figured only three would be used. Lukas and I were almost certainly going to be sleeping together. Matthias-Paulus and Tórsten would just have to live with it.
I sat on the ‘bed.’ “Surprising comfortable, though. Yeah, Luki?”
Lukas sat next to me. He bounced once. “Yeah. Nice.”
“For 23.75RS round trip, it should be,” Tórsten said to me. “That’s a shitload of cash we paid out for this trip, man.”
“That’s what Shane said when Mattæus paid his fare,” I said.
“Matti didn’t need to bring Mac Cormac,” Matthias-Paulus said.
“You invited my brother, Wudeforde, and told him he could bring a friend,” I reminded him. “Did you really think he would invite anyone other than Shane?”
“Wulfric Peterson perhaps,” Matthias-Paulus said.
“What’s your problem?” I demanded.
“I like Shane well enough, if that’s what you mean,” he said. “I don’t have any problems with him, unlike Godric and Markus. It just that....” he trailed off.
“You have it bad for Matti,” Tórsten said. “That’s what this is all about. You’re jealous, Wudeforde. You wanted to get Matti alone — ”
“Fuck off!” Matthias-Paulus glared at his best friend. “You’re so full of it.”
Tórsten ignored him. He learned towards Lukas and I, grinned, showed off his teeth, and said, “You know, he still isn’t sure if he prefers boys or girls.” He shrugged. “Well, what can I say? He’s confused, the boy-fucker.”
Matthias-Paulus said, “Bullshit, man. I want to get married someday and have kids. I know what I want. And I’m not gay.”
“Yeah? You haven’t fucked Ama yet.”
“And I’m not going to anytime soon,” he said. “That’s doesn’t make me gay. Just ... traditional.”
Tórsten let out an amused snort. “Ha! ‘Traditional’!” He laughed. “You sleep around, man. Guys ... girls ... either ... both ... it doesn’t matter to you, Matty-Paulus.”
“It doesn’t seem to matter to you either, Tór.”
“Unlike you, however, I prefer girls.”
“I’m not gay,” he said again. Then he turned to me, blushing with frustration, and said, “Johan, Tór’s full of shit. He’s always saying this because I’m not fucking Ama.” He jabbed Tórsten in the chest with his index finger, got in his face, and said: “When Ama and I make love I’m not wearing a condom, which means she could get pregnant, which means I want her to be my wife, you ass.”
Tórsten rolled his eyes in an exaggerated way. “Yeah, right. You’ll marry Ama. Sure.”
Lukas had a big grin on his face and jabbed at Tórsten with his fist. “Such sarcasm,” he said.
The two laughed and pointed at Matthias-Paulus. They made crude gestures. They mocked and teased.
Matthias-Paulus growled at Tórsten and Lukas. “Fuck off. I love Ama.”
“And you have a thing for Matti!” Tórsten countered.
With that, Matthias-Paulus stood firm, and challenged his friend: “So what if I have?”
Tórsten and Lukas laughed again.
“If you two bisexual boys get together, you’ll go gay,” Lukas joked.
“My brother’s not bisexual,” I told Lukas firmly.
“I think he is,” Matthias-Paulus said.
Tórsten smirked. “He’s probably right, Johan. Your brother seems just a little bit too comfortable around Shane.”
* * *
“Where are you going?” Lukas asked me as I walked toward the stairs that led up to the observation deck. “Aren’t you coming to the dining car?”
“Later,” I said. “I want to go up there and sit with my brother for awhile.”
“Okay,” he said. “See you in a few minutes then.”
I watched Lukas disappear behind the door leading to the dining car. Then I climbed the stairs and found myself under the clear, oblong dome and surrounded by the thick, suffocating blackness of this rainy night. The deck was unlit except for small yellow lights which followed the footpath between the seats. Above, the patter of heavy raindrops. They splattered and rolled from the top of the dome and down the sides. My brother and Shane were seated together at the far end. It seemed they wanted to be away from the other passengers.
I came up behind my brother. “Hey, Matti,” I said and placed my hands on his shoulders. “Mind if I sit here with you two?”
Mattæus tilted his head back and looked up at me. “Sit, Johan.” He gave the seat next to him on the left a pat. “Right here.”
I liked the way the seats were arranged, at an angle so you could see both forward and to the side. I sat next to Matti, and he nudged me with his elbow. He was excited about this trip, too.
The train lurched forward as the breaks were released and it began to accelerate away from the station. The city lights, office towers, and two-storey homes (which dated back to the 1880s and ‘90s), passed behind us. Block after block of these fell behind us as we accelerated. Lifrapol æt Acbeorg, on the east side of the bay across The Bridge from Niew Lifrapol, was a fairly substantial city and home to Niew Lifrapol University. By the time we reached the edge of the city, we’d achieved a speed of about sixty miles an hour or more. At that point, there was little to see, except for the lights, as most everything else was obscured by the darkness.
I sat back in the comfortable lounge chair and listened, only half-interested, to my brother and Shane talk about a computer game Shane was writing. He had been really very interested in computers when he was younger, I understood, and still enjoyed writing code. Computer science was one of the required classes we took from the third year of primary school on. I could write code well enough as a result, but never had enjoyed it.
The train accelerated further until it reached its maximum cruising speed, and I closed my eyes.
I was fairly certain Matthias-Paulus had thought up this ski trip as compensation for the fact that we’d failed to make it to the State Championship Final. That game had been played earlier in the evening at Corpus Christi. I hadn’t watched it on the television; hadn’t cared to.
And so, my mind returned to the previous Friday night, and the State Championship game which we’d entered as the Shire Champion from North Lancascir. We played against Cerceby Academy in Suth Lancascir. We were too evenly matched — as was intended by placing teams together in the matches according to their evaluation scores — and I realized only ten minutes into the game that even if we did win, we wouldn’t be able to pull far enough ahead to even come close to qualifying for the Championship Final. I was disappointed, but didn’t let the growing certainty of it interfere with my game. It was a good, close game, and a hard fought win.
Coach was proud of us. We were proud, too. We had gone undefeated all season!
Even so, to come so close, and still not qualify had been a serious let down. And enough so that most of us had frustrated tears in our eyes as we left the field.
After the game, I was met in the locker room by a representative from Niew Lifrapol University’s C-ball program. He offered me a partial scholarship should I choose to play for them the following year. Other offers followed in the next few days, including a full scholarship if I was willing to relocate to Nova Anglia, and play for Boswih University in the Saxon Shires. I wasn’t interested. I wanted to play for Niew Lifrapol University, always had, and that’s all there was to it.
Matthias-Paulus and Markus, too, had been offered scholarships. But I was troubled when I discovered Lukas had not been. How could that be? He’d been my right hand. He’d played every bit as well as I had.
I was shocked, then indignant. It was an insult, and I believed he was being punished for his father’s actions. Lukas believed the same. He told me to forget it though. It was ‘just a snub,’ he said. I could tell, however, he wasn’t simply hurt, but devastated.
* * *
When I finally made my way to the dining car, I found Lukas standing at a counter talking to a fine, athletic girl with auburn hair and hazel eyes. She was good-looking, smiling, and obviously enjoying his company. The way he stood and leaned forward said it all — he was flirting. Unlike me, he had natural talent there. He found it easier to flirt with girls because it was socially acceptable. He preferred to flirt with cute guys, but there were far too few opportunities for that, and he held back anyway because he didn’t want to wind up, inadvertently, in a fist fight.
I walked towards them, and immediately her eyes settled on me. Her smile broadened and her eyes lit up. I knew a lot of girls wanted me. They wanted to date; they wanted to make out; and, no doubt, some of them wanted to have sex, too. This girl was older, maybe twenty-two, and I could tell that’s what she wanted.
She cut Lukas off, and asked him, “Who’s this?”
Lukas grinned. “Amelia, this is Johannes,” he said.
“Nice to meet you, Johannes,” she said and took my hand.
I nodded and shook her hand.
“You and Lukas are friends?” she said. “He was just telling me how he was going up to Tiberias for the weekend to ski with some friends.”
“A ski trip sounds like a lot of fun,” she said. “I’m headed home to Gallia Nova to spend a week with my family.”
Lukas said, “Amelia’s a student at Mamescaester University.”
“I love Mamescaester,” she said. “All of Liberia, it’s so beautiful.”
“It’s okay, I guess.”
She looked me up and down for a long moment, and asked, “Where’s your girlfriend?”
“Don’t tell me a hot boy like you hasn’t a girlfriend to keep him warm on a cold, rainy night like this.”
Subtle, girl, I thought.
I shook my head. “No girlfriend,” I stammered. I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable now.
A mischievous glint shone in Lukas’s eyes. “Johan’s my boyfriend,” he said. “My lover.” He said this slowly, deliberately.
She laughed and put her hand on his forearm. “Oh, that’s too much, Luki!”
“No, really, Amelia, he is,” Lukas said.
She rolled her eyes. But when her eyes settled on my face, and my embarrassed, worried expression, she stopped cold. It was such an abrupt change in demeanor. She looked at me for a moment, and then back to Lukas. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” she said to him.
“Oh,” she said.
An uncomfortable silence followed.
Then Amelia said, “Well, it’s getting late. I should return to my berth. Goodnight.”
Once she had left the dining car, Lukas broke out laughing. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “Did you see the look on her face when she realized I was serious?”
That annoyed me; it was mean. “Why do you flirt and tease the girls like that, man?”
“Because I can,” he offered.
“Lukas — ”
“Come on, Johan,” he said. “It’s okay. I like girls. Just not sexually. I was just having some fun.”
“Well, fuck, I know a good-looking girl when I see one, you know. I like girls, too. And that’s why I don’t flirt and give them false hopes.”
“Man!” he cried. “I don’t do that.”
“You were ‘having some fun’ at her expense,” I said.
He shook his head and let out a disgusted sigh. “Jesucristus, Johan! You’re making it out to be something it isn’t.”
“I am not,” I insisted.
He crossed his arms over his chest, and gave me a doubtful look.
“Couldn’t you see it with her?” I asked. “She wanted sex.”
Lukas was quiet for a moment. “She was being fairly obvious, wasn’t she?” he said finally.
“Maybe you should have introduced her to Tór,” I suggested in jest.
“If I had, they’d be fucking right now like a couple of rabbits,” Lukas said. He giggled at that. “Rabbits....”
“Have you been drinking?”
“A little,” he said. Then he draped his arm over my shoulder, leaned forward, and whispered in my ear. “I have a fake ID.” A little grin tugged at the corner of his mouth, and a dimple appeared. “Tórsten got it for me a few weeks back so we can go to the dance clubs this winter.”
That was interesting news. “Really?”
Lukas nodded. “I want you to get one, Johan. Tór can arrange it,” he said. “There’s a gay club in Lifrapol æt Acbeorg by the University. They play the best music. There are so many cute college boys on the dance floor! Tór and I went there last Saturday. It was awesome. He hooked up with this really cute guy. He may tend more and more towards being ‘straight,’ but he likes messing around with boys, too.” He tightened his embrace around my shoulders. “You should’ve seen him grinding with that shaggy-haired lad on the dance floor! Fuck, man, it was so hot!”
“Which club?” I asked.
“The Old Friary,” he said. “It’s that old two-storey building on 3rd just off Middle Avenue. Used to be law offices.”
I laughed out loud. “No kidding? You know, eighty years ago, that was a church!”
“Yes,” he said clearly and with a knowing smile. “See, all things considered, the name’s something of a play on words, if you get my drift, frater Ioannes.”
“No fucking way.” I was laughing so hard now. “How’s that for poetic justice?”
Still he wore that knowing grin, and said, “Sit down with the boys. I’ll buy you a drink. Give me a moment.”
Andreas, Wolfwig, Tórsten and Matthias-Paulus were seated in a booth around an oval-shaped table. On the table there was a large basket of breaded fish and chips, a bowl of fruit, and several bottles of beer.
When I joined them, Wolfwig asked me, “That hot girl Luki was talking with, she tried to — what’s the expression in Englisc — ‘sink her claws into you,’ yeah?”
“She had that look in her eye, man,” I said. “She wanted it, bad.”
“You should’ve given it to her,” Tórsten said.
I flicked a chip across the table at him.
He brushed it off his shirt, and shrugged. “What? I would have.”
Andreas bit his lip. “Me, too!”
Lukas placed a bottle of beer in front of me and sat down. It was a tight squeeze, all six of us. And from both ends, Wolfwig was squeezed in the middle. He elbowed Andreas and Matthias-Paulus in the ribs. Beer was spilled.
More beer was had.
It was a good time we had.
* * *
We had left the other boys a few minutes before and went back to the sleeper car. It was after one, and we wanted to crash. But first, we had other things to do.
After the shades were closed, Lukas spread the bed linens out over the sleeping platform, pulled off his shirt, and then grabbed for me. Lukas ripped open the front of my trousers and pushed them down around my knees.
We’d have to be quick about it — Matthias-Paulus and Tórsten would be coming back to the berth soon.
I unbuttoned my shirt and dropped it onto the floor. Lukas’s hand was under my briefs, and he was massaging my cock. His lips were on my collar bone. He kissed my throat.
We took off the rest of our clothes in a hurry. Naked except for our underwear, and very hard, we sat on the bed together. It was awkward and there wasn’t a lot of room for this kind of thing. We kissed and tugged at each other’s underwear, grabbing each other by the cock. I put my arm around Lukas and was about to climb on top of him when Tórsten threw open the door.
“Shit!” Lukas said, jerked upright, and our heads bumped.
“Ow!” I cried and pulled my briefs up again over my erection. “Shut the fucking door!”
Tórsten and Matthias-Paulus grinned at us. “Caught you!” they said together.
“I knew that’s why you two slipped away,” Tórsten said.
Matthias-Paulus closed the door behind him.
“It isn’t anything you haven’t seen before,” Lukas told them.
“I haven’t seen Johan before,” Tórsten said. “Especially not hard like that.”
“Now you have,” I said. “Satisfied?”
He wiggled his eyebrows. “Not bad,” he said.
Lukas and I disentangled ourselves and sat on the edge of the bed. Despite the rude and sudden interruption, both of us were still hard. I put my hand over my crotch. Lukas did the same.
Well, so much for that, I thought.
I expected Matthias-Paulus and Tórsten would wind up fighting over the bottom bunk. It didn’t happen. Tórsten unlatched the bottom, folded it out, and then both boys made the bed together quickly.
“Sleeping together?” Lukas asked.
Matthias-Paulus ignored the suggestive nature of what Lukas had said, and shrugged his shoulders.
I laid back on the bed and pressed my back against the wall so there would be room for Lukas, too. He sat back, against me, and pulled his feet up onto the platform. Then he leaned over, half-laying on me, and rest his head on my shoulder.
“This is going to be so great,” Lukas said. “I love to ski.”
Matthias-Paulus was sitting on his bed. “Our family’s cabin is up the canyon past the ski lodge. It’s really nice, too. It’s cozy. There’s a fireplace in the living room.”
Tórsten nodded. “It really is nice, guys. We are going to have so much fun.”
I watched Matthias-Paulus and Tórsten strip down. Matthias-Paulus was wearing white briefs; Tórsten had on a black string bikini. Tórsten laid down and Matthias-Paulus turned out the light. With that, the pale blue nightlight came on automatically. He padded back towards the sleeping platform and laid next to his best friend. They were comfortable together, and soon Tórsten had his arm around Matthias-Paulus from behind. (There wasn’t much room on the bed, so that really was the only comfortable way they could sleep together.)
We talked in the dark for some time. At first we joked around — a lot of crude sex jokes and talk — but soon it mellowed out, and the conversation flowed from there on naturally.
We talked about football — about our wins and our failures. We’d ranked 17th in the state; it was the best Sceofeld had done in many, many years. At the same time, we were both proud of this and disappointed we hadn’t done better. We recalled our best plays, and biggest fuck-ups. And the biggest fuck-up of them all was the way the team had nearly come apart.
With that mentioned, Matthias-Paulus wished Lukas and Markus would make up. He sincerely regretted the end of their friendship.
Lukas said, “I want to be Markus’s friend, man.” He let out a bitter sigh. “It’ll never happen. It’s over.”
There were too many hurt feelings between them now.
So, we talked about the future and the prospect of college. The collective realization was had that we were just months away from young adulthood, that two-year ‘adjustment’ between eighteen — which meant being able to move out, finally, from under our parents’s supervision — and achieving our majority at twenty.
Nothing was mentioned of Lukas’s father, or the trial, or the sentence which had been handed down. What could be said? Lukas was heart-broken. Why bring it up again? I didn’t need his tears on my chest again tonight.
As time went on, our voices, now sleepy, were just barely audible above the rush of the train down the tracks. It was pleasant, and I was very comfortable.
I learned Tórsten was, at Matty-Paulus’s request, the Wudeforde’s frequent guest on their ski trips. In a lot of ways, Matthias-Paulus and Tórsten really were just about as close to each other as Lukas and I were. Well, except for the fact that they weren’t together as a couple (despite their sexual encounters), and neither was gay.
The conversation turned to our relationship — to my relationship with Lukas, that is — and they seemed genuinely curious about it.
“You two really do love each other, then?” Tórsten said. “Like Matty-Paulus loves Ama?”
“Are you saying you don’t love Nikki?” Lukas said.
“The sex is awesome. She’s tight. Her breasts are — wow!” After a moment, Tórsten shook his head. “But no, Luki, I don’t love her.” He nuzzled Matthias-Paulus, the back of his neck, and tousled his shaggy mane. “But my buddy here really does love Ama. Don’t you?”
“Absolutely,” Matthias-Paulus said, and then jabbed his elbow back into Tór’s middle, hard.
I was happy. I was happy for my friends. I was happy for our friendship. I was happy we were together. But I was also very sleepy.
“I’m tired,” I said, finally. “Let’s call it a night, brothers. Yeah?”
We wished each other goodnight.
Lukas snuggled in tight, laid his head on my chest, and we wound up tangled again.
* * *
Sometime later, I was awakened. I looked up at the darkened ceiling. The train had stopped. There were voices outside the sleeper car as well as the sounds of other activity. I wondered where we were exactly, and which stop this was.
I tried to stretch some. Disturbed by that, Lukas muttered. He didn’t reawaken though. I put my arm around him again. With my free hand, I stroked his hair. His breath was warm on my chest.
“I love you, man,” I whispered, and kissed the top of his head.
I felt a sudden melancholy descend as I held him.
We didn’t talk as often as we once did even though we were always together. Just about every night, we studied at the library, and had our meals together at coffee houses or cheap diners. It was becoming an expensive habit, but I couldn’t stand any longer to eat at home. Family meals had ceased to be, and that was a hopeless, hateful reminder that our family had fallen apart. But even as Lukas and I sat across from one another at this table or that, our food between us, we didn’t talk much. He had always been physically affectionate and casual about it, but now seemed to need it more. Lukas was vulnerable, and wanted constant physical reassurance of my love for him. In place of talk, he wanted to be held. He wanted to hug in public, and not just merely to throw his arm about my shoulders, as he always had, but to embrace. He wanted to take my hand when we sat together. He wanted, when the desire struck him, to kiss, and to nuzzle as we did in private, in his bedroom. But I was reserved and easily embarrassed. And if anyone was around, I’d pull away immediately.
This was a source of real contention between us.
And so ... we fought and argued.
I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted to do what was best for him, for us. On one hand, I’d considered, seriously, breaking up. All this shit had come down on him. I thought, perhaps, it would be best if he dealt with it on his own, and without the added complication of having a frightened and sexually-insecure boyfriend. On the other hand, to abandon Lukas (and surely that’s how he’d perceive it) would be a betrayal of trust, of brotherly love, and solidarity.
Why was I so messed up? Why couldn’t I just let the fear and shame go, like he had, and accept my feelings of love without reservation?
I knew why: My father. I feared his contempt. It made me sick inside when he fixed his pale blue eyes on me and dismissed me with a cool word or two. It was even worse when expressed with a wordless sneer. With reminders of his disappointment in me, and contempt for me, and with those alone, he was so very generous.
When does contempt slouch towards hatred?
Or worse, is there truly any difference?
These were questions that had been on my mind for some time now; they terrified me....
I found myself stroking Lukas’s hair again, absently, as my mind wandered, and disturbing thoughts raced about.
That summer just past, Lukas and I were confident and bold. It was our last year at Sceofeld Academy and the world lay before us. We were ready for it. And then, a reminder. Tear gas and rubber bullets. Reality. And what then? We were just two frightened boys who saw first hand what world truly lay before us.
“Sorry if I awakened you,” I whispered.
He hugged me closer and kissed my chin. I kissed him on the forehead. Our mouths came together. His tongue pressed against mine. And as we kissed I felt his penis grow hard against my thigh.
Outside the voices and sounds of activity died away.
We kissed with greater urgency; all was forgotten — even that Matthias-Paulus and Tórsten slept just a few feet away — as we lost ourselves in our passion and desire for each other.
The train surged forward again and gathered speed.
Lukas and I rubbed together. Then, after a moment, our underwear was discarded. We fumbled about naked, excited, and I climbed on top of him. I felt the head of my cock poke at him, at his perineum and scrotum. I thrust forward, pre-ejaculate flowing now, and the length of my penis slid up alongside and against his. We fucked cock to cock, aroused fully, wanting nothing more than to be together, like this, forever.
Our embrace was so tight; our thrusts so fierce.
He came first with a cry. Then I came and called out his name. I nearly passed out. At least, that’s what it felt like. My orgasm was that powerful. Our semen was hot between us.
We settled together again, whispering, “I love you,” to one another. But we didn’t sleep.
Finally, after the euphoria of sex dissipated, Lukas said, “Are you still awake?”
“Uh-huh,” I whispered.
“Oh,” he said.
He was reticent.
“Things’ll work themselves out,” I told him.
We knew what the other meant with these few words.
Lukas’s father had been found guilty on all counts, including conspiracy to overthrow the government. Jury duty, of course, was reserved for those who were enfranchised, and it was unsurprising that they should vote according to their class interests. Nevertheless, Judge Kúhlmann had been very shrewd. He had sentenced Grundtvig to the absolute minimum sentence allowable on each charge and ordered them to be served concurrently.
Grundtvig Vilhjalmarsson was to serve a prison sentence of one year and one day starting January 2, 2075.
“It isn’t fair,” Lukas said.
I adjusted my position, nuzzled him, and allowed my hair to spill down over our faces. “I know,” I said. “But it could have been so much worse.”
With the sentence pronounced, the right-wing press was outraged, accusing the judge of being far too liberal. The Conservative leader of the Liberian Landsthing called a news conference. There, in the rotunda of the Liberian Capitol building, with reporters on all sides, he denounced Kúhlmann openly.
They wanted blood.
But, as I said, Kúhlmann was shrewd. He knew precisely what he was doing. In addition to the light prison sentence, Grundtvig was fined 20,000RS. A new precedent had been set in dealing with recalcitrant labor.
“My parents....” he trailed off.
“What about them, Lukas?” I asked.
“My father offered my mother a divorce,” he said.
“What?” I cried. “Jesucristus, Lukas! What for?”
“Not so loud, man, you’ll wake Wudeforde and Ceorlson,” he said. “Listen, she refused his offer anyway.”
“Why? Why would he offer your mum a divorce? I thought they loved each other, Lukas,” I said.
“They do,” he said. “He thought if they divorced she could file suit against him for his share in our home. Fa’r did it to save the house, man. Okay?”
“Fuck ... Lukas....”
He was silent.
“What’s going to happen?” I asked finally.
“Between my mother and father, their savings, and the savings they hold together for my college tuition and for Inga’s, there’ll be enough to avoid having to sell off the house,” he said. “Barely.”
“Your savings for the University?”
“I won’t be going anyway,” he said.
“Bull-fucking-shit, Lukas,” I said. “Your marks are excellent — ”
“I was hoping for an athletics scholarship to help defray — ” he said.
“I will gladly help pay your tuition!”
“I know you would, Johan,” he said. “But I could never accept.”
“Unemployment’s climbing again.”
I was confused by this; it seemed a sudden change of topic.
“Huh?” I said, confused.
“I’ll have to find work if I’m to go to the University.”
“Well, yeah — ”
“No, man. You don’t understand,” he said. His voice was a whisper, but intense. “I mean, full-time work. It’s the only way I’ll be able to afford the tuition, and even then, it may be far too little without financial help. A loan. Or whatever.”
“What about the union? They’re federated with a mutual credit association, yeah?”
“Actually, they operate one together with the FSW in Niew Lifrapol. And under usual circumstances they might offer loans up to 200RS. It’s all labor can afford,” he said. “Why do you think Shane’s mum didn’t seek assistance from a credit association? The amounts available weren’t sufficient to pay his tuition at Sceofeld. You see?”
“But — ”
“The WCLW is fighting to survive, Johan,” he said. “The membership has been broken financially. The association will not be loaning out any money unless there is dire need.”
“Lukas — ”
“Compared to my father’s fellow workers, our family is well-to-do. Understand? Even if we lost the house, my mother’s income would still be sufficient to buy us another smaller home, or condominium,” he said. “Other members face eviction and homelessness!”
I looked into Lukas’s eyes. I didn’t know what to say. Our eyes held, our emotions were at the surface, and it was ... painful.
“Now you know what’s wrong, why I don’t have too much to say. Why I don’t like to talk,” he said.
I didn’t answer.
“Just tell me that you love me, man,” he said.
“I do love you.”
“I love you, too,” he said. “Don’t ever leave me, man. Please stay with me.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Of course; we’re friends. We’re in this together.”
* * *
The next morning, I had to piss and rolled out of bed immediately. I’d forgotten my underwear after sex with Lukas the night before. I was bare-ass naked and my cock was pointing straight up.
Tórsten raised himself on his elbow. “Missing something after your fun last night, man?” He grinned.
I put my hands immediately over myself. “You heard us?”
“Let’s say it didn’t go unnoticed.”
He got out of bed, also naked, and had a morning erection as rigid as my own.
“I take it you and Matty-Paulus — ”
“Yes,” he said. “But unlike you two, we were more discreet.”
He stepped towards me and pushed my hands out of the way. I let him. Sure, I was embarrassed, but excited, too. He hooked his thumb over the head of my penis, pulled it forward then, and let it spring back, hard.
“Ow,” I protested even though Lukas did that to me often, and I actually liked it. I was rather proud of my cock, it’s length and girth (though just bigger than average), and how rigid it got.
Tórsten stepped closer yet, pressed his erection against mine, and wrapped his fist around both of us. He pumped once, twice. Then our arms were around each other. It just happened; neither of us was thinking. I closed my eyes. Holding Tór felt great. I let my hand wander down his spine until my fingers touched the cleft between his buttocks. I grabbed a handful. He sighed against the hollow of my throat and kissed me there, too.
“Fuck, man,” I moaned.
“Feels awesome, huh?” he said.
I felt a sharp sting on the ass, spun, and found Lukas standing behind me.
“Hey,” Lukas said, “if you two are going to frig, do it in private.”
I lowered my eyes.
Matthias-Paulus sat up in bed and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “What goes?” he asked.
“Look at that,” Tórsten told his friend and pointed out my erection.
Wudeforde shrugged. “I think Matti’s bigger.”
“Fuck off,” I said.
“Hand me my underwear,” I told Lukas.
Our underwear had been lost in the covers the night before, but he found them quickly enough, and threw them to me. I pulled them on in a hurry.
“I’m going to take a piss,” I said and pulled on my trousers, too.
Lukas caught me by the elbow. He leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “Tór’s hot. He’s good in bed. If you want him, man, go ahead. I’m not the jealous type.”
I glared at him, raised my middle finger, and told him to fuck himself.
* * *
“Tens of thousands of years ago this entire area — Tiberias, this valley, the valley to the south, all of it — was submerged under a huge lake. The Liberian Dead Sea is the largest remnant of that ancient lake,” Matthias-Paulus said. “After we get off the train, look to the east, to the mountains, and you’ll see the benches left that were once the shoreline of the lake.”
The train had stopped, and I had just come back from the shower. I was drying my hair with a towel. Lukas and Tórsten had gathered our duffle bags together in the center of the cabin.
“My grandfather — my mum’s father — was born and raised here in Tiberias,” he continued. “The city used to be home to smelters, first, and then to steel plants. It’s an ugly town. What a shame, because it’s such a beautiful valley.”
“Sounds like you have a soft-spot in your heart for this place, man,” I said.
“This is where mum’s family is from,” he said. “Of course, I do.”
We left the cabin, met Matti, Shane, Andy, and Wolfwig in the passageway, and made our way to the exit.
With all the hype, I was expecting it to be bitter cold when we finally arrived in Tiberias. It wasn’t. In fact, it was probably thirty-eight or forty degrees outside. And it wasn’t yet even nine in the morning.
“Shit,” Matthias-Paulus said immediately when we stepped off the train.
“What?” my brother said.
Shane understood Matthias-Paulus immediately. “It’ll be colder up the canyon,” he assured Wudeforde.
The eight of us made our way through the domed, cavernous train station and to the front doors. A bus would take us to the ski resort, and so we waited on the aluminum benches which encircled the driveway at the bus stop.
I understood Matthias-Paulus’s frustration when I saw the snow. Everywhere, it had receded. Green grass was visible, especially where the sidewalks and lawns met. The mountains were still white, but even on the benches and foothills east of town, the snow had partially melted off, and the rest of valley, I was sure, looked like it did here in the center of the valley at Tiberias.
“Well,” Matthias-Paulus said, “so much for powder.”
“It’ll be fine,” Shane said. “So the snow will be a little crunchy.”
“It’s almost always crunchy,” he said. “My grandfather said when he was young, and learning to ski, you could count on powder in these mountains.”
“Man, my father and I used to ski up in the Liberian Mountains all the time. It was always crunchy. I’m telling you, it’ll be fine.”
“It isn’t the same unless it’s powder. That’s what I was expecting!” He muttered, “Shit,” for the second time, and was silent for a moment. “If you’re lucky you get two or three perfect days a year. That’s what I was expecting.”
* * *
It was colder up the canyon, but Matthias-Paulus’s prediction had been correct, too. The snow wasn’t powder. Shane insisted it didn’t matter.
The cabin and ski resort was located in a little canyon village called Fenneleah. The village clung tight to the canyon road on either side. There were a few shops, houses, cabins, smaller ski lodges, a grocery, and then the resort’s main buildings, including the main lodge. The resort stretched on from there and I could see the first set of lifts ahead. Before becoming a ski resort in the late twentieth-century though, Fenneleah had been a mining encampment, which grew into a town as silver was recovered in the late 1850s. It’s ‘boom’ came and went and came again big with tourism.
The main lodge wasn’t too far away from the Wudeforde’s cabin, and Matthias-Paulus told us there we could rent skis and snowboards.
We walked from the bus stop — located in front of the grocery — to the cabin, chatting and excited. And though we had to leave the following morning before eleven, the very experience of being away, together, and here, amidst so much snow, was more than enough to make every moment worth it.
The tawny-colored cabin was made from split logs and had a steep roof. But even at that angle, snow remained.
“Awesome,” Andreas said as we stepped up towards the front door. He turned around and grinned at me. “Yeah?”
Lukas put his arm around Matthias-Paulus’s shoulders. “Come on, Wudeforde, can’t you remember which pocket you put the key in?” he said. “Hurry up! Let’s open it up, man.”
Matthias-Paulus fumbled through his pockets for the key and then his face went pale. “Oh, fuck....”
Andreas’s and Wolfwig’s eyes went wide. “What?” they said together.
“Fuckin’ hell,” Matthias-Paulus said again. He patted his coat pockets again, and then reached into his pants pockets. “Oh, shit, guys.”
“Man!” Shane cried. “Don’t fucking tell me — ”
“You lost the goddamned key?” Tórsten demanded over Shane’s protest.
Matthias-Paulus went through his pocket again, now frantic. “Oh, shit, guys — ” he said again, and then an evil smile spread across his face, “ — you are all so fucking gullible!” He pulled the key from his pocket.
Tórsten launched himself at Matthias-Paulus, grabbed him in a headlock, and mussed his hair. And with that, Lukas pulled the key free from Matthias-Paulus’s hand, and let out a victory cry.
“Okay! Okay!” Matthias-Paulus said. “Give that back!”
Tórsten threw Matthias-Paulus to the ground and we all piled on, even Matti and Shane.
Matthias-Paulus — and I don’t know how he managed it — freed himself and charged at Lukas, who kept the key away. There was a tussle, and finally, under extreme duress, Lukas relinquished his prize. (Wudeforde elbowed him in the gut.)
“Aha!” Matthias-Paulus said, and adding insult to injury, stuck his tongue out at Lukas. He went to the front door and opened it.
The eight of us, duffles over our shoulders, filed through the door into the living room. It was spacious and took up more than half of the cabin’s interior. On the far wall stood the fireplace. Opposite that was the arch leading into the kitchen/dining area. Above that, two bedrooms. And the staircase was on the wall opposite the front door.
The inside of the cabin was hardly warmer than it was outside.
“I always sleep in that bedroom,” Matthias-Paulus said and pointed up to the bedroom door on the left. “Tór, you’re with me.” Then he pointed to the second door. “Johan, Lukas, you can share the second bedroom.”
Andy protested. “C’mon, man, where am I going to sleep then?”
Matthias-Paulus pointed to the couch. “It’s a fold-away bed.”
“Don’t laugh, Herra Engelhardtsón, that’s where you’re sleeping, too” said Matthias-Paulus.
Wolfwig shrugged. “At least we get the fireplace.”
Under the staircase was an open door, and that was the bathroom. I laid my duffle on floor next to the coffee table between the couch and smaller sofa. Then I sat on the sofa and stretched.
Matthias-Paulus walked across the living room and fiddle with a control panel. “It’ll be awhile before it warms up,” he said. “When we’re not around, we keep the temperature at forty degrees.”
Tórsten bounded up the stairs towards his bedroom to dump his duffle bag. And Lukas dragged me off the sofa again, wanting to go up to our room.
“So, I take it Matti and I have the floor?” Shane said.
Matthias-Paulus shook his head. And evil smile appeared on his lips. “No.” Then he walked over to the corner of the living room between the staircase and fireplace and pulled away the rug there.
There was a trap door hidden under the rug.
“You two get the basement.”
He lifted the trap door. There was a ladder leading down into the dark.
My brother muttered, “Fuck,” and gave Matthias-Paulus a dirty look.
“Go on, Mattæus, check it out. There’s a bed down there,” he said. He flicked a switch next to the stairs and a light came on in the basement.
Shane and my brother shook their heads.
Matti growled at Matthias-Paulus and grumbled an obscenity.
Andy and Wolfwig were busy laying their clothes out on the sofa and unpacking their personal items from their duffle bags. And I followed Lukas up to our bedroom. Matthias-Paulus was close behind us.
Lukas opened the door. It was a small room, but cozy. In the middle of the room was a large bed with an old-fashioned, finely-carved wooden frame. There was a blue and gray plaid comforter on it, and matching pillows. Across from it was a chest of drawers. Situated under the window, opposite the door, was a sofa matching the one downstairs. It was a tight fit.
“C’mon, guys,” Matthias-Paulus said. “Put your shit away and change into your heavy denim trousers and ski jackets. Hurry up. Let’s get an early start.”
Lukas gave the bed a doubtful look. “I’m not so sure about this bed, man,” he said. “You guys go on ahead. Johan and I will stay behind and make certain it’s okay.”
* * *
To be continued....