It might have been different ... it might not have happened at all ... if just one thing had changed. If the Big Bang had been neither, but a small whimper instead. If one of the countless nanoseconds of events since had occurred sooner, or later, or here instead of there, or even—not at all. If one of the acts of intent, of negligence, of animal instinct; the acts of rage and sorrow and love and laughter; the acts of God ... if only one had been different.
But Rome fell, the Santa Maria sailed, Krakatoa erupted, the Holocaust happened ... and that day arrived. Still, one of them might have stayed home; having left home, the one who walked might have taken another route; having taken that route, he might have looked down as he passed. But he did not stay, did not go another way, looked up instead of down—and was instantly lost, as he was lost.
As was the one who happened to be watching in that same instant.
The watcher who watched thereafter as they saw each other once, twice every working day. Watched as a package was dropped, retrieved, returned with the barest brushing of fingertips. Watched as words were murmured then ... and on other occasions, and on yet more occasions. Watched as one crossed several weekends later, walked the streets with an apparent aimlessness that yet led with unerring certainty to a small outdoor café off the major streets, watched as one joined the other at the table, looking ... not precisely out of place, but not quite of this place. Watched as they would, then and later, with such careful casualness, such careful inadvertence, touch—hands, fingers, elbows, toes, arms, knees, shoulders, hips. Watched, knowing from a quirk of brow, tilt of head, from carefully masked expressions that masked nothing to one willing to look and see ... knowing that neither place nor duration mattered, only the fact of touching. Watched as one ... or the other ... would return to the café, the crossing, the streets, alone, merely wandering, or walking, talking with friends, while eyes desperately searched ... and exploded with inner light when the other was seen.
The watcher who watched through all the days that led to this day, this room. Two inside. One outside.
"This is foolish."
The boy ... what? ... sixteen going on thirty? ... actually eighteen as he claimed? ... carefully unbuttoned the first of three buttons holding the front of the faded, worn shirt together. The man paused in his own undressing—watching, listening, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"It's more than foolish, it's ... it's stupid."
Black eyes looked into brown, pulling the man off the bed although he didn't move, pulling him into midnight speckled with tiny flares of nova-light, drowning him in infinite space. The second button was undone, and the large shirt ... the too-large shirt, a hand-me-down from father, brother, uncle ... gaped open. A shimmer of sweat, the thinnest possible layer of water painted onto his skin, gleamed in the near-shadows of the room.
"It's ... dangerous."
The third button was more difficult. Perhaps because the boy's hands were trembling and he tried to hide the fact. But the button sighed at last, admitting defeat, sliding regretfully through the hole with only a tiny tug as a final warning. The boy pulled on the shirt and it came out of his trousers, nearly falling off his thin shoulders. He stopped ... as if uncertain what to do next, though he knew ... or thought he knew ... or at least desperately wanted to know ... what was next.
All the words I should be saying to him, the man thought. In that moment he realized his hands were frozen on the top button of his own shirt, crisp and sharp-edged earlier in the day, wilting now, large patches of sweat staining the fabric under his arms. He unbuttoned the button and then stretched out his arms.
The boy stepped forward, taking the first of the three steps that separated them. He was pulled forward, pushed forward, not by cobra-gaze drawing in helpless prey, but by a faint sense of ... rightness? ... inevitability?
He looked at the man's arms: thick, muscular, hairy.
He looked at the man's hands: large, with tufts of hair along his knuckles, callused, strong, hands that could crush, hands that could kill, hands that could ... caress?
The boy stepped forward. There had been no real pause between the first two steps. There was another pause that was not a pause.
The boy looked at the circle that could be made by those hands, those arms. He was outside of the circle now, free. He could turn and walk... run ... away. Yet ... not quite free. The man's right index finger rested on the boy's left arm, a butterfly touch, the boy's doing, not the man's, accidental the boy thought, but then he thought too that there are no accidents. It would take all his strength, more strength than he thought he could muster, yet not nearly the strength he actually had, to pull away from that touch. He couldn't ... didn't want to ... didn't.
The boy stepped forward.
He stood now between the man's widespread legs, his sandaled feet a sharp contrast on the scarred wooden floor to the man's firmly planted boots. The man grasped him, not pulling him in, not pushing him away, but just holding him, four fingers curled around his upper arms, the man's thumbs gently, gently rubbing small circles, bunching the cloth, where shoulder met arm.
"We shouldn't do this," the boy said, as the man hooked his thumbs inside the top of the collarless shirt and slid it off the boy's shoulders.
"We shouldn't do this," the man's deep voice echoed as the boy's shirt whispered to the floor.
"This is foolish," the boy repeated, as the man's fingers began stroking his throat, lightly, lightly, moving down to the back of the boy's shoulders.
"It is," the man said as he bent forward a little ... just a little ... so that his hands could continue the circular pattern, fingers kneading the taut muscles in the boy's back.
"This is stupid," the boy repeated, a mantra-murmur as the man's hands moved down the length of the boy's arms, picking up the boy's hands, rubbing round patterns on the back of each one with a thumb.
"It is," the man said as he lifted the boy's arms, to rest the boy's hands on the man's shoulders.
"This ... this is very, very dangerous," the boy said, the last word a whimper, a sigh, as the man's forefinger and thumb manipulated the dark brown nipples, twisting them with delicate pressure, sending subtle, nearly unseen shivers through the boy's body.
"Very," said the man, pulling the boy closer, deeper now, fully into the circle. The boy could feel the heat of the man's crotch, the bulge in the tan shorts, the rough wool of the high socks against his almost-bare legs.
"Very," said the man, his right arm wrapping around the boy's back, more pressure now, firmly stroking the naked flesh and then dropping to hold one buttock.
"Dangerous," said the man as the fingers of his left hand wound through the thick, unruly black hair, caressing the skull, pulling the boy's face toward his, their lips only a breath apart, their eyes locked. A single tear from the boy's left eye joined the sweat as his lips parted and he breathed in the man's soul.
For a moment there was no sensation except for their lips touching ... except for exchanging that single breath that fed life back and forth between them. The man pressed and the boy's mouth opened further, a small, soft tongue hesitantly licking the man's lips and teeth and gums and tongue. The boy shuddered, and then wrapped his arms around the man's head, his fingers rubbing the closely cropped hair, pulling the man to him, crushing their faces together.
For a moment more they knew nothing except the feel of lips and tongues and hands and hair, and then the sensations spread. They became... aware ... of each other with every pore of their bodies, there ... on the edge of a plain, narrow bed in a room nearly bare of furniture. The boy's cramped cock, painfully hard against the knee the boy was grinding into him. The boy's slender penis trying to pierce the thin cloth of his trousers as he rubbed against the man's belly and chest. The lighter scent of the boy, the heavier, rawer scent of the man. The sound of ragged breathing. The somehow wood-and-cigar taste of the man's mouth.
It was the boy who broke the kiss first, pulling his mouth away, leaving them both gasping and panting.
The man regained a measure of control, his eyes asking for confirmation, the boy's frantically agreeing.
Yet still the man moved slowly, teasing the boy's nipples into miniature erections before moving downward to the loose pants tented by the boy's hard penis. Carefully, the man unbuttoned the trousers, pulled them over the boy's slender hips and jutting cock until they lay in a puddle at the boy's ankles. The boy stepped out of them, kicked them away.
The man moved the boy back, dropped to his knees, bent to remove the sandals. Naked, the boy stood before the kneeling man. The man began to stroke the boy's body, the hard calluses of his hand in gentle/rough contact with the silken smoothness of the boy's glowing flesh. The boy trembled as the hands explored his hairless chest, his arms, his back; sighed as the palms engulfed his buttocks, one finger teasing the crack and moving down to circle the sweat-moist pucker, tilted his head back and moaned as the hands moved to the front of his body, cupping the low-hanging balls, rubbing the short, slender, slightly curved penis, before gently pulling the foreskin back.
Holding the boy's balls, fondling them, the man crouched, opened his mouth, and took the head of the boy's penis in, hesitantly swirling his tongue around and inside the loose foreskin. The boy moaned more loudly, and the man quickly sat up, clamping a hand across the boy's mouth. The man tilted his head toward the open window where shimmers of heat rose in the noon sun. He didn't need the boy's nod to be certain the boy understood; he simply knew.
The man started to bend again, but the boy stopped him, made him stand.
"Please. Let me."
The man stood quietly, as the boy unbuttoned the man's shirt, stretching slightly up on his toes to tug the shirt off, letting it fall against the side of the bed. He yanked and tugged the sleeveless undershirt from the man's shorts, and moved lightly backward, pulling it off as the man bent at the waist and stretched his arms out, making a playful grab for the boy's waist. The boy danced away, his cock bouncing lightly, a single drop of precum gathering at the tip.
Belt and top button were next; the sound of the zipper was loud in the room. The shorts were tight even without the erection in the man's jockstrap, but the boy managed. It was the man's turn to step out of clothing; the boy's turn to kneel; to unlace the boots, to peel the socks down, tugging them over the man's heels; holding each foot for just a moment, caressing it. The boy stood, running his hands through the hair on the man's legs, making it the man's turn to tremble. As best he could, the boy repeated what the man had done, although his hands were too small to fully hold the man's buttocks. One finger moved into the dark hairy cleft of the man's ass, pushing one firm fingertip into the hole and quickly pulling it out again. The man clamped his lips together to hold in a moan.
The boy squeezed the bulge of the jockstrap and then with slightly shaking hands began to tug the top strap away from the man's hips. His hands shook even more as he finally managed to get it past the man's genitals; he gasped when the heavy penis surged free and upright, curving up toward the man's navel. It was a thick cock, heavily veined, cut, the head wide and flaring beyond the shaft; the balls were enormous compared to the slender hands of the boy.
The boy didn't kneel, just bent at the waist to lick at the dripping slit of the man's dick. He managed to get his lips around the head, and then slowly began shoving his head toward the man's crotch, inhaling the heavy scent of dirt and sweat. The boy reached the gagging point, tried to relax to his throat, failed and pulled back.
He stood up, his face slightly crinkled with regret. "I'm sorry. It's just ... well, I've never..."
The man tilted the boy's head with one finger, smiling down at him. "A virgin?"
The boy thought he heard something mocking in the tone, yanked his head away and his body withdrew although he didn't move his feet. "I'm not one of the street boys you usually use!"
The man took hold of the boy's shoulders, and then one hand grabbed the boy's chin, forced him to look up. "I didn't say that you were, and I don't use the street boys. The truth is..." He dropped his hand. "I'm a ... virgin, too."
The boy's eyes widened, and his mouth dropped open, gloriously white teeth shining in the shadows. And then he ... giggled. It was high-pitched and joyous and somehow disbelieving.
"Fine. Laugh." The man pretended to pout and the boy's laughter caressed his body.
When the boy could stop laughing, he raised his hands to the man's nipples, pulling on them as the man had done to him. "Truly?"
"Not completely virgin, no. Women, yes. Men ... oh!" he inhaled a gasp as pleasure surged through his nipples and his prick jumped, streaking the boy's chest. "Uh ... men ... and boys ... no."
The boy's hands moved teasingly downward, twirling in the thick belly hair. "So you don't know what to do any more than me? Or how to do it right?"
"All I know is I'm operating on instinct here."
"Not very pure instinct, is it?"
The man gasped again, part lust, part laughter, as the boy manipulated him, and then put his hands around the boy's wrists, stopping the exquisite torture.
"Wait. Before I forget." The man picked up his shirt, unsnapped the pocket, removed the money, dropped it into the boy's right hand, curled his fingers around it. "Here. This is for..."
The man stopped mid-sentence. The boy had backed away, stumbling over his sandals, his face an amalgam of dismay, pain, anger and disgust that coalesced into a rage that lifted his arm and sent the money hurtling back at the man. The edge of one coin sliced across the man's forehead; blood began oozing down to his eyebrow, then down his face. The man didn't move.
The man spoke two languages; was halting in a third. The boy was fluent in all three. Fluent and highly inventive as he cursed the man, moving fluidly without conscious decision from one tongue to the next, the venom of his words leaching through the man's stolid emotional armor, acid-drops of pain dropping one by one by one into his heart. The man stood until the torrent of fury forced him backwards, to sit on the bed until the boy ran out of words and stood slumped against the far wall, exhausted.
The boy's chest heaved once, and then he controlled his breathing, stared unblinking into the man's eyes, and said softly in a voice of desert-bleached bone, "I am not a whore."
The man ignored the blood, the sharp pain in his skull, focusing only on the boy, willing the boy to hear, to believe. "I know you're not. I'm sorry." An almost helpless gesture silently begged the boy to come back to him. The boy didn't move.
"You told your parents you were working. You told work you were sick and had to leave. All to be here. I just ... wanted you to have the money so you wouldn't have to explain why you earned nothing today. So that ... being here ... with me ... wouldn't cause you more pain. Please. That's all it was."
The boy sniffed, willing the tears back, stopping their fall by sheer willpower. "Truly?"
The man was unused to humbling himself, but quickly discarded dramatic gestures like falling to his knees, opting instead for quiet, simple truth. "Truly."
The boy stumbled across the room, falling into the circle of the man's arms, letting himself go. The kiss was deep and passionate, slightly salty from the tears they both pretended to be unaware of.
The erections that had vanished reappeared, seeming to be harder than moments earlier, almost painful, throbbing with need.
When the kiss ended, the boy pulled back, still within the man's arms, one handing stroking the man's cheek. He took a slow, deep breath, and the hesitancy in his expression vanished. "Fuck me."
The man held his breath, and with even more slowness, exhaled. "Are you sure?"
"Yes!" the boy snapped. "Why not? You've d..."
The man was wise enough to remain silent, to ignore the rest of the unsaid sentence, to absorb without flinching the bitterness in the boy's voice, a deep, harsh bell-tone, faint, heard from a vast distance, yet its vibrations causing the air in the room to shiver. The sound faded ... far and wee now ... faded into the almost-heard ... and was gone.
The boy broke away from the man's gentle hold, grabbed the man's hand and pulled him up from the bed, took his place beside it. The boy bent forward, pulling the thin pillow toward him, then braced himself with widespread hands. "Fuck me? Please?" he whispered, looking over his shoulder.
The man squatted behind the boy, caressing the slightly trembling buttocks, tracing the muscles of thighs and knees and calves, down to the boy's feat and back up, down and up again, before leaning close, spreading the cheeks and breathing softly against the very tightly clenched anus. The man began to lick the tiny drops of sweat off the crack, circling but not quite touching the puckered flesh, moving away and back, away and back, teasing the boy's skin.
For a moment, the man buried his face in the boy's ass, the softness of his tongue contrasting with the rough scraping of the five o'clock shadow that usually showed up around this time of day. Still licking, ecstatically breathing the boy's scent, the man groped sideways to his shorts, removed a condom, and tore the package open.
"No." The boy's word was a near-shudder from the sensations spiraling through his body from the focal point of the tongue that seemed buried deeply inside him. "Not that. Just you. I want you inside me."
"That's foolish." The man sat back on his haunches, still holding the boy's hips.
"Yes, and it's stupid, I know all that. But ... is it dangerous?"
The man heard the actual sentence and answered that instead of the words. "No, I'm not dangerous to you ... at least not that way."
"Then just fuck me. Please."
The man's mouth returning to the moist hole was reply enough. The boy raised his hips, shoving his butt back into the man's face, cutting off the man's air until he finally gave up and lifted his head. The boy's anus was shiny with spit. Standing, the man dropped more spit on his penis, spreading it with the precum that was leaking from him.
The boy was bent over now, his face almost onto the pillow, his buttocks in the air, his legs slightly bent and spread wide, the muscles taut and braced. The man stood, and then bent his knees, arching his back downward over the boy to bring his up-curving cock in line with the boy's entrance. He spat once more in his hand, smeared it on the head of his penis, and then once again, smearing the spit on the boy's hole. He leaned further over the boy, one heavy muscled arm descending over the boy's left shoulder, so that the man's hand rested palm-down on the bed, supporting him. A few drops of sweat wound down through the hair in the pit of his arms, dropped onto the boy, who inhaled the heady cologne of the man's body.
That was the moment the head of the man's penis slowly moved past the boy's sphincter ... and the boy jerked away, scrambling frantically forward, collapsing panting on the bed, his knees almost on the floor, his face buried in the pillow to silence the scream that had almost erupted from him.
He had never felt such pain before. That moment of entry felt as if someone had taken a scalpel simultaneously to every cell in the anal ring, and then repeated the slicing in sequence through every cell in his body, racing outward to the edge of his flesh, to the tip of every hair on his body, at a speed infinitely fast but so slow he could feel every increment of anguish.
The man crouched behind the boy, his wilting cock brushing against the back of the boy's thigh. He put his hands on the boy's shoulders, kneading once again, bending over to kiss the boy's back. "Something else, anything else," he murmured against the trembling skin.