The street teemed with bodies, ants in an ant hill busy building castles made of sand, fragile edifices at risk from a careless gesture. Much like the people themselves. Wearing their vulnerabilities in the form of overly pumped bodies, designer clothes, expensive haircuts, and aggressive stances. All it would take was the big bad wolf showing up at their doors to huff and puff and blow their houses down and they would scatter, wagging their tails behind them. He wanted to laugh at them, laugh at the rickety walls they'd erected around themselves. But hadn't he built just such a wall? And hadn't it been shown to him that he'd been guilty of arrogance and pride beyond justification? The difference between them and himself was that he knew the error of his ways. He had suffered and would continue to suffer until his sentence had expired.

There were years left to go. Years. Years. His knees buckled under the weight. Years. There was no crueler word to his ears. If only for a second he could be free. But he was always watched. Always. He could feel the eyes upon him. Watching. Waiting for him to make a mistake. Waiting to swoop down upon him and lay him bare and all of his years of suffering would be for naught and he would be left naked and exposed to the world. He could hear the mocking, knowing laughter. What a fool he'd been. What an arrogant, ignorant fool. Why?

He was unaware that he'd spoken aloud until a woman hurried by clutching her purse. "Bitch," he growled. As if he wanted whatever paltry sums she'd secreted away in her knockoff Coach bag. As if he needed it. Money he had. Compassion, human kindness, that was what he lacked. What he would not find, not as long as the world put more stock in appearances than substance. He lived in a world of reflective surfaces. Put up by narcissistic people who couldn't stand to look at a thing, a person and not see themselves. The world was populated by clones. No one wanted to look at the person across from them on the subway and see failure. The only crimes in the world were poverty and difference. He appeared to be guilty of both.

Raggedy Man the kids called him. From that movie, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He was Mad Max to them, wandering the streets in search of a future that dodged his grasp, always just out of reach. The present, however, would not leave him alone, hemming him in, roughing him up. He stank of failure and difference. He stank period. In his soiled and tattered clothes. An Army dress uniform that had seen better days, his ribbons still intact but obscured by dirt and faded by the sun. Shoes that hadn't been spit-polished for years, split over the toes, stuffed with newspaper to keep away the frostbite in winter. And over his uniform he wore a tattered coat, its matted fur crawling with lice and other vermin. Raggedy Man indeed. Even if he had been able to put off his coat and his clothes, still he would have frightened all who saw him for he was caked with dirt and filth, his hair and beard recalling Biblical prophets who had wandered the desert. His fingernails had grown so long, they'd transformed his hands into claws. He was more animal now than man. A performing bear, slumbering down the streets to the amusement of children and to the disgust of adults who secretly wished the kids would pelt him with stones and crack his skull and rid the world of his foul being. He could see it in their eyes: the hatred. He saw everything. An invisible man sees much.

He saw that even money means little without the proper attire, the right accoutrements, and an acceptable demeanor. He had a pocket full of money. Always. He could have commanded a suite at the Ritz-Carlton, and had on many occasions. Before he'd begun his inexorable slip into bestiality. When he'd still been able to pass. When he was a shining example of the country's commitment to freedom and the American way. Then, there hadn't been enough they could do for him. A military man with the means to pay his own way, who didn't complain about mistreating prisoners, who didn't badmouth the government? They'd loved him. He'd dined among the hoi polloi. Lay in his fur coat on sheets with the very highest thread count. Shared his bed with beautiful, slender, drowsy-eyed men with talented lips and fingers, tight asses. Now, even the lowest hustler, pock-marked with needle tracks wouldn't touch him no matter how much he offered them. Now, he was turned away from fleabag hotels even though he waved money up front in the grim faces of their proprietors.

Since he could not spend his money, he gave it away. Dipping into deep pockets, he donated money to the homeless shelters, to the battered women shelters, to the AIDS hospices, to the orphanages. They all his took his money gratefully if not at a distance. With turned heads, they praised his generosity. Even offered to help him. To clean him up, set him back on the path to becoming human again. But each time he refused: they either took him as he was or not at all.

So he slept on the street, curled up in his bearskin, and dreamt of smooth skin and rich wine.

And remembered…

Returning home from the war to a lukewarm hero's welcome, ready to make a name for himself. Not really sure what he was going to do only that it would be big. Only something really big could assuage his pride.

He walked into the bar, wearing his dress uniform, feeling like new money, feeling all eyes gravitate towards him. He sat down in a booth by himself, waiting for the feeding frenzy to begin. How beautiful he was, how amazingly beautiful. Strong, sexy, confident. One of the waiters came over and took his order, took a moment to look him over, knowing, instinctively, that he was not good enough. He smiled a tight, little smile in acknowledgement of the fact and the waiter left to get his drink. After the man put it down on his table, he cupped the tumbler of bourbon in his hands and sat staring into the its amber depths, wondering what the future held for him.

A shadow fell across him. He glanced up and into a pair of green eyes, not hazel like his own but a deep green that spoke of rainforests. The man's skin was dark, darker than any tan he'd ever seen yet his features belonged to no one ethnic or racial group. He had a straight nose, slightly tilted eyes, a sharp chin covered by a goatee, and thick lips. His hair was nearly black and hung past his shoulders, cascading down his back in soft waves. Although he was dressed casually, his clothes seemed impeccably tailored from the perfectly fitted shirt and trousers to the obviously hand-stitched leather moccasins.

”May I?” he asked, the timbre of his voice causing the muscles in the soldier’s belly to ripple.

Finding his own voice swooning somewhere in the depths of his abdomen, he replied, “Sure.”

But instead of joining him, the dark man turned and beckoned with a graceful motion of his hand.

There was never any doubt that he would follow.

He slipped into the passenger seat of a black Ferrari and strapped himself in. A strong hand shifted gears next to him and in between changes stroked his thigh. He felt his cock stir each time a finger grazed his crotch. Of his own volition, his hands opened the jacket to this uniform and began undoing the buttons on his shirt. The driver reached over and cupped a pec, squeezed it, then pinched his nipple. Hissing, he pushed his chest forward, arching his back. But the hand withdrew.

Only to return to its former haunts. The broad palm covered his groin, fingers applying the slightest pressure to an already full package. At first. And then they began to press harder and harder, sliding up and down the cloth-covered tube of flesh that strained against its confinement.

”Ah!” he cried, his head lolling against the back of the leather seat. His hands fluttered helplessly, unable to settle on anything because nothing could ground him, not now, not when he’d been so incredibly and expertly aroused. Hips rising up off the seat, he shot his load in his pants, jerking against the seatbelt with a groan.

The hand withdrew and the driver, whose attention had never wavered from the road, smiled.

The car pulled into a parking garage where an attendant buzzed them through the gate and nodded familiarly. Aware that they were about to exit the Ferrari, the soldier looked at the front of his trousers. They were wet over the head of his cock. He adjusted himself, feeling his flesh slide through cum.

”This way,” his host said, directing him towards a steel elevator. As the doors shut, the mysterious stranger pressed the button for the top floor. Then he leaned against the wall and studied the soldier. “Tell me your name.”


”Brian,” the man repeated. Smiled, showing the points of his teeth. “Are you hungry?”

He knew the man did not mean for food but for life. “Starving,” he replied. He wanted everything and he wanted it now.

”I can give you what you want.” He moved closer to Brian. “What you desire.” He kissed him gently upon the lips. “What you hunger for.”

At that moment, he wanted more of this. As their mouths came together for a more frantic bout of kissing, he rubbed against the man, feeling an answering pulse. "Tell me your name," he whispered between kisses.

"You know who I am."

Brian felt something slither between his lips and, impossibly, tickle both sides of his mouth simultaneously. He gagged, at first, but his partner persisted and soon he found himself sinking down into a plush, carpeted floor in a luxurious room without knowing how they'd gotten there when he couldn't even remember them leaving the elevator. In quick succession he was stripped, turned over, and mounted.

Hot flesh plunged through his bowels and he grunted in protest at the invasion, started to speak, to tell him to put on a condom, but it was too late. Just as the first word formed on his lips, the man's cock bumped his prostate and he choked on his warning. Flames licked the inside of his eyelids, blinding him. He gripped the thick carpet beneath him and held on.

Sweat seemed to sizzle, bubble up on his skin. His insides boiled. Each time the man's dick slid into him he gasped. He was being immolated from within. Yet he did not want it to end, even if he burst into flames. Never had he been taken like this before. In the past, he had always been on top, always been the one in control. Tonight, he'd abdicated control if he'd ever had it. Throwing back his head, he shouted, unable to contain his pleasure any longer. Suddenly he was pumped hard and it felt as if a ribbon of ice were being unwound in his belly. Where there had been blazing heat, there was now freezing cold. Catching his breath, he shivered, freezing. The man withdrew, a trail of ice leading from Brian's depths to the rim of his hole. Cum ran down over his balls to hang like stalactites.

A vial was pushed under his nose. He inhaled the white powder inside and shook his head as the blood rushed south to his cock. Unsteady on his feet, he fell down upon the bed and waited for his partner to join him. The man threw open a set of closet doors, removed a coat from inside, and tossed it over his shoulders. He looked decadent, indecent, the way the fur caressed his naked skin, still ruddy from fucking. Raising his arms, he stalked Brian as he lay on the bed. "Are you afraid?" he asked as he circled the four-poster.

"No," Brian answered, giggling at the two men going around and around. A sudden roar shook the room. He jumped, startled, and scurried back from the edge of the bed where a bear stood, its jaws agape, teeth shining in the light. How had a bear gotten in the room? Eyes widening with fear and disbelief, he watched as the bear became a man and the man became a bear, brown flesh, black fur, red lips, red tongue.

"Are you afraid?" they asked and he dragged his courage from out of his gut.

"No!" he yelled and he grabbed the shape shifter and pinned him to the bed. Tossed aside the coat, turned him onto his belly, and fought him as they fucked. One hand clamped on the back of the man's neck, Brian bit his shoulder. Saliva dripped down the man's skin as he was fucked. "I’m not afraid!" Brian cried just before coming. "I'm not afraid," he said again as his flow trickled to a halt.

The man twisted his neck and fixed Brian with his cold green eyes. "You will be." His mouth stretched open until his maw devoured the world.

Darkness fell.

He awoke mealy-mouthed and fully dressed. Wearing the man's fur coat on top of his uniform. The man himself was draped across an antique armchair, gloriously naked. He needed no other adornment or protection.

"Look in your pocket," he told Brian.

He did so and found a wad of bills inside. Having been unsure if he'd be paid for his services, he grinned. He was not one to look askance at a gift horse. "Thanks."

"You'll always have money."

"Is that a prophesy?"

"For seven years you'll eat, sleep, piss, shit, and fuck in those clothes. You will not bathe or cut your hair or even bite off a hangnail. If you do, it's off. The whole thing."

Confused, he asked, "What thing?"

"Our arrangement. Seven years. And if you're still alive at the end of it, you'll be rich beyond reckoning."

He had seen the bear. That was no drug-induced vision. And he'd felt the blast of cold where the man had come inside him. His fork tongue was real. Even now it peeked from between his lips to dance seductively in the air. He knew who he'd slept with. Even a non-believer like himself knew that some things were real. The deal was legit. All he had to do was accept the terms. "I wear the same clothes for seven years, no bathing, no grooming, and, at the end, you show up and make me a rich man?"

"Rich doesn't begin to cover it."

"And meanwhile I'll always have money in my pockets?"

"You won't starve in my care. But the coat stays on. Can't take it off, not once, not ever," he reminded him, wagging his finger playfully.

"And if I do?" Enough of his formerly cocky self remained despite the things he'd seen tonight. Besides, he wanted to know what his adversary stood to gain if he reneged on their deal. He wanted to hear it spoken aloud.

"I'll know. I'll be watching you. Always. You fuck up, just once," he leaned forward, "and I'll come and get you." His eyes were emeralds. "And then you'll be mine. Forever." He showed Brian a hand which was tipped with black claws. "And I'll tear your soul apart."

The words echoed in his head and woke him up from his uneasy sleep. Four years had passed. Four years, each longer than the previous year. And he still had three more to go. Three more years or give it all up: the money and his soul. There had been times when he would have gladly walked out in front of a bus except that if he died, accidentally or not, his soul was forfeit as well. The only way he could escape the more unpleasant clauses of the deal was to survive for seven years.

Seven years. It had seemed so little time yet, in reality, seven years were a lifetime. Especially when you were cut off from virtually all of humanity.

The first few weeks weren't bad after he got used to smelling himself without the mask of deodorant or cologne. By the time a month had passed, he no longer noticed. And if his bedmates did, they held their tongues and scrubbed themselves furiously when they got home.

Well into the first year, it became harder and harder for him to find voluntary companionship. He turned to street boys, ignoring the looks hotel clerks gave him as he passed their desks. Partway through his second year, no hotel, motel, or dive would take his money, no matter how much he offered. Neither would the boys.

He hadn't been with anyone for over twenty months. Almost a year. A year without stubbly kisses, groping in backrooms, dancing half-naked on the dance floor.

A tear navigated past the encrusted dirt on his cheek. He hadn't signed anything in blood but he had the man's cum inside him and it would not forget. It would eat him up from the inside, devouring his flesh like a new strain of Ebola. Not just once but for an eternity.

He heard the man weeping behind a Chinese restaurant whose garbage cans he sometimes foraged when he couldn’t buy a meal someplace and was about to dismiss him when he realized he had nothing better to do and maybe this was the one creature on earth more miserable than himself, the one person who wouldn’t flee in fear from him. Still, he was glad it was dark and cold. Settling down about fifteen feet from the man, he leaned back against the brick wall and asked, "You okay, buddy?"

The man shook his head mournfully. "I'd be better off just doing it," he said mostly to himself.

"Doing what?"

"Killing myself."

Brian shook his head and half-smiled. They guy looked like a WASP, looked like he should be working on Wall Street, so what was the deal? "Can't be that bad."

"Worse. I lost my job. I owe money to everybody. And I have three sons."

"Can't they help you?"

"The two oldest ones are useless. I'm glad their mother's not here to see them. We worked so hard to give them… everything."

"And the youngest?"

"Does what he can. But he's still in high school and I want him to do well and go to college, do something with his life."

Like you, thought Brian. Aloud he asked, "How much money do you owe?"

"A lot."

Maybe it was the man's desperate state that blinded him to Brian's appearance but he didn't seem bothered by the fact that he was sitting in an alley talking to a filthy homeless man.

"How much?"

"Fifty grand."

He whistled, then stood. "Okay."

"What do you mean, okay?"

"Okay, you can have fifty thousand dollars. No wait, a hundred, that way you can get back on your feet properly."

The man laughed, the idea was so preposterous. "What are you going to do? Rob a bank?" Then the thought hit him. "Least you wouldn't be homeless anymore."

"Anytime I want," Brian told him, "I could have a home."

"Then why don't you?"

"It'd be hell." Literally. "So, do you want the money or not?"

"You're not going to steal it or hurt somebody for it, are you?"

"No," he promised him.

"And what do you want me to do for you in return?" He was desperate but not stupid. There was no point in extricating himself from one mess only to become entangled in another.

"I want to meet your children."

"My kids?" The man stared in disbelief. "That's it?"

"And maybe eat at a proper table just once."

The man stood. "All right then, where's my money?"

Brian could tell he didn't really believe him. Reaching into his pocket, he took out a roll of money. Tossed it to the man who caught it gingerly, not certain what it'd turn out to be.

He unrolled the bills one by one and counted them until he began to lose count and to whisper hysterically, "Oh my God, oh my God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh my God…" He looked up at Brian, wonder replacing incredulity. "Are you an angel?"

The thought amused him so much that Brian began to laugh, the first real laugh he'd had in three years. "No, my friend, far from it."

Overjoyed at his good fortune, the poor man said, "Too bad I only have sons. You'd make an excellent son-in-law."

"Actually…" Brian began, "I'm not really into women."

"Oh," said the man. Then understanding dawned on him. "Oooh. Well, actually," he confessed, "my youngest son, he's… kinda gay."


"Okay, he's gay. Maybe the two of you…?"

"Is he handsome?"

"He's beautiful, even if he is my son."

"Why would he want me then?"

"He has a good heart. And you're a good man." He looked Brian up and down. "Even if you could use a bath and some new clothes." Taking a deep breath and exhaling, he patted Brian's arm. "I'm Craig, Craig Taylor. Come home with me and at least have some supper. I can't make any promises about Justin."

They talked as they walked to Craig's apartment, stopping to pick up Chinese for dinner. "Justin cooks," Craig told him, "when there's something in the house to cook. Lately, there hasn't been much."

"There should be enough now," Brian assured him.

When they reached his place, Craig threw open the door and exclaimed, "I'm home."

His two older sons were listlessly playing a video game. They barely paused to glance at their father and would have ignored him completely except that they saw and then smelled Brian. Turning their heads and wrinkling up their noses, one asked, "What the fuck is that?"

"Justin!" called Craig, wanting to wait until they were all there to make introductions. His youngest son emerged from his room.

"What's up, Dad?"

Brian couldn't take his eyes off of him. He was more than beautiful, he shone. With bright blue eyes and shiny blond hair, he didn't seem related to Craig's other two infinitely plainer sons. But it was not just his looks, he seemed to glow from within with courage and strength. Even though he initially shrank back from Brian, once his father had introduced him, "This is my friend, Brian. He saved me tonight. He's saved us all," Justin crossed to them and offered Brian his hand.

"Thank you for what you've done for my father."

Over dinner, which only Brian, Criag, and Justin attended—the other two refusing to eat with a bum (their words)—Brian found out that in addition to possessing courage and strength, Justin also had an insatiable curiosity. He'd asked Brian a dozen questions before they'd finished their won ton soup. Far from being annoyed, Brian answered as best he could without revealing the cause of his present state. That had been another condition set forth at the beginning: that he would tell no one why he lived as he did. Fortunately for him, he'd never been tempted before to tell anyone his story. Unfortunately, he found himself wanting to unload his burdens at Justin's feet.

After dinner, while Craig was clearing the table, Brian said softly to Justin, "I know I'm not much to look at… and you must think I'm crazy but… I think I've fallen in love with you."


"Don't say anything. I know you don't feel the same. How could you?" He smiled wistfully. "Remember me and pray for my soul," he said, and then, "Tell your father I said goodbye and I wish him luck."

Along with a sizeable sum of money, Brian found that he had left his heart with the Taylor family as well. In particular, with Justin. Sleeping alone in whatever alley he'd found before dark, Brian wept. Wept for the four years he'd already wasted and for the three yet to endure, their tenure made worse by his having met Justin. To have only touched his hand had been torture. And yet he knew that a soul as damned as he was had no right to ask anything of one so pure. On even the darkest nights, when hope had faded to but a flicker, he would think of Justin and the way he'd lit up a room with his smile.

Finally, weeks after they'd met, he found himself standing outside a florist's shop staring through the window at the multitude of beautiful arrangements, hoping against hope that the owner would not turn him away. He already had his money in his grubby fist to forestall any thoughts of nonpayment. Holding it out, he pushed through the door. At first sight, the woman reacted as they all did: she inhaled sharply and then furiously tried to expel the stink.

"I'm sorry," he said and he began to turn away, tears already forming in his eyes.

"No, wait," she told him. "I'm sorry." He paused. "May I help you?"

Wiping at his cheeks, he said, "I wanted to buy some roses. People still do that, don't they? Buy roses?"

"For someone you love?"

The image of Justin bloomed before him. "Yes."

She shaped a simple bouquet of wine-colored roses interspersed with blood red calla lilies and finished it off with a few sprigs of baby's breath.

"It's beautiful," he said, afraid to touch any of the fragile blossoms, and handed her the bills he'd been clutching. "Thank you."

"But, sir," she began as he made to leave, "it's way too much. Wait, here's your change."

"This means more than money," he explained and smiled. Then asked, "Would you mind if I came back from time to time to buy some more flowers?"

She returned his smile. "On the house." As he left, she waved to him and wondered who he was and why he lived as he did. That night, without knowing why, she popped into a church and lit a candle and prayed for him to find his way.

He'd been watching Justin for days, knew his routine down to the last second, so a few moments before he was due to turn the corner onto his street, Brian laid the bouquet of flowers on the stoop and went into hiding. True to his schedule, Justin appeared and made his way to his building. Paused as he was about to start up the steps. There, on the stoop, was a gorgeous bouquet of roses and calla lilies. With his name on a card. A hint of a smile appeared as he bent over to pick them up. He read the card and his smile widened. With a glance to see if his admirer was still around, he went inside.

Brian remained where he was until he was certain Justin had gone, then came out of hiding and began his night's journey.

Over the next few months more tokens appeared: flowers, cards, scraps of poems, tiny figurines carved from jade and porcelain, each one more joyously received than the next. But never did Brian show himself, content with watching Justin's reactions from his hiding spots. Each time Justin looked around to see if Brian would come out and speak to him and each time when he didn't, it seemed to Brian that his smile dimmed a little until, finally, a look of wistful longing came over his face and he did not smile, not even when he picked up his latest gift. Brian knew that the time had come to reveal himself.

The next day he left but a card that said, "Meet me behind the Golden Dragon at nine." It was where he'd first met Craig.

Nervous as a rat in a back alley full of cats, Brian paced and awaited Justin's arrival. When the teen appeared at the sidewalk, lit by a street light, Brian almost ran. This was the moment.

"Brian?" he called, unsure if he'd found the right place.

Stepping from out of the shadows, Brian replied, "Here."

A smile appeared and the teen quickened his pace, coming to a halt a few feet away from him. He knew it was not fear but, rather, the smell that most likely kept the young man from coming any closer.

"I'm so glad to see you," Justin said. "I thought… I thought you might not show." He studied Brian's face. "Why do you live like this? I don't understand. You gave my father all that money, and the gifts… Why do you—" He shook his head. "I'm sorry."

"I can't tell you."

"Why not?"

Brian remained silent.

"Is the money yours?"

"I earned every cent," Brian replied. At the cost of my soul. And maybe my love.

Justin nodded.

Gathering his courage, Brian said, "I still love you."

At that Justin laughed. "I would hope so." The gifts, he meant. Brian smiled, then sobered.

"Do you…" He hesitated, then began again. "Do you love me? Even a little bit?"

Taking a step forward, then another, and another, Justin shortened the distance between them until none remained. He raised his hands and, heedless of the filth, cupped Brian's bearded face in his palms. "You have such beautiful eyes." He stroked what skin he could find. "Let me help you."

Brian pulled away. "You can't!" So close, so close to throwing it all away, he had to be strong, had to resist, it was the only way they could be together. Someday. "I have to go away."


"You won't see me for a long time." It was killing him but he had to go. It was the only way.

"Brian, I don't—"

"It has to be this way."

"For how long?"

"Three years from now, I'll—"

Justin clutched his coat. "Three years!"

Pulling away, Brian promised, "I'll be back. I swear it. And things will be different. I promise. Please, will you wait for me?" He saw the doubt in Justin's eyes. "Please?"

To a teenager three years was an eternity. Three years. In three years he'd be a sophomore in college. If he went to college at all. What was the point? In a world where homeless men had pockets full of money yet ate out of garbage cans, where was logic and reason? Three years.

In the absence of words, Brian felt all hope abandon him. Beginning the process of putting away his heart, he started to turn away, then felt a hand take his.

"I'll wait," said Justin. A tear ran slowly down his cheek. "For as long as it takes."

"Three years," Brian vowed, "and then I'll be back, and I'll tell you everything. Everything, I swear it." Disengaging his hand from Justin's, he took something out of his pocket. "Here," he said, "this is for you." His friend the florist had gotten it for him as she had all the other gifts he'd given to his beloved.

Justin looked at what Brian had handed him. They were rings, silver colored and engraved on the inside with their names and on the outside with the phrase, "Tout mon amour."

"All my love," Brian translated unnecessarily as Justin had taken three years of French in high school. "Yours. If you'll have me."

Nodding, Justin held out his hand and Brian slipped the ring onto his finger. As Justin made to do the same to him, he withdrew his hand and explained, "Not yet. Not until I'm worthy of your love."

"But I've accepted you for who you are," Justin protested.

"You deserve better. And you'll have it. I swear it." He put the ring back inside his pocket.

"Three years?"

"Three years." In amazement, he found himself embraced by the young man. He returned the hug briefly, then put Justin away from him. "Pray for me," he said and then he vanished into the night.

For three years he wandered the country, pursued by a laughing demon who whispered sweet nothings in his ear, who told him he was worthless, who promised tortures as yet unseen in the world of men. Yet, to Brian, no torture could compare to being apart from his beloved. To see his sweet face was all that mattered. Each night he took out the ring he refused to wear, and ran his finger over the engraved name on the inside. He kept its metal shiny by washing it with his tears.

More than once he was nearly killed, escaping each time by luck it seemed or by the grace of Justin's prayers. Everywhere he went, he gave money to the poor and friendless and so made friends for a while, comrades who lessened the pain of being apart from Justin but who could not take his place. Even if someone had offered, he would not have accepted their company for the evening. He had sworn to remain celibate until the night he took Justin for his own.

At last, the three years were up. He'd made his way back to the city, back to the same bar he'd entered seven years ago. Things had changed. It was no longer a gay bar, had gone country-western and the clientele wouldn't have appreciated his patronage and would probably have kicked him to death if he'd gone inside. He was spared that, however, by the appearance of a black Ferrari, license plate, "HEAT". Something he hadn't noticed the last time around. Then again, there had been a lot he'd ignored in his quest to get laid. Seven years of his life sacrificed to his lust: for money and beautiful men.

He opened the door to the passenger side of the car and got in. Buckled up. The dark stranger barely glanced at him before pulling away from the curb as if all the imps of hell were closing in on him.

They drove to the same apartment building and took the elevator up to the penthouse suite. This time there was no frantic kissing in the elevator.

Once inside the apartment, Brian awaited some word from his host. The man pursed his lips. "Drink?"

"No thanks." He waited while the man poured himself a drink, then raised his glass in salute to him.

"Congratulations. You win." He sipped his drink and sighed.

"Aren't you angry?"

"Why should I be?"

"You lost."

The man shook his head. "It was never about me." He put down his drink, then clapped Brian on the shoulders and slipped off the bearskin coat; stripped him of his uniform, and even knelt and removed his shoes. He led him to the bathroom where he ran a bath and gently washed him clean; shaved his face; and cut his hair. Afterwards, he chose a suit of clothes from his closet and tenderly dressed Brian, then stood him before a full-length mirror. "I bet he seems like a stranger to you."

"No," replied Brian, "I've grown to know him these past seven years. He's a good man; humble; who thinks more about others than he does himself. He takes joy in giving and in seeing other people smile. And he knows that it's not money or clothes or possessions that make a man who he is, but what's inside that really matters."

Wrapping Brian in a warm embrace, the man said, "Then my task is done."

"Who are you?" Brian asked again because he now knew that his previous assumption had been false.

"The least of my master's servants," he replied and handed Brian a wallet and the keys to the car. "Enjoy your life. I'll see you again."

Justin opened the door and, seeing the man standing on the other side, assumed he was selling something although most salesmen operated on the internet or did telemarketing. Not many people went door-to-door anymore. Still, there was something kind of charming about the idea of the guy selling encyclopedias or vacuum cleaners or maybe it was just that the guy was hot. Better than hot, gorgeous. He was the most beautiful man he'd ever seen with light brown hair and hazel eyes, slender fingers and red lips. Still, he had made a promise to Brian that he would wait for him and he intended to keep it. Shoving his libido back into the closet, he said, "Yes?" and prepared himself for the man's spiel.

"May I come in?"

"Depends on what you're selling," Justin replied.

Brian reached into his pocket and removed his ring. "How about this?" He handed it to Justin who stared in disbelief first at the ring and then at the man who stood before him.

Still, he could not believe it. "Brian?" he asked, softly, hesitantly, afraid to commit himself to the act of believing only to be hurt. For years he had endured the scorn and torment of his brothers who had laughed at him and teased him for being such a fool as to accept a ring from a bum and to wait for him to return.

"Three years to the day," Brian answered and laughed as Justin sprang into his arms. "Three, long years," he said, and they'd been worth every moment just to see Justin smile, to see the tears of joy in his eyes, to feel his lips upon his. "Where's your father?" he asked.

"Out with friends."

"Your brothers?"

"Gone. He kicked—" his words were cut off as Brian kissed him hard and then lifted him from the floor. "That way," he said, gesturing with his head and Brian carried him to his room and shut the door with his foot.

"I wanted to bring you flowers," he told Justin after putting him down, "but—"

"I don’t need any flowers. I don’t want any flowers. All I want is you," he said, tearing open Brian's shirt and madly kissing his chest. "I love you."

Brian lifted the young man's face and kissed him softly. "Say it again."

"I love you."

Lying together after having made love, they spoke of the past and future while Justin indulged his boundless curiosity by asking question after question. Now that the seven years were over, Brian told him everything, from beginning to end, leaving out nothing. No detail was too insignificant. Stroking Brian's clean-shaven cheek, Justin told him, "Too bad you got rid of that coat. I might have gotten into bears."

The sun had set and he'd finished his last exam as an undergraduate. He hadn't made up his mind about graduate school yet, but that was a decision he could wait to make. He had long ago moved out of his father's apartment for a loft that he and Brian had designed in an old warehouse that Brian had purchased. It was more than a loft, actually, with space for Brian's office and a studio for him. He'd decided that he wanted to be an artist as he was both gifted and talented and Brian had found that he enjoyed writing, especially since he didn't have to work for a living. True to his word, the mysterious stranger had provided well for him, giving him time to find his way again in the world. The first thing Brian had said he wanted to write about was himself, about his time as a homeless person. Disguising it as fiction, he'd already found a publisher.

In the beginning they had been inseparable, barely able to stand being apart for even a moment. But things had changed. They were both busy with their individual pursuits and most nights they didn't even take their evening meal together, they'd become that enrapt in their work. Now that school was over, Justin realized that things had changed between them and he was afraid that they would continue to change until they no longer recognized one another. The last thing he wanted was to watch Brian walk away from him again. Something had to be done. He hoped Brian wasn't too wrapped up in his novel to talk. Their relationship couldn't wait.

Sliding the door to the apartment open and closing it shut, he looked around in confusion. The place was dark except for a few lights that seemed to be coming from their bedroom. "Brian?" He heard an answering growl. "Brian?" Tentatively, he went around the partition that partially shielded their bedroom area from the rest of the apartment. There, lying on the bed, was Brian. Wearing a fur coat. Although a hood was drawn over his head and his arms were thrust through the arms of the coat, the rest of him was on display, his tan skin pale compared to the dark brown fur and the dark silk lining.

With a smile, Justin dropped off his own clothes and slid onto bed where he was instantly engulfed by his lover in his glorious fur coat. It was sinful, the way the coat and Brian's velvety skin felt against his. Brian slipped out of the fur and spread it on the bed sharing it with Justin. The young artist rubbed his body against it, wrapped himself in it, the warm fur stroking, kissing his bare skin. Turning over onto his back, he revealed himself to Brian, his penis hard, arching over his belly.

With a growl, Brian attacked, catching his cock in his mouth and nipping the neck, chewing his balls, sucking the head. He molested Justin's cock until the young man could hardly breathe. Jerking wildly, thrusting through Brian's fist, Justin came, his semen splattering the coat to lie among its fur like pearls. Giving him barely a moment to recover, Brian raised his legs to his shoulders and pierced him. Justin hung nearly upside down, only his shoulders and head really touching the coat, as Brian fucked his ass. He felt as if he were being savaged by a wild animal. Brian's nails raked his thighs and buttocks and with each scratch, he grew harder until precum once again dripped down past his navel.

Jerking out of Justin, Brian lowered him to the bed and flipped him over, mounting him in one smooth motion. Justin grabbed the fur coat in his fists as Brian rode him hard, like a rutting animal. He shuddered and shook, body betraying its pleasure with little jumps and starts.

Brian's hands roamed Justin's body, sliding over his shoulders, his back, his hips, his ass. He wanted all of him, wanted to devour him. Leaning over his back, he licked his face, ripped his neck, still pumping, still driving his cock inside his hole.

Justin was tightening up, he could feel his asshole begin to clench Brian's cock each time it tried to withdraw. He wanted more, wanted it all, wanted him to rend him open, split him in two, maul him until only a quivering mass of flesh was left.

Reaching beneath Justin, Brian grabbed his cock and began to jerk on it roughly, his actions in contrast to the soft fur beneath them against which Justin's dick rubbed as well. The young man shouted and buried his face in the fur to dampen the sound of his cries.

Each time Justin's cock throbbed, his hole answered, squeezing Brian's dick between its sticky walls. Brian withdrew until his cockhead pressed against Justin's prostate and then he began to jab him hard, drumming the swollen organ while Justin hollered, body torn apart by the sensations coursing through it. Giving a final shout, Justin dropped his load, filling Brian's palm with creamy cum. Panting, he remained on his knees, ass in the air while Brian continued to fuck him.

Going deep, Brian stayed buried inside him, moving very little, humping him until his balls felt like they were going to explode from the pressure of being caught between their bodies. Grunting, he squeezed his eyes shut and came. The relief was incredible. His body trembled as he released the last drop. With a sharp cry, he withdrew and collapsed next to Justin. Wordlessly, they crawled into one another's arms and fell asleep, cradled by the bearskin coat.

When they awoke, they had dinner on the floor, seated on the coat, and talked about their fears. It turned out that Brian had been just as afraid that they were drifting apart. That night, they swore that they would always make time for one another and they would never let the world or success come between them. And from that moment on, whenever one of them felt they needed reminding of their vow, he would don the bearskin coat and wait for the other to return home and they would make love and remember the sacrifices they had made during Brian's seven-year trial, and the world would retreat and all would be right again.

Author's note:
While rummaging around for something to write about, I hit on the idea of reworking some lesser known (non-Disneyfied/Disneyfried) fairy tales. Here's a link to the original story of "Bearskin" that is found in The Grimm Brothers' Children's and Household Tales (aka Grimm's Fairy Tales). This is the first of what may eventually become a series.

Heels Over Head | Stories