They say everyone is good at something. "They" say a lot of things, though, and Craig is pretty sure "they" are frauds or liars—probably both—because he's never been good at anything. Maybe that just makes him the exception that proves the rule.

Token says that's not it: he says the only reason Craig isn't good at anything is because he's never wanted to be, so he's never tried. Craig is inclined to trust Token a lot more than he is almost anyone else. For one thing, almost anyone else would try to argue that Craig is good at something, whether or not they believe it themselves. Now, Token might genuinely think Craig is good at something, but the fact that he respects Craig enough not to argue that point is one of the reasons Craig trusts him.

Besides, Token is at least half right about this—Craig never has cared about being good at anything. Not until last summer, when he realized he wanted to be good at what he's doing right now: he wants to be good at Clyde.

He's not all the way good at Clyde yet, not as good as he want to be, but he's getting there. He knows how to kiss Clyde so he whimpers, how to kiss him so he moans, how to kiss him so he swallows his own breath and his heart stutters before pounding harder, like it's just done. He knows how to get Clyde hard without touching him, just by talking to him, but this isn't one of those times. There's been a lot of touching today, over and under their clothing, most of which is somewhere on the floor of Craig's bedroom now; they're not completely naked, not yet, stripped down to their underwear and wrapped around each other. Craig is good enough at Clyde by now to know from the sounds Clyde is making, from the way he's pushing into the grind, from the particular vibrations under his skin, that Clyde is close now, really fucking close. He could make Clyde come in his pants but they've done that before, a lot. Not too much; Clyde says it's never too much...but Craig thinks he only says that because it hasn't been yet, and Craig likes it enough, too, that he doesn't want it to ever be so much that Clyde doesn't want it any more. Not just the coming in his pants but everything, every it they do together.

So he has something different in mind for today, something they've never done before. He got the idea from Bebe, sort of. Not from talking to her—he's only done that once and, while he doesn't regret it, he would prefer not to have to resort to it again—but from the thinking back on her relationship with Clyde that Craig sometimes does. Digging up little things that hadn't seemed to matter at the time but that had stuck with him. He hasn't told anyone this, not even Token, certainly not Clyde, but Craig has found clues in Bebe and Clyde's relationship before. Like it was thinking back to the way Clyde always sat at her feet, even when there was space next to her, and the way he'd look up at her—not just a boy in love but something more or other—that first gave Craig a hint.

That led him to the way she'd sometimes ask Clyde to do two things that, in combination with each other, were impossible; and how Clyde never complained about it. At the time Craig thought she just wasn't thinking it through, but lately he's started to have an idea that she was thinking it all the way through and more—setting Clyde up with no-win situations because somewhere inside him, Clyde didn't want to win. Maybe he still doesn't, sometimes.

It took Craig a while to stumble onto the idea of giving Clyde punishments, so he figures Bebe must have stumbled onto it, too. That's probably what the no-wins were about because Craig knows that, as much as Clyde gets off on the punishments, he'll never deliberately fail Craig or disappoint him; Clyde can only enjoy it if he legitimately doesn't succeed. Craig doesn't know if Bebe set up no-wins when they were fooling around or not, but he'd bet Clyde loved every second of her punishments.

Craig wants Clyde to love every second with him.

So he's been experimenting with how to make punishment inevitable. He thinks he has a good one for today. He doesn't know how far Bebe took things with Clyde because when he'd ask in the beginning, trying to get a roadmap for where Clyde had been and where he wanted to go, Clyde only told him he didn't have to compete with her. Bebe might tell Craig but she also might just drop hints, like she did the one time Craig asked her about Clyde. Anyhow, Craig doesn't really want to tell her any more about him and Clyde than she's already guessed.

It's fine; he'll figure it out himself. He's been doing okay so far, at least.

Now Craig pushes himself back and waits for Clyde's eyes to open on him. He waits to be wrapped in the haze radiating from Clyde, waits for the focused gaze that shoots through the haze to penetrate through him to the back of his skull, tricking down his nape, down along his spine. The first time it happened, Craig had shut down. It had made him uncomfortable, like he wasn't himself, and he didn't understand it. It took him a while to realize that he'd understood it instinctively—he wasn't himself in those moments, or not just himself: he was also, somehow, Clyde; he was more than himself, and also more himself than ever.

He waits for the feeling to suffuse him this time. Waits for Clyde's lips to part like he wants to be kissed—and Craig could do that now. He could lean down and kiss Clyde, slow and deep, swallowing Clyde's sighs, breathing his own into Clyde until Clyde's lungs are filled entirely with Craig, until he's so full of Craig he passes out. They've done that before, too. The first time hadn't been on purpose. Craig had panicked when he felt Clyde go completely slack against him. He finally understood what the phrase "heart in throat" meant because he felt like he'd have thrown up his own heart, except it got jammed at the base of his throat. Anxious adrenaline had continued to course through him even after Clyde came to moments later. He couldn't ask if Clyde was all right because his words were somehow trapped behind his heart, still swollen in his throat. So it had been Clyde to speak first and what he'd said was, "Did you come, too?" Which, fortunately, had been enough to shock Craig's heart back down into his chest cavity.


It's become one of Craig's favorite things they do. He doesn't know if it's also one of Clyde's because Clyde says everything they do is his favorite. Which might be a cop out, but which Craig also thinks might be the truth.

Much as he likes it, though—much as they both do—it's not what Craig is going to do this time. He hesitates. Sometimes, like right now, he wants to ask Clyde if it's too much or not enough, but he has a feeling it's not as good for Clyde if Clyde has to tell him exactly what to do.

So Craig takes a breath and hooks a finger inside the elasticized band of Clyde's boxers, lets go so it snaps back into the soft little pudge at his waist. "Take these off. Go do it over there," he points to the middle of the room, "so I can watch you."

A flush appears on Clyde's cheeks, the brief flash of color fading as his blood rushes down to his cock. Clyde likes being watched. It's one of the things he's been able to say to Craig with words. They'd been making out at the movies not too long after Craig's talk with Bebe when Clyde had whispered that he had to go to the bathroom. "Come with me," he'd added.

"What for?"

"You can watch me. If you want..."

Craig's brow had furrowed. "Watch you take a piss?"

"Um." In the pause that followed, Craig knew he hadn't understood correctly. But all Clyde wound up saying was, "If that's. Um, if that's what you want."

"Tell me what you meant," Craig said, even though he'd figured it out by then.

It must have sounded enough like a command that Clyde actually answered: "I could. Get myself off. For you. If you want to watch me."

Craig had smiled in the dark, turned on as much by the mere fact of the offer as by its nature. He nuzzled Clyde's ear to whisper, "Let's go, then," before he stood.

They took the stall farthest from the entrance and Craig perched on the toilet, feet up on the seat, as Clyde leaned back against the door, eyes closed as he took his cock out, wrapped his fist around it, and started stroking himself with the handful of liquid soap Craig had squirted from one of the dispensers. He kept his eyes closed as he obeyed when Craig told him to push his pants down and spread his legs more, kept them closed as his hand moved faster and his breathing got heavier.

He didn't open them until Craig said, "Hey, smile pretty for the camera."

Clyde didn't smile when he looked into the camera phone but his lips parted as he came moments later, and that was just as nice as a smile.

It wasn't the first time Clyde had jerked off for Craig but it was the first time they'd done it in semi-public and the first time Craig had taken a picture, and Craig didn't know which of those things did it for Clyde or if it was a combination of both, but Clyde dropped to his knees after he came and asked to suck Craig's cock. Craig stood up wordlessly and unzipped himself, then let Clyde crawl to him. He took more pictures as Clyde suckled, pulling him off only to see if the vibrations from Clyde's tongue would turn into words. They did—"please, please, fuck please"—and then they were vibrations again as Craig slid back into the slick warmth of Clyde's mouth and came down his throat.

Everything about it had made Craig feel dirty. As they walked to his house afterwards, Craig kept fingering his phone in his pocket, his hand stilling only when Clyde bumped his shoulder.

"What are you going to do with them? The pictures, I mean." Clyde's half-grin couldn't hide the worry in his eyes.

Craig couldn't help feeling disappointed that Clyde thought so little of him. "You think I'm going to show them around or something?"

The corner of Clyde's grin twitched and his gaze flickered before he turned to look forward, his only answer a shrug.

It took Craig a moment to realize what the flicker had been: not hope that Craig was going to delete the pictures but fear of that. He took his hand out of his pocket and let it brush against Clyde's, though they didn't latch together as they kept walking.

"Download them to my laptop," he said at last. "I guess I'll make a hidden directory for all the pictures I'm going to take of you. Private stash for when I need to get off and you're not around. Maybe," he'd added spontaneously, "I'll print some out for whenever I want to come on your face."

Clyde took his hand then, and Craig let him.

He fucked Clyde that afternoon, right here on the bed he's lying on as he watches Clyde step out of his boxers now. He lets Clyde stand there, naked, for a few heartbeats before he says, "Come here and do mine." Clyde's hands are steady as he pulls Craig's briefs off, exposing his ring-bound cock, but Craig can feel the vibrations of anticipation in his fingertips; Clyde thinks they're going to fuck now. Craig hopes he won't be disappointed.

"Kneel for me," Craig says when they're both naked. He kneels up, too, waits for Clyde to settle back on his heels before he curls his finger under Clyde's chin like in the pictures on Clyde's favorite website, and tilts Clyde's face up so he can stare down into Clyde's eyes. "Imperative number one," Craig says, quiet and clear. He lets the shiver pass through Clyde before he continues, "You are not to come."

He doesn't wait for the shiver to subside this time before he takes a fistful of Clyde's hair and jerks back. Clyde's moan chokes off and rolls back into him as he inhales deeply, trying to steady himself.

Craig schools his gaze, waits for his own breath to steady before he says, in the disappointed monotone he's been practicing, "What's wrong—I'm not enough for you? You don't want to come when I touch you? You should want to come just from me looking at you." Craig would love that, actually: to make Clyde come just from Craig looking at him the right way. He doesn't know if such a thing is even possible, but oh god, how he would fucking love that...

His fingers tighten in Clyde's hair. Clyde, already close, is now shaking visibly; shaking more as Craig tugs him by the hair into an arch, then slowly pulls back until Clyde needs to use his arms to support himself.

"Stay like that," Craig says as he lets go of Clyde's hair. He rests the tip of his middle finger against Clyde's lips. When Clyde opens for him, Craig watches his finger sliding in and out of Clyde's mouth. He knows Clyde now thinks Craig is going to finger him, that he's supposed to get Craig's finger slick enough for that. Clyde loves getting fingerfucked so much, he came just from that when Craig was getting him ready for his cock the first time. That had been last summer, before Craig had figured out about punishments.

He has it figured out now, he thinks. "You should want to come from this. You should love all of me as much as you love my cock." Craig feels a thrill, a sick elation at the words he didn't know he was going to say. He's getting so fucking turned on himself, he'd probably come if he weren't wearing the cock ring. He can only imagine how it is for Clyde right now; he closes his eyes, shivers as he tries. He takes a deep breath, does his best to keep his voice low and steady as he says, "You should love my finger fucking your mouth so much that you can't help yourself."

Craig sees the thrill go through Clyde as Clyde realizes this is something new; the thrill's echo rolls through Craig. This feeling—fuck, Craig loves this more than almost anything, doing this to Clyde, making him thrill. He just needs to keep finding ways to do it. He slides in more now, caressing the back of Clyde's tongue, feels the gag reflex trigger. Clyde doesn't turn his head, though. Doesn't try to make it stop. His lips keep their tight seal around Craig, the tip of his tongue flicking against the underside of Craig's finger, just the way it flicks against Craig's cock when Clyde wants him in deeper.

"You beautiful, beautiful fucker," Craig whispers helplessly, feeling himself spill out despite the cock ring.

It's the tipping point for Clyde, too. As soon as Clyde starts to come, Craig withdraws his finger and slaps Clyde across the face.

It's not the first time Craig has hit Clyde. But, even though he knows Clyde loves it, he's just as scared this time as he was that first time when he hadn't known anything.

About a month after they hooked up last summer, Craig had started to feel weirdly insecure because, even though it felt like Clyde was having a good time with him, he never seemed quite as flushed and giddy with Craig as he'd been with Bebe. Insecurity is not a natural state for Craig so he's learned to pay attention when an exception springs up. He couldn't figure this one out on his own and he couldn't talk to Clyde about it, but it definitely seemed to be a thing—so finally Craig sucked it up and resolved to go to Bebe. The way someone says something is just as important as what they say, and what they don't say is sometimes even more important, so, instead of emailing, Craig waited for her to get back from the international relations program she and Wendy had gone to London for.

By the time she got back, she already knew Craig and Clyde had hooked up; Clyde didn't share Craig's qualms about internet communication. When he managed to get himself to ask if she thought he was doing anything wrong, she said, "Are you treating him badly?"

Craig was so offended he didn't want to dignify it with a response. But Bebe's arched brow told him she was waiting for him to say something. "Of course not."

"Well," she said, "maybe you should try."

And that was all she would say. That's when Craig, who had observed Clyde and Bebe as closely as decency would allow when they were together—and sometimes more closely, when he was sure no one was observing him observe—started to go over everything he knew about them together. He kept coming back to the marks he'd seen on Clyde's body a few times when they were changing for gym class, and the way Clyde blushed and looked away as if to hide what seemed, weirdly, to be a smile the one time he caught Craig looking.

Craig thought he might know what Bebe was hinting at.

It took him a couple of days to work up the nerve. That afternoon as they were going into the kitchen to scavenge for snacks, Craig had turned around and slapped Clyde across the face, hard and without warning.

Clyde's mouth fell open and he flushed, but Craig wasn't sure exactly what sort of reaction he was having. So, brow furrowed as he studied Clyde's expression, he said, "I've been led to believe you'd like it if I did that. Did you?"

Clyde didn't answer right away and Craig had a sinking feeling he'd made a horrible mistake. They looked at each other another fraction of a moment before Clyde dropped the gaze, lifted the hand that had slapped him, and kissed Craig's palm.


It was Craig's turn to blush then. As Clyde nuzzled his hand, all he could think of was Tyler Durden's lye kiss in Fight Club, lips seared forever into the narrator's flesh. He wondered if Clyde would ever want something like that. He wondered if he'd be able to do it.

He wondered why he was thinking such things at all.

He's never told Clyde about those thoughts. It's not that he's afraid of scaring or revolting Clyde; it's more that he thinks Clyde might say okay to it. And then what if Craig couldn't go through with it? Or what if he could?

He fixes his gaze on Clyde, post-orgasm but not coming down yet. It was the slap, Craig knows. "What should I do with you now?"

Clyde lies back, wordlessly spreading his legs.

Yeah, Craig could fuck him. He could take off the cock ring and straddle Clyde's head, let Clyde suck him until he's hard again; he could get between Clyde's legs and sink into him, feel Clyde clenching around him convulsively, milking his cock, mutely begging Craig for his come or maybe he'd actually say it this time, "Come inside me, do it man, please"—although Clyde hardly ever articulates aloud like that any more—and Craig would do it, he'd give Clyde his come, fill Clyde with himself.

He could do that. But he's not going to. He has a plan. "You think I should do that? You think I should reward you for—" He breaks off, still undecided between failure and insubordination, uncertain which will do it for Clyde more. "Disobeying me?"

If it's not the right choice, Craig can't imagine what the other would have done for Clyde: a visible thrill ripples through him. His breath stutters before he catches and holds it, letting it out slow and measured, his lashes still fluttering as he tries to keep eye contact. He takes another deliberate breath. "Will you punish me?"

"I will," Craig confirms. "Tomorrow. After the game." He probably shouldn't do this next part, but he lets himself lean down and kiss Clyde's forehead. "Go home now."

Unhesitant now, Clyde swings his legs over the side of the bed as he sits up and bends down to the floor for his clothing. "Is this part of the punishment?" he asks as he pulls his shirt on.

Craig smiles. "I have to make arrangements for the punishment."

Clyde pauses, hands still on the hem of his shirt even though it's dropped down. He searches Craig's eyes. "For real?"

Craig nods. "For real." He doesn't know if he can pull it off but, now that he's promised it, he knows he has to try.

It takes Craig an hour after Clyde leaves before he finally starts getting ready to go out. In the shower he gives himself a last chance to think about what he's about to do. There are parts of this plan he has confidence in, things he knows about Clyde without Clyde ever having to say anything. Like his exhibitionist streak.

It was over a year ago, at one of Token's parties, when Craig sort of wound up spying on Clyde and Bebe. He hadn't meant to, but he'd been pretty stoned when they stumbled out onto the enclosed back porch where he was curled up in a bean bag chair that had been exiled from the house by Mrs. Black; he'd been high enough that he'd found it easier to keep his mouth shut than to try to make words come out of it, and far easier to just lie there than to try to get up and leave. It probably would have been even easier to close his eyes but that thought hadn't occurred to him at the time, so he'd watched them making out for a while. They had their hands inside each other's underwear—his up her skirt, hers down his pants—when the door slid open again and Craig heard Kenny's voice: "Oh, sorry, dudes. I thought I saw Tucker come out here a while ago."

For some reason Craig had felt compelled to answer to his name. He'd stumbled inside before anyone could say anything; and no one ever did. When neither Clyde nor Bebe had acted embarrassed around him after that, Craig assumed at first that they'd been even more wasted than he'd been.

He stopped thinking that last October, when he and Clyde were out behind the science building after school. They'd been kissing against the wall for a few minutes when Craig felt his shirt pull taut across his back as Clyde's fingers tightened, and Clyde moaned into his mouth. Craig hadn't done anything special so it was unexpected—until he realized someone was watching them. He glanced over his shoulder and, seeing Bebe and Kenny, felt a flash of jealousy that she could still turn Clyde on so much. Then he remembered the party and thought maybe Clyde was reacting to Kenny; maybe they'd meant for Kenny to find them at Token's party that time.

Or maybe they'd put on that show for Craig.

Or maybe it didn't matter who it was. Maybe Clyde just liked to be watched: there'd been that sweetly wicked curve to his smile in the men's room at the movie theater, when he'd made a comment afterward about how anyone could have walked in on them.

Craig has tested the theory a few times, and he feels like Clyde does kiss differently when someone is watching them. And he definitely likes putting on solo shows for Craig.

So Craig is pretty sure Clyde will get into putting on a show for him with someone else.

He can't get into it too much, though; that would defeat the punishment aspect. This is the part that's been tripping Craig up: it's not the what, but the who. He thought of Token first, but then he took both Token and Jason off the list of possibilities because he figures they'd either be completely freaked by the proposal or they'd go too easy on Clyde.

Bebe, though—Bebe can give Clyde what he needs. He's on his way to talk to her now, just a couple of blocks from her street, when it hits him that that's just the problem—she can probably give Clyde exactly what he needs. What if she's so good at it, Clyde goes back to her?

Craig idles at the intersection, meditating on the stop sign. It has to be someone Clyde feels okay with but has never been in love with or best friends with. Maybe someone Clyde and Bebe put on a show for, like the one they did for Craig. Because Craig can't have been the only one they did that for, right? At one point Craig had even thought that performance might have been for Kenny...

Kenny. Okay, Kenny is friends with Clyde. They don't hang out all the time or anything, but they're friendly enough and they're on the baseball team together and all. Kenny is tougher than Token and Jason, less threatening than Bebe. As a bonus, Kenny has always seemed pretty unflappable when it comes to sex; even if it's just talk, at least he does have the talk going for him.

The blare of a car horn shakes Craig out of his reverie. He rolls down his window and, controlling the urge to flip off the driver behind him, motions for them to go around as he retrieves his phone from the cup holder and scrolls through his contacts for "Mccormick, k." Technically there are two "Mccormick, k"s in his phone, but to avoid horrifying drunk dials (as opposed to the regular embarrassing kind), Craig has listed his sister's friend under "Ruby - bff karen."

Craig hits Kenny's entry and types, home?

A few seconds later, Kenny texts his address.

no douch, r u there now.

yea dude comeon ovr

As Craig pulls a U-turn in the intersection, he starts rehearsing what he's going to say when he gets to Kenny's. Nothing sounds right and he isn't even sure how much background he has to go into, which was one of the advantages with Bebe; but Bebe's disadvantage outweighs that, so.

He still doesn't have it planned out when he pulls into Kenny's driveway but that's okay. The spontaneity will, hopefully, make it all sound natural.

Craig can't tell if Kenny's dad recognizes him but when he says he's here to see Kenny, Mr. McCormick opens the door wider and gestures vaguely down the hallway. Craig follows the muffled strains of what might be Pink Floyd to Kenny's door.

When the door opens, Craig's satisfaction in correctly identifying the music is cut short by the realization that Stan Marsh is standing there. Craig wasn't expecting this. As if that weren't enough, a fat lump that can only be Cartman is sprawled out on the bed behind Kenny, who is sitting on the floor; a pair of legs that almost certainly belong to Kyle are visible just to the side of the doorway.

"No," Craig says.

"Hey, dude," Stan says with a grin.

Since Craig has already offered his own greeting, he doesn't say anything. He stands in the open doorway as Stan folds himself onto the floor facing Kyle's legs.

"Oh my god!" Kyle's voice wafts up, breathy with revelation: "Dude, that's just, like—I mean, all we are is just another brick in the wall!"

Craig turns to leave.

"Tucker, dude—where're you going?" Craig turns back to see Kenny has scrambled to his feet. "You just got here, man!" He holds out the joint he's been smoking to Craig, arching an eyebrow. "You gonna tell me you have somewhere better to be?"

Craig glances around the room dubiously. "Are you sure?"

"It's just friends hanging out." Grinning, Kenny sticks the spliff between Craig's fingers.

With a sigh, Craig steps into the room. "Don't you have a game tomorrow?" he asks, eyeing the joint he's now holding.

"Yeah." Kenny drops down next to his bed again.

"What if they call you in to close?"

Kenny's grin has a bemused curve. "Then I'll close."

Craig sits next to him, toying with the joint. "Clyde doesn't smoke during the season."

"No?" Kenny's brows arch. "Lucky you."

Craig's gaze drifts with the smoke. "Why am I lucky?"

"All that post-game adrenaline?" Kenny reaches for the spliff wasting away in Craig's hand and takes another hit, eyes closed. "He's gotta do something with it, right?"

It's the perfect opening for what Craig came here for—or it would be, if these other assholes weren't here and if Pink Floyd hadn't yielded, improbably, to R.E.M. just now, leading Kyle to a new and apparently even more exciting epiphany: "Yes! That's just fucking brilliant—you can't get there from here!"

"Why don't you just walk?"

"Cartman," Stan intervenes as Kyle makes spluttering sounds. "That's not how it works."

"Fine. Swim, then. Or fly. Take a fucking rickshaw, for all I care." The mattress creaks as Cartman shifts onto his back. "If you want to get there, just go."

"You're missing the point, fat ass!" Even though Cartman isn't looking, Kyle points a finger at him. "The whole point of there is that you can't get to it from here!"

Craig misses Cartman's comeback because as he's turning to look, Kenny gets his attention with an elbow. "I'm glad you came over, dude." Kenny leans in and whispers conspiratorially, "It's not as much fun for them when it's just me and Stan." He lights up the fat one he's just rolled and nudges it into Craig's hand.

Craig takes a deep hit, holds it in as long as he can. He wouldn't mind if it were just Kenny and Stan here. Actually, he might not mind Stan being there tomorrow, either...but he still doesn't know how to bring it up with Kenny, now that the opening has passed. So.

So he sits on Kenny's floor, toking and listening to Kenny's appreciably eclectic taste in music, falling deeper and deeper into his own thoughts.

He's lost track of time, something he hasn't done in a while; he never loses track of time any more when he's with Clyde. They talked about it once, when Craig wanted to know if what he feels is the same as what Clyde does. What he's figured out is that it is and at the same time it isn't: whereas Clyde loses time and space and even, especially, himself in the feeling, Craig is the finder—aware of Clyde and of himself, of the time and the space they occupy, and everything else falls away.

Craig used to thrive on the kind of lost that getting high gives him, but time and space are lonely without Clyde any more.

Not that he's alone right now. He looks over at Kenny, whose face is tipped up to the ceiling, to all the stars in the night sky on the other side of it, way up there beyond the roof. "Hey. Hey, man—Kenny." He waits for Kenny to look at him. "Clyde needs to be punished. I want you to do it."

"Like a revenge thing?" Kenny asks doubtfully.

"No," Craig says. "Like he was, disobedient." He feels an unwanted blush coming on, even though he can see that Kenny doesn't get it.

But there's an, "Oh ho ho! Kyle, you owe me five bucks!" from above them, not as high as the sky or even the ceiling—the bed. The fucking bed. Craig forgot fucking Cartman was on the fucking bed.


Craig refuses to look at him. He keeps looking at Kenny, intent on Kenny's answer, which is the only one that matters.

The next words don't come from Kenny, though.

"What, really?" Stan says as Kenny raises an eyebrow that looks more like an answer for Stan than for Craig—though, actually, maybe it's an answer for both of them. In the corner of Craig's vision, Kyle begrudgingly take out his wallet; Craig fights a losing battle against the creeping blush.

Kenny doesn't comment on the blush, though he's looking at Craig so hard he can't have missed it. It's not like Kenny to pass up a chance to needle Craig but right now he looks serious. He looks so serious that Craig suddenly feels better about the decision to come to him.

On the other hand, as Kyle dutifully hands over a five dollar bill, Craig feels worse about spilling in front of Cartman, who is laughing again and who has, apparently, been speculating on his sex life—or at least on Clyde's.

"So." Craig drags his eyes from the money changing hands, back to Kenny's face. "Are you in or what?'

"Jesus Christ," Kyle says as Craig continues to focus on Kenny. "Come on, Stan, we're leaving."

"Oh," Stan says. "Okay, well, see you guys..."

Kenny lifts a hand to wave to them, but stays locked in the gaze with Craig. Craig doesn't know what's happening here exactly, but he feels like something is. He narrows his eyes. "Well?"

"We'll do it," Cartman says from the bed.

"I'm not asking you," Craig says, pushing down the snap, trying to stay calm.

"Okay." Kenny sits back, his grin softening as it widens. "When do you want us to come over?"

"No," Craig says slowly. "I mean..." His plan had been to take Clyde to Bebe's. Now he's not sure what to do.

"We can't do it here," Kenny says. He reaches over and flicks a finger at the wall. "This place is like cardboard, and I have a little sister."

As Craig is considering the possibility of doing it at Clyde's, making him take his punishment in his own house maybe, Cartman says, "We can use my lair," which is how he still refers to his basement, even all these years after the demise of the Coon.

The Coon calls up some uncomfortable memories for Craig—but maybe those uncomfortable memories will heighten the experience for Clyde. "Okay," he says. "I'll bring him over tomorrow."

"After the game," Kenny says.

"After the game," Craig confirms.

"After the game it is," Cartman says, like he's settling it.

"You can't fuck him," Craig says, and not just because he can't stand for Cartman to have the last word.

"Okay," Kenny says. "What else?"

Craig shrugs. He can't remember how he thought this was going to go with Bebe; he guesses he thought she'd be the one telling him things, or really that they wouldn't have to talk about it because she would know.

Maybe Kenny knows, too, because he says, "Okay," again, and that seems to be that.

Now that Stan and Kyle have left, Cartman seems to think they're going to watch porn and Kenny seems to agree with him, which Craig takes as his cue to take off, too. He can't find his keys and Kenny won't help him look, so he walks home. He'll get his car tomorrow.


Later today, technically. The anxiety Craig has been feeling is gone. It could be the effects of the weed, which was really high quality, but Craig likes to think it's because he's made a good choice with Kenny.

Such a good choice that maybe he's almost too good. Like Bebe kind of good, maybe... so it's probably good not to have him alone with Clyde, after all.

Not that they'd be alone anyhow, since Craig will be there the whole time, too.

But yeah, this feels like a good plan; it's fine; everything's working out fine.

It's late in the morning when Craig wakes up with his head under his pillow. He drags the pillow off and rolls onto his back, cradling it on his torso. He's still feeling pretty mellow from Kenny's weed, still feeling pretty good about Kenny—as good as he can feel about anyone at this point—but, in the light of day, not that great about Cartman. Then again, he never feels that great about Cartman. He should stop second-guessing and third-guessing himself and go with his instinct. Or, since he may have guessed himself past instinct at this point, at least stick with the plan.

Still on his back, he reaches for his phone. There's nothing from Clyde, but Craig didn't expect there to be; with the promise of punishment between them, Clyde wouldn't contact him first.

He did half-expect a text from Kenny but there's nothing from him, either. There are two texts from Token, though: one with a suggestion to meet at Harbucks an hour and a half ago, and a recent one asking if he's up yet.

up now, Craig texts back. meet at my house? coffee!

Way ahead of you. See you in ten.

Ten minutes—which, in Token-speak, translates to 600 seconds plus or minus 5—gives Craig just enough time for a shower. He'd normally skip washing his hair but he wants to feel clean today so he takes the extra couple of minutes.

Which means, of course, that Token is sitting on the front steps when Craig finally goes down. He takes the large coffee Token has extended up wordlessly and squints in the assault of sunshine before slipping his sunglasses on and sitting down for the first, welcome sip.

Token grins widely. "You cannot pull those off, man."

Craig fingers the frame of the aviator sunglasses. "Clyde gave them to me for Christmas."

"I know." Still grinning, Token shakes his head. "That boy has a seriously inflated esteem for you."

Craig takes another sip to avoid answering. They've had this conversation before, every time Craig has put on the aviators in Token's presence. He knows Token is joking but he doesn't really want to do this today. "We should probably get going," he says.

"Yeah," Token agrees. Then, even though it's tradition for them to walk to the high school on game days, he says, "Hey, where's your car?"

"Oh." Craig looks from the empty driveway to scan the street. "Yeah," he remembers, "it's at McCormick's."

They're down the driveway and turned onto the sidewalk when Token says, "You were at McCormick's last night, huh?"

There's something a little off in the way he says it, almost like he's imitating himself being casual instead of actually being it. Craig eyes him sidelong. "Yeah."

Token drinks his coffee. "That's cool. So who else was there?"

One of the things Craig appreciates about Token so much is that if he wants to know something, he just asks outright. On the surface, this seems like a direct question—but there's a weird urgency pushing up through Token's tone, which makes Craig feel like he's being pumped for information. He can't figure out what Token's fishing for, though.

Unless Clyde has recruited Token to find out what his punishment is going to be. That doesn't seem likely, though. For one thing, Clyde would have to explain the full nature of their relationship to Token, and Craig can't see him doing that. It's not like they're trying to hide it or anything, but how do you start that conversation?

More importantly, it would take away the anticipation. If Craig really wanted to punish Clyde, in a pleasureless way, he'd start by telling Clyde exactly what was coming.

So that can't be it. He shrugs. "The usual suspects."

"So Bebe wasn't there?"

"No." Craig revisits the idea that Token is asking on behalf of Clyde. Why else would he be asking about the very person Craig had intended to go see last night? Could Clyde have guessed? "Why would Bebe have been there?"

"Well, you know...she's pretty good friends with Kenny." Token tilts his head back without breaking stride as he drains the rest of his coffee. "So she'd probably be invited to his birthday."

"It was McCormick's birthday?" Craig feels genuine chagrin, not so much for forgetting Kenny's birthday but for, apparently, crashing it. And contributing nothing, not even a bottle of bottom shelf vodka. "Crud."

Token grins again but doesn't say anything. He doesn't have to. They both know Clyde's dad says crud instead of shit and, more often than not, Clyde does, too. Craig's been saying it since last summer.

"Why would you ask about Bebe, though?" he says, getting back to the point. Then: "Wait," he says, as a possibility finally hits him. "You have a thing for Bebe?"

Token's grin flashes wider before fading with concern. "Has Clyde said anything about us?"

"About you and Bebe? No. Why—is there a you and Bebe?"

"Not officially." Token can't stop his grin coming back full force. "But yeah."

"All right, well. Congrats, man," Craig says, suddenly feeling even better that he's taking Clyde to Kenny instead of Bebe.

"So Clyde hasn't said anything? Like..."

"Like what?"

"Like if he's okay with it?"

Craig feels his brow furrow. "Why wouldn't he be okay with it? They split up at the beginning of last summer, before she went to London. And he's, you know, with me now."

"Yeah," Token says, "but they're still close." Craig wonders if the twinge those words caused in him was apparent, because Token adds, "Like brother and sister. So I just want to be considerate, man." There's another pause before he says, "You know, like Jason and Ruby."

An involuntary, exaggerated sigh escapes Craig.

"You know it's gonna happen."

Craig shrugs. Jason was Ruby's first crush and their generation of Tuckers always returns to their first crush.

"He told you he wants to ask her to prom, right?"

Craig shrugs again, which is the same thing he did when Jason told him that. Token sounds like he's trying not to laugh. "The thought of them getting it on bothers you that much, huh?"

"That's not it—and thanks, by the way, for sticking that particular image in my head." Craig grimaces and Token does laugh this time. "No, but," Craig turns serious, "I just don't know which side to pick when they inevitably break up."

"Nice optimism, man. But why do you think you have to pick a side?"

Another one of the things Craig likes about Token is that, unlike Craig's family and the employees of the Park County educational system and most of the rest of the human race, Token not only recognizes Craig's "moving on to the next topic" shrug, but he respects it most of the time; and when he doesn't, he has good reason not to. Craig hopes this isn't one of the latter times.

Thankfully, Token's next words are, "Oh, hey—did I tell you I got a postcard from Tweek the other day?"

"No." Craig grins. Tweek moved away with his family when they were still kids. At first he wrote to everyone, sending postcards from South America where the Tweaks were trying to start their own organic coffee plantation. Craig wrote back a few times, but Token is the only one who's kept up correspondence through the years. "How's that kid doing?"

"He sounds good. He's coming back to the States for college—northern California, too, so we're aiming to hook up as soon as we're both there. Hey," Token lights up with sudden inspiration, "you should road trip with me! We can all hang out for a few weeks, if you still don't have plans by then. I mean, I know you guys were never super close—"

"Yeah," Craig says quickly, more to stop himself from getting caught up in the future—or the lack of one, or any inevitabilities that don't get any more bearable by thinking about them—than anything else. "But Tweek was the first kid I ever got into a physical fight with, and that's not a bond that can be broken."

"Oh yeah!" Token laughs. "I can't believe I forgot about that. You even teamed up with Cartman for that one. That was a hell of a thing."

That's true. Craig hasn't thought about that in a long time. It's a kind of interesting coincidence and even if it doesn't mean anything, he can't help feeling better about the Cartman aspect of today.

As they're walking through the parking lot, Token points: "Hey, isn't that your car?"

"Yeah. I guess McCormick found my keys." Craig grins at the day, which is getting better and better.

The bleachers are crowded. Maybe not crowded, but there are definitely more people here than would be expected for a pre-season high school baseball game—except, of course, if that pre-season high school baseball game marks the official debut of Lizzy Gallagher on the mound. She's been trying for the boys' team since middle school; this year was her last shot, since they're seniors, and she finally made it.

Craig scans the stands. Ruby and Karen are high up on the other side; even from here, Craig can tell they're wearing the South Park Butt Pirates jerseys Clyde and Butters had made up for Lizzy supporters. It's not that Craig doesn't support her, too; he just isn't going to wear that dumb shirt.

Token's probably seen them, too, but he knows better than to ask if Craig wants to sit with his sister. He does say, "The Sports Wife is here." Craig looks in the direction Token has nodded and sees Stan sitting by himself. Even though he's not a jock any more, Stan is at more games than anyone in else in South Park: basketball for Kyle, football for Cartman, and of course baseball for Kenny. Sometimes they sit with him but when Token says, "Want to go over?", Craig shakes his head. He doesn't think Stan would say anything to Token about last night, but he doesn't want to take that chance.

They've just sat down, a few rows up on the firsty base side of home plate, when the players come out to warm up. When Kenny spots them, he comes over and parks himself on the edge of the bleacher seat. "I gave Karen your keys, so Ruby probably has them by now. Sorry, I didn't know if I was gonna see you."

"Thanks," Craig says. "About last night—"

"Did you change your mind?"

"No." Kenny looks like he was expecting a yes, which takes Craig aback. "I was just gonna say I'm sorry for butting in on your birthday celebration. Why—" He glances at Token, who is engaged in conversation with the girls behind them; Craig lowers his voice anyhow. "Did you change your mind?"

"No, dude, I'm up for it." Kenny grins, pushes himself off the bleachers. "And like I told you, it was just friends hanging out. See you later," he says, strolling toward the field.

"McCormick gave my keys to Ruby, so I'm gonna go get them before the game starts," Craig says, scanning the field for Clyde and not seeing him yet." There's no reply from Token so Craig looks over at him, then follows his gaze to Bebe. He keeps his voice neutral. "You can go sit with her, if you want."

"No, man." Token turns to flash him a grin. "I'm sitting with you."

"Okay," Craig says. "Hey, I'll be right back." He walks around the back of the bleachers over to the side where his sister is and calls up to her but she's pretending to ignore him, so he has to go the front and walk all the way up, climbing over and past people, to get to her. "Do you have my keys," he says in the form but not intonation of a question, expectantly holding out his hand.

She gives an exaggerated sigh as she digs them out of her pocket, like it's been a huge burden for her to carry them this long.

"Thanks," he says.

"Hey, Tuckers!"

Craig peers over the side of the bleachers and sees Jason, catcher's mask pushed back on his head, waving up at them. He waves back and Ruby does, too; Craig doesn't have to look know her smile is outshining his own by several kilowatts. Since Craig doesn't want to have any more conversations about relationships today, he calls down a sincere, "Have a good game," and makes for his own seat, where Token will be thinking just as hard about Bebe as Jason is about Ruby, but will have the decency not to say anything more about it to him.

When Craig sees that Clyde has arrived at last and is talking with Token now, he hopes Token also has the good sense not to say anything about Bebe to Clyde just before a game, even if it's only a pre-season one.

"See, here he is," Token says as Craig gets to them.

Clyde smiles. "I wasn't sure if you were coming today."

"I told him you'd never miss a game for anything," Token says blithely.

Craig knows why Clyde wasn't sure, though, and he hopes the blush he's feeling doesn't show too badly. "Yeah, I'm here." Then, to deflect the heat, he says, "Wasn't sure if you were going to make it."

"I know, right?" Clyde grins but offers no explanation. He glances at the field. "Well, I guess I better get out there. See you guys later." Before Craig can remember to wish him a good game, Clyde turns and breaks into an easy jog.

He's still within earshot but Craig doesn't call to him because as soon as Clyde looked out there, he went beyond any wishes Craig or anyone else could offer him. Craig watches him go, trying not to blink, not wanting to miss the transition as Clyde moves onto the field, that perfect moment of transformation when he fucking clicks, synchronized with the world falling into place around him. Token may have been kidding, but he's also right: Craig wouldn't miss this for anything.

Home games are Craig's favorites because it means South Park starts out on the field. While everyone else in the stands is watching Lizzy throw the first official pitch of her high school baseball career, Craig only has eyes for the shortstop. Even if he hadn't heard the umpire's call, Craig would've known Lizzy threw a strike by the way Clyde's fist hits his mitt.

The next pitch doesn't go as well, and the one after that is even worse as the batter hits a line drive to right field. Fosse's throw holds him to first and Clyde calls to Lizzy not to worry about it—"We'll get the next guy!"

Clyde may be all confidence, but Lizzy isn't. Her first pitch to the second batter is a ball and the next one goes wild, but Jason's up with it quick and the runner stays on first. Jason hunkers back down behind the plate and Craig goes back to watching Clyde. Lizzy is still in his field of vision, though, and he sees her shaking off Jason's pitch calls. Clyde straightens up a split second before Jason calls time. Craig would bet most of the people here think it's Jason's time out.

Jason and Clyde go out to the mound, and of course Gary Harrison, as team captain, comes in from first.

After a brief conference during which Clyde only says one thing, Jason drops the ball in Lizzy's mitt and everyone gets back in position. Lizzy glances at Clyde before toeing the rubber. This time when Jason signals, she nods. She gets the ball across the plate but there's a sharp crack as the batter connects: it's a high infield pop up.

Clyde comes in but Lizzy's off the mound and, even though she hasn't called for the ball, he pulls up within steps of her. "All yours, man, you got this!"

Lizzy makes the catch. As she returns to the mound, she flips a glance at Clyde. "I know I got this, butt pirate. You don't have to tell me."

Clyde grins.

Craig lingers on the grin, seeing traces of it even when it fades from Clyde's face, when it diffuses and turns into something else, an unnamable energy. This is the first game Craig has been to since he and Clyde hooked up last summer and as he watches Clyde on the field—how he's aware of everyone, how he focuses on whoever needs it—it hits Craig that this might be the closest they get to knowing the way the other feels; Craig is with Clyde the way Clyde is with baseball.

Before he can give more thought to this, Craig becomes aware of Token saying something. "What?" Brow furrowed, he keeps his eyes on Clyde. His irritation spikes when Token laughs and he feels compelled to look over. "What?" he says again.

"Look who just got here," Token says, pointing to a man sitting by himself in the top row: Clyde's dad.

"Did he say hi to us?" Craig asks.

Token looks at him for a second. "No, man," he says, amused when he realizes Craig really doesn't know.

Craig gives Mr. Donovan another glance. He doesn't come to all of Clyde's games but he always sits alone when he does. Craig and Token have talked about whether they should go sit with him, but somehow they never do. He doesn't seem lonely, though.

Still, Craig decides to go talk to him. Clyde bats fifth, so there'll be plenty of time during the bottom of the inning.

When Clyde stops a bouncing ground ball and, with a quick toss to third, gets Lizzy out of a jam to end the top of the first, Craig climbs to the top of the bleachers.

"Hello, Craig." Mr. Donovan slides over so Craig can sit next to him. "How are you enjoying the game so far? That Lizzy's quite a pitcher, isn't she!"

Craig wouldn't really know about that, to be honest. In general and with Mr. Donovan in particular, ever since Craig started fucking his son, Craig prefers to speak honestly or not at all. Fortunately, Mr. Donovan is used to Craig's silences and seems to feel right at home in this one.

"I guess I should be getting back to my seat now," Craig says some time later as Jason, who bats clean-up, steps up to the plate with Gary on second. If Jason gets on base, Clyde will be up next; and if Clyde is going to be at bat with runners in scoring position, it'll be better for Craig to be sitting next to Token.

"All right, son. It was good to see you." As Craig stands up, Mr. Donovan adds, "The big day is coming. Can I still count on you boys?"

"Yes, sir." Clyde's birthday is one Craig won't forget.

He gets back to his seat just as Clyde looks at a strike on the first pitch. Clyde's not that great a hitter, which he says is why, despite his fielding skills, the best he's going to do is Division II ball in New Mexico. But his batting average doubles with runners in scoring position, like Gary is right now, and it would be even higher if sacrifices counted.

With two outs, though, Clyde can't sacrifice. He looks at a second strike and Craig is sure he'll swing on the next one, but he looks at that one, too—which is just as well, since the ump calls a ball.

Finally, on the fourth pitch, Clyde swings, sending the ball just to the wrong side of the foul line. That's okay, Craig tells himself, letting out his breath, taking a new one: he's still in it. Clyde fouls off the next one, and the one after. Next to Craig, Token has his hands cupped around his mouth, shouting encouragement; there's a lot of shouting, Craig is vaguely aware, as he watches Clyde foul off yet another ball. The Cows gave up one run at the top of the inning and even though Craig hadn't been able to hear them as they walked off the feel, he'd seen Clyde jog to catch up with Lizzy and had a feeling Clyde was promising her they'd get the run back. Craig is sure of that now, and it looks like Clyde is determined to get that run with this at-bat.

Come on, kid. You can do this.

Token has the same idea, apparently: "You can do it, Donovan!"

Clyde pops the next one up behind the plate and there's a terrible, heart-pounding moment when it looks like the catcher might get to it in time, but it hits the dirt before he can get his glove under it.

As the catcher goes to retrieve his mask from were he'd flung it, Craig takes a moment to remember to breathe, quick and hard inhale, the exhale slow and deep before he draws another breath. He glances down and sees his hand locked onto Token's knee. He starts to ease off but Token, without looking, says, "You're fine, man."

The catcher hunkers down behind the plate again, Clyde steps into the batter's box once more, and a sixth ball goes foul.

Craig feels his heart beating at a molecular level, the pulse in every atom of his rushing blood.

Then, as Clyde is swinging at the next pitch, he chokes up on the bat at the last second and lays down a bunt that's ugly enough to take a beautiful bounce as he takes off for first, forcing Jason to dash for second. The throw is to first and Craig holds his breath as Clyde slides—

Safe. Fucking safe.

Craig sits back, fresh oxygen reinvigorating his blood in a rush, his hand still resting on Token's knee as he watches Clyde get to his feet and dust himself off, all grins.

After all that, they only get one run to tie things up. The score is still tied at top of the fourth inning, when Lizzy gives up consecutive singles with no outs.

Craig can't take his eyes off Clyde.

Which turns out to be the perfect place to be looking, since Clyde makes a diving catch for a line drive that looks like an RBI single until his glove snatches it out of the air, then throws to third quickly enough to take out the runner who'd been foolish enough to go for it.

Craig is watching Clyde move back into position when he becomes aware that Token is saying something to him, and may have been for some time. In many regards, Token is the best possible person to be with while watching Clyde play baseball. On the other hand, Token is one of those people who considers baseball a social sport for spectators, so he sometimes does this thing where he talks a lot during the game.

"What, dude—what? I mean, can this wait for 30 seconds?"

Token laughs.

Craig gives him a sidelong look before focusing on Clyde again. "Okay, seriously: what?"

"Nothing," Token says. "Just, you know that's how everyone figured it out, right? Even before you asked him out."

Craig turns to him now. "What?"

"You get so intense, man. I used to think you were looking at him like that because you could do it without him knowing, but you're still doing it." Token shakes his head. "You must really love to watch him play."

Craig feels a flush crawl along under his skin but he doesn't acknowledge it and he doesn't answer Token, who has turned his attention back to the game. It's true, more true than Token could understand: Craig can't get enough of watching Clyde play, even more so now that they're together, because it's the most beautiful thing in the world to watch Clyde lose himself and find himself in something he loves so much.

After six and a half innings, the score is 3-2, South Park. Kenny closes and Lizzy gets credit for the win, even though Craig feels like it really belongs to a certain player who didn't throw a single pitch and neither scored nor batted in the winning run, and who would just say, "It belongs to the team," if anyone were to suggest the win is his.

It almost makes Craig feel badly for what he's about to do.

Almost is not enough to stop him, though, and he's waiting when Clyde comes out of the locker room.

"Hey!" Clyde pushes his shower-wet hair back from his face one-handed as he comes up to Craig. "Thanks again for coming." Everything about him is bright, the adrenaline of victory still humming through his blood. "Can I come over after pizza?"

"No," Craig says.

Clyde's grin falters. "No?"

Craig doesn't repeat it. He just keeps looking at Clyde.

He sees it, the moment Clyde gets it. Clyde's eyes get wider—opening himself for the gaze, opening himself for Craig.

Then his lashes flutter down, but he's not shutting Craig out, because Craig is already inside him.

Eyes closed, Clyde reaches for Craig and rests a hand on his hip. He's never something like that before—but then, they've never done something like this before.

Neither of them says anything when Clyde opens his eyes. Craig feels like maybe he should kiss Clyde but before he can make up his mind, Clyde turns without a word and goes over to where some of his teammates have gathered. Kenny's not among them but Lizzy is, and it looks like Clyde is congratulating her. Then Clyde says something else and a few of the players look over at him. Lizzy punches Clyde on the shoulder and, after returning it, Clyde comes back to Craig.

They don't talk as they walk out to Craig's car, but as they reach the parking lot Clyde brushes the back of his hand against Craig's, wanting to be held, and Craig lets their fingers entwine.

In the car, Clyde doesn't ask where they're going and Craig doesn't tell him.

Clyde still doesn't say anything when he recognizes the streets they're taking but Craig knows Clyde has figured out where they're going, because he feels an ebb in the humming beneath Clyde's skin even before he parks curbside in front of Cartman's house. "Apparently Cartman's beta testing a new game for the Gamesphere," Craig says with practiced skepticism as they get out of the car. "He said we could come over to check it out. Which probably means watching him play, but." He shrugs to end the sentence, and to try to throw off the blush threatening to creep up the back of his neck at the unintended double entendre.

"Oh. Okay. Um, cool." Clyde's quiet as they walk up the driveway is different from before and Craig is pretty sure he thinks that not letting him go with the team is the punishment.

They don't have long to wait at the front door before Kenny answers it. "Hi, guys."

"Hey, man," Clyde says. Craig can feel something clicking in him as he looks at Kenny, like it's trying to reignite. "What are you doing here?"

"Same as you, dude. Hanging out. Cartman's down in 'The Lair'," he says, arching an eyebrow like his face is air quoting. "There's pizza down there already. You want anything to drink?" He doesn't wait for an answer as he heads off toward the kitchen.

Craig has been practicing his neutral-bored expression in the mirror for this occasion and is pretty sure he has it in place when Clyde glances at him sidelong before returning his gaze to Kenny's disappearing back.

"So, uh, you didn't go with the team?" Clyde asks when they catch up with him, assessing the contents of the Cartmans' refrigerator.

Kenny gives Clyde a very believable are you kidding me look over his shoulder before he returns his attention inside the fridge. "For a pre-season game?"

"Well, yeah," Clyde concedes, going over to start gathering up the snacks Kenny is stacking on the counter. "But it's not just any pre-season game. It's Lizzy's, you know?"

Kenny shrugs as takes a six pack out of the fridge and passes it back to Clyde without a glance this time. "Why didn't you go?"

"Oh, yeah." The bottles rattle as Clyde hooks his fingers through the handle of the six pack, slipping a hand beneath to support it. "Well..." He looks at Craig, doubt clouding the glimmer in his eyes. Craig looks back, skewering his neutral-bored expression with a quirked eyebrow.

Kenny has moved past this part of the conversation, though, as if his question had been rhetorical. He emerges from the fridge with a couple of bottles of water. "Ready to play?"

Clyde still doesn't seem to have picked up the double entendre but Craig feels it coil in his belly—not the words themselves so much as the wink Kenny gives him behind Clyde's back as they follow him down.

"Well, well—what have we here?"

Standing at the bottom of the basement steps, Cartman's expression is as smug as his tone and that's all it takes for Clyde's full-body flush to start, even before Cartman swishes the teacher's pointer through the air. Craig doesn't know if it's the same one Cartman used on Clyde back in 4th grade, but it doesn't matter—the association is impossible to escape.

Craig pushes down his irritation and disappointment. He wanted to be the one to reveal the situation, the one to make Clyde color so beautifully like this, to make him catch and hold his breath before letting it out slowly, to make his eyes widen and his lashes flutter and his heart pound harder, the one to make the blood not coloring his face rush to fill his cock.

Before Cartman can do anything else, Craig moves forward, occupying Clyde's attention, touching his face, holding his gaze.

They've never done this in front of anyone and Craig doesn't know if it will work. It takes a couple of seconds for their gazes to latch right; even then the connection feels tenuous to Craig, but Clyde must be feeling it because a moment later he goes to his knees.

Although Clyde is well aware of the situation, Craig wants him to hear it. He leaves his finger curled beneath Clyde's chin as he says, "This is your punishment." Then, wanting to amp up Clyde's fear/pleasure adrenaline, he lets his hand fall away and adds, "They're going to do whatever they want to you." Craig doesn't really want them to do whatever they want and he thinks he made that clear enough to them yesterday. These words are for Clyde, not them. This is all for Clyde.

Craig holds Clyde's gaze for another moment. Every time he does something new with Clyde, no matter how sure of himself he is right up to the moment of doing it, starting from that very first slap in Clyde's kitchen—every time, Craig experiences an indescribable rush. He doesn't think it's the same rush Clyde gets and Craig doesn't get off on it or anything. But it makes him feel closer to Clyde, to experience a little of what Clyde's feeling, a glimpse that no words could ever offer him.

Clyde's mouth has fallen open. Not jaw-droppingly open, just parted along the seam of his lips. It took Craig a few times to figure it out: when Clyde does this, he wants Craig to put his mouth over Clyde's, to feel the wordless yes vibrating on Clyde's tongue.

Craig doesn't kiss Clyde this time but he does smile. "He's all yours," he says, still looking at Clyde, his words still meant entirely for Clyde even as they're addressed to someone else on the surface.

He continues to hold the gaze as he backs up and seats himself on a chair against the wall.

Their eye contact breaks when Kenny moves in. Standing behind Clyde, Kenny directs him by touch to lift his arms overhead, then pulls Clyde's shirt up but not off, twisting it around his wrists. "Stay like this," Kenny says, softly but still loud enough for Craig to hear as he soothes his hands along Clyde's arms in a way that makes Craig uncomfortably aroused; yeah, Kenny obviously knows a thing or two.

With Kenny still behind Clyde but no longer touching him, Cartman reaches out and flicks one of Clyde's nipples. "Yeah, you like that," he says when Clyde gasps. Says it in the same voice he used back when he whipped Clyde with the teacher's pointer stick. It made Craig squirm when he was nine years old and he didn't know why. He knows now and the arousal leeches out of him, leaving him just plain uncomfortable.

Then Cartman hooks his fingers into a claw and rakes his nails against Clyde's face, tracing the scars he gave Clyde when they were kids. Craig hasn't told Clyde this because he can barely tell himself; he'll only let himself know in the dark of night, in the dark of his heart, that some day he wants to remake those scars, slice Cartman out of them, make them his and Clyde's. Watching Cartman finger Clyde's face like that, Craig wishes he'd already done it.

It makes him feel sick. That thought. Himself. Cartman. All this right here.

It gets worse when Kenny blindfolds Clyde. Clyde sometimes closes his eyes, either on his own or because Craig tells him to, but Craig has never blindfolded him. He didn't know they were going to.

Craig didn't know it was going to be like this. He realizes now he didn't think this through as much as he'd thought he had. He didn't really think this through at all.

He doesn't think he likes this.

But then Kenny's hands move to Clyde's waistband and, when he drags down Clyde's zipper, it's obvious just how much Clyde does like it. "Dripping wet for me already," Cartman says as his thumb rubs through the glisten of precome. "Oh yeah." He smears it across Clyde's lips, leers when Clyde parts for him. "You're gonna take it. You're gonna fucking love it."

Craig thinks Cartman is right—Clyde will fucking love it.

Craig doesn't want to mess it up for him.

He goes upstairs without a word.

At first he just means to wait in the living room, but he can't stop feeling shaky and he thinks he might be allergic to Cartman's whole fucking house, so he gets in his car and texts Kenny, get him home ok, pls.

The image of Cartman's thumb caressing Clyde's lips so ungently worms its way into Craig's head. no kissing ok, he adds.

He drives around for a while, not wanting to go home himself, not wanting to go anywhere.

Craig doesn't know how long he drove around, but he's been home about five minutes when he gets a text from Kenny: bringin him to yours u better b there.

This isn't what Craig asked Kenny to do, but then he thinks maybe this is how Kenny interpreted "home"—or maybe it's how Clyde did. Craig can't help smiling a little at that thought. He was planning on going over to Clyde's anyhow, so it's fine.

He smiles more when he hears the knock on the door—but as soon as he opens it, the sick feeling trickles back in. Something is off. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Clyde says, but he's obviously lying; his voice is flat even for him and he won't look Craig in the eye.

Craig wants to reach for Clyde but he has this weird feeling Clyde might flinch away from him. If Clyde is going to flinch, Craig doesn't want it to be in front of Kenny. So he just says, "Go up to my room, okay?"

Clyde shoots Kenny a look, a silent question; which Kenny silently denies with an almost imperceptible shake of his head as he looks away from Clyde. Clyde looks at Kenny another moment; he still doesn't look at Craig as he slips past, his footsteps dull on the carpeted steps up to the second floor.

When Craig is sure Clyde has gone upstairs, he steps outside and pulls the door shut behind him. "Okay. What the fuck happened?"

Kenny opens his mouth but then just sighs, like he can't find the words or doesn't want to say them.

The knot in Craig's stomach tightens. "Did Cartman fuck him?"

"Not exactly," Kenny says. "But it got a little rough."

"What the hell does that mean?"

After a moment of contemplation, which only increases Craig's anxiety, Kenny holds up his hand and starts folding his fingers one by one into a fist.

Confusion momentarily replaces Craig's anxiety. "Cartman punched him?"

"Uh, no," Kenny says, still holding up his fist.

"What~ oh. Oh fuck," Craig says as it hits him. He drags his eyes from Kenny's fist to his face. "Did he actually—?"

Kenny shakes his head, relaxing his hand. "He only got as far as four fingers," he says, unfolding the fist to hold up four of his own.

The trickle of nausea turns into a flood. Kenny looks like he's going to say more but Craig shakes his head, holds up his hand palm out to ward off the words. "Thanks, man," he says, retreating inside and shutting the door before Kenny can even try to tell him anything else.

Up in his room, Craig finds Clyde sitting on the edge of his bed, watching his fingers play with each other in his lap. Craig knows what Kenny was trying to tell him at the end there: he knows it wasn't Cartman's fault—it was his. He fucked up today. He doesn't think he fucked up enough to lose Clyde; Kenny wouldn't have brought him here if Craig had fucked up that much. He would have just brought Clyde home with him and done all the right things, because Kenny seems like he knows what they are. Or maybe he would have brought Clyde to Bebe's, because if Bebe ever fucked up with Clyde, it was definitely never this much.

Craig wants to be the one Clyde goes to when things are fucked up.

"Hey," Craig says, coming to a decision. He waits for Clyde to look up at him. "Call your dad and tell him you're staying here tonight. Then go take a long shower. I'll be in, in a little bit."

"Okay," Clyde says, but he doesn't get up.

Craig pushes back the locks of hair that have fallen into Clyde's face. They flop forward when he lets go, so he smoothes them back again; and again; and again, until the tension is, if not gone, at least eased. "Go call your dad," Craig says again. "I'll meet you in the shower."

When Clyde goes out into the hall, Craig listens to him call his dad, then waits to be sure Clyde has gone down to the bathroom before he sends the text he's typed out to Kenny: ok - tell me what i need to know.

r u sure?


When no answer comes, Craig follows up: dont make me beg. thats not my thing.

can u call me?

Before Craig can respond, Kenny texts again: nm, calling u now.

When Craig answers the call, Kenny says, "You don't have to say anything, just listen. First, this wasn't Cartman's fault, it was—"

"Mine, I know." Craig feels prickly. This is why he didn't want to get into a conversation about it.

There's a pause, which is equally irritating, before Kenny says, "That's not what I was going to say. But okay, I'm not gonna argue with you."

Neither of them speak until Kenny says, "Tucker? Are you still there, dude?"

"You said I didn't have to say anything. So I'm not saying anything."

"Jesus Christ," Kenny mutters, though he obviously means Craig to hear it since he mutters right into the mouthpiece. Craig opts not to respond and finally Kenny starts talking. "He took the first three fingers okay, but he started to squirm away at the fourth and asked Cartman to stop. See, Cartman's interpretation of the situation was that Clyde wasn't supposed to have a say in anything, and as long as his dick did not go up Clyde's ass he was within his rights." Kenny sounds like he's quoting, but Craig doesn't interrupt to ask because it doesn't really matter. "My interpretation was that you and Clyde have a safe word that you didn't want to share with us, and you were going to be there if and when Clyde used it."

A safe word. Craig has read about those. He and Clyde have never used one, though, and it didn't occur to Craig that someone else might not be as in-tune with Clyde as he is, or that they might keep going even if they did sense something. He's not about to admit that to Kenny, though.

Fuck. Why didn't he just stick with the Bebe plan? This wouldn't have happened with her.

But who knows what might have happened instead. Maybe Craig's worst fear, that Clyde would go back to her. Maybe something even worse that he didn't know enough to be afraid of.

Something just like this.

Kenny lets the silent accusation hang heavy on the phone line just long enough for Craig to wallow in his thoughts but not so long that Craig hangs up, before he continues. "The safe word is never 'no' or 'stop,' right? So when Clyde started saying that, I didn't think he meant it. But then he started crying. Like, really crying. When I noticed he'd gone, you know, soft—dude, I swear, I pulled Cartman off him as soon as I realized."

The silence lasts long enough this time that Craig thinks Kenny is done. He's about to hang up when Kenny says, "I know this doesn't help Clyde, but Cartman feels terrible. He's pretty interested in the scene, you know? But he's never had anyone to play with, and he honestly thought he was playing by the rules. So just, when you see him tomorrow... I don't know."

"Got it," Craig says. "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

Kenny doesn't acknowledge the reference but they've both watched The Princess Bride with Clyde approximately one thousand sixty-four times, so Craig knows he got it.

"Go take care of your boy," Kenny says and hangs up before Craig can say, "As you wish," which is just as well since that's not who Craig should be directing the sentiment to, anyhow.

The bathroom is all steamed up when Craig goes in. He sits on the sink counter as he watches Clyde's shape through the frosted glass of the shower door. After a while, Clyde's hands stop moving but, even though he's not soaping up and it doesn't take that long to rinse off, he doesn't come out. Craig starts to worry that something is wrong, but Clyde's shoulders aren't shaking or anything and he's never been a silent crier. Something occurs to Craig then and, testing a theory, he goes over and cracks open the shower door. "Hey."

Clyde turns to him. He looks, if not completely okay, way better than he did when he first got to Craig's.

"Do you want to come out now?" Craig asks.

There's just enough hesitation before Clyde nods that Craig wonders if he should have made it an order instead of a question.

As Clyde is drying off, Craig feels like he should say something but he doesn't know what. So it's Clyde who breaks the silence: "I can make something for dinner, if you want."

The offer catches Craig off-guard though, in retrospect, it shouldn't—Clyde has always found comfort in food, the preparing of it as equally as the consuming. "Okay." Craig dares a smile, hoping Clyde will smile back, more relieved than anything else when he does.

As Clyde is chopping vegetables to go into the pasta sauce, Ruby wanders in. "Nice game today!" she says when she sees him.

Clyde gives her a grin over his shoulder. "Thanks. Lizzy was the real star, though."

"To some people," she says agreeably.

It almost makes Craig want to let her stay. Almost. When Clyde's focus is back on the cutting board, Craig catches her eye and points at the doorway.

Flipping him off, she goes over and pulls down a box of cereal from the top of the fridge. Clyde glances over at the sound of generic multigrain Os rattling into a bowl. "Do you want to eat with us? There's going to be a lot."

"Okay," she says, pointedly ignoring Craig's new negative gesturing. "Can I help?"

"Yeah, that would be great." Clyde grins at her. "Think you can do the salad?"

As his sister joins Clyde at the counter, Craig feels guilty even though he knows Clyde wouldn't have accepted his help, and jealous that he does take Ruby's. Then he feels stupid for being jealous of his sister over Clyde. The whole thing is putting him in a bad mood; and then he feels even worse because if anyone should be in a bad mood, it's Clyde. Who, instead of being sullen and prickly, is all smiles as he shows Ruby how to hold the knife properly to chop the onions, which have been soaked in cold water so as not to make anyone cry.

The smiles don't fool Ruby, though. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah." Clyde gives her a half-grin as he shrugs. "Just had a rough day."

"Was it because of my stupid brother?" She turns to glare daggers at Craig, who flips her off. Both hands occupied, she sticks out her tongue before saying, "If it was, I'll beat him up for you, if you want." She's had a protective streak about Clyde for a long time. At first Craig thought she had a crush on him, but that wasn't it—he's since seen what her crushes on his friends look like, at one time with Token (understandable) and now as before with Jason (whatever). It's different with Clyde. He's like a brother to her. "My smart brother," she'd explained one time to Craig. "And you're my stupid brother."

"No, it's not his fault," Clyde says to her now. But he's really saying it to Craig, which makes Craig's chest tighten.

"I could beat him up for you anyhow," she offers.

Clyde laughs. "Maybe another time."

"You always say that," she says, "and it's never another time."

Clyde smiles but doesn't say anything. He goes to consult the cookbook, even though Craig knows Clyde can make pasta sauce in his sleep.

Ruby finishes with the salad and brings it to the table. Voice lowered so Clyde can't hear, she says, "You better not give him any rough days."

"'Cause you'll beat me up?"

"'Cause you'll never find anyone as good as him," she says, wiping the half-cocked grin off Craig's face.

She's back at the counter asking Clyde what she can do next before Craig has a chance to respond. Which is just as well, since he can only agree with her.

Even though his parents aren't home and they have the house to themselves when Ruby goes out after they eat, Craig takes Clyde up to his room. They check their phones; it takes Clyde longer to scroll through his.

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah. Just messages from the guys."

The team. Right, of course. "I'm sorry about today," Craig says as they settle on his bed.

"You don't have to apologize," Clyde says, just as Craig is adding, "About not letting you go for pizza."

"Oh," Clyde says. His brow knits, then the furrow smoothes. "Um. Well, I mean, Kenny didn't go, either."

"Yeah, but it doesn't mean to Kenny what it means to you."

Clyde tilts his head, curiosity slanting one side of his mouth upward. "What it means to me?"

Craig is starting to feel stupid, regretful of saying anything. He looks down. "You love baseball."

Clyde must think it's a dumb thing to say, too, because he doesn't say anything back. When Craig looks up, though, Clyde is smiling. "Do you still want me to stay tonight?"

Craig thought that was obvious, especially considering where they are. "Of course."

"Should I get undressed?" Clyde's thumb fidgets against Craig's hip. "Do you want me to?"

Clyde is unusually talkative tonight; it reminds Craig of when they first got together. He thinks about what Kenny said last night, about adrenaline, and wonders if that's the cause. "Do I really need to tell you?" Clyde doesn't try to hide his smile as he starts to get up. "No," Craig says, "stay here." Clyde sits up and pulls his shirt off overhead. Craig reaches out to touch a bruise, wondering if it was from the game, or from The Lair.

Clyde pauses when Craig touches him, the shirt tangled around one of his wrists. Craig pulls it off, holds it, thinking of the way Kenny had bound up Clyde's wrists.

When he finally looks up from the shirt, he expects to see Clyde naked—but Clyde is sitting just as he was when Craig looked away.

"What's this?" Craig toes Clyde's jeans, still on his body. "You looking for another punishment?"

Clyde flushes as he looks down, which is good; but his brow is furrowed—which is not.

What a fucking stupid thing to say. Craig lies down. "Come here." He pats the bed next to him.

Clyde tips forward onto all fours but doesn't lie down yet. "Facing you or away?"

Trying to read his body, Craig studies him. "Facing me," he guesses.

Clyde does it; he would, even if it were the wrong answer. Craig cups Clyde's neck, which he knows for sure is something Clyde likes, and waits for Clyde's hand to settle on his hip. Clyde closes his eyes when Craig starts petting him.

"I won't punish you again," Craig says after a while.

Clyde opens his eyes, then looks away. He moistens his lips. "You can... you should, if. When I... " He swallows, doesn't finish the sentence.

Craig keeps stroking his hair.

"Did I." Clyde takes a deep, shaky breath. "Did I do something wrong? To make you leave?" He looks up into Craig's eyes. "Did I like it too much?"

"Clyde..." Craig's hand stills in Clyde's hair and they just look at each other for a few thudding heartbeats before Craig closes his eyes and kisses Clyde.

He feels Clyde open up, not just his mouth, but Clyde himself opening to Craig as they kiss. Craig inhales deeply, drawing Clyde's breath into him, breaking the kiss only when he feels himself going lightheaded and knows it must be the same for Clyde. He hooks his fingers inside Clyde's waistband, thumbing the button of his jeans, and Clyde rolls onto his back, his hands going down to undo his fly.

"No." Craig moves Clyde's hands onto the pillow above his head. "Do I need to tie you up?"

The words thicken Clyde's breath, and his chest rises and falls with the effort of processing his heavier breathing. He shakes his head, accepting the verbal restraints.

"Good boy," Craig murmurs as he drags Clyde's zipper down just enough to slip his hand inside and cup Clyde's cock, already getting hard; getting harder in Craig's palm. Craig squeezes gently, watching the effect color Clyde's cheeks, the flush spreading down to his chest.

Craig moves down, too, releasing Clyde's zipper tooth by tooth as he twists his wrist to palm Clyde's balls, fingertip brushing behind them. Clyde arches, biting his lip against a moan as he pushes his feet against the mattress to raise his hips. Withdrawing his hand, Craig tugs off Clyde's jeans and boxers before leaning over the side of the bed for the shoebox where he keeps the lube and other things.

Kneeling between Clyde's legs, Craig elicits a gasp as he presses the slicked up tip of his finger inside. He should've bent over Clyde when he did it, taken that backflow of that gasp into himself instead of letting it dissipate in the air.

He takes the second one as he twists his wrist, corkscrewing inside Clyde, kissing him and swallowing mouthfuls of used breath. Pushing up with one arm, he continues sliding in, and out, and in, watching the flickers of Clyde's lashes against his flushed cheeks, listening to the stuttering flutter of his breathing.

When he sits back and adds a second slicked fingertip, Clyde bends his knees and rolls his hips to lift his feet off the mattress. "Are you going to do it?" Clyde asks as Craig slides both fingers in to the first joint. "Are you going to do what he did?"

Craig's fingers still inside Clyde as their eyes meet.

"Please," Clyde says when Craig doesn't say anything. "You can do more, you can—can you put your whole hand inside me? Please?"

It's been months since Clyde has told Craig what he wants—not what he thinks Craig wants to hear but what he actually wants—and Craig wants to be able to do this for him. But this...

"Clyde~ no." Clyde looks like the word has hurt him physically; Craig feels it, too. "Just, I don't know how. I don't want to do it wrong, I don't want to hurt you."

Clyde nods. He inhales deep and hard a couple of times, eyes closed. "But someday?"

He must really want this. Craig swallows his doubts and anxieties, and promises, "Once I've learned how."

Clyde's breath comes easier, like a long, slow sigh. He moistens his lips. "Will you keep fingering me?"

"Yeah, 'course." Craig watches Clyde's face in the soft glow of the bedside lamp. "You're really beautiful, you know that?"

Clyde doesn't respond, verbally or physically, but at least he doesn't try to deny it this time. Craig may not be able to fist him, but they've done three fingers before and he can do that now. "You're doing good," he tells Clyde as Clyde takes the third finger. "You're doing so good." Clyde's eyes flutter open at that and Craig latches on, locking him into the gaze. "Yeah," Craig murmurs, sliding his fingers in and out, probing for the spot that makes Clyde fall apart in beautiful little pieces, "so good, you're so fucking good."

Clyde's tongue flicks against his upper lip, sweeps along the curve of the lower, and Craig is about to lean down and kiss him, when Clyde says, "Is this okay? Is it—is it right?"

His brow is furrowed intently. It's a real question. Craig's own brow furrows. "Is what right?"

"You didn't tell me whether I could come or not..."

Clyde's words get tangled up in Craig's inhale and wind up, heavy, in his lungs. It takes him another couple of inhales to have enough breath for his own words. "Do you want to come?"

It's a real question on his part, too, and Clyde knows it; and if Craig thought he was overwhelmed, it's nothing compared to what his question is doing to Clyde.

"Tell me," Craig says.

Clyde's eyes shy away and he keeps making choked sounds as he swallows his words.

"Clyde. Look at me." When Clyde does, Craig holds him in the gaze until he's sure Clyde won't look away. "Tell me."

"I just want to please you."

The words are so soft but Craig catches them. He's looking into Clyde's eyes when Clyde says them, so he gets what it means to Clyde, and he gets that it's a deeper confession than Clyde has made to him before. Craig wants to spend long moments of his life reassuring Clyde that he does please Craig, but that's not what Clyde needs to hear in order to believe. So Craig says the only thing he can:

"Then come for me."

He covers Clyde mouth with his own as Clyde does it, consuming Clyde's sighs and moans, swallowing his climactic breath.

The kiss turns languorous as Clyde rolls onto his side. "You're still hard," Clyde says when they part, exhaustion tinging the edges of his voice.

Craig runs his fingers through Clyde's hair. "Go to sleep now."

"Will you fuck me?" Clyde takes a few slowed breaths before he rouses himself enough to finish, "While I'm asleep?"

Even though he knows he's not supposed to, Craig can't help smiling as he continues stroking Clyde's hair. "What makes you think you get to know what I'm going to do?" He waits for the color to rise to Clyde's cheeks before saying, "I'm going to do whatever I want with you." The words sigh through Clyde and Craig takes an easier breath himself. "Go to sleep now. Don't make me say it again."

Clyde closes his eyes and it's not long before his breathing steadies into the rhythm of slumber. A lassitude Craig didn't know was in him leeches in from the edges, but he stays up as long as he can, stroking Clyde's hair.

They say things always look better in the morning. Well, "they" can't be wrong all the time, Craig concedes. Not that things looked bad the night before, not in the end—but with Clyde waking up slow next to him, his smile so easy, nothing hidden at the edges of it, open and kissable...well, yeah, things look pretty fucking great. They fuck, slow and thorough, and Clyde feels as great as he looks, and Craig could spend all day doing this.

But Clyde has practice this afternoon, and the traditional weekly brunch with his dad before that. "You can come, if you want," he offers.

As Craig stretches out, he means to give a definitive answer, but he doesn't make up his mind before he opens his mouth, and his response comes out an inarticulate blur of sound. Clyde breaks into a grin. "Right. I'll call you after practice, okay?"

"I can get up," Craig says without moving.

"I know you can." Clyde leans over and kisses him.

Proving the point that he can, at least, move, Craig puts his hands under his head as he watches Clyde get dressed and go to the window. "No cars in the driveway," Clyde says. "Should I go out this way anyhow?"

Craig consults his phone for the time. "No, they're at church."

"Okay." Clyde grins, letting the curtain fall back into place as he heads for the door instead. "Talk to you later."

Craig really could get up, but he winds up going back to sleep for another hour. His parents are home by the time he's up and showered. Since it looks like they're staying in for the day, Craig decides to go out. He's running out of unused footage for his site so he takes his camera and ventures forth in search of cute animals.

When he stops by Harbucks to fill up his thermos before heading to Stark's Pond, he runs into Token—who, it turns out, just had brunch with the Donovans. "You should've come," Token says. "We went to that new Thai place over in Fairplay. When you say hot, they make it hot."

"I don't like really spicy food," Craig says, carefully pouring the second cup of coffee into his thermos.

"Well, for you they would make it mild," Token says. "So what are you up to today?"

Craig holds up his camera as he pockets a handful of sugar packets.

"Right on." Token leans against the wall as he takes a sip of his own coffee. "Are you finally doing something with the private channel?"

Last spring, Craig had this idea to start a separate channel on his website, one having nothing to do with cute animals, just for his friends. He thought it would be cool to set up, but was at a loss when his friends asked what it was for. A year later it's still empty, except for the links that lead to empty rooms and the "Under Construction" graphic.

"No," Craig says. "But you'll be the first to know when I do." Along with everyone else who's subscribed to the update alert.

"Okay, man." Token grins, already knowing the answer but saying anyway, "So you want company tracking down cute animals or what?"

On Monday, when Craig goes to meet Clyde at his locker for lunch, he sees Kenny leaning against the locker next to Clyde.

"What's up, Tucker?" Kenny says. "You coming to lunch?"

Craig wouldn't normally answer a question like that, one that seems to have an assumed answer and that wouldn't be worth responding to even if it didn't—but then he sees Cartman lurking at the corner, standing behind Butters, who is turned in their direction like he's waiting for Kenny. "Hi, Craig!" Butters calls when he sees Craig looking at them. "I like those little baby pikachus you posted yesterday!"

Acknowledging Butters with a wave as Cartman corrects him ("They're pikas, asshole, not pokemon!"), Craig hears himself say, "We're going outside."

Clyde looks around the side of his locker door at the unexpected announcement but, as he shuts the door, doesn't say anything.

"Cool," Kenny says to both of them or neither of them, and then adds to Clyde, "See you at practice," before he goes off to join Cartman and Butters.

Craig can see on Clyde's face that Clyde has seen him noticing Cartman and that Clyde wants to ask if Craig is okay, but he doesn't say anything; Craig knows he's probably the one who should be asking if Clyde is okay, but he doesn't say anything, either.

The afternoon is overcast, the clouds dark and thick, leaking a soft mist. Craig feels committed to being out here, though, so he takes shelter under the bleachers and asks if Clyde is okay with this instead of going back inside.

"I'm okay," Clyde says, smiling as he ends the sentence there.

Craig likes Clyde's smile so much, he can't stop himself from leaning in and touching it with his own. There's a dull thud as his lunch hits the ground and he slides his hand under Clyde's jacket, under his shirt. The chain link fence yields and then supports them as he pushes Clyde against it, presses in.

They've made out under the bleachers before, at night during the summer, when no one else was around. No one else is around now—but they could be. Anyone could come by at any time and see them; Craig can feel, in the hot hard grind against his hip, just how aware of it Clyde is, too.

The grinding has heated up to the point that Craig is thinking about taking Clyde to his car to get him off, when the bell rings, signaling the end of the period. Craig wouldn't mind skipping Modern World History but Clyde's eligibility to play, not to mention his scholarship to New Mexico Highlands, depends on the maintenance of a minimum GPA and Craig won't jeopardize that. At least they have next period together.

"Are you still hard?" he asks as they head to class.

A hint of color spreads along Clyde's jawline. "Yeah, but it'll go down soon."

"Don't let it," Craig says, suddenly inspired and wanting more of Clyde's blush. "Don't go soft and don't come."

Clyde moistens his lips, which makes Craig want to kiss him, but they're at the door to the classroom now. "For how long?"

"Until I tell you," Craig says.

Thinking about Clyde staying hard makes it impossible for Craig to go soft himself, so he gets a bathroom pass about five minutes into class and beats off in the boys' room.

When he slides back into his seat, he takes a furtive glance at Clyde's lap next to him. At least he thought he was being furtive; either by coincidence or by design, Clyde shifts in his seat, letting Craig see the evidence of his still-hard cock.

Craig keeps glancing over throughout the lecture and even when he's not looking, he's thinking about it—Clyde staying hard for him, Clyde aching for him, just because Craig said to. Sometimes he gets shaky, thinking about everything Clyde gives him; he doesn't know how he can ever give as much, let alone enough, in return.

The class takes somewhere between forever and the blink of an eye. When the bell rings, Clyde leaves without looking at him and Craig wonders if he's gone too far this time. When he gets out to the hallway, though, Clyde is waiting for him, shirt untucked, a flush staining his skin. "I have study hall next," he says when Craig leans on the wall next to him.

Study hall can be missed. Craig had been irritated when he'd first seen Clyde's schedule this semester, the one stupid class interrupting what could have been a double makeout period if Clyde had had study hall right after lunch. Craig had switched his own schedule around, picking up Modern World History so they'd at least be together after lunch, but he'd continued to feel animosity toward the period—until today. He kind of can't believe he didn't think of this before.

"Yeah, you're not going to that. And I'm not going to English."

The flash of tongue tells Craig that Clyde definitely wants to kiss right now, but the only part of his mouth Craig lets Clyde have is a fleeting smile before he turns and lets Clyde follow him to the boys' room.

There are a couple of kids in here, younger grades; Craig doesn't know them but he lingers at the sink anyhow, waiting for them to clear out before he locks the door behind them, then goes into the farthest stall and holds the door open for Clyde. Leaning against the side of the stall, Craig folds his arms. "Did you come?"

Clyde shakes his head, his lips forming a wordless no.

"Take those off." Craig lifts one of his hands to gesture languidly down Clyde's body. "I need to inspect them." Clyde toes off his sneakers and, as he shucks out of his jeans, Craig adds, "The boxers, too."

Clyde glances up; his hesitation dissipates as he settles into the gaze before stripping off his boxers and handing those over as well.

"Put your shoes back on," Craig says on impulse.

Clyde does it. Stands with his legs apart and his hands clasped in the small of his back without being told. Craig lets his gaze linger, setting on Clyde's cock, flushed dark with blood. It looks like it hurts. He looks at Clyde's face, sees the ache there too, and sees something else.

Blushing himself, Craig looks down and finds himself looking at Clyde's boxers. He runs the pad of his thumb through the slickness he finds and holds it up to Clyde. "What is this?"

Clyde swallows. "Precome," he says quietly.

"Are you sure?" He holds it closer to Clyde's face. "Maybe you should make sure."

Clyde moistens his lips before his tongue finds Craig's thumb and draws it into his mouth. As his gaze settles on Clyde's mouth, watching Clyde suck his thumb, Craig undoes his own fly with his free hand and squeezes his thrumming cock comfortingly.

"Come here," he says, widening his stance so Clyde can straddle his thigh, massaging Clyde's nape with gentle tugs of his hair while continuing to let Clyde suckle as he rubs himself against Craig.

When he finally takes his thumb away, Clyde chokes on his first wet inhale and opens his eyes, and Craig says, "Okay."

He thought Clyde was going to come against him, but Clyde drops to his knees, one hand on his own cock, the other reaching for Craig as he swallows Craig's cock. Craig is dimly aware of a thud as his head hits the stall, his palms flattening against the metal wall as his hips arch off and he comes down Clyde's throat.

When he looks down, he sees that Clyde has come as well. As he's running his fingers through Clyde's hair, he notices the slick trails of Clyde's precome on his trousers. "What are we going to do about this?"

He's thinking aloud, but Clyde acts like it's a directive and reaches up to pull his jeans down from where Craig had draped them. Still kneeling, Clyde wordlessly holds them out to Craig.

The gesture brings Craig to his knees, too: he falls into Clyde's lap—and Clyde catches him, slipping his hands between Craig's knees and the floor just before they touch, protecting Craig from the filth.

They sit in the moment, looking at each other, into each other.

Craig closes his eyes, then opens them again as he presses his lips to the furrow of Clyde's brow before he shifts his weight onto his heels and gets to his feet. Clyde gets up, too. "You have a track suit in your gym locker, don't you?" Craig says. Clyde nods and Craig says, "I can wear that."

"Okay." Clyde doesn't say anything else as he cleans up, flushes the handful of toilet paper, pulls his jeans on.

"Wait a sec," Craig says when Clyde opens the stall door. He kisses Clyde, tongue curling with Clyde's, then smiles until Clyde does, too.

It's not sunny but it's not storming, so after school baseball practice goes ahead. Craig is sitting on the bleachers watching Clyde field grounders when Token texts asking where he is, and then comes to join him. "Is that what you were wearing this morning?" Token asks as he sits down.

Craig spares him a glance. "Really, man? We're really gonna have this conversation?"

With a grin, Token turns his attention to the field.

The infield is slinging the ball around when Token says, "This is what you should do with the secret channel."

Craig glances over at him before focusing on Clyde again. "What?"

"This." In the corner of his vision, Craig sees Token gesture at the field. "You should film his games, maybe even his practices."

Craig snorts. "Who would want to watch that?"

"You would, man. And," he adds, "I would, too." When Craig looks at him this time, Token says, "I may not like it in the same way you do, but I do like watching that kid play."

Craig rests his elbows on his knees as he watches Clyde spin and throw to Gary at first. "I guess. I don't want to be that guy, though. You know, like the lame guy with the camcorder at every game."

"Who's that guy hurting?" Token asks in his reasonable tone.

Craig shrugs. "It would be weird, I think. People would think it was weird."

He expects Token to deny it reassuringly, but instead Token says, "Since when do you care what other people think?"

Craig sits up and turns to him, then holds out his right hand. "Hi, apparently we haven't met. I'm Craig Tucker. I once gave a hundred dollars to some guys I didn't like and even joined their Peruvian flute band, just because I didn't want them to think I was an asshole."

Token laughs and slaps Craig's hand away. "I don't think you care about other people's opinions the way you say you do. There are only a few you care about. And as one of those privileged few," Token flashes a grin, "I hope you'll trust me on this."

"Whatever," Craig says, watching Clyde turn another ground ball into a theoretical out at first.

Craig thought they'd see less of each other during the baseball season, but it turns out Kenny was right about how Clyde likes to spend his post-game adrenaline and they're together more than ever, having a crazy good time—though they don't actually do anything crazy like the boys' room again.

There's no game today but there's still a late morning practice. When it wraps up, Jason asks if they want to hang out. They run into Token in Harbucks and, after getting hydrated and caffeinated, they all wind up wandering around together for a while.

They're meandering down Main Street, Token and Jason making enough idle conversation for the four of them, when Clyde says, "It's okay, guys; I know."

"You know what?" Token asks, sprinkling his neutral tone with a dash of polite interest.

Clyde grins. "I know you're supposed to keep me out of my house while my dad sets everything up, and make sure I get there at whatever time the invitations said." When no one says anything, his grin widens. "Come on—it's the Saturday before my birthday, probably the last one I'll have at home. They always wanted to do something big for my 18th and there's no way my dad wouldn't, even though." He breaks off, shrugs.

They've taken a few more steps when he says, "Do you think there's gonna be stuff with my mom?"

Token slings an arm across Clyde's shoulders. "You could call your dad—or I could call him, if you want to keep up the element of surprise. You know he'll change anything you don't want."

"No, that's not it." Clyde adjusts his stride to Token's, settling under his arm. "I mean, I want my mom to be a part of this. I just, you know." His voice is quiet when he goes on, "I don't want anyone making fun of her."

There's only one person in town who made of fun of Clyde's mom when she died. And if Cartman says a word, even one single word, Craig will make him regret it.

Jason catches Craig's eye and Craig can see he has the same idea. "We got your back, man," Jason says.

"Thanks, guys." As Token's arm slides from him with the next few strides, Clyde reaches for Craig's hand.

They still have a couple of hours to kill so they go to Stark's Pond, where Craig takes furtive candids of the others horsing around in between shooting more footage for his animal blog. At one point Clyde looks at Craig to share something he's laughing at and Craig gets a nice shot of him grinning directly into the lens; but the best one of the afternoon is a fraction later, when Craig's finger twitches at having been caught and he accidentally captures Clyde, lashes swept down as he turns his head, sunlight glancing across his face to linger along the softened curve of his mouth.

When it's time to go, Token rounds them up and they walk to the Donovans', giving Clyde notes on the "surprised" reactions he's been practicing and somehow making them worse, until Token finally says, "Maybe just smile?"

When Clyde does, Craig is sure everyone can see the wisdom of the advice.

The smile and surprise are both genuine when Clyde opens his front door to a greeting of birthday cheers from not only his dad and the friends he'd guessed would be there, but also from his sister and her family, who flew in from D.C. just for the occasion.

As Clyde goes over to them first and then starts making his way around everyone, thanking them for coming, Craig leans against the wall in the foyer, scrolling through the shots from this afternoon to see what he can delete; he already missed getting one of Clyde hugging his sister just now. He doesn't want to miss any more but he kind of wants to save everything from Stark's Pond, so he goes upstairs to load it all onto Clyde's laptop for now.

He's sitting at Clyde's desk when he gets the feeling he's being watched. Turning, he sees Clyde's niece Elsie standing in the doorway. They regard each other for another moment before she says, "Hi. Are you one of my Uncle Clyde's friends?"

"Yeah," Craig says, turning back to the computer.

She comes over and leans on the arm of the chair. "What's your name?"


"Are you on the baseball team, too, Craig?"


"Oh." She pushes at the arm of the chair, trying to get it to swivel, and Craig lets her turn it a little. "What kind of friend are you, then?"

"Craig is my special friend." Craig looks up as Clyde comes over and scoops Elsie up, settling her on his hip. "You have to be careful around him, though, because he eats small children and he hasn't had his afternoon snack yet."

She laughs. "No, he doesn't!" Doubt creeps over her, though, as she looks from Clyde's serious expression to Craig's unsmiling one. Clyde puts her down and she scampers off.

"You didn't have to do that," Craig says, watching her go.

"Do you really want to hang out with a six year old?"

Craig didn't even want to hang out with most six year olds when he was six. "Okay, thank you."

Clyde grins. "I'll leave you to it, man." He nods at the computer.

"I'll be down in a minute," Craig says. He wishes the camera were free so he could take a picture of Clyde right now, while it's just the two of them. "Hey." He leans forward and catches Clyde's hand, stands up when Clyde turns back, and kisses him. "Happy birthday." It's not what he really wants to say but it's probably more appropriate.

A couple of minutes later as Craig starts down, camera raised and ready to fill up with birthday pictures, he halts a few steps up and, from this vantage point, scans for Clyde through the viewfinder.

He drops the camera to his side when he sees Cartman moving in on Clyde.

Cartman gets to Clyde first; when Craig shows up a moment later, Cartman only spares him a look that matches the irritation Craig feels before turning to Clyde once more. "I have something for you," Cartman says, shifting over to box Craig out. "But it's private. Just for you."

Craig walks around Cartman's bulk to stand next to Clyde.

When no one says anything, Cartman lets out an exaggerated sigh. "Fine. These are for you." He shrugs his backpack off his shoulder, unzips it, and pulls out a tupperware container, which he shoves at Clyde. "They're lemon bars. From your mom's recipe. I asked my mom to make them for you. But they're only for you," he adds, with a suspicious glare at Craig.

"Wow." Clyde looks at the container in his hands and Craig does, too, wishing he'd thought of this; he wonders if Cartman notices the whitening of Clyde's knuckles. Though his grip is tight, Clyde's smile is genuine when he looks up at Cartman. "This—thanks, man. This really means a lot."

"Here." Cartman takes something else out of his backpack, which turns out to be a crumpled up cat food bag. "You can hide it in this during the party."

Clyde thanks him again and takes the disguised lemon bars into the kitchen, leaving Cartman and Craig standing with each other.

"Shut up," Cartman says, not looking at him, and walks away before Craig can even open his mouth. Which is just as well, since Craig doesn't know what he would have said anyhow.

Elsie is running around shouting, "Presents time! Presents time!", so Craig joins the drift of people into the living room. There aren't any seats left when he gets there, except for the one obviously meant for Clyde, so he takes an open spot on the wall next to Kenny.

"This one is from me," Elsie says as she hands Clyde the first one. He lets her help him get the wrapping off, then lifts a hockey shirt out of the box.

"She picked it out herself," Clyde's brother-in-law explains apologetically. "I tried to get her to look at the baseball jerseys..."

"But this one has his number!" Elsie points to the 3, then looks up at Clyde. "Right?"

"Right." He stands up to pull the shirt on over the one he's wearing. "This is great. I might just keep it on for the whole party. What do you think about that?"

Craig takes a picture of Elsie beaming up at her uncle.

He takes more pictures as Clyde opens more gifts, until he opens one that looks like an old-fashioned photo album. Clyde looks up at his father. "Dad?"

"Oh," Stan says from the other side of the room. "That's actually from us."

As Clyde opens the cover and starts to look through, a few people call out, "What is it?"

"It's a." Clyde breaks off, blinks rapidly a few times, clears his throat. He takes a breath and tries again: "It's, like, kind of like a recipe book?"

Stan nods. "You should be getting the printed hardcover from Snapfish this week or maybe next; sorry, we kind of fell behind. But we figured you might want the originals, anyhow."

Clyde's fingertips caress a page. "It's my mom's recipes," he tells everyone, or maybe just himself, "and some pictures and stories about her food..." He trails off, looking down; smiling and smiling.

"There are also some other recipes in there, too," Kyle says. "From our parents. Things your mom liked..." He looks at Stan. "Maybe we shouldn't have included those."

"No." Clyde's eyes are glassy with the tears he isn't trying to fight any more. "This is—this is so perfect. She would have loved this. You guys..."

As Clyde gets up and makes his way over to them, Craig turns to Kenny. "Were you a part of this?"

Kenny is all grins as he nods, switching his gaze to Craig. "I thought you knew about it. Your mom gave us some stuff for the book."

"Oh," Craig says. He wonders if Ruby knew.

"Who's next?" Clyde's dad says. "How about Craig's?" Smiling, he looks across the room at Craig.

As nice as Mr. Donovan's confidence in Craig might be, Craig definitely cannot follow that act and really, really doesn't want to try. There's nothing he can do about it, though, so he looks down, pretending to make some adjustments on his camera.

"Well, I'm no Craig," he hears Token say, "but this one is from me."

As he snaps a few shots of Clyde holding up Sadaharu Oh's A Zen Way of Baseball, Craig makes a note to pick up the tab the next hundred times he and Token go to Harbucks.

Craig's gift winds up being the last one on the table. When Clyde unwraps the leather boots, his dad expresses professional curiosity and Clyde hands one over. Mr. Donovan is impressed with the quality. Elsie, sitting in her grandfather's lap, comments that they aren't the right size, adding proudly that she knows the shoe size of everyone in her family.

"That's all right, son," Mr. Donovan says, cheerful and reassuring as ever. "I'm sure you can get them exchanged."

Craig watches Clyde take the boot back and turn it over to check the size. One of the things Craig envies Clyde is his ability to control his blush—so Craig only gets a telltale flash of it when Clyde realizes whose size the boots are.

Their eyes meet across the room and even from here Craig can feel it, the way Clyde is looking at him, the way he's letting Craig look at him.

Then Clyde blinks out of it and asks if anyone is ready for cake; Elsie's "me me me!" is actually louder than Cartman's.

After the singing and wish-making—during which Clyde's gaze finds Craig's once more before he closes his eyes and blows out the candles—Clyde's dad hands him a knife and Token climbs over some people to help Clyde's sister pour champagne into the plastic flutes that are getting passed around with the pieces of cake.

"Happy birthday, son!" Mr. Donovan says, raising his glass in Clyde's direction. There's an echoing chorus, and then Clyde's sister adds, "Mom would be so proud to see how you've turned out."

Clyde gets a funny look on his face but he doesn't cry and he doesn't say anything right away.

Then he gets to his feet, champagne flute raised for a toast of his own: "Thanks, you guys. A lot of who I am today is because of all of you, so if you like what you see"—he flashes a grin, cocks an eyebrow, and strikes a hey, what's up? pose, to some laughter and one wolf-whistle Craig is sure came from Bebe—"well, good job, guys."

He downs the rest of his champagne and, as Clyde drinks to them, Craig and everyone else drink to him.

Hours later, after Clyde's family has gone out for the night, leaving them to "get this party started," as Mr. Donovan had said in all sincerity even as he'd winked, a chosen few of them are sitting in the study, toasting to Clyde another way, getting toasted on the top quality weed Kenny brought.

Although Craig is amused by his own wordplay, he's not sure anyone else would appreciate it, so he keeps it to himself as he leans forward to take the joint from Bebe, his other hand sliding from Clyde's knee to his thigh with the movement, thumb tracing the in-seam while he's there.

"You sure you don't want some, dude?" Stretched out on the floor between Clyde and Token, Kenny waggles a joint at Clyde. "I know you don't smoke during the season, but this is a special occasion."

"Well..." Clyde gaze slides to Craig, drops down to the spliff he's holding to his lips. "I guess I could indulge a little." He takes the joint from Craig and, instead of lifting it to his mouth, he lowers his mouth to Craig's, sucking in Craig's exhale; letting Craig draw it back and take more.

When they part, Clyde's eyes are hazy, but Craig knows it's not just the grass.

"Nice," Kenny murmurs.

Clyde's gaze slides to him, then comes back to Craig just before his lashes sweep down and he leans in to nuzzle Craig's ear. Craig's fingers tangle in Clyde's hair and he tugs back, kissing Clyde again. He can feel the thrill go through Clyde as he shows off; it's infectious, and Craig tightens his grip on Clyde's thigh.

Cartman's voice, saying something about lemon bars, pushes its way into Craig's awareness. He tries to ignore it but Clyde, detrimentally polite, says he'll go make sure they're safe. Craig smokes with Kenny, Token, and Bebe a while longer—but it doesn't take that long to secure lemon bars, so he gets up and goes to see what's up.

He finds Clyde in the kitchen, eating lemon bars with Cartman and Butters. "These are fucking awesome!" Clyde says, holding up the one he's just bitten into. "You should have one."

Craig kisses him. It's not as sexy as when Clyde sucked the smoke from his lungs, but Clyde gives over to it fully, leaning back against the refrigerator when Craig pushes with his hip; there's a clatter as magnets lose their grip and hit the floor.

"Get a room," Cartman says too loudly.

Craig breaks the kiss and waits for Clyde to open his eyes. "You want that?" He nudges his knee between Clyde's legs. "You want to go up to your room for your real birthday present?"

Gaze focused on Craig, Clyde nods.

Craig rubs his knee along Clyde's inner thigh. "You know what you're going to get?" he teases, knowing Clyde knows, because Clyde is the one who explained boot worship to him.

Clyde nods again. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about it."

"You want it that bad?"

Clyde swallows, his lashes fluttering as he moistens his lips. "Aching for it," he murmurs.

His lips are parted and Craig wants to run his tongue along them, wants to slip inside. He wants to be inside Clyde.

He takes a deep breath. "Are you hard from thinking about it?" When Clyde nods, Craig says, "Show me," even though there are other people in the room; because there are.

Craig lifts the hem of the hockey jersey he's still wearing, letting Craig see the bulge in his jeans, face turned down as if he's looking at it, too, though his eyes are still closed. He opens them when Craig tilts his face up with a finger curled beneath his chin.

"Show me."

Blush deepening, Clyde undoes the button of his fly, drags down the zipper, reaches inside and rearranges his cock so the head is peeking over his waistband.

Even though Craig is shielding Clyde with his body and doesn't think anyone can see, he touches Clyde's wrist to stop him before he can take himself all the way out. Craig is aching now, too. He kisses Clyde again, hand between them resting protectively over Clyde's cockhead; he lets go only to tug the hockey jersey down before pressing in for another long kiss.

"Go wait for me upstairs," he says, making himself move back, afraid he might come if they keep grinding like this. When Clyde goes wordlessly, Craig glances around the kitchen long enough to see that Cartman has left but Butters is still there, and now so is Kenny. Craig looks away as soon as their eyes meet and leaves just as wordlessly as Clyde.

After a quick stop in the bathroom to get himself ready, Craig goes to Clyde's room, where he finds the door locked. "It's me," he says, knocking lightly. The door opens and when Craig steps inside, he finds Clyde naked. "Very nice," he says, raking his gaze over Clyde's body.

Clyde goes to his knees when their eyes meet. Craig had intended for Clyde to undress him but something about this feels right, so Craig undresses without performance, taking satisfaction in the way Clyde colors when he strips out of his jeans and reveals the new cock ring, leather to match the boots.

When he's down to his socks, he sits on the edge of the bed and motions for Clyde, who crawls to him and carefully, reverently, fits him into one boot after the other.

Clyde sits back on his heels then. Craig rests the tips of his middle and forefinger under Clyde's chin, holding him like that; bringing him deeper into the gaze; going deeper into it himself.

He drops his hand, and Clyde lowers himself onto his belly, presses the first open-mouthed kiss to the toe of one boot.

Craig thought he was doing this for Clyde, all for Clyde, so he's caught off-guard by how turned on he gets watching Clyde lick his boots. Moments turn into minutes, which turn into long and longer moments, and Craig is starting to feel that Clyde could spend all night doing this, just this, adoring the leather with his tongue.

He bends down to brush Clyde's hair back, to see more of his face as he licks; but at Craig's touch, Clyde sits back on his heels and looks to Craig. Craig doesn't know if Clyde is really ready to stop, but he doesn't think so. He doesn't want Clyde to stop until he's done, until he's had enough.

That's what he means to say, that's what he wants to ask, but somehow it comes out, "Is that all you want to worship?"

Clyde responds wordlessly, devoutly kissing and licking and sucking Craig's cock, offering his face and throat to be caressed by the tip as Craig starts to spill out of himself despite the cock ring, leaving slick trails of saliva and come on Clyde's skin.

His hand is moving between his legs, not touching himself but caressing the boot. Craig pushes into Clyde's hand; pushes more, toes Clyde's balls, and Clyde arches back, holding his weight on his arms behind him, pushing into the press of Craig's sole against his cock, releasing himself in thick spurts as Craig murmurs, "Come on, fuck yeah, come for me."

Clyde is as careful taking the boots off Craig as he was putting them on, before climbing up to stretch out with Craig in bed. Spent and sated, they drowse together in the haze. Craig had thought he was going to fuck Clyde tonight, but this is better, so fucking good...

"There's more," Craig can't help saying aloud. Clyde rouses, focuses on him. "Not now," Craig tells him. "Tuesday night." He smiles as the anticipation of Tuesday settles into the curve of Clyde's mouth.

The party was on Saturday but Clyde's actual birthday isn't until Tuesday. He has dinner with his dad, just the two of them, and it's late in the evening when Craig goes to pick him up. When Clyde had asked if he should wear anything special, Craig told him to wear something he'd like to be seen in, something he can move in. Craig can tell from the clothing Clyde has chosen—his favorite jeans and a tight black t-shirt with the blacklight-friendly "Fucking Classy" logo in ornate font across the front—that Clyde thinks they're going dancing.

Aware that Clyde is checking him out, too, not just to look at him but to measure the appropriateness of his own clothing, Craig makes a point of putting his foot forward. Clyde's attention dutifully slides down and, even in the dim lighting out here on the driveway, Craig can see the blush he's looking for, the one that tells him Clyde has recognized the boots.

Craig lets Clyde look for a long moment before saying his name. When Clyde looks up, their gazes connect, wrapping around both of them. Craig hadn't thought they were going to get like this until they got to the club, but he isn't about to stop it now that it's happening.

When they get in his car, Craig reaches over to the glove compartment and takes out the blindfold: the surprise to safeguard the surprise. The way Clyde lights up when he realizes what it is, it's almost a shame to use it; but that light in Clyde's eyes wouldn't be there if Craig weren't about to cover them up, so: "Close your eyes and turn to the window," he says, slipping the blindfold over Clyde's eyes and securing it when Clyde obeys.

Every now and then as they drive, Craig reaches over and touches Clyde's face; the soft choked breaths and responsive flashes of Clyde's tongue go straight to Craig's cock. He glances down—it's all going to Clyde's cock as well. He takes one hand off the wheel and reaches over to trace Clyde's evident arousal with his fingertip. Clyde's breath catches and holds, comes out a heavy sigh when Craig takes his hand away again. It makes Craig kind of want to find somewhere to pull off the road and take Clyde into the back seat...but he has bigger plans tonight.

Once they've pulled into a space in the parking lot across the street, facing the club, Craig takes off the blindfold. Even though he's pretty sure Clyde has figured out exactly where they're going—the boots were the first hint and the driving time the second, since there's only one fetish club within 50 miles of South Park that's open to the public—the glimmer in Clyde's eyes when he sees the letters spelling out "The Establishment" is unmistakable, and Craig can't help leaning over to tongue open his smile.

They hold hands as they cross the street. Craig hopes his nerves don't show as he hands the bouncer the fake IDs he got from Kenny's brother, but the guy waves them through.

It's louder in here than Craig had thought it would be. It's loud enough that he can't hear the way Clyde is breathing, even though Clyde is right next to him. He didn't know there was going to be music, wordless techno dominated by a heavy bass line, but he guesses not a lot of people come here to talk so he probably should have known.

It's also darker than he thought it would be but, as he looks around, not as dark as realizes he'd like. He thought there would be more people, even though it's a Tuesday. There aren't enough people to get lost in the crowd, just enough that it feels like there is a crowd, and it feels like they're all staring at Clyde and Craig.

At least one of them, an older guy, is definitely staring. He walks right up them. "I bet you are," he says, lingering on Clyde's Fucking Classy logo.

Clyde smiles a little, looks at Craig, looks down when he sees Craig isn't smiling. Craig doesn't like the way this guy, who is probably old enough to be their father, is looking at Clyde. Eyefucking him. Something about it makes Craig think of Cartman in 4th grade.

He moves closer to Clyde.

The guy looks from Clyde to Craig. "Are you boys together?"

Craig doesn't answer. The guy is waiting, though, so Clyde says, "Yeah, he's—" In Craig's peripheral vision, he sees Clyde glance at him. "Yeah," Clyde finishes.

"Lucky you." The guy grins at Craig, like Craig doesn't already know how lucky he is.

When the guy moves on, Craig untucks Clyde's shirt. "Take this off."

Once it's off, though, Clyde seems to attract even more attention: half-naked, young and beautiful, flushed and vibrating an infectious thrill that trips along Craig's skin when he takes Clyde's hand, making him shiver.

A woman clad in leather from head to fingers to toes walks by, leading a man wearing a collar. Craig wonders if that's the equivalent of holding hands here, if he should have gotten a leash and collar for Clyde. He looks at Clyde's bare throat, exposed as he tilts his head back to check out the upper level, and lets go of Clyde's hand.

As soon as he does, Clyde switches his gaze to Craig. Craig wants to kiss him. He kind of just wants to kiss Clyde and hold his hand.

But that's not what he brought Clyde here for. He looks in the direction Clyde has been gazing, then leans in and says against his ear, "Let's go up," managing to clench his jaw before he adds the okay? on the tip of his tongue; it already sounds too much like a suggestion and not enough like a command, even without that.

Clyde looks okay, though, keyed up and calm at the same time—better than okay: perfect. Craig takes a deep breath, relaxing as he looks at Clyde like this; feeling some of Clyde's thrill transmit to him when their skin comes in contact, the palm of Craig's hand in the small of Clyde's back as he guides him to the stairs. It's okay; it's going to be better than okay.

It's quieter upstairs, no dancing and no music except what filters up from the ground floor. This is more like what Craig thought they were in for: there are some comfortable looking chairs and sofas laid out facing different areas where various performances and demonstrations are taking place. Right next to them, a woman on all fours is being spanked by a gloved man kneeling behind her; when the man switches to a two-handed rhythm, Craig feels like he's watching a bongo player.

He looks at Clyde and sees that he, too, has lost interest in this, his head turned in the direction of a man being flogged. Craig gives up on the idea of not holding hands and takes Clyde's again, leading him in that direction. They've never done anything that involves any kind of whipping, even though Craig doesn't need to be told Clyde would love that. At least he can take Clyde over to watch.

On the way, though, they pass a woman bound and suspended from the ceiling with ropes. She's not lit like the other performers and Craig might not have noticed her, except that Clyde's hand tightens in his.

They stop. Watching Clyde's flush deepen as his eyes travel along the ropes, Craig makes a note to add this to the top of his study list, along with the fisting videos.

A blonde girl, probably only a few years older than they are, has been standing nearby. Craig thought she was watching, just like them, until she steps up to the bound woman and says a few words.

Then she catches Craig off-guard by coming right up to them and talking to them. She introduces herself as Mistress Z, which she pronounces "zed" even though she has an American accent. "Is your boy into this?"

"I think so," Craig says. He turns to stroke Clyde's jaw, his anxiety ebbing when Clyde flutters for him. "I mean, we haven't done it, but."

"But you'd like to," the girl finishes for him. She smiles, confident and competent and pretty and blonde. "Do you want to try right now?" She runs her fingers along the length of the short rope she's holding, pulling it taut; she obviously knows what she's doing, even though she's not that much older than Craig. "I can do some simple knots on him for you."

Although a thrill ripples through Clyde, Craig doesn't say anything right away.

A moment later he still hasn't said anything. "That's okay," he hears Clyde say.

The girl looks at him, then back to Craig. "Maybe another time." She gives him a smile before returning to the suspended woman's side.

Craig turns away, feels Clyde coming with him. He's messing everything up. He can't get into the vibe here and wishes he'd thought to get some grass from Kenny.

At least there's a bar here. Fingers reaching back to entwine with Clyde's once more, Craig heads for it.

They've been at the bar for all of two minutes when someone sends them a couple of shots.

Craig slams his.

"Game tomorrow," Clyde says, nudging his toward Craig, so Craig slams that one, too.

He switches to mixed drinks and has just polished off his third screwdriver when Clyde says something to him. Craig can't make out the words so he pulls Clyde closer and, since Clyde is close now, kisses him. He can feel people watching them; even when he turns them so Clyde has his back to the bar, people are looking at them. This isn't how Craig thought it was going to be. He thought maybe it would be okay with strangers, but it doesn't feel okay. Craig doesn't know anything about any of the people here. For all he knows, every single one of them is a better dom than he is. They might know exactly what to give Clyde and they'd do it, they wouldn't say no or make Clyde say no to something he wants. They probably wouldn't worry all the time whether it was too much or not enough, because they'd always do it exactly right for Clyde, unlike Craig...

"I can't do this," he says into the kiss. Says it again when the kiss breaks, and then again when Clyde leans in to hear what he's saying.

"You can't do what?" Clyde asks, the haze gone, wiped out by concern.

Craig shakes his head. He's fucking everything up. He pushes off the bar, makes his way downstairs, stumbles out the door, doesn't stop until he's leaning against his car, choking a little on the city he can taste in the night air he's sucking down.

He doesn't realize Clyde has followed him until Clyde says his name. He feels a flash of relief that Clyde isn't still inside but, even when Clyde says his name a second time, Craig can't look at him. He doesn't want to see the fucked up evening on Clyde's face.

He looks at his hands instead. They look useless so he tries to do something with them, managing to get his keys out of his pocket but having less success getting them in the lock.

"Craig? Did I do something wrong?"

Craig shakes his head. He means to say no, but all that comes out is, "I can't do this."

"Here." Clyde takes the keys from Craig's fumbling fingers. "I'll drive, okay?"

Craig doesn't say anything as he goes around to the passenger side, climbs in, straps on his seat belt.

They don't talk on the ride home.

They don't talk about it the next day, or the day after.

They don't talk about anything.

They stop being boyfriends, which is also something they don't talk about; it just kind of happens before Craig even knows it's happening, and once he realizes, it's already happened.

Craig stops going to the practices and even the games because it would be weird, and anyhow he doesn't deserve to watch Clyde play any more. He still sees Clyde in the hallways and in the two classes they have together, and Clyde looks him in the eye and says hi, and somehow that's worse than if he couldn't look at Craig, because there's nothing special in the way he's looking at Craig these days, no opening up in his gaze.

Cartman makes a ton of money collecting on his bet that Craig and Clyde would split up before graduation.

Token tells Craig to take consolation in the fact that so many people bet on them making it.

Craig doesn't take consolation in anything.

Craig tries not to think about anything.

He tries not feel anything.

He's not as good at not feeling as he is at not thinking, though.

They say misery loves company.

Craig always knew "they" are fucking idiots.

He goes out by himself a lot, takes a lot of pictures, but they aren't any good and he doesn't do anything with them.

If Craig's life were a book, the next dozen or so pages would only say, in small, bracketed font, [This page left deliberately blank.]

Token comes by to get him for the last game of the regular season. "Don't do that," he says when Craig starts to shake his head. "Could be your last chance."

Craig shrugs.

"At least come get coffee with me," Token says, so Craig does. When they leave Harbucks, Craig is afraid Token is going to bring up the game again but Token just says, "See you later."

Craig is half-way to Stark's Pond when he turns around.

He sits under the bleachers, listening to the game, catching glimpses of it through fissures in the metal and gaps in the crowd. He even takes some pictures like that.

He likes the pictures, but he still doesn't do anything with them except keep them on his camera.

It's Craig's turn to sit with Token at lunch today. Token is making a point of spending time with both of them, sometimes even hanging out with Craig when he could be with Clyde and Bebe instead.

They've been together a lot lately, Clyde and Bebe. Craig's heard the speculation that they're dating again but he doesn't think that's it, because Token still seems pretty happy about her. Craig takes a measure of comfort in that: at least his stupidity hasn't interfered with Token's happiness.

It's definitely his stupidity that has fucked up his own happiness. It's not stupid to make a mistake, but it is pretty fucking stupid to do something that you know might not be a good idea—like taking your boyfriend to a fetish club, even when you think you might not like going to a fetish club.

He'd just wanted to do it for Clyde, even though Clyde hadn't asked for it; Clyde doesn't ask for a lot of the things Craig gives him, but he always seems to love them and Craig thought he was going to love the club, too. Thinking back on it, Craig is pretty sure Clyde did love the club. It was just Craig who didn't. It was just Craig who'd fucked up so badly he'd split them up without realizing he was doing it.

Jesusfuck, he's stupid.

At least his stupidity hasn't made anyone miserable but himself.

Across from him, Jason is mashing down the top bun of his burger in order to make the height mouth-sized.

"What are you doing?" Craig says.

"Eating a hamburger," Jason says, as if he thinks that's really what Craig has asked.

"No," Craig says. "What you doing here?"

Jason finishes chewing his first bite. "What do you mean?" he says, going for the second.

Without really looking, Craig jerks his chin in the direction of his sister, who not only hasn't offered to have lunch with him but appears not to be speaking to him at all these days.

Jason follows the trajectory, looks at Craig, exchanges a look with Token. The burger hovers half-way between his plate and his mouth. Finally he says, "Really?"

Craig shrugs.

"Thanks, dude," Jason says. Craig wonders if he knows how much he's smiling as he picks up his tray and walks over to Ruby's table.

"I'm proud of you, man," Token says.

"What for?"

Token grins and shrugs, and Craig lets it alone; he doesn't think anyone should be proud of him for any reason, and Token must know it, too.

"You don't have to sit with me, either," Craig says.

"Well, you don't have another sister to pawn me off on, so I guess you're stuck with me."

"You have a best friend, though," Craig says before he can stop himself.

Token barely spares him a glance. "Yeah, and I'm sitting with him."

There are none of the practiced tones Craig has come to recognize; Token's words sound candid, genuine. Craig can't keep a note of surprise out of his own voice. "I always thought Clyde was your best friend."

Token looks up, furrowed brow smoothing out as their eyes meet. "You're both my best friend."

Craig watches Token go back to eating. He tries to eat, too, but only twirls the spaghetti, spinning it around and around and around, without lifting his fork. "You're always so protective of him, though."

Token doesn't deny it, and Craig wonders if he's also thinking of that time he beat the snot out of Cartman when Cartman called Clyde's mom a psycho bitch just before she died. Token had been the only one of Clyde's friends to know about the brain tumor; Dr. Black been Mrs. Donovan's pharmacist and Token had overheard her talking about it once. When he told Clyde he knew, Clyde wouldn't talk about it and made Token promise not to tell anyone—a promise Token had kept until just after that fight, when he'd finally told Craig.

"I'm protective of you too, asshole," Token says now. "You just need protecting in a different way." He's grinning and Craig can't tell if he's taking this seriously, which makes Craig feel like he's taking it too seriously himself, which does make him feel like an asshole and makes him miss Clyde even more, because Clyde never makes Craig feel like he's taking anything too seriously.

After lunch, Craig goes to History. He and Clyde still sit next to each other because neither of them have asked to switch with anyone. Clyde is there when Craig walks in but his head is down, so Craig is saved from having to say anything.

There's the usual amount of groaning when the teacher announces a pop quiz. Craig takes a sheet and passes the stack back. When he goes to write his name in the upper right corner, nothing comes out of his pen. He works a curved groove into the paper as he tries to get his pen to make a "C". He turns the sheet over and scribbles on the back, but nothing appears.

"Crud," he mutters under his breath. He'll have to ask to borrow a pen, which is an automatic 10 point deduction, for reasons Craig doesn't understand but which their teacher claims have to do with discipline.

He's just raising his hand when a pen flies in from his right and lands on his desk. He glances over at Clyde, who gives him a fleeting half-grin before turning his attention to the quiz.

Craig does the same.

He can't sleep that night. He lies in bed looking at the pen for at least an hour before he goes out and gets in his car.

"Hello, Craig," Mr. Donovan says when he opens the door.

"Hello, sir." Craig doesn't make up an excuse for why he's here. He doesn't need one: he's shown up at the Donovans this late before and Mr. Donovan has never turned him away or asked questions. That's a lot of trust.

"I haven't seen much of you lately. Is everything all right?"

"No," Craig says. He doesn't want to lie to Mr. Donovan. He wants to be worthy of the trust. "But I'm going to fix it."

Mr. Donovan smiles.

Craig goes up, knocks, and for the first time in a long time actually waits for Clyde to open the door.

Clyde looks surprised but doesn't say anything when he sees Craig. Craig doesn't say anything, either. He holds up the pen.

After looking at it for a few seconds, Clyde goes over and lies down on his bed, facing the wall. Since he didn't tell Craig to go away, Craig stays by the door, holding up the pen, neither of them talking.

It takes him a moment to realize Clyde is crying.

Craig shuts the door behind him. Clyde doesn't turn toward him when Craig sits on the edge of the bed but he doesn't move away when Craig touches his head, so Craig starts stroking his hair.

"Why am I like this?"

It sounds rhetorical but Craig thinks it's a real question.

He doesn't know the answer.

Clyde rolls onto his back and looks at Craig. He's not crying any more but there are tears lurking in the corners of his eyes and he brushes at them impatiently. "Why can't I just be normal? Why do I like this stuff—why do I want it so much it." His swallow looks hard. "It's like it hurts not to have it sometimes?" The furrow of his brow deepens and desperation strains his voice: "What's wrong with me?"

"There's nothing wrong with you or the things you want," Craig says.

Clyde looks at him, tears sliding down in a slow, fat spill. "You don't know... you would hate me if you knew everything I want." He looks away. "You were so disgusted at the club..."

"I wasn't disgusted," Craig says. "Not with you." He feels shaky and nudges Clyde over to lie down next to him. "You have no idea some of the things I want to do to you." He watches his fingertips touch the scars on Clyde's face, tracing them lightly.

"You could do that."

Craig looks into Clyde eyes, his fingers still on the scars. "You don't know what I want to do."

Clyde shifts onto his side, facing Craig, his gaze steady though there are tremors in his breathing. "You could do anything you want."

Something breaks inside Craig; Clyde's name comes out a little crumbled, but Craig says it so softly he's not sure if Clyde has noticed.

"I don't need to know what it is." Clyde swallows a few times; the tears threaten again, spill again when Clyde blinks. "I don't want to know. I just—I want you to do things to me, and I want to take them. Whatever they are. Whatever you'll give me. Everything. All of it." Clyde tries to look at him, winds up looking down. Craig can't make out his next words, but he thinks he catches "pathetic" and "weak."

Craig's brow furrows. "You think you're pathetic and weak?"

Clyde doesn't answer right away. Then, still looking down, he says, "I think you think that. I mean, how could you not? For me to want to be, like, pushed around and ordered around... and the way I, you know, get off on, um, like—being degraded and humiliated and used? And, just, everything that I want..." His breath sounds exhausted as he sighs, rolling onto his back again.

Craig doesn't know what to say, so he falls back on the truth: "You're the strongest person I know, Clyde."

Clyde gives him a look, a half-smile like he thinks Craig is just saying that. Craig doesn't know how to convince him, so he reaches out and burrows his fingers into Clyde's hair, starts stroking.

"I'm not strong," Clyde says after a while, looking up at the ceiling. "I could have come over to your house and tried to get back together with you. But I didn't because now that I know what it feels like, I don't think I can go through this again at the end of the summer. I mean, now that we're broken up, maybe it's better just to stay this way." He lets out a shaky breath. "At least we can get back to being friends now, right?"

Craig sits up. They haven't talked about what's going to happen when Clyde leaves for college, but Craig just thought—well, he didn't think anything, exactly, because he doesn't like thinking about it. But he definitely didn't think this.

"I know Token asked you to roadtrip to Stanford." Clyde is sitting up now, too. "But I was thinking maybe you could come to New Mexico with me instead? Not to move there or anything. But just to, like—help me find someone?"

Craig is silent as he sinks into confusion. He has a feeling he could understand what Clyde is saying if he wanted to, and he has a stronger feeling that he doesn't want to.

Clyde is still talking, though. "I got lucky with you. I don't think I could be a nice, normal boyfriend for anyone any more and I guess." He swallows. "I guess I don't really want to." Before Craig can tell Clyde that's good, Clyde goes on, "I know it's really unfair of me to ask, but I'm scared to do it on my own and I don't know who else to go to, so..."

Craig gives it a second before he says, "So—what?"

"So, could you help me find someone who'll let me be like this?"

"I let you be like this." Something pushes into Craig's head, pushing against the back of his eyes; he pushes it away. "When do I ever—when have I ever not." He chews his lip. "Didn't I just tell you I like you like this? Why would that change?"

Clyde gives him a sad smile. "329 miles, Craig."

It hits Craig hard: the most important thing they've never talked about isn't whether Craig is giving Clyde what he wants in bed. The most important thing they've never talked about is so important, Craig didn't even realize until right now that they weren't thinking the same thing. He's never even considered the possibility that they were going to split up because of 329 miles, but apparently Clyde has been thinking it's an inevitability.

Well, Clyde is wrong. Three hundred twenty-nine miles isn't next door, but it isn't impossible. It's not even that bad—depending on road and traffic conditions, it's five or six hours of driving, tops.

If that's the problem, then they have no problems. "There's this invention from the late 19th century called an 'automobile.' It can be used to cover distances too far for a person to walk. Distances like 329 miles. As it happens," he nudges his shoulder confidentially against Clyde's, "I have one." Clyde is smiling, so Craig smiles, too, as he adds, "Try to get drafted by the Rockies, though."

Smile fading, Clyde shakes his head. "That'll never happen, you know. No one's going to draft me." He sounds practical, not sad. "I just want to play ball for a few more years. If Highlands hadn't wanted me, I probably would've gone to culinary school. I still might, after. There's a really good one in San Francisco I've been checking out online."

Craig didn't know that. He didn't know Clyde spends so much time thinking about the future, and apparently has been for a while.

"You're not coming back," Craig says slowly.

"And you're not leaving," Clyde says.

Craig is quiet. "I might," he says. "I could."

They sit in silence, until Clyde says, "Would you want to go to San Francisco ever? There are some really good art schools there. Like for your photography..."

"I don't want to waste money on a degree in photography," Craig says. "I can teach myself that stuff."

Clyde nods, no less disappointed for having apparently expected that answer.

"But," Craig says, "I bet I could take a class out there in Japanese rope bondage." Clyde looks at him, grinning, ready to share the joke; when he sees Craig isn't smiling, his own grin fades and a blush overcomes him. "And maybe I could get some instruction in fisting, in a way that won't freak me out like the videos I've been trying to watch." He does grin now, which only makes Clyde blush harder.

"Um..." Clyde says.

"Do you still want that?" Craig asks.

Clyde nods.

"Do you still want it with me?"

Clyde looks down, head tilted, lips parted.

When Craig leans in to kiss him, just before their mouths meet, he whispers, "Don't close your eyes."

They kiss with their eyes open, too close to see anything, just falling and falling blindly into the gaze.

They don't do anything but kiss; kiss and touch and breathe.

Craig doesn't want to do anything else with Clyde, and he wants to do everything else with Clyde. As he stretches out beside Clyde, his hand goes under the pillow and brushes up against something soft and yielding, definitely not bedclothes. He gets his fingers around it and pulls it out.

"Oh—no, don't, um." Clyde makes a grab for it, but Craig pulls away and looks at it. It looks like a soft, floppy dildo. Craig knows what it is, from some of the sex toy sites he's been to: a soft pack. Girls who want to be guys, or at least pass as guys, wear them sometimes. Craig can't figure out why Clyde, who already has a cock of his own, would need one, or why it's causing him such extreme embarrassment.

Unless maybe it's Bebe's. Maybe she'd have him suck her soft pack to get her "hard," before switching to a strap on...

Craig shifts, trying not to squirm.

"I'll just put it away." Clyde takes it from Craig, his hands curled around it protectively.

"No." Craig isn't sure that he wants to know for certain, but he thinks not knowing might be worse. "Tell me. Tell me about it."

Clyde flushes. "Um. Well. Kenny knows a girl who works at this adult toy store in Denver, and she let us in this one time even though we were underage. When I saw this, I just—it reminded me of you? Like, the coloring and the size..."

It's Craig's turn to blush. "So," he says, feeling renewed confusion. "Do you just...sleep with it under your pillow?" It's not hard, so Clyde can't fuck himself with it and Craig can't figure out what else he might do.

"No..." Clyde looks down, tries to start sentences several times, only makes breathy little sounds.

Craig tries a trick he's learned sometimes works when Clyde can't verbalize. "Show me."

Clyde takes a deep shaky breath, then closes his eyes and starts petting it, nuzzling it, kissing it and eventually drawing it into his mouth, not so much sucking it as holding it, though his jaw works now and then as he licks the underside or opens wider to curl more of the soft flop into the safety of his mouth.

Then, mouth full, Clyde reaches up and runs his fingers through his hair, petting himself, tangling in a gentle tug at his nape.

Just the way Craig pets him.

A strangeness prickles along Craig's nape. "I don't understand," he says helplessly, as much about what he's feeling as about what Clyde is doing.

Clyde lets go of himself, takes his mouth from the soft pack. "Um. Because." He's taking breaths between each word and Craig will usually relent when he's struggling this badly, but this time he can't; something tells him he can't this time.

He focuses on Clyde. "Tell me."

Clyde doesn't look away as he pushes himself: "I like it when you're like this." He swallows. "Soft."

"You don't like it when I'm hard?" All the beautifulness drains out of the feeling, leaving Craig on the verge of sick.

Clyde shakes his head. "No, that's. That's not it." He looks away, flashes a small smile when their eyes meet again. "You know I like it when you're hard, especially when you're hard for me." Craig wants to tell him that Clyde's the only one he's hard for any more, but he also wants Clyde to keep going. Clyde takes another breath. "But," his eyes shy away. "I like it when you're soft, too. After. Because, um. It's because of me." His eyes are flickering when he looks at Craig now, like maybe it's hard for him to look but harder not to. "Because I'm the one who does that for you, who makes you, feel like that? You let me make you feel good..."

Clyde makes Craig feel a million things. Good is one of them. "Do you want to make me feel like that now?"

Clyde comes to him, goes down on him, quiet as he sucks Craig hard, quiet as he swallows, moaning softly only when Craig starts stroking his hair as Clyde holds him, soft, in his mouth.

They stay quiet even when Craig coaxes Clyde up to lie with him.

"I'm like this, too," he says.

It sometimes scares him when he gets so turned on by the things he does to Clyde, and for a long while now he's let himself think he does everything he does solely for Clyde—but it's not true. Craig wants it, too. He wants it all, and more.

When Clyde shifts to look at him, Craig props up on his elbow. "I don't know why you're like this, but I'm like this, too." He knows it's not the answer Clyde was seeking and maybe it raises as many questions as it answers, but it's true, and as they look at each other now, Craig knows they both know it.

They kiss, as slow and deep as any gaze they've shared.

"Thanks for bringing back my pen," Clyde says as they're drifting to sleep. "I really like that pen."

Craig wakes up the next morning to the sound of knocking. "Rise and shine!" Clyde's dad calls through the door.

The covers shift as Clyde stretches. He looks like he's been awake awhile, or at least longer than Craig has. "Dad, could you call me in sick?" Craig admires the way Clyde has avoided lying to his father, though there's the chance his dad will ask if Clyde actually is sick.

There's enough of a pause that Craig knows Mr. Donovan must be considering the question, before he says, "Sure thing, son. Do you need me to get you anything?"

"That's okay, Dad, thanks."

"All right then."

Mr. Donovan doesn't say anything else but Craig doesn't hear retreating footsteps and, when he looks at Clyde, he can see Clyde hasn't heard any, either.

Then Mr. Donovan says, "Does Craig need me to call in for him, too?"

Craig feels himself pale, but Clyde's shoulders hunch up as he tries not to laugh aloud before he pokes Craig under the covers.

"Oh, uh." Craig clears his throat, raises his volume enough to be heard through the door. "That's all right, sir. I'll call myself in."

"That's fine, then. Feel better, boys." This time there are receding footsteps.

Once they've faded from earshot, Clyde rolls onto his side and rests his hand on Craig's chest, and Craig puts his hand over it, thumb sketching idle strokes. It's not like their relationship has been a secret from Mr. Donovan and Craig has suspected that he's guessed, in general and non-specific terms, what they get up to, but still—"That was weird," he says.

Clyde grins, shrugs. "He likes you."

Craig likes Mr. Donovan, too. Still stroking Clyde's hand, he studies the ceiling he's come to know so well. "I was thinking..."

When he trails off, Clyde prompts him: "Yeah?"

"I was thinking," Craig says slowly, "that maybe I could rent your room after graduation—or at the end of the summer." His parents have been clear that they expect Craig to move out after graduation; they'll give him the summer, he's pretty sure, but that's it.

Clyde hasn't said anything and Craig isn't sure he wants to see Clyde's expression just yet, so he goes on, "Maybe I could do the housework and cooking and yard work and whatever, in exchange for reduced rent, while I save up some money? And I don't know if you remember this, but last year Token's mom was gonna help me get a summer job at her company." He'd kind of blown off the offer but, if he asks, he thinks she might be willing to help him. She may not like him as much as Clyde's dad does, but he's always gotten on okay with her. "Maybe I could do it this summer." He'll still have nights with Clyde, even if he's working all day. "And maybe I could keep going with it for a year or something."

It's a lot of maybes, but it's all he has right now.

"And that after that year or whatever, maybe I could. You know." He strips out the maybe and goes for it: "I could go somewhere."

Clyde still doesn't say anything. His hand has stopped moving on Craig.

"Sorry." Craig snorts a half-grin. "Not sexy, I know. I'll shut up now."

"You have no idea how sexy it is to hear you talk about your future like you want one," Clyde says, leaning in to kiss him. "That's actually not a bad plan."

"It's not?"

Clyde confirms it with a shake of his head. "How long have you been thinking about this?"

"Um. Just now?"

Clyde grins and kisses him again.

"Is this really a turn on for you?"

Clyde's blush doesn't diminish his grin. "Kind of, yeah."

Craig kisses him, dwells in the kiss a little. "What else turns you on?"

"Everything," Clyde murmurs, getting all floaty in the kiss.

"No," Craig pushes himself up. He feels shaky, but he has to do this. "Tell me, for serious. I always want to know if I'm doing it right for you, giving you what you want. I know you want me to know without having to ask—"

"You can ask," Clyde says. "I didn't know you thought you couldn't. I thought you stopped asking me about stuff because you had it all figured out..."

"Token's right," Craig says. "You really do overestimate me." He means to be funny, but it comes out kind of serious and neither of them seems to know what to say next.

"Okay, for serious." Clyde sits up. "I don't know if this will make sense—but whatever you do, that's what I want. I don't mean that as a cop-out." His mouth slants up on one side, not quite a smile, then fades. "I just mean you have a way of giving me things I never knew I wanted, until you do them. You're really good at figuring me out."

Craig's blush makes Clyde look down, smiling. It takes Craig a moment to realize Clyde isn't going to say more. "But." He hesitates, words on his tongue. It would be easy to flip them back, swallow them unspoken. Things feel so good right now...

But maybe they could be better; that's the point. "But sometimes I don't know if it's too much, or not enough, or..." Measured breaths aren't enough to steady him, so he reaches for Clyde, entwining their fingers. "I know what you're going to say," he says, even though Clyde hasn't moved to say anything. "That it's never too much. But what if that means it's also never enough?" Clyde's hand tightens around his and Craig holds on, too.

"And," he adds after a moment, quieter, "What if it really is too much sometimes?" He doesn't let go as he shifts, angling his body toward Clyde. "Kenny said something that time, about a safe word."

"Oh." Clyde's mouth scrunches into something like a grin on one side, more resignation than anything else in his accompanying sigh. "I thought you might say that."

"He mentioned it to you, too?"

Clyde shakes his head. "I just figured you'd come to it eventually." He opens his mouth, then closes it without saying any more.

He doesn't need to; Craig gets it. "You don't want one."

"I just. I like not having any control. Not knowing how far it will go. Not knowing what might happen, but knowing anything could. And knowing." Clyde drops his voice but not his gaze. "Knowing that whatever it is, it's you doing it to me." The line of his mouth trembles and he shuts his jaw tighter to steady it.

It seems like he's done—but then Clyde says, "Taking care of me."

Craig expects Clyde to look away but he doesn't. Craig doesn't look away, either. "Is that really how it feels?"

Clyde has the grace not to say anything about Craig's blush as he nods. "It feels like a lot of things. I can't put all of it into words, but that's one of them. I feel like, I can be myself with you, or I don't have to be myself—I don't have to be anything at all? I don't know how to explain this." Now he looks away, chews on his lip. "I guess I feel safe with you, and that's why I don't need a safe word. You're already my safe word." He shakes his head, like he thinks he's not making sense.

Craig thinks he's making sense. He doesn't know if he's worthy of that sense—but god how he wants to be.

"But you're right, we should have one." Clyde turns to him. "A word or maybe a sign? Like for when I can't talk..."

"Bike," Craig says. Clyde arches a quizzical eyebrow but nods. "Because 'training wheels' is too long," Craig says. "And that's all this is going to be. Someday I'll take it away from you."

Clyde's smile opens as it touches Craig's. Craig lingers in the kiss but, now that they're talking, he wants to keep going. "I know you said you like everything I do, but—there are other things, right? Things you want that I haven't figured out?"

Gaze shying away, Clyde takes a few breaths before nodding.

Craig kisses him again, drawing the shaky breaths from Clyde, returning them steadied. When he feels Clyde ease, Craig slides out of the kiss. "Could you tell me those things sometimes?"

Clyde is quiet for a while before he says, "It's not that I don't want to tell you things. It's just sometimes hard for me to talk when I'm, you know." He exhales it like it's more than a word: "There." He looks at Craig again. "And the way you take me there—sometimes I'm there before I even know I'm going..."

There's a wonder to Clyde's voice that makes Craig say, "You never went there with Bebe?"

"No, I did, but. It was different with her. With her, when it would happen, it would be after we'd been fooling around awhile. A long, slow slide in. With you." Clyde draws a quick, audible breath, then closes his eyes. "You can do it with just a look."

Some of Clyde's wonder skims along the back of Craig's neck. "Am I doing it now?"

Clyde shakes his head. "But you could. Every time I look at you, I know you could..."

Craig strokes his hair. "I'm not going to do it right now," he says.

Clyde lets Craig pet him a while longer before he opens his eyes. "I can tell you stuff outside of it, if you want..."

Craig smiles. "Yeah."

"Okay, well... do you want to see something now?" Clyde's answering smile is shy, eager and anxious, and it makes Craig think of the first time he kissed Clyde, right before he asked Clyde out.

Even if he didn't already want to know everything Clyde will share with him, that smile would have made Craig say yes.

He follows Clyde over to his desk, where, after a small flurry of typing and clicking, Clyde takes a deep breath, sits back, and tilts the screen to Craig.

At first Craig isn't sure what he's looking at. Then he reads the text at the top of the page: Category > Chastity > Men's > Cock Cages.

He looks at the picture again: translucent plastic—polycarbonate, it says below—encasing a soft cock. The plastic lock, he reads, will pass through metal detectors. He leans over and clicks on one of the thumbnails in the side frame: this one has burnished metal bars, with a curved cage for the cock and a connecting cage for the balls.

"You want me to get you one of these?" Straightening up, he looks at Clyde.

Face as colored with heat as Craig's feels, Clyde nods. "I could wear it when we're apart, and you'd know..."

"I already know you'll be faithful," Craig assures him.

"Um, no... You'd know that it's yours. That my cock belongs to you, even more than it does to me." A little furrow appears on his brow. "Is that dumb?"

"Fuck, Clyde." Craig swivels the chair around, wedges himself between Clyde's legs as he settles on the floor between them.

"No, you—you shouldn't be the one kneeling..."

Craig rests his hands on Clyde's knees, soothes up his thighs. "It's mine, right? Well, I want to see it now." His hands fall away when Clyde stands, pushing the chair back so he can pull his pajamas down to mid-thigh. Craig cups his cock in both hands, imagining it in the translucent cage.

He kisses it.

Clyde chokes off a moan. Craig sits back on his heels and looks at him; just looks.

Then he stands up and takes Clyde to bed.

He takes his time getting Clyde ready, stretching and slicking him up more than either of them need, edging Clyde, feeling edged himself.

When he lies on his back with his hands behind his head, he knows Clyde knows what it means, but Craig says it anyhow, to get the hot flutter Clyde will give him at the word: "Ride."

Craig knows Clyde finds this position a little humiliating because of his body image issues but, though he won't tell Clyde this, that's not how Craig means it. He loves Clyde's body and when they fuck like this, it's the closest he gets to worship: as he gazes up at Clyde riding him, he runs his hands along Clyde's sides, feeling Clyde shiver, watching the blush.

His body mass index isn't the only thing Clyde is self-conscious about: when Clyde was 5, he had a colostomy. Craig remembers the bag; at the time, he'd thought it was the coolest thing. Clyde's doctor had been good, the post-surgery scar only an inch long—but as Clyde grew, as his skin stretched, the scar did, too.

As Craig is stroking the scar, Clyde says, breathless, "You can do that."

Craig switches his gaze from the scar to Clyde's face. He drags the pad of his thumb, slow and deliberate, along the scar. "This?"

"You can." Clyde breaks off to suck down a lungful of air, like talking is drowning him. "You can mark me. You can scar me, anywhere you want."

Craig didn't know he was that close until he feels himself coming.

He sits up, feeling Clyde shift to accommodate the new position, trying to keep Craig inside him. Craig wraps one arm around Clyde, holding him close as Clyde hunches against him, the fingers of his other hand tangling hard in Clyde's hair and tugging, contorting the hunch into an arch, as Clyde comes, too.

Craig falls onto his back, then rolls onto his side when Clyde shifts off to lie beside him; nudging him to turn the other way, Craig fits himself to the curve of Clyde's body. They're quiet for a while.

And for a while more...

This time Craig wakes up first. He checks the bedside clock; they've slept for less than an hour, he thinks. He meditates on the ceiling, on the press of Clyde's body against his, until he feels that body stir.

"So," Clyde says, propping up on his side, "what do you want to do today?"

Craig thought they were going to spend the whole day in bed. But it doesn't have to be the whole day: "We could go to that place you know about in Denver and see if they have one of those cock cages." He arches an eyebrow.

Clyde grins. "We could do that. Or—maybe we could hike up the volcano?" His grin wavers, uncertain of his own suggestion. "We haven't done that in a while..."

Not since the beginning of last summer, before they got together; this will be their first time as boyfriends. Because that's what they are. "Okay." Craig kisses Clyde, making his smile come back, strong and steady. "Yeah."

After stopping by Craig's house so he can get his camera and a change of clothes, they drive out to the volcano. Craig surreptitiously takes pictures of Clyde driving until Clyde notices and, laughing, tells him to save it for "the beauty of nature."

"That's what I'm doing," Craig says, taking another picture.

Clyde snorts, and Craig takes a picture of that, too.

He keeps taking pictures as they hike up the trail, of Clyde and of the flora and fauna Clyde is pointing out to him in a vain effort to get Craig to take pictures not of him. As the slope steepens, Craig starts to find it a challenge to walk and breathe and take pictures at the same time, so he gives the camera to Clyde. "You want me to carry anything else for you?" Clyde asks when Craig holds it out to him.

"I don't want you to carry it—I want you to take pictures."

"They won't be as good as yours," Clyde says, but he takes it anyhow.

Conversation falls off entirely some time after that because Craig needs every breath to pump oxygen into his lungs and from there into his blood. Other than concentrating on one foot in front of the other, the only thing Craig has energy for is to glance over at Clyde every now and then.

Craig still doesn't want to go to art school, but if Clyde thinks he's going to end up in San Francisco, and if Clyde wants Craig to find something to do with himself, then Craig can at least check it out. And if he hates it, he can find somewhere he doesn't hate. Somewhere with a top notch culinary school and a viable sex scene, and whatever else it turns out Craig is going to do with his life, besides give Clyde everything.

The slope is getting steeper and steeper and Craig can feel the strain in his muscles, the pressure on his lungs. He feels like he's not going to make it to the summit. If Clyde weren't here with him, Craig would definitely quit, just turn around and go back.

But Clyde is here with him, striding along easily. Craig is probably holding him back; Clyde could already be at the top by now. "Hey," Craig says. He waits for Clyde to return his look before he says, "Race you," and doesn't wait for Clyde to accept before he takes off.

Clyde catches up in a few steps and for a bad moment Craig thinks he's going to slow his pace down to Craig's, but then he goes by, up and up and up. He doesn't get out of sight, though, and Craig focuses on his back as he pushes himself harder and harder.

Clyde is taking deliberate breaths on the plateau below the mouth of the volcano when Craig gets there. Collapsing down next to him, Craig takes satisfaction in knowing that Clyde pushed hard, too.

"You are in terrible shape, man." If Clyde is trying to hide his amusement at this fact, he's doing a poor job of it.

Too out of breath for words, Craig lifts his middle finger. Clyde laughs openly and snaps a shot of him like that.

Craig sucks down a lungful of elevated air. The air is cold but his lungs burn, the fire spreads through his blood.

He feels alive.

"Hey." He pushes himself up on his elbows. "Do they have mountains in San Francisco?"

"They do, yeah."

Craig nods, falls back again, gazing up as he burns.

It's good to be alive.

They've always reserved holding hands for special occasions but, really, every second he has with Clyde is a special occasion to Craig—so, as they're walking down the hall at school the next day, Craig lets his fingers tangle with Clyde's, lets Clyde rearrange them so they're entwined comfortably.

They're like that when they run into Token, who puts his own hand to his forehead when he notices theirs, and turns his head. Craig steels himself for some teasing when Token looks back but all Token says is, "You guys want to eat out on the bleachers today?" There's only enough time before the bell to say yes, and then they all three go their separate ways until lunch.

It's a nice day. Not as nice as yesterday, a little cooler, but just as clear. Craig and Clyde are already unpacking their lunch bags when Token and Jason get there.

"So," Token says, unscrewing the cap on his cola, "you guys got back together just in time. Bebe's having a party on Friday."

"Oh yeah, she mentioned that," Clyde says. "So you guys are officially official now, huh?"

Token confirms it, grinning almost as much as Clyde is.

"Uhhhm," Jason says, his inarticulation drawn out. "I don't think I'm gonna make it, dude. I kind of"—his eyes slide toward Craig, then back to Token—"have plans on Friday?"

No one says anything as they all figure it out. Craig feels everyone carefully not looking at him. "Cool~" He cuts himself off before he fumbles his placeholder word into inarticulation of his own. "That's cool, man," he says more decisively. "Have a good time. But not too good a time. Or if you have a good time, don't tell me about it. I'm going to stop talking now."

The silence of his friends dilutes Craig's enjoyment of the turkey and swiss wrap he's chewing.

"Someone say something," he says once he's swallowed the bite.

"That's really great about you and Craig's sister," Token says with a perfectly straight face.

Craig throws his lunch at Token's head.

Token laughs, Jason gives Craig half of his tuna salad sandwich, Clyde takes his hand while they eat, and Craig has this weird feeling he's shining up at the sun as much as it's shining down on him.

"Dude, can you believe this is probably one of the last times we're ever gonna do this together?" Kenny says as he offers Craig a freshly rolled joint.

"What do you mean?" Craig sits up on Bebe's bed to spark up. "Where are you going?"

"Nowhere, man. But," he tilts his head in the direction of Stan, Kyle, and Cartman, stretched out in various poses on the floor, "these guys are all taking off after graduation, or at least by the end of the summer."

Craig gives them a vague once-over before letting out a smoky exhale and returning his attention to the book of early 20th century erotic photography he's been paging through.

"That asshole doesn't think he's getting high with us, Kenny," Cartman says. "He thinks he's just getting high with you."

There are many supremely annoying things about Eric Cartman. One of them is that he always seems to think he knows what's really going on. Even worse, of course, is when he actually does.

Craig shrugs it off. "Anyhow," he says, flipping the book shut and leaning back against the headboard as he sits next to Kenny, "I might be taking off, too."

"Oh yeah?" Kenny exhales out the side of his mouth to avoid blowing smoke in Craig's face.

"Not right away," Craig amends. "But yeah." He tokes. "California, maybe."

"Ha!" Craig looks over the side of the bed to see Stan holding out his hand. Cartman cants to the side as he reaches into his back pocket, extracts a single bill of a denomination Craig can't make out from this angle, and hands it over.

"Cool, dude." Kenny says. "So you're gonna go hang out with Token, huh?"

"Yeah, well—" Craig turns his attention from the strange transaction back to Kenny. "Clyde might want to go to cooking school out there, so. I thought I'd check it out."

"Fuckin' told you," Cartman says, holding out his hand and making a whip-crack sound. Stan hands back the money.

Watching this new exchange, Craig feels his brow furrow. "Hey, can you guys, like, stop making bets about me?"

At that, all three of them toss wadded up bills at Kenny.

Craig's furrow deepens. "Are you even betting right now? Are you just passing money around to fuck with me?"

They laugh. Even Kenny.

"Fuck you guys." Craig rolls off the bed and leaves.

"See you later, dude!" Kenny calls after him cheerfully as the door is closing behind Craig.

On his way downstairs, he runs into Token on his way up. "What's up, man?" Token says, all casual—and then, just as they've passed each other, he says, "Oh, hey, I hear you might be calling my mom about a job?" Either Token thinks Craig is too stoned to detect tone or else he doesn't really care whether it sounds casual or not.

Token's seriousness makes Craig stop on the stairs, too, and lean against the wall as he looks up at Token. "Yeah." He doesn't mind that Clyde told Token, but he wasn't really planning on having this conversation right now. He sighs; since they've started talking, they may as well keep going all the way through. "Do you think she'll help me?"

"Yeah, man, of course. Just don't blow her off again, okay?" Token grins.

"Yeah, okay."

Craig starts to go but, feeling Token's hand on his shoulder, he turns back and finds Token looking at him pretty intently.

After a second, Token says, "You're really serious about this, right? You're not just saying stuff or fucking around this time?"

"I'm serious," Craig says. "You don't have to worry about me blowing off your mom."

"It's not my mom I'm worried about."

They look at each other.

"I get it," Craig says. And he does: all the pieces suddenly click into place—the road trip Token invited him on, the fact that Clyde knew about it, all the thought Clyde has put into art schools up there, and the culinary school Clyde himself wanted to go to, also there. "I'm serious," he says.

Token keeps looking at him and Craig keeps looking back.

Something shifts in the way they're looking at each other and, even though there's no real indication that they're having a different, if related, conversation now, Craig can't help thinking that they are.

Then Token confirms it: "If you're gonna break his heart, man, just—just do it now."

"I'm not gonna break his heart."

They look at each other some more.

Then Token shakes his head and grins, and doesn't say anything, and doesn't need to.

When Craig gets down to the living room, Clyde is sitting on the end seat of the sofa. He gets up when he sees Craig and offers to go get them a couple of beers. Craig takes the sofa seat and Clyde, when he comes back, settles on the floor by his feet, angled in profile to Craig as he drinks.

Mesmerized by the liquid shift and flow inside the bottle as Clyde tilts it up, transfixed by the bob of his adam's apple as he swallows, Craig forgets about drinking his own beer as he watches Clyde. When Clyde goes to put the bottle down, Craig presses his fingertip to the bottom and nudges it back up.

Their eyes meet.

Clyde continues to drink.

When he's done, Craig lets him sit quietly for the length of a couple of songs before he gives Clyde the beer he's been nursing. He doesn't make Clyde drink that one in a single long swallow; he lets Clyde go at his own pace.

"Be right back," Clyde says, starting to get to his feet when he's nearing the bottom of the bottle; he stops when Craig puts a hand on his shoulder.

Craig leans forward. "What do you think you're doing?"

Clyde's lashes flutter at the tone, the phrasing. "I just need to use the bathroom."

"I don't think so," Craig says.

Clyde flutters more.

It's probably mostly backwash but Clyde drains the bottle, and Craig sends him to the kitchen to get two more. Clyde is back quickly enough that Craig knows he hasn't stopped anywhere along the way; he'd know that, anyhow, just from knowing Clyde.

As with the second, he lets Clyde control the pace of the third beer.

Some time later, when he's swallowed the last drop of that one, Clyde shifts on his knees but doesn't try to get up this time. Eyes closed, he breathes deep.

Craig and his single finger take over the fourth beer.

Stop and go.

Stop and flow.

They're well into the second hour now, though Craig doubts Clyde knows that, doubts Clyde is aware of anything but the pressure in his bladder and, of course, Craig. Craig didn't have anything in mind when he touched that first bottle; he wasn't conscious of a plan developing but the longer it goes on, the clearer what he's doing becomes, and the deeper into it they both get. They've never actually talked about bladder play and Craig doesn't know if it's one of Clyde's kinks—but he does know Clyde doesn't want control. And he knows the fluttering is Clyde saying yes on a wordless, molecular level.

Still, they're not in private and Craig is thinking about backing off, when Bebe perches on the arm of the sofa with a bottle in each hand. Seeing that they're water, he can't help wondering if she's noticed what he's doing and if this is her way of telling him to stop: if anyone would know what he's up to, it would be Bebe.

He feels more certain she knows when she sets down the bottles and says, "In case you don't want to get him too drunk."

Then she cups Craig's face lightly, one-handed, and leans in to kiss him chastely on the lips. She smiles before she leaves.

Something wordless and maybe nameless has passed between them, and somehow Craig knows he doesn't have worry about Bebe any more; that he never did.

They can go faster with the water. Clyde fidgets sporadically through the first bottle. Craig keeps the second one tilted up so that Clyde has to swallow continuously to keep up; then he angles it just a little higher, so Clyde can't quite keep up, and slick little rivulets spill along his skin.

Clyde is squirming outright by now, face downturned and brow kit in flushed, shaky concentration.

He doesn't say anything when the first wet spot appears on his pants, but he turns his face up to Craig's and the gaze shoots through Craig like adrenaline.

Craig gets him up and drags him outside, propping him against the side of the house. Transfixed, almost unable to believe what they're doing, Craig focuses on the steady stream running down Clyde's pants leg.

Only when it stops does Craig wish he'd looked into Clyde's eyes at least once while he was wetting himself. He looks now—and sees a glisten on his face.

Craig wants to do what he always wants to do when Clyde cries: pull him close and wrap around him.

But Bebe gave him that kiss. She knew this was going to happen, and she gave him that kiss.

So he says, low but clear, like he can't believe his eyes because Clyde isn't supposed to do anything without Craig's permission, even cry: "Are those tears?"

Clyde inhales deeply.

Then: "Gratitude," Clyde says quietly, face still downturned.

Clyde never speaks when they're this far in, so it takes half a heartbeat for Craig to understand that he has; a strange thrill shivers through him.

"What?" Craig tilts Clyde's face to him.

"Gratitude," Clyde repeats, meeting Craig's eyes. "They're tears of gratitude."

Craig doesn't know what those words make him feel—but he's feeling a lot of it, and deeply.

"I want to ruin you, so no one else will ever want you," he hears himself say.

Clyde's flutters are overwhelming enough to bring him to his knees.

Craig lets him stay like that, dwelling in the moment, wallowing in the gaze.

Then he gets Clyde to his feet again and takes him to the car. Clyde murmurs a soft "no" when Craig opens the passenger side door for him, and when Craig sees him looking down at the wet mess of his trousers, he gets it. Craig doesn't really care about that—he could always have Clyde clean the car as a "punishment" for getting it dirty. But Clyde seems to be in some genuine distress over this and Craig won't have that.

He brushes his fingertip down the front of Clyde's shirt. "Take this off."

Clyde shivers when he does it, though Craig can't tell whether it's the chill night air or something else. He takes the shirt from Clyde, folds it up and puts it on the seat, then points. This time Clyde gets in.

Craig drives, windows rolled down. They're quiet on the ride to his house, until Craig looks over at a stop sign and sees Clyde twisted, body angled toward him, face turned to the open window.

"Hey, no," Craig says; he doesn't like to think of their beautiful gaze spilling out of Clyde and seeping away into the night, like so much exhaled smoke. "Don't do that. You can look at me or you can close your eyes."

Clyde turns all the way toward him, a deep sigh settling throughout his body as he leans against the headrest and fixes his soft, fluttering gaze on Craig.

They've been at the stop sign too long already; Craig risks it for a moment longer, leaning over to kiss Clyde slow and deep, until another car comes along and honks impatiently.

It's just past eleven and, as expected, no one is home at the Tuckers when they get there. Craig takes Clyde to the bathroom and starts to run a shower for him; then, suddenly inspired, he pushes the lever down for a bath instead. "Strip," he says as the tub starts to fill.

When Clyde is naked, Craig folds up a towel and has Clyde kneel in the tub as the water continues to pour in. Clyde shivers so Craig dips his hand in test the temperature. It's pretty hot but Craig adjusts the knob anyhow, then runs his wet fingertips along Clyde's spine, drawing out a different kind of shiver.

He wants this to be as different as possible from the last time he made Clyde clean up at his house and so, instead of sitting there and watching, waiting, Craig takes the washcloth himself.

At first it feels strange to be soaping Clyde up like this but when he lets himself relax into it, Craig finds he likes it. He kind of wants to wash Clyde's hair, too—but that would take longer and the ache Craig has been sustaining is starting to demand attention.

Clyde is aching, too. Craig palms Clyde's balls with the washcloth, squeezes gently, eliciting a whimper. "Should I let you come?"

Clyde looks at him helplessly.

Craig smiles. "It's okay. It doesn't matter how you answer: this is all mine." He squeezes again, then moves to stroke Clyde's cock underwater, closing his fist over the cockhead. "You're mine, and I'll do what I want with you."

Clyde looks so fucking beautiful when he falls apart.

He's so beautiful like this, Craig wants everyone to know.

In his bedroom, Craig sits at his desk, logs in to the private channel, and turns on the webcam. He pushes the chair back and has Clyde sit in his lap, facing him, then adjusts the angle of the chair and the camera until he likes what he sees on the monitor: Clyde's beautiful face, his body to mid-torso; his cock out of frame, only for Craig.

It's not his cock that Craig touches, though. He lets Clyde suck his finger awhile before slicking up with lube. He checks the angle again and then, taking Clyde's chin in his hand, turns his attention to the monitor. "Do you understand?"

Clyde looks into the monitor for another moment after Craig lets go of him. He swallows and turns to Craig. A soft smile plays on his lips. "Yes, Craig."

Craig takes a moment, too. Takes a deep breath.

Connects, live and recording.

He has Clyde continue facing the camera as he works the first finger in. He knows that the angle doesn't show him fingerfucking Clyde—but it shows both of them clearly and, with the way they're sitting, with Clyde's expressions and sounds, it has to be kind of obvious.

Craig wants it to be completely obvious, so he tilts Clyde's face to him. "Hey, do you want this?"

Clyde takes a few desperate breaths before managing to push out, "Please~"

"You have to say it," Craig says. "They'll think you want me to stop."

"Please," Clyde says, "don't stop. Please don't stop ruining me, please don't ever stop..."

Craig had meant for Clyde to describe the exact sexual act. But this—oh god, this... "Clyde~"

Craig puts his hand over the webcam sensor, shutting out everyone, before he turns it off with a smile just for Clyde.

All weekend, during which they only leave the house to move from Craig's to Clyde's, Craig waits for a wtf??? text from Token or someone. But nothing comes, not a text or an email or a phone call, no one stops by either of their houses. Craig checked afterwards and the alert definitely got sent out, but maybe something went wrong and it never actually went through to anyone.

On Monday morning, though, it becomes apparent that the alert did go through. They're getting looks. Not everyone, not by a long shot; but enough of the people who subscribe that Craig knows they've seen the archived video, even if no one saw it live.

Kids are looking at them but no one, not even Cartman, actually says anything. Not until lunch. It's one of the warmest days they've had this year but Craig would bet more kids than usual would be eating out on the bleachers even if it wasn't.

They've been out there for ten or fifteen minutes when there's a simultaneous lull in everyone's conversation...which Butters fills by saying, "Hey, Craig—was that video real?"

"Butters, goddamnit," Cartman mutters, but no one else says anything.

They all seem to be looking at Craig for an answer, but Craig doesn't say anything either.

Then he turns to Clyde, seated beside him, unable to control his blush but otherwise looking okay. "Go sit one step down."

Clyde's blush gets worse as he moves to sit at Craig's feet. When Craig tips his face up, the blush deepens even more; and then everything evens out as he slips into the gaze.

When Craig finally looks up, he sees that some people have left. Token is still here, though. Kenny and Cartman and Butters are, too, and—somewhat to Craig's surprise—Kyle and Stan are among those who've stayed as well. Equally to his surprise, Bebe looks like she's going now. She says something to Token and gets to her feet, and Craig has a flash of anxiety—but Token stays seated and, when she sees Craig looking at her, Bebe meets his eyes and gives him a wink before she goes.

There's a low hum of resumed conversation around them—until Craig unscrews the cap of his clear thermos, fills it, and holds it to Clyde's lips. He resists the urge to tip it up so Clyde would have to drink faster or spill; not in front of their friends, at least not without a video camera between them.


Conversation falters, wavers, struggles, like people don't know whether they're supposed to act like this is normal or whether they're supposed to watch. Craig glances up and sees that the only one openly watching is Butters, but no one is completely oblivious; not even Cartman, who is doing his damnedest to seem disinterested.

"What's in there?" Butters asks, inching toward them.

"My come," Craig says. He doesn't know why he said that—it's actually just a protein shake he'd gotten from the vending machine and poured into the thermos before lunch. He's kind of weirdly turned on by the idea of bottle feeding Clyde his come, though, nourishing him like that... Not a whole bottle, but maybe he could add a little of himself to Clyde's next shake.

Clyde is immersed in the gaze now, wrapped in it and floating on it.

"What's wrong with him?" Butters, nearer than the others, sounds curious and unjudgmental. Craig gives him a smile before he looks at Clyde.

"Nothing," Craig says, looking deep into that open gaze. "There's nothing wrong with him at all." He takes the thermos away. "Did you get enough, or are you still hungry?"

Clyde's lashes flutter and he swallows hard. "I'm still hungry, Craig."

The way Clyde says his name like that, just here, makes Craig need to take him away from here. He curves the smallest smile at Clyde, just for him, before he straightens up and says generally, to no one in particular and to anyone who might care, "I'm taking him home to feed him properly."

No one says it, not even Butters this time, but Craig knows all of them—including and maybe especially Clyde—are thinking Craig is taking Clyde somewhere to get a blowjob from him.

When they get to Clyde's house, Craig takes them into the kitchen instead of up to the bedroom. He smiles at the curiosity in Clyde's gaze as he watches Craig open the refrigerator, taking out a loaf of bread and the deli-sliced white American cheese the Donovans have always preferred.

When the grilled cheese sandwich is done, Craig slides it from the pan onto a plate. It's a little burned on one side, so Craig scrapes off the blackened bits before cutting it in half diagonally and bringing it to the table, where he sets it in front of Clyde. Then he takes the chair next to Clyde and rests his elbows on the table, one arm folded down, his chin resting in the palm of the one propped up.

Clyde looks from Craig to the sandwich and back.

Craig tears off a corner and holds it out to Clyde.

Instead of reaching for it, Clyde leans in, keeping his eyes on Craig until the last moment, when he closes them and opens his mouth.

Craig feeds him the whole sandwich that way, feeling his mouth quirk up every time a little sound of enjoyment escapes Clyde's mouth. When they've finished the first, Craig says, "Do you want another?"

Clyde opens his mouth, then shuts it again without saying anything.

"It's not a trick question. I really want to know." Craig slips into the gaze. "I want you to have enough."

Basking, Clyde settles in the gaze and Craig wonders if he gets it, all that Craig means with those words. He thinks Clyde knows but he doesn't know for sure; anyhow he won't mind telling Clyde again, as much as Clyde needs, as much as both of them do. He just wants Clyde to feel full; Craig wants to be the one to fill him.

Then Clyde looks down at himself, lifting his shirt and examining those few extra pounds that are only apparent when his clothes are off. There's no point telling Clyde he isn't fat, which is the complete truth but not one he's able to believe easily, so Craig goes for a different truth. "I like this," he says, palming a soft, comforting little bit of pudge.

Clyde blushes but Craig knows he believes it when he says, "I want another one, please."

As Craig is making the second sandwich, his phone vibrates with a text message. He flips the sandwich, then digs into his pocket for the phone.

It's from Token: When you get this can we meet up somewhere?

Craig brings Clyde the sandwich and replies, at clydes. come ovr if u want.

It's a few minutes before Token texts back, See you in a few.

"Token is coming over," Craig tells Clyde as Clyde is polishing off the second sandwich on his own.

"Okay," Clyde says. "Um. Could I have one more sandwich...?"

Craig grins.

He's still working up the sandwich when Token gets there. "Do you want one?" Craig asks over his shoulder.

Token shakes his head. "I'm good, man, thanks."

After flipping the new sandwich onto Clyde's plate, Craig gets himself a drink and sits with them at the table. He wants to ask what happened after they left, but he isn't sure that he really wants to know. He wants to ask if that's what Token came over to talk about, but that's up to Token to say. He wants to ask if Token is okay with them, but if he's not...

If he weren't, he probably wouldn't be sitting here with them like this.

Still, Craig doesn't say anything. He wants Token to say something first.

Finally Token leans back in his chair and stretches. "You guys want to hang out this afternoon? We could go to Stark's Pond—or maybe the volcano. We haven't been there in a while."

"Craig and I just went there last week," Clyde says.

"Oh, okay," Token says.

"We could go again, though," Craig says.

Token grins. "I like Stark's Pond."

Clyde's sandwich is just sitting on the plate, like he's waiting for Craig to feed him, and a suspicion pokes at the edges of Craig's mind that maybe Clyde only asked for this sandwich so Token could see this. So he starts cutting up the sandwich and hand-feeding Clyde the pieces.

He gets so caught up in it that he kind of forgets Token is there, until he hears a sigh and looks over: Token is sitting with his head in his hands.

"Are we weirding you out?" Craig asks.

Not looking up, Token shakes his head. "I...think I like it? I don't know, watching you take care of him like this... I like seeing Clyde treated like this."

Craig doesn't say anything right away. It's Clyde who breaks the silence. "Like—like a baby?" he asks hesitantly.

Token shakes his head again, but this time he looks up. "Loved."


Oh. Well—"Yeah," Craig says.

"Yeah," Token echoes. "But I didn't know that for a while. Not until now, actually."

That makes Craig worry. He looks at Clyde, ready to confess, to say the words aloud if Clyde needs them.

But Clyde is smiling. "I knew," he says, looking at Craig, making Craig smile, too.

"Oh god, you guys." Token's face is back in his hands.

"Are you okay?" Clyde asks.

Token nods. "I don't really get it, but I, like, can't help being affected by how calm you look when you're like that? Not just on the bleachers today, but at Bebe's party? And, other times..."

Craig didn't feel at all calm at Bebe's party and he's about to ask if Token was, by any chance, high that night—but Clyde says, "I love it when Craig is like that, too."

Craig didn't know he got like that.

He feeds Clyde another bite of sandwich, in the corner of his vision watching Token watch. "I could set up a special Clyde cam," he says spontaneously. "On an even more private channel, one just for you. You could watch me be nice to Clyde whenever you wanted."

Then, hearing his own words, Craig's mouth can't decide whether to smile or frown, and winds up kind of doing both and neither. "Sorry, is that weird?"

"Yeah, man—it's pretty weird," Token says.

Then he says, "But I'd watch it, I think."

They're quiet again until Clyde is done with the sandwich; he doesn't want the last bite, so Craig eats that one himself.

After he swallows it, Craig says, "So..." Token and Clyde look at him, waiting for him to continue. "Just. I guess—are we cool?"

"Why wouldn't we be?"

Craig shrugs. "I don't know. I just figured that's why you came over, to talk about all this. So if there's anything else you want to know..."

Token grins again. "I came over to hang out with you guys, man. But," he adds, "you can tell me whatever you want."

"Okay," Craig says. He thinks about it. "So—Stark's Pond?"

They decide to walk. Craig slips on his aviator shades, which makes the others smile for different reasons. Or maybe different sides of the same reason.

Craig smiles, too, adjusting his shades. He's gotta wear them. It's not just the future that's so bright—it's everything.

But it is the future, too.