Jacob shifted his eyes back quickly to study Keith’s face. Keith, the Keith that was still lying half on top of him, had twisted around to stare aghast at the statue version of himself. The standing, still version of Keith had his fists still planted on his hips like the action figure of a superhero who was, for some reason, being depicted half-naked and in the midst of his nightly ablutions.
“Oh my god,” Keith was muttering. “Oh my god oh my god oh my god.”
Jacob found his voice again. “That’s—that’s what you were like before,” he said unsteadily. “After the picture.”
“What?!” Keith rounded on him, staring up at him with a pale face and wide eyes. Jacob met his gaze.
“After the picture, you were like that,” Jacob repeated. “I—I shook you, and at first you just stood there, not moving—”
Keith watched him, and Jacob was suddenly afraid that everything he’d done in the last ten minutes was all terribly wrong. “You weren’t moving,” he repeated, “and I got scared and I shook you, and you snapped out of it and fell—!”
Keith didn’t say anything, but he slowly turned to look at the statue-Keith, seemingly considering what he saw in light of what Jacob had just told him. Then Keith clambered to his feet, so that a moment later he was standing in front of the statue-Keith, looking him over minutely.
Jacob noticed suddenly that somewhere in the fall onto the bed or the climbing out of it Keith had loosened his towel, and now it dropped silently to the floor and he was standing there naked and perfect, every inch of him—including his fat, flaccid cock—on full display, in front of his still-betoweled, arms-akimbo statuary counterpart. Jacob stared at the two muscle Adonises, fascinated and, he realized, deeply aroused. He pushed up his glasses, not wanting to miss anything. If his own tubesteak had softened even slightly in the momentary, stomach-twisting shock of seeing the other Keith still standing there, it was now as hard again as it could possibly be. He was a hundred and twenty percent boned, and the tension from it thrumming through his taut, hormone-drenched body.
“You—this is amazing,” Jacob blurted, his voice quiet and rough. “I want to take a picture, but—” Keith shot him a look that had seemed startled at first, then shifted into a hint of a smile. Jacob smiled back, a little relieved. The tension seemed to dissipate somehow. “Grab his shoulders,” he instructed him. “That’s what I did.” Facing a repeat of what had happened before, it seemed instinctive to follow the same procedure as last time.
Keith had evidently been considering going for the shoulders on his own, because his hands moved immediately up to grasp his statue-double’s delts, exactly where Jacob had. “Fuck, I’m tight,” Keith said, sounding a little awed.
“That’s what I said,” Jacob said, feeling a little happy thrill that Keith agreed with him. Wanting a better view he got out of the bed himself and, trying to ignore the big, obvious boner in his peejays, moved around to stand to one side of the two Keiths. They all stood there a moment, Jacob feeling his heart beating, as strong and strident as his cock. “Fuuuuck,” Jacob breathed at last. He watched as just the fingers of Keith’s hands started moving slowly from side to side, caressing his statue-doubled muscle, and he took a deep shuddering breath.
“I’m pretty hot, huh?” Keith said in a low voice, sounding a little amused and a little turned on as he examined his double’s face and upper body with pride. To build a body this hot, Jacob had often suspected, you had to be a little narcissistic, a little into yourself. He thought of how he’d seen Keith posing in front of mirrors at the gym once or twice, now that they’d worked out together—checking his symmetry and development, Jacob knew, but also admiring, taking stock of his own proximity to the ideal of male beauty. Or maybe it wasn’t quite that simple? It was probably a stereotype, Jacob knew, and Keith was more complicated than that. But something about the moment, Jacob realized with a thrill, was making Keith flushed and, he saw excitedly, in the process of stiffening up. Maybe the extreme horniness he felt around Keith was contagious.
“K-kiss him,” Jacob commanded suddenly, barely aware he’d said it, immersed as he was in lust. He recoiled mentally at having said this out loud, but he let himself off by blaming those two beers. And being drowned in arousal. His whole body was aching as if he were one big impatient erection.
Keith glanced at him, oddly unsurprised. “You want me to?” Keith asked. He seemed—amused? Intrigued? Jacob didn’t care.
“Please,” Jacob whispered, a short, quick plea.
Keith stared at him for a second, one eyebrow arched ever so slightly. Then he tilted his head to one side and back in a sort of “What the hell” gesture. Keeping his hands firmly clasped around the stiff, still doppelganger’s round, straited delts, Keith angled his face slightly and went in for a kiss. Jacob watched, fascinated, as Keith’s warm lips brushed across his double’s, then shuddered as the tip of Keith’s tongue emerged from between his lips and slid along the other’s lips. Keith trailed the tip of his tongue along, first one way, then the other, then moved to deepen the kiss, pulling his partner toward him.
Then Jacob, already panting and exerting a monumental effort of will to keep his hands at his sides and not wrapped around his big twitching cock, realized he was watching the two Keiths kissing each other. The formerly frozen Keith had closed his eyes, leaned into the kiss, and was totally kissing Keith back!
He watched, breaths short and shallow, cock flexing madly against the loose cotton of his pajama bottoms, as the second Keith slowly, reflexively, lifted his hands to grasp the sides of Keith’s lower back. He had a sudden, ridiculous fear that his glasses would steam up at the level of arousal in the room, and this awesome, dick-expanding display would be cruelly hidden from him.
“H-holy shit,” Jacob whispered, mesmerized. But the sound of Jacob’s voice seemed to break the spell, because the second Keith was fluttering his eyes open. It seemed to take him a second to focus, then he registered what he was doing and who he was kissing and jumped back a couple steps, alarmed. His calves hit the steel bedframe of Keith’s bedframe kind of hard as he backed away and he yelped in shock and pain, stumbling back to sit on the bed.
The second Keith was even more shocked when he realized that the broad, honey-colored back he was staring at, barely a foot and a half away from him, was his own—or, rather, Jacob realized with a thrill, a third Keith, still posing with his fists at his hips, towel still tight across his amazing butt, still frozen like his earlier dupes. “Holy shit!” Jacob repeated, louder this time.
“What—wh-what—what—” sputtered the second Keith, sounding disoriented and very confused. “Wh-what’s going on—?” he asked, not seeming to address anyone in particular so much as the universe at large.
Fascinatingly, the first Keith still had his hands grasping the frozen Keith’s bulging delts, as if Number Two had fallen back out of a double exposure, leaving Number Three still in place. His face was still an inch or two from the new Keith-statue’s face, looking straight into his eyes, and, much to Jacob’s delight, he seemed disinclined to move.
Then Jacob glanced down and felt an electric thrill run through him as he saw that first Keith, who’d ended up nude after losing his towel, was completely hard, his fat cock stretching vertically. Unlike Jacob’s own cock, which always pushed back against Jacob’s hip line even when he was standing up and walking around, Keith’s pointed straight up, curving back slightly toward his navel. It was, Jacob thought with potent appreciation, as beautiful as the rest of him. As Jacob watched it flexed, brushing forward against the towel of the frozen Keith, and Jacob felt his heart skip a beat.
“Wow,” first Keith said, both literally and figuratively to himself. “That was some kiss.”
“What happened?” the second Keith demanded again, but calmer now, his voice already returning to its smooth, sweet baritone. He’d turned to look plaintively at Jacob, now asking him directly, but his glance had caught sight of Jacob’s huge, obvious erection and had gotten stuck there for some reason. Which was slightly odd, because Keith had definitely seen him hard before—in fact it was probably easier lately to count the times Keith had seen him soft, Jacob thought dolefully. But it was a strange situation, and the air in the room seemed charged with sex, and more than sex. He realized the radio, still quietly droning in the background, was playing “Counting Blue Cars” by Dishwalla, and it struck him a little funny. He wondered if he could get his songwriter friend Michelle to do one called “Counting Keiths.”
“It was the camera,” Jacob said aloud. This was, of course, the only answer. The strange camera, sent anonymously to “Jake” as if to an alternate-reality version of himself, had had a weirdness to it from the beginning. It had to be the cause of what had happened.
“Jesus,” said the first Keith, still close to his frozen doppelganger, still gripping him, still hard. “How many of me do you think—?” he let the question trail off, apparently thinking of what it was going to be like to have more of him around.
“Three,” Jacob said immediately. He’d already worked this out too. “The display said 3X.”
First Keith frowned at him. “Is that three, what, dupes of me?” he asked, one eyebrow raised. “Or three total?”
Jacob shrugged, surprised that he hadn’t thought that far. “Maybe three total?” he said. “If the ‘3X’ is like multiplication, well, three times one is three.”
“Or it could mean ‘dupe him three times’,” first Keith persisted, but apparently only to keep them aware that both outcomes were possible.
Jacob shrugged again. He glanced at second Keith. He’d gotten his attention off Jacob’s cock and was now staring at the frozen Keith in front of him—or, no, actually, Jacob corrected himself: he was staring past him, at first Keith. To his amazement Jacob realized the bulge in second Keith’s towel was bigger. And twitching. He watched as second Keith rose slowly to his feet and took an unsteady step forward.
“What’s wrong with me,” he asked first Keith, staring at him over the frozen Keith’s shoulder. “I keep thinking about—about you kissing me,” he went on, taking another step, until he was right behind frozen Keith; but he ignored the dupe standing big and strong in his dopey pose between them, and went on staring fixedly over his shoulder at first Keith. “Holding me, and kissing me,” he said.
Jacob gulped. First Keith licked his lips. “That’s how you were woken up,” first Keith said softly. “It must condition you. Because I—” And here he glanced sidelong at Jacob, keeping his face toward second Keith. “I keep thinking about Jacob here wrapping his arms around me. Lying beneath me. Stroking my back. Thrusting his cock against mine.” He leaned on that word cock a little, as if to thrust back at Jacob in kind, with words, for now.
“H-h-h-holy—” Jacob stuttered, abruptly overcome with roiling, tempest-like arousal. As he clamped his lips to keep from babbling incoherently, first Keith turned his head a little more toward Jacob, his eyes smoldering. Jacob’s heart fluttered—and then tried to jump out of his chest when someone suddenly started pounding violently on the door.
“Keifer?” shouted a male voice through the heavy steel of the dorm room’s door, banging on the door a few more times. “You in there, buddy?”
Both the nonfrozen Keiths’ eyes widened in alarm. It was clearly Cole Yung, the jock down the hall who was also in Keith’s biochem program. Thinking fast, Jacob quickly put a finger to his lips and then raised his hand up to tell them to wait. He’d take care of this. He turned and, hitting the light switch, opened the door enough to slip through and eased out into the hallway, closing the door almost all the way behind him. He kept his hand on the knob to make sure it didn’t close, remembering just in time he didn’t have his keys.
He was standing right in front of Cole, close enough that Cole took a step back. Cole was a little taller than Keith (though still not as tall as Jacob) and was almost as good looking, with longish, loose jet-black hair died dark purple at the very tips for some reason. But his muscles, while big—his hairless pecs were actually bigger than Keith’s—and well formed, meticulously well sculpted in fact, still weren’t quite as gorgeously perfect as Keith’s. He was, as usual, barechested and barefoot, wearing only frayed jeans that hugged his thick thighs and (Jacob knew from experience) a very hot ass.
“Oh, hey, Jacob,” Cole said, sounding slightly disappointed to get the roommate instead. “Keifer around? We talked about maybe discussing our physics project together.”
Jacob felt an unexpected wave of annoyance at Cole having a pet name for his biochem buddy. “Sorry, Cole,” he said. “Keith’s asleep.” At Cole’s surprised expression he went on, “He, uh, seemed really wiped.”
“Oh,” Cole said, definitely disappointed now. “Uh, okay. Um, if he wakes up, tell him I’ll text him later, okay? We really need to get—”
Suddenly the doorknob pulled out of Jacob’s grip as the door opened partway and there was a warm body immediately behind him. He turned to see Keith—one of them, anyway. He wasn’t sure which one, but he’d dressed quickly in jeans, untied sneakers without socks, and a dark green tee he was still pulling down toward his waist. “I’m up,” he said to Cole. To Jacob he added, “I kinda want to get some air anyway.”
Jacob nodded. “Sure.” He guessed from his residual disorientation that this was second Keith. He glanced down and to his surprise he saw the head of Keith’s very fat, very boned cock poking up past the waistband just as it was disappearing under the hem of the tee shirt. Keith’s comment “I’m up” replayed in Jacob’s head, and he suppressed a rogue snicker. Jacob wondered if Cole had noticed it too, but when he checked he saw that Cole was staring at Jacob’s huge, unrelenting, and much more obvious boner.
“Geez, Pruett,” Cole laughed. “You better do something about that. You’re going to put someone’s eye out!”
Jacob felt himself flush a little. In three short weeks his ungovernable cock had quickly become the subject of rumor and jest up and down the floor, though he knew he wasn’t supposed to know about it. “Sorry,” he said. He marveled that this was his first moment of real embarrassment tonight, despite the fact that he’d been rock hard the whole time with Keith. “It’s, um, totally getting out of hand.”
Keith snorted. “So to speak,” he said. To Jacob’s surprise he sounded like he meant it kind of fondly, but before he could inspect Keith’s expression more closely his roommate had turned to look at Cole. “C’mon, dude, let’s get a beer while we make plans,” Keith said bracingly. He tossed and arm over Cole’s permanently bare shoulders, and Cole seemed a bit surprised but not displeased.
As they turned to head down the dorm corridor toward the elevators, Keith looked back at him over his shoulder. “I’ll see you later, okay?” The implication was clear: there was a lot for them to talk about and figure out, but—later. Second Keith needed to clear his head and do normal things right now, Jacob figured, as they walked away, Keith’s long, thick, tanned arm still slung around Cole’s shoulder. He watched them go unhappily, uncomfortably aware of his own somewhat unexpected jealousy. He tried diverting his mind to the camera, and he knew he had to get to the bottom of it, but his thoughts were filled with Keith. Not unlike his dorm room, Jacob thought dryly.
Silently he let himself back into the room. The lights were still off, but there was some reflected glow from the stark white glare of the plaza security lights below, and he could see the hard white outlines of the still-frozen third Keith, and first Keith, now sitting, naked and fully aroused, on the edge of Jacob’s bed. He met Jacob’s look with a smile that flashed in the uneven light.
Jacob smiled back, understanding truly for the first time that everything had changed between them. “Get up,” he said, walking toward them. He was calm now. He knew what he wanted to do. “Let’s wake this one up,” he went on, and first Keith smiled—a little wickedly, Jacob saw with amusement. He stood up, preparing to face his statue-double and repeat his previous performance. But Jacob, close to them now, said, “Other side. Pull off his towel.”
Keith’s eyebrows went up, but he moved quickly around statue-Keith and took up a position behind him, yanking down the towel off the statue-Keith and then standing there, arms loose, at the ready for Jacob’s instructions. Jacob found he liked that dynamic a lot, and his steel-hard boner twitched in agreement. “Hold him close,” he ordered. “As close as you can.” He added with a little growl in his voice, “We’re going to condition the hell out of this one.”
“You’re the expert,” first Keith said, barely audibly, and then, with a wink, he added meaningfully, “—Jake.”
Jacob stared at the use of this new name for him, but he was pretty sure it went with the changes that were reshaping his life, and for some reason it made his dick react with a kick of amplified arousal. He watched closely as Keith, his muscle-bulging shape clearly visible despite the gloom, moved closer to the statue-Keith, his arms coming around to wrap tightly around the other’s torso. He imagined Keith’s thick pecs pressing hard against the statue-Keith’s shoulder blades and felt a thrill of pleasure. But Keith was evidently thinking lower thoughts.
“You want my cock between his cheeks, don’t you,” he said in a low, sly voice. “Rubbing along his crack. That’s what you want, right?” His eyes glinted as they met Jacob’s, with amusement and something else, something raw and carnal and sensual as well.
“Fuck yeah,” Jacob breathed. Now it was his turn. Taking off his glasses and, finally, shucking his pajama bottoms, he cast both aside on his bed and, moving forward into position in front of statue-Keith, he pushed his groin against the frozen-Keith’s still unawakened cock and balls. Feeling first Keith’s arms and hand against his torso as he moved the rest of him forward he snaked his own arms behind statue-Keith, into the narrow gap between first Keith’s abs and frozen Keith’s lower back that was a by-product of first Keith’s thick, hard pecs and frozen Keith’s thick, hard ass.
Then he moved in and started kissing frozen Keith. Gently at first, but then frozen Keith, frozen no more, began responding, and Jacob deepened the kiss, putting as much of himself into it as he could. This was Keith, and he’d wanted this for ages, and need it, too, he realized. To his joy Keith responded in kind, and they kissed deeply and hungrily for a while before Keith paused the kiss. Jacob opened his eyes and saw in the darkness that Keith’s eyes were open too, glinting, looking right into his.
First Keith was right there too, kissing and nuzzling Keith’s neck, but he was looking up too through his eyelashes, right at Jacob. First Keith was favoring the new Keith’s torso with minute caresses, his knuckles brushing against Jacob’s bare abdomen, and Jacob returned the favor, his own hands lightly caressing the newcomer’s back even as they slid across the hard ab muscles of the other man embracing him. They shared a look through those lashes, and Jacob smiled. This was Keith, too. Both were Keith—all three of them, Jacob thought, remembering the Keith who would return home before long, yearning for his own kiss.
His eyes returned to those of new Keith, who stared back searchingly into Jacob’s eyes. “What—?” the new Keith whispered after a moment, softly, more fascinated than distressed by this strange but—attentive situation he found himself in. In those newly woken eyes Jacob thought he could see, even in this darkened cinder-block cave made of harshly lit edges and night-deep shadows, not only puzzlement and wonder, but something more beneath: a glint of hunger and desire. Jacob let his big, beautiful cock flex as it lay pressed between their hips, and new Keith drew in a breath, but his eyes did not waver, and the want was clearer in them now.
Jacob placed another gentle kiss on his warm, wet lips and said with a faint quirk of a grin, “Welcome to the party.”
Now, for the first time, those dark eyes were incredibly close, inches away, close enough that they were all Keith could see. And with all his senses overwhelmed with a crushing wave of too many tactile stimulations, too much touch, too much heated response flooding every inch of him—fingers and hands brushing him, lips caressing him, aching hard cocks both his and not his writhing, flexing, stretching, pushing against heated skin with urgent, animal need—with all that sensation overpowering his mind, causing his cognitive capacity to spark and sizzle and shut down all but the most immediate needs, those eyes, Jacob’s eyes, filled his vision, steadying him, grounding him. He huffed in wordless gratitude, and even that slight movement caused his mouth to brush against Jacob’s full, hot, kiss-inflamed lips, so close to his own he could almost taste the kiss it would take the smallest movement forward to claim.
He wanted that kiss. The impulse to move forward, to cover Jacob’s hot, delicious mouth with his own, was so strong, so necessary, that, ironically, the fact of his mounting need sobered him, and he found himself studying it in his still-sparking mind as, in the same slow, half-suspended moment, he became progressively more conscious of his surroundings.
Music curled around them from Jacob’s laptop, guitars riffing, male voices crooning in dark, vibrant, advancing harmony from a song Keith didn’t quite recognize. A link to before, but the music, too, seemed to be driving deeper, pushing harder, and Keith didn’t know what to try to make sense of as his mind pitched and his body cried out with stimulus and desire.
He was naked. Somehow. There had been a towel, he knew, and the feeling of cool air on his still shower-damp body. But there was now no towel, there was no stitch of covering at all, and yet even so there seemed to be almost nowhere up and down his body that was fully exposed to the cool air of the dorm room. Jacob was pressed against him, as naked as Keith was, arms around him, his crazy, enormous near-permanent erection shoving unapologetically against his hip.
There was more going on, more sensation than he’d understood at first. His back was wrapped in flesh, too, and not just from Jacob’s warm, roaming hands. There were firm, thick pecs pressed hard against his shoulder blades. Firm thighs pushed against his own. A hot, slightly open mouth and tongue tasting his clean, dewy neck and traps as if he were something succulent, a taste to be savored over hours and days. And—there was no mistaking it—a hard, fat, damp-tipped cock wedged rudely in the crack of his muscle ass, rocking slowly, confidently, taking possession of him from behind as if it belonged there.
Keith realized with a shudder that it did belong there. That cock at his ass, that mouth on neck, that body against him from behind was as much a part of the new, nearly unbearable need washing through him as Jacob’s cock, Jacob’s hands, Jacob’s mouth against his, Jacob’s whiskey-brown eyes. They belonged with him. He belonged with them. Keith didn’t understand it, but there was no denying the truth of it, the comfort and rightness of it, the thrill of it.
He took in a slow breath. His gaze did not waver from Jacob’s. Jacob, for his part, seemed to be waiting for Keith’s response, but his huge wang flexed restlessly against Keith’s waist as the music surged around them and hands moved and drifted across his heated, tingling skin. He drew another breath, feeling his chest expand against Jacob’s lithe, fit torso and the thick chest pressing close and intimate against his back.
Behind him, the mouth moved to the other side off his neck as the cock kept up its steady, rocking motion. Keith shuddered again.
“What…” Keith began in a whisper. He had been about to simply ask what had happened. But Jacob’s eyes were burning into his, burning with naked delight. Keith knew he was missing a few moments in which the world had reeled, lurching into some new configuration. He knew that Jacob had been on the bed in his pajama bottoms, taking his picture. Now, in this moment on the other side of … something … Jacob was plastered naked against him like a well-remembered lover. He knew that, before, he had been alone with his infatuated roommate, teasing Jacob as usual, and now there was … someone else. Who? Keith tried to imagine who could have appeared in the room during that disconnect, that gap between before and now. Who would be with them, and into Keith enough to ride him with that hard, unfakable, needy erection? Was it … Cole? Maybe. Or—no. That was a different … imagining, latent and wistful, and all on Keith’s end, he was pretty sure. Who, then? Who did his roommate know that would … do something like this with him? Was it Jacob’s supposedly oversexed brother, maybe? Someone.
Someone as hot and needy as Jacob.
Most of all, Keith knew, even without the covetous, passionate flames in Jacob’s bottomless eyes, that this, all this, was something that Jacob wanted.
Something that, somehow, Jacob had made happen.
Keith licked his lips, and Jacob was so close to him that his tongue brushed Jacob’s lips, too. Jacob was breathing from his nose, and his warm breath brushed delicately across the stubble on Keith’s upper lip. The subtle touch of Jacob’s breath was almost as pleasant as all the other stimulations he was experiencing in that moment. His heart pounded violently against his chest.
Keith needed to assert himself, to push back, even if only a little. He needed to find a rock to stand on in this torrential flood and not get pushed off. He was overwhelmed, but he was still himself. He grappled to find his voice, lips working, tongue thick in his mouth.
“What did you do?” Keith asked finally, barely giving any sound to his whisper. This brush of his lips against Jacob’s as he spoke did him in, though, and instead of letting Jacob reply he pushed forward for a hungry kiss against lips that were too close, too necessary, not to taste. When Keith broke free of them he took a deep breath, making both Jacob’s chest and the chest behind him press hard against his heated skin.
Jacob smiled slightly against his lips. “It was the camera,” he said, speaking in a normal voice, and with Jacob being so close the timber of his warm, arousal-roughened baritone seemed to resonate somewhere deep inside Keith. He felt his own cock push up uncontrollably, sliding a line of his seeping cockjuice against Jacob’s already slick abdomen. A tiny grunt escaped him. What had Jacob awoken in him?
Unexpectedly, the crack-rutting, warm-muscled neck-mouther behind him spoke, close to his ear. It was a slightly higher, Tennessee-inflected voice. One that Keith knew, but … wasn’t used to hearing, somehow. “It duplicated us,” the voice—his own voice—said. Keith caught his breath, feeling his eyes widen as he maintained his stare into Jacob’s eyes.
Jacob nodded very slightly. “That’s you back there, humping you,” Jacob told him. His warm brown eyes glittered with a hint of amusement mixed into the intense arousal. Keith bore his gaze deep into Jacob’s, trying to come to grips with what he was telling him.
Jacob was smiling now. “I bet you’ve fantasized about that, haven’t you?” he said. Keith felt his stomach twist, assaulted by conflicting emotions and the soft shock of exposure. “Making love to yourself?” Jacob continued mercilessly. “Worshipping your amazing body the way I’ve always—” As if suddenly unable to hold back any longer, or to listen to any more, Jacob dove in for a new and ravenous kiss even as he held and groped Keith harder than ever, thrusting his huge, slickened cock against their hips as another cock started to ride harder against his ass-crack. Strong arms shifted to draw him and Jacob tight, embracing them both, and the tsunami of sensations as Keith was loved from both sides felt like it would fry his brain completely.
Keith’s heart was pounding even harder now, battering against his chest. His dick strained and shoved brutally against Jacob, and the dicks pressed against him did the same. He finally wrapped his own arms hard and tight around Jacob, intertwining with the thick, muscular arms of his other lover, and suddenly the kissing and the mouthing and the groping and thrusting all became far, far too much, driving him almost unbearably close to the edge of an endless, infinite fall, and then he took command of the kiss, sliding his tongue deeper into Jacob’s moaning mouth, and then the universe exploded, three huge cocks surging to release heart-pounding geysers of hot, fountaining jizz. Keith slowed his kiss with Jacob even as they came again, erupting so powerfully it was almost painful, and the three of them caressed and groped each other for a long time, less voraciously and more sensuously, the ebb before the next eruption. It was some time before Keith could even open his eyes, as his did so reluctantly breaking their kiss.
He needed to look at something else beyond the eyes he had almost drowned in. His eyes fell on Jacob’s laptop, which had been quietly serenading them this whole time with random alterna-rock. The music was calmer now, too, backing down from the intensity it had reached before. A screen-saver was currently dragging cropped, close-up images of beautiful men’s eyes lazily across the screen in various different directions and configurations. More beautiful eyes. He felt flushed and giddy, glad for the support of two naked men, and he fixed on the drifting images as he steadied himself. He held Jacob close, tight and strong in his arms, as his other lover held them both, listening to each other’s huffs, enjoying the comfort of male flesh against male flesh.
He found himself thinking about the laptop, and the webcam that was built into it, pointed right at them. His conspiracy-loving cousin Jesse, if he were here, would probably be warning him right about now that the NSA was watching them through that webcam, but that unlikely prospect only got Keith thinking about how hot the scene would have been for anyone who had been watching. Or how hot it would be if it was a clip on some porn video site. Three sexy guys getting off just from holding and groping each other, and two of them being … the same guy, fuck. “We should have filmed that,” Keith said softly, still flushed and panting slightly from his orgasm. He met Jacob’s eyes again, and Jacob was smirking, surprised and impressed by the unexpected suggestion. From behind him, he heard his own voice—the voice of the other him—murmur an awed “Damn, bro.”
Keith knew he wanted to see who was behind him. Was it really another him? He knew that it was, he knew that this was, somehow, what had happened. But he still hadn’t seen. Was it truly his own cum that had painted his back? He wanted to turn around, in this hot, slightly sweating and cum-slicked man sandwich, and face the hunk who’d mouthed every inch of his neck and bulging shoulders and ridden his asscrack and jazzed a pint of cum up his spine. But he realized that he was a little, well, unnerved by the idea. Sure, this was a fantasy, a realized fantasy, but it was also a little—well, strange. Strange and unexpected. Fantasies were fantasies because you didn’t expect them to actually happen.
But Jacob’s grin, and his obvious delight at the whole threesome encounter, suggested a new tactic to Keith. Holding Jacob close in his arms, he slowly turned the two of them around a hundred and eighty degrees inside the embrace of the other man… the other Keith, he could now see, unquestionably and indisputably.
His own hazel eyes met his from beyond the left ear of their slightly taller and paler roommate, whose hot gaze Keith was ignoring for the moment. The other Keith’s eyes were shining with both unquenched arousal and an immense interest in these strange proceedings. Keith felt the other Keith’s hands stroking his broad, cum-and-sweat-dampened back. Impulsively, he and the other Keith moved as one to bring their lips together, kissing tenderly against Jacob’s cheek. Jacob moaned and began mouthing the stubble along Keith’s jaw, and Keith felt both his own cock and Jacob’s springing rapidly back from half-hardness into full, unbending erections.
“It’s nice in the middle, isn’t it?” Keith murmured into Jacob’s ear, and Jacob groaned again, deep and guttural. Keith’s eyes met the other Keith’s. He missed having the other Keith behind him. It felt natural and necessary to have his warm body, that particular body, pressed against his back from neck to ankle; that eager mouth against his neck; that straining hard dick plunging up and down between his cheeks. He missed that a lot. But there was plenty of time for that. Keith knew somehow, instinctively, that it wasn’t just that Jacob wanted them both—he knew that it was also true that they both wanted Jacob, well beyond the quickening interest he’d been becoming increasingly aware of as they’d teased and flirted with each other these past few weeks. Something about what the camera had done hadn’t just duplicated the hard, muscular body that Jacob pined for. Some moment in that process of duplication, or in the transition of surfacing from the moment between the before and the after, had made Keith—both Keiths—shamelessly and passionately want Jacob. Before it had only been simmering, hidden and toyed with. It had been a desire that had been slumbering and latent, a soft glow tinting the edges of his consciousness. Now it burned like a blazing sun, in his other self as fiercely as it did in himself.
The other Keith smiled and locked his gaze on Keith’s own. Keith met his gaze curiously. The other Keith’s eyes seemed somehow more knowledgeable, and for the first time it occurred to him that the other Keith might be—how would you put it? older? earlier?—than himself. The other Keith was already thinking ahead, trying to sort out their shared situation.
“I think we should take a closer look at that camera,” the other Keith suggested.
Keith nodded. “See what Jacob here has gotten us into,” he agreed.
“Jake, you mean,” the other Keith said significantly, eyes glinting, and Keith felt his lips curl.
“Oh yeah,” he said, lips curving as he remembered how the strange package he—they?—had found had been addressed.
Jacob interrupted his slow ministration of Keith’s throat long enough to mutter huskily, “It’s on the bed.”
The other Keith looked past him, grinning, as he sought out the trouble-making device. But his grin faded. Quickly he looked in the other direction, brows knitting, toward Keith’s bed, and his expression became more confused. “It’s not there,” the other Keith said.
Jacob stopped what he was doing abruptly, opening his eyes and looking around with increasing concern. A moment later he sidled out of the Keiths’ embrace and moved toward the beds. He began a search, lifting up blankets and sheets, ducking to look under the beds, tossing up his own discarded pajama bottoms and the three white towels that had lain here and there, in little heaps near their feet or hanging off the end of Jacob’s bed.
Keith drew instinctively toward the other Keith, and they wrapped their arms loosely around each other’s waists as they faced out at the room, watching Jacob tornado efficiently around. Finally, their roommate stopped, spinning once in the middle of the space, and then looked over at them. “It’s gone,” he said, shrugging at the inexplicability of it.
Something was bothering Keith, and he suddenly realized what it was. “Wait a minute,” he said, looking from Jacob to the other Keith, then back out at the room, which was now slightly more disordered after Jacob’s hectic search. His gaze dropped to the towels laying on the floor between the beds where Jacob had tossed them aside. They were definitely his towels—or rather, his towel, the white one he used to set off his honey-gold skin when he really wanted to goad his infatuated roommate. He’d had only one, which meant that all of them were the result of whatever had made him more than one man. Keith frowned and met the other Keith’s gaze. “If those are the towels from our shower,” he said to his doppelganger, “why are there three of them?”
Jacob and the other Keith exchanged a look, and, following the other Keith’s gaze, he watched as a half-relieved, half-exasperated grin bloomed across Jacob’s cute face. “That bastard,” Jacob said, smiling wide.
“You cain’t underestimate a Hood,” the other Keith said, allowing his accent to thicken a little.
Keith looked between them, smiling automatically at the family in-joke, and then the penny dropped. “You mean there’s another one?” he cried. He turned a faux-reproving gaze on Jacob. “Just how horny for me are you?”
Jacob laughed aloud. “I think we’re just starting to find that out,” the other Keith said, and then, unexpectedly, he turned in their loose, side-to-side half-embrace to kiss Keith’s cheek fondly. Keith felt his still mostly hard dick twitch in response.
Jacob sighed happily, his own huge cock fully hard and flexing against his hip, as was, admittedly, pretty normal for him around Keith, though it was now a lot more out in the open and generally acknowledged than before. He looked them both over as if drinking them in. “I could so get used to this,” he said, and moved to draw both Keiths into a tight, three-way hug—one that soon escalated into a sensuous three-way kiss.
Eventually Jacob pulled his face away from those of his replicated roommate, his bright, dancing eyes meeting each of theirs in turn. “So … shower?” he suggested, his eyebrows arched as if to keep them from wiggling.
They all grinned, sharing the same suspicion that getting wet and clean would only spark a new round of mutual exploration and pleasure. It would be quite a while, as it turned out, before any of them spared another thought for the missing Keith, or anything else for that matter.
The young man that Jacob thought of as “second Keith” walked alongside Cole as they headed for the all-night library. One arm was slung casually but intimately around the firm, bare shoulders of his well-muscled, shirtless friend, who, looking ahead to their study session, had fallen into a detailed run-down of what he figured they still needed to look into for their physics project. In his other hand, hidden from view, Keith clutched the camera. It had been just small enough to palm, and smuggling it out past his other self and his roommate had been a piece of cake. The other Keith—the first one to have awoken—had been staring at the still frozen Keith-statue by the bed; and Jacob, as he’d predicted, had been quickly distracted by the flash of Keith’s own cock nosing provocatively out of the low-slung jeans he’d snatched up and pulled himself into.
It was the first of these—Keith staring at statue-Keith—that had really propelled him out of the room, taking the easy out offered by Cole showing up. He had had a powerful impulse to get out of that room, away from the creepy frozen version of himself, away from the other Keith that hauled inexorably at him like an erotic undertow. Now that he was out, in the brisk night air with his friend, he felt he’d made the right decision.
He knew that he had been created, or split, or whatever, making manifest a mix of fantasies within Jacob that also, he was keenly aware, had lain dormant in himself. And right now, in this moment, away from Jacob and away from his deeply attractive other self and his sensual, sweet lips, Keith felt a compulsion to resist the forces that pulled at him, to take charge of events and not let them swirl him into someone else’s whirlpool. Even if that someone else was himself, or the sweetly sexy roommate that he now knew he had been harboring a little more than fondness for.
He slowed to a stop under a streetlamp in the empty West Plaza between the outer dorm complexes, pulling Cole around to face him. Cole paused in his review of their study agenda and looked up at Keith, eyebrows raised. “What’s up?” he asked.
“I just realized,” Keith said, “that I don’t have a good picture of you.” When Cole drew his brows together slightly, as if about to ask why Keith needed a picture of him, Keith hastened to explain. “My dads like to have a face to go with the friends I talk about,” he told him. He smiled apologetically.
“Oh, okay.” Cole shrugged his muscular shoulders. He didn’t really mind having his picture taken, or being looked at or admired for his beauty, or his heroic build. Not that he was cocky about it—on the contrary, Cole seemed genetically incapable of any kind of vanity, and Keith kind of admired him for it. His beauty just—was. Keith felt a tingle in his stomach as he let his eyes skitter across Cole’s perfectly crafted musculature, before meeting his friend’s gaze again. He wondered if his unplanned attraction to Cole was anything like the want he saw in Jacob’s eyes. Or the need he felt, right now, for his own soft lips …
Keith shook his head internally as his friend responded. “Sure, man,” Cole said, automatically drawing his long, loose black hair behind his ears. “Got your phone?”
Keith shook his head. “Nope.” He brandished Jacob’s camera. “I’ll just download from this.”
Cole bent forward slightly and scrutinized the old-fashioned-looking camera with interest, head cocked and lower lip thrust out. “Wow where’d you get that? It looks really old.”
“It’s my roommate’s,” Keith said. “But … he’s had enough fun with it for one night.” He bent to study the buttons and controls on the back of the camera for a second, then glanced back up at Cole.
“Now it’s my turn,” he said with a grin.
He and Cole stood under a tall lamppost, its faintly jaundiced pool of ambient light seeming to pick them out, isolating them in the midst of the normally busy campus. Before, there’d been a room full of himself, other Keith, statue-Keith, and Jacob, and a whole strip club’s worth of sexual tension and dark, palpable, cock-growing lust. Now, it was just him and Cole.
Was he really going to do this?
Unbidden, a succession of powerful sensations he had experienced only moments before returned to him, washing over the now. He felt the ghost of lips pressed against his, warm and gentle. The subtle sensation of warmth from a face drawn intimately close to his own, a face heated with smoldering arousal. Strong hands clasping his own shoulders. The tip of a tongue, slipping along the crease of his lips, begging for entrance, and his open need to open for it…
Keith shook himself free of the reverie, his raging cock twitching. His lips ached for a kiss—not just any kiss, but that kiss, the kiss from his own cocky, mesmerizing, sensually addicted self. His own playful eyes driving into him, playful but bold, and behind them a fathomless passion he could taste in that toe-curling kiss even if he did not know its perpetual stimulation from the dark, fiery wellspring within himself. It wasn’t only his lips that wanted that kiss—his heart yearned for it, too. That kiss, that touch, and an embrace that could not be broken.
Only… while he had been woken with that need, he saw the slant of his angel’s eyes. Sure, his double’s arousal had been kindled to blazing as Keith’s own had, his fat cock thickening with profound, heart-quickening lust, and his kiss had been as eager as it was sweet and soul-slaking good. But his double’s lust-dark eyes had turned from his, seeking the one other person present. Jacob, their adorable, shaggy-haired, big-dicked roommate, with the round glasses and the raging hormones and that special smile that was just for him. Jacob, who had somehow been making Keith tingle with unnamable temptations for weeks, tempting him to an uncharacteristic tendency to flirtation, long before the world-breaking events of the last hour.
Something had happened in the space of a few moments, as they’d all interacted together, him and Jacob and the other him. As they were talking through what had happened to him and why there was yet a third heroically-posed duplicate standing between himself and the man whose kiss he hungered for, Keith had felt a strange heartbreak in miniature. He had recognized the lines of attraction: himself for Keith, Keith for Jacob, and Jacob for… well, for all of three of him—for any and all Keiths he could have. An overpowering desire had welled up in him to rebel, to take charge of this camera madness, all mixed up with an intense and primitive curiosity about the unprepossessing yard-sale artifact that had split him into three separate, physically identical people. Cole’s arrival was like a flashing exit sign, and he took the out it offered. He also took the camera.
Now that he was standing here, though, with the game-changing camera in his own hands, he wasn’t sure what to do with it. Keith’s brain worked better when there was a lot going on around him—it was one of the reasons he was so good at team sports like football and soccer—but the campus seemed still around them. The only noises were distant and indistinct, and no one was in sight but a lip-quirked Cole, pale and almost aglow in the washed-out lamplight.
“You, uh, gonna take a picture, Keif?” Cole asked. “It really will last longer.” Keith blinked, realizing he’s eyes had drifted back up from the camera to Cole standing a few feet away from him, the light from overhead emphasizing his powerful shoulders and thick pecs, but also his high cheekbones and the curve of his tilted lips. His long, silky black hair seemed to soak in the light, the purple tips almost aglow. Keith realized he’d been staring at him without really realizing it. Attraction was stirring in him, too. His blood felt hot, and his unending hard-on was still implacably turgid. He’d remained unbearably hard through their whole walk, and his physical arousal had re-intensified from the ghost-kiss memories of his other self. Now was raging stiffer than ever, shoving rigid and damp against his treasure trail and the hard, flat muscle of his lower abs behind the dark green tee-shirt he’d hurriedly pulled on.
Was Cole turning him on, or was he just like this now, his constant, simmering randyness now amped up to eleven? Perhaps that was the natural fate of anyone who’d essentially begun his existence in a passionate, erotic embrace.
Cole was hot as fuck. Keith was flattered and turned on by Jacob’s geeky adulation and the enormous dick he kept bone-hard for him. And lately he’d been feeling something more, a ripening affection that could deepen into something real and profound if he let it. Cole, though… Cole was a jock like him, only purer somehow. Keith knew how good he looked, and lately he’d been showing off for Jacob like a preening fitness model, beaming at every appreciative look and every sudden, uncontrolled erection he got out of his blushing, adorkable roommate. But Cole was a physical animal. His grip was strong and his movements graceful. He could even dance, for fuck’s sake—Keith could still picture the scene at the last off-campus party, Cole moving effortlessly to the pounding beat is if the music were inside him, his hands in the air, his dark eyes shining, raw passion for the joy of movement written into his handsome face. Men and women alike crowded around him, drowned in hormones, as they imagined, as Keith had, just how that animal passion, physical power, and primal fluidity would translate into a night of torrid, unforgettable fucking like nothing they’d ever known.
Keith knew it wasn’t all in his head, though, and it wasn’t all him. He’d always been aware of how Cole’s dark brown eyes fixed on him, tracking him. Cole didn’t care about looks; he worked out, turning himself into a sculpted muscle god, because it felt good to him to pump iron and to be strong because of it, not because he needed to look good to impress others. He kept his eyes on Keith, calmly tasting him, feeling him with sight alone, and Keith sensed that the laid-back muscle man do so because Keith felt good to Cole, too, even if it was only to look at.
That unforgettable fucking, Keith realized, was his for the asking. Cole kept hidden and banked within him a fire that burned for Keith. Cole’s narrow waist wanted the touch of Keith’s hands. From there they could slide up, to Cole’s heavy, protruding pecs and the amazingly lovely bulges of his strong, wide shoulders. Or they could slide down and back, taking hold of Cole’s hard, round muscle ass, as their perfect, hard thighs pressed together through their jeans. Or his hands could travel elsewhere from Cole’s tight, narrow waist. Cole’s stomach was so tight that even though his jeans fit snugly over his hips there was usually a little gap between his waistband and the smooth skin of his upper groin. He could see that gap now, and he imagined slipping a hand down in there, finding the potent secrets within…
Cole did have pretty big feet, after all. Maybe, on top of all the other things that drew Keith to Cole, this physical creature was gifted in this respect as well.
Keith felt himself blushing. Now that he’d drawn his own attention to it, Cole’s casual but watchful appreciation, and his own growing reaction to it, made him feel self-conscious and a little overcome with too many layers of hot, intoxicating lust. He huffed an embarrassed laugh. “You wish I was staring, Taylor,” he said, trying to recover his usual level banter with Cole. He’d used the “Taylor” dig ever since the Twilight movies had made a certain lycanthrope famous mainly for his allergy to shirts.
“Whatever, Jethro,” Cole said affectionately.
Lips quirking, Keith ignored the jab at his soft Southern drawl and his own thick, throbbing, ever-present erection, and redirected his gaze firmly onto the camera. He thumbed the “menu” button the camera to wake it up, and as he positioned the device in his hands the screen on the back lit with an impressively share-worthy pic of his handsome friend standing there in the middle of the empty plaza, bare-chested and barefoot, the picture of relaxed patience and as unselfconscious as any guy Keith had ever met.
There was a small legend at the bottom right of the screen, tiny white letters against the black background of the night beyond their little pool of light. Keith stared at it.
It still said “3X”.
Keith’s heart quickened. He shook his head. Already he was backing away from his earlier resolve to take control of… whatever all this was. Or—no. Not backing away. Maybe he was just realizing that taking control didn’t necessarily mean wielding the whip himself, fucking instead of being fucked. Taking control meant making his own choices. He thumbed the rocker down once, meaning to keep going so that there was no “resolution”. The legend changed to read “2X”.
His thumb hovered over the rocker, ready to take it down to one, but then his fevered, lust-spiked imagination seized him by the balls. Two Coles. Standing there, just where Cole was now, but facing each other, casually embracing. One of them had a bare right foot shifted forward, so it was between the other’s equally bare feet. Their jeans-clad hips were pressed together, and their hands were slowly caressing each other’s tapered backs as if it were something muscled, broad-shouldered, bare-chested doppelgangers did naturally, without thought. It was natural for them to be holding each other close. And kissing. The two Coles of his imagination drew their faces together, and Keith’s aching cock jumped and flinched against his tight waistband like a caged animal.
Keith’s thumb spasmed away from the down-rocker, and Keith decided to let it have its moment of mutiny. He’d switch it to “1X” before he took the shot, even if he had to force himself. His thumb had yanked back onto the menu button, and he pressed it almost without meaning to. Another legend appeared above the first on the bottom right of the screen that read “MAG: ON”. Keith frowned. The image on the screen didn’t look magnified. He tried turning it off, but the up/down rocker did nothing. He tried the menu button again.
When he did the display changed unexpectedly. He was still looking at the image of Cole—just the one of him, of course—standing shirtless and seraphic a few feet away, his gaze on Keith intense; but instead of the dark and indistinct campus behind him there was the instantly recognizable shape of the Eiffel Tower, at an angle near one of the vertices so that that three of the tower’s legs were visible, the whole soaring structure silhouetted by a glimmering dawn spreading tentatively behind it. It looked exactly like he and Cole were actually in Paris, pausing at some strategic vantage to take a touristy picture of his hunky buddy in front of the world’s most famous monument to industrial progress.
A new legend at the bottom left now said “SAVED BG1”. “Whoa,” Keith said, impressed.
“What?” Cole asked, and Keith turned the camera around to show him. Cole took a step forward to get a closer look. “Nice,” Cole commented. “What else does it have?”
Keith turned the camera back around and Cole stepped back again, resuming his role as photoshoot model. “Let’s see,” Keith said, thumbing through the available backgrounds. They all looked startlingly real. They were nothing like the chintzy mall photo-booth backdrops he was used to—these were vivid, in-person environments dropped around his subject. The ambient lighting in the scene affected Cole as well, ratcheting up the illusion that Cole was actually where he seemed to be on screen.
The choices, however, were disappointingly unoriginal, as if the backgrounds had been limited to places even the most unworldly, stay-at-home consumer would recognize. “Hmm, looks like the usual suspects,” he said, stepping through the options. “Every place tourists go because it’s where you’re supposed to go. Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, the Coliseum, Times Square… Golden Gate Bridge, Taj Mahal…”
“Let me guess—Great Wall of China? Sydney Opera House?” Cole said, his crooked smile returning.
“Uh… actually, the Great Wall came up just as you said it,” Keith laughed. “Stonehenge… Mount Fuji, Machu Picchu, Great Pyramids… the Forbidden City… Acropolis, Versailles… aha, there you are: fucking Sydney Opera House. Geez, whoever programmed this thing—”
“You’d think there’d be someplace peaceful,” Cole remarked. “They can’t all be tourist traps.”
Keith glanced up at him and arched an eyebrow. “Not one for crowds?”
“Every year my family goes on vacation to places where there’s a million people, all pushing and shouting and complaining,” Cole said, rolling his eyes. “And every year my mom comes home wondering why we’re more stressed than when we left.”
Keith grinned and returned to stepping through the backgrounds silently. “Oh, here you go,” he said suddenly, stopping on an arresting image of a double waterfall cascading down a sheer cliff-face amidst a brilliantly verdant folded landscape. “This is perfect.”
“What is it?” Cole asked.
“Tropical waterfall,” Keith said. He positioned the camera and framed his shot, admiring how the warm sunshine beating down on his subject’s powerful, gym-crafted body and the rich green backdrop made him more attractive than ever. Cole took a step back, smiling easily. It was pure verisimilitude, like Cole was actually there, in that faraway, idyllic spot. “Man, you look a-maz-ing standing in front of it on this. It’s like you should be feeling the spray.”
“Don’t tease me, bro,” Cole snorted.
Kevin was inordinately pleased he’d found an unexpected secret paradise for Cole, and that he looked so perfect in it. A sumptuous, teeming island, ringed with sandy beaches and far from the madding crowd. “Bet there’s waves somewhere nearby,” Kevin drawled. “Get you up on a board in a pair of jams, showing off your six-pack for all the surf bunnies…”
“C’mon, take the picture,” Cole chided, not at all ruffled. “You can mess with my head all you want after we’ve sorted out the physics project.”
“Yeah, okay, surfer boy,” Keith said easily, remembering that they did in fact have imminent deadlines and important stuff that needed their combined attention. Without thinking he lifted up his finger and snapped the shutter. Then—even as it clicked and released, capturing the image of Cole superimposed on the lush background, it flooded back to him with a cold chill what this camera was. And that, despite having told himself he’d go back and change it, only to forget all about it instead, he’d managed to leave the “resolution” setting right where his sudden, unexpected, mind-tricking carnal fantasy had wanted it kept. On “2X”.
He looked up quickly from the display with guts twisting, expecting to see Cole standing there in the dark, deserted plaza with him under the streetlamp, frozen, waiting to be woken up, just as Keith himself had been in another moment stilled by that same camera. His heart stuttered, however, when he saw that Cole wasn’t standing there, frozen or otherwise. He was completely gone.
Keith was alone, as if he’d dreamed Cole’s very existence. As if walking out here with his friend, and stopping to take a picture, had all been a delusion. He looked around, wildly, as if Cole could have darted around behind him as a joke, but the plaza was still empty. There was no one there but him.
Had he imagined it? All of it? Just then darker thoughts assailed him. Maybe he was the delusion, he thought, his stomach writhing. Ice seemed to trickle up his spine. All of this was crazy. Wasn’t it more likely that he’d imagined himself—a duplicate Keith Hood, not even the “original”? How was that even possible? Was everything in his fake, imagined reality going to start falling apart now, like an artificial universe collapsing in on itself?
“Cole?!” he called out, his voice sounding uncertain and scared.
He remembered the camera. No. Cole had been here. He’d just taken a picture of him. He lifted it up—look, there he was. Standing in front of the waterfall, warmed by a tropical sun…
He stared at the still, captured image for a long moment, his heart battering now in his chest. No way, he thought. No… fucking… way.
“Jesus, Cole,” he said to the image on the camera’s display screen. “Fuck, dude where the fuck are you?” The twin waterfall background offered no clue to him—it could be any tropical jungle, from Africa to the Amazon to the wilds of Sumatra. Of course, they’d had to pick the one background locale he didn’t immediately recognize. Sending Cole to Paris, or Sydney, or even Machu Picchu would have freaked him out enough, but he literally had no idea what he’d done with his friend. He could be almost anywhere on Earth with a river and a cliff. Fuck this camera. He should never have touched the stupid thing. He wanted to throw it away, destroy it, to smash it to bits under his heel—and he would have, too, if he weren’t certain somehow that if he did he’d never see Cole again.
He tried to draw a calming breath, but a moment’s stillness of mind only allowed a new and even more disturbing thought to intrude on him. The camera. He knew what it did, because he had been there. He’d been it, then he’d seen it. Cole wasn’t just in some unknown island haven, the location of which Keith couldn’t even begin to fathom. If the camera worked this time the way it had before, he hadn’t simply sent Cole into the midst of that tropical anywhere. He’d stranded him there, not just alone but frozen—immobile, unaware, and completely, utterly helpless.
Even as he watched, the screen went to sleep, blinking over from verdant sunshine into solid, ominous black. Keith jabbed at the menu button to wake it up again, but it now showed only the double-waterfall backdrop, waiting for another picture to be taken. It was as if Cole had been wiped away out of the shot.
“No, no, no, no, no,” he murmured, jamming the buttons until he pulled up the photo archive. There were three pictures on the memory card. The last one was Cole, standing in a tropical utopia. Keith huffed a breath in relief. Seeing the picture there, saved and stored, reassured him. He knew Cole wasn’t actually in the picture, trapped alive in the ones and zeroes of the image file. He was certain Cole was wherever that double waterfall was. But the solidity of the saved image made him feel like he had a chance of finding him.
The image before that on the roll was himself, standing at the end of Jacob’s bed in a ridiculous superhero pose, hands on hips and arms akimbo. Shaking his head at his own antics, he thumbed past it to the first picture. His brows drew together has he frowned at it. It was a close-up image of a face he almost recognized, with the vivid sliver of color of the background behind it out of focus and only just discernable—orange lockers, maybe, he thought. After a second of study he decided that the face smiling into the camera was a younger, cockier version of Jacob, without the glasses and, though just as good-looking, if not more so, in a conventional sense, considerably less appealing, at least to Keith. No, this had to be Jacob’s younger brother. Joseph? Keith thought he remembered his name, though he’d only known Jacob a few weeks and they hadn’t talked about his family much yet.
Keith tilted his head as he examined the photo curiously. Was it a selfie? That would imply that Joseph possibly knew about the camera, or at least that he was the one to send it on so mysteriously to Jacob. Or… had someone else taken the picture, and if so, who? And either way—what, if anything, had the camera done to Joseph?
He shook his head. Jacob could worry about his brother. Keith had to find Cole. And even as he quailed at the impossibility of this in the vastness of the Earth across which he’d carelessly flung his friend, he realized with sudden, heart-stopping clarity that there was a way.
He knew what he had to do. He just needed help doing it.
He patted his empty pockets, but he already knew he had no phone on him. He looked rapidly around the plaza, then, setting his jaw and gripping the camera firmly in hand, he began sprinting for the only place open at this hour—his and Cole’s original destination, the all-night hybrid study annex/cafe behind the library. He covered the ground rapidly, shoes pounding on the plaza’s wide flagstones, and tore into the building like a dervish. By the time he’d crossed the softly lit eating-and-drinking area and pulled up at the bar itself (behind which was the no-food-or-drinks quiet study area), the dude behind the counter was watching him with round eyes.
As it happened, Keith knew him, a little. His name was Tommaso, he remembered. Keith had a class with the sexy, mop-haired Sicilian last semester—and he and Cole had bought coffee and the low-alcohol beer they served here from him on more than a few occasions—a few times on the house, usually when he and Cole were pumped from the gym. The only thing he remembered clearly about the guy was that he was an inveterate gamer, not only playing endless hours of every game under the sun but vlogging about them on his YouTube channel. He even had his own Twitch feed, though the demands of school and work kept him off it most of the time and so unable to accrue the followers and bank of the big stars on the site. He was gaping at Keith now as he rushed up to the bar. “Tommaso, hey,” Keith panted. “I need your help.” He looked swiftly around the seating area, but he didn’t know any of the students huddled together in little clumps over litters of coffee cups, sandwiches, and textbooks. Tommaso would have to do.
“Sure, Keith,” Tommaso said. Though he was lean, tall, and pretty handsome in Keith’s estimation, he hadn’t yet outgrown the clique-training of high school and was used to thinking of himself as apart from the jocks and beautiful people. He sounded surprised to be addressed on friendly, favor-swapping terms by someone like Keith, and eager to be useful to him. That was good. Keith had always known he was popular and good-looking. He knew that as long as he was cheerful, friendly, and genuinely engaging—in other words, not a douchecanoe like half the hot jocks he knew—he easily drew the attention and loyalty of all kinds of guys, not just bashful horndogs like Jacob. He persistently tried to use that power for good, and now… now it meant everything to him.
“What do you need?” Tommaso asked.
Keith fixed his gaze on him, devoting his whole attention to Tommaso. The other man immediately understood the seriousness of Keith’s pose and leaned forward, dark sea-green eyes wide and ready. “I need you to listen to me very carefully,” Keith said, low and urgent. Tommaso nodded once, lips pressed tightly together. Keith brandished the camera he was clutching. “I need you to take a picture of me with this camera,” he said. Tommaso’s eyes flitted briefly to it, and Keith saw the surprise register at how it looked like an outdated piece of junk. “Don’t worry, it works just fine,” he assured him, and Tommaso nodded once again. Keith continued: “Once you’ve taken my picture, I need you to take this camera to my roommate back in the dorms, okay? His name is Jacob Pruett and our room is South Tower 438.” He realized he had more of a message for Jacob and his other selves than just the camera itself. “Tell Jacob to look at the pictures on the camera,” he said. “All of them. Can you do that? It’s very important Jacob get this camera back tonight, and that he look at what’s on it.”
Tommaso was frowning slightly. His eyes flicked to the clock Keith knew hung over the entrance Keith had just crashed through, then back at Keith. “Kelly comes in and relieves me in an hour,” he said, sounding reluctant to disappoint Keith. “Is that soon enough?”
“That’s fine,” Keith said.
“Or I could take it over in the morning,” Tommaso offered, but Keith shook his head.
“No,” he said. “Tonight.”
Tommaso nodded. Then, after a second’s hesitation, he asked, “Why won’t you be taking it back, again?”
Keith grinned wolfishly. “You’ll see,” he said. Keith knew he could be wrong—about what had happened to Cole before, and about what would happen to him, now. But he didn’t believe it. He had everything riding on this working the way he thought it would. It had to. It was his only chance to find Cole.
He handed Tommaso the camera. The other man took it, still a little dubious at this apparent relic from the pre-smartphone era. “Pretty old tech,” Tommaso murmured.
“Press the menu button to wake it up,” Keith instructed, “then hold it up to frame the—”
“Oh, wow,” Tommaso broke in, as the screen came alive for him. In the room’s subdued lighting he could see the barest hint of a glow reflecting on Tommaso’s Mediterranean features. Keith guessed the other man was now seeing Keith himself in the sunlit tropical clime he’d sent Cole to, the double waterfall casting spray and rainbows behind him. He hoped it was as nice as it looked. And that there weren’t a lot of snakes.
“Okay,” he told Tommaso. “Hit the shutter on top.” Awkwardly, Tommaso found the shutter with his index finger, then, closing one eye, he repositioned the camera, trying to frame the photo he was taking just right.
“Just do it! Take the picture!” Keith barked. Worry about Cole had him at the breaking point, he realized. Tommaso looked up, momentarily surprised, and then, dutifully, he pressed down on the shutter. Keith closed his eyes.
His mind swam. Suddenly the silence of the café was obliterated by the loud crashing of water falling on water from a great height. A clean, sultry whipped around him, stirring the surrounding trees and brush. Bird cries and the buzzes and creaks of insects washed over him like the overpowering sound of the waterfall, surrounding him—just as warm, strong arms surrounded him, too, engulfing him in another man’s protective space. Sweet, firm lips joined with his. For the second time that night Keith fell into a kiss before he understood what was happening to him, and pulse quickened again, his cock stirring to a new and delighted hardness as the embrace tightened and the kiss deepened.
It ended sooner than he would have liked. Through a mental haze he heard a male voice he did not recognize say with some astonishment, “You’re awake.” The voice was very close to him—it must be him, Keith thought. The man who’d kissed him, and who was still holding him like he might never be let go.
The voice was rough but soothing, flavored by an accent Keith did not quite recognize. To Keith it felt alluring all by itself without the kiss to go with it, and he let himself drift in it a moment longer, before he surfaced in whatever new reality he had created for Cole—and, now, himself.
The knocking came again, a little louder. Jake shared a look with the two Keiths sharing his bed. Their hazel eyes stared back at him, both of his men seeming perplexed but not at all nervous, now, at being discovered like this—duplicated and deeply immersed in a mutually covetous threesome. Jake had already lost track of which Keith was which, though if he’d had to pick he’d reckon the third Keith was the one in the middle, his face close to Jake’s as the other Keith bent over them both to mouth and lick at middle Keith’s sensitive neck or tempting Jake with a wink and slide of his tongue to shift his kisses from one pair of delicious lips to another. As they lay beside him he could just detect, in the muzzy light, a dark spot on the nearer Keith near the join of neck and shoulder where Jake had given him an overenthusiastic love bite as the ardor had quickened in the shower. That should have told him which one he was, Jake mused, only he wasn’t quite sure which of them he’d given the hickey to in the first place.
Another knock. Jake kissed them both, sliding his hands through middle Keith’s long dark hair and then down the other’s flaring lats to his trim, tight waist. “I’ll get it,” he said.
“Don’t go,” the middle Keith said. He shifted his hand from where it rested on Jake’s narrow lower back and wrapped it around Jake’s mighty, iron-hard and damp-tipped cock where it lay hard-pressed against his hip.
“We’ll miss you,” the other Keith teased, his eyes glinting in the meager light. He added his own hand to the middle Keith’s slowly stroking distraction.
“Uuuughhh,” Jake moaned, tearing himself out of their hold and struggling to his feet. As he stood over them, he was gratified to see that though they both began their appreciative stares with the fat, oversized cock clinging to his hipline, their eyes still traveled up from there, just as admiring, until their gazes reached his face. They seemed to like what they saw there: their eyes seemed to kindle and their tall, straight cocks jumped against their bellies, as the Keith behind wrapped his bulging arm needily around his other self’s exquisitely muscled torso. The Keith in front lifted his own hand to rest on his duplicate’s, neither of them taking their eyes of Jake for a moment.
Jake pulled his stripey pajamas on from where they’d been cast aside at some earlier point in their lovemaking. It was probably second Keith, who had, after all, rushed out with no keys or wallet, but he figured he should at least try to be presentable—not that his jammies hid his big dick very well, as Cole had reminded him earlier in the night. He then retrieved his glasses, which had falled to the floor and fortunately had not been stepped on, and put them on. He turned his bare back on the Keiths and earned a quick wolf whistle from one and a “Yowza!” from the other. He glanced over his shoulder to see that they were both staring avidly at his small, tight ass, each of them wearing matching, toothy grins that seemed almost incandescent in the dim light.
“Knock it off,” he said, though inwardly he was quite pleased. He could still feel the burn from when middle Keith had fucked him deep and slow only a half hour before, while being fucked at the same time by the original Keith behind him. Developing that rocking rhythm between them had been one of his favorite things from tonight, and his cock gave a twitch against the pajama elastic.
When he got to the door and opened it, blinking a little in the light of the hallway, it turned out not to be the second Keith at all. Instead, a tall, well-proportioned Italian-looking hottie with thick, loose-curling black hair and mesmerizing blue eyes under dark lashes stood there, poised to knock again. Or, rather, two identical-looking tall, well-proportioned Italian hotties, their arms clasped tight around each other’s waists as if they were loath to let each other go, now or ever. “Oh, hey,” the knocking one said, his voice and demeanor tense and apprehensive. “Are you Jacob?”
Jake’s mind was struggling with two conflicting thought. The first one was that these two men were the embodiment of sexual attraction and he needed to touch them, now. His hand were already itching at his sides, wanting to jump up and slide along their defined arms and chests and caress their finely stubbled olive-toned cheeks. They were so attractive they seemed almost to be lit with an inner glow, and Jake’s hormones rushed and multiplied in an almost automatic response. His eyes drifted up the two long-limbed frames, from the two pairs of black boots, up four long, defined legs, the fit thighs and calves just barely discernable in the loose, new dark blue jeans topped out at narrow hips and two subtle but very promising packages, to the two identical blood-red, slightly faded school hoodies and two faces, sweetly gorgeous, with chiseled cheekbones, firm jaws, full, wine-dark lips, thick, coal-black brows, and bright, soulful eyes currently filled with wonder, concern, lust, and so much more.
The other thought that came to Jake now, fighting as it had to against the irrational fast-rising wave of desire within him that was threatening to become a tsunami, was this: a pair of insanely attractive identical twins showing up tonight, at his door, clearly looking for his help, could not possibly be a coincidence. Something had happened—something that was down to him to do something about.
As if in confirmation of this guttering flame of reason in his lust-drowned brain, Jake spotted a glint of fake chrome in the other one’s unoccupied hand. Catching the direction of Jake’s gaze, the second Italian glanced down at it, then lifted up his hand, offering the camera to him. “I think this is yours,” he said. He sounded like he was in awe of the thing, and was quite keen to hand over its potency to its rightful owner so that it was out of his hands at last.
Jake took it mutely, trying to right his capsized brain with great difficulty. It was becoming clear that a strange series of events had taken place since this thing had left his sight, with untold ramifications. And yet all his body and mind wanted to do was touch these men. It was only their own palpable unease that was keeping Jake at all focused on anything above the sensual.
“What is it, babe?” asked one of the Keiths from behind him, as a warm hand came down on his bare shoulder. Jake glanced quickly back at him—it was middle Keith, judging by the hickey—in time for recognition to hit. “Tommaso?” Keith said, surprised. His eyes flitted to the other Italian beauty standing in their doorway. Jake looked back at the two newcomers as Keith continued, “Hey, I didn’t know you had a…” Keith trailed off, reduced to wordless staring, his mouth slightly open.
Both of the Italian hotties were staring back at Keith, too, also recognizing him. They very clearly had not expected to find him here. “Keith!” said the first Tommaso, the one who’d knocked. “I thought I… that you…” But he, too, trailed off, as his eyes seemed to light on the hickey Jake had given him. Meanwhile the other Tommaso (as Jake assumed he must be) was staring past where Keith stood immediately behind Jake. Movement, and an awareness of proximity he seemed to be able to sense in his men, told him that the other Keith had gotten up too, and that there were now five of them gathered at the doorway to his room, stilled in a little tableau: two Keiths, two Tommasos, and Jake between them. They were all drinking in the ramifications of the two sets off duplicates they were seeing, but even as they did so arousal spiraled high and higher between them, cocks stiffening, blood roaring in their ears. Jake clutched the camera in his hand, wondering what it had done.
“H-how many of you are there?” the second Tommaso gasped. They seemed to have almost forgotten Jake and were staring with wide eyes at the two Keiths behind him. Jake felt hot, despite being shirtless in the chilly hallway. This was not like the passion he felt for the Keiths, which was real and personal and intimate and had escalated naturally over the last few weeks, a craving he possessed and controlled and reveled in for all its unfathomed, infinite depths. This was something else. He was wildly aroused in the presence of these fiercely attractive men, but his need was untamed and nearly ungovernable, like standing in a forest fire, and it unnerved him as much as it thrilled him.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” said one of the Keiths softly from behind him. He sounded like he was full of everything Jake was feeling, in spades.
Jake suddenly wanted to cut to the chase. It occurred to him to wonder if something had happened to the other Keith—and to Cole, too, who’d left this doorway a few hours back with Keith’s muscular arm draped around his thick, bulging shoulders. He met the Tommasos’ intoxicating eyes in turn. “There’s three Keiths,” Jake answered, his voice dry and hoarse. “Just three. These two, plus… the one I’m guessing gave you this.” He lifted up the camera. At the visual reminder the Tommasos’ expressions sobered a little. Jake knew his suspicions were right—they did have news about the other Keith, and probably Cole, too. “You guys had better come inside and tell us what’s going on,” he added, almost completing the thought with “before we all lose our minds and jump you both right here in the hallway”.
He pushed backward against the Keiths, and they made way for the two invasively attractive men. They moved into the room as one, never unclasping from each other. Jake shut the door, closing them all into Jake and Keith’s increasingly strange world.
The hike to Akahele Falls, three miles into the interior of the half-untamed Hawaiian island of Kauai, was rugged, demanding, and altogether invigorating. The narrow trail dove down sharp declines and shot right up the next steep ridge beyond. On a bright day like today you could bake on those lush, open inclines, and with human habitation left behind on the beach where the Reserve met the Pacific coast, whatever water you needed for the trek was what you took with you—even, ironically, if you got to the four-hundred-foot torrents of the falls themselves.
Zane was glad his companions on this shared vacation, two fellow civilian staffers from the Marine Corps base on Oahu, had begged off on the day’s hike, preferring a day lounging together in front of crashing waves and screaming seabirds in the more hospitable beaches up the coast to a grueling tramp in the Kauaian jungle. Ken and Lena inviting him along on this trip when Lena’s brother bailed had seemed like a godsend—a deliverance from the sneers of his father. The Colonel missed no opportunity to remind Zane that teaching kickboxing and other group fitness classes to Marines, instead of actually being a Marine like himself, was little better than sweeping the streets or swilling lattes for rude tourists. So Zane had made his much-needed escape. But the Colonel’s disapprobation had followed him from Oahu in the form of passive-aggressive texts about the urgency of applying for the next round of officer candidate training as soon as possible. His father had somehow determined that Zane’s upcoming twenty-fourth birthday meant time was running out for his son’s reform, and had evidently judged a frontal assault was now required.
It was such a joke, Zane thought, as he paused where the trail crested a dry but verdant hilltop, taking in the wilderness around him. He adjusted the small rucksack on his shoulders as he mulled over his father’s behavior. Sure, Zane looked like a Marine—he was stocky and powerfully built, though lithe and limber enough to move gracefully and with power in the kickboxing ring; he was as handsome and square-jawed as a recruiting poster, and he kept his sandy hair short because it looked damn good on him that way. But come on. He knew plenty of other sons and daughters of Marine officers, Lena included, but their parents seemed sane, at least from the outside. Only Colonel Kirkland was such a caricature.
He took a swig from his canteen and considered. There had to be a reason for it, he mused. Maybe Zane should take the fight to him, and dig up exactly what was driving him to convert his stubbornly unmilitary son into an unwilling image of his unhappy father.
But it was a waste to be even thinking about him here, Zane thought. Right now, he was glad to be out of his father’s reach for a while. It was gratifying just to be here, to have blood pumping through his veins from a challenging hike under a warm sun and soaring blue skies, and the beauty of creation at his feet unsullied by the creep of concrete and steel that stained even the paradise islands of Hawaii.
Someone to share it with would have been even better, of course. Maybe a boyfriend could even help him chart out a plan for fixing his derailed familial relationship and getting his life on track in some kind of positive direction other than Quantico. But Zane had been on his own for a long time, and he didn’t see that changing anytime soon. He didn’t give his heart easily. He felt inclined to blame the Colonel for that, too.
He was nearly to the falls. He thought he could hear them already, a wall of sound as unceasing as the waves but secreted away back here, deep in the wild, a gem reserved for those willing to brave the demanding journey to meet them.
He glanced up the trail ahead and frowned. Through the foliage on the next ridge, the one that should have the best view of the falls themselves, he could just make out two figures. Both had long dark hair. One had on a dark green tee, it looked like; and the other, to Zane’s astonishment, appeared to be shirtless, at least from this distance. He didn’t know a lot of guys who hiked shirtless, as even a cotton tee could mean the difference in a fall between a scrape and a laceration, and tee shirts were genuinely useful for taking up sweat and protecting against the sun. Zane’s brows drew together as he tried to peer harder at the men on the next rise. There was no sign of gear, either. If those amateurs had hiked out here with no water and no sunscreen, they might be in some serious discomfort.
Zane, torn between irritation and concern, realized the other thing that was weird about the two strangers. They were both standing stock still, as if silently drinking in the splendor of the falls. That was normal enough, except… they had their backs to the falls, and seemed to be staring out at the general wilderness between themselves and the crenelated beach nearly three miles back. Their positions might make sense if they were posing side-by-side for a photograph, the twin torrents of Akahele Falls behind them; but there was no one else there on the rise, just two broad-shouldered college kids who had somehow blindly wandered into the deep back-country of Kauai.
A small orange bird with a curved bill settled onto a nearby branch and stared at him, head tilting this way and that, before flitting noisily away again, startling Zane from his musings. “All right, I get it,” Zane muttered. “Keep moving!” He started heading carefully down the trail leading from the rise into this last, lush defile before the falls. The foliage was denser here and he soon lost sight of the two men, but once he’d splashed across a lively stream and started making his way up the final incline he caught glimpses of them every few moments through the leaves and scrub. Eerily they seemed not to have moved in the slightest, but remained statue-still, gazing back west toward nothing at all. As they came clearly into view, skylined on the ridge-top from his point of view against the deep azure sky, Zane was reminded of trail guardian statues some peoples used to ward their secret wilderness refuges; but though they did look muscled enough to be warriors, Zane, looking over the nearer one, didn’t think that many tribal peoples erected statues of men wearing American blue jeans, Vans with untied laces, and thin pocket tee shirts seemingly designed to show off perfectly sculpted pecs.
The tee shirt in question was slightly strained across the chest but loose around the waist, and it wiffled gently as a light breeze kicked up around them. Both boys’ hair was rippling lightly in the same breeze, the shirtless one’s long black hair and purple tips flitting across his face, but neither made the slightest reaction. The one in the shirt, he now saw, had his eyes closed, long dark lashes splayed on high caramel cheekbones, but the other was apparently staring vacantly into thin air, a small genial curving his lips. He felt a funny tingle of low but mounting arousal as he took them in.
“Hey there,” Zane offered in greeting, as he stepped up onto the round, level, grassy area where the two men stood. This was a regular vantage point for taking in the falls and for picture-taking with the falls behind. The impression Zane had that that was what the two were doing was even stronger now, but there was definitely no one around to take the picture—no one but himself. When there was no response to his hail, he went on, “You guys… need any help?”
Nothing. No sale.
Zane looked between them, wondering what to do next. However much they weren’t reacting to his presence, Zane could not deny that he was having a powerful reaction to theirs. Even standing there, still and unmoving, the two handsome, muscular men were turning Zane on as intensely as if they were wrapping their arms around him and sucking on his neck from both sides. The warm, breezy air was saturated with their radiating beauty, as if they had somehow been infected with carnal, masculine attractiveness magnified far beyond what was normally possible for mere mortals. Zane’s thick, responsive cock started swelling to stiffness in his cargo shorts, fighting for Zane’s fragmented attention. Fuck, he thought, if either of these two actually moves a muscle, if they so much as look directly at me, I might cum in my damn shorts.
Zane found himself moving toward them, almost unwilling. It was important that he touch them. Very important. The farmboy Adonis with the shirt on was a little nearer, and Zane now saw he was standing slightly forward of the other man. Zane guessed the shirtless one might be part East Asian, thickly swole and sculpted but not quite as perfectly defined and cut as his tanned but paler friend. They were both intoxicatingly beautiful. They’d already pushed Zane’s mighty cock to an aching, desperate erection and gotten his balls roiling with too much hot seed. They drew him, pulled at him, summoned his touch, and Zane was too worked up by their magnetic allure to resist.
The farmboy Adonis was closest.
His hands clasped around the man’s upper arms on either side, seemingly of their own accord, and it was like making electrical contact, a circuit completed. Wildfires of unspeakable pleasure roared through him, and his heart started pounding so rapidly he feared he might die of ecstasy, here on this remote hilltop in the verdant Hawaiian wilderness. He gathered his wits and forced his focus onto the gorgeous, gym-perfected man in front of him, training his flailing mind to fix on the concern welling up from his thundering heart. The farmboy Adonis had still not reacted. His eyes were still closed, and a quick glance at the other impossibly beautiful stranger confirmed that he, too, was stiff and unmoving, his stance one of someone posing casually for another’s camera, eyes watchful and amused, but unmoving, as frozen as if he were trapped in Jurassic amber.
He turned his eyes back to the farmboy Adonis, whose arms he was still gripping. He had a mind to shake him, shouting to wake him up, but that seemed violent and possibly counterproductive. Perhaps some trauma had struck them both, some strange past moment that they shared. It was vital for Zane to ease them back into this world.
His eyes fell on his sweet, full lips.
Once the idea of kissing the beautiful man occurred to him there was simply no resisting it. Zane’s body was telling him he must kiss the other man, but Zane knew in his bones that this was because the Adonis wanted it of him, needed it of him. He needed to be kissed, sensuously and possibly forever without surcease, as much as Zane needed to kiss him.
Not that any of those thoughts mattered. Just as his hands had acted on their own volition, wrapping around the man’s powerful, sculpted biceps out of natural instinct, so too his lips fell on the other man’s because they belonged there. He closed his eyes and it was happening, because that was what needed to happen between them, him and this man pumped full of superhuman magnetic allure.
Just the touch of their lips together, the press of Zane’s lips against his, was so pleasurable that he very nearly came just from that. He moved his lips against the warm mouth of his counterpart, eliciting a moan from his own throat.
Then, heart-stoppingly, he felt it.
The other man was kissing back.
Oh, god, he thought. He broke the kiss in sheer surprise. “You’re awake,” he blurted. But their lips found each other again almost instantly. He pressed back eagerly, in a state of utter abandon, pleasure shooting through him as though he had been brought into this world merely to be a conduit for it.
Then, the sweet, beautiful farmboy Adonis opened for him.
Before Zane could even think to plunder that mouth with his tongue for the joys to be found there he started cumming, madly, unstoppably, spending jet after jet of seed into his tightly constricted briefs. Embarrassed and exhilarated all at once he tried to step back, but he found the other man was gripping his biceps, too, and they stepped back together, clasping each other tight by the arms, Zane panting heavily right onto the other man’s swollen, kiss-bruised lips.
“Hi,” said the stranger with a hint of amusement. He was pressing their foreheads together, as if urging him not to stick close, to not back away. He could feel the man’s warm, strong hands on his own arms just as he could feel the flexing biceps in his own deliriously happy grip.
Zane huffed a giddy laugh at the banality of the greeting. Fireworks of euphoria were still exploding behind his eyes, and his breath was still rasping heavily. “Hi,” he repeated back. Inside he was vowing to never let go, to never move from this level of intimate, tactile proximity with this man he did not know but felt connected to more than he ever had to anyone.
“What’s your name?” the stranger asked, forehead still pressed to his. Zane was glad that no more complicated questions were being asked. The other man’s accent was a slight, playful, southern drawl—Tennessee or thereabouts, Zane guessed. He loved it instantly, wanted to hear the other man speak sonnets and read from newspapers until the end of days.
“Zane,” he answered, mind reeling but sure of this knowledge if little else at the moment. “Zane Kirkland.”
The other man stooped to share another brief, electric kiss. Zane gasped when he broke it, his cock lurching in the wet mess it had created in his shorts, trying to harden again and mostly succeeding. “Nice to meet you, Zane,” the farmboy Adonis said coyly, clearly aware of the effect he was having on him. “My name’s Keith.”
Keith, Zane thought crazily. Keith. The only name I need to know from now on…
Fuck, what’s happening to me?
“Now, Zane, I have a very important question for you,” Keith said calmly, still without moving from their position, standing close with their faces a mere inch apart, gripping each other’s arms, spiking each other’s arousal higher and higher. “I want you to look over my shoulder and tell me if you see… another Keith.” Despite their proximity Zane tried to meet Keith’s eyes in confusion, but Keith just went on as if he were saying mundane things that weren’t impossible. “Exactly like me,” Zane said, “but still asleep. Is he there?”
Zane blinked. He decided that Keith must mean the other man. They were both muscle hunks with long dark hair, after all, though they were very different in other ways. But when he steeled himself to look, pulling back just enough to gain sight of what was standing where Keith had been earlier before stepping forward with Zane, he gasped. His knees seemed to weaken, but Keith easily held him up.
“He’s there, right? The other me?” Keith asked calmly.
Zane nodded. “Yeah,” he said, shakily. “And the other guy.”
Keith’s eyebrows raised at this, though he kept his piercing eyes trained on Zane’s. “Big muscles, no shirt, casually amused expression?” he asked, his mountain-South twang wheedling instantly into Zane’s heart. Zane nodded again, dazed. Keith took a deep breath, clearly relieved. “Cole,” he pronounced. “Thank god.”
He slid an arm easily around Zane’s shoulders and turned to face the remarkable sight before them. Zane was a couple inches shorter than Keith, which put his shoulders at a nearly ideal elevation for Keith to sling his arm around them, and Zane was amazed to find himself thinking as much about the toe-curling pleasure of this contact with his neck and shoulders as about the strange things to be seen on this tropical hilltop. Beyond was the unmatched beauty and unending noise of Akahele Falls. It was sending up faint rainbows from its spray into the lush wild lands around them, its cascade roaring around them constant but almost unnoticed this whole time. Meanwhile, close at hand, stood the other intoxicating beauty—Cole, his Keith had called the shirtless marvel—and, impossibly, another Keith, still frozen as if Zane had never arrived at this vista to wake his man from frozen slumber. Or maybe like Zane had pulled the top sheet off an ever-replenishing stack of uncanny Tennessee demigods.
“Zane,” Keith said in his ear, his southern lilt coiling around Zane’s still-pounding heart. He waited for whatever Keith would ask. “I want you to wake up the other Keith,” he went on. “Exactly the way you did me. All right?”
“By k-kissing him, you mean?” Zane said. He looked over at Keith. Keith was grinning wide, a delicious, saucy grin, and suddenly… suddenly Zane had shifted forward in his emotions, like passing through the falls to something beyond. He wasn’t so much in thrall to his Tennessee Adonis now so much as he was just bound to him, his partner, his other half. Only—
Fuck, there were two Keiths. If there were two of his man… he wasn’t sure what he was thinking was even possible. How rich would a man be, how surfeited, to have two other halves? To share his heart with two playful, bright-hearted men so deeply alluring, so mind-meltingly erotic, as devoted to him as he was to them, so desperate for his kiss, his touch, his raging cock, that Zane knew he would never want for pleasure, not ever…
Barely able to keep his breath moving, Zane forced his eyes over to the other man, shirtless, half-grinning, and perfectly motionless a step or two beyond his still-unawakened Keith. “What about Cole?” he asked uncertainly.
When Keith didn’t answer immediately, he looked back to see that his man had a mischievous expression. “I have an idea about that,” Keith said, looking over the other frozen man with glinting eyes. “I want to see if we can find a way… for him to wake himselves up.”
As they’d all stared at each other in the doorway, lust seeming to supercharge the hormone-thickened air around them, Jake had taken charge. He’d brought the two Tommasos into the dorm room and, flicking on the desk lamp so they’d have some light in the room without the glaring overhead fluorescent beating down on them, had set them on the side of Jake’s bed to tell their story, Jake pulling up his desk chair in the space between the beds but not sitting in it right away. Instead he headed for the mini-fridge, the camera gripped firmly in his left hand. He was watched by both Keith and “middle” Keith, as he thought of his hickeyed, man-sandwich-loving other self, the one that had been the last to be brought to life by Keith and Jaje together. They had followed the others from the doorway and sat down on the side of his (their?) own bed, opposite the two Italian hotties, and both Keiths had to adjust the raging boners sticking straight up past the elastic waistbands of the matching sleep shorts they’d quickly pulled on—such adjustment being necessaru in order to avoid stabbing themselves in the stomach.
Keith thought about how close the newcomers were sitting. Though he and middle Keith had sat down fairly close to each other, enough so that he could feel the heat from his other self’s bare, muscular torso (and smell the sex on him), the Tommasos had sat so close there wasn’t a sliver of space anywhere between them. Their long legs were pressed hard against each other from ankle to hip, and their shoulders were overlapped so that one had his arm clasped tightly around the other’s torso, and the other had his hand on the first one’s leg, gently squeezing his thick thigh muscle through the dark, cobalt-blue jeans. It hit Keith then that the Tommosos weren’t immune to their own raging undertow. They’re as helplessly hot for each other as we are for them, he thought. He couldn’t help but feel like this observation was as much a part of the solution as it was a component of the puzzle.
Keith glanced at middle Keith, who looked over at him, seemingly sharing similar thoughts. It wasn’t the same for them, fortunately. Oh, he was drawn to himself, there was no doubt of that, and the thought of giving himself a quick kiss flitted through Keith’s mind, especially when middle Keith’s warm hazel eyes dropped to Keith’s own slightly curved lips. He knew that if the missing Keith, the one woken up second with a kiss from Keith himself, were here, that one would be even hungrier for some Keith-on-Keith makeout action. But that was nothing on the raw, reckless allure the Italian twins were putting out, an attraction so intense that mere proximity was trying to make his already hard dick get super-extra-hard even when he wasn’t looking at them. It seemed to beat on his skin like the noontime summer sun, sinking into his flesh and caressing his basest and most carnal instincts.
If what the Tommasos were feeling for each other was anything like the uncanny, almost ferocious attraction they inspired in Keith and (he strongly suspected) Jake, no wonder they weren’t letting each other go.
Jake returned from the minifridge with a six-pack container of green-bottled beers and began silently distributing them starting with the Tommasos, who took one each. The one being held twisted off both their caps, but they held off tasting it, watching Jake.
The Keiths both did the same, watching at Jake as he moved, and Keith was glad to feel a rush of comforting, visceral want at the sight of him. He’d woken up reveling in the press of Jake’s hard body and impressive cock against him and the touch of his hands, tentative only at first, on his broad, welcoming back; and he yearned for that now, just as he knew middle Keith now thirsted for Jake’s animal kiss, salacious embrace, and thrusting cock with Keith’s own eager body pressed hard against him from behind. The sight of Jake steadied him, and he felt middle Keith take a long, calming breath as he did the same. The Tommasos were like a blazing sun now, or a wild, unchecked forest fire. But Jake was—Jake. The intense passion, the unquenchable desire they felt for him wasn’t insubstantial, like fire you could feel but couldn’t grasp. It was reassuring and more centered deep in his own core, building as it did on feelings that had already been gathering and solidifying in the preceding weeks. It felt like a completion somehow.
Jake had turned to the Keiths, handing them each a cold bottle. Keith twisted the cap off absently and set it aside, still watching Jake. He knew he wouldn’t even be thinking this way if it weren’t for the insistent, uncontrollable pull of the wildly attractive Tommasos. Before he’d been happily wallowing in the fantastic thrill of messing around with Jake and, well, himself. But presented with these embodiments of mindless, mesmeric carnal desire, Keith knew more was going on. He considered his adorable, sexy, smart, kind, playful roommate, his lips red and bruised and his dirty blond hair even more of a mess than usual, and felt his heart swell. A new thought struck him, taking him by surprise. When we were having sex before, he thought, was that… making love?
He grinned unconsciously. Can three people make love? he mused. He wanted to pose the question to Jake just to see his reaction. He might get a little blush out of it, if he was lucky.
Jake, however, was too preoccupied to react to Keith’s smirk. Instead he moved to the wooden desk chair he’d set between the beds. In one quick move he turned the chair around a hundred and eighty degrees, as if he meant to sit with his back to them; then he sat backwards on the chair, making the slats of the chair’s back a protective cage for the big, visible erection twitching against his hip inside his peejays. A literal cockblock, Keith thought, amused.
Jake set the camera between his legs and twisted off his own bottle cap, placing it behind him on the chair, and took a long swig, watching the Tommasos the whole time. The others followed suit. To Keith it felt weirdly like a shared ritual—like the huddle and break before a football play, or the way his high school soccer team had gathered in a ring and slapped their right shoulders with their left hands three times in unison before the start of every game. He smiled wider, picturing the five of them, incredibly randy and boned as fuck, playing soccer against… who? An identical team of Jake and two each of Tommasos and Keiths? A side of all Keiths—or (he drew in a breath)—all shirtless, pajama-bottomed, mussed and bespectacled Jakes?
I want to see Jake kissing himself, Keith thought suddenly, and his dick flexed in enthusiastic agreement. He wondered if there was a way to share this thought silently with his fellow Keith—a little sly plotting, and they could probably make it happen.
Jake was still watching the Tommasos. “Now,” he said firmly, “tell us everything. From the beginning.”
Cole felt himself spinning, light and noise becoming confusing around him. No, not spinning—being spun. He felt the impression of hands first on his shoulders, then lifting his arms, then… His senses came to him as he realized he was falling backwards. He was going to hit the concrete of the plaza walkway. Except…
Everything was different. Blazing bright light, loud crashing noise, verdant smells. Someone very close in front of him—Keifer?
His eyes weren’t working yet—the lighting change was too intense. Feeling himself losing his balance he instinctively grabbed hard at the broad shoulders of the dark figure. But it was already too late, and he brought down the other man with him.
His back crashed hard against spongy grass, and Keifer—or whoever it was—landed right on top of him, moving suddenly and throwing up his forearms only just in time to prevent crushing Cole under his weight.
Breathing hard, Cole stared up at the face slowly resolving out of shadow as his eyes finally adjusted to extreme brightness after having just been in the dimly lit plaza at night. He realized the shoulders he was still gripping hard were broad and bare. Round, hard-built delts met his grasping fingers, and and thick, sculpted traps. Long, black hair fell down on either side of a strangely familiar face, curtaining them both a little from the outside. Backlit purple tips seemed to glow almost incandescently in contrast to the shadowed dark of the long, thick, mostly straight locks. Warm breath gusted over Cole’s lips as the other man blinked, himself trying to focus just as Cole had. Cole studied the high cheekbones, the dark eyes with long lashes, the dark red lips, and he swallowed nervously. His pulse was already quickened from the unexpected fall, but now his heart was pounding even faster, and his whole body was reacting with it. His blood seemed to heat in his veins, warming his skin. His heavy balls tingled, and his wide, flat, uncut cock almost instantly slammed to full, complete, and aching hardness in a matter of seconds.
The other man’s crotch was pressed hard against his, and the feel of the other’s raging erection shoving against his hip was only moments behind his own.
Cole met those dark, fathomless eyes with a kind of wonder. His whole life he’d gotten a steady flow of compliments on his looks, and not just for his early-blooming muscles—though his lifelong allergy to shirts since toddlerhood had made the easy gains he made at the gym obvious and the subject of regular comment. People seemed to like to comment on how good looking he was, especially meeting him for the first time; usually he got “handsome” from older folks and “hot” or “way gorgeous” or some variation from people his own age, but he also got “pretty” from both groups, which was cool and kind of funny. The thing was, he’d never really seen it before now. Sure, he’d look in the mirror and understand what people saw, and he’d make kissy faces at his reflection when he thought it might get a laugh out of Keifer or someone like that. But… now…
He felt the heavy, warm breaths of the guy who looked exactly like him, and Cole felt an intense rush of rightness that they were pressed this close to each other. Warm, heavy pectorals mashing together… long legs intertwined, bare feet rubbing close of their own accord… groins pushed rudely against each other… rigid, flat dicks grinding in reciprocal motions with each other, their soft, thin jeans feeling like the most tenuous of separations… full, irresistible lips bare inches apart… eyes locked on each other, all emotion and desire laid ruthlessly bare and matched need for insatiable need. Cole felt like their hot blood was roaring through both their bodies like it was a unified system, like their intense, mighty arousal was a shared and single thing.
Their hearts were beating hard and fast. Their hot breaths were synchronizing too, which was crazily erotic.
The other Cole spoke, and his deep baritone voice seemed to pass into him and curl up in his balls and stiffen his cock even further. “Dude,” the other Cole said seriously, “you are, like, totally cute.”
They grinned in unison. “No, you are,” Cole pretended to protest, in the same solemn voice. “You are way super incredibly yummy-looking.” His hands were still clasping the other Cole’s delts, and he said, “Nice job on these, by the way.”
“Thanks,” the other Cole said with a straight face, though his dark eyes were brimming with amusement and arousal.
Cole shifted his hands down and around the other’s arms, until he was sliding along the wide, flaring lats he’d grown almost without meaning to, as they’d mostly developed originally while he was focusing on other muscle groups. “These are pretty cool, too,” he said appraisingly.
The other Cole nodded, biting his lower lip slightly, then said after a beat, “Want to make out for a while? Or, forever?”
“Okay,” Cole agreed casually, though inside he shivered with desire at the thought. They brought their lips together in one smooth motion. At first it was tentative, as if for all the incredible attraction and arousal they both felt there still needed to be one last test that this new duality was really a thing. The kiss quickly deepened, however, but rather than ferocious and hungry it became powerfully sensual and languid, as though they really did have forever. Cole slid his strong arms more fully around the other’s broad, bare back, and, clasping him tight, let himself melt into the kiss, their mouths and tongues and lips becoming a symphony of warm, measureless pleasure.
After a very long time, they’d broken their kiss and were staring into each other’s eyes again when they heard a familiar voice tease, “You guys need a room?”
“Sure,” Cole said, his gaze still locked on the other’s. His stomach was fluttering with too many feelings to count. Their wide, hard dicks were still rutting subtly, rhythmically but with a kind of roughness, too, as they moved their groins almost imperceptibly together. Cole never wanted that feeling to stop, or to be anywhere other than in his other self’s warm embrace.
“Sounds good,” seconded the other Cole. His Cole.
The presence of other people in the immediate vicinity nonetheless reminded Cole that he probably had concerns beyond making passionate love to this other self he could not imagine not touch. He remembered falling on spongy grass where the hard surface of the plaza should have been—grass he could still feel tickling his bare back—and he realized he didn’t know where he and Cole were, or what had happened to them. He was tempted not to care, but beyond his towering arousal and fathomless love for his identical partner he knew he should want to understand why it was suddenly bright and hot instead of dark and cold, and why there was noise instead of silence, and why he hadn’t cracked his head open on concentric circles of alumni-donated brick.
He met his counterpart’s gaze and saw the same conflicted feelings in his deep, hypnotic eyes, and they sighed, Cole again loving the feeling of that warm, soft breath on his bruised and sated lips.
With some reluctance they tore their eyes away from each other. Past his make-out partner’s cascade of silky, purple-tipped hair, Cole could see that they were indeed not where they should have been. Somehow, instead of the deserted, gloomy plaza in the middle of the night, he and the guy who looked exactly like him were now experiencing this diving, soul-merging pleasure in the middle of a lush, tropical paradise, complete with what sounded like the roar of a nearby waterfall somewhere fairly close by behind him. The sun was blazingly bright and the sky was a vibrant blue marred only by a few small clouds and a contrail or two, and the air was warm and moist and alive with the strange, strident calls of birds and insects.
In addition to the two of them, this idyllic spot seemed to be occupied by not one but two Keiths, both much, much more attractive than he remembered. They were standing there in matching dark green shirts, jeans, and untied sneakers and aiming identical grins at them, as if they’d just come out of a photocopier. Clearly the two of them grinding and making out in the grass was the most entertaining thing the Keiths had seen in a while.
There was also, unexpectedly, a very hot young Marine type who was clearly in fantastic shape, going by the extremely cut musculature showing through his sweat-dampened tee shirt. Amusingly, he was obviously completely infatuated with both extra-enhanced-attractive Keiths, but was nonetheless trying to keep a stolid look about him.
Cole considered what he was seeing, and how he’d seemed to suddenly arrive here from a much more normal world. Well… as afterlifes went, he thought, this would do just fine. It occurred to him to hope his parents, and Keith’s dads, weren’t too debilitated by grief at whatever had happened to them in the plaza. A bomb, maybe?
Then he remembered the contrails, and frowned. There probably weren’t contrails in heaven.
Facts. Cole guessed the Keiths and the Marine were probably there before he was. He remembered the hands he’d felt on his shoulders, twisting him around as he came out of whatever momentary blackout accounted for his transition here. He eyed the Keiths narrowly. “Where are we?” he asked. He aimed the question at the others generally, but he knew that two Keiths meant twice as much trouble, and was almost certain they had something to do with all this.
“And why are there two of you?” the other Cole added, looking at them over his shoulder and equally dubious.
“Why are there two of you?” one of the Keiths retorted merrily, his playful Southern lilt an interesting contrast to the surroundings.
“And why are you suddenly crazy attractive?” other Cole asked.
“Why are you suddenly crazy attractive?” the Keith shot back, still playfully, but with a glint in his eyes that warned Cole that there was at a lot more going on than a really hot make-out session with himself. Both Coles looked at him for a moment, then exchanged glances.
“You first,” Cole said with a sigh. The other Cole smiled and climbed agilely to his bare feet, then reached a hand down to help Cole to his. Cole took a second to admire his other self’s impressive chest, which was even bigger than Keifer’s if not as divinely sculpted, and which looked particularly nice from this angle, lit from above with shadows cast on the upper reaches of the six-pack below. His dick spasmed wantonly, and a tidal wave of near-climactic pleasure crashed through him, but he just managed to hold off a sudden, violent orgasm—for now. He let the other Cole pull him up, both of them panting with arousal, and Cole was wondering how long he could wait before turning back to his other self and falling to his knees, yanking down his jeans as he did so. Fuck, he knew just what that wide, beautiful dick looked like disappearing into another person’s mouth, and the idea of tasting it, of feeling for himself—shit, he was going to blast after all.
No, he had more control than that. His grandmother had raised him better. You don’t let things get to you, his gran had always said, whenever he ran home crying over school bullies or unfair teachers. You keep control of yourself for yourself. Growing up, Cole had grown increasingly astonished at how this simple advice gave him the advantage in almost any twist in his life’s road, while everyone else marveled at his placid, impervious affect no matter what was going on. She’d laugh if she knew Cole was using it to stave off a jizz eruption of volcanic proportions.
He was good at remembering this advice and using it practically, though, so much so it was almost second nature to him. Cole knew Keifer thought it was just him being constitutionally laid back and incapable of getting riled, but to Cole it was about owning what he was. Which, at the moment, was as one of two incredibly turned-on, identically hot Coles standing shirtless and barefoot in a lush, jungle-set Shangri-La.
K’s approach was different. He was always charging ahead full bore on any project and in any situation. His default mode was active engagement with whatever had his attention. Like the way he’d responded to his roommate Jacob’s attraction for him with a campaign of impish goading and tantalizing, just to see what would happen. Given the massive pajama-tenting boner Pruett had been sporting that night, it seemed to be working; though as to what end his buddy had in mind, Cole wasn’t sure Keifer even knew.
Cole faced the others, square-shouldered and with his monumental arousal present but ignored, and offered them a genial smile. The other him did the same. He knew his wide boner was very obvious in his jeans, what with it being incredibly obvious in his doppelgänger’s, but he wasn’t very fussed about it. After all, the others were pretty obviously hard too.
Cole first moved over to the Marine. “Since Jethro here won’t introduce us…” he began. Other Cole reached the stranger a half a step ahead of him, though, and he stuck out his hand first. “Cole Yung,” other Cole said. Well, Cole thought, that cinches it. He didn’t just look like him, he was him. Unless this was all some elaborate, paranoid mind screw, an X-rated Twilight Zone where the other Cole would turn around at a climactic moment and pull off a mask to reveal a young Martin Landau or something.
“Uh, Zane Kirkland,” the Marine said as they shook. He seemed to be really focusing on the two Coles for the first time, and after a frowning look up and down he zeroed in on other Cole’s bare feet and goggled, snapping his eyes up to other Cole’s and demanding, “You don’t even have boots?!” His incredulity at their unpreparedness seemed to to trump all the other baser things he was feeling, and Cole almost laughed.
Other Cole disengaged from the handshake, looking confused. “Uhhh, ‘boots’?” he said in his dumb jock voice, looking down at his blessedly bare feet, then back up at the Marine with an expression of extreme perplexity. “What are… ‘boots’?”
Cole moved closer and stuck out his hand, trying not to grin. After a second Kirkland shifted his frown to him, taking his hand and shaking cautiously. “Cole Yung,” he said. “No boots for me either,” he added.
“Zane Kirkland,” the Marine repeated. He let go of Cole’s hand, apparently so he could put his fists on his hips in disapproval, smooth eyebrows drawing down to shade his sharp, green-gold eyes. “We’re nearly three miles inland from the trailhead,” he said. “How did you all even get up here?”
Cole almost responded, which would have involved turning to the Keiths since he himself didn’t know. But Kirkland’s statement seemed to snag on something in Cole’s brain like driftwood in a flood, and he felt his brows knit, feeling like he was on the verge of making a connection. Trailhead, he thought. Inland… He turned toward the Keiths, who were both looking at him expectantly—as if they, too, sensed he was about to put it together.
Cole snapped his fingers and pointed at the Keiths—then swiveled to point at the falls he’d heard when he’d first surfaced back into consciousness, before his attention had been swallowed up by the newly awakening other him. His thoughts went back to the saved backgrounds on the camera Keifer had borrowed. He’d seen the first one—the Eiffel Tower. Then there had been a lot of really obvious touristy selections, until finally Keith had found—
“Tropical waterfall,” other Cole said slowly and significantly, repeating the words Keith had used. They turned and looked at each other, instinctively moving closer. They blinked at each other, and then said in unison, “The camera?!”
They turned to look at the Keiths. They nodded. “The camera,” they replied, also in unison.
For a second, the Coles and Keiths looked at each other, while the falls crashed behind them and birds screamed their needs somewhere deep in the jungle. Kirkland stood between the two groups, watching. The Marine seemed to be leveraging his training in waiting out a situation until he understood it as well as possible. That might be a while, Cole wanted to tell him ruefully.
Other Cole was a bit behind him, but now he moved up beside him and took his hand. Cole appreciated that. The idea that a strange, old-looking borrowed camera had placed a tropical waterfall behind him not in a picture but in actual reality was… disorienting. And the duplication? That must have happened at the same time, right? But Keifer was also here, and also duplicated…
“Wait,” other Cole said. “Let me get this straight. You took my picture—”
“Our picture,” Cole put in.
“—our picture, and it sent us here?” other Cole carried on. “And then you—what, took your own picture? Or had someone else do it?” The Keiths nodded, confirming the second option. Cole said, “Why?”
“We came after you,” one of the Keiths said. “We were worried,” the other added, as if it were no big deal. Sure, Cole thought, people recklessly zap themselves into cameras to save their disappeared friends every day! “Of course,” the first one went on, “we didn’t know there would be a hunky Marine here to save you!”
Kirkland reddened. “I’m not a Marine,” he said—a little defiantly, Cole thought.
“Aw,” one of the Keiths said, disappointed.
“I… teach kickboxing and mixed martial arts to Marines,” Kirkland went on. It sounded like there was a story there.
“That’s hot,” Cole told him. “You’re even fitter than a Marine,” other Cole said. “More badass,” Cole agreed, nodding.
Kirkland ducked his chin slightly and seemed to be trying not to blush at the teasing praise. “Hey, hands off,” chided the Keiths, though the Coles hadn’t moved toward him. “He’s ours.”
Kirkland looked up at this and smiled uncertainly. He looked at the two Keiths as they regarded him possessively, and his smile gained confidence. He moved to stand next to the Keiths, and they both slung an arm around him. “It’s true,” he said firmly. “I’m… theirs.” Whatever else was going on, that at least was clear to the kickboxing guru, however obviously weird it was for him to say. The Keiths both grinned at him, and Cole guessed they were gratified at Kirkland confirming something they’d clearly been hoping would be true.
Cole grinned. “Yeah, well, we’re ours!” he joked. “Yeah!” seconded other Cole, but he squeezed Cole’s hand at the same time to show he meant it, and Cole squeezed back. He wanted more than anything to turn and face his companion-soulmate, and stare into his eyes and move in for the sweetest of kisses as they wrapped strong arms around each other… but: control. He wanted to take his other self’s Cole-dick into his mouth so bad his heart ached. Feeling its firm velvet steel on his tongue… tasting his own seed as he worked that wide, flat, uncut cock long before the actual hot explosion filled his mouth and scalded his fuck-abused throat…
He drew in a ragged breath and squeezed his other self’s hand again, and got another answering squeeze back. Control. Maybe it was actually easier now that there were two of him. It was worth thinking about. He distracted himself by imagining the gibes he’d get from Keifer, like how Cole had heard how he’d be the ideal boyfriend from so many girls he’d finally decided to see for himself. That drew a little smile. Keifer wasn’t wrong—he was looking forward to that.
They let the sound of the falls fill the air around them for a beat. “So, Jethro…” other Cole spoke up at length, “is there… any chance we can get back?” “The way we came, I mean,” Cole added.
The Keiths shook their heads. “Tommaso’s got the camera,” one of them said.
“Tommaso? The guy at the café?” Cole said, surprised. “He took your picture,” other Cole deduced.
“And I told him to take the camera to, uh, Jacob,” one of the Keiths said.
“He must have seen me—us—disappear like I saw you disappear,” the other said.
“Which means,” the first concluded, “that Jacob and Tommaso are both probably a little frantic right now.” He turned to Kirkland. “Do you have a cell on you? How close are we to coverage?”
Kirkland frowned, still getting used to being doubled-teamed by two big take-charge alpha woof-dogs like Keith. “There’s a spot a half-hour down the trail that’s line of sight with one of the cell towers near the shore,” he said after a moment. “That’s our best chance. We can call your friends, and—” Here he cast a doubtful eye at the Coles’ big, bare feet. “—I might be able to rustle up a tour helicopter to come up here and pick these two up, though it won’t be cheap.”
“Naw, we got tough feet,” Cole said easily. “And I feel like we should all stay together,” other Cole added, a little more seriously. Cole nodded in agreement, and the Keiths seemed to think there was some merit in this idea as well. There was stuff going on here they didn’t understand. And if the movies taught you anything, Cole thought wryly, it’s that in supernatural situations you should never split up.
Kirkland gave way unhappily, and with that decided, they gave the falls one last admiring glance before trooping down the trail, the two Coles remaining firmly hand in hand.
He wrenched his eyes away and took a long pull of beer, coloring in shame. Only moments before he had actually been thinking he might have fallen in love with his cocky, tender, guilelessly flirtatious and incredibly beautiful roommate, and now… Fuck, I’m the worst human being imaginable, he thought. He swallowed and tried marshaling his thoughts. He focussed his stare on the lowest drawer of the dresser that separated the two beds, mapping the minutiae of its wood-grain pattern and trying hard to ignore two sets of booted feet to one side and two big, bare, fidgety feet to the other in his peripheral vision. “What I don’t understand,” he tried again, “is, why you didn’t disappear when Kelly took your picture?”
“Oh, yeah,” one of the Tommasos said. “We didn’t tell that part.” “Kelly was confused about why I, or, uh, we—why we?… wanted the picture,” the other said. “Probably because we didn’t explain it well,” the first added—they were adapting rapidly to the dual pronouns, Jake observed. “She thought we wanted a picture of us at work, so when she saw the background…” “She fiddled around with the buttons for a second, and I didn’t realize why at first, but she must have been turning the background off.”
The rest of it they’d already told them. Kelly had freaked out when Tommaso had frozen and had gone up and shaken him violently, trying to get him to regain consciousness, and when he’d fallen forward she’d screamed at something behind him. When he’d whipped around to see what it was, he’d discovered it was himself. Since he’d expected to disappear, and was himself a little disturbed by his own frozen image (especially with Kelly still screaming), Tommaso had grabbed his frozen identical image roughly by the shoulders, needing to know if that was the real him and he’d fallen out of his physical self in some kind of out of body experience. Then the other him had grabbed his shoulders, their eyes had met, and—that was it. At some point Kelly bolted, but the Tommasos admitted sheepishly they’d been too preoccupied to notice. Since their relief had gone, they’d closed up the café and gone in search of Keith’s roommate. Jake noted that it hadn’t even occurred to them to separate, one staying at the café and maybe trying to text Kelly and the other coming here. Being apart wasn’t going to work for them, Jake reckoned—and no wonder, if they both felt for each other what he and the Keiths were feeling for them.
“Here’s what I don’t get,” first Keith—the one without the hickey—said. He was almost glaring at the Tommasos. “See, the last time I saw you, you were—you know, really good-looking.” The Tommasos seemed slightly surprised by this statement. Probably he hadn’t pinged their gaydar—he sure hadn’t for Jake, at first. “But now…”
“Now,” middle Keith stepped in, “we’re both about ready to blow a giant load in our shorts just from looking at you.” Both Keiths then looked abruptly over at Jake. “Sorry, babe,” first Keith said guiltily.
“It’s okay,” Jake said softly, filing away the unexpected endearment to cherish later. “I… it’s not just you.” He looked over at the Tommasos, feeling torn between wanting them to leave and never wanting to let them out of his sight.
The Tommasos seemed helplessly clueless on this point. “We don’t know,” one said, “but…” They turned to each other, downing in each other’s gaze almost instantly. “We feel it too,” the other said distractedly. As if unable to resist they dove into a fierce, insatiable kiss, clearly prelude to falling back into the bed on top of each other and doing right there and then.
“Knock it off,” first Keith growled, before Jake could say anything. The Tommasos pulled apart, panting, and lowered their heads contritely. “Sorry,” one said. “Yeah, sorry,” seconded the other.
Jake looked over at the Keiths. Unexpectedly, they were grinning at him. “You thought we were bad, huh?” middle Keith said.
Jake smiled fondly back at them. “I like your kind of bad,” he said, and was rewarded with a spark of lust in both pairs of gorgeous hazel eyes. Man, his dick really needed out of its cage, and making love to his Keiths for hours and hours and maybe a lifetime or two was so much more appealing than brutally nailing the Tommasos to the floor.
Okay, back on track. He tilted his head toward the fuck twins without looking over at them. “They really are different from before?” he asked. He hadn’t been using the all-night café to study, preferring to get all his reading and writing done during the day in the big study hall in the main library building.
The Keiths nodded, then seemed to consider. “They look the same,” first Keith said, “but, like, more.” “Like… you look at them now, and it yanks at your dick,” middle Keith elaborated.
Jake nodded thoughtfully. He dropped his gaze to the camera he’d set in the narrow space between his hot, needy groin and the back of the wooden chair. Setting down his beer, he lifted it up with both hands and considered it carefully.
“Gonna take a selfie?” first Keith asked with studied innocence.
The effect was kind of spoiled by the wolfish grin middle Keith cast at his other self, but Jake already had his number anyway. He gave both of them a shrewd look. “No,” he said firmly, and both Keiths made adorable pouty faces at him. Let’s see what they come up with now to get me to do it, he thought, hiding a smile.
He turned the camera over so that the display was facing him and nudged the menu button to wake up the screen. The thing felt a little less frivolous in his hands than it had mere hours ago. Some years back he’d been doing a high school paper that mentioned chimeras and had come across passing reference to ‘camera’ having the same root, so he’d looked it up and found out whoever said it was dead wrong. It was ‘camera’ and ‘chamber’ had the same root (camera obscura, the original name, meaning ‘dark (or hidden) chamber’); but it still carried the sense of things happening that were hidden and secret, out of sight, no less so now that cameras were digital conversions of light and atmosphere to ones and zeroes. And for all that they were still fallaciously cross-referenced in his head with the chimera’s inexplicable and impossible nature.
He needed to find out what had happened to second Keith and to Cole. And that was only half of it. He needed to find out exactly what this thing was… and why it had come into his life.
The camera’s display was currently showing him a blurry, jostling image of the dresser as he held it before him. He wondered what would happen if he took a picture of the dresser. Would he get two of them? Could he send it to wherever second Keith and Cole had gone? He was so tempted to turn the camera toward the Keiths, just to see their reaction at potentially being duped again, but it was fun enough just to imagine it. He checked the text at the bottom of the screen, hoping for some clues as to what had happened after second Keith had left the dorm room.
There were two indications. In the corner was the familiar numeric value, which he now knew was the duplication factor: 2X. That explained the two Tommasos easily enough, assuming Kelly hadn’t unknowingly changed this value when she’d removed the background. Next to it was another reading, MAG. Jake’s first thought was that this stood for “magnification”, as he’d originally thought the numeric indicator had meant; but this was no ordinary camera, and he’d picked up the camera to try to sort out why Tommaso had not only duplicated but become so much more… more attractive, he thought in a sudden rush of clarity.
“What?” middle Keith said, catching the change in his expression.
Jake looked up at them, eyes wide. “Magnetism,” he said, exhibiting the screen to the other four. “Someone turned on a setting that amplifies your magnetic appeal,” he added to the Tommasos.
Their awed, astonished look was as carnally stimulating as their every other expression so far, making his dick suddenly try to shove right through his pajama bottoms (which were already a little damp near the tip). Jake hastily went back to looking over the phone. “Maybe we should find the off switch for that,” he murmured to the camera. He toggled through the menu and found the saved backgrounds. He flipped through the first few and saw that they were all tourist destinations. If the camera sent people anywhere when they had one of these backgrounds behind them, the simplest thing to assume was that the camera sent them to the place that was being pictured. If the background was the Eiffel Tower, then the person being photographed had to be sent to Paris at the foot of the Tower. It was the only thing that made sense. Jake thought hard, trying to work out any other possible interpretations.
“Keith—the other Keith—he told me you should look at the pictures that have been taken so far,” one of the Tommasos said into the silence. “All of them,” the other emphasized, clearly echoing second Keith’s explicit instructions before he’d gone to never-never.
At this Jake almost looked up at the Tommasos, but he kept his eyes on the camera. Dutifully he pulled up the camera roll and opened the most recent picture. This was a nicely composed shot of Tommaso, the pre-demigod version, in the middle of his empty café; it was spoiled only by the slightly hectic look on the Italian hottie’s face. Jake scrolled back. The pic before it was second Keith, looking sexy and intense in his dark green shirt; behind him was a tropical scene dominated by a fantastic twin waterfall, and the pic looked so real that the lighting on Keith looked like the glowing sunlight of the tropical background instead of the harsh overheads of the café. Before that was shirtless Cole, looking chill and amused, with the same waterfall behind him; he, too, looked bathed in the sun like he was born to it, his impressive pecs casting dark shadows on his upper abs.
“Keith and Cole both went to the same place,” he confirmed, showing the camera around for the others to see before bring it back to examine closely. “The other backgrounds are all real places, and I’m certain this must be too. Keith said ‘tropical paradise’, right? This feels like a Pacific island somewhere.” He bit his lip, pondering everything he knew. “The other backgrounds are all really famous places, like the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. I bet this is too. It won’t be someplace obscure, not if the others are like that.”
“So, like… Guam or something?” middle Keith asked.
“Tahiti? Bora Bora?” first Keith suggested.
“Could even be someplace more obvious, like Hawaii,” Jake mused.
“So—they’re okay?” the Tommasos said together.
Jake offered them a brief smile. “Definitely,” he told them. Their grins were huge and heart-stoppingly beautiful, and it was some relief that they turned them on each other. This had the inevitable result of more kissing, and Jake looked quickly away. He drew in a deep breath, surprised at how relieved he felt. The guys were somewhere real and would probably call once they made their way out of paradise and found a phone, none the worse for wear—though he didn’t hold out much hope for the swift completion of their group physics project.
Remembering that he’d been in the middle of going through the camera roll, he continued on and thumbed to the previous picture. This one he recognized, and seeing it again made him grin broadly: Keith, arms akimbo in a superhero pose, wearing only a towel that deliciously set off his golden skin.
“That’s me, I know it,” first Keith crooned.
“Has to be,” middle Keith agreed smugly. Jake didn’t look up, but he could hear their smirks. He loved it. He wanted to tell them that seeing this pic made his big, heavy cock jump even more than the Tommasos, but then… handing them their victories wasn’t nearly as entertaining.
Jake thumbed to the last pic, and his heart jumped. The picture was very close in, showing only the face and a bit of the orange lockers behind him. It was his jock freshman brother Joe, looking cocky as fuck, and with a lot less reason to be than Jake’s smug but sweet and totally charming roommate. Joe, who he was willing to bet knew more about this camera than Jake had figured out in a single night of misadventures—who might know about features and transformations Jake and the others hadn’t even discovered yet. His asinine kid brother, who might be the key to finding out who made this camera, and why it had come into their lives—because whatever that purpose was, he’d be naïve to assume it was altruistic and benevolent.
He showed the two Keiths, and they nodded in recognition, all three of them studiously ignoring the Tommasos feverishly making out on the other bed. “Guys,” Jake said, “I think we know where we need to go next to get to the bottom of this camera thing.”
Joe looked around at four identical crooked grins and tossed them all one of his own. This was the most audacious thing ever! They’d be talking about it for years—maybe even a decade! “You ready, brahs?”
“You know it,” another Joe said.
“Let’s rock it!” still another said.
“Yeah! Then let’s fuck it!” laughed a fourth.
“You guys want to find a couple guys and get busy after?” Joe asked, knowing the answer.
“Hey, who needs anyone else?”
“Yeah, we can take care of ourselves!”
“Though a hottie or two in between us…”
“Taking on five big Pruett wangs at once!”
“That’s a lot for a hot twink to take,” Joe snickered.
“Yeah, we better get two or three in case we wear ‘em out.”
“Fuck, brahs, don’t get us all boned up!”
“Hey, it’s all right,” Joe said. “A little chub’s part of our intimidation factor. C’mon, brahs, let’s do it!”
They trouped up the ramp in a loose V and stepped into the Vargas Center, the venue for their school’s Division II basketball team, radiating cocky, self-assured arrogance. This… this felt right. This was where he belonged—no where they belonged. Sure, it was a little weird being this tall, and he was still getting used to the feedback loop of five of him all egging each other on—he’d never admit it, but listening to himself he was starting to understand his stick-in-the-mud nerd brother’s disdain at how reckless and impulsive he was. Well, fuck, this was pretty impulsive—and so amazing. And if they’d had to sneak around all afternoon, staying hidden until the moment was right, and if they’d had to swipe these jerseys from the laundry bin when no one was looking… well, who cared? Because this was going to all be worth it.
Coming out onto the court Joe passed a rack of balls and took one. The loud reverberation of his dribbling drew the attention of the team, who were gathered in a group near the paint under the far basket, going over something on a clipboard. Joe didn’t see the coaches, which was all to plan—he’d scheduled this encounter for the players-only midnight practice, a pre-season tradition that went back nearly sixty years. It was just them, and all five of him: tall, strong, and fucking dominant.
They were all looking up at them, staring in visible shock. Joe felt the smirk creep onto his face again. He pounded the ball one more time against the highly polished court surface, loving the sound of sharp, rebounding smack echoing in an otherwise silent arena, then palmed the ball and aimed the full intensity of his crooked grin at the awestruck team.
This was his chance. His stomach fluttered, but knowing there were four more of him standing right behind him—four more improved and augment Joes, stronger and bigger and more awesome like him—gave him a boost of confidence. He’d had the words circling in his head this whole time, and his heart pounded hard as he finally got to say them. “Hey boys,” he said. “What do you say you all step aside… and let us show you how it’s done.”
The guy at the center of the group handed the clipboard off to one of the others and moved forward. Joe recognized him, and his grin faltered just a little, though he propped it up quickly. This was Clyde Cruz, the team captain. He was 6-foot-8 of hard, lithe muscle and serene, unflappable no-shit-from-anyone attitude. Unlike the others, his scruffy-bearded jaw had not dropped open, and his flinty eyes were not filled with stunned wonder. He was walking toward them, staring hard, and only the knowledge of having four Joes literally at his back kept him from giving ground. Well, fuck if he was 6-foot-8—Joe had four inches on him now. All five of him did! He tried to stand as tall and straight as he could, and met Clyde’s stare with every morsel of confidence he had.
Clyde kept coming until he was standing in front of Joe, barely a foot away. Joe was looking down at him now, but it didn’t help as much as he thought it would.
In one swift move Clyde knocked the ball right out of Joe’s hand. It went bouncing away randomly toward the sidelines, each smack sounding even louder than the ones he’d made dribbling his way onto the court. “Hey!” Joe protested, instantly cringing inwardly at how pathetic he sounded. The ball kept making smaller and smaller bounces until it finally rolled against the side of the stands and stopped.
The arena was silent for a moment, then Clyde spoke, and it felt like his voice filled the entire space more effectively than if he’d had a microphone and the use of the stadium speaker system.
“What’d you do to yourself, freshman?” Clyde asked.
This wasn’t quite how he’d expected to be asked—there wasn’t much wonder in that voice, and in fact Joe thought he heard some horror under that steel. Still, he’d prepared an answer, so he said, “I was fruitful… and multiplied.” Then he winced again internally—that didn’t even make sense, and it was obvious as soon as he said it. “Fruitful” didn’t mean the same thing as “made myself seven feet tall and ripped as fuck”. Shit, this was so stupid—!
“How?” Clyde said. One word, and the whole encounter had suddenly slipped completely away from him. Joe just swallowed, staring down at the man dominating him. Clyde’s eyes narrowed. “Just because you somehow managed to do all this to yourself doesn’t mean a damn thing,” he said sternly. “Just because you’re this tall and built doesn’t mean you’ll get to play—it doesn’t even mean you can play worth a damn. I bet you don’t even know how to play now. I bet you suck even worse than you did at tryouts, freshman!”
“Hey—!” Joe protested again weakly. He could feel the other Joes behind him, their quailing palpable at his back. He tried to will them to be strong, but there really wasn’t a psychic connection however much he’d hoped there’d be—and he wasn’t feeling very strong himself.
“Shut it!” Clyde said, and stared down the taller, no-longer-cocky freshman and his clone posse until he’d thoroughly demonstrated who was in control here. Joe realized with dread that the others on the team were filtering up the court to stand behind Clyde, though his eyes stayed riveted on the man who’d undone in a few iron words everything he’d fantasized about forever.
“What did you think would happen, freshman?” Clyde persisted ruthlessly. “Did you think that since there were five of you, you’d just walk in here and take over? And we’d all step back and—wait, you actually said it! You’d ‘show us how it was done’.”
“I—” Joe started to say, though what he would have said he didn’t know.
“And this!” Clyde said, gesturing to the Joe’s crotches. “Guys, check this out. They came up here totally commando, without jocks!” The others started snickering, and he addressed the Joes again. “Like we’d be intimidated by your big impressive dicks, instead of thinking what tools you are for thinking you could actually play basketball with your junk slamming around in your shorts!”
Joe shivered with embarrassment as the others laughed. He couldn’t explain they’d barely been able to get the shorts and jerseys—and he’d only had shoes because he’d been wearing his basketball sneaks with his street clothes when he replicated.
“What dickwads,” sneered Mekhi Salas, one of the forwards.
Clyde fixed his gaze on Joe’s, showing him the same hard, intimidating expression that had made entire opposing teams quiver and fold. “How,” he said again.
Joe shook his head. “Secret,” he said. He felt like he was going to be sick.
Clyde’s eyes bore into him. “A secret that definitely should not be in the hands of—what’d you call them, Khi?”
“Dickwads,” Mekhi repeated, his tone dripping with scorn.
“A secret that definitely should not be in the hands of five moronic dickwads,” Clyde said, as if there could not be a more true statement in the universe. The others murmured agreement.
Joe said nothing. His heart was stuttering and his stomach was full of ice water. He wondered if cutting and running was a good idea at this point, if it wasn’t already too late for that.
“Hey,” Bodie Wall, the other forward, broke in, “wouldn’t the military be really interested in this?”
“Yeah,” said a skinny, pale player whose name Joe didn’t remember. “They’d probably do anything to find out what could make one of their soldiers taller and stronger…”
“And then manufacture ‘em in quantity,” said Bodie, “like—what did they call that army in that Star Wars movie, with all the clones?”
“The clone army?” Mekhi deadpanned.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Bodie grinned. He turned that grin on the Joes, and suddenly it seemed a bit feral. “I bet they’d carve you guys up good to figure that out.”
Joe felt the color drain out of his face. He actually thought he might black out if he didn’t hold it together. Shit, he thought, this is not going like I planned!
“Your choice, freshman,” Clyde said. “Fix the mess you made of yourself… or I’ll make you regret every picking up a basketball.”
Joe rallied as best he could. “When did you become my dad?” he tried to shoot back.
In a lightning motion, Clyde reached up and snatched the fabric of Joe’s jersey in his fist, yanking him down to eye level. “When you walked onto my court and threatened to fuck up my world!” Clyde ground out. “This team and this game mean everything to me, and I will not let tools like you fuck it up!” He pulled him down closer, so they were almost nose to nose. “Now CHOOSE!” he roared.
“I can’t! I don’t know how!” Joe babbled suddenly, all pride gone. “I don’t even have it any more!”
“Don’t have what?” Clyde demanded, eyes blazing.
“The camera!” Joe said in a rush. “I sent it to my brother because I wanted him to get laid!”
There was a quiet pause in which no one spoke. “Dickwads,” Mekhi said finally, sounding disgusted.
Clyde let go of Joe’s jersey, and Joe slowly straightened to his new height. “Does your brother go here?” Clyde asked, in a too-reasonable voice.
“Yes,” Joe said. “Jacob. He’s in South Tower. Room 438. He’s a sophomore. Psych major, you know,” he added, “total nerd.” He said this last with a nervous laugh, like he might still gain points with his fellow jocks.
Mekhi fixed him with a steely glare. “I’m a psych major,” he said coldly. Joe shut up.
“Then I suggest,” Clyde said, still sounding much too calm, “that you and I go pay your brother a visit, and get this idiocy resolved before my head explodes.” His eyes shifted behind Joe and he added, “Bring one of your posse with you, just so Jacob gets the full picture of just how dumb you are—though I suspect he already knows only too well. The rest can stay here where Khi and the guys can keep an eye on them.” To Mekhi he said, “I’ll be back in half an hour.” When Mekhi nodded, Clyde turned without another word and headed for the ramp. Joe considered balking, but it was way too late for that now. He turned over his shoulder to his whey-faced other selves and said to one of them at random, “Come on.” Then he turned and followed Clyde off the court, his other self close behind, neither of them feeling the seven feet of power and pride they’d been saturated with only moments before.
There was one sliver of possibility. Jacob often rolled his eyes at his brother’s reckless antics, but he always stood up for Joe against any outsider. Maybe, just maybe, Jacob could make this all turn out okay… and if he was really lucky, he might get to keep his height and muscle, and maybe an extra Joe or two just for fun? If he could convince Jacob it would be just for laughs and no one would get hurt, and Clyde’s precious world wouldn’t be threatened, wasn’t there was just the faintest outside possibility this would all work out kind of awesome after all?
He straightened his back, and, his fellow self moving up alongside him, he let himself head for his brother’s dorm with just that narrow ray of hope.
Keith clung to the borrowed smart phone in his slightly sweaty hand, and tried not to think about how spread around that name was getting. He hadn’t even gotten used to being the second of three Keiths, and now… now there were two of him. He felt like a science class lesson in mitosis, like he was slowly filling up the world through branch after multiplying branch of Keiths. Except science class usually didn’t involve hot make-out sessions with shirtless hunk-boys and nonstop, aching boners screaming for release. He half-grinned to himself. Well, except that one time.
His doppelgänger had one brawny, honey-gold arm wrapped tightly around their beautiful, ball-churningly hot Zane, and the other loosely drawn more loosely around Keith’s own waist, as if releasing him just slightly from their three-way partnership to contact the outer world for a moment. Beyond him the two Coles were hanging back from the promontory they were standing on, their first real glimpse of the rocky, serrated shore and the wave-striped ocean beyond, and were lazily making out with each other. Keith’s dick twitched. The three of them really needed to be doing that as well, though the kissing part would no doubt quickly give way to other, even more pleasurable activities.
Keith winked at his other self and got a full, radiant grin in response that made his heart flip and his dick pump a fuck’s worth of precum into his already messy shorts. He wondered if his other self was thinking exactly what he was thinking. Maybe not, but he was guessing it wouldn’t be too far off. Ever since this thing with Jacob’s camera he’d been feeling as horny as—well, as Jacob, and Jacob was boned pretty much all the time. Or, he was around him, anyway, or them. He’d known Jacob had been crushing on his sweet, sweat-built body, of course, but he hadn’t quite discerned just how into him Jacob was until the camera thing had happened. He was glad for Jacob that he still had a couple of Keiths to mess with.
He had a half-formed thought that he really shouldn’t be experiencing things separately from the other him he was sharing not only this embrace with, but also this ball-churningly hot kickboxer who’d been instantly mindfucked into total infatuation by whatever allure-undertow upgrade the camera had apparently given both to both Coles and, he guessed, the two Keiths as well. What the hell was up with that? It had to have been the camera, of course, only… well, the first round of duping hadn’t been like that. But then, the first round hadn’t involved a one-way ticket to a verdant tropical idyll, either. The attractiveness level-up must have been another feature that had somehow gotten activated before he’d taken Cole’s picture. Maybe while Keith himself was fucking around with it.
Now he and his fellow Keith were closer, connected by this magnetic attraction they could each feel in each other, and Keith was sharing space willingly and unthinkingly with him, and sharing a beautiful, complicated man whose sultry, demanding kisses, thanks to how they were both woken up, they both craved more than anything else. In fact he and his equally dick-tuggingly overhandsome copy were sharing a whole separate lifeline branch, broken away together in their own tropical excursus from their original chill and easygoing existence; and there was no escaping the unconscious certainty that they were doing so as a unit, that they were so intimately and intricately connected it was like there were iron bonds linking their hearts and souls to each other, united in their need for Zane’s lips and affection and for each other’s presence. He didn’t follow the idea of their connectedness consciously, but he instinctively acted on it, holding the phone out and putting on speaker for his other self and Zane to join on the call with him.
The line was dead silent for a second, and Keith was about to check to see whether the call had dropped before they finally heard his roommate’s loud but crackly voice. “Keith!” Jacob said. “Are you all right?”
“Yep,” Keith assured him. “We’re fine.” Keith knew just how boned Jacob was thinking about the two of them together out here. He didn’t even know the half of it, either.
“We’re more than fine,” the other Keith growled.
There was another short delay, and Keith pictured their hormone-drenched banter bouncing off satellites between here and however many thousands of miles away their campus was. If satellites could talk. “Aw, fuck,” Jacob said finally. He sounded gratifyingly aroused. “Where exactly are you? Is Cole there?”
Keith was still thinking about how much of the traffic handled by comm satellites was hot, sex-laden gayness, and had to take a second to reorient himself. “Uh, we’re on one of the Hawaiian islands,” he answered. “Kauai?” This was to Zane, who nodded. The guy was listening alertly, though at the moment he was staring longingly up at the other Keith. Keith was doing the same with him, as if they were both only waiting politely for him to finish his call before launching into a nonstop mack session.
Keith’s own dick was standing tall and shoving insistently against the waistband of his jeans, just like his twin’s. He already knew Zane was just as hard and was at least as big as Keith, maybe bigger, and he deliberately didn’t look at the rigid, tubular bulge their new lover had along his hip to match the ones the Keiths were sporting.
In fact Zane was hot all over—distractingly hot. Keith looked away deliberately, pinning his gaze on a twisted-looking fig tree near the edge of the little promontory they were standing on. Even with his clothes on Keith could tell the sandy-haired, obsessively athletic kickboxer was heavily muscled and at the same time more cut and defined than the Keiths. Compared to the bigger but more loosely muscled Coles the Keiths seemed sharp and sculpted, but from the looks of things Zane’s body looked like he was laser-cut from living stone with nanodigital precision. Even his sun-browned jawline was keen, smooth, and eminently lickable. With his slightly shorter stature the whole effect came across as subtly but palpably intensified, like the potency of his sexual attractiveness was just that bit more concentrated than guys who weren’t as driven and committed as he was.
Keith forced himself to focus on the call again. “Yeah,” he said. “Kauai. It’s really beautiful here. And Cole’s here too. They’re, uh, also fine.” Very fine, Keith thought, stealing a glance at his hot, newly twinned best bud as they deepened their sensual kiss, their dark, thick arms enveloping each other like they were creating a shared universe within the confines of their embrace.
They were both impossibly bonerific, as much as his own twin—maybe more. The upgrade he and his doppelgänger had gotten in terms of magnetic, arresting beauty had been slathered generously all over both Coles. The camera—fuck, that camera. He’d thought the whole duping thing was erotic as hell, back in the dorm room, but this was into the next county hotness-wise. Jacob would fucking jizz his whole body-weight in cum if he knew.
Then an even more arresting thought struck him. What else could that camera do? For the first time he thought about getting home, but only because he really wanted to see whatever it was the camera could do being done to his horny, eager, and totally adorable roommate. Someone else had clearly felt the same way, he realized—after all, the thing had been sent to him, literally with his name on it, like awesome transformation was being offered up to his nerdily humpy roomie on a platter.
“Fuu-u-uuck,” Jacob said after a second. He heard a rush of noise, like a gust of wind catching the phone’s microphone over the staticky line. Had Jacob headed out? Keith was a little surprised at this. Jacob had seemed pretty wrapped up in the other two Keiths when he’d ducked out with Cole. Maybe something had happened in the interim to make Jacob pry himself away from not one but two iterations of the man of his dreams since Keith had ducked out, trying not to drown in the sex overload flooding the room. How long ago was that? An hour? So much had happened on his end. The fact that he knew it was night there and day here wasn’t helping his sense of temporal continuity.
“That’s just… that’s just… damn,” Jacob was saying, his voice now sounding a little different now that he was outside. “Don’t tell me—you guys are having tons of sex in front of that waterfall right now, right?” he asked.
“Well, at the moment I’m talkin’ to you,” Keith drawled pointedly.
“But not for long,” the other Keith said. He bent his face down toward Zane’s, a kiss only moments away from the Marine-training kickboxer’s parted, ready lips. His other hand was trailing up and down Keith’s obliques, his fingertips only inches away from his iron-hard, leaking cock. Blast it, they were going to start making out right in front of him, only inches away. His heart started thudding in his chest as he watched them, rapt and with his blood heated like he’d never felt in his veins.
Yeah, not for long, Keith silently agreed. He suddenly couldn’t wait to end this call.
“All right,” Jacob said after the slight delay. “We’ll work on figuring out how to get you back.”
Keith thought his other self was becoming progressively engrossed in his stare-down with their waker, but his twin was paying enough attention to toss a distracted “Don’t bother” in the phone’s direction even while still being completely focused on Zane.
Zane nodded, not taking his eyes off the other Keith. “Yeah… don’t bother,” he echoed hoarsely.
“We… may not be coming back, dude,” Keith told his roomie, summing up the trio’s consensus. It also struck him that he really, really didn’t have to. A whole vista of possibilities was slowly opening up before him, as the full import of their having branched off from his old lifeline started to become clear to him. “I mean, I’m already there, right? Two of me!” he told the phone. “So I won’t be missing classes, or anything.” He was starting to get excited. He and Keith and Zane—a whole new life in Hawaii! Or any future they wanted. The realization that had been brewing over the last few minutes, that he was now not only different from the original Keiths, but completely independent and with his own trajectory, sizzled through him now like a lightning bolt. He was a whole new Keith! Him and the other whole new Keith. He was thrilled and amused all at once.
Then Jacob threw him a curve. “Yeah, you’re here,” came the crackly response over the phone, “but Cole’s not, right?”
Keith blinked. “Shit,” Keith said. “You’re right.” Automatically he glanced over his other self’s sculpted shoulder at the two Coles, deep in their smooch session. Cole was actually supposed to be studying for their shared, all-important physics project (Keith was too, but he figured that was now the problem of the Keiths who were actually back home and on campus); instead they were half a world away, thanks to Keith. Though Cole was also making out with his own super-hot clone thanks to him, so there was plenty of consolation.
Then Keith grinned. “Hey,” he said to the phone, “how about this? You could overnight us the camera, and then we could send a Cole or two back your way!” He was pretty sure he was joking, but… it was an interesting thought, definitely. And the twins would get to stay here and maybe share a few of those kisses once in a while…
“Hot,” the other Keith agreed in a murmur, just before his lips melded with Zane’s in a smoking-hot kiss. Keith felt a huge surge of arousal and pleasure flooding through him. Fuck, was that just from seeing them, or was he feeling some of the other Keith’s arousal, like a shared-sensations twin thing? Some experimentation was definitely in order on that front.
“Okay, that’s Plan B,” Jacob said, sounding amused. “But I think…” His words slowed, then after a pause he said doubtfully, “Hang on, there’s some really tall people heading right for me. I’ll call you back, okay?”
Keith heard another voice over the scratchy line, sounding small and distint, like it was some ways away from the phone. “That’s him,” it said.
They then heard other low, overlapping voices, closer to the phone but whispered and indistinct, though Keith thought some of them sounded familiar. “Who are those guys?” one hissed. “Hey, Jake, isn’t that your—?” muttered another. “Fuck, that’s Clyde Cruz!” “Who?”
After that came a new voice, this one deep and rough. “You Jake?” it said, sounding angry. Then the line disconnected.
Keith frowned at the phone, then at the other Keith, who had broken the kiss at the sound of Jacob being accosted like that. Keith met his dupe’s concerned gaze. He’d always used his size and confidence to put people at ease so they knew they could count on him, and Jacob in particular was special to him, someone he wanted to be able to rely on him. His gut reaction was to be there for Jacob, and it killed him to think he was practically on the other side of the planet. Zane looked between them, attentive to his shift in mood for all the arousal evident in his darkened, commanding eyes.
Then a smile blossomed on the other Keith’s face, almost exactly coincident with the one stretching his own, and Keith knew that this time, at least, they were definitely thinking exactly the same thing. He didn’t have to feel guilty about not being there for Jacob. He was there for Jacob. Twice over!
All at once immensely relieved, Keith moved in toward his men, sliding the borrowed phone into the back pocket of Zane’s sexy shorts as he did so. The other Keith obligingly drew him in tighter for the same wonderful embrace he’d been sharing with Zane. Keith turned to Zane and offered him his own wide, feral grin, as if to signal their lover that the two of them were all his again. He slid his strong arms around them both.
“Everything okay at home?” Zane said, wanting to make sure, though he was already half-devouring Keith with his eyes. He quirked a languid half smile. “Anyone’s butt I gotta kick?”
“I got it covered,” Keith said. Then, before his dupe could resume his previous activities Keith dove in for his own deep, immensely satisfying Zane-kiss. The other Keith, no sore loser, went to work on Keith’s bared, sensitive neck. They lost a bit of time sharing more intense please just from necking than Keith had known before today.
“Unnh, I can’t wait to get you guys on my motorcycle,” Zane murmured into the sensitive skin just below Keith’s ear.
“There’s room for all three of us?” Keith said before the other Keith could. He managed to say it as quickly as possible between deep, hot tongue-fucks of other Keith’s very willing mouth.
“Mmm,” Zane said, moving his lips up to Keith’s earlobe and tracing the edge with his tongue. Keith’s already too-hard cock jolted with sudden violent need. “No,” Zane was saying. “I just want to see you two on it.”
They pulled back and looked at each other for no more than a second. Then as one they went for each other again, each feverishly kissing the other two almost at random as their muscled arms worked together to clench them all as close as could be, their bodies pressed together ankles to foreheads and their cocks bucking like mad bulls in the ring. The three of them clustered tight together like that, riding the very edge of orgasm, for several minutes before reluctantly pulling back.
“Okay, either we fuck right here in the middle of the jungle, right now,” other Keith panted, echoing Keith’s own sentiments in that moment, “or we need to find a bed, or a desk, or a gym mat where we can fuck.”
Somewhere behind them amid the low buzzing of insects a strange bird screeched, as if to say, Go ahead, but you’ll have an audience!
Zane looked between them, clearly sharing their combination of arousal, amusement, and impatience. “Depends,” he said, like a man used to laying out the necessary facts. “I’m all for a fuck, and immediately if not sooner, but…” He looked the two of them over, still with the crooked smile, momentarily distracted, before steadying his expression. Keith grinned. Zane was a take-charge guy, Keith could tell—a risk-taker, like Keith, but responsible about it, too. Total alpha. Fucking hot. He’d been looking forward to Jacob taking charge of things, but this was just as good, and Zane was not only ripped and badass but the one both of them instinctively craved on top of it thanks to their kissy wake-up by the waterfall. He didn’t want to be anywhere he couldn’t see that handsome face, and those dark lips he longed to kiss already (even though he’d just been doing that very thing), and—wow, those eyes. Steely hard, and full of infinite desire and affection. So goddamned hot!
They listened avidly, million-dollar smiles on both their faces, as Zane spoke. “You guys are already going to be toasted red as fuck,” their stacked kickboxing lover said, looking between them with a you-know-I’m-right look on his face. He was right, of course—they were well exposed up here to the tropical Hawaiian sun, which was still blazing high over the dark blue Pacific horizon. The hour or more before sunset was plenty of time to fry their skin. Even if they went into the jungle these weren’t the right kind of trees to give a lot of shady canopy. “That goes double for your buddies over there with the no shirts, no shoes, no problem policy going on.” A twinkle and a slight shift of his brow almost made Keith want to swoon. “And,” he continued, “I don’t think you want to suburn those big, fat dicks of yours up here,” he added, though the thick, intoxicating possessiveness for the Keiths that Zane was obviously coming to terms with was discernable even under his sarcasm.
Keith figured there was a joke in there about getting his tool red for other reasons, but for once he held back. Instead he called out, “Yo! Pretty Boy!”
Breaking free of their very hot kiss, the two Coles turned together and looked over at him in a single, identically mirrored motion. Their brows even lifted at the same time, his usual reaction to Keith, of all people, teasing him about his looks. This time, though, it nearly took Keith’s breath away. Unable to speak, Keith just nodded in the direction of the trail, and the Coles give him matching, pulse-tripping grins.
With great reluctance they all untangled themselves just enough to be able to start their descent again, both Keiths flanking Zane and the two Coles following hand in hand behind them. As Keith adjusted himself with the hand not around Zane’s waist, he tried not to think about just how far away that bed, or indoor surface of any kind, might be.
This was going to be a very long hike.
This was nothing like looking in the mirror. He’d seen these eyes in the mirror literally countless times in his life, and he’d never before wanted to spend an eternity staring into them, drunk on the unpatterned beauty of delicate light and dark swirls radiating out from the pupil like the fine wisps of a blue nebula caught in the moment of its first formation. All the video games he spent his off-hours playing tried so hard to get the characters’ eyes to be potent and compelling, but they were like baubles of blue glass next to these fierce, spine-stroking, fathomless eyes that stared up into his own, endlessly adorable and perfectly arresting.
And this face. He’d seen his own face before, too, and he had even on occasion let himself think that he might be classed as attractive—if it was by someone who was generous enough not to include the too-perfect jocks like that Tennessee hunk, Keith Hood, or his seemingly always shirtless half-Asian buddy he was always palling around with. Tommaso’s gamer followers on Twitch and YouTube sometimes fell into gush sessions about his Italian good looks, comparing him to movie stars and urging him to try his hand at modeling or full-on social media stardom, but that was just internet stuff. None of it was real. This, though. Every line of the face below him—nose, cheekbones, jawline, even the dark eyebrows he thought he’s hated—made his heart thump a little bit faster. Usually when he was alone with himself—ha, and that would never mean the same as it had before—Tommaso’s hands were itching for a controller whenever he wasn’t already holding one. Right now, though, his thumbs wanted nothing more that to slide along the gentle escarpment of his cheekbones, and the backs of his fingers yearned to brush along the midnight stubble flowering along his sweetly firm jawline.
His eyes fell to his lips, and as his other self did the same a surge of heady arousal plowed through his every cell and sinew. He felt the same rush course through the other Tommaso’s long, lean body below him, and their large, painfully rigid cocks pulsed into each other’s hips through two layers of jeans as though nothing were truly between them. He was filled with want at all the contact, but his lips held his mind, permitting no other thought or desire. These lips. His lips. More than anything else, it was like he’d never truly seen them before. Full and dark red as though stained with his great-uncle’s vino dolcetto, slightly swollen from the unknown oubliette of time they’d just spent snogging in every way he and his other self could discover, those sweet lips pulled at him, drawing their mouth toward each other with a force as strong as the gravity that pressed their bodies and cocks together on the bed. He huffed a breath, resisting only so that he could stare at them a little longer, and his other self did the same. A subtle hint of his—their—gently spiced, flesh-warmed cologne filled his nostrils, rooting his awareness of his other self in multiple sensory dimensions.
His other self licked his lips, exposing just the tip of the long, talented tongue he had been enjoying only moments before, and Tommaso felt another crazy surge of wanton desire flood through him. His massive dick flexed and pushed into the flesh below him even as his other self’s equally raging erection did the same to him.
Their eyes met, and a thought struck him. He wondered if the other Tommaso was thinking it too. It seemed like if they were this alike, there might be some way for their minds to connect with each other. He held his other self’s intoxicating gaze for a moment, willing their consciousnesses to brush and overlap if that was possible, but those blue eyes were so mesmerizing he lost track of the effort and spoke his desire aloud instead. “We should fuck,” he said softly.
The other Tommaso nodded, his gentle, easy smile making sunshine bloom inside him and automatically eliciting one of his own. The other him felt it too. They needed release, for sure, both of them, but it was more than that. They were pressed hard together, and Tommaso could feel every centimeter of his other self’s lanky, defined body from his strong chest to his shins and the bare feet they were brushing together—the only parts of themselves they’d managed to get naked as they’d fallen into the bed on top of each other, kicking off their boots with a quick succession of four thumps as they made out like teenagers. They were as close as they could be, but Tommaso craved being even closer, and the only way he could even imagine that being possible was for him to be inside his other self, or his other self to be inside of him. As soon as the thought came to him it became an imperative, as necessary as the kissing he was barely staving off. He needed both like food and drink—like air and sunshine and existence itself.
His other self must have been thinking along the same lines, because he said, “Can we kiss while we do it?”
Tommaso’s smile widened just slightly, and his other self’s did the same, warming him all over. They were pretty flexible, in ways that Tommaso had enjoyed even when he was alone. He didn’t need to even say it. Telepathy wasn’t needed after all, he thought wryly. Instead he said, “Let’s get naked.”
The way the other Tommaso’s intense blue eyes blazed at those words nearly made him cum before they even started. Unable to resist he dove in for one more soul-searing kiss before they each started working at hauling every stitch of clothing off of each other. Tommaso wondered distractedly as raised his arms so his hoodie could be pulled off along with the black tee shirt underneath it if he’d be able to find lube somewhere in the room, then he remembered where he was and grinned.
The other Tommaso stilled in the act of pulling up the shirt and hoodie from his waist and drew in a breath, seemingly taken in by Tommaso’s smile. “What?” he breathed, then whipped off the shirt and hoodie in one go, exposing Tommaso’s firm, hairy chest.
“I was just wondering about lube,” Tommaso said. “Then I remembered we were in Keith Hood’s room.”
Then the other mop-haired, mesmerizingly handsome Tommaso smirked too, and Tommaso got a taste of his own medicine. His heart pounded hard, and his big, steel-hard cock strained to rip free of its denim prison. “He’s probably got a drawer full of lube and condoms,” his other self said, before abruptly leaning forward and stealing a long, tongue-dancing kiss.
Lucky us—we only need the lube, Tommaso thought as he melted into the kiss, wrapping his bare arms around his other self’s lanky but still hoodie-clad torso. The urgency with which he needed them both to be naked forced him to break the kiss, then, grabbing the bottoms of his other self’s shirt and hoodie in his fists, he yanked the clothing off his doppelgänger before their lips were more than a few centimeters apart. They stared at each other, breathing hard, then almost as one dropped their eyes to each other’s jeans. He started working the other’s button as his other self did the same, fumbling with the unaccustomed awkwardness of undoing his own pants from an entirely new perspective and vantage. He got the button he was working on free a second after his other self got his own loose, and they pulled down the zippers in unison, exposing and freeing two wide, flat, damp-tipped erections that seemed to swallow every single iota of his sensory perception.
His sight and sense of smell were engulfed by the allure of his other self’s huge, beautiful dick, and his mouth longed to taste it. Fuck—the prospect of bringing all of his own delicious cock into his mouth for the first time ever made him shudder with desperate hunger, and his other self did the same. But there was an even greater need consuming them both.
“Fuck first,” the other Tommaso whispered, even as he was thinking it.
He nodded, meeting his other self’s eyes again and once more almost falling into them. They needed to fuck, now. “Fuck first, then shower together,” he agreed. Then, with just the slightest of crooked grins, he added, “Then sixty-nine all night.”
“Fuck,” the other Tommaso gasped quietly, his blue eyes shining. “I think you mean, ‘sixty-nine forever’.”
They smiled, then fell into a hot, urgent kiss, hugging their bare, heated torsos together at last. Tommaso felt fully intoxicated with all-consuming lust and loved the sensation totally and with no reservations. He knew there were a million things he wasn’t thinking about, couldn’t think about, and he could only hope that once his—their—towering, insistent need for each other was temporary slaked they’d be able to fall back in the bed and lazily, laughingly sort through the stuff of their transformed existence. Like the live feed he’d finally scheduled for the morning in a gap between papers and projects where he was supposed to play through Heaven’s Axe 3. Should they both go on? Fuck yeah, his followers would go nuts. And—classes? Shifts at work? Walking around on campus, hand-in-hand and occasionally smooching? Skyping back home together to mamma and zia in their little Palermo suburb was as easy a “no” as the Twitch feed was a “yes”, and the other stuff would sort it self out like that, too.
It didn’t matter. What mattered was these lips, pressed against his own. This tongue, wrestling with his. These strong arms, holding him close, as he embraced his lover, his other self, pressing him close. This was who he was, himselves kissing and making love, and the world he lived in was now this world, a world with this kiss and this love-making as its center and fulcrum. Tommaso had seen and explored a lot of fantastic universes in his games and books and the shows and movies he loved, and he knew without doubt that there was no better world than this.
“I wonder what Tommaso’s up to back in the room,” Keith said airily as they headed into the lamplit plaza between the north dorms. He said it just to see Jake roll his eyes, and sure enough, his shaggy-haired, bespectacled, altogether adorable roomie did exactly that. Keith’s clone-bro, Third Keith (or, as Keith liked to think of him, Sandwich Keith), snorted a laugh.
Jake slowed abruptly as they drew to the center of the plaza, his cell buzzing audibly in the pocket of the light blue windbreaker he’d donned before heading. He pulled out his phone, frowning at an apparently unfamiliar number before cautiously answering. “Hello?”
Keith turned and noticed that his clone-bro had wandered a few steps away, and was staring up at the looming brutalist dormitories that ringed the plaza. It was well past midnight on a cool and windy Wednesday night—Thursday morning now, technically—but there were still a few people about, and half the lights in the dorm windows were lit, like rectangular stars in an academic sky. Overhead the real sky was mostly obscured by a wide, thin raft of barely seen clouds, though they seemed to be booking across the black like they had places to be and seemed likely to depart as swiftly as they arrived. A handful of stars, bolder than the others, twinkled down at them, blurring and blinking out as the clouds scudded past only to return as bright as ever a few moments later.
His clone-bro had his back to him, and Keith took a moment to admire his own magnificent ass before moving in behind him, pressing himself to the other’s back and wrapping his arms around him. His clone-bro, he knew, wanted nothing more than to be held tightly between Keith himself from behind and Jake from the front, since that was how he’d been woken. They both needed Jake’s touch, but this was nice for each of them, and his clone-bro grabbed his arms in his crossed hands and released a quiet, contented breath.
“Something on your mind, bro?” he said into the other Keith’s ear, his voice low and saucy. For punctuation he pushed his swelling crotch into his other self’s hard, round bubble butt. His clone-bro gave another laugh, then sighed.
“You don’t… mind having me around, do you?” the other Keith said quietly. He quickly shifted to a joking tone. “I mean obviously I’m awesome to look at,” he went on with his patented faux arrogance, “and I’m a pretty good kisser, of course, but…” He trailed off, waiting for Keith’s reaction.
It didn’t take him long to figure out what his clone-bro was thinking. Keith came across as a bit of a player, but that had been mostly marking time, and maybe a bit of trying to impress his besotted roommate, though he reckoned Jake knew the score about him pretty early on—Keith wasn’t that complicated, at least to his own way of thinking. Now that everything was out in the open, though, it was all Jake, and at heart Keith was a romantic. He wanted one-on-one forever love, like his dads. Only… tonight his heart was telling him, loud and clear, that forever love didn’t have to stop at two partners.
He wondered if his clone-bro was hearing the same thing from his heart. Keith held him tighter, feeling his clone-bro’s warm, muscular body through the heavy red sweatshirt his clone had pulled on before heading out with Jake. He’d climbed into one too, but not the same one, and it felt faintly strange that they weren’t dressed alike. He remembered the tripled towel and momentarily wished he’d been wearing more when they’d been duped, then he quickly discarded the idea. Waking up in a towel to Jake’s hands on his bare skin was not something he could ever want to have happened differently.
“He wants both of us,” he assured his other self, pressing his cheek against his clone-bro’s neck.
The other Keith lowered his head slightly. “Yeah, but…” He paused. “You’re the first, you know?” he said. “You should have the chance to be with him.”
Keith blinked in shock. He knew that he and his clone-bros might have the same brains and experience, even if they’d been woken up differently, but this was the first real proof that their thoughts weren’t all running in parallel. Well—no, the real give-away on that score had been the second Keith bolting with Cole the moment their chill and perennially shirtless buddy had shown up. Only a few minutes into the world, and that Keith was already seeking his own destiny. Now this one, too, was glimpsing a distinct future, separate from him, maybe separate from Jake, love or no love. It seemed there was something about his own personality that made him seek individuality, even amongst his own clones.
No fucking way, Keith thought. This wasn’t happening. He stepped back and grabbed the other’s shoulder, turning his reluctant clone to face him, then grasped his upper arms firmly. “Look at me,” he said. When the hazel eyes met his he said firmly, “There is no original, bro, and there’s no first. You and I are equal.”
Other Keith’s eyes narrowed slightly. “You were first out,” he insisted. Keith saw in his eyes what he didn’t say—that he had been the last of the three. “You should be the one to—”
“Keith, dude,” Keith broke in. “We’re equal. We weren’t copied off an original, we were made into three Keiths. Like triplets. Even better, because twins and trips do that whole stupid ‘I’m three minutes older’ thing.” Of course, that was kind of what the other Keith was doing, he realized, talking about coming out last, so he pushed past the analogy and repeated, “Equal. We are equal.”
Sandwich Keith sighed. “I know,” he said. “But… you should still have the shot…” He kept his eyes on Keith’s, seeking something in Keith’s eyes.
Keith thought he understood. The rationality of a situation didn’t always assuage your fears. Keith remembered that time when he was a kid and his dads had taken him to the Grand Canyon. They’d gone out on that glass skywalk that juts out over the canyon, and for all that Keith had known it was safe, and had reasoned with himself that millions of people walked on it and didn’t plunge screaming into the abyss, it had still taken him ten long minutes to swallow his fear and stiffly walk out onto the deck to meet his smiling dads. He and his clone-bro both needed to grok this situation, and they needed to do it together.
His gripped his clone-bro tighter. “Think of it this way,” Keith said, suddenly inspired. “You take a pizza, okay? Take it out, lay it in the box, cut it in three pieces. Which of us is first, or third? We’re all slices of delicious, cheesy pizza together.” And Jake wants to eat both of us, he was going to add, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it aloud. Maybe the other Keith caught the implication anyway.
“You got the cheesy part right,” the other Keith said archly… but he was smiling. He paused for a heartbeat, looking away, then met Keith’s eyes again. “You sure?” he asked more seriously, one final time. Keith knew his other self wasn’t asking about the clone pecking order thing anymore—he was asking about sharing Jake.
“He wants both of us,” Keith said again, grinning now. He couldn’t wait to get Jake between them. “We’re in this together.” He squeezed his clone-bro’s upper arms again. “Hey, bro, you been working out? You arms are amazing!”
“I know, right?” the other Keith replied, adopting a cocky smirk, but his expression was warm and kind of fond. Impulsively they drew together into a kiss, and Keith didn’t even know which of them moved first. They deepened the kiss together too, twining their strongly muscled arms sinuously around each other, eventually only breaking free for a bit of air.
“Italian hotties got nothin’ on us,” Keith said playfully, holding the other Keith close. His dick was rock hard, and so was his other self’s. He mashed his lustily against its clonely counterpart.
“Fuck yeah,” his clone-bro said. “Keiths rule!”
Keith felt himself smiling lopsidedly. It was kind of shocking how much this aligned with what he’d always kind of wanted. It was unbelievably narcissistic, of course, except for the fact that the thing that was truly missing from this moment was Jake, sharing their emotions and their tower arousal. Grinning back at his hunky, boyish, and ludicrously handsome other self, he blurted, “I love… me.”
He rolled his eyes. He’d switched out the pronoun at the last second to make it a joke, unable to actually be that colossally corny. But it felt good to say, anyway. He knew Cole would be laughing right now if he were here, and saying things like, “You two are so Keith”.
But Other Keith was beaming at him. Very soberly, he replied, “I love me too,” then broke into a shit-eating grin that Keith had to kiss away.
They were only making out for a few minutes when a strange voice approaching from the main part of campus intruded into their little Keithfest. “That’s him,” the voice said. The two Keiths broke their kiss and turned to look first toward Jake, who still had his phone to his ear, and then in the direction Jake was looking where three guys in the college’s basketball togs—very tall, impressively muscled, and definitely unhappy—were striding directly toward them.
Instead, Jake met the steely gaze of the elegantly sculpted Titan identified by one of the Keiths as “Clyde Cruz”. He’d said it in a way that suggested Jake should know the name, too, so it was easy to guess, based on his stature and attire and his name recognition factor with Keith, that this Clyde person was very likely the school’s star basketball player. Probably the captain, as everything about him exuded command and an expectation of respect—though Jake had a strong sense that this last came from real talent and presence and not the empty arrogance of a cocky wannabe, like certain brothers he could name.
Jake sensed the two Keiths moving behind him and taking up positions of support, mirroring the newcomers’ wedge formation. It was kind of funny to picture, since Jake was the taller of the three of them, but he appreciated the backup.
Clyde’s superior stature didn’t really intimidate him. Jake was taller than a lot of the people he hung out with, his honey-skinned Adonis roommate included, and he found it to be an interesting shift of realities whenever he encountered someone who had even more of a height advantage. Usually, in fact, it was more of a turn-on than anything. This guy, Clyde, looked like he had a good five inches on him, and—judging by the long-limbed muscle—a good fifty pounds. That was more usual—lots of people had weight on Jake, who’d been lean and tight his whole life and couldn’t put on muscle weight if he tried.
Peripheral vision was trying to tell him the two Joes were taller still, maybe all of seven feet. Of course. Jake could easy picture his hare-brained, intensely competitive brother, given control of his height at last, shooting for a round number like seven feet rather than anything reasonable or practical. Until today, Jake had always had two solid inches on Joe, and despite this still putting Joe at a good 6’1” by the time he’d gotten his full height Jake was mostly convinced that his brother’s ongoing obsession with basketball and working out was an attempt to prove to himself that being the shorter of the two of them didn’t matter. Even the randy, serial twink-fucker behavior that had emerged over the last year or so seemed like a trumpeting of his relative manliness. Joe’s gifting the camera to Jake must have seemed like a sop for his nerdy, obviously fuck-deprived older brother, like making sure he got some too meant that it was a real competition Joe was winning. A shut-out meant a lot less to some people than a game where the other side was trying hard, had even managed to get on the board, and then had been decisively and definitively blown away.
His brother really was the worst. And yet… despite all the annoyances he’d experienced over the last decade as a result of his having had such an immature sibling, in one respect Jake felt a debt of gratitude toward him. After all, figuring out his brother’s admittedly mostly transparent motivations and behaviors at a relatively early age had been one of Jake’s first inklings that he might have a knack for psychology.
And now there were two seven-foot-tall muscle Joes in mismatched basketball gear. Textbook. Absolutely textbook.
At another level Jake was allowing himself a sliver of amusement that the actual reality of Joe gaining control over and changing his height by most of a foot wasn’t itself shocking or amazing, not anymore. Not after a night where he’d tripled his searingly hot roommate, encountered a duped pair of Italian student baristas, and fielded a phone call from Hawaii where Keiths and Coles were apparently proliferating and flourishing as though a colony of his life had been planted on a distant world and was already building its own, independent future. And… not the least bizarre of all the things to happen to him, the school’s basketball hero having tracked him down and wanting to talk to him. Him, Jake Pruett, whose only regular contact with athleticism had until recently been being forced to handle his brother’s rancid workout gear whenever it was Jake’s turn to do laundry.
So, yeah. The height and muscles thing that had happened to Joe, along with the duping: that was no longer shocking. The main revelation stemming from Joe’s evident transformation was that the camera clearly had still more going on with it than he’d already discovered in the course of one busy night.
Which was… intriguing. Very intriguing.
Jake had a sudden urge to leave the convo with the fire-breathing Clyde to the much more extroverted Keiths and retreat to his room to map out all of the hidden screens and functions on the strange device in his pocket. Then he remembered that the two mutually distracted and very infatuated Tommasos were probably getting freaky on his bed at this very moment. He sighed. Well, he had come out here to find Joe and get some information out of him, one way or another. All the better that Joe had come to him, and funnier still that he was being towed in the wake of someone else who’d been on the receiving end of Joe’s peculiar talent for infuriation.
“So. You know these idiots?” Clyde asked, glowering down at him and shifting his weight, evening out his balance. He seemed pale in the false light of the high-intensity gas discharge lamps used in the plaza, but so did the two Joes, and Jake knew Joe was almost as dark as he was. Clyde’s dark, buzzed hair made a stark contrast to his brothers’ longish, loose chocolate-brown hair, which the breeze was moving around and occasionally tossing in their faces. A small, square silver stud in Clyde’s left ear caught the plaza lights.
Jake spared a glance at his cloned and upgraded brothers. The sullen defiance was still there, but he recognized a hint of something doleful and contrite in the way both Joes were looking at him. As usual, Joe had fucked up, and now it was the big brother’s job to fix everything. Not for the first time Jake was tempted to disclaim all knowledge of his persistently rash and foolhardy sibling, but he didn’t have it in him to actually do it. Plus, whatever had happened to Joe was something he needed to know, starting with where the camera in his windbreaker pocket had come from in the first place. “I sometimes wish I didn’t,” he said instead. He offered a hand. “Jake Pruett.”
The two Joes snickered. “‘Jake’,” one said, trading amused looks with the other behind Clyde’s back, like kids in the rear pew whispering and making fun of the pastor. Which proved that the thing that had kick-started the “Jake” business in the first place, Joe writing “JAKE PRUETT” on the mysterious package he’d evidently left for him with the camera in it, had been part of the joke. Like, nerdy big brother Jacob could never actually be a “Jake”, or get laid without help—maybe not without duping himself with a selfie.
The joke was on the Joes, though, because when Keith had picked up on the nickname and started using it, it had been out of affection and even respect. Jake gave them both a blistering look, and to Jake’s gratification they lowered their heads like chastened puppies.
“Clyde Cruz,” the taller man responded, taking his hand in his own larger mitt and shaking briefly. He was already saying the name like it was a buzzword, an idea, like he was transitioning from a guy named Clyde who played basketball to Star Athlete Clyde Cruz. Jake wished him luck dealing with that. For all he’d just met him Jake had no doubt that Clyde had earned his growing fame, and with that came a sudden and perfect understanding of exactly why someone like Clyde would be enraged by someone like Joe.
“Dickwad A, here, tells me you know something about how this clusterfuck might have happened,” Clyde said, thumbing over his left shoulder at the Joe that stood there. Both Joes raised their eyebrows, registering slight surprise that Clyde had kept track of which one of them was which, and Jake was impressed for his part, too. He reckoned that closely monitoring the people around you was probably a valuable skill on the court. Behind him, Jake heard at least one of the Keiths huff a silent laugh, presumably at the word “clusterfuck” and all the extra meaning it might have recently acquired for them.
Jake responded to Clyde’s implied question with a nod, waiting to hear more.
“He also said you might be able to do something about it,” Clyde continued. His tone of voice conveyed that it was very important that Jake act on this capacity if he did indeed possess it, so that Clyde might rid himself of the Joe Problem at the earliest possible juncture.
Jake allowed a slow, malicious smile to spread across his face. “Did he now,” he said, shifting his gaze pointedly first to “Dickwad A”, who looked properly chagrinned but didn’t look away this time, then to “Dickwad B”, who glanced at his clone (who’d evidently done all the talking) before returning Jake’s stare, his expression slightly more plaintive.
Clyde, meanwhile, seemed unimpressed by Jake’s theatrics. “Can you do something about it?” he pressed.
Jake deliberately kept his gaze on “Dickwad B”. “Is that what you want?” he asked him. Clyde stepped to one side, leaving Jake face-to-face with the two Joes. Jake kept his gaze on “Dickwad B”, who nodded fervently. Fuck, Joe must really feel like he messed things up this time. He’d have to get the whole story later.
Jake looked back at “Dickwad A”. “The height and muscles too?” he asked.
Joe scrunched his nose. “No,” he replied incredulously, one eyebrow up and his mouth in a little sneer, like Jake was an idiot for asking.
Jake hardened his look. “You realize I could send you both to Tibet with one click of a button,” he said ominously, patting the zipped up windbreaker pocket where he’d stowed the little camera. God, to have actual leverage over his brother was always a gift. Usually all he had to rely on was having half a brain, and not thinking with his dick.
Although, when it came to that, thinking with his dick had kind of jump-started his own adventures that night, so maybe he shouldn’t be feeling quite so smug.
Joe wiped his expression clean. “Uh, no… thanks?” Joe amended. Behind him, the Keiths chuckled, and the Joes shot them a sour look.
Jake nodded once. He was actually slightly relieved. He had a good idea how to reverse the duplication, but as he hadn’t even known the camera had any growth features like the ones his brother had manifestly made use of he didn’t have a clue as to how they might be reversed.
“There’s three more of him back at the arena,” Clyde said casually. “I just brought these two for show and tell.”
Jake turned and gaped at Clyde, then rounded on the two Joes. “What?!” he exclaimed. Astonishment quickly gave way to fury. “What the fuck did you do to yourself?” he bellowed.
Both Joes quailed. Comically, even though they both had a good nine inches on him and the difference in muscle weight between him and them was enough to create an actual person, they stepped back from him, alarmed and defensive. “We just… we just wanted…” one of them said.
But it had already clicked for Jake. “You just wanted to be a basketball team,” he scoffed, stepping forward. They took another step back. He followed. “You just wanted to create your own little world where there was no one but you,” he said. His anger stoked as he easily imagined what must have happened to bring Clyde out here in the middle of the night, hunting him down. Five Joes barreling onto the court and intending to take it over, with no thoughts of what that would actually mean for Joe or for anyone else. Cloning himself, growing himself, that was one thing. But here was Joe acting once again like the world existed for him to goof around in—no matter how many times that very behavior bit him in the ass.
Jake’s face felt hot and tight. He was so tired of having an eighteen-year-old brother that acted like he was twelve. Fuck, even the twelve-year-olds he knew were better at thinking ahead. “When will you get your heads out of your asses?” he asked. Impulsively he reached up and shoved them both in the chest. Thanks to their size and muscle and Jake’s relative lack of upper body strength this accomplished exactly nothing. But the two Joes were so abashed and guilty that they took another step backward from him, and the one on Jake’s right caught his heel on something and toppled to the plaza paving stones with a yelp. He landed awkwardly on his ass, hands splayed behind him to hold him up.
He stared up at Jake, and Jake felt his own rush of nauseated shame. He’d wanted to chastise his brother, but he hadn’t meant to humiliate him.
Just as Jake was about to apologize and reach out a hand to help him up, a knot of three tough-looking students materialized out of the darkness, halting as they crossed the plaza and positioning themselves to one side between Jake and the Joe twins. They eyed Jake and the three strong-looking, obvious jocks behind him, then looked down at the Joe that had fallen on his ass. “Everything okay here?” one of them asked the prostrate brother warily.
“Yeah, yeah,” Joe assured them. “It’s okay. It’s my—”
“I’m sorry,” Jake said, still feeling sick. He went ahead and offered the hand down to his brother, and Joe let Jake pull him up. Then Jake surprised himself by pulling Joe into a hug. “I’m sorry, bro,” he said into Joe’s chest. He closed his eyes for a second. “I mean… I’ve got no room to judge. I kinda did some stupid stuff with the camera, too.” He released Joe, registering his surprised look, which flicked up to the two Keiths behind him in sudden understanding.
“Not that stupid,” one of the Keiths objected genially.
“Not stupid at all,” the other confirmed.
Jake smiled and tossed a “Shut up” over his shoulder.
Joe broke into a knowing grin as Jake turned and hugged the other Joe, too. “I’m sorry,” Jake said again.
“We’re good here,” Clyde told the three strangers, and they nodded and went on their way, disappearing into the midnight gloom.
“So… can you fix us?” the second Joe, “Dickwad B”, said with an awkward grin, looking down at him from their embrace.
Jake released him. “Definitely not,” he said with a laugh, stepping back.
“Can you fix… this?” the first Joe said, giving him a chastised smile he knew only too well. “As usual?”
For an answer, Jake turned to Clyde. “Lead the way, and I’ll get these doofuses out of your hair once and for all,” he said.
Clyde smiled tiredly. “You manage that and I’ll get you season passes for you and your two boyfriends here,” he said, jerking his thumb at the Keiths.
Before Jake could demur both Keiths said “Done!” in unison and were shaking Clyde’s hand. Clyde just shook his head in wry amusement and started walking. The two Joes followed silently, lost in thought for once.
Jake fell in behind them a pace or two back, the two Keiths joining him on either side.
“‘Boyfriends’,” one of them said. He sounded like he was teasing, but when Jake looked over at him, he saw that he was watching Jake closely. Jake just winked, and Keith broke into a huge, smug grin. “Bo-o-o-yfriends!” he said again, this time in a triumphant sing-song. He exchanged a happy glance with the Keith on other side.
Jake looked at that Keith, who was beaming in a very similar way to the other one, then put his arms around both of their waists as they left the plaza, heading across the campus for, he guessed, the looming, lumpy shape of the Vargas Center, the arena on the edge of campus where the basketball team played and practiced.
“Boyfriends,” Jake agreed.
“You can’t keep us here,” Joe said insolently, looking up at Mekhi, Bodie, and the other players gathered around them. Mekhi, the bastard, just smiled.
The three remaining Joes had been herded over to the bleachers to one side of the court and made to sit down on the first row of seats, and the Joes had sulkily complied. Instead of going about their midnight practice, though, the team had thereupon ringed themselves in a semicircle of towering opprobrium, their bare, muscular arms all crossed in a unified gesture of scornful intimidation. The Joes clearly could not be trusted even to sit quietly on the sidelines without causing trouble. Joe’s heart sank as he realized they probably had a point.
Without even the distraction of watching the team practice on the court, Joe and his other selves were forced to dwell on everything that had gone wrong with his brilliant idea. Well, it wasn’t just that he’d screwed up—no, he’d screwed up and completely failed to take into account what a badass Clyde Cruz was. Secretly, Joe was kind of impressed with how deftly the team captain had handled the five intruders: first he’d publicly unmanned them with a devastating dressing down, then he’d divided their strength by taking two of the Joes with him. He’d never felt his cocky confidence ripped away from him so effectively before, like a tornado tearing off a roof. He didn’t know whether to hate the guy, or be terrified of him, or admire the fuck out of him. He could certainly admire his body, which seemed to be twice as beautiful just from the knowledge of everything Cruz had put into it and everything he could do with it. Maybe he’d want to fuck sometime?
Hmph. Fat chance. In his dreams, maybe. Okay, definitely in his dreams. Fuck, in his dreams Joe would let Cruz do him, though something in him was dying to find out what it would be like for Joe to push his suddenly way-humungous, maybe too-big colossus dick into such a ferocious all-man beast like Clyde Cruz. Why had he been fucking twinks all this time? Suddenly he’d give anything to have a night and a room alone with that one fiercely unique man, with “alone” being adjustable depending on how many other Joes might be allowed to join him. Like always with him, just imagining this impossible scenario made him crave it with almost painful intensity.
And of course, Joe had fixed things so that the guy he was suddenly crushing on, hard, was the guy who hated him the most in all the universe and beyond, into every universe that had ever been.
Fuck, what a mess. He’d just wanted to play. And, well, making himself mega-tall and all bulgey and strong like these guys was the obvious way to be able to make all those lay-ups and three-point sinkers he’d muffed before when he was short. And fuck, what was better than one seven-foot ringer? A whole team of them, of course! It had seemed so solid, a total swish. And then it all turned to shit. Just remembering it made him sick. He felt like his insides were made of rotten garbage, and honestly the more he thought about it, the more real the prospect of his throwing up became.
He wanted to blame someone for all of this. Well, he wasn’t the original Joe, right? That guy had come up with all this without thinking it through. That hadn’t been him, totally. He… okay, he could pretend, right? But Joe knew better. They were all Joe. And they were all giant, moronic douches who’d managed to piss all over everything Clyde Cruz and the rest of these real ball players cared about.
Mekhi’s expression told him all he needed to know on that score. The high-scoring power forward, who looked like a six-foot-nine South American mixed martial artist who could tear all of them limb from limb with his bare hands, was clearly Clyde’s lieutenant and probably the smartest guy in the room, not to mention the most ruthless, if his rep on the court was any indication. His thick, dark hair was dyed a subtle coppery color, Joe now noticed, though his inky brows, his dusting of stubble, and the chest hair unhidden by his loose jersey all suggested a tendency to hair as jet-black as any Joe had ever seen. People talked about his own lush, intensely brown hair, always going on about chestnuts and chocolate and did it smell or feel as good it looked, but Joe had always been intrigued by really dark, thick hair, especially when it seeped through a guy’s attempt to tame or cut or dye it. He kind of wanted to run his fingers through that hair, maybe follow up by sliding his tongue along that bristly jawline, and… Fuck, why was he fixating on guys who hated him tonight? He might as well start lusting after his brother. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how pissed Jacob was going to be over all this—wait, no, that wasn’t true. He could totally imagine.
“What will you do if Jacob can’t, you know, fix us?” the Joe next to him, the middle one, said. It sounded a little pathetic, but then, Joe was feeling a little pathetic right then. The Joe on his other side put his arm around the middle one a split second before Joe could, so Joe settled for bumping their newly bulging shoulders together.
Mekhi’s smile didn’t change, but Joe felt like its chill factor deepened a degree or two. “Nothing,” Mekhi said flatly.
The furthest Joe looked up at him in surprise. “Nothing?” he repeated.
Mekhi shrugged. “We’ll just send you back to your dorm,” he said. Okay, yeah, his smile was definitely turning wider and eviller. “You’ll just be five seven-foot-tall giant dudes with one bed and one meal plan… and no chance at playing basketball. Ever.”
“Naw, hang on,” Bodie, the cornfed, slightly thick-headed other forward, interjected with a grin. “They could play on the high school’s outdoor court when the school’s not using it.”
“There’s public courts over at Van Gelder Park, by the river,” one of the others said.
Okay, Joe was very possibly going to be sick now. Being tall and muscular and having a big dick would still be awesome, but he’d really fucked up by making five of himself, and forget barging onto the court like—oh god, he was going to be sick.
“You said it was a camera,” Mekhi said suddenly. “Did I hear that right? It was a camera that used to make yourself like this?”
He was talking to all three of them, but Joe made eye contact with him and Mekhi held his gaze so Joe felt like he couldn’t look away. “Yeah,” he said. He sort of remembered the other Joe mentioning it, the one that had started them pumping each other up outside the arena, so there was no point keeping that part of it a secret now.
“Where’d you get it from?” Mekhi said. “I’m just curious, because I can’t believe anyone deliberately entrusted it to you.”
“Unless they were crazypants,” Bodie put in helpfully.
“True,” Mekhi said. “So, did you steal it? Or was somebody so crazypants they actually gave it to you?”
Joe felt his face scrunch up. “Stop being mean,” he said hotly. No way he could tell them the real story, which was that he’d opened a box that had been left for his mousy, perpetually absent freshman roommate, Christian, before he’d even noticed it hadn’t had his name on it, because Christian never got stuff and was never around anyway so the package had to be for him, right? Then he’d noticed Christian’s name on the plain brown wrapping, but there’d been this weird old camera inside and a note that said “Use this to get what you want. I’ll be waiting.” That was actually where he’d gotten the idea to leave it for Jacob like that so his big bro could finally get laid, cause that was an awesome thing to do for your brother; only the note had been super creepy so he’d left it out.
So he’d pushed all the buttons, excitedly trying to figure out whatever the secret was of getting what the user wanted—or maybe it had been what Christian wanted? What did Christian want, anyway? And then he’d duped that spider in the ceiling corner and his head had exploded with how awesome this thing was. After that he’d skipped class and spent an entire afternoon and figured out a whole bunch of settings and what they’d do because he wasn’t stupid, just, okay, impulsive and clueless.
And yeah he was bad at noticing things but he’d noticed the spider had been frozen after he’d taken the picture until he tapped it with a pencil, freeing first one dupe, then the other (and then those dumb duped spiders seemed to want to be near the pencil no matter what, so he took the pencil and the spiders outside and let them have at it, a whole new spidery pencilly life for the three of them). But then later he’d found a timer buried in one of the menus that he guessed would limit the freeze, and fuck. It fucking worked. It fucking worked! First there were two Joes, and then there were two seven-foot, way hung muscle Joes, and then—no way could he resist making a whole hoops team of super-tall, totally ripped, fucking donkey-hung Joe clones.
And like hell would he tell anyone any of that. Not even Jacob. Especially not Jacob.
He felt a hand moving in slow circles on his back—Middle Joe trying to calm him, like a good brother/clone/other self multi-twin sort of dude. Hey, advantage one to having more than one of him. Except, perversely, the physical contact was actually waking up his hair-trigger dick, and—god, the last thing he needed was for the three of them to start popping boners in front of these guys on top of everything else!
Although…… if this were another universe where he hadn’t been a bunch of tools, and it was the three of them and these tall, hunky, very good looking guys who might just be willing to—nope! Nope, nope, nope, no boners plz. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to breathe, slow and steady, letting himself ramp down. He’d had to talk himself out of hard-ons plenty of times before, given how easily he’d boned up even before he’d made himself all tall and sexy and stupidly hung. The hand on his back felt comforting and reassuring, and he forced himself to think that that was all it was. It was working, anyway—he was calming down. He tossed his other self a grateful glance. He looked good, he had to admit. Okay, maybe later the three of them could make out or something, when his life wasn’t, like, on fire.
Noises erupted from the main entrance down the court—doors opening, shoes squeaking. Everyone looked in that direction and saw the godly and, okay, so fuckable Clyde Cruz returning with the two remaining Joes in tow, both of them looking as hangdog as he felt, and—
Yes. Yes. His big brother was with them, looking grim and determined and altogether the picture of salvation.
“Thank god,” the three Joes said in unison.
Zane still loved it here. For all he’d lived in Hawaii most of his life, for all it was in many places a paradise of concrete, smog, air-conditioning, and unpleasant visitors, he had never stopped being amazed at how it always felt like a juncture of universes, a cosmic waymeet. Any world could be entered from here. It was part of what had inspired him to blaze his own path for himself instead of tamely following his father’s hard-beaten road.
The Keiths joined him, flanking him possessively as he looked out over the lapping ocean. They let its gentle, rhythmic noises and soft breeze waft over them for a while. This, what was happening between them, this was another juncture, too. A gateway into another universe.
He should think twice about passing through it. He knew that. But he also knew that he had passed beyond the threshold and let the gate close behind him.
He slid his arms around his lovers’ taut waists, looking up at each of them as they beamed smugly down at him and wrapped their meaty arms around his shoulders, giving him a rush of juddering pleasure that went straight to his somehow still-rock-hard cock and the heavy, churning balls pulled up tight against his groin. He drew in a slow breath, willing himself to retain enough sense not to throw his sexy men down to the coarse sand and fuck them right here, right now.
He didn’t need to show possession. He had them. And fucking was only part of his need. He needed these two men, these two Keiths, in all ways. They were his. His to take care of, his to pamper, his to make those goofy, cocky smiles bloom on those impossibly handsome faces. His to fuck into the floor as soon as they found a place and time to do it right.
His rigid dick surged aggressively in his cargo shorts, begging him not to wait, to go for that fuck-in-the-sand-right-now thing. His body wanted them. Everything about his beautiful cocky hunks pulled at him, eroding any ability to hold himself back. They were damp with sweat now, their green tee shirts soaked through where he gripped them both around the waist, and their musky, sweaty smell filled his nose and almost pushed him into giving into his desires.
He could see it vividly. Having them undress each other, kiss each other, suck each other, just to get them begging for what they really craved; and then he would step in, licking their sweaty jaws and pecs and tight, firm abs and moist, salty balls. First one, then the other… and then he’d bend one of them over on whatever was handy and—
A shot of pre squeezed out of his desperate, unbearably hard cock. He pushed all of that resolutely into the future, swearing to himself that that scene would be a reality very, very soon.
Instead he started them walking again. “C’mon, the public beach is around on the other side of that little ridge,” he said. “There’s a shack at this end where we can get some water for you guys.” They’d shared around his canteen, but it had only been enough for himself for a short hike, and the four newcomers would need rehydrating. He was aware of the Coles close behind them, as if their uncanny hotness was a literal, radiant force subtly buffeting his back and arms. “They should have shirts for your friends, too,” he added. “And maybe some flip-flops or something.”
“Aw, they won’t like either of those things,” the Keith on his right said as they started moving down the beach. Keith then looked over his shoulder to toss a wink at the two shirtless godlings following them. Zane hadn’t known them long but he’d provisionally pegged them as the easy-going type; he guessed their response would be something along the lines of a cheery, unruffled megawatt smile. Two of those smiles, on faces like that… if they weren’t already gone for each other, they’d be breaking hearts across every island in the archipelago.
“This is Hawaii, boys,” Zane said sternly. “You’re lucky I don’t put all four of you in big floppy straw sun-hats.”
“We should be talking about taking off our clothes, not putting them on,” the Keith on his left objected playfully.
“And we should be kissing instead of talking,” added the right one.
“Yeah,” the left one said immediately. “That. Definitely that.”
“Oh, there’ll be kissing all right,” Zane growled, in a tone that communicated his intent that ‘kissing’ didn’t even come close to covering what he intended to do to them. The Keiths squeezed him a little tighter as they walked, humming their approval.
As they rounded the shoreline curve a small beach came into view. It was away from the hotels and tourist areas, but, it being Hawaii, there were still a good number of couples, families, and individuals lying on oversized towels spread over the pale, rough sand and languidly basking themselves under the reddening, late-afternoon sun; a few more were frolicking in the sloshing surf. All of them were sporting various shades of pale, bronzed, and dark, and all varieties of fitness and not-so-fitness. A group of three college-age guys lounging on the bare sand at the nearer end of the beach looked up and snagged on the five of them as they came into sight, and watched them intently as they turned and headed for the shack Zane knew was up ahead in the shady area near the trail that led in toward the little parking lot on the circuit road to Waimea.
Zane felt a twinge of jealousy at the tourists’ attention to his beaus, which surprised him—but not as much as the sense of calm confidence that the ardor of any other men would be meaningless to them. Heads were going to turn, and Zane was… totally cool with that, actually. That new universe they’d walked into, that was the universe where the three of them were one, fixed and impervious, as though they’d been made that way from the start of time. And, well—since time in this universe had started only a little while before, pretty much at the moment he’d kissed that first Keith and Keith had started kissing back, making his heart start pounding as though it were newly made, Zane reckoned they had kind of been melded like this since the dawn of time.
It should feel crazy. It did, a little. They’d just met. But Zane knew—somehow—that for him and for the two Keiths it kinda didn’t matter. “He’s ours,” they’d said up at the falls. And they were his, every dick-hardening, thick-muscled, cocky-smiled inch of them. Nothing was simpler, and it was kind of gratifyingly soul-settling knowing that.
He hadn’t known how much he needed this kind of a connection.
The shack was basically just that, a make-shift stand like you’d see by the road in farm country. There was a counter and a small building behind it with a narrow opening through which various wares, boxes, and a humming drinks fridge could be seen. The sun-bronzed, skinny, scruffy-bearded blond teenager he’d seen manning the shop when he was outward bound was still there. He seemed to have a bit of an attitude, like he considered this job an imposition and didn’t care who knew it. His aloha shirt, worn ironically no doubt, was tinted black and midnight blue with some kind of oversized skull motif, his beat-up baseball cap was askew, and as before he was leaning on the counter with his chin in his hand, his face set in a bored glower, as he idly watched the nearest cuties on the beach—from the angle of his stare, that probably meant the well-built college guys Zane had noticed ogling them as they’d passed by a moment before.
Everything changed, however, when Zane rolled up to his stand with four impossibly sexy muscle Adonises in tow. The teen’s eyes widened and the frown evaporated. He straightened up, taking in all five of them open-mouthed from left to right as if stacking up awe on top of awe. He took in the Coles last, and that seemed to take him over the edge. Red suddenly rushed into his cheeks and he quickly whipped around with his back to them and grabbed at his crotch, hard.
Aww, the guys had almost made the poor horny kid insta-cum. How sweet. Probably the first of many. Zane let go of his Keiths and instinctively moved forward slightly, just so the teen would have someone to focus on who was merely ordinarily attractive (in a Marine recruiting poster way, which he well knew not everyone went for, thank god) instead of heartbreakingly, radiantly, universally gorgeous.
When he was ready, that is.
The Keiths just as instinctively closed in behind him, as if to ensure that dealing with Zane would also involve dealing with the two hard-carved, Tennessee-accented hotties that were Zane’s other—halves? His other thirds? Okay, he would have to not use that metaphor, it just didn’t work. “His” was all that mattered. They could figure out cutesy nomenclature later, or never.
The Keiths seemed pretty entertained by the show the teen was giving them. “I think we had an effect on him,” the Keith on his left commented.
“Get used to it,” Zane said.
“You okay, buddy?” one of the Coles asked.
“Yep, yep, I’m good,” the skinny blond said in a strained voice. After a moment he recovered enough to turn to face them, his face still blotchy red. There was a small wet spot marking the end of a long, narrow, and very stiff bulge in his denim cutoffs. He tried tugging the hem of his aloha shirt down to cover it, unsuccessfully. “Wh-what can I get you?” he asked them. He was trying not to look at the Coles, but his eyes kept sneaking over in that direction before shooting back to Zane.
“Five waters,” Zane said calmly, holding his gaze. If he stayed focused and on-task, the hormonally swamped teen might be able to as well. “You got tee shirts here?” He tilted his head toward the twins with the purple-fringed hair and the complete lack of torso covering. “Some flip-flops, maybe?”
The teen’s eyes glanced over at the Coles longingly, dwelling for the space of a heartbeat on their wide shoulders and disproportionate pecs. Then they jumped back to Zane, a little unfocused for a second. His cheeks reddened again, and his right hand hovered near his crotch like its patented eruption-arresting maneuver might be needed at any moment. “Uuuh, we have some shirts, but I don’t think they’ll, um, fit,” he said apologetically.
“‘Sokay,” one of the Coles said easily, and the other added, “We don’t need shirts.”
The teen squeezed his eyes shut, and his hand tensed into a fist, ready for imminent emergencies. “Fuuuuuck,” he whispered.
The Keith to his right suppressed a snicker. Zane swatted him on the chest without looking and asked, “Any salve? They got a bit of sun up by the falls and I didn’t pack mine.”
The blond’s eyes popped open. He seemed relieved to be able to be useful instead of just an extension of his own raging erection. “We have some great stuff,” he said eagerly. “My granddad makes it. It really works, honest,” he added, pointing to his own, presumably smoothly bronzed shoulders, as if reverencing sun-related catastrophe in his own history that was taken care of by the miraculous family ointment.
Zane smiled. Hell, maybe it did work. “How much?” he asked.
The twink bit his lip and looked down, hesitating. “It’s, um, free if I can… put it on them,” he said. He looked up hopefully through his lashes at Zane, still unable to look directly at the Coles.
Both of the Keiths barked a laugh. “Nice try, kid,” Zane said dryly.
“It’s okay,” one of the Coles said. “We’ll put it on each other.” The other added, “That way, we won’t miss anywhere.”
The blond’s eyes bugged out at them for just a second, then he immediately spun around and grabbed his crotch again, this time with both hands. “Shit! Fuck! God—!” he sputtered to himself. “Ummmm, I’ll be right back,” he squeaked. “With your stuff, I mean!” Without another word he disappeared into the shack out of view.
The Keiths erupted into barely suppressed giggles. “Sssh, he’ll hear you,” Zane hissed over his shoulder, though he was pretty darn amused himself. He added, “Hey, can one of you get my wallet out of the rucksack? It’s in one of the interior pockets.”
“I’ll get it,” both Keiths said in unison, then they both snorted in amusement as the started working on the buckle that held the flap of the rucksack closed. “We’ll get it together,” one said softly, and the other murmured, “We’ll do lots of things together.”
Fuck. Between that and the way they were making the pack shift against his back, like they were almost touching him by proxy, Zane was suddenly almost as close to embarrassing himself as the skinny blond had been. He thought about the massive hardon in his shorts and told it to behave—he really didn’t want to be using that eruption-arresting king-fu grip on himself. At least, not in public.
He felt the Keiths digging in his pack for a moment, then they both seemed to still. “What the—?” one of them muttered.
“What is it—?” one of the Coles asked, his voice trailing off as Zane one of the Keiths pull something out of the pack and exhibit it for the others. “Is that—?”
Zane frowned. As far as he knew all the had in his pack were his canteen, some energy bars, a bandanna, his Marine utility knife, a topo map of the island, an emergency compass, a small first aid kit, and his wallet—nothing to cause this kind of shock and awe. “Guys, you want to tell me what you’re looking at?” he asked.
One of the Keiths moved in front of him and handed him something. Zane took it automatically and looked down at it, puzzled. It looked like a cheap, lightweight, silver-colored camera from the ‘90s. He turned it over and took in the small screen and the rocker buttons, all of which looked standard and unremarkable. He looked up at the Keiths and Coles, who were now crowded around him and the strange camera he was holding. He was sure he was missing something.
“Is that yours?” one of the Coles asked, in a way that told him he knew it couldn’t be, but they had to have confirmation.
Zane shook his head. Even though he didn’t know what this was about, he felt his stomach flutter, as if everything had just changed, again. “What is it?” he asked.
The Keith that had handed him the camera took a breath. “That,” he said soberly, “is the camera that changed us and sent us to the falls.”
“All of us,” a Cole said. “First us, then Keifer. Sent us and—” He paused, and the other finished, “Duped us.” “Amped us up.”
“And how the heck it got in your backpack—” the other Keith began. They both shrugged. “We have no idea,” they said together.
Zane blinked down at the camera, then he looked back up at the four beautiful gods it had apparently created.
“Interesting,” he said.
Keith hung back by the bleachers as Jake and Clyde—fuck, they were hanging out with Clyde Cruz! and he’d promised them passes!—as Jake and Clyde strode onto the court, followed by two iterations of Jake’s harebrained, now ridiculously tall brother. He leaned into his doppelgänger, enjoying the feel of his hard body pressed against his, strong arms wrapped around him. It felt like… like relief, like a phone being plugged into its charger, new energy flowing through him from the rightness of his other self’s embrace. There was still something missing, but he could wait. More than anything he craved to be pressed between Jake and the other Keith, feeling every inch of them pushed against him from feet to legs to crotch to chest to mouth, arms holding him tight like he could never be anywhere else. Cocks pushing into him from both sides, stoking his desire, driving him wild from want. Mouths and tongues and lips finding his, finding his neck, finding each other. He wanted that so much his heart tripped just imagining it, taking himself there in his mind.
But… he could wait. There was no question it would happen, and soon, so it was easy to bide his time until then. Once Jake was done sorting out his demented brother’s latest mess, and once they’d kicked the no doubt spunk-covered Tommasos out of their room, he would have Jake and the other Keith all to himself. And that would be the best moment of his new life so far. Until tomorrow night, that is, he thought with a crooked smirk.
Keith kissed his neck, his big hard dick pushing tenderly against the buttcrease of his stellar glutes, the separation of their jeans feeling all but notional between them. Some kind of sound rumbled in the back of his throat, like a purr that was also a growl. That was kind of funny, too. It was like a Cosmo quiz: what kind of an animal is your man in bed? Feline, canine, ursine? If there were someone around for him to aim a joke at, he’d probably go for something like ‘Keith’ being answer enough to what kind of an animal he was. But his corny jokes only worked if they were lobbed at someone like Jake, who rolled his eyes but obviously found them endearing, so he just smiled and let his hands drift back lightly onto his other self’s jeans, nudging the hips he found there to press forward as much as they liked. “Slut,” the other Keith teased in his ear before nudging back Keith’s long black hair and licking the lobe, sending a hot shudder through every inch of him, while simultaneously obeying the request to grind forward hard against Keith’s hungry ass.
Damn, he hadn’t been thinking through all the advantages to be had fucking around with someone who knew exactly what he liked. He was hard as fuck and leaking sticky, slicky precum onto the flat space just below his navel. And he knew from direct evidence that the other Keith was just as rock-hard as he was. A day ago in another time, another life, he’d have been at least a little more circumspect about other people seeing him with a raging boner—not to mention engaging in what was essentially foreplay with clothes on in public—but Keith couldn’t worry about his hard-ons any more. He hadn’t been anything but completely boned for hours now, and the way he felt right now he was pretty sure being randomly hard was going to be a part of his life from now on. Well, he was as unabashed about his big, up-pointing cock as he was with everything else about his certifiably stallion-quality bod, particularly now that Jake had finally stepped up and claimed that bod for himself and everything that came with it. So, let hard-ons be hard. Keith was so down with that.
He watched, feeling like the representative observer from the Keith nation as the others were variously occupied (or distracted), as three more Joes clambered to their feet from the front row of the bleachers and hurried over to join their synidiosomai in a little cluster of hopeful, hangdog giants near the free throw line. The rest of the team veterans followed in a knot to stand near Clyde and Jake, giving off conflicting vibes of vexation and curiosity. They looked like opposing teams with Jake as the referee, Keith though wryly, and despite the Joes’ height advantage—they had a few inches on every one of the actual ball platers—as mismatched as the Globetrotters and the Generals. He almost wanted to watch them all play, just to have Clyde and Mekhi Salas and the guys demonstrate what real, dedicated, college-level b-ball was truly like.
But Joe had clearly already gotten the picture. The glances he was casting at Clyde now were a mix of deep chagrin, hero worship, and—well, that was the look you gave someone you were crushing on bad and knew you didn’t have a chance with. Huh. Now Joe wanting to prove himself suddenly made a bit more sense, as infantile and jackassed as the plan to accomplish it had been. Joe’d wanted Clyde to see him as a man and as a fellow athlete, someone on his level whom he could therefore fuck with respect. Hell, he’d lay odds Joe still felt that way. Was the power of a crush reinforced and made extra potent when it was replicated five times over?
“So, let’s do this,” Clyde said, addressing the group in general, though his eyes were on Jake. “Midnight practice is a sacred tradition, and I don’t want it be skipped this year just on account of these dumbasses.”
“We’re cool with that,” said one of the Joes. “Totally cool with that.” “We’re ready.” “Sorry, Jacob, we’re so sorry.” “Yeah, let’s—”
Jake held up his hand with an exasperated half-smile, already unzipping the jacket pocket where the camera was. He pulled it out, flipped it over, and started thumbing through the screens. He looked like he knew what he was doing, and Keith guessed he’d seen something when he was using the camera earlier that he’d already twigged would be the solution to his Too Much Joe problem.
Keith’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He glanced down at it, surprised. He’d forgotten he’d even brought it with him.
“Who the fuck is that?” other Keith mumbled into his nape. Keith shivered and pulled out his phone. It was an unknown number. He answered, bringing the phone to the ear not on the side of his neck being targeted by his other self’s sweet, sweet mouth. “Hello?”
“Hey, Keith, guess who,” said a cheery, familiar voice.
Keith grinned. “Hey, Keith,” he said. “It’s Keith. And Keith.”
“Hey, Keith,” said the other Keith dutifully, pulling away from the skin below Keith’s ear only long enough to be able to enunciate clearly.
“Hey! Oh, hey, I’ve got Keith with me here, by the way,” came the voice on the line. This was followed by another, identical “Hey, Keith!”
“Are you jackasses going to ‘hey’ each other all night?” interceded a slightly raspy male voice. “We have some serious fucking to get to.”
“That’s Zane,” the Keith on the phone said. “We found him and he’s ours.” “He’s a Marine kickboxer,” added the other Keith voice on the line.
“I’m not—ugh,” Zane said.
Keith was very happy for his other selves. They found a sexy guy to love and torment, just like Jake. “Good on you guys,” he said.
“Thanks. Um, we tried calling Jake back—” “It went to voicemail?”
“Hmph. He must have turned off his phone when he hung up. We kind of got caught up in something.”
“Was that really Clyde Cruz?” “We heard someone mention Clyde Cruz.”
The Keith that was there with him, and who was presently about ten minutes away from fucking him through his jeans, decided at this point to up his game and slid his tongue along the inner recesses of Keith’s ear. An inarticulate “huuuuuuuunnnnh” escaped him before he remembered he was in mid-conversation. “Um,” he said hurriedly into the phone, “yeah, I’ll explain later. Was there a reason why you called?”
“Sounds like Keithfucking is imminent on both sides of the globe,” the Keith on the line said smugly. “Yeah, so, we just wanted to check something. Is the camera still… you know, with you guys?” “Do you guys still got it? The camera?” the other Keith on the line reiterated.
Keith’s eyebrows lifted. He looked up, checking on the progress of events at center court. It looked like Jake had found the screen he wanted, because he was now holding the camera up with one hand and gesturing for four of the five Joes to stand close together near the wall behind the nearer basket, apart from everyone else. Shit was about to go down. He patted his clone’s butt with one hand twice in quick succession to get his attention.
“Hmm?” the Keith holding him said.
“Look,” he whispered, nodding toward the court. To the phone he said, “Yeah, it’s here. Jake has it.”
Keith frowned. “I’m… looking right at it,” he said slowly. “Why?”
“No reason,” the Keith on the line said, overlapping with the other Keith on the line saying, “We’ll explain later.” Then the first Keith said, “Yeah, we’ll explain later. Zane! Stop! I’m hanging up in one second, I just have to talk to myself a little more.”
Jake was about ready to use the camera, it looked like, and the Keith who was holding him had surfaced from his nuzzling to watch, though his hot, rigid cock was still working on wearing a way through the denim barrier between them.
“Actually we gotta go,” he said. He started to use the “I love me” line he and this Keith had traded before back at the plaza. Except for the Hawaii Keiths it would only be a cheesy joke, and it… really hadn’t been a joke before. He decided that line was private for him and the Keith he shared with Jake, so he just said, “Talk to you later, then. Good luck with your Marine Kickboxer.”
“Thanks,” came the reply. “Good luck with your Hot Nerd Roomie. We’ll—oooh, fuck, Zane, that’s—” And then nothing. Keith checked the screen. Call dropped. He smiled and, stuffing the phone back in his pocket, gave his full attention to the proceedings. Shit was definitely about to go down.
Clyde and the others watched from the side, Clyde with his arms crossed and a stony expression on his face. Jake guessed that as the natural leader of his own little tribe Clyde felt responsible for everything that happened here, including what happened to those who impinged on his community. He’d made the decision to trust Jake and let him fix this, and he wasn’t backtracking now even if he was wondering whether Jake was sure he knew what he was doing. The other Joe, the one left out of the equation, looked pale. He was probably wondering that, too.
Fortunately, Jake was sure. Very sure. Pretty much very, very sure.
He’d noticed the settings when he’d first played with the camera menus. He’d left the “X” setting on 3X when he’d snapped that heroic arms-akimbo pic of Keith in his towel, and the result had been three Keiths. One original becoming three. It was easy enough to deduce that the 1/2X setting he’d seen then worked the other way—two originals becoming one.
He had to assume it was meant for this very situation, undoing a previous replication. Though… he couldn’t help but wonder in the back of his head what would happen if you put two random people through a dereplication. Would it work at all? Would it… what, average them out? What would happen to their personalities—would they merge?
Hell, what was going to happen to the personalities of the four Joes in front of him? They had already had separate subjective experiences and thought processes—
Nope! Nope nope nope, not barking up that tree. This setting was here for this exact purpose, undoing someone’s replicative stupidity. He steadied the camera and put his finger on the shutter.
“Jacob, bro, are you sure—?” said the Joe that was standing anxiously off to one side, watching his other selves about to get magicked.
Jake pressed the shutter.
“Holy shit,” someone shouted from behind him. One of the players, he guessed.
Jake blinked and focused on the digital screen. It showed exactly one Joe posed against the inanely grinning basketball, absolutely stock still. He looked up from screen to reality. It was the same. One seven-foot, muscled-up dickwad, still as a statue. This was the expected result, of course… but it still made his heart flutter to see his brother standing there without any life at all, like he’d had a gander at Medusa and ended up made of stone.
“Oh, shit, I forgot to tell you—” the Joe who hadn’t been part of the merger started to say, but Clyde spoke over him.
“He’s not moving,” the towering alpha growled. He turned on Jake, fury evident in his dark eyes. “What have you done?” he asked Jake coldly.
Jake held his gaze. “This is what’s supposed to happen,” he explained calmly, or, at least he kept his voice calm, and tried not to feel intimidated by an angry, physically impressive athlete who had maybe forty pounds of muscle and a good five inches on him. He gestured toward the now-frozen Joe. “Someone just needs to go and wake him up, and—”
“By kissing him?” one of the players asked incredulously.
Jake turned to look and, sure enough, the excluded Joe had indeed gone over and started snogging his merged other self—pretty passionately, too, and that was on top of the full-contact body hug his brother was giving him.
The Keiths must have put their mega-PDA on hold, because they now appeared behind Clyde and one of them was rooting Joe on. “Yeah, boy!” he chanted. “Go Joe! Go Joe!” The other Keith picked up the chant, and it even spread to the other players, though Clyde Cruz just stood there with an exasperated look on his face, like, the well of Joe Pruett’s stupidity will never run dry.
Jake, though, felt oddly uplifted by the sight, and when the frozen Joe lifted his arms to squeeze Joe back for the first time and started returning the kiss with interest, he cheered happily with the others.
They must have realized they had an audience at last sand broke the kiss. They kept the hug, though, still holding each other close and they turned to face their onlookers. The Keiths were clapping and hooting, and the other players too. Jake just smiled at them.
The two Joes blushed and made eye contact with Jake. “Thanks, bro,” the merged one said, and the excluded one repeated, “Yeah, thanks.”
Jake fixed his gaze on the merged brother. “You okay?” he asked.
Merged Joe nodded. “I’m okay. Thanks,” he said again.
“Okay,” Jake said. “So, then, there’s just one more merger to perform,” he added, looking down at the camera to reset it to 1/2X. He looked up sharply in surprise when both Joes shouted “No!” at the same time.
The Joe who had been excluded was shaking his head and holding the other Joe tightly to him. “I don’t want him to go away,” he said.
Merged Joe was pleading with his eyes. “Don’t merge us,” he said. “I have to have him.”
Jake blinked at them. “But—you’re both, you know, you.” Even as he said it, though, he sensed that the situation had changed.
“Maybe,” the Joe who’d been excluded said. The merged Joe added, “But… we’re us.” He shrugged, then repeated, “We’re us.”
“This… is freaky,” one of the players said, the one Jake had tentatively pegged as Clyde’s lieutenant on the team. Keith probably knew his name, what his real position was, and probably some of his stats, but Jake did not know and did not care.
“Yeah,” another player said. “Kinda hot though.”
“Okay, you’re freaky,” the lieutenant said.
Jake bit his lip and turned to check with the Keiths, who’d moved to stand behind him. They were nodding. “Waking up from being frozen, it’s different,” one said. “There’s a bond.” “And a balance,” the other one added. The first one nodded. “The connection makes you part of a whole.” Those bright hazel eyes bore into Jake’s. “You know what we mean,” Keith said.
Jake did know. He’d thought it was just love he felt for these two men—”just” love, as if that new understanding hadn’t changed his whole reality. But it was more than that. Even though he hadn’t been woken up from a camera… event, he had felt it. The connection. The balance. He was part of a whole. He nodded, too.
He turned back to his brother—brothers, he guessed he should start saying.
“Okay,” he said briskly, lifting the camera. “So all that’s left is to see if we can figure out how to de-embiggen you, and—”
“No!!” Again, it was a unison cry, and this time some of the ball players chuckled.
Jake looked up from the camera, this time with a raised eyebrow and half smirk. “You’re not being very mature right now,” he said, though he couldn’t say he was surprised. This part he’d expected all along.
“Um… please?” the Joe who’d been excluded said. The other added, “We want to stay big.”
“Of course you do,” Jake said. Because really… of course they did.
“Look, if it doesn’t work out we’ll totally come to you and get you to fix it,” one of them said. “We swear,” added the other. They turned to Clyde, who was still regarding them with a stony expression, muscular arms folded over his uniform jersey. “We promise we’re not going to try out again,” one said. “You’ll never see us after tonight,” confirmed the other.
To Jake’s surprise, Clyde sighed and dropped his arms to his sides, then put his hands to his hips. “Look… I’d be an idiot to not at least look at someone with your height, strength, and stamina, however much of a dickwad you are,” he admitted.
“Wait, what?” the player Jake thought was Clyde’s lieutenant interjected.
“You’re not on the team,” Clyde told the Joes firmly. “You wouldn’t even be considered for reserve for another year. But—” He seemed to grit his teeth. “I’m willing to spend a couple hours finding out whether you can be trained.”
“All right, Clyde, you can tell us,” the lieutenant said. “You can tell us. When exactly in the last ten minutes did your balls fall off?”
“Shut it,” Clyde groused. The other players snickered. Clyde pointed at the two Joes. “You two, go home,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” they said together.
“I will call you when I am ready to see you. Understand?”
“Yes, sir.” They were trying not to grin, but it wasn’t working very well, so they ducked their heads and walked briskly out, still holding each other close as they walked side by side out of the arena.
Jake stared after them until he felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked behind him to see that the Keiths had moved in close, and in their eyes was all the sex and smooching and mind-blowing passion they had ahead of them tonight. Jake found himself getting hard again, and was glad to let all the crisis-management of the last couple hours slough away so he could go back to just being Jake Pruitt, the guy who had a round-the-clock hard-on for his amazingly hot and extremely, adorably lovable roommate, Keith. Or—roommates. That was a nice thought. Also a very sexy thought.
“C’mon, lover,” one of the Keiths said in full, cocky sex god mode, complete with a saucy eyebrow wiggle. “We still have a couple of steaming-hot baristas to evict before you start having your way with us.”
One of the basketball players wolf-whistled at the comment. Another called out “Get a room!”
Both Keiths tossed them his best pirate grin. “Good idea,” one of them said, and without further propositioning turned and walked off—though their asses so amazing that they were themselves a proposition. A couple of the ball players clapped in sarcastic applause, whether at the two fine butts or at the display of machismo Jake wasn’t sure. For himself, all of it had flipped his switches big-time, especially the reminder that they were after Jake and wanted him to take the lead. He felt his arousal spike beyond anything he’d been aware of all night, and that was saying something. He hurried after them, already all the way hard and thrumming with need before they’d even left the court.
Joe almost forgot to duck as he entered his dorm tower from the side entrance. “Fuck, that’s going to take some getting used to,” he said, as they entered the echoing concrete stairwell and started trotting up the steps to their third-floor dorm room.
“I know,” the other Joe said. “Every door. In the world.”
“Heh. Maybe we shoulda let Jacob shrink us after all.”
They laughed, the sound of it reverberating up and down the concrete stairs along with their footsteps.
Soon enough they were on their floor. It was the middle of the night, but a lot of people were still up. Music seeped from some of the rooms through the heavy doors. Mix and Trey’s door was open, the lights low, and the Joes waved as they passed. Mix and Trey stared at them from where they sat in the middle of the floor smoking weed, watching them bug-eyed as they headed down the hall.
The Joes sniggered. “They’re not going to know what the fuck they saw.”
“I know, right?”
They got to their dorm room and Joe unlocked it—at least he still had his building and room keys, in the little mesh zip pocket inside his b-ball shorts. He let them in and they entered, once again barely remembering to duck. Joe closed the door behind them, flicking on the lights before remembering Christian might be in and asleep. No sign of him though, which was slightly weird.
Joe turned to face his other self. “Are we going to talk about it?” he asked with a smirk.
The other Joe licked his lip. “Do you think anyone noticed?” he asked.
“That you ended up with two of these giant dicks after the merge? I sure noticed.” He bounced his eyebrows, and the other Joe grinned. Joe added, “It’s cool. I kind of like that we’re not exactly the same.” He let his expression get steely. “But when we’re fucking, you better not try shoving more than one of those in me!”
“Sure, Joe,” the other Joe said. “I promise.” Then he winked.
Joe had to smile. It was pretty rad. Impulsively he leaned forward and kissed the other Joe, and it was eagerly returned as they pulled each other into an embrace. Their lips slid apart and they held each other close. “I need this,” the other Joe whispered in his ear.
“I know. Me too.”
“But you weren’t—it’s not the same. I need this.”
“I know,” Joe said again. “And it is kinda the same. You heard Keith. There’s a bond that gets created. And—”
“Us. We are us. Remember?”
The other Joe huffed. “You know what Jacob would say about us?”
“What, that we deserve each other?”
They smiled, used to taking their brother’s exasperation in stride. The other Joe pulled back in the embrace enough to meet his eyes. “So you’re okay with me being totally into you?” he asked seriously, though he said with his lips twisted, like it was a joke.
Joe grinned, wide and feral. “Am I okay with it?” he teased. “Get me out of this stupid uniform and I’ll show you how okay I am with it.”
The other Joe gave him the same lascivious grin and put his hand to Joe’s chest, pushing him back a step. He looked him over appraisingly. “I dunno,” he said. “I think we should fuck while you’re wearing it. Or at least let me rip it off you.”
Joe looked down and saw that two obvious signs of the other Joe’s interest were starting to tent one of the legs of his basketball shorts, a condition not unlike his own. He pointed. “Dude, why did you end up with two? I mean, four I could understand, but…”
The other Joe was pulling off his own jersey, exposing a very long, well-muscled torso with just a little hair between the firm, defined pecs. He tossed the jersey aside and grinned. “Clearly the Joecock phenomenon is so huge, the camera just couldn’t mash four of these monsters down into just one cock!” he said, batting at the hardons that had emerged from the right leg of his short and were now sticking straight out at Joe. Joe’s own cock was, of course, doing the exact same thing.
“Maybe the camera just decided that you were more of a dick,” Joe teased.
Instantly the other Joe grinned wide and pushed him again, and this time Joe let himself fall back on their bed—only for his shoulder blade to smack against something hard and metallic. “Ow!” he said. He fished under him for what he’d fallen on, and pulled out—
“No way,” the other Joe said. Joe sat up on the edge of the bed, turning the camera over in his hand, and the other Joe sat next to him.
“Jacob had it,” Joe said, just to voice his thoughts. He looked at the other Joe. “Did it—maybe it followed us?’
Joe met his gaze. “Creepy.” Then his eyes widened slightly. “Maybe it followed us, and Jacob,” he said.
“Two cameras.” Joe looked back down at it. “You want to use it for anyth—”
“Hell no!” the other Joe said.
Joe looked up and grinned at him. The other Joe was smiling too. They were definitely on the same page about this. “Yeah. Me neither.”
Joe jumped up, found a sticky note and scribbled on it, and left camera and note on Christian’s taut and tidy bed. Then he turned and started pulling off his shoes and socks almost simultaneously with the other Joe, though he was slower as he was standing up. Finally it was tome to get naked. He whipped off his uniform in two seconds flat, or would have if his damned oversized boner didn’t get in the way and make it nearly impossible to take his shorts off with any grace and style. He finally tossed to shorts away and raised his hands. “Ta-da!”
Then he looked and saw that the other Joe was laying back on his elbows, already serenely naked, his twin monster erections towering invitingly from his crotch.
Joe narrowed his eyes. “Why you—” he said, and pounced.
When Christian D’Amato got back to his room after several grueling hours studying at the all-night library and turned on the small lamp on his desk, he found… well, several inexplicable things. The first two or three were his roommate, who now seemed to be much bigger and taller than he remembered and also in possession of a twin brother, with whom he was sleep-snuggling in their narrow bed in what clearly, especially given the stench of high-intensity jock spunk hanging in the air, was a state of profound afterglow. Shoes and basketball uniform parts strewn everywhere seemed to confirm their ravenous desire for each other.
What lay waiting on his own bed was just as baffling. In the middle of his neatly made blanket pertly sat a strange, outdated digital camera he had never seen before. It was silver or chrome and looked like something cheap someone would have had to buy twenty years ago before smartphones were a thing. It’s probably older than I am, he thought, completely perplexed.
Stuck to it was a hurried note in his roommate’s blocky handwriting. He lifted the note up so he could try to decipher it.
“Christian,” it said, then underneath that were scrawled two short sentences, in quotes for some reason.
“‘Use this to get what you want,’” it said. “‘I’ll be waiting.’”