The expedition

by BRK

 An archaeologist and his research assistant, joined at the last minute by a jock desperate to boost his GPA, embark on a preliminary exploration of a mysterious Aegean island.

Added: Jul 2021 8,423 words 2,307 views 4.7 stars (3 votes) This story was commissioned via Patreon.

Martin had just pulled his heavy office door closed with a loud clack and started toward the south stairwell when he heard the thump-squeak drumbeat of someone running down the long tile hall toward him, accompanied by someone shouting his name. “Professor Jones! Professor, wait up a second!”

Suppressing a sigh, Martin put on his “smile of tolerance” and turned to face the interloper, who was just now coming to a stop in front of him. “Professor,” the man said with a bright smile, “I’m glad a caught you.”

Martin gripped the right strap of his backpack a little harder. The student who’d chased him down after just missing his last office hours of the semester was none other than Gary Jin, the 6’4” golden boy quarterback on the school’s up-and-coming football team and one of Martin’s students in his low-level “Methods of Archaeology” course. Every semester there were certain students that stood out in each class, sometimes for their exuberant participation in class discussions, sometimes for their reliably incisive essays and exams… and sometimes, as in Gary’s case, for their broad, bulging shoulders, their heart-melting smiles, and their positively frieze-worthy physiques. Even for a student athlete Gary seemed incredibly fit in a way that drew your attention like an iron bar to a magnet. Martin usually didn’t perv on his students, but when it came to Gary his safeguards curiously tended to short out and burn to a crisp, setting his eyes free to rove and stare and his tongue prodding the insides of his lips like a dog wanting out.

It didn’t help that Gary tended to wear worn jeans, white sneakers, and nothing else, as he was now. His torso was smooth and perfect—seriously, if Martin knew anything about sculpture and had a hunk of rock and a chisel, he’d be spending his afternoons hewing the curves and lives of Gary’s body out of solid stone. He wasn’t even slightly winded from running the whole way down the long hall from the other side of the building, Martin noted. He’s like a machine. Probably in more ways than one…

Okay, Marty, put it away. He dragged his eyes off the man’s heavy, hairless, boldly-exposed slabs of pectoral goodness and up to his gleaming, light-brown eyes, realizing only now that Gary was looking him over in obvious surprise. Which was understandable—shorts and a tank top was probably a jarring change for someone used to seeing him in his usual blazer and tie, and his hairy legs and chest were probably unexpected, too, despite Martin’s full but well-groomed and close-trimmed beard. He knew he should have waited to change at the gym. “I’m, uh, heading to a work-out,” he explained, slightly defensively, jerking a thumb behind him toward the stairs.

“You’re really fit,” Gary said, like one athlete judging another. “I had no idea.” He met Martin’s gaze at last. “I’ve never seen you at the campus gym, though.” He looked a little excited, like happy work-outs together might suddenly be in their future.

“I… do daily CrossFit over at Zanzibar Fitness.”

“Oh.” Definitely disappointed. Martin tried not to read anything into that beyond a gym rat’s love of company while pushing iron and getting hard—er, strong—together.

“So what can I do for you, Gary?” he made himself say, as dispassionately as possible.

Gary looked embarrassed. “See, here’s the thing,” he said. “Coach told me they’re cracking down on minimum GPAs this semester, and mine is…” Her trailed off, not needing to explain. Gary’s work in Martin’s class had all the hallmarks of a student with good intentions, a middling academic mind, and almost no grasp of the basic concepts of the discipline. “Anyway, I need one more class over the summer to boost my average before fall semester, and seeing as how you’ve been really fair and patient with me and I really enjoy your lectures I was wondering—”

Martin breathed out through his nose. “I’m not offering any classes this summer.”

Gary’s expression tightened. “You are, though,” he said. “Site Exploration 2A, summer sessions 1 and 2, four credits. It’s in the course directory online and it’s definitely still open—I checked before coming down here. Just requires permission of the instructor.”

Martin blinked at him. A gust of frigid air-conditioning wafted by them just then, and Martin had to resist an urge to check Gary’s nipples to see if they responded to the chilled air washing over his idyllic torso. “That’s—that’s not a regular course,” Martin stammered.

It wasn’t supposed to be anything, really—just a few weeks poking around the tiny central-Aegean flyspeck known as Kallifyos Island, previously thought uninhabited throughout antiquity, ahead of next year’s formal dig. Get a handle on the terrain, sketch some approach maps, take a ton of photos and clips to use during the excavation and in his fall and spring courses, that kind of thing. Then his newly-minted research assistant, Jude, had convinced him he should come along as well to take notes, organize the videos and images, and generally let Martin bounce ideas off of him. Martin, seeing the value in having his brash new assistant and his steel-trap mind along, readily agreed; he’d only listed the excursion as a one-seat “course” so that Jude, who was just starting in the M.A. program after two years with him as an undergraduate taking every course Martin offered, could at least earn academic credit and some transcript brownie points for all the work he’d be doing on Kallifyos and afterward. Anyway, that class code was supposed to accept Jude’s registration and then close, which meant Martin was a little cheesed to hear it was still on the registrar’s roster of open courses. Lynnette Gershon would be getting a very polite email in the morning.

Not that Gary could know any of this. He looked crestfallen. “Sorry,” Martin added.

“What is it, though?” Gary persisted. “I mean, it’s listed, and it’s open, there’s no prereqs…”

“It’s an informal trip to a planned excavation site on a Greek island,” Martin said. “Three weeks there plus follow-up analysis and reports. Pure archaeological arcana.”

If he hoped the jock would be discouraged by that description, he was out of luck. Gary beamed at him, warming Martin’s insides alarmingly. “That sounds great!” he gushed. “Can I come? Please?”

Oh, if only I weren’t imagining those words uttered under very different circumstances, Martin thought. But he was finding Gary’s excitement oddly endearing. He arched an eyebrow. “Ever been to a Greek Island?” he asked dryly.

Gary was still grinning. “I’ve been to a Greek restaurant,” he said.

Martin couldn’t fight back a smile of his own. Unexpectedly, he felt his resistance weakening. Gary sensed it too—the expression on his sublimely handsome face was one of pure hope. “Are you sure you want to do this?” Martin asked, in a final attempt at reason. “Archaeology isn’t your best subject.”

“I want to do better,” Gary said quickly. “I want to show you I can be better.”

Ten years of teaching at a prestige university had given Martin a shrewd eye for bullshit, and in this case he was pretty sure Gary meant everything he said; and not just because Gary seemed, in this moment at least, to be the very definition of “guileless.” Though his desperation was obviously real, Martin was confident that Gary wasn’t just snow-jobbing some random instructor in a bid to get last-minute credits and save his place on the team. His appeal was genuine.

Distracted by this internal debate, Martin let his eyes fall until he realized he was staring at Gary’s round, thickly-sculpted pecs, and—yep, poky nipples. Huh.

Martin cleared his throat and, already knowing he was making a mistake, he pulled out his phone and called up the University’s registrar app. Sure enough, there was a student registration in his “pending permission” folder: Site Exploration 2A, summer sessions 1 and 2, four credits, student name Guang P Jin. Before he could think about it any further he thumbed the button labeled “Allow”, got the confirmation, and stowed his phone away again.

Gary was tracking all of this like a dog watching a can-opener. Martin smiled softly at him. “I guess you’re headed for the Aegean,” he said. “I’ll email you with the requi—” He broke off with an oof as Gary enfolded him in a brief but bone-crushing hug. Then it was over, and the jock had already turned and dashed off.

“You won’t regret this, Professor!” he said over his shoulder, tearing back down the hall at full speed and looking like a Theban sprinter at the original Olympic games. When he got to the stairway doors at the far end he stopped and waved. “I’ll see you on the island!” he called happily to him, before diving through the doors and thundering down the stairs.

Martin stared after him in disbelief, though it wasn’t Gary’s antics but his own that dumbfounded him. Martin Jones, he thought, you are a complete and utter melonhead.
“No,” Jude groaned, staring furiously at his email app. “No, no, noo!

“Dude, what’s wrong?” Seb asked him, gripping his shoulder with a laugh. “You sound like Batman just worked out the location of your secret lair.”

Jude looked up briefly and noticed that not only were Seb and Tristan staring at him (Seb surprised/amused, Tris wide-eyed and alarmed), but so were half the people in the bustling off-campus bowling alley. He waved guiltily at the hoi polloi and returned his attention to the damned email.

“One more student for Kallifyos,” it read, in the weird telegraph-speke the professor reserved for emails and texts. “Long story. Pls adjust equipment, provisions? Thx, MJ.”

Jude tossed his phone onto the table in disgust. It clattered across the formica, barely missing a big dollop of spilled catsup slowly congealing on the table next to the chix-and-fries basket they were sharing.

“Duuude,” Seb said, equal parts entertained audience and empathetic friend. His hand was still on Jude’s shoulder. It felt nice there, and Jude heaved a small inward sigh. If only cute and compact twunks like himself and Seb did it for him. Or mop-haired beanpoles like Tris, even. But no, he had to be fixated on hairy-chested thirty-something archaeology professors with obsessively fit bodies and quirky email habits. If only he hadn’t gone to work out at Zanzibar in the afternoon that time instead of his usual morning hour of free-weights and elliptical and spotted his handsome mentor, Martin Jones, all shirtless and glistening and tossing a kettlebell around like it was someone’s empty purse.

“Jude, man, what the hell?” Tris asked him, frozen in the act of being just about to take a slurp from his extra-large soda. He looked kind of comical with his eyes as round as saucers, the straw from his drink poised a constant two inches from his lips.

Jude gave his friends a crooked smile. He felt bad—Seb rolled with anything, but Tris didn’t take most kinds of tribulation well. “It’s nothing,” he admitted. “Dr. Jones added someone else to the island trip.”

Seb nodded knowingly, grinning wide. “Aha,” he said, slapping Jude’s shoulder a couple of times, then leaving his hand there again. “No wonder you’re pissed.”

Even Tris got it, giving him a pert little bow-like smile. “Jude won’t be alone with the professor on Seduction Island after all,” he taunted. He took a long pull from his drink, making the straw rattle loudly as he drained the last of his Coke Zero.

“It’s not ‘Seduction Island’,” Jude grumbled, grabbing one of the chunky seasoned fries from the basket and biting along it listlessly. “I mean, two guys in a tent, for three weeks… it’s not like preparing the conditions for a desired outcome is a bad thing.”

“No, of course not,” Seb said, still grinning at him as he started in on one of the alley’s signature chicken fingers. “No harm in laying the groundwork, right?”

“Too bad that’s all you’ll be laying,” added Tris, setting his drink on the table with a small smirk.

“Ha,” Jude said flatly. “You two should do standup.”

Seb, having finished the chicken finger he’d been working on, grabbed another from the basket. “I still don’t get why you don’t just show him that whale of a dick you’ve got,” he said, sinking his teeth into the juicy white meat. “That would do it for anyone.”

“How do you know he’s got a big dick?” Tris objected.

“Dude, I was his roommate freshman year, remember? I got to see him coming back from the shower all flustered and everything, like he’d never had to worry about people seeing his junk before. Not to mention the seriously impressive blanket fort he pitched every morning,” Seb added with a wink at Jude.

“Shut up,” Jude groused. “You weren’t supposed to be watching. In either scenario.”

“Aw, dude, who could look away?” Seb teased.

“So wait,” Tris said, still frowning. “Jude has pornstar dick and a hot body, and yet he hasn’t dated anyone in—”

“Two years,” Seb finished pointedly.

Understanding came over Tris’s face. It had been almost exactly two years since Jude, during a mid-undergraduate crisis, had switched from anthropology to archaeology and met his now-advisor, the aforementioned Dr. Martin Jones, for the very first time.

“Aw man,” Tris said, picking up his empty soda cup and slurping loudly for the dregs. “You got it bad.”

Jude grabbed his own half-full soda and plunked it down in front of Tris. “It’s just infatuation,” he said grimly. “A really strong infatuation.”

“Uh huh,” Seb said, smilingly skeptical, as Tris took a swig from Jude’s soda. Seb squeezed Jude’s shoulder. “Hey, what’s this third wheel guy’s name, anyway? I want to start watching the obituaries.”

Tris snorted a laugh. Exasperated, Jude stood up. “Are we going to play or what?” he asked, heading down the two steps to their lane. He heard the others following him, chattering about Jude’s ridiculous love life, but he ignored them. Obituaries! he thought, as he started checking through the balls in the return for the green one he’d used before. Like he would ever resort to anything inimical.

He found his ball and slid his fingers and thumb into the holes. Still, he continued his train of thought, he was good at planning. Maybe he could manage to plan the new guy out of the way for an evening. Perhaps even for a lot of evenings.

He took up his stance, eyed his trajectory, and released in a single, fluid motion. The ball sped down the middle of the lane and struck the pins headlong, scattering all of them with a reassuring crash.

Jude smiled like a supervillain.

Gary stood nervously next to his gym-bag carry-on in the waiting area for the first leg of their flight, his stomach fluttering like an invasion of butterflies. So much was riding on this trip, and he’d almost called it off a hundred times. Twice he’d even written the email to Professor Jones telling him he couldn’t do it, that he was backing out, that—as the prof had already seen, having graded his papers and exams and barely passed his ass—he obviously knew fuck-all about archaeology, and even less about the “Aegean” or whatever it was. Was that one of the gods, like in Hercules? He could never keep them all straight.

He shouldn’t be on this trip. He kind of felt like Johnny Storm from the original Fantastic Four comics. What the hell was the lead scientist’s wife’s teenage brother doing up in space, anyway? Johnny Storm did not belong on that rocketship any more than Gary belonged on a genuine archaeological dig. He should go home. He should just turn around and wheel his Samsonite suitcase the hell out of there.

But he was already committed. He’d registered for the course and was officially enrolled in summer session. The Athletic Department’s Student Academics officer had been notified and would be waiting on the other side with the final decision. It didn’t matter that he’d led the team to its first winning season in five years. His future, his scholarship, the team, everything rode on this course. If he passed, the four credits would boost his average enough to keep his spot on the team. If he failed or dropped the course, he was out for the year, winning season or no winning season.

Why had he done it? He was insane. Everyone in the family told the story of his mom’s no-good uncle, who’d bet his house on a poker hand and lost. Is that what he’d done?

Just as these distressing thoughts mounted to a nauseating fever in his mind, the teeming crowd passing through the international concourse shifted and he appeared. The moment Gary saw him, moving through the mob toward their gate with an old-fashioned soft-sided carry-on-sized suitcase clasped in his left fist, a cool sense of relief settled over him. The older man was dressed casually—though not as casually as the last time he’d seen him!—in comfy-looking boots, soft old jeans, and a long-sleeved hunter-green jersey that hugged his incredibly defined physique so perfectly that not only could you see the cuts of the man’s abs, you could actually discern through the shirt the mass of short, springy curls valiantly trying to push the thin, stretchy fabric off his pecs. His dark hair and beard were neatly trimmed, and his hazel eyes were calm and alert. Even as Gary took all this in, the professor spotted him and waved, his easy smile kindling a matching one from Gary.

He suddenly felt foolish for vacillating as he had been a few moments before. There was no point now. The stupid part was, he knew that. Once you got the snap, everything that had come before was irrelevant. All that mattered was what you did with the ball once you got it, and that was on you and on your connections with the people you counted on. It was a truth he’d learned from his dad, and one that had gotten Gary through countless football games from his grade school days all the way up to the present. The confidence it gave him on the field was exactly the same as what he was feeling now. He had the ball.

As the professor approached, Gary took notice of his own sudden calmness, and in the back of his head he wondered at it. What was it about Professor Jones that soothed his savage breast? Gary felt like he trusted him implicitly, but why was that?

Part of it had to be the professor’s relentlessly honed physique: as an athlete, and knowing the discipline involved, he automatically respected any older man who kept himself fit—and the professor was insanely fit. Maybe there was a resonance with his dad, too, also a fit older man but a bit stockier, and with not nearly as much hair, up top or anywhere else. How hairy was the professor downstairs, anyway? Did he have to trim it? Did it get all sweaty?

Coming on the heels of his thoughts about his dad as it did this line of thought seemed singularly inappropriate, and as the professor approached with a smile, his hand out to shake, Gary felt distinctly uncomfortable—and for a very different reason than before. He hesitated only a second before clasping the professor’s hand, trying not to think about sweaty, carefully trimmed downstairs hair.

“Glad you could make it, Gary,” the professor said. He was watching him closely. “Nervous?”

“I-I’m good,” Gary said hastily. He retrieved his hand, not wanting the professor to notice if his palms were damp. Not that they were or anything.

“Good to hear it. Gary, this is my research assistant, Jude Rodgers. Jude, this is Gary Jin.”

For the first time, Gary noticed that the professor was not alone. Glowering up at him from the professor’s side, pulling a magenta hard-shell carry-on behind him, was the cutest guy Gary had ever seen. He barely noticed as the professor moved off toward the check-in desk to confirm their seats, too fixated on the smaller man in front of him. Everything about him seemed unique to the world, as if this man—Jude—had been somehow created in this moment solely to complete their circle of three. His azure eyes were stormy and deep. His dirty blond hair was loose up top and severely buzzed around the ears, with long, thin sideburns on either side serving as the only sign of hair on his perfectly smooth, sharply defined face. His snug dark-chocolate henley slid over the rounded surface of his sweet little pecs, making them gently pop in a way Gary found utterly adorable. Gary’s eyes slid helplessly down a flat belly to long butterscotch-plaid skinny-jean-style trousers that showed off strong, tight legs and molded itself over…

Fuck. He almost let his jaw drop. Gary had seen a lot of bulging jocks and the junk that went into them, and that was some serious junk.

This guy. Everything about him seemed to pile onto everything else, overloading Gary’s senses. Even weirder, that overload was making his own cock chub hotly with growing interest, a fact which took Gary completely by surprise. He’d felt his sturdy tool react to guys before—not the big hairy jocks on his team but smaller, gymnast or swimmer type guys, usually. It had been happening often enough in the last year or so that he’d finally had to accept he might be bisexual, or even gay, he wasn’t sure. The very first time (and the only time, so far) he’d visited a gay club a few months back he’d even let some guy blow him in a dark bathroom, desperate to know if he’d like it. (He had, no questions there.)

But he’d never reacted to anyone like he was now, to this guy—this compact package of… well, to look at him now, of seething hostility.

Gary made contact with those fierce blue eyes again. See something you like, jockhead? they seemed to be saying.

Somehow the urge to take control of the interaction, his natural impulse in every other situation, subsided all at once right there and then like a collapsed soufflé. Gary held Jude’s gaze steadily but, and for the first time he could remember, without challenging the authority Jude was projecting through sheer intensity alone. No, he replied with his own eyes, and they both knew it was a lie.

Understanding blossomed in Jude’s electric-blue gaze, and a cold smile slowly curved his full, wide lips. Gary felt a strange thrill of answering excitement tingle all the way up his spine. His dick was already half-hard, and an eerie premonition told him it would stay that way as long as he was anywhere near Jude Rodgers.

Like he would be for the next however many hours this flight was. And the rest of the next three long weeks.

Gary swallowed, afraid and excited all at once. Jude smiled wider, reading him like a book. Gary’s grandmother had always said travel changed you. This trip is already changing me, Gary thought, and we haven’t even boarded yet.

“Getting to know each other?” Professor Jones said, appearing next to them out of nowhere. Gary tried not to flinch. The question sounded cautious, he realized, like the man sensed that something had passed between them but he wasn’t sure what.

“Absolutely,” Jude said, not breaking their mutual stare.

“Ooookay,” the professor said. “We’ve got about an hour before pre-boarding, so I’m going to find a seat and plug in so I can look over the new satellite geology we just got. Do you guys want to—?”

“Actually, Gary here suggested we go look at the soft pretzels,” Jude said, still holding his gaze. “Right, Gary?”

“Uh huh,” Gary said. There was that tingle again. He tore his gaze free to look at the professor, who was watching them both curiously. “Want anything, professor?”

“No thanks,” the professor said, still wary. “I’ll watch your bags, then, but keep track of your passports.”

“Will do,” Jude said, quickly turning and walking off without further ado. Gary hurried after him. As he did so he found himself marveling that his previous assessment of how compelling Jude’s entire body was had been made without glimpsing the man’s round, perfect ass, the divinely proportioned shape of which was lovingly charted by those butt-hugging butterscotch-plaid pants. Gary shivered, actually debating remaining two steps behind him for the rest of the expedition just to be able to stare at Jude’s perfect cheeks. Was that why those noblewomen from the old days always stayed a pace behind their husbands? Probably not.

Anyway, he couldn’t spend the whole trip staring at Jude’s backside, so he jogged ahead a couple steps to come up level with him. As soon as he did, Jude grabbed his wrist and pulled them both off to the side along a long, blank wall between gates, out of the flow of traffic up and down the concourse.

Jude studied him for a moment. Gary waited.

“You’re attracted to me,” Jude stated.

There was no point in denying it. “Yes,” he said. It was the first time he’d overtly expressed any kind of homosexual feelings to anyone. Maybe someday Jude would be interested to know that.

“Very attracted,” Jude pressed, like he was confirming readings he was already sure of.

Gary wanted to frown. Was Jude trying to hypnotize him? An unbidden image of a hunky Las Vegas illusionist came into his head, putting a whammy on an equally sexy audience member whom he’d lured on stage and somehow gotten buck naked. You’re getting verrrry horny… The little scene made him smile slightly, which seemed to surprise Jude, but he nodded “yes” to Jude’s question anyway. He was very attracted to Jude—uniquely attracted. No hypnosis necessary.

Jude bit his lip. “I’m not especially attracted to you,” he confessed. “Nothing personal. You’re very hot, and your body is amazing, but…”

“I understand,” Gary said. He realized it hadn’t even occurred to him to think that the question of whether Jude was attracted to him might matter. It didn’t. The strength of Gary’s attraction for Jude was balanced not by any reciprocal feelings on Jude’s part but by the force of Jude’s personality. That was where the thrill and the excitement came from.

Jude seemed to absorb this. “I want to make a deal with you,” he said.

“Okay,” Gary said, intrigued.

Jude gestured to Gary, the movement taking in Gary’s entire body. Gary tried not to think of Hiccup complaining, “You just gestured to all of me.”

This,” Jude said, “belongs to me. No one else. You are not to share this”—he gestured again—”with anyone else but me. Understood?”

Gary blinked. Who else would he share it with? “I understand,” he said, not even giving the affirmation a second thought.

Jude nodded once. “In return,” Jude said, “I’ll be willing to help you out now and again. If you’re good.”

This made Gary smile. “You’ll force yourself to worship my muscles and suck my stiff, hard cock?” Gary mocked.

Jude tried to keep a straight face and failed. “Exactly. It will be a great hardship to me, but I will endure it.”

Heh heh, he said “hardship”. “Very noble of you,” Gary allowed.

Jude’s smile faded. “I need to make one thing clear, though,” he said. “This”—he gestured to himself, as he had with Gary—”does not belong to you. It belongs to someone else.”

Hmm. That was a little disappointing, especially in light of Jude’s adorable muscley-ness and what he’d guessed about what Jude was packing; but he could work with it. He had a little of his dad’s car-selling acumen in his blood. “I can look, though, right?” he said. “The more you let me look, the less time you’ll have to put up with blowing me.”

Jude eyed him warily. “I guess that makes sense.”

“And kissing,” Gary continued. “I mean, if you’re willing to put your lips on my cock…”

Jude’s eyes narrowed. “We kiss on my initiative only,” he stated. He sounded stern, but his electric-blue gaze had already strayed to Gary’s lips. Jude seemed to have correctly determined that Gary knew what he was doing when it came to making out with girls, and Gary bet it wasn’t that different with guys.

“Deal,” Gary said. He almost suggested kissing on it, but he’d let Jude make the first move on that score, just like they both wanted. He was smiling again, looking forward to this trip for the first time, and Jude was smiling too, though he was still trying not to.

They looked at each other like that for a long, awkward moment, then Jude huffed a sigh. “Pretzel?” he suggested.

“You bet,” Gary said, and they headed off to the pretzel stand side-by-side.

Long thought to have remained anomalously unsettled and forgotten even during the most kinetic and turbulent periods of regional migration, Kallifyos Island was forbidding, remote, and altogether beautiful. Located in the midst of the wine-dark Aegean halfway between Skyros and Lesbos, beyond the reach of most ancient coastal traffic, that Kallifyos boasted no harbor; treacherous, ship-crushing currents in the surrounding waters; and, to all appearances, a distinct lack of fresh water seemed plausible enough explanation for its virginal status to modern researchers. Traces of myths attached to the island as well, warning that men who went there in search of adventure were fated only to stir monsters into being, or even became them. Certain strands of ancient folklore linked Kallifyos to the strangest creatures of Greek legend: the Gorgons, some said, were seeded there, others Polyphemus and his one-eyed kin; one arcane, half-garbled tale even placed Centaurus on the lonely isle, a wandering Thessalonian with an eye for strong and stalwart mares. (Effective translation of the fragment has been complicated by the text’s insistence in one passage that the hippoi in question were stallions, not mares, but dedicated classicists have already spilled plenty of ink on that linguistic and ontological conundrum.)

A 1998 aerial survey had accrued much new information about Kallifyos, including a rivulet down the central prominence suggesting fresh-water sources; a follow-up satellite scan ten years later showed geographical features consistent with an underground aquifer and cave system, and, more controversially, what some scholars interpreted as subterranean structures—tombs, perhaps, or buried foundations; various factors suggested that any such putative structures would most likely turn out to be of Bronze Age vintage. Aegean archaeologists, classists, and historians had reacted to the news with fascination and endless conjecture. Had a stray contingent of lyre-playing Cycladics drifted there, only to be lost, like their parent civilization, in the occluding mists of prehistory? Had the copper-seeking Minoans once placed a peak sanctuary on this remotest of elevations? Had the Mycenaeans, perhaps, built an outpost on Kallifyos, a vanguard of their coming assault on the horse-loving Anatolians to the east? What unique and enlightening forms of architecture, artifacts, and—dare one hope—recorded memory might lie waiting beneath the untouched soil of the forbidden isle?

A full expedition was eventually drummed up. It was to be led by five eminent archaeologists specializing in the Bronze Age Aegean, Martin among them; all had agreed that the shrewdest approach was to first send one of their number to walk the terrain ahead of the full team and scout the likeliest possibilities for location and access, and Martin, between projects and with a keen reputation for adventuring and wilderness survival, had been happy to have been volunteered by the rest.

And now here he was, standing on a cliff’s edge over the very shores of Kallifyos, watching the helicopter that had brought them here vanish into the crystal-blue sky, while cerulean waves lapped the dark rockface below. Behind them the pine-and-yew-clad main prominence rose majestically, guarding the folding lands around it. A stiff, cool wind with just the right amount of spray whipped over them. Martin found it exhilarating and drew in a long, deep breath, enjoying the bracing welcome of the Aegean.

It seemed Gary agreed: He had whipped off his tee shirt and stood near the cliff’s edge with both arms spread high and wide, palms out and splayed, the very image of a primordial priest paying joyous homage to the gods of sun and sea. Martin watched in fascination, lust sifting through his insides. Whenever he returned to the Aegean he had always fancied he sensed the alert but passive attentions of the old Greek gods, lingering past their own time to see what became of humanity. He felt Zeus’s heedful eye as he and his team painstaking uncovered the bones of an ancient town through the steady work of days and weeks; the company of Artemis as he passed the trees of a forested valley full of life and sound; the giggles of Dionysos as he sampled the wine or locally-made ouzo in one of the little coastal towns near his dig. Now, though, taking Gary in as he opened his magnificent form to the living wind, Gary had an unnerving premonition that the gods who’d be watching them on this island were far, far older than Zeus.

Gary’s wide grin and the blatancy of him opening himself to the elements of this place was somehow infectious. Impulsively Martin grabbed the tails of his long-sleeved tee and pulled it off as well, dropping it to the ground by his feet and raising his arms in a Y in emulation of his football-playing ancient-priest-in-training. He smiled as the stiff, steady wind riffled through his chest hair and played with his well-trimmed beard. He had half a mind to continue his strip and expose himself completely and unreservedly to the air, sun, and sea. After all, he thought with a mental smirk, surely the primordial gods of this place wondered at the half-gesture of only partial nakedness…

He heard a throat clear nearby and turned to smile at Jude, not lowering his arms or altering his stance. His research assistant was giving him a gimlet eye, all the while pointedly ignoring the display Gary was offering a few steps beyond where Martin stood. “The clearing marked out for the base camp is down by the creek, five kilometers north,” Jude said, glancing down at his pocket notepad with all the maps and pre-planning lists they’d made ahead of flying out. Behind him lay the heavy-looking packs they’d be hiking in with. With no electricity on the island, they’d left behind all their electronic gear in Athens, apart from the satellite phone they’d use in case of emergency. “We should get started so we can make sure we’re set up before nightfall,” Jude added pointedly.

Martin smiled indulgently at him. “Agreed,” he said. “But first,” he added, and he nodded down at his own stance. Jude’s expression tightened. “Propitiation becomes insult, if the whole community does not join in behind it,” he teased.

Despite himself, Jude seemed amused. “Giving thanks to Apollo and Poseidon, are we?” he snarked.

“Oh, Apollo and Poseidon are a long ways from this place, I think. C’mon, we three are polis and oikos.” He nodded at Jude’s shirt, his arms still held high and wide as the wind buffeted endlessly over them like new features of the coastal cliffline.

Jude grimaced in pretended annoyance. “Fine,” he said. He pocketed his notepad in his khaki cargo shorts and slid the snug henley off his compactly muscled torso, hesitating briefly before following Martin’s lead and dropping it to the ground beside him. Then, with one more glance at Martin—and still without any sign he was even aware of Gary’s serene presence a few feet beyond him—Jude closed his eyes and faced the sea-wind under the brilliant blue sky, opening himself before them both.

Martin watched long enough to see a simple smile spread across his assistant’s face before turning back to the wind and sun and closing his own eyes as well. This was a good sign, he thought, the three of them sharing this moment. Whatever befell them on this island would befall them all, for good or ill, and Martin found comfort in this sense of shared experience and utter community between them.

Jude thought it more than a little uncanny how the storm clouds started to swirl and gather from out of a clear blue sky the moment they started the hike into the island’s interior. It was one thing to study ancient superstitions, he thought, and quite another to march brazenly into their very lair.

With their fully-loaded backpacks firmly strapped to their bare shoulders—they’d had shirts before their little seaside ritual, but there was no sign of them afterwards and that seemed okay somehow—the three of them crested a stony rise up from the cliff’s edge and then found what looked like a natural path down the valley that skirted the central promontory to the west, leading toward the center of the island and, more immediately, their projected base camp. As they walked, the cool wind seemed to thicken and increase in potency, taking on as it did so the palpable charge of an oncoming thunderstorm. Definitely weird. Jude knew the storm wasn’t on the weather projections he’d seen before choppering out here, and there’d been no sign of it as they’d stood by the shoreline playing supplicants. Was this just the instantly changeable weather of any detached, mid-sea island, or was there something stranger going on?

Jude had equipped them with two tents, a larger four-man job he’d intended for himself and Dr. Jones and a smaller one to which their interloper was to be consigned; but as it turned out they’d got to the clearing and had only just erected the big tent by the time the skies opened up and steady, lukewarm rain came pelting down on them. Quickly stowing the rest of their gear inside, the three men found themselves conferencing outside it, the rain streaming down their well-defined torsos.

“Maybe we shouldn’t go in the tent while we’re soaking wet,” Martin suggested. “If this is a summer storm it might not last long.”

“It feels nice, too,” Gary added. Martin stole a sly look at Gary’s torso, his heavy pecs and rounded traps and delts covered in darting rivulets, and seemed half-tempted to say that it looked nice, too.

Jude looked away, peeved. He was mulling the feasibility of getting the second, Gary-only tent erected despite the downpour when he frowned. Was that a stele or a stone marker of some kind, further in toward the center of the clearing? Decided to abandon Dr. Jones to his unconscious flirting he started toward the rough, square column, enjoying the string of the rain smacking hard against his bare skin as he moved through the open glade.

He didn’t quite reach the stele, however. When he was about five paces away he felt the ground suddenly give way under his boots, and he dropped like a stone into a dark, underground cavern, hitting the ground hard enough he almost lost consciousness.

“Jude!” someone called from above. “Jude, you okay?”

Jude squeezed his eyes open and closed, trying to focus his thoughts. Rain was spattering down on him through a hole in the roof above him. What had happened? He’d fallen, right? But—into where?

“Jude!” It was Gary’s voice. He sounded distressed.

“I’m okay!” he called up to them, sitting up. Though there wasn’t much light he was somehow able to tell he was in a small, roundish cavern, maybe thirty meters in diameter. He wasn’t sure if it was man-made or natural.

“I’m getting the rope!” Dr. Jones called down to him.

“Okay!” he shouted back. He looked around. Something seemed to be tugging him toward one of the walls. He thought it was in the direction of the center of the clearing, placing whatever it was more or less under the stele he’d been walking towards.

He climbed to his feet, testing his ankles for twists and sprains. He seemed okay, so he started toward that end of the cavern. As he moved closer he saw that there was a set of bronze pedestals set against the rough wall of the cavern, which seemed to be marked up with several lines of some kind of rune-like pictographic writing—definitely not Linear A or B, the writing systems of the Bronze Age Aegean; there was some resemblance to cuneiform, though it wasn’t that either, nor was it hieroglyphs. He grinned. A unique writing system, endemic to this place alone. Martin would get a scholar-hardon over this for sure. Jude had an odd feeling he could almost read it, if he stood here long enough.

Martin? Dr. Jones, he meant.

Now standing before the little shrine, or whatever it was, he saw one of the pedestals was not empty. On the bronze surface was a small, male figurine, maybe five inches in length. Jude knew instinctively that it was this figurine that had drawn him into the clearing and, once he’d fallen into the cavern, across the subterranean chamber to where he stood now.

He picked it up without thinking. It was of a good heft, simply carved and, unlike some prehistoric idols he’d seen, perfectly proportioned to reflect a compactly muscled male physique not unlike his own. The square shoulders, tapered torso, and strong legs felt good in his hand. Much like he wanted his own body to feel good in Martin’s hand. Its face was sly, and when Jude met its exaggerated almond eyes he could imagine the little man knew exactly what he and the rest of his make-shift community desired and needed more and more with every passing hour.

“Jude! Grab the rope!” Martin called down to him. No, not Martin—Dr. Jones. He turned and saw the end of a rope drop to the wet earth below the hole he’d dropped through. His way out.

Ignoring the temptation to stay down here, away from their increasingly lust-filled sex triangle, Jude instinctively slid the figurine under the waistband of his cargo shorts, so that its cool stone back rested against his flat, rain-washed lower abdomen. He grabbed the rope and, not waiting to be pulled up, shimmied to the top without difficulty. Gary, unsurprisingly, had the ropes, his feet braced in the spongy grass near the hole, his shoulders, chest, and arms tensed against Jude’s weight. Martin was crouched next to the hole, offering his hand. “There you go,” Martin said, as Jude clasped his wrist and let him haul Jude up the rest of the way. They all collapsed in the spongy grass, the rain falling on them harder than ever.

The moment skipped, and they were standing, closer to the stele than before. They were laughing, struck by the absurdity of coming all this way just the fall into a hole. “Thank you,” Jude said to both of them, resting his hand on Gary’s chest as he gave Martin a grateful kiss. Gary’s hand skimmed down Jude’s back.

“What’s this?” Martin asked, over the sound of the rain. He was grasping the figurine sticking out of Jude’s waistband.

“Careful, it’s big,” Jude said with a smirk, and not for the first time, as Martin pulled it out of Jude’s pants.

“Yeah?” Gary said, his light-brown eyes full of lust. Jude winked at him.

Martin lifted the figurine to examine it. “It’s amazing,” he said in awe. Jude slid one hand around Martin’s waist and reach up so that he could hold the figurine, too—it seemed important that that they all hold it. Gary must have sensed it too, because he wrapped his free hand around the little man at almost the same time.

All at once, Jude world was total noise and intolerable brightness. A lightning strike! He was dead, he had to be, and yet—the light was pouring into the sly-smiling figurine, filling it, making it glow—

Time jumped again, and Jude was running. Have to run, need speed, feet leveraging the ground, have to run—

Why did he have to run, again?

Trees whipped by around him on either side while overhead clouds whirled and raced each other in the chaotic sky. Alarmed he was pelting hell-for-leather through an unknown forest that might trip him up at any moment, Jude forced himself to slow and then stop. He tried to catch his breath, only he found he didn’t need to; he wasn’t winded at all. Still, he bent forward and leaned on his knees, taking stock of himself.

From this position he couldn’t help but notice the middle leg he had acquired in his flight from the clearing, complete with its own boot and sock and its own leg in the cargo shorts he was wearing. Jude looked at it, at the three legs and feet, letting the toe of his middle foot dig in to the soft earth a little as he watched. It wasn’t that he didn’t remember having been two legged all his life. He knew what he had looked like until moments before. And yet it was also natural to think: Jude Rodgers has three nice, strong legs and three sexy feet. It was natural to think exactly that, almost in those words, only they weren’t words but ideas, concepts. He wondered where the word-concepts had come from.

He straightened, looking around. He should go back to camp. His stomach fluttered at the thought, but if he was right about his three legs being natural, and he knew he was, he didn’t need to worry about what Martin and Gary would think. They’d still welcome him back with hugs and deep, slow kisses. His hefty cocks swelled at the idea.

There was only one problem preventing him from returning to the arms of his two companions, he thought, as he looked around at the gently sloping woods around him now bathed in the warm light of a cloudless afternoon: he had no clue where the hell he was.

“Gary!” Martin called, pressing his hand on the seven-foot hunk’s impressive chest where he lay unconscious at the base of the stele. “Gary, wake up!”

I could lift him, he thought randomly. Get him out of the rain. I could carry him back to the tent easily. But even as these words passed through his head the rain lessened and then stopped. By the time he glanced up it was to look almost right at the newly-returned sun as the clouds fled, the storm gone as quickly as it had come.

Martin tucked the figurine under the waistband of his loose-cut jeans, right next to his big, permanently hard cocks. He bent to touch Gary’s cheek. “Gary, babe, wake up!” he coached.

No response. There was nothing for it. He leaned down and pressed his lips against Gary’s warm, tender, inviting mouth.

Instinctively Gary opened for him, letting Martin’s long, questing tongue into his welcoming heat. Gary’s own tongue stirred to life and began sliding itself provocatively along Martin’s considerable lingual length and girth.

After a few moments of this they broke their kiss and Martin pulled back, licking his lips with a sinuous suggestiveness. “Back from the dead?” he asked coyly.

Gary was looking up at him in wonder, his eyes dark with ferocious desire. “Was your tongue like that before?” he whispered.

Martin didn’t say anything. Both of them glanced down at the bone figurine in Martin’s waistband. Their eyes met. This is only the beginning, Martin thought, though he wasn’t sure the words had come from him.

He looked around. “Where’s Jude?” he asked suddenly. He helped Gary to his feet. The brawny, perfectly proportioned quarterback loomed over him, considerably taller and a bit larger than he’d been, and yet… exactly the size he should be.

Gary looked around at the woods fringing the edges of the clearing they were in, the whole scene now so bright with afternoon sunshine Martin half-expected spontaneous daisies to pop out of the earth of their own accord wanting to get some of those rays. Then Gary lifted his big hands to cup around his mouth and bellowed, “HEY, JUDE!”

Martin snorted a laugh. Slapping the young giant’s broad back he got them moving in the direction of the north-west end of the clearing. “C’mon,” he said, “I think he’s this way.” The two tromped off together, Martin’s arm still on Gary’s back and the figurine tucked into his pants, as they went in search of their missing friend.

Update posts:
Weekly Update: 17 July 2021

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