THE QUIET snatched Andrew Dominguez from sleep.

Normally he heard noises: voices from the TV, cars coming in and out of the apartment complex, the neighbors' loud music, or Russell's soft snoring beside him. Even in a state of deep sleep, Andrew heard things from the outside world. Now he could hear nothing at all and instinctively, he knew something was wrong.

Andrew rolled over in bed and checked the spot next to him.


He ran his hand over Russell's side of the mattress. It felt hard and cold like nobody had been sleeping there. Through hazy eyes Andrew gazed at the alarm clock on his bedside nightstand: a quarter past one, on Wednesday morning. Russell should have been home from work by now. He should have been in the bed beside him.

"Russ?" Andrew called.

He sat upright in bed. Despite the mid January cold, sheens of cool sweat covered his body. He felt incredibly sluggish. Andrew shivered as he waited for Russell's response.

Two things Andrew knew for certain: Russell was not home, but there was someone, other than Andrew in the apartment. He purposely left the television in the living room on, set to a low volume, before going to sleep, as he did every night that Russell worked long night shifts. Usually Russell turned it off when he came home.

It was off now.

Andrew and Russell shared a small one-bedroom apartment in Emeryville, a tiny town sandwiched between the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, consisting of mid-priced and expensive lofts and trendy retail shops.

Their living room was barely larger than their bedroom, which in itself only fit their king-sized bed, a computer desk, and a clothes dresser. No single room in the apartment had enough space for them not to be able to hear the other's voice, even if they whispered. If Russell were here, he would have said something by now.

Yet Andrew could not get rid of the feeling that someone was in the apartment. More specifically, he felt someone standing directly outside his bedroom door.

The room temperature seemed to drop several degrees in mere seconds. Despite being covered up in thick blankets, a deathly chill infiltrated Andrew's body, penetrating him down to the bone. A singular sound filled the silent darkness: his heartbeat.

Andrew had dreamed of this exact scenario before abruptly waking up in middle of the night. He had woken up before finishing the dream, but it did not seem like it was going to end too well for him.

He thought about the automatic pistol located in one of Russell's shoeboxes in the closet. He never used it, but he knew how if he ever needed to use it.

His cell phone rang.

The sudden noise made Andrew jump. He looked at the cell phone on his nightstand. Beyoncé's song, "Halo" filled the silence. Andrew immediately knew it was Russell calling. He reached over and picked up the phone.

"Where are you?" he whispered.

"Just getting off," Russell responded Hearing his deep voice made Andrew feel somewhat more secure. "Sorry to wake you up."

"I was already up," Andrew replied softly, his eyes glued to the door. "Woke up a few minutes ago."

"Bad dream?" Russell asked.

Andrew's stomach tightened. "Yeah..."

"The one you keep refusin to tell me about?"

Andrew frowned. Russell was right. He had deliberately chosen not to tell the details of his nightmares for Russell's benefit.

"Sorry I'm not there. Should be home in about fifteen minutes."

From the other side of the bedroom door, Andrew distinctly heard footsteps.

"Drew, are you there?"

"Hurry up," Andrew urged, trying not to sound as panicked as he actually felt.

"What's up? Why are you whispering? I can barely hear you."

Andrew did not know if he should tell Russell that there was somebody in the apartment. when this assumption was based mostly on intuition and what sounded like footsteps outside his door. However, Andrew always trusted his instincts.

"Get here soon as you can," Andrew said.

"Fifteen minutes," Russell assured him

"Make it ten."

Russell laughed. "Ok. I will. Love you."

Andrew shivered. "Me too."

He hung up the phone and realized he needed to make a plan.

Andrew got this horrific feeling that would be the last time he heard those words from Russell. The phone slipped from his hand and fell onto his lap. He replaced it on the nightstand and pulled the blankets up to his chin, just like a little boy afraid to see the monster hiding in the closet.

Russ will be here soon.

The more he tried convincing himself, the greater his fear increased.

Andrew took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Even with the blankets covering him, he could not expel the icy grip on his body.

The doorknob rattled.

He could not have mistaken that sound.

Fuck, Andrew thought.

Andrew shot upward in bed again, all the muscles in his body alert. His eyes locked on the doorknob, and despite the dense darkness, he could see it moving very clearly.

His nightmare was becoming a reality and he had nowhere to hide. The closet would be the first place any intruder would look, and he was too large to fit under the bed. He thought about the gun in the closet and wondered if he would have enough time to go in there and get it.

He vividly recalled closing and locking the door before going to bed. Besides, nobody could even get through the security gate or the building's main door without a pass code. In the nine months since Andrew moved in with Russell, there had been, surprisingly, very few reports of vandalism, thefts, or intrusions. This had been a nice, quiet, and safe place to live...until now.

The door swung open gently and very slowly without one creak

Fear inundated Andrew's whole body. He was frozen, paralyzed with terror. Andrew kept waiting for himself to wake up from this nightmare, but it refused to happen.

Get the gun before it's too late.

Andrew knew that he would not have enough time to get it. He hated himself now for not telling Russell what was happening when he had the chance. Andrew regained enough control over his body to reach over and switch on the lamp beside his bed.

It only took seconds for Andrew's eyes to adjust to the sudden light. The bedroom door was fully open, but Andrew did not see anyone standing on the other side of it, but he felt something standing at the foot of his bed, watching him.

No way this shit is really happening...

The imperceptible intruder pounced on Andrew.

Before Andrew had the chance to react, two very strong hands wrapped themselves around his throat and squeezed, crushing the air out of him. Andrew thrashed and kicked, futilely. The invisible intruder had him pinned down to the mattress, severely restricting his ability to move.

His cell phone rang. 'Halo' blared throughout the room as Andrew asphyxiated.


Andrew attempted to turn his head, toward the source of the ringing. He tried reaching out his arm to grab it, but he was powerless. The more he fought, the tighter his attacker gripped his throat. His heart raced at an impossible speed and everything in the room spun and grew hazier by the second. Andrew stared up at the ceiling, trying to focus, trying not to let the darkness that started to encroach on all sides overtake him. Andrew opened his mouth in one final attempt to scream, but nothing came out except frigid silence. The phone rang a few more times before suddenly stopping.

Everything was quiet.



NATHAN GRAYSON knew something was wrong, but he could not tell what...not yet anyhow.

It started as a dull throbbing at the back of his head, slowly developing into a headache. A vivid image of Russell Moore sitting alone in a bedroom, on a messy bed, entered his mind. Nathan felt like he was going to be sick.

He had done well for the last few months, blocking Russell's gorgeous face from his brain. Nathan had been trying to forget Russell's voice, smile, and how his hard body felt against his when they slept. A full year passed since Nathan last saw or heard from Russell. Yet when Russell unexpectedly popped into his brain, it conjured a string of negative emotions: loneliness, melancholy, and resentment.

"You okay, Nate?" Blake Coleman asked. He lightly touched Nathan's shoulder and Nathan felt a warm sizzle throughout his body.

"I'm cool." Nathan tried to maintain focus on the television show he, Blake, and their other friend and roommate, Justin Bronson were watching. He was distracted, however, by continuous mental flashes of Russell's face, followed by extreme emotions of worry and fear. Nathan squeezed his eyes shut, trying to erase the images from his head. His minor headache turned major in less than a minute.

"You don't look like it," Blake noticed. Concern seeped into his mesmerizing, cinnamon-colored eyes. "Something you wanna talk about?"

"No, it's good. I just need to go to the bathroom right quick."

Nathan got up from the couch and headed to the staircase. He knew Blake would follow him. Justin continued to watch television, lying on his stomach on the carpet, entirely transfixed as Tyra Banks decided which of two remaining girls would still be in the running in hopes of becoming "America's Next Top Model". He never noticed Blake or Nathan going upstairs to the bathroom.

"Blake, you didn't need to follow me," Nathan said as they both entered the bathroom, which barely fit the two of them. Nathan turned on the light and went over to the sink.

"Tell me what's up," Blake responded, closing the door and leaning against it. He folded his muscular arms over his built chest. "Not going anywhere until you do."

Nathan sighed and pulled open the medicine cabinet, searching for a bottle of Aspirin. "I told you already, it's not a big deal. Don't worry about it. Just a little headache...where's the pills?"

"We're out." Blake unfolded his arms and tentatively stepped toward Nathan. "It's about him, huh?"

Nathan closed the medicine cabinet door and gazed at his reflection in the mirror. On a good day he would consider himself cute. Not sexy, but cute. He had a warm caramel complexion, with thick eyebrows and coffee-colored eyes.

Nathan had nice, full lips and great teeth. When he smiled, he went from cute to actually being handsome. Right now, however, he looked average and tired. His eyes appeared worried and strange. He almost did not recognize himself.

"I haven't thought about him in a while. Now all of a sudden he just pops into my mind," Nathan told Blake. He turned on the faucet and splashed water on his face. It did not help. When Nathan glanced at his reflection again, he looked soggy and even worse than before. He switched his eyes from the mirror over to Blake.

"Russell's going to call me." The pain in his head intensified when he said that.

Blake did not speak right away, he just glared. Nathan knew exactly what scrolled through his mind. Just when I thought he was starting to get over that asshole

"It's not like that Blake," Nathan said.

"Don't talk to him," Blake replied. "If he calls you, don't pick up."

"I wish it was that easy."

"Nate, it is that easy."

"I haven't talked to him in a year, Blake."

"That's not long enough,"

"I just can't ignore his call."

Nathan could see the anger mounting in Blake's whole disposition. He looked like he wanted to punch a wall. "Blake, there's no need for you to be so upset. This has nothing to do with you."

Blake clearly took offense to Nathan's words. "It upsets me, Nate, `cause you're still in love with that dumb-ass."

Those words hit like bullets to Nathan's chest, stunning him into total silence. For a second, he could not breathe. Blake must have known he had spoken out of line, because the hardness in his face melted.

"I'm just trying to look out for you. After the way things went down..."

"Look, Blake. I'm glad you're looking out for me but I'm an adult. I can take care of myself. I don't need you making decisions about who I should speak to."

"You're right, do what you want," Blake said coldly. They were interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Are you two sucking each off in there?" Justin asked from the other side of the bathroom door.

Blake pulled open the door. Justin stood there, arms crossed, with an irritated look. "We're just having a little talk," Blake told Justin.

"You guys always have your 'little talks' and leave me out of them," Justin complained.

"Justin, don't worry about it," Nathan said, stepping past both Blake and Justin as he headed out the bathroom. "It's nothing. I'm getting ready for bed."

"It's only ten!" Justin exclaimed. "I thought we were all gonna watch Project Runway."

"Not tonight," Nathan replied. "I'm tired." He sauntered to his bedroom across the hallway. "Good night."

Before entering his room, Nathan heard Blake's voice in his mind: We're not done talking about this yet, Nate.

Nathan turned around to see Blake staring at him sternly. Yes we are.

He went into his room, shutting the door behind him. Turning on the lamp near his bedside, Nathan noticed his window was slightly open. He had not remembered opening it at any point during the day. A cold breeze slipped inside and gave him chills. Nathan ambled over to the window and closed it, staring out into the darkness, seeing nothing, except for the huge black shape of the house located next door to their spacious two-story townhouse.

After changing into his night clothes, simply consisting of a pair of underwear briefs and an old T-shirt, Nathan crawled into bed, taking his cell phone out of his pants pocket. He set his

alarm for six-thirty in the morning, and placed it on his nightstand. Before turning off the light, Nathan looked at his phone momentarily, waiting for it to ring...waiting to hear Russell's voice.

It had been two and a half weeks after New Year's, the previous year since they last spoke. Russell had not even had the decency to end their relationship face to face, but through a text message. Nathan had predicted everything Russell would say It was the cruelty of precognition. Even though Nathan knew in advance, it did not quell his pain. It only made it worse.

Nathan remembered the humiliation of calling Russell for the next several weeks afterward, desperately attempting to have a more in-depth discussion about how and why Russell stopped caring about him. He wanted to know how after being involved for two years, Russell could just treat Nathan like some random person off the street. Russell never responded to any of Nathan's calls, although he did send one text message shortly before Valentine's Day. Nathan recalled it verbatim:

Srry, Nate, but I'm with someone else now. Please understand. Take care of urself, and maybe we'll talk sometime soon. Happy V-Day btw.

Those last three words stung more than anything else in the message. For many months, Nathan kept that message stored in his phone, reading it several times a day, especially before falling asleep. He hoped that 'sometime soon' would be today.

Sometime soon never came.

It was only a few months ago that Nathan erased that text from his phone, along with Russell's number, tearing up most of the pictures they took together, save for one or two, and deleting the rest of them from his computer. Still, after all this time, Nathan still could not erase Russell from his brain.

If his intuition was right, which Nathan absolutely believed it was, then Russell would be calling him, soon. Tonight even.

But to tell me what? Nathan wondered. That he broke up with his boyfriend? That he wants to get back together with me?

Nathan reminded himself not to speculate so much and not to get too excited.

For a long time, Nathan thought about what would happen if Russell were to actually call him and say, "You know what Nate? I don't know what the hell I was thinking. Could you please forgive me? Can I be with you again?"

Nathan always had two versions of his response: In one, he would forgive Russell, kiss him passionately, and proceed to have sex with him. In the alternative fantasy, Nathan would knock Russell flat on the ground (although Russell was six-foot-one with nearly two hundred pounds of muscle, and Nathan was five-foot-eight and weighed one hundred and forty pounds)screaming: "I'll never fuckin forgive you."

It was easy to imagine how he would respond, but another thing to actually follow through with it.

Nathan turned off the light and a flurry of thoughts stampeded through Nathan's head as he settled himself in bed. Many of his thoughts involved Russell, while others involved Blake.

From the time Nathan and Russell started dating Blake always expressed explicit revulsion toward Russell. He always warned Nathan that Russell would deceive and abandon him. Nathan never listened to Blake's rants about Russell, mostly because he knew that Blake's opinions had less to do with being a good friend, than it did with his jealousy toward Russell.

Nathan never understood how Blake could ever be envious of Russell. With his tall, perfectly-chiseled body, his movie star face and effortlessly masculine disposition, Blake could get any person he wanted, at any time he wanted. In fact, Nathan would have figured that Blake and Russell would have been a more appropriate match-up, due to their physical and personality similarities, but they were never interested in each other.

Once Nathan's relationship with Russell ended, Nathan had been surprised and moved by how comforting and consoling Blake had been. Although Blake had all the justification in the world to criticize Nathan, he never did.

There had been times, in the middle of the night, when Nathan could not sleep, and grief held him tighter than a lover, Blake would come into Nathan's room, slip into his bed, hold and him closely. Nathan would hear Blake's voice in his head, saying: It's okay. It's okay, over and over until he eventually fell asleep.

Nathan heard Blake and Justin's voices downstairs. For a while, he contemplated getting out of bed and watching television with them. Sleep refused to come easily and he also did not want to be alone. Honestly, Nathan knew what he really wanted: he wanted Blake to come upstairs, get into bed with him, and hold him like he used to. Nathan wanted to feel warm and safe instead of cold and lonely.

Blake, come up here when you're done. Please.

He sent the thought out before fully realizing the ramifications. It was too late to take it back.

Nathan closed his eyes, hoping for sleep to arrive, but it tauntingly eluded him. He could not force his mind to go blank and for his body to relax and be at peace. He kept waiting for his bedroom door to open and for Blake to come in but it never happened.

Don't think about Blake, Nathan told himself. Don't think about Russell. Don't think about anything.

In what may have been twenty minutes or so later, Nathan almost fell away from consciousness, when his phone abruptly rang. The sudden, shrill sound caused Nathan's eyes to pop open and for his head to jerk up from his pillow. He did not recognize the ring tone. When he picked up the phone and read the little monitor, Nathan recognized the number.


Nathan's heart beat so fast and loud that he wondered if Blake and Justin could hear it downstairs. The phone must have chimed five times before Nathan finally clicked the talk button and brought the phone to his ear. "Hello?"

"Nate, it's me..."

Too many months passed since Nathan last heard that voice. He thought he would be psychologically and emotionally prepared to hear it, but those three words...the way Russell said his name...triggered a rush of conflicting emotions within Nathan that he could not control.

"Russell?" He had to pretend he had not been expecting this call, which to a certain degree was true. Nathan knew Russell would call, just not this early...or rather not so late.


The rich sexiness in Russell's voice still thrived, but Nathan also heard something else in it as well: pain.

"What's up?" Nathan asked.

"Were you sleep? You kinda sound like you were sleeping."

"I'm about to...I mean, I'm in bed right now..."

"Oh, ok. My bad. Maybe I should call you tomorrow or something...?

"No!" Nathan replied, a little too excitedly. "You can talk to me right now. What's up?" Nathan rose into a sitting position.

Russell sighed. "I don't even know how to say this..." his voice trailed off. Nathan waited in desperate anticipation for Russell to continue.

"Go ahead and tell me, Russell."

"I probably shouldn't have called you," Russell said. "I think this is a bad idea to talk to you of all people about this."

Nathan's heart sank.

"Well, Russell, it's too late now. Just go ahead and tell me."

After a long pause, Russell answered, "It's about Drew..."

Russell had never shared the name of his current boyfriend with Nathan before, but Nathan instantly knew that was who he was referring to.

Now it was Nathan's turn to be silent. "What about him?" he finally asked.

He shuddered, not just because the cold bedroom. His insides, his blood...his spirit felt frozen.

"He's gone."

Nathan's stomach fluttered. "You two broke up?"

"No...that's not what I meant. I meant to say he disappeared."

The pain in Russell's voice reached a harrowing crescendo when he said 'disappeared'.

"When I came home from work last night, he wasn't here. He hasn't been here all today either."

Nathan listened to all of this, hearing it, but somehow not able to translate those words into actual meanings. "Maybe he just went somewhere and..."

"No," Russell interrupted. "I talked to him fifteen minutes before I got home. He was here. His stuff is still here. His cell phone is here. His car is still parked in the lot. Everything's here except for him."

"Did you call the police?" Nathan asked.


"Well don't you think you should?"

"Police aren't gonna do shit, Nate. You know that. Besides, I think it's gotta be twenty-four hours or something first before you can report it."

"So why are you calling me about this?" Nathan did not want to ask that question, but sooner or later he would have to. "I mean, what do you want me to do?"

"I don't know...like I said, maybe I shouldn't have called you. I know I'm probably the last person you wanna hear from."

"That's not true. I do wanna hear from you." The words came out before Nathan had the chance to stop himself. "It's just that I don't know what you want me to do about this."

"It's stupid, but I just thought you could help me. You know how you know stuff...all that weird shit...? I thought maybe..."

Oh, you mean the 'weird shit' you never believed in until your boyfriend vanished? Nathan thought.

"What...help you find him? Russell, I don't know..."

"Can I see you tomorrow? There's more I need to tell you about this. But I think it's better if I tell you in person."

He wants to see me, Nathan thought.

Talking on the phone with Russell was difficult enough, and now he wanted to talk face to face. "You just can't tell me right now?" Nathan questioned.

Russell hesitated. "You know what, Nate? Forget it. I shouldn't be bothering you with this."

Now Nathan grew angry. "Okay, Russell, don't fuck around. You already called me. Don't play games."

"Fine.You still work at the bank?" Russell asked.


"When's your lunch?"

"Usually one."

"I'll drop by then. We can talk more about this."

Nathan wanted to say 'I don't think that's going to work for me', but was unable to. "Okay. That works for me."


They were both quiet for what seemed like an hour.

"Guess I'm gonna get off now," Nathan said.

"Yeah...um, thanks for hearing me out, Nate. It was um, good to hear from you. It's been a minute."

"Yeah, it has been..."

More awkward silence.

"Night, Nate."

"Bye, Russell."

Nathan clicked off his phone. It took an overwhelming amount of strength to suppress the tears gathering in his eyes. He lay there for a long time, replaying the conversation over and over in his head, still partially in disbelief that he really talked to Russell, wondering if this was one of the most realistic dreams he ever experienced.

Do I really wanna see him tomorrow? Nathan asked himself.

He closed his eyes, trying desperately to shut everything out of his mind, when he heard his bedroom door open. He did not have to open his eyes to know who entered.

Nate, you asleep? Blake's voice filled Nathan's head like light filling a shadowy room.

No, not yet, he responded.

Blake closed Nathan's door and quietly walked over to Nathan's bed. He sat at the foot of it. You okay?

There would be no point of lying to Blake. He would be able to read Nathan's emotions anyhow. No, I'm not.

You talked to him, didn't you?

Nathan did not respond.

What did the dumb-ass have to say?

Not right now, Blake. I just want to go to sleep.

Do you want me to leave?

Nathan considered it. No, I don't.

Blake stood and Nathan listened as Blake undressed in the dark. His heart thudded with nervous energy as a few moments later, Blake joined Nathan in bed. Almost immediately, the chilliness that had taken over Nathan's body vanished. In its place, thick, soothing heat enveloped him as Blake scooted close to him, their bodies almost connected. He should have pulled away from Blake, but he did not.

Are you okay now? Blake asked.

I'm better.

Blake lightly kissed the back of Nathan's neck. It sent pleasurable chills down his spine to his toes.

Good night, Nate.

When Russell said good night to him earlier, it sounded cold and obligatory. But when Blake said it, and maybe because the voice came from inside of Nathan's head instead of over a phone line, it sounded warm and authentic.

Good night, Blake.

Nathan closed his eyes, finally able to rest now.



NATHAN AWOKE a few minutes after six in the morning, before his alarm went off. Grayish light filtered through the bedroom window. He saw rain droplets on the glass. It was not raining right now, but it had been shortly before. Nathan lay tranquilly in Blake's arms, a bit surprised that Blake had not gone back to his own bedroom after Nathan fell asleep, as he usually did. Blake's breath blew softly and warmly against Nathan's skin. Nathan loved the security of Blake holding him. A big part of him wanted to stay in that same position all day, but he knew he would have to get up soon and get ready for work.

Blake shifted slightly and his hard dick pressed up against Nathan's ass. Blake shifted again, causing his dick to press up even harder against Nathan's butt. In turn, Nathan's cock gradually swelled in his underwear. A week passed since Nathan last masturbated and more than a year since he last had any form of sex.

Many times Nathan imagined what it would be like to have sex with Blake. There had been numerous opportunities in the past to bring those fantasies into fruition, but Nathan always made sure to respect the boundaries between his and Blake's friendship. While Nathan knew many young, gay male friends liked to have sex with each other every now and again, some without any problems, he made sure that was something he never did with Blake or Justin. He never wanted sex to be the catalyst that would cause the destruction of his friendship with Blake. Still, Nathan often found himself wondering how long he could resist Blake until he finally yielded to him.

Knowing he should not be doing so, but feeling compelled to do so anyway, Nathan reached behind him to touch Blake's body. His hand came into contact with Blake's firm, sharply-defined abs. He trailed downward with his fingers, past Blake's neatly-trimmed pubes, and ultimately arriving at his dick. Nathan squeezed Blake's cock. It felt hot, thick, and incredibly rigid in his grasp. Blake groaned softly.

Nathan froze. He waited nervously to see if Blake would awake...no, he was still dreaming away, snoring very softly. Nathan carefully turned around so that they faced each other. The pale light coming in from the window illuminated Blake's nearly flawless face, giving Nathan the chance to admire Blake's smooth mocha skin hue, his clean-cut square jawbone, and his perfectly formed, full lips. He almost looked even more irresistible asleep than awake.

Suddenly Nathan found himself contemplating what would have happened if he had gotten together with Blake instead of Russell.

Would it be like it is now? Nathan pondered. Me watching him sleep, waking each other up with kisses? Or would it have ended up like it did with Russell, me lying in bed alone, lamenting a relationship that probably shouldn't have existed in the first place.

Blake opened his eyes.

Nathan snatched his hand away from Blake's dick, feeling waves of embarrassment crash over him. He wanted to explain himself, although he could not think of anything to say at that point. Blake killed the short distance between their mouths and kissed him. That first kiss was short and simple, but still powerful enough to ignite Nathan's whole body into a blaze of ecstasy.

Before Nathan truly had the chance to mentally register the situation, Blake was on top of him, pinning Nathan's smaller and leaner frame with his larger and more ripped body. He covered Nathan's mouth and neck with kisses, while reaching underneath Nathan's shirt. Blake's fingertips skipped along his stomach, to Nathan's nipples, where he began to tenderly pinch and caress them. Nathan moaned, arching his back, causing his hips to lift a little from the mattress. Blake took that as an opportunity to snatch off Nathan's underwear briefs, releasing his fully hard dick.

This is a dream, Nathan thought. I'm still asleep.

Blake shook his head, smiling. His teeth gleamed beautifully. "No, you're not."

He kissed Nathan again, much longer and rougher this time. Nathan grabbed the back of Blake's head, pushing him down so that their lips became inseparable. Their tongues slid in and out of each other's mouths gracefully. Everything in the room...in the world...seemed to evaporate.

Breaking their kiss, Blake used his tongue to travel down Nathan's body, licking in slow circles around Nathan's nipples, making him scream silently and squirm around as if he were being electrocuted. Blake kept moving downward, stopping briefly to kiss and lick Nathan's navel for a few moments before heading to his destination. In one motion, Blake slipped his warm, moist lips over Nathan's cock and swallowed it whole. Nathan's toes popped and every nerve in his body sizzled with unexpected satisfaction. Blake went on for a little while before flipping Nathan over onto his stomach and diving face first into his ass.

Up until that point, Nathan had not made any loud noise, but when Blake's tongue slid across his asshole, he released a surprised, piercing cry that could most likely be heard all throughout their two-story home. He bit the pillow as Blake proceeded to vigorously rim him, prying Nathan's ass apart with his strong hands, entering him with his skilled tongue. Nathan wanted it to stop, but he also wanted it to continue. It had been too long since he felt this sensation. Although he feared the consequences that would come afterwards, he wanted to enjoy it for now.

"You okay?" Blake asked, taking a short break.

Nathan savored the warmth of Blake's breath on the arch of his back and he did not know what to say. He did not know if he could even talk. Only when Blake began to push his finger inside of him and the unexpected pain hit him that Nathan knew he had to say something.

"Blake...we can't do this."

Initially, Blake did not pay any attention to him. He persisted in his effort to enter Nathan with his finger, although Nathan refused to allow access. Finally he got the message.

"What's wrong?"

Nathan twisted around so that they faced each other. He saw the flagrant lust in Blake's eyes.

"You know what's wrong," Nathan whispered.

Blake stared at him, his brown eyes shooting through Nathan's mind. He felt Blake moving around in his head.

It's okay, Nathan heard Blake say.

Nathan shook his head. "No, it's not. We shouldn't be doing this."

"Why not?" Blake asked.

There was a rough edge to his voice that slightly bothered Nathan.

"I gotta get ready for work."

Blake kissed Nathan, whose whole body started to melt. His big dick throbbed almost wildly against Nathan's stomach. Nathan ran his hands up and down the firm, tight muscles of Blake's back, down to his hard, tight ass, trying to lose himself in the moment, but always forced back into reality.

"I'm serious, Blake."

"So am I."

He tried to kiss Nathan again, but this time Nathan did a better job of avoiding him.

"Blake, you know this isn't right."

"Isn't right?" Blake replied, perplexed. He rolled off of Nathan and onto the opposite side of the bed. "What do you mean, 'isn't right'?"

"You know what I mean."

"No, I don't."

"Blake, don't act stupid."

"How am I acting stupid?"

Nathan sighed and searched for his underwear amongst the tangle of blankets and sheets. When he found them, along with his shirt, he hurriedly put them on, thankful for the security of not being naked any longer in front of Blake. For Blake though, modesty was not an issue. He remained on Nathan's bed, using one hand to rub his own chest and the other to jerk himself off.

"Come on, Blake. I have to get ready for work."

"You don't gotta be there until another two hours."

"I wanna get there early."

The sharpness in Nathan's voice must have finally indicated to Blake the severity of his opinion about this. Blake scowled and hopped out of bed, not bothering to hide the irritation on his face as he dressed in his clothes from the night before. Nathan wanted to say something, to ease some of the tension between them, but he could not find anything to say, other than:

"Don't be mad at me," just as Blake headed out the door.

"I'm not mad," Blake replied in a less than amiable voice. "Just sorry I wasted my time."

Nathan's throat constricted, his heart clinched, but he did not have a retort. He let Blake walk out his bedroom, feeling an overwhelming sense of regret and loneliness as the door slammed shut and the rain returned, full-force, hitting the window like a spray of bullets.

* * *

Blake sat at the kitchen table, staring down at a bowl of soggy cereal, not sure if he had the appetite to take another spoonful. His stomach quivered with nausea and his mind swarmed with images of Nathan's naked body. Underneath the flavor of Cheerios and milk, Blake still tasted the sweet tanginess of Nathan's skin in his mouth. His dick twitched a little in his shorts with the memory. However, the memory of Nathan dismissing him, mostly nullified any positive thoughts he had about the brief experience.

You know this isn't right, Nathan had said to him. The words echoed over and over in Blake's head. Blake lay in his own bed, after leaving Nathan's room, rewinding the scene over and over in his mental eye.

Nathan had knocked on Blake's door shortly after. Blake knew Nathan wanted to apologize. He wanted to make things right before leaving for work. Even though Blake knew this, he did not want to see or talk to him. Perhaps later on, they would talk about it, but not right then. Still, as Nathan left for work, he sent a telepathic message to Blake, one that Blake could not ignore even if he wanted to: I'm sorry Blake. You didn't waste your time.

Blake finished playing around with his cereal, ready to dispose it, when he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Justin jogged into the kitchen, dressed in a loose-fitting tank top, displaying his nicely toned arms and shoulders, as well as a pair very snug- fitting white underwear briefs that showed his sculpted legs and round ass. Justin's thick black hair was unkempt, like he had just awakened. He sat across from Blake, grinning.

"What are you smiling about?" Blake asked petulantly.

"You know what I'm smiling about, Blake. Don't act dumb."

Blake swirled his spoon in the watery milk. "Not really."

"Yeah, you do. You and Nate. How'd the butt sex go?"

Blake glanced up at Justin. "You heard us?"

"Man, I think the whole block heard you two...possibly all of Alameda and parts of Oakland."

Images of his brief, intimate moments with Nathan floated into Blake's mind, but he fought them back.

"I don't really wanna talk about it, Justin." Blake put his spoon beside his bowl and rubbed his eyes with his fingers.

"Oh, it was that bad, huh?" Justin asked, the excitement slowly slipping from his cute face. "Nate couldn't take it?"

"More like he didn't want it," Blake said. "Guess I came on too strong and he got scared." The spoon started to tremble slightly.

Justin looked sympathetic.

"I'm tired of being his damn teddy bear," Blake complained. "He likes it when I sleep in his bed. He knows how I feel, and then when I do something about it, he throws that 'Let's just be friends' shit in my face."

"Well, don't blame yourself," Justin said. "You know how complicated Nate is. He's attracted to you, but he doesn't want you to be Russell part two."

"I'm nothing like that dumb fuck," Blake exclaimed. "And Nate knows I would never do him dirty like that."

"What your mind knows and what your heart knows are two different things," Justin said. "It's different with you, Blake. Nate only knew Russell for a couple of years. He's known you for like, a third of his life. If you two were to get into a relationship and shit went bad, take the depression he went through with Russell and times it by ten. Except this time he wouldn't have a best friend to fall back on."

Justin made a lot of sense, but Blake still did not want to listen.

"Blake, if it's supposed to happen, it'll happen. He does want you."

"Not enough. Not more than Russell." That name felt like acid on Blake's tongue.

"They haven't been together in a year," Justin argued. "It's not like they're gonna get back together..."

"They talked last night," Blake interrupted.

Justin appeared confounded. "How do you know that?"

"Last night Nate got a flash about it. That's what we were talking about in the bathroom. I told Nate not to talk to him, but he didn't wanna listen."

"But that doesn't mean..."

The spoon launched upward off the table like a rocket. It hit the ceiling and stayed there in place. Justin looked at Blake, whose fists were tightly clenched. The veins in his arms nearly protruded from his skin. Blake seemed ready to explode at any second. Justin switched his attention to the spoon and mentally willed it back down to the table slowly. It made a soft clinking sound as it hit the table.

"You need to calm down, Blake...before you really fuck something up in here."

"I'm just pissed right now."

"I know you are. But overreacting is not gonna fix the problem."

"Then what the fuck will then?" Blake's bowl slid quickly to the left, almost off the table, but he caught it before it slipped over the edge.

"When Nate comes home, just talk about it," Justin advised. "Calmly."

"There's nothing to talk about. I don't really want to talk to him and he probably doesn't wanna talk to me about it either. Fuck! Shit's gonna be hella complicated now between us."

"Uh, things have always been complicated with you two," Justin said.

"Yeah, but having sex with one of your best friends changes shit whether you want it to or not."

"Well, beating yourself up about it isn't gonna make things better," Justin said. He rose from his chair and began to walk out of the kitchen. Blake had to refrain himself from looking at Justin's perfect bubble butt, shrouded by his underwear. "I'm going back to bed," Justin continued. "Don't gotta be at work for like another four hours. You're gonna give me a ride, right?"

"Yeah, whatever," Blake muttered.

Justin headed back upstairs to his room. Blake waited until he heard Justin's door close before he got up from his seat and walked over to the sink. He looked out the rain-stained window into the small, cluttered backyard and wondered if things would ever be the same again between him and Nathan, although he already knew the answer would be no.



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