A Charmed Life

by Geron Kees

The Most Powerful Charm of All

©2016 by Geron Kees. All rights reserved.

This story is a work of fiction and depicts sexual activities between minors. All characters and situations are imaginary. No real people were harmed in the creation of this presentation. Please observe the laws of your jurisdiction with reference to reading this material.

If you're not 18, you shouldn't be reading this at all. Go find a boyfriend and talk stuff over with him.

The sixth day of summer vacation began just like the day before it: warm, humid, and fairly early. Jesse came to wakefulness slowly, the last traces of dreams clinging to his mind like a static-filled sweater.

Dreams.

They were the food that nourished his sleep. He could never recall having had a bad one, not ever - not in his whole life. Dreams were places - places inside his head where he and the things in life that mattered - his parents, his house, his friends, the fort - tended to jumble together into scenarios that showed like pleasant soap operas written by a slightly drunken author.

An author with a sense of humor.

Jesse had been someplace in the woods, and Marty had been with him. He vaguely recalled that they had been laughing, but not what they had been laughing about. But Marty's blue eyes had sparkled, and he'd been smiling, and touching - and that was all that mattered to Jesse. That it had been a sweet dream was what made it stick around long enough to survive the transition to consciousness.

He rolled onto his side, stretched under the remains of the mostly cast off sheet he normally slept under. His room was warm - very warm, considering that the light from his windows was still diffuse with the glow of early morning. Then again, the softness of the light spilling in was not completely due to the early hour; some was just caused by the woods.

The summer sun was held back from a direct assault on his bedroom windows by a screen of old oaks that stood taller then the second floor of their house, and allowed only the most aggressive of the golden rays to pass. The oaks were kings of the woods: the hundred-odd irregular square miles of undeveloped country in which Jesse's and a few other houses had been planted, which had been originally part of a larger stretch of old growth forest that had once been home to the people of the the Six Nations.

It was still the boondocks - the sticks. Jesse's father drove thirty-five miles, one way, to work each morning; the nearest Safeway was nearly twenty minutes away; and if you actually wanted to walk into a store that sold something other than groceries, and shop for more than hardware, fishing tackle or lumber, than you had to drive thirty-five minutes to the suburbs to find a mall.

When Jesse was little, he had viewed the woods outside his house as pure wilderness - a great unknown land that stretched away forever in every direction - a place of adventure, and mystery, and isolation. He still considered it the sticks even at almost thirteen, though he was worldly enough by now to know that town houses and apartment buildings could be found within twenty miles in nearly every direction. The nearby world had grown up a lot in just his lifetime, and the area itself considerably since the days when Native Americans had roamed these woods.

It was, however, still a wonderful place to live. It was rural without being remote; a "trip to town" and back was a morning or afternoon venture, not the all-day thing someone living in the true bramblebacks would have to deal with. School meant a fair bus trip; and neighbors - with the exception of the house directly behind Jesse's - came under the local description of off aways.

In the last five years, a half-dozen new houses had been built on the other side of old man Devlin's cow field, and families had moved in. But they were all young couples with toddlers, or retirees with no children at all. Jesse had been unlucky there - no new friends had made an appearance. They were just far enough off the beaten path out here that people didn't buy readily - they had to want the kind of peace and removal from the pace of modern living that this kind of area provided.

So for friends, Jesse mostly had them at school. The neighborhood itself was a bust for companionship.

Well, almost.

There was just the house on the lot behind theirs, which had recently been the Peak house but which was now the Anderson house; the lucky house, where three times now Jesse had been blessed with a friend. It was a large brick colonial with white trim, a bay window in the front, a big screen porch to the side, and a white gazebo out back. But it was not the house that mattered so much, but what it contained within: the best thing of all, Marty, the boy who lived there with his family.

Marty was Jesse's best friend.

His boyfriend.

Jesse had awakened smiling, because Marty was the first thing that came into his mind. He was aware that the faint rumbling sound which had prodded him to wakefulness was the sound of the garage door going down as his father left for work. That put an about for the time in his head, and allowed his thoughts to organize for the new day. Dad off to work - that would put his mom in the kitchen, most likely, fixing tea before she sat to work at her laptop. That meant no hurry; it was summer, and summer vacation - and summer vacation meant time.

Jesse lay back into his pillow and closed his eyes.

Marty. The new boy was something of a mystery, still. A sandy-haired cutie with sparkly blue eyes and a pouty, mischievous grin, he was to Jesse like a fascinating character in a newfound adventure book that revealed exciting wonders with the turn of every new page. Jesse's mom had termed Marty a rascal; despite Marty's talent for public relations with people of every age, she had still seen just enough behind the smiles to know he was something of a wild card - an imp of slightly devilish nature with a pronounced gift for schmoozing.

But she liked him - dad liked him too - and that just pleased Jesse deeply, because Jesse was pretty sure he loved Marty already, and to have his parents accept him as well was just the tasty icing on the soft and tempting layers of the cake.

Jesse smiled, remembering the previous evening. He'd called Marty just after dinner and asked the other boy what he wanted to do. The summer sun stayed around until almost nine in the evening, and it would be easy for them to get back together for a few hours.

"You told me to be prepared," Marty had said. "You got me all wondering...so what did you mean?"

"I was thinking we could tell each other about the first time we ever shot a load...you know, over the phone."

He'd heard Marty laugh. "Phone sex? Are there pictures?"

"There can be," Jesse had returned.

There had been. They'd spent the evening talking, reliving the first-ever shot by their peckers and how they had felt about it, where they'd been - who they'd been with. Jesse was surprised - delighted would be a better word - at how well Marty conveyed the feelings he had had on the day he had matured from dry orgasms to one with a liquid payoff. It stirred Jesse's heart - and gave him the boner of all boners - to hear about it.

Marty, too, seemed enthralled as Jesse told him about the day at the fort with Nate, when they had been rubbing their naked bodies together, and Jesse had reached his orgasm - only to feel with shock an exciting difference in the way his dick felt - one that was accompanied by the sudden and warm release of slippery goo between his body and Nate's.

Jesse had used his phone to record his reaction to their conversation, laying naked in his bed and jerking his dick slowly while they talked. Full-motion video was awesome. It allowed them to record and then select the frames they wanted to share - tiny slices of time brought to a standstill.

Marty had done the same, and the chiming of their phones as the pictures poured in had set a new record for persistence that evening. They each now had a lot of sexy pictures of the other, and at least one nice shot apiece of the other's dick at the moment of orgasm, with a thin fountain of white frozen in time as it jetted upwards into the air. They had eventually finished with the sex, and then, late into the evening, with the talking - but Jesse had looked at that picture of Marty's cute dick launching his juice skyward a half dozen more times before finally relaxing into a dreamy and pleasurably aroused sleep.

Jesse's phone rang, breaking into his wanderings.

He sat up quickly, looking at the clock by his bed. It wasn't quite eight o'clock yet.

He grabbed the phone off his nightstand, looked at the number, and grinned. Marty.

"You're up early," he said, answering.

"I'm always up early," Marty said, laughing. "You got to come over."

"Now?" Jesse said, surprised. "I'm not even up yet. I gotta get a shower and eat."

"Don't worry about that stuff. You can eat with me. And we're gonna be working, fixing up my room, so the shower can wait, because you're gonna get sweaty. My folks haven't turned on the air yet."

Jesse considered that. His parents, always conscious of the electric bill, had yet to turn on their air conditioning, either, and his room was already warm. Any amount of exertion in this weather was going to be wet-work.

"Well - I should at least eat."

Marty sighed. "Jesse - I'm here by myself."

Jesse felt his breath catch. "You got the place all alone?"

"Yeah. My mom and Parker went into town to buy some clothes. They just left. Jesse, they'll be gone for hours."

Jesse felt an excitement take hold - then a question. "Who's Parker?"

"My sister. Didn't I say I had one?"

"No." Figures. One more thing about Marty he hadn't known.

"She's almost sixteen. She'll be driving soon, and I love it, because she won't be here as much."

"She a pain in the butt?" Jesse asked. He'd always wanted a sister or a brother. But he knew a lot of guys at school that butted heads with theirs.

"Nope. She's pretty cool. But the less she's here the more space I have to fool around in with my best friend, this guy Jesse. You know him?"

Jesse grinned. "I've heard the name. What's he like?"

Marty sighed. "Oh, he's cool as shit. And cute, too. He makes my legs feel like spaghetti sometimes. He's real fun to play with, and he learns stuff fast as shit. Best thing is, he's a monster kisser. I can't wait until I see him again and he kisses me."

Jesse laughed, touched. "I heard he's a lucky as shit dude, 'cause he's got like the best looking boyfriend on the planet."

"Yeah, I heard that, too." Marty said it straight, but Jesse could almost feel him grinning.

"So, how long you think they'll be gone?" Jesse asked.

"Shit. Four hours, at the least. Parker can't be let loose in a clothes store without wanting everything she sees. Mom'll have to sit on her, and maybe smack her to bring her around. Plus, they'll stop someplace to eat on the way home. So that's an hour-and-a-half drive on the road, at least; two hours to shop - maybe more - and then a half hour or more to eat. If they get back here before noon, I'll be surprised as shit."

Jesse looked at his clock again. It was just eight a.m.

Shew. That was a long time to have a house alone.

"Let me piss and brush my teeth, and I'll be over."

"Mmm. I wish I could see you do both."

Jesse laughed. "Pervert."

Marty laughed back. "Yeah, sorry. It's kinky to watch people brush their teeth."

Jesse laughed and rolled his eyes.

"Oh, Jesse? Dress like yesterday. Makes it easier."

Jesse felt a thrill at that, but didn't let on that he did. That Marty was hinting at some fun was obvious, and Jesse simply couldn't wait to see what the other boy had in mind.

"Yeah, it's pretty warm. Okay, I'll be over in a few minutes."

Marty sighed, and Jesse could just see him shaking his head. "Damn country boys. Okay, see you soon. Like in, hurry, okay?"

"Okay. Bye."

Jesse turned off the phone, smiled at it. Marty's horny-mones were already rubbing together.

He got up, went to the bathroom and took a piss, then looked at himself in the mirror. He shook his head at what he saw. He looked crazy.

His hair was wild, like a nest of small, furry creatures curled together in sleep. His left cheek displayed the faint imprint of a seam from his pillowcase, and his eyes still looked half-awake, and were tagged in the inside corners by little bits of sleep. He felt a wild impulse to simply appear at Marty's door looking like this, saying you said to hurry!; but that wouldn't be fair to Marty.

So he washed his face carefully, brushed his teeth, and ran a brush through his hair, eventually making it look less wild in appearance. He took the wet washcloth and ran it under his arms, then rewetted it and washed his dick. Then he rubbed on a little deodorant, even though he knew he really didn't need it yet. In the mirror now he at least looked presentable, even if he didn't really feel clean. But - the rest would just have to wait until later when he got a shower.

He went back to his room and put on boxers this time - the tighty-whiteys were fun, but they weren't very comfortable, and it was just too warm to have them grabbing at his balls all day. He pulled on the same blue shorts he'd worn the day before, put on a clean green tee-shirt, stuck his feet in his flip-flops, grabbed his phone, and hurried for the stairs.

His mom was in the kitchen, drinking her usual cup of tea. Her laptop was before her, but not open yet. She was still planning in her mind her work for the day.

"Hi. You're down early."

"Hi, mom," Jesse said, heading for the door. "Bye, mom."

She laughed. "Hold on a second - where are you going?"

Jesse stopped, turned and grinned. "Marty's. I'm going to help him clean up his stuff."

His mom made a face." What stuff?'

Jesse sighed, and looked at her patiently. "He just moved in. All his stuff is in boxes. His books and his games and stuff like that. I'm going to help him put it all away, and get his room fixed up."

His mom's eyebrows went up. "Are you the same Jesse Cole I have to threaten with grounding if he doesn't clean up his own room?"

Jesse smiled. "It's no fun when it's your own stuff, mom."

His mom smiled back, shaking her head. "Aren't you going to eat before you go?"

"Marty said I could eat with him."

His mom shook her head, crooked a finger at him. "Come here."

Jesse sighed, walked over. His mom put her hands on his waist, smiled up at him. "You're a good friend." She reached up, patted his hair slightly, and fixed his shirt.

"Aw - c'mon, mom, I gotta go."

She pulled him down and kissed his cheek. "So go. Got your cell?"

"Yeah. I know - call you if I leave town."

She laughed. "Call me well before that, Jesse."

Jesse grinned, turned to go, hesitated, looked back over his shoulder. "Love you, mom."

"I love you, too, Jesse. Go on now, and do a good job. Say hi to Marty for me."

"I will. See ya."

He was outside before he felt he could breathe again. His mom was no dummy - if she felt something was up, she would have wanted to know more - like was Marty's mom there and did she know Jesse was coming over so early. He didn't think she'd stop him from going if she knew Marty was there alone - but why take chances? He didn't want to be put in the position of lying to her.

It was already warm outside, and the sun was doing its best to penetrate the canopy of trees. Sharp lines of golden light crisscrossed the path before him, overrun and blending with fuzzier blobs of lesser light that moved with the branches above. It was going to be a pretty day, but, he could already tell, a hot one.

As he passed the fort he gave it a once over, making sure that the vent flap was down and the door latched. He'd left the door open once, and he and Nate had come down the next morning to find a raccoon inside, that had taken them most of the day to coerce into leaving. It had cost him a snack bag of Doritos and a few bites of his ham and cheese sandwich to convince the inquisitive little invader to hit the road.

Bad enough it had messed up the day, but Jesse was even more annoyed after the critter had left to find it wasn't housebroken, and had peed on the cot. He still remembered his mom saying he wasn't putting those yellow, stinky sheets in her washing machine. Jesse had had to wash them down with the garden hose and wring them dry before she would even let him bring them into the house.

Mothers. How they could be so difficult and yet so indispensable was something he never could figure.

He went on up the hill beyond the fort, into Marty's backyard. At the top of the gentle incline stood the gazebo, with a couple of wicker chairs and a small table inside shaded by the dark tiled roof above. If you sat in the chairs and looked out through Marty's side yard, you could see the valley stretching away through a slit in the nearby trees, the elevation dropping, until you were just looking at mile after mile of treetops waving in the morning breeze. A similar view was available from the seats on Jesse's own front porch, and was, he had been told, the first thing his parents had fallen in love with when they were house-hunting.

Jesse went up to the back door of the house and knocked. He heard a noise, and a window up above him crashed upwards. Jesse stepped back and looked up. There was a moment of fumbling with the outer screen, and then it too bounced up to its top lock. Marty's head popped out, and Jesse grinned up at him.

"Want a doughnut?" Marty called, and then dropped one without waiting for an answer. Jesse caught it without thinking, turned it over in his hands. Chocolate glazed. Mmm.

Jesse took a bite, grinned up at his friend. "Thanks. Can I come in?"

"Sure. Door's unlocked. Go through the kitchen and around to your left and come up the stairs."

Something fell over in the room above, and Marty cursed. "Marvin! What are you doing? Get off that!" He shook his head, grinned back at Jesse. "Come on up."

And then the screen crashed back to the bottom locks and Marty was gone.

Marvin?

Jesse went back to the door, turned the knob. The door opened into a kitchen laid out a lot like the one at his house. It looked every bit as clean and cared for as Jesse's mom's kitchen, and Jesse had been in it so many times with Nate, and Jason before him, that he needed no directions to find the upper floor.

He climbed the steps, turned to his right, and found Marty waiting in the hallway.

"Hi." Marty's blue eyes held their usual pretty sparkles.

"Hi." Jesse was unable not to grin. He stuffed the tail end of the doughnut into his mouth and licked an errant smear of chocolate off the side of his finger. "Thanks for the doughnut."

"There's more," Marty said, coming forward. He came right up to Jesse, and smiled into his eyes. "Hi."

Jesse felt a little goofy. "You said that already."

Marty leaned forward, gave him a soft kiss on the lips. "Mmm. I love chocolate." He pulled back, watched Jesse expectantly.

Jesse could only sigh as he stepped up to Marty and put his arms around him. He pulled the other boy closer, kissed him back, offering his tongue, and having it taken. The musky-sweet scent of Marty's skin filled his nose, and he felt an instant reaction from the plumbing down in the basement.

Marty laughed, pulling away. "Better stop. I can't take a kiss like that this early. I want to really get my room looking a little better before we play. You keep kissing me and I'm gonna to have to stuff your dick in my mouth or something before I can relax again."

Jesse grinned, but took a step away from the other boy. He looked down, saw the beginnings of a tent in Marty's shorts. "Horndog."

Marty snorted, pointing at Jesse's crotch. "Look who's talking. A little more wood and I could play baseball with that thing."

Jesse laughed. "Show me your room."

The other boy tossed him a last grin, then turned and went back down the hall.

Marty had Nate's old room. As they went in, the sense of familiarity that first stole over Jesse at his return was simply washed away by what he saw around him.

Jesse's first impression was of stuff. It brought to mind the warehouse scenes from the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies, one of his dad's favorite series, where the camera pulled out to reveal just acres of secret, mysterious stuff hidden away in crates and boxes, stacks and piles of them - a sheer mass stretching away as far as the eye could see.

Of course, it was really nothing like that bad. There were boxes, some piled three high, and some of which were open and seemed to be full of books. There were also piles of clothing, some folded, some not; rolled up posters; flat posters on cardboard backing; framed pictures; piles of things that would need to be investigated before describing; and newspaper, everywhere, rolled up, balled up, and flat, which had been pulled out of some of the open boxes and now decorated the carpet beneath their feet.

Jesse was reminded of the parking lot behind the Goodwill in town, where his mom sometimes dropped off their excess junk: full of things that hadn't quite made it inside the building yet, and some others - closer to the dumpster - which would never make it at all.

"Cool," Jesse said, grinning. "Love your room."

Marty laughed. "Yeah, it's under here, somewhere. My mom is after me like crazy to get it straightened up." He gave Jesse a pitiable look. "Help!"

Jesse shook his head, looking around. There were two windows, and two other doors - Jesse knew that one was the closet, the other the bathroom. Marty had a big double bed the same size as Jesse's - room for two, as Marty himself had described Jesse's bed - but only one side was really accessible. The other had clothing on it, and several stacks of books, and several piles of XBox games. The console itself, along with a pair of controllers and a headset, sat on the floor next to the bed.

There was also a nightstand with a lamp; a desk, which at the moment held only Marty's laptop; a dresser, all of the drawers of which were open and heaped with clothing; a nice flat screen TV about the same size as the one Jesse had in his room; two bookcases - empty; a wooden rocker; a large wooden chest with the top up, and which also was heaped with clothing; and a...a what?

It looked like a really big fish tank, sitting on a metal-legged stand - the kind of tank where you could make a few rowdy Oscars at home with some plants, a little underwater castle, and a hundred gallons of water. Except that this one had no water in it at all. Just a large branch from a tree, some leaves, the ends of a few carrots, and what looked like rabbit pellets.

"What's this for?" Jesse asked.

"You'll find out," Marty said, grinning. "Can you help me with this?" He indicated one of the stacks of boxes that contained books. "These all need to come out and go on those shelves."

Jesse went over, hefting one - it wasn't light. But he trucked it easily enough over to the bookcase and set it on the floor in front. As the box touched down, one of the several sheets of newspaper scattered about the floor nearby whipped slightly up into the air, as if disturbed by the settling of the box to the floor. Jesse automatically went to pick it up; but as he laid a hand on it the paper moved again, popping up with a suddenness that startled him.

The edge lifted, and an alien face peered out at him.

"Oh...shit!" Jesse backed up so suddenly that his foot caught on the edge of the box, and he sat down on top of it, just managing to get a hand down on the carpet in time to keep himself from going over. "What the fuck is that?"

Marty started laughing, bending over and putting his hands on his knees, his eyes scrunched up to slits and his pretty white teeth flashing in a beautiful grin. It was cute and it was funny - and it was contagious. Jesse finally grinned, looking from Marty to the ugly face peering up at him from the floor, and back again.

"What is it?" he demanded again, having decided that Marty wouldn't be acting the way he was if the creature on the floor had been there to conquer the earth and make food out of all of them. He couldn't help grinning at Marty, who was just cute as shit the way he was laughing.

Marty came up for air. "Aw, I wish I had my cell on that when it happened. You should have seen your face, Jesse!"

Jesse nodded, looking again at the ugly thing on the floor, which hadn't moved again, but seemed to be watching him with an eye that had a mind of its own. "Friend of yours?"

Marty came over and picked up the paper, revealing a long, dragonesque form that was almost as much tail as it was body. The thing had a prehistoric look to it, like one of the big reptiles Jesse had seen in Jurassic Park, only in mini-proportions. Marty picked up the creature and cradled it in one arm, stroked its side, and then kissed it on top of its head.

Jesse felt his jaw drop. "Tell me you didn't just kiss that alligator."

Marty laughed again. "It's an Iguana, dummy. This is Messy Marvin. Say hi to Jesse, Marvin."

The Iguana looked at Jesse again like he was a fly waiting to be eaten, but didn't say anything that Jesse could hear.

Jesse stared at it. It was ugly, and so far had displayed all the personality of a block of wood. Jesse couldn't imagine such a creature as a pet - but now he understood the why of the big tank against the wall.

"Jeeze, Marty. You let that thing stay loose in here?"

Marty shrugged. "He's supposed to stay in his tank, mostly, but he gets out. Sometimes when I feed him I forget to put the top on." He grinned. "Doesn't matter. He's harmless."

Marty turned and carried the critter over to the tank, set it inside on the tree branch. Then he fished around behind the tank, pulled up a wire panel, laid it across the top of the tank, patted the corners down. He pointed at the Iguana through the glass, waving his finger. "Stay."

Jesse had to laugh at that. "You think he understands?"

Marty turned and smiled. "Hell, no. If I leave the top off, he's coming out of there. He usually stays in my room, but not always. Once, at our old house, he got out and went down to my parent's room. My mom got out of the bathtub and there was Marvin looking at her, and you could hear her screaming my name for miles. We were lucky she didn't break every window in the house." He laughed, giving Jesse a knowing look. "That's one of the reasons I like him, Jesse. He keeps my mom and Parker out of my room."

"What about your dad?"

"Nah. My dad likes him. He's the one that named him. But my dad doesn't come in here, anyway, because he's not nosy like my mom and my sister. He already told me he didn't care what I did in my own room as long as I didn't burn the house down or get arrested."

Jesse laughed. "I like your dad already."

"Aw, yeah. He's pretty cool, really. He's the only reason I've been let out to hang with you at all. My mom told me to stay in until I got my room straight, but my dad told her it was my room and if I wanted it to look like Hiroshima, it was my business."

Jesse frowned. "What's Hiro...Hiroshima?"

Jesse shrugged. "Who knows? I think it was a place in China or something." He grinned. "Must have been messy, or my dad wouldn't have used it for my room."

Jesse looked around, nodded. "I feel ya."

Marty looked pained. "Help me, Jesse. The sooner we get this place cleaned up, the sooner we can have some fun. I don't wanna have the house to myself and just clean. That would suck wand hard."

Jesse bent down and grabbed a few books from the box. "How do you want them? They gotta be in order?"

"Nah. Just sling 'em in there. Put the title out so I can read them; otherwise it plain doesn't matter."

Jesse set about placing books on the shelves, while Marty picked through the clothing, found some hangers, and began to hang stuff in the closet. He also hefted the piles of clothes out of his dresser drawers, started folding, and putting things back.

"You gotta mess of clothes, man," Jesse noted, watching as Marty loaded them into the drawers.

"What I got is eight aunts and uncles and four grandparents," Marty said, not unfondly. "And all of them think I dress like a bum."

Jesse grinned. "I like the way you dress. Especially when you wear your birthday suit."

Marty smiled, then put down the stuff he had in his hands and walked over to Jesse. "I love wearing it for you, Jesse."

Jesse looked into Marty's eyes, felt the little tremble in his heart that only Marty seemed to be able to put there. "Um - we should be working."

"Uh huh," Marty said, not moving.

Jesse leaned a little closer, until he could feel the warmth of Marty's face. It was close enough to get a whiff of the scent of Marty's skin, which was something that Jesse just loved. He leaned a little closer, turning his face to the side a bit, until his lips just barely touched the other boy's.

Marty closed his eyes, inhaled, and smiled. "Oh, man, I love the way you smell."

Jesse tasted Marty's breath, which smelled pleasantly of apples and donuts. He leaned a little closer, pecked Marty on the lips, turned his face and laid his cheek against the other boy's. It was a little piece of heaven.

"We should be cleaning," Marty whispered.

"Uh huh," Jesse managed, feeling his dick swelling inside his shorts. This just couldn't go on, Jesse decided. He wanted to push his hands up inside Marty's shirt, touch his skin, feel his warmth.

He wanted to taste him.

He pulled back, looking at Marty, who opened his eyes and looked dazed. "Fuck, Jesse. You make me horny as a motherfucker."

Jesse finally got the will to take a full step back, and took the front of his shorts and waved them, making room for his suddenly quite hard pecker. Marty grinned, and looked down at his own shorts, which were a mirror of Jesse's.

Jesse smiled, stuck the tip of his tongue out, wiggled his eyebrows in a look that promised he'd take care of that for Marty as soon as he was able. Marty saw it, smiled even harder, and went back to folding clothes.

Jesse grabbed more books, placed them on the shelf. Marty was amazing in his ability to make Jesse horny. Not even Nate had been able to get Jesse fully breathless in under a minute the way that Marty could. Jesse paused, took a couple of deep breaths, let them out slowly. Man. Talk about your pecker having a mind of its own.

He concentrated on what he was doing, emptied the first box, went for the next one. Some of the stuff he recognized: Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter, Big Nate, The Wimpy Kid - stuff Marty had read when he was younger. Jesse had read them, too. Most of the other stuff was science fiction or fantasy, and much more mature - Jesse recognized a lot of that, as well. Some of the authors were really decent, and he smiled at yet another thing he shared with the other boy.

He went to work with a will, and in twenty minutes he had all the boxes empty, and all the shelves full.

"Fuckin' great," Marty said, approvingly. "You're saving my life, man. Mom said if I didn't get my room straight I couldn't sleep out in the fort tonight."

Jesse stopped dead, amazed. "Are we sleeping out in the fort?"

"You want to, don'cha?"

"Damn right," Jesse said, laughing. "Man, that'll be cool as shit." He set down the empty box he'd been holding and reached into his pocket and produced his cell. Grinning at Marty, he punched up his mom.

"Hello? Jesse?"

"Hi, mom. Got a question for you: can I sleep out in the fort tonight?"

She laughed. "You called to ask me that? We've always agreed it was okay, as long as you keep doing it without burning the neighborhood down or anything. Is Marty going to be with you?"

"Yeah. Is that okay?"

"I think so. I'd rather you have someone with you. What does Marty's mom say about it?"

"She said he could if he got his room cleaned up. We're doing that now."

"Okay. Ask her to call me later when she can, would you? I might as well get to know her."

For a second, Jesse was nervous. But the truth would be enough here. "I'll tell her when I see her, mom. She's outside the house right now, doing something with Parker. That's Marty's sister. I'll tell her to call when she gets back inside."

"Okay. Anything else?"

"No, mom. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Okay. Bye, honey."

"Bye, mom."He turned off the phone and put it away. "Why do our folks always talk about us burning shit down? I don't use fire for anything I do."

"Yeah," Marty said slowly. "They're just remembering when they were kids." He frowned. "Now we just gotta hope that when your mom talks to mine, my mom doesn't start by saying she was in town all morning and just got back. You shoulda just told your mom mine wasn't home."

Jesse nodded. "I shoulda waited, I guess. You just got me excited."

Marty grinned. "Yeah?"

"Uh huh. Sleeping with you all night? Naked? Fucking right."

Marty grabbed a pile of clothing and began folding. "Work, Jesse, work."

Jesse laughed, and went back to sorting things and finding places to put them.

It was nine-forty-five by the time they had the floor clear and the room looking habitable.

"Is this my room?" Marty asked, looking about in wonder. "Look...there's carpet on the floor."

Jesse laughed. "Looks okay, I have to say myself. Think your mom'll be happy?"

Marty gave him a look. "Are you kidding? She can look in the door now and see the furniture. She'll be crap-happy as shit."

Jesse nodded, looking around. "Good. That means you can sleep out tonight."

Marty nodded, grinned, then came over and laid a hand on Jesse's cheek. "Look, you're sweating."

Jesse nodded. "It's hot in here."

"Uh huh. What you need is a shower." Marty turned and looked at the bathroom door, then back at Jesse.

Jesse's mouth fell open. "Here?"

Marty just laughed. "Every time I think I'm getting you up to speed, you go country on me again and stop to look at the sights. Yeah, here. Shit, yeah, here." He leaned closer. "You're gonna take a shower with me, dummy."

Jesse felt a thrill wash throughout his body. Naked, in the shower - with Marty?

He let a bunch of air bubble through his lips, causing them to sputter. "When?"

Marty shook his head. "We'd be in there right now if we weren't standing here waiting on you to get your dick untangled."

He walked over to his bedroom door, pushed it shut and locked it. Then, grinning, he headed for the bathroom. Jesse stepped out of his flip flops and followed.

The bathroom had a tub and a walk-in shower, just like the bathroom in Jesse's room. The same builder had erected both homes, before running short on money when none of the other lots on the looped street that serviced the two residences had sold. To this day the neighborhood was in a developmental state of limbo because of it.

Jesse went to pull off his shirt, but Marty waved a hand at him. "Wait, man."

He closed the bathroom door and locked it as well, then went over to the shower, opened the door, turned on the water. He adjusted the flow for temperature, then grinned and shut the door. Marty came back to Jesse and put his arms around him. "Take a shower with me?"

Jesse smiled, wrapping the other boy in his arms, and snuggling close. "Hell, yeah."

Marty leaned his forehead against Jesse's and smiled into his eyes. "Can I get a kiss?"

Jesse kissed him, at first a slow and kind of lazy thing, that intensified as Marty's warmth and sweet scent filled him. Jesse could feel his hots rise - a burning thing inside him like a hunger, that could only be satisfied by holding Marty against him.

And kissing him.

And more.

Marty pulled back, looked wondrously at Jesse. "How you do that, I just can't figure," he said softly.

Jesse grinned. "Do what?"

"Kiss like that. Just...like that. The way you do, Jesse. It just makes me so horny I can hardly think."

Jesse felt pleasure at hearing that. Nate had also told him he was a good kisser - two guys saying so probably meant he really was. But Jesse knew the secret of it, even if Marty didn't. It wasn't just a matter of kissing - it was who you were kissing that put the fire in it.

Marty drew back, grasped Jesse's shirt and pulled it slowly over his head. Jesse grinned, removed Marty's shirt just as slowly. Their nipples were hard little points on sun-browned chests covered with gooseflesh.

"Look," Marty said, gazing down at the tents in their crotches. "Twins."

Jesse reached over, gave Marty's twin a gentle squeeze. Marty reacted by grinning and rolling his eyes towards the ceiling.

Sighing, Jesse pulled at Marty's shorts, managed to get the boxers underneath of them, too, and drew them down to the floor. Marty's dick popped up, straight and hard, as the clothing passed his crotch, causing Jesse's heart to flip a little in his chest.

What had Marty called Jesse's dick the day before? Oh - yeah: a pretty pony. Marty definitely had one of those, too. His dick was just beautiful - beautiful, like the rest of him.

Marty turned slightly, watching Jesse's eyes. "Like what you see?"

"You know I do," Jesse said, nodding. He grinned mischievously. "All two inches of it."

Marty looked surprised, then grinned. He stepped forward, got hold of Jesse's shorts and boxers, and slid them down Jesse's body to the floor. Jesse's own stiff pecker leapt up as the clothing passed, thrilled to be let out of its stable to have some fun.

Marty stepped close, his dick laid in his palm, and carefully took Jesse's dick and laid the two together.

"If I'm not mistaken, one of us is a little longer here," Marty said, pointing.

Jesse looked down. He knew already that Marty had him by a short half-inch, and he didn't care a bit. The feel of the two shafts together was amazingly good. He dropped a hand, rubbed the pair of them.

Marty looked at him, his blue eyes full of the sparkles that Jesse loved. Then he was turning, pulling Jesse with him, to the shower door. Marty opened it, stepped inside, held out a hand for Jesse. Jesse took it, grinning, and stepped inside, pulling the door shut behind them.

The water was warm, and there was already a fine white coating on the glass, looking like rime on a winter window. Marty stepped backwards under the flow and his hair laid down on his head, and then parted into a wild den of snakes clinging to his forehead. The water ran steadily over Marty's face, over his shoulders, down the skin of his chest, along his pecker, down his legs to his feet, giving all of it a sexy sheen that Jesse had already learned to appreciate when playing with both Nate and Marty in the creek. There was something just absolutely tempting about wet skin, especially when it covered someone you had the hots for.

Jesse could feel his heartbeat going faster, could feel the little hollow sensation under his diaphragm that signaled he wasn't breathing fast enough for his excited state. He gulped, looking at the water running over Marty, just wanting to be closer - to be touching.

He moved closer, until their dicks each touched the other's bodies; moved closer still, until his chest touched Marty's and the other boy's eyes were scant inches away. Marty watched him come closer, silent, his eyes full of the things that Jesse loved to see.

Jesse put his arms around Marty, pulled him gently into full contact, until their dicks folded against their bodies and they were touching from forehead almost to foot. He felt the water running over his own skin, running between them, running off of Marty's skin and onto his. He let his hands roam slowly over the soft and wet skin of Marty's back, up to his shoulder blades, back down again. He laid his cheek against Marty's, closed his eyes, felt the unequaled satisfaction of having the warmth and softness of someone special against him.

Marty felt just wonderful to hold.

Jesse drew his head back. Marty had his eyes closed, a blissful expression on his face. Jesse kissed him, a soft touch to Marty's lips, another to his cheek; and then he was gently kissing every inch of Marty's face as the other boy slowly turned his head, offering new targets for touching. Jesse got every one of them, and more, trading water as they traded feelings, both warm and tempting.

He knew what he wanted, there in the warmth and closeness of the shower. He slowly sank down, kissing his way down Marty's body, until he settled onto his knees and was facing Marty's pretty pony.

He stuck his tongue out, licked the head of Marty's dick, took his hand and wrapped it around the base of the shaft. He took the first few inches of Marty into his mouth, used his hand to gently thrust what he had back and forth over the anxious surface of his tongue. Marty made a small noise, dropped a hand onto Jesse's head, gently pushed his fingers through Jesse's wet hair.

The only thing Jesse wanted now was Marty's spunk in his mouth, and he began to work towards that end, using his tongue, his hand, and just a little bit of vacuum here and there to help things along. Marty's thighs moved just ever so slightly together and then apart again with each cycle of Jesse's motions, and his spine slowly arched backward as his hips pressed gently forward with each of Jesse's strokes.

Jesse took a finger and slowly worked it into Marty's pucker, rubbing it gently until Marty began to make little gasping sounds with each combined movement. Jesse felt his own dick down below, hard as steel and heavy with want, and wished he could have it sucked even as he was sucking Marty.

Marty had both of his hands on Jesse's head now, rubbing him with his fingertips - his scalp, his ears, his temples. Slow, teasing circles of molten gold against his skin. Jesse took his free hand and gently squeezed Marty's butt with it, loving the soft curve of it, and the solidity of firm muscle beneath. He pushed a little harder against Marty's pucker with his fingertip, and was surprised at how easily it began to start into the center. So he pushed more, gently, and Marty's pucker ate his finger all the way up to the base.

Marty was making humming noises now, and Jesse could feel him tensing up, could feel the muscle under his one hand tightening in prelude to orgasm. He sucked a little harder as he worked Marty's dick in his mouth, twisted his finger around in Marty's butthole, probing with the tip.

Contact. Marty's middle thrust against him, and Marty gasped. Jesse prodded again, rubbing the button gently but insistently, until Marty came up on his tiptoes and his fingers squeezed Jesse's head like a spider pouncing on a careless fly.

Marty gasped, sagged a little forward, and then his dick was pumping the wonderful, warm and spicy flavor of his spunk into Jesse's mouth. Jesse simply froze, enjoying the feel of Marty's pecker as it pulsed in his mouth, enjoying the warm wash of Marty's spunk over his tongue and teeth. Delicious.

It ended, and Marty sagged, his legs wobbly. Jesse let the other boy's dick loose, gently squeezed out the remaining juice, kissing the droplets off the end before the flowing water could steal them away. Then he gently turned Marty to the wall, pushed him against it and squirmed around behind him. He parted the other boy's cheeks, and stuck his face between them. Water ran down inside the crack, over Jesse's nose, making it harder to breathe.

Jesse didn't care. He pushed - pushed Marty harder against the wall - forced his tongue deep into the boy's pucker, kissing and sucking and licking right down to the nails holding things together. Marty squeaked and giggled and pawed the wall, and Jesse had to smile, even as he did his level best to suck Marty's sweet heart out through his pucker.

"Stop, Jesse!" Marty finally said, laughing. Jesse grinned, twirled his tongue a last time against Marty's pucker, and stood up. His own legs felt a little numb from squatting so long, and a few pinpricks danced down his thighs as things reordered themselves within. He shifted from one foot to the other for a moment until the sensation went away.

Marty turned to face him, smiling like he'd just won a million billion dollars. He pulled Jesse close, kissed him. "You're an awesome dude, Jesse. That was un-fucking believable. I thought my butt was gonna spunk."

Jesse laughed. "Was it really good?"

Marty just hugged him. "Yeah - it was." He pulled back, and his eyebrows crinkled together. "I was feeling the love, Jesse."

Jesse nodded, and hugged Marty hard. "That's what I was giving," he whispered, into Marty's ear. He closed his eyes, feeling Marty's warmth, his softness, his life. It was almost overwhelming, it was so intense.

"Love you," he whispered, pressing his cheek harder against Marty's.

"Love you back," Marty whispered, with just as much feeling. Jesse felt like crying, it made him so happy to hear.

Marty sighed, turned them both about, and pushed Jesse gently back against the wall. The cool tiles were a momentary shock to his water-warmed and caressed skin; but the temperatures quickly equalized, and the wall grew friendly, supportive and stabilizing.

Marty kissed him. Jesse stuck his tongue out, curled it, and Marty sucked it, gently at first, then with more passion. The warm water ran down over them, between them, from one face to the other, and back. Jesse breathed as quietly as he could, resisting the urge to pant. His head felt light inside, and his body tingled at the touch of Marty's against it.

Marty released Jesse's tongue, kissed his chin, down his neck, and then on each of Jesse's shoulders. Then he stuck his tongue out and pushed water along the surface of Jesse's skin, up and down his breastbone between his nipples. Jesse tilted his head back against the wall, closed his eyes, felt the streams of water from the shower head dancing on his eyelids.

Marty sank to his knees, kissed Jesse's dick, and sucked on his balls. Jesse took a deep breath, trying to steady his breathing, knowing what was coming.

Marty took him inside, sliding his tongue over the head of Jesse's dick, around it, underneath it. A pleasant feeling of warmth ran downwards into Jesse's legs, which drew slightly together at Marty's touch. Jesse's nutsack felt funny, like it was breathing, swelling and ebbing under the gravitational influence of Marty's tongue.

What makes being with a certain someone so special? Jesse wondered. So very extra special, that their touch is heaven and their attention a dream? Jesse's thoughts were fuzzy, encircled and distracted by what his body was feeling as Marty touched him. It was a toss-up, which was the more fulfilling act, being fucked or being sucked. Both were intense, both utterly personal things involving parts of the body that most other people on the planet would never see, let alone share.

Jesse loved having his dick sucked, and Marty was the only other human being in the the entire universe that had ever done that to him. His dick was inside Marty now, in a warm and wet spot with Marty's tongue and his teeth and his spit. That such a place - designed by nature for one thing only - could be used willfully for something so unplanned as making love, was amazing and wonderful and a little bit crazy.

But Jesse loved it.

Marty had a couple of fingers up in Jesse's butt now, lightly probing, seeing if they could gain entry. Jesse relaxed, wanting at least one of them to get in, and was rewarded shortly as Marty's forefinger slid within, turned, and gently pressed at Jesse's button.

Jesse gasped at the sensation, banged his head gently against the wall. "Fuck..."

Marty was moving faster now, and Jesse's entire middle was moving with him. He felt spring-loaded, about to pounce, his nerves almost quicksilverish now in the way they talked excitedly among themselves. The sensations grew, the speed of the moment increased, and at the last second Jesse was unable to resist the urge to come to his tiptoes.

He shot off, pumping what felt like volumes across Marty's molars. Marty pinned the head of Jesse's dick to the roof of his mouth with his tongue, and Jesse squealed a moment in utter delight at the savage increase in joy. The sensations intensified, sucked his breath away, and then were over in a single, unmeasurable moment.

Jesse settled back onto his heels, gasping with the effort. Marty sucked on the head of Jesse's dick while gently squeezing the shaft, getting every last drop of spunk that Jesse had to offer. His finger rubbed a moment longer, gently, pleasurably, against Jesse's button, reminding him that things were not quite over...

Then Marty withdrew his finger, turned around and sat cross-legged, leaned his head back and pushed it in underneath Jesse's nuts. Jesse spread his thighs to allow it; at the same time Marty grasped Jesse's hips and drew him forward, and as Jesse squatted a bit he felt Marty's tongue taste his pucker. Marty went right in, pushing his nose, his whole face into Jesse's buttcrack. There was an intensity to the act, a nearly desperate desire, that caused Jesse to raise his arms and hold them back against the wall.

The water ran down his front, down across his pecker and his nuts, and cascaded onto Marty's uptilted chest. Jesse's dick was immediately hard again, understanding on its own that Marty's assault on Jesse's pucker was an act of war. Jesse wanted just to sit right down on Marty's face, but knew instinctively that the weight would be too much for the other boy with his neck back like it was. Jesse balanced precariously on the balls of his feet, his back held to the wall by the moisture between them, as Marty simply tried to eat his way up inside Jesse's ass.

Jesse couldn't help smiling, couldn't help giggling, nor gently bumping his head against the wall. His pucker hummed with excitement as Marty assailed it, and the feeling was tickly, and wonderful, and intense. Jesse did his best to maintain his position, not wanting to do a single thing that might cause Marty to stop.

But the strain on his calves began to tell after awhile, the muscles protesting that this was going on too long. It began to detract from the joy Jesse was feeling, and gradually he came to know he'd have to call it to a stop.

"My legs are starting to cramp," he gasped out, leaning forward a bit and dropping a hand to Marty's chest to make sure the boy understood. "I don't wanna fall on top of you."

Marty took his teeth and somehow gently pinched the bottom edge of Jesse's pucker, just above his taint, a parting shot that signaled the game was over. Jesse gasped, and his legs thrust him upwards, away from it, until he realized how good it felt; but as he tried to settle back, Marty was already squirming out from underneath him.

He stood, grinning, pulling Jesse away from the wall and allowing his legs to straighten. Jesse grimaced as his legs screamed at him a moment; but they got over it quickly and then he was just standing, held closely in Marty's embrace.

"Good?" the other boy whispered, grinning.

"Excellent," Jesse breathed, kissing him.

"I love munching pucker in the shower. It's wet and slippery, and it tastes fuckin' good as shit." Marty laughed. "Well, you taste good as shit anyway."

Jesse smiled, hugging Marty close. "This was so good. It was my first time in the shower with someone."

Marty pushed him back, looking surprised. "No shit? I just didn't think about that. No wonder you looked like you did when I said we were gonna do it." He grinned. "Well, now you know. We can do it again sometime, too."

Marty gave him a smile that seemed a little extra happy.

Jesse grinned. "What's that for?"

Marty laughed. "I love being your first for stuff, Jesse. It's special."

It was. Marty was the leader-of-the-way, and Jesse was the one-who-followed. He was content with that - loved it, actually. There were things he was good at too - like kissing - that Marty was happy to learn about from him. But in the area of just plain sex - Marty was a god, and Jesse was a worshipper at the temple.

They washed each other after that, using just their hands, patiently and gently rubbing soap on each other's bodies, smiling and watching each other's eyes as they did so, and then just as patiently rubbing it off again beneath the water.

Jesse kissed Marty every time the urge struck him - which was often - and Marty kissed him back with warm smiles and laughter in his eyes.

When they were done Marty turned off the water and they stood a minute, letting the excess run off. The bathroom was misty and sticky, and already Jesse felt the first small beads of sweat on his scalp as the summer day made itself known again.

They got out, grabbed towels, and carefully dried each other. There was something special about that, too, and Jesse felt a crazy satisfaction at being able to rub Marty with the terry cloth while the other boy stood patiently and allowed it. Marty, for his part, seemed a little excited by it, too.

When it was Marty's turn to dry Jesse, he did it with a smile on his face, and gentle rubs and squeezes, which just stole Jesse's heart. Marty was just so cute, and when he smiled - and when the smile was because of Jesse - it had a magical effect. Like seeing a piece of beautiful artwork hanging in a show, being admired by others, and knowing it was your creation, and that you put it there. That it was Jesse that generated the pleasure that Marty displayed made him feel quite alive, indeed.

Marty took his time, as if it were a labor of love. It was, but Jesse only dimly thought of that. When Marty got down low, he had Jesse sit on the toilet lid while he dried Jesse's feet. Marty ran the towel over them carefully, and dabbed between Jesse's toes, and when he was done he laid the towel on the floor and took Jesse's right foot in his hand and gently kneaded the sole of it. Jesse was delighted - it felt great. Marty smiled as he saw that in Jesse's expression, brought the foot up and kissed underneath, on the front of the ball, just at the base of Jesse's toes.

Jesse couldn't help grinning. It felt nice, and it looked a little sexy to see Marty do it, and it was maybe a little kinky besides. Jesse continued to grin, unable to do anything else, entranced by the expression of fondness Marty wore as he kissed.

He loves doing that, he thought.

Marty closed his eyes, his nose pushed against the underside of Jesse's toes, and Jesse could feel Marty inhaling deeply. It went on so long that Jesse finally had to laugh.

"Are you smelling my toes, man?"

Marty's eyes popped open, and he grinned. "Fuckin' right. They smell like the rest of you. I wish I could put it in a bottle and carry it around with me."

Jesse wiggled his toes against Marty's lips and nose. "I didn't get to dry your feet good."

Marty's grin got even bigger. He laid Jesse's foot on the rug and stood. "Switch places with me."

Jesse got up. Marty sat, and Jesse squatted at his feet. He picked up the towel, then picked up one of Marty's feet, and rubbed it carefully. Marty smiled immediately.

The tops of Marty's feet were tanned as brown as was most of his body; but the undersides were pink and soft, and Jesse smiled when he saw them. He dabbed the towel between Marty's toes, looking at them carefully. He already was in love with Marty's hands, which somehow managed to seem incredibly sexy while still being fairly utilitarian tools with an everyday use. He had kissed Marty's fingers before, and he had rubbed them, and he had loved them.

Marty's feet were kind of cute. They were a little different from Jesse's own. Jesse's toes comprised an arc, from big toe to small one, each toe just enough shorter in length than the one that preceded it to make the arc mathematically pure.

Marty's toes were also short, but ran in a slant from big to small, also perfectly even, and actually quite appealing.

Grinning, Jesse lifted the foot and put his face to the ball just underneath Marty's toes. Wow. Marty was right: they had the same sexy aroma as the rest of his skin, but somehow more intense. Jesse pushed his tongue out and tasted the underside of the second toe; it had a flavor just like Marty's lips.

He kissed it, and Marty grinned ear-to-ear. "Not bad, huh?"

Jesse smiled, then laughed. "It feels weird to be kissing somebody's toes - but the smell is really nice. Smells like you."

Marty gently pulled his foot from Jesse's grasp, stood up. "I need to get out of this fog in here. I'm starting to sweat."

They hung the towels up, gathered their clothing from the floor, and went back into Marty's bedroom. The air felt almost chilly, after the sauna-like atmosphere of the the bathroom. Jesse laid his stuff on the desk and went to put his shorts on.

Marty reached out a hand and stopped him. "Oh, no. No, no, no, Jesse."

"What?" Jesse said, looking questioningly at him.

Marty turned, dived into his bed. He rolled onto his back and came up smiling. "Come here."

Jesse laughed, put down his shorts. He went and crawled into Marty's bed, snuggled up against him. Marty put an arm around him and sighed.

"You're naked in my bed, Jesse. You know how much I dreamed about this?"

Jesse had an idea. He remembered the previous day, when he and Marty had laid together in Jesse's bed with their shorts slightly pulled down, feeling each other up and kissing. Jesse knew he'd never be able to lay in his bed again without remembering how Marty had looked there.

He smiled. "Sure would be nice to sleep together like this, wouldn't it?"

Marty closed his eyes and sighed. "That's why I can't wait for tonight, Jesse. The cot in the fort isn't your bed or mine; but it is a bed, and we will be together." He nuzzled Jesse's cheek with his face, and Jesse closed his eyes and enjoyed it.

His body responded to what he was feeling, and his dick went from a kind of kicked back lazy hard to let me fuckin' at 'em in fairly short order. He giggled a little, fascinated that he could be so horny again after what they had just done together in the shower.

Marty's dick was also awake and looking about anxiously for work. Jesse sighed, reached for it, took it in his hand and rubbed it affectionately. Marty gave a little sigh, opened his eyes, and smiled. "You want to again? What a horndog."

But he took hold of Jesse's dick, and they closed their eyes, and gently jerked each other off.

It lasted awhile. They hadn't fully recharged yet, and their systems were slow to respond to this new attraction. They were in no hurry, no haste; Jesse would have been content to spend the next week right where he was, doing exactly what he was doing. He didn't want it to be over, didn't want the moment to end.

He was laying in Marty's bed, and they were naked. That was all that mattered.

Jesse came first, all at once, virtually without warning. The feeling of imminence, which usually crawled slowly up the shaft of his dick from his balls to the head, came in a flash this time; before he knew it he was pumping spunk all over Marty's clean belly.

Marty grinned, but kept his eyes shut, and Jesse continued to yank him off.

It was just a few minutes later when Marty sighed, and an arc of spunk jetted over and landed on Jesse's belly. He kept squeezing and slowly pulling until Marty was done.

Marty opened his eyes, grinning. "Don't move."

Jesse also grinned, wondering what was next.

Marty came up very slowly, took his hand, smoothed his spunk out on Jesse's belly. He reached down, and smoothed Jesse's spunk out on his his own body. Then he smiled, and licked his fingers clean.

"Come up onto your side a little," Marty instructed.

Jesse did, and so did Marty; and then Marty was rubbing the spunk-covered part of his belly against the spunk-covered part of Jesse's. He made a couple of circular motions, then pulled away, grinning.

"Now - do this carefully, so you don't get spunk on my bed. When I move, kind of lay yourself across the bed, okay?"

"Okay."

Marty inched himself down towards the foot of the bed, then turned, watching the glistening patch of goo on his belly so that none of it rolled off. It looked pretty well rubbed flat, and Jesse didn't think it was going anywhere, anyway.

Jesse turned and laid himself across the bed, careful to keep his spunk-covered belly away from the sheets. Marty turned the other way, so that his feet were by Jesse's head, and wormed his way closer, until his face was opposite the spunk on Jesse's belly.

Which put the spunk on Marty's belly right in front of Jesse's face.

"Young man," Marty said sternly, unable to completely hide his grin, "you made a mess here. I expect you to clean it up."

Jesse grinned, looking at Marty's belly. He was looking at Marty's come and his own, mixed together.

Marty leaned in and began licking Jesse's belly. The soft-rough feel of the other boy's tongue felt amazingly good against his skin. Jesse wanted to be a part of that - and leaned over and began licking Marty's belly clean.

It was strangely exhilarating. There was the taste of their spunk and the taste of Marty's skin, and the smell of their spunk, and the smell of Marty's skin. All of it was wonderful, and all of it fun.

Jesse licked until he had every square inch of Marty's belly clean, then found his dick and made sure there was no treat left inside the shaft. He was able to squeeze out a tiny drop, and licked it away.

Finally, they were done. Marty turned around and went back to the head of the bed, flopped onto his back with his head on the pillow. Jesse crawled around, went to him, climbed aboard, and lay down on top of Marty, pressing his face into Marty's cheek. Marty smiled, put his arms around Jesse, and lazily rubbed his back.

"Couple of horndogs," Marty decided, nodding.

Jesse grinned into the soft skin of Marty's cheek. "Couple of horndogs that have fun," he elaborated.

Marty sighed, a strong enough one that Jesse felt his own body rise and fall with the action. "I was thinking about Keith a little while ago, Jesse."

Jesse raised his head, curious at the sudden change of subject. "What about him?"

Marty's eyes sought his out. "When he was my boyfriend, I thought it was like...forever." He shrugged, like he felt foolish to say that. "You know. I just never thought about it ever being over one day. I thought I was gonna love that boy a long time, and that I would never love anybody else like I did him."

Jesse nodded, understanding completely. "Yeah. I was like that with Nate."

"I figured that," Marty said, watching Jesse closely. "We're alike in some ways, Jesse."

Jesse frowned. "I still feel like I love Nate - well, I probably always will, a little. But -" His frown deepened. He looked down into Marty's eyes. "I love you more."

Marty smiled. "That's where I was going. I was gonna say, I thought I'd never love anybody like I did Keith. But I love you more than I loved him."

That made Jesse wonder. Did that mean he loved Marty more because he was here and Nate wasn't? What would happen if Nate suddenly moved back into the neighborhood and Jesse could see him again every day, like before? What would happen then?

He looked down at Marty, into the wells of blue that were his eyes, and he could see the way that Marty felt about him. There was so much there it was hard to believe it could be there, after only three days of knowing each other. But what was it really that Jesse was seeing?

Jesse smiled, and Marty smiled back. Jesse dropped his face, touched the tip of his nose to Marty's; Marty pushed his face upwards and rubbed noses back. So Jesse kissed Marty, and Marty kissed him back.

And Jesse knew then, the answer: If Nate moved back tomorrow, it would be a hard and unpleasant thing to deal with. Because Jesse would still love Marty more, and be unable to return to what he and Nate had had before.

"You're my boyfriend now," he said softly. "I'm keeping you."

Marty just looked happy. He grinned, and he raised his head and he kissed Jesse, and his arms and his hands squeezed and rubbed Jesse's body.

"Works for me."

They lay there awhile together, talking. The room was too warm, and their bodies were too warm, and it wasn't long before Jesse began to feel as if the shower had never happened. But it was all good - being with Marty canceled out the small things like that.

Finally, Marty looked over at the clock on his dresser. "Almost eleven," he noted. He rolled to one side slightly, and Jesse peeled himself off the other boy and came up to sit cross-legged beside him. His belly felt a little sticky, still, and Jesse grinned at the reason. Memories that were sticky were some of the best ones.

Marty looked back at the clock again. "We should probably get up and get some clothes on, just in case I'm wrong about how long they're gone. Parker can be up here so fast it ain't funny, and if she sees my door closed and finds out it's locked - and then finds out you're here -" He sighed. "I don't want her diggin' on me."

Jesse felt surprise. "She knows you're gay?"

Marty made a face. "Well - kinda. She caught me and Keith fooling around once, and I was so scared she'd let it slip to my folks I did everything she wanted for a whole week. You know, put the dishes in the dishwasher for her after dinner, did her laundry - lot's of shit, until my mom finally asked her what awful thing she was holding over me." He grinned. "Parker covered my ass on that, just said I lost a bet and was paying up. And then she came to my room and said she'd be doing her own chores and shit again, and for me to relax."

Jesse nodded. "Man, she sounds cool as shit, Marty. She could have wrecked you, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. She kidded me about it a few times, but never around our parents. And me and Keith were careful as shit not to do much at my house anymore." He licked his lips. "But she's kinda gotta know, I guess, because she caught me sucking Keith's dick."

Jesse gaped. "Get outta here."

Marty crossed himself. "True shit, dude. I thought my door was locked, but it wasn't. She came to ask me something, knocked like once, and then just opened the door. I didn't even have time to get Keith out of my mouth."

Jesse was horrified, but at the same time couldn't keep a smile off his face. "Fuck. You and Keith musta shit yourselves."

Marty rolled his eyes. "Keith was so scared he almost jumped out the window. Parker saw us, and she just stared, and then she started laughing and shut the door. It happened so fast I was just like, duh." He laughed. "Then you never saw two dudes get dressed so fast in your life. Keith said he was going home, but he made me peek out in the hall first so he wouldn't run into Parker. Keith's face was red as shit, and he just kept waving his hands, and when he saw the coast was clear he took off."

Jesse still couldn't stop from smiling, and now Marty was, a little, too.

"What'd you do about Parker?" Jesse asked.

"Went to her room. She was waitin' on me, like she knew I'd be there. She started telling me what she wanted me to do - her work around the house. I was mad, but I just shut up and took it, because I was scared even more. So I did her shit for a whole week." Marty sat up, put a hand on Jesse's knee, squeezed it. "She comes up here now and sees the door locked, and then the two of us come out, she'll think we were foolin' around."

"We were," Jesse pointed out.

"Fuck, I know. I just don't want her to know. And Jesse, you're going to have to act like you don't know about her seeing Keith and me, and just be cool. Even if Parker comes up here and just sees us in the room with the door open, she's gonna look at you like I sucked your nuts out through your hose."

Jesse laughed. "I'll do the best I can, Marty. That's a little scary, though."

"Tell me about it, Jesse. Tell me about it."

They were dressed and sitting cross-legged on Marty's bed with the TV on and the door open wide when they heard the garage door going up. Marty put out a hand, squeezed Jesse's arm, then moved as far away from him on the bed as was possible.

A few minutes later they heard someone bounding up the stairs, and then a shape bulleted past the door.

A second later, there was another sound in the hall, and then a girl was standing in the doorway. She was blonde and nice-looking, dressed in beige shorts, tan sandals, and a white short-sleeved top that showed off her golden summer tan. Her eyes were startlingly blue, just like Marty's, and she shared the cute, pouty smile with him as well. She was carrying several store bags, which she set on the floor beside her.

"Got company, huh?" There was something speculative in her gaze as she looked back and forth between them, before her eyes finally settled on Jesse. "Hi."

"Hi, " Jesse returned, smiling and hoping he didn't look guilty.

Marty managed to look bored. "Hi, Park. This is Jesse. He lives in the house behind us."

Parker finished her assessment of Jesse, and then smiled at Marty. "Sure know how to pick the cute ones, little brother."

Jesse was astonished, and must have looked it; but the look that Marty gave her could best be described as poisonous.

Parker tossed up her hands, gave them both a my bad little smile, then waved a finger at Marty, grabbed her bags, and was gone. "Mom said come help bring in the groceries," she said, her voice floating back down the hall.

"Why didn't you help?" Marty yelled, looking annoyed.

"Gotta pee," came the faint response, followed by a door slamming shut.

Marty made a face. "Well, most of the time she's cool. Come on, Jesse. Will you help me?"

They went downstairs, through the kitchen and into the garage. A white SUV stood on the far side, with the back open and a jean-covered butt and legs protruding.

"You need help, mom?" Marty called.

The butt wiggled, the legs backed up, and a woman slid out onto her feet. "Oh, Marty. My bag of potatoes slid up by the back seat. Can you climb in and get them?"

She turned and looked, saw Jesse for the first time, and smiled. "Hi. You have to be Jesse."

Remembering how Marty had been when meeting his own mom, Jesse smiled and offered his hand. "I'm pleased to meet you, Ms. Anderson."

Marty's mom's eyes crinkled, and she gave his hand a quick shake. "Well, your mom must be okay, if your manners are anything to judge her by."

Jesse laughed. "I kind of like her."

Marty hopped up into the truck. "You didn't say you were going to the grocery store, too. I needed some stuff."

"Whatever you wrote on the list in the kitchen, I got," his mom said, rolling her eyes.

"Oh." Marty emerged from the vehicle with a net bag of potatoes. "That's okay then, because the stuff I needed I wrote on there."

There were four large cloth bags of stuff, each bag seeming to advertise a different store - none of which was actually the Safeway that was the only grocery store around. Marty's mom grabbed one, and the bag of potatoes, and the boys managed to get the rest.

"Parker spend her college money on clothes?" Marty asked, grinning.

His mom laughed as they went into the kitchen. "Just about. We'll be eating beans and cabbage for the rest of the week."

They set the bags on the counter and the floor near the refrigerator, and Marty looked at his mom. "My room's done. I want to sleep out in the fort tonight, like you said."

His mom smiled at him. "Will it stand my inspection? White glove and magnifying glass?"

Marty's face fell. "I didn't get a chance to dust it, mom." He brightened. "I can do that before dinner."

His mom laughed. "Relax. I'm kidding. Is everything put away?"

"Yup."

She looked at Jesse. "You're a wonder. If it looks even half again better than it did, I'll adopt you and put you in my will."

Jesse laughed. "It looks okay, Ms. Anderson." He thought of his promise to his mom. "Um - my mom asked if you'd call her and say hi. She just wants to make sure it's okay with you if Marty sleeps out in the fort."

"Your mom sounds cool." Ms. Anderson leaned over the counter and grabbed a pad of paper and a pencil. "Write the number down and I'll call her. Frank - I mean, Marty's dad and I - have been meaning to drop over to meet your mom. We've just been so busy with the house. I've met your dad already, you know." She smiled. "If your mom is anything like him, we're all going to be friends."

Jesse was aware that Marty's dad and his own took turns driving into town each day to work.

"Okay, guys - I can put this stuff away. What have you two got planned?"

Jesse and Marty looked at each other.

"We hadn't really thought about that," Marty admitted. "We were so busy putting my room together."

There was a noise in the front of the house, and then Parker came into the kitchen. "Wow, mom - you should see Marty's room. It looks like a tornado went through and blew the crust off of it."

Marty's mom looked pleased. "I can't wait to see." She smiled at Jesse. "You're going to be a good influence, I can see that already."

Jesse smiled, slightly embarrassed. He noticed Parker watching him then, became aware of the way she was looking at him - wondering - and felt his cheeks get warm.

Parker looked at Marty. "Marvin's out. I saw him on your bed when I went by."

A pained look crossed Marty's face. "Aw, man. I put the top on his tank." He looked at Jesse. "Be right back."

Jesse opened his mouth, but closed it again as Marty took off. He didn't mind being left alone with Marty's mom, but Parker made him nervous.

"Jesse's cute, don't you think, mom?" Parker asked, grinning at Jesse.

Ms. Anderson smiled. "Don't embarrass him, Parker. Jesse's handsome."

Jesse was embarrassed anyway. There was something in the way that Marty's sister watched him that made him certain she knew.

"Got any sisters?" Parker asked him. Then she grinned. "Or older brothers?"

"Just me," Jesse said, trying to look assured. "I always wanted a brother or sister, but I'm starting to think it's too late to expect one."

"Yeah. Your parents are too old now, like mine."

"Parker!" Marty's mom said, giving her a look as she pulled cans of vegetables from a big cloth bag that said Rick's Hardware on the side.

"Sorry, mom." She grinned at Jesse. "Mom and dad said they'd never have another one after Marty, anyway."

Marty's mom laughed, but didn't say anything. She didn't deny it, Jesse noted.

He felt defensive of his friend. "Marty's cool," he protested. "I like him a lot."

Parker nodded. "I'll bet."

Marty's mom was looking into the bag. "Parker, didn't we get an onion? I was sure I got an onion."

Parker winked at Jesse, went to look in one of the other bags.

Jesse watched her, sure now that she suspected that he and Marty were more than just buddies. He decided he wasn't going to give her any play on it though, and that he would just act like he didn't know what she meant with her little remarks.

Another bag of groceries stood on the floor next to him. He looked down, and the onion was visible right on top, in a clear plastic bag. "Here it is," he said, bending down to retrieve it. He held up the bag, offered it to Marty's mom.

"Oh. I knew we got one." She smiled. "Thanks, Jesse."

Marty came back, grinning. "I put him back. I set a couple of books on top of the wire. The frame broke at the corner again and it's not tight on the tank. Dad'll have to solder it again."

"Remind him this weekend. I'll call him if I remember, in case he needs something to get it done." His mother smiled at him, but shook her head. "I don't want that thing running around the house again, Marty. If you have to, keep your door shut until dad fixes the screen."

Marty wrinkled his nose. "Aw - Marvin's not a thing, mom. He has feelings."

His mother laughed. "That's fine, Marty. I just want him to have them in his tank."

Marty nodded. "Come on, Jesse. Let's go out."

"Wait." Marty's mom waved a hand in the air, looked around at the bags. She went over to one, dug in it, found a small, colorful box. "It's chicken. Parker and I ate on the way home. This one's yours. Get a drink from the fridge." She smiled at Jesse. "Two drinks." She patted the box, handed it to Marty. "It's the five-piece - you can share it with Jesse."

Marty grinned, took the box. "Thanks, mom. Come on, Jesse, and get a drink."

They went to the refrigerator. Marty grabbed a Coke, and Jesse selected a bottled ice tea. They headed out, and as they passed the others Ms. Anderson smiled again, her green eyes sparkly like Marty's. Now Jesse knew where Marty got them.

"Nice to meet you Jesse. I'll call your mom after I get this stuff straight."

"Nice to meet you, too, Ms. Anderson." He held up the iced tea. "Thanks."

Parker grinned at them as they passed. "Have fun, guys."

Marty curled his lip at her, but didn't say anything, and they went out through the garage. In the driveway, in the paved tee to the side, was Jesse's dad's burgundy-colored SUV. Marty's father must have driven to town that day.

Marty circled it, heading for the backyard. "Come on. We can sit in the gazebo."

They crossed the small width of grass, entered the little white structure, made themselves comfortable in the wicker chairs. Jesse sat his Iced tea on the table between the chairs, while Marty opened the box of chicken and dug out a leg. He held the box out, and Jesse grabbed a wing. There were napkins on one side - he took one of them, too.

"Haven't had the Colonel for awhile," Jesse said, grinning. "My mom doesn't like fast food. She says it's all calories and taste and nothing else."

Marty shrugged. "Taste is cool, too." He looked over at Jesse. "Parker say anything while I was upstairs?"

Jesse frowned around the piece of chicken. "Not really. But I sorta feel she thinks we're messing around."

Marty looked pained. "Well, let her think that. I'm sorry, Jesse - I hope she didn't get to you." He let a smile creep onto his features - an admiring smile. "She's pretty sharp, really. But as long as we don't get caught, it's cool."

A thought suddenly struck Jesse. "She won't - like spy on us, or anything, will she?" At Marty's questioning look, he just shrugged. "You know, come into the woods snooping while we're in the fort, or over at the creek, swimming?"

Marty looked thoughtful, then shook his head. "Nah. Parker can be creepy, but she has rules. She's not totally clean, either - she has her secrets. She knows she gets her nose too much in my business, it'll be war." He grinned then. "And she can't survive a war, Jesse."

Jesse finished his wing, put the remains in his napkin. He took a swig off his tea to wash everything down, then grinned at Marty. "Well, that's good to know, at least. I'd hate to have to start watching over my shoulder for her spying and shit."

Marty laughed. "Jesse, she's having fun with us. She won't tell my folks anything - she's not like that. She looks out for me and I look out for her - even if sometimes it hurts." He shrugged. "She's my sister," he finished, like that said it all.

Marty grabbed a wing from the box this time, and Jesse took the other leg. That left a breast, which he was content to leave for Marty - it was his lunch, after all. But Jesse was conscious now of the fact that he'd only had a single doughnut for breakfast - he and Marty had gotten too wrapped up in events to consider food. Jesse's stomach was feeling empty - the chicken was really hitting the spot.

They talked a little more, looking at the view and just enjoying the day. Marty finished his wing, took the breast from the box and peeled a good strip of meat off of it, handed the rest to Jesse. Jesse took it without saying anything. He was still hungry, and he knew Marty meant for him to have the piece, or he wouldn't have shared it.

It was hot now. The iced tea tasted good, but was already starting to warm in the summer air. Condensation wrapped the bottle in slippery droplets, and with the bit of grease from the chicken still on his fingertips, Jesse handled the bottle carefully so as not to drop it.

They finished the chicken, wiped their fingers on the last napkin, and drained their drinks. They got everything together and went to the back of the house and separated the trash into the proper recycle bins.

Marty grinned at him. "It's sticky out. Feel like a swim?"

Jesse grinned. He had just been thinking the same thing. "Awesome."

They went back down the path behind the house, around the fort, and then down the other path towards the creek. Marty began to pick up the pace, grinning at Jesse, and Jesse grinned back, accelerating. Marty let out a whoop and took off, and Jesse yelled, too, laughing and grinning as he caught up with and ran alongside his friend.

They pelted around the last turn and between the two oaks that guarded the entrance to the swimming hole, and drew up at the stump bench, laughing and grinning at each other.

"Coulda beat'cha if I tried," Marty said, his eyes twinkling.

"You did try," Jesse said knowingly, "and you didn't beat me."

"You country boys got jackrabbits in your blood, is what," Marty said, whipping his shirt off and dropping it on the bench. "Maybe a little bit of squirrel, too."

Jesse laughed, shrugging out of his own shirt and dropping it beside Marty's. "Shit. At least I know when to lock my door so my sister doesn't catch me with my best friend's knob on my tongue," he said, laughing at the look on Marty's face as he said it.

"You don't have a sister," Marty said, pulling down his shorts and boxers, taking them off and putting them on the bench. "And at least I was gettin' some. You and Nate were too scared to taste each other's peckers - you had to wait for me to come and show you how."

That hurt a little, and it must have showed. Marty's grin faded, and he immediately stepped closer. "I'm sorry. That was crappy of me to say that. Don't get mad, okay?"

Jesse smiled, pulling his shorts and boxers off and dropping them on the bench. "It's okay. I know you only have three working brain cells, and they don't even talk to each other."

Marty grinned. "They made up. It's all a party now."

Jesse laughed, moved closer and put his arms around the other boy. Marty got excited sometimes, and his mouth said stuff his brain hadn't approved yet. Jesse understood this about his friend now, and knew it couldn't be held against him. That Marty wouldn't deliberately hurt him was something else he understood.

Marty looked down between them, smiled. "I see a pretty pony."

Jesse looked down at Marty's dick, which looked just as happy to be free as his own.

"Yeah. The woods are full of 'em."

They smiled at each other a moment, then Marty pulled him closer and stuck out his tongue. Jesse closed his eyes and pulled it inside his mouth, rubbing the underside of it with his own tongue, and sucking gently on it like it was a mini-pecker. Marty laughed, pushed his tongue at Jesse's, and they wrestled a bit before a draw was declared.

"I wanna get wet," Marty whispered, grinning.

Jesse dropped a hand, gently squeezed the end of Marty's dick, was rewarded with a tiny drop of clear liquid. "You already are." He raised the finger, showed the tiny smear to Marty, then stuck the finger into his mouth, smiling.

Marty's eyes held a silent laugh. "Pervert."

Jesse kissed him. "I always try."

They laughed. Jesse tightened his grip around Marty's waist and began shuffling sideways towards the creek. Marty moved with him, grinning. "Excuse me, sir, but do you know where this bus goes?"

Jesse laughed. "It's not a bus, buddy. It's a submarine."

They got to the edge of the creek and Jesse just leaned over into it, taking Marty with him.

The splash was tremendous, and they both came up grinning.

Marty moved closer, smiled at Jesse. "I thought you said nobody else lived around here," he said quietly.

Jesse nodded. "No one does."

Marty grinned again. "Go with me, Jesse. Don't look like you know. But somebody is in the bushes on the bank on the other side."

What? Shit. Jesse had an immediate impulse to look, but managed to sit on it before his body reacted. "Where?'

"Over where you said the crayfish were. In the shallows."

Jesse thought hard. The only person that ever came here besides themselves was Mr. Devlin. But if it was him, he certainly wouldn't be hiding in the bushes. So who else...

Parker.

"Could it be your sister?"

Marty looked a little shocked. "What? Fuck no. I mean...man, I sure hope not. She'd have enough on me now to make me a slave for the next ten years."

Jesse turned Marty a little, kept a smile on his face but tried to scan the bank on the other side of the swimming hole.

Nothing.

"Man, are you sure you saw someone?"

Marty laughed, but there was a little bit of a ragged edge to it now. "Yeah. They're scrunched down by that big tree with the trunk that forks."

Jesse thought hard. A plan came to him. "Listen. Suppose I get out and go off like I went to get something? You stay here, keep moving around and shit. I'll go up creek a little and cross where the tree is down across the banks, and I'll sneak up behind them and see who it is."

Marty looked slightly panicked. "They'll hear you, Jesse. They'll hear you coming."

Jesse laughed. "No they won't. I grew up here, Marty. I'll go barefoot and they'll never knew what hit 'em."

Marty bit his lip, nodded. "Okay. You go. I'll try to look interesting."

Jesse grinned. "Just get out of the water and show them that cute butt. They'll be interested."

Marty pushed him a little in the water, but grinned and looked more relaxed.

"Shit," Jesse said, realizing now exactly what going would entail. "If I get out, and it's Parker, she's gonna see me naked."

Marty's eyebrows went up. "Whoever it is already saw us naked, Jesse. I saw them out of the side of my eye when we fell in the water. I think they were here when we got here." He made a face. "Shit. That means they saw us hugging and shit on the bank. Shit, shit, shit."

Jesse took a deep breath, let it out. "Fuck it."

He gave Marty a playful push, and laughed. "Yeah, it'll be fun," he said loudly. "I'll go and get it."

"You do that," Marty said, also loudly, laughing and pushing back. "I'll wait here."

Jesse gave him a last reassuring grin, then went to the bank. For just a second he almost froze - almost. But then his muscles were moving on their own, and he was heaving himself out of the water. He went to the stump bench, stood a second running his hands over his body to peel some of the water off his skin. Then he grabbed his shorts, separated out his boxers and laid them back on the bench. He stepped into his shorts, pulled them up, and headed for the path.

"Back in a flash," he called, and waved to Marty. Marty grinned and waved back, but Jesse could see the unease in the other boy's face. Poor Marty. If it was Parker spying on them, his life was likely about to become very difficult. Shit. Maybe both of their lives were about to become difficult.

He went down the path until he was out of sight of the creek, then cut left into the woods. As just a little kid he'd learned how to be quiet in the leaves, playing endless games with Jason, and then Nate, among the trees. There was an art to it, moving here. It was almost like tip-toeing, where you stepped lightly on the ball of your foot only, moved quickly, allowed as little weight to settle as possible.

Mainly, you had to look and make sure you didn't step on sticks or stuff that would make noise. Leaves were more difficult, especially after the autumn fall, when they were the most brittle. They could give you away no matter how careful you were, if luck wasn't also with you. But the leaves underfoot now were old and had lost their crunch, and even doubly so in the moist summer air. He didn't make a sound as he cut back towards the creek.

Years ago, probably before Jesse had even been born, a tree had toppled across the creek, forming a bridge. It was moss-covered except in the middle, where you could walk. Jesse figured animals used it, and kept it clear. He knew exactly where it was - he knew where everything was in the woods - and it took him two minutes to get to it.

He eyed it carefully, making sure it hadn't moved or broken anywhere since the last time he'd seen it. It looked the same as always. Grabbing an old branch that stuck out of the trunk, he leaned on it a little to make sure it wouldn't break; when it held, he used the base of it to help himself aboard the trunk.

Then he simply tip-toed quickly across, his toes finding good purchase on the rough remains of the bark. Once on the other side, he looked for a clear patch of ground, and hopped off.

He'd already decided on the best course of action. To try to creep back to the swimming hole directly through the woods was to invite detection. Jesse was quiet, but no one was perfect. A single snapping twig would sound like a rifle shot in the quiet woods, and alert their spy to his approach.

So instead he made his way quietly away from the creek, keeping low, going straight out into the woods. The screen of green on this side was actually shallow - scarcely enough to form a good wall. In less than a minute he stepped out onto the grass of the Devlin's cow field. Now all he had to watch for on the ground were cowpies.

Turning left, he ran as quietly as he could, a fast tip-toe through the grass with only the balls of his feet touching the ground. He was watching to his left for the opening - there had always been a path from the swimming hole to the field, but it hadn't been used this spring or summer, and the woods reclaimed its own very quickly.

There it was. It wasn't overgrown just yet. The ground was still clear, it's carpet of leaves mildly disturbed by the recent passage of something large. Some of the underbrush had sent branches and runners across the path, but not enough to bar his passage nor cause him to make a sound as he crept forward.

Above the undergrowth, the forked trunks of the tree in question came into view, and now Jesse could hear the sound of splashing coming from the creek. It sounded like Marty was putting on a good show.

He hunched over now, creeping slowly, resisting the temptation to peer ahead, just darting his eyes up now and then, watching instead where he put his feet. Soon the forked trunks of the tree Marty had indicated were above him, and a single massive oak separated Jesse from the supposed watcher.

He crept up behind the big oak, and slowly peered around the bole. Someone was there, he could see, hiding behind the forks of the next tree, peering through them at Marty down in the creek. But it wasn't Parker. Jesse could see that immediately.

The spy was a boy.

He looked to be Jesse's height or shorter. He was dressed in jeans and a black tee-shirt. His shoes were also black. His hair was dark - brown or black, a little long, but not markedly so. Jesse could only see him from the back - but he could also see quite clearly what the boy was doing.

He was jerking his dick.

He was watching Marty down in the water, and he was jerking off. The motion of his left arm was unmistakable. It moved slowly, rhythmically, in a forward-and-back motion as old as the race.

Jesse nearly laughed. This was about the last thing he had expected to find, and he was so relieved that it wasn't Parker he didn't quite know how to act.

Still - the guy was spying on them. And who the hell was he? Had someone new moved into one of the other houses across the field? Jesse's dad kept up with that stuff - he would have known if one of the houses was for sale. In fact, if his dad had known anything, he'd have said something. So it probably wasn't that.

Then who?

Well, it didn't matter. There was one way to find out. Jesse crept slowly forward, until he was right behind the other boy. His first impression had been false - the guy was an inch or so taller than Jesse. No matter.

He moved quickly, encircling the other boy's upper arms with his own and pinning them to his body. The boy hollered in surprise, and Jesse lifted him off his feet and brought him back down hard, making the other boy stumble. His feet came out from under him, and Jesse began pulling him around the tree towards the creek.

"Marty, come here!" he yelled.

The spy was struggling, but Jesse was happy to find that he was stronger. They wrestled, and Jesse kept his grip. He heard a splashing sound, and then Marty was suddenly there beside him, naked and dripping wet. He grabbed hold of the boy and helped Jesse drag him to the edge of the creek.

Once there, the guy got his feet under himself, and Jesse let go, giving him a little push. Marty pulled his own hands away and danced back. The spy took one unbalanced step forward onto a slick patch of ground, his feet flew out from under him, and he landed on the bank on his back with an oof! that pained Jesse to hear.

The guy lay there, the wind obviously knocked out of him.

His face, now revealed, was full of pain. The boy's eyes were screwed shut and his mouth was twisted a little - but Jesse's built-in aesthetic eye couldn't help to notice that he was cute. Jesse looked up at Marty - but Marty was looking down at the boy in surprise. Jesse followed his friend's eyes, and then laughed.

The spy's fly was down, and the head of his dick still peered out of it. A nice head, too.

"He was banging his meat," Jesse said, explaining. "He was watching us and jerking off."

Marty gave his own now limp dick an unconscious caress and grinned. "No shit? A dick-watcher." He prodded the prone boy with his toe. "You gay, Geronimo? Or are you hiding?"

The boy on the ground opened his eyes and coughed. "You guys are in trouble," he said softly.

"Yeah?" Marty's grin faded. "This is private property, buddy. What are you doing here?"

The kid on the ground coughed again, getting his wind. "My grandpa owns this. You're the ones that are trespassing."

Marty blinked. "Your grandad is old man Devlin?"

The other nodded. "I'm gonna tell him you guys jumped me. You won't be swimming here anymore."

Jesse squatted down next to the other boy. He might be cute, but Jesse had just decided he maybe didn't like him. "Go ahead and tell him. I've known your grandad my whole life." He leaned closer. "What's he gonna think when I tell him we jumped you because you were up here wankin' off, watching two boys skinny dipping?"

That struck a nerve. A look of panic crossed the new boy's face. "Wait -"

"Hiding," Marty decided, softly.

Jesse nodded, rising. "Thought so." He waved at the woods. "Maybe you should just go on home, man."

Marty reached out and put a hand on Jesse, looking surprised.

"What?" Jesse said crossly. "I hate a guy that starts somethin' that's his own fault, and when it goes bad he wants to run and tell. He should have stayed at home, or if he wanted to be here, he should have come out and said hey." He looked down at the boy on the ground, who was now watching both of them. "Hiding in the bushes is for sneaks, man."

Marty grinned. "My, my, there's your evil side again, Jesse."

Jesse looked at Marty, at the way he was smiling, at the light in his eyes. Marty wasn't mad at the spy - he was intrigued. His face was lit with interest and curiosity, and it was clear he wanted the guy to stay around long enough for Marty to understand what was happening. Jesse saw all of this - and caved. He grinned, feeling his anger evaporate. He didn't want to be mad - certainly not at Marty.

Yeah, let's not go there again.

He sighed, squatted back down by the new boy. Marty squatted on the other side of the kid.

"Sorry," Jesse said. "You just pissed me off when you said you'd tell. You started this shit, you know."

The other boy looked nervous now. "Yeah. Sorry. It was the first thing I thought of."

Jesse frowned. "That's not good, either."

The other just nodded. "Sorry."

"You okay?" Jesse asked. "I didn't mean for you to fall. We were just hauling you out to see who you were."

The other nodded. "Yeah. I'm okay."

"What's your name?" Marty asked.

The kid on the ground looked from Jesse to Marty, and back again. He sighed. "Greg."

Jesse looked at Marty, nodded at Greg, and then grabbed him by one arm. Marty grabbed the boy by his other arm, and they hauled him to his feet.

On second thought, Jesse decided, Greg was about their height after all. Jesse and Marty were barefoot; Greg's shoes would account for the extra inch.

"So, " Marty said boldly, "you gay, Greg?"

The panicked look reappeared on the new boy's face, and he swallowed hard. "Hell no. I'm not a fag."

Marty looked momentarily annoyed. "That's not a nice word, Greg. If you don't want me to let Jesse here smack you silly, you won't use it again."

Jesse grinned evilly.

Greg nodded. "Okay, I'm sorry. I'm not gay."

Marty nodded. "I'd believe you, 'cept there's the little matter of you jerking your dick while looking at us naked."

Greg licked his lips. "Can I just go? I won't say anything to my grandpa, I promise."

Marty looked at him, and Jesse could see the wheels turning. Yeah, there was interest there - interest and maybe a little of something else. Sympathy?

"You like hiding, Greg?" Marty asked quietly. "It sucks, doesn't it? I mean, me and Jesse know. Our families don't know what we do. We're hiding, too."

Greg bit at his lip. "Really?"

Marty nodded. "You like guys?"

Greg's face crumpled a little. He didn't say anything for a moment, and his eyes searched Marty's, and then turned to examine Jesse's. Jesse let the contact go on for a few seconds, and then nodded. "Its okay, man. We know what you're feeling."

Greg nodded - just a tiny one. He looked back at Marty and nodded again.

"You like guys." Marty made it a statement this time.

Greg nodded again. It looked like it hurt a little.

Jesse clapped him on the shoulder, honestly impressed by the new boy's courage. "I know that was hard, man. You don't even know us." He dropped his hand down, stuck it out. "I'm Jesse. That's Marty."

Greg looked down at Jesse's hand, then back up to his eyes like he couldn't believe it. A smile tried to spread itself across his face, firmly placing him back in the realm of cute again on Jesse's list.

Greg reached out slowly, like he thought Jesse would whip his hand away at the last second. Jesse stuck his hand closer, grabbed Greg's and shook it.

Marty stuck his out too, and he and Greg shook.

The relief on Greg's face was obvious. "I wasn't sure you guys were being straight with me."

Marty grinned. "That's another word we don't use around here, Greg."

Greg suddenly looked scared. "Oh, shit! Where's Rafie?"

Marty and Jesse looked at each other. "Who?" Jesse asked.

Greg looked at them, then turned, his eyes scanning the woods. "My brother. Rafie! Where are you?"

"Someone was with you?" Marty asked, looking around at the trees now.

Greg looked panicked. "My brother, Rafie. I've got to find him!" He started back towards the forked tree, but Marty reached out and grabbed his shoulder.

"He'll be okay. Just call him."

Greg looked very scared now. "No. You don't know. My brother's autistic. He isn't like us. He can't always answer. He doesn't always know where he is. He's not -"

"Is that him?" Jesse asked, pointing, suddenly seeing a swatch of red among the trees.

Greg followed his finger, took off running. "Rafie!"

Marty took off after the new boy, oblivious to the fact that he was naked. Jesse followed.

The undergrowth parted ahead and a boy came out, smiling a little as he saw Greg running towards him. He was wearing jeans and a red tee-shirt, and white running shoes. He held up a hand and waved.

"Greg." It was a simple statement, delivered flatly, but the the boy's expression somehow carried a volume of pleasure in it.

Greg ran up to the other boy, put his hands on his shoulders. "Oh, Rafie. You scared me again. Are you okay?"

"Yes."

Greg hugged him gently. "Where were you?"

"Looking."

Greg smiled. "At what?"

"Stuff."

Greg turned back to face Marty and Jesse as they came up.

Jesse saw it then. Greg and Rafie were twins.

"Fuck," Marty said, looking back at Jesse. "I'm seeing double."

Greg laughed. "This is Rafie. We're identical twins. Rafie is six minutes older than me, so he's actually my big brother."

Rafie smiled at Greg, then at Marty and Jesse. "Hi."

Marty waved. "Hey."

Jesse laughed. "Hi, Rafie."

Rafie pointed at Marty's dick and grinned. "Look."

Greg grinned. "I see it, Rafie."

Marty looked at Greg." What's going on with that?"

Greg reddened slightly. "Rafie likes dicks." He shrugged. "Hey - we're twins."

Jesse gaped. "Are you saying he's gay like you?"

Greg licked his lips. "I don't know. We share a bedroom. I look out for him, mostly, because my parents are gone a lot and Ms. Simpson - she's the house maid - is too busy." He looked at Rafie and grinned. "But when I started jerking off, he was fascinated by it, and he started doing it, too. " Greg looked embarrassed. "Sometimes we jerk each other off."

Marty smiled. "So what exactly is autistic, Greg? He can talk, I can see."

Greg nodded. "It's called ASD. It's a spectrum disorder, because it's different in the way it appears, and everyone who has it expresses it in their own way. Some people are just out of it totally and can't communicate at all. Others just have trouble with talking, or getting along, or knowing where they are sometimes."

He put an arm around Rafie's shoulders and squeezed him. "Rafie is pretty good. He's called high-functioning. He understands what we say just fine, but sometimes he has a little trouble talking back. He's not dumb at all, he just has trouble saying what he means, you know? He's very smart. He plays the piano like God's right hand, and he builds Lego stuff that looks like it was designed by aliens. He's really cool as shit. He just doesn't communicate well."

Marty stepped up to Rafie and stuck his hand out. "Hi. I'm Marty."

"Oh, he won't shake -" Greg began, but stopped, dumbfounded, as Rafie reached out and took Marty's hand. Marty grinned as their fingers closed, and shook the other boy's hand.

Greg just stared. "Damn. He's never done that before. He doesn't usually like to touch much with new people."

Rafie let go of Marty's hand, and stuck it out at Jesse. "Hi."

Jesse laughed, stepped up and shook. "Hi, Rafie. I'm Jesse."

Rafie grinned, then puckered up and made a kissing sound. Jesse blinked, and looked at Greg.

Greg's eyes got big. "Um - I think he thinks he just kissed you."

Jesse blinked again. "Huh?"

Greg nodded. "Rafie doesn't always understand about distance. He sometimes thinks he touching stuff when he isn't, and vice versa." He grinned, looking at his brother. "Damn if I don't think he just kissed you, Jesse."

Jesse felt his face get warm, but Marty laughed. "Nothing strange about that. I do it all the time."

Jesse looked at him. "Yeah, but not from three feet away."

Greg smiled at Rafie. "You like Jesse?"

Rafie nodded. "Pretty." His eyes were merry.

Greg grinned at Jesse. "There you go."

Jesse didn't know what to think. That Rafie liked him seemed apparent - Jesse could see it in the way the boy was watching him now. Jesse wasn't sure how he felt about it. After all, he didn't even know the guy. It was kind of cute, but...maybe a little weird.

Greg seemed to divine his thoughts. "He's not retarded, Jesse," he said quietly. "He's as smart as I am. Smarter, in some things. He just as a problem relating. But he's a good guy." He looked over at his brother. "I love him more than anyone."

Rafie looked at Greg, smiled, and puckered up again and let go with a smoochy sound. "Love you, Greg."

Marty laughed. "Looks like that goes both ways."

Greg smiled. "Love you, too, Rafie."

Marty looked fascinated. "Can you swim, Rafie?"

Rafie looked at the creek. "Yes."

"He has to be careful," Greg said immediately. "He'll take a breath underwater sometimes and choke."

Marty nodded. He looked at Jesse. "These guys looks hot and sweaty, don't they, Jesse?"

Jesse nodded. "Fuckin' right, they do. I think they need a swim."

Marty nodded. "Yup." He took a hand and waved it at the creek. "We're in the business of swimming here, Greg. We know just how to handle this."

Marty put a hand on Greg's shoulder, and gently forced him down into a seated position on the dry leaves. Rafie watched, smiling.

"What are you doing?" Greg asked, looking nervous again.

Marty squatted, began untying Greg's shoe. "Getting to know you. You wanna help with this, Jesse?"

Damn right he did. He sank down across from Marty and began untying Greg's other shoe.

"Um, wait a minute, fellas - " Greg began.

"It's okay," Marty said reassuringly. "We're good at this."

Shoes off, they next pulled off Greg's socks. He stared, pop-eyed, as this occurred, but didn't make a move to interfere.

Marty smiled. "Nice feet, Greg. Let's get him up, Jesse." Marty rose, and Jesse followed. They bent and pulled Greg to his feet.

"Cool shirt," Marty said, grasping it by the bottom edge. "But I'll bet you look nicer with it off."

He raised it, and a shocked smile spread across Greg's face. But he lifted his arms, and let Marty take the shirt off of him.

Jesse looked at Greg's torso, thus revealed. Tanned, nice definition, pretty skin. Sweet. Marty was right: Greg did look better with his shirt off.

"Rock, paper, scissors," Marty said, looking at Jesse. They tossed their arms three times, and Jesse produced a rock to Marty's scissors.

"Damn," Marty swore, grinning.

Jesse went for Greg's belt, began to undo it. Greg's dick, the head of which had still been protruding from his fly, seemed to be growing again. So far, it looked like it was quite a nice one.

Jesse got the belt undone, unfastened Greg's pants, and unzipped the boy's fly. He tucked his thumbs inside the waistband of Greg's pants and boxers - and stopped.

Jesse looked into Greg's eyes. "Tell me to stop, and I will. We don't want you to do anything you don't really want to do, okay?"

Greg smiled, but didn't say anything.

Jesse grinned, and sank down, taking Greg's pants and underwear with him. As the clothing passed a certain point, Greg's hard dick popped out and stood up, and Jesse's eyes widened immediately. Shit. It was bigger than Marty's, even.

Marty also looked impressed. "How old are you, Greg?"

"Fourteen."

"Good," Marty said, smiling. "Inferiority complex avoided."

They lifted Greg's feet, one at a time, removed the pants. Greg looked down at himself, naked as the day he was born.

Rafie looked at him as well. He grinned, then looked at Jesse. "Me, too?"

Jesse looked at Greg, who shrugged. "He'll be fine as long as we watch him."

Jesse grinned at Marty, and the two of them went to Rafie, who looked delighted at their approach. "Me, too," he said again, although this time it was not a question.

They undressed Rafie just as they had Greg. Rafie's eyes never left Jesse, as though he had somehow decided that Jesse was the most interesting new thing he had ever seen. It made Jesse a little uncomfortable, but he decided immediately that he was going to ignore it and get along with this new boy. They were, after all, guests of a sort, and Jesse had been brought up to treat guests with respect.

Rafie also looked down at himself once he was naked, and seemed quite delighted with his current status. His dick was quite hard, and a mirror image of Greg's.

"Five inches?" Marty guessed, looking at Jesse.

"Got you by a little more," Jesse decided. "Five and a quarter."

Greg grinned, embarrassed. "That's pretty close."

They all laughed. Somehow, Greg looked like a different guy, and not just because he was naked. Gone was the uncertain look he'd worn since meeting them. He's outta the cage now, Jesse considered.

Jesse grabbed his own shorts and took them off. He was conscious of both Greg and Rafie checking him out, and, as the smallest dick there, felt a little uncomfortable about it. But when he looked up, there was no malice in Greg's smile, and Rafie simply looked delighted that they were all uniformly unclad now.

"Pretty weird," Greg said, looking at his brother. "Rafie doesn't like to be touched by strangers, and sometimes he even doesn't want to be touched by me. But he took to you guys right off. That's never happened before."

"You two were here when we got here?" Marty asked.

"Uh huh. We just got here, in fact. I was even going to say something until you guys started hugging and getting undressed." He looked guilty. "Um, I didn't know what to do, so I told Rafie to sit down and be quiet, and we watched." He gave them an apologetic smile. "Sorry, fellas."

Marty shrugged, grinning. "I don't know what I'd have done in your place. It's kinda the typical gay horny guy thing to watch if you see a couple of other guys getting naked. I don't guess we can be that mad about it. Huh, Jesse?"

Jesse considered how he would have reacted in the same situation, and figured he'd probably have watched, too. "Nah. It's cool. I'm sorry I got mad."

"Thanks," Greg said. "That makes me feel better about it." He grinned. "Rafie saw you, too. It made him smile."

Jesse grinned at Rafie. "Liked what you saw, huh?"

"Yes." Rafie nodded slightly. He looked down at Jesse's dick, gave him a cute almost-smile. "Yes."

Jesse was touched, but also a little uncomfortable. It was a little weird to hear everything the boy said delivered in a kind of flat monotone; but Jesse was already learning to hear the words and than pick up the emotional inflections from Rafie's eyes and face, which were more expressive than his voice.

Rafie was cute, just like Greg. Exactly like Greg. That there was a little confusion somewhere in Rafie's operating system saddened Jesse, but didn't make him dislike the boy or see him as anything less. He was understanding now that, inside, Rafie was the same as they were; it was just that his interface with everything outside was a little messed up.

He reached out for Rafie's hand, but didn't touch it. "Wanna swim?"

Rafie smiled, placed his hand in Jesse's. "Yes."

Greg shook his head. "This is really cool. I've never seen him act like this before."

Marty grinned. "Last one in's a rotten egg."

He and Greg jumped as one, landing in the water with an enormous splash. Marty came up laughing; Greg came up spluttering. "Shit! The water's cold!"

Jesse laughed. "Where have I heard that before?" He gave Rafie's arm a little tug. "Coming?"

Rafie nodded, and Jesse waited as the boy stepped carefully from the bank into the shallows and stopped. Jesse followed, passed Rafie, got into the deeper water, but stopped when their arms drew taut.

"You need to come in deeper, Rafie," Jesse said, smiling. "The crayfish might get your toes."

"Cold," Rafie said, looking down at the water.

"It's not, really," Jesse said. "You'll get used to it. Come on."

Rafie looked at him, gave him that odd, almost-smile, and came in deeper. His face scrunched up a little, and he looked unhappy. "Cold," he repeated.

Jesse got closer, put an arm around the other boy and drew him near. "It just takes a couple of minutes, Rafie. You'll get used to it."

Their bodies came together, shared their warmth. Rafie looked at Jesse. "Better."

Jesse grinned, and moved off, taking them into the center of the creek where the others were. Greg's eyes were fastened on them as they came up, and Jesse could see the wonder in them.

"I'm impressed as shit, Jesse. It usually takes awhile for Rafie to get to where he'll let new people touch him. Some people never get there at all. But he sure took to you and Marty in record time."

Jesse grinned at Rafie, who tried to grin back at him. But his facial expressions were ghosts, at best; shadows of real emotions. Jesse didn't doubt that the real emotions were back there, inside someplace; but they were terribly diluted by the time they showed on Rafie's face - if they showed at all.

"He's okay. Just a little cold."

"Yeah," Greg agreed, rubbing opposite shoulders with his hands. "Takes some getting used to."

Marty looked at Jesse with his arm around Rafie, grinned, and went over and put his around Greg. "That better?"

Greg looked at him, a shy smile warring with a big grin on his face. "Not bad, not bad."

Jesse looked at Marty's face, felt a brief, jealous wind blow across his internal self. But it was gone just like that. Marty was smiling, and he was having fun. But his eyes held no sparkles for Greg, and his touch was the same one he'd give a big dog if it was cold. Marty was playing, and Jesse decided right away it was okay.

Greg looked at Marty. "Why are you guys doing this?"

Marty looked back at him. "Don't you like it?'

Greg bit his lip, nodded. "Yeah. But why?"

Jesse looked over at him. "Just because you're gay doesn't mean you have to be alone. It's nice to have friends who see shit the way you do."

Marty nodded. "Being alone sucks."

Greg looked from one to the other. "You guys are boyfriends?"

Jesse grinned. "You were watching us earlier. What do you think?"

Greg laughed. "You guys are boyfriends."

Marty eyed him. "Ever do anything with a guy?"

Greg looked embarrassed. "Um - some. I have a friend. We jerk off and stuff."

"That's a start," Jesse said. "That was the first thing I did, too."

"And what stuff?" Marty asked, smiling knowingly. "Blow job or two?"

Greg's face reddened, and he smiled. "Maybe."

"Where you guys from, Greg?" Marty was warming to his subject now.

"New York City."

Marty looked surprised. "Wow. What are you doing here? Visiting your grandad?"

Greg's face fell. "We're just staying with him. My parents went on a second honeymoon, to Aruba."

Jesse sensed the other boy's distress. "You guys didn't get to go, huh?"

Greg shook his head. "Nope. My old man said we weren't there the first time, and we weren't going to be there the second time, either."

That was kind of callous. Greg wore the hurt all over, too. It was obvious his father had not considered the boy's feelings when leaving them behind.

"It's okay," Greg said, feigning indifference. "We didn't want to go, anyway. They'll just fight most of the time, and it'll suck. We're better off here."

They were all silent a moment.

Jesse wasn't sure what they were doing. He was going along with Marty, who really just seemed intent on making Greg and Rafie relax. Anyone who could have compassion for a thing that looked like Messy Marvin probably had a lot of it to spare, and Jesse was seeing now that Marty believed in causes. That he was a little protective of his own gayness had already been apparent - that he was protective if it in others was something that Jesse was now learning.

Greg looked at Marty. "Are we here in the water with you guys for a reason?"

"You don't like to swim?"

"Sure." He grinned. His expression said a little more, though.

Marty laughed, looking at Jesse. "Greg's horny."

Jesse could see that, too. And he could feel it radiating from Rafie like the glow of a campfire. But he wasn't sure how he felt about it. They were really a pair of strangers - but then so had been Marty the first time Jesse had kissed him. Jesse looked at Greg now. Then at Rafie. Would they be nice to kiss?

It only took a moment for him to realize that the answer was yes. He had no feelings for either of them beyond a new liking - nothing like he had for Marty. But fun was fun. They were cute, and they were horny, and there was something sad about them both, and Jesse didn't see any reason they couldn't fool around a bit as long as it didn't come between him and Marty. But, most definitely, if Marty wanted to play, Jesse wanted to be in on the games.

"What do we do about it?" Jesse wondered aloud.

Marty looked like he was contemplating the idea. "Why don't we ask Greg?"

Greg looked shocked, then nervous. "Um - shit, I don't know anything about you guys. I already feel a little weird just about being here. I'm not sure I can do more." He looked at Jesse, then at Marty. "Besides, I kinda got someone back home." He frowned. "I sound like a pussy, huh?"

Marty shook his head. "Nope. You sound okay. I like a guy who can think a little with the big head, too." He smiled at Jesse. "That's why I'm with brains over there."

Jesse laughed, until he suddenly saw that there was some seriousness to Marty's expression. Jesse looked at Greg. "He's a fuckin' nut. He knows he's the brains."

Marty looked surprised. "You think I'm smart?"

Jesse nodded. "Fuck, yeah. You don't?"

Marty looked surprised. "Well...I kinda thought you were the smart one."

Jesse was aghast. "Me? C'mon, Marty. You're the one that thinks up all the cool shit we do."

Marty shook his head. "I've had more sex'n you, Jesse, but you know way more about other stuff than me."

They looked at each other in silence. That Marty thought Jesse was smart was a revelation to Jesse. That Marty thought of himself as the dumb one was simply a shock.

Jesse grinned. "Actually, I think we're kinda even."

Marty frowned, then grinned. "Maybe we are." He looked at Greg. "What do you think about that?"

Greg laughed. "I think you're both cute as shit." His face reddened, but he looked pleased with himself that he had said it.

They all laughed.

"What's your boyfriend's name?" Marty asked Greg.

Greg 's face did this really cute thing where his eyes got big and his tongue poked out. Jesse instantly knew what it was - Greg had never really viewed the friend he was having sex with as his boyfriend. Jesse grinned. He'd been there himself.

Greg recovered quickly. "Uh - Brendan."

Marty nodded. "Cool. Is he cute?"

Greg scratched at an ear like he'd never thought about that before, either. "Uh - yeah, he is." He smiled. "He is cute."

Jesse was feeling a little funny. He had been amazed at Marty's experience level when he had first met the boy. Marty seemed to have done everything, and Jesse had felt like a rank amateur. Marty was thirteen-and-half, only eight months older than Jesse, but he seemed so worldly in the area of sex that Jesse had come to think of himself as twelve and Marty as thirteen - just older. And wiser.

But Greg was fourteen - quite a bit older than Jesse. And while he had already done a few things, overall he seemed less comfortable with it than did Jesse. It occurred to Jesse then that sex was situational - it really depended on a lot of things in where you were with it - like who you were with and how fast the two of you moved with it together.

Jesse looked at Marty and grinned, realizing all over again how lucky he was to have Marty as a boyfriend. Marty caught the look, and his eyes settled on Jesse's and sparkled. "What?"

"Nothing," Jesse said, grinning.

Marty's face bunched up into a smile. "Keep teasing me and you're gonna get something."

Jesse couldn't help beaming. "Yeah? Something I like?"

Marty nodded. "Yup."

Greg looked back and forth between them. "You guys need a room?"

Jesse and Marty both laughed.

"You love your guy?" Jesse asked Greg, feeling bold.

Greg looked shocked again. "I don't know."

Marty frowned. "You should. How long you known him?"

Greg shrugged. "We grew up together. I've known him as long as I can remember."

"You kiss him?" Jesse asked. "Does he kiss you?"

Greg was quiet a moment, and Jesse could almost see the thoughts whirling around in the other boy's head.

Greg looked back at him. "He kisses me, mostly." He licked his lips. "Maybe I should be kissing him back more, huh?"

Jesse nodded. "If you love him, yeah. You should let him know, man."

Greg looked unhappy. "I don't know if I love him."

Marty looked into Greg's eyes. "If he was gone - just gone - tomorrow, and you knew you'd never see him again - how would you feel?"

Greg considered that. He licked his lips, nodded at Marty. "Yeah. I see what you mean."

Marty smiled. "Good." He looked at Jesse. "I know how I'd feel."

Jesse felt warm at that. He knew it would devastate him if Marty left his life - he remembered how he had felt after they'd had a simple argument just the previous day. Marty was apparently recalling that, too. And, Jesse could remember how he had felt when Nate had left. It wasn't something he ever wanted to do again.

He felt movement, and then Rafie was putting an arm around him at the waist under the water. He looked over at the other boy, saw a light of liking in his eyes. The eyes were brown, but had little flecks of gold in them, and were warm and interested.

"Comfortable?" Jesse asked, grinning.

"Yes." The smile that appeared on Rafie's face for a moment flickered like a short candle, but had depth. Again, Jesse was touched. This guy was cool as shit, and Jesse felt comfortable now with his touch. That Rafie was feeling an attraction to him was apparent; also apparent was the fact that the weirdness of it was quickly dwindling. Jesse could see a real person in those eyes, and it sure looked like a nice person, too.

The afternoon was edging onward. Jesse couldn't know exactly what time it was, but by the way the sun looked he'd guess it was well after two p.m. - maybe even three o'clock. They'd been here awhile now, and hadn't really done much of anything.

Marty prodded Greg. "How long are you guys here for?"

Greg shrugged. "My dad said they'd be gone for five days. But that's only the minimum. I already know what they do when they go away together. If they go someplace and fight, they come home at the end of what they paid for. But if they're having a good time, they stay until they fight."

Jesse shook his head. "Doesn't sound fun either way."

Greg shrugged. "They're my parents. They're a little weird."

Marty suddenly disengaged himself from Greg and came around to Jesse's side. "Let me talk to you for a second, Jesse." He grinned at Rafie. "Can I have him for a minute?"

Rafie nodded, releasing Jesse.

Marty looked back at Greg. "Don't go anywhere. I just need to ask Jesse something."

Greg scratched his neck, looking uncertain, but nodded.

Marty put an arm around Jesse's shoulders and led him to the other side of the pool. When they were far enough away, Marty leaned close. "What do you think of these guys?" he whispered.

Jesse shrugged. "Seem okay. I like 'em."

"Think they're cute?"

Jesse smiled. "Yeah."

Marty looked at him. "Wanna invite them to sleep out with us tonight?"

Jesse was startled. He already had an idea in his head of how the evening would go with Marty - how he wanted it to go - and his plans hadn't included other people. He was instantly disappointed, then intrigued by the idea, all in an instant. "You wanna fuck around with them?"

Marty shrugged. "Do you?"

"I don't know. They might not even want to. Greg has a boyfriend. And Rafie - I don't even know if he knows how."

"Then he won't," Marty said firmly. But he grinned. "I have a feeling they're both a little experienced, though. And Rafie has the hots for you, in case you didn't notice."

"I noticed," Jesse said, trying not to smile too hard. "Think it's a good idea to ask them, then? Since we might wind up fooling around with them?"

"Would it bother you if we did?"

Jesse shook his head. "No. Not if it was just playing around. You're not going to fall in love with Greg, are you?"

Marty leaned his head forward and bumped it against Jesse's. "What a knucklehead. I only love you, dummy."

Jesse felt good to hear that. "Then what are we doing?"

Marty looked back over his shoulder at the others a moment, then brought his gaze back at Jesse. "I don't know. They're kind of lonely, Jesse. And I think they hurt a little. I think they need us right now."

Jesse smiled, leaned forward and kissed Marty.

Marty smiled. "What'd I say?"

"Nothing. If you want to invite them, I'm cool with it. Maybe we can suck them into a state of happiness."

Marty laughed. "Pervert."

"I try."

They went back. Greg looked both interested in and wary about what they might have on their minds. Rafie simply looked pleased to see Jesse return.

Marty went straight to the point. Well, in a roundabout fashion. "How long you two been here, Greg?"

"We got here yesterday morning. Why?"

"What have you guys been doing all this time?"

Greg shrugged. "There's not a whole lot to do. This place is the butthole of the whole planet, you know that? No offense. But there isn't crap to do here. Me and Rafie went through Grandpa's whole house and his barn and looked at everything, until he and grandma told us to light somewhere. Today I said I was bored, and Grandpa said to go outside and do something. I said, like what?" He grinned. "He said there were a couple of guys my age who had a swimming hole on his land, and he told me how to get here. You know the rest."

Marty nodded slowly. "Ah. A light just came on. I was gonna fuckin' ask you how you happened to come here." He laughed. "Your grandad was trying to dump you on us, huh?"

Greg nodded. "I don't blame him. He and grandma have been really good to us. But they get up when the sun comes up, and they nap in the afternoon. They don't want some bored kids around, making noise and shit."

Marty nodded. "I gotta remember to send your Grandad a thank you note."

Greg grinned. "Like that, huh?"

"Sure," Jesse put in, seeing what Marty was meaning. "Your gramps did us a favor by sending you guys over. It's just me and Marty around here, and Marty's getting tired of me."

Marty's eyes fastened on Jesse's, letting him know that he ought to know better than that.

And Greg was sharper than Jesse had given him credit for thus far. "Yeah, you're full of shit, too, Jesse. I could see the way you two are from up behind that tree. You guys are like a couple of Martian mutant twins sharing the same heart. You'd both drop if you got separated."

Jesse laughed, but was oddly pleased that someone else could see how Marty and he felt about each other. But that thought led right into another: if Greg could see it, others could see it, too. Parker could see it.

Maybe she already had.

Marty seemed to be thinking along the same lines. "Is it really that easy to see?" He looked a little scared at the idea.

Greg laughed. "I could see it, and I don't know you guys at all." His expression softened. "You're nuts about each other." He shrugged. "I think it's cool."

Jesse grinned at Marty, who grinned back.

Greg laughed again. "See? "

Marty chewed his tongue, got control of his grin. "Yeah." He looked back at Greg. "So you haven't been on the other side of the creek?"

"No. Is there something there worth seeing?"

"Maybe." Marty grinned at Jesse. "Should we take them?"

Jesse nodded. "Come on, guys."

Greg and Jesse retrieved the clothing from the far shore, and Greg and Marty carried it over above their heads. Jesse got Rafie and led him to the other shore, and they all met at the stump bench to dry off before getting dressed.

Marty sat at one end, and Greg went to sit at the other; but Jesse nudged him over to the middle and then sat down on the other side of him. He motioned for Rafie to sit next to him, and the other boy gave a little hoot and obliged, sitting and scooting close to Jesse with obvious delight.

Greg seemed in awe of his current situation. He was now the filling in a boy sandwich, and looked a little breathless at all the bare skin touching his. Jesse could understand that feeling completely.

"You guys are fucking nuts, you know that?" Greg said. But he was grinning ear to ear.

"We try," Marty said, looking down. "Nice dick. Can I touch it?"

Greg's mouth dropped open, and Jesse grinned. "Be good, Marty."

"I just want to look at it," Marty said playfully. "It's not like I'd ever suck it unless he asked me to."

They waited for all that to sink into Greg's head, then started laughing.

Greg looked back and forth. "Aw, you guys are fuckin' with me."

"Maybe," Jesse said, smiling. "Maybe not."

Greg shook his head. He looked around, as though trying to think about something other than Marty maybe sucking his dick. "This place is pretty wild. I've read about guys that lived in the country. Swimming holes, and treehouses - shit like that."

Jesse grinned. "Funny you should say that."

"Yeah," Marty agreed. "Funny."

Greg looked back and forth between them. "Funny, why?"

"We got a treehouse," Marty said. "Kind of a tree house. Except it's not in a tree. It's under one."

Greg's eyes widened. "Huh? How can it be a treehouse if it's not in a tree?"

"Well," Jesse said, doing his best to keep a straight face, "we wanted a treehouse, but it's a big job building one up in the branches. So we got smart and built it on the ground, thinking once it was done, we'd just stick it up in the tree." He shook his head melodramatically. "But wouldn't you know, that fucker was too heavy for us to lift?"

Marty tossed his head back and howled. Jesse started laughing too, and a second later, Greg let go. Even Rafie let out a little hoot of glee.

"You guys are fuckin' crazy," Greg said, his eyes scrunched up tight. "Nature pissed on both of you."

They laughed for several minutes. Every time one would get control, one of the others would look at him, grinning, and then they'd all start laughing again.

It eventually wound down, though, and ended.

"Fuckin' too heavy to lift," Greg said, grinning at Jesse. "Nut."

"We really do have a place, though," Marty said. "We call it the fort. We're gonna take you guys over to see it."

Greg stared at him. "For real this time?"

"Yeah. For real."

They were finally dry enough to get dressed, but it was so warm that they all just clothed their bottom halves. Jesse and Marty pulled their boxers and shorts on, Greg and Rafie their boxers and jeans. Rafie had no trouble dressing himself, which added to Jesse's understanding of the boy's level of functionality. Greg was right: Rafie was not retarded - not even slow. Just different.

They all stayed barefoot and shirtless, and carried their shirts and footgear.

"Where is this fort thing?" Greg asked, looking over his shoulder at the creek as it was vanishing behind the trees. "Maybe I should call my grandpa and let him know we're going."

At that thought, he patted the pockets of his jeans, and a frantic look came onto his face. "My phone. I must have lost my...shit." He snapped his fingers. "I left my phone on the table in my room. I was talking to Brendan this morning, and I forgot to put it back in my pocket."

Jesse dug his out of his shorts. "Wanna use mine?"

Greg looked unhappy. "I don't know that number. I just had it in my phone."

"Look," Jesse said, holding up the phone. "Stop a minute, guys."

They drew to a halt. Jesse moved up to Greg and showed him the phone, scrolling down on the screen to an entry that said Mr. Devlin. "My mom always wants me to have a number to call in the neighborhood in case there's an emergency. Mr. Devlin and Nate's folks used to be the only neighbors."

Jesse hit the icon, handed the phone to Greg, who put it to his ear and listened a moment.

"Grandma? It's Greg. Uh huh. We're down by the creek in the pasture. Grandpa sent us down to see if the two guys who lived here were there swimming, and Rafie and I met them. Yes, they were there."

He listened again. "Yeah, grandma. I called because we're going to see the guy's fort, and I wanted to let you know where we were." He listened some more, laughed. "Fort. It's like a treehouse, but it's on the ground." His eyes smiled at Marty.

He listened again, looked at Jesse. "What's your last name?"

Jesse told him.

"Jesse Cole, grandma. Yeah, that's right. It is?" He looked at Jesse again. "Okay. Um, Grandma, I left my phone at your place. I'm using Jesse's phone. What time is dinner? Oh? Okay. We'll be back before then. Thanks, grandma. Goodbye."

He handed the phone back to Jesse. "When I said your name she said your house was right there. I thought we were going a few miles or something." He looked at Marty. "This fort is close?"

"Yeah. We'll be there in a minute."

Somehow, Greg looked relieved, and Jesse grinned. "Think you were being kidnapped?"

Greg laughed. "No - but...you guys are a little weird - no insult - you know? I wasn't sure this wasn't another joke, or that you guys weren't up to something else."

Jesse smiled. "You're safe, Greg. I promise."

Greg looked like he felt foolish for saying anything. "Yeah, well, in the city you never know what people will do. Even kids."

Marty grinned. "Think we were gonna tie you up and have our way with you?"

Greg laughed, but Jesse was astonished to see that the boy was slightly captured by the idea. Holy shit!

Jesse shook his head, giving Greg a contemplative smile. "I'm not sure Marty and me are the only kinky dudes around here."

Greg's face got red, but he just smiled and didn't say anything more.

They kept going, and soon the fort came into view.

"That it?" Greg asked, peering ahead. "Looks like a big wooden box."

"It is," Jesse agreed. "But it's fun."

Rafie stopped, looked at the fort, and brought his hands together in front of him, smiling.

Jesse stepped closer, grinning. "Like it?"

Rafie nodded. "Cool."

They came up to the structure, and Jesse laid a fond hand on it.

"It's pretty big," Greg marveled. "You guys built it?"

Jesse smiled at Marty. "Uh huh."

Marty gave him a look, but didn't contradict him.

"How do you get inside?"

They led the others around to the door, took them inside. The two new boys stood side-by-side, their eyes moving about the interior with a sort of amazement in them that Jesse found cute.

Marty got up on the bunk and opened the vent flap, and set the prop to hold it up. The fort filled with afternoon light.

Greg's eyes settled on the bunk. "Whoa. Cool." He grinned at Marty. "You guys sleep out here?" His eyes went to find Jesse's. "Together?"

Jesse nodded. "Yup. We're sleeping out here tonight, in fact." He grinned. "Wanna come?"

Greg's mouth opened, closed, opened again. "You mean sleep out? Here? With you guys?"

"Yes," Rafie said immediately. He looked at Greg. "Yes."

It was cute and it was funny, and the other boys laughed.

Marty nodded. "Yeah. With us. Here."

Greg closed his mouth and smiled. "For real?"

"Sure," Jesse said, smiling at the number of times Greg had asked them that. "It's fun."

Greg nodded a second, licking his lips. "I'll bet it is." He shook his head. "I still can't figure you guys out."

Marty shrugged. "It's nothing secret or anything. You're like us. Except you're alone, and you don't have anything to do. We just thought you might like to hang out."

Greg looked at them, then grinned slowly. "You guys are a lot of fun." He nodded. "The most fun I've had in awhile, anyway." He considered it further. "I don't know why Grandpa wouldn't let us - I think they'll be happy we found something to do. But I have to ask him."

"That's cool." Marty grinned at him. "If you come, though, don't wear so much. Shorts and a tee-shirt and flip-flops is enough. It'll be warm in here tonight, believe me."

Greg looked suddenly nervous. "Are you expecting us to, um...do anything?"

He looked at Rafie, but Rafie only gave him something that looked suspiciously like a smile.

Marty shrugged. "Do you think you want to?"

Greg looked kind of helpless. "Man, I don't know. You guys are cute and all...but it wouldn't be fair to Brendan for me to be running around on him."

Marty smiled. "That's cool, Greg. I understand that better than you know. But you can still come and hang out." He looked at Jesse. "Is it okay?"

Jesse nodded. "Sure." He grinned at Greg, then at Rafie. "You gotta remember that Marty's my guy, though. If you come, you can't expect me to totally keep my hands off him. You may have to see some shit."

Greg nodded. "Hey, I was happy once jerking off and watching. I could always do that again."

Marty and Jesse both laughed. "Pervert," they said, in unison.

Jesse was amazed now that he liked the two new guys as much as he did. He and Greg had started out on the wrong foot - but that had changed. That Greg was worried about fooling around on a boyfriend he hadn't been thinking of as his boyfriend, or a lover he hadn't thought he loved, but maybe now did - touched Jesse deeply. Loyalty was a big thing with him - that Greg had realized just now that his friend back home might mean more to him than he'd thought, and that he wanted to protect that, told Jesse that Greg was worth getting to know.

Rafie was another story. That he might be really gay, and lonely, was something Jesse was now considering. Rafie left no doubt that he liked Jesse and was attracted to him, perhaps even sexually - and Jesse wasn't sure how to deal with that. If Rafie and Greg spent the night with them, anything could happen. Or not. It was just this really gray area, and Jesse could see that he wouldn't know how to deal with it until it happened.

Greg obviously had shit going on in his life that bothered him, and made him unhappy. Plus he seemed to be the guy that looked out for Rafie the most, and even though he obviously loved his brother, that kind of extra responsibility was also a big burden. Greg was probably over-taxed. People like that could be jerks at times, and Jesse had dismissed Greg's initial behavior as part of that whole problem. Jesse was sympathetic towards that, and he knew that Marty was, too.

And Jesse was seeing now that Marty had a kind of a need to look out for things he viewed as ugly or broken, and that made Jesse wonder a little if Marty viewed himself as falling into one of those categories. That was something they were going to have to talk about sometime. Jesse had no intention of letting Marty walk around thinking he was anything but the smart and sweet and funny and sexy and cute guy he was.

The cot had enough room for all four of them to sit on it, barely, and they did now, getting to know each other a little.

Marty asked Greg something that Jesse had been considering asking himself: "You miss Brendan?"

Greg nodded. "Yeah. I do. I called him this morning, but talking on the phone isn't the same. You know?"

"Depends," Marty returned. "When I talk to Jesse I know he's just a quick walk away, and it makes me feel close to him. But if I was talking to someone a long way off, I think it would feel different. I'd feel the distance."

Greg nodded. "Yeah. It was like that."

Rafie leaned harder against Jesse, and Jesse looked over at him and smiled. "What's up?"

Rafie looked like he was a little confused. But then his hand slid up Jesse's back and his arm draped across his shoulders. He gave Jesse a fond squeeze. "Okay, Jesse?"

Jesse wasn't sure. He looked into Rafie's eyes, could see what was there.

"You know Marty's my boyfriend, doncha?"

Rafie gave a little nod. "Yes."

Jesse leaned closer. "I love him, Rafie. Are you just playing? Having fun?"

"Yes."

Jesse smiled. "Then it's okay."

Rafie squeezed him again, smiled fleetingly. "Good."

Greg was looking at Jesse again with odd wonder. "Man, you really got to my brother, Jesse. I don't think I've ever seen him smile so much."

Jesse grinned. "He's cool as shit, Greg." He turned and smiled at Rafie. "Hear that?"

"Yes." Rafie puckered up and smooched the air again, and Jesse laughed. "I felt that one, brother."

Rafie's on again-off again smile wandered across his face and was gone.

They talked awhile longer. Jesse was conscious of the way Rafie was snuggled against him, the way the other boy squeezed him now and then. Rafie would drop his head on Jesse's shoulder and sigh, but pick it up when Jesse would look at him, and try to smile.

Jesse smiled back each time, a little amused, a little flattered, a little fearful. The signals he was getting from Rafie bewildered him. They weren't just playful in nature. There was feeling in them.

Marty noticed, too. He smiled, but his eyes looked a little worried, like maybe he had started something that might end up being hard for Jesse to handle. Jesse had already decided he was going to hold Marty blameless for anything that happened. He had already allowed Rafie to get close to him, and he was just going to deal with it as it happened.

"Rafie likes Brendan, too," Greg said. "You know - my, uh, boyfriend. He's always got his arm around him, too."

Marty narrowed his eyes. "Uh - Greg."

Greg looked at him. "What?"

"How much does Rafie know about sex?"

Greg frowned, looked at Rafie and Jesse for a moment. He shrugged. "He knows about it. I already said he and I jerk each other off sometimes."

Marty nodded. "What about Brendan?"

Greg winced. "Well - they've fooled around a little too." He looked defensive. "He's my brother, fellas. He needs attention, just like all of us. He also gets horny like everybody else, and that has to be dealt with, too." He shrugged. "Fortunately, Brendan loves him, and will do anything for him."

Marty waved a hand. "Cool down. I'm not judging you. I'm just trying to figure what Rafie might be expecting from Jesse."

Jesse nodded, looking at Greg. "Yeah."

Greg grinned. "Well...he loves having his dick sucked. And he sucks a pretty good dick, too."

Marty looked surprised. "Are you speaking from experience?"

Greg snorted, but laughed. "Nah. He's my brother, man. But he's sucked off Brendan, and Brendan says he's as good as me." Greg's face reddened slightly. "And Brendan gives him head every now and then, too. He did it once for me as a favor, but now he likes doing Rafie, too."

Marty smiled. "Brendan gets both of you? Fuck. Lucky motherfucker."

They all laughed.

Greg smiled at Marty. "You really think that?"

Marty rolled his eyes. "What? That Brendan's lucky? Fuck, yeah. You're cute, and Rafie looks just like you. That means cute two times. I can add just like anyone else."

Greg grinned. "You saying you'd suck me off?"

Marty scratched his head, and looked over at Jesse. Jesse just grinned, already knowing the answer.

"Well - yeah." Marty said. He held up a hand. "Hey, don't get mad for me being honest. You asked, remember?"

"I'm not mad," Greg said, smiling. "I'm flattered."

Jesse became aware that Rafie was looking at him again. He turned his head, found the boy's eyes right next to his. He looked into them, and Rafie's face softened perceptibly. "Jesse."

Jesse smiled. "Rafie."

This time, Rafie leaned over and kissed Jesse on the cheek, again making a large smooching sound.

Everyone just gaped, including Jesse.

Rafie looked around at the others, at their amazement, and a tiny hurt look came onto his face. "Sorry."

Jesse felt odd, and realized he was holding his breath. He let it out slowly. The hurt look on Rafie's face deepened, added confusion to it in passing, and he dropped his eyes. Jesse's heart went out, and the next thing he knew, he had put his arm around Rafie's shoulders and was giving him a squeeze. "Hey. That was okay, Rafie. You just surprised us, is all. But it's okay."

Rafie looked at him, and the ghostly smile transitioned his face again. "Jesse?"

"Yeah?"

"Like Jesse."

Greg was watching in silence, his head cocked to one side, his eyes on Rafies's.

Jesse smiled. "I like you, too, Rafie."

Rafie smooched the air between them again, and gave the closest thing to a real grin that Jesse had ever seen him do.

There was something about it that was just so cute, so open, that it stepped inside Jesse's heart and sat down to visit. Before he knew what he was doing, he had puckered up, and was smooching air back at Rafie.

Rafie laughed. There was no mistaking the sound. The boy's eyes were lit up with delight as they watched Jesse's face. Jesse grinned, looking over at Marty. "You got competition."

Marty grinned. "I see. It's always the quiet ones you gotta watch out for."

Greg smiled at Jesse. "You're really making my brother happy, man."

Jesse brought his hands up in amazement. "I'm not doing anything but sitting here, Greg."

Greg nodded. "I know. Seems to be enough, Jesse."

Jesse looked back at Rafie, who continued to look pleased.

"What's your real name, Rafie?" Jesse asked.

Rafie's face twisted a little, and his mouth worked a second before anything came out. "Raphael."

Jesse liked it. "Cool." He looked over at Greg. "I guess you're Gregory?"

"Yeah. My mom's grandmother was Russian. I don't know if the names are, but mom thinks they are."

"I like both names."

Jesse looked back at Rafie. "You wanna sleep out here tonight, doncha?"

"Yes." Rafie's eyes said everything he couldn't seem to find words for. He was happy, he was having fun being with Jesse, and he wanted it to go on.

Jesse turned to Greg. "You guys gotta sleeping bag over at your place?"

Greg frowned. "I thought I saw one someplace."

"Basement," Rafie said. "Corner."

Greg closed his eyes, picturing. "Oh, yeah." He opened his eyes and grinned at his brother. "You're right. The gray one." He looked back at Jesse. "Should we bring it?"

"Yeah. I was going to say I had one, but I'd have to dig it out." He thought about it. "Shit. Never mind. I'll dig out mine for you. It's a lot easier for me to carry mine down from the house than for you to carry one all the way from your grandad's place."

"You sure?" Greg's expression made it clear he didn't mind bringing one with him.

"Yeah. Let's keep this simple." He considered what else they would need. "I also have a couple of good LED lanterns. The batteries are brand new and I haven't used them yet this summer. So we'll have good light."

Should we bring anything, then?" Greg asked.

Marty grinned. "Anything you have there you want to eat. I got chips and stuff I'll bring, but if there's something special you guys want to eat or drink, bring it."

Jesse looked at Rafie." You like movies?"

Rafie nodded.

"He likes the same stuff I do," Greg put in. "Horror stuff, sci fi - any crazy shit."

Rafie's little smile flashed again, and he nodded.

Jesse looked at Marty. "I can bring my laptop down and we can watch something."

Marty's nodded. "Hey, that's a cool idea." He turned and winked at Greg. "Anything else we want to do we can do later."

Greg's face reddened again, but he grinned. "I"m not promising anything, Marty."

Marty leaned forward. "I'm not expectin' anything, Greg. But you never know."

Jesse grinned. He already knew how hard Marty could be to resist. Still, he didn't want Marty to tempt Greg into something the other boy would be sorry about later. Brendan seemed important to Greg, and Jesse figured that meant something.

Jesse looked at Greg. "So now we just need to know what we wanna watch. Any ideas?"

Greg shrugged. "Hell...I don't know. Whatcha got?"

Jesse thought hard. He'd downloaded a few hundred movies from sites online, and had them saved on his portable hard drive as MP4's. He didn't want to bring the portable drive down - it was sensitive to impact and he didn't want to risk it being damaged. If they could decide on something, he could transfer the file to his laptop.

More than likely, Greg and Rafie had seen more new stuff than old. There were some science fiction and fantasy movies made even before they were born that were pretty damned excellent. Maybe one of them?

"Um...you guys have probably seen everything new. You like aliens or monsters better?"

"Aliens," Rafie said immediately.

Greg grinned. "There you go."

"You guys seen all the Alien movies?"

Greg nodded. "Yeah."

Jesse thought again. "How about Independence Day?"

Rafie gave a little hoot, and Greg laughed. "We've seen that one, too. It's one of Rafie's favorites."

Jesse went slowly down a mental list of movies he particularly had enjoyed, feeling his own taste was pretty good in the area, and representative of what might be liked by the group. But it was beginning to look like the Devlin brothers had seen everything that Jesse had.

"What about Pitch Black?" He finally asked.

Greg looked at Rafie. "I don't think I know that one."

Rafie gave a little shake of his head.

Jesse grinned. "It's the first Riddick movie."

Greg blinked. "I thought Chronicles was the first one."

Marty grinned. "No. There was one before that. They didn't know it was going to be popular. They made the other ones once Vin Diesel became a star."

Greg looked at Jesse. "Is it good?"

Jesse smiled. "Yeah. It's not bad. It's fun."

"
Okay," Rafie said. The corners of his mouth twitched in a near smile.

Greg shook his head. "Wow, Rafie. You're starting to get the smile thing going." He looked at Marty, then Jesse. "You guys are having a really good effect on my brother."

Jesse felt good at that, and he could see that Marty was enjoying it, too. Rafie's expressions were very subtle compared to what Jesse was used to with other people. They came and went, or barely made an appearance at all; but they were there just the same. And they mattered to Jesse as much as anyone else's. That Rafie was happy being there in the fort with them was plain.

"Okay," he said. "I'll bring that movie and a few others. I'll look on my drive before dinner and see what else might be good."

"What time is it?" Greg asked.

Jesse pulled out his cell. "Quarter after four."

Greg frowned, looked at his brother. "Maybe we'd better go, Rafie. Grandma said dinner would be around five. And we might need a little time to work on them if they don't want to let us sleep out."

Rafie nodded.

Jesse looked for something to write with. "Can you call me when you know?" He scrabbled around in the stuff on top of the crate table, found a pencil and a piece of scrap paper. "I'll give you my number."

He wrote his cell number, handed it to Greg. The other boy looked at it, then placed the paper in the pocket of his jeans

As they all stood, Jesse felt Rafie's hand on his arm. The other boy gave it a quick squeeze, and when Jesse looked at him, the almost smile came and went. Jesse smiled back.

"See you a little later, okay Rafie?"

Rafie nodded. He went to Greg, took Greg's hand. Greg smiled. "He has a little trouble remembering direction sometimes."

They went out of the fort, stood in the late afternoon heat, looked at each other. Greg suddenly looked like he didn't know what to say.

"Call me," Jesse said, smiling.

Greg nodded. "Okay." He looked at Marty, smiled. "See you later."

Marty nodded. "Lookin' forward to it."

Greg's face reddened again - he was definitely a blusher. Jesse smiled.

Marty looked over at Jesse. "We should walk with them a little. You can show 'em how to cross the creek."

Jesse hadn't thought of that. He could take them to the tree bridge - but no, that was a more precise crossing than he was sure Rafie could handle. The boy didn't always seem to know where his body was in relation to other things.

"Yeah, there's a place just a little down from the dam. I'll show you."

They walked together. Rafie immediately placed himself by Jesse, and a moment later, had him by the hand. Greg looked over past Rafie - Greg still had hold of Rafie's other hand - and smiled. "We might have to take you home with us, Jesse."

Jesse only grinned. He gave Rafie's a hand a little squeeze, just to let him know it was okay.

"Sorry," Marty said, grinning. "He's spoken for."

Greg smiled, but didn't add anything.

It was the warmest part of the day, and they could feel the humidity. Jesse was a firm believer in the rule that the less clothing one wore on a day like this, the better life would be. He and Marty had both left their shirts and flip-flops at the fort. Greg and Rafie both looked uncomfortable in their jeans.

They arrived at the swimming hole, and Jesse led the group left along the bank, past the dam. A rippling sheet of water flowed across the top, forming a fall of several separate, smooth or twined streams that poured down against large rocks in a frothy pool below. There was a path underfoot now - a little overgrown, but obviously made by human shoes and feet.

Jesse led them to a bend where the banks dropped almost to water level, and where the creek ran shallow among the glistening surfaces of big stones.

"It's not even a foot deep here," Jesse explained. "You guys can just walk across in the water, or step on the rocks."

He let go of Rafie's hand, smiling at the boy. "Be careful where you put your feet, okay?"

Greg was carrying all of their clothing. "Let me take this stuff over, and then I'll come back for Rafie."

"That's okay," Jesse said immediately. "You carry that. I'll walk with Rafie."

Greg just smiled, and started across.

Jesse took Rafie's hand back in his and looked at the boy. "Ready? Just look down, and watch what you step on. Okay?"

Rafie gave a small nod, looked down at the flowing water. They stepped in together, and Jesse paced himself to the other boy's movements. The water was a pleasant chill against Jesse's feet and lower legs, briefly dissipating the sultry feeling of the late afternoon. Rafie looked at him briefly, a mix of facial movements crossing his face and then gone.

"Feels good, huh?" Jesse asked, grinning.

They made it across without so much as a stumble, stepped out onto the sand on the other side. A crayfish skittered across their path and went into the water among the rocks. Rafie looked at it with what Jesse saw as interest.

"Never seen one before, Rafie?"

Rafie looked over at him. His eyes blinked a few times, and then he looked like he might be concentrating, and then he briefly shook his head. The tiny smile quirked his lips, and then died.

"Don't want it to get hold of you," Jesse said, laughing. "They pinch like shit."

Greg was watching them, smiling. "Thanks, Jesse. For everything."

There was a brief splash behind them, and Marty came up beside them. "Everything okay?" He grinned. "I thought I was missing something."

Jesse looked at Greg. "Haven't done much of anything to be thanked for."

Greg smiled at Jesse, then Marty. "You guys have been really cool. I'm sorry again I was such an asshole at first. Just shit on my mind and all." He looked at his brother. "At least Rafie's been cool." He winked at his twin. "Very cool."

Rafie's face moved in what Jesse interpreted as a pleased fashion. "Had fun, Greg."

Jesse smiled. "He's not real big on pronouns, is he?"

Greg shook his head. "No. He has trouble with the self concept, a little. Both his own and other people's. He can actually speak in longer sentences if he needs to, but he generally is satisfied to get his meaning across. His teacher says it's not unusual." He put his hand on Rafie's shoulder and squeezed it. "I never have any trouble knowing what he means." He shifted his gaze back to Jesse and grinned. "Rafie's been talking a blue streak today, compared to normal. He's usually the quiet, thoughtful type."

Rafie made a little noise that could have been a laugh. "Jesse."

Everybody grinned, even Jesse, though he felt his face get warm. That Rafie was stating the reason for his interest in the day's events seemed obvious.

But as if to cement that assumption into certainty, Rafie puckered his lips and kissed air in Jesse's direction.

Greg grinned, and Marty laughed and gave Jesse a little push. Rafie's eyes seemed to hold much that was unexpressed as he looked at Jesse, and Jesse felt just so weirdly pleased at the way the boy looked at him that he had to pucker and kiss air back. If Rafie could have looked delighted, that would be the name that Jesse would have placed on his response.

"Ah," Marty breathed, dramatically. "Love is in the air."

Jesse gave him a push. "I'll air you out in a minute, punk."

Marty grinned, and Jesse couldn't help grinning back. He looked over at Rafie and Greg, both of whom seemed amused at the byplay.

"I'll call you guys as soon as I'm sure we can come tonight." He looked at his brother. "Rafie may have to have a little fit if they want to say no. My grandparents are always afraid he's going to have a spell if he gets too excited."

Rafie looked up into the trees, and Jesse had to smile. That Rafie wasn't above a little arm-twisting to get what he wanted seemed obvious.

"Okay," Jesse responded. "Hope it all works out."

Greg grinned. "It will, or I don't know Rafie." He grasped his twin's shoulder. "Come on, bro. Let's go see what we can do about this shit."

Rafie raised a hand, waved his fingers at Jesse, then at Marty. Both boys waved back.

Greg took his brother by hand, looked at the rise of the bank. "Can we just go back up this side to the trail to the pasture?"

Jesse nodded. "Shouldn't be any worse than the one on this side." He gave Greg an evil grin. "Watch out for skunks."

Greg laughed, but then did a double-take. "You're kidding me, right?"

Jesse shook his head. "Nope. They're around. You won't see one, though. Don't worry about it."

Greg squinted at him, then smiled. "Nut."

He led Rafie by the hand, and they started up the bank of the creek. Jesse and Marty recrossed the water and paced them up the opposite side, until they passed the dam again and Greg and Rafie got to the forked tree. They waved again, then started into the trees. At the last second, just before they disappeared, Rafie turned and looked back, and while they couldn't hear anything, Jesse could see him kissing the air.

Then they were gone.

Marty laughed. "Jesse, that boy has got the hots for you like charcoal under a flamin' hot dog."

Jesse stared for a moment at the spot where the two Devlin brothers had vanished into the undergrowth. He looked at Marty. "It doesn't feel like it's just the hots, Marty."

Marty's grin subsided. "You think it's more?"

"I don't know. It feels different than just the hots." He turned and smiled at Marty. "Greg's kinda got the hots for you. What Rafie has - I don't know."

Marty nodded. "Think Greg will want to play around?"

Jesse shrugged. "Don't know that, either." He looked at his friend. "Don't push, him, huh Marty? He's got a boyfriend back home. I don't want to see him run around on the guy just because he feels like he needs to to impress us."

Marty smiled, put his arm around Jesse's shoulders and squeezed him. "I'm not. I kinda thought the most I suggest is that we jerk each other off or somethin' like that. That's not really runnin' around, is it?'

Jesse grinned. "Maybe not. It's less personal than kissing, and way less personal than sucking the guy's dick." He shrugged his shoulders gently against Marty's encircling arm. "And I do get that you'd like to suck Greg's dick."

Marty sighed. "I'm a whore. I admit it." He leaned over and kissed Jesse's cheek. "I kinda get you'd suck Rafie's dick if he waved it under your nose."

Jesse thought about that, realized that Marty was right. There was something about Rafie that had gotten under Jesse's skin. Laying down with the boy and having some fun together seemed like it would be a pretty nice thing to do.

"Would you be mad?"

Marty smiled. "Are you gonna be mad if I do something with Greg?"

Jesse grinned. "As long as you don't run off and marry him, I don't guess so."

Marty smiled, looked into Jesse's eyes. "Greg's okay. I like him and I think it'd be fun to play around with him. But I love you, Jesse. I'm not going away with anybody else."

Jesse turned into Marty, put his arms around him, hugged him. Marty kissed, and Jesse kissed him back, and Jesse felt like he could feel all the million sweet little feelings that Marty held for him, inside, and which totaled up to an affection that didn't come along in life just all that often. It was warm, and close, and it just felt better than anything to feel.

This is what it was all about, Jesse decided. This was what mattered. Two bodies touching, skins caressing, and two souls whispering special things to each other that no other souls on the planet could hear.

They walked back to the fort, not saying much. The woods were quiet save for a few bird songs, and the occasional far-off sound of something dropping from a tree. The woods cleaned up after itself, shedding things it was done with: leaves, dead branches - even now and then the corpse of one of its former members.

Jesse and Nate had been dead asleep in the fort in the middle of the night the previous summer, only to awaken to an enormous, cracking sound, followed by the indescribable rushing sound of branches-fighting-branches, which had then terminated in a thud that had shaken the earth beneath the fort.They knew it had been a tree going over - a big one, by the impact it had made - and it spooked them enough that it took them awhile to go back to sleep.

In the morning they walked around until they found it - not fifty feet away from the fort. An old oak of considerable proportions, dead on the ground at the feet of its brothers, the stump that had been its home for countless years a mass of sharp spikes and shredded wood. Had it fallen the other way it's topmost branches would have easily given the fort a good swipe - maybe even more. Some of the upper branches were quite massive on their own.

Trees were mostly oblivious to people and their things; had the tree knocked the fort flat - and along with it the two boys inside - the rest of the woods would have gone on as if nothing had happened. The woods tolerated people - but it never catered to them.

Yet Jesse still loved the place of trees, and all it contained. The fort, when they got back to it, looked like it belonged where it was now, weathered gray by nature, its spot beside the big oak that gave it some support unbothered by the small brush that licked the feet of trees elsewhere. A people spot, within a tree spot - yet it belonged.

Jesse didn't want Marty to leave. The boy's company seemed necessary just now. "Wanna come up to the house for a few minutes? Look at my movies and see if I should bring a few extras in case they don't like the Riddick movie?"

"Sure." Marty seemed in no hurry to go. "Means I get to sit on your bed again." He puckered up and smooched air at Jesse.

Jesse grinned, but didn't say anything more as they fell into step together and headed for Jesse's house.

Jesse's mom was in the kitchen, still staring at her laptop. When she looked like this she was usually so focused you could move the refrigerator out and she'd never notice. In fact, Jesse and Marty came in and walked right by her, and were just going into the living room when they heard her voice. "Was that you, Jesse?"

Jesse grinned, stuck his head back around the corner. "Yeah, mom. Marty's with me. We're going to run upstairs and see what movies I got. I'm going to take my laptop to the fort tonight so we can watch something."

His mom was still staring at the screen. "Okay. I'll be starting dinner in awhile, so stay around. Hi, Marty. " She raised a hand, absently waved a few fingers.

Marty stuck his head back next to Jesse's. "Hi, Ms. Cole."

They went up to Jesse's room, closed the door. Jesse went over to his laptop, but smiled as he heard Marty locking the door behind him.

He turned around even as Marty was pulling his shorts and boxers down. He opened his mouth as Marty stepped from them and hopped onto Jesse's bed, grinning; Jesse closed his mouth, realizing that any protest was now wasted.

"You were naked in my bed this morning," Marty whispered. "I just wanna return the favor."

Jesse pulled out his phone, pointed it at Marty. Marty's dick was only just coming up; when he saw Jesse was about to take a picture he grabbed at his junk and stretched his dick out so that it looked longer. Then he grinned down at his favorite body part. "Smile, motherfucker."

Jesse laughed as he took the picture of Marty laying naked in his bed. This one was definitely a keeper.

After that he pulled off his own clothing and crawled into his bed and snuggled up against Marty. Jesse didn't really want to do anything - he just wanted to be close to Marty. The thing with Rafie had left him feeling a little distracted somehow. He kept seeing Rafie's quirky little try at a smile in his head, and the absolutely cute way that Rafie looked at him, like he was trying to use his eyes to convey everything the rest of him wouldn't cooperate well enough to say.

Being naked with Marty while his mom was just down in the kitchen was a little nerve-wracking for Jesse, and he had to call it quits after only ten minutes. But he had a warm memory now, of Marty naked in his bed, in his arms. A memory that could be called forth at night, when he was feeling too alone. And one that could also be amended to something a little better when time and circumstance allowed.

They put their shorts back on and went to Jesse's laptop, plugged in his portable hard drive, looked at his movie collection. As he'd expected, Jesse hadn't thought of a bunch of good titles. He and Marty selected five movies in addition to the one they'd promised Greg and Rafie, for a total of six shots at pleasing everyone.

It was getting close to five o'clock when they finished. They headed back to the kitchen, where Jesse's mom had closed her laptop and put it away, and was starting dinner. His mom cooked during the week, and his dad cooked on weekends and most holidays. They were both fair hands in the kitchen, and Jesse was usually assured of something tasty to eat.

His mom looked at them when they came into the kitchen, her eyes going from one boy to the other. "Jesse, where's your shirt?"

"It's at the fort, mom. I'm gonna walk Marty that far and get it. My flip-flops, too."

She smiled. "You guys been swimming? Good day for it."

"Yeah, mom. Water's nice and cool."

"So you two are sleeping in the fort tonight?"

"You said it was okay."

Jesse's mom held up her hands. "It is, don't get excited. I was just confirming. I talked to your mom earlier, Marty. She's nice. She said you were looking forward to the evening."

Marty grinned. "I am. I've never had anyplace like the fort to hang out before. It's gonna be cool."

She smiled, looked at Jesse. "There's a bag of Doritos in the pantry. Would you guys like to take it out with you? And you can put some ice in dad's little cooler and take some drinks. You guys have to have some goodies for the movie."

Jesse grinned. "That'll be cool. Thanks, mom."

She glanced up at the clock on the kitchen wall. "Better go now and get your shirt. Come on back after that. Dad'll be here any minute and we'll be eating. Okay?"

"Okay. Thanks, mom."

Marty grinned. "Nice to see you, Ms. Cole."

She smiled. "You, too, Marty. Keep Jesse out of trouble, okay?"

Jesse laughed at that. "Yeah, but who's gonna keep him outta trouble?"

His mother raised an eyebrow. "Each of you keep the other out of trouble, how about that?"

Jesse decided to shut up while he was ahead. They went outside, took the path back to the fort. They were halfway there when Jesse's phone rang. He stopped, pulled it out and looked at the screen.

"It's Greg. Cross your fingers. Hello?"

"Hi, Jesse. It's Greg."

"Hi. How'd it go?"

Greg laughed. "We're good. Grandpa said yes right off, but grandma was a little worried about Rafie staying out all night. He had to get a little excited to convince her to let him come."

"They're coming," Jesse said quickly to Marty, who grinned and gave him the thumbs up.

"Cool," Jesse said, back into the phone. "When can you guys come back?"

"We're getting ready to eat now. That'll take about half an hour. We can come after that. When's a good time?"

Jesse already knew that Marty's family ate only a little later than did his. Everybody should be done by six-thirty, at the latest. That was the time he gave Greg.

"Cool. We're looking forward to this, Jesse. Thanks a lot for asking us."

"Yeah, man. Me'n Marty are hyped, too. So we'll see you guys about six-thirty, okay?"

"Okay. Talk to you then. Bye."

"Bye, Greg."

Jesse put the phone away, looked at Marty, who was grinning. "Gonna be a good night?"

"Hell, yeah." Marty gave him a fake punch, danced backwards. "Gonna be a great night."

They went on down to the fort, went inside. Marty reclaimed his shirt and put it on, and stuck his feet into his flip-flops. Jesse got his own shirt and his flops, but decided to carry them.

Marty came up, stood before him, close. "Can I get a kiss?"

Jesse nodded, smiling. They leaned together, and Jesse let the other boy know what he thought of him.

Marty pulled away, smiling. "Fuckin' little monster. Little heartbreaker."

Jesse laughed. "You asked, I gave."

They gave each another a last squeeze, went back outside.

"Call me before you come out after dinner," Marty said. "You want me to come over and help carry stuff?"

"Sure. I got the sleeping bag, the laptop, and some goodies. Probably a small cooler. I could use a hand."

"'Kay. Call me. I'll be there like the wind."

Jesse grinned. "You mean you'll blow?"

Marty looked surprised, then laughed. "Shh. If it gets out there'll be lines and crowds." His blue eyes sparkled, and Jesse loved him.

"See ya," Marty bounded up the path to his house while Jesse watched. Marty turned at the top of the hill, waved, and was gone.

Jesse shook his head as he turned for home, unable to believe how lucky he was.

He put his shirt back on as he got to the house, and when he went in his dad was standing in the kitchen talking to his mom.

"Hi, Jess. How's your day?"

"Hi, dad. Cool beans, so far."

His dad smiled. "I was just telling your mom that Frank and I stopped at the hardware store on the way in so Frank could get some solder. Rick was telling us that Ev Devlin's grandsons were visiting them."

Jesse nodded. "Greg and Rafie. I met them today."

His mom set the lid back on a simmering pot and looked at him. "You didn't mention that earlier, Jesse."

Jesse shrugged. "I haven't really talked to you, mom. You were all over your laptop when me'n Marty came in this afternoon." He smiled. "You didn't even notice us until we got to the living room."

She smiled. "I kind of remember that. Okay, you're right." She looked curious then. "Where'd you see them?"

"Well, they didn't have anything to do, so Mr. Devlin told them about the swimming hole and said there might be other kids there. Greg and Rafie came to look, and me and Marty were there."

His dad looked at him a little oddly. "What were they like? Seem okay to you?"

Jesse wasn't fooled. His dad had heard something. "Sure, dad. Me and Marty invited them to camp out in the fort with us tonight."

Jesse's dad frowned.

Jesse's mom gave her husband an odd look. "Something wrong with that, Matt?"

Jesse waited, hoping there wasn't going to be trouble. His dad seemed to be trying to decide something. "And they both seemed okay to you?" he finally asked.

Jesse nodded. "Sure. If you mean Rafie being a little different, it's okay. He's cool."

Jesse's mom looked blank. "How's he different?"

Mr. Cole looked at her. "I was told he was autistic."

She looked shocked, then turned to Jesse. "And they're sleeping out with you? Mr. Devlin said it was okay?"

Jesse saw he needed to be patient, or thing's were going to go sour. "I spent all afternoon with him and Greg, mom. Rafie is autistic, but Greg said it's called high-functioning ASD. Rafie has a little trouble saying what's on his mind sometimes, and his face doesn't always laugh when the rest of him does." He looked at his dad. "But he's not retarded or anything. He's as smart as you and me. He's just s little different."

His dad looked at him a moment, then smiled. "You like these guys, huh?"

"Yeah, dad, I do. They're cool."

Jesse's mom looked uncertain. "This boy speaks and acts normally?"

"Pretty much, mom. He's not nearly as weird as Uncle Brian."

Brian was his mom's brother, who had dropped out of medical college to become a singer of unusual songs. So far he had manged to make no money at it, and had lived briefly with every relative he had, including a two-month stint at Jesse's house the previous winter. I hadn't worked out well, and Brian had moved on of his own accord.

Jesse's mom made a face, but then she laughed. "I guess I deserved that."

His dad nodded. "Yeah, we're not trying to judge your friend, Jesse. It's just that if he's going to spend the night on our property we need to know he'll be safe doing it. You don't think he'll wander off or get himself hurt, do you?"

"No, dad. Rafie will be fine. Greg watches out for him, and Mr. Devlin wouldn't have let him come if he thought Rafie couldn't do it."

His dad smiled again, nodded, looked at Jesse's mom. "What's for dinner?"

Jesse's mom raised her eyebrows, looked at Jesse, then back at her husband. "Italian turkey burgers. You ready?"

And that was that.

After they had eaten, Jesse helped his mom clean up, but then went upstairs when she shooed him off. He went to his bathroom, where first he took a dump, then a four-minute shower, making sure that all the important parts were clean. He dried quickly, put on clean boxers and a fresh shirt, and then pulled on his shorts. He stepped into his flip-flops, went back to the bathroom, looked at himself in the mirror.

He looked like he'd just run a marathon. He took the other towel from the rack and dried his hair more completely, then brushed it until it looked less wild. Then he brushed his teeth good and rinsed with mouthwash. A final dab of deodorant under each arm made him feel like he was ready for anything the evening had to offer.

Jesse went to the closet in his room and pulled the sleeping bag off the bottom shelf, which emerged covered with game pieces from a combat board game. Jesse shook them all out, then spent a couple of minutes picking up the little squares of cardboard from the carpet.

After that, he got out his two LED lanterns and put them inside the sleeping bag, and rolled it up and put it on his bed,

He called Marty. "Can you come help?"

"I'm at the fort," Marty said. "Be right up."

Jesse took the sleeping bag under one arm, closed his laptop and unplugged the power cord. It should be fully charged, the battery good for more than four hours. Somehow, he doubted their attention to movies would last anywhere near that long. He put the laptop under his other arm, and headed back downstairs.

In the kitchen his mom had laid out a big bag of Doritos on the table and had six drinks in the small cooler. She was pouring ice in with them as he came in.

She looked up. "How are you going to carry all this stuff?"

There was a knock at the back door. Jesse grinned at the timing. "Marty's helping."

Jesse got the door, and Marty came in wearing his trademark grin. "Hi, Ms. Cole." He looked at Jesse. "What am I taking?"

"Can you get the cooler and the chips?"

"Yeah. I brought some stuff to eat, too."

They were ready to go. Jesse's mom looked at them with a little smile. "You guys have a fun time, okay?"

"Sure, mom. Thanks for the stuff."

He allowed her to come over and give him a quick hug, mostly because his arms were full and he couldn't do anything about it. But be balked a little at being kissed. "Mom. Marty's here."

His mother laughed and looked at the other boy. "Marty, does your mom ever kiss you?"

"Yeah," Marty said, grinning. "I'm cool with it."

Jesse gave him a disgusted look. "Traitor. Let's go." He smiled at his mom to let her know there were no hard feelings. "Night, mom. Say night to dad for me, too."

"Got your cell?" his mom asked.

"Yeah. See you in the morning."

Outside, Jesse gave Marty a withering look. "Don't encourage her, Marty."

Marty laughed. "Jesse - I kiss you. I love to kiss you. I don't think it's right I should try to stop someone else from enjoying it."

Jesse gave him another look, but inside, what Marty had said made him feel good. "What time is it, Marty?"

Marty shifted the Doritos to the hand with the cooler, pinching the top of the bag between thumb and forefinger. He pulled out his cell, looked at it. "Six fourteen."

"Great. We can get stuff ready for when Greg and Rafie get there."

The evening was still warm. The sun had gone west, but would still be around for several hours. Under the trees it was noticeably dimmer, and already there were night birds calling, while frogs and crickets had set up their bands and were playing their soothing songs.

"Sounds pretty wild," Marty commented. "I hear them through my bedroom window at night, too." He looked around at the darkening trees. "It's a lot louder out here. They do that all night?"

"Yup. After awhile you won't really notice it, though. It'll just get to be background noise." He looked at the other boy. "I love the way it sounds."

Marty grinned. "That's 'cause you're a country boy, Jesse."

They both laughed.

At the fort, Jesse laid the sleeping bag on the cot, dug down inside and got out the two lanterns and put them on the cot against the wall. He put his laptop on the floor underneath the good end of the bunk and slid it back out of the way. Marty sat the cooler on the floor and dropped the bag of Doritos on the crate table, where a big bag of Cheetoh's and a big drink thermos already held space.

Jesse looked at Marty, who smiled. "What?"

Jesse went to him, put his arms gently around him. "I really had kinda a different idea about what the first time we slept together would be like. I mean...I thought it would be just you 'n me."

Marty nodded. "I know, Jesse. Me, too. But - " He shook his head. "Don't you feel kinda like Greg and Rafie need our company?"

Jesse did. That the other boys had kind of messed up lives seemed apparent. Rafie, especially, seemed like he was lonely. Greg had his friend Brendan, but Rafie's special circumstances would make it harder for him to get a boyfriend, too. To see both how much Rafie wanted company and how hard it was likely going to be for him to get it formed a knot in Jesse's thoughts that was hard for him to untie.

That Rafie understood that Marty was Jesse's boyfriend was unsure. He said he did - but did he really know what the meant? He acted a little like Jesse was up for grabs, and while he said he was just playing, it seemed like he might want more.

That Rafie was complicated was something that Jesse was just really understanding. Rafie would know that his time there would be short, that nothing they did would last. So was he just playing?

He voiced these worries to Marty.

Marty nodded. "Yeah, I've been thinking about it, too, Jesse. I hope I didn't start something that'll be trouble. Rafie likes you - maybe a lot." He grinned. "I already know why, because I like you a lot, too."

Jesse smiled. "I only got room for one boyfriend."

Marty gave him a look. "And it's me, right?"

"You know it is."

Marty shrugged. "Then Jesse, stop worrying about it. Rafie will work out. He and Greg'll only be here a few more days. It's not like anything we do tonight will be permanent."

"Yeah, I guess." Jesse smiled. "When they go, I want to sleep out again with just you, and we'll do it like we wanted to, okay? I'm gonna hold you all night long, Marty."

Marty grinned. "It's a date."

They heard a voice outside. "Wait, Rafie. Don't run."

There was a banging sound against the side of the fort, and then the door opened and a Devlin pushed his head inside. Jesse knew it was Rafie right off, even before the boy opened his mouth.

"Jesse."

Jesse grinned. "Hi, Rafie. Come on in. Is Greg coming?"

"Right here," a voice said outside the door. "Go on in, Rafie."

Rafie squeezed in, stood upright. He looked at Jesse again, and the quirky smile tugged at his mouth. "Jesse."

Then, as if remembering that there was someone else present, he looked at Marty. "Marty." He said it just a little oddly, like Mar-tee.

Marty gave a little wave. "Hi, Rafie. Why don't you come on in and let Greg through?"

Rafie moved to the side, and Greg came in. Both Devlin brothers were dressed in knee-length shorts, white tee-shirts, and sandals. Jesse smiled. They were both quite cute.

Greg was carrying a small, handled cooler, like a big lunch box, which he set down as he came inside. "Hey, guys."

"Hi, Greg," Marty said. "See you dressed for company."

Greg grinned, and even in the off-light Jesse could see his face redden slightly. "Uh - yeah. I wanted to be comfortable, like you said."

Marty responded by shucking his shirt and tossing it on the cot. Jesse tried not to grin as he took the cue and tossed his own next to it.

"Get comfortable, guys," Marty said.

Rafie didn't have to be told twice. His shirt suddenly sailed over at Jesse, who just caught it by reflex. When he looked over at the other boy, Rafie was trying on a pretty convincing little smile.

Greg laughed. "That's just for you, Jesse. He was practicing it in the bathroom mirror earlier."

Rafie took a playful swipe at his brother, which Greg easily avoided. "Ooh - temper, big brother."

Marty laughed. "Well, as soon as we're all comfortable -" he eyed the still shirt-clad Greg pointedly " -we can decide if we want to watch a movie right off, or just hang out a little."

Greg smiled, scraped his shirt off, and tossed it to Marty. Marty looked at it a second, and then, right in front of everybody, lifted it and smelled it, taking a deep breath. "Mmm. Pretty nice."

Jesse laughed first. "Hor-nee muh-ther-fucker."

Greg was red-faced again. "Damn, Marty."

Rafie seemed to find it funny though, making a little hooting sound and trying to smile. Jesse thought it was cute, and went over and poked him. "Rafie's going off."

Rafie poked him back, softly, they returned a few more, and then Jesse was gently wrestling with the other boy.

"Uh huh," Marty said, grinning. "And I'm the horny guy, huh?"

Jesse stopped, his arms around Rafie, the other boy's face only a few inches from his own. Rafie's eyes looked into Jesse's, and Jesse could not fail to see the pleasure that Rafie got in both Jesse's company - and his touch. Jesse grinned, but stepped away. "Sorry."

Rafie gave the little hoot again. "Not."

Greg laughed. "He's saying he's not sorry at all."

Jesse already understood that. "Um - you guys want to see the movie?"

"Yes," Rafie said immediately.

"Sure." Greg pointed at the cooler he'd brought. "Got some chocolate milk, and some chocolate chip cookies my grandma made. They kick ass."

Jesse retrieved his laptop from underneath the bunk, and they pulled the crate table over to the far wall. Even though it wasn't quite seven yet, and the sun would not set until nine p.m., the woods huddling around them limited the light available through the vent flap, and had allowed the interior of the fort to grow dim.

Jesse opened the sleeping bag on the floor between the cot and the crate table, and everyone removed their footgear so as to not dirty the material. Jesse cued up the movie, and went and sat with the others on the cot. Marty had taken one end, with Greg beside him, and Rafie beside him, and Jesse sat carefully on the other end so that the tricky latch underneath would not pop out of its slot and dump him on the floor.

The movie started. They grabbed drinks, cookies, and chips, and everyone seemed very relaxed.

It was a good movie, but it became obvious fairly quickly that everyone was a little preoccupied with other thoughts. For the first ten minutes they ate junk and sipped at their drinks, and Greg and Rafie seemed interested. But Rafie kept moving against Jesse, and it was distracting, and Jesse knew why, and he was just a little afraid of where it would go.

Greg and Marty kept trading little pushes and laughter. That made Rafie push Jesse even more, who playfully pushed back. There was a naturalness to the process that rendered Jesse's inhibitions powerless in short order. Quite quickly they were all laughing and carrying on, the movie rendered to the realm of background.

Jesse finished his cookies and sat his drink on the floor. He laid his hands in his lap, aware that they wanted to be doing other things. So when Rafie reached over and took one, he allowed it, because he knew it was an inevitable thing this night.

Rafie held it in both his own, and rubbed it gently, and hummed a little to himself. Jesse felt it was affectionate despite it's unusual flavor, and was a little taken with the directness of it. Rafie was saying he liked him, without really saying anything at all.

Jesse leaned a little more into Rafie, feeling his warmth, and the pleasing softness of the bare skin of his arm. He felt Rafie leaning back, and Jesse let his head loll over onto Rafie's shoulder. Rafie immediately let his head down against the top of Jesse's, and they sat like that for the next few minutes.

Then there was movement at the other end of the bunk. Marty got up, stretched briefly, then looked at them. "Man, it's hot as shit all crammed together like that."

He grinned, then laid down on his belly on the sleeping bag and propped his head on his hand. He looked back over his shoulder at them. At Greg. "Much cooler down here."

Greg got up and laid down next to Marty - quite close to Marty - and propped his head in similar fashion. Marty grinned, and they went back to watching the movie.

Oh, what the hell. Jesse knew that Marty was both getting space to fool around with Greg and leaving space for him and Rafie to do it. Jesse felt he might as well take advantage of the act.

He sat up straight, smiled at Rafie, pushed on him until the other boy sat forward. Then Jesse lay back, swung his legs up and over Rafie's head, and laid himself down on the cot facing the TV. Rafie looked at him a moment, seeming uncertain.

Jesse rubbed his head a little into the pillow, smiled, and patted the bunk beside him. "There's room for you, Rafie."

It was like Jesse threw a switch. Rafie lay back, swung his legs up onto the cot, and lay down with his back to Jesse, his head laid upon Jesse's crooked arm. Jesse threw his other arm over the boy and pulled him close, and he felt his dick stiffen as the bare skin of Rafie's back came into contact with his chest.

Jesse rubbed his hand gently against Rafie's chest, in slow circles. The other boy laid a hand on top of Jesse's, and let it go along for the ride. Rafie's hair smelled sweet and clean in Jesse's nose, and the other boy's body gave off a faint, musky scent that reminded Jesse pleasantly of the way that Marty smelled. Similar, but different.

Jesse picked up his head and laid his cheek gently against Rafie's ear so that he could still see the movie. But he found he wasn't really watching it, instead just absorbing the pleasant but unfamiliar feel of Rafie's body against his own.

Rafie pulled on his hand. Jesse raised up again and looked over at the other boy. Rafie turned his head, looked at him, and pointed at the boys on the floor. Jesse had to hitch himself a little higher to see what Rafie was looking at.

Greg and Marty were laying together on their sides, facing each other, with their foreheads pressed together. They had their hands down in each other's shorts, and Jesse could tell that they were feeling each other up. A jealous feeling washed over Jesse again, but just briefly. He and Marty had discussed what might occur, more than once. But Jesse kind of didn't want to see more, and laid his head back on the pillow behind Rafie.

Rafie flexed, and then he was turning over to face Jesse. He snuggled closer, and Jesse let him. He was conscious of Rafie's eyes, watching him, and looked up into them.

"Jesse," Rafie said softly. "Jesse."

Jesse smiled, leaned forward, and pressed his lips gently against Rafie's. Just a second, just a quick one. But Rafie's whole body tensed. Jesse put a hand on the boy's bare side, rubbed it gently. "It's okay, Rafie. It's okay."

Rafie took a deep breath, let it out. He leaned forward, pressed his lips to Jesse's and smooched. It seemed loud inside the closeness of the fort, even with the movie going, and Jesse heard a giggle or two from the floor. Jesse grinned, pressed his lips to Rafie's, and smooched him back. To hell with the noise.

Jesse dick was hard, and it was interested. He didn't want to push Rafie; but at the same time he just wasn't sure what the other boy wanted. How much to offer, and how fast, were two questions Jesse simply couldn't know the answers to - unless he tried.

He put a hand down and pushed it gently in between Rafie's legs. He immediately felt the other boy's dick, hard and anxious against the fabric of his shorts. He rubbed it gently, feeling that if the touch was too much, Rafie would let him know.

Rafie did let him know - but not that it was too much. Jesse felt movement, and then a light touch upon his own pecker. Rafie explored it, his movements careful and restrained. Jesse felt his heart speeding up, felt a small tingling along his spine. The message he got from Rafie's touch was the the other boy had done this before, and done it quite willingly.

"Jesse," Rafie whispered, his face pushing close.

Jesse rubbed his hand slowly up Rafie's side. The other boy quivered, and tensed again.

"What is it?" Jesse asked.

"Good," Rafie said.

Jesse smiled.

Rafie nodded. "Good good."

That seemed clear enough. Jesse continued to rub, and Rafie continued to react in a fashion that soon made Jesse wonder if the other boy's skin wasn't just somehow more sensitive than his own. Rafie tried to rub him back, but seemed so distracted by Jesse's own attentions to his skin that he couldn't manage both processes at the same time. Rafie's hand would start to move against Jesse's skin, then pause as each new shudder passed through his body.

It ended when Rafie's hand slid down Jesse's front, and his fingertips pushed inside the waistband of Jesse's boxers, to gently grasp the shaft of his dick. Rafie gave a little breath, almost of wonder, as the contact was made, while Jesse relaxed even further and let himself be felt.

It was pleasant. Rafie's hand was kind, offering a gentle and sensitive examination, touching the shaft of Jesse's dick, the head, and then lightly rubbing Jesse's balls. It was as if Rafie hadn't known what to expect, and now was simply enjoying the newness of what he had found.

Jesse slid his own hand into Rafie's shorts and just as carefully examined the other boy. The solidity of his dick was impressive - the thing was virtually inflexible. Jesse's dick got that way sometimes, when Marty had him really wound up; but usually Jesse's dick retained a certain flexibility when hard - as did Marty's - that allowed for a certain range of movement in their play.

Rafie's dick meant business, though. If it was an indicator of how aroused the other boy was, then Jesse knew he should feel a little flattered.

Jesse laid back a bit from Rafie, and peeled his clothing down to his knees, then used his legs to work them to his feet and then off. Rafie laid there just a moment before copying him, though the other boy had to sit up to get his clothes off.

When he laid back against Jesse, the feeling was warm and sparky. Rafie's skin was charged a little, and seemed to be attracted to Jesse's. They both had a scarcely noticeable coat of fine sweat upon their skin - just enough that there was no friction, and they slid against each other easily, and pleasantly.

Rafie knew right off what he wanted. He slid down, and Jesse could see that Rafie was going for his dick.

"Wait, Rafie."

Rafie came back up and looked at him.

"You gonna suck me?" Jesse asked.

The scattered smile was just visible in the dim light. "Okay?" Rafie asked.

Jesse nodded. "Yeah. Can I do you, too?"

"Yes."

Jesse laughed at the quickness of the other boy's response.

"You ever do it at the same time?"

Rafie cocked his head to one side. "How?

Jesse pushed the other boy back, managed to flip himself around. "Bend your bottom leg so the knee's out, so I can put my head on it," Jesse instructed. "And I'll put mine out for you."

Rafie looked for a moment, as though trying to visualize what Jesse was talking about. Suddenly, his mouth dropped open, and he hooted. "Jesse."

The way he said it made Jesse grin.

But they managed to get into position, and Jesse laid his head down on Rafie's thigh and was eye-to-eye with the other boy's stiff dick. He looked at it a moment, realizing that this was going to be the first time he'd sucked anyone but Marty. There was a little thrill that went with that, but also a little sadness. Marty was not being replaced, he told himself. Marty wasn't going anywhere.

But that is was a steppingstone was obvious to Jesse. A small movement away from the uniqueness that was Marty, into a wider world of other people. Jesse wasn't sure how he felt about it.

Rafie, on the other hand, had no doubts about how he felt. He went down on Jesse slowly but avidly, and Jesse's middle immediately felt the press of the joy button. Rafie sucked like a vacuum cleaner, his tongue moved like a floor buffer. It was totally different from the way that Marty did it, and was thrilling and extremely arousing.

For a few seconds Jesse forgot about the pecker smiling at him from two inches away, and closed his eyes and enjoyed this new and very arousing assault on his joystick. That Rafie was experienced at this Jesse had no doubt now. Man, was this guy experienced! It wasn't really any better than the way Marty did it - it was just totally different. The newness of the experience was a good part of the thrill.

Jesse opened his eyes, took a breath, and leaned forward. Having learned so quickly how good it felt to be had at the way Rafie did it, he tried to emulate what Rafie was doing. He got going, feeling the solidity of Rafie's dick in his mouth, the firmness of the head, the almost unbendable quality of the shaft.

Rafie squeaked at the sudden attention, and nearly spit Jesse out of his mouth. That Rafie had never dealt with the dual nature of this particular experience was obvious. His body trembled as Jesse got going with a will, and it was several moments before Rafie was able to resume.

It went surprisingly fast. In a way Jesse was relieved. There was little in the way of romance to it, certainly none of the feeling that went with making love to Marty. He enjoyed Rafie - he liked Rafie - but he didn't love him, and now Jesse could see the difference. It was an important difference, too.

What he had with Marty seemed less threatened now, less fragile, less subject to destruction. The bond that held them together looked strong and solid in the light of this thing he was doing with Rafie. For the first time in his life, Jesse truly understood the difference between the terms fleeting and tested when it came to love.

Rafie was a sweet interlude, something shared between two guys who had met and suddenly found themselves immersed inside a flurry of liking. Liking, and attraction. Rafie was cute, and he was funny, and there was a deep sweetness to him made sad by the incompleteness of his interface with the world. It was fucked up, and it was hard to deal with that in someone you liked. Someone you wanted to see happy.

Jesse worked hard to make Rafie happy, because he knew somewhere inside that this was likely a one-time thing, a brief sharing that, once done, would be over for good. He wanted Rafie to recall it as something special, something he could remember and maybe smile a little at, and be glad he had done it.

Jesse wanted it to be a memory.

He could feel himself winding up. Rafie, also, was displaying odd signs of being stimulated. His thigh quivered underneath Jesse's head, and Jesse soon realized it was because Rafie's feet were waving back and forth, like they were moving on the pedals of an invisible bicycle.

It made Jesse smile around the shaft of the boy's dick, and wonder what thoughts Rafie was thinking that went along with such motions.

He wanted Rafie to come first. He knew by his own experience that the joy slacked off a bit after the blast, and he wanted to make sure Rafie got the full measure. So when he felt like he was ready to go he sat on the feeling, pushing it away, not looking at it, hoping it would listen when he said he wasn't ready.

He didn't have long to wait. Rafie started to hum a little, a deep vibration that came from down low. It accelerated quickly, moved up the scale, turned into a hooting laugh, and expended itself as Rafie's hips moved forward and his dick squirted rapidly inside Jesse's mouth.

The taste was warm and mild, a little sweet, just like the boy who delivered it. There wasn't a lot of it - less than Marty gave. But it's flavor was memorable, and Jesse knew he would never forget.

The moment was mixed; Jesse - his mind removed from the job of fending off his own orgasm, came with a suddenness that bent his spine backwards until the back of his head thunked gently against the wall of the fort. He shot off with great force, and Rafie made an odd, happy sound as he drank down what was offered. It made Jesse smile again in the midst of his joy - Rafie had his memory now.

When they were done they lay quietly, each breathing a little hard. Jesse squeezed out the last of Rafie's juice from his dick, and he felt Rafie do the same to him. That it was a new process for the other boy somehow seemed apparent. That he enjoyed it seemed equally evident.

After a few moments of silence, and as a restful peace stole over his insides, Jesse sat up and turned slowly so that he could be back with his face next to Rafie's. In that moment he looked out into the fort, and there was Greg and Marty, sitting cross-legged, watching them.

Jesse froze, stunned. Marty grinned, and elbowed Greg gently. "Told you he'd be surprised."

Greg smiled. "Good show, Jesse."

Rafie flipped himself over to look at his brother and Marty, his face a slow reveal of emotion across a palette of stone.

Greg smiled at his brother. "Looked like you liked that, Rafie."

Rafie nodded, and looked back at Jesse. "Good. Good, Jesse."

Jesse couldn't help but to smile. "Yeah, I didn't know we were being porn stars while we were doing it." He looked at Marty. "I thought you guys were busy."

Marty nodded. "Yeah, but we started first, so we were done first. I looked up and saw the party here, and so we watched." He looked contrite. "You're not mad about it, are ya?"

Jesse wasn't. He'd just been surprised. But he didn't want the other two to get off with no comment at all.

So he feigned a slightly sad look as he gazed at them. "Couple of window peepers. You guys should be ashamed."

Marty grinned. "Oh, we are. Aren't we, Greg?"

"Yup. Real sorrowful. I'll have to go to church now when I get home."

Jesse laughed. Behind the other two boys, the credits were rolling on the movie.

"Anybody see Riddick?" Jesse asked.

Marty laughed. "I saw a dick, but it wasn't in the movie."

Greg elbowed him, smiling. "Yeah. Something grabbed me, but it wasn't an alien."

While the other two laughed, Jesse bent forward and whispered into Rafie's ear: "You were wonderful, Rafie." Then he kissed the boy on the cheek. Rafie hummed again, turned his head , and smooched Jesse squarely on the mouth. Jesse couldn't help but to smile.

"Ooh, there's more," Marty said, unknowingly taking the edge off the moment.

Jesse sighed, not even annoyed. It wasn't Marty's memory, it was Jesse's. The kiss was the closer, and he could easily remember it later without the interruption.

"I'm kinda thirsty," Jesse said. "Anybody else?"

They all were. It was too warm, and too humid, and while Jesse didn't have any clothing on, it was still uncomfortable enough that something cold sounded pretty good. He sat up, and only then realized that neither Marty nor Greg had anything on, either.

Hey, fuck it. Jesse saw no need to get dressed. He clambered gently over Rafie and went to the laptop. "Anybody actually want to see the movie?"

"Yes," Rafie said immediately. "Yes."

"Sure," Greg said. "It looked like it was getting good when my shorts got invaded and I lost my concentration."

Marty laughed. "Sorry - that was me."

Greg smiled at him. "Yeah. It was cool, Marty. Thanks."

"I liked it," Marty said, looking pleased. "You taste pretty good."

Greg laughed. "So do you."

Jesse was surprised. "You guys sucked each other off?"

Greg looked at him. "No. We just jerked off. But I ain't wasting any perfectly good jizz. Your boyfriend here delivered a pizza, and I chowed down on it."

Jesse laughed at the reference to Marty's spicy spunk, and looked at Marty. "Oh, a finger-licker."

"Yep." Marty looked pleased with himself, sighed hugely. "Just one more flavor to add to the catalog."

Jesse smiled at him, and the smile that Marty gave him back said he was kidding. Jesse knew. Likely, Marty had seen the experience with Greg in the same fashion that Jesse had viewed his moment with Rafie: fun, but no threat to what they had together. That Marty loved him, Jesse knew. It was plain, and it was sure.

He turned back to the laptop, reloaded the movie. As the new light from the screen filled the interior of the now darkened fort, they handed out drinks and munchies and settled back to watch.

It was a fun movie. The Devlin brothers started in all the right places, and made comments when the gross-out stuff came along. Vin Diesel was fun, and the rest of the cast seemed to know that were in a movie with potential.

By the time it was over it was nearly eleven o'clock. Jesse asked if anyone wanted to watch another movie; the consensus was no. They'd all gotten up early, and they all were feeling it a little.

Jesse had only one thing left in mind to do.

"You guys ever been outside naked at night?" He looked at Greg and Rafie with a grin.

Greg just stared at him. "You mean like outside, outside?" He pointed at the fort's door. "Out there?"

Marty was grinning, and Jesse laughed. "Yeah. That's where we keep it. Out there."

Greg looked at Rafie, and Rafie looked at Jesse. "No."

Jesse stood up. "Well you should. Come on, Marty."

Marty jumped up, ready to dance. He was rubbing his hands together at the thought of a new naked experience.

Jesse went to the door, opened it, went outside. Marty followed.

It was dark as shit. Their eyes were only semi-adjusted to the gloom, and as they stood there, faint patches of light became visible - places where the sky showed through the trees. There was a moon, but it was in quarter-phase, and low, and the light was not strong enough to penetrate most of the leafy canopy above them.

A faint glow was visible from up by Marty's house - probably the back porch light. Jesse knew that people first moving to the area were a little put off by the crazy dark of the night - no streetlights, no glow of a nearby city - nothing, save the sometimes moon, the stars, and whatever light that technology brought with them.

New people tended to leave their outside lights on for awhile at night, until it sank in that there was nothing outside in the dark but the dark itself. Marty's parents obviously felt the closeness of the night in their new home, and left a light on in an obvious request for the night to take a step back from the house. Too, they knew Marty was out there, a part of the dark, and they probably wanted to leave him a light, just in case he needed to come home.

Jesse heard the door creak behind him, and two dark blobs joined them.

"Holy shit," Greg breathed. "Is it ever dark out here."

Rafie gave a little hoot of amazement.

There was a tiny thrill in knowing that, had it been a different time of day, they would be fully exposed to any eyes aimed in their direction. Sure, even during the day there was seldom anyone around; but it was the thought that someone might suddenly appear that was the tease. They'd all been naked outside at the swimming hole - but that spot was well-removed from the houses where Jesse and Marty lived. Well-removed from people that might see them.

When Nate had lived in Marty's house, they had been quite adventurous. One night, in a fit of daring, they had gone up to Nate's backyard naked and sat in the chairs in the gazebo. After that they had gone to the patio next to Jesse's house and sat in the chairs there.

Finally, in the thrall of their own muse, they had walked down Jesse's driveway to the road and the moonlight - as naked as the day they were born - turned left, and walked completely around the loop of blacktop that led back in front of Nate's house behind Jesse's.

The entire time they had imagined hearing cars coming, or thought they heard people walking close by. Their imaginations were also naked that night, and they dared to be both bold and threatening. By the time the boys had reached Nate's driveway they were breathless and covered in sweat, and they had gone back to the fort, dried with some paper towels, and crawled into the cot to be together.

But it had been an adventure that Jesse well-remembered, and remembered fondly.

He didn't think they were up to that sort of thing this night. Especially with Rafie's sometimes uncertainty about how close he was to things. Jesse had sort of promised his dad that Rafie would not be hurt, and he had no intention of allowing the boy to go wandering in the darkness.

Something buzzed by Jesse's ear.

"Better not stay too long," he decided, thinking mostly about Rafie now. "Skeeters will eat us up if we stand in one spot too long, and it's too dark tonight to go wandering."

He heard Greg huff. "Shit. I'm not going walking around in this anyway. I didn't know they still made dark like this."

They filed back inside, and Jesse fired up a lantern. He turned off the laptop and set it someplace safe, and went and sat on the cot. Rafie sat next to him and picked up Jesse's hand again, and clenched it tightly. Jesse looked at him, saw a trace of unease in the other boys eyes.

"Spooked ya, huh?" Jesse asked, smiling.

Rafie trilled a funny noise and rolled his eyes. "Creepy."

Jesse laughed. "It's the same out there as it was when it was light, Rafie. Nothing to worry about 'cept skeeters."

Marty came over and sat next to Rafie, and leaned against him. "You're gonna let me sleep with my boyfriend tonight, aren't you, Rafie?"

Rafie looked at Marty, then at Jesse. He nodded, but Jesse could see the disappointment underneath.

Jesse had an idea. "We could all sleep on the floor. There's room on the sleeping bag. It gets chilly just before dawn, and it would be nice to have people to snuggle with."

Marty grinned. "Works for me. Just as long as I get one side of you, I'll be happy."

And that's what they did. As it drew on towards midnight and everyone became sleepy, they laid down on the sleeping bag, with Jesse and Marty in the middle, and a Devlin to either side of them. They rolled up one end of the sleeping bag as a pillow, and scrunched up together.

Jesse and Marty were faced to each other, their legs entwined and their faces together, each one gently spooned by a Devlin behind. Arms and legs mingled, and it was just generally a pile of boys that had somehow been missed by the dustpan and broom.

Jesse was sleepy, and he remembered kissing Marty, and being kissed by Marty, and then the pleasant warmth of the night, which had cooled a bit, and the softness of friends near. The frogs croaked in slow cycles, the crickets offered their varied stridulations, and the night dissolved into restful dreams.

Jesse awoke at different times, had to change position due to stiffness. The floor was not the cot for comfort by a long shot, and the thin give offered by the down-filled bag underneath them was not enough to offset the insistence of wood and gravity.

He felt the others move, similarly afflicted, no doubt, and the night, while peaceful enough, was not as restful as a normal outing spent in the cot.

The next time Jesse awoke, it was light, and looked to have been light for awhile. There was an odd noise in the fort, one he didn't quite recognize.

"Somebody's phone," Marty mumbled, not completely awake.

"It's mine," Greg said, levering himself up and going for his shorts. He found the cell, tapped the screen, put it to his ear. By then everyone was sitting up.

Jesse got his own cell from his shorts, looked at the time. Seven-fifteen.

"Hi grandma," Greg said. "No, we were just waking up. Is everything okay?"

Greg listened, and a pained look came over his face. "Oh. They did." The response was flat, unemotional. He looked over at Rafie, who seemed to know already where this might be going.

Rafie looked at Jesse, his face seeming sad. He scooted over, put an arm around Jesse's shoulders, and leaned his head against Jesse's.

What was happening? Jesse wondered.

"Yeah, I understand, grandma. Rafie and me will be back as soon as we can. No, he's up. Uh huh. See you soon."

Greg shut off the phone, looked at Rafie.

"No," Rafie said, shaking his head against Jesse's. "Not."

"We have to, Rafie. Better get dressed."

"What's up?" Marty asked quietly.

Greg looked at him. The corners of his eyes looked wet.

"My parents had a fight again. They're back. My mom just called from the airport. She'll be here in about an hour to get us."

"They're back already?" Jesse asked.

Greg nodded. "Must have been a good one they had this time, because they didn't even stay the five days they paid for. And it's just my mom coming to get us. That doesn't sound good."

Rafie's arm squeezed tighter. "Jesse," he said softly.

Jesse looked at the other boy, saw the same damp at the corners of his eyes. Rafie looked forlorn, if that were possible, his expression outside the parameters of any Jesse had seen him wear before. Instinctively, Jesse brought his own arm up and wrapped it around Rafie, and squeezed him back. "It'll be okay."

"Come on, Rafie," Greg said, gently. "You have to get dressed. We have to go."

"Jesse," Rafie breathed again - but he let go and got to his feet.

The two Devlins dressed in silence. Marty and Jesse also dressed, also in silence, neither knowing just what to say.

Jesse wanted to help, but had no experience with this kind of thing. Marty didn't, either. Both of them had parents that got along - maybe something a little less common these days than either boy had ever considered. That Greg and Rafie were hurting was apparent; what Jesse and Marty could do to help was not.

The others finished dressing, and Greg picked up the cooler he'd brought. "Thanks, you guys, for inviting us. We had a lot of fun. We won't forget it."

Rafie was looking at Jesse, his eyes sagging, his expression vacant. But he nodded. "Thanks. Jesse. Mar-tee. Thanks."

The suddenness of their parting was unsettling.

"Wait," Jesse said, pulling out his phone. "Let me get your number, Greg, and you get ours. That way you can call if you wanna talk, and let us know how you are and stuff."

Greg smiled, set down the cooler, got out his phone. They traded numbers, put them in their phones. Greg put his way. His face worked a moment, and then he stepped forward and hugged Marty. "Thanks."

They pulled apart, and then Jesse got a hug.

They all looked at Rafie. His face seemed blank, his eyes empty. But he shuffled forward and put his arms around Jesse, and the strength he used for the hug said volumes about what he was feeling. Jesse hugged back, closing his eyes, feeling slightly overwhelmed at the emotional transfer.

"Jesse," Rafie said softly.

Jesse pulled back, smiled at the other boy. "Rafie."

Rafie gave Marty a smaller hug, and then Greg was leading him to the door. They went outside, where the morning was already warming.

"We'll walk with you," Marty offered to Greg.

Greg stopped. "Um - don't. I mean...I don't wanna say goodbye twice, Marty. If it's okay. You know." He sniffed.

Marty nodded, too hard, his expression a little compressed. "Sure. I know what'cha mean. Call us, okay? Make sure you do, Greg."

"I will. See you guys. Come on, Rafie. Take my hand."

"Jesse," Rafie said a last time, giving a little wave.

And then they were gone.

Jesse and Marty stood there for a few minutes, neither of them saying anything. The parting had just been too swift, too unexpected. They weren't even totally awake, the day scarcely started. It seemed unreal, somehow.

Finally, Marty came over and put his arm around Jesse's shoulders. "Come on. Let's go back in."

They went inside the fort, which seemed oddly empty now, and spent about twenty minutes straightening it up, rolling up the sleeping bag, cleaning up dropped chips and crumbs, putting the crate table back where it normally stood, getting the place back to normal.

After they were done, Jesse sat on the bunk and put his face in his hands, and Marty paced a little.

"That's fucked up," Marty said, looking over at Jesse. "That those guys gotta live like that. Fucked up, man."

Jesse nodded, unable to imagine it. He just couldn't see a life where his parents snapped at each other and then separated into corners, glaring. Jesse imagined Rafie and Greg's parents like that, walking a slow circle under a bright spotlight, yelling and waving their fists at each other, with Rafie and Greg huddled between them. It was an unpleasant and scary picture, and it made him realize how lucky he was not to have to live like that every day of his life.

He decided to remember, when he got home, to give his mom and dad an extra hug that day.

"Yeah," Jesse said, nodding. "I feel for 'em, Marty. I hope it works out."

Marty scratched his head. "I hope they had fun last night. I did. Greg's a cool dude."

Jesse nodded. "So is Rafie. He looked so sad this morning. Gave me a heartache to see him like that."

Marty smiled, came over, leaned down, and kissed Jesse on top of his head."That's one of the things I like about you, Jesse. You care."

Jesse nodded. "You do, too. I can see it." He looked at Marty, thinking. "You know, you're a really special guy, Marty. I hope you know that."

Marty looked touched. "Yeah? You are, too, Jesse."

Jesse smiled. "Do you ever feel like you're not special, Marty?"

The other boy cocked his head to one side. "How do you mean?"

Jesse shrugged. "You kinda take up for the guy that's down. You care about things like Marvin, which are a little spooky. I just wondered if you ever felt like it was you you were looking out for when you do that stuff."

Marty came over and sat down beside him. "I don't know. Maybe. I just think some things need help, Jesse. Some things need another chance, you know. Some things need somebody that cares a little. I care."

Jesse nodded. "I know."

Marty nodded. "I know you do, Jesse. It's 'cause you care, too. I saw that about you, on the day we met. That's one reason I'm here right now." He smiled. "I think Rafie saw it, too."

Jesse frowned. "Is it easy to see?"

Marty laughed. "It is the way you do it, Jesse."

Jesse's cell rang. He pulled it out, looked down at the number. It was the new number Greg had given them. Jesse stared at the phone, then looked at Marty. "It's Greg."

"Better answer it," Marty said quietly.

Jesse nodded, touched the screen, put the cell to his ear. "What's up, Greg? I thought you guys were leaving."

"Jesse?"

With a shock, Jesse realized it wasn't Greg. It was Rafie.

"Hi, Rafie."

"Jesse," the other boy repeated.

There was silence then. Jesse felt his heart beating faster, and wasn't sure why. "Is anything the matter, Rafie?"

"Love you, Jesse."

Jesse felt a rush inside, and tears at the corners of his eyes. "Oh, Rafie. That's so sweet." He knew what he needed to say, what the other boy needed to hear. "I love you, too, Rafie."

He heard a sound over the phone, wasn't sure what it was.

Marty was watching him, could see the emotion on Jesse's face. He slid closer, put his arm around Jesse's shoulders, squeezed him comfortingly. Jesse smiled at him.

"Rafie," Jesse said quietly, "tell Greg that you guys can call me and Marty whenever you want, okay? You call when you want. You hear me?"

"Yes."

"Are you leaving now?"

"Yes."

"Be good, Rafie."

"Bye, Jesse." His voice was almost a whisper.

"Bye, Rafie."

The connection ended.

Jesse just looked at the phone, his insides feeling upside down. He pictured Rafie's crooked, fleeting smile, and the warm look of affection the boy's eyes had held for him. Just like that - that quickly, Rafie had found Jesse and become attached to him. It was something Jesse just didn't understand.

Why do things like this happen? he wondered. People just walk into your life, and become important. He looked over at Marty. It had happened there, too. Marty meant everything to Jesse right now. It was like, when Jesse breathed in, Marty breathed out. Together they made a single life.

It was wonderful and a little awful at the same time, because when people walked in and became important, sometimes they walked out again and were gone. And gone, too, was the feeling they had brought with them; the life and the energy, and sometimes the love. It was awful, and it could hurt; but Jesse also realized he couldn't do without it, wouldn't trade it away, not for anything.

Marty tightened his arm around Jesse, squeezed him. "Rafie got to you, huh?"

Jesse nodded, feeling the tears in his eyes. "Yeah. He's a sweet as shit guy, Marty. Thinking he might never find anybody to love him breaks my heart."

Marty looked like he was going to tear up himself. "See what I said? You care. You got love in you, Jesse. And love's some powerful shit. Maybe the most powerful shit there is." He squeezed Jesse's shoulder. "You never know what it's gonna do. You never know where you're gonna find it."

He nuzzled Jesse's face, his eyes closed tightly. "Love's kinda like lighting a stick of dynamite made by a crazy person. It can blow up in your face, or the fuse can burn down and just fizzle out." He smiled. "And sometimes it goes off just right, and there's fireworks." He opened his eyes and looked at Jesse. "Everybody should have a chance to see fireworks. I hope Rafie gets his chance." He smiled. "I think he's already seen them, a little."

Jesse smiled, kissed Marty - kissed him hard. "I see fireworks, Marty."

Marty pushed his face close, rubbing Jesse's cheek, nodding. "Me, too, Jesse. Big ones, and pretty ones, and all over the sky. Like the Fourth of July, I see 'em. Every time I'm with you."

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