MIDDLEHILL #1: CHANGELING
The snowstorm finally broke, and the night cleared. A few stray flakes flew into the headlight beams. Matt and the other adults on the bus exhaled the breath they’d all been holding. The snow that had already drifted across the highway obliterated the lines, and the bus had been reduced to school zone speeds. Matt had been planning on setting Sam up for the night and ducking out to the park to see if he could find a date, but he did the calculation in his head and knew they were going to be arriving in Calgary so late that only the freaks would be out trolling.There was a truck stop coming up, and Matt could probably turn a couple of tricks in the parking lot, but he’d promised himself he’d never go to work with his little brother around. Matt was still a hundred and eighty dollars short for the rent and utilities with only four days to go until the money was due.He had thought he could afford the trip to Vancouver before they left, and no matter how tight he tried to keep their spending down, food had cost twice what he’d thought. He felt a little dizzy with hunger. He could order smaller portions, but Sam was still growing.Sam slept curled up in his window seat. Matt’s job was to protect him.
The bus only had three other passengers, and one of them had checked him out in the lineup. Matt called the checker-outer Married Guy because of the wedding ring on his left hand. Blanket Guy, the handsome blond with a gray blanket over his lap, wouldn’t have even noticed Matt. Matt felt Married Guy’s arousal like pus seeping through the rough edges of a wound. That sometimes happened when Matt crossed the path of someone who got off on pain.
Matt sighed, rubbing his face. It felt like a decade ago that he had been sitting in the “reserved for family” seats of the music competition, pretending to be saving a spot for their “mom” in case she could make it out of the surgery in time. Or had he said she was a lawyer? The other parents showed such concern for the small and serious-faced Sam in his black suit that Matt had forgotten how many lies he’d spun. Matt, at nineteen, was only seven years older than Sam. He’d never signed up to take his brother on, but couldn’t and wouldn’t shirk his responsibilities.
But if Matt didn’t turn another three dates by the fifteenth, their landlord was going to kick them out. Mr. Strickland hadn’t upped the rent this year, but he had the utility bill of a grow-op. Matt’s apartment was a converted storeroom in the basement, and to assume that the illegal suite took half the padded bill infuriated Matt, but he had to keep his cool around Sam. The last thing he needed was for Sam to realize Mr. Strickland was being a jerk. Sam was almost twelve, but he would arrange so many “accidents” they’d be kicked out regardless. It wasn’t like they had a lease.
Married Guy turned back to look at him. Matt pulled himself together, getting ready to push to his feet. Normally, sex was like a handshake with a glove on. He didn’t have a glove on right now. Worrying about the weather and the money left him exhausted. He’d known this trip was coming and worked a whole day extra. Four dates meant a two-hundred-dollar cushion, but he’d forgotten about provincial taxes. Sam could still technically order from the kids’ menu, but then he was still hungry after he cleared his plate.
Matt had blown through most of the cushion before getting on the bus. Getting Sam a hamburger and a juice cleaned Matt out of the change he had. He kept looking at all the men slipping into the bathroom. If he got caught, they’d take Sam away.
Matt still had to pay for Christmas coming up. He leaned away from Sam to grab his backpack.
“Don’t,” Sam said, still asleep.
“We need the money,” Matt told him.
Sam didn’t answer because Sam was asleep.
Matt took out his phone and checked for new messages. None had arrived. He glanced over the texts from his semiregulars, but asking for a date meant cutting Matt’s rate in half, and he couldn’t suck a dick for twenty-five dollars.
Matt scrolled through the names. If he wanted to get fucked, any one of them would pay him four hundred dollars for the privilege. He rarely, if ever, sold his ass, so his rates were correspondingly high. Two fucks would pay for utilities and Christmas. Rory would pay for the motel Matt could ask Charlie to meet him at. He could even shower between them. It would take him two minutes to arrange the whole thing, and get it over with tomorrow afternoon, and then be done for the month.
He closed his eyes. The whole month off with no worries for an hour’s worth of work. And that wasn’t counting on any tips. He put his phone away. He’d rather hustle a dozen men for blowjobs in the next couple weeks. Matt hated getting fucked. There wasn’t a worse feeling in the world than the friction sliding inside him.
The man who brought him up, Bart, had started messing around with him the day after he brought twelve-year-old Matt into his home, but Matt had escaped getting fucked for three years. Raped. The word was “raped,” but Bart had done a great job making Matt feel like sex paid for his room and board.
Matt hated getting fucked so much. Until Sam came around, Matt had gotten out of it most of the time by kicking up such a fuss that Bart couldn’t hold him down and get his dick in. He was sure he got fucked more than he remembered, but each time Bart gave up was a victory.
Then came the possibility that Sam might come and stay with them. Matt had been fifteen. He’d begged Bart, but it had taken a promise of penetrative sex at least once a week to get him to agree to it. Matt rubbed his face. All the old times Bart got him still counted. His birthday. All the holidays.
Married Guy looked the type who would get angry when what he wanted wasn’t available. If he and Matt got into it, Matt knew it wouldn’t be the wealthy-looking guy in a suit the bus driver would leave behind on the side of the road. Married Guy sat back in his chair, no doubt sure that Matt would be up to negotiate soon.
Matt sat back too. He didn’t need anything that badly.
Blanket Guy glanced back to Matt. Matt froze, waiting for the man to look through him like all men in suits who were not trolling for sex did, but the man nodded, even going so far as to smile.
Matt was still gay, and Blanket Guy looked as though his muscle mass had been sculpted out of marble.
Matt froze. There was no one behind him, but he still didn’t assume that Blanket Guy meant to smile at him. Blanket Guy’s smile grew gently, in a yes, you way. Matt nodded back, not knowing what else to do.
Blanket Guy checked Matt out. Matt felt his ears warm. He didn’t have any time for nontransactional sex. A relationship was completely out of the question while he was dealing with Sam, and yet in that heartbeat he saw himself and Blanket Guy sitting in a car, Blanket Guy’s hand welcome on his knee. Matt wasn’t going to get a date. He didn’t know why was he thinking about anything long-term, but it was like accidentally falling off a cliff. He didn’t mean to do it, but there he was. The landing might cost him everything, but for several seconds he felt like he was flying.
In this moment, Matt actually wanted to have sex. He’d occasionally jerked off in the shower when he and Sam had been on their own, but that was just biology. Sex and fun were not things Matt knew how to equate. He was staring now and didn’t know what to do.
Matt looked over at Sam still sound asleep. Thinking about Sam was easier than thinking Matt and Blanket Guy were meant to be together. Maybe he would schedule the dates with two johns. Matt had grown to like punishments in a sick way. The panic settled down. He should try to keep Sam home in the morning so he didn’t go to school with black circles under his eyes. Sam needed the rest.
The fight might not be worth it. Sam was turning twelve at the end of the month, but he was ornery in a way that Matt could not have gotten away with. There was always a line that Matt couldn’t cross with Bart, even if he really didn’t want to get fucked. When Matt crossed that line, he paid for it. Sam never got stubborn with Bart. He knew Matt would pay for it with interest. Part of the deal was Bart could never touch Sam, not for any reason. Sam had been such a good boy when they were in the farmhouse. Matt knew it was bad parenting, but he loved every ounce of Sam’s stubbornness. Bart hadn’t beaten it out of him.
Blanket Guy gave Matt another look. Matt could have sworn he felt Blanket Guy wonder, briefly, what it would feel like to come on Matt’s stomach after he’d already brought Matt off. The intentions Matt sensed from people were usually never that specific and had only come to him when someone intended to harm him. The thought warmed Matt from his belly outward.
Married Guy stood and came toward them. Matt had opened himself completely to Blanket Guy’s attention. When he looked up into Married Guy’s round face, he learned Married Guy wanted to tie him up and fuck him with the massive dildo he carried. The thought was sickening for how naked and obvious it was. Dildos the size of coffee thermoses were novelty items.
Matt shifted so more of him could protect Sam from the man’s gaze. Married Guy licked his thick lips with his bloodless tongue, and Matt felt nauseated just looking at him.
As soon as Married Guy passed his seat, Blanket Guy stood. Matt should be worried about Sam, but the sneaking suspicion that the gentleman would be disappointed when he learned that Matt was a pro snuck in. Any john could get violent–Matt had learned that the hard way–but he knew the man would smile and take it as a just my luck.
Married Guy was still three rows away. It was going to get ugly. He noticed Sam’s head was cocked at a bad angle. Both his neon green earplugs were in. Matt saw the other one reflected in the window. He felt like a bad guardian, but that was all right. Matt was a bad guardian. Of all the problems Sam had, waking up with a stiff neck was one that Matt could do something about, and yet still he let Sam sleep.
Married Guy lumbered slowly between the seats. There was a chance he was just heading for the john, in which case Matt wouldn’t even have to look at him. Time slowed but didn’t stop, and neither did Married Guy. He leaned over them, his shadow black.
Matt wanted to cover Sam’s ears, even with the earplugs in. “What do you want?” Matt asked.
“I’ll give you a hundred bucks for five minutes.”
Matt knew the man wasn’t telling the truth about how much time it would take or how much money he would cough up. Matt let himself be hurt for money, but he needed a lot of money for it. “I’m not interested.”
Married Guy leaned in closer. “Two hundred.”
The blond man was right behind him. He had to have heard every word. Matt’s cheeks burned.
“Please leave us alone,” Matt said. If he gave this man any reason to take offense, he wasn’t going to be satisfied until Matt was left on the side of the highway. If Matt was getting off the bus, Sam was too.
The man’s wedding ring reflected the light the rest of his body blocked. He could have children. Matt tried to smile even through the fear of the bus driving off without them and leaving them on the side of the road. “It’s a school night,” Matt said. He kept his voice low. Sam’s breathing had changed. He was going to wake up any second. “Please just go.”
“How much to just put it in you?”
Matt’s eyes had adjusted. He looked the man in the eye and saw he was as much a prop to this man’s wants as the dildo he carried. If Blanket Guy hadn’t been on the bus, Matt would have offered Married Guy a handjob in the toilet just to keep him quiet. With Blanket Guy watching, Matt couldn’t do it, even if it left them on the side of the road. “I’m asking you to just go away.”
The blond man tapped Married Guy on the shoulder. “I believe he’s made himself quite clear,” he said. He didn’t so much have an accent but a clipped way of speaking that made each word sound exactly perfect. Matt’s heart switched between pounding with dread and racing. It couldn’t be good for the muscle. Most blond men Matt knew had fairly bland features, but the man was even more handsome this close. He couldn’t risk stealing any more glances.
“You his pimp?” Married Guy demanded.
Sam didn’t wake up. The motel had been the cheapest one Matt could find within walking distance of the competition, but it had been filthy and the foot traffic outside their door constant.
Blanket Guy put his hand an inch over Married Guy’s shoulder. The blond man’s face turned cold. He was obviously done trying to be polite. “Apologize to this young man and be on your way.”
Young man. Matt’s heart dropped. He didn’t want to stir paternal feelings with this man. He had no chance, and he knew it, but it broke him in half to think of being nothing more than just an anecdote Blanket Guy would have given over a cup of tea with his real significant other.
Matt didn’t need a meaningless forced apology. Sam was going to wake up and freak out, and then the bus would drive off, and Matt would be alone again, not even knowing Blanket Guy’s name.
“I’m sorry,” Married Guy said through gritted teeth.
“Sure, whatever,” he said. Meaningless words. He just didn’t want Sam to wake up. Married Guy stumbled as though he’d been pushed, even though the man just lifted his hand off his shoulder.
“Would you come and talk to me once your brother is settled?” the man asked.
Matt wanted to say no. He didn’t want to pretend he and Sam were going to be all right, because they weren’t. The man might even try to save his soul for Jesus. But he nodded without looking up. His disappointment was so bright the man had to see it burn through him. Matt would have to seriously look at his wardrobe if everything he wore screamed available and for hire even to nice people. The man went back to his seat.
The bus rolled on. Matt hoped Sam would wake up and give him a reason not to go. But almost immediately Sam settled back down, his head at a better angle.
Matt waited another five minutes. He had butterflies in his stomach. He grabbed his backpack that held all his supplies in an easily accessible front pocket from between his feet just in case, and stood.
It didn’t even feel like he was going to work. Matt headed down the aisle and stopped at the seats that offset the most handsome man in the universe’s row.
“Hey,” Matt said, feeling stupid just standing in front of him. People pay me for sex! He wanted to scream. I fuck up everything I touch. Matt swallowed before help me, please came out. He was falling again.
“Hello,” the man said. He kept his voice low and rumbly. “I’m Kevin.”
Matt hadn’t asked his name, but it thrilled him to know it. Kevin. It felt good just to repeat the sound of the vowels. Even if it had no power over the man. “That’s not your real name,” Matt said.
“It’s a nickname you can use until we get to know each other a bit better,” Not-Kevin but still Kevin said.
The name felt happy in Matt’s head. “Do you want to know mine?”
“Very much so,” Kevin said.
“It’s Matt,” Matt said, but for once it didn’t sound long enough.
“Matt,” Kevin repeated, and having his name roll around in Kevin’s mouth felt even better than Kevin’s had in Matt’s head. Matt touched his mouth, not understanding why he was smiling.
“Thank you, Kevin,” Matt said. His palms were sweating. He wiped them down on his thighs in case Kevin wanted to shake his hand. He didn’t know what Kevin wanted.
“You’re very welcome, Matt.”
That was the end of all the niceties Matt knew how to participate in. Kevin motioned Matt to sit down, even sliding over to the window so Matt could have the aisle seat. Matt was so beyond himself he probably would have slid over Kevin’s body and let Kevin box him in. His stomach still tickled, and his dick was getting hard enough that if it hadn’t been in his briefs it would be slapping his belly.
“Thank you,” Matt said. He’d already said that. Kevin was still smiling an I’m a good guy and think the best of the worldsmile that only decent people had. Matt could fool himself into believing that he sat next to Kevin in a nonprofessional manner.
Matt met Kevin’s beautiful blue-gray eyes. He had to make sure Kevin understood that he might be grinning like a fool, but he still needed money. “He wasn’t wrong about what I am.” And if that wasn’t blunt enough, Matt masochistically made himself spell it out. “I fuck guys for money.”
“You didn’t fuck that one,” Kevin said.
Matt covered his mouth with his hand, not sure if he was going to let a laugh or a sob escape. “It’s the first time I had standards. Say you don’t want to pay me, and I’ll go back to my seat.” He wanted to look away. He didn’t want Kevin to agree to it. That would cheapen him, and Matt didn’t want him cheapened. He wanted to memorize everything from the way Kevin smelled to the way he made Matt feel inside and use every detail to jerk off with the next time he found himself with an erection. This was the point where Kevin would stop himself, even if he’d let himself go this far with a pro. He was so squeaky-clean. Matt wanted to get him dirty.
He would have let Kevin fuck him in the truck stop and everything.
Kevin put his hand on Matt’s knee. Need rushed through Matt like a live wire. He wanted to yank the hand over his dick. He didn’t want to be subtle.
So he wasn’t. “You need to pay me,” Matt said, even while he was fighting his body not to slide Kevin’s fingers higher up his thigh.
Kevin pulled out his wad of bills held together with a gold clip. It wasn’t meant to impress Matt, though there were a lot of bills in it. “Is this enough?” Kevin removed the clip and fanned the bills out so they obviously weren’t a single twenty and some fives, though there were so many that even that would be enough. He showed Matt a hundred dollars.
“That’s not usually enough to fuck me,” Matt said, looking away. He didn’t know why he was so devastated. He didn’t want Kevin to think he was that cheap. Matt had sold himself for that little once, the first time, and he’d cried during the sex. At least the bastard had gotten off on it and it didn’t last long.
“Of course not,” Kevin said. Maybe he had paid for sex before. He spread the blanket over both their laps. A handjob, then. Matt had been paid less for more. He was nodding, but Kevin hadn’t finished talking. “Maybe I could touch you?”
“You want to touch me?” Matt repeated, feeling thick. Kevin lifted the armrest.
“May I?” Kevin asked.
Matt shrugged, but that wasn’t agreement. “I’d like that,” he said truthfully. He usually played what the john wanted. His range stretched from straight kid who needed the money to hesitant gay boy still exploring his sexuality to hardened whore just banging one out, but now he wasn’t wearing any of the masks. When Kevin brushed Matt’s stomach, he was touching Matt. “I’d like that a lot.” He held out his hand for the money, wishing he didn’t have to.
Kevin put the bills in his hand. Matt folded them up and stuffed them into his sock.
Matt wanted Kevin’s body pressed against his. The blanket was nice, though. He’d never felt cashmere before. It was so soft he couldn’t help rubbing it between his fingers.
Matt’s heart pounded, but his head felt like a helium balloon floating off his neck. Matt had always been sensitive to smells, and the chairs still carried the scent of other, less clean people, but Kevin worked for him. The aftershave complemented the smell of his skin and sweat, making him a real person. Matt felt himself getting harder. “Is there anything I can do for you?” Matt asked, feeling as though he had to ask from a professional standpoint.
“Just lie back and enjoy yourself. You can even close your eyes if you want.”
Matt was about to ask if he could. “You don’t…” he began, but there was nothing in Kevin’s wide-open face that said he was being deceitful. “Guys have done this before, but they do it so they can watch me do it.”
“I don’t want you to think about them. I want you to enjoy this,” Kevin said. He flicked open Matt’s jeans with a single hand, something Matt couldn’t even do. “Would you like to wear protection?”
“I don’t… I do, I always do, always for everything,” Matt sputtered. Kevin was running his fingers over Matt’s lower belly, down the line of fine hair. Matt kept himself shaved, but he hadn’t, not for days. He hadn’t thought he’d work in BC. “I’d like to feel your hand,” Matt said and held his breath. Some guys were latex freaks.
“I’m glad,” Kevin said. “You can relax. I won’t try to use my mouth. I wouldn’t without your permission, and I haven’t been that bendy since I was a young man your age.”
Everything was going too perfectly. “Lube?” he asked. He didn’t like dry skin on dry skin. Suddenly, he wanted Kevin to explode in anger. He knew he didn’t deserve how nice this was. “Please.”
Kevin pulled his hand away from Matt’s skin. Matt got out the sample size he liked. He’d seen one too many cheap bottles of lube that still had pubic hair sticking to the cap that he paid extra for the simple, disposable yet amply proportioned soy-sauce-packet size. He tore it open with his teeth and squeezed the slippery water-based lube on Kevin’s outstretched palm.
“You probably already have a way you like doing it,” Matt said. Kevin was paying him, after all. This had to be his kink.
“It’s your dick. How do you like it?”
Matt pulled his briefs down. His cock slapped his belly he was so turned on. “However you like it,” he said automatically. The noise of the bus let them speak at conversational tones in their own privacy bubble. Anyone standing over them wouldn’t hear what they had to say. “Do you want me to tell you how I do it when I’m alone? I’d rather not, but if that’s your thing…” He let his voice trail off, watching Kevin’s face intently for any signs of anger.
“How do you want it done here?” Kevin asked. He worked the lube from his palm to his fingers, so that the first time he touched Matt, his fingers glided over Matt’s skin. Matt sucked in his breath, pushing his weight down on his elbow on the aisle armrest so he could drive his dick up into Kevin’s fingers.
“If I wasn’t so turned on, I’d like it nice and slow,” Matt said. “Carefully, so I could trust you not to yank it like it’s a slot machine arm, but I like this, and I like you, and I…trust you not to hurt me. Please don’t hurt me. We both know you can.”
“Do you know I won’t?”
“I know anyone can,” Matt whispered. “But you’re so beautiful. I know that has nothing to do with trust, but I still trust you.” Matt was breaking all his rules. Kevin pulled up his shirt under the blanket. Matt grabbed hold of Kevin’s arm with his ungooey hand.
Kevin’s suit hid how muscular his body was. Matt was just shy of six feet and felt protected sitting next to Kevin. It wasn’t a feeling he’d ever wanted, but he liked it as much as he’d liked Kevin’s name.
“Was your trip business or pleasure?” Kevin asked, his voice a low rumble.
Matt’s brain wanted to ignore the question and focus on the low vibrations of how his dick would feel down Kevin’s throat, but life wasn’t fair. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Matt said. “Could we not?”
Matt slid his hand across Kevin’s lower belly. He didn’t need to move it down much lower to realize they were both hard. His warning system that said to stay home some days or not to get into a certain car when he had worked the streets told him Sam couldn’t be left alone for too long.
Kevin’s fingers were colder than Matt’s but long and strong as they wrapped around him. Kevin didn’t seem to mind Matt’s hand on his jerking-off hand. Kevin’s arm felt so sturdy that Matt didn’t think he could pull him away, but Kevin would stop the moment it was uncomfortable. Matt had to believe that was true. “Most people don’t pay for this.”
“I’m not most people.”
Matt had turned money down before because he felt bad about the situation, but he wasn’t ready to let Kevin’s arm go. “Could you go easy at the beginning?”
“How do you do it?” Kevin asked.
Matt’s cheeks warmed. He’d already said he didn’t want to talk about what he did. But obviously Kevin wasn’t as perfect as he was in Matt’s head. “The usual way,” Matt said. He was vulnerable now with his jeans down over his hips. If Kevin went full-on crazy, Matt would definitely be on the side of the road.
Kevin’s cheeks grew pink. “I meant letting strangers touch you.”
Matt shrugged. His movement slid Kevin’s hand up and down his dick a quarter inch, and that was nice. His grip could be tighter, though. “It’s a job. Most people are nice.”
“But how do you know if they are nice?”
He was using Matt’s word out of politeness, but that wasn’t what he was asking.
“Do you want to hear bad-trick stories?” Matt asked. Some guys got off on that alone. Matt didn’t give his history up for anything less than a couple hundred and dinner. He knew what the guys who asked did with the specifics. “Do you want to hear about the cigarette burns or what happened to my wrist?” His wrist wasn’t a bad-trick story, and if Kevin wanted details, Matt could deal with it. He had misjudged people before.
But he didn’t have any right to snap at Kevin. He was suddenly too sensitive. He lifted his hips up off the seat. Kevin’s fingers could have squeezed him, and the pain would have doubled Matt over. He wished he’d put on a mental glove before he started, but he’d said he’d wanted to feel Kevin’s touch.
The lube stayed cold and jellylike on Kevin’s fingers until he spread it all the way along Matt’s length. As much as Matt wanted to enjoy this, Kevin’s smell edged him along to the point Matt couldn’t slow it down faster than he wanted. He shifted away from Kevin.
“Please slow it down a tad,” Matt said, as gently as he could.
Kevin stopped instantly. “Did I hurt you?”
“No!” Matt said, breathless. He was supposed to be the pro at this. He didn’t want to just take the money and come. “Just the opposite. If you want your money’s worth, you’re going to want to slow down,” Matt said, face red. He never said he was a good whore.
“Do you want me to slow down?” Kevin asked, his voice as soft as his touch.
Matt knew what he should have said as a pro whore. Kevin wanted to believe that Matt had never felt this good. And it was true; he hadn’t, but he couldn’t make himself say it. He looked away. He might have to give the money back, but he didn’t care. “Not really.”
“Then sit back and relax,” Kevin said.
If anyone else had told Matt that, it would have been a good time to grab his backpack and bolt, but it felt so good to do what Kevin told him.