A Saturday morning, already warm outside. Too warm, really, for the
of weight that Michael was lifting. He was sweating heavily in the sun that
shone through the wide back porch windows, and his palms were dangerously
slippery on the shaft of the barbell, but he was more than half-way through
his set, and he didn't want to stop now. If he stopped now he'd lose it,
lose the strange calm he'd started to find in these ordered routines, the
careful counting and lifting and the focussed strain in his muscles.
If he stopped now, it would prickle at him for hours, a tiny barb in
back of his mind that would pluck and catch and tear at the fabric of his
day until it all started to feel like it was unravelling...
He pushed the thought away, silencing it with the steady beat of his
counting. He'd been spending more and more time lifting weights recently.
Sammy had started to call him "Hulk." Sammy had started -
And that was another thought he couldn't allow himself, and he went
into his next set without resting.
"Michael?" came Mom's voice from somewhere in the house, "Michael, where
you?" He ignored it, counting out his set. "Honey?" he heard again, closer
this time, and then the door creaked open behind him. "There you are!"
"Hey, Mom," he said, without stopping.
"I just wanted to let you know that you can take the car today if you
Joan is coming by to pick me up and we're going into town, so I won't need
it," she said.
"Thanks," he grunted. He could feel her watching him, still standing
in the doorway.
"Michael..." she said again, and this time her tone made anxiety start
stir in his gut. "Does Sammy have a girlfriend?"
And *that* question was so unexpected that Michael faltered, one of
sweaty hands slipped on the barbell's shaft, and he found himself suddenly
struggling to keep it from crashing down onto his chest.
Mom was there in an instant, helping him to hoist the barbell back into
rests, taking part of its weight with surprising ease. He always forgot
this, that she was built like Sammy, hidden wiry strength in both their
"Sorry!" she was saying now, "Are you OK? I didn't mean to startle you
you shouldn't be lifting that much weight without someone around, honey, you
could hurt yourself!"
He stayed on the bench, catching his breath, hoping that this had derailed
the conversation, but Mom lingered, brushing off her hands and looking down
at him questioningly.
"So," she said after a couple of moments, "does he?"
"Does who what?" said Michael, heart still beating too fast.
"Does *Sammy* have a *girlfriend*. You know what I'm talking about,"
said teasingly, "As I recall, you've had one or two yourself in the past."
She squinted at him then, a question that Michael didn't want to deal with
forming in her eyes. With an exaggerated sigh he sat up and said, "I don't
know. Not that he's mentioned. Why are you asking *me*?"
Mom fiddled with the tie on her peasant blouse and made a sheepish face.
"I'm sorry, I know, I should ask *him*. It's just that he hasn't said
anything to me about it, and I didn't want to pry, I mean, you know I've
always believed in you kids having your own lives... but he's got that look,
you know. That - that *look*. Euphoria tinged with panic. Young love."
Michael felt his stomach flip at the words, his heart suddenly in his
throat, and to hide it he flopped back down and reached blindly for the
weights again. "He hasn't said anything to me," he said, and Mom nodded
vaguely and headed for the doorway again.
Then stopped and turned around again, looking at him carefully. "Wait,"
said, "if he doesn't have a girlfriend, does he maybe have, well, a
*boyfriend*? He's been spending a lot of time with that boy Jason, you
This time Michael didn't drop the barbell. With arms that suddenly felt
rubber he raised it slowly into the rests again, then sat up, slung his
towel around his neck, and finally turned to look at her, trying to keep his
face as neutral as possible.
Something must have shown through, though, for she stepped back and
her hands nervously at him, saying, "OK, OK, if he wanted me to know he
would have told me, and I shouldn't be asking you about it. But I want you
both to know, I would be OK with it - it wouldn't bother me if you were, you
know, gay. I want you to feel like you can talk to me about anything."
"Sure, Mom, thanks," Michael heard his own voice say, and then he was
nearly pushing her out of the way as he headed for the stairs. "I have to
shower now, see you later."
He took the stairs two at a time, and heard her following after him
porch. "Wait a minute, honey," she called as he shut the bathroom door, but
he turned the water on full-blast and pretended he hadn't heard.
//Talk to you about anything, huh?// he thought as he stripped off his
track-pants and climbed into the shower, hissing at the too-hot water. And
suddenly he could taste rage like metal in his mouth. She had no idea what
was really going on, no fucking clue. How could she not know? How could she
not see how wrong things had gone, how could she not see the *truth* -
//Young love// he heard her say again, and felt his cock swell helplessly
with anger, pride, possessiveness. How could she not see *that* truth? That
it was *Michael* Sammy loved, Michael who made him look that way. Not Jason.
His rage collapsed into misery at the thought, and he reached down and
his hard cock a vicious squeeze.
Sammy was at Jason's right now. He'd called the night before to say
was staying over. It was the first night since they'd moved here that Sammy
had spent away from home. Away from *him*.
He should have known, thought Michael miserably as he shut off the water.
Should have noticed how Jason's name had begun to crop up more and more when
Sammy talked about his friends. Should have noticed how often that second
blond head could be seen next to Sammy in the hallways, or leaning towards
him in the cafeteria. But to Michael he'd just been another laughing boy
with a good haircut in the well-groomed crowd that always seemed to surround
Sammy. He hadn't given it any serious thought until he'd appeared beside
Sammy at the car one evening, a tall rangy boy with a mountain-bike balanced
casually over his shoulder.
"I told you about Jason, right Mom?" Sammy had said. "Well, we're working
a presentation together, and I invited him for dinner. I hope that's OK."
And Mom had been so fucking thrilled that at least one of them was making
friends in Santa Carla that she'd practically adopted him on the spot. And
Michael supposed, bitterly, that Jason was worth adopting. Good-looking,
with rich brown eyes set at a slant above high cheekbones and surprisingly
dark eyebrows beneath his thatch of blond hair. A serious athlete, on the
track team at school and a competition-quality cyclist. On the student
council, not to mention the honour-roll. That first night he'd made charming
conversation over dinner, made Sammy laugh out loud at least three times,
and then helped to clear the table.
Michael *hated* him.
He'd told himself he was being paranoid and unreasonable. He should
*happy* for Sammy. Sammy had always been popular at school, but he couldn't
remember the last time he'd had a friend he trusted enough to bring back to
the chaos that usually reigned at home. But with Mom's words still in his
ears, Michael couldn't stop the flood of images he'd been trying so hard not
to imagine... Sammy on the back of Jason's bike, arms around the taller
boy's waist. Sammy in Jason's room, late at night while Jason's parents
slept, Jason's tanned hands on Sammy's paler skin...
He dried himself roughly, trying to dispel the thoughts. In the streaked
bathroom mirror he looked stupid and brutish to himself, his forehead
furrowed, his muscles a useless bulk. He didn't know what to do. He and
Sammy had always turned to each other when things got bad, but now? What
could he say to Sammy about this? "No friends, no lovers but me. No one but
me, Sammy, that's all you need..."
The closest he'd come was one night with Sammy already more than half
in his arms. "I love you," he'd said, the first time he'd volunteered those
words, his voice sounding harsh and abrupt in the darkness. Sammy had
muttered something that might have been "Me too," or "I know," or maybe
nothing meaningful at all, and Michael had gone on, "I mean, I really - "
and then stopped, tears welling like acid in his eyes. Because it was true,
that was the terrible thing. He loved him so much he thought it might tear a
hole right through him, loved him so much he'd do anything for him. Anything
but let him go.
* * *
He brought Mom's car back later that afternoon, parking it in the garage
where she wouldn't see how dusty it was from the rough gravel roads he'd
been driving. Jason's bike was propped against the garage wall, and gritting
his teeth he slipped out the side door, hoping to make his way around the
back and avoid them.
Around the side of the house past the garage was a huge old barrel that
once been used for crushing grapes. Grandpa had set it up there with a hose
and a tap, meant to be part of an irrigation system for an herb garden that
he'd never got around to planting, but it could still be filled and held two
As Michael came around the corner he saw Sammy perched on its worn wooden
edge, feet dangling the water, while Jason stood hip-deep in the middle of
the barrel, idly splashing water at him.
"... quiet around here, without your brother," Jason was saying, "where
he, anyway?" Michael stopped where he stood.
"I don't know," said Sammy absently, eyes closed and face tilted up
sun, "but he likes to drive around when Mom's not using the car."
"What's up with him, anyway?" asked Jason.
Sammy opened his eyes and looked at him. "What do you mean?"
"He *looks* at me funny," said Jason, and when Sammy rolled his eyes
leaned closer, suddenly serious. "No, really, Sammy. Whenever I'm here, and
sometimes even at school, I turn around and he's there, just staring at me -
no, *glaring* at me - and I don't know why. I never did anything to him." He
moved even closer as he spoke, until he was standing inside the V of Sammy's
open thighs, and with one hand he scooped up a palmful of water and let it
spill out in a slow trickle down Sammy's thigh. "What's he afraid of, me
corrupting his precious baby brother or something?"
Sammy laughed, a sudden and surprisingly adult laugh that made Jason
"It gives me the creeps," said Jason, a little defensively. "*He* gives
"Hey!" said Sammy sharply, "Shut up! That's my *brother* you're talking
Standing in the shadow of the garage, Michael was suddenly dizzy, his
pulse deafening in his ears and a strange, sick feeling coiling out from his
belly. And then all the familiar things around him seemed to fall away,
become distant and foreign, leaving his life spread out before him like a
stranger's, and all he could do was wonder what the hell he thought he was
He should be *praying* that Sammy and Jason fell in love. It would prove
that he hadn't damaged him too badly, that maybe this could all still be
forgiven and life go back to normal. Because they couldn't go on like this,
could they? He was graduating this year... and it wasn't like he hadn't
*known* that, but somehow the reality of it hadn't hit home until this
moment. Graduating, and then what? Stay here, work at the fairground, try
hold onto Sammy forever? He could see it now, the two of them living in
Granddad's crazy old man house until they became crazy old men themselves,
Sammy kept an aging boy while he himself grew ever more silent and brutish
with the weight of their secret.
But what kind of normal could his life go back to now? A community college
program somewhere, a tiny basement apartment where he could start over,
without Sammy? But he couldn't really imagine it, could no longer imagine a
future without Sammy. He wondered what the world could possibly hold for him
now, never able to have what he wanted, or to even speak of it, his secret
making him as monstrous in others' eyes as if David's blood still ran in
him. And for a moment he hated Sammy as much as he loved him, hated him for
how necessary he had become.
He must have made some sort of sound, then, for Sammy looked up, and
him, and his face froze in dismay. "Michael -" he started, but Michael
turned and stalked stiffly away.
"Michael wait!" It was Jason calling him this time. Michael heard Sammy
shush him and say, "I think you'd better go home, OK? I'll call you
tomorrow," and he realised that somehow he was running now, heading for the
scrubby wilderness between the house and the edge of the gorge out back.
He could hear Sammy coming after him, calling to him to stop, and he
an extra burst of speed, wanting only to be alone with the hurt coiling up
from his belly. He burst through the last of the brush and out onto the flat
rocky ledge that ran the length of the gorge, hitting his stride now, easily
outdistancing bare-footed Sammy.
Then his foot skittered on a pebble and he went down, hitting the ground
hard, feeling the skin scrape off knee, elbow, shoulder as he rolled with
his own momentum past Granddad's rickety old picnic table and right to the
edge of the gorge, his legs kicking suddenly into empty air as he scrabbled
at the bare rock with his hands.
Then Sammy was there, breathless, and he caught Michael by the arms
pulled, tugging at him until he could scramble up onto firm ground again.
"Jesus, Michael!" he panted, "You could have gone right over the edge there!
Are you OK? You're bleeding!"
The sharp sting of his abraded skin was just starting to hit him now,
Michael stubbornly willed back the wetness in his eyes and glared up at his
brother. Sammy didn't flinch, though, just brushed the hair gently back off
Michael's face and said, "He didn't mean it, you know."
"Yes, he did," said Michael, "and he's right, I am creepy."
"Come on, don't be like that, he's just jealous -"
"Do you hear what you're saying, Sammy?" interrupted Michael, pulling
from Sammy's touch. "He's *just* jealous? Your little friend is jealous
because he wants to fuck you, but your older brother got there first, and
that's not creepy?"
Sammy flinched, and said, "Don't make it sound that way. It's not like
"No? Then what is it like? Are you saying that he doesn't want to get
Sammy's cheeks were red now, but he didn't look away as he said, "He
already, Michael. Last night. And he's still jealous."
Michael just stared at him.
"Come on, Michael, what did you want me to do? What was I supposed to
him? He's my friend, the best friend I've had in ages, and he knows I go for
guys, and he ... he wanted it so badly. Almost as badly as you did that
first time, bro. So I let him. But it wasn't -" Sammy's voice cracked, and
Michael heard him swallow loudly, "it wasn't the same. It wasn't *real*. And
he could tell, I think. When he touched me, all it felt was good. You know,
nice. But when you touch me, it feels - I feel - I feel like oxygen. Like
you need me to *breathe*. Like there isn't anything more important,
anywhere." His face paled as he spoke, as if his own words surprised him,
and now there was pleading and confusion on his face too. "And I don't
think that anyone else... is it always like that for you, or is it... is
that just with you and me"
"It -," started Michael, his voice shaking, "No, it isn't like that
anyone else." And then he pulled himself up onto his scraped knees and
pulled Sammy to him, pressing his face into his warm golden belly. "I'm
sorry," he said against his skin, "I'm so sorry," and he was, but there was
something fiercer inside him too, something possessive and triumphant, and
he found himself pushing Sammy back against the picnic table, pushing him
with all the weight and bulk he'd built up over this year.
Sammy squirmed in his grasp. "Michael stop it," he was saying, "What
His back was hard up against the edge of the table now, and Michael
hold of the waistband of his damp swimtrunks and pulled them down.
"Jesus, don't be crazy, someone will see!"
But Michael could see that Sammy's cock was beginning to harden, in
his words, and when he took hold of it and brushed the tip with his tongue,
Sammy's protests were cut off with a gasp. Michael took it into his mouth as
deep as he could and worked it until it was fully hard, then pulled off,
grabbed Sammy by the hips, and turned him around.
"Michael!" protested Sammy, hoarsely, but his cock didn't flag and he
himself be turned. Michael ran his hands over Sammy's pale ass, then parted
his buttocks and leaned in, ignoring the pain in his knees as he shifted. He
flicked his tongue across Sammy's asshole, and Sammy's whole body flinched
forwards, but Michael just dove in deeper, tasting rainwater, sweat, the
faint ferment of Sammy's body.
"Someone will *see*!" moaned Sammy again, and a dark fatalistic pleasure
rose in Michael at the thought. He *wanted* them to see, Jason, and Mom too,
wanted them to see and acknowledge Sammy transformed at his touch, arching
his hips into Michael's stroking tongue, beads of sweat on the fine blond
hairs down the groove of his spine. His tongue was right inside Sammy now,
and Sammy's legs were trembling, his breathing getting harsher and faster.
He shifted suddenly, knocking Michael away, and Michael saw that he was
taking his own cock in hand and starting to jerk it, and he bore in again
with his tongue until Sammy gave a raw cry and collapsed forward as he came.
They stayed like that for a few moments, Sammy bent forward over the
table, panting, Michael resting his face against one cheek. Then Sammy
turned and shoved Michael away hard, sending him sprawling in the dirt. He
glared down at him angrily for a moment, then slowly lowered himself until
he was sitting on the ground, his body still trembling. Michael just looked
at him. Finally Sammy crawled over and, without making eye-contact, curled
up next to him, his back against Michael's side. Hesitantly, Michael rolled
onto his side, spooning around Sammy, and felt him shiver. After a moment,
though, Sammy relaxed against him, and he didn't move when Michael wrapped
an arm around his chest.
"What are we going to do, Sammy?" asked Michael miserably.
"I don't know, Michael," said Sammy after a moment, and for the first
Michael could hear his own desperation and uncertainty echoed in Sammy's
voice. "I just don't know."