Impaling the Sky

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Chapter 5: Notches of the Spine

Roasted pigs flew past my head as I ran, impaled with massive black stakes, turning, spinning, darkened bodies shimmering in amber fire light. One of them was on a table, brown and red bits hacked to pieces and spread out on individual plates. The sight of its dislocated spine was startling and forced me to straighten my own. I pushed on, legs light and weak with the adrenaline coursing out from the nerves in my back. Even if Mikhail hacks me to pieces, even if Simon turns away from me forever, I had already decided that I would die with courage coursing through my spine. And if the people of the world would eat me, the taste will be bittersweet.

I knew where Mikhail lived. He was very high ranking, so it was in one of the nicer, above ground places carved into the side of the nearest cliffs.There was even a huge, double front window made of clear glass. The lights were on inside, and I crouched down in front of the window, peeking in through a crack in the white curtains.

Simon was standing with his back to me, perhaps with his arms crossed, and looking at the floor. Mikhail was sitting on a high stool and talking, but I couldn’t hear. Then, suddenly Simon came to the window and opened it. I hid to the side, for some reason praying that he would not see me. Hadn’t I come there to rescue him?

“It’s so damn hot in here,” he was complaining.

“You’re just drunk,” Mikhail growled and slammed it closed again, not noticing that it had reopened just a crack. I could then hear everything they were saying.

“Not drunk enough. I’m going home.”

“Oh?” Mikhail laughed. “I wonder what sight will greet you there? Where do you think they went? Not to the other boy’s house who lives with his mother and sisters.” They were silent for a few moments. Were they talking about Sou and I? Did Simon really think I was going to sleep with him? I barely know him!

“Sometimes, I really just hate you.” Simon spoke so quietly I could only just make it out. I decided to take a risk and looked in the window again to see both were standing, and Mikhail was touching the side of Simon’s face and hair.

“That’s all right. I know what to do to make you like me,” Mikhail laughed lightly and pulled on Simon’s belt. My stomach sank, but I was also suddenly filled with adrenaline again. I had to do something. I was still considering a course of action, when Simon violently slapped away Mikhail’s hand.

“Stop it. I told you I don’t want to right now.”

“You will once we start. Just close your eyes and imagine what you really want. I don’t mind it today, just for you,” Mikhail laughed again, grabbing both of Simon’s upper arms as if he would push him down on his knees.

“Let go or I will kill you,” Simon growled.

“Will you?” Mikhail laughed and tried to kiss him. I had a hand on the window, already pushing it open when Simon brought his knee up into Mikhail’s stomach. Mikhail cried out in pain, and I ducked down again quickly. Simon had already pulled out his sword and pointed it down at Mikhail.

“Bitch,” Mikhail gasped, and then looked up at Simon. “Well, this is new,” he laughed bitterly. “Is this how you feel when you’re on your knees then?”

Simon stared at him with narrowed, hardened eyes. I watched his profile, his square jaw flexing in anger. He brought his sword closer to Mikhail, putting the tip of the blade under his chin.

“Don’t flatter yourself,” he said plainly. “My sword is much bigger.”

“That’s not what you said before when you screamed and begged for more of mine. How did you put it again? Say it for me.”

Simon laughed. “Oh, the thing you forget about a female body…” He took away his sword and got closer to Mikhail’s face. “You can always just fake it.” They just seethed and stared at each other, and I decided I would go to the door and finally interrupt. As I was about to knock, I heard a loud crash. My heart raced into my throat, and I instantly pushed on the door. I was not only surprised that it was not locked, but that I suddenly found myself standing in the room with them. Both were staring at me, Mikhail’s hands wrapped painfully tight around Simon’s arms. Simon’s angry black eyes blinked at me in astonishment, softening until they looked strangely shy and embarrassed.

“Oh, hello there boy,” Mikhail said and abruptly let go of Simon.

“Avery,” Simon growled, turning away from me. “What are you doing here?”

I was shaking all over and just watched as he picked up his pretty sword and sheathed it.

“I, I need you to come home,” I finally burst.

“I was just about to leave," he said, walking out of the house without looking at either of us.

“Good night, lover,” Mikhail laughed. I found myself just staring at the large older man and thinking of all the insulting things I wanted to say to him. But after a moment he violently grabbed me by the back of the neck and threw me outside. I flinched at the sound of the slamming door and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Simon was already quite far from the house, and I hurried to catch up with him. We walked in silence until we were practically home.

“Avery…” he said suddenly and stopped above our door.

“Yeah?” Before I could even look up his arms were wrapped around my shoulders. It was an awkward hug at first, but I moved closer and slipped my arms around him. His forehead came down onto my shoulder, and his arms wrapped behind my back, pressing us together. He didn’t make a sound, but just embraced me and rested a little of his weight on my body. I gazed up into the strangely faraway sky, and I remember somehow wanting to pull him down closer to me, away from that suffocating emptiness.

“Thank you.” He loosened his grip. I didn’t want to let him go and despite the embarrassment kept holding him to me.

“I didn’t do anything,” I said. “I just wanted you to come home.”

And then he made a sound as if he’d cried, just barely, and quite awkwardly, as if the sob had pushed up against something in his throat. I could only vaguely guess why that would make him cry, as I actually knew very little about him. I started to wonder what coming home meant to him, but he just sniffled and pushed himself away because I hadn’t said anything aloud.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I’m still a little drunk.”

Simon was turned away, and when he took a step from me I panicked and grabbed his arm. I found my fingers laced into the blue ribbon on his sleeve, gripping him tightly. He didn’t move, only his eyes roving from the ground to my face. We stood there for what felt like hours, and he reached up a hand and put it on mine.

“What is it?” he asked. I pulled the knot at the end of ribbon, and he squeezed my hand. “Wait.” I felt like I’d be sick, but even if he rejected me, even if he hated me forever, I wanted that ribbon.

“I want your ribbon.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes, I do.” I wouldn’t move my hand away and looked at him sternly.

He looked down again, face falling into a stream of moon light so bright that I could see the points of his black eyelashes resting against the mounds of his extremely white cheeks. And then the eyes were looking at me again, completely void, deep black pits of nothing as he said flatly, “I’m not yours to own.”

I felt like I’d swallowed the whole of the moon, all the sadness, the coldness, the loneliness exploding in my chest. But I just gripped the ribbon tighter and pulled him closer to me. I was unwilling to accept this fate.

“Simon…” I thought I could hear tears in my voice and couldn’t allow myself to speak again.

“What?” he looked away. “What do you want?”

“Your ribbon.”

“Why?” he laughed dryly.

“Because I love you,” I blurted, almost panicking

“What?” he looked at me in confusion, and I finally let go.

My first instinct was to apologize, but for some reason an extreme rush of frustration and anger came over me instead.

“I said ‘I love you!’ I love you more than anyone, anything, everything. That’s why I want it.” I crossed my arms and turned away from him, spine feeling loose and unstable, each vertebrae stretching up to the sky, abandoning each other.

“Avery… you’re just confused.”

“Why does everyone keep telling me that!? God damn it, I’m not an idiot, or a child, or fucking confused!” I picked up a nearby rock and threw it as hard as I possibly could into the black abyss above. My spine reconnected into a solid line, and my blood was instantly on fire, whole body heaving and aching from the violence of my attack on the sky.

Then a hand softly slid onto my shoulder, and I flinched in surprise. It moved up my neck, into my hair, fingertips over my cheek, before the calloused palm pressed against my forehead. I took in a deep breath, absorbing his soothing smell as the coolness of his hand held down my anger. He moved the hand down over my eyes, pressing them closed.

“Ok. I’m sorry,” he whispered, his breath tickling my ear.

And then, after a moment I realized he was tying soft silk over my eyes. He took his hands away from me, and I was suddenly standing in complete, blind isolation. Then the hand took one of mine and led me forward. I heard the door to our home being unlocked, and when I opened my eyes I was staring down into glittering, sapphire silk. I saw his shadow in the light as he climbed down into the hole, and I pulled the ribbon up onto to my forehead. Simon was standing at the bottom, looking up at me.

“What are you doing?” he laughed slightly. I tried not to smile but failed miserably.

I started climbing down, and as I got near the bottom Simon pulled roughly on the ribbon in my sleeve, making me fall off a bit too early.

"Are you trying to kill me?” I laughed.

“I’m just taking what’s mine,” he returned, unlacing the ribbon.

“You should never have even put it on for me…” I looked at him, surging with new energy and boldness. “It has always been yours.”

“Oh?” He tried to remain serious, but shook his head and laughed anyway. “You are too ridiculous.”

He finally finished the ribbon, raising his eyebrows at me suggestively as he pulled it free from the final eyelet. The sleeve felt strangely open and exposed, my brown undershirt showing through like naked skin.

“Avery…” Simon was serious again, sliding my ribbon through first one hand and then the other. “Earlier, I wanted to ask you something.” He didn’t continue, but just kept fiddling with the ribbon, pressing it between his fingertips, sliding it through his hands.

“What was it?”

“Could you ever… like a… a man like me? Really?”

“I told you already, fool,” I sighed, trying to make the mood lighter. He ignored my attempt.

“But really? Even though I’m not completely a man? Physically?" He was still, staring up at nothingness, waiting for my answer.

I wanted to just say ‘of course’ but something sank in my stomach. There were lots of men that seemed to like him just because he was something exotic. That’s why Mikhail liked him; I’d always known that. Am I just another one? In a few weeks will he be holding his sword to my throat, turning away from me forever? Another possible response was, ‘But you are completely a man to me.’ Which was a ridiculously simple thing to say and fairly untrue. I can honestly say I don’t think I’d have liked Simon as much if he were just another man. It would be all wrong; it wouldn’t be him at all. I believe that people are the sum of their entire lives, and I loved Simon’s difference as much as every other part of him.

“I didn’t say that I liked you,” I said very quietly, suddenly feeling the embarrassment of this reality. I was not joking, but it made him laugh a little and look at my face. “I love you, Simon.” He looked away again quickly.

“I’m not sure how to respond when you say it so plainly like that.”

“Well, I don’t mind if you respond plainly. In rejection just ‘I don’t love you, you idiot.’ Or…” I shrugged my shoulders, and he laughed just slightly. Then he walked to me, much more nervous than I was used to seeing him. He was looking down at my face, at my chin, my cheeks, my forehead, my hair, flicking over my eyes. He was biting his lower lip, and I stared at it longingly. Then he touched my curls a little, putting his hand on the back of my head.

I could feel his breath on my lips as he whispered, “Avery, I…” and then he kissed me very gently. His mouth was surprisingly soft and warm, and I vividly remember feeling even the small cracks of texture in his lips, the way they soften closer to the inside of his mouth. And then he was kissing my cheeks, and I was thrilled by the feeling of his rough face brushing against my jaw. When he moved down and kissed me on the neck, I gasped audibly, making him smile and do it again. It tickled and yet I was instantly very flushed, not sure what I could or should do next. I’d never really kissed anyone so intensely before and was at once too embarrassed to tell him and too flustered with happiness to try anything. He kissed the center of my throat, my chin, my lips, my other cheek, my lips, my ear, my lips, my neck.

“Simon…” I closed my eyes, wrapping one arm around him, the other feeling down his exposed arm, into his tunic and over his shoulder and back. I couldn’t believe how much of him I was touching, and I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling like I was going to cry. He put an arm around my waist, pressing us together as he kissed my mouth, pushing open my lips with his tongue. I moaned a little, so absolutely amazed and aroused by the feeling of his warm tongue brushing into my mouth.

“Are you alright?” he asked, pushing some loose curls out of my eyes and hooking them behind my ear.

“Fine,” I answered, voice cracking a little.

“God, you’re so cute,” he laughed, hiding his smiling mouth on my shoulder. Then he pressed his lips to my neck and perhaps whispered, “Te ai.”

“I’m sorry.” Did he have any idea how many times I’d imagined this? How long I’d been waiting? But I was still so embarrassed, even though I’d rehearsed it in my mind so many times. He kissed the back of my neck, and my knees buckled slightly. I caught myself by putting my hands on his shoulders and hesitantly looked at his face. He was smiling, eyebrows raised a little as his hand slipped under my tunic and his fingers traced the damp small of my back.

“Can I take off your shirt?” I just nodded, and he started untying the ribbons. His eyebrows raised a little when he saw that I’d tied the back ribbon like his. “You… are kind of strange you know.” He smiled widely and pushed my curls out of my eyes again. His other hand traced all the way up my back, and then back down, before both hands pulled off my tunic and undershirt at once. The sudden cold made me gasp, and after folding the tunic he kissed my cheek, his arm wrapped around my back and pressing me to him. “Are you sure you’re alright?” he asked again. He was using his other hand to softly trace up and down the back of my arm.

Instead of hiding, I found myself clinging to him, pressing my mortified face into his shoulder. The cool, soft, texture of his tunic made me want to wrap it around myself, and I pulled on it. But then it finally dawned on me that if I just asked him, he would probably take the tunic off… and I could cling to his beautiful, bare skin.

“Simon…” I looked at his neck, at the birthmarks scattered across its soft whiteness. I’d always wanted to kiss him there, and I was shaking intensely as I finally pressed my lips to the surprisingly cool skin. He was breathing quickly, and I kissed him again, up higher, closer to his jaw, licking my tongue over his rough neck just slightly.

“Mm, Avery,” he whispered heavily.

And suddenly I couldn’t feel the cold, my whole body flushed with intense, embarrassing warmth. My hand went up his tunic in the front, and he helped me take it off, folding it neatly and putting it aside. He still had a white undershirt on, and I looked at him, getting a nod before I nervously, and clumsily, pulled it over his head. He laughed a little, tossing the white shirt on the floor. And then we were just staring at each other again, both nervous and not sure where to go next.

Simon put a hand on my shoulder and watched it trace over my upper arm and chest. Only a moment later I lost my inhibitions and grabbed him, pulling him up against me. I was both surprised and thrilled by the feeling of his naked chest pressed against mine; it was so different from touching him with my hands. It was a warmth and softness that I didn’t feel only with my fingertips, but my arms and chest and stomach were all suddenly enveloped in the sensation of him.

“Avery…” he laughed lightly at my sudden boldness.

“I love you,” I pleaded, kissing him on the neck and mouth. He unbuckled his sword, still kissing me, still pressing back. Then I unbuckled my own, laying it on the floor with his. He cupped my face in his hands and took a step backward, making me follow. When he was at the bed he turned us around before pushing on my shoulders to make me sit. Then he got lower, opening my legs and coming between them as he kissed me and pressed me back onto the bed. He looked at my face, still kissing me and pressing a little of his weight on to me. Then his mouth moved down my stomach, hand pressing and rubbing my already painfully hard erection. I tried to wiggle away from his hand, afraid that I would finish just from his light touching. He sank onto his knees, and I sat up, lacing my fingers into his soft hair as he kissed my chest and stomach.

He unbuttoned my pants, and I took in a sharp breath, anticipating and fearing the feeling of another’s hand. He touched very lightly, but I was already flinching and damp with extreme excitement. I watched his face closely, completely lost in my fantasy come true as his warm, wet tongue traveled from the base to the tip. He had one hand gently wrapped around it, the other moving inside his own pants. His mouth suddenly swallowed the tip, beautiful black eyes looking up at my flustered face. He took it in a little deeper, pulling away and then swallowing in quick rhythm.

I could already feel the orgasm and groaned, pushing his face away. But he wiggled free from my hand and did it more, all over, sometimes stopping to kiss my legs and smile. My young body did not last long, and when I came it was very sudden and intense, half of it spilling into his mouth and the rest of it whitish streaks in his beautiful, red hair. He swallowed what was in his mouth, still panting and looking at my face. I couldn’t move or catch my breath and just stared back at him.

“I’m sorry,” he said suddenly and looked away. What face had I been showing him? Shock? Did it look like fear? I was just embarrassed, both because it was my first real sexual experience and because I hadn’t been able to last very long at all. I knew from jokes and such that male virgins were terrible to sleep with, and I almost wished that I had lost my virginity to someone before Simon. And what is that look he’s giving me? Why the apology?

He was wiping his hair clean with his shirt, and for some reason I panicked when I thought he might put it back on. I suddenly put my hand behind his head and pulled him on top of me, kissing him deeply several times. When I finally let him go he was breathing extremely heavily and staring at me, a little bit shocked but smiling nonetheless.

He let his weight fall on me again, one hand playing with my curls and touching my face as he kissed my forehead and eyes. And then he laid on his side and kept touching my body gently, tracing the little bit of hairs that had started growing on my lower stomach. I was thinking that I should do something to make him feel good too but didn’t know where to begin, and he somehow didn’t seem interested.

"Simon, do you want me to..."

“I’m tired…” he interrupted softly, fingers still tracing over my body. “For now, let’s go to sleep.”

We were both starting to fall asleep when he suddenly leaned over and kissed me quickly on the mouth. “I love you, Avery,” he whispered. Then he laid his head on my chest, and I ran my fingers through his hair, then down the back of his neck, tracing up and down the hard notches of his spine.

I often dream about the apocalypse, and that night the dark haired girl was with me. There were electric trains like there are in the Middle, but it only carried four like a cargo truck from the Outer Rim. Simon was driving it on a steep mountain road, and all I could see through the white mists around us were sharp rocks and in the distance a massive, worm like creature that had come from the sky. It was several buildings high and black, with a pointed nose striped with yellow and topped with a blinking red bulb. We were approaching the side of it, and I looked at the dark curly hair of the little girl next to me in horror. She stared at the creature like it was vaguely familiar, huge black eyes blinking at it curiously. Simon was yelling something, but I couldn’t hear a sound. I looked at the worm, and a tiny yellow eye, perhaps the size of a coin, stared back at us in alarm. All I knew was that the creature had come from the sky, from another world, looking for something. And suddenly I could hear Simon screaming.

“Stop it! Stop looking at her!” He yelled as loudly as he could, that terrifying, extreme violence I so rarely saw spilling out of his mouth like water.

The creature had come to take her back to it’s world because she had been a goddess there before she was reborn a human. But the child could no longer remember that life, and I suddenly surged with the need to protect her. She was only a little girl now, and I was not going to let that monster take her even if it meant the end of the human world. I put my hand over her eyes and the creature shrieked in pain, the deep, siren like sound shaking everything until all the world began to shatter like glass and rain down from above.

I woke up, heart beating quickly and mind swirling from the strange dream. I was still wearing my boots, and my feet felt heavy and awkward. It took me a few seconds to realize I was not alone and not under the usual piles of blankets. When I looked down all I could see were strands of dark, tangled red, like my insides had been pulled out onto my chest. And I was incredibly warm all over.

I shifted just a little to reassure myself that I was really awake, and Simon growled in annoyance, snuggling his head into my chest and squeezing me tighter. It made me want to laugh, but I tried to be quiet because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to wake him. God, am I really awake at all? With Simon lying so close to me, half naked? This is impossible. I have to make sure this is real. I put my hand on his back, and I quickly realized that while I was very warm beneath him he was actually freezing and probably fairly uncomfortable.

“Simon,” I whispered and started tickling his back again. I had always wanted to wake him up like that. Even being the first to wake was really an extraordinary experience. He just ignored my tickling and snuggled into me more. “I had the strangest dream. Simon, our shoes, wake up for a minute.”

“Mmmm,” he groaned, still trying to sleep. I let him sleep a few minutes more, watching his pretty face, connecting the dots of his freckles into shapes, and rubbing his back. “Mmmm.” He smiled, and I wondered what wonderful thing he was dreaming about. “Avery…” I blushed, very glad that it was my name but at the same time not sure how to respond. Then he suddenly woke, pushing himself off of me so quickly that he hit his head on the bed above.

“Are you alright?” I laughed, as he rubbed his head and stared at me in confusion.

Then he relaxed and laid on me again with a huff. I wanted to tell him to roll off of me for a moment, but at the same time didn’t like the idea of not being able to touch him. I was already so flustered by his flesh pressing against mine that I was having a hard time even listening to what he was saying. “God, for a minute I almost thought you were Mikhail.” I didn’t like that idea, and even though he couldn’t see my displeased face he laughed at it. “Don’t worry. You’re not alike at all.”

“Definitely not.”

“I did that once before you know…”

“Did what?”

“Said your name… in my sleep. He got really mad about it. And for a minute I thought yesterday was all in my imagination, and I was going to wake up there again.” He pushed himself off of me, rolling over so he was sitting up. He immediately started taking off his boots. I watched the muscles in his back as he worked, and when he finished he turned around and started unlacing my boots as well. Then he just threw them all to the side and stood up, pulling a blanket down from my bed. I was sitting up on my forearms, watching him almost ravenously. He’d only been away from me for less than a minute, and I practically felt like he’d ripped off a layer my skin.

“You’re so cute,” he growled, suddenly tackling me with a blanket. I tried to wrestle my way out of it, but he only let my face escape so he could kiss me quickly. Then he threw it over my face as well, moving to the bottom of the bed and coming under the blanket from the other side. It was light outside, and the little bit of sun we got in our house glittered through the fibers of the coarse, greenish blue fabric.

He grinned at me mischievously and started gently pulling my pants down farther and farther. Without pants I knew my excitement would be extremely evident, so I tried to pull them back on at first. He just laughed at me and kept pulling.

“Don’t worry, I’ve seen it before, remember,” he teased, throwing my pants over the edge. He ran his hands up my legs, crawling closer to me as one of his hands reached inside my underwear. I flinched and moaned as he kissed me on the mouth, and then he took his hand away and put it on my stomach. He pushed a knee between my legs, opening them, pressing with his thigh as he kissed and touched my upper body. I wrapped my arms around him, still amazed by being able to feel so much of his skin. And I wanted more, more, more of something. More of him.

“Simon.” I rasped his name as he kissed my neck, and then I felt down his back and pushed at his loosened belt. He took my hands away from his pants, pressing them palm upward into the bed beside my head. He continued kissing and sucking my neck, but then started moving downward, pulling my underwear away as he suddenly swallowed the entire thing. I almost thought I was done immediately again, but he took it out of his mouth, looking at me as he licked lower, the whole shaft pressing against his damp, pretty face. “Simon. Simon.” I repeated his name almost absentmindedly as I touched his face and hair.

“Tell me what you like, Avery,” he said, and for the first time I noticed that he was shaking considerably.

“Everything,” I gasped. “But especially your face. Your eyes.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he laughed and blushed brightly. “I mean…” He started running his tongue over different parts. “Tell me what to do. Here? Or here? Softly? More?” He sucked one of my testicles into his mouth, and I moaned inadvertently. “Here?” He raised his eyebrows and sucked the other one. It felt amazingly good, and I pressed the back of my hand over my mouth, unable to speak. “You are so cute,” he rasped and did it again. And then he was swallowing the shaft again, warm, wet mouth pulling away tightly again and again and again until I was unable to hold back.

“Simon,” I gasped as the orgasm jerked through my body. He stared up at me, still kissing and sucking, and I touched the sticky whiteness on his face and hair. I found that I strangely enjoyed and was terrified of doing that to his face and didn’t know what to do next. So I just sat up, gently using the blanket to wipe his face clean. Then I touched his red, swollen lips, before I bent forward and kissed them lightly. “Thank you.” My voice shook a little, but he was the one that blushed intensely and looked away from me.

Next, I put my hands on his shoulders and nervously pushed him backward until he was lying down and I was holding myself above him. “Simon, I love you.” I kissed his neck, over his chest and shoulders, loving the texture of all his scars against my mouth and the spots of bright pink on the tops of his shoulders and cheeks and ears. I was probably only copying him when I pressed his legs open with my thigh, but he suddenly sat up and pushed me away from him.

“Sorry, I just can’t,” he said quietly, hand still on my chest to keep me at a distance.

“But…” My heart raced into my throat. “You did it for me, so I…”

His blank stare made me stop talking. He wasn’t looking at me, but to the side, out into the room at nothing. I had to try hard several times to swallow the lump in my throat. “Simon…” I touched his face, desperate for him to look at me again. He closed his eyes and took his hand off my chest but didn’t look in my direction.

“Just, not yet. Are you mad at me?” He glanced just slightly.

“Mad at you?” My heart sank as I realized why Simon would think I was angry. I was a little bit sad, but anger… Had someone else been angry? And though I suddenly did feel very angry thinking about that, I just burst into tears like a fool and wrapped my arms around his neck.

“Wait!” He pushed me away almost frantically. I ignored his pushing and squeezed him tightly. He seemed to relax as he realized that I was just going to squeeze him, and probably that I’d started to cry for no apparent reason. “Avery?”

“Simon, I won’t ever try to do anything to you, you don’t want me to. Ever. I promise. I promise.”

He didn’t say anything in return, but relaxed, resting his head on my shoulder. “You’re very dramatic.” He laughed lightly after a few long moments. “Avery?”

“What?” I asked, squeezing him tighter again.

“I’m just tired and my head really, really hurts. Will you… tickle my back while I fall back asleep?”

“Sure,” I sniffled and let him go.

We arranged ourselves so I was up against the wall, and he was lying on his stomach in front of me. I traced the smooth groove of his spine with the tips of my fingers, then ran the backs of my knuckles over his lower back, and next the wide open palm of my hand over his shoulders. It took a while, but he eventually fell asleep. Then I laid my head on the slope of his back, ear against his solid spine as I pulled the blanket of warm water completely over my head.

To my surprise there was now often a little note and some breakfast already made for me when I woke up alone. I usually just picked through the food, but didn’t eat much of it and made myself something instead. Simon’s homemade cooking is generally inedible, but the gesture was really very sweet and made me feel quite loved. It was an unusual emotion for me. I even used to fantasize about that kind of thing when I was younger, waking up to a homemade breakfast that my lover had made especially for me. Of course, in those fantasies my lover had been able to cook at least some simple fried eggs and didn’t leave right after he finished making it.

I poked at the cold yellow and brown mush Simon had made for me, and thought it was much more amusing this way, and that I had had my fantasy all wrong. Bored but flustered, I laid on Simon’s bed, pulling his blankets up against my face. They had a bit of a different smell to them than they normally did, and it took me a moment to realize it was my own scent. I probably spent more time in his bed than he did.

Though I had expected an immediate sense of ease in my new relationship with Simon, the reality was that I probably lacked the life experience necessary to maintain a relationship with such a complex human being. Not only did I find myself perplexingly frustrated sexually, but also forced into a new defensive position that I had previously only pondered from the sidelines.

Only a few days after the opening festival Simon went on an assignment, and without the shelter of his influence I was immediately bombarded with bizarre questions and comments about what others perceived our relationship to be. I had no idea how they thought they knew so much about what happened in the privacy of our home. I even had more than one person ask me when I was going to start taking estrogen, as if I had somehow also become transsexual merely by intimate association. It was after perhaps ten days alone that I finally snapped, and of course it happened in one of the worst possible ways.

My work shift had started off well enough, and my supervisor was just feeding me her usual jibes about being lazy and the worst manual laborer ever born. I could hardly disagree with her, so I just went on as always, vaguely chatting with Sou. Likely aware that I was immune to her usual bullying, she decided to refocus her derision on Simon. Even she somehow knew that I was sleeping with him; homosexuals always seem to be gossiping about one another. For some reason she had decided she could now comment on Simon’s sexual activities and his body in a very unflattering way. I bit my tongue through the first sentence, but by the second I threw my shovel at her and told her she was just a jealous, crusty old dyke, and so of course she punched me in the head. I fought back, but she was a huge burly woman and really beat the hell out of me by the time we were broken up. I don’t remember the details of the fight well, just that I clearly lost to a woman.

The next thing I remember I found myself sitting in a bar with some of my young coworkers, pressing a cold glass of beer onto my bruised face and trying to imagine what I was going to tell Simon about losing my job. Sou was among the workers, and he was recounting my fight to me very merrily. He’d already gotten over my rejection, and in only a few days had another soft, pretty boy for his boyfriend instead.

We all drank for hours, and by the end of the night, like all teenage boys I suppose, we ended up talking about sex. Sou, constantly fascinated by what he called my ‘bisexuality’, had decided to make me compose a list of things I liked about a man’s body and the things I liked on a woman’s body.

Lots of things I like can be found on any sex of body, and I had no defined sense of being particularly attracted to women. It was actually an annoying and frustrating task, but I was drunk and submissive with guilt, eventually coming up with a list that he deemed suitably separate.

For men some of the things I listed were, in no particular order, ‘forearms, chest, back, facial hair, stomach, hands, long legs, voice, short hair.’ Some things I liked about women were ‘nice to me, soft butt and thighs, clean, soft inner arm, pretty faces, pretty clothes, tend to be shorter than me’. Sou laughed at my list and said that I should have just said ‘Simon’ and not wasted his time. I pointed out that Simon was not even close to shorter than me, but he just laughed and said that I wished he were. Simon really lacked almost everything in the female category aside from being clean and nice to me, but Sou was really just trying to get at something else anyway. He immediately said that I’d left out penis or vagina, and the only response I had was a lethargic shrug.

“That makes a big difference in sex. That’s like the whole thing,” he teased and pretended to smack me in the head. I thought having sex with him was probably really unpleasant; his world was so obnoxiously clear cut. Sou’s theory of my ‘bisexuality’, I decided, was just a reflection of his absurd obsession with other men's penises. And, I suspected bitterly, perhaps also a bit telling about the size of his own.

“Well, I don’t know really. I mean, I, I don’t really think about people like that.” I didn’t know how to admit that I had never really seen another adult naked anyway. Perhaps in passing but never in detail; my schooling did not include a very enlightened approach to sexual education. We were taught that people get married, and then the wife lies on her back while the husband ‘embraces’ her, nothing more and nothing less. Honestly, even if I had managed to marry I probably would have ended up celibate by accident, hugging my wife until we fell asleep in fear that any of the other sexual acts I’d heard of were sin incarnate. That is, if I had been able to fear sin. That has never been what motivates my morals.

Simon and I had continued with only me being the one to receive pleasure, though he would touch himself, sometimes letting me watch as he brought himself to orgasm. Perhaps that’s why I was so frustrated? I wanted to be the one to make him feel good, with my hands or even, maybe, god if only he would let me, with my mouth…

Sou slapped me on the back, breaking me out of my sudden reverie. “How do you not know? You baffle me,” he sighed and shook his head.

“Really, Simon is exactly who I’ve always wanted.”

“Always? Do they even have transsexuals in the Middle?”

“It’s not the same as it is here but yeah, there are.” I wasn’t sure about this, but I found myself saying it very firmly. “Simon actually isn’t the first person like that, that I’ve liked. So. that might be why it doesn’t seem strange to me. I guess? Please don’t tell Simon I said that though; I think he’ll find it offensive.”


“Well, it kind of sounds hollow, as if I just like him for being something exotic.”

“Well, don’t you?” I blanched a little at the roughness of his comment. “Would you still like him as much if he wasn’t a transsexual?”

“Yes, I would,” I answered firmly, though the idea bothered me a bit. I liked him as he was; there was no need to change anything and I was tired of people and their what if questions.

“What if he were still a girl?”

“That’s a stupid question, because he’s not. It’s like saying what if he were a completely different person.”

“I’m talking about body wise.”

“Yes, I would still like him, but he would be a boy in a girl’s body, and he ends up being transsexual again,” I laughed, and Sou just shook his head and scowled at me, starting yet another beer.

Though we ended up quite drunk and it was already dark outside, we started wandering through the streets looking for a tent from the City of Bei. I vaguely remember talking to someone, too drunk to really notice what I was doing or saying. I apparently bought four extremely expensive envelopes, and then we went back to drinking and it wasn’t until the next morning, completely hung over, that I got to see what was in these envelopes.

There were four differently themed collections of pornographic photographs and drawings in each envelope. The first one I opened surprised me, because it was of transsexual women. I was horrified that Simon would know I’d bought it and immediately hid it under my blankets. The second envelope was of young, rather pretty men, and I definitely found it enjoyable, taking the time to flip through all of the pictures. They weren’t quite as pretty as Simon, but they were actually close to him in body shape. I decided this was embarrassing enough to hide as well.

The third was close ups of vaginas and a few penises. I stared at these in amazement. The only vagina I could remember was my sister’s, but it was just a hairless, soft little line between her legs. The ones in the envelope were completely different, open and wet and dark. The penises were all unbelievably large, but what fascinated me most was that they were uncircumcised, something I never even imagined. I of course hid this envelope as well. The last one was a mixture of people having sex, sometimes two bisexual men and a woman, two men, two women, all engaging in very explicit sex. That one was definitely my favorite, and I transformed everything I saw into the fantasies I already had about Simon. He had only been gone for thirteen days, but in that short period I felt like I’d transformed into the sickest, most out of control, and least trustworthy pervert to ever walk the earth. I hid all of the envelopes in my bed, and hoped they’d be safe. I should have thrown them away immediately, but my intense boredom and frugality would not allow such waste.

Simon was due home on the twelfth day, but on day thirteen they’d radioed the village that they would be home the following evening, day fourteen. As usual, I went the market to pick up a few things he liked, but I never ate, including small cabbage like green balls that Simon calls ‘sprouts.’ They make me gag as soon as they are anywhere near my mouth. Simon loves them though, and they weren’t expensive so I bought them often and learned the best ways to cook them.

I was still at the market when he came home, and because he was a day earlier than scheduled I was very surprised to find our door unlocked. I could see his legs sticking out of his bed, feet crossed on top of one another and bouncing a little. I loaded the groceries into the basket, dropping it down slowly. Usually he would come catch it for me, but he ignored it, still sitting on his bed, apparently munching snacks and looking at something. My heart was in my throat as I climbed down and saw that, just as I feared, Simon was looking at my pornographic pictures.

“Hello, Avery,” he said, half smiling and still looking at the pictures.

“Simon, those weren’t my idea,” I started, voice shaking.

“Relax, I’m not mad,” he seemed quite amused, and it irritated me. “I hear you lost your job.” He put the pictures away neatly. “What happened to your eye?” His eyes opened wide for a moment, but then he seemed to easily suppress the concern.

“Oh, I got fired for fighting with my boss.”

“The really butch one?” He laughed immediately, and I pouted. “About what?”

“She is an obnoxious bitch, Simon. I don’t want to talk about it. And when I lost my job Sou and I got drunk and bought those because he thinks I'm bisexual and some nonsense about not knowing enough. I’ll throw them away.”

“I told you, I’m not mad. I think it’s mostly cute.”

“You’re making fun of me aren’t you?”

He closed all the envelopes before he took one of them and gave it to me. “But you can’t keep that one.”

“Why this one?” I asked stupidly.

“Because, that kind is… you just can’t keep it.”

“Oh,” I looked at the floor, horribly embarrassed. “I didn’t ask for it, the man just gave it to me.”

“You can do what you want, Avery. It’s none of my business, but you can’t keep that one in my house,” he laughed.

“You are mad. I’m telling you; I didn’t ask for these. I’m not lying. I don’t even like this one. It’s… and I mean, they are the complete opposite of…”

“Of?” he teased, standing close to me and touching my shoulders. I held the envelope against my chest with both hands, averting my eyes in horrible embarrassment.

“Ummmm, what I told him I like, the list,” I blurted, and he laughed.

“List?” He touched the hair that had fallen in my eyes, brushing his thumb over my blushing cheek as he lifted my chin to make me look at him. He touched my black eye and waited for my answer.

“Sou was being stupid when we were drunk and made me make a list of what I like… about a man’s body and about a woman’s.”

“Really?” he seemed slightly surprised. “Can you tell me? Or is it a secret?”

“No, he was just being stupid.”

“Don’t be shy, just tell me.”

“Well, for men… I, I like the muscles in their backs and their arms and their hands and…” I started but quickly realized I was rambling and couldn’t continue.

“What about women?”

“Some women have pretty hair…”

He shook his head and kissed my forehead. “Just those innocent little things?”

“I like pretty faces and….” I blushed and my eyes flicked to my other envelopes. He smiled widely, and I slowly started to feel a little bolder. I reached up and touched his unshaven face. It was slightly more orange than his hair and grew heavier on his neck and jaw than the rest of his face. “And when a man’s face is a little rough.”

“Oh? None of those boys were very hairy,” he laughed and motioned to the folders.

“I told you, he just gave them to me.”

“Relax, I’m only teasing. But, if you could have any kind you wanted what would it be?”

“I would want you,” I replied immediately.

“Don’t be stupid,” he laughed. “You don’t have to say that. Come on, what do you like best? I won’t be mad.”

I was surprised that he thought I was joking, and I just stared at him while I tried to think of another answer. Does he have any idea how sexually attracted to him I am? Why does he always think I’m lying? Maybe he still thinks I’m just confused? I considered admitting to him that ever since I met Sam I find the idea of men like them extremely attractive, but his reaction to the transsexual porn made me wonder if he would think even less of me.

I just looked at the floor and stewed about my answer. Would I choose a transsexual man over a regular one? My answer was likely yes, but for some reason that unsettled me. Why? Why does that unsettle me? I’m so tired of trying to shape my desires to the whim of others, even to Simon. I just couldn’t stand thinking about it any longer, and I burst with action, putting my hands on his shoulders and slowly pressing him back against the wall. This made him laugh and blush visibly, looking at my face in surprise. He seemed to be enjoying this marginal show of forcefulness, and I almost wondered if maybe he really enjoyed sex that was more intense than what we would normally do. The idea was often in the back of my mind and letting it surface even slightly aroused me almost to insanity.

“I really only want you, Simon.” I looked at his pretty lips, then kissed them softly, pushing my tongue into them. His mouth was warm and moist, slightly sweet and salty from the snacks he’d been eating. He closed his eyes, relaxing into my embrace, softening all over, breath quickening as I kissed his neck and ran a hand under his shirt and over his back. I pulled his shirt over his head and wrapped my arms around him, pulling him into an almost violent kiss.

“Avery,” he rasped, pulling at my shirt until we took it off. He unbuttoned my pants, his rough, cool hand slowly warming and moistening as it squeezed and massaged.

“Simon, oh my god,” I panted in his ear and kissed his neck. “Oh, I missed you. I thought I’d die. I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” I devoured his neck and shoulder, squeezing him even closer as I inhaled his intoxicating smell.

He took his hand out of my pants and unbuttoned his own, reaching inside while I was still pressed against him. I looked up at his face as he touched himself, the sweat building on his forehead, his breath sometimes quickening, sometimes deepening. Small, slightly high moans escaped his mouth as he pushed closer and closer to orgasm, his eyes squeezing closed. I kept him pinned to the wall, our bodies completely entwined as he quickened and started losing the power in his legs. I kissed and sucked his neck, and he finally opened his eyes again. Then I touched his arm, lightly pressing and pushing it towards movement as his black eyes shivered so intensely I thought they would shatter. As he finally slowed and settled, taking his hand out of his pants, I licked the sweat from his neck, gently biting at the skin, wanting to completely devour him.

“Hey!” he laughed lightly and shrugged me away.

“Simon, you are so,” I gasped, looking over his face, completely fascinated by the gleaming, satisfied look in his eyes. I touched his mouth and he licked my fingers suggestively, too suggestively, and his sly smile made me wonder if he wasn’t just trying to torture me.

He pushed me away and said, “Well, I have a few things to do, but I should be back by the evening.”

“But you just got back. Can’t you stay with me a little longer?” I was practically begging him to touch me. He looked at me a moment, and I wasn’t sure if he was smiling or seething. Then he climbed up the ladder and left me there half naked and desperately alone.

This was entirely Sou’s fault. The next time I saw him, I promised myself, I was going to kick him so hard in those testicles he prized so much that he might have to reconsider his own damn gender. These thoughts kept spinning in my mind after Simon left, and eventually I just found myself aimlessly walking along a path of foreign tents.

I stopped in front of a tent from the City of Bei and looked at the odd jewelry they were selling. It was all made from bits of recycled metal, sometimes even so unchanged that you could read a manufacturers label in the chain. I stared at these, wondering exactly what kind of industrial monster could conceive of such a fashion.

“Do you like anything?” the seller asked me.

“It’s just, I’ve never seen anything like it before. Can I pick this up?” He nodded, and I picked up a necklace with large shards of sharp metal dangling from many small chains. “Wouldn’t it hurt to wear this?”

“It only looks sharp. The dangerous look is very popular with the young in Bei. Do you want it for your girlfriend?”

“Ummm,” I blushed and put it back down. “No. I was just curious. I’ve never… I don’t know very much about the City of Bei.”

“Really? It’s only a few days from here by truck.”

“They say the smoke from the city blows this way sometimes.”

“Ah, it is a dirty place. But it’s also magical my friend. Anything and everything is in the City of Bei. You have really never gone? Where’re you from? You say your vowels so strangely.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said nervously. “Thank you for showing me the necklace.”

“Are you a swordsman?” he asked, and I just looked at him with a bit of a confused face. He pointed to the sword I had strapped to myself, and I just nodded.

“Everyone here is.”

“But that is quite a beautiful sword. Where was it made?”

“Laseine, I think.”

“But the leaves, those trees are only in the Middle.”

I blinked at him in shock. I really hadn’t paid attention to what kind of leaves were on the branches; they looked perfectly normal to me. But I suppose I didn’t really know what was and was not normal in the Outer Rim. I swallowed an immediate lump in my throat. How would Simon and that man Lerato know what the trees look like in the Middle?

“I have pictures of the Middle. Are you interested in things like that?”

“Yes,” I said immediately, and he smiled. Ah, probably from pictures like the one this man has.

“I’ll show you them for five.”

“Will you sell them to me?”

“One hundred and fifty each.”

“I can’t afford that. I’ll just see them then.” I gave five pieces, not sure what I would tell Simon I’d wasted that much money on. I suppose I could just tell him the truth; he’ll likely understand. I was thinking about how sweet Simon normally is as the man brought me around to the inside of his tent. He lit a lamp and laid out a few pictures for me at a time.

I found I had the strangest hunger for the places in the photographs, and even began imagining what it would be like to ride a train with Simon, to walk around the shops in the clean shopping district, eat in a restaurant. But it was really a ridiculous image; Simon would look like a maniac to the people in the Middle. And even I would look so odd there now. It made my heart ache for a moment, but then after the pain passed I felt strangely relaxed, like I wanted to just let myself sink into the earth of the Outer Rim. Because even with this strange, wild eyed man from the mysterious City of Bei, I felt perfectly safe and normal, something I never got to feel in the Middle. I smiled at him as he kept going on about how amazing living in the Middle must be.

“Although, the Center is probably paradise.”

“What about the City of Bei?”

“Only to a rat,” he laughed.

“Well, there’s more of them than there are of us.”

“More of who?


“You’re an odd boy. Didn’t you say you’re short on time?” I was obviously starting to make him uncomfortable because I would not agree with his exotic ideas of the Middle or the Center. Perhaps life gets worse the farther you go in? And that’s why Simon is so perfect, because he was born in the outskirts?

Since I’d wasted so much time looking at pictures of the Middle, Simon was already home when I got back. I looked down and could see him immediately, sitting on the bed reading some kind of political pamphlet. At first I thought he had climbed up onto my bed, but as my eyes adjusted I realized that it was no longer hanging above his, and he was sitting on a single large bed.

Was he going to make me leave his house? Was he really that angry about the photos? Was I too forward earlier, touching him so much? Is he just tired of me already? What did I do? I threw all of these thoughts out of my mind and just loaded the foods into the basket. Simon got up and caught the basket for me, immediately going through it to see what I’d bought.

“Simon? What happened to my bed?” I asked, shifting nervously.

“I heard the most interesting thing from a woman at the baths.”


“She told me what happened at your work; why you got in a fight with your boss,” he looked at me seriously and then burst into laughter again. “You really are a strange boy, you know that?”

“I can’t believe you’re making fun of me,” I groaned and turned away from him. “You weren’t there. She was being an annoying bitch.”

“I’m not making fun of you, stupid,” he laughed again, walking up behind me. After a few seconds of silently standing behind, he touched a little bit of my hair, then my shoulder, then wrapped the entire arm around my waist and pulled me back against him.

“Are you kicking me out or something?” I burst and tried to push him away. I turned and glared at him. “Is that why you took down my bed? Are you really that mad about the pictures? I didn’t know what they were, and I was crazy drunk. Or did I do something else? Whatever I did, I’m sorry and I won’t do it again.”

He looked vaguely confused and laughed again. “I’m not kicking you out. I… thought you’d rather just sleep in the same bed, so I sold our old ones. You never sleep in yours anyway. That’s how I found your pictures; I was going to take down your bed but they distracted me. I didn't mean to go through your things.” I stared at him, not sure what to do with my anger and not quite sure what he was saying to me. He kissed me and touched my face a little, rubbing the back of his hands over my reddened cheeks. “Do you want me to put it back?” I shook my head and looked at the floor. “Did it really make you feel so insecure, the way I teased you earlier?”

“Well, a little bit,” I grumbled. “I thought you were really, really mad at me.”

“I was a little mad. I’m sorry. I guess I went too far. I won’t do that to you again.” He was touching my black eye again for some reason. “And I’m sorry you had to get in a fight. It’s my fault.” He hugged me, but I pushed him away.

“It’s not your fault! She had no right to say those kinds of things about you!” Simon rose his eyebrows and only laughed a little bit.

“What exactly did she say?”

I hadn’t realized he didn’t know those details and pressed my lips together when I looked at the floor. I just shook my head, and he kissed the top of it.

“Let’s make dinner,” he sighed and walked away from me. “I’ll probably get a new job for you soon anyway.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, I told you. But just be careful in the future; there are a lot of people that don’t like me you know.”

“They’re idiots.”

“Usually, but I’m not perfect. And I’ve done lots of bad things.”

“She had no reason to say those things.”

“What did she say exactly?”

I looked away like I wouldn’t answer, and then I asked, “Simon, how many men have you slept with?”

“Ah, so that’s what her comment was.” He started unpacking groceries.

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“I probably have slept with a lot of men though.”

“So, I’m making a quick stew for dinner...”

“Does it bother you?” I felt like he was testing me, but I didn’t know how to respond and sound truthful.

“It’s fine but…”

“But,” he laughed. I grabbed him by the arm and made him turn toward me.

“I just don’t want you to ever sleep with anyone else ever again.”

“You’re getting pretty severe lately, Avery. I already told you before.” He took his arm away. “I’m not something to own.”

I flinched in pain and looked at the floor again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say it like that but… I can’t say that I’m not bothered by the idea of you with other people. I can’t stand the idea that you’d like someone more than me. I know it sounds crazy and possessive, but it’s the truth. I love you, and when people say or do things that would hurt you I just, I lose my mind.”

He stared at me, thinking for what felt like a very long time.

“You’re strange,” was all he said and lay down on the bed. “What are you making for dinner again?”

“Just a quick stew, I guess. I went and got bread too.”

I finished preparing the food, and Simon left to take care of a few things. It took awhile for the food to finish, and even after he returned we didn’t say much to each other. We sat at the table on the floor, and I filled two small bowls with stew, and then another one with the little cabbages for Simon. He picked up one of the green balls with his sticks, smiling at it and then looking back at me.

“You’re really very sweet, aren’t you, Avery?” He was smiling but was almost eerily serious. He popped the entire ball into his mouth and then drank some broth. “They’re really good today. Perfect.”

“Thanks. The woman I bought them from said they were really fresh. She had them still on the stems, but I popped them off so they’d be easier to carry home. I used different butter too.”

“There are different kinds of butter?” Simon laughed. “I always just buy what has the lowest ration number.”

“That’s why the food you make tastes so terrible.”

“Probably true. You’re a good cook though. I don’t think it’s just the ingredients. The way you cook it is good too.” He ate all of the cabbages before finishing his stew, and ate the bread last. I was glad that he ate in that order and hoped that if he kissed me later he would not taste like the cabbages. I ate my bread with two bowls of stew and was full enough, but Simon cut me more bread and added butter to the plate. “Aren’t you still hungry?”

“It’s okay,” I said, but took the plate anyway.

“You’ve been losing weight lately. I think maybe you’re not eating enough.”

“Simon, I’m fat as it is.”

“You’re just a little chubby. What’s wrong with that? I happen to like you that way you know.”

“Fatties are okay, I guess. But I’m already short; I don’t need to be fat too.” I shrugged and ate what he’d given me.

“You’re fine. It’s cute.” He rolled his eyes and lay on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. Then he turned onto his stomach, kicking his legs a little while he thought. “I wonder what job I can get for you. You want to cook?”

“I can get a job as a cook? My rank’s not high enough, right?” I was staring at the backs of his legs, his brown pants stretched tight over each cheek, his belt set low so that just a little bit of his skin peeked out at his lower back. I continued eating mindlessly, lost in daydreams of Simon’s soft, round thighs, and running my hand up and into a pair of blue trunks. He was thinking to himself and saying something about racism and the idiocy of having ranks. “Simon, what color underwear are you wearing?” I blurted, and he laughed, blushing instantly.

“What in the world are you thinking about?” He pulled his shirt down and then turned onto to his back again. “You’re not listening to a word I’m saying, are you?”

“It’s your fault,” I teased, and also lay down, a little over stuffed with food.


“Because you wear your pants too tight. Completely destroys my ability to think.”

“Your lack of self-control is not my fault,” he laughed and pulled on his pants, trying to make them seem less tight. “Maybe I am getting a bit fat. I don’t remember them being that tight. It’s from your cooking.”

“Oh, they’ve always been that tight. Trust me, I’ve been looking,” I half mumbled to myself. He stood up, and gently put a foot on my bloated stomach. I laughed and tried to push him away.

“You’re a bit of a pervert, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Please, please don’t do it!” I laughed as he pressed down a little. “I’ll throw up, I swear!”

“Should I step lower then? Where the problem really lies?” he teased.

“Don’t! I need that, at least sometimes!” I laughed, sitting up and grabbing his foot. He struggled playfully and eventually fell on top of me, causing our dinner dishes to go flying across the room. We ignored the dishes and continue wrestling on the floor.

“Let go!” he complained playfully as my hands moved up his pants, over his calf.

“No, you’re mine now!” I laughed, wrapping my hands onto his thigh and pulling him to me. God, I wonder if he really understands how much I love his long, beautiful legs? He laughed and struggled to free himself, but I held on tight, kissing his thigh, and then a desperate kiss just under a cheek.

“Ga! You really are dangerous aren’t you!?” He finally peeled his leg away from me and escaped to the other side of the room. Breathless from the struggle, he sat on the bed and shook his head with a large smile. “You know what you remind me of?”

“What?” I was crawling closer to him, and he brought his legs up onto the bed, out of my reach.

“Sometimes people bring home stray puppies, so cute and helpless…” I tried to crawl onto the bed with him, but he put a hand on my head and flung me away. “And then the puppies grow up and it turns out they’re actually wolves.”

“I’m not going to eat you,” I whined, laying my head on the other side of the bed. “I won’t do anything bad. I just want to touch your legs. Please? I won’t ask for anything ever again.”

“Liar,” he laughed and flicked me in the nose.

“I promise. You can leave your underwear on if you want.”

“You want my pants off?” he laughed and tried to kick me, but I caught his leg.

“Please, just for a little while,” I begged, kissing his ankle.

“You get weirder every day,” he said, again oddly serious. “All right. Let go and I’ll take them off.”

“Really?” I asked, letting go immediately.

“Stay right there,” he laughed. “Until I tell you, you can move.”

I did as I was told, watching him closely as he unbuckled his belt. “Stop staring like that,” he growled jokingly and kicked me a little.

“Let me help you,” I whined again, laying my head on the bed and staring at him with the sweetest eyes I could manage. I’d quickly learned that Simon had become even weaker against those kinds of looks, and I almost felt bad manipulating him.

“All right, but don’t pull too hard,” he laughed. I got between his legs, one hand on each pant as I pulled them down lower. He held onto his trunks as I finally pulled the pants away and tossed them to the side. The trunks were a dark bluish green, and I stared at them longingly as I rubbed my hands up his bare calves and thighs.

“I thought you wanted my legs,” he laughed. “That’s not where you’re looking.”

“Sorry. Can I turn you over?” I asked, and he complied easier than I expected. I ran my hands up the backs of his thighs, over his trunks, kneading the soft cheeks in my hands. Then I started kissing his thighs, pressing my open lips against the smooth inside of each one. Kissing his back, down into the small curve and then up over…

“Avery,” he gasped when I accidentally pulled his trunks down a little with my teeth.

“Sorry,” I said and put them back. Then he turned over again, and I feared that I’d ruined the trust he’d placed in me.

But he just kissed me and started taking off my clothes. I was on my knees in front of the bed, and he was still sitting on it, looking down at me in a slight daze.

“You really want them off don’t you?” he asked, playing with my curls.

“It’s up to you,” I answered, kissing his chest and stomach. “I told you I wouldn’t ask for more.”

“Well maybe we could, you know, a little, but just in the back for now?"

“What?” I asked, kind of confused about what he wanted me to do.

“You can take them off, just in the back.” He was shaking and blushing terribly as he bent down close to my ear. “I want you to put it in me.”

“Really?” I asked, holding him away so I could look at his face.

“If you, you know, you want to, we could try anal sex. If you want to.” He kissed my neck again, hiding his hot face in my shoulder as he unbuckled my pants.

“Oh, I do,” I gasped, taking a deep breath of his smell. I kissed his throat and face, lacing one hand into his hair and the other running up his thigh.

“Avery,” he rasped. He pushed me away and got something from under the bed. Then he put it in my hand and said, “You know, you need it for anal sex. You know what I mean, right?” I looked at the little jar in my hand, thinking about it for a moment. Simon laid on his stomach on the bed, resting his face on his arms, only his eyes peeking out at me expectantly.

I took off my pants and climbed into the bed from the bottom, running my hands up his calves, up the back of his thighs, over the cheeks.

“I want to kiss you for a while,” I said in his ear. "Will you turn over?”

He stared for a second, considering it, then started turning beneath me. I lay on top of him, loving the way it felt to have my chest pressed against his. My weight was slightly restricting his breathing, but he didn’t seem to mind. He ran his callused fingers up and down my spine, and I shifted so I could touch his face.

“Did I ever tell you that I really like your face?” I said, and he laughed.

“I believe you have.” I’d probably told him that a hundred times already.

“I like your freckles,” I playfully licked his nose.

“Ugh, weirdo,” he laughed and squirmed, wiping my spit off with the back of his hand, which, since also covered in freckles, I just licked again. He laughed more, and I buried my face in his neck as his hand laced itself into my hair. “I like your curls.”


He gasped as I sucked and pulled on the soft skin of his neck. “Dark and soft, hundreds of them rolling like waves.” He turned my head so he could bury his face in my hair. “They’re beautiful you know. I want to drown myself in them.” I turned and kissed him on the mouth, wrapping our bare legs together. Then we rolled so that he was on top of me, holding himself up on one arm as he pushed my hair out of my face. “I love you, Avery.” For some reason when he said it then, the words felt more sincere than any of the times before. He looked a little distressed, but he was still smiling, linking each of his fingers into individual large curls. Then he pulled them free, feeling my shoulders and rubbing his foot up and down my leg.

I slid out from under him and he lay on his stomach, head resting on his folded arms. I kissed the back of his neck, spreading his hair so I could see the tiny, tiny freckles scattered across it. Then I started kissing down lower, rubbing the muscles of his gorgeous, strong back, stopping just above his trunks. I rubbed my hands over the mounds softly before I finally pulled his trunks down, staring at the beautiful, bare white cheeks. I touched them nervously, very aroused by how amazingly soft and pliable they were. Then I opened them a little, and Simon shifted, looking over his shoulder at me. I bit my lip, worried that I’d do something he didn’t like. I used the stuff he’d given me, pushing and dampening until I could press a finger completely inside of him. As I slid the first one in he gasped and flinched away for a moment before relaxing again.

“Am I hurting you?” I asked, and he laughed a little.

“No.” I pushed in another one, and he seemed to enjoy it intensely. Then I took my fingers out of him, cleaning them off a little before I started kissing his back and neck again.

“Can I do it now you think?” He nodded, and I leaned back behind him, nervously pressing against the opening. My first few attempts were not even slightly effective, so he reached behind to help me do it. He pressed back against me as I pushed forward, and I finally penetrated him, the sudden tight warmth making my mind spin wildly.

He groaned and hid his face in his arms, a bright red flush spreading across his entire body. I wished he’d look at me, but at the same time I loved staring at the muscles of his back, his wild red hair falling towards the bed, the back of his bare, stark white neck. He shivered as I went into him completely, my whole body rushing with excited warmth as I wrapped my arms around him and kissed his spine. “Am I hurting you?” I asked again. Good god, he was just so gorgeous, and the burning, pleasurable feeling of being inside of him was almost too much for me.

“No, I…” He pushed himself up onto his forearms, looking back at me a little. “I like it.” I slowly started moving inside of him, and he pushed back against me, holding in moans and shivering.

“Really? Does it really feel good?” I asked again, kissing his shoulders,

“God yes,” he gasped, and I started going into him harder. He held himself up on one arm, reaching the other between his legs. He seemed to orgasm only moments later, flinching and squeezing me so tightly that I barely had to move before I came as well. I fell on top of him, amazed by how much sweat we were suddenly covered in, despite the relative softness of the act. He pulled his underwear up and pushed me off so he could turn on his back. I kissed him, immediately back on top, kissing every part of his body I could reach. He kissed me back just as passionately, taking my hands and making me lay with my weight pressing on him.Then he ran his hands over my back, slipping one lower and playfully squeezing one of the cheeks.

“You’re so cute,” he teased and kissed my flushed face. He played with my curls, kissing my ear and whispering something I didn’t understand. His cheeks were burning, white skin gleaming all over with lust and sweat. I pushed his wet hair off his face and kissed him lightly on his smiling lips. “I think maybe we should go shower now,” he sighed.

“Maybe we should wait,” I laughed.


“Can we do it one more time first?”

We continued all evening and didn’t go to the showers until well after dark. The showers closest to us were in a small, dark wooden building and extraordinarily unpleasant at night. I begged Simon to let me go with him, mostly because it was scary in those showers alone, and I was definitely surprised when he said it was alright to go together. It was a strangely comforting feeling, and the entire time we were there I was so happy I felt like I could burst with laughter.

He made me shower in my own stall, but he was in the one next to me. When I finished my shower I turned off the water and pressed my whole body against the cold concrete wall. I felt exceptionally lonely for a moment, and then I could hear Simon sort of humming to himself. I wanted him to talk to me, tell me that he loves me again, or something, anything.

“Simon, can I ask you something?”

“Hmmmm?” he half sang.

“I want to ask you something!” I shouted over.

“What?” he laughed and turned off his water. I was freezing, but I waited in my stall for him to get dressed.

“When did you first decide you like me?”

“I don’t like you,” he mocked and then threw a towel into my stall. “I love you.”

“You know what I meant. I was just thinking. I, I’ve been in love with you for a pretty long time you know.” I dried my body and hair, and then came out of my stall.

“Oh, I bet mine is longer,” he laughed oddly and folded up our towels.

“Liar.” I took the towels and put them under my arm. “How do you know, anyway? Mine has been pretty long.”

“You still hated me when I fell in love with you.”

“Don’t be stupid, I never hated you.” I rolled my eyes, and we started walking home. “I was trying to ask an actual question and now you’re just teasing me.”

“I am not.” He took the towels back and put them in a pack. “I fell in love with you the first day I saw you.”


“I did.” He elbowed me a little and laughed. “I liked you the first time I looked at your face. I loved you when you ran to help your friend.”

“What?” I looked at him only half seriously. He seemed sincere, but was not looking at me, kicking any little stone that came near his feet.

“What about you? When did you first decide to like me?”

“First sight,” I laughed, and he punched me.

“Come on. You hated me. Tell me the truth, when?”

“Hmmmm….” I was having trouble pinpointing a moment. I had been in denial about it for so long that I couldn’t remember when I actually fell in love with him. I thought back, and I remembered my fitful dreams from the first night we were together and the soft warmth of his body as I clung to him. “The first night, when you brought me here.”

“Liar,” he laughed. “You did nothing but scowl at me for days when I first brought you here.”

“Well you were very bossy, and I’m very stubborn. But you know, when I was so frightened that I didn’t have time to be arrogant and rude, I was really, really already in love with you. I didn’t realize it then, but now it seems obvious. The first time I knew I was in love with you is easier.”

“When was that then?”

“Remember about a year ago when, when I met that guy named Lerato? And after the pub fight we went home.”

“I do.”

“Well, when you fell asleep next to me and I was looking at you. Right then. I thought I was going to die if I didn’t kiss you.”

“Oh, I remember that. And I made you sleep in my bed with me cause you were so cute. It took all I had not to rip your clothes off you know.” He pulled one of the curls in front of my eyes and then let it spring back into place.

“Pervert.” I laughed and squirmed away. “But I so would have let you.”

“I know. That’s why I couldn’t.”

For some reason thinking about his considerate restraint caused a horrible pain in my chest, and I wanted to pull him to me violently. “Simon, I really, really love you. I think I might be a little bit insane.”

He laughed a little. “What am I supposed to say to that, Avery?” He cupped my face in his hands jokingly, making me look at him before he kissed me on the forehead. “But I’m glad. It might sound silly, but you coming to the Outer Rim is probably the best thing that has ever happened in my entire life. ”

“Maybe you should have come to the Middle? It might have been easier,” I joked uncomfortably.

“Oh no, that won’t work. You see, men like me, as soon as we touch the land on the other side we evaporate, and there’s nothing left. We belong here. People like me. And people like you.”

“Like me? I, everyone tells me....” I looked at him quite seriously, but he laughed when I asked, “You know what I am, right Simon? What makes me feel so oddly different from others?"

“Haven’t got a clue.” He put a hand on my shoulder and then bent down, whispering in my ear. “But I like it. A lot. ”

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