Author’s Note

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We left Devon and Conner slumbering together at the end of Chapter 15. Without further comment, we now go with Devon into a new phase of his life.

Enjoy!


The tale so far:

Devon, determined to live life to the fullest after his injuries, had such a newfound appreciation for life that he became a little more aggressive in his life. This plays a role in his inviting Conner to his Friday evening wank club meeting. When Conner stumbles upon the guys doing what the guys do, he becomes enraged at Devon for bringing him and says he never wants to speak to Devon again.

It isn’t long before Devon learns that Conner’s anger stems from his feelings for Devon, and when Devon seeks out the other boy to apologize, Conner tells Devon about his sad past. Devon leaves, but then turns back when he realizes that he’s had the boyfriend he’s always wanted in Conner all along, he just never realized it. The boys make love and fall asleep in one another’s arms.


Space Ship Boys

Chapter 16 – Bedroom Whispers

Conner is beautiful when sleeping, I consider as I wake the morning following our first lovemaking. We’d fallen asleep face-to-face, squeezed tightly together on the narrow seat running under the massive window looking out into space. His face is content and angelic, sandy brown bangs swept across his face so that one eye is almost completely covered. It’s very sexy, as is his nakedness, and his warmth, and his scent, and the way his body rises and falls with each breath.

And it was sexy that he loved me – really sexy.

He’d said it, in his shy, quiet manner the night before, right before we’d made love. It was exhilarating and exciting – both his saying it and the resulting sex. I’d been blind to Conner’s feelings for a long time, apparently. Looking at him now, I have to wonder how I’d missed it. It seemed obvious, even when he was sleeping.

I also have to wonder how I missed my feelings for him. I understand now that I do truly love him, and it’s as potent and powerful a realization as it was the night before, when the epiphany of my feelings had propelled me back into his arms.

But why had it taken me so long to figure out? Had I been too absorbed in everything else in my life to see it? Or was love one of those things that took time to develop? Did taking so long mean I’d fallen for Conner the way you were supposed to when you found a boyfriend, or did it mean my feelings for him were less substantial than they should be? That maybe they were temporary and would eventually fade? I didn’t think they were, but how do you tell?

Being in love is great, but I’m starting to realize it’s also as scary as fuck. If I’d just taken my sweet time to figure out Conner was the love of my life, that’s all fine and good. But if I wake up a week or a month from now and realize I’ve somehow fallen out of love with him – or that I was never really in love at all – that’s horrifying. Conner’s lips are curled into a small, happy smile, and the thought of ever hurting the guy, this boy who’d waited so patiently for this moment, that sends a shiver through my body.

Conner stirs, taking a long and impossibly deep breath. Like I said, he’s beautiful when sleeping, and although my head is spinning with all the thoughts and fears and obsessions a new relationship entails, it’s worth it. For now, I’m pretty sure that what I’m feeling for Conner is real and deep, and the best thing is probably for me to calm down and enjoy being in love.

And to tell him that I love him.

If there’s anything to feel bad about, it’s the way I accidentally jerked Conner around for weeks. Looking back, my “thank you for being a great doctor” dinner really did seem like I might have been saying “I want to date you.” Whoops. I feel bad about all of that, but the best I can do is make sure he realizes the days of Devon being blind and stupid are over. To start, I think waking him gently so that hearing something sweet from me is the best way to start the day.

“Okay, scrubs, let’s get everyone assembled over against that wall. It’s early and I’m not in the mood for your crap this morning!” booms an overly loud voice, echoing through the large, empty deck.

Conner’s eyes fly open, and mine go wide. Shit, we’re not alone in here!

“No, no, no! I said against the wall! It’s always like herding cats with you guys. And stop hopping around – I have a massive hangover and you’re giving me a headache.”

“Sheesh, you’re no fun in the morning,” says a familiar voice. It’s Charlie.

I roll onto my tummy so that I can see what’s going on. I can make out several figures in a group all the way across the massive room. One of them is Charlie, and the other, the grumpy guy, is Kevin Tellern. That would make the twenty or so shorter boys the scrubs – the group of middle school boys who had ended up on the ship when their weekend trip to the JDU campus had coincided with the evacuation from Earth.

The scrubs are hopping around like fleas, as is their way, and either because they’re totally distracted by themselves or because the lights are still turned to the bare minimum brightness in here, no one seems to have noticed the two naked boys sleeping in the window across the room.

“Shit!” Conner whispers, looking terrified. His entire body has gone tense. Well, all but the fun parts go tense, I guess. “What are they doing here so early? What time is it?”

I shrug, having no answer to either question. We hadn’t been asleep for very long, having made out well into the early morning hours. If I had to guess, I’d say it was just after six. “What do we do?” Conner asks.

I glance back toward the intruding scrubs, who are calming down enough to stand in a semi-orderly line against the far wall. They’re dressed in camping outfits, and it dawns on me that this weekend was this whole scrub campout adventure thing Charlie had planned.

Living on the space ship can be tough on anyone, but sometimes it was harder on the younger boys, who were a little young to have been separated from their families the way they had been. To help make life easier, four guys had been assigned positions overseeing the scrubs. Charlie had volunteered for this, and he’d really taken to it.

“I don’t think they’ve seen us,” I whisper. “Let’s get dressed really quietly, maybe they won’t notice.”

Conner nods in agreement, still looking scared, and a little mortified. It’s adorable, actually. I don’t know, maybe it was all my adventures in the recent months, but getting caught starkers wasn’t amongst my most terrifying nightmares, not by a long shot. Personally, I wouldn’t really care if we decided to get up and walk out of here naked – it’s an exhilarating thought. But the fact that Conner is clearly so shy and worked up by this situation is adorable – and sexy. Conner smiles at me shyly; I get a boner.

“Devon,” Conner sputters, “are you…are you getting hard? Now?”

Our bodies are pressed together tightly, and what Conner is feeling between us is indeed my growing manhood. I smile at Conner sheepishly. “Sorry, you’re just really sexy.”

He relaxes a little and rolls his eyes. “Maybe you can think about that later. Where the hell are our clothes?”

Across the room, Charlie launches into some instructions about the day’s activities. This will inevitably bore the scrubs, so I know we don’t have long before wandering eyes figure out we’re over here. I look to the floor beneath our makeshift bed; our things are sitting in a disheveled pile, where we’d tossed them in our scurry to get naked.

“They’re right here,” I say, reaching down to grab a handful of garments. Conner takes my underwear and, trying to be as quiet as possible, slips them on. I consider pointing out that they’re mine – he hadn’t been wearing any of his own, but I let him have them, slipping my own pants up over my hips slowly and silently.

We manage to dress without drawing attention to ourselves. In retribution for losing my undies, I steal Conner’s hoodie, and he slips on my t-shirt. We don’t bother with shoes, deciding to tiptoe toward the entryway in an effort to escape completely unnoticed. Charlie is still going over the details of the camping weekend.

Just as we’ve almost made our escape, a young voice sounds throughout the large room, “Hey, it’s Devon!”

I wince, and stop in my tracks. Jason, one of the more rambunctious and attentive scrubs who’d taken a particular liking to me, has noticed us. Conner and I turn to face the group at the far end of the room. Well, at least we’re clothed now.

I figure it would be rude to duck out now that we’ve been spotted, so I walk over to where Charlie and the group have gathered, and Conner follows. When we get within a reasonable talking distance, Charlie says, “Er…hi, Devon. I didn’t expect you here this morning. You know it was tonight we needed you, right?”

I’d agreed to participate in the scrub campout, and did remember that I was supposed to help with dinner. “Yeah, totally,” I answer. “We were just hanging out. I’ll, uh, let you have the room and see you tonight, I guess.”

The scrubs are whispering and giggling amongst themselves, as they tend to do any time there’s a break. Charlie looks from me to Conner curiously, and then glances up at my disheveled hair. I’d left the flat in a rush the night before, and in a terrible mood. I’m sure he was worried about me, as were my other friends, probably. Shoot, with everything that had happened I’d completely forgotten how frantic I’d been the last time I’d seen the guys. “Everything okay?” Charlie asks as I drift off in thought, thinking about the events of the past twelve hours.

“Huh, wha?” I mutter, snapping back to reality. “Oh. Yeah, totally.” I’d love to fill Charlie in, but everything that happened following Conner’s ill-fated introduction to the wank club is probably a story better suited for a time when Conner, Kevin and twenty pre-pubescent boys aren’t within earshot. But still, I want to make sure Charlie knows I’m okay. I add, “Everything’s great. I need to get some sleep, though. But I’ll message you later. And I’ll be sure to be there tonight – around eight?”

Charlie nods, and I say goodbye to the scrubs and Kevin. As Conner and I enter the tunnel leading back into the commons and the rest of the ship, he asks, “Do you think he knows?”

My brain is a little slow from the lack of sleep and being overworked by recent events. Again I’d started to drift off into thought. “Does who know what?” I ask, oblivious.

Conner looks at me dubiously, but with a smile. “Charlie, dummy. Do you think he suspects anything?”

I laugh, not really intending to insult Conner, but for some reason his phrasing strikes me as really funny, probably owing to my current mental state. “Suspects anything? It’s not like Murder on the Orient Express. We’re not up to mayhem and destruction, you know.”

Conner sighs at my sarcasm. Well, he better get used to it if we’re going to be together. “I know that, dummy,” he replies. “I just wondered if he suspected that you and I…you know.”

We get onto the moving sidewalk leading down the tunnel back to the commons. I pause to enjoy the sensation of the roller mechanisms under the belt against my bare feet. It’s like a little massage. “Oh that,” I say, pretending to be oblivious to Conner’s original meaning. “Two guys, bed-headed, wandering out of a room together early in the morning wearing each other’s clothes. Yeah, I think he probably suspects.”

“Oh.”

“Is that a problem?” I ask, concerned that Conner may want to keep us being together a secret.

“No, not at all,” he answers. “Is it for you? I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of your friends or anything. I mean, any more than I did last night. Uh…this is just all really new for me.”

“Yeah,” I agree, and then realize he may take this mean that my friends knowing is a problem for me, when I’d actually just meant to agree with the last part of his statement. “I mean ‘yeah it’s all new,’ not ‘yeah it’s a problem.’ You know what I mean?” I add, not really sure what I’m trying to say. And then I laugh. “Wow, who knew this would be so hard?”

Conner smiles at me curiously. “What’s hard?”

Suddenly I’m a little bashful. “This whole talking like this and everything, especially after being friends for so long. You get me a little tongue-tied, to be honest.” And he does; after what we’d done last night I want to talk to him about everything – my dreams and thoughts and what kind of waffles I like. But I also wanted to be cool, and not seem like a total psycho in front of him.

“I have you tongue-tied? I find that hard to believe,” he laughs.

“It’s true, I don’t know if I’m coming or going.” I hop up on the rail dividing the moving sidewalk from the rest of the tunnel, riding it as we move slowly along. “Wow, I really need some sleep.”

“Me too,” he agrees.

I look at my watch. It’s early, even if I hadn’t been up all night. “Should we take a nap together, or breakfast first then nap?”

“Both,” he immediately says, and then seems to realize his answer makes no sense. “I mean, both sound good. I’m pretty tired too. Together?” he asks, gulping cutely.

I feel like being a little mischievous with him and bypass the nap thing. “Yeah, I was thinking we could grab an early breakfast together. You work today?” It dawns on me that he might very well have a Saturday shift. I don’t have any plans, other than meeting Charlie and the scrubs later.

“No,” he says flatly, and then, “I mean, no to work. And yes to breakfast.” He flashes me his wide Conner smile; I get another boner.

And I have to laugh at the weird circles we seem to be talking in. “Wow, we’re both rubbish in the morning,” I point out. “Let’s get some food.”

Conner laughs and nods his agreement, probably to both food and us being rubbish.

We head up to food services and find the cafeteria moderately empty – not surprising for an early Saturday morning. Conner grabs a fruit and yogurt parfait, but I’m famished, having walked a half marathon before our lengthy night of sex, and go for a double tall stack of blueberry chocolate chip pancakes, along with eggs, turkey bacon, coffee, orange juice, and a cinnamon doughnut (for good measure).

“Whoa, hungry?” Conner asks when I pile the final breakfast item onto my tray.

“Can’t help it,” I reply. “Somebody really helped me work up an appetite last night, and I’m assuming they’ll do it again later, so I better stock up.”

I walk off toward the seating area, leaving a slack-jawed Conner imagining just what I mean by this. I waggle my butt a little extra, just to give him the best view possible as I find a good table, of which there are plenty this morning. I’m really going to enjoy this dating thing – teasing Conner is fun, sexy and exciting.

We eat, Conner somewhat better mannered than me. I can’t help it – starved, I gulp down the food. Other than my teenage slovenliness, we eat in silence, exchanging occasional knowing grins. It feels nice, having Conner sitting here next to me. I mean, we’ve eaten together many times, but this is the first time we’ve eaten together when together. Or, er, when we’re together eating together…man, I’m really out of it this morning.

But not too out of it to remember that just before the scrubs surprised us, I was about to tell Conner how I felt about him. I open my mouth, determined to blurt out those three fateful words, but then I stop, considering that it might not be the more romantic thing in the world if I say it while my face is smeared with maple syrup. Instead of confessing my feelings for Conner, I take an overly large bite of doughnut.

“You were going to say something?” Conner asks, having noticed my pause.

“Um,” I mumble, my mouth full of the sweet cakey doughnut. “I forgot what I was going to say,” I lie, my words garbled from my overly full mouth. I might have seized the opportunity to say it right then, but doughnut mouth is even less sexy than syrup face.

“Ok,” Conner laughs. “We’re not in a hurry, you know. You can chew your food.”

I defy him, taking another large bite of the pastry. “I wan to eab it before a pigeon gebs ib,” I answer, mouth stuffed, thinking back to the doughnut I’d lost to that stupid bird at JDU. Conner gets the reference and smiles, shaking his head at my silliness.

When we’re finished, we walk back to the dorm areas, Conner by my side, our gait slow and deliberate. I’ve wandered around the ship with him many times before, but even this feels new and different. I think about telling Conner that I’m in love with him, and I get a little rush, perhaps helped by the massive amount of glucose from the pancakes and maple syrup that’s rushing through my system. I smile goofily, open my mouth to speak, and then glance at Conner, who I can’t help but notice looks…consternated.

And not the kind where you can’t poop, the kind where you’re thinking heavy thoughts. I close my mouth. There’s a definite change to Conner’s aura – he seems concerned about something. If he’s deep in thought, now may not be the time to bring up something serious, or something I hope will be remembered as special.

We walk along in sleepy silence. I lead us back to the unoccupied flat, which we find empty. At least, the living area is empty. Mike may very well be asleep in Charlie’s room.

Entering the bedroom I use here, Conner says nonchalantly, “I thought the other room was yours.”

I’d taken him into Charlie’s room to talk after our misunderstanding, so I know what he means. “Nah,” I reply. “Strictly speaking, none of the rooms are mine, we’re kind of squatting here, I guess. But this in the one I use. The other one is Charlie’s. And Mike’s, too.”

Conner walks over to a bedside table and picks up a small vinyl figure, another memento from the Halloween festival. It’s sitting next to the package of underwear I’d won at the carnival – I hadn’t bothered to open them yet. Conner absentmindedly plays with the little action figure. “Ah. Cool,” he says, his mind clearly on things other than toys and flat assignments. “Look, Devon – we need to talk about something,” he says after a pause.

I take a deep breath. Even the most obtuse gay boy can discern when “we need to talk” is of that particular tone it means “we need to talk about our relationship.” I can tell something is bothering Conner, and has been since breakfast. “Ok,” I reply, my voice a little uncertain.

Conner sighs. “I don’t really know how to say this,” he begins, then stops, apparently mulling over his words. Ah, crap, I’m about to get dumped, aren’t I? I sit down on my bed, feeling like a toddler that’s about to get scolded. He continues, “Ok, so here’s the deal – last night was great.”

I proffer a nervous giggle in response to this, which I immediately regret and feel stupid about. “Yeah, it was,” I say more seriously, trying to somehow balance keeping this conversation light with not wanting to come off like I’m not listening…and also with the apprehension that Conner is about to tell me it was all a mistake.

He looks me in the eyes, but then glances away shyly, as if somehow we’re suddenly not on the best of terms, or as if our friendship has changed in the last five minutes for some reason. “Yeah,” he says uncertainly. “Devon, I want to offer you an out.”

I’m confused. I have no idea what he means. “An out?” My voice is dry and raspy. I instantly assume that “an out” is some code for “let’s not see each other.” I wonder if I should puke now, or later.

When Conner starts speaking again, he turns his back to me, clearly incapable of facing me. I can see that he’s still playing with the little toy as he speaks, and I brace myself, feeling jittery and sick to my stomach. Damn those pancakes!

“Yeah, an out,” he says slowly. “Devon, I don’t really know how to say this to you, so let me just blurt it out, and hopefully it will make sense. Last night was great, and at the risk of seeming like a total sycophant, let me go on the record and say that you’re my dream guy. You’re funny, and smart, and sexy. You understand me…I think…and you’re the nicest guy in the world. We can talk about doughnuts and pigeons, or we can talk about relativistic physics, and you always have something to say, and it’s always interesting and funny and smart.

“You could have any of the guys on this ship. Well, any of the gay ones…and probably a lot of the straight ones too. You’re…well, like I said…you’re just about the most perfect boy in the world.” He pauses.

I’m not really sure where this is going. “Ok…” I say, leaving the word hanging in the air as a confused question. I’m not really certain why being perfect is about to get me dumped.

Conner seems to understand that I’m a little lost, although he keeps his back turned to me. “Ok, ok, ok,” he says rapidly, and then takes a really deep breath. “That’s supposed to be an explanation of why I’m into you, and I hope it makes sense. I’ve been into you…well, forever. Probably since the day I met you. You’ve always been like…like sunshine to me. So when you came back last night…that was…wow…that was probably the biggest moment of my life.”

“Cool.”

“Yeah. Sorry, this still isn’t making any sense. I guess I’m saying that I understand why it was so big that you came back – I’ve wished for something like that for a really, really long time. And when it happened, I understood why it meant so much to me.

“But I’ve been thinking about what it all meant to you, and asking myself why you came back when you did. I’ve tried flirting with you before, Devon. And I’d tried to get you to notice me…I even tried skinny-dipping, but you never really seemed to give me much though. You know, that way. And that’s okay, but it makes me concerned that the only reason you came back last night was because we’d had that fight, and then I’d told you about my parents and all of that. It feels like maybe you came back because of the emotions we were feeling from that conversation, not necessarily because of how you feel about me.

“And that’s why I want to offer you an out. Last night was the best night of my life, and I’ll always remember it that way. But if you...if you came back because you felt sorry for me or because you felt bad about the fight, you can just walk away now, you know? You can tell me and we can walk away, and stay friends, and just remember last night as an awesome happy accident. I promise I won’t be hurt if that’s…if that’s what you want.”

Conner hangs his head, still not daring to look at me, his body language telling me that even if nearly everything he’s said is completely earnest and heartfelt and true, that last part is a total lie. I’m absolutely certain that me walking away would crush him.

I get up and move around the room, deciding that now is as good a time as any to change out of my clothes from last night, which aren’t all that fresh, to be honest. Conner still doesn’t turn around, and I try to form my words quickly, knowing that whatever pain and suffering I felt when I thought he was going to dump me, he was now feeling that tenfold.

I step out of my shorts and then into the red jock that had recently become the physical symbol of my sexuality. In this case, I just wanted some underwear. I also remove Conner’s hoodie, tossing it into the corner onto the floor. “I don’t want that,” I say in a voice I mean to sound both certain and reassuring. “Conner, look at me.”

He turns slowly, still hesitant to look me in the eyes. When he sees that all I’m wearing is the tiny jockstrap, his brain seems to malfunction a little. He clearly doesn’t want to stare at my crotch, which is probably what his brain is telling him to do. And he doesn’t want to look me in the eyes either, so his gaze darts around for a moment before he settles on staring at a spot in the direct center of my naked chest. He’s not crying, but his eyes are wet from his words, and it makes me melt a little.

“I don’t want an out,” I clarify. “I totally, totally don’t want that. I’m sorry if I did anything to make you think I did. I can be obtuse, and I can be a dork sometimes. I understand what you’re saying about last night. This is all really new to me, so let me try and say things so they make sense too.” He looks less sad and scared, but still bashful, so I remain very careful with my phrasing.

“I didn’t come back last night because I felt sorry for you, or because we’d fought. I came back because…because…well, it’s complicated, how do I put it into words?”

I take a deep breath, and Conner’s gaze darts to my red undies, which amuses me. It also seems to offer me the inspiration I need to continue. “Ok, so here’s the deal. I’ve spent the last six months wandering around this ship looking for something. Or maybe for a bunch of things, I don’t know. I know I spent a lot of time looking for sex, and then I spent a lot of time looking for friendship. I also spent a lot of time going in circles, which is a really Devon thing to do.

“I found sex, and it was great. And I found friendships – better friendships than I ever could have imagined. But there was always something missing. I’ve been realizing that more and more lately. I would see Mike and Charlie together, and it would make me feel…I don’t know, off. Some weird mix of being lonely and angry and depressed. I’d get that way around Sean and Dog too. I’ve been getting closer to my friends, but then sometimes I also feel like I’m always on the outside looking in, and that there was a connection I’m missing.”

Conner is listening to me intently, but I feel like I’m becoming long winded so I try to find the point. “Last night when I walked away, I started to realize how distracted and blind I’ve been. That connection that I was craving…I’ve always had that with you, I was just too stupid to see it. Or maybe I mistook it for friendship. I don’t know, we’re both new at this…it’s cool, and exciting, but scary too.”

He finally looks me in the eyes, his green irises shimmering as they meet the intense brown of mine. “Yeah, it is scary,” he whispers. “I don’t want…I don’t want to lose you.”

I feel tears come to my eyes, and soften my voice to match the volume of his. “You’re not going to, Conner. What I’m telling you is that I don’t want an out, and I don’t want to erase last night. I didn’t come back because I felt sorry for you. I came back because I need you…I’ve always needed you, and I was just too stupid to see it.”

“Oh.” He sniffles adorably, and I laugh, so that I too have to wipe away the tears and snot that the emotions are causing.

I take a step closer so that we’re mere inches apart. I can feel the heat of Conner’s body radiating out into the room, and I can smell his gently wafting scent, which is a little stronger than usual, probably owing to the lack of a shower. He still smells good, and I wonder just how laced with pheromones his odor is right now.

I speak again, this time even softer so that my voice is barely a hushed whisper. “I want to tell you one more thing, Conner, but if I do you have to promise to put aside all doubts about me wanting to be with you forever and ever, and you have to promise me we’ll never have the ‘here’s an out’ conversation again.”

“Um…ok.”

“I came back last night because I love you. I love you, Conner, and I am standing here right now in love with you. I don’t want an out from what happened last night because I loved you then, and I love you now, and I’ll love you tomorrow. I’m sorry that it took me a while to understand that, but I promise that you’ll never question that it’s true ever again…I love you.”

It’s hard to describe the smile that crosses Conner’s lips, or the happiness that I see in his eyes, but I know that my statement has had the intended effect, and that Conner believes what I’m saying to be true and honest. “I…I love you too,” he says, tears rolling down his cheeks despite his obvious happiness.

“I know that you do,” I reply, taking his head in my hand and pulling it toward me. Our lips brush, and then we’re kissing. Not a lewd, sexual kiss – although it certainly doesn’t feel unsexy – but one of passion and mutual love, a kiss that is more tender than the night before, but also more self-assured. If there had been any doubt as to what we were to one another between last night and now, it was erased. In a kiss we expressed our love, and became boyfriends, and entered a new and exciting stage in our lives. I would always remember this kiss, along with many others that Conner and I would share in the years to come.

When we part lips, I feel that all of the nervousness and uncertainty I’d been feeling all morning has become total utter happiness, and as such I’m giddy, not sure whether I’d prefer to melt into a lump on the floor or go hopping all over the place like a little boy.

But there is one thing I know that I want. I lock gazes with my new boyfriend once again, seeing that he’s feeling the same overwhelming emotions as me, and that gets me even more excited. “So Conner…are you going to get undressed now, or what?”

“I…uh…” he stammers, and then grins a big, goofy, shy, happy, sexy grin.

I love his bashfulness. I resolve to relish every moment of it in these early days of our relationship. “Here, let me give you a hand,” I say, smiling too. When I unbutton the fly on his jeans, they fall freely to the floor, and when I lift up on the hem of his shirt, he raises his arms to allow me to pull it off over his head and arms. In seconds he too is wearing only underwear, and I gaze longingly at his muscular chest, and long legs, and the navy trunks with the baby blue bulge that he’d stolen from me. “I’m gonna want those back, you know,” I say, slipping a finger in the waistband of the pilfered underwear.

“I guess I better give them to you, then,” he replies, his voice a little huskier than it had been a moment ago. He takes a bold step – bold for Conner, anyway – and presses down on the briefs so that they slip off his long, tall body. And then he presses on mine so that they slide off in similar fashion.

We find ourselves standing face to face, nude. This feels somehow more intimate that what we’d done the night before, and more endearing. I consider that I could stand here all day, just looking at this shy, smart, handsome boy, his green eyes loving me with every glance. My head is spinning, and I swear I’m seeing stars.

Conner reaches up and places a palm on my chest, the warmth of his hand comforting and sensual. He speaks very slowly, as if wondering if I’m some illusion his mind has conjured in a feverish dream. “You’re…without a doubt…the most…beautiful thing…I’ve ever seen,” he says, his voice silky with sincerity.

Fuck standing here all day.

I press my body into his, bringing our lips together once more and kissing him hungrily. He grinds back into me, and we find ourselves trying to create as much contact as possible between our two bodies. First we press midsections together, two flat, teenage tummies rubbing together, and then we feel our chests come into contact. Conner’s nipples are hard and hot against my skin, as are mine against his. And then there are the boners. Ah, those lovely, wonderful boners, which press into young bodies in jutting, stabbing hardness. I like boners!

Instinctively, while pressing my tongue deep into my lover’s mouth, I wrap a leg up around his ass, allowing my calf to caress the gentle sloping flesh there. It feels awesome, but I lose my balance. Conner steadies me, and then lifts me by my hips so that he can lower me onto the bed. He slides into position next to me, a smile on his lips.

Eager hands run over even more eager bodies, and I savor learning about Conner’s body. There is a spot right above his hip that makes him twitch and moan every time I touch it. Another spot on his chest makes him sigh.

“Ergh…Devon…I can’t believe, twice in one day. I mean…wow.”

I pause and look at him curiously, laughter in my voice. “You can’t believe we’re doing it twice in one day? Cause people do that, you know. Sometimes more.”

He giggles. “No, I mean I can’t believe that twice in one day…I get you. This isn’t…this can’t be real. You’re so…you’re just so beautiful.”

That comment deserves a big wet kiss, and I give him one. “You are too, green-eyes,” I reply affectionately, and then I get a little silly, looking down between us. “Holy cow, it is that big! I thought I dreamed that part!” I reach down to give Conner’s dick a long, firm stroke. As I’d noted the night before, it was pretty dang long.

“Ah!” he gasps, smiling at this new contact. And then he blushes. “Hey, don’t make fun, I’m sensitive,” he says.

He lies back onto the mattress and I take the opportunity to climb up and straddle him, taking his cock into my hands. “Make fun? Make fun? In what alternate dimension is calling a guy’s dick big making fun?”

“Don’t know,” he responds, looking again like a little boy. “I thought you were being facetious.”

“No way. Look it.” I bring our cocks together, mine under his, showing him that his is longer. “It’s big. And sexy.” I hold our two boners together in my hands, stroking them up and down firmly. They’re already both pretty wet; we seem to both be producing an ample amount of precum.

“Uh…yeah…uh…ok. Yours is too. Wow, that feels good. I never…I mean, I like doing it to myself, but I never figured having…uh!...someone do it would be so much better.”

I shrug. “Lots of things are better when someone else does them to you.” And that makes me think of something. Last night I’d seen Conner’s dick. I’d touched Conner’s dick. I’d even seen Conner’s dick explode in gooey boyish orgasmic delight. But I hadn’t tasted Conner’s dick.

I release my grip and change position on the bed, moving down along Conner’s side. “Aww,” he gripes. “You’re stopping? It felt so good. I liked…ERGH!”

“Ergh” is really just an approximation of the sound Conner makes as his eyes go wide and his body convulses, just before he displays a really goofy grin of pleasure. All of this is, of course, owing to the fact that I’ve taken his dick into my mouth, pleasuring his sensitive tip with my eagerly swirling tongue.

It should be noted that Conner tastes quite good, as if there were ever any doubt.

“Devon…that’s…oh wow! Ah! That’s so…uh, good. Wow. I mean…ah!” he gasps as I work on his erection. His pulse and breathing increase immediately to a rapid pace, as if he’s run up twenty flight of stairs.

I pause, a light slurping noise filling the room as I pull off Conner’s cock. “Like that?” I ask. The light sheen of sweat that’s appeared on his tummy makes an answer unnecessary, but he nods an eager affirmative anyway.

“I never had a blow job before…it’s…wow. Subtle, but nice.” His chest is rising and falling seductively, his body appearing even longer and more sensuous from this vantage point.

“It’s subtle, huh?” I add a little dubious sarcasm to my reply. I know what he means – the sensation you get from a blowjob can be a little less intense than a hand – sometimes. Then others, not so much. I decide to show Conner just how intense oral sex can get, and start by going down on him again, sliding his cock deep into the warm wetness of my mouth.

“Ah!” he grunts, eyes rolling back into his head.

I’ve gotten better at oral – not as good as Mikey, our reigning champion, but still pretty adept. It isn’t long before I have him thrashing and gasping. I pull out all the stops, changing pressure and strokes frequently, and teasing the most sensitive parts. I switch positions so that we’re lying in opposite directions, which offers me better leverage, and I use that to free up a hand so I can touch and caress and play his balls, which feel heavy and ready to explode.

Conner reaches over to lightly stroke me in return. He’s too far gone to focus, and that’s okay. I want his first blowjob to be memorable. And it is!

“AH! Devon, slow down! Ah, ah, oh! It’s…oh…that’s making me wild…ah!” he grunts. I smile, his erection still stuffed deep in my mouth.

And he’s right – it is making him wild. He writhes and moans, lifting his butt off the bed and grabbing at the sheets in fistfuls. His eyes are clamped closed, and if I didn’t know better I’d say he was in pain. But I do know better, and keep going. I want him to spray, and I want it now. I want to make Conner cum, and I want to see his thick, creamy semen erupt out into the world.

And it isn’t long at all before that exact thing happens.

“Devon…I’m close…I’m close…I’m…I’m…I’m…Oh god…DEVON!” he screams, his body tensing in telltale approaching orgasm. His convulsions, his noises, his smells, they are all that of a boy gone over the edge. And I take him there.

I’d have no problems drinking up Conner’s load, and I do that more often than not in the future when I blow him. But today, for whatever reason, I want to see him cum. I want to see the result of my efforts, so I pull off his cock and take the long shaft into my hand. Conner thrashes and yelps as the first rope of semen shoots out of his tip, landing on his upper chest.

“Yeah…do it, do it, do it,” I say as he cums, encouraging him along – as if he needed it. I reach down and grab my own erection with my free hand, rubbing myself as my boyfriend sprays.

“Ergh…that’s so…fuck!” A second, third and forth ejection erupts, and then a fifth, sixth and seventh. I may be imagining things, but the fifth seems even more powerful and copious as the first. Man, Conner can sure shoot!

Without realizing it, I’ve started frantically jerking my cock. I reach up and grab Conner’s pectoral right below the nipple, squeezing hard and enjoying the feeling of the slippery semen on his chest. He does the same to me in return. “I can blow you now?” he asks, hopefully.

Whoops, I didn’t know he wanted to do that, I think to myself, just as I take myself over the edge. “Sorry…too late…sorry…AH!”

I position myself to shoot onto Conner’s tummy, and although my aim is true, I underestimate the strength of the orgasm. My first shot completely clears his torso, landing on the bed on the other side of him. The rest of my ejaculation hits right where I was aiming for, though. I pant and moan through the entire thing, wanting this feeling to last forever, even though I’m pretty sure that would kill me.

When I finish, I collapse onto the bed next to him, and we lie there for a moment, both of us panting, awash with post-orgasmic pleasure. I look at Conner, who’s staring up at the ceiling, his eyes glazed. He uses a shirt to clean himself off, tossing it onto the floor when he’s done. And then he turns to me, once again piercing me with those green, intelligent, shy eyes. His gaze is knowing and deep and loving, and when he reaches over to take my cheek in his hand I feel joy wash down throughout my body.

“You really are beautiful,” he says. And maybe for the first time in my life, I feel beautiful. Smiling, I pull a sheet up over us and snuggle close to my new boyfriend. We fall asleep together, and right before I lose consciousness I sigh contentedly and realize that I feel completely safe with Conner lying next to me.

We sleep for a couple of hours, and when my eyes do flutter open, I find Conner propped up on an elbow, looking at me.

“Hey there,” he says gently.

I smile, and then yawn widely. “Hi.”

“Sleep good?”

“Yeah, I did. Sleeping next to a new boyfriend is great. I highly recommend it.” I stretch, raising my arms over my head.

“Oh, so we’re boyfriends now?” he laughs.

“Uh…er, yeah, I thought that’s was kinda implied. I mean, assuming you want to be, of course.” I try not to breath on him, concerned that my post-nap breath might not be up to standards.

“It may get in the way of my busy schedule pining over you and trying to figure out how to ask you out, but I like the sound of ‘boyfriends,’ I think. Here, let me try it out. ‘Hey guys, this is Devon, my boyfriend.’ Yeah, hey, I really like that.”

“Me too.” I roll over onto my stomach, laughing. And then I think about the more serious implications of that word. “But I guess if we’re boyfriends, we should talk about that. I mean, not a bad talk or anything. I just…I just don’t really know exactly what that means. I mean, we’re together, and we love each other, and we have sex. I don’t want to mess up. And am I supposed to, I don’t know, announce it or something?”

Conner laughs, a sandy blonde bang falling lazily down over one eye. He blows it out of the way with a deft puff of breath. “Announce it? We could put up bulletins in the cafeteria, I guess.” His sarcasm is endearing, and sexy, and I find myself reaching over to give him a firm naked hug.

And then we talk, our first real talk as boyfriends. We talk about how we think, and how we feel about things. It’s not even really a relationship talk, we just share stories and laugh and ramble on about stuff, both important and otherwise. I discover how great lazy afternoon bedroom banter can be.

Conner is telling me a story about a childhood friend. It sets my mind wandering, and makes me think of my friends on the ship.

“You know I’ll give up the wank club, right?” I ask, sending the conversation back into the realm of the serious. “Now that we’re boyfriends.”

Conner looks down at his pillow, and then at me. “I guess we should talk about that,” he says, but not hesitantly. “I was a total asshole yesterday, and since then I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I never really asked for your side to all of that, I just exploded. I’m really sorry.”

I accept Conner’s thousandth apology on the condition that it’s the last, and he agrees. And then I tell him about the club, and about everything. I start from the beginning, talking about how I’d spied on Sean and Dog one fateful day, back when I was coming to terms with being gay. I tell him about the heat wave and searching for Charlie, and what happened when I found him. I tell him about the incident in the medical bay when my scanner appointment had introduced me to a mysterious voyeur, and about my fight with Reid, and about how Charlie and I schemed to turn a session of Info or Actions into a group wank-off session. I tell him about Zane, and the ups and downs of that friendship. I tell him how things with the club progressed, and what it means to me. I talk about being injured, and I tell him about all the little things that went through my head during that time. I explain about New Devon, and about how I’d changed since almost dying. I tell him about Sneak, and about how exciting it had been when we were friends, and how awful it had felt when he went away. I tell him about the night after the Halloween party, when seven boys tumbled into bed together in lust, mischief and friendship. I tell him all my secrets, and all my fears, and all my doubts, and all my joys, and about every last orgasm that I can remember.

Conner listens intently as I ramble on. I think he mostly likes the part where I tell him about always wondering what he looked like nude, especially back in the days when I was first coming to terms with being gay. I also tell him how much the afternoon where we shared his peanut butter meant to me, and he smiles before stroking my blue, ridiculously coloured, bangs.

“Wow, you’ve had some wild times,” he says once my monologue comes to a close.

I roll over on my back. “Yeah. Bet you didn’t know I was such a spaz. Maybe you should have listened to all of that before agreeing to be my boyfriend.”

The room is silent for a moment. “Hey Devon?”

“Yeah?”

“Everyone in the world knows you’re a spaz. You know that, right? We all totally, totally, totally know.” He laughs. I respond by reaching over to tickle him in retribution. He yelps and jumps up from under the sheet, trying to tickle me back. I defend my ribs while attacking his, two boys squirming around naked above the covers in the cool afternoon air.

We eventually calm down, although the physical contact makes me go totally hard. “Again?” Conner laughs, seeing my growing turgidity.

I shrug. “It’s hard like fifteen hours a day. I can’t help it.”

He sits cross-legged, his own cock a little thicker than it had been a moment before. “I think I can get behind that,” he says. “But first, before I repay the favor from earlier…what we were just talking about, I don’t want to leave that hanging.”

“Ok.” I try to get my erection to go down, or at least hide it by shoving it between my legs, which just makes it even more distracting when it pops back up into the open air.

“Wow, it does have a mind of its own. Here, try this.” He hands me a pillow, which I put over my stubborn dick. Mostly the pillow just sits awkwardly on top of my shaft, looking like I’m practicing a very risqué carnival act. Conner laughs and shakes his head, and then continues, a smile in his voice. “Goof. Anyway, thanks for telling me all of that. I get the sense that you never really laid all of that on anyone before, and it means a lot that you were open with me. I’m sorry, but when I tell you about my adventures on the ship they’re going to be mostly about reading and studying and being dull.”

I sit cross-legged in front of him, pillow covering my crotch, listening to what he’s saying and wondering if he’ll be offended if I glance down at his dick, which is still exposed. “I haven’t ever told anyone all of that,” I confirm. “But I’ve always felt like I could talk to you, even before yesterday. And I don’t think you’re dull…neither does my shoulder. We both appreciate the studying.”

“Thanks. You know…having a serious discussion while naked is really hard.”

“I’d say about half-hard,” I reply, taking the opportunity to stare at Conner’s endowments. And he is – half hard, that is. His penis has just reached that point where it’s firm enough to lift up off the covers, bobbing slowly higher and higher.

“Anyway, before all the blood drains from my brain to my…uh…to down there…”

“Too late.”

“Anyway, before I lose my mind completely…I have to say, you telling me all that really helped. I think I get you better. And I want you to know – I’ve always been attracted to the real Devon, not some romanticized idea of Devon. I saw you flirting and laughing at the Halloween party – that’s the Devon I want. We have to talk about stuff, obviously, but I want you to know…I don’t expect you to give up your friends or change things to make me happy. I just want…you. Just the way you are. Having you…I can’t tell you how the idea of that feels. You crawling into my bed at night…that’s all I want from life. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

The pillow slips off my erection, which throbs in response to this sentiment; Conner stares. “That makes me happy,” I reply, “as evidenced by some parts more than others.”

Conner smiles, and then leans toward me. I think he’s going to kiss me, but instead he dips his head lower, moving to fulfill the promise he’d made moments ago.

His first blowjob isn’t the greatest in the world, and he has a lot to learn. But he doesn’t bite me, as I had Mike when I was learning, so I can’t complain. And the way he looks up at me with his big green bedroom eyes helps, and when I come it feels really good. Conner finishes himself off, again spraying a fair amount all over his body.

“Wow, do you always cum that much?” I ask, somewhat amazed.

He blushes. “I guess. Yeah, I think so.”

“It’s so hot. Wow, I stink. I need a shower,” I point out, slapping him on the ass. He squeals in mock pain and then chases me toward the bathroom.

We bathe at the communal station, hot steamy water running over young bodies, the sweat and grime washing off. For me, it feels like a lot of emotional grime cleans off too. We wrap towels around our waists and move to the sinks to brush our teeth. Before long, I’m feeling refreshed and good as new. I glance at the clock.

“Oh shoot, it’s four? I have to prepare this whole dinner thing for Charlie by eight. I better get up to the kitchens.”

Conner rinses his mouth and then spits into the sink, which in these early hours of boyfriendom seems sexy. “Can I come?” he asks.

“You want to watch me cook dinner for the scrubs?” I ask dubiously.

He smiles. “I just want to be with you.” And then he hugs me, making me wonder if there’s time for another tumble, orgasm and rinse before I need to head upstairs. No, probably not.

The door to the bathroom opens, startling us both, and Conner releases me. Zane enters the bathroom, dressed in the chef’s whites he wears when working. Well, they were white before he went to work. Now they’re covered in a multitude of blotches, each telling the sad story of a kitchen tragedy and offering some clue as to what was on the menu tonight.

I hold my breath. Zane can be a handful, and Conner and I being in here like this is rife for his antics. He walks right past us, though, almost like he doesn’t notice the two towel-clad boys standing in front of the sink. He enters a stall, and we hear the telltale sounds of him relieving his bladder. Then the toilet runs its cleaning cycle, and he comes back into the main room, still silent and looking distracted. I arch an eyebrow, curious.

After washing his hands, he heads for the door. Huh. Maybe he’s giving me some space. Zane can be a really nice guy sometimes.

“Ok, I’m sorry, I can’t do this,” he says, making a u-turn just as he’s about to exit the room. He steps over to Conner and me. “You guys are fucking now, right? Please tell me you’re fucking. I have soooooooo been waiting for all the Conner-Devon tension to go away. You fucked him, right?” he says to Conner, a coy smile set mischievous on his perfect pink lips.

“Zane,” I sigh, exasperation in my voice. I loved the guy, but he was uncontrollable.

He plays innocent. “What? I’m just asking, is all.”

I feel really uncomfortable. I don’t think Conner, shy as he was, should have to deal with the full tenacity and temerity of Zane just yet, particularly since there was a certain level of jealousy about Zane on Conner’s part, something I wanted to talk about with him in private. “Zane, c’mon,” I urge, trying to subtly insert the subliminal message “don’t make me cut your balls off” into the phrase. I think I succeed, although not as subtly as I wanted.

Conner surprises me. “No, it’s okay,” he says. “Your friends are more open about this sort of thing than I’m used to, but that’s okay. It’s kind of cool, actually.” He turns to Zane. “Yes, and no…to your question. We fucked, but it was Devon who fucked me. It was good. He’s new at it, but he hit the spot.”

The blatant honesty catches me by surprise and makes me flush. “Cool,” Zane replies. And then after thinking about it for a moment, he says, “Funny, I would have guessed the other way around for Devon’s first time.”

Conner glances at me, and then to Zane. “Just happened that way, I guess. But we have time to explore, now that we’re together.”

The comment has an odd effect on Zane. “Together?” he asks. “Like together, together? Boyfriends together?” We both nod, perhaps a little uncertainly. Zane smiles, and then gives me a huge grin before embracing me in a bear hug. “That’s so great! Wow, way to go, Dev. You too Conner.”

Zane’s big brother sincerity is short-lived. “Any chance this means you’ll help me with my chronic swelling problems?” he asks, still gripping the nearly-naked Conner in a tight hug.

“In your dreams,” Conner replies, pushing Zane away playfully. But it makes me a little uncomfortable. I know Zane’s comment is meant as a joke…sort of…but it’s still a little embarrassing around the reserved Conner. I want my friends to get along.

Conner turns to Zane. “But this may be a good time for Devon and I to talk about something with you.”

Both Zane and I arch an eyebrow, curious. “Oh yeah?” Zane says.

“Yeah,” Conner replies. “First off, I’m sorry about my reaction last night. I already apologized to Devon, but I owe you and the other guys an apology too. I was…well, I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

“Ok,” Zane says. “I wasn’t offended or anything, but thanks. As long as you and Devon made up, which obviously you did.” He looks the two of us over, glancing down Conner’s towel covered body and then up mine.

“Cool,” Conner continues. “Secondly, Devon told me about your club, and a lot of other things. We have a lot to talk about, obviously, and I don’t want to speak for him, but I will say that I’ll never stand in the way of him being Devon, and your club is a big part of that. Just, there’s one problem.”

“Oh?”

Conner leans against the wall of the bathroom, sounding more like the confident doctor than the shy little boy. “Yeah. And that’s you, Zane. See, I don’t have a problem with the idea of Devon fooling around with Charlie or the other guys. If he decides he wants to go play strip poker on Friday nights, I’ll totally let him. We talked, and I can see how being with the other guys is an expression of friendship for him, and it actually makes him seem even sexier to me.”

I’m not sure I like being talked about like I’m not standing right here. Or maybe it’s really hot, I can’t decide. Conner continues, “But then there’s you. You’re muscular and charming and you ooze sex all over the place. And you’re bold and unrestrained. You’re the guy that insinuates you want to sleep with Devon and me ten minutes into our relationship…”

“Hey, sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that,” Zane says, sincerely sorry, shuffling his feet.

Conner stops him. “No, don’t be sorry. That’s who you are. You like to be in control, and you like to be shocking. I’ve known you a lot longer than Devon has, and that’s just who you are. And I like it, even though you can be a bit much sometimes.”

Conner is right – Zane can be a bit much sometimes. “Just now is an example of how you always take charge of every situation. Halloween is another example. The spotlight usually shines on Zane, and if it doesn’t you make it shine on Zane. I can’t compete with that. If I wasn’t so high on getting together with Devon, your comment about us fucking would have me totally stumbling all over my words. You’re really good at making people feel awkward and uncomfortable.”

He puts an arm around me. “And I don’t want to feel awkward or uncomfortable around Devon. I want to enjoy having a boyfriend. And I want this to last. I want him to be friends with you, but I don’t want that to cause trouble. I can see two solutions off the top of my head.”

“Uh…ok,” Zane says, probably trying to take all of this in.

“The first is a little harsh. It’s that Devon and I work things out so that he gets to keep all his friendships the same as they are now, with the added condition that you and he never get naked in the same room ever again. That would balance things out, although I admit it’s not totally fair to everyone, particularly you.”

Zane looks a little hurt and concerned. I’m sure he’d be fine without the club, but I’d feel crummy if we had to go to some weird rotation schedule where we had to choose which of us got to play with the guys on any given Friday.

“And I think I would be within my rights to put that condition in place.” Conner continues. “But I don’t want to do that. I’d rather go with the second solution, which is a bit unconventional. The second idea is that you and I need to be on equal footing. But here’s the rub – because of who we are, that will almost certainly never be the case naturally. So the challenge is to get you and me on equal footing by coming to an agreement.”

Zane looks curious, as am I. “How would you do that?” I ask.

Conner wavers a little in his resolve. It’s subtle, but I see a flash of bashfulness cross his face before he starts speaking again. But then it’s gone. “The problem is that Zane has this way of assuming command. If he does that to me, like he was a second ago, I’m afraid that eventually I’m not going to want him to be around you, Devon, at least not in the way he is when you guys have your club time. It would always feel like…it might always feel like he and I are competing, and then I’d always feel a little submissive to him because he has such a big personality. But if he’s willing to give me some control so that he and I are equals, I think I’ll be okay with the status quo.”

“I get what you’re saying,” Zane says. “But I don’t get how I can give up control. I mean, it’s not like I go out of my way to annoy you. It’s just how I am.”

Conner apologizes, saying that the issue isn’t Zane being annoying, it’s that he’s just naturally very dominant. “So here’s my proposal. Zane gets to have everything the way it has been. You can all have wank night whenever you want, and you can fool around just you and Devon…within limits. In exchange, I have the ability to control Zane. No matter when or where, I get the ability to tell you to get naked. And the ability to tell you to jerk off. Whenever I want, wherever I want.”

Conner’s proposal is unexpectedly sexual, and I don’t quite get it. I thought he was going to put limitations on what Zane and I could do together, not suggest he make Zane a sexy masturbating puppet. “How is having control of him jerking off going to help?” I ask.

Zane thinks about it, and then says, “Nah, Conner is right. You chose the right guy, Dev, he’s smart. If I agree to this, he has the power to shut me up, more or less, any time he wants. Say I get out of line and make him uncomfortable around the guys…he tells me to whip it out, and I have to. Even though that doesn’t really embarrass me, it gives Conner a way to always take control of any conversation. It does put us on equal footing.”

“And it’s about trust,” Conner adds. “Right now I can’t trust Zane not to say something outrageous. But if we make this deal, he’ll also have to trust me not to make him do something outrageous.”

I kind of get it, although I’m a little weirded out by my boyfriend and best friend making a pact like this. Still, it feels better than losing the club, or making Zane drop out. And Conner is right, if nothing changes I’ll be left feeling like I have to protect my boyfriend from Zane’s brazenness all the time. The idea that I never have to worry about that is…reassuring.

“You can think about it,” Conner tells Zane.

The older boy smiles, and then runs his hand through his floppy brown hair. “Nah, it’s an okay idea. Sexy too. Wow, I see what Devon sees in you. You’re shy, but a little wild, eh? Is he like that in the sack?” he turns to me.

Conner frowns, and then rolls his eyes. Zane made it all of…what? Ten seconds before he started being all Zane again? “Why don’t you go ahead and rub one out for that,” Conner commands. “Right here will be fine.”

Zane, never one for shyness, shrugs, and then undoes his fly. He pulls out his flaccid dick, which he starts to rub, per the terms of his agreement. Conner turns and walks back to the sink. I follow, and then he whispers to me, “I hope you’re not angry. The whole idea just came to me. I don’t want to be controlling over you – you know you can do whatever you want, right? Even stay in the group with Zane there, without any agreement like this.”

I appreciate that I mean so much to Conner that he’s allow me to dictate the terms of our relationship, but I also like the feeling of being fought over, and of having him exert a little control. It feels…good. And it’s sexy. Either that, or it’s because Zane, who is now hard and flogging his dick behind is, is a bit of a turn on.

Conner and I finish grooming ourselves, and Zane finishes what he’s doing. “Ugh, ugh, UH!” he groans, shooting his load onto the shower floor. And then he smiles at us. “Yep, he’s really smart, Devon. I think I’m going to like this arrangement.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m sure you will. Shoot, now we’re really late,” I mention to Conner.

“We better get going then,” he replies. And then he takes off his towel, reaching over to do the same to mine before tossing both into the hamper in the corner. We’re both completely naked; Zane looks us over, having stuffed his dick back into his pants and zipped up. Conner leads me toward the exit, and as we leave he says over his shoulder, “You better wank one more time, Zane, just for good measure. I know you’ll need it anyway, considering the view.”

And so it is that I’m treated to the sight of my boyfriend’s sexy butt walking away, while the sounds of Zane starting another wank session fill the room behind us. Dang, I didn’t know Conner had it in him. Having a boyfriend (that’s me!) is working out to look really good on the guy.

When we’re dressed, Conner still insists that he wants to help me out this afternoon. I happily accept his offer, partially because an extra pair of hands is always…um…handy in the kitchen, and partially because I want Conner around. Having a boyfriend is awesome – I’m already a little down thinking that eventually we’ll both have to go off to work, separating.

On the way to food services, we turn a corner only to be plowed into by two of the scrubs, dressed in their scouting outfits, running down the hall.

“Whoa, sheesh, watch it!” I exclaim, laughing. The smaller of the two, a boy called Mickey Smith, who I’ve always assumed is the youngest of the scrubs, runs straight into me. He bounces off my considerably heavier frame to land on the floor butt-first, a surprised expression plastered on his face. “Are you ok?” I ask the hapless Mickey.

He shakes his head, and then when nothing seems to be ratting around he replies, “Yeah. Oh, hi Devon. Wow, sorry about that.”

“It’s okay.” I help Mickey up. “But where are you two off to in such a hurry?”

The other boy, Jack, answers. “We’re trying to hurry so we find our next clue before we have to break for dinner. Hey, you’re his flatmate, right? Did he tell you where the Star of India was hidden?”

I shake my head. “Sorry, guys, I know he has you on some treasure hunt, but that’s all I know. I have no idea where you’d hide a sailboat on this ship, sorry.” The boys eye me suspiciously, and then seem to accept my ignorance at face value. They shuffle off down the hall.

“What was that all about?” Conner asks.

“Charlie has them all on a scavenger hunt of some sort as part of their camping weekend. All I know is that I’m in charge of dinner both nights.”

When we get to the kitchen, we find another scrub near my workstation. It’s Jason, who sometimes comes back here when I’m cooking. “No idea where the Star of India is hidden, dude,” I say before he can speak.

The green-eyed scrub looks disappointed, but also amused that I knew what he was about to ask. “Aw man, I came all the way up here for that!” he exclaims, kicking the metal leg of my worktable. A resonating clang fills the room.

“You can stay and help cook if you want,” I suggest. Since Charlie had started working with the scrubs, I’d made an effort to spend more time with the younger boys. For months they’d had very little oversight on the ship, but things were better now that Charlie and the other three counselors were managing their schedules.

“Nah,” Jason answers, “I’m supposed to meet Adam and Jackson if you don’t know anything. Dang it, I thought Charlie would tell you since he’s your roommate and all. Maybe I should go ask his boyfriend.”

I’m surprised to hear Jason refer to Mike as Charlie’s boyfriend, but not too surprised. It certainly wasn’t a secret, but I wasn’t aware he’d told the scrubs. But that made sense, Charlie treated them all like little brothers – in many ways they’d filled that role in his life just as much as he filled one in theirs – so talking to them about his life was probably an important part of that relationship.

“Going to Mike is probably a waste of time,” I suggest. “Even if Charlie told him about the clues, I doubt he’d tell you.”

“Great,” Jason sighs. “Jackson said coming up here was stupid. Now I’ll never hear the end of it.” He’s pouting the way only twelve year-old boys can. I think about that. Being that age can be tough. Coming up here was a good idea on Jason’s part, Charlie very well might have filled me in, but he hadn’t.

Then I have an idea. I walk over to one of the large stainless steel refrigerators that line the rear wall of the kitchen. “How about this?” I suggest. “Tell the guys that I don’t have any clues about the hunt, but Charlie did have a special reward arranged for coming up here. How many boys are there on your team?”

“Five,” Jason says, his green eyes curious. I take a plastic container off a shelf next to the fridge and then open the cooler. In it are rows and rows of aluminum baking sheets, each piled high with pastries. One of the cooks had recreated something from his childhood – a confection he called a “doober,” which was basically like a giant éclair, but with a chocolate pastry that was slightly more like cake, filled with custard and coated with dark chocolate, which was then sprinkled with toffee.

Doobers were quite popular, naturally, and were always in high demand. But they took a lot of work, so we only made them available on Sunday, when they’d be snatched up in a matter of hours. I count out five of the humongous pastries and seal the container, handing it to Jason. “Here you go – tell your team this is the special reward for visiting the kitchen in search of clues.”

“Wow, thanks Devon!” Jason says, a huge grin on his face. He wastes no time accepting the doobers and running off to meet his team in the lower parts of the ship.

“That was pretty nice,” Conner says. I beam at the compliment.

And then we set about preparing dinner. I need to feed the scrubs and the six or seven helpers, no small task. But I’d already prepared a menu, so I wasn’t stressed.

“So, what are we cooking?” Conner asks, taking a clean apron from a nearby shelf and donning it. It makes him look sexy, although I have to wonder if he wouldn’t look better in nothing but the apron. I make a mental note to take one downstairs for later.

“Actually,” I answer, “I was talking about this with Reid the other day, and he made a good point. Part of the fun of a campout is cooking over a fire. So he set up this whole fire pit thing at the campsite, and we’re going to let the scrubs cook most of the food there.”

“That should be fun,” he says.

“Yeah, totally. And they’ve been running around all day. Food cooking on an open fire will smell awesome.”

“Probably if you’ve been having sex all day, too,” he replies, at first laughing and then looking shocked by what he’s said. “Oops, sorry,” he apologizes, his bangs falling over his eyes. Oh my god…my new boyfriend is so hot.

“Oh my god, you are so hot,” I say, my mouth agreeing with my brain. Conner smiles, earning him a big hug and even bigger ass-pinch. “I’d totally take you in the back room right now, but I do really need to get this food made.”

He agrees that we shouldn’t let Charlie and the others go hungry, tempting as heading off to get naked may be, and we set about preparing the food. First I make a potato salad, using a Dijon sauce and finishing it with bacon crumbles. We cut up several large seedless watermelons, a campout mainstay I feel is mandatory, and we wrap a couple dozen corn cobs in foil, first slathering them with chili lime butter so that they’ll roast in those flavors.

“Wow, this is making me hungry!” Conner exclaims when I start making potato chips. Back home we’d all taken foods like that for granted, but we had yet to pass a seven-eleven in space, so everything we eat has to be homemade.

Everything is then packaged in containers so it will easily transport downstairs. “Check this out,” I say to Conner when the side dishes are done. I access another refrigerator, one that is supposed to be for my exclusive use, although things were known to mysteriously disappear. In the rear there is a large bundle of smaller parcels wrapped in butcher paper. I take it out.

Conner immediately notices the label on each parcel, written in black marker in my comic bookish scrawl. “That’s not really Tuesday tuna surprise is it? I thought that was a banned substance now.”

“Shut up,” I snap jokingly, knowing his ribbing about the most infamous cooking disaster in the history of the ship is good-natured. “No, it’s not tuna. I just wrote that so my stuff didn’t get swiped.” I open one of the parcels. In it lie four very generous steaks.

“Oh wow,” Conner says. “Those look awesome!”

Yes, they do. “I set these aside last week when we got the beef harvest in. I thought they’d be perfect for the campout.” Meat was less rare on the ship than it had been in those early days, but it still wasn’t something we had in abundance. No one complained when it was tofu lasagna night, but when hamburgers were an option, well, there was no contest. The beef had gone fast, these steaks only spared for having been labeled as my most disgusting creation.

I marinate the steaks in a bbq sauce, which seems appropriate. “Think I should make it a little spicier?” I ask Conner.

“You want to kill us again, like you did with those damn burritos?” he grins.

Dang, how’d he know I was behind the killer burritos at the Halloween party? “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I respond innocently, puppy dog-eyed.

Conner walks over to me and takes my head between his two hands. I have no idea what he’s doing. He says, in a somewhat terse and raspy voice, “I know it was you, Fredo, I know it was you.” And then he plants a big, wet kiss on my lips. One of the other chefs watches this, and then shakes his head, laughing at our silliness.

“Ok, ok, ok,” I giggle. “I pay you to work, not spout Al Pacino impersonations.”

“Thought you paid me for the sex,” he replies, pinching my ass…hard. I yelp and he laughs. I feign offense, but we both know I’m really digging this bolder, sexier Conner. I guess when you suck a guy he starts to have fewer inhibitions around you…go figure.

He’s been a big help, and it’s largely because of his assistance that dinner isn’t way late. We message Charlie when everything is bundled up for transport, and he sends Kevin and another of the scrub counselors, Jake, to help us carry everything down.

“So, what’s for dinner?” Jake asks when they arrive. By now we’ve cleaned up the workstation, and all the food is packaged, so there are no clues lying around.

“It’s a surprise,” I answer, “but a good one.”

“Tuesday tuna surprise, in fact,” Conner chimes in. This results in horror from Kevin and Jake, so much so that I have to actually open one of the packages to show them the marinating steaks as proof that I’m not serving tuna casserole for supper.

“Wow!” Jake says, appropriately impressed by the meat.

We take the food down to the “campsite,” a spot Charlie had found in one of the larger tree farms. Area T4 was actually the terrestrial counterpart to W4, the tank where Beau and the other whales live. But rather than housing a large aquarium, T4 housed, well, a forest. One that had been growing on the ship long before takeoff, maintained over the years by the rotating members of the permanent crew, ready to serve as a provider of oxygen – and now campsites – should the ship ever take off.

We enter the farm and then take a lift down to the forest floor. Where W4’s size is masked by the fact that it’s filled with water, you can see all the way down into T4, although it’s by no means a space that feels very open. The trees had been planted as close together as is safe, and then dense underbrush has filled in every other available square meter. It feels a lot like a forest in the Pacific Northwest, actually, and that may be one of the reasons Zane, our resident Seattle boy, liked this room so much.

The ceiling, which provides light to the forest in a cycle mimicking that on Earth, is growing dim with the coming “night.” It’s actually getting chilly, too, dampness rolling off the trees and plants.

The four of us walk the food over to the campsite. “Ugh, why’d Charlie pick the fucking furthest spot away from the entrance?” Kevin complains, trying to manage carrying a large cooler with another box stacked on top.

We arrive at the campsite, and Kevin’s question is answered. It’s a spot where you really get the sense of being in a real forest. The trees are so dense that I can’t see any of the walls, and now that it was almost totally dark, not even the ceiling. And there’s a small clearing here, where a shed once used for storage sits unused, surrounded by a fence that separates the forest from the clearing. Leafy ferns have made it well past the fence boundary, and I wonder how much work it took Charlie to prep this area for camping.

Whatever effort it had taken, it was worth it. Charlie had built a perfect campsite. Tents sit scattered here and there between towering trees just outside the clearing boundary, and the fire pit Reid has built is impressive – it should accommodate a pretty decent campfire. It’s even encircled by logs for seating – cool.

“This looks great,” Conner says.

“Thanks,” Jake replies. “It was a lot of work. You have no idea how dense the plants were in here. I had to rip out a blackberry bush. That thing was fucking evil!” We laugh, and Jake shows us some scars from his blackberry bush battles.

We set up for dinner, the helpers all deferring to my authority. I have them move some tables into place, and we unpack the food supplies. Before long, we hear movement from out in the forest, the telltale sounds of a group of young boys. A moment later, Charlie appears at the edge of the clearing, leading the scrubs to the campsite.

“Ok guys, wash up. Then Devon has something special for dinner tonight,” he says, trying to raise his voice over the din of the chattering boys. The request to wash up is somewhat overshadowed by the announcement that I’ve brought food. Twenty-something boys rush over to the tables where Conner and I are setting up. They’re all dressed in scouting outfits, although they’re wearing different colored bandanas. Four colors, I count – one for each team.

“What’s for dinner?” a boy called Adam asks.

“Yeah, what’s to eat?” Another boy, Mark, chimes in.

“Hey Devon!” Jason exclaims.

Jackson, a tall boy, asks, “Any more doobers?” He’s oddly soaking wet.

“Doobers are only on Sunday mornings,” Mark asserts.

“Nuh-uh, we got doobers today. It was a special clue if you went up to the kitchens.”

“What? That’s bogus! We didn’t get doobers!” protests yet another scrub, one whose name I don’t remember.

I shrug, my head spinning a little because of the eight simultaneous conversations. “You didn’t come up to the kitchen,” I say. “Only blue team did, so they got doobers.”

“Aww, no doobers,” Mickey gripes, reaching a grimy hand into one of the containers. He’s also drenched. I slap his hand away playfully. The other scrubs are also trying to get into the food.

“That’s raw meat, guys. Stop that! You too, Jason,” I babble, losing the war against twenty pairs of dirty hands, all of them apparently curious about what I’ve brought for dinner. “Hey, seriously, hold up. There’s a process. First, you need to…”

"Les mioches, ça suffit ! Arrêtez les monstres!” Conner shouts in a booming voice, shocking even me. I’m not sure why he shouts in French…I didn’t even know he spoke French…but it works, the scrubs go silent. “All yours, Devon,” he says, significantly quieter.

“Uh, thanks,” I laugh at him, and then address the scrubs. “Ok guys, here’s the deal. No one eats until they’re washed up!” I glance at Mickey and Jackson, and then add, “And wearing dry clothes – go change, you two. We’re going to be cooking our own food tonight, so there’s a process. Clean up, then report back here!” Being in charge feels kind of awesome!

The boys understand my instructions, and when informed there’s a washing station on the wall at the edge of the farm, they dash off in that direction. Using one of the ship’s sinks isn’t exactly “roughing it,” but it’s better than having grimy scrub hands all over everything. The wet scrubs head off to a tent, reemerging moments later in dry clothes.

Charlie wanders over to the table. “Thanks for helping today Devon,” he says, lifting the lid on one of the containers to peek inside.

Conner presses down on the lid, causing it to snap back into place. “He said wash up,” he explains.

“Yeah, I said wash up,” I giggle.

Charlie laughs at being scolded. “Ok, sheesh,” he says. “I’m going, I’m going.” And he does.

Steak night is a big success. Reid arrives while everyone is washing, and then once the scrubs return he oversees them in building a roaring fire in the pit he’s constructed. Fortunately, the farm is large enough to accommodate such a fire, and the computers, having been set to allow it, don’t douse us in chemical retardants. Once we have a pretty good blaze going, grates are placed over the flames and I instruct the scrubs how to cook their own steak and corn. Before long, the oh-so-wonderful aroma of sizzling meat is tantalizing our primal urges.

“I’m glad I volunteered to help out,” Reid tells me later, his mouth full of meat. “No one told me we were having steak!” Conner, Reid and I had chosen a grassy area just outside the circle to eat, opting to let Charlie and the scrubs have the fire area to themselves. It was their weekend, after all.

“Yep, I kept that secret,” I explain. “Otherwise we might have had a couple hundred volunteers.”

Conner excuses himself, heading to the table for seconds, saying that the potato salad is great. Once he’s out of earshot, Reid asks, “What’s his deal?”

I swallow a bite of buttery corn. Getting it stuck between my teeth is totally worth it. “What do you mean?” I ask.

I take a drink of soda as he continues. “He’s looking at you all funny and googly-eyed. Did he hit his head or something?”

I almost snort the soda out of my nose, laughing. “Ha, no. Do you have to hit your head to want to look at me googly-eyed?”

Reid backpedals. “No, I just meant…you know what I mean. He seems…different.”

I take a deep breath. I hadn’t yet told anyone that Conner and I are dating. Well, no one except Zane, and I hadn’t really told him, he’d just known. “We’re…Conner and I…we’re together now,” I say. Reid stops eating and looks at me, wide-eyed.

“You mean?” he asks.

I nod. “Yeah, together like that. Like gay boy together.”

Reid flashes a huge grin. “Oh my god! That’s so great! Wow…I had no idea you two were even interested in each other. I mean, I knew he was totally into you, but…”

I catch the comment, and wonder if everyone on the ship but me knew Conner liked me. I’m about to ask when my new boyfriend makes his way back to our seating area.

“What’d I miss?” he asks.

Moments later, Reid excuses himself, saying he wants seconds – although we all know he’s actually going for thirds. “What’s up with him?” Conner asks when Reid is gone. I offer a questioning look. “He’s looking at me kinda weird,” he explains. I laugh and tell him that I’d told Reid we were together. Conner smiles at me shyly; I get a boner.

After dinner, we move back into the circle at Charlie’s insistence. I break out dessert – that penultimate campout fare, s’mores. I’d made the marshmallows, huge white confections the size of a fist, as well as the graham crackers. Dark chocolate is broken off a large bar in generous chunks. And then the candies are roasted over open flame, shoved with the chocolate between cookies in searing hot gooey sugary goodness.

Conner gets a big smear of marshmallow all over his face, which perturbs him. I laugh, and then reach over to lick it off, not really realizing what I’ve done until after I’ve done it. The scrubs don’t notice, but across the campfire Charlie offers us a sly smile, and then nods to me.

It’s late when dessert is finished. “Oh my god, I’m stuffed!” Reid proclaims. And indeed, his tummy looks a little distended. I think we can blame his forth serving of “seconds,” which by my accounting would actually be fifths.

“Me too,” Jason agrees.

The scrubs are calmer…for the moment, tummies full, tired from a long day of running around the ship. I ask about their adventures, but they’re reluctant to share any stories since the contest is still going.

“I’ve never been camping before,” a scrub called Tony says. “This is pretty cool.”

“Yeah, we should do this again…like all the time!” Jackson says.

“Yeah, Charlie. Can we do this again next month?” Adam asks. This begins a round of begging on the part of the scrubs.

“Ok, ok, ok,” Charlie interjects, laughing. “You guys are right, this is pretty cool. I’ll check with the crew and see what they say about making this a more permanent campground.”

It strikes me that this actually would be a great permanent campground. This is great and everything, but then when I think of what my friends and I could accomplish together on a weekend campout…shudder.

“I’m not tired yet,” Mickey says. “What do we do now? Video games?” He holds up his wristcom, an open invitation for someone to challenge him to one of the many games the devices were capable of playing.

Charlie scolds him, but not seriously. “Hey, you know the rules – no wristcoms this weekend, or your forfeit the challenge.” Mickey quickly shoves his wristcom back into his bag. I hadn’t noticed before now that none of the scrubs were wearing theirs.

“This is a campout,” Reid says. “You’re supposed to sing camp songs.”

“Singing is lame!” one of the boys pronounces. Another nods agreement.

“But that’s what you do when you camp,” Adam interjects. As one of the more dominant boys amongst the scrubs, his opinion counted.

“Yeah, we should sing something,” Jason agrees. As the other group leader, his opinion counted too. When Adam and Jason agreed on something, most of the other boys followed.

The group discusses what we should sing, and we soon realize that no one knows any of the classic campfire songs. In fact, we don’t really even know any names of campfire songs, let alone lyrics. After some discussion, Conner says, “Devon likes to sing. I think he should start us out. It doesn’t really matter what we sing.”

What the frell? I don’t like to sing. “No, that’s…” I start, but I’m cut off.

“Yeah Devon, you should sing!” Charlie agrees, seeing the opening that Conner has left for him. This begins an annoying chant of “Devon! Devon! Devon!” by the scrubs, who all seem to sense that I’ve been cornered.

“Okay, okay, fine!” I eventually relent, knowing when I’m beat. Totally mortified, I sit up a little straighter, thinking about how to start the group in song. I think of something simple, a song that most everyone will know. “Okay, I think this will work,” I say. I take a deep breath, and then inwardly laugh at myself. This isn’t so bad – not as bad as being knocked over a rail from the third floor, at least. If I can survive that – song time? Piece of cake!

I start out in a voice a little smaller than I intend. “Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo doo dah,” I begin, imitating the way my “campfire” song begins. Conner smirks at me smugly. He wouldn’t, if he knew I’d be biting him later for revenge. What I bite depends on whether he apologizes or not. As I sing, one of the scrubs snickers.

I continue, launching into the first verse. “Every time I think of you, I feel shot right through with a bolt of blue…” Charlie shakes his head, knowing where this is going. We both like this song.

“It’s no problem of mine, but it’s a problem I find, living a life that I can’t leave behind.” I really get into it now, putting on a bit of a fake British accent. Well, I’m American-British, so I guess it’s an authentic British accent, just not my real one. “There’s no sense in telling me, the wisdom of the fool won’t set you free. But that’s the way that it goes, and it’s what nobody knows, well every day my confusion grows.”

And then, in all my Devon glory, I stand up and sing the synth segue, getting into it with my best dance skills. When I arrive at the chorus, I briefly pause, and then bellow, “C’mon, you know the words!” When I continue singing, Charlie joins me, immediately followed by Conner and Reid, and then the rest of the group.

Every time I see you falling,
I get down on my knees and pray.
I’m waiting for that final moment
You say the words that I can’t say.

When I launch into the second verse, everyone keeps on singing, and whether or not the universe in general would agree that I’ve chosen the best possible campfire song, tonight in our group it is, the scrubs laughing and singing along. Near the end, overcome with the kind of joy gay boys feel when listening to New Order, I pull Conner up off his log, dancing with him in a rather silly, but provocative, manner.

Afterward, the group loosened up by my antics, we pick a second song, and then another, and then a bunch in a row, some silly, some even more so, and we sing into the night. And then we tell scary stories, and watch the fire die down, and all feel really well-fed and happy.

“Oh my god, that was so much fun!” Conner announces as we leave the campsite well past two am. Reid walks out with us. We’re all reluctant to go, but it’s a scrub thing and we don’t want to intrude on the event.

“That was fun,” Reid agrees. “Remind me to thank Charlie for letting me come.”

I feel like I’m swaying a little as I walk. It’s late, and the only sleep I’ve had recently are two naps, both of them light. “I will,” I answer, yawning. “But you earned it. That campsite was awesome. Charlie said you did all that?”

Reid is modest about his contributions, insisting that all he did was find the spot, lay out a plan, and the direct the other counselors on setting everything up. When we get to the elevators leading into our dorm areas, Reid presses the button for twenty-three, and I press twenty-four. “Oh, bunking out in your other flat tonight?” he asks.

I know he doesn’t mean the question to be awkward, but I’m immediately concerned that Conner might be shy about what the two of us sleeping in the same room insinuates. “Yeah, I’m bushed,” I reply. “I sleep better in the other room.” Great save!

“Plus I think he’s hoping I’ll blow him again,” Conner says. Reid lets out a funny little involuntary snort, and I slap Conner on the shoulder. “What? It’s true!” he exclaims defiantly.

I concede his point. If I’d been worried about Conner being bashful about us dating around my friends, I guess I needn’t have been. The shy doctor I love can also be quite outspoken, turns out, and I’m finding I love that too.

The lift stops at Reid’s floor and he gets off. The doors begin to close, but he catches them. “Hey, I’m really happy for you,” he says. “Both of you.”

“Aw, thanks,” I say in a goofy but sincere voice. Reid lets go of the door and it closes.

“He’s such a nice guy,” Conner says.

“Yeah, he’s a sweetheart,” I agree.

Our flat is quiet and dark, although I’m pretty sure Mike is sleeping away in his room. Charlie had wanted him at the campout, but like the rest of us, he’d wanted to leave it more a scrub thing and had decided to stay home. Charlie had said at dinner that he’d suggested Mike take the free evening to teach AJ all about his skills at oral sex, so it’s quite possible that Mike isn’t sleeping away in the room at all.

Conner follows me into my bedroom. I toss off my shoes and socks; there’s a layer of matted mud and grass on the bottoms of my sneakers from the farm. It’s gross, but it smells nice. I sit on the edge of my bed, somewhat exhausted.

“So, er,” Conner says, fiddling with the zipper of his hoodie again. “Should I say goodnight and see you tomorrow, or…”

He pauses, and I consider letting the question hang in the air, seeing if his head explodes. But I’m seventeen – I have very little control. I feel a surge of energy, and leap up, crossing the room to take Conner into my arms. Our lips connect brusquely, and I think he knows the answer to his question is the “or” part.

And then we’re at it again, both instantly turned on, both rapidly hardening in our pants, kissing and touching and craving each other’s bodies.

“I…uh…have to…uh…ask you something,” I say, my words coming in a staccato between kisses. I can taste steak on Conner’s lips, and smell his eucalyptus scent growing stronger.

He tugs my shirt off over my head; I unzip his hoodie. “Yeah?” he says. “Before…or after?” His tone is one of very eager anticipation.

I chuckle. Conner has gone twenty years without a partner, and I plan to make up for that by giving the boy a lot of orgasms in the coming weeks. A lot of orgasms. But now I want to ask him something. “Sorry, before,” I say. Conner nods, but doesn’t stop touching me. His pants drop to the floor, and he begins undoing mine.

“Okay. Go ahead,” he says, as my own pants drop, joining his in a pool around our ankles. My hands, a mind of their own, wander to his body, rubbing his chest and stomach before diving back behind him into the confines of his shorts. He looks too horny to answer a serious question. Hell, I may be too horny to ask it.

We pull our bodies together, rubbing our crotches together. Wow, he’s boned. “Okay, wait,” I say, voice thick with lust. “Really quick…last night, when I came back. We talked…and kissed…uh, wow…hey, slow down!”

Conner’s hand has slipped down between us, rubbing at the crotch of my white briefs, very nearly freeing my erection, which very much wants to be freed. “Sorry,” he grins.

I laugh. Being wanted this bad is sexy as flipping fuck. “I’ll bet you are. Anyway, we made out and then before we did it…I told you that I was yours, remember?”

“I…wow, jeez Devon, how could I ever forget?” He grabs me harder, kissing my mouth and my neck, his hands running down my back roughly, scratching at skin that likes being scratched and massaging muscles that love being massaged. His hands are in my hair, and then down on my butt. My underwear is slipped off the cheeks of my ass, and eager fingers touch and grab and newly uncovered flesh there. I gasp, and Conner kisses me deeply, catching my sigh in his mouth.

“Oh hell,” I say, pleasure washing over me, hormones exploding throughout my body. “This is a hard way to…uh…uh…have a conversation.”

“Mmmmm, hard,” Conner says, slipping my underwear just a little lower. My erection pops free, and is quickly pressed into his thigh. We kiss again, roughly.

“I wondered…ah…ah…why you…didn’t…ah…ah…didn’t ask to fuck me later.”

Conner stops, and takes a step back. His own boner has popped free, sticking out the right leg of his underwear. “Did I do something wrong?” he asks, looking suddenly concerned.

“No, no, not at all,” I reassure him. “I just…I mean, I never really thought about it that much before. I’ve fantasized about having a boyfriend and a first time, but honestly I didn’t really think about the logistics. Last night…you caught me off-guard when you asked me to fuck you. It made me…I don’t really know how to talk about these sorts of things…do you just enjoy that more than the other way around? Or…do you? I mean, would you ever? The other…I think..um..yeah…the other way?”

Now I’m the bashful one, and Conner seems to sense it. He takes control, which is actually quite comforting. “Devon, come here,” he says, pulling me into him again. Our dicks meet in the middle, saying hi to one another with a massive surge of hormones. “Last night happened really fast, and it was really unexpected. To answer your question…yes, I would. I’ve fantasized about it a lot. But…sex between you and I…it will always be all about you. Whatever you want, whatever you like. I didn’t ask last night because…because I didn’t want to put you on the spot. And besides, I really, really, really liked you fucking me. You were awesome.”

“Really?” I ask, blushing. My performance being highly rated has never meant so much to me before.

“Uh-huh,” he says, grinning wickedly. “Check it out.” He gestures downward and I look between us to see that his cock, of course fully erect, has a long string of precum hanging from it, stretching halfway to the floor. “That’s just ‘cause you said ‘remember last night’ – see, I remember.”

I smile. My own dick is starting to leak. “Cool.”

“So yeah,” he says, “I want to spend many, many years letting you fuck me. And whether or not we do the other way round…totally up to you. Last night I wouldn’t have asked that from you. Tonight…it would be great, but when it comes to sex…it’s always going to be all about you.”

I’d considered before what it is to love, and I’d considered what it is to lust. But nothing had ever prepared me for having both my love and my lust settings cranked up to eleven. I embrace Conner, pulling off the last of our clothes. He helps, and in just a second we’re hugging, totally nude, in love, in the buff, happy, gasping in pleasure, kissing, and doing all the other things you’re supposed to do when you’ve just gotten naked with your new boyfriend.

And then I take Conner’s head into my hand, feeling his soft, sandy colored hair against my fingertips. I look him deeply in the eyes, knowing that he can see all the love and lust in mine. “Conner…make love to me tonight. Make love to me right now.”

He kisses me again, and then reaches around to lift me up by my waist. I’m not that much lighter than he is, so I don’t lift easily, but it helps when I wrap my legs around his body. He carries me to the bed, which fortunately isn’t very far.

We climb in together, our caresses now more gentle, both of us knowing what’s to come, and both of us understanding what it means. I reach over to my lube stash and hand a bottle to Conner. “You sure?” he asks. “There’s no rush.”

I nod, looking perhaps a little scared. Conner lubes both our shafts, causing me to groan wildly. He lays me on my back, lifts my legs up toward my shoulders, and then scoots into position below me. His tone is very reassuring and doctoral when he speaks. “Okay…you ever try this with, you know, anything? Toy? Banana?”

I shake my head, suddenly concerned. Was I supposed to prep myself by practicing with fruits and vegetables? “Uh…”

He strokes my side gently. “It’s okay, I just wanted to know how experienced you are. I’m going to go really slow. Just relax…we may have to stop…we’ll take our time.”

“But I want you to fuck me and cum,” I say, not meaning it to come out sounding so dirty.

Conner smiles at me. I suddenly feel the age difference between us, but it’s not a bad thing. “I want it too,” he says. “Man do I want it. But I’m not going to hurt you, Devon. We’ll go slow, and you tell me if it hurts. Ready?”

“Uh-huh,” I say, not feeling very ready at all.

He moves closer, and I wonder if I shouldn’t have found a boyfriend with smaller assets. Or started this five years ago, when my peers were all just starting puberty. Conner presses into me and I feel a firm pressure against my hole. And it isn’t so bad. Hey, this is pretty easy! I’d taken him and it didn’t hurt at all!

And then he actually enters me.

I grunt. Conner slipping in the first time feels…weird. It doesn’t hurt, but it kind of does. It feels…unnatural. I tense up, my body flexing involuntarily at this unexpected intrusion.

“Whoa, relax there,” he says, alert. “You’re gonna hurt yourself if you tense up like that.”

“Sorry…it’s hard to control. It feels weird.”

“Bad weird? Want me to stop?”

“No…go a little…uh…further. But go slow.”

And he does, pushing in just a little further. “Ah…Devon…so…you’re so…so warm…I love you,” Conner moans. And it helps me, hearing the pleasure this is bringing him in his voice. I relax a little. But it’s difficult, it feels like Conner has rammed an entire arm up my ass. I concentrate as hard as I can on loosening up, but this proves almost impossible. Every time I relax I feel like I’m about to shit, and every time I tense I feel like my insides are on fire.

“Wait, wait, wait,” I plead. Conner pauses immediately, looking scared that he’s hurt me. “I’m okay,” I say, “I just need a little break. Don’t pull out, let me get used to this.” And after a moment, I do. “Ok, go a little further,” I say. Conner does, and this time the fullness is less foreign, although my hole hurts a little more.

“Better?” he asks.

I nod. This is partially a lie, but then partially not. It feels good to give myself to him like this, even if it’s painful to my body.

And then he’s in all the way, ha-zah! I take a deep breath. It feels like a cross between getting stroked off and punched in the gut. Guess that’s what I get for picking the boyfriend with over twenty centimeters.

“Want to stop?” he asks. I know he doesn’t, his eyes are a little glassy with lust.

“No, thrust some. I want to feel that. Go slow, but make it feel good to you.” He does, and I grunt. It now really feels like I’m shitting, but I know it’s just Conner’s shaft slipping out of me, so I breathe deep and try not to freak out. Oh my god, what if I do shit on him? Can that happen? Does it happen?

“Relax, Devy. It’s weird the first time.”

I grunt. “But you were so good at this last night. It was really easy for you. I want to be good for you.” I know I have a very disappointed look on my face, but I can’t help it.

Conner sighs. “Maybe we should stop. Devon, anything you ever do will be good for me. And I have a confession…you were my first, but I’ve had…have…toys. I’ve had a little more practice.”

“Oh,” I say, feeling foolish and slightly inadequate. Conner slowly pulls out of me. I lift up to kiss him, our lips meeting. His are moist and soft; mine feel a little dry. It’s very caring, his kiss. When it’s over I look up at him pleadingly. “Conner, you have to come in me. You have to do that tonight. I don’t care if it hurts. I want you to make me yours. You have to do it.”

He looks touched by this, and maybe a little sad. “Devon…we have all the time in the world. I don’t want to hurt you.”

I shake my head. “No, I’m okay. It’s different, but not bad. I need this, Conner. I need you to make me yours. Please do it. Please.”

He looks hot, sitting above me, naked and hard, but with a concerned expression. “Ok,” he says. “But I’m going to go slow again.”

He enters me again, and this time it doesn’t feel nearly as weird, but it still hurts. He pushes in and then pulls back; I take a deep breath. Pausing, he sees I’m okay and then pushes into me again.

As he starts to slowly fuck me, my body short circuits all over down there. I feel like I’m almost about to crap, and then like I might start pissing. I’m more aroused by this than I ever recall being, but my erection deflates. And then, in a thin layer underneath all of this, something feels pretty good. Like Conner is shoving a warm bath up my rear.

I want this to be good for him, so I start gasping, perhaps exaggerating how good this feels. It works; Conner increases pace.

After a couple of minutes, I start to tire. Conner senses this and stops. “Okay, we can stop, but if you’re determined to continue, we can try another position.”

“Okay. Another position.”

We shuffle around. Conner suggests that he lie on his back and I slip down onto his cock, giving me more control. This sounds good, but it proves easier said than done. At first I have trouble getting Conner’s shaft into my hole, and then I get a little too excited, lowering myself too fast and bending it. “Ow!” he yelps. I apologize and go slower, finally succeeding in taking it.

“This is weird…but cool,” I say.

Conner closes his eyes and bites at his lower lip. “Yeah, I like doing that on one of my toys,” he says. Dang, I have to see this toy collection.

I do this for a while, and it’s not bad, but not great. At least, it’s not for me. Conner starts sweating and moaning, and it makes it totally worth it. “Uh…uh…Devy, you’re…oh man. Jeez…yeah…I never thought…oh…” he gasps as I slowly slide up and down. My thighs start to burn and it becomes hard to manage moving up and down on him while balancing.

“I want to flip back over,” I say. “Do you think you can finish in that position?”

He opens his eyes. “You have me in heat, Devy. I can finish in any position you like.”

“Cool.” We flip around, arms and legs briefly tangled, the light tang of sweat and sex heavy in the air. Conner presses my ankles back toward my ears, and this time when he enters me I relax and it doesn’t hurt as much. “Do it. Come inside me. Fuck me,” I say, trying to be a little dirty and a little encouraging.

It works. Conner begins thrusting, faster than before. It feels better than before, and hurts more than before, and is scarier than before, and makes me moan more than before. “I’m okay, keep going,” I moan. And then I say it again, and again.

And he does, thrusting faster, the expression of concern melting away to one of lust. Conner fucks me – I’m getting fucked! It’s great, and terrible, and wonderful, and powerful, and I want it to be over, and I want to do it again.

“Oh…oh…oh…I won’t last much longer,” he groans.

“Be loud. Do it. Come in me. Fuck me. Do it.”

“I…I…I…love you…so much…I…love…you…”

“Do it, Conner. I love you…fuck me…do it…do it…do it…”

“Oh…I’m…this is making me wild…Devon…I never…OH!...AGH!!! I’m…I’m…I’M THERE…ERGHHHH!!!”

Conner pushes into me harder than ever before, and it hurts more than ever before. His body flexes and tenses and goes completely rigid. I almost throw up from the pain; he almost has an aneurism. It’s fucking awesome!

Conner cums in me, and I feel it! I feel his dick spasm and spurt and spray. He gasps and groans through his orgasm, the one I’m most proud of causing in my life, and once it’s over he pulls out of me, moaning and squirming at the sensitivity. He puts my feet back down to the bed and then collapses on top of me. I love the feeling of his body on me, hot and wet with sweat. He’s breathing wildly, and I can feel his heart thumping rapidly deep in his chest.

“Was that good?” I ask.

Conner lifts his head, smiling at me. “Oh my god, Devon – that was the greatest orgasm of my life. I…you’re so…I mean, am I dreaming all of this? I love you.”

“I love you too, Conner.”

He sighs contentedly, and then lays his head on my chest. But it’s only for a second. He lifts back up, looking at me. “Oh my god, I’m such a dork. You didn’t get off. I suck at this. What do you want me to do? I’ll do whatever…blow you, you can fuck me…anything.”

I laugh. “Sheesh Conner, do you…” I stop. I was about to say “kiss your mom with that mouth,” but I catch it, kicking myself mentally for almost making that slip. Instead, I pause, and then say, “…do you think I could clean up. Some of your…uh…I think I’m leaking a little of your stuff. Sorry, that’s really gross.”

“Nah, I’m a doctor,” Conner says. “And it’s just boy stuff. Sex can be messy. I’ll wipe it up.” He scrounges around for something to clean me up with and finds my discarded t-shirt. “Oh. Uh, uh-oh,” he says when he ducks between my legs to wipe me off.

“What?” I laugh, figuring he’s about to make some joke about my package or something.

But he doesn’t. “Okay, Devon, don’t freak out, but it’s not just semen you’re feeling. You’re bleeding a little…but I don’t want you to freak out.”

In case it needs to be said, telling someone not to freak out twice is a great way to get them to freak out. “What?” I ask sharply, sitting up. There’s a red blotch on the sheet between my legs. “Oh my god, is that normal?” I scramble around, checking my legs and midsection for the source of the blood, which is a senseless reaction since I know where it’s actually coming from.

“Devon…calm down,” Conner whispers firmly. I stop squirming. “You’re okay. It can happen your first time. It’s just a small tear, nothing to worry about. It won’t happen when you have more practice…or we can never do that again. You’re okay.”

“I’m not…broken?” I ask uncertainly.

Conner smiles reassuringly, and then hugs me. “No. No, Devy, nothing’s broken. You’re fine. You just need to go wash up.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna go wash up,” I repeat.

“I’ll be right in,” Conner says, staying behind when I leave for the shower.

I wander off to the bathroom, my gait a little off. Wow, I’m a bit sore down there – ouch! But it was worth it. I think back to Conner’s face when he came. It was so worth it.

The hot shower feels great against my skin. I take a washcloth and wet it in the falling water. I think about the blood on the sheet and… down there. For some reason, I’m afraid to clean there, afraid my insides might come gushing out, or whatever. Wow, I’m such a spaz. I can feel deep inside where Conner had penetrated me. In a way, it felt like he was still there. But then I couldn’t help but feel a little violated.

It was like one side of my brain loved the fact that Conner had fucked me…that part wanted to go right back into the bedroom and do it again. And while the other side didn’t hate it, that part had reservations. Not about Conner, just about the penetration. It was all just…it was a lot to take in.

After ten minutes, Conner enters the bathroom. “You okay?” he asks. I nod. He’s put on a t-shirt and underwear, both of them mine, but he takes them off so that he can join me in the shower.

I don’t say anything – I don’t know what to say. I feel great and crummy at the same time. I want to love Conner and spend the rest of my life with him, but I’m also a little sick to my stomach. “Here, let me have that,” he says, motioning to my washrag. I hand it to him. He squirts some soap onto it and then begins washing my body, being as gentle as possible and moving across every square inch of my skin with slow, thoughtful deliberation.

He washes my chest first, and then my neck. He scrubs my back, and reaches around to clean my tummy. He pauses and then takes some facial soap from the shower shelf, which he uses to gently wash my face. Still I don’t say anything, staring at him with my brown eyes, loving him with an expression rather than words.

He moves down to my legs, sitting on the shower floor to wash my feet. I smile, the sensation tickling me. And then he washes my scrotum, lifting it to clean all around the area. He also gently scrubs my dick, which grows a little thicker at the contact but doesn’t go hard. When he runs the washcloth over my buttocks, I spread my legs. Very gently – impossibly gently – he cleans me here. It makes me want to kiss him, but it also makes me want to cry.

I’m a total spaz, right?

When the cleaning is complete, I rinse off and then stop the flow of water. Conner gets a towel and dries me before dressing and leading me by the hand back into the bedroom. Once there, I sit on the edge of the mattress, and he lowers himself down by my side.

“Devon…I’m so sorry I made you bleed. I mean…I’m really sorry.” Conner’s voice comes in a light whisper, one seething with sincere regret. I feel bad…I don’t want there to be any negative feelings about his first time.

I turn to him. “It’s okay,” I say. “It’s not that. I’m just…I’m just really glad I had you, and this is all so different. I love you. I’m sorry I’m being a spaz.” I feel like I might break out crying if this conversation goes on for too long.

“You’re not a spaz,” Conner says. I arch an eyebrow at him dubiously. He laughs, and then agrees I can be a little bit of a spaz. “I’m sure you’ll be fine…you know, down there, but I’d like to check it out. I mean…if that’s okay.”

Conner, Conner – always the doctor. “Maybe tomorrow,” I sigh. “Tonight was perfect. Hold me until I fall asleep, and tell me you love me.”

I lie down onto my side. The sheets are a different color; Conner had changed them when I went to shower. They smell fresh, and it’s a comforting scent. I throw off my towel. Conner slides into bed next to me. “Take your clothes off and hold me,” I whisper. He shifts around, complying. And then he turns the lights off, plunging the room into darkness.

When he slides back into me, I press into his body. I feel his naked chest against my back, and his naked thighs against my butt. He wraps an arm around me, and I pull it into my tummy. We scrunch together closer, spooning tightly. It feels like he and I are the only two beings in the universe, two boys together at the end of time and space.

“I do, you know?” he whispers in my ear.

“What?” I whisper back.

“I love you. I loved you from the moment I saw you, and I love you now, and I’ll love you a million, billion years from now.”

“Thanks. Me too,” I say. Conner hugs me tighter, and I fall asleep.

It’s in the middle of the night that my body remembers something my brain forgot – I’d had sex with Conner, but I never came. My dreams turn wet and gooey and warm and luscious, and I feel sex wash over my mind. I thrust and grind into these sensations, smiling and laughing.

In the real world, I open my eyes. I’ve turned to face Conner, but our bodies are still intertwined. I fall back to sleep.

In the dream world, Conner is naked, lying on grass as green as his eyes. I’m swimming…in the ocean? I can’t tell.

In the real world, I wake to find myself gently humping my sleeping boyfriend. My cock has gone completely hard, now lying between his warm, soft thighs. It’s so hard, and he’s so soft and warm.

Dreaming again, I feel colors and see sensations. Music dances around my mind, and sex slides across my body.

Waking, the spot between Conner’s thighs has grown wet and slippery. And he’s hard now too. For a moment I’m not sure if I’m awake or still asleep. “It’s okay, you can keep doing that,” he whispers, his eyes closed. I thrust in and out between his legs. He reaches over and strokes my nipples, and then uses his other hand to touch himself.

He strokes me, and then he strokes himself. And then he puts me back between his legs and I thrust. My cock is right below the fuzzy skin of his sack, and it feels wonderful to press into his body here. I have no idea how long this goes on – it could be minutes, it could be hours. I slip between reality and dreams, never fully asleep but never really awake.

“Ah…ah…ah!” I sigh when I cum. I feel sticky warmth fill the space between Conner’s legs. He grunts, and then my tummy is sticky and warm too. He pulls me in tight against his body, and we both fall asleep once more. Well, so much for the clean sheets.

I dream of love and grass and Conner and life and music.

* * * * *


The following morning, I realize that the day before had been the best day of my life. And then I wince – my ass is sore. And then I wonder how many best days of lives result in sore asses.

“What are you giggling about?” Conner asks sleepily.

“Dunno, just happy,” I reply.

I could lie in bed next to this guy for a year and a day, but sadly he gets up early, telling me he has a shift at the hospital today, and that after that he needs to do some studying. I try tempting him to take the day off, but it doesn’t work.

Once he’s gone, I feel really happy, collapsing back into bed. And then I’m lonely. I miss him. I wonder if I should message him that I miss him. No, that seems needy, I consider, looking at the clock to see that he’s only been gone for forty-five minutes. I feel bored. Maybe I should go up to the kitchens – I’m not scheduled, but it would pass the time. My ass hurts. I get a boner thinking about why that is. And then I want Conner to come back here to spend his lunchtime in bed with me, but that seems like a needy thing to ask for. Maybe I should look into transferring to a job in the hospital, then I could be around Conner more. Or maybe they could set up a small kitchen for me in the hospital, and I could do my work from there. Wait, that’s insane.

When I finally get up, dressing in some robot pj pants and an oversized shirt, I find Mike sitting in the living area, looking rather tired, his hair disheveled comically. “Need coffee,” he says hoarsely when he notices me.

“I can do coffee,” I agree.

Somehow, we’ve never installed a coffee maker in here, although most of the flats have them. Mike grumbles about this, and I suggest we go check out the little café that had recently opened next to Charlie’s shop. Food Services was open twenty-four hours a day, but it was often crowded and noisy. The new place, part of the ongoing effort to transition the ship into a working community, provided a cozier atmosphere and better ambiance.

Mike gripes about having to walk downstairs, and then gripes about having to change out of his pajamas to do so. “Hey, if Zane can walk around nude, I think we can get away with jammies.” Mike smiles at this, but he’s really tired and out of it this morning. I wonder why.

“Hey Devon,” chimes a moderately more cheerful baritone voice. I turn to see AJ exiting Mike and Charlie’s room, wearing only a pair of blue boxer shorts. Oh, that’s why.

AJ is a bit bashful at being caught emerging from Mike’s room, and I let him off easy, declining to tease either boy about whatever happened in there last night. But I’m pretty sure that Mike took Charlie up on the suggestion that he spend his free evening showing AJ everything he’s learned about giving oral pleasure. From the looks of things, the two were up all night, leaving Mike tired and baggy-eyed, and AJ rather chipper. Ha.

AJ agrees that coffee sounds good, and like me he has no problem with the idea of going downstairs in his pajamas, although he does toss on a blue tank top before we go. We drag Mike up off the couch, promising him caffeine and sugar if he comes with us.

On the way, Mike tells me that one of the reasons the new place opened in the location it had was because Charlie’s clothing shop had become so popular that people tended to hang out in the area. Charlie’s place was on the third floor of the forward concourse, overlooking a park, and as long as people liked to hang out there, someone had decided there might as well be a coffee shop.

“That’s so cool,” I say.

And the coffee shop is cool, I discover when we arrive. The space has been paneled in faux-brick, giving it the feel of a loft or industrial space. Large, colorful oil paintings line the walls, and several tables and chairs are arranged casually around a dining area, where the floor has been finished to look and feel like concrete. It’s cool and slick against my bare feet.

Funky, alternative sounding guitar music is playing lightly in the background. Mike leads us to the bar, where a chalkboard menu outlines the fare, mostly coffee drinks and light pastries. I decide to try a customized order – a mint hazelnut vanilla Irish cream latte with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

A lean boy with black spiky hair comes out from a door leading to a storeroom carrying a canister of coffee and notices us. “Hey guys. Sorry ’bout that. We were running low. What can I get you?”

I think that I detect a light accent of some sort to his voice. I consider asking him about it, but then decide to stick to placing my order. “Whoa, I’ve never been asked to make that before!” he laughs when I tell him what I want. Mike shakes his head at me, and then asks for something much simpler.

The barista mixes our coffees, making each one by hand. “I’m Lukas, by the way,” he says, speaking loudly so we can hear him over the din of the espresso machine. I introduce myself, and then Mike and AJ.

“It’s really quiet in here today,” I say, immediately feeling stupid because I’m yelling over the noise – Lukas is now grinding some fresh beans, in addition to brewing AJ’s drink, making a decent racket. But I meant the crowds, and Lukas gets this.

“Yeah…we’ve been pretty packed since we opened, but Sunday mornings are rubbish.”

“Why is that?” I ask, again yelling. Unfortunately, Lukas has shut off his machinery just as I do, so that my voice booms throughout the space. I correct myself, speaking much quieter, “Sorry. Why is that?”

Lukas presents us with three coffees, which he’s adeptly concocted. “Doobers,” he says.

“Doobers?” AJ asks.

“Doobers,” Lukas repeats.

“Doobers? Doobers? Doobers?” I ask, wanting to get in on the fun.

Mike slaps my shoulder, laughing. “Devon, knock that off. Stop saying Doobers.”

I stick my tongue out and say, “Doobers, doobers, doobers, doober, doobers,” until I get tongue-tied and have to stop.

Once we’re done goofing around, Lukas explains that the light Sunday morning crowds are because everyone is in line upstairs at Food Services, waiting for a chance to get one of the scarce and highly coveted pastries. “It would be spiff to have those here, but the wankers in the kitchens only make them on Sundays.”

I tell Lukas that I’m one of the wankers from the kitchen. He laughs, but doesn’t apologize for his gaffe. “Anyway,” I say, sarcastic. “The only reason we only have them Sundays is because they’re kinda labor intensive to make. I can’t spare anyone to make the stupid things full time.” I get an idea.

“But I tell you what,” I say, “you guys ever want to sell doobers, there’s plenty of open workstations in the kitchen. I’m happy to teach you how to make them, and then after that I can get you access so you can go up and bake them whenever you want. You could sell them anytime. Bet that will have this place packed.”

Lukas likes the idea. “Thanks mate,” he says, his light accent coming out stronger. “I’ll tell my friends. A couple of us run this place. I think they’d like that idea.”

We leave Lukas to his work, taking our drinks with us. The warm, sweet, milky coffee is delicious. Who wouldn’t want one of these?

Mike seems to agree. “Ahh…I feel better.”

I hang out with Mike and AJ. When I tell them that I’m in charge of feeding Charlie and the scrubs again tonight, they volunteer to help. Apparently word of the steak dinner has gotten around. I don’t inform them that all the steak is gone and that we’re having chicken. Later, when they discover this, they don’t complain. It’s pretty dang good chicken.


* * * * *


Three days later, I meet up with Charlie one afternoon at his shop. He’d told me earlier that he’s been asked to visit the military area in Topside, and when he mentioned this I revealed that I’d actually never been. They had tours and all, but I’d never been interested. Charlie seemed eager for me to go, so I agreed.

“So what’s the whole Topside thing about?” I ask him as we head for the elevators.

He shrugs. “No idea. Captain Bianchi wants to ask me about something. Don’t know what he’d want with me.”

A thought crosses my mind. “You don’t think we’re in trouble for taking over the unoccupied flat, do you?”

Charlie stops in his tracks, and then replies, “Nah. I mean, why would the captain have anything to do with that? It must be something else.” He doesn’t look overly convinced that he’s right.

We enter one of the elevators in the center of the main lobby. Normally we’d pile in with everyone else, but in this case we have to wait and take a car just on our own. When the doors close, Charlie presses a red button at the top of the panel rather than selecting one of the available floors. After a moment, a female voice comes in over a speaker in the car. “Military zone. How can I help you?”

“Uh, we have an appointment,” Charlie says. “Charlie Barrett.”

Another pause, and then, “Thank you, I have you on the list. I’ll bring you up.”

The elevator lifts, just as it always does, the only difference being that we’re going one floor higher than you can without clearance – to the military section of the ship.

“They really should make it more dramatic when you take these things up here,” I say as we ride up and out of the main lobby. “Like, the lights in here should turn red and there should be buzzers. Or maybe the elevator has rocket propulsion or something.”

“Fair point,” Charlie agrees.

When the elevator doors open, we’re in a part of the ship I’ve never seen before. A long, white hallway stretches before us. A checkpoint is located in the middle of the hallway, two uniformed guards standing next to a large blue arch. The smiling face of Lt. Jonathan Olin greets us. I’d become somewhat friends with him when my schedule had me working in an area where he liked to read.

“Gentlemen,” he says before explaining the he’ll be our liaison for the meeting. He leads us to the checkpoint, where we walk under the blue arch. Nothing happens. It’s a scanner, and apparently we’ve passed.

Once through, Lt. Olin says, “Welcome to EV5997.”

“Uh…ok,” I say. “I thought that’s where we were.”

Lt. Olin smiles, and I get the sense he only said the whole “welcome to EV5997” bit to bait me so that he could deliver a little speech about the ship, which he does. “Actually, you live in the civilian areas, which is United States soil, subject to all applicable laws therein, under agreement with the United Kingdom to provide common law protection and economic benefits to all American-British citizens – that’s you, Devon. This chancery is surrounded by a hull, property of a joint venture between The Rand Corporation, General Electric and Atomics and Lego, in agreement with Rolls Royce, the company that leases the engines. Where you are standing now is a military base of the United States of America, and is technically the only part of the ship that can be accurately termed EV5997.”

“Wow, I bet you say that to all the boys,” I smirk. Lt. Olin looks a little flustered, but then smiles back. Military boys – they’re so unaccustomed to sarcasm.

Lt. Olin leads us to the end of the hall, and when we exit we find ourselves on the military base proper, which looks pretty much like the rest of the ship. It’s here that the members of the permanent crew work and live, although some of them had begun relocating to the lower areas of the ship as things transition to a more stable community.

As Lt. Olin takes us down a series of hallways, I notice immediately that the demographic makeup here is very different from that downstairs. The crewmembers we pass mostly seem in their twenties and thirties, and about half of them are women. Not that I didn’t know this – the crewmembers are often to be found in the civilian areas of the ship. They just tend to blend in, being outnumbered by passengers, mostly college boys, by about three hundred to one.

We pass a smaller version of Food Services, and then a military gym. And then we pass a café, where a rack of familiar looking pastries sits in the window.

“Hey, you have doobers!” I say.

Lt. Olin explains. “Yeah, Captain Bianchi got tired of everyone requesting leave on Sunday so they could stand in line for them. We make them up here every day now.”

We eventually come to a row of offices, decorated in dark wood furniture, nicer than most of the others on the ship. When we arrive at a closed mahogany door, Lt. Olin knocks. A gold placard on the door reads “Captain Tom Bianchi,” whose familiar voice we hear beckoning us in shortly.

“Mr. Barrett!” the captain exclaims as we enter, his voice deep and slightly gravelly. He’s by far the oldest person on the ship – his expertise and command warranting a slot on the ship regardless of the usual age limit. As such, I always thought of his as a grandfather. Or maybe as like Santa Claus. Yeah, he’d be a good Santa.

Captain Bianchi is seated at a large wood desk, papers strewn here and there, several tablet computers flashing with a variety of information and data. A large window comprises the entire rear wall of his office, or at least I assume that’s what it is. Right now it is obscured by a set of heavy blinds, which are drawn.

“Uh, hello,” Charlie says uncertainly.

“And this must be Mr. Chasen,” the captain says, greeting me. I’m surprised he knows my name. Later I reflect that he probably received a message about his visitors from the checkpoint.

“Hello,” I say.

Our unlikely group makes small talk for a moment, each of us searching for a frame of reference with which to relate to the other. Captain Bianchi asks how life downstairs is treating us, and we answer. Then I tell him that I like his painting, an oil rendition of EV5997 flying through space.

“Thank you, thank you,” he says graciously. “I like that one too. Well, boys, I don’t want to take up too much of your time, so I suppose I should explain why I asked you here.”

“Uh…okay,” Charlie says.

“I hear you’ve become quite the tailor,” he says, turning to Charlie. “Maybe you can help us with a little problem we’ve been having. The crewmembers have been complaining about their uniforms. See, the ones we brought from Earth are wearing out, and while the clothing units can manufacture new ones, there seems to be a problem. All of them have…what was it they had, Olin?”

Captain Bianchi looks to Lt. Olin, who is standing in the doorway. “Capes sir,” he answers. “We can’t get them to make uniforms without capes.”

I let out a rather loud involuntary laugh. Both of the military men look at me and I blush. “Sorry,” I apologize. “They were doing that for us too.” And they had been, on all the Halloween costumes. Apparently military uniforms fit into whatever category the computer felt capes were mandatory for.

“Yes, well,” Captain Bianchi says. “The units also produce rather uncomfortable clothes as well, even if you do remove the superfluous capes. So, Mr. Barrett, do you think you can help us out? If we contract the work out to you, do you think your shop can start carrying uniforms? This is totally up to you, I should point out. We have no authority to force you to do it.”

“Force me?” Charlie says, shooting me a questioning look. “Why would you have to force me? I mean, it should be easy enough to do. If I get all the specification, I think I could have them on made-to-order status in a week. Mike and I would be happy to help, we can put a little military section in the shop and everything.”

Captain Bianchi looks grateful for Charlie’s offer and enthusiasm. “That would be wonderful! I know the crew will be quite please to have new uniforms,” he says.

Arrangements are made, and Charlie and I feel our moods lighten, now that we know we’re not in trouble. There’s something really authoritative and off-putting about these sections of the ship. “So, gentlemen,” Captain Bianchi says, “have either of you ever visited the bridge?”

I can’t stop myself. “Well, my mom and dad took me to San Francisco once and we walked across…” Charlie kicks me under the desk, shooting me a dirty look, “…um, sorry. I mean, no sir, we’ve never been on the tour.”

“Then this may interest you. Boys, I give you the heart of EV5997.” Captain Bianchi flicks a switch on his desk, and the closed blinds behind him rise, revealing a window looking out onto the bridge of the ship. This is where it all happens – this is where our noble and seasoned crew control the ship, pushing us ever further into space’s inky expanse, defying logic and relativity and god himself to travel at frightening, illogical speeds. It is, as the Captain has said, the heart of the ship. Where it all happens. Mission control.

And it’s pretty fucking dull.

“Cool!” I exclaim, even thought the sight before me isn’t, really. Captain Bianchi’s office overlooks what could, under other circumstances, be a medium sized office in any city on the late lamented Earth. Twenty or so workstations face the front of the room where, rather than a large porthole looking out into space, a bulletin board advertises big band night next Thursday.

“Let’s have Lt. Olin give you a tour before you head back downstairs,” Captain Bianchi says. “But I better get back to it. A captain’s duty, and all that.”

I make a note to give both Charlie and myself gold stars later since we didn’t giggle at the word “duty.” Lt. Olin leads us out of the captain’s office. “Wow, that was kind of cool,” Charlie says, once the door is closed. “It should be kind of fun to do the uniforms.”

We take a different route, Lt. Olin leading us onto the bridge. “So this is, as Captain Bianchi said, the bridge.” He then proceeds to point out various aspects of the operation of the vessel, leading us from one workstation to another.

“Here at station fifteen,” he says, “we plot course corrections and the like. It actually takes fifty-seven commands, entered into five separate stations, to initiate the engine systems. When that happens, things can get pretty exciting in here.”

“Yeah, looks it,” I say sarcastically. The bridge is mostly empty, barring three or four crewmembers scattered throughout the room.

Olin gives me a sideways glance. “Ok, so today is a quiet day, granted. As you know, most of this voyage is spent drifting, albeit at tremendous speeds. Ah, this may be interesting, though. Follow me.”

He leads us to another station, presumably station seventeen, as denoted by large red numerals displayed over the area. Station seventeen features three chairs facing a large display, which flickers on when Lt. Olin sits down. “Have a seat gentlemen,” he says. The display lights up, portraying a complex grid of dots and lines.

“These are the shipping lanes,” Olin says. “Each dot represents an escape vessel. Here we are, right here.” He touches the display, and a pull out window appears, revealing that the dot he’s touched does indeed represents our ship.

I feel a little dizzy looking at the map. There are hundreds of dots in dozens of columns, representing the entire fleet of escaping refugees. “Wow, that’s a lot of ships,” I say. “Aren’t they, I don’t know, flying close together, considering how fast we’re going?” I eye the dot sitting a couple of centimeters in front of ours, hoping no one there decides to slam on the brakes.

Lt. Olin touches the very dot I’ve been looking at. Stats for EV2335 pop up. It’s from Berlin. I want to yell “Das ist ein Deutchen boot!” – but I don’t. “This ship is actually about seventy billion kilometers away…about ten times the distance Pluto was from the sun.”

“Cool.”

“What’s with this one?” Charlie asks, pointing to a dot that doesn’t seem to be aligned in any of the columns. “They look off course.”

“Ah, good eye,” Lt. Olin says. He presses on the dot that Charlie referred to, and stats for EV1985 pop up. It’s from Orange County, California. Hey, those are practically my neighbors! You guys got any fish tacos?

“EV1985 is on a slightly different course. They’re heading for us, actually,” Olin says.

“Like, not to collide with us, right?” I ask. I look around the console. There are no buttons marked “laser beams.” Where are the freaking laser beams? We’re on a space ship, for fucks sake. There should be a button that launches a bevy of lasers, firing brightly out into space in greens and red and purples. I think about standing up and yelling, “Collision! Collision! Fire the lasers! Fire the lasers!” But even though the bridge is rather mundane, I’m pretty sure I’d get in trouble for that.

“No, they’re not going to collide with us.” Lt. Olin shakes his head. “We’ll actually be docking and exchanging supplies, but that’s a ways off. EV1985 will take weeks to come into line with us.”

“Wow, you can dock ships when we’re going this fast?” Charlie asks uncertainly. Like me, he’s probably imaging what would happen if two ships ran into each other going this fast.

“Of course,” Olin answers. “Speed is all relative. By the time EV1985 gets within range, they’ll be going at almost the exact same speed as we are. She’ll actually come up behind us, so you’ll be able to watch from the Rear Observation Deck. But it won’t be much to see…to us it will look like she’s going about a half kilometer per hour. Nothing too exciting.”

I imagine what it will look like to have a view of more than just stars from the Rear Observation Deck – I’m pretty sure that most of my peers will find an approaching ship growing larger and larger in the window pretty exciting, actually. Then I wonder if Conner and I left stains on the couch in there. Whoops. I better go see, and clean it up if we did.

Olin finishes the tour, and we wind up in the exact center of the bridge, which is cool, dull though it may be. “So that’s it, gentlemen,” Lt. Olin says. I’m kinda tired of him calling us that, but his formality is cute. “I’ll escort you downstairs. Have you eaten yet? I could go for some lunch.”

As if in answer to this question, the lights on the bridge dim and turn red. “Hey, cool,” I say, right before an extremely loud siren goes off.

A voice comes in over the loudspeaker, adding to the din. “ACTION STATIONS. ACTION STATIONS.” The crewmembers that had been sitting on the bridge snap to attention, instantly alert. Others rush in from several entries, running to their stations, several of them pushing past Charlie and me. The bridge is suddenly way less boring.

“Oh my god, Devon. What did you touch?” Charlie asks, wide-eyed.

“I didn’t fire the lasers, I swear!” I exclaim.

Lt. Olin grabs us by the arms, pulling us from the middle of the walkway. “Here, guys, stand over here for a second.” He sounds concerned; I assume the whole alarm rushing around thing isn’t business as usual.

“What the hell is going on?” Captain Bianchi’s voice booms throughout the bridge as he enters. He looks far less grandfatherly and much more in command.

One of the station operators, a blonde woman, turns to answer him. “We have a disturbance, sir. It’s a level seven.” She presses some commands into her terminal, and the bulletin board at the front of the room flickers, the announcements replaced with a live video feed.

On screen we see the image of one of the larger wheat farms. I recognize it as one of the places Zane and I like to…er…take long breaks. It’s barely recognizable now, though. Dozens of figures are running all over the place, looking like ants from the camera’s viewpoint. And the wheat…it’s on fire. The whole farm is burning.

What the fuck?


To be continued



Author’s End Notes:

Soundtrack: If you check on the group site, I’ve associated a song with each chapter. Putting them together forms a soundtrack to the story. In fact, I format the files on the group site so that you can play them on an iPod (or whatever) as a playlist, complete with sexy album art and everything. Check it out. The song for 16 is, of course, Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order. I just always loved this song, and it reminds me of dancing with my first boyfriend. So I thought it was a good choice for this chapter, in which Devon shares some happy times with Conner.


Those who read this story may wonder about Charlie’s scrub campout adventure weekend, which is happening in the background. Check back to the group site soon – my next project is to polish and finish a side story in which we learn more about Jason, the scrubs, Charlie’s weekend trip, etc. I’ve received several emails about the younger boys on the ship, and this story will be for the Jason fans out there.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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