Mariposa honeymoon: A six-pack story

by Cris Kane

 Their flamboyant best-man Pierce gives strait-laced newlyweds Derek and Charles a mysterious six-pack to liven up their Cancun honeymoon.

Added: Dec 2018 Updated: 16 Feb 2019 105,833 words 16,574 views 4.5 stars (11 votes)

Contents (19 parts)
Part 1 Their flamboyant best-man Pierce gives strait-laced newlyweds Derek and Charles a mysterious six-pack to liven up their Cancun honeymoon. (added: 22 Dec 2018)Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 As the second day of their honeymoon begins, Charles and Derek’s latest changes bring them separate adventures and enthusiastic new friends. Finally a hectic night on the town leads Charles and Derek to confusion, awkwardness, arousal, frustration, and tenderness. (added: 5 Jan 2019)Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9 On the morning after, Derek gets some answers about what has been going on, and makes a surprising new discovery. At odds with each other, Derek and Charles turn to Mariposa again on the final day of their honeymoon, but their new incarnations show them the way home. (added: 2 Feb 2019)Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13 In the epic finale of the body-shifting, mind-twisting epic, Derek and Charles explore their latest incarnations and experience their last wild honeymoon night in Cancun—which involves crowd love for Mike the Spike, a wet Speedo competition, an admirer for Pierce, and a final night alone as they begin a new life together. (added: 16 Feb 2019)Part 14 In the epic finale of the body-shifting, mind-twisting epic, Derek and Charles explore their latest incarnations and experience their last wild honeymoon night in Cancun—which involves crowd love for Mike the Spike, a wet Speedo competition, an admirer for Pierce, and a final night alone as they begin a new life together. Part 15 In the epic finale of the body-shifting, mind-twisting epic, Derek and Charles explore their latest incarnations and experience their last wild honeymoon night in Cancun—which involves crowd love for Mike the Spike, a wet Speedo competition, an admirer for Pierce, and a final night alone as they begin a new life together. Part 16 In the epic finale of the body-shifting, mind-twisting epic, Derek and Charles explore their latest incarnations and experience their last wild honeymoon night in Cancun—which involves crowd love for Mike the Spike, a wet Speedo competition, an admirer for Pierce, and a final night alone as they begin a new life together. Part 17 In the epic finale of the body-shifting, mind-twisting epic, Derek and Charles explore their latest incarnations and experience their last wild honeymoon night in Cancun—which involves crowd love for Mike the Spike, a wet Speedo competition, an admirer for Pierce, and a final night alone as they begin a new life together. Part 18Part 19 In the epic finale of the body-shifting, mind-twisting epic, Derek and Charles explore their latest incarnations and experience their last wild honeymoon night in Cancun—which involves crowd love for Mike the Spike, a wet Speedo competition, an admirer for Pierce, and a final night alone as they begin a new life together. 

Charles gave his new husband Derek a worried glance as their mutual best man Pierce wobbled his way to the microphone to offer a toast. Derek simply smiled back and gave his new husband Charles’s hand a reassuring squeeze, whispering, “Relax, it’ll be funny.”

The diminutive Pierce, dark-skinned with a high-cheekboned handsomeness, was eye-catching in a crushed-velvet purple tuxedo, ruffled shirt and bow tie, teetering on white platform shoes with four-inch heels which boosted him to, charitably, five-foot-six. More than a few guests had remarked how Pierce resembled a Native American version of Prince, unaware that, on down days from his job as a flight attendant, Pierce occasionally performed lead vocals for an all-Indian Prince cover band called Purple Raindance.

Pierce swaggered to the microphone, swept a perfectly manicured hand through his permed black hair, and tried to focus on the notes he had written, but too much champagne had blurred the words on the page. He let the paper drop to the floor, grabbed the wireless mic with both hands and began to riff.

“Derek and Charles,” he began in his mellifluous speaking voice, “are the most boring gay people you will ever meet.”

A roar of laughter arose from those gathered in the second largest ballroom at the Marriott near the airport. Derek let out a “good natured” chuckle, while Charles forced a pained “good sport” smile.

“I don’t mean that as an insult,” Pierce continued, his confidence bolstered by the enthusiastic response to his opening line. “It’s just an objective fact. I mean, just look at them. Have you ever seen two more generic white guys in your life? Growing up, I had a Ken doll, and he looked way more ethnic than these two. If these two accidentally wore white suits in a blizzard, no one would find them until the spring thaw.”

He gestured toward the men of the hour who, on the surface, were indeed fairly standard-issue. Both were bland midwesterners with pleasant but unspectacular features. Both were five-foot-eleven and in their early thirties with brown hair, brown eyes, and brown cars. Despite being three months older, Derek was universally assumed to be the younger of the pair, due to his trim physique and intact head of hair, in contrast to Charles’s slightly paunchy build and ever-increasing bald spot. Both looked mildly uncomfortable, sweating in their matching black tuxes, as their considerably flashier best man launched into his roast.

“Let’s be honest. To look at them, you wouldn’t immediately guess that Derek and Charles are gay. On the Kinsey scale, which as you know runs from the Rock at one end to Johnny Weir at the other, these two are solidly in that nebulous Mike Pence range. When we went to order the wedding cake, the first bakery we went to refused to do it. Not because they were homophobic, but because they thought Derek and Charles weren’t gay enough! Then there was a long debate over what kind of cake to have. As you’ll see, they finally settled on a traditional white cake with white frosting, although Charles worried that would be too spicy.”

Derek noticed the laugh lines near Charles’s eyes growing more plentiful, although they were unaccompanied by actual laughter. Derek elbowed Charles. Charles merely widened his plastered-on grin.

“For those of you who don’t know, Derek and I were roommates in college. Derek was from a quiet small town and I’m pretty sure I was the first gay person he ever met. And I must admit, he flew completely under my gaydar. I totally expected him to settle down in the suburbs and marry some dull, middlebrow, soul-crushing woman… and, in my defense, I was not that far off. Derek and I had lived together for three years before he confessed to me that he was gay, although I admit that I did miss some pretty obvious signals, like when told me he was studying to be an oral surgeon. I mean, don’t most straight surgeons use their hands? Even now, if you pay close attention, there are certain telltale giveaways, like instead of instructing his patients to spit, he tells them to swallow.”

Even in his bleary state, Pierce could tell that he was losing a few of the more staid guests, so he closed his eyes and tried to think of things to say that weren’t so sexually oriented. This posed a challenge, as ninety percent of the sentences that emerged from Pierce’s mouth on an average day were double entendres, even landing the occasional Olympic-degree-of-difficulty triple entendre when he felt particularly saucy.

“I was worried about Derek for a while. I was afraid that he’d end up alone. He wasn’t the type of guy to really put himself out there. I’d ask him to go out to a gay bar, but he’d say he had to study. I kept trying to get him to march in the Pride parade, but the best I could manage was getting him to attend the Grudging Acceptance festival. Some people ask whether Derek and I ever… ya know… ‘did’ anything, but I just want to assure Charles that our relationship has always been strictly platonic. We’re two totally different types of people. Basically, I’m the kind of guy who wears assless chaps, while Derek is an assless chap. I’m serious, the man has no booty! You could iron a shirt on Derek’s tuchis. Get up and show the people!”

A rhythmic clap grew from the attendees, encouraging Derek to show off his lack of a posterior. Blushing, Derek rose from his chair and tauntingly grabbed at the tails of his jacket, but shook his head and sat down without modeling his gluteal deficiency. Pierce led the disappointed boos, before advising the guests, “No, that’s okay. You folks are literally not missing anything. His buttocks are practically concave.”

Pierce turned back to the main table and grabbed a glass of bubbly, which Charles took as an encouraging indication that the toast was drawing to a merciful close, but Pierce merely took a sip and resumed his routine.

“So I was stunned when Derek texted me three years ago and declared that he had met someone. And the moment I met Charles, it made total sense. Charles is everything that I’m not. I’m, shall we say, petite, and Charles is tall…ish.” Pierce waggled his hand and shrugged. “I’m fascinating and vivacious and talented and energetic and charismatic, and Charles…is a corporate lawyer.” Pierce was relieved that the lawyers in attendance, who comprised the bulk of Charles’s guests, were laughing at that one. “I’m part Cheyenne and part Cherokee, and Charles is 100% purebred Caucasian. For god’s sake, his last name is actually White! How much more on-the-nose can you get? Charles is so white that, as a best-man’s gift, he gave me a blanket infested with smallpox.”

As nervous laughter rolled through the room, Charles shifted uneasily in his seat. Derek patted his arm, trying to calm him down, but Pierce was showing no indication that he was ready to wrap it up.

“But seriously, the two of them have a lot in common. Really, a disturbing amount in common. When strangers first meet Derek and Charles, they usually assume that the two of them are brothers…which, if it were true, would be the only thing that would make the thought of them screwing remotely interesting. It’s hard for me to picture the two of them having sex, and trust me, I have tried, but I always doze off after about twenty seconds, which I assume is what happens to them as well. I prefer to think that they’ve never actually had sex. In fact, I have a theory that neither of them is actually gay. It’s all just been a terrible misunderstanding, but they’re both too damn polite to say anything, so they just decided to go with it. But, now that they’re married, I guess we’ve got to take their word for it. Think of it, one day, they actually looked at each other and thought, ‘You know what? I never want to have sex with anyone besides you.’ To which I reply, ‘Have you not seen Shawn Mendes?’ Give me a break. I thought the whole point of being gay was NOT to do all that humdrum bourgeois shit that you straight people have monopolized forever. The same guy every time for the rest of your life? Sounds kinda kinky to me, but, hey, knock yourselves out.” With a notable lack of enthusiasm, Pierce halfheartedly raised a fist in the air and let out a monotone cheer, “Yay, monogamy.”

Pierce finally turned toward the couple and raised his glass, sloshing half of its contents onto his hand, drenching the frilly cuff of his shirt sleeve. “So now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, let’s raise our glasses to Charles White and Derek Nero.” Pierce turned back to the guests, who were all hoisting their glasses as well. “By the way, did you know that ‘Nero’ is Italian for ‘Black’? So, when you think about it, this is actually a marriage of White and Black. And whattaya get when you mix white and black? Gray! When they were debating whether to keep their names or hyphenate or whatever, I made what I thought was a brilliant suggestion that they both officially change their last names to Gray. It seemed perfect for them. They didn’t go for it, but I know that, from now on, whenever I look at them, I’m gonna think, ‘Hey, look, there are those two Gray guys.’ But in all honesty, I do truly love both of you and am so honored that you asked me to be your best man. So here’s my toast to Derek Gray and Charles Gray. They’re gay, they’re gray, get used to them!”

Encouraged by gestures from Pierce, the crowd repeated, “They’re gay, they’re gray, get used to them!” before clinking glasses and drinking a toast. As the guests tapped utensils on their stemware and water tumblers, the groom and groom kissed, although Charles kept his lips pressed tightly together, preventing Derek’s probing tongue from entry. Pierce earned one more laugh by turning away from them drowsily and yawning. “Okay, that’s enough of them. Let’s dance!”

Charles remained tight-lipped throughout the rest of the night. Although Derek knew Charles to be taciturn, he found him to be unusually quiet tonight, remaining monosyllabic even through their first dance to the strains of Adele’s version of “Lovesong”. Once that dance was over, Charles retreated to the head table, nursing glass after glass of Chablis and content to watch as Derek mingled with the guests and occasionally demonstrated his own modest dancing skills. An outside observer would be forgiven for assuming that this was actually Pierce’s wedding reception, as he commanded attention for hours, leading conga lines and chicken dances and bunny hops with unflagging energy before breaking out his Prince impression with a recreation of the Purple One’s complete Super Bowl setlist. By the end of the evening, Pierce was shirtless atop the deejay’s amplifiers, baring his toned physique, bow tie wrapped around his forehead like a bandana, leading a boisterous crowd of Derek’s dental colleagues and Charles’s law partners in a rowdy sing-and-dance-along to “YMCA”.

The frivolity might have continued longer if the alarm on Pierce’s phone hadn’t alerted him that it was time for Derek and Charles to be heading to the airport. Slipping back into his sweat-drenched shirt, Pierce snapped into action, ordering the couple to change out of their tuxes and into their traveling clothes. When they re-emerged from the men’s room, Derek was wearing a floral shirt, linen slacks and deck shoes, while Charles had ditched his monkey suit for a gray pin-striped jacket and pants, complete with a silk necktie. “This is what you wear when you’re going on vacation?” Pierce asked, mystified. “You must be a real hoot on Casual Friday.”

Charles offered to change, but Pierce declared that they were already running late. He grabbed the couple’s suitcases and led them to the limousine waiting to whisk them off to their red-eye. As his wedding gift, Pierce had arranged for Derek and Charles to fly to Cancun where he had booked them three nights in a suite at his favorite beachfront hotel, all comped. Pierce insisted in riding along to the airport to ensure that everything went off without a hitch. After hoisting the couple’s bags into the limo’s trunk, Pierce took a seat up front with the driver and raised the privacy panel in order to give Charles and Derek some time alone after a long day of being the focus of attention. Even then, Charles remained quiet and distant, gazing out the window at the passing city lights. Derek spent the drive drumming his fingers on his armrest and polishing off a couple more glasses of champagne.

Once they reached the airport, Pierce took care of checking the couple’s baggage and obtaining their boarding passes, doing everything possible to make their experience trouble-free. When they reached the security checkpoint, Derek hugged Pierce and told him, “Thank you so much for everything. The day wouldn’t have been nearly as perfect without everything you did.”

“Why, shucks, it was my pleasure,” Pierce said with a dismissive gesture, “I promise, I’ll be the best man at every one of your weddings.” Pierce then turned to Charles, who stiffly extended a hand to shake. Pierce flinched. “Oh, no, you’re not getting off that easily. We’re practically family now.” He wrapped his arms around Charles’s lower torso and squeezed. Visibly uncomfortable, Charles awkwardly patted Pierce’s back as if he were consoling a co-worker whom he didn’t know well or burping a baby that wasn’t his.

Pierce pointed them toward the TSA pre-checked line, then cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted to Derek and Charles, “Have a blast! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! And if you somehow think of something I wouldn’t do, let me know so I can do it on my next trip!”

The staff at the gate knew to be waiting for “Pierce’s buddies” and made sure that Derek and Charles boarded first, even before the parents with small children. They were led to their side-by-side seats in first class and served mimosas and warm mixed nuts. Following a clinking of glasses and a brief kiss, Charles set down his drink, closed his eyes and told Derek “Goodnight.”

Derek had tolerated Charles’s standoffish behavior at the reception, knowing that his new husband was shy and reserved, particularly around strangers, and wouldn’t want to make a public scene in front of their guests, but giving Derek the silent treatment now was downright rude. Not wishing to be overheard by the flight crew or the other passengers tromping through first class on their way to the cheap seats, Derek whispered sternly, “Would you mind telling me what is your problem?”

Without opening his eyes, he said innocently, “I don’t have a problem.”

“Don’t give me that. You’ve been in a pissy mood ever since Pierce’s toast.”

“Why would I be upset about Pierce’s toast?” Charles asked, his voice oozing sarcasm as he feigned sleepiness. “Why wouldn’t I love being called a hopeless dullard in front of a room full of my professional colleagues and the few members of my family who were willing to come to the wedding?”

“You’re being ridiculous. You know Pierce’s sense of humor by now. That’s just how he is. It was all in good fun.”

“The guests didn’t know it was in good fun,” Charles said, finally opening his eyes and actively engaging in the conversation.

“They seemed to be having a good time to me. Didn’t you hear all the laughter?”

“Well, you know what they say: people only laugh at something when they know it’s true.”

“You are just determined to find a way to be in a bad mood about this. So, he said we were boring. News flash: compared to Pierce, we are boring. Compared to him, everyone is boring. I know you two are still getting to know each other, but if you gave him a chance, you’d know he’s really a sweet and caring guy underneath all the surface outrageousness. If he hated you, would he really have given us free first-class flights and three free nights in Cancun?”

“Those are just freebies he gets from his job,” Charles said. “And he didn’t give them to us, he gave them to you. I still think he’s got a thing for you.”

Derek let out an involuntary cackle which drew the attention of the other first-class passengers. He leaned close to Charles and muttered, “For the last time, Pierce does not have a ‘thing’ for me. I told you, we’ve never been anything but friends. He’s not my type.”

“And what is your type?” Charles wondered aloud.

“Boring. Like you,” Derek said with a straight face.

Charles didn’t seem to appreciate it. “I’m glad you and Pierce find me so endlessly amusing. Let’s just drop the subject, okay?”

“Fine by me,” Derek said, grabbing the in-flight magazine and flipping through it without glancing at any of the pages.

Charles shifted uneasily in his seat for a minute before undropping the subject. “I mean where does he get off, speculating about our sex lives in front of everyone like that? I bet our sex lives are just as interesting as his.”

Derek stifled a laugh. “Okay, now that was funny. Trust me, you do not want to get into comparing your sexual exploits with Pierce. I was his roommate for four years, okay? And let’s just say his sex life is rainbow sherbet, and we’re pretty much plain vanilla.”

Charles responded, “What’s wrong with plain vanilla? Why does it get such a bad rap? Vanilla’s great. It goes well with everything.”

Derek patted Charles on the arm. “No question, vanilla’s great. I love vanilla. I married vanilla. I’m just saying that Pierce has sampled way more of the 31 flavors than we have.”

“I just don’t appreciate being publicly accused of ‘not being gay enough.’ Who made Pierce the final judge of who’s sufficiently gay? What am I supposed to do to prove my gay bonafides? Wear a feather boa and a hat made of dildos?” He cringed, worried that he had said “dildos” too loudly. He recalibrated to an intense whisper. “Excuse me if being a lawyer doesn’t allow me to be as out there and flaming as someone who’s serves drinks on planes and sings ‘Raspberry Beret’ on weekends. Excuse me if I choose to act with a little dignity instead of mincing around like a buffoon just to prove how outrageous and unconventional I can be. My parents and my brothers weren’t even there today because I’m too gay for them, okay? I married a man today. I’d say that makes me plenty gay!”

Charles’s normally pale face had flushed an intense shade of red. He noticed the other first-class passengers either staring in his direction or making obvious efforts not to stare. Embarrassed, he sank back in his seat and hoped he might blend in with the upholstery.

Derek gazed fondly at his husband, patting Charles’s forearm gently with his left hand while clicking open the texting app on his phone with his right. As he began to type one-handed, Charles glanced over and asked, “Who are you texting?”

“Pierce. I want him to apologize to you.”

Charles already regretted spilling out his emotions. “Please don’t. It’s not a big deal.”

“You nearly burst a blood vessel, now you’re saying it’s nothing?” Derek paused his typing and stared at Charles. “I refuse to let my marriage start with bad blood between my husband and my oldest friend. I’ll just tell Pierce he went too far.”

Charles reached over, trying to grab the phone away from Derek, who hoisted it out of Charles’s reach and cackled mischievously. A voice on the intercom requested that all passengers turn off their cell phones or put them on airplane mode for takeoff. Derek finished his message to Pierce and pressed “SEND”, then insolently stuck out his tongue at Charles.

Charles shook his head and leaned back in his seat. Despite his agitation, the cumulative effect of the night’s wine consumption seemed to kick in all at once, and he was snoring before the plane left the ground.

At the Cancun airport, Derek and Charles had been staring at the baggage claim conveyor belt for fifteen minutes with no sign of either of their suitcases. Charles was growing more perturbed by the second. “We were in first class. Our bags should be the first ones off the plane. You don’t suppose Pierce forgot to check them on time?”

Derek assured him, “Pierce would not have forgotten to check our luggage.” Despite his outward defense of his old roommate, Derek was beginning to wonder himself. Although it was the middle of the night back in California, Derek was tempted to message Pierce, although he hadn’t even received a reply yet to his earlier text requesting an apology for Charles.

In his peripheral vision, Derek noticed a gangly figure running frantically in their direction, arms flailing. The lanky Mexican, mid-twenties with a goatee and his long dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, wore an ill-fitting uniform of a short-sleeved white shirt, a mustard-colored vest and matching slacks that ended an inch above his ankles. He slowed his pace as he grew nearer, his black dress shoes skidding on the slick floor. Panting, he raised a card on which was hand-printed “MR. AND MR. GRAY.” Between breaths, he pointed to the sign and gasped, “Is this you, señores?”

Charles gave Derek a sidelong glance but said nothing. Derek smiled at the young man and said, “Si, si. And you are?”

The man grinned broadly, pleased to have located the couple. “My name is Jesus,” he said, pronouncing it hey-zoose in a lightly accented lilt. “Señor Pierce arranged for me to take you to your hotel.”

“Oh, how nice of him,” Derek said, poking Charles with his elbow. Pierce hadn’t informed Derek and Charles that he had lined up a driver for them. They had expected to grab a taxi, if their luggage ever materialized.

“Unfortunately,” Charles told Jesus, “our suitcases haven’t shown up yet.”

“No, I have them already in the car,” Jesus said with a wide smile, gesturing a thumb toward the exit. “I took them. They were the first bags off the plane!”

As Pierce gestured for them to follow him outside, Derek shot Charles a smug look. It might take a while, but he was confident Charles would eventually warm up to Pierce.

As the newlyweds squeezed into the backseat of Jesus’ rented Chevy Beat, Derek asked, “So, you know Señor Pierce?”

“Oh, jess,” Jesus said, “he come here very much. He is muy sexy, no?”

Derek smirked. “Oh, si, muy muy.”

On the drive from the airport, Jesus maintained a rapid-fire running monologue about the local attractions, shouting over the high-energy dance music blasting through the car’s speakers. Derek feigned interest, while Charles pretended to be asleep. Upon their arrival at the hotel, Jesus grabbed the bags from the back and led the couple into the spacious lobby. When Charles and Derek made a move toward the check-in desk, Jesus stopped them and insisted on picking up the keys himself. “Señor Pierce said I should take care of everything, so all you have to do is relax and enjoy each other.”

When they reached their room on the ground floor, Jesus unlocked the door and gestured for Derek and Charles to enter. They both paused, having previously discussed the tradition of a bride being carried over the threshold on her honeymoon. They didn’t know the proper protocol for a gay couple. In their relationship, they had always aimed for equality, trading off responsibilities, splitting all expenses, never allowing one to dominate over the other, even alternating who was the top and who was the bottom in the bedroom, and that wasn’t going to change now. “Side by side?” Charles suggested. Derek nodded, and they both stepped forward, just barely fitting through the doorway two abreast. Jesus followed them inside, toting the baggage into the bedroom.

The airy living room offered a spectacular view of the Caribbean, with a patio which opened directly onto the beach. Even knowing Pierce’s taste for the finer things, Derek was blown away by the elegance of their suite, expressing his approval with a long whistle. Charles begrudgingly agreed, saying, “It’s very nice.” He wandered over to the wet bar where a package containing six multi-colored bottles sat upon the marble countertop with an envelope taped to its side. “Looks like we got a housewarming gift.”

Derek walked over and immediately recognized the handwriting on the envelope which read “Derek and Charles”. “It’s from Pierce,” he declared. For more than fifteen years, he had been deciphering this distinctive script, with excessive flourishes and elaborate curlicues, always in silver ink. Derek may have been the only person on Earth capable of reading Pierce’s writing, which prioritized stylishness over legibility. Even Pierce sometimes had to ask Derek to look at it and tell him what it said.

Derek peeled the envelope away from the package and removed the notecard from inside. “‘Bienvenido, muchachos,’” he read. “‘Thought this local favorite would spice up your honeymoon. Be careful, though. It’s strong stuff. A couple important words of warning. You should each drink one bottle a day, but do not drink more than one bottle a day.’” He paused to inform Charles, “‘Do not’ and ‘More’ are underlined, like, five times. ‘Wait until the effects have completely worn off before trying another bottle. NEVER…’ He wrote ‘NEVER’ in all caps. ‘NEVER mix drinks. Do not take even a single sip from each other’s bottles or you’ll have a very bad reaction. All that being said, I think you’ll really get a kick out of what it does for you. Have fun!’ Then at the bottom, he wrote three X’s, three O’s and…well, basically, what looks like a penis.”

Charles had removed one of the bottles from the six-pack and was inspecting it. The label featured a drawing of a butterfly and the word “Mariposa”, with all the ingredients and other text in Spanish. The amber liquid inside seemed to Charles to be emitting a faint glow. “That’s quite the list of warnings. What’s he trying to do, poison us?”

“And why, exactly, would Pierce go to the bother of sending us all the way to Mexico and delivering six bottles of poison to our room?”

“I don’t know, maybe so he could have a funny story to tell all his pals about how his lame-ass friends the Grays spent their entire honeymoon on the toilet with the Tijuana trots!”

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Derek said, shaking his head. “Probably safer than drinking the water.”

“Excuse me if I don’t like the idea of drinking something if I don’t know what’s in it.”

Jesus returned empty-handed from the bedroom. “I put your suitcases in the bedroom, señores. If you need anything else…” He stopped in his tracks and gasped as he noticed the bottle in Charles’s hand. “Oh Dios mÃo, is that Mariposa?”

“You’ve heard of this stuff?” Charles asked.

“Oh, jess. Is very expensive and hard to find. Is from Señor Pierce, jess?”

“Si, from Señor Pierce. What is it anyway?” Derek asked. “Like beer or tequila or something?”

Jesus walked over and stared at the six-pack like it was a holy relic. “Mariposa is the drink of the gods. They say it has magical powers.”

Charles rolled his eyes at this obvious bit of humbug designed to bamboozle naive foreigners, but Derek was intrigued. He rummaged for a bottle opener from behind the bar and gestured to the remaining five bottles in the pack. “So, which one should I try first?” he asked Jesus.

“I wouldn’t know, señor. They all do different things.”

Derek blindly reached for the six-pack and plucked out a bottle which contained an orange liquid that was practically fluorescent. As he removed the cap, Charles glared at him. “You’re not seriously going to drink…” Before he could complete his sentence, Derek had defiantly pressed the bottle to his lips and taken a substantial swig.

Derek had never tasted anything quite like Mariposa. Despite its color, it wasn’t orange-flavored, nor did it taste like any other fruit, nor did it seem to contain any alcohol. A comforting sensation radiated from the liquid as it passed over his tongue, down his throat and into his stomach, after which the warm feeling began to suffuse his entire body. “Oh my god,” he insisted to Charles, “you have to try this! It’s amazing!”

Derek offered his open bottle to Charles, but Jesus stepped in to disrupt the hand-off. “No, señor, everyone must drink from his own bottle. Is tradition.”

“You seem to know a lot about this stuff,” Charles said to Jesus. “You ever had it yourself?”

Jesus seemed bashful to admit it, but nodded his head with a slight grin.

“It’s really tasty,” Derek assured Charles, who still looked dubious. “Come on, it’s our honeymoon. For three days, you don’t have to think about the law and I don’t have to think about teeth. Loosen up. Take a chance. Live a little!” Derek handed Charles the bottle opener. It was practically a dare.

Begrudgingly, Charles took the opener, but still hesitated. “Isn’t it a little early in the morning to start drinking?” Derek gave his answer in the form of another long draw from his bottle. Charles shrugged and popped the cap of his amber bottle. He took a whiff and caught an intriguing aroma which he couldn’t place, somewhere between cinnamon and Vicks VapoRub. He lifted it to his mouth and took a cautious sip. His tastebuds tingled and he found it impossible to resist a bigger glug, which seemed to go straight to his head. He felt unsteady and regained his balance by clutching the back of a barstool.

Derek swallowed the liquid in his mouth and grabbed Charles by the shoulders. “Whoa there. You okay?”

Charles looked back wide-eyed with an atypically broad smile. “Yeah, I’m fine. That was stronger than I expected.”

Sensing that his work here was done, Jesus held out the two room keys. “I should now leave you alone to enjoy yourselves. Here are your keys.”

Derek took the keys, while Charles pulled out his wallet, extracting one hundred pesos which he held out for Jesus. “Here you go. Thanks for everything.”

Jesus waved it off. “No, no, no, Señor Pierce said not to take your money.”

Charles made a move to put the money back in his wallet, but Derek snatched it away and tucked it into Jesus’ shirt pocket with a wink. “Well, then how about we just won’t tell Señor Pierce?”

Jesus grinned and said, “Muchas gracias.”

Charles gestured toward the six-pack, which was now reduced to four unopened bottles. “You want a bottle of this stuff for the road? You were right, it’s pretty damn good.”

Jesus shook his head. “No, thank you. Señor Pierce got those especially for you. I will check in with you later to see how you are doing. Buenos dÃas! Enjoy your Mariposa!” He took one last furtive glance at Derek and Charles before letting himself out.

Derek and Charles stood by the bar, staring at each other. “Do you feel anything weird?” Derek asked.

Charles took a moment to assess. “Maybe a little tingling.”

“Tingling is good,” Derek declared, sipping the remaining liquid from his bottle. An icy chill snaked its way down his spine, then dissipated when it reached his ass crack. He suddenly felt incredibly horny. “Whoa! I think I know what this stuff is. I think it’s an aphrodisiac.”

“Figures Pierce would assume we’d need help in that department,” Charles harrumphed.

“Nothing wrong with a little boost. I don’t recall you complaining that time I took some recreational Viagra.” Derek raised his eyebrows and Charles grinned at the memory. “C’mon, finish that and let’s get honeymooning.”

Charles raised the bottle to his mouth, guzzled down the rest of its contents and slammed the bottle onto the bar. Derek grabbed Charles’s necktie, wrapping it around his fist and tugging it like a leash to lead Charles into the bedroom. Once there, Derek kicked off his shoes and began to unbutton his shirt.

Charles felt aroused, but he was even more aware of a prickly feeling spreading across his skin. He scratched at his chest and was starting to feel claustrophobic. “I think I’m gonna take a shower.”

Derek was baffled. “Now? I’m just gonna make you all sweaty again. Why don’t you wait and we can shower after?”

“You could shower with me now,” Charles suggested, surprising them both. Charles was notoriously private when it came to personal hygiene. He became anxious if Derek was in the bathroom at the same time as him, even if Charles was just doing something as mundane as flossing his teeth. They had been living together for nine months now and Derek had never personally witnessed Charles taking a poop. He had never suggested that they shower together. “It’s been a long day and a long night and I just want to freshen up first.”

“But I wanna fuck now!” Derek whined, also uncharacteristically. He flopped onto the bed, his unbuttoned shirt flaring open to display his lean torso.

Charles was turned on by the sight, but his desire to shower was growing even more intense. His skin felt warm, and sweat was trickling down his forehead. “Get ready,” he said firmly. “I’ll be back in two minutes.” He practically raced into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him.

Derek huffed, unhappy about the delay. He sat up and struggled to slide his arms free from his shirt sleeves, then hopped to his feet to remove his pants. As the waistline of his pants dropped to knee level, he noticed something odd about his reflection in a full-length mirror on the wall and shuffled over for a closer inspection. Although the Mariposa had heightened his senses and he felt abnormally alert, his eyes looked tired and his skin was sallow and puffy. He wondered if this could be a side effect of the drink, or maybe this was just the way he always looked after a long flight. He wasn’t the vain type, but he definitely wanted to look hot for Charles during their first marital fuckfest.

Derek shook his head. “Fuckfest” wasn’t a common word in his vocabulary. One of the things that had drawn him to Charles was their mutual sense of propriety and civility. They always tried to behave with a certain amountaim of decorum, although Charles took it to a degree that even Derek found excessive. They weren’t prudes (no matter what Pierce thought), but they didn’t feel the need to walk around spewing vulgarities and turning everything in life into something sexual. Yet at this moment, Derek could think of nothing better than feeling Charles’s cock ramming its way deep into his plump ass.

A wave of wooziness swept over Derek. Where had that thought come from? Derek’s lack of a booty had been a running joke with Pierce ever since their college days, to the point that Pierce eventually convinced Derek to pad his underwear with toilet paper to increase his luck picking up guys at gay bars. To Pierce’s credit, the ploy actually worked, at least until the embarrassing moment when the guy Derek had been drooling over all night pinned Derek against the bathroom wall and found himself squeezing two fistfuls of Charmin. And yet, as Derek glanced sideways at his profile in the mirror, he could swear that his boxer briefs looked more fully packed than usual. Optical illusion, he thought, but as he propped his hands on his hips, his fingertips felt tactile evidence of the plumpness that he saw in his reflection. He rubbed his palms across the bulging masses lurking beneath his white cotton Calvins, amazed by their size, roundness and firmness. Holy fuck, he thought, not only was this Mariposa shit an aphrodisiac, it was clearly a potent hallucinogen. Yet it all felt so real. He turned his back to the mirror, looked over his shoulder and waggled his waist to check out the glory of his spectacular new bubble butt. Just the sight of it was making his cock rock hard. “Charles,” he shouted through the bathroom door to be heard over the shower, “you have gotta see this!”

Inside the bathroom, Charles was conducting his own self-inspection. After turning on the shower water to warm it up, he began to undress in his usual orderly manner, starting with removing his tie and taking off his shirt. One glance at his chest and he knew that the unbearable itching sensation he’d been feeling wasn’t just in his head. He seemed to have broken out in some sort of rash, with small red bumps rising across his ordinarily smooth skin. As he brushed a hand across these tiny outcroppings, he noticed that his pecs jiggled more than usual, and his stomach appeared to jut out more prominently than ever. He blamed that on too much wine and cake and hoped it wouldn’t be too much of a turnoff to Derek.

Wiping a hand across his sweaty face, Charles felt the surprising scratch of stubble. He had shaved on the morning of the wedding, and it typically took a week for him to grow any visible facial hair, yet he could see in the mirror a faint five-o’clock-shadow. Just like Derek, Charles theorized that perhaps the Mariposa was making him see things that weren’t there. Beyond a couple of tokes of substandard weed in high school, Charles had never indulged in any mind-altering substances stronger than white wine, so whatever this drink was laced with was probably far more potent than anything he had ever ingested. Yet Charles, who was prone to panic attacks, found himself oddly at peace with the idea that his eyes were deceiving him. He had a sense that nothing bad would happen to him under the influence of Mariposa.

Charles undid his belt and sat down on the toilet seat to remove his pants, but lowering them proved to be a struggle. His pant legs seemed to have shrunk around his thighs and wouldn’t budge any further. Out of frustration, he yanked with both hands on either side of his zipper, and with a loud rip, the cloth shredded away from his legs. The moist, warm air felt exhilarating against his skin. He had never torn away an article of his own clothing, but this small rebellious act gave him a sense of power far out of proportion with the minimal amount of strength necessary to pull it off. He could hear Derek’s muffled voice somewhere in the distance, but Charles found it impossible to focus on anything besides the increasingly erotic feelings coursing through his body, unable to think of anything other than satisfying his own immediate urges.

Back in the bedroom, Derek had returned to the bed, lying on his back, knees up, right hand buried inside his underwear. He grabbed hold of his penis, which remained frustratingly flaccid and felt small in his grip. Strangely, everything aside from his cock seemed to be getting harder, as if every muscle and tissue in his body was clenching, growing thicker, feeling stronger. He felt like one gigantic fist. Desperate for his cock to feel just as awesome as the rest of him, he accelerated his stroking speed to a frenzied level and eventually nurtured an erection to life. “Charles, I need you,” he yelled, his voice straining. It seemed wrong to “waste” a perfectly good orgasm on your honeymoon without your spouse’s participation, but Derek was losing patience. He needed to fuckin’ cum right this fuckin’ second or he would fuckin’ die.

Charles had made it into the shower, and each bead of water striking his skin felt like an injection of testosterone. He was panting heavily as he shot an enormous glob of the hotel’s complimentary shampoo into his palm. He applied the creamy substance into his hair and scrubbed, then transferred some of the suds to his sideburns, then across the bristles that he could now feel across his cheeks and down his neck. From there, his hands drifted to his broadening chest where his fingers became entangled among fine growing tendrils there. Charles rested his weight against the cool tile wall and slid one hand around the bulge of his belly until he had a tight grip on his tumescent dick. As he yanked on it with animalistic ferocity, it grew thicker and longer, far past its usual extremes. A tiny part of Charles’s brain registered all these anomalous details, but that lobe wasn’t running the show right now. As his arousal intensified, his guttural moans evolved into ecstatic howls, issued in perfect sync with each increasingly long stroke down his shaft. As the ecstasy peaked, Charles grunted furiously. Blasts of jizz began to splatter on the shower door, each one hitting with enough force that the glass audibly rattled.

Simultaneously, in the bedroom, Derek was shrieking as a steady flow of ejaculate oozed onto his hand and pooled inside the confines of his ultra-tight underwear. He sank back into the plush bedspread and let his mind drift. For a moment, he had no conception of where he was or even who he was. He was a creature of pure bliss.

Several minutes later, Charles found himself slumped on the floor of the shower, water still pelting him but no longer providing the arousing rush it had earlier. He had never jacked off so hard that he blacked out, although he wouldn’t mind doing it again. As he reached over to turn off the spray, he gazed curiously at the beefy arm stretching toward the faucet, not immediately sensing its connection to him. As soon as the pounding of the water halted, he heard a loud scream from the next room. After struggling to pull himself to his feet, he lumbered across the bathroom and swung open the door.

Across the bedroom, a very buff and totally naked man was gazing into a mirror, flexing to check out his prodigious biceps. Before confronting this intruder, Charles allowed himself a moment to admire the perfect symmetry of the man’s wide v-shaped back as it tapered down to a slender waist, then flared out again into muscular buttocks the size and firmness of ripe cantaloupes.

Charles was still staring when the man turned around to face him. His front was just as fully developed as his back had been, with two cinder-block pecs hovering over a perfectly etched eight pack and the striated quads and bulging calves of a junior bodybuilder. A short, shriveled penis lurked in the shadows of his pubic hair, as if hiding in embarrassment for being so much less impressive than the other parts with which he shared a body. The man had straight black hair that hung over his forehead in bangs, and soft Asian features that seemed incongruously sweet on such a beast of a body. His mouth fell slack as his eyes drifted to Charles’s face. “Charles?” he asked in a scratchy tenor which made him clutch his throat in dismay.

The voice sounded unfamiliar, but Charles knew this could only be one person, impossible as it may seem. “Derek?” The name came out low and gravelly.

The Asian man nodded and stepped away from the mirror, allowing Charles to view himself from head to toe. What he saw was incomprehensible. This was not the dweebish, slightly doughy reflection he had grown to expect and sometimes dread. Instead, he found himself looking at a mountain of a man, more bulky than muscular, the body of a laborer, his arms, legs and chest thickly forested with small dark curls. He stumbled forward and crouched to get a better look at his newly rugged face, which was framed by shoulder-length brown hair parted in the center and largely obscured behind a bushy grey-flecked beard and mustache. His neatly trimmed eyebrows had thickened into a single dark strip which shadowed his now intensely green eyes. When they had said their vows less twenty-four hours ago, Charles and Derek had looked straight into each other’s eyes. Now, Charles had erupted to well over six feet and easily more than three hundred pounds, while Derek had been compacted into five-foot-seven of solid muscle.

Charles became aware that Derek was also staring into the mirror, his attention riveted to the flaccid slab of uncut meat which dangled like a pendulum between Charles’s beefy thighs.

Derek’s eyes rose to meet Charles’s. He found the words for both of them. “What the fuck did Pierce do to us?”

Charles propped himself on the edge of the bed, which only emphasized the size of his prodigious new gut. Its size made it impossible to suck in, as he usually tried to do with his usual paunch without much success. He decided to just let it hang out. “I had the feeling Pierce was trying to sabotage our honeymoon somehow,” he said in his rough new voice, “but I could never have imagined this.”

Derek had returned to the mirror and was studying the strange new face that gazed back, with its narrow eyelids and upturned nose. “I wonder what I am now. Do you think I look more Chinese or Japanese or Korean?”

“This is what you’re focused on right now?” Charles bellowed with exasperation.

“I’m just curious about my heritage,” Derek replied meekly.

“Derek, your heritage is Italian and Norwegian. Get a grip! Our bodies have just been made utterly unrecognizable, and you’re acting like all you did was get a new haircut!”

“Okay, chill out,” Derek said with the peevishness of a teenage girl being asked to take out the garbage. But now that Charles mentioned it, this basic bowl cut Derek was now sporting wasn’t very fashionable. He wondered if the hotel had a decent salon. “So what should we do now?”

Charles stroked his beard. He hadn’t thought things through beyond being furious in the moment and, long term, planning Pierce’s slow and painful demise. “There’s got to be a way to undo this.” His eyes widened as an idea struck him. He rose from the bed and stomped into the main room of the suite, his shoulders brushing both sides of the doorway as he passed through. Derek trailed after him, walking with a pronounced swagger as his massive arms swung in wide arcs.

Charles marched over to the bar and began to inspect the remaining four bottles in the six-pack of Mariposa. Derek was mystified. “You’re not seriously thinking what I think you’re thinking. You’re not thinking of drinking another bottle?”

“Maybe one of these will turn me into something less gargantuan,” Charles said, realizing that there was no way to tell the difference between the bottles except for the colors of the contents, and the golden brown shade of what he had imbibed had offered no clue of what it would do to him.

“Are you crazy?” Derek asked, grabbing the explanatory note from Pierce and quoting it. “‘Do not drink more than one bottle a day. Wait until the effects have completely worn off before trying another bottle. NEVER mix drinks!’”

Charles grumbled. “Funny how his note didn’t mention that this shit would turn us into freaks.”

“Well, he gave us all these warnings and we were still dumb enough to drink the stuff, so whose fault is it, really? At least it says the effects wear off, so we’re not stuck like this forever. And if you can drink a bottle a day, that must mean it’ll wear off by tomorrow.”

“You mean we’re gonna be stuck like this for a whole day?”

“I guess so,” Derek said, glancing at his jacked reflection in the patio door. “I dunno, it might be interesting to go around like this for a day. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

“I’m gonna need someone else’s shoes, because these feet sure ain’t gonna fit in mine!” Charles stopped short. “Aren’t! Aren’t gonna fit in mine. You lucked out and turned into a hot little power bottom. I look like a lumberjack and Bigfoot had a baby.”

“I think you look like a sexy bear daddy,” Derek said, admiring the curve of his bare buttocks in the morning sunlight.

Charles realized that the drapes to the patio were wide open. “Shit, anybody can see us walkin’ around naked in here!”

“Let ’em look. I don’t mind,” Derek said with a grin.

Charles tromped across the room and pulled the curtain, then grabbed Derek by the shoulders and shook him. “Derek, you gotta snap out of it. We gotta do something. I think we need to go to the hospital.”

With his well-developed muscles, Derek easily pulled himself out of the big man’s grip. “Hospital? What for? ‘Hey, strange Mexican doctor, I look and feel better than I ever have in my life. Can you give me something to undo that?’” He gestured toward his face. “I don’t think they’ve got a cure for turning Japanese.”

“This kind of massive change can’t be good for our bodies. There’s gotta be an antidote,” Charles said, pointing to Derek with a pudgy index finger. “Ask Pierce.”

Derek saw the fury in Charles’s eyes and obeyed. He strutted into the bedroom and fished his cell phone out of the pocket of his discarded slacks. Walking back to the living room, he began to type a text to Pierce, noticing that his hands and fingers had shrunk from their usual size. He guessed it must be true what they say about guys with small hands.

“What are you doing?” Charles asked, leaning his weight against the bar.

“I’m texting Pierce, like you said.”

“Don’t text him,” Charles bellowed. “This is a fuckin’ emergency! Call him!”

Derek flinched. Quite literally, he’d never seen Charles like this. He quickly switched from his texting app to his phone and pressed Pierce’s name. “It’s ringing,” he informed Charles.

“Put it on speaker,” Charles commanded. Derek did as he was told. They listened as the phone rang four times before Pierce’s voicemail kicked in.

“Hello, dahling,” Pierce’s voice cooed. “I’m far too busy to deal with your petty concerns, but if you’ll leave me a message, I’ll decide if you’re worth calling back. Ta-ta!”

After the beep, Derek made a move to speak, but Charles leaned in toward the phone and overpowered him. “Hi, Pierce, it’s Charles and Derek. You might not recognize our voices because you turned us into fucking mutants! So now that you’ve had your fun, let us know how we can reverse it immediately.” Charles walked away, pacing the room heavily, his anger building.

Derek lifted the phone to his mouth and meekly said, “Call me. ‘Kay? Bye.” He disconnected the call and placed the phone atop the bar. “I’m sure he’ll get right back to us.”

“Oh, yeah, because he’s always sooo nice and sooo helpful. What the fuck are we supposed to do until he calls back I mean, what in the goddamn fuck?” Walking toward the bedroom door, Charles furiously swung his fist toward the wall. With a deafening boom, his mighty hand and forearm smashed through the wall. Charles stared with amazement at the cloud of plaster billowing into the bedroom and noticed that his hand had completely penetrated the wall, covered in white powder and wood chunks. He clenched and unclenched his fist, reveling in what he’d just done. He’d never felt such a rush of raw power.

Charles yanked his burly arm free from the hole he had created and examined it for damage, but he hadn’t suffered so much as a scratch. He threw his shoulders back and grinned, feeling invincible. “Pierce is payin’ for that too,” he declared, pointing to the new window to the bedroom that he had created.

Across the room, Derek was covering his hands with his mouth and staring toward Charles’s waistline. Charles looked down to see what had caught Derek’s attention. Charles’s massive hairy chest was rising and falling with each heavy breath. Below that, past his distended belly, he could just see the head of his cock bobbing in midair, sticking straight out from his body. Given the size of his gut, he realized just how long his erection must be for even that much to be visible to him. An even clearer indicator of its size was the awestruck expression on Derek’s face.

“The way you just demolished that wall is the hottest fucking thing I’ve ever seen,” Derek said, his sinewy legs propelling him across the room in a flash. He plowed into Charles, knocking him backwards through the doorway and into the bedroom where they both landed on the bed with a resounding thud. Derek climbed atop Charles’s monumental body, his hands tangled in Charles’s impressive mane, his face buried in Charles’s beard, his tongue finding its way through Charles’s lips.

Charles lowered his teeth gently onto Derek’s tongue, not tight enough to bite but secure enough to assert his dominance. His hands clutched Derek’s muscular glutes for the first time, fingertips indenting the flesh for a tight grip. He eased Derek down and back, guiding him toward his jumbo cock which now pointed straight to the ceiling. Derek moaned as he slid into position, the head beginning to squeeze its way between his abundant ass cheeks, the volume of his moaning increasing each time he squirmed to allow another inch of Charles to penetrate him. Once it had plowed as deeply as he thought possible, Derek pressed his hands against Charles’s chest and pushed himself up and down on the pole, yowling with pleasure at each thrust.

Charles was growing delirious from the sight of this incredible muscle stud bobbing over him enraptured. He could feel his massive new endowment getting thicker and longer inside Derek’s tight ass and knew it still had the potential to grow further if he could somehow keep himself from cumming. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on the moment, hoping he could etch this memory in his mind, knowing he might never experience such a glorious fuck again. As Derek’s ass paused dramatically at the top of Charles’s cock, with only the head still encircled by Derek’s flesh, Charles felt dollops of warm cream landing on his stomach and chest and oozing through his abundant body hair. The pace of the pelting decreased and Derek wriggled his way back down Charles’s dick as it began to pump what felt like a quart of ejaculate deep into Derek. Derek slowly bent forward until he was spread-eagled across Charles’s sticky torso. Charles slid his hands across Derek’s back, admiring the solidity of his lats and delts.

The couple lay still for a minute or two. Derek finally climbed down from atop Mount Charles and lay beside him on the bed, spent but delirious. He drifted to sleep, and Charles quickly followed suit.

He’d already masturbated and had sex this morning, yet here was Charles in the shower whacking off again. He hadn’t been this horny since he was a teenager, but back then he had been so sure he would go to hell, for jerking off and for being gay, that he had abstained from masturbating. However, so he wouldn’t go insane, he had modified his rule to be more lenient. As long as you didn’t spank the monkey more than once a day, he told himself, that was pretty much the same as abstaining. Even as an adult, he had rarely done the deed, either alone or with a partner, more than once in a single twenty-four period, finding anything more excessive and self-indulgent and kind of slutty. But Mariposa made every ejaculation so mind-blowing that, for now, he was waiving all self-imposed restrictions and letting anarchy rule. Today was like “The Purge” for Charles, only for unlimited orgasms instead of crimes.

Toweling himself dry, Charles noticed that his body hair seemed even more abundant than before and had grown lighter in color. He wiped away the fog from the mirror and noticed more gray in his hair and beard too. He decided that the salt-and-pepper look suited him, but he was curious how he’d look as a full-blown silver fox. Maybe he’d get to find out. He was noticing a pattern that a new wave of changes occurred every time he came, and he wondered how much more he would change before the strange elixir wore off. This latest revision also seemed to have added a few more pounds to his body, but as long as hard-bodied Derek didn’t mind fucking a fat guy, Charles didn’t mind being a fat guy.

As Charles opened the door, billows of vapor preceded him, giving his return to the bedroom the dramatic flair of a basketball team emerging from the locker room, but without a light show and an announcer. Derek was still lying drowsily in bed as he saw Charles emerge from the clouds. “Aw,” Derek whined, “you took a shower without me.”

“Sorry, babe, but you looked so sweet lyin’ there asleep, I didn’t wanna wake you,” Charles said. He noted that Derek appeared to have experienced some post-coital changes of his own. Nothing as drastic as Charles, but he seemed to have lost whatever minimal body fat he’d been carrying, leaving him even more impossibly ripped. In the process, his face had thinned out, emphasizing his cheekbones and jawline. Charles couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have such a hunky husband, even if that hunkiness came out of a bottle and wouldn’t last.

“Well, let’s see if I’ve got anything that’ll remotely fit me,” Charles said, opening his suitcase. What he saw confused him. Nothing was familiar. It looked like someone else’s random laundry had been hurriedly stuffed inside his baggage. “That fuckin’ Jesus grabbed the wrong fuckin’ suitcase!”

Derek dismounted gracefully from the bed and swiftly crossed the room to Charles’s side. The contents were clearly not Charles’s clothes, but it certainly appeared to be his suitcase. Derek checked the luggage tag which read “CHARLES WHITE”. “No, that’s your bag. Weird.”

A crazy thought occurred to Charles. “You don’t think the Mariposa… could have changed… my clothes too?” They both pondered the idea for a moment. Given what they’d already experienced today, neither could outright say that such a thing was utterly impossible, but it was still easier to grasp how a drink could impact the body of the person consuming it than to imagine it also altering their inanimate belongings. Charles said, “Check yours.”

Derek popped the lock on his suitcase and discovered that it also contained wadded up clothes that he didn’t recognize. Nestled among the colorful array of garments was another envelope identical to the one on the Mariposa package, also bearing Pierce’s unmistakable chicken-scratchings. Derek opened the envelope and read. “‘Hey, studs! If you followed my instructions, your boring old rags probably don’t fit you now, and they’re certainly not fabulous enough to accentuate your sexy new bods, so here’s a new assortment of Pierce-approved togs for you to try out. That is, if you’re not just hanging out in your room and fucking all day! Kissy kissy.’ Then there’s a big letter P.”

“Well, he’s certainly thorough,” Charles said, slamming his suitcase shut and squeezing his naked keister into one of the bedroom chairs. “Looks like we’ll be eating a lot of room service in the nude for the next three days.”

“Hang on, you didn’t even look. Maybe there’s something in here just perfect for the distinguished larger gentleman.” Derek rummaged through the items in Charles’s case and extracted a lime-green thong which he stretched like a rubber band and fired in Charles’s direction. The scrap of Lycra zinged into Charles’s left tit and dropped to the floor.

Charles flinched and said “Ow! I think that might look better on you.”

“Ooh, I bet you’re right,” Derek said, tiptoeing over to snatch up the item, then shimmying it up his smooth muscular legs. Charles felt his next orgasm starting to bubble as he watched the thin strip of green fabric thread its way deep into Derek’s ass crack. Derek had no trouble fitting his shrunken dick and balls snugly into the front pouch, amazed that wearing something so tiny could make him feel so damn sexy. He twirled around to give Charles a 360-degree view. “Ta-da!” A gleaming white smile of lecherous approval emerged amid Charles’s dense beard.

Derek turned his attention back to the tangled clothes and pulled out a red-plaid shirt. He checked the collar and declared, “Size XXL. That sounds about right. I think everything about you is size XXL.” He flung the shirt to Charles who stood up and tried it on. The short sleeves felt constricting on his upper arms, but the size was otherwise decent. His bloated fingers fumbled with the buttons, leaving the top three undone to highlight his giant pecs and profuse chest hair. “This’ll work all right, but I’m pretty sure that, even in Cancun, you gotta wear pants.”

Derek noticed Charles’s turgid cock hovering just under the tails of the red shirt. “Yeah, we can’t leave that monster hanging out for all the world to enjoy.” He wasn’t seeing anything appropriate in Charles’s suitcase, so he checked his own and produced an enormous pair of cut-off jean shorts. “What’s your waistline now? Like a hundred?” he teased, tossing them to Charles. “Try these.”

Charles knew he couldn’t compete with the spectacle of Derek donning the thong, so he ducked into the bathroom to try on the shorts in private. They were a tight squeeze, particularly when he had to stuff his semi-hard member into the crotch, but with a couple of deep inhales, he was able to operate the zipper, painfully snagging a few pubic hairs in the process. He checked the mirror and shrugged, which split the seam where his right sleeve met the body of the shirt. This ensemble wasn’t particularly flattering, but he was sure there were plenty of people in Cancun who would look much worse.

Returning to the bedroom, Charles saw two items whizzing toward his face as Derek shouted, “Incoming” Charles batted away the projectiles and watched as two extra-large flip-flops landed on the floor. He scooted his feet into them and did his own lumbering 360-degree rotation for Derek’s evaluation. “Oh, muy sexy!” Derek declared, chuckling.

Charles raised two pudgy middle fingers at Derek and said, “Just wait. Tomorrow, I’m gonna have some of that orange Kool-Aid you drank, and you’ll be the one drooling over me!” It surprised Charles to learn that, at least subconsciously, he was already anticipating what the next bottle of Mariposa might do to him. He was adapting to this peculiar situation much more easily than he expected.

“Tough luck, buddy,” Derek said. “There was only one bottle of orange in the six-pack. I already checked.” He stuck out his tongue and strutted across the room. “If you’ll excuse me, my thong and I will be taking a shower.”

“Fine,” Charles said, walking into the living room. “I’m gonna order us a couple of breakfasts.” Charles checked the room service menu and called in an order on the room phone for two huevos rancheros and a pot of coffee. Noticing the expanding gap on the shoulder of his shirt and feeling fabric bunching up in his armpit, he asked, “You wouldn’t know where I could get a pair of scissors. The concierge? Okay, I… Oh, you’ll pick them up and bring them with the food? Muchas gracias!”

He hung up and pulled the curtains, slid open the glass door and took a seat on the patio. From there, he could bask in the sunlight and evaluate the quality of beefcake strutting their stuff on the beach. He felt an odd sense of pride that Derek was now hotter than any of them. Hearing the shower water running, he was tempted to rush in and assist Derek with anything he might need, but at his current size, the shower stall might be too small to accommodate them both. Realizing he hadn’t checked his messages since the flight, he considered getting up to grab his phone, but that seemed like way too much effort. He was on his honeymoon. Why contaminate his mind with a bunch of inter-office bullshit or complaints from clients that he couldn’t deal with anyway? This was a getaway where no one knew that he was a lawyer or Derek was an oral surgeon. For the next three days, he and Derek could just be themselves…or the versions of themselves that Mariposa had turned them into.

A knock on the door came sooner than Charles expected. He hoisted himself to his feet and walked inside to open the door. Checking the peephole, he saw their driver Jesus. When he swung open the door, Jesus looked confused. “Sorry, señor, I must have the wrong room.”

As Jesus checked the nearby room numbers, Charles chuckled as he realized the problem. Until now, only he and Derek had seen each other in their new bodies, and even though they had already gotten somewhat used to them, that didn’t mean they wouldn’t surprise others. “Jesus,” he called, “it’s me, Chuck!” He blurted out the name without thinking. He had always been Charles. No one had ever called him Chuck, but somehow it felt right with this body. He didn’t bother correcting himself. For the duration, he would think of himself as Chuck White.

Jesus walked back to the door, eyes bulging. “Ay chihuahua! Is you, señor? La Mariposa?”

“Si, si,” Chuck said, beckoning Jesus into the room and closing the door.

Jesus gawked. “I just wanted to check and see how you were doing, but I guess you’re doing a-okay.” His eyes drifted to the gaping hole next to the bedroom door. “¿Que pasa?”

“Derek. I made him cum so hard, that shit blasted right through the wall.” Chuck winked at Jesus.

They could hear a rapid thumping of footsteps in the bedroom. A youthful voice shouted, “Incoming!” Chuck and Jesus turned their attention to the bedroom door and watched as Derek’s naked body cartwheeled into the room and did a backflip before slamming at high speed into the wet bar. Fortunately, the bar’s padded upholstery, as well as the protective padding provided by Derek’s musculature minimized the impact. Derek clutched his right elbow and howled, “Oooh, my funny bone!” but was otherwise unharmed.

Chuck rushed over to check on him. “What the fuck were you thinkin’?”

“I was thinking, ‘I wonder what this body can do.’ I just had an inkling that this body would be good at gymnastics, and sure enough it is!”

“I think you’ll lose some points on that landing,” Chuck said.

Derek laughed, then let out a startled scream when he noticed Jesus standing against the wall, gazing at him lustfully. “Jesus!” Derek yelled, referring not to the Mexican chauffeur but the Christian savior. He leapt to his feet and bolted into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

“I don’t think he was expecting visitors,” Chuck explained dryly.

Jesus pointed to the bedroom door, then flexed his arms and held his hands six inches in front of his chest to mime the dimensions of Derek’s new physique. Chuck nodded and raised his eyebrows enthusiastically. Jesus shook his head in awe.

“So, Jesus, what’d you turn into when you did Mariposa?” Chuck asked.

“Me? Nothing much. I jus’ got a little bit taller. It kinda made me look like my older brother.” Looking up and down Chuck’s body, then glancing again at the bedroom door, Jesus concluded, “I don’t think I got the good stuff. Maybe mine was watered down or something.”

“You ever do it with our friend Señor Pierce?”

“Do it?” Jesus asked, seemingly thrown by the question. “No, just a…” He shook his curled-up hand side to side in the international gesture for “hand job”.

Chuck snorted a laugh. “No, I mean did you do Mariposa with him?”

“Oh,” Jesus said, embarrassed. “No, I just seen him around. He’s a great dancer. When he’s in town on a layover, he always hangs out at all the best bars.”

“Then maybe you can show us to all the best bars,” said Derek as he returned from the bedroom, wearing barely more than before in a white stringer tank top and a red Speedo. He had slicked back his wet hair, which was far more flattering to his features than the bangs had been.

Jesus stared at Derek, bit his knuckle and said, “Ai ai ai, muy caliente.”

“Muchas gracias, Jesus,” Derek said, enjoying his new, albeit doomed to be short-lived, career as eye candy. He picked up his phone from the bar and handed it to Jesus. “You should take a picture of us that we can send to Pierce.”

“Right,” Chuck said. “We can show him all the fun he’s missing.”

“I’m sure he knows,” Jesus said as he studied how to snap a photo on Derek’s phone.

Hearing a knock at the door, Chuck said, “That must be room service.”

He made his way to the door and opened it for a boyishly cute hotel worker carrying a covered tray and coffee pot. “Huevos rancheros, Señor?”

“Si, si, just put it on the bar,” Chuck instructed. He couldn’t help but notice the kid’s cute tight ass as he crossed the room. Charles would have been too embarrassed to make more than a furtive glance at such a sight, but Chuck had no such reservations. He ogled the young man openly. Derek noticed Chuck noticing the fresh meat, but kept it to himself.

After the kid had placed the food on the bar, he walked back to Chuck and said, “Las tijeras?” Chuck was puzzled. The kid clarified, “The scissors?”

Chuck looked down and saw the kid pulling a pair of scissors from the pocket of his uniform. “Oh, si, si! Gracias!” Chuck patted his empty pockets, then turned to Derek. “Babe, can you tip the kid?”

Derek gestured toward his tank and Speedo, conveying the unspoken response, “Where would I be keeping money in this outfit?”

Chuck nodded and raised a finger to the kid, saying “Uno momento!” and thundered his way into the bedroom to retrieve his wallet from the tattered remains of his pants.

“What are the scissors for?” Derek shouted through the hole in the wall.

Chuck stomped back into the main room, handed the kid fifty pesos, and took the scissors. He proceeded to cut off both sleeves of his shirt, explaining as he did, “Gotta show off my guns, right? You’re not the only stud around here, ya know.” He set the scissors onto the bar and rejoined Derek as Jesus raised the phone to take their picture.

“Wait a second,” Derek interrupted, “Jesus should be in the picture too. I’m sure Señor Pierce would love to see you. Hey, kid! Cutie pie!” The young hotel employee, who had been on his way out of the room, paused and pointed at himself. “What’s your name, kid?”

“Chico,” he replied, grinning at the phenomenally-built Asian muscle boy.

“Chico, you know how to use a camera? Take a picture of the three of us, would ya, please?”

Jesus handed the phone to Chico and gave him some quick instructions in Spanish, then stepped over toward the bar, standing between Derek and Chuck.

Derek said, “Okay, everybody, say ‘Queso!’” Derek threw his arms into a double-bi pose, Chuck raised a middle finger toward the camera, and Jesus just grinned.

Chico framed the shot and snapped a few images. But his attention was distracted by something he noticed in the background. He had heard crazy rumors about it for years, but had never seen it in person. He couldn’t believe it really existed.

Yet there it was, on top of the bar: a six-pack of Mariposa, with four full bottles remaining.

On the drive from the airport, Derek and Charles had both fit in the back seat of Jesus’ rented Chevy. Now, Chuck’s bulk was enough to monopolize the entire rear seat, while Derek rode in front on the passenger side, his bare feet pressed against the dashboard, tapping in time to Jesus’ dance music, his head hanging out the window to escape the stench and smoke from Chuck’s cigar.

As Jesus was driving the couple to check out the local sites, Chuck had demanded that they pull over when he noticed a shop selling authentic Cuban cigars. “But you don’t smoke,” Derek had griped.

“I’m curious,” Chuck had replied. It was true that, aside from those couple unsatisfying puffs of pot in high school, Charles had never been a smoker, but he’d always heard that Cuban cigars were special. What better time to give them a try? He couldn’t really say if the Mariposa was putting these ideas in his head, or if it had just removed the inhibitions which had always prevented him from acting on impulses like this. Whatever the reason, he bought a half-dozen Cohiba Robustos, one of which he was now savoring in the back seat, filling the car with clouds of white smoke for a moment or two before they were whisked out Derek’s open window.

Jesus glanced in the rear-view mirror and asked, “How you like it, Señor Chuck?”

“Sublime,” Chuck said, although he really didn’t know how to judge a good cigar from a bad one. He wasn’t gagging and it was giving him a slight buzz, so he assumed that meant it was working properly. “You want one?” He held one of the cigars between Jesus and Derek.

Jesus took the cigar with a smile and tucked it into his shirt pocket. “Muchas gracias, señor” he said. “I keep it for later.”

They drove past a city park where Derek noticed people using a variety of weight machines and other workout apparatuses. “Was that an outdoor gym?”

Jesus nodded. “They got a bunch of those around town.”

“Pull over,” Derek said. “I want to try it out.” What he really meant was that he wanted to try out his new body and discover its capabilities.

Jesus found a parking spot and the three men walked back to the park “You gonna work out too, Señor Chuck?” Jesus asked.

Chuck popped a rudimentary smoke ring from his lips and rubbed a palm over his expansive gut. “What do you think?” He spread out on a park bench, content to watch Derek in action.

Derek stripped off his tank top and dropped the drawstring shorts he had slipped on to carry his wallet, phone and room key. He placed the clothes in a pile on the bench, then strode confidently across the sand toward the equipment, wearing nothing but his red Speedo. He noticed some of the other exercisers noticing him, some blatantly gawking, others surreptitiously checking him out. Although he had always tried to keep in shape, mostly by running, he’d never developed the kind of showy, flauntable muscles that other guys envied. These strangers’ overt and covert stares boosted Derek’s ego before he even touched a weight.

He waited until a pumped young dude finished on the incline press machine, then not knowing if the dude spoke English, gestured to indicate that he would like to work in. The other guy stood and gestured toward the empty bench. Derek sat down and studied the weight settings, having no clue what his impressive-looking physique could actually handle. He set the pin at 100 pounds, took a deep breath and pushed out. The handles whizzed outward so quickly that Derek’s body followed them. He toppled forward, practically falling out of his seat and onto the sand. He looked around, embarrassed, hoping no one had witnessed his klutzy move. Hearing Chuck’s booming laugh drifting across the park, Derek knew that at least one person had seen it.

Derek reset the pin at 150 and tried again. This time, he felt some minimal resistance, but twelve reps whizzed by quickly. Obviously he could handle quite a bit more. He stood up and waited his turn, curling his lip and pumping his fists in Chuck’s direction.

Chuck took a long satisfying drag on his stogie. Damn, he loved watching Derek. He decided that he would have to hire Derek a personal trainer when they got back to the States. Not that Derek’s skinny body would respond to weights the same way it did to Mariposa, but, Chuck theorized, maybe if his muscles retained the memory they had grown this big once, exercise might coax them back in this direction again. Chuck wouldn’t necessarily want his own body to bounce back to its current Mariposa-imposed size, but he found himself surprisingly at ease carrying around twice his usual weight. He was imposing. He had presence. He couldn’t be overlooked, as Charles so often was. Chuck was a man to be reckoned with.

Derek pushed through a set at 200 with relative ease. Once he reached 250, he finally began to struggle, but even that had him stoked. He growled his way to one final extension, then sank back, momentarily taxed but exhilarated. He hopped to his feet, eager to take on another device. Bicep curls, leg presses, pull-ups—he did them all with ease, at weights he could never have dreamt possible. The more he worked out, the more the others in the park acknowledged him with a nod or a thumb’s up, recognizing in him a fellow gym rat.

Just beside the pull-up bar was a set of parallel bars, so he decided to test his earlier instinct that this body might have a knack for gymnastics. He grabbed one pole in each hand and pushed himself up easily. It felt good. It felt strangely familiar. His abs tightened as he lifted his legs into an L-position. He had no clue what he was doing, but his body seemed to have its own ideas. He began to swing his legs back and forth and, in a flash, everything was upside down. Just like that, he had risen into a full handstand. The moment he paused to think about what he was doing, he grew unsteady, his arms starting to wobble, but instinct took over and he held the position for a couple seconds, pointing his toes toward the sun. After a breath, he swung back down, flipped himself around in the opposite direction, and executed an expert dismount, hitting the sand with his bare feet before toppling backwards onto his butt. He sat on the ground, dazed but full of adrenaline, wondering how in the hell he had just done all that.

An awestruck college-age kid, pale and very blond with a gym-toned body under a sleeveless Iowa Hawkeyes shirt, jogged over eagerly. “Need a hand there?” he asked, extending his arm and pulling Derek to his feet. The kid watched transfixed as Derek casually brushed away the sand clinging to the back of his Speedo. “I been, like, watchin’ you, and you are, like, fuckin’ amazing.” The kid cringed, afraid that sounded overly enthusiastic and way too “faggy”. He made a major effort to sound more casual. “So anyways, I was, like, wonderin’ if you, like, had any, like, tips and shit? You know, like, workout tips and, like, nutrition tips and like that so that I could, like, look like, like, you?” He paused to catch his breath and remoisten his tongue, which had gone Sahara-dry.

Derek gave him a blank stare. He had no clue what to tell the kid, no sage wisdom on body mechanics and training techniques. He had been on auto-pilot, letting his body do whatever felt natural.

The silence had only lasted a few seconds, but it was long enough to make the situation unbearably uncomfortable for the kid. “Or not,” he said, turning away. “I can see you’re busy. Sorry to bug ya.”

Derek smiled sympathetically at the boy from Iowa, well-acquainted with the telltale signs of a desperate crush. Much as he would have loved to help, he knew any workout advice he gave would be complete bullshit. The kid would probably sniff him out as a fraud in no time. In normal circumstances, Derek would be the one asking the kid for pointers. Derek could have fessed up and told him this body came out of a bottle, but he decided to weasel out of the conversation by saying, “No habla ingles.”

Derek’s escape plan was thwarted when the kid turned back with an excited grin. “No problema! Yo hablo español! I estudiéd por dos años!” He proudly held up three fingers.

Now Derek was trapped. He decided to tell the kid that he didn’t speak Spanish either, hoping that would put an end to this interaction, but when he tried to say, “No habla español,” what emerged from his mouth were sounds he didn’t recognize. He knew that he was saying “I don’t speak Spanish,” but the words were coming out in Cantonese. That wasn’t a wild guess. Somehow, some part of his brain just knew he was speaking Cantonese, the same way his body just knew what to do on the parallel bars.

The Iowa kid, already intimidated to be in the presence of such a muscle beast, realized he was getting blown off and decided to back away and save what little face he had left. “Okay, then. Sorry to have bothered you,” he said with a weak wave. “Domo origato!” The kid sprinted out of the park like Usain Bolt, needing no advice on how to bail rapidly from an awkward encounter.

Derek felt bad for treating the kid like that, but he was far more concerned with how he could suddenly know another language or the intricacies of gymnastics. He walked back toward Chuck and Jesus, his powerful legs suddenly wobbly.

“That was amazing, Señor Derek!” enthused Jesus, standing behind the bench. “You are very talented!”

Still seated and puffing the last of his cigar, Chuck observed, “Looked like you got yourself a fan there.”

Derek collapsed onto the bench, the whole experience having left him spooked. He slumped against Chuck’s side and declared, “I need a drink.”

After a bottle of Gatorade and a couple of glasses of cold water to rehydrate, Derek felt better. By the time he finished his second margarita, Derek felt totally fine.

Jesus had taken them to a restaurant built right on the water, and the idyllic setting alone had helped calm Derek after the park. In between bites of a fish taco, Derek sounded apologetic. “Maybe I overreacted, but I dunno. Doing gymnastics and talking Chinese? It was like being possessed. I didn’t know who I was anymore.”

Chuck rubbed a consoling hand on the curve of Derek’s shoulder. “Totally understandable. Neither of us has really been ourselves today.”

Derek snorted a laugh and said, “Fai waa!” Realizing what he’d just said, he looked up and meekly explained, “That means ‘no shit.’ I think.”

Chuck took a long thoughtful sip from his tumbler of scotch, a drink he’d never cared for until today, proving that Derek wasn’t the only one having a crisis of identity. “We should probably be about a thousand times more freaked out than we are. I think we’re handling it pretty well, considering.” He turned toward Jesus. “How long before this Mariposa shit wears off?”

“What I hear, full bottle lasts a day, give or take. Usually fades away while you sleep, but sometimes people stay up all night to watch themselves go back to normal.” Leaning forward, he spoke in a confidential tone. “I hear some people like to fock while they changing back. Is supposed to be muy loco!”

Derek and Chuck registered that last tidbit silently, without comment. “Well,” Chuck said, “sounds like we’re stuck like this for a while yet. What do you feel up for next, muscle boy? Bungee jumping? Cliff diving? Jell-O wrestling?”

An hour ago, Derek would have been happy just to go back to the room and relax, but the food and drink had revived his spirits. He glanced down at the firm mounds of his chest and the rock-hard bulges of his biceps, which he still couldn’t resist flexing at every opportunity, just to delight in their solidity. “It’d be kind of a waste to have this body and just sit around watching pay-per-view.”

“A waste?” Chuck replied. “A fuckin’ crime!”

Jesus spoke up. “Hey, I have an idea. We could go to Señor Pierce’s favorite club! Is a lot of fun. Very classy. Dancing and contests and mucho macho muchachos! Oh, and karaoke! Señor Pierce love the karaoke.”

“I’m sure he does,” Chuck said dryly.

“Sounds good to me,” Derek said. “Will they let us in dressed like this?”

“Señor Derek, the way you look, they let you in naked.” He gave Chuck the once over. “Señor Chuck, maybe not so much.”

“Fine,” Chuck said, “then let’s go buy some fancy clubbing duds.”

“Are you crazy?” Derek asked. “You honestly want to spend good money on new clothes that won’t even fit us in the morning?”

Chuck turned wearily to Jesus to state his case. “I’m a fuckin’ lawyer. I drive the same fuckin’ Volvo I had for ten fuckin’ years ‘cause it doesn’t give me any shit. I ain’t taken a vacation in six goddamn years. I got money comin’ outta my wazoo.” He looked back at Derek. “It’s our fuckin’ honeymoon. We’re in fuckin’ paradise. You look like a fuckin’ Greek god. If I can’t waste a few fuckin’ pesos now, when the fuck am I gonna do it?”

Reeling from this uncharacteristic outburst, Derek looked to Jesus. “Know any good boutiques?”

Derek could immediately see why this would be Pierce’s favorite gay hangout in Cancun. Loud music, flashing lights, plenty of exposed skin. And lots and lots of mirrors.

As Jesus led them toward the bar, Chuck walked slightly behind and to the side of Derek, observing with amusement as the patrons caught sight of Derek. His gorgeously developed torso was barely covered by a pair of white suspenders which held up his snug white booty-hugging shorts. Freshly purchased, blindingly white Nikes gave him an extra bounce in his step. After the clubgoers’ eyes had devoured Derek’s body, they couldn’t help but notice the immense figure with the graying hair and beard hovering beside and slightly behind the Asian Adonis, a black leather vest leaving his hairy chest and gut on full display. Chuck didn’t care whether the oglers assumed that he was Derek’s bodyguard or his sugar daddy. Just knowing that he, and not they, would be going home with this mega-hottie was all it took to make Chuck mega-hard inside his stiff new leather pants.

Feeling generous, Chuck had even bought the fishnet tank top which Jesus was now sporting, which provided a view of better pecs and abs than Chuck had expected were hiding under Jesus’ white Oxford shirt. Jesus motioned Chuck and Derek over to the bar where he was shouting to a shirtless bartender who didn’t seem to recognize Jesus. “Manolo! These are friends of Señor Pierce! Derek and Chuck Gray!”

At the mention of Pierce’s name, Manolo broke into a friendly smile that glowed under the club’s black lights and widened once he got a good look at Derek. “¡Hola, Derek and Chuck Gray!”

Chuck attempted to correct the record. “White, actually. Chuck White. And he’s Derek…”

The bartender interrupted. “Any amigos of Señor Pierce are always welcome here. What are you drinking tonight, my friends?”

Derek and Jesus decided to stick with margaritas, while Chuck squeezed closer to the bar to ask Manolo about his scotch options. Derek surveyed the crowd, standing with his hands resting lightly on his hips as they moved instinctively in tempo with the blaring music. He was keenly aware of how many guys were nodding or smiling in his direction, winking or beckoning him to dance with them, pursing or licking their lips. It would be hilarious if it weren’t also turning him on. He leaned toward Jesus’ ear and yelled, “I used to think I was okay looking, but man oh man, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game when you’re hot.”

“I saw you this morning, Señor Derek. You more than okay looking. Is just now you a focking superhero.” He squinted across the room and pointed out a figure lurking in the shadows away from the dance floor. “Hey, look. Is Chico, from the hotel!” The boyish bellboy who had taken their photo earlier in the day was indeed leaning against a wall in a striped tank top and skinny jeans, looking even younger out of uniform. Oblivious to Jesus waving in his direction, Chico was sucking on a cerveza and desperately scanning the crowd, yearning to be noticed by someone.

Chuck rejoined them, handing them their drinks. “Lively place,” he observed, resting his weight on a barstool and taking a sip of his scotch

“It can get crazy for sure,” Jesus informed them. “One time, Señor Pierce had them hang a rope over the dance floor and he swung back and forth like Tarzan in just a loincloth singing ‘Jungle Love’ . You know that song? ‘Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh!’” Charles winced. Based on this brief off-key sampling, Jesus was no Pierce.

Derek turned to Chuck. “You ready to boogie?”

“I’m fine right here,” Chuck said, getting comfortable on his stool. “How ‘bout you two boogie and I’ll watch?”

Derek looked disappointed but not surprised. He had considered it a major accomplishment that he convinced Charles to dance at all at their reception, but he hoped the Mariposa might have turned him into less of a fuddy-duddy, if only for one night. Shrugging it off, Derek chugged his drink and handed the empty glass to Chuck. “Then you can get me a refill.” He tugged Jesus by the arm, dragging him onto the dance floor as a drag queen onstage belted out an emphatic karaoke version of “Born This Way”. Jesus sipped as he walked, struggling to keep his drink from spilling as he was buffeted like a pinball among the gyrating bodies.

Jesus shouted over the music, which seemed twice as loud on the floor as it had in the bar area. “Señor Chuck doesn’t dance?”

Derek shouted back, “He can be kind of a stick-in-the-mud!”

“He has a stick up his what?” Jesus asked, cupping a hand behind his ear.

“Exactly!” Derek grinned. The potent combo of tequila and Mariposa had washed away Derek’s usual inhibitions, and his experience at the park had taught him to let this body do whatever felt natural. The grace and easy athleticism evident on the parallel bars that afternoon was on display once again. His style had a muscular intensity, full of arm thrusts and hip shaking and undulating abs, but even his most casual moves had a fluidity worthy of a boy-band member. Jesus seemed content to move as little as possible, sip his drink, and enjoy watching Derek enjoying himself.

One dancer after another slid into position across from Derek, attempting to chat him up with a compliment or a tired line or his idea of a sexy dance step, sometimes ordering him a drink. Each time, Derek would be polite and friendly, but he always made a point of glancing back toward Chuck on the sidelines to check in.

Whenever Derek caught his attention, Chuck smiled or nodded or raised his glass, but in between, Chuck found it impossible not to let his eyes rove the room. His libido had been so heightened by the Mariposa that he knew, if he let himself give in to the urges that were swamping his brain, he’d be dragging any guy with a halfway-decent can down the hallway to the “Caballeros” room for a quickie. The part of him that was still Charles ordered another double scotch to help him deaden those intruding impulses.

After nearly an hour of nonstop movement, Derek was drenched with sweat, the club’s multi-colored lights gleaming on the slick surface of his skin. Derek finally decided he needed a breather and led Jesus back to Chuck. “You looked amazing!” Chuck declared, leaning in to kiss Derek. “And you taste salty!”

“I know, right? I’m coated in salt. I’m full of tequila. I’m a human margarita!” Derek said, grabbing the drink Chuck had waiting for him and downing it in one swallow. “I gotta use the little niños room,” he declared and weaved his way toward the restrooms, winding through a confusing labyrinth of neon signs, mirrors and plexiglass panels worthy of a carnival fun house.

Parched, Jesus gulped down a beer and spoke breathily to Chuck. “Señor Derek is a machine, man. I couldn’t keep up. Reminds me of this one time when Señor Pierce took…”

Chuck held up a hand to stop him. “Can we have a moratorium on the Señor Pierce stories, please? No offense, but you talk about him almost as much as he does.”

Jesus looked puzzled. “¿Qué pasa? Did I say something wrong?”

“No, you’re fine. It’s just…Pierce can be a bit much sometimes, you know what I’m saying? You know the expression, ‘hogging the spotlight’? Shit, he’s doin’ it now, and he ain’t even here. He’s always got to be the center of attention. I swear, at our wedding reception, it’s like he was the headliner and Derek and I were just his opening act.”

“Sorry,” Jesus said, looking downcast. “I didn’t realize you didn’t like Señor Pierce.”

“Oh, I like him well enough. I don’t think he likes me, though. Actually, I’m pretty sure he hates me.”

Jesus scoffed. “You loco! I’m sure he doesn’t hate you, Señor.”

“Maybe ‘hate’ is too strong. I know he thinks I’m boring, which by his standards is probably even worse.”

“So? Jus’ don’t be boring,” Jesus said matter-of-factly.

“Afraid it’s not that simple. Some of us are just born that way.”

Now Jesus was annoyed. “Fock that! Boring is jus’ a habit. I think you choose to be boring. Why were you not out there, dancing with your beautiful husband?”

Chuck looked down at his bloated body, which wasn’t providing him the sense of power and command it had earlier in the day. “Nobody wants to see this big old body stumbling around, taking up valuable floor space.”

“What makes you think anyone be looking at you? They be looking at all the hotties. They be looking at Derek, not at your fat ass. The only person you should care is looking at you is Derek. That’s why you dance. Not to be good or or bad or the ‘hog of attention’, but to show your affection. You dance to tell him you want to spend time with him. Every dude in this place would love to fock him. Show him you the one who focking loves him.”

Chuck gave Jesus’ words some thought, staring blankly into the distance and draining his glass of scotch as the deejay announced he was looking for more karaoke singers.

In the restroom, Derek discovered that he had to undo his suspenders and wriggle his fly-deprived shorts down his thighs in order to take a piss, leaving his sculpted naked ass on open display. Despite feeling the urge to pee, nothing was coming out. Acutely aware that he was holding up a long line of guys waiting to use the urinal, he glanced behind him, shrugging apologetically.

“No hurry, amigo,” said the swarthy man at the front of the line with an appreciative smile. “Enjoying the view.”

Derek took that as his cue to wrap it up, tugging his shorts up and refastening his suspenders. The guys in line moaned in disappointment. Keeping his head down, he bulldozed his way out of the men’s room and navigated his way back through the perplexing maze of mirrors and plastic panels. Thinking he had reached the end, he walked face-first into a clear partition. As he backed away, clutching his nose, a familiar face was staring with concern from the other side of the plexiglass.

“You okay, señor?” asked Chico, rushing over and placing his hands on Derek’s shoulders to steady him.

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine,” Derek said, shaking it off, knowing this body was much more resilient than his usual model. The slender kid looked even more striking at point-blank range, with deep blue eyes verging on black and exceptionally lush lashes. “Noticed you earlier. Why aren’t you dancing?”

Chico shrugged endearingly. “No lo sé. Shy, I guess.” His English was halting but enthusiastic.

“Well, let’s put a stop to that!” Derek took Chico by the elbow and led him back to the bar. He was surprised that Chuck and Jesus were not where he had left them, nor could he spot them elsewhere in the club. Certain they would turn up eventually, he pulled Chico onto the dance floor as the lights dimmed and a cool dry-ice fog filled in the space around them.

In the darkness, a wavering organ could be heard. Over it, a low shaky voice spoke. “Dearly beloved,” he said, “we have gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”

The crowd cheered and whistled. A beam of intense white light hit the stage, illuminating an awkward-looking Chuck at the microphone. Derek hoisted his arms over his head, yelling, “Yeah, baby!”

Embarrassed, Chuck shielded his eyes from the spotlight’s glare and turned back to the karaoke monitor. “Electric word, ‘life’. It means forever and that’s a mighty long time, but I’m here to tell you, there’s something else. The afterworld.” The crowd hooted and clapped, encouraging Chuck to keep going. “A world of never ending happiness. You can always see the sun, day…or night.” As Chuck continued to recite Prince’s sermon/prelude, the lights in the club rose gradually, and Derek spotted Jesus grinning behind Chuck onstage.

The drums kicked in and Derek turned back to Chico, encouraging him to get into the groove. The crowd began to pulsate to the rhythms. Once the song segued from spoken word to actual singing, Chuck became less sure of himself. In his stiff delivery, “Let’s go crazy” sounded less like an invitation to party and more like stern drill instructions, but karaoke audiences can be surprisingly forgiving, especially when the music is intoxicating enough. Chuck pulled Jesus forward to assist him with the choruses, proving that two shaky voices are not much better than one, but by the end of the song, the entire club was indeed going crazy. Derek had lost track of Chico mid-song, as his dark-eyed good looks and slim physique had attracted a fair number of admirers once he finally stepped out of the shadows.

Chuck and Jesus bent at the waist in response to the crowd’s cheers. Chuck looked surprised and relieved to have survived. He felt like he was having an out-of-body experience. True, he was still technically in a body, but it didn’t feel like his own.

Derek had lost track of Chico mid-song, as his dark-eyed good looks and slim physique had attracted a fair number of admirers once he finally let himself be seen. Derek watched as Chuck cut a path across the dance floor toward him, receiving congratulatory pats on the back and butt along the way. Derek stood on tiptoes to kiss Chuck on the lips and wrapped his pythonesque arms around as much of Chuck’s circumference as he could manage. “Who the heck was that up there?” Derek asked.

“I blame it all on Jesus, scotch and Mariposa,” Chuck replied. He made a desperate move to escape to the bar, but Derek would have none of it. He used his superior strength to hold Chuck in place, moving Chuck’s arms up and down like reluctant levers in time with the new song that was playing. After a while, Derek allowed him to move independently, and Chuck made an effort to get into the swing, twisting his bulk spasmodically, interrupting himself with frequent pauses to apologize for stepping on someone’s foot or elbowing someone in the head. Unlike Derek, Chuck’s new body had not come with coordination pre-installed.

Chuck lasted through a second song, inflicting minimal additional damage to his fellow dancers, before insisting that he needed a break. His hair and beard were wringing wet, and his leather vest clung to his body like it had been glued there. Derek took pity on him and granted a reprieve.

Jesus was waiting near the bar with tall tumblers of water for both of them and a delighted smile on his face. “You were fantástico! Listen, amigos, I gotta be going. It’s been a long day and I’m not sure how much longer I’m gonna last.”

Chuck turned to Derek and said, “That’s fine. I think we’re ready to go.”

Jesus held out his hands dramatically. “¡No! You stay here, enjoy your especial night!” He pulled some money from his wallet. “Here, some money for your taxi.”

Chuck clamped a hand on Jesus’ wrist. “Stop it. We can pay for the taxi.”

Jesus replied, “No, no, you not to pay for anything. Is not my money. Is Señor Pierce’s.” He flinched, realizing he shouldn’t have mentioned that name in Chuck’s presence.

Chuck grew stern. “You can take Señor Pierce’s money and shove it…back in your wallet. Treat yourself to something nice.”

Jesus smiled appreciatively and pocketed the cash. “Gracias. You a nice man, Señor Chuck.”

“When will you be coming by tomorrow?” Derek asked.

Jesus shook his head. “I won’t be around tomorrow. You have to survive on your own without me.”

“Awww,” Derek said, realizing he was going to miss their third wheel. “Will you at least be taking us back to the airport?”

“Of course,” Chuck bellowed. “Jesus always comes back after three days!” Derek rolled his eyes, but part of him was relieved that Charles’s sense of humor was still lurking inside Chuck.

“Somebody will get you. Don’t worry, Señor Pierce is looking out for you.” Jesus backpedaled toward the exit and waved, saying “Ta-ta!”

For the next hour, Chuck made a valiant effort to keep pace with Derek, but merely lugging around this excess weight was extremely fatiguing, let alone trying to make it do anything resembling dancing. Although his own stamina wasn’t even close to flagging, Derek eventually agreed to call it a night. They squeezed up to the bar to settle their tab, only to discover that, of course, it had been covered by Pierce. Manolo the bartender encouraged Chuck and Derek to return tomorrow. “Couples night! Two-for-one drinks!” Derek promised they would think about it. He took one last look back on the way to the door and spotted Chico making out on a banquette with the drag queen who had performed earlier.

During the cab ride, Derek couldn’t keep his hands off Chuck. The big man was exuding an indefinable musk which combined with the smell of damp leather to make Chuck somehow irresistible. Still recuperating from the dance floor, he slouched in his seat and let Derek do the heavy lifting.

Once they got back to the hotel, as Chuck fumbled with his key card to unlock their room, Derek impatiently began to strip down, stretching his suspenders down from his shoulders and nudging his shorts down his legs. He was naked except for his sneakers by the time Chuck finally opened the door and pulled Derek out of the hallway.

Inside their suite, Derek got to work disrobing Chuck, helping the big man slip out of his vest, then kneeling to unbutton his leather pants. Chuck leaned against the bedroom wall as Derek undid his zipper, relieving the pressure on his turgid dick. Self-control and plenty of scotch had kept Chuck’s libido in check at the club, but as Derek’s tongue slid playfully along Chuck’s shaft, nursing an erection to life, Chuck’s aggressiveness and confidence came roaring back to the fore. When Derek wrapped his lips around Chuck’s reddening cock head, Chuck cupped his hands around Derek’s skull and pulled inward, plunging his boner down Derek’s throat.

When he felt himself on the cusp of an orgasm, Chuck suddenly pushed Derek away. Freed from Derek’s mouth, Chuck’s erection flipped upwards, slapping against his furry gut, launching a delicate strand of pre-cum into the air. Chuck clutched Derek by the arm and flung him onto the bed where Derek spread his arms and legs invitingly. Chuck climbed onto the bed and straddled Derek at the waist, positioning his saliva-covered cock at the entrance to Derek’s hole. He bent forward, clutching the headboard for support as he thrust himself inside. The bedsprings squeaked and the headboard thwacked repeatedly against the wall with greater and greater intensity. Whoever was in the next room pounded heavily on their adjoining wall to register their annoyance, but Chuck bellowed back, “Fuck you, buddy, I’m fuckin’ my husband!”

Derek grit his teeth as Chuck plunged deeper than Derek had ever been probed in his life. His hands gripped the edges of the mattress and he exclaimed “Hai!” and “Aiya!” ecstatically as the big man’s long hair and beard brushed back and forth across his face. He sensed Chuck’s rhythm slowing and felt a hot release that warmed his core. Chuck groaned and extracted his still-pumping cock from Derek’s ass, shooting a thick streak of ejaculate from the small of Derek’s back to the nape of his neck. Chuck rolled over onto his back and felt the bed sag beneath him.

For a minute or two, the couple lay silent, staring at the ceiling. Eventually, Derek turned his head and discovered that Chuck’s hair and beard had changed yet again. “You totally gray!” he blurted out, his voice now heavily accented. He slapped his hand over his mouth.

Chuck looked over at Derek and was similarly startled. Whatever had remained recognizable about Derek’s face throughout the day had utterly vanished, all trace of Anglo features wiped away. “And you’re totally Chinese!”

“This better wear off,” Derek said, battling with his brain to speak as clearly as he could, “or my patients gonna be very confused.” He had the disconcerting sensation that his thoughts were forming in Cantonese and he had to force himself to translate them into English.

“Not to mention your parents,” Chuck added. Derek did not find that funny, smacking his fist into Chuck’s gelatinous belly. “Oof! So, you wanna stay up ‘til we change back?”

Derek thought for a moment, then shook his head. “Too tired. Hurt all over. Sore muscles I never knew I had.” He paused and continued wistfully. “And tomorrow, I won’t have them again. Why, you wanna stay up?”

Derek got his answer in the form of a deafening snore. Derek snuggled up against Chuck’s side, slung an arm across his broad chest, and closed his eyes. Soon he was asleep too.

Charles had no idea what time it was when he awoke with the urgent need to pee. He gently lifted Derek’s thin but toned arm from his chest and slid off the bed. He glanced back at his husband sprawled naked on top of the covers, baring his legendary non-existent ass once again. Charles bent down and gazed at Derek’s familiar face as if he hadn’t seen it in years. He gave his husband a soft kiss on the cheek and whispered, “Welcome back.”

He closed the bathroom door before turning on the light, trying not to disturb Derek’s slumber. The fluorescent light seemed excessively bright to Charles as he looked in the mirror. Since he hadn’t woken up in a pile of itchy clippings, he guessed that yesterday’s abundance of hair had magically vanished into thin air, along with most of his gross tonnage. Disappointingly, his pudgy gut had returned, but he could live with that. Maybe this experience would finally motivate him to lose those extra pounds the old fashioned way. A dusting of residual chest hair remained, although he had no idea if it was just straggling and would soon be gone as well. He tilted his head forward and placed a hand on the crown of his head. Yup, even his bald spot was back. Yup, he was back to normal, all right. Normal, regular, ordinary—and, yes, boring—Charles Gray. “Shit! White!” he corrected himself, unintentionally saying it out loud.

Stepping over to the toilet, he moved his hand to his crotch and discovered that his penis had also returned to its god-given form. He’d never been one for dick-measuring as proof of masculinity, but he couldn’t deny that he missed the big fella he had been lugging around for the past day. He took a short leak, then crept through the bedroom into the main room, closing the door behind him. He stretched out on the couch and stared through the window at the brightening sky, deep in thought.

Derek woke up with the disorienting sensation of being himself again. He couldn’t help but feel deflated now that he no longer possessed yesterday’s perfectly wrought physique. Curious, he flexed his arm and squeezed his biceps. It might be a little more solid than it used to be, or maybe that was wishful thinking. He reached down and felt his semi-hard cock, relieved that it had returned to its regularly scheduled size.

“I see you’re up!” Charles said, poking his head through the jagged porthole that his alter ego had punched through the bedroom wall. Caught, Derek instantly let go of his dick and tried to act casual, grabbing a pillow and placing it over his crotch.

The bedroom door swung open and Charles entered with a tall glass of orange juice. Derek smiled and said, “Good morning.” He’d never felt so relieved to hear his own voice speaking in proper, unaccented English.

“Afternoon, actually,” Charles informed Derek, handing him the glass. “Thought you might like to start your day with a mimosa.”

“Wouldn’t mind a bit,” Derek said. He guzzled down half the glass, feeling dehydrated after a day of physical activity and alcohol. He checked the clock radio on the nightstand and saw that it was nearly one p.m. “You should have woken me. We’re wasting a beautiful day.”

“We had a pretty full day yesterday. I thought I’d let you sleep in.”

Derek felt lucky to have such a considerate husband. He took another drink from his mimosa. “Dang, is that good. You’re not having any?”

“Already did,” Charles said, taking a seat on the bed, sliding a hand up and down Derek’s bare shin.

“So,” Derek asked, “what’s on the agenda for today?”

“I don’t know. I figured we could just wait and see what comes up.”

That didn’t sound like the the man Derek married. Charles was, if nothing else, a meticulous planner. To him, “spontaneity” was a four-letter word.

Derek began to feel strange, as a low level vibration spread through his limbs and his scalp grew extremely itchy. He recognized these early signs, which he had only felt once before. He glanced at his nearly empty glass, then looked at Charles suspiciously. “That wasn’t a regular mimosa, was it?”

Charles made a poor attempt to act innocent. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

As Derek glared suspiciously at his husband, he noticed a detail which would have seemed utterly bizarre, even impossible, at any point before yesterday.

“Charles,” he asked, “why is your hair turning red?”

Charles jumped up from the bed and raced to the wall mirror to verify Derek’s observation. Sure enough, Charles’s usual muddy-brown hair had taken on a reddish tinge and was becoming incrementally redder before his eyes. “Awesome!”

“It is not awesome,” Derek countered, kneeling naked on the bed. “It’s unnatural.”

Charles looked back at Derek with attitude. “Why you always gotta piss in the punch bowl? Didn’t you have a blast yesterday?”

Derek couldn’t deny that his day as a swole stud had been an incredible experience. “Sure, it was wild, but I thought it was a one-time thing! Plus, yesterday we both drank it voluntarily. Today, you deliberately slipped it to me without warning. You didn’t ask. You just made the decision for me.”

Charles shook his head. “So typical, you takin’ Pierce’s side over me. He didn’t give us any warning either.”

“I am not taking Pierce’s side! Maybe I just expect a little more honesty and respect from my husband than I do from him. Trust me, the next time I see Pierce, I’m gonna rip him a new asshole.”

“Be careful,” Charles chuckled, “he’ll probably like that.” Charles turned his attention back to the mirror, eager with anticipation. His skin was already feeling prickly, and a churning heat was building in his muscles. Grinning at his reflection, he took hold of his stiffening cock and began to stroke it briskly.

Derek couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Could the man gleefully flogging his meat across the room be the same Charles who was usually so prudish about sex and so fanatical about his privacy? “What the hell are you doing?”

“Primin’ the pump to get things movin’. Didn’t you notice yesterday how we changed every time we came? This time, I wanna watch while it happens!” He accelerated the pace of his masturbation, his eyes growing wild.

Derek mentally ran through the previous day’s metamorphoses and realized that Charles was right. Every new wave of changes had been preceded by either sex or masturbation. This gave Derek a sudden brainstorm. Looking down at his body, he couldn’t see any major alterations yet. If orgasms were what triggered the transformations, then all he needed to do to avoid undergoing any changes was not to have an orgasm. That would be no simple task, as the Mariposa in his system had already given him a chubby, and the sight of Charles furiously jacking off was only turning him on further. Still, desperate to prevent his unwanted makeover, Derek hopped down from the bed and bolted into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

Charles noted Derek’s departure but made no move to stop him. “Where ya goin’? Yer gonna miss the show!”

Derek stepped into the shower, grit his teeth, and cranked the controls as far to “Cold” as they would go. He let out a shriek as the frigid water pummeled his body, drowning out the simultaneous screaming from the next room.

Charles howled in ecstasy as he saw his new self emerging in the mirror. His hair had sprouted into a shaggy copper mess, with his eyebrows and pubes turning like autumn leaves, becoming a matching shade of ginger. His eye color had again shifted from its usual brown to green, but even more brilliant and piercing than the day before. His complexion grew pale from head to toe, with faint patches of orange speckles starting to emerge across the surface of his body. The lines around his eyes and creases in his forehead flattened out as if pressed by an invisible iron, and the loose jowly skin under his chin drew taut against his jaw, shaving a decade off Charles’s face. He watched in real time as the tip of his nose tilted up, giving him an instantly more boyish appearance. The fat cells of his belly migrated northward, exposing shallow but defined abs and a distinct pelvic V. His flab reconstituted itself like the shifting of tectonic plates, forming into lean pectoral muscles and rounded shoulders. His scrawny neck grew thicker and longer, sporting prominent bulging veins, reminding him of the cock shaft he was still vigorously stroking.

As his arousal built to delirious heights, Charles felt a dullness creep over his brain, as if everything except for his pleasure centers was being anesthetized. In that moment, he felt he had a choice whether to fight to maintain control or surrender to the effects of the drink. He chose to give in. His eyelids drooped to half-mast and his plumped-up cherry-hued lips stretched wide into a euphoric grin, revealing newly-formed dimples in his baby-smooth cheeks. He flung his head back ecstatically as a fountain of cum splattered the mirror’s surface with erratic streaks of white like a minimalist Jackson Pollock. He staggered backwards to the bed, all tension and anxiety ebbing from his body. He’d never felt so comfortable in his own skin.

In the shower, Derek stepped back from the brutally cold deluge and took a quick survey of his body. Nothing had changed, and his semi-hard-on had been pummeled back into flaccidity. He shut off the water and toweled himself dry, silently congratulating himself on his cleverness. Charles might be the big-shot lawyer, but Derek was the one who’d figured out the loophole in Mariposa. He could imagine delivering his wise advice in a courtroom. “Gentlemen of the jury, always remember: ‘If you don’t masturbate, you won’t mutate. If you don’t choke the chicken, your body won’t thicken. If you don’t flog the dolphin… you’ll something something more often.’”

His celebratory mood was brought to a halt as he opened the bathroom door, a towel wrapped around the waist of his goosebump-covered body, and caught sight of Charles tucking his cock and balls into a white cotton jockstrap that framed his succulent new glutes. Derek’s erection shot up instantly, his cock head poking out from beneath the towel. His heart pounded with the frenzy of a Keith Moon drum solo. Yesterday’s changes had been so extreme that they had rendered Charles essentially unrecognizable, burying him beneath dense layers of cellulite and hair. The real Charles had become an abstraction, and it was easy to think of Chuck as a different person altogether. But today’s transformation had stripped away the crust of age and the weariness of experience to reveal Charles’s youthful, idealized essence. Derek had seen old photos and knew that his husband had never looked this fit and stunning in his youth, when he had devoted himself monastically to his legal studies. Now, the Mariposa had enhanced and perfected enough of Charles’s familiar features that the young man standing before him could easily pass for, if not Charles’s brother, then certainly his cousin. His much younger, much hotter, much happier cousin.

Charles snapped the elastic waistband of his jock and palmed his junk to adjust it into place. He glanced into the mirror with a confident grin, a sparkle visible in his eyes even from Derek’s vantage point across the room. Charles fell automatically into an effortless sexy pose, shoulders back, arms dangling, crotch thrust enticingly forward. “Pretty decent, huh?”, he said, a laidback drawl infiltrating his voice.

Stunned speechless by Charles’s appearance, Derek could do nothing but gawk. The Mariposa’s aphrodisiac properties were exponentially enhancing his natural arousal. His knees buckled and he braced his hands on the door frame to keep from collapsing into a puddle of goo.

Charles turned to see why Derek hadn’t answered, and was annoyed by what he saw. “What the fuck, dude? You’re still you? I figured you woulda changed by now. Shit, I knew I shoulda gave you the whole bottle insteada mixin’ it with OJ. Hang on, I’ll get the rest.” He made a move toward the living room.

No!”, Derek shouted, halting Charles’s forward movement. “I took a… cold shower,” he explained breathlessly, “to stop the changes… from happening. But I don’t think… it’s gonna work… after… all.” He glanced down as his engorged cock sprang to its full upright position, forcing the towel to drop away from his body. Charles was still recovering from watching his own transformation, and now stared on in amazement as Derek’s transformation kicked into gear.

Derek’s skin turned even whiter than Charles’s, but with amorphous dark blotches floating to the surface, shifting into more defined patterns. Derek could feel his toned muscles deflating, his strength waning. He sank to his bony knees and took hold of his throbbing organ, surrendering to the inevitable. He toppled backwards into the bathroom, the tiles cool against his shoulder blades. He snarled as an agonizing itch spread across his scalp. His free hand reached up and scratched his head like a dog trying to eradicate a tenacious flea. Warm cum shot from his cock head, laying down a trail of jizz from his navel to his adam’s apple, but the orgasm didn’t release his tension. If anything, he felt more unsettled now. Sharp pain shot through his skull like a knife bisecting his head like a melon. He rolled onto his side and curled into a fetal position, arms wrapped around his legs.

Charles walked across the room and gazed down at what Charles had become. “Oh, man,” he said in a hushed voice before his mouth spread into a mocking grin, “you look like a freak!” He wrapped a hand around Derek’s frail wrist and helped hoist him to a standing position. Derek wavered uncertainly on his feet, disoriented and weirdly top-heavy, feeling like he had been turned into a bobblehead. He shuffled into the bathroom, flipped on the lights, and screamed.

Gazing back from the mirror was a gaunt, horrified punk, his mouth contorted into a disgusted sneer. Forty pounds had evaporated from his already lean frame, his fat cells vanishing into thin air, and he had sprouted an inch or two, further exaggerating his skeletal appearance. His dark eyes stared out from deep in their sunken sockets and his eyebrows were completely gone. Numerous pierced holes had opened up in each of his earlobes, and a daunting purple spike rose from the peak of his forehead. Derek turned his head in profile to view the full spectacle of the six-inch mohawk which now fanned out across the crown of his otherwise shaven head. From his neck to his ankles, a dense array of elaborate tattoos featuring skulls and knives and musclebound demons had formed across his bone-white skin. Intertwining strands of barbed wire were inscribed in ink down the length of his dick. He licked his fingers and rubbed at the ink, hoping it would scrub off, but the tats were permanent… or at least as permanent as anything else that Mariposa did. The tumult which had been building inside of Derek could only be expressed in a single emphatically-shouted syllable: “Fuck!”

He could hear Charles across the room, chuckling lightly. “You think this is funny?”

“Yeah, kinda,” Charles said. “You know, it was your friend who gave us this shit. It was just luck of the draw which bottles we picked. Kinda like playing ‘Mexican roulette’. It coulda just as soon been you with this sweet bod and me who got turned into Mohawk Charlie.” He caught a glimpse of his preppy-looking self in the mirror. Charles and Chuck were both such “old man” names. He definitely felt more like a Charlie today. Fuckin’ A, I’m Charlie Gray. Wait, that wasn’t right? Or was it?

“How was this the ‘luck of the draw’?” Derek demanded to know. “You snuck it to me. I didn’t draw nothin’… anything!” Derek felt very in touch with his anger right now, but was determined not to lose his grip on grammar. He shut his eyes and tried to maintain control. Charles may have already embraced his new fratboy persona, but Derek wasn’t willing to surrender his identity without a fight.

“You gotta learn to go with the flow,” Charlie advised as he scrounged through the suitcases for something to wear. He held a pair of stylish coral-colored shorts against his hips to gauge their size, then stepped into them one leg at a time. Amazingly, the 30-inch waistline was a bit loose on him, drooping down enough to provide a tantalizing glimpse of his jockstrap. He boned up again and his nipples hardened as he dragged his fingertips delicately across the hills and valleys of his Abercrombie torso. Although he had never mentioned it to Derek, he’d always had a “thing” for redheads, and he could now feel himself developing a major crush on his new self. “Hey, how old do you think I am now? I’m guessin’ twenty, maybe even nineteen. Good thing the drinkin’ age down here is eighteen!”

Derek balled his hands into fists. “How can you just stand there acting like this is totally normal?”

“Fuck normal. Maybe this is the new normal! It’s kinda cool bein’ a different dude every day.” Charlie pulled on a white v-neck tee that was a size too small, but he loved how it clung to his trim physique and drew attention to his exposed Adonis belt. He stepped into a pair of tan deck shoes and evaluated his ensemble in the mirror. No doubt he was immensely fuckable, yet something was missing. He rummaged some more as he told Derek, “I think you’re just P.O.-ed ‘cuz I get to be the hottie today.”

Derek fumed. Among the stew of conflicting emotions flooding his body, he was sure that jealousy wasn’t among them, although he had to admit that he would have been psyched if he had been the one who turned into a freckled young jock today. Back in high school and college, Derek had pined for several casually athletic young guys exactly like this, coveting their low-maintenance handsomeness and kicked-back attitudes. By the time he came out of the closet, even though he was still barely in his twenties and far from ugly, Derek convinced himself that he was too old and out of their league. Even if one of them miraculously turned out not to be straight, Derek could never imagine a guy like that giving him a second glance. Now that Mariposa had transformed his husband into one of “them”, Derek felt he was on the receiving end of the same sort of disinterested vibe he had sensed or imagined from those earlier crushes. It hadn’t escaped Derek’s notice that Charles had barely looked in his direction since his changes occurred. “Tell me honestly,” Derek said, a nervous tremor in his voice, “what do you think of the way I look?”

Charlie turned around, making an ostentatious show of scanning Derek carefully from the tippy-top of his mohawk to his long bony feet. He made no effort to hide the cringe that crept across his face. “Honestly? You look like a fuckin’ joke.” He shrugged semi-apologetically, as if to say “no hard feelings,” then turned back to the suitcases where he spotted the perfect final touch to complete his look. He pulled out a beige baseball cap and raised it toward his head.

Only one thought was racing through Derek’s mind as he watched. “Please don’t put it on backwards. Please don’t put it on backwards.”

Charlie paused for a second, swung the bill of the cap toward the back and positioned it carefully, a perfect tuft of red bangs poking through the hole above the adjustment strap. He grinned smugly at the dude-bro in the mirror, transferred his wallet and room key from yesterday’s clothes into the pockets of his shorts, and strutted confidently into the living room.

Derek practically melted as he watched his husband walk away. It would be torture to have to spend the day around this version of Charles, knowing that he had no desire for this version of Derek. There had to be a way to undo the effects of Mariposa and revert to his usual boring self. Derek was sure one person would know how to do it.

Derek scrambled across the bed on his hands and knees, and grabbed his cell phone from the nightstand, shooting a nasty glance at the empty glass which had contained the Mariposa-spiked mimosa that triggered this whole mess. Through force of habit, Derek began to text Pierce. Texting was their primary way of keeping in touch, since he never knew what time zone Pierce may have journeyed to. It wasn’t uncommon for Pierce to drop off the grid entirely for a week or more with no response before turning up again, behaving as if nothing had happened. But even more than yesterday, this present situation merited a rare actual phone call. Derek didn’t give a shit if he would be waking Pierce up at three a.m. in a Bangkok opium den. Derek had a goddamn eggplant-colored mohawk and was getting blue balls from fawning over his disinterested boytoy of a husband. Derek couldn’t think of a better definition of an emergency.

As Derek dialed, he could hear the TV in the living room blasting brief snatches of random audio as Charlie lazily channel-surfed. For more privacy, Derek ducked into the bathroom and shut the door. After four rings, Pierce’s outgoing message played. Derek unleashed his fury after the beep. “Goddammit, Pierce, why don’t you ever pick up? This is Derek, by the way, if you couldn’t tell. Excuse me if there’s some extra phlegm in my voice, since I feel like I’m constantly on the verge of spitting now that your magic joy juice turned me into one of the goddamn Sex Pistols or something. Anyway, I’m sure your pal Jesus has been keeping you posted. I hope you’ve had your vicarious fun, laughing at us from wherever you’re hiding. You win, okay? We learned our lesson. We’re a couple of boring stiffs who need to loosen up, so we can be as cool as you. We get it! Now tell me how the fuck to undo this! I refuse to waste an entire day of my honeymoon lookin’ like fuckin’ Kat Von D! Call me back, you fuckin’ prick!”

Seething, Derek hung up with as much vehemence as his thumb could exert. Clearly this body came equipped with an unhealthy level of easily-triggered rage. Sure, it had come in handy during the phone call. It had even given Derek a bit of a rush, but he insisted that he would not let the anger overpower him. He gripped the edges of the sink in his hands and concentrated on peaceful thoughts, even as he felt his fingers clenching, trying to crush the marble countertop. He tried to think of a way to expel the Mariposa from his system. He pondered throwing up, but even if some of the Mariposa was still in his digestive system and upchuckable, its effects had already spread irretrievably throughout his body. He felt lucky that Charles hadn’t managed to spike his juice with an entire bottle, but even half a bottle meant that he was likely stuck looking like a human pincushion for the next twelve hours. Derek rested his bony ass on the toilet seat and Googled “Mariposa antidote” on his phone, but the only results referred to some cheap animated cartoon in which a Barbie doll with butterfly wings cavorts with a bunch of fairies. He slumped forward, resting his chin in his hands, cursing his fate. He grew dizzy, like the room or maybe the whole damn universe was spinning out of control around him. He desperately wished for a way to sober up.

His eyelids snapped open. He had an idea. Probably a long shot, but worth a try. He stood on his spindly legs and ran, still naked, into the living room.

Derek headed directly to the bar where he was taunted by a Mariposa bottle still half full of what looked like grape Kool-Aid. Hard to believe that something so innocent in appearance could possess such unfathomable power. He was tempted to dump the remainder down the drain, but worried about the repercussions of introducing Mariposa into the Cancun water supply. He didn’t want to be responsible if the beaches were suddenly teeming with a ferocious new breed of mohawked punk-rock piranhas.

For a moment, Derek pondered drinking the rest of the bottle. Perhaps he was feeling so conflicted because hadn’t taken a full dose, leaving him transformed outwardly but unchanged inside. By contrast, Charles had downed an entire bottle and seemed totally at peace, lounging on the couch with one hand clutching a bottle of Corona and the other stuffed down his shorts. “Since when do you drink beer?” Derek asked his usually finicky husband. Until yesterday’s scotch binge, he’d never seen Charles consume any alcohol other than wine.

“Since about five minutes ago,” Derek said, pointing toward the mini-bar fridge. “It’s not bad,” he said before belching.

That settled it. Derek pushed aside the half-empty Mariposa. If someone as erudite as Charles could be this dumbed down, Derek feared that finishing his own bottle would mutate him beyond his current state into an unimaginably hideous gargoyle. He tried to focus on the room service menu, but his attention was drawn to the enormous TV hanging on the wall. A shirtless blond twink was engaging in poorly-written tough-guy banter with a large, bald, dark-skinned man whose intimidating bare back filled most of the frame. Derek asked, “Are you watching porn?”

“Mmm-hmmm,” Charlie murmured hungrily, his eyes riveted to the screen, his right hand undulating in his shorts.

Derek now knew that his husband had been fully body-snatched. In all their time together, he had never seen Charles viewing anything more explicit than Magic Mike XXL. Derek always assumed that Charles indulged in porn surreptitiously, but figured it was just another one of those things that Charles, having lived alone long enough to become set in his ways, preferred to do in privacy. Only once had Derek tried to get Charles to watch a dirty movie with him, one which Pierce, naturally, had loaned him on Blu-Ray. Charles grew so fidgety that they shut off the disc before a single dick had made an appearance. Yet here was Charles’s red-haired doppelgänger openly gawking at a pay-per-view skin flick in all its high-def cheesiness. Derek took it as a good sign that Charles was at least watching a gay porno. Morphing into a beer-swilling douchebag was bad enough, but if Charles had turned straight in the process, that would put a severe damper on the honeymoon.

Although Derek couldn’t place the specific film, he did recognize one very prominent feature, as the black man onscreen unfurled an unfathomably long dick. “Holy shit, is that Mike the Spike?”

“Dunno, but he’s a good fuckin’ actor,” Charlie said, unzipping his fly to give his stiffening cock room to expand.

Derek spun away quickly and shielded his eyes. If the theory was correct that every new orgasm triggered additional changes, he needed to avoid exposure to anything stimulating. Just a glimpse of legendary “adult” film star Mike Cochran and his impressive “spike” had given Derek an immediate chubby, and he knew that witnessing young Charlie flog his meat would have driven him over the edge. Derek kept his head down, reminding himself why he had come into the living room in the first place. He dialed room service and ordered a pot of coffee, specifying that he wanted it “as black as you can make it” and “as fast as you can.” Derek was hoping that the caffeine would speed up his metabolism and drive the Mariposa out of his system more quickly. He wasn’t sure his idea was scientifically sound, but as far as he could tell, Mariposa didn’t follow any of the normal rules of science anyway.

“Why’d you order coffee?” Charlie asked. “I figgered we could eat out.” He let out a low doofusy chortle.

Derek kept eyes focused on a blank expanse of wall and tried his damnedest to ignore the obvious fapping sounds coming from Charlie’s direction. “Are you kidding? I can’t go out in public looking like this!”

“What’s the big fuckin’ deal? Put on a turtleneck and some long pants and nobody’ll even see your tattoos.”

“Did you see a turtleneck and long pants in that pile of banana hammocks and g-strings that Pierce gave us to wear? Plus, hello, are you forgetting that I’ve got a huge purple marlin fin on my head?”

“So? Wear a hoodie.” Charlie was growing increasingly annoyed with Derek, wondering how he had ever put up with someone so uptight.

“Like this would fit under a hoodie. I couldn’t hide this thing under a Klan hood!” He folded his arms, still astonished to be sporting full sleeves of tattoos from his shoulders to his wrists. For the first time, he examined the designs and discovered any number of explicit images which would probably cost him his job if they didn’t fade away before he returned to the States. As Derek looked around the room in desperation, his eyes landed upon the pair of scissors that Chico had brought to the room yesterday. An idea slowly germinated in his mind. He snatched up the scissors and ran back into the bedroom.

“Yer not s’posed to run with scissors, numbnuts,” Charlie chastized Derek. His erection had drooped during his argument with Derek, his floppy dick now wobbly in his hand. He considered rewinding the movie to see what he had missed, but the sound of his stomach growling made him realize he was more hungry than horny. He wadded his cock back into his jockstrap for later use and pushed himself up from the couch. Just because Derek was too much of a pussy to set foot outside, that was no reason for Charlie to waste such a glorious day. He slid open the patio door and drew in a deep breath of crisp air. Watching all the sexy young things frolicking on the beach, Charlie had the sudden urge to join them. Hell, he’d probably fit right in.

Derek fished his electric razor out of the side pocket of his suitcase, relieved that Pierce hadn’t replaced all of his belongings. He entered the bathroom with a sense of purpose, looked into the mirror and leaned his head forward. He raised the scissors to the front spikes of his mohawk and closed the blades together, encountering surprisingly strong resistance. To Derek, it felt like he was trying to slice through a thicket of long purple fingernails, and he wondered if a pair of hedge clippers would be more appropriate for the job. Finally, applying so much effort that he could swear the scissors were bending, he clipped off one of the keratin stalagmites. It pinged off the mirror and landed in the empty sink where it instantly vaporized in a brief purple puff. Derek inhaled sharply, more convinced than ever that this Mariposa shit was not of this world.

He kept sawing at the roots of the mohawk’s spines, sometimes snapping off two or three at once. Each one vanished like the first, some dematerializing in midair like tiny smoke bombs. Derek got into a rhythm and within a minute or two, he had reduced his rooster comb down to an arc of gnarled stubs along his the surface of his skull. He plugged in his razor and began to attack the remnants, the motor humming as the blades ground into the thickened clots of hair like a chainsaw grinding into a tree stump. Stubborn as the spikes had been, these nodules were considerably denser and more resistant. His razor whined, barely making a dent. The handle grew red hot in Derek’s grip, and he dropped it to the counter to avoid burning his palm. The shaver skittered erratically across the marble until Derek could switch it off.

Derek inspected the results. The jagged remains of his mohawk were a peculiar look, like a single file of purple buttons glued to his head, but at least he could hide them under a hat and walk around in public relatively inconspicuously. If he hid his hairless brow behind sunglasses and bought a high-necked, long-sleeved shirt, he just might be able to pass as a semi-ordinary guy, albeit one who was decidedly overdressed for a sunny afternoon in Cancun. He felt like he had won another minor victory in his battle against Mariposa.

He returned to the bedroom and called to Charles into the living room, “I think I’m okay to go out now.” He browsed through the suitcases, just needing something to wear until he could get to a clothing store. He was drawn toward a pair of black cutoff jeans but doubted that even his current emaciated body had a 28-inch waist. Nevertheless, he gave it a shot and discovered that his scrawny thighs slid easily down the pantlegs. Feeling the scratch of rough denim against his skin, he realized that he had forgotten to put on underwear, but he kinda liked the feel of the heavy seam pressing into his ass crack. Feeling rebellious, he buttoned the fly shut, resolving to go commando for the day.

Only now did he notice the drying streaks of ejaculate which Charles had zig-zagged onto the wall mirror. If he needed definitive proof that the Mariposa had overpowered his husband’s usual personality, this was it. Not only would ordinary Charles not have jerked off in the mirror to begin with, he was such a neat freak that he would have immediately dropped to his knees and called the front desk for cleaning supplies. “Jesus, Charles, would you look at this…” Derek froze as he caught a glimpse of his own reflection. He screamed in horror.

His mohawk had grown back to its original size. Maybe even slightly bigger. Mariposa was not giving up without a fight.

Frightened, Derek ran into the living room, only to discover that the sofa was unoccupied and the door to the patio was wide open. “Charles?” he yelled as he ran barefoot across the floor. “Charles?” he shouted again as he stepped onto the lanai, making a quick scan up and down the beach.

Derek heard the patio door of the adjacent room slide open. A lanky surfer dude with wavy blond hair burst out of his room, looking alarmed—and becoming even more startled once he got a good look at Derek’s outlandish appearance. “Uh… is everything okay?”

Derek turned frantically toward his neighbor, his thoughts scattered. “Did you happen to see my hus… my buddy? Red hair, maybe nineteen, kinda Matt Damon-y?”

The dude shook his head and shrugged, jostling his shaggy mane. “Naaah. Sorry, dude.”

“Are you sure?”, Derek asked, panic in his voice.

“Sounds like someone I’d notice,” the surfer said with a smirk.

Derek paced with growing agitation. “FUCK fuck FUCK fuck FUCK FUCK FUCK!” He clenched his fists, looking in vain for something to smash.

The neighbor took a cautious step in Derek’s direction. “Hey, man, relax, okay? I’m sure your buddy couldn’t’ve gotten far.”

Derek tried to clasp his hands on his head, forgetting the porcupine needles that had resprouted there. He yowled in pain as his hair punctured his fingertips. “FUUUUUCK!”

People on the beach were beginning to stare in their direction. The blond squeezed his way past the barrier separating the adjoining patios, seeming to be genuinely concerned. “You guys have a fight or somethin’? I heard shouting before.”

“Not a fight, exactly,” Derek said, before conceding, “He did something this morning without telling me and I kinda woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”

The neighbor asked his next question gingerly. “So that pounding on the wall last night? He wasn’t… like… hitting you, was he?”

Derek thought for a second, then smirked at the memory. It had only been last night, but it seemed like a lifetime ago. “Uh, no, he definitely wasn’t hitting me.”

The dude sighed. “That’s good. Sorry for…” He mimed pounding on the wall with his fist. “It was late and I was exhausted. Hope I didn’t break up you guyses’ rhythm.”

Derek laughed. He hadn’t been sure if this new body was capable of laughing. He had been so rattled, he had barely looked at his neighbor until now. Wearing only floral swim trunks and sandals, he was well-muscled and golden-tanned, with the kind of aesthetic physique and natural glow that come from days spent surfing at the beach, not from gyms and tanning beds. His sculpted face was rugged yet youthful. Derek would have found it equally believable to learn he was a mature-looking 25 or an astonishingly well-preserved 40. They were roughly the same height, as long as you counted Derek’s six-inch mohawk in the total. Derek felt like even more of a freak in the presence of such an all-American boy, but the guy’s no-worries attitude was having a calming effect on him. Derek extended his tattooed arm and said, “I’m Derek, by the way.”

“Beau,” the surfer said, exposing a dazzling smile. He shook Derek’s hand gently, as if afraid his callused hand might crush Derek’s delicate metacarpals into dust if he squeezed too tightly. “I like your ink!”

“Really?” Derek said, keenly aware that Beau’s skin was unmarred by tattoos, at least none that were currently visible. “I’m still getting used to them.”

“Musta taken a lotta time to get so many.”

“Not as much as you’d think,” Derek said. “Do you wanna come in? I ordered some coffee. Should be here any minute.” He couldn’t believe how immediately comfortable he felt around Beau. It usually took him years to warm up to people.

Beau gave it a moment’s thought. “Uhhhh… sure. I got nothin’ goin’ right now.”

Derek gestured for Beau to follow him inside. As Derek walked to the bar to grab his cell phone, Beau made himself at home on the couch, slumping into the sofa cushions and stretching his arms across the back of the couch. His impressive wingspan extended from armrest to armrest. He let out a sharp laugh that startled Derek, who spun around and urgently asked, “What?”

Beau pointed toward the TV on the wall. “Is that Mike the Spike?”

Derek glanced at the screen and his exposed skin grew even more ghostly. Whether accidentally or on purpose, Charles had left his porno movie paused on a freeze-frame of Mike Cochran’s penis at full extension. Mike’s erect “spike” was rumored to be fifteen inches in real life, but it stretched to well over fifty inches on the big screen. Flustered, Derek grabbed the remote from the floor in front of the couch and frantically pressed the “stop” button, returning the TV to the menu screen. Derek shrugged, embarrassed. “Not sure how that got on there.” Beau seemed amused and utterly unfazed. “I’m just gonna try calling my… ,” Derek explained as he pressed Charles’s name on his phone’s contact list. “It’s ringing,” Derek said, nervously continuing his unnecessary play-by-play for Beau’s benefit.

Beau nodded, then felt a vibration against his ass. Just as he was starting to enjoy it, the shuddering stopped, but it resumed a few moments later. He stuck a hand under his crotch and dug into the gap between the sofa cushions, searching for the source.

In Derek’s ear, the outgoing ring halted abruptly and he heard the word “Yo!” Derek’s sense of relief dissipated quickly as his anger toward Charles roared back. “‘Yo’? Yo, why’d you just wander off without even telling me where you were going, motherfucker? Huh?” Derek didn’t appreciate the silent treatment. “What, you got nothing to say for yourself? Leaving me here alone?”

Derek noticed a large shadow falling on the wall and turned around to see Beau holding out a cellphone. The onscreen caller ID listed Derek’s name, accompanied by a photo of a more-than-okay-looking, non-mohawked, 31-year-old oral surgeon. Derek lowered his own phone from his ear and let out a dispirited “Fuck.”

Beau handed Charles’s phone to Derek and shot a worried look toward the gaping hole in the wall next to the bedroom door. “You know, I’m gonna have to complain to the front desk. My bedroom doesn’t have a window.” Less light-heartedly, he asked, “You sure things are totally okay between you and your ‘buddy’?”

Derek shrugged off the damaged wall. “What, that? No, that’s… that’s nothing. He’s a… totally different person today.”

Beau nodded reassuringly. “I’m sure he’ll be back soon. I bet he’s just out on the beach, catchin’ some rays. Gorgeous day for it.”

Derek caught himself staring blankly into Beau’s baby-blue eyes and looked away, flustered. “Oh. Yeah. Right. Totally. Hundred percent.” After another awkward pause, Derek said, “I’m gonna go get dressed.” He pointed toward the bedroom door and backed his way through it.

Derek’s head was swirling. He rushed into the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face. He could still see traces of himself in his reflection, but his grip on his identity was growing shakier by the minute. He was veering schizophrenically between venomous rage toward his husband and puppy-dog infatuation with a man he just met. He wondered again if he should just drink the rest of the bottle after all and fully commit to being an angry punk for the day. Seemed like it would have to be better than being trapped in this bipolar limbo. Then again, a full dose could easily make things even worse. What if more Mariposa amped up his aggressive tendencies and wiped away his inhibitions? What if it was only the lingering shreds of his real self that were deterring him from jumping Beau’s bones already? Although, in his present skeletal state, Derek had to concede that he represented the bones in this equation. His bones would be jumping Beau’s meat.

Fuck, Derek chastised himself silently, what are you doing, thinking about some stranger’s meat? You’re on your fucking honeymoon! Besides, he thought, what made him think that Beau was even gay? True, he did instantly recognize one of the biggest gay porn stars in the world based solely on a still image of his cock. And he was fairly certain that Pierce had insisted on booking them into this hotel because it had a gay-friendly reputation. But even if Beau were gay, why would he want to fuck some cadaverous punk? Red-headed young Charles would probably be more Derek’s speed. Derek’s mind drifted again, allowing himself to imagine those two making out naked in the surf while he watched.

Derek clutched the sides of his head and slammed his eyes shut, trying to think of something – anything – else, but the symmetrical shapes of Beau’s ripped torso floated to the front of his consciousness. Derek felt his cock pushing against the buttons of his fly. He shouted “AAAAAARGH!” and ground the heels of his palms against his eyelids, trying to eradicate the image.

He heard Beau’s voice from the living room. “Everything okay in there?”

“Never better!” Derek shouted back unconvincingly. “Just gonna take a quick shower!” He wriggled free from his shorts, stepped under the shower head, and turned the cold water on at full blast, hoping to freeze his erection to death.

Sitting idly on the couch, Beau flipped the remote control into the air, wondering how many rotations it would make before he caught it. Just as he managed to spin it three full revolutions, he heard a knock at the door. He fumbled with the remote and shouted “There’s someone at the…” before realizing Derek probably couldn’t hear him in the shower. He stood up and ambled over, checking the peephole before letting in Chico from room service with a tray containing a coffee pot and two cups.

“Café, Señor?” Chico was surprised to see this tall blond stranger. He didn’t think the couple from yesterday had checked out.

“Cool,” Beau said. “Just put it on the bar, I guess.”

Chico nodded and carried the tray to the wet bar. He felt a zing of adrenaline when he noticed the open bottle of Mariposa on the counter, still half-full. He glanced furtively at the surfer dude, then back to the bottle. If the tales were true, Mariposa would explain why this guest looked so different from yesterday. Chico’s mouth watered at the thought of gulping down the rest of that bottle.

Beau noticed what had caught Chico’s attention. “You ever had any of that stuff?”

Chico was startled. He didn’t think his staring had been so obvious. “N-no, Señor.”

“I hear it’s supposed to be in-cred-ible,” Beau said with a devilish grin.

Beau had unintentionally restarted the movie when the remote hit the floor. The TV over his shoulder was now showing Mike the Spike “interrogating” the twink, asking him detective-style questions while also sliding his cock into and out of the twink’s ass. The twink was proving to be an enthusiastic witness. This whole situation was making Chico uncomfortable, so he lowered his head and moved toward the door, excusing himself. He stopped and turned around when he heard Beau say, “Un momento!”

Beau fished in the pockets of his trunks. As he pulled out a few crumpled Mexican bills, a tightly-rolled joint also slipped out and fell to the carpet. Beau smiled when Chico noticed the joint, pressed a generous tip into Chico’s palm, and winked at the cute kid. “Muchas gracias,” Beau said.

“Thank you, Señor,” Chico said, exiting hastily.

Derek emerged from the shower, colder but no wiser. He got back into his black shorts and quickly chose a skinny black tank and black high-tops to complete his outfit, deciding that anything more colorful or busy would clash with his tattoos. He stared with dismay at the man in the mirror. Growing up, he had never dared to imagine that he would even have a honeymoon someday, but if he had, he certainly would never have imagined it being anything like this.

Upon his return to the living room, Derek found Beau on the couch, thoroughly enjoying the erotic adventures of Mike the Spike, private dick. “The boy brought your coffee,” he informed Derek, pointing to the bar. “You don’t mind me sayin’, I’m not sure that what you need right now is a pot full of caffeine. You already seem plenty jumpy without it.” He held aloft a joint. “Maybe this would be more beneficial?”

Derek laughed and waved his hands dismissively. “I don’t really… “

“Well, maybe you should really… “ Beau placed the joint and a butane lighter on the coffee table.

Derek hadn’t smoked pot since college, and even then he’d been too scared to inhale deeply. He’d gotten a slight buzz, but never felt like he’d actually gotten high. He had to agree with Beau that caffeine was probably not a good idea. The theory had made some sense if you thought of Mariposa as comparable to booze, but he was now convinced that Mariposa was far too powerful to be fought with conventional means.

Derek walked over and picked up the joint. He tried to flick the lighter, but his hands were too shaky. Beau reached out and deftly ignited a high flame. Derek lit the tip, making a point of drawing in plenty of smoke as Beau smiled approvingly. Derek couldn’t help but smile back, sending smoke billowing out of the corners of his mouth. He gagged and doubled over, positive he looked like the wimpiest punk who had ever existed.

Beau scooted over to make more room on the couch and patted the empty cushion. “Siddown and relax. I promise I won’t bite.”

Despite his better instincts, Derek heard the words “Maybe I will” emerge from his lips. He sat down, mortified, careful to maintain a wide buffer between himself and Beau. He took another deep drag and closed his eyes as he held it in. Maybe pot had gotten stronger in the past decade, or maybe Mariposa had heightened his receptivity, but he could swear he felt the soothing effects spreading through his body immediately. He sank into the cushions, let his eyelids open gradually, and gave Beau a silly grin.

Derek offered to share the joint, but Beau waved it off. “I’m good,” he said. “Besides, I think you need it more.”

Derek couldn’t argue with that. He inhaled again as they both turned their attention to Mike Cochran’s massive dick.

Fifteen minutes later, Derek was still staring with glazed eyes in the general direction of the TV, zoned out and smiling blissfully, when he felt a sharp elbow in his ribs. Beau excitedly notified him, “Dude, you’re gonna miss the climax!”

Derek shook himself alert and tried to pay attention. He was surprised to see an open bottle of Corona in his hand. He could detect the taste of beer in his mouth but had been so out of it, he hadn’t even realized he had started drinking. Beau took a gulp from his own bottle, his eyes riveted on the action unfolding onscreen.

In the movie, Mike the Spike had his prime suspect bent over a desk and was pounding his ass relentlessly while explaining his theory of the case. Mike the Spike’s movies pretty much followed the formula of Columbo or Hercule Poirot, only with considerably more sodomy. When he finally accused the suspect of being guilty, Mike slapped handcuffs on the suspect’s wrists, pulled out of his ass and allowed his giant cock to cum all over the suspect’s back. Then Mike leaned back with a cocky expression, put his hands on his hips and delivered his catch phrase, “You’re fucked.” Both Derek and Beau knew the routine well enough that they recited the words along with him. It was a reliable gimmick that his fans had come to anticipate, the equivalent of Schwarzenegger saying “I’ll be back” in every movie.

Derek and Beau leaned back appreciatively. “Thanks for nudging me,” Derek said. “I woulda hated to miss that.”

“My pleasure. It’s amazing. You know what’s coming, but it’s satisfying every time. How long you been watchin’ Mike’s movies?”

Derek’s memories of all subjects were currently hazy. “I dunno. Ten years maybe? My buddy turned me onto him.”

Beau gestured toward the bedroom. “Oh, your ‘buddy’?”

Derek clarified, “No, not that buddy. Another buddy. College buddy.”

Beau nodded and sipped his beer. “College buddy has good taste. I’m not sure which of his movies I like best. Of course, This Dick For Hire is a classic, but I’ve probably watched The Dick Who Fucked Me a dozen times.”

Another thing Derek hadn’t anticipated about his honeymoon was an in-depth discussion of Mike Cochran’s filmography, but here he was. “You know what I like about Mike’s flicks the most? They’ve always got an actual story.”

“Exactly! They aren’t just a series of fucks. I mean, there’s still a fuckload of fucks, but the fucks aren’t gratuitous.”

“I’m surprised he hasn’t tried to make it in real movies. I mean, he’s got the looks and the charisma.”

Beau looked skeptical. “I dunno, he can be pretty uneven. Sure, sometimes he’s a badass, but sometimes he’s just all right, and sometimes he just sits there like he’s readin’ offa cue cards.”

Derek had to agree. “True. Also, I guess it’d be kind of a waste for him to be in a movie and not show his big dick. It’d be like putting Lady Gaga in a movie and not letting her sing.”

“Or making Chris Hemsworth wear a shirt.”

“Exactly!” Derek laughed and clinked the neck of his beer bottle against Beau’s. He took a long sip of beer and the room fell into an awkward silence. Thanks to the pot, his earlier anxiety had subsided, along with most of his inhibitions. It was requiring all of his remaining will power to prevent him from lunging across the couch, pinning Beau down and… Derek shook his head fiercely, trying to rid his mind of impure thoughts in the same way you would erase an Etch-A-Sketch.

As if reading Derek’s mind, Beau boosted himself off the couch. “Well, I’ve wasted enough of your time. I oughta let you go searching for your buddy. Thanks for the beer and the fine cinema.”

Derek stood awkwardly, teetering a bit. “No, thank you for the weed. You were right, I think it really did the trick.”

“You need any more, I’m right next door. Hope you find your guy.” Beau held out a fist for Derek to bump, and Derek completed the gesture.

Beau had already stepped outside when Derek blurted out, “You wanna help me look? I don’t really know Cancun. I wouldn’t have a clue where to find him.” Derek immediately regretted the invitation. Having just successfully dodged temptation, he found himself half-hoping Beau would have other plans. The other half was hoping Beau would stick around.

Beau paused on the patio and thought for a second. “Sure, why not? I can always surf tomorrow.”

“Great,” Derek said, smiling on the outside, more conflicted on the inside. At least his anxiety over his appearance had diminished. Why should he be embarrassed? It wasn’t his fault that he looked this way. Besides, nobody knew who he was here. Nobody would ever recognize him. And so what if people stared? If anybody tried to give him shit, he could just stab them with his hair.

“You better put on sunscreen,” Beau advised. “All that ink’s not gonna keep you from getting a sunburn.”

“I’m not sure I’ve got any.” Derek assumed he would have packed some, but any events that happened before this morning were pretty much a blur to him. “Lemme go look.”

“That’s okay,” Beau said. “I’ll go get mine, and grab myself a shirt.”

Derek somehow prevented himself from blurting out “You can skip the shirt!” He watched as Beau squeezed his way past the barrier to his own patio. Derek made sure to grab his wallet, his room key and both his and Charles’s phones, then headed outside, sliding the glass door shut behind him.

Beau reemerged from his room in an unbuttoned short-sleeved cotton shirt, leaving his chest and abs on display for easy ogling. He handed Derek a tube of sunscreen and declared, “Here you go, Watson! The game’s afoot!” Derek looked puzzled, so Beau explained. “Sherlock Holmes?”

“Oh, yeah, of course.” Under ordinary circumstances, Derek would have recognized the reference instantly, but his brain wasn’t entirely in the game right now. “So how do we start our search?”

“I guess we gotta think like detectives. We should be asking ourselves, ‘What would Mike the Spike do?’”

Derek knew the answer to that question. Mike the Spike would be dragging Beau back inside and fucking the daylights out of him. But Derek wasn’t sure how that would help them find Charles. The two men stepped down from their patios and started walking toward the beach, keeping their eyes peeled for a hot young redhead.

About half an hour later, someone knocked timidly on the door to Derek and Charles’s room. Getting no response, Chico used his pass key to enter the room cautiously, relieved to find it unoccupied. His eyes immediately went to the bar. His pulse quickened when he saw that the half-full Mariposa bottle was still there.

He tiptoed across the room and beheld the bottle like a religious artifact. He took a sniff, detecting the purple stuff’s peppery aroma. He lifted the bottle to his lips and took the tiniest sip, thrilling as a mild electrical charge rippled along his tongue and down his throat. He took a more substantial drink and his knees turned to rubber. He set down the bottle in order to steady himself. His hands trembled, likely more from nerves than the drink. Once the initial wave of tremors subsided, he reached for the bottle again but accidentally tipped it over. He grabbed the bottle, keeping it from rolling onto the floor, but not before much of the remaining purple liquid had burbled its way onto the marble countertop. Not wanting to waste a drop, Chico licked up as much of the elixir as he could. His skin was starting to tingle. He could feel the changes in earnest, and felt an overwhelming need to jerk off.

Chico was jolted out of his reverie by the sound of knuckles rapping on the front door. A voice in the hall announced, “Housekeeping!”

Chico panicked. Even though he had planned to claim that he was in the room to pick up the coffee pot, he was now desperately afraid of being caught poking around in one of the guest rooms. He made a dash toward the patio, realizing halfway that the Mariposa bottle was still in his hand. He stopped, chugged down the rest, and returned the bottle to the bar, laying it on its side beside the residual spill. He rushed back to the glass door and let himself out just as the maid entered.

Chico leapt away from the lanai and hid, breathing heavily, heart galloping. He closed his eyes in anticipation, eager for the Mariposa to do its thing. If everything went as he expected, in a very short while, Chico would be transformed into a tall, blond, surfer dude.

Charles had never felt comfortable relaxing.

“Down time” had always felt to him like a luxury which could only be indulged in by those without important things to do. He liked to keep busy. He felt compelled to keep busy. On those rare occasions when he might appear to be idle, Charles’s mind was actively chewing over at least a half dozen issues of deep concern, mostly problems that needed to be dealt with at work. To him, sitting through a movie was a waste of two hours; reading a book – unless it was providing him vital information for one of his cases – was exponentially worse, an egregious squandering of that most precious of all life’s resources, time. He even viewed sex less as a pleasant escape from his problems than as a necessary nuisance with the sole purpose of relieving him of the distracting urge to have sex. He believed he would become a far more effective lawyer as he aged because his libido would grow less annoyingly persistent in later years. He was wise enough not to have shared these views on sex with his new husband.

Charlie, on the other hand, was having a wonderful time. It was as thought the Mariposa had exiled Charles’s concerns and neuroses to some dusty unused crawlspace of his brain and blown out the pilot light on the fire of his intellect. Charlie was experiencing what it meant to be present purely in the moment. Strolling barefoot along the beach, he felt vividly aware of every sight, every sound, every smell. The skrunch of his heels in the white sand. The tickle of each grain of sand as it slid between his toes. The bracing chill of the lazy breeze against his face. The hundred separate shades of blue dissolving imperceptibly into each other to create the pristine cloudless sky. He felt like he could pick out the music blaring from each individual radio and speaker on the beach, finding the beauty, joy and harmony in what Charles would usually regard as anarchic cacophony.

Charles might intellectually know the phrase, “Ignorance is bliss,” but Charlie was living it.

In his wandering he had already stopped into several cantinas. He had no idea how many beers he had already imbibed, or how far away from the hotel he was, or even what time it was. He hadn’t intended to leave his phone behind, but it had proven to be a brilliant mistake, further untethering him from “real life”. Once or twice, it had occurred to him that he ought to give Derek a call to check in, but even if he were totally sober, he wouldn’t have had the faintest clue what Derek’s phone number was. After the intensity of yesterday, and before that the wedding, and before that the rehearsal, and before that the planning – all the fucking planning – Charlie was thoroughly enjoying being completely on his own, not having to think about anyone but himself.

Solitude was familiar territory for Charles. He had been a loner most of his life, really up until he met Derek. What felt different today was that he was on the receiving end of countless friendly smiles, from both men and women. Strangers were eagerly starting conversations with him, and he was chatting right back. Three people had already bought him drinks and refused to let him return the favor. He chalked it all up to the fact that he had temporary custody of a young and attractive body, but it was also true that Charlie wasn’t surrounded by the invisible protective wall that Charles vigilantly maintained around himself like a force field. Unlike Charles, Charlie wasn’t too bashful to look strangers in the eye. Charlie wasn’t stressed out by the very idea of making small talk. Charlie’s resting face was a smile, not a grim scowl. Charlie was starting to think that maybe Jesus was right. Maybe being boring was just a habit.

Charlie decided to sit on the beach for a while to enjoy the scenery and to stop the beer from sloshing around in his brain. He dropped the shoes he was carrying, tossed his cap onto the sand beside him, stripped off his v-neck tee and spread it on the ground as a half-assed beach blanket. He lowered his butt onto the shirt and leaned back, resting his forearms behind him to support his torso at a 45-degree angle. He lifted his face to the sun, shut his eyes, and felt his nipples perk up in the cool salty air. He shoved his feet into the sand and rubbed them back and forth, delighting in the way his invigorated thighs and calves flexed and hardened upon command.

Then he heard three words that soured his mood. “You’re gonna burn.”

At first, Charlie ignored the voice, hoping this warning was meant for someone else, but they were repeated with a prelude that erased any doubt. “Hey! Red! I said you’re gonna burn!”

Charlie opened one eye and peered in the direction of the voice. Twenty feet away, in the shade of a thatched palapa, was a young blond guy seated cross-legged on a blanket. He was alone, but surrounded by additional towels, backpacks, coolers and other beach paraphernalia which suggested he was part of a larger group who had abandoned him, probably for nagging them that they were going to burn. Charlie gave the kid a nod and said, “Thanks for the warning, officer,” then resumed his basking.

Charlie heard a mumbled retort, so he turned his head back in the kid’s direction. “Sorry, did you say something?”

The kid paused, then spoke loudly and distinctly. “I said, ‘Fine, look like a lobster. See if I care.’” The kid took a snort from a beer bottle wrapped in a foam koozie.

Charlie felt bad. The kid was only trying to be helpful. Charlie cracked open both eyes and realized that the kid seemed very familiar. It would have taken far longer for Charlie’s hazy brain to puzzle it out if the kid hadn’t provided a glaring hint in the form of the sleeveless yellow Iowa shirt which protected his pale trunk from the sun’s scalding rays. A smile of recognition spread across Charlie’s face. “Hey! Iowa! You were at that workout park yesterday, right?”

The kid paused in mid-swallow, nearly gagging. He hadn’t expected to run into anyone from the park. He hadn’t thought anyone would even have noticed him at the park.

“Yeah,” Charlie continued, “you were talking with my buddy who was doing gymnastics on the bars. Remember him? Chinese guy? Really ripped?”

Despite the white sunscreen slathered over his body, the kid’s skin instantly reddened. “Oh, yeah, right,” he said casually, as if it were a faint, unimportant memory, but he remembered the guy on the bars distinctly. He had thought about him with almost disturbing frequently over the past 24 hours. The gymnast had even featured prominently in the Iowan’s dreams overnight. “Sorry,” the kid said with a guilty look, “I didn’t remember seeing you there.”

Charlie laughed. “Yeah, I bet you didn’t!” He knew that his bearish appearance the day before was unlikely to have caught the young man’s eye, but the kid had been so fixated on Derek, he probably wouldn’t have noticed if Godzilla had tromped through the park and gobbled up all the other exercisers.

The kid suddenly stiffened with a realization. His head swiveled back and forth, scanning the beach with wide eyes. “Is your buddy with you?” Without giving it a conscious thought, he instantly sat up straighter, flexed his biceps and tightened his stomach muscles.

“Naw,” Charlie said, “he went away last night.”

The kid made a poor attempt to conceal his disappointment, although this redhead wasn’t a bad consolation prize. He tried not to be obvious as his eyes roamed over Charlie’s less jacked but certainly pleasing physique.

“Ya got another one o’ those?”, Charlie asked, pointing to the kid’s beer.

In the midst of mentally cataloging Charlie’s physical attributes, the kid took a moment to register what Charlie had said. “Oh… a beer? Yeah, sure, got a whole cooler full. You want one?”

“No, I was just takin’ a survey on how many bottles you had,” Charlie said dryly. The kid nodded anxiously, his sarcasm radar on the fritz. Charlie realized he would need to be more direct. “Yes, actually, I would love a beer, thank you,” he said in a stilted manner, prompting the kid to dig into the nearest cooler, one with an Iowa Hawkeye symbol on its lid. He certainly made no secret of his loyalties.

Charlie hopped to his feet, snatched up his cap, shoes and shirt, and strutted casually across the sand toward the Iowan’s encampment. By the time he reached the shadowed area under the palm fronds, the kid had already bekoozied a Dos Equis and was holding it aloft. “Here you go, Red,” he said with an open smile.

“Muchas gracias, Iowa,” Charlie replied, accepting the drink and clinking the neck of his bottle with the kid’s. He gestured toward the towels spread across the sand. “Okay if I sit?”

“Oh, yeah, sure,” the kid from Iowa said, nodding vigorously and scooting back on his own beach blanket to leave an ample buffer of “no homo” space, no matter where Charlie chose to sit.

Charlie took the cue and set himself down a full blanket-width away from the kid. It wasn’t often that Charles found himself in a social situation where he was not the most awkward person present. He was amused by how hard the kid was trying not to give off any gay vibes, and how hard he was failing in that regard. He remembered his own constant efforts to camouflage his feelings as a young man, for fear that people would guess his secret.

“You want, I can borrow you some sunscreen. Trust me,” he said, pointing to his own lack of pigment, “I can get a burn from sitting too close to a fluorescent light. I need, like, SPF a million.”

“Sure, that’d be great, man.” The kid tossed over a tube of Coppertone. Charlie, his right hand gripping the neck of his beer, snagged the incoming projectile out of the air with his left hand, masking his surprise at this unexpected display of hand/eye coordination. He wondered if the Mariposa had granted him athletic abilities comparable to Derek’s from the day before. He set down his beer, squirted a glob of sunscreen into his palm and smeared it onto his face. “You must be plannin’ a party, or else this is a whole lotta shit for just one guy.”

“Nah, I’m here with my friends from college. They decided to go windsurfing. Somebody had to stay and guard the stuff, so I…” He shrugged.

“College, huh? Where d’ya go?”, Charlie asked, as if the answer were not obvious.

“Iowa,” the kid said proudly, pointing to the logo on his shirt.

“Never woulda guessed.” Charlie grinned, rubbing the white lotion across his pecs and abs, while the kid deliberately directed his attention literally anywhere else. Charlie attempted to apply sunscreen to his back, but his arms couldn’t reach all of it. “Don’t s’pose you could help me get the small of my back?”

The kid bit the inside of his lip and took a quick look up and down the beach to make sure his traveling companions weren’t within eyeshot. “Uh, sure, no problem.” He scooted toward Charlie on his knees, took hold of the sunscreen and dispensed some into his hand. He delicately dabbed the cream onto Charlie’s lower back and hastily smeared it around. Charlie could tell from the delicate patter of the kid’s fingertips that his hands were trembling. He felt slightly guilty for tormenting the kid like this, knowing how petrified his younger self would have been if an attractive stranger had asked Charles to grease him up. He probably would already have shot a load in his swim trunks and run away in terror by now. Under the circumstances, the kid was holding up well.

“Thanks, bud,” Charlie said, extending a sunscreened arm out of the shadows and into direct sunlight to demonstrate that he wouldn’t spontaneously combust. “I feel safer already.”

After narrowly escaping Derek and Charles’s room, Chico had been overcome with an overwhelming urge to masturbate. He had snuck into the staff break room, relieved to find it empty, and locked himself in the bathroom. He barely had a chance to unzip his trousers and drop his boxers before his cock began to ooze pre-cum. Beginning to stroke himself, warmth radiated to every part of his body. In the mirror, he could see his rich brown skin turning lighter, which only made him stroke faster. He expected his skin tone to stop at a golden tan, so he was somewhat concerned when it continued to whiten, but the sensations flooding his body were so mind-blowing, he wouldn’t care if the stuff turned him invisible. A jolt zinged across the top of his head and he could feel his bones twisting inside his skin as his entire skeletal system elongated. As an orgasm grew inevitable, he tried to aim in the direction of the toilet bowl, but somehow managed to miss it entirely while splattering the walls, the floor tiles, and the toilet paper roll. He sank to his knees and hung his head forward in exhaustion.

Chico felt for the edge of the sink, grasped it firmly in his fingers and leveraged himself to a standing position, growing dizzy as his legs pushed him higher and higher. He slowly opened his eyes, anticipating that he had emerged from the metamorphosis looking like the hot blond surfer he had seen in the room earlier. Instead, he found himself eye-to-eye with a pale mohawked scarecrow. “¡IncreÃble!”, he gasped in an unfamiliar voice, tugging at the taut skin of his cheeks to assure himself that what he was seeing was real. He tore away his too-tight shirt, launching buttons into the toilet bowl and revealing a scrawny torso and arms wallpapered with tattoos.

Chico had always felt inferior. Cute enough, but short and easily overlooked. There was no doubt that people would notice him now. Counting the mohawk, his body now stretched to nearly two meters in height. He flexed his skinny arms and watched as his tats stretched across his scrawny biceps. Using a term he’d heard among the American guests, he pronounced himself a “total badass!” He could swear he even sounded like a gringo when he said it.

After this, there was no way Chico could go back to work today. Looking this extreme, he wouldn’t be able to slip out of the hotel undetected, but at least none of his co-workers could possibly recognize him. He pulled his street clothes out of his locker and stuffed in his wadded-up work uniform. The baggy black shorts he had worn into work hung even baggier on his narrower hips, and his black Panam running shoes still fit, but his t-shirt snagged on his mohawk as he tried to pull it over his head, poking a few holes in the fabric. He wedged the tee into his locker, deciding he’d prefer to show off his ink anyway. He would worry about how to explain his abrupt departure tomorrow. For now, all he could think of were the words he had heard in an old American movie: “Aprovechen el dÃa.”

“Seize the day.”

Derek and Beau decided to begin their search for Charles by retracing yesterday’s steps, under the assumption that a creature-of-habit like Charles might be more likely to visit to places with which he was already mildly familiar. First stop was the cigar shop, even though today’s version of Charles didn’t seem the stogie type.

As they entered the store, the elderly Mexican man behind the counter stiffened, eyeing the mohawked punk suspiciously. Derek did his best to tone down the intimidation factor with a friendly voice and an “I come in peace” grin, but a smile on his emaciated face only made him look more menacing “¡Hola! ¿Habla Inglés?”

“Si, si,” said the old man, moving his right hand deliberately below the counter, suggesting either that he had a weapon stashed there or that he wanted Derek to think he had a weapon stashed there. “What can I do you for?”

“I’m wondering if a friend of mine has been in here today. About yea high,” Derek said, holding his hand at his own eye level. “Red hair. Freckles. Pink shorts.”

The man shook his head. “No one like that today, señor.”

Beau stepped forward, trying to be helpful. “You sure? Apparently he came in here yesterday.” He turned to Derek. “Show him a picture.”

“I don’t have a picture,” Derek said.

The man behind the counter narrowed his eyes impatiently. “I didn’t see no Americans yet all day, okay? You are gonna buy something or no?”

“No,” said Derek. “Gracias para your tiempo.” He turned toward the door, and Beau followed him out.

“Ya know, it’d really help if I could see a picture of this guy, so I’d have a better idea who I’m looking for,” Beau said. “You sure you don’t have a single picture of him?”

“Yes, I’m positive.” Of course Derek had plenty of photos of Charles on his phone, just none of him in his current incarnation. Even the selfies Derek had snapped yesterday were worthless, showing a Charles radically different from the one they were currently seeking.

Beau wasn’t letting this drop. “What about his Facebook profile?”

“He’s not on Facebook,” Derek said, honestly. “Charles doesn’t like social media. He thinks it’s a frivolous waste of time, and that putting all your personal information out there is just an open invitation to identity theft.” It was not lost on Derek that he was desperately trying to keep his own identity from being stolen away from him by the creeping effects of Mariposa.

“No offense,” Beau said, “but this Charles of yours sounds awful uptight. How’d you ever get hooked up with a guy like that in the first place?”

“We used to have a lot more in common. What can I say? People change.” Derek still couldn’t get over the unwelcoming attitude of the cigar shop owner. “Did you see the way that guy was looking at me? It was like he expected me to rob him or something, just because of the way I look.”

“You must be used to that by now,” Beau said. “I mean, you did choose to look like this. It’s not like somebody gave you a mohawk and tattoos overnight against your will.”

“Well, actually,” Derek said with a laugh, “it’s pretty much exactly like that. I didn’t choose to look like this at all.”

“What the fuck?”

Derek stopped and turned to Beau earnestly. “Listen, you’re gonna think I’m totally nuts, but the way I look now, this is not how I really look.”

“Ohhh-kay?”, Beau said skeptically.

“Did you see those bottles on the bar in my room?”

Beau nodded. “Sure, the Mariposa bottles?”

“Ah, great! You’ve heard of the stuff? So then you know what it does.”

“I’ve heard rumors. It’s supposed to do some crazy shit to your head, like LSD on acid.”

“Man, I wish it was that benign,” Derek said. He proceeded to tell Beau everything he knew about Mariposa: how it had changed Derek and Charles into different people two days in a row, how they changed a little more every time they had an orgasm, how Derek was struggling to maintain his grip on who he really was.

Beau had listened soberly, nodding sympathetically, but when Derek finally paused, Beau doubled over with laughter. “Gotta say, you were right. I do think you’re nuts.”

Derek grew defiant. “You want me to prove it? Let’s go back to my room right now and you can drink a bottle and see what happens. Thing is, you don’t even get a warning about what it’s gonna do to you. It’s a total crapshoot. You don’t know if you’re gonna turn into a punk rocker or a sumo wrestler or, I dunno, an albino midget!”

“I think they prefer to be called ‘pigment-deficient and vertically challenged,’” Beau said as his laughter waned.

“Fine,” Derek said, walking away, then turning back with more vehemence. “Why would I make up a crazy story like this?”

Beau shouted back with equal force. “How should I know? I don’t know a fuckin’ thing about you! For all I know, you’re an escaped mental patient!”

Derek calmed himself, noticing the attention their spat was attracting from passersby. He realized how implausible all of this would have sounded if anyone had told him the same story two days ago. He softened his tone. “I prefer to be called unincarcerated and sanity-deprived.” He was pleased to see Beau smiling back. “I swear to god I’m telling the truth. I wouldn’t blame you if you said, ‘Fuck this freak,’ and just went surfin’ instead, but I’m on the verge of flipping out completely and I could really use your help tryin’ to find Charles. I’d be totally losin’ it right now if it wasn’t for you. And your pot. Especially your pot.”

“Aww,” Beau said with a crooked smile. “And here I figured you loved me for my winning personality.”

“I do, I do,” Derek insisted before leaning close and whispering. “But, seriously, you got another joint?”

Beau patted the pocket of his shorts with a wink and a nod, then declared with a glint in his eye, “But I just thought of somethin’ even better for you.”

Charlie backpedaled rapidly across the sand, arm cocked back, eyes fixed on the blond boy in the Iowa shirt racing crazily in the distance with his arms outstretched. Charlie rifled the ball and watched it spiral perfectly in Iowa’s direction. His left hand patted his right biceps for a job well done. He gazed in awe, never having felt responsible for something so effortlessly graceful.

The pale blond, now shirtless like Charlie, ran toward the ball. He extended himself desperately, thinking he had a shot at catching the ball, but he was unable to reach it in time. The ball glanced off the tip of his middle finger and careened toward a pair of blonde girls basking in the sun face down, their bikini tops untied to prevent tan lines. Iowa landed face first in the sand and collapsed into a heap, arms and legs jutting out at random angles.

Charlie dashed across the beach, taking energetic strides, his bare feet scarcely touching the ground. He slowed his pace as he approached the spot where the ball had come to rest and bent down, noticing that both of the sunbathers were squinting in his direction. “‘Scuse me, ladies,” Charlie said with a charming smile, then ran over to help Iowa back to his feet.

As he attempted to sweep away the grains of sand that were sticking to his sunscreen-coated skin, the kid from Iowa began to apologize. “Sorry, man, I shoulda caught that one. I misjudged the speed and…”

“No, man, I overthrew it,” Charlie said, although he somehow instinctively knew that the pass had gone exactly where it should have been. Charlie found it sweet how much the kid was trying to impress him. He pressed the ball against the kid’s chest. “Okay, Iowa, show me how it’s done.”

Running back toward the surf, Charlie felt his cock throbbing inside his jockstrap. Everything about this afternoon was turning him on. The sun bearing down on his skin. The wind tousling his hair. The smell of the sunscreen. The youthful virility of his wiry body. The innocent, barely-suppressed longing on Iowa’s face. The tight muscularity of Iowa’s trim physique. Hell, he’d even boned up a little as he stole a glance at the female sunbathers, which might have been the most unexpected sensation Charlie had felt in two days jam-packed with unexpected sensations. With his back to the beach, he took a moment to adjust his package, then spun around to face Iowa, who was making some practice tosses straight into the air. “Ready!”

The boys continued to hurl the football back and forth, their accuracy improving with each toss. Charlie pushed himself further and further to discover his limits, or to find out if he even had limits any more. When a simple game of catch grew stale, Iowa declared that the water was his goal line and challenged Charlie to stop him before he could reach it. “Yer on!” Charlie replied. He flung the ball in a lazy arc toward Iowa, then took off at top speed, his pounding legs giving him the sense that he could outrace the airborne pigskin.

Iowa nabbed the ball in a basket catch, then ran toward the shoreline, making quick lateral cuts to compensate for Charlie’s moves. Impressed with the kid’s agile footwork at avoiding him, Charlie plunged forward, snagging the kid’s left shin and slamming him to the ground. Worried that he might have hurt the kid, Charlie looked over and asked, “You okay, Iowa?”

The kid laughed it off and pulled his leg free from Charlie’s clutches. “Your turn.” Charlie was impressed. He certainly hadn’t been so resilient in his younger days. Then again, he hadn’t put himself in many situations where he would be tackled to the ground.

Iowa scampered toward the damp area of the sand, waves rushing in to swirl around his feet. Charlie stood twenty yards inland, shifting his weight from one foot to the other in anticipation. Iowa took a few steps back into the water, then drilled a rocket straight toward Charlie, nailing him in the solar plexus. The kid was so impressed by his own throw that he forgot to make a defensive charge. Charlie had already covered half the distance to the water’s edge before Iowa even attempted to move. He took a step and slipped in the soggy sand. By the time he regained his footing, Charlie was sprinting toward the waves, holding the ball aloft victoriously as he let out a gloating whoop.

Iowa floored it, barreling in Charlie’s direction, making a last-ditch lunge to prevent him from reaching the water. His arms encircled Charlie’s waist, and he brought them both down with a thunderous splash. Charlie landed flat on his back, with Iowa on top of him, their bare chests pressed against each other as a wave inundated them. As the water receded, the two young men laughed uncontrollably, literally nosetip-to-nosetip and eye-to-eye. Their laughter dwindled as the moment lingered. Charlie could feel an unmistakable hardness in Iowa’s shorts pressing against his own abs, and he was certain Iowa was aware of the matching rigidity of the hard-on straining to escape from captivity in Charlie’s jockstrap. A breathless pause ensued. He could feel the kid trembling.

Charlie slammed his eyes closed and clutched fists full of wet sand as he resisted the overwhelming urge to kiss the kid. A nagging voice deep within him reminded Charlie that he had only gotten married two days ago, while a louder voice told that first voice to fuck off. Just as he felt himself losing this battle, the weight upon Charlie’s chest was lifted. He opened his eyes and saw the kid pushing himself away crabwalking a few steps backwards to a spot on dry land where he planted himself, pointedly looking away from Charlie.

Charlie tried to diffuse the awkward tension by asking, “So, Iowa, did I score?”

The kid tried to come up with a snappy response, but his mind was blank. He glanced at Charlie, then stood up and walked back to the shade of his palapa, his head hanging forward.

Charlie boosted himself to his feet, rescued the football from the surf and jogged back toward the encampment. He realized that his cock had grown limp and could feel a slimy substance pooling around his balls. He was relieved that his shorts were already too drenched for any additional stain to show up.

As he sat down on a beach towel, consciously separating himself from the kid with a cooler located between them, Charlie felt something lumpy squish against his right ass cheek. “Oh, shit!”, he exclaimed, cringing as he extracted his wallet from his back pocket. He could hardly bring himself to look as he cautiously unfolded it to examine the contents. He pulled out a damp wad of Mexican bank notes and spread them across the cooler to dry, placing a small rock atop each bill to keep it from blowing away. He slapped down half a dozen credit cards, his driver’s license and several other forms of ID, then inspected the wallet itself, tossing it into the sand, certain it was a total loss.

Iowa sat shivering on his towel, arms wrapped around his folded legs. He took a peek at Charlie’s possessions laid out atop the cooler and was amazed by how much cash the redheaded kid was carrying. “Holy shit, Red, you’re loaded!” He did his best to sound casual and lighthearted, hoping they could both just ignore what had happened in the surf.

Charlie shrugged, attempting to be equally nonchalant. “Trip so far’s been cheaper than I expected.” Jesus had covered nearly all of yesterday’s expenses, and today’s expenditures had been limited to the few beers he hadn’t been given by others.

The kid reached over and picked up Charlie’s driver’s license. Charlie frantically reached for it, but Iowa kept it out of his reach. He laughed when he gave it a close inspection. “This is the worst fake ID I’ve ever seen, bro. What is this, your dad’s driver’s license? Did you steal your dad’s wallet? Fuck, Red, are you on vacation with your ‘rents?” The kid guffawed.

“No, I’m not here with my parents, and no, it’s not my dad’s license. Now give it back.” Charlie stretched out an arm, but Iowa just scooted further away, holding the license in the sunlight to examine it further.

“If it’s not your dad, then who’s the old dude in the picture?” Iowa asked, his eyes flitting between Charlie and the unflattering mugshot of Charles. “I mean, he does kinda look like you, but the age says 31. No fuckin’ way this dude is under fifty.”

“Maybe it was bad lighting,” Charlie insisted defensively, leaping deftly over the cooler and crawling playfully toward the kid on his hands and knees.

Iowa took on a lecturing tone. “Yeah, this is all wrong. Ya see, the trick to a good fake ID is to always stick as close to the truth as you can. I mean, any bouncer that’s not legally blind is gonna notice that the picture’s not you, but all the vitals are wrong too. The age is way too old. The weight is fifty pounds too fat. It says you got brown hair and brown eyes, when you’ve got red hair and… “ He glanced over at Charlie, whose crystal blue eyes were glaring back intensely. Iowa was confused. He could have sworn that Charlie’s eyes were green, although that could have just been a trick of the light. But how had he not noticed that cleft in Charlie’s chin before?

“Anyway,” the kid said, shaking off his momentary uncertainty. He stuck his hand into one of his shoes that had been resting safe and dry under the palapa while they played football. He pulled out his wallet and produced a seemingly authentic Iowa driver’s license, which he handed to Charlie. “This is how you make a fake ID.”

Charlie studied it closely, impressed by the craftsmanship, right down to the authentic holographic designs on the surface. The photo was surprisingly flattering and definitely of the kid himself, making a studious effort to appear mature. All the stats seemed accurate, with the exception of the age. “Iowa, this says you’re 24. So what are you really?”

The kid hesitated, but saw no incentive to lie. “Nineteen.”

“That’s all? I figured you were older.”

“Really?” The kid grinned. “Thanks.”

“So,” Charlie asked, nervous but genuinely curious, “how old do you think I am?”

“Dunno. Eighteen?” When Charlie burst out laughing, the kid looked puzzled. “What? Younger?”

“No,” Charlie assured him. “Definitely not younger.” He looked back at the kid’s fake license and read the name. “Todd Pritchert? Is that your real name?”

“Yeah.” The kid grinned at Charlie. “But my friends call me Iowa.”

Charlie gazed fondly at the young man and spoke quietly. “So… do your friends know?”

Todd looked at Charlie. “Know what?”

“You know.” Charlie’s voice was tender and compassionate, his eyes radiated sympathy.

Todd leaned forward, resting his chin on his raised kneecaps and staring down at his feet. Once again, he saw no reason to lie, instinctively trusting Charlie. “No,” he said softly.

Charlie cautiously placed a hand on Todd’s shoulder. “It’s okay. Nobody knew about me either when…” He found himself about to say “when I was your age,” but that didn’t seem right. He went with “when I came out” instead. After fudging or avoiding facts, it felt good to say something to Todd which was basically accurate. When Charles had started telling people that he was gay after he met Derek, the consistent response was more relief than surprise. It turned out that most people hadn’t suspected he was gay. They had assumed that Charles simply had no interest in sex of any kind. He wondered how his twenties would have been different if someone had befriended him the way he was befriending Todd today.

Todd smiled appreciatively, then his body suddenly went rigid. He quickly brushed Charlie’s hand away from his shoulder and whispered, “Shit, my friends are back!”

Charlie followed Todd’s look and spotted three silhouettes on the beach, walking in their direction like conquering heroes returning from battle. “Do you want me to go?” Charlie asked.

“No!” Todd said with more intensity than he had planned. “No, they can already see you. It’d be weirder if you left. I’ll just tell ’em you’re this really cool guy I met.”

“Of course. Always stick as close to the truth as you can.” That made Todd smirk as he subtly inched himself away from Charlie.

Todd’s friends were close enough now for Charlie to differentiate them. All looked to be over six feet tall and were extremely fit, each dressed only in to-the-knee board shorts. The tallest, walking in the middle, was all lean muscle, with deep brown skin and a slightly grown-out afro. The dude to his left had a ruddy complexion and was bulkier, with heavy brows and slicked-back black hair. The stud on the right was deeply tanned and model-pretty with a swimmer’s physique, his sandy hair parted in the middle and swept back over his ears. Charlie sensed Todd’s nervousness in their presence. Even the new and improved Charlie was intimidated by them on sight.

“Hey, guys, how was windsurfing?” Todd asked eagerly, rising to his feet.

“It was a blast, Toddler,” said the pretty boy. He pointed to the stockier guy on the left. “You shoulda seen Bart wipe out. It was hilarious!”

Bart sneered. “Fuck you, Kev. You wiped out just as much as me.”

“Yeah, right.” Kev rolled his eyes dramatically, dismissing Bart’s accusations.

Bart pointed to the black guy in the middle and said, “Didn’t O get a great tan, though?”

The dude in the middle shook his head wearily. “That joke never gets old, man,” he said sarcastically. He seemed relieved to be back in Todd’s presence after having to put up with his bickering friends for a few hours. “You shoulda come, Todd. You woulda loved it.”

“Maybe next time,” Todd said. “I really didn’t mind watching the stuff.” Charlie could tell that Todd was used to being overshadowed by his bigger buddies, but he appeared to be content in that role. He didn’t even seem to mind the group’s infantilizing nickname for him, or else he’d just passively acquiesced to it.

“Who’s your friend, Toddler?” Kev asked with a intrigued grin, pointing to Charlie.

“Oh!” Todd said, as if suddenly realizing Charlie was still there. He introduced his friends, pointing them out from left to right. “Bart, O, and Kev, this is…” He paused, realizing he’d never found out his new acquaintance’s name. The driver’s license bore the name “Charles White”, but Todd figured that was just as phony as the rest of the ID’s information.

Charlie stood up, smacking his head into the palm fronds atop the palapa. He was positive that, earlier, he was able to stand up under the palapa without hitting the roof. “Charlie Gray,” he said, stretching out his arm. “But my friends call me Red.” He shot a quick glance in Todd’s direction and noticed a slight smirk.

Derek’s eyes were closed as strong hands smoothed coconut-scented lotion across his back. The masseur’s soothing touch, the atmospheric music, the sea air flapping against the canvas panels of the beachside tent, and the lingering effects of the second joint Beau had given him were combining to put Derek in a deeply relaxed state. His cheeks were positively aching from smiling.

Beau was getting his own treatment on the next table over and, from the sound of things, Beau’s scrappy little masseur treated massage as a form of mixed martial arts. Lots of slapping and thudding and groaning and yelping. Derek preferred the gentler touch of his beefy masseur, Armando. Derek was no longer fretting about the whereabouts of Charles. He was no longer so hyper-aware of how outlandish he looked. He was only briefly brought back to reality when Armando accidentally poked his hand on one of the spines of Derek’s mohawk.

“Y’okay over there, bro?”, Beau asked.

“You kidding?”, Derek replied in a blissful murmur. “This was totally what I needed.” He heard Beau’s feet landing on the mat between them and the rustle of his clothes as he started to get dressed. “Are you done already?”

“Yup. I only paid for five minutes of abuse. You’re getting the full half hour.” Derek heard Beau mutter something confidentially to Armando, followed by the crumpling sound of paper money changing hands. “I’ll wait for you outside, man.”

“But… well… okay.” For once, Derek realized he had nothing to complain about. He let his body go limp and surrendered himself to Armando. After Armando had worked out all the knots in Derek’s back and reduced Derek’s arms and legs to jelly, Derek felt a powerful hand cupping his scrotum and coating it with a warm gel of some kind. Derek flinched and gave a wordless objection, but Armando whispered “Shhhh” and assured Derek this was all part of the service. He gently rolled Derek first onto his side, then onto his back, taking care to place a pillow under his head to cushion the mohawk. Armando coated Derek’s shaft with the gel and began to stroke gently up and down. Derek felt like putty in Armando’s hands, but a special kind of putty that gets harder and longer the more you play with it.

Outside the tent, Beau reclined in a slingback beach chair and stared out at the Caribbean, enjoying the soundtrack of the lapping of the waves intermingled with Derek’s increasingly enthusiastic moans. He hung his arms limply at his sides and absorbed some late-afternoon rays. He eventually dozed off, only waking when he felt a shadow across his skin, as if something was eclipsing the sun. Beau looked up at Derek’s silhouette, his head haloed by sunlight. Beau asked, “So, everything come out okay?”

Grinning, Derek stuck a hand under his tank top and rubbed his flat stomach. “I prob’ly oughta be mad at you for not askin’ my permission. But I’m not.”

Beau raised his palms innocently. “If you were uncomfortable, all you had to do was ask him to stop. Armando is very sensitive about people’s boundaries.”

“I might look stupid, but I ain’t no idiot. That was… “ Derek searched his mind, but nothing in his vocabulary seemed adequate to describe his current feelings. In fact, all of his thoughts seemed pretty basic now. He finally settled on the right words. “That was fuckin’ great.” He noticed that Beau was staring at his face. “What’sa matter? I still got drool or somethin’?” He wiped a hand across his chin, but came up dry.

“You might wanna check the mirror,” Beau suggested, pointing to a hand mirror dangling from a string beside the entrance flap to the massage tent.

Derek grabbed the mirror by the handle and studied his face. “What am I lookin’ for? Do I have, like, a booger hangin’ out?”

“Don’t you notice anything different?” Beau asked.

Derek took another glance, but the only thing he found unusual was how delighted he appeared. “Sorry. Not seein’ it.”

“Those scorpion tattoos on both sides of your head. They weren’t there before. And it looks like you’ve got eyeliner tattooed on too.”

“Oh, yeah. Bitchin’!” Derek took Beau’s word for it, not remembering that he had looked any different half an hour ago. He just knew that he looked sexy as shit now.

“So, one happy ending later and some new tats sprout on your head just like that. Guess you were telling the truth about that Mariposa stuff after all. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself.”

Unperturbed, Derek let go of the mirror and said, “You hungry? I’m hungry. Do you think they sell Pop-Tarts in Mexico?”

“I’m not sure.” As Beau leveraged his way out of his beach chair, he asked, “Don’t you want to keep looking for Charles?”

Derek looked back blankly. “Charles?”

“Yeah. Your buddy? Charles? Remember?”

“Oh, sure, sure,” Derek said, nodding vigorously, although he was having trouble remembering whether Charles was his red-haired friend or his big hairy friend or his boring friend. “How ‘bout waffles? What are Mexican waffles like?” He wandered away from the store toward some shops. Beau hastily shoved his feet into his sandals and followed him.

As they strolled past storefronts, Derek couldn’t stop staring at his reflection in the windows. He had finally fully embraced this version of himself, yet something still felt incomplete. Only when they passed a funky jewelry boutique did he realize what was missing. Derek had never been the type for accessories – he didn’t even like wearing a watch – but his new body seemed to have a physical craving for adornment, as if devoting most of its skin’s square footage to tattoos wasn’t nearly enough. He tugged the lobe of his right ear between his thumb and forefinger, the holes which had emerged there feeling profoundly empty. He had never been tempted to pierce his ears, never felt the urge to puncture his body to express his iconoclasm or advertise his sexuality. But now that the piercing had happened spontaneously and painlessly, he was burning with a desire to see how he’d look with a few earrings. He turned to Beau and asked, “What do you think would look better on me, gold or silver?”

Charlie was positive that he had changed further after his most recent orgasm in the waves. His pecs had gained heft and tone, his arms had swollen into mighty pythons of muscle, and he had sprouted to well over six feet. He and the three amigos all towered over Todd, the clear runt of the group by a good five inches. Todd had registered these differences, just as he had noticed Charlie’s changing eye color and the mysterious appearance of a cleft chin, but he wrote them all off as faulty memories, the combined result of overstimulated hormones and his own impaired faculties after a day of drinking beer in the hot sun. He wasn’t ordinarily a big drinker, but since they arrived in Cancun, he had been trying his damnedest to match his bigger, harder-partying schoolmates beer for beer.

Feeling bored just sitting, O decided they should play volleyball on the nearby net. In response, Kev had the bright idea to invite the sunbathing girls from the next palapa over to join them. The girls introduced themselves as Sandy and Mandy, and Charlie hadn’t paid enough attention to remember which was which. O designated himself and Bart as captains, offering Bart the initial pick. To his amazement, Charlie, a lifelong bench warmer, was chosen first. O gallantly selected either Sandy or Mandy, so Bart just as graciously chose the one who was left over. O’s remaining options were Todd and Kev. “Sorry, Todd,” O said with an apologetic shrug, “but I gotta go for height.”

As Kev strutted into position, Todd didn’t appear to mind. “No problem. I’ll be the line judge.”

This seemed wrong to Charlie. He felt like he was usurping Todd’s rightful place in the lineup. “You should play. I’ll sit out.” Bart blanched at the suggestion of swapping the strapping Charlie for the shrimpy Todd.

“No, really,” Todd assured Charlie, “I don’t mind.” He plunked himself down contentedly on the sand, even with the net line, and popped open a fresh beer.

Charlie required a refresher on the rules of the sport, not having played since his forced and pathetic participation in high school gym class. But he found himself easily picking up the basics, his newfound athletic prowess revealing itself in his pinpoint serves and confident spikes. His moves even met with approval from the two ladies, who belatedly notified the guys that they were ringers, being teammates on their college volleyball squad. Being the focus of so much adulation was proving to be intoxicating, but Charlie’s own attention kept shifting toward Todd, who had swiftly lost interest in the game and was gazing randomly around the beach. After making a diving stab at the ball and plowing headlong into the sand, Charlie feigned a twisted ankle as he stood up. He dismissed the concerns of his fellow players and gimped his way to the sidelines. “I’m okay, I’m okay. Todd,” he said, “why don’t you go in for me?”

“You sure?”, Todd asked. “Maybe we should take you to the hospital to get it checked.”

“It’ll be fine,” Charlie assured him, snatching the bottle of beer from Todd’s hand. “Nothing a cold one won’t fix.” He took a gulp from the beer and lowered himself theatrically to the ground, struggling to remember which leg was supposed to be the one that smarted. He settled on his right ankle as the culprit and pressed the bottle against it.

Bart groaned, certain that his team would lose without Charlie’s skills, but Todd proved to be quite the scrapper, especially when setting up his more skilled female teammate. From Charlie’s vantage point, it was obvious that Bart was the team’s weak link, his main contributions being profane running commentary, incessant bitching, and a profuse output of sweat. The girls kept the game competitive, but the combination of O and Sandy (or possibly Mandy) proved unbeatable. After the game broke up, Sandy and Mandy informed them which bar they planned to visit later that night and said they hoped to see all the guys there. Bart, at least, assured them that he would be there.

The sun was beginning to sink in the west, meaning it was time to pack up. Todd collected the day’s refuse and lugged it to the trash, Kev neatly folded up the beach towels, and O consolidated and balanced the contents of the coolers for ease of carrying. Charlie offered to lend a hand, but Bart, who was doing nothing, assured him that they had it handled.

Charlie located his v-neck tee, flapped it in the breeze to shake off the accumulated sand, and stretched it over his head. The shirt had been small to begin with, but it was completely inadequate to contain Charlie’s latest improvements. Even his forearms were now too thick for the sleeves to accommodate, and his head and arms soon became entangled in a web of shredded cotton.

“Yo, check out the Hulk over here,” Bart yelled. “What’d you do, borrow one of Toddler’s shirts?”

Charlie laughed it off, ripping away the shredded shirt, wadding the mangled fabric into a ball and swishing it into a trash can. He caught Todd gazing at him, admiring how the sinking sunlight highlighted the contours of Charlie’s body. As soon as Todd noticed Charlie noticing him noticing Charlie, Todd lowered his head and busied himself with picking up more trash from the beach, even items that their group wasn’t responsible for. Charlie slipped into his shoes and returned his baseball cap to his head.

When everything was packed up, Charlie grabbed a cooler and joined the procession to the parking lot. He found himself walking alongside O, who was also toting a cooler. “You looked good out there, Red. What’s your sport?”

It was a question Charlie had never been asked, but from the way his body operated this afternoon, he took a wild guess and said, “Football?”

“Same here. Bart too. What position do you play?”

This was the outcome Charlie had dreaded. His body might know football down to his bones, but his brain hadn’t gotten the memo. He feared that anything he said would brand him as an impostor, so he chose the strategy of being vague and changing the subject. “I kinda switch off,” he said dismissively before asking, “So, O, is that short for something?”

“Theodore,” Todd replied, bringing up the rear and burdened with more than his share of the load. “When he moved into the dorm, we started calling him ‘Theo’, then we changed it to ‘The O’, and now it’s just down to ‘O’.”

“Oh!”, said Charlie. “You keep this up, pretty soon you’ll be callin’ him nothin’.” As the group converged on a dusty minivan with Iowa license plates, Charlie laughed. “Wait, you guys drove here?”

“Yeah, we kinda switched off,” Kev said, tossing the beach towels into the rear seat.

“Not true,” O said, popping open the hatchback. “Todd did most of the driving, so the rest of us could get blitzed.”

Charlie shot Todd a look, wondering if the kid realized how much his friends were taking advantage of his good nature. Todd sensed Charlie’s attitude and declared, “I don’t mind, really. At least that way I get to control the sound system.”

Bart groaned. “Oh, god, don’t remind me. That means we’ve still gotta suffer through another three days of goddamn Hamilton on the way back!”

“It wasn’t so bad,” O said, sliding his cooler into position before taking the other cooler out of Charlie’s hands. “I liked it better than that Dear Evan Hansen.”

Todd took offense. “Wait, what’s wrong with ‘Evan Hansen’?”

Charlie stepped back and watched the interplay of the foursome as they razzed each other and jockeyed for position, not only in the van but in the pecking order. He envied their closeness, never having been part of a tight group of friends when he was their age… or, really, ever. Of course, at the moment, he was their age, but all that would change in the morning. He stepped back and wistfully waved at them. “Was great meeting all of you guys.”

Bart leaned out of front passenger window and said, “Ain’tcha comin’ with us, Red?”

“Oh,” Charlie said, “I just figured… “

Kev added, “What, you think you got better things to do than hang with us?”

“No, I… I… “ Charlie stammered, surprised. He noticed Todd gazing encouragingly in his direction. “Well, if you got room… “

“Fuck, we’ll make room,” O declared, making his status as the alpha of this group clear. “Bart, get your ass outta there. Give Red shotgun.”

Bart grumbled as he abdicated his prime seat, leaving the front door open. Charlie bounded eagerly toward the van and hopped in, smiling over at Todd in the driver’s seat beside him. Todd handed Charlie his iPhone and instructed him to pick out some tunes for the drive. Charlie started scrolling for Dear Evan Hansen.

Being accepted by the cool kids was an alien experience for the studious and standoffish Charles White, but right now, for once in his life, he felt like he actually fit in.

Charlie “Red” Gray, just one of the guys.

The Iowa delegation were staying in a hotel much further from the beach and far less swanky than Charles and Derek’s accommodations. Their room stank of B.O., stale beer and feet, and had the appearance of the aftermath of a dumpster explosion, with clothes, empty bottles and half-eaten food strewn on every surface. Discarded Domino’s Pizza boxes and KFC containers offered evidence of the authentic local cuisine on which the guys had been subsisting. Acting as tour guide, Todd led Charlie past the room’s two unmade queen-sized beds and a similarly unkempt rollaway. “I been crashing out there,” Todd informed Charlie, pointing to a sleeping bag unfurled on the balcony overhanging a bustling street.

Charlie asked, “Doesn’t it get noisy?”

“It quiets down around two or three in the morning. It’s fun. It’s like camping.”

Charlie felt bad that the others each had a bed while Todd was relegated to lying on the surface of a cement balcony, but had to admire Todd’s ability to find the silver lining to every indignity.

Even during his own college days, Charlie had rarely been as fully immersed in “bro” culture as he was at this moment. Within twenty seconds of entering the room, everyone was clutching a cold beer in his hand, Charlie included, and the TV had instantaneously been switched on to a sports channel. “Fuckin’ soccer again?”, Bart griped, lying prone on one of the beds, facing the screen.

O corrected him, “It’s not soccer, it’s fuuutboooool!”

Bart, Kev and Todd responded by shouting “Fuuutbooool!” and “Goooooooal!” Charlie found it impossible to resist joining in. Removing a reeking gym bag from a chair, he took a seat next to a table covered with the sort of junk which fussy old Charles would ordinarily shun. Charlie grabbed a fistful of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and stuffed them into his mouth, quickly extinguishing their fire with his Corona. Todd took a seat cross-legged on the floor beside him.

In no time, Kev had stripped off his beach clothes and was bounding drunkenly around the room, completely naked. The blindingly white band from his waist to his knees on his otherwise tanned and moderately hairy body corresponded precisely to the location of his discarded board shorts, and his modestly-proportioned junk was on full display, framed in a trimmed tuft of pubic hair. Charlie leaned down toward Todd’s ear and muttered, “Is he… ?”, careful that none of the others could overhear.

Todd shook his head very slightly and whispered back, “Nah, he’s just wasted and loves to show off. He thinks everyone likes looking at him as much as he does.”

Charlie nodded and said, “I know a guy exactly like that,” his mind drifting to Pierce. He wondered what Pierce would think if he could see boring old Charles chugging down brewskis with a bunch of studly college boys. Charlie figured he’d probably be insanely jealous, likely the first occasion when Pierce would ever have envied Charles. Then again, maybe Pierce’s whole plan was to put Charles and Derek into uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations, just so they would squirm. If that was the idea, it was failing, because Charlie was having a blast.

O stretched out on one of the beds and asked Charlie, “So, Red, what’s your major?”

Deciding that his best course was to stick as close to the truth as possible, especially as his intoxication level increased, Charlie said he was pre-law, eliciting impressed “ooohs” and “aaahs” from the guys.

“Don’t you have to be, like, smart for that?” Bart asked.

“Guess that lets you out, Bart the Fart,” Kev said, squatting his ass inches away from Bart’s face and letting one rip.

Bart lurched backwards in disgust, shouting, “Grow the fuck up!”

O shook his head at their immaturity and asked Todd to crack a window. Todd did as he was asked, sliding open the balcony door to air out the room.

Charlie, despite himself, laughed his ass off.

An hour later, the energy level in the room had faded considerably. The five guys were either staring blankly at the futbol match, staring blankly at their phones, or dozing. Todd asked when they were supposed to be meeting the girls from the beach. Glancing at the time on his phone, O instantly took charge. “Snap to it, guys. MandySandy are waiting for us. Kev, put on some goddamn clothes.”

“Can’t I just go like this?” Kev grumbled, crawling over to his suitcase.

Charlie lowered his chin and perused the landscape of his muscular torso, noticing that his skin had grown noticeably pinker despite the sunscreen. “Hey, can somebody lend me a shirt?” he asked, having left the ruins of his t-shirt at the beach.

“Sure, Red,” Kev said, tossing him a black-and-gold Iowa tank top. “Try not to rip it, okay?”

“You bet,” Charlie said, snatching the shirt out of midair. He shifted in his chair and realized how uncomfortable his jockstrap had become. The waistband was still damp from the ocean, while the cum around his ball sack had hardened to make the fabric crunchy. “Don’t s’pose anybody’s got an extra pair of underwear.”

This proved to be a bit more intimate request. The others hemmed and hawed. Finally, O flung a pair of maroon square-cut Tommy Johns to Charlie. “Here. You can keep ’em.”

Charlie insisted, “No, don’t worry, I’ll give ’em back.”

“Dude, I don’t need ’em back after you had your nasty-ass business inside ’em. Consider it a gift.” Charlie wouldn’t have this. He reached into the pocket of his soggy shorts and pulled out his wadded cash. He rose from his chair and slapped a thousand pesos into O’s palm. O shook his head. “I don’t wanna take your money, man.”

Bart noticed how much Charlie had paid O and did a quick calculation. “Shit, man, that’s fifty bucks! I’ll sell you some shorts for a hundred.”

Charlie considered the offer, his tight wet shorts having started to chafe him around the crotch, but looked at Bart’s bulk and declined. “I think yours would be a little too big for me.”

“I’ll loan you some,” Todd volunteered eagerly, searching through his own dufflebag.

Charlie smiled in Todd’s direction and said, “Afraid yours would be too small, Iowa.”

As he turned back to the others, Kev stood before him, holding out a pair of khaki cargo shorts. Charlie took them and placed them against his hips to gauge their size. “Why, these are just right! Thank you, Baby Bear!” He slapped two thousand pesos into Kev’s hand, while the other guys laughed. The moment Bart devilishly repeated the words “Baby Bear”, Charlie realized he had inadvertently created a new nickname with which the group would likely torment Kev for the rest of their lives. Out of guilt, he considered paying Kev another thousand pesos, but he decided he didn’t feel that guilty.

Charlie traversed the obstacle course of junk on the floor and entered the bathroom for some privacy as he changed. The floor was heaped with waterlogged towels and the countertop was loaded with the guys’ toiletries, including what appeared to be one bottle of each Axe product ever manufactured. Charlie stripped down to nothing, retrieving his cash, cards and other valuables from his pockets before tossing his shorts and jockstrap into the trash. He finally got a full head-to-toe view of how much he had changed as the day progressed. While he had started looking reasonably fit, he was now jacked as hell. No wonder the guys had so easily accepted him as one of their own. He scratched his fingers through his bushy red hair to shake free the sand which had accumulated there, then leaned close to the mirror to marvel at the sparkling blue eyes that looked back. He poked the tip of his index finger into the dimple of his cleft chin. As he conducted his inspection, his pale cock grew plump and tilted upward. He had to admit that maybe Pierce and Baby Bear weren’t the only ones who were totally into their own bodies, but could it truly be narcissism if it wasn’t really your body, just one on loan for a day? In the throes of an unignorable urge to rub one out, he shouted through the closed door, “I’m just gonna grab me a quick shower, okay, guys?”

Derek and Beau sat on the beach, blitzed after sharing another of Beau’s potent joints, their heads tilted back to observe the darkening sky as the stars blinked into view. After his visit to the jewelry store, Derek now had four gold hoops dangling from his right earlobe and a single silver stud in his left. Driven mad with the munchies, he had chowed down on so many tamales that his stomach bulged out from the rest of his skeletal frame. He had also discovered one unexpected advantage to his mohawk, craning his neck far enough so that one of the spikes could scratch an annoying itch between his shoulders.

“Man, I feel sorry for all the losers who hafta work for a living,” Derek observed in a sublimely mellow tone.

Beau asked, “So, you don’t have to work for a living?”

“I guess I do.” Derek strained his brain. He figured he must do something to make money, but it sure wasn’t popping into his head. Real life seemed a universe away.

Looking up, Beau grew nostalgic. “When I was a kid, my father taught me how to tell directions just from looking at the stars. Like, if you can find the Big Dipper and follow it up to the tail of the Little Dipper, that’s how you know where north is.”

“I can do that too. Like, do you know what direction that star is?”, Derek asked, pointing to one of the more visible stars. Before Beau could even begin to form an answer, Derek blurted out “UP!” as if it was the funniest thing ever uttered aloud. He doubled over in hysterics.

Beau shook his head. “Man, I’ve never seen you like this before.”

Derek gave him a strange look. “Dude, you never seen me before, period.”

“Oh, right, I forgot,” Beau said, rubbing his eyes. “So where should we look for Charles next?”

Derek didn’t know why Beau was so obsessed with finding this Charles guy. If it were up to Derek, they would just lie here on the beach and veg for the rest of the night.

“I mean, you said he likes to go places he’s familiar with,” Beau said. “Do you remember where you went last night?”

Derek was having trouble remembering where he was half an hour ago, much less a whole day ago, but after what appeared to be an exhausting trawl through his enfeebled memory banks, he coughed up a few sketchy details. “It was a gay bar, I know that. They had dancin’.”

“Really narrowin’ it down for me, buddy,” Beau said.

“Oh, and they had karaoke. And I remember mirrors. Lots and lots o’ mirrors.”

Beau nodded, “If they got karaoke, I think I know the place you’re talkin’ about. You wanna start headin’ that way?”

Derek attempted to focus his bleary eyes on the sky. “No rush. I just wanna look at the stars some more. Don’t s’pose you got any more weed.”

“You don’t think you’ve had enough?”

“Is enough ever enough?”

“Now that is a deep philosophical question.” Beau dug into his pocket and retrieved a joint and a lighter. “One left.”

“All right, all right, all right,” Derek drawled blissfully, wedging his mohawk in the sand to prop up his head. As he waited for Beau to pass him the joint, he chuckled lightly and repeated his joke softly. “‘Up!’” He was thoroughly amused all over again.

Charlie had emerged from the shower even more spectacularly pumped, his body now rivaling O’s in height and musculature. His hair had sprouted an extra inch or two, now too voluminous to fit under his backwards cap, so he swept it back from his forehead and knotted the excess into a sloppy ponytail. Ginger whiskers now framed his angular chin and dotted his upper lip. In his newly borrowed/purchased wardrobe, he looked like the quintessential all-American jock. In his Iowa tank, Charlie literally felt like one of the team, since the other guys were each wearing at least one Iowa-themed item, from Beau’s baseball cap to Todd’s yellow-and-black polo shirt. Todd was the only one of the group sober enough to register Charlie’s latest physical changes, but he ascribed any discrepancies to the approximately half-gallon of alcohol currently polluting his system.

After mixed signals from the GPS lady on his phone, Todd had finally managed to get them to the right address. He dropped the other guys at the front door while he found what he hoped was a safe spot to park the van. He proudly produced his fake ID for the doorman, who waved him through without even bothering to take a glance at Todd’s exquisite handiwork. Inside, the music was deafening and the place was crammed with horny Americans, with a few international hotties mixed in for variety. Todd squeezed through the crowd, grateful that he had tall friends who could be spotted even from his lowly vantage point. He reached Charlie just as the group had located Sandy, Mandy and their three similarly sporty, similarly blonde friends. In the din, Todd was unable to make out their names, so he mentally designated them Candy, Dandy and Randy in no particular order. He could hear O’s booming voice as he introduced himself and the rest of the guys. “I’m O, this is Baby Bear, Bart the Fart, Big Red and… where’s Todd?” O pushed aside a couple of drunks so the girls could see Todd. He waved and grinned shyly before the crowd swallowed him up again.

Charlie insisted on buying the first round, so while most of the group headed to the girls’ reserved table, Charlie and Todd trekked to the bar to get pitchers of beer and margaritas. As the designated driver, Todd reminded Charlie to get him a Coke. “You got that Mexican Coke?” Charlie asked the bartender, who assured him that all of their Coke was Mexican Coke. As Charlie handed Todd the curvy glass bottle, he grew ever angrier that Todd’s buddies took their eager young friend’s sacrifices for granted.

Before the guys’ arrival, Sandy and Mandy had apparently called dibs on O and Kev and had already hauled them onto the dance floor. The remaining trio of women turned their focus to “Big Red” as the most promising of the other three guys, each taking their turn dancing with him while the other two paired up to dance platonically. Flattered by their attention and too polite to turn them down, Charlie, usually a vehement non-dancer, discovered that today’s body naturally responded to the dance rhythms. He wasn’t sure how graceful he looked, but he certainly felt smooth.

Feeling slighted, Bart abandoned the table to roam the club, hoping to convince someone to dancing with him, even if it took intimidation or bribery. Todd was left alone at the table, nursing his Coke and people-watching. Charlie valiantly attempted to engage in conversation with his dance partners, but his reservoir of knowledge relating to volleyball, dance music and alcohol proved remarkably shallow. Without intending to be rude, he soon found himself looking around the dance floor, enjoying the perspective provided by his extra five inches of height to observe the bacchanalian spectacle surrounding him and to keep a worried eye on Todd. This distractedness was interpreted as disinterest by the girls, who tired of attempting to engage the aloof red-haired stud in banter and set their sights on less challenging targets.

Deserted by the girls, Charlie rejoined Todd, taking a seat beside him. “Guess it’s just us at the losers’ table, huh?” Charlie poured himself a beer and downed it like water, then grasped the tail of his tank top and lifted it to wipe away the sweat from his face. Todd took advantage of the moment to gawk unabashedly at Charlie’s exposed abdominals, positive that they had implausibly grown deeper and more defined since that afternoon. He wondered how someone who drank so much beer could maintain abs so precision-cut. Charlie lowered the shirt from his eyes a split second before Todd turned away, just in time to witnessing Todd’s mortification at being caught ogling. Charlie leaned down to Todd and spoke loudly. “I know you’re the designated driver and all, but I think you’re still allowed to have fun. Why don’tcha get out there and dance?”

Todd raised his mouth up toward Charlie’s ear, his nostrils catching a whiff of the redhead’s powerful musk and the citrusy scent of his freshly shampooed hair. “It’s not really my kinda scene,” he declared.

Charlie thought for a second, then asked, “Wanna dance with me?”

Todd exploded with a loud and nervous laugh which Charlie noted was not technically a “no”. “Yeah, right,” Todd finally responded. “The guys would loooove that.”

“What? We’re just a couple of buddies keepin’ each other company, ‘cuz the ‘hos’ abandoned us. Chicks dance with each other all the time and nobody thinks nothin’ of it.”

Todd shook his head. “It’s not the same and you know it.” He took a slow pull from his soda bottle as Charlie filled his glass with more beer. The two of them stared silently and stoically at the throng of young, sweaty revelers.

As they watched, an idea crept its way into Charlie’s head and a smile gradually formed. Making a concerted effort to appear as fatigued as possible, he turned back to Todd, laying it on thick with the slurring of his words. “Hey, Iowa, I’m a lot more wasted than I thought. I must notta noticed when I was dancin’. You think you could get me outta here?”

Todd brightened. If there was one thing he lived for, it was being asked to help a friend, and he would do practically anything to help his new friend. “Absolutely,” he shouted back. “Lemme just tell the guys.”

Charlie waved a hand dismissively. “Fuck the guys. They’re all so shit-faced and pussy-crazed, they won’t even notice you’re gone.” Deep in the recesses of his mind, Charles’s puritanical conscience tut-tutted his alter-ego for such language, but Charlie had been successfully ignoring those faint signals all day.

“But I’m their ride. What if they wonder where I am?”

“Make up somethin’! Tell ’em I got way too drunk and had to bail.”

Todd nodded with a grin. “Not totally implausible.”

Charlie tapped an index finger on the tip of his nose. “Iowa’s law: always stick as close to the truth as you can.”

The place was so packed, Charlie and Todd took a full ten minutes just to reach the door. It was a warm evening, but the night air felt about fifty degrees cooler than the sweat box they had just escaped. As they walked to the van, Todd broke out in goosebumps, prompting Charlie to inquire, “Ya cold, little buddy?” Todd nodded, although he knew it wasn’t the temperature so much as his proximity to Charlie that was responsible for the outbreak. Charlie only made things worse by wrapping an arm around Todd’s shoulders and rubbing his hand briskly along the kid’s biceps.

Once they climbed inside the van and Todd revved the engine, Charlie took control of Todd’s phone. He Googled a location, grateful to autocorrect for deciphering what his clumsy fingers intended to type, and pressed the “Directions” button. For the next twenty minutes, en route to their destination, the soundtrack to Hamilton had a new featured soloist, a friendly if robotic female voice who interrupted the flow periodically to bark out incongruous commands like “Make a U-turn” and “Stay right at the fork.”

Charlie said, “Gotta say, the GPS lady’s rhymes are terrible.”

Todd deadpanned, “Yeah, Lin-Manuel really phoned that part in.”

Charlie snorted a laugh, closing his eyes and leaning back on the headrest, hoping to recuperate a bit before their next stop.

On days like this, Chico regretted that his car didn’t have a sunroof. To be fair, he’d never had a day like this, one on which he sprouted an unexpected mohawk and, due to lack of headroom, was forced to lean out the window like a dog as he drove.

HIs day as a punk had many ups and downs, most literally when he found himself blowing a chubby drunken fratboy from Arizona in a beachside men’s room in exchange for the ecstasy that was now supercharging Chico’s system. Even the day’s scarier moments didn’t seem so frightening when reflected on from the reflective cushion of a Molly buzz. It certainly had taken the edge off the inner turmoil that had been boling inside of him ever since the Mariposa transformation kicked in.

As a short and meek kid, Chico had never found himself in a single serious fight growing up but, for some reason, tooling around Cancun skinny, shirtless and covered with tattoos attracted mostly the wrong kind of attention, particularly from rough characters in the mood for a scrap. Most of the antagonism he encountered was limited to suspicious looks or people clutching their valuables and nervously crossing the street to avoid him. But sometime in the middle of the afternoon, Chico had been minding his own business, strolling peacefully along the beach, when he passed a group of teenage muchachos and heard one of them sneer, “Mira el maricón” (“Look at the fag”). Chico had always found it wise and beneficial to his health to ignore bullies and bocazas, but not today. With uncharacteristic aggressiveness, Chico strutted in their direction with his swagger cranked to the max, balling his fists and threatening to tear the dick off whoever had called him a maricón. He was relieved that his intimidating appearance and ferocious demeanor had been enough to scare away the wanna-be thugs, because he had no clue how to defend himself if even one of the kids had stood their ground. Still, he found the brief standoff invigorating, and found himself itching for another such encounter to keep his juices flowing.

As he walked away, Chico realized that not only had the brief confrontation provided him with a burst of adrenaline, it had also made him shoot his wad in his shorts. His skin tingled, just as it had immediately after he drank the Mariposa, and he had the unsettling sensation of ants crawling under the surface of his skin. When he returned to his car, he checked the rear-view and saw that fresh tattoos of scorpions had emerged on either side of his mohawk. In addition, his eyes were now rimmed with permanent makeup that drew attention to his dark eyes, simultaneously rendering them both prettier and more menacing. “Badass!”, he declared, his voice sounding more Anglo than ever. He was even starting to think in English. He felt possessed, but in a cool way.

Now, with ecstasy keeping his fury largely on simmer, he was en route to the gay bar he had visited the night before, confident that his presence would be impossible to overlook tonight. His relaxed mood was disrupted when a minivan with American plates swerved into his path out of nowhere. He blasted his horn and shouted “Suck my dick, vato,” but he felt too giddy to muster a corresponding level of vehemence. He might as well have been wishing the other driver a happy birthday.

The van braked abruptly and the blond driver leaned out his window, apologetically yelling “Sorry! Sorry!” in English. Chico squealed his tires and passed along the right side of the van, hoisting his middle finger and shouting “Fuck you!”, although even that came across cheerfully.

“What an asshole!”, Todd exclaimed as the little car zipped past them. Jerked out of his mellow haze, Charlie opened his eyes just as the other car made a hasty right turn. Something about the other driver’s purple mohawk looked very familiar. The name “Derek” floated into Charlie’s consciousness for the first time in hours. He wondered if Derek might be headed to the same place he was.

The GPS voice instructed Todd to take that same right turn. He had been nervous enough driving at night through and unfamiliar area, but the near collision had rattled him so much that he had no time to merge into the proper lane. The computer lady patiently calculated a new route and, after a few more turns, Charlie spotted what he was looking for. “Any place around here is fine. Wherever you can find a spot.”

Todd was confused. “You sure we’re in the right neighborhood? I don’t see any hotels around here.”

“Never said we were goin’ to a hotel.” Charlie flashed a wily grin.

Todd’s suspicions grew when he noticed that the number of female pedestrians had declined to near zero, accompanied by a corresponding uptick in the amount of exposed male flesh. “Where are you takin’ me?”

Charlie placed his left hand on Todd’s thigh and calmly assured him, “You’ll love it. I promise.” He noticed an open stretch of curb and pointed. “Look, that guy’s pulling out!”

As Todd screeched to a halt and waited for the spot to open up, he spotted a rainbow of neon lights over the doorway to the club. His adam’s apple seemed to triple in size and his tongue lost all moisture. “Oh, no. I can’t go in there.”

“C’mon, it’ll be fun. What are you worried about? That someone will recognize you? The only people you know in Cancun besides me are all back at the fuck bar getting too plastered to stand up straight.”

Todd shook his head vehemently. The car had left its spot, and the pick-up behind him was emphatically honking for Todd to move his ass.

Charlie rubbed his palm gently across the smooth denim of Todd’s pantleg and spoke softly. “Just come in with me long enough to find out if my friend is there. If he’s not and you don’t feel comfortable, you can drive me to my hotel for real. Deal?” He hoped that, once Todd got inside, his resistance would fade, but his immediate goal was simply to get Todd through the door so he could see what it was like.

Todd cranked the wheel and parked, mainly to put a halt to the annoying honking. His guts were churning. It’s not that Todd hadn’t ever anticipated, even looked forward to, a moment like this. He just hadn’t envisioned that he would be forced into making this decision today. “How ‘bout I wait for ya here?”

Charlie had retained enough of his faculties to remember his own first terrified visit to a gay bar, and he had been considerably older than Todd when it happened. In retrospect, he wished he hadn’t waited so many years before doing it, and he certainly would have appreciated having a reassuring wingman at his side. “It’ll be alright,” Charlie said with a comforting smile. “Don’t worry, I’ll be right there with you.”

As Todd walked tentatively through the front door of the noisy club, he could swear the sound waves from the speakers were causing visible ripples across the surface of his skin. The dance floor was full of guys. The bar was full of guys. Everyone seemed to be having a blast. The scene reminded him, oddly enough, of the celebratory mood in a team’s locker room after a championship victory, only with slightly less champagne, a smidgen more clothing, and about the same amount of hugging and ass-grabbing.

Charlie stood to Todd’s side, carefully gauging the newbie’s mood as his wide-eyed facial expressions vacillated between fascination and fear. “You look like you could use a drink,” Charlie screamed over the music. “I’ll be right back.”

Using his increased size and charming smile to ease his way through the crowd, Charlie had almost reached the bar when he noticed a purple wedge slicing through the sea of bodies like a shark fin. Until Todd’s tiff with the purple-haired driver, Charlie had barely thought about Derek since he left the hotel room, a classic case of “out of sight, out of mind.” Now Charlie’s husband was once again a concrete reality, one who needed to be dealt with immediately. He veered off course and followed the mohawk. As he got close, he reached between bodies to grab a tattooed arm.

Chico was startled when a strong hand gripped him by the elbow and spun him around. Finding himself at eye level with a dimpled chin, he titled his head up, jabbing his mohawk into the neck of the innocent bystander behind him. Chico had never seen this tall and handsome redhead before, but the guy was behaving like they were old acquaintances. Maybe, he thought, that’s just how things are when you’re on ecstasy: not only do you love everyone, but everyone loves you back. Chico strained to make out what the guy was saying, but it was all a chaotic jumble. Although the Mariposa and the ecstasy had heightened his senses, he was being buffeted by such a bombardment of stimuli that he couldn’t sort it all out. Chico pointed toward his ears and shook his head. Charlie got the message and pulled Chico toward the side door which opened onto an enclosed patio designated for smokers.

Todd grew anxious as he watched Charlie’s red mane going out a door on the opposite side of the club. Since being left behind, Todd had already been asked by one guy if he would like a drink and by two others whether he would like to dance. In each case, Todd replied shakily that he was “waiting for somebody,” but just the fact that he had been asked was enough to set his heart racing.

Things were much quieter on the smoking patio, but Charlie’s voice was locked in shouting mode. “Remember me?”, he bellowed as Chico gazed back, simultaneously mixed-up and turned-on. After noticing the annoyed looks from the other clubgoers taking a smoke break on the patio, Charlie lowered his volume and patted his hand on his chest. “I’m Charlie! Charles! Ring a bell?”

The bare-chested punk shrugged and played along. “¡Hola, Charlie! How goes it, homes?”

Charles had expected to detect at least a glimmer of recognition in his husband’s eyes, see some hint of resemblance in his husband’s face. Then again, he knew how much the Mariposa had muddied his own memories and altered his physical appearance. Realizing this might take some time, and acutely conscious of having stranded Todd inside when he had promised to stay right beside him, Charlie raised a finger and said, “Wait right here.”

“Okay!”, Chico replied, waving happily. He had no idea what was going on, but if the musclebound stranger wanted him to stay put, he was more than willing to stay put.

Charlie returned inside and found Todd standing in the relative quiet of the hallway leading to the men’s room. He had his back against a mirror with his arms crossed. He was breathing heavily. “You okay, Iowa?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Todd said unconvincingly. “Prob’ly just a panic attack.”

“Seriously?”, Charlie asked, concerned. He hadn’t meant to stress out the poor kid like this. “There’s really no reason for you to be so nervous.”

“I just feel bad for leaving the guys. I mean, what if one of them needs me? I ran out and stranded them there.”

“Yeah, at a bar in Cancun. I’m sure they’re beside themselves with grief. Ya know, Iowa, you’re a great kid. Loyal and helpful and friendly and all that Boy Scout shit. But all you seem to do is worry about what other people need. Someday, hopefully soon, you’re gonna start asking what it is that you need.” He gave Todd a gentle sock on the shoulder. “Go back to your friends. Sorry to have made you so uncomfortable.”

Todd assured him, “No, it’s nothing you did. It’s just… “ He looked around the club. “I don’t think I’m ready for… all of this. But, hey, maybe I’ll catch you on the beach again tomorrow?”

Charlie winced, fully aware that this version of himself would be fading away in a few hours. “I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

“Well, do you have, like, an Instagram?” He pulled out his phone, prepared to enter Charlie’s contact info, but Charlie just shook his head. “Snapchat?” Another no. “Facebook?” Yet another no. “What are you? Amish? Shit, even my gramma’s got Facebook! Okay, how ‘bout old school: what’s your phone number, so I can text you?” Given their obvious chemistry, Todd was surprised and a bit hurt that Charlie was suddenly blowing him off.

Charlie had been sticking to Iowa’s rule, answering as truthfully as he could. He didn’t have a social media presence, but he naturally did have a phone number. No matter how well they had connected today, he seriously doubted Todd would really want to be internet pals with some stodgy lawyer in his thirties who Todd wouldn’t give a second glance. Even if he did want to stay in touch to give the kid some friendly advice, it wouldn’t be proper for a dignified, newly married man like Charles to have some 19-year-old sending him texts or dropping him emails at his law firm. “Probably best if you just forget about me. I mean, all of this that’s happening here, drinkin’ and dancin’ and partyin’ and hangin’ out at the beach all day, this ain’t reality. It’s a vacation from reality.” He leaned over to brush a gentle kiss on Todd’s cheek, then spoke into his ear. “Go out and find yourself something that’s really real.”

Trembling, Todd nodded and smiled. He looked to be on the verge of tears but was determined to keep them tamped down in front of Charlie. He hoped he could make it to the privacy of the van before absolutely losing it. He backed away a few steps, waved weakly, then turned and headed for the exit.

Charlie felt a lump in his throat as he watched Todd go. He wondered if he had done the right thing. He suddenly realized he had another lump to deal with. His Mariposa-fueled sex drive was still raging, no matter how much booze he poured down his gullet to douse the flames. He navigated the mirrored hallway, hoping that a simple piss would be sufficient to quash the immediate pressure. There was still enough Charles in him to be mortified at the idea of jacking off in a public men’s room.

Todd’s resolve to hold it together barely lasted past the front door where he began to sob loudly. Staring at the ground in embarrassment, he collided into someone trying to enter the club. “I’m sorry,” he said without glancing up. “So sorry.”

Derek said, “No problem,” and watched as the kid headed toward the street. The blond kid and his Iowa shirt seemed familiar, although the precise circumstances of their previous meeting was out of his grasp, vaguely lurking in the far distant past of yesterday.

Walking beside Derek, the tails of his open shirt flapping in the evening breeze, Beau noticed the lost look in Derek’s bloodshot eyes. “Friend of yours?”, he asked Derek.

“I’m not sure” was the most accurate answer Derek could come up with.

As Derek and Beau entered the club, Beau slapped some bills into Derek’s palm and told him, “I gotta take a leak. Why don’tcha get us some drinks and I’ll meetcha at the bar?”

Derek crossed over to the bar, no longer noticing the side-eye glances which were inevitably prompted by his extreme appearance. Shaky as his memory had been, he immediately recognized the shirtless bartender from last night, even recalling his name. “¡Hola, Manolo!”

Manolo looked back with well-practiced amiability. He couldn’t possibly remember everyone he had served, although he was pretty sure he wouldn’t have forgotten the distinctive appearance of this particular baked-looking, heavily-inked punker. This was a friendly establishment which tended not to attract patrons who looked this hardcore, but Manolo’s gut from years behind the bar told him that, under the veneer of his intimidating tattoos, this guy was a pussycat. “¡Buenas noches! What can I get you? It’s couples night. All drinks two for one.”

“Sounds good, my friend! Lemme have dos shots of tequila and dos Coronas.” He placed the cash Beau had given him onto the bar.

In the bathroom, Charlie was in the midst of an epic piss, one of those marathon bottled-up pisses where the sense of relief is nearly as satisfying as an orgasm, as every beer he had consumed throughout the day realized this was their chance to escape to freedom. His shoulder brushed against the arm of the blond surfer boy who had just stepped up to the next urinal. Charlie shifted over to give the newcomer his space, not wanting the guy to think the contact was intentional. Still, he couldn’t resist subtly checking him out, and couldn’t help noticing that the surfer was doing the same to him.

“Yo,” Beau said cheerily.

“S’up,” replied Charlie affably.

They both turned their faces toward the wall and went on with their business. When Charlie’s leak finally dribbled to an anticlimactic conclusion, he stowed his gear and walked away, pausing to scrub his hands in the sink.

Beau remained behind, his cock plumping up as he watched the sunburnt Iowan exit. Beau closed his eyes and tried to will his plumbing away from the process of ejaculation and redirect it toward urination, but it wasn’t easy, as the image of the scruffy red-haired jock lingered in his mind. The guy reminded Beau of a younger, taller, studlier and frecklier version of Matt Damon. It would take his reefer-slowed brain a full minute before it connected the mental dots to the mysterious man he and Derek had been searching for all day.

After a couple of wrong turns in the mirrored hallway, Charlie emerged in the bar and saw Derek waiting at the bar alongside a pair of shotglasses and two bottles of Corona. Charlie walked over toward him, wondering why he wasn’t still on the smoking patio. “What are you doing here?”

Derek turned toward the voice and backed away to take in the enormity of the pumped-up redhead. His semi-familiar features set off a flurry of fireworks in Derek’s synapses. In a flash, he realized he was staring at his husband, modified well beyond this morning’s improvements and registering considerably higher on the hotness meter. “Holy shit! Charles?”, he said.

After being on the receiving end of a blank stare on the smoking patio, Charlie was relieved to be recognized. “I thought I told you to wait for me.”

Derek may have been baked, but he knew that didn’t jibe with his own memories. He had no way of knowing that Charlie wasn’t referencing what had happened between the two of them at the hotel this afternoon, but a more recent conversation with the nearly identical person who was still waiting patiently for him on the patio. “Hang on a second,” Derek shouted back. “You’re the one who left me without telling me where you were going!”

Not wanting to make a scene in the middle of the packed club, Charlie took Derek by the arm and tugged him toward the front door. Derek dragged his heels, not wanting to leave the drinks behind, but Derek’s spindly body had no chance of resisting the strength of strapping young Charlie. Once they stepped outside underneath the street lights, Charlie became aware of Derek’s earrings, not having noticed them on the patio. “When did you get those earrings?”

Derek tried to reconstruct the day, but the best estimate he could offer was “Earlier?”

“Honestly, I like ’em. They go with your whole… getup.”

Derek leaned forward, his hands irresistibly drawn toward the shelf of Charlie’s enlarged pecs. “I like your whole getup too.” He pushed Charlie against the side of the club and raised himself on tiptoes to kiss him. His teeth gnawed on Charlie’s lower lip, and Charlie responded by clutching Derek’s ass in both hands. Charlie’s temporarily tamed cock regained its stiffness, a development that did not escape Derek’s notice. Derek swooned, taking hold of the neck straps of Charlie’s Iowa tank top for balance. The bright yellow shirt distracted him. “Where’d you find an Iowa shirt in Mexico?”

Charlie hadn’t expected such a left-field question in the middle of a makeout session. “Oh, uh, I ran into your cute little blond admirer from the exercise park. Sweet kid.”

Derek nodded, making the mental link between the smitten kid from the park and the crying kid with whom he had collided at the front door, although that still didn’t explain why Charlie was wearing the shirt. Feeling feisty, Derek was tempted to tear the shirt right off Charlie’s body, but as he yanked on the collar, Charlie pushed his hands away. “Don’t rip it, okay?” Charlie requested, “it’s a loaner.”

“Okay, fine,” Derek said begrudgingly. Still feeling the desperate need to release his excess energy and shred something, he clutched his own tank top in his fists and ripping the cloth straight down the center, exposing his tatted torso.

“Oh, man, you’re so damn hot,” Charlie exclaimed.

“I thought you thought I was a freak.”

Charlie couldn’t exactly remember saying that, but he was definitely turned on by Derek now. “Well, maybe I’m a freak too!” Now it was Charlie’s turn to trap Derek’s lip between his teeth and twist. Derek growled with satisfaction.

As gawking pedestrians walked past, Charles and Derek commenced what was, by a considerable margin, the most public display of affection in their years as a couple. The previous holder of this title was their comparatively chaste kiss two days earlier as they were pronounced husband and husband.

Inside the club, Beau had returned from the bathroom, surprised that he couldn’t spot Derek anywhere. Eventually, he caught a glimpse of purple plumage through the glass door that led to the outdoor smoking area. He cut through the crowd and went outside, asking playfully, “You tryin’ to hide from me?”

As Chico looked across the patio and saw Beau, his bored expression transformed into a beaming smile. He instantly recognized the surfer from the hotel room where he’d scored the Mariposa, and now that very same surfer was inexplicably swaggering his direction. With no apparent effort on his part, Mariposa had transformed Chico into a hot-dude magnet. Life was fucking awesome.

Beau excitedly announced, “Hey, guess what! I just saw Chuck in the bathroom.”


Goddammit, Beau thought, not this again. “Chuck? The guy you’ve been looking for?”

“Fuck Chuck.” Whoever he was. Chico was overwhelmed as Beau, the Mariposa, and the ecstasy joined forces to pin the needle on his libido. “You’re the guy I’ve been looking for!”

Chico gave Beau a playful shove, knocking him backwards into a bench. As his calves made contact with the bench, Beau’s knees bent and he had no choice but to sit down. Chico straddled Beau’s lap and brushed his fingers through Beau’s long golden tresses. He bent forward and surrounded Beau’s lips with his own, sticking his tongue between Beau’s teeth.

Beau offered mild wordless protestations which turned into muffled yelps which quickly devolved into satisfied moans. In his mind, Beau kept repeating that this was terribly wrong and he had to stop it, but he couldn’t deny that he’d been fighting the impulse to make a move on Derek all day. Maybe, he thought, he should just relax and let the little punk indulge his urges for a minute. Maybe that would get the temptation out of both of their systems. This seemed like a reasonable theory to Beau, but then again he was incredibly stoned and just as incredibly horny. One minor question nagged at him, though: where had Derek’s earrings gone?

Outside the front of the club, Charlie had become aware of an audience of passersby and curious clubgoers gathering to watch him and Derek make out. He reluctantly pushed Derek back and said, “I think we better stop before we get arrested for public indecency.”

“Is that even a thing down here?”, Derek asked, unwilling to stop so abruptly.

“Tell you what,” Charlie suggested. “Let’s go back to the hotel and do this in, like, a real bed. Wouldn’t that be a lot more comfortable?”

Although the public setting was a big factor in turning Derek on, he couldn’t argue against Charlie’s idea. “Okay,” Derek conceded, backing away reluctantly. They heard a collective moan from the direction of the sidewalk.

“Sorry, guys. Show’s over,” Charlie announced to the disappointed spectators. “Any of you know how I can get a cab around here?” Three of the watchers raised their hands to indicate that they were cab drivers. Charlie turned to Derek and gestured toward the street. “Take your pick.”

Derek squirmed, unsure when he had last taken a whiz. “Lemme just use the can first.” He picked the remnants of his tank top off the ground and flung them in the trash on his way back into the club. On the way to the men’s room, he spotted the drinks he ordered still sitting on the bar. He decided that it was more urgent to relieve himself before he could even think about taking on any more liquid. He headed down the hall, keeping his hands on the mirrored walls to maintain his bearings. No matter how many times he saw his punked-out reflection, it still caught him by surprise. In a way, he felt sad that his brief time as a rebel would soon be ending, but he was determined to go out with a bang. Maybe a few bangs, if he could hold out that long.

Back on the smoking patio, Beau had surrendered to his lust, sitting motionless as the punk stripped away Beau’s shirt and slurped his tongue through the cleavage of Beau’s pecs. Conflicted, Beau had eventually settled on the rationalization that, as long as he didn’t instigate any touching, then he wasn’t the aggressor in this situation and therefore could not technically be blamed for any possible infidelity in which he may, in fact, currently be a passive, albeit willing, participant. He wasn’t sure if this legal theory would hold up in court, but it was the best his stoned brain could conjure up at the moment. Beau could feel himself edging closer to a climax, so he was surprised when he felt the weight rising off his lap and noticed the cessation of all licking-related activities. He opened his eyes and saw the skinny punk mincing across the patio, holding his knees close together. “Are we done?”, Beau asked.

“Gotta go pipÃ,” Chico informed him as he scooted back into the club, leaving Beau stranded on the bench with a raging stiffy that would complicate any attempt to stand up. Beau decided he might as well enjoy himself during this unexpected intermission and stuck his hands into his pants pockets in search of relief.

In the men’s room, Derek was having trouble getting his flow going, as a large hairy man in a studded leather jockstrap and harness was sagging against the wall at the next urinal over. “I like your ink,” the big man declared.

As Derek glanced over and nodded awkwardly, he noticed that his admirer’s gaze wasn’t fixed on the plentiful tattoos adorning his arms and body, but was fixated specifically on the barbed-wire design along the length of Derek’s shaft. Derek shifted his body to shield his dick from view, but remained pee-shy, feeling the other man’s hot wheezing breath across his bare back. “And we’re done,” Derek announced, reholstering his cock in his shorts and leaving as fast as possible.

Derek pinballed his way down the mirrored corridor until he slammed head-on into one of the wall panels. At first, he thought it was one of the clear plastic partitions, but as he looked up, he saw himself faithfully reproduced on the other side, staring back with a puzzled grin. It was a peculiar experience to see a smile on his reflection’s face when he was positive that he himself was not smiling. Maybe smoking all of that pot when he was already under the influence of Mariposa had not been the smartest thing he had ever done. He shook his head vigorously, hoping to get the image out of his head and regain his bearings. Convinced that he must have made a wrong turn, he spun around and walked deliberately down the passageway, not noticing that his “reflection” was still standing motionless, staring into space, equally perplexed.

Of all of that he had experienced through the course of this day, Chico decided that seeing his own reflection walk away from him had to be the trippiest, unaware that he had in fact been staring through a plexiglass divider at the person who had consumed the other half of that fateful Mariposa bottle. Chico wrote off this encounter with his doppelgÀnger as an ecstasy-fueled hallucination and turned in the direction he had come from, winding up in the bar area, disoriented and still carrying around an undrained bladder. Behind the bar, Manolo noticed Chico and waved him over. “Señor, don’t forget your drinks.”

Chico pointed to himself and asked, “For me?” Manolo nodded, making a mental note that the punk had perhaps reached his limit. Not one to pass up free booze, Chico meandered to the bar and slammed down the tequila shot. As he picked up his beer, he sensed the shadow of someone large hovering behind him. He turned and saw the sexy redhead who had dragged him out to the smoking patio. “You’re Charlie, right? Have a drink! They’re gratis!” He gestured to the shot and beer remaining on the bar.

Charlie looked at Manolo, who nodded in confirmation. Charlie picked up the shotglass and thought out loud, “Not sure I need any more alcohol today… but free is free, right?” He choked down the tequila, chased it with the beer, and capped it with a belch. “Okay, vamonos,” he said, taking Chico by the arm, “taxi’s waitin’.”

Chico glanced toward the patio, knowing the surfer was still waiting for him there, then looked back at Charlie. He would never have known that it would be so easy to attract the attention of two major studs, particularly the way he currently looked. He guessed that guys must really be turned on by tattoos. Although he couldn’t believe he was letting a total stranger drag him away like this, he wasn’t about to say no. He did, however, have one request as they reached the front door. “I need to go pipÃ.”

Charlie looked down at him impatiently. “I thought you just went pee-pee. Screw it. You can hold it ‘til the hotel.” He pulled Chico’s arm like a leash, leading him toward the idling cab.

“We don’t need a taxi,” Chico informed Charlie. “I got a car.”

That stopped Charlie in his tracks. “You rented a car?”

“No, I bought the car,” Chico replied defensively

Charlie knew first hand that one of the effects of Mariposa was compulsive behavior, but this was too much. “Why in the world would you buy a car?”

Chico grew indignant and proud. “I got a job. I can buy what I want.”

Charlie couldn’t believe this wild extravagance, but did not feel like arguing the issue. “I don’t think either of us is any shape to drive. Let’s just take the taxi now and sort it all out in the morning.” He held open the rear door and Chico cautiously slid into the back seat. When Charlie gave the driver the name of the hotel where Chico worked. Chico considered making a last second leap from the car, but the thought of going to bed with Charlie was clouding his judgment. After everything he had already done today, he wanted to see where Mariposa would lead him next.

After the unnerving experience at the “mirror”, Derek was even more confused when he found himself back in the men’s room. The leather man was still draped over the urinal, mumbling something about needing baby powder. Derek slid quietly into one of the toilet stalls, careful not to let his admirer notice that he had returned. Derek pulled out his dick and leaned against the side of the stall, determined to empty his bladder, no matter how long it took. He nearly nodded off while he waited for his system to shift into pissing gear, but after a couple of minutes, things finally started to flow. When he emerged, the man in leather was still propped up and babbling, so Derek cautiously tiptoed out of the room.

This time, he paid precise attention to where he was going as he walked down the mirrored hallway, wishing he had left himself a trail of breadcrumbs or peanut shells or something. This time, he breezed past the clear plastic panel without even noticing it and was back in the bar more quickly than he expected. He felt like he had earned that shot and that beer now, but when he stepped over to the bar, the drinks were gone. He gestured to Manolo. “What happened to my drinks?”

Manolo looked at Derek sideways. “You… drank them?”

“What do you mean?”

Manolo spoke slowly. “You and your friend – the tall one with the long hair – you just drank them. I watched you myself.” Now Manolo was positive it was time to stop serving the punk.

“Any idea where my friend went?”

Manolo shrugged. “I thought he left. With you.”

Derek hadn’t anticipated that this day had the potential to become any stranger, yet here he was. He wandered aimlessly around the club, trying to spot Charles, but didn’t see him anywhere. He headed out the front door, but there was no sign of his husband there either. Now that the gawkers had dispersed, things were pretty dead outside of the club. The only movement he noticed was a single taxi about a block away.

Derek returned inside and leaned his elbows on the bar, trying to focus his thoughts. He hailed Manolo and asked, “Can I get a shot of tequila?” Booze might not help his thought process, but at this point, what could it hurt?

“Sorry, señor,” Manolo informed him with a regretful look, “I gotta cut you off.”

“What the… ?” Derek pounded a fist on the bar indignantly, but his anger dissipated quickly. He wondered if that meant that the Mariposa which had been riling him up all day was finally starting to lose its potency. He could already feel himself feeling more like himself, even if he still looked like he was the bass player in a second-rate Green Day cover band. He apologized to Manolo and walked away meekly to keep searching for Charles.

As Derek passed the door to the smokers’ patio, he noticed Beau sitting blissed-out on a bench, shirtless and manspreading. Derek stepped outside and walked over to him, detecting the telltale scent of ganja. Beau looked up, his eyes barely open. “Oh, there you are. I thought you ditched me.”

“Sorry.” Derek hadn’t intended to leave Beau unaccompanied for so long. He pointed to the marijuana cigarette dangling between Derek’s fingers. “You holdin’ out on me? I thought you said your last joint was your last joint.”

“Turns out I was wrong. Guess I’m too stoned to count. Want some?” Beau held the joint out to Derek, but he waved it away. He was starting to get a different sort of buzz from his slowly encroaching sobriety and didn’t want to start altering his mind again.

Derek sat down dejectedly beside Beau. “I think Charles took off without me. Again.”

“NOW you remember Charles?”, Beau said, throwing up his hands in resignation.

“I feel like calling him and telling him just where he can stick it… but I’ve still got his damn phone!” His mood became more charitable. “I guess I can’t totally blame him. It’s that fuckin’ Mariposa!”

Beau slid his hand along Derek’s bare back, hoping to comfort him. “I’m sorry, man.”

“It’s not your fault,” Derek said. “If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s our friend Pierce. He’s the one who bought the stuff. No wonder the fucker’s been avoiding my messages. Guilt over sabotaging our honeymoon.”

Beau’s hand stopped moving. “I’m sure your friend didn’t mean to sabotage… “

Derek waved his hands in the air to cut off Beau. “Fuck it! I don’t wanna talk about it any more. I don’t wanna talk about anything any more. I’m in Cancun. It’s a gorgeous night. I’m sittin’ with this crazy hot guy. I am gonna enjoy myself, dammit! I am taking a stand! I refuse to let Charles ruin any more of my honeymoon!” He stood up and stretched his arm toward Beau. “Would you like to dance?”

Beau looked up cautiously, not wanting to piss off Derek further. “You sure that’s what you want?”

“That is exactly what I want.”

“Okay, then.” Beau took a final puff, slapped his hands on his thighs, and rose to his feet. He strode to the patio door and held it open for Derek.

A rare ballad was playing as they reached the dance floor. When slow dancing, Derek and Charles always switched off on who would take the lead, but Derek automatically ceded that role to the bigger, stronger Beau, leaning as close to the surfer’s bare chest as his mohawk would allow. Beau wrapped one arm around Derek’s shoulders and placed his other hand in the small of Derek’s back. The two swayed together in silence for a minute or two when Beau spoke softly. “Listen, Derek, I need to tell you… “

Derek lifted a finger to Beau’s lips and went “Shhhhh!”

Beau tried to continue anyway, despite the silencing digit. “But I just want… “

Derek stared up at him, exhausted. “Do you hafta talk? Can’t you just dance and look pretty?”

Beau thought for a moment, then smirked. “Sure, I can do that.” He pulled Derek in tightly and rested his cheek cautiously against the side of Derek’s head.

The taxi ride had drained Charlie and Chico of their energy. After being in near-constant motion for most of the day, they were each hit by a wave of exhaustion as soon as they finally had a moment to sit still. The driver was on the verge of threatening to splash them with water when he finally coaxed them out of his taxi.

They staggered down the hotel hallway, Charlie leaning on Chico like a human crutch to prevent him from collapsing onto the floor. Even accounting for his increased size, Charlie had consumed a debilitating amount of alcohol, likely downing more beer in one day than Charles had imbibed in his previous 31 years. For his part, Chico’s brain felt so fried, he had lost interest in fucking for tonight, although he was definitely still down to cuddle.

Charlie struggled to remember which room was their suite, unsuccessfully trying the room next door first before getting his key to work in the proper door. He and Chico stumbled inside, flipping on the lights.

Chico couldn’t believe what awaited inside. The gaping hole in the bedroom wall. The Mariposa six pack on the bar, with two full bottles remaining. He had somehow landed right back in the room where this all had started. He looked at Charlie and instantly realized that the lumbering redhead might also be a creation of Mariposa. No wonder he seemed too good to be true, Chico thought. Without thinking, Chico let his grip on Charlie loosen, and the big man fell slack, tumbling to the floor like a human-sized sack of potatoes. Charlie looked up, dismayed. “What the fuck, man? Help me get to the bed.”

“Sure, sure, señor,” Chico said, shifting back into helpful bellboy mode. He encircled both arms around Charlie’s waist, dragged him into the bedroom, and dumped him onto the bed face down.

Charlie sank into the mattress as he felt the room start to revolve slowly around him. “Thanks, honey,” he said as his eyes slid shut. Within a minute, Chico could hear him snoring.

Chico sat down on the other side of the bed with the intention of resting five minutes to recharge his batteries before sneaking out. He couldn’t risk being here when the Mariposa wore off. If one of his co-workers spotted him, he’d be in big trouble, and if Charlie woke up and discovered that the tattooed punk he thought he had brought back to his room was actually one of the hotel staff, it would be obvious that Chico had pilfered some of the guest’s very expensive transformation potion. Chico had been severely reprimanded once for sneaking a mini-bottle of vodka from a guest’s minibar, so he assumed that Mariposa theft would be grounds for instant termination. He couldn’t afford to lose his job. All he needed was ten minutes tops to recuperate, and then he would be out of there.

Chico lay back, struggling to find a comfortable position. Eventually, he constructed a pyramid of pillows, wedging his purple spikes strategically between two of them. If he had learned one valuable lesson from today, it was that he would never ask a barber for a mohawk. They were a pain in the ass. There had to be easier ways to look cool. On the other hand, he was already daydreaming about what kind of tattoos he wanted to get on his body once these temporary ones had faded. At least he assumed they would fade. For something he had willingly, even eagerly, ingested, Chico knew almost nothing about what Mariposa actually did or what after effects he could expect.

Once he’d found his ideal resting position, Chico was so comfortable, he didn’t want to move. He decided he would give himself fifteen minutes of rest. Then he would be on his way for sure.

Three minutes later, Chico had fallen into a heavy slumber.

After all of the mind-and-body-altering substances he had consumed over the past ten hours or so, Derek was amazed by the power of a little dancing to spark an endorphin rush and boost his mood. It didn’t hurt to have a partner like Beau, who looked even better in motion than he did standing still.

When the DJ announced that he was looking for karaoke singers, Derek looked at Beau. Typically, Derek was only slightly more adventurous than Charles when it came to being a public spectacle, but today was not about doing the typical thing. “Wanna sing something?” Beau shrugged ambiguously, so Derek probed further. “What’s that mean? You wanna or you don’t?”

Beau spoke cautiously. “You said no talking. Didn’t know if that meant no singing either.”

Derek chuckled. “Well, I wanna sing, which means you gotta do it with me.” He took Derek’s hand and led him through the dancers toward the DJ booth where they studied the list of available songs.

“What are you thinkin’?” Beau asked.

Derek had already flipped to section for artists beginning with “P”. “I”m thinkin’ Prince,” he said, pointing to his purple mohawk. “I’ve even got the right color hair for it.” Pierce’s impact on Derek’s tastes in music and movies over the years was undeniable, but Derek had been into His Royal Badness well before he met Pierce. Derek’s mother had been simultaneously amused and mortified when her precocious eight-year-old son had discovered her vinyl copy of “Purple Rain” and wanted to know what “sex fiend” and “masturbating” meant. It was the first and last time Derek talked sex with his mom.

Beau instantly affirmed Derek’s choice. “The classics, I love it.” He ran his finger down the song titles, finally pointing with certainty to one near the end alphabetically. “This one. It’s already a duet.”

“Perfect,” Derek said. He informed the DJ which song they had chosen and how they wished to be introduced. As Derek and Beau climbed onstage, Derek held his hand parallel to the floor and studied it. “Look at that,” he said to Beau.

“What am I lookin’ for?”

“I’m not shakin’!” Beau gave Derek’s shoulders a quick mini-massage for encouragement as the previous song faded out.

“Okay, amigos,” the DJ announced, “coming to the stage now to entertain you, let’s give a big Cancun welcome to… the Surf Punks!”

The crowd clapped politely as Beau and Derek grabbed their microphones and stared at the lyrics on the monitor. Beau realized they hadn’t yet made a crucial decision. “You wanna be Prince or Sheena?”

“You kiddin’?”, Derek replied. “Prince, of course! It’s like that saying, ‘Always be yourself, unless you can be Prince. Then, always be Prince.’”

“Isn’t that what they say about Batman?”, Beau asked.

“Prince is way cooler than Batman,” Derek said with absolute conviction. Beau could not argue with that sentiment.

The background music began, and Derek dramatically recited the opening lines. “Here we are folks, the dream we all dream of. Boy versus girl… well, boy versus boy… in the World Series of love!” Derek cleared his throat and launched into the song proper. “U walked in. I woke up. I’ve never seen a pretty girl… uh, boy… look so tough. Baby! U got that look.” To his surprise, Derek thought he didn’t sound half bad. Beau gave him a thumbs-up.

Derek stood rigidly in one spot until he completed the first verse, at which point Beau stepped in front of him and began to grind himself provocatively against Derek’s body. Beau belted out the chorus like a diva. “U got the look. U got the hook. Sho’nuff do be cookin’ in my book.” The crowd cheered, which only encouraged Beau to go bigger. He cozied up to Derek’s side and thrust his pelvis into Derek’s hip, not needing to consult the screen for the words. “Your face is jammin’. Your body’s heck-a-slammin’. If love is good, let’s get 2 rammin’. U got the look. U got the look!”

As the dance floor erupted in applause, Beau smiled at Derek, who stared suspiciously at his song partner. “Look at you! You’re a fuckin’ ringer!”, Derek shouted to Beau off-mic, knowing he would have to up his game for the next verse. He pushed Beau aside and strutted to the lip of the stage, singing “U got the look,” as his body swayed with the groove.

Beau poked his head over Derek’s shoulder and repeated, “U got the look.”

Derek sang, “U musta took,” and Beau echoed that line too, this time popping up over Derek’s other shoulder. The two of them figured out some sexy choreography on the fly, Derek eagerly letting Beau take the lead. From the second chorus on, they sang the song in unison, with Beau executing some unexpected high harmonies. By the time the song ended, the dance floor was packed and jumping. “You’re a natural!” Derek yelled to Beau over the applause.

Beau was exhilarated and breathing heavily, his wet skin shining in the spotlights. “I guess I just had a little Prince in me, bursting to get out.”

The crowd began chanting “Surf Punks” over and over, begging for an encore. Derek turned to Beau with a “Why not?” shrug and asked, “What should we do next?”

Beau proposed, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.”

“Sounds good to me. But what song should we do?” Beau studied Derek’s face closely, unsure if that was meant as a joke.

When they finally stepped down from the stage after a third number, Beau’s solo rendition of “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, Derek and Beau found themselves surrounded by people raving about their performances. Beau soaked up the accolades greedily, while Derek hung back, directing the focus to the obvious star of the duo. Countless people offered to buy them drinks, which Beau readily capitalized on, attempting to stump Manolo by ordering the priciest, most outlandish, most exotic concoctions he could think of. Manolo offered to reinstate Derek’s drinking privileges, but Derek decided he’d reached his limit on stimulants and depressants for the day. He hydrated himself with ice water and a slice of lemon.

Derek and Beau kept dancing for what felt like hours, as the rest of the crowd slowly dwindled. Derek couldn’t believe Beau’s stamina, dancing at full throttle while pounding down drink after drink without losing any steam. In contrast, Derek’s energy was petering out. He hated to be the wet blanket, but he did finally ask Beau, “When is closing time here?”

Beau boisterously answered, “Five!”

“Five? Five? A.? M.?” Derek knew he couldn’t last that long, and he had no interest in watching his Mariposa wear off in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by witnesses. He made Beau pledge to leave after one more dance. That got stretched to three, but Beau eventually agreed to leave.

Beau and Derek swung by the bar where Derek asked if Manolo could hail them a cab. “Already taken care of,” Manolo informed them. “It’s waiting for you outside. Hey, you two should come back tomorrow night. You were the life of the party”

“Maybe we will,” Beau declared. Derek was less certain that was possible, but he kept his mouth shut. On the way out, they gave a parting wave to their adoring fans. Beau blew them kisses and shouted “Ta-ta!”

By the time they reached the hotel, Beau’s adrenaline rush had faded, leaving him too drunk to stand. As Derek hauled Beau’s limp body down the corridor, he had the realization that he needed Beau’s key. Derek apologized before sticking his hand into Beau’s pocket. As he fished around, he discovered that Beau’s cock was fully erect, which Derek found impressive after all of the liquor he had consumed. Derek realized that he too was sporting a woody, which he credited to the miraculous powers of Mariposa. He slid the key into Beau’s lock and hauled him inside. Derek was ready to collapse, so he dumped Beau on the sofa rather than trekking the extra twenty feet to the bedroom.

Derek brushed his hand across his forehead to wipe away the sweat. When his fingers collided with his mohawk, he was stunned as the seemingly indestructible spikes gave way and tumbled off his head. He glanced down and saw them dissipate in midair. The Mariposa was finally losing its grip on him.

Derek rushed excitedly to the bathroom. When Derek switched on the light, Beau groaned as the bright fluorescence hit his face. Derek gently closed the door and stared at his reflection to watch the metamorphosis reverse itself. The process was surprisingly quick and painless. His remaining purple spikes toppled away of their own accord, like needles falling from a dry Christmas tree. His gaunt body inflated back to his usual muscle tone, and his chalky skin regained a healthy tan. His tattoos faded away, his thickening flesh seeming to absorb the ink like a sponge, restoring Derek’s smooth unblemished skin. The hollows around his eyes and under his cheekbones filled in, and stubble rose across his scalp and brow as his hair and eyebrows grew back to their original length. It was a relief to see himself looking back from the mirror again.

When the reversion was complete, Derek switched off the light to avoid disturbing Beau, then slowly exited the bathroom. He tiptoed to the front door and let himself out, then walked next door to his own suite. He attempted to unlock the door, but kept getting a red light. Frustrated, he was on the verge of knocking, not caring if he woke Charles, when it occurred to him that he had been using Beau’s key by mistake. He slid that back into his pocket and pulled out another key card. He inserted into the lock, a green light flashed and the door opened. It seemed like he hadn’t been in the suite for days. He was still upset that Charles had abandoned him at the club, but he could wait until the morning to hash that out with him. Right now, Derek wanted nothing more than eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye.

As he entered the bedroom, the moonlight filtering through the patio doors passed through the hole in the bedroom wall. It shone a pale oval of bluish light onto the bed, illuminating a figure sleeping peacefully. Derek was stopped cold when he realized that he wasn’t looking at Charles, but Chico, the cute young bellhop, stretched out in denim shorts and black sneakers. Lying face down beside him was Charles, still in his ginger jock body, his long muscular legs dangling off the edge of the bed.

Derek clutched the bedroom door frame to keep himself from collapsing in shock. If he had still been punked out, he undoubtedly would have walked over and punched Charles, but Derek’s natural instinct was to internalize the devastation and rationally consider the most effective, mature response. That response might still be to pummel the shit out of Charles, but that could wait until daybreak. Right now, he desperately needed to get out of this suite.

His trip back into the hall was such a blur, he hardly remembered how he got there. He leaned his back against the wall between his door and Beau’s, unconsciously still leaving space behind his head to allow room for the mohawk which he no longer possessed. He bent his knees and slid slowly down the wall until he was seated on the floor. He covered his eyes with his forearm. As a rule, he wasn’t prone to crying, but this situation seemed to merit a few tears. Those first few tears gave way to loud, heavy sobs which shook his entire ribcage. This was definitely not how he had expected his honeymoon to go.

Once he felt sufficiently cried out, Derek pulled himself back to his feet. He couldn’t make himself go back into his own room, so he pulled out a key and tried to open Beau’s door. After a few failed tries, he shook his head at his own stupidity and dug out the other key, which worked perfectly the first time. He walked into the darkened bathroom and splashed some cold water on his tear-streaked face. He fumbled around the room, grasping for a towel to wipe his face dry. The first thing he grabbed was far too thin to be a towel, but he decided it would serve his immediate needs. Rubbing the fabric across his face, he detected a strong smell of tobacco. He felt around and realized he was drying his face with a shirt hanging in the bathroom closet, and that a pungent cigar was tucked into the shirt’s pocket.

The realization arrived gradually, then walloped to him in a mad rush that felt practically physical. He leaned against the sink, rubbing his temples as he sorted through with his thoughts. To make sure he wasn’t jumping to conclusions, he stepped back to the closet and felt around some more. His fingers brushed against the knots of a fishnet material. When he found the hemmed collar, it confirmed that he was holding a mesh tank top. Even in the dark, he knew instantly that it was black. He began to laugh, bopping the knuckles of his fist against his forehead.

Chico woke with a start from his intended fifteen-minute nap. The room was still dark, but the glowing numbers on the clock radio read 4:27. In the moonlight falling on the bed, Chico could make out the man beside him. In place of the muscular galoot from the club was someone many inches shorter, slightly chubby and, to Chico’s eyes, old – probably somewhere in his thirties. The only thing that had not changed was his thick head of red hair, although even that looked shorter than it had been the night before. Chico didn’t consider him terrible looking, but he did seem kind of dull.

Chico climbed out of bed, careful not to wake the other guy. He was glad the sun hadn’t risen yet, as he should be able to sneak away from the hotel undetected at this early hour. As he crossed the main room on his way to the sliding glass doors, he noticed the Mariposa pack in his peripheral vision. He stopped and stared at the two unopened bottles. His heart began to flutter. He had just regained his real body, yet he was already craving another transformation. He tried to convince himself that the idea was insane, that he was incredibly lucky to have gotten away with drinking half of an opened bottle. If he stole another bottle from a guest, word would spread and he likely would be unemployable anywhere in Cancun. He shook his head vigorously and resumed walking to the patio, firm in his conviction that he had the will power to pass up another dose of Mariposa.

And yet… he stopped.

Sunlight streamed through the blinds, glaring directly in Pierce’s eyes. He sat up, stretching his arms, alert yet disoriented. He traveled so much that it was common for him to wake up unsure where in the world he was, even on those mornings when he hadn’t gotten shit-faced the night before. He looked around and was relieved that he recognized his surroundings, although he had no memory of how he had gotten there.

He definitely needed to take a leak, but other things took priority. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, which he had kept switched off most of yesterday. He booted it up and, as expected, was greeted with plenty of texts, quite a few voicemails, and a ton of Grindr messages. He vowed that he would get around to responding to Derek and Charles this morning. But first, a nice long piss.

Pierce swung his legs off the edge of the sofa, disappointed that his feet barely reached the floor. He stuck his hand into his shorts and was vigorously scratching at the base of his dick when he heard an unexpected but familiar voice.

“Good morning, Beau.”

Leaping backwards on the couch, Pierce yelped, “Jesus!”

“Yeah, him too.”

Pierce rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked across the room where Derek was sitting calmly in the shadows, holding two empty Mariposa bottles with yellow Post-It notes attached.

The past two days had been so eventful that it seemed like weeks since Derek had seen Pierce. Now Derek realized he had been seeing Pierce the whole time. He just hadn’t known to look for him in the form of an unremarkable Mexican man or a blond beachcomber.

Pierce sat on the edge of the sofa, hands raised, palms facing Derek, as if he had just been cornered by the police. He was wearing only Beau’s floral shorts which were pooled loosely around his waist, laughably oversized on Pierce’s petite but well-toned body. Pierce unleashed his most charming smile and said, “I can explain.”

“You better,” Derek said. Restored to his runner’s physique, Derek was now wearing the fishnet tank top that Jesus had worn to the club and some cashmere sweatpants which Pierce recognized as his own. Owing to the difference in the men’s sizes, the sweats looked more like compression shorts hugging tight to Derek’s thighs and the cuffs wrapped just below his kneecaps. Yesterday’s hoops and stud still adorned his earlobes, the only visible remnants of his day as a punk. “I did a little rummaging while you caught up on your beauty sleep. Found these empties tucked under your bed.” He read the slips of paper adhering to the Mariposa bottles in his hands. “The one labeled ‘Tarzan’ obviously turned you into Beau, which would mean ‘Mocha’ was responsible for Jesus?”

“Excellent detective work,” Pierce said. “You’re a regular Mike the Spike.”

Derek placed the empty bottles on the floor and folded his arms, not in the mood for Pierce’s humor at the moment. “So what was your big idea here? Was it actually your goal to break up our marriage on our honeymoon, or were just trying to get us to act like idiots for your own personal amusement?”

“Neither one,” Pierce said, although he had found some of the events of the past two days highly entertaining. “I just wanted to make sure you guys had some fun on your honeymoon.”

“Right, because the two of us stiffs would be incapable of doing anything remotely fun without you around to pull the strings?”

“That’s not it at all.” Pierce folded his hands together and leaned forward. “You ever heard of Rumspringa?”

“Is that one of those complicated drinks you were ordering last night?”

“No. It’s an Amish custom. When Amish kids hit adolescence, their parents know that’s the prime age for rebellion, so they give their kids a little leeway to explore what life is like outside their insulated community. I mean, when you’re trotting along the road in your horse-drawn buggy, wouldn’t you be curious about those people zooming past you in their fancy metal automobiles, listening to their loud, discordant, electrical music and wearing their fancy ‘tee-shirts’ bearing the image of the icon they hold most sacred, Saint Taylor the Swift?”

Derek was annoyed at Pierce for making him laugh when he was trying to remain indignant. “Yeah, I think I’ve heard of that.”

“Yeah, I’m sure they did a piece about it on NPR. Probably one of their ‘What In The Dickens Are Those Peculiar Non-NPR Listeners Like?’ segments.” Pierce never tired of needling Derek about white liberals getting all their information from NPR, although Pierce actually listened to public radio far more than either Derek or Charles. He was never one to let facts stand in the way of a good joke. “So anyway, these Amish teenagers are allowed to venture out and experiment in the ways of ‘the English’. Wear modern clothes. Ride in motorized vehicles. Maybe drink a beer or smoke some weed. The premise is that, if you let them get a taste of it, it’ll lose that allure of ‘the forbidden’. They won’t always be wondering what that world must be like. They won’t always be thinking ‘Maybe things would be better over there.’ Thing is, those Amish parents are pretty smart. After getting it out of their system, most of the kids decide to go back to their families and their traditions. You see where I’m going here?”

“Sure. You think that, as far as being gay is concerned, Charles and I are Amish.”

“Well, you ain’t exactly RuPaul, darlin’.” His tongue was growing parched the longer he talked. “Is it okay if I get some water?”

“Of course,” Derek said, leaning back in his chair.

Pierce cinched the drawstring of his shorts as tightly as possible around his narrow waist to keep them from falling. On someone of Pierce’s stature, they could hardly be described as shorts, as the hemline hung halfway down his shins.

Pierce’s suite was a mirror image of the one next door, minus the fist-shaped hole in the bedroom wall. Pierce crossed to the mini-bar and grabbed himself a bottle of water, offering a second one to Derek. Derek looked at the bottle skeptically. “It’s just water, right? It’s not gonna turn me from Dr. Nero to Mr. Hyde?”

“Pure agua, I promise,” Pierce assured him, tossing the bottle to Derek. Pierce took a prolonged gulp from his own bottle and began pacing. Being on his feet and mobile made Pierce feel more relaxed and less like he was being deposed. “So. Anyway. Where was I?”


“Right! Ya see, I thought it might be a good idea for you guys to have some experiences that were outside your comfort zone, just so you wouldn’t be sitting around in five or ten years, dissatisfied with your marriage and wondering what you had missed out on by settling down. There’s an old Native American expression that, for all I know, really came from some old white guy writing dialogue for a Western in the Thirties. It says ‘Never criticize someone until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.’ Mariposa actually lets you do that, only instead of moccasins, it’s, you know, a mohawk or a lime green thong. I thought you’d get a kick out the chance to be somebody else for a day. You’d get to fuck other people, only without actually fucking other people, because you’d still really just be fucking each other. Maybe you’d be like those Amish kids and appreciate each other more once you got back to being yourselves. Maybe it’d open your eyes to being a little bit more adventurous in the future. That’s all I was trying to do. It wasn’t done with malice. It was done with love.” Pierce shrugged, having pleaded his case the best he could. Retaking his seat on the couch, the defense rested.

Pierce always had a knack for explaining things in ways that convinced you he was right. Derek had long thought that Pierce had more of the natural skills for being a good lawyer than Charles did, but any time Derek suggested that Pierce should explore the law as a profession, Pierce laughed it off. He had no interest in squandering his life doing something so serious, so respectable, so dull. If, when Derek and Pierce were college roommates, a time traveler had arrived from a decade in the future and informed Pierce that he would end up as an international flight attendant who moonlighted as a Prince impersonator, Pierce would have gleefully hurled his tedious engineering textbooks into a blast furnace and said, “Hallelujah, I do find my true calling after all!” He then would have asked the visitor from the future if the Jonas brothers were still hot where he came from.

Despite Pierce’s explanation, Derek was not willing to let Pierce off the hook just yet. “Okay, but even if you had the best of intentions, you should have given us more of a warning about what it would do to us!”

Pierce had to laugh. “If I had told you up front, ‘Hey, drink this stuff. It’s totally safe, but it’ll turn you into a Chinese muscle dude or a 300-pound daddy bear for the day,’ you guys would’ve immediately pitched the bottles in the garbage. Even with the little warnings I did give you, my best guess was that only you would be willing to try it. You’d drink a third of a bottle at most before chickening out. You’d undergo an unfulfilling partial transformation. Charles would freak the fuck out, and you’d spend the next two days reading books on the beach and bitching about what that awful Pierce had tried to do to you.”

“Well, that shows how little you know about us. Charles doesn’t read books. What if we’d had a bad reaction?”

Pierce tapped an index finger on his temple. “See, that’s where Jesus and Beau came in. I know how important it is to have someone looking after you and talking you through it the first few times that you do Mariposa, but I knew I couldn’t do it as myself. You guys would never have loosened up if you knew that fucking asshole Pierce was in the room next door, spying on your every move. So, voila, here comes Jesus. Nice enough local guy, but pretty nondescript. Not a hundred percent fluent with the English. Not really an expert on Mariposa, but he’s heard some things that might help you out. Why would you suspect that he wasn’t exactly who he said he was? Next day, I gave myself a treat, made myself a totally chill surfer dude. After you survived the first day, I thought I’d give you some space, only intrude if there was an emergency. Then I heard you screaming and I had to step in. I hadn’t banked on Charles flaking out and running off like that.”

“Well, you had me fooled. I never suspected, although I should have gotten suspicious when Beau turned out to be such a Prince expert. You should be an actor.”

“Yeah, I probably should, but, honestly, Mariposa does most of the work. For the most part, I just go along for the ride. I mean, you experienced it yourself. It’s not like you had to put any effort into doing gymnastics or speaking Chinese. It just came as standard equipment.”

Derek was still getting his head around all the planning that Pierce had put into this scheme. “So, let me figure this out. You came down on the same plane with us?”

“Yup. Tucked away in the very last row of coach, stuck by the goddamn toilets. Don’t say I never sacrificed for you. I knew you’d never see me way back there. I mean, why would you leave first class to explore the land of the poors? Most of the flight, I hung out with the crew in the galley and drank free booze.”

“And you were Jesus that whole time?”

“Oh, no, no, no,” Pierce said. “You can’t fly on Mariposa. How would I explain at customs why my face didn’t match my passport? Nope, as soon as I got off the plane, I ran to the men’s room, downed a bottle of Mariposa, ‘activated it’…” To illustrate, Pierce moved his cupped hand in a “jerking-off” gesture. “Then I had to quick go pick up the rental car before I met you guys at baggage claim. I’d already arranged for one of the desk clerks to have the six pack waiting in your room before you showed up, so you wouldn’t suspect Jesus of having anything to do with it.”

“Well, you went to a hell of a lot of effort, I’ll give you that much.”

Pierce waved his hand dismissively. “It was nothing. Besides, I’ve been having a great time. I can’t remember the last time I smoked as much pot as we did yesterday.”

“Isn’t that risky for you?” Derek asked. “Doesn’t the airline do drug tests?”

Pierce smiled. “That’s one of the best things about Mariposa. You can drink as much as you want, smoke pot, do ‘shrooms, whatever…and it all burns out of your system when the changes fade. It’s like somebody else did it all. They could drug test me today and wouldn’t find a trace of marijuana. It’s like the best drug ever. Plus you can party all you want and there’s no hangover. Well, there is kind of a hangover. Did you notice any ‘souvenirs’ left over on your body from yesterday?”

Derek tugged at the jewelry on his earlobes. “These earrings are still wedged in pretty tight. I can’t figure out how to take ’em off.”

Pierce walked over for a closer look and winced, noticing that the pierced holes created by the Mariposa no longer existed. “Yeah, I prob’ly shoulda told you to take those out before you changed back. Your earlobes healed up around them, and they’re stuck in there good. Might have to get someone to cut ’em off. On the bright side, you do look pretty hot with them.”

“I appreciate that, but I’m not sure this is the image I want to give my patients.”

“Why not? Aren’t they all doped up when you work on them anyway? But that’s not really what I meant by a souvenir. The Mariposa didn’t give you those earrings. You bought them. Now you’re stuck with them. What I’m talking about is some part of the transformation itself that didn’t fade away when you went back to normal.”

“Not that I noticed,” Derek said, standing up and walking to a full-length mirror to inspect himself. He saw nothing out of the ordinary. His short brown hair had returned, as had his brown eyes. He turned in profile and saw that his glutes had receded back to their standard flatness. “I don’t see anything. Hair grew back in. Same flat ass. Even all the tattoos are gone.”

Pierce asked, “You sure you’ve looked…everywhere?”

Derek was posit… No, he realized there was one place he hadn’t checked. He hustled into the bathroom and closed the door. A few seconds later, Pierce heard a muffled scream, and Derek burst back into the living room. “I’ve still got barbed wire tattooed on my cock.”

Pierce’s eyebrows leapt. “Nice! Can I see?”

“I’m not gonna show you my dick!”

“Can’t blame a guy for asking.”

Derek flopped onto the sofa, shaking his head. “So what did you keep from Beau? Obviously not his height or his muscles or his hair.”

“Probably nothin’. Once you’ve done Mariposa enough times, your body builds up a tolerance. It’s really just the first few times when you keep some leftovers.”

“So what did you keep from your first time?”

Derek patted his hand over his perfectly maintained core. “Didn’t you ever wonder how I came back from Spring Break with chiseled abs?”

“Spring break? You mean junior year? When you went to Cabo? You told me you worked out a lot!”

“And you believed me? God bless you, you’ve always been so trusting. Like I would spend my whole vacation doing crunches instead of shots. Whoever heard of anyone coming back from a week of binge drinking in better shape than they left? That week, I drank a six pack of Mariposa all by myself, a bottle a day. They were literally ‘six-pack abs’!”

“Hang on. You’re telling me you’ve been drinking this stuff since we were in college, and you never mentioned it until now?”

“We all have our secrets, honey. I’ve done a lot of things you don’t know about.” Pierce smirked, and Derek didn’t doubt it. “Back then, Mariposa had just come out and it was still ultra cheap. Then, once people found out what it actually did, it got harder to find, and prices went through the roof. I probably didn’t do Mariposa for five years after that first time, ‘cause I couldn’t afford it. I hope you and Charles appreciate just how long I had to save up on my salary to buy you guys those six bottles.”

This was all too much for Derek to absorb. He looked across the room at his charismatic friend with the unearned abs, wondering what else about him had been altered permanently by the mysterious elixir. “Okay, so I get why you thought Charles and I could use a little Mariposa to spice things up, but why would you need it? You’re already sexy and outgoing and interesting just the way you are.”

“Yeah, maybe a little too interesting,” Pierce said with a rueful laugh. “Did it ever occur to you that I might get tired of being so goddamn interesting all the time? Look at me. I’m a short, gay Native American. No matter where I go, I stick out like a tiny, dark-skinned, rainbow-striped thumb. I’ve never been in a room in my life where people like me are the majority, because there are no other people like me! I never had any choice but to lean into who I am, because wherever I am, people can’t help but notice what makes me different. The world won’t allow me to be anonymous. Don’t you know how much I’ve always envied you?”

This may have been the most shocking revelation Derek had heard all morning. “You envied me?”

“Absolutely! You can walk into any room and not be noticed! You ordinary, average white guys don’t even realize what a luxury that is, to be ignorable. Boring comes to you naturally. Me, I’ve gotta work at it!”

“I was really expecting that to be more of a compliment than it turned out to be.”

Pierce cringed. “It sounded better in my head. But I mean it, man. All through college, I wished I was you. I was desperate to fit in, but that was never in the cards. Until I discovered Mariposa, the closest I ever got to anonymity was when I would do my Prince impression. When I was onstage, for once nobody was looking at Pierce, that weird Indian faggot who they saw flitting around campus being annoying. All they saw was fuckin’ Prince, and everybody loves fuckin’ Prince. That’s why I drink Mariposa. It gives me a vacation from being me.”

After all the years they had known each other, Derek had not imagined there was so much he didn’t know about his old friend. He felt like he was seeing an entirely different person than had been in the room five minutes earlier, even though Pierce looked exactly the same.

Pierce gazed out the window toward the beach. “Jesus was kind of a bore, but that was by design. But, god-damn did I loved being Beau, that big, gorgeous, Nordic-god motherfucker.” He glanced at Derek, grinning. “Don’t lie, you liked him too. I could tell you were on the verge of cumming every time you so much as looked at Beau. Am I right?”

Derek shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but couldn’t dispute the allegation or successfully hide his embarrassed smile.

“Ha! I knew it. You wanted to fuck me! You couldn’t keep your little tattooed paws offa me on the smoking patio.”

Derek raised a finger in the air to interrupt. “Smoking…? What do you mean? Except when we were dancing, I barely touched you.”

“Oh, no, don’t try this ‘I was a perfect gentleman’ crap. The way you were grabbin’ at my tits and grindin’ on my lap, I was sure you were gonna make me blow my load.”

“Wait one damn minute…” Derek was shouting now.

Pierce raised his volume to match Derek’s. “And then you got up and had to go ‘pee-pee’ and stuck me there with blue balls.”

“I have no memory of any of that,” Derek said with complete sincerely.

“All right,” Pierce said, raising his hands in surrender. “I’ve seen this before. The convenient amnesia when you don’t want to admit something embarrassing. Fine, you tell yourself whatever you need to tell yourself, but remember, I was there too, and I can hold my pot way better than you can. Now, don’t worry, I won’t tell Charles. What happens on Mariposa, et cetera, et cetera…” He turned his attention back toward the beach and grew wistful. “Man, to think that I had that fine a body for a whole day and didn’t even have sex once! What a shame. I definitely have to find another bottle of him someday.”

Derek pointed to the Post-Its on the empties he’d found. “So you know what changes every bottle is gonna make?”

“I’ve figured out a few of the colors over the years, and I try to track down the ones I wanna do again, but they got so many varieties and a lot of the colors get to look pretty similar. Plus they keep adding new ‘flavors’ and tinkering with the old ones.”

“Did you know what was in the six-pack you gave us?”

Pierce waggled his hand in mid-air. “The Chinese gymnast I knew. I was him in Puerto Vallarta a couple of years ago. That was awesome. I wished I’d brought my copy of the Kama Sutra on that trip, because that boy was flexible. I don’t think you took nearly enough advantage of what that body was capable of doing. Ginger jockboy must be a new addition, ‘cause I’ve never seen him before, but the tattooed punk is a classic. That’s like one of the original six flavors. It’s like Classic Coke, but they keep messing with the formula. His mohawk used to be green, and he didn’t used to have nearly so many tattoos. If you ask me, it’s overkill now, but then I’ve always preferred subtlety.”

That came as news to Derek.

“To be honest,” Pierce continued, “I was kinda hoping Charles would grab the punk bottle. Woulda been funny to watch him coping with that mohawk.”

“Well, I’m glad you found our tribulations so amusing,” Derek said with a snide tone. “Thanks to you and your miracle drink, my husband went to bed with that little bellboy Chico.”

Now was Pierce’s turn to be surprised. “Whaaaaat? When was this?”

“After I dumped you in here last night, I went next door, and saw Charles in bed with him.”

“And they were fucking?”

“No! They were both asleep.”

Pierce took that as a positive sign. “Maybe that’s all they did was ‘go to bed’. Of course, I can’t really blame Charles if they did…ya know. I mean, that Chico IS pretty damn cute.”

Derek glared. “You’re not helping your cause here. You don’t console the spouse who’s been cheated on by saying, ‘Well, on the plus side, he did screw a total hottie.’”

Pierce took on a lecturing tone. “Hey, don’t blame me or the Mariposa for this. I’m Mister Mariposa, but no matter how far gone I’ve been on it, I’ve always known precisely what I was doing. I’ve never done anything I regretted, and it’s never ‘made me’ do anything. I mean, I could easily have fucked you last night, but I didn’t because I have self-control!”

Derek got in Pierce’s face. “You didn’t fuck me last night because you’d had enough pot and booze to tranquilize an elephant. Besides, what you might regret and what Charles might regret are two very different things.”

“Oh, is that how you see me? You think I’m just some cock-crazy slut who’ll fuck anything with a functioning dick, but Charles is some saint who never even thinks about other guys? You think you married a robot? Maybe Charles thinks about fucking other guys all the fucking time, but the Mariposa finally gave him the courage to fucking do it!”

Derek was getting steamed. “You’re talking about my husband.”

“Is this the husband you just told me fucked Chico? Don’t try to pin your husband’s moral failings on me or on something he drank. Charles only fucked Chico if Charles wanted to fuck Chico.”

Derek stood motionless, fists clenched, then turned quickly and walked over to open the door to the hallway.

Pierce asked, “Where are you running off to?”

“Next door,” Derek said, “to ask my husband what really happened!” Derek stepped into the hall and yanked the door furiously, but the door hinge was designed to operate slowly. Derek stood in the hall and watched impotently as the door closed gradually, seriously undermining the dramatic impact of his exit.

Pierce crossed the room and joined Derek in the hall. “I better come with you. You’re gonna need an eyewitness at the murder trial.”

“How do you know Charles and I won’t team up and murder you?” Derek slid a key card into the lock and once again got a red indicator light. “Fuck! Here, take your damn key!” He handed Pierce the first card, then took the other from his pocket.

Just as Derek was about to slide the other key into the lock, Pierce raised his hand and whispered, “Do you hear that?” He placed his ear against the door. Derek did the same and could hear intense grunting and moaning from the other side of the door. Derek grew furious, unlocked the door and angrily pushed it open. Unfortunately, the effect of his gesture was once again hampered by the slow door hinge.

The sounds of fucking were even louder as Derek entered the room, with Pierce hanging a few steps behind him. Derek rounded the corner into the main room and shouted “Aha!” expecting to catch Charles and Chico in the act. Instead, he found Mike “The Spike” Cochran on TV in the act of fucking a witness in another one of his porn masterpieces.

As Derek sighed with relief, Pierce took a look at the screen and instantly recognized the source. He whispered, “Ooh, I know this one! It’s ‘You Don’t Know Dick’!”

Derek shot Pierce a dirty look, then continued into the suite. He stepped cautiously toward the bedroom, afraid of what he might find there. When he got to the bedroom doorway, Derek leaned in suddenly and saw the bed was rumpled but empty. “Charles?” He moved to the bathroom and flipped on the light, but no one was there.

Derek doubled back through the living room and slid open the patio door, stepping outside to see if Charles was anywhere in the area, but there was no sign of him…or, for that matter, Chico.

Derek returned to the room, frowning. Pierce had hopped up on a bar stool and was swiveling back and forth, his attention riveted to the porn movie. Derek picked up the remote from the coffee table and shut off the TV, disappointing Pierce.

Pierce pointed to the hole in the bedroom wall. “By the way, I’m not payin’ for that. I got a reputation around this hotel, I stay here a lot, and I don’t want them to think I’m responsible for this kind of hooliganism.” Derek leveled him with a severe glare, and Pierce’s tone turned far more amenable. “Or I can cover it. That’s fine. No problem.”

As Derek stood in the middle of the room, hands on his hips, he noticed the Mariposa six pack on the bar behind Pierce. He walked over and took a closer look. All six bottles were now empty. “Shit! He did it without me again!”

Pierce spun around and looked at the bottles. “Hmm. So who drank the other one?” He looked at Derek. Neither of them needed to say Chico’s name out loud. “Man, I never would have guessed that Charles would be the one who really got hooked. Guess you never do truly know another person.”

Derek angrily pulled his phone out of the pocket of his sweats and placed a call. Moments later, he felt a vibration in his other pocket. Pierce pointed toward Derek’s crotch and declared, “I think your dick is buzzing.”

Derek let out a wordless scream of rage, extracted Charles’s phone from his other pocket and flung it at the sofa cushions. He glowered at Pierce and asked, “Those last two bottles. Any idea what they did?”

Pierce shook his head, genuinely sorry. “I can’t even remember what color they were.”

“Wonderful. So Charles and Chico are running loose in Cancun, and we haven’t got a clue what either of them looks like! Well, if that’s Charles’s idea of how to spend our honeymoon, I’m not gonna let him be the only one having a good time.”

Derek turned to Pierce with determination and asked, “So what bottles do you still have in your stash?”

That morning, Charles had woken up alone, face down atop the bedspread. His body had returned to its normal proportions and chronological age. His borrowed Iowa shirt was now too baggy for his lumpy torso. The waistband of his cargo shorts dug painfully into his love handles. He rolled over onto his back and spread out his arms, pleased that at least he wasn’t afflicted with a massive hangover following yesterday’s heavy drinking. Aside from wearing strangers’ clothes, it was as if all evidence of the previous day’s events had been erased.

He discovered that wasn’t entirely true when he walked into the bathroom and saw that he was still sporting red hair. It wasn’t as long as it had become by the end of the day, but it was dense and spiky with no sign yet of his bald spot returning. Since his eyes had reverted to their usual brown, Charles theorized that it must take longer for some of the Mariposa-induced changes to fade away than others. If not, he had about 48 hours to concoct an explanation for why he returned from his honeymoon as a redhead, one that would be deemed plausible by an office full of lawyers highly skilled in detecting bullshit. Charles unbuttoned his tight shorts to relieve the pressure on his gut. After a day as athletic young Charlie, it was hard for Charles to view his real body as anything but a letdown and, even topped with a fresh shock of ginger hair, his hangdog face looked older than its actual 31 years.

“Derek?” Charles called out with a yawn as he shuffled into the living room, surprised to find the place uninhabited. His eye was drawn to a freshly emptied bottle of Mariposa atop the bar, leaving only a single unopened bottle remaining in the package. Given Derek’s anger at being given Mariposa surreptitiously yesterday, and then being abandoned when “Charlie” wandered off without a warning, Charles figured this must be Derek’s idea of payback. Although Charles couldn’t blame Derek for being upset, he had assumed that their make-up makeout session at the club last night had smoothed things over.

Charles brought the empty bottle to his nose and took a whiff, detecting traces of pepper and baby powder. As Charles mused about what Derek might have been transformed into today, his testicles felt like they were solidifying. Charles had always viewed sexual arousal as a time-wasting nuisance but, since Mariposa had entered his life, he found himself getting hard at the slightest semi-erotic thought or the briefest glimpse of anything even remotely sexy. If this were to continue when he returned to the States, concentrating on the job could prove to be a major problem, one that might be even harder to explain than his red hair.

Charles patted his pockets, intending to give Derek a call, but he remembered that he had been without his phone all of the previous day. He did a quick search of the hotel suite, checking the obvious locations, but came up empty handed. He sat down on the couch, flipping on the TV to occupy him until Derek’s return. He thumbed the remote and, just as he had yesterday, found himself gravitating toward the skin flicks, once again impressed by the wide selection of gay-oriented porn available. Even during his long years as a single man, Charles hadn’t been much of a porn viewer. On business travels, he had never given into the temptation to watch hotel gay-per-view, aghast at the thought of being summoned to accounting to justify the expense. He felt no such shame today. He had enjoyed what he had seen of yesterday’s movie, the detective story with the African-American lead, so he searched for something else starring that actor. Pleased to find a number of Mike Cochran titles were available, he eventually settling on one called “You Don’t Know Dick”. He stripped out of his shirt and his cargo shorts, folding them neatly and placing them on a bar stool, then lay down on the sofa, cupping a hand over the bulge in his maroon undies.

Although he tried to keep his focus on the movie, Charles couldn’t stop glancing toward the bar, acutely aware that an unopened Mariposa bottle was waiting there, full of transformative potential, like a magic lamp one short rub away from releasing its powerful genie. He kept thinking about how amazing it had felt to be in command of the athletic prowess of Charlie and the masculine bulk of Chuck. He grew increasingly distracted, wondering what he might become if he drank from the final bottle. Just from the evidence of the past two days, the possibilities seemed infinite. Wouldn’t it be a fun surprise for Derek to find someone new and exciting waiting for him when he got back to the room? Heck, since the fifth bottle was already empty, Charles assumed that Derek must have expected that Charles would down the sixth one as soon as he woke up. When you viewed it that way, Charles would actually be a disappointment if he was still his boring old self when Derek returned.

Having sufficiently rationalized the decision he wanted to make in the first place, Charles left the movie running as he walked over to the bar and removed the final bottle from the pack. Its mysterious blue contents swirled inside the bottle, glowing invitingly. His mouth began to water as he picked up the bottle opener and snapped off the cap. The scent of blueberries floated through the air. Charles had an unnerving “Willy Wonka” flashback, worrying for a moment that drinking this beverage might inflate him into a giant blueberry. He dismissed that idea, convinced that the makers of Mariposa would consider the market segment of “people who want to fuck Violet Beauregarde” too narrow a fetish to merit its own flavor. Still, out of caution, Charles felt it wise to drink only part of the bottle at first, just in case the changes weren’t to his liking.

As Charles took a sip, the liquid percolated across his tongue with a delightful fizziness that he could swear was making tiny bubbles pop throughout his brain. After this initial taste, his body recognized the presence of Mariposa and desperately craved more, so he allowed himself another swallow. His eyes grew watery but, after a few blinks, he discovered that his vision had become acute, as if he had entered high-def virtual reality. The room around him brightened, every detail crisp, every color intense. He felt like he had emerged from a heavy fog into crystal-clear sunlight. Deciding he had consumed all he needed, Charles placed the bottle back on the bar. Only then did he realize that, without realizing it, the had chugged down the entire contents.

As he walked back to the couch, he discovered that his sense of touch had also grown increasingly sensitive. Even the slightest brush of one leg against the other sent an electric tingle through his nervous system. He snuggled comfortably into the sofa cushions and pulled his penis out of his underwear, his fingertips feeling just as stimulated as his cock head. His attention drifted back to the video screen where the big black private dick was pumping a witness for information. Charles seldom lost himself in the moment, rarely surrendered so thoroughly to his more basic impulses. Ordinarily, he would be hyper-aware that the drapes were wide open, which would allow any stranger passing the patio to witness his enthusiastic masturbation session. He would normally be fretting that, caught up in his actions, he wouldn’t notice a knock on the door, and one of the hotel staff could walk in and discover him whacking off. But the way he was feeling now, he would probably invite any unexpected interloper to climb onto the couch and join in the fun.

As his churning cock launched warm gooey globs across his body, Charles had the distinct feeling that he was shrinking, his bones contracting, his skin tightening around firm flesh. He realized that his body could now stretch to its full length on the couch without him needing to bend his knees or curve his back to accommodate his height. His fingertips toying with the jizz slick across his newly flattened stomach. He dipped two fingers into his navel and scooped out a dollop of cum. When performing oral sex on Derek, Charles had always been a reluctant swallower, not wishing to be rude but gulping as quickly as he could to get it over with. Now, he brought his sticky fingers curiously to his mouth and licked the tips clean. The flavor reminded him of blueberry yogurt with a pinch too much salt. He heard the silliest little giggle and looked around for the source. When he realized that he himself had produced the giggling, it made him giggle some more, which in turn made him giggle even harder.

He lolled on the couch blissfully, enjoying a rare moment of pure serenity. When he finally felt the need to move, he rolled himself off the edge of the couch, dropping to the floor with a thud. It seemed like his body was relearning its basic functions, and he would need to crawl before he could walk. As he scooted across the room on his belly, he delighted in the friction of his weenie against the carpet. At the bedroom doorway, he clutched his hands along the frame and pulled himself upward, first to his knees and eventually to a full standing position. He took a few tentative steps on shaky legs and turned to face the mirror, brushing his suddenly abundant hair away from his eyes.

While the increased volume of hair on his head was noteworthy, what Charles noticed instantly was its color: a vibrant navy blue. His wobbly legs carried him to the mirror so he could get a better look. A thick nest of blue tresses was snarled atop his head, while the sides and back were shaved close to the skin in a fade. His eyebrows had the same tint, which precisely matched the intense blue of his eyes as well. Charles tittered, wondering if the “carpet” matched the “drapes”. He lowered his oversized underwear to his knees and saw his rigid little dinky encircled by a wreath of blue pubes. He let out a delighted squeal.

He let his underwear drop to his ankles and stepped free of it, so he could assess the rest of his changes. His nude body was compact but well-balanced, as if a reasonably fit six-foot-two man had been condensed to five-foot-five without altering any of his proportions. For this reason, he didn’t instantly perceive himself as smaller; it just looked like he was standing further away. His facial features had been honed into sleek curves and sharp points which had rendered him more pretty than handsome, and his lightly-browned skin was smooth, hairless (except around the crotch), and uniform in its coloring, uninterrupted by tan lines. While most men would be unnerved to discover that their penis had been reduced to a fraction of its usual dimensions, Charles thought it looked darling. He’d gone from packing a full-sized Snickers to one that was more “fun-size”. The main reason that he wasn’t too concerned about the girth of his dick was the powerful ache he felt to have his own hole filled. He laced his fingers atop his head and turned sideways, studying the one area that had notably grown out of proportion with the rest of his body. His buttocks had ballooned out to an almost comical degree, firm mounds of flesh that jutted invitingly and appeared to defy the law of gravity. He rubbed his hands across his melon-sized cheeks and squeezed to evaluate their firmness. Noticing a dark blotch in the small of his back, he twisted his booty toward the mirror and craned his neck. He now sported a tramp-stamp tattoo of a blue heart surrounded by elaborately curlicues, the bottom point of the heart drawing the eye down to the deep crack of his ass like an arrow indicating “Insert Cock Here.” Out of a sense of fairness and equality, he and Derek had always traded off roles in the bedroom, but Charles’s bare skin erupted in goosebumps as he realized he had been transformed into an undeniable bottom.

Charles pirouetted toward the bathroom and stepped into the shower to scrub away the residual cum from his chest and stomach. He tried to disentangle his gnarly locks with shampoo, but quickly abandoned hope, deciding he would need professional help. After toweling himself dry, he returned to the bedroom to select the day’s wardrobe. He slipped into Derek’s white booty shorts from their first night at the club, delighted to discover that, although he was far skinnier than Derek’s Asian athlete overall, his ample ass filled the skin-tight shorts to capacity. He paired it with a sleeveless blue crop-top which not only matched the color of his hair but offered an unobstructed view of his smooth tummy and his lower-back tattoo. He slipped his petite feet into a pair of flip-flops and accessorized his left arm with a dozen assorted bracelets that he found loose throughout the suitcase. He studied himself in the mirror as he struck several provocative poses, giddy about what a sexy little twink he had become. His nose crinkled as he realized the waif in the mirror didn’t look like a Charles or a Chuck or even a Charlie… and he definitely wasn’t a Red! Nope, he was a real blue boi now. His eyes brightened at the thought. Yes! Blue! It was obvious, yet perfect. Still, he wondered if it’d be even better without the “e”! He closed his eyes and envisioned it, spelled out in big blue neon letters, and deemed the E-less version far more fabulous. A shiver shot up his backbone as he mentally christened himself “Blu”.

Dissatisfied with his unruly hair and eager to look perfect for Derek when he returned, Blu decided to make a quick visit to the hotel’s salon. He grabbed his wallet, but realized his wardrobe contained no pockets, so he removed a credit card, picked up his room key, and tucked them both into his elastic waistband against his hip bone. He stepped into the hall, leaving the TV on as Mike the Spike strenuously nailed another perp. Blu felt so full of vitality that he practically skipped down the hallway, rounding the corner to the lobby just as Derek and Pierce emerged from the room next door.

Blu was relieved that the salon wasn’t busy at this hour of the morning, as he would have been too antsy to wait his turn. He gravitated toward a well-groomed young male stylist, clutching at his untamed blue locks and pleading for help with this “emergency”. The stylist took a long look at this exotic little creature and led Blu to his station where Blu hopped up into the padded chair and wriggled his butt into a comfortable position. The stylist snapped an apron around Blu’s neck and asked, “What exactly do you want me to do?”

The newly twinkified customer couldn’t express his desires specifically. “It just needs to look…phenomenal.” He stared at the stylist’s upswept coif and said, “What you’ve got looks fantastic. Maybe something like that? I don’t know. You’re the expert. Just go with your instincts. I trust you, sweetie.” He winked into the mirror and let the stylist get to work.

The stylist examined Blu’s hair closely, amazed that the color remained consistent all the way down to the roots. His stubble, his eyebrows, even his eyelashes had the same tint, suggesting, improbably if not impossibly, that the customer’s hair grew in that color naturally. The stylist attempted to comb through the snarls of hair, then picked up his scissors to make some initial trims, but the strands were remarkably resistant to the blades. The stylist needed to squeeze the scissors with both hands to make even a small snip, yet it seemed to make no difference. It was as if the hair instantly grew back to its initial length, and the stray clippings seemed to blow away before they hit the floor.

Deciding that the best he could hope was to shape the blue hair into something presentable, the stylist leaned the chair back to give Blu a shampoo. Blu smiled as the young man soaked his hair with comfortingly warm water and churned up a headful of suds, kneading the hair to work out the kinks, then washing away the bubbles with a gently pulsating spray. All these tactile stimuli had caused the little bulge in Blu’s shorts to grow hard as a diamond. He opened his eyes and looked around the salon dreamily. Noticing a customer in the next chair over getting her nails painted, Blu asked, “I don’t s’pose you’ve got any polish that’d go well with my hair.” When the stylist said he was sure they did, Blu grinned and wiggled his toes, requesting a mani/pedi to go with his new ‘do. He shut his eyes again and settled back, leaving the stylist to work his wonders.

When Derek and Pierce had gone next door to confront Charles, they had no idea they had just missed running into his altered self in the hallway. Pierce had caught a glimpse of a spectacular ass disappearing around the corner at the lobby end of the hall, but it hadn’t entered his mind that it might belong to Charles.

Now, after finding Derek and Charles’s room unoccupied, they were back in Pierce’s suite, reviewing Derek’s options for the day. Bottles of Mariposa were stashed in Pierce’s luggage, carefully cushioned among his clothing to prevent them from breaking in transit. As Pierce pointed to the bottles and explained the cryptic identifying notes attached to each, he described the effects of each concoction with the precision of a wine connoisseur. Indicating a bottle with a Post-It labeled “Stout” in Pierce’s recognizable handwriting, Pierce described it as “a full-bodied Japanese variety. By which I mean it’s a sumo wrestler.”

“I think I’ll skip the sumo wrestler. How ‘bout that one?” Derek asked curiously, pointing to a bright pink bottle tagged “JB”. “What’s ‘JB’ stand for? Justin Bieber?” Derek got a kick out of the notion of becoming the Biebs for a day.

Pierce hook his head, looked a bit embarrassed, and said, “‘JB’ is shorthand for ‘Jail Bait’. It basically reverts you to whatever you were like as a sixteen-year-old.”

Derek flinched. “Egad. I was a total mess when I was sixteen. Hard pass.”

Pierce agreed. “Yeah, you really gotta be in the right country for that one.” Anxious to move along, Pierce buried the JB bottle under a pair of silver lame shorts and drew Derek’s attention to an amber bottle marked “Howl”. “This is a fun one, from their Halloween line. Turns you into a werewolf!”

Derek seriously pondered that option, always having found werewolf stories extremely erotic, but decided it was impractical in Cancun. “Feels like today’s gonna be too hot for all that hair.”

Pierce had to concur. “True. Plus, if you go to the beach, you’re gonna get sand everywhere. We’d probably need to vacuum you clean.”

Derek spotted a bottle tucked far to the side, its contents impenetrably dark, like Guinness mixed with tar. Pierce had labeled it with a large red “X”. Derek grabbed it by the neck and examined it. “What’s the story on this one?”

Pierce chewed on his lip, having hoped that Derek wouldn’t notice it. “I’d kinda been saving that one for a special occasion.”

“You’ve pretty much ruined my honeymoon,” Derek reminded him. “Maybe this counts as a special occasion. What is it?”

“It’s part of their celebrity line. Very rare. I did one once before.” Pierce pulled out his phone and flipped through his photos, pulling up an image that he showed to Derek.

Derek squinted at the blurry selfie. “Is that Harry Styles?”

“Nope,” Pierce said with a grin. “It’s me.”

“That’s you?” Derek said, taking a closer look. “It looks just like the real guy!”

“Exactly. That was the whole idea. They had to stop making the stuff, ‘cause some of the stars sued for copyright infringement.” Pierce looked at the photo fondly. “That was an awesome day. I was in L.A. on Grammy weekend. People were givin’ me free shit wherever I went. I could get into any club I wanted. Here, check this out.” He thumbed through his phone and showed Derek another image.

Derek’s mouth fell open. The photo showed Harry Styles being hugged by… “Is that you with Beyoncé?” As Pierce nodded smugly, Derek punched him in the arm. “Get out! You live the coolest life. Why didn’t you bring me along?”

Pierce was surprised. “I didn’t think it’d be your kind of scene.”

“You thought I wouldn’t want to hang with Beyoncé? I may not be as gay as you, but I’m still gay enough to wanna meet Beyoncé, motherfucker!” Then an idea occurred to Derek. “What makes you so sure that was Bey? I mean, what if it was just somebody who drank a Beyoncé bottle of Mariposa who was excited that they were meeting Harry Styles?”

Pierce looked at the photo with concern. “Hmmm. Never considered that. It would explain why she was so willing to blow me in the men’s room.”

Derek laughed, although he genuinely couldn’t tell if Pierce was kidding. He returned to his focus to the bottle in his hand. “So who would this one turn me into? Like, Justin Bieber?”

“Fuck, man, since when did you turn into such a fuckin’ Belieber? No, it’s somebody way cooler than the Biebs, belieb me.”

“Well, how am I supposed to know who it is? It’s not like there’s a picture or anything on here. All it says is a red X!”

Pierce hesitated. He had really hoped to keep this one for his own use, but he saw no point in lying to Derek. He leaned close and murmured, “It’s Mike the Spike.”

Derek gazed at the bottle with awe. “Mike the Spike? The porn guy?”

Pierce nodded. “Complete with a fully operational spike. Life-size.”

Derek reeled, taking a seat to ponder the concept, which grew increasingly irresistible the longer he thought it over. He smiled up at Pierce and demanded, “Gimme an opener.”

Pierce grumbled as he walked to the bar for a church key, which he then handed to Derek. Derek removed the bottle cap and was nearly knocked out by the potency of the drink’s aroma. “Whoa!” Derek said, rubbing his eyes. He couldn’t describe the scent exactly, but it smelled a bit of sweat and dirt and leather and jism. In a word, it smelled of masculinity.

Pierce made a move to take the bottle from Derek. “Ya know, this might be too strong for a greenhorn like you. Your body might not be ready for it. Maybe you should reconsider the werewolf.”

Derek wasn’t about to fall for Pierce’s reverse psychology. He turned away from Pierce and forced the bottle to his lips, choking down a few gulps. The drink was viscous, coating his mouth and throat with a slimy substance that immediately began to seep into his soft tissues. He knew right away that this was was far more potent than the Mariposa he had sampled on the previous days. The liquid had barely reached his tonsils, yet he was already feeling its impact. Every muscle in his body flexed. His grip on the bottle grew so strong, he feared it might shatter in his hand. Now that he’d had a sample, his body demanded more. He raised the bottle back to his mouth and forced himself to drain its remaining contents in a single prolonged chug.

Pierce realized he was trembling as he watched Derek, anticipation mingled with profound jealousy. “You might wanna take off your clothes. I don’t think they’re gonna fit you much longer.”

Derek stood up, but could already sense the changes kicking in. “Too late,” he said with an excited grin, hurling the empty bottle against the far wall where it burst into tiny fragments on impact. He stepped into the middle of the room, legs splayed, shaking his arms loose in anticipation of the tsunami that was building inside of him. As his chest puffed out, he could feel his ribcage expanding and his shoulders broadening. He could hear the threads of his fishnet tank top squeaking as they strained to contain his increasing bulk, and the fabric of his sweatpants bunched up around his burgeoning crotch. He curled his fists, flexing his growing forearms, and felt dizzy as the floor appeared to drop away and the ceiling grew closer.

Derek stumbled unsteadily across the room, landing heavily on the sofa and thwacking his head into the wall with a thundering whomp. He raised a hand to feel his skull for bumps and discovered that his hair had evaporated or receded or otherwise disappeared, leaving his scalp clean-shaven without a trace of stubble. He looked down as his muscles inflated to monumental size, less defined than the gymnast’s body he had previously inhabited, but possessing even greater strength. His thickening pecs popped the knots of his tank top, one, two, three at a time, until the exhausted shirt burst from the stress. The seams of his sweats gave way as his thighs doubled in circumference. The few gray scraps which still clung to his waistband were pushed aside as Derek’s tattooed dick arose like a surfacing submarine, gaining length, heft and solidity, already nearing a foot long with room to grow. Derek took hold of his cock with an unrecognizably huge and puffy hand that resembled a baseball mitt made of flesh. For such a monstrous dick, it proved to be incredibly sensitive, responding to even the slightest touch with further growth. As he brought himself toward ejaculation, his moans grew louder and the back of the couch banged rhythmically against the wall, the thumping increasing the faster he stroked. Although his skin tone had been darkening gradually throughout the process, it rapidly deepened into a dense brown just as a cascade of white erupted from the baseball-sized mushroom at the end of his Louisville-Slugger-sized cock. A torrent of cum oozed down the sides of his pulsating organ, coating his hand all the way to the wrist. Derek slumped into the cushions as the sofa complained beneath him. He blacked out, one tree-trunk leg draped over the armrest, the other stretched across the floor.

When Derek finally reopened his eyes, he had no idea how long he had been out. He raised himself up on one elbow and looked across the room where Pierce was sprawled in a chair, clutching his own deflated jizz-slickened dick, spent from witnessing Derek’s metamorphosis. “Oh my fuckin’ god,” he heard Pierce mutter weakly, “that was worth every goddamn peso.”

Derek rolled off the couch and spread out on his back, his new body taking up a remarkable amount of floor space. He stared up at the lazily rotating ceiling fan and grinned.

It took about ten minutes for Derek’s body to recuperate enough to move, although his cock had rebooted more quickly, ready to go again after a minute or two. Only now did Derek fully appreciate the enormity of the body he now inhabited. It had seemed more limber and agile while he was building to an orgasm, but without that hormonal rush, even the simple act of sitting up required substantial effort. Once he had managed to get onto his hands and knees, he felt Pierce beside him, attempting to help him get to his feet. Given their size difference, it looked like ant trying to lift a refrigerator. Derek chuckled with a rumble that began deep inside his chest. Derek brushed a beefy hand appreciatively through Pierce’s long black hair. “Thanks, little buddy,” he said, startled to hear the basso-profundo tones of Mike Cochran escape his throat. The low-frequency sound waves reverberated through Derek’s skeletal system. He was pretty sure that Mike’s sultry voice alone could trigger an orgasm.

In the bathroom, Derek checked out his new reflection, crouching in order to see his full head in the mirror. He was unable to detect any visible differences between himself and the man he had seen onscreen. The dark probing eyes, the heavy jaw, the immense neck between mountainous traps. The only minor variation was the earrings from yesterday, which were now solidly embedded in Derek’s lobes, adding a slight personal touch to a body which had otherwise eradicated every physical trace of Derek. “I can’t believe it,” Derek boomed. “I look exactly like him.”

“Trust me, whoever designs this stuff is a stickler for detail,” Pierce said. “When I was Harry, it came fully loaded with every single ugly-ass tattoo on that scrawny boy’s body.”

Derek let out a low chuckle. “Maybe I could be Mike the Spike’s stunt double. You know, step in whenever he couldn’t get it up.” He elbowed Pierce, nearly knocking the smaller man off his feet.

“Actually,” Pierce said conspiratorially, “I have a theory that there really IS no Mike the Spike. He’s just a Mariposa creation.”


“Why not? How do we know Mike the Spike is a real person? The only place anybody ever sees him is in gay porno movies. I mean, look at that body of yours. It’s not natural. It’s like somebody in a lab cooked up the ultimate gay wet dream of what a big black stud should look like.”

Derek studied himself in the mirror and had to admit that, if you were designing a porn star from scratch, it would be hard to suggest any improvements.

“The way I figure it,” Pierce continued, “every time they want to make another movie, they just have somebody drink a bottle of Mariposa, until they turn into this.” He gestured toward Derek’s body. “That would explain why his acting is so erratic. It’s a different fuckin’ guy every time! One day it’s Idris Elba. Next day he’s not available, so they have Steve Buscemi do it. Buscemi gets a gig, so they hand some Mariposa to the guy who brings donuts to the set. He chugs it down, bada-bing, bada-boom, they roll the cameras and he starts fuckin’.”

Derek looked down at Pierce dubiously. “You’re saying Idris Elba does Mike the Spike movies in his spare time?”

Pierce shrugged. “A boy can dream, can’t he? But wouldn’t that be awesome if it was true?”

Derek propped his hands on his hips and smiled at his reflection. “Well, step aside, Idris and Steve. Looks like it’s donut boy’s turn today.” Derek crossed the bathroom and wedged himself into the shower. “I’d say you’re welcome to join me, but I don’t think there’s room.”

“Nah, that’s okay,” Pierce said before asking, “Is it okay if I watch?”

“Eat your heart out.” Derek turned on the water and lathered himself up thoroughly, while Pierce eagerly took a front-row seat on the closed lid of the toilet. Derek realized that he didn’t mind being stared at, his usual shyness nowhere in evidence. After all, it wasn’t Derek’s body that Pierce couldn’t stop ogling; it was Mike the Spike’s. Derek realized that a guy wouldn’t get very far in porn if he was skittish about people seeing him naked.

“So,” Pierce asked, shouting over the gushing water, “who do you want to hang out with today, Spike? I still got the sumo guy, the werewolf…let’s see…” He tried to remember the other bottles that were left in his suitcase.

Derek stopped scrubbing for a moment. “You got any bottles that say ‘Pierce’?”

Pierce looked confused. “Whattaya mean?”

“That’s who I wanna spend the day with. My old college roommate, Pierce. Since I’ve been with Charles, he and I never get to hang out the way we used to. I kinda miss him.”

Pierce found this sweet, if inexplicable. “Seriously? Isn’t he the conceited asshole who ruined your honeymoon?”

“What I need today is a friend. You’re the oldest friend I got.” The eyes may have been Mike the Spike’s, but the emotion they conveyed was pure Derek.

Pierce was genuinely touched, but masked it with his standard sarcasm. “Sounds kinda kinky, but it’s your funeral…I mean, honeymoon.” He thought for a few moments, then stood up and walked with purpose out of the bathroom.

“Where you goin’?” Derek asked his departing audience. “Show’s just startin’!”

“Just thought of something I need to do,” Pierce said cryptically as he exited into the main room.

Derek shrugged his enormous shoulders and resumed his shower, devoting a solid three minutes just to washing the Spike itself. When he finished, it required three separate bath towels to dry him thoroughly. He strolled toward the living room, completely comfortable being utterly naked, amused as his dangling cock bounced back and forth between his quads. “Hey, you sure you got anything that’ll fit me? Your skinny jeans ain’t gonna cut it today. I’m gonna need one pant leg just for the spike!”

As Derek rounded the corner, he saw Pierce on the couch, in the final stages of masturbating. “Aw, jeez, man,” Derek said, shaking his head and lifting a big hand to shield his eyes. “Give your cock a rest, will ya? You’re gonna wear it out. Whattaya think you are, fifteen?”

“Not quite,” Pierce said between breaths, “but gettin’ close.”

Derek wondered what he meant by that. He noticed an open Mariposa bottle on the floor next to the couch, missing about a quarter of its neon pink contents. He struggled to remember what changes this particular variety would cause, then spotted the “JB” sticker. “‘Jail bait’? You’re turnin’ yourself into a kid?”

Pierce shook his head as his cock-stroking built to a crescendo. “Only drank…a little,” he panted. “Enough to…make me…nineteen or…twenty!” Cum launched from his dick in a rapid series of bursts, making white splotches on his cinnamon-colored skin.

Derek loomed over Pierce. He had always thought Pierce never seemed to age, but the man on the sofa milking the last of his orgasm looked much younger than 31. His skin was uncreased, his eyes seemed brighter, his body less muscular – except for his impressive souvenir Mariposa abs, which had survived the transformation intact. Derek bent down to grab the bottle and mused aloud, “I wonder what a young Mike the Spike would look like.”

Before Derek could take a sip, Pierce was on his feet and snatched the bottle from the big man’s hand. “Are you crazy? Don’t you remember, I told you not to drink from two bottles in the same day?”

Derek could barely recall those initial warnings in the note Pierce left with the six pack. “Well, yeah, I guess, but you never explained why.”

“This shit is volatile enough on its own. That much you know by now. But if you mix two different kinds, it’s like one of those volcanoes you made in school with vinegar and baking soda.” Pierce made the sound of an explosion. “The results become completely unpredictable…and totally irreversible. You wanna be stuck as Mike the Spike forever?” Unnerved by Derek’s silence, Pierce asked, “Well, do ya?”

Derek raised a hand to his cheek and replied, “I’m thinking it over!”

Blu strolled down the hallway, carefree, his hair swept back and high, gelled into place in what he and the stylist had dubbed a “blue-ffant”. He extracted the room key daintily from his waistband, careful not to disturb the ice-blue polish on his still-drying nails.

The whole time he was being pampered at the salon, Blu had grown increasingly turned on by all the tactile attention. He had somehow managed to keep himself from cumming in the barber’s chair, but now that he was safely in the privacy of his room, he barely let the door close behind him before he was stretched out on the sofa and tugging down his shorts. Feeling something hard jab him in the back, he stuck an arm beneath him and discovered his misplaced cell phone. Surprised he hadn’t discovered it earlier, he tossed it onto the coffee table, vowing to call Derek once he had taken care of the more urgent matter at hand. Never, not even in the depths of puberty, had he been in such a constant state of arousal. While Charles would have viewed this heightened eroticism as an unwelcome distraction from more important matters, Blu couldn’t imagine anything more important than tending to his insatiable cravings.

With one hand wrapped around his small but growing shaft, Blu took the TV remote in his free hand and clicked through to resume the porn flick he had been watching earlier. Although he scarcely needed extra stimuli, he couldn’t keep his eyes off the movie’s charismatic star and his most prominent attribute. The story appeared to be heading toward its climax, and so was Blu. As his thumb slid along the smooth tapered end of the remote control, Blu gazed at the device and grinned naughtily, seized by an idea. Even if this thought had ever occurred to Charles, he never would have acted upon it for hygienic reasons alone, but Blu felt joyously liberated from Charles’s numerous hang-ups. He slipped the remote beneath him and slowly propped it up between the sofa cushions, positioning it between his ass cheeks. He lowered his pelvis gently onto the plastic device, guiding the probe into his asshole. He gasped abruptly, causing a bubble of precum to spurt from his cock. He adjusted himself again to push the remote deeper inside of him, inadvertently depressing the “volume” button in the process. On TV, the big porn stud began moaning in ecstasy, louder and louder, and Blue could hear similar groans seeping through the wall from next door, giving him a stereo effect. Blu assumed the neighbor must be spanking it to the same movie, as he heard the back of a couch thudding rhythmically against their shared wall. Blu flexed at the waist and made one final push downward, burying the remote in his ass all the way to the mute button, cutting off Mike the Spike in mid-sentence as he declared, “You’re fuc…”

As Blu’s little dick shot its wad, a wave of sheer delight effervesced in his brain and he drifted contentedly into a short nap, the remote still wedged deep inside of him. When he awoke, he maneuvered the remote out of his butt and carried it to the bathroom where he meticulously cleaned it off. He then indulged in a luxurious shower, keeping his carefully sculpted hair safely out of the spray of the water. His mind had never felt so clear, his emotions so tranquil. He wished this idyllic moment could last forever, but eventually the hot water petered out and his skin began to prune. He dried off and returned to the living room where he attempted to call Derek, but hung up when he got no answer after four rings. He wondered where the hell Derek could be, having no idea that Derek’s phone was just on the other side of the wall, vibrating unheard inside the pocket of Derek’s shredded sweat pants that lay discarded on the floor.

Blu noticed the Iowa shirt neatly folded on the bar stool and suddenly remembered that he had promised to return it to that gorgeous kid named Kev. As Blu considered the possibility that he might meet up with Todd and the rest of those sexy midwestern boys, his little rod turned hard at the thought. Growing tired of waiting for Derek, Blu grabbed the NPR tote bag he had noticed in the suitcase and stuffed it with Kev’s shirt, a big fluffy towel, his wallet, his phone, a couple of bottled waters and a fistful of Speedos – all the essentials for a fun day on the beach. Just for kicks, he tossed in the TV remote too, never knowing if he might need its services again.

If you had asked him three days earlier, Charles would have considered it absurd to think he could ever feel uninhibited enough to walk down a public beach in nothing but a neon-blue, ass-accentuating Speedo, with bracelets that stretched nearly to his elbow, sporting a rip curl of blue hair and painted nails on his fingers and toes, yet here he was.

He had been an unusually uptight teenager and, despite his career success and financial stability – or, more accurately, because of it – Charles had felt even more hemmed in as an adult by the expectations of others and the demands he placed on himself. His days spent as Chuck and Charlie had been eye-opening and confidence-boosting, but becoming Blu was proving to be truly liberating. For the first time in his life, he felt he could do whatever he desired without worrying about the consequences. No one would expect someone who looked as eccentric as Blu to behave conventionally. In fact, they’d likely be disappointed if he did. Blue was determined to enjoy his day of newfound freedom to the fullest. He’d be disappointed in himself if he didn’t.

His pulse quickened as he neared the area where he had run into Todd the day before. Even from a distance, he could see the Iowa gang’s belongings amassed in the shelter of the same shady palapa, and he could make out at least two bodies beneath it. He strutted purposely in their direction, shifting the straps of his tote bag higher on his collar bone to keep them from slipping down his soft shoulder as he walked. Crossing the uneven sand forced his protruding ass to waggle exaggeratedly back and forth. Without making any conscious effort, Blu’s mere presence was attracting considerable attention from the other sun worshipers.

As he approached the boys’ campsite, Blu saw Bart sprawled out on a beach blanket, looking bloated and greenish, a bottle of beer wedged between his flabby thighs. Seated beside him was Kev, holding a cold beer bottle against his temple, his hair hanging limp and disheveled. Blu stopped about fifteen feet away, resting his wrists against his hip bones, and asked with a titter, “Rough night, boys?” His flutey voice came as a surprise each time he heard it, but he was growing more comfortable with it as the morning went on.

Bart lay motionless, ignoring the question, but Kev squinted over at the weird little dude with the sculpted blue hair and the obvious mini-hard-on in his banana hammock. “You could say that,” Kev replied, his Iowa-bred politeness overruling his instinct to ignore the odd-looking stranger.

Blu dropped his shoulder bag onto the sand and dug through it, reaching past the flip-flops and belly-baring top to retrieve Kev’s loaner shirt. He pulled it out and flapped it in the breeze to eliminate wrinkles. “I brought your shirt back,” he declared, walking toward Kev and dangling the shirt in front of him.

Kev recognized the shirt as his own, but he had no clue who was holding it or why. “Where’d you get that?”

Blu felt silly. He’d already grown so comfortable in his new skin that it had slipped his mind that the boys would find him totally unrecognizable. He realized he needed to concoct a plausible explanation on the fly. “Red asked me to return it.”

Searching his beer-fogged memories, Kev dimly recalled loaning the shirt to the dude who had hung out with them the day before. He scrutinized Blu, who seemed to share little in common with the tall athletic redhead they had befriended yesterday. “You’re friends with Red?”

“Sure am. He’s my…brother!” Blu didn’t know why he had felt compelled to add that detail. He knew he was violating Todd’s law of sticking as close to the truth as you could when you were lying, but he couldn’t seem to rein in his imagination today.

Curious, Bart cracked open his eyelids to get a look at the newcomer. Aside from some general facial characteristics, this guy looked nothing like Red. Bart wasn’t exactly an expert geneticist, but he offered his blunt opinion on the matter. “I call B.S.”

“Well, okay, half-brothers,” Blu said with a dramatic eye roll, hoping that made his story slightly more plausible.

“More like half brother, half sister,” Bart mumbled to Kev, who squelched a laugh.

Ordinarily, Charles wouldn’t have been able to hear the muttered remark over the wind and the surf, but Blu’s Mariposa-heightened senses were keen enough to pick it up. He was disappointed in the comment, not having detected any obvious homophobia among the guys yesterday beyond their distaste for Todd’s Broadway cast albums. Then again, they had probably assumed Red was another straight jock just like them, while Blu’s sexuality was far easier to surmise.

Blu tossed the shirt to Kev, who immediately pulled it on, covering up his toned and hairy torso. Kev remained suspicious. “How’d you even know I was the guy you were lookin’ for?”

“Red said you’d probably be somewhere around here. He gave me verrrry detailed descriptions of you boys. I just knew you had to be Baby Bear.” As Bart laughed at the nickname, he began to cough so hard that he worried he might puke. Blu looked at the cougher and said, “Which means you must be ‘Bart the Fart’!” Now it was Kev’s turn to laugh. “Red said there were four of you. Where are your buddies?”

“The Toddler dragged O to go work out,” Bart said.

“What’s the matter? Don’t you boys work out?” Blu asked the obviously hung-over Iowans.

Bart merely groaned, while Kev said, “I already lifted my weight in beer last night. So, if your brother’s Red, what do they call you? Blue?”

“Actually, it does!” Blu said brightly, pleased that Kev at least was willing to engage with him. He clasped his hands behind his back and dragged a foot back and forth in the sand, oblivious to how flirtatious this looked.

“Blue and Red?” Bart asked. “Who the fuck’s your mom? Pink?” He raised a hand and got a high-five in return from Kev.

Blu played along, embellishing his fictional family history. “We even got a half-sister who’s bi-racial. We call her Plaid.”

Kev and Bart both laughed, their resistance to Blu fading. Kev gestured to the cooler. “You want a beer or something?”

“I wouldn’t mind a drinky-poo!” Blu giggled, unsure where the hell “drinky-poo” came from. He kneeled beside the cooler and opened it up, evaluating his options, bypassing the various beers in favor of a teal-colored beverage labeled “Calypso Colada”. “Mmm, this looks scrumpsh.” Like “drinky-poo”, “scrumpsh” was not a Charles word. He wondered how the ingredients in every bottle of Mariposa managed to include not only physical traits and mental adjustments but a whole new vocabulary. He twisted off the cap and raised the bottle in a toast. “Here’s to another day in paradise!” He took a sip and found it was indeed scrumpsh.

Kev and Bart lifted their drinks half-heartedly, neither of them finding it remotely surprising that the blue-eyed, blue-haired, blue-nailed, blue-Speedoed Blu would even color-coordinate his choice of alcohol.

Blu walked back to where he had dropped his bag and nestled his butt on the beach. Bart found it unnerving that the impish stranger was facing toward them rather than the shore. “Ya know, the ocean’s thataway,” he said, pointing toward the Caribbean.

“I know,” Blu said, taking another swallow of his blue drink and digging his toes into the sand. He preferred the view in this direction.

When O kept griping about the shoddy equipment in the exercise room of their low-budget hotel, Todd told him about the outdoor workout park he had noticed during his solo morning walks, walks on which he allowed his eyes to roam more than was safe when the guys were around. O was psyched to check it out, but couldn’t convince Kev and Bart to join them. O had woken up just as bloodshot and burnt-out as those two, but he had learned that blasting through a morning workout was the best way for him to drive the evil spirits from his body and recover after a night of overindulgence. Designated driver Todd, of course, had no such need to recuperate.

Todd wore his sleeveless Iowa Hawkeyes shirt and baggy sweatpants, while O was shirtless in blue basketball shorts and sneakers. Todd was ostensibly spotting O on the bench press, but he was constantly calibrating how directly and for how long he dared look at his friend. He couldn’t risk staring as much as he would like at O’s exposed physique, which the weights were pumping to even more impressive dimensions. Then again, if he made it too obvious that he wasn’t looking at O, that might make it seem like Todd was trying too hard not to appear gay. He made every effort to appear nonchalant in his friend’s presence, while silently praying that O wouldn’t notice the raging hard-on that was tenting inside his sweats.

O grimaced, grunting loudly as he pushed for one final rep before lowering the weight bar. Psyched, he jumped up from the bench to clear the way for Todd, who instantly began to slide off the plates. “Whatcha doin’, man?” O said with annoyance.

Todd pointed to the barbell as it had been loaded for O’s set. “You kiddin’? That’s way more than I can lift.”

“Try it,” O said encouragingly.

“Can I call your attention to the difference between my body and yours?” Todd gestured toward O’s jacked arms and chest without looking at them.

“You don’t hafta do a full set. Just see how many you can do. If you’re ever gonna make any progress in life, you gotta push yourself outside your comfort zone.”

“But I’m comfortable in my comfort zone,” Todd replied with a slight whine, instantly realizing how pathetic it made him sound.

O just laughed, casually clapping a hand onto Todd’s back to guide him toward the bench. “C’mon, my brotha. Don’tcha wanna grow up big and strong like me?”

Todd was grateful O couldn’t hear the answer racing through his mind.

Across the park, Derek and Pierce had just arrived, and Derek was in a mood. Before they left the hotel, Pierce had suggested that they ask at the front desk if they could talk to Chico. The exasperated concierge informed them that Chico had left without explanation the day before and had not bothered to show up for his shift today. This news had enraged Derek, further fueling his suspicions that Charles and Chico were off having a Mariposa holiday together. Derek could think of only two ways to exorcise the anger building inside his enormous body: exercise or fucking.

Fucking had obvious appeal, especially now that he was in temporary possession of Mike Cochran’s legendary spike. If Charles was indeed cheating on Derek, a revenge fuck would provide a certain satisfying eye-for-an-eye symmetry, but Derek did not want to risk cheating on Charles without hard evidence that Charles had cheated on Derek first. Derek did not wish to commit premature infidelity. Any fucking plan would also, of necessity, require that Derek find someone to fuck. Sex with a random stranger held little appeal for Derek, leaving Pierce as the obvious fucking option, but Derek was angrier at Pierce for setting all this in motion than he was at Charles. He wasn’t about to reward Pierce for his devious actions by granting him intimate access to Mike the Spike.

So exercise it was.

Derek was curious to see how this lumbering beast of a body compared to the Chinese gymnast he had inhabited on day one. He knew Mike the Spike would be nowhere near as limber but must possess incredible brute strength. He took mammoth strides toward the area of the park with the heavier weights, drawing awestruck looks in his body-hugging red tank and matching track pants. Pierce lagged behind him, his much shorter legs struggling to keep up. It was rare for Pierce to be upstaged by anyone, but he now found himself in the shadow of Mike the Spike both literally and figuratively. Even Pierce’s appearance was pedestrian by his usual standards, just a white ringer tee and faded jeans with his hair pulled back in a braid. He did have an extra spring in his step thanks to the partial dose of Mariposa he had consumed, which had left him looking nearly identical to the way he had appeared as Derek’s freshman roomie.

As Todd fixed his focus on the impossibly heavy bar that loomed above him, he noticed that his would-be spotter’s attention had been pulled away. As Todd lifted his head from the bench to see what was distracting O, he instantly recognized the imposing figure walking toward them, but didn’t dare say anything.

“Holy shit,” he heard O say, “is that Mike the Spike?”

“Wh-oo?” Todd said, trying to sound blasé and praying that O hadn’t noticed the crack in his voice mid-word.

At the same time, Derek recognized the young blond currently occupying the bench. He leaned down and quietly remarked to Pierce, “Hey, isn’t that the kid who was here the other day checking me out?”

“Who?” Pierce replied, his own attention focused on the shirtless stud standing behind the bench. When he could finally bring himself to look away from O, he did find the kid in the Iowa shirt familiar. “Oh, yeah, you’re right. Your fan!”

“I noticed him leaving the club last night, and Charles told me they’d been hanging out yesterday. Maybe he knows where Charles is today.”

“For all we know, that could be Charles standing over there with him.” Pierce jerked his head in O’s direction.

Derek hadn’t even considered that possibility. If Mariposa had indeed transformed Charles into the athletic young man who was currently gawking at him, Derek might be inclined to forgive him quickly, then spend the rest of the day back at the hotel having makeup sex. Inside his track pants, he could feel the Spike stiffening against his right thigh. “What should we do?” he asked Pierce softly.

“You’re the private investigator. Investigate!”

Derek chuckled, trying to imagine how this scene would play out in one of Mike the Spike’s detective pornos. It would likely start “Law And Order”-style with a few benign questions and nebulous answers, then quickly transition to all four of them fucking on the bench. Derek decided to stick with the questions for now. “Hey, guys,” he said in his full resonant voice, “mind if we work in with you?”

“Not at all,” Todd said, eagerly vacating the bench for the newly arrived celebrity.

Derek straddled the bench and sitting down, automatically adjusting his semi-hard cock for comfort. Rendered essentially invisible due to Mike the Spike’s charisma, Pierce took a seat on a nearby leg press machine and observed the unfolding situation. He noted with amusement that both Todd and O’s eyes were automatically drawn toward the exceptional bulge in Derek’s pants.

As Derek lay back on the bench, he looked up at Todd and asked, “Say, blondie, didn’t I see you here a couple days ago?”

Todd was speechless. Although he had been infatuated with the young Chinese gymnast, he found it hard to believe that he wouldn’t have noticed if Mike Cochran had also been working out in the same park. His oversized presence would automatically have commanded attention, even if Todd hadn’t been familiar with Mike’s work (although he was, in fact, quite a Mike the Spike fanboy). Even harder for him to believe was that Mike would have noticed anyone as ordinary as Todd, let alone remembered him two days later. “I dunno” was all Todd could say in response.

“Sure,” Derek continued, “you were hangin’ over at the monkey bars with that smokin’-hot Asian brotha.” Without trying, he found himself falling into the speech patterns and vernacular of the hard-boiled character from the “Dick” movies. Maybe Pierce was onto something with his theory that a dose of Mariposa would allow literally anyone to play Mike the Spike.

“Oh, yeah, right,” Todd said, trying to sound casual. He didn’t notice O’s curious glance his way at the mention of the “smokin’-hot Asian brotha”. For a park that Todd had claimed to have only noticed in passing, it sure sounded like he had lingered a while.

“Maybe you fellas could help me out,” Derek said, grabbing onto the barbell and doing twelve reps with ease. “I’m on the lookout for a tall, good-lookin’ white boy. Lotsa freckles. Hair as red as a chili pepper. Goes by the name of Chuck. Either of you seen him?”

“Sounds like Red,” O blurted out. Todd shot O a glance, unsure why a porn star would be searching for their pal from the day before.

Derek sat up, swiping a hand across his shaved head to wipe away the beads of sweat. “Red?”

“He means Charlie,” Todd said, his head tilting upward as Derek rose from the bench… and rose… and rose. “He, uh, hung out with us yesterday.”

“That so?” Derek said, studying O for any indication the well-built African-American might really be Charles in a Mariposa disguise. “I don’t s’pose you’ve seen him today.”

O felt intimidated as Derek loomed over him at his full height. O rarely had to look up to anyone. “No, sir, we haven’t seen him since Todd here drove him home last night.”

Derek looked puzzled, since he had seen Todd leave the club crying. Had Charles abandoned him at the club to chase after Todd? If so, how did this factor into the timeline of Charles ending up in bed with Chico? He turned to Todd. “You drove him home?”

Todd realized he was on tricky terrain, needing to balance the cover story he had told the guys with the events as they had actually occurred. He followed his rule of thumb by telling as much of the truth as possible. “Yeah, we were at the club and Red said he’d had too much to drink, so he asked if I could drive him back to his hotel. So I did.”

“Anyone else with you?” Derek asked, wondering whether Chico had been along for the ride. Todd shook his head. “Don’t suppose he mighta mentioned what he was planning for today.” Both Todd and O shook their heads. Derek hadn’t detected any trace of Charles in O’s appearance or behavior. His sleuthing had hit a brick wall. Being a dick was hard.

“Well, if either of you gents happens to run into this Red fella, I’d be much obliged if you’d give me a holler.” Derek patted the pockets of his track pants in search of his phone, but the only hard object he felt was the Spike. He pointed a thumb toward Pierce. “My associate here will give you his contact deets.”

Pierce stood up, suddenly deputized. As he traded phone numbers with Todd and O, Todd voiced a quiet concern to Pierce, who seemed more approachable than the big man. “Is Red okay? He’s not in any trouble, I hope.”

Pierce shook his head reassuringly. “I’m sure it’s all just a simple misunderstanding.” For his own sake, Pierce hoped that was the truth. Dodgy as his actions may have been, he had convinced himself that he had given the six pack to the newlyweds with the noblest of intentions. He was sure it was considered poor etiquette for the best man to sabotage the marriage during the honeymoon.

After he and Todd had exchanged information with Pierce, O waved to Derek and said, “Good luck in your search, sir.”

Derek hadn’t meant to scare them away. “I hope I didn’t interrupt your workout.”

“It’s fine,” O said. “We were pretty much done.” He grabbed Todd by the elbow and turned them toward where their car was parked.

Todd didn’t mind. He had been spared the humiliation of trying to lift more than he could handle in front of a big buff porn star. But he was still surprised by the abruptness of O’s decision to leave the park, and by how rattled O seemed by this encounter. “You okay, man?”

“Don’t you know who that dude was?” O asked, awestruck. “That was Mike ‘the Spike’ Cochran. He’s, like, a huge porn star. And when I say huge…”

Todd had been so focused on concealing the fact that he knew who Mike Cochran was that it hadn’t occurred to him to wonder how O knew the man’s identity. “I think I maybe heard of him. But isn’t he in, like, gay porn?” The last two words came out in a strangled whisper, as if they shouldn’t be said aloud, like Voldemort or Beetlejuice.

“Yeah,” O said, laughing. “My girlfriend in high school rented one of his movies once by mistake. All she saw was the brother on the cover. She ended up digging it more than she expected.”

Well, that answered that, Todd thought. Perfectly innocent explanation. “I wonder how Red knows somebody like that.”

“Maybe we’re better off if we don’t know,” O said as they reached the minivan. They climbed in and drove back to the beach to rendezvous with the other guys.

Back in the park, Derek and Pierce watched the Iowans depart. “So, what’d you think of them?” Derek asked Pierce.

“Well, they were both hot in their own way. I’m sure you preferred the little preppy blond, but the big one was more my type.”

Derek snorted a laugh, not surprised that Pierce’s mind would immediately gravitate toward an evaluation of their do-ability. “Your type is any guy under 21. That why you aged yourself down today? So you could date an older guy for once?”

“Screw you,” Pierce said, taking an ill-advised swat at Derek’s wall of muscle that left him with throbbing knuckles.

“What makes you think he’s even gay,” Derek asked, “aside from your usual wishful thinking?”

“You serious? The way he was checkin’ out your goods? Puh-lease!”

“Who wouldn’t look at this damn thing?” Derek asked. “It’s so big, it’s got its own gravitational pull.”

“Nevertheless, I’m telling you, those two boys are gay. Probably not out, or at least not out-out. Pretty sure they’re not a couple. Too much personal space between them.”

“Why, you’re a regular Sure-Fuck Holmes,” Derek said.

“Damn straight! Maybe I should be the one doing pornos where I solve crimes. For a world-class dick, you’re not very perceptive.”

“Guess I’m still gettin’ the hang of my dickishness. So I assume you agree with me that the big guy wasn’t actually Charles?”

“Nah,” Pierce said. “He woulda reacted more when he saw me. Even if he was tryin’ to be chill, there woulda been some flash of recognition. Always focus on the eyes. Some things not even Mariposa can hide. So, what’s our next move, Doctor Twat-son?”

Still churning with excess energy, Derek noticed a boxing sandbag hanging in the corner of the park. He bunched up his cinderblock fists and said, “I need to go punch something several hundred times.”

When Todd and O arrived at the beach, it appeared to be siesta time, as both Bart and Kev were zonked out under the palapa. O prodded Kev with the toe of his sneaker. “Guess we didn’t miss anything exciting.”

Kev grumbled, shading his eyes with his hand as he looked up. “Oh. Hey. No, it’s been pretty dull. We did get a new neighbor.” He pointed to the blue-haired waif snoozing nearby, his head resting atop a semi-full tote bag. “You’ll never believe this, but he says he’s Red’s brother.”

Todd and O looked incredulously at the boi in the blue trunks. “No fuckin’ way,” O said, not seeing the resemblance.

Kev said. “Said his name is Blue. You believe that shit? Who ever heard of a family that was color-coded?”

“Shit, man, my whole family’s named Brown,” responded Theo “O” Brown.

Todd looked eagerly around the beach. “Is Red with him?”

“Ain’t seen him,” Bart mumbled out of the side of his mouth, lying face down and immobile. “Fuckin’ lightweight’s probably still sleeping it off.”

“Yeah, not everybody bounces back as easy as you,” O said sarcastically.

Todd rummaged through the guys’ stuff, grabbed something, then began walking in Blu’s direction. “What’re you doin’?” O asked him.

“He might be blue now, but he’ll be red soon enough without some of this.” Todd held up a tube of sunscreen and continued toward Blu, flipping open the cap as he walked. As he got closer, Todd couldn’t help but notice the small but emphatic boner inside the dozing man’s Speedo. Todd stopped short and reflexively squeezed the Coppertone, launching a stream of white cream which splattered across Blu’s stomach.

Wincing, Todd tried to think of a way to wipe the goop off the stranger’s body before he noticed, but the semi-awake twink simply grinned as he felt the substance land on his skin. Todd watched with fascination as Blu drowsily rubbed his hand through the puddle of sunscreen, then brought his fingertips to his lips. By the time Todd stepped forward to stop him, Blu was already licking the substance from his hand. His lips curled in disgust, having expected cum with a hint of blueberry but only tasting cold cream and coconut. He snapped awake, spitting and feeling around for the half-full bottle of Calypso Colada he knew he had left within reach.

Todd, always eager to help, saw the bottle planted in the sand, picked it up and placed it into Blu’s hand. Grateful, Blu drained the contents to wash the sunscreen taste out of his mouth. Crisis averted, Blu opened his eyes to see who had handed him the bottle. Upon seeing Todd, he leapt to his feet and screeched “Iowa!” His immediate instinct was to hug his young friend, but when he saw Todd backing away skittishly, it came back in a rush how much he had changed since they had last been face to face. Blu took him a moment to compose himself and get back in touch with today’s persona.

“Just thought you might need some sunscreen,” Todd said, handing the tube to Blu at arm’s length. “You can keep it.” He started to turn back toward his buddies, but Blu reached out and grasped his wrist.

“Didn’t mean to freak you out,” Blu said, scrambling not to alienate the kid. “You’re Todd, right? My brother’s Charlie. He told me so much about you, I feel like I already know you.”

Todd glanced back, flattered. “Charlie told you… about me?” It surprised Todd how much this news delighted him. “Is he… around?”

Blu shook his head. “No, I’m afraid not.” It pained him to see how disappointed this made the kid. He wished he had a bottle of Mariposa that would turn him back into Charile, even for an hour, just so he could spend a little more time with Todd.

“Is he, like, avoiding me?” Todd asked vulnerably. “When I left last night, I got the feeling he was tryin’ to blow me off.”

“Not at all,” Blu reassured Todd. “It’s just…well, you know how people say ‘It’s complicated’? Well, believe me, Charlie’s situation is, like, waaaay complicated. But I can tell you for a fact that Charlie would never wanna hurt you. He knows how tough it can be when you’re not sure you can really be who you know you really are.”

Todd looked curiously at the blue-haired imp. “You’re kidding. He seems, like, totally secure about who he is.”

“All an act,” Blu said, leaning in to whisper. “Poor guy has to get his confidence from a bottle.”

Todd could totally relate. He was trying to get a fix on Blu’s age, but it was proving tricky. He was shorter and skinnier and spritelier and ditizier than Todd, yet simultaneously seemed much wiser and more mature. “So you really are Charlie’s brother? The two of you seem so different.”

“Way down deep, we’re more alike than you’d think,” Blu assured him with a glint in his eye.

“This is so weird. O and I just ran into a couple of guys who were trying to find Charlie.”

“They were looking for me…I mean, him?” Blu tried to imagine who might be trying to locate a person who didn’t exist, but the only question that popped to the surface of Blu’s bubbly, flirty mind was “Were they cute?”

Todd wasn’t accustomed to discussing guys’ cuteness, but for some reason he felt instantly comfortable talking with Blu, possibly because he felt Blu wouldn’t judge him. Even so, he controlled his body language, making a deliberate effort not to appear too chummy, for fear of what his buddies would think. “The little guy was pretty cute,” he said quietly. “And the big guy was…” His voice sank to a confidential whisper. “You know who Mike the Spike is?”

Blu gasped and covered his mouth. “OMG! He looked like Mike the Spike?”

Todd’s eyes grew wide. “He was Mike the Spike! Can you believe it? Right here in Cancun. How the hell would your brother know him?”

How indeed, Blu wondered.

Across the sand, O watched with fascination as the usually shy Todd chatted amiably with the odd little blue-haired guy. He reached into his pocket and surreptitiously pulled out his phone.

Derek had been working out intensively for more than an hour, but showed no signs of fatigue. If anything, his body was feeding off the testosterone and adrenaline churning through his system and craving more. His already massive muscles had swollen to colossal dimensions, with thick veins erupting everywhere beneath the surface of his skin. Early on, he had shed his saturated tank top, and would have stripped off his track pants too if he’d been wearing anything beneath them.

Right now, he was in the middle of a marathon set of chin-ups. A throng of parkgoers had abandoned their workouts and encircled him, following him from one station to the next, awed by the big man’s stamina. They were chanting, counting each rep. They had reached fifty, and Derek seemed to just be warming up. At the front of the group was Pierce, more than a little jealous that he had allowed Derek to be the one transformed into Mike the Spike for the day. As incredible as it was to gaze upon such an exquisite specimen pulling off fantastic feats, he could only imagine how much more astonishing it must feel to experience it from the inside.

Derek’s pace began to slow as he reached his seventy-fifth chin-up, and he struggled to pushed himself through five more before allowing himself to drop to the ground. The gallery applauded, with many approaching him to slap him on the back or offer words of encouragement. When Derek announced that he was done with his workout, the crowd dispersed, aside from a few stragglers who approached him to let him know more intimately how much they enjoyed his films. Derek accepted their compliments graciously and was happy to pose for selfies, but drew the line when one of the fans asked if he could snap a quick shot of the Spike itself. Derek felt squeamish about giving a stranger a dick pic, even when it wasn’t technically his own dick.

Derek swaggered over to Pierce, reveling in the power surging through every one of his engorged muscles.

“Finally pooped out, eh?” Pierce teased. “What a wimp.”

Derek leaned down stiffly and whispered, “Honestly, I probably could go another hour, but all the attention was making me uncomfortable.”

“I don’t know that feeling,” Pierce said. “So, did you get out all of your aggression?”

Derek paused to evaluate his mood. He was thoroughly amped up, but couldn’t detect any of the fury he had been harboring earlier. One thing which hadn’t faded during all of his exertions was his near-constant state of arousal. The monster extending down his pants leg had been at least semi-hard throughout the whole workout, kept in check only by the resilience of the reinforced nylon of his track pants. Derek had never held an erection this long in his life, whether you measured in minutes or inches. “I’m doin’ good,” he assured Pierce, “but if I don’t get my rocks off soon, I think I’m gonna explode.”

Eager as Pierce might be to assist in that task, he knew he had to keep his own urges in check to avoid making this honeymoon any more turbulent than it had already become. As he tried to think of a safe place for Derek to “relieve” himself, he felt a vibration in his pocket. He pulled out his phone and saw a text from an unfamiliar sender.

“Aha! So you do read some people’s texts,” Derek bellowed indignantly. “You just ignore mine.”

“Oh, hush. Don’t be such a drama queen. It’s from one of those Iowa kids,” Pierce informed him.

That got Derek’s attention. “Did they find Charles?”

“Not quite,” Pierce said, holding up his phone to show a blurry snapshot of two guys standing together talking on a beach. “But they did find his brother.”

If he was going to keep enlarging his friends, Pierce realized he would have to start renting bigger cars.

He was back at the wheel of the Chevy Beat which “Jesus” had used to drive Derek and Charles to their hotel, the same Chevy Beat which still reeked of “Chuck’s” Cuban cigars, despite Pierce leaving the windows open for a day and investing in a dozen of those little pine-tree air fresheners. He was already dreading the cleaning fee he would be charged if he couldn’t get the smell out before he had to return the car tomorrow. Now, en route from the park to the beach, it was Derek, in the form of Mike “the Spike” Cochran, who monopolized the back seat with his immense size, and whose profuse post-workout perspiration was adding its own distinct aroma to the mix. Pierce held out a slim hope that the two warring stenches would cancel out each other, but he didn’t know if that theory had any scientific merit.

It didn’t help that Derek was seething with a rage that caused him to sweat even more heavily than an hour of strenuous exercise under the Mexican sun. Since seeing the shaky photo of “Charlie’s brother” chatting with the blond kid from Iowa, Derek’s mind had been prolifically concocting scenarios which would explain Charles’s behavior over the past 24 hours. In none of these imagined storylines did Charles emerge as an innocent party.

Pierce spoke calmly as he drove, doing his utmost to soothe the raging beast whose hot angry breath he could feel against his neck. “When we get there, I think it’d be best if I go talk to him first.”

“You?” Derek bellowed in the Spike’s rumbling voice. “This is all your fault! Charles’ll prob’ly throttle you.”

“If that really is Charles in the picture, I think I can handle him. Worst case, we’ll swap catty insults and threaten to scratch each other’s eyes out before grabbing a couple of strawberry mojitos while we get avocado facials.”

“You sure got a narrow view of what it means to be gay,” Derek griped.

“It’s not me, it’s the Mariposa. It’s not exactly subtle. You wouldn’t believe how much I had to water down that first dose to make Jesus as dull as he was. Mariposa doesn’t just make you slightly bigger or slightly hornier. It tends to turn people into extreme caricatures, in case you hadn’t noticed, Mr. Big-Ass Big-Muscle Big-Dick Porn Star.”

Derek had to concede the point. His incarnations as a Chinese gymnast and a tattooed punk hadn’t exactly blended into the scenery. Neither had the mammoth bear or red-haired jockboy that Charles had become. From the photo, it looked like Charles today had been whittled down to an eye-catching blue-haired twink. He could only imagine how much his dignified husband detested his latest transformation.

Blu made a yummy sound as he finished his third Calypso Colada, followed by the tiniest of burps. “These are soooo fuckin’ tasty,” he said, licking his lips. “You think I can get this in the States?”

“We bought it in Texas,” Todd informed him, halfway through his own bottle of the blue beverage. Todd didn’t particularly care for the stuff, but since he had been the one lobbying the other guys that they might want an occasional break from beer, he felt an obligation to help dispose of it. He couldn’t wait to get back to beer.

Todd was keeping Blu company underneath the palapa while his three traveling companions zipped a Frisbee from one to another. Thanks to their competitive natures, this activity was rousing Kev and Bart out of their morning inertia, although they still were largely standing in place and expending minimal effort in their throws. Despite their initial wariness, the Iowa boys had welcomed Blu into their sandbox, mostly based on his alleged relationship to the well-regarded Red. The more they chatted, Todd grew fonder of Blu’s biting sense of humor. Although Charles was intelligent and well-read, and could offer droll comments at times, he would never have been rude or fearless enough to unleash the caustic insults which rolled so easily off Blu’s tongue. It was just another way in which Charles felt gloriously liberated today.

With Todd’s college friends too far away to hear, Blu delicately dipped his dainty manicured toes into potentially dangerous water. “So, my brother told me the two of you went to a club last night, but you left right away.”

“Yeeeah,” Todd said, looking to the horizon uncomfortably. “That was a mistake.”

“What was the mistake?” Blu asked with arched eyebrows. “Going or leaving?”

Todd paused, unsure of the answer. Eventually, he admitted in a soft voice, “I appreciated what he was tryin’ to do, but I think it was just too soon for me.”

Blu scooted his little butt closer to Todd, careful to maintain a platonic distance. “Believe me, sweetie, I know that feeling. I’d say it took me a decade from when I knew that I knew what I was and when I finally felt comfortable enough to admit it out loud.”

Todd found it hard to believe that the flamboyant flirt beside him had ever been able to conceal his true self. “Really? A decade? How old are you anyway?”

Blu’s vanity perked up. “How old do you think I am?” He waited eagerly for the answer.

“I dunno,” Todd said, biting his lip. “Thirty?”

Blu frowned. He had been feeling like Todd’s contemporary, just as he had the day before, so it was deflating to learn that, despite Blu’s vivacious and fun-loving attitude, Todd perceived him as a decade older.

Seeing Blu’s disappointment, Todd frantically barked out lower numbers like a desperate contestant on “The Price Is Right”. “What? Twenty-eight? Twenty-six? Tell me! I’m not good at guessing ages.”

If he wanted, Blu could have pulled out his driver’s license to prove not only that he was really 31, but also that he had exactly the same ID as his “younger brother”. Instead, he copped to being 29, shaving away a couple years to save a little dignity, and complimented Todd on his precision.

Curious, Todd asked, “So how about Red? When did he…feel brave enough?”

“About the same as me,” Blu replied. Noticing that Todd was puzzled by the chronology, Blu felt it best to barrel onward and derail any further fact-checking. “The point is, once I… once we… came out, we both wished we’d done it way earlier. All those years of being afraid just felt like a waste of time. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had been braver when I was your age. I mean, if you do only get one life, why would you wanna wait so long to start living it?” Blu found it amusing to be doling out this advice. It sounded like the sort of thing Pierce could have said during his best-man toast, although Pierce would have spiced it up with a dick joke or two.

Just then, as if merely thinking Pierce’s name could conjure up his physical presence, Blu noticed a familiar figure approaching on the sand. At first, he assumed it must be a mirage or a hallucination or mistaken identity, but as he drew closer, there was no question that this was Pierce in the flesh.

With some difficulty, Pierce had convinced Derek to wait in the car until he had been able to suss out the situation with Charles. As the only blue-haired boi on the beach, Charles had been easy to spot. Even at a distance, Pierce could tell from the colorful urchin’s body language that he had noticed Pierce. Pierce stopped in his tracks when he saw the little guy stand up and excuse himself from his conversation with the blond kid. Resigned to his fate, Pierce watched as the slender figure in the blue Speedo marched his way. Pierce held his breath with trepidation, recalling that Charles had been mad enough on day one to punch a hole through a hotel-room wall. Clearly today’s version of Charles wouldn’t be capable of inflicting that kind of damage, but Pierce braced himself for Charles to unleash an angry tirade or a fusillade of furious slaps.

Blu’s expression was impossible to decipher as he stretched out his arms toward Pierce. It appeared likely that he was threatening to choke Pierce around the neck, but instead he placed his hands on the sides of Pierce’s head and pulled him close to plant a fat juicy kiss on Pierce’s mouth, one which lingered for a good five seconds.

Released from the suction of Blu’s lips, Pierce staggered back a couple of steps and stared at the exotic creature who only had a few inches of height advantage over him. Just to be certain, he asked, “Charles, right?”

Blu shivered and asked saucily, “Do I look like a fucking ‘Charles’ to you? I prefer ‘Blu’ now.”


“That’s right. B-L-U. I’m debating whether I should put an umlaut over the U or not, but I’m worried that might be a tad too much. What do you think?” Bubbling with excitement, he slowly spun around so Pierce could check him out, making a point to shake his bountiful backside to draw maximum attention to his tramp stamp and the firm globes of his ass.

Pierce was amazed, never having encountered this particular variety of Mariposa before. While there were still identifiable traces of Charles in his prettified facial features, the renovation was incredibly thorough. The unnaturally blue hair which perfectly matched the coloration of his eyes was undoubtedly the result of the elixir, but Pierce knew that the shimmering nail polish on Blu’s fingers and toes must have been applied by hand, meaning they were a conscious choice on Charles’s part. His loose posture and obvious ease at being nearly naked couldn’t have been more different from the studied rigidity Pierce associated with Charles. Even as a Mariposa veteran, Pierce found the transformation breathtaking. “You look…incredible.”

“Don’t I, though?” He bounced merrily on the balls of his feet, setting his butt jiggling again. “Ohmygod, it is so wonderful to see you, honey! And just look at you. You look like a goddamn teenager! Looks like somebody else has been dipping into the Mariposa.”

“Yeah, maybe, a little. So you’re NOT mad at me?” Pierce asked cautiously, still on guard for the anticipated backlash.

“Are you kidding? I feel faaaab-yoooo-lussss!!!” He shouted and waved his arms high over his head, like he was limbering up for the first letter of the “YMCA” dance.

Every head within 200 yards turned in their direction. For the first time, O became aware of the presence of Mike the Spike’s faithful native-American companion on the beach. Distracted, he was struck in the nape of his neck by the Frisbee that Bart had thrown his way. Pissed, O picked up the disc and flung it back briskly, aiming to decapitate Bart.

Ignoring the onlookers, Pierce placed his hands on Blu’s shoulders and spoke softly and calmly. “Charles…”, he began.

Blu corrected him in a sing-song voice, “Blu-uuu!”

“Okay, ‘Blu-uuu’. I’m gonna need you to pump the brakes for me, okay? Just dial it back about, like, fifty notches.”

Blu harrumphed, defiantly placing his hands on his hips. “Excuse me?”

“Look, I know I made a few jokes the other day about you not being gay enough, but you have to trust me when I tell you…you are way too gay.”

Blu clucked his tongue. “This is rich! Of all the people…”

“I know, I know,” Pierce said, aware of his seeming hypocrisy, “but I say this with total respect. You’re trying too hard.”

Blu became fiercely defensive. “I am not ‘trying’ at all. I’m just doing what comes naturally. You thought I was a stiff, that I needed to loosen up? Well, this is me loose, baby!” He tapped his lacquered fingernails on his sternum.

“Please, listen to me, Charles,” Pierce said, stressing his real name in hopes of reaching a version of Charles that might be submerged beneath the surface. “I may have done more Mariposa than anyone alive. I know exactly what you’re feeling. The Mariposa gets working. It seeps into every part of your body, every corner of your brain. You lose your inhibitions. Maybe you do some things that deep down you’ve always been curious about but were too scared or shy or sensible to do. It’s electrifying. It’s empowering. Pretty soon, you’re absolutely convinced that the way you are now is the authentic you, and you’re never gonna go back to the way you were. But it’s an illusion. An awesome illusion, but still an illusion. A coupla days ago, Derek was a Chinese gymnast, but he never believed that he was still gonna be a Chinese gymnast when the buzz wore off.”

“You’re wrong,” Blu replied. “Maybe that’s how it usually works, but I’m telling you, this is who I’m supposed to be. I’ve had urges my whole life to express myself more, to dare to be different, but I was always so afraid what people would think. What would it do to my image as a good son or an honor student or a serious lawyer? Every once in a while, usually after I had a drink or two, I’d think maybe I should shave my head or get my ears pierced or, I dunno, get ‘I’m really gay’ tattooed on my forehead in rainbow lettering. Just do something big and bold and irrevocable that no one could ignore. But I was terrified of being noticed, because I was afraid that if people discovered what I was really like, they wouldn’t like it. So I went the other way. I kept my head down and did my job and tried my best to be invisible. I chose boring. Boring was my camouflage. Derek was the only one who managed to see through it. But, guess what? I’m not gonna be boring any more. I choose not to.”

Pierce really hated hearing his own words thrown back at him, especially because they made so much sense. Having given the newlyweds the Mariposa six-pack with the specific intention of opening their minds, Pierce knew he was in no position to complain that Charles’s mind had been opened too much. Even so, he was concerned. “All those things you’re feeling, they’re great. I just don’t want you to do anything you’ll regret.”

“You know what I think?” Blu asked with a snippy tone. “I think you’re jealous. I think you don’t like having competition for who’s the most fabulous.”

Pierce scoffed. “Tread very carefully, blue boy. You’ve been a twink for a couple of hours and you’re trying to front me? Believe me, sister, you do not want to go against me in a fabulous-off.”

“Are you challenging me to a gay duel? What’s that like, exactly? ‘Sequins at dawn!’?” Blu felt his anger rising. “And what the hell are you even doing in Cancun? Did you follow us here? Have you been sneaking around behind our backs, getting your kicks watching our marriage disintegrate on our honeymoon?”

Pierce shouted back, “I’m here to make sure nothing goes wrong!”

Blu got in Pierce’s face and loudly exclaimed, “HA! Bang-up job so far!”

A voice boomed, “Stop it! Both of you!” Powerful hands pushed Pierce and Blu apart from each other. The two combatants turned to look at their towering referee: Derek, embodied in the form of Mike the Spike. He glared at both of them, a lit Cuban cigar clenched in his teeth.

Blu stared at the large black man in disbelief and lowered his intensity, knowing it could only be one person in there. “Derek?”

“How’d you guess?” the big man asked.

“I know your scent,” Blu explained. This was exactly how Derek smelled when he came home after a run, only about ten times more pungent and intermingled with tobacco smoke.

“I was just gonna come get you,” Pierce told Derek meekly.

“Yeah, I see you’ve really calmed things down,” Derek said facetiously, pressing a hand against Pierce’s chest. “Why don’t you tag out and let me talk to my husband for a while?” His scowl made clear that this was not a request.

Blu faced Pierce and pointed toward the Iowans’ palapa. “Yeah, go ask Todd for a drink. Try the blue stuff. I think you’ll like it, unless you think it’s too gay for ya.”

Pierce didn’t always know when he wasn’t wanted, but in this circumstance, it was pretty obvious. He walked over to Todd, glancing back at Derek and Blu a couple of times. When he reached the shelter, he said to Todd, “I hear you got some blue stuff I should try.”

“Oh. Yeah,” Todd said, glad to find someone else to help rid him of the blue booze. He opened the cooler and, as Pierce selected a bottle, asked, “Everything okay over there?”

“It’ll be fine,” Pierce said as if trying to convince himself. He focused on the bottle, inspecting the ingredients label of the Calypso Colada.

Todd’s normal aversion to prying was trumped by his genuine concern. “What was Blu sayin’ about a… a honeymoon?”

Pierce rubbed his eyes wearily, tired of lying. “They got married a few days ago. They’re just working out a few newlywed kinks.”

Todd’s jaw dropped. “That little guy married Mike the Spike?”

“Yeah, more or less,” Pierce sighed as he sipped from his bottle. “It’s complicated.”

Todd looked back at Blu and the porn star. Everything about this vacation seemed to be getting complicated.

Derek and Blu walked down the beach in hopes of getting some privacy. As Derek continued to puff on his cigar, Blu coughed and waved the smoke away when it drifted down toward his face.

“What’s the matter? I thought you liked these the other day,” Derek said.

“I liked a lotta things the other day. Today it smells like ass.”

Derek glanced down at Blu’s Speedo-stretching buttocks. “So what’s that fine ass of yours smell like?”

“You’re not in a porno now, okay? Not everything needs to be a double entendre. Where’d you get that cigar anyway?”

“You musta dropped it the other day. I found it on the floor of Pierce’s car.”

“You mean Jesus’s car?”

“Pierce’s car is Jesus’s car. Jesus was Pierce.”

Blu came to a halt as he factored that into the events of the past three days. “So he’s been down here in disguise this whole time?”

“He claims he was here to keep an eye on us, in case any problems came up. First day, he was Jesus. Yesterday, he was Beau.”

“Who’s Beau?”

Derek realized that he still thought fondly of the easygoing surfer and considered him a separate entity from Pierce, even though he now knew the truth. “Doesn’t matter,” Derek said dismissively before turning to confront his husband. “Listen, I know Pierce has put us both through a lot these past couple of days, so I’m not trying to place any blame here, but I just gotta know. Did you have sex with Chico the bellboy?”

Blu was blindsided. “Whaaaat? Did Pierce put that idea in your head?”

“No, my eyes put that idea in my head. I saw you and Chico in bed last night after you abandoned me at the club.”

“What? This is in-sane!” Blu shrieked. “You and I left the club together and went back to the hotel together.”

Derek placed his gigantic hands on Blu’s slight shoulders, his voice calm but forceful. “Please don’t lie to me, Charles. Just admit what you did and I’ll forgive you.”

“But I didn’t doooo anything! You and I went to the hotel, we both passed out, and when I woke up this morning, you’d already had your morning Mariposa and taken off without me!”

Derek spelled out his counter-narrative. “Oh, no, no, no, you left me at the club with Beau… I mean, Pierce. He and I came back to the hotel, I saw you sleeping with Chico and, this morning, I come back in the room, all the bottles are empty, and the two of you were gone!”

Blu was growing more confused. “Hold on a second. Are you sayin’ you didn’t drink the other bottle?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“Then how’d you turn into Dick the Prick?”

“Mike the Spike,” Derek corrected him, slightly insulted. “Pierce gave me something from his private stock, after I saw that you already drank your bottle.”

“But I only drank my bottle because I thought you already drank your bottle!”

The two men stared silently in opposite directions. They were at a stalemate. Each believed that their own version was accurate, yet the two stories were seemingly incompatible. Baffled, they needed to turn to an expert on the subject. Simultaneously, they both shouted “Pierce!”

Pierce cringed as he heard the high and low voices harmonize as they called his name. “Oh, fuck, what now?” he muttered, handing his bottle to Todd. “If I don’t come back alive, tell my mother I loved her…and that I’m the one who stole her red stilettos in tenth grade.”

Pierce tentatively made his way across the sand and discovered the two men deep in thought. They spelled out the discrepancies between their recollections of the past day’s events. After several minutes of spitballing theories and shooting them down, Pierce had an epiphany. He remembered seeing Chico staring with something approaching religious fervor at the half-empty Mariposa bottle which had turned Derek into the punk. Pierce thought it was possible that Chico sneaked back and downed the rest of that bottle, which would have turned him essentially into Derek’s identical mohawked and tattooed twin. “So maybe Charles brought Chico back from the club, thinking he was you,” he said, pointing at Derek, “but by the time you went into the room, Chico’s dose had already worn off. When you saw him, were you you or were you still the punk?”

Derek had to think a moment, but was fairly certain of the sequence. “No, I’d switched back by then.”

“There you go,” Pierce said triumphantly. “If Chico drank the other half of the bottle, it would’ve worn off for him too.”

“Is that really possible,” Blu asked, “for two people to turn into the same person?”

“It’s not only possible,” Pierce replied, “I’ve done it! A few years ago, my friend Rafael and I didn’t have time for a full dose before our next flight, so we decided to split a bottle. I even got a picture!” He pulled his phone from his pocket and zipped through his photos, eventually showing them a picture of two identical dark-skinned bodybuilders striking identical double-bi poses in identical yellow thongs.

Derek recognized the shot. “You showed me that! You said they were two Mexican twins that you had a three-way with!”

“Well, it was me and Rafael in the bodies of the twins, which would make it either a two-way or a four-way, so I just split the difference and called it three.” Pierce studied the photo, wondering how outrageously muscular he would have become if he had consumed an entire dose by himself. He vowed to track down another bottle as soon as he could.

Derek scratched his shaved scalp and looked down at Blu. “So if you took Chico home from the club, thinking he was me, then would it technically be cheating if you thought you were fucking me?”

Blu erupted, desperate to be believed. “But I wasn’t fucking you! I mean, him! I didn’t fuck anybody!”

A grin spread gradually across Mike the Spike’s typically scowling face. “I didn’t fuck anyone either!”

Blu smiled back, on the same wavelength. “So that means…”

Derek nodded. “We didn’t fuck around on each other!”

As all three of them sighed, a hidden force inside Derek’s right pant leg was pushing against the fabric insistently, rising unignorably. Blu watched with delight, marveling at what appeared to be a third thigh emerging on the big man’s body. He looked up and saw lust-filled eyes gazing down at him. The eyes may have belonged to Mike the Spike, but he recognized the lust as pure Derek.

Watching what was unfolding, Pierce’s mood shifted from relief to dismay. “Oh, Jesus. Are you seriously getting a hard-on from realizing that you weren’t unfaithful? Is that a fuckin’ monogamy boner?” He shook his head and turned away, griping, “You guys are hopeless.”

Blu pressed himself against Derek’s body, straddling Derek’s right leg so he could feel the pressure of the stiffening Spike. “I wanna fuck you so bad,” he declared.

Derek wrapped his enormous arms around his slim husband and replied breathily, “I wanna fuck you even worse. Go get your things.”

Blu bolted excitedly, dashing across the sand to retrieve his tote bag.

Derek turned to Pierce and demanded, “Gimme your car keys.”

Pierce looked over at him. “I can drive. Where we goin?”

Derek held out his hand and shook his head decisively. “We aren’t goin’ anywhere. I think my husband and I deserve some ‘alone time’ without our chaperone lurking around. I’d say you owe us that.”

Pierce felt he was in no position to argue. He walked over and placed the key to the rental car in Derek’s palm. “Be careful with it, will ya?”

Derek nodded, then bent down to mumble into Pierce’s ear. “You still got any pot on you?” Pierce patted his pockets and shook his head. “Any back in your room?”

Pierce could see how Mike the Spike coerced confessions so easily. It was hard to say ‘no’ to someone his size. Pierce begrudgingly handed Derek his room key and told him, “I still got a few joints in my suitcase, in a vial labeled ‘boner pills’.”

“So where do you keep your boner pills?” Derek asked with a smirk.

Pierce glanced at Derek’s giant bulge. “I don’t think you’re gonna need ’em.”

Blu returned breathless, the tote bag swinging on his shoulder. He took Derek’s hand and tried to tug him in the direction of the car, but his big body would not budge until it wanted to budge. Blu waved to Pierce, vowing “We won’t be long.”

Derek cupped a hand over the lump in his pants and said, “Speak for yourself.” Blu laughed giddily.

Watching Derek and Blu head toward the car, Pierce yelled after them, “What am I s’posed to do ‘til you get back?”

“Hang out with the Iowa boys,” Blu suggested. “A young guy like you should fit right in.

Derek added, “Pretend you’re still Beau!”

Pierce looked toward the palapa where all four of the college buddies were now lounging and drinking. All things considered, he could think of far worse ways to spend an afternoon than getting blasted on the beach in Cancun with four fit young bros, at least two of whom he suspected were gay. He walked over and greeted them with an ironic “How do you do, fellow kids?”

Passing through the hotel lobby, Derek paused at the front desk to ask if there was any update on the whereabouts of Chico. The concierge shook his head sourly. None of the other employees in the area seemed happy to hear Chico’s name either.

In the hallway on their way back to their room, Derek puzzled over the young man’s whereabouts. “Maybe he’ll show up at the club tonight. He has been there the past two nights.”

“Okay, but how will we know if he’s there?” Blu asked. “He coulda turned into anybody. Hell, that concierge coulda been him.”

“I doubt they’ve got a Mariposa flavor that turns you into a miserable portly guy who sits at a desk all day.”

“Maybe that’s his power fantasy,” Blu suggested. “Don’t kink-shame.”

Derek stopped walking and looked down curiously at his impish companion who was behaving so unlike the man he married. “Now that you mention it, how do I know you’re not Chico, pretending to be Charles, pretending to be Blu?”

“I guess you don’t,” Blu teased. “Ask me something only Charles would know.”

Derek took a moment to think. “Okay, what word does Charles yell out when he has a particularly intense orgasm?”

Blu leaned against the wall and smirked, wrinkling his nose. “I’ll let you know in ten to fifteen minutes.”

“Not sure it’ll take that long,” Derek said, impressed that his mighty erection had remained at full strength during the entire drive back to the hotel. He stopped short before reaching their door, doubling back when he remembered that he needed to retrieve something from Pierce’s room. He unlocked the door and headed to the bathroom closet, digging into Pierce’s suitcase in search of the vial of joints.

Blu dropped his tote bag on the floor and meandered through Pierce’s suite, finding it slightly jarring to be in a room where no one had punched a hole through the wall. He had grown restless on the drive, with the vibrations of the car only heightening his arousal. He had never been so excited about the imminent prospect of sex. His longing had taken form as a physical presence – or, more accurately, an absence, a palpable void located somewhere between his ass and his crotch which kept occupying more and more space and desperately needed to be filled.

His nerves tingled at the sight of an open Mariposa bottle on the floor next to the sofa, missing only a portion of its bright pink contents. He picked it up and took a whiff, detecting traces of cotton candy and springtime. He felt an overwhelming urge to drink it, but was halted by a sharply shouted “No!” He turned to see Derek’s immense body framed by the front door, a transparent yellow container full of marijuana cigarettes looking tiny in his hand. “Leave that alone. That’s the shit that turned Pierce so young today. C’mon, next door.”

Derek gestured and Blu obeyed, hustling through the open door but reaching back at the last second to stop it from closing. “Oopsy, forgot my bag!”

He rushed back into the room, snatched up his tote bag, then hesitated as he saw the real reason for his hasty return. The bottle of Mariposa seemed to be beckoning him, imploring him to take a sip. Now that his husband had the body and apparently the libido of a porn star, Blu would hate to disappoint him. What could it hurt to make himself a little younger, a little hotter, a little firmer? In order to satisfy Mike the Spike, wouldn’t it be wise to give himself a bit more pep?

Blu found the temptation irresistible. He picked up the Mariposa bottle and knocked back a sizable swig. As the liquid entered his body, it seemed more volatile than any of his previous doses, as if fireworks were going off inside of him at a molecular level. A surge of vitality buffeted his body as he tottered toward the door on wobbly legs.

Derek’s annoyed voice boomed through the door. “You coming?”

Blu whispered to himself, “Not yet!”

“Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Charles, in the form of Blu, yelped repeatedly as he crouched on the bed on his elbows and knees. Derek, embodied as Mike the Spike, was hunched over behind him, ramming the porn star’s trademark appendage forcefully between Blu’s bulbous ass cheeks.

The couple had commenced their foreplay with the premise that they were shooting a Mike the Spike sex scene, with Blu as the defiant prime suspect being subjected to the third degree, but the immediacy of their passion soon drove all notions of roleplay from their heads. They were simply two guys fucking.

As Derek rocked back and forth, only half of his fully-erect shaft could even fit into Blu’s hole. That was more than enough to satisfy Blu, who had never experienced anything as wonderful as the thick and throbbing organ sliding inside him, satisfying a desperate need that had been building all day. Droplets of warm sweat rolled off Derek’s head and body, drizzling steadily onto Blu’s back. Derek steadied himself with one hand mashed into the mattress, while his other hand reached around to grip Blu’s small but rigid cock, stroking it in rhythm with his movements. Blu’s armload of bracelets clicked and clacked with each thrust of Derek’s pelvis.

“Oh! Ohh! Ohhh!” Blue reiterated, growing increasingly emphatic.

“Lemme hear it, boy,” Derek barked in Mike’s commanding baritone. “Lemme hear the word!”

“Ohhhh! Ohhhhh!! Ohhhhhh-klahoma!!!” He belted out the last word Broadway-style, his voice no better as Blu than it had been as Chuck or Charles.

There it was, the proof Derek needed that his husband was still inside there somewhere. He had drilled deep enough to strike a vein of Charles.

Cum spurted erratically from Blu’s stubby dick, splattering the bedspread and dribbling over Derek’s clenched hand. Derek could sense that his own titanic cock, which had astonishingly remained hard for close to an hour, was finally ready to blast its load. He slowed his body and allowed his dick’s own spasms to carry him to completion. Like a separate entity, the Spike expanded and contracted inside of Blu, churning out bursts of hot cum that flowed deep inside the boi. Blu’s elbows buckled and his knees weakened, dropping his slender body onto the bed and releasing the Spike from the grip of his tight ass. Freed, Derek’s cock sprung up like a diving board, launching ropes of pumping jizz streaming into the air before splattering in long lines on Blu’s back and in his disheveled blue hair.

Derek completed his dismount, rolling off of Blu with such momentum that his enormous body continued tumbling over the edge of the bed and thudded onto the floor. Blue clutched his sides and laughed hysterically. “That’s going in the blooper reel,” he announced, returning to the conceit with which they had started.

One gargantuan hand rose over the lip of the bed and clutched a fistful of bedspread as Derek attempted to regain his balance and some of his dignity. “Shit, I forgot to do my big line! At the end of every movie, Mike the Spike yells ‘You’re fucked!’ when he cums.”

“It’s okay, big guy,” Blu reassured him. “You’ll get it on the next take. Okay, places everyone! Let’s take it from the top,” he shouted to an imaginary crew.

Derek’s energy was too spent to consider an immediate encore. “I’ll be in my trailer,” he said, letting go of the covers and falling to the floor like a sack of cement.

Blu scampered to the side of the bed and looked down at his lover, whose limp dick snaked across his torso. Even deflated, the Snake stretched nearly to his left nipple. “Wimp,” Blu said, flopping back on the bed restlessly, already in the mood to go again. He toyed with his nub of a cock, smearing some of the residual cum across his fingers. Curious, he sampled the goo with the tip of his tongue. The anticipated blueberry flavor was less prominent than before, now infused with a hint of coconut which he assumed was from the blue beverage he had been consuming on the beach. He could swear his cum even had a tinge of blue coloring, and he noticed that his skin now bore a dusting of bluish freckles. He hoped he wasn’t on his way to a completely blue complexion. He didn’t want to turn into some refugee from the Blue Man Group.

Hearing Derek’s heavy breathing transition into full-bore snoring, Blu climbed down from the bed and waltzed into the bathroom to clean himself. He switched on the light, excited to see if the anticipated post-orgasm refinements had been goosed further by the youth-restoring Mariposa he had sampled in Pierce’s room. Leaning toward the mirror to examine his unlined face, his eyes seemed wider and brighter, his nose more petite and his lips plumper. He certainly appeared younger, although by how many years, he couldn’t guess. Maybe he’d have to ask Todd for another blunt assessment. While still skinny, he seemed a bit more muscular and might even have sprouted an inch or two. His carefully-gelled coif had lengthened and rearranged itself, sticking out in every conceivable direction, with one long shock hanging alluringly over his left eye. He tried to sweep it back over his ear, but it kept falling forward. He left it, telling himself it gave him an air of mystery. Checking over his shoulder, he discovered that his lower-back tattoo had branched out, with tendrils that now stretched upward along his spinal column and wound into elaborate spirals across the surface of his ass cheeks.

Beyond these outward modifications, he sensed a more substantial evolution internally. Although he had become more and more comfortable with Mariposa’s impact with each round of changes, there had always been a conscious level on which he knew they were temporary. This felt distinctly different. He no longer had the perception that a stranger was staring back from the mirror. Now, this new identity seemed fully integrated into his sense of self, as if this was the way he’d always been… or at least the way he was always meant to be. His blue hair no longer seemed like a passing affectation, but an important part of what defined him as a unique individual. He didn’t just look younger or feel younger. He sensed that he was younger. He wondered how much of this de-aging was simply due to feeling stress-free, unburdened by the anxieties which had always weighed so heavily on Charles. He no longer felt defined by his fears or limited by the expectations of others.

If you had asked him in that moment what his name was, he wouldn’t have said “Charles.” Nor would he have had to scroll through his mental menu of options to choose the alias that seemed to fit his current appearance best.

He would have immediately and emphatically answered, “Blu.”

Pierce lied.

When he told Derek he didn’t have any marijuana in his possession, he actually had several joints in the pocket of his jeans which he was not prepared to relinquish. He was now sharing this stash with his new best buds from Iowa, who readily accepted his offer. If Pierce had learned one truism during his time on earth, it was that the easiest way to make friends is to share really good pot with them.

Pierce lied again when he told the Iowans his name.

Pierce knew that getting these dudes to bond with a short gay Native American might be a heavy lift. He didn’t want to risk alienating them further with the prissy handle his “Remington Steele”-loving mother had bestowed upon her baby boy. Instead, he told them his name was Nick, a good drinkin’-and-tokin’-buddy name if ever there was one. Coming up with appropriate monikers and detailed faux-biographies for his alter egos was one of the things enjoyed most about undergoing Mariposa transformations, even when the changes were relatively mild such as with today’s de-aging. Inventing elaborate backstories for his assumed identities had become Pierce’s primary creative outlet, a high-wire cross between writing a novel and doing improv that helped keep his mind focused while under the influence.

As it turned out, he needn’t have worried about being accepted by the guys. He had them at “free pot”.

“So, Nicky,” Kev asked as he sucked in some smoke and passed the reefer to Bart, “where do you go to school?”

“I’m majoring in philosophy at Enlightened State.” Not so much a lie as a joke, but it sailed over Kev and Bart’s heads.

“Never heard of it,” Bart said, taking a puff before handing the joint to O. “They got a good football team?”

“Transcendent.” Pierce nodded serenely.

O started to laugh in the middle of his puff, resulting in a coughing jag that lasted a full twenty seconds. While Bart and Kev mocked him as a lightweight, Todd retrieved a water bottle from the cooler and placed it in O’s hand. When the cough/laugh subsided, O took a long slow sip of water to calm himself, then grinned at Todd and said, “Thanks, buddy.” He offered the joint to Todd, who waved it off.

“You sure?” Pierce asked, not wanting the little blond to feel left out of the fun.

“I’m fine,” Todd said with an eager nod. He held up what was mercifully the last bottle of Calypso Colada. “I’ll just stick with this.”

“Your funeral,” Pierce said, taking the joint off Todd’s hands and enjoying a deep drag.

Feeling antsy, Todd grabbed the Frisbee from where it had been wedged in the sand. “Anybody wanna fling this around with me?”

“Sure, Toddler,” Kev said, swatting Bart on the shoulder. “C’mon, bro, it’s your last day to get some sun before we head back to cold, dark, miserable Iowa.” Not wanting to return home unexplainably pale from his tropical vacation, Bart grumbled as he pushed himself to his feet.

“How ‘bout you guys?” Todd asked O and “Nick” optimistically.

O looked at his skin and said with a grin, “I think I’m good on the tan front, buddy.”

Disappointed, Todd turned to Pierce. “How ‘bout you, Nick?”

Pierce shook his head and held up the joint. “I gotta attend to the fire.”

“Yo, Toddler,” Bart shouted from across the sand. “We doin’ this or what?”

Todd pivoted and jogged over to form the third point of a triangular formation with Bart and Kev.

Pierce watched O as O watched Todd with a fondness that Pierce thought went beyond one friend merely keeping an attentive eye on another friend. “You really like Todd, don’t you?” Pierce asked quietly.

“You bet,” O said in an offhand tone. “He’s like the little brother I never had, ya know? I put up with those two other jagoffs so I can be around him. I just wish they didn’t give him so much shit. I hate when they call him ‘Toddler’. So fuckin’ demeaning.” Kev and Bart were getting a kick out of intentionally throwing the Frisbee too high for Todd to reach or too far for him to run, but he made a determined effort to grab it each time. “See what those douches are doin’?” O asked Pierce. “They’re throwing it on purpose where he doesn’t have a prayer of catching it, but he’s such a scrapper, he gives it his all.”

Pierce asked, “Why don’tcha tell them to knock it off? Seems like they’d listen to you.”

“I was gonna once, but Todd asked me not to. He doesn’t want them thinkin’ he needs someone else to fight his battles for him.”

Pierce could relate. He prided himself on never needing to rely on anyone else’s help to get what he wanted.

Kev made an errant toss which sent the flying disc sailing directly toward O, who deftly snatched it out of the sky with his left hand while holding the joint in his right. O made a perfect fling directly within Todd’s strike zone. The spunky blond caught it easily, then zipped it like a throwing star in Kev’s direction.

O turned back to Pierce and asked with intense curiosity. “So what’s the deal with you and Mike the Spike? I mean, like, how’d you get to know him?”

The lying lobe of Pierce’s brain reengaged. He leaned back casually on his elbows and began, “Well, it all started when I saw an ad on Craigslist for a fluffer…”

After a short nap on the bedroom floor, Derek awoke to find the Spike fully recharged and Blu eager to tend to its needs. Kneeling between Derek’s spread legs, Blu worked his way up from the base of the great ebony obelisk, kissing and licking and nibbling along the shaft to coax it to greater heights. Derek could tell this wasn’t going to be another tantric marathon, as he was already on the verge of spurting.

When he finally reached the peak, Blu’s mandibular joints ached as they stretched to accommodate the enormous mushroom head. He felt like a snake unhinging its jaw in order to swallow an even larger snake. Unprepared for the volume of liquid unleashed when the Spike began to erupt into his mouth, Blu tumbled backwards, allowing what seemed like a pint of hot cum to slide down his throat. The Spike continued gushing like an oil well for a solid minute before gradually deflating. Derek dropped back onto the floor as he underwent another series of subtle post-orgasmic adjustments, enlarging him slightly in every dimension, making his brow even heavier and his chin even more imposing, while remaining recognizably Mike the Spike. Leaning against the bedpost, Blu wiped the back of his hand across his cum-spackled lips and watched as the macho man gained even more machismo.

In the aftermath, Blu crept over and spooned against Derek, resting his head on the big dude’s chest. Derek brushed his hand through his partner’s lush blue mane with the affection of petting a beloved dog. Sex between Derek and Charles had never been this supercharged, nor had the intimacy been so tender.

“Easy to see how you could get hooked on this,” Derek observed. Blu moaned affirmatively. “So, what should we do to make sure we get the maximum out of our final day?”

“Wellll,” Blu cooed, “you could fuck me a few more times.”

These were not words that Derek had ever heard from his husband. “Wow, you are fuckin’ insatiable!”

“You know it, baby,” replied Blu. “After that, I think you should take me out for a nice expensive romantic expensive intimate expensive dinner.”

“Taco Bell it is! And then what?”

“The-e-en, we go to the club and party ‘til they kick us out and have to drag us to the airport kicking and screaming!”

“I thought you hated clubs.”

Charles hated clubs,” Blu said, making an important distinction as he referred to his former self in the past tense. “I think it’d be a blast to walk into the club with Mike the Spike on my arm. Can you imagine the looks we’d get?” Blu got hard just thinking of all the envious glares that would be aimed his way.

Derek was amused by the idea. Mike Cochran might be an obscure figure among the general populace, but among a throng of gay clubgoers, he’d be a sensation. “Hell, in that crowd, he’d probably be bigger than Tom Cruise.”

Blu clutched Derek’s balls. “Honey, I guarantee you’re bigger than Tom Cruise… at least in every way that matters.” Seized by sudden inspiration, Blu scrambled across the room and fished through his tote bag to retrieve his phone. He scrolled through his contacts and dialed, then held the phone to his ear.

“Who you callin’?” Derek asked.

Blu raised his index finger into the air as he waited for someone to pick up.

Back on the beach, the boys from Iowa were trying to impress the nearby ladies with some sloppy and stoned two-on-two football. Pierce was lolling in the shade, unabashedly ogling every guy in sight but devoting particular attention to Todd. He felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and was surprised to discover Charles’s name on the caller ID. Even during the hectic lead-up to the wedding, he had rarely spoken to Charles on the phone. Communications between the couple and Pierce usually flowed through Derek. Pierce answered with a quizzical “Charles?”

“I told you, sweetie, it’s Blu now!” Blu said emphatically. He mimed for Derek to toss him a joint and the lighter. Derek was jonesing for another high himself, so he lit up a doobie and filled his gigantic lungs before handing the cig to Blu. Derek figured he needed to inhale about five times as much smoke for his bulky body to achieve the same buzz that his waifish companion would get from a single puff.

“What do you want now, ‘Blu’?” Pierce asked wearily.

“You don’t hafta sound so pissy,” Blu chided, setting the phone on the floor and activating the speaker so Derek could listen in. “I just wondered if you thought the club might like to have a celebrity guest tonight.”

Pierce instantly found himself on Blu’s wavelength. “We talking a very, very large celebrity guest?” He could hear Blu taking a long puff at the other end of the call.

“Biggest dick since Moby,” Blu gasped while holding the smoke in his lungs.

Pierce laughed. He wasn’t sure he had ever laughed at anything Charles had said. His mind was beginning to race at the thought of Mike the Spike paying a visit to the club. “I think that’s an awesome idea. They’d treat him like visiting royalty. He could pose for pictures, sign autographs…”

Derek tossed in a quibble. “I can’t sign autographs. I’m not the real Mike the Spike!”

“I’m telling you, there is no real Mike the Spike!” Pierce countered. “If it makes you feel better, you can sign ‘Idris Elba’!”

Blu was on his knees, growing increasingly excited as he shouted toward the phone. “They could sell special drinks in his honor, like Spiked Lemonade or…”

“A Long Sloe Comfortable Screw,” offered Pierce. “Or a Piledriver.”

Derek chimed in. “How about ‘Giant Black Dick In A Glass’?” Blu shot him a dirty look for not approaching this discussion with the seriousness it deserved.

“Oh, hey, Spike,” Pierce said. “Didn’t know you were there. How’s it hangin’?”

“Long and low, my friend,” Derek answered. “Long. And. Low.”

Blu huffed impatiently, trying to keep the conversation on topic. “Anyway, I was also thinkin’ that maybe he could, like, I dunno, judge a karaoke contest or something?”

“Three words,” Pierce replied, amped up by Blu’s enthusiasm and happy to build upon it. “Wet. Speedo. Contest.” Blu’s high-pitched squeal through the phone was enough to give Pierce permanent hearing damage.

“Omigod, that’d be a-may-zing!” Giddy, Blu’s butt cheeks were bouncing up and down against his heels. “Can you call the club and make all the arrangements?”

“Happy to,” Pierce said, blindsided by this new side of Charles. “So does this mean you’re not mad at me anymore?”

Blu clucked his tongue. “Why would I ever be mad at you, sweetie, after all you’ve done for me?” He was about to wind down the call when a new thought popped into his head. “Hey, can you give the phone to Iowa?”

“The whole state?” Pierce asked.

“I mean Todd, silly,” Blu whined.

“Sure. Just a minute.” Pierce stood up and walked toward where the guys were tossing the pigskin, waving the phone at Todd. “Hey, kid, I got a phone call for ya.”

Todd pointed to his chest and mouthed “Me?” When Pierce nodded, Todd made a T with his hands and called out, “Substitution! Nick’s comin’ in for me.” Before Pierce could object, Todd had already run over and snatched the phone from his hand. Pierce jogged onto the sand, wincing apologetically in advance for what was certain to be an embarrassing performance. His knowledge of football consisted of admiring how the uniforms displayed the players’ asses to such spectacular effect and signing an online petition for the Washington Redskins to change their name to the D.C. Honkies.

Todd was surprised to see the name “Charles” on the caller ID. “Hello?”

Caught in mid-puff, Blu coughed and replied with a raspy voice. “Todd?”

Although there was something odd about the strangulated voice, Todd instantly recognized it as Charlie from the day before. “Red? Is that you?” Todd turned his back to the football scrimmage to keep the other guys from seeing how flustered he had become or how noticeably his sweats were suddenly tenting.

Blu could hear the excitement in the young Iowan’s voice. His scratchy throat had inadvertently made him sound more like he had yesterday, which he realized would serve his current purposes better than Blu’s fluttery voice. He cleared his throat and attempted to proceed at that lower pitch, consciously trying to recreate the casual tone and jockboy vocabulary which had come so naturally to him as Red. “Yeah, man,” Blu said, totally bro-ing it up. “Toldja I wouldn’t forgetcha. How ya doin’?”

“Oh, ya know, just hangin’ with the guys,” Todd said, unsuccessfully masking the nervousness in his voice. “Hey, I met your brother earlier.”

“Yeah, so I hear. Pretty fuckin’ cool, isn’t he?” Blu asked, eager for a compliment.

“Sure, I guess,” Todd said politely before confessing softly, “Not as cool as you, though.” It was as close as he had ever brought himself to telling a guy, “I love you.”

Blu choked up as he heard the obvious ache in Todd’s voice, then noticed the suspicious look in Derek’s eyes. Blu shrugged and whispered dismissively, “Kid had a little crush on me,” illustrating the size of said crush by holding his thumb and forefinger a centimeter apart.

Todd’s voice came through the speaker. “What was that?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Blu said, flustered, forgetting for the moment to butchify his voice. He took another toke for reinforcement. “Anyhow, I just wanted to say I hope you can find your way back to the club tonight. It’s gonna be a total blast.”

“I dunno,” Todd said, skittish about another visit to the gay club. “The guys are countin’ on me to drive ’em…”

Blu grew furious, feeling his voice rising in anger with each sentence. “Don’t use them as an excuse! Let one of their lazy asses be the designated driver for once! You’re not their mom. Stand up for yourself, goddammit! This is your vacation too. You owe it to yourself to have at least one night to do what you want!”

Todd was still wishy-washy. “I know, I know, but… how would I even get away from ’em? I mean, wouldn’t they wonder where I was goin’?”

“Tell ’em… I dunno… tell ’em you’re sick. Say you drank too much and you think you’re gonna barf and you’re just gonna stay in for the night. Then we’ll swing by the hotel and pick you up!”

That perked up Todd’s interest. “You’ll pick me up? So you’re goin’ to the club?”

“Yeah. Sure. Of course.” Out of the corner of his eye, Blu could see Derek looking skeptical. Blu waved off Derek’s downer attitude as a distraction. “What time should we come get you?”

The prospect of seeing Red again was enough of a lure to overcome Todd’s resistance. He whispered into the phone, “How ‘bout I call you once the guys have gone out, to let you know the coast is clear?”

“I guess that’ll work,” Blu said.

“Great! So I guess that means you gotta give me your number now!” Todd grinned victoriously, pulling out his own phone and opening his “contacts” folder.

Blu had outwitted himself. He gave Todd his number, no longer concerned with the propriety of swapping numbers with a kid ten years his junior. As far as Blu was concerned, they were now contemporaries.

“Okay,” Todd said excitedly. “I gotta get back to the game. I’ll hand you back to Nick.”

Blu and Derek looked confused. Derek mouthed, “Who’s Nick?” Blu shrugged.

Todd walked back toward the guys just as Bart tossed the football in Pierce’s direction. The ball miraculously landed in Pierce’s hands and remained there. Pierce was so stunned, he stood in place and stared at the ball, unaware until it was too late that O and Kev were barreling toward him at full speed. They flattened Pierce, their bodies falling on top of his. As they stood up, Pierce lay in the sand, dazed but exhilarated from being buried in the dogpile. O and Kev each took an arm and pulled Pierce to his feet. O gave him an encouraging slap on the butt and complimented “Nick” on his hustle.

“I can take over for ya,” Todd offered, holding out the phone for Pierce.

“It’s okay, man, I’m good,” Pierce said, running exuberantly back toward Bart so they could plan their next play. “I think I’m gettin’ the hang of this.”

Todd raised the phone back to his ear. “Guess Nick’s busy. He’ll have to call you back later.” He whispered his sign-off: “See you tonight, Red!”

As the call disconnected, Derek stared at Blu. “Maybe it’s me, but that kid sure sounds pretty smitten with ‘Red’. You sure there’s nothin’ you need to tell me about you two?”

Blu found the combination of Mike the Spike’s body and Derek’s glare highly intimidating. “I swear, nothin’ happened,” Blu assured him, his voice still stuck in “Red” mode. “He’s such a sweet kid. I just want him to have one night in Cancun when he can be himself.”

“I wonder what that would be like,” Derek said, facing the prospect of visiting the club for the third time with a third assumed identity. “What’s the idea of turning my going to the club into a big production? You know I don’t like attention.”

Blu crawled toward Derek, his voice reverting to Blu’s playful squeak. “Don’t be such a party pooper, big guy. Mike the Spike showin’ up was gonna be a big hairy deal no matter what. Why not have a little fun with it? Just think about it. A room full of hot sweaty guys, and every one of them is thinkin’ about your cock!” He pounced aggressively onto Derek and nuzzled his neck.

As Derek surrendered to Blu’s assault, he asked, “Isn’t your little buddy from Iowa gonna be crushed when his crush doesn’t show up? I mean, unless Pierce manages to find you an extra bottle of ‘Red’ somewhere…”

Blu didn’t seem worried. “Red was just the carrot to lure Todd out of his shell. Once we get him to the club, we just hafta make sure he has such a fantastic time, he forgets all about stupid ol’ Red.”

Derek stared quizzically at his partner, finding it harder and harder to discern any hint of Charles behind Blu’s impish face. “I’ve never seen you show this much concern for a total stranger before.”

“Get used to it, honey,” Blu informed him, “I got a feeling I’m gonna be doin’ a lot of things you’ve never seen before.”

And with that, the blue-haired former germophobe pushed the big man to the floor face down, buried his nose between Mike the Spike’s muscular buttocks, and delightedly circled the tip of his tongue around the circumference of Derek’s asshole.

Derek gasped and his eyes flew open with surprise. He didn’t expect this version of Charles to be around much longer, but he was damn sure gonna enjoy it while it lasted.


“Thanks for your diagnosis, Dr. Bart,” O sneered at Bart as he knelt beside the bed where Todd was squirming, clutching his stomach in distress.

The other Iowans were spread around the room, their attention fixated on their ailing compadre. Also hovering on the sidelines was their new pal “Nick”, who had been the first to point out how sickly Todd appeared on the beach and had insisted on tagging along when they rushed back to their hotel.

O placed a hand on Todd’s forehead. It didn’t seem warm but it was a bit clammy, which O figured could just be the sunscreen that Todd slathered on like cake frosting. “You want us to take you to the hospital?”

No!” Todd shouted emphatically, seeming for a moment to be perfectly healthy before sinking back onto the pillow and moaning in agony.

“My money’s on Montezuma’s Revenge,” offered “Nick”, aka Pierce, showing almost as much concern for Todd as O was.

Kev weighed in with his own hypothesis. “Bet you a million bucks it was that blue shit he was drinking. That’s why I make a point never to put anything blue in my mouth.”

“So I guess you won’t be suckin’ off Nick’s blue-haired buddy then?” Bart said with a cackle. Kev picked up a pillow from the other bed and hurled it across the room with deadly accuracy, knocking Bart off balance and dropping him to the floor. Bart lofted the pillow back furiously, throwing it in a high arc which missed Kev entirely, but did take out a bedside lamp.

“Children, behave,” O snapped, shaking his head at his juvenile contemporaries. “Well, whattaya say, guys? Should we order up a pizza and stay in for the night?” Kev and Bart groaned in mild opposition to this plan from the group’s de facto leader.

Wincing, Todd made a valiant attempt to sit up. “No. No way. Don’t waste your last night here on my account. You guys should go out and party. I swear I’ll be fine.”

“Ya don’t look fine, buddy,” O said, his brow furrowed. “You look pale.”

Bart laughed. “Dude always looks pale, O!”

“I promise,” Todd assured O weakly. “I just need to sleep it off. I’m sure I’ll feel better in the morning.” O didn’t want to overreact, but he felt guilty about leaving a man behind while the rest of them partied. Todd was touched by the obvious concern that showed on O’s face. “It’s okay, O. I’m not a baby.”

Pierce softly cleared his throat and said, “I can stay here and look after him if you want.”

Todd stretched an arm weakly in Pierce’s direction and said, “Seriously, that’s not necess…” Todd started coughing with enough force that vomiting didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. Bart and Kev both flinched and looked away, just in case a gusher of blue booze was about to be unleashed.

“That’s awfully nice of you, Nick,” O told Pierce, “but we can’t expect you to…”

Pierce interrupted, “It’d be my pleasure. You guys have been so cool to me all day. Think of this as me payin’ you back.”

“That awesome weed of yours was all the thanks we need,” Kev said.

“Speakin’ of, you got any more o’ that shit?” Bart asked. Kev bombed him with another pillow, even though he wouldn’t have minded a little more of “Nick’s” pot either.

O still found the generous offer beyond the call of duty. “You must have other plans for tonight.”

“Nothin’ I can’t blow off,” Pierce insisted. “I get down here pretty often. Who knows when you guys’ll get back to Cancun?”

“And you’re sure you don’t mind?” O asked Pierce.

“Doy! I’m the one who suggested it,” Pierce said. “Go, have fun! Between the football and the pot, I’m so beat I’ll prob’ly crash before Todd does.”

Kev and Bart were already acting as if the issue was decided, shoving each other out of the way to see who could get to the shower first.

Todd gestured for O to go, adding a mild cough for emphasis. O conceded, asking “You got the car keys?”

Todd stared at O. “You got ’em! Remember? From when you drove us back from the beach.”

“Oh, right,” O said, feeling the bulge of the keychain in his pocket. He stood up and walked across the room to pick out his clothes for the evening.

Behind O’s back, Todd glanced at Pierce and smirked. Pierce gave him a quick thumb’s-up. Their plan was working.

Derek was tearing apart his and Charles’ suite in search of his phone, which had been MIA since that morning. He had exhausted all of the obvious spots. It wasn’t on the bedside table or on top of the bar or inside the mini-fridge or on the toilet tank. He had nearly shredded his clothes from the previous two days as he attempted to shove his Mike-the-Spike-sized mitts into the pockets of the drawstring shorts he’d worn to the exercise park and the black cutoffs he had sported during his short-lived punk phase. He had checked between the couch cushions and was now single-handedly hoisting the couch off the floor to see if the phone had been shoved beneath it. Finding nothing but dust bunnies and discarded condom wrappers, he let the sofa drop heavily to the floor.

“Where the fuck could it be?” he bellowed in frustration, swiping his big hands over the beads of sweat on his shaved scalp. “Dial it again,” he commanded Blu.

“Again?” Blu griped wearily from the barstool where he sat, having already gone through this routine three times. He pointedly lowered his middle finger onto the screen of his phone, redialing Derek’s number. Derek held out his hands in a shushing gesture and listened carefully for his ring tone. As had happened three times before, the room remained eerily silent. Blu whined, “Just forget about it and…”

Derek raised his palm dramatically in Blu’s direction, then took a few slow and steady steps toward the wall which separated their suite from Pierce’s. He pressed his ear against the wall and closed his eyes to focus. It was faint, but he was certain he could hear a slight buzz which stopped and started at regular intervals. He smacked his forehead with his hand and walked to the door, pulling two key cards from his pocket. In the hall, he looked at the identical cards and chose one at random. As a sign that his luck might be changing, the first card he chose opened Pierce’s door. There, on the floor in the middle of the living room, were the remnants of the gray sweats he had been wearing that morning when he hulked out and became Mike the Spike. The scraps of cloth were scootching across the floor, propelled by the vibrating phone still trapped in one of the intact pockets. Derek returned to his own room, clutching the phone victoriously.

“Halle-fuckin’-lujah!” Blu exclaimed. “Now can we get ready to go out?”

Derek gestured graciously toward the door to the bedroom. “After you, Mr. Blu.”

Blu, still naked, hopped nimbly off his stool and was halfway to the bedroom door when he heard his own phone buzz atop the bar. He groaned, then walked back to check what it was. He saw a single line of text from Pierce, which he read aloud. “‘The Hawks have left the nest.’ Hawks?” Blu gave Derek a “what-the-fuck?” look.

“Hawkeyes,” Derek explained. “Your Iowa buddies. They flew the coop. Must mean that Pierce and your little blond buddy are ready to go.”

“Well, why didn’t he just say that?” Blu griped. He picked up the phone and sent back a quick message, asking for the address of Todd’s hotel. Although Blu had been there yesterday in the form of Red, he couldn’t remember the name of the place and had no clue how to get there. Upon receipt of the address, Blu fired off another text:


Pierce shot back a quick reply: “BRING MY BLUE CARRYON.”

Pierce stood in front of the hotel, still dressed in his unassuming ringer t-shirt and blue jeans. Derek lurked behind a pillar, remaining out of sight on the off chance that his traveling companions made an unexpectedly early return from their revelries.

“Here they are,” Pierce announced as he saw his rented Chevy pulling up to the curb. Todd stepped out of the shadows in an Iowa basketball jersey and camo cargos. He peered into the approaching car and could make out Mike the Spike at the wheel, surprised that such a big star would drive himself. Riding shotgun, Blu leaned out the window and shouted, “Helllloooo, boys. Ready to have some fun?”

To his disappointment, Todd didn’t see Red in the back seat. “Where’s your brother?”

“Oh, Charlie?” Blu replied, making up an excuse on the fly. “He’s busy, but he said maybe he’ll try to meet us later.” Todd’s enthusiasm took a notable hit.

“You got my bag?” Pierce asked.

“In back,” Derek barked. “Wouldja get in before people start honkin’ at me?”

Blu leaned his seat forward and Pierce held open the passenger door. Todd looked ambivalent, having been much more psyched about this escapade when he thought Red would be at his side to calm his shaky nerves. “C’mon, kid,” Pierce said, “don’t get sick on me for real.”

Todd was tempted to bail, to go back to the room, get a sixer of Corona and some wings, maybe watch “Infinity War” in Spanish, then turn in early to rest up for the long drive home. But Todd realized that, if he chickened out now, Bart would be justified in calling him a lightweight. He decided it was time to man up and face his fears. He climbed into the back seat next to Pierce’s carry-on suitcase, and Pierce slid in beside him. The interior was filled with the stench of the Cuban that Derek was puffing. Pierce was annoyed, but decided that paying the cleaning fee was preferable to picking a fight with someone the size of Mike the Spike.

As Derek pulled into traffic and followed the GPS directions to the club, Blu unbuckled his safety belt, knelt on his seat and faced backwards, wrinkling his nose at Todd’s outfit. “Don’tcha own anything that doesn’t have the word ‘IOWA’ on it?”

“I proud of my school,” Todd proclaimed defensively.

“Nothin’ wrong with pride,” Pierce assured him as he unzipped his suitcase, “but you’re not goin’ to a goddamn frat party. Take off the shirt.”

Todd was uneasy. “Here? In the car?”

“It’s extreme makeover time, bro, and we’re fresh out of private dressing rooms. Pretend you’re Superman and this is a phone booth.” Pierce stripped off his own shirt and handed it to Todd. “Here, wear this. It’ll probably be a little tight on you, but that should be fine.” Todd didn’t really see the need to change, but he figured these guys knew more about how to dress for a gay disco than he did.

“Whattaya think of what I’m wearin’?” Blu asked, stretching upward proudly to model what he had chosen to wear from the clothes Pierce had supplied in their luggage: a yellow silk shirt and red board shorts.

“Hideous,” Pierce declared. “You look like you’re wearing the flag of Bolivia or something. I’ll find you something else.” Blu grumbled as he unbuttoned his shirt.

In the lights of the passing cars, Pierce noticed that Blu looked considerably younger than he had before he and Derek abandoned Pierce on the beach. Pierce was well aware that Mariposa made further incremental changes each time someone had sex, but from the looks of it, Mike the Spike had fucked a full decade out of Blu. “What you got on there, Spike?” Pierce asked.

Blu rolled his eyes. “Black leather vest. Black leather pants. Soooo boooo-ring!”

Derek said defensively, “These are your clothes, remember?” He was wearing the exact outfit Charles had worn to the club two nights earlier in his guise as Chuck, the leather daddy. It was the only thing they had found in their collection which was large enough to fit Derek’s current form. Todd was baffled how Mike the Spike could possibly fit into Blu’s clothing, but chose not to ask for clarification.

Pierce craned his neck to get a look and patted Derek’s bare shoulder in approval. “Classic, man. Wouldn’t change a thing. You got enough headroom down there for the ol’ Spike?”

Derek nodded. “It’s cozy, but it’ll do.” While Chuck’s chubby legs had been squeezed into these pants like sausage, Mike the Spike’s athletic thighs left enough wiggle room to comfortably accommodate his foot-long kielbasa.

As Pierce dug through his suitcase, evaluating his options, he absent-mindedly handed a wadded-up ball of blue fabric to Todd. “Here, hold this, will ya?”

Todd unraveled the ball and discovered that it was a dainty lace thong consisting of more air than fabric. He cringed, not wanting to seem like a poor sport. “Do I hafta?”

Pierce looked up, harried. “Oh, sorry, I meant that for blueboy.” He snatched the frilly item away from Todd and tossed it to the front seat where Blu grabbed it excitedly. He arched his back and excitedly undid his shorts, sliding them down to reveal he was wearing nothing underneath. To passing motorists, Blu appeared to be completely naked, with his shrunken dinky on full display. The driver beside them honked, his facial expression unamused.

Startled, Derek raised a hand to shield his view so he could concentrate on the road. “Jesus, put that thing away. You want me to have a wreck?”

“All right, all right! Anyone ever tell you you’re awfully uptight for a porn star?” Blu reluctantly sat his butt down as he guided the skimpy thong up his hairless legs, tucked his cock and balls into the front pouch, and fed the back string deep into his ass crack. He instantly approved. He knew he would be going on a shopping spree for thongs as soon as he got back to the States. Any moment that he spent without something wedged into his ass felt like a moment wasted.

Pierce watched Todd as the blond squeezed his upper body into the loaner t-shirt. It was small on him, as Pierce had predicted, but that only enhanced the visual impact of his pumped arms and pecs which seemed ready to burst out of the fabric. The tail ended just shy of his belly button, offering a tantalizing glimpse of Todd’s cobbled midsection. “What’s your waist? Thirty-two?”

“Thirty,” Todd said.

Pierce pulled some gray pants out of his luggage and handed them to Todd. “These oughta work,” he declared.

Todd unzipped his camo shorts and fed his legs into the tight denim. He was starting to get into this whole makeover idea. The less he looked like his usual self, he reasoned, the less he needed to worry about what people thought of him. He wished there was some way to disguise himself completely. Maybe if he was totally unrecognizable, he could finally relax enough to be himself.

As Derek plowed aggressively through traffic, his passengers contorted themselves into pretzels in the cramped space, wriggling out of their clothes and into new options from Pierce’s bag of tricks, providing the motorists of Cancun an impromptu mobile strip show. After trying on each new item, Todd and Blu modeled for Pierce’s evaluation, which inspired him to suggest further tweaks. Once the clothes were settled, Pierce set to work on accessories and other finishing touches, doing what he could with his limited time, tools and options. When Derek parked outside the club, his three cohorts stepped out of the car looking completely different from the way they had started the drive, emerging like newly transformed butterflies from a four-wheeled subcompact cocoon.

Blu climbed out first in a shimmering royal-blue v-neck with capped sleeves. Spandex shorts drew extra attention, as if more were needed, to his bountiful badonkadonk, with alternating blue and black vertical stripes providing lines of longitude which emphasized his exaggerated curves. Three non-functional black leather belts with silver trim looped in separate orbits around his waist. His sleek legs drew the eye down to a pair of blue suede ankle boots. Pierce had vetoed Blu’s clattering bracelets, relocating a few of them to Todd’s wrists while providing Blu with a pair of fingerless black mesh gloves in exchange. Although he could do nothing about its color, Pierce had combed away the emo tendencies of Blu’s hair, leaving him instead with a shelf of gelled hair jutting forward, casting a shadow across his forehead and eyes. Pierce had swept a slash of baby-blue powder across each of Blu’s eyelids, but had abandoned his attempts to apply any further cosmetics in the moving car.

Pierce emerged next in a paisley vest, purple leather jeans and matching knee boots. Unlike the others, he had the advantage of wearing clothes that had actually been purchased with his current body in mind. This was how he usually dressed for his Prince impersonation gig, although the bonus muscle from this morning’s de-aging gave him a more impressive torso and made the pants extra-snug in a way that Pierce definitely appreciated. During the drive, he had undone his braided hair, letting his long dark hair hang wild and free. A silver necklace studded with purple stones draped low across his pecs, and a temporary silver ear cuff was attached to his right earlobe. He extended the handle on his carry-on, knowing that its bounty of revealing swimwear in a wide range of sizes was likely to come in handy later on.

When Todd hesitated to get out of the car, Blu and Pierce coaxed him out with the threat that, if he didn’t exit peacefully, Mike the Spike would yank him out by force, possibly dislocating Todd’s arm if he dared to resist. Todd stretched out his legs first, encased in distressed gray skinny jeans. His feet were squeezed into a pair of Pierce’s black boots that were two sizes too small but which looked so stylish, he didn’t mind how much they pinched. He planted his feet on the ground and rose to his full height, plus an inch or two as he wobbled on the boots’ Cuban heels. The clinging white tee made him acutely aware of every breath he took and forced him to consciously tighten his already solid abs. He looked down shyly as he felt the others evaluating him.

Pierce took a step back to study the overall effect, then rushed in to make some touch-ups. He removed the cuff from his own ear and positioned it on Todd’s, and rolled up the sleeves of the t-shirt to give extra prominence to Todd’s hard-earned shoulder muscles. Still sensing the need for something more, Pierce stood on tiptoe and dragged his fingers through Todd’s light blond hair, brushing it forward into shaggy bangs that made the kid look even younger than his nineteen years. Finally satisfied, he summed up Todd’s appearance in a single word: “Adorable.”

“I’m speechless,” Blu declared, proving it by saying no more.

Derek patted Todd on the shoulder and said, “You’re gonna break some hearts, kid.” Todd gazed up at the porn star and grew flushed. “You might wanna zip your fly, though.”

Todd looked down and flinched as he saw that his zipper was indeed down. Although he’d been practically naked as he changed clothes in the car, he still felt shy enough to turn his back to the others as he zipped up. He spun back around and said with a crooked grin, “Okay, let’s get this over with!”

“That’s the spirit,” Pierce said.

The foursome strode across the street to the club, side-by-side in lockstep, looking like a modern incarnation of the Village People, with Derek as the leather man, Blu as an emo kid, Todd as the all-American boy next door, and Pierce, as always, typecast as the Indian. As soon as they stepped inside, a murmur spread through the crowd. Such a distinctive group would likely have attracted a fair amount of attention under any circumstances, but this went beyond mere curiosity. People were pointing and staring and talking excitedly. In a bad movie, the DJ would have scratched a vinyl record as they entered.

Pierce found the response flattering. Having come here frequently over the years, he considered himself something of a fixture at the club, but most of his visits were incognito under the influence of Mariposa. It was rare for him to show up looking like himself, even if, in this case, it was a markedly younger version of himself, so he found it incredibly gratifying that the regulars would recognize him. He smiled cordially as an awed dude in mirrored shades with leathery skin and yellow hot pants approached, saying, “I can’t believe you’re really here.” As Pierce put on his humblest facade, the overly-tanned man veered to Pierce’s right and made a beeline for Derek. “I’ve seen every one of your movies… multiple times.”

Derek was simultaneously amused and creeped out. As he looked around, he saw several other clubgoers converging on him, all with unnervingly delighted expressions. He felt like Taylor Swift, or lunch in a zombie movie. With a frozen grimace, Derek glanced worriedly at Pierce, who instantly recalibrated his attitude and inserted himself between Derek and the masses. Pierce raised his palms to hold them back and announced emphatically, “Please, let’s give our guest some room here. He’ll be happy to meet all of you once we get settled in. Thank you!” He clamped his fingers around Derek’s triceps and led him toward the bar, gesturing for Blu and Todd to follow them to the sanctuary of the bar.

“¡Hola, Manolo!” Pierce said, approaching the bartender.

Manolo brightened as he saw Pierce. “¡Hola, Señor Pierce! Hace tiempo que no nos vemos. I almost did not recognize you. You look so young!”

“Clean living,” Pierce assured him.

“Bull shitting,” Manolo replied, leaning down to ask confidentially, “Did you have work done, Señor? The Botox, maybe?”

“Nope, just a little shot from your favorite doctor, Dr. Mariposa,” Pierce answered. He had known Manolo as a wizened sixty-year-old barfly before he mistakenly drank two shots of different Mariposa varieties one night and transformed into the studly shirtless barkeep now on duty before him. Pierce raised his voice and introduced Manolo to Blu, Todd and, tugging Derek closer to the bar, “this guy, who I’m sure you recognize.”

“Absolutely,” Manolo said, stretching out to shake Derek’s hand. “Big fan of your work.” He winked, and Derek didn’t know if that meant the bartender was flirting or if he knew Derek wasn’t the real “Mike the Spike” (if there really was a real one). “What are all of you drinking tonight?”

“How ‘bout we start with four shots of your finest tequila?” Pierce suggested, pulling out his wallet.

As Manolo began to pour, he shook his head at Pierce. “No, Señor, you and your friends drink free tonight.” He turned to the other three and said, “I always know it’s gonna be a memorable night when Señor Pierce is here.”

“¡Muchas gracias!” Pierce passed the rest of the group their shotglasses and raised his in a toast. “To a memorable night!”

As the foursome clinked their glasses. Blu commented archly, “Oh, so you can make a nice, short toast!” They downed their shots. Todd had been braced for something gag-inducing, but the tequila went down smoothly.

Todd felt left out as Pierce, Derek and Blu huddled with Manolo to discuss plans for the evening, so he took a few steps toward the dance floor, his body warmed and energized by the infusion of tequila. He gradually became aware of someone looming next to him. “So, uh, how do you know Mike the Spike?” Todd turned toward the voice and saw someone who looked even more nervous to be here than Todd was. A decently-built Mexican about Todd’s age but slightly taller in a turquoise tank top and blue denim shorts, his eyes were directed vaguely toward the dance floor with the watery lack of focus of someone who obviously required glasses but was forgoing them to avoid looking dorky.

Todd broke his usual guideline of telling the truth as much as possible. “Me and the Spike? Yeah, we go way back.”

“Seriously?” the guy asked excitedly, turning his head to Todd. “Do you do porn too?” He squinted to see if he recognized the blond from Mike the Spike’s cinematic oeuvre.

Todd snorted a laugh and felt his skin turn red. He blurted out an emphatic “No!” His experiment in lying had lasted exactly two sentences.

“Oh.” Tank-top guy took a swallow from his beer to mask his embarrassment. “That’s too bad.”

The two young men stared forward awkwardly as Todd’s smile grew wider at the notion that anyone could think he was in porno. He found it oddly flattering. “Do you wanna dance?” Todd asked impulsively.

The other guy’s efforts to look cool were instantly sabotaged as a mouthful of beer sprayed from his lips. After a brief cough to recuperate, he turned with surprise to Todd and replied “¡Si! Very much.”

As the pair moved toward the dance floor, Todd glanced back to the bar where Blu was watching him with interest and pride.

Blu nudged Derek. “Check it out. Our boy’s goin’ in! Wanna join him?”

Before Derek could reply, Pierce interrupted. “He can’t right now. We gotta set up for the Q and A.”

As Pierce dragged Derek toward the DJ booth, Blu could hear Derek asking, “What Q and A?”

Blu harrumphed his displeasure. Even though it had been his idea to bring the “celebrity guest” to the club in the first place, Blu could already see things spinning out of his control as Pierce, in his typical fashion, imposed his will upon the situation. Pierce had overshadowed the newlyweds at the wedding reception. Pierce had disrupted their honeymoon by lobbing Mariposa into the mix like six Molotov cocktails. As Blu thought about it, Pierce, in his various guises, had spent more time with Derek over the past three days than had Blu, in his various guises. And now Pierce was monopolizing Derek on the final night of their trip. While Charles would have responded to the situation passive-aggressively by brooding silently over several glasses of white wine while growing increasingly testy, Blu was not about to sit and stew. He was determined to enjoy himself, and he would not be ignored.

Vowing to seize some of the spotlight for himself and, in the process, arouse some jealousy in Derek, Blu strutted onto the dance floor, waving his arms sinuously in the air and swiveling his pelvis to ensure that his scrumptious booty attracted as many eyeballs as possible. Feeling viscerally connected to the music in a way that Charles never had, Blu surrendered to the rhythm of the clanging EDM tune pumping through the speakers and hip-checked every hot guy in his vicinity. Finally, one lanky brunette was intrigued enough to ditch his initial partner and synch his dance moves with Blu’s. “Hey, sexy,” Blu cooed, looking flirtatiously over his shoulder. “I’m Blu. What are you?” He strategically waggled his protruding rump, brushing it tantalizingly against the front of the dude’s plaid Bermuda shorts.

Standing in the wings by the DJ booth, Derek attempted to keep track of Blu, but only intermittently spotted his gloved hands when they rose above the heads of the taller dancers who surrounded him. Pierce loudly cleared his throat to get Derek’s attention. When that proved ineffective, he shouted, “Earth to Spike!” and motioned Derek over to discuss his plans with the DJ. Pierce explained that, after the current song was finished, the DJ would announce Mike the Spike, and Derek would walk onstage with a wireless mic to answer questions from the crowd.

Of all the peculiar situations Pierce had forced Derek into over the years, this was by far the most nerve-racking. “How’m I s’posed to answer their questions when I’m not really him?”

“You’ve seen enough Mike the Spike movies to fake it,” Pierce assured him. “Just keep your answers vague. It’s not like these guys are gonna fact-check you. Ninety percent of them will just be staring at your crotch, so I wouldn’t sweat it.”

“Sure, you wouldn’t sweat it. You’re a performer. Tell you what: why don’t you do the Q and A?”

“Because,” Pierce said through clenched teeth with tangible annoyance, “I let you drink my prized bottle of Mike the Spike’s hard lemonade, because I felt guilty, because I thought you’d get a kick out of it. Don’t make me regret my generosity, Derek.”

Derek gazed down with discomfort at the enormous body he was currently inhabiting. “I’m sorry, but pretending to be somebody I’m not just isn’t me.”

“That’s the fuckin’ point, numbnuts! I’m starting to feel like the whole concept of Mariposa is wasted on you. Look at Charles. He’s got the right idea. He’s enjoying Mariposa more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Derek looked onto the dance floor and finally located his husband’s blue hair, bopping around near the stage as he flaunted his assets to everyone around him.

“You’ve got the opportunity of a lifetime here,” Pierce said. “Why can’t you just go with it?”

“Maybe I just like who I really am,” Derek postulated.

Pierce stared at him, mystified by the concept. “Fine. You can be Dull Derek for the rest of your life. But for one fuckin’ night, can you stop being such a whiny little bitch and try to be bigger than life?” He slammed the microphone into the center of Derek’s massive chest and slapped a slip of paper into his sweaty hand.

“What’s this?” Derek asked.

“Just a few jokes I jotted down, in case your mind goes blank.” He could see the panic rise in Derek’s eyes at the thought of going blank, so he patted the big man’s arm encouragingly. “Don’t worry, buddy, you’ll be great. If you get nervous, just imagine that the whole audience is naked, because that’s how they’ll all be imagining you.” He nodded to the DJ. The music faded and spotlights swept through the dry-ice-fogged air.

“All right, boys and boys, gentlemen and gentlemen” the DJ announced, “we’ve got a very special guest with us tonight. Some of you may already have spotted him. He’s a hard man to miss!” A few cheers arose from the crowd. “You know him from such classics as This Dick For Hire, Have Dick, Will Travel, Beverly Hills Dick, and, of course, the epic trilogy, Dick Hard, Dick Hard 2: Dick Harder, and, one of my all-time favorites, Dick Hard With A Vengeance. The list, like his penis, goes on and on and on. And on. Please give a warm Cancun welcome to the baddest brother-fuckin’ dick on the block. I’m talkin ‘bout… MIKE… THE SPIKE… COCHRAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!”

As the joint erupted with applause, screams, wolf-whistles, and appreciatively orgasmic moans, Pierce put his entire weight into a double-handed shove which sent Derek careening across the club’s small stage. He shielded his eyes from the glaring spotlights, scanning the enthusiastic crowd. He noticed Todd pointing in his direction and chatting excitedly with some guy in a tank top, undoubtedly bragging about how well he knew Mike the Spike.

Finally, the cheering dwindled and the club chatter dropped to a low din as the crowd waited for Spike to speak. Uncertain what to say, Derek jostled the microphone in his dangling hand, oblivious to the fact that he was holding the mic at waist level. Scattered giggles turned into steadily growing laughter at Derek’s unintentional miming of masturbation. An accented voice called out from the crowd, “I thought it’d be bigger!” The audience roared at the heckler.

Derek looked to the wings where Pierce pointed toward the mic and gestured for Derek to bring it to his mouth. Mortified as he realized what was evoking the laughter, Derek raised the microphone and told the crowd, “Yeah, I get that a lot. But you know what they say, the camera adds ten inches.” The audience broke into hysterics, and Derek relaxed a bit, having gotten his first laugh. He glanced to the wings where Pierce gave him the “OKAY” sign.

Derek couldn’t rely on himself to come up with another joke of that caliber, so he stared down at the paper in his hand and struggled to decipher Pierce’s handwriting. “It’s so wired… I mean, weird to see my fans in person,” Derek said, stiffly gesturing to the crowd. “Usually I only see you through the TV. I bet you didn’t know that I can see you. Did you?” Pierce cringed at Derek’s less than Seinfeldian delivery. “That’s right. While you’re watching me, I’m watching you. And, boy, are you guys a bunch of pervs.” Despite the stilted reading, the joke landed and Derek felt emboldened. He glanced down and read his next line. “It’s true. I’m a lot better actor than you realize. You got any idea how tough it is to act while you guys are doin’ what you guys are doin’? I bet even Meryl Streep would suck her audience, jerkin’ off…” A baffled audience remained silent. Confused, Derek paused to reread the notes. “Oh, wait! ‘I bet Meryl Streep would suck if her audience was jerkin’ off.’” He sighed with relief and smiled painfully as the crowd responded with a polite smattering of laughts.

Derek flipped over the notes in his hand, only to discover that his sweaty palms had caused the ink to run. Whatever witticisms Pierce had written were now one big purple smear. Derek wadded up the paper and let it drop to the stage, then sighed deeply into the mic and stared at the audience for ten seconds. He became aware of Pierce stage-whispering something which he couldn’t make out as the word “questions” until its third repetition. Derek nodded and asked, “Questions?”

A timid voice asked, “Can you say ‘You’re fucked’?”

Derek nodded, closed his eyes to concentrate, then delivered his best impression of Mike the Spike doing his catchphrase. “You’re fucked,” he growled. The crowd clapped, but the room quickly fell silent again.

A drunken voice from the back shouted, “Show us your cock!” The clubgoers laughed with agreement.

Derek replied, “You first.”

The catcaller yelled back, “Okay!”

The intensity of the cheers and applause escalated. Some in the crowd began to chant “Dick! Dick! Dick!” Derek stood frozen onstage, unsure what to do next.

As the flopsweat rolling down from his shaved head threatened to drown Derek, Pierce rushed over from the side of the stage and snatched the mic from Derek’s hand. “Hey, hey, let’s give it up for Mike the Spike Cochran!” When the crowd responded politely, Pierce feigned anger and berated them, “That is really pathetic, people. You can do better than that, you ingrates! You need to clap for this man, considering that he’s undoubtedly gotten the clap for you! Now let’s hear it!” Pierce raised his arms dramatically and, in response, the patrons shouted and applauded with enthusiasm. Pierce kept his hands high, shaking them to encourage the clapping to continue and build in intensity. When he felt it had gone on long enough, Pierce closed his fists and lowered his hands, and the ovation subsided. Derek watched in awe as Pierce controlled the crowd like a skilled orchestra conductor or Freddie Mercury. “All right! That’s more like it!” Pierce exclaimed with a big grin. He was in his element, swaggering across the stage while Derek stood inert behind him.

“Mike’ll be here all night if you want to talk or snap a selfie with him,” Pierce informed the clubgoers. “Just don’t fondle the merchandise, okay? He is not a piece of meat. Well, he’s not just a piece of meat. Mr. Cochran has also generously agreed to be the judge of our wet… speedo… contest!” That announcement prompted a new wave of cheers and whoops. “That’s right, boys, if you think you’ve got the cojones to impress Mike the Spike, come see me over by the DJ booth and we’ll sign you up!” As the DJ began to play something funky, Pierce switched off the mic and walked over to Derek. “And that, my friend, is how it’s done.”

As he watched Pierce sashay across the stage, Derek realized that, while being Mike the Spike had been amusing initially, and he had certainly enjoyed aspects of the past few days, the novelty of living as someone else had begun to lose its charm. Just based on the past few minutes, he couldn’t imagine wanting to be famous. Pierce might crave being recognized and idolized, but Derek only goal was to be the center of attention for one person, and for that person to show the same devotion back. He thought he had finally found that mutual devotion in Charles, but seeing the way Blu was frolicking on the dance floor, so uncharacteristically uninhibited, he had to wonder if Charles would feel the same way about him once the Mariposa wore off.

Pierce grabbed a clipboard from behind the turntables and took a seat on the stage, dangling his legs over the edge. He unzipped his carry-on to reveal the colorful array of swimwear stashed within. A line of eager contestants had already formed, led by a chunky local who gave his name as Miguelito. When Pierce directed him to grab a Speedo, Miguelito rummaged around until he selected a scanty red number which Miguelito’s body was likely to stretch to the thinness and tension of a rubber band. Pierce bit the inside of his cheek and said, “God bless you, sir. You can change in the men’s room, then go to the bar and Manolo will spray you down. Next!”

Miguelito excitedly scurried off, revealing Blu as the next in line. Pierce smirked, pleasantly surprised, jotting “BLU” onto the list.

Derek walked over with a scowl, arms folded across his chest, “You’re not seriously gonna do this, are you?”

“On the contrary, I’m gonna do it very seriously,” Blu replied saucily, turning to Pierce. “Pick me out something that’ll really show off my booty,” giving his own ass a dainty slap.

“Hell, boy, you couldn’t hide that booty under a burqa!” Pierce scrounged through the bag in search of a specific item, eventually pulling out a bikini bottom in a hue practically identical to Blu’s hair.

Delighted by the choice, Blu snatched away the scrap of cloth and spun around on the balls of his feet. As he scurried toward the men’s room, he noticed Todd propped on a stool at the bar. Blu scooted over to him and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Getting a good seat,” Todd replied. “This should be fun to watch.” He had grown noticeably more at ease in this environment, exhibiting only a modicum of shame as he openly ogled the beefcake that walked past him.

“No, no, no,” Blu replied sternly, moving closer, “we didn’t bring you here to watch, Iowa. You’re here to participate.”

Todd laughed uneasily. “I don’t think I’m quite ready for a swimsuit competition.” He stared curiously at Blu, amazed by how much younger and fitter he looked than he had on the beach. Todd wasn’t sure if that was due to flattering lighting or strategically applied makeup or the shot of tequila still working its wonders in his own system – probably a combo of all three, he suspected. If you ignored the hair color, it was easier to see Blu’s resemblance to his taller, hunkier, ginger-haired brother. “Maybe if Red was here.”

Blu huffed impatiently. “Red’s not comin’, okay? He’s out of the picture. But if he was here, I know he’d tell you the same thing as me, which is that you gotta get your little butt on that stage. You gotta stop bein’ embarrassed about who you are and start bein’ proud, just as proud as you are of your goddamn college. So, if you won’t do it for Red and you won’t do it for me and you won’t do it for yourself, do it for fuckin’ Iowa!” Blu waved a hand to get Manolo’s attention. “Another tequila for my boy here!” Manolo nodded. Blu looked back at Todd and said, “Maybe that’ll help with your decision making,” then pivoted toward the men’s room, eager to try on his Speedo.

Todd heard a shot-glass scrape across the bar. As he turned on his stool to contemplate the drink, he realized that he had caught the eye of a young blond who was staring straight at him. He then chuckled when he realized he was actually checking out his own reflection. With his shaggy bangs and rolled-up sleeves, he had barely recognized himself, but he had to admit that the guy in the mirror looked kind of cute. Maybe shy Todd wasn’t comfortable prancing around practically naked in front of a roomful of strangers, but that guy in the mirror looked like he had no reason to be modest. He reached forward, picked up the shot-glass, raised a toast to his reflection (who toasted him right back), and tossed the tequila down his throat.

A few minutes later, Derek was gazing over Pierce’s shoulder at the clipboard, as Pierce counted the number of contestants who had signed up for the contest. When they heard someone clear his throat and announce, “I volunteer as tribute!” they both looked down and saw Todd grinning up at them, his face a mixture of exhilaration and intoxication.

“Good for you,” Pierce said with an encouraging nod. As he dug through his suitcase, Pierce looked concerned. “I’m gettin’ kinda low on options, kid. Wait, I think I’ve still got one that should fit you.” He searched some more and finally held up a pair of square-cut trunks, yellowish-gold with black trim.

Todd burst out laughing. “Hawkeye colors!” He had to go through with it now. It was fate.

Todd grabbed the swimsuit and headed toward the men’s room before he had a chance to change his mind. Along the way, he noticed that Blu had already changed into his blue trunks and was standing over a floor drain behind the bar, with several other be-Speedoed guys queued up behind him. Blu smiled as he saw Todd walking with the gold swimsuit in his hands, then yelped as Manolo spritzed his crotch with a mist of cold water from the bar’s soda gun.

As Todd walked down the mazelike hallway to the men’s room in a daze, he came to a sudden stop as he slammed into a clear plastic panel. Woozy, he regained his bearings and continued along to the bathroom, locking himself into a toilet stall to change, still not quite believing what he was about to do.

After being spritzed down by Manolo, Todd clutched the wad of clothes he had worn into the club and apologized his way through the crowd. En route to the stage, his bare feet left a trail of watery footprints. The DJ pointed him backstage where he placed his clothes on a shelf, as the others had before him, and joined the end of a line of wet and almost-naked men.

Todd stared ahead at the backsides of his fellow contestants, who varied wildly in terms of height, weight, age, and fitness. Near the front was Blu, immediately recognizable from his hair color and his unmistakable butt which was now testing the limits of his blue Speedo’s elasticity. Blu glanced back and waved when he spotted Todd. Todd grinned back uncertainly, not sure how he’d been convinced to go through with this. Todd had never been much of an exhibitionist, but he assumed an extrovert like Blu must do this sort of thing all the time.

Backstage, Pierce had located a throne of sorts, which was pretty much just an old chair from a dining-room set, spray-painted gold with threadbare red upholstery. He hastily brushed it clear of dust and cobwebs and lugged it to the stage for “Mike the Spike” in his capacity as judge of the wet swimsuit competition. Derek cautiously lowered himself onto the relic, hearing the wooden chair creak ominously beneath his substantial weight.

Assuming his role as emcee for the contest, Pierce stood in the spotlight with the wireless mic and cued the DJ to start the first song on the all-Prince playlist he had lined up: “1999”. “All right,” Pierce addressed the crowd, “who’s ready for some blatant, gratuitous, and dehumanizing objectification of the male body?” The assembled throng roared approvingly. “That’s what I figured! Now, I expect you to treat every one of these contestants with the dignity and respect they deserve, because every single one of them is brave enough to come up onto this stage, unlike all of you chickenshit motherfuckers!” Pierce strutted across the stage, pointing at the audience, who cheered with gusto at being labeled “chickenshit motherfuckers”.

Pierce crossed back to the DJ booth to check the sign-in list and announced, “Our first contender is a local boy who goes by the name of Miguelito, which I believe means ‘Little Mike’ in Spanish, but only when Mike the Spike is around would anybody consider this guy ‘Little Mike’. Let’s hear it for Big Little Mike!” He gestured to the wings and Miguelito clomped up a small flight of stairs to the center of the stage where he eagerly threw his weight around. Despite his size, his movements were remarkably nimble and his enthusiasm was infectious, leading many in the crowd to clap encouragingly for him.

Standing behind the judge’s chair, Pierce leaned down and whispered into Derek’s ear. “Don’t make it obvious, but take a look at the D.O.G. at the bar.”

Derek turned his head subtly and scanned the bar at the opposite side of the cavernous room. He muttered out of the corner of his mouth, “I don’t see any dog.”

“D.O.G. Distinguished Older Gentleman. The old coot in the three-piece suit. Looks like Stan Lee’s Mexican equivalent.”

With that clarification, Derek took another glance and did notice an elegant gray-haired man with a neatly trimmed mustache and a gray pin-striped suit, swirling a tumbler of something liquor, his dark eyes hidden behind shaded glasses but his focus directed toward the stage. “Okay, I see him. What about him?”

“He’s been staring at me all night,” Pierce said. “It’s weird.”

“Somehow I doubt this is the first time you’ve ever attracted the attention of some lecherous old guy in a gay bar.”

“It’s not, but the thing is, I don’t think he’s really a lecherous old guy. I think I’ve located our little bellboy Chico.”

Derek looked back at the older man. “You think that’s Chico?”

“Sure, after a bottle of ‘Most Interesting Man In The World’ Mariposa. Check out the way he fills out that suit. He’s in too good a shape for somebody that old. Most guys that age look like a human-sized raisin.”

Derek thought this was a stretch. “Maybe he just takes good care of himself. Ya know, exercises, eats healthy…”

“Drinks Mariposa… Look at the bone structure. In fifty years, that’s exactly what Chico’s gonna look like.” After another look, Derek had to concede there was some resemblance between this gent and Chico.

A whoop from the audience brought Pierce’s attention back to the contest. Miguelito was jiggling his ass at the crowd, threatening to snap the waistband of his overly-stretched-out swimsuit. Pierce rushed over and used his body to block as much of the audience’s view as he could, nudging Miguelito toward the wings. “Okay, that was Miguelito and the twin moons of Cancun! Let’s hear it!” Some of the crowd cheered, others moaned in disappointment that the spectacle had been interrupted.

At the side of the stage, Pierce spotted Blu at the front of the line, taking deep breaths with his eyes closed. Pierce took a step down and told him, “I just want to tell you, if you wanna back out, that’s fine. You’ve already proven to me that you’re way more than sufficiently gay.”

Blu opened his eyelids, fixing his intensely blue irises on Pierce. “Get over yourself, Pierce. I’m not tryin’ to prove anything to you,” he said defiantly. “I’m doin’ this for me.”

Pierce had to admire this spirited attitude. “All righty then,” he said, walking back to center-stage and switching the mic back on. “Our next contestant comes from California, which, as you’ll soon see, is a very blue state. He may not have the biggest redwood, but I guarantee you’re gonna love his Beverly Hills. Please give a warm hand to the boy they call… Blu!” Pierce signaled the DJ, who played Prince’s “Sexy MF” as Blu sauntered confidently onto the stage, thrusting his hips forcefully from side to side. The moment he heard the whoops and whistles from the crowd, Blu knew there was no turning back. His modest goal was to seduce the entire audience, but most especially the man seated in the gold chair.

Derek was thoroughly gobsmacked by the youthful nymph gyrating suggestively before him. While any obvious signs of Charles were long gone, this even seemed to be a new iteration of Blu. Cavorting with a saucy attitude and boundless energy, he hadn’t even shown this much exuberance in bed that afternoon. Although Charles had never heard this song before, Blu found himself instinctively in sync with its syncopated rhythms. Blu guided his mesh-gloved hands slowly down his ribcage, then swept them teasingly along the curves of his butt, all while undulating his abdomen like a practiced belly dancer. Pierce egged on Blu’s behavior by singing, “Sexy motherfucker, shakin’ that ass, shakin’ that ass,” and the club patrons enthusiastically joined in the chant until the bottles behind the bar began to rattle.

With a sly grin, Blu set his sights on Derek, shimmying backwards across the stage toward the big man’s chair, standing between his legs and waggling himself lower and lower until his ass cheeks brushed against the crotch of Derek’s leather pants. Derek’s concerns about the long-term effects of Mariposa on his buttoned-down spouse were brushed aside in the moment, as the Spike became engorged in reaction to the feisty twink’s point-blank twerking.

Pressing his palms together over his head, Blu spun around to face Derek, thrusting his pelvis back and forth. “So this is what it’s like,” Blu shouted with a smile.

“What what’s like?” Derek asked.

“Having fun!”

Derek regarded Blu skeptically. “C’mon, you’ve had fun before.”

“I thought I had,” Blu admitted, “but I had no idea!” He giggled and swept his hands through his hair, then scooted back toward the foot of the stage. With his back to the crowd, Blu gave his ass a few more shakes and planted his feet apart, then bent at the waist. Two days ago, he couldn’t have touched his toes. His head upside down, he stared through the gap between his legs, his blue hair hanging toward the floor in wild tangled strands as the music halted. He remained frozen in position, breathing shallowly, as the audience erupted in an uproarious ovation.

Pierce dashed over and exhorted the crowd, “All right, let’s really hear it for Blu!” The applause surged as the spritely dancer stood up and spun around to face the crowd, blowing kisses before executing a balletic curtsy and prancing offstage. Pierce shook his head in amazement, announcing, “Wasn’t that incredible? He’s certainly set a high bar! Let’s see who’s up next.”

Backstage, Blu’s reception was mixed. Some congratulated the pixie on his performance, while others were noticeably cool to the competition. Blu saw Todd was off to the side, pulling his ripped jeans up his legs. Blu scampered over to him. “You goin’ somewhere?”

“More like ‘goin’ nowhere’,” Todd replied with a sour expression. “How’m I s’posed to top that?”

Blu sputtered his lips dismissively. “It’s not a competition,” Blu insisted, just as Pierce asked “our next competitor” to come to the stage. Todd pointed to the backstage speaker as proof of his point, then zipped up his fly and reached for his shirt. “Screw him,” Blu said. “Think of it like you’re running a marathon. The point isn’t to beat other people. It’s to prove to yourself that you can do it. Look at me. I’ve never felt as jazzed in my life as I was just now, because for once I felt totally free to be myself.”

“Yeah,” Todd countered, “but yourself can dance. What if I go out there and look like a total ass?”

“Ass is what they’re lookin’ for! Who gives a shit what they think? They’re a roomful of horny drunk tourists you’re never gonna see again. But I’m tellin’ you, they’re gonna go ape when they see you.”

Todd shook his head. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

“What’s not to like? A hot young guy who’s about three inches of fabric away from being buck naked? You could stand still, pick your nose, and drool like an idiot and you’d still win honorable mention.”

Todd chuckled, then asked in total sincerity, “You really think I’m hot?”

“Damn, baby, you’re fine as hell,” Blu stated, such effusive pronouncements now flowing freely without a moment’s pause for editing from Charles’ inner propriety censor. He remembered the question he’d been meaning to ask Todd ever since this afternoon’s refinements. “Hey, tell the truth, you still think I look thirty?” He linked his fingers behind his head and flexed his small but toned biceps.

Todd laughed, embarrassed. “I dunno what I was thinkin’ eariler. Musta been bad lighting or somethin’. You definitely look younger than your brother. So which one of you’s older, you or Red?”

Blu pondered it a second and said, “Actually, we’re exactly the same age. So whattaya say, Iowa? You gonna chicken out, or are you gonna show those guys what you’re made of?”

Todd held his shirt in his hands and gnawed on his lower lip as he contemplated his options.

Pierce worked his way through the rest of the line, bringing to the stage contestants of varying degrees of finesse and pulchritude but none who exceeded Blu in terms of pure crowd-pleasing showmanship. Only Todd remained at the foot of the stairs, with Blu standing beside him offering moral support. Off mic, Pierce double-checked whether Todd was still participating. When Todd nodded, Blu gave him an encouraging pat on the back.

“Okay,” Pierce announced, “our final contestant has journeyed all the way from Iowa to be with us today. For those of you unfamiliar with Iowa, it is famous for two things: steers and… our next dancer! Please welcome to the stage… Hawkeye!” Pierce cued the DJ to play Delirious, and Todd hustled nervously onto the stage, doing his best to match the song’s upbeat tempo.

From behind him, Todd heard Blu shout, “Your pants!” Todd looked down and discovered that he had neglected to remove his gray skinny jeans. He took a few steps toward the stairs, planning to remove the pants offstage, but Pierce snagged him by the elbow and dragged him into the spotlight to disrobe in full view of the rowdy spectators, who had grown more boisterous with each successive dancer. Todd faced away from the crowd, unbuttoned and unzipped, then nervously inched the pants lower, inadvertently putting the tease in his striptease. The crowd noise grew as more and more of Todd’s muscular butt was revealed in its shiny golden wrapper. Hearing the reaction, Todd peered over his shoulder, thinking he must be missing something exciting, only to see every eye in the club focused directly on him. Still trying to move in time to the music, he squirmed to release one leg from his pants, then used that foot to step on the other leg’s cuff, only to lose his balance. He hopped clumsily across the stage before toppling into Derek’s lap. Gales of laughter rolled through the club.

Derek chuckled as he looked down at the panic-stricken kid. “And what can I get you for Christmas, young man?” he asked like a jovially lecherous Santa Claus.

Against his back, Todd could feel something hard and cylindrical inside the big man’s leather pants. Todd thought that he must not be too bad if he could arouse a hard-on from Mike the Spike. Determined to continue, Todd stood up, threw the pants offstage to Blu, and took a deep breath.

As Todd spun around to face the dance floor, he could hear a collective gasp, followed by cheers, whistles and other lascivious noises. He gave Derek a worried look, only to see that the porn star’s eyes were riveted on Todd’s swimsuit. He shot a glance at Pierce, who was now standing behind Derek’s chair and whose attention was directed at a similarly low angle. Todd worried that something had gone wrong. Was one of his balls poking out from under a seam? Had he unknowingly shot his load and created a big cum stain on his Speedo?

When he looked down, Todd saw no such catastrophe, just the shape of his obviously erect penis bulging against the slick fabric. In the excitement and frenzy of the moment, he hadn’t realized how much he had plumped up. As a boxers-and-board-shorts man, he’d never seen his hard-on filling a Speedo to capacity. He had to admit, it looked pretty impressive. Todd nervously shifted his weight from one foot to the other, snapping his fingers with the music, but could tell the audience expected more. He’d never learned choreography, but he did know calisthenics, so he shifted into a set of vigorous jumping-jacks. Those proved to be a hit, mainly for how much his package bounced with each one.

Pierce leaned down and muttered to Derek, “How’d he get through customs, smuggling that banana and those pomegranates?”

“Not really fair,” Derek replied in a lecturing tone, “you stuffing the ballot box like that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Obviously you spiked his drink with a little bit of Mike the Spike to boost his chances of winning,” Derek said, patting his own temporarily generous endowment.

Pierce was offended by the suggestion. “I did no such thing. Whatever meat he’s packin’ is 100% genuine uncut Iowa pork.” He looked 100% sincere.

Derek let out an impressed whistle as he turned his attention back to Todd, who had now switched to burpies, alternating sides for one-handed pushups with each repetition. After completing a dozen of those, Todd stood with hands on hips, breathing heavily, considering what to do next. From offstage, he heard Blu call out, “Try the pole!” Todd looked around and noticed a silver stripper pole at each side of the stage, connected by a high bar running between them. He had no clue how to pole-dance, but he had plenty of experience doing chin-ups. He jumped to grab the horizontal bar and pulled himself up easily. The crowd started to count his reps, growing louder with each successive number and celebrating each completion. Eventually, Todd’s pace slowed. As he attempted number twenty, his arms were tuckering out, but with the crowd’s encouragement, he summoned the strength to pull his chin slightly over the bar. The place went berserk.

Todd dropped to the stage, beaming but exhausted. He took a bow, then staggered offstage and collapsed onto Blu, who wrapped his arms around Todd’s sweat-slicked torso. Todd huffed and puffed against the bare skin of Blu’s shoulder. “See? I told you you’d be a hit,” Blu shouted into Todd’s ear. “Didn’t know you were hiding that secret weapon down there.”

“It’s not all that big, is it?” Todd asked, always having been too shy, too worried about being caught, to check out other guys’ junk for comparison, except through the safety of porn. “I mean, I’m no Mike the Spike.”

“Nobody is,” Blu said, “but if you don’t want it, I’ll be happy to take it off your hands.”

“Naw, that’s okay,” Todd laughed, regaining his balance. “I’m kind of attached to it.”

Pierce asked that all of the contestants return to the stage for the final judging. Blu and Todd led the way and stood at center stage, flanked on either side by the others. Derek rose from his chair and took up position behind the line, holding his hand over each participant’s head in turn as Pierce urged the crowd to applaud for their favorites. By far the largest ovations were for Blu and Todd, with the applause reaching similarly rafter-shaking levels for each.

“Sounds pretty close,” Pierce said, “so I think we’ll have to call on our expert judge for the final selection.”

Derek took his duty seriously. In the grand tradition of beauty pageants and reality shows, he pretended to agonize over the decision, but the outcome was never in doubt. Although it might strain his already-shaky marriage further, he knew it would be unfair to choose his husband. Not only could he be accused of nepotism, but the qualities which had made Blu so popular with the voters were all attributable to Mariposa. By contrast, if Pierce was to be believed, Todd’s assets were completely natural, his performance unenhanced. When he felt his dithering had gone on long enough, Derek placed his hand over Todd’s head and waved it ecstatically. The crowd roared its approval and Pierce shouted “Hawkeye!” into the mic.

Todd didn’t realize he had been “crowned” until Blu screamed “Congratulations!” directly into his face and impulsively planted a kiss on the Iowan’s lips. Todd was startled but found himself automatically kissing back. Once the kiss had lingered slightly longer than Derek was willing to tolerate, he wedged his hands between them and pushed them apart. Blu glanced up at his glowering husband and stuck out his tongue.

Todd looked down at the sea of bodies packing the dance floor, overwhelmed by the response. He heard one high-pitched whistle screeching over the din and turned toward it. About halfway back, a head taller than the men surrounding him, with a pinkie finger wedged into either side of his mouth, stood O.

Mortified that he had been caught, Todd ran toward the wings, sliding on his bare feet as he doubled back to retrieve his discarded pants. Shielding his face, he ran through the club toward the men’s room, blurting out “Excuse me” to everyone with whom he collided. Glancing over his shoulder, he could see O urgently pursuing him across the packed dance floor. In his frenzy, Todd didn’t realize that he was letting the dangling pantlegs drag across the floor. His bare foot became entangled in the denim and his body tumbled forward. Only a collision with the clear plastic panel in the bathroom hallway prevented him from taking a direct header. Instead, his face squeegeed down the plastic as his limp body slid down to the floor.

Clubgoers instantly circled around their fallen hero. Manolo the bartender raced over, noticing a hairline crack at the point where the plastic panel had been impacted by Todd’s forehead. He shook his head and declared in Spanish, “We gotta get rid of that thing.”

O brusquely shoved bodies aside in order to reach Todd. As he knelt beside his dazed friend, O yelled, “Anybody got some water?” Someone behind him placed a plastic cup into O’s hand and, without thinking, he immediately flung its contents onto Todd’s face, simultaneously drenching him with frigid water and pelting him with ice cubes.

With a single emphatic “Ow!” Todd spluttered to alertness and covered his face with his hand to deflect further projectiles. Wiping the back of his hand across his eyes, he said, “I know the water in Mexico is dangerous, but jeez…” As his eyelids flickered open and he saw O’s concerned face looming over him, the panic that had caused him to flee in the first place returned. He flailed his arms in a frantic attempt to boost himself to his feet. “I gotta get some fresh air.”

“Hang on, buddy,” O said, “I got ya.” Slipping one arm behind Todd’s neck and the other beneath his knees, O hoisted his friend off the floor and asked, “How do I get outside?” Various hands pointed in different directions, so O carried Todd into the bar area, shouting “‘Scuse me, comin’ through!” to clear a path. Todd’s ripped jeans hung from his dangling right arm, his index finger caught in one of the belt loops.

O headed toward the first door he saw, which happened to lead to the smoking patio. He nudged the door open with his foot and carried Todd outside. The space was currently unoccupied but reeked of recent cigarettes. “Not exactly fresh air, but…”

Todd insisted, “This’ll be fine. You can put me down. I’m not a baby.” O lowered Todd gently onto a bench and stepped back as Todd recombobulated. Todd crossed his arms across his chest and rubbed his hands briskly over his skin, suddenly cold from the night air and the ice water still clinging to his face. O’s unexpected presence remained a mystery. “What are you doing here?”

“Guess I could ask you the same thing,” O said with a shy grin. “Last I saw you, you were on your deathbed, you big faker.”

Todd looked at the ground and rattled off a story as he rocked back and forth. “Well, I started feelin’ better, so Nick said, ‘Hey, why don’tcha come out with me and Blu and Spike,’ and so I thought, ‘Why not? They’re cool’, and so we came over here, only they didn’t tell me what kinda place it was, and then when we got here, they gave me some tequila ‘cause they said it’d relax me, and the next thing you know, they’re tellin’ me I should enter this contest and I said no, but they were pretty insistent and so, against my better judgment, I went through with it but I didn’t really wanna…”

O found Todd’s version of events amusing. Todd had always been a lousy liar. “I dunno, bro, you looked pretty comfortable up there.”

Todd looked up, defensive about the implication of O’s statement. “Oh yeah? Well, how come you’re here?”

O sighed. “I just really needed a break from Kev and Bart and all their constant yammering. On the beach, Nick had been talkin’ up this place, said it was a lot of fun, so I figured I’d ditch the Bicker Brothers and check it out for myself.”

Todd chuckled. “Guess he didn’t tell you it was a gay place.”

“No, he did,” O said matter-of-factly. He took a seat at the opposite end of the bench, careful to give Todd his space.

It wasn’t quite connecting with Todd yet. “Hang on a second. I can understand wanting to get away from the guys, but why’d you wanna come to a gay club?”

“Prob’ly the same reason you did,” Todd said with a nervous chuckle, looking up to the starry sky.

The clouds lifted. Todd stared at O, the imposing, confident jock, and suddenly saw someone just as innocent and uncertain and vulnerable as he was. He had never suspected. “You… ?” He didn’t need to finish the question. O’s meek grin was enough of an answer.

“Didn’t figure I’d run into anyone I knew here, except maybe Nick and the Spike. Now I’m just mad I got here too late to enter the contest. Coulda given you some competition.”

Todd laughed. “Yeah, right, you woulda kicked my butt.”

“Your butt I coulda beaten. Your front, we mighta been neck and neck. Seriously, dawg, how’d you keep that salami hidden from us all these years?”

Todd smirked. “I didn’t want you guys to feel inferior.”

“I liked all your exercises,” O said, trying his best to keep the conversation light and platonic. “You could stand to work on your form, though. I can help you with that. I mean, if you’d like me to.”

“I’d like you to. Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” O said casually.

That’s what you don’t want me to mention?” Todd’s knees were shaking and his skin was covered with goosebumps, not solely due to the air temperature. “All of a sudden, I feel kinda dumb, sittin’ here dressed like this.”

O thought for a moment, then reached his hands toward his collar and extracted himself from his polo shirt. Out of habit, Todd turned away, then realized that probably wasn’t necessary any more, at least around O. His head swiveled back toward O as he tried to split the difference between peeking and gawking. As O placed his wadded-up polo on the bench between them, he asked Todd, “Feel better now?”

Todd realized that O was trembling just as much as he was. As he allowed his eyes to linger on O’s ripped physique under the twinkling lights of the patio, Todd swore he could hear the threads of his Speedo straining to hold together.

In contrast to the tender awkwardness on the quiet patio, things inside had turned hectic and rancorous.

It had begun as soon as Todd fled for the men’s room and the other contestants dispersed, leaving Blu, Derek and Pierce onstage.

“You’re not seriously upset over that,” Blu said as Derek visibly fumed over Blu kissing Todd. “It didn’t mean anything,” Blu insisted. “I was just caught up in the moment and got a little giddy.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” Derek responded. “The Charles I know doesn’t get giddy, and he doesn’t go around kissing people he barely knows. Hell, you didn’t kiss ME until our fifth date. I’m afraid that, when this is all over, you won’t go back to normal.”

Pierce wrinkled his nose. “You seriously miss ‘normal’ Charles?” He turned to Blu and said, “I mean, no offense, but…” Blu shrugged, no offense taken.

“Of course I miss him,” Derek declared. “He is the man I married.”

“I’m still the man you married, honey, only now I’m fun-size!” Blu sidled up to Derek, rubbed his hand along the bulge in Derek’s leather pants and cooed, “Admit it, babe. Didn’t we have a good time today?”

Embarrassed that his husband was feeling him up in full view of an appreciative crowd, Derek pushed Blu’s hand away and took a step back. The gawkers near the stage groaned their disappointment. Many of them walked away, their attention diverted by some hubbub in the men’s room hallway, followed by somebody being carried in a hurry to the smoking patio.

“Sure,” Derek admitted to Blu in a hushed voice, “this afternoon was great, but tonight, I dunno, it feels different. I’m having a hard time seeing the real you in there.”

“I keep telling you,” Blu insisted, “this is the real me. Charles was the facade!”

Pierce stepped in, attempting to play peacemaker. “Derek, I really think you’re overreacting.”

Derek turned angrily to his old roommate, using Mike the Spike’s intimidating growl to full effect. “I’d stay out of this if I were you. After all, this is your fault.”

Blu stepped up to defend Pierce. “Don’t get mad at Pierce because I’m having a good time. I think you could stand to lighten up. I swear, you’re the only person I know who could turn into a porn star and still be boring as fuck.”

“You hear that?” Derek said, glaring at Pierce. “The real Charles would never say anything like that. Three days ago, he was dignified and classy. Now he’s swearing like he’s Eminem with Tourette’s!”

“I can still be dignified and classy and shit,” Blu insisted with a sassy snarl. “I might look like a clueless himbo, but it’s still me in here.” He tapped an index finger on his temple. “And in here.” He moved that finger and tapped it over his heart. “I’ve just got a more open mind to go along with my sassy little package. I dunno about you, but I’m happy Pierce gave us the Mariposa. It’s changed the whole way I look at things, and I damn well hope that doesn’t go away in the morning. But as far as I can tell, these last three days haven’t taught you squat. I’m worried that, when the Mariposa wears off, you’ll stop having a huge dick and go back to being one!”

That stung. “You’re lucky I know you didn’t mean that. It’s just the Mariposa talking. C’mon, let’s go somewhere more private…” He squeezed Blu’s upper arm and tried pulling him toward the wings.

“NO!” Blu insisted, yanking his arm out of Derek’s grip. “If something’s bothering you, you tell me right here where I’ve got witnesses.” He gestured to the remaining spectators, who were viewing this spectacle as if it was a live Mike the Spike movie. If this followed the formula of his movies, the argument would inevitably lead to some hardcore fucking, and perhaps even a threesome.

“Okay,” Derek said, “I’ll tell you what’s really bothering me. When all this started, you thought Pierce gave us that six-pack because he was trying to break us up. I told you you were nuts. But now, I’m starting to think you were right.”

Pierce objected. “Hey, now, wait a sec…”

Derek shifted his focus to Pierce and spoke firmly. “No, now’s when I get to talk. I think Charles always suspected that you wanted me for yourself, but I never bought that. If you ever wanted to make a move on me, you had ten years to do it before Charles was even in the picture.”

Blu interjected, “Maybe Pierce never really appreciated you until he had competition.”

“No, I don’t think that’s it,” Derek said as he paced, sounding every inch like Mike the Spike during the climactic explanation that closed every one of his movies. “I don’t think he was just jealous of you. I think he was jealous of both of us. I think it bugged the hell out of him to see two people who genuinely cared for each other, who had things in common, who actually wanted to spend their lives together. All these years, I was Pierce’s apprentice, the square who wasn’t as worldly and experienced as he was, the dorky wingman who could always be dragged out for a night on the town because he was never busy. I gave him someone he could always feel superior to. I may have been gay, but I was his straight man. But now, I was finally doing something that he hadn’t. I’d found the one thing he wasn’t brave enough to do. I was getting married! And he couldn’t stand it!”

Pierce scoffed. “Do I need to do my wedding toast for you again? First of all, I’m not secretly lusting after either of you, okay? Don’t flatter yourselves. For one thing, you guys are way too old for me.”

Blu piped up. “But we’re all the same age!”

“Exactly,” Pierce said. “Second of all, I am not jealous of you guys.”

Derek looked triumphant. “Aha! I caught you. You told me yourself this morning that you always envied me because I could be anonymous.”

Pierce shook his head. “That’s not the same as being jealous of you for getting married.”

“Oh, no, don’t try to weasel out of it with your usual word games,” Derek said, building to his summation. “The funny thing is, you were right. I always did feel anonymous when I was around you. You might be smaller than me, but I was always in your shadow. I’d go to a club and the only thing people would ask me was, ‘Is Pierce here?’ Then one day, I met somebody who saw me for me. And I liked what I saw in him. Maybe that looked boring to you, but it sure felt like love to me.”

“Awww,” said Blu, tears welling up in his eyes. “C’mere, ya big lug.” He shuffled over and embraced Derek.

At that moment, the final two spectators on the dance floor turned away from the stage, griping to each other. The first one muttered, “Man, I never woulda guessed Mike the Spike was so sappy.”

“I know, right,” replied his friend. “Homey should stick to porn.”

Derek laughed. “Guy’s got a point. As a porn star, I’m a major letdown. Good thing I got oral surgery to fall back on.”

Pierce stepped closer to the couple. “Listen, guys, you gotta believe me, I never meant to cause any problems between you two. I just wanted you to have a good time. And I appreciate the concern, but please don’t worry about me out in the cold, lonely world by myself. I’ll be fine. And if someday, god forbid, I start gettin’ a little too old and pathetic to turn on the club kids… well, I can always drink a bottle of Mariposa and be young and sexy again just like that.” He snapped his fingers and smiled, unperturbed by this fate.

Derek shook his head. Pierce was never going to change.

Seeing that the commotion had calmed in the club and on the stage, the DJ called out. “Yo, Pierce! Are we done with the dramatic interlude yet? Can we get back to the music?”

Pierce gave it a few moments of thought, then hustled over to the DJ and made a request with a glint in his eye. The DJ nodded and Pierce stepped back to the middle of the stage with his wireless mic, directing Derek and Blu to take a seat on the “throne”. Derek had hoped his time in the limelight was over for the night and was suspicious of Pierce’s intentions, but Blu was eager to see what Pierce had in store. He shoved Derek onto the chair and straddled himself over Derek’s right leg, strategically aligning the crack of his ass over the speed-bump created by the Spike.

Pierce spoke into the mic and beckoned the crowd back toward the dance floor. “Okay, kiddies, it’s time to remember why we’re all here: to get wasted and to get laid. And I want to kick things off by dedicating this next number to a couple of very good friends of mine who just got married, Derek and Charles. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be here tonight, but I know they’re here in spirit, and, despite what they may think, I truly wish them nothing but happiness. Monotonous, monogamous happiness.” He nodded to the DJ and the music began. It was, of course, another entry from the Prince catalogue, and Pierce gave it his all.

Derek instantly recognized the tune, but couldn’t immediately place why Pierce had chosen to dedicate this particular song to them. Blu didn’t care, bouncing merrily along with the music and, in the process, causing the Spike to thicken and harden further.

As he reached the chorus, Pierce moved toward Derek and Blu and sang the crucial lyrics directly to them: “I may be qualified for a one-night stand, but I could never take the place of your man.” It was the nicest way Derek could imagine being publicly notified, “I have absolutely no interest in fucking either of you.” He nodded approvingly to Pierce.

When Pierce finished, he insisted that Derek and Blu sing something. Blu agreed, hopping to his feet eagerly, while Derek remained seated and tried to beg off. Blu grabbed Derek by the hand, making a futile attempt to cantilever the immense body to a standing position. Derek only caved when Blu pouted and called him a mean old party-pooper. They reviewed the list of available titles and quickly settled on a song that they both knew. Pierce approved the selection and made his introduction. “We’ve persuaded tonight’s guest of honor to do a number, accompanied by our wet Speedo contest’s Mister Congeniality. You’ve all heard of Ebony and Ivory? Well, let me present to you, for the first time anywhere… Black and Blu!”

He handed the mic to Blu, and Derek leaned down so they could share it. Prince’s Kiss began to play, and the couple zeroed in on the scrolling lyrics on the karaoke screen. Blu’s voice was painfully off-key, but he compensated with boisterous enthusiasm and wildly unjustifiable confidence. Derek did his best to sing bass harmonies, despite never knowing which note Blu was going to hit next. “You don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on,” they sang together. “I just need your body baby, from dusk till dawn…”

Through the dry-ice fog over the dance floor, Pierce noticed Todd and O reentering the club from the smoking patio. O was shirtless, and Todd wore only his Speedo, clutching his gray jeans in his arms. Pierce ducked backstage to grab the rest of Todd’s clothes from the shelf and walked through the club, intercepting Todd and O to the bar. As he handed Todd his clothes, Pierce asked, “Everything okay?” although the answer was obvious from the giddy smiles on Todd and O’s faces.

“Yeah,” Todd replied, still looking a bit dazed, “everything’s great.” Feeling a bit chilly, he slipped into the t-shirt, but continued to be clad in nothing but a swimsuit from the waist down.

“Awesome,” Pierce said. “Glad you decided to come, Theo.”

“So am I,” O said, his hands buried awkwardly in his pants pockets.

“Hey,” Pierce said to Todd, “I owe you a prize.” Todd scrunched up his face to indicate that a prize wasn’t necessary, but Pierce had already stepped toward the bar and snagged Manolo’s attention. “¡Hola, Manolo! Give our winner here a shot from your special stock. Get one for his buddy, too.”

Manolo nodded, knowing just what Pierce meant by the “special stock”. “Anything in particular?”

“Your choice,” Pierce said with a wink. “Use your imagination!”

Manolo took a long appraising look at Todd and O. Inspired, he unlocked a hidden door behind the bar.

Pierce turned back to Todd and O, who were caught up in the performance onstage. Blu was cavorting saucily, as if he’d been studying Pierce’s more salacious moves, and even Derek was attempting some lumbering dance steps. “You got to not talk dirty, baby, if you want to impress me,” Derek insisted prudishly.

Blu snatched away the mic and declared, “You can’t be too flirty, honey. I know how to undress me.” Blu teasingly tugged down the waistband of his Speedo to reveal a hint of his ass crack before Derek stepped in, grabbing the microphone and slapping a hand over Blu’s butt.

“I want to be your fantasy,” Derek sang as best he could. “Maybe you could be mine.”

Blu crawled on the floor, poked his head between Derek’s legs, and reached up to snatch away the microphone, just in time to declare, “You just leave it all up to me. We could have a good time.” He grabbed the waistband of Derek’s leather pants and pulled himself to his feet. As he rose, he pressed his tongue against Derek’s exposed skin, licking the big man from his navel to the cleft of his pecs.

Pierce shook his head in amazement. Even knowing the power of Mariposa, he found it astounding that the openly flirtatious duo onstage were, in reality, the two dullest people he knew.

Blu’s intensity built through the final verse and chorus, as he outscreeched Prince’s original rendition before handing the mic to Derek for the final line. As Derek grunted, “I just want your extra time and your…”, Blu took a few steps back, then made a running leap, wrapping his arms around Derek’s neck and his legs around Derek’s waist before engulfing his lips in a kiss. They kept going as the crowd exploded with applause, and were still snogging when the ovation had dwindled to silence and the DJ had moved onto a new song. Neither Blu nor Derek wanted the moment to end.

As they watched the conclusion of the performance, O had draped his own arms around Todd’s neck, and Todd was clasping his hands around O’s forearms. When the spell of the song was broken, they both looked surprised, as if they had fallen into this intimate configuration without being aware what they were doing. O instinctively tried to pull his arms away, but Todd hung on tightly to keep them exactly where they were.

Manolo had returned to the bar with two shotglasses and motioned over Pierce, Todd and O. The Iowans looked at the drinks curiously. “What is this, exactly?” O asked.

Manolo pointed to the shotglass nearer Todd. “For Señor Hawkeye, a strong muscular spirit from Norway.” He indicated the drink closer to O. “And for you, a light and spicy Jamaican number.” He then placed a third glass on the bar, a tumbler containing a dark brown liquid.

“What’s that?” Pierce asked, having only asked for two drinks.

“That is for you, Señor Pierce,” Manolo replied. “Courtesy of your admirer at the end of the bar.” He tilted his head to indicate the Distinguished Older Gentleman whom Pierce had noticed earlier.

Now, at even closer range, Pierce was positive that the old timer was a Mariposa-matured Chico. He picked up the free drink and took a whiff. He was enough of a connoisseur to know instantly that it wasn’t Mariposa. Way back on his first visit to Mexico, he had learned how to recognize the sharp and bitter tang common to each of powerful concoction’s “flavors”, so that he wouldn’t accidentally combine two different varieties and alter himself irrevocably. What Manolo had served up smelled more like turpentine on the rocks. Pierce wasn’t a huge fan of hard liquor, but, out of politeness, he lifted the glass in a toast to the geezer at the end of the bar. The geezer raised his own glass in reply and gestured for Pierce to join him. Not wanting to be rude, Pierce excused himself from Todd and O.

As Manolo stepped away to serve another customer, the boys from Iowa picked up their shotglasses and clinked them. Todd tossed his back, unprepared for the physical wallop the mysterious liquid delivered to his nervous system. He braced himself against the bar to keep from falling and dropped the glass to the floor where it shattered. Within seconds, his body was flooded with a feeling that he could only describe as orgasmic. Wobbly, he looked at O, who had placed his own shot back on the bar untouched. “What’s the matter?” Todd gasped. “You’re not drinking yours?”

O shook his head. “You know how much I had to drink just to have the guts to walk into this place in the first place? I’m lucky I’m even standin’ up.”

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” Todd assured him, his skin tingling, his muscles involuntarily flexing. “This shit is, like, life-changing.”

As O reconsidered his decision, he heard a voice slice through the chattering crowd, chanting “O! O! O!” before climaxing with an ear-splitting “Ohhhhh-klahoma!”

O turned to see Blu cha-cha-ing toward them, dragging Mike the Spike behind him. Exhilarated from his performance, Blu slapped a hand onto O’s well-developed triceps and asked, “What are you doing here, you sexy thing?”

O managed to get out the words, “Well, uh…”, before Todd loudly cleared his throat. Blu followed the sound and saw Todd glaring back, a look of possessive intensity on the little blond’s normally friendly face.

“Oh!” Blu instantly pulled his hand away and brushed it through his tangled, sweaty hair. He quickly assessed the facial expressions and body language of the Iowa boys, then pursed his lips in a knowing grin. “Ohhhhhh” was all he needed to say as he gave Todd and O a sly smirk.

Although Derek had doubted Pierce’s deduction at the exercise park that Todd and O were gay, he couldn’t help but notice the unmistakable closeness between the two now. He realized he was a fool to question Pierce’s expertise in such matters. “Nice to see you guys again,” he said in Mike the Spike’s booming voice. “You happen to see where Pierce went?”

O looked baffled, but Todd remembered the bartender calling Nick “Señor Pierce” and assumed Nick’s last name must be Pierce. “Oh, he’s right down there,” Todd informed the Spike, pointing to the end of the bar.

Derek and Blu saw Pierce chatting with the older gentleman who Pierce had pointed out from the stage. Blu was surprised to see Pierce in such close proximity to someone who looked to be, by even a charitable estimate, in his fifties. “What’s he doing with that guy? I didn’t think Pierce was interested in anyone who wasn’t born in this century.”

Derek leaned down and informed Blu, “Pierce is pretty sure that’s Chico from the hotel.”

“Chico?” If Blu squinted, he could detect a slight resemblance, but then again, he’d seen first-hand how thoroughly Mariposa could radically reshape someone, both inside and out. If he could become Blu and Derek could be Mike The Spike, why couldn’t that suave old dude be cute little Chico?

“So,” Derek asked, turning back to Todd and O, “you boys gonna hang around here for a while?”

O seemed open to the idea, but Todd stepped in assertively, slinging his arm around O’s waist. “We got a long drive in the morning, so I think we oughta be getting to bed.”

O shrugged and declared with a chuckle, “He’s the boss.”

“Don’t you forget it,” Todd said, surprising O by giving his ass an unanticipated squeeze.

“Awwww,” Blu whined, genuinely sad to see Todd go. He pulled Todd in for a hug and whispered, “I’m so proud of you.”

Todd hugged back just as tightly and replied, “I’m proud of me too.”

After they parted, Blu lunged toward O. “You get a hug too,” he said, wrapping his arms around O’s bare midsection. When he let go, he shook his arms excitedly and commanded Derek, “Oh, honey, take a selfie of all of us!”

The man Derek married was not a hugger, and he had certainly never asked to be in a selfie. It was official. Charles had left the building. With some effort, he removed his phone from the pocket of his leather pants, stretching out one mighty arm until he could fit all four of them into the frame. He counted out loud, “One, two…” On “three”, Blu squeezed the bulge in Derek’s trousers and Todd gave O a peck on the cheek. The camera captured Derek and O’s startled expressions. Derek offered to take another photo, but everyone seemed happy with the way they looked in the first one.

Blu insisted, “You gotta post that on Facebook! Caption it, ‘Best honeymoon ever!’”

Charles’ uncharacteristic actions were now piling up so fast, like skidding cars in a blizzard, that Derek couldn’t keep track of them all. “I thought you hated Facebook.”

Blu grinned back. “I used to hate a lot of things I never tried.”

Derek decided to stop searching for signs of Charles and just enjoy Blu for however long he lasted.

Todd told Blu, “Be sure to say goodbye to your brother for us.”

It took a moment for Blu to register what he meant. “Oh! Red! Yeah, almost forgot about him! I’ll give him your love.”

Todd and O waved down the bar to Pierce, who looked up and nodded, then turned back immediately toward the older gentleman, engrossed in conversation. As they prepared to leave, Todd noticed O’s shotglass still resting on the bar. “You sure you don’t want that?”

O gauged his level of drunkenness and confirmed, “Nah, I better not.”

“Shame for it to go to waste,” Todd said. He considered offering it to Blu or Mike the Spike, but instead, in a single swift motion, he picked up the shotglass and downed its contents. He could immediately sense internal turbulence as the new drink mingled with the traces of the previous shot which lingered on his tongue. This was followed by a series of tremors cascading through his body like a string of firecrackers going off in rapid succession. He toppled forward, but O caught him before he could fall. “You okay, bro?” O asked.

After a moment to compose himself, Todd looked up with a lopsided grin, gazing directly into O’s eyes with cocky assurance. “Oh, yeah, babe, I’m fantastic.”

O was taken aback by such unexpected confidence from his little pal, but couldn’t deny that it turned him on. He took Todd’s arm to steady him as they headed toward the door. Blu and Derek watched them depart like doting parents, if doting parents fixated on how sexy their kids’ asses looked as they walked away.

As the two college buddies stepped outside and walked back to the van, O’s mind was racing as he considered the repercussions of the evening’s events. Tonight had confirmed many things he had long suspected about himself deep down but had been afraid to explore or even admit. He was relieved that several days of driving stood between him and the next time he would have to face his girlfriend or his football teammates. Even more importantly, he wouldn’t see his parents until the end of the semester. The longer he could delay that conversation, the better. Of more immediate concern, he assumed that he and Todd would be able to keep quiet about tonight around Bart and Kev during the road trip back to Iowa. After all, they’d both kept their desires concealed this long. What was another three days?

Upon reaching the minivan, O pulled the keys out of his pocket and asked Todd, “You wanna drive or should I?”

Todd growled, “Oh, I’m drivin’,” and slammed O against the vehicle, surrounding O’s lips with his own. Even Todd wasn’t sure where this aggressiveness came from, although he suspected the shots must be amplifying his already raging libido. Logically, he knew there was no way he should be able to push O around, yet here he was, empowered like one of those parents who can suddenly pick up a car single-handedly in order to save their kid. He could swear that his t-shirt was tightening around his neck and arms and across his chest, and his pale skin even looked darker under the street lights. He felt like the Hulk, only fueled by horniness instead of rage.

For a moment, O considered pushing Todd away, a reflexive flinch based on years of carefully maintaining a certain outward image. On any other night, if some dude had tried to kiss him, even if that dude was his friend, O would have pushed him away and threatened to punch his goddamn lights out.

On the other hand, he thought, “Fuck it, I’m gay.”

He went with option two.

As Pierce approached the Distinguished Older Gentleman at the end of the bar, he pointed appreciatively to the drink the D.O.G. had sent his way. It had more of a kick than what he usually drank, unless you counted Mariposa, which in terms of its impact made even grain alcohol seem like watered-down Kool-Aid.

“¡Hola, Chico! ¿CÃmo estás?” Pierce said as he approached. “I’ve noticed you all night, watching me from the shadows.”

The man laughed and raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “You caught me.”

Pierce hadn’t expected Chico to divulge his true identity so quickly, but the kid was probably new to the subtleties of the Mariposa experience. When Pierce disappeared into a Mariposa persona, a big part of the pleasure was being unrecognizable, even to your closest friends. The past two days had been highly instructive, as Derek and Charles felt free to voice their unguarded opinions about Pierce in the presence of “Jesus” and “Beau”.

“So, what should I call you, ‘old man’?” Pierce asked. He found that using fake names enhanced his immersion in the role-playing experience. He had been in this club so many times under an assumed identity that it felt disorienting to be here as himself, albeit a considerably younger version.

“You can call me Juan,” the man replied in smooth barely-accented English. “Don Juan.”

Pierce successfully swallowed a laugh. Yeah, he was definitely dealing with a Mariposa rookie. At the end of the night, he’d have to give the kid pointers in coming up with more plausible pseudonyms. He might as well have said he was “Bond, James Bond.” Still, he cut an impressive figure, nicely filling out a well-tailored suit which Pierce assumed the bellboy had pilfered from one of the hotel guests. His cultured, mature voice was raspy but strong, his skin leathery but largely unwrinkled, his eyes dimly visible behind gold-tinted shades. Pierce had to admit that “Juan” had a certain magnetism, which attributed to the presence of a fine young thang temporarily inhabiting this old man’s carcass.

“I heard that you were staying at my hotel,” Juan said, brushing a finger across his salt-and-pepper mustache. “I was hoping you might show up here tonight.”

“Good guess. This is my usual hang when I’m in Cancun.”

“It wasn’t a guess. I’ve been keeping my eye on you for a while. You probably don’t remember, but we met once before at my hotel, about a year ago.”

Pierce couldn’t specifically remember interacting with Chico on his previous trips, but the bellhop had definitely caught his eye as he scurried around the hotel. One of the reasons he always stayed at the same hotel on every visit was its fit, youthful and mostly male staff. On more than one occasion, he had called the front desk to request turndown service, then seduced the handsome employee dispatched to his room. His bed hadn’t been turned down yet.

Not wanting to let the kid down, Pierce said, “Of course I remember you. How could I forget your sweet little butt?”

“It’s seen better days,” Juan scoffed, motioning to Manolo for a refill.

Pierce stepped closer and cheekily squeezed Juan’s ass, finding it impressively firm and muscular. “Feels ripe to me.”

Juan rose slightly from his stool in response to the unexpected goosing. “You are a fresh one, aren’t you?” he said, studying Pierce’s face. “I didn’t remember you being so young.”

Pierce smirked and declared, “Oh, I’m timeless, honey.” He polished off the rest of his drink and placed the glass on the bar. When Manolo asked if he wanted another, Pierce gave it a few moments’ thought, then nodded. He noticed Todd and O waving to him from the other end of the bar, having been joined by Blu and Derek. Pierce nodded to them, then shifted his focus back to Juan, intrigued and seeking to get better acquainted.

By the time Manolo worked his way back to the far end of the bar, the boys from Iowa had departed, and the blue-haired twink was insisting that Mike the Spike instruct him on how to post a selfie on Facebook. “Need anything to drink?” the bartender inquired.

“Yes,” Blu replied, “I’d like one shot of tequila for myself and three for my enormous friend.”

Derek objected. “Three? Are you trying to get me drunk?”

“Why, you really are a great detective!” Blu snarked back. “Since you’re observing the obvious, have you noticed the disparity between our sizes? You’re gonna have to drink at least three times as much to keep up with me.”

It was true that Derek felt unscathed by the drinks he had already consumed, but he didn’t relish the idea of flying home tomorrow feeling the after-effects of a night of drunken carousing. Then he remembered what Pierce had said about the residual alcohol departing a Mariposafied body along with the rest of your temporary changes. It was like having a “Get out of a hangover free” card. He looked at Manolo, who was awaiting a decision, and raised four fingers. “Make it four.”

Blu cheered, “That’s the spirit!” His attention shifted back to the photo on Derek’s phone. Charles had always dreaded getting his picture taken and despised the way he looked in photos, always considering himself too pasty or pudgy or plain, yet Blu couldn’t get enough of his own image. He loved seeing his blue-haired tattooed alter-ego behaving with such abandon, flaunting his limber body so unashamedly. Thanks to Mariposa, he had thoroughly shed his inhibitions and become a one-man pride parade. “Okay, so how do we post this on your page?”

“It’s just gonna confuse my friends,” Derek insisted. “Nobody’s gonna know who any of these people are.”

“Oh, I guarantee some of them’ll recognize Mike the Spike,” Blu said with a sly grin. “That’s how you’ll find out who your real friends are!”

When the shots arrived, Blu insisted that Derek had to do all four of his shots before Blu would drink his one, giving as his rationale, “I don’t want you pussying out on me.” A crowd encircled them to watch the big man slam back one shot after another. Aside from the acrid taste and the unpleasant burn as the booze went down his throat, the shots had little noticeable effect on Derek. They were like four BBs striking the impenetrable hide of a bull elephant. Impressed, Blu tossed down his own shot and felt the repercussions ripple through his body almost instantly. Although he was still wearing only in a Speedo, his body felt warm all over.

For the next hour, one man after another approached Derek for an autograph or a picture or just the thrill of hearing Mike the Spike tell them “You’re fucked!” Many shared anecdotes of how much his work had meant to them, which Derek found mostly sweet but occasionally creepy as all get-out. Most also insisted on buying the porn star a shot, and after enough BBs to the gut, even a body the size of Mike the Spike’s felt the impact. Once Derek loosened up, he was even willing to scribble sloppy Sharpied signatures on bar napkins and t-shirts and various parts of his fans’ anatomy, figuring that if he just wrote his own real name illegibly enough, he wasn’t technically forging Mike’s autograph. He drew a firm line at signing penises, but did end up putting his mark on quite a few glutei maximi.

Blu attracted nearly as many admirers as Mike the Spike, both for his lively performances earlier in the night and for his show-stopping bubble butt. Requests for selfies with his ass slightly outnumbered those for shots that included his face, which might have made Blu insecure if he still possessed the capacity to experience that emotion. Instead, he delighted at being the focal point for a swarm of hot and horny dudes and obligingly shook his rump for their enjoyment.

Eventually, when he noticed that Derek appeared overwhelmed by attention and alcohol, Blu intervened, pushing the well-wishers away and informing them that Mike the Spike would love to stay, but that he had to get up early in the morning. “Don’t you mean he has to ‘get it up’ early in the morning?” a familiar voice heckled.

Derek and Blue looked over to see Pierce squeezing his way through the pack. “You boys taking off now?”

“Yeah,” Blu replied. “I think we’re both too wasted, so you may need to drive.”

Pierce squinted and grimaced. “Sorry, but I’m off-duty. I’ll ask Manolo to call you a taxi.”

“Why can’t you… ?” Blu began to ask, until he noticed the D.O.G. just behind Pierce, settling his tab with Manolo. “Ohhhh,” Blu said with a smirk.

Pierce dug into his pocket and handed Blu a wad of bills. “You should probably plan on taking a cab to the airport in the morning too. My services may be unavailable.”

Through his drunken haze, it took Derek a few seconds to catch the drift. “Holy shit. You’re goin’ home with the old guy?”

Pierce motioned for Derek to keep his voice down, not wanting Juan to hear them. “You know me,” Pierce said, confidentially, “I’ll try anything once. Besides, looks aren’t everything.” His attempt to keep a straight face lasted to the final syllable of “everything”, when he burst into laughter and declared, “I’m kidding, of course. Looks ARE everything. So… ,” he asked warily, “we good?”

Blu looked up at the stone face of Mike the Spike, which gradually lit up with a smile that was pure Derek. While Pierce’s actions may have been misguided, even reckless, he couldn’t believe that his old roommate had done anything deliberately malicious. “Yeah, we good.”

Pierce sighed with relief. He stretched his hand toward Blu and asked, “No hard feelings?”

Blu replied, “You crazy? I’ve been havin’ hard feelings all night!” He rejected Pierce’s hand and went in for a full-contact hug. He could feel a serious lump pressing against him at waist level and mumbled into Pierce’s ear, “Apparently you’re having hard feelings too, my friend.”

Pierce wasn’t sure which was more surprising: hearing Charles making erection jokes or hearing Charles call him “friend”. Either way, he was pleased. Even he had to concede that his experiment hadn’t been without its glitches, but the effect of Mariposa on the newlyweds seemed to be a net positive.

Pierce felt a warm body at his side and made the necessary introductions. “Guys, I’d like you to meet ‘Don Juan’.” As he said the name, Pierce made air-quotes and winked. “Juan, these are my friends. This is Blu.”

Juan elegantly shook Blu’s dainty hand. “I very much enjoyed your performance. You have a gift.”

Blu didn’t know whether to laugh or blush. He compromised with a loud stupefied snort.

Then Pierce gestured toward Derek. “And, this of course is…”

“No introduction needed.” Juan walked over and wrapped both of his hands warmly around Derek’s right hand. “One of my cherished holiday traditions is to sit back with a nice hot toddy and watch Dick Hard.”

“Thank you, sir,” Derek said graciously. “You know, not enough people give ‘Dick Hard’ credit for being a Christmas movie.”

“Hey, we had a nice hot Toddy here before, but he had to go home early,” Blu said with a tipsy giggle.

Pierce patted Blu on the shoulder and said, “Lemme call you that taxi back to the hotel.”

Juan said, “Oh, no. You’re making your friends take a taxi? I won’t hear of it. Come, we’ll give you a ride in my limo.” As Juan bustled toward the door, Derek mouthed the word “Limo?” to Pierce, who shrugged and followed the D.O.G. to the exit. Blu and Derek trailed behind, their departure slowed by stragglers who wanted one last photo with Mike the Spike and his perky little sidekick.

When the foursome got outside, a white stretch limousine was indeed waiting by the curb. “Is this the hotel’s?” Pierce asked, impressed that Chico had the chutzpah to finagle the use of one of the hotel’s fleet of cars for the night.

“I suppose, technically,” Juan assured him as a white-uniformed driver opened the door to the passenger area. Juan gallantly gestured for the others to enter before him.

When they reached the hotel, the driver again got out and opened the door. Derek and Blu thanked Juan for the lift and climbed out. When Pierce made a move to follow them, he felt Juan’s hand on his arm. “I was hoping you would come back to my place,” Juan said bashfully.

Pierce hesitated. He was used to being the one in control, setting the agenda, making people do what he wanted, but he had to admit that he was curious to see where this night could lead. He looked through the open door and grinned, surprising himself. “I guess this is it, then. Have a safe trip home. Hope I didn’t ruin your honeymoon too much.”

The drunken newlyweds, leaning on each other in a mutual effort to prevent them from falling, gazed blearily but fondly at Pierce. “No, not too much,” Derek said. “We’ll definitely never forget it.”

Blu was more upbeat, pointing to Pierce and declaring, “You’re the best, man.”

Pierce had to laugh at the unlikeliness of that assessment coming from Charles. “And you’re drunk, man.”

“Also true,” Blu said, touching a finger to the tip of his nose.

Pierce sensed the driver growing impatient with holding the door. He waved both hands at Derek and Blu and gave them a parting “Ta-ta!” then settled back into the leather seat beside Juan. Derek and Blu stood at the curb and watched as the limo drove away.

As they entered their suite, Derek grew dizzy and dropped to his knees. Blu grabbed onto his shoulders to keep him from toppling to the floor. “You okay, honey?”

Derek brought a hand to his forehead. “Just felt weak all of a sudden. I think maybe the stuff’s wearing off.”

“Let’s get you to bed,” Blu suggested, unsuccessfully attempting to hoist his husband back to his feet. Instead, Derek shuffled into the bedroom on his knees, with Blu beside him, acting as navigator.

Derek climbed onto the bed and extracted himself from his leather vest, while Blu unbuckled the big man’s belt and pulled down at the waistband. Blu was amazed to discover that, despite all the alcohol Derek had consumed, the Spike was still semi-rigid. Blu wondered if that thing had its own circulatory system that made it immune to limp dick syndrome. “Ya know,” he suggested, “it might be fun to be doin’ it when we change back.”

Derek looked apologetic. “I don’t think I’m up to it.” He flopped back on the bed, his energy spent.

Blu pouted, disappointed that this night and this honeymoon would be ending with a whimper and not a bang. As he dejectedly began to slide down his Speedo, he caught a glimpse of himself in the bedroom mirror, the moonglow through the window artistically edge-lighting the crescents of his ass cheeks. He hated the thought of not enjoying the benefits of this body one last time.

Derek was lolling in the pleasant limbo between inebriation and total unconsciousness when he felt his absurdly long cock rise and stiffen. He moaned pleasantly as his erection was engulfed in warm flesh and slowly opened his eyes to see his impish husband rising and falling like he was riding a pogo stick. Aroused from his slumber, Derek had no choice but to participate actively, clutching Blu by the hips and pushing him downward, then shifting his hips to put some English on his Louisville Slugger. As the Spike penetrated further and further, Blu squealed uncontrollably, biting the thumb of his left hand while furiously stroking his own cock in his right.

As he approached climax, Derek could sense his strength fading and his body withering. The bulky arms stretched out to hold Blu grew slimmer and the dark pigment in his skin receded before his eyes. He could feel the itch of stubble emerging across his bare scalp and could hear it scratching against the bedspread with each thrust. He watched as Mike the Spike’s barrel chest deflated, and his body sank as his shoulders and lats decreased to less superheroic dimensions. Through it all, Blu remained propped up by Derek’s undiminished hard-on as it pumped great clots of jizz deep into Blu’s body. Pushed beyond his ability to express his feelings in words, Blu was reduced to feral screams and mad facial contortions. By the time he tumbled forward in utter fulfillment, the body that cushioned his landing had returned to its usual Derek-shaped contours. The imp cuddled his de-Mariposaed husband, and the couple lay together blissfully until both were sound asleep.

When Derek woke several hours later, the sun had risen and he was curled naked in the fetal position under the covers. At some point in the night, Charles must have tucked him in. He could hear his husband showering in the next room. Derek checked the time on his phone, then called room service to order a pot of black coffee. After he hung up, he was pleased to realize he felt no negative repercussions from all of last night’s drinking. He leaned against the headboard, clasping his hands in his now fully-restored head of hair, and looked down, relieved to be stripped of the weight, both physically and psychically, which had come with being Mike the Spike for a day. He grasped at his earlobe and discovered the earrings were still lodged there. He guessed they would serve as a permanent reminder of his Cancun adventures.

Before he could investigate whether he had been left with any other souvenirs from his most recent transformation, he heard the bathroom door open. It had been two days since he had seen Charles in his natural state, unaffected by the powers of Mariposa. Red and Blu had been so vivid, Derek almost had trouble picturing the real Charles. He was certain that Charles would be even happier than he was to return to normal and get back to reality.

So Derek was baffled when he saw Charles emerge from a cloud of steam looking exactly as he had the night before: short and boyishly thin, except for a disproportionately large ass. Briskly toweling dry his mop of blue hair, the naked waif cooed, “Mornin’, sweetie!”

Slack-jawed, Derek stammered out a series of words that didn’t quite form a sentence. “But? How? You. Blue!”

“Yeah, guess mine’s takin’ longer to wear off.” Charles shrugged, unperturbed, his voice still Blu’s fluttery chirp. He loped over to his suitcase and pondered his clothing options for the trip ahead. “I prob’ly should wear something loose, so I can grow into it, huh? Won’t it be wild if I don’t change back ‘til we’re in midair. The other passengers will freak!”

Derek leaned back, confused. “Why haven’t you changed? You drank your bottle way before I did mine.”

“Maybe it affects everyone differently. Guess I’m in overtime,” Charles said with a giggle as he inspected a powder-blue tank that would look just darling on him now but would be embarrassingly tiny once he plumped back to his default weight.

In his mind, Derek worriedly ran through the caveats Pierce had given about Mariposa. “You didn’t happen to have any Mariposa at the club, did you?” he asked gingerly.

Charles paused to think, one finger pressed to his cheek, his other hand propped on his out-thrust hip. “Don’t think so, but by the end there, I coulda been drinkin’ gasoline and not known it. Why, do I look different?” He struck a series of exaggerated modeling poses, hoping to make Derek laugh, but his husband remained disappointingly grim.

“No, you look the same,” Derek said quietly. “You’re sure you didn’t have any more of the stuff? Pierce said we should never mix two different Mariposas together.”

“I think I would remember if I…” Charles was stopped by a sudden realization.

Derek’s stomach sank. “Uh-oh. What is it?”

Charles’ bubbly mood lost some of its froth. “Nothin’, nothin’. It’s just… But I’m sure it couldn’t make much difference.”

Derek put his hand over his eyes. “What did you do?”

Gesturing nervously, Charles walked toward the bed. “I might have maybe taken a teeny-tiny little sip from that bottle in Pierce’s room.”

Derek looked up, his face gray. “The stuff that made him look so young yesterday?”

Charles nodded. “But I only had a swig, not the whole bottle. But what’s the big deal if you mix ’em anyway? I mean, I feel fine. So, I get to be young for a few extra hours. So what?”

Derek took hold of Charles’ hands and looked straight into his vibrant blue eyes. “Pierce said if you combine them, the changes… are permanent.”

Charles furrowed his brow as he absorbed this information. He looked down at his smooth body, still beaded with water from his shower, then back at Derek. “You mean I’m gonna be like this… for good?”

Derek swallowed hard, then nodded slowly.

Charles took a beat as the verdict sank in, then unleashed an ecstatic “Wooooo-hooooo!!” He leapt onto the bed and jumped on his coltish legs like he was on a trampoline, slapping his hands against the ceiling and doing the splits in midair. Once the initial surge of energy was out of his system, he landed on his knees and scooted over to Derek, eyes wide with excitement. “Are you kidding me? This is the greatest news in the history of ever!” He slapped his hands over Derek’ ears, leaned forward and pressed his plump lips against Derek’s, kissing him with such intensity that, when he finally released Derek from his clutches, the suction had drained all coloring from the flesh around Derek’s mouth.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me,” Derek said calmly.

“Oh, I heard you!” Charles exclaimed, returning to his feet and bouncing on the mattress. “This is incredible. All day yesterday, I was thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I could just stay like this?’ For the first time in my life, I felt comfortable in my skin, like this was the way I was always meant to be!”

Derek stared at him blankly. “You’re not serious.”

“Don’t I look serious?” Charles laughed, jumping up and down like an excited kid on Christmas morning, only stark naked with blue hair and a floppy little dick. He hopped down to the floor and pranced to the mirror to give himself a complete inspection. He looked and felt like he was eighteen again, only with a body and an outlook totally unlike those he had possessed when he was actually that age. He turned back to Derek and declared, “Oh, man, you are so lucky!”

Derek was puzzled. “I’m lucky?”

Charles tousled his blue mane into a shaggy mess and turned in profile to confirm that he had retained his bountiful butt. “Sure! Because you’re married to this now, not some boring prematurely-middle-aged drip!”

Derek felt the need to defend Charles to Charles. “I liked that drip. I married that drip!”

Charles waved his hands with a flourish. “Honey, I’m still that same drip inside… more or less. I just went from being a tight-ass to having a tight ass. That sounds like an upgrade to me!”

Derek was skeptical that the pixie flitting around the room like a hummingbird that forgot to take its Adderall was “more or less” the same as the soft-spoken, studious, even-tempered man who had pledged to love, honor and cherish him just three days ago. “But you’re a kid now. What are you even going to do? Go back to college?”

Charles sputtered his lips dismissively. “Why would I put myself through that again?” He pointed to his head. “I’ve haven’t lost any of that knowledge. I may look like an adorable ditz, but I’m still a lawyer up here. I still know my Marbury from my Madison.”

Derek found that something of a relief. “So you’re just gonna go back to the firm and, what, hope they don’t notice?”

“I dunno. Maybe I’ll tell ’em I went to Mexico and got an extreme makeover. Which is pretty much the truth.”

“You at least gonna dye your hair brown?”

Charles crossed his arms and showed a hint of his old prickliness. “You don’t like my hair?”

“Well, no, I like it,” Derek said defensively. “I’m just thinkin’ it might not be the most… lawyerly look?”

“Fuck lawyerly! Why should I have to change who I am just to conform to someone else’s narrow ideas? This is who I am now, and if they don’t like it, they can shove my dick up their constipated asses!” Even Charles seemed surprised by the ferocity of his conviction. He took a seat on the edge of the bed, lowered his voice and softened his tone. “Okay, maybe that was a bit much. But don’t you understand? These past couple of days, I’ve finally been able to act the way I always wished I could, but I was always too afraid I’d look foolish. I don’t have those inhibitions any more. I feel brave. I feel free. It’s like suddenly discovering you’ve got this great voice that nobody’s ever heard because you’ve never had the courage to sing. Once you’ve found your voice, you don’t ever wanna stop singing!”

Derek sounded a note of caution. “Just for the record, you do know you still sing atrociously, right?”

Charles scowled. “It’s a metaphor, dammit. Christ, I thought you’d be on my side.”

“Of course I’m on your side. I’m just worried that you’re on such a high right now that maybe you haven’t considered all the consequences thoroughly. I mean, what’s one of your big corporate clients gonna think if you show up in their board room looking like you’re ready to emcee The Hunger Games?”

“Who cares what they think? I’m sick of spending my days and all my energy figuring out new ways that all those greedy fuckers can keep all their fucking money. I don’t hafta do corporate law. Maybe I’ll change my specialty. Maybe I should, I dunno, represent LGBT kids who are being bullied or discriminated against. It’d be great to have clients who just need a good lawyer by their side who can identify with their problems, who knows what they’re going through. Clients who think it’s cool if their lawyer’s got blue hair and a killer booty.”

Derek was impressed by this unexpectedly sober side of his transformed husband. He’d never seen Charles express such passion or such compassion. Maybe by getting smaller and younger, Charles had actually grown as a person. Derek reached over and rubbed his hand across Charles’ back. “If that’s really what you want, you know I’m behind you a hundred percent. But there’s one thing I gotta know. Is the new you still gonna be interested in the old me?”

Charles seemed offended by the question. “Are you crazy? You haven’t changed. Why should my feelings for you change?”

Derek squirmed. “Well, I dunno. You’re this big blue bundle of energy now. You might want someone more your…”

“More my what? My age? Dummy, just ‘cause I look eighteen and feel eighteen doesn’t mean I really wanna hang around with eighteen-year-olds. Have you seen what they’re like these days?”

“You seemed to get along fine with Todd and Theo,” Derek countered.

Charles smiled fondly as he thought of them, but refused to concede his point. “Yeah, but they were exceptions. Their two buddies were morons! You and I, we’ve got a real connection. We’ve lived through the same things. We’ve got the perspective of time. Sure, I might have lightened up, but it’s not like I’m suddenly gonna start sharing my every insipid thought on Insta-chat or whatever.”

“Instagram,” Derek corrected him. “You’re sure you won’t be embarrassed to be seen hanging around with some boring old oral surgeon?”

“Well, I wasn’t before!” Charles smirked. “You know, a wise man named Jesus once told me that you can always choose not to be boring. But if you’re really that hung up on the age thing, I think there’s still half a bottle of de-ager in Pierce’s room. One little drinky-poo and…” Charles raised his eyebrows enticingly.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Derek insisted, shaking his head. “I’m finally reached the age where I’m okay with who I am. I’ve got a solid practice, a nice house… a new husband. Why would I want to start monkeying around with that?”

“Then what’s the problem?” Charles asked.

What’s the problem, indeed, wondered Derek. If Charles wasn’t weirded out by this situation, maybe Derek shouldn’t be either.

Charles scooted over, speaking breathily, “You do realize I’ve always had a thing for older guys.” He tilted his head and gave Derek a French kiss.

Derek instantly saw the upside of having a frisky young husband. As he stretched his arms toward Charles, he felt something rising beneath the bedspread. And rising. And rising some more. He abruptly let go of Charles, who slid off the edge of the bed, his fall cushioned by his padded ass.

“Ow! What’s wrong now?” Charles cried with annoyance from his sprawled position on the floor.

Derek grinned and shook his head. “Nothin’ at all,” he said as he tossed aside the covers. He had retained a souvenir from yesterday after all.

Charles scrambled to his knees and beheld Derek’s massive erection. “The Spike??”

The Spike indeed. An eleven-inch obelisk of flesh pointed toward the ceiling. The shaft was several shades darker than rest of Derek’s complexion and still bore the barbed-wire tattoo left over from his day as a punk. Charles gazed upon it like it was a holy relic. “I know I’ve had my differences with Pierce in the past,” Charles said, “but he gives the best fucking wedding presents.”

Derek jumped out of bed and rushed to the mirror to see if he had retained any of Mike the Spike’s other features, but except for that one very obvious exception, he looked like his usual self. He checked over his shoulder and noted, with some disappointment, that even his old flat ass had returned. “Well, you can’t have everything.”

“It’s okay, Spike,” Charles assured him with a slap on his unexceptional butt. “I’ve got more than enough ass for the both of us.” He stared hungrily at Derek’s throbbing organ and was about to make a move on it when they heard a knock at the door. They both froze.

“Probably room service,” Derek explained. “I ordered coffee.”

Charles whispered, “Maybe if we just start to fuck quietly, they’ll go away.”

Derek looked at the clock and said, “We don’t have time for that. We’ll miss our flight.”

“Might be worth it,” Charles said with a devilish smile.

Derek glowered. “Don’t force me to be the mature one. You know how annoyed you’d get if we had to rebook our flight. Put something on and open the door.”

Charles sulked playfully, bit on a fingertip, and walked away, whining, “Whatever you say, Daddy.”

Derek winced. “Okay, that’s a liiiiittle creepy.”

Charles straightened up and agreed. “You’re right, that was icky. Just tryin’ something out.” He dug into his suitcase as he heard another round of knocking. “Just a minute,” he called out as he stepped into a purple pair of silk boxers.

Charles hustled through the main room and opened the front door where he was surprised to find Chico holding a tray with a coffee pot and two cups. The young man looked at the floor, uncomfortable about returning to this room and eager to end this errand as quickly as possible. He looked miserable, unshaven and uncombed with heavy bags under his eyes.

“Chico!” Charles shouted joyfully, motioning the bellboy into the room. “Derek! It’s Chico!”

Chico toted the tray to the bar, set it down and marched back toward the door as fast as he could, only to find the blue-haired urchin blocking his exit. “PerdÃneme,” Chico said, trying to push past.

“What’s your hurry?” Charles asked. “We wanna hear how the rest of last night went.”

“It’s okay. He doesn’t have to tell us anything,” Derek said, leaning casually in the bedroom doorway, having donned gray boxer-briefs which perfectly outlined the obscenely stiff appendage pinned against his right thigh.

When Chico caught sight of Derek’s enormous bulge, his eagerness to leave subsided slightly. Charles walked over and slung an arm around Chico’s shoulder. “Oh, he doesn’t have to get graphic, but I’m sure he won’t mind feeding us a few tidbits. Have a seat,” he said, gesturing to a bar stool.

Chico did as he was told, his eyes shooting nervously from one barely-dressed man to the other. Even though they didn’t seem angry or intimidating, Chico began to sweat uncontrollably. He lowered his head and blurted out, “Okay, okay, I did it. I’m sorry!”

“Did what?” Charles asked sympathetically.

“I stole your Mariposa,” Chico said, his voice trembling. “Two times! I know it costs much money. I will pay you back. Please do not report me.”

Derek walked over and patted Chico’s knee. “Hey, it’s okay, man. Don’t worry about it.”

Chico raised his head and looked at the men through watery eyes. “You are not angry?”

“Not at all,” Charles assured the young man. “We just wondered how things went after you left here.”

Convinced that the men were genuinely not mad, Chico’s anxiety eased a bit. He laughed with embarrassment and confessed, “I got sick like a dog.”

Charles cringed. “Oooh, sorry to hear that. How did Pierce react?”

“Pierce?” Chico asked. “¿Quien es Pierce?”

“Pierce. You know, the guy you took home in the limo,” Derek said.

Chico looked confused. “I did not take a limo. I rode home on a bicycle and spent the whole day in bed. I never got farther than the baño, except when I had to…” He mimed an international gesture for projectile vomiting.

Derek and Charles exchanged intrigued looks. “Sounds like you had a bad trip,” Charles said.

“It was a bummer too,” Chico griped. “The Mariposa, it made me to look just like the Taylor Lautner too. I look like him all day but I couldn’t show it off to no one!”

Charles tried to contain his amusement. “You looked like Taylor Lautner?” Chico nodded. “Well, that would explain why you got so sick,” Charles said. “That bottle was probably years past its expiration date.” Derek shot him a dirty look, but Charles grinned impishly.

Chico didn’t see the humor in his situation. He stood up and pleaded with the guests. “I am so very sorry, Señores. I will pay you back. I promise. I cannot lose my job. My uncle will kill me.”

Derek asked, “Who’s your uncle?”

“He owns the hotel. He gave me this job. But he says to me if I make one more mistake…”

Charles patted him on the shoulder and walked him to the door. “Don’t you worry. We won’t tell a soul, especially not your uncle. Consider the Mariposa our tip. Okay?”

“Okay,” Chico said, wiping away tears of gratitude. “You are very kind, Señores.”

“You’re a good kid, Chico,” Charles said. “Just remember this the next time you think of stealing something that doesn’t belong to you, all right?”

“SÃ señor,” Chico said, nodding as he opened the door. “Thank you so much. I have learned my lesson. I will never drink the Mariposa again.” He stepped into the hallway, bowing slightly as the door slowly closed.

At the bar, Derek poured two cups of coffee. As Charles walked over to grab his cup, he asked, “So if that wasn’t Chico at the club, who the hell did Pierce go home with?”

To Pierce, waking up after doing Mariposa always felt like the ending of The Wizard of Oz. The world shifted from a lively Technicolor wonderland where anything was possible, back to the sepia-toned dullness of normality, and even if you were still surrounded by the same people, they now seemed as drab and ordinary as a bunch of farmhands. Even after a comparatively minor transformation like yesterday’s age rollback, reality seemed like a major letdown. Pierce knew that he was in good physical shape for his age and far from ancient, but going from 18 to 31 made him acutely aware of every aching joint, every clump of stubborn cellulite.

But as he took in his surroundings this morning, he had to wonder if he was still in dreamland. He found himself alone in a king-sized four-poster bed in a spacious and luxuriously-appointed bedroom. Sheer curtains fluttered by the open French doors which offered a stunning view of the sparkling Caribbean.

Although his body felt fine, mercifully unaffected by the consequences from the previous night’s overindulgence, Pierce clutched his forehead as he reconstructed the events which had brought him here. He could clearly remember the events at the club, meeting “Don Juan”, delivering Derek and Charles to the hotel, then continuing to ride in the limo for a long while to a remote location. He recalled entering an impossibly lavish mansion and being brought to a candlelit bedroom where he and Juan had made love. Although he knew better than most anyone in the world what Mariposa could do, he still hadn’t expected such an old body to be so sexy and powerful, to have so much stamina, to be so arousing. Pierce attributed that vigor to young Chico’s presence inside the outer trappings of Juan. If Chico could be that overwhelming when encumbered with the accoutrements of age, Pierce smiled in anticipation of the prospect of sex with Chico once he’d been restored to his original packaging.

Beneath the snow-white comforter, Pierce was nude, and last night’s clothes were nowhere to be seen. He was tempted to get up and explore, but even an exhibitionist as fearless as Pierce was aware there could be a potential downside to being spotted wandering naked through an unfamiliar house. Without a phone handy to kill time, he settled back and rested in extravagant comfort.

He had no idea how much time had elapsed before he was awakened by someone gently nudging him. Pierce rubbed his eyes and saw Juan seated on the edge of the bed, his robust body garbed in burgundy silk pajamas. His hair was immaculately slicked back and he smelled faintly of chlorine, which suggested that he had returned from a swim. He wasn’t wearing his tinted shades this morning, so Pierce could see his soulful gray eyes framed by slight bags and crows’ feet. “I hope you slept well,” the old man said gently.

“Like a big naked baby,” Pierce said. He was confused by Juan’s appearance. “You haven’t changed yet?”

“I figured we could relax in bed a while longer, if that’s okay with you.”

“Are you kidding? This bed’s so comfortable, I may never want to get out of it.” He scooted over to make room. “So, how much longer ‘til it wears off?”

Now, Juan was confused. “Until what wears off?”

“The Mariposa.”

The man reacted with a throaty laugh. “Are people still doing that? I haven’t touched that stuff in years. Definitely an interesting experience, but it can make you act loco. I grew tired of it very quickly. Personally, I prefer peyote, but to each his own, I suppose. You don’t seriously drink that Mariposa shit, do you?”

Pierce replied cautiously, “Sometimes?”

“Aha. Like yesterday, perhaps? That would explain why you look so much more mature this morning.”

Pierce couldn’t have expected his bedmate not to notice the difference, but he was pleased that the man didn’t seem outwardly disappointed by Pierce’s current appearance.

Juan studied Pierce curiously. “I don’t understand why you would need that swill. You are so extraordinary just as you are.”

Pierce appreciated the compliment, but was still trying to sort out the situation. “So let me get this straight. Does this mean you’re not Chico?”

“Chico? Who is Chico?”

“He’s this cute little bellboy at the hotel where I’m staying. I thought you were him.”

Juan unleashed a hearty laugh. “You’re probably thinking of my nephew. Yes, he works there.”

“You know Chico?”

“Of course! I gave him his job. It is my hotel.”

Pierce let that sink in. All the times Juan had referred to “my hotel”, Pierced didn’t know he meant “my hotel.”

“Yes, Chico,” Juan continued. “Sweet boy, but not the most responsible. It is true, he does look much like I did when I was that age. And I gather he and I share similar… interests.”

Pierce was actively recalibrating his thinking, trying to see Juan not as a boy in an old-man disguise but as an actual old man. “So what’s your name?”

“Just as I told you: Juan.”

Pierce was still confused. “Then why’d you answer when I called you ‘Chico’?”

“‘Chico’, it means ‘boy’. I know about you and your wicked sense of humor. I thought that you were calling me a ‘boy’ as a joke, because I am in fact so old.”

“Well, you’re not so old,” Pierce assured him as he felt his entire world view being challenged. “So this, here, right now, is the real you? How old are you?”

“Next month, I will be fifty-six years old,” Juan said with neither pride nor shame. “And, if it is not rude for me to ask, how old are you? Really?”

“Thirty-one,” Pierce replied, for once seeing no reason to fudge it. “Last night, in bed, you were so… so…”

“I was so-so?” Juan replied, jokingly offended. “I must be slipping.”

“No,” Pierce hastened to correct the record. “No, you were… spectacular.”

Juan was pleased to hear it. “I may be an old dog, but I have learned many new tricks. When I was my nephew’s age, all I cared about was whether I was receiving pleasure. I knew nothing about how to give pleasure, how to satisfy a partner. Yes, I knew how to fuck, but not how to make love. I think maybe you have had sex with too many ‘chicos’. Tell me, what is your agenda?”


“Si, how long are you to be staying in Cancun?”

“I got today to rest up, then I’m back at work tomorrow.”

“Ah, yes. You are a stewardess, no? What would you say if I asked you to stay here?”

Pierce was intrigued enough by Juan to consider hanging out at this mansion a few more days. “I could check the schedule, see if anyone was willing to switch with me.”

“No, you misunderstand. I mean to stay in Cancun.”

“You mean like stay stay?” Usually, if someone suggested anything with even the slightest whiff of “long-term commitment”, Pierce would have already bolted for the door, but he was curious to hear what Juan had in mind.

“You have far too much personality and flair to be spending your life serving pretzels and bloody Marys at 30,000 feet. What if I could offer you a position here in Cancun?”

“Doing what exactly?”

Juan shifted into his sales pitch with the panache of a seasoned businessman. “You have stayed many times in my hotel, no? We are developing a reputation as a place where gays are most welcome. I am hoping to take that further and turn it into the finest gay-friendly hotel in all of Cancun. But to do that, I ask myself, what am I missing?”

“Naked bellboys?” Pierce offered.

“A nightclub! Right on the property! Something truly spectacular. And I think you would be the perfect man to run it and serve as the emcee.”

Pierce instantly scoffed at the idea. What did he know about running a club? Yet his brain immediately began to percolate with thoughts of what he would want in his ideal club. He started to rattle them off out loud. “There could be male strippers on platforms that travel through the crowd on wheels, so everybody can get up close. Drag shows in the early evening to bring in the straight tourists. Maybe a separate martini lounge, something intimate, with a live jazz combo, for couples who aren’t so into the club vibe. The decor should be purple, in honor of Prince. In fact, maybe the club shouldn’t even have a name you could spell with letters. Its name could just be a symbol like Prince had, and only the hippest people would know what it stands for!” He knew just what the staff should wear. He knew he would want to hire away Manolo to be chief bartender, and that they should always have a supply of well-labeled Mariposa under the bar, even if they had to keep it secret from Juan. Just thinking about the possibilities was making Pierce stiff.

Juan was delighted to see Pierce’s response. He was tempted to push further, to ask Pierce to move in with him, to become his partner in more than business, but he didn’t wish to scare away the young man. There would be time for that if Pierce accepted his job offer. As he had matured, Juan had learned the virtue of patience. There was more to life than instant gratification.

O’s blissful slumber was interrupted by someone holding his nostrils shut. He sputtered awake, gasping for air, and saw Kev and Bart glowering down at him, looking hung over and miserable.

“Thanks a lot for abandoning us, shithead,” Bart barked. “We been wanderin’ around all night, ‘cause we couldn’t remember the name of this dump!”

Kev joined in. “We been callin’ and textin’ you all night. Why didn’t you pick up?”

O shielded his eyes from the harsh sun leaking through the shades. He felt like someone had drilled a hole in the top of his head and filled his skull with tapioca pudding. He noticed his pants from last night tangled on the floor, undoubtedly with his unanswered phone still in the pocket. He couldn’t immediately piece together everything that happened after he had left Bart and Kev behind and ventured to the gay club. He did remember being surprised to find Todd there, and even more surprised to see him dance onstage in a tiny gold swimsuit. Just the memory of that gave O morning wood. But after that, things got blurry. All he knew for sure was that he was currently naked under the sheets and felt an unfamiliar but surprisingly pleasant twinge deep in his abdomen.

“Sorry, guys,” O said, concocting a cover story on the fly. “Todd called me at the club to say he was feelin’ sicker, so I drove back here to check on him. I meant to come back and get ya, but I guess I musta passed out or somethin’.”

The story didn’t add up for Kev. “You just passed out… after taking all your clothes off?”

“How is the little wuss doin’ today?” Bart stomped over to the balcony where Todd had been sleeping during their stay. He pulled back the drapes, engulfing O in a burst of daylight intense enough to dematerialize your average vampire. “Hey, Toddler, wake up, ya lightweight!” Bart shouted.

But neither Todd, nor any of his bedding, were on the empty balcony.

Hearing a key being slipped into the lock, all three of them turned toward the door. When it swung open, a lanky and impressively jacked guy walked in, dressed only in sneakers, running shorts which bunched up around his crotch, and a black cap with the bill facing backwards. His bare torso was slicked with sweat, his muscular chest rising and falling mesmerizingly with each heavy breath. “Mornin’, guys,” he said. “I just went for a run.”

The voice was unquestionably Todd’s, if a notch or two lower in pitch. The facial features were his too, only slightly tweaked into something indefinably exotic. But somehow his body had grown taller, his physique had become dramatically more pumped, and his notoriously fair skin had taken on a rich golden hue. He was no longer the runt of this particular litter.

“Todd?” O asked, climbing out of bed, covering his crotch with a bedsheet to conceal his raging woody.

“Duh,” the intruder replied. “Oh, I hope you don’t mind, I borrowed your running shoes. Mine musta shrunk or something.” He shrugged his bulging shoulders.

While Kev and Bart stood in shocked amazement, O crossed the room, dragging his sheet between his legs. He found Todd’s changes even more astounding up close. “What happened to you, dawg?” he asked softly.

“I dunno,” Todd replied, his innate innocence now mixed with a welcome infusion of casual confidence. “Must be somethin’ in the water here. Pretty cool, though, right?”

Todd had been shaken when he first awoke to discover that he had been inexplicably remodeled, but within minutes, if not seconds, any anxieties waned. This body felt so comfortable, so natural, so right, that he just got out of the bed he was sharing with O, found some clothes that fit and proceeded with his morning routine. His typical walk at daybreak turned into a multi-mile sprint as he tested the endurance of his beefed-up muscles. He spent a while at the outdoor workout park and marveled at the strength and agility he suddenly possessed. He kept hoping that the Chinese gymnast from the other day would swing by. He’d have enjoyed showing off how much he had improved in such a short time.

Todd couldn’t help but wonder if the things he and O had done together when they got back to the room last night were responsible for his metamorphosis, if he had somehow triggered a long-delayed burst of puberty that had been stored up for release at the moment he lost his virginity. He half-expected to see some physical changes in O as well, given that O’s reactions suggested he had never before been so intimate with another guy, or at least hadn’t been on the receiving end of such intimacy. Todd wasn’t sure what had made him bold enough to take charge in bed, but he fell into the role easily, and O seemed more than willing to let him. So far, Todd hadn’t noticed any morning-after differences in O’s appearance, although he honestly couldn’t cite anything that needed improvement. Whatever had happened to him, Todd saw no point in questioning it. Gift horses and all that.

Todd kicked off his shoes and called dibs on the shower. As he removed his backwards cap and tossed it onto the bed, a flurry of blond dreadlocks cascaded from underneath, dangling across his forehead in the front and tickling his shoulders in the back. Overnight, his look had evolved from “wholesome boy next door” to “young Thor starts a reggae band”.

Todd had never heard his traveling buddies stay so silent nor seen them remain so still. “Why are you guys just standin’ around? Get packin’. We got a road to hit. And this time we’re switchin’ off shifts drivin’,” he declared emphatically, pointing at Kev and Bart. He turned to O and said, “That means you too, babe,” then grabbed O’s chin and pulled him in for a kiss, their lips now at the same height. O’s eyes widened with surprise, but he did not resist.

After he released O from his grip, Todd dropped his running shorts, revealing a cock that had grown proportionately with the rest of his body. Noting Kev and Bart’s blank expressions, Todd chuckled and said, “What? You’d think you guys have never seen a dick before.” He walked into the bathroom and headed straight to the shower.

O, still buzzing from Todd’s kiss, touched his fingers to his lips, then grinned uncertainly at the dumbstruck Bart and Kev. The next three days in the van had just gotten a lot longer.

Waiting in the security line at the airport, Charles tugged at the bottom of the skin-tight silver shorts he had chosen to wear on the flight. “They’re riding up my crack,” he griped quietly to Derek.

“Maybe you should have thought of comfort instead of fashion,” Derek replied.

“Yeah, but I look so good in them!” Charles said in rebuttal.

Derek was dressed in the same combo of floral shirt, linen slacks and deck shoes that he had worn on the flight down. It was really his only option, given that nearly everything in the alternative wardrobe which Pierce had supplied in their suitcases was sized for men of more extreme proportions.

As they had checked out of the hotel, they had been told everything was paid up, courtesy of Pierce. Even when Charles confessed with some embarrassment to punching a hole in the wall, the desk clerk informed him that it was all covered, including the damage. Upon hearing this, Charles whispered to Derek, “I kinda wish we’d wrecked more now.”

When they exited the hotel, they spotted a cute kid, probably no older than sixteen, racing past them in nothing but a red Speedo and a smile. Noticing Derek and Charles, the kid shouted, “¡Hola, amigos!” They both agreed the kid looked a hell of a lot like an even younger version of Chico.

“You don’t suppose he went into Pierce’s room and drank the rest of the youngifier,” Derek had asked, but Charles was too distracted by the bouncing red butt as it moved away from them. Derek cleared his throat and said in a scolding tone, “I thought you said you preferred older guys.”

Charles turned to Derek, flustered. “Huh? What? Oh, I do. Definitely. In fact, I was just imagining how much better his ass is gonna look in twenty years.”

“Riiiiight,” Derek had said skeptically. Being married to a man with a 31-year-old’s brain and an 18-year-old’s libido was going to pose some unusual challenges.

Now, as they inched closer to the security checkpoint, Derek’s thoughts returned to Mariposa and to the young couple from Iowa whom they had befriended. “I’ve been thinking. Maybe we should find out where Pierce gets his supplies and send a six-pack of Mariposa to Todd and O. Kind of a ‘welcome to the club’ gift.”

Charles shook his head. “Based on the way they were lookin’ at each other, I don’t think they need it. I say we wait and send ’em one when they’ve really gotten bored with each other. Like, for their honeymoon.” He paused for a laugh that didn’t come, then quickly changed the topic. “Ya know, since this trip ended up being basically free, what do you say we plan a real honeymoon? Maybe Maui?”

“That’d be nice,” Derek said, linking arms with Charles. “Just the two of us.”

“Absolutely. No Jesus.”

“No Beau.”

In unison, they said, “No Pierce.”

“And no Mariposa,” Derek said emphatically.

Charles nodded. He was so content with the way things had ended up, he couldn’t imagine needing or wanting to alter himself further. He opened his passport and looked at the bland, doughy, balding man pictured in the mugshot. He seemed like a stranger, or at best a distant relative. Even the name listed seemed wrong. He no longer felt like a Charles or a Chuck or a Charlie. Only Blu seemed to fit his new self. He imagined himself, standing up in court in an electric-blue suit and introducing himself to the judge as Blu White. Charles crinkled his nose. That didn’t sound quite right. He much preferred the sound of Blu Gray.

Maybe with an umlaut over the A.

Derek gave him a nudge, telling him he was being waved over to security. He stepped over to the agent, who looked at the photo in his passport, then back at the decade-younger blue-haired boy standing before him. Tapping the passport, the guard asked curiously, “This supposed to be you?”

Blu just grinned and explained with a glint in his sparkling blue eyes, “It’s an old picture.”

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