June 17, 2024

Chapter 10+

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Chapter Ten — Zach

Wednesday rolled around way too quickly. I wasn’t going to go back on my decision, but man… actually going through with it felt a lot harder in reality than I’d pictured it in my mind. When I’d said I’d be okay with this, I’d imagined going into Emmy’s room, giving him a kiss and strolling back out to go about my day.

Easy, right?

What actually happened was a little different from that.

For one, everything took a lot longer. Emmy set a timer (‘no longer than 10 minutes on camera,’ he’d promised me), fiddled with his computer, his camera settings, while I waited. That gave me room to doubt the logic of my actions. Besides, Emmy kept looking away when I tried to catch his gaze, so how was this going to work at all?

Was he nervous about this?

But why would he be?

At this point, he should be used to showing off his body on camera, so why get the jitters over a fake kiss?

“Could you stand to the side?” Emmy asked after a moment. “I don’t want you on screen for the introduction. It’s a surprise.”

“All right.” I stepped aside, almost tripping over Beggles who gave a surprised yip. I picked him up to calm him down. “Sorry, little guy.”

Emmy glanced at me then back at his screen. “I’m going to go live.”

“Okay.”

He clicked something on his computer and put on his biggest smile. The way he started every one of his shows. “Thank you so much for joining me! I know there’s a million other things you could be doing with your time.”

More than a million other things I could be doing with my time. A billion things I *should* be doing rather than this.

At least it was unlikely that Emmy’s brother was in the audience. If Lex ever found out about this, he’d skin me alive.

While I was lost in thought, Emmy kept talking to his followers. I only half-listened–until he started stripping.

“Wait!” I said before I could stop myself. “You said I wouldn’t have to–“

“You don’t have to get naked.” Emmy looked at me with his shirt half-off before he turned back to the camera. “That’s my surprise guest you’re hearing in the background. He’s a little skittish.”

Skittish? I’d been called many things, but not that.

“He’s a bit shy,” Emmy went on, “so I’m afraid he won’t be taking his clothes off. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get to see me in my full glory.” Emmy grinned at the camera while my stomach turned.

I’d simply assumed that because I wouldn’t lose my clothes, he wouldn’t either. In truth, he’d never promised that. Why would he stay dressed for this video when he was naked in all the other ones?

I should have known he’d strip.

Especially considering I’d watched all of his videos. Some more than once.

My eyes were glued to my roommate as his clothes came off. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should avert my gaze, but what was the point? By this point, the shape of his body had burned itself into my retinas. I’d seen close-ups of almost every part of him.

Too late, it occurred to me that I should have worn looser pants.

Emmy was looking at the camera, talking to his followers, so he didn’t notice my body’s response, but damn.

*Deep breath,* I told myself, forcing my eyes shut as if I could will this away. As if I was a high schooler who’d just caught a flash of someone’s boobs.

Why was I reacting this way?

Because Emmy’s videos were inherently sexual? It was as if some wires in my brain had been crossed. Wires that should never have touched.

I glanced down at myself and thought of the least sexual image I could come up with. My uncles balls swaying in the wind that one summer after he’d had too much to drink and decided clothes were a tool invented by capitalist pigs and used solely to take away his freedom. The memory made my erection shrivel up. Thank God. I couldn’t let Emmy think I was creeping on him like some pervert.

“Zach?”

My gaze snapped up.

Emmy was shooting me a questioning look. What, was it time for me to go on camera now? Was it time for the big show?

“Come here.” Emmy gestured.

I took a step forward.

“Without the dog,” Emmy added.

Oh wow. I’d forgotten that I was still carrying Beggles in my arms. Slowly, I set him down. Emmy’s lips curved up. Finally, he met my gaze. “Everybody, meet Zach,” he said to his followers, even though his attention was on me. The awkwardness that had enveloped him like a heavy winter coat mere moments ago seemed lifted, as if he had discarded it with the rest of his clothes.

This was his on-camera persona. Charming, confident Emmy.

I needed to match that, if we wanted to please his followers.

“Hey everyone,” I made myself say. Emmy had zoomed in on the comment section on his screen so I could easily read what people were saying. There were a few hellos, some cheers, some demands for us to ‘get going’ and one or two people wondering how much they’d have to pay for me to lose my clothes.

*20 dollars for your shirt,* ‘savage girl’ offered.

Someone else agreed.

Damn. Should I?

Emmy stepped closer and whispered in my ear. “We can drive the price up higher if you wait.”

Wait how long? This was supposed to be a ten minute video, right?

Emmy turned back to the camera, but he stood so close to me now that his butt almost rubbed up against my groin as he did so. I drew in another deep breath. I could *not* grow hard now.

I also needed to not look at Emmy’s perfect little ass.

Jesus.

If I reached out with my hands just a little bit…

I shouldn’t…

But why not? I wasn’t gay. I wasn’t going to get another hard-on. I’d just been caught off guard when he’d first stripped. Besides, Emmy’s followers wanted a show, and Emmy wanted me to drive the price up.

This was for his dog, after all.

While Emmy asked his followers how much they wanted to see more of me, I rested my hands on his hips and pulled him back against me. His back met my chest and his butt met my groin. He made a surprised little sound, but he didn’t move away.

A barrage of comments appeared on the screen. I didn’t read them. I was too busy breathing in the scent of Emmy’s hair. His skin felt soft underneath my fingertips. Warm.

It really wasn’t that different from holding a girl.

And if Emmy were a girl…

I dipped my head and placed a kiss on the side of his neck.

Emmy sucked in a breath and pressed back into me as if asking for more. I gave him another kiss, a little higher up, making my way to his ear. My fingers dug into his hips as if I needed to keep him in place, even though I knew he wasn’t going anywhere. Tension set into Emmy’s shoulders. I nipped at his ear. He shuddered.

Before I could stop myself, my eyes flitted down his body.

He was hard.

But was that for me or was he picturing someone else in his mind for the sake of the show?

I swallowed.

Did I want that to be for me?

My pants tightened. 

Shit. 

“Fuck him!” flashed on the screen. Someone’s comment. Some lunatic on the internet wanted to watch me fuck my best friend’s little brother. Before I knew what I was doing, I growled. Emmy wasn’t theirs.   

Emmy leaned up, his hair tickling the side of my jaw. “How much for you to take your shirt off?” he murmured, getting my mind back on track of the show. 

All Emmy needed from the perverts watching us was money, and then he’d never have to show his body off on the internet ever again, so we needed to milk these idiots for every dollar they had to spend. 

My eyes darted to the screen once more. Some of his followers had heard Emmy’s question. *I can pitch in twenty dollars*

*I’ll wire you fifteen.*

*I’ll pay fifty if his pants come off too.*

Emmy rested his hands on top of my own as if to stop me from moving. “We’re gonna need twenty from at least ten of you. He’s shy, remember?”

*He doesn’t look shy to me,* someone wrote, but the indicator on the bottom right of the screen showed money coming in. It should have made me feel dirty, except, I was doing this for Emmy, so it was okay. I kissed his ear. To keep the money flowing, but also because I liked the way his breath hitched whenever my lips touched his skin. I looked down once more. He was still hard. 

He obviously knew how to play this.

But my own cock was growing hard too. Every time Emmy shifted even a little bit, his ass rubbed my groin. Every time, the motion sent sparks through me. Crossed wires. No other way to explain it.

Emmy turned to face me. “Looks like we’ve got the money. Are you gonna take your shirt off?”

I had to let go of him for that, and I did not want to think about how reluctant I was to do that. The moment my fingers left his skin, I missed the heat of his body. Once I had my shirt off, though… suddenly there was a lot more skin-on-skin contact, Emmy’s bare chest touching mine.

That led to a lot more wires crossing. Or fraying.

Damn.

I couldn’t help it, though. It was just… this whole set-up.

Emmy stepped away from me. “Look at that,” he said to the camera. “Isn’t he gorgeous? He gets a lot of exercise. Kinda makes me feel bad, standing next to him.” Emmy laughed the statement off, but I wasn’t ready to let it go.

“You’ve got nothing to feel bad for.” So he didn’t have a six pack. So what? Not everybody needed that. If I didn’t love swimming so much, I wouldn’t bother exercising either.

Emmy’s cheeks were slightly red when he looked at me again. “You mean it?”

“Of course I do! You look great!”

Too late, I remembered that we were still on camera, and that my words were going to be taken the wrong way. I wanted to encourage Emmy so he would feel better about himself, but the crowd read my words as a confession of love–or in this case, a confession of lust.

*Fuck him already!* somebody wrote.

*Oh my God, such a cute couple.*

*This guy should be a regular. He’ll take good care of our Lobster.*

Jesus. I’d almost forgotten that Emmy called himself lobster.

*I wanna see a kiss!* someone called Victor wrote.

“I don’t know,” Emmy tilted his head at the camera. “Should I kiss him?”

The answer from his fans was a resounding yes, but I knew Emmy was trying to get people to pay for the show. I glanced at the dog, who’d settled on the bed behind us. Whatever this was, my roommate had noble reasons for doing it, and I’d signed up to help him.

“Should we really kiss on camera?” I asked, resting a hand on Emmy’s lower back. “I feel like we should have privacy for that.” I kissed the side of his face while my hand crept higher to play with the hair on the back of his neck.

Was this what people wanted to see?

Emmy seemed to enjoy it, in any case. He tilted his head back, and when I twisted my fingers in his hair, he gave a beautiful little sound that went straight to my dick.

That should have given me pause, but I was too busy breathing in Emmy’s scent to analyze the situation–or why I should want it to stop. Emmy smelled like the cedar trees that grew in the woods outside his family home. Not like any girl I’d ever been with, but I wanted to bury my nose in his hair and soak it in. I wondered what he’d smell like after sex, when he was sweaty and sticky.

Emmy moved to face me again. I could only guess that he was getting the money he’d wanted, because he leaned in for a kiss.

When Emmy had first asked me if I would kiss him on camera, I’d pictured a chaste peck of the lips, two to three seconds tops before we parted. This wasn’t like that. Emmy’s lips lingered, his warm body pressed up against mine, and I didn’t want him to move away. I wanted him to open up to me. I wanted him to *let me take care of him*. In all ways.

My tongue touched his lips, and his mouth opened. I delved inside.

Something hard poked my thigh. His cock. My own dick pulsed, sending a rush of *need* through me that I could not explain. I could only act on it. My fingers dug into Emmy’s hair. He tilted his head to give me better access to his mouth. I claimed him for myself, savored the taste of him until he moaned into the kiss and rutted up against me.

I wanted to encourage him, wanted him to move faster, because oh my God, when his thigh brushed the bulge in my pants…

*All* the wires in my brain crossed.

A shrill sound cut through the haze in my head.

It took me a second to realize it was the timer Emmy had set. The ten minutes were up.

He separated from me, a dazed look in his eyes. He covered it up quickly as he addressed his fans. “That’s all from me for today. Thank you so much for supporting me. This has been such a fun session! I’ll respond to your comments later.” The second he turned off the camera, his smile dropped. Quickly, he reached for his clothes.

I stood behind him like a forgotten piece of luggage at the airport.

But what had I expected?

I shook my head at myself. I’d known this was an act for Emmy. I’d just… gotten carried away.

“Did we get enough money?” I asked.

“For the vet? Yes, it’ll cover that.” Emmy didn’t look at me while he pulled his pants on.

I grabbed my own shirt off the floor. “That’s great.” At least that meant there’d be no more acting in the future. No more confusion.

“Thank you for your help today,” Emmy said, still without looking at me.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“What? No.” Finally, Emmy turned around. “You were perfect.”

“If you’re sure.” I eyed my roommate closely. “Are we going to have dinner together?”

“I ate before you came home. There’s leftovers in the fridge if you want them.”

“Thanks.” I showed myself out of Emmy’s room. Something was wrong here, but I couldn’t put my finger on what.

Aside from the fact that I’d just made out with him for money.

Not even for money.

For a minute there, when I was kissing Emmy, I’d forgotten that I was on camera.

Jesus Christ.

What the fuck was wrong with me?

Chapter Eleven — Emerson

I didn’t allow myself to truly exhale until Zach was out of my room. Then it was as if all the air left my lungs at once. Holy shit, what had just happened?

I walked over to my bed and let myself fall on it, next to my dog. Beggles cracked one eye open at me, noticed that I wasn’t carrying food, and went back to sleep. His life was simple. Why couldn’t my life be that simple?

Finally I’d gotten a taste of what I’d wanted and instead of being happy about it, I was… drained. Because it hadn’t meant anything. In all this time recording these videos, I hadn’t once felt bad or dirty about what I was doing, except now I did. I’d taken my teenage crush and made it into something twisted. Some ruse to get money out of people. To get more followers.

Yes, I needed the money, and yes, I’d wanted to kiss Zach… but I couldn’t help but feel that I’d gone about it in the worst possible way. My eyes strayed to my bird’s cage. Soda was being unusually quiet tonight, but it was nearing her bed time. When I looked her way, she chirped back at me. A sad note.

I got her out of her cage to cuddle. “Are you feeling sad too?”

She hopped on my shoulder and preened my hair, sitting so close to the spot where Zach had kissed my neck.

Heat pooled in my groin at the memory. I hadn’t expected Zach to be so… enthusiastic about the whole thing. His actions had taken me off guard. It hadn’t been bad, though. It had been fucking amazing. The way he’d grabbed me from behind… The way he’d growled in my ear… God, it was as if he knew exactly what I’d always dreamed of. 

And he’d been hard too.

I hadn’t imagined that, had I? Had I gotten so lost in the moment that my mind was playing tricks on me?

Soda pulled on my hair as if she could tell I wasn’t paying her attention.

“Little diva,” I scolded her. *Her* life was simple too. 

Looking at my bird, though, gave me an idea how I could take my own mind off what had happened. I gave her a treat and put her back in her cage, then opened my bedside drawer. The make-up was still there. Lena had given me a small mirror too]. I set it up on my desk and settled in front of it. Here by myself, away from the camera and anyone who could see me, maybe I would feel safe enough to play with this. It was better than laying on my bed and thinking about how hot my roommate’s tongue had felt in my mouth.

And how I was never gonna experience that again. 

Because Zach was into girls, and I was not a girl. 

I could be just as pretty as one, though. 

Lena had given me a colorful eyeshadow palette.

I heard the microwave turn on in the kitchen as I started painting my face. Good. Zach had found his dinner then. I’d wanted to save if for myself, but I was fine with him eating it too. After all the help he’d given me today, it was the least I could do.

Absent-mindedly, I picked a light blue eyeshadow and dapped it on the outer areas of my eyelids, the way Lena had shown me to do. *Go from light to dark,* she’d said. I didn’t have a darker shade of blue, though. I did have a dark purple. Didn’t look great, but it wasn’t like anyone was going to see me like this.

I picked up a lipstick. Soft red. Again, wouldn’t fit, but it was the only one I had. Just when I put it to my lips, I heard Zach curse from the other room.

“Fuck, are you trying to poison me?”

The door to my room opened.

Oh no. Oh shit. Not now! I pulled the lipstick back, smearing it over the corner of my mouth as I turned to face Zach.

“Knock before you come in!” I nearly screeched.

When Zach didn’t immediately shut the door again, I grabbed something of my desk and threw it in his direction. An unused dildo that a fan had sent a few days before. It thudded against the door and flopped to the ground in front of Zach’s feet.

Zach stared at it.

At least that meant he wasn’t staring at my face, though.

While he was distracted, I grabbed some tissues from a box by my bed and rubbed my face with them.

“Holy shit, what happened to you?” Zach asked when I looked up again.

I caught a reflection of myself in the mirror. Instead of wiping the make-up off, I’d only succeeded in smearing it all over my face. Jesus. How was this my life? I turned away from Zach.  “You have to knock before you come in!”

“Sorry. I was just…” It seemed to take Zach a second to remember his reasons for barging into my room. Was my face *that* distracting? Heat rushed into my cheeks.

Why couldn’t he just *leave*?

Finally, Zach gathered himself. “Did you mess with the food on purpose?”

“Mess with the food?” I picked up another tissue to try to get the make-up off my face.

“It completely burned my mouth. Shit, it still hurts.”

“Did you put it in the microwave for too long?”

“Not the kind of heat I’m talking about. Did you soak the rice in hot sauce or something?”

“No, I just… Oh.” Suddenly, I had to laugh, realizing what Zach’s problem was. “I pour a little hot sauce on all my leftovers because Lex can’t handle anything spicy. It kept him from stealing my food.”

“A *little*?” Zach shot me an incredulous look. “If that’s what you’re calling a little, I don’t wanna know what you’re calling a lot.”

“Sorry, I didn’t even think about it. I guess this means you won’t want the rest of my food?”

“Hell no. That’s not food. That’s biological warfare.”

“Fine. I’ll eat it tomorrow. Just put it back in the fridge.”

“You’re so weird.”

“I’m weird?” I turned to look at Zach. He laughed. I realized too late that my face still looked as if something very colorful had exploded on it. Huffing, I made to walk past him. “I need to wash this off.”

“Wait.” Zach grabbed my shoulder before I could pass him. The touch seemed to sear through my clothes. God, I wanted him to touch me again. But also not, because it would never mean what I wanted it to mean. “I like that you’re weird,” he said.

“Great,” I ground out before brushing his hand off.

What did it matter if he liked my weirdness?

He was still my roommate. He still saw me as a child.

And he was still straight.

***

I flopped down on my bed once my face was finally clean and turned to my phone. I had a lot of unread messages in the chat with my friends.

*Tonight’s stream was intense,* Cucumber told me.

Bounce insisted that we should have gone for longer than ten minutes. Internally, I kind of agreed with him, but I’d promised Zach it would be ten minutes, so I’d set the timer accordingly.

That damn timer…

Things had *just* been getting good.

I petted my dog and typed a message out one-handed.

Lobsterboy: I got enough money, at least.

BounceAndPounce: Think how much you could get if you could have him on again.

Lobsterboy: Not worth my sanity.

Cucumbers4life: Are you doing okay?

Lobsterboy: I’ll be fine. Just need to sort things out in my head. It’d be easier if I could avoid him for a couple of days.

BounceAndPounce: He looked like he was enjoying it, though.

I paused before composing my next message. Had Zach enjoyed it? He’d certainly had a… response. Then again, he was a healthy young male and I’d been rubbing myself all over him. That didn’t mean he wanted it. Heat rushed into my cheeks at the thought of what must have been going through Zach’s mind at that moment.

Had he thought that I was putting on a good show?

Or had he clued in to the fact that I was desperate?

Lobsterboy: It was all an act.

BounceAndPounce: Did YOU at least enjoy it?

Lobsterboy: Damn near creamed my pants before the timer went off.

BounceAndPounce: That’s why I said you shoulda gone for longer than ten minutes! Make use of the opportunity! Do better next time.

Lobsterboy: There’s not going to be a next time.

Cucumbers4life: Is that because you think he wouldn’t do it again or because you won’t?

Lobsterboy: Both.

I closed the chat before either of them could respond again–and before I could tell them about the make-up incident. After returning from the bathroom, I’d shoved the make-up back into the drawer. It was clearly better for it to remain there. I’d never told Cuke or Bounce how much I liked that kind of thing either. That was probably for the best. I obviously wasn’t very skilled with it.

Next to me, Beggles snored. I snuggled up to him, breathing in the smell of dog fur. At least one good thing would come out of today’s stream; I could help my dog. I had also gotten a good number of new subscribers. That was what I needed to focus on: the way forward.

No sense in looking back.

No sense pining over things I could never touch again.

Chapter Twelve — Zach

Only two or three days after the live stream with Emmy, Lex hit me up to ask if I had time to grab lunch together. I said yes, since I hadn’t seen my friend in a while. We got sandwiches at a small store near campus and went down at the local park to eat. Lex wasn’t attending college anymore, but he worked in an office nearby, so the location worked for both of us.

“You got any more classes today?” he asked while he unwrapped his tuna and mayo sandwich.

“Nah, I’m headed to the pool after this.”

“You got a shift?”

“Yeah. Tyler was fired the other day, so it’s been busy.”

“Fired?”

I shrugged. “He spent more time observing people’s boobs than he spent observing the pool.”

Lex laughed. “Poor dude. Must be hard with all those bikinis around.”

“You just gotta stay focused.”

“You can’t tell me you never look.”

“I’m not saying I *never* look.” I bit into my bacon sandwich and chewed. Had I seen some beautiful boobs at the pool? Yes, but I didn’t let that distract me to the point I couldn’t do my job. “Besides,” I said to Lex, “I’m more of a butt guy than a boob guy.”

“Nah, I’ll take boobs over butts,” Lex insisted. “Big, small, perky, saggy, doesn’t matter. All boobs are beautiful.”

I shook my head at my friend, even though I couldn’t disagree with him. Not entirely. “My favorite boobs are the boobs of the person I’m with.”

“So… the boobs you’re allowed to touch, I get it.” 

That wasn’t what I’d meant to say, but I let it pass. 

“You been seeing anyone lately?” Lex asked. “Weren’t you with that one girl? Brown hair, big tits?”

“I’m not seeing anyone.”

“Sorry, man, that girl was hot.”

I gave my friend another shrug. “I haven’t written her off yet.” I’d just been so busy with other things, recently. More specifically, I’d been busy with his little brother. Not that I was going to tell Lex that. He’d never want to talk to me again if he knew I’d kissed his little brother.

Or that I’d enjoyed it… for reasons I couldn’t explain to myself. I’d spent the rest of that night trying to puzzle it out. Hell, I’d even looked at gay porn on the internet, but that didn’t do much for me. Not as much as watching Emmy’s videos did for me, in any case.

There was something seriously wrong with me, but I couldn’t figure out what.

At least there wouldn’t be any new videos coming out now that Emmy would be able to pay for Beggles’ surgery. I might have made a mistake by jumping in front of the camera with Emmy, but something good would come off it.

“What’s going on in your life?” I asked Lex to steer the conversation away from me.

“Same old,” Lex said. “Except I got this really cute new coworker.”

“Yeah?” I ate some more of my sandwich while Lex talked about the freckled redhead who’d joined his team. A few minutes into the conversation, my phone buzzed with a notification. I glanced at it, expecting a text or email, but it was a notification from the BestPeeps app, telling me that Emmy was live.

I stared at my phone in disbelief.

Why the hell was he going live?

“Everything okay?” Lex shot me a questioning look.

“Yeah, um…” I wiped the notification away. It wasn’t like I could watch the stream now while I was having lunch with Emmy’s brother.

“Did something happen?”

“No, nothing.” *Except that your brother is almost literally making love to the camera right now.*

Jesus. I needed to get home. Put an end to this.

Only I still had a shift at work.

Damn it.

I needed to call Wes, see if he could cover for me.

“I’m sorry,” I told Lex. “I gotta head home. I’m not feeling well.”

“Yeah, no shit, you look like crap.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

I hated lying to Lex, but what was I supposed to tell him? That I needed to get home so I could stop his little brother from showing his genitals to random strangers on the internet? I’d never get home in time then. I’d be stuck here for the next two hours explaining the issue to a flabbergasted Lex.

On my way out of the park, I dialed Wes’ number. “Hey, can you take over my shift in half an hour?”

“You think I got nothing better to do?”

“Do you have something better to do?” I asked.

“Always,” Wes gave back. “I have a very fuckable boyfriend.”

“Spare me the details. Just help me out here.”

“Why can’t you make it to work?” On the other end of the line, I heard Wes move. I could only hope that meant he was getting ready to head out.

“I’ve got to tell my roommate that he needs to stop undressing for the internet.”

“Oh, so that’s still a thing, huh?”

“I’m putting an end to it.”

“Yeah? How? Are you going to tell your fully grown-up roommate what he can or can’t do?”

“He’ll listen to me.” I’d reached the parking lot by now and unlocked my car. “I’ll make him listen.”

“You sound like you’re about to do something amazingly stupid,” Wes said. “Don’t let me stop you.”

Exasperation crept into my voice. “Does that mean you’ll cover my shift?”

“I got you. But you owe me.”

“Consider it payback for that time you were ‘literally too sore’ to work and I never asked why you were so sore.”

“Deal.”

I hung up the phone and started the car.

Time to set my roommate straight.

***

The door to Emmy’s room was closed when I made it home. He was definitely home, though, because his stream was still going. Once or twice, I’d considered pulling over on the way just so I could watch for a minute, prepare myself for what I was about to see when I opened this door.

Emmy had asked me to knock, though, so I did.

“Don’t come in!” Footsteps sounded on the other side of the door.

“I know what you’re doing,” I informed my roommate. “I just don’t know why!”

Emmy didn’t immediately respond. The dog gave a low bark, and then the door opened a slit. Emmy was dressed only in boxer shorts. “I’m busy.”

I tried to look past him into the room. “Is the stream still going?”

“Yeah, people are waiting. I paused it. What are you even doing home? Weren’t you supposed to have lunch with Lex? Oh my God, you didn’t tell him, did you?” Emmy’s angry face went pale around the nose.

“I didn’t. I told you I wouldn’t. Like you told me you wouldn’t do *this* again.” I gestured at him.

“When did I ever say that? Why you even *think* that?” The honest surprise etched into Emmy’s features disarmed me.

“You said you were doing it for Beggles.”

“Yeah, I needed that money, but that wasn’t the only reason.” Emmy glanced at his laptop, obviously impatient to get back to ‘work.’

“You made me believe it was!” I pointed out. That was how he’d scammed me into going live with him.

“Look, I’m really grateful for your help, but I never said I was gonna stop after that video and I’m not going to. This is how I pay all my bills. Not just the vet bills.” As he spoke, Soda landed on his shoulder and screeched at me as if telling me to go away.

“You can’t keep doing this!” I raised my voice to be heard over the noise the bird made.

“Yeah? Why not?”

“Because you’re better than this!”

For three whole seconds, Emmy stared at me. Then he shut the door in my face.

Fucking awesome. This was what I was missing work for?

I retreated to my own room, where my phone nagged me again to tell me that ‘Lobsterboy'[ was still live and had resumed his stream. Did I want to watch?

Hell no.

I clicked the link anyway.

I had a right to know what my roommate was up to, right? After all, I’d promised Lex that I would watch out for him. If he did anything outrageous, I needed to know. Then I could storm into his room and *force* him to turn off the camera.

That was my story, and I was sticking with it.

When the link loaded, a video stream opened on my phone. Emmy was stripping out of his boxers. Soda still sat on his shoulder, chirping happily this time. Damn two-faced bird. I didn’t pay her any mind, though. My eyes were glued to Emmy’s crotch, his flaccid cock, surrounded by a thin patch of light brown pubic hair.

He wrapped a hand around himself, gripping tightly.

Before I knew what I was doing, I was shoving down my own pants, my hand finding my cock. Every motion Emmy made, I mirrored. When he stroked himself, so did I. When he paused, I stilled.

“I hope you like what you see,” he murmured, and though he wasn’t talking to me, it *felt* like he was, anyway. I imagined that he was in the room with me, instead of on camera. He threw his head back, and my gaze fixed on the line of his throat. I wanted to kiss him there, nibble on the skin until he cried out. Until his attention was focused solely on me–where it belonged.

He used to follow me around like a puppy when we were younger. Where had all that adoration for me gone? I wanted it back. I wanted him to listen when I told him he should be naked only for me.

No, not for me. Never for me.

But he owed me at least this much after I’d given up a shift for him.

My grip around my cock tightened. Emmy’s dick was almost fully hard now. I was all the way there already.

I liked that he took his time, though. Seeing his cock grow to full size fascinated me–and he was definitely a grower, not a shower.

His motions sped up, his hand twisting on the upturn. I mimicked him, exhaling sharply. 

Why did this feel so damn good? I was only jerking myself. I’d jerked myself hundreds of times. Never like this, though. Never while watching another man pleasure himself. 

I should be ashamed of myself for doing this, for taking advantage of Emmy this way. He didn’t even know that I’d subscribed to his channel. What would he think if he found out? Would he be disgusted with me? No, he had no right to be. *He* was the one making this available to anyone who paid. *He* was the reason I was in this position. 

Emmy panted into the camera. Straight into my ear, it felt like. My dick grew even harder. I wanted to move faster, but Emmy didn’t change his pace, and I forced myself to match him. He was drawing this out for his audience, keeping everyone at the edge of their seats–and me dangling at the edge of my sanity.

He looked straight into the camera. I felt as though he was looking at me. As though he *knew* I was watching. That I was jerking off along with him.

I swallowed. There was no *way* he knew.

A small smile curved his lips. His eyes closed, but mine stayed open, focused on his dick as he stroked himself harder, finally bringing himself toward completion. The sound of his breathing grew louder, mingling with the sounds that escaped my own lips as I pumped myself harder too.

Emmy moaned loudly as he came. Thick white spurts of cum shot from his cock and dirtied his hand. After a moment, he lifted the back of his hand to his lips and licked it clean, all while looking at the camera.

It was this image that finally drove me over the edge, so hard I didn’t even care that I was falling. My climax crashed into me like a derailed train, at full speed and with no way of stopping it. I pumped myself through it, unable to focus on anything else but the pleasure rolling through my body. For a few seconds, it was enough to drown out everything else. Even the shame I should have felt at doing this at all.

And then I glanced at my phone’s screen again. The stream was over, but people were still leaving comments.

Reality hit me almost as hard as my orgasm had.

I couldn’t say what was worse, that I’d masturbated in tandem with my roommate—without him knowing—or that I hadn’t been the only one who’d watched him.

I cleaned myself off, all the while cursing under my breath. What was Emmy doing that he got under my skin like this? Whatever it was, it needed to stop. I wasn’t a prude or anything, but this wasn’t normal, and it wasn’t healthy.

It couldn’t go on.

Straightening, I closed the BestPeeps app on my phone and opened Instagram instead. There weren’t a lot of people I followed, but the girl I liked posted regularly and I liked to keep in touch with her that way. Her latest post had been uploaded a few days ago. The picture showed a restaurant table with a glass of wine and one pasta dish. *Dinner for one*, the description read. #Freedom, #allthesingleladies

I studied the post for a good minute. Had she and [I can’t remember this dude’s name but I’m sure it started with T] broken up? When had that happened? 

If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with Emmy, I would have noticed way sooner. I would already have a plan for my next move! Now, I needed to scramble. This was an opportunity I couldn’t miss, though. It was exactly what I’d been waiting for.

So why didn’t I feel more elated at the news?

Chapter Thirteen – Emerson

The fucking nerve! Where did Zach get off thinking he could tell me that I should stop streaming?] How could he just barge into one of my sessions like that? He knew this was how I made my money!

I was still grumbling to myself when Beggles brought me one of his toys so I would play with him. Recently, tug-o-war was his favorite. I took the rope toy from him—or tried to, anyway. He held on with his fangs, pulling and growling and making me laugh. No matter what happened, this dog would never fail to put a smile on my lips. I played with him for a few minutes, hoping it would clear my head. It did, somewhat.

Zach had thought I was only streaming so I could help Beggles, that this whole job had been born out of desperation. It stung to think that he saw me like that, when what I was really doing was pursuing my passions. I’d started on YouTube, actually, just playing the guitar. It hadn’t gotten me very far, though. I’d gotten the advice to start a BestPeeps account from another artist. At first, I’d been hesitant to go naked on camera, but the more I thought about it, the more the idea had appealed to me. There was something so raw about performing your art naked. I loved that.

I wasn’t going to stop just to make my roommate more comfortable. Whatever he might think, he wasn’t the boss of me. Not by a long shot.

How had he even known that I was streaming anyway? He should have been out of the house until evening.

I let go of Beggles’ toy when a thought struck me.

Beggles growled loudly and took off into a corner of the room, dragging the spoils of his victory with him.

Meanwhile, I opened the chat app on my phone.

Lobsterboy: Zach came in to interrupt my livestream.

Cucumbers4life: Is that why you paused?

Lobsterboy: Yeah, didn’t want everyone telling me that he had to come on again.

Cucumbers4life: I get it. Can you get a lock for your door?

Lobsterboy: God, I probably should. But the thing is, he should have been out the whole day. He came home and went straight for my door! He knew I was streaming!

BounceAndPounce: Boy got thirsty and subscribed.

Could that really be it? What Bounce was saying echoed my thoughts exactly. Somehow, Zach had figured out that I was streaming, and the only plausible way for him to know was that he had become one of my subscribers. I opened the BestPeeps app and scanned the list of recent followers. None of the names stood out to me, but that didn’t have to mean anything. Zach might have come up with a random pseudonym if he didn’t want me to know.

Had he really subscribed? Had be watched my videos?

Lobsterboy: I don’t get it. Why would he subscribe? He wanted me to stop!

Cucumbers4life: Maybe he got curious.

BounceAndPounce: C’mon, you *know* why he subscribed. The same reason anyone *ever* subscribes to a BestPeeps account. He got horny. This isn’t rocket science.  

Lobsterboy: But he’s straight!

BounceAndPounce: That’s what they all say.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading, what I was *contemplating.* My whole life, Zach had been the straight boy out of my reach. My brother’s best friend. My guilty crush. He couldn’t suddenly be gay. That  wasn’t how the world worked. I knew that. He must have had some other reason for subscribing.

Of course.

He’d done it so he could monitor me. Make sure I wasn’t doing anything kinky while he was out of the house.

My stomach turned.

I scrolled down my list of followers once more, skimming the names. Was Zach still subscribed? If I went live again, would he watch the video or storm into my room as soon as he got the notification?

I needed to move. The sooner the better. First though, I needed to take care of my dog. I’d made another vet appointment for Beggles to schedule the surgery that would hopefully improve his life. I scratched my good boy behind his ears while he still chewed on his toy. He gave a soft growl in response, wagging his tail at the same time. “Yes, I know, *your* toy. Wanna go for a walk?” Beggles’ eyes shot to me at that last word. He even dropped the toy from his mouth so he could bark.

I laughed. “I’ll take that as a yes. C’mon, it’ll do us both good.”

Zach wasn’t in the living room when I stepped out of my room. Weird. He tended to spend most of his time there when he was home. The door to his room was closed too. What, did he want privacy?

Somehow, that thought rubbed me the wrong way. Why should *he* get privacy when I never did? I waltzed up to his room and in front of the door. “I know that you’re following me on BestPeeps.”

That got a reaction. Footsteps sounded on the other side of the door, and then it opened. “What are you talking about?”

“That’s how you knew I went live. You’re monitoring me. I don’t appreciate it. I’m an adult. I can make my own choices and choose my own work.” Wow, it felt good to get that off my chest, even if my dog betrayed me by rubbing himself against Zach’s leg. Didn’t he understand that we were *mad* at Zach right now?

“I’m not monitoring you.”

“What other reason would you have to subscribe?” I demanded.

Zach didn’t seem to have an answer for me. Of course not. I was about to leave in a huff when he spoke up again. “Look, I’m sorry,” he said after a moment. “What I did today was wrong. It won’t happen again.”

“Unfollow me. Right now. I want to see you do it.”

Zach hesitated before pulling out his phone. “Fine.” He sighed and showed me the screen when he hit the Unfollow button on my account. “Are we good now?”

“I guess,” I said grudgingly. This whole thing was such a mess, there was no way I was going to be happy about any of it.

Zach glanced at Beggles, who was still trying to get his attention. Once he got it, he panted, letting his tongue hang out in excited anticipation. Zach picked him up and gave him a hug. “Do you have a date for the surgery yet?”

“No, I’m taking him to the vet the day after tomorrow, then we’ll schedule something.”

“Let me know when you know. I’ll see if I can get the day off.”

“You want to take that day off?”

“You shouldn’t have to go by yourself.”

“I’m a grown-up and—”

“Fuck being a grown-up,”Zach cut me off while my dog licked his face. “Surgery is scary no matter what age you are, especially if it’s your pets.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that. Why did he have to be so damn *nice*? It would be a lot easier to get over him if he wasn’t. “I’m not scared.”

“It’s okay to be scared.” Zach set the dog down and reached out to me. Before his hand could connect with my shoulder, I turned away. If he touched me now, I’d just be taken back to that blissful moment in front of the camera when he’d kissed me and I’d forgotten that the world was a cruel place in which gay boys like me fell for straight boys they could never have.

“I gotta walk the dog. C’mon, Beggles. Time for walkies.”

Recognizing the word, Beggles followed me to the front door without complaint.

Well, at least one of the men in my life was a simple creature.

***

On my way back from walking Beggles at the park, I decided to swing by my PO box again. There was some new fan mail, but also a huge pink box that caught everyone’s attention as I returned to my car with it. The sender’s name was ‘Aunt Rosy’. She must have gotten my PO box address from my BestPeeps profile. She must have looked at it, then. And apparently she’d liked it enough to send me a ginormous pink box. This was huge—and not just because the box was huge.

The whole drive home, I couldn’t stop wondering what the brilliant crazy lady had sent me. I couldn’t wait to find out.

I didn’t even care that Zach noticed when I carried the box inside.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“I don’t know yet. Wanna find out?” I set the box down on the kitchen table and unleashed my dog.

“You don’t think it’s rainbow herpes, do you? I found glitter on my laptop last night. I have no idea how it got from the kitchen to the laptop…”

“Glitter gets everywhere. Once it’s in your house, there’s no escape.” I looked around the kitchen. “Do we have a box cutter?”

Zach opened a drawer and handed one to me while Beggles barked impatiently. He was used to getting fed after his evening walk. “Just a wait a second, stinker.”

Beggles turned his puppy eyes on Zach instead of me.

“How much food is he getting?” Zach asked, reaching for the bag of kibbles I’d stashed in one of the cupboards.

“The whole bag, if it was up to him. Half the bowl should be fine. He’s not getting a lot of exercise lately.” Hopefully that would change after he had his procedure. I just wasn’t comfortable taking him on longer walks while he started panting two minutes into it.

“Gotcha.” Zach fed the dog while I turned back to the box.

“This is from Aunt Rosy,” I informed him.

“You’re calling her Aunt Rosy now? When did you two even meet?”

“We didn’t meet. She sent me a letter. I sent her an email. I guess Wes gave her my address.”

“Okay,” Zach said slowly. “Why is she sending you a big pink box?”

“I asked her if she wanted any of her products sponsored on my stream, so…”

Zach didn’t respond to that. I didn’t look his way to check his expression, but I got the feeling the topic of my job still made him uncomfortable. Oh well. He’d have to deal. I slid the box cutter along the lid of the box and opened it. The first thing I found was an envelope—similarly pink. I opened that too, and read it.

*Dear Emerson, or should I call you Lobster?

I looked at your profile, and I’m delighted to see how productive you are. It takes a good deal of discipline to build up a business all by yourself, so let me applaud you for all the effort you’re putting in. I tried showing your stream to one of my nephews, but he got all embarrassed. Mumbled something about being in a relationship and fled the room. Unbelievable! And he’s supposed to grow my business! Today’s youth has all the freedom my generation always dreamed of, and what are they doing with it? Acting embarrassed by the most natural things! Not you, though! You know what life is all about. I’m adopting you! From this day forward, I shall be your aunt.

Now, for the business side of things, you’ll find several of my products in this box. Most of them do not require explanation. You’re free to pick and choose what you’d like to show off in a video. If you use more than one product, I’ll be happy to pay you more, and I’ll pay double if you can get that handsome young man from your last video to show up on your stream again. That was most excellent entertainment.

All the love,

Aunt Rosy

P.S: There’s two bottles of lube in the box. The pink one is strawberry flavor, but be careful with the red one. That one is meant to spice up your sex life! I read on your profile that you like it hot! *

Attached to the letter was a check for [ dollar. I held it between my fingers, turned it over, almost unable to belief that any of this real.

“What does the letter say?” Zach asked.

“Nothing much,” I lied, because how would I ever tell him that Aunt Rosy wanted him to star in one of my videos again? “She just sent me a bunch of stuff to showcase. And a check.” I showed it to Zach.

He whistled. “If I’d known you were gonna get this much money from her…”

“What, you wouldn’t have helped me?”

“That’s not what I’m trying to say.”

“Sure. Whatever.” I rifled through the box, hoping to distract myself. There were the two bottles of lube that Aunt Rosy had mentioned. Good thing she’d told me about them too, because they didn’t have labels, and while I liked hot sauce, I didn’t like it enough to shove it up my butt. I put the bottles aside and picked up the next item. The tentacle dildo I’d been eying on the website. “Wow,” I murmured, turning it over in my hand. It was even prettier in real life than it was on the Internet, had a nice weight to it too.

“What is that thing?”

“It’s a tentacle dildo,” I said as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and just because I felt like teasing Zach, I added, “it goes up my butt.”

“How would that even… there’s no way that…”

“What, you think it’s not gonna fit?”

“That’s not what I meant. No strike that. It’s exactly what I meant. That thing is way too big.”

“I can take it.”

Zach still looked as if he didn’t believe me. Oh, sweet summer child.

“You really think I couldn’t?” I asked. “It’s too damn bad you unsubscribed. Otherwise you could watch me prove you wrong.” Okay, where the hell had *those* words come from? The worst thing was, I couldn’t take them back once they’d left my mouth. The only thing I *could* do now to save face was to double down. “I’ve wanted this dildo for fucking ever and I’m going to enjoy it. I know what I’m doing, even if you don’t believe me.“

 Zach seemed torn between wanting to argue and wanting to leave the kitchen. His eyes went back and forth between me and the door to his room. Occasionally, they landed on the dildo in my hand. If only I knew what was going on in his head… “What else is in the box?” he asked. Clearly, he wanted to change the topic, but I let him get away with it.

I placed the dildo on the table, next to the lube. For some reason, I thought it would stay upright, but it didn’t. It fell over and knocked both bottles of lube from the table. I reached for the red one, only to see my dog run off with the pink one.

I ran after him. “Beggles, no! That’s not food!” 

My dog wasn’t very discerning about his food, though. You’d think he hadn’t been fed in ages the way he tore into that bottle.

He had the audacity to growl at me too, when I took it away. “No!” I scolded him again. He looked at me with his muzzle all smeared with pink lube. When he barked, it smelled like strawberries. “Goddammit. Now I’ve gotta call the vet and tell him my dog ate lubricant.”

“Life never gets boring with you around,” Zach commented.

“Yeah, whatever.” I pulled my phone out of my pocket and rang the vet’s office while Zach looked at the box on the table. He pulled out something that looked suspiciously like the anal plug Soda had managed to destroy not long ago during the cucumber incident.

“This looks nice,” he said.

I couldn’t respond to him, though, because my call connected, and then I was explaining to the lady on the phone that my dog had eaten strawberry flavored lube. Water soluble? Yes.[ At least I thought so, judging by what it felt like when I wiped the rest from Beggles’ mouth. I was told to take him in if he started showing signs of distress, but otherwise not to worry. Although, she added, his poop might smell like strawberries for a while.

I groaned as I hung up the phone. “Hope you’re proud of yourself,” I told my dog. “If we didn’t need surgery soon, I’d totally have to look for another vet now.”

“I’m sure they’ve heard weirder things,” Zach said. He was still looking through the box. “There’s some clothes here.” He pulled out short leather pants. Fetish wear. “I don’t think these are your size, though.”

 Approaching the table again, I took a closer look. He was right that they weren’t my size. In fact, they seemed to be Zach’s size instead. The words from the letter came back to me. Aunt Rosy wanted me to recruit Zach for another video. Was that what this was for? I took the leather pants out of Zach’s hand and put them back in the box. “I’ll take this back to my room. I gotta figure out what I’ll be showing off in my next video. I don’t know, maybe I’ll have my subscribers take a vote.” While I spoke, I put the red lube and the tentacle dildo back into the box as well. I couldn’t help but notice Zach’s eyes follow the dildo as I moved it.

Interesting. Was he really that intimidated by it, or was that something else in his gaze?

Before I could figure it out, he turned away.

I shook my head at him, though he couldn’t see it, and moved my box into my room.

No point in trying to rack my brain over what was going on in Zach’s head.

How important could it really be, anyway?

Chapter Fourteen – Emerson

Beggles’ surgery was scheduled only a few days after my vet appointment—and only two days after his excrements stopped smelling like strawberries. We took Zach’s car to the clinic because he insisted on driving. He also insisted on coming in with me. I tried telling him that I didn’t *need* him to, but he wouldn’t hear it. I sighed, and relented. In truth, I didn’t mind that he was coming with me—not at all. It was nice to have him here with me, because he was right; surgery was scary. Beggles wasn’t scared, because he had no idea what was coming, but I was worried out of my mind.

What if something went wrong?

What if I had to go home alone?

What if I was failing my dog?

I had promised Lena that I would take care of Soda and Beggles, that I would do everything I could to make sure they had a good life. But that was what I was doing, wasn’t it? Even if it didn’t feel like that when I left Beggles with the surgeon. I gave him a last hug, a long one, and he licked my nose and I had to step back before I’d do something embarrassing—like start to cry in the middle of the clinic.

Zach’s hand came to rest on my shoulder. He led me out of the doctor’s office, speaking words that I couldn’t focus on. His voice was gentle, though. I drew in a breath, sniffing. He must think I was such a baby. “C’mon, sit down.” He pointed me at a chair in the waiting room. “I’ll be right back.”

Before I could even ask where he was going, he went off to talk to the receptionist. I wiped at my eyes, even though I hadn’t spilled any tears. Not yet, anyway. God, I needed to keep my composure. I wasn’t five anymore, and my dog was going to be fine. This was a simple procedure. Thousands of dogs went through it every year.

“Grab your jacket,” Zach said when he came back. “It’ll be at least an hour before we can see Beggles again, and they promised they’ll call if anything happens.”

“Where are we going?”

“Not far.” Zach took my arm and I let him guide me out of the clinic. “There’s a small park not far from here. I figured seeing something other than the clinic might help take your mind off things.”

“Thanks,” I murmured, even though part of me wanted to insist that we should stay inside. What if something happened?

“It’s only three minutes away,” Zach said as if he could tell what I was worried about. “I’ll have you back here in no time. Promise.”

“All right.” I relented, partly because I didn’t want to come across like a child, partly because I trusted Zach. If he said he could get me back here in time, he would.

It took us four minutes to get to the park, rather than three, but I let it pass. It wasn’t a very large park either. I could see the exit gate from the front gate, but at least it was green. The air smelled of freshly mowed grass, a stark contrast to the antiseptic smell of the clinic. I drew it deep into my lungs while I followed Zach to a nearby bench. 

 Only when we sat down did I notice that he was holding something in his lap. A bag with sandwiches? “When did you even get those?” I asked.

“Ran out earlier this morning. Figured you’d skip breakfast.”

“Wow, that’s…” It was so thoughtful I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t hungry. Honestly, I didn’t think I could stomach any food right now, but when Zach offered, I took a sandwich anyway.

“I remember tomato and cheese was your favorite when we were kids. I know you’re not a kid anymore, but I hope you still like it anyway.”

I nodded because I couldn’t speak through the knot that formed in my throat. How did he remember that? My mom had always packed me a sandwich just like this for lunch. I bit into it, hoping to swallow this strange emotion down with the bread. That didn’t quite work, but I felt better anyway. Up until that first bite, I hadn’t noticed how hungry I was.

Zach gave a short laugh when I took a second, much larger, bite, and unwrapped his own sandwich. “I know this isn’t the most beautiful spot in town, but I figured at least it’s close.”

“Have you been here before?” I asked in between bites.

“Nah. I found it on Google maps. Looked the area up last night.”

He’d really thought of everything, hadn’t he? I’d barely even known where the clinic was before he drove me here. “Thank you,” I said, sincerely. “I should have been the one to do all this.”

“You had enough on your mind.”

I took another bite of my sandwich, my eyes straying to Zach’s lap. There was a respectable inch of space between our legs. I wished it weren’t so.

Why couldn’t he be gay? And why did he feel the need to take care of me like this when he wasn’t? Because I was Lex’s little brother?

“How are things going in your life?” I asked. “We’re always talking about me.”

“There isn’t much going on, honestly. I met your brother the other day.”

“Oh yeah, he mentioned that last time we spoke. He said you weren’t feeling well.”

“That’s because I needed to make up an excuse to leave when I saw you were streaming,” Zach admitted. “Couldn’t tell him that was the reason I needed to go, could I?”

I felt my cheeks color. On the one hand, I felt sorry for making him lie for me. On the other… “You didn’t have to rush home. You should never have subscribed in the first place.”

“My apologies.”

“Now we’re talking about me again.”

“I guess it’s become difficult to talk about my life without talking about you.” Zach smiled as he said that, making me want to die on the spot. How could he say things like that?

It was only because he didn’t know how often I’d fantasized about him while jerking off… because he didn’t know how often I was replaying the memory of our scripted kiss. Our scripted kiss that hadn’t felt scripted at all.

I had to tear my eyes away from him before my imagination could run away with me. After our live session, I’d told myself that I needed to put some distance between myself and Zach–as much as that was possible while still living together anyway–and now I was sitting here letting him comfort me as if we were a thing.

I crumpled the sandwich wrapping paper in my hands.

If things kept going this way, I was never going to get over my stupid crush.

“Is there anything else that’s new?” I made myself ask. “How are things at work?”

“We’re training a new hire, so it’s pretty busy. He’s not very… competent.”

“Then why did you hire him?”

“I’m not in charge of hiring, you know, and our manager is dead stupid. I swear, if I didn’t need the money, I’d quit.”

“Maybe you can find a better job,” I suggested. “If you wanted to have your own BestPeeps account–“

“I’m not going into streaming, thanks.”

Such a shame. I’d be glued to my screen 24/7 if I had videos of Zach to watch.

Zach pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Actually, there may be something else you can help me with.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m trying to find a good gift for a girl.”

“What girl?”

“You remember Betty? We met her at the restaurant.”

I did remember, and it took all my willpower to keep myself from grimacing at the mention of that name.

“It’s her birthday coming up soon, and she’s recently single again, so I want to impress her.”

“Oh.” A single syllable, that was all I could think to say while my stomach turned in on itself. Zach was trying to get back together with Betty. I knew that he’d find himself a girlfriend sooner or later and that I’d have to deal with it eventually, but I’d hoped it wouldn’t happen while we were still living together.

As much as it hurt, though, if Zach was asking for my help, I should provide it. After everything he was doing for me, it would be petty of me to say no simply because he wasn’t choosing me to be his partner.

Hell, this might even help me too. Reinforce the fact that my roommate was straight and off limits. Regardless of the fact that I still remembered what his tongue tasted like in my mouth. What it felt like to be held by him, kissed by him.

“What kind of things does she like?” I made myself ask.

“She’s into make-up, fashion, music…” Zach trailed off. “I’m still thinking about getting her those concert tickets, but I don’t know if that’ll make much of an impression if her ex already took her to see the same band.”

“Maybe not,” I agreed.

Zach tapped on his phone before handing it over to me. “This is her Instagram feed.”

I scrolled down, glancing at the posts. Funny, Betty and I followed some of the same people. Style influencers. I hated to admit that the girl had good taste. Expensive taste, though. Every piece of clothing that she reposted as something she would love to have was horridly expensive. I kind of got it, though. If I were a girl, I’d want to have that scarlet v-neck dress too. Judging by her pictures, it would look amazing on her.

A thought occurred to me. Not a *good* thought, but once it had crossed my mind, I couldn’t shake it. “You should buy her this dress.” I showed Zach the image. “Then she can wear it out on a date with you. It’s perfect.”

“I don’t know her size.”

“Ask a friend.”

“All right. How much is it?”

I opened the website of the store where the dress was sold and showed him.

Zach’s eyes grew wide. “200 bucks? Do people pay that much for a dress?”

“Aunt Rosy would pay you more than that if you did another video with me.”

“How… What?”

I flustered, but now that I’d started down this track, there was no turning back. I’d told myself that I didn’t want to do another video with Zach, that it was best if I forgot everything that had happened, but something about being asked to pick a gift for his future girlfriend made me want to hold on that much harder.

What if this was my last chance to ever feel Zach’s hands on my skin? I couldn’t let it slip away.

When it came to Zach, I would take anything I could get, even if it meant he got the money to buy a gift for someone else.

“Aunt Rosy sent me a check with the box,” I explained. “And there was a note saying she’d pay you the same if you starred in the video I do featuring her products. I think you can trust her on that.”

For a long time, Zach said nothing. Then, “Why didn’t you tell me? I was with you when you read the letter.”

I shrugged. “I didn’t think you’d want to.”

Zach studied me intently, though I had no idea what his gaze was searching for when he looked at me. [”Do you want me to do it?”

I glanced away, my eyes fixing on the empty space between Zach’s leg and mine on the bench. This was my chance to say no, to admit that this had been a stupid idea. I couldn’t get myself to do that, though. The truth was, I wanted to close the space between us. Any way that I could.

“I think it would be fantastic if you came on my stream again,” I said.

“Because it’ll grow your follower count?”

I got the feeling that he wanted to hear something else, but what? I could hardly tell him that I’d dreamed of his cock since I was twelve. “Because it was fun, last time,” I made myself say.

“Fun, huh? I guess it was…” Finally, Zach averted his gaze from me. “I’ll do it.”

“Really?” Internally I scolded myself for sounding so surprised.

“Yeah, sure,” Zach said as if it was no big deal. I couldn’t tell if that was an act or not. He bit into his sandwich again while I studied his profile.

“I’ll let Aunt Rosy know.”

“Cool.” Zach chewed and swallowed. “What product did your subscribers vote for?”

“That really pretty anal plug.” Funny how I couldn’t get the words out without blushing. I wasn’t usually this shy. Just something about being around my crush and talking about shoving pretty anal plugs up my butt on camera…

Would that scare him away.

Zach folded his sandwich wrapping paper away, gears clearly turning in his head. “What would I have to do?”

“Whatever you’re comfortable with,” I hurried to say. “If we were going for the big bucks, though, you’d be the one to…” Damn, why couldn’t I say it?

Zach didn’t seem to be struck by the same affliction. “You want me to put it in you?”

Oh God. Yes. I wanted that so much… but the way he said it… I laughed. I couldn’t help it, the sound just bubbled out of me.

“What’s so funny?”

“You asking me if I … if I want you to put it in me.” I couldn’t stop. This whole situation was just so absurd, and the way he’d worded that question…

Zach shook his head at me as if he thought I’d turned into a total loon, after a second, though, he laughed too. “I guess I could have said that better.”

I took one deep breath, then another, to calm myself down. “I mean, it is what I meant. You’re not wrong.”

“I don’t know if I can do that.”

“It’s not difficult. I’ll make sure to stretch beforehand.” Okay, this was officially the weirdest conversation I had ever had.

It gave Zach pause too. “That’s not how I meant it.”

“Just… don’t worry about it, okay? We’ll find something for you to do that doesn’t involve putting things into me if that’s what you want.” I was proud of myself for getting that sentence out without laughing.

“I’ll try my best,” Zach promised.

I shot him a side-long look. What did he mean by that?

Was he really gonna put it in me?

As much as the thought had made me laugh before, now it made my stomach flip-flop in anticipation. I shouldn’t have told Zach about Aunt Rosy’s letter. I shouldn’t have asked him to be in another video.

But hell if I wasn’t looking forward to it. [ /passster]

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