written and illustrated by juou no zan (女王のザン)
Joshua stepped up onto the ledge and took a deep breath. The air was warm and grassy with the promise of summer. The campus looked pretty from up here, where you couldn’t make out the litter and the gum stains. The sun was getting ready to set, but it was late enough in the year that it would take almost two hours to finish. Distantly, there were shouts and screams and laughter from people happy to be free for the summer. He looked down. It seemed high enough. “Well,” he said. “Goodbye cruel world, I guess.”
Behind him, someone snorted.
He wasn’t sure why he was even surprised, at this point. Of course there would be someone else on the tallest roof on campus. Never mind that it was after classes ended, and graduation day to boot. Joshua’s humiliation needed witnesses at all points. He turned to look at the noise, and ask why someone else had gone to all the trouble of getting up here, but when he saw the cigarette, he figured he didn’t need to bother.
He vaguely recognized the other boy as someone from his class, but he certainly wasn’t friends with anyone who’d even admit to knowing some punk who smoked. Of course, he wasn’t really friends with anyone, anymore, or at least he wouldn’t be once his parents told their parents to keep their kids away from him. Joshua did wonder why the boy wasn’t out celebrating graduating, like the rest of their class.”You’re just going to let me?” he asked.
The other boy shrugged. “I’m sure you got reasons,” he said. “‘S your life.”
Joshua laughed, bitterly. “Yeah,” he said. “Only thing I do have,” he muttered. He turned back to the open air, but found it a lot more difficult to contemplate suicide when he knew someone was watching him.
“You could probably go for some better last words, though,” said the boy behind him. “Since you know someone’ll hear ’em.”
“I’m sorry,” Joshua said, turning around again, “do you think I’m doing this for attention? Or your approval or something?”
He was sitting on the floor, leaning against the dormant air conditioner, knees up in front of him. He was in shadow, protected from the light of the setting sun. Joshua had to admit he did look pretty cool, even though smoking was disgusting and, as Joshua had never seen him at church, he was undoubtedly a sinner. He shrugged at Joshua’s question. “Nah,” he said, “I just think you could do a lot better on last words. Say something that would really stick it to whoever.”
“Why do you even care?” Joshua asked. “We don’t know each other.”
He frowned and rolled his eyes, flicked some ash off the end of his cigarette. “We had like four classes together,” he said. “But I guess a hell-bound sinner like me has no reason to care about anyone else, huh. Typical.”
Joshua blushed. “I never called you that,” he said, knowing full well he and his former friends probably had at least included him in that group.
“Ain’t lying a sin, Josh?” the boy asked. “But so’s suicide, right, so I guess you’re just catching up on all kinds of sinning today.”
Joshua sighed. “Yeah,” he said. “I guess so. But!” He shrugged. “It’s not like I could do anything worse than what I’ve already done, so who cares, right?”
The boy against the air conditioner–he remembered Joshua’s name, Joshua had to know his, what was it?–stubbed out his cigarette and immediately lit another. “Anyway,” he said, around the cigarette, “if I’m gonna be a witness, I’d rather have something cool to say.”
“Sorry I’m such a disappointment,” Joshua said, unable to keep the sneer off his face. “I guess that’s what I do now.”
The other boy–what was his name? Andy? Antoine?–didn’t have anything to say to that. He sat there, smoking, silent. Joshua turned back to the air again. He was lucky this ledge was so wide, or maybe he wasn’t. Maybe lucky would be if he’d slipped off, without the chance to chicken out.
He really felt very weird about what’s-his-name watching him. He was also starting to think maybe this building wasn’t as tall as it looked from the ground.
“Oh, can I ask something though?”
Joshua turned around again. “What?” he said.
“Why are you doing this? Maybe if I know, I can make up some good last words.”
Joshua laughed. “I’m gay,” he said.
“My parents kicked me out. I didn’t even get to pack,” he said. “I’ve got what’s in my pockets and my locker and that’s it.”
“And I guess your friends aren’t gonna let you stay with them,” he said.
“Not once they find out,” Joshua said.
“Hm.” He took a long drag of his cigarette. “Sucks,” he said.
“So here I am,” Joshua said. “Happy now?”
“Nowhere to stay, nothing to do,” he said. “Guess that makes sense.”
Joshua snorted. “So you’d do it too, then?”
“Nah. I got a place to stay.” He blew a cloud of smoke into the air above him, and it drifted high enough to hit the sunlight. “Anyway, it don’t really look like you’re doing it in the first place.”
“I will!” Joshua said, unfortunately aware of how petulant he sounded. “You just keep distracting me!”
“Uh-huh,” the boy said. He shifted his position and switched his cigarette to his other hand. “I’ma go out on a limb here and guess you never been with a guy.”
“Of course not!” Joshua said. “That would be–” He cut himself off.
“A sin, yeah,” he said. “So’s everything else you’re doing today. Anyway, I never been with a guy either and I think I might feel less like a liar when I say I’m bi if I had. So since you’re gonna die anyway, you wanna at least see what it is you’re dying for?”
Joshua blinked. Embarrassingly, the first thought that managed to make its way out of the tangle in his head was, “I don’t even know your name.”
“Jesus Christ, it’s Tony Ramirez, same as it was in every class we ever had together,” he said. “Including two this year.” He shook his head. “Fucking unbelievable.”
“Sorry,” Joshua said. Now that he’d heard it, he could remember Mrs. Benson calling out ‘Antonio Ramirez’ every day in English this year.
“So was that your main objection?” Tony asked. “‘Cause now it’s taken care of.”
“No,” Joshua said. “I mean, yes? No, uh. Why?”
Tony rolled his eyes and took another big inhale off his cigarette. “You’re cute, you just said you’re gay, you’re here. If you say no, no one else has to know I was turned down by an obnoxious bible-thumper. It’s a win-win for me.”
Tony rolled his eyes again, theatrically, presumably to make sure Joshua knew how ridiculous Tony found him. “C’mon, yes or no?”
Joshua stared at him. Tony stared back, impassive. Joshua was starting to wish he’d paid more attention to the other people in his classes. His heart was beating faster now than when he’d first climbed up on the ledge, which was probably messed up. “Sure,” he said.
“Great,” Tony said, putting his cigarette between his lips and standing up.
“As long as you kiss me,” Joshua blurted.
Tony paused and looked up at him, then shrugged. “Fair enough,” he said. “You never kissed anyone before, either, huh.”
“I have,” Joshua said. “…In middle school. A girl.”
Tony shook his head, but he looked amused. He was across the rooftop now, just in front of where Joshua stood. He held out a hand to help Joshua down from the ledge.
Joshua took it, and stepped down to the roof, and found Tony whirling him around and pulling him close, dipping him down for a kiss like in that stupid World War II picture his history class had gotten in a fight about. He tasted like smoke, but he had Joshua by the waist and pressed against his chest, and it was definitely more fun than kissing Madison Williams at a party in the seventh grade.
Then he pulled away, still dipping Joshua, and took a drag from the cigarette that had apparently been in the hand behind Joshua’s head the whole time.
“Can you put that out?” Joshua asked, alarmed.
“Oh, yeah,” Tony said. He dropped it to the ground and stomped on it, and kissed Joshua again. Joshua had no idea what to do with his hands, or his tongue, and only the vaguest idea of what to do with his lips, but it didn’t seem to matter to Tony. He just kept kissing Joshua, and all Joshua could do was try to keep up and not get too distracted by the slide of Tony’s lips against his. It made his head swim and his lips tingle, and a treacherously misled voice in the back of Joshua’s head wondered how something that felt this good could be a sin.
Joshua pushed that thought away and wrapped his arms around Tony’s shoulders. He might as well make the most of it.
Finally, Tony righted them both and leaned away. He pulled his shirt off and then started to undo Joshua’s, kissing his neck and down his chest as he did so.
“Wh–what are you doing?” Joshua asked. Tony had gotten his shirt down his shoulders and was licking at his nipples.
Tony looked up at him from his place against Tony’s ribs. His hands were on Joshua’s back, under the sort-of on shirt. “What,” he said, “you think I’d just bend you over and stick it in?”
He kind of had, but from Tony’s tone, Joshua decided that was exactly the wrong answer. “Uh, I just thought–”
“Whatever,” Tony muttered, and kissed him again. This time, without having to support Joshua’s weight, his hands roved. All over Joshua’s back, then down to his ass, then inside the waistband of his trousers. Joshua gasped, and Tony smiled against his mouth.
Joshua had seen many of his classmates shirtless before. He took his mandatory physical education classes, after all. In fact, embarrassingly enough, it had been part of how he realized he was gay. None of the other guys seemed to have any trouble preventing themselves from staring at their classmates’ chest hair and hip bones. It was different, having it against him. He reached up with one hand and put it on Tony’s chest. Tony was hairier than he was, but it was soft and felt nice.
With the smell of cigarette smoke fading, Joshua could smell Tony better, and he smelled wonderful. Joshua thought he’d feel light-headed just from that, if he wasn’t already swooning from Tony’s mouth on his and Tony’s hands on his skin.
Tony pulled him a little closer, by means of grabbing his ass, and pressed their hips together. Joshua gasped again at the feeling of Tony hard against him.
“You should sit down,” Tony murmured, and got to his knees as well. Joshua sat down with his back against the ledge he’d just been ready to jump from.
“I’m gonna guess you don’t have any lube,” Tony said, frowning in Joshua’s general direction. Or at his erection, really, but that was much more embarrassing to admit.
Tony looked up at him and snorted. “Really.”
Joshua flushed. “It was in my locker, from sex ed. It seemed easier to just take it. In my backpack, here…”
“Christ, Josh,” Tony said as Joshua stretched to reach his backpack and pull it over. He dug through it until he found the condoms and packet of lube from his locker. He hadn’t thought about it when he got everything from his locker, he just shoved it all in while he tried to think of his options.
He held them out to Tony, vaguely proud his hands weren’t shaking even though Tony was sitting shirtless between his legs, and Tony grabbed just the lube. “Hey,” Joshua said.
“If you’re just gonna kill yourself after this, why bother?” Tony said.
“That’s no excuse to put yourself at risk,” Joshua said.
Tony rolled his eyes and took the condoms. He immediately set them, and the lube, down, to undo Joshua’s pants. Joshua lifted his hips enough for Tony to slide his pants down past his ass, so Joshua was sitting on the concrete of the roof in just his underwear. Then Tony leaned in and put his face right up next to Joshua’s obvious erection, with his hands on Joshua’s bare thighs. Joshua could feel the heat from Tony’s proximity on his dick. When Tony leaned in enough to brush against it, Joshua gasped again.
“Least I know you’re into it,” Tony muttered, adjusting himself so he was almost laying on the floor. Then he pulled Joshua’s dick free of his underwear and put it in his mouth.
Tony’s mouth on his dick was like…Joshua didn’t have anything to compare it to. It felt amazing. It was warm and wet and Tony’s hands were still on his thighs. He pulled away enough to let Joshua’s dick pop out of his mouth, and licked the underside down to the base, down to where his underwear bunched over his balls. Joshua could only see part of Tony’s face, obscured as it was by his dick, but he seemed into it.
“Oh my gosh,” Joshua said, and Tony snorted. “What?”
“Nothin,” Tony said, before taking Joshua’s dick in his mouth again. This time he stopped with just the head in his mouth, then sucked hard. Joshua cried out, nonsense sounds that didn’t add up to any words.
He wasn’t surprised when one of Tony’s hands made its way down the inside of his thigh, into his underwear, and then behind his balls. He was maybe a little startled, because of course he’d thought about it, but he hadn’t really expected it to feel good, to have a finger touching his butthole. It was supposed to be gross and shameful, but it really didn’t feel too gross to Joshua. Maybe a little weird, but everything about this was weird and new.
He let out an embarrassing moan when Tony pressed in a little, not even enough to do anything except remind Joshua he was there, and Tony hummed around his dick. And obviously Tony was doing this because he wanted to, he had no reason to do Joshua any favors, but the pleased humming and the way it reminded him that Tony was enjoying sucking his dick made Joshua feel all tingly and hot and even more turned on.
Tony pulled back and rubbed his jaw with the back of the hand that had been resting on Joshua’s thigh. “That’s harder than it looks,” he muttered. He reached over Joshua’s leg and grabbed the packet of lube, ripped it open with his teeth, and dumped it onto his hand, then dropped it and immediately leaned back in. He nuzzled and licked at the head of Joshua’s dick, which was embarrassing enough to make Joshua cover his face with his hands. Then Tony went to slide his lubed-up hand into Joshua’s underwear again, and instead his hand caught on the fabric and smeared lube all over it.
He pulled away and muttered, “Goddammit.” He tugged at Joshua’s hips with one slick hand and one dry. “Take these off.”
Joshua wriggled out of his underwear and set it underneath him so he wouldn’t be sitting directly on the concrete. Tony drizzled more lube onto his hand. Once Joshua was settled again, feeling really exposed, Tony went back to licking and nuzzling Joshua’s dick, but this time when he went to rub his slick fingers against Joshua’s asshole, he had no reason to stop.
It felt hot. Not like, sexy, although that was true too, but hot as in warm. Even with the lube, Joshua could feel the way his butt stretched around Tony’s finger, and it burned the way his legs and lungs did after running too long or too hard. It wasn’t quite painful though, and Tony moved slower with the hand in Joshua than with his mouth and other hand, still occupied with Joshua’s dick. The combination of Tony’s finger in his butt and Tony sucking his dick felt better than he would have guessed; he was tingly and sensitive all over, and it took less time than it usually did before he felt he was about to come.
“Uh, Tony,” he said.
Tony pulled away just enough to say, “I know,” and went right back to sucking Joshua’s dick. Joshua whimpered and closed his eyes, thinking maybe if he couldn’t see Tony’s head between his legs, he’d be able to enjoy it longer. That didn’t work at all. Free to concentrate on the sensations, of Tony’s hot mouth and the finger moving slowly inside him, Joshua felt more sensitive than ever. He was so turned on Tony could have touched him anywhere and it would have felt good, and Tony was sucking hard on the head of his dick and sliding a finger in and out of him; he came and it was better than any furtive masturbation session made him feel.
Tony swallowed the initial spurt of semen, but pulled back and let most of the rest of it dribble out of his mouth and back down Joshua’s dick. He licked Joshua’s dick clean, and that was hideously embarrassing but felt way too good for Joshua to tell him to stop. Tony wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and said, “Well that ain’t fair.”
Joshua fought past the part of his brain telling him to focus on breathing and luxuriating in how good he felt, and managed to open his eyes and say, “What’s wrong?”
“Your come tastes good,” Tony said, frowning thoughtfully. “Mine tastes like shit.”
“What?” Joshua said. If this were any other day–if he was in any other situation–he would have assumed he heard that wrong.
“Well not like shit,” Tony said. “But bad.” He rolled his eyes, which made Joshua realize he was making a face. “C’mon,” Tony said, “like you never licked your hand clean.”
“Absolutely not!” Joshua said, and then blushed at the look Tony gave him. He looked away and mumbled, “It just seems weird to taste your own.”
Tony snorted and rolled his eyes again, but this time he was smiling a little. “Guess you must eat better than me,” he said, and moved the finger inside Joshua. Joshua sucked in a gasp. “You still good to go?” he asked.
“Yes,” Joshua said. He’d be damned if he’d stop now. Well, he figured he was damned either way, but that wasn’t the point. He wanted to know.
“Thank God,” Tony muttered. He rolled onto his side to adjust the way he was laying on the ground, and Joshua saw his jeans were tented in a major way. He’d done that, he thought, even though he hadn’t really done anything, he’d just let Tony do whatever he wanted. Oh, that was embarrassing too, that made him sound so…easy.
“Uh,” Joshua said, “if you come up here, I could, um.” Tony stopped moving around and looked up at him, smiling a bit. If Joshua could have blushed more, he would have. “What?”
“Just wanted to see what quaint old figure of speech you’d come up with for jerking someone off,” Tony said, but he did get up and move in closer. He took his finger out of Joshua to do so, which made Joshua’s breath hitch, but also felt uncomfortably familiar. Tony chuckled, and leaned in to kiss him. Before he had a chance to double-guess whether he still wanted to kiss someone who had just had their mouth on his dick, Tony’s tongue was in his mouth again, and the new tastes weren’t unpleasant. They definitely weren’t unpleasant enough to counteract how nice Tony’s mouth felt against his.
Tony pulled away and said, “Well?” Joshua blinked at him. His head was swimming again. Tony rolled his eyes and grabbed Joshua’s nearest hand and put it on the bulge of his erection.
“Oh,” Joshua said. “Right.”
“Y’know, I’d call you a tease if I thought you had any idea what you were doing,” Tony said. Joshua ducked his head and concentrated on unzipping Tony’s pants. It was a little disorienting at first, touching someone else’s hard-on. But it was also really hot; his dick wasn’t quite ready for more activity, but his heart was pounding. He traced the shape of Tony’s dick through his underwear, and Tony took a deep breath. Joshua glanced up at his face, and Tony’s eyes were closed. There was a damp spot on his underwear, had been when Joshua first put his hand in Tony’s pants. Tony really liked this, he really liked touching Joshua and sucking his dick and Joshua’s hand in his pants.
He pulled Tony’s dick out of his underwear. Tony muttered, “Oh, this is stupid,” and pulled his jeans and underwear down. Then he leaned over to kiss Joshua again.
It was very difficult to concentrate on kissing and jerking someone off at the same time. Maybe it would have been easier if Joshua had done either of those things before, or if Tony’s slick hand wasn’t on his inner thigh. Joshua adjusted his grip, to make the angle of his wrist more comfortable, and Tony moaned into the kiss. His fingers dug into Joshua’s leg, and his kissing grew sloppy. Joshua risked pulling away from his mouth to kiss his cheek, his jaw, his neck. It was much easier to mouth at his neck and listen to his panting and still concentrate on his dick in Joshua’s hand.
It was more surprising than it should have been when Tony came. It was so nice just to feel Tony’s skin against his, and hear the noises he made as Joshua touched him, that Joshua kind of zoned out and forgot that might happen. “Oh gosh,” he said, and Tony laughed. “What?” he asked, and Tony pressed a kiss to his cheek. Well, the side of his face. It was too close to his ear to really be his cheek.
“So I don’t know about you,” Tony murmured, resting his head on Joshua’s shoulder with his breath tickling Joshua’s neck, “but I feel pretty satisfied I like guys.”
That sounded like a conclusion to Joshua, and his insides went cold. “Oh,” he said. “Good.”
“You don’t sound like it’s good,” Tony said, pulling away and sitting up, struggling only a little with his pants.
“Well we didn’t even– I thought–” What did embarrassment even mean to him at this point? Why was he still embarrassed about things when literally the worst possible thing that could happen to him had already happened? He looked down at his naked thighs and said–well, muttered, but he got it out, “I wanted you inside me.”
Tony said, “Yeah, I noticed.” Joshua looked up and found he was smirking. “But, uh.” He stretched, putting his head and shoulders up in the sun, and he glowed in the late afternoon light. He was extremely attractive. Joshua couldn’t believe he hadn’t really noticed him or remembered him. “I think I’m gonna need some recovery time before I’m ready to go again,” Tony said. He pulled his pants up over his hips so he could sit cross-legged.
“I don’t have time,” Joshua said.
“There’s a simple solution to that,” Tony said. He held up a finger. “Step one: don’t jump off that roof.” He spread both his hands out. “Wow, look at all the time you got now.”
“And do what?” Joshua demanded. “I have nowhere to go. You don’t know what that’s like.”
Tony laughed. “Jesus, you are the most self-absorbed piece of shit,” he said. Joshua frowned. “You really don’t remember anything about me. I’m a fuckin orphan, Josh, I spent all goddamn year juggling funerals and wills and shit. I was late to class for like a week straight once.”
Joshua might have vaguely remembered something like that. He had probably assumed Tony was just blowing off school like the burnout he thought he was. “Oh my gosh,” Joshua said, bringing a hand up to his mouth. “I’m sorry, I didn’t–I mean, I don’t remember.”
Tony was shaking his head, but he was halfway smiling, too. “You are unbelievable,” he said. “You really got no idea.”
“I said I was sorry,” Joshua said. He was getting annoyed. Even if he was self-absorbed, did that make this funny? He had nowhere to go and nothing but the clothes on his–next to him on the roof. “But I don’t see how that really has anything to do with me.”
“Course you don’t,” Tony said, rolling his eyes again. “Josh, if I could juggle all that shit and still graduate on time, do you really think you got nothing to do but kill yourself? Come on, you’re supposed to be smart, you were in the top ten percent of the class.”
Joshua frowned. Tony knew that about him, and he couldn’t even remember what was probably the biggest tragedy of Tony’s life. Or even his name. “I won’t survive on the street,” he said. He had thought about it. It hadn’t been reassuring. “Not long.”
“They’re called homeless shelters, you idiot,” Tony said. Joshua didn’t think a single sexual encounter made him an expert on Tony’s expressions, but he didn’t think Tony was actually angry at him. Tony went on, “Not to mention homes and charities and shit for gay kids kicked out of their houses, exactly like fuckin’ you.” He shook his head. “Jesus,” he said, “there are posters in the guidance counselors’ office, I have seen you in there, I know you can read.”
Joshua frowned. He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again.
Tony sighed. “You never even considered that might apply to you,” he said. Joshua shook his head. “Absolutely oblivious,” he muttered. “Look,” he said, louder, “if you wanna stay with me tonight, I can help you figure out what your next step is.”
“What about your–” Joshua snapped his mouth closed.
“Oh look, you can retain basic information,” Tony said. Joshua flushed. “I live on my own. It ain’t fancy, but it’s better than flinging yourself off a roof. In my opinion.” He zipped up his pants and leaned over to grab his shirt. He dragged it over and fished a cigarette out of the pocket.
“Do you smoke inside?” Joshua asked.
Tony looked at him, incredulously, cigarette perched between his lips. “Is that a deciding factor between life and death for you?”
“No!” Joshua said. “I just wanted to know. I…” He brushed a piece of gravel off his knee. “I guess I might have been a little…hasty.”
“You’re a melodramatic dumbass,” Tony muttered, lighting his cigarette. He took a long drag. “Jesus,” he murmured, smoke curling out of his mouth with the word. “No,” he said, “it’s a non-smoking building.”
Now that Joshua looked, Tony’s hands were shaking. He was so proud of himself for not shaking earlier. It never occurred to him that Tony might be nervous too. “You were never going to let me do it,” Joshua realized.
“No, I fuckin wasn’t,” Tony said. “What kind of asshole just sits there and watches someone jump off a roof? Goddamn.” He took another drag of his cigarette. “I was scared shitless you wouldn’t listen to me, though.”
“Why?” Joshua asked. “I mean, thank you, thank God you were here, but…I didn’t even remember your name.”
“You’re still a human being,” Tony said. “Doesn’t matter if you’re a self-absorbed dumbass, you don’t deserve to die over it.”
“Oh,” Joshua said.
“I really didn’t think you’d actually go for the fucking,” Tony said. He smiled, lips curling crookedly around his cigarette. “I was trying to get you to fight me.”
Joshua laughed. “Why would I fight you? I told you I was gay.”
“Yeah, and you didn’t even remember who I was,” Tony said. He pulled his shirt onto his lap. “I figured you’d be offended some sinner would think he was good enough to touch you.”
Joshua frowned and asked, “Was I really that bad?”
Tony shrugged. “Apparently not. Not that I’m about to complain,” he said, and gave Joshua a look that made him acutely aware he was sitting naked on a roof.
Joshua reached for his pants and started pulling them on. His underwear was covered in lube and dirt anyway, he could just go commando for a little bit. Not looking at Tony made it easier to say, “So it wasn’t just some, some ploy to get me off the ledge?”
“I mean, it was for sure a ploy,” Tony said. “But it was mostly true, too. I don’t think I would have thought about it as an option if it hadn’t been, y’know. Appealing.”
“Oh,” Joshua said. He got up on his knees to pull his pants all the way up. “So,” he went on, still not looking at Tony. “You wouldn’t mind if I did, um, cash in that rain check.”
“I sure wouldn’t,” Tony murmured. Joshua glanced up at him, and found Tony was looking at him again, heavy-lidded and smug. Joshua fumbled with his fly and caught some of his pubic hair in the zipper.
“Ow! Shoot,” he muttered, and Tony chuckled.
They got dressed, and shoved everything back into Joshua’s backpack. The sun was below the horizon now, the lingering light only reflected through the atmosphere. Or refracted. Joshua had missed that question on his final because he couldn’t keep it straight.
As Tony ground his cigarette under his heel, he gestured grandly and said, “Goodbye, cruel rooftop!” Joshua shoved him, and Tony laughed, and caught his arm, and pulled him in for a kiss.