The tale so far:

Following his injuries, Devon adjusts to his new perspective on life. When a Halloween party is thrown on the ship he finds it the perfect opportunity to freely express the blatant sensuality of “New Devon,” the more aggressive, open, fearless part of his personality he’s created since being hurt. And it’s working – after the party he winds up in bed with six of his best friends, a night they’re all sure to remember for some time to come.

Now Devon finds himself interested in revealing to Sneak that he knows who he is. So when Sneak, otherwise known as AJ Mendell, is seen leaving the flat early one morning, Devon follows, determined to confront his friend. And confront him he does, cornering AJ in a storage room on one of the farms, sliding up close to him, and pulling AJ’s pants down to reveal the rose tattoo that Devon knows lies on Sneak’s hip.


Space Ship Boys

Chapter 15 – Something Of a Complete Idiot


New Devon was the order of the day.

“New Devon” – what I’d come to call the changes to my personality since I’d faced my own mortality and walked away – was unapologetically bold, outspoken, and fearless.

New Devon had worn one of the sexiest, most daring costumes imaginable to the Halloween party, and I’d danced and drank and kissed random boys before leaving the party to have sex with six of my best friends, a night of slick, gorgeous passion and slow, sleepy blowjobs that, almost a week later, still made my cock swell at the slightest memory of the events of that night, resulting in more than a few “coffee breaks” that were, in fact, quick trips to the bathroom for fast, frantic relief.

Now I was tapping into New Devon once more, this time to deal with Sneak, the boy with whom I shared an oddly voyeuristic relationship. Our friendship was a bit one-sided, I thought. I’d decided that I wanted that to change, so I’d tried to confront him. This had met with little success, meaning he’d outrun me when I’d tried chasing him down in the emergency tunnels.

But I knew something Sneak didn’t realize – I knew who he was. It turned out that Sneak had been closer to me than I’d ever imagined – AJ Mendell, one of my flatmates, a shy, somewhat lonely boy who kept to himself, was who had been spying on me all this time. AJ had made a fatal error one afternoon while visiting me in the hospital. I’d previously left Sneak a gift, a pair of underwear I’d picked up from Charlie. I’d caught a glimpse of the unique undies when he’d reached up to retrieve something from a high shelf. The jig was up, as they say.

I respected the guy, and his right to privacy, but New Devon had decided that he didn’t like the ongoing game, the pretend anonymity. I planned to allow AJ to go right on spying, and I wasn’t going to tell anyone in the group about him, but I wanted to show him that I knew who he was, which was why I’d followed him into a deserted farm area early this morning.

When he’d entered a storage alcove, I’d followed close behind, to his shock and dismay.

Looking at the tall, thin boy, as I was now, I knew that I needed to do more than confront him. I needed to prove to him that I knew he was Sneak, and I knew how I could do this. Months ago, when I first learned of the boy’s voyeuristic ways, I’d seen a tattoo of a black rose right below his left hip. Which is why I walk up to AJ abruptly, drop to my knees, and then pull the boy’s shorts down, deftly sliding them over his slender hips and down to his ankles.

AJ gasps, “Devon – what the hell?”

I take a close look at the other boy, now naked from tummy to shin. AJ’s cock sits long and slender over a set of low hanging balls. He’s completely smooth except for a small triangular patch of chestnut hair around the base of his shaft, and I smell a faint aroma wafting from his private places, gentle and subtle and sexy. It’s moments like these, when you’ve just taken a bold step like this, when you’ve stripped a beautiful boy of the inconvenient clothes that cover all the best parts, that’s when you learn some of the most important lessons of your life. This was the case for me now.

I’d just learned that New Devon was a fucking moron.

The thing was, AJ’s dick was beautiful, long and brown and hanging nimbly from his perfect tan body. The problem was, it wasn’t Sneak’s penis, clearly. I’d seen Sneak in some of the jack-off movies he’d left me, and his was...different. And now that I thought about it, I knew Sneak to be generally fair-skinned, where AJ was moderately tan. Hmm, you’d think I would have considered this before denuding my flatmate.

I look up at AJ, who still has a rather shocked expression on his face. “Um...oops,” I say.

AJ flashes an angry glare. At first I think he means to punch me, and I flinch. But he just reaches down to hastily pull up his shorts. He responds angrily. “Dammit, Devon. What the hell is wrong with you? Are you totally retarded or something?”

I turn red, feel really small, and want to run out of the room to pretend this never happened. That might lead to some later awkwardness, though. “Uh...sorry,” I say meekly.

This doesn’t placate AJ at all. “Yeah, I’m sure,” he says in a sarcastic, angry voice. “I’m sure there’s some understandable reason you came prancing in here and fucking tore my clothes off. That’s really embarrassing!”

Do I prance? I’ll have to think about that later. In the meantime, I know that I need to calm him down or this will get uglier, and I figure it’s time for the truth. “Look, AJ,” I start, standing up so that we can look at one another eye to eye, “I’m really sorry. Truth is, I thought you were someone else. I mean, I knew it was you in here, but there’s this other guy...ugh, it’s a long story. I’m an idiot.”

AJ still looks angry, but curious. “You’ve been meeting other guys in the farms to have sex?” I take this to mean he thinks I was coming down here to meet someone for an illicit rendezvous.

“No, I don’t,” I answer, and then I think about that. “Well, yeah, I do, but that’s not what I’m doing here. Truth is, I’ve been fooling around with this guy by cam, just I don’t know who he is because he doesn’t show his face. I thought it was you, which is why I came in here and got all pervy. I was looking for a tattoo.”

I’m trying to be as sincere as possible, and it seems to work a little. AJ lets me explain about Sneak, and although I heavily edit the story so that I make it sound like Sneak and I were just occasional anonymous cam buddies, I think it helps AJ understand why I thought it would be a good idea to come down here and tug his pants off.

“And you thought I was this guy?” AJ asks.

I kick at a metal bucket laying on the floor. It tips over, spilling soil everywhere. “Oops,” I say, about the bucket, and then I address AJ. “Yeah, I thought you were the one that had been sending me the videos.”

AJ is a pretty mellow, level-headed guy, which I really appreciate over the course of this conversation. “Why?” he asks, staring at me curiously. “Did Zane say something? Dammit, I knew he’d say something.”

This throws me. I have no idea what AJ is talking about. I’d never mentioned Zane as having anything to do with Sneak or why I was here. “What? No,” I reply. “Zane didn’t say anything. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I thought you were the guy because of your underwear.”

AJ looks down at his waist, and then at me. “I’m not wearing underwear.”

I try not to laugh at his confusion, not wanting to rile him again. “No, not today,” I explain. “When you came to visit me in the hospital. You reached up to grab something off a high shelf, and you were wearing these navy briefs with a red rope that ties off on the side. My other friend has a pair like those.”

“Oh. Yeah, I know the pair you mean.” AJ has calmed down a little, maybe because I’ve referred to my time in the hospital. I’ve found that I can get a lot of mileage out of that, although the effect is wearing off. I’ll take this one last time, though.

I sit down on the edge of a low cabinet, playing with the fabric of my t-shirt while I talk. “So, yeah. When I saw those, I thought for sure you were the guy. You came to visit me in the hospital, and a message from him showed up right after you left. And it seemed to make sense. You’re sort of a loner, no offense.”

AJ leans against a cabinet opposite to me. “None taken,” he says.

“But mostly it was the underwear. I thought they were unique. Where did you get yours?” I ask. I can’t help myself. If AJ knows Sneak by his “secret identity,” then maybe he got the underwear from him.

A sad look flashes across his face momentarily, and then answers. “I brought those from Earth,” he says quietly. I understand why he might be sentimental about a pair of underwear. We all seemed to have a growing attachment to things from our former lives.

“Oh. I’m sorry,” I say. “I thought the pair my friend has were the only ones. Charlie made them.”

AJ laughs. I give him a curious look, not sure what’s funny. He fills me in. “That makes sense, then,” he says. “Charlie saw mine a couple of months ago. He really liked them, and wanted to base a new design on them. I let him borrow them for a couple of days.”

I shake my head. “Oh my god, I’m such an idiot.”

AJ chuckles again. “Yeah, you sort of are. But it’s cute...when you’re not molesting people.”

I blush. I’m glad that AJ isn’t going to attack me for my actions, but this whole experience has been really humiliating. I learn something today – something that’s probably good to know: sometimes New Devon should be held in check.

Still, something AJ said doesn’t quite make sense to me, and then I’m curious why he’s being so laid-back about my weird behavior. “But what does any of this have to do with Zane?” I ask.

Now it’s AJ’s turn to look sheepish and blush. I consider saying something else, taking the conversation in a different direction because he’s clearly uncomfortable about something. But then he answers, sighing first. “I guess it’s not a big deal to tell you. I mean, it’s not like we have any secrets now that you’ve seen my wang.” We laugh about this before he continues. “The thing is, I caught Zane and Charlie in the library one afternoon.”

I can see where this is going. If Zane was in the library, it probably wasn’t to research French renaissance art. “And they were doing more than studying?”

AJ offers a nervous giggle, and then starts playing with the drawstring to his shorts. “Yeah, a lot more,” he confirms. “And it was...weird. No, weird isn’t the right word. It was cool. It made me...um...” He stops speaking, as if there are no words left in his brain to continue with.

“Horny?” I ask, joking with him.

AJ’s eyes dart to the drawstring he’s playing with; he’s looping it around his forefinger and then unwrapping it. “Yeah,” he says, and then sighs. “They were fooling around down in one of the study nooks. At first I had no idea what they were doing, but then it became pretty obvious. Then they started getting undressed – your friends are completely insane, you know that?”

I have to agree with AJ on that point. Maybe the wank club had loosened us up or something, but I’d noticed that all the guys were a little more daring, and that pants seemed to fly off at every opportunity. I’m a little shocked to hear that my friends took off all their clothes right there in the study area, though. And then AJ says he joined in, and I have to interrupt him.

“You pulled it out too? No way. You must have been nervous?”

“You have no idea,” he says, nodding in agreement. “But they were already naked, and I figured no one would care if I joined in. And I was so horny. It’s been hard...living on this ship. I didn’t date a lot before we took off, but I was starting to. But even if I wasn’t having sex regularly, at least masturbation helped. Now I have four roommates, and twenty-three flatmates. People are around all the time...it can make you kinda crazy.”

I consider suggesting that if he got his roommates to join in for some mutual wanking things would still be crazy, but a lot sexier. But I try to rein in my sarcastic side. “Yeah. Things were weird for me too before I...well, before I found some other options.” I think back to those early days on the ship, when things had seemed so much more uncertain and sexual frustration was the norm.

AJ looks me in the eyes. “Yeah, Zane told me about your club,” he says quietly. It surprises me, but it’s not shocking. AJ seems to think he’s said something wrong, he gets wide-eyed and speaks louder. “I mean, he gave me an overview. He didn’t tell me who was in it. But with Halloween and everything, I assumed.”

“Yeah, we’re not very subtle, are we?” I ask, trying to make him feel less uncomfortable.

Truth be told, I wouldn’t mind if Zane had told AJ everything. It wasn’t a huge secret, I guess. Besides, AJ had been on the first list of wank club candidates Charlie and I had made. But we hadn’t wanted to stir anything up by offending any of our flatmates.

“It’s no big deal,” he says. “I think there are more guys doing that than just you guys. Zane told me to come along some Friday, and I have to admit it’s tempting. I mean, you know. I’ve wanted to start dating again. There was a guy, back at school. He made it off Earth, but he was on vacation when we evacuated. He’s on the Manhattan ship.”

My ears perk up. Charlie and I had pegged AJ as possibly gay. I guess we’d been right. “What was he like?” I ask.

AJ sighs, and then slides down the cabinet to sit cross-legged on the floor. I follow suit. “He was great. We were in chem together. He was smart, and funny. He liked to surf.”

I think back to all the afternoons I’d watched the surfer boys in San Diego, salt water-slicked wetsuits shining in the afternoon sun, clinging to toned, thin bodies. “Surfers are the best,” I say.

“Yeah, they are,” he agrees. “We went out a couple of time. Then...this. I mean, I didn’t know him very well so I got over it, but it’s been lonely. And weird.”

I decide it’s a good time for a joke. “I know what you mean by weird. Perverts keep assaulting me in the farms.” I absentmindedly play with my cast, tapping a forefinger on its plasticine surface.

AJ laughs, and this may be the point where he and I become friends. I’d been friendly with him before, sure, and seen him almost every day in the flat. But I guess I never really made an attempt to get to know him. I do now, and we talk for over an hour. I tell him about San Diego, and about growing up. He tells me what it was like to grow up in Denver. We even get comfortable enough with each other to talk a little about sex and love and boy games.

“So, you think you’ll come on Friday?” I ask, a little nervous to pose this particular question. We’re still sitting on the floor of the storage alcove, which is starting to feel a little cold and hard against my ass.

“Not sure,” he answers after thinking about it. “It sounds a little...weird. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging or anything. It would just be a little weird to come into a group where you know everyone does...that. It would be a little intimidating. I don’t know.”

“I get what you’re saying. How about I talk to the guys – if you come, we’ll make it a night with no nudity or anything. Just hanging out.”

He looks at me, his intense eyes intrigued, a little relieved, but also a little concerned. “Really? You think they’d do that?”

“Yeah, totally. I mean, the playtime is fun and all, but it’s secondary to being friends. Maybe it didn’t start like that, but now I consider them all like brothers. And it would be that way even if we stopped fooling around. So I’m sure everyone would be excited to have you come.”

He looks down at his shoe and notices that its come untied. While fixing this, he says, “Cool. Yeah, maybe then. I don’t know. Getting to know people is...hard for me. But it would be nice to have more friends on board.”

“Totally.”

And then we just sit there for a while, probably both wondering silently why I’m such a freak. I yawn. It’s dang early, which makes me wonder what AJ was doing down here. “Hey,” I say, breaking the silence, “I know why I’m down here being a dork, but why the hell did you come down here at three-thirty in the morning?”

AJ rolls his head lazily to the side, sighs deep and then answers. “I guess we’re all friends here, right? You can keep a secret?”

I think about my recent obsession with discovering Sneak’s identity, but then nod. I think I’m pretty trustworthy. “Ok, cool,” AJ says, standing up and walking to the back wall of the alcove. “Check it out.”

He scoots a table away from the wall, making a loud screeching noise that has us both wincing before it’s out of the way. He pulls a card out of his wristcom, a key like the one I use to access the emergency tunnels. He swipes it against a panel in the wall and a hatch silently slides open.

“What the...” I find myself involuntarily saying. The hatch doesn’t open to a tunnel, but rather a two-meter square compartment, which is currently occupied by several instantly recognizable plants. “Are those?” I ask.

AJ nods. “Yeah. I’m not big on it, but some guys are. It’s not illegal on the ship as long as you don’t take it into the military sections. I thought I’d try and figure out how to grow it, which wasn’t easy, but I’ve always been into botany.”

“Wow,” is all I can say. “That’s so cool. How’d you get the seeds?”

AJ smiles at the compliment. “Actually, I spent like a month asking around to see if anyone had any at all. No one wanted to admit they’d brought any with them, but I finally managed to get three small samples, not seeds, just for smoking. So I had to figure out how to sneak into the gene labs to make seeds from the DNA. It took a while, but I finally got it right. Then I found this isolated growing chamber. I think they were designed for rare plants, or maybe plants that need extra care.”

“Cool,” I say, wondering how much time and energy it had taken to build viable plants from some loose joints. AJ really was a botanist – and maybe also a mad scientist.

“Why do you hide it, though?” I ask. “I mean, if it’s not illegal I bet a lot of guys would help out.”

AJ makes a sharp, snorting laugh. “Yeah, and they’d help themselves to some clippings. How long before my poor plants were all stripped and dead?”

“Point taken.”

I compliment him on his work. I have no idea what a healthy marijuana plant looks like, but these seem to be thriving. He explains some more about them, and how he plans to get the crop yield big enough so he can supply the ship-wide demand. Eventually he notices the time and says he has to go clean up before an early shift. He hides his crop away, closing the hatch and then putting the table back where it originally was, and then we walk out together.

When we head in separate directions, my mind is racing. I’d dodged a bullet with AJ – he could have been really angry. But I’d been so sure he was Sneak. Just goes to show you, Devon is still a bit of an idiot.

It was exciting to think that AJ might come on Fridays. I mean, I never lacked for someone to have fun with, but there’s something about the prospect of someone new.

I also had to think about Sneak. I’d been operating under the assumption that AJ was Sneak for weeks. It had almost seemed a certainty, and having that pulled out from under me was disconcerting. I felt like Sneak was more of a mystery than ever. But the thing with AJ had tempered me a little. It had been a mistake, approaching him like that. And maybe following Sneak around trying to discover his identity was also a mistake. Maybe I needed to just ask him. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do, I decide. I’ll ask him to meet in person and see if we can’t be friends.

Unfortunately, I never get the chance. Three days later I stumble upon a data chip in our usual hiding spot. This excites me – Sneak and I had shared a few videos back and forth, and I was eager to see what he’d left. I make my way right back to my room, which I find empty. I go to one of the terminals on the rear wall and insert the chip, eager to see what Sneak has added.

I’m confused when there’s only one file on the chip. We’d been adding to it as we relayed it between ourselves in our odd, clandestine manner. There should be several files, but I find only the one. I open it, and my face slowly falls as I read a message that Sneak has left for me.


Devon,

I’m sorry that I spy on you and your friends sometimes. That might be wrong of me. But I thought we had an understanding. I thought you’d leave me alone to let me watch. When you chased me, it was thrilling, but later I got angry. It hurt my feelings that you tried to sneak up on me like that. I know it may be retarded for me to gripe, considering.

I need to think about things. I think I’m messed up in the head. I’m going to stop sneaking, and I’m going to stop writing. Don’t bother looking in our spot anymore, for me or for messages. I might feel better about all of this someday and write you again, but for now I’m going to stop.

In a lot of ways, this is a good thing. Sneak was fun, but you taught me it’s better to just be yourself. Maybe someday I can be that, like you and your friends at the party. Or maybe not. I need to think about that. In the meantime, thanks for letting me spy on you for so long.

Goodbye,

Sneak


I read the message three times before closing the file. I’m shocked, I guess. I didn’t mean to hurt Sneak’s feelings, and I feel really bad about that. And I’m a little angry at him. He was weird, sneaking around watching my friends and me while jacking off in the tunnels. Being lectured about friendship boundaries by the guy is a little insulting.

Still, I can’t help but feel sad. My friendship with Sneak was weird, but maybe it was because we didn’t interact in person that things seemed more intense, more real. I remember back to earlier messages he’d left, and the way he’d told me about being abused as a child. I felt like I understood why he was the way he was. It made me sad, to have lost a friend like this, even if it was a weird friendship.

And I’m worried. Maybe Sneak wasn’t totally stable. I mean, his behavior was weird and we’d all been through a lot. Maybe if I’d been a real friend to him I’d have talked to him instead of swapping dirty vids. I was a little disgusted with myself.

I delete the message from the chip, and fight back tears as I do so. Sad, confused, and angry, I take the now-empty chip from the computer and throw it against the wall. It lands with a light tap and falls onto the floor behind Reid’s bunk.

I’m starting to feel truly miserable when I get a message from Patrick asking me to meet him in the library.

I walk down to the library, huffing along the way, slightly annoyed at myself for pushing things too far with Sneak. Patrick is in a far corner of the library, and it takes me twenty minutes to find him hidden away in one of the study alcoves.

“Jeez,” he says when I plop down into the chair opposite him, “what’s the matter with you? You look pissed.”

“I am pissed,” I confirm. “Long day.” And then I start babbling about Sneak to Patrick. He knew about him – he was the only one of my friends who did. I’d told Patrick months ago, and while I didn’t keep him completely up to date, it didn’t take long to fill him in.

“Sorry, that’s rough,” he says sympathetically when I stop talking. Then he thinks about it. “But it may be for the best. From what you describe, it sounds like he just needs some time. If he figures things out, I’m sure he’ll want to be friends again.”

“Maybe,” I reply, not sounding very convinced. “Anyway, sorry about my moodiness. You wanted to talk?”

Patrick looks around to make sure we’re alone. “No one knows you came down here to meet me?” he asks.

I sigh. “Patrick,” I start, trying not to sound as annoyed as I was, “can we not do the whole cold war spy thing right now? No, I wasn’t followed.”

He looks a little hurt. “Sorry,” he says, picking up a pen to play with it awkwardly. “It just took a lot to get in good with Steven’s group, and I don’t want to wreck that. Sorry, by the way...about the thing at the Halloween party.”

Patrick had “fought” with Reid in public at the party. I’d known the two were pretending, but to everyone else it had seemed an earnest falling out. “Yeah, whatever. I knew what you were doing. But it’s kind of sad in the room with you gone.”

“Sorry,” he whispers. “I’m optimistic this will help fix things, and then everything can go back to normal.”

“I hope so. Is it helping you figure things out?”

Patrick thinks about this for a minute before answering. He’d taken up with Steven Caine and his friends in order to figure out what had them so riled, what was stirring them up and leading to things like the riot where I’d been hurt. “I’m not sure,” he says. “In some ways, yeah. They’re all really mad about the military presence, although I don’t really know why. Mostly the crew sticks to their areas.”

It was true, the military personnel who had facilitated our launch and transition to a long space journey were often to be seen in the lower areas of the ship, where we lived, ate, played and, in the case of my friends and me, fornicated with one another. But this was never in an official capacity. It wasn’t like the crew lorded over us, although they did enforce things like shit detail.

Patrick continues, “They’re also really angry about the work shifts, but in talking with Steven alone...I don’t know, I’m not quite getting what the problem is. His guys do their jobs, mostly, but then when you get them together it’s like a nonstop bitch-fest. It’s like as soon as there’s more than three people in the room it’s all ‘equity for the masses’ and that tired shit.”

“Yeah.”

“Anyway, sorry. You don’t need to worry about all that. I just need you to give something to Reid.”

“Oh?”

Patrick reaches into his pocket and pulls out a data chip, not unlike the one I’d flung against my wall in anger an hour ago. He hands it to me, but not before looking around to confirm we’re still alone in the alcove. “Don’t let anyone else have that, although if anyone were to get it all they’d find are a bunch of Beck’s MIPs.”

MIPs were the digital files containing our movies, music and other information. “You need me to give Reid your music collection?” I ask uncertainly.

“It’s more than that,” Patrick explains. “He’ll know what to do with it. I just wanted to be extra careful and not give it to him in person. Sorry to drag you down here, Devon.”

The club had been great, but one consequence was that I had all these new friends, and as a result Reid, Patrick and I no longer spent all of our waking time together, like we had back at school. Over the past several months we’d grown apart, a little, even though I still felt a close bond to both friends. But now, with Reid and Patrick alienated, even if it was just pretend, I felt a sense of loss. I hoped we’d be able to hang out together again someday soon, and someplace other than a hidden library alcove.

“It’s not a problem,” I answer, although I was starting to feel like this whole spying plan was becoming very much a problem for me. And my moodiness over Sneak wasn’t helping. I knew I was heading for a marathon moping session, and before Patrick caught on to my downward spiraling demeanor, I promised to take the chip right to Reid and leave him sitting in the study nook.

Feeling increasingly cranky, I head to our unoccupied flat, which is empty. I decide to take a shower, and then do what any warm blooded seventeen year-old would do to relieve stress – I masturbate. Twice. Once I’ve shot two loads onto the floor of the shower stall, watching as the water rinses the semen down the drain, I do feel a little better.

I wrap a towel around my waist and head back into the living room, where I run into Zane and Sean. “Hey Devon,” Sean says, eyeing me in my towel-clad glory. “We didn’t know anyone was here. Zane was going to show me something. Want to come with?”

They’re walking toward the entrance to the club meeting bedroom, so I’m pretty sure I have a good idea what it is Zane is about to show him. “Nah, I’m good,” I reply. “I had a long day.”

Zane stops in his tracks, and then grabs Sean by his waist, pulling the other boy into his body playfully. He looks at me and asks, “Everything okay? We can stick around if you want.”

I shake my head. “Thanks, no. I just need a nap. You two have fun.”

Zane nibbles at Sean’s ear, and the other boy giggles. Then they chase one another to the bedroom door which, once closed, is probably obstructing a very alluring view of two hot guys becoming rapidly undressed.

I’d used a nap as an excuse, but it was starting to sound pretty good. I think about hanging out in Charlie’s room, but then decide to use one of the other rooms I sometimes bunk in when I’m crabby. An hour’s sleep does me good, and when I wake up I feel better.

I run into Sean again in the living room. This time he’s the one wearing a towel, obviously having just showered. “Feel better?” he asks, concerned.

“Yeah, I do,” I say, meaning it. “You have fun?”

Sean is a muscular guy, and he looks great in just a towel. “We sure did,” he answers. “I had no idea I could bend that far!” he giggles. It makes me smile, and I make a note to have either Zane or Sean show me what he meant by that later.

For now, I resolve to deliver the data chip Patrick has given me to Reid. Reid is on duty – his work in engineering, not security force. It’s not uncommon for me to visit him at work. I message him to confirm that he’s available, and when he responds that he is I head toward Bottomside. The engineering section Reid is assigned isn’t located in Bottomside proper, but near there.

Reid splits his time between security and engineering now. He probably could have gotten out of his engineering duties, but he really liked them. It wasn’t carrying around wrenches and oiling gaskets and all that. He was assigned to work with all the equipment we used on a daily basis – things like our wristcoms and the tablet computers.

There are about ten guys on duty when I enter Reid’s unit, and one of them points me in the direction of a large workshop in the back of the area. I find Reid here, swearing and messing with some sort of tall, tubular looking robotic thing. It has six or seven “arms” extending from its “body,” and they appear to be covered in...blood?

“Um, what the hell is that thing?” I ask.

Reid looks up, noticing me in the room for the first time. “Hi Devon,” he says. He’s sweaty, his blue t-shirt soaked through. He looks hot, even if he is a little gross from work. “This is supposed to be one of the robots that works the chicken farm,” he explains. “It checks them on a daily basis to make sure they’re healthy. But it seems to be malfunctioning. Hey – can you eat older, egg-laying hens?”

“Sure, I guess,” I say. “Usually we only slaughter the younger ones for food, but you can do some stuff to make the older ones edible. Like cook them in wine.”

Reid wipes his forehead with the back of his hand. “That’s good, then. I’ll have them delivered up to you later. I think there are about two hundred of them.”

I look at the bloodstained robot, envisioning the horrible chicken slaughter that must have occurred when it malfunctioned. I have to laugh at the image – chickens are stupid and annoying, and one had bit me once. “Ok,” I giggle, “poule au vin it is.” Reid smiles at me, particularly when I start planning a whole menu around the unfortunate poultry.

When I tell him about my meeting with Patrick, he takes the data chip from me. “Thanks for doing that,” he says. “I know it’s been hard on you. I miss the three of us hanging out. Hey, how about we get some 6-wall in tomorrow?”

I lift my cast-clad arm. “Can’t,” I say, shrugging. “Not until the cast comes off.”

Reid looks sorry to have suggested a sporting activity to someone in a cast. “Oh yeah. Sorry. Maybe you want to come watch? We can get burgers afterward. Or pollen and vines, or whatever it was you just said.”

He’s just humoring me, but it works and I laugh. We agree to spend some time together the following day, and I tell him that I’ll try and find a 6-wall partner to whoop his ass the way I always do.

Making plans with Reid reminds me about AJ. Leaving Reid’s work, I walk down to Bottomside. There’s a football match going on at the large, open field, and I sit in the stands to watch. While I do, I compose an e-mail to the guys, telling them briefly about my encounter with AJ – although I leave out the embarrassing parts – and asking if they’d be up for spending Friday just hanging and having some new people over. I mention Ian and Conner, although Ian has already said no. I figure I can ask again, just in case his plans have changed.

When I’m done, I’m a little hesitant to send the message, but I do. I don’t want to deprive anyone of our weekly playtime, and I don’t want anyone to get annoyed at the prospect of new members. Turns out, I have nothing to worry about. Zane, Charlie and Dog respond almost immediately, and agree that we can forego sex for one week.

We all jump onto a group chat and discuss things. Zane tells us about the library, and what AJ did that afternoon. Mike joins in after a couple of minutes, and Zane has to retell his story, which seems even sexier the second time. Plans are made, and when the chat session is over we’ve scheduled the first no-sex-allowed meeting of the wank club.

When I finish with the guys, I message Conner and remind him about Friday. He messages back, saying he’ll be sure to make it, and then reminds me about an appointment I have the following day for a thing with my arm. He sends me a long list of instructions, always the doctor. I glance through them, thinking more about new club members than doctor appointments. And then I message AJ, this time being more explicit about what Friday means. When I assure him that there will be no sex or nudity, and that it will just be an opportunity to hang out with the guys, he accepts.

* * * * *

The following afternoon I find myself in the hospital, one of my least favorite places on the ship.

“You’re sure about this?” Conner asks. He’s holding what I believe may be the biggest, sharpest needle in the history of the universe, and I have to admit that my answer almost waivers.

But then I nod. “Yeah. Cast, bad. Needle, good. And...huge.”

Ian smiles at the wide-eyed gaze of terror I’m making at Conner’s instrument of death and torture. “It’s not the size that matters,” he says, making a lame joke of what I feel is a very serious situation. “It’s how you use it.”

I shoot him an evil glare, and he quickly adds, “Oh, and also not tearing into a vein or artery – that’s important too because it makes blood spray everywhere and really hurts.” This invokes a return of the wide-eyed gaze of terror.

Conner pauses. “Ian, please,” he says, slightly annoyed at the nurse’s joke. “Devon, I want to reiterate that we don’t have to do this procedure if you don’t want it. The osteoblast formations on your fracture sites are ideal. Your body will heal naturally, and in time the bones will be almost as good as new. This compound is going to accelerate and maximize the healing process, and I recommend it, but it’s not necessary.”

I look over to a table in the corner of the exam room. My sky blue cast, now completely covered with signatures and well wishes, sits there, looking somehow smug for having successfully chained me down for the past four weeks. “The cast will go away if I get the shot?” I ask.

Conner nods. “Yeah. We do the shot, you’ll need to stay here for two hours and then you should be fine to leave without the cast. But I want to remind you that the process can be a little irritating to the affected areas.”

He’d explained all of this the week before when we’d set the appointment for the procedure. And then again last night when we’d grabbed a late bite in the cafeteria (ziti and strawberry shortcake!) When he explained it a third time earlier today, he’d been a little annoyed, but that was probably just because I showed up over two hours late.

I thought my reasons were good, as evidenced by a frowning Dog sitting sulkily in the corner. “This is cold,” he says, holding an ice pack against his wrist, which he’s cradling against his chest.

Ian is quick to responds in a joking, sarcastic manner. “Sorry, we’re all out of the hot, comfy ice packs. We just have those.” Dog frowns at the comment, and I feel bad for missing my appointment. Ian was forced to stay an extra couple of hours because I’d shown up late, and I think the loss of precious free time was making him uncharacteristically sarcastic.

The procedure I was now undergoing, performed by Doctor Conner and Nurse Ian, and witnessed by the wounded Dog, was simple enough. My arm and shoulder would be subjected to a series of injections around the fracture sites that would introduce a compound into the healing bones. It would expedite cell transformation and growth, and basically help my body perform months of healing in a matter of hours. The only drawback was that it could be an uncomfortable process.

It would also cause my body to burn through some vitamins and minerals as it repaired itself. Conner had put me on a diet of increased calcium and vitamin supplements, which for him had meant I take a lot of nasty tasting pills. For me it meant mac and cheese every night – heavy on the cheese.

Still, the thought of injecting stuff into my bones, especially the ones that had been consistently sore the past month, was alarming. This was probably why I’d lost track of time watching 6-wall in Bottomside, wondering if I’d ever get to play again. I’d been watching Dog cream Reid when he’d injured his wrist on a particularly daring play. It had reminded me of my appointment, and I’d hurried up here, Dog in tow whimpering about his hand. This had earned me a lecture from Ian about showing up on time, and Dog a lecture about being more careful in the gym.

I’d given Dog a bit of a hard time on the way up here. I was now regretting this because any show of timidity on my part would probably result in payback from the hurt boy. So I sucked it up. “Yeah. I’m sick of the fucking cast. Let’s do this.”

Conner nods, and then steps over to me with his huge-ass needle. I take a deep breath and look the other way, closing my eyes firmly. I feel Ian holding my arm steady, and then a slight pinch where he’s pressing my skin between the fingers of his latex gloves. They only examine the area, and then move on to my shoulder. I feel a similar pinch from Ian here, and then I take a deep breath, ready for the needlework to begin.

“Ok, all done,” Conner says.

I look at Conner and Ian curiously. “We don’t get to do the thing?” I ask. “I wanted to ditch the cast.”

“Um...I just did it, Devon,” Conner explains patiently.

“Yeah, we’re all done, bud,” Ian agrees. Apparently the slight pinching was the big, horrific deal I’d been afraid of.

“Really? That was...quick.” I’m not sure if I completely believe they’ve already administered the shot. But when Ian throws the empty syringe in a biohazard bin, I realize they’re being truthful.

Dog chimes in from the corner. “It probably helped that you were closing your eyes and scrunching up so tight. Jeez, I thought your head was going to explode.” He smiles at me, and then sticks out his tongue. Great. So much for avoiding an opportunity to be made fun of.

“So that’s it?” I ask. Conner confirms we’re done, now I just have to wait a couple of hours while the compound takes effect. And then I’ll be free of the cast and sling forever.

Dog decides to wait with me, wanting to ice his wrist a little longer. “I wish I’d brought some cards,” he says.

After twenty minutes I start to feel a tingling in my forearm and shoulder, as well as my lips. This was one of the common side effects, and it made me happy to know the compound was working. At forty minutes my arm feels sore along its entire length, another expected side effect. Dog tries rotating his wrist and winces in pain. “Too bad it’s the right hand. That’s the one you use for ‘Dog time,’ huh?” I joke.

He shrugs. “That’s what I have Sean for.”

“Lucky bastard,” I gripe.

When my wristcom reflects that I’m halfway through the waiting, I start to feel not-so-great. My arm really hurts – it feels like someone is running very coarse sandpaper over my bones. “This is kinda uncomfortable,” I say when Conner returns to the room to check on me.

He looks concerned, walking over to me to take my arm into his hands to look it over. “You have some pain?” he asks. I nod. “On a scale of one to ten, ten being agonizing, unbearable pain, where are we?”

“Ugh. Maybe a seven,” I wince.

“Ok, let’s give you something for that. I’ll be right back.” Conner leaves the room, returning a moment later with Ian.

“Not feeling so good?” Ian asks. I shake my head.

Conner instructs Ian in his doctorly voice. “I don’t really want to give him duramorph, but let’s get him some deltasone, just one unit should be good.”

“Yeah, ok,” Ian says, walking over to a supply cabinet and preparing some supplies. When he’s finished he presents me with a small plastic cup filled with a red liquid. “This should help,” he says kindly.

My arm throbs and I feel a little worse. “Yeah, ok. Thanks,” I say. “Just let me get a drink first.” When I stand I feel a little dizzy, but I collect myself and walk over to a small sink attached to the wall. I run some cool water in my right hand and then lift it to my lips, drinking slowly. I turn to look at my friends – Dog sitting in the corner looking bored, Conner looking through a file on his tablet computer, and Ian holding the medicine he’s prepped for me.

“Hey guys,” I say, feeling a distinct stabbing pain in my stomach and side. “Can we all agree to not make fun of me for this later?” The three boys look up at me curiously. I turn around, lean into the sink, and feel my insides churn as the entire contents of my stomach make their way up my throat and out of my mouth, landing with a sickening splat in the basin of the sink.

I hurl again, chunks of mac and cheese returning into the world and proving they’re only good the first time. When I’m done, I feel a little better. “Wow, that was gross,” I say.

Dog smiles, but Conner looks less amused. He walks over to me, placing a hand on my forehead. “It’s not uncommon for this procedure to cause nausea, but I’m a little concerned.”

I fill a plastic cup with water, swish some around in my mouth, then spit. “Nah,” I say, “It’s probably just all the mac and cheese I ate for lunch. But my arm is on fire.”

“Devon,” Conner says, a frustrated tone tingeing my name as he says it. I think I’m about to get into trouble for something. “Did you read the pre-op instructions? You weren’t supposed to eat after eight this morning.”

“Whoops.”

Ian shakes his head. “You’re an idiot sometimes.” He hands me the medicine, which I take. I can’t disagree with him, but he doesn’t have to be rude about it.

Eventually my stomach stops churning, my arm feels a little less on fire, and my energy levels return to normal. Conner checks me over one last time and then gives me the green light. “I think you’re okay. Message me if the nausea returns, but you look good.”

“I’m done with the cast?” I ask, hopeful.

He smiles. “Yeah. You want me to destroy it?”

I look over at the sad pile that is my former cast and sling. I’d hated being confined to the hospital for a week, and then I’d hated feeling like a cripple wearing the thing. It had itched, been generally annoying, and made my bedroom antics a test in creativity and endurance – and not in a good way. Still, I looked at the signatures and silly messages written all over the cast, a testament to the friendships I had developed on the ship. I don’t know, now that I was free of it, I felt a little nostalgic about it.

“Nah,” I answer. “I’ll keep it. I like the artwork.”

Dog complains about his wrist. While checking it for the twentieth time, Conner turns to me and says, “I’d like you to do some physical therapy, just to keep things from getting stiff. Ian and I do yoga Wednesday mornings. How about joining us? You too, Dog – the wrist is fine, but you could use a good stretch routine.”

I’m wondering how to decline politely when Dog speaks up. “That sounds cool,” he says. “You can never be too limber.” He shoots me a mischievous grin.

Conner immediately begins babbling about how great it will be to expand their yoga group, so I don’t have the heart to back out. I consider it – particularly when Dog and I are informed to meet them in F117 at six a.m. on Wednesday morning. Six a.m.? Six a.m.?! What the frell?

When my wristcom alarm vibrates me awake Wednesday morning at five-thirty, I consider shutting it off, shooting Conner a nasty email about having the decency to schedule yoga at a less ungodly hour, and going back to sleep. But then I sigh, suck it up, shake myself awake, and crawl out of bed, heading to the bathroom to splash some very cold water on my face.

Just as I’m trying not to scream in shock from the cold water, Reid comes into the bathroom.

“Everything okay?” he asks, looking sleepy.

The new customary greeting when running across me seemed to be “Everything okay?” This started after my accident, and while I didn’t mind the attention I was hoping things would start to go back to normal now that I was free of my cast. “Yeah,” I answer. “Conner has me starting some physical therapy this morning.”

“Wow,” he says, looking sleepily astonished. “That must have gone over well, having you report to the hospital this early. I don’t envy the crankiness that’s about to descend on him.”

I smirk at the insinuation that my crankiness is predictable like that. At best it’s erratic and completely inconsistent. “Actually, we’re doing yoga in F117. He says it will help my shoulder. But I think he mostly wants to expand his yoga group. He conned Dog into going too.”

Reid thinks about this for a moment, and then asks, “Hey, do you think I could come? I’ve been lifting more at the gym, and I don’t think I’m stretching enough. Yoga might help, but I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“Yeah, sure – it’s your funeral,” I reply before splashing some more frigid water on my still-sleepy face. “Crap, that’s cold!”

Reid and I dress, and then head one floor down to 22L6, Dog’s flat. I message him along the way, and he meets us in the hallway outside the main door to his flat, alone. “No Sean?” I ask.

He laughs, an abrupt mocking snort. “There’s no way I’d get him up this early,” he says. “Not even for a blowjob.” Then he seems to realize what he’s said and looks over to Reid. “Oops, sorry.”

Reid shrugs. “No problem, I can dig it.” And then he adds, “I’d get up at six for a blowjob.” Dog and I simultaneously arch our eyebrows at him. Reid blushes and clarifies, “You know, not from you. I mean...um...anyway.” He takes off, jogging out in front of us and takes a large leap that allows him to slap the underside of one of the columns dividing sections of the hallway. Dog and I laugh at his timidity.

F117 is a bit of a trek. We cut across the forward concourse, and then enter the dorm sections on the port side of the ship. From there we catch an elevator down into the lower areas. Because the gravity in the common areas is set to “pull” toward the center of the spherical ship, the elevator pauses once we reach our destination, flipping in a mechanical ballet that was slightly dizzying when we first came to live here, but was now quite routine. Dog yawns loudly while we wait for the elevator car to finish maneuvering. When we step out, we’re oriented 180 degrees from our original stance, but everything else is too, so there’s no notable difference for us.

We make our way through another series of hallways, Dog and I feeling a little lost but Reid saying he knows the way. We eventually locate F117. It’s 5:59 a.m. Hooray - right on time.

The farm is one of the smaller ones, basically a fifty by twenty meter space used to grow plants requiring beds, which sit in a square around an open patio area. This is where we find Conner and Ian, both dressed for yoga in athletic shorts and tanks, rolling out several rubber mats.

“Hey, there you guys are,” Conner says. “Hey Reid. Devon get you to tag along? Great, I have plenty of mats for everyone. We were just making a bet about you standing us up.”

“Who had money on us actually showing?” I ask, curious which of the two had faith that I could make it this early.

Ian looks a little uncomfortable, and says, “Actually, neither of us. I said you’d message right at six telling us you couldn’t make it, Conner said you’d wait until after six-thirty before flaking out.”

“Lame,” I say, picking up a dirt clod and tossing it in Ian’s direction. He deftly dodges the throw. “Wow, it’s warm in here.”

Conner finishes arranging his mat and picks up another, finding a place for it before unrolling it noisily. “They keep it at twenty-seven degrees in here. It’s good for the herbs. It’s also good for yoga – that’s why we practice down here. Plus it smells nice.”

He’s right. I breathe deep, the air is humid and warm, but smells of rosemary and thyme and basil. Looking around, I notice that almost all of the plants here are herbs used in cooking. And they seem to have gone wild, growing in colorful bushy clumps throughout the room. I observe movement between two large rosemary bushes and look closer. A pair of yellow eyes stare back at me.

“Hey, there’s a cat in here!” I exclaim. And there is – a tiny black cat with bright yellow eyes is hunkered down between the plants. Dog steps alongside me to see what I’m talking about, but has trouble spotting the hidden animal. I point it out to him.

“That’s L.B.,” Ian says.

“Elbie?” Dog asks. I start to wonder if my friend is going to take off in a mad dash towards the cat, living up to his namesake. Probably not, but it’s a funny image and I giggle.

“Yeah, we call her L.B. She lives here, or around here. We’re not sure, but she’s been coming here almost as long as we have – she likes the catnip. We feed her,” Ian explains. He reaches into a bag he’s brought and retrieves a small plastic container. When he opens it, L.B. darts out from her hiding spot, the sound of food being prepared apparently trumping any concerns she has about the newcomers to the yoga group. She dives into the food Ian puts down for her, munching away happily.

“She just roams wild?” Dog asks.

Ian shrugs. “I guess. We’re not sure. She’s probably supposed to be on one of the farms, but she seems to do fine on her own. We don’t really even know where she goes when she’s not here. She must get into the emergency access tunnels somehow.”

A silly picture forms in my head as I try to conceptualize what a cat farm might look like. I see images of my shipmates dressed in chaps and ten gallon hats, trying to work the cat ranch.

“Ok, we ready?” Conner asks. He’s finished rolling out five yoga mats, three in a row in front and two behind that. We all claim a mat, Conner in the front center with Ian to his left and Reid to his right. Dog sits on the mat behind Ian and I take the last one.

Conner turns to face us. “Ok,” he says, taking command of the class, “I assume none of you have ever done this before?” Reid, Dog and I shake our heads. “That’s not a problem,” he continues in an authoritative voice, “If you keep coming, we’ll get into some of the harder stuff – more strength and endurance building. But for today we’ll keep it light and easy. Devon, be really careful of your arm and shoulder. If anything hurts, let me know. Dog, same thing for your wrist.”

He goes on to explain the basics, about yogic breathing and movement. Once we seem to have that down, we begin. Conner swivels back around on his mat so that we’re all facing the same direction, then he launches us in a series of movements, starting with some basic side-stretching. They’re not overly strenuous, but I can feel where my body isn’t as limber as it should be, both from the injuries and because I’ve never done this type of exercise before. Reid really gets into it, asking for tips and pointers along the way.

We move into Warrior Pose, and then perform a series of Swan Dives. By the time we reach Extended Side Angle Pose, the three rookies are breathing more heavily, but through the nose as Conner insists. This is a light routine?

Reid keeps getting tangled in his shirt, and he’s starting to sweat. “Hold on a sec,” he says, taking a moment to shed the offending garment. Dog follows suit, revealing his lithe torso.

We move into Up Dog Pose, and it’s here that Dog and I discover that he and I have selected good mat positions. I look up, my back arching, to see that I have a really good view of the three front boys’ asses, muscles flexing tightly in their sheer workout shorts. I’m actually daydreaming a little about taking up bongo lessons when Dog coughs. I look over and he rolls his eyes, clearly having noticed me perving on my friends. I shrug, at least as best I can in Up Dog.

I soon learn that yoga can be sexy, even besides the hot flexing boys around me. My body responds to the stretching with increased blood flow and endorphins, and when Conner has us continuously slide from Down Dog into Up Dog, my boy parts rubbing along the mat feels pretty good. As per usual, I get a boner just as soon as I start thinking about my dick. This grows worse when Reid asks about a pose and Conner responds by helping Reid into the ideal position, running a hand over Reid’s round ass in the process. My dick throbs and goes up a little higher.

Dog seems to notice this, and a small game ensues. Whenever he’s relatively sure the others aren’t looking, he takes the opportunity to point out that I have a tent in my shorts, going so far during one pose as to reach over and pinch my ass firmly.

“Let’s make sure we focus on the breathing,” Conner says. We try not to giggle.

The Seated Forward Bend makes things worse. I hide my erection by pointing it down and wedging it between my legs. Bending forward hurts a little, but it also has the effect of thrusting my penis between my closed thighs. If feels good – a little too good, and I go from that point of being semi-erect to totally hard.

Camel Pose is therefore a challenge for me, since it would mean thrusting my groin forward, putting my tent on display for the entire world to see. I sit it out, saying I want to rest my shoulder. “You doing okay back there?” Conner asks, his body arched back in a loop so that his palms are resting on the soles of his feet.

“We’re good,” Dog replies, “It’s just a little hard.” He smirks at me, knowing the real reason I’m taking a break. I try not to laugh at his double entendre. Looking at Dog, whose long, lean body seems made for this pose, his abs and chest pulled into an impossibly long arcing stretch, I see the outline of his cock in his shorts, which is also hard. Because he points straight up, however, it’s reasonably well hidden from anyone who doesn’t know what to look for.

“I think it’s getting a little hard for Dog, too,” I say. Dog moves one of his hands off his foot in order to flip me off, a maneuver we now refer to as Aroused Angry Boy Pose.

Conner moves the group back into Cross-Legged Pose. “You guys okay? We can stop here if you need to. We’re about halfway through.”

Dog and I have both positioned ourselves so that if the other three boys were to look, our erections would be mostly hidden from view. But I’m getting more aroused by the exercises, and I know I’m going to start making a wet spot in my shorts soon. I think of a reasonable excuse to go splash some cold water on my bone. “Um...no, we can keep going. But I want to take a little break; my shoulder is just a little sore. Is there a bathroom in here?”

Ian answers, “Over in F119, right side.”

“We’ll do some breathing until you get back,” Conner says, instructing Reid through a series of deep, long nasal breaths.

I get up and head toward the exit, padding along rapidly so that my three straight friends won’t notice my condition. Dog excuses himself and walks toward the exit after me. Once we’re in the hall and out of earshot he takes the opportunity to make fun of me, jumping around alongside me and singing, “Devon’s got a boner! Devon’s got a boner!” like a little kid. My skinny friend hopping around wearing nothing by a pair of small shorts doesn’t help my predicament.

I interrupt Dog’s silly song. “You have one too,” I assert. “Yours is just easier to hide, which isn’t playing fair.”

“It’s really not,” Dog agrees, slipping his shorts an inch or two lower. The pink tip of his hard cock peeks defiantly out the top. “It’s how I got through middle school. Other guys would have to run off and hide; I’d just slip it in my waistband. But yoga – wow, who knew it would be so hot?”

I laugh. “I know, right? My body is, like, on fire right now. It feels so good.”

“No doubt.”

Dog and I locate the bathroom. I really do need to pee a little, but that’s probably an impossibility given my erection. I figure a couple of minutes thinking pure thoughts and I’ll be ready to get back to the yoga.

My friend seems to disagree with my strategy, or at least I’m forced to assume this is the case when, no sooner has the bathroom door closed behind me, he grabs me by the shoulder, spins me around and throws me against the wall, pressing his hot, naked chest against mine and bringing our lips together in a rough kiss.

Dog grinds his crotch into mine. I get more contact because of the way I point out rather than up, but he makes up for it by pressing into me harder. Dog surprises me with his boldness, but not too badly. Like Mike and Charlie, Dog had an established agreement with his boyfriend that allowed for certain activities, and this was one of them. Still, I’d never had much alone time with Dog, so the kiss gets me instantly sex-crazed.

Three seconds later, two pairs of athletic shorts and sports briefs have found themselves down around ankles, and two eager hands have wrapped themselves around turgid cocks. Dog leans into me as we stroke one another, biting at my ear and then whispering huskily, “You looked so hot in there. I almost fucking jumped you then and there.”

“You too,” I reply, stroking his dick a little harder and faster. “You’re so hot. I love your abs. Oh...oh...fuck...I want to cum all over them.”

Dog kisses me roughly, and then rubs his thumb vigorously over my tip. “Do it,” he says firmly. “Fucking come all over me. I want you smeared all over me.”

Dog’s dirty talk just about does me in. It’s so unlike his normal polite, boyish demeanor. We stroke harder and faster, our hands slipping on young, stiff dicks. The yoga had already got my body primed, and Dog is really good at this. It isn’t long before I’m ready to take him up on his offer.

“I’m...uh...almost there...almost...almost....” I feel my blood boiling down in my deep, secret places. I pull Dog tight into me, wrapping my right arm around his tight, firm ass and pressing him into me as hard as I can. He does the same, our stroking hands squeezed between our muscular stomachs, working our cocks as best we can in the cramped space. I slip over the edge and continue gasping, “...THERE!” I exclaim, moaning and grunting and gasping.

I eject a first shot of hot, sticky semen and deposit it on Dog’s lower tummy, just as he’d asked. A second spurt shoots out and hits him, and then I notice a hot sticky warmth in my pubic hair. Dog is whimpering and moaning too, having reached orgasm shortly after me.

We eject our loads against one another, bringing our lips together as we do. I feel the semen slide between our bodies, creating a slick of hot boy juice between us. When we pull apart, both of our lower tummies are coated in a thin, shiny film, globs of white here and there.

“Wow!” Dog exclaims, wide-eyed and gasping. “Yoga is awesome!”

I huff and pant as well. “Yeah it is!” I agree. “And you are too, Doggie. When’d you get so freaking hot?” It’s an earnest comment – Dog is hot, standing there lean and smooth and panting, his pants still around his ankles and our loads commingling on the skin of his tummy.

He blushes. “Thanks,” he replies. “Here, let me get you a towel.” He moves to find me some tissue, a funny waddling walk because of the way his shorts are sitting around his ankles. I get a really good view of his lean ass trying to keep him balanced.

I think back to the first time I’d witnessed Dog in a sexual situation. It inspires me. “No way,” I answer, pulling my pants up, letting them sit atop the sticky mess on my stomach. “I’m wearing your load for the rest of the workout.”

Dog turns to look at me, a little slack-jawed. His boner is still hard, but has begun to make its descent toward a flaccid state. He looks at the way I’ve just pulled my pants on over our mess, and then his erection twitches, a final glob of semen oozing out and dripping to the floor. “That’s so hot,” he says. I smile, knowing how much this seems to get him going.

We head back to F117, not wanting to be gone suspiciously long. We’re a little red-faced, and I smell the faint aroma of boy sex on me, but I don’t think anyone will notice. Back in class, Conner is keeping the others warm through some minor stretching. Very little time has passed, and no one seems to think anything of our brief absence.

“Shoulder okay?” Conner asks when we seat ourselves back on our mats.

“Yeah,” I answer. “I just needed to work it out a little.”

Dog shoots me a goofy grin, and then we join our friends in completing the workout. It really does make my arm feel looser and better, along with the other benefits my friend and I have discovered. From then on, we both often join the yoga group, although we do negotiate for some sessions at more reasonable hours.

* * * * *

Friday nights are always exciting, and this week it’s doubly so, even though I know that my usual reason for getting excited – namely sex play with my friends – wasn’t on the menu this week. But we were having two new guys join us, and the prospect that they might ultimately want in on the naked group activities had me eager and anxious, almost to an intoxicating extent.

It was because of this that I messaged Conner first thing Friday morning, reminding him about poker night, which in this case was really going to be a poker game. When he replied back, I discovered that he got off work early, as did I. And because Reid had canceled gym time for this afternoon – he wouldn’t admit it, but I wondered if yoga had left him sore – I found myself with some free time. When I mentioned this to Conner, he suggested we hang out, which led me to suggest a swim. He cheerfully agreed, and we met in The Commons after we’d had time to clean up and change after work.

“Good day at work?” Conner asks when we meet in the lobby, which is moderately crowded being a preferred hangout place on Friday nights.

I am clopping along in a pair of flip-flops that are slightly too large for my feet, a blue towel hanging over my arm. “Yeah, pretty good,” I reply, “I think I ruined the soup, though. It was ok, but a little weird.”

Conner laughs. “Yeah, I wondered. I never...um...saw anyone put figs in tomato soup before.” We walk through the starboard concourse towards the elevator bank that leads down into the wet farm.

I shrug. “I had all these figs, and I couldn’t let them go bad. It was an experiment. Like I said, it wasn’t terrible, but...”

“...but at least it wasn’t Tuesday Tuna Surprise,” Conner finishes my sentence for me.

I playfully punch him in the shoulder as we enter the elevator. “You know what?” I ask feistily, punching a button for the lower floor we want, “That was a one-time thing. And yes, the tuna casserole turned out more like tuna rice pudding, but I think I’m a way better cook now.”

I’m not truly offended, although I have to admit that everyone bringing up that particular culinary mistake is getting annoying. Conner seems conscious of this, and rather than continue jesting opts to stoke my ego. “You really are,” he says kindly. “I’m still dreaming about that dinner you made. And oh my god, that pumpkin pie last week.”

I’d made a rustic pumpkin pecan pie for dinner one night. It had taken me all day – I’d made about two hundred pies, although Zane helped. There was little wonder that Conner, whose favorite dessert flavor was pumpkin, took to it. “Thanks,” I reply.

We arrive at the appropriate floor and make our way to the end of the hall, where the entrance to one of the largest farm areas is. Entering, we’re greeted by cool, wet air that has that oh-so-alluring tang of salt on it.

Area W4 is massive, taking up a sizable portion of one of the largest floors on the ship. It’s tall too, the other farms on the levels around it were stacked three or four high to W4’s single floor. W4’s size was for good reason – it acted as a gigantic aquarium that housed several species of whale, all of whom needed the space to swim and eat and breed while we transported them across the stars.

For me, and to some extent Conner, W4 had become a gigantic swimming pool, one that I preferred because it was the closest thing to the ocean on the ship. I loved the salt water, both the way it felt when you were swimming in it and how it made my skin feel afterwards. I also liked that it was cooler than the pools for human use, kept right around eighteen degrees.

I walk over to the computer controls for the farm, a small monitor and keyboard sitting next to the short ramp leading down into the water on the shallow end of the tank. I always like to check things out when I come in here; it may sound silly, but I’d made friends with one of the whales – a minke whale we’d named Beau. I’d taken a special interest in making sure the creatures on this farm flourished.

“How’s the water today?” Conner asks, stepping up behind me. I can hear him slipping off his t-shirt and shorts, preparing for our swim.

I look over the stats. “Really good,” I answer. PH is good, oxygen is at prime levels, nutrients look good. Beau is way the fuck over in the back corner. Let’s check in on him.” I pull up the status screen for Beau specifically, and we see a computerized outline of his familiar shape pop up on the screen.

Conner looks over the numbers. He’s a medical doctor, and I assume a lot of the info looks familiar. “Check it out,” he says, pointing to the area of the screen displaying Beau’s current brain activity. “See how one side is active and the other is almost flat?” He points to two scrolling EEG charts, one for each side of Beau’s brain.

“Yeah,” I reply, seeing what he means. One EEG line is somewhat active, the other is barely moving at all. “Is that normal?” I ask.

“Totally normal,” Conner says. “He’s sleeping. Letting one side of the brain relax while the other stays awake keeps him from drowning.”

“That’s so cool,” I reply. I’d never thought about how Beau slept before. I make a mental note to do some reading about it. I notice that he’s located near a very specific spot in the tank. “I bet I know what would wake him up,” I say, accessing the tank controls on a second monitor. I check a few things, and then punch in some commands.

The console beeps, indicating that the machinery is operating correctly. Although we can’t see or hear anything from our position, deep within the tank robotic mechanisms work away. Just on the other side of the wall from where Beau is resting, hundreds of long clear tubes are stored on a pulley system extending the length of the farm, something that looks like a gigantic rack of science beakers stored underwater. Each tube is sizable, though – about twenty meters in length – and acts as a smaller version of the aquarium we’re in now.

A robotic arm moves into position to pull the tube I’ve selected out of its storage slot. It then carries it along the wall, ultimately arriving at a port near the spot where Beau is sleeping. The tube is pressed into the port, a seal confirmed, and then the computer opens the tube to the main tank, the robotic arm applying pressure from one end so that the tube’s contents are forced into the main tank, in this case water and several hundred herring.

“That got his attention!” Conner exclaims. I look over to see that, indeed, Beau’s EEG has changed, the little lines on both charts dancing around excitedly.

“He loves herring. I think it’s his mac and cheese.” And it was true, the guy was as nuts for them as I was for cheesy pasta goodness. On the other side of the wall, the robotic equipment returns the tube to its storage spot. It will be cleaned, filled with water, and restocked with fertilized roe over the next couple of hours.

“I’m glad we got whales. My friend from Seattle – this tank on their ship is filled with great white sharks,” Conner says thoughtfully.

“Wow,” I reply, “that would make swimming way more...bitey.”

“Totally. Maybe something like...this!” Conner takes advantage of me staring at the monitors to get his hands in under my radar – he lands ten wriggling fingers right on my ribs, sending me into an immediate fit of tickling-induced spasms.

“Whoa, heh heh, ok, enough, ha, wait...uncle!” I cry out, hoping this will get him to stop. It does, and without saying anything Conner looks me in the eye, sticks his tongue out at me, and then makes a dash for the water’s edge, deftly diving into the tank.

I’m still wearing clothes over my suit, so I have to pause before following him. “You are so going to get it...” I threaten as I undress. When I’m down to my suit I jump in, the cool salty liquid enveloping my body in a sensation that is slightly shocking, but then very comforting.

There’s almost nothing like a swim to get me in a good mood, and this is the case today. We splash around for a while, sticking primarily to the area at the head of the farm where the water depth decreases to about five feet before dropping off a ledge into the main tank. And then I retrieve some body boards we store here, and we swim out to the far end. Beau finds us, breaking the surface in what I take to be a show of appreciation for the fish.

Time seems to pass differently when swimming here, and although the water is relatively warm, equivalent to the ocean at San Diego in May, it isn’t long before my fingers are wrinkly, my toes feel a little numb, and my balls have pulled up as far into my body as they can go – poor guys.

When Conner and I climb out of the water, it’s almost nine. We retrieve our dry clothes, first shedding the wet swimsuits. Although I’m not one for modesty, on this occasion I turn around, not really liking it when people see my assets after a swim. I don’t care about size that much, but I’m still a gay guy – if I’m going to show it off, let it be after sunbathing while having a semi-arousing dream or something.

“Wow, this was a good idea – I feel great,” Conner says. I pull shorts up over my bare ass and then turn, zipping them up as I do. Conner is already fully dressed somehow, his usual cargo shorts and raglan tee covering his lean frame. I don’t think I’ve seen him in this shirt before – it’s an athletic cut in dark grey with black sleeves, but this one has a white swirling tattoo pattern on the sleeves. It’s a little hipper than Conner’s normal, plainer shirts.

“Yeah, I love the way I feel after a swim, especially in salt water.” I notice how the cut of the shirt makes Conner’s wide shoulders appear even wider, and his torso longer. “Hey, nice shirt,” I comment.

Conner looks down at his chest, as if surprised I’d notice what he was wearing. “Thanks,” he says, running a hand down his chest, smoothing the cotton fabric out. “It’s new. Charlie made it for me, actually. I think because I told him mine were getting ratty. He’s a really nice guy.”

“Yeah, he’s really sweet,” I confirm.

Conner and I make our way to the dorm areas, wet towels bundled under our arms and flip-flops clacking away on the hard floor. When we reach the forward concourse, Conner turns to me and says, “Hey, I want to thank you for inviting me tonight. Truthfully, I’ve been so busy studying and working lately that I hardly have time to hang out with friends. In fact, I think that goes all the way back to launch. I always knew med school would be...tough, I just didn’t know it would be like this.”

Conner does seem like he lives, eats and sleeps his studies. He takes time to hang out with me occasionally, but that’s only the odd afternoon here and there. Usually he’s to be found in his office at the hospital, either on shift or studying. “You’re welcome,” I reply. And then I add, “You’re a great doctor, Conner. I know it’s been a lot of work. I hope I expressed that I don’t know what it would have been like if you hadn’t been there when I got hurt. Zane and the guys say so too – the way you were with them that first night. I really can’t thank you enough.”

Thinking about all that Conner had done for me makes me a little emotional. Almost involuntarily, I slow my pace and reach over to give him a firm hug. He stiffens up, caught off-guard by my physical show of appreciation, so I make it a short one, letting him go and continuing our trek to the dorms.

When we reach the middle of the concourse we exit the main room and walk the short hallway to a bank of elevators, which we then take to Area 24. Exiting the lift, we’re greeted by the cool air and dim light of the unoccupied floor.

“This isn’t your floor, is it?” Conner asks.

I realize that he’s never been to the unoccupied flat. I’d become so accustomed to using it that I sometimes forget our use of it isn’t exactly official or sanctioned. “Actually, we have a flat on this floor we’ve sort of...taken over, I guess. I don’t really remember why, it just happened over time.”

This isn’t exactly true – I remember precisely why. Charlie had first started coming here as an alternative to our more crowded flat, and eventually it came to serve as HQ for our wank club. He and Mike now practically lived in the second bedroom, and I’d taken to sleeping in the third on occasion. The fourth room served as a workshop for Charlie’s clothing business, although it was mostly empty now that he had his shop. The fifth bedroom was largely unused, although I swore I caught Sean and Dog sneaking in there one night, probably for some private boy time.

“That’s so cool,” Conner replies. “I wish I’d known earlier. You have no idea what it’s like trying to cram four years of college into six months, especially when you have all these stupid, noisy roommates. Sometimes I practically live in my office, and you have no idea how sick I am of those nasty yellow walls.”

“Aha!” I exclaim. “I knew someone else had to hate them. I kept saying how gross they were when I was in the hospital, and everyone kept looking at me like I was a weirdo.”

We come to 24E5 and enter, making our way to the living room. Although the flat wasn’t fully occupied, the atmosphere was quite different from that first night I’d found Charlie here. Bit by bit, possessions had made their way into the room, and in typically boyish fashion they’d ended up strewn everywhere. Three or four cartons were sitting next to the doorway to Charlie’s work room, probably filled with prototypes he wanted to show us. Zane had dragged a twenty kilo bag of soil up here and left it sitting next to the couch – nobody knew why. But perhaps the biggest difference was the temperature. Where most unoccupied rooms were kept right at fifteen degrees, Mike had used his position in engineering to set this particular flat to twenty-two, explaining that he was tired of cold toes in the morning. Poor guy. I told him I’d suck on them for him, along with anything else that was cold, but he still had the temperature raised.

The flat is quiet and empty. We didn’t really have a designated meet time tonight, although I knew that Zane was working a little late, scheduled to help through the entire dinner rush.

“You guys hang out here every Friday?” Conner asks.

I sit down on the couch, slipping my feet out of my flip-flops. “Yeah,” I answer. “We play poker, goof off, and drink sometimes, amongst other things.” I think about those other things, which included hand jobs, blowing each other and lately a profusion of anal sex. My dick twitches.

We hadn’t exactly perfected a method of inviting new members into the club. Nick had been the only one to join since the first time, and that had happened because he’d somehow known what we were up to and blatantly asked to get in on the sex play.

Conner always struck me as shy, and perhaps a little proper, so I planned to use tonight to introduce him to the group. Later I’d explain the extent to which we were all friends, and offer to let him either join in or just hang with us other times. Either way, I hoped we could help the guy expand his social activities. Being a doctor on this ship was a lot of work, and also a little lonely.

“That’s cool,” Conner says. “My roomies are pretty dull. I wasn’t close friends with any of them back at school, but I knew Eden. We got assigned shit detail together early on, and became okay friends. But then my medical stuff took off and he was elected – we barely see each other anymore.”

“That’s too bad,” I reply.

Conner shrugs. “Not really. Eden is a great guy, but he’s also a little weird. Occupied with his work all the time, you know? He was like that at school too, all he was ever into was politics and business and all. We don’t really have a lot in common.”

We chat, and when we’ve been sitting for fifteen minutes without anyone else arriving, I suggest showing Conner around. I particularly want to show off the “meeting room,” where Charlie and I spent a lot of time recently working to get the adjustable bunks back into a configuration that Zane had seen fit to mess up. They were now arranged in a circular formation that created a ring of seating in the middle of the room. We’d even improved on our original design, bringing some additional bunks up around the ring and manipulating their shape and height so that a king-sized bed sat on either side and behind, lifted high enough to give the illusion that the heads of the couches transitioned seamlessly into the surface of the beds. It was awesome, if things got hot while you were fooling around on the couch you could just roll right up into bed – perfection!

I lead Conner to B-Room, open the door and flick on the light.

As it turns out, the problem wasn’t that we’d arrived too early, it was that we’d arrived after the others, and therefore apparently missed out on whatever led to the scene in front of us.

“Um...oops,” is all I can say.

Quite a sight greets Conner and me. AJ, the shy boy who wanted to come tonight under the condition that everything remained non-sexual, is seated at the far end of the ring, completely naked and erect. At least, I assume he’s erect – I don’t have a good view of his cock since Charlie is attached to it by the mouth. Mike is sitting on the other side, stroking the new boy’s chest gently. He’s wearing a t-shirt but nothing else, his curved boner arcing gracefully out from under the yellow fabric of the shirt, where Charlie is dressed solely in a pair of green briefs. Nick is seated up on the new bed-ledge, naked and stroking his large erection.

“Um...oops,” I say again, rather lamely. Mike and AJ look up at us, noticing the two newcomers in the doorway. I flash Conner a graceless and inelegant smile, shrugging my shoulders as if to say “Well, what can you do?”

Conner looks from my stupid grin to the group and then back at me again, shaking his head. “Gross,” he states calmly and coldly, heading back into the living room.

I follow him. “Look, Conner,” I say. He doesn’t acknowledge me, and continues walking for the exit to the flat. I don’t really want him to leave until he gives me a chance to explain. “Hey, wait up,” I speak again. He spins around and looks directly at me, clearly angry. I notice that his green eyes seem considerably less friendly when he’s annoyed, suddenly they remind me of the hue of a very unfriendly lake on a cold fall night.

“What?” he asks in a voice even more glacial than before. It sends a shiver down my spine, and I realized I’m going to have to really dig to get myself out of this one.

“Look,” I explain, “it wasn’t supposed to be like that. You weren’t supposed to walk in on that. I’m sorry.”

Conner folds his arms and shifts from side to side. His mouth is pursed and I feel like I should continue apologizing and explaining in circles, but he takes up the conversation. “And what was I supposed to walk in on? What exactly were you planning tonight, Devon?”

I look at the door nervously. I know that the guys in the room can probably hear everything we’re saying out here, particularly since Conner’s voice is raised. I walk toward the rear of the flat and motion for Conner to follow me. He stays put so I make a firmer gesture and he gives in, clearly reluctant to do so.

We enter Charlie’s room and I close the door. I don’t really know where to start, but I guess answering his question is a good place to begin. “Some of us have a club,” I explain, “and we fool around. I thought that might, umm, interest you.” My words are completely ineffective. I could have said almost anything else and gotten a better reaction.

“You thought it might ‘interest me’? It’s completely disgusting.” I’ve never seen my friend earnestly mad before, so this angry, annoyed Conner is foreign to me.

“No, Conner, it’s not like that,” I say, trying to clarify. “It’s just play, you know? I mean, I don’t know what to say about it.” Conner’s stance is hostile and aggressive, and I’m not great with hostile and aggressive, to be honest.

“Well, I do know what to say. I’m not stupid – you invite me down here for cards, maybe some drinks, then you and your stupid friends were going to pretend the whole evening took a sexual turn unexpectedly, right? And I get to be the clueless new guy who is led on until we all end up screwing. Does that about sum it up?”

Wow, he has our number. That is how we usually do it, but in all fairness it wasn’t the plan for tonight. I shift around uncomfortably and look ashamedly at the floor. “No, not at all,” I say, speaking about ten times quieter than he is. “There wasn’t supposed to be any nudity tonight. AJ is new too, and we were just going to all hang out. I was going to tell you later that sometimes we fool around.”

Conner’s face lightens a little, but not much. “I’m not sure I can believe that, Devon.”

I feel like he’s listening now at least, even if he’s not exactly buying it. “It’s totally true, Conner – I’d never try to trick you. Our club thing, I know it’s weird, but life on this ship is weird, and it just sort of...evolved. I won’t lie – we fool around. Pretty much like what you just saw. It’s a great release, and it’s made us all closer friends.”

Conner looks dubious, but less angry. “It’s kind of disgusting, Devon.”

I sigh deeply, about as deeply as I can. “No, it’s really not,” I say. “Or maybe it is. I don’t know. I really like it, and being close to the guys like that feels...great. It’s hard to explain.”

“I can see how it would be nice to be close to someone,” he says slowly, and then he seems to get angry again. “But I’m not sure...like that...yuck...I mean, how many guys do you sleep with?”

It’s my turn to be a little offended. I don’t like his attitude, and I try to indicate this by putting a little chill in my voice. “That’s not any of your business,” I say. And it wasn’t, especially if he was going to be all preachy about it.

“Well, I think it is, a little,” he says. “We’re supposed to be friends, but you kept this whole part of your life secret. I knew you were gay, Devon, I just didn’t expect...I don’t know what I expected.”

I take advantage of him being a little calmer. “I know the group aspect may seem, I don’t know...weird, but we really do have fun together. It makes life on the ship seem better.”

“I guess,” he says skeptically.

“And maybe I should have told you everything before inviting you. I’m not really good at this sort of thing. I see you working so hard, studying all the time. It seemed like maybe fooling around would be good for you.”

“Oh?” he replies, somewhat indifferently.

I sit down on Charlie’s bed, which is strewn with blankets and sheets. I pick one up by the corner and twirl it between my fingers. “Yeah, totally,” I say. “Zane is crazy good at sex. We could toss you two into a room, and then two hours later – poof! – a totally relaxed Conner emerges, ready to take on another day. Trust me – he does it for me every time.”

I laugh at my joke, but stop when I look up to see that Conner is not amused. He looks angrier than ever, and I’m about to ask what I said wrong. Before I can he says, “That’s really offensive, Devon. I don’t appreciate being talked about like that behind my back, especially by you.”

“I never...” I start to say, but Conner cuts me off.

“And I knew you were up to something, you know? The way you prance around the ship. I just didn’t know that you were so fucking dirty.” He grows louder as he rants, and paces. I realize that I hadn’t been pacifying Conner with my words, just making him angrier. I’ve gone from explaining myself to taking a complete Devon bashing. I may deserve it, to be honest.

“The fact that you feel like you can treat me like you have tonight says a lot about you. You think you can just push me into bed with Zane – it’s obscene, and gross. I mean…Zane? He’s so rancid, yuck. I’m just so fucking annoyed by you right now. I knew you were immature, but I didn’t know that you fucked everyone you knew. I didn’t know you were such a fucking slut.”

And that about does it for me for the evening.

My emotions are usually sitting just below the surface. It’s good to be able to tap into them. And then other times it’s a problem, because it doesn’t take much to make them spiral out of control, which is exactly what happens when Conner admonishes me.

“That’s not fair,” I protest, and despite trying to control myself I feel the first tears roll down my cheeks. “If you don’t like what I get up to, that’s fine, but you don’t need to call me names. Maybe I do fool around a lot, but I like my friends, and I like messing around with them. It’s not disgusting to me. I like making them feel good.”

Conner looks slightly remorseful over what he’s said, and maybe I should stop speaking here, but I don’t. I continue, “And Zane isn’t rancid. He’s sweet. He’s nicer to me than anyone’s ever been. If I ever need him, he’s right there for me. Where are you all the time? We barely ever hang out, and I know if I really needed you the medical stuff would totally take precedence.”

I’m not sure what I’m saying is true or makes much sense – I’d just recently had it out with Zane because he hadn't been there when I needed him, and in fairness Conner had. But I’m hurt and angry about his comments, and rubbing my friendship with Zane in his face seems like a good idea, even though I know deep down it’s not.

Conner looks furious, and then hurt, and then furious again. “You know what, Devon, I tried to be a good friend to you, but obviously I failed. I don’t know why you thought it was a good idea to trick me into this whole poker night thing. And you’re right; I have to work really hard just to keep my head above water. If I don’t people might die – you might have died. I thought you understood that, and I thought you liked me. I was obviously wrong.”

“Conner, I...” And I stop there. I don’t know what else to say.

Conner takes a deep breath, and then seems like he’s about to start speaking but doesn’t. A full minute passes before he says anything, and when he does his words sound terse and measured. “Look, I think the best thing is for me to leave,” he says. “I feel really betrayed by you, and I don’t think I can overcome that. Maybe we’re just too different from each other. Just leave me alone from now on, Devon – stay away from me.”

This pronouncement is unexpected, and I don’t know how to react. Conner waits a minute to see if I’ll say anything, and when I don’t he silently turns to leave the room and, presumably, walk out of my life.

A monumental sense of loss settles slowly onto my shoulders, encompassing me like a vicious black shadow. A new wave of tears arrive, and I lie on my side, letting them streak across my face and drip onto Charlie’s pillow. I can smell his scent dancing faintly on the fabric of the pillowcase, and it makes me feel a little better.

I was a total screw-up, that was for sure. I’d blown things with Sneak by being too aggressive, then I’d almost totally fucked things up with AJ before moving on to wreck my friendship with Conner – one of the most important friendships in my life.

About five minutes after Conner leaves, I hear the door to the bedroom open. I look up to see Charlie, Mike and Nick stepping into the room, now wearing pants, although Nick and Charlie are still topless. I consider how hot the guys all look, and then I feel bad, remembering Conner calling me a slut. Maybe I am.

Mike walks to the bedside, and then gets down on his knees so that he’s at my level. He moves very slowly, wary for the slightest indication I don’t want him here. Charlie moves into position next to his boyfriend, reaching out to stroke my blue bangs once he’s also seated.

“Needless to say, that didn’t go so well,” I comment dryly, resorting to my old, reliable sarcasm to help me through this conversation. My voice sounds soaked with sadness, and a little hoarse.

Charlie speaks to me softly. “Devon, we’re really sorry. I mean, about being like that when you came in. We were all okay with the ‘no nudity’ thing, but then AJ got to asking about the club, and things got...out of control, I guess.”

I sigh deeply. “It’s not your fault. I shouldn’t have invited Conner. Or I should have told him about the sex. I just didn’t think about how he might react to, well, you know.”

“Yeah, but I don’t think the orgy helped,” Charlie says.

I laugh, just a little, but it feels good after the relentless rush of negative emotions. “Yeah, not really. Still, it was hot to me. So don’t take Conner’s criticism as meaning anything.” I tussle Charlie’s hair, just to show there really are no hard feelings between us. “Did AJ leave?” I ask, concerned that the whole fight with Conner might have messed things up with him too.

“Nah,” Nick replies from the doorway. “He’s in the bedroom still, I think waiting for round two. For all the precautions, he sure didn’t wait long before losing his pants.”

I look at Charlie and Mike, who are both clearly concerned. Their eyes are large, pupils dilated in the dim light of the room. They look like gay anime angels, actually – two totally hot boy bookends sitting side by side. “That’s good,” I say to Nick, then my mind wanders back to the issue at hand. “I can’t believe how bad I screwed things up with Conner. He was a great friend. I should have known better than to have invited him here.”

“I don’t know,” Mike says, “you couldn’t have known he’d react like that. Conner is pretty laid back, it’s weird he was so offended.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I say. “I just feel like such a worthless loser. Maybe Conner is right, maybe all I do is spend my time looking for new hookups. Maybe I really am a bad friend.” I sniffle, and some snot leaks out of my nose onto the pillow. I notice that between mucus and tears I’ve left a considerable damp spot. I look at Charlie apologetically. “Oops, sorry,” I say.

“It’s ok,” he chuckles, and then adds, “It’s not the first deposit you’ve left on my pillow.” This gets a wan smile from me. Charlie takes my hand in his, and then he says, “Hey guys, I need to talk to Devon alone for a minute, if you don’t mind. Here, Devon, come with me.”

He stands, tugging on my hand. Without saying anything I get up, and let him lead me out of the room. I’m surprised when he leads me by the hand to the flat’s bathroom. The lights come on when we enter, white and unbearably bright. Charlie pauses in the doorway to turn them down, reducing the light to a comfortable level before pulling me along once again.

He leads me through the communal shower, and then past the private shower stalls. In the rear of the bathroom we come to a small offset area separated by a tiled wall and curtained doorway. Inside we find a small sink next to a yellowish plastic bench that folds down from the wall, along with the one bathtub in the flat.

“Does this place hold any special meaning for you?” Charlie asks. I’m confused; I have no idea what he’s talking about.

“Well,” I make a stab in the dark, “I was in the showers here when I decided to sneak into bed with you and Mike.”

Charlie shakes his head. “No, I mean this room.” His words are slow and deliberate. I can tell he’s very serious. “Does this room in particular have any special meaning for you?”

I’m slightly frustrated. “No, sorry. It doesn’t Charlie; at least I don’t think so. I don’t know what you mean.”

He pulls the bench down from the wall, snapping it into place before sitting slowly. “It shouldn’t,” he says, “But in another world it has a special meaning for me. Do you remember the night that you found me sleeping down here?”

I nod. I know he’s referring to the first night I’d come here, when Charlie had been drunk and sleeping it off in the other room. That was the first night we’d fooled around, although it was mostly me doing the fooling.

“I never told anyone this, and I probably never will – not even Mike. I need you to promise that you’ll never share this, Devon – no matter what.” I nod again, not sure what else to say. Charlie and I have an established trust, and he knows that I’ll keep my promise, just as I know he’d keep one for me if I asked.

“That night, when I was drunk like that, that was supposed to be the night before I killed myself.”

Charlie’s words are shocking, and my eyes widen in response. He continues, “What I’m about to say is totally true, I want you to understand that. I’m not exaggerating or making anything up just to prove a point. I would never do that, you know?”

“I do.” My voice is dry and quiet in the empty room.

“That was a different time. God...it feels like such a long time ago. It was hard. I didn’t have any close friends. My roommate from school, Harrison, was my only real friend there. He was away the weekend we evacuated. Back then I thought he’d died – this was before we had complete manifests, so I didn’t know he’d made it aboard another ship. I felt totally alone and depressed, and all I could do was think about what had happened, and how many people had died. And how there wasn’t a future for me here.”

“I’m sorry,” I say meekly, feeling genuine pain for my friend.

He reaches out and takes my hand. “I know you are, Devon, and you’re the one who changed everything for me. But before that, before I knew you, I was just lonely. I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to end it...here. It was during that god-awful heat wave, remember?”

Again I nod. Charlie says, “I don’t know, something about that day did it for me. It wasn’t the heat. It wasn’t you guys. I don’t know, I just felt...off. And it made me sure of something – I wanted to end my life. I decided that by the end of the weekend I would be dead.”

It’s hard to hear this. I want to ask him to stop, but I sense this confession is as much for him as it is for me. “I already had everything I needed,” he says, standing. “I brought it up here with me that night.”

Charlie opens a small cabinet above the sink. In it sits a silver razor and some surgical tubing. Given the conversation, I don’t have to ask why they’re here. “I feel really stupid now, trust me. I hope we can forego a lecture. That’s a part of my life I’ve put away...forever. But back then – it ate at me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, obsessing about slitting my wrists and watching the blood seep out, my life slipping away and everything feeling better.” He turns his wrists upward and holds them out toward me; they’re uncut, of course, but I can’t help seeing an image of them sliced and bleeding.

“Charlie...” I say pleadingly, shaking my head, trying to convey that I want him to stop talking.

He interrupts me. “I want you to hear this part. I’m sorry, Devon, but I need you to hear this. Because in another world – in some alternate timeline – I never show up again after that night. I’m eventually missed, of course. My wristcom is tracked, leading to the place next to Beck’s computer where I left it. A search is made. Chris and Peter joke about how hard they’re going to pound my ass when I’m found drunk, sleeping it off somewhere quiet.

“This reminds Beck that I like to wander up to the unoccupied floors. He mentions this, and the search begins on this floor. Each flat is checked, and then each room. Someone comes into this flat...it’s quiet, and dark, and like all the others.

“Someone enters the bathroom – maybe it’s you. The smell is...off, but you don’t really notice. You check the showers and the stalls – they’re empty. Annoyed, you come back here. When you open the curtain, you find me. My body is lying there, in that tub. I’m pale and cold. You look into my open eyes – they’re lifeless and glazed over, like a car window on a December morning...”

“Charlie, stop! Please!” I beg. I’m not surprised to find that tears are streaming down my cheeks again, the image of my friend pale and dead too horrific for me to deal with. Charlie’s face is also stained, two lines extending down his cheeks where tears are now falling.

He walks over to me, again taking my hand into his. Our eyes meet and I gaze into his, those deep brown eyes that have always been kind and gentle and slightly sad. I see more mournful now than I’ve noticed before. “I’m sorry, Devon. I don’t want to hurt you, but I want you to know. That universe, the one where you find me like that, it never happened. You need to know why.”

“Ok,” I say, sniffling.

“It was you. And I think you know that, I think you’ve always known that. That night when I was drunk – what could have been my last night alive – you came and found me. I woke up that night, and there you were, feeling me up like it was going out of style....”

“Charlie, I’m sorry about that,” I say. And I was – now. I’d never have fooled around with him if I’d known he was that fragile at the time.

“No, no, no,” he says in a reassuring voice. “That’s not the point. That night, when you did that, it changed things. It changed me. You made me curious, Devon. I mean – I had to be, right? Waking up and finding this boy jerking me off, and jerking himself, it was...unexpected.

“The next day, I thought about you. I spent all day wondering why it had happened, and what it meant. I thought about you, and about what kind of friend you might be. I wondered if you did that with Reid and Patrick, or if you had some sort of thing for me.

“The point is, I didn’t think about suicide that day.” He points to the implements in the cabinet, and then closes the door. “At least, I didn’t think about them in that way. Ever again. You got me thinking about you, and then the night after the party...life changed. I changed, mostly because of you.”

Charlie steps over to me, standing inches away. He reaches up and runs his fingers through my bangs, perhaps thinking about how they’d been brown the night I’d first played with him, not blue as they were now. “You’ll never have to worry about finding me like that, Devon. Not ever. I want you to know that. I want you to feel how full of life I am now.”

Charlie leans over, and then kisses me. Not a peck, nor a kiss on the cheek. He kisses me, taking my mouth deeply into his, moving his body up against mine. I part my lips and feel him, taste him, touch him. It’s not a sexual kiss, but it’s more intimate than most any kiss I’d ever shared. Charlie slips his tongue between my lips, meeting mine and gently caressing me. There’s a tangy taste to him, and a salty residue from the tears on our lips. Our mouths locked together, I do sense how full of life he is. I can feel his heart beating deep in his chest, and I can taste the life on his lips.

When we break our embrace a full minute later, I’m reluctant to do so. Charlie takes my hand once again. He sighs deeply. “I don’t know if bringing Conner here without explaining everything in advance was right, Devon. But I do know that who you are – that boy who is always so curious and mischievous and ready to fool around – is the sole reason I’m still here. I don’t want you to ever change, or to feel sorry for being true to who you are. You saved me, truly. Maybe knowing about this place will help you understand how much you mean to your friends, especially to me.”

I smile at my friend, glad for his counsel. “Thanks,” I say, hugging him. “It really does.”

He squeezes my hand. “I’m sure things with Conner will work out, you’ll see. He’s a good friend to you, Devon. I’m sure he didn’t mean whatever he said.”

I sigh. I appreciate Charlie’s perspective, but I’m not sure he’s right. Conner seemed rather like he did mean those things. Still, I nod. “We should get back,” Charlie says, “I’m not sure I trust Mike around AJ. He gets so randy if there’s a new dick to blow – that kid, I swear.” I laugh – I’m pretty sure Charlie has no problem with Mike’s randiness.

We walk out of the bathroom together, feeling a certain glow from the conversation. A couple of weeks later, I return to the bathtub stall and look in the cabinet again, finding it empty. I never see Charlie’s suicide tools again, nor do I ever ask about them. I understand that our talk transformed the room, and that instead of a place of tragedy it became a place where Charlie Barrett and Devon Chasen shared a special moment, and kissed, and knew that they would be brothers until the day they died, which would be a long, long ways away.

When we enter the living room, we find that Zane and Dog have arrived. From their concerned expressions, I assume Mike or Nick have told them about Conner. I feel better, but I’m hoping I don’t have to relive the evening over and over.

“Hey,” Zane says, his expression showing concern. “You okay?”

I shrug. “Not sure,” I say quietly. “I probably should have been more upfront with Conner, but I didn’t think he’d be so offended I was gay, or about the group. Sorry guys, I screwed that one up, and I guess it might make things awkward for you too.”

Zane puts a hand on my shoulder. “I’m really sorry things went badly, Devon. This may not be the time to say this, but I don’t think Conner was bothered by you being gay.”

“No, he really was - he said as much. And you know what? Screw him,” I reply.

Zane sits in the oversized chair next to us and looks a little unsure of what to say next. It’s an unusual expression for someone who mostly talks without thinking.

“Look, Devon, I don’t really know how to say this. But it’s like, sometimes you don’t always see things that maybe you should. Usually I try to let you discover them for yourself, but maybe this time I shouldn’t. And maybe this is a private conversation.” He eyes the others in the room – Charlie, who’d come out of the bathroom with me, and Dog, who I assumed had arrived with Zane. Nick had also wandered in, although Mike was suspiciously missing. I look at the door to the club room and wonder if, like Charlie suspected, he’s trying out his oral skills on our newest member.

“No, whatever it is, you can tell me. And the others can stay,” I say.

“Ok, dude,” Zane says. “Well, the thing is, I’m pretty sure Conner isn’t offended you’re gay. I mean, you know he’s not straight, right?”

“What?” I ask incredulously, “Why would you think he’s gay?”

“Uh, maybe because he’s totally open about it. I was in his year. He never had a boyfriend that I could tell, but he’s one hundred percent gay and always has been. Did you ever ask him?”

I get a little defensive. “No, it’s not like I ask every guy I meet.” I think about what Zane has said. If he’s wrong, that’s one thing. But if he’s right, that feels like another negative mark on my friendship report card. Then I realize something. “But if he were gay, he wouldn’t have been so upset by walking in on things. I mean, unless he’s a total prude,” I reason.

Zane arches an eyebrow at me.

“What?” I ask.

He arches it further.

“What?!” I ask more emphatically.

Zane explains. “Dude, you’re so fucking blind. Cute ass, hot body, and a great lay, but completely clueless. Conner is totally in love with you. He’s been totally in love with you for weeks, maybe months. He never stops talking about you. And if I have to listen to one more story about that fucking whale….”

I’m shocked. Completely shocked. Zane is starting to make sense, but what he’s saying is a revelation to me. I give Charlie my best clueless airhead moron look. He shrugs at me, as if to say he suspected Conner was crushing on me but wasn’t sure enough to bring it up.

Zane continues, “And in case you don’t understand why tonight went bad, Conner was pissed because he likes you and you brought him here. He probably thought you were asking him on a date, but then he found out it was our club – I’m sure that had to bother him, and it probably hurt him. Like I said, sorry to have to say it like this – I assumed you two would figure things out and get together on your own. If I’d known you were going to go all Armageddon on each other, I’d have clued you in weeks ago.”

I sit down on the sofa, totally stunned. “You think he...likes me?” I ask.

Zane tosses his hands up in frustration. “Oh my god, you can be so dopey. Of course he likes you. Right guys?”

“Now that you mention it, Conner was pretty attached to you when you were in the hospital, maybe more than just as your doctor,” Nick says. “I mean, working twenty hours straight so you can watch over a guy has to mean something, right?”

Charlie adds, “I think I started to suspect after the whole skinny dipping thing last month, you know?” I nod; Conner and I had had so much fun I’d told most of the guys about that afternoon. “But then, I didn’t want to say anything because I wasn’t really sure how you felt about him.”

“Sean and I sort of thought you were already fucking Conner,” Dog says, patting me on the shoulder. “I mean, I wouldn’t blame you if you had been and didn’t say anything. It was hard for me to talk about Sean with my friends at school. So...yeah.”

I feel pretty freaking stupid, and say so.

Zane sits next to me. “Dude, you can be a little obtuse at times, but don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all been there.”

I look at Zane doubtfully. “You’ve sabotaged one of your best friendships because you were a complete moron?” I ask. “Somehow, I don’t see that happening to you.”

He laughs. “You’re right, it hasn’t. But I’ve messed things up by being too aggressive before, and believe it or not, once or twice by being too timid.”

I have a hard time believing the timid part, but I’m more concerned about the situation with Conner right now. I take a deep breath. “So jeez, what do I do now?”

“I guess that depends,” Zane says. “How do you feel about Conner?”

I feel like a complete idiot saying so, but I have to admit that I’d never thought about it before. I’d always viewed him as a platonic friend. And I think I want things to stay that way. I say so. “But I don’t really appreciate being called a stupid slut,” I add.

The guys commiserate with me over the harsh words, and then Zane says, “When he calms down, you should tell him you just want to be friends, but you should do that sooner rather than later so things don’t fester.”

Zane’s right. I slap my hands on my knees, and then stand up. “You know what? I’m going to go find him tonight. I think I owe him an apology, and right away.” I think about the voyage we’re on. Eighteen years is way too long to spend on a ship, large though it may be, with someone who hates you because you acted like a moron.

Before leaving the flat, I change into some spare clothes I keep here – jeans, a nicer shirt, and some more comfortable shoes. I check myself out in the mirror. Yep, these seem like better “apologizing clothes.”

On the way out, I notice that there are fewer shirts being worn by the guys, Zane and Dog have joined Nick and Charlie in being topless. I feel a twinge in my pants. Sigh – will I ever learn to stop letting my hormones control me? My mind wandering, and my feet in a hurry to leave, I almost run Sean over on the way out. He’s carrying a large flat of what appear to be strawberries.

“Whoa!” he exclaims, almost dropping everything.

“Sorry. I’m in a hurry. Conner’s pissed at me, and maybe in love with me, and AJ is more horny than we though. And everyone’s inside.”

Sean looks confused, and then shakes his head, probably figuring that I’m just being Devon. “Hey, but check it out before you bolt,” he says, “I got some new lube. It's slicker than anything. I take a small bottle from his parcels, wondering why he’s carrying around strawberries and lube.

No time to ask, though, I’m determined to find Conner and set things straight. I have no idea where he went after our argument, but how hard can it be to track him down? I quickly do the math in my head...hmm, the ship is roughly 133 billion cubic meters inside. Great. Well, he’s probably not in the fusion core or the girls’ locker room – that narrows it down.

I head to the forward concourse and then climb to the third floor, looking down into the main floor as I walk the length of the ship. There are a couple hundred people milling about – it’s not late yet, and people love hanging out here on Friday nights.

I don’t see him in the forward concourse, or the main lobby. I stay up on the third floor so I have a better view. “You are a stupid fucking rail, you know that?” I say as I walk past the point where I’d fallen into the main lobby. The rail doesn’t respond, but I do get a suspicious look from two guys walking in my direction. “Sorry,” I shrug. “It’s a really bad rail.”

I try the hospital next. It’s pretty deserted, and I find Conner’s small office empty. Wow, he’s right – the walls are flipping awful.

“Devon, what are you doing here?” a voice asks behind me. Startled, I turn to see Ian in a set of navy scrubs that tell me he’s either on duty or just finishing a shift.

“Sorry,” I reply, “I was just looking for Conner. Seen him?”

“Yeah, I have,” Ian says. My ears perk up. “And he’s in an awful mood. You should avoid him until he’s less cranky, trust me.”

He’s probably right, but since I’m to blame for his mood I feel like my Conner quest should continue. I ask Ian if he has any idea where he might have gone, but he doesn’t. “I thought you had softball tonight,” I say before leaving, remembering that Ian belonged to one of the teams on the ship.

He sighs. “Yeah, I did, but that’s the life of a nurse. If they ask you to work a double, you work a double.” I sympathize with him, and then leave to continue my search.

I spend the next two hours looking around the ship, determined to find my (former?) friend. I start composing an apology in my head, repeating it over and over until it starts to sound right. I walk down to Bottomside, finding the area packed, as it usually is after work hours, especially on Fridays. Conner isn’t at the field, where one football match is ending and another about to start. He also isn’t at the gym, where dozens of guys are blowing off steam by lifting weights, running on treadmills, and working out.

I run into the scrubs, who are currently being overseen by Kevin, one of the guys assigned to them in addition to Charlie. They don’t need constant supervision, but they tend to get shuffled aside in the recreational areas if they don’t have an older guy looking out for them.

“Hi Devon!” one of the scrubs, Jason, greets me. He’s wearing workout gear, including the computerized weight lifting gloves used in here.

“Hey,” I reply, stopping to catch my breath. I’d been walking a moderately fast pace for the last hour.

Jason takes my pause as interest in their activities. “Kevin is teaching us bicep curls,” he explains. “Check it, I can totally lift a ton.” He enters a number into the numeric keypad on the wrist of the glove. It isn’t quite a ton – far from it, actually – but when he hits enter I can see that the glove has activated, manipulating gravity to approximate the amount of weight he’s requested. His hand is pushed toward the floor, and he grunts and turns red as he tries to lift his hand in an arc.

“Wow, that’s really cool,” I say, not really paying too much attention to the kid. Then I consider how he always seems to notice everything around him, and ask, “Hey, you haven’t seen Conner McLaglen, have you? Tonight?”

Jason finishes his rep, huffing and puffing. I get the feeling he added more weight than he should have to impress me. “Doctor Conner?” he asks. “No, he hasn’t been down here. And we’ve been here all night.”

I swear under my breath; Jason giggles at my language. I say goodbye to the scrubs, and head back up to the center sections of the ship. I stop off at the library, wondering if maybe Conner went there to mope and brood, but a quick survey of the carrels proves fruitless.

The Conner search is starting to feel hopeless, and my resolve wanes a little. But then I have an idea. Working in engineering, Mike had access to the computer systems that others didn’t. I message him, asking if he would be willing to put a trace on Conner’s wristcom. I feel a little stupid – I should have thought of this before.

I don’t really like asking this of Mike. The ability to track coms is for emergency use, and having him get into the system to do this is a bit of an abuse. He doesn’t gripe, though – I get a response to my text message only moments after I send it. “Let me go see what I can do,” he writes. “You have to make sure to be here next time. AJ tastes...really good. Charlie thinks so too. Sean brought strawberries.”

I’m pretty sure Mike is taunting me a little. I remember seeing what was under AJ’s shorts that morning on the farm, and I feel a little left out. Five minutes later, I get a second reply, this time just two words: “his room.”

“Oh my god, I am such a fucking idiot,” I groan. Why didn’t I try there first?

As I take the elevator to Conner’s area in Topside, I notice that my feet are getting pretty sore. I head to Area 6, and then enter Conner’s flat. I find the living area empty, which makes sense. Most guys take advantage of Friday nights to get out and about.

The door to Conner’s bedroom is closed. It doesn’t lock, but I knock, not really wanting to disturb anyone. I knock again when I hear someone moving around inside, this time a little louder. After I knock a third time, I hear someone approach the door. I take a deep breath, ready to get my full two-thousand word apology out in five seconds or less.

Only it’s not Conner who opens the door.

Instead, it’s Eden Stranton who greets me. Eden is in a pair of loose-fitting gym shorts and nothing else, his perfect body a little flushed. I immediately notice two things – there seems to be a bulge in his shorts, and his hand looks a little...hmm...oily or something. I feel myself start to blush. There really wasn’t any question what this perfect guy had been doing before I rudely interrupted. He looks a little tired. “Oh. Hey, Devon,” he says.

“Um...Uh...Hi,” I stammer. “Sorry, I know it’s late. I was looking for Conner,” I explain. It wasn’t really that late, but it sounded like a reasonable thing to say.

Eden yawns. I’m not sure that he’s truly tired, or if he’s trying to make it seem like he’d been sleeping. He puts his right hand around behind his back. “Sorry,” he says, “I haven’t seen him. I got home about an hour ago, he hasn’t been here.”

I can see past Eden to Conner’s bunk, where a wristcom sits exposed on the surface of the perfectly-made bed. Dammit. Conner must have come up here, but left after ditching the com. Wonderful. I also notice a bottle of what I take to be lube next to one of the other beds, which makes me blush. “Uh, thanks,” I say. “Sorry to bother you so late.”

“Everything okay?” he asks.

I think up a quick, reasonable excuse for disturbing him. “Yeah. I was just feeling some pain in my shoulder. I thought he might want to know. I’ll go have Ian look at it.”

Eden yawns again. “Ok,” he says. “Sorry about the shoulder. Feel better.”

I thank him, and then leave, feeling a little mortified and really frustrated.

I’d been wandering the ship for hours now, and my efforts had resulted in little else than a grand tour that had left me tired and cranky. I look at my wristcom, and then punch in some commands. Fuck, I’d walked over fifteen kilometers looking for Conner. No wonder my feet are sore. I take the lift back to the main lobby, which is considerably less crowded than when I’d first looked here a couple of hours ago – it’s just after midnight. I sigh, feeling tired and frustrated.

I don’t really want to head back, although I’m sure a solid tumble would do me good. The idea of finding Conner is still alluring, but since that doesn’t seem possible I just want to be alone. I head to the rear section of the main lobby and the empty restaurant space located there. I knew no one would be inside, which suited me just fine.

Entering the empty restaurant, I’m greeted by a blast of frigid air. Damnation, that’s cold! I don’t really have to wonder why – I head back into the kitchen and locate a spot along the bottom of the rear wall where a large hole opens into another area, one considerably colder. The crate I’d wedged there had been moved, probably by one of the teams assigned to assess this area for use. Frigid air flows in through the gap. I push the crate back into place, creating a firm seal.

I putter around in the kitchen for a while, thinking and rehearsing my apology for Conner. While I do that, I organize things a little. Someday this might be opened as a secondary eating area, although the kitchens upstairs were generally well-stocked. And they were sure as heck warmer, I thought. It was warmer than when I arrived, but I could still see my breath.

Eventually I yawn, and notice that it’s past one. We’ve already come to a new day, one that hopefully won’t be as awful as the last. I exit the restaurant, locking the door behind me. The main lobby is mostly totally deserted now, and the lights have gone from “evening” to “nighttime.” I pause to wonder if all of the ships set their twenty-four hour clocks the same. Is it just after one everywhere? Are mom and dad nestled into bed together on the San Diego ship, or is it morning there? I’ll have to ask someone who would know that.

As I’m leaving, I notice the entrance to the tunnel leading to the Rear Observation Deck, which, when not housing parties, was just a large empty room with huge windows.

The deck had been one of the most popular hangout locations when we first left Earth. There was something therapeutic about being there – it gave you a real sense that you were going somewhere. I remember going there myself, staring out at the stars, thinking about what we’d left behind and where we were going. And then our lives on the ship had taken root, and one by one my shipmates stopped spending so much time there, perhaps more interested in the present than either the past or the future.

But Conner hadn’t.

Conner had always kept on hanging out there; he said he found the view of the stars peaceful. But it’s late, I’m exhausted, and the forty-seven great ideas I’ve had tonight for finding Conner have been a bust, so I call off the search and walk in the direction of my room, my bed calling to me softly on the breeze. Reid would probably be sleeping over the covers when I got home, and I’d be greeted by a view of his perfectly rounded ass before bed.

I make it halfway across the lobby before making an abrupt u-turn and heading for the entrance to the rear deck.

I’m a bit obsessive, and figure I should at least check this one last place out before calling it a night. Despite sore feet I make my way to the tunnel entrance, and then down the long space leading to the deck. I take advantage of the moving sidewalk, adding its speed to my own locomotion so that it feels like I’m really zooming down the tunnel.

Everything has been cleaned up since the party, the colorful murals that decorate the walls now unstained by images of ghosts and goblins. When I reach the main space of the Rear Observation Deck, I notice that there is music playing, a sad, harmonic tune. The room is quite dim, the light from the stars are the sole source of illumination. I walk into the center of the room; it feels massive and lonely when no one else is here.

Except I’m not alone. When I get halfway across the room I can make out a darkened silhouette at the bottom of the center window, the unmistakable outline of a boy sitting on the ledge that ran under the windows. It’s a familiar outline sitting in a familiar pose, and I don’t have to strain hard to see that it’s Conner. He’s changed clothes, and is now wearing a grey hoodie and jeans, but it’s definitely him.

I take a deep breath, and then another. I walk over to the sitting boy, ready to take my lumps and try to fix things.

The music that’s playing is beautiful, although I don’t know the song. I assume Conner chose it, since he’s the only one here. It ends and begins again, so he must have it playing on a loop.

He doesn’t seem to notice me approaching, even when I come up right next to him. He looks thoughtful and sad, staring out the window. I get ready with my two thousand word apology, a comprehensive essay on why we should remain friends, taking a deep breath before I launch into the words I’d been practicing in my head for the past several hours.

“Hey,” I say, stopping there, apparently deciding that a last minute one-thousand nine-hundred ninety-nine word trim was appropriate.

Conner keeps on staring out the window. The stars are beautiful – there are far, far, far more of them than could have ever been seen on Earth. I prepare for the worst – another word bashing by Conner, or perhaps a solid punch in the nose, but it never comes. Conner remains silent, as do I. After a couple of minutes I wonder if my presence is annoying him, and if I should leave.

“Did I ever tell you about my parents?” he asks quietly.

I think about it for a minute. “Um, I don’t think so. Maybe a little. I don’t think so. Sorry.” I waffle with my answer because I don’t remember him ever talking about his family, but there’s a distinct chance he had and I’d forgotten. I didn’t need to do anything else tonight to provoke or annoy the guy.

“They were great,” he says. “My dad was military, and we moved around a lot when I was a kid. But the place I remember most was this house we had in Cambridge. It was small, but perfect, you know? It was cold in the winter – I mean really cold, but somehow that made springtime seem even better. There was a program at the college, my mom worked there and so I got to use the pools during the summer. It’s where I learned to swim.”

“Sounds nice,” I say. And it did, I could easily envision a ten year-old Conner excitedly biking to the college pool the first afternoon after school had let out, ready to while away the days swimming and playing.

“It was,” he agrees. “My mom was sick a lot when we were kids. It was a genetic thing, nothing life-threatening, but she’d get tired sometimes and have to take a week off to rest.”

“I’m sorry,” I reply, feeling like it’s all I can say.

Conner sighs, and then looks at me, the first time he’s done so since I’d come in here. “No, don’t be,” he says. His voice sounds earnestly reassuring, and I take it to mean he’s not going to yell at me. Still, I resolve to be very, very careful with my words. “Those times when my mom was sick, they were actually some of the best times. She’d need to take it easy, but for us kids that meant she’d spend a week at home, and we’d all play board games and make cookies and do that sort of thing.”

“You had brothers and sisters?” I ask, immediately regretting using the past tense so carelessly.

He doesn’t seem to notice. “Yeah, an older brother and an older sister. They were pretty cool. We had fun, especially when we lived in Cambridge.”

“Cool.”

“And I’ve never really told anyone outside the family this, but it was mom’s illness that made me want to be a doctor. From the time I was seven or eight, I was sure that someday I’d grow up and cure her. I guess as a kid it was scary – her being sick. Everything like that seems like a big deal when you’re a kid, you know?”

I thought back to my own childhood. I didn’t have any similar experiences, but I could see what he meant. “Yeah.”

Conner looks back out the window. “My parents are dead,” he states matter-of-factly.

I had gleaned this from the conversation already, but it didn’t stop me from being sympathetic. “I’m really sorry,” I say.

He smiles at me. “No, it’s okay,” he says, in the way people do when something isn’t. “Mom didn’t die of her disease – well, not directly. She wasn’t sick like that, but we knew she’d never make it onto one of the ships if the evacuation occurred. My brother and sister wouldn’t either, they had the same recessive genes that caused her health issues.”

I think about our egress from Earth. The capsules that we took to board the ships also tested us for a variety of medical issues. Anyone failing this test would be left behind, the precious few slots on the ships being left for the healthy. Most ships were packed – it was a fluke of timing and geography that ours was only half full.

“We talked about it from the time I was really young,” Conner says, thinking back to his childhood as he gazes out into space. “Every year when the evacuation unit came around in school, we’d talk about it at dinner, although I don’t think it was until my brother and sister were adults that we were told about their status. But anyway, because my mom would have to stay behind if the evacuation happened, my dad volunteered for a position in Space Force.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I remember visiting the base when I was a kid. Well, a lot of bases, actually. Dad was assigned to help with launch control. I remember when I was little he would show me all these computer simulations, and explain how he’d be one of the guys helping the ships launch without smashing into each other or crashing into the moon. I was so proud, knowing my dad would be right there in the middle of things if the end ever came.

“And then it did, you know? We were at school, and those horrible sirens went off. I knew right away what it meant, and I’ve never stopped having nightmares about that day.”

I sit on the ledge next to Conner. His story is moving, and I feel for him immensely. I guess I’d never been a good enough friend to ask if he had family.

He continues speaking, slow and deliberate. “And you know, from the time I was a teenager, every year when the conversation came around my mom would take me aside, and she’d make me promise something. You know what that was?”

“No, what?” I ask.

“She’d make me swear that if the sirens ever went off, I’d head straight to the ship – no stopping, no delaying. She said it was my one job if that ever happened. I don’t have the gene, you know. They knew I wouldn’t have problems with the screening.”

He holds up a wrist, as if I can sense his genetic wellness just by looking. “Oh my god, Conner, I’m so sorry.”

He shrugs. “I thought about staying behind. My family was stationed in Cheyenne, and I figured I could drive out and be with my parents for...you know. I called right away when the sirens went off, and got through before the systems went down. My mom answered...” Conner is visibly emotional now, tears welling in his eyes. Mine follow his example, his story too horrible to hear.

“Conner, if you don’t want to talk about this...” I start.

He takes a deep breath. “No, no, I do. I’m sorry to be so emotional. My mom answered, and the first thing she said was, ‘You remember your promise, Conner. You’re heading for the ship, right?’ I knew then that that’s what I needed to do. I went to my car, and told her I was driving to the evac site. I know the lines got jammed, but our phones stayed connected until I was in the lobby of the evac center. I got to say goodbye, and she knew that I was okay. My mommy knew I was going to be okay.”

We’re both crying, but trying not to show it too much. Wow, it’s a sad story. I had no idea.

“I don’t know why I’m talking about this now,” Conner says. “You must think I’m pretty lame, to have yelled at you and then laid this on you. Wow, I’m really sorry.”

“No...it’s okay,” I say.

He wipes his nose on his wrist. “The thing is, I think about them a lot. About what it must have been like to stay behind. And every time I do, I feel just as proud of my family as I did when I was a little kid. They were great people. I wish you could have known them.”

“Me too,” I say, putting a hand on Conner’s shoulder.

“But oh my god, that’s not even what I meant to talk to you about. Wow. I don’t know where that came from,” he says. “Look, Devon, about earlier tonight...”

Now it’s my turn to interrupt him. “No, let’s not even talk about it. It’s not important. I obviously screwed up, and I’ll apologize for that later.”

“You didn’t screw up.”

“Huh?”

He repeats himself. “You didn’t screw up. I mean, maybe you didn’t tell me as much as you should have, but you didn’t do anything wrong, not really. If you say you weren’t going to try anything tonight, I trust you. I owe you that, at least.”

I look him in the eyes. “Conner...I wasn’t going to try to trick you, I swear.”

He smiles a little. “I believe you,” he says, and then looks back out into space. “Do you remember that pigeon back at school?” he asks.

I know instantly what he’s referring to. I’d met him on a terrace in front of the physical sciences building, where I had an afternoon class. A lot of older students hung out there, and I found most of them unapproachable. Conner, however, was a slightly nerdy boy perpetually surrounded by a pile of books, and I’d been excited to discover he’d actually acknowledge me, an underclassman without a clue.

Over time, I’d taken to spending the hour break between my midweek classes on the terrace. It was where our friendship was born, innocuous comments passed between two students on Wednesday afternoons. When winter came, we took to hanging out in the large lobby of the science building, and then when spring started to return we moved back out onto the terrace.

One afternoon, he had a doughnut box with him. He’d offered me the last one, and I’d been happy to discover it was a personal favorite – a cake doughnut covered in cinnamon sugar. Unfortunately, I’d proven as clumsy as usual, and dropped the ill-fated cake before I’d had a chance to taste it. It had dropped to the ground, bouncing off the stone bench under our table and rolling off into the courtyard. Conner had tried not to laugh at my misfortune.

While I was griping, a pigeon had excitedly approached the dropped doughnut – and who could blame it? Cinnamon sugar cake doughnuts are the best. The bird had started eating it, and Conner and I had watched in complete awe as the pigeon finished the entire doughnut. No shit, it ate the whole fucking thing! We’d discussed saving the bird from itself, but somehow our horror prevented us from acting. Once the doughnut was gone, the bird, distended horrifically, had waddled off, either to die tragically or pass the biggest bird shit in history.

“Yeah, I remember,” I answer.

“That day...the day that stupid bird ate that doughnut, I had my first date.”

I tilt my head in curiosity. “Your first date? With?”

Conner chuckles. “Well, actually, the point of this story is that it was my first date ever, but his name was Dave Bowman. He was a fellow med student. I met him a year before, and I liked him right away, but it took me the whole year to get up the courage to ask him out.”

“Aww, that’s cute...but why?”

Conner looks reflective. “I’ve never been that good at socializing. When I was younger I was two grades ahead of the guys my age, so I was always around older guys. I always felt weird about that. College was supposed to change that, but by then I was so determined to be a successful student I didn’t have time for dating. And I’ve always felt inept at making friends.”

I think about my friendship with Conner. He’s always had a big smile for me, and interesting things to say, and he’s always been helpful, kind and cool. I tell him so. “I guess I don’t see you that way,” I say.

“Well, thanks,” he replies. “Maybe I’m a little better at that stuff now, but it took a long time to learn. I spent high school looking at other guys, never daring to say anything. I totally lusted after this guy Grant, but there was no way I was going to do anything about it. Dave was the first guy I actually asked out.”

“Cool,” I say. “So how’d it go?”

“Good actually. That night we went out, had coffee. I liked him, although we were both really shy. But I invited him up to my apartment, although it was just awkward – neither of us knew if that meant we were supposed to...um...”

“Make out? Snog? Kiss? Mouth-screw?” I interject, trying to be helpful.

“You’re such a dork,” Conner smirks. “Yeah. I mean, we didn’t really know what the other one wanted. We did end up making out a little, but then had to call it an early night. After that, we decided to wait until after midterms to go out again. That was a couple of days before the sirens, so...”

“Yeah, wow,” I say, and then realize he may be hinting at something. “Oh my god, Conner. You don’t mean he...didn’t make it?”

Conner’s eyes go wide. “No...No, not at all. He was just away from school. He’s out there somewhere, on one of the other ships. We write each other sometimes. The funny thing is, I don’t really miss him. I mean, not in that way.”

“Okay.” I’m not really sure about the direction of this conversation, but Conner is at least speaking with me, so I guess “mission accomplished” and all that.

“The thing is,” he continues, “even way back then...that night we went out for the first time. It was fun, but the thing is...I don’t know. It feels weird talking to you about this.”

I arch an eyebrow. “Conner, I took you to a wank club without telling you what it really was. You can talk to me any way you want. I mean, maybe we can keep the name calling to a minimum, but other than that – whatever you want.”

Conner flashes a fearful look. “Oh my god, Devon, I totally forgot I said that to you. I’m so sorry. Oh my god, that was so mean. I’m sorry, I was angry. I don’t know how I could call you that.”

I shrug. “I’ve been called worse, but thanks for apologizing. You were saying? About your first date?”

He looks bashful, but continues. “Oh yeah, that. What I was about to say was that my first date with Dave...he was cute, and fun, and smart. But even back then, that whole night, all I could think about was...you.”

It takes a moment for what he says to register, and when it does my response is eloquent, as usual. “Oh?” I ask, cocking my head. Then I get what he’s saying. “Oh. Oh!”

Conner laughs at me. “You can be dense, you know that? Anyway, Dave was great, but he wasn’t you. You know, after that night I resolved to ask you out the next time I saw you. Then I chickened out, and said the next time. Then the next and the next. That continued after we left Earth, and I think we’re on time four hundred sixty-seven, or somewhere around there.”

“That’s a lot,” I point out, not really knowing what to say. Wow, has Conner been into me that long? I must be the densest guy in the world.

“Yeah, it is,” he agrees.

We sit in silence for a moment. Later I reflect that Conner was probably spending this time to decide how to take our friendship. He could either try and return things to the status quo, or he could take a risk.

“Devon,” he says, “you’re just about my perfect guy. I’m sorry I never asked you out properly. Please believe me when I say I tried, I really did. A lot of times I’d ask you to do stuff, and I was totally sure you knew it was supposed to be a date and not just hanging out.”

“I can be a little dumb,” I say, trying to be helpful.

He ignores the self deprecating remark. “And the thing is, no matter how attracted I was to you...am attracted to you...I didn’t want to mess up our friendship. My family is gone, and most of my friends are on other ships. You’re the best thing about living on this stupid ship. Everything else is studying and feeling pressured not to kill anyone.

“When you were hurt, it made me a little crazy. I swear, I was going to fucking murder Steven that day he came to the hospital, all smarmy like he is. But as horrible as you being hurt was, I felt like it brought us closer.”

“It did,” I agree. “I remember you there with me, from the first time I woke up.”

“Cool,” he says. “Then after you got out of the hospital, you made that dinner for me. I’m stupid sometimes, Devon, but I kind of thought...”

He trails off, but I know what he’s going to say. He thought I was asking him out, not just a dinner with friends. “You thought that was a date.”

“Yeah, I thought that was more than it apparently was. The whole time I sat there wondering if you were flirting with me, or if maybe I was misreading things. I never quite got what was going on, so to figure it out I tried to ask you to the Halloween festival.”

I think back. I don’t remember Conner asking me out that night, but I’d been a little distracted by trying to acclimate back to real life, plus the whole New Devon thing was taking up the front parts of my brain. “I’m sorry,” I explain, “I didn’t realize.”

“I know,” he says. “That’s the story of my life. I’m too quiet and shy to be open and honest, and the guys I like slip through my fingers. But you’ve been the toughest, Devon. I had a mega-crush on you, and there were times I was totally sure you were inches from figuring things out. I was excited about poker night because, like an idiot, I thought maybe you asked me out.”

I feel terrible. I’d never considered that Conner might be this complex. “I’m really sorry,” I say for about the millionth time tonight.

“It’s okay,” he says. “And the thing with your friends – that’s great, I had no right to be so offended. I’ve never had friends like that, and it’s not right to judge you. You know, that night at the Halloween party? You were hotter than you’ve ever been before. I was totally glad I wore a long coat, you know? That was probably the first time I saw that side of you, and I really liked it. I really…I think I really wanted to be at the party with you, you know? That’s why I hung around, being dorky, while your friends were all being so cool and sexy. And then you left that night with Zane. I think yelling at you tonight was me being jealous.”

“Jealous? Of me?” I ask.

“Yeah. Of Zane, and of you. Well, of anyone who can love and lust on that level. I’ve never...I mean, I guess you’d know from this talk, but I’ve never been with anyone...like that.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, I know. A twenty year-old virgin. Kinda pathetic. But like I said, always a couple of grades ahead, awkward in my own skin, bad timing and even worse social skills. You’re everything I’m not, Devon.”

“I don’t know if I’d say that.”

“I would, and I do. The guys you hang out with...damn. I’ve never got one guy in bed – you got all of them? Wow.”

I laugh. It still seems like he’s suggesting I’m slutty, but this time he’s phrasing it as a compliment. “It’s not like that,” I say, then correct myself. “Well, it is. We all fool around. But I don’t fuck any of them. I mean, not that it makes much difference, I guess.”

“Not even Zane?” Conner asks, an edge to his voice. Wow, I sure pushed the wrong button earlier.

“Nah. Zane is super-sexy, don’t get me wrong. But he and I are way beyond that. I want to be honest with you...we fool around, but we don’t do the whole penetration thing. I’ve actually...I’ve actually never done that.”

“But you want to?” Conner asks.

I’ve been pretty good tonight, so I don’t feel bad about the cheap shot I take. “Sure, but this bench is a little hard. Wouldn’t your room be more comfy?” I say slyly.

Conner blushes. “No, I mean...I, um...what was I even saying?”

I love that I can get him so flustered, but it’s late and I’m getting tired. “You were talking about me dating. I think that’s a conversation for another night, though. It’s been a long day.”

Conner takes a deep breath. “Yeah, it has.”

I get up to leave. As I’m standing, he says, “Before you go, I have to ask – do you think you’d ever want me to be a bigger part of your life?”

I know that I’m treading some really dangerous waters here, and dealing with fragile feelings. I think about what I’m about to say, and then when I start speaking I phrase my words very, very carefully. “Conner, I’d love to tell you that I’ve thought about that, but I haven’t. Truthfully, I’ve always thought of you as a friend. I think that speaks more to my stupidity than your social skills. It’s been a long day, and I don’t have an answer to that. I need to think about everything.”

He looks downcast in response to my speech, which sounds as much like a rejection as a request for time to think, even to me. “Oh,” he says, not bothering to hide his disappointment.

“But I promise I will,” I say quickly. “Until then, friends again?”

I’m pretty sure “friends” isn’t a word he wants to hear from me, but he smiles anyway, albeit it sadly. “Of course,” he says. I motion to him to stand, and when he does, I embrace him in a firm hug. He feels warm and comfortable against my skin, and he smells nice.

Then I say good night, and walk away. The song that had been playing when I arrived is still playing in a never-ending loop, but it’s tranquil enough that it hasn’t become annoying. Still, it’s a sad song, and as I exit the massive deck I can’t help but think about Conner’s story. Dang, the guy had had it rough. His family dead like that...then his love life, wow.

In some ways, Conner and I were exact opposites. Where leaving Earth had taken everything from him, it had offered me a whole new life. I’d made closer friends than ever before, and made love more than ever before, and each night I went to bed knowing that the things that were most important to me were safe, flying across the stars to a new home. My parents had even thought to take my favorite childhood toy with them, a plush elephant with sandy blonde fur. I’d be reunited with it one day, along with mom and dad.

For Conner, the trip meant leaving everything behind. He was an orphan now, and that made me sad. I step on the moving walkway, letting it carry me along at its measured pace.

I thought about my friend. I’d promised to consider where to fit him into my life. Conner was a great friend, sure. He was sexy, despite what he might think, and I’d been eager to invite him to the wank club.

But he was a friend, and there are just some mental blocks that are hard to overcome. Besides, there was a part of me that had listened to his story, sad though it was, and considered that part of Conner’s attraction for me was because I was the last thing he had left from Earth, and though it seemed cute when someone developed an unnatural attraction to a sock or comic book or pen, if Conner was expecting me to replace his family...

And there was the “b word.” I’d wondered about whether or not I’d ever find someone for so long that I’d sort of shoved it to the back of my mind. It had been a while since I’d considered anyone as a potential boyfriend.

I’d once thought Charlie was the one, but that just didn’t click. Mike wasn’t quite right, always the little boy, and Zane was...well, we’d been down that road. Sean and Dog were perfect for each other, and I thought about this almost any time I saw either of them. I knew I wanted that someday.

I reach up to brush my bangs out of my eyes, and realize that Conner’s scent is still with me. I smell my fingers, my friend’s aroma fresh on my fingertips and somehow familiar. I can almost place it...

And then a million images flash through my mind all at once. Summer days in San Diego, and visiting UCSD on a field trip one spring. Playing tennis on an open court near our house when I was a freshman in high school. The scent on the air the night I’d received my college admission letter.

Eucalyptus.

Conner smells like freaking eucalyptus.

The trees grew all over San Diego. They were like a weed, in tree form. And they smelled great. The smell on my fingers, Conner’s scent, was just like that – but what did it mean? Nothing, right?

I look behind me. I’m almost exactly halfway down the tunnel. Behind me I can see the darkened entrance to the deck, where Conner still sits looking at the stars, perhaps more despondent than ever. In front of me, I can see the exit to the tunnel, the light from the main lobby shining brightly into the tunnel.

I hop over the rail along the moving sidewalk so that I’m standing still in the center of the tunnel. I feel like I’m at a crossroads, of sorts. What am I thinking? Suddenly I’m really confused, and I don’t know why.

Behind me there is nothing but Conner and an empty room. In front there’s the rest of the ship and all my friends and my whole life. I know that I don’t have to choose between the two, but somewhere in my mind something is telling me that I should, at least choose which is more important. That doesn’t make any sense, does it? I mean, I have both…I can keep both. But still, I feel like something is holding me here, making me think about my lonely friend sitting in his window seat gazing at the stars.

I remember something I’d thought about earlier – Conner sharing his last doughnut with me. And then I remember Conner sharing the last peanut butter in existence with me. “Wait, am I hungry?” I ask aloud. Then I start babbling to myself like a crazy person.

“No, that’s not it,” I say. Doughnuts and peanut butter are fine, but they don’t mean anything, do they?

Turns out they did, at least to me, and suddenly I figure it out.

Conner had always been there for me, whether it was on the ship or even before that. He was always thinking about me, always there to offer me his last doughnut or the last of his peanut butter – that’s what made these things special. It meant something. I think it proved he didn’t want to date me because I was the last thing left from his former life – he’d always wanted me, even back then before all of this when he could have had anyone. Everyone was right, I’d been blind, and that extended back to long before living on this space ship. Conner had always, always, always wanted me.

And it was this revelation that triggered something inside me. I thought back to the early days on the ship, Conner’s easy smile and kind green eyes, the way he brightened up whenever I walked into the room. I had to wonder now why he didn’t seem depressed, considering all he’d lost, and the answer comes easily now that I get him a little better. He didn’t seem depressed or sad then because he wasn’t depressed or sad whenever I was around. Everything horrible that had happened to the guy, somehow the idea of someday asking me on a date trumped all of that. Conner’s life had been horrible, but somehow me just sitting next to him always made him smile.

I thought about the shared peanut butter, and afternoon video games. I thought about how Conner listened to me, and was always in tune with my moods. He swam with me in a whale tank, and chased me when I proclaimed him “it.” He smiled at me freely and often, and sat by my side around the clock when I’d been hurt. He’d leapt to my defense at the party. And although I’d hurt him tonight, he’d forgiven me without hesitation.

I was an idiot. I’d never clearly seen what all of that meant before.

All this time I’d been distracted, by sex and boys and music and work and life. I’d missed the one obvious and simple truth that seemed to be continually hitting me in the head with a hammer – what I was looking for, the loyal, loving, sexy, smart, funny boyfriend I’d always wanted, and spent a fair amount of time moping about not having, had been there the whole time. It was Conner. It had always been Conner. He loved me, I think. And when I thought about it, when I saw past all the other garbage I spent my days obsessing about, I realize something monumental:

I love him back.

I really did, I’d just always had a block in my mind that prevented me from seeing it. Maybe it was that Conner was too comforting, too good to me. He made things so easy that I never had to spend time obsessing about him. Or maybe he was right, maybe sex with the guys had distracted me from noticing him the way I should.

I stood at a crossroads. Suddenly, my future seemed clearer than ever before, and I didn’t need to tell my feet which direction to move. Without even thinking about it, I was heading back toward Conner at full sprint.

I leap over the rail and onto the moving sidewalk heading toward the deck. I land funny, and fall flat on my face. “Ow,” I moan. “You’re okay, no one saw that.” Standing, I wiggle my ass; nothing feels broken so I continue my dash for the end of the tunnel.

As I run, I pull up a program on my wristcom, trying not to trip again. I find a favorite song, one that reminds me of Conner, and push it onto the sound system in the main room. I hear Conner’s slow, lilting tune stop, replaced by a happy synth riff and the sounds of kids at play; the beginning of the song I’ve selected.

Entering the room, Conner is still sitting in the window where I’d left him. I run toward him, which he doesn’t notice until I’m right upon him, probably because he’s trying to figure out why his music has randomly changed. When he notices me, he jumps, clearly startled.

“Jesus, Devon! You scared me. I though you left, and I was just about to...”

I don’t let him finish. I’m winded from my sprint, and adrenaline is coursing through my veins. Without saying anything, I grab Conner’s hoodie by the collar and lift him up off his seat. He makes a funny little sound, probably wondering what the hell I’m doing. When I pull his lips into mine, he goes completely stiff, a gasp crossing his lips before he realizes what’s happening and relaxes a little.

Our kiss lasts for some time, although it’s mostly me kissing him. I open my eyes to see his looking back at me, slightly glazed, but also fearful and confused. His eyes are beautiful – the little brown flecks swimming on orbs of green, but I’d never been this close before, so I’d never noticed that the brown parts actually formed a star-like pattern around his pupils. Cool. I wanted to wake up looking into these same eyes tomorrow morning.

I pull away from him slowly, letting our lips linger together as long as possible before separating. Conner looks quite concerned, as if this might be the one final mixed signal that pushes him over the edge.

I cut straight to the point. “You’re the one. You’ve always been the one, Conner. You were right about me, I can be stupid and I can be slutty. I’m not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m dense. I never realized...about you. Wow, I’m dumb. But I realize it now. I want you...I need you. Maybe it’s too late, but if not then...”

This time Conner cuts me off, abruptly wrapping his hands around my head and pulling me into a second, deeper kiss.

And then I’m kissing him, and then he’s kissing me back. I won’t say that either of us are experts at this particular craft, but it’s the first time I’ve kissed someone I was in love with, and I think the same is true of Conner, so it’s one of the most memorable, tender moments of my life.

And then I want more. Pushing him gently down to the window bench, I sit next to him before moving my lips down his cheek and across his neck. I smell him, and kiss him gently along the soft skin of his neck. Although this is our first intimate contact, his taste is somehow...familiar, as though my body knows it already and has been waiting patiently for my mind to catch up and sate its appetites. I kiss a spot just below his right ear and he giggles. I pull back, but go right back to that spot when he calms down. He starts giggling again, this time squirming in his seat. “Like that?” I whisper in his ear.

He blushes, deep enough that I can see it in the starlight, and I swear I feel his cheeks radiate more heat. “It just really...tickles.” he says timidly. “Sorry.”

I kiss the spot below his ear again, and again he giggles before apologizing. “You don’t have anything to be sorry about,” I say reassuringly. He smiles at me appreciatively, and I move my mouth back onto his, biting at his lower lip.

I run my fingers through his hair, which is longer now than I’d ever seen it, his sandy blonde locks hanging straight and long over his ears. It’s thicker than I would have thought, and extremely soft.

I move my body into position next to his, and press him down into a lying position so that I can stretch across his chest to connect with his mouth. We kiss again, and again, and again, two young men exploring each other for the first time, our hunger for one another growing.

We make out for over an hour, never tiring, each kiss feeling like the first. I’d kissed all of the guys in the club, but I didn’t do that a lot. It had just never felt like this – not even a little. When Conner does something right, I moan lightly, which visibly excites him. When I do something right he squirms a little. Once we get used to feeling one another with our mouths, there’s a lot of moaning and squirming.

After the longest make-out session of my life, I pull away from Conner, ready for more. He starts talking, and it doesn’t take me long to understand that he’s mistaken me taking a break to mean that we’re done for now.

“That was so...cool. Thanks. Wait, that’s lame, that’s not what I mean to say. I guess that’s not a ‘thank you’ kind of thing, like ‘hey, you brought me muffins, thank you.’ Not that I’m not thankful. I mean, wow,” he babbles. I smile at him, satisfied in knowing that my affections have this effect on the boy. I unzip his hoodie while he speaks, pulling it over his shoulders and off his arms. He looks at me appreciatively. “It’s really warm in here. I mean...wow, I’m sweating.”

“Yeah, it’s a little steamy,” I agree, dropping his coat to the floor.

He sits up on his elbows. “So, this may seem forward,” he says shyly, “but, um...can we go out sometime? Like on a date? I mean, I know you probably want to take things slow.”

I tilt my head at him, and then can’t help but laugh, which I immediately feel bad about. It doesn’t seem to hurt his feelings, although he does ask me what I’m giggling about. “At you, silly,” I reply. “I just told you that you’re the guy for me, and then I furiously made out with you. Does that normally mean you have to ask permission to call the guy?”

Conner blushes and offers a silly, shy grin. “I don’t know, maybe.” He sounds like a little boy. “This is all new to me. I really like you and this is...unexpected. I don’t want to offend you.”

I laugh again, but then stop myself. “Sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, really. It’s just been a long night. Conner, Conner, Conner, let me make this easier for both of us.” I sit up on my knees, and then slip my shirt up over my head to reveal my naked torso. “I’ve been ambling around for months wondering if I’d ever find anyone. The guys – they’re great, but they’re just friends. It wasn’t until tonight I realized how clueless I’ve been, or what you mean to me. I’m sorry I put you through that, but I’m done with that now. You have me, I’m yours.”

I tug at Conner’s shirt, and then pull it up off his stomach. He gets the message and sits up further, raising his arms so I can take it off completely, the fabric slipping over young, smooth skin. When I drop it to the floor, allowing it to join my own shirt and his coat, he gulps, as if realizing for the first time what the phrase “you have me” really means. “Um...ok,” he croaks.

I lean into his body, again pressing him down into the pliable material covering the window seat. I kiss him, this time our naked chests coming together so that I feel his warm skin against mine; his heart is pounding in an intense, steady rhythm. I put my hands on his shoulders, feeling the firm muscles there, toned by years of swimming. My lips connect with his hungrily, and we pick up our French kissing where we left off. I tilt my head right, and then left, experimenting with how Conner’s face feels against mine.

There’s a part of me that still can’t believe we’re really doing this. My love for Conner – and I knew now without a doubt that I truly loved him – had developed somewhere in the back of my mind, independent of my lusty urges. It felt like my body had waited until the very last possible moment to make me aware of my physical feelings for him, and when it did - BAM! Now I couldn’t get enough of his scent, or his taste.

He giggles again, tickled by my upper lip brushing his a little too softly. “Sorry,” he says when I pause.

I smile. “If you’re going to apologize for everything we do, it’s going to be a really long night,” I say, looking into his eyes coyly.

“Sor...mrph,” he says, my mouth connecting with his before he can apologize again.

Although I’m sitting right next to him, leaning over his chest to kiss him, somehow he’s managed to position both arms about as far from my body as possible, spreading them out to his side. I notice that every time I move, he shifts out of my way politely so that I am in complete control of the physical contact between us. But eventually my kissing seems to distract him enough that his right hand wanders to my side, brushing against my body just below my rib cage. He retracts it swiftly and immediately, as if shocked by some invisible Devon defense mechanism.

I lift my head and look into his eyes knowingly. “What?” he asks, a little self-consciously.

I run my fingertips down his chest, causing him to moan lightly. “You really don’t get the whole ‘you have me’ thing. You’re allowed to touch me, Conner. Anywhere – everywhere.”

He smiles, and then I kiss him again, our faces slightly numb from the making out and our lips slick with one another’s saliva. Conner’s hand slowly makes its way back to my side, and when it comes into contact with my skin I sigh, making sure he can feel my light moan against his lips. Our tongues exploring eager mouths, and I feel his hand slide lower, moving down my side and coming to rest on my left hip just above the waistline of my jeans.

I make sure he knows his touch is welcome here; the lower his hand moves, the more I squirm and moan. Perhaps I exaggerate how pleasurable this light touching is, but it is pleasurable, and I want Conner to know it. He thumb moves under the waistband, and this time I don’t have to exaggerate anything at all. His touch, now that it’s so low on my body, drives me wild. I gasp, not completely sure if Conner is arousing me or tickling me.

“Like that?” he asks.

I nod, and bite my lower lip before saying, my breathing elevated, “I want to feel you touching me, Conner. I need it.”

My pleading takes things to the next level. Conner takes command, pressing his hands against my body and guiding me onto my back. At first I’m sitting up slightly, but he tugs at my legs so that I’m lying flat. He climbs between my legs and slowly lowers his body into mine.

“I just never thought...” he says, trailing off. He’s more frantic now, touching my stomach and chest with enthusiastic fingers. When he kisses me again, it’s firm and lustful and anxious. I feel the weight of his body press down onto me, a heavy but comforting sensation. Very slowly, he allows our tummies to slide up against one another until his full weight is on me and we’re lying crotch-to-crotch.

Conner is hard. Like really, really hard.

Feeling Conner’s stiff dick against my body causes a sequence of almost involuntary reactions. My legs wrap up around his butt, squeezing his body between my thighs, and my hands wander down into the back of his pants, my palms running across the muscles of his back and then all the way down to his ass. Conner’s eyes open wide, an almost shocked expression, and then soften in a haze of lust.

We roll around in this position for a while, growing more frantic and sloppy with our kissing. My pants start to pull down off my butt – I think assisted by Conner slightly – and when we roll onto our sides I take a moment to slip them down off my body so that I’m only wearing underwear. I pause briefly to be thankful it’s a sexy pair – some trunks Charlie had recently made me, navy blue with a pale blue crotch that made my bulge look bigger, not that it needed help tonight.

Conner looks at me, his expression happy and boyish but seething with an intense longing. I wonder how many times he’s fantasized about this moment, how many times he’s come, touching himself pretending it was me. Needless to say, these thoughts don’t calm me down, not even a little.

I reach for the button to Conner’s jeans, deftly unfastening it. “Um...” he says uncertainly.

Looking up into his eyes, I see that the look of concern has returned. “Too much too fast?” I ask, not wanting to push him too far this first time.

“Um, no,” he replies. “That’s not it at all. I mean...if it’s too fast for you...”

I shake my head, and then rest my palm right on the crotch of his jeans, where an obvious hardness is straining to get out. “It isn’t,” I say.

“Oh! Cool. Um, it’s just...uh...I’m just, you know...” he trails off, blushing a little.

Conner isn’t just hot, I discover, he’s also freaking adorable. I finish his sentence for him, “Overly happy? Experiencing localized chronic swelling?”

He laughs. “No, no. Well, I mean yeah. But that’s not what I was going to say. It’s just, I’m not wearing underwear, in case you needed to know that.”

Like I said – freaking adorable. “Cool,” I shrug, pulling the zipper to his jeans down slowly. And then I add, “Hey, Conner?”

“Yeah?”

“Just so there’s no confusion – in about two minutes, you’re not going to be wearing pants either.”

“Um. Ok, cool...OH!” he exclaims, an appropriate reaction considering I’ve shoved my hand into his pants and found what it was I was looking for.

Feeling Conner up for the first time is...awesome. He may not be wearing underwear, but his boner sure is wedged in his pants really good – poor guy. I pull it out through the open fly, careful not to be too rough. And then there he is, pointing out of his pants in happy, glorious proof of his masculinity.

Conner’s dick is long, and beautiful – slender, long, straight and...well, long. “Wow, that’s a big one!” I say involuntarily and somewhat stupidly. Sheesh, I’m glad he’s not tiny – who knows what I might have exclaimed if I’d pulled out a nine centimeter boner. He smiles bashfully, but I can tell he’s happy for my praise. And praise isn’t the only thing his dick is going to get from me tonight.

I slowly wrap my hand around his shaft, feeling the steel-hard firmness of it beneath the velvety soft skin. Conner gasps. “Oh, jeez. Wow...um...wow!” I can’t help but flash a big grin – I’d put a lot of practice into giving hand jobs. And this wasn’t even an earnest get-you-off attempt – I was just feeling him up.

Conner’s dick extends perfectly straight from his body, later we measure it – at my insistence and with my assistance – at just over twenty-one centimeters. I’m seventeen, so I find it a little confusing that his seems so dang long. I guess the four centimeters makes the difference between “sizably above average” and “wow, that’s a big one!” Or perhaps it’s because it is so very straight – protruding proudly from his crotch like an arrow.

“What?” Conner asks sheepishly.

I realize that I’m staring at him rather intently, making him self-conscious. “You’re just really hot,” I say. “Take off your pants.”

He complies, sliding his jeans off so that he’s completely naked. “What if someone comes in here?” he asks, laughing nervously and looking around the huge empty room.

I shrug. “Then they’ll see two naked guys falling in love, no big deal.”

This argument proves a winner, probably because I maneuver myself over him and start gently caressing his cock. The tip is the same width as his shaft, a cute pink head capping the long shaft. Now that he’s naked, I see that his balls are large and smooth, hanging delicately from the root of his shaft.

I explore his naked body with a childlike wonder, fingering his dick and then feeling the heft of his sack. He lies back, letting me touch, explore, play. This is just all so...weird. Here was this guy I’d known forever, one of my best friends, and now he was naked, and hard, wanting me – and I was in love with him, and he with me. The world had changed, and everything was different now.

Conner reaches up to massage the lump distending my trunks. Charlie was good about providing plenty of space in his underwear, and he was also great at accentuating a guy’s assets. There’s a pretty huge baby blue tent drawing attention to my happiest parts, and Conner has little trouble finding them, swirling his fingertips across the tip of my cock through the fabric.

“Uh, that feels so good,” I groan.

“What you’re doing is...ugh...really nice too. You like this?” He massages my tip between his fingers, the fabric of my underwear slick from my natural lubricants, which have begun flowing freely.

I buck my hips, pressing my crotch into his hand. “I do. I really, really do.”

Conner’s green eyes stare into mine deeply. “Do you want out of that underwear? It looks...confining.”

I repeat myself, “I really, really do.”

He reaches up and very gently pulls the waistband of my trunks forward and away from my body. My cock immediately rejoices at being freed, and despite being pretty boned throbs and expands a little more. I help Conner slip my underwear off, and then marvel at the sensation of being completely nude out in the open like this – completely nude with him like this.

Conner looks my body over appreciatively, and I lie back to let him explore me with his fingers. He takes his time, stroking my torso lightly and feeling the lines of my muscles. He tickles the hairs along my inner thighs, and just when I think he’s going to touch my naked dick he passes it by, instead feeling where my hip bones press against my young skin. I writhe in anticipation for each touch – has he seriously never done this before? He’s pretty freaking good at it!

I’ve closed my eyes when he says, “Devon?”

I look up at him, his green eyes sparkling in the starlight. “Yeah?” I ask.

“Whatever happens – whatever all of this means...I just want you to know. Right now, tonight, you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” He leans in and kisses me, simultaneously wrapping his hand around my penis. I feel hormones flush through my entire system, and my eyes go wide – the room looks considerably brighter, so I’m sure my pupils have just dilated as large as they can. I moan, a loud, lusty sound that is drowned out in his mouth. I feel Conner smile as he kisses me, enjoying the way his compliment and his touch are making me feel.

And then we go at it.

I grab him, and stroke that long, beautiful cock to the best of my abilities. He strokes me, and we kiss. Then we actually take our hands off each other’s dicks for a while, feeling an urgency that demands we suck and lick at one another’s lips with hands wrapped around each other’s heads. I love the feel of his hair between my fingers, and I love the feel of his fingers running through my hair.

There’s something about this being more than just play that makes us last. I feel that I could explode at any moment, but I don’t, which is pretty notable considering my age. Each time I feel myself wandering close to the edge, I back down, moving on to touch, taste, feel another part of Conner’s body, or him mine, so that we explore and moan and touch for hours.

“Oh my god, oh man, I never imagined...this,” he grunts as our explorations grow more frantic.

I laugh. “We’re going to have to make up for lost time.”

He inhales sharply, wincing in what I take to be a seductive mix of pleasure and pain. “Yeah...what you...uh...just said. Yeah, let’s do that.”

We eventually wind up seated face to face, legs wrapped around one another in the lotus position. Our dicks are mere centimeters from one another, and we’re slowly stroking away staring into each other’s eyes. The intimacy I’m experiencing with Conner tonight is beyond anything I’d ever experienced, in many ways beyond anything I’d ever imagined.

“This isn’t a dream, right?” Conner asks.

I shake my head, answering with a voice slightly shaky from light sexual gasps, “No way. But if it were, I’d wake up and head straight to your bed.”

“Mmmm...me too. Do you like this?”

He’s very lightly stroking me, letting his fingers run up the sides of my shaft. “Mmmm hmmm. But I may need to cum soon. How long have we been doing this? I’m starting to get...I don’t know, frenzied or something. Can you die from not coming for too long?”

This earns a somewhat loud laugh, which echoes in the empty room and startles Conner despite the fact he’s the one making the noise. He answers in a whisper. “No, I don’t think so. At least, I hope not. But let’s not tempt fate.”

“Totally.” Conner’s cock is hot in my hand, and right now it’s pretty slick. I love feeling it, and resolve to spend a significant portion of my life with Conner’s hard dick around my general person.

“You’re so cute, the way you’re always thinking,” Conner says. “God I love you.” It’s an off-handed comment, one that might have embarrassed him if he hadn’t been so soaked with lust and sweat and sex. Sitting here, our young love blossoming for the first time, it just feels really nice.

“I want to get off too,” he says, after gasping at a long stoke I’ve made down his dick, “but I want to ask you something...no, wait, maybe it’s too weird. Never mind.”

It’s funny that he can be bashful even in this position, our young bodies nude and inches from each other. I decide not to let him off the hook. “No way, you can’t say that and then ‘never mind.’ What did you want to ask me?”

He thinks about it for a minute, and then starts speaking slowly and deliberately. “Tonight has been...wow. Perfect. Well, this part anyway. I want something from you, but I don’t really know how to ask for it. I’m sorry, I’m kind of a loser about some things.”

I run my hand through his hair. “Aww, Conner, you’re not a loser. And you never have to worry about asking me anything. I’m very open-minded. Just blurt it out.”

“Uh...ok. Well...I guess then...um...tonight is really perfect, you know?”

I smile at the way he’s waffling. “Yeah, you said that already. And?”

“I was just thinking, and you can say no if you want...I mean, of course you can. You can always say no to anything, Devon. I would never get angry. I mean, I don’t think I would...”

I grab his cock firmly, both to be erotic and to be silly. “Conner, sheesh! Out with it! The sun’s nearly up and my balls are about to explode.”

“Iwantyoutofuckme,” he says in one long word – and I stop to think that this really should be an official word, playable in Scrabble and everything. Then I consider the implication of what he’s asking. He apparently does too. “Sorry, maybe it’s too soon. I’m sorry, forget I said that. I made you angry.”

I think about it, and then smile at him. “Conner, I’m sooooooo not angry right now. Why would I be angry? Tonight has been perfect, and you’re perfect. This is all very sudden, but it’s awesome. It’s a big thing, doing that together. I’ve dreamed about my first time, you know? And it’s never been this perfect in my imagination. The stars behind us, you here naked in front of me. I’m a little scared by how perfect everything is, to be honest, but if you want that...if you’re ready...yeah.” My voice trails off to be very small and meek at the end.

Conner takes my head in his hands and kisses me deeply, for about the three-thousandth time tonight. When he pulls away, he stays very, very close to me so that I can feel his hot breath on my lips as he speaks. “I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. I’ve been trying to figure out how to ask you for the past two hours. I think the only reason I actually got up the courage was because I was afraid our dicks were going to fall off. But I want it. I want you in me. Make me yours, Devon.”

What can a guy say to that?

I say yes, of course, but not before blushing furiously, and not before telling Conner I didn’t know what I was doing. “I really don’t know quite how...I mean, mostly it seems pretty obvious, but you know. I don’t even know what position is best to start with.” Suddenly I feel very inept and somewhat ashamed at my ignorance about such things.

Conner places a palm against my cheek reassuringly. “Hey, calm down. It’s okay. We have to start somewhere. And I watch a lot of porn. I think I know where to start.” He flips over onto hands and knees so that he’s facing the window. The position allows him to drop one leg to the floor, and this does make his most secret place more accessible. “See – like this. Try slipping it in.”

He doesn’t have to ask twice. I gulp and then rummage through my discarded pants, taking the small bottle of lube Sean had given me and slicking some onto my shaft. Almost as an afterthought, I squeeze a little into the crack of Conner’s ass and then swirl some around his hole with my finger. I’d played with this spot on the other guys, but never in preparation for fucking them, and somehow that made this feel really different. I slip a finger in, feeling Conner’s heartbeat way down inside his body.

“Are you sure you want me to try this? It might hurt.” I say, trying to slip two fingers into the tight space.

Conner grunts, but I can tell it’s in approval at what I’m doing. “Yeah, I’m sure. No offense, Devon, but it won’t be the biggest thing that’s ever been up there.”

I raise an eyebrow, which he can’t see since he’s facing away from me. I’ll have to ask about that one later. I step up behind him, my mind hesitant and a little scared, but my dick very eager. The height of the seat is perfect; Conner easily lifts his ass to exactly the level of my erection. I press my rock-hard helmet against his anus, and with just a little pressure it pushes past the sphincter, sliding slowly into him.

“Ohhh...yeah. That’s...yeah...it’s good, Devon. Just take a second...let me get used to it, but it’s good,” he grunts and reassures me.

For my part, I’m a lot less concerned about hurting him. I’m less concerned about everything. I’ve discovered a new, unbelievable sensation. Never, never, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this would feel so very different from everything I’ve ever done before.

Conner’s flesh envelopes me, hot and slick and wonderful. My body responds with surge after surge after surge of hormones – pulsing, hot, wet, sticky lust dripping down my body in waves. I’m trying to hold perfectly still, both because I want to give Conner a second to acclimate to this and because it won’t take very much to make me cum, and although my body really wants to cum, I want to last at least a little.

“Ok, I’m ready,” Conner says, “Go ahead and thrust some. But go slow.”

“Does it hurt?” I ask.

“Uh, it’s more like feeling, um...really full. But it’s good. How is it for you?”

“I see stars,” I respond in a goofy, lusty voice. But I’m telling the truth, and I swear some of them aren’t the ones outside the window.

I do as Conner says and push all the way into him. OH MAN! Then I pull out – wow! I work in and out, placing my hands on his hips to steady him. He lifts his torso higher, which offers even better access, and pretty soon we’re together discovering what we later proclaim the meaning of life.

As I slide in and out, Conner starts making louder moaning noises. I’m concerned that they’re partially in pain, but my body is completely consumed with lust so I don’t stop. My muscles work in perfect harmony, my buttocks and legs thrusting into my lover. And the sensations to my cock – indescribable. It’s like getting twenty blowjobs at once.

I feel like closing my eyes, but I can’t. I want to see everything – my dick moving in and out of Conner’s ass, the way his buttocks flex and move as I thrust into him, the arch of his back. My senses are on fire.

“Uh...how...uh...you...uh...doing?” he asks, placing his words between grunts of pleasure.

I run a hand down my chest – it’s like stroking myself with liquid pleasure. “I think...ah...I really like this. You’re so...ah...hot.”

“You too...uh...wow...that feels soooo good.”

“I’m uh...almost there,” I say, warning Conner in case he wants me to pull out.

I’m disappointed when he asks me to do just that. “Ok, ok,” he says, “Wait, here, stop a second.” I reluctantly pull out of him, my dick throbbing with pleasure and lust. “Sorry,” he explains, “I want to see it when you come. Here, try this position.”

Lust glazes over my eyes when I realize he just wants to shift positions. He rolls over on his back, allowing one leg to fall to the floor and raising the other up onto my shoulder. I get what he’s trying to do and prop that leg up so that, again, his asshole is more accessible.

I enter him again and begin my thrusting anew. Conner seems to know what he’s doing – this position allows me to maintain leverage by holding onto his thigh, and again he’s at exactly the right height. And being enveloped by his body feels just as wonderful in this position as the last – maybe even better. From here I can reach down to stroke my panting friend, who has remained hard.

I’d love to do this for hours on end, but I am a teenager, and all too soon the pleasure is too much for my young body.

“Oh my god, fuck me Devon...that’s so...fuck...yeah, do it right like that,” Conner encourages me.

“AH! Ah, I’m about to...Conner...I’m going to...”

“Look at me...here, look at me,” he pleads. I have no problem complying, opening my eyes to see him staring into mine. He’s completely flushed, his eyes glazed with young lust. Seeing him smiling at me, waiting for me to come deep in his body, it pushes me over the edge.

“I’M, I’M, I’M CUMMING!” I yell, way too loud for the empty room. My words echo back at me just as my cock erupts. Later I swear that I came within inches of dying from pleasure, my body pushing into Conner for all it’s worth and the sensations paralyzing me with my climax. Conner’s ass tenses and flexes, and I wonder if he can feel my cock pulsing and shooting my spunk into him. Probably, because he’s moaning along with me.

And then Conner’s eyes cross slightly, an expression of extreme ecstasy crossing his face. He moans, and then despite the fact that I’m only very lightly touching him, he yells as he starts coming, albeit not as loud as I had. “OH! Devon! Devon! Devon!” He gets bonus points for calling my name.

Conner’s cock erupts, first shooting a long, solid stream of semen into his face and then pulsing a second and third shot onto this pecs. Three more shots cover his tummy. Each time he shoots he tenses the muscles of his lower body, almost murdering me with pleasure as my overly sensitive cock is squeezed hard deep in the confines of his ass. In the end, his penis erupts with ten sizable shots, and he winds up covered in cum.

When he finishes his mega-orgasm he looks at me and smiles. “Feel good?” he asks once he’s caught his breath a little. I’m also panting, and give him a very lame thumbs up.

Conner’s dick is still hard, so I grab it, sliding some of his semen over the tip. He shudders and yelps. “Ahhh...heh...ok, ok. Wow...OW! Ok, too much...you’re too good at that...chill,” he begs once the extreme-sensitivity sets in. I release him, his long, slender cock standing proudly at attention, although it’s starting to droop a little.

I look down at my own. It’s...flaccid. “Hey, that’s weird,” I say.

“What?” Conner asks, still out of breath a little.

“My dick went down. Usually it doesn’t do that until I’ve come at least twice. I always need seconds. I guess you wore me out,” I explain.

“Cool,” he says.

“Wow, you were messy,” I say, and then add, “And if you even dare say ‘sorry,’ I’m never doing that with you again.”

“Then that’s good, cause there’s no way I’m apologizing. It was a fun mess to make.”

“Yeah, it really was.”

Soaked with endorphins, I push Conner over so that he’s lying parallel with the window, facing into the room. I slide up against him, face to face, wrapping my arms and legs around him so that we maintain as much body contact as possible. I have no idea what the future may bring, but for now I have him in my arms, and I’m not letting go.

As if reading my mind, he says, “I want for life to always be like this.”

“Me too, Conner.”

“Devon?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I call you sometime?”

I thump him on his chest for the joke, my finger landing in a cold glob of his spunk. And then reply, “You can do anything you want.”

“Devon?”

“Yeah?”

“Promise me this isn’t a dream.”

This time I pinch his butt, which earns me a loudly exclaimed “Ow!” and then a chuckle. “You’re not dreaming. See, fully awake,” I say. “But it feels like a dream.”

“It does,” he agrees. “Thanks for holding me. It feels nice.”

It does feel nice, and I’d almost done it subconsciously. It was like we belonged together this way, and I wanted to stay here forever. “The stars are beautiful,” I mention, looking out into space. It’s a bit dizzying, lying next to the window like this.

“Beautiful and infinite,” Conner says, looking into my eyes. And then he yawns, and I yawn too. And then we both fall into a peaceful sleep, two naked boys, having found one another at last.


Possibly the end, perhaps to be continued



Author’s End Notes

Soundtrack: I associate a song with each chapter. Compile them, and you’d have a soundtrack to the story. The song for chapter 15 is Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap. It has been Conner’s song from the day that I imagined his back-story, and it’s the song he’s playing on the deck in the story. As a side note, when Devon runs back and changes the music, I imagine him switching it to Kids by MGMT. This was a song I’d associated with Devon and Conner, and it’s come to be a sort of theme for them as I’m writing.

Is this really the end?

This chapter has been with me since I first conceived the story. Much of the tale has developed as I’ve written it over the past two years, but there are three or four elements that have been there since day one. The most important, to me, was the image of two boys finding each other, one having lost everything, and one looking for something they haven’t quite figured out.

So if you were to delve into my original notes, before there was ever a wank club and before Devon liked mac and cheese and before Zane even existed, Devon was going to end up with Conner, and the two were going to get together on a large deck next to a window looking out onto the stars after having a fight and after Conner explained the sad circumstances of his life. I always wanted this point in the story to be sad, happy, sexy, and romantic. I hope the finished scenes live up to this.

In many ways, we could end Devon’s story here. He’s happy, and we can imagine that he has a long, happy life with Conner and his friends. He’s had a lot of fun along the way, and he’s had a lot of sex too. As an author, it’s an alluring prospect, to leave the boys sleeping there together, knowing they’ll forever be young, happy and in each other’s arms. It’s also a lot less work to leave them there.

But in many ways, Devon’s story isn’t over. He’s still on a long interstellar voyage, and there is still a lot to write about. What’s the deal with Steven Caine, and the escalating tension on the ship? How will having Conner be different for Devon? How will it change the other relationships in his life?

If the story does continue, I can tell you that there will be conflict. There will be some sad moments, and some scary ones. And there will be sex, of course. There will be a room with zero g (because I get many e-mails about this), and we’ll get to see the military sections of the ship. We’ll meet an outgoing Australian surfer boy and a quiet French boy. There will be Morse code, mac and cheese, a joke with subtitles, and a birthday party. And not everything will take place on the ship.

I leave it up to the readers whether they’d like Devon’s story to continue. If you do, then let me know. If there’s interest, then I will sit down and begin writing the next seven chapters, which are outlined and ready to go. I think Devon’s up for more boy love and space travel, if everyone else is.

Erik
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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