All Paths Lead to Johnnies
“IT WAS okay, right?”
David Worral had to laugh. He’d never seen Dex Williams look so uncertain. They were driving down an empty stretch of Highway 87, right outside of Forsyth, Montana. They were in Dex’s dad’s old Chevy pickup truck, a big old beater, which they’d nicknamed “Shrek” because it had been beat to shit in its long life and had the green primer spots to prove it. The thing was too old for air-conditioning, so they had the windows rolled down and were talking over the wind as Dex drove seventy miles an hour down the straightaway.
“Yeah,” David said, smiling shyly. “It was fine.” He had to grimace for a moment. “Unexpected,” he admitted, adjusting himself more comfortably, “but fine.” His cock had begun to swell just from talking about it. Maybe fine was an understatement.
He fiddled with the ring on his finger—a plain titanium class ring that looked just like the one he’d gotten right after high school. But that ring was on Dex’s finger now, and this one? This one said Dex Williams on the inside of it. It was secret, right? And just thinking about that secret made him uncomfortable again, so he struggled with the seat belt to make room for his hips and wiggled again. The seat belts were a late addition to the bench seat in the big truck, and they’d mostly been added because Dex’s dad had been busted on the interstate for driving without them. Dex didn’t see the point in them either, but then, Dex had always been the risk taker.
He’d certainly been the risk taker today. It was thirty miles to Forsyth from David’s farm, which was, in turn, ten miles from Dex’s. The boys had ridden a bus to school, and all during school, they’d sat next to each other for twelve years on account of their names being so close. But today… today had been different.
There was a rest stop between David’s farm and Forsyth, stocked with sodas and chips and set back in some shade trees, which were watered by an open irrigation ditch that ran behind the stop. They’d stopped there on the way back from picking up supplies for Dex’s mom in Forsyth, taken a whizz, bought some more chips, and tried really hard to avoid the fact that David was slated to go off to Montana State in September, and Dex—who’d never been great at school anyway—was going to stay home to help his dad grow potatoes and cows.
They didn’t know what they were going to do without each other.
So there they were: David was leaning against a tree and taking a swig of soda, rubbing his taut stomach under his T-shirt because that’s just what he did, when Dex walked up to him real serious like, getting closer than strictly necessary in an obvious effort to make sure he had David’s attention.
David didn’t mind. He’d wanted to touch Dex that way since they were in sixth grade. You didn’t talk about that in Montana, though, so he’d started dating Sandra in high school, and Dex had dated Alyssa, because that’s just what you did, right? You didn’t make a move on your best friend, because then you wouldn’t have a best friend, right?
But here was Dex, standing too close and smelling like sweat, and David was mesmerized by his ordinary brown eyes and sandy-brown hair.
“You gonna miss me?” Dex said softly, and David tried to swallow through a throat that was positively arid.
“Like I have an option,” he said, and for this hushed, windless moment under the oak trees, he let some of his yearning shine through. Dex’s hands on his hips were as natural as David’s own, and the sun shining through his longish dark hair glittered off the almost impossibly long dark eyelashes. They were standing eye-to-eye, and David noted the straight nose, the square chin, the almost puffy lips. Dex had stubble and a broad chest and tightly strung abs, and he could in no way be confused with Sandra. David swallowed and took a risk, dropping his soda on the ground and putting his hands on Dex’s lean hips in return.
Dex’s look never strayed from that serious intensity, even when he thrust his hips forward so their groins met. David gasped—oh damn. It… it just felt so good. The ridge of Dex’s erection pressing against the placket of David’s jeans… it was hard and rough and….
Dex reached back and seized David’s corn-yellow hair, angled David’s head, and dove in for a kiss.
At the touch of those soft lips moving firm and possessively over his own, David melted and exploded both at the same time.
His bones softened and he became pliant, willing to do whatever Dex wanted, however he wanted it. His skin flared to life, craving, demanding, needing, and he shoved shaking hands up under Dex’s T-shirt, starving for the feel of that smooth skin under his palms.
He must have made a sound, a whimper, something, because Dex’s fingers tightened and he pulled David back. “I’ve been dreaming of this,” he said. His face—which was the kind with the sweet apple cheeks when he smiled—was suddenly hard and intent and commanding. “There’s a spot in those trees,” he said, his dark eyes insistent. “Go there and take off your clothes. I’ll be right there with a blanket from the truck.”
David opened his mouth for a moment, sudden fear of being caught in the trees naked clearing up some of the sun dazzle in his brain.
“Hey,” Dex said gently, “it’s me. Trust me. Trust me. I ain’t never let you down.”
David nodded and smiled shyly. “Okay, Dex. I’ll trust you.”
So he went to the small clearing surrounded by blackberry bushes and oak trees, down by the irrigation ditch, and took off his boots and his jeans and briefs and his T-shirt, folded them neatly, and put them in a little pile. It was hot and humid in Montana in August, so he was comfortable naked, standing there, waiting, and anticipation made his skin buzz. He closed his eyes for a moment and wrapped his hand around his cock, then moved it smoothly up and over, oiling the head with the little bit of fluid leaking out. He moved his other hand to his nipples and gave them an experimental pinch, grunting when that turned out to be just where he wanted to be touched today.
He heard a rustling in the underbrush, and his eyes flew open to see Dex standing in the clearing with a blanket tucked under one arm. Dex had that hard, hungry look on his face again.
David nodded and kept moving his hand on his cock, squeezing, oiling, pumping, while the little clearing was filled with the sounds of Dex’s harsh breathing as he laid the blanket out at David’s feet and took off his own boots and clothes.
David’s cock was swollen tight, more sensitized by his own hand and the passing breeze than it ever had been when Sandra had played with it, and his breathing hitched harder. He made a whimper and clenched his stomach muscles, saying, “Dex, I’m gonna—”
“Stop!” Dex commanded, and David did. He stood there, trembling, and Dex came up to him, naked, and smoothed his palms down David’s chest. “Don’t come yet,” Dex whispered.
David whimpered and Dex bent a little and took David’s nipple in his mouth, playing with the end. David brought his hands up to thread through Dex’s thick hair and tried to keep his knees from buckling. God. Just his nipples… he was going to come just from having his nipples sucked!
“Dex, I’m gonna—”
“No!” Dex pulled back and looked at him sternly. “I’ve been reading, Davy, and there’s shit I want to do to you… stuff you’re gonna like, I swear. But it’ll hurt if you come first… you gotta hold off.”
David closed his eyes and felt a shivering wave of want crash on him. He clung to Dex’s shoulders and let it sweep through him, leaving him trembling, on the verge, but at the same time content to let Dex take control.
“You did homework?” he asked, and Dex smiled at him, so close that the quick warmth of his mouth was not a surprise.
“Yeah,” Dex whispered. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot.”
David smiled back, and Dex whispered in his ear. “That smile, right there?”
“I’ve known you my entire life. You only smile like that for me.”
Their bodies were nude and smooth against each other, and when Dex’s arms came around his shoulders, David couldn’t get enough of the feeling of their naked skin rubbing together. He started to thrust his hips then, frotting up against the crease of Dex’s thigh and needing so badly that he was almost weeping with it.
Dex loved him.
“Shhh…,” Dex whispered. “Here,” he said, grabbing David’s hair again and pushing him down. “Suck on it. Watch your teeth. Be gentle.”
Oh God yes!
David sank to his knees on the little blanket and looked at it first, taking it in his hand, squeezing. Dex was probably like a lot of guys—six inches, maybe a little longer—but he was perfectly shaped, perfectly proportioned. It was every dick drawn in a notebook or on a comic (yes, David had seen them, done his own research furtively on the nights Sandra hadn’t been able to hook up), and David licked across the head, almost surprised to find that it tasted like sweaty skin.
Shouldn’t it taste like something more spectacular? Candy or bourbon or even the salty-bitter taste of David’s own come when he’d licked it from his hand? Dex groaned and his fingers tightened in David’s hair and he spurted a little. David shuddered, because now it tasted spectacular, and he wanted more.
Dex’s fingers in his hair pulled him back, and David went unwillingly, sucking until the cockhead escaped his mouth with a pop. Dex angled his head up and looked down at him, cupping his cheek in the other hand.
“I want to come in your mouth,” he whispered. “But that means we can’t do that other thing unless we’re late home. Is that okay?”
David moaned. “Yeah,” he said mindlessly. “We can be late.” (Nobody was ever late to his mother’s table.) “God… please, Dex, can I come too?” he begged, and Dex sank to his knees and kissed him, pushing him on his back on top of the blanket and continuing the hot, wet assault of mouth and tongue until David was bucking his hips frantically against Dex’s thigh. Dex moved quickly then—he and David had been in football in high school, and David had been the wide receiver, but Dex had been the quarterback, and he was muscular and not too big and scary fast. Suddenly his cock was hanging in David’s face like fruit, and David moaned as he pulled it into his mouth. While his mouth was full, he almost screamed when Dex did the same thing to him.
He wanted to howl, he wanted to gibber, he wanted to plead, but he couldn’t do anything, because Dex was thrusting his cock into David’s mouth while he fisted and sucked on David’s cock in return. David was helpless, he was frantic, he was…
Tearing his face away from David and begging, “I’m coming… oh God… Dex, please….”
“I’ll let you come,” Dex promised, his breath panting out harshly against David’s cockhead. “Just don’t stop sucking.”
David sucked him in hard and tight, and Dex gave one last squeeze and suck, his other hand going to David’s balls. Oh geez, oh geez, oh geez! David made a desperate sound around Dex’s cock.
Dex groaned and started to spurt down David’s throat and pulled away long enough to say, “Now, David!” and David’s world exploded into pleasure, amazing pleasure, give and take, fireworks, bright lights, and come.
Dex pumped forever into his mouth, too long for David to swallow it all, even though he tried, and David just lay there, convulsing, clutching Dex’s hips to him, until Dex shook him off. With a grunt, he turned around, and pillowed his head on David’s shoulder with a self-satisfied grin.
David looked at him adoringly, and Dex wiped at his cheek with a careless thumb. David turned his head and sucked the leftover come off of Dex’s thumb with a smile, and Dex grinned some more.
“Good, huh?” he asked, and David shook his head, still breathless.
Dex’s expression sobered. “Worth coming back for?” he asked wistfully, and David nodded and grinned some more. Silently, Dex pulled the class ring off his finger. They’d gotten matching ones because they’d gone through school together joined at the hip, and in spite of tradition, neither one of them had given their ring to their girlfriends. Dex grabbed David’s hand and switched rings, and David slid Dex’s ring on his own finger, where it fit just like it should. Not a word was said then about forever, or about ditching their girlfriends, or about coming out to their parents with the big scary scene and the “g” word. There was just the simple promise that David would come back, and they would do this again.
In the end they decided they had to come back in order to do it again anyway. It really was too late for them to try that other thing Dex wanted to do, so they cleaned themselves off in the restrooms and climbed back into the truck.
When Dex asked David if it was okay, David had no choice but to nod. Oh yes, oh yes, it had been more than okay, it had been something he’d dreamed about for years.
“It was real good,” David said softly, trying to find words, and Dex turned his head.
“What was that? Speak up!”
And David looked away from those intent brown eyes and saw the buck crossing the road. He yelled, “Watch out!” but it was too late.
HE WOKE up in the hospital the next day, with a concussion from hitting his head on the dashboard as well as a broken arm and a whole lot of bruising and various stitches and cuts. He was disoriented at first, and then he saw his dad and mom, sitting in the far corner of the room, whispering.
“Dex?” he mumbled, wanting reassurance, because what he could remember had been horrific, and there seemed to have been a lot of blood, and he couldn’t hear Dex’s voice in his head, like he’d heard it since kindergarten and maybe before.
His mom and dad stood up then and looked at each other, that wordless communication that people have when they’ve been together for a lot of good years.
“David?” his mom said, and David closed his eyes at what he saw there.
“I’m sorry we were late for dinner, Mom,” he said a little desperately. “I’m sorry, the supplies must have been all over the road—”
David looked up and met her eyes and started shaking all over. “No.”
Then his dad spoke in that voice that nobody ever crossed. “Son.”
“No,” he said again, his voice louder.
“Son, he didn’t—”
“No!” he shouted. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no….” And he must have yelled it for too long, because they sedated him, which was fine, because sleep was the best hope he had.
HE WAS actually a little more fucked-up than he’d first assumed when he woke up. He spent a month in the hospital mourning Dex, wondering what to do with his life. He missed the beginning of school in Montana, which sucked, and spent a lot of his time in recovery with a laptop, looking for another school that would take him.
He wanted some place that would not require him to visit home, even during Christmas break.
It was terrible of him. He had an older brother, who was working the farm, and three younger brothers and a younger sister, and he loved them, very much so. They visited him in the hospital each and every day. He listened to his eight-year-old brother read, and his eleven-year-old brother talk about sports. His thirteen-year-old sister would complain about her brothers, and his fifteen-year-old brother wanted to talk about girls. His twenty-year-old brother complained about how none of the other kids was working enough and…
And he wanted to scream at them, howl, because Dex was gone, and they hadn’t just been friends, hadn’t just been brothers, they’d been…
Oops. Nope. Couldn’t think of that word. Couldn’t.
Because Sandra was coming by every day to make sure he was okay and talk about their plans to go to Montana State and bring him stuff that she’d cooked with his mom because he didn’t seem to be eating right.
Because Dex’s girlfriend, Alyssa, was in genuine, true-love-forever mourning, and how could he fuck that up for her? How could he say to himself, “I loved him more than I loved Sandra, and he loved me like he couldn’t love you, Alyssa, and we were just figuring this out, it was just new, when it all came to an end on Highway 87,” when that truth would destroy people who had already been destroyed?
Running away to Sacramento wasn’t the bravest thing he’d ever done, but it wasn’t the stupidest, either. Sacramento may have been the capital of the state, but it was still a small place in comparison with places like San Francisco and Los Angeles. There was enough farmland nearby for him to feel comfortable, and there were enough exotic locales—like the Sierra Nevada and the ocean and even Southern California and Disneyland—within driving distance for him to feel like it was someplace new.
And it was far enough away from Montana that he could pretend that the interlude, that sweet, amazing, wonderful, perfect moment with Dex, had never happened. Maybe it was far enough away for him to mourn his friend however he could, instead of the way other people expected him to. Maybe it was far enough away to leave the hurt behind.
He called the dean of admissions when he saw that the startup date was a week later than MSU and explained the situation—and was admitted, much to his parents’ chagrin. The tuition was considerably higher than it had been at MSU, as was the housing, and David promised he’d find a way to pay for it out of his own pocket.
After that one moment when he’d needed sedation, he’d been almost frighteningly calm in the hospital. Looking back, he thought that he might have scared his parents enough that they would have agreed to anything, as long as he was talking about the future, and he was grateful.
He went home for a week and looked around the battered, noisy farmhouse with new eyes. It seemed small and crowded, but it was also the home of his childhood. Every mark on the walls, every dent in the doorframe or scuff on the floor, had been made by somebody he loved. A lot of them were even from Dex.
Dex was buried on his folks’ property, and although their driveways were ten miles apart, because of the way the properties lay, it was only a two-mile walk from David’s doorstep. His second-to-last day home, he exhausted himself walking out there to look at the shiny new headstone with all of the flowers on it. He crouched down and rubbed his hand on the polished granite and sighed.
“You know,” he said conversationally, “I can’t even blame you. I wouldn’t have been looking for the fucking deer either.” The plot was watered and the grass was soft, so he sank down at the edge of it and tried to put things in perspective, but he couldn’t.
“Twelve years,” he said softly. “My whole life, I thought you and me were the same person. That last day, we even became sort of the same person, and that’s what was so great about it. The being together so tight, we didn’t know where the other one left off. Remember….” He had to smile at the memory. “Remember when you got the idea to build a sail scooter and take it across the stubble fields?” David laughed, remembering that. They’d worked on it for weeks, using big fat tires from an old bicycle and making sure they were oiled and suspended just right. David had learned how to use his mom’s sewing machine, and they had cannibalized old tarps and waited for one of those days when the wind sweeping out of the mountains had just seemed to level anything its path. Then they’d both hopped on the platform and….
“God, Dex. It was flying. We ended up halfway to Forsyth and then had to take the sail down and walk back, but it was worth it.”
They’d done that in the seventh grade and told the story all through high school. Usually when they told that story, Dex was the one who talked about ending up halfway to Forsyth, because the truth was, they’d barely cleared Dex’s property before one of the tires blew. But Dex’s story had so much more power, and David hopped on board that story in the same way he’d hopped on board that sailboard. Dex had always been able to help him fly.
“I… I’m not brave. I’m not a leader. I’m… you were strong, and you were the leader, and… and now I’m just going to be left, wondering how to live my life like you were there with the good ideas.”
And for the first time since that panicked moment in the hospital, he felt the void of his best friend, his brother, his—and he could say it out here, with no one to listen to his head—his lover, and he felt it as real.
He didn’t scream hysterically or stand up and kick the headstone or any of that. He put his face on his knees and listened as the wind from the mountains mercilessly leveled everything in its path. He remembered the person who had helped him fly with the wind instead of being beaten down by it, and he cried quietly into his knees, finally knowing how the big of the sky could make a person feel as alone as a heartbeat in space.
BY THE end of the year, his parents were out of money, and David didn’t want to go home. He’d broken up with Sandra before he left—she’d understood, and he’d been relieved—so he had a new girlfriend now. She was a wide-hipped, uninhibited girl named Kelly who would do things in bed on a whim that David used to have to spend weeks with flowers, chocolate, and sweet talk to get Sandra to do even reluctantly, and (even better) Kelly would be the one to come up with those things.
“You could always do porn,” Kelly said one night after a particular bit of holy-hell-orgasmathoning in her dorm. She was laughing as she said it, but he found that his cock started to get hard again just thinking about it.
“Porn?” He managed some skepticism. Of course, every boy liked to think he had the stuff of a porn star, if not too much class.
“Naw,” Kelly laughed and shook her head. “Naw! I couldn’t share you with another girl, sweetie.” She pinched his cheek and wiggled her wide hips. “You are just too cute—and too good in the sack! No. But….” Her eyes, bright blue with wickedly arched eyebrows, grew even brighter.
“What?” he asked, because that was the look she’d had when she’d first had him go through the back door, and he’d loved that, so he was starting to enjoy the hell out of that arch of her eyebrows and twist to her plump red mouth.
“There’s always gay-for-pay,” she said, laughing, and for a minute, David got mad.
“I ain’t gay!” he snapped, sitting up in bed and glaring. Dex had been dead less than a year, and sometimes it seemed that his time in Sacramento had been a dream, all of it suspended between that breathless hush between the two of them, looking at each other after making love on a hot windless day.
But Kelly didn’t get mad. Not much made her mad, actually, and David both liked that about her and didn’t. It was a great quality in a girl, but it meant that he was never sure if he had pleased her truly or if she just liked everything, and not just in bed, either. Clothes, perfume, jewelry, books—she was happy with it all, and he didn’t trust it. Dex had been so specific….
David shook that thought off and concentrated on what she was saying now.
“You don’t have to be gay, sweetie! That’s the point.”
David had looked at her blankly, and she rolled her eyes.
“Here, wait a sec,” she said. She sat up and pulled her phone from the dresser, then started texting madly. She got a reply almost immediately, and David squinted.
“Who are you texting?”
“My roommate,” she said briefly, then put the phone down.
“Isn’t she in the next room?” David asked, seriously confused. He’d been pretty sure Andrea was with her boyfriend. That’s what she and Kelly did on their weekends—had their boyfriends over and fucked like lemmings.
“Ignore that for a second,” Kelly laughed. “Just close your eyes,” she said, and he did. “Okay, now, I’m gonna touch you places. Don’t worry, you’ll like it.”
He felt a gentle touch on the inside of his arm then and tried not to giggle like a kid. Her fingers weren’t soft. She played the guitar and rode horses and went rock climbing in the gym, and generally didn’t hang back and pamper her wide-hipped bosomy body like it looked like, so he knew those fingers were hers.
“Okay,” she said quietly, tracing a firm path down from the inside of his arm to his waist to his thighs.
With his eyes closed, he found the touch stunningly erotic, and he became lost in it, lost in the touch and touch alone. His erection started to return, and he felt those rough fingers trace his length, then wrap around him, then stroke. He smiled a little.
“Kelly,” he said breathlessly, “if this is the way to convince me I’m not going to notice it’s a guy, this isn’t the way to do it.”
Kelly’s body shifted on the bed, and she put her lips close to his ear. “Trust me, Davy. You’re totally going to change your mind in a minute.”
He was concentrating on her voice, and although he heard some rustling in the background, her voice was soft and her lips were soft against his ear, and the smell of their sex was in the air, and he wasn’t going to be distracted from the swelling in his cock for all of the noises in the world.
“Okay, baby,” she whispered. “Now I’m gonna stroke your cock just the way you like it, okay?”
Her hand was hard and firm, and he moaned, willing to play her game because she was so good at this. She moved around next to him, and suddenly he could feel her mouth on him and her hair brushing his legs, and he was well on his way to a second orgasm when she pulled her head up and a man’s voice said, “Come for me.”
He startled—and did. He was so surprised his hands splayed out and his body shook and he let out a pained grunt before spurting all over the hand on his cock, and then he opened his eyes in outrage and saw—Kelly. His girlfriend. Looking at him wickedly, without another person in sight.
He glared at her and sat up, grabbing the covers and pulling them around his waist, sputtering with complete bafflement.
“What in the fuck¬!”
She shook her head, her auburn hair falling over her face as she licked her hand. She looked like one of those girls in the porn videos. “Keep your panties on. I just had the guy stick his head in here and say something. It’s nerve endings and perception, sweetie. If you think it’s a girl touching you, it feels good. If you think it’s a boy touching you, you tell yourself it doesn’t, but it all feels the same. Human touch is human touch.” She smiled evilly through the come on her face. “Do you want to see what else feels good to be touched?”
David shook his head no, although he was suddenly gripped by this idea. It wasn’t like he was too ugly to be on camera, right? He had blond hair and blue eyes, a small nose, a long square jaw (but not too long), and girls had been telling him he had a nice smile since he was a baby. A part of him pinged sadly: Dex had especially loved David’s smile.
And that’s what decided him. “How would you even go into gay for pay?” he asked, pitching his voice just right, and Kelly laughed.
“Baby, there’s a place right here in town.”
And that’s where David found out about Johnnies.
LATER, John would be doing everything on computer and not just sell the porn there, and he’d have an office suite outfitted to look like different locales, complete with a courtyard with a gazebo and a hot tub. When David applied, however, all he had was a nice respectable little house in a respectable little neighborhood, with a heavily enclosed backyard and a small pool.
It was May, and the sun was bright and hot, so after a phone interview and a downloaded picture, John took David inside and had a little chat.
John seemed nice enough, if a little young—barely older than David, actually. He had longish auburn hair and green eyes; he dressed super trendy and used all of that tacky slang that was about five minutes out of date, even by Sacramento standards, and they were still using words like “hella” and “yanno” pretty much to fucking death. He asked a series of questions printed on a clipboard in front of him like he was trying to be official, but the questions seemed to make John as uncomfortable as David—and most of them were sexual: Have you ever beat off with another boy? Have you ever touched another boy’s cock? Have you ever had sex with a boy? Has your girlfriend ever anally penetrated you? Finally, David lost patience.
“Oh my God! It’s like the questions are worse than having sex on camera!” he said with only half a laugh. “I’ve got a stiffie and I’m not sure whether to pull my pants down and prove it to you or run into the bathroom and beat off!”
John burst into giggles and grabbed the sheet off the clipboard, crumpled it up, and tossed it in the trashcan at the end of his desk. He shook his head. “I’m sorry. Seriously. I started this business about three months ago, right? And I just really don’t want it to be sleazy. I mean yeah, everybody’s having sex on camera, and it’s porn, but….”
John turned to look at him intently, almost like a new acquaintance would, and he ran a hand through his carefully maintained red hair. “Look, I know you’re straight, and you’ve probably figured I’m gay, but the thing is, do you remember the first time you saw porn?”
David blushed. It had been about two months ago, when he’d first started having sex with Kelly.
“Yeah,” he said, laughing uncomfortably. Oddly enough, he found it wasn’t John’s sexuality that was making him uncomfortable. In fact, it was the thought of having sex with girls when he was in this perfectly nice gay man’s house.
“So, what’d you think?”
David blushed some more. “It was….” He looked around and couldn’t seem to spot an escape hatch anywhere, so he soldiered on. “It was sort of nasty. I mean, it was girls, but they just looked so… I don’t know… like they were trying to make it dirty and….” Oh God. Most uncomfortable conversation ever. “I just wanted to get hard, right? I didn’t need the props or the costumes or the stupid dialog and they didn’t need to make it dirty, like she was bad and needed a spanking or, you know!” Geez, this was hard to put into words. “I just wanted to see people getting it on so I could get it up. Is that so damned wrong?”
John was guffawing now, giggling so hard that he had to put his hand over his mouth. “Oh my God. That’s it. That’s exactly it! I’m so tired of sex and sexuality being dirty! Why can’t it just be… I don’t know, good? Fun. I mean, yeah, good sex can be really raunchy, but it can also just be, I don’t know. Physical activity. You just need human contact, right? I mean….” John sobered a little and finished his thought. “People who don’t like each other fuck all the time. I want people who like each other to fuck—and I don’t want the ‘Do they really swing that way?’ thing to get in the way. I just want it to look good, and be happy, and make people happy to watch. Seriously.”
“So the questions?” David asked curiously, and John nodded.
“Yeah. I can’t figure out how, but I want to find guys who can think of it the same way. I want it to be fun, and hell, lucrative, right? But I want the guys to talk to each other and have human connection, even if they wouldn’t date each other outside the office, you know?”
David thought about it for a moment and remembered that moment, him and Dex, eye to eye. There hadn’t been any words for it, but he thought it was probably love. He didn’t expect to ever have a moment like that again in his life, but if he couldn’t? Why couldn’t it be fun? Why couldn’t it be friendly? Why couldn’t it be just a good place to work?
“Maybe just talk to us,” he said, thinking about it. “Get a feel for us, see if we’ve got the attitude or if we seem too needy or too weird about it. You know, we’re your employees, right? Maybe just see if you’d like to work with us, and think about it that way.”
John looked at him in surprise. “That’s a real good idea, David. I think I’d like very much to work with you. Would you want to beat off on camera for me today?”
David chuckled and then sobered. “Yeah. If you can pay me, I think I could have a lot of fun doing that.”
John allowed some residual laughter to float up between them. “Okay. I’ve got some employee forms all official and everything, and I’ll have you sign those so we can pay you, and you’re going to need a name.”
“You don’t really think some mother named her son Brett Sausagestuffer, do you?”
David laughed. “Gotcha. A porn name.”
“Yeah. Make it something you can recognize in a crowded room, okay?”
David didn’t even blink. “Dex,” he said, nodding. “I always wanted to be a Dex.”
Six Years Later
HE KNEW it wouldn’t last forever. Hell, it was never forever. But the next day at school, the same girl who’d drooled all over his cock the night before was holding hands with her boyfriend and making limpid eyes at him, and when Carlos walked by, she turned up her nose.
Carlos stopped right where he’d been walking on his way to science, the one class he didn’t fucking hate, and turned around.
“You’re gonna look at me like that?” he asked, and he knew he had a reputation for being a player, but the girls who were begging him to fuck them usually were at least a little grateful, right?
“I’m not lookin’ at you,” she said, her tiny little nose turned up, her plump brown mouth pulled up over her dainty white front teeth. “I don’t look at trash.”
Carlos pulled up his own sneer, and he knew it wasn’t pretty. “That’s not what you said last night when I was cleanin’ your chute,” he said, and he knew he had it coming, but he still didn’t see it coming when her boyfriend, Tomas, who was actually a decent guy and didn’t deserve to be two-timed like that, leveled a haymaker at him from the side.
His science teacher, Ms. Darcy, saw the whole thing, so Tomas got suspended. Carlos heard the news sitting in the nurse’s office with an ice pack on his cheek while Ms. Darcy looked at him skeptically.
“So, I know he’s the one who swung first,” she said dryly, giving him a gimlet eye. She was in her late fifties, graying and hatchet-faced, but she was also hella fuckin’ funny when she was pretty sure nobody like the weaselly little vice principal everybody hated, the one who curled her hair in her office while she was getting drunk, wasn’t listening in.
“Yeah,” Carlos said, his eyes wide. “He just up and hit me outta nowhere, I swear, Ms. Darcy—”
“Cut the shit, Carlos. What’d you say to him?”
Carlos kept his eyes (which were normally a little narrow and devilish looking, if he said so himself) as wide as possible. “I didn’t say shit to him, Ms. Darcy”—but he must have put too much emphasis on “him” and not enough on “didn’t say shit,” because she raised both eyebrows.
“What’d you say to her?”
Carlos blushed. He’d actually been raised better than to talk trash to a girl, but she’d made him so mad. Geez, this girl had chased him. He’d been checking out the lizards under the F wing when she’d followed him between the fence and the portable building, taken him between the two portables, dropped his pants, and sucked his dick. She hadn’t even said anything. And hell, it’s not like you just turned down that sort of shit, right? Carlos had been working out since the seventh grade, and carrying condoms in his pocket since the eighth grade because he wasn’t stupid. Girls just fuckin’ gave that shit away sometimes, and what kind of fool turned that down?
“I….” Some of his innocence slipped and his halo crashed to his feet. Ms. Darcy was cool. He hoped. “It just made me so mad, you know? There she was goin’….” He cut his eyes sideways and pulled up his teacher speak. “She’s, uhm, goin’ all… personal on me yesterday, right? And today? She just turns away like I’m trash, you know? And I didn’t expect hearts and flowers, but fuck, it would just be nice if she said hello, you feel me?”
Ms. Darcy did that thing with her lips that old people did when they felt sorry for you but knew they couldn’t explain why. “Well, Carlos,” she said after some consideration. He noticed he didn’t even make her blush.
She sighed and took the ice pack off his cheek, checked the bruise forming there, and then put the ice pack back. “You know in the old days, when it used to be the boys chasing the girls?”
Carlos grimaced. “That was like, sixth grade, right? That wasn’t so long ago.”
She smiled then and put a hand on his shoulder. “Yeah, well, they used to tell girls stupid things like ‘Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free’ and ‘Only trashy girls give it away’—you’ve heard that?”
Carlos nodded glumly. “Yeah, well, everyone does that, won’t nobody get some.”
Ms. Darcy laughed then and looked around furtively before going to the little cooler that only the nurse was supposed to get into. She opened a big bottle of Motrin and pulled out two tabs and brought it over to him with a bottle of water that had been in the fridge too. “Here, Carlos. Don’t tell anyone I gave them to you, okay? The nurse is supposed to call your parents and all sorts of bullshit, but she’s at the other high school today, all right?”
Carlos took the medicine glumly, and when he was done swallowing, Ms. Darcy started talking again.
“Look, my dear, all I’m trying to say is that other people won’t value you if you don’t value you. You’re a good-looking kid, and you know it, and you’ve got girls chasing you all over the planet, and that’s fun, right?”
He nodded vigorously, and she laughed.
“Well, if that’s what you want, that’s what you’re going to get. But if you want it to mean more, it’s got to be something that doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to make it important, you understand? Give it value—just don’t give it away for free.”
Carlos grinned, thinking of something funny. “Yeah, well, it’s not like people are gonna pay me to do that, right?”
Ms. Darcy rolled her eyes. “That’s not a career we want you to aspire to, no. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to marry everybody you bang, but they’re going to think you’re trashy if you let them treat you that way.”
Carlos kept the ice on his jaw and shook his head. “Ms. Darcy, I know you’re trying to tell me something important, but all I can think of is that if I got paid to have sex, I’d be hella rich right now.”
Ms. Darcy covered her eyes with her hands and let out a long sigh, the kind that told Carlos he was being stupid even when he wasn’t trying to be.
“Or,” she said with another sigh, “you could do that. Either way, baby, you’d probably better not talk trash to the girls you sleep with, or your pretty face is gonna get way broken, okay?”
Carlos had been born with a cleft palate. He’d needed operations—several of them—before his palate had been completely closed and his upper lip was repaired with only marginal scarring. He’d been lucky—the operations had happened when his family still lived in Mexico, because some charity doctor had taken care of all of that and his parents hadn’t had to pay a dime. If he’d been born here in the States, odds were he probably would have had that big disfiguring gap all the way up to his nose like he’d had when he’d been three or four, before the operations. He had pictures.
So even though he knew his face was pleasing—he had high cheekbones and those almond-shaped eyes and Spanish pale skin and a nice square jaw—he didn’t take it for granted that someone thought he was pretty. Even if it was an old teacher lady, she was cool and he liked her, so he took the compliment seriously.
“I’ll be more careful with my face,” he said, nodding to show he meant it. “It’s all I got, right?”
Ms. Darcy closed her eyes. “You got so much more, Carlos. You know that, right?”
Carlos held the ice pack tight to his cheekbone and risked a look in the mirror. “Yeah,” he said without irony. “Like now I know I got a black eye.”
BUT Carlos did take something away from that conversation, even if it wasn’t all that Ms. Darcy probably wanted. For one thing, he stopped having random sex with girls. He stopped looking for a girlfriend too, because his reputation in that school was too widespread anyway. He was graduating in a month, so it was no big loss, but he kept thinking about that whole money thing.
His sister’s husband, Hector, wanted him to work in his machine shop, but Carlos didn’t really want to. It wasn’t that he minded working hard, and he’d love to be a gardener or something—especially because he liked bugs and he thought he’d get to see a lot of them—but Hector was a prick, and Carlos thought Fabiola might be getting smacked around a little by him, and Carlos didn’t want to see that. Especially since there was the baby around. Carlos got so mad thinking about Fabiola letting Frances see that bullshit. But their parents were back in Mexico because sometimes it was a damned sight better than California, and it was just Carlos and Lola, and he wasn’t going to ditch her either. But God. He sure as hell didn’t want to work in the machine shop!
He got on his sister’s laptop and Googled Porn + Sacramento and was disappointed to get nothing but some hits on a former porn star who’d been born in North Highlands and some dirty old pervs getting busted for kiddie porn. Oh, hey, there were sex toy shops, and that was something he’d bookmark for later, but in the meantime, how about something he could do for money?
Finally, after hunting a little, he found a listing for a place called Johnnies. When he realized it was guy on guy, it hardly fazed him. After all, like Ms. Darcy said, at least he wouldn’t be giving it away anymore.
THEY were ripping up the courtyard in the middle of the office suite when he went in for his interview and his audition. A blond guy wearing a pair of jeans, a football jersey, and some flip-flops greeted him at the door. He had a narrow, almost delicately pretty face for a boy, and he grimaced at the noise.
“We’re not filming here until this is done,” he said apologetically. “If you want, you can follow me to—wait. Where’s your car?”
Carlos shrugged. “I took a bus,” he said, because Lola needed the car to take the baby to a doctor’s appointment. Since Carlos’s graduation, that baby—well, she was not quite eighteen months old—had gotten more and more sickly, and Carlos was glad Hector finally said they could go to the doctor’s. He loved the way she smiled when he bounced her on his knee, and he wanted to see that again.
“Okay, then,” the guy said, “I can take you to John’s, and if you pass the interview, we’ll use his backyard for your introduction video.” He grimaced and ran a hand through his hair. Carlos saw that he still had his class ring on his finger, and the idea that he still had one made him seem not so much older than Carlos himself. “John would rather have it here, because he likes the idea of professional and all, but I sort of like his backyard. It’s real nice.”
Carlos cocked his head. “Where you from?”
The boy had skin so fair it was milk-colored, and it pinked up a little. “Montana. Why, do I sound like it?”
“Yeah. Why’d you come here?”
The guy smiled and looked down, and for a moment, he looked almost shy. Carlos liked that, liked the way he looked shy. Carlos was pretty sure he was a porn star—wait, model—and he thought that maybe if this pretty boy could smile like that, then maybe he wouldn’t be going to hell for fucking for money. Nobody could send that smile to hell. It was against every rule of hell Carlos knew.
“I came for the school,” he said, shooting a look toward Carlos. “I sort of stayed for the porn. I’m Dex, by the way.”
Carlos shook his offered hand, enjoying how his palm was long and his fingers were narrow. “Carlos Ramirez.”
“Not for long,” Dex said seriously, and Carlos blinked.
“Yeah. You pass the audition, and you’re going to have to choose a name. Those things sort of stick.”
Carlos felt sort of cheated. “So Dex ain’t your real name?”
That yellow-gold hair was cut short, and it didn’t hardly move when Dex shook his head. “No. My real name is David, but don’t call me that, okay? The only one who knows it is John.”
Oh! That was an honor. “Then why’d you tell me?”
Dex kind of grimaced. “Because I’ve been doing this for nearly six years, and unless my mother calls me, I forget sometimes.” Dex turned to him with big eyes. “Man, whatever your porn name is, make sure it’s something you don’t hate.”
“You hate ‘Dex’?”
Dex shook his head, but he was thinking seriously about the question. “No,” he said after a moment. “Not anymore. Here. You’re not doing a scene with another person. Want to stop and get something to eat on the way? I’ll take you to John’s and then take you home if you want. How’s that sound?”
Carlos grinned. “I don’t never say no to food.”
Dex sighed. “You’re going to have to, you know. If you make it in.” And then he proceeded to tell Carlos shit Carlos didn’t even want to know about fiber and shit, honest to God shit, and what you don’t ever want to do when you’re getting your ass reamed by some other guy’s tool.
It helped, though. When they got to John’s, Dex walked in the front door without knocking and said, “He passed the interview!” and a guy with red hair stuck his head out of a small office and looked him over.
“He’s damned pretty. What’d he say that convinced you?”
Dex grinned. “He got the fiber speech and it didn’t scare him off.”
John laughed. “Aces, Dex. I should have you screen guys more often.”
“Or at least give the speech,” Carlos said, nodding fervently. Dex had been more than nice—he’d been fun and downright human. Carlos didn’t know if it was a blond thing (there weren’t that many blond guys at Carlos’s school. Hell, there weren’t that many white guys at Carlos’s school) or a Montana thing or just a Dex thing, but Carlos suddenly felt better about dropping his pants and jacking off on camera for a bunch of gay guys than he did about all those girls he’d nailed through school.
His audition went pretty good too.
He talked to Dex while John held the camera, and Dex asked fun stuff, like what his favorite part of sex was and where was the weirdest place he’d ever done it. He’d admitted that the couch in the drama wing of his high school got a good workout, and Dex cracked up, and the next thing Carlos knew, he’d dropped his cargo shorts and had his cock in his hand. Dex gasped softly when it was out.
“Damn, that’s big!” he said, and Carlos looked up and grinned.
“Yeah, and I still got a turtleneck!” He’d been born out of the country, so he was uncircumcised, and he’d learned from the girls he’d been with that this was a rare thing.
Dex laughed, but his blue eyes were focused on Carlos’s thick cock. Carlos grinned at him, feeling proud, and squeezed at the base and stroked. Oh God, it felt good, and he had a moment of panic. It felt too good. Sometimes when he was this swollen, this aroused, he had trouble getting off. He kept stroking though, kept fondling, let his noises amp up a notch because Dex and John seemed to get such a kick out of it, and he felt himself starting to soar. Oh God. This was good. These men thought he looked good, and they liked his cock, and suddenly what had felt trashy with all those girls felt classy on the rich green lawn of this guy’s backyard.
But he wasn’t going to come, and oh, fuck, he was so close when all of a sudden—
There was Dex’s hand on his cock, and that feeling of someone else’s fingers, that’s what did it. It didn’t matter if they were male or female, they were someone, and oh, oh no, oh hell there he went, spurting over Dex’s hand and arm, and Carlos’s knees got wobbly and he was afraid he was just going to collapse into the grass when he felt an arm around his waist.
He looked up and Dex was smiling kindly at him. “Easy, big guy. Gotcha.”
Carlos smiled weakly, remembering the way girls kissed and wishing he had a little of that now. Dex’s smile grew even gentler and he leaned in and kissed him and pressed that arm around his waist up over his shoulders in comfort. Carlos kissed him back without self-consciousness, because everyone needed to be held after they came with another person. That was just human, right?
Dex looked up where John was with the camera and winked. “I think he passed the audition,” he said, and John said, “Oh hell yeah!” and then they all laughed.
That laugh, that was the best part of all.
Dex took him to the bathroom and let him wash up in private, and then Carlos signed some more papers and made an appointment for a blood test. John said that once the blood test came back clear, that would be that.
“So,” Dex said as he was filling out the last of the papers, “what’s your name going to be?”
“Who’s that guy from the Bible who killed his brother?” Carlos asked, and Dex looked at him funny.
“Cain,” he said and started to write it down with a C.
“Spell it with a K—it looks cooler,” Carlos said sincerely, and Dex laughed and did just that.
“So, are you planning to kill a brother? Do we need to know where to hide the bodies?”
“Not my brother,” Carlos admitted, “but I think this job would really stick it to my brother-in-law, and he’s a major prick!”
Dex laughed and wrote “Kane” with a K, and Kane was born in John’s nice little living room with the corduroy couches and the plush olive-colored throw rug. Kane thought there were worse places to be.
THAT night Dex fed him again as he took his sweet red BMW through the line at Adalberto’s and told him when his next shoot was. Then Dex dropped him off at his sister’s house, where he had the little back room because he’d given up the bigger room so Frances could have all the toys she needed.
When he walked in, Fabiola started whining at him about how Hector said he needed to start paying rent and Hector was going to kick him out if he didn’t start working at the machine shop, but Kane was still high from the shoot, so it didn’t bother him none.
“Don’t worry, chica,” he said, kissing his sister on a wan cheek. “I don’t need Hector’s charity. I got myself a job.”
Fabiola looked at him dubiously. “Jeez, Carlos. I hope it’s legal.”
He smiled back at her wickedly. “I’m eighteen, aren’t I?” And before he could spill the beans about what he was doing, he poured himself a big glass of milk in the kitchen and then went to the living room to pull Frances out of the playpen. He hated those fucking things, and he wanted his niece to have better.