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Hotel Jock: Chapter 2

AIDAN
Tuesday, 5.10am

The door closing awakens Aidan. The shape of his boyfriend lumbers down the hallway and flops into the sheets next to him without taking off his shoes. Within a couple minutes, his familiar heavy snore radiates from his body. Aidan lies there next to him, watching his chest rise and lower with each breath. He stays like that for a long, long time before groggily turning over and closing his eyes.

*

DANNY
8.33am

Danny scrolls through his YouTube home page in search of a video to watch while eating his cereal. None of his favourite creators have uploaded in the past 24 hours, not even the gay daily vlogger he’s subscribed to who lives in New York with his fiancé and two puppies. He eventually settles on some Star Wars lore video that he’s almost certain he already knows most of the details of anyway and digs into his now soggy cornflakes.

Ricky and Josh aren’t in their rooms, which means they probably spent the night with some girls. He could get used to this though – mornings to himself without having to perform perverted masculinity. Just him, his cereal and Darth Nihilus.

The door to the flat opens and in walks both Ricky and Josh. As presumed, they’re both wearing the same clothes had on at the rave, so they definitely got up to some overnight shenanigans. Josh’s long wavy hair is particularly unkempt, although that’s not saying much given how particularly jungly it normally is.

“It’s the sex god himself,” Josh slaps Danny across the shoulder, pulling up a chair next to him. “You really became a man, and on the first night of Schoolies!”

“Congrats on losing the V-card, bro!” Ricky calls from the bathroom. He didn’t bother shutting the door so the faint sound of him pissing can be heard throughout this conversation.

Sitting here next to Josh, he’s reminded how little he knows about him. They both went to the same school in Melbourne and they’d seen each other a few times out at parties and such, but apart from that, this is basically a stranger congratulating him for losing his virginity.

“Yeah, it’s a real take the glasses off and bam! moment,” Danny laughs, the joke flying way over Josh’s head.

“Well, uh, tell me every single detail of every single thing you did to her. I gotta know how bad you gave it to her,” Josh says as he pulls his chair a bit closer.

Oh right. The girl. Danny gulps. “Uh, isn’t that a lil’ bit TMI dude? That seems, uh, gay to me.”

“Sex with a woman is gay?”

“Well, no, it’s just…” Danny stutters.

“Woke culture at it again,” Josh rolls his eyes.

“I mean, yeah, okay, we came back here and we were making out, and then she started jacking me off…” Danny begins, his heart beating a little faster. “And then full on gave me head, uh, bro, uh, for like half an hour. And then I gave her head because equality, y’know, and then I put on the willy sack— I mean, condom, and then fucked her all night. Yeah man I just… fucked her all night. She, like, totally just left here, um, bros.”

“DUDE!” Ricky yells, coming out of the bathroom with his flyer completely down, “that’s my man!”

“Proud of you, bro,” Josh says, patting him on the shoulder. His hand lingers though, turning from a light pat to a claw. “Hey, tell him what you told me just now in the elevator though bro,” he nods to Ricky.

“Oh yeah! All I said was that not even 20 minutes after I left youse, I’m partying with some chicks when I see the same girl you left with in the crowd again. She even tried to buy molly off me… Correction, she did buy molly off me, and then went back to her school friends and spent the night grinding on some guy who was like 7 foot.”

The awkward grin that’s masking Danny’s face drops and his jaw clenches, the cereal he just spooned into his mouth held captive by his anxieties. He feels both of them edging closer towards him but he’s immobilised by fear and guilt.

“So about that fucking all night,” Ricky says, now inches away from Danny’s ear. “Was that anything like the fucking over you’re giving us?”

In an instant, the two have lifted Danny up off the chair and are dragging him to the bathroom. Without removing his clothes, they set him down in front of the toilet that still contains Ricky’s unflushed piss, and shove his face into the bowl. With a flush, the piss water swirls around his head, rinsing out his nose before he has a chance to protest. He tries to sit up but one of them places their hand on his neck and shoves him down harder. He tries to scream, but all that comes out are the soggy corn flakes he was chewing on, combining with the piss and toilet water to make a really wretched morning smoothie.

Four or five flushes later and he’s released. They leave him lying on his back on the bathroom floor gasping for air. The ceiling’s spinning and he can’t decide if he wants to throw up, blow his nose or just leave completely. Trembling, he stands, catching a glimpse of the humiliated and humbled dork with a disgusting wet mop staring back at him in the mirror. A single yellow cornflake is perched in his hair above his ear like a flower. In the kitchen, he can hear his bullies whispering rather aggressively.

“We go to all the trouble of wingmanning him with this gorgeous chick and he does this?” Ricky mutters.

“Don’t forget my fifty bucks, man.”

“Just because he doesn’t sleep with one chick doesn’t mean he’s a fag. Trust me, by the end of the week, he’ll have slept with a broad and you’ll be giving me fifty bucks.”

“It’ll be a swirlie every morning then until he loses his pathetic virgin status.”

*

AIDAN
11.22am

Aidan’s drying himself off in the bathroom after having showered when he hears the sound of cupboards opening and closing in the kitchen. He places his towel on the rack and stares at his reflection in the mirror as the noise continues. Something (most likely eggs) begins sizzling on the stove and he can just make out soft whistling.

Having changed into his clothes for the day, Aidan walks out of the bathroom to find a rather sunny Vikram at the kitchen table. He’s eating scrambled eggs on toast with a black coffee while watching highlights of some Esports game that occurred overnight in South Korea. Upon seeing him, he gets up and plants a kiss on his cheek. “Morning.”

“Morning.” Aidan walks over to the fridge and retrieves a half-finished bottle of orange juice. “Last night went well?”

“So good, we partied for ages.”

“Yeah, I saw there was a bit of light peeking through the window when you came back.”

“Aw, you didn’t miss your late night cuddles did you?”

Aidan’s taken aback, pausing for a couple seconds. “No, I just— I mean, yeah. But you said you’d only stay for the rest of the set, so I just assumed you would be back a little after me.”

“Well I ended up staying. Is that a crime babe?”

“I… No, it’s not.” He’s trying to discern the expression on Vikram’s face, anticipating annoyance or anger, but finds nothing more than morning cheeriness. “I mean, I’m glad you had fun, and slept well in spite of the early morning bed time.”

“Yeah. Hey, check this out,” Vikram says as he shows Aidan his phone. “Leo posted a boomerang of me doing a keg stand to his story and I have, like, 30 new followers. Isn’t that crazy?”

The moment he glances at the phone, he spots the blonde guy he saw with Vikram last night. After said keg stand, the two high five excitedly. The story ends and closes to reveal Vikram’s account now has 165 followers, which is precisely 30-more than the usual 135 followers. “Wow,” is all he can say.

An hour and a bit later, the two are having lunch down at the hotel buffet. The food is decent enough, certainly not the worst hotel food either of them have ever had. Aidan topped up his plate with a cashew stir-fry and rice, while Vikram went for a lasagne. They’ve found a spot overlooking the beach.

“It’s beautiful today. I was thinking we could maybe head down to the beach for a swim?” Aidan asks.

“Yeah let’s do it,” Vikram smiles.

“Mind if we join?”

Aidan and Vikram look up to see Leo and Aimee standing in front of them with plates of food. A quick ‘uh, sure’ is mumbled and a nearby table is dragged over, making room for the four of them to dine together.

“Great night last night,” Leo says after they’ve settled.

Vikram nods. “I don’t think I’ve ever partied that hard.”

“I was so out of it this morning,” Aimee groans. “Don’t think I’ll be trying molly again.”

“You just gotta get used to the comedown, babe,” Leo says as he transfers a few greens over to Aimee’s plate.

Aidan blinks. “Y’all did molly?”

“Oh fuck we did so much molly,” Aimee giggles, sipping her piña colada.

He glances at Vikram who’s just passively nodding, seemingly unaware at his attempts at eye contact.

“No molly for me tonight though. I can’t do the come down,” Aimee continues.

“That’s ok, babe. Five days of Schoolies means five days of trying new drugs,” Leo reassures.

“I never thought you’d be such a party animal,” she tells Vikram. “You weren’t like that at school. You two were always in the library doing nerdy things,” she takes a bite, “like reading.”

“We, uh, actually had our first kiss in the library,” Aidan says smugly.

“See? So nerdy!” Aimee says with chicken parma in her mouth.

Another facecrack. At this rate, by the end of the week he’ll be as cracked as her harrowing fake tan.

“But no, I always really appreciated you Aidan. You had so many great ideas on student council.”

Actually, he’d had the only ideas, or the only useful ones. Aimee and all the popular ones who’d joined the student council for cred on their university applications only ever organised parties for themselves. It was Aidan who’d led the healthier food in the cafeteria initiative and who’d handled the yearbook.

“You were such a gracious leader,” Aidan says with a smile.

“I was, wasn’t I?” Aimee says, grinning at herself.

He frowns. “Well of course, when one peaks at 18,” he says under his breath. Vikram shoots him a look, but they didn’t seem to hear him.

“We do have you to thank for year 12 Formal,” Leo kisses Aimee’s forehead. “I mean, come on, what a night!”

A lie, Aidan thinks to himself. All those months he had spent booking catering, securing the venue and finding a DJ who knows that playing Mambo No. 5 at a high school formal is not just tacky, but illegal in some cities. But Aimee had gotten all the cred because she’d chosen the theme (an immensely problematic and stylistically ghastly fusion of Arabian nights meets Rococo), once again proving it takes very little to be popular.

“That was honestly one of the most proudest moments of my life. Like, wasn’t everyone talking about how fabu that ball was?” Aimee gloats to Aidan and Vikram.

“Oh, it’ll be the standard for the next decade of Formals in that school!” Leo declares.

A lull takes over the lunch as Aimee and Leo relish in their shared adoration. It’s especially awkward for Aidan and Vikram who’ve already finished their food.

“Gosh, sometimes I wish I’d been more like you two,” Aimee says after a while, making Aidan almost choke on his apple juice. “Given up all the responsibility of being student council president and the reputation of being head girl, and just lived the kind of life where I could sneak off to the library and make out with my secret lover.”

Vikram rests his hand on Aidan’s leg under the table and squeezes it as if to say, don’t say anything you’ll regret. Taking a deep breath, he ignores him. “Well, some of us didn’t have a choice when it came to where we could kiss our partner.”

She takes a big chomp on her asparagus. “But how inspiring – how in the face of it all, you two still found a way to love each other.”

“I don’t think you’d find what we went through at that school inspiring if you’d actually been us.”

“But we envied you,” she says, placing her hand warmly on Aidan’s. He swallows down a bit of vomit. “You were, like, relationship goals to us. Love in the face of subjugation.”

“Didn’t know you knew that word,” Aidan mumbles. Vikram kicks him under the table.

She sighs. “How romantic.”

Aidan stammers – the feeling he gets when he goes to argue back but is too baffled to articulate anything surging through his chest like hot, red fire. Would they find it inspiring how the first time he kissed Vikram in front of people, he was shoved into a locker, cutting his forehead open on a lock? Or what about the senior year formal Aimee’s so proud of organising, where they came back to Vikram dad’s car at the end of the night to find FAGS spray-painted onto the hood of the car? How they had to spend 100 bucks on a motel because Vikram was having an anxiety attack about bringing back his dad’s car like that. Was that inspiring too, while his and her Majesty sat in their ivory tower far above any of the homophobia they experienced day in and day out?

“People just don’t understand how taxing it can be to be in the spotlight all the time,” she continues. “To have all that pressure thrust onto you to do well, to always be succeeding. You never see articles in the paper about popular kids who get burnt out from the upkeep of their status.”

“That’s because there’s always a depressed loner suicide that bumps it out of the fifth page’s bottom right slot,” Leo says, scraping the rest of his morning eggs into his mouth with his knife.

“That’s so true oh my god,” Aimee stifles what would’ve been a very loud laugh.

Aidan just nods. He goes to say something, the build-up of dried saliva clicking as he opens his mouth, but realises there’s nothing he can say that won’t at least somewhat rock the boat – it’s well and truly submerged now and anything he adds will just ensure there’s no survivors.

“Yep.” That’s all he can muster. Aimee nods, as if he’s just given the most approving validation.

Vikram clears his throat. “The weather’s really nice.”

“Right! I wanna go take a dip in the water,” Aimee says.

“Yeah, we can do that later, babe,” Leo replies, sitting back with his eyes closed and his arms resting behind his head.

Aimee turns to the boys. “You’re welcome to come join us for a swim.”

“We were actually thinking of hitting the water anyway,” Vikram admits before Aidan can speak for them.

“Perfect! It’s a double date then,” Aimee says gleefully.

Aimee starts rambling to Leo about a beach trip her and her girl friends took the week before exams, leaving Aidan and Vikram eyeing each other for the rest of the conversation.

*

CLAUDIO
1.59pm

Claudio turns the engine off and sits in his car. It’s a 25-second walk to the hotel lobby from the back entrance, which means he still has about a minute and a half to just sit in the parking lot and do nothing. He didn’t get much sleep, the intensity of the beach last night having yet to fully subside from his system. Things were much quieter when he worked at his local library.

He glances at his wristwatch – 20 seconds. He grabs his backpack from the other seat and goes to exit the car when he spots a man lurking around the underground parking lot. As he walks closer to the car, he realises it’s Guy.

“You looking for someone, sir?” Claudio asks as he closes his car door.

“Ah! Claudio,” Guy jolts, not expecting to find someone here. “Just on the lookout for any peculiar sorts. Come come come, I need you to go door-knock and do welfare checks on each of the residents.”

“I thought I was packing care packages for the first 4 hours of—”

“Well I’m overriding that,” Guy says, shooing him towards the back entrance.

“Um, alright.” Claudio goes to leave, but pivots, deciding to instead ask, “is this about Ricky? It’s just— he can’t be the first to try and pull a scam here.”

Guy smiles. “I just have a hunch that you’re gonna be more useful checking in on each guest. I can’t be asking you to climb Mount Everest, am I?”

Claudio shakes his head. “You’re right. On it, sir.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” Guy beams.

*

DANNY
4.07pm

Following his early morning toilet-dunking, Danny decided he might as well make use of it and go for a swim at the beach. Seeing as the other two pretty much crashed following their long night of partying and fucking, he went alone, spending most of the day down by the shore. He didn’t realise on the first day that there are actually quite a few food trucks set up along the coast. He grabs lunch at a Japanese bento food truck and eats it on a hill overlooking the gorgeous crisp blue ocean. Just sitting there feeling the wind in his damp hair and watching all the tiny specks of people play along the beach shore below, he feels at peace; he can just be.

He swims for another hour or so then decides to head back to the apartment. To his surprise, Ricky is awake and cooking pancakes on the stove. When prompted about this, he just says, ‘I felt like pancakes.’ He tries to discern his expression to see if he’s still angry about this morning, but something – whether it’s the sleep or the pancakes – has placated him. Not by that much though, since he doesn’t offer Danny any pancakes.

“We’ve decided we’re gonna throw a house party tonight,” Ricky grins as he dollops a pancake into his mouth. “There’ll be loads of people and plenty of chicks to choose from.”

“You really are determined to set me up with someone,” Danny says.

“Hey, I’m just looking out for you bro. You invited me here to give you the classic Schoolies experience so that’s what I’m doing.”

“And I’ve regretted it every day since!”

Ricky chuckles. “Look, all you gotta do is find the hottest girl at the party tonight and fuck her. It’s as simple as that.”

“I think you’re skipping over quite a few steps—” Danny tries to interject.

“I’ll help you get with her, that’s what wingmans are for.”

Danny bites his lip. He really is going in for round 2 of heterosexual dating show with host Mr Doofus and his sidekick, Axe Body Spray McGee. He didn’t anticipate that pretending to be into women would be most of what he’d get up to at Schoolies.

*

VIKRAM
7.28pm

“Baby, I brought us some food.”

Vikram knocks gently on the bedroom door, but when his sleeping beauty of a boyfriend doesn’t respond, he pounces on him on the bed, burying him in a flurry of kisses. This wakes Aidan up, him attempting to counter with some rib jabs but failing, falling back onto the bed as Vikram’s smooch attack reigns supreme.

“You’re so cute with messy bed hair,” he murmurs, causing Aidan to roll his eyes playfully. “I brought dinner back for us.”

He tries leading him to the dining table but he’s planted firmly in the cocoon of bedsheets. Even a few yanks of his arm aren’t enough to nudge him out of his sleepy daze.

“You can’t eat it in bed baby, it’s greasy fish and chips.”

“I’ve swallowed messier things in bed.”

“Hey!” Vikram laughs, resigning to a doona cuddle in amongst Aidan’s arms. This is his favourite side of Aidan – the drowsy and slightly musky boy who just wants to cuddle until the end of time. “Did you sleep okay?”

Aidan didn’t end up going swimming, saying he felt tired and needed a nap instead. Vikram still swam with Leo and Aimee, the three of them having an amusing afternoon going from splashing each other to laps to racing to floating and chatting, and back to splashing each other. It was just like swimming with his cousins back in India. He just hopes Aidan gets to see this side of him on this trip, and gets to see how fun the other two can be.

“Yeah,” he mumbles, squeezing him tighter.

“Are you alright? You’ve been a bit off since morning.”

He buries his face in Vikram’s beard. “The molly…”

“Baby,” Vikram sighs. “It really wasn’t that big of a deal. We just tried it, and you know what, it was kinda fun.”

“We said we weren’t gonna partake in any of the hard stuff,” Aidan replies as he sits up, removing himself from the intertwining of their bodies. “You didn’t think about how dangerous it could be, or how scary it was finding out after the fact that you’d done it behind my back?”

“You know what they say, always do drugs with a friend.”

“You don’t know these people though! You think if something goes wrong, they’re gonna look out for you? The two people who bullied us for years and who never looked out for us in school?”

“They’re not that bad.”

He tilts his head, his daze appearing to wear off, now replaced with petulance. “Surely you must be asking yourself why they’re so interested in you all of a sudden, why they’re being besties with you out of the blue. I wouldn’t be surprised if on the last day they’ll turn around and be like, ‘Gotcha! You’ll never be one of the cool kids!’ But you’re just not thinking about the larger picture because you’re too busy feeling the acceptance you never got in all those years growing up a queer brown person in rural homophobic Perth!”

Vikram’s heart wavers, glitching out. “What did you just say?”

“Wait, I didn’t mean—”

He pushes Aidan off him, standing up. He goes to leave, then turns back, then goes to the door again. “You don’t get to tell me about what it’s like being me and growing up where we did. You may be dating me, but you’re white just like the rest of them.”

“Baby, wait—”

“Dinner’s on the table. I’m going down to the beach.”

His boyfriend calling his name is the last thing he hears before he slams the front door shut. Exhaling into his knuckle, he knocks next door, adrenaline building as Leo opens the door.

“So where’s the party at?”

*

DANNY
8.41pm

Danny returns to the flat after running to the servo to get ice and finds the party already in full swing. What had been an empty apartment is now filled with at least 20 people, all with red solo cups in their hands and chanting the words to some Lil Wayne song. Ricky’s in the corner chatting with a few of his mates, meanwhile Josh is slobbering all over two girls at once near the balcony, going between them like a blunt passed between two stoned friends.

He weaves his way through the scattering of people in the living room and reaches the kitchen. Some guy is grinding very aggressively on this girl against the very tabletop he made his cup of tea on this morning. He places the bag of ice on the counter, then nods at Ricky as he’s not entirely sure what to do with said ice now that he’s obtained it. All he knows is that it’s apparently not for eating and that they won’t be using it to make an ice-sculpted Taj Mahal.

Peeping through the clumps of already established partiers, he finds an opening on the couches and zooms over to claim it as his, grabbing a beer that he’s sure is gonna be revolting along the way. He crashes on the sofa, theatrically tilting his head back and sighing from relief. The worst thing about being a closeted homosexual is people asking him to carry stuff; does he look like he lifts weights? To his right, he hears a soft snicker and looks up to see a man and a woman sitting on the couches next to him.

“Party hasn’t even started yet and you’re already tired?” The woman says playfully with a rather clockable Polish accent.

Danny offers a gentle grin as the woman giggles to herself. She and the man are playing some card game, but seem to be more into hushedly gossiping to each other than who’s winning. The woman’s dressed in a white fur, and the man in a bright cherry red PVC puffer jacket that’s at least three sizes too small for him, sitting on his shoulders like a crop-top length suit of armour. Both are blond, although with the man, it’s obviously dyed. Needless to say they’re easily the best dressed here.

“Was on ice duty,” Danny smiles.

“Oh, see my girls know that if they put me on ice duty, I’ve probably left and found a better house party a few blocks down the road.”

Danny chuckles, and they share eye contact for a second before she glances down at her cards. In an instant, she’s slammed them down on the table. “GO FISH!”

The man sighs, tossing his cards on the table.

“I didn’t know that’s how you play Go Fish,” Danny says.

“It is in Poland,” the woman replies, chewing on air as she happily shuffles the deck of cards.

“She’s my exchange buddy,” the man explains before getting up to get another drink.

Danny nods his head as if to say ‘ahhhhhh’. He watches as she attempts to shuffle the deck, but just fumbles the cards everywhere, a dejected ‘oh’ escaping her constantly pursed lips. She really is a beacon of feminine sexuality.

“You’re really beautiful,” Danny says, inching a little closer. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Ricky gazing over at his direction.

“Thank you,” the woman replies aloofly.

“I’m Danny.”

“Jenny.”

He gulps. “Would you like to maybe find a quieter place?”

Jenny, who’d up until this point been clumsily yet concentratedly doing that thing when shuffling where you get two adjacent halves of the deck and try to fold them into each other, now looks up at Danny’s hopeful face. “Aren’t you gay?”

Danny jolts back a bit, spilling a bit of the beer he’d taken one sip of and decided was utterly repulsive. “Wh— What gave it away?

“I have a sixth sense for these kinds of things,” Jenny says as she goes back to her shuffling. “A sixth, GAY sense.”

The man returns with drinks for all three of them – thankfully something fruity and sweet to replace Danny’s horridly depressing beer.

“What are we on about?” The man asks.

“I just clocked another one, Evan,” Jenny replies.

“Oh girlie, that hair quiff wasn’t fooling anyone,” Evan says.

Danny sits speechless. He thought his hair quiff was quite masc, but apparently not.

“Dead giveaway,” Jenny laments as she tosses the poorly shuffled cards out into three piles.

“Jenny knows every gay person within a 10km radius. She’s like a live-action Grindr.”

“What can I say, I’m the life of the party! Gays just seem to flock wherever I go.”

“Although you did party a little too hard last night,” Evan says, pointing down at his white Nike shoes. There’s a huge vomit stain splattered across the side of the right shoe.

“And like I said last night, I’ll buy ya a new pair girlllll,” Jenny says flirtatiously. “Now, are we gonna play Polish Go Fish or what?”

*

AIDAN
8.58pm

Aidan’s been sitting in his cocoon of bedsheets for a while, eyes fixed on the front door through the agape bedroom door. With each passing minute, he wonders if this will be the moment Vikram re-enters and they can both just say sorry to one another and get this whole stupid thing over with. They’re usually so of the same mind, but this thing with Leo and Aimee for some reason seems so impassable.

As if Vikram would rather hang out with their high school bullies than his own partner who he’s celebrating his two-year anniversary with. He’s surrounded in an inferno with jock goblins who would shove them both into lockers any chance they’d get, and yet the appeal of coking out in this mirage is too alluring for his himbo boyfriend. If only they hadn’t come, he’d probably be home in his room and playing Genshin while Vikram napped beside him.

He checks his phone for the hundredth time to see no new messages. With a humph, he shrugs off the duvet from his shoulders. Within minutes, he’s out the door, through the lobby and reached the beach rave. He weeds his way through crops of gyrating people planted in clusters all around him. Despite being outside, it smells like nobody here has ever heard of aluminium-based deodorant. If this Schoolies trip has achieved one thing, it’s reminding Aidan why he doesn’t leave his house.

Shoving his way through a three-way dry hump, he reaches a clearing where the crowd is much less condensed. He orders an apple juice from one of the food trucks and sips on it while scanning the area. A fraternity of boys to his right are taking turns hitting each other in the nuts while a couple directly in front of him are drunkenly slow dancing to LMFAO’s Champagne Showers. Such picturesque sights Schoolies boasts.

A minute or two passes before he hears a familiar laugh. He turns around and spots a huddle of trees tucked away about a hundred metres behind the trucks. The sound of laughter grows as he gets further away from the beach. When he reaches the trees, he finds who that laugh had belonged to: Leo. It’s the same laugh he used to hear when he’d get pantsed in the locker room. And of course with him are Aimee and Vikram. And that blonde guy.

“Yo, Aidan! Great timing buddy, we were just about to do another line,” Leo calls.

Aidan glances at Vikram but the expression on his face doesn’t give much away. So he decides to look at what Leo’s gesturing at, and realises there are several white lines of powder that have been sprinkled on a park bench.

Alarms immediately start ringing in Aidan’s head. Cocaine, or god forbid something worse, here on this abandoned bench behind some random tree? Not to mention how unsanitary the bench likely is, like who knows what diseases have already seeped into the powder waiting to be ingested and overtake his bloodstream! They’re also not that far away from the beach – Aidan had read the Schoolies website, he knows that possession of drugs here is, like, a felony or something. Okay, he skimmed the website, but still!

Sensing his hesitation, Leo adds, “The trees hide us from anyone seeing. Trust me, I’ve done a lot of drugs behind these trees the past two days and I haven’t been caught once.”

Aidan shuts down the part of his brain that wonders just how many drugs Leo could’ve done behind these bushes in the under 30 hours they’ve been here and instead reorients his mind to the coke at hand. He looks over at Vikram, who remains ungiving with his facial expression, his eyebrows set to a constant frown. He then looks at Leo, who genuinely seems eager to get him coked up, and then to the guy he doesn’t know, who he saw Vikram talking with last night.

Grabbing the Go Card from Leo’s hand, Aidan straightens the top line and inhales it in one go. He shudders a little, blinking a lot as his brain processes this decision. With a cough, he yells, “LET’S PARTY!!”

*

DANNY
9.13pm

“GO FISH!” Jenny exclaims, slamming down her cards giddily for the fourth time. Danny and Evan both groan in unison.

“Who knew Polish Go Fish was just Jenny deciding whenever she wants that she’s won the game despite still having cards in her hand,” Danny mumbles to Evan.

“You get used to it,” he replies with a wink.

“Y’know, I think that’s enough Go Fish for the night,” she sighs triumphantly.

“Four wins will really do that to you,” Danny jokes.

Jenny begins scooping the cards back into the packet, and out of the corner of his eye, Danny sees Evan observing him. He eventually speaks up, asking, “You’re not out yet are you?”

He stammers for a couple seconds, glancing at the kitchen where Ricky’s back is turned (he’s making out with someone). Oddly enough, this is a conversation he’s always craved yet one he dreads. “Yeah,” he replies gingerly. “I’ve told a couple people, but I’m definitely not… I don’t feel comfortable expressing myself in that way. Not yet.”

“I get that. I was the same when I was still in the closet: dressing in a very mundane masc way, afraid to show any sort of heightened emotion or passion. It took me a long time to feel comfortable being the colourful femme bitch I am today,” Evan chuckles.

“So what you’re saying is I’m drab?”

“I—”

The two burst into laughter, Jenny beside them nodding with a big grin on her face (she’s clearly out of it). Is that a bit of a blush coming through on Evan’s cheeks, or is he imagining it?

“Anyway,” Danny continues. “I want to be like that though. I so desperately wish I could be as out and loud and proud as you.”

“You will, it just takes time. If fitting in with masc culture is where you need to be today in order for you to be who you truly are tomorrow, then it’ll all be worth it. There’s no rush when it comes to this shit.”

He smiles, glad to have found someone who understands him for who he is and for where he is in this journey. Ricky or Josh would never be able to talk about this. It makes him wonder what it would be like to experience Schoolies with friends who actually know him for who he really is and who he doesn’t have to hide for.

“I’m ready to go,” Jenny interrupts, hauling her massive pink spangly purse over her shoulder.

“But it’s so early!” Danny protests. He’s not ready for this night to end.

“No, I mean we’re gonna go back to ours and, I dunno, watch a movie or do a line of coke. Anything to get out of this boring party.”

“You think this is boring?” Danny asks, glad someone else has articulated his very thoughts.

“Straight people don’t know how to party,” Jenny says as she clomps toward the door, Evan a couple steps behind her. “You’re welcome to join if you want, I just really gotta get outta here before the mango-flavoured vape settles into my lungs and makes me permanently straight.”

That’s all the invitation Danny needs to leave, and the three of them exeunt. From the other end of the room, Ricky pumps his fist, pleased to see Danny leave with a woman.

*

GUY
9.17pm

Guy opens the door to his office and flings his vest onto the coat rack. He quickly deflates into his chair after a long day of keeping an eye out for Ricky with nothing to show for it. He presses the spacebar on his laptop but immediately regrets it as his flooded inbox of neglected emails flashes in his face. Headings like CARE PACKAGES RESTOCKING and RACCOON PROBLEM — HELP?? swat at his exhausted eyes. He shuts his laptop and instead checks his missed calls on his work phone. He scribbles reminders on sticky notes for himself for tomorrow morning and starts packing his bag for the end of the day as he plays the last voicemail.

Hey Guy, we’ve just received a noise complaint from the 2nd floor. Some guys are having a house party, playing loud music, disobeying room occupancy limits. Could you do a check-in? Thanks.

Guy sets his bag on the table as a thought crosses his mind. The voicemail finishes and there’s a knock on the door.

“Hey boss, so far no update on—”

“Come with me, Claudio,” Guy interjects, already several paces in front and making his way to the elevators. He explains his hunch in the elevator ride up. At level 2, he passes the guy who wore the ‘wedgie me’ t-shirt the night before. He winks at him, who in-turn blushes a little, awkwardly avoiding eye contact with him.

When they reach room 207, Guy stands a couple metres back, planting himself between the room and the elevators. He nods, beckoning for Claudio to knock on the door, which he does promptly. A few moments pass, the thumping of a club song emitting rather loudly from the walls. Many residents have attempted loud house parties before, but Guy hopes his hunch is right.

A woman answers. “Hello?”

“Could you get the host of this room please?” Claudio asks.

The woman nods and closes the door. Claudio exhales a shaky breath, but Guy reassures with a thumbs up that he’s doing well. The door reopens and Guy deliberately takes a few steps back to hide himself from view.

“Hey, could I speak to you out here for a sec?” Claudio asks.

And in an orgasmic tour de force, out walks Ricky wearing nothing but board shorts and thongs. Claudio gestures him forward so that he’s properly out in the hallway, and the door shuts behind him. Guy only has a second to revel in his plan’s success before, as if in slow motion, Ricky inches his head to face him and realisation jolts through his body. For a moment frozen in time, the three of them stand motionless, the music from the party drowned out by the thudding of their collective heartbeats.

Ricky exhales. “What can I help you two with?”

“Would you mind joining us down at the office, Ricky Young.”

*

VIKRAM
9.20pm

The party behind the trees is in full effect, with everyone but Vikram enjoying themselves. Aidan had tossed the Go Card to Aimee, but it missed her hands and dropped onto the ground. He’d muttered something about ‘nerds having bad aim’, then threw his hands in the air and started bopping to the distant doomf doomf beats from the rave. Aimee soon joined him, then Leo, and even the guy he met last night, them all one by one doing a line and standing up to join in the fun. He continues to stand back however, leaning on a tree trunk as he uncertainly observes.

“Didn’t know you were up for a rave like this,” Aimee says as she shimmies over, and the two engage in a few duo dance moves.

“I’m just feeling so high right now, you know?” Aidan replies as he twerks.

“Oh yeah? Did you take something before?”

“Uh… Just some apple juice.”

Aimee cackles. Aidan whoops. Vikram narrows his eyes.

“I’m Aidan by the way,” he says, introducing himself to the guy from last night with a few introductory finger guns.

“I’m Charlie,” the man says. “You’re Vikram’s boyfriend, yeah?”

“Yep, that’s-a me. Our two-year anniversary’s on Friday,” he says loudly enough so Vikram can hear.

“Oh congrats.”

“That’s the whole reason we’re here, because we just love each other so much, y’know.”

That’s all Vikram can take before stepping in, physically inserting himself between the two.

“Woah! It’s like you teleported!” Aidan giggles.

“You don’t have to do this,” Vikram says soberly. “Just because we had that argument doesn’t mean I want you to throw yourself into a situation you’re uncomfortable with just to try and make your point, or whatever.”

“I’m chill, I’m having fun,” Aidan reassures. “Aren’t we, Charlene?”

“I thought you said your boyfriend was a hermit. I didn’t know he could party like this!” Charlie says, slapping him on the shoulder.

The comment seems to go over Aidan’s high head. “Kinda looks like you’re the uncomfortable one here, mate.”

Vikram tenses. He hates being called ‘mate’.

“I just don’t want you to feel pressured into doing drugs you don’t wanna do.”

“God you’re being sooo boring. Just do a line and come dance,” Aidan purrs.

“An hour ago you were practically begging me to not hang out with these people,” Vikram says, now whispering and dragging Aidan even further away from the dancing. “It’s like you’re a completely different person.”

“Gee wonder what that’s like,” Aidan taunts. The shocked look on Vikram’s face tells just how hurtful that was. “Look, I can be chill, okay? You all think I’m some uptight scrawny lil’ guy who can’t get down with the cool kids, but I can!”

“No one’s saying—”

“Just watch me!”

Aidan jogs back over to where the rest are partying, leaving Vikram stammering for him to stop. Aimee’s teaching Leo how to twerk while Charlie watches, and for some reason Leo’s on all fours with his ass up in the air. Naturally Aidan hops behind him and pretends to slap his ass while it wiggles out in the open. He peeks a glance at Vikram, but he’s shaking his head in annoyance. With an emphatic sigh, he turns back to Leo’s ass and catches sight of the waistband of his blue Bonds boxers. With a cheeky grin, he grabs it and hoists it up. Leo convulses as his legs leave the ground. Everyone around them bursts into laughter, Charlie cheering for him to rip them off him. Everyone except Vikram. He hands the stretched out boxers to Aimee, who decides to have a few playful yanks herself, and jogs back over to his boyfriend.

“I think I passed with flying colours,” Aidan grins.

Vikram pauses as he goes to respond several times, but comes up short. He eventually just says, “I’m gonna go for a walk.”

With that, he leaves and strolls back toward the beach.

*

DANNY
9.23pm

The walk back to Jenny and Evan’s place is much longer than Danny had expected. To his surprise, they’re not guests at the resort, but have instead booked an Airbnb a few blocks away. When asked why they didn’t just book a hotel room, Jenny just says, “Too many annoying twats.”

They arrive at the Airbnb and it’s a gorgeous white 2-story townhouse. The front yard is very bare, save for a few flower bushes to the side. The road is paved with grey cobblestone that shines silver in the sunset. A garage sits next to the house, but the gate’s been left open with no car in sight. They enter through the garage and the place is very quaint inside. A large and cosy living room with a built-in fireplace to Danny’s left, and the tiniest kitchen he’s ever seen to his right. In front of him lies a hallway which, at the very end, is a black spiral staircase that must lead to the second floor. Coming from the copy-pasted mundanity of the hotel rooms, it’s refreshing to be in a residence with personality.

There’s a call from upstairs and Jenny clambers up the staircase, almost tripping at the top of the stairs. There are a few squeals and some giggles, and faintly ABBA can be heard.

“We’re sharing it with a couple friends from Jenny’s exchange,” Evan explains.

“Hey, you gays wanna do some coke?” Jenny yells from the top of the landing.

Evan glances at Danny, raising his eyebrows. A few seconds pass before Danny faintly shakes his head.

“Maybe tomorrow!” Evan calls back.

“There won’t be any tomorrow,” Jenny calls giddily, her footsteps clomping away from the landing. A door slams closed and it’s just the two boys.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Danny says after several seconds of silence.

“You haven’t even seen the best part yet,” Evan replies, extending his hand.

Danny immediately finds himself blushing – he’s never held hands with a man before. He takes it and lets Evan lead him through the living room and into what he assumes is his bedroom. The room itself is pretty standard, with a bed, a closet and a window overlooking the beach. Danny expects to stop by the window, as the view is pretty remarkable, but the tug of his hand pulls him into an ensuite bathroom.

“There,” Evan says.

Danny looks around him. It’s a bathroom. “What exactly am I looking at?”

“Look down, you dork,” Evan laughs.

So he does, and he realises he’s staring at a bidet toilet.

“It’s a crime these things aren’t installed in every toilet everywhere; they make a bottom’s life so much easier.”

Danny feels himself clamming up a little, his cheeks red again, but this time from feeling flustered. Evan’s still talking about the features of the bidet, something about eight different spray options, but he’s not paying attention. All he can think about is anal and fucking and lube and condoms and all the things he so desperately wants to experience but gets agitated when he thinks about for too long.

“I don’t want to have sex with you,” Danny blurts.

Evan stops in his tracks, pausing his speech about the ergonomic features of this bidet to be resumed at a later time. In the split second it takes for Danny to continue his train of thought, he sees a flare of hurt cross Evan’s eyes.

“I mean— I haven’t… I’ve never…” Danny stammers. “I’m a butt virgin. Or just, um, a virgin. I’ve never stuck anything up my butt, not even a finger or a cucumber or anything. I am really into you, like if I knew what to do and where to put my bits then I would love to do it, like… with you, I just…”

Evan breaks into a grin, stepping forward and placing his hand on Danny’s shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay. We’re not having anal sex. That’s off the table.”

Danny sighs with relief, struggling to look Evan in the eyes as the embarrassment of his virgin babble hits him. Seeing this, Evan grabs the tip of his chin and pulls his head to face him. “We can just start slowly.”

He leans in and his lips are on his. It’s unlike any kiss he’s ever had before. It’s not a drunk truth or dare kiss or a furious mouth-mash with a girl he doesn’t like. It’s soft. It’s considered. It’s slow, the readying of the lips between each kiss just as important as the actual kisses themselves.

Evan pauses after what feels like hours of tender making out, whispering just inches away from Danny’s face, “is this okay?”

“Yeah,” Danny replies, easing himself back into Evan’s mouth.

The two go at it for a while in the ensuite bathroom before Evan pulls away and leads them back into the bedroom and onto his bed. He gently pushes Danny onto his back, clasping both of his hands against his jaw and continuing the make out. He increases the pace, as what was demure turns fiery. Danny can’t help but notice that during all this, he never needs to question if he’s into what they’re doing. It’s just him and Evan exploring each other’s bodies and there’s no part of that that isn’t irresistible.

“I wanna suck you off so fucking bad,” Evan whispers.

Danny tilts his head back, adrenaline running through his body at the thought of receiving head for the first time. Evan’s fervent smooches make their way down his body. His black jeans are unzipped but only pulled down a little, enough to reveal his black Bonds boxerbriefs. He can only moan as Evan presses his face into his bulge, his dick rock hard against his face, his underwear the only barrier to the impending euphoria. With a rough tug, Danny’s undies are pulled down.

“Oh, fu— cking hell,” Danny groans.

A muffled, stifled chuckle from Evan is his response, before going back to his tip-licking and shaft-stroking technique. Danny can’t believe he’s gone so long without experiencing this sensation. He knew it’d feel good, but not this good. Now he knows why people throw away their whole lives just for one sexual encounter.

Evan takes a break from making him uncontainably moan to kiss him again, Danny murmuring something about how hot it is that he’s tasting himself. Evan reaches down and starts jerking while they make out, his moans getting more and more muffled by his lips. When it’s finally too much, he forces his head back on the pillow.

After catching his breath for a minute, Evan crouches down next to Danny’s panting body, configuring himself into a side-spoon. The two laugh over how much Danny came, and they go back to the soft kisses that started it all. Minutes upon minutes pass. When their lips are all puckered out, the two just lie there.

“Can’t believe I’m a certified homosexual now. Maybe I’ll be ready to actually do anal soon,” Danny mumbles.

“Not all gay men are into anal. My ex wasn’t, and he was still the hottest sex of my life.”

“And how do I compare?”

Evan cocks his head to gaze into Danny’s eyes with a cheeky smile. “Oh you’re up there with the greats. You’re really fucking cute, you know that right?”

“If you make me blush one more time,” Danny jokes. He reaches over and locks his hand into Evan’s. “What did you even do with your ex if not anal?”

“Tons of shit. He had a thing for ballbusting, so I’d mostly just beat the shit out of his balls. Sometimes we’d roleplay.”

Danny shudders a little, as if all the times Ricky has kicked him in the balls flashes before his eyes. He can’t imagine someone being turned on by that feeling.

“It was more about the power dynamics for him,” Evan continues, like he’s sensing Danny’s train of thought. “For many of us, sex is more about the reclaiming of power than it is about the physical act of putting a penis in a hole.”

“Sounds kinda dangerous.”

“It can be,” Evan ponders. “But that’s why we have conversations about this shit. With my ex, we were only able to have hot ballbusting sex because we trusted each other and had open conversations about it.”

“I can’t wait to have that; that trust, I mean. Knowing everything about each other, what turns us on, what scares us, what we love. To live a normal life with a guy who accepts every part of me.”

“Don’t we all,” Evan says, squeezing Danny’s hand.

*

GUY
9.24pm

The three of them exit the elevator, Guy ushering Ricky through the lobby. He briefly stops by the reception to tell them he’ll be staying back today, giving Ricky the opportunity to make a bolt for the door. Within an instant, he’s smack-banged into the front doors, his body kersplat against the glass. Slowly, his arm reaches out to his left and feels for the emergency exit button, fondling the wall for a good few seconds before locating it and pressing it.

“Hey. HEY!” Guy shouts, jolting into action as Ricky shoots out into the night, the straw from his lips remaining pressed into the glass. He dashes after him, car horns fanfaring his chase as he charges down the walkway. Ricky’s only a few metres in front of him, almost within his grip, but when the walkway transitions into the main beach area, the crowd swallows Ricky up and poaches him from Guy’s jittery clutches. He tries to wade his way through the crowd, but he’s nowhere to be found. Furious, he searches harder and faster, pushing people out of his way until a freezing wetness pools around his ankles. He looks down and realises he’s rashly shoved his way to the shallow water. He slams his fists into the uncaring ocean.

A fwoop disturbs his pity party and he looks down to see his pants have been pulled down and are now floating in the water. In an instant, a sharp pain encroaches his groin as he’s lifted up by his own underwear – a pair of yellow Calvin Klein boxerbriefs he’s particularly fond of. He hears the sound of ripping and he can only stand helplessly as the back of his waistband is flung down in front of his own eyes, before being rammed into his mouth, gagging him. With one thrust into his lower back, he falls into the water, floundering as water seeps into his nostrils and wraps around his half-naked body. He hears his own muffled screams and tries to pull the underwear out of his mouth. Kicking up off the seafloor, he emerges and gasps for air. He whips back around him, but Ricky is long gone, lost to the partying masses.

Guy breathstrokes his way back to the shore and slumps onto the sand. The last sounds he hears are cheers for the on-stage act as he passes out, his drenched torn underwear still clung to his body.

*

AIDAN
10.08pm

Aidan spends the next hour dancing his worries away with his new friends. A couple times Charlie heads down to the beverage stands to fetch drinks for them, but for the most part the four of them just dance with their hands in the air. Each pulse that’s followed by the next promises that in this moment, Aidan doesn’t have to feel his shitty feelings. He doesn’t have to wonder where Vikram is or what he’s thinking or whether there’ll even be a relationship to repair once this night is over. It’s just him and the music and the bodies of people he’s beginning to not hate as much.

At one point, he starts feeling overheated and excuses himself for a quick pee break. He can’t be bothered going to the porta potties on the beach, so he decides to walk down towards the shore, but away from the rave. After a few minutes of clumsy trotting, he finds a few trees that’ll provide good cover for his wee. He tugs his dick out of his briefs and begins the pleasant emptying stream.

“I just don’t understand why he’s doing this now, here.”

Aidan’s head shoots up from the drunken gazing at his dick peeing, darting around him to find where that voice was coming from. He doesn’t want to be thinking about that voice right now, but he knows that voice. Sure enough, he spots Vikram off to his far right, chatting with a figure holding a few red solo cups in his hands. With a squint, he realises it’s Charlie he’s talking to.

“I thought out of everyone, he’d understand what it was like for me the best, but…” Vikram pauses. “I’d imagined Schoolies as being our perfect fun little getaway, but things haven’t been right since we got here.”

Trying as best he can to zip his zipper as quietly as he can, Aidan takes a few steps backward to ensure the tree blocks Vikram from his view, then continues to eavesdrop. His fingers are wet, but he just dries them on the back of his jeans.

“I just don’t know if I want to go through with it. Like, maybe… I don’t know, do I just put this on hold while I figure this shit out?”

Aidan covers his mouth with his still wet hands even though no sound comes out. Did he really just hear that? Now not caring about being quiet, he stumbles away from the tree and from the clearing where the man who’s supposed to be the love of his life has betrayed him. He runs as fast as he can on the apathetic sand until he sees people again, sees the food trucks and sees the faceless crowd of happy people. Going against his better judgement, he turns back to where he ran from and sees two figures in the distance, one standing tall while the other is bent over, leaning down to the other’s waist.

Aidan falls to the ground and throws up.

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