Michael thinks Mom knows.
It had seemed like a little thing at the time. It was Saturday, and
been on the way to the bulk store on the other side of town. Sammy had been
leaning back against the door, dozing, with his legs slung across Michael's
lap. Michael had had his hand on Sammy's bare ankle, absently petting his
ankle bone with one thumb, and he'd looked up to find Mom watching them in
the mirror with a strange frozen expression on her face, looking at them
like she'd never seen them before.
It had lasted only a second. Then she'd caught his glance in the mirror
the strange expression had vanished, leaving her smiling her tired smile at
him like always. The rest of the shopping trip had gone just as usual, and
he'd told himself that he'd imagined it. But...
When they got home that night, Sammy had made his usual post-shopping
for pizza. And instead of starting the round of negotiation this usually
provoked, Mom had just handed over her wallet, saying, "Whatever you want,
boys," and vanished upstairs. The next morning she'd made their regular
Sunday breakfast, but didn't call upstairs to wake them. When Michael
finally woke up and wandered down to the kitchen, he'd found Mom in the
sewing room with the door shut, and breakfast left to keep warm in the
stove, lukewarm stacks of buckwheat pancakes for which he suddenly had no
That had been a few weeks ago, and if he'd had any doubt at the time
she knew *something*, it had long vanished. Much like Mom herself seemed
bent on doing. She'd switched to a split shift at the medical centre where
she was a file clerk, and it took her out early and brought her home late.
In the evenings she left them TV dinners or chili in a pot on the stove,
then ate her own dinner alone in the sewing room when she got home. When she
had to be in the same room with them, she kept her face slightly averted, or
looked at something just *past* them, never quite meeting their eyes.
He kept waiting for her to say something, do something, take charge
but instead she just seemed to get increasingly child-like, her eyes wide
and baffled in the fine network of lines that surrounded them. More and more
often she looked helplessly at Granddad when decisions were called for, as
if she'd shrugged off the mantle of adulthood and responsibility altogether,
and Granddad had started to look at her with a puzzled frown when she wasn't
Michael knew he should just let it be. If she was choosing not to say
anything, that was all for the best, right? Better yet, he should let
*Sammy* be, give her nothing more to notice until she persuaded herself that
she must have been wrong. But somehow the whole thing was making him so
angry that he couldn't. Couldn't keep from pushing her, trying to make her
*react*. He'd skipped school one day, gone and smoked on the wall of the
park across from the medical centre just when he knew she'd be getting off
the first half of her shift, and she hadn't even asked him any questions,
just hurried across the street to him and pressed a twenty-dollar bill into
his hand, telling him to get some lunch. He'd taken up Sammy's complaint
about having no TV, even though he knew full well they couldn't afford one,
and he nagged at her relentlessly about it every time he saw her. Finally
one night she'd turned her back on him and swept out of the room, and he'd
thought he'd actually gotten to her. But she'd just come back with her
wallet again, and handed over her credit card, saying, "Why don't you go
into town tomorrow and pick one out?"
On his way into town he'd stopped at the stores on the boardwalk, picked
a new leather jacket, and added that to her card as well. And even that
hadn't made her say anything - she'd just bitten her lip and met his eyes
for one fleeting moment with a pleading expression that seemed to beg him to
And Sammy... well, even if he'd seriously tried to leave Sammy alone
didn't think it would have worked. Sammy was conspicuously Not Talking About
It. He acted like he hardly noticed Mom's disappearing act, but he was
*there* more and more, following Michael around the way he used to when he
was a kid. He'd started taking stupid risks, too - coming to Michael's room
earlier and earlier in the night, when they could still hear Mom or Granddad
getting ready for bed themselves. Staying later and later into the morning,
*daring* Mom to come in and wake them up for school. And the way he touched
Michael, or wanted Michael to touch him... that was starting to feel riskier
too. Sammy was wild sometimes now, almost violent, as if pleasure were a
wall he was casting himself against over and over, trying to break though to
something on the other side.
And Michael knew he should talk to him about all this, but... as wild
was some nights, there were others now when Sammy just wanted to lie next to
him and sleep, or rested his head on Michael's chest while his cock stayed
soft against his thigh. And Michael tried to be respectful, not to push it
if that was all that Sammy wanted, but it scared him, scared him almost more
than anything else about this.
He knew they had to stop. Told himself every morning that he *wanted*
stop, and sometimes even managed to believe it. But the truth was that
Sammy's touch was almost the only thing he could really feel anymore. Each
day it felt like he drifted a little farther, the world around him getting
more and more distant and muffled. At school the other students passed him
without a glance, as though he wasn't quite there. When he tried to listen
in class, the voices of the teachers seemed to be pitched at some frequency
he couldn't quite hear, their lessons a meaningless buzz. Even his own body
was starting to feel detached and unwieldy, like some sort of alien carapace
he was forced to wear. And sometimes he found himself at school - or *not*
at school, wandering Santa Carla's streets - without any clear memory of how
he had gotten there. He felt sometimes like the only thing anchoring him to
the world was Sammy. Without him - without his touch, his gaze, the solid
reality of his heartbeat against Michael's chest - Michael thought he might
just disappear, slip over some invisible edge and be gone forever.
It wasn't fair, he knew that too, knew that while Sammy might anchor
the world, his own needs were pulling Sammy with him out into his own dark
and lonely drift. But he was afraid of what would happen if couldn't reach
out to Sammy and take what he needed. And his fear kept him silent, and just
* * *
One Wednesday night they got home to find Mom in the kitchen and the
set for dinner. "There you are!" she greeted them, and called upstairs for
Grandad, who arrived at the table looking almost as confused as Michael
"Sit down, it'll get cold," she urged them, and they took their places
awkwardly. Once their plates were filled, she cleared her throat and said
brightly, "Well, it looks like I have to go back to Phoenix for a little
while. There are few things that have come up that I need to take care of,
papers to signed, that kind of thing."
They both stared at her. "How long will you be gone?" asked Michael finally.
"A week," said Mom, fiddling with her earrings, "or maybe two. Two at
most, I'm sure. I know you'll be OK here with Grandad."
"When are you leaving?" asked Sammy.
"But... the regional swim meet is on Saturday," he protested.
"I'm sure Michael will drive you wherever you need to go," said Mom,
finality in her voice, and Michael saw Sammy swallowing whatever else he had
been going to say.
"All you have to do is get me to the school," said Sammy that night
sat out in the back porch, watching the new TV. "They bus us out from
"I'll come watch," said Michael.
"Cool," said Sammy after a moment, and leaned against his shoulder,
Michael could still feel tension emanating from him like an electric buzz.
"Sammy -" he said, hesitantly, but Sammy leapt up from the couch as
he'd been stung, saying, "I'm going to make some popcorn. You want
anything?" and left the room before Michael could even answer. And that
night and the two that followed Sammy stayed in his own room and didn't come
to Michael at all.
* * *
Sammy was quiet as Michael drove him to the school on Saturday morning,
watching out the window and answering Michael's attempts at conversation
with uncharacteristic monosyllables until Michael finally gave up and drove
in silence. He let him out in the school parking lot, and Sammy ran towards
the buses with a single brief, backwards glance, his duffel bag bouncing on
There was a little while yet before Michael had to be at the sports
to watch, and he stopped at the diner in town to get some coffee, thinking
uneasily about Mom and her sudden trip. What kind of business could have
come up in Phoenix? The divorce had been finalised already, and everything
they still owned had come to Santa Carla in the back of the car with them, a
surprisingly small amount to show for the years they'd been a family.
Eventually, stomach sour with worry and too much coffee, he left.
The sportscentre was a few miles down the highway, and the parking lot
filling rapidly by the time he got there. He parked their beat-up old
station wagon off in one corner, feeling self-conscious here among the
smiling parents who poured out of the other cars. He made his way up to the
spectators' gallery and found himself a free chair inconspicuously off to
He'd never watched Sammy swim at an official competition before, and
more absorbing than he'd expected. Sammy wasn't the star of the team, but he
was a quick and competent swimmer, his expression focussed and intent as he
waited for the starter's whistle, his body cutting cleanly through the water
as he swam. Their school team made it to the semi-finals before they were
eliminated, and it was late afternoon before it was all over and they were
ready to leave. Michael let himself be carried by the flow of parents and
spectators down to the chlorine-scented lobby, and stood leaning against the
wall, waiting for Sammy to appear. He eventually emerged with a crowd of
other boys from the school, their hair still damp, all of them loud and
rosy-cheeked and still hyped up from the competition. "Sam!' Michael called
to him, and Sammy gestured him over.
"So, um, congratulations," said Michael, feeling stupid. Sammy made
dismissive face, then suddenly slapped a hand to his forehead.
"Shit! I left my watch in the locker-room!"
"Better hurry, Sam, bus leaves in a couple of minutes," said one of
other boys, but Sammy shook his head.
"You guys go ahead, tell coach I'm getting a drive home with my brother.
I'll see you tonight!" There was a great deal of hurried back-slapping and
yelling, and then the rest of the boys sped off towards the departing buses.
Michael put his hand on the back of Sammy's neck, the skin still cool
damp to the touch, and said, "I mean it, you know, you were great." Sammy
shivered suddenly beneath his hand.
"Come on," said Sammy abruptly, heading towards the stairs down to the
"Why don't I just wait outside - "
"I said, come *on*," said Sammy, turning to look back at him, and Michael
saw that the flush on his cheeks was more than just the aftermath of the
competition, and that his eyes were hard and bright.
"What are we doing down here?" said Michael as Sammy pushed through
door. The change-room was long and narrow, with showers at one end and rows
of lockers and benches filling the rest of it. Sammy was striding towards
the far end, away from the showers, and when Michael followed he saw that
there was a small alcove there, separated from the rest of the room by a
narrow partition. Sammy vanished behind it, and Michael stuck his head
around to see Sammy dropping his bag and jacket next to a pile of torn gym
"What are you doing?" said Michael, but Sammy just reached out, grabbed
hand, and pulled him in after him. Then, still holding Michael's hand, he
guided it down to his crotch.
Michael snatched his hand away. "We can't do this *here* - someone could
come back in! There's not even a *door* here!"
But Sammy was already undoing Michael's belt, and when he unzipped him
slipped his hand inside Michael didn't pull away. "Take off your pants,"
said Sammy after a moment, stepping back, "and sit down, here, on the mats."
Michael obeyed, watching Sammy kick off his sneakers and step out of his own
jeans. Sammy was fully hard already, and his expression was as intent as it
had been on the starter's block. He rummaged in his duffel bag until he
produced a bottle of lotion and poured out a generous dollop into his palm.
Then he knelt and straddled Michael's legs, slathering the cool lotion onto
"Holy fuck - " Michael hissed, but he was hard in Sammy's hand now.
Sammy moved up, kissed him briefly, and efficiently lowered himself onto
Michael heard himself groan helplessly, the breath shocked right out
They'd never done it like this before, and he couldn't help thinking of
Jason, wondering if Jason had taught Sammy this. He pictured Sammy riding
Jason's cock this way, and the image made him feel sick but sent electric
shivers up his spine, making him growl low in his throat. It all seemed to
be going so *fast*, suddenly, Sammy moving on him now, his eyes clenched
shut, his hands digging into the muscles of Michael's shoulders so hard it
hurt. Sammy moving to his own rhythm, seeking out his own pleasure in this,
and Michael had the sudden panicked feeling that he could be anyone in
Sammy's mind right now. He grabbed Sammy's hips to try and slow him, guide
him into a gentler rhythm, and Sammy's eyes flew open and he was a million
miles away inside them.
After a moment Sammy blinked, and nodded enigmatically. "OK then," he
"just a sec," and he pulled himself off and lay back on the mats, pulling
Michael after him. Michael hoisted his legs up and moved into him again.
"Faster," Sammy whispered, his legs tight around Michael's waist, and
again, "faster, *harder*," and then Michael was doing it as hard as he
could, muscles burning, and jesus, he could hear himself grunting like an
animal, fucking Sammy so hard he was afraid of hurting him. Sammy's eyes
were shut again and he bit his lip as his hips strained up towards Michael.
Then he slid a hand between them, knuckling Michael painfully in the belly,
and started working his own cock with fast business-like strokes. Michael
couldn't hold back any more, he felt it hit him like a wave of something
dense and hot and ruthless, and he came with a force that made him cry out.
He felt like he was going to collapse, like all his bones had just
dissolved, but Sammy's other hand was pushing at him, keeping him up, the
muscles in his ass still clenched around Michael's cock while he jerked
himself a few more times until he shot over his belly. Then his hands fell
to his sides and Michael dropped on top of him, cock still inside.
Eventually Sammy stirred restlessly beneath him, and they slowly separated,
Michael wincing as he watched how Sammy hobbled back to his pants.
"Are you... OK?"
"We'd better get out of here before someone comes to lock up," said
repacking his duffel bag.
Back at the car he lowered himself gingerly onto the wide front seat
Michael and said, "I invited the guys over for later."
"What guys? Invited them for what?"
"The guys from the swim team. And they'll probably bring some other
from school. I told them to come out to the house, we were having a party."
"Christ, Sammy, did you even ask Grandad about this?"
"He's going to the widow Johnson's tonight, said he wouldn't be back
tomorrow afternoon," said Sammy smugly.
"Mom'll freak if she finds out, you know," warned Michael.
"No she won't," said Sammy, an edge to his voice, and Michael couldn't
really argue. "So," Sammy went on, "can you try and buy some booze for me?
I've got the money..."
They stopped at the liquor store by the arcade, and Michael picked up
six-pack and a couple of bottles of cheap red wine, handing Sammy's money
over to the old man behind the counter who barely bothered to look away from
his small TV set.
When he got back to the car, Sammy was stretched out along the front
eyes closed, looking pale and tired. "You OK?" asked Michael again, and
Sammy nodded without opening his eyes.
"Just tired. It's been a long day." He opened his eyes and, without
up, slid over and curled himself tightly into his own half of the front
seat. When Michael got in he shifted until his head rested against Michael's
thigh, then closed his eyes again. He slept the rest of the way home.
Sammy's friends started to wander in around 9:00, boys in cotton rugby
and girls in pastel shirts, all looking curiously at Grandad's carvings and
the glassy-eyed animal heads that stared down from the walls. Michael
watched from the gallery at the top of the stairs, feet propped on the
railing and his own stash of beer at his side.
He was keeping half an eye on Sammy, vague worry in the back of his
but he seemed cheerful enough, chatting to people as they arrived, and
Michael slowly began to relax. He noticed a group of the boys huddling
surreptitiously in a corner for a few moments, but they dispersed fast
enough, and he didn't think much of it until, a little while later, he
realised that he hadn't seen Sammy since. Uneasy again, he went looking for
He finally spotted him out by the shed, perched in an odd and awkward
the edge of the split-log bench there.
"Sammy?" he called, and when Sammy didn't respond he jogged quickly
Sammy looked up as Michael drew near, and his face was pale and sweaty in
the moonlight, his pupils so dilated his grey-blue eyes looked black.
"Oh," said Michael, stopping short. "What are you on?"
"Acid," said Sammy, sounding distant and hollow. "One of the guys brought
some, and I..." he shivered, deeply, and Michael heard him swallow, a tight
and anxious sound. He sat down next to him, put a hand on his back,
"Hey, don't panic, it's better if you just relax."
But Sammy shook his head, not really listening, and turned to stare
Michael intently, putting one hand on his chest. "I can hear your
heartbeat," he said. "And... I think... I think maybe it's your blood. In
your veins. I can *hear* it." His eyes widened. "Is that what it was like
for you when you ... when..."
"Shh, don't think about that, Sammy," said Michael, but Sammy took hold
his wrist with cold and sweaty fingers and pressed Michael's hand against
"Can you feel mine?"
He could. He could feel Sammy's heart beating and the warmth of the
moving just beneath his skin, the shared blood that made all of this a
Though he knew that it wasn't just the fact of their shared blood that
this wrong. It was everything else as well, all the years and tangled
connections and the way they held each other to their shared history and
secrets, an intimacy that bound them so tightly together that there was no
room to move or grow.
He wondered sometimes if that was what had started it all, his thirst
what that shared blood was supposed to represent; the belonging, a real
family. If that thirst was what had drawn David and the others to him; if
that was what had drawn him to Sammy that night, with the vampire blood
first in his veins.
"Ow!" protested Sammy, and Michael realised that he was digging his
hard into his chest. He tried to relax, make his touch soothing again, but
Sammy twitched and shifted nervously beside him. "I keep thinking I see
things out of the corner of my eye," he said. Eventually he squirmed out of
Michael's hold entirely. "I have to pee!" he said, and walked a little
unsteadily around the corner of the garage. Michael heard him moving around
there, his zipper opening, and then closing again, and then suddenly there
was a rustling, and Jason's voice rang out.
"There you are! I've been looking for you!" there was silence, then,
after a few moments Jason struggled on, an edge to his voice. "In fact, I've
been looking for you for, like, *weeks* now. You haven't been in chem class
- you know you missed the midterm, don't you? - and you never call me back.
What's going on, Sammy - are you... are you freaking out about... you
know... what we did?"
More silence, and then in a different tone Jason said, "Shit - don't
you dropped with Henderson and the others? What's going on, Sammy - this
isn't like you."
Sammy finally spoke. "How do you know?"
"What do you mean?" said Jason.
"You say this isn't like me, but do you even know what I'm really like?
Maybe this *is* me, and none of you have paid enough fucking attention to
know. Sometimes I don't think any of you look past the label on my
shirt...." his voice died away.
"I look further than that," said Jason softly, and Michael could hear
hurt in his voice.
"Oh yeah? And what do you *see*?" said Sammy fiercely.
"More than you might think," said Jason, and Michael's stomach knotted
anxiety. "I'm... I'm nuts about you, Sammy, you know that. Everyone fucking
loves you, but you just... you just think that no one else has a *clue*,
don't you? You think I can't tell, can't see the way you get angry
sometimes, or that you've got all this, this *stuff* going on inside you.
Like I can't tell that there are things you're not telling me, not telling
anyone. I wish you'd tell me, Sammy. Because... because I really want to
know. I want to know all about you, I want..."
Another rustle then, and a not-quite-silence, and Michael sat as still
could, trying to resist the urge to walk around that corner and hit Jason as
hard as he could, to tell him that he couldn't talk to Sammy like that, that
he had no right.
Then Sammy drew in a ragged breath and said hoarsely. "Don't, Jason,
not... not now. I *can't*."
"You can't avoid me forever," said Jason, "and I'm not just going to
*away*, you know..."
Sammy came back round the corner at a near run and Michael leapt to
feet, trying to look like he'd just got there as Jason followed.
"Hey, where've you been, Sam?" he said too loudly, while Jason shot
baleful glance. "People were asking for you."
"I'd better get back," muttered Sammy, and took off without waiting
either one of them. Jason followed without another glance at Michael.
Michael stayed outside by the shed for a while after that, sitting slumped
on the end of the bench while thoughts whirled and refused to come together
in his mind. Sammy had been skipping school? He hadn't even known. And
Jason... Jason watching Sammy. Jason watching both of them... his mind kept
skittering away from the thought and its possible consequences, and finally
he banged his head sharply against his knees, stood up, and jogged back
towards the house.
He found the party reduced in size, people trickling away as curfews
but a small noisy group of them were still packed tightly onto the old
horsehair sofa, Sammy in their midst. They were passing a big 2-litre wine
bottle from hand to hand, toasting the moose-head on the wall above them. As
Michael watched, Sammy grabbed the bottle and, to the jeers and protests of
his friends, chugged it, pouring a good half-bottle of red wine straight
down his throat. He dropped the bottle carelessly to the floor once he was
done, looking a little dazed, and a new one was being conjured from
someone's backpack when Michael noticed Jason making his way towards the
couch from the kitchen. Jason looked like he'd had more than a couple of
drinks himself since Michael had seen him out by the shed - his cheeks were
flushed, his hair wild, and he was walking a little too carefully as he came
to stand next to the couch. "Sammy," he said, questioningly. Sammy ignored
him. "Sammy," he said again, "Come talk to me?" and he put one hand on
Sammy's shoulder. Sammy shook the touch off.
"I just want to talk to -"
Sammy jumped to his feet, pushing people out of his way, his face suddenly
and shockingly contorted with rage. "I said *don't*," he yelled, and as
Jason and the others gaped at him in amazement he crumpled to his knees,
leaned forward, and vomited spectacularly, red wine dribbling down his chin
and the front of his shirt.
Michael ran over to him, shooing the others away. "All right, folks,
over," he said as he knelt beside Sammy, who promptly threw up again.
Reluctantly his friends started gathering their stuff, drifting towards the
door. All except for Jason, who hovered next to them.
"I meant you too!" said Michael harshly. Jason stared at him defiantly
moment, pure rage in his eyes, but Michael met his glare easily and after a
moment Jason's shoulders drooped and he moved obediently away.
Michael pulled Sammy to his feet as gently as he could and, supporting
mostly limp weight, started guiding him up the stairs while Sammy protested
queasily, "No, no, Michael I'm going to puke again..."
"Then we'd better get up stairs *fast*," said Michael, and Sammy closed
eyes and let Michael guide him, his legs unsteady on the stairs. Michael got
him into the bathroom just as he threw up again, heaving thin pinkish liquid
into the sink. Michael kicked the door shut behind them and grabbed him as
he staggered and nearly fell, making a small distressed sound in his throat
as he tried to pluck his wet shirt away from his body. Michael sat him on
the lid of the toilet and helped him shuck his soaked shirt off, then
squatted down in front of him to untie his shoes. "Everything is spinning,"
moaned Sammy. Michael stroked his head and said, "Just hang in there. It'll
He maneuvered Sammy into the tub, a process that made Sammy moan in
distress, then took down the shower-head and ran the water until it was
warm. Washcloth in his other hand, he started to gently clean him off. Sammy
kept shivering in spite of the warm water, his teeth chattering audibly, and
after a minute or two Michael toed off his own shoes, struggled one-handedly
out of his jeans, and climbed in behind him in his t-shirt and underwear. He
moved in close until Sammy was sitting between his legs, then pulled him
back until his back rested against Michael's chest and he could wrap one arm
around him. The shivering let up a little, and Sammy closed his eyes.
"It's OK, Sammy," Michael found himself murmuring, the way he had when
were both just children, "It's OK, I'm here, I'll take care of you." He
wondered where Mom was. He had the sudden urge to go to her room and check
her closet, see how much she'd taken with her. Maybe the trip to Phoenix was
a lie and she was never coming back. Maybe they were on their own now, the
two of them and Grandad, crazy and oblivious while things fell apart all
around him. He wondered what would happen if it was true. He wrapped his arm
a little tighter around Sammy's chest.
Then the door opened. Revealing Jason, hair more disordered than ever,
both nervous and defiant. Michael made an inarticulate sound of protest, and
Sammy's eyes flew open. At the sight of Jason, his whole body went rigid,
and he lunged away from Michael, rising halfway to his knees before retching
again, just bile dripping from his mouth now.
Jason winced, stepped forward, stepped back again, staring at them both
Sammy sank weakly down again, wiping at his mouth. Michael handed him the
washcloth, trying to look business-like, as though there was nothing unusual
about being half-naked in the bathtub with his fully naked brother. "My
bike," Jason said finally, "I ran over something at the base of the drive. I
have a flat tire."
"Take Sammy's, then," said Michael. "It's in the garage."
Jason didn't move. "Maybe I should stay?" he said, clearly addressing
Sammy's bent head. "I could... help."
"It's fine," said Sammy, not looking at him. "Take my bike." He was
Jason looked at Michael again, a long, unfathomable look, then stepped
and shut the door with deliberate gentleness. They heard his footsteps creak
quietly down the stairs. Sammy stayed hunched forward, his arms around his
knees, goose-bumps on his arms and back. Michael was afraid to speak.
After a long silence Sammy finally said, "Mom knows, doesn't she?"
"I think so," said Michael.
Sammy nodded, shakily. "I don't know..." he shivered, "Michael, I don't
if I can do this any more."
Michael looked at him, his bent head, his wet hair clinging to the curve
his skull, the supple swimmers muscles in his back, and felt his own heart
racing in his chest. His t-shirt and underwear clung to him like something
wet and dead, and he could see, as if from a distance, that his hands were
"I don't know," said Michael, and his voice came out flat and factual,
don't know if I can stop."