Benjamin Ashton & Daniel Sharpe

benashtonvilla@yahoo.com

smutwithsemicolons@gmail.com

Nights & Sharks

Part 5

 

 

// Nathan

 

"So are we going to kiss or not?"

Dan didn't look up from his book when he answered, without missing a beat, "I don't think we are – no."

He did smile and he must have sensed my own grin.

"You little fucker," I said.

"Yup."

He was lying face down on his bed, naked except for a faded red t-shirt and, oddly but sexily, a pair of old sneakers. He would bend one of his knee every few minutes, dangling his foot in the air.

I had been watching him for an hour, probably, seated cross-legged on a comfortable chair across the room, dressed but bare foot, my computer on my lap, trying to do some writing. I'd had to discard dirty clothes and papers from the chair before claiming it: shirts, underwear, impatiently scribbled notes on queer theory, rumpled xeroxes of pictures and journal articles.

The sun was slowly setting and the darkening yellow light through the window was shining on the light blond duvet of his ass.

He dropped the book and turned around, on his back, staring pensively at the ceiling, apparently oblivious to the semi-hardness of his cock - Dan was uncannily often semi-hard, so much so that it was difficult to know the actual size of his soft penis.

"The Road up There..." he mused.

"Yes?"

For the last ten days, Jack Garatta had not been a subject we discussed, not since I found out the writer was Dan's thesis subject, not since I found out Dan number 1 and Dan number 2 were effectively the same person. Garatta was, in many ways, all over Dan's apartment, but we never brought him up. The rules between Dan and me were still murky.

"The title," he said. "Not the actual book. Do you think it's a double entendre? A very lame double entendre, but a double entendre nonetheless?"

"Ah. Don't know. You're the expert on all things Garatta," I said, hoping my tone was void of ambivalence or resentment.

"It's just, I realize that, a couple of times, one of the main characters silently wishes that the other takes him on `the road up there'. You know what I mean?" he laughed.

"I haven't started the book yet."

"You should. It's different than the one you keep reading over and over again. What's with you and Nights & Sharks, anyway?"

I didn't answer nor looked up from my screen. I heard him sigh, and glanced at him. He lifted his right leg distractedly, scratched the back of his thigh, fondled his cock briefly.

"This one is less trippy," he continued. "More realistic. A bit. It's about these two guys, working on the construction of a house in the middle of nowhere, in the Outback. The other guys working the site disappear one by one, they die or just take off."

"And the two guys have it on?"

"Nah. I mean, it's homoerotic like fuck. But they never screw. Well, not each other. There is a lot of masturbation, but, you know, each on their own."

"But you think one wants to get fucked by the other."

"Yup. That's what I'm thinking now. This could be a chapter of my dissertation."

"And the double entendre would be evidence."

"It just might."

"You can still take the title more metaphorically. More, I don't know, ... poetically. In a take-me-to-a-beautiful-place kind of way."

"Without making it literally `shove your cock up my ass'?"

"Exactly."

"My ass is a beautiful place, by the way."

I tried to suppress the smile he was clearly aiming for.

"In case you were wondering," he added again, now clearly staring at me.

I had been at Dan's place since 3am last night. It wasn't the first time. The first time was a week ago. A Monday. The Monday following the Sunday when Adrian had wanted to talk.

I had driven up to Samford with Chloe's Mini, after a long and tedious brunch in New Farm with Jonah, Chloe and four loud friends of hers. Jonah had been somewhat absent the whole time and Chloe had been an annoying queen bee.

Adrian immediately took me on a hike. We walked for an hour, even if it felt a bit too hot for such exertion. He was talkative and charming, but almost overly so, purposely so. We got back to his house and took a shower together, something I rarely found enjoyable. But he insisted on washing me, on me washing him, and I was pleasantly absorbed by the grace and strength of his body, the firmness of his muscles, the elegant length of his limbs, and the silkiness of his ass.

We didn't get dressed. He toweled me dry and dragged me to his bed, where we ducked under the crisp, clean, white sheets. The windows were open, the sky was blue, his kisses were hungry and tender.

He reached for the drawer in his bedtable and took out lube and a condom. He rolled the condom over my cock with an intense, lascivious look, his lips opened, the tip of his tongue slightly sticking out. He lay on his back and, staring at me, slowly lubed his hole. He nudged me forward, wrapped his legs around my ass, grabbed my neck with both his hands, and pulled me inside him.

He never stopped looking straight at me, except when he'd roll his eyes or closed them briefly in a gasp. He would stop me whenever I tried to switch position, but his heels would regularly kick my ass, prodding me to go faster and deeper, or his fingers would tighten on my neck, steering me to go slower and gentler. He would utter my name, sometimes smiling as if he couldn't quite believe I was there, I was inside him, I was filling him up.

He was beautiful, the sensations in my cock were incredible, and yet, I couldn't help thinking he was putting on some kind of show, he was forcing beauty and romance and lust into the moment, not because he didn't feel them or didn't crave them, but precisely because of an overpowering, consuming need for the moment to be beautiful and romantic and hot.

He asked me to cum all over his face, with a voice that sounded filthy and demanding, but cringed when I soaked his mouth, nose and eyes.

And ten minutes later, when I lay naked on his bed, a beer in hand and his dried cum on my chest, he said he needed to tell me something.

I knew what he was going to tell me. I knew the subject, to be precise, not the development or outcome. I had known since the day before, when Jonah had seen me read Nights & Sharks and had said "Weird. Do you know Dan is working on this guy for his thesis? It's this trippy gay writer, right?" There was no conspiracy of all the Dans of Brisbane. There were more than one Dan, yes, but there was only one Dan who kept disrupting my life.

"What do you need to tell me?" I asked Adrian, levelly.

He lay next to me, preferring to look at the ceiling than at me. He had put on some boxers, and I couldn't help but noticing a wet smudge, the late, tiny squirting of the sex he had been so eager to have.

"I told you this guy Dan was coming up here yesterday."

"Yes. With pure intentions."

He sighed, a little impatient.

"I want to tell you because... I care about you. I really do. I want to tell you because I want to be honest with you. I don't want to hide anything. Or be embarrassed. Or awkward."

"Okay."

"Right. So, well, he came by. Early afternoon. And..." he trailed. He had been rehearsing this, I thought, but was now reconsidering the whole narrative.

"Something happened between you two."

"No! Well, yes, kind of, but-"

"Let me stop you right there, Adrian. I don't think I want to know. I don't think I have to know. And I'd rather not, actually. I don't know why you'd want to-"

"Please, let me speak."

"Why? You can't insist on us having something special together, on us being like fucking boyfriends or something, then have a big drama because you screwed with someone else. I won't indulge you."

"Nathan – "

"No, Adrian. I don't get you. I'm only here for a little while. We can decide to spend some of that time together, but then I don't need to know about how else and where else you get your rocks off. And I don't want you to get all delusional and box us into some bullshit romance."

"Are you done?"

I sighed and took a sip of the beer. "Yes. I sure am."

He sighed too, before saying slowly and patiently, "I didn't fuck with him. I didn't. That's not what I want to talk about."

"Ok."

"I know that you and I don't have... a future. I know that. But the thing is, I've been in a bad place these last few months. And with you... Something clicked. Something good, something nice, something moving. I think we could actually have a future, if you were living here. And I haven't felt that in a long time."

"Maybe you feel that precisely because I'm not living here."

"Sure. Maybe. Then, yes, call me delusional. But I don't care. I know how I feel and it feels nice. And, like you said, I want to make the most of it. I want to try to be open, and honest, and... real. But if you don't feel a bit like that too, if you don't honestly think that you could indeed fall in love with me if circumstances were different, it would be better if you left now."

He seemed to look into my silence for an answer. "I mean it, Nathan. Not in a sulking way or anything," he said very sweetly. "I mean it. You can leave now and I'd perfectly understand."

I looked away, but didn't move. I drank a little more. Part of me wanted to leave. You're not like the rest of them, Dylan had said. You're not like the rest of them, like all the sweet, serious, faithful, square, boring, sentimental, drab rest of them. But I didn't move. And drank some more.

"Ok, so, he came by early afternoon yesterday," Adrian resumed, taking my hand in his. "And it was strange. I felt a little rattled."

"Why?"

"Because he was so... sexual. I don't know how to explain it. I rarely have that. The thing is, I had that with you, when you came in last week. This intense sexual vibe emanating from you. There was something similar." He took my shuffling of my legs for the start of a rebuke, so quickly added, "But it was also completely different. Your vibe is intimidating a bit, but warm and engaging. You exude sex in a specific way, like `my cock is available if you want it'. But he was more... predatory."

"Predatory?"

"No, that's probably not the right word. He is so flirtatious, aggressive almost, and his smile is like... carnivorous. He oozes sex in a way that made me feel almost dirty. As if I had forgotten to take a shower or something, and he could smell the musk of my body, like a mating call."

"Jesus," I chuckled.

"But he never did anything, I don't know,... untoward. He was just there, you know. Just waiting for me to lose control and jump him."

"But you didn't," I said. I was trying as best as I could not to think of Dan, not to think too much of him, not to remember how I had lost control and jumped him in a club bathroom stall.

"No. But I wanted to." He quickly added, "And I'm not saying this to make you jealous, or anything. I'm just saying this because... I need to tell you. I need to be honest."

"So, what happened?"

"We talked for a while. I gave him a tour of the house. I couldn't focus. I really couldn't. He really must have thought me a weirdo. But then he..."

"What?"

"He saw I had an erection. I was wearing loose shorts," he said, as if as much an excuse as it was an explanation. "And he smiled. He didn't move. He just smiled. Maybe a little triumphantly."

"Aren't you projecting?"

"Maybe. But that's how it felt. I started to feel a little dizzy, like I wasn't in control of my own body. I wanted to reach for... his cock. I wanted him to..."

He suddenly stood up and started pacing the room. He didn't have an erection, which I thought must say something.

"Anyway. I mumbled some excuse, I don't remember what. I apologized, I told him he should probably go. But he just stood there, smiling. I think he was slowly moving closer to me, you know, like stealthily. Then I told him I had a boyfriend."

"Why?"

"Because it felt like I did," he said steely, staring at me.

"What did he say?" I asked, looking away.

"I don't know. `Lucky him' or something."

"And he left?"

"Not right then. I gave him some water and we chatted a bit. I was more relaxed, like I had gotten back control of my senses. He asked me about you, actually."

"Me, the boyfriend."

"Please, Nathan, don't snigger. I am trying to sort out some confusion, yes, but you don't need to be a dick about it."

"Adrian, it just feels like a very round-about way to show that you care about me. Anyway, what did you tell him about me?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. American. Writer slash journalist. You know, stuff. I looked a bit like a fool when I let out that you were in fact just visiting."

* * *

"So are we going to kiss or not?" Dan quipped, as he opened his door, that Monday following that Sunday.

Throughout the taxi ride to his place, I had wondered why I had texted him, why I had asked to come over, what I was trying to achieve, why he had readily given out his address.

But I smiled at his smile, even if the repeat of the one question which had rattled me on our night expedition across the city rattled me again.

"I don't think we are – no," I answered playfully.

"Good, I don't need to brush my teeth just yet, then," he said as he turned around, letting me close the door behind me. He was wearing an open shirt and boxers. "Beer? Wine? Something?"

"Beer's fine. Thanks."

"What's up?" he asked breezily as he slouched down on the sofa. Whether he expected me to have come up there to bring up Adrian, I couldn't tell. He didn't seem to care either way.

"Not much," I said, standing by the window, looking outside.

"It's 11pm. You texted you want to see me."

"Yes."

"And?"

I walked to a chair facing his sofa and sat down.

"That's exactly it. I wanted to see you."

I extended my legs and rested my feet on his coffee table.

"Now you see me," he said slowly.

There was silence inside and outside. The only light in the room was a floor lamp next to his sofa. I wondered what he had been doing, what were his evenings like.

He took a book and raised it in front of his face. "Now you don't." It was a Garatta book, a title I didn't know and couldn't make up in the distance. Yes, Garatta, I get it. He threw the book on the floor.

There was a siren in the distant background and I could hear his heavy breathing, as well as my own.

"Take off your clothes," I said "All of them."

"You're angry," he pondered airily, slowly moving, slowly pulling his shirt and boxers off. He stood, proud, blithe and beautiful on the other side of the coffee table, smiling the now-what? smile he so often smiled.

There was nothing at hand to hurl at him, there was nothing to shout, there was nothing to sneer.

"You're angry," he said again, this time teasing, or mocking.

"It's good to see you," I said, and found that I meant it.

Dan was standing naked. I saw his complete body for the first time, assembling mentally the parts I already knew, the parts he had offered or I had seized. His chest, with short, clipped hair and teasing nipples. His cock, now soft though faintly throbbing. His legs, their brown curls, their manly girth.

I wasn't surprised not to feel any vulnerability in the figure displayed for my eyes. Some men, when first naked, briefly recoil, or mask their uncertainty with bravado. They submit themselves, as a gift or a proposition. Dan's nakedness was not so much an invitation, as it was a dare, a scheme wrapped in warning disclaimer.

He stretched his hand to switch off the floor lamp next to him and the room became only lit by the moon and the streetlights. He walked towards me, I retracted one knee to let him stand in front of me, I extended it back to trap him between my legs. We stared at each other and I cracked first. I smiled.

He turned around and sat on the floor, his back against my chair, his neck and his head so close to my crotch. I placed one leg the floor, pressing my knee against his shoulder, I left the other on the coffee table, and his fingers grazed my knee and calf.

"So, what have you been up to?" he asked.

"Tonight?"

"Sure."

"Early dinner with Jonah and Chloe. At home."

"How was that?"

"Foul. The tension's a bit suffocating. I went on a walk with Jonah afterwards."

"You guys talked?"

"A bit. Nothing deep."

"Why am I not surprised?"

"You haven't returned his calls, apparently."

"I've returned his texts. Some of them."

"It's none of my business, actually."

"Well, it is and it isn't."

"Anyway, and-"

"No word about you guys' weird shit?"

"No," I chuckled. "Not really. He just talked about his confusion. A little."

"Ugh."

"Exactly."

"Just fuck him out of his confusion already," he sniggered.

"I had hoped that you would."

"So you could jerk off to all the graphic details."

"Or just watch you. You know, cut the middle man."

"You fled when you had your chance, mate."

"Well..."

He was playing with the hair on my calf. I thought his other hand might be fondling his cock, but I couldn't quite see.

"I don't know that Jonah would like you watching him getting fucked," he mused. "Do you?"

"Why do you say that?"

"I don't know. I think he'd love for you to watch him fuck me. Being the hunky he-man, you know. And all that."

"Anyway, I went for a long walk after that," I said, changing topic. "On my own. I walked all the way to South Bank. To those pools."

"And you thought about me."

"Yeah."

"And you texted me."

"Yes."

"Why didn't you go to your boyfriend?" he seemed to find the word particularly amusing. Or absurd.

"Who says I didn't?"

"Well, you won't find him in my house," he said and I liked the ambivalence of his statement.

Dylan had never liked the idea of my having boyfriends. Not that he was jealous or possessive; Dylan was anything but not candid or blunt when it came to expressing his feelings with me, and the intimacy between us he openly craved and laboriously constructed was never geared towards romantic entanglement. He did treat monogamy as something a little alien, if not disdainful, but he never discarded nor attacked my recurrent proclivity for settling down with a man, albeit temporarily. His disapproval was never about the very concept of relationship but rather about the objects of my affection. Marcus, Justin, Jonathan, Peter: they had all been a disappointing choice of partner, a weak betrayal of the standards Dylan held for me. You're not like the rest of them. He never seemed to realize that everything he berated about them and about their world (macchiatos, organic eggplants, The New Yorker, steamed kale, vox.com, mid-century modern furniture, Mad Men, Mumford & Sons) had effectively, and long before I had met Dylan, become part of my world, the world I had been adopted into, the world, to be more honest, I had worked, and groomed, and dressed, and educated myself to join.

Jonah was, in Dylan's eyes, the worst of them all. Dylan didn't read much, but loved cheap erotica, especially stories involving British aristocrats getting eagerly defiled by manservants and field laborers. He associated Jonah with such privileged plutocrats (which in a way, in an anachronistic, analytically distorted way, he was a bit) who abused working class youth for their own sexual gratification. It made me, of course, the rough, strapping, burly victim of Jonah's patrician sexploitation, which was idiotic but didn't deter Dylan in his disapproval of my ambiguous friendship with Jonah.

Dylan might like Nights & Sharks, I suddenly thought. This might be a real book that he might enjoy, wherever he is now.

"More beer?" Dan interrupted my thoughts.

"Yes. But no, actually. I don't want you to move."

"I won't then," he said, and leaned his head against my thigh.

"Can we just... not talk for a bit?"

"We can," he said, rearranging his body to be more comfortable, nesting himself between the floor, the chair and my legs.

I watched his neck and shoulders. His ears, his earlobes, his short brown hair. His biceps. I watched his hand and fingers still grazing, caressing, scratching, pricking my calf, my ankle and my foot.

"Take your clothes off," he whispered, after a while.

I did, trying not very successfully to do it gracefully, yet somehow not breaking the stillness, the quiet intensity of the moment. We resumed our previous positions. Nothing had changed, except we were now equal, all flesh and hair and muscle, bundled together in a fraction of the dark room, which now felt large, inviting and lulling.

I was exhausted. I was exhausted from my walk, from my day, from my stay in Brisbane which had supposed to be quiet and mind-clearing but had been nothing but, from the wine I drowned myself in at dinner to deafen the strain of my hosts, from the weed too, the little weed I had smoked watching that pool in South Bank, thinking that I wanted to fuck Dan there, the weed telling me that there had to be a way, that he could get fucked there like he'd always wanted to, the weed telling me that the place was for family but that Dan and I were family after all. Of a sort.

I was exhausted and I may have dozed off a bit perhaps. If I did, I was woken by Dan's quiet but husky voice asking me, I thought, something like "Why are you so angry?" Maybe it wasn't what he said, but he talked about anger, about my anger I was pretty sure, and I asked him why he never seemed to be angry and he laughed. He may have laughed. But he did talk more, and by that time I was fully awake, I was fully there, because he talked about a guy named Patrick. Patrick who would invite random guys to fuck Dan, to pound him, he said, to violate him. I wasn't sure how it connected to anger, if Dan talked about his own or Patrick's or the men's who fucked and squirted their anger inside Dan's ass.

I was fully there, because my cock hardened. Dan must have noticed it, my growing erection was inches behind his face, he must have sensed my body tightened. Maybe he felt my brief shame at getting aroused by his confidence. Maybe my excitement excited him. I couldn't tell. His tone was neutral and he finished the story unfazed, sharing no sign of offense nor delight. He didn't exactly finish the story, actually, he finished the list and descriptions of the men who had emptied themselves inside him while keeping his head squashed on the pillow.

He turned around and looked, expressionless, at my cock, now fully erect. He leaned a bit and I thought for a moment he was going to suck it, to quickly and cursorily suck my cum out of me as the most expedient way to shoot me down, to bring me back to the reality of what he'd said, to the previous harmony that floated between us. But he didn't do or say anything. He just turned again, and leaned his head back against me, fitting it between my cock and my thigh, looking at the ceiling.

So I talked too. Not as an apology – if he'd been upset, I'd want him to tell me, he must have known he could, he must have known his bluntness, his realness was what attracted me, what I accepted and fed on. Not as an apology, thus, but probably as reciprocity. You get naked, I get naked. Show me yours and I'll show you mine.

I told him a couple of stories, among those I had never wanted to tell. Only one involved Dylan, but I didn't name names, I didn't want Dan to ever bring up Dylan, not quite yet, not possibly ever. I thought I could make the stories not completely true, either. I didn't know what Dan had felt about being abused by strangers, if abuse it was; was he now sharing shame, lust, puzzlement, resentment? I rarely had felt shame, because I never allowed myself to, because shame was always what terrorized me most. I had felt lust, of course, and puzzlement too. Resentment, definitely, but I wanted to steer away from the subject of anger. Shame, it'd have to be, I resolved myself. A little shame, a little dose of shame. Like those teenage girls who cut themselves to feel something.

So I told him how "a friend" and I sometimes used to scour the hook-up sites, posing as a loving and tender couple looking for a loving and tender threesome, only to pillage the ass of our unsuspecting host. So I told him how I fucked my boyfriend Marcus' best friend, because I could, because the guy was a flirtatious dick, because the guy would tell Marcus and anyone who'd listen, because it would hurt Marcus and make him quit being so fucking nice all the time, make him quit me.

I couldn't see whether Dan got hard. I couldn't tell from the long silence that followed what he thought. But he rubbed his ear against the hair of my thigh. He took my two ankles and somehow wrapped himself with them. Maybe we were family.

I spent the night in his bed, holding him in my arms. It felt like I had an erection, or the beginning of one, or the tail end of one, whenever I woke up, whenever I wondered where I was, whenever I dozed back off. His body was so warm and he never seemed to move the whole night, snuggled as he was in our very peculiar embrace.

* * *

On December 13, 2009, Dylan F. was sentenced to two years in jail without parole for the burglary and assault of Frederick H. Pearson, a 37 year-old corporate lawyer from Dover, Massachusetts. Dylan and his co-assailant had gained access to Pearson's large mansion after making contact with the victim on the personal ads of Craigslist. The victim was found unconscious with severe bruises and injuries by the maid the morning following the encounter. A large amount of cash and some valuables had been declared missing. The initial charges of sexual assault had been dropped, when Dylan F.'s lawyer pointed at the "extensive homosexual paraphernalia" found in the victim's bedroom. The case had gained publicity in the local press and Pearson initially declined to press charges, after facing difficulties with his local country club, of which he was Acting Secretary, and the Norfolk County Conservative Alliance, which made public its refusal of any further donation by Pearson. The District Attorney's office went ahead with prosecution, citing its wish to alert the citizens of Massachusetts to "the perils of online predators". Dylan F.'s co-assailant was never identified, due to his prints and DNA not being in the system and to Dylan F.'s refusal to name him.

* * *

The rest of the week zipped by. I had dinner with Adrian and some of his friends in Paddington. We held hands throughout dinner. His friends were charming and smart and beautiful. I kissed Adrian on the sidewalk when we got out. When he saw me looking for a cab, he pulled me back and kissed me again. When he felt the kiss coming to its end, he whispered that he wanted me to fuck him on his balcony again. I smiled and kissed him one last time, before driving home.

Dan texted me on Friday to come to him on campus. He gave some vague directions to his office and I got a little lost in the hallways of his department. I saw the name of a Sean Something on one of the professors' doors and thought at all the things Dan and I could come up with to exact some revenge on behalf on Adrian. I had an erection by the time I reached Dan's office. His door was open and he was packing his stuff in his messenger bag.

"You're early," he said, though, as his eyes were pointing towards the half-boner slightly tenting my jeans, I wasn't sure what he meant. "I need a drink," he said, which was not the explanation for his invitation, an explanation I knew I wasn't likely to get. I never really gave him one when I had popped up at his door a few nights before.

"Where to?" I asked, when we started to walk out.

"Not sure. Any wish?"

"South Bank."

He laughed.

"South Bank," I repeated with a smile. "The pool. Families. I want to see it during the day."

"Sure, why not. You feel like walking there?"

"Why don't we take the ferry?"

The pool was crowded and noisy. Families, indeed. There was a sparkle in Dan's eyes as we scanned our surroundings, though I didn't know whether it came from his liking of the place or from the thought of what we could do in there, if only.

We went to the Beer Garden, on the patio, it was similarly crowded. Families. I realized there'd be no way we could talk about sex in such environment, sharing as we were a communal table with a group of people Dan assured me had a Sydney accent (they just sounded Australian to me). We couldn't talk about pillaged asses, about licking cum off someone's armpits (a vivid dream I'd had the previous night and had wanted to share with him), or about filthy jockstraps (specimens of which I'd noticed bunched up on the floor of his room). We were both weary of talking about Jonah (and what we might be willing to talk about concerning him could not be voiced next to children drinking their Coke). We couldn't quite talk about his dissertation or about Adrian (which were effectively the same subject). Yet we talked about me fucking him by the pool – albeit all in coded words. He used a cricket metaphor, which I made him translate into a baseball metaphor, and we giggled through a long and very detailed run-down of a practice of my pitching and his catching, which we could do in the shallow end of the pool, or in the sand, or in the grass, or in by the bushes. It was a little stupid, but we drank a lot of beer and it was very hot and it was, I thought, very funny and I got very hard.

He had plans for the evening so we parted ways at the ferry dock. "You really like the ferry," he said.

* * *

"Why have you never left Boston?" Jonah asked.

We were driving back early Sunday evening from taking Chloe to the airport. Jonah was evidently relieved to see her gone for a few days again. As much as I disliked her, I was not as elated to have the house all to ourselves.

"Why would you ask that?" I said a little defensively.

"Airports, planes, I guess. You know, travels, relocation, new life and all that."

"I travel a lot."

"I know. You do. But you never left Boston since moving there after college. It's been years now. All my friends have changed cities and states at least twice in that time."

You're not like the rest of them. I cringed.

"I guess I don't need a new life. I'm happy with what I have," I said, not completely lying, but making it clearly a jibe at him.

"Touchι," he whispered. And he was silent until we reached the restaurant where he'd made a reservation for us.

We ate at Black Hide Steakhouse, one of the best restaurants in Brisbane, he said. "One of the most expensive, too," he added, though my own internet research had led me to hipper, foodier results. He ordered us two vodka gimlets before we even received the menus and I knew he was bracing himself for a talk.

"How's Adrian?" he asked.

"He's fine."

"I'd like to meet him."

"Why?"

"Well, I don't know. He's important to you. He's like your... boyfriend or something."

"Jonah, I'm leaving in two weeks."

"Fine, don't take the piss. I'm only showing interest here."

"Right. I'm sorry."

"I'd still like to meet him. Chloe would too."

"I don't think that's going to happen."

The arrival of our drinks allowed him to ignore that.

"Cheers," he said, looking at me in the eyes, and I saw, for a moment, the mischievous twinkle I used to find so compelling in 20-year old Jonah's eyes.

"Cheers," I said, summoning the affection I knew I still had for him.

"It's weird," he said, "I feel like I've barely seen you since you got here. And you're already at the half way mark of your stay."

"I'm around."

"I know, I know. And I'm honestly glad you're enjoying the city and, you know, Adrian. But time is slipping by."

"Yes, it is. It's strange."

"I'd thought having you here for a whole month was going to be, like, crazy intense. Like I'd have you all for me for a whole month."

"Your mind is otherwise engaged at times, though, isn't it?"

"Yes. Turns out you actually came at the worst possible time. I'd envisioned a breezy, buddy-buddy, carefree month, and it's been kind of a mind trip so far."

"Have you talked to Dan?"

"Nope. I mean, we've texted," he said, twisting his lips. "But I haven't seen him. I will, though. I guarantee you I will." He clenched his jaw.

"What do you want from him?"

"What?" he asked, frowning. "What do you mean?"

"You want to see him again. Why? What do you want from him?" I said, careful to use a strictly inquisitive tone, an empathic and caring tone.

Jonah stayed silent for a while, obviously pondering a question he had never asked himself before. "I like him. I actually like him. And, yes, I miss the sex."

"You like him how? I mean, if he liked you back, what?"

"I'm not following."

"Come on, Jonah. If you both liked each other, what next? You want to have an actual affair, a relationship? You might leave Chloe for him?"

He scoffed, giggled a bit. He was obviously rattled. I thought he would almost blurt "I'm not gay" or something of the sort.

"No. I mean... That's not... That's not the point."

"The point?"

"Not everything is black and white like this, you know."

"Black and white?"

"Yeah, like, you're in a relationship", he said the word the way one pinches a burning rag to throw it in the sink, "or you're in... nothing."

"I never said that. But when you're married, if you screw someone else and you want to keep seeing that person again and again, it's called an affair."

"I call it a fuckbuddy."

"How convenient."

"Why?" he asked, dumbfounded.

"You have a fuckbuddy if you've been fucking and blowing and jacking guys your whole life and, yes, you want to keep doing a little filth on the side of your lovely spouse. You're forty years old, Jonah and you've only discovered cock now. And you want more cock. And that's fine. But the whole thing is a little more life-changing than having a fuckbuddy. Surely you see that?"

"I'm not sure I do," he said, obviously not meaning it.

"Man, you keep bringing out your confusion with mopey eyes and trembling hands!"

"Jesus, Nathan! Fuck you."

I took a deep breath and looked away. What the fuck was I doing? I emptied my cocktail.

"I'm sorry, Jonah. I really am. I ... I didn't mean that."

The waiter approached, a little tentative. We hadn't look at our menus.

"Just... tell the chef to make what he likes best. I'm sure it'll be fine," he said, effectively waving the waiter off. "Oh, and a bottle of wine. Red. Good bottle. You decide."

"I...," I started.

"It's okay, Nathan. You want to have a smoke? We can go outside," he said, as if offering a pacifier to an unruly toddler.

"I haven't just discovered cock, as you so nicely put it, Nate," he said, lighting my cigarette. "Why do you keep pretending that nothing ever happened between us?"

"I don't," I exhaled. "But whatever happened between us never had the impact of whatever has happened to you in the last few months. And, no, I'm not saying that with bitterness. At all. I actually rather like that whatever we did have was its own, specific, strange thing."

"So, you are... distancing yourself from whatever is happening to me now, like it has nothing to do with you?"

"I don't know what is happening to you now, Jonah."

"That's the thing. I'm not sure either."

"Argh," he chuckled with impatience. "We're going in circles, Jonah. It's fucking tiresome."

"I know," he said somberly.

"Have you...," he started tentatively as we sat back down at our table, "have you ever considered what it would have been like if we had gotten ... together?"

If that had been my last night in Brisbane, my last night before a long period of not seeing Jonah, I could have more easily racked my brains in search of the truth, in search of some kind of truth. Whether my truth would have hurt him and destroy our item or, very much less likely, fold us into sweet love would not have any immediate, tangible consequences.

"Have you?" I deflected, light-heartedly.

"I have tried," he said, serious and looking down at his fingers twirling his fork. "Many times. Not very successfully. I think I could never quite envision anything without knowing... Well, without knowing how you felt."

I hated his answer but couldn't escape the only obvious truth I could summon at that point: "That's probably true for me too."

"This is fucked up," he sighed heavily.

"I guess. Though very common."

The waiter brought us two enormous plates of steak.

"Maybe you should try not to do the same mistake again?" I said feebly as he started on his meal.

"What do you mean?"

"If you like someone. Not waiting to figure out how this person feels about you before you take a stand on how you feel about them," I said, carefully making my sentence gender neutral.

He smiled, not looking at me, then said, "Are we still talking about us?"

"Not specifically, no."

"Are you heeding to your own advice, master Yoda?" he said, now pointedly staring at me.

"Of course not," I laughed.

We ate in silence for a while before he placed down his fork and knife, a little theatrically. "Listen. So, you missed my birthday by a week when you got here."

"Yes."

"As I mentioned, I would really like for us two to get away for a weekend. You know, like we used to."

"Okay."

"I thought I could look online for a house or a cabin somewhere in the country. Not too far, you know, driving distance. But a bit remote. Get away from it all."

"That sounds nice," I said neutrally, feeling a bit cornered.

"I mean, you can say no. The weekend that would work best would the one just before you're flying back. And, well, I'd understand if you'd rather spend it with Adrian."

"Don't be silly."

"I'm not. Again, I would understand. And you don't need to give me an answer right now. But, you know, don't wait too long, I want to make sure I find us something great."

"Let's do it," I said, forcing myself. I felt like I owed him something, though I wasn't sure what. All I could think of was Dan, and spending every single fucking night walking the streets of Brisbane with him, or every single fucking night holding him naked, hugging him so tight that I'd crush him. "Let's definitely do it."

"Awesome," Jonah said, radiant.

There was an email from Adrian when I got home. He told me about his day, reminisced about the movie and dinner and sex (confusingly good sex) we'd had the night before and attached three pictures: the blue print of the house of he was working on for a young rich gay couple in the Sydney suburbs, a snapshot of his view of the Samford Valley, and a selfie of him in bed, half of the picture taken by the empty half bed, where his exaggerated sad face indicated he wished me to be.

I lay in bed and decided to do some work, however late it was by then. I started to hear sounds of Jonah on the other side of the wall. It seemed he was jerking off, it seemed he was purposefully making the sounds of him jerking off loud enough for me to hear, for me to be told something. Or maybe I was just imagining it, maybe he was just snoring. I put on my earphones and played at full blast my favorite Franz Ferdinand album for a while, until I could take them off, until I could work in silence again.

I feel asleep in my clothes, my laptop next to me, but I must have been sleeping lightly, for the ping of my phone instantly woke me up at 2:30am. Dan.

Wanna come over?

I grabbed my book, my computer, a change of underwear, socks and t-shirt and called a cab to get me to Auchenflower.

I had a very strange feeling when I stepped into Dan's place. He casually opened the door, in his boxers, he rubbed his eyes, mumbled hey and turned around, walking back to his bedroom where he had obviously fallen asleep since he had texted me. I felt like I was entering the only safe, warm place I had. The door I closed behind me might not reopen, should not reopen. I was in a shelter.

I didn't follow him straight to his bedroom. I lingered in the kitchen, found myself a glass and drank some water. I lingered in the living room, watched the sofa, the chair, my chair, our chair. I walked noiselessly to his bedroom and was stung by the smell of sex. The room reeked of the musky, stuffy, stale scent of fucking. But the smell disappeared so fast that I realized I may have imagined it, I may have projected the sight of Dan's body splayed over the sheets into all the copulating actions that his body parts seemed to have been fabricated for. I undressed in the dark, kept my underwear on, and slowly dropped myself next to him. His eyes were closed and his body radiated warmth and an intoxicating aroma. He took my hand in his and wrapped himself with my arm, my sweaty armpit moistening his biceps.

The sun woke us up, I wasn't sure how early. His body slowly wriggled against mine, his ass against my cock. I disentangled my fingers from his and pinched his nipple. I pinched it harder, pressing it down, rubbing, tweaking, scratching it with every tremor of his electrified body. "Fuck," he breathed out. He finally shuffled away, panting and smiling. "Fuck," he said again, sitting on the edge of the bed, his head cocked towards me, a wicked grin on his face.

He breathed deeply then said, "Coffee?"

"Loads," I said, stretching over the warm sheets.

"Want to go out and grab some?"

"I'm good here."

I slid in my shorts and stepped into the kitchen. Dan had taken off his boxers but put on a faded red t-shirt, his cock was dangling with every movement he made to prepare coffee.

I liked that I didn't need to ask him why he had texted me to come, I liked that he didn't feel he had to tell me.

"Can I grab a towel and take a shower?" I asked.

"Don't," he said, focused on his task.

"I can't grab a towel?" I laughed.

"Don't take a shower. I like your smell. I have to go to campus for a lecture and I want that smell when I come back."

He handed me a cup when his espresso machine stopped its noise. I grabbed it and stepped outside, onto the path that connected his house to the street. I felt strange, almost intrepid, to exit the house and I decided to smoke very fast the cigarette I wanted with my coffee. I heard a window open behind me.

"There still might be some of Jonah's cum on the grass under your bare feet, mate," he said casually, watching me and sipping on his coffee, only half of his body, the dressed half, sticking out. I instinctively raised my feet and stepped aside.

I liked that I didn't need to ask him how Jonah's cum had ended up on his front lawn, I liked that he didn't feel he had to tell me.

I spent the day reading, working, drinking coffee or juice. Dan came back around lunch time, bringing with him sandwiches and chips. He immediately took off his clothes but, again, kept his t-shirt on. He didn't ask me to get similarly naked, he liked the unbalance, probably, just as I liked it too. He was at times parading his body, taunting his obtainable, nonchalant masculinity, but it mostly felt to me like the very cool coziness of his semi-nakedness helped locking all doors and windows around us, helped seclude us into a suspended reality. He too, when he had closed the front door on his way back, had given off a feeling he might never open it again.

I watched him read, work, drink coffee or juice. We didn't talk much. I'd ask for his opinion or knowledge to help me with a piece I had started on the Brisbane ferry, a piece I didn't quite know yet where it might lead. He'd read me passages of articles he read or asked me whether the title The Road up There could be a double entendre worth of academic inquiry. When we walked past each other, I'd squeeze his ass, or slide a finger in his crack, or pinch his nipples hard. He would grab my cock or cup my balls or bite my earlobe.

I was foggily sinking into a slow, numbing, wooly madness.

Because I did want him. I did want to fuck him. I did want to grab his body and, as time crawled along, as the sun rose, shone and set, I wanted to make increasingly forceful, increasingly possessive assertions on his body.

When, in the evening, he said "I don't have much food in the fridge", it was my turn to gauge him. "Want to go out and grab some?"

"I'm good here," he said.

When, picking on his plate of pasta, he asked, "What are you thinking about?", the only time he asked that question the whole day, the only time he'd asked that question since I met him, I said, staring at him, "I was thinking about, one day, bringing ten guys, or twenty guys, over here, and have them fuck you, one by one. I'd be next to you, the whole time, I'd be kissing you, holding you. I'd be telling you how fucking beautiful you are, because you will be so fucking beautiful. And whenever one guy will have dropped his load, I'd ask you if you want another one, because I brought plenty, just for you, just for you to be so fucking beautiful, just for you to have your mind and your ass blown up. And you'd tell me yes, or you'd tell no at some point, and I'd kiss you some more, and you'd be so fucking beautiful when you say yes, and you'd be so fucking beautiful when you say no. And when you'll have said no, I'll tell you we can do it another time someday, or we could never do it again, because there are so many things to do, there are so many ways for you to be so fucking beautiful, to have your mind and ass blown up." And Dan looked down, something rare, something beautiful, and just said "I see."

It was edging. Sexual edging, intellectual edging, emotional edging. And it became addictive and forbidding.

Dylan had been very keen on edging. He'd meticulously elaborate schemes, schemes he claimed were to push me "further that I ever thought I could go", schemes for which he'd told me to clear a whole day, schemes to which I only submitted myself twice.

The first time was a Sunday. He arrived at my place before lunch and immediately went down on me. Just when I was ready to cum, he stopped and grinned. We grabbed some food and went to a movie, seating in the very back, empty row. He jerked me off and just when I was ready to cum, he stopped and grinned. We went for a walk in Franklin Park and had a sandwich, and he talked the whole time, telling me of things he had done or would like to do, recalling things we had done or should one day do. When he was satisfied at the duration and ache of my erection, he stopped and grinned. We went to a seedy bar which had a darkroom and he led me there, made me watch the action in the red-lit darkness around us. When I was panting heavily, when my head was dizzy, when I started to whip out my cock soaked in precum, he led me out into the early evening and grinned.

"Who do you want to fuck?" he asked eagerly. And I thought of Antoine, a French student at Harvard Business School, who had been texting me suggestive propositions ever since I had met him in a bar a couple of weeks earlier. So, Antoine it was.

I texted him, asking him whether he was open to a threesome. "I just want to watch," Dylan said hurriedly, his head watching me type over my shoulder. Antoine was indeed open to a threesome, it turned out. We took a cab to his place in Cambridge. My head was buzzing, I was so horny I thought my brains could explode, dousing the back of the taxi with gorish slime and a whole lot of stacked cum.

Antoine was very tall, very thin and very tanned. He looked briefly scared when he saw us: my eyes, poise and smell must have been feral and Dylan had a menacing roughness when he wasn't smiling. We went straight to Antoine's bedroom, however, and all undressed quickly. Dylan insisted that he "prepared" Antoine for me, so he blew him and rimmed him and fingered him with exacting expertise, so much so that the young French guy was quickly moaning and rolling his eyes.

I had been watching Dylan at work and he had authorized me to jerk myself off, but slowly, very slowly. When Antoine softly voiced, with a very strong accent, his need to get fucked, I just jumped on him and jostled Dylan out of the way with unrestrained ferocity. I shoved myself inside Antoine, seizing his ankles and briskly spreading his legs. He cried in pain and surprise, then ordered me to put a condom, indicating with a nod his bedside table. Dylan fetched one and had to grab my waist to pull me out of Antoine. When he did, he only had a few seconds to roll down the condom on my sopping and hard cock, before I impaled Antoine again. I banged him ferociously, twirling his body like a ragged doll. I may have hurled some insults at him, Dylan later told me I did, as he did tell me too that I tried to choke Antoine at some point.

I came quickly, though. I couldn't last long, not after a whole day of concocting, stirring, boiling up, repressing, and macerating so much cum. Antoine's back looked like a Jackson Pollock of jizz.

The second time I agreed to Dylan's edging "experiment" turned even sourer and scarier. He ended up in jail and I haven't seen him since then.

The edging with Dan was different, I told myself, as I watched him clear the plates in the dishwasher. It was sexual, but it was also intellectual and emotional, which I couldn't ignore made it all the more addictive, all the more forbidding. Were we playing games? Hide and seek, cat and mouse, truth or dare? So much with Dan seemed like a game. It's on, he would so often say.

But games end. Someone wins, someone loses. Or everybody loses. Because edging is letting yourself slide into a dark hole. You do eventually explode. Your brains, your groins. But you're left, lost and alone, in a deafening post-climax, only to witness the semen, the sweat, the blood sometimes, with nothing else to feed you but the unbearable emptiness of it all.

"I should probably go," I said, pushing back the chair under the dining table.

He may have looked surprised, I couldn't really tell. Or he knew too that whatever the outcome of our game, tonight would not be the big reveal. That the day had been so perfect, that the very uncertainty of the nature and texture of that outcome held too high a risk of anticlimax, of underwhelming deflation.

"Okay," he said sternly, then walked towards me, and kissed me, a soft but resolute kiss.

We both got dressed in silence in his bedroom. I packed my stuff, hugged him goodbye, pinched his nipple and he laughed.

I closed the front door behind me, briefly disoriented. I couldn't quite focus or think, except I looked around to notice that his street was dead quiet and dark. I fondled my cock out of my shorts. I gave it barely four, maybe five, tugs and I came, my dick not even fully hard. I heard the semen drop on Dan's doorstep, in faint flopping sounds.

I walked to the ferry and got myself home.

 


 

// Dan

"You ready for this", I asked him.

"Hell yeah!"

"Did you just try to fistbump me?"

"Closest I'll come to fisting you"

"I live in hope. Come on then"

I had arranged to meet Nathan outside the block, and as soon as he appeared I knew he'd taken my instructions seriously. He was wearing a t-shirt with a deep v neck, with tendrils of chest hair creeping up from its point and his pecs were swelling into the top part of the shirt. It highlighted his masculine build; standing next to him I suddenly felt like a little twink chasing daddies to seed my hole. Nathan had asked me what Sean would be most likely to go for, and some fairly aggressive flirting later this was my intel: man enough to go toe to toe with him, man enough to admit what he wanted and take it. Turns out Sean and I had more in common than I thought.

* * *

It had all started innocently enough. Nathan had been asking questions about Tom, my delightful redhead friend. Nathan had wanted to know who he was, what he was to me, and I didn't have those kinds of answers. I tried to brush him off, get the conversation back on to the vaguely suggestive one-up-man-ship we'd been distracting ourselves with for days, but it wasn't to be.

"Bet you fuck like a king on campus"

"No, actually"

"Oh come on, that place is twink heaven. Surely they're lining up for you to break them in"

"I don't shit in my own backyard"

"You're going to have to explain that one"

"I work there, I practically live there – that place is my life, and with any luck my future. I don't want to fuck that up"

"But Tom was different?"

"If they're serious, we'll take it off campus. If they're not serious, no loss"

Nathan and I were sitting in what had become our usual position: he naked in the chair in my living room, legs splayed with one foot on the floor; me with my back to him, sitting on the floor and leaning against his leg. My cock was half-hard with all this talk of Tom, but this was nothing Nathan hadn't seen before. He was absent-mindedly running his fingers through my hair. We'd arranged the room to position the chair with a view outwards into the Brisbane night. I'd grown so used to the technicolour skies through the gum trees that I'd put my favourite chair with my back to it, but since Nathan pointed it out, it'd become mesmerising.

"So how do you find these boys? Online?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well you use the apps, I assume"

"Even my grandfather uses the apps"

"I don't. I came out without them, and I never got into it"

"Wow – you are old"

"Fuck off"

"In answer to your question though, no – I don't use them on campus. Hit on me in person or nothing. It's the easiest way to tell the men from the boys. As it were. Though it tends to be the boys"

"So you never did? On campus, I mean"

"When I first started grad school, I did. But it's full of closeted professors hiding behind blank profiles perving on their students so they can flesh out their jerk off fantasies"

"Sounds like you found that out the hard way"

"Too right. This one colleague, the first time I walked into a Department seminar, he was all over me, touching me for no reason, standing too close. We got stuck in a corner at one point, and he flat out asked me if I was wearing a jock – `you know, the one from your...picture'. I don't need that kind of sleaze in my life"

"And he left you alone?"

"He tried the same thing the next week. I ended up saying to him, slightly too loudly to be fair, `Sean if you do that again I'll out you to this entire room'. That put an end to it"

Nathan's hand had stopped its snaking through my hair, and now he was starting to press it into my skull. It was starting to hurt; I had to remind him it was there, shaking my head out from under his hand, with a low "Dude!" in reprimand.

"Sorry", he mumbled, "wasn't thinking"

I took the opportunity to stand up, stretch, and crossed to the other side of the room, giving Nathan a full view of my arse in the process. I had no idea how this endless flirtation was going to end, but it was too much fun to stop – and besides, I'd be damned if I was the one to stop it. It'd become a badge of honour between us.

"You know he and Adrian used to fuck"

"Who and Adrian?"

"Sean. Your professor man"

"No way! NO WAY. I thought he was all talk!"

I re-appraised my assessment of Sean. What had I missed? Actually, no – it made perfect sense. The mild-mannered architect would've been exactly right for Sean; a man he could ride roughshod over and not have to worry about the consequences.

"Way. They were even boyfriends for a while. Or at least, Adrian thought they were. Sean must've thought so too..." Nathan trailed off. I turned back around towards him. He didn't meet my gaze. I wanted to know more than he was willing to tell me. I started very slowly rubbing my right nipple, and my cock jumped in appreciation. Nathan looked at me, and rolled his eyes. I moved slowly toward him, getting more enthusiastic in my self-abuse.

"There's something you're not telling me, Nathan..."

"Knock it off, Daniel"

"Ooh, yes sir – "" I said and gave a mock salute, now mostly-hard with my cock sticking out toward him.

"He used to hit him. Sean. Hit Adrian"

I dropped my raised hand, and suddenly felt the need to cover my crotch. It seemed so obscene, to be discussing someone's abuse while hard, even if that hardness was half-ironic.

"No", I croaked. "What a fuck"

"Yeah. Really fucked him up. In the head, too"

"I'll bet"

Nathan and I had swapped stories – anonymised of course – about hitting and being hit. They'd been glancing, in passing; nothing this bald, this head on. Violence and entitlement were suddenly with us, in the room, and they weren't going to show themselves out. I looked over at Nathan, who had sat up properly in the chair, both feet on the floor. He suddenly looked tired, washed out. Instead of the frisson of sex I'd felt moments earlier, I felt dirty and exposed. We were two naked men, alone in a room.

"Guys like that are..." I shook my head. "They think they deserve everything"

"Maybe we should fuck him up right back"

I looked straight at him. I held his gaze.

* * *

  

I led the way into the building, up the stairs. I almost led Nathan past my own office, the childish pride in me that I even had such a thing almost over-ruling my desire to keep some things to myself, but stayed on course to Sean's office. I knocked on the door, and opened it slowly.

"Professor? It's Daniel"

"Come in!"

"I've got the prospective doctoral student for you"

"Oh great – welcome"

Sean stood up from behind his desk, and came striding across the room. He reached out his hand towards Nathan, who reached out towards him, and then suddenly reached forward and closed his hand around Sean's wrist, pulling the older man close towards him. With his spare hand, he undid the button and the top of Sean's pants, and shoved his hand into his underwear.

Nathan roughly pulled out his hand, and then used both hands to rip Sean's business shirt open, while manipulating my colleague back against desk and pulling his sleeves off his shoulders to restrict his arm movement as much as possible. As I turned away, Nathan had pulled Sean's hair back, forcing his head back and exposing the white skin of his neck to the harsh fluorescent light of the office. I heard the twin slaps of Nathan's hand across Sean's face, harsh whip cracks that crossed the room and crashed me back into my darkest days. I felt the stings on my own face, and when they were followed by the dull thump of Nathan throwing Sean to the floor, I remembered the dull throb up my side. I lay my forehead against the cool of the door, exhaled sharply, and turned back.

* * *

I moved back across the room toward Nathan. I knelt down in front of him, on my knees but keeping the rest of my body upright, steadying myself with my hands on his thighs.

"Go on", I said.

"Well it's not like Adrian's ever going to do anything. And who knows who else he's hurt"

"Who knows. You know he's married, right?"

"Yeah. Yeah. And he's not going to stop"

"Not unless..."

"Not unless he feels it."

"Not unless he knows what degradation he wreaks"

"They're big words. So, what do we do?"

I needed to tread carefully. I recognised what he was trying to do, and I was determined not to fall for it. At the same time, though, I was feeling the tug, from somewhere behind my stomach, the tug to go for it, to give in to this destruction. But no. I was a stronger man. This time, I would be stronger.

"Well I can get us into his office."

"He trusts you?"

"He doesn't trust me at all. But he trusts my gaydar."

"Meaning what?"

"Meaning I tell him there's a guy interested in him, and he won't be able to stop himself"

"Right."

"You know the type – has to think he's irresistible."

"So, then what?"

I leant forward, and put one hand on Nathan's right pec, and the other on his left shoulder. It'd been a long time since we'd been this close, certainly not face to face. I noticed with appreciation that his cock immediately jumped to full hardness. My own was taking its leisurely time towards the same state. My head was full of grotesque visions of what Patrick had done to me, of what he had made me do. Still, I didn't stop.

"We go in there. And you fuck him. And it'll destroy him."

"What makes you say that?"

"Because he calls the shots. He does the fucking."

"And why me?"

"I'm too close. I'm too small. You're a stranger. You can walk out of this"

Hating myself, I lent in towards him. And I kissed him. Full on the mouth, starting tenderly with his lips, then giving in to my own voraciousness darting my tongue in and out of his mouth, starting to consume him. My hand tightened on his pec, and its mate moved to the back of his head, drawing him in to the kiss. I closed my eyes, feeling the moment ready to explode. And I pulled back.

"And because I asked you to"

"You think that's enough?"

I looked at our cocks, stretching out towards each other.

"I know so. You're going to destroy him"

* * *

Sean lay in a crumpled heap on the carpet in front of his desk, his hairy chest framed by the hanging remains of his shirt. That chest, still red from where Nathan had brought his fists down upon it, was heaving with effort, as Sean fought to regain control of his breathing. Whatever happened, I was implicated now. I knew I should have put a stop to it, but my heart was beating in my ears, and I couldn't hear my own objections over the rush of blood to my head. If I broke the arrangement we'd made, what was to stop him from doing the same? But how many chances like this would I have?

I kicked off my shoes, and padded across the room to Sean's prone form. I placed my right foot squarely onto where I could see the outline of his cock in his trousers, and began to press down. I felt his cock harden under the pressure, and then heard him start to moan as his discomfort increased. This only sealed my determination, and I let up the pressure for a second – only to bring my foot crushing back down onto his groin, and sliding it around on and off his now hard cock. He made a high-pitched whine, and this time I brought the hell of my foot down on his balls to shut him up.

The whine went up another octave, and I looked to Nathan, wondering how he would deal with this development. He was staring transfixed by my foot, as it continued to grind against Sean's cock. I needed Nathan to snap out of it, and get back to being the threatening he-man he was moments earlier, or the set-up would break, Sean would realise there was a way out – or a curious colleague might arrive.

"Dude", I said low but loud, "shut him up".

Nathan looked up at my face in incomprehension, and I nodded down at Sean's prone frame. Nathan shook his head quickly, and then without warning, spat square in the middle of Sean's forehead. The older man suddenly stopped squirming, shocked into compliance. The slimy spit slid off his forehead, and before it could hit the ground, Nathan bent down and caught it in the palm of his hand – and then wiped his spit all over Sean's face. As he did so, he whispered into Sean's ear: "Careful now, or we're going to have to clean you up".

He straightened back up, and looked me square in the face. I nodded at him, a grin crossing my face. He stepped forward, and placed the front of each of his shoes onto Sean's bulging traps. Feeling the pressure, Sean started to buck the lower half of his body, and at Nathan's unspoken invitation, I moved my own feet to press Sean's thighs against the floor. With his eyes still fixed on mine, Nathan undid his belt. Clink. With his eyes still fixed on mine, Nathan unzipped his fly. Brrrrrb. In the silent moment that followed, I knew exactly what was about to happen. I licked my lips in anticipation. 

I smelt, heard, and saw what happened next in the same instant. Nathan removed his cock from his trousers, and aimed his piss directly at the valley between Sean's pecs. He pissed slowly, taking evident pleasure in watching the piss pool at the top of Sean's abs before cascading down his chest and running off, into the top of his pants and onto the office carpet. Nathan started to slowly turn to left to right, directly his flow across both sides of Sean's chest evenly. Sean's nipples hardened at the attention, and I noticed them suddenly perk up in the centre of the now-wet mass of hair on his chest. The flow continued for so long I suddenly realised that Nathan must have prepared for this.

His cock looked glorious; it was mesmerising. I'd seen it before, of course, in all sorts of states – part of my plan to inure myself to his charms had been to continue to spend as much time as possible out of our clothes. But this was different. Nathan's cock was half hard, bending gently downwards towards Sean's body. The head, two shades of pink darker than his shaft, was just peeking out from behind his foreskin. A solitary vein throbbed down one side of his cock. The sight was obscene. It looked like something no one should see, presented for my delectation and mine alone. I knew I would be feasting on the memory for months to come.

Seeing how Sean's hard cock was tenting his trousers now that I had removed my foot from his groin, I knew what I had to do to complete this ritual humiliation. I bent down and pulled his trousers sharply.  Nathan had undone the button earlier, so they slipped easily down, and I made sure to keep them bunched on his thighs to keep his legs from moving too far. His boxer briefs were next – I noted with amusement they were classic married man; his wife had picked them out in a three-pack from a discount bin at Myer and probably thought they looked `smart' – and I bought Sean's cock out into the light just as Nathan finished pissing.

"Wow".

Nathan said it, but I'd been thinking it. The guy was hung; his cock was epic. It was the kind of cock that belonged in gay-for-pay porn, the kind where the hero is a straight man who can't get women to let him put it in them, so instead he tears up young twink asses for your viewing pleasure. The head of his cock was a small crimson triangle, but immediately below that it expanded out massively, almost doubling in width. This is when those twinks would really begin to scream. It then bent slightly to the right, before bending back in towards his bushy, untrimmed pubes (the wife either liked it natural or hadn't visited the garden for a while). Just before it met his body, his cock flared out again, almost matching the width from above – just when you thought you were safe, it'd have you screaming one last time until he was all the way in.

I could feel my asshole tingling just thinking about trying to take it on, and I had to force myself to focus on the task at hand. I wiped my right hand across his stomach, trying to pick up the last of the moisture Nathan had deposited there, and then wrapped it around his cock. While I started to pump up and down on his cock, I put two fingers of my left hand in my mouth, sucked on them for a second, and then took them out again. I looked up at Nathan who was looking at me, as if waiting for his next cue. I nodded, and he pulled his trousers down to free his cock for action.

"Get ready", I told him.

Still pumping away on his cock, I lined my fingers up with his hole and went in dry with both at once. This time it wasn't a grunt, it wasn't a whine: it was a fully-fledged scream. I learnt in that instant, if there had been any doubt before, that he was the type of man who would happily fuck a man into next week, but wouldn't tolerate the slightest touch of his own ass. Well, all that had changed – my two fingers were already knuckle deep, and I twisted them meanly to continue their assault. I had expected Nathan to silence Sean's mouth with his cock, but he too took the meaner route, and squatted over Sean's head. The screams were thus muffled, and Sean's nose and mouth were forced up Nathan's crack.

I began to time the trusts of my fingers with my travels up and down Sean's cock, and I twisted my fingers one more time to ensure I was grazing against his prostrate each time I took them in and out. In solidarity with the twinks who'd been destroyed by this man, I made sure that my fingers fully left his hole a few times before tearing their way back in – all the while, Sean was adjusting to his new reality and realising that if he wanted to keep breathing the was going to have to suck in air from around Nathan's ass. I could see Nathan silently mouthing the word yes and nodding as Sean came closer and closer to sucking on his pucker.

Sean started to groan, from what I assumed was his losing battle for air, but then I noticed his cock was starting to throb. The obvious pain he was in was not deterring that epic monster from reaching satisfaction, and I knew just what it would take to send him over the edge. Without breaking stride with either hand, I leant forward, stretched out my tongue and touched its very tip against the tip of his cock. At the same moment, Nathan dropped his full weight onto Sean's face, and his balls slapped down across Sean's chin. The sound of panting surrounded me, but I couldn't tell where it came from – whether it was Nathan, Sean, or even me...

Sean's cock exploded, and cum roped out across the fur of his chest and stomach, spattering both. He produced a load to match his size, and six eruptions later, his cock was still shuddering against his body, even though I'd long since let it go. I scooped up as much of it as I could with one hand, and seeing what I was doing, Nathan moved his body off Sean's face. Before the older man could clock what was about to happen, I was wiping his own cum all over his face, making sure to work it up into his hair line, and up his nose. With any luck, he wouldn't be able to smell his own cum again without remembering this degradation.

Nathan had moved behind me, and I felt his hands on my waistband, pulling down my shorts. Using one hand to hold me in position and maneuver my cock out of my jock, with the other he bent forward and picked up the remaining cum from Sean's body. I twisted slightly to look back at him, and recognised his possessed look – it wouldn't be a good idea to try to resist this. His cum-covered hand moved to my cock, and with a single stroke I was hard. I could feel his weight pressing against me, his heat transferring onto my back. He had forgotten completely who this session was supposed to be about, and was frantically tugging on my cock.

It wasn't sexy, it wasn't even really pleasant; instead, it was animalistic, it was ruthless. I reached backwards, and found Nathan's cock sticking straight out from his body. He was ramrod hard, and when my hand encased his girth, he let out a hiss that only increased in intensity as I began to wank him in time with his movements on my cock. He'd clearly been on edge for a while now, because after ten seconds or so of this, he was ready to finish. I could have prolonged it, but in that moment I didn't want to – I needed out, and there was only one way that was going to happen. I upped the intensity of my movements up and down his shaft.

Throughout this Sean hadn't moved, hadn't even curled up in a ball or tried to get away. He was clearly waiting it out – he wasn't going to let us see what this had done, he was going to take it. Maybe we'd broken him after all. So as Nathan began to cum, his load sprayed over Sean's body still lying in front of us. Nathan bit down, hard, on my shoulder, and through the thin fabric of my shirt, I felt his teeth making contact with my skin. The pain, the sight before me, the feeling of Nathan's body collapsing against my back – it all swelled together and my load soon joined Nathan's in decorating Sean. My body felt hot; not warm with pleasure, but hot, as if I might burn to the touch. I couldn't look at Nathan. I couldn't look at Sean. I put myself back into my jock, pulled up my shorts, slipped on my shoes. Leaving Nathan to decide how to sort out the mess, I stepped out of the office and set off down the corridor.

I burst out of the building, and looked around in the unexpected glare. I hadn't wanted a cigarette more since I quit smoking, and I was surprised to find myself almost hyper-ventilating. The air around me smelt unmistakably of sex and cum, and I almost looked around for the culprit despite knowing it was me. I had to get away from the building where I worked (and to all intents and purposes lived), and so I stumbled down the hill between the ovals toward the river. At the back of my mind, I hoped that Nathan would be wise enough not to call after me. I made it into the trees before the river, and collapsed down onto a bench there.

I sat there in silence, drawing in breath until it was regular, and a few minutes later Nathan came into focus on the playing field. He was looking around in what at a distance I hoped charitably was confusion, but may well have been fury.

"What the fuck, Dan!"

"I could say the same to you"

"You left me there with that guy – I didn't know what the fuck was going on, and then I came out and you'd basically disappeared"

"Well now you've found me. Lucky you"

"Don't get smart with me, you piece of shit"

"Ooh, very articulate"

Nathan put his hands behind his head, exhaled loudly, and rolled his head back so he was looking up at the afternoon sky. I waited for him to speak again.

"Look. Okay. That got weird"

"You're telling me. I thought we had it worked out"

"He wanted it. You wanted it"

"I work here, Nathan. I work with that guy. My life is based around this place – entirely. You don't get to breeze in and fuck that up like some kind of gay vigilante"

"So why did you agree? You knew what we were doing"

"Because I think with my dick. Because despite my big brain, I'm led by my big cock and I let it fuck up my life again and again and again"

Nathan sat down next to me, and made to put his arm on mine.

"Don't fucking touch me. That would be absolutely the wrong thing in this moment"

I turned towards him.

"You smell like sex. You look like sex. I can't think with you here. I think we both should leave. And I don't want to know what you did to Sean"

"He can take care of himself"

"I'm sure he can. Right to my supervisor's office"

"Are you kidding, man? Relax. He'll be jacking off to the memories for months. And if he tells your supervisor that'll just be one more guy lining up to dick you"

"Wow. Thanks. Also, she's a woman, as it happens"

"Oh come on, play nice. Let's get out of here. Back to yours?"

"No. No way"

"Why not?"

"Because we'll go back there and we'll take a shower and you'll push me against the glass and I'll want you so I'll say yes and you'll fuck me hard and fast for a furious five minutes and you'll come inside me and it'll be over"

Nathan looked me straight in the face, and spat his next words: "Sounds good to me".

"Sounds cheap. Sounds nasty. Sounds like dozens of other guys we've both done before and never thought of again. Get the fuck out of here. Go home to Jonah"

Nathan's eyebrows went high and his eyes widened.

"You still think I'm here for Jonah? Fuck you, little man. I won't pretend to know what's going on for you but I don't get it and I don't like it"

"That ferry's about to leave. Don't forget to take your wounded pride with you"

Nathan stared at me for a moment more. He was trying desperately not to look hurt – but I'd been in his position too many times not to know exactly what was underneath the mask. He stood, stayed still for an instant to give me enough time to change my mind, and then jogged off to the wharf. I lay down, prone, on the bench. I had been wrong. It was we who were broken.

* * *

I lost track of how long I lay there. I heard two ferries leave up river, and took the chance that this meant Nathan would definitely have moved on. I pulled myself up onto my feet, and my head span for a moment as the horizon righted itself. Putting my hand to my head, I looked at my watch and saw it was ten to the hour. I knew who I wanted to see, and I took the chance that he'd be industrious enough to still be attending lectures at this point in the year. I quickly cut back up the hill, avoiding the office block, and hoped my memory of the undergraduate timetable held true.

I lingered in the semi-darkness at the back of the lecture hall for the last few minutes of the class, scanning the backs of heads for a sign that I had been right to come here. No such luck. I would have to wait for the students to file past me on the way out. The students moved out of the hall in noisy clumps, and I nodded a greeting at the few who'd been in my tutorials. I was trying to scan the crowd as covertly as possible as they left, at least until the stream of bodies slowed down. A few last students who'd stayed to chat with the lecturer. And then just him.

Tom stood in the middle of the aisle that ran down the hall, holding his backpack over his chest as if it were armour. I made to move towards him, and his shook his head violently. I stood perfectly still. Too much had already been destroyed today. Tom looked around the room, looked behind him as the lecturer closed the door at the rear of the space. He began to move, stopped; started again, stopped again. I almost smiled at how pathetic we both seemed. He rolled his eyes at himself, and moved quickly down the aisle.

For a moment, I thought he was going to walk past me. But no – Tom stopped immediately in front of me, close enough that I could feel the heat of his body, smell the slightly sour note of his deodorant struggling to cover the day's exertions. Too late I realised I must stink – my mind was careening back into the shower we'd shared, my hands skipping across his alabaster skin, his sated cock stained pink with our exertions and slowly beginning to harden again, just as my own was doing in the almost comically inappropriate setting of the lecture hall.

"Fuck you" – his opener was to the point.

"Okay"

"Fuck you for using me, and fuck you for coming here today"

"You have every right – "

"Don't fucking patronise me, Dan. I don't need you to validate what I feel"

"You're right. You don't"

"Argh, just – just stop talking"

He turned away from me, and for a split second I thought he might leave and I almost reached out to stop him, before he flopped down in seat, facing away from me. He didn't turn back to me, but nor did he tell me to leave – so I sat down in the row behind him, and faced the back of his head. My eyes lingered on his neck, where his closely cropped hair gave way to skin in that fertile inch above his collar. If the circumstances had been different, I would've lent forward and kissed the back of his neck, just behind one of his rapidly reddening ears. As it was, I stayed still, and waited.

"You fucked me up, man"

I knew better than to say anything to counter this.

"I thought... God, I was so naive. I thought you were what I wanted"

"I wanted you"

"And I wanted you, too. I was so sick of fumbling around with guys my age, so sick of getting ghosted on Grindr, so sick of pervy older guys who want to worship my body but actually just want someone who won't stand up to them"

He shifted forward in his chair.

"And you... You were this great guy, this guy who was relaxed and laid back and hot as fuck and the fact that you were gay wasn't this big deal. You're out, you're here, you're happy and I thought yeah maybe this isn't so bad after all. Turns out, you are exactly the fucking same. And unlike even them, you weren't even big enough to be honest about what you were doing; you treated me like exactly the fool they did. And I'm not, Dan. I'm not a fool. I did some foolish things, but I'm not a fool"

"And you don't deserve to be treated like one"

"No. No, I don't"

He collapsed backward in the chair, and slowly let out a breath, his head tipping back until his face was almost horizontal toward the ceiling.

"And the thing is, Dan, I know it was nothing to you, but that night... That night was great. For me. You took me seriously, as an equal. And that was hot. And you knew what you were doing, and you knew what I wanted – and sure that thing with that guy was fucking weird – "

"I'm sorry about him – "

"Don't interrupt me. But you didn't just care that I came, you cared about how I came, and instead of letting me feel ashamed afterwards, you touched me and held me and treated me just the same as you had before we fucked. I know what you're thinking..."

"You really don't," I muttered under my breath, but Tom had continued talking.

"...one good lay and he's in love, but that wasn't it. It wasn't even really about you, it was about the future, and... And then I thought more about that guy and what he'd seen of me, and what you must've known, and it crushed me. How could I face you after that? And then. Then. Then I saw you come into the club with that guy, and he was all over you, it was possessive and it was...self-congratulatory and I knew then that I'd been the bait and you'd been the prize"

"What a shitty competition"

"Don't try to charm your way around this. Please – take me seriously"

I moved to put my hand on his shoulder, to reassure him that I had heard what he had said, that it was deeply serious, but before I could he'd said

"And don't fucking touch me".

I moved my hand away from him, and sat back in the chair. I hoped he heard the sound of my weight shifting and be reassured.

"Tom, the last thing I want to do is make you uncomfortable. I've done enough of that already. So, if you need to get up and leave, I would understand – but I hope you don't, because at the very least I want to apologise properly. Not because you deserve it, but because it's the right thing to do"

"Go on"

"I fucked up. I was blinded by the game I was playing with this guy that I totally lost sight of what was in front of me. Of who was in front of me. I'm sorry, I really am. It was unforgivable – it was an abuse of power and it's someone I hoped I would never be"

I was still staring intently at the back of his head, and I realised that he wasn't going to turn around, that he wasn't going to make this okay. I dropped my head toward my lap.

"And the worst part, or one of the worst parts, is that it was a great night. I don't mean the sex – though that was great – I mean the night itself, I mean you being vulnerable and complicated and just present in a way that I hadn't experienced in a long time. And I still used you as a pawn in something that had nothing to do with you, in something you never asked to be a part of. And for that I apologise; unreservedly and endlessly. And I want to make this right".

I heard Tom stand up, and move around toward me. I didn't trust myself to look up at him. He placed his hand on my left shoulder and gripped it, hard.

"You can't," he said low and clear. "This can't be made right. You don't get a do-over; that's too easy. You get to feel bad until the edges slowly wear away and eventually I'll be a memory you jerk off to sometimes; a memory of something you could've had if you weren't too self-obsessed to notice it"

With that, he slid his hand slowly up the side of my neck, through the back of my hair, across the top of my scalp, and then he was gone. It was a long time before I looked up.

* * *

In the final scene of Night and Sharks, the narrator, broken and alone, swims out into Moreton Bay until he reaches a shark net. While he's clutching a buoy, bobbing out there in the stillness of the bay, he thinks about all the things he's loved and how methodically he destroyed them; how one by one, he ripped them limb from limb. Before he heaves himself over the net, and lets himself begin to sink into the deep, he plays out the alternate futures that he could've had, if only he hadn't been blind to them, and let them get away.

After each one, he imagines that one of his limbs is torn away by a shark. If only he hadn't walked out on his mother, he might have been the son he always dreamt he'd be – his left arm. If only he hadn't sold his sister's jewelry for drug money, he might've been a part of his nephews's lives – his right arm. If only he'd been able to love Mary in the same pure, uncomplicated way she'd loved him, he might've been able to save her – his left leg. If only he hadn't punched the face of the only man who'd ever loved him, and kept punching until that face went away, his life might've meant something – his right leg.

It's the same extraordinary mix of melancholy and melodrama that makes Garatta such a compelling, frustrating writer. You want to hate him, right up until the moment you realise you're in love with him. As the limbless narrator floats through the water, being torn asunder by sharks in a feeding frenzy of his own making, he recognises these visions as the hopelessly romantic imaginings that they are. But still, it is his catalogue of failures that comforts him to his death, because it nothing else it is they that prove he was here, that he mattered, that he had lived.

* * *

An earlier me, a younger me, would've self-medicated with sex – fuck that man right out of my hair, and all that. The older me was at least circumspect enough to recognise that given it was sex that had got me into this mess, it was unlikely to be a good solution. I pushed my bike home along the river path, ignoring the complaints of the joggers and cyclists forced to veer around me, and tried to settle my hyperactive mind. Even the beautifully tight-bodied businessmen, taking a shirtless promenade to their personal training sessions, weren't enough to raise me from my stupor. What I needed was company, free from even the suggestion of sex.

Trouble was, my friends were too far away to come flying to the rescue with a bag of popcorn and a tub of ice cream. The exodus of twenty-somethings was such a clichι that there was even a film about it – All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane. While the film is forgettable enough (apart from a deeply fuckable leading man), the syndrome is not. In the last three years, my best friends really had left Brisbane, disappearing to London, Switzerland and New York, and leaving me the last man standing in what they now thought of as a backwards shithole. (That's the next part of leaving Brisbane: it's suddenly obligatory to hate it, to show how cultured you now are).

I called both of my Europe-based friends, and talking with them got me all the way home, until they each had to head off to work. We didn't talk boys at all: I made conversation about my research, they filled me in on their exciting new overseas lives, which actually sounded boring as mud but had the immeasurable benefit of not being here. They had both been generous with me, though, and I felt recharged having spoken to them. My head was clear, and I wanted to keep it that way, so I launched myself into cleaning the house. It only occurred to me later, when I'd finished and I was surveying my handiwork, that I'd been scrubbing Nathan out of the place.

I finally took a shower, and studiously avoided thinking of holding Tom in that same space. I washed and I scrubbed and I took of layers; all in the service of undoing what in all likelihood could not be undone. At a low ebb of self-confidence, I got out of the shower, dried off, and put on my favourite jockstrap – the one that framed my package just so, and pushed my arse cheeks into their most delectable form. It never failed to make me feel that there was good in the world, and that I could be part of it. I sent out a few messages to friends, and settled on the couch to do some channel surfing.

An hour later, and my Andrew Christian-Inspired high had well and truly worn off. My friends, all well-socialised twenty-somethings on the path to fulfilling relationships and impending marriages, were out, or on a date night at home, or otherwise unavailable, and while a few invited me to join them, all I really wanted to do was talk. To have someone fill the silence. The television was providing only low level thrills, and I was studiously avoiding even considering my usual go-to: porn. I played a few games on my phone, and then – in such a casual way that I would have sworn I could tell myself I didn't know what I was doing – I sent a message to Patrick.

hey

Delivered. I buried my phone under a cushion on the couch, and went to make a cup of tea. Drawn inexorably back, I brought it back to the couch. Read 2214. Bouncing ellipsis. Vibrate.

hey slut

I stared at the screen. Effortlessly soul-crushing, just like always. Another message.

i knew u'd cum crawling back

I should never have messaged him to begin with, but I certainly shouldn't have engaged. I know this now. Then – who knows what I thought.

i'm learning to walk again, thanks

u always looked better on all 4s

I remembered all the nights crawling across filthy floors, prostrating myself for him. My skin burned with shame, as another message arrived.

u must be craving my cock – some things never change

I'm doing just fine without it

evidence says otherwise

It was the first true thing he'd said to me for a long, long time.

Forget it

not likely

Goodbye, Patrick

cya slut

He had the last word, like always. I opened the contact, which I'd helpfully named Patrick with an emoji of the no entry sign, looked briefly at it. I felt again the sting of his hand across my cheek. Edit. Delete contact. Are you sure? Siri, I've never been surer. Filled with self-loathing, I pulled on my jogging clothes over my jock, and headed out.

Instead of going down to the river, I headed up the other way, and jogged up into the hills behind Auchenflower. Faster and faster I ran, sweating up a storm, until I found myself running alongside the cemetery. Higher and higher I went, until I reached a bench looking back out over the lights of the suburbs below me. I pulled off my shirt, and used the bench to stretch, careful not to sit down. The cool breeze caressed my skin, causing my nipples to harden, and I ran my hand through my hair, before adjusting the pouch of my jock slightly; wearing it had been a strategic error, given it was a fashion statement rather than practical exercise gear.

I looked down to the river, seeing the city glisten in the distance, with the university campus off to my right. I needed to get out of my head, to decide who mattered to me and who didn't, to see what I could salvage of the life I'd been building for myself. And if that was nothing, if it was unsalvageable, then so be it. A thrill passed through me, like a jolt – an excitement I almost confused for sexual. I set off back down the hill, feeling my body working like a machine, feeling my muscles expanding and contracting under my skin, and as I built up steam I started to let out a cleansing roar that cascaded through my body from the bottom of my feet, through the pit of my stomach, up across my bruised heart, out my throat and reverberated through the still night. It echoed in my ears the whole way home.

 

 

 

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