Bill sat up leaning on his elbows and watched the small waves of the gulf wash ashore in their rhythmic pattern, one after the next, the turquoise waters clear as far as the eye could see. The temperature was in the nineties with the sun slowly sinking toward the western horizon, a horizon so flat one could perceive the curve of the earth. The white sand was glaring to look across and everyone kept their eyes out over the water or along the wet sands of the shoreline. All up and down the beach Bill could see families and other people enjoying themselves as they played in the swallow waters along the shore, built sandcastles or just lounged on a blanket. Even the elderly were walking along the shoreline as the waves crashed on the shore and lapped at their ankles.
Bill felt the heat of the sun on his body, the way it made his skin feel hot and he looked down along his chest and stomach watching the trickles of sweat move down over his skin. Each line of sweat snaked over his skin, back and forth searching along the smooth contours for its desired path. At his navel his saw the sweat pooled within it and how it overflowed down his abdomen cutting through the thin line of hair that led to the waistband of his swimming trunks. He watched a bead of sweat hit his trunks and become absorbed into the fabric. His eyes moved over his trunks and he became aware how the heat of the sun warmed them and it made his cock fill out, half hard it bulged within its confines and he reached down and adjusted it, manipulated his fingers over the wet fabric of his trunks till his cock was shifted to the side and able to stretch out. It was obvious the way it pushed upward on his trunks and he tried desperately to get his mind off of it, to think of something else.
It was futile.
Bill looked over to his best friend who lay next to him. Emilio had moved into their community ten years ago and they soon became inseparable. All through school they shared so many experiences, planned their summers together and even in the last year discussed the possibility of going to the same college. Their friendship had everything but one thing, one thing Bill had struggled with for the last few years. Bill looked at Emilio with more than just friendship in mind. He felt an attraction toward Emilio he was only just beginning to admit to himself and he was terrified to admit it especially to Emilio.
Bill looked over at Emilio lying next to him, his compact body so lean and smooth with skin naturally dark and Bill watched the slow rhythmic rise and fall of his stomach, watched as the sweat trickled down his side. Emilio's skin glistened in the bright sun, so slick and wet Bill fought the urge to reach over as he struggled with the image of his hand moving over to Emilio, fingers outstretched and lightly touching him on the chest, or the stomach. He'd use one finger to follow the trails of sweat wanting to feel what each drop felt as it moved over the smooth skin.
Bill let his eyes move over Emilio's body down to the swim suite he so brazenly wore. A yellow bikini that fit snug around Emilio's waist and bulged obscenely where Bill knew Emilio's uncut cock pressed against it. He'd seen Emilio in the showers in P.E. so often but with the others around he had to avoid staring at his body. Bill couldn't let the others know how attracted he was to Emilio, the way he liked to look at his body whenever they were alone. Emilio wasn't aware of Bill's staring eyes, such as now, as he laid on his back with his eyes closed. Bill let himself stare, let his mind consider the fantasy, the idea of Emilio letting him do more than just look. He could feel the urge to reach out so powerfully he thought he might actually do it.
Emilio stirred and Bill cut his eyes back to the clear waters of the gulf.
"What time is it?" Emilio asked, his voice sounding confused.
"Almost five" Bill replied looking over to see Emilio had put his hands behind his head which opened up his arms exposing the dark hair of each arm pit. It was a tight dense patch of hair, dark brown and wet, beads of sweat trickling out of each one and running downward to the towel he lay on. Emilio's eyes were still closed and Bill looked at the stretched out torso, the way Emilio's stomach was concave to his ribs and its undulations less. He look at the way Emilio's nipples were framed by his pecs, each one just defined enough to show the line of muscle in the lean torso.
Bill let his eyes move downward until he was looking at Emilio's legs, lean, the skin so naturally dark like the rest of him and covered in a light dusting of dark brown hair. Suddenly the right leg shot upward.
"What are you staring at?" Emilio asked laughing at the way Bill seemed to be in a trance.
"Nnnnooothing" Bill stammered and he sat up wrapping his arms around his knees.
Emilio's old Jeep bounced along the trail that wound through the woods. Bill sat in the passenger seat holding on tightly to the handles hanging from the roll cage. They were following Larry and Sam who were in Larry's old Ford Bronco. It was a Saturday afternoon and the trail roads were slick from the night's rain. Mud caked both vehicles along the sides and occasionally mud was slung into the vehicles. Emilio and Bill laughed at the way both of them had mud spattered on them, the way Larry, then Emilio had to drive through one muddy section after the next. They were headed toward the river taking an old trail road that got worse as they went along.
Even though the Bronco had four wheel drive, Larry had worn tires on it and his grip was precarious at times and when he cut down one steep grade and tried to cross a ditch deeply filled with mud he got stuck. Neither Emilio nor Larry had thought to bring a tow rope and so they dug around the front wheels until the ground was cut away then Emilio and Bill got behind the Bronco and began to push as Larry tried to drive out of the mud. The rear tires spun slinging mud but suddenly the front wheels caught and Larry was able to navigate out of the mud.
Emilio and Bill stood in the mud up to their calves with it covering them. They were wiping it off their faces when Larry and Sam came back and began to laugh at them.
"Damn...I guess we should head out of here so the two of you can go get cleaned up before that shit dries" Sam said stifling his desire to laugh some more.
They parted ways at the crossroads with Larry and Sam throwing up one hand to wave as they sped away and Emilio turning left to head to Bill's house. The sun was at the horizon and it cast a long shadow in front of them as they drove east down the old state road. When they got to Bill's house Emilio pulled to the rear and didn't stop till he was at the barn where he knew a hose hung ready for use.
Bill let Emilio go first and he watched as Emilio held the water over his head washing the mud out of his hair. Emilio worked down his body getting the worst of it out of his clothes and off of his head and arms. Then he held out the hose to Bill who proceeded to rinse the mud from his hair. He felt the dried mud loosen and rinse out of his hair and then he rubbed it off his neck and face till he had most of it removed. As he sprayed the water over his t-shirt knocking off the mud he looked over and saw Emilio had his shirt off and was undoing his jeans.
"What are you doing?" Bill asked.
"I'm getting out of these filthy clothes" Emilio replied as he pushed his jeans down his legs. Emilio had on white briefs, streaked with dirt and soaking wet and Bill eyed the cock pressing against the transparent fabric.
"Hey, did you hear from the university yet?" Emilio asked as he flung his jeans over a low limb of a pecan tree nearby.
"No...not yet" Bill replied as he admired the way Emilio's white briefs contrasted so starkly with the dark tone of his skin and the way his uncut cock pushed at the front. Bill wondered if this was the time to push Emilio, to see if he was willing and he laid the hose on the ground and slipped his shirt off and then he boldly undid his jeans and worked them down his legs, the wet mud was caked heavily to he jeans and were unwilling to slide down his legs freely. He worked each leg free as he looked over to Emilio. He wanted Emilio to be watching him, wanted to catch him eyeing his body but Emilio was staring off into the distance. Bill ran the hose over his head once again and washed the mud from his body and he worked downward with the hose till he was washing the dirt from his boxers and he saw how they clung to him revealing his cock, half hard with desire, and he glanced up and saw Emilio looking at him. For a moment they stood staring at each other, neither saying anything then Emilio moved toward him holding out his hand.
"Can I have the hose now?" he asked in a casual tone.
"Oh yeah...sure" Bill replied holding out the hose.
A truck turned came down the highway and turned into the drive and Bill knew it was his father. He felt panicked for a moment standing outside in just his underwear but he saw Emilio made no move to hide. He just kept rising off moving down his body and then his clothes hanging over the limb. Bill picked up his clothes from the ground and carried them over to a picnic table in the rear yard. When he turned to head back to Emilio his father came up to his side.
"I see you boys got into a mess with Emilio's Jeep."
"Yes sir" Bill replied.
"Well, get cleaned up as best you can and don't let your mother see you" his father replied and Bill heard him laugh as he moved to the barn and went inside.
Emilio had the water turned off and was getting his jeans pulled back on, struggling with each leg till they were in place.
"Well, I better go" Emilio said as he climbed up in his Jeep.
"Yeah...I'll see ya. Call me tomorrow" Bill replied as Emilio started up the Jeep.
Bill watched the Jeep move down the drive and out on to the highway where it accelerated away. He watched the taillights until they disappeared.
Bill saw the mail carrier pull away from their mailbox on the shoulder of the highway and he wondered if today would be the day he finally got the letter he had been waiting on for over a week. The walk to the mailbox seemed to take forever and when he pulled down the front and lifted out the mail he quickly thumbed through it. A credit card application for his father, a seed bill from the elevator, an insurance bill and the letter he was looking for with the university's return address on the front. He walked back to house slowly holding the letter in front of him so nervous his hand shook. Inside he laid the mail on the table in the kitchen for his mother and father and went to his room.
Lying on his bed he stared at the unopened envelope. He had to know what was inside, had to know if he had been accepted but afraid to open for fear he had been rejected. His cell phone buzzed and he saw it was Emilio.
"Bill, I got a letter from the university. Did you get one?"
"Well...did you...get in?"
"Don't know yet...and you?"
"Yeah, I got in. Come on Bill open it. I know you got in."
Bill slipped his knife from his pocket, pulled the longest blade out and slowly inserted it at the top edge and let the sharp blade cut through the envelope along the fold. Laying the knife beside him on the bed he slipped the letter out and opened it. His eyes struggled to focus as they scanned the sentences. His hands shook worse.
"Oh my God...oh god..." Bill began to stammer and Emilio's voice could barely be heard asking Bill what did the letter say?
"I got in...I GOT IN...Emilio...we're going to college together" Bill screamed so loud Emilio easily heard him through the phone lying on the bed.
It was hot and humid and the backpacks weighed heavily on their backs but they kept walking, a slow steady pace. Emilio took the lead as he and Bill hiked the narrow trail in the wilderness site in the North Carolina mountains; a place with no amenities and the trails narrow, poorly marked and in places difficult. They had planned the trip shortly after their acceptance letters arrived, a way for them to go off and celebrate, just the two of them. They had had to just wait till after graduation.
They had been hiking since noon when they had arrived at the trail head and now the sun was getting close to the ridge line and they knew they had to find a suitable spot to set up camp and soon. The river was at the bottom of the gorge and they took a side trail that led down to it. Just before they got to the river bank they came upon a level area others had used for camping and they decided it was good enough, especially with it in sight of the river. By the time darkness settled over the gorge they had the camp site set up, a fire built and they were sitting around it roasting hot dogs over the open flames.
It was quiet in the woods, only the sound of the river flowing over the rocks. Bill and Emilio talked in low tones, just loud enough to hear each other as part of some need to maintain the atmosphere. Only an occasionally outburst of laughter broke the near silence.
When they climbed into the tent the night air was still warm and they found themselves lying on top of their sleeping bags wearing just their hiking shorts. They lay side by side in the darkness talking about college, their plans when they got there and what they should do the rest of the summer before they submerged themselves into the course work of college. The day's hike and the heat had worn them down and soon they fell silent.
Bill lay still listening to Emilio's breathing, slow rhythmic in its pace and he knew Emilio was asleep. He lay there feeling extremely conscious of Emilio next to him, the heat of his body, the way they would brush and arm or leg together when one of them had shifted position and it tormented him. He turned toward Emilio and tried vainly to see him in the darkness. Even though it was too dark to see, he sensed him so near it still aroused him, filled his mind with the possibilities if only...
Bill finally fell asleep and the two of them settled down for the night. The air cooled as the night wore on till sometime in the early hours it felt too cool, making Bill and Emilio restless in their sleep. They shifted around unconsciously, tugged on the sleep bags pinned beneath them and eventually found themselves snuggled up close to one another, their torsos nestled together.
Bill stirred, half awake and he found Emilio's arm draped over his side and could feel the closeness of their bodies. In a fog of confusion, dream like in its feel, Bill snuggled up to Emilio, found himself pressing his face into Emilio's neck, his lips touching the skin and his nose catching Emilio's scent. Bill felt the confinement of his cock within his shorts and pushed it against Emilio and it aroused him further. He kissed Emilio on the neck, moved with half consciousness to Emilio's jaw, then his cheek and finally his lips. Bill tightened his arm around Emilio and hugged them together and Emilio stirred tightening his arm around Bill. They hugged and Emilio kissed him back, pushed Bill over on his back with him moving on top of him.
The weight of Emilio on top drove Bill onward, spreading his legs letting Emilio nestle down between them pressing crotch to crotch, erection against erection. Bill's hands moved down Emilio's back and over his round ass pulling them tighter together.
"Wha...wai...wait...stop.stop...STOP" Emilio cried out pushing off of Bill trying to move to the side of the tent but tripping up with the way they were entangled together.
It was still dark, too dark to see and Bill felt a fear he'd not felt before as he heard the rough frightened breathing of Emilio nearby.
"What were you doing?" Emilio asked.
"I...I don't know...but...you..." Bill stammered in reply and they sat in silence for a long time.
"Just forget it, forget it okay? We were asleep and we didn't know what we were doing...okay?" Emilio asked and Bill could hear the pleading in the tone of his voice.
Fall found Bill and Emilio at the university sharing a dorm room. The rest of the summer they had gone to the beach one weekend and spent many an evening planning for the fall. Nothing was mentioned about the incident that night on their hiking trip and Emilio acted as if it hadn't happened. But for Bill it had happened and he struggled with the way they had gotten so close to actually doing something he found his being around Emilio when it was just the two of them made his heart race. He wanted to ask Emilio so many times had it been so terrible, was it so wrong that they wouldn't even mention it? He wanted to know why Emilio couldn't feel the same way he did, why he couldn't reciprocate. He knew he wasn't a bad person, knew it was perfectly normal for him to have these feelings but still, it was disturbing to have this feeling he had to keep to himself or risk losing his best friend, that there was something between them Emilio couldn't admit.
It took a week to get into the routine of classes, of not having other guys on the floor knocking on the door constantly to ask a question or see if they wanted to do something. When that first week passed and everyone was settled into their routine for the fall term Emilio and Bill found themselves in their room, music playing softly, with both of them doing their course work. They kept the door closed when they were studying to keep out the distractions as did a lot of the other guys. It was a way to stop the constant distractions.
It was a Thursday night, one more day of classes before the weekend and around ten o'clock Bill closed his calculus book finally complete with his course work. He leaned back stretching his arms over his head feeling the tightness in his back and shoulders ache a little then ease away.
"You finished?" Emilio asked and Bill turned finding him lying on his side, books closed and sitting on the floor. "You want to play a game for awhile?"
"Sure" Bill replied and he scooted over to the television to turn it on as Emilio moved down on the floor and pulled the controllers out. Soon they were focused on the game playing on the television, their characters moving through the scene, one danger after the next popping up as they moved through the program. They played for over an hour before finally shutting it off.
They went down to the bathroom and showered off getting ready to turn in for the night. Back in the room Bill flipped his towel over the back of his chair and slipped on a pair of boxers trying hard not to look over at Emilio who was still naked, his expression almost vacant looking as he ran the towel slowly over his lean body. Bill let his eyes scan over the familiar body as he did every time Emilio was shirtless or as he was now, completely nude. He looked at the way he was naturally dark all over, how his cock was darker still and how it hung loosely over his sac with the long foreskin covering the head. Bill wondered what it was like to be uncut as he found his eyes once again locked on Emilio's cock.
"Hey, what are you thinking about?" Emilio asked breaking Bill out of his daydreaming trance.
"Oh nothing...just...if I got everything completed I needed for tomorrow."
"Stop worrying so much...relax" Emilio replied but there was a questioning in his voice.
Bill went and got on his bed kicking the covers down around his feet as he lay on his back, hands folded behind his head and his mind racing with thoughts he was trying to avoid. He kept his eyes focused on the ceiling only seeing glimpses of Emilio moving around to his side. Emilio turned off the main light leaving only a lamp by his bed dimly illuminating the room. Bill watched Emilio's shadow as it moved over the ceiling before disappearing from sight and he knew Emilio had lain down on his own bed. For a long time it was quiet, neither saying anything but somehow acutely aware the other was still awake.
After a moment's hesitation Bill finally replied: "Yeah?"
"Last summer, when we were hiking and had set up camp..."
Bill heard Emilio bring up the hiking trip and for a moment he froze, lost in the idea Emilio actually brought it up and seemed to be hinting around to that night. He found himself holding his breath and lying rigid on his bed but after a while he found Emilio's voice returning to him like the volume coming up on a radio.
"...I know we were asleep, and...well, we didn't know what we were doing, right? But Bill, I was wondering..." and there seemed to be the longest silence ever, one that Bill feared, for he knew Emilio was going to ask him something he didn't think he could answer.
"...I was wondering...Bill if I hadn't said no would you have done it...you know...sex with me?"
The silence was stifling and Bill struggled on what to say. Should he say the truth or should he lie, lie like he had so many times before? He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Emilio...yes, I would have done it."
It was silent in the room for a long time but Bill heard Emilio shifting around on his bed and then he saw his shadow move over the ceiling and he knew Emilio was out of bed. Emilio's upper body come into view, cast in shadow but Bill could still see he was shirtless. He turned slowly toward Emilio and as he did he saw Emilio was naked with his cock half hard. The head of Emilio's cock was slipping free of the loose skin and it was arced out slightly over the sac. Bill wanted to reach out and touch it, to feel his fingers move over the loose skin.
"Bill...will you have sex with me now?"
Bill was stunned by this request and he lay there looking up at Emilio wondering for a brief moment if this was some kind of joke Emilio was playing on him. Then he saw Emilio's expression, the longing, the need in his eyes and he leaned up on his elbows and nodded his head. He sat up slipping his legs on either side of Emilio and moved into a sitting position. He was so close to Emilio's body he caught the scent of him and suddenly he realized Emilio's cock was rising up harder and he was so close he only had to lean forward and down slightly to touch it with his lips, to let them graze along its growing length, to feel the shaft harden beneath his touch and he moved up it till his nose was buried in the thick dark bush around the base of it.
He inhaled deeply capturing Emilio's scent.
He brought his hands to each leg and gently moved upward feeling the sparse hair tickle his fingertips. He moved upward till his hands arched out over Emilio's round ass cheeks while his let his tongue run downward along the fully erect shaft that pushed outward. He felt the last of the loose skin shift under his tongue and he moved to the head swiping his tongue around it pushing the foreskin back. Emilio gasped and involuntarily pushed forward with his hips and Bill held firmly to each ass cheek and guided him forward. He took Emilio's cock between his lips and let it slide into his mouth, slowly, inch by inch moving though his lips till it pushed at the back of his throat and he couldn't take any more of it.
Bill had fantasized of this moment so often it still felt like a dream, something imagined and he held tightly to Emilio's ass cheeks as he worked his mouth along the shaft, back and forth he worked his mouth feeling Emilio's cock move over his tongue. He felt Emilio's fingers comb through his hair, rubbing over his scalp till one hand was at his neck and Emilio began to guide him along the cock sunk inside his mouth, to pull his head forward then let him pull back, over and over and over, they worked together pleasuring Emilio, working his cock till he began to pump his hips back and forth, his hand tightened on Bill's neck and Bill could hear his breathing grow more intense. Emilio pumped his hips faster and faster, jabbing his cock into Bill's mouth until he cried out.
"Oh Shit...I'm..." Emilio uttered never finishing what he was going to say when he began to pump cum into Bill's mouth, thick wads filling it quickly till Bill had to swallow.
For a moment afterward Emilio stood in front of Bill still breathing hard. Bill could taste Emilio's cum in his mouth and he leaned back on his elbows assuming their sex play was over, that Emilio wouldn't reciprocate but Emilio stood there, not moving or saying anything as he just stared at Bill. Then Emilio moved down on his knees and Bill watched, shocked to see his friend move down between his legs and when he felt Emilio put a hand on his crotch and manipulate his growing erection he inhaled deeply as he stifled an urge to cry out.
Emilio leaned over his crotch and began to mouth his cock through his boxers, to squeeze it with his lips, to tongue at the head, and he felt it grow erect, quickly, pushing out against the wet fabric of his boxers. Emilio mouthed it even more till his boxers were so wet as to be transparent. He felt Emilio slip his fingers over the waistband and he lifted his ass up letting him work them down. His cock flopped out hard and slapped noisily against his abdomen and he saw Emilio stare at it as he continued to work the boxers down Bill's legs and off each foot.
Emilio moved to his cock, quickly taking it, holding it up and sinking his mouth over it. There was no finesse to the way Emilio moved on it for he seemed desperate to get it in his mouth. Up and down Emilio moved his head as he sucked till it was so hard it ached, flexing within Emilio's grasp.
Emilio moved off of it and stood up in front of Bill and Bill saw he was erect again, his cock sticking straight out with the clear drool trailing down to the floor. Bill sat up and reached out for Emilio's legs.
"Wait...let me okay?" Emilio uttered in a low voice, the tone almost pleading and Bill watched as Emilio moved up over his lap bracing himself on Bill's shoulders. It was arousing the way Emilio's cock rubbed slickly over his chest and he put his hands around Emilio's waist and ran his hands up and down feeling the curve of Emilio's back, the curve of each ass cheek and he felt Emilio move down to his cock till he could feel Emilio's ass rub over its hardness. Emilio reached around behind himself and held Bill's cock up as he moved his ass down to it. Bill sat still unable to believe what was happening, lost to the feel of Emilio's ass rubbing over the head of his cock which was wet and slick and he fought the urge to push upward. Emilio held his cock, fingers warm on the shaft and Bill felt the pressure against the head, the feel of Emilio moving down on his cock. Emilio was tight, his opening unrelenting to the pressure of Bill's cock pressed against it but Emilio let his body settle down, relaxed his body to the penetration and suddenly Bill felt his cock breach the opening and slide through the tight ring and into the warm soft tunnel of Emilio's ass.
"Oh fuck" Bill uttered as he watched Emilio lean back, his torso stretched out, the smooth skin slick with perspiration and he felt Emilio shiver with the penetration as he kept moving down sinking inch after inch of Bill's cock into his hole. When Emilio had almost all of Bill he leaned forward wrapping his arms around Bill's neck and began to move up and down.He moved slowly at first, all the way upward till only the head of Bill's cock was still in his hole, then down, slowly, the tight ring of his hole milking Bill's cock as he took each inch. Bill held to Emilio's waist and fought the urge to push up hard as he felt every inch of his cock slide through Emilio's hole.
Emilio's own cock dragged up and down Bill's stomach leaving a slick trail where the head moved over his skin. He could feel the way Emilio moved, the way he sometimes pumped his hips a little pressing his cock against Bill's stomach. Bill kept himself erect, sitting up straight so he could feel the way Emilio moved over him, the way Emilio fucked himself on his cock. And the way Emilio's cock kept moving along his stomach.
Emilio rode him slowly for a long time and Bill couldn't take much more so he leaned back and took Emilio's cock and stroked it in rhythm with Emilio's fuck. As Emilio became more aroused and fucked faster, Bill stroked his cock faster, each one speeding up and driving the other to do the same till Bill's hand was a blur and Emilio rode him roughly, rocking up and down till the bed squeaked beneath them noisily, every push downward making it squeak with the strain.
Bill wanted Emilio to come with him, needed him to do it, and as he felt his own ejaculation build up, this body tense up with the impending release he jacked harder on Emilio's cock desperate for Emilio to come too.
"Come for me Emilio...come for me...please...." Bill pleaded as he felt his own release building up. He pushed up with his hips sinking his cock all the way inside as Emilio ground his ass downward. Emilio suddenly rocked his hips violently, throwing his head back crying out. Bill slammed his fist down Emilio's cock and felt the way it flexed thickly in his grip then suddenly the slit opened wide and wad after wad blasted from it spattering Bill under the chin, down his neck, over his chest and finally on his stomach. Bill felt each spasm of Emilio's hole and he thrust upward trying to get inside Emilio as deeply as he could just as he ejaculated, wad after thick wad deep inside Emilio. He sat up and hugged Emilio tightly as he filled his hole, the cum pumping from his cock as he rocked his hips roughly underneath him.
What time it had gotten to be neither was aware as they lay side by side on Bill's bed, their naked bodies pressed together. They just lay there savoring the feel of the other. Occasionally one would kiss the other or twirl a finger through the other's hair or run a hand along the other's body. Emilio shifted position and looked at the content expression on Bill's face.
"After that night we were camping I began to think about what almost happened so often. I wondered what it would be like and began to think of you...in different ways. It was kind of scary...you know?"
It was silent for what seemed like a long time, Bill unsure what to say so he waited for Emilio to continue.
"I didn't think I could...didn't think I wanted to...but...I'm glad we..." Emilio hesitated at a loss for words.
Bill leaned up and kissed him gently on the lips and when he pulled back he let his fingers hold Emilio by the chin as he looked him in the eye, their faces so close they could feel each other's breath.
"I know" Bill whispered and he hugged Emilio and pulled him down next to him where he finally relaxed, the exertions of earlier taking its toil and slowly, each one drifted off to sleep nestled against the other.