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Hotel Jock: Chapter 5

GUY
9.01am

“Don’t play coy with me fucker!”

The sound of Guy slamming his hand on the table rings out. Opposite him is a blank-faced, unmoving Ricky, both hands handcuffed to the chair he’s slumped on. At this sudden noise, he doesn’t even flinch, just rolls his eyes and sits back a little, continuing to chew on the straw in his mouth. Guy winces.

“Should we break for 5?” A depleted Claudio asks from the corner.

“We just took a break,” Guy snaps.

“That was 4 hours ago.” Claudio dangles the lit-up home screen on his phone.

Guy palms his greasy hair back, pausing with both hands clasped behind his head to think. So far all they’ve been able to get out of Ricky is that he’s lactose intolerant, which only came out when Claudio offered him tea (against Guy’s protests). Through all the questions, he’s remained silent. When Guy produced a baggie of cocaine Claudio had confiscated a couple days back and asked, or rather commanded, Ricky to fess up to dealing, he merely stared at him until Guy’d thrown the baggie at his face in fury. For the last hour or so, barely a single word has been uttered in this room.

Ricky suddenly starts laughing, breaking Guy from his trance. He watches as his foe cackles in the chair, the jeer taunting his zombified mind. “WHAT?” He bellows.

There’s a knock on his door, startling him. Of course it’s that goddamn receptionist who barges in. “We’ve got a robbery on the 2nd floor.”

“So? Call security. I’m kind of in the middle of something—” Guy begins to protest.

“Policy is that whenever there’s a robbery, a care package is delivered.” Her eyes wander down to the handcuffs around Ricky’s wrists.

“These fucking care packages— Fine fine fine fine fine I’ll get to it.” He pushes her out, giving Claudio a look before shutting the door.

*

VIKRAM
9.09am

The way Aidan’s perched on the chair on the balcony, head back against the wall and eyes closed; he’s beautiful, scenic. Vikram adores the way the morning sun shines on his neck, coating him in its golden hue. It’s almost as if he was forged by the brushes of Botticelli. It almost makes him forget the way he found him last night.

“Walk me through what happened,” the security man says.

“I was out partying last night, and when I came back my boyf… Aidan was asleep and we had been robbed.”

“Had he been sleeping the whole night?”

“Yes,” Aidan pipes up, having not moved from the balcony, eyes still closed.

“So the robber came in while you were sleeping, stole a bunch of your belongings and then you came back to the place like this?”

The used condom balanced on Aidan’s bare asscheeks flashes in Vikram’s mind. He visualises where it is now, folded in a tissue in his right pocket. He could pull it out right now, use the sperm as evidence, both for the robbery and for his broken heart. To see the vacancy of emotion leave his boyfriend’s face, the way it’s been plastered on all morning from the moment he awoke. To revoke the lie they’ve silently agreed upon, that he found him face-down with his bare condomless asscheeks facing the ceiling – no condom, no lies.

The security guy goes on to ask what valuables were stolen, which Vikram promptly lists out as Aidan continues to just sit there motionless on the balcony. Laptop, tablet, phone. Why is he protecting his boyfriend’s infidelity? Blender, carbonator, his grandmother’s coffee pot. After all the cheating accusations that’s been flung his way. Expensive cleansers, serums and face masks. To think today was the day they were meant to get engaged.

“Face products don’t count as valuables I’m afraid, no matter how expensive.”

“Oh. Right.”

The man leaves, but not before some man briskly drops off a paper bag with the most depressing assortment of teabags, lip balm and Schoolies pamphlets he’s ever seen. He instantly chucks it in the bin.

And so it resumes, watching the love of his life sit still on the balcony, decidedly not telling him about the affair he had last night. Was it with some stranger he met at the rave, or someone from Grindr perhaps? Or was it that twink with the vomit-stained kicks? If he just knew who it was so he would know who to murder.

“I wish I had a cigar,” Aidan mutters.

“You don’t smoke.”

He stares at him, his eyes open now. “I know. I just really need to take a big, long drag on something.”

“You really just slept last night?”

“Yes babe,” Aidan says, flinging his head to face him now. “For the seventeenth time, I slept, and I have no clue when or how or who stole all our stuff.”

Vikram nods, as if attempting to convince himself of this truth. When he’s asked if he was out partying last night, he nods. “Yep, was out all night with them.”

The most feeble and fake grin crosses Aidan’s lips, fleeting quickly and replaced with expressionlessness. He knows he should feel guilty for what he did with Charlie last night, but he oddly just feels relief. At least he isn’t caught up in being the victim of Aidan’s unfaithfulness.

“Should we go and enjoy our last breakfast here then?” Aidan sighs, stretching as he gets up from the balcony. When Vikram doesn’t respond, he frowns. “We check out tonight babe, did you forget?”

“I need to tell you something.”

“Yeah?” Aidan responds mindlessly, shrugging on his jacket.

He hesitates, finding the right words. “Leo’s cheating on Aimee. With another man.”

*

DANNY
9.34am

“Sup faggot.”

Danny hadn’t heard the front door open, let alone his own bedroom door (which he could’ve sworn he had locked maybe two, or was it six?, hours ago). Wrapped in his cocoon of doona and bedsheets, he flicks his head to face the hellish bright light seeping into his pitch black room. There stands Josh, wearing the same tank top and cargo shorts he’s worn the past three days. They really need to do laundry.

Maybe it’s the bags under Danny’s eyes or the empty black hole where his pupils used to be, but Josh chuckles nervously. “Yo chill man, it was just a joke.” Ignoring all social cues, Josh sits on the edge of the bed, not even thinking to take his dirty joggers off as he sits cross-legged. “So I was inside this chick, yeah?”

Here goes Josh launching into another one of his gross perverted sex stories. Danny doesn’t even have the strength to roll his eyes. For the past however many hours, all he’s done is sit up in his self-made quilt armour and let every deranged thought circle his brain. Of Guy, of Ricky, of Josh, of Evan, of Jenny, of Denise – of this whole trip that’s been one massive drug-fucked fucking in the ass.

Ricky caught him mid-gay sex. That means his secret is fully out. How he wishes he was just a guy living in ancient Greece, where taking male lovers was the norm and having a dick up your ass wasn’t any more taboo than being speared in the heel. All he’s ever wanted is to live as who he truly is, to settle down with a handsome man and get a dog or four. Time living the life he desires.

He’s tried throughout the sleepless night to leave, not even pack his things, just leave and get the first flight out of here, but his body has not left the state of shock it entered last night. To leave this room would mean he could bump into Ricky at any point; to leave this doona cocoon would mean he would have to deal with the fact that he’s been outed to the most homophobic person he knows.

“Then I teabagged her tits with my cum-soaked balls and she came right on my left buttcheek.”

The rotted anecdote hangs in the air like an eggy fart. Josh waits excitedly for validation – a high fave, a fist bump, a tongue-flick-through-V-fingers. But when it doesn’t come, he takes it upon himself to initiate the affirmatory bro hug.

The loud thwoop rings out and Josh is instantly on the floor howling in pain. Danny’s arm is flung out, outstretched from the bed covers, but he’s only now catching up to his reflexes. He yanks his arm back, but the nutshot has long been enacted. To his surprise, Josh is cheerful when he stands up a minute or so later. “You fucking beast! Nice nut tap bro. You really got me there.”

Danny blinks.

“I swear each day you’re becoming more one of us,” Josh chuckles. He tousles Danny’s hair approvingly before heading for the door.

“Is he… is Ricky still mad?”

He pauses before turning back. “You know him. He’s not exactly the most open-minded bloke.”

“And you, you don’t…” Danny’s voice falters before he can finish.

“Me?” He seems genuinely taken aback. “Uh… look, I’m chill, I guess. Just don’t do it in front of me or anything.”

He chuckles in an attempt to alleviate some of the tension, but all Danny feels is the pit in his stomach widening more.

“You want anything from the buffet?”

Using all the strength he can muster, Danny shakes his head.

*

AIDAN
11.02am

“Leo’s gay?”

For the first time this morning, Aidan hasn’t been micromanaging every mannerism, every word that escapes his lips. He very narrowly escaped Vikram finding out about what he did with Evan last night, having so far been able to hide behind the guise of being too shocked by the breaking and entering that occurred seemingly while he was asleep. But this revelation has startled him.

“I don’t know what label he identifies with, but he for sure isn’t straight.”

“And Aimee doesn’t know?”

Vikram appears to think for a moment. “You think they’re open? Poly?”

Aidan just shrugs. Finding out the guy who belittled him every day in school (and whose mates actively tormented him and his boyfriend) is queer is a lot to take in. It’s 2023: jocks can fuck men, and yet somehow this revelation is a betrayal. To be gay in their small town in Western Australia was to walk those streets and those school halls with big rainbow targets on their backs, targets that jocks like Leo regularly took aim at with their mockery and slurs and bullying. Why should he know the pleasures of what a prostate orgasm feels like without having put in the hours at the bottom of the food chain?

“Aidan?”

“Huh?”

Vikram’s pointing at his phone. “Aimee and Leo are downstairs wondering if we want brunch.”

He stares at the message exchange, reading the words over and over. He asks for the phone so he can read it closer, then, while Vikram goes and finds his jumper, he scrolls out of the message app and into the search bar. He types the name of the app he’s thinking of, but to his genuine surprise, it’s not there.

Fifteen minutes later and they’re at their usual brunch spot with Leo and Aimee opposite them, already on their second plate of food. Thankfully Vikram does most of the talking regarding the theft – all the valuables looted, how frightening it all is, yadda yadda yadda. Aidan is, after all, still dealing with the shock of having been asleep while it all occurred – he makes sure to give an extra pitiful look when Vikram mentions this, which prompts Aimee to grab his hand from across the table and squeeze it reassuringly.

“People can be so rotten,” Aimee mutters once it’s all been divulged.

“And of all days, I mean what a terrible gift on the day of your…” Leo trails off, shaking his head. “On the day of your departure. From here.”

Aidan frowns.

“Our family’s got a great lawyer that’s been with us for a decade now. I can pass on her deets if you need,” Leo hands over his phone with the screen lit up on the contact details of someone called ‘Sally (Law)’. Aidan takes it, glancing at it for a second before palming it up to Vikram so he can type the phone number into his notes app.

“I can’t imagine sleeping through all that,” says Aimee, causing Aidan’s head to flick back to her. “I just hope you don’t feel too guilty.”

Something triggers in Aidan’s chest – he can’t describe it, but it’s spiky and hot like lava surging through him; a sting in the pits of his stomach, like he’s just been gut-punched. Glancing between them, he realises he hasn’t provided a response. He gulps. “How was the party last night?”

She nods, chewing carelessly on the pineapple bits from the bottom of her second martini. “Great. Bummed you slept through it, but glad you’re feeling better after yesterday.”

He squints just a tad. If only she knew all the things that have transpired since yesterday’s outburst at lunch, including her cheating faggot of a boyfriend. “Leo joined after his jog, did he?”

Leo nods after a few seconds and takes back his phone. “It was perfect jogging weather yesterday.”

“I’m surprised you’ve gone jogging so much during a vacation.” There’s a cautious, alert “babe” muttered softly next to him – Vikram checking him. But he doesn’t care to be reigned in, it’s too late for that now. He’s an explosion of fire on the verge of release.

“Gotta stay fit,” Leo shrugs.

Aidan smiles. His cautious and very annoying boyfriend steers the conversation to university plans, allowing him the opportunity to covertly go on Grindr on his phone, having downloaded it in the elevator and created a blank profile. The first profile in the top left corner is a blank profile – 18 years old and 0 metres away from him. He messages it immediately.

hey
wanna fuck?

Like clockwork, the very loud Grindr notification bell chimes twice from Leo’s phone. The three of them stop, all turning to see the lit up screen on the table. A brief, shuddered chuckle leaves Leo’s chest, immediately replaced by a long, high-pitched exhale, as if all the cogs stopped turning in his brain. His gaze flickers up at the three of them, all witness to the heartbreak in his eyes.

“Was that—?” Aidan begins.

“I can explain—” Leo stammers.

“Oh buddy…” Vikram sighs.

“Just— STOP looking at it, okay?” He pockets his phone so quickly he jabs himself in the ribs. “Oh fuck oh fuck… I swear it was on silent. This isn’t happening…”

The popular jock being found with Grindr on his phone, it’s a tale as old as time, like the Tortoise and the Hare – or in this case, the fag hag and the fag. He shrinks back to observe his victory: Leo floundering, Vikram consoling and Aimee… unmoving. He fixes his gaze on her, watching as she just sits there. She’s not even looking at her gay boyfriend, she’s just staring down at her plate. Is she flabbergasted? Is she pissed? Surprise, the love of her perfect, idealistic life fucks men! And she’s just… sitting there.

“I wasn’t thinking I’d be having this conversation any time soon, if ever… I guess I’m… I’m… gay?” Leo’s voice goes up several pitches at the end of this sentence, so much so that ‘gay’ is but a mere squeak.

Aimee’s head swivels toward Leo at this, recognition at last downloading onto her face. She nods slowly, reassuringly. Hand on his, thumb stroking his. Like all things in her life, it’s a performance.

“I’m, uh, sorry it’s come out this way, so suddenly,” Leo glances in the direction of his girlfriend.

“We’re the best people to come out to, honestly,” Vikram says as he pats his shoulder.

“I’ve known ever since I can remember, but it feels so liberating to finally—”

“You knew,” Aidan interrupts.

They turn to stare at him. The faint sounds of a dying hyperventilation escaping from Leo’s lips is the only thing scoring the stare-off.

“What?”

“You knew he was gay.”

Aimee glares. Her right eyebrow twitches; he doesn’t know if she wants to silence him or murder him.

“Babe maybe you should just…”

“Have you known this whole time?”

With all three pairs of eyes now on her, Aimee’s face begins to thaw from its composure. She glances between them, eyes widening when she reaches her supposed boyfriend – but he doesn’t meet her eyes, just bows his head low. The game has been won.

“I’m gay too.”

Aidan leans forward, his smugness evaporating. “What? Huh? What?”

“You’re— both gay?” Vikram stammers.

“We’re beards, and have been for a couple years now.”

“But you’ve only been dating for a couple years.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re the most popular couple in school.”

“Yeah.”

The popular jock and the head cheerleader. Both gay and both lying to everyone except each other. What Aidan had thought was a shallow babe-fuelled regurgitation of heteronormative white suburbia is actually a calculated mirage.

“Aimee approached me about it when she caught me checking out some guy’s ass in gym. We were both looking to increase our status while keeping people off our trail, so we gave it a shot. We both get to sleep with whoever and we get to be the ‘it’ couple of our school,” Leo admits.

“It was the perfect deal,” Aimee sighs.

“How didn’t anyone find out?”

“No hook-ups within a 15km radius. Anyone we sleep with must be from at least three towns over,” she shrugs. “Fake names, fake Instagram handles, even a fake licence plate.”

“Someone’s watched Identity Thief starring Melissa McCarthy,” Aidan mutters.

“So no one else knows?”

They shake their heads. “We’re not ready yet to announce it to the world or anything. We’ve talked about telling you a few times though. We look up to you both so much – how you so graciously ward off the hate and love each other out in the open. You’re an inspiration.”

Aidan sits back in his chair. All the chips are out on the pool table now, or whatever the heterosexual aphorism is. The two people whose status he despised throughout high school, who he thought were homophobic sympathisers, were actually just frightened beards hiding in the same closet he once hid in. The loathing’s still there, but he also empathises with where they’re coming from. And after everything that’s happened on this godforsaken trip, that’s the thing that makes him want to throw up the most.

“So what now?” Leo asks, the fear still glistening in his eyes.

Aimee strokes his arm as affectionately as before. “No more hiding. At least for today, we get to be who we truly are.”

*

GUY
1.44pm

“You’re so fucked mate,” Ricky smirks.

Guy’s mid-email with their sunscreen supplier, the still-handcuffed Ricky perched in his periphery. He’s changed out of his volunteer uniform and into something he can actually breath in, the sweaty staleness of his office becoming more and more apparent as the day goes on. He raises an eyebrow but continues typing, not giving Ricky the satisfaction of a response.

“This whole week you’ve spent chasing after me like a Tom and Jerry cartoon and you’ve failed to keep the resort safe,” he continues. “And you still haven’t beaten me.”

“You’re cuffed to that chair, aren’t you?” Guy remarks.

“Handcuffed to a chair is not beaten. Handcuffed to a chair is handcuffed to a chair.”

Guy sends the email and shuts his laptop, bending down to place it in his backpack. When he turns back to Ricky, he’s as sly as ever.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last day you’re employed here.”

“And I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t make it out of this room,” Guy spits.

“Threatening me now?” Ricky sits up giddily. “I’m sure that your boss will be pleased to find out you’ve handcuffed, unjustly detained and now threatened a hotel guest.”

The two sit still, frozen in place as they regard one another. How a vile, pathetic school dropout could rival him in this twisted game fuels Guy with more fury than he’s felt in all his years with Red Snakes. The smugness of this absolute wanker, sitting here and chewing on his—

Ricky’s mouth is still, no straw dangling limply from his mouth. For the first time since last night, his office hasn’t been filled with the maddening drone of his chewing. Guy blinks, and then there’s a clink, and the sound of handcuffs hitting the floor ringing throughout the room. A shared look of temptation, of expectation. And with a giant leap, he’s just short of nabbing Ricky’s leg as he shoots out the door, Guy only a breath behind him. Their joggers screech against the lobby’s concrete tiles. Ricky reaches an elevator just as the doors close in Guy’s face, a barrage of insults bellowing out of him. No matter, Guy thinks. He knows exactly where he’s going.

*

DANNY
1.58pm

His bags are packed and an earlier flight ticket downloaded onto his phone. Standing over the toilet bowl having his last piss in this place, he finally allows himself a second to exhale. He’s doing it, he’s escaping before Ricky or Josh or Evan or anyone notices he’s gone. A ding from his phone means his Uber must be outside.

The front door to their room bursts open, banging against the adjacent wall and causing Danny to almost trip over, piss flying everywhere.

“WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU?!”

He holds his breath, trying desperately to clench his half-emptied bladder. Failing to do so, he strokes his foreskin back in place and places his thumb over his penis, clenching his teeth as he stands there frozen in darkness, nothing but piss warming its way down his fingers. He’s glad the bathroom light was broken last night, or else it’d give him away.

“YOU FUCKER!!!”

Cupboards banging in the kitchen, the balcony door screeching open. As covertly as possible, he zips back up his jorts and taps 000 into his phone. Suddenly the bathroom door is flung open, the lock breaking in an instant and his phone smashing on the ground. A hand shoves him hard into the wall and he feels another ball up into a fist and strike his gut. In the darkness, all he can make out is the yelling, screaming figure in front of him. Without a second to think, he presses his wet hands into his assailant’s face, slapping him about. Taking his chance, he knees him in the balls, grabbing his caved body and plunging him to the toilet. He flushes, using his knee to force the man’s neck down. The sound of gargling swirls around the narrow room. A furious fist pummels at his knee, but he doubles down, going in for another swirlie.

Staggering out of the bathroom, Danny flies to his bedroom and grabs his wallet and backpack, leaving his suitcase behind. He runs out but meets the attacker in the hallway, standing there with soaked hair covering his eyes and rage steaming from his body. Only now that he’s out in the light, Danny realises it’s not Ricky or Josh who’s come in, but the Red Snakes worker who took his butthole virginity not even 24 hours before.

“I’M GONNA FUCKING KILL YOU RICKY!”

Panic shoots through his spine. “I’m— I’m not…” he begins to say, but the guy lunges at him, knocking them both down to the ground. He takes a few punches to the face before spitting up at him. The guy recoils, takes a deep breath then screams in his face, bearing his yellow teeth. He spits again, this time managing to break out from his grasp and back away to the balcony.

“I’m not Ricky!” he exclaims.

The guy swipes at his face, as if trying to wipe the toilet water from his own eyes. When he opens them, they’re glazed in red and he’s blinking like crazy.

“I’M GONNA END YOU!”

Danny takes a few more steps backward, his shoe hitting the groove in the floor that separates the room from the balcony’s sliding door. The man takes another dive at him but he scoots out of the way just in time and is missed completely. His shoe hits the bottom of the door, sending him flying out the balcony, landing on his stomach on the railing, half his body dangling off the edge while his legs hang back this side. For a split second his body stays like that, caught in the pendulum between life and death. Then it begins to tip, his legs arching higher and higher.

Seeing this, Danny jumps to the balcony and grabs whatever he can, his fingers clasping onto some article of clothing. He pulls, trying with all his might to hoist the man back up. But it’s no use, his legs slipping until his entire body is on the other side of the railing, the only thing stopping him from falling being his own underwear that Danny’s mercifully grasping onto. The guy silently writhes, kicking against the cement balcony, hands slapping the walls as he tries to lever himself back up. With each kick and each slap, his body twirls round and round the tighty whities. Soon the writhing stops and is replaced by a gentle swinging. There’s a scream from below and Danny looks down to see the underwear has roped its way around the man’s neck. His dying hands cling tightly to the underwear. Within seconds, his neck droops, the gargling stops. Danny releases, cupping his mouth in shock, the body hitting the ground with a thud just a moment later.

Noise gathers below, people assumedly gathering around the victim. Danny flails away from the ledge, crouching down until all he can see in front of him is the blue sky. A shuddered breath escapes his dry, cracked lips. He leaps up, re-entering the room and bolting out the door, his wallet and backpack remaining where he left them on the hallway floor. He doesn’t bother with the lifts, just runs down the stairs. He flees the lobby in slow motion, the image of the man’s dying dangling body stabbing his mind. He can see the Uber parked out front, the black car merging with the man’s limp body. He can make it.

Danny’s knocked to the ground and his arms folded behind his back. Instructions are being ordered into his ear, but he can’t hear them.

“You jocks are all the same,” he can just make out.

A nametag that reads CLAUDIO blurs in and out of focus; it crashes like a wave into the ocean of the bright blue sky outside, and he’s free; he’s free from Ricky and Josh and the man’s swinging corpse. All he sees is blue. He erupts into a fit of laughter, his giggling not stopping until he’s in the back of a police car and driven far away from the hotel.

*

DENISE
2.41pm

She really shouldn’t have taken molly last night. If the eight hour comedown wasn’t bad enough, she’s now standing in the hotel lobby in just her bikini and beach towel, teeth chattering as she relays to an officer for the third time in the past half hour what it was like having a man fall to his death in front of her. How detailed do they expect her to go? A man fell to his death, kersplat. The end! And where the hell is that hot coffee she asked for twenty minutes ago? The 7-Eleven is literally right next door.

“And the perpetrator? What did you notice about him?”

“Oh, I didn’t really get a good look at the guy,” Denise says as she shivers. The officer nods, closing his notepad and beckoning for her to leave. She pauses, tilting her head. “He did kinda look like this gay guy I hooked up with my first night here, but he was such a dweeb, he seriously wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

The officer chuckles. “I just watched that new TV show about Versace. You’d be surprised the murderous lengths poofs can get up to.”

Denise just shrugs. “Okay?”

“At least they do well in prison.”

Finally someone brings her the coffee she asked for, and soon all her worries are out the window.

*

VIKRAM
2.48pm

“I was going to propose,” he says.

“Here?” Aidan says in shock.

“Yeah. Today.”

The two sit on the hill overlooking the ocean, Aidan’s hands in his.

“I’ve been such a nervous wreck this whole week. That’s why I’ve been going out to the raves each night with Leo and Aimee. I just needed to be out of my own mind for a bit.”

Unlike this morning, Aidan actually seems to be listening to what he’s saying. It’s like someone flicked the switch in his moody boyfriend’s brain and he’s back to being a functioning human being, not some sad pensive widower in an old black and white French film.

“That’s what you saw me doing on the beach that night. I was practising proposing with Charlie, and I guess from far away it must’ve looked like—”

“Like you were sucking him off,” Aidan finishes, realisation hitting him. He’s silent for a moment, eventually adding, “I was high on a lot of cocaine.”

“So much cocaine, babe.”

“And I did try to escape two nights ago. Because I thought I saw what I thought I saw, and you were acting like everything was fine when it wasn’t. So I met this cool guy and his Polish exchange student, and they took me to a warehouse party.” He pauses. “But that’s all it was, I swear. Just a party, and then I came straight back.”

“That’s all it was too, with Leo, with Aimee. With Charlie. It was just a momentary escape from the anxiety I was feeling.”

Aidan rests on the nape of his neck. Softly, he whispers, “we’re gonna be okay, babe.”

They remain in this intimate tableau, Aidan with his eyes closed and Vikram gazing out at the beach below. The condom wrapper once again blurs into focus in his mind’s eye, but he’s reminded of Charlie’s sweet breath in his ear from last night. So they both fucked up this trip. At least they’re finishing it on an even playing field.

After some time, he stands and grabs Aidan’s hand. He leads him down the hill and along the shore. Reaching their secluded spot behind the trees, he pulls down his shorts to reveal he’s wearing one of Aidan’s white jockstraps. He takes it off and hands it to him. “I had a hunch.”

Aidan’s stifled whimpers fill his ear, echoed only by the slapping of his groin against his behind. The smell of sex permeates the hidden hermitage. He briefly pulls out, grabs the legholes of the jockstrap and yanks it up Aidan’s ass before continuing the ploughing. Aidan moans like he’s never moaned before. When he can’t hold it back any more, he shoots all over the tree, marking the leaves and the branches like calligraphy on a fresh sheet of paper. Vikram climaxes not long after, but he doesn’t decelerate his thrusts, driving his cum deeper into Aidan’s abused hole.

*

JOSH
4.40pm

“11k each, that’s fuuuuucked,” Josh whoops.

Ricky finishes flicking through the notes and hands one pile to Josh. They high five, the two snickering in the back of the Uber as it nears the airport.

“I told you it’d be worth the trip. Party for a week, bang lots of hot fresh 18 year olds and then get outta there all that much richer.”

“Oh trust man, I am always in for one of your schemes,” Josh grins.

“What’s the use in making bank if I can’t share it with my bro?”

“Speaking of, I believe there’s another payment I’m to be given?”

Ricky rolls his eyes before forking over fifty bucks.

“I told you he’d turn out to be gay, dude,” Josh mutters.

Ricky sneers. “If he’d have just told us he was gay, then we coulda set him up with a handsome-lookin’ bloke.”

“Really?” He asks.

“Fuck no, bro. I would’ve hung him by his tighty whities off that balcony myself.”

Josh turns to look out the window and chuckles. Ricky’s always one to be extreme with his views. Still, at least it’s not his undies being hung.

“I’m headed to Byron Bay next Wednesday. They’re doing Schoolies till the weekend if you’re looking to double your salary,” Ricky says between huffs of his vape.

Josh smiles. “Looks like I’m heading to Byron Bay.”

*

JENNY
6.12pm

“Can I get you two anything?”

“Two champers, please,” Jenny says.

The hostess smiles. “Are you Polish? I’m from Olsztyn.”

“Always lovely to meet a fellow Pole,” Jenny chuckles lightly.

Once the woman’s left, she rolls her eyes. “This is the last time I’m doing a Polish exchange student. Next thing I know I’ll be doing the accent in my sleep,” she says in her regular American accent.

“You’re so convincing as a Polish woman though,” Evan replies.

“Yeah obviously, but I hate it. I mean I did all those Quizlets and I still know nothing about the country.”

“Surely you know who the prime minister is though?”

“Marie Curie.”

He stares at her as she struggles to get the airplane blanket out of the packaging. “Maybe it is for the best if you were to choose a different nationality. Your German was pretty good if I remember.”

Without missing a beat, she says, “Oh mein Gott! Zees hötel is full of garbagen people!”

They laugh so hard the person behind them kicks the back of their seats. Evan retrieves his laptop from his carrybag, pulling up a spreadsheet and angling it towards Jenny. “So Byron Bay next week. Ready to do it all again?”

“What, like partying and doing ket with some gays takes work?” She titters.

“I’m just gonna check our flight info for Sunday, can you hotspot for a sec?”

Jenny pulls out her phone and says a few seconds later, “it’s not coming up.”

“Oh it should be under Aidan’s MacBook Pro.”

“Ah, got it.”

“Thanks.”

Jenny sits back and stares out the window, watching the workers outside load the airplane. “I think I will choose German. Yeah. Exchange student from Germany. Inviting, isn’t it?”

*

AIDAN
11.11pm

Sitting by himself near the duty free shops, Aidan surveys the families of people pass by him. He can guess which travellers are about to embark on their trip and which are returning home; there’s an innocence, a naivety that those who are just starting their holiday have that those returning don’t. He thinks back to five days ago, when he was in this exact airport having just landed, filled with excitement at spending the whole week with Vikram.

The Grindr notification bell dings, and for a split second he’s taken back to that day on the beach. But he looks over to where Leo’s phone rests on the table and his heart eases. It’s a message from someone called human toilet and it reads: hey, piss in my mouth? Good for him.

He clocks the time, 11.11pm. Another angel number, funny that. Aimee’s tinny voice pierces its way into his ear and he looks up to see them returning with coffees. He closes out of Instagram.

“Thanks diva,” Aimee says as he passes her her phone and handbag.

“You guys inspire us, you know,” Aidan says as he rests his head on Vikram’s shoulder.

A genuine look of concern crosses Aimee’s face. “Yeah?”

“Like, you’re not even dating, and yet the kindness and the care you show one another… the affection is still there. It’s kinda sweet actually. Like no matter what happens, you’ve still got each other.”

Leo and Aimee exchange a smile. “Like we said, we feel the same way about you two. Talk about a power couple!”

Vikram chuckles. “No, we haven’t really been that much of a power couple this past week. But you’ve helped rekindle that flame in us.”

The four take turns hugging each other before saying their goodbyes – Aidan and Vikram back to Perth, while the other two are off to Tasmania to visit one of Aimee’s family friends.

“They really are best friends in spite of it all,” Vikram tells Aidan once they’ve boarded their plane. “I’m glad you warmed up to them.”

“All I needed was something to prove that they weren’t just boring basic bitches,” Aidan offers a small smile.

He plants a kiss on Vikram’s cheek before settling into the nape of his neck, both scrolling on their phones as they wait for take-off. They stay like this for a few minutes before Vikram sits up. “Aimee just came out.”

“What?”

“On Insta. She’s made a post saying they’re both gay.”

“Oh my god, no way,” Aidan says with monotony, not even glancing at Vikram’s phone. “That’s crazy.”

“I thought they both weren’t ready yet.”

Aidan snuggles into Vikram’s chest, mumbling “we must’ve really inspired them.” He closes his eyes, gently stroking his arm. He’s missed being able to perch himself on Vikram like an annoying house cat.

“Fuck, some of these comments are awful,” Vikram whispers, tilting the screen to show Aidan.

He keeps his eyes closed though, making no effort to look. “You know what our school was like. There was bound to be people who’d turn on them once they came out. It was inevitable, really.” Vikram seems to mm-hmm in agreement.

Aidan stays like this, not moving when a flight attendant performs the evacuation procedure demonstration or when they take off, or even when Vikram bombards him softly with head kisses. He just stays there with his eyes closed, gratified, twirling the ring on his finger.

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