Drew kept to the rear of the room, carefully scanning for any familiar faces he might want to duck. It was a lousy enough feeling to have Alan Curran suddenly turn up on him, but it was even worse to have that other kid - whoever he was - on his ass. At least he knew Alan and how to deal with him; the one with the beak was another story altogether. Drew had no idea where that kid came from. Alan just stared back at Drew with his hard eyes, then tugged on his friendís sleeve, moving him to the double doors into the meeting room.
"Donít worry about him, Chris," Alan said quietly. "Drewís in my school. He starts any shit here, I can bring the cops to his house if I have to."
The cute dark one helped Alan lead the mouthy little guy away and through the metal double doors that led to the meeting room.
"Itís that asshole from Hampton I told you about," he went on. "The one who whipped aÖ"
The door slammed shut, cutting off the rest of the sentence. Who the fuck was that? And how does he know me? Drew wondered, shaking his head.
"Well," Marc said matter-of-factly. "You certainly got your own fan following." His lips were pursed, but as soon as Drew looked directly at him, Marc broke into a toothy grin and waggled his eyebrows. He had dimples, too.
Marc - with a c - had jumped to his feet behind the table as soon as it looked like trouble might break out and Drew realized for the first time just how tall he was. A couple inches taller than himself, which put the guy at around 6í1". Hunkered down in a chair, Marc couldíve been any size under his slightly baggy clothes, but now Drew saw just how slender the guy was. Gangly, even. And his handsÖ Christ, they were big. Just like his feet. Wonder if itís all in proportion, Drew mused. At least his nose ainít like that other kidísÖbut then the more nose, the more - -
He slammed on the brakes. Oh man, DONíT even THINK of stuff like that!
But still, not bad at all. Drew took in the brownish-blond hair, cut short on the sides and left longer on top, like a slightly grown-out flat top, and the front flopped down in a half-curl. And those soft brown eyesÖ The mouth was the killer, though. It was oversized, for sure, but oddly attractive with its slightly fuller lips. It was especially attractive when it was drawn up into a big, happy smile like it was now, and the dimples spread all the way up to the corners of his eyes.
Marc pointed to the doors. "Look, theyíre just about to start. Thereíll be a speaker from the UU, but heís just kinda here to get things goiní, and they donít preach a party line anyways. Once heís done, the roomíll break up into those who really need someone to talk to and the oneís whoíre just here to hang out and meet people. Stick to the back of the room like all the closet boys do, and you should be okay."
"Iím not in the closet," Drew muttered with an edge of defiance, and looked the blond in the eye. "Iím straight."
The smile broadened, and Marc nodded his head vigorously. "Uh-huh. Yeah, I knew that - really. Youíre just here to, uh, broaden your perspectives, right? See how the other ten percent lives?"
Drewís face burned. "Iím here because my fatherís an asshole," he grumbled.
Marc nodded, understanding. "We must have the same dad, so Iíll tell you what, broí - Iíll hand you over to Brunhilde, and let her know to watch out for that trio so nothing happens. No oneís gonna mess with Brunny."
Drew knitted his forehead and gave Marc an incredulous look. "Brunny? You expect me to believe you guys got a girl here named Brunhilde?"
The head bobbed vigorously again. "Her real nameís Minerva, but once you see her youíll know why she hates it. It always winds up being Minnie and that really pisses her off. She kinda likes being Brunhilde, though."
Marc pulled the metal door open and Drew saw a girl who was maybe 5í10" and about two-twenty-five. She looked mean, with beady black eyes and a small, disapproving mouth. Gotta be Brunny, he figured. Jesus, donít piss this one off. Hate to meet her in an alley. He was satisfied to know he was right when Marc asked her to find Drew a seat in the visitors section. She smiled, and Drew heard a high-pitched feminine giggle in her throat that belied her looks.
"Got just the place for a newbie like this," she chuckled, and led Drew to the back of the hall and seated him next to a door.
"No oneíll be coming through there?" Drew asked nervously, dropping into the lightly-padded folding metal chair and indicating the door. "I wonít be in anyoneís way if they wanna come through, will I?"
Brunny giggled. "Nope. Itís a storage closet," she tittered and jiggled away happily. Drew wondered what was so funny, shrugged, and cautiously began to scope out the room.
There were maybe fifty kids in the room, in a range of ages. Some seemed to live up to the age thirteen number that Marc had given him, but most looked in their mid-to-late teens - just the right age for a driverís license. Chances were that most probably drove themselves here, rather than having their parents drop them off. One or two seemed older. The room was set up for maybe a hundred people, so it meant they could split up into small groups and spread themselves out for privacy, getting together by age group more than anything else. There were more of the boys than the girls, but that didnít seem to make affect the way they grouped themselves. He watched nervously for outrageous behavior and seemed surprised when he didnít see any. Basically it looked like any other group of kids.
No one seemed to be paying much attention to him, either. Then he caught a glance at the trio heíd seen in the lobby. The thin guy with the nose was glaring at him, with his mouth bunched up in a pouty frown. Alan was talking to the good-looking, darker kid that sat between them and his back was to Drew. Alan was facing Drew but wasnít paying any attention to him. The midget intensified his glare when he saw Drewís eyes shifting onto him. Drew quickly broke contact and looked away, a slight shudder running through him.
Jesus, what the hell did I ever do to you? And who the hell are you? Drew just shook his head.
Suddenly, Drew heard the chair next to him scrape on the floor and was about to give whoever was about to sit next to him the scariest look he could to get them away but he saw it was Marc, and he already knew it wouldnít work on this guy. At least he ainít some flamer, Drew thought sullenly. He tried a half-hearted scowl, but Marc just stretched out his grin in a big comic way and his eyes widened as much as they could and the boy faked a double take, then went to lean his chin on a propped-up arm and pretended to miss and gave Drew a goofy look. Drew couldnít help but finally crack a smile.
"Kewl," the blond said, half mocking. "So the muscles in your face arenít paralyzed after all! You can smile."
Drew snorted and shook his head, and really did smile for the first time. "So, what is this? Arenít you supposed to be guarding the door or something?"
Marc sat there waggling his head slightly from side to side, his arms folded across his chest, opening and closing his knees. His mouth was shut, but his two front teeth were exposed and he bit down slightly on his lower lip. He wasnít buck-toothed or anything, but he had the complete Bugs Bunny look and attitude about him - in other words, a complete wiseass, totally sure of himself and the situation. "Brunny understands my position, so she said sheíd take over as guard dog."
Drew knitted his eyebrows. "Your position? What kinda position is that?"
Marc shrugged. "She knows Iím between boyfriends, and I was only doiní the door so Iíd get first crack at the new meat," he said simply.
Drew leaned back, holding up both hands and shaking his head. "Look, dude, I already told you - "
"Uh-huh. I know," Marc said, looking forward now and crossing both his legs and his arms. "Youíre really straight. Got a girl friend and everything, I bet. Itís okay though - I didnít really see anyone else new here except that little group that came in behind you, and two of them are already taken. The kid with the nose is pretty cute, but heís too busy hating your guts to pay any attention to lilí old me. What the hell you do to him, anyway?"
Drew shrugged. "I got no idea. Now, about you looking for a - "
"Shh. Thatís the moderator," he said quietly and a little more seriously, nodding to the front of the room. "Weíre gonna start now."
A short, heavyset guy in his mid-40s stepped up to the small table, and lightly rapped his knuckles onto the veneered hardboard top. Drew figured him to be a teacher or something by the way he dressed: sweater vest, a button-down shirt and even a tie. His hair was graying but there was plenty of it, and he needed a haircut pretty bad, too. But he had a friendly smile and even a nice voice.
"Okay, everyone. Iím Robert Elger, and welcome to the Universalist-Unitarian outreach group for gay, bi, and transgendered youth - "
"Hey," some girl in the front shouted. "Donít marginalize the chicks!"
There was some light laughter and the speaker continued. "SorryÖ and how could I forget the Lesbians?"
"Wishful thinking," Marc snickered in a low voice, and Drew giggled too.
Elger moved casually across the front, at ease speaking to a group, and clasped his hands together. "Okay, for anyone who doesnít know how this works, this is a peer counseling group - you guys talk with each other to see how to deal with issues in your life. My only function here is to be the responsible adult who catches the crap if you guys make a mess in the room. Everything else is up to you."
The man took a thoughtful pause. "Believe it or not, sometimes what seems so easy and natural for some of you is a revelation to someone else. Sometimes just being with other kids in the same boat as you is plenty. This group is what you can make it. And I know some of you are just here to hang out a little and have some fun on a Friday night, and thatís good, too. I just ask you not to disturb the groups that are trying to work things out, and remember that the Christian Formation Center doesnít mind you feeding quarters to either the pool table or the old pinball machines down the hall. The Friars of St. Francis just ask you to be nice guests and clean up after yourselves.
"Another thing. Sometimes in your lives, thereís more than just the emotional problems of being a gay kid - although God knows, thatís rough enough. Iím also a licensed social worker for the Commonwealth with an MSW in counseling, focusing on youthÖ and by my choice, the problems of gay youth. If you think youíd rather talk to me rather than another teenager about something going on in your life, feel free to approach me. And Iím here tonight just as a private citizen, not an agent of the state. Anything you choose to say to me will be held in the utmost confidence."
He paused to let everything set in. Then he just shrugged and smiled.
"Okay, guys. Itís your time, so make the most of it. Friar Thomas says playing the radio and a little dancing is okay, but just keep in mind the Brothers rise at sunup, so try to keep the volume down. Oh, and he hates rap. And remember, we donít pass the cup in here, but there is a donation jar up on the side table, along with some pamphlets I encourage you to look over, including a few on safe sex. As some of the boys noticed, itís the jar right next to the bowl of condoms."
The last drew the tired kind of laughter of a rather well-worn but comfortable joke, and the room broke into groups again, pretty much along the lines of when they first entered. Drew looked around, trying to look bored, but still taking in every face - especially the one next to him. He kept stealing looks at Marc, and was caught every time. Marc would then do something funny with his face and Drew would have to look away.
Drew tried sounding disapproving and mature. "Dude, you always like this?"
Marc shook his head. "Nope. Sometimes I act silly when I meet someone new. So, whatís it gonna be? You got three options: First, you can sit in on one of the groups and talk - and if you wanna do that, I suggest Brentís over there. Heís nineteen, intends to be a teacher, and heís a sweetheart of a guy."
"One of your exes?" Drew sneered.
"Nah, heís got better taste than that," Marc answered cheerfully, ignoring the intended insult. "Option two is, you sit here and sulk until ten oíclock when your dad comes to pick you up. You got an hour and forty-five minutes. And with that pissed-off expression on your face, no one else is likely to come near you, because the guys who do the majority of the counseling in this place already have their hands filled with kids who actually want help. And the rest donít need any more shit in their lives from some guy whoís going out of his way to be a total asshole."
Drew smacked his fist against the closet door next to him and leaned towards Marc in what he thought was a threatening move. Marc never budged, just sat there with his arms and legs still crossed looking over the room. He cocked his head at Drew. "Maybe I should go over and talk to those three guys over there that hate you. Two of Ďem are new, but the real tiny oneís been here a few times and heís kind of a kewl guy to know. That way, you can sit and be pissed-off by yourself. Itís a lot more fun like that, because then you can pretend someone else cares. Even when they donít."
He looked at Drew, waiting. When he got no reaction Marc sighed, shook his head and shrugged. "Okay then, fuck it," he said and began rising from the chair.
Drew reached out on an impulse, and grabbed Marcís leg near the upper thigh. "Look. IímÖ Iím sorry for acting like such an asshole. This whole thingÖ" he gestured helplessly around the room. "I meanÖ my dad caught me jerkiní off one night for chrissake, and suddenly he thinks Iím a fa - I mean, he thinks Iím gay, so he dumps me off at this place. This is totally not my scene, dude. I really am straight! I just donít belong here."
Marc nodded. "Yeah, I can get into that. I been caught by my two brothers and my father, but all they did was laugh, then my dad tossed me a Penthouse after and told me to get it right next time." He raised an eyebrow and leaned in a little. "So, were there, like, any visual aids?"
A shudder of desire pulsed through Drew at the memory. Yeah, the hottest lookiní guy you ever saw, with a hang like a kielbasa, pumpiní off with me and talkiní the hottest blowjob anyone never got. But Iím fucked if Iím telling you that.
Marc took it all in. "And you got no history, right? Like the old man catchiní you and some buddy when you were in junior high maybe just checkiní each other out?"
"Hell no! I never got caught doiní that."
Yeah, and you didnít deny doiní it, either, Marc thought and fought down another smile. "Okay, so youíre straight. But youíre still stuck here with us, so you might as well make the best of it. And that brings us to option three."
Marc smiled. "Well, after you remove that hand from two inches below my crotch - which is pretty crowded at the moment - we can go down the hall and play some pool until everythingís over."
Drew looked down at his hand, horrified. Sure enough, it was just below Marcís crotch, which seemed to react in a friendly manner to his gesture. He turned a bright crimson and snatched back his hand, which had been sitting there much too long for comfort. It threw him, especially seeing Marcís reaction.
"Oh manÖ MarcÖ really, I am so totally sorryÖ I mean I didnít realizeÖ"
Marc leaned back adjusting his pants and laughed. "Hey, no sweat, Drew. Been awhile since anyoneís reached down near there, so I donít mind too much." He paused and smiled again. " So, you up for that pool game?" he asked, rising.
Drew popped up out of the chair with a weak smile on his face and nodding his head. "Yeah - itís all good. But I gotta warn you, I suck."
Marcís happy grin came back, this time coupled with an overplayed mischievous look in his eyes. "So do I - but not at pool."
Drewís face blanched as Marc laughed and clapped him on the shoulder as the two boys headed for the Rec Room.
Alan watched Drew and Marc leave the room, and his eyes followed them like a rifle scope as the pair turned into the open doorway of the Rec Room. Alan had met Marc a few times, and he liked him; Marc always went out of his way to make new people feel welcome, so he figured at first, Marc was just being friendly. But Alan hadnít missed much of the physical displays going on between Drew and Marc just then, even if he couldnít hear the conversation, and it was pretty clear to Alan that Marc was interested in being more than just friendly with the other boy. Problem was, Marc didnít know what he was getting into. Alan knew only too well what Drew was like.
One job at a time, he told himself.
The earth could open up and swallow Drew McKinnon whole for all Alan cared. Marc was a nice guy, but still something of a stranger. Besides, Marc seemed pretty sharp, and heíd see through Andrew Arthur McKinnon, Jr., pretty quick. Alan and Dave were there for a reason - and that reason was sitting next to Alan and bitching into the ear of a total stranger about what happened between him and his boyfriend last November - and this was almost the end of February. Alan leaned his chin into his hand, fighting the urge to start mouthing the story behind Chrisí back. Is he ever gonna let it go? Or at least shut up about it?
"Not till heís got another one," David told him often enough with a sigh. "Or at least a couple dates to help him forget about what a shit Jamie is. Now heís got the idea that Jamieís screwing around was his fault again, like he wasnít attractive enough or something."
And thatís what brought them out tonight. Counseling sounded like a good idea on the surface, but mostly they were trying to get Chris connected. Get his mind of his troubles. Not to mention giving Alan and David some time alone. Alan loved Chris, but he was tired of always having a third wheel in their relationship.
Or maybe someone would just take Chris out back and DO him, was uppermost in Alanís mind. Chris needed that right now more than anything else. Alan didnít think of sex as a cure-all for everything, but it certainly helped to ease the pain. David put it another way. "If he meets someone, heíll have to shut up for awhile, even if itís only Ďcuz his mouthís full."
Alan glanced at Chris again and sighed. Heíd thought Chris was attractive from the moment theyíd met. Back then, Alan was sure there was something between Chris and Dave when he saw the ease between them, and was relieved when he heard Chris had a boyfriend. Not that Alan seriously considered that David would ever be anything more than just a friend.
God, those yellowy-brown eyes are to die for, Alan thought then and now. There was something about them that made Alan think of a cat. They werenít Asian eyes exactly, but they slanted at a strange angle, and with Chrisí small bone structure, they gave him an almost otherworldly look. Chris bitched about his body - he bitched about everything, according to Dave - but it was trim and well-formed. Alan was just plain skinny, but Chris was lean and tight. Plus Chris had taken to adding a few more miles to his running each day, and Alan thought the results were great. So did Dave, but Chris just looked at the mirror and proclaimed himself a dog. Cute dog, Alan mused. Here, boy! Gotta big olí bone for ya!
Alan sniggered and looked over to David, who was desperately trying to lead the conversation away from Jamie for the umpteenth time and into something elseÖ anything else. Heíd already kicked Chris twice - hard - to get him off the subject, but it hadnít done much good. The red-headed kid was responding to David but edging away from Chris as much as he could. He looked ready to bolt for freedom.
"David? You want a coke or anything? How Ďbout you guys?" Alan asked, rising from the chair. He wasnít that thirsty but his ears needed a rest. Chrisí flap-jaw mouth never paused for an answer, and the new guy had a desperate look on his face. If David left, heíd run for sure. David shook his head, trying to lead the conversation back to - what was his name? Alan wasnít even sure now. Heíd just have to think of him as The Desperate One. As in Ďdesperate to get away from Chris.í From the look on Davidís face, he still thought he had a chance of getting them together, but Alan could see it was hopeless. He wanted David to just take Chris and shake him, tell him to get over it!
Then he thought what heíd be like if David looked at him one day and said they were finished. Would he manage as well as Chris?
Alan was always prepared for that. Heíd half expected Chris and David to get together after the break up with Jamie. They seemed like a natural couple to him. Alan hinted as much to Chris the morning of the final showdown with Jamie, but Chris just smiled and told him he had nothing to worry about. "Heís taken. Big time taken, Alan. I donít stand a chance against that guy." He half-smiled at the memory.
Alan never thought of Chris as anything but his close friend from that moment, and one of the four people Alan could trust. Eileen would always be the first in that small group, then David. There was a fourth, and he wasnít that far awayÖ
Alan leaned against the soda machine, scanning the group. Heíd come here a few times alone and recognized faces, at least. Big Brunny was here, looking intense with two of the youngest guys in the room, both boys maybe fourteen or fifteen. Brunny liked the younger ones and they seemed to like her once they found out that beady eyes and a small mouth didnít make a person mean. Brunny had a big heart and sought out the ones who seemed lonely. Alan also didnít put it past her to be playing matchmaker, either. Alan waved and she waved back. Then she pointed to David, let her tongue hang out and shook her hand like sheíd grabbed something hot. Alan grinned.
There were a few other faces he recognized, but just a few. Well, there was Marc Wildon but as soon as he saw Marc with Drew McKinnon, Alan kept his distance. Besides, there was someone he wanted to talk to tonight. Alan knew where to find him and looked into the small room where Rob Elger would be going over some papers. Normally he was seated in the glass-fronted office looking into the hall, pretending not to notice what was going on. If a door opened, he saw who snuck out. If they were gone more than a few minutes, he sent one of the older, established members of the group to go look for them and make sure nothing was going on. A lot of people tried to make a stink about these meetings, even complaining to the archdiocese to remove the group from Church property, but the Cardinal had no control over the Franciscans and both avoided a confrontation over it. Still, a single incident could change that. Rob was determined that nothing would happen on his watch.
Alan rapped on a corner of the glass and smiled at Rob, who swiveled around quickly and burst into a big smile when he saw Alan. The boy wanted to go in and talk, but he saw Rob had someone else in there, and that meant a conference if the door was closed. Alan just mouthed "see ya!", nodded and waved, then moved on.
For once he didnít have anything to talk over with Rob; heíd just wanted to tell him how good things were going for a change. Heíd told Rob about David, even showed him a picture. Rob was happy for him, gave Alan what he called his "patented-number-five-no-sex-Ďtil-youíre-ready" speech and then gave Alan safe-sex pamphlets and a handful of condoms without further comment or question.
Alan turned back to the meeting room and caught sight of the red headed guy - was it Glen? Yeah, Glen - ducking into the menís room. That meant he was making a break for freedom. Heíd seen the guy before, and Brunny pointed him out as one of the good guys. Ainít too shabby lookiní either, Alan mused. Redheads never did much for Alan, but this one was different - spared the freckles and pasty-white skin, and the hair was more of a deep auburn than that carroty red.
Not in Daveís class, but not bad at all. And itís worth a shot! Alan told himself, and made for the same door.
Alan set down his soda and slipped into the menís room, spotted Glen and they traded some "Hiís" but before he could get away, Alan said "Hey, you gotta hear this!" and whispered something into Glenís ear.
Glenís eyes were big circles in his head. His mouth hung open. "Youíre kiddiní, right?"
Alan shrugged. "Itís a fact. Why would I lie?"
Glen stood there, even licked his lips unconsciously, pondering the possibilities.
"Just think it over, dude. I mean... whatís to lose?" and so saying, Alan gave Glen a final smile and pulled open the door, picking up the soda heíd left out front. He heard the door swing open quickly and bang against the wall before it closed. Alan just waited, occasionally eyeing Rob Elgerís door.
It didnít take long. He felt a tap on his shoulder in less than ten minutes and turned to see David, wreathed in smiles.
Alan looked behind David. "Whereís your shadow?"
David beamed. "Babe, itís a goddam miracle. I was positive Glen was gonna jump the fence, but he came back and it was like he couldnít get tighter with Chris. They both got a thing for this half-assed local band thatís playiní somewhere Sunday. I snuck off to give Ďem some time alone. Cross your fingers."
Alanís eyes lit up. "Oh man. A whole day without him followiní us around? I mean, I love the guy butÖ JesusÖ heís always there. And, um... Leeís gonna be gone all Sunday. With Frank."
David rolled his eyes. "Iíll just be happy to get through workiní a shift with him tomorrow and not have to hear him yak about Jamie for a change. Even Karen canít take it anymore. She banished him to the childrenís lit section." He turned and stiffened. "Oh, shit," he said in a low voice. "Here he comes again."
Chris was closing in on the both of them fast, but for once he looked like the bouncy, happy guy they knew from months earlier. "Hey guys, you mind if I catch a ride home with Glen?"
David tried not to jump up and down, but something just didnít sound right. He frowned. "Didnít Glen say he lived in Chelmsford?"
Chrisí head bobbed like a spring-loaded hula doll on a dashboard. "Yup."
Alan saw the dangers ahead, but jumped in while he still had the chance. "Chris, that sounds great! Sure, David and I donít mind - we donít mind at all."
David looked up, ready to say something but Alan just stamped his heel into his boyfriendí foot and shot him a hard look while he ground it. His eyes bored in to Davidís with a warning. Dave snapped his jaw shut, then grimaced inwardly with the pain.
Chris never noticed. He was scanning the crowd and spotted Glen standing at the door with his coat on. The boy was smiling and looked eager, and was biting his lower lip in a look that was simultaneously sexy and innocent.
"Yeah, well, IĎm gonna meet him out front now." Chrisí eyes were pleading. "You guys donít mind me takiní off like this, do you?"
Shut up, David, Alan thought and jumped in. "Nope. Glad to see ya goiní, Chris. Glen seems like a nice guy."
Chris arched his eyebrows. "Yeah - and heís kinda cute, isnít he?" and trotted off, pulling on his coat.
David frowned down on Alan. "And what was all that about? Christ, I think you broke my foot."
Alan rolled his eyes. "Címon, youíre not that delicate. And besides, you were gonna say something sensible and screw things up."
David leaned against the wall and pulled his foot up and massaged the top. "I was gonna screw things up? How was that gonna happen? All I was doiní was askiní Chris if Glen lived in Chelmsford, Ďcuz thatís out past Lowell, and Lowellís a good fifteen miles west. Chris and I are from Haverhill, and thatís twelve miles east. Chelmsford isnít exactly on the way."
Alan smirked. "Didnít you say Chrisí parents were gone down to Connecticut again? That casino place?"
"Yeah, to Foxwood," David answered, then brightened as understanding flashed in his eyes. "Jesus, what a tramp! Wonder what suddenly changed Glenís mind - I thought for sure he was gonna ditch us when he went to the menís room."
Alan smiled. "I thought so, too, so I dropped a couple little details about Chris," he said innocently. "Like howís heís not just ambidextrous but double jointed, too. And into gymnastics. Maybe a trick jaw got mentioned."
David knitted his eyebrows. "He isnít any of those things. Chrisí a klutz - he could trip over a piece of paper in the middle of an empty dance floor."
Alan tried to sound nonchalant. "Yeah, I know that. So do you. But Glen doesnít, and by the time he finds out, theyíll both be into it too deep to care."
Davidís mouth formed a small Ďoí as he took in the situation. Then he smiled, shaking his head and wrinkling his nose. "Youíre evil. Thatís why I love you."
Alan slid an arm around Davidís waist and leaned in against him. "Good. Letís get our coats and get outta here. The only reason we came was to help Chris meet some people, and thatís done. If we leave right now, we can get back to my place and have at least two hours alone Ďtill Lee gets in."
David hustled off to their old chairs and grabbed their coats. Brunny caught Alanís eye again and winked. In a very few minutes they were in Davidís black Jetta, racing down the winding back roads of Andover, headed for Alanís house only fifteen minutes away.
Marc stood just behind Drew, watching the boy lean forward over the table, trying to line up a shot. Oh man, this oneís a killer, Marc thought. If the black hair and blue eyes werenít enough, heís got the ass of death hidden under all that baggy khaki. Wonder just how Ďstraightí he really is?
If he was, Marc couldnít see it. Heíd watched Drew since theyíd met, seeing him carefully (if unconsciously) checking out every guy that walked by. Drew was sly about it, but Marc knew what to look for: heíd done the same thing long enough to recognize that sudden shift in attention, or the slight angling of the head to get a better look. Besides, his gaydar kicked in the minute Drew walked into the lobby, and it didnít take an expert to see that Drew was attracted, too. And Marc certainly didnít mind.
He watched Drew scratch yet again on an easy shot. He shook his head and sighed. "You didnít lie. You really do suck at this."
Drew looked up with a sheepish look and reddened. "Told you I was no damn good," he said rising and starting to chuckle. "Part of my astigmatism. Makes me a lousy judge of distance."
Marc rolled the pool cue between his hands. "Remind me never to drive on the same highway as you."
Drew snickered, and stepped back to watch Marc. The blond boy looked the table over, carefully looking for the most spectacular shot. He didnít want to embarrass Drew, but he still wanted to impress him. Marc stood thoughtfully, his large, ungainly hands with their long fingers rolling the cue, rotating it slowly back and forth. Suddenly the boy stopped, and looked at Drew, unconsciously sliding the thick end of the stick between the fingers of his left hand.. "So, how bad are your eyes? You wear glasses?"
Drew swallowed hard before he could answer, his eyes momentarily hypnotized by those long fingers sliding gently up and down the wood shaft. "Yeah, sometimes," he managed, his voice a little shaky. "Mostly just contacts. I hate wearing those damn things. Youíre always lookiní at fingerprints and dirt."
Marc paused, gripping the pool cue hard on the thick end. "Oh, man. Tell me they arenít tinted or anything," he almost pleaded.
Marcís face fell, and he faked a quivering lower lip and turned his big puppy dog browns on Drew. "Your contacts. Donít tell me theyíre tinted to make your eyes that totally-intense shade of blue."
"Um, no," Drew said looking away, embarrassed yet again.
"There is a God," Marc murmured with a faint smile as he decided on his shot and leaned over the table, opposite Drew. His eyes looked up suddenly and caught Drew staring at his hands wrapped around the pool cue. Marc pointed to the eight ball and tapped the corner pocket with the stick. One fluid motion, a quick click and the black ball dropped from sight.
He popped up with a grin. "Well, thatís the game. Hey, itís a good thing we didnít play Ďstrip poolí - Iíd have you down to your jock strap and ball cap by now." Not like that would be a bad thing, Marc added silently.
For once Drew didnít turn red when Marc hit him with a joke at his expense. He liked the guy. Might even make a good buddy if he werenít a fag, he thought. Hell, he could make a good buddy even if he is.
"Hey, donít worry," he said with a grin. "Wouldnít be the first time."
Marc raised an eyebrow. "Well, well. So weíve played Ďstrip poolí a couple times, have we?" he said mocking.
Drew just grinned, pulling out his wallet. "Yup. And strip poker. I think we even did strip chess once."
Marc did a stagey double-take and stood there in open-mouthed shock. "Strip chess? Jesus, Iíd like to see the Black Knight take the White Queen in that game." Especially if the Black Knight had blue eyes. Iíll wear a crown for ya. He chuckled again. "You and your friends take it all off?"
Drew shrugged and fished in his wallet for another dollar, a wry grin on his face. The loser paid each time, and he had few ones left by now. "You still up for another game? Well, yeah. I mean, it was just guys and just kicks, you know? Screwiní around." And a couple times, a little moreín that, he thought, this time not trying to suppress the memory. He felt himself stiffening, then readjusted his pants. Thank God I wore baggies, he told himself but smiled anyway.
He glanced over cautiously and once again tried to picture Marc, minus clothing. The idea had a lot of appeal. He wished they had played strip poolÖ except Marc would still be dressed and Drew would be freezing in just his shorts. "So, you gonna beat me one more time?" he asked, holding up a bill. "This is my last single. You got it all."
"Not quite," Marc said, laughing. "You still got your pants on. Hey, donít stuff that bill in just yet. Thereís still all your balls on the table, and Iím gonna try and teach you a few things. Now, lean over and show me your stance again. Try for the six-ball - thatís a pretty clean shot. But donít shoot. Just get in position like you just were." Drew leaned in and gripped the cue.
Marc nodded. "Okay, thatís a big part of the problem - your handling the cue like a kid grabbiní his goods for the first time. Youíre just wrappiní your hands around the shaft and jerkiní any old way. Try gripping it easier, and let it just slide easy between your fingers. Donít choke up on the shaft when you slide it."
Drew cocked his head, then nodded as if he understood and re-aimed the cue.
"NO!" Marc said, as he leaned in and adjusted Drewís arm and repositioned his fingers.
"Thatís it. Now, just slide the thing between your fingers, nice and easyÖ oh yeah, buddy, thatís it. Do it a couple more times, but donít just jerk -slow stroke it back and forth, real slow. Take your time. Let it glide over your hands, and though your fingers..."
As if in a daze, Drew repeated the movements, then looked up for approval.
Marc nodded. "Yeah, thatís more like it. Now, we gotta fix your stance." He stepped behind Drew, and felt Marcís fingers on his arm and then pressing lightly down on the back of Drewís head. "Thatís it, go down, dude. Get on eye level with the stick and balls." He placed a foot between Drewís and spread the boyís legs apart a little, then leaned in and helped guide his arm, gently drawing it back then showing him how to follow through with his shot.
Drew caught Marcís scent, a not unpleasant odor. Some kind of herbal shampoo, he thought. Yeah, and maybe a light touch of something else, but not too much. Then just whatever it was that made up Marc, and that was a good thing right now. He could feel the other boyís breath on the back of his neck as he leaned around him. On an impulse Drew backed suddenly and tried to hide a smile when he felt something stiff and hard jab at his butt cheek. Almost big enough to be a spare pool cue.
Marc smiled but said nothing, but didnít pull back. "Thatís it, Drew. You gotta handle the cue just like you were handling your own dick - nice and gentle, but with the confidence to get the job down... ya know?"
Drew sucked in his breath and took the shot. In a blur, it rolled right into the pocket with a satisfying thwok. He turned and grinned. "Thatís gotta be the first time I deliberately got one in all night."
Marc laughed. "Yeah. Itís nice when everything just comes together, isnít it?"
The practice continued with Marc standing behind Drew the entire time, offering advice, showing him exactly how to move, how to aim, how to set up each shot to play right into the next. They bumped a few more times, and Marc was sure the accidents were staged, but neither said anything. Drew still breathed in Marcís scent, and liked it more each time. Finally, after almost an hour, they were down to one ball and Marc was at his side, his cheek almost rubbing against Drewís as he helped him make the shot. They could feel each otherís body heat. Drew took the shot, then suddenly turned his head just as Marc did the same. Their lips brushed.
They sprung apart, staring at one another. Marc smiled and raised his left eyebrow. Drew scowled and felt a wave of embarrassment and anger rise up, then looked away. For all his earlier cockiness, Marc was completely taken aback by this reaction and opened his mouth, about to say something.
Suddenly, they heard a throat clearing behind them. Marc turned to see Brunny and one of her friends in the doorway. "Guys? You twoíve had the table all night. Can you maybe let us get one game in before things break up?"
Drew silently passed the cue to Brunny and all but ran from the room, his expression halfway between shock and anger. Marc sputtered some excuses and followed. Brunny shrugged and popped a bill into the slot.
The crowd in the meeting hall had pretty much thinned out. Some kids caught rides with the older members of the group, and a very few would be picked up either by supportive family members or friends. All too many would walk off silent and alone, hiking to the main road and using their thumb to catch a ride in the cold February night, too shy to ask strangers at the group for a ride, too young to drive themselves, and not daring to ask anyone from their family for a ride.
Marc slipped through the small crowd looking for the Drew. He finally saw him jerking on his coat where theyíd been sitting in the back of the room, but moved quickly for the doors. Marc caught up to the dark-haired boy in the lobby, and lightly grabbed his arm. Drew jerked it away, and turned on him with a snarl. "Back off, faggot. I know what youíre after."
Marc jumped back, and held his hands in the air. "Whoa, dude! What the fuck are you up about?"
Drew glared and felt his body trembling. "You think I donít know what you were after back there?" he said in a controlled voice, mindful of the curious and sometimes large ears around them. "Your hands all over me, breathing down my neck and rubbing up against me? You need a cheap feel that bad? I told you - I ainít into that stuff. I ainít like you!"
Marc dropped his hands slowly and just stared at Drew for a moment before speaking. His face was questioning, confused. He shook his head. "I donít get you, man. I mean, you send out every signal there is, and you stand there insisting youíre Ďnot like meí." He was disgusted, and his voice became dismissive. "Hey, fine - thatís no problem. But at least I know what I am, and I pretty much like it and admit it. I dunno your story, but the only reason I stayed with you all evening was to help you relax, maybe fit in. I was trying to teach you to play pool back there, dude!
Drew tried to interrupt, but Marc held his hand up and cut him off.
"Cool it, Drew," he said. "Sure, I touched your hands and your arms, but that was all I touched. I wasnít the one rubbing his ass against someoneís dick for a cheap thrill, or leaning into you for more contact every excuse you got. I let you do it, but I wasnít the one startiní anything - if anyone got a cheap thrill back there, it was you - not that I minded. Yeah, I like what I see. But if someone isnít into what I like, I donít push Ďem or try takiní advantage. And I donít play cock-tease all night, and then get all pissed when I get a response."
Drew snarled and clenched his teeth "You were tryiní to lay a kiss on me back there!"
Marc took a step closer. "Bullshit!" he snapped. "I turned my head when you leaned into me, and you turned yours at the same time. Our lips brushed. That ainít a kiss! Itís a fuckiní accident, and if you canít see it, then youíll never see anything!"
Drewís mouth sneered, and his voice became mocking. "You saying you ainít been makiní a play for me?"
Marc looked directly into those hard blue eyes. "Yeah, Iíll admit I was interested, DrewÖ and I flirted with you more to get you to laugh than anything else. It worked for awhile, and you quit beiní so pissed about haviní your old man make you come here in the first place."
Marc shook his head in disbelief. "Do you got any idea how many of these kids would love to have their parents back Ďem up like that? Half of Ďem go home and get totally shit on by their families. Most of Ďem have to lie about where they were. And poor you had to sit with a buncha queers who were tryiní to get into your pants all night! Oh, woe is me!"
They stood less than a foot apart now, their exchange delivered in strained voices that never got much above a growled, throaty whisper. Drew wanted to lash out, but Marc stood his ground and looked him in the eye, prepared to defend himself. The few people left in the building waiting for rides kept a comfortable distance, straining to hear and pretending they hadnít noticed anything.
"Iíll step back if you will," Marc said evenly.
Drew inched backwards, trying to recompose himself. Marc did the same. Their eyes were still locked, and it was a few moments before Marc spoke again.
"Look, Drew, I wonít bother you again, ok? But I really wasnít tryiní anything." He gave a weak smile. "Not that I wouldnít mind trying, but I just figure I wouldnít get anywhere. If you see me again, say hi and we can talk. If you wanna just walk by me like I donít exist, hey, thatís cool, too. Iíve been shit on before, and itís gonna happen again. Thatís just the way it is, even if it does make life suck."
Drew looked away, staring at the floor. He tried to make some conciliatory sounds, but nothing audible really came out. Marc reached into his wallet, fished out an old receipt and scribbled on the back of it. He handed the slip to Drew. "This is my cell number. If you ever wanna talk or youíre lookiní for somebody to hang out with a little, give me a call. Seriously - no strings, no bullshit. Leave a message in my box if I donít pick up or Iím turned off, okay?" He glanced down at his watch. "Shit, I gotta get to work. Itís getting late."
Drew looked up from the ground for the first time since the two teens had stepped back. "Youíre going to work? At this hour?"
Marc shrugged. "Thatís how it goes, dude. Gotta make some coin to keep goiní. Iíll be workiní tomorrow night, too, but you can reach me during the day. Just call in the mid-afternoon, okay? So I can get some sleep. And I donít work Sundays, either. Now, I gotta clear out. Hope I hear from you. And if I donítÖ well, thanks for the game." He shrugged, picked up his coat and gave Drew a last wry grin from the door, then stepped into the cold darkness outside.
Drew said nothing, just watched him walk away, but he stepped up to the glass and looked out, just in time to see Marc get into an old junk of a car. Was it a Cavalier? Whatever, it was old and the exhaust announced its presence, then its departure. Drew watched the tail lights disappear at the end of the long driveway. He looked down at the paper in his hand, then balled it up with a derisive snort. A nearby car horn honked, and he looked up just as his father pulled up the long drive, still driving the gray Sebring that Drew pretty much thought of as his own. He stepped out into the cold February night and dog trotted to the car and whipped open the door, grateful to get out of the frigid air.
Andy McKinnon looked at a subdued son sliding into the passenger seat. "How was it? Did you talk to anyone?"
Drew was silent for a few seconds, but it wasnít the same kind of sullen silence that marked their drive up. He rubbed his hands from the brief exposure to the cold. Now, what the hell did I do with my new gloves? Drew nodded. "Yeah. It was alright, I guess," he said guardedly. "I just donít need that kinda stuff."
Andy nodded. "Okay," he said in resignation. "I wonít beat up on you about it. But I want you to at least think of going back one more time. They only meet every two weeks, so thereís plenty of time to think about it."
They drove for awhile in silence, but this silence lacked the edge of the drive up. "Oh, I almost forgot," Andy said. "Melissa called - four times," he said dryly. Like his mother, Andy hadnít taken much to Melissa, even if heíd never said it.
Drew felt his heart jump and an ache in his stomach. "Oh God, Dad. Whatíd you tell her?"
"Donít worry," Andy chuckled. "I didnít tell her you were here. I said Iíd shipped you over to your auntís to help her out. If you want, I can claim you were there all weekend. Wouldnít blame you. Give you some time to think."
Drew smiled and looked over to his chuckling father. "What aunt? Ma had one brother I know about, and heís out in Colorado or something."
Andy smiled broadly and shrugged. "What that little bi - er, what Melissa doesnít know canít hurt you."
Considering what heíd been through that night, Drew decided maybe his fatherís idea about Melissa wasnít that bad; the last thing Drew needed was her bitching in his ear about having to stay home on a Friday night. He was suddenly aware his left hand was still closed, and he released it and looked down. He still had Marcís phone number. He almost wadded it up again to stuff into the small trash bag sitting between the two seats. Instead, he smoothed the small slip of paper between his fingers and reached inside his coat to slip it into a shirt pocket.
Something moving along the roadway ahead caught his attention. Drew recognized the coat. It was one of the younger boys Brunny had been talking to. Heíd seen one get into a car with a few older kids, but this one had hung back. Drew remembered seeing the kidís coat draped over the back of a chair. He felt some embarrassment remembering how smug he felt when he wrote it off as a cheap rip-off of a designer, and how thin it looked.
"Dad? Stop the car! Please?"
Andy pulled over to the side of the road a little ahead of the walking boy, and Drew looked out through the rear window. The kid stopped walking when he saw the car pull over. Heís afraid, Drew realized. River Road was narrow, dark, and sparsely-traveled at night. A car suddenly pulling over could mean danger.
Drew looked over to his father, concern on his face. "Look, this kidís only, like, fourteen and heís got no ride. Can you pick him up? Just give him a ride wherever he has to go and tell him itís on our way, okay? Itís like six degrees out there."
Andy paused, then nodded. "Sure. Wherever he needs to go."
Drew hopped out of the car, leaving the door open so the interior would light up, and walked over to the boy, calling out to put him at ease. Andy watched in the rear view, smiling, while Drew talked to the kid. Finally the younger boy nodded and the two of them were walking back to the car. Drew put a hand on the younger boyís shoulder. Andy liked what he saw. It was the first time in years heíd seen Drew give a damn about anyone but himself.
Drewís bleary eyes sprung open and he was filled with panic. His eyes flickered around the room until he was satisfied it was his bedroom, and he relaxed. There was another problem, he slowly realized. The sheets were wet, and sticking to his skin. He grabbed the clock on his nightstand and looked at it closely, wondering if he should fish for his glasses. Jesus, itís after three. And what the hell is this? I havenít had one of these in years! And why am I all out of breath and shaking?
He dragged himself out of the bed, kicking back the now-cold, sticky sheets and looked at the semen covering his lower belly up past his navel. The sheets were saturated with it. Drew pulled them off the bed and wadded them up, using them to wipe himself clean before throwing the sheets to the floor and kicking them under the bed. Too late to change Ďem... to tired... Iíll take care of that in the morning. He checked the quilt with his hands to make sure it was dry, then slid back in. He was still shaking, but not from the cold.
Without giving it any thought, Drew curled himself into a protective ball on his right side, head just above the covers. Part of him knew heíd just had the deepest, most satisfying orgasm of his life, in spite of the fact that heíd Ďtaken care of businessí the same way he did every night since he was thirteen. The sharper details were already fading from Drewís mind, but the end of the dream was very distinct.
When heíd felt the hot fluids stirring and rising deep inside, he swore heíd felt another body grinding down into his, and felt his wrists pinned to the mattress by large, powerful hands. There was a head just above his own, but shrouded in shadows. The head began to lean down, and first Drew had the sensation of hot sweat dripping from the face and onto his own. The shadows cleared, and a pair of soft, brown eyes looked down into Drewís. Finally the shadows were withdrawn as their lips connected. Thatís when Drew gushed. He remembered thrusting upward in the last stages of his orgasm when he recognized the face.
That was the part of the dream that scared him.
The face was Marcís.