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Chase in Shadow [MultiFormat]
eBook by Amy Lane

eBook Category: Romance/Gay Fiction
eBook Description: Chase Summers: Golden boy. Beautiful girlfriend, good friends, and a promising future. Nobody knows the real Chase. Chase Summers has a razor blade to his wrist and the smell of his lover's goodbye clinging to his skin. He has a door in his heart so frightening he'd rather die than open it, and the lies he's used to block it shut are thinning with every forbidden touch. Chase has spent his entire life unraveling, and his decision to set his sexuality free in secret has only torn his mind apart faster. Chase has one chance for true love and salvation. He may have met Tommy Halloran in the world of gay-for-pay--where the number of lovers doesn't matter as long as the come-shot's good--but if he wants the healing that Tommy's love has to offer, he'll need the courage to leave the shadows for the sunlight. That may be too much to ask from a man who's spent his entire life hiding his true self. Chase knows all too well that the only things thriving in a heart's darkness are the bitter personal demons that love to watch us bleed.

eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2012, 2012
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2012


21 Reader Ratings:
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Prologue

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."

"I know."

"I'm glad."

"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.

Sometimes.

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.

"Chase?"

"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.

"Chase?"

No one by that name lives here.

"Out in a minute!"

Out... out... out....

God, how he wanted out.

* * * *

Jerking Off

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?"

"Mmmm...."

"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!

"Hell no!"

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?"

"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!

"Maybe."

"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 facade 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're dealing with when we pair you up."

"'Kay."

"And you're local--you drove over. I remember that, because we were all ready to get you a travel expense voucher. Is there anyone in town you're not going to want to know?"

Oh fuck. Everyone. There's one person on the planet who'd know I'm even considering this and I can't tell him....

John nodded, just watching Chase's expression. "Okay. There's a place you can park in the back. There's plenty of space, just take the spot."

Chase nodded like he understood, and John went on with the next question.

"Have you had any same-sex encounters before?"

And for a minute, Chase was going to lie, and then for another minute he was going to tell the truth, and the idea was so exciting his groin actually throbbed.

John held up a hand. "No, no--I can tell by the look on your face, that's something I want to hear on camera."

Chase nodded. "Yeah, okay. Anything else you want to know?"

John looked him in the eyes. "Yeah. Do you think you'll be able to do this, kid? Get it up, keep it up, on camera?"

I can do anything as long as I'm being touched by another man. I could probably even fly. Coming on camera is going to be no big deal.

Chase shrugged and cracked his gum. "I wanna give it a shot."

And that was it. He'd passed the interview.

The next day, he got called in to meet a stylist who played with the hair on his head, pronounced the color good, and then proceeded to rip most of his body hair out by the roots. Oh sure, they called it waxing, but Chase was glad the hair on his thighs and calves was sparse and blond, because she left that alone, and he was stunned at how much hair he had in the crease of his ass, because that shit hurt when it was yanked.

The day after that, John took him to the small courtyard behind the office building. The courtyard itself had a couple of lovely piazzas with really ritzy outdoor furniture and trees and what were they? Topiaries? Yeah. Those. Everything was designed to be soft. As they sat down and discussed the shoot, Chase realized the surface underneath the indoor/outdoor carpeting was that soft rubberized stuff they used for playgrounds. He was squishing his foot against the consistency when John looked up and smiled.

"Concrete's really hard on the knees," he explained, and it wasn't until Chase put that together in his head with what he was about to do that it hit him: this was a set piece for some of the videos. He was on a porn set. The thought made him partially erect even when the other members of the film crew--and two other men, standing bare-chested and casual in the thinning sun--came out to watch as he stood up in the sunshine and started answering John's questions behind the camera.

When he pulled his shorts down, and the late spring breeze brushed at his bare skin, the erection was no longer "partial."

And now, the next day, Chase watched himself masturbate on camera with complete fascination.

"God, my cock really looks huge without the pubic hair, doesn't it?"

John laughed a little. "Baby, you could see that cock in a pubic jungle--that's got to be one of the biggest we've got in the stable right now." He consulted his stats. "8.5--yup. Ethan is a little shorter, but he's wider, and Hunter is just about your size."

Chase grunted, still entranced by his face and body on the big-screen television in the little viewing room. Once he'd forgotten the camera was there, he'd tilted his head back, closed his eyes, and smiled. God. He looked like he was really enjoying himself.

Except for those furtive moments getting jacked off by Donnie, he couldn't remember sex ever giving him that much pleasure. But less than a day ago he'd dropped his pants in front of John and the sound guy and two other "models" and then masturbated in front of people, and he... God, he'd loved it.

Mostly--and he could admit this to himself only here, only on the set, and only in the silence of his own head--because everybody watching had been male. And they'd been appreciative. And they'd thought his body was hot, and that they wanted to touch it.

That had made all the difference.

"Oooh... wait," John said, his voice reverent. "Here it comes... here's the money shot...."

And Chase splooged all over his hand, thick and creamy and white, the camera zeroing in on it as he used it to lubricate his stroking, so he could milk the moment (and his cock) for everything it was worth.

God, his cock was hard and sore in his pants just watching it.

Chase, who had sex with his girlfriend maybe once a week, was horny again.

John was looking at him now with definite approval, and Chase tried to get his attention out of his pants for a second.

"Okay, man. Well done. I'm going to pair you up with Dex for your first time out. It'll be a double jack-off scene, no worries. You need to save your load--it makes for better camera, okay? So no coming for at least three days before the shoot. I'll call you and give you an exact time. You tell your girlfriend whatever you need to, but filming costs money, and we need the money shot, okay?"

Chase nodded, thinking about the lowest-paying option on his contract, and that it was still a damned sight better than construction.

* * * *

A Few Observations About Porn

The boy in the video was in his early twenties and built like a Goliath, a Leviathan, a Greek god. He had dark hair and heavy Italian features, with a cocky, guileless smile that was charming from the first shot of him lying on the bed, casual-like, talking to the smaller blond man he was about to fuck.

But the T-shirt and shorts had come off, and suddenly both of them were naked, waxed, stomach muscles ripped, tiny nipples puckered with repeated suckling, and every corded ligature in their bodies popping in the intensity of what they were doing. The veins in Ethan's forearms stood out as he hauled the hips of the smaller, blond Cameron toward his own.

His cock was just as long but fatter than Chase's, and Cameron was screaming in a good way every time Ethan threw his hips forward

Chase was watching the video with intensity, thinking:

That's going to be me. That's going to be ME ME ME ME ME!

Look at the angle there, the way he opens himself up to the shot. Look at the way Cameron uses the far-camera hand to stroke off, or the way Ethan smacks his dick on Cameron's stomach there to keep it hard as they're changing positions. Look at the way that close-up is filmed, can they do that with the camera or can they...

Oh God, he's going to come.

And Ethan's egging him on, grabbing his hand, hauling his ass up....

Oh God, he's going to come!

And he looks like he loves it, that big thing in his body, pure ecstasy pure bliss pure orgasm on his face as he's....

Grab your cock you moron, you're....

...going to come!

Chase shoved his hand down his jeans and squeezed hard once, twice, again, and then shot, silently, into his underwear. He sat at the computer for a few moments, shuddering, praying Mercy hadn't woken up to hear, until the final spasm rocked his body. When he'd stopped, he wiped his hand off on the inside of his jeans, cleared the video off his screen, and closed the laptop. He stood up very quietly to put his jeans in the laundry--which he made note of to do early in the morning, so Mercy didn't get to it first--and take a brief shower.

He very carefully didn't think of anything at all, not the two gods on the computer screen, not his physical reaction to them, not his effort to hide his masturbation from his girlfriend--nothing.

Not even the way his balls still ached from his orgasm.

* * * *

John called the next day to schedule a date in the next week for the shot. It was weird, but until Chase was told to save his load, he never really appreciated how often he and Mercy did not have sex. Three days? Three days was nothing. She worked overtime for two of them, and on the third, he worked out for an extra hour and was exhausted. (He'd been appalled by the amount of baby fat on his stomach and chin when he'd seen himself on camera, and determined to make that change.) Mercy was a little disappointed, but he gave her a foot rub and that seemed to be that. He went to sleep like the next day was nothing special.

His stomach had been buzzing the entire week before the shoot.

He remembered Christmases as a kid--all of that crazy anticipation, and usually, he ended up getting shit he really didn't care about. Socks, sweaters, the occasional baseball hat (which he really loved). He never got trading cards or a bike or a baseball mitt or an erector set--all the stuff had to be earned through chores, because his dad didn't believe in giving free rides, ever--and generally? The best part about Christmas had been hanging with Donnie and Kevin for the whole two weeks of vacation. Donnie's mom actually gave them real presents, like trading cards and action figures and stuff, and made hot chocolate and cookies and all of the things that you were supposed to get at Christmas, and Chase didn't know if he'd ever quite told Mrs. Armstrong how much those action figures and trading cards had meant to him.

But the thing was, he'd always been disappointed. Christmas was takeout food with his dad and a morning of opening shit he didn't want on the coffee table, because some years, a tree was just too much trouble. Christmas was watching his dad roll his eyes at the card he'd made at school, or the present he'd bought with his own money or even made in Dad's woodshop, because he was pretty good with tools.

Eventually, he'd stopped getting excited about Christmas, and then he didn't have to be disappointed. (Oddly enough, he'd discovered that the not getting excited made the things Donnie's mom did for him even more precious, but still, he didn't have words to tell her.)

So this stomach buzzing... this was something new. Something strange and wonderful. The last time he remembered anything like this was that set of precious minutes in Donnie's room, when he was playing video games. There had been that moment between, "God, I wonder if Donnie would touch me?" and unbuttoning his pants and pulling his erection out of his shorts that had been a caffeine/cocaine/adrenaline high of excitement, topped only by the feel of Donnie's (Donnie's!) skin against his, and the orgasm itself.

He could hardly keep contained in his own skin, he was so excited. It felt like his cock was always at half-mast, always sensitized, always ready to just fill up and explode. So not having sex with Mercy was easy, but in the day, when Mercy was gone and he was home (ostensibly looking for more construction work; although he was getting paid for this video and for the introductory one too, he hadn't told her that, in case this fell through), it was about all he could do not to imagine what was going to happen and then just cream in his shorts with excitement.

He didn't think men could actually do that, but he imagined for a moment, a hand on his body that wasn't his own, a male hand, one with strong bones and a sure grip, and he almost got himself off while leaning against the counter.

After that he tried to tamp down on the buzz a little. He tried valiantly to think about Christmas.

* * * *

The day before the shoot, after his workout, he got a call from a guy calling him Chance. For a second he was confused, and then he remembered: he was Chance. The guy on the other end of the line was Dex; it took him a minute to place the name, and then he realized it was the guy he was supposed to film with. His voice was a mid-range tenor, and he sounded a lot like the guys Chase had gone to school with as he asked if he wanted to meet for lunch at Jamba Juice.

Chase was actually relieved. It was like getting to open the package before Christmas, which meant the natural disappointment could begin and the terrible anticipation could stop distracting him from his goal of cleaning the apartment spotlessly, detailing Mercy's car, and cooking dinner from an actual cookbook with a salad and a dessert and everything.

And from thinking about why it was so damned imperative that he do all that shit before the shoot the next day.

Dex turned out to be... beautiful. Blindingly beautiful, with blond hair (his looked natural) and a long oval of a face and two slightly bucked teeth. He smiled disarmingly as Chase walked in, and offered to buy Chase anything on the menu.

Chase shrugged--he usually went for a little more protein--and that's when Dex got right to the heart of it.

"Okay, there's some shit no one wants to talk about in this business, but we've got a scene together, and I figure you'll want to know, 'kay?"

Chase nodded, his eyes big. Oh God--they were in the middle of Jamba Juice--was this guy gonna start talking about--

"Gas," Dex said frankly. "Avoid it. I get the banana-strawberry here with the protein supplement and a whole-wheat pretzel the day before a shoot because it settles my stomach. You're free to get what you want, and you should have some fruit and some milk in the morning for energy, but you don't want too much in the pipes, and what you do have needs to be small, near the top, and eco-friendly, do you feel me?"

No, and now I don't really want to.

"Peach," Chase said blankly, "and what you're having." Well, thank God this wasn't going to be awkward or anything.

Dex laughed a little. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you off. It's just that--" Dex paused for a minute and gave their orders to the cashier. He paid and they went to the back of the store. Chase realized that Dex was good at keeping his expression natural and his voice pitched not too loud. No one could hear him, but he wasn't having one of those secret conversations that made everyone want to hear him, either.

"It's just that," Dex said, leaning back against the glass wall, casual and self-contained, "no one really talks about what it's like to have all the pretty sex with people who are, essentially, coworkers, right? And coworkers can be awesome people--I mean, I love the guys at Johnnies like my brothers, you know? Kill or die for them, fuck 'em silly, whatever. But we get really close to one another, and you just need to learn that some shit is courtesy, okay?"

Okay--that's actually common sense.

"Yeah," Chase said, nodding. "I'm all ears."

At that moment, the counter-girl called Dex's name and Dex got their drinks and pretzels, and they went outside into what was promising to be a beautiful late-October day.

There was just enough wind to eddy the leaves around the parking lot, and the sky was that blue--that unforgettable cobalt blue--that always spoke of happy and sad to Chase, who was sorry to see the end of baseball season but who had always, unaccountably, loved winter.

Maybe he was still waiting for Christmas.

"Okay," Chase said, after taking a deep pull off his smoothie and savoring it. Jamba Juice was still not a favorite now, but Dex had a point: it didn't give him gas.

Dex nodded. "'kay, so the hygiene--all the time. Even if you're not sure you're going to do anal or anyone's going to do you, the enema and diet stuff just keeps your whole personal space clean and friendly. It's one of the reasons we let them rip out our sphincter hair, yanno?"

Chase grimaced. He'd had to tell Mercy that he'd won a free body wax from a school club, and that it helped with the weight lifting. She'd liked it, but he still thought his privates looked really naked without fur.

"Yeah, I hear you. So, anything else gross?"

Dex laughed. "You're going to need to kiss. I know, your resume says you're straight, and some of the straight guys, they come in thinking it's just nerve endings, right? So they plan to close their eyes, get their nerve endings fondled, and no kissing." Dex shook his head. "You've got to. We're selling intimacy here with our sex. It's why people want to see us talking to each other or watch us undress. Don't be afraid to kiss or to touch or to pat or praise. No one is going to think any worse of you on set, and it may weird you out at first, but you'll get used to it." Dex took a swig of his drink and nibbled on some pretzel. "You play baseball, right?"

Chase nodded, trying to remember that this guy had seen his profile--hell, had probably seen him jerk off on screen.

"Yeah, so think of kissing like patting other guys on the ass. It's something you do to show a coworker appreciation, and you can live with that."

Oh God yes!

"I'll try not to be too stiff," he mumbled, trying to hide the flush over his body. God, this was like unwrapping a Christmas present early--except finding out it was the bike you always wanted!

Dex chuckled drily. "Now don't promise that," he said with a wink, and Chase laughed hard enough to spit smoothie. Dex laughed some more and Chase wiped his mouth and blushed and tried to smile back like he was just some dumb jock who meant to do that.

Then Dex said, "Yeah, try not to do that either on set," and Chase was lost. He broke into giggles so bad he had to rest his face in his arms until he was laughed out.

When he looked up, Dex was grinning evilly, and Chase grimaced and threw a wadded-up napkin at him. Dex ducked and caught the napkin and threw it back.

"Thanks, asshole!" Chase said, but he was still laughing. God, it felt like he hadn't laughed in such a long time. Maybe since he'd met Mercy in the library at school that last time, the time before their first date.

"You're welcome," Dex said smugly. "You keep laughing like that, you're going to have a good time with us, okay?"

Chase nodded, and realized he'd forgotten for a minute why he was there. Maybe that was good. Maybe that would make Dex feel like a coworker, just like he said.

"Anything else?" he asked, eating some more of his pretzel. God, this wasn't going to be enough. He'd have to have a... a... a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat would probably be his best bet, hah?

Dex nodded. "Yeah--now I saw your profile, and you say you've got a girlfriend. Does she know what's doing?"

It would break her heart. She'd hate me, and never speak to me again, and she never did anything wrong to deserve this and God, Mercy, I just want... just want... crap, the money's good.

Chase shook his head. "She has no idea." He cringed a little, expecting Dex to blow him up for lying to his girlfriend, for hiding part of his life, for not being an out and proud straight man doing gay porn.

"Okay, then this shit is critical," Dex said, blowing Chase's anxiety out of the water, but not much else.

Chase nodded, all ears.

"You're going to have bruises--maybe not tomorrow's shoot, but any shoot where you get really physical, whether you're the top or the bottom, someone's going to be grabbing an arm or a thigh or a hip and holding on for dear life. If you're on top, you're going to get them on your hips; if you're on bottom, you're going to get them on your ass. Hickeys, whisker burn, bruises, muscle fatigue--if you've never fucked a man, you don't know, but we go at it like an Olympic fucking sport. If you're straight, it's all about nerve endings, right? Well, you've got to hit those babies hard and do it right, and that's not always butterflies and lollipops. Even if you don't like rough with your girl--or anyone--this is different. You're going to be marked. If she doesn't know, you may want to take a business trip, see the folks, something, and then do it with the lights off when you get back."

Oh God. I'm going to come in my pants

"I can do that." Chase shrugged and drank so much smoothie he got brain freeze and had to swallow quickly and try really hard not to press the heel of his hand against his eyeball. Dex saw him do that and laughed, and reached across the table to clap him on the shoulder.

"You'll do fine," he said.

I'm gonna get sex! Sex! Sex sex sex sex sex... from a man!

"You saw the video--I've got a body made for porn." He tried a cocky grin, the kind he gave when he was at the pitcher's mound and he knew he was inside the hitter's head.

Dex rolled his eyes. "God, yes! I can't wait to fucking blow you--that's going to be a trip!"

Chase managed valiantly not to do anything else weird with his smoothie, but his eyes must have gotten as big as softballs, because Dex laughed some more. It was a good laugh, and his smile was charming, but Chase had a moment when he realized that Dex wasn't Donnie, and it made him almost miss what came next.

"That's another thing--"

"God, those words are starting to freak me out!" Say them again! Say I'll be someone else on set, someone free, someone sexy, someone who can hold and touch and be held and lov--someone who is happy.

"Well, get used to them," Dex said drolly. "See, the thing is, if there's anything you don't want to do, be up front. Some guys like rimming, some guys refuse. Some guys hate getting rimmed but don't mind doing it themselves. Whatever. If you've got something you just can't? Talk about it before the shoot, because sometimes, we really do just roll with it, okay? I mean, not with the huge stuff, like penetration, but tomorrow? If you're looking into it, turning me on, I may reach out and touch you. If it's weird and you don't like it, just move my hand, but don't freak out, okay? Let us know so we don't have any embarrassment on set, but if you don't let us know, sometimes the moment does take you, and that makes for good camera sometimes, so John likes it."

Oh yeah. I'll be doing it for someone else. And for a moment, the bike became tarnished--maybe it was used, or had a banana seat, when everyone knew they'd been out of style forever. But still... it was a bike. He'd never gotten a bike before.

"Is there anything else he likes?" John had seemed on the up and up, for a porn director, hadn't he? For a second Chase waited uncomfortably to find out that his bike was a poisonous snake.

Dex nodded so matter-of-factly that Chase didn't even have time to be afraid. "Yeah, you have to watch where you put your hands. You may want to touch someone's face or their ass or something--but watch where the camera is. They want to see our faces, our cocks, and our penetration. They definitely need to see us blow our wads. The guys with the cameras have the angles all figured out and shit, and they try to stay out of our way, but we've got to help them out. So if you want to touch someone's face, do it with the hand on the side away from the cameras."

Oh yay! It really is a bike, and I'm going to ride....

"Geez, I hope I remember that!" He did too.

Dex shrugged. "You'll be with a veteran for the first couple of shots. If you're good, if you get lots of downloads and some good responses, eventually you'll be the veteran, and you'll remember. No worries, okay?"

Chase nodded his head enthusiastically. "Man, I've got a lot less now!"

Dex smiled. "Any questions? I mean seriously--personal, not personal, your choice, okay? No judgments."

Chase nodded. "So, do the guys hang out, or is it business and go home?"

"Oh no. We definitely hang out. Those of us who are local go to the same gym, you know? Just to work out together--we even get a discount."

"That would be awesome. When baseball isn't in season, I've got no one to work out with. It's sort of depressing." He used to work out with Donnie, but now Donnie worked out with his boyfriend, and Kevin was unreliable at best.

"Well, there you go. We can hook you up. Anything else?"

Are there relationships on set? How many of the guys are gay? How many straight? How many bi? Is it going to matter if one of them is touching me? Blowing me? Has his cock up my ass? Will I feel it? Will I be able to tell the difference? Can I separate the need in my skin from the job I'm going to do? Can you help me do that?

"Yeah, is all porn like this?"

Dex laughed a little and shook his head. "Not as far as I know. Johnnies is really good about trying to keep things friendly and trying to make it seem like a family. We have our dramas, and we don't always get along, and John tries not to make us work together when that happens, and we try to keep things professional so he doesn't have to get too into our business to put sex on tape, you know?"

Chase blinked. He'd never really thought about that.

"Yeah, that would suck if you had to fuck an asshole," he said thoughtfully, and this time it was Dex who spit out his drink, and then Chase realized what he'd said and the rest of his questions got giggled into the cradle of his arms on the table.

"Oh geez," he gasped, when they could both talk again, "God, I actually had some more questions, but I can't remember them now."

Dex was busy wiping tears from his eyes and he just shook his head. "Man, you've got my number, right?"

Chase nodded--he'd put it in his cell before he left.

"Well, you give me a call if you need to. We're supposed to show up an hour before the shoot; show up three hours before and I'll show you around, let you see the other shoot going on, introduce you to some of the guys. It'll be okay. Are you nervous?"

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!

"Actually, I'm sort of amped," Chase said thoughtfully.

"Great, Chance. We'll have a good time." They stood and shook hands, and then it turned out they'd both parked in the same downtown garage about three blocks away, and they talked all the way to their cars.

Chase enjoyed the conversation--he honestly did. His skin still buzzed with anticipation, and the thought that Dex, with his wide smile and the cocky swagger to his hips, was going to actually sit next to him and watch his naked body. But Dex (or whatever--he must have a real name too, right?) didn't have Donnie's reckless, Labrador retriever smile. And he didn't have that suddenly thoughtful way of putting shit into perspective when Chase needed it most. It wasn't until he opened his car and had a moment to analyze that familiar post-Christmas dropping of the stomach that he managed to place his odd disappointment in the entire meeting.

Yeah, he'd finally got that new bike for Christmas. But he'd been asking for an action figure instead.

* * * *

That didn't mean he didn't get up early the next morning, use the enema kit he'd hidden in his duffel bag, and pack an overnight bag with a few changes of clothes. He had no idea if he was going to use them, or how bad he'd look when he was done, but he figured if he had something he didn't want Mercy to spot, he'd want something to wear as he camped out at Donnie's house.

And then it hit him. If he camped out at Donnie's house, he'd have to tell Donnie.

That big buzz of excitement in his stomach cramped wickedly into dread.

He packed the clothes anyway, but he very very carefully didn't think about telling Donnie.

And then he kissed Mercy on the cheek as she lay sleeping and whispered, "It's in Tracy. I'll call you if the job goes long."

Mercy gave a sleepy "Mmmhmm...," and Chase turned around and walked out of the apartment.

On his way down the stairs and out to the car, he was suddenly there in his memory, meeting Mercy for the first time and thinking she was the best thing that had happened to him.

* * * *

His iPod had been playing Foo Fighters, and playing them loud, but that was okay. He was alone at Sac State, because Donnie was still going to junior college while he decided what he wanted to do and saved money for State, and Chase was lonely. He was in training for the baseball season and had been working hard at his fast-food job, trying to keep his shitty apartment. He didn't want to move back home because his old man would never stop giving him shit about his useless time spent in college, and basically? If he was going to have to read Of Mice and Men, he was going to do it with the Foo Fighters, because they made shit better.

Suddenly an older student, in her forties maybe, was standing up and yelling. Someone tapped Chase on the shoulder, and a girl with blonde streaks in her dark hair who also had her iPod ear buds in was making eye contact. They both looked at each other and then up at the student, and Chase pulled one of his ear buds out in time to hear....

"And you two should be totally ashamed of yourself for causing such a ruckus in the library! This library is for everybody, you know!"

And about the time Chase and his new companion had figured out she was yelling at them, she had flounced off with her little wheeled cart and three layers of sweaters, leaving the two of them looking at each other with wide, laughing eyes.

They had both stopped their iPods then, and laughed, and then had commiserated on the English 1B reading list, and then ended up playing a giddy game of notebook-paper-football while they quoted movies. They had finally conceded that no homework was going to be finished at that point and had pooled their resources to go to the campus McDonald's for the dollar menu and endless soda. They'd talked until the place had closed down around them and made plans to meet the next day.

"Maybe we can catch a movie over the weekend!" Mercy had said animatedly. She had been animated for most of their conversation, and Chase genuinely enjoyed her smile, the way her little chipmunk cheeks had gone hard and round and shiny, and the way her brown eyes danced and she clapped her hand over her mouth when she was afraid she'd laughed too loud. But now she was blushing, and she added, "You know, if you wanted to go out again."

It hadn't been until that exact moment that he realized they were out on a date.

* * * *

Chase walked briskly to his car--a big, bruising, almost-free Ford truck in primer gray--and threw his bag in the passenger seat and slammed the door, trying to block out the memories. It didn't work. On the fifteen-minute trip to the office suite of Johnnies, Chase fought a mini slide show of things like their first kiss, or the first time they'd made love, or all of the times he'd orgasmed inside her while imagining Donnie's hard hand stroking him, inexpertly but willingly. That last one triggered more memories of Donnie and that one fabulous, giddy night when Donnie had stopped waiting for Chase to reciprocate and had simply laid back on his bed in his parent's house and stroked his own cock, at his own pace, until he exploded all over his hand. Chase could still remember the look--pleasure so exquisite it was past bearing--on Donnie's face, and he could remember the way his heart hurt when Donnie had innocently taken his own come-covered hand to his mouth and sucked on the webbing between his thumb and forefinger, just to see what it tasted like.

Chase had wanted to taste it too... oh God, he'd wanted it so bad. But he hadn't. He'd told Donnie he was brave, but it would never happen between them for one simple reason.

Chase wasn't gay.

And as he pulled up and around the office suite of Johnnies to park, he thought that maybe he would finally see the upside of being a straight man once he got behind the plain brown doors.

* * * *

The receptionist John had been missing that first day was there. She was a gum-cracking girl with a dirty-blonde ponytail, a faint sneer, and ripped jeans, and she gave Chase a friendly smile as she picked up an intercom mike and said, "Dex, your rookie is here to see you!"

Chase ducked, feeling stupid, when the words bounced around the office too, but the girl rolled her eyes self-consciously. "Goddammit," she muttered. "Seriously, why do I keep doing that?"

"Goddammit, Kelsey!" Dex snapped, coming through the door in a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, and shower shoes, much to Chase's surprise. "Why do you keep doing that?"

"I don't know!" Kelsey wailed, hitting button after button on the intercom. One of them started a feedback loop that punctured the entire compound at full volume, and the next one....

"Oh God!" screamed a disembodied male voice. "Fuck me now! Fuck me, dammit! Fucking now!"

"You like that? You like that big fat dick?" answered another disembodied voice, and the look Kelsey sent Dex was both eloquent and horrified. He grimaced, shoved her rolling-wheeled chair out of the way, and punched buttons until the assorted grunts, groans, and pants went away.

"Oh God," Kelsey groaned, burying her face in her hands. "John is going to kill me!"

"John is going to laugh his skinny little ass off," Dex muttered. "It's Ethan and Tango who're going to kill you."

"Oh God. It was Ethan's first bottom, wasn't it?" Kelsey smacked the heel of her hand against her forehead. "Jesus, he was so fucking nervous! Oh God...." Suddenly she stood up. "Here. Dex. You and new guy man the fort. I'll be right back."

"Where the fuck're you--"

"Oreos!" she called, grabbing a giant tapestry bag of a purse. "He loves them. I'm going to the mini-mart next door, and he's gonna have a big pack of fudge-covered Oreos and some milk when he's done with the scene if it kills me!" And with that she went trotting out the door, leaving Dex there at the counter, shaking his head, and Chase staring after her, smiling.

"God," Dex muttered. "She's a good kid, you know? I mean... Oreos for Ethan--hell, I think she brought flip-flops for you, because I forgot to tell you about them, right?"

"Uhm, yeah?" Because it was late October and who wore sandals of any sort, right?

"Yeah, so she's totally thoughtful and we all really adore her, but...." He shook his head and looked at the intercom board again. "Well, it's just a good thing John rewards people for doing their best, you know? Otherwise, she'd be fired, we'd all feel like shit, and no one would get Ethan his fucking Oreos, right?"

Chase nodded. Sure. Made total sense to him.

"So, uhm," he said when Dex had stopped clucking over the phone and intercom, "shower shoes?"

Dex looked up and shook his head. "They like pictures of our feet--and some guys really like toe sucking--"

"You?" Chase asked, and was surprised when Dex nodded his head.

"Giving and receiving," he confirmed. "So we take a pre-fuck shower, and there are wire brushes and shit to help get the feet all purty, and then there are almost always shots of our feet. Besides, flip-flops are easier to take off than tennis shoes, right? Nothing kills the mood like trying to get off a high top and a sweat sock while the other guy's got his dick out."

Chase had to giggle. "Yeah, yeah--I can see that."

Dex reached over the counter and ruffled his hair. "Just look at you. They're going to eat you up with a fork!"

I have no idea how to respond to that

"Well, Jesus, I hope so! It would be awesome to come back!"

Dex laughed wickedly and patted his cheek. "Dude, we're men. It would be awesome just to come!"

Did that pun ever get old?

So they were still cracking up when Kelsey got back, red-faced and breathless, a cloth shopping bag hanging from her hand.

"Oh God," she panted. "Should I go back there? Do you think he's done?"

"I dunno, Kelse," Dex said dryly. "Would you like to push that button again and see where they are in the shoot?"

Kelsey let out a little wail and buried her face in her hands. Dex laughed, dropped a kiss on the top of her head, and then motioned Chase to follow him through the door and into the rest of the office complex.

"Is she going to be okay?" Chase looked behind him, half afraid he'd hear muffled sobbing or something.

Dex shrugged. "Yeah, she's fine. Once we're gone, she'll start working again and totally forget how bad she feels until Ethan goes in to work the guilt thing. Then she'll give him Oreos, he'll stop angling for sex, and the whole thing goes back to copacetic."

Chase blinked. "Ethan's straight?"

Dex rolled his eyes. "Ethan will fuck anything that moves," he said. "Twice if his boner won't go away. It's a good thing he's such a nice guy or we'd all hate him to pieces."

Hey! He's a nice guy! That's always good to hear!

"Yeah, well, it's good to be loved."

"Yeah, well, with Ethan, there's a lot to love. C'mon--you ready to explore the glorious world of porn?"

Chase cracked his gum. "I got nothin' better to do."


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