The expedition

by BRK

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

Added: Jul 2021 Updated: 6 Nov 2021 23,537 words 9,745 views 4.8 stars (10 votes) This story was commissioned via Patreon Story Commission.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin stared after him in disbelief, though it wasn’t Gary’s antics but his own that dumbfounded him. Martin Jones, he thought, you are a complete and utter melonhead.

“No,” Jude groaned, staring furiously at his email app. “No, no, noo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Two years,” Seb finished pointedly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jude smiled like a supervillain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jude studied him for a moment. Gary waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay,” Gary said, intrigued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin? Dr. Jones, he meant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did he have to run, again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jude moved through the forest, seeking rising terrain, and it wasn’t long before he was making his way up a small, peaty hillock. The low summit didn’t ascend high enough above the surrounding trees to offer him a good view, but just off-center from the crown was a tall, craggy white limestone boulder the size and shape of a giant’s thumb. It had to be twenty feet across and fifty or sixty feet high. The huge, uneven rock seemed at once perfectly intrinsic to the little hill and profoundly out of place, like it might have dropped from the sky—or, more likely on this island, to have erupted from the ground, the random fruit of a stony seed accidentally let slip by a neglectful god. It was manifestly a natural outcropping and not at all man-made, and yet its placement and utility, at the top of an otherwise loamy rise and offering the prospect of all the lands around, seemed just as obvious.

Climb it, something in him urged.

Jude frowned. He thought he was thinking more clearly now… though “more clearly” was obviously relative, what with the way memories of his two-legged past and the palpable rightness of being three-legged wrestled playfully in his mind like boisterous, inseparable brothers. His seemingly constant arousal had definitely not flagged, either: both his oversized cocks were heavy, half-hard, and alert in his (eerily modified) cargo shorts. Even so, Jude was feeling considerably more rational that he had been when he’d found himself running pell-mell through the forest, driven by some wild, unguessable instinct, his blood rushing and his emotions flooding his entire awareness. He’d first thought, once he’d gotten ahold of himself a bit, that the trauma of the lightning strike might have disrupted his cognitive processes, but he knew he’d felt strange well before that. He’d been drawn uncannily toward the stele in the clearing, and, when he’d fallen through into the underground chamber, there’d been an almost physical pull toward the altar. The altar, and the idol.

The idol. It had… conveyed something to him. Not in words—it hadn’t spoken to him. It was more that Jude had felt things, and those feelings had been the idol’s, sunk deep into his own heart and mind so they became his, too. The naturalness of need and oneness with the other two men of his community. Growth and change and balance and joy together. The infinite, primal energy of the earth coursing through their three hearts and bodies like a single, circular river of torrential, churning motion, its strength and force smoothed and sped by delight and pleasure and the raw, unchained power of lust fulfilled. He didn’t quite feel it now—it was like it was walled off from him somehow—but he had felt it, gushing manically through him and making him feel better, stronger, and more raunchily gratified than he had ever felt before.

It was that primal energy that had pulled the lightning from the sky… that had reshaped them with the ease of a thought written on the universe… that had had sent Jude in the blink of an eye to a different part of the island and sent him running, pelting alone and changed through the ancient forest like a lost deer… or had that been a different impulse? Now that he considered it, Jude wasn’t sure. That first force had been all about their physical connection and that untamed river tearing through their three-man circle, so strong and raucous it sloshed over into their physical forms, changing and reshaping them from the splash and foam of its own primordial tumult. The little fold in space that had brought him here, though, had had a different taste to it. He still caught that age of immense age, old beyond the memory or reckoning of the oldest ancestors of humanity, but with its own needs and its own uses in mind for the three humans strewn here so unexpectedly by the winds of chance and passion.

He hoped he was right. There was something about the way his thoughts were subsumed by primal need before, like it was more than a human could handle, that unnerved him. If the island was truly the uncontested domain of whatever being the idol represented, he and the guys were definitely in trouble.

At least he was away from the idol now. (Did Martin have it? He hoped so. That thing needed an eye kept on it.) So… was the impulse to climb the rock coming from that other source?

Jude shook his head. You’re losing it, Rodgers, he told himself. He was being ridiculous. It wasn’t a stretch by any means for him to want to climb this rock and try to get his bearings in relation to the surrounding terrain. Looking for external influences where there weren’t any was only going to make things weirder than they needed to be.

…said the twunk with three legs, he thought with a little quirk of his lips.

Without further internal debate he made a circuit around the rock, and, finding the most promising side for handholds and footholds, set about clambering swiftly up it, glad for the few times he’d tried his hand at the wall-climb at Zanzibar Fitness with Seb and Tris. He immediately discovered, much to his gratification and amusement, that having three feet gave him a distinct advantage, and the thought of showing off on the gym’s knobby climbing wall, dashing up to the top like a monkey while his unfortunately two-legged best buddies lagged comically behind, made him smirk slightly uncharitably, and his heavy cocks plumped a bit more against the warm confines of his shorts as he made his way rapidly up the ragged stone.

Moments later he was standing proudly atop the jutting stone. Its head was revealed to be a smooth, mostly flat platform about four or five paces across. He stooped and carefully examined some markings that were painstakingly incised into the exact center of the platform, confirming that he was by no means the first human being to stand in this place. The brief inscription used the same angular writing system as the altar under the stele, and once again Jude felt like he could almost read what it said. Was it a shrine? A memorial? A warning, perhaps? Abruptly he remembered he had his pen and notebook with him, and pulling them out of their side pouch he diligently reproduced the inscription to show Martin later.

Once done with that he stood, stowing the pen and pad, ands spent a moment just enjoying his exalted perch. A mild and salty wind whipped closely around him, while overhead a pair of falcons soared in sweeping arcs across the clear azure sky. There was no sign of the storm, he noticed belatedly: just a clean, bright blue dome over a wide, tossing sea and the strange little landhold it held hidden in its midst.

Jude stepped as close to the edge as he dared, mindful of the gusty wind, and looked out at his surroundings. He was, as it turned out, very close to the center of the island, and so some distance from where he’d last seen the guys, in the clearing with the stele. From where he stood he could see a great deal of the lands around him. Jude had noticed from the maps how Kallifyos was shaped a little like a blobby equilateral triangle, but with an extra, largish glob of land compressed against one side like a miniature Wales. To the southeast of Jude’s position atop the rock, looming darkly between him and the knobby southeast “vertex”, was the forbidding, unnamed mass of the main promontory, the highest point on the island at 503 meters and the common factor in most of the various mysteries raised by the aerial and satellite surveys. Whatever history the island had, the bluff southeastern rise seemed to be at the center of it. The air was so clear that no haze or distortion separated it from him—Jude felt almost like he could reach out at touch it. It wasn’t quite symmetrical, he noticed: the blunted summit was, from his perspective, to the right of center, so that the westward slopes were steeper than they were to the east. He’d observed the tighter lines on the west side of the promontory when they’d studied the topographical maps of the island, but seeing it in person was considerably more dramatic.

Jude eyed the mountain curiously, enjoying the caresses of the wind as it blew briskly across his exposed, compactly-muscled upper body. Maybe it was just a doomy-looking mountain, and its seeming importance lay solely in the omen-seeking fancies of human instinct and imagination and the eye’s tendency to be drawn toward the massive and the dramatic; but it was difficult to escape a niggling sense that its portentous bulk would figure unavoidably in whatever it was they were being drawn into. Maybe someone should clarify things by carving a skull into its side or something, he thought wryly.

“You need a name,” he told it, speaking aloud as if calling over to his new friend, and the swirling wind seemed delighted to assist, carrying his words out far and wide over the island. “Be a shame if you were so important and no one even gave you a name.”

Maybe that was his job. After all, he wasn’t the first mortal man to stand here, but he might be the first one to do so in four or five thousand years. He considered. A god’s name would work; plenty of mountains had been named after gods, or were thought of as being gods. Not a Greek god, though. Martin had observed that the island seemed not to know the Olympic gods, Zeus and his kin, and Jude had to agree. The island certainly felt like it belonged to powers older and less refined than the handsome, squabbling mob the Greeks had woven so intricately into their cultural foundations. Maybe their precursors, the Titans, were more appropriate. He wished he had his phone, and a network connection, so he could google a list of them. But really, even those monsters were still a part of the Greek mythos, and everything he’d seen so far—the idol, the lettering here and in the underground chamber—spoke of something older and more alien to human civilization than anything known to the Greeks or even the Minoans, whose ancient seafaring culture the Greeks had invaded, absorbed, and all but erased.

His cocks flexed restively in his tightly-packed groins, calling Jude’s attention to them for the first time in at least twenty seconds, and Jude smiled sardonically. “Maybe I should just call you Mount Climax,” he announced with a huff. The mountain said nothing, but the wind gusted mischievously around him, brushing over his exposed nipples and up the legs of his shorts. Jude shook his head again and began touring the perimeter of the platform to see what else he could see.

To the southwest was another, smaller elevation opposite the main one (“Mount Foreplay?” Jude thought, still smiling); between them lay the steep southern cliffs overlooking the sea where the helicopter had dropped them off only that morning. The site they’d marked out for their eventual base camp was on a line between the drop-off point and the hill and rock on which Jude now stood, so unless they had teleported, too, his friends were somewhere down there along that line, between him and the sea. He half-wished he were one of the falcons he’d seen overhead, able to leap down from here and swoop through the air on a whim, spot exactly what he was looking for as he scanned the countryside below him.

Jude continued his circle. To the west lay the island’s forbiddingly mountainous grafted-on bit, looking all but impassable. To the north, in the direction of the third lumpy vertex, sprawled a rocky, undulating expanse of cypress, yew, and brush about which they knew little. For some reason the satellite scans had been unable to discern much in the way of surface or subterranean features for most of this area, natural or otherwise, and on the main charts Martin had semi-facetiously labeled it the island’s “ἄγνωστος γῆ”—the Greek, he’d said with a grin, for “terra incognita.” He’d even added “here be dragons” underneath on one of them in amused frustration after a long night poring fruitlessly over the remote survey data. Jude knew the explorer in Martin was deeply intrigued by these blank spaces on his map, and Jude was pretty curious himself, but they’d agreed that the anomalies that scan had actually spotted in the southeast, near “Mount Climax”, had to be the start of their investigation.

Not that things were going exactly to plan, he thought dryly.

Just at that moment the wind picked up dramatically, bringing with it a breath of sweet sage and thyme from the brushlands of the unknown north. Jude started to feel dizzy, as if he had inhaled something disorienting. The wind gusted more and more ferociously around him, and despite his newly improved stability he started to lose his balance. Then the wind died all at once and the sky seemed to darken. Recovering his footing, his heart pounding madly in his chest, Jude looked around himself in surprise to see he was no longer standing atop the thumb-shaped crag.

Gary smiled down at Martin as they moved through the sun-dappled trees. “So,” he asked, “is this the kind of thing that usually happens on your expeditions?”

The professor smirked rakishly up at him and said nothing, instead dragging his eyes lewdly all the way down Gary’s towering form before turning his eyes back to the terrain ahead. Gary snorted an impressed laugh. Even that girl from the official team fan-vlog—the one Gary swore to his friends had literally orgasmed just from the hug she’d forced on him after visibly working herself up to a red-cheeked, almost fevered state all through a five-minute locker-room interview—hadn’t eye-fucked him as thoroughly or with anything like the level of debauchery as the professor had just now. Gary was both amused and turned on by it. If “all this” (he mentally gestured comprehensively to himself) truly “belonged” to Jude, in accordance with the pact he had very willingly agreed to back at the airport, then Jude might need to inflict a little retributive punishment for every time the professor looked at him like that.

Hmm, maybe there was a little loophole in Jude’s “rules” for him. The thought made him smile softly as he ducked deep under a low-hanging branch—one the professor hadn’t even noticed.

The two of them were maintaining a fairly relaxed pace as they passed through the gently down-sloping forest toward their planned campsite, the previously-agreed first rendezvous point in case of separation. They weren’t all that worried about Jude, he knew, for reasons Gary couldn’t quite put his finger on. The bossy twunk was somewhere on the island, and they’d find him sooner or later. And then there would be fucking. Gary didn’t question how he knew that, either. Gary was simply aware, at an almost instinctual level, that their reuniting with Jude would produce a convergence of sexual energy so powerful that prolonged intercourse and mutual release would be as inevitable and as necessary as gravity, and as potent as the fathomless sea they’d left relentlessly lashing the cliffs until forever had passed, and beyond that, probably, as well.

At the next low branch, Gary decided to try pushing up out of the way instead; but the force of his gesture fractured the branch and pushed the whole tree aside—it was a young tree, but Gary had still forced it into a thirty-degree list, its roots ripped up from the ground on one side like he’d meant to give himself something to trip over rather than something to avoid. He blinked at the tree, then glanced down to see the professor staring up at him with wide, dark eyes. In the waistband of his jeans, the little clay idol seemed to be leering at him, too, as full of unslakable lust as the man who bore it.

Gary shivered. They were both of them aroused and hard—that seemed a given, now, pretty much ever since they’d set foot on the island and especially since the lightning strike—but the professor’s state of fevered excitement was so intense it seemed to be radiating off of him, like Gary would be boned just from standing near him and being buffeted by his raw emanence. Forget Viagra—anyone needing to get it up just needed to be flown here to the island. A few minutes next to the professor and they’d pitch a hard-on so indomitable and intractable they wouldn’t be flaccid for a month.

The professor looked away reluctantly, and after a moment or two they started slowly walking again. Gary kept a step behind so he could watch the older man as they pushed through the thickening woods. He was sure now. The professor had changed… and it wasn’t just the longer tongue and the extra raging erection or two he’d felt pushing against his belly when they’d been making out on top of each other back in the clearing. That part seemed normal, like Gary’s size. The professor’s lust, though…

He caught himself. What was so normal about his size? Normal for him was 6’4” of bulging, aesthetically sculpted, vlog-host-orgasm-inducing Chinese muscle; and though his muscles all bulged as round and hard and orgasmic as ever, if not more so, no way was he 6’4” now.

Except—what wasn’t normal now was “normal”. Normal was this island, and the things that happened here. He knew that, the way he seemed to just know things now. He towered, head and pecs, over the professor, because what was normal for Gary was to be the size he needed to be to be strong, to…

He frowned, his thoughts confounded. The whys and hows of things didn’t matter. He just knew what he knew. His size wasn’t a “size” at all. He wasn’t 6’4”, or 9 feet tall like he was now, or any other single height. He simply was.

He blinked, and the world seemed to slide in different directions. He stopped, staring down at his companion, who now only came up to his waist.

The professor stopped, too, and turned very deliberately to gaze up at Gary, his mouth slightly open.

Gary gave him a sly smile. “Maybe we’ll make faster progress if you climb up and sit my shoulder,” he said, his low, rumbling voice seeming to reverberate outwards from his chest and into the forest around them.

Something happened to the professor’s eyes. For a moment they became impossibly dark, and incipient orgasm seemed to surge through Gary as if compelled from some monstrous core of lust-power inside the older man, and Gary saw himself tearing his jeans open and erupting uncontrollably, covering Martin and the ground and trees and everything around them with massive, arcing flails of hot spunk as he came over and over again for what seemed like hours, driven somehow to the most self-obliterating orgasm he had ever known. His vision blurred, and for a second he half-expected to see, or half-thought he saw, all of the cum he had imagined producing, coating the professor’s face and globbed all through his luscious, hairy chest and covering the bark and soil and fallen leaves all around them on a scale resembling a meteorological event, as the other man gazed ferally up at him with those same beyond-dark eyes. But as if through some fierce effort of will the orgasm suppressed itself and the imagined cum-eruption was gone—leaving only, inexplicably and delightfully, the incandescent, soaring, soul-infusing afterglow.

They each other’s gazes for several pounding heartbeats. Then the professor, calmed and sanguine, smiled up at him, wide and wicked.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, his gleaming eyes now showing only his usual level of brimming, unslakable desire.

Jude fought to regain his composure, his heart beating hard in his chest. Sure, this wasn’t the platform atop thumb-shaped rock, but this wasn’t the first strange thing to happen to him on this island, or even the first time he’d been taken in the blink of an eye from one place to another. Where he was would be revealed soon enough, just like before. He just needed to get a grip and stay calm.

He wasn’t sure he was anywhere, actually, he thought as he looked around. His surroundings seemed strange, subliminally out of phase, like he was inside an unreality—a dream, maybe. Or a memory. Or a remembered dream.

He still stood on a flat surface made up of solid, sun-bleached limestone, but it now seemed to stretch forever in all directions; and the brilliant azure sky had been replaced by an inky black so saturated with stars that he and the stony ground seemed subtly warmed by their gentle, collective light. Jude gazed up at them in awe. He had never seen so many stars. The shone so clearly that his eyes were drawn past their number to the infinity of variation in size, brightness, and color. As if time had been dislodged from its moorings, he watched as the countless stars all moved together, revolving languidly but precisely in a single unified arc around the northern star.

Observing this Jude felt oddly alone, the sole spectator to the churning of the cosmos, as if the entire universe were a show being staged for his unique enjoyment. Had the ancient inhabitants of this island stood here too, in this sacred place, and seen then what he was seeing now, all those ages ago? Or was this truly for him alone?

A tepid mist now gathered close against the infinite stone platform, drifting against his ankles through his low-rise gray socks. He looked around, feeling a sense of expectation, and as he turned toward the north, directly under the focal-point of the revolving stars, stood a strange, slightly inchoate figure. He seemed at first like a darker version of the figurine from the cavern, an approximation in clay of a comely, well-built man, though as he stood at an unguessable distance Jude thought he might be any size, from inches to miles. His stance was stiff and with a kind of stylized formality, like the Cycladic figurines or the kouros statues of the later Greeks; but, again, this figure projected a sense of representing a culture and a force far older than those, and though he seemed rigid and unmoving Jude guessed this presentation, like that of the earlier figurine in the cavern, masked a form and being that was anything but still.

What was oddest about him was that, though did not move, his form nonetheless was constantly changing, as though his very nature was impermanence—or, perhaps that his nature was all forms, and he showed them all, but not all at once. He had two arms, then three, then a hundred; legs, torsos, and cocks similarly waxed and waned; muscles thickened, swelled, then tightened. His hair, though still seeming to be fired clay like the rest of him, also wavered in length and curl. The only constant was two heads, one facing Jude with an expression so solemn on his fluctuating face as to seem devoid of all feeling, the other next to it, facing behind him. Usually they shared the same shoulders, but sometimes the figure would change and they sat atop overlapping torsos pressed left pec to right; then another change, and the heads were detached, carried in the figure’s arms against his hip. With every shift came a momentary blur that seemed not to belong to the figure alone, as if Jude were seeing not a single entity changing but different realities rotating through him, shown for a brief span of time before another took its place.

As he watched, the figure seemed to both drift closer and remain far away—more clues that time and space were not normal here wherever here was.

Jude found this figure both fascinating and arousing. He could imagine the wonder and reverence of the ancients who came before a god possessed of multiplicity in form and vision, revealing himself to them as he had to Jude. Jude looked down at his own altered form, and grinned as relief flooded through him. This god, this being… he was not the figure from the cavern, he whose being was of intoxicating lust and the potency of male connection. It was this god, the multiplicity god, who had changed him, leaving his mark on Jude from that moment forward.

Jude turned suddenly, sensing more presences in the growing mist, and jumped back in alarm. The leering idol from the cavern had been right behind him, only a few feet away, only life-sized. Jude took another step back, staring at him. Like the other he remained a handmade figure, as if crafted from clay—though now that he was six feet in height instead of six inches the stylized male form seemed to have been executed in fine, almost exquisite detail, enhancing the allure of his square shoulders, strong chest, and… Jude gulped… his almost knee-length, wrist-thick phallus. Hurling his eyes back up to the figure’s handsomely crafted face, Jude caught the knowing, crooked smile and felt another, deeper shiver of desire. Then the being’s stylus-carved eyes met his, and Jude was suddenly drowning in hot, urgent need. The figure smiled wider, its entire body beckoning him forward, and Jude, rock hard twice over and heated through and through with unimaginable want, felt himself move toward him.

He stopped. A hand lay on his bare shoulder, not squeezing or pressing down but nonetheless preventing him from moving. He did not need to turn to see the two-headed figure: the hand was a shade darker than the leering god’s, and anyway June could sense the potency of the being behind him with his entire body and mind. Like the leering god, the multi-god was his own kind of irresistible, and in his own way just as frighteningly uncontrolled and unwithstandable… but Jude felt like he trusted him. Maybe that was a mistake, but just now it felt—necessary. Planning was what he was good at. Without a plan, all he could do was trust his gut.

There was a third figure with them, Jude realized, watching impassively from a few feet away to the left. He was taller and broader than the others, his smooth terracotta skin slightly tinted toward a kind of green like dark jade. His muscles were heroic, heavy and veined, and seemed to have been built more for power than beauty—though he was, like the others, almost painfully beautiful, and Jude’s cocks yearned for him just as much as they did for the other two. His arms were folded meaningfully over his mighty chest, as if his role had not yet been invoked and his stake in the conflict between the other two was minimal. His legs were strong, and his cock was absurdly thick but of only moderate length—at least in comparison to his brethren—and halfway-hard, its bulbous clay head seeming ready and poised to escape its thick foreskin the moment an opportunity presented itself. Though like the others he was naked, a massive, round wooden shield was strapped across his back, and at his hip, hung from a leather belt around his trim, dusky waist, was a long, tapered ivory-handled sword.

Jude looked him up and down, holding back a smile. Here, at last, was a being of unambiguous semiotics. Though maybe not: Jude’s first thought was war, but on second thought the vibe he got from the giant seemed more about protection and the kind of deliberate, galvanizing unity that came from banding together against external threats—an interesting contrast from the raw and carnal bond the lust-god forged from within.

The leering figure was still watching Jude, and when his eyes were drawn helplessly back to his handsome, sculpted face and hypnotic eyes Jude experienced the rush of want to overpower him again, if anything with even greater intensity. He felt himself trying to resist the hand that held him back, wanting desperately to find his climax in the rush of pleasure the being offered. Then time and space folded again without warning, and the other figures were far away once more, and the multi-god was before him. The face that met his was still somber, its features shifting with his physical form but the expression never changing. As their gazes met, behind the carved, knowing eyes Jude glimpsed full-on a being profoundly alien from mortal men, and his blood ran cold for a moment. The others had been just as inhuman, he realized, but with this one Jude saw the inhumanity for what it was. These clay figures were indeed not their true form. They were literally icons—human-like masks for the elemental forces of this island. Forces with purposes and even cravings of their own, but who saw mortal men only from an external remove.

Jude looked to the left and saw the protector-god some distance away. Standing in front of the figure was Gary, naked and just as tall and massive with brawn as the other, with his arms folded over his chest in a comical mirror image of the giant clay god. They stared at each other, both of them looking like they were waiting as if for a signal that had not yet come. Jude was surprised by an odd pang in his chest: after all, Gary was supposed to stare at Jude, not ancient hunky protector-gods. Sure, he’d only pushed that sex contract on Gary to keep him clear of Martin, but the principle remained. And he knew, knew, that when Gary saw Jude’s sweetly-muscled trio of perfectly-shaped swimmer’s-physique legs the jock would fall to his knees in horny admiration and worship them, first with his eyes and then with his hands and mouth… and then would come the begging for him to be permitted to remove his boots and socks so he’d get to see Jude’s three beautiful feet, and…

More motion caught Jude’s eye, and he looked over in another direction to see the leering lust-god. Behind him, arms wrapped around his deftly-hewn, compact form, was Martin, actively grinding against the figure’s ass while he brushed his bearded mouth along his exposed neck. Jude was overcome with righteous anger at this display. He had imagined Martin’s cock riding Jude’s crease before shoving itself ruthlessly into his tight, welcoming heat so often it felt like it had actually happened, and to see him in this clinch-fuck with a primordial sex-god enraged him so fully he forgot to be drunk with desire for either of them. He could feel the lust-god watching him, touching his heart. The others, too. There were more out there as well, shadowy forms more felt that visible under the starlit mists. They watched him too. They all watched him.

He had to look after himself. First rule of dealing with supernatural forces: forget your own obsessions, because theirs are much, much stronger.

Jude felt the multi-god’s eyes on him, and he met them squarely. Once again, and with renewed certainty, he felt the necessity of trusting this being, the god of multiplicity of form and vision, ahead of all the others. He held the being shrewd, graven eyes. Time folded again and suddenly they were kissing, a kiss unlike any he’d ever felt before, searing into his soul. And yet—somehow as they kissed he caught a stray look from the lust-god, too, and his leer told Jude he wasn’t done with him yet.

Then, the kiss with the multi-god deepened, consuming him utterly. And then…

Jude stood atop the thumb-like stone again, blinking suddenly in the glaring mid-afternoon light as he stared out over the southern half of the island. There was no sign of clay god-avatars or his fellow travelers, just trees and mountains and a shockingly bright blue sky. He focused on the dark, asymmetrical bulk of “Mount Climax”, trying to force his eyes to adjust, and noted with interest that the falcons were now wheeling around its peak. He wondered where their nests were, and what prey they hunted on this little flyspeck of an island.

He let his thoughts assemble themselves in their own time. Jude might have put what had happened down to an unnervingly vivid daydream, except he was still achingly aroused, both of his cocks extremely hard and shoving insolently up past the waistband of his cargo shorts, ready to cum again despite the evidence on his thick, defined chest and rippling abs that he had just done so, and with considerable profligacy. His body had altered again, too: on top of the three legs he’d now added another pair of lithe, strong arms just below his originals, as if his body had decided to honor and celebrate his new alliance of its own accord.

Most ominous of all, though, he had the mark of the multi-god literally on him now, in the form of a three-inch vibrant brown tattoo of the being on his upper left forearm. Its form, though two-headed as before, otherwise mirrored his own, with the four arms and three legs as well as his overall twunky, fit-but-not-huge physique, and he was posed with formalized rigidity, as for a tomb painting or some other kind of official artwork. The face was somber as ever, but as Jude ran a thumb over the mark in wonder he almost thought he saw the corners of his lips tilt ever so slightly upwards.

Clearly, he and this god, this living, inhuman force, had connected with him just as the others had connected with Gary and Martin. Perhaps that was the way of things in the days of the long-lost people of this little island, each god with his own chosen mortal, and after the interminable millennia they had leapt at the chance to resume the practice—or, at least, the lust-god had, and the others had followed suit to maintain the equilibrium of energy on the island.

Was the arrangement permanent, three gods for three men? Jude wasn’t so sure. That look in the lust-gods uncanny clay eyes told him that things might be far from settled. And he shouldn’t forget that there were more players than just the three they’d met.

He looked back down into the loose forest below where he and the others had been waylaid, and grinned in surprise as he realized he now could sense Martin and Gary down there, as surely as if he were looking at them. Without really thinking about it he walked to the edge of the high stone platform and stepped off, vanishing from where he was to where he needed to be.

Jude dropped to the ground as if he’d stepped off an ottoman in his dad’s living room, rather than a sacred platform raised sixty feet above a primordial forest on an ominous, thumb-like hill-top crag. He was closer to the folds of the mountain now, the forest floor sloping steeply around him, but he steadied himself easily on his three feet—what a godsend they were, balance-wise—and looked around him, trying to get his bearings.

Heh, “godsend.” How apt, he thought. He stole a brief glance at his forearm. The vivid sepia tattoo of the two-headed god was still there, the detailed, clay-brown body looking so much like his own (apart from the extra, backwards-facing head) he half expected to see his trio of chocolate-brown Salomon boots and three-legged khaki cargo shorts built into the image. Seeing the tattoo seemed to affirm that everything he’d seen on the platform was true… in its own way and after its own fashion. Much like this whole trip, maybe. Everything was real, and yet this was not the reality he had known before coming here.

He brushed the figure again with his thumb, almost as a caress, and then resumed his reconnaissance.

It was mostly pine trees here, their thin trunks and scraggly, needle-thick branches straining toward the sky all around him, lending their distinct scent to the lightly moving air. Under his feet the sloping ground was springy with messily arrayed grasses, and Jude realized he was standing in a sort of break between the trees leading along the side of the incline on which he stood. If anyone came here often enough, he thought, this would eventually become a path. Weirdly, for a brief moment he imagined himself as that person, hiking endlessly around the slopes and ridges of Mount Climax for age after age, wearing his own footpaths as the flying stars reeled overhead.

Just then Jude’s senses seemed to twist sickeningly, almost as though the intangible, infinite, convoluted substrata of the world itself had become slippery and, just for a second, hard to cling to. He closed his eyes and concentrated on keeping his feet, pressing a hand to his bare stomach. It was only a momentary thing, gone in a heartbeat, and yet during the slip Jude sensed something more than the semifluidity of his surroundings. It was as though what he was experiencing was focused somehow, as if time had spun on a place, a fulcrum that was rooted to a specific place, the solid ground from which Archimedes had levered the world…

He heard a cry and commotion and opened his eyes quickly, just in time to see a fierce, dark-colored animal barrel out of the trees some ways ahead. To his alarm it tore right into the gap he was standing in, and was now charging straight for him, its beady eyes and short, vicious tusks filling his vision, and with a frisson of fear Jude recognized the beast as a full-grown boar. Most of what Jude knew about boars came from myth and literature—young Odysseus hunting the beasts on Mount Parnassus, Herakles himself tasked with capturing the fearsome Erymanthian boar, Culhwch forced to retrieve the razor-sharp tusk of the wildest boar in Wales, that sort of thing—but Jude didn’t need Homer singing to him about the dangers of shining-tusked swine to know he was in big trouble. Instinctively he leapt aside and rolled between the trees to one side of the gap, tumbling a few feet down the slope before his back smacked the trunk of a tall, rough-barked pine tree with an audible thunk.

He looked up and chillingly met the beast’s eyes as it galloped past, but despite the glance it spared him it seemed the boar had more pressing concerns, fleeing past him and disappearing into the sunny mix of trees to his right. A moment later the source of the pig’s concern came into view: a sinewy, short-haired man was chasing it, spear raised, expression fierce. Even as Jude was drinking in his well-proportioned body and coppery skin, the man slowed to a halt and looked down the slope toward him, his brown-red eyes meeting Jude’s and locking on them for several long seconds.

Because of the slope Jude was having some trouble leveraging himself up, and in a flash the stranger out of time was before him, retaining his spear in his right hand and offering him his left. Jude took it with a smile and together they got him to his feet, each looking the other over. The hunter was older than Jude, perhaps in his mid-thirties, but still youthful, handsome, and very, very fit. Indeed, to Jude, the man seemed to be the embodiment of “defined”, every muscle on his compact body firm and sculpted without being huge, and to his delight he saw that though he had only two arms, his loose and thin, carefully-stitched leather thigh-length trousers sported three strong-looking, hairless legs, leading down to a trio of equally nice feet encased in simple sandals bound tightly around the arch, toes, and ankle for running. Their eyes met again, and Jude saw the same glad recognition of kinship he was feeling.

The hunter had not let go of his upper left hand. His grip was strong, his skin warm from sun and exertion, though he did not show any other signs of his hot pursuit. “You bear the mark of Sima,” he told Jude in a warm, pleasant baritone, turning the broad side of Jude’s forearm up as if to exhibit the tattoo in question, though neither of them looked down at it. He spoke with an accent Jude had never heard before—and definitely in English; or at least, Jude was sure he was hearing it as English. He would have to ask at some point if he was speaking the hunter’s language, or if the hunter was speaking his. Maybe he’d get that answer the same time as finding out whether the hunter had come to Jude’s time, or he had jumped from the platform into the island’s hidden past. The man himself was just distracting enough he wasn’t obsessing on either conundrum—yet. Maybe this island was teaching him insouciance, bit by bit. Was that an aspect of the multi-god, Sima—an awareness of the mutability of things, and an interest in exploring the openness of possible outcomes over a focus on the known and delineated? How much of thus was him, and how much was the ancient god who’d picked Jude out of the three of them?

Maybe this encounter with the primordial boar-hunter would help him understand. Already it was not going as he might have expected. The hunter faced him as an equal, a man meeting a man. Though a few inches taller than the copper-skinned man, partly owing to his extra set of arms and overlapping pecs, because he stood below him on the slope they were more-or-less eye to eye; and interestingly enough their stance carried over into metaphor, as the vibe Jude was getting from him was definitely not awe and abject reverence for an outsider or a man made special to a powerful deity—rather it seemed more of a wary interest, as though Jude’s arrival was a curious omen of unknown portent.

Jude had already checked the man’s forearms, and the rest of him, for markings, and though he had seen a short scar across his bicep and another, crescent-shaped one on his shin, both shining against the darker skin around them, there were no tattoos. There was, however, a three-inch thumb-stripe of dark red body-paint along the delineated, hairless sinews of his left forearm, exactly where Jude’s tattoo was. Interesting.

Briefly it occurred to him to try to use his connection with the gods of this place to his advantage, but—as his airport encounter with Gary had recently affirmed, in what now seemed like another place and time—Jude was always better off trading on his own personality and the dynamic of the moment. “I can’t claim him as a friend, or master,” he told the hunter honestly, holding his gaze. “Only an… acquaintance.”

To his surprise, the older man’s pleasing, high-cheekboned face broke into a bright smile, and Jude thought he had seldom seen one so beautiful. “So says my father,” the hunter said. “And he is priest of Sima, as well as chieftain. How are you called, blue-eyed one?”

Momentarily lost in the hunter’s smile, Jude lost track of his name for a time and almost suggested “blue-eyed one” as a fine replacement. He blinked and cleared his throat. “Er, Jude,” he said. Realizing this might get him called “Er-Jude” for the duration, he hastily elaborated, “My name is Jude.”

The hunter nodded. “Jude. An appropriately strange name,” he said, still smiling. He said the name very carefully, as if committing the literally outlandish combination of consonants and vowels into his people’s lexicon. Even so he put his own spin on it, leading on the “d” just enough to make it its own syllable. Jude liked it a lot. With mock solemnity, the hunter added, “You owe me a boar, Blue-Eyed Jude.”

Jude smiled back at him. “Then I will have to make it up to you somehow,” he vowed in the same tone. Then he added, “And how are you called, handsome hunter of beasts?”

The hunter’s eyes glinted at the compliment. “I am called Kikeru,” he said easily. “But my friends call me Kiku.”

Jude squeezed the hand he still held. “Am I your friend, Kiku?” he asked, letting just the slightest hint of smarm into his voice. Studying the man’s face, he now noticed that there were a small spray of faint freckles across his upper cheeks, only just visible against his naturally darker skin, and Jude found it adorably boyish on the handsome older princeling. He wondered what Kiku’s smooth, sharply-defined jawline would look like with a short, well-trimmed beard.

Kiku’s russet eyes dropped to Jude’s lips, his thoughts transparent. “There is a… tradition in my clan,” he said slowly, meeting Jude’s eyes again and allowing Jude to see his interest. “We… test the truth of friendship with a kiss.”

“Is that so?” Jude said, smirking slightly. He very deliberately moistened his lips with the end of his tongue, then said, “Test away.”

Kiku grinned, closing the distance between them.

Martin felt like he was cumming. Constantly, all the time. He wasn’t cumming—his cocks were stiff and bubbling with pre but not actually erupting with his seed—but it was almost like he might as well be.

Fuck, what would it be like to actually cum?

He steered his thoughts sharply away from the idea. He wanted to touch himself, to bring himself to many-headed release, but he knew—knew, deep down in his bones (or his boners)—that sex and release was about connection, not self-pleasure. His overflowing arousal was as much about what it was doing to others as what it did to him. His arousal was only the beginning, meant to be shared, and his orgasm was utterly meaningless unless it triggered orgasm in another. That was why he was filled to saturation with the urgency of carnal need. It was the truest and purest form of human communion in all the world.

He forced himself to wrest his thoughts away from his wet, jostling erections and his twitching hands and focus instead on Gary Jin, only to nearly lose himself in sudden, violent eruption as he considered the most ideal man he could ever have imagined.

Gary had once been perfection itself in the other world, he knew. But in this world, Gary was more than just a big, grinning, earnest jock with muscles sculpted from rock-hard dreams. In this world, he was literally the embodiment of strength. The fact that they were now plowing unstoppably through the rolling forest, Martin riding precariously on the bulging right shoulder of a Gary grown to twenty feet or more just for the ease of covering the wooded ground, was the merest hint of Gary’s potential. And as he held onto a hank of Gary’s shortish hair with one hand and gripped his striated, boulder-sized delt with the other, Martin knew that the once-closeted hunk was fully aroused, his dick rigid in his sturdy trousers. He couldn’t help but try for more of his attention—he wanted all of it.

“Are you okay?” he asked as Gary pushed aside a tall yew tree with a grunt. “I’m not too heavy for you?”

Gary huffed a laugh. “I can barely feel you up there,” he answered, and his voice was so rich and resonant from the size of his vocal cords its vibrations through his jousting erection sent him into another near-climax. “You holding on okay?” Gary asked.

“Just barely,” Martin admitted.

“We’re nearly there,” Gary assured him.

“Uh huh,” Martin agreed. He knew Gary meant that they had almost reached the site Jude had fixed as a first rendezvous venue, but right now he wasn’t thinking about archaeology.

He was feeling so much arousal, he knew it was leaking out of him and into his gigantic companion. It almost felt like too much to hold in. Maybe… maybe the trick was offloading it deliberately. Experimentally he focused on the brawny bare shoulder beneath him, drawing all his attention to the thick broad traps under his ass and his hand splayed across the hard, sun-warmed curve of deltoid power. He closed his eyes and started to push his arousal, spreading its heat and urgency into the flesh below.

Gary let out a strangled cry. “Oh god,” he panted. “Fuck, what’s—?”

“Yes,” Martin coaxed. “Share it with me. We need release. We must release.”

“Hh-hhuh,” Gary grunted. He stumbled to a stop halfway down a plunging ravine, birds alighting from the surrounding trees in alarm as he leaned against a nearby trunk hard enough to shove it a good ten degrees off of true. Water trickled audibly nearby—they were near the stream that flowed through the second camp. “Fuck, Martin, is that—are you—?”

“Share it with me,” Martin broke in. He tensed his fingers against the heated muscles of Gary’s shoulder, already tense with imminent climax. The hunk was bigger now, too, maybe 25 or 30 feet, like his body was growing with his building lust. “Take it,” he insisted. “It will unite us, make us stronger.” He remembered something he’d said, before. “We are polis, we are oikos.” Kith and kin. Union. The strength of union. The pleasure of union.

“Wait—wait!” Gary begged. “I want to. But I promised.”

Martin’s cocks were screaming. He wasn’t even sure how many he had right then, stuffed in his old hiking jeans—the number seemed to vary in the same way as Gary’s size—but there were two things that were immutable: they were never not slick with his constantly spitting precum, and they were never not achingly hard and ready to erupt with hot, arcing jizz. “Promised?” he repeated mindlessly, breathless and close.

“My body. My cum. It belongs to Jude,” Gary panted raggedly, riding the edge like Martin was. “I promised.”

Martin was too controlled by need to be surprised—though Gary’s honorability and obedience to his word had intriguing possibilities. Instead he smiled. The power of sex made many things possible.

Dr. Andreas Pantazis folded his arms over his bronzed, lightly hairy chest and frowned out at the pristine blue-green waters of the Aegean. He couldn’t see far enough into that storied sea from his current base of operations—a borrowed third-floor apartment overlooking the marina in the picturesque city of Myrina on Lemnos—but he knew he was looking in the right direction: toward that blasted island, and the blasted Americans he’d helped send there.

His family’s wealth and influence and Andreas’s natural charm and rakish good looks had drawn him into the role of unofficial fixer for all kinds of sub-rosa interactions between the Hellenic Republic and various foreign nations with a healthy interest in the long history of the Greeks and, on occasion, those who had called these islands home even before the coming of his own marauding Ionian ancestors from the pasturelands of the Indo-European north. To Andreas’s mind it never hurt to remind the world that Greece was the source of all true civilization, and toward this end he made a habit of lobbying the government to open up Greek archaeological sites and relics to this or that expedition promising intensive study and the exposure of new knowledge as the occasion arose. In particular, it was Andreas who had convinced the Directorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities to allow Martin Jones’s informal preliminary excursion to Kallifyos ahead of the landmark, full-scale undertaking slated for next year; and that meant it was Andreas who was currently feeling the brunt of the unease over the twin alarms of Jones’s failure to check in by satellite phone at the scheduled time and the eerie vanishing of his GPS signal from the high-end tracking app they were using.

It wasn’t that it was all that unusual. The Aegean was not a calm domain, and communications with teams on the remoter, unsettled islands was often interrupted only to be restored without incident a few hours later. Hiccups and glitches, the inevitable byproduct of human technology mixing with the swirling ether of a strange and ancient land. There was something about this effort, though, this opening up of an island so seldom seen through the vale of mist, so seldom discussed, much less visited, that it might as well be the Brigadoon of the Aegean, a Shangri-La secreted not in the impassable Himalayas but in the prehistory of Hellas itself. Now Andreas knew why he had created a pretext to be close at hand on Lemnos, agreeing to lead next week’s secret negotiations here with a Turkish museum for the repatriation of some small but prized Mycenaean artifacts. The Turks could wait. This, he thought as he looked out over the harbor and its outlet into the wide Aegean, was why he was here.

Andreas felt a warm hand slide across his upper back and smiled slightly, letting go of some of his tension. His cock twitched in his gauzy sleep pants, ready for more afternoon playtime. Andreas was never one to remain idle for long during the downtimes between the meetings and black-tie fêtes that dominated what he generously called his working life, and he’d recently discovered that his tall, pale, highly competent, and extremely limber assistant, Ioannis, was of… similar disposition.

“I heated the spinach pastries from the market for a snack,” Ioannis said, in that soft, sweet voice that always sounded like it was meant for Andreas’s ears alone. Andreas drew in a breath and turned his stubbled chin to look at him, knowing what he would see: sparkling dark gray eyes, a long, elfin face, tousled walnut-black hair, and a knowing smile on those full, red lips. He’d showered, and his warm skin smelled like vanilla, dill, and lemon.

“Did you check the laptop for—” he started to ask, but Ioannis calmly interrupted him.

“Yes,” Ioannis said. No recurrence of Jones’s GPS ping yet, then.

“What about the—”

“Still no contact.” The steel-gray eyes watched him. Andreas almost blushed, remembering how they had spent the morning. Ioannis’s father often claimed that his clan was descended in a direct line, father to son, all the way back to Leonidas and the kings of Sparta. Andreas, as he always did, had taken these claims with more than a grain of salt—until he’d gotten Ioannis into bed, and discovered that he was, as his forefathers had been before him, a committed and tireless warrior who took no prisoners and never, under any circumstances, surrendered.

He was staring at those lips again, already half-resurgent, and the smirk he saw in them was only feeding his desire. But Andreas was not one to forget the bigger picture, however much pleasure entered into its strokes and textures. He tore his eyes away and looked back out over the marina. He spotted his own ship, a twelve-meter motor yacht with a lot of high-end upgrades very few knew about, and made a snap decision.

He met Ioannis’s patient, ready eyes again. “Ioannis,” he said, “how would you feel about taking a little sea voyage with me?”

Ioannis tilted his head slightly, a distinctive habit he had when he was reconfiguring their plans. “Before or after snacks?” he asked, those sinful lips still slightly curled.

Andreas felt his own lips twist as his body responded a little helplessly to his assistant’s remorseless stare. “After,” he affirmed.

Andreas stood on the exposed upper bridge of his twelve-meter speedboat, The Adrasteia, letting the wind whip through his long, luxurious hair as they tore across the sea toward the secret, enigmatic island that was their destination. When they got closer he’d have to slow down dramatically to navigate the treacherous currents that ringed the isolated rock—Kallifyos was unknown and shrouded in mystery for a reason, reaching all the way back to the long-lost days before the Greeks had even beheld the strange and uncertain waters of the Aegean—but for now the bracing wind and the rush of passage through the calm, sun-dappled sea was bracing and invigorating. Shirtless and fit, with his Wayfarers in place, hair riffling behind him and a broad grin as he stood at the wheel of a ship few could ever afford, Andreas knew he looked like the careless playboy everyone expected him to be by dint of his privileged birth and dishy, photogenic looks. He laughed, knowing his only audience—his sly assistant Ioannis—had never been fooled.

The man in question appeared at his shoulder, bearing two crystal half-tumblers each containing three fingers of scotch sloshing gently around rough cubes of ice. Normally Andreas drank wine to relax and to enhance the savor of his meals, but on the water for some reason he preferred spirits, and scotch most of all. He gave Ioannis a smile of thanks and took a long sip, relishing the familiar burn as he noted Ioannis’s choice to wear a loose-fitting lemon-yellow tee shirt. He would have to bring him around the virtues of shirtless sea-voyaging someday.

“What do you expect to find?” Ioannis asked, standing close to be heard over the sounds of boat, water, and wind. He’d mostly kept quiet as they’d prepared their voyage, waiting as he often did until Andreas was decided on a new course of action before probing him about what might lay ahead. He partook from his own glass, waiting.

Andreas started to say he did not know, but he realized he wasn’t sure that was true. He had a kind of presentiment, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it—he’d had premonitions before, rarely but often enough to know not to discount them, and this one was telling him that something strange and dangerous was happening on the island. Even as he thought this, he marked their quarry on the distant horizon: a dark shape, crisp and tiny in the clear air of the Aegean, isolated and alone with nothing along the line of blue on either direction.

“I expect,” Andreas said at last, “that we are about to leave the mundane world well behind us.” A little surprised by his own words, he turned to Ioannis. “Are you all right with that?”

Ioannis’s steel-gray eyes glinted mischievously at him, and Andreas chuckled, his body responding almost automatically to the slimmer man’s inveterate sauciness. “Never mind,” he said. “Forget I asked!”

Kallifyos grew rapidly larger as they raced toward it over the smooth seas, and before long Andreas was cutting his speed as he circumnavigated the forbidding cliffs that faced south and east. “There’s a kind of harbor on the northwest side,” he explained as he steered around the blunt, ominous-looking peak that dominated the island, giving the choppy waters at its feet a wide berth. “The currents are especially dangerous there, but I think we can get through.”

“Is that why the island wasn’t settled by the Minoans, or the Greeks?” Ioannis asked. They’d finished their scotch some time before and Ioannis had put away the glasses, but his hand on Andreas’s tan shoulder still felt cool from the ice. “The harbor approach was unsafe?”

“Maybe,” Andreas said uncertainly. He knew of a several less-promising islands that had been successfully settled all through the Bronze Age and afterwards. Something else must have kept ships away for all those millennia. Maybe a sea monster? He smiled at thought, and yet he knew that if there were anywhere in the Aegean a real sea monster might be found, it was here.

After twenty minutes of steady driving around the northern reaches of the island they passed an outcropping, and the harbor came into view. It wasn’t much—not an anchorage destined to seed a great seagoing power like Athens or Naxos, but serviceable for their needs. Between them and the shore, however, were some dangerous waters, only hinted at by the flashes of white in the churning sea. The only safe approach was a slow, sidelong creep along the rim. Andreas powered down to the lowest speed and started edging toward the access route he’d already memorized, watching the shores and the narrow, wood-lined beach as he did so—though he knew Jones and his team had been dropped off at the southern cliffs, something told him he needed to keep his eye out now for signs of—

Suddenly the accelerator pushed forward, and the ship roared to top speed, hurtling them recklessly toward the deadly cross-currents and the rocky shore beyond. Ioannis gripped his shoulder harder as they struggled to stay upright. “What the—!” Andreas blurted. He grabbed the lever and yanked back on it hard, but it was stuck in the top position and wouldn’t budge. “Ioannis!” he cried over the noise. “Help me—”

Even as Ioannis reached out to add his grip to the lever the ship twisted sickening in a sudden cross-current, throwing both of them to the deck as spray lashed up around them. Andreas looked up in dismay—they were now speeding straight for the lethal-looking crags that marked the edge of the deadly harbor.

You are mine, a voice seemed to say, deep and malevolent. It seemed to come to him not through his ears but through his body, as through reaching out to him from some dark and buried place controlling this part of the island. Its essence brushed corrosively against Andreas’s, and he recoiled from it in terror: whatever it was, it hated all forms of willing connection—divergence, protection, intimacy, anything that was not isolation and chaos.

Suddenly he needed Ioannis’s touch desperately as a talisman against this evil, but the pitching boat had separated them, and Ioannis was several feet away across the deck, looking around wildly at the abruptly hostile seas. Andreas reached for him, but just then the ship heaved and twisted back the other way, listing badly to port, and Andreas slid toward Ioannis, grabbing his arm tightly and vowing to not let go. If they were to drown, or be dashed to pieces, he would make damn sure that it would be together. Ioannis seemed to agree, mirroring Andreas’s grip on his forearm so they were clasping tightly to each other’s arms. Together, he told himself, and fuck that voice of hate.

Even as he was thinking this, the pitching of the ship seemed to slow, and the sound of the murderous sea dimmed, overridden by the thundering of hooves. “Look!” Ioannis said, pointing with his free hand.

Andreas looked up and stared as a dark gray horse barreled gracefully toward them from the shore over the slowly frothing waters, its expression determined. Somehow in that split second Andreas understood two things at once: that the strong, majestic creating galloping toward them over the waves was driven by pure defiance of the chaos god that had them in its claws, and that he was sacrificing himself for the lives of these two strange men who should never have come here.

Choose, he heard. It was a different voice from what he had sensed before, clear and noble. Choose? Andreas thought, not understanding. But Ioannis cast a harried glance at Andreas, then sat up and, facing the charging horse, called out his answer: “Yes!”

The horse sped up, even as the wrath of the sea started to resume its destruction. The ship heaved again, and there was a loud crack as the hull was breached to stern. The deck pitched the other way to starboard, and Andreas suddenly lost his grip on Ioannis and slid toward the raging sea—

Andreas struck the railing and careened over it, grabbing a support to keep from falling into the water. He stared aghast as the horse made straight for Ioannis, looking determined like it was going to run him down, and Ioannis turned away from Andreas and waited, seemingly giving himself to a gory, horrific death. “No—!!” Andreas screamed, reaching for Ioannis despite being too far away.

The ship cleaved suddenly in two, violently wrenched apart by the virulent, destructive hate infusing the seas around them. Andreas lost his grip and fell, plummeting rapidly toward the waves below—

And then a pale hand reached out grabbed his arm again, and he clasped it desperately and with all the all the strength he had. He felt himself being tossed with great force onto the back of the horse, and he realized they were galloping away from the capsizing ship, back over the waves toward the safety of shore. He struggled to keep his perch, and Ioannis called over his shoulder to him. “Hold onto me!”

Andreas realized he was behind Ioannis on the horse, and his assistant must have been a truly impressive equestrian as his back was straight and steady, as though his seat were better than any horseman he had ever seen. He crept forward and threw his arms gratefully around Ioannis’s bare, pallid flanks (he must have lost that tee shirt, Andreas thought), and the horse picked up speed.

By the time they reached the safety of shore, Andreas had recovered his wits enough to know that Ioannis was not exactly seated on the horse, so much as… he was the horse. Or, half of it, anyway.

As he was mentally coming to grips with this, he noticed that they were trotting up the beach, slowing to a walk and then stopping as Ioannis turned them to look back out over the harbor. He squinted out over the sunlit waves—he’d lost his sunglasses early on in the disaster—but the seas were still again, and there was no sign of The Adrasteia.

“I’m sorry about your ship,” Ioannis said calmly, as though nothing stranger had happened to them than a shipwreck.

Andreas adjusted his seat so that he sat up straight behind Ioannis, his strong, sun-bronzed arms wrapped possessively around the paler, slimmer torso of his newly transformed friend. Ioannis raised a hand to caress one of the hairy forearms clasped across his chest, and Andreas, his heart still pounding, gripped him tighter.

“Thanks for saving me,” he said softly.

“Always.” His tone said what he did not need to express aloud: he had no regrets, and would make the same choice again.

Andreas let his palms and fingers move a little over the defined chest of the man he was holding. There was gratitude in his touch, but also something more than that. He was profoundly aware of the power of the gray stallion he sat astride—a power that was now a part of his risk-taking, devoted friend. “Is… is he still—?”

Ioannis turned and began walking along the stony beach toward the nearby tree-line. “His name is Laya. He’s a part of me now,” Ioannis said. “We… merged, I guess.” Then Ioannis snorted a laugh. “Which is good, because he knows this island, and I sure as fuck don’t.”

Andreas saw they were making for a narrow break in the trees—a path, perhaps. He wondered if their danger was over. He cast his senses about for the malevolence he’d felt before, but there was nothing that powerful to be felt now. If it was there it had receded, lurking until the next opportunity came to destroy and rend hearts and minds from each other. He held Ioannis close, grateful the chaos god had failed this time.

“Does Laya know where Jones and the others are?” he asked, resting his head against Ioannis’s bony shoulder. He was suddenly tired. He had other questions for the stallion who’d given himself to rescue them—were there other horses on the island? could they all merge with humans? what was it that attacked them?—but that was the one he most wanted to know the answer to. After everything, he wanted to know that he had not come here in vain.

“Yes,” Ioannis said simply. He was still lightly stroking his forearm. “Relax a little and we’ll take you there.”

Andreas kissed his shoulder, and, despite being more than a little turned on by the transformation that had made his friend into a powerful and sexy centaur, he felt his thoughts start to loosen and unravel. Soon he fell into a light, rolling sleep as they made their way inland toward the heart of the island.

Jude followed the tightly-built hunter from the past along the narrow gap that wound around the slopes of Mount Climax, his eyes on the compact, pleasantly-shifting mounds of the older man’s perfect triple ass and the powerful, well-honed sinews of his hairless thighs below as he strode confidently ahead. He almost envied the supple leather of Kiku’s just-loose-enough thigh-length shorts—he wanted his hands to be where that second skin now was, caressing the hunter’s strong flesh and feeling the long experience that had shaped and hardened him, day by day and year by year, a lifetime of training in the eerily attentive arms of Kallifyos. The spear was gripped lightly in the left hand, as if held in reserve, the weight of its haft and blade bringing out the definition in Kiku’s shoulders and upper arms, another area Jude’s many hands longed to roam.

Even more than to feel and stroke the hard planes of Kiku’s muscles, though, Jude wanted to call out jokes and funny stories to the man ahead of him, just to see him turn and gift him with that too-sweet, heart-melting smile again. He was hard now in his khaki cargo shorts, still, ragingly hard twice over with two sets of heavy, churning balls that seemed somehow linked with each other, compatriots and friendly rivals in the drive to push Jude to explosion; what surprised Jude—where becoming a multilimbed manifestation of the change-god Sima had not where meeting a prehistoric princeling hunter had not—was his sudden seismic infatuation not just with Kiku’s delicious body but somehow even more with his beautiful, manly smile.

Kiku abruptly turned aside into the trees to the right, up-mountain. Jude followed him a pace or two behind, eyes still roving the hunter’s coppery, half-clothed body—only to get smacked in the face by a thin, leafy branch that stretched across the path for not paying attention. The light but unexpected impact surprised a yelp out of him, and when Kiku looked behind him with an impish grin, Jude actually felt his skin warm and prickle in reaction. He sucked in a breath and smiled back, his fat dicks throbbing along with the pounding of his heart. Fuck, that crooked, sorry-not-sorry grin tossed casually over a naked shoulder was almost as devastating as his honest delight had been full on.

What was happening to him? He’d thought he’d be perfectly content with Martin to lust after and Gary to control, but this connection with Kiku was on another level—an erotic need alloyed not with hormones or power, like he was used to, but something else… something that made the more cynical parts of himself want to chastise him for being a sap. His instinct was to fight it. He should take control and make what involved sex be about sex and nothing more. That was the way he knew.

But his new bond with Sima blurred the lines he had kept so bard and defined. Change is, he heard some part of his mind saying, as if repeating a mantra it had heard and understood from the pulse of some primeval rhythm endlessly beating in the deepest part of the earth itself. Change is; plurality is; profusion is…

The idea itself was oddly blurred and distorted, as if it were translating itself over and over again in Jude’s mind, each option imperfect—a variation, aptly enough. But his mind felt strangely open, as if the island itself were altering his ability to perceive like the oldest form of drug, and he heard the idea somehow through the words. Change is. Multiplicity is, divergence is. Divergence is, and it is for a reason.

Jude wasn’t sure he understood. He wasn’t sure he liked it. But there was a truth he could not now escape or deny. He was the embodiment of this idea now… and for the first time he was unearthing from within that identity the hidden duty of one touched by Sima, to understand beyond his stunted, human preconceptions. His stomach fluttered at the thought. He didn’t know what that would mean for him, what any of this would mean for him; but not knowing himself, not having command of what he was and what he was capable of, was and had always been intolerable. In that he remained resolutely Jude, still, and always. Self-possession was who he was.

Multiplicity is. Jude is.

He was still standing at the turn-off where he’d been face-whacked by the errant branch, distracted by revelation. Looking up from his eddying thoughts he caught sight of the comely, leather-clad, half-nude veteran hunter some ways ahead, alert and confident, humming happily as he rounded a large-boled, fragrant cypress. Still processing his new self-perspective, Jude let his gaze drifted over the ancient tree as it stood tall and strong amidst its younger kin of various ages and histories, the little clan a small swath of the vast and variegated arboreal metanation crowding the miles of folded, densely packed, primeval lands around them—diverse within itself, and withal part of a larger diversity as well. Layers on layers… diversities of diversities.

Clearing his mind, Jude pushed the branch aside and followed his new friend deeper into the up-sloping, mountainside forest. As he did so he half-consciously left the ghost of his old self behind him, almost as if that side of him had remained in the airport back in the States, living one constrained life that was now a single shard in the kaleidoscope he was becoming.

Pouring Martin’s animal need into his younger, more gigantic friend was accomplished with barely an effort—as natural and easy as the current of a lively mountain stream. He could flood the towering hunk with so much primal wantonness he would probably need to grow even larger than his present 30-foot-plus magnificence just contain the swell of desire Martin diverted his way.

Martin reveled in this feeling, this ability, this command of intimacy and raw, unconstrained passion. The real shock was not that he could do it, but that it was not, as he had first expected it to be, a matter of physical contact. His grip on Gary Jin’s sun-warmed and increasingly vast shoulders wasn’t his conduit at all! The unstemmed, raging rush gushed directly through Martin’s uncanny awareness of Gary as a man. It was like… it was like they were two nodes in a vast and shrouded cloudscape—nodes that had gained a communal link or mutual resonance as a result of the ineffable, unshakable bond both of them now had with the ancient, inhuman pantheon of primordial gods who knew the earth before ships and city walls, whose sacred temples were built not with polished marble but with blood and flesh and the force of being.

Martin needed release, and Gary did too, desperately. But Gary’s cum no longer belonged to him—it belonged to Jude. That was all right, though, because Jude was the one human beyond themselves that Martin knew to be bound to the ancient godly plane as they were. All he had to do was find him.

All stilled. Gary panted, now easily six times the height he’d been when he’d loomed distractingly over Martin outside his office in their long-ago ordinary lives, swamped with an arousal he could not slake—one that continued to build and compound itself in the deepest recesses of Gary’s flesh and bone. Martin was still perched on his magnificent shoulder, doll-sized compared to this Goliath—a hairy, bearded, ragingly aroused doll, true, and one so potent with sun-intense sexuality any observer could have cum spectacularly just from seeing him. Digging his fingers into the enormous, rounded muscle of Gary’s right deltoid, the striated muscle now almost as massive as Martin himself, he closed his eyes and focused his being on a single purpose: reaching out with his preternatural arousal, seeking the third of their god-touched group.

His ears heard the steady huffing of Gary’s breath. His skin felt the brush of warm, twisting wind as it bushed his bare flanks and ruffled his chest hair. His CrossFit-trained body was hard and tense, as though coiled in readiness for a much-desired exertion. His cocks surged and flexed against each other, slick and insistent. The core of Martin’s sex-need ignored it all. It snaked out with a million heads in all directions, seeking their lost brother.

He was there, Martin was sure. He did not doubt that he could connect with Jude as easily as he had with Gary—

“Martin—” Gary growled, his voice rough and urgent.

“Breathe,” Martin soothed him distractedly, eyes still closed. He was close to Jude. There was something strange, some other force near their friend that was making it harder to find him, but he was close.

Suddenly he felt himself being snatched off his shoulder-perch by a great hand. Opening his eyes in surprise he found himself being held in front of the handsome jock and staring into eyes much larger than his own, their wide black pupils now only skimmed with brown. The giant face filled his sight in a way that Martin could not help but appreciate, and Martin’s lust responded, becoming somehow even more extreme as he took in his young companion’s attractive visage and his needy stare. The hand holding him was massive, too, the fingers wrapped around him as big as Martin’s own gym-honed legs, and Martin felt an unexpected excitement at being gently but firmly gripped by this massive hunk swimming deep in the throes of hot, unquenchable desire. He reached up and deliberately stroked the heated flesh of the giant’s index finger banded across his upper torso, and thrilled at the quiver of the giant’s unguarded reaction through the whole of his comparatively tiny form.

“Martin—!” Gary whined, his enormous eyes begging him for the relief he denied himself. He was still panting, his sculpted athlete’s chest lifting rhythmically below him in Martin’s peripheral vision, his lips parted. A bead of sweat trickled along his temple, the short, well-trimmed hair there already damp. The big man was feeling the full burn of his own god-touch, and Martin’s too. If only—

Intuition struck Martin, and he spoke instinctively, without thought. “Share your power,” he urged.

Gary’s eyebrows drew together—themselves prodigious, the size of Martin’s arms and, this close, looking fantastically intricate. “What do you mean?” Gary whispered, his warm breath gusting pleasantly over his smaller friend.

“I’m sharing myself with you, now,” Martin explained, his voice full of his own lust and certainty. Despite his compounded arousal he was a professor again, if only for a moment. “My essence, my wellspring. You feel it. I’m giving it to you. Use my bond with you, and give yours to me. Share your power with me.”

Gary’s smooth, expansive face registered surprise first, then interested understanding. He closed his eyes, his lashes looking huge against his high, defined cheeks as he sought within him the ability to do what Martin suggested. Martin smiled, and closed his eyes, too. As he picked up the threads of his search for Jude, the sense of his own body becoming larger and heavier in Gary’s hand became ever more distant.

Jude and Kiku emerged a short while later onto a sort of flat, grassy promontory, like a shoulder jutting out halfway up the mountainside. The trees fell away from this little spur, though they continued marching a good way further up the mountain beside them, with the result that the place Kiku had brought them too offered a superb and unobstructed view of most of the island.

Jude glanced around the little bluff in surprise. They were alone, just the two of them. The sun had lowered somewhere in the course of Jude’s journey from the godly plane to here, and though it still shone brightly over the forests and hills of the sprawling island Jude found himself thinking this would be a nice spot to watch the sun set, maybe with a certain three-legged hunter for company. The strange thing was, he wanted to be alone with Kiku, just like this, and yet he wanted Martin and Gary to be here, too, or for him to be with them, it didn’t matter. He wanted his crush, his domination, and his passion—all of it, and more.

He gave Kiku an uncharacteristically bashful smile. “I, uh, thought you were taking me to your village,” he admitted.

Kiku set his spear against the cliffside and moved toward him, his vivid red-brown eyes glinting. “Why would I do that?” he asked, standing close. “Do you make love in front of your kin?”

Jude swallowed, a rush of heat washing through him at the frank suggestion they were about to become intimate, but wasn’t about to back down. “I don’t know, I’m willing to give it a try,” he shot back. “Is your dad as sexy as you?”

Kiku smiled that devastating smile, and even with their eyes locked on each other it went straight to Jude’s straining cocks. “Of course. But it would be like hunting boar, I think,” he added. “He would let me do all the work, and then spend the rest of the night critiquing how I chose to plunge my spear!”

Jude wasn’t expecting this and snorted, trying to hold back, before they both broke into chuckles. Jude rested his forehead on the hunter’s. “What the fuck is it about you, Kiku,” he said. “I thought I had it all figured out until I met you.”

Kiku slid an arm around Jude’s narrow waist, looking him in the eyes. “Then it is a good thing you did meet me, Blue-Eyed Jude,” he said smugly. “No man should be too sure of what is and what is not.”

Spoken like a true acolyte of Sima, Jude thought, but he did not speak the words, seeing as they were too busy kissing. Their bodies pressed gratifyingly close as they snaked their arms around each other, and Jude shuddered to feel Kiku’s bare flesh against his and the older man’s long, narrow erections mashed against his fatter, thicker, stone-hard cocks. Their middle legs, freed from taking their weight, twined around each other, a pleasure Jude had never imagined feeling until now. Hungrily he deepened the kiss, feeling urgency just as strong coming from his companion.

He was about to recommend divesting themselves of what little clothing they had on when something hit him like a truck, and he stumbled back a step—only because of their intertwined middle legs he bell back on the cool, spongy grass. Kiku fell on top of him, though thanks to his hunter’s reflexes he got his arms free fast enough to stroke the ground with his elbows and keep from crushing Jude with his weight.

“What is it?” Kiku asked, alarmed. Jude stared up at him, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, his whole body quivering with someone else’s intense, fathomless arousal.

Jude felt his identity founder for a moment, capsized by the sheer tsunami of unstoppable lust overpowering his every sense and every particle of his being. Faces swam in front of him, impressions lost in overexposed whiteness. Kiku, beautiful and worried… Martin, leering and magnetic… Gary, distressed and desperate…

The carved face of the multi-god replaced them, clear and staid. Jude focused on it. Sima, he thought, help me.

You are Jude, was all he got from the multi-god. The carved face faded, but Jude understood. The others were not stronger than him. Each was his own force, and each was his own master. He was Jude, touched by Sima. He did not have to be one overwhelmed, for he was many.

Multiplicity is. Jude is. Many are one, one is many.

Jude stood before Martin, staring him down. He felt Martin’s power flood through him, connecting them. Martin leered, his cocks thrusting against Jude’s, breeding them, multiplying them.

Jude smirked back at him. “You want to fuck?” Jude said, grasping him with four strong hands, then six, then ten. “Here I am. Fuck me.”

They were both cumming, releasing multiple jets of spunk without orgasm, and the fucking hadn’t even started. Martin turned him and bent him over a boulder, cum painting his back and his triple ass, preparing him, and Jude felt the torrent of lust deepen between them, joining their animal ids together in nonstop euphoric coition as he lost himself to Martin’s need.

Jude stood before Gary, the giant’s power flowing into him, growing him in Martin’s place. Gary was huge, taller than trees and massive, his athlete’s body even more aesthetically perfect scaled up beyond reason.

Jude, grown by the force of Gary’s connection to the protector god and driven by the overflow of Martin’s intimate lust, still stood dwarfed by the handsome colossus, his head barely reaching the footballer’s thickly sculpted pecs. He was stripped of extras, too, and was even dressed in the snug dark-chocolate henley and butterscotch-plaid skinny trousers he’d been wearing when he’d used his own cuteness to blithely take ownership of the infatuated jock back at the airport in the States. Clearly this moment was burned into Gary’s consciousness, and his distress clearly communicated his ability to cum was completely bound and fixed to the words Jude had spoken to him—words Jude did not even remember, but which had incised themselves into Gary’s mind, and his balls as well, for all he’d played it cool at the time.

He stared up into the man’s needy eyes. “Get your giant cock out, jockhead,” he commanded with a dark smile, and he thrilled to see the hope and eager compliance spark in Gary’s sex-blown stare. “I am going to make you cum like you have never cum before.”

Jude lay under Kiku’s warm, pleasant weight, his eyes finally focusing again on the beautiful hunter. Seeing this, Kiku smiled, sending the usual rush through Jude’s body and soul.

“Are you well—?” Kiku started to say, but Jude cut him off with a deep, soul-searing kiss that was quickly returned.

He hugged Kiku tighter to him with all four arms, feeling their cocks pressing together as they twined their legs tightly together. When he broke the kiss it was to say, “Make love to me, Kiku,” only to nearly cum in gratitude and anticipation when the hunter eagerly smiled his agreement.

Jude stood atop the thumb-shaped stone, looking out over the interior valley of the island under the reddening sun, another Jude standing close behind him.

He had a lot of legs, he noticed—he wasn’t sure how many. It didn’t really matter.

“There’s more out there,” he mused, gazing out over the unknown lands. “More gods.” His tongues felt nice against each other as he spoke, and he slid them along each other experimentally, feeling a tingle of pleasure as he let them play.

“And more strangers,” the other Jude said, sounding slightly concerned. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw that this Jude had two heads—facing the same way, unlike the multigod—but only four arms and legs. Jude turned back to look out over the darkening landscape. He understood his trepidation: gods were one thing, but each god understood his role. More outsiders, on the other hand, meant the introduction of the unknown and unpredictable. The others would be needed.

The warm presence of the other Jude at his back was a welcome distraction, and he turned to gaze appreciatively at his own supercute faces, framed by his loose, dirty blond hair. Fuck, he was one sexy-cute twunk… and hung, too, lest he forget. He eyed both pairs of full, dark-red lips. “You know,” he said, sliding his tongues together a bit more as he spoke, “I’m still feeling that overflow of Martin’s horniness. You?”

His own azure blue eyes glinted saucily back at him twice over. “Absolutely,” said the other Jude.

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