Author’s Note

This was a fun chapter to write. Soon I will be posting some extras on the site, some of the inspirations for this chapter. Check back for those, I will try to label them appropriately. Also, if you make it to the end without falling asleep, I’m going to start making some brief end notes after the chapters, just for those who enjoy trivia about erotic fiction.

As always, feel free to send comments to erikritler@yahoo.com. Also, if you’d like to send photos from around the internet that remind you of the story, I post all appropriate submissions in the Reader Submission folder on the site.

For now, enjoy!

erik


Story so far:

When the earth is destroyed, millions evacuate in hundreds of massive space ships, hoping that one of four planets on their route will provide a suitable new home. The ship occupied by Devon Chasen, a young gay boy, is an odd example – it’s barely half occupied, and almost everyone on board is a college-age male.

Devon tries to adjust to his new life. It helps to have great friends, some of whom he’s started a wank club in one of the unoccupied flats. There’s Charlie and Mike, who have started dating, and the oversexed Zane. These are just a few of the guys in the group that meets on Friday nights to fool around. Hey, there’s not much else to do.

Devon has great straight friends too. The ever-loyal Reid, and Patrick, best friends from before the evacuation. Conner, a pre-med student now working as a doctor on the ship, is also shaping up to be a great friend. And then there’s Sneak, an enigmatic boy who’s been spying on Devon and his friends, albeit with Devon’s knowledge and semi-approval.

But there is tension too. From very early on, some of the upper classmen had strong opinions about how things should be run. Devon stumbled onto a riot one afternoon, becoming injured in the process. He wakes to find himself injured, and although his friends help him through tough times, some of the things that are happening are stressful. First and foremost, Reid and Patrick have told Devon that they will soon start fighting in public, in an attempt to join opposite sides of the conflict in order to research a solution. Then there is Zane, who promised to visit Devon in the hospital the second night he was there, but never showed up.


Space Ship Boys

Chapter 13 – The Somewhat Arousing Adventures of New Devon


It was a quiet Monday afternoon when Conner came breezing into my room, looking overly chipper to someone who’d been bedridden for almost a week. “How are you today?” he asks.

“Fine. Whatever. Fine,” I mumble in response. He knows damn well how I am – fine, but sore, and stuck in this wretched sky-blue cast, which is held in place by an equally wretched white fabric sling. I was playing a really lame game on my com, but that wasn’t really the reason I was a little short. I’d been bored lately. Sick of the hospital, and sick of this room and sick of the stupid yellow walls – I think my attitude was suffering a little….or maybe a lot.

“Wow, you seem cranky this afternoon,” he replied with a wide smile. I was cranky, as evidenced by the passing thought that I should smack him for smiling. I shrug, not really wanting to talk. Conner’s face drops and he looks concerned. “Look, Devon, I know you’re a little mad at me for keeping you so long. The good news is that I think it really helped. I just looked over your scans with Dr. Moreno, and things look good. Great, really.”

I shrug again. It’s hard to get excited about the fifty-seventh set of scans when they show the exact same thing as the fifty-sixth. “In fact,” he continues, “if you promise to go easy, maybe you’d like to sleep in your own bed tonight?”

I look at my friend, confusion spread across my face until his offer registers. “Or you can stay here another couple of days.” He gestures to the room in a sweeping motion.

“Hell no!” I say firmly, swinging my legs over the side of the bed and standing up. Other than being really sore still (and the obvious arm in cast and sling), I felt much better. Which didn’t help with the feeling of being trapped in this room. If Conner was offering to let me out, I planned to make a rapid beeline for the door. “I can go...now?” I ask, wanting to confirm this before dashing for the exit.

He laughs at me. “Ha, yeah, we can get you out of here. But I do want to walk you home, and we need to take it easy, ok? And maybe you’d like to wear pants?”

I look down at my hospital gown. I’d been asking to wear regular clothes for several days, but was told I needed to stick to the gown. “Pants. Yeah, better,” I mumble. In my rush to leave, I pull my gown off in a swift motion, taking care not to hook it on my left arm. I suppose I should have considered that I wasn’t wearing anything underneath it. Whoops.

Conner looks a bit shocked, and then offers me a little dignity by ignoring the totally nude Devon in the room, turning around courteously. I don’t really care about being naked around him, so I don’t particularly rush in walking across the room to the closets, where a pre-packed bag sits waiting for my discharge, courtesy of Reid. I take it out of the closet and unpack my clean clothes – I’m enjoying making Conner uncomfortable, so I don’t put anything on right away.

“You ARE ready to leave, huh?” he asks, staring at the wall.

“You have no idea. You guys have been great, but I am SO sick of this room. No, not sick. Don’t think I’m literally sick. I’m totally well. Strike that last statement.” I’m babbling, mostly because I’m so glad to be getting out of here. I pull a tee-shirt over my head, taking longer than usual because of the damned cast.

“You’re a nut,” Conner laughs. He turns back to face me. I assume he thought the rustling of fabric was me putting on underwear, but I’m still totally nude from the waist down. He looks surprised, again, which is cute. I smile at him, maybe the first real smile I’ve given anyone, particularly him, in days, and then pull on my shorts, not bothering with underwear.

“Ready,” I say, slinging my bag over my good shoulder.

“No socks?” he asks. I’m still barefoot.

I head for the door. “No way. Let’s get out of here. Like NOW.”

And that was the end of my hospital stay. It hadn’t been so bad, really. My friends did better coming around to hang with me once we established a schedule, and then things had been slow enough so that Ian and Conner ended up spending a lot of time in my room. On the way out we pass Ian in the halls. He’s wearing a pair of green and blue striped scrubs, which look good on his lean frame. “Leaving us?” He asks. “But it’s so soon.”

“Not soon enough,” I joke back. I can see the hospital lobby and the exit beyond down the hallway, and while I truly like Ian, freedom beckons.

Ian seems to get it. “Well, call me later. We should hang out. I won’t ever mention the hospital again, I swear.” Ian’s eyes are pale blue and, as always, hypnotic. But not hypnotic enough for me to stop my dash for the exit.

I promise to call him later, if for nothing else to let him know how my arm is doing, and then Conner and I exit the hospital facility. Ah, sweet freedom! The Port Concourse is rather like a shopping mall – or an office building – so it’s not the most exciting place to be, but I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to be out in the open air, such as it is.

“You are officially no longer under my care. So I guess I’ll have to stop bossing you around,” Conner says playfully.

I’m so happy to be out that this seems immensely more amusing than it actually is. I reach over to tousle Conner’s hair. “Aww, Conner, you can always boss me around. Just no more hospitals for a while.”

This earns me a wide smile. “Deal.”

The entrance to the hospital facility is just around the corner from the main lobby of The Commons, which is where I had my accident – and by “accident” I mean “a bunch of fucking morons pushed me over a railing.” There are multiple routes back to my flat, but I want to see the spot where I went crunch. Conner argues about this for a moment before giving in.

Entering the main lobby – with its magnificent dome hanging up above, impossibly high, things seem...normal. It’s not crowded, but it’s not empty. Nothing seems destroyed. I don’t know what I expected.

The three concourses all open into the main lobby, the shopping mall feel giving way to the monumental open space. It’s not hard to spot where the third floor of the Forward Concourse empties into the space, and from there it’s not hard to visually trace the pathway to the exact spot where I went over the safety rail.

Despite the minor protest from Conner, I walk over to the spot directly under the rail where I went over. The lobby is dotted with sitting areas, couches, tables, trees and plant beds. I quickly locate the plant bed I must have landed in. It’s raised about two feet above the floor and overfilled with leafy pothos ivy, some which I doubtlessly killed when I landed here a week ago.

“Remind me to thank the guy who DIDN’T plant cactus here,” I remark.

“No kidding.” Conner stands a couple of feet behind me. He’s giving me space; I can appreciate that.

I sit on the edge of the planter. The material is cool and metallic against my skin. The plants look undisturbed. To my right is a bench – it must be where Nick sat with me while waiting for help. I run my hand along a vine that’s hanging over the edge of the planter, the leaves damp and cool against my fingers. I notice a small brownish-red stain on the gray ledge under the leaf. It’s unmistakably blood, and therefore almost certainly my blood. I wipe at the stain with my thumb. It doesn’t smear, but rather flakes off, crumbling into nothingness.

“You ok?” Conner asks.

I nod yes, but I’m not sure I’m being truthful. I look up to the third floor, which seems far, far above us, and I try to suppress a shiver. I could have died here, I consider. If I’d gone over in another spot, maybe I’d have cracked my skull and then quickly drifted away forever. It’s a scary thought. You shouldn’t be seventeen and thinking about your own death, you know?

Suddenly I’m a little scared of this place, as if it has the power to reach out and take back the life that was spared before. I shiver, and then wonder if I can avoid The Commons for the next two decades. No, probably not. But then, I’ve learned something here. How close we can get to our own mortality and not even know it. It’s corny, but falling off the ledge reminded me how unpredictable life can be.

I stand slowly and then turn my back on the planter, vowing that if it has to exist as a symbol in my life, it will symbolize the preciousness of life, and not fear or pain or suffering. “That’s what I’ll do,” I mumble out loud, making a note that from now on, whenever I pass this place, I will think about everything that came after my accident – all the good things my life has been and will be after that horrible moment in time. I won’t ever approach this place with apprehension or fear.

“I’m sorry?” Conner cocks his head inquisitively.

I shake my head, realizing I’d inadvertently spoken out loud. “Nothing.” My voice is quiet and solemn. “Just thinking.”

We leave the planter and walk through the Forward Concourse toward my flat. I’m not overly talkative, but Conner respects this. And that makes me respect him. The guy was a good friend before, but now he’s...I don’t know. He’s taken care of me, stayed with me well beyond his scheduled hours. He’d been a real friend this past week, and I owed him. I wasn’t sure how I’d ever show my gratitude. But I had an idea how I could start.

“Conner,” I say as we walk past a park area, the magnolia trees awash in large white blooms, “I’d like to cook you dinner tomorrow night.”

He looks at me curiously. “Huh?” he asks awkwardly, his reply dampening the elegance of my offer somewhat.

I laugh. “Yeah, I’d like to cook you dinner. You were great – in the hospital, and with everything. I really owe you one. Well, maybe like a hundred. I’d like to cook you dinner tomorrow night.”

The farther we walk from the hospital, the more free I feel. My mood is considerably lighter. I pass under a low-hanging branch and leap up, tapping the leaves with my open palm. “You don’t owe me anything, Devon.” Conner sounds solemn, like there’s some doctor’s oath he’s about to quote. But he doesn’t. “And I don’t want you overdoing it.”

I smile at my friend. “No, I know. But I’ve been cooped up for a week, and I want to cook something. Something cool. It’s what I do, and it’ll help. And you can be my guinea pig, know what I mean?”

Conner rolls his eyes. The last time I’d drafted guinea pigs they’d been treated to curried cinnamon mac and cheese. Whatever – so I’m not the perfect chef yet. It sounded good at the time. Conner tries negotiating with me. “Sounds good, but maybe we can let you recuperate for a few more days. I’d like you to rest.” It’s a noble attempt at negotiation, but one doomed to fail.

I make a leap to my left, landing squarely in the small stream running through the park. The water runs cool and refreshing over my toes, so I give it a big kick. Conner yelps; I’ve splashed him a little. “No more bossing me around, remember?” I laugh. “I’m a free man. I’m cooking tomorrow, and I’ll need someone to help eat it.”

He concedes, wiping some water off his arm. “Fair enough.” There’s a big wet spot on the leg of his tan pants, which he eyes with an annoyed expression. I grin at him and shrug. Ouch! No more shrugging for a while.

We set a time. He asks where to meet me. The cafeteria is up in Topside, and although it’s not the only food service area on the ship, it was the only one in current use. But the idea of making a special dinner and then serving it with everyone else around seems unappealing.

“The cafeteria is always a zoo. I have a better idea,” I say, “We recently set up that restaurant space right there by the rear tunnel, know the one I mean?” Conner nods yes. An empty space meant eventually to be a restaurant was located on the first floor of The Commons, right where the lobby narrowed into the tunnel leading to the Rear Observation Deck. “I think I’m gonna cook in there, so I can concentrate and really play around with it. There’s too much going on up in the cafeteria. Let’s meet down there.”

Conner looks like he appreciates the offer. “Ok. Yeah, that sounds cool. Man, all my patients should be like you. Eight months on a spaceship and all I’ve gotten in the way of thank-you gift is a pen someone left in my office. Well that and…” Conner’s voice drops to a whisper, “…a cum rag someone left under my desk.”

“Gross!” I exclaim, laughing. “Oh my god, that’s so nasty!”

“I know, right? I should run a DNA test. Hey, it wasn’t you…right?” he asks with mock suspicion on his voice.

I can’t help myself. “No way,” I reply, “I never use a rag – I just let it fly where it will.” This results in a shocked expression from my friend, and then a blush, which makes me giggle profusely.

We make our way back to my room. When we enter section 23E, Conner turns to me with a solemn look. “Ok, here’s the deal,” he says, speaking a little fast. “As your friend, I’d never put you in an embarrassing situation. As a doctor, I’d try to keep you out of situations that might give you a heart attack. Still, I sort of had to let your friends know you were coming home…there were threats.”

The hallway is completely empty and quiet. A little too quiet. I get what Conner is implying. “Ah. So what you’re saying is that no matter how quiet it is out here, it’s not so quiet behind that door.” I point to the door to my flat.

“Exactly,” he replies.

We walk the hall and then enter my flat, coming immediately to the small foyer with short hallways extending to both the right and left. You can’t see into the living area right when you walk in, but I could hear the noises made by several people trying to be quiet, which I’m sure I would have noticed even if Conner hadn’t warned me. I brace myself and walk down the hall, around the bathroom, and into the living room. It’s dark, but as soon as I enter a light flips on, revealing thirty or so people in the room.

“SURPRISE!” half of them yell, while the rest bellow “WELCOME HOME!” What we’re greeted with sounds something like “SURELCOM HORISE!!!”

I jump. Although I’d been forewarned, it was still a loud greeting.

Most of my flatmates are there, as are a lot of my other friends. Charlie is setting up a makeshift buffet behind the couch. Mike is there too, of course, as are Sean and Dog. Zane and a couple of his roommates are hanging out in the corner. I smile at the group, feeling both a little flattered and a little on the spot. It’s weird – surprise parties.

Once the compulsory yelling of “surprise” had died down, Beck and AJ disappeared into Beck’s room. Not long after, music fills the flat, the slow thumping rhythms that indicate the event is being DJ’d by Beck, probably with some input from AJ.

“Welcome home,” someone says behind me. I turn to see Peter and Chris, both decked out in their security force uniforms.

“Thanks,” I say graciously, the first of about five hundred times tonight. Reid walks into the living area behind them. I’m surprised to see that he’s also in a security force uniform. Then I remember our conversation in the hospital – about how he was joining security and how Patrick would be hanging out with Steven Caine’s group. A cloud passes across my generally good mood, but then someone hands me a glass filled with brownish liquid. I took a sip and let my troubles slide to the back of my mind.

I can be a bit rubbish at parties, and being the guest of honor amplified this. Over the next three hours I have the same conversation about a hundred times. First the mandatory “welcome home,” then a retelling of my time in the hospital (well, the PG version of the story anyway). Then usually I’d have to express an opinion about the riot and what was going on.

I sipped at my drink, which was magically refreshed throughout the evening, and pretty soon the conversations seemed easier. Then I seemed to be on autopilot. I have hazy recollections of eventually being carted off to bed by Conner and Reid, despite my protests that I wasn’t that drunk.

* * *

The following morning was a bit of a blur. I eventually rambled out of bed, feeling stiff and groggy. I noticed that my blue plasticine cast is now dappled with signatures. When’d that happen?

Everyone else is already up and gone, which doesn’t surprise me when I see that it’s eleven-twenty. Yikes. Then I remember I’d asked Conner to let me cook for him – a whole special meal I’d insisted was part of my recovery. Double yikes.

The thing about cooking is that I really love it. I’m not sure I ever considered being a chef before being stuck on this ship, but when that came up as a work opportunity I leapt at it. I don’t know, it was something that felt rewarding and fun. I liked the whole “evil scientist” aspect to it – you take all these bland, raw ingredients and mix them together right and you had magic. Or a mushy tuna casserole – you never knew.

I shower, dress and run up to the cafeteria level. There’s a whole staff that prepares food for the ship throughout the day. We’d all started out on the same level, more or less, but as time passed some of us seemed more like chefs, and others as...well, less than chefs.

When I get to the kitchen, Zane is on duty. He’s wearing a black apron over a green tee and jeans, and he’s covered head-to-toe in what I take to be flour.

“Hey,” he says when he notices me, shaking his head so that flour drifts down out of his floppy locks.

I reply, “The flour goes in the cakes, in case you were wondering.”

“Yeah, I’m getting that,” he says, pulling his tee away from his chest and then letting it go so that it pops back against his body, a cloud of flour rising off the fabric.

Zane was one of the guys that was less than a chef. But he liked the work, and we had shifts together on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which was always fun. I liked coming up with menus, managing supplies, and that sort of thing. He liked being told to compile forty trays of food and then unleashed to accomplish the task. We made a good duo in the kitchen.

Still, I was a little sore with Zane. That second night in the hospital he’d promised to come visit me, then he’d flaked. It was par for the course with the guy. Normally I wouldn’t care, but these had been special circumstances. I hated to admit it, but the first couple of days had been really scary, and it had been even worse to be left alone. It wasn’t Zane’s fault I ended up in the hospital, and it wouldn’t be right to transfer any anger about that onto him. Still, he’d flaked – and been a crappy friend that night.

There’s a desk off the main preparation counter, which is where I sit now, a computer screen rolling out of a slot in the wall when I press a button. I’m a pretty good cook, but for tonight’s meal I want to do a little research. I pull up a program and go to work conceptualizing a cool meal.

After a few minutes Zane interrupts me. “Hey Devon,” he says, walking over to the desk. His tee is now coated in not only flour, but also a sticky dough-like mess. “Can I ask you something?” When he gets close enough, I see that the mess isn’t dough-like, it’s actual globs of dough, which are blobbed all over his shirt in pea-sized balls.

I look him in the eyes. “If it’s where you went wrong with this dish, I don’t think I’m going to be able to help you,” I reply. I can’t help but smile. Zane is a messy cook, and he knows it.

“No, it’s not that,” he says, “I think the deal there is that when they say to flour a surface, they mean before you put the dough on it.” He steps aside so that I can see that his entire work counter is covered with a pale brown gooey mess. I roll my eyes. Zane’s food is usually edible, but you don’t want to see the kitchen when he’s done making it.

“Anyway,” he says, “I was wondering if we could hang out after work. I wanted to talk to you about something.”

Zane is adorable. Sexy and adorable. Even covered in goo, he’s pretty cute, and the longer I know him the more I realize he’s impossible to stay angry at. My natural inclination would be to forgive and forget anything he ever did. In this case, I try to hold onto my annoyance with him a little longer. “Can’t,” I reply flatly. “Busy tonight.”

“Oh,” he says, looking a little rejected. I’m not worried – I’m sure it’s not something that happens to the guy often. “Then maybe tomorrow night? It’s kinda important to me.” He scratches his nose so that a large glob of dough sticks to the end. I can’t help but laugh at this.

“Ok,” I acquiesce. “Maybe, and I mean maybe, I’ll hang out tomorrow after work. It just depends.”

“Cool!” he exclaims, smiling. He goes back to work, goop-covered nose and all.

I resume my work. Coming up with the perfect menu can take time and creativity. Unfortunately I slept in, so I’ll have to rely on creativity. I get a general idea what I’d like to make – some familiar dishes, and then some new things I’ve wanted to try.

Once I have a tentative menu, I access the ship stores inventory. Eight months into our voyage, things were running pretty routinely on the farms. We grew almost all our own food now, relying very little on the rations (to everyone’s approval). We even had a steady supply of meat – we were on our fourth generation of chickens and ducks, and our first generation of beef, pork and lamb was cured and in the stores.

I’m happy to see that most everything I want is available. I don’t go crazy – we eat well, but I don’t like to splurge, even on a menu for two. Or maybe because it’s a menu for only two. I compile my ingredient order, make a note that it should be packaged up, and send it.

Even though I’m in a hurry, I still stop to chat with three or four coworkers on my way to the storeroom. It almost feels like I’ve been on vacation. One guy, Greg, asks to sign my cast and I let him. He signs it “Gre!” It’s an inside joke, stemming to a time when he’d told me to spell his name “Greg with one G.” Ha, ha.

My order is ready when I get to the storeroom, located one level below the kitchens. The guys on duty are the best – always eager to get together anything we’ve requested. Usually they’ll even bring it upstairs for us, but I’m not staying and wanted to come down here. I walk up to the large, open window that divides the storeroom lobby from the warehouse.

“Hey Sam,” I say, greeting the guy on duty at the window. When he sees me, I get a warm smile and greeting.

“Devon! Hey, I didn’t know you were back today. How are things?” he asks.

“Good,” I reply, “Best vacation spot ever. You should check it out.”

“I’ll do that. Would you recommend the second or third floor for jumping?” he jokes. My arm twinges in pain, but I don’t mind the humor.

“Uh, probably the second. Or even the first. The third is a little much, to be honest. You’d probably end up with one of these.” I hold up my cast-clad arm.

“Cool!” Sam exclaims happily, and then corrects himself. “I mean, not cool you broke it. But it’s a cool cast. Can I sign it?” I nod, and Sam grabs a large red marker they use for outgoing orders. He signs my cast in a rather attractive flourish.

Another worker emerges from the back, carrying a bundle of groceries. He sees me, but makes an elaborate show of pretending not to. “That asshole Devon ordered a bunch of random stuff, I don’t know what the hell he...oh! Hey, Devon,” he babbles, and then laughs at his own joke.

“Hey Jon,” I reply. I put on an inquisitive look. “Seems like I was supposed to give you a message from upstairs. Hmm...what was it? Oh, yeah! They said to tell you they’re docking you a week’s pay because you ruined like fifty pounds of stuff jacking off back there.”

Sam has taken a large gulp from a glass on his desk, which he probably now regrets, laughing at the right moment so that his soda goes up his nose. He chokes and laughs at the same time, droplets of drink splattering on the front of his shirt.

Jon gives Sam a solid slap on the back. “Funny,” he says. “Last time I looked, they don’t actually pay us. Besides, we’re always short on protein. I could help you fix that.”

“Nice,” I reply flatly. It’s the sort of lewd humor we always use down here. Heck, it’s the sort of lewd humor we always use everywhere. “I’ll remember that next time I’m planning a menu. Was all my stuff in?”

Jon says it was. The computers are pretty accurate, but not always completely so. We joke around a little longer, talking about who said what and who did what in the last week. Then we discuss my very favorite subject – the hospital. I tell them about my stay, then see what time it is. “Hey, oops, I gotta go. I’m running a little late today. I’ll be back on shifts next week, see you guys then.”

“Take care, Devon,” Jon says.

I take my bundles and head for the exit from food services. Taking the main elevators from Topside to The Commons, it’s only a short walk to the empty restaurant space. When I say “restaurant space,” I mean that this is what the spot was designed to become eventually. The ships were laid out to serve as functioning communities, and the plan on a busy ship was that ultimately The Commons – the main lobby and three concourses – would be filled with shops, offices and eateries.

This particular space, several thousand square feet by the tunnel to the Rear Observation Deck, was set to serve as a restaurant as soon as the need arose. Keeping areas clean and maintained was part of our regular shit detail, and we’d recently prepped this area for use. It wasn’t spotless, but I was pretty sure nothing would explode on me, nor would I fall through the floor into a lower deck…probably.

Entering the kitchen, the first thing I notice is that it’s flipping freezing. It must be down to ten degrees in here. I check the environmental controls, and things seem to be operating fine; warm air is blowing from the vents. I feel a frigid draft blow past my ankles, working its way up my pants like icy vines. Looking under one of the workstations against the rear wall of the kitchen, I find a large hole in the wall, several feet across, where a large panel seems to be missing. The hole seems to lead into the next room. I shake my head. Whoever led up the shit detail that catalogued and repaired this space didn’t do a great job.

I can’t repair broken panels, but I can plug a hole (no jokes, please), so I find a large crate that fits snugly into the gap. Once the frigid air stops pouring in, the room starts to heat up rapidly. I clear a work area, careful to scrub it down before beginning. Then I set out all my ingredients. A little anal, I know, but I’ve learned a few things about organization since I started cooking for five thousand.

I don’t get very far before I realize that I don’t have all the pots and pans I need. Great. I go back upstairs, wrangle the equipment, note that Zane has what appears to be strawberry jam running down his leg, then go back to the restaurant.

Again, I don’t get very far before noticing that I’d forgotten several ingredients. “Fuck me,” I say, placing the electronic order before heading back to the storeroom. Sam has gone home, but Jon is still on duty and jokes with me before I take my food. Then it’s another trip down to the restaurant, where I promptly note that I forgot to bring utensils. “Oh my god, Devon, you’re such a moron,” I say to myself, laughing. Still, it’s not that funny. Now I’m really behind schedule.

When I get to the main kitchen, Zane is standing over ten trays of perfect looking desserts, although he’s now added splashes of chocolate to the flour, dough and jam that coats him head to toe. I have to giggle. You wouldn’t think it looking at him, but his stuff turns out well.

“I don’t know whether I want to eat you or the food,” I joke.

Zane turns to me, completely filthy, and flashes a sly smile, rubbing his hands over his tummy, as he’s prone to do. “I know which one you want,” he says. I roll my eyes, pack up my utensils and leave the kitchen for what I hope is the last time this afternoon.

Ready to start cooking (finally!) I get to work – chopping ingredients, mixing things, enjoying the sensation of my knife passing through vegetables and the sounds of meat sautéing in the pan. For the first time in a week, I truly relax, even if cooking with one arm is a challenge. Cooking (both one and two-handed) is very Zen for me, it’s both an act of creation and destruction, and it’s the transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary. Plus it smells awesome.

Things come together and start to look like actual food when I hear the front door open and close. I look at the clock – it’s just after eight. “Zonkers!” I exclaim, resolving to both finish up quickly and never use the word “zonkers” again.

“Hello?” I hear Conner call from the dining room.

I yell back out to him. “Be right out. I’m just a little behind...but not too bad.”

“You want me to help?” he asks. I look around at the considerable mess I’ve made preparing this meal. Sheesh, I’m not much better than Zane. I look down at my clothes and breathe a sigh of relief. At least I’ve kept the food off me.

“Uh, no,” I reply, “I kind of like it when it’s a surprise. I’m almost done. I’ll be right out.”

“Cool,” Conner replies. “I brought wine. I hope that’s ok. I didn’t know what you were making, so I brought red and white. The white’s a synth, though. Should I open one?”

Synth wine wasn’t so bad – it was made with grapes grown on the ship, the fermentation and aging expedited through a process I didn’t completely understand. It tasted pretty good to me, although being seventeen I hadn’t tried that many wines. I look at the food I’ve made, thinking about Conner’s question. “Uh, let’s start with the white. Then maybe move on to the red.” I have no idea what I’m talking about, but my answer sounds sophisticated and all “growed up.”

I feel a little flustered, but I’m not that behind. Actually, I’m pretty on-schedule. I slide the entree into the oven, setting my timer for the appropriate time, and plate our first course. I grumble, realizing I didn’t really have a way to carry it to the dining room with one arm. So I take one serving out first.

Conner is sitting at the table I’ve set. I put the dish in front of him. “Wow!” he exclaims. “Oh my god, Devon, that smells...awesome. What is it?”

There are times when “What is it?” isn’t what a cook wants to hear, but this isn’t one of them. I’ve made a soup, so it’s understandable that someone would ask what was in it. “Um,” I reply bashfully, “To start, I’ve tried a butternut squash chowder, which is finished with fried sage and crispy bacon.”

“Wow. Well, it looks awesome.” Conner is absent-mindedly playing with his fork. He looks over at my empty setting. “You’re not eating?” he asks.

“Um, yeah,” I reply, “But, you know...” I wiggle my free arm and raise my slung one.

“Oh,” he says, then realizes what I’m gesturing. “Oh! I’m an idiot. Sorry. Here, let me help, screw the whole surprise thing.”

He gets up and heads towards the kitchen. I don’t stop him, partially because I’m grateful for the help and partially because everything I wanted to surprise him with is hidden away in ovens. “Wow, it smells even better in here,” he says, entering the kitchen. “These all need to go out?”

I nod, and Conner picks up the bowl and plates that complete our first course. Sitting back down at the table, he places my soup in front of me. He’s right; it smells awesome, which I’m thankful for seeing that I’d never made this before. He puts a plate with several roundish pastries in the middle of the table. “Those are prosciutto, pesto and gruyere pinwheels,” I explain, “Sort of a fancy bread course.”

“I’ll say,” Conner says. “Can I have one?”

“Of course,” I laugh. “I don’t usually put food out just to taunt people, but I might try that sometime.”

He smiles at me, picking up one of the flat pinwheels. It crunches satisfactorily when he bites into it, the pastry flaking apart delicately. “Oh by bod, Debon,” he says, his mouth full of pastry. It’s one of the highest compliments a chef gets – the food so delicious the diner can’t wait to swallow before acclaiming it. Conner swallows the bite. “That is amazing! You made these? You are...wow, these are soooooo good.”

I blush a little, I think. Conner has similar praise for the soup, which is homey and hearty and wonderful, little crispy pieces of bacon and sage accenting the squash in perfect harmony. “I thought this was appropriate for October,” I explain.

We work our way through six or seven pinwheels between us, along with our soup and half the bottle of white wine. “I’m just getting into cooking. I mean, obviously,” I say, sipping my wine after a bite of soup, “But I’m starting to get the whole wine with food thing. It’s pretty good.”

Conner nods emphatically in agreement. We take our time eating, and when my wristcom beeps I excuse myself so I can go check on the main course. He follows me back to the kitchen without asking permission, but it’s ok. I look through the glass door and see that dinner looks ready, so I take it out.

“Wow. What is that?” he asks.

“That,” I say resolutely, putting on my best airs, “is a cheese soufflé. I’ve used a blend of goat and blue cheeses for this one, and some thyme I grew. I hope it’s ok.” I spoon the soufflé onto two plates I’d prepared in advance with a green salad I’d tossed.

“Looks great,” Conner says, carrying the food out to the table for us. He insists on carrying both plates.

He again has nothing but accolades for my cooking, and I’m pretty sure he isn’t lying, seeing as how his soufflé disappears in under two minutes. I suggest he have seconds; he declines, but then accepts when I insist. I stick to one serving, but make up for it by drinking an extra large glass of the red wine. Suddenly I feel very, very relaxed.

“You’re a good friend,” I say. “I’m really glad you like the food. Like I said before, I really owe you one.”

“Aww, Devon,” Conner says cutely, “You don’t owe me anything. It’s my job.” He laughs, also enjoying the glow that comes with good food, okay wine, and great company.

I think about how he’s always been there for me, ever since we left earth. Even if he won’t admit it, how he cared for me this last week extended well beyond “just doing my job.” I try to convey this to him. “I’m pretty sure sticking around after your shift to watch movies isn’t in your textbooks. It was a rough week. I really appreciate you being there.”

“Of course,” he says, and then pushes himself away from the table. “Man, I’m stuffed. That was so good.”

I try to put on a hurt expression, which is a little off owing to the wine. “You’re done? But I made dessert.”

We spend ten minutes arguing about whether Conner will explode if he eats any more. Either I win, or enough space frees up while we talk so that he feels comfortable taking on my cooking for one more round. Again he offers to carry things out to the dining room, but this time I refuse his help, telling him I really do want this course to be a surprise.

I assemble my desserts in the kitchen, putting them on small plates so I have no trouble carrying both in my good arm. I set Conner’s dessert in front of him.

“I feel really lame tonight, but again, wow,” he says. “And I hope you know this all looks great – I’m not asking because it’s unrecognizable or anything, but what do we have here?”

I set my own dessert down. “Ok, so this is a pumpkin cake,” I explain, “which I left simple. I’ve given it a light citrus glaze, and then the topping is pecan and coconut.” This dessert was a total Devon creation. I’d hoped that the pecan and coconut topping would be good with the pumpkin cake. It sounded great, and the final result smelled amazing. Plus, the small bite I’d taken when the topping was done was amazing – the pecans and coconut were toasted, and I’d bound them with a gooey, creamy caramel made of cooked milk. It was like...I don’t know...it was like a bite of really great sex in pecan-coconut form.

“Cool,” Conner replies, turning his plate to inspect his serving closer. “Pumpkin is my favorite.”

I smile. “Yeah, I know. That’s why we’re not having apple clafouti.”

Conner flashes a huge smile then asks if he can dig in. I tell him yes, and he scoops up a generous forkful of cake and gooey topping. This time he swallows before talking. “Oh, wow. That is freaking awesome, Devon. I mean...oh my god.” I almost laugh out loud when the thought crosses my mind that my friend looks like he’s just creamed his pants.

I thank him profusely, really grateful that he’s enjoyed the food. We finish our desserts, Conner again claiming that he’s going to burst. I laugh at him, his joking around all the more hilarious after three glasses of wine…or was it four? We finish, cleaning up after ourselves. Conner insists on doing dishes. My arm and shoulder hurts, so I gratefully accept, sitting on the counter while he washes up the mess I’d made. We chat. I get a little dizzy from the wine.

We lock up after we’re finished. Several of the cooks have access to this kitchen, but we don’t really want everyone messing around in the space. College guys. You leave a door unlocked, and about fifteen minutes later you have squatters. Just look at our room in Area 24!

“Thanks again for dinner,” Conner says, walking me through the main lobby towards the forward concourse. I glance over at the planting bed – my bed – and make a mental note about the great evening I’ve had, and how awesome it is that my life didn’t end last week. “You wanna do something? Hang out?” he asks.

I inadvertently yawn, which I immediately regret. I apologize. “Sorry, think it’s all the wine. And I’m not a hundred percent yet. But yeah, what should we do?”

Conner looks me over. I know him well enough that he’s switched modes, and is now thinking about my welfare. “You should get to bed,” he says, confirming exactly what I was just thinking he was thinking. “I don’t want you overdoing it. And it’s late. Well, for someone who’s busted up.”

Suddenly I’m too tired to argue. We make our way back to my area, then wind up in front of the door to my flat. “Sorry to putter out on you,” I say sleepily.

“Don’t worry about it. And thanks again for dinner. You didn’t have to do that. It was awesome.”

“Thanks,” I say.

We say goodnight and I go into my flat, bypassing the guys on the couch watching the evening movie. Entering my room, Reid is the only one home. I smile at him. “Have a good night?” he asks. He can probably tell I’m tipsy.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I made dinner for Conner as a thank-you. It was really good. Then I had too much wine. I’m beat.”

Reid chuckles at me, then tells me to go to bed. I grumble about that, but he insists, helping me take off my shoes and socks before I climb into my bunk. “Thanks,” I tell him, feeling pretty good about my friends.

* * *

As it turns out, getting off work for an extra week because you broke your arm is a good thing, but more so if at least one of your friends is also off work. Otherwise, it’s a lot of sitting around with a sore arm, as I discover the next day.

Zane messages me around noon, letting me know he’ll be working later than normal. I consider canceling with him, and then think about setting a meeting place and then flaking on him to show him what it’s like. But I’m bored, so I message him back that we’re still on.

Around eight, I head up to the kitchens. I’m almost all the way there when I get a message from Zane that he needs a couple more hours to wrap up his work. Argh! What is it with this guy? I decide I might as well hang out in the cafeteria. It’s dinner time anyway.

I get my food and find an empty table – I’m in the mood to eat alone. Across the way, I see Charlie enter with about fifteen kids in tow. Well, not kids. They’re all around eleven or twelve. So yeah, kids. I hide as best I can, seated at an empty table in the middle of the room with a bright blue cast on display. Needless to say, it doesn’t work. Charlie sees me and waves, and the whole crew starts in my direction.

Scrubs, as we called the kids, had been part of a junior high sleepover weekend at the college, and just their luck, the earth blew up that weekend. Talk about scheduling conflicts. Charlie had been assigned as one of the guys that looked out for them. Or maybe he looked out for us. Truth be told, letting a group of twelve year-olds run rampant all over the ship was probably more a hazard for us than them.

“Hey Devon!” Charlie says once he’s in earshot.

Jason, the raven-haired, green-eyed kid that sometimes hung out with Charlie and me, mimics Charlie. “Hey Devon!” he exclaims. This sets off a chain reaction, each scrub repeating the last. “Hey Devon!” “Hey Devon!” “Hey Devon!” echoes down the line in what I take to be an annoying vaudeville routine.

“Hey guys,” I say in a bored voice. “What’s up?”

“We were hoping you were cooking tonight,” Jason says, eyes shining bright. “You make the best crack wraps.”

I’d accidentally stumbled on a menu item that seemed like crack cocaine to the scrubs - chicken fingers wrapped in a flour tortilla with pepper jack cheese, avocado, tomato, romaine and honey mustard dressing. When I’d pointed out their near-narcotic addictive properties, they started calling them “crack wraps.” “Sorry guys,” I say, mushing my food around my tray in little circles with my fork, “I’m off all week. Busted arm. It’s tofuloaf night, I’m afraid.”

Several downcast faces express exactly how they feel about that. Jason seems to notice my cast for the first time. “Hey, cool sling!” he says. “Can I sign your cast?”

It seems like it would be ungracious of me to say no, seeing as how I’m sitting here bored and the cast already has several signatures on it. I tell Jason he can sign it, which sets off a round of everyone asking to sign it. “Ok, ok!” I say in a raised voice, trying to reign in the chaos. “Everybody can sign it. Just nobody hurts my arm or I destroy you all.”

The scrubs agree, a marker is located, and a half-hour round of “everybody sign Devon’s cast” is under way. Charlie eventually tells the group to hurry up – they need to eat and get down to Bottomside so they don’t miss their field time. “Bye Devon!” Jason yells, scuttling off for the food line. This (of course) results in a repeat performance, each scrub emphatically telling me bye before running off.

“Thanks,” Charlie says, laughing at the group. I tell him “no problemo” before he heads over to the line, presumably to stop any food-related disasters from occurring amongst the unsupervised kids.

Finally, at ten-thirty, Zane gets off work and shows up. He looks a little tired, but this particular shift has left his black tee and jeans moderately clean. “Hey,” he says when he finds me at my table. “Sorry that took so long. We were worried about some spoilage and had to check this whole room. Got it all done, though.”

“Cool,” I reply.

“So anyway, I was hoping to talk to you. But I need to go by my flat first – I need to drop something off.”

Now I’m truly annoyed. I hadn’t really wanted to hang out with Zane tonight because I was still a little angry at him. Then he’d run late, and now he wanted me to run errands with him. I could feel my blood pressure popping up a little, and not in a good way.

“I don’t know,” I say, whining more than I normally would, “My arm hurts and I’m really tired, can we do this some other night?”

Zane looks a little hurt, and I know right away that I’ll feel bad if I don’t agree to hang out with him. His voice is a little pleading, confirming my suspicions about feeling guilty. “Um, I’m sorry. I mean, sure, if your arm hurts we can do it later. Dang. I was really hoping we could hang out, though, but I have to take some stuff down to my room. Dang. But I mean…Do you want me to walk you home?”

He seems sincere enough, and I lighten up a little. “You know, if we keep it low-key I think I’ll be ok. I mean, we can hang out if you want to.”

Zane looks relieved, then smiles. “Cool. Well, do you want to wait here...or come with me?”

“I’ll walk with you,” I say, getting a little snarky again, “I’ve been sitting here for like three hours, so it’s getting a little boring.”

“Oh. Sorry,” he replies. I feel bad for being snappy, but also a little satisfied that he noticed.

We barely speak all the way to his flat. It’s an awkward silence, made all the more uncomfortable by the light tap-tap-tapping sound our shoes make on the hard hallway floor. It’s not that late, but the corridors seem to be virtually deserted. We pass a guy in red sweatpants and a baggy gray shirt; he shuffles past, giving us a sideways glance. I recognize him – he comes in for dinner late each night, probably because he gets off shift at a weird hour – but I don’t remember his name.

“Pretty quiet tonight,” Zane says, almost whispering.

“Yeah,” I agree.

It’s hard to judge my friend’s mood. I’m angry at him, and I think he knows it. But it’s hard to tell if he’s annoyed at me, or upset, or what. Sometimes I wish I possessed the mind-reading capabilities he seems to. My arm itches under my cast. I stick a finger under the rim just below my elbow, then note begrudgingly that I’d need like fourteen-inch fingers to reach the itch. Dammit.

Zane leads me into an area of the ship where I haven’t been before. I’d never thought about where Zane lived, to be honest. Turns out he was housed in one of the flats near Bottomside. Both this area and the flats in Topside were highly coveted - there were far fewer flats in the subsections, and each flat had only three rooms. Although the common area was considerably smaller, the reduced number of flatmates made it desirable. Most of these rooms had been doled out to upperclassmen, back when life on the ship was new and that sort of thing seemed appropriate.

We come to section 92, then walking to subsection C. His flat is immediately to the right as we enter the subsection hallway, flat number one. A large sign in drippy black lettering is painted on the door: ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE.

“Cute,” I say, pointing at the sign.

Zane shrugs. “It fits.” He opens the door, and we’re immediately hit by a wall of noise – what sounds like several guys yelling and cheering. “Wow, party night,” Zane says.

Like my flat, the entryway splits into two hallways on the right and left, wrapping around the bathrooms and leading to the bedrooms and the common areas. I’d seen some flats that open directly into the living room, but most of them are like mine. I like the first layout a little better – it makes those flats seem larger and more private. Unlike my flat, Zane’s sort of smells. Like dirty underwear, old pot and cheap air freshener.

We take the right hallway; It’s short, and once you turn the corner it almost immediately puts you into a living room considerably smaller than the one in our flat, although not horribly so. Six or seven guys are here, several of them piled on the one sofa in the room. The others are scattered in several chairs and on the floor. They’re quite rowdy, and seem to be watching some sort of game on television.

The boys notice Zane, and pandemonium breaks out. “ZANE!” rises in a great yell.

“Hey!” Zane roars back, then takes a sudden flying leap towards the occupied couch. The guys there raise their arms in protest, but it’s too late. Zane piles into them, and a raucous conversation ensues.

After a few minutes of this, Zane shoots me a glance and then looks surprised, as if he’s only just realized that I’m in the room. “Hey guys,” he says, raising his voice over the din to get his flatmates’ attention, “This is Devon.”

“DEVON!” comes the roaring reply. I wince at the noise, but smile at the attention.

I don’t know any of the guys here by name, but they all seem familiar. Makes sense – I spend my afternoons serving food, and most of them have probably passed through my lunch and dinner lines more than once. I wonder if Zane is going to introduce his friends, but he doesn’t.

One guy seems to notice this and gets up, crossing the living room to extend a hand, which I immediately shake. “Hey, I’m Alan,” he says graciously. “Zane’s told us lots about you.”

“Oh, cool,” I respond. I’m a bit surprised. Zane was hyper, and he had a frank, carefree manner about the way he spoke of friends…and former lovers. But he’d told me hardly anything about his flatmates or other friends on the ship.

Alan sees me thinking and quickly interjects. “Don’t worry, nothing bad,” he says with a smile. “Although he does say you’re king of six-wall. We’ll have to pit you against some of the guys.” The comment makes me look at my slung arm involuntarily. “When you’re better, that is,” Alan says. “Sorry about that, by the way.”

“Yeah, me too,” I reply, scratching my head with my unwounded hand. “But on the bright side, my waterless cliff-diving career is off to a great start.” It’s a stupid joke, and I resolve to come up with a better silly remark for situations like this. Alan laughs, though, probably mostly just to be kind.

“Hey,” Zane says behind me, tapping me on the shoulder. “If you don’t mind hanging here a second, I need to check my room. I think Josh is asleep. He’s on a swing shift. I just need to leave him something.

“K,” I say.

Zane leaves the room, which makes me a little uncomfortable, but Alan seems nice so it’s not bad. We chat about the kind of things you chat about with someone you just met. We talk about what we studied back at school – “What’s your major?” was a game that hadn’t quite worn off.

Alan is explaining something about French novelists when the guys on the couch erupt with another roar. He laughs, and I ask about the excitement.

“Ah, the heady roar of young men,” he says. “We’re having a bit of fun with the basketball game.”

“Basketball?” I ask, thinking I sound a little too much like I’ve never heard of the sport.

“Yeah – you haven’t heard about the new league?” I shake my head. He assumes my ignorance is due to my hospital stay and explains. Seems there was an NCAA conference going on in San Francisco at the time of the evacuation, so one of the ships was able put together a makeshift league and was now broadcasting games along the ship network. They were all pre-recorded, but it was better than watching reruns.

“Cool,” I respond, not really feeling it was all that cool. I don’t really like basketball.

“Ready to go?” Zane asks from behind. I turn around to see that he’s added a blue backpack to his ensemble.

I say goodbye to Alan and let him return to the game. On our way out, another cheer echoes down the hallway. “Your roommates seem nice,” I say.

“Yeah,” Zane replies, “They’re pretty cool.”

Another quiet trek ensues. The flats in Bottomside don’t connect to any of the concourses, making them feel remote. I think about our early days on the ship, how at first it seemed completely appropriate to dole the choice residences out to upperclassmen. The crew ultimately stepped in, mixing things up a little, but most of the living areas in Bottomside and Topside remained with guys who had been further along in school. I mention this to Zane in an attempt to make polite conversation.

“Yeah, that did kind of suck. That why Patrick’s hanging with Steven’s group?”

Patrick was, in fact, hanging with Steven’s group. But in an attempt to glean information for the security force in order to figure out what could be done to lessen some of the growing tensions on the ship. This second part was not widely known, obviously, and I didn’t feel it appropriate to correct Zane or bring him into the circle on this issue. “I guess,” I say, a little uncomfortably.

Zane leads me up to our unoccupied flat on twenty-four. Of course – where else would we go for a talk? I’m starting to think I should set up a desk in here. The flat is empty. I think Charlie and Mike are living here more and more, but they don’t seem to be around. Or they’re fucking in Charlie’s room. It makes me want to check Charlie’s room, but Zane takes me to the room we use on Fridays.

Entering the space, the first thing I notice is that it’s a mess. At first I mistake the mess for common clutter, but then I spot a smashed-up computer in the corner, along with several other items that probably used to sit on one of the desks. “What the hell happened in here?” I can’t help but sound a little shocked.

“Uh, Nick and I were rough-housing. Sorry.” Zane closes the door quietly. I turn to look at him; he seems distressed. “Anyway...” He trails off, looking at the ceiling and playing with the hem of his shirt.

I also notice that the room has been rearranged. The bunks are made to slide out of the wall – unused ones remain stowed. They can be altered in size, and even shape in some respects, and they can even be disconnected to the wall. When we’d first started the wank club, Charlie and I had spent a considerable amount of time moving the beds around and altering their shape so that we’d created a circle of recessed seating in the center of the room. They’d remained in that configuration ever since, or at least until someone, presumably Zane and Nick, had altered the room. There were now two large platform beds in either corner of the room. I wasn’t overly thrilled to see that our cool club configuration had been altered.

“You, uh, wanted to talk,” I say uncomfortably. I’m angry with him, but I don’t like confrontation.

“Yeah. I think I do. I mean, yeah,” Zane says, talking in circles. This mode he’s in, the uncertainty and doubt, it’s so unlike him that it has me concerned slightly. I sit on the edge of a bed, ready to listen. “So look, Devon, first off, I owe you an apology.”

“Yeah.” I try to keep the statement as flat as possible, making it completely ambiguous whether I’m agreeing with him or asking what he means.

“Look, I’m no good at this. This kind of thing is really hard for me, you know? You could be a little more considerate.” He sounds mostly apologetic, but I sense a glimmer of annoyance seeping into his voice.

Arguments are often about maintaining a balance of power. I wanted to be angry with Zane, but I also wanted him to remain conciliatory and sorry for what he’d done. If I annoyed him too much, the conversation could shift in an unwanted direction. I speak my words carefully, not wanting to ignite a full blown argument between us. “I’m sorry,” I say slowly, “I guess I’ve been short with you today. But I’m angry, to be honest.”

“I know, I know,” Zane replies, cutting me off and standing to pace the room in little circles. “Look, I stood you up in the hospital. I didn’t mean to do it. But then, maybe I did mean to do it. I don’t know.” I listen, thinking that this conversation is going to give me a headache. “I’d said I’d keep you company that night, and even though it wasn’t a firm plan, I knew it was unfair for me not to show, and then later I could tell you were really pissed. I wanted to explain things to you, but I was scared to.”

This is a side to Zane I’ve never seen, never even dreamt of. Fear isn’t an emotion I figured him capable of. I decide to let him speak his case, and say as much. “Thanks,” he says, “I might not deserve that much, but thanks.”

He plops down on the bed again. When he doesn’t immediately speak, I figure he’s formulating his words. A whole minute passes, and then another. We enter into an awkward silence. Eventually he starts talking again. “Here’s the deal, Devon – you really scared me.”

I arch an eyebrow. “Scared you?”

My words, though innocuous, seem to open a floodgate within Zane. He speaks in rapid, frantic words. “Yeah, dude, you scared me. I don’t think I’ve ever been that scared in my life. That night – the night you were hurt – we got the notice to go back to quarters, we don’t really know what’s going on. So Charlie and I head here – we’d been in the library. Then we start getting these frantic messages from Nick that you were hurt and they were taking you into the hospital.

“Charlie and I went over there right away. Nick was there in the hospital lobby, covered in blood and frantic about you falling off the ledge. Your roommates were already there – Reid and – what’s his name? – oh, yeah, Patrick. Patrick was trying to calm Nick down. We didn’t know anything; just that you’d fallen and gotten all messed up. Nick said you’d started babbling on the way to the hospital, first asking where you were and then just...just babbling.

“After a while Conner came out and told us that Doctor Moreno was examining you. All these tests were being done, and he had this long list of medical shit they were doing on you. It all sounded so...so...I don’t know...messed up. It felt unreal. I mean, we’d just seen you earlier that day, you know?

“Then that whole first night you were a mess. There were people all over the place – there were a lot of little injuries that night. Everybody – the doctors and nurses – were all really busy. It got better after a while, I think most people got sent home right away, but it was still scary. Conner was rushing around helping Doctor Moreno, but he still came out and explained what all they were doing as much as he could – he was great. But he was honest, and there was a lot they didn’t know at first. I just...I just don’t know, you know, what I would have done if...if things had been...worse.”

He stops talking, probably more from being out of breath than running low on words. I don’t really know what to say, but I try. I start with, “I’m sorry, I guess,” but change direction because my apology sounds really lame. “I mean, I’m ok. You know that, right? That I’m going to be ok?”

“Yeah, I know.” Zane’s voice is quiet, almost inaudible. He looks at me, his brown eyes sad. It’s one of the few times in my life I see Zane when he’s not smiling or smirking or, well, fucking. He seems to always be doing one of those three, sometimes all three at once. His eyes slope very slightly down on the outside, which helps make him cuter when he’s smiling. But now I see they can also serve to make him seem immeasurably sad.

He continues, “It was hard though, Devon. I mean, look at this room.” I look around at the shattered debris. “I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I did this.”

I can’t help but laugh, I don’t know why. “You did this, you maniac? You smashed up our room? Why?”

Zane looks sheepish. “We went in to see you that first night. Oh my god, it was horrible. You were messed up still, you know? Not right in the head? You kept repeating everything, and you forgot who I was altogether. Reid went back with me, you remembered him. And you were babbling. Every ten minutes it was like you were waking up again, and you’d get really scared. I mean, I don’t want to embarrass you or anything...”

“No, it’s ok,” I say slowly. “I didn’t know anyone came back there the first night. I...I’m sorry, but I don’t remember that.”

“Don’t be sorry,” he says with a little pain in his voice. “It wasn’t a good thing. I mean, you didn’t do anything bad. But you were hurting. Reid held your hand when they set your arm. It was...it was awful. They kicked us out after that.”

A twinge of pain passes through my broken arm, as if I just barely remember what Zane is describing. I don’t really know what to say. He continues, “So anyway, then you were way better later that first day when Conner let us come back. You remember that?”

“I do remember that,” I nod.

“Cool. Anyway, it was a long night. And a hard morning. It was hard to see you like that; it was too much. That afternoon, after Nick and I saw you then left, we came here, and I did this.” He gestures to the destroyed room.

“Wow,” I whistle.

“Yeah, I know.” Zane offers a slight smile. “It’s a little embarrassing. Well, really embarrassing. I was messed up from everything that had happened. I think everyone was. I saw you again later, and I could tell it was messing me up. I had to get out of there, and so did Nick. We came here, and by then I was...well, as you can tell, I just lost it. Um, and you know what, our boy Nick? He watched me smash this up then asked me to, um, well, to fuck him.”

The statement takes the edge off the conversation. I can’t help but laugh in surprise. “What? Nick? Nick Laskaway? You’re kidding me.”

Zane gives a slight smile in return. “Nah, not kidding. Turns out our “straight boy’s” emotions over you getting hurt took the form of wanting to take it up the ass. Which was probably better than breaking stuff.”

“Yeah. Probably,” I agree. “So you guys did it? How was it? Nick? Nick, my roommate Nick?”

“We did. And it was good. I mean, I don’t want to talk about Nick.” Zane stands again. “And I don’t want you to think he’s the reason I flaked. That wasn’t it. I mean, not totally. It was so hard seeing you like that, Devon, that I did this. Then Nick and I...it was a crazy afternoon. I was...afraid. I was afraid if I went back that night I’d flip out. Maybe right in front of you. I don’t know, that sounds stupid now. And I have to be honest – it was also a little convenient for me to flake. Because I was scared. And it made me...I was a bad friend that night. I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry. You needed me and I wasn’t there.”

I get what he’s saying. If the situation had been reversed, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing. I was angry with my friend, and maybe rightfully so, but I hadn’t put much thought into why he’d skipped out on seeing me. I’d assumed it was just him being Zane, but now I was seeing that there was more to it.

“Zane, look…you’re a good friend...you’re always a good friend to me. I was angry – it would be a total lie to say I didn’t want to push you down a trash chute.” He cracks a smile, and I continue talking thoughtfully, “The thing is, you talk about taking your anger out on...on whatever that mess is in the corner; maybe I was taking my anger out on you. My anger over this.” I lift my slung arm, which causes immediate pain. “Ow!”

“Sorry,” Zane says, probably referring to my arm.

“It’s ok. I mean, thanks for telling me all that. It helps me...understand. I hadn’t really thought about how it was for everyone else. I mean, I had, but...you know. It’s been a hard week.”

“Yeah,” he says with about the largest sigh possible.

“I get why you flaked. Can we just put it all behind us?”

“Deal. But there’s one other thing I needed to talk about before we do,” he says. I take a breath. I’d hoped the emotional climax of our conversation would lead directly to the winding down of the talk.

Still, I was ok with a little more seriousness, but only a little. “Yeah?” I say, motioning for Zane to continue. I kick off my shoes, and then lie back against the wall. My shoulder throbs and I wince.

Zane crosses the room and sits next to me. “Look, Devon, I’m glad you’re ok. Way glad. Let’s never question how you came out of that accident so well off. But then, let’s not forget...at least for this talk...let’s not forget that you could have...well, things might have turned out different.”

I sigh. This was the topic I’d been trying to put out of my mind – my own mortality – and here Zane was stirring it right back up to the surface. But this conversation was feeling cathartic, so I let him continue. “It could have, but it didn’t,” I say. “But I get what you’re saying.”

He takes my hand into his. “No, I don’t think you do. When we got that call, when we were there in the waiting room, I was sure you were going to...I was so scared that...anyway, I thought about a lot of stuff that night, you know? I think I went half crazy.” He glances around the room, which indeed looks like it was assaulted by someone with mental issues. “And I realized that I’ve sometimes treated you like shit.”

As always, Zane’s conversation has turned an unexpected corner. “What? No you haven’t,” I protest.

He interrupts with another long sigh. “Yeah, I have. Let me explain. We’ve been here before, but I don’t think I got it until last week. The way I mistreated you when you and Charlie first started the club...the way I acted like you guys were such little kids. I mean, the whole club idea was a little silly,” he laughs, “But it’s been...it’s been one of the better things about this wretched situation.”

“Yeah, I think so,” I agree, not sure where he’s going with this.

“Then that afternoon in the storage shed, you remember that?”

“The time we were low on sunflower seeds and I went and got some, or that other time when you molested me and then did me long, slow and hard?” I ask mischievously. I can’t help it – tense conversations make me sarcastic.

Zane responds appropriately. “Dork. Yeah, the sexy time. God, that feels like so long ago,” he says, looking like he’s trying to remember events that were decades back. “I think I made a mistake, Devon. We talked about boyfriends, and I told you that you needed to get out and get some experience, remember?”

It was hard to forget a friend rejecting you and then cranking you up for what was the penultimate sexual experience of your life, especially if he then sent you off to fuck other boys. “Yeah, I remember,” I say, laughing about it, which I’d come to be able to do.

Zane’s speech slows considerably, as if each word is becoming increasingly hard to enunciate. “I...was...wrong. I think. That afternoon. I mean, I was right to say I was a jerk and a whore and all those things. That part was right. But I was wrong to turn you away like that.”

“Um...ok.”

“No, see, I don’t think I’m saying this right. Let me see if this makes sense,” he says, tugging on his hair in a rather adorable manner. I knew this turned him on during sex – maybe it stimulated his brain during difficult conversations. “The thing is, I thought about this a lot. If you had...died,” he stumbles on the word ‘died,’ which I appreciated – it was a scary word. “If you had died, Devon, I would have regretted that day for the rest of my life. I mean, I’d have been an idiot, right? If I turned down two months of sex and love with you...then you died, it would have been...I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I’m a mess.”

I think I’m getting it. “Zane, that’s sweet. I mean, it really is. But you can’t go around living your life assuming that everyone around you is going to die. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I didn’t, but...I don’t know...that afternoon in the shed was great, and you were very ‘Zane.’ It’s who you are.”

“Maybe that’s the problem,” he says. “Maybe who I am is a jerk. I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter, that’s not the point. The point is – all of this shit over the past week has made me realize that life is short, and that crap happens. I don’t want to forget that.”

“Good,” I say emphatically. “If I had to fall to my doom, I’d like to think something good came of it, and for once I’m not kidding.”

“Yeah,” he says thoughtfully. “So here’s the deal. I don’t know how to say this so it sounds right, so please don’t get angry if I screw this up like every other conversation with you. But, uh, I want you to have me.”

I have no idea what he means, but I don’t have to say so. My look says it all. Zane stands up and takes off his shirt, revealing the fuzzy brown chest that had often invaded my dreams. Pulling off his shirt causes his red ball cap to fall to the floor with a light plop, and I look at it. “Life is short, Devon, and we can’t dwell on what might have happened if you had died. But we can live our lives now, and be happy that we’re alive.”

Zane unbuttons his jeans. I have to love him – taking off his clothes seems to be a solution to any problem. “Zane,” I sigh, trying to put a slight protest in my voice, “I mean, I know what you’re saying, but....”

It doesn’t deter him, he drops his pants to the floor; He’d been wearing the red jock he seems so fond of, but that was pushed to the floor with his jeans. His pendulous cock, a sight I never tire of, hangs seductively from his muscular frame. “Wait, look, give me a sec,” he says, kicking his pants off. One leg twists around his foot so that he has to do a comical dance to get it off. Once he’s completely naked he continues, “Wow, I’m an idiot tonight. Anyway. Here’s the deal. I’m not getting undressed to have sex with you,” he announces.

“Ok,” I laugh, wondering what the hell is up with this guy right now.

He looks hurt, but not truly hurt. “What I mean is, here I am. I’m yours, if you want me. Not just as someone to fuck, but...I want you to have me. The whole deal. I’ll be your boyfriend; be whatever that means. Sex and potlucks…friendship bracelets…whatever. Whether it’s for a week or a month or ten years, I’m yours.”

It takes a lot to crash my brain, but that just about does it. I’d known Zane long enough that it wasn’t shocking to me for him to undress and expect spontaneous sex. It wasn’t shocking for him to undress just to goof around. It wouldn’t even be shocking if he undressed and recited Julius Caesar while acting out the parts with his penis. But for him to get naked and ask to be boyfriends...now that was unexpected. Deep in my mind I was applauding his ability to always surprise me.

“I mean, you don’t have to answer now,” he says, sitting next to me. I can’t help but look at how his chest and abs slope toward his package, which is now resting on the mattress in a seductive pile. “You can think about it.”

And think about it I do. I mean, I had. Zane was a great friend, and single, and one of the guys I got naked and horny with on Friday nights. Of course I’d thought about whether he would be a good boyfriend.

And I’d thought about wanting a boyfriend in general. In the hospital, alone at night, I’d wake up and think about how I’d learned more about what it meant to be together with someone...how two people could care for one another and watch out for each other. Every single moment I’d lain there alone, I regretted not having someone. My friends were great – I loved them all, but that didn’t stop me from being lonely. I’d learned a hard lesson when I fell off that fucking balcony, and I think I matured by ten years in that hospital bed – currently giving me the emotional maturity of a 14 year-old, by my reckoning.

So Zane’s offer is appealing. It combines two things I’ve been wanting – Zane, and a boyfriend. I don’t know what to say. I make a stab at it, and surprise myself – what comes out sounding way smarter than I know I am.

“Zane, I mean...thanks,” I start, putting my hand on my friend’s thigh. Ohhh, he’s so warm. No! Stay on track, Devon, stay on track. “There was a time...I think maybe like eight days ago...when I would have jumped on that offer, then jumped you for making it.” Zane smiles wistfully, knowing I’m about to tell him ‘no.’ “The thing is, if I say yes – and trust me I want to – then I think we’d be doing it for the wrong reasons.

“But remember, I’m beat, and my arm hurts, and my brain is still a little fuzzy. And Conner has me on several medications still, which may be making me weird. This isn’t a speech I ever thought I’d give you, but it’s not something I haven’t thought about, you know? If you and I were together, it would be great – I know it would. We’d laugh and have fun and...and I think you know how the bedroom stuff would be.

“Still, that wouldn’t change the fact that we’d be together because we had this scare and felt...I don’t know, compelled to get together. It wouldn’t change the fact that we’re really different. I think we want different things. I don’t think that makes us bad or anything, just not right for each other. I mean, if you tell me you love me and want to spend every waking moment with me, that’s one thing. But if you’re saying we should be boyfriends because life is short...that you want to act out a part for me because you know it’s what I want...I don’t know...your reasoning is good, but I don’t know that it’s good enough.”

“I just wouldn’t want you to go through life not having the things you want,” he says. “And I could give them to you. I do love you, you know?”

I sigh, trying to make it really deep and mournful by expelling every last atom of air from my lungs. “I do know, Zane. I love you too. I love all you guys. I love you more for wanting to be there for me. I just want you to be there as you, and that means you need to be silly, and sexy, and brash, and horny, and wild. I need a boyfriend, but I also need a Zane in my life.”

Zane thinks about what I’ve said. “So you’re telling me no,” he says, more of a confirmation than a question.

I take a moment to consider whether my choice is right or not. I know it is, but that probably won’t stop me from banging my head against a wall later on. “Yeah,” I finally say, “This time I have to be the one saying ‘no.’ ” Funny, I always thought being rejected would be harder than doing the rejecting. Damn was I wrong. I guess that’s just another sucky lesson you learn in life.

“Hey, Devon?” Zane asks.

“Yeah?”

“We’re good, right? I mean, my offer wasn’t offensive? Or wrong?”

I don’t know why, but I reach over and pat Zane’s cheek; his scruff is comfortably scratchy against my palm. “We are a-ok. You’re a great friend. A great, nude friend.”

“I guess I should have kept my pants on,” Zane says, smiling at me. For one brief moment we connect, and get each other. I get that Zane doesn’t need, or maybe even want, a boyfriend, but his offer to be that for me, and to do it as long as I needed, is the most endearing offer of friendship I’ve ever received.

I tell him this, but not before saying, “You never have to regret taking your pants off with me.”

We chat, me all busted up in my cast and sling, and Zane sleek and nude on the bed beside me; Our conversation winds down. I yawn. My body is still healing, and I get tired earlier than usual. “Devon?” Zane asks one final time this night.

“Yeah?”

“Come to bed with me?” He stands, his Adonis form silhouetted by the lamp behind him. Something in our relationship seemed different now. We’d rejected one another and come out friends, but there would always be a sexual energy between us. A sexual energy that I’d be happy to explore – anytime and anyplace – so long as I wasn’t on pain meds and exhausted.

“Zane…” I sigh. “You’re incorrigible. I’d love to, but I’m zonked. I’m about to fall over, to be honest.”

“Then let’s go to bed. Curl up with me. I’ll let you sleep, promise. I just...I just need to feel you next to me. Please.”

Wow. Zane really was messed up by my accident. Inviting someone into his bed with a promise of no sex? As far as I knew, it was unprecedented. The boyfriend thing, that felt wrong. But letting Zane take me to bed, letting me fall asleep in his arms, that was so very not wrong. I nodded.

Zane has a triumphal smirk when he closes in on sexual prey, I’d learned. This is not the look he gives me now. Now he smiles at me with complete friendship and trust, taking my hand and helping me to my feet. The bed across the room has been configured as queen size, and made up with sheets and blankets. He leads me here by the hand. I feel a buzz of hormones, but then I’m even droopier.

“Be naked?” Zane asks.

I sigh again. “Zane, I’m really tired. I’m sorry, I just...I mean, I’m a teenager, I’m sure it would go up, but I feel...I’m getting dizzy, and I feel so tired I’m about to throw up.”

Zane tugs at my shirt, smiling at me. “I know, silly. I’m not going to do anything sexy. Promise. But I want you warm and naked and smooth up against my body. I mean, you’ll have to pardon the erection – that will be involuntary, but I won’t do anything. Okay?”

Again I nod, feeling too tired to argue. When you’re healing, I guess when you crash you crash hard. Zane pulls my shirt up over my head, taking extra time and care to get it off my arm without hurting me. He does it expertly – his years practicing the sexual arts have given him other skills, apparently. He unbuttons my pants, and then lowers them to the floor. I step out of the legs one at a time, Zane gently guiding me. I feel like a little kid, standing there in a pair of blue briefs (I’d never admit I’d matched them to my cast, but I had.) He hooks his forefingers in my waistband and pulls my undies down. The sensation of them slipping over my thighs is subtle and wonderful; it makes me a little sleepier.

I realize that I’m getting half hard, but true to his word Zane doesn’t touch me there, nor does he try anything. Instead, he helps me lower myself onto the bed, careful with my arm. He pulls my socks off one at a time, so that when he climbs into the bed next to me, sliding the sheets over us gently, we’re both completely nude.

I feel his body slide up behind mine, familiar and warm and wonderful. He fumbles around a little, trying to find the best position considering my injuries. Ultimately I roll onto my right side and he spoons me, his fuzzy chest pressing into my back and his legs folded up behind mine. He might normally wrap an arm over my chest, but this doesn’t work considering the cast and sling, which hold my wounded arm snuggly against my torso. Instead he moves his hand below the sling and places it on my tummy, where it feels warm and dry and large and comforting.

“This ok?” he asks with a whisper in my ear.

“Mmmm hmmm,” I mumble in reply. I feel...safe, and warm. And loved. So it isn’t very long at all before I fall asleep.

* * *

The morning comes all too soon. Actually, it’s barely four am when I find myself waking up. Damn this screwed up body clock!

Zane has shifted positions in the night, moving around the bed to the other side so that we’re lying face to face, his body pressed tightly against mine. I’m still lying on my right side, of course. I like to flip back and forth through the night, but I can’t because of my cast. My body throbs in protest of this; I know it’s going to take some stretching to get my muscles working right this morning.

I look deeply at my sleeping friend. Zane really does look a little like a monkey, but it’s adorable and helps him seem less threatening. He looks absolutely content right now, a slight smile on his pink lips. The awkward position I’m forced to sleep in – because of the injuries, not Zane – makes it so I’ve snaked my right arm between us so that my unwounded arm is pressed firmly into Zane’s chest and tummy. I can feel each breath he takes, his body rising and falling in deep, slow cycles; his muscles are firm, but relaxed, and I can’t help but enjoy the fuzzy slope of his pecs and the ridged firmness of his abs against my arm. He feels alive. Well, obviously he’s alive, but right now he feels alive, as if his very vitality is tangible and visible, flowing around him in orange and blue electric sparks.

If there were any doubt about the invisible fire that burns around my friend and just how alive he was, it was eliminated by the rock-hard erection pressing into my groin, offering a pleasurable pressure where it pushed into my scrotum. Well, to be fair, he wasn’t the only one with wood. I was also as hard as steel, my dick running parallel to his and pushing into his crotch right above his shaft.

I had to wonder: was it our opposite personalities that created some “human magnetism,” pulling our cocks together with irresistible force, or were our bodies trying to hold each other off, agreeing to do everything they could to keep us at “penis length” from one another? I’d giggle at this thought, but I didn’t want to wake Zane.

Funny how this doesn’t stop me from shifting my weight slightly. The coarse hairs of Zane’s pubes rub over my helmet, making me gasp ever so slightly. I realize that I’ve been leaking in the night – the good kind – so that Zane’s crotch is moist with precum. I lift my leg slightly to test a theory, and confirm that my friend has also deposited some slick liquid on me.

Halfway between asleep and awake is a great place to be, especially when you’re aroused. I let myself relax, coming very near the point of drifting off again, but then staying just barely awake. I thrust into Zane’s body again, very slightly. My body is on autopilot, enjoying the sleepy, hazy sensuality of being against my friend like this.

My fingers just barely reach Zane’s lower abdomen; I use them to feel the fuzzy patch where his treasure trail widens. Shifting my weight ever so slightly, I’m able to press his shaft with my fingertips, positioning it so that it isn’t pressing directly into my balls, but rather to one side. I thrust again slightly, enjoying the sensation of Zane’s cock sliding in between my leg and my package.

“Good morning to you too,” Zane says with a smile and whisper, his eyes still firmly shut. I feel a little bad about waking him up, but not that bad.

“Hi,” I grin, thrusting into my friend gently.

“What happened to being all sore and tired?”

Our faces are mere centimeters apart, and our words flow in soft speech, but not whispers, so that each time Zane talks I can feel the buzz of his voice against the pillow and his warm breath on my face. “That was last night,” I say, “I’m still sore, but not tired anymore. Actually, to be honest, I’m getting a little hard.”

Of all my naked play buddies, I think I like my rapport with Zane the best. It’s a good mix of sexy and silly and coy. “I noticed,” he replies, pressing into me very slightly. “You’re ok with this?”

Am I ok with this? Zane’s body is lying in front of me, slabs of firm, young muscles sitting in all the right spots, his throbbing cock sliding against mine. I look into his dark brown eyes, sensing the affection and lust he’s feeling towards me. Am I ok with this? Hell yeah I am!

“I am,” I say. “The boyfriend stuff, let’s just forget that. I mean, unless we need to talk more about it later. But the other stuff – I don’t want our friendship to change. I mean, you’re a fucking Greek god, Zane, really. I like being with you – as a friend. You have no idea how many times I’ve watched you in the kitchen and suddenly felt something wet dripping down to my knees.” I blush a little at this last part – what I’m saying is a hundred percent true.

“Nice.” Zane smiles, and closes his eyes, pushing into me in another long, but less subtle, thrust.

“Make me feel good,” I say, a simple but direct invitation.

I don’t have to ask twice; Zane wastes no time complying. He reaches down between us, careful not to pull our cocks apart and careful not to knock my bad arm. A flash of annoyance shoots through my brain – I hate being injured. It makes me think sex is going to suck for a while.

Zane works hard to disprove this theory. He holds our cocks together with one hand, and fingers my tummy and chest with the other. Our dicks slide against each other; there’s not quite enough precum to make us completely slick so that it’s a little sticky, but the sensation of Zane’s hand and cock against mine sends a jolt of pleasure through me. My body contracts, and I feel a healthy glob of lube leak out of my tip. It spreads over Zane’s shaft as he’s moving against me, quickly slathering our dicks.

“Nice,” he says, then groans. I feel a second dose of precum coat us; this time it’s my friend’s. “What would you like?” Zane asks huskily. “Oral? Sixty-nine? Do you want to fuck me? You can, you know.”

It’s a tempting offer. I’ve been fooling around with guys for months, but have yet to fuck anyone. I’ve started to wonder if this is why I’m hard and horny twenty-four hours a day, and I have yet to admit out loud that I occasionally have dreams of pressing into someone’s spongy, soft hole. If I weren’t injured, I’d probably have said yes to Zane. But the pain in my arm, and the whole conversation from last night – it made me want to wait on the penetration.

“This is actually just right,” I reply. “Hold me, and make me cum. Shoot with me. I need it.”

It was true. I’d had a second visit in the hospital from Charlie, and several from Mike. Nick had shown up again to give me a hand too. But the injuries had thrown off my schedule, especially my personal masturbation time. It had been two days since I’d done it – I just hadn’t felt like it, the soreness dampening my sexual energies. Now those energies were flowing back with a vengeance.

“Sure thing,” Zane says with a smile.

He holds our dicks more firmly together and increases the intensity of the thrusting. With each stroke he runs a thumb over my tip, making me moan in pleasure. His other hand snakes down below us, feeling my sack with exploring fingertips.

“Ah, ah, flipping hell that feels good,” I moan.

“Yeah.”

Zane’s breath is warm on my cheek; a lock of his hair is brushing my forehead. I move my lips closer to his until they touch. It’s not a kiss, but it is; I moan into his mouth with each delicious, wonderful stroke. He tastes tangy and salty and alive.

“Here, let me try something. Give me a sec,” he says. He lets go of my cock, which almost makes me bite him in protest. I think he’s going to change positions, but then he grabs his own dick and begins rapidly stroking it.

Zane grunts and groans, his sexual sounds reverberating against my lips in a ticklish tingle. His hand is only off my dick for thirty seconds, and his other is still fondling my balls, but I still feel a little neglected. Zane goes a little faster.

“Ah, fuck, Devon. Ah, jeez. You’re so fucking...hot...fuck...you get me so riled up...it hurts...it feels so good,” he says in gasps. I respond by giving into temptation, biting firmly onto his lower lip, but not too hard.

I get it just right. He makes a frantic grunt and his body tenses, those perfect pecs and abs and lats and legs and arms all flexing in teenage, youthful glory. I want to reach up and pull his hair, that delicious floppy brown hair, but I can’t - DAMN THIS BROKEN ARM!

“YES! FUCK! YES!” Zane moans loudly into my mouth. He positions himself so that his cock erupts into my pubes, a hot, sticky warmth shooting onto me. We maintain our lip-lock as he cums, shooting load after load onto my body. A fine sheen of sweat coats his beautiful muscles.

Zane relaxes and catches his breath. I still feel neglected, but curious why he did himself first. He almost always has everyone else in the room cum before he does. He’s such a gentleman.

Once he’s calmed down, he smiles; my eyes are closed but I can feel his stubbly upper lip curl against my face. “You are such a freaking hottie,” he says with a chuckle. “I know I’m a slut, but you know I’m also honest. Barely anyone makes me cum that hard,” he says.

I feel my cheeks flush. “Um, cool?” I say.

“More like hot,” he laughs. “On Zane’s ‘Top 500 List’ you rank very, very, very high.”

“Number four-seventy-two?” I ask.

Zane gives my balls a little tweak in response to the joke. “No way. Top five, Devon. You’ll always be in the top five.”

The compliment – and it feels like quite a compliment coming from Zane – makes me leak another glob of precum, and I remember that I haven’t shot yet. Zane apparently does too. “Ok, here, let’s try this. Tell me if you like it.”

Zane maneuvers a little away from me so that he can reach down between us easier. He moves around “down there” a bit – I lie back and let him. After a few seconds he grabs hold of my still rock-hard cock and gives it a firm stroke.

His hand slides easily along my shaft, which is suddenly coated in hot, slippery fluid. I mean COATED; I feel it squishing into the most sensitive spots under the glans, and then all the way down to the base. There can be no question what it is – Zane has gathered up his load and lubed me with it.

“Uh...URK!” I squeak, not able to say much else.

A freshly lubed shaft is one of the seven wonders of the modern world, but this is beyond hot. I think about the slime now coating me – where it just came from and the panting, sexual lust that produced it. I tense at the thought, pleasure buzzing through my body in intense pangs. My nipples hurt it feels so good, and I imagine that even my hair is tingling with boy lust. I leak another blob of precum, no, I expel it forcefully, and I’m pretty sure it’s mostly precum, but maybe some semen mixed in as well, the way it can be when you get too excited by something.

“Zane! Freaking...flipping...fucking. FUCK!” I groan, thrashing as much as I can without hurting myself. This thing he’s doing, lubing me with his cum...I don’t know, it’s driving me wild. I mean wild.

“Like that?” Zane’s mouth finds my ear and latches on, his tongue tickling my earlobe. “I made it specially for you.”

The slurping sounds grow louder as my fluids add to Zane’s copious load. He brushes his other hand across my shaft, gathers up some semen which he uses to coat my balls. I thrash against the sheets.

“Ugh...you...oh man...you got me turned on a little here,” I moan, as if he needs to be told this, “I can’t believe...this feels...oh man, I’m almost...”

Zane grabs my balls a little more forcefully and uses his other hand to give the final, frantic strokes that will push me over the edge. They do.

“OHH, ZANE! ZANE! ZANE!” I start cumming, by which I mean I EXPLODE, yelling my friend’s name with each shot. Every microliter of boy juice in my balls erupts forth in thick, forceful streams, coating Zane’s hands, and his tummy, and the sheet between us. “Zane, ugh, Zane, Zane,” I whimper as my orgasm subsides. It’s intense, and I realize that there are tears in my eyes, not from an emotional response but because I’d come so hard.

“Like that?” Zane asks with a smile, as if he can’t tell.

“Ah, ah, yeah, heh, wow. I...wow. Let me...pant...pant...catch my breath. Man, just what I needed.”

We lie next to one another for a couple of minutes, Zane hugging me and our mess oozing and rapidly cooling between us. I’m wide awake, but Zane looks sleepy. “I need a shower,” I say.

Zane releases his hold on me so that I can get up. “And I need a nap,” he says sleepily. I take it to mean he’s going to go back to sleep.

“Sorry about the mess,” I say, honestly a little embarrassed. When I move away from my friend there are multiple patches of cold, sticky leavings on the sheet between us. “I can clean it up for you.”

“What? No way,” he says, rolling over so he’s lying tummy-down in my puddle. “I want to sleep in your load. It’ll give me good dreams.” He humps the mattress slightly, which I assume smears our remaining cum all over his belly. Damn, he’s so hot.

I reluctantly leave; I’d stay, but I stink and really want a shower. I don’t dress, walking to the bathroom naked. It feels good, being nude. Not that I have anything to worry about – Mike and Charlie are likely the only guys I might run into, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing. On my way to the shower I glance at the door to Charlie’s room, wondering if the two are curled up together inside. Probably.

I wash myself carefully under the hot water of the shower, letting the warmth spread over my injured shoulder and my cast. It’s a waterproof plasticine, but it’s not overly comfortable to have it wet against my skin for hours and hours after I shower – it takes forever to dry out. But my shoulder aches, and the hot shower is too tempting to pass up. I stand there for almost an hour, thinking, relaxing.

My body tingles, and I consider that something inside me has changed. I feel different this morning. I feel alive.

I’ve never had problems feeling sexy or happy or sad or anything I want to feel, but standing under the shower, I realize I have a new appreciation for all of these things. I think about my planter, that spot where I now pay mental tribute for the life that continues to pulse through my veins due to a little luck and happenstance and an overly lush bed of pothos vines.

I think about my life, my friends. I think about cooking and living and fucking and running and all the things that make my day a little better. I think about how great it is to be alive – really alive.

A buzz works its way through my body. Later I wonder if it’s caused by the mix of post-coital endorphins and medications. Whether or not this is the case, I feel transformed.

I emerge from my shower as a different Devon, a new Devon. The same in all the basic ways, but better in others. I was no longer afraid...of anything. I was young, alive, and – if I can be slightly immodest – beautiful. I fully appreciate my life expanding out in front of me, a gift that I’d never take for granted. I wanted to cook, and to paint, and to learn Latin (I think); I wanted to have orgasm after orgasm like the one I’d just shared with Zane; I wanted to feel alive each and every moment.

I cross back to the room, the air cool on my still-damp skin. It feels good because I’m a little overheated from my shower. My body feels great – no, wonderful. Clean and warm and content. I think there’s also a fair bit of adrenaline or dopamine coursing through my veins. My thinking in the shower has me buzzing with a youthful energy.

Zane is still sleeping in the bed. He’s tossed off the sheet so that it lies just below the irresistible curve of his well-proportioned butt. I think about my own body. It’s coming along nicely, but I think I’m going to work a little harder. I need a butt like that.

I sit naked on the other bed, looking at my gently sleeping friend. Zane is so very...Zane. He lives his life unapologetically, saying what he thinks and feeling what he wants to feel. I realize that the new Devon is a little more like Zane than old Devon had been.

Our clothes are scattered on the floor between the beds. I consider picking up my pants and putting them on, but then I spot Zane’s red ball cap sitting next to his jockstrap. I think about my transformation. Instead of my clothes, I slip into Zane’s underwear. I can smell his scent on my fingers where I’ve touched the garment. His aroma is even stronger on the cap, it smells deliciously of his hair. I put it on my head.

Zane stirs, looking at me sleepily. “Wearing my cap and jock?” he asks lazily, probably curious.

“Nah,” I reply, “I’m wearing my cap and jock.”

“Uh, ok,” he says, not arguing with the proclaimed change of ownership.

“Don’t worry, later I’ll give you a chance to get them back, but you’ll probably have to pull them off with your teeth. Oh, and hey, thanks for the handjob. That was awesome.”

Zane smiles, curling his arms under his head. “You’re welcome,” he says before drifting back to sleep.

I don’t bother putting anything else on. I like this cap and jock combo, it feels really sexy. I head for the exit to the flat, determined to walk home like this. It’s just something I think the new Devon would do. Passing through the living room, I glance again at the door to Charlie’s room. I consider popping in, but it’s only five-thirty. Besides, it would be sort of rude to disturb the guys.

I stopped in my tracks. “New Devon,” I say softly to myself, making an abrupt about-face.

I open the door slowly, not wanting to make too much noise. The room inside is dark and cool, and it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. There’s no noise in the room, so I consider that the boys might be bunking elsewhere tonight, but once I see a little better I make out two lumps on the king-sized bed. Once I see even better, I can make out Charlie and Mike, in bed together but facing opposite directions. They were both breathing deeply, sound asleep.

I think about letting them be, but then again consider what it means to be a new Devon. New Devon acts on his impulses unapologetically.

Walking silently to the bed, I lift the single sheet that covers my two friends, moving it down to their midsections. They’re both beautiful, and shirtless, Mike’s expression angelic. They’ve scooted apart from each other so that there is ample space between them for a third boy. And you know what? I figure that third boy should be me.

Very slowly, I move over Mike and onto the bed between the sleeping boys. I figure they’ll wake up when an additional seventy-one kilos settles into the mattress, but they don’t. I nestle into the bed, lying on my back, quite satisfied with myself. I pull the sheet up over the three of us to the height where it originally laid.

Moving onto my right side, careful not to wake the boys, I can’t resist running my hand down Mike’s back gently. This takes some effort – my left hand is slung so that I have to use the arm under me to stroke Mike’s smooth skin, but I do the best I can. He’s delightfully warm to my touch, and when I come to his waist I realize he isn’t wearing underwear. I slip my fingers across the small of his back, then down the ridge where the crack of his buttocks begins. He sighs lightly. I tenderly scratch at the rounded flesh of his butt.

Mike sighs again and rolls over, his eyes still closed, a slightly goofy smile spread across his lips. I reach over to lightly scratch his nose. His eyes open, barely at first, but then when he notices me he starts and opens them widely. “Devon?” he asks in a hushed whisper, “Where the hell did you come from?”

He’s groggy and confused, and I can’t blame him. “San Diego,” I joke, probably not helping his confusion. “You two just looked too cute all cuddled up. Well, not cuddled up. What’s the deal? You sleep three feet apart?”

Mike rubs some sleep from his eye. “No, not usually. Sometimes we end up on the edge of the bed; sometimes we end up all tangled up. Just depends.”

“Cool,” I say. “Lucky for me there was room in the middle.” I reach down and scratch Mike’s lower tummy. He had barely any hair on his torso, even in this area. He giggles lightly at my touch. “Should we get Charlie up?” I ask mischievously.

Mike yawns. “What time is it?”

“Not yet six.” I continue playing with Mike’s stomach, and then move on to his chest.

“You can try,” he answers, “But you’re doing it at your own risk. He might be a little cranky this early.”

“Not if we do it right,” I say, rolling again onto my back. Again, it’s awkward using my right arm only, but try to gently massage Charlie awake as best as I can, reaching across to feel the sleeping boy. I stroke his neck right where his hairline ends. He loves this.

Charlie is curled into a tight ball; I think he’s holding a pillow tightly against his chest, but I can’t tell. I move my hand down his back, then across his butt, which is pert and tight from the way he’s sleeping. Mike is right – it’s not easy to wake the guy, but I don’t give up, stroking his back and ass with a little more pressure. Eventually he stirs, then rolls over.

“Yes,” he says in an expectant voice, but with a dash of crankiness tossed in for good measure. He doesn’t flinch when he opens his eyes to find me next to him. “Oh, hey Devon. What time is it?”

“Almost six.”

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I just thought I’d pop in for a visit. You two looked lonely.”

Charlie wipes his eyes, then scratches at his nose. For a second I think he’s going to sneeze. “Yeah, Devon. We get really lonely. Together. When we’re sleeping. In the middle of the night.”

I reach over to stroke Charlie’s chest, which I hope will dilute the sarcasm. He doesn’t protest, even though I’m clumsy with my one arm. “How do you sleep with that cast?” Mike asks, propping his head up on his hand.

“Not very well,” I say truthfully. Charlie’s countenance lightens. I think my comment makes him a little more open to being woken up this early.

“Sorry,” Mike says.

Charlie chimes in, “Yeah, sorry.”

“S’ok.”

“So that’s it?” Mike asks. “You just wanted some company? And what’s with the cap?”

I roll over to face the other boy, scrunching closer to him. Charlie scoots in behind me and starts idly playing with my back the same way I’d been playing with his. I feel his legs fold up against mine. “Actually,” I say, trying to sound quite professorial, “I’m glad you ask. This cap I took from Zane. I took it because I had a revelation this morning: life is short.”

Charlie interjects, “Aww, Devon. I know you had a scare, but you’re going to be around for a long, long time.”

“Yes Charlie, I know that,” I say, not in a mean voice, but still firm. “And that’s not the point. It’s that I realized how much fun it is to be alive, and how much there is to enjoy. You are looking at – well, hugging in your case, Charlie – a new Devon: fearless, hopeful, and full of life.”

Mike snorts, perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not. “Devon, you’ve always been all of those things. At least, to me you have.”

“Me too,” Charlie agrees.

“Yeah, well, then I’m double what I was before. For example, old Devon probably wouldn’t have crawled in here with you. And he certainly wouldn’t have said what I’m going to say next.”

“Which is?” Mike’s eyes are wide and curious.

“New Devon says that I’m really happy for you – you make perfect boyfriends. I don’t know if I said that in the hospital. If I did, sorry to repeat. If I didn’t, it was ’cause I’d been conked on the head. Anyway, you guys are perfect together. Mike, I couldn’t wish for a better match for Charlie. And Charlie, take care of this guy, he’s an angel.”

Mike smiles and blushes. Charlie pats me on the back, and then he says, “Thanks, Devon. But I mean, you’ve always been pretty open. I’m not sure either of us are surprised that you’d say that.” Mike shakes his head, agreeing with his boyfriend.

“That’s not all,” I say. “What will probably surprise you – what comes from new Devon instead of old Devon – is that I came in here to start enjoying life a little more.” A small battle between the new and old Devons erupts in my head for a moment. I think twice about what I’m saying, coming to the very edge of stopping here.

But then I feel Zane’s cap snug on my head, and imagine that I draw some of his vibrance and fearlessness from it, forcing it to seep down into my body to help fuel new Devon. It works, and I continue, “By which I mean, and you are both free to toss me out for even suggesting this, I’d like to watch you guys fuck. No, wait, that’s not entirely true. I came in here hoping that you two would be open to fucking each other while I played around with you.”

Mike turns a deep shade of red, which I take to mean I’m appropriately channeling Zane, who always makes the boy turn the same color. I feel a slight throb against the back of my leg. Nothing completely distinctive, but it can only be one thing. Charlie is a little excited by my suggestion.

“If that’s offensive, then I’m sorry,” I say, hoping I’m not about to be yelled at. Fearlessness can be scary.

Charlie answers first. “Uh, no, I don’t think so. I mean, that’s a little blunt for you, but I’m not offended. You, Mike?”

“Nah. I mean, I blew him three or four times this week already. Why would I be offended by that? Plus, I mean, somebody asks to watch your boyfriend fuck you...I guess I’d say that’s flattering.” Charlie presses into me; the lump against my leg is a little harder. I reach over to Mike’s chest and run a finger down his stomach. He sighs.

“And I know the rules. I don’t want to...you know...fuck anybody. I was just hoping you’d let me get into it with you in other ways. I mean, I’m all gimpy and whatever.”

“I think your cast is hot,” Mike says. “I like it.”

While Mike and Charlie have discussed my idea, my fingers have slid lower on Mike’s body. I can feel that the talk and gentle touching has him hard, but I don’t touch his penis outright. Instead I play with his pubic hair, which is soft and downy in my fingers. He looks at me appreciatively with big brown eyes.

“You’re really beautiful,” I say to him, earning another shy smile. “Okay, so if we’re all in, how we gonna do this? How do you guys do it? Do you fuck Mike usually...or does he fuck you? I’ve been wondering since that night in the hospital when you told me you were together.”

Neither boy flinches at the question. It’s Charlie that answers. “We actually like taking turns,” he explains, “And this morning would be Mike’s turn. To fuck me,” he clarifies.

Mike shakes his head. “No, play-doh, remember?”

I have no idea what he means by the reference, but Charlie does. “Oh, yeah, right. I forgot. Well, no, I mean who’d forget that?” Both Charlie and Mike giggle, little boy laughter that makes me smile. “Anyway, it’s my turn to fuck Mike then.”

“Cool,” I say.

I stop fooling around with Mike’s tummy and take his cock in my hand. As I suspected, it’s hard, curving upward towards his belly, and already wet in anticipation. He groans in approval. “You have no idea how much I hate my cast right now,” I say, “I would soooooo love to stroke you both at the same time.”

Charlie’s dick apparently agrees. I feel it against my leg, not yet fully hard, but close. “Here, roll a little on your side,” he says, directing me with his hands, “Now open your legs a little.” I feel Charlie’s penis slide between my thighs. It doesn’t produce much of a sensation, but I groan just to show him approval. “You can help get me primed.”

Charlie goes fully hard in about three seconds. His dick is hot against my legs, and really dry. But it’s not a bad thing, actually – the friction feels nice. For him too, I’m sure. Mike reaches down beneath the sheet, and finds my erection still confined within the red jockstrap. “Uh, that’s a problem,” he says with a smile. “If you’re gonna play, you can’t be wearing underwear.”

Charlie says, “He’s not,” in a confused voice, then looks under the sheets. He’s slid through the open rear of the jock, and probably mistook me for naked. “Oh, he is,” he says. “Are those Zane’s? You took his jock too?”

“Yup.”

Mike laughs. “Wow, new Devon is a clepto. Remind me to check my wallet before you leave.”

I stick my tongue out at my friend. Charlie pulls out from between my legs and tugs at the underwear. I lift up, and both boys help push the garment down my legs and off my feet. They return to their former positions, Charlie slipping back between my legs and Mike receiving my best finger work. He takes my dick in his hand; pleasure courses through me and I gasp.

“I think somebody got an enlargement in the hospital,” he says, gripping my turgid shaft. I smile at the comment.

We take a few moments to enjoy our puppy play, three naked boys getting heated up with one another. “I love you guys,” I say, feeling no fear in expressing exactly what I’m thinking. Charlie thrusts into me a little harder, and I feel dampness between my legs. He hasn’t come, he’s just getting excited. I press my ass back into his body in approval.

“Ok, well, heh, I think I’m ready,” he says.

“Me too,” Mike chimes. “I want you in me.”

We shift around, and what follows is a very silly and elaborate discussion of possible positions, how they normally do it, and how we can do this without breaking any bones – especially the ones on me that are just starting to heal. It’s a funny sight, three boys moving all over the bed, boners swinging this way and that.

Mike ends up lying on his back in the center of the bed. “This is your fantasy, Devon. How do you want us to do it?” he asks. Charlie is sitting to the side, playing with his dick.

“Sheesh, I don’t know,” I say. “Sorry, this was less silly in my head. Wait, I know.” One problem is that I have limited range of motion, and there’s a limit to how I can lie. I fix this by sitting up on the headboard, the wall behind me and my legs on either side of Mike’s head. The headboard is the perfect height. “Here, I can sit here, and Charlie can do you while I watch.”

“That’s bullshit,” Mike says, and I think I’ve somehow offended him. Then he continues, and I realize he’s playing around. “Totally no fun for you. Here, this will be better.” He turns over, then climbs up on his hands and knees, his ass pointed towards his boyfriend’s waiting dick and his head between my legs.

I gulp. “Mike, you’re a genius.”

Charlie apparently agrees. It takes him approximately 4.3 seconds to lube his shaft, then Mike’s hole, and move into position behind him. “You guys are so hot. Does that, uh, hurt?” I ask as Charlie presses his dick into Mike. I’m enrapt as the shaft slides into the boy’s hole. I can’t imagine anything sexier, nor a better physical expression of the two joining together.

“No way!” Mike says excitedly. Then he thinks about it. “Well, maybe I was sore the first time. But that may have been because we did it like eight times that night,” he giggles. “But it’s good. We both like getting fucked. You should see Charlie when I hit the spot. He’s all like...” Mike contorts his face in a goofy grimace, apparently how Charlie looks when he’s getting fucked. Charlie, out of Mike’s view, smirks and then thrusts hard into his boyfriend. “OH!” Mike exclaims in pleasure. Charlie smiles at me, as if to say “see, he makes that face too.”

Charlie starts off slow, pumping in and out of Mike with deliberate ease. I play with myself with my good hand, which sadly isn’t the one I use for masturbation normally. Mike grunts as he gets used to Charlie’s girth inside him, then looks up at me and smiles. “I’ll take that,” he says, moving further between my legs and taking my cock in his mouth.

“Oh, JEEZ!” I exclaim. I always forget how good he is at this.

“Mmm, rorangy,” he mumbles, my dick in his mouth.

“What?” I laugh. I have no idea why he always tries to speak when blowing me. I think he does it to be cute. It is.

He lets me slip out of his mouth. “I said, ‘mmm, orangey,’ ” he says.

“I just showered,” I explain.

“I love it. It’s like Devon and oranges. Tasty.”

The civilized conversation ends here. Charlie goes to work on Mike, while Mike pleasures me furiously with his tongue and mouth. Charlie’s intensity increases, and I stare at his long, tan shaft moving in and out of Mike.

I’m treated to a new sight, one I’ve never seen before. Mike is absolutely beautiful in the position he’s assumed – his young, teenage back arching delicately, shoulder blades pulled back supporting his weight. Muscles run down his back, wrapping around his side and over his ribs in a pattern that almost seems hewn in porcelain. His butt, tan and round and firm, curves up toward his boyfriend, and Charlie moves in and out Mike’s ass flexes and contorts.

He’s...wow...he’s, what? He’s glorious.

I learn something about new Devon in this moment. New Devon appreciates his sexual partners on a level I never had before. Mike is acting as a link between Charlie and me, using his body to pleasure us both. Everything I’m feeling – this hot, wild pleasure – is because of him. Mike is on his hands and knees between my legs, but in this moment I am the one worshipping him, not the other way around.

“Fuck, that’s beautiful,” I say, looking at my friends’ bodies.

Charlie looks me in the eyes, an expression of simultaneous concentration and pleasure plastered on his face. “You have no idea...ugh...how sexy it is to...ugh...watch him doing that to you while I’m...uh...doing this.”

“Mrfmm hrmmm,” Mike mumbles, pressing my tip far into his mouth.

We continue like this, but clearly it isn’t going to take any of us long to climax. “Ohh, jeez, woah Mike, wow...AH!...yeah, that’s...AH!”

Charlie’s motions start making a wet slapping sound each time he thrusts into Mike. “Oh....fuck...baby, you’re so hot...oh my god...I need you...you feel so good.”

I appreciate that these two don’t censor their sex talk on my account. It’s getting me steamier than fuck. Something happens, apparently, deep inside Mike, because he starts whimpering with each thrust. His oral work grows sloppier, but I don’t care. My dick slides out of his mouth and against his cheek, where the very light stubble he grows scratches at the tip pleasurably. He tries to catch his breath. “Oh...fuck, Charlie. That’s...uh...uh...I love you...AH!”

“I...UGH...I love you too,” Charlie grunts.

I take my dick in my hand, rubbing it in long, hard strokes. Mike moves to take me into his mouth again, but I shake my head, wanting him to focus on getting fucked. He gets it and rests his head in my crotch, his mouth close enough to my balls so I can feel each grunting, gasping whimper against the sensitive skin there.

Charlie goes into a bit of a frenzy. I know he’s about to shoot. “ERGH!” he exclaims, slapping deep into Mike harder and harder, but a little slower. “I am...FUCK...Here I come, here I come, here I COME!” he yells.

He looks directly at me; we gaze intensely at one another. His eyes cross a little before glazing over. Pushing deep inside Mike, he starts making cute little chirpy grunting sounds. I know that he’s cumming in his boyfriend, and probably about to have a heart attack from the pleasure.

And that’s all it takes for me. I look at the two boys, both consumed by lust. Mike moans again against my sack, and that sets me off. I’d cum about ten buckets a couple of hours ago, but apparently I’d been saving up. A long stream of jism shoots out of my cock, landing in a stripe on top of Mike’s head. “ERGH!” I sputter. Mike looks up and smiles, his timing a little unfortunate since my second shot hits him right in the eye. I use my good hand to try wiping it off; he smiles.

Charlie and I gasp for air, our breathing husky and sexy. “Wow,” Charlie says.

“Yeah, no shit,” I reply in total agreement. “Did you come?” I ask Mike.

He smiles sweetly. “Nah. Sometimes I do when he shoots in me, sometimes I don’t.”

“Then roll over,” I say, “I owe you one. Well, maybe about twenty.”

He complies, first letting Charlie pull out of him. Both boys grunt in approval at this. I assume Charlie is a little sensitive on the tip, which is confirmed when he giggles gingerly at the sensation of pulling out of his boyfriend. Mike sits on his butt, cross-legged. I jump down onto the bed, and like an idiot, almost fall over the side.

“Whoa, there,” Charlie says, grabbing onto me and helping me regain my balance. I thank him. “Hey, neat ass imprint,” he says. I turn, trying to get a view of my own butt.

Mike laughs. “Yeah, that’s from the headboard. Very cool, Devon.”

I arch an eyebrow, then seek revenge on Mike by going down on his cock. I’m careful, though. There was a moratorium on Devon blowing Mike until very recently, due to an unfortunate accidental biting. I try to make up for it by doing my very best. I’m not as good as Mike, but I think I’m getting okay. His gasps seem to indicate this is the case.

I feel Charlie behind me, then suddenly there is something wet and slippery between my cheeks. I realize that his tongue is licking at my hole in a slow, deliberate motion. “Ergh!” I say, trying not to respond by biting Mike accidentally.

“You are very orange and Devon-y,” Charlie announces happily.

Mike is quite aroused from the fucking, so it doesn’t take him long. Charlie moves around us so that he’s behind his boyfriend, who starts to gasp, “Devon...wow...you’re better at that...oh my god...you guys are both...um...ah...ah...yeah, right like that.”

Mike’s body tenses, which both Charlie and I notice. I respond by taking him deep in my mouth and twirling my tongue over as much of his cock as I can. Charlie responds by kissing Mike deeply and passionately. He whimpers, groans, and then lets his boy juice fly.

“UGH, MRMR, ERM!” he exclaims, his groans of sexual ecstasy flowing into Charlie’s eager lips. Charlie grunts along with him, as do I when he shoots into my mouth. I feel the load flow into me, slightly stringy and slimy in my mouth. I’m not the biggest fan of cum in my mouth, at least not yet. But Mike – this complete angel of a guy – hot and sweating and panting after taking Charlie while blowing me, he deserved as much pleasure as possible.

Which is maybe why I don’t stop, even when he finishes. And then not even when he starts to pull away from me, overly sensitive from his orgasm. “JEEZ, UGH, Devon, OKAY, ENOUGH!” he says, pulling out. He groans in pleasure then starts laughing. “I was serious, too, you are so much better at that now.”

“Thanks,” I say, swallowing the last of Mike’s semen. There’s a salty residue on my lips, but it’s also sweet.

The three of us lie in a pile for a few minutes, spent and content. I grab Charlie’s com off the bedside table to check the time. “You guys have work today, right? I should probably let you get up.”

Charlie looks at the clock and agrees with a huff. “Ugh. Yeah. But you know we’d both like to stay and repeat that whole thing in a few minutes. He’s pulled Mike’s head into his lap and is playing with the boy’s brown hair; Mike nods in agreement. Charlie continues, “You’re lucky you have the week off.” He looks to my cast, seeming worried, like he may have offended me. “I mean, oops, sorry Devon. I don’t mean it’s good you broke your arm.”

I laugh, about as non-offended as a guy can be. “No problem,” I say. “I knew what you meant.”

We take another fifteen minutes to make it out of the bed, shamelessly flirting with each other. More than a few playful cock tugs and butt slaps occur. Charlie and I gang up on Mike, delighted when a light spanking makes his cock start to curve towards the heavens again. “Ok, ok, enough,” he squeals. “Now I do really need to get up, and not like this. Shower time.”

He takes Charlie by the hand, and the two pad toward the door, glorious in their nudity. “Hey, guys,” I call after them. They both turn. “Thanks,” I say, trying to sound as genuine as possible.

Mike smiles, a huge, toothy grin. “Anytime. I like the new Devon.”

“Me too,” Charlie agrees, and then he grabs Mike from behind in a tremendous bear-hug, swinging him back and forth so that Mike’s dick slaps against one leg and then the other. “And I like you, sexy boy. Oh my god, you are the cutest. I love you so much. Whoops, I’m hard again.” Charlie releases Mike, confirming that, yes, he’s hard. The two laugh and run off towards the shower, bare feet plopping audibly on the cold floor.

I sigh, lying back against a pillow and consider slipping back to sleep. I think about the boys – Mike and Charlie. I couldn’t say that I wasn’t at least a little disappointed that I didn’t end up with either of them – they were both intelligent, sensitive, beautiful men. But seeing them together, naked after having sex, I knew that they belonged with one another. And I knew I belonged by their side, sometimes clothed and sometimes not.

In later months, when a tangible darkness fell upon us, when the fear and anger threatened to take everything “Devon” away from me, I would often think of that moment, my two friends happy and in love in that doorway, and it would help.

Getting up, putting on Zane’s underwear and cap and feeling very satisfied, I head downstairs to my ‘real’ flat. It’s thrilling walking through the halls in just a jock and cap, my ass bare and swaying in the breeze. Even though no one passes me on either the unoccupied floor or the other one, new Devon is thrilled about the exhibitionism.

Then I’m a little disappointed when there’s no one up in the flat. The early shift has already left for the day, and the later shift guys are probably sleeping in, or playing video games in their rooms. I approach my room, glancing across the living room at the door opposite my bedroom.

This is AJ’s room – who I now knew to be Sneak because of a slip-up he’d made in the hospital, reaching up to a high shelf to reveal a pair of unique undies I’d left for him. I wondered if AJ was sound asleep in the room behind that door, his lean frame nestled into his bed, or whether he was out prowling around. I also wondered how the new Devon felt about Sneak. Would he continue our game the same way it had been going, or would he bust into AJ’s room and ravage the boy? Hmm, I’d have to think about that.

I’m as quiet as possible when I enter my room. Nick and Jacob are asleep, and I am careful not to wake them. Patrick and Reid’s beds are both empty.

I glance at my trunk – well, not a literal trunk, but the space under one of the wall seats where I stow my personal stuff – and an idea hits me, something to help with my whole new Devon thing. I lift the seat cushion slowly, revealing the space underneath. It creaks in a prolonged, rusty screech that sounds far too loud in the empty room, and I wince. But neither Nick nor Jacob stir. I collect a couple of items from my belongings, which I take to the bathroom with me.

The bathroom is quiet, but the lights are on. They turn off after two minutes with no motion, so I assume someone is in one of the stalls. No big deal. I walk to the bank of sinks and toss Zane’s cap onto the shelf that runs above them.

The supplies I’ve brought consist of several plastic bottles and a square electronic component. It’s my hair-dying kit, and it gets some use, believe me. I’m well-practiced at working it. I fill the largest bottle with a clear fluid, then turn on the device. A small screen lights up, from which I select a new shade. I could take a picture of myself then have the computer simulate colors, but I know what I want. I select the shade and then plug the device into the filled bottle. The machine begins prepping the solution.

I look in the mirror. “Goodbye chestnut,” I say to the Devon in the mirror. It was one of my darker hair variations, very dark brown with a red streak, but I’d liked it.

The machine beeps, indicating it’s ready. I remove the bottle and then spread the solution over my head, trying not to get too much on my scalp. A toilet flushes and the stall door opens. Reid walks out, dressed in his nighttime undies and a green tee-shirt. “Hey Devon,” he says sleepily when he notices me.

“Hey yourself,” I reply.

“New hair?” he asks. It’s not unusual to stumble onto me doing this.

“Yup,” I confirm.

“Cool.”

I wonder if he’s going to leave the bathroom, but he doesn’t. Instead he pulls his t-shirt off over his head, and then drops his drawers, walking over to the center shower bank once he’s tossed his clothes out of the way. I watch him in the mirror. I mean, DUH, of course I watch him. He turns on the shower, yelping a little when a stream of what I take to be frigid ice water lands on his chest. I laugh, then my timer goes off.

I rinse my head off in the sink. When I look up in the mirror again, my hair is blonde. No, blonder than blonde. It’s almost white I’ve dyed it so light. It’s how I look in pictures from when I was two. I haven’t cut my hair in weeks – months, really. It’s getting long. It looks good, or at least it will after a little trim down in The Commons so that it matches the new color. But it’s still not quite right. “Needs something,” I say to myself.

“Huh?” Reid says behind me, his ass glistening wet and magnificent in the mirror.

“Just talking to myself,” I explain. He goes back to work showering, and I go to work with my equipment. I get an idea, and program in a complex configuration on the screen. It takes the device a little longer to prep the second set of dyes. When it’s done, I run the fluid into my hair. The device beeps and whirs – I’ve given it a more complex task. Another three minutes goes by, and the alarm sounds. I rinse, and look into the mirror.

“Cool!” I exclaim. I’ve gone a little wild, even for me. I had the device dye my bangs in a rainbow of alternating blue tones, so that I’m now adorned with a streak of navy, then deep purple, then neon blue, then violet. The blue locks hang down over my face, vibrantly contrasting with my pale skin and the white-blonde hair I’ve left on the top and sides. I put away the dyer. I really like this color.

In the mirror, Reid is covered in a thick, white lather. I smile to myself. New Devon is a bit of a tease, I decide. I kick my jock off and step into the shower area with my friend, turning on the nozzle next to his but forgetting about the cold water thing. “Yipes!” I squeak. Reid smiles at me, then looks at my new hair. “You like?”

He laughs. “Wow. I mean, yeah. It’s cool.”

“Thanks.” I slap his ass playfully.

“What have you been up to? You seem...I don’t know, happy or chipper or something.”

I blush, surprised Reid pays enough attention to me to notice the difference in my demeanor. “I had a good night,” I say. “I have this whole new perspective thing going. Living life to the fullest and all that.”

“Good for you,” Reid says, stepping under the shower to wash the soap from his body. It runs off his slick skin in white, foamy globs. Reid was always sexy, but in the shower this was amplified a hundredfold, his sensual stomach pointing in that all-too erotic V towards his pendulous cock, which hung alluringly from a patch of dark blonde pubic hair. He knew I was looking him over – he had to, but he didn’t seem bothered or shy about it. If he’d wanted privacy, there were plenty of free shower stalls that closed; he needn’t use the communal one. His dick swayed as he washed his chest.

New Devon thinks something mischievous. A thought old Devon would shy away from, but new Devon doesn’t know fear. “You know, living life to the fullest should apply to everyone. And there are benefits to having a gay friend.”

“Oh yeah?” he asks, knowing me well enough to know where this conversation is headed.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I mean, we’re best friends. And twenty years is a long time to go without sex. If you ever want...I mean...I think I’m getting pretty good, if you ever need a hand.” The point of this conversation is to tease Reid, not myself, which is actually what’s starting to happen. I feel my dick pulse and grow a little heftier.

“Devon, are you getting a boner thinking about pleasuring me, your poor, under-sexed friend?” he asks. I can tell he’s amused, not annoyed.

“Maybe,” I say coyly, shaking my ass so that my dick swings from side to side.

Reid is, and probably always will be, a good match for me. Completely unfazed, he steps closer to me, then takes me into a big, wet, sexy bear hug. “I’m so glad you’re ok. And you are one sexy gay boy,” he says, slapping me firmly on the ass, returning the favor. “But I’m not letting you bed me.”

“Aww,” I say playfully, grinding my hardening dick into Reid’s crotch. I think he’s getting a little hard too. “That’s so sad.”

“Yeah, I bet,” he laughs. “Whatever will you do? Oh! I know! You can go get some from your five other boyfriends.”

I feign shock and offense, but then start laughing. I realize now that Reid and I have been through a lot, and despite that, or maybe because of it, I’ll always think of him as just a friend. I mean, sure, I’d jump on the opportunity to be a friend to him like I had been to Zane, Mike and Charlie earlier that morning, but I knew now I’d never feel the burning unrequited love towards him I’d once feared I would. “Touche,” I say. “And fine, but just remember – my offer always stands. You get tired of blue balls, I’m here. Always ready with a free blow job, no questions asked.”

“Pass,” he says, his puppy dog eyes gazing into mine. I know he’s playing with me, probably because I almost died and all, but I don’t have a single regret about taking advantage of that.

“Hand job, then?”

“Nope, sorry.”

“Foot job?”

“Uh-uh.”

“Neck job?”

“Devon, I’m not – what the heck is a neck job?” he laughs. “Ok, you goof, you win this round. If I ever feel the need to learn of the forbidden sex acts you have knowledge of, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’m more than happy with the performance of my favorite ten fingers. Reid raises his hands, wiggling said digits. I’m sorry he’s let me go, although it does give me a great view of his semi-hard dick, which hangs low and proud from his muscular frame, a wide brownish tip flaring at the end.

“Fine,” I laugh, “But it’s your loss.”

Reid rolls his eyes. “If you say so. Jesus, Chasen, you need to get laid,” Reid says, eyeing my erection, which has popped up yet again today.

“I know, it does that all the time,” I say, pushing my boner down and letting it spring up. “And I’ve already had sex with Zane, Mike and Charlie today.”

Reid starts to mock me but then sees I’m serious. “Really?” he exclaims. “Wow. I mean, way to go, but wow. Dang, you are horny.”

“Yeah,” I agree.

“Hey, I think I can help you out,” Reid says.

“Oh yeah?” I ask, curious.

“Yeah, here,” he says, picking up a shampoo bottle and aiming it at me. I think he’s going to wash my hair or something, but then he points the nozzle right at me, squeezing the bottle hard. A stream of green liquid squirts into my face; it doesn’t get into my eyes, but that doesn’t stop me from yelping in surprise, which gets it in my mouth. I wash the fluid off under the running shower; when I look back at Reid he shrugs, saying, “What’s the matter, Devon? I thought it was your dream for me to shoot a big load in your face.”

I have to laugh. “Oh you are...that’s just...it is ON!” I exclaim, picking up a second bottle and spraying blue body wash all over Reid’s chest.

We erupt into a childish, immature, infantile soap fight, giggling and running around the shower area like little kids. It’s flipping awesome. I even manage to grab Reid’s dick, which is now soft but still feels pretty nice in my hands. “Ok, ok,” he laughs. “I give, you win.”

We rinse off, and I reflect that sometimes living life to the fullest doesn’t mean sex. Sometimes it means goofing off in the shower with your best friend. Reid finishes before me and dries off. I climb out of the shower just as he’s done dressing. He heads for the door, but stops halfway there and turns around. “Hey, Devon?” he asks.

“Yeah?”

“I really am glad you’re ok. Life, on this ship, without you – things would be...boring.”

I smile, replying simply, “Ditto.” Perhaps for the first time since we left Earth, I felt like I knew where I stood with Reid, and where he stood with me; somehow that day we established the rules of our friendship, and although in later years I would sometimes wonder “what if,” I knew that any alternate universe where we chose sex over friendship fell far short of what we ended up with.

Later that morning I find myself thinking again, sitting in my room. I’m still not scheduled for work, but this time I have no problem passing the time constructively. First I think about my parents, whom I’d had infrequent contact with since we left Earth. They’d found me when the ship manifests were made available, then when the intra-ship communication network was up they’d contacted me. Since then we’d shared a few messages. It was difficult, sending data down the lanes of massive ships all flying at near-light speeds. Still, we were allotted data usage for sending messages to other ships, and I knew how I wanted to use some of mine.

Freshly showered I sit at my computer and compose an e-mail, one I’d been meaning to write for a while. It reads:


Mom and Dad,

I wish the ship-to-ship network allowed for video, or at least audio. If it did I’d call you in person about this. But e-mail will have to do.

First, I don’t want you to worry at all about this part. I am okay. But I was in an accident last week. Nothing big, I just got a little banged up. It was silly, I slipped and fell. They checked me out and I’m fine now, just a sore wrist and arm. I have this really cool sling.

Anyway, it made me think. It sucks that we’re on different ships. When I went to school, I never once thought we’d be separated for so long. I want you to know that I miss you, and that you were always – always will be – great parents.

Because we’re separated, maybe I don’t communicate with you like I should. I’ll try to do better with that. For today, I wanted to tell you something I’ve been meaning to for a while. I’m gay. I don’t think that’s probably too much of a surprise. And I hope it’s not a disappointment. No, there isn’t anyone special in my life, that’s not why I’m telling you this now. I hope there will be soon, but right now I’m telling you because I realized that life is short, and we have to live it every day. I’m doing that here the best I can, and I want you to know that I’m really happy. And that I miss you, and think about you both every day.

Love,

Devon


I read through the text several times before deciding I’ve omitted enough gory details while not outright lying to them. They don’t really need to know that “slipped and fell” meant “I took a twenty foot plunge head-first towards a concrete floor but was miraculously saved by the power of foliage.” They also probably don’t need to know how many erect cocks “living life to the fullest” entails, ha. It seems like a good email. I put it in the e-mail queue, requesting a transmission to my parent’s ship as soon as possible.

That afternoon I head over to the Port Concourse, where I make my way to the hospital. I’ve decided something else. I want to ask Conner to join our “poker” club. He’s been a great buddy, and as long as I’m on my post-accident “carpe diem” thing, I figure I can drag some of my friends along with me. Life is short – hand jobs for everyone! The annoying nurse passes me in The Commons – the night guy with no personality. Ok, no hand job for him. But everyone else, the guys I like, yes.

I run into Ian in the hallway of the hospital. He greets me warmly, complimenting my hair, while I mostly just stare at his dreamy pale blue eyes. Then I shrug – Ian is cute, adorable actually, and I like him. We’d almost invited him to the first club meeting, when we’d used Info or Actions to get everybody naked. I don’t remember why we’d crossed him off the list.

“Hey,” I say, “Some of the guys and I have this poker thing on Friday nights. You know, hanging out, drinking, messing around. If you ever want to hang out, I mean, we’d love to have you.” Not divulging the true purpose of our gatherings seemed like a tradition that had stuck.

Ian looks genuinely regretful when he has to turn me down. “Oh man, that sounds cool,” he says, “But I’m totally into the new intra-ship baseball league. We have games on Friday nights, then usually it’s a pretty late night with the team after that.”

I try not to look too disappointed, but Ian notices. “But hey,” he says, “We should totally hang some other night. I was hoping it wouldn’t take another compound fracture to hang out with you.”

I laugh. “Yeah, no shit,” I say, “No more broken bones for me. That sounds cool. I’ll text you sometime.”

“Cool.”

Conner is more open on Friday nights. I explain the poker game to him, and he seems to really take to the idea. “That sounds really cool,” he says. He’s organizing files, or something. His desk is lit up in full screen mode, and he’s moving virtual folders around its surface. “But I was actually going to figure something out for Halloween tomorrow,” he says.

“Oh, shit!” I exclaimed. I’d forgotten that Halloween was Saturday. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks – but then I’d had my accident, and time in the hospital had distorted everything.

“You okay?” Conner asks, looking up from his work.

“Yeah, I just totally forgot about the party. Oh my god, I’m such an airhead lately.” Conner looks concerned, probably asking himself whether my profession of absent-mindedness was substantial enough to sequester me for yet another head scan. I’m sure I was fine, but I’d totally lost track of the date. Saturday was Halloween, and there was going to be a big party in The Commons.

Conner must figure I’ve just had a lot on my mind, or he realizes I’ll bite him if he pulls a hospital gown out and suggests I suit up, because he doesn’t suggest any tests. “You going to the party?” he asks.

“Yeah, I’d planned to,” I answer. “And I totally forgot, our poker night is cancelled. Most of the guys are working to set things up. I’m off, though.”

“Wearing a costume?” he asks.

“Yeah. I mean, totally. I love Halloween. I was going to figure something out last week. Oh great, now I need to get that done. Shoot. Hey, I better go take care of that. But then next Friday we’ll be doing poker, cool?”

“Yeah, sounds good,” he says, scowling when he drops a file into the wrong folder, causing it to zip across the desk in a yellow blur. “Whoops. Anyway, so the party...”

I interrupt him, “Yeah, I should go get a costume together. I’ll see you there.” Conner laughs at my nervous energy as I dart for the exit, my adrenaline now pressing me to think about costumes and candy and the event.

But leaving the hospital, I do think a little about Conner. I smile, partially in appreciation that he reminded me about Halloween, and partially because I’ve very sneakily got him to agree to come to the next club meeting. I owe him a handjob or two for all the medical care.

I feel a little giddy. This being alive thing is pretty cool. Sex with Zane, sex with Mike and Charlie, teasing Reid, maybe getting Conner to be a closer friend – I was perhaps a little full of myself.

At least that’s what I’m daydreaming about when I run head-first into a pole in the park, the metal ringing loudly in a reverberating clang. Several guys stop in their tracks, staring at me curiously. “Ow!” I yelp involuntarily. I shuffle off, embarrassed at my clumsiness. “Oh my god, Devon, you are such a spaz!” I chide myself.

And I think I was right to do so.


To be continued




End notes:

Thanks for reading this far!

Soundtrack: I associate a song with each chapter. Compile them, and you’d have a soundtrack to the story. The song for chapter 13 is Straight To Number One by Touch and Go – it works as background music in any scene in this chapter.


Everything in the hospital scenes is derived from a friend’s recent visit to Cedars-Sinai following a car accident. He’s fine – far less banged up than Devon. It was by chance that Devon had fallen off a balcony weeks prior. I thank him for helping me write 12 and 13 – the hospital scenes are much more realistic for his efforts!

Devon falls three stories into a planter of ivy. When I was 16 I fell off the roof of my house (don’t ask) into a bed of ivy, this is where the idea for his fall and subsequent injuries came from (I just cut my scalp, and walked away dazed).

Devon loves to cook, as do I, and most of his culinary adventures are taken from my own experiences. For this chapter, I compiled a simple menu that I would cook for someone. I’ll post recipes on the site, just in case any readers want to seduce that special someone (trust me, food and wine is an ideal aphrodisiac!)

If you really pay too much attention to detail, you’ll notice that Zane had a favorite red jock on Earth (Zane and the Twins), which was destroyed – both Earth and the jock. Charlie says he’ll make him a new one in chapter 9. This is apparently what Devon swipes – poor Zane!

I got the idea for Devon thinking about Mike during their sex scene from the way a guy’s body was moving in a dirty movie someone sent me. It made me think how beautiful someone offering pleasure can be. I’ll post a still on the site in the inspiration section.

I made Devon’s hair blue again. If you read thoroughly, it’s been several colors. I thought a return to blue suited him.

Halloween is next! It’s written, as is most of 15. They are my two favorite chapters thus far. I hope to be posting them soon!










 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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