Somehow, from the way Oliver had been calling out for Theo and Theo’s bemusement at Oliver’s runaway libido and paper-thin sexual self-control I’d been expecting him to be something like a twink, or whatever was the Australian equivalent. Well, I was half right. Oliver… was a muscle twink. What I noticed first was how he mostly met all the expectations I’d had, fairly or not: a little on the short side, very cute with this flawless pink-porcelain skin and a shock of platinum blond hair that was clearly used to being shaped just-so with plenty of product, with a skin-tight deep-fuchsia colored sleeveless tee and white short-shorts with a basket big enough to make me curious and then some as to what was packed behind that straining zipper. One thing was a little unexpected—he had a thin, obsessively groomed and trimmed beard, platinum blond like his hair and eyebrows. If anything it made him look more masculine and more adorably twink-erfic, at exactly the same time.
But he’d also managed to build up his shoulders, upper arms, lats, and especially his pecs to nearly rival Theo’s, though there was something about him that made his big pecs seem pert and boyish despite their larger-than-expected size. The fuchsia muscle shirt was so snug I could see his abs clearly, and those puppies were carved so perfectly they were probably even more chiseled than either of ours were. His mostly hairless legs were so lithe and strong, he looked like could run for days without breaking a sweat. His eyes were hazel and so wide right now I could see the white all the way around.
I expected him to freak, but what he said, when he could finally speak, took me completely by surprise. “This is not what was supposed to happen,” Oliver exclaimed, hands on his hips.
I glanced at Theo with a frown. “He’s… in on this?” I asked. I still had no idea what “this” was, but I hadn’t expected it to extend beyond something that either had happened to Theo or that Theo had done, but had turned out wrong.
Theo nodded. “Ollie was… ” he started to explain, then shook his head. “This isn’t what was supposed to happen,” he said, repeating Oliver.
“It sure isn’t,” Oliver said. Unexpectedly he’d crossed the room while my attention had been briefly diverted and was now moving around us, examining us—mostly me, as he was mainly stroking various places on my torso through the blue and white tee I’d pulled on. I wondered if this constituting Oliver “behaving”, and what he’d be like if his control actually did start to give way. Oliver made a move to slip a hand between us, no doubt intensely curious about our join, but I batted his hand away.
“So what was supposed to happen?” I asked pointedly, looking from Oliver to Theo. Oliver was too engrossed in investigating the two of us with his hands as carefully and thoroughly as possible, and was currently feeling up Theo’s round ass with a thoughtful expression, as if to check whether anything might have changed in that department.
Theo looked contrite. “It was supposed to be—” he began, then stopped and started again. “Look, Ollie works in a specialty bookstore near the uni,” he said. “It looks small but they actually have a huge inventory, lots of private transactions from all over. They’re well enough known that certain kinds of books always seem to end up in their hands, sold in lots or as part of an estate.” I’d let go of my embrace so that we could both pull back enough to pull our shirts on, but I found that I was naturally inclined to drape my arms around his lower back, and Theo, I realized, was doing the same, having loosely embraced me as he spoke as if we were both dancing casually on a dance floor. I felt a strange impulse to start swaying my hips—and then I remembered. I sobered a little as Oliver, unexpectedly, continued the story, engaged now in slowly stroking Theo’s right upper arm with both hands, as if he had every right to do so. Well, Theo didn’t object, so I guessed he was used to Oliver’s hands all over him.
“We go in this lot of books from somewhere in Peru—not a city I’d ever heard of, and I’ve been to Peru. They were all strange in some way, all to do with arcane arts and occult practices. Anyway, I was cataloguing the books for Old Skinhead—”
“That’s the owner, Mr. Williams,” Theo put in.
“—and I came across this book that wasn’t like the others,” Oliver carried on. He was now finally meeting my eyes, appraisingly, and I could see that whatever else this muscle queen was, he was smart and very savvy. He interrupted himself to say, “I’m Oliver Smith, by the way,” and stuck out his hand.
Disengaging momentarily from our embrace, I reached between me and Theo to shake it. “Dylan,” I said. “Dylan Brooks.” When he nodded and let go, I wrapped my arms around Theo again. It felt incredibly natural, like this was where my arms belonged from now on.
Oliver resumed his story, eyes still locked with mine, but he now shifted from stroking Theo’s arm to mine instead. I went with it. It felt nice. I was still completely turned on and very hard, though fortunately the physical evidence of my arousal was hidden by the tails of our shirts piled between us where our bodies joined. “Anyway, this one book was very different,” Oliver was saying. “So all the other books were printed, but this one was clearly a manuscript—and a very old one, definitely from the Middle Ages, though it had been rebound so it was not something you’d notice at a glance. There were lots of strange things in there. Strange things it said you could do, if you had the will and the guts. It was in French, which, fortunately, I can read.”
“Maybe not,” Theo said, aiming a tilted eyebrow at Oliver. Oliver ignored him.
“So, wait,” I said. “Let me see if I understand this. You found a secret medieval manuscript full of—what, occult spells? Magic incantations? And you decided to bring them home and just try them out and see what happened?”
“Don’t be a dill,” Oliver scoffed.
“You have to understand,” Theo said. “I’ve always had this thing about wanting to… well, share my body,” he said, ducking his head a little. “Another person, enjoying your body with you.” Then he looked up at me and his eyes met mine, and the light in them almost took my breath away. “And then Ollie brought this book home, and he was going through it, giggling at all the weird spells and everything, and then there was this spell that did just that! You had to focus on the kind of person you wanted, and that person would be in your body with you!” Looking at Theo and seeing his excitement, I could tell that this really was a dream come true for him.
“It was supposed to be mental,” Oliver explained. “That’s what Theo wanted.” He was regarding me with his head tilted, as if he could figure out what had gone wrong just by looking at me.
“Right. It was supposed to be two minds, two souls sharing a single body,” Theo said. “My body. We’d take turns doing stuff, and enjoy being together inside me. It sounds stupid, but it wasn’t supposed to be really real, right? I mean, I dreamed the spell was real, but I didn’t think it could actually work… ” He trailed off, flustered by the collision of what he’d hoped for and the disillusionment he’d expected but that hadn’t happened.
I frowned at him, considering. “Who did you wish for?” I asked.
“What?” Theo said, brows drawing together.
“You said you had to fix your mind on ‘the kind of person you wanted’,” I said. “Who did you wish for?”
Theo lowered his head again, suddenly reticent. I glanced at Oliver, who was watching him with as much curiosity as I had. “You might as well tell me, Theo,” I teased. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Theo looked up at me, and his ruddy cheeks were matched with a big, crooked grin. He took a deep breath, making our chests almost touch. “I wished for someone sweet, and smart, and who’d enjoy sharing a body with me. And who might be able to still do his job even if… maybe he was living in Melbourne for a while,” he admitted, a little abashed. “I work from home mostly too, writing and composing, and if we were both a little insular, together, taking turns, sharing everything… ” Then he moved a hand up and cupped my cheek. “I know it was supposed to be mental, but I must have wished for crazy good-looking, too,” he added. “God, Dylan, you’re so bloody beautiful,” and before the words were out, before I could even blush from the compliment, he’d shifted that hand around my neck and drawn us into a long, deep, passionate kiss that rivaled the kiss we’d woken up to for spine-tingling, heart-pounding pleasure.
“Hey! Hey!” Oliver objected, poking me and then Theo in the shoulder. “You can’t pash in front of me, it’s—what do you Yanks say? Cruel and unusual punishment!”
We broke apart, both of us chuckling softly, but our eyes were still riveted on each other, and our cocks were very, very hard. “I’m serious,” Oliver said intensely. “I’m easily aroused.” Before I had a chance to say “No kidding”, he plowed on: “You’re both already so impossibly hot, it’s ridiculous,” he said, throwing his arms around both of us and pressing his immaculately bearded jawline into Theo’s prodigious delts with a moue of put-upon frustration. “If you two can’t control yourselves, I will get that book and put a curse on you. Or join you myself. Either way I’m the one that can read it,” he added with what I hoped was only mock petulance, “so you’ll never be able to undo whatever I do to you.”
Theo was grinning at him, used to his outrageousness by now I guessed, but I just gave him a cool smile. “Actually,” I told him, looking him right in his big bright hazel eyes, “I’m a professional translator.”
Theo perked up at this. “Really?” he said delightedly.
Oliver was not so delighted. He opened his mouth and was about to say something, no doubt about how I couldn’t possibly match his mad French skills, when something occurred to me. “Wait, wait,” I said. “This manuscript is in medieval French? Because medieval French and modern French are not the same thing.”
Oliver closed his mouth, his previous retort rendered moot. He frowned, it clearly having occurred to him for the first time that maybe he had been the one to screw things up. “Where is this book?” I asked.
For some reason, Oliver blushed and looked away. “My room,” he said shortly.
Theo frowned. “Why?” he asked.
“I was… trying something else,” Oliver said airily, trying to sound off-handed. Then he looked down. It was just for a second, but it totally gave the game away.
“I knew it!” Theo exclaimed, laughing. “I knew you were packing more than usual!”
I glanced down at Oliver’s short shorts, and realized my first impression was correct—Oliver’s crotch was very, very full. “Wow,” I said.
“I’ll just… go get the book,” Oliver said hurriedly, sounding deeply embarrassed at having been caught out at such a crass and shallow endeavor. A second later he was gone as if he’d been made to go “poof” by a magician’s wand.
Theo’s eyes met mine, dancing with amusement. I was about to suggest we use the moment alone for a bit more kissing, but my stomach chose that moment to growl audibly. I usually woke up ravenous, and a good deal of time had passed since I’d woken up here.
Theo smiled. “Sounds like we should try making our way to the kitchen,” he suggested wryly, and I was in full agreement. Remembering what he’d said about our center of gravity I wrapped my arms tight around him and he did the same, and with our chins on each other’s shoulders we made our way slowly and steadily to the flat’s big, open kitchen. Theo pulled a chair out from the kitchen table and cautiously sat down. It was definitely strange to be sitting with my back to the table, but so much of what I was thinking and feeling was drowned out by the towering, pulse-pounding pleasure of having Theo in my arms, and him holding me in his. I didn’t let up my tight embrace even a little, and neither did he. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them Oliver’s cute face was inches away—he was crouching just behind our chair, staring right into my eyes. He had a slim, black-bound book in one hand. “You guys are killing me,” he moaned. I was about to give an amused reply when he said, “Will you let me kiss you, Dylan? Please?” He was so serious, I knew that he was asking only because the poor boy was finding being around us almost unbearably arousing. Whatever he’d done to his equipment probably wasn’t helping, I thought, half sympathetic and half amused, and all curious.
I considered his request seriously. I didn’t want to mess things up with Theo, but I could also see that Theo was very indulgent toward his deeply tactile and affection-crazed flatmate. “Does Theo let you kiss him?” I asked at last.
“Two per day,” he said immediately, his eyes bright and eager.
“One a day, ya slag,” Theo said. “Don’t lie to the boy.”
“Two per day,” Oliver insisted. “Each. Fuck, you lot will make my balls explode as it is.”
Theo snorted a laugh, as if casually agreeing to Oliver’s demands. I pulled back from where my chin was still resting on Theo’s thick traps, enough to look him in the eyes. Theo seemed amused, as if kissing Oliver were no big thing. “You sure about this?” I asked doubtfully.
By way of answer, he cupped my cheek again, locking his beautiful dark green eyes with mine. My breath caught. He shifted his hand up so he was running it though my dark, messy curls. “We both know,” Theo said, watching his hand as it slowly carded though my locks, “that kissing Oliver is nothing like what happens when you and I kiss.” His eyes met mine, and I felt a shiver course through me, and, unless I was very much mistaken, into him. “I’ve never felt anything like that,” he said, pinning me with his twinkling gaze. “We are going to be kissing a lot, Dylan, and it’s only going to get better. I don’t care if we kiss all the time, day and night, twenty-four seven. You’re beautiful, you’re sweet, and you kiss better than any human being on the planet. The thrill… it’s beyond anything I’ve ever had. That’s all I care about—you and me, pashing forever. Beyond that,” he added, lips quirking, “we can choose to share the fun around together if we want. ‘Cause they’ll never know anything like what’s it’s like for us.”
“Guys,” Oliver whined. “You’re being so mean.”
A big smile bloomed on Theo’s gorgeous face, and I couldn’t help grinning just as wide. I gave Theo a brief kiss, just enough to remind him what he had coming later without being enough to make poor Oliver burst like an overfilled balloon. Then I snuggled tight against Theo and tossed Oliver a smile as I rested my chin back on Theo’s bulging traps. “All right, Ollie,” I said, wiggling my eyebrows at him. “Do your worst.”
He pursed his lips at me, not for a kiss but in queenly scorn at my taunt. “Honey, you are about to experience the best pash any Yank has the right to,” he said. Before I could laugh he’d tossed an arm around my neck and moved in for the kill.
I was expecting enthusiastic, but Oliver surprised me. Our kiss was long and sensual—not as powerfully intense as what I had with Theo, not even close, but really nice. He broke the kiss finally and leaned back, looking smug. “See what I mean?” he said.
“You’re right,” I agreed. “I definitely did not deserve that.”
Oliver tsked and rose to his feet, bopping me on the head with the book. “Wanker,” he said, taking the seat beside ours at the table.
Theo twisted us so we could both see the book, and Theo started leafing through it. The pages were old and yellowed, but looked intact and not about to crumble. The writing was definitely old enough to be medieval, and seemed to be in several different hands. “Which one is the spell you used?” I asked.
Theo found the page. “See?” Oliver put in, tapping a manicured nail at one of the passages. “This definitely says ‘share your body’,” he said.
I didn’t say anything at first, instead taking a moment to read carefully through the whole explanation of the spell, which was on the left-hand page, and the incantation itself, which faced it on the right-hand page. Then I went back to the passage Oliver hand indicated. “I don’t think so,” I said slowly. “That word can mean ‘share’, but not the way you were talking about before.” I considered, then went on, “A better rendering would be ‘join your body’… or even ‘join onto your body’. Which, I guess, is pretty much what you got.”
I looked up from the book and met Theo’s gaze. “So we got the spell completely wrong?” he said uncertainly. “Or… was it that the description is unclear?” I could tell he was abashed at both the mistake and what it had meant, for me as well as him.
“I’m not sure,” I mused. I went back to looking over the manuscript. It was very handsomely written in a fair hand, unlike some of the other, more hastily inscribed passages I’d seen while Theo was turning pages. These pages were confidently written—it was the spell itself that was ambiguous. I met Theo’s gaze again. “I think,” I said, “that intent and desire has a lot to do with this particular spell. I think this spell can have different results, depending on what you really, really want to happen.”
Theo stared into my eyes, lips parted. He seemed at a loss for words, as if I revealed a secret to him that had been hidden from him his whole life. “What you’re telling us, then,” Oliver said from where he sat beside us, “is that Theo thought he wanted was the mental thing—two souls sharing his body. But what he really wanted was—this?”
Without looking over at Oliver I nodded. “I think so,” I said.
I watched Theo—beautiful, amazing Theo—as he swallowed, unable to look away from me. I knew what he was thinking. He was steeling himself to offer using the spell to undo what had happened to us, though to be honest I was pretty sure it couldn’t be used that way—the incantation was all about joining, merging, sharing two lives in a single combined form. But Theo was so conflicted—he desperately wanted what the spell had given us, but was too good a man not to offer me the out. I waited, patiently and with increasingly unbounded affection. Finally he licked his lips and said, so softly I could barely hear him: “Is it what you want, Dylan? Is this… what you want?”
I smiled. I let my gaze bore into him. “You can feel how aroused I am, Theo,” I said, my voice steady and rough with desire. “You can feel how deeply… how endlessly I want you. I can feel your desire, too, your need, just as strong. Our hearts pound for each other. Our blood runs hot for each other. And I can feel more than that. I can feel the kind of man you are. I can feel the passion you put into everything you do. Honestly, I couldn’t keep away from you now if we had the whole earth between us. Having your lips in easy reach every moment of every day for the rest of our lives… fuck, Theo, it’s the best fate I could possibly imagine.”
Theo was beaming at me now, but his eyes were dark with lust. “I want to kiss you so bad right now,” he rasped, “but let’s don’t to give Ollie a bloody coronary. So we’d better order some take-away instead to take care of that growling stomach of yours, and leave the pashing for later.”
“Take-away?” Oliver gasped, obviously choosing to ignore the rest. “It’s ten in the morning!”
Theo aimed his stunning smile at Oliver, who drew in a breath. “The curry place on Jones is open,” Oliver said hastily. “I have the app on my phone, so I’ll… just go get it.” Then he was gone again as if he’d vanished into the ether.
I rested my head against Theo’s, suddenly giddy with happiness and profound, inexhaustible arousal. I was grinning so wide my cheeks hurt, but the few seconds of temporary privacy we had now was not nearly long enough to get into any of the many kinds of trouble I wanted to explore with Theo. Instead, to distract us, I asked, low and secret and almost giggling, “So what do you think he did to his junk?”
Theo was grinning too. “I don’t know, lover,” he said, “but I’m sure we’ll find out.”
Before I could ask him whether he meant that we’d see what he’d done to himself because it wouldn’t be long before Oliver let us catch him naked, or that we’d find out when Oliver did it to us, Theo brought me in for a brief but ravishing kiss so intense I barely kept myself from orgasming all over our abs and chests and probably the fucking kitchen ceiling. Or maybe it was that I barely kept us from orgasm, because I was becoming more and more aware that the two huge, rigid cocks erupting between us were both under my control, and that I was starting to be able to feel the aching hardness and need of Theo’s big prick, too, shivering with suppressed explosion, straining against his trackies in the usual spot, below the place where our bodies joined. I didn’t know quite how I’d ended up with this jostling double helping of big, leaky cock (had that been a still-more-secret part of Theo’s wished-for desire while he was casting the spell?); but my extra dickage seemed to intensify the increasingly shared arousal we were both feeling. I pulled myself abruptly back from him, both of us panting, and stared hard into Theo’s eyes as he grinned at me.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun later,” he said, dark eyes glittering. “I want to find every way possible to drive us both over the edge. Over and over again.”
How we didn’t cum, right then, from Theo having said those words I still don’t know, but we more than made up for it that afternoon after the early lunch Oliver ordered in for us from that curry place. My ex, Wallace, and I were fortunately on good enough terms that I could call him while we ate and beg him to get Ralph from my place and look after him until Theo and I figured out how to bring him to Melbourne. The moment the meal was over, though, Theo and I were drowning in each other, everything else forgotten. We hurried to the bedroom and lost no time following up on Theo’s promise, driving each other to the brink and then pulling back before rocketing to shared explosive orgasms again and again. And then again after that, and again, and again, until Oliver finally hauled us bodily out of our room and shoved our cum-covered body into the shower and got us to eat dinner like civilized people and hang out with him and his identical muscle twink twin brother (also called Oliver) that he hadn’t had before; and we had to admit that that was kind of a blast, too.
Still, the logistics of merging any two people’s lives together were harrying enough without the two parties involved also being, well, merged. Theo and I were literally joined at the hip, our facing torsos becoming one just above his magnificent butt, and while we’d conquered walking with our newly top-heavy body relatively quickly, other aspects of our conjoined lives weren’t so easy. We approached it as an exciting challenge, like when you wake up in a fantasy realm full of soaring, ten-mile-high mountains and bottomless dark oceans and lush, dreaming forests full of strange magic, and you have to learn how to ride that ornery but honorable fire dragon by sundown tonight if you’re going to have any chance of saving the hunky, long-haired, shirt-eschewing men of Tungbàð from the ravages of a thousand million gruesome sea-orcs. Theo and I, we smiled, girded ourselves for battle, and made that dragon ours, and us his, in the finest heroic tradition.
Getting my stuff was relatively straightforward, though it required owing Wallace, my ex, a few favors. Wallace was a good-looking proto-banker of mixed Southeast Asian ancestry who was still butthurt over my having broken up with him two months back, not having been able to really understand how I could want to walk away from our congenial relationship just because there weren’t any “sparks” (the word was mine, the sarcastic quotes were his). I needed my stuff, though, and with all my family in Palo Alto Wallace was my only shot. I knew some buttering would be required. First I had to come up with a story about how I’d ended up in fucking Australia without a wallet, much less laptop, clothes, or anything else. So I explained to Wallace about how I’d met Theo in a whirlwind romance over a magical romance-montage night in Boston and he’d whisked me off to Melbourne, and me with only my old driver’s license and a single credit card in my back pocket because I’d suddenly decided that carrying a wallet on a night out was too dangerous after I’d read that life-hack article about staying safe when you’re out clubbing, you know the one I mean. Since when do I go out ‘clubbing’? Well, you know how the stress builds up when you’re a busy freelance translator, all those diacriticals really start to get to you. How did I get into Australia when my passport was still gathering dust in my desk drawer in Boston? We-e-ell, there’s actually a thing in Australia called “provisional entry” for people who forgot their passports, have you heard of it? No? So, it’s where you gain a temporary permit to enter the country by surrendering your home nation’s government ID—my old driver’s license, in my case—and then you have to present yourself with your passport within ten days or you have to go to the bad prison in the middle of the desert where all the snakes are; so if he could just box up my passport and my other stuff I’d be eternally grateful (and so on).
Wallace didn’t really care about the difficulties of undocumented international ingress. What he did care about was squaring things between us after I’d unfairly, in his view, torched our relationship. He agreed to ship the essentials from my apartment, including my laptop, wallet, passport, and various other irreplaceables, and to retake temporary custody of Ralph, the boisterous young chocolate lab we’d gotten together, only for Wallace to decide he wasn’t a dog person after all—in exchange for two sight-unseen translation gigs of his choosing for the firm he’d joined fresh from getting his MBA, Volturnus Capital Advisors. I groaned, but I had no choice but to bite the bullet on this one. I’d done a string of jobs for Volturnus during the nearly two years I’d been with Wallace, and though they paid really well most of them had been unpleasant fire drills involving thirty-page documents written in solid corporate drivelspeke (you haven’t read business double-talk until you’ve read it in Russian); deadlines that were always ridiculously short; and unpleasant chivvying phone calls from nervous juniors or impatient executives. I agreed to one more job for Volturnus, plus one held in reserve for when I found a way to get Ralph sent down to me. To us, I should say, because Theo, bless him, was as eager to make friends with Ralph as I was to see him again.
Other things took some adjustments. We started working out together. The apartment we shared with Oliver was the entire first floor (or, as we would say in America, the entire second floor) of a large converted three-story house in a comfortable northern suburb of the city, and there was a home gym for the use of residents in the basement that Theo and Oliver were both in the habit of making very good use of (as you could tell just by looking at them). Theo and I had to take turns on some of the exercises, like on the butterfly machine where we each enjoyed the press of our sweaty, straining, pumped pecs against each other while the other worked. Other exercises only Theo could do, like leg presses, though I felt the effort and strain in the thighs and calves we both shared as he pushed against his—our?—newly increased endurance.
My favorites, though, were the ones we could do together. We found a way to do curls at the same time, moving the two curls benches together and taking the seat off one so that it was essentially one double-sided curl machine, and we just pounded preacher curls together, hauling weight up and down behind each other’s backs while we huffed and gritted and growled in each other’s ears, each trying not to get turned on by the constantly awesome thought of our arms getting thicker and stronger for each other. I was behind him in size and strength so I was using lower weights, but I kept up the reps and sets with him, and as with the leg workouts something about sharing our bodies meant we both had better stamina and could push ourselves harder than we ever could before.
Push-ups were the real challenge, because there was so much more mass to lift with a whole half a body more than either of us were used to. At first I’d thought that this would be one of those exercises that only Theo could do, with me gripping onto him tightly and trying not to distract him—but Theo, the grinning bastard, got me to try my own version of “upside-down” push-ups with Theo facing up, our feet resting on their heels rather than their toes, and me taking up the responsibility for keeping the legs firm and straight. I’d never been that great with push-ups, and the first time I tried to push us up the extra weight almost killed me and I collapsed us into a heap, Theo laughing delightedly as he held onto me (despite having been dropped back-first onto the mat) and egging me on to try again, and keep trying until we got it right. Eventually I could do almost as many push-ups as I’d used to be able to do back when I didn’t share a torso with someone, though I was still not in my jock body-mate’s league by any measure. We did the same with chin-ups, which I’d always dreaded even more than push-ups, but with Theo rewarding me with one quick kiss for every five chin-ups, and a longer one for every twenty, I quickly became the fucking chin-ups master. We took turns doing chin-ups, concentrating on each torso separately; but the best part was this was also one exercise we could do together, the bar between us as we pulled ourselves up with four hands and eased ourselves down, and as I became stronger, better able to at least partially match my strength to his, I reveled in how good it felt to share this exertion with him, our eyes riveted, our merged body straining as one, two men joined in a life together.
The best part of working out, of course, was the shower afterwards where we both felt strong and pumped and hard all over for each other. The sex started under the hot spray, our soapy bodies slippery and aching from hard work and lust combined as we kissed each other with animal hunger, Theo carding his fingers through my wet curls as we ravished each other. It usually lasted for a good hour afterwards, until we collapsed, sated and euphoric and delightfully languid, so that being unable to move felt right and necessary and exactly what we needed.
An early hurdle was more psychological than logistical: I couldn’t get over the feeling, at first, that I’d lost half my body, and in those early days Theo’s patient reassurances that his perfect, well-toned legs with their swaths of sparse golden hair were not his but ours were just words. I could feel them, but it still seems to me like they were at a distance, like a mechanical devise you operated remotely from another room behind a glass window. Finally, on about our fourth day together, Theo took action—by refusing to use his legs at all. That morning he insisted that I had to be the one to get us up, walk us to go to the bathroom for a piss, and head into the kitchen and make breakfast. I whined and said I couldn’t, but he called me on it—we’d already started doing the reverse push-ups and from those we both knew I could control our legs just as well as he could. With some difficulty, and a few falls onto the bed, I got us up onto our feet… our feet, not his. I took us slowly, step by step, into the bathroom, biting my lip and alternating between throwing looks over my shoulder to see I was not driving us into a wall and staring into Theo’s calming green eyes. My chest was heaving by the time we were standing in front of the toilet, and my eyes were burning with tears I was ashamed to shed—not because I was upset at what Theo had forced me to accept, but because I felt like an idiot for not realizing that getting used to us having these legs together like I was now was exactly the same thing Theo had had to do from the beginning, and I’d let him do all the work for something we both shared. I smiled weakly and said, “Sorry,” and Theo kissed me. And then a torrent of pee started splashing loudly in the toilet and we both laughed, foreheads touching like we often do. After that it was easier. I didn’t lose the sense of not having my own legs completely, but I also understood that Theo didn’t have legs of his own anymore either, and he probably thought about that, too. That these were our legs now meant they weren’t just his anymore, and I tried to hold up my end of what legs are there to do from then on, especially in the gym, and not put all the mental burden on Theo.
So the biggest challenge, as it turned out, was work. We both worked from home; I’m a translator with a good-sized client base and a four-language comfort zone, and Theo both writes music and writes about music, specializing in orchestrations of existing songs for theater and television (so in a way he’s a translator too). That’s when he’s not writing his own material, though when we first met that was mostly a hobby for him. So we could both work sitting at home in front of our laptops, except… well, when either of us tried to work there was a whole person in the way. Have you ever tried working on something that required concentration with someone sitting in your lap? Someone who, let’s not forget, caused your heartrate to pick up just from the sensation of their warm body pressed against yours and their special scent wafting lazily through your olfactory senses, filling your mind with ardent appreciation and raw, intoxicating lust?
In the end it was the workouts that helped us make it work, and specifically our tandem preacher curls. When we were doing curls together we found a rhythm. We were both intent on what we were doing and yet we were doing it together, torsos pressed together and heads overlapping, millimeters apart and not quite touching, as we focused our hands and the iron we were pumping. So we found a second desk to put opposite Theo’s in the third bedroom that Theo used as a home office workspace and set it up like the curls station. And then we just, you know, made it work. We worked our paid gigs together, chest to chest, listening to each other’s breathing and using it to hone our attention and keep to task, the way a director tells an actor to use his feelings in his performance rather than letting them draw him out of it. It made work more intense for both of us, but in the end it was a matter of discipline and direction. We committed ourselves to focusing when we sat at out desks, just like when we were down in the gym. And, well, to mind-blowing sex every hour or so. Okay, it worked, shut up.
Even as we trained ourselves to avoid distraction it was still a little awkward from a practical point of view. If you have ever tried to work at your laptop with someone sitting in your lap, especially someone with nice pecs and a decent set of lats, you’ll have noticed that—quite apart from the hindrance to concentration posed by your partner’s feel and smell and occasional kisses—the position you find yourself while reaching around that person’s hot, sexy body, with elbows slightly out and hands coming in at more of an angle than you’re used to, is not quite ideal for touch typing. Nor was it quite right for Theo when he switched from his laptop to his guitar, or his electric piano. On this point… I have to admit that we cheated a little.
After several nights studying the petit grimoire that Oliver had stumbled across at the specialty bookstore where he worked I found buried in the back, in the section that was in Latin rather than medieval Old French (and so most likely skipped over by Oliver), a minor spell that would allow you to be able to extend, at will, the length of any body part by a couple of inches. With some hesitation I tried it out first my left arm, then the right, and it worked simply and painlessly, so I worked the same spell on Theo’s arms too, and from that point onward we were able to work a little more comfortably. It came in handy in other ways, too. Of course we soberly agreed that we should not indulge too deeply in magic we barely understood, and that it was therefore a consummately bad idea to misuse the spell just to satisfy other, baser urges, no matter how curious we were about how such a spell might affect the kissing we indulged in almost constantly whenever we weren’t otherwise engaged, even extending into our nights together, wound around each other and gently nuzzling or making out with each other as we slept, wrapt in pleasure. I’m proud to say we stuck to our resolve and kept that vow for almost two whole weeks.
Sharing my life with Theo Martin also meant, inevitably, sharing it with Oliver Smith as well.
Don’t get me wrong. Ollie’s great and I love him to bits. I really, honestly do. He’s compassionate, smart, and possessed of a dry, wicked sense of humor, and a lot less superficial than his deep interest in grooming products would suggest. He’s also pretty much the opposite of Theo. Theo is calm, easy-going, thoughtful, and driven in that steady way that gets things done, with bright eyes and a ready smile. Ollie, on the other hand, is animated, sarcastic, and alert, constantly striving to overcome his naturally short attention span through sheer effort of will and a mental rigor that works startlingly well—especially when he’s away from us and in his own element at Lionivy Books. He’s essentially the manager of the specialty bookstore he works for. The owner, Mr. Williams, tended to secret himself away in his private office doing lord knew when he came in at all, leaving the floor and inventory to Ollie. He designed the system to keep the wide-ranging and constantly fluctuating holdings organized, searchable, and available for online acquisition through third-party bookhunter and antique collectible sites; he also supervises the staff, and oversees estate acquisitions and special purchases that expand their on-site assets. Whenever you catch those glinting hazel eyes, you know that the gears are turning behind them.
The problem is that Theo and I are Ollie’s kryptonite. It was bad enough when it was just Theo, but now that it’s the two of us it’s just a little bit more than Ollie can stand. The things is, all three of us have fairly high libidos. For Theo and me, though, our sex drive is ever-present and constantly burning but mostly banked to a hot smolder. It’s always there, but it blazes to a full roaring inferno only when we turn our need for each other loose and go to town. Ollie, from what I can tell, is on fire all the time. It’s one of the reasons he’s so prone to distraction, and the main driver of his need to compensate through organization and productivity when he’s at the bookstore, and pushing himself even harder than Theo and I do when he’s working out in the basement gym or taking his morning run (not “jog”, as he once reprimanded me) through Royal Park. (One late night while Ollie and I were talking quietly over mugs of tea, Theo snoozing gently into my neck, Ollie told me about the time a trick had once asked him, after, why he worked out so much and let himself get so big, and Ollie had sighed and said, “Because, love, I can’t fuck twenty-four/seven.”)
I knew from day one that Theo had a massive catalyzing effect on Ollie’s carnal appetites, which was kicked still higher if Theo slipped up and exposed his beautiful bare torso to Ollie’s hungry gaze. But my arrival had forced almost a constant red-line of Ollie’s sexual engines. This was regularly made very obvious around the house in two ways, both equally intense.
First, Ollie is a very tactile person. Theo and I are, too, I guess, but we are fortunate enough to actually literally be constantly touching each other. Our arms and shoulders rub together as we work or relax. Our pecs touch and our jawlines brush along each other anytime when we’re not actively staring into each other’s eyes or kissing the sweet, delicious mouth that’s constantly before us, because those lips are forever tempting and nearly impossible to resist. Ollie doesn’t have that, and so he’s drawn to us like a magnet the moment we’re all in the same room. That meant that for me and Theo to see Ollie was to feel his strong hands along our shoulders, our arms, our backs, and generally all over as Ollie gabbled at us about his day, or the latest football celebrity gossip, or his plans for the welcome-to-Aussie party he insisted on throwing me. (He said the magic of our transformation meant that people wouldn’t run screaming at the sight of us, and my reading of the petit grimoire seemed to back him up, but that didn’t mean I was champing at the bit to walk down Elizabeth Street and face the millions of Melbourne anytime soon.)
The good news is that Theo and I are so secure in our love for each other, and the intensity of the passion we feel for each other is so great, that Ollie’s attentions are kind of nice, the way wearing a cozy, snuggly shirt feels good against your skin. He knows we’re not going to fuck him, and we know he knows, so it’s all tamped down to caresses, and hugs that last entire conversations, and cuddles when we’re on the couch watching TV or whatever, and the two kisses a day each he extorted out of our fond indulgence for him at the start of our joint interaction.
Then there’s the other thing. Ollie evidently found a spell in the grimoire—I’m still not sure exactly which one it is, because none of them seem to match exactly—which causes a build up of extreme arousal to manifest itself uncontrollably in him twinning himself, becoming two Ollies instead of one. And because of the effect Theo and I have on him immediately on visual contact and intensified by proximity, this means that pretty much the moment Ollie comes into the room we’re in and sees us when he comes home from the bookstore, pop! there’s two muscle twink Ollies in the room instead of one.
Sometimes he reacts to this with feigned exasperation, but the truth is I know he’s glad to relieve himself of the choice of which of us to start out stroking and snuggling against. Theo and I literally get it from both sides, and we roll our eyes and go with it, knowing Ollie can’t really help just how into the sight of us he is. It’s not like it’s all the time, anyway. Usually in the mornings he’s able to focus on the work day ahead so it’s not a problem—in fact most days he does his run and leaves for work before we get up anyway… ah, the joys of working from home (see also the pains of working from home, especially when sharing a body with someone, cited above). But evenings and weekends it’s pretty much a constant and a given: he sees us, he twins himself, and then there’s four of us until Theo and I go off to fuck or whatever, and Ollie and his other self do the same. What’s funny is he’ll come out a while later, all sated and one-bodied and ready to cook us lunch or whatever, only to bust out a twin with a muttered “Sod it!” the minute he sees us again.
Of course, something like that can get a little out of control. One very stormy Friday afternoon we went down to the gym to work out for an hour or so, and by the time we headed back up, sweaty, half-naked, and pumped, laughing as I told a story about Ralph’s pursuit of a ball straight into the open refrigerator, it had completely slipped our minds that Ollie had had a half day because Mr. Williams had closed the shop early, on account of there being no prospect whatever of anyone in their right minds being out in that cold, relentless downpour to buy old books. So when we walked into the kitchen, we were pulled up short to see Ollie standing there in his favorite short-shorts and tank top casually making out with himself, as if just to pass the time. Like you do. And even as we stood there and remembered Ollie having come home early, twinning himself as usual at the sight of us even as we moved past him to head for the basement, both Ollies looked up as one and stared, wide-eyed, at our muscular torsos. Our shirtless, muscular torsos.
“Shit,” Theo said. As he said the word we saw the intense urge overcome both Ollies—and suddenly there were four of him, all moving toward us like zombies bent on a good fuck instead of just brains. At that moment a flash of lightning flickered in the gloom-darkened window, followed, close on its heels, by a loud roll of thunder, as if the storm wanted to underline just how screwed we were.
“Here!” Theo said, thrusting a tee shirt into my hands.
I saw it was actually a thin but loose long-sleeved jersey. “Good thinking,” I said. Hectically we pulled the shirts on all at once. We were adept at this little bit of choreography after a good deal of practice, this not being the first time we’d had to put on shirts in a hurry.
The banging continued insistently. “You’re putting on shirts, aren’t you?” one of the Ollies accused through the door. “Don’t put on shirts!” another pleaded. “We’re going to pull them off you,” yet another warned. Theo and I exchanged glances—Ollie at his randiest still never stooped to making us go shirtless when we weren’t already.
Theo settled his shirt around our shared waist and turned toward the bedroom door. “Ollie, calm down,” he said, in the calm but firm voice that usually managed to ground both me and Ollie whenever either of us was upset. Theo checked with me and I nodded, and we both headed for the door. As had become our habit we opened the door partway and faced Ollie turned enough that we could both look at him. Or rather, them.
They looked up at us as one, their eyes dark with unbridled lust, full red lips parted as they stared at us, drowning in desire. Their porcelain-pink cheeks were red with arousal, their perfect platinum-blond beards lighter than ever in contrast. Sweat dotted the round, red-tinged muscles of their delts and traps, exposed by their tank tops. Ironically he’d never looked sexier, and if he were at a club right now he’d pull probably two guys each without batting an eye, and more than that if he got his ass shaking on the dance floor. But he only had eyes for us. Hands reached up and grasped our biceps and shoulders on the side facing them through the partly open door, but to be honest they barely even seemed aware of the torsos that had set them off, and not just because we’d managed to get our muscles covered and most of our skin show hidden away. No, all four of him were staring up into our faces, as if these alone were enough to drive their overcranked need.
“Ollie, get a grip,” I said, trying to emulate Theo’s gently commanding tone. I’m not sure how well it worked—maybe only the literal sense got through, because I felt the many hands on my hard, gym-pumped biceps tighten a little. I snorted a laugh, and my smile seemed to make them catch their breath.
“Please,” one of them whined, and the others followed suit. “Please,” they said. “Please, Dylo,” another said, employing, in all seriousness, the “celebrity couple” name they’d made up for us as a joke (after we’d both firmly vetoed “Dyleo” as way too Ned Flanders to even consider letting him get away with).
“Ollie,” Theo intoned, and their wanton eyes shifted back to him. He met each of their gazes in turn, making sure he was heard. “The only thing that’s happening right now,” he said, “is that you’re taking a very… cold… shower.”
They quailed, and the grips on our arms tightened. “Kisses,” one of them said suddenly, and the others immediately caught on. “You promised,” another said. “You missed last night,” said a third, and with a sinking stomach I realized we had, in fact, missed the daily ritual of Ollie kisses before bed the night before, as I’d been on the phone for rather a long time with various pet shipping firms operating in the Boston area discussing rates and policies, while Theo looked up regulations for Australia and Victoria regarding quarantine and animal registration.
“Promised,” one of the Ollies repeated.
I looked at Theo. Sure, we had a standing deal to let Ollie make out with each of us up to twice a day, whenever he asked. But in his present state, would Ollie stop at kisses? He was strong, he was not in his right mind—and now he outnumbered us. The wind kicked up, driving the steady rain against the balcony doors on the far side bedroom, near the bed we shared every night (and not infrequently at other hours of the day as well).
“Ollie,” Theo said, “do you promise you’ll take a shower and calm down once we’re done with kisses?” The Ollies, eager now that escalation of their contact with us was in sight, pressed closer, practically scrabbling at the door as they nodded. “You swear?” Theo prodded.
“Yes,” one said, and the others did too, in succession, like echoes in a cavern. It was a different one of them that spoke first each time, so I was pretty sure that they were all identical, though I had never really gotten a clear idea just how separate they were, mentally, when he was like this; and Ollie, on those occasions when he was calm enough not to be twinned, was sufficiently chagrinned by this very obvious display of uncontrolled lust that he didn’t much talk about it. Boy, he was sure going to be red-faced later, I thought. Even more than he was now.
A second’s hesitation, and then Theo, whose hand was on the knob, stepped back, pushing the door wide open as he did so.
They swarmed us like a rugby scrum, two on each side of us. Usually Ollie was content to stroke and caress us when he made contact, but now he was more forceful, wrapping strong arms arounds our torsos from either side as they held each other with their inner arms. Hands groped our thick pecs and brush our hard abs through our shirts, their ministrations coming perilously close to the half-awake cocks, originally mine, now ours, that we shared between us where our abdomens joined. No one else had ever even seen them. The Ollies waking those guys up and getting us all riled up and sex-crazy was pretty much the last thing I wanted to happen. I loved Ollie, but Theo and I made love only with each other.
“Pecs only,” I growled at the two Ollies facing me, looking them each in the eye, feeling the heat of arousal rising in me as the Ollies stimulated our bodies, already endorphin-flooded and exhilarated from the punishing workout we’d just given ourselves. Theo did the same on the other side, and I felt hands obediently move up, away from our abs and cocks, and start to grip and maul my significantly improved chest instead.
They could wait no longer. The two Ollies facing me pounced as a team, pushing up for a hot, bruising three-way kiss, and a grunt from Theo next to me told me he was getting the same. After a moment they abandoned the three-way kiss and started taking turns, and what struck me almost in shock was how sensual and passionate these kisses were. Ollie was a good kisser, but libido often drove him to impatience at the expense of technique. With Ollie in this state I had expected greedy, feral kisses, almost like wolves snapping at each other, with any pleasure lost in the desperation Ollie must be flooded with; but that wasn’t what I got at all. Ollie was kissing me slow and hard, his intensity channeled into making this the best damn kiss any man had ever had, and the shocking thing was it was working. Theo and I were getting majorly turned on from this, our cocks straightening and rapidly hardening both between us and in the usual place in our trackies, directly under where my torso joined with his, and our hearts were starting to thud hard in our chests as we realized how infectious Ollie’s mad arousal truly was.
The Ollies in front of me switched off, their arms around each other as they clung to Theo, and as the other Ollie started kissing me even more effectively than the first I felt intense, thought-scattering ministrations to my jawline and throat, the first Ollie using his mouth on my sweaty skin as potently as he had when he was kissing me. Except—he wasn’t just kissing my jaw and mouthing my neck. He was also murmuring something. Chanting, under his breath, maybe without realizing it. With a twist of my stomach I realized he was incanting something—a spell, in Old French. One of the spells from the petit grimoire. I met his dazed, wild eyes, and I knew. He was chanting the spell at us, at Theo and me.
On the other side, behind my back, I heard the Ollie that wasn’t kissing Theo doing the same. Chanting. Incanting. Working a spell on us I was too overcome with sensation-induced lust even to recognize.
And then, I felt it, alongside our rising, shared arousal, spiking toward the abnormal. I felt it in both our torsos. Our shirts. Our shirts were getting… tighter.
My mind so rebelled at this that I tried to convince myself, for a crazy second, that it was our shirts that were contracting. But I knew better. Theo and I had joked around about what Ollie had done between his own legs, though we still hadn’t had any chance to see, and the conclusion we’d come to was that Ollie had found a spell to make things bigger and had tried it on his own junk, only to discover that it was a lot more potent than he’d expected it to be. It had seemed pretty funny at the time.
Somewhere in my mind registered that the trackies we were wearing were starting to feel tighter, too.
With an effort I broke the kiss, though I could only manage it long enough to gasp “Theo—!” before we were at it again, and fuck, I wanted it. I wanted me and Theo and the Ollies to be kissing so crazy we’d blast load after load just from that. Only I found myself wanting more. I pictured Ollies frantically sucking down the big cocks we had between us, and the third one too on the even bigger dick between our legs (the one that was based on Theo’s original and very generous endowment), and maybe the fourth one was sucking one of our nipples or something, all while Theo and I kissed as even we had never kissed before…
“Theo!” I managed again.
“I know,” Theo said, the last bit muffled by insistent lips. I was losing track of my thoughts, of why we needed to stop something that felt so fucking good. The Ollies in front of me switched off again, and my brain threatened to flicker and shut down. Geez, what a problem to have, I thought giddily, even as the Ollie kissing me, and the Ollie lathing and mouthing that place on my neck that made pleasure shoot straight up my spine. A guy so hot for you he makes more of himself until you’re capsized by the raw power of his combined, accelerated sex drive, and who kisses better than anyone you’ve ever dated apart from Theo himself. This shit never happened to me in Boston.
I realized Theo was moving us across the room, step by step, the Ollies unconsciously moving with us. Fuck, I thought, somewhere in my addled head, he’s moving us toward the bed? I didn’t get it. Was Theo going to give in and just let the Ollies have their way with us, sexually and magically? My stomach sank. Maybe Theo wasn’t as serious about me as I was about him. The thought distracted me a little from the effectiveness of Ollie’s kisses, and how good it felt for our already pumped muscles to be slowly growing enough that soon they’d be straining against the fabric of our clothes as the Ollies continued to trade off kissing and muttering their irresistible spell. But then one of the Ollies’ pec-groping hands forgot about our previous chest-only injunction, despite the way our pecs were gradually expanding under their very hands. One pair of hands roved further south—immediately making contact with the two towering, stiff erections we were sporting between us. They’d pushed themselves straight up, clearing the tails of our shirts and so were fully exposed to attack, and I guessed they were even bigger than they were accustomed to being, or than I was accustomed to their being in the short time I’d gotten to know, love, and cherish them.
Theo and I both gasped into our kisses, and the Ollies broke free to stare wildly up into our eyes. The incantations fell away, and for a moment there was no sound by the storm. Our movement across the room halted, and we stood there, a frantic second passing, then another, before one of the Ollies in front of me said, “Please!”
“We’ll suck them good,” said one behind me, one of the ones who’d been kissing Theo. A hand wrapped tentatively around one of the supersensitive, towering cocks between us—the uncircumcised one, I thought, though my brain was far from functional that point.
“And kiss you,” the other one in front of me said.
“Please.” Another hand, this moving to wrap around the other hot, quivering erection between us. “Please… please.” More hands approached the two monster erections, fingers stroking at first, knowing that gripping them and jerking them was not allowed but only seconds from doing so anyways. “Please.”
“Theo…?!” I said, not sure of anything in that moment.
But Theo, in response to my confusion, spoke pretty much the last word I could have expected in that moment.
“Balcony,” he said, soft and low in my ear. And then we ran.
I took a half second to catch up with the plan, so our run was a little ungainly at first. But by the time be got to the balcony doors, the Ollies in tow trying to keep their hold on us, I was fully on board, and we opened the balcony doors together.
Cold, driving rain soaked us almost instantly before we’d even gone through, but Theo gasped “Come on!” in my ear and we powered out onto the balcony overlooking our building’s back garden, and though we weren’t sure how much we’d grown we instinctively ducked our heads just in case we were now taller than the door jamb. Not that there was much to see other than black clouds, howling rain, and distant lightning flashes over the Port Phillip Bay. We were drenched to the bone in seconds, the water so cold my teeth already wanted to chatter. We looked sadly down onto the four Ollies, who stared up at us, crushed and forlorn and no longer ferocious with mindless lust.
“Sorry, buddy,” I said over Theo’s now-even more powerful shoulder, addressing the two Ollies in front of me. My chest was still heaving, and I was feeling very guilty about a thousand things, not least the erections between us that were slowly being melted to massive, thick, stand-by flaccidity by the ice-cold rain battering relentlessly down onto us, and the equally cold wind doing its best to push the rain toward the horizontal.
“Yeah,” Theo said over shoulder, which felt almost as powerful as Theo’s. “Sorry, mate.”
Ollie, too, was still panting with the heights of arousal, but he’d already regained control, and enough self-awareness that even in the black storm, with the light of the bedroom barely seeping into the maelstrom without, I could see the smile he was sporting on his incredibly cute faces was one of chagrin.
“What are you sorry for, Dylo?” one of him asked, making a brave effort at casual fuck-around banter, and I felt my lips curve in a genuine smile.
“You know we really love you, Ol,” I said, trying to make it sound like an admonishment, as if it was something he would have been stupid not to know. I’d never actually voiced the words before, though Theo had said it in jest a few times since I’d arrived, mostly when Ollie picked up his favorite curry on the way home.
I sensed Theo’s surprise that I said it now, but he backed me up. “We do,” Theo said, more seriously than I had but just as honestly. “We love you, mate.”
Ollie’s smile was even more crooked now. “You sods,” he said. “You’re just saying that to get me all calm and properly civilized again.”
Theo snorted. “As if that were possible,” he said.
“And,” I added, “what you said isn’t mutually exclusive with what we said.”
I abruptly noticed that there was only one Ollie facing me, not two. I looked over my shoulder, and there was only one Ollie on that side, too. Two down, one to go, I thought. But after another few seconds, during which nothing further happened, the two Ollies heaved a synchronized sigh and peered around us at each other. “Let’s go take a proper shower, shall we?” one said. “A warm one,” the other agreed. They both sloshed out of the storm and into the house. Theo and I exchanged a look and followed them in, closing the balcony door and shutting out the storm, though a lot of it had made its own way in during our little drama.
We took our own shower, and then set about cleaning up the vast amount of water on the hardwood floors on that side of the room. The bed coverings were wet, too, though thankfully not sodden enough the affect the mattress underneath, so we pulled out new sheets and a new duvet and headed down to make dinner. Finally we set out a big dish of baked ravioli with iced tea and salad stuff on the big dining room table and went to find our irrepressible roommate.
We were greeted by the sight of a very sober-looking Ollie curled up in the lounge watching rugby—both of him, one cuddled against the other, in mismatched old sweats and still-damp hair that was uncharacteristically uncoiffed. There were obvious, tightly packed bulges under the trackies but no sign of any errant erections, so maybe had they relieved themselves in the shower like Theo and I had, if they didn’t have their own secret methods of dealing with monster recalcitrant erections—I was beginning to suspect anything of them. Outside, the storm had lessened some, but the wind still howled and the air indoors still felt heavy and cool and, at least in my mind, a little portentous.
We pulled up short in the entranceway to the darkened lounge, filling it vertically and very nearly horizontally. In the shower, after rapidly bringing off our own release and a great deal of languid, reassuringly just-us kisses to follow, we’d assessed ourselves with a grim resignation not unlike parents stoically calculating the reno bill after your fifteen-year-old backs the family car straight into the master bedroom. Our reckoning was that Ollie’s repeated incantations of the mysterious “get bigger” spell (which I’d have to research in the grimoire when I got the chance) had gained us maybe nine inches in height and a good thirty or forty kilos in solid, cut, boner-making muscle (and, we both added silently to ourselves, a considerable amount of barely tamed cock). Our hair, weirdly, was also longer. That was sure to look fantastic on Theo, with his dark-golden waves and highlights soon to be cascading onto his thick shoulders if he kept it going. My dark curls would turn into a mop—though I’d noticed as my hair had grown out that Theo had his hands in my curls as often as he could, even when we weren’t kissing, so maybe that was okay by him, too.
We’d dressed in a pair of old jams, since our trackies were now too short, and a couple of tee shirts that both felt like they’d shrunk in the wash. We knew without having to say it aloud that in the morning we’d have to decide whether to find a spell to return us to our previous size, or else order a shedload of new clothes off whatever part of the internet catered to guys as big as we now were. In the lounge entranceway, with the light behind us, we probably made a rather strange silhouette: all broad shoulders and long legs, topped by unlike, mismatched heads. Me and Theo and our shared body, one we might both have to get used to all over again. That… was for tomorrow, though. Tonight, we were worried about Ollie.
Unconsciously we turned, as we usually did without needing to think about it, so that we could both face them. “There’s… still two of you,” Theo said.
Both Ollies smiled up at us, eyeing us up and down without comment. I remembered uncomfortably that he now knew about the secret cocks Theo and I shared between us, and Ollie wasn’t one to forget something like that. “Yup,” one of the cute muscle-twink twins said. “We’ll probably calm down enough eventually,” the other said reasonably. “Unless we broke it.” “Yeah, we might have broke it.” They seemed oddly indifferent to the prospect, however much it might complicate their lives—especially if two of them twinned to four again, leading to a repeat of an out-of-control episode I know Ollie already regretted.
And yet I could see it in him. The resolve. He was going to master his impulses, even if being twinned from one, to two, to four times his already crazy levels of desire made him a sexual beast beyond even his own experience and previous known endurance. He would tame that beast, mind over raging hormones. He would exert control over himself as he had trained himself to do, first around men, then around Theo, then, ultimately around Theo and me together. For him, in a way like learning to live a merged life had been for us, it was a challenge, even an exciting one. And maybe, just maybe, if there were really two of him now, he might see whether he possessed not only increased impulses, but increased willpower, too: there to be harnessed, honed, and put to use. He couldn’t wait to see what he was capable of… the next time.
“Well, mate, we’re sorry for our part in all of this,” Theo said gravely. He held up a hand, as if swearing an oath in court. “We absolutely promise never to go shirtless ever, ever again.”
“Booo!” one of the Ollies said, blowing a raspberry for good measure. “Get fucked!” the other said, throwing a magazine at us in mock outrage. It flopped to the floor at our feet.
I had to laugh. “You guys regret diving into the deep end of the magic pool yet?”
As I expected, the eyes that met mine were jubilant and absolutely unrepentant. “No way,” one said with a grin, and the other added, “Not even close.”
I deepened our kiss, our extra-long tongues zealously exploring each other’s hot, welcoming mouths. I moaned a little into the kiss, and Theo hummed happily back. We were on our sides, holding each other close so that our muscular chests pressed hard against each other, our cocks wet with pre and ridiculously hard, both the ones between us, now nearly chest high and thicker than ever, and the one behind me between our legs, stabbing hard into my lower back. We would probably cum just from kissing before too long, especially with the splendid attention he was giving me with his hands. It felt like he was sliding his hands over my lower back while at the same time rubbing my broader-than-before shoulders…
I slowed the kiss and, without quite disengaging from Theo’s very necessary and almost gravitationally attractive mouth, I peeled open one eye. Just over Theo’s tanned, brawny shoulder, bathed in midmorning sunlight shining through the windows and balcony doors, was the bright-eyed, pink-cheeked, blond-bearded face of our quite literally irrepressible muscle-twink flatmate, Ollie. He was brazenly stroking Theo’s delts and upper arms while staring me right in the eye, having been lying there with us for who knew how long waiting for us to achieve some kind of consciousness of the world beyond our hungry, mutually devoted mouths and tongues. I could only assume that meant the extra hands that were devoutly caressing my own shoulders belonged to his now-permanent double lying directly behind me. Curiously, though he was clearly aroused and excited, as given away by his red-stained cheeks and darkened eyes, neither of the Ollies had sidled too close; in fact the one behind me had actually been demonstrating sufficient willpower to steer clear of our huge, aching cock-in-the-usual-place—the one thumping wetly against my lower back. Even given the fact that we were under the sheets and they were on top of them (and dressed, apparently, if the raspberry tank-top on the Ollie behind Theo was any indication), I was kind of impressed by the Ollies’ restraint.
Then it occurred to me that I was giving the Ollies points for “restraint” based on the fact that they’d finally broken down and climbed into bed with us for a light cuddle and had only let themselves feel us up around the shoulders and upper back. I found this thought pretty amusing.
I broke the kiss fully, with considerable reluctance. “What?” I demanded, a little less gruffly than I’d intended.
“Guess what today is!” the Ollie I was looking at enthused.
I frowned. My brain was still pretty sludgy, and the late-morning hour and the fact that the Ollies were still at home and not at work only got me as far as that it had to be the weekend. Theo, however, let his head drop forward with a little groan, resting against my shoulder, as if he’d put two and two together and hadn’t liked the answer. I felt the Ollie behind me redirect one of his hands to start plowing gently through Theo’s long, wavy, golden-brown hair, seemingly unable to resist the opportunity. I was starting to feel a little curious to see just how long they would be able to hold back from touching us in more southerly and intimate places than the scalp and shoulders, especially given that Theo and I were so incredibly, unspeakably turned on right then we were probably radiating hot, brain-melting arousal all over the poor guys.
Ollie, meanwhile, was still looking at me expectantly. Relentless, this guy. Like a wolf, or kudzu. “It’s… ‘Theo and Dylan buy a lock for their door’ day?” I suggested pointedly.
Theo snorted and lifted his head enough to start kissing my neck. The Ollie behind me scoffed. “As if any lock could keep us out,” he muttered. Fair point, I thought.
The eyes on the Ollie I could see were wide and twinkling. “It’s ‘Dylan’s Welcome-to-Aussie Party’ day!” he said gleefully, knowing exactly the reaction this would get from me.
“Ugh,” I said, letting my own forehead drop to Theo’s bulky shoulder. I felt Theo smile against my neck as he kissed slowly toward my ear. “Already?” I whined.
“We waited until you guys got your new clothes delivered,” the Ollie behind me said, as if this was a huge concession on their part. The hand of his that wasn’t carding through Theo’s waves had slid down onto my not-unimpressive upper arms. I’d been making gains from our daily workouts even before Ollie’s embiggen spell had given us forty kilos of new, hard muscle in our legs and torsos—and it hadn’t escaped anyone’s notice that I’d gotten more than my share from that spell, as though the four Ollies that night had unconsciously wanted to catch me up to my wonderfully thick-muscled body-mate. The biceps and triceps Ollie was currently worshipping were almost as mighty as Theo’s, though they remained several shades paler. I still thought it looked strange, like we’d popped out of a toaster with one of the slots malfunctioning, but Theo and the Ollies all seemed to like it. Theo had offered to spend a few days at the beach wearing sunscreen with mismatched SPFs if I really wanted to do anything about it, but if he liked how it looked, I wasn’t going to change a damned thing.
The other Ollie started sliding his fingers through my hair, too. I tried to feel upset about it—I loved when Theo pushed his hand through my floppy curls, that was one of our special things—but honestly it felt really good, and really the way the Ollies were intimate with us was a whole different animal from how we were intimate with each other. Theo and I loved each other, heart and soul. And we both loved Ollie without any reservations. So, Ollie stroking our hair and caressing our thick, sexy arms… it was okay. It was good, actually. It was nice.
I decided Theo had the right idea and started smooching languidly along his delicious, beefy neck. “Whatever,” I murmured as I mouthed the sensitive stretch under his gold-stubbled jawline. “Just wake us up when it’s time for the party.”
“Okay,” the Ollies agreed. Theo and I canoodled quietly at each other’s necks for a while. The Ollies did not move, and I could tell Theo was smiling against my skin again, waiting for the payoff.
Then, all at once, the Ollies started shaking us comically by the shoulders, as if trying to simulate an earthquake. “Wake up!” they said. “It’s time for the party!”
I lifted up my head to look at him in annoyance. “Seriously?” I asked. “It’s the middle of the day! Parties are at night, dude.”
“Pfft, who wastes a beautiful Melbourne day like this?” the Ollie behind me said, as they started kneading our shoulders in vigorous massage. Which felt amazing, actually—Ollie had strong fingers.
“Or waits ‘til nightfall to have prawns on the barbie?” added his double. He paused in his shiatsu, knitting his brows at me as if he were just remembering he had to accommodate the American. “Oh, that’s right,” he taunted, “you think we say, ‘shrimp on the barbie’, right?” That “shrimp on the barbie” was done in the kind of exaggerated Paul Hogan voice I had, in fact, heard more than one American butcher, often while saying those very words—or, equally likely, “That’s not a knoife!”, used jocularly by some of my friends at undergrad when any kind of knife at all came into view. I hadn’t actually had the balls to bring up Crocodile Dundee to my new Aussie friends or try to find out what they really thought of it, and I probably never would. The movies themselves were fading slowly into the past, and, with any luck, they would stay there.
“I know it’s ‘prawns’,” I said warily. Ollie sometimes liked to go on tear making fun of Yanks and the clueless things we said and did, half-expecting me to disagree with him. Not likely, unless he went after ballpark hot dogs, or Philly cheesesteak.
“Wait,” Theo said abruptly, “are there people here now?”
“This is what I’m saying,” the Ollie behind him said, shaking Theo’s shoulders again as if to reprimand him for being silly. “Get your arse in gear.”
Theo grunted. “Right,” he said. “We’ll go get cleaned up.”
“We’ll help!” both Ollies volunteered.
“No,” Theo and I said together. I smiled despite myself. This unison-speak thing was catching. “We’ll be down in a few minutes,” I said firmly, though still with a half-smile.
“Fine,” the Ollie behind me said. The one I was looking at added, “Kiss first!” It was not a question or a request—he was already moving in for the customary pash. The two of them snogged us thoroughly for minute or two, ramping our arousal back up into red-zone territory, then briskly pulled away with matching winks, climbed out of bed, and were gone.
Theo and I pulled back to look at each other, both of us grinning. “Welp,” I said, “I guess we got us a shindig to go to.”
“Shiny,” Theo said, still grinning. “You ready to be welcomed to Aussie?”
“You do that every day,” I said, and leaned in for a deep, dirty, and utterly heartbreaking kiss that finally made us explode in delicious, persistent orgasm.
Once we got in the shower, the prospect of the party started to weigh on me, and I got quiet, soaping Theo’s torso mechanically as I stared blindly into the steam. Theo kissed my cheek fondly. “It’s going to be okay,” he said gently.
I met his loving gaze furtively. Man, those beautiful, clear sea-green eyes pierced my fucking heart every time. “I know.”
“Shane and Angelo didn’t even bat an eye,” he went on. Which was true. Our landlords downstairs were a fit and friendly middle-aged couple who’d retired early after a major investment windfall to a life of surfing and cannabis (in that order). They’d been up to ours a few times to share a meal with us since I’d arrived in Melbourne—a regular thing, suggested by Theo when he’d moved in—and neither of them had seemed to pay even the slightest attention to our unusual configuration. Though the last time, which had two nights after quadruple Ollie’s lust-addled mishap with the get-bigger spell had added twenty-plus centimeters and forty kilos to us, Shane had looked us up and down and asked if we’d been working out. Theo’d laughed and offered some pointers, but Shane, amused, claimed he was happy with his veteran-surfer physique and didn’t want to upset his balance on the board.
“I know,” I said. “And the Ollies go to work every day as two people and no one even asks if they’re twins or anything.” I said this in a tired way like we’d rehearsed this conversation a dozen times, though the truth was we hadn’t really talked about any of this much since Theo and I had first woken up merged, mostly because with both of us working from home there hadn’t been much need. We didn’t see other people a lot, and the first dinner with Shane and Angelo had for the most part effectively settled my concerns about whether the magic would normalize our appearance with the madding crowd of Melbourne.
Theo finished sudsing my back and set his bar of soap aside, and I belatedly did the same with mine so we could step into the stream and rinse off. We washed off all the soap, and I watched it swirl around our feet for a minute, until we stepped back out of the water. “So what’s the problem?” he asked, kissing my cheek before spreading some shaving cream over my morning beard. He handed me the can, and I did the same. This was one of our favorite daily rituals—both of us greatly preferred shaving each other in the shower to shaving ourselves in a steamy bathroom mirror.
“It’s stupid,” I admitted. I forced myself to meet his gaze, once again getting sucked in by those stunning eyes of his. “It’s just—I’m new here, and…”
Theo understood immediately what I was worried about. “You’re meeting my friends for the first time,” he said. He picked up the razor and started shaving me, shaking his head fondly at me, like I was a puppy he found adorable even when I tracked mud in the house or chewed up his trainers. “You’re wasting your energy even thinking about it, you know.”
“They love you,” I objected, trying not to move my face as I talked. “I’m this stranger—this American stranger—”
“We don’t all hate Americans,” Theo said patiently, switching to the other cheek.
“Really?” I said skeptically.
“Okay, we don’t hate all Americans,” Theo clarified, playing along. Watching his work along my jaw he added, “That John Cusack fellow seems quite nice.” He got to my chin and paused. “How do you feel about a goatee?”
“No beards,” I said immediately. “I look like Jon Snow with a beard.”
Theo grinned. “You don’t want to get killed in a mutiny, then?”
I gasped. “Spoilers!”
We grinned at each other, and he went to work on my upper lip. “I told you, you’re worrying over nothing,” Theo said. “Look at Ollie. He loves you.”
“Ollie’s in love,” I said, not moving my lips. Theo and I often had conversations in the shower, so I was getting pretty adept at this kind of speech. Something about the privacy of the shower stall giving us a sense of being in a kind of inner sanctum all our own, maybe. “With both of us,” I added, as Theo shifted to my chin.
He looked up at me, surprised, then nodded. “Fair enough,” he agreed, returning his focus to deftly ridding my round chin of any pesky Northmen whiskers. “But my mates will be your mates, I promise.” He finished and presented me with the razor, as if it were a talisman I’d be taking into battle. “They’re chill and friendly, and you’re sweet, and funny, and smart, and bloody gorgeous—”
“Theo,” I complained, still not used to him telling me how attractive I was, not with him being as handsome as any man I’d ever seen, in person or on a screen.
He met my gaze steadily, still holding out the razor. “You’re bloody gorgeous,” he repeated, overriding me, “and I love you.”
My lips twisted in a helpless smile. I took the razor. “I love you too,” I said, and got to work shaving him. “And I’m not even going to give you the option of a beard,” I told him as I slid the razor over his cheek, scraping away the gold bristles with the shaving foam, “because I don’t want to risk making you look even more handsome.”
“That would be tragic,” Theo said, holding back a smirk. I glanced up at those twinkling eyes and could barely restrain myself from giving up on the shave and shower and the party and everything else and just kissing him until the water ran cold, and then going on kissing him until the world ended. Instead I just carried on shaving. We had friends to meet, and a party to enjoy, whether I wanted to or not.
An unexpected thought occurred to me. Wallace, my cute but boring banker ex, had had a bad habit of cluelessly abandoning me at parties and company functions to network with colleagues and connections, leaving me stranded by the drinks table surrounded by strangers. Not much chance of Theo wandering off, I thought wryly. The idea was strangely comforting, and I finished Theo’s shave with a small smile, to my lover’s visible relief.
The venue for the party was the surprisingly large back yard behind the three-story house Theo, Ollie, and I shared with the downstairs landlords. It had a gentle slope down to a lower area where the yard’s tall wooden fence separated the property from some random woodland beyond, with the result being a sense that the grassy yard had different areas, near the house and further down, to congregate and chat. Maybe twenty or so people were taking advantage of this setup, gathered in three or four groups across the yard. Out of them I only recognized Shane and Angelo. I drew in a breath to fortify myself, and Theo kissed my cheek. I smiled back at him, and we stepped through the sliding glass doors and into the back garden.
It was a warm, sunny day, fragrant with the gentle scent of wattle and eucalyptus and, closer to the house, meat sizzling on the barbecue. The setup Shane and Angelo had installed, with free use to their tenants, was truly impressive, almost looking more like the heart of an outdoor restaurant kitchen than a private barbecue, with three grilling surfaces, a prep area, and a massive cooler that was almost certainly full of beer of various kinds (none of it piss-yellow American beer, as I knew would be remarked upon at least once that night). Both Ollies were hard at work prepping marinated steak, lamb, and prawns for grilling, having already done a round of sausages for the more impatient and food-focused guests. When the Ollies saw us, though, they handed their spatula over to Shane and hurried over.
“You two look nice,” one of them said, as they looked us over appreciatively. We’d used the excuse of needing to buy all new clothes to upgrade our wardrobe a bit, so we were wearing smart, matching rugby-style short-sleeve polos—his solid cobalt, mine in cream and azure stripes—above a very nice pair of tailored jeans and a pair of red-leather boots that had turned out to be unexpectedly comfy given how sexy they looked on us.
“Likewise,” I said truthfully. The Ollies, true to form, were now wearing sleeveless tees that showed off their arms and hugged their thick, perky pecs and tight six-packs. They didn’t usually dress alike, but today their shirts were both a brilliant white that managed to make their pale, rosy skin look almost sun-warmed by comparison. Down below were cargo shorts and sandals. All in all a pretty nice package.
The Ollies, however, were already done with the pleasantries. One of them glanced around to make sure we weren’t being overheard, and the other gestured clandestinely for us to bend down closer. As we were now a good foot taller than they were—or, okay, 30 centimeters, which actually sounds like an even bigger difference, honestly—this was only fair. Though… just at that moment I had the weird sense that our height differences weren’t quite what they had been when the Ollies had first boosted us. Had they secretly been making themselves taller, bit by bit? It was in character for them—I knew they’d liked being shorter than Theo even before I showed up, but the way things now they could stretch themselves a fair amount and still look like hunky, platinum-blond dwarfs compared to us.
Once we’d dutifully bent down, one of them began in a low voice, “I know you guys were a little nervous about showing up at the party looking different from everyone else—”
“What did you do?” Theo and I said in unison. Theo sounded more exasperated than alarmed; I, having seen what Ollie was capable of in a more concentrated period of time than Theo had, was the opposite.
The Ollies pretended to be offended. “You make it sound like you believe we can’t cast a spell without something strange and unexpected happening,” the other one said, in a tone of voice that suggested that they were actually as sure of this fact as we were.
“It could happen,” Theo agreed equably. “My nipples could also start spitting out tzatziki sauce.”
The Ollies’ eyes lit up. “No!” Theo and I said, again in unison. “You leave his nipples the fuck alone,” I added ominously.
The Ollies snickered. “Fine,” one of them said. “Anyway, we found this spell in the grimoire that lets you distribute a bunch of small effects randomly across a group. So, we made up a set of different changes—just little stuff!—and charmed the whole invite-list.”
“Everyone got something from the list,” the other one said gleefully. “We don’t even know who got what!”
That seemed like a really bad idea to me. Not because of the actual changes, whatever they were—I assumed these would be normalized by the mystique of the spell, like our conjoinment and Ollie’s duplication—but because of the aforementioned given that something unforeseen would happen, owing either to Ollie having not quite understood the French or the nuances of the spell’s effects and purpose, or it just being Ollie’s general weird luck in producing bigger results than he intended. The guy was smarter than any of us, but when it came to spell-casting sometimes he was more Esmerelda than Endora.
I glanced up at the knots of Theo and Ollie’s friends and colleagues spread out over our yard, most of them watching us while they talked, politely waiting for us to join them. Everyone looked normal enough from a distance. No bison heads or anything. Perhaps the Ollies had pulled this one off without any unexpected escalations or side effects.
Theo, meanwhile, was looking at his twunky flatmates with narrowed eyes. “And you did this because…?”
The Ollies seemed surprised he wasn’t getting it. “It means everyone here’s been transformed!” said one. “It won’t just be you guys,” added the other.
“Uh huh,” I snarked. “And not because you just really like fucking with people.”
Both Ollies glowered at me. “You know, Dyl,” one said, “that almost makes me want to do undo the other spell we did just for you.”
“You were going to like it, too,” the other put in. “It’s—”
“Are you lot going to gab all day?” Shane called to us convivially from the barbie, just at that moment. “Come over and have a beer and a nosh already!”
Theo and I straightened up, though I really wanted to hear more about what else Ollie had done, and what it would mean for the altered future of mankind. “There in a tick,” Theo waved back at him. To the Ollies he added, “You two might want to lay off the magic for a while.” He was looking at them shrewdly—he must have noticed the reduction in height difference, too.
I pointed a finger at them. “That means no tzatziki sauce, got it?”
The Ollies grinned. The four of us headed over to the barbie to greet Shane and the others, Theo and I both shaking our heads.
“So how do you like being merged with your boyfriend, Dylan?” asked Roger brightly. He was a friend of Theo’s from uni, now teaching composition and orchestration there, and despite being Theo’s age had long, silky snow-white hair that gave him a cute, sort of hippie Anderson Cooper-type vibe. At first I thought that that might be the random bonus he’d gotten from the Ollies’ weird, secret door-prize give-away, but then he brushed his hair back and I decided, no, it was definitely the elegantly pointed elf ears.
“Uh…” I said, distracted by thoughts of Legolas playing Geralt of Rivia.
“I mean,” Roger carried on, “I thought Stella and I were joined at the hip, but—”
“Where is your lovely wife today, anyway, Rog?” Theo asked, deflecting the conversation.
“Marathon,” he said, taking a pull from his beer bottle. At first I thought he meant the city in Greece, but then he continued, “Can you believe it? All the days your Oliver might have set the date, and she’s been training for weeks.”
Oh, that kind of marathon. “And you’re not there to cheer her on?” I said without thinking.
Roger just tapped the side of his nose. “She doesn’t like him to see her all sweaty,” Theo explained to me.
“Really?” I said, giving him a look that communicated exactly the opposite sentiment in relation to Theo. His green eyes glittered with amusement, promising me all the sweaty Theo (and sweaty Dylan) I could want.
Roger was unfazed. “We’ll have a celebration later, don’t you worry,” he assured us.
Ollie’s ginger cousin, Ethan, appeared at our side. He had a short russet beard not unlike his cousin’s platinum one and was rather taller than most of the other guests; I’d already guessed the uni freshman’s extra-long tee shirt hid an additional row or two of abs he wasn’t quite confident enough to show off. It was kind of funny, considering his cousin would have probably invented belly shirts just to advertise a ten-pack, if he had one. “Ollie’s doing a round of prawns,” he said, looking up at us all starry-eyed. “He sent me to see if you want some?”
“Absolutely,” I said. “Definitely,” Theo said at the same time. We grinned at each other. “We’re going to have to work on that,” I said.
“I thought couples just finished each other’s sentences,” Roger remarked genially.
“Sometimes we do that,” I said. “But not all the time,” Theo finished, tossing me a wink. Fuck, he was adorable. Because he was right there, I gave him a quick kiss.
“Catch you in a bit, Rog,” Theo said when I was done. The Elf Witcher nodded and raised his beer, and Theo and I headed up the lawn with Ethan. He seemed giddy just to be alone with us. I’d pegged him right away as having a serious crush, seeing as he couldn’t take his eyes off us and grinned unstoppably when he was anywhere near us. At first I’d been sure it was Theo he’d been smitten by; it was slow to dawn on me that I was the actual object of his affections. Apparently it had something to do with my being an exotic American.
“So are you really from Boston?” he burbled, trotting alongside us and rather worryingly looking at me the whole time and not where he was going. Of course, I was one to talk—I couldn’t see where Theo and I were walking, either. “What’s that like?” he went on. “Is that what your accent is? Do you eat clams? Is it really all, like, churches and graveyards?”
I smiled down at him, a little overwhelmed. I tried to tick off all his questions in my head. “I am from Boston,” I confirmed, “and it’s very… concentrated, lots of intense people in a very confined space. Yes, there are a fair number of narrow old churches and colonial graveyards, but that’s mostly in the touristy bits downtown. I love it, personally, but I love Melbourne too.” I got a kiss on the neck for that. “Let’s see. My accent? It’s pretty average American, I think—I never picked up the wicked kewl Boston accent.” Ethan grinned wider at that—maybe he thought I was making a movie reference, hopefully not to Good Will Hunting. “And I do eat clams, but only in chowder.”
“Ecch,” Theo said, teasing me.
“You take that ‘ecch’ back,” I said. “That ‘ecch’ means you haven’t had good, proper New England clam chowder.”
“I’d like to try some!” Ethan said eagerly.
I’ll bet, I thought. We’d reached the barbecue, which was currently being manned by a neighbor Theo and Ollie were good friends with, a lanky coffee-shop owner called Hayden. I’d already spotted his door-prize, too: the hand gripping the tongs he was using to shift the prawns around had a couple of extra fingers (presumably the one in his pocket did as well). As he watched over the food he was chatting with a buff-looking friend he’d brought with him named Corey. I’d gathered it was sort of a first date, a tentative broaching of the idea of being more than just mates. Certainly from the way Corey was looking at him it was easy to believe he wanted more, even apart from the way the color in his vivid blue eyes seemed to shift and swirl as he watched Hayden working the grill and talking about the different ways you could cook a prawn. When Corey looked up at us, the color in his eyes literally dimmed and cooled a bit, and the storm of color within them seemed to calm.
I’d seen more extreme changes resulting from our flatmate’s ill-thought-out yet surprisingly entertaining lottery: Theo and Roger’s other friend from their music program, a singer called Dave, was slightly translucent, which probably had a direct connection with his decision to try out for the upcoming stage musical version of Ghost; Angelo’s pro-footie-playing son Enzo had two tongues, which, consciously or otherwise, he’d made sure to show us by licking his lips a couple times while we talked (I later learned he had a habit of French-kissing other players on the field after a big score—had he been like that before Ollie’s little lingual adjustment?); and Theo’s sandy-haired best mate, a very handsome and well-built chiropractor named Lachlan, had a rather prominent bulge up front in his heavy, well-tailored dark olive chinos that strongly suggested to me a junk upgrade either in quality or quantity (or both)… But Corey’s shifting, churning eyes were easily the most fascinating alteration I’d seen so far tonight.
Funny, I’d thought the way I’d arrived in Australia would be the weirdest and most interesting thing that ever happened to me. Turns out Theo and Oliver were never-ending springs of interesting and weird.
Theo nodded to Hayden and Corey. “Where’s Ollie?”
Hayden smiled up at us—he had a nice, uncomplicated smile. “They went into the house a minute ago,” he said. “Something about it being time for a gift?”
I exchanged a glance with Theo, but he shrugged. “I can go find them if you want,” Ethan volunteered.
But there was no need, because at that moment both Ollies emerged from the sliding glass door. They closed it behind them and waved their hands for attention. “Ladies and gentlemen,” one of them called out, “thank you all for coming!” “We’re here,” the other one continued, “to welcome our newest mate, Dylan Brooks—” (Here he gestured to me, and I lifted a hand tentatively for everyone, in case my identity needed clarification.) “—to the great city of Melbourne!”
At this hammy prompt for cheap heat, the audience applauded and hooted enthusiastically—presumably as much for Melbourne as for me, though there were a few “Welcome, Dylan”s thrown in.
“But,” the first Ollie said, turning our way, “there’s someone here who wants to give you the welcome you truly deserve.” The other Ollie theatrically opened the glass door again and made a gesture. Then, all of a sudden, an ecstatic chocolate brown blur was galloping toward me.
“Ralph!” I had time to exclaim, just before the big, overgrown puppy leapt onto us, toppling us to the grass before we had a chance to brace our top-heavy form. Before we could do anything about this, however, Theo and I were both being bathed in gallons of dog-slobber as the jubilant dog tried to lick us to death. “Ralphie, Ralphie,” I said, laughing uncontrollably. “I’m happy to see you too!” Everyone was gathered around, laughing at the love-crazed dog reuniting with his master.
Ralph covered my face in doggie-kisses as thoroughly as he could manage, then turned and did the same to Theo. “This is Theo!” I said, as elated as my dog. “Say hello, Theo!”
“Hey, Ralph,” said Theo, chuckling, as he ruffled the dog’s head. “Good to meet you, mate!”
The Ollies were kneeling down next to us. Hayden called out that the prawns were ready, and most of the crowd drifted off, leaving us to get reacquainted with Ralph. Both Ollies were beaming. “Happy?” one of them asked.
“So happy,” I agreed. “I’d kiss you just to show you how happy but…” I added teasingly.
“Maybe we’ll let you wash up first,” one of the Ollies said, wrinkling his nose. “Rain check, though,” said the other.
“How…?” I asked. We’d been trying to figure out how to get my dog down here, but all of the options were either bureaucratic nightmares, prohibitively expensive, or both.
The Ollies bent closer. Ralph, noticing I was no longer paying attention to him, started licking my ear, making me giggle. “It’s simple,” one of them said, sotto voce. “Turns out there’s a spell that brings to you the ones that are missing you most.” “And we figured that had to be this guy here,” the other one said, giving Ollie’s spine a vigorous rub. Ralph turned at this and, not one to play favorites, started kissing the Ollies. “Hey!” they sputtered, laughing. “Stop that, ya big mutt!”
What the Ollies had just said started to sink in. “Wait a minute,” I said, half to myself. “You cast a spell to bring the ones who miss me most here… to Melbourne…”
With a strange sense of premonition I looked up, past the Ollies and my big, beautiful, incredibly happy dog, toward the house. There, standing in the open doorway, was a tall, slim figure and frowning face that I knew very well. He was looking around the yard looking deeply confused, obviously not knowing where he was or how he had gotten here. His gaze was drawn toward the commotion Ralph was making, and his eyes met mine.
I lifted a hand in half-hearted greeting. “Hey, Wallace,” I said, and the ex who’d loved me, and whom I’d dumped blaming a lack of chemistry with barely a backwards glance, mutely lifted his own hand in response. Unlike my dog, he was not overjoyed to see me—or maybe it was Theo, the man I loved enough to be joined with body and soul, he was not happy to see.
I aimed a sharp look at the Ollies, whose surprised expressions quickly shifted to chagrin. “Ooops,” they said, and for once their unison speech was not quite as endearing as usual.