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Safety Pins

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Tony brings me to a shady punk bar on my seventeenth birthday, arming us with fake IDs and real jewelry in our safety pin piercings. My mom just about shat herself when she saw what I'd done to my nose. The ears were one thing, but even after I stretched them with screws from my stepdad's toolbox, it didn't even come close to how badly she'd flipped when she saw my left nostril with a tack poked through it.

She said she'd let me keep it if I didn't get a mohawk. It was a good compromise, because I didn't really want one anymore. Too typical, eurotrash punk. Instead, I have thick spikes all over my head. When I don't fix it up, it's just a curly mess, but the only people who have seen that are my parents and Tony. Tony, bless his soul, is a little bit stuck in 1979; he has a thick mohawk that, more often than not, he's too lazy to spike and instead lets it hang in a shaggy mess off the back of his head. When he does spike it, and when he wears his studded jean jacket, you'd think he's one of those kids who still listens to The Ramones. Which he does. But he doesn't tell anyone that, at least not anyone here. When people ask, he says he just likes the style. It's high-maintenance, but it looks badass, and nobody fucks with Tony.

It's raining in Los Angeles, but above the noise of the bar, it's impossible to tell. We got drenched on the way from the car to the door. It didn't help that we had to wait in line for a half an hour, but we were covered by the overhang, except for that time when it came in sideways for a good ten minutes. My t-shirt is damp and clinging to my torso. The bar is hot, though, and once I get some whiskey in me, I'll warm up. 

Tony heads over to the counter, and I'm soon to follow. We're not drunks or burnouts or anything; we just like to have fun. We like to take advantage of the fact that we look twenty-one.

While I absently flash my ID to the bartender who asks, I look up to the stage. There's a group of sweaty guys yelping and shredding a cover of a song that sounds vaguely familiar. Nobody who plays here is big. This isn't even a venue. I don't mind, though. Some of the best music is the undiscovered kind.

About the time they finish off their set and I finally get my shot, I see him for the first time. The guy who's going to fuck me up. I don't know it yet; I don't even know him. But that's who he is. My goddamn demise.

When he first comes onstage, I have to do a double take because at first, I think he's a girl.

And at first, I double take because what the hell is a girl doing at a hardcore punk bar with a microphone? Girls can't scream. They can wail, but they can't growl.

Then something about this girl has me choking on my drink. She has balls. For real. I can see them through her skin-tight jeans. I look up to her face to get an eyeful of her eyebrow ridge and jawline and realize—oh. This is not a girl at all. This is a man.

But, come on, he must at least be a queer.

Upon first glance, I deduce that this guy has no idea what he's doing. He has long hair like fucking Metallica. Clearly he didn't get the memo that if you're going to be seen as anything besides a douche, you've gotta lose the locks. But this guy—he probably thinks it's cool to have hair like Rapunzel. And that's not all. He's got these weird skin-tight pants I'm sure took a hell of a lot of effort to get on. Then there's the Ziggy Stardust logo jacket, which I only recognize because my brother's best friend's sister likes Bowie. And finally, the goddamn shoes. He's wearing prom shoes. Wedding shoes. Funeral shoes. Not the kind of thing you wear onstage to a bar. I'm not even sure how to interpret it. Is he some kind of secret yuppie who will only wear the best on his feet? Does he think it will make people respect him? Either way, it's fucking weird, and he is fucking weird.

To the right of the homo singer is a burly brown-skinned guy with a beat-up guitar and a curly mess on his head. He's wearing a coat. A coat. In Los Angeles, In May. Sure, it's raining, but with how big he is, shouldn't he be sweating from his body weight alone? In the back, there's a skinny kid behind a drum kit with spikes like mine, except they're bleached blonde and they look four times as haphazardly done. He has an obviously fresh piercing beneath his lower lip, and he looks like he thinks he could save the world with his drumsticks.

I have low expectations for this act between the prepubescent drummer, the giant mutt on a shitty Fender, and that he-she of a singer. Oh, it's going to be hellacious.

"How the hell are you, LA?" squeaks the frontman into the microphone in what is probably the most erratic, unreliable voice I've ever heard. "We're called Civil Fights, and we're here to make sure you have a good time tonight."

I snort and glance at Tony, but he's not looking at me. He's looking at the bodacious brunette on his right. Well, fuck him. 'Civil Fights' is just as laughable a name without him.

I turn away and divert my attention to getting another shot. It's a bit of a wait with all the other customers, so it's about the time the bartender actually gets to my order that I realize I'm tapping my foot. How long is this intro? I haven't heard any vocals yet, aside from that awkward spiel at the beginning. They're going on thirty to forty measures of just guitar and drums. Either they don't know what the hell they're doing, which I wouldn't put past them, or they're doing it on purpose. I wouldn't put that past them, either. I mean, come on: a scrawny Mexican guy with a microphone, an overweight, Samoan hippie-looking guitarist, and that squirrely kid with the drums? They're bound to come up with something weird, like mixing prog with hardcore.

Except, it's not really that bad.

I down my shot and pat Tony on the shoulder.

"Gonna go in with the crowd," I tell him. "You'd better pay for my shots."

"What?" he protests, finally pulling away from the lady he's trying to get horizontal with. I'm gone before he can say anything else, and the bartender will keep him there until he pays. Maybe it's a dick move, but I'm seventeen today. I'm allowed to be a dick.

I bump around in the crowd a little until the intro slows to a stop. God, finally. Like, it was good, but I want to hear this fag let out some whines. There's nothing like ridiculing a guy who thinks he can sing.

The drummer taps his sticks together four times, and the song comes in fast and loud, all three members starting their parts at once. What else comes in fast and loud is my jaw hitting the fucking floor. This guy…this guy has some lungs.

Actually, he's kind of badass, his voice harsh and shrill against the rapid-fire drums and aggressive guitar. If you were a yuppie or a preppie, you'd probably cringe. Me, though, I've got a racing heart hearing the way he wails and turns it into a long, low growl in one breath. One breath!

I think I'm in love.

Wait, I didn't—yeah, yeah, okay, maybe. Maybe I happen to be a queer. But it's not something I go around advertising. I don't go to those rallies in San Francisco, even if I could get there. I just turn sluts away when they try to shove their 'ta-tas' in my face. They're lumps of fat. I don't see what the big deal is.

The big goddamn deal is how Civil Fights' singer jumps off an amp, grabs onto a rafter, and hooks his legs around it, hanging upside down and screaming a few words at us. By now, the crowd is getting excited by the energy and picking up the speed at which it's shifting. I don't hesitate to join. I said there's nothing like ridiculing a guy who thinks he can sing, but there's nothing like slam dancing to a song as fast as this.

By the time they're on their third song, I'm feeling the whiskey, plus the soreness of the few fists I've taken to my stomach and arms. It's not a bad kind of soreness, because it came from getting pummeled in the crowd. It's hard to give a damn about getting fists rammed into you when you're doing the same to the people around you. That's what's good about slam dancing; it's fighting, but it's respectful, and everyone has a good time throwing themselves.

I turn my head when a guy rams full-force into me while the song ends and the crowd slows.

"Watch it," he says, but he's laughing. Then we're both laughing, and both buzzed.

"Alright," says the singer into the microphone. His voice is deeper now that he's abused it and sweat plasters his smooth, curly hair to his forehead. It makes the homo part of me very happy. "We're giving out free t-shirts. Meet us after the show."

The guitarist opens his coat to reveal a white cotton t-shirt, the band's logo done very poorly in permanent marker. A few people call out insults, but it's lost beneath the drums coming back in. The drummer actually isn't bad, despite the fact that he looks about twelve. Then the music is back on, and I'm thrashing around to the singer's wild voice.

By the time their set ends, I'm sweaty and past worn out. My hair is still intact, but I got a few extra rips in my NOFX shirt. Not that it matters; it was basically trashed anyway. I let out a long breath and find my way back to the bar. I could do with another shot of whiskey.

A new bartender has started their shift, so I flash my ID again. He turns around to grab what I asked for, but then gets distracted and walks down to the other end of the bar. Asshole. This place has the worst service I've ever seen.

While I wait, I scan the mass of people to see where Tony is. He only gets in with the crowd when he's in a certain mood; usually, he just hangs back and watches the show. And with that chick he was talking to earlier, I'd bet that he's trying for at least second base with her and not wasting his time dancing around with a bunch of dudes. I finally spot him in the corner, pressed up against the same lady. She has her arms around his neck, and he's grabbing her waist while they swap spit. I guess I'll be paying for my own shots from now on.

I sigh and stare down the bartender while he pours a few shots. He flashes a 'one moment' sign to me, looking the opposite of apologetic, and taking someone else's order.

"Wastoid," I mutter while someone slips between me and the person on my right. As predicted, the bartender serves that dick first before finally getting me my shot. No goddamn tip for him. I down it and pay him exactly what I owe before walking back toward the crowd. I don't plan to do any more slam dancing considering I'm pretty beat. And anyway, the band that's on now isn't as good as Civil Fights, even if their name is less atrocious.

While I fold my arms and watch the show, I catch a glimpse of the skinny singer from earlier, chatting with some people while the drummer trails behind him like a lost puppy. He laughs and turns to his band mate, holding out his hand. The kid hands him a t-shirt, and he hands it to the chick he's talking to. I can't help but notice that he doesn't look nearly as interested in her as the kid does. And she is a babe (hey, I don't like 'em, but I can call 'em). Maybe he really is a queer.

Not that I'd ever actually do anything if he was, no matter how impossible it is to shrug my attraction to him. I figure I'll end up hitched to some woman and start a family, just because that's what's expected of me. That, or I'll start a band like I've always wanted to do and be a lone wolf. The second sounds way more appealing, seeing as I wouldn't have to fend for any bratty children, and I wouldn't have to sleep with a woman to create said children. Of course, it would help if I had a decent guitar or some actual talent, since those are two things that are very helpful to get you on the road.

While Civil Fights' singer and drummer pass me, I can't help but call out, "Hey, good show!" I figure they'll just smile and say thank you, but oh, fuck, am I wrong.

The singer turns around to see me and splits a massive grin. He comes back over and claps me on the shoulder. "Really? Oh, dude, I'm glad you liked it! We get mostly bad responses, so it's cool that someone actually likes us."

"Oh. Uh, yeah," I shrug awkwardly, not really sure what to say. I'm saved by the drummer.

"Cool shirt," he tells me in a voice that is perfectly reminiscent of Tony's when he entered puberty. His voice cracked. He might actually be a kid.

I offer, "Thanks. You like NOFX?"

"Oh, yeah," he says enthusiastically. "Dude, how could you not? Like, the right amount of clean, and then the right amount of gritty. I own a few of their singles."

"God, Mike, quit geeking out," the frontman scolds. Then, he turns to me. "Don't mind him. He's a huge noid sometimes."

I chuckle. "It's fine. I'm a noid, too."

"Hmm, you don't look like a noid. You look like a total koozbane. In a good way, of course." He smiles and holds out his hand. "I'm Vic. Vic Fuentes."

I take his hand tentatively and he surprises me with a firm handshake.

"Jaime Preciado," I tell him as he releases my hand.

"Jaime. Cool. This is Mike." He gestures behind him to the kid, who raises a hand in a half-wave. "He's my brother."

"Ah," I nod. "That explains a lot."

Vic grins. "What, you couldn't figure out why he looks seven?"

"I'm not seven!" Mike pipes in, but his voice breaks comically on the last syllable. I chuckle, and he glares at me.

"Yeah," I admit. "I was wondering what a mall maggot was doing at a bar."

"I don't even like the mall," Mike protests.

"Mike, chill," Vic hisses. "He's joking." He turns to me. "Right?"

"Yeah, of course," I assure him. "You're pretty good at the drums, dude. I respect you."

Mike grumbles some more, but eases off, and Vic turns to me with a smile.

"Thanks for digging our show. It's easy to get discouraged when the only people who say they like it are chicks trying to get horizontal, you know? Nobody really likes the prog part of it."

"Hey man, it was cool," I reassure. "Definitely something new. And I think prog is up-and-coming."

Something changes then—Vic looks at me with these eyes—I can't decipher them. Some weird mixture of relief, adoration, and smugness. All I know is that they stir something up in my stomach and suddenly I want to do something really dumb like kiss him.

"You're cool," he says, his voice marginally lower than it was a second ago. I wouldn't notice if I weren't paying attention. "Do you smoke?"

"Smoke what?"

"Well, just cigarettes for now. Want to come out back with me while I light up? I haven't had one in a couple of days."

I shrug and say, "Sure, as long as you can spare me one," as if I don't really care, but I'll admit that I'm pretty pleased that Vic wants to smoke with me. He smiles faintly and grabs my arm, which startles me. Before I have time to react, he's pulling me behind the stage and out the back door, Mike tagging along behind us.

"You want the first drag?" he asks me once we're out in the cool air. Someone's tires squeal while I nod. It isn't raining anymore, but there's water pooled all over the cheaply-lain parking lot.

He pulls a thin case out of his pocket and opens it to reveal three rolled joints and a lighter. His brother sees and immediately clings to him.

"Not for you, Mike," Vic scolds.

Mike pouts. "Please?"

"No, dude. You're fourteen. Go call a hot eighth grader on the phone and brag about it for a week or something."

"Asshole," grumbles Mike, slinking away. "Not like you haven't seen me smoke before."

"Don't mind him," says Vic, selecting the one in the middle and grabbing the lighter.

"That was an elaborate suggestion you gave your brother just now," I note. Vic smirks.

"Yeah, that was an actual thing that happened." He twirls the cigarette between his fingers and says more quietly, "Mike called Amber Hills to ask for the math homework, and then he bragged to all his friends." He rolls his eyes and places the joint between my lips for me, making my stomach flip over when his knuckle brushes my lip. I pinch it between my teeth while he lights it.

"Kind of looks like a doobie," I comment after he's retracted his hand, a light puff of smoke escaping my lips despite how I try to hold it in.

"Yeah," he grins. "I roll them myself sometimes." He barks suddenly, "Mike!" I look over, and Mike is scraping something into the wall with a knife.

"What?" he asks in the most angsty-teenage voice I've ever heard.

"Go help Will with the instruments and stop vandalizing the wall. The owners hate us enough as it is."

"You're fucking road pizza," Mike complains. Vic just brushes him off, and then I hear the sound of the back door squeaking open and closing with a loud thud.

"Sorry," he laughs. "Mike kind of thinks he's a hessian or something, like he always has to do exactly what the police would hate him for."

"Maybe he's the Angry Samoans' apprentice," I remark. Vic thinks that funny and laughs heartily before plucking the cigarette out of my lips and putting it between his own.

"Angry fuckin' Samoans. I'd love them if their lyrics weren't so damn insulting."

"Yeah, they're Tony's favorite. It fits him."

Vic asks, "Who's Tony?" while he lets out a cloud of smoke. I tell him he's my best friend, and that he's the one who took me here tonight, and that's all we have to say about Tony because Vic is more interested in hearing about my favorite band. I tell him, 'Agent Orange.'

"Ah, that's cool. I've seen them play a couple of times. Have you?"

"Yeah, three or four."

"That's lucky. They're damn good, right?"

I nod, then ask him what his favorite band is.

"T.S.O.L.," he tells me before taking a drag. "I've seen them eight times and I got their album last week. It's lucky, 'cause I just discovered them last November, but they're, like, kind of new, so they haven't sold out or anything. They've played here a few times, and I actually met them last time, and...." He laughs. "Sorry. Kind of geeking out."

"It's okay," I assure him. "I saw them when they played here last time, actually. Guess I didn't notice you around."

"Oh, that's cool." He smiles shyly. "Shame I didn't meet you then."

It kind of makes my stomach flip over how he looks up at me through his eyelashes, and I find myself looking away after taking the cigarette back. His mood then goes from bashful to upbeat before I can even process, and he says, "Have you heard of Wasted Youth? Like, L.A.'s Wasted Youth?"

I scratch the back of my neck. "Uh...yeah, I think so. The other Wasted Youth is British, right?"

"Yep. I think the British one is technically better, but L.A. is good too. I saw them last week."

"That's cool. How were they?"

"Really good, besides the fact that they're complete divas."

"Totally," I grin.

"Have you ever met them?"

I shake my head. "Nah. I think they might try to kill me; I'd probably piss them off."

"Yeah, they're pretty good at the whole pissy-anarchist thing," he notes. "Even if they're not as bad as Samoans or Circle Jerks."

We talk about local bands for awhile until the cigarette is gone and he throws it on the ground. It's damp enough that he doesn't even need to stub it out.

"Do you want to go up to the roof?" he asks me. I frown warily at the sky—dark, in a way that lets you know it could split open and take a piss on you at any moment. He sees me hesitate and instantly underpins his statement. "It won't rain again. And if it does, there's shelter. Trust me, I go up there all the time with my hippie friend, Chris. He gets gigs here early in the evening, and between his and mine, sometimes we'll light up. 'Course, I don't do that often. It's a bitch for my throat."

Vic realizes, for the second time, that he's running his mouth, and shuts up with a sheepish smile. He takes my silence as agreement, and gestures with his head to the fire escape. The building is three floors; the first is the bar, the second is storage, and the third is living space, probably for whatever lowlife runs the tavern. I follow Vic as we quickly ascend, making as little noise as possible when we pass the windows. We have to climb up on the last part; he does so expertly, whereas I nearly fall on my ass. Vic pretends he doesn't notice, which I'm grateful for.

There are some people who touch you shamelessly without having a reason to. I have a little cousin named Jésus who will sit in the middle seat of the car even if you're the only two in the back. Everyone knows at least one of those people. You don't ask questions unless you've got issues. You let them get their human contact fix. Once we're leaned up against some sort of metal contraption, I learn that Vic is one of those people.

He has a new cigarette and the lighter in his grip, the case tucked safely away in his pocket. I sit first. He sits second, letting our knees touch and not caring if our arms brush or if his hair falls on my shoulder while he leans down to shield the flame from the wind. I can't decide if I mind. I'm alert, I know that. Vic's knee is touching me. It's definitely touching me.

Once the cigarette is properly lit, he tucks the lighter away and gives me a friendly smile.

"I'm surprised you wanted to hang out with me."

"Really?" I ask in astonishment. "Why?"

He shrugs. "I don't know. You seemed kind of angry at first, you know? But I think you're actually a secret nice guy."

"I'm not nice," I scoff jokingly. "I'm the meanest cornchip on this roof."

"Alright, maybe that's true," he laughs. "But I bet you're the type to save kittens from trees."

"Except I'm allergic to cats."

He passes me the cigarette. "Okay, wise-ass, no need to get snarky with me."

"Maybe I am the nice one," I grin. Vic grins back while he waits for his turn on the tobacco. Briefly, his gaze flicks over me; I'm not sure what to make of it, so I think little of it and ignore my racing heart. Duh, I think Vic is hot. But thoughts like that won't get me anywhere but ass-kicking city. Half the punks in L.A. beat up faggots on a regular basis, either to take their cash or just for the hell of it. It's way smarter to take it easy on the whole homo thing.

"You did that piercing yourself, right?" Vic asks me, pointing to the stud in my nose.

"Uh-huh," I confirm. "Why, is it obvious?"

"Nah," he laughs. "Just most people think the DIY thing is badass. What did you use?"

"A tack."

"Mondo. I used a safety pin for mine." Absentmindedly, he touches the ring through his nose, which mirrors mine. "Actually, Will did it. My guitarist, did I tell you? Yeah, he wants to be a piercer-slash-tattooer if our band doesn't work out."

"Is he good?"

"With piercing, yeah. But he gave Mike the shittiest tat last month. It's, like, under his armpit and it's the anarchy symbol, but it kind of looks like a cartoon eyeball or something. So bad." He shudders. "Anyway, if you ever wanted something else done, he's your man."

"Really? Cool, do you think he'd do my eyebrow?"

Vic smiles encouragingly. "Yeah, dude, that would be gnarly."

I snort. "Gnarly? Are you a surfer or something?" I ask while we exchange the cigarette again. Vic laughs at that.

"No, sorry, I picked up that word from my friend Alan. He's, like, a surfer, but also a burnout, so it's weird."

I note, "You must have a lot of friends." Vic shrugs.

"I guess. Some of them probably couldn't even be considered friends anymore, since I haven't talked to them for awhile. Mostly, there's just Will, Chris, Alan, Jason, Tyler, and Jen."

I chuckle in disbelief. "That's still a shitload more than I have."

"Well, friends are exhausting, so be grateful," he advises me. Since I'm not much of a social butterfly, I agree with him.

Vic and I chat for awhile. Police sirens wail in the distance, and the other sounds of the city provide a backdrop for our conversation. I learn that he's only owned one pair of shoes since last year, hence the overdressed state of his feet. He tells me he just hasn't gotten around to buying something less out-of-place, and most people don't give a fuck about shoes anyway unless they're gay. I laugh to myself about that since his shoes were one of the first things I noticed about him, which proves his point on the gay thing. I ask about his life. He tells me about it, earnestly. Vic Fuentes is definitely a talker.

It's when we agree that we need a new cigarette that things start to get interesting.

"Alright, smoking is bad for you, so this is the last of the night," he grins at me as he passes me the fresh joint after pulling it out of his pocket. I suck down hard, letting it creep closer to the filter, then pass it to my right. I hold in the breath as long as I can, and then the puff of smoke escapes in a cloud from my lungs and dissipates into the air. I can feel Vic's gaze on me. I'd be lying if I said it didn't put me on edge. It's a good kind of edge, though. I'm not sure why, but it's exciting to be sitting here with such bodacious boy, even if I'm ninety percent certain nothing will happen. I mean, sure, he looks gay, but that doesn't mean he is. And even if he were, that doesn't mean he likes me like that. Gay guys are picky, just like everyone else. Someone as utterly ace and talented as Vic is bound to have high standards. And that's okay.

"So," he says after a moment. "Tell me about yourself, Jaime...what was it? P-something?"

"Preciado," I grin, not looking at him, but enjoying his gaze on my face. "I dunno. I'm not that interesting. Lived in L.A. my whole life. Parents hardly speak English, although my stepdad is your average white yuppie piece of shit. I used to want to be an astronaut. That stopped when I was twelve and I first heard The Ramones." I scratch the back of my head. "Um, Tony and I met at school when I was eleven 'cause he moved in from Santa Barbara. We learned guitar when we were thirteen, and tried to start a band at fifteen, but turns out we suck." I shrug. "That's about it."

"Guitar is hard," he admits. "I play, but really only for writing shit. It's much more fun to be onstage with only a microphone, you know? I get crazy sometimes."

"Your energy was really cool," I tell him. He peeks up at me while he smiles, and says nothing save for a small 'thanks' for a few passes. Then, he speaks up again.

"I've got a question for you."


"Is Tony really your best friend or is he your boyfriend?"

My heart leaps to my throat. "B-boyfriend? Why the hell would he be my boyfriend?"

He gives me a look verging on patronizing. "Jaime, you're obviously gay."

"What?" I laugh incredulously. "I-I'm not a faggot."

"Uh huh," he smirks. "Well, either you're lying, or you're waist-deep in denial. Which is it?"

"Dude, I said I'm not a queer," I reinforce desperately. Vic just chuckles.

"Take a chill pill. I'm gay too."

Hearing that as good as knocks me to the ground. Vic I mean, I wondered, even hoped, way. No God, even one I only half-believe in, would ever let me meet another gay person. Not one as mad freak as Vic.

"You," I declare, "are messing with me."

"Well, be grateful it's me and not some skinhead who figured you out," he retorts. "Why would I lie about being gay? How do you think I have such a good gaydar?"


"You know, like radar."


Vic laughs. "So is Tony your boyfriend or not?"

"God, no," I shudder. After a second, I add, "And I never said I was gay."

"But you are, aren't you?"

I shrug sheepishly. "Maybe, yeah."

Vic smiles triumphantly. "I goddamn called it."

"Well, at least I don't look as gay as you."

"Tell me something I don't know, sweetheart."

Despite it being a joke, when Vic calls me 'sweetheart,' I blush a little. By now, I'm feeling brave enough to look at him, so I do. For once, he's looking straight ahead. Our shoulders and thighs are still touching. He's not grinning, exactly, but he looks content, almost satisfied. It can't be that cold, but it feels like it to our SoCal blood, so his cheeks are red with life and his lips look plump and smooth. Maybe I want to kiss him. I won't do it, but I want to.

There's a settling silence for a few moments. A few moments and he asks, "Have you ever done anything with a guy?"

It's a surprising question, one I've never been asked before, and I find myself avoiding eye contact, avoiding answering and instead responding, "Have you?"

Vic takes his time on a pull of the cigarette before sending the smoke out in a jet from his lips. Then, he says simply, "Yep."

He's still not looking at me. What's more is that he gave me a one-word response. The chatterbox saying something so vague is astounding, and I prod, "Like what?" He half-smiles at me and takes another drag.

"I...," he hums, "have kissed a boy. I have gone down on a boy. I have fucked a boy. I have gotten fucked by a boy."

"Was it all the same one?" I can't help but ask.

"Nope. Kissed three. Blew and fucked one. Got fucked by two others."

"Hmm." It seems strange to think that there are other gay people. That not everybody would be disgusted by a dick touching a dick. The fact that Vic was able to find what sounds like five or six gay boys is even more astounding.

And then I realize what he's done, and I imagine him on his knees, looking up at me with wide, innocent eyes and one hand on my thigh; the other hand, well....

"What about you, Himes?" he asks, pulling me out of my daydream and eliciting a blush on my cheeks. Nope, I was not just thinking about Vic blowing me. If he could read minds, I'd be fucked.

Once I can manage to process his question, my stomach flips over at the nickname, then flips back at what he asked me. No one likes to admit they're a virgin. I divulge, "I haven't done much besides making out with a few girls."

"Girls, huh?" he snickers. "Let me guess: Little Jaime wasn't up for it?"

"Do you have to call my penis that?" I groan, but I have a chuckle threatening to escape my lips just because he's cute. He smiles inoffensively and boasts, "I'm right, though, aren't I?"

I shrug, "Maybe," turning away to draw less attention to the burn on my cheeks. Vic bumps his knee into mine.

"It's alright. I tried to have sex with a girl once. Not only did I not get hard; I almost vomited."

I sputter out a laugh. "You almost vomited?" He grins in a weirdly proud way.

"Yeah, turns out their genitals look like nightmare shit."

"You're afraid of vaginas?"

"Didn't the fact that I'm flaming tip you off?"

Daringly, I pluck the cigarette from between his fingers while I tell him, "I didn't think you were flaming. You could pass as straight."

"Please, Jaime. I was eye-fucking you from the moment I saw you."

He takes the cigarette back; it's dwindling by now, and after he brings it to his lips and sucks out the last of it, he stubs it on the ground and flicks it away. I'm acutely aware of his warmth next to me compared to the chilly, fresh-after-rain feeling on my left. I'm acutely aware of his hair spilling onto his shoulder and mine. I'm acutely aware of what the hell he just said to me, and how it makes me want to squeal like a valley girl.

"You're awful at taking compliments," he notes. "I basically invited you to kiss me and you're just sitting there."

My jaw practically drops. " want to kiss me?"

He laughs. "Duh. This isn't some shitty romance novel. I'm not about to compare thee to a summer's day."

"Sorry, I just...this is new."

He turns toward me and grins, bringing a hand up to my cheek. "You talk too much."

And then I have a pair of full, soft lips gingerly pressing against my mouth.

After I get over the shock, I realize that this is real, and Vic is kissing me, and a boy is kissing me, and I'm supposed to kiss back. So I inelegantly reach for his neck and reciprocate the mouthwork.

It's brief, but it warms my insides, and Vic pulls back and says softly, "I think I like this."

And before I can say anything to make it awkward, he leans back in and kisses me a little harder—still gently, though. Just as he drags his tongue across my lower lip, a voice from the ground calls his name, and he detaches from me with a sigh.

"It's Will," he says apologetically, letting his fingers graze my cheek as he lets go of my face. "I've got to go."

"You sure?" I breathe, desperately wanting to reconnect our lips. He chuckles quietly.

"Unfortunately, yes. Can't make out all night, as much fun as that would be."

"Can I see you again?" I ask, knowing full-well that I sound desperate, but hell, it's not every day I meet a stunning guy who wants to kiss me.

Vic laughs a little and responds, "Sure. I have a gig here in four days. You want to meet me afterwards?"

"Okay." He stands up and stretches, his tight-fitting shirt riding up just slightly and revealing an expanse of smooth, tanned skin above his waistline. Then, he starts for the fire escape. Just as he begins to descend it, I blurt out, "It's my birthday." I don't have a reason for saying it, I just do. Vic takes it casually.

"Mondo. Happy birthday. How old are you?"

I lie, "Eighteen."

"Barely legal, huh? I'm twenty." He smiles one last time before saying, "Later, Jaime."

I'm a second too late when I reply, "Bye, Vic."

It's cold when he's gone. I hear his voice, muted slightly, utter a few things on the ground to Will until a loud car starts and he drives away.

Vic. Vic Fuentes.

I goddamn kissed him.