“Do you think this seems good?”
Owen looked around at the huge basement room in Gavin’s house, which they’d transformed into a field of blankets, pillows, air mattresses, and snack tables. “Yeah, I’d say it seems good.”
“Okay,” Gavin said, nodding. “Cool. Should be fun.”
Owen put his arm around Gavin, grinning. “It’s going to be awesome, Gavin.”
He knew Gavin was nervous about hosting this sleepover—which was hilarious, because Gavin didn’t get nervous about telling off the Prime Minister for his environmental positions, but apparently he was nervous about having a bunch of guys over to sleep in his house. It was cute.
“I just want people to have a good time.”
“There’s food and their friends are going to be here and you’ve got everything they could ever want set up down here,” Owen assured him. “They’re going to have fun.” Owen didn’t actually know a bunch of the guys who were coming. It had turned into one of those ‘invite your friends, invite their friends’ things, but that was cool. There was nothing like being half dressed with a bunch of guys at three in the morning to build friendships.
Speaking of which… “We’re already violating the dress code,” Owen told Gavin, gesturing at both of them and their totally-dressed states. They’d all decided in advance on Facebook that it was pyjamas or underwear and that was the only acceptable clothing to wear. A few guys had asked whether no clothing was acceptable, which they’d decided to play by ear for now.
Gavin grinned at him. “We’ve got a bit of time before anyone gets here. Let’s go get changed. And maybe we can break in a few of those air mattresses.”
Owen laughed and started to lead Gavin away. It was going to be a good night.
“About the dress code,” James said as they pulled into the driveway.
“You worried?” Ron asked, parking.
“No.” James hefted his bag. He hadn’t wanted to come to this sleepover, but Ron had convinced him. His bag was full of sketchbooks and other books and his deck of Tarot cards and other paraphernalia in case he got bored, though Ron was pretty sure some of it was destined to make him kind of popular, especially as it got later into the night. “I just want to say that if the dress code gets relaxed like your cousin was saying on the computer, feel free to wear what you want.”
Ron smiled, and he kissed James on the cheek. “Okay. It’s going to be fun.”
“If you say so.”
They got out, went up the walkway to Owen’s boyfriend’s swank as hell house, where they rang the bell and were let in by Owen, in a t-shirt and boxers branded with his favourite hockey team. “Hey!” Owen punched Ron in the arm. “You’re here! Hi James.”
“Hello, Owen. I see your commitment to sports runs deep. That’s a baseball team, right?”
“Close enough,” Ron said, before Owen could make a crack. They came into the house, ditching their shoes by the door, and followed Owen to the basement. “Fuck, I always forget that you dated rich.”
“The rich was a secondary benefit,” Owen said. “I’m glad you guys came.”
“Ron made me. He promised food and fun.”
“We’ve got those in spades,” Owen promised, leading them downstairs, to where Gavin was sitting on an air mattress, scrolling through his phone, also in a t-shirt and boxers, branded with very much the wrong hockey team.
“Why are you dating him again?” Ron asked, glaring.
“It’s an eternal mystery,” Owen grumbled, while Gavin gave them the finger. “Anyway, come on in and get comfortable. Everyone else should be getting here soon.”
“Hi, James,” Gavin said, waving. “Thank you for bringing someone to distract Owen so the big boys can play uninterrupted. They can sit in the corner and talk about sports while we have fun.”
“Don’t you like sports too?” James asked, looking around as he set his bag down, carefully unbuttoning his pants.
“Yeah, but only the teams worth liking. Come on in, we’ve got lots of food and stuff. Some of it’s even healthy.”
“Gods forbid,” James said, smiling.
Ron smiled at Owen. “Thanks for the invite,” he said.
“Course,” Owen said, patting his shoulder. “I need someone who’s not a heretic on my side. Now take your pants off.”
“Oh, I forgot to ask,” Cal said, but only after they’d gotten there, gotten inside and were about to change. He smiled at Sully. “What were you going to sleep in?”
“Just…my clothes, I guess?” Sully said with a shrug. “I usually don’t bother with anything, but with people around…”
“Mm,” Cal said, grinning at Wes and Mick as the three of them started taking shirts off. “Thing is, it’s pyjamas or underwear only. Got to take something off, Sully.”
“What…” Sully’s face went a little splotchy. “You waited until we were here on purpose.” Looking around, the proof of Cal’s statement was everywhere. Nobody already here was dressed in anything remotely resembling Sully’s jeans.
“Yeah.” Cal stole Wes’s discarded shirt and pulled it on, then undid his belt and dropped his pants. Behind him, Mick was stripping down to his wife beater and boxers, and Wes was shucking his clothes entirely—it was an all guys’ sleepover, nobody gave a damn about someone changing—and fished a pair of pyjama pants out of his bag, which he stepped into. “Come on, clothes off, you want to fit in.”
“I don’t…you know I don’t wear underwear, you asshole.”
Cal grinned. He did know that. So he slid his own briefs off, Wes’s shirt big enough to fall to his knees, and he tossed them at Sully. “Got you covered.”
“Ew, no. Gross.”
“They’re clean, I only put them on after I showered,” Cal said, affronted. “This morning.”
“You have to stop hazing me at some point.”
Cal shrugged, patted Sully on the shoulder and headed into the room proper, leaving him there holding Cal’s briefs. “Maybe.”
“Do you plan to stop hazing him ever?” Mick asked as they headed for the snack table.
“Who knows?” Cal asked. “I was thinking I could go easier on him after this. Is he changing?”
“Yep,” Wes confirmed, chuckling. “Swearing all the way.”
“Good. One of us has to make sure to get a picture of him before he takes them off.” Cal was a little relieved. Those things had been too tight for him, and wearing them all day would have been a waste if Sully had decided to buck expectations. But Sully was eminently predictable, fortunately.
“I think we can manage. Hey, board games.”
“Ooh,” Cal said, distracted. “I see Arkham Horror. I wonder if we could convince a few people to play.”
“Probably,” Mick said, laughing. “Not like anyone was planning to sleep.”
“Exactly. Fan out and do some recruiting,” Cal ordered, making an imperious gesture.
They did just that, preparing for a good evening.
“Pretty sure those are mine.”
Isaac didn’t even look up from the table as he got chips for himself and Peter. “Funny, because I’m the one wearing them.”
“Yeah, but see, I was wearing them when I came in,” the angular guy said, arms crossed.
Isaac looked down at his boxers, which he’d found on the ground a few minutes ago. He was switching pairs every time he found one abandoned, which was happening surprisingly often considering there was minimal touching of anything at this sleepover. “Found them on the floor,” he said, shrugging. “I left you a pair. Which you’re wearing.”
In the red and black boxer briefs Isaac had left him, the guy nodded. “But I don’t want your underwear, I want mine.”
“Ah, but those aren’t mine either,” Isaac said, smiling at the guy. He was pretty cute. “You know in video games when you find new equipment and you’ve just got to put it on, but you don’t have enough room in your inventory so you ditch the old stuff? Hi, I’m Isaac.”
“Jay.” And Jay laughed. “Fine. Losing battle.”
“I won’t ask why you left them lying around,” Isaac promised, holding up two plates of food. Peter was perfectly capable of getting his own food, but Isaac was perfectly capable of spoiling people too. “If you want them back, play me in Mario Kart over there? If you win we can make an arrangement.”
“And if I lose?”
Isaac grinned, got in Jay’s space a little, their chests touching. “We’ll make a different arrangement. I have to take this to my friend over there.”
“I’ll meet you at the game soon, then.”
“See you there, Jay,” Isaac said, sauntering off to feed Peter. He was having a good time.
“Are you winning?”
Pax frowned, taking the bowl of pretzels Nate offered him and turning back to frown at the game board. “I…don’t think this is a game you can be ‘winning,’ per se.”
“Is that a roundabout way of saying you’re losing?”
“No, he’s right,” Wes said, rolling the dice back and forth in his hand. “Stuff just kind of happens until the game ends and we all get devoured by some horrific creature from beyond.”
“Oh,” Nate said, resting his hand on Pax’s back. “Well, that sounds fun.”
“It is?” Pax confirmed, though he wasn’t super sure it was yet. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense. I was lured in with the promise of there being lots of rules and a convoluted gameplay structure, but I’m not sure that there actually are rules or a gameplay structure, I think Cal is just making it all up as he goes along.”
“He probably is,” Wes confirmed, stealing one of Pax’s pretzels even though Pax didn’t think that they were ‘stealing other’s food’ friends yet.
“It seems like the kind of game where that would happen,” Peter agreed, looking at the board. “I think it’s part of the appeal.”
“Well, Pax makes it up as he goes along most of the time,” Nate told Wes. Nate and Wes played football together, so they were friends. “It’s part of his appeal. So they’re a good fit.”
“Hey,” Pax looked over his shoulder, glaring at Nate. “I never make anything up.”
“Maybe a little bit,” Pax admitted, deterred a little because it was hard to glare at Nate for long when he was dressed in the funny novelty boxers Pax had gotten him for his birthday and nothing else.
Pax, for himself, was wearing perfectly sensible pyjamas, and screw whatever social convention secretly existed here that had led almost nobody else to wear proper sleepwear.
“Yeah. Alright, Cal’s on his way back from the bathroom, so I’ll leave you to it,” Nate said, standing up. “Let me know how it goes.”
“There were fire vampires for a while,” Pax said, frowning at the board. “But then something happened and now they’ve gone in a cup.”
“That happens sometimes in Arkham,” Mick told him. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”
“At least you didn’t try to read the Necronomicon and get trapped in…somewhere?” Leo asked, tilting his head and squinting at the somewhere where he was trapped.
Pax shrugged. “It’s okay. Weird shit and eldritch abominations don’t bother me much. The main thing that I’m pleased about is that there haven’t been any birds yet. As long as there continue not to be birds, then we’ll be fine.”
“I don’t think there are birds,” Mick said with a frown, seeming to think. “Could be wrong. We can ask Cal.”
“Let’s not,” Pax suggested, as Cal returned. “I don’t want the answer to be yes, then I’d be sitting here worrying about them. Let’s just go back to doing…whatever the fuck.”
“Ah, now you’re getting into the spirit,” Cal said, nodding at Wes. “Let’s go.”
“Come on, you should do it.”
“I’m not going to do it,” Edwin grumbled. “It’s stupid.”
“It’s fun. Have fun, Ed. Stop being boring.”
Edwin sighed, about half a second away from elbowing Ty in the gut. “Okay, God.”
“That’s the spirit—Hey James, do Ty next!”
“Sure,” James said, shuffling his Tarot cards. He beckoned for Edwin to come closer, which Edwin did, reluctantly.
“To be clear, I don’t believe in this stuff. I’m doing it so my friend will be quiet,” Edwin explained.
James just nodded, smiling kind of mysteriously. How anyone could be mysterious in a baggy t-shirt for a Norwegian metal band, Edwin didn’t know, but James pulled it off. “That’s okay. You don’t have to believe in it. It’s just fun, right?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Edwin muttered, looking at the cards when James held them out to him.
“Shuffle them for a minute,” James told him, still smiling. “And while you’re doing that, I want you to think about a question.”
“What kind of question?” Edwin asked, taking the cards warily.
“Whatever kind you like. The cards can’t help you answer a question you don’t have, so think of something that’s going on in your life that you want an answer to. Even if it’s something simple like how you’re going to do on a test, or something big like whether you’ll find true love. You don’t have to tell me your question, just keep it in your mind.”
Edwin snorted, but he looked away, shuffling the cards. “Whatever question I want?”
Edwin shuffled for a minute, thinking. The only question he really had that he could think of was whether he’d ever live up to the standard Erik was always setting for him. “Okay,” he said.
“Now take three cards and put them on the table,” James said, waving at the small coffee table. It wasn’t the most occult thing Edwin had ever seen.
“Alright,” Edwin said. He laid the top three cards on the table, facedown in a row.
James smiled again, and took the deck back, turning it around in his hands. “Interesting.”
“That you laid them facedown.”
Edwin frowned. “Was I not supposed to?” James hadn’t told him that.
“There is no supposed to,” James told him, patting Edwin’s arm. “But it tells me that you don’t like the idea of your destiny being in your own hands, that you want intervention from someone else.”
“Well, that’s crap,” Edwin said, clearing his throat. Ty was snickering beside him.
“Probably, most fortune telling is. Do you want me to turn them over for you?”
“And have you tell me I’m afraid of the future? No.” Edwin looked down at the cards.
“You could ask Tyler to do it if you don’t want to,” James offered.
“I could…how did you know his name?”
James smiled again. “Magic.”
“Magic isn’t real,” Edwin said.
Edwin would be lying if he said he wasn’t a little wigged out. He looked at Ty, nodded at the table.
Ty laughed. “Probably just heard you say my name before,” he said, reaching down to turn over the first card.
“Yeah,” Edwin agreed, though he was kind of unsure suddenly.
“The Sword,” James said, looking down at the hand-painted card, which was pointing right at Edwin. “Usually represents conflict, but it can also point to justice, which is usually a related idea. Of course, it could just be a phallic metaphor, especially with where it’s pointed right now. I wouldn’t put it past my cousin.”
Edwin coloured a little, drew a pillow into his lap. “So what, my future’s going to be full of dick?”
“There are quite a lot of them here,” James said, looking around. “Maybe it’s a message about your present.”
Edwin snorted. “Take off my shorts and everything’ll be fine?” He didn’t like the idea of conflict in his future.
“Maybe.” James smiled again. “Your destiny is yours to make, Edwin. Flip over the next card?”
“And it’s not that I expect him to drop his boyfriend and get with me or anything, it’s just why does every boy I like have to get with someone else?”
Sam was at a loss. He didn’t know who Hector was or why he was venting all his romantic problems to Sam. “It’s because you’d rather sit and whinge about it to me than do something about it,” Sam told him, making a face. “If you want him to like you, fucking tell him and don’t let him date someone else.”
“Well…yeah.” Hector said, sighing, shifting and making the air mattress they were sitting on move. “I guess that’s, you know. Smart.”
“It’s common sense,” Sam told him. “Why are you even telling me this anyway? You don’t know me.”
“Sometimes it’s easier to vent to a stranger than a friend, you know?” Hector asked. “And you seem cool. Like you’ve got your shit together and stuff.”
“I don’t have a choice but to have my shit together,” Sam told him, wishing Henry hadn’t made him come to this stupid thing. Why it was fun to sit in his underwear and listen to some stranger complain he didn’t know? He also didn’t know why it was taking Henry so long to come back with his food. “I’d get eaten alive if I didn’t.”
“That’s rough,” Hector said, moving again. “You want to talk about it? Only fair after I complained to you about Gavin for ages.”
Sam didn’t want to tell Hector about the board of directors and his father’s friends and Henry or anything else. He didn’t need to talk to someone, that was stupid. “I’m fine. I don’t have friends who I…vent to. I just figure my own problems out.”
“Hey,” Hector said, hand brushing Sam’s hand briefly. “You must have friends. What about that guy you came here with?”
Sam snorted. “That’s just Henry.”
“But you wish he was?” Hector asked, voice a little sing-song. It was very annoying.
“No,” Sam repeated, making a face. He moved his hand away from Hector.
“I don’t lie.”
“That’s what liars always say, trust me, my mom’s a politician.” Hector took Sam’s hand, gave him a tug. “Come on, come over here.”
“No, what are you doing?” Sam asked, resisting as Hector tried to get him to stand up.
“I’m going to introduce you to all my friends.”
“I don’t need…”
“We can sit and complain about boys together, come on. It’ll be fun.”
“I…” Hector had said his mother was part of the government, Sam realized. He sighed, stood up. Maybe this could be useful. “Fine. I’ll meet your friends. But we’re not talking about boys.”
“We’re talking about boys,” Hector said, slowly pulling Sam somewhere. He must have been kicking things away, because Sam’s walking path was clear.
“If you bring up Henry to them I’m telling them all about your problems with Gavin.”
“Oh, that’s…cold. You’re mean.”
Sam smirked, letting Hector lead him. “You have no idea.”
“Did we lose Simon?” Daniel asked, looking around.
“He’s over there with his new friends,” Hugh said, nodding to where Simon was sitting on an air mattress, giggling and playing cards with three other boys close to his age.
“Aw, he found people he likes better than us.”
“Whatever,” Marcus said, grinning. “Now that he’s not here we can swear and talk about sex.”
“Okay, but…” Daniel looked at Hugh, who shrugged. “We’re not actually going to do that, right? Cause the punch is good but if you expect me to talk about sex with you it’s going to need to be a lot better than this.”
“Also, we swear when Simon is with us,” Hugh reminded Marcus.
“Whatever,” Marcus muttered, leaning back. “The point is Simon’s fine. You guys think we can stay up all night, or will someone pass out before then?”
“You’re likely to pass out before them,” Daniel told him.
Marcus rolled his eyes. “Just for that I’m sleeping on top of you.”
“You drool in your sleep.”
A grin. “I know.”
“You’re gross,” Daniel told him, reaching out for the chips and finding their bag empty. Hugh had eaten them all again.
“Can confirm,” Hugh said, nodding. “Speaking of which, can you move your leg or fix your shorts? You’re falling out of them.”
Marcus was in fact falling out of the left side of his shorts, and he shifted in a way that made it worse. “You could just stop looking,” he said with a grin.
“Or you could stop flashing us,” Hugh shot back.
“You’re just jealous.” Marcus smirked.
“He’s a coward,” Daniel said, watching Marcus carefully.
“Wants us to see him but he’s too nervous to just take his shorts off,” Daniel continued, not breaking eye contact. “Come on, Marcus. Don’t half-ass it. Be a man and just take it off.”
Marcus held eye contact with Daniel for a full two seconds before he looked away, face red as he adjusted his shorts and covered himself properly. “Pervert.”
“Never lost a game of chicken in my life and I’m not going to start,” Daniel bragged. “I want more chips.”
“Then go get some, perv,” Marcus said, tossing a pillow at him.
“You’re the one who wants them,” Hugh said, smirking.
“You’re the one who ate them!”
Hugh shrugged, tossing another pillow at Daniel.
Daniel narrowed his eyes. “You guys suck,” He muttered, getting up and dusting himself off.
“Get us some punch while you’re up!”
“Fuck off,” Daniel said, since Simon wasn’t here.
He got them punch anyway.
“I’m tired,” Franz complained, resting his head on Boey’s shoulder.
“If you fall asleep,” Boey warned, “someone is going to draw on you and post embarrassing pictures on Facebook.”
“I know,” Franz whinged. “But you’d protect me, right?”
Boey laughed. “Who do you think is going to take the pictures?”
Franz huffed, which turned into a yawn. “Traitor.”
“Stop expecting me to be on your side all the time and you’ll be a lot happier.”
“Probably,” Franz grumbled, stretching a little. “I should go for a walk to wake up.”
“How do you fall asleep in a brightly-lit room with like forty guys making noise everywhere?”
Franz shrugged. “Old before my time, I guess.” He got up, stretched again, and started to wander.
He only wandered about a third of the way across the room when Gavin grabbed him. “How are you doing, brother mine?”
“Trying to stay awake,” Franz told him. “Where’s your knight?”
“Who knows,” Gavin said, waving a hand.
Franz smirked, sat down beside him. “With all these guys around in states of undress, I’d think you’d be more worried.”
Gavin shrugged, looking over at the food tables. Franz had watched him running up and down the stairs all night, making sure that nothing was empty. It seemed tiring. “I’ve trained him pretty well. Besides, as long as he comes back at the end of the night I don’t mind.”
“An awfully enlightened position for you to take,” Franz commented, neutral.
“An awfully generous one for a spoiled brat like me, you mean?” Gavin asked, poking Franz’s leg. “It’s secretly selfish.”
Franz looked at Gavin. “Because you’re hoping he’ll bring someone back for you?”
“See, I knew Gabrielle kept you around for a reason.” Gavin flashed a grin. “He’s never taken me up on it.”
“Someday. Are you having a good time?”
Franz smiled at him. “Yes. And you should stop worrying about whether people are having a good time.”
“Look around,” Franz said, waving at the crowd of guys, laughing and hanging out and eating and very much not sleeping. “Everyone’s having a good time. You should have a good time too.”
Gavin sighed. “I guess you’re right.”
Franz stood, nodding. “Come on, they’re going to have an arm wrestling tournament over there. Let’s go compete.”
“You think I can win an arm wrestling competition?”
“No, but I have every confidence in your ability to cheat and call in Owen as illegal backup,” Franz laughed. “And I know how you like winning.”
“I do like winning,” Gavin admitted, getting up with a grin. “Alright, let’s go.”
Franz didn’t feel as tired all of the sudden.
The problem with all of this was that there really needed to be a room they could go in for some privacy, Travis thought. It was hard to look at Joey, wearing a pair of Travis’s boxers that were hanging loose on him, and not want to just…go somewhere private for a bit.
But there wasn’t, or at least Travis wasn’t going to go hunting through someone else’s house to look for one, so he had to make do with trying to win at Smash Bros instead.
The problem was that Joey knew full well what was happening, and was not above taking advantage of it.
Which was why Travis was currently losing very badly to Joey, who was sitting in his lap, sticking his tongue out as he mashed buttons in a game he wasn’t even good at.
“Boom,” Joey said, as Travis’s last life exploded. “You suck.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Travis sighed, setting the controller down and putting his head on Joey’s shoulder to watch him lose miserably to the other two guys they were playing with.
“You both kind of suck,” one of those guys said. His name was Nicholas.
“I’m usually better than this,” Travis promised. “I don’t usually have a dead weight sitting on me.”
Travis grinned, wrapping his arms around Joey’s middle. “If you expect to win this battle, you might want to go sit on someone else now.”
“I’m good enough to win without cheating.”
“Sitting on me isn’t cheating?”
“Sitting on you is affection,” Joey said, wiggling a little. “And doing you a favour.”
“You’d be awfully embarrassed if everyone could see your lap right now,” Joey teased. And he wasn’t wrong. “I’m helping you out by hiding it.”
“This problem only exists because you’re sitting on me,” Travis hissed.
“Guys, keep it in your pants,” Warren, their other player, said.
“We’ll see,” Joey said, giggling. “Oh, fuck,” he said, tensing as he lost a life. “Jerk.”
“Not my fault you don’t know where the block button is,” Nicholas muttered, the set of his shoulders indicating he was taking this seriously.
“Maybe I should sit on someone else,” Joey muttered, giving him the evil eye as he respawned.
“Nope,” Travis said, keeping his arms wrapped tightly. “You picked your seat, you’re stuck here now.”
Not even for the embarrassment factor. If Joey was going to make Travis lose, Travis fully intended to return the favour.
“Do we even know anyone here?”
Aaron shrugged, biting into a carrot. “Probably, or else how did we get invited?”
“I don’t see anyone we know,” Seth said.
“You’re used to seeing the people we know in clothes, that’s all,” Aaron assured him. “Have some food.”
“I do like food,” Seth muttered, looking at the table instead. “I mean, it’s fun and all. Just weird.”
“We’ll find someone we know,” Aaron assured him, looking around, partially to find someone they knew and partially to stop looking at Seth for a bit. Those bikini briefs suited him too well.
“Looking for friends?” Someone asked, coming up to them with a plate of food. A tallish, muscular guy in boxer briefs, he smiled at them.
“We’ll find them eventually,” Aaron said, smiling at him. “Or make new ones, I guess.”
“That’s a plan. Henry.”
“Aaron, and my friend, Seth.”
“Hi,” Seth told Henry, always eloquent.
“I don’t know many people either,” Henry said. “You want to admire the food together?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Aaron laughed. “It’s nice looking food.”
“Tell me about it.”
There, Aaron thought. Now they knew someone here.
Jesse was a little surprised. TV had always made it seem like all-boys sleepovers would inevitably end up with touching and squishing and size comparisons and sexy pillow fights and gay chicken, and possibly an orgy or something after the lights finally went out, and well…
Not all of that was happening, but the vibe was there and he wasn’t disappointed in what he’d seen so far. Apparently, for once, TV had been right about something, and that was kind of awesome.
“You look like you’re having fun.”
Jesse looked up, smiling at the guy standing there in front of him. His name was Jacob, Jesse had heard someone say it before. “Yeah. I am.”
“I know, I meant that seriously, not as sarcasm. You were smiling and looking around and stuff like you were having some sort of inner monologue about the sleepover and how fun it was.” Jacob sat down beside him.
“I was doing exactly that,” Jesse admitted, laughing. “People watching. My creepy hobby.”
“Well, there’s a lot of people to watch here,” Jacob grinned, looking around the room. “Want to make bets on who’s going to sneak away for some hormone time first?”
Jesse tittered. “Well, those two already have,” he said, pointing to the host and his redheaded friend. “As for who goes next…”
“My money’s on Isaac and someone,” Jacob said, pointing out a slender guy with dark hair. Cute. “Don’t know who yet. It’s always a bit of a toss-up.”
“The little guy with the grey hair over there is getting impatient too,” Jesse said, pointing him out as he hung on his partner.
“Alright, it’s on. Let’s get a drink and see who’s right. Loser has to admit the winner’s creep supremacy.”
Jesse couldn’t help but laugh again. “Deal.”
“The thing is,” Edwin explained to Leo, talking slowly so Leo wouldn’t think he was crazy. “Fortune telling isn’t totally bunk. I mean, people can’t see the future, obviously, but the world works in patterns, right? So all you need to do is…”
Edwin was interrupted by a tap on the back of his head. “The hell?”
Owen was up there grinning at him like an idiot. It was his ordinary grin. Edwin’s stomach sank a little, because it never presaged anything good. “What do you want?”
“I need your guys’s help,” Owen said. “Get pillows, we’re having a pillow fight. I want you guys on my team.”
“Pillow fights don’t have teams, dumbass,” Edwin told him, narrowing his eyes. As if he’d be on Owen’s team even if they did.
“This one does. Don’t you want to beat Gavin?”
Edwin perked up. “Yes. Let’s go. Ty, hand me that pillow.”
Owen grinned again. “Good. Have to go get Nicholas. It’s going to be fun, plus we won’t lose the bet, so there’s that.”
And there was the other shoe. Edwin glared. “What bet?” He knew Gavin well enough to have an idea. “I’m not being his servant boy all night.”
“No, no, nothing like that,” Owen assured him, turning to go find Nicholas. “I bet him your boxer shorts, that’s all.”
“What, mine? Owen!”
It was too late, though, Owen was already off, laughing.
Growling, Edwin grabbed a pillow and prepared to fight.
The pillow fight was a sight to see. It started out between two organized groups of a few guys each, but rapidly grew to encompass others, until everyone at the sleepover was involved, pillows flying, hitting sweaty bodies, guys laughing and shouting and falling over as they pummelled and were pummelled in return.
Whatever sides or teams there had been had dissolved after the first fifteen minutes, and now Isaac was just fighting for his life, rarely attacking except when he was attacked first, though he had gotten in a good hit on Nicholas’s backside earlier.
Blood was pumping in his ears, his chest and elsewhere, and Isaac wasn’t the only one as the war waged on, nobody safe from being pounded, though Peter had bowed out a while ago to go sit with Sam.
A pillow to his back had Isaac turning to face a guy named Marcus, who immediately went for his belly. Isaac dodged to one side and hit him upside the head, then followed up with a shot that accidentally took him between the legs. “Sorry!” Hitting below the belt was a bad move, everyone knew that.
It was an unwritten rule, and the unwritten consequence was that you stood there and let the other guy hit you back, so Isaac held out his arms and waited while Marcus straightened. “It’s okay,” he breathed, recovering. Then he grinned, and took his revenge.
It wasn’t the worst ever, but Isaac doubled over, noting that Marcus didn’t wait before hitting him on the back and putting him on the floor, standing over him with pillow raised.
Isaac smiled weakly. “Mercy?”
Marcus looked Isaac over, grinning. “Maybe we can work out terms of surrender.”
The fight raged on a while longer, until they were all exhausted, sweaty and out of breath, laying on the floor in piles, fully satisfied and urges quelled for the time being.
“I would just like to say that I was the clear winner of that pillow fight by any reasonable metric,” Pax grumbled, while Nate played with his hair.
“I don’t think pillow fights have winners. The whole point is to get hit with pillows. Also it was a team sport.”
“This one had a winner,” Pax insisted. “And it was me. And everyone else is just a sore loser.”
“That’s better, I like it when you agree with me.”
“I always agree with you, Pax,” Nate said, smiling. Pax couldn’t see him smiling, but he was. And that made Pax smile too.
“Good.” Pax nodded. “And while I understand that losing is frustrating, I just don’t feel it was necessary to take out that frustration on me.”
“It was harmless, and you had it coming.”
“Pantsing someone is never the appropriate response.”
“I’m serious! There are no problems in the world that are solved by yanking someone’s pants down. Also, I want my pants back. Why won’t you tell me who has them?”
“You’ve got underwear on.”
“That’s hardly the point. Now my clothes don’t match.”
“You could take your shirt off,” Nate suggested.
That was, Pax thought, a perfectly logical response to what he’d just said. He sighed. “I’m just saying, I shouldn’t be punished for winning.”
“I think the pantsing was meant to be a reward.”
Pax started to form a rebuttal, but then he thought about it, scowling a little. In this crowd, that was probably true.
“I still want my pants back.”
Sam had completely lost control of his life, and he wasn’t sure who to kill to fix that.
Sitting out the stupid pillow fight—which would have gone super well for him, obviously—apparently meant in someone’s mind that sitting out the next activity was forbidden, so here he was, sitting in a circle with some others.
Playing spin the bottle.
Sam listened to the other boys cheer as Aaron and Peter finished their obligatory kiss. “You’re awfully good at that,” Peter said.
“Natural talent, I guess,” Aaron said, laughing. “So are you.”
“Well, I had to get through practice. If you ever want to polish that talent, hit me up.”
“I’ll make a note of that.”
Sam wondered why the hell it was fun to make people kiss and nothing else. Now a more extreme version of spin the bottle he could get behind. Something worth considering.
Shaken out of his thoughts by Sully’s hand on his shoulder. “What?” he asked, shaking it off.
Sam sighed, reached out, groped a bit until he found the bottle, gave it a spin. He prepared himself for the stupidity that was to come, since there was no point in resisting whatever power was making him do all this.
The group tittered collectively, and Sam sighed. “Well?”
“Me,” Daniel said, and Sam heard him get up, felt his breath as he crouched down. “Ready?”
Sam made a noise, moved forward and just put his lips on where he assumed Daniel’s were, pleased to find out he’d at least mostly hit the mark. He kissed, and Daniel kissed back, and he wasn’t sure which of them opened their mouths first, but there it was. They had to kiss for a full minute, that was the game, and Sam lost track of time as he struggled against Daniel’s tongue for dominance and Daniel’s hands were around his neck and Sam’s hands ran down Daniel’s bare chest, stopping at his waistband. Daniel leaned forward as if to push Sam back, but Sam wasn’t about to be on bottom and he pushed back so he fell on top of Daniel, kissing fiercely, sensing the competition Daniel was offering and refusing to lose.
Their minute passed. The other heckled them and tried to make them stop. When they had to break for air, Daniel said. “I don’t lose this game.”
“I don’t lose anything,” Sam countered, and then they were kissing again.
Later, they called it a draw. Sam wasn’t happy with that. He’d win next time.
Of course, it was Owen who started the measuring.
Ron had been perfectly happy laying there, looking up at the ceiling and resting just a bit, when suddenly there was Owen, hand between his legs, grabbing Ron through his boxers. “Hey!”
Owen grinned. “Just checking to see if you’d gotten any bigger. I did.” He gave Ron a squeeze, then took back his hand and grabbed himself to demonstrate. “Do you think I’m still bigger than you?”
“Probably?” Ron asked, blushing. “Who cares? Size doesn’t matter.”
“The only people who say that are people who are small,” Owen teased, straddling Ron and pressing them together, squishing both of them. “Hm…”
Owen laughed and withdrew. “Fine, but then I’m going to assume you’re smaller.”
Blushing furiously, Ron looked away as he sat up. “Do what you want.”
“This is important!” Owen said, nodding. “I mean, with some people you can just tell,” he said, pointing openly towards Cal, who was sitting nearby.
“Hey!” But even as he said that, all three of his buddies snickered, Sully reaching out and grabbing him through his shirt to confirm.
“But the rest of us need some way to measure.”
“For what reason?” Ron asked, covering himself with his hands just in case.
“Dominance,” Edwin said from nearby.
“See, Edwin knows.”
“I’m dominant!” That was Joey, jumping to his feet and joining them, standing proudly with his hands on his hips. “I’m the biggest, too!”
There was silence. Ron just looked at Joey like the rest of them. Joey was…very short. “Okay, Joey.”
Edwin came up behind him, grabbing Joey from behind. “He’s no slouch,” he said, sounding surprised.
“Told you.” Joey squirmed, and grabbed back, squeezing. “I’m bigger.”
“Only one way to find out,” Owen said, and Ron saw it coming but he couldn’t stop it. Owen reached out and grabbed two waistbands, and he hauled shorts down and that was the end of the dress code.
It was a long, fun night of games, food and friends, whittling the hours away one at a time in each other’s company, growing closer throughout the night. Nobody who came to that sleepover left without at least one new friend, though a good number of them managed to leave without all of what they’d been wearing on arrival.
They ate all the food, played every game they could, had contest and games and tournaments, talked about everything, swapped stories and other things, asserted dominance and created hierarchies that were only for fun because they were friends in the end.
And in the end, after they’d outlasted the dark and the sun had come up, after they’d exhausted everything and themselves and each other, they collapsed into blankets and beds and pillows and each other, in pairs and groups and piles and alone but never far.
And, as was the fate of everyone at sleepovers, no matter how fun, no matter how full, they slept.