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An Exercise in Nihilism

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Stephen Stills has a shitty apartment. This isn't exactly news, because there is an entire family of friendly mice currently living in his kitchen cupboards, two-inch thick grime on the walls of the shower that he once tried to chisel off, and there's a spot in his bedroom that he is always careful not to step on because it's so dry rotted he's afraid he'll end up in their downstairs neighbor's living room if he does. What is news, however, is the most recent item on his list of Ways to Know You Live in a Hellhole. That is, that the walls are paper-thin.

Maybe it's always been like this and he just never noticed. Maybe Young Neil recently got louder than he used to be. Maybe termites are eating away at the wall, so it actually is thinner than it once was. Whatever. Stranger things have happened in his world than any of those, so it's entirely possible that any of them are the truth.

Whatever the reason, the walls are definitely paper-thin and that definitely goes on the list of reasons Stephen knows his place is a hellhole, because three nights in a row now, Young Neil has kept him awake by unwittingly serenading Stephen with the sounds of his masturbation and while Stephen gets the urge to jerk off, enough is e-fucking-nough.

He throws back his covers and storms out into the hallway, throwing open the door to Young Neil's bedroom before he can think better of it.

He expected, perhaps, to see Young Neil's hand moving under the covers, or at worst, get an eyeful of erect junk. He did not expect to see a giant purple vibrator sticking out of his roommate's ass while Young Neil thrust it into himself with one hand and jerked his cock with the other.

He freezes, stares, swallows, and stares some more, until finally Young Neil gets the presence of mind to drag his blanket over himself and tear his eyes away from Stephen's face.

He's flushed, though whether from embarrassment or being turned on, Stephen doesn't know. He just knows that he can't get the image out of his head and it's made worse when there's a soft, wet, squelching noise that Stephen assumes is the vibrator slipping out of Young Neil.

"I—what the fuck—" he stutters, and leans against the wall to keep himself from falling down when his knees give out.

"Don't you knock?" Young Neil asks, stop-starting through his words thanks to the heave of his chest as he tries to catch his breath.

That, at least, snaps Stephen out of it enough to answer back, "Dude, don't you know how to be quiet?"

"Oh…" Young Neil trails off, and rubs awkwardly at the back of his neck. Which hand he's using, cock or vibrator, Stephen refuses to speculate. "I didn't realize you could hear me."

"Yeah, well…I could." A pause, then he blurts out, "Since when are you gay?"

"What? I—I'm not."

"I saw what you were doing, man."

"Yeah, but…I mean…it feels nice. It's not—it's not just something you only like if you're gay. It's like blowjobs. Universal."

"So you've really never thought about trying…that with the real thing?"

Young Neil looks away, definitely embarrassed this time. "Well, yeah, but I mean…I'm in college. Everyone experiments when they're young. Not that I have yet, but…yeah, I've thought about it."

Which is when Stephen Stills's world promptly gets turned on its head, because then they're staring at each other, and Young Neil's eyes flick down to his groin, and then he mumbles out something about how he doesn't really mind who he tries it with, and that he kind of owes Stephen something for keeping him awake, and the next thing he knows, Stephen's jeans are down around his thighs and there's a condom in his hand, and Young Neil looks so wet and open from the toy.

The next morning, Young Neil will laugh about it and say it was nice, but he definitely still likes girls, so he'll stick to vibrators and strap-ons, and it'll all be written off to college experimentation.

Stephen's not in college, nor young enough to claim the civilian equivalent, and he was definitely turned on by Young Neil and not any kind of "universal" bullshit.

Which, ironically, means he's the one who's screwed.



Truthfully, Stephen Stills doesn't understand all the shit Joseph talks about while he's clicking away at the computer, mixing their album. He gets the basics, the mixing the instruments and levels and basic shit like that he picked up from sound check guys at Sex Bob-omb's shows. It's the other stuff, the dozens of computer programs Joseph opens up just to work on one instrument for one song, the encoding and formatting and tuning that goes on inside the circuits. He tries to grasp it, but Joseph doesn't really like explaining things and then they end up frustrated with each other, so Stephen has learned to just go with whatever it is that Joseph wants to do.

So when Joseph wants to digitally alter the guitar up an octave, Stephen says okay, and sure enough, that sounds pretty good. And when Joseph wants him to re-record his part of the song he wrote about Julie, he does that, too, because turns out the anger of an impending break up comes out through his voice and makes it sound even better. And when Joseph says maybe Stephen should break up with her for good this time and Stephen says that Joseph only wants him to do that because Joseph's attracted to him, and then there's that thing where Joseph stares at him for what feels like forever until finally Joseph just hauls off and kisses him…well, it's maybe the first time Joseph's suggestions don't yield immediately awesome results.

Because it's awkward. God, it's so awkward. There are teeth clacking together and noses colliding and Stephen's pretty sure he's going to get stubble burn on his chin from Joseph's beard.

Then Joseph glares at him, tells him to do it right this time, and pretty much all of that goes down the drain. He'll grow a beard of his own to hide the stubble burn if only Joseph will keep kissing him like that because, as usual, Joseph is right.



So, it's not like Stephen didn't see this one coming. Didn't want to admit it, sure, because he's got ninety-nine problems and a bitch is one of them, and adding a one-hundredth to the pile (especially one of that magnitude; it's hard enough making it in this business without adding on the difficulty of being out), well, that just seemed fairly nihilistic of him and Stephen's never been that sort of man.

But he saw it coming from a mile away and he kept spending every evening at Joseph's anyway, working until three or four in the morning and sometimes even passing out from exhaustion right there in the room. So maybe he does have a reckless side to him, or maybe it's something other than seeking his own self-destruction. He probably shouldn't think about it.

Either way, he's on his back in Joseph's bed, his shirt rucked up and his jeans pulled down, marveling at how good it feels to have Joseph's beard tickle-scraping across the insides of his thighs while Joseph sucks him off.

He tells himself that it's because Joseph's just better at sucking cock than Julie—not a huge accomplishment since Julie would only do it on special occasions and even then didn't do it with much gusto, where as Joseph actually enjoys doing it—that it's just his body reacting to purely physical stimuli. He also knows this is a lie, but he can't think about that right now. Maybe some day, once he's got a record deal and he's established, then he can let himself have something like this, but not now, not while he's still scraping and clawing to get his shit together.

He comes embarrassingly fast when Joseph hollows his cheeks around his cock and then Joseph is on top of him again and he's got his hand tight around Joseph's cock.

He doesn't think about it, just shuts his brain off and goes on instinct, lets Joseph kiss all the protestations off his lips.

It's an exercise in nihilism, but Stephen supposes he's allowed to have one of those every once in awhile.



In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense, Kim thinks. She always wondered why Stephen stuck with Julie anyway. She made him miserable and from what she's gathered, they almost never had sex. Kim can see sticking with someone you can't stand in order to get sex, because hey, hate sex can be fun under the right circumstances and she's not one to judge if that's someone's preference. She can also see sticking with someone you really like if there's little to no sex, because sex isn't everything and there's always masturbation. It's combining the two that she never quite got, so when Stephen tells her, a little nervously, that he's dating Joseph, she just kind of blinks at him for a moment before she says, "Okay."

"Okay? That's—that's all you have to say?"

She looks up from the magic marker she's using to scrawl the band's logo on her drumsticks and raises an eyebrow.

"What was I supposed to say? Did you want me to ask about all the sordid details or something? Knives is more the kind of girl who'd be interested in being the Grace to your Will, man. I think I still have her number if you want it."

"No, just…this is going to make it harder for Sex Bob-omb to get signed."

She chuckles mirthlessly and says, "Stephen, in case you haven't noticed, it's not like we're on the brink of being discovered and this is the only thing that's going to hold us back. Besides, it's the two-thousands. Who cares anymore? Kids who like our special brand of noise don't."

He considers this, then says, "So…you really don't care?"

She shrugs. "You'll probably be happier from now on, which will be a nice change of pace, and I won't have to hang around Julie anymore, so that's good. And it explains a lot, actually. Every gay man has his bitch of a diva. Wallace has Judy Garland, you have Julie Powers. It makes a lot of sense."

"And—and you don't think it's weird?"

"I think it's weird that you think I'd be this interested in your love life," she sighs, and turns her attention back to her drumstick. "It's fine, Stephen. Do what you want. Just don't tell Scott yet. With all the Ramona and Knives drama that's going on, this could very well be the thing that makes his head explode. And I don't feel like cleaning up the gray matter."

A moment's pause, then Stephen says, "Yeah, okay. So…you want to practice?"

She spins her drumstick between her fingers, then catches it deftly in the other hand. "More than anything."