End of the Ball
“DID you have fun?” Mercy asked as Chase negotiated the slick Sacramento streets in the dark. Their car was good—the best, actually, a Mercedes with a killer antilock brake system—but Chase concentrated hard on it anyway. He did that. He concentrated on things that he could handle when the things he couldn’t handle were trying to climb his back.
“Fun?” he asked absently, turning right against a red light after checking three times to make sure there wasn’t an oncoming car.
“Yeah, Chase—fun! You know that thing you have when you get all pretty and go dancing with friends? Did you have any fun!”
I had a blast getting fucked in the men’s bathroom by the guy whose heart I’m breaking, Mercy. Next to slitting my wrists, I can’t think of anything better.
“Yeah,” he said with a vague smile on his face. “Of course I had fun. You know how I like to dance.”
“Hm….” Mercy looked pensive, which, like pretty much any expression on her tiny oval of a face, looked enchanting. Chase sure couldn’t be faulted in his taste in women, could he? His father certainly loved her—adored her, actually. Told him this was the girl who would make him a man.
“Hm?” he asked, keeping that smile on his face, his shoulders relaxed, his hands firm and able on the wheel.
“Yeah,” she said thoughtfully. “I’m glad you got out. I know you were pretty sick all week, but I don’t remember seeing you dance tonight.”
That’s because you were talking to your friend on the other side of the club when Tommy came up behind me, splayed his hands across my stomach, and cradled me in the cup of his groin and thighs.
“Must have been when you were talking to Kerry and Jeff,” he said, knowing damned well that was when he’d been dancing. Tommy, who loved him, would torment him, follow him, yearn for him—but he wouldn’t out Chase. Not without Chase’s permission. He’d tried once. The results had haunted them both.
Mercy’s hand on his thigh was intimate and suggestive. “I hope you weren’t dancing with any pretty girls,” she purred, kneading him like a cat. It was a skillful caress: soft, receptive to Chase’s needs, kind, and hoping for a response. Chase felt like slapping her hand.
No, sweetheart. Lying to one woman about who I am and what I want is plenty.
“There’s not a girl out there who would make me happier than you do.” Oh God. A truth. Who knew?
They talked quietly, desultorily, on the way back to the apartment that Chase hated so badly. It looked good—Mercy was skilful at decorating on a budget, and she took pains to make the place cheerful and airy with nice furniture and eclectic decorations. Chase liked her taste—but he often thought he’d like leather furniture that matched the area rug, or the right to paint the wall behind the television hunter green to match the valances. He tried not to say these things to Mercy. She’d worked so hard, and he’d told her he’d love anything she did. Besides. They were saving all their money for a house.
They parked the car and ran through the warren of apartment buildings, hitting as many covered walkways as they could and laughing a little with the feel of the March rain on their heads. Chase loved that feeling—rain on his face, the patterns of each drop warming with his skin. He turned, laughing, toward Mercy as they hit the overhang before their set of stairs, and for a moment, she was the study buddy he’d started dating two years ago, his friend, his confidante, and the person who watched movies with him until the wee hours of the night.
She smiled gaily, like a child, and turned her laughing face up for a kiss, and that laughing moment was crushed under the steel door of all he could not say. He bent down and placed a gentle, sexless kiss on her lips, pale from the cold, and she opened her mouth and invited him in. He swept his tongue in for form and knew her arms would come around his neck as she sought desperately to capture something in him that he didn’t know how to give her. He kissed her well, thoroughly, stroking her tongue with his, wrapping his hands around the small of her waist, massaging her scalp through her hair with just enough pressure.
He pulled back, feeling warm and happy from the contact, proud enough of the deception for the moment that he almost forgot it was one, when she murmured, “Mmm… so, ready to go inside and take up where that left off?”
No, because my lover’s come is still running down the crease of my ass and leaking onto my upper thigh.
“Yeah, babe. But can I take a shower first? Someone spilled a drink on my lap and I feel sort of rank, ’kay?”
He smiled apologetically, and Mercy rolled her eyes, like she was used to his fastidiousness. “Okay,” she said softly, cupping his cheek and glowing up into his face like a woman in love. “I’ll go make myself comfortable.”
He swallowed and smiled and kissed her forehead with all the considerable tenderness in his soul. God, she deserved so much more.
In the shower, he forgot himself.
His hand tracked the path of Tommy’s hand as it rubbed his six-pack, and then up over each and every defined rib. Tommy had pinched his nipples hard, because he knew that made them super sensitive (it was even posted on the Johnnies site), and he’d whispered in Chase’s ear, because their shared experience had told him that his ears and the side of his neck had a nerve sensitization express straight to his groin.
“We’re going to the bathroom, okay? And I’m going to bend you over, and be inside you, and fuck you so hard you’ve got no room in your body for anything but my cock and my come, okay? Say no now, ‘Chance’. Because once this song is over, you’re mine.”
He’d punctuated that with a brutal twist of Chase’s nipple, and Chase had been a puddle, submissive, willing to say anything, do anything, go anywhere, if only Tommy kept touching him.
They hadn’t kissed in the tiny bathroom stall, because experience had proven that they couldn’t just kiss, they would suck and suckle and bite, leaving hickeys on Chase’s tanned skin. Tommy’s skin was pale, and Chase suckled that spot, that one right there on his neck, because Tommy had no one to hide from. Tommy gasped, ground up against Chase’s leg, and then pulled back, his face a mask of hurt and anger, desire and pain.
“You don’t get to do that!” he snarled. “This is for me! It’s all I’m going to get, and you don’t get to….” His face almost crumpled then, and Chase knew, with everything in him, how much this gamble had cost Tommy. Dex must have texted him. Chase remembered Dex asking what his plans were; he had no idea this is what Tommy had planned. Chase had left Tommy so brutally… this must have felt like his last chance. He must have just trembled in hope, anticipation, and the desire to take charge. Tommy must have—he liked to bottom, truly loved it, it was his favorite sex act, but only when Chase was on top.
So Chase turned around without comment, giving this thing, his open, spread, waxed asshole, this dirty fucking in a bathroom, because he didn’t have anything better to offer.
He was lucky Tommy loved him. There was the rip of the little lube packet and then it was drizzled right in the sweet spot, before Tommy’s bare cock thrust up, no prep, no stretching, no nothing. If Chase hadn’t shot a scene that week with Ethan, the company’s big-cocked wonder, Tommy’s own big erection would have split him in two. As it was, it felt so good… so right… so wonderful…. Chase buried his face against his massive bicep and let out a sob of need.
“Shh,” Tommy murmured, bending over and kissing along his back. It wasn’t a company move—it was one of those things fans watched the vids for, to assure them that it wasn’t all show—and it wasn’t Tommy’s style, not in front of the camera, anyway. Those gentle hands running along his ribs, that nuzzle of his lips and cheek along the center of Chase’s back—that was all Tommy Halloran, scholarship kid from Southie, who had freckles on his shoulders from misspent attempts to tan.
“Just move,” Chase muttered, shivering with rightness and need, and trying hard not to weep with shame. “Just move, Tommy. Just fuck me and move.” His shaking voice broke on the last word, because he did want Tommy to fuck him, but he didn’t want Tommy to move—or at least not to move on. He wanted Tommy right here in his body, right close to him, touching skin to skin. He wanted Tommy to stay, forever, right there, poised to thrust so hard into his body that there was room for Tommy, only Tommy, and not another soul.
Not even his.
They hadn’t lasted long. Chase had come into his stroking fist, and Tommy, without the condom, had blasted inside his body long and hot and hard. Tommy collapsed against his back and rubbed his wet cheek against Chase’s shoulders until Chase turned around and said, “To hell with your plans, Tommy,” and then held his arms open. Tommy Halloran collapsed against his chest, his shoulders shaking fruitlessly in an effort to hold back his sobs.
They hadn’t stayed that way for long. Chase stood up properly and Tommy’s spend gushed out of Chase’s body, trickling out of the crease of his backside and down his thigh. If the bathroom hadn’t smelled like piss and come and ass already, Chase’s body would have done it in that moment.
“You smell like sex,” Tommy murmured. “Sex and me.”
“Oh God. So am I.”
Tommy looked up, his long-jawed, brooding features swollen from the cry and his lashes spiking around his brown-black eyes. “Don’t… don’t do this, Chase. Don’t leave me.”
Chase had closed his eyes and kissed Tommy’s forehead, hearing his voice coming out strangled and warped, or maybe that was the men banging on the stall of the men’s room, begging to come in and take a piss.
“I’ll try,” he muttered, sure he didn’t have the courage to do any such thing.
But he hadn’t promised Tommy anything, ever, before. It was as close as he’d come to a vow.
And now, Chase straightened up in the shower, fingering his stretched sphincter, reluctantly wondering if he’d erased every part of Tommy from his skin. He thought of Mercy, in the bedroom, waiting wide-eyed for him to come out and to make love, and of all the times he’d done just that, sliding his lips on her soft, perfumed skin and imagining rougher skin that smelled like sweat. He remembered the times he’d stayed awake in the dark, running his hand over her shoulders, her hips, through her hair as she slept, willing himself to feel his body stir. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes his breath would catch, and his cock would fill with blood, and he’d kiss her neck, her breasts, her soft belly, the slick sweetness between her thighs.
Most of the time, he simply lay there, next to her, and wondered how things had gotten so fucked up that the person he loved—truly loved, because Mercy was funny and smart and gracious and all the good things a girl should be—was the person he hated, not for herself, but for what she made of him.
He thought of that time now, as he stepped out of the shower and dried off, his skin soft from all the time spent under the water, and opened the drug cabinet, his eyes dreamy and out of focus. He knew where they were. He’d bought them. They were harder to get hold of now that they made all of the really good electric shavers and disposable blade heads, but some drug stores still carried a good old-fashioned razor blade.
He’d had them in the back of the cabinet for more than a month, and she’d never noticed.
“Out in a minute!”
His fingers didn’t even shake as he reached for the box, and opening it felt predestined.
The metal was cool and thin in his fingers, and practically nonexistent.
So this is how she’d done it. It was easy.
His thumb and forefinger warmed the metal, and it was almost like a trickle of water against the inside of his wrist.
No one by that name lives here.
“Out in a minute!”
Out… out… out….
God, how he wanted out.
One Year Earlier
THE boy in the video looked supremely uncomfortable. He had blond hair, helped along from a bottle, high and wide cheekbones, and piercing blue eyes. His voice rasped a little; not a baritone, more like a reedy tenor. But girls told him it was sexy, and his smile was half shy, half come-hither, and even though he knew his chin was a little soft with baby fat, he’d been hitting the gym and he was pretty sure he was getting more defined, even in the face. He was talking to someone off camera, and that raspy, reedy tenor squeaked with surprise.
“Take off my shirt? Now?”
“Well yeah,” said the voice off camera. “You’re going to have to get naked if you want to do this.”
The boy blushed. “I didn’t realize we were going, you know, full frontal today. No worries.” With movements that were a mix of confident and clumsy, the loose-fitting baseball T-shirt was hauled over his head and he stood there, a twenty-something college-aged boy, wearing cargo shorts and flip-flops. He had an athletic build, because baseball was more his game than football, and that goofy, lopsided grin that jocks get when they’re proud that they’re jocks. He was outdoors, and it must have been just a little chilly, because his nipples almost immediately became pointy and puckered, like the skin on his not-quite-soft stomach.
“Do you want the whole package?” he asked, and the voice on the other side of the camera laughed kindly.
“Not necessary yet. Okay, Chance, tell us about yourself.”
That self-conscious jock smile appeared, revealing two perfect dimples on the apple cheeks, next to the smile grooves at his mouth. Girls must have been falling into those dimples for years.
“Okay, well, I’m Chance.” And not even a stumble at the assumed name, although anyone who knew the industry knew he had one. “And I’m here to audition for Johnnies, because,” a little bit of swagger here, “you guys pay hella fucking good, and I’m trying to get a degree in engineering and save money for a house!”
That kind laugh again. “I’m glad we pay so well. So, do you have any experience in the adult film industry?”
Blush. “No. No. Not really.”
“What about with sex?”
“Well, me and my girlfriend, we’ve been getting it on. She seems to like what I got.” There was a suggestive, adolescent thrust of his crotch, because, well, it seemed called for.
“So, your girlfriend. Any guys?”
Chance blushed, and then seemed to realize that this would be a selling point. “Yeah! Yeah, actually. I had this friend who came out right after high school. He used to jerk me off.” Chance’s smile relaxed, became soft and sexy. “He was really good at it.” He shook his head. “God, I’ve never come like that.”
“Mm…. Why do you think that is?”
Shrug. “I dunno. He was a guy—I’m sure he played with his equipment a lot. Knew what to do with it.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Brother, did he!”
“Yeah? Want to show us if you know what to do with it?”
This time the blush was accompanied by a cocky grin. “Guess it’s time, huh? Didn’t get my balls waxed for nothing!”
His hands went to the waist of his cargo shorts, and then the voice on the other end of the camera stalled him for a second.
“You nervous about doing this on camera?”
Chance tilted his head a little, considering. “Well, yeah, of course. You don’t know what you look like when you come—for all I know, I’m hella ugly or something. But at the same time….” He trailed off and shuddered, and his eyes got half-lidded. One hand went unconsciously to his stomach, then slid up to his nipples, which were still pointy and puckered. “It’s sort of cool. It’s making my stomach all jumpy, and….” His other hand slid down under the waistband of his shorts, as he made obvious kneading motions on his groin.
“It’s turning you on?”
“Take the shorts off, Chance, and show us.”
HE STILL remembered the look on his friend Donnie’s face when their friend Kevin had suggested it.
They were going out to pizza after their last baseball game of the season. They’d lost, which hurt, even for a small college team that wasn’t known for its sports, and Chase was transparently grateful that Donnie was treating.
“Nice to have a rich boyfriend,” he kidded—but it really was only kidding. He admired the hell out of Donnie, because the night they graduated from high school, Donnie had gone out into his parent’s backyard with Chase and two purloined cans of beer. They’d leaned against the brick barbecue stand and Donnie had looked up at the sky, his blue eyes transparent in the summer dark, the slight wind ruffling hair that was so blond it was almost champagne-colored. Chase loved that color so much he’d started experimenting with hair dye, so he could have it for his very own.
Donnie had taken a swig of his beer and run his hand through that champagne-colored hair and said, “Chase, man, I’m as gay as an Easter Parade. Are you going to give me shit about it, or is this the last time we sneak a beer?”
I’m not surprised, Donnie, and I still love you.
“Yeah, man, keep your hands away from my ass, and I think we can still be friends.”
He knew. He’d caught Donnie checking out his ass, his cock, his build. He’d smiled once or twice and watched Donnie’s smile get all moony and sweet. He knew Donnie had a major crush on him. At least he hoped so, because he’d been having the most vivid, pornographic dreams featuring him, Donnie, and their bare cocks in each other’s fists and mouths, and if Donnie wasn’t the least bit gay, it would feel like sort of a violation.
So now that Donnie had a boyfriend he adored—with an independently wealthy, very distant family—Chase was happy for him. Donnie had the courage to come out, the courage to pursue what he wanted, and, to hear Donnie tell it, the idiocy to strip naked in Alejandro’s bedroom while house-sitting, whack off, and fall asleep on the night Alejandro got back, two days earlier than expected, thus enticing the man of his dreams. But that didn’t matter—Donnie had the courage to be himself, and if that got him free room and board while he went through college, Chase was okay with that.
So now, when Donnie heard him kidding, he knew it was kidding, and he turned a big technicolor grin on Chase, complete with slightly pointy canine teeth and lopsided twist on the left. “God, yes it is. Do you want more pizza, you itinerant hanger-on-er?”
And because he knew Donnie was paying for it using his own money from his job waiting tables, he said yes.
“So,” Kevin said, his mouth unrepentantly full of Donnie’s pizza, “how’re you going to pay for school this year?” Kevin had sort of a round, moony face and sandy-brown hair. Although his eyes were hazel, they were frequently almost crossed, like a puzzled Siamese cat.
Chase groaned and thunked his head on the table. “I’ll worry about that after I’ve paid for rent,” he said honestly. “God, Mercy makes more than I do. Construction jobs suck in this economy, and I don’t even want to try to wait tables again.”
Donnie winced. “Yeah, man, I’m sorry about that. I feel like that was my fault.”
Chase grunted and had another bite of pizza, wondering if his pride would unbend enough to ask Donnie if he could take home the rest of it when they were done. Mercy would probably be happy with the lettuce and cheese in the fridge to make a salad, but he was starving. “No worries,” he said, still chewing. “That bitch had to be put down.”
Donnie shook his head and laughed. “Yeah, well, she hasn’t been back since that night—I’m grateful!”
Kevin shook his head. “I still don’t understand what happened there,” he muttered.
I screamed in some bitch’s face when she called Donnie a fag.
“I was rude to a customer.”
Donnie made a sound that could not be interpreted, but when Chase looked up and met his eyes, they were sad. Chase could remember the first time he’d seen Donnie’s eyes sad. Donnie, smiling, happy Donnie, who had made high school bearable, and there he was, his hand on Chase’s cock, and Chase felt taken care of, cared for, for the first time since he was in kindergarten. Then it was over, and Chase was across the room, shouldering his way out, because touching his friend that way would make him gay. Donnie had looked at him just exactly like that.
Kevin shook his head and wiped his mouth, contemplating the last four pieces of pizza. Suddenly he jerked back and glared at Donnie, and then slid his eyes sideways to Chase. “You’re always so nice,” he said, as though the realization had dawned on him with Donnie’s effort to feed Chase. “I’ve never seen you even get mad.”
Chase just shrugged again, and nodded a quiet thanks when Donnie put the pizza in the takeout box and slid it in front of him. “Sometimes just takes the right trigger, I guess.”
Kevin looked at him, actual reality permeating the rather thick gloss of oblivious that he usually wore. “What’re you going to do, man? I mean, you could get a job at a stop’n’go or a gas station or something, or maybe a job in a grocery store, but—”
But it was either not enough money, or not enough flexibility around his school schedule. Yeah.
Suddenly Kevin cracked a smirk. “Hey—I hear Johnnies is recruiting.”
Donnie choked on his soda.
“What in the fuck is Johnnies?” Chase snarled, pulling out napkins and mopping up the mess Donnie had just spit up in front of them.
Donnie recovered after Chase pounded him on the back a few times, and glared at Kevin. Kevin returned his glare with a smirk on his round face, his light brown eyes dancing the same way Donnie’s did, except Kevin was a lot more likely to look confused. Chase had never dreamed about Kevin the way he had about Donnie.
“That’s not funny,” Donnie said with surprising ferocity. Donnie getting mad was as rare as Chase getting mad.
“What is it?” Chase asked, intrigued in spite of himself. He’d seen the booth on club day, right next to the LGBTQ booth, and was told they were “recruiting talent,” but he couldn’t figure out what sort of talent they were looking for.
Kevin was so full of his own joke that he was almost dancing on the little bench seat in the Mountain Mike’s Pizza. “Dude! Gay for pay! You know! Straight guys boning each other! Man, I hear they pay hella fucking awesome!”
Donnie stood up with their trash and scowled. “It’s not fucking funny, asshole,” and his look at Chase had so much pity in it that, for a moment, Chase felt his temper stir again. He was not a charity case. He was living with a girl, he was going to college for his degree, he could support his family. He could be a man.
He stood up and helped Donnie with the cleanup, and then went to the fountain nearby and refilled his soda.
He came back and managed his cockiest, most fuck-it-all grin, and said, “So, Kevin. You know everything about gay porn. Can you find these guys online?”
Kevin chortled and pulled up the site on his cell phone. Chase looked at it just long enough to make note of it, feeling something thrumming in his blood, something excited, half strangled, and willing to chew its way out of Chase’s stomach to be free.
Kevin left, because his folks appreciated it if he got home before midnight even on game nights, and Donnie and Chase remained, drinking as many free soda refills as Chase could stand.
A companionable silence had just fallen between them when Donnie said, “Won’t your dad help?”
Chase barely looked at him. “No. He thinks college is a waste of time. He told me if I wouldn’t take the training in the machine shop, he was done with me.”
Donnie nodded and sucked moodily at his own straw. “I could ask ’Yandro—”
“No!” Oh Christ. Chase was not taking money from Donnie’s rich boyfriend, and his voice was unapologetically sharp to show it. But Donnie didn’t get mad. Instead, he ran his hands through his white-blond hair and scrubbed his face with his hand and groaned.
“God, Chase. You’re thinking about it, aren’t you?”
I want I want I want I want I want!
Donnie shook his head, that high-cheekboned, cheerful, happy face suddenly lined with worry. “Man, do you remember that hella old movie we watched with my sister once? The one with that Mary Poppins girl in it?”
Chase pulled up a corner of his mouth in thought. He and Donnie had gotten good grades in school (as opposed to Kevin, who had cheated off their homework—badly—a lot), and he tried not to be stupid.
“Victor/Victoria? The one where the girl pretended to be a boy who was pretending to be a girl.”
Donnie nodded. “Yeah. You know. So she could sing.”
“So? Do you see any similarities here?”
Yeah. I’d be gay, pretending to be straight, pretending to be gay. Nice catch, Donnie! You should change your major to literature!
“Don’t give me that maybe bullshit. I’m gonna be an English major, you know that right?”
“Well, not until now!”
Donnie laughed humorlessly. “Chase—”
“Hey, that worked out pretty well for Mary Poppins, didn’t it?”
“Yeah, but first it crashed around her ears and caused her a whole big bucketful of pain.”
Chase swallowed, and what he said next surprised him. “Yeah, Donnie, but in the meantime? At least she got to sing.”
They left shortly after that, Chase buzzing so hard from all the soda that he could hardly sit still. He got home and Mercy was sitting on the couch, her feet tucked under her bottom, her hair back in one of those bun things that girls seemed to be born knowing how to do, the kind that left the blonde tips of her dark hair splaying over the top of her head like a fan. He thought of the website in his phone, of the men, smiling like they really loved being there, sitting together, bare-chested, on the same bed, and dropped his bag of baseball stuff inside the door and bent down to take Mercy’s mouth in his own.
She dropped the book and followed him into the bedroom, and he made love to her with gentle enthusiasm, for once happy and excited with the touch of her skin.
That night he filled in an application online. He took a picture of himself in the mirror while Mercy slept and made sure his cock was at half-mast so they could get a feel for what he knew was probably one of his best assets.
The next week, he was called in for an initial interview.
He reported to a rather bland-looking office building, one story only, with a small front office façade and what looked to be several larger offices branching out on the sides. From the shape of it, there seemed to be an outside courtyard, but Chase’s view of that was blocked by drawn shades.
The man who greeted him and apologized for their receptionist being out also interviewed him. John—literally, John Carey—was the founder and owner of the company, and he filmed most of the opening interviews as well as quite a few of the videos.
He was slender and fit, in his mid-thirties, with brown hair that was growing neatly past his collar and a sweetly interested expression on his thin face when he listened to Chase talk. He was just old enough for Chase to feel deference toward him, like toward a boss or a professor, but not old enough to feel intimidated. This man could be an older brother you confided in, but he was definitely, under no circumstances, Chase’s father.
The questions were, well, unusual to say the least, and although some of them were scripted, some of them seemed to occur to John as he went.
“So,” he said, looking at the answers he’d written down so far, “no family is going to see this, right? No funny uncle is going to stumble on this when you’re not looking? Your mom’s not into the gay porn thing, is she? A lot of our customers are women.”
My mom committed suicide when I was six, and my dad would rather I be dead than a fag.
“No one,” he said with a shrug. “I’m pretty safe from being found out. Is that a problem for some guys?”
John looked at him with a faintly withdrawn expression. “Some of them, yeah. Some of them have girlfriends who know and approve; some of them have boyfriends who know and approve. We don’t want to pry here, but it’s good to know who we’r