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Robbie escapes for air one day when Austin's drawing shapes with Arek. It's the one time when it doesn't hurt to be second choice. What kind of asshole would pick another adult over a kid coming to you with paper and crayons and big doe eyes? Never mind that it’s scrap paper, big sweeping lines over a background of filled-in crossword. Never mind that the crayons are multicolour blobs, from collecting nubs of broken and used crayons and melting them because they can only go out and retrieve more so often. Never mind that the doe eyes are clearly Shann’s feature, and every time Robbie gets sucked in by them he has a tinge of resentment about idiot moron Austin not using a condom that one time. When a kid begs to draw with you, you draw with a kid.

The landscape around him is still pretty decent. No one got torn to shreds moments before safely making it into the bunker. Nor can Robbie see any destruction from this low vantage, sitting on the grass. One of the things he and Austin don't tell the people who refuse to leave the bunker is how each time they come up more and more areas have clearly been bombed. There's never been any clue one way or the other as to if bombs damage the Unstoppable Soldiers, but Europe/Asia/Australia are damn well going to try.

He assumes the worst when the hatch opens and Shann comes out. Only he and Austin leave, for their infamous Cigarette Runs. In the three years since the apocalypse, Shann's ventured outside less than one hand's worth of times.

“Is my mom okay? And Amelie?”

“They're fine.”

She's so on edge being out here that there still has to be a reason. No way would she just come out on a whim. “So what is it Shann?”

“You haven't replied to anything he's said for two days.”

Funny how times that used to seem short in the old world are much different when it's 24/7 with the same eight people. Robbie shrugs.

Shann sighs. “What are you doing Robbie?”

“I'm quitting him.” There's not a chance that Shann has ever watched Brokeback Mountain, which spitefully makes referencing it better.

“You’re making him miserable.”

Yeah, well, it’s not like Robbie’s any happier. Going cold turkey on something you’re addicted to sucks ass. “Shouldn't you be happy? He's going to go to you now.”

She sits down beside him, and skims her hand over the blades of grass, grown long and wild. The paintball gun full of blood is beside her. It’s an unnecessary precaution. Robbie’s done experiments with Austin -not that kind- to test the perimeter of his Godblood protection. Shann’s not quite kneecap to kneecap, but she’s more than close enough to be in the radius. “Winning the sexuality Olympics by default was never a goal of mine.”

In a world in which those assholes didn’t bust his nose, and he didn’t bleed all over the concrete ground of Grasshopper Jungle, Robbie would now be pointing out that heterosexuals by nature win the sexuality Olympics. When your teenage population is a gay boy, and straight girl, and a bisexual-whether-he-likes-labels-or-not boy though, North American demographics no longer remain a stable argument. Robbie says nothing.

“We have to both date him.”

“Really,” Robbie says drily. He has no clue where this self-sacrifice has come from. Everyone's gone a little crazy in their own way. Johnny is obsessed with the TVs, even seeing programs in the static. Austin’s honing in more and more on history, making up things he couldn't possibly know, like the names of the Vice President's balls. Wendy is developing her own code of conduct that nobody else will follow or even read. Maybe Shann's developing a martyr complex. Robbie’s not sure if that’s a Lutheran thing, or a Shann thing. As always when it comes to religion, he doesn’t inquire as to the depths of someone’s belief. It’s safer that way.

“As much as it kills me to say it... as long as it’s taken me to say it, we all know a threesome is the only real option any of us have for being happy.”

Sometimes Robbie thinks about stealing a plane. He grew up knowing he'd be a virgin 'til college. Or, in the very best case scenario, have sex with some closet case. Not that it's even fair to say that derisively, it's not like he came out to any classmate before they were all eaten. Any gay bashing was done on assumption, not proof. But there's a difference between a four or five year delay between puberty to boyfriend, and dying alone.

He should want to make it across the ocean so he can explain the cure and get a scientist or hematologist or someone to synthesize his blood. What he wants is to land in Paris and make out with a boy in skinny jeans and a black and white striped shirt. Robbie would give himself a full week of lounging with a Parisian boyfriend before even attempting to contact the government and get swept into another adventure beyond choice.

The problem is, if he tried to leave, he thinks Austin would come with him. Not because he wants Robbie most of all. Because he’s a teenage boy who needs to run away sometimes, a boy who sympathises with people like his army brother, and his immigrant ancestors, and hell, probably even Robbie’s own deserter father. Running and being followed would defeat the purpose of running.

“So what do you suggest, Shann?” Is he really agreeing to this? Does he actually think this is going to make him happy?

Hell. Did he ever think he was going to be happy, being a queer literate kid in a town going through a recession, in Republican Iowa? What’s the difference between pushing through misery in the old world, and pushing through it in the post-apocalypse world, honestly?

“Well, we need to get him alone. First things first. Although you coming back inside is more first, I suppose.”

Shann’s point made, Robbie follows her back down into their safe haven/prison. It’s easy enough work to get Mom to watch Arek. Amelie and Arek are essentially forced to be best friends, what with being the only kids under five in this hemisphere. As for Austin, he’s happy to be led away. After two days of his best friend ignoring him, he’d do a lot more than walk down a hallway.

They end up in Robbie’s room. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. Arek shares Austin’s room. It’d be unsettling to get anywhere past first base in a room with a bed covered in stuffies and posters stolen from the nearest Toys-R-Us. They don’t go to Shann’s room because she’s avoidant like that. If this proposition goes wrong, she won’t want the negative association every time she enters her room. And so it’s up to Robbie. It’ll bug him less to have a negative memory here, mainly because he already has other ones, all the times he’s gotten too hopeful for his own good and asked Austin to live with him, and been shot down. What’s one more potential rejection?

The minute he closes his door, he can feel judgement from both sides. Everyone in Eden got over the allure of matching jumpsuits somewhere in year one. Nowadays everyone has as much of a wardrobe as they choose to use. Robbie might have the most of anyone, he’s raided a hundred rock music stores for indie records and variants of band shirts of his favourite bands. Why do the laundry when you can just wear a new shirt every day? What that means on a practical level, though, is that every surface that isn’t the mattress he sleeps on is covered in clothes.

“Ever thought about folding something, Robbie Brees?”

Robbie privately thinks that if Austin thinks cleaning up this place isn't hard work, he has no concept of work whatsoever. It’s easier for the day to day things, making sure Amelie doesn’t have playdough in her ear canal, or that Arek isn’t completely covered in peanut butter. There’s no motivation for him to tidy his own belongings.

He also thinks that Austin is an asshole for insulting him within five minutes of them reconnecting after a two day fight. But Robbie decides not to say that.

“Nope,” he replies.

Robbie finds a box of cigarettes in a pile of laundry so dirty it’s beyond growing life, it’s conducting its first democratic elections. Robbie votes for the v-neck shirt. They’re Pyramids, but they’re in the room, so it’s easier than going to the vending machine across the bunker.

“So,” Austin prompts. He looks nervous, and also distracted. Robbie knows him well enough to know that it’s because whenever he’s with the both of them, he gets random boner-popping flashes of elaborate threesomes. Austin’s dick is a real dynamo. It just so happens it’s right, this time. The nerves are because he doesn’t know he’s right, and has basically endless guilt about the want of threesomes. Austin Szerba is the most self-loathing horndog he knows, even when Robbie had the entire post-pubescent Ealing population to consider.

“We’ve been thinking about, you know, us,” Shann says.

The way those words hit Austin, you can tell he’s never gotten over Shann texting him about being a disgusting person. Fit of rage and betrayal aside, some things can’t be unsaid. “Uh. Um. Okay, so I can’t pick. I’m sorry, but-”

“You don’t have to pick between us.” Robbie sighs. He feels like he’s said this a hundred times already. Every time they go for a Cigarette Run, have their time alone, and then come back to the bunker and Austin ices him out for time with Shann, it’s this same awful ‘I can’t pick’ shit. It’s not that Robbie wants him to actually pick. It’s just it would be nice if Austin would look beyond his three word mantra to actually work on a solution that doesn’t hurt the two people he can’t pick between.

“It’s just you guys are so great. So different, and so great. I know it’s shitty, but I couldn’t pick.”

“You don’t have to!” Or at least by the rules of Shann’s new playbook he doesn’t, and if Robbie truly thought differently he would have refuted it by now.

Austin continues unabated. “I’m the worst boyfriend in the world. I cheated on both of you, just because I was selfish and couldn’t pick.”

“You don’t have to Austin. Are you even listening to me?”

Shann chimes in quietly, “he’s clearly not listening to you. If you wanna show him, I don’t care.”

Robbie nods. He agrees with Shann. Sometimes the best communication he and Austin have is the moments between talking, the times they smoke fags and acknowledge the world around them, for good and for bad. Who’s to say sex can’t involve that silent knowing?

He starts by taking his shirt off. Austin is watching him keenly, hands balled into fists. He looks anchored to the spot, like he’s a buoy that might rock but can never move, even if it wants to follow the wave. Robbie doesn’t comfort him, though he wants to. Instead he takes his jeans off, kicks them to the side as much as he can when there are piles everywhere, and takes a deep breath before dropping his boxers too.

It doesn’t surprise Robbie that Shann immediately follows suit. He’s competition, even now, even as they work on securing this situation together. It’s not one way either. He isn’t so much appraising her boobs, her vagina. That’s not something he can compare to. It’s his flat frame versus her curved hips, the way her arms are flushed splotchy from the air conditioning while his are muscled from the parkour he’s been practicing, his hairy legs versus her shaved ones. Austin can pick favourites, in these things, and Robbie can’t help but want to win.

“You don’t have to do this just for me.” It looks like it has cost Austin everything he’s ever owned to say that, judging by his expression. Robbie doesn’t know whether to feel annoyed that Austin is still making this all about him, or happy about one of the first unselfish moves he’s made.

“It’s not just for you,” Shann says in that tone she uses sometimes, because apparently boys are idiots, but only girls can tell. “This is us trying to find a way to become a package deal.”

“Okay,” Austin concedes. He punctuates the statement with starting to strip. His shirt musses his hair as it pops off his head. It reminds Robbie of when he used to call him Porcupine, a sweet nickname being the only nod to a relationship he thought he’d never get. Past-Robbie would not believe the life Present-Robbie is living.

Shann’s next statement is meant as a call to action, even if the arms crossed over her chest betray her lack of confidence. “So what if Austin fucked me, and you fucked Austin?”

It’s not that Robbie doesn’t want to put hands all over Austin’s sexy back and ass. He just thinks this is more likely to happen smoothly if the most intense parts happen between the heteros. Less likely to have a gay panic that way. Robbie can limit himself to touching.

Robbie shakes his head. “Austin doesn’t bottom.”

“So then Austin fucks you?”

“I don’t bottom either. Me and him have only touched each other. Like, with hands.”

“Well that's dumb. If it's just a handjob what's the point of it being from a guy? You guys should have sex.” Ahh, the ole’ Iowan abstinence-based sex ed program at its best. Makes an otherwise perfectly smart girl say something as dumb as that.

Still, to give her a bit of credit, it’s true that Robbie has thought about real sex with Austin. The real question is when did he ever not think of having sex with Austin? Before he was the only male on the continent under forty he was the only queer boy at Curtis Crane, and before he was the only queer boy he was still Austin Szerba, history nerd skateboarder cigarette smoker controversial book reader. Sometimes Robbie thinks his cock was just waiting for Austin to exist.

Now, here Austin is, naked and looking back and forth between him and Shann, and Robbie knows it's his dream come true. It's everything Austin has ever wanted and maybe Robbie hates him, just a little, as he goes in for the kiss. He doesn't taste like Shann's scavenged bubblegum lipchap yet, but he knows he will soon.

As soon as they've all had a kiss Austin pulls out a condom from his discarded jeans. Of course he does. He has unstoppable sperm and Arek won't be getting a sibling any time soon. Robbie decides that you don't have to say everything you think and refrains from pointing out that if it was just him and Austin there would be no need for a condom to take away half the sensations. Instead he just brings up the common knowledge that Austin doesn’t have, because apparently no one except him had the sense to google after sex ed. Though that might be to blame on him needing to find gay information, which the church program sex ed so piously left out. “Condoms melt.”

“What?”

“If you’re going to have sex with Shann, don’t use condoms that are in your pocket. Body heat melts them. Do you have any in a drawer or something?”

It doesn’t surprise Robbie that he does. He’s pretty sure that Austin and Shann haven’t been having sex, at least not penetrative, but hope springs eternal in the average horny teenager. Austin slings his just removed jeans back over his hips, not bothering with any other article, and darts down the hallway to his own quarters. He’s back in under a minute.

That they’re really doing this, having a threesome, sinks in for Robbie when they have to figure out how to arrange everyone on his bed. For a bunch of orgy having, sperm loving doomsdayers, the beds sure aren’t very spacious. They end up in a configuration that Robbie knows will lead to Shann’s suggestion; her on her back on the mattress, Austin between her spread legs, Robbie nestled behind him. He and Shann are literally going to share Austin, fuck him both ways. It’s not Robbie’s ideal, not where his head was at when he woke up, but he’s going to make it work.

Even prepping Austin for sex isn’t a moment wholly his own. Robbie’s heard bits and pieces of the debacle that was his friends’ first time, like how bowling alleys have scratchy carpet. He knows Austin didn’t take his time until she was ready, and that it hurt her. Robbie drizzles his own hand with the jerk off lube he uses, then grabs Austin’s wrist and squirts just as much on his hand.

“What I do to you, you do to her.” If they were different people that would be a kinky statement, like a leader/follower thing. Robbie's just trying to help.

Austin jolts forward when Robbie touches his ass. "Steady, Austin," he murmurs. He's so close, he's got his boy's cheeks in hand. Of all the ways they've touched over the years, this is a first. It's a holy moment, a religion of bodies that makes more sense than the ancient tales he used to hear every day. Austin backing out now would be the worst thing in the world.

Austin nods. "Try again."

This time Austin doesn't spook. Robbie gets his index finger in only an inch when Austin clamps down. "Gonna wait, Aus." He doesn't add like you should have, but feels it's heavily implied. He can’t fully see how Shann is reacting, though he knows Austin’s doing something similar because his hand is moving. Robbie’s not sure he wants to know.

It takes a while, but he gets Austin open. It helps when his thighs get tired and he sits on his haunches, with Robbie's hand trapped between his ass and the mattress. Positioned like that, Austin has no choice but to take it. Once he’s ready everyone realigns on the bed. Austin enters Shann first. It makes more sense that way, letting Robbie position himself after instead of Austin dragging him like a backpack.

As much as Robbie tries to keep his eyes focused on the back of Austin's head he keeps seeing past him to Shann. Turns out having a threesome is unsettling. But then, what sex isn't in this new world? Robbie can’t count the number of decrepit disaster areas he’s touched Austin in. Occasionally the nightmare surrounding them even acts as fuel for their intimacy. Sometimes the reason for sex is more important than the actual sex.

Robbie curls down and mouths at Austin's neck. If he wasn't attached to Austin in a very specific way, he'd lick down Austin's knobbly spine. He might even lick his asshole. Robbie has had a lot of time to imagine all the ways he might seduce Austin to go further during a Cigarette Run, and what he might do to Austin's hypothetical slutty, willing body. After the thousandth hour you start getting a little kinky from boredom.

Austin comes first. Can't really blame the guy, he's getting double the action they are. Luckily he seems to realize his importance as a barrier. He hardly moves, except to pull his soft dick out of Shann and replace it with his fingers. Robbie thrusts forward once, tentatively. He’s not sure about post-orgasm sensitivity. He’s heard some people have it, but being a penetrative virgin he has no real experience, and he certainly doesn’t know about Austin’s reaction. Austin doesn't pull away, so Robbie keeps going. He keeps his hands on the smooth skin of Austin's sides. Concentrating on how Austin is under him and around him makes it easier to ignore what’s beyond him.

After a minute or two more of sensation, Robbie comes, doing his best to not claw Austin in the process. Not yet willing to uncouple, he rests his head on Austin’s left shoulder. It’s a more stable base than the right shoulder, which is jerking her off. Jerking her through her own orgasm, actually. He and Shann come at almost exactly the same time. Irony, or something like it.

Something Robbie never bothered to fantasize about is the cleanup. It’s more awkward than he would have thought, pulling out and knotting the condoms and tossing them into the trash can. The two rubbers sit on a bed of ninety percent tissue spent on masturbation, like the kings of the sexual experience castle. Robbie grabs a discarded shirt and uses it to mop most of the sweat off of his body, then offers it to Austin. Near the end his skin felt slick too. For her part, Shann’s picked up a Green Day tee from the floor and is swimming in it, except for where it hugs her curves. He wants to tell her to go pee. Girls are supposed to pee after they have sex, to minimize an infection, and if Austin didn’t know that condoms could melt, there’s no way they know about the peeing thing. But if he says it, Shann will think he’s trying to get her out of the room so he can have some alone time with Austin. Post-event etiquette; something else Robbie didn’t think to imagine.

“Can we all agree that that was weird?” Robbie asks. Maybe acknowledging it doesn’t make for good etiquette, but that’s Wendy’s problem, not his.

“Weirdest orgasm since the caveman. You know what I mean.”

“I thought it would be the solution, but maybe not,” Shann says, frowning at the lack of pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. “But what else is there?”

That’s an easy question for Robbie. All he’s ever really wanted is for Austin to not ignore him. “We should both date him but keep it separate. Like a divorced kid going back and forth between families.”

Shann nods. “That would be better.”

“But-” Austin starts.

“Shut up Austin,” Robbie says fondly. He's so easy to read sometimes. On the heels of the threesome of his wildest dreams, he already wants a second go. Well, too bad. It’s about time Austin stop being so introverted, so self-centred. He and Shann matter too.