Pretty Rough

by Francesca and Emily

Author's disclaimer: Not mine, all theirs, blah blah.

Author's notes: Hah! Some of you are reading the 0 parts again after Yellow Roses, aren't you? (g) Well, that's probably a good idea. If you look at the warnings section — violence, angst, h/c — you might be thinking, "Ok, so what is UP with Francesca lately?" Would it help if I explained that I wrote this story for Em? Ah, yes, I see that now all is clear. Anyway, it started one night, some time ago now, when Em was a bit depressed. And so, because I love her and she's a good friend, I offered to beat the crap out of Jim for her. (g) I wrote the original THEN part of this for her in irc, and then many moons later she and I fleshed it out into the story you have here, and the wonderful Anna went to bat as beta. So, that's the story of the story. Now onto the story itself...


"What about this one?"

He felt Blair's finger tracing a faint line on his right shoulder, and tried to remember exactly which scar that was. He could have just turned to look, but the sunlight was streaming through the skylight and through Blair's hair. Riveting. All those streams of golden light...

Blair pushed himself up, straddling him now, and his hair abruptly became opaque again. "Come, on — tell," he demanded, crossing his arms over his bare chest. "I want to hear all the stories. All of them."

Jim's eyes drifted down Blair's stomach, following the line of dark hair over the pale skin, down to Blair's thick thatch of pubic hair, the soft penis flopping to one side. "All of them?" he repeated, reaching out to cup Blair's cock in his hand.

"Yeah. All of them." Blair braced his hands on Jim's shoulders and began to knead with strong fingers. "Everything. I wanna know everything. His left hand slid over and retraced the scar on Jim's right shoulder.

Jim turned his head to look at it, and smiled. "That one. Okay. Happened during a mission in Colombia. We were assigned to patrol about a two mile area between Yondo and San Paulo so that the locals could move food and supplies up the Magadalena River. The place was a disaster area, jungle crawling with FARC, ELN, paramilitaries, and of course, us. So anyway, this one day, my friend Pete and I were holding our little section of the area, just east of a tiny village called Agua de la Verdad."

"Truth waters," Blair murmured. "Waters of truth."

"Yeah. We'd been there a number of days by this point, so we thought we knew the landscape and the local routine. We got careless. We thought we were in control, you know?"

He looked at Blair and saw him nod, already looking so fascinated. Jim felt a little lurch deep in his belly. Was it really that enthralling? He wondered if Blair really did understand what it was to be a tall American with a big gun in a small country. He sort of hoped Blair didn't.

Jim shook his head a little. "I mean, we had pretty much established ourselves as the local power, at least for the moment and we got cocky, I guess. The kids liked us. The village women brought us food, plates of rice and beans, bananas. Hell of a lot better than what we'd been eating courtesy of the U.S. government."

Blair's eyes glinted with humor. "Women, huh?" He nudged Jim with a sharp elbow. "Agua de la Verdad, man; tell all."

"Not that much to tell." Jim smiled faintly. "They'd come up in a line, all wrapped up in these shawls. Could barely see their faces. Man, it's like I can still taste the food sometimes." It had been spicy, had nearly stripped the tastebuds off his tongue. But good. "And beer," he added, remembering, "they made this local beer, from wheat, I think. Sweet, warm, should have tasted like crap. But it didn't. It tasted just fine."

"I bet it did," Blair said softly.

Jim drew a deep breath and sighed. "Anyway. So we thought they were on our side. Showing their support, appreciation. That kind of thing."

I'm guessing that wasn't the case."

"This one morning — a Thursday, I remember clear as day, Thursday — this one woman came up the road, and she was beautiful. I mean, gorgeous. Most of the women who brought food were older — mothers and grandmothers, the wives of town elders — but this one, she was maybe nineteen, tops, and all hips, all curves."

"Mondo chiquita," Blair said, nodding gravely.

"I looked over at Pete, and the expression on his face was just priceless." Jim grinned and shook his head. "I mean, geez, eyes like saucers, the whole shooting match. I swear he broke a sweat at the mere sight of her. You could practically hear him trying out pick-up lines. 'Would you show me around your village, senorita?' I mean, if you spoke enough Spanish to start up a decent conversation, you could probably get pretty far. I think some of those women were hoping that we'd fall in love with them, get them away from the war, take them back to America and make them honest women and/or citizens, something like that.

"So there's Pete, totally enraptured in this vision of loveliness. He's not looking at anything but the senorita. So I look around, just the usual, and I know it was only by accident that I saw the rifle."

Blair made a soft wordless sound, but Jim just shook his head again, slower this time. "Then everything went into slow motion. I remember thinking, it's a goddamn setup, screaming at Pete to get the fuck down, running toward him. He turns around with this stupid look on his face, completely stunned, and the rifle goes off. I wasn't even thinking, just moving. Threw myself at him and rolled once or twice, hit a rock big enough we could use it for cover. When I finally looked up the jungle was totally silent. I mean, nothing. It was like it hadn't even happened. No shooter, and Pete's senorita gone — just dropped the food in the middle of the road and hightailed it."

"And this?" Blair touched the scar again, this time with real tenderness. "You were hit?"

"Oh. Yeah, just grazed, really. It was Pete who noticed I was bleeding — I was flying too high on adrenaline, you know?"

Blair's eyebrows flew up. "So what'd you do?"

"Well, we weren't gonna go into the village for medical attention, that was for sure," Jim said dryly. "I got myself bandaged up and we waited for our relief duty. That night we reported back to camp and told the C.O. that the villagers maybe weren't as sympathetic as we had thought."

"So what happened?"

"Nothing. We shipped out not too long after that; there was a truce, which I think lasted about forty-eight hours, but that was long enough. I never went back. Just one of those things." He found another smile for Blair, and thought about what Blair would say if Jim told him the rest. About going down to the village on a perfect, crisp Friday morning and finding the little houses burned to the ground. Not just burned — incinerated, torched so well the ground around them had been scorched black.

He hadn't asked who was responsible. He hadn't wanted to know, really.

"So that was how that happened," he added finally, and sighed.

"That's a pretty sad story." Blair pushed his hand through his hair, looking unhappy. "For a whole bunch of reasons."

"Actually, I think we were pretty lucky, all in all. They could have just poisoned us."

Blair frowned. "Yeah. Why didn't they ?"

"Jeez, you sound disappointed."

Color crept into Blair's cheeks. "Seriously. Makes a lot more sense."

Jim grinned, and then nodded. "I have no idea. The girl was probably acting on her own — hell, maybe the shooter was her boyfriend, or her brother or something. It probably wasn't the whole village."

Though the whole village been punished. The whole village had been destroyed.

Jim pulled Blair's hand off his shoulder and kissed his palm. Blair tilted his head forward and took his mouth aggressively, forcing his neck back and kissing him hotly with lips and teeth and tongue. Jim moaned — so good, so very good. What a good fucking boy...

He was breathing hard when Blair lifted his head and roughly licked at a tiny scar over his eyebrow. "What about that one?" Blair asked breathlessly, and Jim laughed.

"That? Fell down on my face. Drunk out of my fucking mind the week after basic."

Blair grinned back at him. "What were you drinking?"



"Yeah. I introduced my face to the floor. 'Floor, meet my face. Face, this is the floor.'"

Blair laughed and sort of leaned backwards on his arms — fuck, he was showing off, showing off his chest and reddened nipples and hardening cock. Jim looked Blair up and down, biting his lip, feeling his own cock filling in response. "God, you're sexy."

Blair tried to look innocent, but Jim could see that he was totally exhilarated. "Oh yeah?"

"Tease," Jim muttered darkly, and then he bucked upwards, knocking Blair's arms out from under him, knocking Blair flat on his back at the foot of the bed and hovering over him. "Sexy little prick tease..."

Blair stared up at him with glittering, excited eyes. "Who said I was teasing?"

"Better not be teasing. You'd fucking better not be teasing me..."

"Not. Teasing," Blair managed as Jim roughly lifted his legs, gripped his ankles tightly, and began to fuck him. Bareback.

"I...geez...geez..." Blair moaned, and Jim smiled. Blair looked thoroughly debauched — wild-haired and come-spattered, eyes screwed shut and ass screwed open. His chest heaved with the effort of breathing.

"You're lovely," Jim told him, and meant it. "You're the most beautiful thing I think I've ever seen."

"I — thanks," Blair managed, and opened his eyes. Dark blue eyes, wonderfully blue above ragged red, kiss-bitten lips.

Jim gently stroked Blair's leg. "You do incredible things to me, pretty boy. You have no idea."

A faint smile formed on Blair's lips. "I think I'm getting an idea."

"Wait," Jim promised. "Just wait. Just getting started, here — I've still got a few tricks left."

Blair raised splayed palms to Jim's chest, fondled his pecs. "You're pretty incredible looking yourself, you know."

"But not pretty."

Blair's face grew thoughtful as he thumbed a raw nipple. Jim hissed with pleasure and pain. "No," Blair agreed after a moment. "Not pretty. You're too — impressive to be pretty. You're like a monument. All muscles and scars."

"I guess 'impressive's' not such a bad word for forty." Jim smiled a little. "I could do worse. But I used to be pretty."

Blair stared up at him for a moment and then nodded. "Yeah, I can see that."

"I'll show you a picture sometime. Before I became a human monument to survival."

"I can see it," Blair repeated, moving his hand up to stroke Jim's cheekbone gently. "In your bone structure, and in your eyes..."

Jim lowered his head to Blair's, slid his tongue into Blair's mouth, let Blair suck on it. Blair's hands moved restlessly over his shoulders, down his back, up and down his sides. When Jim lifted his body from Blair's, Blair brushed over his left collarbone with his fingers.

"What about this?" Blair murmured. "How'd you get this?"

Jim went still and cold as it all flooded back to him.


The sun is hot. The ground around the base is bleached nearly white, cracked and crying out for water. Your hair has been bleached too, gone gold from the sun. Your uniform hangs on you, even though you do your damnedest to keep it neatly pressed. You need to put more muscle on your frame, and then it'll fit better. Despite what you eat, despite all the exercise you do, you're still too thin — the weight just melts off you.

You're nearly twenty-four years old. It's the weekend, and you're feeling restless. You felt like you were baking within the tin-metal walls of the gymnasium, but outside it's even worse. Everything's white, even the air, even the desert hills in the distance. You've decided you doesn't like the desert. You don't sweat here. You haven't sweat a drop since you got here.

You feel dead. Dead things don't sweat.

You wait patiently until the sun goes down, wait to feel the cool evening air on your neck before you go inside and change into civilian clothes. You slide into a jacket, pat the pockets for your keys. On your way to the car you pass your captain. He looks you up and down, far too slowly. His eyes burn hot, like the sun. You keep your face carefully neutral, carefully pleasant. You could be interested, but not right now. Right now, the Captain doesn't have enough power to be interesting to you.

Besides, you want to be off-base, away from all this. Away from the hierarchy and the soldiers and the guns. Here, your place is clear. Here, all the lines are solidly drawn. But you want to go beyond the lines you've drawn, or had drawn for you. You want to lose your place for a while.

The car's engine chokes and sputters for a moment before catching, but this is your third southern posting and even your car's getting used to the climate. You love this car. Old, baby-shit tan Pontiac, huge bucket seats and real wood paneling on the dashboard. Power everything — power steering and power windows and even thank GOD air-conditioning. You hum to yourself while you drive, knowing you're off-key but not giving a damn. Who cares if you can't sing? It's just you and the car and this still, crisp desert nighttime, all dust and creosote and the faint, far off smell of cedar.

You head to the outskirts of town. You don't want to meet anyone you recognize. You don't even want to recognize yourself, tonight.

You turn your car into a gravel parking lot. The bar isn't much more than a tin shack, but you can hear the hum of an overworked air-conditioning unit, and snatches of music each time the battered wooden door bangs open. Country-western. You don't like country music much, but it's pretty much the only game in town. You're three bases used to it by now — three bases removed from the rock and roll you really like. Last two towns, the locals called it "nigger music." In this one, it pretty much brands you a communist.

You aren't a nigger. You aren't a communist.

You're lots worse than that.

You slam the car door and walk through the evening air to the doorway. It's always like this. You wonder what's going on, who might be around, what's going to happen later. Sometimes it feels like you're looking for someone in particular, some shadowy person you can't really imagine. Other times, it's like you're looking for anyone at all. Anybody will do.

Your dad would have said that you're looking for trouble. And he'd probably be right.

It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the darkness inside. Some guys are playing pool in one corner. A handful of others are sitting around, drinking beer and watching sports on the crappy overhead televisions. There's football on one set. Basketball on another. Large sweaty men running up and down the court, passing the bright orange ball between them.

There's a dance floor the size of the Pontiac's trunk off to the left, but nobody's dancing. The air smells pleasantly rank, like spilled beer and sawdust and cigarette smoke. It's a good smell, a dangerous smell.

You choose a stool at the end of the bar, where it's darkest, and order a draft from the balding, sweaty bartender. For the moment it's good to sit in the dark, to see and not be seen. A red neon Schlitz sign above the bar casts a puddle of light onto your beer, makes it oddly bloody-looking. You keep one eye on the game as you drink, and with the other you scour the room.

The billiard balls click softly together as the players shoot and ponder, shoot and ponder. They line up shots, aim, fire. A roar from the screen draws your eyes back — a three point shot, and the blare of the horn marks the end of the second quarter. The score is 44-51.

When you glance back down the bar you see a new patron sitting there — a short man wearing a nylon jacket. He doesn't look like a regular. He doesn't look like a soldier. He's staring down into his beer. His jacket has the name of a college sports team written in flowing red script across the back. But this is no college kid — he's old, maybe even thirty.

You let your gaze linger on him. He has wavy brown hair, and an endearing forelock falls into his face as he stares down. His fingers are now clutching the glass nervously, spinning it round and round in the wet patch on the bar. Nice cheekbones, pale skin — a good-looking guy, all in all, though he looks soft. A civilian, and not a regular. Must be pretty desperate to come out to a place like this.

Sometimes your vision is strangely acute. Sometime you get glimpses of things that you're sure you can't really see. You often wonder if you've imagined these things. Like the pale band of flesh on the man's ring finger. You can't help but smile at this, and you quickly glance up at the TV screen to hide your expression. Married. Married and desperate. How sad is that?

Though even as your eyes follow the bright yellow skirts of the cheerleaders, you're already starting to feel sympathetic. After all, it's not as if you don't understand desperation. You dart a glance back down the bar, and are not surprised to see that the man is staring back at you, though his eyes instantly shift back to his beer. You smile and look away again. You're starting to feel generous. You could do a good deed. It wasn't exactly what you were looking for. But it's close enough. Quite close enough.

You swivel on the bar stool and watch the other man overtly, sending a signal. And sometimes your vision is more acute than it ought to be, because you can see his neck reddening slightly under your eyes, see a bead of sweat trickling down. The man stiffens slightly, as if he's bracing himself for something, and then he slowly lifts his head. It's naked desperation, now. Desperation and fear and desire.

You keep perfectly still for a moment, then slowly incline your head toward the men's room door.

Relief flashes across the other man's face, and then there is a barely perceptible nod right back at you. Thankfully, the man knows not to move too quickly, not to draw unwanted attention, and together but apart you both turn back to the TV screen and watch the beginning of the third quarter. Two men leap into the sky for the tip-off, and the away team takes it. You find yourself grinning, because the away team happens to be your home team. You'd lost interest in basketball for a couple of seasons. The team of your childhood had fractured and fallen apart, becoming nationally known losers. But this rookie kid, something Wallace, is maybe something to build a team around, who knows?

You hear the scrape of wood against wood and glance up. The other man is now making his way toward the men's room. But he walks too close to one of the pool players, who is bent forward over the table, trying to make a shot, and joggles his arm slightly. It's only luck that the shot isn't ruined. The player jerks up angrily, pool cue in hand, and shoves him. The man blanches, stutters, apologizes. The player pokes him in the chest threateningly, and he apologizes again and skitters backwards toward the men's room door. He disappears inside.

The door is labeled "Roosters," and the corresponding door on the other side of the jukebox reads, "Hens." You roll your eyes and turn back to the television. You drink your beer and watch the new kid sink another three pointer. Not bad at all, really.

When your beer is warm and three quarters gone, you get up off the stool. You follow the other man's path across the bar, making sure to give the pool table a wide berth. You push through the door marked Roosters, and find that you have to readjust your eyes once again. The room is dark and dingy. The lumpy plaster walls are painted a flat black instead of being tiled. There is little reflected light. You can see two old, porcelain sinks, a pair of grimy urinals, a pair of stalls. The far wall is dominated by a huge iron fire door, which is specked with rust. A metal bar across it reads "NO EXIT".

The short man in the nylon jacket is there, at the sink. He's washing his hands — he looks like he's been washing his hands for some time. He looks up, and gratitude shows in his eyes. He'd feared being stood up. Now, perhaps, he fears something else.

You unzip your leather jacket as you move toward one of the urinals, and then you unzip your pants. The other man's eyes widen in the darkness. They're blue, dark, glassy; they're trained on you. Slowly, he moves closer, head slightly bowed, seeming hypnotized. He carefully raises one hand. He touches you.

At first, the hand is gentle — a petting caress. And then he takes a step closer and tightens his hand, gripping you tightly, his touch getting more urgent. You feel yourself hardening, filling, trying to fill his hand. Your cock is tingling. You feel a charge of excitement. You moan and let your head fall back slightly as he pumps you.

Harder. Harder. He's jerking you off good, now — he's got a rhythm set up. You can hear his harsh breathing, he's breathing harder than you are. He's fucking excited, he likes holding your cock in his hands. You can tell. You understand the feeling. It is a feeling you understand. You like it too.

There's something — wonderful — about being touched by a stranger. Five minutes ago this was a man having a drink — a man you didn't know. Now, he has his hands on you, he's caressing you intimately, caressing your dick like he owns it, like he owns you. He's seeing your face redden, your cock redden — he's seeing you in a state of vulnerability. He's got you in his hands, now. You're in his hands. He's holding you in his hands.

His hands tighten on you. His thumb is playing with your cockhead. He's caressing your circumcision scar.

Five feet away, other men are having drinks, playing pool, watching basketball. If you listen past the loud thrumming of your blood, you can hear them — talking, laughing, cheering. Whereas you — you're breathing hard and a fireball of pleasure is speeding up your spine. Your face is contorted in something like ecstasy, something like pain. Only five feet away. You can hear them as you feel this. The door can open, the door is unlocked — they could push right through at any moment, any second, faster and faster and they'd see what you're feeling, see what you're doing, see your naked cock, the man holding you pumping you —

You groan and release, spattering jism against the urinal.

You gasp. You gasp. It feels so good.

You're dizzy, and you waver a little, and the man is gripping your arm now.

You take deep breaths through your nose. You try to get air in your lungs, gather your strength.

When you've composed yourself a little, you look at your friend. He's flushed, he's panting, he's tripping on excitement. He looks like you've given him a present. Perhaps you have.

And you can give more.

You nod your head toward the stalls and move toward them, pulling your arm out of his grasp. He hesitates for a moment, unsure, and then follows you. You know he will follow you. The stall is thankfully clean — clean enough, anyway. When you turn around to look at him, he's got two spots of bright pink color on his cheeks, and his hair is falling into his eyes.

He's excited. You like that.

"Shut the door," you tell him, and these are the only words you have spoken to him, the only words you will speak. Words, you've found, aren't worth much. This is beyond words. All the good things are.

He turns and slides the metal bolt into the lock — it's flimsy, but it'll do. The small space is crowded for two, and you keep banging into the toilet until he turns around and you can push him hard against the closed door. For a moment he looks frightened, like things have suddenly changed, like you might suddenly grow violent. He suddenly remembers that he doesn't know you, and he allows himself to be afraid.

You don't want him to be afraid, not really. Not him. This guy's got a nylon jacket and a pale strip of skin on his ring finger; this guy smells of desperation and desire. He's nothing like you. He's everything like you. So you let your eyes warm a bit, and he notices, he sighs, he looks grateful.

When you get to your knees he gasps. You reach up, and unzip his pants. For a moment, he looks like he's not going to let you, but he does. He's instantly hard — you can smell it, you can feel it as you tug down his zipper. Baby blue, stained with a splash of bleach — god, his wife must pick them out. Darling. Horrible.

You shove the horrible briefs down over his hips and his cock springs free. It's beautiful, really — lovely meat, pale, thick, slight curve. You hear yourself moaning. You're surprised — as you always are — by how much you want this, how much you like it. You lean forward and take it into your mouth — chewing, biting, sucking — nearly as desperate as he is.

"Oh god — oh shit — oh — oh — " and you wonder vaguely if he's done this before, if he's had a guy eat his cock before. You're not sure, but you want to make it good for him, just in case. Good for him is also good for you, because you want it so badly, because you're fucking starving, and he's lovely, really — slick and thick and lovely.

The man's hands are drifting over your head, now — caressing your head, gripping your hair. He's fondling your hair, now. He's fondling your face. There's a moment of nearly unbearable tenderness as his fingertips glide over your skin, burning your skin as you suck him. He's reading your face with his hands. He's reading your face like Braille. You're stroking your tongue along the underside of his cock — touching his most intimate place, while he touches yours.

He's cupping your jaw, now. Stroking into you. You relax into his hands and let him do it. He's gentle — gently stroking in, gently stroking out. You grip his hips with your hands and encourage him to a quicker, rougher rhythm. It takes him a moment to understand what you want, that you really want it. You do, of course. So he fucks your face — nervously, at first, almost apologetically — and then harder and faster as he gets into it.

He likes it. Of course. You like it, too. Hard cock shoving into your mouth, using you, nearly choking you. God, you like it here on the edge of suffocation, you like it, you like it, you love it —

Bitter fluid fills your mouth, and through the pounding of your blood in your ears you can hear moans. His moans. Loud, loud — too fucking loud, really — he's moaning and jerking and flooding your mouth with his come. You swallow around him, swallow around your thick mouthful. You swallow and swallow, and swallow. He softens on your tongue.

And now, sucking him is like a kiss. You slide your arms around him, pull his dick in further as it shrinks, pressing your nose into this thick, dark pubic hair. You feel sated and dreamy, drunk on intimacy as you suck his softening cock.

The world ends with a bang — it's the noise you hear first. A bang — and suddenly he's falling away from you, plummeting through space. Except that's impossible, that's wrong — it's like a hurricane wind has —

No. Not a wind. In a second you see that the door's been pulled off. Pulled right of the hinges by —

You see hands. There are pale, rough hands on his jacket, clutching, pulling —

You see the raw, startled look of surprise on his face, and then he is gone.

You tense. But there isn't time enough to coil or spring or react. You haven't even had time to get your feet under you. The hands are coming for you now. They're everywhere. Your vision is all crazy camera angles — the wall, the floor, the toilet — as they drag you out of the cubicle. Grabbing your clothes. Pulling your hair. You're off balance — they've got you off-balance — and you can't get the leverage to land a punch. The world is tilting sideways. The angles of the world are all wrong.

They're pulling you out of the men's room, not back into the bar, but through the fire door. No alarm goes off as they shove the door open and pull you into the night. Your head smashes against the iron jamb as they yank you through. For a moment you see stars, and you feel warmth running down the side of your head. But you forget that, because the evening air is cool and there are other stars above you in the dark desert sky.

You glimpse the row of rubber trash cans leading up to the big iron dumpster, and then you fall, the rough, gray gravel rushing up to meet you. This is your chance, you think dimly. This might be your chance, anyway. Your moment to regroup and fight. But there are just too many of them. In the darkness you can't even see how many, despite the starlight. They're shadows. Ghosts. They surround you.

You manage to throw one punch, but it lands as just a glancing blow, skimming a beard-rough jaw. There is a roar. "MOTHERFUCKER!" The hands are on you. The gravel is scraping the skin of your leg, where your pant leg has risen up. The small of your back, where your shirt has become untucked. They drag you a few feet down the alley, to the far side of the dumpster, where they can't be seen from the bar's door.

Your jerk and raise your hands to protect your face as a beer bottle explodes on the ground near your head. But raising your hands has left your torso unprotected, and there's another explosion of pain at your side as a boot makes contact. You gasp. You've missed your moment. Now they have theirs.

There's a man holding your head down. One hand on your throat, the other pulling your hair. Another man is sitting on your legs. Your arms are pinned down by two others, one on each side. And there's a heavy weight on your chest.

A man straddles it, stares down at you. God. He's a lot older than you are, and he looks mean as fuck. His face is lined, and he stares down at you through the darkness. He holds your eyes, as if wanting you to mark down what he says. And then he says:

"God gave you that mouth for something else."

His fist hurtles toward you with the inevitability of a meteor. You close your eyes. There's no stopping it now. When the punch lands you feel your bottom lip split against your teeth, feel the jolt in your jaw.

It's the last distinct thing you feel. Because suddenly you're in a firestorm of blows — they rain down on your face, and you twist your head to the side. But there's pressure against your throat. This frightens you. You know you can survive a beating, but not strangulation. You won't survive if they crush your windpipe. And they might just do it — if only by accident, in their exuberance.

Their incompetence makes you afraid.

You have to get the hand off your throat. So you open your eyes, set your jaw, and stare up at the man on your chest. You suck in a painful breath — wet with blood, your mouth is full of blood — and then spit. You spit bloody saliva on the older man's jacket — it's as far as you can reach.

It has the desired effect. They are outraged, and they descend upon you. The hand comes off your throat and you suck in the sweet, dry night air. But the price you pay is their vehemence. They all want a piece of you now.

You feel your collarbone crack as your torso is pulled off the gravel. You gasp, you can't help gasping, as the strangler behind you kicks you, kicks your kidney. A whirlwind of fists and boots slam into you. And you wonder, through the haze of pain, if you've miscalculated.

There are hands on your shoulders, pulling you up. The broken collarbone grates, and you cry out. They flip you over, and before you hit the gravel again, face first this time, you see a blur of red. You realize that your nose is broken. You realize that your nose is dripping blood.

Your face slams into the gravel, and the pain is like the crash of a cymbal. Suddenly shit is falling from the sky, around you, on top of you. You don't quite realize that one of the men has emptied a trash can over you until the hard, stinking rubber can hits you in the back and bounces off. You hear laughter. Hands are on you again, pulling at your pants, ripping the fabric. You feel cold air on your back as they are pulled down your hips. The fabric bunches at your thighs — your pants, your underwear — and for a moment you feel stark terror. You wonder if they're going to rape you. You wonder if they'll go that far.

But they don't. Not quite. They force your hips down, force your groin into a slimy heap of garbage. There's more laughter, and a voice says:

"You like to fuck? Fuck this!"

The stink surrounding you is terrible and you feel something ooze over your cock. Old food, maybe. Something biodegradable, anyway. Your nose is suddenly full of the odor of sour milk, of fish guts and decay. You hear the thwack as something wet and gross lands on one cold asscheek. More laughter. More laughter. They're throwing garbage at you.

You decide it's best to be still, play dead. Garbage washes away, and maybe they won't kick —

Asshole. Asshole. A blur of movement. You feel the jolt against the side of your head, a flare of pain. You asshole.

And then only blackness.

You float. You float.

You float in a horrid, putrid sea.

When you wake up, it is dark. You can't see stars anymore, but the smells are vibrant. You smell dank gravel and rotting food. You smell beer and urine and blood.

You try to move, and pain shoots through you. You try to relax, to gather your strength before moving again.

Gritting your teeth, you roll over onto the side where your collarbone is not broken. You reach across yourself and hold your arm in place, to provide support, as you contemplate sitting up.

Your kidney is burning where it's pressed into the gravel. You ignore that. You focus on the task at hand. Taking a deep breath, you sit up, stifling a scream. Hot, wet streams of blood roll down your face, drip off your chin.

You are focused.

Another breath and you manage to stand, though it is difficult. Your pants are still bunched around your thighs. You hear a soft squish as something slides down your ass and falls to the ground. Gently, with one hand, you reach down for your underwear and pants and pull them up over your filthy genitals. You manage to fasten them around your waist. But just this small effort has made you dizzy, and you fling one hand out against the dumpster to hold yourself up, to keep yourself from falling.

You stand there, breathing, gathering your strength. You wait for nausea to pass. The smells. The smells are horrible.

Finally you begin to move around the building, still holding your arm, trying not to jiggle your broken collarbone. It is still and quiet; the bar has long since closed. You wonder idly how they managed to throw out the night's trash without seeing you. You berate yourself for your stupidity.

Of course they saw you.

Slow steps, and now you are back in the parking lot. Your car is the only one left. It's parked far away, where you thought it would be unobtrusive. It's a long walk, or it seems like a long walk, and you practically collapse when you reach it.

But you can't let yourself rest yet. If you stop now, you will pass out again. And you can't be found here. You have to get back to base.

You think about where your keys are. They're in your left pocket. You realize, with sudden stinging clarity, that your left collarbone has been broken. You steel yourself, and then gently change your grip on your left arm, holding your own wrist and trying to guide your hand gently into your pocket to get the keys.

It hurts.

You feel a surge of joy as your fingers close around the keys. The added weight makes it difficult to remove your hand, and you're sweating with pain by the time you manage it.

At least you're still alive.

Dead things don't sweat.

You transfer the keys into your right hand, unlock the door, open it, and slide into the Pontiac's giant bucket seat. You are breathing hard, you feel like laying your head down on the steering wheel and sleeping.

But you can't do that.

You turn your head and look at the still open door of the car.

Fuck. Fuck.

You can't close it. You need your left hand..

You sigh, and then you hook your foot underneath the metal of the door. You pull it as close as you can, and then reach across with your right hand, and yank it shut. It doesn't really close properly, but it will have to do.

You slide the key into the ignition and start the engine. Blessedly, the car starts easily — that's one thing going for you, tonight. And all in all it's better to have your right hand than your left — the ignition, the gear shift, all the important stuff's on the right side of the wheel. You lay your left arm in your lap carefully, trying to keep your shoulder still. You turn on the radio (right side, right side, gotcha!) wanting the noise, wanting normal sounds to keep you awake.

You put the car into drive, and ease across the parking lot and onto the street with the careful deliberation of the barely conscious. It is early in the morning now. The sky is gradually lightening as you make your way back to the base.

You have a moment of despair as you think about the guard booth, of having to drive past the guard in your condition. He can't get a good look at you — that would be bad. You'll have to leave space between the car and the booth. The car and its stickers will be recognized. Don't even stop — just keep your distance and wave vaguely —

Wave —

But you can't. Your waving arm is out of commission.

You stretch upwards and risk a glance at yourself in the rear view mirror. You start laughing, and even the pain in your side isn't enough to make you stop.

Your face is bruised and bloody. Ain't no way you're passing muster, boyo.

So you'll keep your distance.

And wave.

You begin making preparations. You hold the wheel steady with your knees, and twist to open the window with your right hand. You are, at that moment, profoundly grateful for the electric windows.

How you love your fucking car.

Then, grunting, you heave your hand onto the sill. You let it rest there, knowing that when the time comes you're just going to have to grit your teeth and go for it. Your reputation can't withstand any more scandal, any more strange events. It's going to be hard enough to explain how bad you look when you don't look quite this bad.

You take a deep breath and turn onto the base. You keep your distance from the guard booth, and lean away from the window as much as you can without looking strange. You approach the kiosk; the car is several feet away. At least the car is known. They know your car. You're counting on that.

How you love that monster Pontiac.

And it's a pure adrenaline rush when the moment comes — you know what you have to do and you do it. Like an actor thrust onto the stage. And you're sailing past the booth, and your hand is flying out of the car in a jaunty wave. You see a hand lifted in return, but you don't slow, don't stop.

You're ebullient — you're in! — even though you know it's going to cost you.

You don't even hesitate — you bypass your assigned parking lot, and your assigned parking spot. The goal is to get as close to your destination as possible. A parking ticket is the least of your problems. You'll take a ticket gladly. That's fine.

You have to hurry. It's light, now — activities are starting. You're lucky it's Saturday. If it was a weekday, you would have been caught. Of course, this wouldn't have happened on a weekday.

But it's the weekend. It's your weekend.

It's what you do with your weekends.

You park near where Larry is quartered. You turn off the engine, then turn to the door. No more time for subtlety — you kick hard, sending the door flying open. You edge to the end of the seat, and heave yourself out, kicking the door shut behind you.

You're out in the open. You have to move fast.

It hurts to move fast. But there's no choice.

You creep around the back of the two story building. You move toward Larry's window. Raising your good arm, you tap lightly. There's no answer. You tap louder, feeling desperate now that you're so close.

Finally, the curtain stirs. You see Larry's sleepworn face. He sees you and recoils, and you laugh again, realizing that you probably look like something out of a horror movie. You make a scary face, shape your good hand into a claw, and scratch at the window.

Larry stares at you through the glass, then points violently to the left. You nod, knowing that he will meet you at the door. A few more steps and you're there, and you lean against the brick wall, flooded with relief. It's okay now. Even if you pass out, it's okay. Larry knows you're here and hurt. Larry will take care of everything.

The door opens, and Larry's pale face peers out. You find yourself smiling, really smiling. You feel like laughing.

Larry looks at you, shaking his head.

"You crazy sonofabitch."

"Hi, Lar," you say, and you are still smiling.

Larry reaches for your arm, to pull you inside.

You fling your good hand up. "Wait, no!"

"Oh shit," Larry mutters.

"It's just a collarbone," you say dismissively.

"Get in here before you fall over."

Larry bustles you inside, through the hall, then into the rare privacy of doctor's quarters. You find it beautiful — you think it's the most beautiful place you've ever been. You are safe, here, behind Larry's locked door.

"What the fuck happened to you? Or should I even ask?"

You feel your smile growing wider still; you feel lazy and warm and safe, pain not withstanding.

"I gave a fucking fantastic blowjob," you murmur happily, and Larry sighs and reaches for the gauze —


" — Jim? Come on, man — don't zone on me, okay?"

Jim realized with a start that Blair's hands were cupping his jaw, thumbs stroking his face. God, still — even now — he loved having his face touched. He blinked and stared into Blair's concerned blue eyes. "I guess I...did zone a little, there."

"Everything okay? You back on line?"

"Yeah. Everything's fine."

Blair looked relieved. "Okay. Okay. Just checking. I don't want to lose you. Not even for a second — this is too much fun."

"Very fun," Jim agreed, dropping his mouth to Blair's for a brief moment. "Very very fun."

"I've never had sex without a condom before," Blair confessed abruptly, eyes flicking away for a second before returning to Jim's face.

"We used to do it all the time back in the old days. Now, of course, you can't do it unless it's something...very special."

Blair's voice was barely a whisper. "How special?"

"Very. Very, very. One in a fucking million special." Jim kissed him again, sucking him in, breathing him in.

Blair was flushed and panting when Jim lifted his head. "I — yeah. Me too, Jim, I — "

"No. You have no fucking idea. Really, you don't."

Blair stared at him. "Well. I mean. It sure feels special."

"It is special. You just can't know how much."

"That's why you have to tell me," Blair insisted. "You have to tell me everything." Blair's hand slid across his shoulder and traced his collarbone scar once again. "Like this. Where did you get this?"

Jim didn't look at the scar. Instead, he stared into Blair's deep blue eyes. Deep water. Deep water He used to be afraid of deep water. But not anymore.

"That?" Jim said finally. "I don't remember where I got that."

Blair opened his mouth to protest, and Jim slid two fingers into his mouth and caressed his tongue. "It's not important," he murmured, gently fucking Blair's hot, wet mouth with his fingers. "Past history. It bogs you down." Blair's deep blue eyes fluttered closed as he sucked Jim's fingers gently. "Lets focus on the future from now on. Okay?"

Blair didn't answer, and Jim took that as a yes.  

The End