The World Goes On

by torino koji


Tell me about your despairs, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
— from Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese

“You should come to the reunion.”

Hillary cradled the phone between his shoulder and ear as he dumped the rice into the water. “Jamie, what could possibly come of me seeing people I haven’t seen in ten years? If I wanted to keep knowing these people, I would.”

“That’s what Steinbeck said too, but I managed to convince him.”

“Yeah, well,”—Hillary turned away from the rice to check on the vegetables—”did you offer to flash your tits at him like you did at Junior Prom?”

“You’re a jerk. Why do I love you?”

“Because you’ve been my fag hag since I was, like, nine?” Jamie laughed loudly. Hillary held the phone away from his ear until he heard the sound go down. “I’ll think about it, okay?”

“School’s paying for the plane tickets,” Jamie sing-songed. She was quiet, the rustle of paper the only noise from her end until she said in a buttery voice, “Anderson Kitell’s gonna be there.”

“And why would that interest me in the slightest, Jamison Leanne Harper?” She laughed again, more silky and knowing.

Without missing a beat she said, “I just saw him the other day. He looks good. Sugar-daddy good. You need a sugar-daddy, don’cha, Hillary? A nice, sweet, tall, I’m sure well hung, sugar-daddy?”

“You’re a jerk, and I hate you. Please go away.”

“Can I put you down for a ticket?”

Hillary sighed gustily. “Put me down for two.”

“Oh, you fags and your jealousy tactics. You’re worse than women.”

Thomas stared at Hillary when the situation came up at their weekly let’s binge drink because we’re single but unwilling to get back together date. “And why would I want to go to your high school reunion?”

“Because there might be booty in it for you?”

Thomas snorted and called down a couple of shots. “But not from your guy, who—I hear—is kinda a babe.”

“Who’d you hear that from?” Hillary asked skeptically. Thomas stared at him, handed him a shot, and grinned like a fiend.

When the shot glasses hit the bar top, Thomas simply kept grinning and asked, “So, really, what’s in it for me? Because the potential of booty is not enough to have me truck off to surprisingly-rich, ass-fuck America and put up with a bunch of your hick classmates.”

Hillary rolled his eyes and gestured uselessly. Finally, he flopped his hands into his lap and grumbled, “Nothing, really. I need you to act like my boyfriend again so that I can see if Anderson even cares.”

“Dude, you’re worse than a girl.”

“Shut up.” Thomas laughed a little, but Hillary hit him in the chest. They called down a few more shots, but Hillary let them sit there, running his finger over the brim of the glass idly. After a minute, he grumbled, “Seriously, Tom. I’ve liked this guy since I was about thirteen years old, and I just kinda need to gauge if this would ever even work.”

“By seeing if he tries to break my jaw?”

“He wouldn’t do that,” Hillary assured him. But, for all he knew, he might. It had been ten years; medical miracles might have rectified Anderson’s irredeemable clumsiness, turning him into a violent skuzz. The thought didn’t deter Hillary. “Please. Tom.”

“Just call the guy and see if he’s interested.”

Hillary watched Thomas down his last shot, grinning maliciously. “I don’t see you doing that with Chris.”

Thomas shot Hillary a dirty look.

Vermont snowed like a motherfucker. As they stepped out into the terminal, Hillary hit the window, smiling at the snow that had delayed their flight by almost two hours. Hillary had to remind himself that Thomas was a SoCal boy, and tried not to resent it too much when he spent the whole hour and a half of security grumbling about the “unholy weather.”

Beyond security was Jamie, a regular eighties throwback. She threw herself at Hillary, managing to climb him like he was a tree or something, despite the fact that she was almost as tall as Hillary, and probably weighed more. Thomas hung back, letting them have their moment.

“Hey,” Hillary finally said. Jamie smacked a bright red-lipstick kiss onto his cheek and jumped down. He smiled and waved at Thomas. “You remember Thomas, right? Met him at Christmas two years ago?”

“Yup, sure do! How ya doin’, Tommy?”

“I’m trying to figure out how it can snow in June.”

The reunion was set to last three days, like a convention. Hillary had gotten used to conventions after his first book, so, an hour before the first night of the reunion, he turned to Thomas, straightening his tie, and said, “Just pretend we’re going to another book thing, okay? How many of those did you do with me?”

“Too many,” Thomas grumbled. “Will there be alcohol at this thing?”

God, I hope so.”

“You gonna be okay?” Thomas murmured.

“No,” Hillary said. He ran his hands down Thomas’ chest, sighed against his collar, then pulled away and straightened his tie again.

Thomas asked, “We ready to go?”

“Let me go put some Eau de Fuck-Me on.”

“I think you packed that in the little bag that got lost in Newark.”

When Hillary spotted Anderson, it was because of Thomas pointing him out after they’d grabbed name tags. They’d looked over the convention room floor, and Thomas had spotted Anderson over everyone’s heads and said, “That our man?”

Hillary caught him laughing and smiling: remembered being fourteen and watching Anderson take off his glasses when he did that, remembered being all nervous and fluttery and sweaty palmed as he realized he wanted to make Anderson laugh like that.

“He looks good,” he whispered. Thomas ran a hand through his hair, silent.

After a second, Thomas muttered, “I’m going to track us down some alcohol. I’ll meet you over at the beanpole.” Hillary just wandered off in Anderson’s direction.

He finally reached Anderson during a momentary thinning of the crowd that surrounded him. Anderson looked up from his watch, spotted Hillary, and just stared for a second; Hillary did the same, though he was sure he looked like an idiot or something. Finally, Anderson smiled and moved away from his spot on the wall.

“Hey, Hilly,” he murmured, voice deep and calm and soothing. There was none of the break left. Hillary bit the inside of his lower lip to keep from making a complete ass of himself. “I was just headed out back for a cigarette. You wanna come and catch up?”

Somehow, Anderson made smoking as sexy as sucking cock, the ember bright in the night, reflecting off his glasses but hitting his eyes and flashing dangerously. Watching him, Hillary could feel his knees go weak.

They stood in silence, Anderson working slowly through the cigarette and watching Hillary closely, Hillary feeling like he hadn’t felt since his first panel in front of his fans—or maybe like a bug in a specimen dish, trying to avoid the science utensils.

“So,” he finally whispered. His breath puffed in the cool air. “What have you been up to?”

“Not much,” Anderson said, still so soft and easy-going. “Been having to dip into the trust fund these last few years. Harder than it used to be to get a best-selling CD or whatever.”

“You’re still with that band?”

“You don’t hear me on the radio anymore?”

Hill shrugged. “I hear you every once in a while. Don’t get much of the East Coast stuff out in Berkeley.”

“That’s where you transplanted?” Hillary nodded. Anderson puffed on the cigarette. “Nice place. I’m more a San Fernando guy, though.”

“You do California often?” Anderson’s eyes showed the smile Hillary could barely see in the half-light of outside. “You know what I mean. Can I have a drag?”

“You smoke now, Hilly?”

“A few times.”

Anderson laughed, louder and fuller than Hillary had ever heard him laugh before, and turned to Hillary, penning him in with his hands on the wall. Hillary leaned into the wall, letting Anderson tower over him.

“I’ll do you one better.”

He took a long drag, then leaned in to press their mouths together. The smell of smoke and aftershave filled Hillary’s nose, and then his mouth, and he gasped in the smoke, Anderson’s tongue chasing it. He coughed and sputtered as Anderson pulled back, licking his lips.


As they piled into their rental car, Thomas said, “You smell like cigarettes.”

“Yeah, I know,” Hillary muttered. He leaned back into the driver’s seat before he unlocked the doors.

“You were smoking?”

“Anderson was,” Hillary told him. Thomas hummed and buckled his seat belt. “You have a good time?” He pulled out of the parking space, wound through the lot until he found the exit that would lead them to the road back to their hotel.

“Yeah, I guess,” Thomas whispered.

“Hey, put on one of the Empiric Victory disks, would ya?”

Thomas reached under his seat for the CD book, muttering as he flipped through the disks. Hillary gripped the steering wheel tight, tried not to resent Thomas too much, and relaxed at the first eerie bars of The Apology.

Halfway back to the hotel, listening to the first verse of Søren in Summer, Thomas turned the music down and groused, “It’s a bunch of dicks trying to be philosophical. Why do you like this bullshit?”

“It’s good music. It’s not all philosophical stuff. Besides,”—and he turned up the baleful wails of Anderson’s voice—”they make good points.”

“Fuck you,” Thomas grumbled.

The next morning, when Jamie and her husband showed up to take Hillary out to brunch with a couple of their other friends, Thomas glared at him from under his pillow, and said, “Go without me. I’m not feeling too well.”

“You’re being a dick, Tom.”

Thomas gave him a one finger salute, and Hillary went to brunch.

Thomas was still curled up in bed when Hillary got back, but he was awake and watching TV when Hillary stepped in. He watched Hillary move from the door to the desk, take off his jacket and watch, and toe off his shoes, before he finally asked rather vindictively, “You have fun?”

“Yeah, actually,” Hillary bit back.

“You see Andy?”

“Don’t call him that,” Hillary said in automatic defense. Thomas gave him a half-murderous look, then turned back to watch some monkeys fuck on the TV. “Why are you being such a dick, Thomas? You said this wasn’t going to be a problem. We talked about this, you fucker.” He hit Thomas in the foot. Thomas kicked him in the arm. “Stop acting like I’m cheating on you or something.”

Thomas flipped channels urgently, chewed on his upper lip. Hillary let his smugness slip across his face. “Yeah, you don’t got a thing to say to that, do you?”

“I said I was sorry,” Thomas grumbled.

“I don’t want you to be sorry, jackass,” Hillary groused. “I want you to not fuck up my life for the next two days.”

As he walked toward the shower, he heard Thomas say, “Maybe I shouldn’t have come.”

Hillary stood in the doorway to the bathroom and said, “Yeah, maybe you shouldn’t have.”

Anderson asked to get a ride to the hotel, since he was staying at the same one. They left early.

In the car, the stereo blared Empiric Victory. Anderson laughed as Hillary instantly scrambled to turn it down—he’d had it loud because there was no Thomas to tell him what shit it was, and maybe he was feeling a little angry at Thomas for being such an insensitive jerk. When he looked over at Anderson, Anderson leaned in and kissed him, harsh and hot and inappropriate, lots of tongue and heavy breathing after only a few seconds.

He didn’t slide back very far, and was big enough that he could lean over just a little and breathe on Hillary’s neck as he drove. The CD droned in the background, broken strains of lyrics Hillary knew by heart from the past ten years.

They sat in the parking lot of the hotel for ten minutes after they stopped, car still running, Anderson having pulled Hillary practically out of his seat and into the passenger seat to kiss him. His hands, large and hot and dry, scraped everywhere. Hillary groaned, knowing how undignified he had to look, and pressed his growing erection into the gearbox.

“Can I come up?” Anderson whispered against his lips. Hillary panted, and nodded because he couldn’t get his voice to work.

They pawed each other in the elevator, down the hall. Anderson kept hold of Hillary’s belt as he worked the key card, kissed Hillary’s neck as the door burst inward.

Thomas looked up from his suitcase when they streamed in, all laughing and breathless and Hillary so obviously hard—and he could feel Anderson’s erection pressing against the small of his back, heady and wonderful.

The world froze for a second.

Anderson draped himself over Hillary, chin pressed to Hillary’s hair, and demanded shortly, “Who are you?”

Thomas went red, his lips white with pressure. He zipped his bag up jerkily and rushed past them. Hillary got control of his feet. “Thomas!”

In the hall, Thomas didn’t even stop. Hillary grabbed for his arm—”Thomas!”—but he jerked it away.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Thomas dropped his bag and turned back to Hillary. “What’s wrong with me!? You asked me to come here so you could seduce some guy you haven’t seen for ten years, and then you bring him back to our hotel room so you can fuck him when you know I’m gonna be there, and you’re asking what’s wrong with me?”

“I’d thought you might go out,” Hillary growled defensively.

Thomas laughed humorlessly. “Go out where, Hillary? I have no idea where I am.” Hillary shifted his weight from foot to foot. Thomas huffed a sigh, gestured from his forehead. “Look, I don’t know what this is all about, but have fun. If any of my shit’s in the hotel room, mail it to me when you get back to California.”

“Thomas,” Hillary started as Thomas turned away and grabbed his bag. Thomas kept walking. “Thomas!”

Anderson had left in the night, and Hillary couldn’t pull himself out of bed because he felt like ten kinds of crap and his ass hurt. He could see the note that Anderson had left on the desk, and had fun deluding himself that it was something sweet and poetic, something deep, professing his undying love. He had a feeling he knew exactly what was on that bit of stationary.

Jamie called up to his room, but Hillary hung up on her. She knocked on the door for almost fifteen minutes. When a security man from the hotel opened the door for her, Hillary was just stepping out of the shower. She pulled him into a hug, then pulled back and asked, “Where’s Thomas?”

“California? A ditch? Fuck if I know.”


“I’m a dumb ass, aren’t I?” Jamie smiled, sighing heavily. Hillary shook his head. “Right.”

“You’re not coming tonight, are you?”

He was already packing his bag when she said it.

California was blistering hot when he got back, and he loved the dry heat of it pressing in around him, the sun blazing over head like a tanning light. He took a taxi to his house, then his car to troll the streets for a good hour, until the heat got a little bearable as the sun began to sink toward the horizon.

He hadn’t been thinking about it when he drove up in front of Thomas’ building. He sat there a minute, then stepped out, locked his door, and took the steps slowly. The door was buzzed open even before he pressed the button. He pushed through, trying to figure out what he was going to say all the way up the stairs to Thomas’ apartment on the third floor.

When he stepped into the apartment, the first thing he saw was Thomas sprawled in his ugly lounge chair. The second thing he saw was a picture of them on the wall, a little dusty now, starting to go dingy because the glass was gone from the frame.

He was an idiot.

He knew exactly how it happened, but that didn’t keep him from being surprised when they tumbled into bed, all fumbling hands and parted lips, their hips bumping together. The bed gave a surprised groan when they hit it, and thumped against the wall as Thomas managed to get Hillary further up the bed with a single rough thrust of his hips and a bite to the bottom of Hillary’s throat.

Thomas’ hands were sure and steady, pulling off the sweatpants Hillary had been wearing, grinning against his collarbone when there was nothing underneath. Hillary tugged at Thomas’ belt until the buckle let go of the tongue, pushed everything aside to pry the jeans open.

He ran his hands over Thomas’ ass, shoved the jeans down his hips a little, groped at the waist of his underwear.

“God, I’ve missed this,” he whispered. Thomas’ hand curled around his erection.

He tucked his hands under Thomas’ underwear, prying it down with the motion of his fingers along soft skin. Thomas bit his throat again, and said, “Lemme fuck you. Missed this, missed you. Hill.”

“Yeah,” Hillary whispered. He took a hand from Thomas’ backside and pulled open the bedside table drawer, finding lube and a condom by touch. Thomas took the condom, sitting back as he rolled it on and Hillary fumbled with the cap on the lube.

Thomas finally chuckled, taking the tube as Hillary grabbed a pillow and shuffled it under his hips. He worked a hand on his erection when he was comfortable, spreading his legs and raising his knees. Thomas slid between his feet. His pupils were blown, his lips parted for breath. Hillary hissed when the first finger went in.



Thomas worked fast because he knew, three years dating put to good use. Hillary gripped his thighs and stared at all the colors flashing in his vision. When the fingers slipped out, he let go of his legs as Thomas slung them into his arms and shut his eyes when he felt the blunt head pressing at him.

Three years—even a year later—taught you a lot about a guy, and when Thomas settled for a moment and then began a slow, powerful pace, Hillary opened his eyes and looked up at Thomas, the flush on his cheeks, the way he stared at the bites he’d left and the slightly older one higher on Hillary’s neck. Hillary reached up, hands shaking, and grabbed Thomas’ jaw.

Thomas let Hillary’s legs drop as he leaned down. Hillary rose to his elbows, and they shared a single slow kiss before Hillary fell back, breathlessly muttering, “Ow. Let’s not do that.”

Thomas laughed, sweet and breathy. His pace picked up then, one hand warm on Hillary’s hip and the other a subtle presence at Hillary’s ribs, occasionally brushing along the ticklish skin. Hillary lay there, eyes squeezed shut and throat tense, feeling everything he could.

He opened his eyes in a brief flutter, taking in Thomas’ open mouth and lust-dark eyes, the sweat on his hairline and upper lip. Smiling at him, Hillary lifted a hand and carded his fingers through Thomas’ hair.

The phone rang, and Hillary swore. Thomas chewed his lip, rocking steady and fast. Hillary glared a little. “If you,” he panted, “so much as think about picking that up—”

It went to the answering machine as Thomas found a more effective way of contorting their bodies so they could kiss. Hillary groaned, dug his nails in Thomas’ back, vaguely heard a gum-smacking effeminate voice. Thomas kept moving, and when the message ended, Hillary dug his heels into the back of Thomas’ thighs and growled, “Didn’t tell me you were seein’ someone.”

“Well, I’m not.”

“Good,” Hillary hissed.

“Why’d we break up again?” Hillary asked, picking the poppy seeds off the top of his muffin.

“Because you’re an insufferably anal retentive obsessive-compulsive bitch?”

“Har, har,” Hillary grumbled. Thomas smiled at him over his coffee; Hillary stuck out his tongue.

“Because you never pay enough attention to what’s going on outside your own head.” He shrugged. “And I’m kinda high maintenance and a jerk and occasionally don’t realize that you’re high maintenance too.”

Hillary bit into his muffin, and found a poppy seed. “Think we can change?”

God, I hope so.”

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