The boys awoke only 15 minutes before class. Mark sat up first, remembering last night. Rick felt the movement and sat up rubbing his eyes. Every muscle in Rick's body was sore. Rick wanted to ask Mark if he was sore too. Rick thought about last night's events, both with Eduardo and then with Mark.

Mark looked at Rick. Rick knew Mark wanted some type of explanation.

"Babe, Eduardo is second in command with the gang. He is very powerful. He made it possible for me to be here at NCSU! He gives me money every month for expenses. I've been his boy for a long time."

Mark questioned Rick's logic and asked a question, "I thought you said he was married with four kids?"

Rick answered, "He is! I'm just his side boy for maybe once a month or something."

Mark thought about that. Mark had always thought Rick was independent, strong, and fierce. How could Rick allow this to happen to him? Why would Rick be a side boy for Eduardo?

Mark persisted, "Why do you let him? Just tell him to go away and leave you alone!"

"Mark, Eduardo and the gang can call me back anytime. Eduardo would stop paying for my expenses and I could lose my grant money." Rick honestly could not see a way out. He could not undo the last 10 years of life experiences and rewrite history.

Mark, clearly crushed asked, "Rick, why did you like it so much?"

"Pup, we have history. I knew what he wanted and how he wanted it. So I did it. The sex just turned me on and made me hot. I did not come with him, I came with you!"

Mark thought that Rick's answer was stupid and said, "Okay, I'm going to find another student to sleep with, not because I want to but because they make me hot!" Mark took the pillow and put it over his head as he lay down again. Rick realized he should have said something different.

Rick thought for a moment about that and asked, "Did you like it when I fucked you last night? It was so hot for me." Rick had thought it had been hot for Mark too.

Mark slowly pulled the pillow from his head. Rick saw tears in Mark's eyes.

"Rick, it's like a toy boat in a bathtub. I used to have one when I was growing up. Rick you are the captain driving the toy boat. We rode around together in the boat for a while and I liked everything that happened. Now I want to get off the boat because the water is black and nasty and I don't feel safe anymore. I don't trust the captain anymore because he won't take us somewhere safer where the water is clean and clear."

Rick was sucker punched. He was 19 years old and had done what every street wise kid does to stay alive. He found a family in gang life because his mother was a junkie and he was in foster care. Rick found favor and privilege through protectors in some shape or form. Sometimes protection came from teachers at school, or elderly folks in the neighborhood that would cook for him or give him a place to stay. But sometimes protection came with strings from a person like Eduardo. Rick did not see another option or another path for his current situation. Eduardo held all the power over Rick's life.

Mark had put the pillow back over his head and cried silently. Rick was frozen inside with grief and did not know what to do. Rick did not want to lose Mark.

"Pup, you have to get up and go to school." Rick rubbed his back and then shook him a little. Mark reluctantly sat up and left the bed for the bathroom. They would not make their first class. Rick waited on the bed for Mark to finish getting ready.

When Mark was ready, Rick picked up Mark's book bag and said, "Take the bus. I have to take care of things today, take good notes." Mark silently left the apartment to catch the bus for school.

Marks mother called a few times later in the afternoon but Mark did not answer. An hour later Mark saw his father's number ringing in. Reluctantly Mark answered the phone.

"Mark what's going on?" A dad always knows.

Mark had a lump in his throat, but tried to formulate words... but he could not.

Mark's dad asked, "Mark is it school or money?" Mark was still trying to get past the lump in his chest and throat and could not answer.

"Mark, is it Rick?" A strangled sound came from mark's throat.

"Mark, tell me now! If you don't I will be on the next plane!"

Mark tried his best to say something but just let out a half sob.

Marks father tried to be patient and let Mark recover enough to talk. His mind raced at what could cause this type of anguish with his 18 year old son.

"Mark did Rick get into trouble or get you into trouble?"

Finally Mark pulled it together and choked out one word, "No!"

Mark's dad sighed and he tried again, "Mark, did you both argue?"

Mark finally answered and said simply, "Dad, we come from different planets. I can't understand his planet and he cannot understand mine. What he thinks is right, I think is wrong."

Mark's father considered his son's explanation and counseled, "Your eighteen years old and I promise you that your view of the universe will continue to evolve and change. If this relationship can withstand those changes then so be it and you can decide what your steps are forward at that time. If this relationship does not withstand that growth and change, then you have your answer, move on. Start over with the next relationship and see where it takes you. Mark you know when I met your mother I was not Mormon? I could not see myself marrying into that lifestyle and belief system. But I changed, my view of the universe changed, and I made the right decision. But, in my youth I had met girls who I thought were 'the one'. Looking back I can see what a disaster those relationships would have been. The key message here is there is no rush! You have no other priority than to attend school and be academically successful."

Mark whispered, "Thanks Dad."

Mark's father admonished, "Mark, go do your homework and think about all the positives you have going for you! And we want you home for Thanksgiving!" They hung up.

Mark was delaying the bus ride back to the dorm room and kept walking around campus for another hour.

After Mark had left their room that morning Rick had taken a long hot shower. While cleaning himself he thought about what had happened the night before. Rick regretted the sex with Mark. He did not regret the sex act in itself but only that it followed sex with Eduardo. Rick knew he had succumbed to very primal instincts with his own interest at heart. Rick left the shower and toweled off and picked up his cell phone to call Eduardo.

Eduardo answered in Spanish. Rick shifted to Spanish and said the following, "Eduardo, I appreciate that you looked out for me so long and allowed me to attend school. I want you to set me free, of you and the gang. I want to go to school and be successful but be on my own."

Eduardo was extremely quiet for a few moments and asked, "You did not like the ass fucking I gave you?" Eduardo laughed a little remembering sex with Rick last night and in the past.

Rick answered honestly, "No I liked it, and it made me hot, maybe too hot. But that is not the point. I want to be a better man now. Not hurting people, or using people for what I can get." Eduardo thought for a moment about the loss of having Rick as his boy. It made him angry and unsettled. But he knew Rick was not ungrateful or undeserving.

"Rick, if you can find a way to support yourself on a monthly basis I will let you go, from me and the gang." Rick's heart surged at the news.

Eduardo on the other hand thought he was being clever. Eduardo believed that Rick could not make it without the 500.00 a month he provided. Eduardo believed the sex was payback for the support. He was banking that Rick would return to him after a few months of struggling alone and they would return to the previous arrangement.

After getting off the phone with Eduardo, Ricked called his personal counselor. After the first ring she picked up. Rick asked if she could see him today, and she agreed if he could come now. Twenty minutes later Rick was sitting in her office and got right to the point.

Rick started by saying, "I can't tell you anything more than what I'm telling you now, so don't ask me." There was a long pause, and Rick continued, "I have been sleeping with someone who was associated with the gang and who helped me get out and come here to school. I asked that person to let me go and they agreed but I have to pay my own expenses now. I don't want to lose my grant because of what I did. I just want to work now to make up the money."

Rick struggled with the next part, "I hurt Mark because I did this. Now Mark wants to be with a better boat captain, but I want to keep him on my boat. I have to clean the water in the bathtub." Rick looked at his counselor with stricken eyes."

The counselor understood most of what Rick had said. The part about the boat captain she assumed was an analogy of some type. Teenagers and young adults typically did not have the vocabulary at this age to deal with situations as grave as this.

"Rick, were you forced to have sex against your will?" Rick shook his head no.

"Rick, was quid pro quo implied in this arrangement?" Rick did not know what that meant so he shook his head no. The counselor knew better but accepted the answer without comment.

"Rick why did you need to be "set free" from the sexual relationship"?

Rick answered, "Loyalty." And because before he had Mark, Eduardo was his only anchor in life.

The counselor thought about the situation and came up with plan. "Rick, I want you to do two things. First I'm going to talk to our student employment people to see if we can get you and Mark jobs on campus. But I also want you to become more educated about some issues. Next semester I want you and Mark to take a sociology class called Sexual Health. It will count as a basic sociology credit and count toward your degree. I also need you to promise me that if this person harasses you or tries to use threats of retaliation that you will come straight to me. Do you understand?"

Rick nodded yes, "Thank you about the jobs and I will tell Mark about the class."

Rick arrived back at the room to find it empty. His mind started to race and he had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Rick went to the window to watch for Mark. Rick stood there for more than an hour and then spotted Mark around 8:00pm sitting on a bench looking at the fountain in front of their dorm. He was holding his book bag on his lap and staring straight ahead. Rick raced down the stairs and out the door and across to where Mark was seated.

Rick approached the bench, "Mark I called Eduardo and told him I would not see him anymore. I went to my counselor and told her about Eduardo and my decision and she is going to help both of us find jobs on campus! We have to take a class called sexual health. I have to look it up in the catalogue. She even knew about the boat captain and the dirty water in the bathtub!"

Mark asked, "Did you want to be with me last night or with him?" Rick was not sure he understood or how to answer. Mark persisted with his questioning, "Did you do it with me because you were hot for him?" Rick needed to think about that one but asked, "Pup can we go inside to talk."

Rick took Marks book bag and pulled him off the bench and walked him to the room. Once inside, Rick sat down on his bunk and Mark sat down on his. Mark waited for Rick's answer.

"Mark since I saw you, I wanted to be with you. I knew you were not ready for fucking. I did not know he was coming. But once I got into the car, the old times...they were there in my mind. I knew what he wanted, what he came for. Eduardo helped me get here and sends me money every month. That money feeds us. Yes, my dick was hard from the sex when I got back. He fucked me raw like I dream about fucking you. My dick was hard for like an hour before I came home. So when I came back here, I just wanted you like that. I thought you wanted it too. You came so much and you were so ..." Not knowing the right word, Rick let the thought hang. Rick remembered Mark's body and the messages it sent to him while they were engaged in sex. Rick truly thought Mark had wanted it.

Mark remembering the discussion with his father said, "Rick, my priorities are school, not this." Mark was referencing the both of them with his hands, and continued, "And in 4 years we will be different than we are today and maybe we won't fit together anymore. But I'm in charge of my body and you're in charge of yours. But you can't just have my body whenever you want. Not anymore."

Rick struggled to understand what the bottom line was and asked, "Can we eat and share food, take showers, and play basketball together?" Rick waited very hopefully for the answer.

Mark answered (unknowingly) playing the highest face card possible with Rick, "I'm not sure about the showers yet." Rick was taken aback and very disappointed with that answer, but also very hopeful they would get past this difficult time. Rick assumed that no showers meant all sex was off the table. Rick lay back in his bed exhausted and went to sleep immediately. Mark followed not long behind in his own bunk.

The next morning Rick woke up first and headed to the bathroom to pee. He turned on the shower and came out to look at Mark sleeping. Rick turned on the light to see if Mark would wake up, but there was no response. Rick poked Mark's arm and then waited, then again harder. Mark opened his eyes and glared at Rick and then turned over putting the pillow over his head.

Disappointed Rick went back in the bathroom and was about to get in the shower when he thought of something. He bounced back out to the room and said, "Mark you want to leave early and go to IHOP?" Rick and Mark both liked pancakes. Mark grumbled. Rick decided to announce the time to see if it motivated Mark to get up, but it was still two hours before their first class and ineffective.

Rick studied Mark's prone body for a minute and then gave up. Rick went dejectedly back into the bathroom and got into the shower. A few minutes later he could hear Mark peeing outside the curtain. Rick's hope was rejuvenated. Rick pretended to be focused on his shower and even began whistling.

Mark opened the shower curtain carefully and looked inside. Rick was washing his hair. Mark creeped into the shower quietly and grabbed the soap. Rick pretended not to see him, and then turned around and acted surprised. Rick reached out to help soap Mark's chest but his hand was slapped sharply. Mark moved in front Rick's body to get under the spray. Rick was already hard and looked down at Mark's dick. It was flaccid.

Rick was running out of things to do in the shower. Mark had started to wash his hair. Rick again tried to help and Mark slapped his hand again. Rick sighed and got out of the shower. He dried off quickly and left the towel for Mark. Mark was being pokey in the bathroom and Rick was fully dressed and ready to go. Rick lingered hoping Mark would ride with him to school. Mark came out quietly and began to get dressed.

Rick asked, "Do you want to ride to school with me?" Mark answered, "I need to call my mom, but then after that, sure." Rick felt slightly relieved and settled down and waited for Mark. Mark talked to his mother for 20 minutes. Rick referenced the time by pointing to his watch. Mark finally hung up the phone and grabbed his book bag following Rick out of the room.

The boys put on their helmets and climbed on the bike with Mark in back of Rick. Mark wrapped his arms around Rick's torso and held on while Rick took off across campus. A tear leaked from one of Rick's eyes as he realized what mattered to him. Rick said a prayer to St Jude in thanks and gratitude and to St Augustine for repentance. Rick then placed one hand on Mark's hands where they crossed on his torso.


Mara Copa

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