Charlie Boone

by Geron Kees

It's the Great Punkin', Charlie Boone!

© 2016 by Geron Kees. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. All characters and situations are imaginary. No real people were harmed in the creation of this presentation.

"Charlie Boone, are you paying attention to me?"

Charlie looked up as Mrs. Monahan came closer, her hands on her hips and her eyes bleeding fire. He froze a moment, his cell plainly in his hand, and the message from his boyfriend, Kippy Lawson, plainly visible on the small screen: "Kiss U at the lunch bell!"

Charlie gulped, managed to close out the text before the teacher saw it, and laid his phone on the desktop. "Um, I'm sorry. Something you said earlier intrigued me, and I was just checking Wikipedia on it." He hated to lie to her, but she really didn't like honesty most of the time, and had a nasty tendency to hand out detention for it.

Mrs. Monahan's eyes narrowed. "Really? And what was that, pray tell?"

Charlie dug now, trying to recall what the woman had been going on and on about. History and Government was not a favorite subject of his, and he had treated it as he treated all of his least favorite classes: by reading the textbook at the beginning of the year, and memorizing it - more or less. He had an extremely good memory - not quite eidetic, maybe - but very much a sponge into which he could pour facts and figures and expect them to stick around for when he needed them.

"Um - you were talking about the various forms of oligarchy, and saying that gerontocracies had all but vanished from the world now, but that at one time they were numerous, and that the Gerousia of ancient Sparta were a notable example. You said that all members of the ruling Gerousia had to be sixty years of age to be eligible, and that they served for life, and that having older people in charge all the time led to stagnation of the ruling culture."

The teacher blinked at him, obviously thinking he had not been paying attention. He hadn't, really, but his head tended to absorb things even when he wasn't actually listening. She tapped her foot against the floor in annoyance, squinting at him. "So you got all that. What did you find wrong with what I said?"

Charlie gulped. "Well - I don't mean any disrespect, ma'am, but according to what I just looked up, the members of the Gerousia generally were lucky to live to seventy years of age. That means an effective ruling period of only ten years - if that. I just thought that, as most of our own presidents are of similar age, and a lot of them also serve two terms - eight years - that the amount of stagnation in Spartan ruling culture would probably be no more that we experience here in contemporary America."

Mrs. Monahan stared at him a moment longer before a smile spread slowly over her features. "You actually make a very good point, Mr. Boone." She whipped around and retreated to the head of the class, and turned to face the students. "Anyone care to make a comment on what Mr. Boone just said?"

Someone kicked the leg of Charlie's chair, and he turned to see his friend, Ricky Travers, grinning at him. "Brain," the boy whispered, his eyes full of mischief. Charlie gave him an evil look and nodded his head at the teacher, who was far from finished with her hunt.

"You - Angela Pearson!" Charlie almost jumped at that, as Mrs. Monahan swooped to the other side of the classroom. "Doing your fingernails while I am talking will not prepare you for dealing with government later in life!"

The girl in question blanched, and quickly capped the little bottle of black polish she had been stroking onto her nails. "I'm sorry - what?"

Mrs. Monahan sighed, looking sad somehow - she tried so hard to educate, the look conveyed, and these darn kids would not even meet her halfway. But Charlie couldn't fail to note the woman's subtle look of glee as she confronted Angela. Mrs. Monahan was very much a predator in search of prey - that she only pounced and made that prey uncomfortable as hell instead of ripping the throat out of them was a matter of the very law and government she liked so much to preach about, and not due to any restraints built into her own nature.

Charlie looked up at the clock, was surprised to see only a minute or two remaining before the lunch bell. Oh. That was why Angela was doing her nails. Getting ready for lunchtime socializing. Well, it wasn't his business, so he simply stopped paying attention to what was going on on the other side of the room. He couldn't do anything about Angela's impending bout of detention, and it was the girl's own fault, anyway, for sticking her neck through the bars when the tigress was stalking by.

The bell rang, and the classroom bounced to its feet as a single entity and headed for the door. Well, except for Angela Pearson, who was going to be a little late for lunch.

"Chapters five and six, by Monday!" Mrs. Monahan called after them, as they squeezed through the door into the already crowded hallway.

"God, what a witch!" Ricky said into Charlie's ear, as they headed down the hall. The other boy came up next to him and fell into step. "They oughta give her a broom and put her on the roof of the school for the weekend," he continued, shaking his head. "Give Halloween some real meaning."

Charlie looked at his friend and grinned. "You just don't know how to deal with her."

Ricky made a noise, halfway between a grunt and a laugh. "Shit. No one knows how to deal with her."

"I don't have much trouble with her," Charlie said, weaving past a group of girls clustered before a locker, laughing over something.

"That's because you know more than she does, Britannica-Brain."

Charlie laughed. "She has a degree in education. I just like to read a little."

Ricky rolled his eyes and nudged him, but decided not to press the issue, knowing that at best it would be a draw.

"So what you got planned for Monday night? Anything cool?" Ricky grinned at him. "You and Kippy going trick-or-treating?"

Charlie stopped in the middle of the hallway, causing traffic in both directions to swerve around them. "Are you?" He made a point of eying the other boy peevishly, as if to ask without words why he was always saying such dumb stuff.

Ricky looked a little hurt. "Well - no. Fourteen is too old for that crap."

Charlie sighed, taking pity on his friend. "Then don't say such stupid shit, okay? I haven't been out on Halloween like that since I was eleven."

Ricky nodded. "Sorry. Well, what are you guys doing?"

Charlie grinned. "Having a sleepover."

"What?" Ricky's jaw dropped. "On a school night?"

Charlie started walking again, and Ricky pressed close, looking at him.

"Yep. My parents are going to see my Aunt Clair in Albany. She's the one that broke her collarbone cycling. They're driving over this evening. And they won't be back until Tuesday morning." He smiled. "Kippy is staying all weekend."

Ricky made a frustrated noise. "How do you guys get to do this kind of stuff all the time? My 'rents don't let me do shit!"

Charlie drew up at a locker, and jammed his books under his arm as he quickly spun the combination into the lock, pulled it off, and opened the door. "My parents like Kip. They know he's sane and reasonable, like me, and won't talk me into taking my mom's car and heading for Canada while they're gone."

Ricky looked sheepish. "I only did that once."

Charlie laughed. "Once is enough for parents. They see you can act stupid even that one time, they never forget it."

"Yeah, I know. I've been dealing with that one for a while now." But then Ricky brightened. "Can I stay over with you guys one night?"

Charlie looked at him pointedly. "You wanna put your books in my locker, or you wanna stop at yours?"

Ricky handed his stuff over without comment, and Charlie set the books and folders on top of his own and closed the door.

"Well?" Ricky asked.

Charlie shrugged. "Sure, if your folks let you, and you really want to. Just remember, Kippy and I don't pull any punches just because someone else is hanging around."

Ricky nodded at that. "I remember the last sleepover. First time I ever saw a guy suck another guy's dick." His expression showed he was undecided on that. "Kinda weird."

Charlie turned, headed for the cafeteria. "I noticed that you didn't stop watching that time."

Ricky laughed, maybe a little nervously then. "It's hard to look away when someone is doing something like that."

"Uh huh. You had a boner, too."

Ricky looked embarrassed then. "I'm not gay, like you guys."

Charlie smiled at him. "I don't think you are, either, Ricky. But I do sometimes think you got a little bi in you someplace."

Ricky gave him a little push, but didn't say anything else until they reached the double doors leading into the cafeteria. "There's Kippy."

A boy their size with blond hair and green eyes was just inside the door, watching the traffic pass through. When those eyes spied Charlie, they lit with a warm delight. Charlie pulled up and stood in front of him, smiling. "Hi."

Kippy smiled, and it made Charlie's heart turn over in his chest. "Hi."

They looked at each other some more, until Ricky made a small noise of frustration. "We only get thirty minutes to eat, guys."

Charlie leaned forward, and so did Kippy, and they kissed gently, making it last all of five seconds.

Three guys walking by took note, and one of them clutched himself and batted his eyes. "Oh, look! Isn't that romantic? Ooh, hoo! Hi, girls!"

Kippy turned and took one look, and pretended to swoon against Charlie, holding a hand to his forehead in the process. "Oh, hold me up, Charlie! It's that superstud, Adrian Whitacre! Oh, what a choice bit of beefcake!" He straightened, grinned like a demon, and started towards the other boy, hands outstretched, fingers groping air. The look of glee on Adrian's face vanished as if wiped away by an eraser. He squeaked in sudden alarm, and danced behind his two friends, who laughed.

"What the fuck? You stay away from me, Lawson!"

"But I want you, I need you!" Kippy gushed, trying to reach over the shoulders of Adrian's friends - Bret Calloway and David Corman - who grinned, but didn't give.

Adrian took a step back. "Come on, let's go, you guys. Hurry, before this fag gets me."

Bret and David backed up, staying between Kippy and Adrian. "Serves your dumb ass right," Bret said over his shoulder to Adrian. "Keep your mouth shut next time, why don't you?"

"Yeah," David agreed. "We should just move and let Kip through."

"No --!" Adrian turned and ran, disappearing into the crowd.

Bret and David stopped, and dissolved into laughter. They had known Kip and Charlie since first grade, and weren't about to let some new kid get away with name-calling.

"He's not a bad guy," Bret said then, about Adrian. "Just a little stupid sometimes."

Charlie laughed. "We didn't think he could be a complete asswipe, or he wouldn't be walking with you."

"That's the second time he's said something, though," Kippy pointed out, referring to the incident in gym class the week before where Adrian had made a comment about Charlie and Kip showering next to each other.

"Fuck him," Ricky said. "He keeps it up, someone's gonna smack him, and it might just be me."

Kippy looked at him. "Don't you dare. He's a jerk, but he's a harmless one." He smiled. "At least, don't hit him in that cute face. Be a shame to mess that up."

Charlie had to agree with that. What Adrian lacked in personality, he more than made up for in looks. He had the same color brown hair and blue eyes that Charlie had, but somehow managed to make better use of them. And the way he walked and moved was just as sexy as could be. The first time Charlie had seen the new kid, he had given a little sigh, and thought that if he hadn't already been with the best looking, sweetest guy in the ninth grade, he would seriously consider looking into getting to know Adrian a little better.

Well - that was before the other boy's homophobia became known. Now, he wouldn't touch the guy with a ten-foot pole. Funny, how something like intolerance could knock the cute off of somebody.

Bret and David grinned. "Sorry, but this is where we have to leave," David said. "If you're gonna start talking about the guy like that, we gotta go - it might be catching."

They backed off, grinning, and Kippy looked at Charlie. "Did you hear something?"

Charlie laughed. "Not a thing." He raised a hand to Bret and David. "See you, guys."

The other two boys strode off, heading for their usual table, and Charlie turned and headed for the tray line, gently taking Kippy by the wrist as he went by.

"Oh," Kippy breathed, letting himself be drawn along. "I love a man who's forceful."

Ricky sighed, shook his head, and followed.

They got in the lunch line, which had shortened considerably while they had been playing with Adrian, got themselves trays and drinks, and headed over to their table, which was still vacant. It was always vacant, these days. The few times they'd arrived to find other guys sitting there - guys who didn't know - they simply sat with them and acted natural. Usually, the first time the interlopers saw Charlie and Kip kiss or hold hands, they suddenly remembered that they had to be elsewhere. It was usually worth a smile and a laugh, although no one had tested them in a while now. Word travels, and in school it moves on wings.

They weren't the only gay couple in the school - not at all. They knew of a round dozen other couples - guys and girls, both. Charlie and Kippy were, however, the only gay couple in the ninth grade. And while they were on friendly terms with the others, they didn't much associate with them in school. That was a grade barrier, and nothing else. Freshmen and Sophomores might cross the line, sometimes; but almost never did Freshmen hang out with Juniors, or - god-forbid - Seniors. And the other gay couples were older, every one of them.

The boys had lots of friends, though, and got along with most everyone. But they weren't members of any of the cliques - and that was mostly by their own choice. Charlie and Kip liked to be themselves, and they had learned that acceptance was one thing, and comfort another. Many of the people who knew them and liked them were still somehow uncomfortable with being in their presence when they were being intimate. Charlie and Kip didn't hang on each other in public; but they did kiss, and hold hands, and smile into each other's eyes, and for some reason many other people felt they were trespassing in a private moment when that happened. It made them uncomfortable.

Ricky Travers was a special exception. He had known both boys since they had all toddled around pre-school together, and he was not about to be put off of his friends by their closeness. He was also immune to gossip, or the occasional wink when people suggested that he was there for another reason altogether. He just didn't care what people thought, for the most part; Charlie and Kip were his friends, and that was all that mattered to him.

And, well, there was that time at Barbara Kinnison's party where someone had opened a closet door and found Ricky inside with his pants down, and Lisa Kiddler happily sucking his dick. It had kind of dispelled the rumors that Ricky might be gay himself.

They sat at the table and immediately started eating, conscious of how little time remained now before the bell for fifth period classes would sound.

"Ricky wants to stay over with us one night this weekend,"Charlie announced, around his burger. It wasn't bad today, the usual mystery meat tasting surprisingly like beef - seasoned with maybe a little cardboard.

"Great," Kippy said, grinning at Rick. "You can sleep between Charlie and me."

Ricky reddened slightly, but grinned. "Oh, no. You two aren't waking up horny in the middle of the night with me stuck between you. I'll sleep on the cot, just like last time."

Kippy sighed. "Ricky, you're just no fun." He looked at Charlie. "Tell him he's no fun."

Charlie nodded, not taking his attention away from his food. "You're no fun, Ricky. I put the cot in the closet in the hall. You can help me get it out and unfold it the night you stay over."

"Or," Kippy said brightly, "you could stay over all three nights." He winked. "Charlie and I could introduce you to the wonders of buddy-fucking."

Ricky was about to take a sip of his drink; he gulped, and nearly spilled it on the table. "Will you stop that, Kip? It isn't really funny."

Kippy immediately sobered. "I'm sorry. I'm just kidding around." But he leaned forward then. "I just want you to know that Charlie and I both love you, Ricky. If you ever felt inclined to share a little warmth, you'd be welcome as hell."

Charlie looked up then, fastened his eyes on Ricky's. Ricky stared back, his own eyes questioning. Charlie smiled, and nodded slowly. "No question there."

Ricky colored even more, but only nodded, and went back to eating. He was smiling through his embarrassment, though, and Charlie felt his eyebrows go up at the thought that Ricky didn't look like he was throwing the idea of sleeping with them away like he usually did. Wow.

Kippy may or may not have seen it, too; but he decided that it was time to change the subject. "So - what are we doing special for Halloween night? Ricky, if you can only make one night, Monday night is the one you need to aim for. We want to have some fun, and you being there will help that happen."

Ricky nodded. "Maybe. I'll have to see what I can squeeze out of the 'rents. Or, my mom, anyway. My dad is on the road for a few days."

Charlie looked at Kip. "You have something in mind for Halloween?"

Kippy nodded. "Since your parents will be away, we can pretty much do whatever we want. I thought we'd rig up some scary stuff to terrorize the rugrats with."

Charlie had kind of thought they'd turn off the porch light and pretend no one was at home. "You mean you want to hand out candy and shit?"

"Sure. We can load up on stuff at the dollar store and it won't cost that much. And we can make it scary for the little monsters - and fun for us - in the process."

Charlie looked at Ricky, who grinned. "Sounds like fun, actually," Ricky said. "Spookify Charlie's house, you mean?"

"Yep. I was thinking about that earlier. I did a little research online, and there's all sorts of cheap ways to do scary shit."

"For instance?" Charlie asked, the idea kind of circling inside his head, while he grew more interested in it with each pass.

"Sounds," for one thing, Kippy returned. "I found this site online that has a few thousand sounds to download. Everything from chains being dragged across a stone floor to a Martian invasion of New York City."

Ricky let out an astonished laugh. "Hey, that sounds pretty cool, actually."

Charlie nodded. It did. " I can put my little Boses in my bedroom window. It's right above the front door. Those speakers may be tiny, but they crank out a hundred watts of sound."

"What about creepy lights and shit?" Ricky asked.

Kippy grinned. "Yeah, we can do that, too. I have a light show box that reacts to music - you know, flashes in all kinds of colors? I was thinking we could stash it in the hedge and throw a sheet over it, and when it flashes it will diffuse a little and look cool."

"Hang a few sheets from the tree limbs in the front yard," Rick added, "maybe aim a fan at them so they move around like ghosts."

Kippy looked at him. "You think people will be fooled by that?"

Ricky nodded. "As dark as it is at Charlie's house? You forget we have no streetlights in our neighborhood. The kids and their parents all use flashlights to get around. We did when we were little, too. A bunch of white things flapping around in the dark will be scary, sure."

Kip nodded. He lived in a newer development three streets over, where there were street lights. "I forgot. You guys are in the boonies. Yeah, you're right."

"Actually," Charlie said, the whole idea suddenly looking like fun to him, "there's just all kinds of stuff we can do. What say we get together after school and check out some ideas?"

Kip grinned. "I'll be there anyway."

Rick nodded. "Yeah, me, too." He grinned. "Okay."

Charlie laughed. He'd been living in the house at 12215 Karloff Drive for over fourteen years. And in all that time, he'd never thought of the place as haunted.

Until now.

"Listen to this one,"Charlie said, loading the MP3 file and clicking on "play".

They were sitting up in his room. Charlie's parents had already left for Aunt Clair's, his mom giving him that special hug she always did when they were to be away for a night. Four nights, in this case. His parents had been trusting Charlie to be alone in the house since he had turned thirteen - only about a year and a half now, but it was feeling like a lot longer. Charlie had been very careful to earn and maintain that trust, seeing it as a very important freedom, not to be squandered on dumbness. That he had inherited the common sense that both of his parents were graced with helped in no small portion to maintain that trust. Stupid shit was kind of obvious to him early on, and the way to deal with stupid shit was simply to cut it off the moment it poked up from the ground, so that it couldn't grow into something that could bite.

So his mom had hugged him, and his dad had squeezed his shoulder. "You'll keep your cell with you?"

"Yes, dad. I'll call you if I need to."

"Kippy's parents were just a little hesitant about him staying all four nights," his mom reminded. "If you want to be able to do this again, make sure that the house is still standing when we get back."

"It will be, mom. And if I sell all the furniture, I'll get a good price."

Humor worked with his folks, too. His dad had laughed, and his mother had smiled. He'd kissed them both, making his mom glow and his dad grumble pleasantly, and then they'd been off.

Parents. You had to raise them just right, or they could be troublesome. He loved his more than he could say, and he was always careful not to disappoint them when they trusted him.

A deep, almost subliminal sense of sound rolled through the room, turned into a moan that crawled slowly up the scale in pitch, and terminated in a clear, reverberant tone that suddenly rose in frequency and rang out like the bell tower at the gates of hell, repeating over and over. It was unbelievably creepy - Charlie actually felt the hair on the back of his head stand up.

Kippy stared at him, his mouth dropping open. "Whoa. What the hell is that one?"

Rick simply nodded, also looking astonished.

Charlie squinted at the caption onscreen. "This is the sound made by a vacuum tube warming up - by the electron flow across a grid between the anode and the cathode, amplified a million times."

Kippy shook his head. "That's the eeriest one so far, no doubt in my mind. Are there any more like that one?"

Charlie grinned. "About two hundred. Who knew vacuum tubes were creepy?"

Ricky laughed at that. "How many people other than you even know what vacuum tubes are anymore?"

Charlie rolled his eyes. "They're making a resurgence, actually, especially in home stereo equipment. Purists think they sound better than solid state devices."

Ricky shook his head. "Britannica Brain." His favorite appellation for Charlie these days, it seemed.

Kippy narrowed his eyes. "You leave Britannica Brain alone." He smiled at Charlie. "I still love you, even if I hear pages turning when you think."

Charlie grinned at both of them. "And to think I actually invited the two of you over."

Everyone laughed.

Charlie downloaded more creepy vacuum tube noises, and then they compared notes on their list.

"Okay, we got chain rattling sounds - um, twelve varieties. Creaking doors and floors, nineteen varieties. Maniacal laughter, eight varieties. Screams, twenty-two varieties. Strange bumps and bangs, eleven varieties. And electrons wailing in vacuum tubes, thirty varieties. I'd say we're set for sounds."

Kippy looked at the clock by the bed. "I'm getting kind of hungry. We've been doing this for two hours. How about we get a pizza or something?"

Ricky sighed. "I need to run home and talk to my mom about staying over." Ricky lived at the other end of the block, a short run. He dug into his pocket, pulled out some papers, hunted through them, produced a five dollar bill. "Here's my contribution. I'll be back to eat, if nothing else."

Charlie took the bill and laid it on the nightstand. His dad had left him money for food, and he had some of his own. He didn't expect contributions when it was his party - but he knew how Ricky was, and he didn't argue.

Kip also produced a fiver and laid it on top of Ricky's bill. "I know that isn't much, Charlie, but I have more and I'll put in for everything we do this weekend."

Charlie grinned, leaned forward, and kissed his boyfriend. "Mmm. There's payment enough."

Kippy drew back, his face aglow. "You say the nicest things, Charlie Boone. I may just fall in love with you someday."


"Okay. I'm in love with you now. Split some hairs, will you?"

Rick was standing near them, his expression patient. He had been through this little scenario so many times now that he knew the dialog by heart.

Charlie looked up at his friend and grinned. Then he looked at Kippy, and nodded at Ricky. "He's leaving. Shall we give him a proper goodbye?"

Mischief arrived on Kippy's face, and he stood, stepping behind Ricky. Charlie stood at the same time, and moved to stand in front of Ricky. "We'll miss you," he said softly, pouting.

At the same time, Kippy leaned against Ricky from the rear, put his hands on Ricky's hips, and laid his chin on the boy's shoulder. "You'll hurry back, won't you?"

Ricky took a breath, his face reddening. Charlie grinned and stepped closer, until their chests touched. He looked into Ricky's eyes, intending to say something else funny...and stopped. Ricky gazed back at him, his eyes slightly widened, but with no fear there, no discomfort - no revulsion. Charlie saw a lot of things then, in Ricky's eyes. He saw all the years they had been friends, and all the things they had shared - the laughs, the hurts, the indecisions, the fun; and, a little deeper, a little less obvious - all the support and all the loyalty that Ricky had given as a friend, without strings attached, ever.

Ricky looked back at him, a small smile coming onto his lips, maybe seeing some of the same things in Charlie's eyes. Maybe seeing the affection there.

It was an impulse. Charlie leaned in, and gently touched his lips to Ricky's, while Kippy watched over Ricky's shoulder.

Ricky froze, his lips motionless - but then, to Charlie's somewhat surprise, the other boy was returning the kiss. Charlie turned his head a little, kissed harder, and Ricky responded more intensely for a moment, before pulling his head back, his eyes wide in amazement.

Kippy grinned at Charlie. "Well - that looked like fun." He pushed gently against Ricky's back. "Can I get one?"

To both boy's great astonishment, Ricky smiled, turned his head towards Kippy, and puckered gently. Kippy, never one to refuse a gift, immediately puckered himself, and exchanged a little kiss with Ricky.

And then it was over. Kippy backed off, and Charlie stepped away, and Ricky moved out from between them. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he said, heading towards the bedroom door as if nothing unusual had occurred.

Charlie and Kippy stared after him, both feeling a little bit of amazement at what the three of them had just done.

They heard Ricky clunking down the steps, and then the front door close behind him.

Kippy looked at Charlie. "What was that that just happened?"

Charlie grinned. "Ricky kissed us."

Kippy nodded. "And very nicely, too."

They didn't say anything for a moment; and then Kippy looked at his boyfriend. "If Ricky really wanted to sleep with us - would you let him?"

Charlie licked his lips, not sure how to respond. Honesty was probably his best bet. He pictured Ricky's smile in his mind, and smiled himself. "I love the guy, Kip. Not like I love you - but I do love him." He sighed. "There could be worse things than having him with us in bed."

Kippy smiled. "You kinky bastard. I've seen threesomes online."

Charlie nodded. So had he. "And?"

Kippy came into his arms, wrapped his own about Charlie, and kissed him. They savored each other's warmth and closeness for a moment; and then Kippy drew back. He grinned. "I always wanted to try it."

Ricky came back, and they ordered the pizza and sat in the living room waiting for it to be delivered. Ricky's mom had not been thrilled about the idea of him spending the entire weekend - and Monday night, a school night - at Charlie's house. But somehow, she had been talked into it, with the stipulation that Ricky come home each day to check in and hang out for a little. Ricky's dad was out of town on business until mid-week, so the decision had been entirely hers to make.

Ricky shrugged over that. "I know your parents are cool about you being gay," he told Charlie. "And that your parents got over being upset about it and now support you," he added to Kippy. "But my parents don't really like that I hang out with you guys. I mean - they feel like it's my decision, but I kind of get that they wish I didn't." He grinned. "I think they're worried it will rub off or something."

Charlie was sitting near Ricky, and he scooted closer to the boy and put his arm around his shoulders. "What about that? That kiss you gave us earlier wasn't the act of a raving heterosexual."

Ricky blushed a little. "Um --"

Kippy laughed and came and sat close on the other side of Ricky. "Yeah. What about that?"

Ricky looked from one boy to the other. "I'm not gay. I like girls."

Charlie nodded. "We know that. Anything else?"

Ricky looked over at Kippy, who grinned.

Ricky sighed. "Well, um - I may...kind of...sort guys, too." He shrugged. "Just a little."

Kippy leaned forward and grinned at Charlie. "Ooh - I'm calling dibs! I get to suck his dick first."

Charlie burst out laughing, while Ricky turned even redder - but laughed. "Wait a minute --"

"See?" Charlie scolded, waving a finger at his boyfriend. "You spoke out of turn. He wants me to suck him first."

Ricky huffed hugely, shrugged off Charlie's arm, sat back and raised his own arms, and wrapped them around the two boys and squeezed mightily. "Shut up, you two!"

Charlie grunted - Ricky was strong as shit. He peered back at Kippy, his tongue hanging out. "See, you made him mad."

"We were just playing!" Kippy squeaked.

Ricky gave them another squeeze, then loosened his hold on them. "Morons. Will you let me talk?"

Charlie grunted, trying to work his shoulder back into the socket. "The floor is yours, killer."

Ricky sighed. "I just want to say this, okay?" He looked at Kippy, and then at Charlie. Both boys nodded without saying anything.

Ricky relaxed. "The last time I stayed over with you guys, I got to see...I mean --"

"I sucked Charlie's dick in front of you," Kippy said bluntly.

"Yeah. And I watched." He swallowed. "And...I kind of liked it. Watching, I mean."

He stopped, as if waiting for a reaction. Charlie saw then that this was not a time for play, that Ricky was dealing with something here, and wanted some help with it.

"I told you before that I thought I saw a little bi in you, Ricky."

Ricky looked at him. "Yeah, but I don't want other people to see that."

"We're not other people," Kippy said then. "We're your friends. What we see in you isn't going to be what everyone else sees."

That seemed to make Ricky feel better. "You sure? I mean, you guys get along fine with being gay - but I can't do it. If my folks thought I was fooling around with you two, they'd never let me come back again."

"You're not fooling around with us," Charlie pointed out.

Ricky nodded, biting his lip. "No." He smiled then. "But...I kinda want to."

Charlie felt something nice inside himself - a little bit of thrill, a little bit of joy, maybe. Ricky had been around so long and so steadily that he was firmly entrenched in Charlie's everyday life. He'd loved Ricky as a friend for a long time. Now, maybe to love him a little differently, a little more

He whistled. "Gives me a boner just thinking about it."

Kippy laughed. "I love it when you're subtle, brain."

Charlie grinned. "What? I'm being honest."

"Really?" Ricky made an excited noise. "You'd be okay with it? I mean - you guys are boyfriends, and all. I'd be like a fifth wheel here."

Charlie gave him a little look. "I love Kippy, Rick. You can't get between me and that." He reached out and gently grasped Ricky's a wrist. "But I love you, too. And you can share some of that."

Kippy leaned against Ricky, and Ricky looked at him. "I already told you you'd be welcome as hell."

Ricky nodded slowly. "Okay. I really need to think about this some, though. But it's good to know it's okay with you guys."

Charlie nodded. "It's okay."

They heard a vehicle drive up, and Charlie got up and looked out the window. "Pizza's here. I left the money on the table by the door, Kip. Will you get it? I gotta take a piss."

Charlie hustled to the bathroom to relieve himself, listening as the exchange was made at the front door. He heard the murmur of voices - longer than if they were just getting the pizza - and then the sound of the front door closing. He finished, washed his hands, and returned to the living room.

"You'll never guess who our delivery guy was," Kip said, placing the pizza on the coffee table.

"Greg Everon," Charlie said, nodding. "I saw him out the window."

Kippy looked at him then. "Were you avoiding him? Is that why you had me get the pizza?"

Charlie frowned, but then nodded. "Yeah. Sorry I didn't just tell you."

Kippy picked up the pizza and nodded his head towards the hallway. His eyes held a little more twinkle than usual. "Let's eat in the kitchen. You can tell us about it."

They adjourned to the island in the center of the kitchen and took stools at random spots around the counter where they could all see each other's faces. Kippy flipped back the lid on the pizza box and slid it to the middle of the island, taking a piece for himself in the process.

"I didn't know you really knew Greg," Charlie said, grabbing a slice and biting into it.

"I've talked to him a few times. We're not best friends, by a long way."

Charlie winced. "Sorry. If I had known he knew you, I wouldn't have put you on the spot like that."

Kippy sighed, lowering his slice of pizza. "Just tell me, you halfwit."

Charlie laughed. "Well, you know that Greg is the gayest guy in the school. I mean, he belongs to all those gay organizations online, and he promotes them and stuff." He smiled. "And he has the nicest boyfriend in the school, too. Well, except for the one I have, of course."

Kippy grinned, but didn't say anything.

Ricky did. "I'm assuming you'll eventually get to the punch line of this joke?"

Charlie nodded. "Well, Greg has had a Halloween party the last two years in a row, and he's having one this year, too. And I heard they were pretty awesome. A lot of people at school will be there - our kind of people, you know?" He shrugged. "Since he knows me, I didn't want to put him on the spot, since he didn't ask us to go at school. I mean - I'm not surprised. He's a senior, and were just punk freshmen."

Ricky and Kippy looked at each other and grinned.

"Uh huh," Kippy said, eying Charlie pointedly.

Charlie stared at him. "What?"

Kippy looked over at Ricky, and waved a hand as if passing the ball to him.

"He just asked all three of us," Ricky said. "It's tomorrow night. He said he wanted it on the weekend, and Halloween is on a Monday this year. But he invited all three of us. Said he was sorry he hadn't had time to find us at school and do it."

Charlie gaped, and then he smiled. "No shit? Party, tomorrow night?"

Kippy nodded. "And he said to dress really, really gay." His eyes twinkled. "But not to make it obvious."

Charlie laughed. "Oooh - I love a challenge." He looked over at Ricky and smiled. Ricky paused in mid-bite, his eyebrows going up questioningly. "What?"

"Mmmm," Charlie purred. "I was just thinking how cute you were going to be, dressed up gay."

Ricky resumed eating, his eyes not giving away a thing.

But his smile said it all.

After dinner they walked over to the mall, and bought a huge selection of candy at the dollar store. The same store coughed up a selection of cheesy colored LED lights - some that blinked - and also the batteries to run them. They figured they could tuck the lights in the bushes in Charlie's front yard, adding to the atmosphere.

"Too bad they don't sell fog machines at the dollar store," Charlie remarked. "That would really give us some great atmosphere."

"We could run up to the fog machine store at the other end of the mall," Kippy said, straight-faced.

Charlie swatted him playfully, and pulled him into a quick hug. Several oldsters walking by gaped at them, but the boys were used to that now, and paid no attention.

"Bet we can look on YouTube and find a cheap way to make fog," Ricky said, hauling out his cell. "Hold up a second, and I'll look."

"You're supposed to be the brain," Kippy teased Charlie, rubbing against him. "You should have thought of that."

"You distracted me," Charlie explained, smiling. "My brain cells fold up and fall on the floor when you touch me like that."

Kippy gave him a gentle swat, but his eyes said he loved hearing that.

"Look here, guys," Ricky said, holding up his phone.

The other two boys crowded around, staring at the phone's tiny screen over Ricky's shoulder. A video was playing, and someone was explaining how to make fog.

"Glycerin?" Charlie said, thinking out loud. "Probably get that at the drug store." He watched, as the YouTube guy heated a pan on the stove and dropped a few drops of the viscous liquid into it. It did produce fog, but not a terrible lot of it. And, it seemed you couldn't just dump the whole bottle of glycerin in at once, but had to do it drop by drop so it would vaporize.

He shook his head. "Gotta be a better way."

There was. In the next video, a fellow bought himself a big block of dry ice - frozen carbon dioxide. He put a sizable chunk of it into a drum, into which he cut a hole and attached an old vacuum cleaner hose. He cut the hose so it was just about a foot long, and stuck out straight from the side of the drum. Then he cut a hole in the center of the drum's lid and attached a small box fan to it, so that the air it produced would blow down into the drum. Then he turned on the fan, lifted the lid, and poured in some boiling water.

The result was a jet of fog out the end of the cut off vacuum cleaner hose, which sank towards the ground and rolled and roiled everywhere, looking just like the moors outside of some haunted Scottish castle.

"Awesome," Kippy breathed.

"Cheap, too," Charlie added. "We've got an old oil drum in the garage we can use. And a bit of hose - and even an old fan. Shit, we can make this in an hour or so."

"What about the dry ice?" Ricky asked. "Can we get that at the supermarket?"

Charlie shrugged. "I don't know. But I'll bet we can find some locally online."

"What about the boiling water part?" Kippy asked. "If we set this up one of us will need to monitor it and add ice and boiling water every now and then."

"I can do that," Ricky offered. "We just need some way to heat the water."

Charlie grinned. "Got an old hotplate in the garage, too. We'll set up a control area behind the hedge by the garage and run the lights and the noises and fog from there."

"Not your room?" Kippy asked.

"No. I can bring my laptop down and we'll stash the speakers in the bushes. It will be more practical to have a command center to do everything from at one time."

Kippy nodded. "I was thinking about that, too. If you run the special effects and Ricky runs the fog, I can hand out the candy." He grinned. "Appropriately costumed, of course."

Charlie grinned. "Of course."

"Wow," Ricky said then, grinning. "This may turn out to be pretty awesome."

Charlie nodded. "Let's get to work on it tomorrow." He shook his head. "Shit. I just realized we will all need costumes for the party tomorrow night." He laughed. "And gay costumes, too."

Kippy shrugged. "We can look in some of the stores here."

"Expensive," Ricky pointed out.

"Yeah." Charlie grinned. "I was thinking we could go over to the thrift shop tomorrow morning and see what's there."

Kippy sighed. "I love you for your brains," he said softly, and leaned forward and offered a quick kiss. As he did so, his fingertips brushed gently against Charlie's crotch, and gave what was there a fleeting rub. "And some other things, too."

Charlie could only grin.

Ricky helped Charlie get the fold-up cot out of the hall closet and set it up in Charlie's bedroom. No more had been said about sleeping arrangements, and Ricky asking for the cot seemed to show he was absolutely intent on taking any new steps at his own pace. They set it up next to the bed, and Charlie got some clean sheets and a blanket and pillow for the other boy to use.

After that, Charlie and Kippy took a shower together, and came back to the bedroom wrapped in towels. Ricky was sitting on the cot in his boxers, waiting for his turn to shower. Charlie had considered asking his friend into the water with them; but the thought had barely formed before he had kicked it away. Ricky needed to do things his way.

Still, Charlie noted the way that Ricky let his eyes rove over their towel-clad forms before he grabbed up his own towel and headed for the bathroom.

"Ricky is thinking about it," Charlie said, as he pulled off his towel and used it to dry Kippy's back. Kippy pulled off his own towel, and started drying Charlie. "See this?"

Charlie looked, and Kippy was displaying a full-blown boner. "That's from the way he just watched us when we came in."

"You had that in the shower," Charlie pointed out. "I tasted it for a second, remember?"

Kippy grinned. "That was a different boner completely. That one went to sleep when we got out of the water. This one woke up when Ricky was looking at us."

Charlie grinned, pulled the other boy closer, and kissed him. "I love you."

Kippy sighed. "I know, Charlie. And I love you. You're the best thing that ever happened to me."

Charlie used his towel to dry Kippy's hair, rubbing it gently as he looked into the other boy's eyes. Kippy smiled the whole time, looking back.

Then they switched, and Kippy dried Charlie's hair. But the looking into eyes and smiling part stayed the same. Charlie sighed. Shit didn't get much better than this.

And then it did.

The bathroom door opened, and Ricky came back, wrapped in a towel, and tossed his boxers in the chair by the desk, making it clear that the only thing beneath the towel was himself.

Charlie and Kippy stood there, absolutely naked, each with a boner requesting attention, and Ricky stopped to check them out. He grinned. "Hey - you guys got dicks."

Charlie and Kippy both laughed. "What gave it away?" Charlie asked, putting an arm around Kippy and pulling him closer.

Ricky shrugged, but his smile never slipped. "Oh, I heard at school that you two were girls. Boy, some people sure are stupid, huh?"

Charlie nodded. "Yeah. Some people are that."

Ricky whipped off his towel, draped it carefully over his head, covering even his eyes, and proceeded to dry his hair. "No peeking, now."

Charlie and Kippy both peeked. The three of them had been friends for their whole lives. They had seen each other's dick's before - well, at least the heads of them, anyway - often enough. Guys had to take a piss outdoors sometimes, in the woods, or at the side of the field while playing ball - lots of places. And you just kind of unzipped and went at it, not caring if your friends were there. At least, that's the way they had always played it.

But this was the first time that Charlie and Kippy had seen Ricky completely naked, and at full-mast, too. Charlie smiled, his eyes taking in Ricky's clean lines and smooth musculature. He was hot, no doubt. Ricky was quite beautiful, a little different from Kippy, but just as appealing. And very desirable.

Charlie looked at Kippy, saw the same thing in the other boy's eyes. Yep. If Ricky made the move to join them in bed, he would be most welcome, indeed.

Ricky took one edge of the towel and lifted it, peeking out at them. "Do I pass?"

Charlie and Kippy both nodded enthusiastically, grinning.

Ricky grinned back, and the boys noticed only then how red their friend's face was under the towel. But that Ricky was pleased was also evident.

Charlie turned and crawled into his bed, tugging at Kippy's arm. Kippy followed, and they settled themselves together and pulled the covers over them.

"Coming?" Charlie asked Ricky, who was watching quite openly.

Ricky turned and slid into the cot, pulling the covers up over him. "I'm still considering it." But he grinned, and raised himself up on one elbow, making as if to watch what came next in the other bed.

Kippy laughed, and reached up and turned off the bedside light.

Charlie had a small LED nightlight plugged into the wall beyond the desk, which cast a warm, soft white glow into the room - enough to see by, but also dim enough to sleep with quite comfortably. He always left it on when he had company, so that he and Kippy could see each other as they made love. Charlie loved to see the quiet glow in the other boy's eyes as he kissed him, and to be able to explore the wonders of Kippy's body by more than touch alone.

Now that light allowed them to see Ricky, too, as he leaned forward intently while Charlie and Kippy made love. From time to time Charlie would glance towards the cot, and he became aware as he slid his dick inside Kippy that Ricky was uncovered, and stroking his own dick as he watched. The combination of having his dick up Kippy's butt and seeing his other friend jerking off was almost too much to bear. Charlie closed his eyes, his awareness reaching into the dark, even the dark outside the room, as Kippy moaned softly and Ricky made soft rustling sounds over in the cot.

Time passed - an hour, maybe. Or was it just minutes?

Eventually, Charlie and Kippy settled back together, wrapped in each other's arms, and kissed.

Charlie heard a sound, and looked up. Ricky was standing by the bed. His dick had gone mostly soft - but not entirely.

Kippy turned to look, too. "You missed the party," he kidded, smiling.

Ricky nodded. "I meant to. I'm not quite ready for that." He smiled. "But I was thinking about that sharing some warmth thing you mentioned earlier today."

Charlie's eyes widened. "You want to get in with us?"

Ricky nodded. "Can I?"

Kippy grinned at Charlie, then tossed off the covers and slid to one side. "Is the middle okay?"

Ricky's eyes seemed to be examining the expanse of sheet between his two best friends, as if it might have landmines or something. Finally, he smiled. "No sex, okay? Not yet."

Charlie and Kippy nodded as one.

"You have our word," Charlie said. "No sex - until you say so."

Ricky laughed, but climbed carefully over Kippy and laid down on his back between them. Kippy scooted back against Ricky, pulling the covers up as he did so.

Charlie also pushed himself against his friend, and Ricky let out a small, delighted exclamation. "Oh my god. All that skin."

"Great, isn't it?" Charlie asked.

Ricky just nodded.

Charlie and Kippy both threw an arm each over Ricky, and a leg each over one of his, snuggled close, and laid their faces on Ricky's shoulders.

"Glad to have you," Charlie said softly, and Kippy nodded.

Ricky took a big breath, let it out slowly. "I can't sleep on my back."

Charlie laughed. "Then turn on your side." He and Kippy backed off, while Ricky rolled onto his side facing Charlie.

"That's not fair," Kippy said immediately. "Charlie gets the front, and I get the back."

Ricky laughed. "I sleep for a while on one side, and then I turn over. You'll get your turn."

"Well, that's okay, then." Kippy snuggled back against Ricky, spooning him a little, and causing the other boy to start. "Geez. Your dick is poking my butt."

"You did that, by facing Charlie," Kippy said, in a mock-peevish tone. "Don't worry, it will stay outside. I promised."

"Speaking of that," Charlie said, unable not to laugh, "your dick is hard again, and poking me in the nuts."

"I can't help it," Ricky breathed. "Sorry."

Charlie nodded. "Okay, then. Let's just none of us worry about what we feel, okay?" He leaned his head forward and gave Ricky a gentle kiss. "We're just happy you're with us, Ricky."

Ricky nodded, but didn't say any more about it.

They lapsed into a quiet conversation, the three of them, about going to the thrift shop in the morning, and finding stuff for costumes, and how they were going to work things on Halloween night.

Charlie's eyes grew heavy, and he began to have trouble concentrating, and he was aware that the others were mumbling sleepily, too.

Charlie cuddled just a little closer to Ricky, and kissed him again. "Love you, Ricky."

He heard the other boy sigh softly, sleepily. "Me, too, Charlie. Me, too."

The last thing that Charlie felt before drifting off was Kippy's hand, draped across Ricky, as his boyfriend's fingers found Charlie's upper arm, and gave it a gentle, loving squeeze.

I love you, too, Charlie, it said.

"Look at this," Charlie said, holding up an old jacket. It had United States Air Force Academy embroidered on the back in blue script. Underneath, someone had sewn on a patch that said, Beer for everyone, and another patch of a small devil with a pitchfork holding a bar glass half-full of beer. The sloppy grin on the devil's face said that it wasn't his first one, either.

"So - what? You want to go to the party dressed as a boozy gay air force cadet?" Kippy asked.

Charlie laughed. "No. I just think it's funny." He held up the jacket, which was several sizes too large for him. But it would fit someday, and he could envision himself sauntering about in it, wearing dark glasses, and looking cool for the senior year at school. "It's only four bucks. Can't beat that."

Ricky laughed. "That's four bucks you can use for something you really want, Charlie."

Charlie sighed, nodding. Some people just had no vision for the future. He hung the coat back on the rack, and moved on.

The thrift store was large. At one time in its past the building had been a supermarket - albeit a smaller store built way back in the fifties - and the place was now crammed with junk that no one seemed to want, but which other people bought by the bagful.

Nothing's ever really done until it's landfill, Charlie mused, looking at the men's clothing as he walked slowly down the length of the rack. There was a lot of stuff here, but all of it was conspicuously ungay in appearance. Dressing for this party might be harder than he had imagined.

"Oh my god," he heard Kippy breathe, and jerked his head around.

Kippy was holding a - well, Charlie wasn't sure what it was. He circled the rack, the other side of which was marked Children/Tweens, and came up beside his boyfriend. "What'cha got there?"

Kippy turned and held the thing up to his body, and Charlie couldn't help but to laugh.

It was a tiger suit. Actually, it looked like pajamas, because it had feet down on the end of the legs. The base color of the suit was a tawny brownish-orange, with mixed black and brown stripes in a beautiful pattern that circled the suit from top to bottom.

"That's way too small for you, dude," Charlie said, but smiled, unable not to enjoy the look of childish delight on Kippy's face. He heard Ricky laugh from the next row over - he could see how enchanted Kippy was with the pajamas, too.

Kippy leaned forward, and rubbed the arm of the suit between thumb and forefinger. "It's stretchy, Charlie," he whispered. Charlie reached out and felt the suit - hmm. It was made of some fine, soft, elastic weave, and probably would fit someone larger than it looked it would. But - still.

"Kip, that's for a ten year-old or something."

Kippy grinned. "I'm going to try it on. Come on."

Charlie rolled his eyes, but cast a helpless look at Ricky, who simply shrugged, and kept on looking at the stuff on the rack in front of him.

Charlie followed his boyfriend to the back of the store, where a row of stalls with curtains on the front stood against the back wall. Kippy stepped into one, and pulled the curtain across. Then he peeked out, smiling at Charlie. "Don't go away."

Charlie grinned, and stood and listened to the sounds of Kippy getting undressed. Shoes coming off, belt buckle being undone...

In only moments, it seemed, Kippy was peeking out again. "Anyone around?"

Charlie looked both ways, and shook his head. "Not a soul in sight."

Kippy smiled, and drew back the curtain.

Charlie had to step back. There just wasn't room, the way his eyeballs bugged out at seeing his boyfriend.

The tiger suit fit better than any glove. It stretched taut and shiny over every single curve and line of Kippy's body, even outlining his junk to military standards of perfection. The suit simply crawled over Kippy's body, looking so much like his own skin that it had to be seen to be believed. Charlie looked down; the fit was so fine that every one of Kippy's toes was clearly defined inside the feet of the suit, right down to the toenails.

Kippy turned to show him the backside, and Charlie gasped. Kippy's beautiful butt also showed clearly in the suit, except for where a sleek tail with a tiny tuft of fur on the end hung down, right along the line of Kippy's buttcrack.

"I didn't see the tail before," he managed to get out.

Kippy laughed. "Isn't it great?"

Charlie shook his head. "Can you move? Can you bend?"

Kippy dropped to his haunches; came back up, bent, twisted, raised first one leg, than the other, clutching his knee to his belly on each raise. The suit conformed to every move without so much as a grunt of complaint.

"Those are not pajamas," Charlie decided, shaking his head.

"Nope." Kippy grinned. "I don't think these were meant for kids. And I don't think they're even meant for a guy at all." He patted his crotch. "A little too snug here, and no pee slit. You see?"

"Do I," Charlie returned, grinning. "Dude, your junk couldn't be more on display if it was waving a flag in the middle of downtown traffic."

Kippy leaned forward. "I'm not wearing anything underneath it, that's why."

Charlie gaped. "Why not?"

"My boxers are kind of big. I had trouble tucking them inside so that I could zip it up." He rubbed his finger down the length of a tiny, nearly invisible zipper that ran down the front of the suit almost to the crotch. "When I wear it to the party, I'll wear sheer briefs underneath, or something."

Charlie shook his head. "You'd actually wear that to the Halloween party?"

Kippy nodded. "You don't like it?"

Charlie gulped, detecting a cliff at his feet. "It''s just so revealing."

Kippy pouted. "Aren't you proud of the way I look?"

Charlie saw no way out. He sighed. "Yes. I love the way you look. And if you want to wear that, it's fine. You'll be the sexiest guy at the party, by far."

They heard a noise, and Kippy ducked back; but it was only Ricky, clutching the handle of a large paper bag. He took one look at Kippy in the suit, and his jaw hit the floor just like Charlie's had done. "Geez, Kip! Why don't you just go to the party naked?"

"I'd be cold, that's why," Kippy said, his eyes twinkling. "And probably arrested, too."

They all laughed.

Kippy sighed. "Now if I only had a way to make up my face. You know, like they did in that show Cats? I'd be just awesome then."

Ricky cleared his throat. "I could probably do that for you."

Charlie and Kippy both stared.

"What?" Ricky said, looking exasperated. "I'm a pretty good artist, actually. I think I could duplicate that suit's pattern on your face, no problem." He grinned. "Even have the body paints to do it with."

Charlie shook his head. "I'd ask - but do we want to know?"

Ricky seemed to think about it, and then laughed. "Nah. You don't want to know."

Kippy stepped forward then and put his hands on Ricky's shoulders. "Can you really do me, Ricky?"

Ricky grinned, tempted by the possibilities of the remark, but refrained from capitalizing upon it. "I think I can." He looked thoughtful. "I think I can even come up with some whiskers for you."

Kippy laughed, and Charlie just loved the look of delight on his boyfriend's face. No matter what happened, that made it all worthwhile. Charlie looked both ways, saw no one, and stepped forward and put his arms around Kippy, hugged him, and kissed him.

Ricky cleared his throat. "Maybe shouldn't do that, guys."

Charlie looked about them again. "I don't see anyone."

Ricky grinned, pointed up and behind Charlie. Charlie turned, and was confronted by the lens of a video camera, looking right at them. "Oh, Oops." He backed away - regretfully - from Kippy.

Ricky grinned. "Probably okay. Someone in some back room probably has a grin on his or her face about now."

Charlie noted the bag that Ricky was carrying, as if for the first time. "What you got there?"

Ricky grinned, and set the bag at his feet. "My costume." He bent, reached into the bag, and withdrew a light blue piece of clothing. He held it up to himself and shook it, revealing it to be a one-piece coverall.

"You're going as the gay mechanic from hell?" Charlie guessed.

Ricky shook his head. He bent, reached back into the bag, and produced something else, which he held up in front of his face.

Charlie gaped. "Is that a hockey mask?"

"Yup. I'm going as the killer from that movie."

Charlie shrugged. "What movie?"

Ricky dropped the mask, looked annoyed. "The Rob Zombie movie - you know."

"Halloween," Kippy said, giving Charlie a look. "He's Michael Myers, and you know it."

Charlie nodded. "Yeah, but Michael Myers didn't wear a hockey mask. You're thinking of Jason Vorhees from Jason X."

Ricky huffed. "Well, he's a damn killer, and everyone knows what he looks like, Charlie. Stop being a brain for once, will you?"

Charlie sat on a grin. "Sorry. It'll be great. Just one problem, though."

Ricky squinted at him. "What now?"

Charlie pointed at the mask. "That's about as far from gay as you can get."

A smile crept onto Ricky's face. "Not when I'm done with it."

Charlie laughed, seeing a playful gleam in Ricky's eyes, and knowing that only something good could come out of it. He looked around, saw no one, and leaned forward and kissed Ricky on the cheek.

Ricky looked embarrassed, but grinned. "You forgot the camera."

Charlie looked up, and cringed a little. "Oh, well."

Ricky laughed. "You're forgiven." He waved a hand at Charlie. "Now - what about you? We have to get you a costume."

"Maybe I can just go as me."

Kippy grinned. "A dumb twink? That's a good idea."

Charlie laughed. "Uh - no. Besides, twinks are usually blonds, remember?"

"Not always," Kippy said, his smile disappearing. "We need for you to have a costume that goes along with mine --" His eyes suddenly got big. "Oh - wait a second!"

He whipped the curtain closed, and they heard him getting dressed. He reemerged a moment later, his shoelaces still untied, and the tiger suit thrown over one arm. "Come on."

They went back to the section where Kippy had found the tiger suit. He walked slowly down the row, examining the clothing. "I was so excited about mine --" He stopped suddenly, grinning, and put his hand on a hanger. "Here we are."

Charlie and Ricky came forward to look, curious.

Kippy pulled the hanger off the rack, and slowly raised it.

It was another tiger suit, identical to the one that Kippy had. Kippy held it up against himself, grinning down at it.

Charlie stared at the suit, seeing where Kippy was going, and not liking the idea at all. Kippy wanted them to go as identical characters.

Oh. Not quite identical, Charlie realized, looking more closely at the suit. This one was not exactly like the one that Kippy had gotten.

This one had a fly.

"No fucking way am I wearing this thing to the party," Charlie insisted, looking at himself in the full length mirror on the back of his bedroom door. My god, you can see each nipple on my chest, Charlie thought, aghast at the idea of showing off his body so blatantly. And my ribs, and my - is that the head of my dick? He gaped at himself.

"Are you kidding? You're fine as shit," Kippy said, admiring Charlie up close. "Besides, you'll have briefs on underneath, and your junk won't show so plainly."

Charlie shook his head. "I don't think so, Kip."

Kippy pouted, and moved closer and leaned against Charlie, pushing his face near Charlie's. "Please? We'll be a beautiful matched pair."

"He's right," Ricky said, nodding. "You guys will be the hottest things at the party."

Charlie gave him a look. "Yeah, you can say that. You'll be safely anonymous behind a hockey mask."

Ricky grinned, and held up his hands. "Just saying."

Charlie looked at his boyfriend, at the pleading look in his eyes. Kippy really wanted this - wanted it badly. How could Charlie say no?

The more he looked at his boyfriend, the more he relaxed. Finally, he smiled. "Okay."

Kippy laughed delightedly. "I love you, Charlie Boone."

Charlie sighed. "Yeah. You'd better. Because we may not live this down, either of us."

He looked at the clock by the bed. "Almost two o'clock. Ricky, you'd better go home and check in, like you promised your mom."

"Yeah. I'll get the stuff I need to make you guys up while I'm there." He nodded at the bag containing the coveralls and the hockey mask. "Plus I have a few alterations to make to my costume, too."

Ricky took the bag and went out, and Charlie stripped out of his tiger suit. Kippy was there immediately, putting his arms around Charlie before he could get away.

"Mmm. I love you naked."

Charlie grinned. "How can you tell? I look the same now as I do in that stupid suit."

Kippy sighed. "Charlie, if you really don't want to wear it, don't."

Charlie looked into his boyfriend's eyes. "No. I want to do this with you."

Kippy nodded. "Then shut up and kiss me."

Charlie did that.

And then he got dressed, before other things could happen.

He and Kippy went online next and found that they could indeed buy ten pound blocks of dry ice at the local supermarket. "We have to go to the meat department," he told Kippy. He also found that he could actually order it and hold it for a certain date, and ordered two blocks for Monday afternoon, just to be sure they wouldn't be left out in the cold on Halloween in case there was some sort of rush. It cost more than he would have liked - but it wasn't water ice, either.

Then they went to the garage to hunt up the parts they'd need for the fog machine. The big old oil drum was still there, sitting in a corner with a pile of junk atop it. They cleaned it off and rolled it out into the middle of the garage. Charlie examined it, and realized right away that the metal was going to be too thick for him to cut into with the tools he had access to at the house.

Fortunately, the drum had a screw-in plug in the side of it, which would take the end of the length of vacuum cleaner hose he had, though it would need a little duct tape to hold it in place. There was a screw-in plug the same size in the lid, but it was not centered, and not large enough for their purposes. The box fan was a nine-incher, and they'd need an opening only a little smaller than that, and square.

They found a piece of clear acrylic plastic that would cover the top of the drum, and used a hole saw to make a cutout in the center of it the right size. Then they laid the box fan on top, centered it over the hole, and duct taped it into place.

"How are we going to power all of our stuff?" Kippy asked, as they rolled the drum out of the garage and placed it behind the hedge that bordered the side of the front yard.

"Outdoor outlet, right there," Charlie said, pointing at the house right behind them.

They brought out an old card table and set it up by the oil drum. "I'll put my laptop here, and we'll stick the speakers in the bushes over there."

Then Kippy went around to the other side of the hedge, and Charlie fed the length of vacuum cleaner hose through to him. "Position it in the branches at least two feet off the ground," he said, "so that the fog sinks towards the ground and rolls away across the front walk." And then he secured his end of the short hose into the hole in the side of the drum with duct tape.

Next they took the cheap colored lights they'd bought at the dollar store and placed them into bushes around the front yard. Charlie wrote down the location of each on a notepad so that they could find them again. Just before dark on Halloween night, they would walk around and put the batteries into the lights.

They went back inside, and raided the linen closet to get enough sheets for the ghosts to be hung from the tree branches. Then they appropriated the big box fan his mom used in the sunroom to move the hot air out, and sat it underneath the card table outside. They would hang the ghosts and place the fan on Monday evening before dark.

"I was going to use your idea and cover the lights in the bushes with sheets, too," Charlie said, "but now I don't think I will. I'll use white washcloths instead. That will diffuse the light but not cover the whole bush that each light is hidden in."

The last thing they did was to go back to the garage and hunt up the hot plate, and several extension cords and a power strip to be used to hook their equipment to the outdoor outlets. They piled all of it under the card table outside, with the big box fan.

Rick returned then, toting a zippered gym bag in one hand and a plastic kitchen container in the other. A lightweight jacket was tossed over one shoulder. "You guys hungry? My mom made us some sandwiches."

They went inside to the kitchen, and Charlie got everyone a drink and they clustered around the island while Ricky doled out sandwiches. "Hope everyone likes turkey and cheese."

Everyone did. They dug in, and Charlie was surprised at how hungry he was. "Party starts at six," Ricky said then. "You guys given any thought to how we're getting there?"

Charlie paused in eating, and looked at him. "Greg only lives a few blocks over. "We'll be fine walking it."

Ricky smiled. "Remember how you're gonna be dressed?"

Kippy laughed, and Charlie just stared. Oh, shit!

"I hadn't thought about that," Charlie confessed.

"You should," Ricky said. "It was a pretty warm day for October, but it's supposed to drop into the fifties after dark. It'll be chilly. We'll need jackets. You guys will be cold in those tiger tights. Maybe you can wear sweatpants over them, and stick your feet into your running shoes for the walk."

Charlie nodded, thinking again. "Yeah. I'm sure everybody will have jackets, and that Greg will have somewhere to put them. We'll just put our sweats and jackets and shoes together when we get there."

"Still be light until after six," Ricky pointed out. "People will see those faces of yours."

"So? It's Halloween, right?"

Ricky nodded. "Right."

Charlie looked at him then. "You going to tell us how you gayed-up Jason the killer?"

Ricky grinned, and went and retrieved his big gym bag. He set it on the island, dug inside, pulled out the gray coverall, and stepped back and held it up to himself. Charlie and Kippy leaned forward to inspect it.

On the left breast pocket, an iron-on patch had been applied, of a rainbow with a unicorn standing beneath it. Other tiny iron-ons, here and there, looked like puffy clouds, or five-pointed stars. All of them had big, smiling faces on them.

"I'll wear this around my waist," Ricky said, withdrawing a belt from the bag. It was wide - and pink.

Charlie laughed. "How about the mask?"

Ricky grinned again, folded the coverall and put it back in the bag, and pulled the mask out so that the boys could only see the inside of it. Then Ricky turned his back to them and put it on. "Ready?"

"I can't wait," Kippy said, smiling at Charlie at the way that Ricky was getting into this whole thing.

Ricky turned around, and Charlie and Kippy both gaped.

The mask was now a flaming pink in color, with little flower stickers across the forehead. Ricky's eyes peered out of the eyeholes, looking like he was smiling underneath.

"Fucking awe-some," Charlie said, grinning.

"That's really great, Ricky," Kippy said, shaking his head. "Who knew you were so creative?"

Ricky pulled off the mask, looking embarrassed. "I raided my mom's closet for the belt, and my little sister's room for the other stuff. I was lucky that we still had the pink spray paint from when my mom painted styrofoam Easter eggs." He shrugged. "I thought about getting my dad's axe and painting it pink and bringing that for effect, but I figured he'd really be pissed when he saw it. No use shooting myself in the foot, you know?"

"Your mom won't miss the belt?" Kippy asked.

"Nah. She has more junk in her closet that she never wears than I have in mine that I do." He put the belt and the mask back into the gym bag.

Kippy looked at Charlie. "We are going to be one startling trio."

Charlie could only grin and nod at that, and picked up his sandwich and resumed eating. Going to be an interesting night, no doubt about that.

After they ate, Charlie and Kippy took Ricky around the front yard and showed him what they had set up.

"Looks good," Ricky complimented, after. "While I was at the house, I went online and looked up dry ice. You know that shit is solid at minus 109 degrees, Fahrenheit?"

Charlie nodded. "Anyone that handles it needs gloves. My dad has big, thick welder's gloves. You can use them."

"I brought goggles in my gym bag, to wear when I chip chunks off the block we're buying." He looked at Charlie. "You guys still got that big cooler in your garage?"

"Yup. We'll get it out for the ice. Good idea."

"We need something to transport it with from the store, too," Ricky added.

Charlie shrugged. "We'll just take the cooler and carry it between us. It has handles on each end."

"And we'll need to get twenty pounds, not ten," Rick added. "It will sublimate over time, and twenty pounds will ensure we have at least half that much to use all night long."

Charlie grinned. "I reserved us two ten-pound blocks already. Great minds, huh?"

Kippy looked curiously at Ricky. "What's sublimate? You mean melt?"

Ricky shook his head. "Carbon dioxide doesn't have a liquid state, apparently. It goes directly from a solid to a gas. That's called sublimation."

Charlie grinned. "Someone has been reading, I see."

Ricky laughed. "I like to know what I'm getting into." He pulled out his cell and checked the time. "I think we should change into our costumes and get started on your faces. I know I'll need at least a half hour for each of you, and maybe more."

They went back to Charlie's bedroom, and got into their costumes. Charlie and Kippy shucked their boxers in exchange for briefs, but when they pulled up the tiger suits, a problem came to light.

"You can see the underwear right through the suit," Kippy complained, examining himself in the mirror. "That sucks. I should have run home to get my sheer stuff."

"And the light box," Charlie reminded. "I should have said something earlier."

It was mostly the fly arrangement in the front of the briefs that showed through, although the waistband was a close second.

Charlie thought a moment, then went back to his dresser. He found a pair of Speedos, and tossed them to Kippy. "Try these."

Kippy made the change, and when he pulled up the tiger suit this time, the bathing suit was much less noticeable than the briefs had been. Its outline could be discerned if one really looked - but it was vague enough that Kippy nodded, delighted. "That'll do. The brain strikes again."

Charlie just shook his head, and dug out another pair of Speedos for himself. While he was in the dresser he found a pair of sweats for each of them too, and tossed them over onto the bed.

Ricky got into his coveralls, and held the hockey mask up in front of his face. "How do I look?"

"It's not an improvement," Kippy said immediately. "That face is too cute to cover like that."

Ricky lowered the mask. "You know what I mean."

"Looks good, Ricky," Charlie said, tossing a look at Kippy, who just grinned. "You look like you're now ready to slash and kill daintily, fella." Ricky lowered the mask and grinned at them.

They were ready for the make up. Ricky went back to his gym bag and pulled out a set of face paints and some paper towels, and a small package of things that Charlie couldn't get right off.

"What are those, Ricky?"

The other boy smiled. "Pipe cleaners. For your whiskers. These are very fine ones, so they'll be perfect." He grinned. "They're also pink."

Charlie froze. "You better be kidding me."

"Nope. But they'll be cute as shit. Trust me."

Kippy wanted to go first. Ricky unzipped Kippy's tiger suit and pulled it midway down his torso. Then he stood him before the big mirror on the dresser and went to work.

The first thing he did was to mix a base color, combining orange and brown until he had a rich tawny shade that was very close to that of the base color of the tiger suit. He applied it to all the exposed skin down to several inches beneath the neck line of the tiger suit, smoothed it in, and rubbed it gently until it was even. When the colors set they would not soil the tiger suit, and when Kippy moved he would not show untreated skin.

"This stuff is supposed to be hypoallergenic," Ricky informed them, "though some people still itch under it. It will take about ten minutes to set up, so don't touch it, Kippy."

Kippy nodded. "What about my stripes?"

"The base needs to set up first." He turned to Charlie. "I'll apply your base while Kippy's is setting."

"Where'd you learn all this?" Charlie asked, marveling at Ricky's previously unknown talents.

Ricky grinned. "My Uncle Bob is a magician. Amateur one, but he's pretty good, really. Does shows for charity events, and draws big crowds. He taught me."

"You never mentioned this before."

"You never asked me about it, either."

Charlie tried not to grin, but stayed silent while Ricky rubbed the stuff into his skin.

Kippy didn't. "So what was the part you said we didn't want to know about, Ricky?"

The other boy looked embarrassed. "Oh. Well, when I was younger, I helped my Uncle in his show a few times, and he painted me up to look like - stuff."

Charlie couldn't help but to be interested. "What kind of stuff?"

Ricky made a face. "That's the part you don't want to know, and which I'm not telling." But he did smile then. "My mom took pictures. I'll show you guys someday. Maybe."

That was the end of that - Charlie and Kippy both felt it. Their friend was not going to tell more just now no matter how they pleaded. Charlie didn't want to start anything while Ricky was doing their make-up, so he just threw Kippy a look that said forget it for now. Kippy smiled, and nodded, and Ricky worked on, a little smile tugging occasionally at the corners of his mouth. Damn.

After Charlie was as pleasingly tawny as Kippy, Ricky went to work applying the stripes to Kippy's neck and face. Charlie watched in amazement as Ricky duplicated the look of the stripes on the suit almost perfectly, giving Kippy a uniform look that was just stunning to behold.

Next Ricky removed a jar of gel from the gym bag, opened the lid, and worked some into Kippy's hair. Ricky separated the coated hair into little spikes, which, when completed, looked quite furry to the eye.

He then withdrew another small bottle, and opened the package of pipe cleaners. He also pulled out a small set of diagonal sidecutters. Ricky held one of the pink furry strands to Kippy's nose, chose a length, and cut the extra off the end of the pipe cleaner. He then selected seven more pipe cleaners and cut them to the same lengths. He took the small bottle, which had a small brush attached to the inside of the cap, and spread something on Kippy's upper lip.

"Smells funny," Kippy said, trying not to move his mouth too much.

Ricky grinned. "It's spirit gum. Adhesive. Now don't move for a few minutes."

He then attached the eight pipe cleaners to Kippy's upper lip, in a spread, four on a side, and carefully bent them so the ends turned down.

Finally, he took some black body paint and darkened the tip of Kippy's nose, and underneath around the nostrils.

The results were amazing.

Charlie shook his head. "Ricky, that's as good as anything I've ever seen. He looks great."

Ricky looked pleased. "Now for you."

The processes were all repeated, and soon Charlie looked as much an escapee from the zoo as Kippy did. The two boys looked at each other in the mirror, unable to believe how cool they looked.

"Should be long enough," Rick said. He carefully touched a spot on Kippy's chest below the neckline, and pulled his finger away again. It was clean.

So he pulled up Kippy's suit and snugged it around his shoulders again, and pulled up the zipper.

"I look great," Kippy said, staring at himself in the mirror. "You're amazing, Ricky."

Ricky beamed as he helped pull up Charlie's suit and get the zipper up. Charlie also stared at himself in the mirror. "Amazing is the right word."

Ricky stuffed everything back into his gym bag and set it on the floor. He pulled out his cell and checked the time. "Little past five-thirty. I can get dressed and we can go, huh?"

They did that. Charlie and Kippy put on the sweatpants over their tiger suits, and stuck their feet into their running shoes and tied them. Then they donned light jackets from Charlie's closet. Ricky put on his coveralls and belt, donned his own jacket, and picked up his hockey mask.

"Damn," Charlie said. "Kippy, we're not going to have anyplace to put our phones. I don't want to leave mine in my jacket at the party - it could go for a walk. I'm leaving it here."

"I'll leave mine, too. Ricky's got a phone, if we need one."

They turned on the porch light and locked up the house, and headed up the block.

It was getting dark already, and a noticeable bite had entered the air. Charlie figured that without the sweats and the jackets, he and Kippy would have been chilled - and especially on the walk home later that night.

They were walking up the sidewalk, talking, when a car passed them going the other way. They heard the sudden squeal of its brakes, and looked back to see the driver's head hanging out the window, turned their way.

Charlie grinned at Ricky. "Know your stuff, man. We're already stopping traffic."

Ricky simply beamed. He had his mask on, but it was tilted back up on top of his head.

They were nearing Greg Everon's house when two kids they knew of from school came up a side street. Bobby Kennedy and Lynn Oldman. Tenth graders - sophomores. The two got close enough to get a good look at Charlie and Kippy, and slowed.

"Hi," Charlie called, waving.

"Who's that?" Bobby called back.

"Charlie Boone, Kippy Lawson, and Ricky Travers."

They heard Bobby laugh, and then he and Lynn came closer.

"Whoa. You guys look awesome!" Bobby said, as he and Lynn drew up next to them. "Tigers, huh? Wow."

Kippy opened the front of his jacket to show them the suit. "Yep. You like?"

"That's really amazing," Lynn said, peering at their faces.

Charlie laughed. "That would seem to be the consensus."

Bobby was dressed as a vampire, and Lynn looked like some kind of female warrior. The costumes were good, but Charlie was just coming to realize that he and Kippy were going to stand out at the party.

They walked on together, the five of them, and soon came near Greg's house. They could hear music, and see people out front as they came up.

"Looks like it's already started," Kippy said.

There were a number of people in Greg's front yard. There were outside lights on, glowing in the settling dusk, and some of the people had beers in hand. Charlie and his group moved among them, heading towards the front door, and most of the people stopped what they were doing to look at them.

"You can go on in, little kitty cats," someone said, and several people laughed.

"You guys look great," someone else said.

They got to the front door, and found it wasn't all the way closed. So they went inside and pushed the door back where it had been. Ricky pulled his hockey mask down as they entered.

"Wonder where Greg's parent's are?" Charlie wondered aloud.

"They went away for the night," Lynn supplied. "Just so Greg could have the party.

Charlie was impressed. He got along well with his own parents, but he couldn't imagine them doing something like that for him. They moved forward from the entry, into the living room.

There was music playing - Rihanna. It was loud, but not terribly so. There were people everywhere, in small groups and just couples, talking and hanging out. Most were guys - but there were some girls around, too.

"We're going to check things out," Bobby said, taking Lynn's hand. "See you guys later." They left.

Charlie was looking around at the costumes that others were wearing, There were ghosts, and more vampires, and devils and werewolves. Some of the costumes were very original, and their owners had obviously put work into them. And Charlie breathed a sigh of relief when a guy went past dressed in only a pair of short shorts and a kind of fishnet suit that covered his whole body just as tightly as did their tiger suits, but left far less to the imagination. The guy grinned at them as he passed, and Charlie had to smile in return.

Still, no one had really seen them in costume. They still wore their sweat pants and jackets.

"There's Greg," Kippy announced, pointing.

The other boy was coming towards them, a beer in one hand. He was dressed in black leather pants and shirt, with his hair in beautiful disarray - far from his usual neat comb. A small gold hoop dangled from each ear, and his eyelashes looked a little fuller than normal. He was stunningly handsome, and Charlie had to grin at him. Greg slowed as he saw them looking at him, obviously trying to figure out who they were. Finally, he smiled, and stopped before them. "That you, Charlie? And Kip? Must be Rick under the mask."

"Yeah. Hi, Greg." Charlie grinned. "Thanks for inviting us."

"Sure. I meant to get to you guys in the cafeteria the other day, but I got help up in biology class by Mr. Thornton."

"No biggie. You got somewhere we can put our jackets?"

"Yeah. Come on." He led them down a short hallway to what must have been his room, and took them inside. "Anywhere you want, guys. Lay them on the bed, on the carpet - over the chair, if it will hold more."

Charlie looked around the room. It was neat and clean. There were posters of a couple of boy bands on the wall, but that was the only concession to that form of decoration. There were also some smaller posters from various gay organizations. Greg was an activist.

Charlie and Kippy pulled their shoes off, and their sweats, and then their jackets.

Greg made a sound of astonishment. "Wow. You guys look awesome." He shook his head. "And a little more daring than I would have imagined you to be." He grinned at Ricky. "See you have your protector with you. Love the mask, Rick."

Charlie looked at Kippy, and loved him. He was gorgeous in his costume - cute, appealing, and very sexy. That he was lucky to have him for a boyfriend seemed never so clear as now. Kippy could have whoever he wanted - but who he wanted was Charlie.

Kippy looked over at him and grinned, making his whiskers twitch. "You look good enough to eat, Charlie."

"There's always tonight," Charlie said.

Greg grinned at them. "G-rated party, guys." But he sighed. "Makes me want to go find Joey and do some cuddling." Joey Briggs was Greg's boyfriend.

"We'll be good," Kippy promised, linking arms with Charlie. "Can we go look around?"

Greg nodded. "Sure. You already saw some people out front. I don't know why, but there are always people that come to a party and never make it inside the house. Personality type, maybe." He smiled. "The first floor is open. Food and drinks in the kitchen. No beer for you guys, okay? I know that isn't fair, because I have one right here in my hand, but I am not leaving the house tonight, either. I know you guys aren't driving, but you have to walk home, and I won't have you walking out in front of a car or something because of me. I see you drinking, you'll have to leave. Fair?"

Charlie and Kippy didn't really drink, anyway. Nor Rick. A toke or two off a joint was cool, but they hadn't yet settled on beer as a potable beverage.

"How about smoke?" Ricky asked.

"There's some here," Greg admitted. He winked and smiled. "Just don't get wasted and crash on my front lawn, okay?"

He indicated the hallway they'd come down. "Like I say, the first floor is open. There's a rope across the stairs to the second floor - it's off limits. The patio doors are open, and there's a grill out back. John Lehman and Gordon Asher are cooking hotdogs. Help yourself. Lots of kinds of drinks in the cooler out there, too. And, if you go down into the basement rec room, you can dance, and there's probably some videos going. It's a low-key party, right?"

He shrugged. "I don't see you guys causing any trouble, so I'll leave it at that. Just be cool okay? We don't want the neighbors calling the cops or anything."

They went back to the living room, and Greg said to have fun and he'd talk to them again later.

The first thing they had to do was own up to their costumes. People turned right and left to look at them as they walked through the house, and many wanted to know how the make-up was done. Charlie could imagine Ricky blushing like mad underneath his mask, because he was getting the credit for it, and explaining it to everyone.

"You guys have a little competition in the display department," one guy - dressed as a slightly gay pirate - said, laughing. "Skintight, that is. There's Bill Sandall, running around in his fishnet, and the alien dude in his blue tights."

Charlie nodded. "We saw fishnet-guy. Who's the other?"

The pirate shrugged. "Nobody knows. He won't take his helmet off, and when he talks, there's some gizmo inside his helmet that distorts his voice. If you want to place a bet on who it might be, talk to Greg or Joey. The list right now includes Jerry Pickering, Barry Lutz, and Mary Bradshaw." He grinned. "I'm pretty sure it ain't Mary, because this guy obviously has a dick."

"I don't know," someone else said, not unkindly, "Mary says she has the best selection of strap-ons in the state."

Everyone laughed.

They could hear the rumble of music from the rec hall downstairs, and that drew Kippy like a magnet. He loved to dance, and he was not only very good at it, but he was extremely agile and vigorous. Charlie was already breathless at the thought of seeing Kippy doing some of his moves wearing the tiger suit. This was going to be interesting.

They went down the carpeted steps and found about a dozen or more people moving about the center of the room. A couple of wall sconces threw off a soft white glow, and a silver globe had been tied to the light fixture overhead, and a yellow and a red bulb placed into the opposing sockets. The ball turned and swayed slowly, causing a glittering parade of colored sparkles to travel slowly about the walls and floor.

"I love this song," Kippy said, pulling Charlie out into the crowd. They found a spot they could stand together and started moving - well, Kippy started moving. Charlie was both more self-conscious when it came to dancing and not nearly as good at is as his boyfriend. He did the best he could to keep up, but it soon became clear - and not just to Charlie - that Kippy was in his element. His body rolled and contorted, flexed and stretched. He moved on his feet with the grace and perfection of a cat, and it took Charlie's breath away to see it. Kippy was just magnificent to watch - and people were soon watching. The crowd began to separate as people drew back, until Charlie was left at the edge of a crowd for which Kippy was the center. Charlie became content to be the pole around which Kippy played, until the music finally wound down, and ended.

People clapped. Kippy seemed only to become aware then that he had been the center of attention. He gazed around, a little startled; but then he made a graceful bow, and came up grinning. "That was fun."

Charlie smiled, and moved closer to his boyfriend. "You're so amazing, Kip. You move like the wind and the water."

Kippy grinned. "I love to dance."

Charlie just nodded.

Someone was coming their way - someone dressed all in white. He was tall, dark-haired, with a slightly stoned look on his face and a lot of humor in his eyes. He was looking each way into the crowd as he came, and suddenly he stopped, looking off to his left. "There he is. Hey, Boba Fett! Come here, man. You got some competition."

People turned to look, and the crowd parted, revealing a guy that was about the same size as Charlie and Kippy. He was dressed in skintight blue leotards, which showed off a body that was well worth the look. He had on his head a helmet that looked like it was from Star Wars - it did resemble the one worn by the bounty hunter in some of those films. Charlie and Kippy and everyone else there turned to look at they guy all at once.

The poor guy almost cringed at all the attention. Charlie instantly saw the body language of fear - the way the guy pulled down into himself and tried to back away from all that inspection. But Daryl Lacey happened to be right behind him, and Daryl was six-foot-one and two-hundred-twenty pounds, and even wearing the uniform he wore as a lineman on the school football team. Boba Fett backed into him, and stopped.

Mr. White motioned to him. "Come here, man. I won't bite you."

The helmet turned to gaze at Charlie and Kippy, and something about that look conveyed an unhappiness that immediately drew Charlie's curiosity.

Mr. White looked back at Kippy. "You move damn good, dude. Couldn't help but to notice. You're the second guy here tonight that looks like he was born with wheels under his feet." He pointed at Boba. "This guy was amazing us until just a few minutes before you got here. When I saw you, I had an idea." He grinned, throwing up his hands. "Dance off!"

People laughed, and people clapped, and Kippy grinned. Only Boba remained motionless. "Ummmm --"

The voice was odd, with a mechanical, almost gritty sound to it that Charlie instantly recognized as having been digitally processed. The helmet had a vocoder in it, or something like it, that took the wearer's natural voice and processed it through a digital sound unit. You could make such a voice sound any way you wanted, more or less. It was part of the helmet's science fiction gimmickry - but it was also an excellent way to hide the wearer's identity.

Mr. White grinned at the applause. "I was thinking maybe the two of you would get together in the middle of the floor and wow us with your moves and --" he winked at the crowd " -- your hot bodies."

Kippy looked a little embarrassed at that, but grinned. Boba, on the other hand, tried to back up right through Daryl's considerable bulk.

"Come on - don't be shy," Mr. White said, stepping closer to Boba and waving him towards the center of the floor. Daryl chose that moment to give the guy a slight push - slight for Daryl - and Boba staggered forward a few steps in compensation. Everyone immediately cheered, seeing it as an acceptance of the competition.

Ricky stepped up beside Charlie. "You gonna do it, Kippy?"

Kippy shrugged. "Should I?"

"Do you want to?" Charlie asked back.

Kippy looked over at Boba, who was just standing there, still managing to convey unhappiness right through his helmet.

Kippy turned back. "Yeah. It'll be fun." He looked at Mr. White. "Music?"

Mr. White clapped his hands together and danced back to the other side of the room. The crowd retreated a bit, leaving Kippy and Boba in the center by themselves.

Charlie leaned forward to Kippy's ear. "Love you, Kip. Don't hurt yourself."

Kippy grinned at them as Charlie and Ricky backed up to the edge of the crowd.

The music started: Walk the Moon's, Shut Up and Dance.

Kippy gave a delighted little squeak, and danced forward, his hips gyrating slowly, until he stood before Boba. The other guy just stood there, as if mesmerized. Kippy moved gracefully around him in a circle in time to the beat, while Boba turned slowly, watching. Kippy's eyes twinkled and glowed, and his smile was electric.

Almost as if against his will, Boba started to sway a little, and step to the beat; and then he and Kippy were moving together, almost as one, circling so tightly they almost touched, their bodies excitingly close, Kippy's face - Kippy's lips - moving at times to scant inches from the front of the helmet, and their hands coming so close to touching each other that is almost made Charlie jealous.

Boba moved beautifully. He was every bit as graceful and lithe as Kippy, and the two of them moving to the music, beneath the twirling lights, held an erotic undertone that was difficult to miss. The crowd, initially smiling and laughing, had quieted, and were watching now with the keen interest of people seeing something quite magnificent and realizing it was just that.

Charlie's eyes moved with Kippy, unable to pull away, yet also aware of Boba as he moved so magically close by. Kippy's face was filled with joy - here was someone who could keep up with him. It made Charlie a little sad - but it was also just beautiful to see. These two were not competing - not dancing against each other. They were dancing together, and sharing in movement something special that Charlie could only guess at.

The song was not long - three minutes, maybe a little more. It seemed like forever to Charlie, whose heart beat in time with Kippy's motion, and whose eyes never left the face of the boy he loved.

The song ended. The two boys in the center of the floor anticipated the last notes, and froze into immobility, scant inches apart, as the song ended. There was a moment of silence, and then the room erupted in applause and cheering. It was more noise than could be rightfully generated by those present; Charlie turned and saw another dozen people crowded on the steps behind them, including Greg and his boyfriend Joey.

Kippy danced over, directly into Charlie's arms, and threw his own arms around Charlie's neck and kissed him. "Oh, Charlie, that was so much fun! That guy can really move." The breathless quality of his boyfriend's voice made Charlie instantly smile.

Charlie nodded, hugging Kippy to him, but with his eyes on Boba, who was now in a circle of people patting his shoulders and telling him how wonderful he had been. Boba moved a little uncertainly, and Charlie watched him, wondering who he was. Mr. White waved from his spot by the little laptop on which the music was being played, and held up a soft drink and waved it at Boba. Boba shook his head - to drink would require him to remove his helmet, and it seemed plain that he wasn't going for that.

Mr. White seemed insistent; and Boba went over to talk to him.

There was, in just those few steps as Boba walked to stand by Mr. White, something so utterly familiar about the way that the boy in the helmet moved that Charlie was suddenly stunned, his eyes clamping now on the guy as he moved about, talking to Mr. White.

And suddenly, he knew exactly who it was underneath the helmet. For just a second the enormity of his discovery amazed him; and then he was smiling, and pulling back from Kippy. "You trust me?"

Kippy blinked at him. "You know I do. Why?"

Ricky came up to them then. "What's up?"

Charlie's eyes went from one to the other. "I need you guys to go with me, okay? No matter what I say, just go with it."

Kippy grinned. "Okay."

Ricky nodded, not even trying to hide his smile. "Cool. Some Fun? I'll play."

Charlie nodded, and motioned for the others to go with him.

He crossed the room, and stopped beside Boba. The boy was just finishing his conversation with Mr. White and turning to walk away. Charlie immediately threw an arm around the other boy's shoulders. "You can really move, man. That was awesome boss-some."

He felt Boba flinch under his arm, but he didn't try to pull away.

Mr. White heard what Charlie had said, and reinserted himself into the conversation. "You guys should have been here earlier. Boba here was dancing with Pat Burroughs, and they were making some heat."

Charlie almost laughed out loud. Pat Burroughs was the most flamingly gay guy in the school, a tenth grader that everyone in the school knew and liked. He had a bubbly personality, thought everything was fun, and had a skin thick enough to shed even the sharpest of barbs. He was one of the few gay guys in school who didn't have a boyfriend just now - but it was just because none were available. But Pat had friends away from school he hung with, and no apparent lack of affection or companionship in his life.

"Yeah?" Charlie said, giving Boba a friendly squeeze. "I'm sorry we missed that."

Boba looked over at Mr. White, and Charlie detected a wish there that Mr. White would just dry up and blow away.

But Mr. White was a gregarious soul by nature, and stoned, and not anywhere close to sensitive enough to pick up on Boba's vibes. "Man, it was hot as shit. Those two were on fire." He laughed then, looking at Boba. "Though it wasn't nearly as hot as what you and Tiger Boy just did." He waved a hand in front of his face and let his tongue hang out. "Whew!"

"I need to go," Boba croaked then, turning inside of Charlie's arm.

But Charlie turned with him. "So early? We just got here. I'm sure there will be more music."

"Things to do tomorrow," the helmet's voicebox warbled. "Nice to meet you."

But Charlie wasn't to be shed so easily. "We'll walk out with you then."

Boba stopped, as if he wanted to say more; but then he was heading for the steps. Charlie made a face at Kippy and Ricky, and charged after him.

They clambered up the steps, moving past people who patted both Boba and Kippy on the back and praised their performance.

Boba made his way directly towards the front door. "Nice to meet you," he croaked over his shoulder, as if hoping to dismiss his followers.

But Charlie kept right with the boy, on out the front door into the chill night air. The crowd outside had thinned to four diehards sitting on the lawn furniture, sucking down brews. Everyone else had gone inside, where it was warmer. The four drinkers scarcely noticed the odd quartet as they streamed by.

Finally, out at the sidewalk, away from everyone else, Boba turned to confront them. "What are you doing?"

Charlie shook his head. "Uh uh. What are you doing?"

Boba stared at them "I have to go home," he said.

Charlie shook his head. "That's not what I meant. I mean - what are you doing here?"

"Party." Boba released the one word, and Charlie could feel the fear in it.

"Adrian Whitacre," Charlie said, softly.

Boba took a step back. "What?"

"You heard me. You're Adrian Whitacre."

Boba turned and ran. Charlie was only partially surprised; but he didn't pursue. They heard the clatter of the other boy's shoes as he retreated up the sidewalk, saw him pass by a lit front yard many houses, away - then he was gone.

Charlie was aware of the silence behind him. Then Kippy and Ricky moved up beside him. "Was that really Adrian?" Kippy asked. His voice was hushed, like he couldn't believe it.

"You saw the way he ran," Charlie said. "If I had any doubt before that, it's gone now."

"How did you know?" Ricky asked, staring up the now quiet street.

"By the way he moved," Charlie explained. "The way people move is as individual as they way they talk. Haven't you ever seen someone walking really far away and knew who it was, just by the way they moved, even though you couldn't see their face?"

Ricky nodded. "Yep. I guess I just never noticed how Adrian walked."

"I did," Charlie admitted. "When he first showed up at school I paid attention, because I thought he was cute. That was before I found out he was a hater."

Kippy shook his head. "But he was at a gay party."

Charlie nodded, understanding that now. "Yeah. It's like the old saying about a lynching, back in the old days. The people in the crowd watching that yelled the loudest for the poor slob to be hung were often the people most guilty of the same crime. It's a defensive thing, and it's not that uncommon."

Ricky looked at him. "You saying Adrian's in the closet?"

Charlie thought a second before shaking his head. "No. He may not be any more gay than you are, Ricky. He's could just be bisexual. But he's interested, no matter how you to want to label it, or he wouldn't have been here."

Kippy sighed. "Poor guy. He must be scared to death we'll out him now."

Charlie looked at Kippy, and couldn't help smiling. "You are such a sweetheart, you know that?"

Kippy frowned. "Aw, I don't hate Adrian. He's cute, and he's probably very sweet when you get to know him." He grinned then, his teeth showing in the light from Greg's front stoop. "And he can move like a motherfucker."

Ricky laughed, and put a hand on Kippy's shoulder, and squeezed it affectionately. "You're something, Kippy."

Kippy looked at Charlie. "We're not going to out him."

It wasn't a question.

Charlie smiled. "I didn't plan to, no. If he just stops bugging us, I'll be satisfied."

"I think you got that," Ricky said. "I won't be surprised to hear on Monday that he's left the country."

Charlie sighed. "Let's go back inside. It's cold out here."

By the time they got back to Charlie's house, they were tired. The rest of the evening had been anticlimactic somehow, although still fun. Greg had pulled them aside when they went back in, and they had shared a couple of hits off of a joint with him and Joey. It was mild stuff, and Charlie had only felt a light but pleasant buzz.

After that, they'd gone out on the patio long enough to get hot dogs, the eating of which had killed the little buzz cold. Then they had gone back into the basement and danced a little more - slower dances, this time, where Charlie could hold Kippy close, and kiss him, and whisper things into his ear.

And he'd also danced the same way once with Ricky, now maskless, and kissed him, and said some sweet things into his ear, which had caused the boy to blush a little, but to hold Charlie tightly, and to sneak a kiss back when it seemed no one might be watching.

And Charlie had stood back and smiled while Kippy and Ricky had danced, not failing to miss the little squeezes, or the kiss, that they shared, too.

Eleven o'clock rolled around before they knew it. The older kids would stay on for a while, but Charlie had promised his folks to be home no later than eleven-thirty if he went out, and he planned to honor that request. It was okay with the others, who were looking a little drawn by then, anyway.

Greg found them as they were getting dressed in his room. "Hey guys. Just wanted to say that I enjoyed having you over. Kippy, thanks for the wonderful show. You and Boba were just incredible. He seems to have left early, because I couldn't find him when I went to tell him he was welcome at any of my parties. I want to tell you guys that, too."

He stepped away from the door so that they could pass. "Be careful walking home."

They all thanked him for the invite, said they had a great time, and left.

Outside, it was chilly, and they weren't lazy about getting back to Charlie's house, walking along at a pace that covered distance quickly. The night air was brisk, and the sky above them sprinkled with the cool light of autumn stars. The street was tree-lined, and most of the houses dark, and without streetlights to break up the night they felt it all about them, pleasantly close and invigorating.

"I had a great time, Charlie," Kippy said, giving a little pull on their linked arms so that they bounced together as they walked.

Charlie nodded. "Yeah. It was fun. All of it."

Ricky gave a small laugh. "Fun? It was amazing. I haven't had such a good time in ages."

Charlie looked over at him, pleased. "That's great to hear, Ricky. Because we sure enjoyed you being with us."

Ricky grinned, and his eyes held what Charlie could only term as promise. "Uh huh. Wait until bedtime."

"Ooh," Kippy said, beaming, "Ricky's horny after all that dancing."

"Fuckin' right," Ricky said, laughing. "I feel the need for some closeness."

Charlie laughed. "Any particular part of you you want to get closer to us?"

Ricky just grinned.

They turned up Charlie's street, and soon came to the house. Ricky suddenly stopped, and put out an arm to stop the others. "Someone's sitting on the front porch."

They looked, and Charlie suddenly knew exactly who it had to be. "Come on. I think it'll be okay."

They went up the walk. Boba Fett was sitting on the stoop, his head in his hands. He didn't say anything as Charlie and Kippy sat on one side of him, and Ricky on the other.

Finally, after a too-long silence, Charlie cleared his throat. "Why are you here?"

Boba looked over at him. "Did you tell?"

Kippy put a hand on Charlie's, and gave it a little squeeze. Charlie almost smiled at it. "No. Not a soul."

Boba raised his hands, and the helmet came off. It was Adrian Whitacre. "How the hell did you know?"

His eyes were wet, and Charlie immediately felt badly about it. "By the way you move, man. It's very graceful, very deliberate." He did smile then. "Very sexy."

Adrian shook his head, as if the idea wouldn't take hold. "By the way I walk? Are you serious?"

"It's very distinctive," Charlie said, nodding.

Adrian looked at him, squinting like he just didn't understand. "You didn't tell? Not anybody?"

"Not anybody," Charlie agreed.

"But - why not?"

Charlie laughed. "Did you want me to?"

Adrian made a noise then, an almost-laugh. "No. I just...I just can't believe you didn't put me out there, after --" His head dropped, and he couldn't finish; but all three of the other boys knew exactly what he wanted to say.

"After you were such a dickhead?" Kippy asked, but offered a smile with it.

Adrian nodded.

Charlie shook his head. "You never hurt us, Adrian. Not really. The stuff you said just kind of bounced off of us. It was annoying, but it didn't really hurt."

"I'm sorry," Adrian said softly.

Charlie nodded. "I think I believe you. I think you're seeing now just how sharp the drop off is right next to you. Scary, isn't it?"

"Yeah." Adrian raised his head and looked at them. "I don't know what to do now."

Ricky laughed. "You don't have to do anything. Just go on like you have been. Without saying the bullshit to the guys, though."

Adrian shook his head. "You're really not going to tell anyone?"

"Nope. Right guys?" Charlie looked at his friends. Kippy and Ricky both nodded.

Adrian let out a long exhalation, and his shoulders slumped noticeably. "I was pretty scared."

Charlie nodded. "Are you gay? Or just bi?"

Adrian looked at him a long moment before finally shrugging. "I don't know. I just know I like guys now - maybe girls some, too."

Ricky shrugged. "So? I'm like that, too. Big deal."

Adrian looked at him. "I just thought you were their friend."

Ricky nodded. "I am. I love both these guys." He nodded slowly. "I always have."

Charlie reached out a hand, intending to put it on Adrian's shoulder; but had second thoughts, and just let it hang. "Do you intend to hide your whole life?" he asked.

Adrian shrugged. "I don't know. I'm scared."

Charlie decided to let the hand drop. It touched down on Adrian's shoulder, and he gave it a gentle squeeze. "You don't have to be scared. You can always talk to any of us, you know."

"Sure," Kippy put in. "We'll help, if we can."

Adrian smiled at him then. "You are one dancin' dude."

Kippy laughed. "Me? You were incredible."

"You both were wonderful," Charlie added. "You both were beautiful tonight."

Adrian looked at him, amazement in his eyes.

Charlie nodded. "You're cute. Don't you know that?"

Kippy nodded. "And sexy as shit."

Adrian looked at Ricky, who held up a hand. "I'm still undecided." But he smiled.

Adrian tilted his head back, and closed his eyes, and smiled, and the other boys let him be, seeing he needed a moment.

After he had that moment, Adrian opened his eyes, and looked straight ahead. "If I came out, what do you think would happen?"

Charlie shrugged. "Nothing. Unless - do your parents know?"

Adrian shook his head. "There's just my mom. My dad died a few years ago." He frowned. "But - no. She doesn't know. But I think - I hope - she would be okay with it."

"Why come out at all?" Kippy asked.

Adrian bit at his lip. "I need...I need to be with guys who think like I do. That's why I was at Greg's party. He didn't invite me - he doesn't even know me. I just figured I'd be safe in my costume." He looked at Charlie. "I needed to be there, you know? With people."

Charlie nodded. "Yeah. I get you." Lonely. He looked at Kippy, then at Rick. "You could always hang around with us."

Kippy smiled. "Sure."

Even Rick nodded. "Just be good."

Adrian laughed. "I know how to be good if I need to."

"You need to," Charlie said. "If you're going to hang out with us, you need to stop acting like a knucklehead."

"No matter how hard that might be," Ricky added, smiling.

Adrian nodded. "If I hang out with you guys, people will think I'm gay anyway."

Kippy poked him. "So?"

Adrian looked at him, and suddenly smiled. He nodded. "Yeah." He got to his feet. "I'd better be getting home. I'm already late."

The others rose with him. "Come back any time," Charlie offered. "We'll see you in school, too."

Adrian nodded. "Thanks. I will be back." He started up the front walk to the sidewalk, turned a moment, and waved.

Charlie lifted a hand in return - and so did the others.

They watched until Adrian disappeared down the street.

Kippy put an arm around Charlie and snuggled close. "I feel really good for some reason."

Charlie looked at his boyfriend, and sighed. "Yeah." He glanced over at Ricky, thinking of something else then. "This body paint will scrub off in the shower, right?"

"Sure. Just use a washcloth."

Charlie shook his head. "No, you use a washcloth. You put it on us. I want you to scrub it off."

Kippy laughed, rolling his eyes. "There's a fun idea."

Ricky grinned, and nodded. "Okay."

They went inside.

They spent Sunday making sure that they were ready for Monday night. And relaxing, and talking, and just being together. Charlie had halfway expected Adrian to show up; but by the early afternoon, he still hadn't.

"He will," Kippy assured him. "In his own time, and in his own way."

On the other hand, Ricky was settling into his new sexuality quite comfortably, after having had his first gay sex the night before. After their group shower they had retreated to Charlie's bed, and asked Ricky if he would like to be a participant that night instead of a watcher. Ricky had looked nervous, but had settled himself between Charlie and Kippy in the bed as an answer. And they had made love to Ricky. There had been a very sweet undercurrent to that, the special newness in being what they did together, and not in the feelings they had for each other. They had all been friends for too long not to know how they felt.

Kippy had the honor of giving Ricky his first gay blowjob, during which Charlie held the other boy close and kissed him, and rubbed him, and stroked his hair, and smiled at the play of responses that came and went on his friend's face. Afterwards, Ricky assured Kippy that he was ten times better at oral sex than Lisa Kiddler probably would ever be.

"Well, duh," Kippy returned, smiling. "I've had a lot more practice than she has." He winked at Charlie, who just smiled. A lot more practice.

To their great surprise, Ricky decided he wanted to respond, and gave Charlie a cute little blow that he would probably never forget, with Kippy laying alongside Ricky, watching, and giving pointers as needed. It was extremely fun, and extremely sexy, and Ricky even closed his eyes when Charlie warned him that he was about to cum, and drank it down with only a small look of surprise on his face.

Charlie simply gaped at him. "I can't believe you did that your first time."

Ricky worked his tongue inside his mouth, swallowed, and grinned. "Why? You think you taste funny or something?"

"Not everyone can do that," Kippy said, nuzzling Ricky's shoulder with his cheek and giving him a little hug. "Was it a surprise?"

Ricky shrugged. "Not really." He grinned at Charlie. "You taste pretty much like I do."

They all laughed at that.

Finally, they snuggled together in the bed, warm and close, and talked until their eyes grew heavy, and then went to sleep.

Sunday morning, they walked over to Kippy's house and got his lightbox - the one that would flash colors to music. In actuality it would respond to any sound, and they figured it would flash and glow just as readily to the sounds of chains being dragged across a stone floor, or vacuum tubes weeping in the night.

By early afternoon they figured they had everything ready, and made sandwiches in Charlie's kitchen, grabbed some drinks, and headed up to Charlie's room to listen to music while they ate.

Charlie had just taken his first bite of his ham sandwich, and was thinking about the party the evening before. "I sure hope Adrian is okay. I think we really shook him up."

Kippy nodded. "That was a really weird night. When I was dancing with him in Greg's basement, I never would have guessed who it was. I just thought the guy could really move."

Charlie smiled, remembering. "Both of you were awesome."

Ricky laughed." Man, I was ready to knock the guy out, and now I kinda like him."

Charlie and Kippy looked at each other, and grinned.

"Oh?" Kippy said, reaching over and giving Ricky a little prod.

Ricky reddened. "I just mean I don't want to clobber his ass anymore."

"Maybe something else with his ass?" Charlie kidded.

Ricky sighed and shook his head, and Charlie and Kippy laughed. "You guys are terrible," Ricky said, taking another bite of his sandwich.

Kippy grinned. "Oh, come on, Ricky-tick. Are you saying if you woke up in the middle of the night and found Adrian, naked, in bed with you - you'd throw him out?"

Ricky reddened some more - and Charlie grinned, loving it. The way Ricky blushed was cute beyond words, and always an indicator that you had him going.

"I didn't say that."

Kippy looked immediately at Charlie. "Would you throw him out?"

"Where are you when this is happening?" Charlie immediately asked, not about to be trapped.

Kippy shrugged. "Um - I'm in bed with you. We wake up, and Adrian is naked between us. Do you throw him out?"

Charlie grinned. "Well, the first thing I do is wake you up and see what you want to do."

Ricky and Kippy both laughed. "Chickenshit," Kippy said, but his eyes said that that was the right answer.

Charlie just grinned. "I think the guy is cute, but he's also not my boyfriend. You are."

Kippy just nodded. "Okay. Suppose I said it was okay to do what you wanted?'

Charlie could still see the pitfalls in that question, and took his time chewing a mouthful of sandwich so that he could think about it.

He didn't have to. They heard the front doorbell ring, and all three of them grinned.

Charlie jumped up and went to the window, pulled up the sash and then the screen, and stuck his head out and looked down.


And the other boy had heard the window go up, and was looking up at him.

"Hi," Charlie called, grinning.

Adrian smiled, looking pleased, like he had not been sure of his reception, and that Charlie's smile was what he needed to see. "Hi, yourself."

"Come on up," Charlie said. "The door's unlocked."

Adrian nodded, and Charlie saw him go to the door and push it inward. He closed the screen and pushed the sash back down.

"It's him," he said, grinning, as he returned to his seat. All eyes turned to the bedroom door.

They heard Adrian coming up the steps, and then he was standing in the doorway.

"The Prodigal Son returns," Kippy said, smiling.

"What exactly does that mean?" Adrian asked, coming into the room.

Kippy suddenly looked blank. "Uh - shit, I don't know. I just know they always say it at times like this." He looked at Charlie. "What does that mean, Charlie?"

Charlie grinned. "It's from the bible - a parable. A father has two sons. The older one works hard, but the younger one wants to play. The younger son asks his father for his inheritance, and then runs off and blows it having a good time. When he has nothing left, he goes home, hoping his father will hire him as a servant. But the father welcomes him home and rejoices at his return. The older son, who works hard, is not happy, and refuses to celebrate. The father scolds him, saying he will one day inherit everything, but that he should still rejoice in the return of his brother, because he was lost, but is now found." He smiled. "It's a parable of redemption."

Ricky stared at him. "I didn't know you were religious, Charlie."

Charlie shrugged. "I'm not. I just like to read."

They all looked at Adrian, who blinked. "What? I didn't run off and squander anything."

Charlie laughed. "No, dummy. How are you? Feeling any better about things?" Charlie waved him towards the end of the bed. "Don't just stand there, sit and stay a while."

Adrian looked embarrassed, but went and sat on the bed. "Um, I feel okay today, actually. It was good to talk to you guys last night. I was really messed up when I took off on you at the party. I was almost at home when I realized I'd better talk to you guys before you had a chance to tell everybody about me. So I came to your house, Charlie, because you were the only one whose house I knew."

Kippy frowned. "That's not right, you thinking we'd just run around telling everyone about you. That just wouldn't be cool."

Adrian looked apologetic. "Man, after the shit I said to you guys, I figured you'd want to wreck me."

"What was up with that, anyway?" Charlie asked, leaning closer to the other boy. "I mean, if you're like us, why be such a jerk about it?"

Adrian licked his lips. "Well...I don't know. I thought if I picked on you guys a little no one would ever suspect I was like you."

Charlie just looked at him, until Adrian became uncomfortable..

"Okay, I was scared," Adrian said then. "So shoot me. I'm the new guy. I've never been the new guy in school. I don't know how to make new friends, because I never had to do it before. Plus --" He looked uncomfortable, his eyes going from Charlie to Kippy to Rick, and than back to Charlie.

"Go on," Charlie said, not unkindly.

"Plus - you guys always looked so happy together, like you were always having fun. And you were out, and I knew you guys were boyfriends, and...I wanted that, man." He shook his head. "You know how long I've wanted a boyfriend? You know how hard it is to be gay and hiding it, and see guys you like, and never to be able to say anything, or do anything, because you're afraid they'll laugh at you, or tell everybody?"

"Yes," Charlie said, "I do. So does Kip. We weren't always out." He scooted closer to Adrian. "Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little in this world, man. You really can't expect not to be lonely, if the people that might like you don't even know you're interested. If you keep hiding, you're not going to find a boyfriend."

"I'm scared to come out," Adrian said softly.

"You don't have to do it directly," Kippy said. "You don't have to wave your hands in the hallway at school, and say, 'Excuse me, everybody, but I have an announcement to make: I'm gay. Just so you all know'." Kippy grinned, raising his eyebrows. "Sometimes guilt by association is the easiest way."

Adrian smiled. "You mean hang with you guys? I already thought of that. I'm here, aren't I?"

Ricky nodded. "Yeah. But can you do it in school?"

Adrian let out a breath. "Man, I don't know." But then he grinned at Ricky. "You do it, and most people say you aren't gay. I heard something about you and some girl at a party."

Ricky laughed. "Man, fame is a wonderful thing." He shrugged. "I never thought I was gay. I like girls." He waggled his eyebrows. "Love to fuck one." He looked at Kippy, and then Charlie. "But I've been friends with these guys forever. I love 'em. And recently, I've found I kind of wanted to be with them. You know - sex."

Adrian gaped. "Have you?"

Kippy looked smug, but didn't say anything. Ricky saw it, though, and laughed. "Yup. I slept with them last night." He leaned towards Adrian and whispered, "Got my dick sucked."

Adrian looked like he was trembling at the thought. "Aw, man." But then he leaned towards Ricky. "Did anything yourself?"

Ricky laughed. "Yeah. I did."

Adrian seemed mesmerized by the idea. "Did you like it? Who was it?"

"It was Charlie, and yeah, I liked it."

Adrian closed his eyes. "Man. I am so..."

"Envious?" Kippy supplied, laughing.

Adrian looked sweetly embarrassed, but nodded.

Ricky looked surprised. "What? You want a blowjob? I mean, you're at the right place."

Charlie howled, and Kippy fell over and grabbed his belly, laughing. Ricky just grinned, and slowly turned red.

Adrian looked shocked, but grinned like he just couldn't help it at all.

Charlie decided to rescue the guy. And change the subject for now. So he began explaining what they had going for Halloween night, and they wound up letting Adrian hear some of the sounds they'd downloaded, and then took him outside and told him what they had in mind to scare the neighborhood kids.

Adrian absorbed it like a sponge, and at the end of it all, just sighed and smiled wistfully. "Wow. It sounds like you guys are going to have a blast."

Ricky was standing behind Adrian, and Charlie saw him wave, point at the new boy, and silently mouth the words, 'Can I ask him to come?'

Charlie tried not to laugh, and nodded.

"So," Ricky said, coming around to face Adrian. "Wanna come over and help us with this?"

The look of delight that came onto the new boy's face could not have been faked. "Really?" He looked at Charlie for confirmation.

"Sure. We can use all the help we can get. Can't we, Kippy?"

"Absolutely. Come early and you can eat pizza with us, too."

Adrian looked like he didn't know how to act. Charlie decided right there that here was a sweet side to the boy that was absolutely appealing, and went a long way towards negating the poor impression he'd received of the guy at school. Hmm. Charlie guessed that everyone could be an asshole, under the right conditions. But he remembered now the little smile and sigh he had experienced on seeing Adrian the first time - the time he'd thought the new boy cute and someone he'd like to know.

Seems he wasn't wrong after all.

"God, this stuff is awful," Kippy said, sitting down at the table in the school cafeteria. Charlie was right behind him, and plunked his tray down in disgust, and sat next to his boyfriend.

"Yeah, my fault. I should have looked at the menu." Charlie looked at his tray. It was supposed to be Lasagna. It looked more like pasta soup. Terrible pasta soup.

"You see this shit?" Ricky said, coming up and sitting down across from them. "Yuck. Looks like someone already ate it and shitted it out again."

Charlie and Kippy laughed. The tray also had Lima beans on it, which was not something a normal person would serve with Lasagna. But the beans were edible, and they started eating.

"Hi guys, Can I sit with you?"

They looked up as one. It was Adrian.

Charlie was surprised, but delighted. "Sure. Have a seat. You can complain along with the rest of us about this shit they gave us for lunch."

Adrian sat. "Did you taste it?"

Everybody looked at him.

"You kidding?" Kippy said. "I've had enema results that look better than that stuff."

Adrian laughed, but took his spoon, lifted a portion of the goop from his tray, and put it into his mouth.

"Oh, god, did you see that?" Ricky said, making a face. "He actually ate some of it!"

Adrian nodded. "You need to taste it, guys. It's good, despite how it looks."

Charlie didn't think that Adrian was playing. You didn't put shit into your mouth without showing some kind of reaction.

He took his spoon and lifted a portion of the pasta, and brought it up, trying not to look at it. He sighed, steeled himself in case he was wrong - and stuck the spoon into his mouth.

It tasted like Lasagna.

Somehow, despite the sauce looking like water, it tasted like tomato. There was a seasony tang to the food that was pleasant on his tongue, and a meaty flavor that couldn't be missed.

Charlie laughed. "It's not bad," he said, looking at Kippy. "Try it."

Kippy tasted his food, and when he didn't keel over, Ricky tried his.

And then they were all eating.

A few people walked by, saw Adrian sitting with them, but didn't stop, and didn't say a word. Charlie hoped that that was how it would be for Adrian - pretty much as it was for Ricky.

There, but not there.

"I'm kind of looking forward to this evening," Adrian confessed, between spoonfuls. Charlie smiled at him, aware that here was the real guy that lived in this body. Adrian had let his defenses down, and was trying to engage the world.

Ricky smiled at him, his eyes seeming to sparkle. "Me, too. You're gonna help me with the fog, right?"

Adrian smiled at him. "Yeah."

Charlie blinked, surprised. He couldn't fail to see the way that Ricky looked at the new boy; what was as important - if not more - he could see the way that Adrian looked back at Ricky.

An idea began to take shape in Charlie's mind.

"So, Adrian. Think your mom would let you sleep over at my house tonight with all of us?"

The way that Ricky's eyes went wide with delight only confirmed what Charlie now could more obviously see.

"Yeah, that would be awesome!" Ricky exclaimed, looking at Adrian. "Think you could?"

Adrian looked overwhelmed by the idea. "Sleep over - with you guys?" He looked at Ricky. "All of you?"

Ricky nodded. "I'll be there."

Kippy was watching Charlie, and now he nodded. "Yeah. You can call your mom from here."

Adrian paused. "No - it would be better if I asked her in person." He licked his lips. "She's just getting home from work when I'm getting home from school. I'll go straight home and ask her."

Charlie nodded. "Then you can come on over to my house. We'll be getting pizza for dinner."

Kippy grinned. "Yeah. We can have a punkin' contest."

Adrian squinted at him, then looked uncertainly at Charlie. "What's that?"

Charlie laughed. "He's kidding - but, you know? Punkin' off? Jerking your dick?"

Adrian's mouth dropped open, and then immediately snapped shut. He laughed, drawing back. "Not really?" But it was Ricky he turned to.

Ricky laughed, familiar with the term. "It means when you all line up and jerk, and the one that shoots the farthest wins."

"We like to do it naked," Kippy threw in, his eyes sparkling.

Adrian gaped again, and Charlie laughed. "No we don't. Adrian, he's kidding you." Charlie looked reprovingly at his boyfriend. "You'll need to get used to Kippy's sense of humor."

"It's not real?" Adrian said then. Was that disappointment that Charlie detected?

He laughed. "No, it's real. We've just never done it before."

"But we could," Kippy just had to throw in.

Charlie gave him a look, but Kippy simply shrugged.

Ricky suddenly looked interested. "Why?" He asked, smiling at Adrian. "Would you do it if we really did have a contest?"

A small smile tugged at the new boy's mouth. "Maybe."

Kippy laughed. "See?" And then it seemed a new idea hit him. "Hey - if Adrian sleeps over, we only have the bed and the cot. Where are we going to put him?"

Ricky grinned. "Well, you two have the bed. Adrian can share the cot with me."

Charlie nearly laughed out loud. "Ricky, it's a one-man cot."

Ricky glared at him. "And?"

Adrian put a hand out and laid it cautiously on Ricky's wrist. "I have a sleeping bag I can bring. But thanks." His eyes said he meant it, and he was flattered, but maybe he wasn't quite ready for that. Ricky took that in, nodded. "Offer's open."

Adrian smiled.

Kippy looked at Charlie and grinned. Charlie gave him a warning look - but couldn't help grinning back.

The bell rang, and they all got up to go back to classes.

"Little higher," Charlie said, watching as Ricky pulled on the string that drew the sheet up into the branches. "There. That's good. Tie it off."

Ricky did, tying the end of the string to a lower branch. As he did so, he cast a look over his shoulder at the sidewalk.

Charlie went over, put a hand on his friend's shoulder, and leaned against him. "He'll be here. He said his mom said he could come for the night."

Ricky turned and looked at him. "Charlie, do you always know what I'm thinking?"

Charlie smiled. "Not always. You're kind of broadcasting this, though."

Ricky sighed. "Fast, huh? One minute I'm gonna smack the guy, the next I want to kiss him."

Charlie raised an eyebrow. "Do you? Want to kiss him?"

Rick nodded slowly. "Yeah, I do. Seeing him dance with Kippy the other night - it did something to me, Charlie." He sighed. "It was just the sexiest thing I've ever seen. I felt like, someone that can do something like that, just has to be special."

Charlie understood that, because he felt the same way about Kippy's dance that night. He nodded. "Go slow, is the only advice I can give you, Ricky. He's even newer at this than you are."

Ricky nodded. "Think I have a chance?"

Charlie recalled the way that Adrian had smiled at Ricky at the lunch table earlier. "Yeah. I do. I kind of get that he's interested in you, too."

Ricky didn't say anything, but he smiled.

A car drove up and stopped at the curb. A stick-on sign on the top proclaimed that the vehicle had come all the way from Pizza Heaven. The door opened, and Greg Everon got out, toting a hot pack. "Hey, guys. Coupla large sausage and bacon, extra cheese for you here."

Kippy came running from the bushes, where he had been placing white washcloths by the little LED lights. "Hey, Greg. How's it hanging?"

"Wild, and to the side," Greg returned, grinning. "What are you guys up to?"

They explained what they were doing while Charlie dug the money out of his pocket and paid Greg, giving him a nice tip. Greg listened with obvious interest, pausing only long enough in listening to beam a beautiful smile at Charlie for the tip. He set the hot pack down and got their two large pizzas out, settling the boxes into Kippy's waiting arms.

"Sounds really fun," he said, after they had finished. "Mind if I drive Joey by here later? We won't get in your way. We'll park across the street and watch a little."

Charlie grinned. "Help yourself. We owe you a party, anyway."

Greg laughed, and turned to go. "See you then."

As he was getting back into his car, another one was pulling up behind it. Greg waved and pulled away as the second car came to a stop. This time, when the door opened, it was Adrian who got out. He opened the rear door, dragged a rolled up sleeping bag out, and closed the door. Then he stuck his head in the front window and kissed the pretty woman at the wheel. He started towards them, lugging the bedroll, and the woman looked past him at Charlie, Kippy, and Ricky, smiled, and waved.

All three boys smiled and waved back, and the car pulled away from the curb and was gone.

Adrian came up, dropped the bedroll at his feet. "Hi. Sorry to take so long. We had to go through some boxes until we found my bag."

"Your mom looks nice," Charlie said, as Ricky moved up beside Adrian.

"Hi," Ricky said, smiling.

Adrian looked at him, and a warm smile appeared on his face. "Hi."

They two boys looked at each other a moment, while Kippy beamed, and Charlie looked on with amusement. Ah, love.

"I said, 'Your mom looks nice'," Charlie repeated.

Adrian finally looked at him. "Yeah, she is. And happy I have some new friends."

"You do, too," Ricky said, nodding seriously.

Charlie smiled, went and picked up Adrian's sleeping bag, although, somewhere in his heart, he was thinking that the boy might not need it after all this night. "Come on inside. We need to chow down some of this pizza and then get back to getting ready."

They went inside, crowded around the island in the kitchen, eating pizza, drinking soft drinks, and laughing. Adrian seemed to be fitting in quite well already, and the only thing that might be a problem was that Ricky obviously had fallen for the new boy in between the beats of his heart, and was obviously pining for some closeness. Adrian, for his part, seemed to love the attention, and his eyes, when he looked at Ricky, held a level of enchantment that reminded Charlie of something like it he had seen before - in the eyes of Kippy, when the two of them had first met.

Maybe - just maybe - this would work out fine.

They killed the first pizza and part of the second before admitting they were full and getting back to work. Charlie handed over a printout of his order confirmation, and Ricky and Adrian went to get the cooler and walk to the supermarket for the dry ice. Charlie and Kippy would bring down Charlie's laptop and speakers and get that set up on the table by the driveway.

"You see the way those two are looking at each other?" Kippy said, while they were collecting the gear in Charlie's bedroom. "God, I see little sparks each time they get near each other."

Charlie nodded. "Yeah." He put out a hand and laid it on his boyfriend's arm. "Just be a little careful what you say, huh, Kip? Sometimes your humor is close to the edge, and we don't want to mess this up for Ricky."

Kippy looked at him. "I'd never do anything to hurt Ricky, Charlie. " He smiled, though. "But I'll be careful."

Charlie grinned, and pulled Kippy close and kissed him. "I hope we get to see Ricky and Adrian kissing someday."

Kippy laughed. "Make you horny?"

Charlie pulled back, and looked into Kippy's eyes. "No, that's not what I mean. I'd love to see Ricky as happy as I am when I kiss you."

Kippy's face compressed a little. "Oh, Charlie." He nuzzled Charlie's face with his own, and Charlie closed his eyes and held Kippy close.

Things slowly came together. Charlie and Kippy were testing the speaker placement, playing sounds at low volume, when Ricky and Adrian returned, smiling and laughing, carrying the cooler between them. They set it down by the oil drum, and Ricky went into the garage to get a hammer, a chisel, and the welder's gloves.

Adrian looked like he was happy, wearing a smile, and with his eyes sparkling. Kippy grinned at Charlie over Adrian's shoulder, obviously seeing it, too.

"Any trouble?" Charlie asked.

Adrian shook his head. "No. But you should have seen the guy at the store when he asked what we were going to do with all that dry ice, and we told him that we were making fog. He looked at us like we were nuts."

"Did he," Ricky added, coming back with the gloves and tools. He was grinning ear-to-ear. "We said we were making fog for a haunted house and he thought we were kidding. Once he realized we weren't, he just thought we were crazy."

Kippy shrugged. "Some people have no imagination."

The sun was settling into the trees to the west with alarming speed. Kippy had decided to wear Ricky's coveralls and hockey mask to hand out candy, and Ricky had removed the pink paint from the mask with paint thinner so that it was white again. Nothing could easily be done with the iron-on patches on the coveralls, so they just left them in place. Probably, no one would even notice them with the other things going on.

At the last minute, they ran around quickly and put the batteries in the LED blinkers, and covered them with the white washcloths. They had set up Kippy to hand out candy from the front stoop, putting a small table there he could stand next to while awaiting trick-or-treaters. Kippy took the big wooden mixing bowl they had borrowed from Charlie's mom's kitchen, set it on the table, and began opening bags of candy and filling the bowl. Charlie looked over at his boyfriend, pouring candy into the bowl, the hockey mask perched upon his head, and smiled. Kippy was a kid at heart, and probably always would be. It was something that Charlie loved about him - that Kippy saw so much magic in so many things.

Ricky set up the big box fan so that it would move the tree ghosts, and put on his gloves and goggles and chipped off a large piece of the dry ice so they would be ready when it got dark. Charlie looked through the files he had set up for quick access, and tried maniacal laugh number three to see how it would sound at volume.

A deep, menacing chuckle rolled suddenly across the front lawn, causing Kippy to start at the bowl. He looked up at Charlie, grinning. "Scared me! Definitely should scare the munchkins."

Suddenly, Charlie thought about that. He walked over to Kippy, who paused loading the bowl as Charlie drew up. "What's the matter?"

Charlie grimaced. "It just occurred to me that we really don't want to terrify the little kids. It will be dark in about ten minutes, and the first kids out will be the youngest ones. I don't want to scare them badly. Leave your mask up for a while, and I'll go easy on the sounds. We'll wait until a little later before we get really nasty, okay?"

Kippy grinned. "You're the brain, brain."

Charlie grinned, and walked back to his station behind the hedge, and told Ricky and Adrian about the change in plans. "The little kids will all be home by eight o'clock or so. After that, we'll let all the monsters out, okay?"

The sun set. Ricky dropped the first block of dry ice into the drum, turned on the fan, and took a cup of boiling water from the saucepan bubbling away on the hotplate, and poured it into the drum and closed the lid.

On the other side of the hedge, a jet of white fog appeared from the hose and rolled across the lawn, showing clearly in the blinking lights from the LED's. Charlie picked one of the rattling chain effects, turned the volume down a little, and ran the file. The eerie, echoey sounds of metal links dragging on stones issued forth from the speakers, causing the concealed lightbox over by Kippy to blaze with a twisting pattern of reds, greens, and blues, which coalesced into a slightly menacing, flickering glow when diffused through the white sheet that covered it. Kippy was visible in the eerie glow, the mask pulled up on his head - and Charlie realized that with the mask down, he would look a little bit ghoulish, indeed. And the fog was visible in all the different colored lights, coiling and rolling in the light breeze, taking on a life of it's own in the chill evening air.

Charlie grinned. Awesome.

The first trick-or-treaters came along - little kids, in mostly store-bought costumes, one hand clutched in the hand of a mom or dad, the other hand holding onto a bag or pillowcase. They paused at the head of the walk as Charlie played a few creepy sounds, the volume down low, and the fog rolled across the lawn, and Kippy waved for the parents to come on up. The little kids looked everywhere - at the lights, at the fog, at Kippy standing there with candy in his hand. Most of the faces Charlie could see that were maskless held grins of delight - only a few, here or there, looked unsettled, and pushed closer to mom or dad. The parents, for the most part, all wore smiles, and Charlie could hear a few of them compliment Kippy on the setting.

Ricky added more dry ice to the drum, and more water, and the fog thickened on the lawn about them, and developed a wonderful tendency to climb the trunks of the trees, lapping about the moving sheets and adding an extra level of creepiness to their movements.

The parade of young ones intensified, and then began to thin as the night drew down upon them. They began to see bigger kids now, as the dark took on life all along the sidewalks on both sides of the street.

A group of kids big enough to easily be fifth or sixth graders came along the walk, and paused, looking up at the house. Charlie saw Kippy flip his mask down, and he quickly turned up the volume to the speakers and set off a file that produced an unearthly squeal of scary laughter across the yard. The lightbox blazed with the added volume, and they heard a girlish eek! from the street, then laughter, as a trio of boys headed up the walk, leaving a lone - likely female - ghost standing at the sidewalk. Charlie grinned, selected the belltower-at-the-gates-of-hell vacuum tube file, and cranked the volume all the way up.

The table actually vibrated with the bass rumble of the sound, and then the frightening peal of the bell-like sounds. The lightbox blazed up, and even the fog seemed to respond to the sound. There was another squeaking yell, and all three boys were running back to the sidewalk. Charlie and the others laughed, watching as the boys passed the girl ghost and ran off down the walk. The ghost remained in place a moment, then ran off after them.

Kippy came running over, flipping up his mask. "That was funny, Charlie - but we don't want to scare them off, do we?"

Charlie shook his head. "No. I was just showing those boys what it was like to be a girl."

Kippy grinned, and went back to his station.

The evening progressed. Charlie got pretty good at running the sounds together in suitably eerie fashion, and the number of kids that paused before coming up the walk only told him he had it right. They noticed, also, that more and more costumed kids were sitting on the curb across the street from the house, watching as other trick-or-treaters came along and braved the journey from the sidewalk to the hockey-masked figure handing out the candy.

At one point a car came along and parked near the end of the curb-sitters on the other side of the street, and Charlie recognized it as Greg's car - minus the Pizza Heaven sign. Greg and Joey, come to watch.

They played it easy, for the most part; but every now and then a group of older kids would come along, and Charlie would go all out for freak show in effect. Most of the older kids were unfazed, and simply stomped up the walk to where Kippy stood, laughing and carrying on. A few, here and there, looked spooked, or startled, or just plain decided to skip the house entirely. But for the most part, everyone seemed to have fun.

The night wore on, and the number of visitors began to wane. Charlie was feeling the chill now - he wasn't cold, but the light jacket he had on wasn't quite enough to fend off the evening breeze.

"We're getting low on ice, Charlie," Ricky said, at one point.

Charlie nodded. It had been almost ten minutes since their last visitor, and when he pulled out his cell to check the time, he was amazed to see it was past ten-thirty.

"We'll give it until eleven, then pack it in."

A few more late visitors arrived - some costumed souls as big as they were. Charlie grinned, wondering if any were kids he knew from school. For some people, there was no such thing as being too old for anything.

At one point he heard laughter next to him, and looked over at Ricky and Adrian. Ricky had his arm around the other boy, and they had their heads together. Charlie smiled, and looked away, giving them their moment.

Finally, it was eleven, and the streets had pretty much cleared. The gawkers that had been sitting on the curb were all gone, and Charlie realized that Greg and Joey had left at some point and he hadn't noticed. It was too chilly to keep standing there for no reason, so Charlie called to Kippy to come on in. His boyfriend appeared momentarily at his side, the mask tilted up and the candy bowl in his hands. "Nine packs of candy left, Charlie," he said with a grin. "Talk about cutting it close."

They unplugged all the electrics and stashed the hotplate and the fans and the lightbox in the garage, and went around the yard and collected the little LED lights and the washcloths and removed the batteries from the lamps. The sheets they decided to collect the next day, as well as the cooler and the oil drum. The last thing they did was to gather Charlie's laptop and speakers and carry them up to his room.

"I'm cold," Adrian admitted, rubbing his hands together. "But that was great. Thanks for inviting me, Charlie."

Charlie smiled. "If you're cold, you should go take a hot shower. Perk you right up. Just don't take too long, because me and Kippy will be right behind you."

Adrian nodded, then compressed his lips and looked over at Ricky. "Are you going to take a shower, Ricky?"

Ricky shrugged. "Yeah. But go ahead. I'm used to being last with these guys."

Adrian took a breath, let it out. "Take one with me?"

Charlie and Kippy immediately started laughing at the expression that appeared on Ricky's face. He put his eyes back into his head, grinned at them, then waved a finger at them. "Don't make me come over there."

Charlie and Kippy just grinned at each other.

Adrian smiled, sat on the edge of the cot, and began to undress himself, while everyone else watched. He got all the way to a skimpy pair of black briefs before stopping, and stood up and smiled at Ricky. "Coming?"

Adrian was, in a word, beautiful. He was sleek and graceful, with the firm forms of muscles visible beneath smooth, tight skin. Ricky simply gawked, and Charlie and Kippy laughed.

Ricky literally threw his clothing off, and was right behind Adrian going into the bathroom. The door shut with a bang, and then they heard running water.

"Someone is coming out of their shell mighty fast," Kippy said, looking at Charlie and grinning. He began to get himself undressed, and Charlie moved to follow.

"I hope this will be good for Ricky," Charlie said, as he went to sit in his boxers next to Kippy. "I never saw it before, but Ricky is lonely, I think."

Kippy nodded. "So is Adrian. I hope it will be good for both of them." He sighed. "I'd like to see them have the kind of love that we do."

Charlie nodded. "We do have that." He leaned against Kippy, who put an arm around him and squeezed him.

"Been a great weekend, don't you think?"

Charlie nodded. "Yeah. Best Halloween in a few years, too."

Kippy turned his head and kissed Charlie. "There still time for the great punkin' contest, you know."

Charlie sighed. "I really don't think we're gonna need that tonight, Kip. I have a feeling that Adrian won't be using the sleeping bag, and that Ricky is going to be one happy camper in the morning."

Kippy laughed. "Yeah. I think I feel that, too."

It wasn't long before the bathroom door opened and Ricky and Adrian came out, wrapped in towels and both smiling. The towels were both tented in the front, and Charlie gave a little yes! inside his head, and looked at Kippy, who seemed to be doing the same kind of thing.

"Your turn, fellas," Ricky said, unable to stop smiling.

Charlie and Kippy both stood, but only Charlie moved toward the bathroom door. He stopped, and turned back when he realized that Kippy wasn't following. "You coming?"

Kippy grinned at him. "I was hoping to see the towels come off."

Ricky and Adrian grinned at each other, and then Ricky simply tugged at his towel, so that it came off into his hand. "This what you wanted to see?"

Kippy nodded. "Uh huh. Well, half of what I wanted to see."

Adrian took a deep breath, looked at Ricky, and dropped his towel. Charlie and Kippy both inspected what was now visible, and Kippy smiled. He came over and tugged at Charlie, and they went into the bathroom and closed the door.

"Oh, yeah," Kippy said, as Charlie turned on the water. "Our Ricky is definitely going to be a happy camper in the morning."

"Shut up and get wet with me, my love."

"Oh, Charlie. You say the sweetest things."

When they were done and went back to the bedroom, Adrian's bedroll was still on the floor. The cot looked very full, and the blankets moved, while laughter came from beneath.

Charlie and Kippy dried each other, and soon climbed into bed and turned out the light. They made love in the half light from the nightlight, while strikingly similar sounds came forth from the next bed.

And then Charlie relaxed, content, his body wonderfully warm and sated, with Kippy in his arms and snuggled close.

"Wunnerful Halloween," Kippy said, sleepily.

"Yup." Charlie felt sleep coming for him, too. "Not so scary, maybe, but sure one to remember."

Kippy sighed. "I love you, Charlie Boone."

Charlie nodded, and squeezed Kippy closer as his eyes settled closed. "Me, too, Kip. Always and forever, me, too."

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