by Bundy5

He stares at me with a mixture of pity and disgust in his eyes, and I sneer back at him, my contempt loud and clear.

I didn’t know it then, but that doorman would one day mean the world to me.

**

My name is Peter ‘Pinky’ Benson. I’m twenty and a half years old, and I’m going to be all alone for the first time in the big city. I’m moving there to attend an art school. My parents are paying for my apartment which is within walking distance from the campus, and provide me with a monthly allowance, but I won a scholarship which takes care of the tuition fee. That much at least is all me. I know I’m not going to end up painting million dollar masterpieces, but there’s definitely a future for me somewhere in illustrative work.

I don’t have much to bring with me to my new place, which comes both as a bit of a shock and relief. Crammed into the two bags I bring with me on the long bus ride over are clothes, my laptop, art supplies, a hard-drive and my toothbrush. All my books, artwork, movies, music and DVDs are either on my hard-drive or online. That’s the digital age for you.

It takes me an hour to find my apartment and unpack. The place already has plumbing, electricity and internet ready for me. I use some of my monthly allowance to buy a new mattress and a cheap desk, as well as kitchenware and a few other essentials. I put my bedroom together, head out for dinner and collect some menus of nearby take-out joints, and then finish up the living room when I get back. By near midnight, my small apartment is furnished and I’m ready to have some fun. It’s my first night here in the big city, no longer contained in my small home town, and I’m hungry for experience.

I quickly find a gay bar online called Exile that happens to be close by and get dressed in my most lewd outfit — a skimpy pink tank-top and a pair of tight-fitting black jeans. My wavy brown hair is just shy of being long enough to tie in a ponytail, so I let it hang naturally. It frames my slender, pale face quite nicely, and draws focus to my blue eyes and full lips. I primp in front of the bathroom mirror for another 20 minutes and then step out to embrace the night life.

Exile is already busy when I get there. I can see lots of young, sexy guys heading in as I approach. Techno music streams up the stairs, and the bass thuds against my body, tugging at my feet. I want to get down there and dance.

“Uhp-uhp-uhp!” A bouncer stops me with a large hand on my shoulder. “ID, sir. You don’t look a day over 15.”

I pass him my driver’s license. I didn’t know there would be doormen. There are even two of them. Well, fuck.

“Peter Benson,” the one holding my card reads out loud. He’s large and blocky with pouty lips and a ginger goatee. It’s poorly lit outside, but I can see that they’re both wearing black short-sleeved shirts and long black slacks.

He passes my card to his partner with a wry smile.

“People call me Pinky,” I say loudly, sounding more confident than I felt.

The second doorman grunts. He’s a smidge less chubby than the ginger bear, of Greek descent, and looks to be in his late 30’s. “You’re called ‘Pinky’ because of your pink top?”

The ginger-haired doorman laughs loudly. “Nah, Goat. It’s ‘Pinky’, like your pinky toe. He’s small, cute, and you’re gonna bang it on your coffee table. Ain’t I right?”

He winks at me.

“Well you’re not getting in, Peter,” Goat grunts. “You’re not over 21.” He thrusts the card back at me.

“I’m twenty and a half!” I protest to the first guy. “Please?”

He chuckles. “You really want in that badly, huh? Why don’t you prove it?” He puckers and points to his lips.

Well, if it’ll get me in…

I leap up, wrap my arms around him and give him a smooch. His orange moustache tickles my nose. Yuck. The feel of his soft body under my hands turns me off and the thought of kissing such an overweight guy revolts me. Worried that I’m not selling it, I make some encouraging moaning sounds. He presses his hard dick into my stomach, and I automatically shuffle back half a step.

Goat snorts in disgust, and I wonder if he’s capable of making any civilised sounds. He says, “Take your fucking job seriously, Matt. I don’t want to see you kissing every guy you find cute.”

I think to myself that Goat’s picked the wrong job if he doesn’t want to see guys making out.

Matt lets me go with a booming laugh. “Okay, kid, save it for the fags inside,” he says affectionately. “Go on.” He slaps my backside.

I shoot Goat a triumphant look, and he stares back at me with a mix of pity and disgust — and we’re all caught up now.

**

I traipse down the stairs to Exile and all thought of the two doormen are immediately washed away by the loud music and the sea of hot guys. The interior is a high contrast of dark, intimate spaces and bright, dazzling lights, and the design is sleek and modern. There is a bar with a line of red stools, half of them occupied, a couple of leather sofas which are all taken, and a small but lively dance floor, crowded and heavily lit by a dozen flashing colours.

I hit the dance floor first and dance up a storm. No fewer than four guys approach me in the first few minutes which sends my ego soaring. One named Arthur pulls me aside and buys me a drink. He’s tall, young and handsome, with a tight tee that shows off his muscled body. He hits on me hard, and I love it. I’ve never been hit on like this. He’s charismatic, smells amazing and oozes wealth and power. The free drinks keep on coming. I can feel some people looking on, like they’re witnessing something special they want to be a part of.

He’s letting me rub his abs when an older, bearded man approaches us.

“Hey! I’m Steve.”

I look at him. He’s an older silver bear. I decide to be nice to him.

“Hi. I’m Pinky.”

“Can I buy you a drink?” he offers loudly over the music.

“Beat it old man,” snaps Arthur. “We’re busy.”

“Thanks, but I’m good,” I reply politely, pointedly raising the unfinished drink Arthur has bought me.

“Me and some friends are on the dance floor, if you wanted to join us…?”

I look over, spot his friends who are all in their mid 40’s, waving at us as they gyrate under the lights, and I can’t tell if he’s joking. Surely he can see what I’ve got right now. Arthur’s the hottest guy in the bar, and this old fart thinks I’d rather be anywhere else?

“Leave us alone while you can walk, Steve,” Arthur growls, and I can feel myself blushing. Just knowing that Arthur is that into me makes me wonder how I could have gotten so lucky my first time. Beginner’s luck, I tell myself in a vain attempt to remain humble.

When Arthur suggests I suck him off outside I readily agree. My head is buzzing pleasantly from the drinks. He takes my hand and pulls me through a back-door into a dark alleyway. It’s dark and deserted, but the dance music still filters through the brick walls.

“Take your top off,” Arthur commands.

I wrench it off and fling it on the ground.

“Fuck yeah! Your pants too.”

My jeans are off in a heartbeat. I’m in my underwear. Arthur is grinning like a maniac, and I find myself smiling shyly.

Thank god I wore my sexy underpants.

“Get on your knees, boy.”

I kneel before him and reach for his zipper. It’s so dark that I don’t see his knee shoot up to catch me under my chin.

I bite my tongue and blood fills my mouth. Before I can make sense of what’s happening, Arthur’s fist catches me squarely in the jaw and I’m sent spinning onto the ground. My palms graze the rough concrete, losing all its skin and I cry out in pain.

I turn and cower with my arms raised, confused and frightened, twisting and squirming under his oncoming blows. Luckily most of them either glance off my shoulders or land on my arms, but each punch feels like a block of concrete slamming into me.

“Money!” I cry, so terrified I can’t even beg properly. “I’ll give you all my money. Please, don’t hurt me!”

He grabs my hair, and twists viciously as he pulls me close and hisses, “Shut the fuck up. If anyone hears us, you’re dead.”

I whimper and give him my wallet. He takes my cash and casually throws the wallet onto the roof of Exile behind him. He puts the money away, and I’m foolish enough to think it’s all over.

Then he backhands me, hard, and my ears ring from the sound of the slap. Blood trickles down my chin; he’s split my lip.

“I’m not after money,” he spits, his beautiful eyes glinting maliciously. “I’m after faggy, little gay-boys like you to teach a lesson to!” He pulls his arm back to punch me again, but a shout stops him.

“Oi! What the fuck is going on here?”

I dare to look away from Arthur; it’s the doorman that Matt called Goat.

He charges at Arthur, who swings his fist viciously at his new target. Goat ducks and catches Arthur in a full-bodied tackle, and they both land heavily on the concrete. Goat picks himself up, but Arthur remains on the ground, knocked unconscious.

“You alright, Peter?” he asks, panting a bit. Judging from his bulk and age, I’m surprised he’s not breathing more heavily. He’s clearly well past his physical prime.

I’m fine, though. Or I think I am. I scramble to retrieve my clothes and start to get dressed. It is obvious to Goat what happened here, and I’m so embarrassed to not only to have been discovered half naked, but to have been saved by the likes of him.

I’ve got one leg thrust into my jeans when shivers suddenly take hold of my body, and I double over and retch up blood and all the booze I shared with Arthur into the gutter. My throat feels raw and my tongue stings from the acidic bile. The shock of my ordeal fades, and I can feel every punch Arthur managed to land on me. It takes all of my strength not to cry in front of the doorman.

Goat stands back, watching me dispassionately, and then he says, “Steve warned me you were leaving with someone you just met. Stupid thing to do. We’ve had a fair number of guys getting bashed around these parts. A closeted hater, we figured, picking up naive guys for the sole purpose of assaulting them. I’m glad it’s Arthur — I’ve always wanted to punch that fucker in the face.”

He looks wistfully at Arthur’s unconscious body while he talks, as though debating to himself whether it would be a good idea to straddle him and start pummelling away.

I finish getting dressed.

“Come on, Pinky. Come back to the bar with me and I’ll take a look at your injuries. I’ve seen and given my share of punched faces. Can you walk?”

I can, but it feels like everything inside me is broken. Of course, Goat doesn’t offer me any assistance. He sighs impatiently as I hobble painfully behind him at a snail’s pace.

“Wait,” I say suddenly, and stumble back to Arthur. I dig out his wallet and count out the money he took from me. “He took this from me earlier,” I explain as I pocket it with trembling fingers.

“Where’s your wallet?” Goat asks at once with a frown.

“He threw it on the roof.”

All my cards and my driver’s license were in my wallet and now gone, but I try not to think about it.

I leave the rest of Arthur’s money in there, and Goat smiles for the first time. “You’re not as big of a jerk I thought you were,” he says, but he comes over to loot the rest of Arthur’s money before we head back.

**

We return to Exile.

Everyone stares at me as I shamble past, covered in blood and assault markings. I see Steve stare at me with his mouth open in astonishment, and I try to say thank you, but it catches it my throat and I keep walking with my head down. Goat takes me into a dingy staff room and sits me at a small table under a bright, yellow light.

“Thanks, Goat,” I mutter quietly as he takes the seat opposite me.

Goat frowns, annoyed, and I realise ‘Goat’ probably isn’t his real name. I inquire, and he tells me it’s Otis. Otis Sideris.

I study Otis in the bright light. He has light olive skin, dark-brown hair that is nearly black and a nondescript face. His features are far from handsome or cute, but they suit his round head and plump cheeks. Beard growth shadows most of his face. It runs all the way up to join with the short hair on his head, and the ring of hair it forms only emphasises how chubby he is. I spy a double chin his scruff doesn’t quite cover, and poking out the top of his black shirt is a tuft of black chest hair.

He has full lips, but they’re pressed in a severe line, as though holding back a slew of insults he’d like to throw at me.

Just as I open my mouth to ask him what sort of a nickname ‘Goat’ is, he starts checking my face roughly.

He forces my head this way, and then the other, tilting my jaw under the light. He prods at my face, and I yelp when it hurts. I open my mouth as per his instruction and he checks my teeth, then wrinkles his nose at the smell of bile and blood and stomps out of the room. He comes back with a bottle of water for me so I can rinse out my mouth.

I can tell Otis thinks I’m a slutty good-for-nothing who got what I deserved.

He confirms that thought by saying, “Well I hope you’ve learned your lesson. It’s a good thing you’re a small target. Nothing’s hurting where it shouldn’t, and you don’t seem to have any broken bones. I can take you to the hospital if you want to be sure.”

“No, I’m fine,” I lie. “I just want this night to be over.” Before the tears start in public.

“Okay. I’m just going to get Ralph. He’s the boss. We’ll call the cops and deal with the scumbag.” He pushes himself up from the table and leaves. I hear him shouting for Matt to drag Arthur inside where they can keep an eye on him.

I don’t want to talk to the police, so I gingerly pick the grit from my scraped palms and sip my water. I wait until Otis is talking with Ralph and then take my leave. Matt passes me on the way out. He’s dragging an unconscious Arthur in from the back door and the sight of my attacker sends me running off with my heart in my mouth. I drop the bottle of water Otis gave me and fly up the stairs. I don’t slow down until I can no longer hear the dance track coming from the bar.

My walk home is difficult. I can’t stop twitching at every movement from the corner of my eyes. I’m glancing and looking back at every shadow in case there is another gay-basher hiding there. I nearly have a heart attack when a car pulls up next to me, but it stops and I keep walking.

The car pulls up again, this time with the window down. It’s Otis.

“You could have told me you were just going to run off like that,” he shouts angrily. “Get in and I’ll give you a lift home.”

I eye his car and shake my head. The car rolls to a halt, and to my dismay Otis climbs out and catches up to me. He’s wearing a blue jacket over his black doorman’s uniform.

“Stupid of me to ask you to get into a stranger’s car after what just happened,” he grumbles. “I can walk you home if you’d like.”

I don’t know what Otis is trying to prove. He’s just another chest-pounding ape to me. But if I’m scared of him, then others would be too. Selfishly, I accept.

We walk in silence. I notice him following my darting gaze as my imagination places attackers in the shadows, giving credence to my foolishness. I wish he’d stop. It quickly gets cold and I’m soon hugging myself as we walk.

“You’re shivering,” Otis says gruffly, and takes his jacket off. He tries to put it around my shoulders — just like in all the romantic movies — but the scent of another man on me freaks me out and I stagger away, flailing my skinny arms at him. I cover my fear with rudeness and carry on trembling in the cold.

Otis follows me all the way up the stairs to my small apartment located on one of the middle floors.

“Want me to come by midday tomorrow — I mean midday today and check up on you?” he asks. “Make sure you’re doing okay?”

“I’m fine,” I reply shortly. I unlock the door and turn to look at him. “Why are you being so nice to me?” Unless I have been reading him wrong, he doesn’t think much of me, and I haven’t given him any reason to change that opinion.

“I was once young, stupid and naive too,” he says with a shrug. What an arsehole. I close the door firmly in his face.

And that should have been the end of that.

**

Although I had said I was fine, I don’t do too well.

The effect of Arthur’s attack doesn’t magically end when Otis intervened; the first night I don’t sleep at all, however I also don’t break down and cry like I thought I would. I lock the doors and turn every light on, then lie awake in bed straining my ears, listening for the sounds of anyone trying to break in.

It’s crazy, I know. What are the odds of another gay-basher seeing me leave Exile and following me home? But the alternative is to relax and let my mind wander, and I can feel the memory of Arthur’s attack hovering behind my barriers, waiting to reduce me to a snivelling, pathetic wreck.

When the police visit in the morning my head is throbbing so forcefully I feel sick. I curse Otis for telling the police where I live, but cooperate with them. They collect a statement from me, and return my wallet which one of the Exile staff members happened to find on the roof. One guess as to who that was.

Over the next few days my condition worsens slightly. Every morning after two hours sleep, I wake up with my shirt soaked through with sweat. I don’t leave my apartment. When my appetite finally makes a return, I don’t have any food in the apartment so I live off pizza and Chinese food and burn through most of my monthly allowance by having them delivered. I can barely sleep at night because of all the lights I keep on to stop the memories of the dark alleyway from resurfacing.

The faint markings on my arms and face blossom in horrific bruises, blotchy smudges of grey and blue tinged with yellow — a constant reminder of what happened that night. I remember being so proud of my cute looks, but the haunted face staring back at me in the mirror looks nothing like my past, proud self.

In fact, it looks young, stupid and naive.

The thought of visiting another gay bar doesn’t even cross my mind. I still get horny though, and I try masturbating while looking at porn on my laptop, but my thoughts keep returning to Arthur and soon I stop bothering to try.

To pass the time until art school starts, I turn to painting. It has always helped me find my centre. I dig out my canvas frame and assemble it, stretch a piece of canvas over it and staple it in place and then prop it on a chair. I sit in bed in front of it with my acrylic paints and a cup of water for the brush.

An hour passes while I try to work out what I’m feeling. I honestly don’t know if I’m angry, ashamed or frustrated, or if all emotions inside me have just shrivelled up and disappeared.

I stop trying to analyse myself and just start painting. My mind drifts, the colours fly, and my spirits lift ever so slightly.

**

When class starts on Monday I force myself out of the apartment. That I am able to step outside is the shock of the day — until I find my class, take a seat, and spot Otis sitting one table over.

I barely recognise him with his blue superman shirt, jeans and glasses. His face is a little fuzzier too, which adds to his plump appearance. He’s smiling, showing off his perfect white teeth, and talking to two friends. He didn’t seem to notice me when I walked in which suits me just fine. Each table seats four people side by side facing the centre of the room, so I lean back slightly to put another student between us and wait for the class to start.

The teacher expects us all to be adept artists already. After a brief introduction informing us about what to expect throughout the semester, we dive right into some rapid gestural sketching with nude models. Another woman walks in and disrobes, and there is a flurry of activity as we all start working.

The model does 20 half-minute poses, keeping time with her phone which beeps every 30 seconds. What people might not realise is that nude drawing in art school isn’t as sexual as they think. It’s very intense and mentally draining. Even if it was a super hot guy, any interest would quickly be lost in the task of capturing their pose in the short amount of time. And besides, if you’re searching for a dick to perve on, there are better places than a $400 art class to look.

When the model switches to full-minute poses the pressure in the room dissipates. I can’t help but wonder how Otis is doing and look over to see him sitting slumped in his chair doodling lazily. Unlike most of the other students who actually care about the subject and have a sketchbook, he is drawing on plain photocopy paper with a ballpoint pen.

And then I see his sketches and my jaw drops. He’s good, I realise. In fact, he’s better than me. I watch Otis capture the model’s pose with ease using a few confident strokes, and then blindly complete the finer details without needing to look away from the model. He has near perfect hand-to-eye coordination.

The teacher walks over and tuts at my lack of work. Otis starts to look my way, so I duck forward and focus on the task at hand. The current model leaves after a few more poses, and then the next model walks in. She disrobes, arranges her long dreadlocks and picks a starting pose, starting with 10 two-minute poses.

I sketch her in under a minute, and then pick a part of her body to focus on in high detail. I pick her hands as they generally have an interesting way of interacting with light, shadow and foreshortening. The trick is to just draw what you see, not what you think you see.

“Don’t be afraid to move seats, students!” The teacher calls imperiously between the third and fourth pose. “Find a new angle you haven’t tried yet, or an angle you’re not comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to mix it up a little; you’ll thank me later.”

Otis grabs his stack of used papers and relocates to the other side of the room. I watch him walk. He’s chubbier than I thought he was; without his doorman uniform his body jiggles a bit, but he moves with the grace of a former athlete. He slumps in his new seat and starts drawing, and I remain unnoticed.

The third model is a skinny young man, lightly toned with an uncut penis. His arranges himself and everyone else starts drawing. I glance at Otis, and I’m surprised to see him sitting up straight in his chair and drawing energetically, his eyes bright with lust. There is so much hunger in his eyes I’m glad I declined his offer to check up on me the night he walked me home.

When the class is done I race home before darkness falls. I make sure the rooms are empty, lock the doors and turn on the lights and settle in for another night of troubled sleep. It’s been almost a week and a half since I last jacked off, so naturally I start to touch myself when I can’t sleep. I try to think of the nude model from today’s class, but my mind keeps slipping not to Arthur, but to Otis and the crazed lust in his eyes. I stroke myself and imagine that lust directed at me, and manage to come all over my shirt.

**

I attend my other daytime classes: photography, traditional animation and a couple of classes based entirely around responding to a fortnightly brief, but don’t spot Otis in any of them.

The class we share has two mandatory sessions a week, and hosts the second class on Thursday night. I can’t bring myself to be outside when it is night time, much to my own disappointment, so I skip it and work on another therapeutic painting.

When I attend the next Monday class the wall is lined with black and white charcoal artworks depicting the city’s night lights from the building’s rooftop. Most of them look like stars and streaks of white lost in a sea of black, but one stands out from the rest and I’m surprised to see Otis’s name scratched into the corner.

Otis walks in at that moment and looks right at me. He’s not wearing his glasses today. I turn around and quickly find a seat, hoping that he thinks I’m someone else. But then I remember I’m still covered in bruises.

Otis sits next to me with his two friends taking their seats on his far side.

“I didn’t know you were in this class or I would have said hi,” he says by way of greeting.

He introduces Janet and Kyle who I wave back at meekly. Janet has flaming, curly hair and Kyle is as husky as Otis, but clean shaven and bald as an egg.

“I didn’t see you on Thursday,” Otis says, leaning closer to me. “Are you doing okay?”

“What makes you think I’m not?” I answer defiantly.

“Well I figured you were still too afraid to leave the apartment.”

That makes me ignore him for the rest of the class.

The teacher walks in and Otis puts his glasses on, and tells me he only really needs them when focusing. I’m still fuming so I don’t even acknowledge him speaking to me. What would he know about being victimised?

When the class is wrapping up, Janet leans over and tells me the three of them plan on going to a movie and dinner afterwards. I’d be welcome to join them.

I politely decline. I have to be home before dark, I tell her, which is true, but for completely bullshit, self-imposed reasons.

As soon as the teacher finishes the class I leave the table with a hasty goodbye, making a quick stop at the restroom before I head home. When I leave the restroom I spot Otis, Janet and Kyle standing huddled in the court yard. Janet and Kyle peel off, and Otis hangs back.

I know I owe Otis a proper thank you. The closest thing I had said was ‘thanks, Goat’, which only seemed to tick him off. With Otis all alone clutching his loose sheets of drawing paper, now would be the perfect chance. I dash over; he sees me coming and looks at me in surprise.

“Hey Peter.”

“Hi. Thank you for rescuing me that night, Otis. I mean it. You saved my life.”

“Oh. You already thanked me,” he points out with a grin. “But I appreciate it.”

He stands there, looking at me, while Janet and Kyle walk further and further away to the car park.

Ah, crap.

“Aren’t… Aren’t you going with your friends to watch a movie?”

“Nah. I’d be third-wheeling a married couple, and I barely even know them. I only met them last week when they sat at my table, and I think Janet has a crush on me.” He seems pleased with the last bit. “So, are you hungry? I was about to grab some dinner here before I head home.”

“Oh, here?” The food court is suddenly very appealing to me. Nice and bright, filled with other students and loud chatter. “Sure, okay.”

We duck into the noisy food court for what Otis promises to be a quick meal. It should still be light when we finish eating. I get a chicken pie with chips and a Coke, and Otis gets serving of cheesy potato bake with sides of steamed carrots, peas and broccoli. The foam cup in his hand turns out to be tea.

“Healthy eater,” I observe.

“The perils of being a vegetarian, Peter,” he laughs, and adds, “There’s only one meat I’ll ever put in my mouth.”

The motherly serving lady with silver hair and wrinkles gapes scandalously at him, but the joke flies over my head; I’m too busy squinting at him, trying to see how he manages to stay so large while eating so healthily.

Otis pays for both of our meals and we carry the food on plastic trays to a vacant table. I thank him for paying for my food and offer to pay him back, but Otis waves my offer away and chuckles darkly. “That was Arthur’s money I took when he was unconscious.”

Memories of my night at Exile fill my mind, and I tense up. The drone of conversation in the food court fades to a quiet ringing and I stare at my food numbly.

“Please don’t leave,” Otis says suddenly, snapping me out of my daze with a hand on my arm. “I only meant to lighten the mood. It was stupid of me to bring it up.”

“Huh?” I look down and see that I’m gripping the sides of my tray. “Oh, I didn’t mean to…”

I let go and we start eating in an awkward silence.

Otis makes a brave attempt at conversation. “I really admire your resilience, you know. You’re out here and facing the world again. I was in your shoes once, and I couldn’t leave my place for two whole months.”

I give him a doubtful look which plainly says I don’t believe him, which I don’t.

Otis stops shovelling potato and peas into his mouth and shows me a faint scar running down the middle of his forehead from his hairline. It’s very noticeable once you know it’s there. “They hit me so hard my head split open. I had to get stitches and everything — there was so much blood I thought I was going to die.”

“It looks like you were attacked by Voldemort.”

He laughs at my reference until he’s teary eyed and I smile for the first time in a week.

“So how does a big guy like you get a scar like that?”

“When a big guy like me comes out to his family,” he explains stoically, looking me right in the eye. I can see it’s an old hurt, the memory scarred over countless times and no longer affecting him. Maybe I’ll be the same one day.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say quietly. I study him furtively behind my hair, trying to identify what it is that made me assume he was straight. “I didn’t know you were gay.”

Otis shrugs. “Yeah, well, first impressions can be deceiving. I thought you were just a shallow, slutty twink with nothing between his ears when you called yourself Pinky and made out with Matt just to get into Exile. But then you don’t take Arthur’s money, and look at you now. You’ve proven me wrong.”

“And I thought you were a big violent jock who hated me.” I nod at his loose papers with his sketches and wave a hand at our food. “You’ve proven me wrong too.”

We grin at each other happily now that the ice is finally broken.

I find Otis incredibly easy to talk to.

I expected our conversations to be centred on his work, or sports or going to the gym, but he’s into the same nerdy stuff I’m secretly into. It’s almost like talking with someone who’s the same age as me. That’s when I find out he’s only 31 years old, which is a lot younger than what I had assumed, but still more than a decade on me.

We strike a topic goldmine and talk about art non-stop for a good half hour, discussing inspirations, aspirations and everything in between. He tells he grew up harbouring a desire to one day become a comic book artist; I tell him I’m still unsure about exactly what I want to end up doing. We swap stories of the most ludicrous artwork installation we’ve seen or been involved with, and he makes me laugh so hard my throat hurts. My cheeks are sore but I can’t stop smiling.

Once our meals are finished we push the trays aside and cover the table with the sketches from the class. His are all perfect. We pore over them together for a long time, and I let him flip through my sketchbook while the conversation is fuelled by talk of the class work and mutual compliments on our drawings.

I buy us gelato for dessert and we eat it while strolling out into the grassy courtyard. That’s when I realise it is night time, and I’m outside my apartment and feeling happy and safe.

But the dark still has its drawbacks. Just thinking about why I was so afraid pulls my thoughts back to my night at Exile, and I feel a numbness creep through my body. I break out in a cold sweat.

Otis is staring at me, waiting for a reply to a question I didn’t hear.

“Sorry?” I hazard a response.

“I said, I’m really having a good time with you, and I’d like to do it again sometime and get to know you better. Can I take you out to lunch tomorrow? On a date?”

His question catches me off guard, and I’m already half-paralysed with fear. My throat locks up and I end up staring blankly at him while I try to think of something to say.

Otis drops his gaze, looking confused and disheartened. He mumbles an apology and turns to leave.

“Wait! Otis. I — I wasn’t –”

He turns back around, but my explanation doesn’t seem to want to come out. Everything that’s happened to me swims to the forefront of my mind and I suddenly feel tears welling up in my eyes.

Otis pulls me to a wooden bench and throws our gelato cups away. “There, there, it’s okay,” he murmurs gruffly, patting me on the shoulder. He looks a tad uncomfortable, and glares at the gawking students passing by; he must think I’m broken.

I dry my eyes and assure him I’m okay.

“I’m just not ready — to do anything. With anyone.”

“I’ll just have to try again later then, hey?” he suggests kindly, and I silently curse myself for my poor choice of words.

Even if Otis had been a minute earlier with the question before my thoughts were dominated by Arthur, I probably would have said no anyway. Otis is so different from who I ever envisioned myself dating, and so much older than me as well.

My unspoken answer must be showing on my face because Otis suddenly scowls.

“You could have just said no without the waterworks.”

He pushes himself to his feet and leaves without a goodbye.

I suddenly find myself out in the dark and dangerous night without my protector. My apartment is close, but I don’t think I will be able to get home by foot so I opt for the bus. There’s a nerve-wrecking moment when I realise I’d have to wait at the bus-stop all alone, but thankfully there’s a large group of noisy students gathered there already.

When I get off the bus I sprint all the way home and go through my usual nightly ritual of locking the doors and turning on all the lights.

**

As the school term builds up, so does my workload. I don’t have time to wallow in my sadness, which is wonderfully freeing in an odd, reversed kind of way. Janet is in my photography class, and we quickly get onto talking terms. Just like her red hair, her personality is fierce. She’s fun and loud and chatty. I find out she runs the local branch of a digital media company and dreams of one day working alongside with her husband Kyle. It’s a sweet dream.

I see Otis in our shared class twice a week, but we no longer talk to each other. Janet and Kyle sit between us. The three of them share a couple of other classes, so our little group of four in that class stays intact. If they notice the iciness between me and Otis, they’re polite enough not to bring it up.

Janet and I partner up for a photography project. The theme is motion, and we come up with the idea of capturing water. It’s dynamic, it’s unpredictable, and she really sells the idea of pelting each other with water-bombs while Kyle takes the pictures as fun. I agree to it, and we meet on the grassy courtyard on a sunny day to do it.

We’re having fun, throwing water-filled balloons and buckets of water at each other while fully clothed, and the images Kyle captures look great. When we’ve exhausted our supply of water-balloons, Janet finds a hose, and giggling evilly, sprays me down. We do some that make it look like I’m shooting water from my hands. As I’m wiping the water from my eyes, I’m horrified to see Otis joining Kyle on the grass.

“Do one without your shirt, with your arms held out like this,” instructs Janet, who had stripped down to an undershirt half an hour ago. She’s not aware of how uncomfortable I’ve suddenly become. When I don’t move, she holds her own arms out to show me what she means.

I’m reluctant to take my shirt off in public, especially in front of Otis, but Kyle eggs me on and I take it off. I’ve got a lightly muscled chest and a flat stomach and skinny arms. Otis watches me silently, and I’m reminded of the way he stared at the skinny, nude model. But then Janet attacks me with the water and I forget all about it.

“Come back, you’ve got it!” Kyle calls a while later, and we trudge over to our bags with our dry clothes and towels in them. Otis stares at my bare chest with his mouth hanging open, as though stunned, before he realises he’s staring and quickly looks away.

I cloak myself in my dry towel and review our snapshots with Janet and Kyle, which is when Otis bids us a farewell and leaves us to it. We agree on the best ones and discuss how to refine them in Photoshop for the project, and then exchange Skype details so Kyle can send me my share of the photos. We wrap our meeting up and say our goodbyes, and then I head to the closest bathroom to change out of my sodden clothes.

There are two stalls and a wall of urinals. One of the stalls is occupied, but otherwise it’s empty.

I enter the free cubicle, lock and door and begin to peel off my wet garments. That’s when a muffled groan alerts me to repetitive rubbing sound — the guy in the other stall is jerking off. Blood rushes to my groin; I’m immediately turned on. I glance down and I can see the stranger’s shadow. I press myself back against the far wall so he can’t see mine, and I watch.

The stranger is sitting on the toilet, with a large hand wrapped around his cock, and is jerking himself off so hard and fast the shadow looks like he’s punching himself in the pelvis. He has a monster cock, like a third arm jutting forth from between his two tree-trunk legs. When he lets go to scrunch up some toilet paper, I can see the outline of his foreskin slowly roll back to cover the head.

With a wad of toilet paper ready to come into, the man starts masturbating again. The shadow of his fist glides up and down his long, hard cock. I pull out my own erect member and stroke along, but quietly and slowly so the stranger doesn’t notice. He strokes himself faster and doesn’t bother to keep his moaning quiet, and then with a groan starts unloading with so much force it shoots over the toilet paper in his hand. I hear it splatter wetly over and over against the back of the cubical door and see pearly white droplets land on the floor.

I climax at the same time, though not as heavily. I catch most of it in my hand and I let it drop into the toilet bowl.

“Oh fuck…” I hear Otis grumble at the mess he’s made, and I let out a gasp.

I freeze and hold my breath, my eyes glued to his shadow.

Otis freezes too, and I’m worried for a second that he knows it’s me, but then he goes back to wiping the jizz from his receding penis and stuffs it back into his pants. With a clink of his belt buckle, he’s belted up. The toilet paper dispenser rumbles as he pulls out a handful of paper to clean his semen off the door and floor. He flushes the toilet paper and steps out to wash his hands.

I slowly exhale.

It’s silent for a bit, and I’m straining to hear his actions. Then he growls, “Catch you later, Pinky,” and leaves in a hurry.

I wipe my hand dry, tear into my dry clothes as quick as I can, then dart into his stall. It still smells like him, like sweat and sex and his seed. I breathe in the scent giddily, growing more and more aroused without really knowing why. When I come to my senses, I wash my hands and venture carefully outside, but Otis is already gone.

**

On Monday it seems like Otis and I will carry on ignoring each other, until the teacher groups the class by table and sends us out into the grounds. She wants us to pair up in our groups and do portraits.

Naturally, Janet and Kyle pair off, leaving me with Otis. We make eye-contact, and it becomes clear neither of us are going to mention what took place in the restroom. We’re left to our own devices, so long as we get the portraits done. It’s a sunny day, and Otis suggests the outdoors where there’ll be a nice juxtaposition of light and shadow. His words, not mine.

He leads me to the roof that I never got a chance to visit when I skipped that first Thursday class.

The view is stunning from up high. Otis joins me while I excitedly capture the view of the city in my sketchbook. He puts on his glasses and draws the building across the street in explicit detail, down to the minute cracks in the plaster and the grunge on the dirty walls.

When I’m done Otis takes off his glasses and we finally get on with our portraits. It’s not as intimidating as I thought it would be. He looks peaceful when he draws, and I self consciously try to compose my face to mirror that calmness. We draw three portraits each, and when he looks over at what I’ve done, he laughs.

“What?” I say rather defensively.

“It’s nothing bad, I promise,” he says. “I look like an ape there, and in that one too.”

I look down and see he’s right; the weight of my pencil stroke thickens around the curve of his cheeks, and I’ve done an unflattering representation of his beard.

“It’s good though,” he assures me. “I like it.”

I look at his portraits of me, and see he’s done them in various styles. The first is a simplistic and appealing comic book style — sort of a mix between the stuff you’d see in Marvel comics and The Walking Dead. The second is a soft cartoonish rendition that takes five years off my age and adds a layer of innocent to my character. The third places my floating head in a tribal tattoo-styled nest of thick lines — it continuously draws the viewer’s eyes in circles.

“I’ve left out the bruises,” he comments. He looks at me seriously. “Do you need to get a doctor to look at them? They’ve faded a bit, but you’ve had them for quite a long time.”

“I just heal really slowly,” I explain. “I’ll never get an Adamantium skeleton at this rate.”

Otis laughs at my Wolverine reference, gives me a friendly nudge in the ribs, and as simple as that we start talking again. He sure is a sucker for geek culture. There’s a little tension at first. Otis is undoubtedly more guarded after my unspoken rejection, but he quickly warms up to me.

I ask him about the tattoo style he’s done; it looks professional. He tells me it is. Before working as a bouncer at Exile, Otis did tattoo designs for a parlour in the city, and was doing quite well until the owner sold the place and moved to Florida.

“I’ve got two of my own designs on my arms. Wanna see?”

I nod, and he pushes his shirt sleeves up to his armpits to show me his hairy arms. Dark brown hair obscures some of it, but it’s still clear enough to see. On one arm he’s got a complex Celtic seal the size of my hand that folds in on itself endlessly, and on the other arm an emerald and ruby coloured dragon winds its way around his muscled bicep.

“Ever think about shaving or waxing all that hair?” I ask.

Otis frowns. “Why would I want to do that?”

Then I point to a third tattoo under the dragon; it’s a name I can’t quite make out. But Otis tugs his sleeves down and changes the subject, so I let it pass. We do some more portraits, and talk about comic books, TV and movies the entire time. Otis makes me laugh really hard, and then acts upset and tells me I’m ruining his portrait, which makes me laugh even harder.

When we’re done, we’re still talking about movies, and he asks if I want to see one with him now. I readily agree, and we walk down to the cinema and flash our student cards for a discount. I buy a serving of extra-large popcorn for us to share and two large sodas.

It is dark outside by the time the movie is over, and the closest bus stop is deserted. I manage to mask my fear, but there’s no need; Otis stays by my side and waits for the bus with me. He doesn’t comment on my decision to take public transport despite living within walking distance.

The bus makes an appearance a few minutes later.

“Dinner on Thursday?” Otis asks. “As friends.”

“Yeah, I’d like that,” I smile.

“Catch you later then, Pinky,” he says, and my face glows red.

**

On the rainy, Thursday night after class, Otis and I have another amazing time together. Yes, it is in a crowded and noisy food court, and yes, a few strangers share the other end of our table throughout our meal, but we are having so much fun it barely registers.

Otis walks me home afterwards. I don’t ask him to or plan for it, but we are so engrossed in our conversation it just sort of happens. I’m glad I’ve got my protector by my side, helping me face my fears.

It begins to drizzle lightly, and I wrap my arms around myself.

“You’ve got to get some warmer clothes, Peter,” Otis sighs. He goes to take his jacket off, but I think he remembers what happened last time he tried to put one around my shoulders, and stops himself. Instead, he opens it up and offers, “C’mon, I’ll warm you up the old fashioned way.”

He pulls me into his arms and stretches the jacket around my slender body. I can’t believe how warm he is. My arms wrap themselves around his chubby body, pressing myself closer to him. I turn my head to the side and listen to him breathing, the steady beat of his heart and the sound of the rain and the wind around us. His scent reminds me of the jerk-off session we inadvertently shared. But it doesn’t only arouse me; it makes me feel safe and secure.

I know then that I’m starting to like him — a lot. I’m addicted to the way he can make me laugh, and I’ve never been able to talk to someone so naturally or comfortably after such a short amount of time. There’s never a dull moment with him, and he’s so full of positivity he can’t help but lift up those around him. He’s different from my usual tastes, but in a good way.

“Thanks for walking with me,” I say to the inside of his jacket. “And staying with me. I wouldn’t have gotten this far after — after Arthur. You really helped me take my mind off it.” Thinking about that night at Exile doesn’t even cripple me any more like it used to. “I’m glad I’ve got you.”

“Peter…” Otis breathes my name, and I look up. He’s got a wild lust in his eyes, and I’m sure I’ve got him matched with my own.

I raise myself up on the balls of my feet and lean in to kiss him. He leans down – and the sky opens above us.

“Fuck damn!” Otis looks up and curses as we are suddenly barraged by heavy raindrops. The concrete side-walk hisses under the assault of the rain.

We’re nearly at my apartment, so I grab his hand and together we make a run for it. He’s not as fast as I am, but he keeps up easily despite his bulk. We reach my place, and he hangs by the doorway while I hunt down an umbrella to loan him.

I find the umbrella and press it into his hands.

“I didn’t mean to freeze on you, when you asked me out,” I suddenly blurt out. “I do like being with you, Otis.”

He smiles. “I know, and I like being with you too, Peter. You don’t have to apologise for anything.”

I invite him inside on an impulse, but he shakes his head; he has to work tonight. He gives me a big, wet bear hug and I pull him back when he starts to pull away. We eventually stop hugging and he bids me goodnight and lumbers down the hallway.

I lock the door and turn on all the lights as usual, and then clean up in my bathroom. I jump into bed and start to touch myself. The bedroom lights are too bright to recreate the moment wrapped in Otis’s jacket and arms, so I turn them off for now. I think about the feel of Otis’s arms around me, and his strong, masculine scent, and I start to stroke myself urgently. I come into a wad of tissues, and then lie back thinking about him.

When I wake up the next morning, I realise it’s the first night in the city that I’ve slept with the lights off.

**

We have lunch and dinner every Monday and Thursday after class from then on, and each time Otis walks me home. Our conversations cover everything under the sun. I finally learn how he got the nick-name Goat. His friends called him Oats, and when he first started at Exile a customer confused it for Goat. Ralph overheard, and after repeating it as a barbed joke one day it became a friendly way of teasing him.

We talk about past art works, which leads to high school, and that of course leads to growing up and coming out. Otis learns that I haven’t yet come out to my parents, and insists that I should. He tells me of his own experience, where his mother disowned him on the spot and his father and brother beat him senseless and gave him the scar on his forehead, which terrifies me.

I’m sure my parents would understand, I tell myself, so there’s no need to tell them. Otis tells me to consider it, but doesn’t pressure me.

He also finds out I’m still an anal virgin — with both giving and receiving – when I don’t have a first-time story to share. I start telling him about the first dick I sucked, but I think it sounds desperate in comparison and I stop. He laughs and encourages me to go on, and I finish the story.

“You’re so easy to talk to, Otis. There aren’t many people that know I haven’t had sex yet… It’s embarrassing. I used to let my friends call me Pinky and think I was a slut instead of a virgin.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being a virgin,” Otis promises me solemnly.

He tells me about his job as a bouncer for Exile. The most important thing isn’t being big and intimidating, but being able to read people and talk to them. With those two alone, he can solve most situations without the need for any violence.

I start to like him as more than just an exciting new thing to lust over, or the guy who saved my life. Every time we hang out, I can feel my perception of beauty changing, and I start seeing him and the world around us in new and exciting ways.

However I’ve found such a good friend in Otis that I’m afraid of messing things up and losing him. Otis similarly seems to be holding back. We talk and laugh and flirt a lot, and all our hugs linger far too long, but that’s the extent of our friendship. Relationship. Whatever it is.

Then one Thursday night at dinner, he asks me to help him with his end-of-class exhibition. It’s a public showing for all students enrolled in the art school. I say yes, and he gives me his address and tells me to come over tomorrow afternoon.

**

Otis lives close to the art school, so I take my usual route to get there. He greets me at the door with a hug, and I twist away to get a better look at him. He’s shaved — a first for me. I’ve never seen his cheeks look so smooth. There’s no more stubble to distract from his warm, puppy dog eyes. His hair is also shorter and neater. Otis rubs his chin self-consciously while I admire him and he lets me in.

His apartment is similar to mine, in that there are art supplies strewn about all over the place, and there’s a distinct sense of organised chaos. I can quickly work out where he sits in the living room to draw, and where he sits to paint based on the tools lying around. Nearly all of the surfaces are covered with loose pages filled with thumbnails, illustrations, water-colours and ideas born from a ball-point pen.

“I’m going to do a photography piece,” he says, reaching for a case on top of a wall cabinet that contains the equipment. When his shirt lifts up I can see his hairy belly hanging slightly over his pants. Once that would have made me laugh disdainfully, but now it’s just another image I store away for my own private time.

Otis’s bedroom is slightly neater, with white bed sheets and a few garments on the floor. We use the second bedroom though, which is empty. Otis sets up the white backdrop and I take care of the lighting he borrowed from the school earlier today. Soon we have close to studio quality lighting in the small bedroom.

“Who else lives here?” I ask. The apartment is much too big for one person alone.

“Just me,” Otis replies. “It’s close to my work and school, and I make enough to cover the rent.”

“Why don’t you find a room-mate and split the cost?”

Otis falls silent as he pulls out the digital camera, and I assume it’s something else he doesn’t want to discuss, like the name tattooed on his arm. I ask him about the piece he plans on doing instead, and with a wide grin he reveals it’s going to be topless.

I splutter and make sounds, but secretly I can’t wait to see him without his shirt on.

“You ready?” he asks jokingly, as he starts to tug his shirt over his head. He takes it off, and I try not to stare his body too much.

Of course, I fail right away.

Otis has a thick-set, hairy body which comes as no surprise, and his height helps him wear his bulk well. But there is hard muscle under the fat of his belly which shifts the proportions; the fat does not hang off his frame to give him a pear shape, but rather spreads itself evenly making him look solid and impenetrable.

His chest is ruggedly built. A thick forest of chest hair sprouts between his pecs and spreads across his chest and all the way up to his shoulders and down to the hem of his pants. There’s an extra hairy line running down the middle of his belly. I can see two dark nipples peeking at me under all the thick fur. His muscular chest presses against the bulge of his belly when he leans forwards to take his pants off, and when his pants slide down his tree-trunk thighs I can see the pouch in his boxer-briefs jutting out from his endowment. Even while flaccid, it looks like his cock is straining to burst free from its cotton confines.

Otis catches me gawking at him when he straightens and grins at me, looking pleased. His modest confidence is incredibly sexy to me.

I can’t believe how turned on I am right now.

He faces the other way for a second and I see even more body hair running down his back. I want to reach out and stroke it. I’ve never been with a guy who didn’t spend countless hours waxing, shaving and meticulously plucking every hair from their bodies. I’m more than fond of Otis’s mind and personality, but right now simple lust is winning.

I sit down to hide my erection, shake my hair from my eyes and start taking pictures of him. He has about fifty ideas and wants to explore them all, so I snap several images for all of them. He checks each set after I take them, but I must be doing what he has in mind because he soon gives me full reign of the camera. My lust slowly fades to a simmer as he puts me through my paces and it’s safe for me to stand up when the required camera angle calls for it.

We finish with Otis pulling his underpants down so a sliver of his penis is visible. He has a thick bed of dark pubes. He makes a loose fist in each hand and makes sure I’ve got both of his artistic tattoos in the frame. “Make it look like I’m not wearing anything,” he instructs me.

I lower the shot until the waistband of his underwear is just out of frame and then take the photo.

He does one final review before putting his clothes back on and tells me the last one is a winner. “Hopefully that wasn’t too uncomfortable for you. There was a lot less left to the imagination compared to a shadow.”

That makes me blush crimson red, and he laughs as he goes to make us sandwiches for lunch.

I’m suddenly struck by an idea while we eat. “Hey, can I paint you?”

He seems genuinely surprised. “You want to paint me? What for?”

I nod. “For the exhibition. And I want to paint you while we’ve still got one of them light things.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that,” he says agreeably.

We finish our food and pack away all but one of the lights in the bedroom. I relocate the light to the living room, where Otis is starting up the first season of Game of Thrones on the television so he has something to pass the time with. He finds me a primed canvas and I gather black and white paint, brushes and pencils from around the apartment.

“Have you seen this show yet?” he asks.

“No. I recognise the intro music though, I think I’ve heard a YouTube cover of it.”

“You’ll thank me for not spoiling it,” he promises, and changes it to another show. He turns the volume way down so it’s not distracting. “How do you want me — fully nude? Superman pose?”

I giggle nervously and tell him topless and sitting on a stool is fine. He strips with a flourish for me and sits under the light, and as expected, his chest hair catches the incandescence beautifully. The hairs on his shoulders glow silver and give him an almost ethereal cloak of light. I sketch with pencil first and lay down the base tones quickly, and slather on the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows. The mid-tones will take care of themselves.

I paint for hours without realising it. It’s nearly midnight and Otis’s phone alarm sounds. He stretches with a grunt. “I’ve got work in 15 minutes. I’ve gotta get ready.”

I get up with a cry, flustered. “You should have told me!” I start to pack everything away, but he’s more concerned about me.

“I can’t walk you home this time, Peter. Have you got money for a cab?”

“No,” I say in a small voice. I grip the paintbrush in my hand tightly before I return it to its proper place. Be brave, I tell myself, for Otis. “It’s fine. I can walk.”

“Yeah?” There’s a congratulatory note in his voice.

“I’ll pretend you’re by my side.” That comes out much more romantic than it sounded in my head and I feel my neck turn red.

Otis holds out his hand. “Give me your phone. I’m adding my number and I want you to call me if anything happens. If you’re in trouble or if you need me to come over or whatever — I’ll be there in five minutes.”

I pass my phone over. “You’d do that for me?”

“I thought my crush on you was obvious, Peter,” he says with a small smile.

I swallow, empty mouthed and look into his eyes. He looks back, and I know it’s more than a crush.

He suddenly holds the camera out, taps the screen, and takes a shirtless photo of himself. “In case you need a reference image,” he says with a wink as he passes it back to me.

I call his number to make sure it works, and his phone buzzes.

“I’ve got your number now,” says Otis playfully, checking his phone.

“Then you better give me a call some time.”

Otis is grinning like a drunken fool. “Okay Peter, I’ve got to take a shower before work, but I’ll see you on Monday?”

“Have a good night, Otis.” I hug him goodbye, run my hands down his back and breathe him in, wishing that my own shirt was off.

Canvas painting in hand and Otis on my mind, I brave the dark streets and make my way home. I find another use for his reference image that night when I’m alone in my bed, and suspect that was what he had intended all along.

**

We don’t see each other until Monday, but that doesn’t mean we don’t hear from each other.

Otis and I text each other back and forth on Saturday, and then he calls me in the late afternoon and we talk until he has to go to work. We do the same on Sunday, but at the end of our hour-long conversation he asks me if I want to have lunch with him tomorrow after class.

“We already do.”

“I don’t mean the cafeteria. I mean a proper restaurant, with plates that don’t have different sections for your food, and cutlery that isn’t plastic. I’ll drive us there and back. As a thank you for helping me out with my project.”

“Like a date?” I ask him.

Otis stumbles for a bit, and then says, “Yeah, like a date. But only if you want to.”

“I do. I’ll see you tomorrow, Otis.”

I dive into my meagre wardrobe and try to put together an outfit that will impress him. Nothing skimpy or too tight and nothing I haven’t already worn to class. It doesn’t leave much, but I dig out a white dress shirt that goes well with my jeans. Then I wonder if the place we’re going is a no-jeans sort of place.

I try the same shirt with my black jeans. It’s as fancy as I can get with my budget.

**

I wear my fine clothes to class on Monday, and when I see Otis I can feel my jaw drop. He’s wearing a grey button-up shirt that fits him perfectly. It’s unbelievably sexy and shows off his broad, muscled shoulders and arms. The way his shirt is tucked in makes the fabric hug his body, and is like seeing him without any shirt at all. To my relief, he has completed his outfit with a pair of jeans. He hasn’t shaved his beard since Friday, and a dense scruff claims his face once again.

We do messy emotional painting that day in class. The tables and chairs have all been pushed to the side of the room, and about 25 painting easels now fill the room. There’s a set of headphones for each of us, each connected to an iPod — property of the school — filled with various types of music, and there are pots of various paints and inks.

Thankfully the teacher passes out aprons. She stares at me and Otis in our fancy get-up with raised eyebrows, accurately reading into the situation before moving on. Everyone else puts their apron on so Otis and I don’t feel silly doing it, and we manage to get through the entire lesson without a single drop of paint or ink touching our clothes.

There isn’t a chance to talk with the headphones on. I am quickly lost in my own sort of artistic trance listening to classical music while I let my paintbrush roam free without too much thought. I try metal and dub-step with interesting results, and make a mental note to try the latter again some time.

Less than a minute after I take my apron off at the end of the class, I turn around and walk right into Janet who splatters her tray of inks across my chest. It soaks right through to my skin.

“Omigod!” she squeals and tray clatters to the ground to get my shoes and jeans as well. “I’m so sorry, Peter. I’ll clean it for you.”

“It’s alright, I’ve got it,” I mumble. I hurry into the back room and swap the shirt for an apron, then stand at the sink and rinse as much of the colour out of it. There’s no salvaging it for our date.

Otis finds me. “We can try again another time,” he says unhappily, hands in his pockets. “I don’t expect you to want to go out with a wet, stained shirt. I won’t force you to either.” He looks so disconsolate I want to give him a hug, but my apron has wet paint on it.

I can’t bear seeing Otis like this, not when I can do something about it.

“Why don’t we go back to your place? Pizza and a movie?”

“Place-holder date it is,” he says, beaming.

We walk back to his place. My shirt is still wet and the sun is still out, so I wear it unbuttoned and it flaps slightly in the wind.

Otis can’t keep his eyes off me. When he realises I’m watching him watch me, he offers to hold the shirt for me. I laugh and button it up.

“I was being serious,” Otis says. “You’ve got a really nice body. You should be proud of it. If I looked like you, I’d be showing it off all the time.”

We reach his apartment, and he finds his smallest shirt which looks three times my size. I thank him and take my shirt off to change in the living room. My chest is still mottled with blended inks and I groan.

“Hey Otis, reckon I can take a quick shower?”

“Yeah, might as well. I’ll order the pizza while you’re doing that.”

Otis finds me a clean towel, and again can’t seem to take his eyes off my bare chest. He runs a thumb down my smooth chest and I can see him biting his lower lip. I wait for him to do more, but he pulls back.

“Go wash your perfect body,” he sighs, smitten and not afraid to show it. “What toppings do you want on the pizza?” he calls out as I step in the shower cubicle.

“Whatever you’re having!”

Once I’m clean I put on his giant shirt and join Otis on the couch. I have my underpants on, but don’t bother wearing my inky jeans. Otis offers me some pants, but the delivery man knocks on the door and he gets up to collect and pay for the pizza. When he sits back down, he makes my side of the couch jump and I giggle.

“What? What did I do?” he asks innocently, and sets the pizza box on the coffee table. The bemused look on his face only makes me laugh even harder. “Aw c’mon, tell me!” The corners of his mouth tilt up, and he starts tickling me. I yelp in surprise and tickle him back, and soon we’re rolling around on the couch, hiking each other’s shirts up and tickling each other while the pizza sits there forgotten. I lose my shirt, but manage to hitch his up over his head and scurry my fingers up and down his sides which has him gasping for breath.

When the laughter finally subsides, I’m straddling his lap with my hands resting firmly on his hairy chest. Otis’s shirt is off and lost somewhere behind the couch. He holds me against him with his large hands pressed against my lower back and I run my hands through the hair on his body. I can feel his erect penis nudging mine, and mine responds like it has a life of its own.

“Otis…”

He brushes the hair from my face and kisses me.

His soft lips leave mine tingling and wanting more. I wrap my arms around his neck and I kiss him again, and this time his lips part under my own.

I can feel his cock throbbing under me, and I reach down to grab it.

“Mmph. Peter, don’t…”

I shift back a bit and rub him through his jeans. He reaches hesitantly for mine. I grab his hand and hold it against my cock. He rubs me through my underwear, and it feels so good. His hands are warm, and his fingers jostle and stroke my cock and balls.

“Fuck, you’re rock hard…” he breathes.

His hips thrust gently as I rub him, and he tilts his head back with a moan. I unzip him.

“Don’t…”

But he offers no further resistance.

With my help his cock springs free from his boxer-briefs. It is as big as I had imagined since seeing its shadow in the restroom. It’s easily 9 inches and is as thick as my wrist. I don’t know how I’m going to wrap my lips around that, but I can’t wait to give it a try.

“Peter, stop,” he says when he sees what I’m about to do. He pulls his underwear over his monster of a cock, and the waistband bounces back to his hips with a definite snap.

I’m confused. I know it’s not a size issue for him — he’s hung like a god. He clearly has no problem getting it hard.

“Don’t you want me?”

“I want you so fucking bad, Peter, you have no idea…” He kisses me to prove it. “But I’ve been with guys where we suck on the first date, fuck on the second, and by the third he’s seen and done everything and you never hear from him again. It hurts, and it makes you feel like shit. So now I have a rule where I go slowly with any guy who means something to me.”

His eyes search mine, and I see a flicker of worry in them. He’s so attentive to my needs and my thoughts, and I know with certainty I could wait a whole year for him if he asked.

I think I’m falling in love. And he hasn’t even seen my dick yet.

I’m not ready to admit it yet, so I kiss him, opened mouth and find his tongue with my own. He squeezes my ass gently, one cheek and then the other, while I grind myself against him. His finger strays to rub my hole and soon his belly is slick with my pre-come.

We are so getting blue balls tomorrow.

We make-out until our stomaches are growling, then we detach ourselves from each other and reheat the pizza in the microwave. Otis puts on the movie; it’s The Fellowship of the Ring. He kicks off his pants and shirt and we settle side by side on the couch wearing only our underwear.

Not how I imagined how our first date would look.

“I’m taking you out on a proper date next time,” Otis promises, devouring half his slice in one bite.

“This is perfect, Otis. I love the view. I love the movie, too.”

“It’s my favourite too.” He winks at me, and I can’t tell if he’s talking about me or the movie.

We polish off the pizza and then snuggle up on one side of the couch. Otis doesn’t have to work Monday nights, and it feels so good with his arms wrapped around me we decide to attempt the whole 9-hour marathon and watch all three movies. I fall asleep near the end of The Two Towers.

I wake up the next morning in Otis’s bed, with my last memory of being on the couch.

I’m not in my bed — my first instinct is panic.

‘I want you so fucking bad, Peter, you have no idea…’

I leap off Otis’s crisp white sheets and check myself. My underpants are still intact. I do a strange sort of stationary march on the spot. I’ve never been fucked so I don’t know what it’d feel like afterwards, but I’m not sore — and I think I would be, if Otis had stretched me out with his 9 inches. Then the panic fades and I realise I’m being stupid.

My reflection in the mirror catches my eye and I stare at it perplexedly. I look a little dishevelled, but happier and healthier than I have in a long time. It takes me a few seconds before it hits me — the bruises on my jaw have finally cleared.

I make my way into the living room and find Otis curled up on the couch under a blanket. He’s like a cosy little boulder. The sight of him sleeping alone makes me want him even more, but I wake him up with a chaste kiss on the cheek. I’ve got a morning class to go to, I tell him, and he offers to make me breakfast but I need to get home for clean clothes.

We hug, kiss again, and I rush home to clean my teeth and take a shower. I barely have to touch my cock before it’s spewing forth string after string of come.

**

The next few weeks fly past, and are some of the happiest moments of my life.

I go back to Otis’s place whenever we’re both free, and he puts me onto Game of Thrones. I nearly stopped watching after the first episode, thinking that the little kid dies, but he promises it gets better. I end up loving it, as he knew I would, and we demolish the rest of the season as well as the second. Otis can’t wait to introduce me to the Firefly universe.

When we aren’t watching TV and movies, playing video games together or just being close to each other while we read or work on our art, we’re passionately kissing. It’s something both of us love to do for hours on end.

I spend the night at his place every few days and we start sleeping in the same bed. There’s nothing quite like it, being spooned by a bigger hairy man. Except maybe kissing in bed, of which we do all the time now.

I don’t know exactly when we’re properly ‘together’, but it sinks in when Janet, Kyle, Otis and I go on a couple’s date to try out a new Italian restaurant.

Otis keeps to his promise of taking me out on a proper outing as well — just the two of us — and does so a few times. He pampers me on each occasion and I try not to feel guilty eating at a restaurant where the entrees alone have a $32 price tag. After living as a student for so long I’m amazed that so much money can result in so little food. With Otis by my side, however, not even the outrageous prices can ruin the amazing time we always have.

I conquer my fear and return to Exile, not to dance or drink but to meet Otis’s friends. Matt greets me with a familiar kiss, and I become friends with him, as well as the other bouncers, the two full-time bartenders and the owner, Ralph. I hang out there occasionally on the quieter nights when Otis is working, and the regulars soon know who I am.

Our end-of-term art exhibition draws closer and I build on my painting of Otis over the weeks. I am constantly inspired by the real thing to improve it until it can do him justice. I can pretty much work off memory now, having seen him with his shirt off so often. The artwork’s title comes to me gradually, but every time I think about it I smile.

Otis and I don’t get much further than kissing and grinding and some light rubbing and spanking, and I sense he’s holding back something. But I’m happy to wait as long as it takes, and likewise, Otis is content doing what we do.

**

The school term ends, and we all showcase our best work in the exhibition. The pieces will stay up for the duration of the two week break, but there’s a casual opening night with catering and speeches. It’s a pretty good turnout.

We stick to our areas and talk to the viewers. It’s a good way to scope out potential jobs for the future as well, and I manage to get a few downright insulting job offers but not much else. When the opening night wraps up, I wander through the gallery and find Otis’s work. I want him to see mine, as I’ve been keeping it a secret from him so far.

His piece consists of two large prints facing each other, made to look like Otis is looking at himself in a bathroom mirror, and the viewer can walk between them. The two images are mirrored copies, save for a tattoo of Otis’s design plastered on the forehead. The tattoo is a variation of a reflection ambigram, designed so it reads ‘BEAUTY’ one way, and when ‘mirrored’, reads ‘BEAST’.

There’s an old couple arguing about what Otis is trying to convey.

“He clearly sees himself as a beast in society’s eyes, but alone, he knows he’s beautiful.”

“No, no, no. The artist is the so-called Beauty. This is a message on vanity — he thinks he’s attractive, but others don’t agree.”

I don’t see Otis anywhere in the student’s break room, so I wander around a bit more and find him taking a breather alone in an empty classroom. He’s toying with his glasses and looks a little unhappy, so I sit next to him and wrap an arm around him. He grabs my hand and holds it tightly.

“I saw your piece,” I say after a while.

Otis nods.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, frowning.

He sighs, and tells me, “I always thought cryptic meanings in your art were for assholes, but look at me now. Spent most of the night explaining what my intention was over and over — no-one understood it. That hidden, secret message we fold into our craft… It’s like we’re reaching out, asking without words the questions we’re too afraid to voice: if anyone understands me, if anyone shares my view on the world… And tonight, not a single person answered back.”

“I understand you.” And I bravely attempt to show I understand him.

There’s a lot riding on this.

“You’re not the Beauty or the Beast,” I start boldly. He doesn’t shake his head, so it’s a good start. “You’re not vain enough to put yourself in either position — things like that don’t bother you. That part isn’t the focus of the message, anyway. What matters is that the viewers — society — are the ones who look and judge and label us. They argue and decide whether you fall within the acceptable parameters of what’s considered beautiful, and you don’t get much of a say in it. So it doesn’t matter what you think about yourself, because others will judge you anyway.”

“Spot on, Peter,” he says in a watery voice, and pecks me on the cheek. “Don’t worry, I’m not upset. Just bummed out.”

My heart breaks for him. Does he really think that way about himself?

“You’re always telling me to appreciate my body and to be proud. You should be proud too.”

Otis shrugs. “Yeah, I guess so…”

“I wouldn’t want you to change a thing. I — like you just the way you are.” The word ‘love’ nearly slips out, but my belly does an odd flop and I change it at the last second. Now doesn’t seem like the right time, anyhow.

“It is okay, Peter. You don’t need to say that to cheer me up. I know I’m not your preferred type. I saw the way you kissed Matt that first night, the way you cringed away from him and how turned off you were by his size. You felt obligated to be with me because I saved your life, and now you stay with me because I make you feel safe.”

I pull him roughly to his feet without a word and march him back to the gallery. The floor is empty now and it’s quiet. I lead him right to my painting.

It’s a life-sized portrait of Otis, in sombre greyscale on a black background. The lighting makes him look majestic, and I know I’ve successfully captured his beauty. I’ve also captured all his flaws — the stretchmarks on his hips and under the shoulder, his scars and the loneliness in his eyes, but I’ve painted it in a way that accentuates him instead of detracting from his character. With a fine brush I’ve even given every single hair on his body the detail and accuracy it deserves.

Otis whistles in appreciation. “Peter, you made me look hot! I can’t believe –”

He leans in to read the title and goes silent.

I’ve named it ‘Perfection’.

“I didn’t have to ‘make’ you anything, Otis. I painted what I saw. I did start out feeling drawn to you because you were my protector, but you’re so much more to me now. You’re the most beautiful and amazing person in the world -”

I pause and give myself time so I can gather the courage to say what I’ve been dying to say. But the words come easily — it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever said out loud.

“I love you.”

Otis looks at me strangely. He’s stunned. For a horrible second I think I must’ve misread every signal he’s sent me. But then he crushes me in a fierce bear hug and rumbles in my ear, “I love you too, Peter.”

We kiss passionately, holding each other, until a cleaner trudges past and coughs rudely.

Otis grabs my hand with a wicked grin and pulls me into the unlit corridors. He leads me into a small supply storeroom and locks the door behind us. He grabs a folded table cloth, throws it on the ground and gets down on his knees on top of it to unzip my fly.

I giggle and squirm out of his grasp. “Otis, but we’ll get caught here!”

“I do plan on giving you a screaming orgasm, so that all works out.” In a more serious tone, he adds, “I can’t wait any longer, Peter. I’ve wanted to do this for so long.”

I’m breathless with excitement — I’ve never felt this giddy over a blow-job before.

Otis unzips me and pulls my erect member out. It’s average in every dimension, but he lets out a sigh in content. “It’s perfect,” he says, lightly running his fingers along the sides of my shaft, cradling it in his hands. He flicks the tip of his tongue up and down the underside of my cock, and then sucks on my foreskin.

Otis takes his own monster cock out and strokes it while he teases me with his tongue.

I’m shivering with anticipation.

He looks up at me with his eager, loving eyes and takes me into his mouth.

“Ooh… Oh Otis, oh my god…” I can’t help but moan as he sucks me gently, bobbing his head forward and twisting as he pulls back. He uses his tongue to rub the underside of my cock in a circular motion with each passing.

His fingers find my balls and he pulls them ever so gently. His other hand snakes up under my shirt to roll a nipple between his forefinger and thumb. I throw my head back, breathing heavily from the pleasure he’s drawing out of me.

“Otis… Otis, I’m getting close. You’re gonna make me come, baby…”

Otis lets go of my balls and sneaks his hand back to rub and tease my ass. He buries his face in my crotch and his tongue swirls around and around my cock, and I start to come.

“Ooooh- Oh! OH FUCK! Otis, I’m coming!”

Screaming orgasm achieved.

I grab his head and thrust forward, and I unload into his mouth. He swallows hungrily after each shot, again and again, until I’m done. He sucks lightly as he pulls away and leaves my dick glistening with his saliva, but without a single droplet of semen.

He stands up, licks his lips and we kiss again. His dick slides up between my legs; it’s warm and thick and rubs against my flaccid penis. We shuffle on the spot until his back is against the wall, and I drop to my knees.

I stand up again so quickly a bone clicks in my ankle.

“Peter, what’s wrong?” Otis asks, but I just shake my head.

“C’mon,” he whispers gently, and takes me further into the room. He finds a stack of chairs and pulls two of them out. He lies back across them and his cock stands straight up like a sundial.

He knows me better than I know myself; having a towering figure above me while I’m on my knees triggered the memories I worked so hard to be in control of.

But he’s no longer towering above me.

I kneel down between his legs and repeatedly slide his foreskin over his large head and back down. It’s so thick my fingers don’t quite wrap all the way around. He moans a little.

“That feels so good, Peter…”

And he’s not just saying that. Pre-come pulses out of his cock and I jerk him slowly until most of his head and shaft is slick with it. I swirl my tongue around his head, kissing and licking up the pre-come; it’s sweet, and a little salty.

I explore his shaft with my tongue, making him shudder and moan all the way down to his heavy balls. It smells a little sweaty and is covered in hair, but I bravely run a tongue up one side and am surprised at how good it feels. It’s so soft and it tastes like him. I lap at his nut sack and each of his balls spends some time inside my mouth while my hands explore his generous belly. Otis is moaning loudly now. He’s reaching down to hold my hair up to keep it out of the way.

His cock throbs gently in my hand. It’s rock hard, and a shade darker than his olive complexion. I open my mouth as wide as I can and envelop the head of his penis. My jaws open just wide enough to accommodate his girth.

“Oh Peter,” Otis whispers, and bucks his hips a little.

I slide him in as far as I can take him — which isn’t much — and suck as I pull up. I enter a steady rhythm, and use my hands to extend the reach of the pleasure I’m giving him, gliding it up and down his shaft, twisting one way and then the other.

When I start to change the pace and vary the intensity, Otis tenses and groans and begs me to keep going. His fingers reflexively clench and release my hair repeatedly, but with his huge cock in my mouth I barely notice. I have to keep swallowing because he’s oozing so much pre-come, and I’m salivating from the taste of his cock.

I take him deeper and deeper into my mouth, focusing on my breathing and slowly getting to my feet to find the right angle, and eventually manage to fit his entire cock down my throat. It throbs and Otis reflexively thrusts once before I gag and pull free.

“I love you so much, Peter…” he whispers. “Don’t stop — please, don’t stop.”

I go back to a varied pace, and his body alternates between tensing and relaxing. His pleasure is so palpable, so evident, that I can almost taste his climax building on my tongue.

“Don’t stop, Peter. I’m nearly there, oh my god…”

He uses the hand holding my hair to guide me towards his completion. His legs on either side of me tremble –

“Oh fuck, I’m coming! Oh Peter!”

He pulls me down and spurts twice down my throat — I push back up and receive the rest of it in my mouth; he comes so hard I can feel his seed splattering against the back of my tongue. I swallow all of his sweet come and squeeze his receding cock for more.

“You give one hell of a blowjob, baby.”

Otis kisses me, and we go back to his place for the night.

**

With Otis as my boyfriend, the school break passes quickly. We suck each other off as much as possible, and he even convinces me to try rimming, something I had always been put off by. He rims my ass out so forcefully it makes me come all over his sheets in a matter of minutes.

I have his dick in my mouth so often I’m soon able to deep-throat him without gagging. Our favourite position is when I’m lying on the bed with my head hanging over the edge, while he gently fucks my face, sucks me off, and plays with my ass at the same time.

The taste of Otis’s come gets me horny, but it’s nothing compared to Otis’s reaction to mine. It instantly makes him rock-hard, so most of the time he’s both the first and last one to have an orgasm.

Even when we’re not pleasuring each other, our sex life finds a way to pervade other domains of our daily lives. We pose nude for each other’s drawings, and it turns out to be extremely erotic — not one nude drawing session ends without one or both of us coming into the other’s mouth.

On the first Monday of our official two weeks off it’s my birthday. We head out with our closest friends for an intimate dinner: Janet and Kyle, and a bunch of people who work at Exile I’m close to, including Ralph and Matt. We have a celebratory dinner and my first legal drink. I’m glad I’m not out there getting plastered. That part of my life is over before it even has a chance to begin.

I’m mortified to learn that Matt has a fiancĂ©e, and her name is Jasmine. He’s not even bi-sexual — he just really loves all things to do with sex. I splutter and can’t make eye contact with them until Matt explains with a laugh that Jasmine is completely on board with what he does and even knows about our kiss.

“There are so many ways to show you love somebody without relying on monogamy,” Jasmine says to me at one point during dinner. “The most important thing at the end of the day is that you love and respect each other.” She’s pretty cool and progressive, and opens my mind to new ways of thinking about sexuality. I can see why Matt is smitten with her.

I don’t know how Otis did it, but when we go back to his apartment the place is filled with lit candles. There’s even a trail of red and white rose petals leading to his bedroom. We kiss and I pleasure him with my mouth, and then he pulls out a condom and lube with a question in his eyes.

“Yes,” I say at once.

Otis dashes to the bathroom to get ready. I decide to give him my own little surprise. I strip naked and get on all fours on the bed. When I hear him return, I clench a condom between my cheeks and hold the pose.

“Oh baby,” Otis growls his appreciation when he sees me with my ass in the air. He takes my gift and kisses my lower back. “These condoms were for you, Peter. I wanted you to fuck me.”

I turn around, surprised. With a cock that size, I always thought he’d naturally gravitate towards being a total top.

Otis slides open his bedside drawer and pulls out a condom that will better fit him. “But the birthday boy gets what the birthday boy wants. And I think he wants me to fuck him.” He lets me sheathe his huge cock and he slathers it with lubricant. He chuckles at the hunger in my eyes, and squirts some lube onto his finger.

“Up.”

I stick my ass up in the air. His finger probes my hole, running small circles around my sensitive opening and gets me all slick and ready to receive.

He is just starting to finger-fuck me when I moan, “Fuck my virgin ass.” I’m so horny it just slips out.

“Oh shit, I almost forgot this is your first time,” Otis says, looking abashed. “I’ll be gentle, I promise.”

It only hurts a little bit, so I tell him, “Otis, I want you to fuck me hard.”

Otis chuckles darkly. “You won’t be saying that in a moment.”

But he doesn’t fuck me yet. He slips his finger back inside me and strokes my velvety tunnel. It’s starting to feel good. I close my eyes and thrust back into his fingers. Then he slides another finger in and I grunt with discomfort, and then a third enters me. It hurts and I realise we’re not even close to how thick his cock is.

He squeezes more lube over my hole and slides his fingers in and out slowly.

“Alright, I can’t stretch you out any further without fisting you, so… are you ready?”

“Yes,” I whisper, and bury my face in the pillow in case I scream. I can’t wait to feel him inside me, but I’m a little frightened. What if it’s too big?

The bed shakes as he gets up. He pulls my ass a little bit higher and keeps it in place with one hand around my hips. The head of his cock presses up against my rear, warm and wet, but feeling a lot more solid than I had anticipated. He pushes and pushes, and my opening doesn’t yield.

“Relax,” he says softly, stroking my back.

His dick slips inside me and there’s a sharp pain.

“Ow!” I gasp and try cringe away from him, but he’s holding me around the hips.

“I won’t go any further,” he promises. “Squeeze your ass a few times for me.”

I do as he says, and then he pulls out. I’m panting in pain and anxiety, worried that I won’t be able to accommodate him or enjoy it. Or that his monster cock will spear right through me.

“Okay, I’m going back in… ”

He enters me again, this time without much resistance on my end. It hurts a lot less, too.

“Fuck, you’re so tight,” he whispers.

Otis starts to push harder, and slides deeper inside me, slowly edging in and pulling part-way out again. The feel of his cock inside me sends my body into shock. It feels rock-hard, not like the fleshy cock I’m used to sucking. There’s still a little pain around the anus, but deeper inside I feel something else. He goes deeper and deeper, and the sensation reveals itself to be his cock stretching my anal cavity out. It feels strange, and starts to hurt more the further he goes, but it’s a pain I can tolerate.

“Are you okay?” he keeps asking me every so often, and I nod each time and urge him to continue.

Eventually he presses himself against my back and leans forward to kiss my neck. “How does it feel?”

“You’re all the way in,” I whisper in awe. I didn’t think there’d be room.

I clench my ass and he gives a surprised moan of pleasure, and then laughs.

“Give me a kiss, you cheeky thing.”

We kiss while he’s inside me, and soon the pain fades. He makes a few small, gentle thrusts to keep my muscles from tensing up. It starts to feel really good, and I tell him I want him to fuck me.

He straightens and hooks both of his hands around my hips. I gasp into the pillow when he pulls out a bit too fast, but he drives it back home just as quick, and I’m suddenly inundated with new sensations.

“Fuck, Peter, your ass feels so good… You’re making me so fucking hard.”

He picks up the speed of his thrusts, no longer pausing at the apex of each push and pull, and soon he’s fucking me with long, smooth strokes. His shaft tugs at my insides and massages the sensitive passage just inside the opening.

Otis grinds up against me and thrusts into me at varying angles. There are sharp sensations of pain, but also sharper and more intense sensations of pleasure. He hits a spot that has me crying out his name in bliss.

I’m glad there’s a ten year age gap — he’s an experienced top and keeps adjusting his pace so I’m constantly in a state of sexual elation.

“Oh my god,” I whimper into the pillow. I turn my head to the side. “I love you so much, Otis. I can’t believe how good your cock feels.”

“I love you too, babe,” he says roughly, and fucks me even harder.

My ass is in heaven. Otis is growling low in his throat, slamming into me so that the slapping sound of his hips rebounding off my ass fills the room. The bed creaks wildly, shaking from the force of our love-making.

Otis grabs my shoulders. “I’m getting close, Peter.”

He pulls me up so I’m propped up on my hands, and with his hands on my shoulders pulling me into each thrust, ploughs into me. I’m shouting and swearing and moaning at the ferocity of his fucking.

“Oh! Oh! Oh fuck, oh fuck! I want to make you come!”

Otis slows down. “Actually, I want to kiss you while I’m coming,” he says, and pulls himself out. My ass tingles pleasantly, sort of a warm, glowing buzz.

I roll eagerly onto my back and he climbs onto the bed and parts my legs with his body.

“Hold these,” he tells me, and I pull my legs back to my shoulders.

He grips his cock and with we briefly revisit the sensation of his first entry as he pushes his way inside me again. Otis makes the bed bounce and shake as he humps me. I’m moaning with each breath and begging him to come inside me.

The hair on his chest and belly are matted with sweat, and his body shines with it. He leans forward to kiss me, and his belly starts rubbing my cock and balls. It nearly brings me to a climax.

“Oh — fuck, Otis! Ohmygod!” I push against his body but he doesn’t budge; I’m not ready to come yet — I don’t want it to end.

He looks down in alarm, and grins when he sees what his belly is doing to me.

“Don’t stop, Otis,” I beg him. “Oh my god, please don’t stop.”

He lowers his mouth over mine and invades my mouth with his tongue while his cock ravages my arse. His thrusts are short and rapid, and he drills me like a jack-hammer. Sweat drips down his muscled arms and his flushed face. I hold his head while he kiss, and cup his whiskery cheeks in my palms. He lets out a few breathy moans as he draws close, and they grow louder and more frequent.

I reach for his hips and pull him in on the thrust that ends it. He plunges into me and comes.

“Mmmmph!” Otis tenses and suddenly exhales loudly, but doesn’t stop kissing me. He braces himself on one arm and curls the other hand under my head, lifting it to kiss me more thoroughly. I can feel his cock throbbing as he spurts repeatedly into the condom.

I’m so close it’s like torture. When he lowers my head I wrap my arms around his sweaty back and grind myself against his hairy body. Responding to that, Otis starts thrusting again and he makes me come. I howl and grunt and draw in a ragged breath — it’s the most intense orgasm I’ve ever had, and I’m making sounds I’ve never heard myself make. Otis kisses me urgently again. My sticky semen gets all over the both of us, but most of it gets stuck in hairs on his belly.

Otis breaks the kiss once I’m soft. He’s panting, flushed and sweating, and looks very satisfied.

“Was that good for you?” I ask.

“You’re the best screw I’ve ever had,” he says. “Hang on. This might feel a little weird now that you’re not horny for it any more.”

He slowly pulls his cock out while I shudder at the strange sensation. His dick is still hard, and the condom is flooded with his pearly white seed. He peels it off and flings it to the other end of the bed. Only then does it begin to shrink.

“How was that for you, Peter? Your first time having anal sex.”

I crawl over and pin him down on the bed. I straddle him then look down into his smiling eyes. “I think we’re going to be really busy for the rest of the holidays,” I say before I kiss him.

Otis kisses me back until we’re both hard again, which doesn’t take long these days. He passes me a condom.

“Otis…”

“I need to feel your cock in me, Peter.”

I tear open the condom and start to put it on, but Otis gets down on his hands to roll it down my shaft with his mouth. That turns me on so much I push him back roughly and lift his heavy legs into the air. Otis growls with lust, and holds his legs back so I can penetrate him.

His ass is hairy, but the puckered pink hole looks so wet and inviting. Without thinking, I bravely run my tongue up and down his crack, the same way me licks my ass. It’s so warm! I dive back in and wriggle my tongue into the soft, quivering hole, and Otis starts moaning and playing with his nipples.

“Oh, fuck yeah! Ah – you were born to rim ass — Ooh! Oh my fucking god…”

I rim him until my mouth is sore, and then move back and press my dick against him. It slides in easily, and I feel a mixture of warmth and tightness previously unknown to me. Otis’s face is a mask of ecstasy, and I watch him in awe as I gently push further in and pull out, surprised at how intense his reactions are.

“Unngh-”

He quickly comes all over his stomach.

“Don’t stop, Peter,” he says, still jacking off. “It feel so good, I – I think I’m gonna come again.”

I start to thrust into him. The condom dulls too much of the feeling for me, but Otis responds encouragingly, writhing and gasping in all the right places. He lets me know without speaking that I’m in complete control of his impending orgasm.

I fuck him slow, and then hard and fast so that his hairy belly jiggles under me, and witness his third climax building and growing before my eyes. His body tenses as he comes for the third time, and his ass squeezes my cock. Watching him has made me so close; I pull out, tear the condom off and finish with him, splattering his hairy chest and chin with thick ropes of come.

I walk forward on my hands to clean his chin with a lick and then kiss him, with the come from both of us rubbing between our bodies.

**

We have sex several times a day. I top Otis at least once a day, and make him moan so loud the tenants underneath us turn to blasting loud music to block us out, and I bottom for him twice, sometimes three times a day. We also give each other our usual morning and night time blow jobs.

Otis has a much more active sex drive than I do. He’s always eager to play, and doesn’t mind in what capacity. He always tries to get me to play with his ass while he jacks off, and I enjoyed rimming him so much the first time it becomes an integral part of our foreplay. I’m a quick learner when it comes to pleasing him. I learn how to finger-fuck him to completion while he’s masturbating, and how to help him achieve orgasm by prostate stimulation alone, whether it’s with my cock or my fingers.

Otis surprises me with a question one morning.

“Have you been with anyone else in the past three months?”

It’s roughly the length of time that I’ve known Otis. I answer truthfully — no.

I wonder if he’s been thinking about what Jasmine said with polyamory, and wants to be in an open relationship. I understand the appeal of it, but can’t fathom letting anyone else into my body the way I let Otis. I selfishly hope he feels the same way.

However the reason for the question becomes apparent in the afternoon when he takes me to a sexual health clinic for a rapid HIV test. A quick prick on the finger and 20 minutes later we walk out smiling. Both clean.

We celebrate by having rough bareback sex.

He rims me until I’m on the verge of coming, and then goes straight onto the fucking without messing about with rubbers. There’s not much difference for me physically — it blows my mind like every other time — but I can tell Otis is enjoying himself a lot more. He makes love to me tenderly; his strokes are slow and deliberate, and I can see the pleasure my tight hole gives him written plainly across his handsome features.

Despite how powerfully Otis comes, all the descriptions of being able to feel a guy shooting ‘hot jizz’ inside you turn out not to have any truth to it, at least not for me. It is a much more intense orgasm, however, knowing that there is absolutely nothing between us during the height of our shared passion.

It’s my turn to fuck him next, and his ass feels so good wrapped around my naked cock. The smooth passage, the wetness and the warmth — it feels amazing. He comes again and his fingers entwine around my own. I try and hold off just a little bit longer, but soon I’m spurting away inside him.

Afterwards I finger his used, loosened ass and he bucks his hips.

“Ah… Peter, fuck you’re making me hard again…”

He’s rubbing his chest and playing with his nipples. I already made him come while fucking him, but he wants more, so I insert another finger and pump my fingers inside him. I watch him respond to my touch and it makes me so horny I fuck him again with my own come as lube.

**

In the last few days of the school break, Otis brings up the topic of coming out again.

I tell him I honestly hadn’t thought about it since we last discussed it.

“You really should,” Otis says. “It’s a big part of growing up for all gay men.”

I narrow my eyes at him. “Are you saying I’m immature?”

“No, no. Not at all. I myself didn’t come out until I was 25. But now would be a good time to do it, Peter. You’ve got me — I’m not going anywhere. And you’re still on break so we could drive down and visit your parents before school starts again.”

I chew my lip. I know my mother wouldn’t mind. She’s always been the gentle, loving one. I’m unsure of how my father would react though. He’s always been aloof, and we don’t have much of a relationship to begin with. The peak of his disappointment in me was when I told him I didn’t like sports as a child. We stopped playing catch and football, and then stopped spending much time together at all. I can only imagine how he’d react if I told him I didn’t even share his interest in women.

“If there’s one thing I could tell my younger self,” Otis continues, “is to wait until you’ve got a safety net. Once you have it though, don’t put it off. There’s no point in waiting. Whatever the outcome is, you’ll be better off on the other side of it. And you’ll know who truly loves and accepts you, and who doesn’t.”

That’s one thing we don’t talk about much — his life before he moved to the city.

“Didn’t you have anyone when you came out?”

Otis has a faraway look in his eyes and a remnant of sadness clouds them.

“I thought I did. I came out to everyone at the same time, with my rainbow flags a-wavin’. Well, you already know what my family did.” He taps the scar on his head where his father and brother had beaten him until he his head was bleeding. “It was a small, conservative town. I was living with my boyfriend at the time, and we were both closeted. Everyone thought, or wanted to think, that we were just room-mates. It was just the two of us against the hate filled world. I think that’s what drove us together. When my coming out didn’t go to well, he ditched me before I could reveal his secret too.

“He changed the locks and threw everything I owned out onto the street. I was at work at the time, and when I came back half of it was already gone or vandalised. My friends magically melted away when I started turning to them for help — hey, that really suits the metaphor of me being a flamer.”

“I’ll write it down,” I say. “Keep going.”

Otis hesitates, and then shows me the mysterious name tattooed on his arm. I know it reads ‘Nicholaus’. I have long since managed to read it and assumed it was an old mistake, but don’t know the full story behind the name.

“Nicholaus… He was that boyfriend?”

“Yes… I got it when I thought we were in love. After we split, I used to think about getting the tattoo removed, but that’d be like taking out a chunk of your brain, and we’ve all seen on TV what happens then.”

“You turn into a mad but loveable scientist,” I remark with a wry grin. I’m extraordinarily happy that he’s able to talk about this with me, and he’s been able to leave behind the suffering and hatred and walk away a better man.

“So I keep his tattoo to remind myself not to get close to anyone… unless I’m sure the guy is someone I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

That touches me in an indescribable way. I kiss him deeply.

“What happened next?”

Otis shrugs. “Small conservative town — what do you expect? My boss finds out I’m gay, and I’m fired on the spot. No family, no friends, no place to live and no work. So I hitch-hike to the big, progressive city and start afresh.”

I’ve had enough Otis revelations today, so I don’t blurt it out loud, but I think I’ve puzzled out why he doesn’t have a room-mate.

Everything about Otis’s coming out story tells me not to, but the idea really grows on me that night. I don’t want to have doubts about whether my mother truly loves me or not. But I also don’t want to see how much further Dad and I will drift apart.

Nicholaus failed Otis when he needed him the most. He couldn’t come out for the sake of their relationship. Our situation isn’t as dire, but I tell myself if I can’t come out I will be no better than that scumbag of an ex.

By morning my mind is made up.

Otis drives us down to my parents’ place the weekend before the next school term starts. I tell them over the phone I’m visiting, and my mother is delighted. She gushes over the phone how much she and my father have missed me, and wants to treat me to a home-cooked dinner to welcome me home.

We get there as the sun is setting.

I hug and kiss Mum and Dad, and introduce Otis as my friend to them. We sit in the living room on two sofas that face each other while we catch up. Lemonade is served, and everything is going great. Otis is charming and wins them over straight away, so I get right to it.

I drop the bomb.

My mother is stunned, but I watch Dad carefully. He’s slumps back in the sofa and looks defeated, like I’ve kicked the air from his lungs.

“Dad…” I say, but he doesn’t hear me.

I’m so focused on my father I don’t hear Otis shouting, or see my mother’s hand as she leans forward and slaps me across the face.

My ears ring, and the world spins dizzyingly as my head snaps to the side.

I haven’t been struck by anyone since Arthur. If anything, my time with Otis has spoilt me with kindness and compassion. Partly fuelled by outrage, but mostly a primordial instinct to never be beaten into a submission again, I lose my shit.

I launch myself at her over the coffee table, screaming and shouting obscenities. I smash both of our drinks and get glass everywhere.

Otis has his arms around my midsection in the blink of an eye, and is pulling me away. My mother is screaming at me, tears streaming down her face while Dad just sits there, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.

“You can’t be gay! Please, Peter, please, not my little baby boy! I didn’t raise a son, only to have him become a faggot! I don’t want you to throw it all away when you die of fucking aids!”

It’s not so much what she’s saying makes me feel worthless, but the urgency in her voice. She’s screaming her throat raw, pleading and crying so hard the cords in her neck jut out and her eyes turn pink, like she’s absolutely certain she could never love me just because I’m gay.

I’m hurting her. I’m hurting her by being me. I love her so much, and it’s like she’s suddenly been replaced by a creature who spits only hate and blame.

Mum stomps into the kitchen to cry, and I follow her with Otis in tow. I’m crying now, which only seems to make her angrier. Apparently I don’t have a right to be upset if my parents disown me, because I’m the one in love with another man. I plead and she screams, I try to reason with her and she screams. Then she realises Otis is my boyfriend and slaps me again for bringing ‘another faggot’ into her home.

I see red and go at her with everything I’ve got.

Call me faggot, say I’ll die of aids — that’s fine. Throw whatever you want at me, but leave my boyfriend out of it. He’s not just ‘another faggot’, not even close to it.

We punch and kick and slap each other. She’s landing more hits on me and I don’t even care. I love her and hate her, and I don’t know what to do. Otis separates us — that’s when my mother pulls a knife off the magnetic board on the wall. I watch in a daze as she swings it at me — me, her own son, and I know I’m dead to her. And she is dead to me.

Otis blocks the knife with a forearm. My mother claws at his face — he turns his head away to avoid the attack, and my mother swings the knife again and rakes a deep gash down the side of his arm. Otis grunts with pain, clutches his arm and takes a step back. My arms are around him in a heartbeat. I’m frightened and don’t know what to do. He holds a hand to the cut, but it doesn’t quite cover it all and blood rapidly bubbles out and trickles over his fingers.

That puts an end to it.

My mother drops the knife into the sink with a loud clatter, shocked at what she’s done. Where was that last shred of decency a second ago, you bitch, before you nearly killed my boyfriend?

“C’mon, we gotta go,” says Otis gruffly, dragging me sobbing from my parent’s house.

Otis is bleeding heavily. I go to take my shirt off so he can use it as a bandage and stem the flow, but my father comes running out of the house.

“Stay back!” Otis roars furiously.

He steps in front of me protectively, blocking Dad with his body, ready to keep him at bay with a bloodied, clenched fist. But Dad stops a few paces away from Otis with his hands raised in peace.

“Please Peter, I just want to talk,” he implores.

Otis checks with me and I nod. I shuffle closer to my father, but not too close.

His face is pale from the stress of everything that’s happened and I can see he’s struggling to get the words out. I tense, ready to run in case he suddenly swings at me. My mind even goes as far as to wonder whether he’s purposely delaying our departure so Otis bleeds to death. Or maybe my mother sent him out here, as a last, desperate resort to try and convert me into the straight son she wants.

“Talk,” I order him brusquely.

“I still love you,” Dad blurts out, the same way I say things I’m afraid of saying. “I don’t care if you’re gay. You’re my son and I love you. I will always love you no matter what. You… You know that, right Peter?”

No, I didn’t. I never knew my father loved me this much. I can feel tears welling up in my eyes and there’s an aching lump in my throat.

Dad opens his arms for a hug. His cheeks are wet with his own tears. It’s too much. I start blubbering like a baby and I hug him. Dad is crying with me, his body shakes as he sobs, and I’ve never felt closer to him.

“We’ve got to go,” I say thickly after a while, pulling away from Dad and wiping my nose. “Otis is hurt pretty bad.”

Dad apologises for my mother and pulls some blue and white chequered tea-towels hanging from his back pocket. He hands them to Otis. My boyfriend takes them with a ‘thank you’, and starts binding the cut.

Dad pulls me in for another hug.

“Stay in touch, son. I’ll try bring your Mum around. Otis! You take care of Peter for me, won’t you?”

“Yes, Mr. Benson.”

“He already does, Dad,” I say into his shoulder, and then he runs back into the house.

Otis watches me with teary eyes, and I give him a weak smile before the tears spill out again. At least I’m no longer sobbing. I help him dress the gash on his arm and let him hold me while we lean against the car.

“We’ve got to get to the hospital,” I croak, pulling away, but Otis shushes me gently and pulls me back into his embrace.

“My arm’s fine,” he assures me, resting his chin on the top of my head.

I need his love and support more than ever right now, so I let him let me be selfish. He gently rubs my back while I cry into his chest and tell him how sorry I am he got hurt. I finally calm down peel my wet cheek off Otis’s shirt which is soaked through with blood, sweat and tears. That’s one phrase I’ll never use again.

“Can you do the driving?” Otis asks with a grimace.

I fish the car keys from his pockets. We hop in the car and I use the GPS on my phone to find the nearest hospital. As I reverse out of my parent’s driveway, I wonder if it’s my last visit.

“You should call the police and get my mother arrested,” I suggest savagely, breaking the silence a few minutes later, but Otis shakes his head.

“I want to be with you Peter. I want to be a part of your life, and that includes your family.”

“Well count my mother out. She’s beyond help, Otis. Did you see the look on her face?”

“You’re lucky to have such an accepting Dad. Maybe he will help her see you’re the same boy she raised and loved.”

I snort angrily.

“Tough chance.”

“I lost both my parents to ignorance, baby, and there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t wish I still have them. It’s not too late for your mother, not while there’s a chance. Promise me you won’t hate her for the way she acted tonight. More hate isn’t… isn’t going to change anything.”

“You’re too fucking good for me, Otis, you know that?”

He doesn’t respond.

I look over and the tea towels are dark red and the stain is slowly working its way into his shirt and jeans. Otis has his head back on the headrest and his face is pale. He’s lost a lot of blood.

“Otis?”

He murmurs softly in reply, too quiet for me to hear, and my stomach does an odd flip.

“Otis? Talk to me, baby.”

The streets are empty and I’ve already broken the speed limit by now, so I go even faster.

The wound turns out to be lot worse off than Otis claimed once the doctor gets a look at it. It’s jagged and there’s a chance of permanent damage. He needs a ton of stitches as well as an antibiotics treatment. They want to keep him for overnight observation, but Otis shakes his head and says he just wants to be alone with me.

“How bad can it be if I don’t have to stay here?” he tells me.

The nurses instruct me carefully on what to do if any complications should arise, give me his painkillers, and then I drive us back home.

We don’t get back until half past five in the morning. Otis is groggy from the drugs, but I’m still wide awake. I perch on the couch and keep running last night through my head, over and over, reliving the nightmare.

Otis passes me my sketchbook and a pencil and I look up guiltily. I’m meant to be the one taking care of him.

“What’s this for?” I ask.

“You’re hurting, babe. Let your mind take a break and your hands will take care of your healing.”

He takes his medication and settles at the end of the couch to keep me company but soon dozes off. I set the sketchbook aside to drape a blanket over him, kiss his sweaty forehead, and then sit back down and flip the book open.

But I don’t let my mind roam free. I channel it directly to the one stable, secure thing in my life. I sketch Otis. I give him a heroic pose, and add a squiggle of chest hair on his chest. When I’m done, I scratch the words ‘My Hero’ under him. It sums up how I see him right now. How I’ve always seen him.

I turn the page and redraw Otis semi-realistically, this time taking inspiration from the way Otis first drew me the time we sat on the roof and did portraits. I capture the heaviness of his brows and the wary look he sometimes gets in his eyes. Then I draw myself next to him with my shoulder length hair tied back and wearing a sad, timid smile.

Then to my own surprise I draw Arthur. A man I am no longer afraid of thanks to Otis. I get every detail down, from the visible overuse of product in his hair to the tee-shirt so tight it looks like it would split apart if he yawned.

As the sun steadily climbs its way to midday, I end up filling pages and pages with character sketches. I can’t stop drawing them.

Otis wakes up and I get him some water and help him to the bathroom. He flips through my sketches curiously before falling asleep again.

There is the entire staff of Exile immortalised in my pages, as well as Steve the grey bear, the art teacher from our first class, the nude models, Janet and Kyle and a few other faces I remember. I draw the nice grey-haired lady who serves Otis his potato bake every Monday, and the skinny youth who serves the same thing on Thursday. The last two characters I draw before I curl up next to Otis to sleep are my father, and then lastly my mother.

**

As the school term starts again, I find myself juggling my new life and my school workload with difficulty.

It comes as no surprise when my mother cuts off my apartment and allowance. The landlord gives me 48 hours to clear the apartment. Otis asks me to move in with him and I say yes without a second thought. I spend so much of my time there anyway there isn’t much of a difference after the move. My two bag’s worth of belongings fit right into his bedroom and we sleep in the same bed, which leads to the spare room being refurbished into a 2-person art studio.

I guess we fuck a lot more often now and with greater spontaneity. We have sex in the bathroom, in the kitchen, on the living room floor… all over the place. So thanks for that, Mum.

Otis can’t work due to his arm so I go looking for a job. Ralph, Otis’s boss, gives me a position at the bar and the barkeepers there help me get a serving license so I can legally work there. I help collect the glasses and restock the alcohol, occasionally pour drinks behind the bar for customers and do some light clean-up work behind the scenes. It’s barely a job, but I think Ralph is cutting me some slack and paying me a full wage because I’m Otis’s partner and Otis is injured.

At the same time I embark on a personal healing project. It begins with me building on the character sketches of people in my life. I recreate the events of my first night at Exile on paper, storyboarding it as though it is a comic. I externalise all my fear and shame, and when it’s done I look at it and see it as just another important step in my life. If anything, I feel glad that it brought me and Otis together. It instils me with a sense of closure.

Once that’s done, however, I feel the need to keep going. I start to storyboard every other part of my life leading up to the present day, from our first dinner together to our first kiss. Before long, I realise I’m putting together an autobiographical graphic novel.

I work on my graphic novel whenever I have a free moment, and once Otis’s arm heals (no permanent damage) he helps me out. Together we make a natural team. I storyboard, he inks beautifully, and we both handle the colour on the computer. He bows down to my style of colouring and emulates it perfectly. We both write it, of course.

He doesn’t question my project’s end goal. “If it’s something that gives you the resolution you need, you’ve got my support,” he says to me. He even buys a second-hand Cintiq, an expensive top-of-the-range drawing tablet to assist in my efforts, knowing full well I’d faint if he purchased one at full retail price.

We finish the semester and start the next.

Around the same time Ralph hires me as a freelance artist and I do some advertisement posters and fliers for events held at the premises. That leads to a bunch of other freelance offers, and soon I have work and money flowing in. Unfortunately that means I don’t get much time to work on my project. I keep my job at Exile though, in case the job offers dry up.

Matt also comes up to me in the same week and casually asks if he can be in a threesome with us.

His question leaves me speechless, and he asks me again as though I didn’t hear him.

“But you’re not gay,” I blurt out.

“That doesn’t mean I can’t have sex with another guy. Trust me, I’ll make you squeal. It’ll be worth it.”

“Did you and Otis ever…?”

“Yeah, he fucked my ass once when he first started working here. I asked him to. He wasn’t into the whole casual hook-up thing though, and I didn’t think I could take such a huge cock again, so it ended on good terms. How the heck do you do it?”

“It’s a gay thing,” I joke. “You’ve just got to really, really love cock.”

“Ha! Anyways, I’m serious. Think about it.”

Jasmine has been hanging out with me, Janet and Kyle ever since my birthday, and being around Jasmine has piqued my interest in such activities — I suspect the two of them are working in tandem. Nothing says love like helping your fiancĂ© have a threesome with two gay men.

I’m curious and Otis is game, so after a discussing it further and laying down some rules we invite Matt over, use protection and have a blast.

I’m the lucky piglet in the middle of two bears.

“There’s nothing quite like having a stiff cock in either end,” I confide to Otis after Matt has his fun and departs, and that turns him on so much we have sex again on the sweaty sheets.

We bring Matt back again and again after that. He comes by once a week. He’s just as horny as Otis is, and is eager to try anything, including letting Otis fuck him again.

We do other things first, however, to build up to that. On his second visit I suck off his thick, stubby cock, and bury my nose in his curly orange pubes. After being with Otis, deep-throating Matt’s 6-inch cock is easy.

“Oh fuck, you’ve got to give Jasmine some pointers next time you two hang,” Matt moans while I suck him off. Otis climbs onto the bed to put Matt’s idle mouth to work.

Matt comes into my mouth — it’s not as sweet as Otis’s come, but drives me into a frenzied lust just the same. I’m eager to have him fuck me, and Otis says he wants to join in, so Matt rims me deep and tongue-fucks my ass until he’s hard again, and then puts on a condom and fucks me. Otis slides inside Matt halfway through, and Matt comes almost at once. I wriggle free and clean Matt off with my tongue, and then scoot back to watch.

It’s incredibly hot watching my boyfriend stick it to someone else. I can see the pleasure and pain flit across Matt’s face, and witness Otis’s body in action. I’m hard again before Otis is done, so Matt takes his turn being the pig on the spit.

On his third visit, it’s an Otis sandwich.

With my day job, school work and freelance work, being with Otis and playing with Matt, my healing project crawls to a halt.

**

The end of the year rushes up to us in no time at all.

We graduate and get our qualifications on paper, if not already in our now bulked-out portfolios. There’s another public exhibition and we do a moody landscape piece that covers an entire wall in a series of canvases, running from the entrance all the way to the back rooms. It takes us ages to complete it and we run into some problems with space allotment, but the school administration decides to promote it as one of their feature pieces and we get the entire wall to ourselves.

All the time spent on the landscape artwork pays off. It’s halfway through the opening night and I’m talking to the teacher Otis and I shared in the first semester, thanking her for the invaluable advice she gave in her first lesson, when Otis runs up to me.

His bearded face is alive with excitement.

“Evening, miss,” he says with a bob of his head, and then pulls me aside. I wave a confused farewell to the teacher.

“I just talked to a publisher!” Otis almost shouts, positively wiggling with joy. “He was checking out our landscape piece, I told him all about the book you and me are doing, and he’s very interested in it. They want to see a draft ASAP, and if they like what they see, they’re run a print of it!”

This is huge news. Everyone always says the exhibitions are a great place to find work, but I didn’t actually think it was true.

“Do you actually want to publish the book?” I ask, a little wary. My project is of self-healing. I had never really thought about sharing it with anyone else outside the two of us, let alone with the masses.

“It’s good, babe. It’s better than good. You should have seen how interested he was. I showed him some of our sketches and he loves the artwork.”

I can feel my frown turning into an uncertain smile. The thought of publishing a graphic novel honestly has me feeling a little giddy. I remember Otis telling me his dream job growing up was to be a comic book artist, and the thought of working with him settles it for me.

“Yes, let’s do it.”

My professional future is no longer some obscure, hazy goal. I can see what I want to do now and who I want to do it with, and it is within reach.

“Crap — it’s not even close to being done yet!”

Otis cuts his hours at the bar to help me finish my draft, and every break I take at work is devoted to editing the dialogue and reviewing the panels on my laptop. I turn down freelance work and Matt play-time to get our draft out by the deadline. We get notes on our draft from the editor, and a month of hard work, re-writing and all-nighters later and we officially have a graphic novel published under our names.

It’s very well received by the gay geek and bear community, and there’s even a modest book signing event. All of the people who show up are gay friendly — most of them large, boisterous bears — as well as our friends from Exile. But to my amazement, standing meekly in middle of the crowd and looking lost are my parents.

Both of them.

My mother gives me a timid wave and my breath catches in my throat. I haven’t seen or heard from her in months, not since she cut me off from her life.

I wave back uncertainly, and she turns to Dad with a hopeful smile.

I can see what it’s costing her to be standing in a room filled with male couples. She’s uncomfortable, but she’s trying to change her views. With Otis’s advice in my mind, I march right up to her and give her a hug.

“I forgive you, Mum,” I whisper, and she breaks down into tears. Otis high fives my father.

A few weeks after the launch of our first book, we decide to leave our jobs at Exile to pursue our dreams.

**

I start and complete several other projects with Otis over the years, ranging from major advertisements to starting and completing an original graphic novel series. We form an independent company and work closely with Janet and Kyle on major collaborative projects, and contact the art school when we need more talented artists who want paid industry experience.

Our very first graphic novel launched our careers years ago, but I still find myself thinking about it all the time.

I think about it every morning when I wake up next to my husband, and every night when I’m snuggled and feeling loved in his arms. I think about it every time we pick up Kaylee, our 4-month old daughter, and she smiles and gurgles happily at her dads.

You see, the story captured in those 319 pages are set and done. It’s a chapter of my life that I can share with the rest of the world, and hope it inspires love and growth in anyone who reads it. But my story with Otis Sideris is unending, and every day we share together is a new page in our book.