Author’s Note


This was a really fun chapter to write. More than any previous, I’d like to hear what you think. Email me at erikritler@yahoo.com. Also, if you’d like to send photos or anything that reminds you of this chapter, feel free. I post appropriate submissions in the Reader Submission folder in the group. I shall also be posting a folder with some photos that inspired me for this chapter – check for those in the photos section.

For now, have fun!

erik


Story so far:

Devon and his friends continue their interstellar voyage, travelling on a ship largely occupied by college-age guys.

Having recently been injured, Devon has a new lease on life, and thinks of his new, unapologetically exuberant and brazen side as “New Devon.” This is most certainly appreciated by his friends in the jerk-off club – Charlie, Mike, Sean, Dog, Zane and Nick. And it’s probably noticed by his other friends. Perhaps even Sneak, the boy who spies on the boys from secret tunnels, has noticed the changes in Devon.

Devon is also dealing with a growing tension on the ship. One the one side is civilian mayor Eden Stranton, who has formed a security force to maintain order. On the other, Steven Caine, perpetual protestor, had a significant following. Devon is one of only a few people to know that his best friends, Reid and Patrick, are working both sides in order to figure out how to relieve tension amongst the two groups.

But these things are, for the most part, shoved out of Devon’s mind when he realizes that his hospital stay had ended right before his favorite holiday – Halloween.


Space Ship Boys

Chapter 14 – The (Sexy) Devil Is In the Details


I’m moping, alone in the bedroom in our unoccupied flat, and this is why: Halloween.

Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays growing up. It was a little different in South California than most places – the television specials aired that time of year always depicted imagery of cool autumn weather; trees with leaves that had turned gold and red and were starting to drift down from increasingly bare branches one by one; fields, recently harvested, growing damp and cool and foggy each evening.

This was not the case in San Diego.

Growing up, Halloween always occurred right after the height of summer, September and October usually warmer than June – and sometimes even July. Early October was sometimes wet, and I would look longingly out the windows of our little house, hoping for a Halloween where mist rolled off the bougainvillea leaves in thick, white tentacles, like some movie monster creeping toward my bedroom in silky silence. Instead, the last week of October almost always brought the Santa Ana winds, those dry desert breezes that blew in when the jet stream moved north, and we’d find ourselves in the midst of the final heat wave of summer.

This could be both good and bad. It meant we could stay out late and wear shorts, but then one year it was thirty-five degrees, and I’d puked up all my candy. Into my mask. Which I’d been wearing at the time. Yuck.

“I want to be a zombie surfer!” I’d proclaimed one year. I’d recently received a zombie-themed video game, and spent many nights sending my avatar to eat brains and wreak havoc on the little villages in the game.

“A zombie surfer, or surfer zombie?” my mom had asked, looking up from her tablet computer.

I cocked my head, not fully understanding the question. “That’s the same thing!” I proclaimed defiantly, the way little boys do.

“Not at all,” my mother answered in her patient voice. “A zombie surfer would be someone who surfed and then became a zombie. A surfer zombie would be someone who became a zombie and then later took up the sport of surfing. It’s two very different things.”

I thought about this play on words, realized how the two phrases were different, and then began giggling. My mom laughed with me, and we later made my costume. I settled on zombie mambo surfer zombie, a character I’d invented who had been a professional mambo dancer who tragically became a zombie when he went on vacation to Bora Bora, then, in his despair, took up surfing, partially to pass the time and partially to keep his decaying body fresher. “I think we can do that,” mom said, and zombie mambo surfer zombie was one of my better costumes.

So this first Halloween on the ship felt special. Or weird. Or special and weird. Either way, we were a little more than eight hours away from our first Halloween festival and party – an event that held infinite promise – and I was in a costume conundrum.

That is, I was currently moping on my bed in the worst costume ever made. And I’d made it. Well, mostly.

Costume craziness had hit the ship the week before, when the plans for the festival were finalized. An autumnal festival would be set up in the lobby of The Commons, with food and cool booths and some skateboard ramps and a maze and, well, you get the idea. That night there’d be a huge party on the Rear Observation Deck, the massive space in the rear of the ship that provided the one good window looking out into the cosmos. It was going to be awesome, and everyone had been talking non-stop about what they were going as.

Then I’d ended up in the stupid hospital, on medication and stuck under Conner’s watchful eyes all week. Damn that hospital. To be fair, I’d been a little too busy whining in pain and trying to heal to think much about Halloween. But later, when Conner had reminded me about the party, I’d hopped into action.

First I’d asked Reid what he was going as, and where he got his costume.

“That’s a surprise, Devon,” he’d said. “But I can help with a costume for you. They set up some of the clothing units down on forty-three to do that. Next year there will probably be shops for that, but this year you can go program your own and get it made to order. They gave everyone one free credit, so you can go wild.”

“Cool!” I’d said. I’d asked about the single credit thing. Apparently the mayor’s office had been worried that unlimited allowances would impact the raw material supplies too much, and I could see that. But Eden had offered a compromise – everyone got one costume, which needed to be recycled later. Seemed fair, and I was excited to get mine.

Turned out, getting a free costume from forty-three wasn’t all that cool. I thought it was going to be, and I’d shuffled down there first thing Saturday morning. I expected there to be a lot of other guys, but the room was empty when I arrived. I guess everyone else got their costumes earlier. I was cutting it a little close.

So I’d been able to take my time on the machine. The clothing-manufacturing units can make anything you want in any cut you want out of almost any material you want. You just have to program them, as Charlie did when he made his clothes. The units on forty-three looked older than the one Charlie had assembled, but the principle was the same. I sat at the console and pulled up the list of costumes that had already been programmed. I knew what I wanted.

It had been fun, finding the basic pattern and then altering it to suit me. I changed one thing, then another, and then changed some things back. “Nah, that should be red,” I said to myself as I worked. When I was done, I told the machine to make the costume.

It whirred and clicked and banged around while it worked, making an unsettlingly loud noise in the empty space. Either black smoke erupted from behind the machine at one point, or I just imagined it did, but eventually the clothes I’d ordered came sliding down the chute, already packaged in brown paper and tied up with yellow string – how retro!

I smiled, quite full of myself, and took my package up to the empty dorm on twenty-four. I was like a little kid, eager to open my creation. I think I’d actually giggled as I opened the package, peering inside. Then I’d arched an eyebrow, which immediately preceded the pouting.

I pulled out what looked like a very large and very long pair of red pajamas. “What the fuck?” I asked aloud. Giving the clothing unit the benefit of the doubt, I tried the costume on. Big mistake.

I looked in a mirror, and then scowled. I’d told the computer that I wanted to be a sexy devil. Get it? Devon, devil; devil, Devon. I thought it was funny. I had this image in my head of looking sensual and a little evil and cool and...not like this.

The computer had made me a giant pair of red footies, with off-color red felty material that ran over my arms and legs, covering both hands and feet and about ninety-five percent of my body. “Wow,” I muttered sarcastically, “Sexy devil is really quite conservative.” There wasn’t even a fly on the pants!

But there was a cape. Don’t ask me why, but there was a stupid cape, made of the same wretched red felt, hanging to the floor off my back. Since when does the devil wear a flipping cape?

“No horns?” I asked myself. I looked in the package and realized they’d fallen to the bottom. I pulled out about the cheesiest set of plastic horns ever and put them on. I felt like a tuba somewhere was mocking me with a sardonic “wah wah wah wahhhhhhhh.”

So that’s why I’m pouting.

My wristcom beeps, and I realize that I have to manipulate my costume extensively in order to unfasten the stupid mittens. Why would the devil have mittens? Oh, never mind. I consider ignoring the message, not really wanting to talk to anyone. But when I look at my inbox I see that it’s an encrypted file, which in most cases means an inter-ship communication (or sometimes something especially dirty that Zane wants to tell me.)

I wonder if Allie has sent me a message. Yes, I’ve been writing my ex. Ex? I don’t know, was she an ex? Maybe. Or maybe I’d call her the girl I infrequently bought coffee for before the Earth blew up and I started sucking every guy who’d drop his drawers. Anyway, I’ve been messaging her. And it’s been good – we’ve stayed friends.

But the message that pops up after I enter my encryption key isn’t from Allie. It’s from my parents. I’d recently sent them a message telling them I’d been in an accident, and then I’d also mentioned my newfound sexuality. I read the message at once.


Devon,

Thank you so much for your email. We were sorry to hear about your accident. Please rest and get better soon. Do you remember the year we went to Santa Monica and you almost fell off the pier? Do try to be careful, dear.

As for the other thing, what to say? You were a wonderful child, always full of life and laughter. And you grew into such a wonderful young man. Your dad and I watched you each and every day, never knowing quite what to expect. From the time you were two, your dad and I talked about how we would always support you. We spent a fair amount of time wondering what sort of man you would grow up to be, but we never questioned that we would be proud of that man.

In your message you say that you’re gay. I’m glad you knew it wouldn’t be too surprising, and I hope you didn’t fret about telling us. You have always been a sensitive, caring, intelligent boy, and you were always very close with your boyhood friends, in a way that a mother can look at and wonder. We always knew you might grow up to love men. When you started dating Allison, we were surprised by you yet again, but pleased that raising you is such an adventure.

Now it sounds like you know more about who you are, and the man you want to be. We’re both so happy to hear this! Go and find the things in life that make you happy. Be the caring boy you’ve always been. Show someone else that same love you’ve always shown us, and the same love I hope you’ve felt we’ve shown you. You are kind and good and a wonderful boy, Devon. We miss you every moment, and look forward to the day we can talk to you by video. And the day, of course, when we’ll be together again.

Love,

Mom and Dad

PS: When you do find a boyfriend, please tell us all about him!


I take my com off my wrist and set it on the table next to me. The message I’ve just read is great – I can actually hear my mom’s voice speaking the words in my head – so I’m a little surprised to find that tears are rolling down my cheeks.

There’s a click from behind me as the door to the room opens. I hurriedly wipe the salty tears from my face and snort snot back into my nose. Charlie and Mike enter the room, carrying a bundle of packages.

“No, I’m not picking on you, Mike,” Charlie says, sounding a little huffy, “I’m just asking that we be more careful next time. I needed 240 pairs with 29-inch waists, not 49-inch waists. Those are going to be...hmm, in low demand on this ship. I’ll take care of recycling them, though.”

Mike looks defensive and about to say something snotty in retort when he sees me sitting on the bed. “Hey Devon. What the hell are you wearing?” He then frowns, setting down his boxes. “Hey, are you okay?”

I take a deep breath. I’m sure the boys can tell that I’ve been crying. My cheeks always turn really red. “Yeah,” I sigh, “Just reading an email from my parents.”

Charlie pulls out a pair of red briefs. They unfold into a huge tent-like swatch of fabric. He sighs, and then looks over to me. “Bad news? Everything okay?”

“Everything’s okay, I just miss them.” I explain about what I’d emailed to my parents, then tell them about the reply. I feel a little silly for crying, the message truly does make me feel happy. Charlie congratulates me for taking the step I had.

“One thing, though,” he says.

“Yeah?”

“Why are you dressed like Underdog?”

Mike chimes in before I can answer. “I thought he was supposed to be Superman in his PJ’s.”

I bury my head in my hands, shaking it and growling in frustration. I explain my sexy devil idea, and then about the clothing unit and how it made what I’m wearing, which I’m now realizing is starting to make my entire body itch – especially my balls, which is weird since I’m still wearing underwear beneath the costume.

“This sucks!” I proclaim. “I used my costume credit, and the party is tonight. So I have this wretched thing, and this stupid cast,” I hold up my left arm. The cast, filling the sleeve of my horrid devil costume, looks like a giant hotdog, “I’m supposed to do some stuff in the cafeteria and I don’t have time to get another costume and my shoulder hurts.” I was in full-on whine mode. “This is going to be the worst Halloween ever!”

“It’s not that bad.” Mike tries to comfort me, cocking his head to inspect my atrocity of a costume. “Why would the devil wear a cape?”

“AARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!”

Once I’m finished screaming (and Charlie and Mike finished wincing), Charlie suggests something. “Devon, you’re such a doofus. Did you somehow forget that your best friend makes clothes?” I look at him curiously.

“Here’s what we’ll do,” he continues. “You go get your stuff done. Then meet us at the store. Mike and I will get you something...better.” He looks at my flannel PJ footie mitten caped devil disaster and frowns, flicking the awful plastic horns with a finger; they fly off my head and land on the floor with a light pat.

“Really?” I ask, hope seeping into my voice.

“Yeah, totally,” Mike says. “I mean, you’re cutting into our fuck time...” Charlie slaps his boyfriend on the shoulder. Mike winces in mock pain and then continues, “...Ow! Hey, it’s true. Anyway, you’re cutting into our ‘work time,’ but we don’t mind.”

I jump on the offer for help. Charlie asks me to explain my concept, which I do. “That’s sexy devil? Sheesh, I’d hate to see ‘lame-o devil.’ ” This earns a sarcastic smile. Charlie puts some space between us and beckons Mike to the corner of the room, where the two whisper amongst themselves, looking back at me now and again. I strain to overhear their conversation, but can’t make anything out.

Eventually they turn back to me, Charlie clapping his hands together in determination. “Okay! I think we have a plan. We just need to get some measurements – can you disrobe for us?”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, Devon, take that god-awful thing off. You look like a giant red dildo after a tragic boating accident.”

I happily slither out of the “costume,” kicking it under the bed and making a note to burn it later. Or blow it out an airlock. I stand in the center of the room while both boys pull up programs on their coms. These turn out to be tailoring applications, which they use to measure me. “Undies too,” Mike says, reaching over to snap the waistband against my butt. “We need an accurate measurement since we’re making something sexy.”

I comply, removing my underwear and standing naked for the boys. It’s a little cold in the room today, I think, noting that my balls are riding a little high. Mike and Charlie run their coms over my body, holding them millimeters away from my skin. They beep in time, apparently measuring my contours.

I feel Mike’s fingers on my butt, then one slides into my crack, close to my hole. It tickles and surprises me. “Whoa!” I yelp. “Hey, is this really necessary?”

“Not really,” Charlie says, pointing his beeping com at my nose. “We measured you from over there, this was just to see if we could get you to take your clothes off for us.”

Both guys laugh, and once I’m done trying to smack them I do too. “Retards,” I mumble, putting my regular clothes back on. Griping playfully about their antics, I walk with them through the Forward Concourse, thanking them profusely for agreeing to help me out. We part at the entrance to their shop. From there I head to the cafeteria, where Zane says he needs my help.

Food Services is buzzing with excitement when I arrive, most everyone assigned to help get things ready for the festival and party. I find Zane at his usual workstation, covered in the multi-colored stains and blobs that tell me he’s been hard at work.

“Hey, dude,” he greets me, and then explains why he needs my help. Turns out he wants to make some cool hors d'oeuvres for the party, but Zane is better at assembling dishes than conceptualizing them (and he’s not that great at assembling them, to be honest). I cheerfully agree to help, in a better mood now that Charlie has taken over the costume problem. I work at my console and find three recipes that should be simple and delicious. Zane excitedly agrees that they’re exactly what he wants, and we put in an order for the ingredients.

“I also have that stuff over there,” Zane points to a pile of partially prepared food at his workstation. “If you want to mess with it while I go get the supplies, feel free. But you don’t have to.”

Zane leaves and I look at his work. He’s making some mini burritos, which smell pretty good. Heck, after months of tofu and rations, anything with real meat smells good. I take a finished one from the tray and taste it. It’s good, but not great. “Needs something,” I mutter.

An idea hits me, and I smile evilly. This is Halloween, after all. What would it be without a little prankishness? Moving to my workstation, I gather up some vegetables from my hopper. I dice and mince and quickly make an accentuating salsa – a very spicy accentuating salsa – for the burritos, which I mix into the cooked beef. Then I start rolling up the little snacks, which is fucking hard with one arm!

“Just over here, Zane says when he and Jon enter the kitchen, arms loaded with packages. I’d help, but again, one arm. They set the boxes down.

“Whew, busy today!” Jon exclaims. “Those look good,” he says, glancing at the burritos. “They got you working despite the arm, huh?”

I realize he’s talking to me. “Yeah. Well, not really. I was bored, so I thought I’d help out.”

“Cool, cool. Hey, if you don’t mind I have something for Colin.” Jon says. I look at him quizzically.

“Colin?”

“Yeah, you know, the doctor. He needed something for a patient, just some herbal supplements, and I know you hang at the hospital these days. I’d take it, but we’re slammed today.”

I figure out who he’s referring to. “Oh, you mean Conner.”

Jon looks confused, and then smiles. “Yeah, yeah that’s him. Duh. I’ve been calling him Colin. That’s embarrassing. Anyway, if you’re heading down there....”

I nod and agree to deliver the small white envelope Jon hands me, but not before looking him over. The guys in stores are always really happy, and now I wonder if there’s not some smoking out going on.

I drop the package off on my way back to see Charlie and Mike, finding Conner in his office at the hospital surrounded by books. He thanks me for bringing the package, and then takes a break from his studying. “You ready for the party?” he asks.

“Not even a little,” I admit.

“Hey,” he says, “I was going to ask you...”

Suddenly I realize I’m running really late. Damn those mini burritos! “Hey, look Conner, I’m sorry but I’m soooooo late. I gotta run. But see you tonight?” He smiles and nods before being treated to a view of a hastily retreating Devon.

When I get to Charlie’s shop on the third floor of the Forward Concourse, I see they’re closing up for the day, although the automated system will still allow people to come in and pick up orders. The store is actually pretty automated. I think Charlie and Mike work it mostly to socialize and hang out. “There you are, late as usual,” Charlie says when I walk in.

“Who, me?”

He takes me into the back room, where Mike is fidgeting with something. “Ok, I think we have what you wanted here. But I’ll warn you, you said ‘sexy devil’, so don’t be surprised if you get sexy devil.”

“I want sexy devil,” I say, “Even if it means just red underwear and horns. Well, not the horns from earlier. Those sucked.”

“Yes, they did,” Charlie says. “Ok, the festival starts in two hours, so we can go ahead and dress you. Take your clothes off.”

I laugh. “I’m not falling for that one again.” Charlie gives me a stern look, and I realize he’s not kidding. I slip off my pants and t-shirt, which gets me another stern look. I shuck my underwear too.

“Mike, did you talk to Conner?” Charlie asks. Mike nods yes, and then says whatever he’s working on is almost done. I’m about to ask what Charlie is referring to when he explains. “Ok, here’s the deal. We knew you hated the cast, so I had Mike ask Conner about it. He says if you are feeling okay, and if you are very, very, very, very careful, you may replace it with something we whipped up as part of your costume.”

“Really?” I ask excitedly, feeling the heft of the cast; I was really starting to loathe it.

“Yes, and I think you’ll like what we have to replace it, but if you break your arm again and Conner comes after us, I’m going to kill you.”

“Deal,” I smile, not wasting a minute before I start unfastening the sling and cast. It’s relatively easy to remove. My arm feels fine, and although my shoulder is still pretty sore I’m happy to be free of it. I can’t help but wonder what Charlie has to protect my shoulder that will fit in with my costume theme. I don’t have to wait long before Charlie shows me.

“Ok, here’s what we came up with,” he says. “You asked for sexy devil, right?”

“Yup.”

“We thought about that, and about you. We thought that your costume should show some skin, and be a little perverse. But we wanted it fun, and also a little gay. Because of your hair...” Charlie pulls on my blue bangs, “...we wanted to go a little glam, but also draw from French art, particularly the late sixteenth century. Combined with some appropriate makeup, body paint and accessories, I think this will be awesome.”

Charlie’s rambling has my head swimming, but I think I’m beginning to see why I ended up with chunky red footies instead of what I wanted.

He goes to work on me, first consenting to cover up my naughty bits with the lower part of my costume, which takes some tailoring. I casually cover my package with my hand while I wait. “Jeez, when’d you get so shy?” he asks. “It’s not like anything we haven’t seen before.”

“Or sucked before,” Mike adds, giggling.

“Ok, so I designed the pants for your costume from this great old album cover I saw in Beck’s music collection. In fact, I took most of the basic idea from that.” Charlie pulls a pile of red, lush looking velvet from a box next to his work table.

I put on the “pants” Charlie hands me, having a hard time figuring out what to do with them at first. Charlie helps, goosing my butt in the process. The pants slide over my thighs sensually, coming to a stop very low on my body, just above the point where my pubic hair tapers into a fuzzy brown treasure trail. “Wow, low,” I say nervously.

“You wanted sexy,” Charlie explains. And they are. The red velvet bunches at the top, sitting higher in front than in the rear, where it loops low enough so that I can feel a cool breeze on the top of my ass. The velvet then drapes down my legs in loose, flowing fabric, coming to a wide leg that pools on the floor.

“This feels great,” I say. “But a little loose.”

“I’m going to cinch it in place, but you’ll have to be careful not to push down, or the whole party will get a show.” I blush at the thought, but it also excites me.

“And on top?” I ask.

Charlie whacks my stomach with a solid slap. I jump, and happily discover the pants stay on. “Bare-chested, my friend. But don’t worry, I’m going to do you up all nice and devilish.”

“No cape?” Mike asks, putting down the grey metal disc he’s been tinkering with.

“No cape!” Charlie yells in a silly voice. “Besides, Sean took my last cape.”

“You did Sean’s costume too?” I ask while Charlie rummages through some drawers, pulling out various supplies I assume are for me.

“Yep,” he confirms. “And Dog’s. Mine and Mike’s, of course. Well, we sort of all did them together in the waiting room last week.”

“Oh.” I’m a little disappointed, maybe feeling a little left out. But I can see why they talked Halloween – I’m sure waiting around in the hospital was exceedingly boring. “What about Zane?”

“I didn’t help Zane, no idea what he’s doing. Maybe nothing. You know how he is, slacker to the end.” I think about Zane up in the cafeteria, and consider that he looked like he’d been in a tragic accident just from the stains he was covered in. Maybe he didn’t need a costume at all.

Charlie, artist that he is, goes to work, first applying a variety of body paints. He brushes a body powder on my skin, tickling my nipples with the soft makeup brush, before moving on and applying dark, sticky ink up my right side, drying it with a small fan as he goes. I want to look down, but he insists I remain still. When he’s finished, he applies makeup to my face, which at first I resist. But then I let him have free reign. He paints my lips, and then puts a variety of different makeup on my eyes.

“We decided to leave your hair as-is,” he says after an hour of work. “It might make more sense if you had red coloring in it, but the blue contrasts everything else.” Although he leaves the color intact, he does put some effort into giving me an appropriate hairstyle, dabbing in a thick white liquid and working it in with his palms.

We start to run short on time, so Charlie increases pace, saying that he and Mike have less complicated costumes, but they still need some time to dress. Charlie locates a box and opens it, revealing a tangled mess of metal chains and necklaces. He patiently divides them out, setting some in one pile and the rest in another. Once he has them divided, he places several around my neck. He snaps a leather cuff on my right wrist.

“That’s almost got it,” he says. “I’m gonna go get the next piece. Go over there and check it out.”

I walk over to a floor length mirror, and what I see makes me gasp. “Wow, mirror Devon, you look awesome!”

My red velvet pants look sensual (“And they are!” I think, wiggling my ass), and the rest of the costume is fantastic. Well, that sounds arrogant because mostly the rest of the costume is me. My body emerges from the folds of fabric, made paler by the powders Charlie applied. My nipples are pale red circles on an almost-white canvas, as are my lips, which seem fuller from the lipstick. A henna design adorns my torso, a tribal pattern of fire and barbed wire that rises from my right hip, snaking across my stomach and over my pecs to encircle my neck in deep red paint that looks like gashes in my skin. My eyes shine bright, made all the more intense by the eye shadow and eyeliner that is heavily applied. Several silver pendants hang from my neck in chains of varying lengths, dangling with arcane symbols that contrast with the dark cuff that bounds my wrist.

I look younger, I think. Almost like an angel who is bound in velvet and fire and blood. A wide grin makes its way across my face.

“You like?” Charlie asks, looking pleased.

“Oh my god, Charlie, yes! This looks...this looks fantastic. You guys are the best!”

Charlie is carrying a long, mahogany-colored item in his hand. He explains, lifting my left arm very gently to assist putting it on me. “Ok, you need to be careful with this. It will protect your arm and shoulder, but not as well as the cast. We went over to the hospital earlier, and Ian helped with this. It was tough getting the clothing unit to understand what we were trying to get it to do, but I think this works.”

What Charlie has made looks like a piece of medieval armor, and when he explains I find out this is more or less exactly what it is. “This is basically a vambrace,” he says, “the piece of armor that protects your arm. Or in samurai armor these would be the sode and kote.” Charlie shows me the two pieces of the faux-cast he’s made – the kote, which is a long sleeve-like piece that protects my arm, and the sode, a wide piece that fits over my shoulder and helps balance the weight more evenly across my frame. Both have been made to look like dark wood, although the material is actually quite light. A series of occult symbols similar to those on my jewelry runs down the arm-piece; they look burned-in, as if branded onto the kote.

Charlie helps me fit the armor over my arm. At first I’m concerned it’s going to be uncomfortable, but when I get it on I realize it’s providing about the same protection and support as the cast. It both limits my range of motion, preventing me from stretching my arm too far, and allows me to rest the weight of my arm on it.

“Hey, that looks good!” Charlie says, marveling at his own workmanship. “This took some doing, but Mike helped work it out. Let’s try it.” Charlie flips a hidden switch on the underside of the sode. The occult symbols light up slightly, looking as if they’ve just recently been burned into the “wood.” When I move, the glow rises slightly, as if the air fanned across my arm has fanned the fake embers burning under the symbols.

“Oh my god, this is so cool!” I can’t help but act like a little kid. The boys went all out on this, and I really appreciate it.

“But wait, there’s more!” Mike exclaims from his chair, picking up the objects he’s been working on and walking over to me. “Stupid flipping things. Took forever to...stupid fucking thing better work,” he mutters and grumbles.

“Sorry,” I say, feeling like I’ve been a burden on my friends. Mike’s mood lightens.

“Don’t be,” he says cheerfully. “I’m just kidding...mostly. I wanted to try this the second I thought of it. Here, bend down.”

I do, and he messes with my hair for a minute, affixing the metal discs he’s been working on with some sort of adhesive. After brushing my hair around, he tells me he’s done. I look up at my image in the mirror. I can feel the accessory against my scalp, but I can’t see it through my thick, blue bangs. “What’s it for?” I ask.

“This,” Mike says with a smile, raising his hand to reveal a small disc in his hand. He clicks a button.

At first I’m startled by what happens in the mirror, and then I do a double take to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I wasn’t. Two long, curving horns made of dancing blue flame have emerged from my hair, flickering like real fire – a holographic, but convincing, illusion.

“No. Fucking. Way.” I say, ducking and moving my head from side to side, watching as the “flames” react to my movements the way real fire would. I just about explode in boyish excitement, grabbing Mike in a hefty one-armed bear hug before doing the same to Charlie. “Oh my god, I love you guys!” I gush. “I was so bummed that this would be the worst Halloween. This is awesome. You guys rock!”

Charlie and Mike beam, both deservedly proud of the work they’ve put in.

Mike checks the time; the party is drawing near. I can’t stop looking at my super-cool outfit in the mirror, but I’m forced to when the boys push me into the main storefront, asking for some privacy so they can change into their own costumes.

While they dress I browse Charlie’s clothes. He’s started making shirts in addition to the underwear, and they all look cool. I wonder if he’ll make me a shirt with an image of a cast and sling, just in case I miss them when they’re gone.

“Ok,” Charlie says when he emerges from the rear of the store. He’s totally transformed, his face covered by a masquerade-style mask featuring emerald feathers that jut out from his eyes in a wide spray, the nose of the mask sloping into a sharp looking beak. The same feathers cover his arms, attached to special sleeves that give him the illusion of having emerald wings. But like me he’s shirtless, although a swath of feathers covers his chest and runs down his stomach in the same pattern hair would on a very hairy man, Charlie’s false feathery treasure trail leading into a pair of green low-rise briefs. He has bright yellow shoes to accentuate the outfit.

“Wow...that’s sexy,” I say. It looks great, although I don’t know what the avian theme is about.

“You ready, Mike?” Charlie calls back into the stockroom.

Mike’s voice drifts softy from just the other side of the doorway. “I don’t know,” he says. “I’m a little embarrassed, I think.”

“Oh, please,” Charlie says, “I’m a damn bird. Come out here, show Devon.”

Mike very slowly emerges, blushing furiously in the costume that, clearly, Charlie has designed with his boyfriend in mind. It covers very little, but it does so with great panache. Mike is wearing a very tiny half-shirt with yellow and black stripes. It cuts off just below his pecs to reveal tan, smooth skin stretching all the way down to the tiniest possible pair of black, shiny briefs. Long socks in a similar black and yellow pattern run all the way to the boy’s knees. When he turns I can see that the briefs feature a black “stinger” curving upward from his round ass in what looks like a sharp point; I smile when I see that Charlie has given the stinger the same curve that Mike’s dick features. On his back, a set of white insect wings flutter and flap in a holographic illusion similar to that of my horns. Two non-holographic antennas extend above his head, bobbing slowly up and down.

Mike looks more like a little boy than ever, shy and uncomfortable in the tiny clothes. A little boy dressed like a gay bumblebee, but a little boy nonetheless. “I thought we were going to make it a little more...covering,” he says cutely. It makes my dick twitch, the way he smiles as he says it.

“That is the one that covers more, you should have seen the first one I made,” Charlie laughs.

“It’s not like we haven’t seen it before,” I mock, imitating the tone he’d used earlier on me. “Or sucked it.” If I ever wondered if bees had tongues, my question was answered, because one is stuck defiantly in my direction.

Charlie drapes an arm over his scantily clad boyfriend. “Get it?” he says with a grin. “Birds and the bees?”

I think about it, and then laugh. Looking at the three of us, I have to ask. “Do you think people are going to notice that we look a little gay?”

Charlie arches an eyebrow. “I think most everyone knows already. The ones who don’t, though – yeah. Especially you, Devon. You look like gay sex wrapped in velvet.” I blush at the compliment, and not in a bad way.

Any time there’s a ship-wide event it’s exciting, but in the case of the Halloween festival there was a palpable energy buzzing about the ship; it was the biggest, most elaborate event that had been staged thus far, and the moment the clocks on our collective wristcoms stated it was eight, just about everyone on the ship, now dressed in bright, funny, and sometimes elaborate costumes, moved in eager anticipation toward the main lobby.

Charlie, Mike and I exited his store and descended to the first floor to be caught up in this tide, a drifting, flowing line of people determinedly headed toward that spot in the exact center of the ship where the festival was taking place.

“Wow, people went all out,” I say, staring wide-eyed at my fellow passengers. It was true; the ship was now filled with costumes in a myriad of designs, colors and styles. There were super-heroes and animals and historical figures and gods; there were famous movie characters, manifestations of death in varying forms, and even ideas or abstract concepts brought to life in costume-form (as in the case of the guy wearing a woman’s slip with the word “FREUD” printed on it in block letters). We passed two guys, one unoriginally dressed in a bathrobe and carrying a cup of coffee, the other made up elaborately as Kali, a thick skull necklace jangling around his neck and six false blue arms accompanying his real ones. He gave us a fierce snarl as we walked past, golden headdress catching the light from overhead.

“Great costume,” Charlie tells him.

“I come for your SOULS!” he growls comically, waving a fake cutlass.

When we get to the lobby, we find it transformed, a fact that seems all the more astounding because this is the one place in the ship where the lights never dim, the temperature never seems to change, and the decor remains constant. But not tonight.

“Wow,” Mike gasps as we walked into the huge open space. Our eyes involuntarily lift toward the ceiling, the huge curved dome that hangs overhead. Normally brightly lit, it was now darkened and made to look like a night sky, lamps left on here and there to simulate stars. The room was ten degrees cooler than normal, and damp. I notice a thick, white fog rolling out of the plant beds, slinking to the floor, which was covered in several inches of the ghostly substance.

A maze of booths had been set up in the center of the lobby, which we enter. We’re greeted by a wave of smells and sounds that felt comforting and familiar. My fellow chefs have set up an area serving the comfort foods you crave this time of year, hotdogs and roasted pecans and candied apples and beaver tails, those crispy fried doughnuts covered in maple pecan glaze and autumn spices. Charlie gladly accepts one of these from David, one of my co-workers, and bites into the hot dessert. He smiles, a smear of maple glaze sitting seductively on his upper lip.

We turn the corner and almost collide with a group of Catholic nuns. “Sorry, sisters,” Mike says.

“Buzz off!” one of the faux-catholics joke, referring to Mike’s costume.

I’m surprised to see Zane standing behind the counter of the next booth, wearing an apron that is actually moderately clean. He’s coating something with cinnamon sugar. When he notices us he flashes a huge grin, looking from one of us to the other. “Wow!” he exclaims. “You guys look awesome! Oh wow, Charlie, when you said you were helping Devon out this afternoon I didn’t think you’d get that elaborate. That looks great! I love the new cast.”

Zane looks at my fiery horns curiously, like a little boy, and then reaches over the counter to run his hand a couple of inches over my head. The flames flicker and dance as his fingers pass through the holograms. “Mike made those,” I explain.

“That’s great! Dang, Mike, that’s some good work. I knew you were an engineering whiz, but dang.”

Mike thanks him, smiling shyly, and then we ask about the booth. He explains that he offered to man it until eleven so he could be off for the party and post-party cleanup. I should have guessed he was here as part of a scheme to get out of dishes.

“Here, try one of these,” he says, handing me one of the treats he’s making. It’s an orange-colored wheel that is obviously fried. Stringy fried strands cross through the center of the wheel in a pattern that looks like spider-webs. It’s warm in my fingers, oily, and gritty from a dense coating of cinnamon sugar.

“What is it?” I ask, turning the snack over in my hand.

Zane smirks. “Oh come on Dev, just put it in your mouth.” I shrug and do as he says. As I bite into the crispy food, Zane turns to Charlie and adds, “You’d be surprised at how often I find myself saying that to him.” I smirk at him as I chew.

The dessert tastes familiar, and yet not. It’s fruity and crispy and delicious, hints of cinnamon and nutmeg filling my senses. Its texture is not unlike tempura vegetables. “This is really good,” I say, my mouth full of hot, sweet deliciousness. “What is it?”

Zane explains as I offer a bite to Mike and Charlie; both boys accept. “So what I did here is peel and slice a sugar pumpkin, then cutting cross sections into a wheel. Then I’ve flash-fried it with some tempura. The coating is cinnamon and sugar and nutmeg, and I put in a little allspice.”

I’m impressed. I would never have thought to prepare pumpkin like this. “You came up with this?”

Zane nods, suddenly looking a little uncertain. “Is it okay?”

The question is clearly posed at me. “Ok?” I laugh, “It’s awesome. So good.” This gets a big smile in response. I’ve noticed lately, as I get better and better at cooking, that my approval of Zane’s creations is increasingly important to him.

We leave Zane to his pumpkin frying when a group of recently slaughtered sorority “girls” (the Adams apples suggesting they were not literally female) approach his booth and request a sample.

The food area leads into the exact center of the lobby, which has been made up in a huge maze, bales of hay stacked in nine-foot rows. “Cool,” Charlie says.

“AR-Rooooooooooooooo!” sounds a tremendous (but silly) howl from behind. We turn to find Sean and Dog, Dog the one making all the noise, and for good reason.

I would have guessed Charlie had a hand in the costume designs even if he hadn’t told me; both boys look fantastic, and sexy. Sean is dressed in an outfit of black leather and red silk, a pair of raggedy leather pants sitting low on his hips; they look worn and somehow impossibly stitched together, like someone had taken dozens of little leather pieces and haphazardly sewn them together. A flowing red silk cape hangs to the floor, held in place by a chain of dark iron fastened over his shoulders and neck. He’s bare-chested under the cape, which seems to be a consistent with Charlie’s costumes. Three deep gashes slash across his chest, small lines of dried blood streaking down his abs as if some vicious animal had recently clawed him. A silver-plated hatchet is slung over his shoulder, reflecting a distorted image of the starry ceiling above, the hedge maze, and our astounded faces.

Sean wears a black cuff on one wrist, similar to the one Charlie has put on me, but his is connected to a heavy looking iron chain that leads up to a similarly heavy looking iron collar around Dog’s neck.

Dog, we see, is the animal that has apparently wounded Sean before being captured and bound. Like with Mike, Charlie has shown how passionate he feels about conservation by using as little fabric as possible. A pair of tight black trunks is just about all Dog is wearing, with the exception of the fur, which sits on his chest in thick, brown, mangy tufts. He’s wearing fake paws and feet, all covered in the same brown animal fur, sharp white claws extending from each. A bushy brown tail hangs from just above his ass, swinging delicately above the floor.

“Wow, those came out good,” Mike says. Dog smiles and I’m a little disconcerted. He’s wearing black contact lenses, for one thing, and his canines have been veneered to look impossibly long and sharp. Plus he has shaggy brown hair and two canine ears on the top of his head.

“Jacob Black and Edward Cullen?” I ask, ignoring the obviousness of the Red Riding Hood theme and purposefully guessing incorrectly.

Charlie slaps my left arm lightly in a playful manner, then realizes what he’s done and apologizes over and over. I tell him it didn’t hurt (although it did a little) while marveling over Sean and Dog’s costumes. I pull on the chain leading to Dog’s collar, it isn’t as heavy as it looks but it is real. “I didn’t know you guys were into bondage,” I say.

“We may be now,” Dog says, his speech slightly funny because of the altered teeth, “It’s really sexy.” I get the sense he’s not joking.

The five of us, now just about the gayest spectacle ever, head into the hedge maze together. The lights have been dimmed substantially, so that the foggy maze feels dark and foreboding.

We take twists and turns, eventually coming to a staged haunted house-style scene in a clearing. Two boys are sitting down at a dinner table, both wearing astronaut outfits. They remove the cover from a large silver dish in the middle of the table to reveal a “severed” head. The head opens its eyes and begins screaming, pleading with us to not let the astronauts eat him. The head spots me, and then says in a flat voice, “Although I probably would taste better than Tuna Surprise.” I scowl, but have to laugh at the insult to one of my more infamous cooking disasters.

Another scene is a little more abstract and wacky. Entering another clearing, we find a black backdrop with a model of an exploding sun in the center. Two boys dressed in large plastic grey suits run in circles, screaming and plowing into each other. One has “EV5997” imprinted on his ass. I get it – they’re escaping spaceships. I have to laugh, but it’s really dumb and tasteless, in the way only teenagers can be.

Eventually we come to the center of the maze, and find an impossibly long line of guys. It’s so long, winding up and down the final passageway to the maze’s center, that we can’t see past them. “What’s the deal?” Sean asks one of the bystanders, who’s dressed like an army general.

He explains that three of the hotter girls on board have set up a kissing booth as a reward for making it through the maze successfully. With only a couple hundred girls on board compared to over forty-five hundred college guys, their services, kissing and otherwise, were in high demand. I look at my four ultra-sexy friends, who I very rarely have to wait in line to kiss – or stroke, or blow – and I say a little prayer of thanks to the gods of genetics, who deemed to activate the gene that made me prefer my friends.

New Devon, quite thrilled to be dressed as a sexy devil, opens his mouth. “I could save you the wait,” I say, “And kiss you right now.”

Army general scowls, but then politely says “no thanks.” His buddy, a navy midshipman, doesn’t seem so opposed. “I could go for that,” he says.

I didn’t expect it, but shrug – why not? I move over to navy boy and press my lips to his, several of the other line standers turning to look at us. I don’t go cheap on navy boy, either, giving him my best, most practiced kiss, using a little tongue to play with his upper lip. He groans lightly. Because we’re on display, I make it an extra long one, too, remaining lip-locked for a full minute before taking my hand off the back of his head and letting our mouths part. “Wow, you’re a good kisser,” he says, a little glazy-eyed. “I’m Teo.”

“I’m Devon,” I say, smiling at the compliment to my kissing. “I’ll see you later, Teo.”

I walk out of the maze center with my friends, all four of them grinning at me. Once we’re out of earshot Charlie exclaims, “I cannot believe you just did that!” They laugh at my antics. I feel a little like Zane, and not at all ashamed by that.

“Hey, it’s Halloween,” I say. “Teo deserved a treat. And I did too.”

The festival runs until midnight. We spend our time sampling various foods, making our way through the crowds, and participating in some of the carnival games that have been set up. We find Nick and Jacob manning one of these.

“C’mon over,” Nick says in his best impersonation of a barker. “Test your luck, win fabulous prizes!”

We approach his booth, the requisite display of wonderment about our costumes following. “Dang,” Nick says, “I should have let Charlie make mine. I got ‘German beer boy in lederhosen. I’m gonna go get dressed once we close up here.”

Nick and Jacob’s game is the classic milk bottle ball toss. Charlie and Mike pass on offers to try, but Sean accepts, puffing his chest and walking up to the counter. He takes one of the grapefruit-sized balls into his right hand. He’s about to toss it with maximum force when Dog yelps, pointing out that his neck is connected to Sean’s wrist. We laugh as Sean removes his cuff and chide him for almost killing his boyfriend. He winds up again and throws the ball.

The five of us watch in wonderment as the ball seems to curve upward as it zooms across the booth, its arc becoming more pronounced at the end so that it flies over the stacked bottles before flying up to the ceiling of the booth and rolling around there. Jacob laughs at Sean’s bewildered expression. They’ve changed the game by altering the gravity in the booth.

Sean throws two more balls, the second missing again and the third connecting but failing to knock over all the bottles. “You suck, Laskaway. Your booth sucks,” he gripes in mock-anger.

Dog also passes on an attempt, but I accept. Living your life means taking risks, even if it’s just a carnival game with weird gravity. I’d watched all three of Sean’s throws, and thought I had a good perspective on how things were aligned. I wind up in an elaborate comic flourish, and then throw the ball directly at a spot on the floor to the right of me. It streaks away, seemingly way off-course, before starting to “fall” up, a dizzying graceful spiral that seems to defy logic. My ball smashed into the center of the bottles, knocking them all over.

“YEAH!” My friends yell in unison; I smile at their praise, quite pleased with myself. Everyone within a thirty-meter radius turns to look at us.

Nick is smiling, but he’s also disgruntled. “Nobody’s supposed to get it on the first try,” he whines, reaching under the counter and pulling out a silver package. He hands me the prize, which I recognize to be a pair of Charlie’s briefs.

“I donated the prizes for Nick’s booth,” he explains. Nick takes the underwear back from me. I frown, thinking he’s denying me my reward, but then he explains that he’ll put them in the room for me when he goes to change.

We wander around some more. We’re watching a “daredevil” shoot apples off a guy’s head with holographic arrows (hitting the guy squarely in the head in most cases) when the “stars” overhead go out. A low rumbling bass line begins thrumming through the carnival, thumping and throbbing in a regular rhythm.

At first I jump, perhaps a little concerned that another riot has just broken out. I look at my friends, who haven’t noticed the brief flash of fear on my face. They’re all smiling, looking up to the sky. Lasers light the lobby “sky,” cutting across the open air in greens and blues and reds. It’s midnight – the carnival is over and the party has begun.

As if of one mind, the crowds begin to make their way toward the main elevator banks, circling around the hay maze and then the elevators themselves to stream into the long tunnel leading to the Rear Observation Deck. Those who’d worked the carnival start stowing their supplies and closing up their booths, some of them heading straight into the party without costumes and some of them going off to change.

The boys and I join the throng, pushing our way through the increasingly narrow passageway until we’ve entered the tunnel proper. There’s a palpable excitement to the crowd. Parties are hugely fun. Plus there was no liquor at the festival by order of the crew – but the booze would flow freely at the party. I wanted something fruity and neon and tasty that would make my head spin a little.

The tunnel is usually brightly lit, the white floor and ceiling contrasting the colorful murals that decorate the tunnel walls. Tonight, however, the lights have been shifted to ultraviolet; eerily incandescent images shine in glowing greens and purples over the murals. The decorations look great, demons and ghosts and monsters painted on the walls in glow-in-the-dark paints.

The tunnel cuts through the engineering sections, although it doesn’t open to any of these areas except by emergency access hatch, leading solely to the Rear Observation Deck, the one area in the rear third of the ship accessible to the general populace. I think about what lies to either side of us on the other side of the tunnel walls, the massive cavernous spaces and then those two mighty Rolls-Royce engines, god-like structures that propel us through space at near-light speeds.

We come to the end of the tunnel, where it opens into the spacious deck, a multi-use space most notable because of the towering “glass” windows looking out into space – the only openly available portholes on the ship.

Music drifts into the tunnel, the words to that all-too-appropriate Halloween anthem, I Put a Spell on You, reverberating off my naked chest. When we enter the deck, I see Beck at his usual party spot, surrounded by the audio and video equipment that is the heart of the party. I look to see if his ubiquitous helper, AJ, is around, but I don’t find him.

“Wonder where he’s snuck off to,” I ask out loud.

“Huh?” Dog asks, canines glinting in the darkened room. I shake my head, gesturing that I wasn’t speaking to him.

AJ, who I now knew to be Sneak, that boy who spies on my friends and me occasionally (by which I mean all the time), was probably here somewhere. I felt like our game was progressing a little each day, and thinking about where it should go next was getting me a little damp down deep in my velvet pants.

I recognize a familiar face across the room. Well, a familiar back, to be more precise. “Hey guys, I’ll be right back.” I take my leave of the guys, who’ve spotted some food on a nearby table and are wandering in that direction. I see a plate of mini burritos amongst the food, and grin evilly as I walk away: no one expects my habanero lime salsa until it’s too late, bwa ha ha ha!

I approach a group of three costumed guys, their backs turned to me. “Hey Conner,” I say politely, not wanting to rudely interrupt their conversation.

He turns around, smiling at something funny that’s been said. “Hey Devon, I was wondering when you’d...” he sees what I’m wearing and stutters, then finished with a completely different thought, “...wow! That’s some costume. You look...good, I think. I mean...you put that together?”

Conner’s friends are staring at me, and I feel myself blush. New Devon is really into this costume, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a little shy about it. “Uh, yeah,” I say, inadvertently playing with the velvet around the waistband. I stop, realizing it would be easy to make it accidentally fall off. “I mean, no. Actually, my first costume sucked. Charlie helped me fix it.”

Conner is wearing a suit that looks Victorian in cut, a black coat with wide lapels sitting smartly over a crisp white shirt with a high collar. For some reason the coat has a cape in the same black material. He’s carrying an odd device, which appears to be a metal disc connected to a mahogany board by two arms. I have no idea what he’s supposed to be. “I like your costume too,” I say, “Um...what are you?”

He looks a little downcast, but then seems to realize his costume may be a little abstract. “I’m Michael Faraday,” he says, “Father of electromagnetism?”

I try an expression to convey that I get it and find it very interesting, but I feel it comes off as really patronizing. “Ah.”

I see Ian across the room and wave; he walks over and greets us. “Hey guys,” he says. He’s wearing a pair of pink scrubs. Most guys might not be able to pull it off, but with his pale blue eyes and blonde hair it looks good. Still, it’s a weak attempt for a Halloween costume, and I say so.

“You went with nurse,” I joke flatly, “original.”

Ian slaps me on the shoulder, which stings since it’s naked. “Dork,” he mutters, “I was working, and I have to go back later. But I got somebody to cover me for a couple of hours so I could come for a bit. I like the cast...er, armor. Wow. Charlie asked me to help with how it should hold your arm. I didn’t expect...this.”

“Thanks. They did a really great job.”

Speaking of the boys, Charlie and Mike shuffle into our rapidly growing circle. Mike looks distinctly unhappy about something, but Charlie is laughing, tear-tracks evident down his red cheeks. “Oh my god, Devon, you have to try one of these burritos, they’re like eating fire!”

He holds up a plate with several mini burritos on it. I decline, not wanting to fall into my own culinary trap. Ian and Conner take one apiece, though. Charlie looks Conner over and asks, “What are you?”

Conner sighs, and then explains. “Michael Faraday, father of modern electromagnetics.”

“Oh.”

“That burrito was too hot,” Mike says, whining. “I’m going to go find something else to drink.” He walks away, shuffling off like a hurt little boy, and I feel a little bad. I hadn’t really intended to kill him with the peppers, just random people. Maybe I should have warned him. Nah.

“I don’t get the spinning wheel thing,” Charlie says, still obsessed with Conner’s costume.

“It’s a Faraday Disc,” he explains, using a finger to spin the metal wheel, which whirs and clicks as it spins. “He used it to prove the law of induction.”

“Oh. That coat looks hot. I mean, like, too warm to wear.”

“It is,” Conner says a little awkwardly. “And it itches. And the costume machine gave it a cape, I don’t know why.”

“Holy fuck!” Ian exclaims suddenly. Everyone looks at him to see that he’s turned bright red, tears streaming down his cheeks. He’s fanning his mouth with both hands. “That is the fucking hottest thing ever. Oh my god...fuck!” he gasps.

Ian, proving another victim of my habanero lime hijinks, steals Conner’s drink and gulps it down greedily, sputtering and coughing. Conner looks at the hors d'oeuvre he’d accepted from Charlie and apparently thinks twice about eating it, setting it back on Charlie’s plate. “I think I’ll stick to Devon’s cooking,” he says.

I smile – little did they all know. Bwa ha ha ha!

“Hey, nice Faraday outfit,” says a familiar voice behind us coolly. Ian looks up, his expression changing from one of pain to one of utter shock. I turn to see Zane, decked out in style for Halloween as only Zane could...or would.

Zane’s hair, that floppy brown mess I so love, has been slathered in some product that makes it three shades darker and wet, so that it hangs shiny in long, curly locks. A band encircles his head, a gold ring in a laurel-leaf pattern looping from temple to temple. This matches the gold sandals he’s wearing, which come up to shin-height in leather straps that tie around his calves.

And that’s the extent of Zane’s costume.

When I say “extent of his costume,” I don’t mean these are the only two accessories he’s added to an outfit – I mean this is his entire outfit. Other than the headband and sandals, he’s completely stark naked. A fine sheen of oil covers his frame, which makes me notice that he’s completely hairless, having apparently shaved his body for the occasion. And I’d guess he’d lifted weights right before – his muscles are taut and hard, the way they get right after he’s worked out.

I can’t help but stare at one muscle in particular – the one that makes his appearance so very shocking. He’s not wearing underwear, or a jock, or even the teeny-tiny pouch undies Charlie had made him. Zane’s cock, that hanging, ample organ that was a physical symbol of his rampant masculinity, was completely exposed, lying long and thick from his freshly shaved body.

Everyone in the circle stares at him – or tries not to stare, in the case of some – for a long moment before Conner speaks up, responding to Zane’s praise. “Um...thanks...er...hi,” he says. I can’t blame him for stuttering and falling all over his words – even I’m blushing, and I’ve seen Zane nude lots of times before.

But then I stop blushing. I think I’m beginning to understand my friend. He’s brazen, bold, and unapologetic, but he also has a sensitive side. I’d seen this earlier when he’d confided in my how he felt about my accident. Those emotions worked through, we were being treated to an unadulterated Zane in all his glory, both physically and emotionally. Whatever fear he might feel in life, these were gone for the moment, and Zane’s costume, his beautiful naked body on display, was a proclamation to this effect, if not to the world, then probably to me.

Zane doesn’t even acknowledge our reaction; he steps into the circle and reaches over to Conner’s wheel-device-thing, spinning the metal disc with his finger. “You even got the homopolar generator, that’s awesome! We gonna prove the Faraday Paradox later?” he asks.

There’s nothing quite like a nude guy to make a conversation at a party awkward, or so I discover. Conner shrugs and mumbles something about Faraday; Ian looks the naked guy up and down. Conner’s other friends, who I don’t know, stare awkwardly into space. Zane helps cut through the unease, making conversation.

“My costume is still nowhere near as sexy as yours, Dev,” he says, reaching over to pinch one of my exposed nipples. I squeal and pull away, partially in pain and partially embarrassed by the physical touch in public. I like being naked with Zane, I just wasn’t used to it in front of thousands of people. “Look at you, all sexed out. Hot. I love the arm guard thing.”

“Thanks,” I reply, flexing my left shoulder, which feels good but is still sore. “Conner let me out of the cast for tonight.” I smile at my friend, who probably acted more as my friend than my doctor in offering me a reprieve from the cast and sling. He smiles back.

Zane takes a burrito from Charlie's plate without asking and pops the whole thing in his mouth. After chewing for a moment he says, “Wow, those are great. I think I’d put a little more habanero in them, though. I like the spice.”

The conversation resumes, a little slowly at first, but ultimately the group seems to grow comfortable with Zane’s nudity. Mike returns, looking our naked friend over but not asking about it. Sean and Dog find us too. Across the room, an older man in a tan suit is staring at us. He walks toward us. He seems familiar – a balding forty-something man with a bit of a paunch, but I can’t quite place him.

“Mr. Flynn,” he says when he’s within earshot. He then seems to notice the group with a small expression of surprise, as if he didn’t realize we’d been standing here the whole time. He acknowledges us before continuing to speak to Zane. “Gentlemen...Mr. Flynn, while I am no longer your advisor, I do feel compelled to point out the inappropriateness of your...outfit. I believe you should go find some clothes.”

Zane smiles and looks quite genial, which makes me cringe because I know something bad is about to come out of his mouth. “Nah…” he says, drawing out the word for several seconds. “I don’t think I will, Morrie.”

The older man scowls at this, shifting his weight and flustering. Ian and Conner look from Zane to “Morrie” curiously. “I prefer Dr. Atchens, as you well know. Should we go speak to those gentlemen over there?” Morrie asks, pointing to two security force guys standing at the buffet table. One is fanning his mouth, a half-eaten burrito in hand. “There are laws against public nudity, you know.”

Zane shifts his weight onto one foot, and raises a hand in a very lecturing posture. He looks like a Greek statue of a boy about to give a lecture, something Aristotle might have jerked off to in between sessions of writing Nichomachean Ethics. “Actually, Morrie,” he says dryly, his tone as patronizing as possible, “As you may know, we are standing on what we call a “space ship,” and as such we’re governed by EU maritime law, which not only doesn’t prohibit public nudity, but explicitly states that it’s allowed so long as there is no reasonable risk of injury. And trust me, if there was reasonable risk of injury, I’d cover my junk.”

“I find it very hard to believe that you are reading that law correctly,” Morrie says.

“I’ve no doubt,” Zane retorts, his quick wit and fearlessness making him more than a match for Dr. Atchens. “Check the ship legal files, section sixty-three, subsection fourteen. And while we’re on that topic – being in space, I should point out that we found a MIP of your book in the archives the other afternoon. I owe you a thank-you. I pulled it up on my wristcom next to some seedlings, and the roses are doing great, we assume from being exposed to that much shit.”

Morrie gives Zane an evil stare. “My work speaks for itself.”

“Yeah, it really does,” Zane says, pantomiming a huge explosion with his hands. “Ka-boom!” he says with a laugh. Our group is watching the confrontation like it’s some great tennis match, as are several others within earshot of the arguing men.

“I stand by my theories,” Morrie says coldly. “Everything I wrote was correct, and you’re far too impetuous for your own good.”

Zane laughs again, this time in a bewildered manner. “Oh my god. How can you say that? Does the sun have to explode a second time for you to admit you were wrong? I mean, fuck.” He thinks for a second, but begins speaking again, before Morrie can. “If we were on Earth, I’d be all polite and show you my math. But here, out in space because our planet exploded, I’ll tell you to go suck yourself, and leave us the fuck alone, dickwad.”

Morrie’s eyes narrow, and for a moment I think he’s actually going to deck Zane. He doesn’t, instead hissing in a low voice, “Learn to show some dignity, Mr. Flynn.” He gives the naked Zane one last look of disgust.

Zane offers a big, mischievous smile in return. “I am showing dignity, Morrie,” he says, “And also my wang.” Zane reaches down and grabs himself, flopping his flaccid dick from side to side so that it slaps audibly from thigh to thigh.

Mike lets out an involuntary laugh, which pierces the circle with a nervous energy. He looks shocked to have made the noise, and then clamps a hand over his mouth. Morrie looks at him, disgust and anger smeared all over his fat face. Mike offers him the plate Charlie had been holding, where Conner’s surrendered burrito lays unclaimed. Morrie looks at the boy, then the plate, then Mike again. Muttering “Thanks,” he takes the food and then turns on his heels, walking away from us while biting into the hors d'oeuvre. We hear him squeal a moment later, quickening his pace toward the nearest water fountain.

“Bye, Morrie!” I call after the man playfully, wanting in on the fun.

“What. The. Hell. Was. That. About?” Ian asks, speaking in a slow staccato. His eyes are curious and as wide as they can get, dark pupils floating on pale blue discs.

“That guy is a total dick,” Zane says, disgusted but smiling at his own behavior.

“That guy was Dr. Mortimer Atchens, right?” Conner asks. The name rang a bell.

Zane nods, then scratches himself right above the base of his shaft, which is something guys do, but it’s really funny when they’re naked. “Yeah, the one and only.”

“I remember him,” Charlie says, “Didn’t he write those books?”

Again Zane nods. “Yeah. I was his grad student, once upon a time. God, he was such a total dick. All his theories revolved around the idea that the gravitational forces in the interior of the sun would counteract the effects of the singularity, causing it to become unstable and eventually dissipate.”

I then remembered where I’d heard of Atchens before – I’d had to read one of his books in sixth grade. His work in astrophysics postulated that the man-made singularity that had accidentally made its way to the center of the sun wouldn’t destroy it. Instead it would eventually puff out of existence, like so much dust swept under a rug.

“The guy was a quack,” Zane complains. “I mean, obviously. My thesis showed that mathematically not only was the process not slowing, it was speeding up exponentially. My stuff was solid, building on Crazner and McDonnagan. But Atchens gave me a C, just because my results conflicted with his work. That was three weeks before...ka-boom.” Again he pantomimes a massive explosion.

The group laughs, and then we retell the confrontation amongst ourselves, laughing at the blustery Atchens and applauding Zane for his quick wit. I cock my head curiously at my friend, who apparently is as adept in astrophysical mathematics as he is at sex. Who knew?

After a few moments a crewmember approaches, dressed in the white uniforms they wear on special occasions. It’s Lieutenant Jonathan Olin, a dark-haired man in his early thirties whom I’d become friendly with when my farm duties placed me in his favorite reading spot one afternoon. “Gentlemen,” he says, nodding to the group formally. “Devon,” he says, reaching out to shake my hand. I stop to wonder if greeting me separately is because we’re friends, or because I’m not a gentleman. “What’s got Atchens all poofed up and agitated?” he asks. “The guy is about to have a heart attack.”

“God only knows,” Zane says, not admitting that he, in fact, was who had annoyed the obnoxious physicist.

Lieutenant OIin looks at Zane, at first clearly surprised that the guy is nude, but then his face returns to its normal, neutral state. “EU maritime law, section sixty-three?” he asks.

“EU maritime law, section sixty-three,” Zane confirms, nodding slightly, his cock swaying in time with his head.

“Good man,” Lieutenant Olin says before reaching over to give Zane a solid slap on the shoulder. He turns to me. “And good to see you up and around, Devon. I hope you’re feeling better.”

“I am,” I say, “But if we can forego the shoulder slapping I’d appreciate it.”

Lieutenant Olin smiles, understanding what I’m saying, and nods. He turns to the group. “Gentlemen, have a good evening. I just wanted to say hello.” He walks away, joining another circle of partygoers; we hear him greet them in the same manner he had us.

I feel restless, and ask if anyone wants to dance. Some do, others don’t. Those who do make their way with me to the dance floor, which has been set up right next to the windows. Lasers and holograms shine above and around, and the stars twinkle in the background, glorious in their non-atmosphere obscured splendor. My fire horns glow blue above my head, I can see them dancing and flickering in my peripheral vision.

Beck is standing up on his perch above the dance floor. He sees me in the crowd and I wave. Smiling, he gestures to me, a finger in the air that means “just a second.” Manipulating the knobs and dials on his DJ console, he works furiously, until the music that’s playing slowly fades out, the light show dimming and dropping off.

Before things quiet down, however, another tune starts playing in a loud, thumping rhythm, the lasers and holograms exploding with color and light. I recognize the song immediately – it’s one of my favorites. Eyes wide in delight, I give Beck a thumb up and a smile, which he acknowledges with a cool wave. And then I go wild.

Letting loose, showing the whole world that I love this song and life itself, I move my body, shaking my head and arms and ass wildly, in an expression of utter joy. The arm piece Charlie has made works perfectly, holding my wounded arm in place so that I can dance relatively wildly with little pain.

My friends join me, laughing at my uninhibited “Devon dance” before taking up grooves of their own. Dog is the most comical; he’s trying to figure out how to dance with his wolf’s tail. I grab him by the hand and pull his body against mine. The faux-fur on his chest tickles my belly, but doesn’t stop me from pulling him closer and grinding a little harder. “That’s how you dance with a tail,” I think to myself, as I feel the lump in Dog’s skimpy shorts throb and grow a little.

We dance into the night, taking breaks occasionally to partake of the fruity, alcohol-laden drinks I’d been craving. We all get a little tipsy.

On one such dance reprieve, Reid and Patrick approach Mike and me at the bar. They’re dressed as cowboy and Indian, which strikes me as really funny. “Reid!” I exclaim, rushing to embrace my friend affectionately.

“Whoa, good to see you too, Devon,” he laughs. I hug Patrick in a similar fashion.

“Somebody’s feeling no pain,” Patrick tells me. “Great costume.” I pick up my pineapple passionfruit blueberry acai martini – a manly man’s drink – and take a large swallow in agreement. I notice that Reid’s costume, a suede leather cowboy shirt and chaps over jeans, features a long, pink cape. Likewise, Patrick’s Indian brave getup has a green cape attached.

“What’s with the capes?” I ask. My friends look like they’re part of some horrible frontiersman-themed Vegas act.

Patrick tugs at his cape. “Dunno. We told the machine “cowboy and Indian,” then later when we tried them on they had these. No idea why.”

I giggle uncontrollably at this, no one else really understands why.

“How’d you get the horns to do that?” Reid asks. I explain how Mike had made them for me.

I feel like I’m on exhibit, but I don’t really care. I mention this to my friends. “I guess after tonight everyone will know...you know, about me being gay.”

Reid gives me a big smile and pats my naked shoulder. “Devon,” he says, “you crack me up. I think everyone in the world already knew, but good for you.” I reflect on the events of recent months, and how Reid was probably right. I guess I’d eased into my sexuality so slowly I didn’t even really realize I’d been announcing it to the world. But this, this costume and attitude and drive...this was new Devon, and it felt good. Really, really good. I give both Reid and Patrick a big smile.

Mike suggests we go dance some more, and I agree, letting him lead me through the crowds. I grab onto his stinger, making him pull me along. He sighs at the violation of personal space, but plays along.

We walk through the dance floor, finally locating our friends. Ian and Conner have joined them, although both boys are staying arm’s length away from Zane, who’s joined in the dancing and is flopping around in all his glory. I laugh at him and then glance over his shoulder, stopping in my tracks.

Across the room and through the crowds I spot a guy in a Mardi Gras themed costume. A sequined masquerade mask covers his face, and long, elaborately decorated pants adorn his legs in green and purple fabric. But his torso is bare, a pale lean frame leading into his waistband. He’s beautiful, but what catches my attention is a black mark on his left hip. I think about it in my slightly buzzed stupor, and then realize why I’m staring. Sneak has a black rose tattoo on his tummy, as I’d learned months back when I’d first encountered him.

Hey, that’s Sneak over there! Otherwise known as AJ Mendell. Otherwise known as my loner, quiet flatmate. Otherwise known as my secret stalker webcam wank buddy.

“You okay?” Zane yells in my ear, his words barely registering over the noise. I look at him and then back to where Sneak had been standing. He’s gone.

“Yeah, good,” I yell back, mouthing my words so Zane can understand me even if he can’t hear me. “I’ll be right back.”

I push past Conner and Ian, who are dancing a little less fervently than the rest of us, and then walk to where I’d seen Sneak standing. The room is getting a bit blurry, and I can’t seem to locate the Mardi Gras costumed boy. I frown, annoyed to have been outwitted by Sneak yet again.

“Done dancing?” Charlie says behind me. When I look, he has his arm over Mike’s shoulder and both boys are glistening with sweat. Charlie’s costume is starting to fall off, so that there is a trail of emerald feathers floating on the air behind him. One falls into Ian’s blonde hair as he trails them.

“Just takin’ a break,” I say. In addition to feeling good, the alcohol is ramping up my hormone levels. I can’t help but see the boys dressed like this and start to think about them doing naughty things to each other. We circle the room, walking off some of the heat we’ve accumulated dancing.

We come to the edge of the party, a back corner of the observation deck, where the noise and commotion are at a minimum. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a white streak. I crane my neck in that direction, thinking maybe I’ve spotted Sneak again. This isn’t particularly logical – Sneak hadn’t been wearing white. Still, it’s what I do.

What I see is odd, even by our standards.

Hidden from view from most of the room is a small alcove. Right now, it seems to be haunted – a couple dozen “ghosts” having taken up residency there. I watch as one of the ghosts makes his way slowly through the room, approaching one of the refreshment tables, which in this case is manned by someone making drinks. The “ghost” waits until the bartender moves to the other end of the makeshift bar, and then reaches up to grab a bottle of amber fluid from the table. Apparently comfortable that he’s not going to be caught, he takes a second before making a measured dash back to the alcove.

I watch as the scene is repeated, like a video stuck on a loop. There’s no need to ask what the deal is, the “ghosts” are considerably short, so their identity is pretty obvious.

“Hey, Charlie?” I say. My friend turns his attention to me. “Those your guys?” I nod in the direction of the alcove, where the ghosts, who are almost certainly the scrubs in disguise, are hiding.

Charlie looks, and then watches a performance similar to what I had. This time a green-eyed ghost snatches a martini from under the bartender’s nose, the bartender looking quite confused when he notices the drink has gone missing. He looks in my direction with an accusing glare. I shrug.

“Yeah,” Charlie sighs. “Those are my guys. They’re supposed to be having a sleepover down in Bottomside tonight. Ugh. I can’t believe Kevin lost them again. I wonder if they drugged him.”

“You gonna go round them up?” Mike asks.

Charlie thinks about it a second. “Nah. Let them blow off some steam. Besides, I don’t have them tomorrow. Let Kevin deal with twenty-five twelve year-olds with hangovers.” I laugh, and the green-eyed ghost looks across the room at me. I think he smiles under his sheet.

We return to the party proper, relocating our little group. Sean has pulled his red hood up over his head, and Dog looks extremely sexy, coated in a sheen of post-dancing sweat. He seems a little drunk.

“You guys having fun?” I ask.

Dog nods an emphatic “yes” before grabbing Sean and planting a huge, sloppy kiss on his boyfriend’s face. Sean doesn’t seem to mind.

Suddenly, a guy in green fatigues crashes into me, or I crash into him, it’s hard to tell. I feel my arm smack into him, and pain streaks down my shoulder despite the “armor.” Dismayed, I look up to see the smirking face of Steven Caine, our resident rebel, lover, fighter, dickwad.

“Sorry,” he says, but not in a manner that makes me think he means it. He looks me up and down. “What the hell are you supposed to be, the world’s gayest Santa Claus?”

I hate the guy and know he’s a total douche, but I’m still not impervious to criticism, particularly like that. I like my costume, and was proud of it. His words sting, but not as much as running into my wounded shoulder had. Conner, Ian and Nick have found us, and Conner looks appalled to see me rubbing my wounded arm.

“Let him alone, Steven,” Conner says sharply.

“Whatever, McLaglen,” Steven sneers. “He should watch where he’s going, especially in that...thing.” Steven nods at my arm piece, and then rubs his shoulder as if running into the shoulder piece has hurt him. It may have, a little, but I doubt he’s in any real pain. Sandor Lewis and Brian Fervson, two of the guys who’d followed Steven around since the beginning, are standing behind their friend looking angry.

“Whoa,” I hear Zane’s voice chime in behind me. “The gang’s all here. Hey, and I thought I was the biggest dick in the room. Hi, Steven,” he says. His comment causes an immediate and discernible tension.

Steven looks at Zane with a somewhat appalled expression. “Zane. Great. Just what we need.”

“Hiya, roomie,” Zane says, comically leaning an elbow on Sean’s shoulder. His body tilts so that his flaccid penis leans to the right.

Steven’s attention now on Zane, he says, “I see you still have trouble keeping it in your pants.”

I don’t know what it is about getting thousands of guys together in a confined space and giving them free alcohol, but it sure brings about the best in everybody. Without pausing, Zane replies, “Yeah, well. When you have an incredible tool, you should let it hang out.” He flops his assets around a little with his left hand, then adds, “But if you are an incredible tool, you should learn to keep your fucking mouth shut.”

What happens next is a little difficult to describe.

Steven’s face flashes with anger, and he moves toward Zane as if to assault the naked boy. Later I’m told there is no love lost between the two boys, who had been roommates their first year at college. I’m sure Zane could have handled himself, but he doesn’t have to.

Steven’s comment was still ringing in my ears, and the pain from our impact was tingling in my shoulder. I think about this guy and how much contention he was causing on the ship. I think about the riot, and about how I almost died from it. I think about how great my friends are – all of them: the guys in my club, my flatmates, my co-workers, everyone else I interacted with on a daily basis. We were all alive because we worked together on this ship, making sure that we each had a place to sleep and food to eat and air to breathe. I had earned many a blister in pursuit of these endeavors, and I was proud to have done so.

This guy, this stupid, annoying guy, stood in opposition to all of this. He’d been griping about the work since the first day we’d been assigned shit detail, and he’d stayed griping ever since. I was tired of it. I was tired of the anger and the vitriol, but most of all I was tired of his blatant, obnoxious stupidity. So I did what any slightly drunk wounded gay teen would have done in my shoes.

I stepped closer to Steven, reached across my chest with my armored arm, and then I backhanded the snarling boy in the nose, the “wood” surface of my wrist guard landing on Steven’s face with a very satisfying “Thwack!”

He looks shocked – I hadn’t hit him that hard – and then enraged. Fire burns in his eyes, and I consider for a brief second that new Devon may be a complete and total idiot, one who’s about to get his ass kicked.

“Ok, ok, what’s the deal here?” someone says loudly from behind. We turn to see Reid, Chris and Peter approaching the scene, the latter two dressed in the makeshift uniform of the security force, navy pants with a light blue tee-shirt, a bold yellow line crossing the chest in a faux-sash.

Reid, looking not very official in his caped cowboy costume takes command. “Steven, for fuck’s sake, this is a party. Can we have one night without this shit?” he asks, annoyed.

Steven is instantly defensive. “This fucking punk hit me. I want him thrown in the brig!”

A flash of panic crosses my chest, and then I look at Reid and immediately understand this isn’t what’s going to happen. Chris speaks, sounding very authoritative, “Just go back to the party and forget it,” he says. “He didn’t press charges when you got him thrown over a rail, you can deal with a sore nose.”

Steven looks amiable to this, although still pissed about what I’d done. Patrick steps into the group. At first I think he’s going to try and calm things down like Reid had, but then he opens his mouth and starts speaking. “This is just like security force, isn’t it,” he says, sounding quite disgusted. He shoots me a sad glance, and I know immediately what he’s doing. “One of our guys puts up a flier, and you’re all over it. One of your guys assaults us, and it’s ‘look the other way.’ I, for one, am fucking sick and tired of the hypocrisy.”

Patrick steps into the center of the circle that has formed around the conflict. Others in the room have stepped closer, looking to see what’s going on and straining to hear over the music in the background. “You’re living in a police state, gentlemen,” Patrick says, raising his voice for the benefit of the newcomers. “We do what they say, when they say, and how they say or we go to the brig. We let them track us with these,” he gripes, pointing to his wristcom. “And we don’t speak up.”

“Now Eden Stranton, your mayor, has formed his own army,” Patrick continues, “the so-called ‘security force.’ And what is the purpose of this security force? To stop new ideas – ideas about how we should distribute the work load, or ideas about how a free economy could benefit us all. Take a good look, gentlemen. Democracy died the day we let Eden Stranton dress his first puppet in those fucking uniforms.”

Steven nods, looking like he very much agrees with what Patrick is saying. Although I’m in the loop and aware Patrick is saying these things to earn credit with these guys, the look of disgust on my face is real.

“Ok, ok,” Reid says, reaching out to take Patrick by the arm. “Great speech, but this is still a party. Let’s just break it up and do the political thing some other time.”

Patrick’s eyes flare with anger. He pulls his arm away from Reid, and swears vehemently at him. “Keep your fucking hands off me, you fucking twonk smeghead!”

It feels like things are about to erupt again, but then Patrick storms off, Steven and his crew following closely behind. “Fucking losers,” Reid swears, looking red and angry. He gives me a sad glance, and I see through the act.

“What the hell was that about?” Nick asks, fidgeting nervously with his suspenders. No one answers, and most everyone who’d been watching turns back to the party. Conner steps over to me, looking both concerned and angry. He insists I let him take me away to inspect my arm. I agree, wanting out of the room anyway. We walk over to the alcove where the scrubs had been. Apparently they’d scored all the free drinks they wanted or needed, because it was now unoccupied.

“Devon, sheesh, what am I going to do with you?” Conner asks. The lights are bright enough here so that he can inspect my shoulder. I’m a little tipsy, but I try not to show it. I’m sure Conner wouldn’t appreciate the idea of me running around the ship drunk. He removes my armor, carefully.

He pushes and presses on my shoulder, which is sore but not hurt. My arm, likewise, seems fine. “See, told you,” I say, “No problems. You have pretty eyes,” I say drunkenly. He does. Little brown flecks seem to dance around in green pools.

Conner smiles at my comment, and then scowls. I think he’s going to scold me before I realize he’s just concentrating. “Yeah, the arm looks okay. Still...I’d like to get a second opinion. Fractures can be tricky.”

“No hospital,” I whine. The thought of going back there tonight makes me want to throw up.

“That’s not what I mean,” he says. He motions to someone in the crowd. A large man dressed as a blue bear comes over. I see that it’s Doctor Moreno, the senior medical officer on the ship. Conner explains what had happened; as he does two of the other student doctors meander over to us, looking on as Doctor Moreno gives me a second exam, handling me a little rougher. I feel like I’m on display at the zoo despite the fact he’s the one dressed like a bear.

“Well, I think he’s fine,” Doctor Moreno says, “But I’d like him to lay off the alcohol for the rest of the night and put his cast back on. Did you do the work on the lacerations?” he asks.

“Um...yeah,” Conner answers, referring to the cuts along my arm that he’d stitched up after the fall, then later gone in and fixed.

“Very good work, Doctor McLaglen. I can barely see where they were. This young man shouldn’t even have a scar, which is great.” He shows Conner’s repair job to the other doctors, pointing to the places where my arm had been torn up. He was right; I could hardly see where the wounds had been myself.

“He’s a really good doctor,” I say truthfully. Conner beams at the compliment. He has few other goals than being a good physician, and I know the comment is welcome. Once everyone is done inspecting me (some of them looking at more than my arm, I think), Conner and I search for our group in the crowd, which I see is starting to thin out. “You should probably head to bed,” he says to me.

“What? I’m not even tired!” I proclaim. “Besides, it’s too early to leave.”

“Um, it’s almost four,” Conner points out. I look at my wristcom to verify the time, but realize that I didn’t wear it. He’s probably right. I yawn.

We find our group. Conner tells them he wants me to go to bed, which makes me a little angry even though I know he’s just looking out for me. I resist the idea of leaving, but Charlie and Mike reinforce Conner’s opinion and gang up on me. A confusing discussion ensues, at least one that would be confusing to anyone who’s had five pineapple passionfruit blueberry acai martinis, as I had.

Conner offers to take me to my flat. Then Reid shows up and claims custody of me. Conner says he’ll walk with them, but then Mike and Charlie suggest they take me by their store so that I can get my cast. Zane offers to fetch it so I can go straight home, and while all of this is talked over in excruciating detail I sit down onto the floor, collapsing cross-legged and playing with a piece of feather that’s fallen off Charlie’s chest. I am getting tired, and my emotions feel like they’re about to get out of whack.

Eventually, the group decides to swing by the cafeteria for pancakes. Don’t ask me where that came from. “Hey Zane,” I say, looking up at my friends, who tower over me like giants, making me laugh.

“Yeah, bud?” he asks. My view of him is best, as you can imagine.

“Would you walk me home? I’m ready for bed. I think I had a little too much excitement.”

“Yeah, dude, sure,” he says, reaching down to help me off the floor. Absentmindedly I grab onto both his hand and dick to pull myself up. He yelps and pulls away. “Whoa, ho ho!” he exclaims. “I’m gonna have to mark that down as one peril of this costume. It doesn’t need stretching, Devon.”

I laugh, and steady myself. The group splits up after we all say good night to one another. Conner looks serious and concerned about my arm, and I tell him I’ll be fine. I promise to stop by the hospital the following day for an exam, asking that he promise he won’t admit me unless I’m literally dying.

As we leave the party, we pass the food table, now a complete and utter wreck, the leftover food smeared more across the table’s surface than sitting in the serving trays. Steven is talking with some friends – guys I recognize as some of the dicks who usually hang out with him, along with Patrick; he picks up one of the remaining hors d'oeuvres and pops it in his mouth, almost instantly spitting it out and swearing about the unbearable spiciness. I smile evilly as we leave the party, then sigh. It’s November 1st; Halloween is over for another year.

Zane and I walk through the concourse, passing tired costumed boys every couple of feet. Everyone is looking droopy and sleepy now, and barely anyone seems to notice Zane anymore.

“You didn’t want pancakes?” Zane asks as we walk.

I breathe in the night air, which being on a space ship is the same as the daytime air. Still, it smells damp and sweet. “God no,” I reply. “I ate too much at the party.” I fall a few steps behind Zane, noticing that there’s a great view here, his ass flexing as he walks. “I like your costume,” I point out.

Zane looks over his shoulder at his ass; he’s correctly guessed that’s what I’m looking at. “Figured you would,” he says. “But it’s still nothing compared to yours.”

I laugh, a chuckle at first but then louder. Zane looks at me, wondering what I’ve found so funny. I explain. “Hah, ha, well...yeah. I mean, it is nothing compared to mine. Because it’s literally nothing, get it?” He does, but doesn’t find it nearly as funny as I do.

“I’m serious, though, Devon. You are beautiful tonight. I mean, you’re always beautiful, but tonight you’re astonishing. Remember what I told you a while back? About how you’re getting better and better looking? You are. I mean, look...” Zane turns and points down at his waist. I see that his dick has started to pop up, a drop of shiny precum glistening at the end of the tip.

I smile. “Just be glad that didn’t happen at the party.”

He runs ahead of me, jumping to smack a high tree branch hanging over the walkway, his semi-hard dick bobbing violently when he lands. Turning back to me, he says with a wide smile, “Who says it didn’t? Did you notice me going to the bathroom over and over? I had to rub one out three times just to keep it down. I thought of this costume before I considered how you guys would dress. Did you see little Mikey...damn.”

Zane’s com beeps and he checks it. “Speaking of Mikey,” he says, reading a message on his screen, “He says everybody changed their mind because Steven’s guys are pamphleting the cafeteria. They want to know if we’re up for meeting them in the flat?”

I know what they mean by “meeting in the flat,” and although I’m a little tired I feel a surge of adrenaline. The alcohol is wearing off, and Zane’s body is having an effect on me. “I’m always up for that,” I say with a smile.

Because Zane and I are already close to area twenty-four, we beat everyone else back. Entering the bedroom we use for poker night, I see that someone has cleaned up the mess that was there earlier, I assume Zane. The beds, which we usually reconfigured so that we could arrange them in the center of the room to create a circle of recessed seating, were not back to their normal positions, however. They’d been configured as two king-sized platform beds lying low on the floor and pushed together to form one giant bed. I ask Zane about this.

He sighs. “You have NO idea how long I worked trying to figure out how you and Charlie got them the other way. This is the best I could do.”

“It’s not bad,” I say, plopping down on one of the low mattresses. It reminds me of sleeping on a futon.

We hear the front door to the flat open, and the loud sounds of five semi-drunk boys, high on dancing and drinking and being boys, emanate into the bedroom. It isn’t very long before the boys themselves emanate into the bedroom, Charlie and Mike are holding hands; Sean is mercilessly tickling the nearly-naked Dog, who is still being kept on a short leash; Nick, the least hyper of the five, brings up the rear, smiling at the antics of his somewhat-drunk peers. He has brought me – oh joy – my stupid blue cast, which apparently they stopped off to pick up under Conner’s orders. I put the cast on reluctantly, watching my friends bounce around the room.

If someone were to tell me that some alien device had sucked all the energy from the festival and party and then imbued it into my friends, I’d almost have to believe them – because the boys are hyper, just the right blend of drunk and excited and aroused to have them jumping around the room as only teenagers can.

The alcohol seems to have regressed their maturity by seven or eight years. Dog frees himself from his chain by undoing his collar, smacks Sean hard on the ass, and then leaps onto the double bed where I’m lying. Mike tries to follow, but Charlie grabs his boyfriend by the stinger. It doesn’t stop him, but it does slow him and pull his bee underwear halfway down his ass, Mike’s butt showing in cute little half moons.

“Ow! You’re gonna pay for that!” Mike yelps.

“Oh yeah? Make me!”

Mike goes after his boyfriend, but this leaves his rear exposed to Dog, who tugs firmly on Mike’s shorts, causing them to slide another couple of inches down the boy’s legs.

“Ha!” yells Charlie, making a tremendous leap for his now even more naked boyfriend. Nick reacts quickly, though, grabbing at Charlie as he jumps. “Erk!” Charlie squeaks awkwardly, his leap thrown off balance when Nick gets a firm grasp on his green briefs. They’re low enough that sliding them just an inch lower, as Nick has, causes Charlie’s dick to pop out the top. He laughs and tries to slip it back into his shorts.

Things proceed in this fashion, my friends all leaping onto the mattresses, jumping around wildly, tugging at one another’s clothes. Charlie and Dog shuck their wings and paws; Mike and Dog manage to get Sean’s cape off, although it costs them a couple of very firm ass slaps. There is no question what they have come here to do; the raw energy pulsing in the room indicates that they are each overloaded with hormones, laughter, alcohol and boyish lust.

The boys grow even more energetic when Zane joins in, giving a mighty yell and jumping into the middle of the action, already mostly naked and buff and awesome as he is. He starts a round of tickling, and pretty soon the guys are laughing, trying to defend their sides from prying fingers.

I’ve scooted into a corner. The play is a little rough, and the scare earlier has me conscientious about my arm. Unfortunately this makes me a target, everyone seeming to note my non-participation simultaneously.

Six hyperactive horny guys descend on me at once, hands grabbing at my sides and tummy and neck. I howl in protest, and then laughter. Needless to say, it’s impossible for me to protect myself on all fronts, and I lose the battle. I feel my pants slide down off my body, exposing naked Devon thighs and butt and everything else.

Mike smiles at me, already naked from the waist down, but is distracted when Zane’s hand reaches between his legs and gives his cock a firm tug, causing him to yelp and turn his attention to the other boy. Dog reaches down to grab my dick, which is starting to appreciate the attention, but everyone scrunching so close has pressed me in the wall a little so that my left arm twinges uncomfortably.

“Ok, wait...heh...wait, wait, wait,” I laugh; my friends don’t relent tickling me. “WAIT!” I say considerably louder; the boys get the message and give me some space. “Sorry, guys,” I say. “If you don’t mind, this is awesome, but I think I’ll just watch, if that’s ok. I’m a little sore.”

“Want me to rub it and make it better?” Mike says coyly.

I sigh. “Nah...Sorry. I mean, you guys are hot. This is fun, just I’d like to...erm...take care of myself. If I could just watch?”

“Devon likes to watch!” Dog chimes, and while the boys give me the space I’ve requested, they do it by bouncing around the mattresses, chanting “Devon likes to watch!! Devon likes to watch!! Devon likes to watch!!” over and over, half of them naked with growing boners flopping as they leap.

The schoolboy antics continue, a sock being pulled off here, undies being shucked there, and before long everyone on the bed is completely nude, the other six boys still hopping around, laughing and groping each other, dicks fast becoming longer, heftier, and swinging between firm thighs in a proud display of youthful vigor.

This gets me boned, of course – all the sensuality and energy and emotion from the night coursing through my blood and deep into my body, pushing my cock higher and straighter and higher still until I’m completely erect, lying back against a pillow to watch the show my friends are putting on for me.

And it’s quite a show.

Zane, huffing from the jumping around, pulls Nick into his body and kisses him firmly, passionately; as he does so he makes an audible slurping sound with his lips and moans loudly, slipping his hand down to make contact with Nick’s half-hard cock. About two seconds later, Zane is stroking a now fully hard cock slowly, feeling the skin of the shaft with light brushes of his fingertips.

Nick’s moan, an involuntary response, is the match that ignites the tinder, his pleasure seeming to shoot out and instantly bring all our hormones to a full roiling boil.

Dog and Mike collide, kissing and grinding against one another. I’d seen them grind on the dance floor earlier, their little pants rubbing together in time to the music. I had to say – this was better, the two naked and erect. Their cocks fit together almost perfectly – Mike’s curving up and Dog’s pointing straight up – so that when the two boys were pressed together they made contact from tip to balls, their shafts slipping and sliding together with their movements. I gulp at the sight of these two beauties frotting like this.

Sean steps behind his boyfriend, stroking his waist and butt with ready fingertips. He kisses Dog lightly on the neck. “You were so hot tonight,” he says huskily, “I want to fuck you so bad, Doggy.” And he clearly does want it, his dick hard and throbbing in time with his heartbeat. The mushroom head, a deeper red than most I’d seen, was larger than it normally was, a testament to how very bad he wanted it.

“Speaking of which,” Zane says to Nick, taking a break from kissing the boy. “I owe you, and tonight I’m paying you back.”

Being owed anything – or owing anything to – Zane is a prospect that would concern even the dimmest of individuals. It’s therefore completely understandable when Nick responds with uncertainty. “Uh...ok?” he says, his voice almost breaking.

“Yeah,” Zane smiles, taking the two largest cocks in the room into his hands and stroking them together. “I totally owe you for last time – after the hospital. That was unbelievable. Need to return the favor, if you want. Up for fucking me?”

A light goes off over Nick’s head as he comprehends what Zane is saying – a very, very horny light. “Hell, yeah! I mean, if it’s ok...I mean...” Nick blushes deep enough that we see it on his face, across his chest and on both cheeks of his ass.

“Wow, nice butt-blush, Nick,” Charlie laughs. Nick looks over his shoulder, trying to get a view of his own perfectly bubbled ass, which goes two shades darker. He gasps when Zane starts rubbing his cock a little more intensely.

The boys all slip deeper into heat. The talking turns to moans and groans and sighs, laughter dying down to give way to the gentle cries of boys in sexual ecstasy.

Charlie drops to his knees and moves into position so that he can take both Mike and Dog into his mouth, or at least try to. The two cocks slip and slide between his red lips, both seeming to want to penetrate them, but both also playfully retreating to dance around their counterpart once again. Charlie responds by pulling down on Mike’s dick and releasing it so that it slaps against his firm tummy. He does the same to Dog; both boys squeal in pleasure at this simple but effective maneuver.

Dog makes a second, deeper groan, guttural and lusty. He leans into Mike slightly, and I see that Sean has penetrated his boyfriend, or at least I assume he has, my view slightly obscured by Mike, Charlie and Dog. I slide over to get a better view, and see that indeed Sean, who has procured a bottle of lube from somewhere, is root-deep in Dog’s ass. Dog’s eyes close and his mouth turns into a lustful smile as he gets accustomed to his boyfriend’s cock inside him.

Mike drops to the floor and sits on his ass, tugging on Charlie’s hand to request that his boyfriend move down to our level. Charlie does, dropping to his knees and moving toward Mike’s cock with his mouth. But then Mike makes a little whimper that gets his boyfriend’s attention.

The sly frown and huge puppy-dog eyes Mike flash don’t have any special meaning for me, but they do for Charlie. “Yeah,” he whispers loudly, taking Mike’s ear between his lips and biting it, talking through clenched teeth, “You can fuck me. I want it. I want you so bad.”

My dick is throbbing; I run my fingers over the shaft, but realize that watching my friends has me so turned on that I could easily jizz too soon. And I don't want that, for sure. I try to be extra careful around the sensitive pink helmet – I still have to use my right hand, and the lack of total dexterity makes it harder to pleasure myself just right. But I sure try.

Charlie and Mike move into position, Charlie sitting on Mike’s awaiting member once it’s properly slathered with slick lubricant. Mike slides easily inside, and Charlie moves up and down on his boyfriend in a practiced maneuver. Again I almost come – the sight of Mike’s dick, curving and throbbing and so eagerly moving in and out of his boyfriend is almost too much for me. But I hold on, looking at Charlie’s panting face, his eyes scrunched close as he’s fucked.

“That’s so hot,” Dog says, eyeing Charlie and Mike while Sean fucks him slowly.

“You ready?” Zane asks Nick.

Nick seems hesitant. “I think so. I mean, I don’t think I’ll be as good as those guys. Maybe we can just do something else.” It’s truly endearing, seeing this perfect boy go all shy because his friends are more experienced.

“You’ll be awesome, do it,” I encourage him.

“Yeah, do me,” Zane agrees.

Nick clumsily approaches Zane, clearly uncertain how to proceed. The other boy, always patient and considerate of his lovers, and always in tune with what’s happening around him, takes Nick by the hand, pressing him gently to the mattress so that Nick is lying face-up, actually almost shoulder to shoulder with me, still looking a little confused about what comes next.

Zane grabs the lube off the mattress and squirts a healthy glob onto Nick’s shaft; it makes a slurping sound as he spreads it over Nick’s thick and hefty penis. “Ah!” Nick inhales sharply when Zane pleasures him this way. The older boy straddles Nick, putting his legs on either side to lower his body ever closer to Nick’s primed stick.

“Oh wow,” Nick says as Zane makes contact. And then Zane lets him slip in, sliding his ass down and over the entire shaft. Nick makes a little chirping noise, lifts his chest off the bed and convulses, eyes staring wide at the ceiling. He gasps sharply.

I feel a streak of embarrassment pass over me; I assume that Nick has just come. “That feels...awesome...wow...yeah, do that,” he says lustfully, and I realize I was wrong. He was just shuddering from the initial sensation of slipping into Zane.

The other four boys had been staring at Zane and Nick, and now that they begin fucking in slow, deliberate thrusts, the others get back to it, Sean thrusting up into Dog and Mike letting Charlie ride his curved shaft.

I scoot down the pillow so that Nick and I are lying side by side. He looks over at me and I stare into his big, brown eyes, which are glazed over with boyish lust. We connect, in a way, me touching myself and him being ridden by Zane. Every time Zane pushes Nick’s cock into his ass, the long, thick shaft sliding between Zane’s perfect orbs and deep into his hole, Nick grunts, and his eyes cross ever so slightly, which I find immensely arousing. I know how he’s feeling.

Except, that’s not true – I don’t really.

Our Friday meetings had always been more of a wank club than a fuck club, but looking at the scene in front of me, three couples all participating in penetrative sex – that holy grail of gay love – I realize something that makes me a little sad: I’m the only virgin in the room.

It’s true. Sean and Dog have been a couple since before leaving Earth. Charlie and Mike were fucking like rabbits every chance they got (or...er...fucking like birds and bees, I guess). Zane certainly wasn’t a virgin, and now Nick, my once “straighter than an arrow” roomie was nine inches deep in Zane. How did this happen?

I sigh, a sound that’s lost amongst the grunting and groaning around me.

It wasn’t as though I didn’t have plenty of opportunities to screw or be screwed. Any of these six guys would probably be very willing to let me play either role. But I hadn’t pursued it with them. Why? I didn’t quite know, and it made me feel lonely despite the intimacy of six great friends screwing one another right next to me.

I guess the excitement of forming the wank club and having all these awesome friends as willing partners had masked something – a desire within me to find someone who would be to me what Mike was to Charlie, or what Dog was to Sean. As the boys around me formed more substantial relationships, this part of me was coming out stronger and stronger. I’m snapped back to reality by Nick, who Zane is torturing with his best skills.

“I...uh...uh...you may have made me an addict,” Nick groans, looking away from me and rolling his eyes into his head.

Zane slides up and down, his dick still completely hard. “You...ugh...can have me...ugh...anytime. I haven’t taken many this...ugh...big, but it feels...ugh...awesome.”

Mike gasps and groans. “Aw fuck...I’m...uh...I’m close...I love you...I love you.” He’s holding onto Charlie’s sides, helping guide him up and down on his dick; his fingernails are dug firmly into his boyfriend’s flesh, leaving red half-moon imprints.

“I...uh...I’m close too, baby,” Charlie moans.

Sean is in a similar predicament. He is slamming Dog, who’s moved into his namesake position, harder and harder. The sound of Sean’s groin slapping into Dog’s ass is the loudest in the room, and it seems to drive everyone else into a frenzy. I can’t help but gawk at the way Doggy’s butt shakes and wobbles each time Sean thrusts into him, the hard muscles flexing and moving in a hypnotic rhythm.

Zane pulls off Nick. “Here, you need to try humping,” he says. “Think you’ll like it.” Without missing a beat he rolls over onto his front, arching his back and propping himself up on folded arms. He guides Nick verbally, having the younger boy get on his knees and enter Zane in a downward thrusting motion. It takes Nick a moment to adjust, but when he does he’s able to easily slide into Zane’s anus.

“WOW!” he groans, sliding hilt-deep into hot, slick boy ass. “This is so much better!”

“Heh, yeah it is,” Zane laughs. He looks me in the eye, his expression both lustful and sleepy. “Hey there, Dev. How you doing?”

I connect with my friend, smiling. “Uh...uh...good. You’re looking pretty hot there.” I stroke myself a little faster. Nick is a fast learner, and figures out how to use the muscles in his legs and butt to press himself in and out of Zane in a rapid, piston-like motion. He loses himself in the moment, grunting in a primal panting moan, which gets me even more boned and excited.

“Ohhhhhhhhh...Ohhhhhhhhhhhh...Ohhhhhhhhhh,” Mike gasps in three long groans. Everyone knows he’s about to blow and all attention turns to the youngest boy in the room. Charlie reaches around and takes Mike’s head into his hand, feeling the younger boy’s hair between his fingers. “OH, NOW!!!” Mike yells, remaining deep in his boyfriend when he sprays. We can tell he’s cumming – he’s thrashing, gasping and pressing his cock as deep into Charlie as he can, his face going red and his eyes shut tight.

“Yeah, baby,” Charlie coos, then assumes a shocked expression when his own orgasm sneaks up on him. “I...guh,,,wow...oh my GOD!” he yells. Charlie’s dick erupts in his hand, several shots of white sperm shooting out onto the mattress. “UH! UH! UH!” he gasps, his prostate apparently having been rammed just right so as to cause an immediate orgasm. Mike and Charlie thrash together in bliss, sweating and tan and beautiful. I run a finger over the tip of my cock – my body seethes with pleasure. And then I do it again, and again, and again, watching my sexy friends grunt and groan and cum.

The spectacle electrifies Sean. He fucks Dog harder, pumping his meat in and out of his boyfriend in rapid, deep thrusts. “You! Guys! Are! So! Hot!” he grunts, expelling one word per stroke in a furiously lustful voice. Dog, remaining on all fours (as dogs will) reaches under his own body and grabs onto his own organ, his voice rising in frantic moans that are almost screams. The sharp points of his false canines glint in the dim light of the room.

Sean sprays hard, his body tensing and showing off the work he’s put in at the gym in recent months. He pulls out of Dog suddenly, cupping a hand under his dick and letting the rest of his semen spray into his palms. “Oh...FUCK! I love you, Doggy, yes! Ok...ok...wow,” he huffs and puffs, a considerable load shooting into his awaiting palm.

There seems to be an established order now. We look to Dog, who arches his back to give himself better access to his cock. “Ah, yeah,” he laughs, as if enjoying a tickling sensation deep within his frame, “You fucked me really good. Oh, wow, Seanie. That feels so...uh...good...uh...baby.”

Sean puts on an evil grin, and then using the hand he caught his semen in, he runs it down Dog’s face, smearing warm, sticky boy juice all over Dog’s forehead, down his nose and over his lips. When he moves his hand away a white strand connects Dog’s upper and lower lip. I wonder if Dog is going to protest the prank, but his eyes open wide when he realizes what Sean’s done. “OH FUCK!” he screams, shooting instantly. His hips almost immediately buckle so that he falls into the mattress and begins humping it rapidly. “FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!” he humps and screams.

“Good doggie,” I think wickedly.

Nick has been watching the show, and it makes me wonder if precum is going to start flowing out of Zane’s mouth soon. He picks up pace penetrating Zane, pushing in and out in an increasingly rapid rhythm.

I stare, mystified once again at the sight of cock entering ass. I’m fascinated, entranced, hypnotized. Whether he knows it or not, in this moment Zane has complete power over me; I could not tear my eyes away from the flexing flesh of his buttocks or the way Nick’s cock looks penetrating his hole, not even if my life depended on it.

Nick increases pace again, succumbing to raw, uncontrolled lust. He moves in and out of Zane faster and faster, all eyes in the room on his fucking. Behind him, I see Dog scoop his load off the bed and smear it across Sean’s chest. It isn’t long before Nick can’t hold out any longer, and we all know it. His breathing grows rapid and ragged.

“Do it, come in me, come in me,” Zane says, repeating this mantra over and over as Nick humps him. He looks lustful, but relaxed, like Nick fucking him is about the same as a really great massage. And hey, maybe it is, I think.

Working harder and harder at it, Nick finally breaks past that point of no return. He doesn’t say anything, but thrashes and gasps and bucks. I wonder if he’s hurting Zane – probably not. Moaning, his panting a near-scream, Nick comes deep inside our sexy friend. “OH MY GOD!” he exclaims, seeming to not know whether to thrust harder and faster or to hold completely still.

And then, mid-orgasm, he looks me in the eyes, his expression one of shock and awe and lust and sex and what it is to be cumming deep, deep and hard into a warm, wet hole. We connect. I begin spraying immediately.

It caught me off guard, I’d been stroking, but not furiously. Still, it’s enough, my body demanding immediate release. “AHH...what the...AHHH!!!” I scream, bucking my hips. And all the energy of the night rushes into my cock, like it is a bow that had been drawn tighter and tighter and tighter every time something sexy or funny or fun happened. I spray, and I spray hard, jets of semen erupting forth. One hits me in the eye and mouth, the taste instantly salty. “AH...Ah...ah!” I whimper through my orgasm.

When it subsides I open my eyes. Nick has slid off of Zane, who says, “Wow, somebody’s been eating his vegetables.” I look at him curiously, and he gestures above me. I look up to see a glob of semen firmly stuck to a spot on the wall four feet over my head.

“Whoops,” I laugh.

Zane shrugs, and then grabs his dick. With aplomb, he manipulates his shaft and erupts in the seventh climax of the evening. “You boys are the BEST!” he exclaims as he cums, his semen landing in white globs on his tan chest.

The sexual sounds in the room die down, but seven boys continue breathing at an elevated pace, all of us glistening in a fine sheen of sweat.

For me, something odd happens. I’m not greeted with the usual haze of happy, giggly endorphins. Instead, my mind fires up, flashing through the events of the evening in a rapid, unpleasant succession. I see everything that’s happened over the past twelve hours all at once, intense and vibrant and uncontrolled. It makes me nauseous.

Not wanting to puke all over my friends, especially Zane, who’s turned back onto his tummy to lazily hump the mattress in his post-coital glow, I jump up off the bed.

“You ok?” Charlie asks, his head lying on Mike’s tummy.

“Yeah, gotta pee,” I lie, doing a little naked pee dance to sell it.

The boys accept it, and I make for the bathroom, dick still hard and swinging in the breeze. Reaching the door to the room, I look back at my friends, these six guys in their naked, post-party, increasingly sleepy glory. I love each of them, I decide.

I notice a movement in the room that doesn’t come from any of the six boys on the bed. It’s subtle, but in the corner of my eye I catch a shadow move across the vent in the center of the hatch leading to the emergency access tunnel. I almost jump, but then very carefully allow my expression to remain neutral. I walk back into the room and grab my com from a table. The boys look at me curiously. I shrug. “Gotta poop,” I lie, but in a sheepish voice, insinuating that I’m taking my com so I have something to do.

I walk toward the bathroom, keeping a slow, deliberate pace until I’m well out of sight and earshot from the room. Then I take off at top speed, bolting to the bathroom.

I choose this route because the bathrooms are the one room in the flats where the hatches into the emergency access tunnels are located lower to the floor so that you don’t have to climb up into them. Ours is located on the rear wall. My key to the emergency tunnels is hidden in my com, and I use it to open the locked hatch.

I climb into the larger access point easily, taking the short ramp leading up into the tunnels without having to do any climbing. In the event of an emergency, the larger hatches are designed to allow for equipment or the disabled to be moved into the tunnels. In this case, it helps me access the tunnel without breaking my arm.

Wondering if I should have put on at least underwear, I pad silently toward the hatch that looks down into our meeting room, where I suspect Sneak is spying. It’s not far, obviously, just around another corner, where I find...nothing.

“Dang it,” I say to myself. A large marker on the wall indicates that I’m standing just on the other side of the bedroom. I hear a clink from down the passage – someone is here, they’ve just taken off. I run after them, my naked feet plopping on the cold metal floor. Up ahead, I hear someone quicken pace.

“Wait, Sneak, come back!” I call at a volume I figure is loud enough for him to hear but not the boys. I can hear heavy footfalls now, the sound of someone in full sprint. I’ll never be able to catch up to him, and it hurts my arm to try to run. “I just want to talk to you,” I continue in a small voice, knowing the retreating boy can’t hear me.

I have to admit feeling a bit dejected by my “friend.” I mean, I know I’d always implied to him that I wouldn’t push for a face-to-face meeting, but something about knowing he’d been up here tonight to witness our group play compelled me to. I hadn’t wanted to scare him off, and I hoped he knew my intention wasn’t to reveal him to my friends. I’d just wanted...I don’t know...somebody to talk to. In a lot of ways, I felt like I could relate to Sneak better than anyone else.

I pad back to the place I’d come into the tunnels. When I pass the hatch to the bedroom, I glance through the vent. The boys are all still there, some of them seem to be sleeping. Nick’s cock is lying long and thick over his leg. Yep, Sneak had had one of the better seats in the house, all right.

When I return to the bathroom, careful to lock the hatch behind me, I pee. Then, feeling a little stinky, I rinse off before making my way back to the bedroom.

The tunnel had been cool, and I hadn’t waited for the shower to warm up, so my skin was chilled. The boys seemed like they might be cold too, everyone had cuddled in closer to one another. “Hey, Dev,” Zane whispers when he notices me. “Climb in.”

I climb into the center of the giant bed, delighting at the feel of Zane’s warm skin close to my body. Unfortunately it doesn’t last long. He notices my wet hair and says, “Hey, shower. That’d be good.” I feel a draft as he leaps up, heading for the bathroom. Nick follows suit, and then Dog. What follows is a sleepy, silent revolving door of naked boys, each of my friends rising groggily from the mattress and leaving the room, coming back moments later freshly showered and smelling faintly of citrus.

Dog returns first, lying next to me but his head pointing toward my feet. He smiles sweetly, then slides into my body. When Sean returns he lies behind Dog, wrapping an arm around both his boyfriend’s chest and my thigh. Mike and Charlie return to cuddle down by my feet, both looking like they’re about to pass out. Nick comes into the room, yawns, and then lies next to me, patting my shoulder before he settles in. Zane is the last to return, his body now cleansed of the oils he’d been wearing and smelling fresh. He lies next to Nick, tousling the boy’s hair and saying “You fuck really good” before rolling over and falling asleep. We all move into one another’s bodies a little tighter, the heat of our skin all we need to keep us warm and comfortable.

As I drift off, I think to myself that this has been the best Halloween ever.

Sleeping with a lover is a learned behavior, I think. It can be difficult, finding a position you both enjoy and then remaining relatively still throughout the night. A new lover can be a particular challenge, since the constant buzz of hormones felt every time you think about them lying next to you can keep you slightly awake and on edge.

Sleeping with six lovers is something I don’t think I’d ever adjust to, not even if I lived for a million years and took these boys, young and firm and sweet and soft, to bed every single night (and here’s hoping!).

I slip in and out of sleep, and in and out of dreams. In the soft reality of the bedroom, I shift my body, sliding against warm, soft boy flesh; I feel that Nick has turned so that he’s facing away from me, and he’s lying higher on the mattress so that the round flesh of his butt is pressing into my side just under my arm. Dog is on my other side, his face nuzzled up against my thigh – I can feel his hot breath splash against my skin in a deep, slow cycle.

And then I’m lying in the sun on a grassy hill in Balboa Park, the blue and yellow tiled Spanish-style dome of the California Building sitting regal against the horizon. There’s a scent on the air, fresh and potent and organic, the smell of the trees at the height of the day. And there’s also the smell of food – of warm, fresh corn tortillas and fried fish and lime and cabbage. It wafts daintily on the breeze, seductive and delicious.

And then I’m at my favorite taco place, just off the main stretch at Pacific Beach. A crowd of surfers, barefoot and bare-chested, wetsuits pulled low on saltwater buffed bodies, stand in line waiting for food – heaping plates of fish tacos and nachos and steaming hot crispy steak taquitos piled high with large globs of delicious green guacamole, so irresistibly tempting that they must be shoved into waiting mouths regardless of the burn that overly eager tongues will inevitably receive.

And then I’m sitting on my surfboard, bobbing up and down on greenish waves, which lift and lower me with each swell. The noble expanse of Crystal Pier sits to my right, a gentle wooden giant lying lazily in the surf. A new set comes in, the waves growing in height and intensity. I take the opportunity, pushing myself into position and then standing on my board, riding it for fifty or sixty meters before losing my balance and falling happily into the surf.

The water is briny and delightfully refreshing against my lips and face. I let myself sink slowly, coming to rest cross-legged on the soft, sandy ocean floor four feet below the surface. The cool oceanic water feels unbelievable against my exposed skin; a layer warmed by my own body heat is held in place against my chest by the thick material of my wetsuit. It’s...sensual, actually. I feel the sand between my toes, soft and gritty, and this too provides a near-sexual stimulation. I lie back, looking up at the blue sky, which shimmers distorted and eerily beautiful through the water. Pleasure washes over my body, and I feel that I could lie here forever.

And then I’m lying on a soft bed in a darkened room, sleeping boys breathing deeply all around me. The sensuality of the dream fades, my brain momentarily confused about where I am and what’s actually real. A streak of pleasure shoots through me, warm and wet, and I’m surprised to discover that this part of the dream was true.

I groan lightly, and let my eyes adjust to the dimness. I look down to see that I’ve become considerably hard in my sleep – and apparently grown a Charlie on the end of my penis. The boy is attached to me at his mouth, sucking slowly on my dream-aroused cock.

“Um...hi,” I say in a barely audible whisper, not wanting to wake the others. Charlie looks up at me, smiling with youthful joy. He’s scooted up to rest between my open legs, although Mike still seems to be sleeping, curled in a fetal position on the other side of me. I smile back, a goofy grin that displays my boyish satisfaction at being awakened this way. Charlie leans into my body and licks at my dick some more; I moan lightly, again careful not to wake my friends.

Dog lies to my right, his boyfriend spooning his lean frame from behind. I’m presented with a very close-up view of my friend’s package, his body inverted from mine and only inches away. I shift slightly, not so much that Charlie is forced to abandon his gentle caresses, but enough that I can turn my head to get a better view of the sleeping boy, his lower tummy rising and falling with each breath he takes.

Dog’s penis is cute, lying on his left leg as if it’s also asleep. He’s by no means “small,” but of all the boys here Dog experiences the largest ratio of flaccid size compared to erect size. When hard, his beautiful cock is long and slender, like his arms, legs and torso. When soft, it shrinks down considerably, resting softly on medium-sized boy balls.

I move my face closer to his groin and inhale; he smells slightly sweet, almost like talc. I extent my tongue and press it against the tip of his penis. He doesn’t stir, so I take his entire cockhead between my lips, enjoying the sensation of the flaccid organ in my mouth.

But it doesn’t stay flaccid for long. I feel it swell in my mouth, slowly beginning the pulsing, throbbing growth that will increase its size almost threefold. Something I’ve always found fascinating about Dog is how his dick sticks straight up and lies flat on his belly. I’m entranced now by the way his shaft becomes more and more rigid in my mouth, striving to press in this direction. I wonder if it would remain somewhat soft if I used my mouth to prevent it from pointing upward, but that’s an experiment for another day. I release my lips now and then, letting Dog’s dick grow fully hard to rest against his tummy.

I feel fingertips brush the back of my calf, and look down to see that I’ve woken Dog up, but his sleepy smile indicates that there will be no penalty for my doing so. I take his cock in my mouth, feeling a rush of intimacy and hormones, accentuated by the licking that Charlie is still doing to me.

Mike has also woken up, and moves to flip his body on the bed so he can access his boyfriend’s dick, which is now also hard. He maneuvers himself quite gracefully, considering how we’re all piled together, and mere seconds later he’s taken Charlie into his mouth. I feel Charlie sigh at this contact, his soft moan buzzing against my dick in his mouth. I look at him, our eyes meeting. I nod in the direction of Mike’s growing erection, indicating that I release him from his duties on me (for now) so that he can pleasure his boyfriend for a while; he gets the gesture and moves over to lick at Mike’s curved shaft, earning a slight moan.

Now that four of us are “up,” I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before the other three boys are jostled from their dreams. I feel Nick stir next to me. I go to work sucking at Dog’s wonderfully tasty cock, and out of the corner of my eyes spy his boyfriend’s hands wrap around his chest, caressing his lean pecs and pinching lightly at his nipples; I concentrate on giving him the best blowjob I have to offer. Between us, I think we show him a pretty good time, his body writhing sensually as we work to pleasure him. Sean’s dick eventually pokes between Dog’s legs, his helmet penetrating his boyfriend’s closed thighs looking quite happy to have worked its way into this position.

It isn’t long before Sean and my efforts are rewarded. I feel Dog’s dick grow slicker in my mouth, the salty taste of his precum mixing with my saliva. His body undulates sensually, the perfect picture of sleepy boyhood lust. And then he gasps, his entire lean frame tensing.

“Oh, oh, Devon...yeah...yeah,” he whispers huskily. Cumming is usually intense for Dog, but in this case being woken up by slow and deliberate oral ministration helps make this a relaxing, sleepy pleasure for him. I feel his penis pulse in my mouth, and then suddenly there’s a hot, sticky warmth there; a second contraction produces some more. Mike’s spunk is the sweetest of the group, I’ve learned, but Dog’s is a close second, his semen a thick nectar that tastes vaguely of fruit.

Dog sighs deeply when he’s finished; it feels to me like his body is radiating twice as much heat as it had been when he was sleeping. Sean is still stroking and caressing his chest; Dog turns his head and leans into his boyfriend. The two kiss lightly and sensually, young lips parting slightly so that their tongues can meet. When they’re done, Dog whispers to his boyfriend, “That was really nice. I think I need to do the same to you, unless that’s not what I think it is between my legs.”

Sean smiles. “It is,” he confirms.

I’m relishing the taste of Dog in my mouth, and it makes me ask, looking down at Dog, “Can I do it? Blow him?”

Dog smiles and says sure, and his boyfriend is more than agreeable with the request. The two exchange positions, Sean climbing over Dog to lie facing me and Dog lying behind his boyfriend. At my feet Mike and Charlie are still slurping away, offering mutual oral pleasure to each other with adept, practiced skill.

Sean needs no light stimulation to get ready; his eager cock is rock-hard, rigid, and pointing right at my face. I’m starting to learn what drives these guys wild, so before I go to work I look down at Sean and say, “I still have quite a lot of Dog’s spunk in my mouth, I hope you don’t mind.” I then oblige his dick’s unspoken request, taking the thicker, but slightly shorter penis into my mouth and sucking firmly on it. Sean gasps sharply, either from the oral stimulation, or the thought that my mouth really does seem sticky with Dog’s sperm, or both.

Following his boyfriend’s example, Dog massages Sean’s muscular torso while I work, fingers running roughly over firm flesh. I lick and suck on the shaft presented me. I consider that it seems easier to pleasure because of the way it sticks straight out, and I like the feel of the very slightly curved helmet against my tongue. Sean tastes slightly stronger – not bad, but a little more pungent and manly.

Below me, Mike expresses a moderately audible “OH! OH! OH!” before convulsing and shaking gently. He’s just come, his boyfriend swallowing his load and then cleaning his cock with his tongue.

Sean doesn’t take long, apparently quite turned on by the activities around him. I suck at his cock and then his balls, reaching over to hold the shaft in place, sometimes gently stroking the fuzzy skin of his lower tummy. I’m thinking about the first time I watched Sean and Dog fool around when he reaches his climax.

“Wow...uh...wow. You’re...uh...right Doggie – he’s really good...uh...oh man, here I come!”

I’m finding that I love it when a man announces his orgasm. Sean’s ass clenches, and I see his balls twitch just before I feel his cockhead expand, throb, and eject his load into my mouth. Like Dog, he tries not to thrash, allowing me to lick and suck as spurt after spurt of his thicker, slightly muskier boy juice finds its way into my mouth. The taste isn’t as pleasant as some of the other guys, but it’s not terrible, and I have no problem swallowing it all.

I feel my own cock twitch, secreting a blob of precum, and I wonder if my body will recycle the two loads I’ve eaten, sending them directly downward to fill my testicles with my friends’ sperm. It’s a weird thing to think...but then, I’m a little weird.

“You guys never stop,” Nick whispers in my ear, probably fully awake now.

As if in agreement with this statement, Charlie groans and gasps between my legs. I feel his body tense, Mike clamped down hard on his erection. “Ugh...yeah!...wow...oh, Mikey, whoa, sensitive here...gwaaa!!” His noises are cute and flipping sexy as hell when he sprays, apparently very sensitive this morning. I grunt along with him, expressing to anyone who cares to listen how hot I find his noises.

Then I roll onto my back, careful of the fucking cast. Nick is also on his back now, his boner pointing proudly toward the ceiling. I giggle, wondering if this is somehow the origin of my dream about the California Building, Nick’s cock not unlike the lofty tower of the architectural gem.

Zane is also up (both in terms of being awake and being hard). He scoots up behind his aroused friend, and says, “What say we follow their example, Nickie? Up for a little mutual oral? Want to see who can swallow more?” He runs a hand over Nick’s chest, and Nick’s erection responds by throbbing sensually.

The boy seems less thrilled at the prospect than his dick does. “Um...I don’t know,” he says. “Maybe I’ll just go shower and get up.”

Our club has been a lot about learning one another’s preferences and boundaries, and over time we learn that Nick just really doesn’t like giving oral sex, although he loves receiving it. This is reinforced the more he experiments with us. This sometimes strikes me as odd, since he actually takes to both giving and receiving anal pleasure. I pick up on the tone in his voice, the way he seems reluctant to perform the requested task. I’m sure Zane does too, since he replies with a very casual, “Or how about I get Charlie and/or Mike over here to help me out while you let Dev see what he can do about your situation.”

Charlie rolls his eyes, but does exactly as Zane has suggested. Actually, both of them do, Mike also crawling across the bed so that the two lovers can work in tandem sucking on Zane’s erect cock. Nick looks over at me, his kind eyes seeming to ask if I’d really blow him without expecting it in return. I figure the best way to indicate that I would, any day of the week, is to just go down on the boy, which I do without saying a word.

Nick is actually a little harder to blow than either Sean or Dog. His dick is long and really thick – quite a handful – and it barely fits between my jaws. If I want to pleasure the sensitive helmet, I have to hold his cock relatively far forward in my mouth, so that only the top half is enclosed in wet, “Devony” warmth. If I want to really go at it, stroking the length of his shaft with my tongue, I have to be really careful not to choke myself.

If he’s a little thick for me, he makes up for it by tasting really good, not unlike blueberry pancakes somehow. Maybe I’m just imagining this, but I still enjoy the subtle, fruity taste of his young cock, and he certainly enjoys me tasting it.

I get up on my knees, and then lean down toward Nick’s pole, trying to hold myself steady with my one free hand. I’d love to play with his balls while I suck him off, but alas, my wounded state makes this a physical impossibility.

Zane grunts, sounding very pleased, and I look over to Mike and Charlie, who are working his long cock with aplomb. My eyes meet Mike’s and it becomes an unspoken challenge to see who can make their subject thrash and groan more. I’m outmanned, but I give it my best.

“Ugh...Mike...flipping fucking hell!” Zane gasps. “How the hell did you...OH!...learn that? Have you been practicing non-stop...UGH...or what?”

“He really has,” Charlie says, smiling sheepishly.

“I...wow...think...ah! Devon has too,” Nick grunts.

When Zane comes, he makes a show of his orgasm by arching his back, and lifting his butt off the bed with his legs. Mike doesn’t let go, lifting along with his friend to suck the boy all the way through his orgasm. “ERGH!” Zane exclaims, his face red and clenched with lust.

I’d love to stare at him through his entire climax, but Nick starts the sharp, shallow panting that indicates I’ve done my duty. I suck hard, slipping as much of the thick organ into my mouth as I can. Nick starts coming, encouraging me on with a panting “Yeah! Devon, suck it. Yeah...Harder!” I comply, and Nick spews. His semen is thick, and as is his way it doesn’t really erupt very far, dripping from his tip into my mouth. It’s fruity tasting, and I swallow every drop, almost subconsciously pretending that his spunk is the delicious, thick syrup in blueberry pie topping.

Zane and Nick come off their orgasmic highs, thanking their respective pleasure-givers. Mike does a cute little naked bow that makes Charlie laugh.

I lie back, enjoying the salty remnants on my lips. I’ve never performed that much oral pleasure. My breath smells faintly of boy sex, which is somewhere between really erotic and a little gross.

“Ok, your turn,” Dog announces, placing a hand on my naked tummy.

My dick doesn’t disagree, it’s pointing straight out, about as hard as it can get. But I hesitate, I’m not really sure why. “Nah,” I say, “I’m just gonna take care of myself. But thanks.”

I move to grab my cock with my right hand, intending to beat off in order to relieve the immense lust that has built up in my loins, but Zane reaches over Nick and slaps my hand away. “Oh no,” he says firmly, “We let you get away with that last night. Gentlemen, hold him down please.”

I protest, albeit halfheartedly, as my six friends conspire against me, Sean and Dog holding my right side firmly to the mattress while Zane and Nick do the same to my left, both boys being very gentle so as to not hurt my arm. Mike moves into position over my head, where Charlie takes up stead between my legs. “Ok, guys,” I laugh, “Not necessary, really. I’m good on my own.”

In answer to my statement, Dog dives on my cock, taking it into his mouth and demonstrating how very much better it is when you aren’t doing it on your own.

“Oh!” I gasp. My friends release me with their hands once Dog is sucking away, and lower their heads to my body, kissing and licking at me with their young, teenager mouths. Sean takes my right nipple between his lips, and then bites at it gently. I feel Zane and Nick’s breath on the sensitive skin along my side. Charlie joins Dog, allowing his friend to focus on my pole while he licks at my sack. Awash in unbearable pleasure, I look up at Mike, who smiles sweet and angelic at me before lowering his lips to mine, our faces inverted to one another so that his nose comes to rest on my chin as we kiss.

“Oh the other hand,” I sigh and moan, speaking sensually into Mike’s mouth between frantic kisses, “Maybe...ah...I’ll let you guys just do that for a while...ah, wow.”

Needless to say, and I hope my friends all agree with me, there is no shame in coming quickly when you have six naked, unbearably sexy boys servicing you. I moan lightly, and then arch my back. I feel my balls pull up into my body, and then a moment later I’m shooting into Dog’s mouth. Somehow, the sensations of my friends licking and sucking at my body distribute the pleasure, so that the orgasm is long, sensual, and relaxing, like fifty hot baths and three slow wanks rolled into one.

“Mmmm...yes...ah...mmm...yeah,” I moan softly, releasing my sperm into my friend’s mouth one unbelievably gratifying shot after another, my body buzzing with pleasure. I can feel that I’m smiling, about as happy as a boy can be.

When I’m done, I feel sleepy, and although I might normally feel a little self-conscious about having my friends sit around me while I’m nude, erect, and coming off an orgasmic high, I manage not to think about it, closing my eyes contentedly.

The boys whisper around me, talking about me in a bemused, joking fashion as if I’m not lying here listening to them.

“How’d he taste?”

“Hmm? Oh, good. Kinda salty, but good. Like mac and cheese.”

“Ha, that’s what I thought. It figures, he eats it enough.”

“Is that body ink going to wash off? It’s sexy, but he might want it off.”

“Yeah, I have a special cleaner. But it is sexy. We should do tattoos on each other. Like in that ink, not with a needle.”

“You’d look good with a celtic knot on your ass.”

“You’d look good with my dick in your ass.”

“Pervert!”

“Hey, he’s still hard.”

“Yeah, like really hard.”

“He never goes down after the first, he always needs seconds.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, dude, haven’t you noticed how he almost always jerks off again right after he comes.”

“Yeah, I guess. He’s not jerking now, though.”

“Think he’s asleep?”

I have to smile at the comments. “No, look at him, the faker. He’s totally awake.”

“Should we tickle him?”

“Dude, no, that’s too mean. He just blew you. And with a broken arm.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Wow, he really isn’t going down. Wonder what he feeds it.”

“I claim this land in the name of Devon!” I feel a finger pull my stiff boner down, then allow it to spring back up.

“You guys are so mean,” I say, keeping my eyes shut.

“Not that mean.”

“Hey, he called us mean. I don’t think we’re mean. Are we mean?”

“No. You’re sexy as fuck, but not mean.”

“I am sexy as fuck, huh? I’ve been working on my tummy.” Sounds of slapping flesh indicate a palm demonstrating how firm a tummy has truly become.

“Wow, you have to show me your routine. Do you think Devon’s dick would explode if we just left it like that?”

“You mean like go off again? Or the whole thing just blow up?”

“Either.”

“Not sure. But we shouldn’t risk it. Want to give him seconds?”

“Yeah!” three or four voices proclaim, and then the boys are on me again, licking and biting at my almost-totally relaxed body. I laugh in surprise and protest, knowing it will do no good.

This time around, they take turns taking my cock into their mouths, Zane first suggesting that everyone should have a taste. I’m embarrassed, but also immensely aroused. I feel Mike’s practiced tongue on my shaft, and then Charlie’s lips. Even Nick takes a taste, albeit a short, quick lick. Zane gets my entire scrotum in his mouth, rolling my balls around with his tongue in wet, splendid maneuvers.

It isn’t long before I’m spending less time laughing at my friends’ silliness and more time grunting in pleasure. Again I’m overtaken with lust, and again my body comes in sweet, lilting waves of lust. I’m not sure who takes my second load, but he drinks it down happily, groaning lightly as I spray. “Ah!”

When I finish I let out about the longest sigh possible, trying to vocally express how good my friends have made me feel.

“Thanks, guys,” I say softly, content and quite happy with what is one of the greatest wake-up calls in my life. Mike kisses me gently on the lips, and I feel like the entire morning, my friends’ insistent pleasuring of me, has been a celebration of friendship, and boy lust, and a show of appreciation that I’m still here, alive and happy and...hmm, actually still a little hard.

It’s early afternoon when we crawl out of bed. Work has been canceled because of the party the night before, but we agree we need showers...and food. I suggest blueberry pancakes, and although it’s well past breakfast, my friends heartily agree.


The sexual high from the post-Halloween club meeting lasts well into the following week. In fact, when I return to my room to find Patrick’s things gone, I don’t feel the immense sadness I otherwise might. Well, to be fair, if he and Reid were actually fighting I would, but knowing that this whole thing is a bit of a put-on helps.

When I report to the hospital on Monday for some physical therapy, I’m happy to hear that my arm is still healing nicely. Ian says I’ll probably be out of the cast soon, but Conner shoots us a disgruntled look, saying this will only happen if I resist punching people with it. I agree, saying I’ll use my right for the time being, which earns me a pen thrown in my direction.

On a large scale, I find that the party has done something to the general mood of the ship. Everyone seems a little happier and more at ease. Sure, Steven’s dork squad still holds protests in the cafeteria each afternoon, trying to persuade others of their ideology, but they have a harder time raising anyone’s ire. It feels like the party was an important event, another vital step in turning the ship from a vessel floating in space to a real home.

For me, the party was a way to transition from old Devon – a gay boy enjoying his sexuality in private – to new Devon – an unapologetically gay teen who is enjoying life, liberty and being stuck on a spaceship with five thousand guys. One afternoon I pass Teo in the hall, now dressed in more conventional clothing. “Hey sailor,” I say in a jokingly sexy voice. He smiles at me, possibly blushing a little in response. I can’t help but notice that he watches my ass as I walk past, and when I hear a clanging sound behind me, the telltale noise of someone running into a pole because they weren’t watching where they were going, I grin just about the widest grin I ever have in my life, although I don’t look back.


One night I have trouble sleeping, more from being excited about some new recipes I’ve thought up than anything bad. Tuesday has slipped firmly into early Wednesday, and although it’s too early to get up for the day I decide to go pee, hoping this will help me get back to sleep.

I throw on a pair of gym shorts and a tee, and then pad out into the living area. Entering the room, I catch a glimpse of a familiar head ducking rapidly from sight, heading down the short hallway that exits the flat. It’s AJ...Sneak...and he hasn’t seen me. I have to wonder where he’s headed in such a hurry.

I haven’t received any new notes from him since the hospital, although I’d left a message trying to explain why I’d come into the tunnels that night. I have to assume my attempt to catch him was to blame for the silent treatment. I knew that discovering his identity was sort of forbidden, though it is an unspoken rule. Still, now that I knew who he was it felt lame to sneak around one another like we didn’t know.

I decide that I’ve had enough. I don’t care if he continues watching and sneaking, but I don’t like the fake anonymity anymore. It’s getting boring.

I follow behind AJ, waiting twenty seconds before entering the main hallway outside our flat behind him. In the main hall, I see him turn a corner, walking toward the Forward Concourse, and I follow behind, being as silent as I can. He enters the concourse and I again wait to a count of twenty before very slowly opening the door to follow. My heart beats heavy in my chest, but when I open the door I’m alone.

I spot AJ walking along the first floor, making his way toward the lobby. I climb to the second floor, figuring I’ll be harder to spot up here and he’ll be easier to follow. He is – we work our way to the lobby, and then into the Starboard Concourse. I remain on the second floor, him the first, as we continue the game of cat and mouse that only one of us is aware of.

He turns down a side hall, and I rush to catch up, again waiting before following him into a new area. He leads me to a bank of elevators, and after his takes off I watch the display above it to see that he takes it down thirty-two floors to one of the farm areas. I call the elevator back up and then follow him.

When I get to the correct floor, I think I may have lost him. Then I hear a click and look to see the large door at the end of the hallway close. I make my way there, carefully opening it after I’m reasonably sure AJ isn’t standing right on the other side. I don’t really care if he is – I’ve decided that my intention is to confront him, but still I’m careful.

I enter the farm. It’s a huge room with a high ceiling many meters above my head. Oak and maple trees tower over me, and I find myself in what feels very much like a forest. Well, it is – an indoor forest that produces both trees and, perhaps more importantly, oxygen.

I’m not sure how I’ll find AJ in the massive space, but then I see him across the way, entering one of the storage alcoves. I smile – if this farm is like all the others, the alcove is a dead end. Well, unless he crawls into the emergency tunnels, which knowing Sneak is actually pretty possible.

Quickening my pace I cross the room. It is cycled to “night”, and a fine mist is falling from above. The earth below my feet is spongy and very satisfying to walk on.

I enter the storage alcove.

It’s a small room, not unlike the ones I enjoy frequenting with my friends when we have midday urges. It’s small enough that AJ sees me enter immediately, jumping at the sight of someone else entering the room unexpectedly. His intense brown eyes are wide with shock, but then when he sees who I am they soften.

“Jesus, Devon,” he says, slightly annoyed. “You fucking scared me. You’re like a cat. Prowl much?”

I look at the tall boy, who has spent the better part of our voyage doing exactly that to my friends and me. His body is long and lean in his shirt and athletic shorts, his lips conveying a slight shyness. AJ has always been a loner, and from the discussions we’ve had via data chip I know why.

“Not as much as you, Sneak,” I say quietly. His eyes widen slightly, and in that moment I decide that our game has ended (or maybe just begun!) I need to present this boy with irrefutable evidence proving I’ve guessed his identity. I remember his one distinguishing mark – a rose-shaped tattoo under his hip that I’d seen the day he jerked me off while I was trapped in a medical scanner. I walk over to AJ, coming within inches of him. Then I fall to my knees, grab the hem of his shorts in my hands, and given them a firm tug.


To be continued



End notes:

Thanks for reading this far! That was a looooooong chapter, and I hope it was entertaining, amusing and arousing.

Soundtrack: I associate a song with each chapter. Compile them, and you’d have a soundtrack to the story. The song for chapter 14 is Last Night by Carolina Liar. I imagine it as the song Beck plays for Devon on the dance floor, and also perhaps something playing when the boys burst into the unoccupied flat following the party.


First off, thanks to the readers who responded to my request for ideas. I think most of the boys ended up in derivations of these. The Red Riding Hood idea was mentioned for Devon, but I thought it was awesome for Sean and his canine-named boyfriend. Someone suggested Greek god or Olympian for Zane, and he took that idea to heart, ditching most of the costume pieces along the way. Someone suggested a bee-themed costume, resulting in Mike’s ensemble, and then another idea gave me the inspiration for Sneak in the crowd.

Devon’s childhood costume is a reference to Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, one of the funniest kids books I’ve ever read (and an okay book for adults, in my opinion).

The album cover Charlie says inspired the pants of Devon’s costume is actually the album shown in Velvet Goldmine with Jonathan Reese Meyers – yum!

Yes, you can deep fry pumpkin cross sections in tempura to get a cool spider-web effect and a delicious treat. This was inspired by a somewhat similar snack served at the Half Moon Bay pumpkin festival.

The slur “twonk smeghead” is, of course, a reference to that great British scifi comedy Red Dwarf.







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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