Wormholing

by BRK

Corey has a secret ability to pull objects through space from one place to another. He doesn’t ever want his lover, Will, to find out, until one day he faces a temptation he’s increasingly unable to resist.

4 parts 14k words Added Sep 2022 Updated 16 Sep 2023 3,964 views 4.9 stars (14 votes)

Part 1 Corey has a secret ability to pull objects through space from one place to another. He doesn’t ever want his lover, Will, to find out, until one day he faces a temptation he’s increasingly unable to resist. (added: 10 Sep 2022)
Part 2
Part 3 Ethan deals with the fact that there are four of him now—though he also can’t wait to see the look on Corey’s face when he comes home and finds out what’s waiting for him. (added: 16 Sep 2023)
Part 4
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Part 1

“Maybe this is a bad idea.”

Corey ignored the comment as he smoothed out the burgundy duvet and lit the fat red candles on the two nightstands, one to either side of the wide king-sized bed. The candles weren’t necessary for what he was about to do next, but the atmosphere might help him focus.

“Corey,” the voice behind him persisted anxiously, “Maybe—”

Corey slid a hand through his loose, sandy curls. “Maybe you should shut your monkey face.”

The voice subsided, though Corey could feel its owner’s tense, uncertain stare. He let out a long, slow breath between pursed lips, willing himself to concentrate. He had never quite understood exactly how he’d ended up with a sentient, talking sock monkey as a boyhood companion, still with him now as if to remind him of the innocence of long-spent youth. None of his other toys had been magical. Nothing else in the house had spoken to him, or lain awake nights with him laughing at his stories of reckless school hijinks, or teased him about his first chest hairs sprouting like a few pathetic stalks in a barren field. The toaster hadn’t answered back when he’d demanded its attention; the houseplants had callously ignored him; the shower-fogged bathroom mirror never formed a face to remind him to brush his teeth and clean behind his ears. His parents were ridiculously mundane, and so were his annoying aunts and beer-swilling uncles and his good-ole-boy cousins. Nothing else supernatural existed in the world around him, and only one thing that wasn’t human had ever spoken to him: a perfectly ordinary brown and white, red-lipped sock monkey that had appeared, tufted beanie and all, in his toy chest one day when he was eight, not bought by his parents or from any other source he could discover, and now so familiar a part of his life that he couldn’t imagine not having the woolen fussbudget around.

Even so, when all was said and done that bundle of nervous animated knitwear probably only ranked as the second strangest thing about him; and it was that first thing, the hidden eldritch ability he possessed that no one but Monkeymonk even knew about, that occupied him now.

He’d used his talent for years now and then, slyly and with no one the wiser, but only on small things and incidental needs. He’d never tried anything on this kind of scale, and the fear that slithered through him felt like a self-made threat, an id-driven sabotage that could derail the outcome he wanted, in this moment, more than anything he’d ever desired.

He focused, remembering the first time. It was October of his sophomore year in high school, still during his gangly too-tall phase before his dedication to track and field—particularly the field part, with the discus-throwing and javelin-hurling and shot-putting—had filled him out into the classical proportions he worked hard to maintain even today. It was a free period and he’d just sidled up in front of the vending machine, already at peak salivation for those hexagonal multigrain tortilla chips he loved, when he pulled out his change and stared the two quarters on his palm. Not enough. Yeesh! He thought back to the change in the plastic bowl on his dresser. Just one more quarter.

His internal vision had seemed to sharpen, almost like he could see straight into that change bowl back in his room with its plethora of dimes and nickels and stupid pennies and—there, an old quarter from the bicentennial he’d somehow gotten in change from the 7-11 a few months back. He could see it so clearly, it was almost like he could feel its solidity in his brain.

Maybe if it hadn’t been for Monkeymonk, he wouldn’t have tried it. But he knew magic was real, even if he’d only ever encountered the one random example from his toy chest. He made himself see his hand, still held in front of him with the two coins he’d had in his pocket, and consciously willed that single bicentennial quarter he was so unnaturally aware of onto his palm with the others.

A moment of cold nausea washed swiftly him. Then it was gone, and he was gaping at… three quarters in his hand. Three, not two. A shiny new quarter, a duller, worn Delaware state quarter, and that old, scuffed bicentennial quarter, the stern-faced Colonial drummer looking ready to start the American Revolution all over again.

He sensed the presence behind him a split second too late. “You gonna buy anything, geek, or what?” barked the football team’s bloated star linebacker, Tom Aiello, so suddenly that Corey jumped, almost scattering the inexplicably augmented coinage in his hand all over the gleaming tile floors of West Hall.

Quickly fisting his hand and trying to slow his galloping heart, he half turned his head and mumbled over his shoulder, “Yeah, sure, sorry.”

“Then move, before I move you!” Tom brayed. There was a chuckle from someone else nearby—Tom was famous for his lowbrow jock humor.

Corey silently fed his change into the machine, coin by coin. The new one dropped, making the familiar noises. No ejection into the coin return—it was accepted. The Delaware went next; it, too, clattered into place and stilled. Then, trying to keep himself from shaking, he slipped the bicentennial in. Clink, clink, clink. Then, stillness. No ringing ricochet into the coin return. It was good. It was real.

The display read 75 cents. The machine hummed, content and ready.

“Well?” Tom demanded loudly from right behind him, making him jump again. “Come on, Jones! Jeez, do you believe this guy? Some of us have places to be.”

An ungentle prod in the middle of his back made him stumble half a step forward, and he silently rued that his ungainly six-foot-three stature didn’t come with the 230 pounds of solid mass this refrigerator of a 17-year-old had at his disposal for pushing people around, tight ends and virginal sophomores alike. He pushed the buttons for his snack, A, then 7, then watched it drop. It still didn’t seem quite real, but not wanting any more aggression from the bullies behind him he quickly snatched the seven-ounce bag out of the tray and slunk off, Tom’s “Finally! God!” nipping at his ass as he went.

That was the first time. The chips were real, extra-delicious even. He’d really retrieved it into his hand, somehow, dragging it through the two miles of reality that separated the back upstairs corner of the school by the locker rooms and the jumbled upper surface of his solid of cheery dresser. He’d sprinted home that afternoon, speeding past his astonished kid sister (barely home from middle school and already thrashing mecha robots on the living room Gamecube), and dashed up the stairs to his bedroom. He grabbed the blue plastic change dish off his dresser so roughly some of the coins almost sloshed over the edge, peering into the bowl as intently as any scrying seer desperate to find the salvation of his people had ever done. The quarter was gone! The nudged the little treasury around a little, stirring everything to the surface again and again, but there was no sign of the bicentennial quarter at all. It was gone. It wasn’t in the bowl because three hours ago he had stared at it with his brain and fucking wormholed the thing right into his hand!

“Corey? Are you all right?” Monkeymonk said from where he sat propped against his pillow in the middle of his carefully-made bed—his preferred spot for idly pretending to be an ordinary, knitted fluff-toy while Corey was at school. When Corey didn’t move or answer he added tentatively, “You’re acting very oddly.”

Slowly Corey set the bowl back on his dresser and turned to face the sock monkey, who was eyeing him carefully with occasional glances at the door to check they were alone. Corey took the hint and closed his bedroom door, then moved across the room, pulling off his red tee shirt out of habit (he hated wearing shirts, and always pulled them off whenever there was no one around to sneer at his vertically stretched, barely-defined torso). Tossing the shirt toward his laundry basket he sat on the edge of the bed with one leg folded, angling himself toward the monkey.

“Monk,” he said, “are you sure you’re not here because I’m, like, a witch or something?”

Monkeymonk didn’t have eyebrows, but he gave the impression of lowering them anyway. They’d had this conversation before. He didn’t remember anything before he’d opened his eyes to see an eight-year-old Corey peering down at him where he lay half-immersed in childhood detritus, but later, when Corey was old enough to ask questions like this, he had explained that he somehow knew he had been ejected from somewhere, not pulled toward anything.

“What happened?” the puppet asked sharply.

His voice quavering slightly, Corey explained about the quarter. Monkeymonk listened without comment. When Corey was done, he said nothing at first. “Try it again,” he directed finally. “Then we will know.”

Know what? Corey thought. But Monk was right—it made sense to test the repeatability of the phenomenon, just like they said in his AP science classes. He bit his lip, casting about mentally for something to try to wormhole. Inevitably, his mind went back to the vending machine and the white and yellow bag of delicious salty chips he’d been hankering for all through Spanish. What had he done before? Eyes here, mind there, bring the thing his mind saw into the place his eyes saw.

His glossy black surface of his desk was right next to his bed, mostly clear for once. He fixed his eyes on the smooth, sable surface, then let his eyes unfocus slightly as he cast back in his imagination to the rows of snacks he saw every day, picking out the multigrain chips in the coil marked A7, 75¢.

As his mental image clarified he had the strange impression that he was no longer conjuring a memory, but actually seeing the bag of chips as it was in that very moment. He kept his eyes on the bag, not wanting to break the moment, but even without looking around he could sense that the wide, gleaming corridor was full of football players in uniform, spilling out of the locker room in twos and threes as they gathered to head out the side doors to the high field behind the school. He should try to be quick—one of them could decide they needed a quick Cheez Doodles fix at any moment.

He sharpened his psychic stare even harder, forcing the bag he wanted into excruciating, almost trippy detail, becoming a strange kind of weight in his mind, solid and slightly warm and immutably real. Then, steadying his thoughts as best he could, he carefully repeated what he’d done before, slipping that “heavy” image of the chips bag onto the black, smooth surface of the desk he was actually looking at with his physical eyes.

Almost instantly, it came—the cold flutter of nausea—and Corey knew it had happened.

His pulse quickened. He blinked, releasing the vision in his mind (he thought someone might have squawked “What the f—?” just as the connection blurred, but he couldn’t be sure), and then … the impossible was before him, physical and incontrovertible. The bag of tortilla chips, having arrived in the same vertical position it had been in where it stood in the vending machine coil, dropped silently onto its back, rocking slightly on the black surface of the desk like a penguin who’d fallen placidly back onto the ice for a little quiet stargazing.

Slowly, Corey turned to look at Monkeymonk. Monkeymonk regarded the chips for a long moment, then turned to Corey and, with uncharacteristic insouciance gave him a wordless, sock monkey shrug.

Just then his door banged open, startling him badly for the third time that day. “Hey, Stinky!” his sister Sara bellowed, standing in his doorway with her arms crossed over her white tee and girly red overalls. “Didn’t you hear the phone? Mom’s calling!”

Knock!!” he roared back at her, scared and angry. His heart felt like it was beating out of his chest.

Sara rolled her eyes and stomped back into the bathroom at the end of the hall, slamming the door behind her. With final quick glance at Monkeymonk Corey jumped up and went downstairs to find the kitchen phone, which lay waiting for him off the hook on the counter next to the bananas. Peeling one of these in an effort to steady his nerves, Corey picked up the phone and gave his CPA mom the usual assurances: yes, he’d gotten home okay. Yes, he’d have the usual preplanned Tuesday dinner ready by the time she got home (Tuesday was turkey tacos, Sara’s favorite). No, no one had bullied him. No, nothing interesting had happened at school. Nothing at all.

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After that, Corey tested his ability. Warned by the near-miss of his sister almost walking in on him, not to mention the nagging sense that that “What the f—” might have been one of the football meatheads happening to glance at the rows of chips bags at the exact moment his selection had silently vanished from the machine, he was careful to the point of paranoia. He practiced in the dead of night, wormholing random objects elsewhere and recalling them back. No changes seemed to come over them, and he came to take it as read that the objects he wormholed were completely unaffected by the process. He sent that same bag of chips back and forth to its perch in the vending machine a good ten times, then tentatively tried the chips—good as ever. He sent his full laundry basket down to the basement where the washing machine was. Kind of practical, but not exactly a life saver. He deliberately left his bookbag behind one morning and then called it to him in one of the stalls of the boy’s bathroom; a good test, but he was so racked with nerves that someone would call him out as not having his bag when he first arrived that he decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.

He knew if he’d been a little more confident he could have turned it into a cool party trick, pretending he was doing sleight-of-hand but actually making that coin appear behind someone’s ear for real, or something like that; but he wasn’t that guy, and, tall, skinny unpopular physics nerd in an unpopular sport as he was, it wasn’t like he had a coterie of hangers-on vapid enough to be impressed by whatever glib card tricks or fake-unfake prestidigitation he might have come up with. He tried sending Monkeymonk exactly once, with his permission, just from one end of the bed to the other. He said he felt all right afterwards, but that the transition was a bit unnerving and he would prefer not to do it again.

Weirdly, then, the novelty of his uncanny ability started to wear off. He started testing himself for any other powers he might have. He couldn’t make his Mom’s decorative hen/rooster mated salt and pepper shakers move, no matter how long he sat at the table and stared at them—not without wormholing them from one spot to the next, anyway. He couldn’t will his hot chocolate to reheat when it got cold. Changing channels was still down to whoever had claimed the remote, like always. He couldn’t make his sister shut up when she blathered on at the dinner table about Scouts or the mecha game she was crushing all her friends in.

He definitely couldn’t fly. That was a big no.

Corey started wormholing less and less. That half-second of cold nausea started seeming more and more unpleasant. His use of his abilities tailed off, until fear he might lose it if he didn’t use it regularly caused him to consciously use his power once a week every week, purely for the purpose of upkeep and conditioning, like the hardcore training he was putting himself through on the track and field team. He decided to consciously create a new habit of sending his laundry basket down to the basement every Friday after school, when Sara was at Scouts and his Mom hadn’t come home yet. It seemed a little pointless—he still had to stump down the two flights and actually do the laundry, along with everyone else’s, as a part of his weekly chores; but he forced himself to keep it up, until flicking that heap of dirty jeans, smelly socks, and sweaty tees down to that same exact spot on the concrete floor next to their high-end Maytag was almost second-nature, as easy as breathing.

Years passed. High school ended, and he sailed into a prestigious engineering program at a school just far enough away from home that he didn’t feel like he had to come home every weekend. He transitioned into the culture shock of the dorms a little roughly. He was a little thrown by the casual male nudity—sure, he’d seen plenty of ass in the locker rooms, but these were men, stepping in and out of shower stalls, milling in the bathroom, even dashing down the halls, naked and hairy and very much not what he was used to.

His roommate, a hard-studying, hard-partying honors student named Orem, was particularly distracting. Not just because he liked shirts even less than he did and was fit and handsome enough to get away with it, but because he seemed to appreciate Corey’s smooth, cut, track-honed physique from a perspective that seemed to lie halfway between a bro respecting a bro and a banked but smoldering bi-curiosity. The energy between them had a low-level “what if” charge that never quite went away.

Roommate quirks aside, generally Corey slotted into college well. He got some good-natured teasing for having brought his sock monkey with him, and it took him a while to understand the rhythms of his new life enough to find much time alone with him. He had a real scare when, late one Friday afternoon, he instinctively wormholed his laundry like he was used to—all the way back home to that same spot next to the Maytag in his old house. The next second he was frantically calling it back, and the heart-pounding shock of almost exposing himself at home and school put him off wormholing for a long time. Only later was he able to laugh at himself for taking the old cliché of taking his laundry home from college a bit too literally. Remembering his fears about his power atrophying he trained himself into a new habit, one inspired by his original discovery of his ability: whenever he was awake and alone in his room in the middle of the night, usually late on Fridays when his roommate was guaranteed to out at any of the various weekly beerfests around campus, he’d transfer any change he had in his change-dish into the tips jar at the Campus Coffee Castle where merit scholar Orem was picking up a few shifts every week for extra cash. That got to be second nature, too, after a while, though he always double-checked to make sure he was alone and the coffee shop was closed and dark before flicking his coins into the squat, ceramic, open-skilled knight by the main registers.

Meanwhile he settled in, trying to make himself as normal a freshman as possible. He made friends, had a few dalliances, studied hard, and tried to ignore Orem’s unselfconscious glances. All in all he settled into a new and pleasant routine.

Then he met Ethan, and everything changed forever.

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The meeting wasn’t anywhere romantic, nor was it a grand event. Corey went to study with a classmate, Jody, in her dorm, and her friend Ethan happened to be stop by, mooching her supply of homemade brownies from a recent care package. Corey glanced up from highlighting passages in Foundations of Material Science and Engineering, caught one sight of the man deflecting Jody’s flak as he rooted through the deep red tin for just the right corner piece of fudgy brownie goodness, and… he was done.

It wasn’t even that Ethan was such an all-impressive Adonis, exactly. He was handsome, sure, with olive skin, an enticing stubble-beard that obviously received a certain amount of daily attention, loose, dark hair, and a pure, easy smile that would probably melt any heart it was aimed at. He was tall and athletic, not quite Corey’s height but just a bit buffer, going by the bulges hinted at by his stylish midnight-blue hoodie and the suggestive swells of his thighs and calves in his new-looking jeans. His banter with Jody was playful and affectionate, his voice was deep with just a hint of rasp, and when he turned his head to smile at Corey his hazel eyes seemed alight with endless energy. A long second passed before Corey realized he was staring at the guy, agape and dazed. He shut his mouth with an audible clack of his teeth, unable to look away. The object of his instant affection just let his smile go a little crooked, winked, and sailed right back out of Corey’s life, scarfing down his pilfered brownie before he was even out the door.

That wasn’t the end of it, of course. He got all the details he could from Jody, who seemed half amused and half exasperated—this wasn’t the first time Ethan had snuck in and stolen one of her friends’ attentions, apparently. They contrived for him to “run into” her and Ethan at lunch the next day, and more meetings followed, sometimes the three of them, increasingly just Ethan and Corey. Ethan proved himself genial and sure of himself but completely free of the kind of arrogance and hubris Corey was used to seeing in good-looking, confident, well-muscled guys. He wasn’t actively seeking a relationship, he said, but to Corey he seemed willing to be wooed. Corey, completely hooked, found his thoughts revolving around Ethan all the time—so much so that when a slightly drunk Orem finally started actively flirting with him he didn’t even notice. He’d chide himself for having cartoon hearts in his eyes, but he knew there was no way back. He had to have Ethan, and he would make that happen however he could.

Then, one cold Saturday night in November, he was suddenly at the turning point. Orem was away for a weekend with his folks, along with half the dorm, it seemed. Candles were lit, lights were lowered. Playlists were queued. Monkeymonk was… loaned out to a bemused Jody. Everything was planned. Ethan would be his, for real and for good.

Then Ethan showed up, right on time in a snug navy sweater and khakis, a four-pack of ale in hand and an oddly bashful expression curving his stubble-framed lips, and Corey forgot all his coyly suggestive conversation as he fell into those sweet hazel eyes. Without a word he slid his arms around Ethan’s narrow waist, pulled them together, and slid his lips against Ethan’s.

Ethan’s surprise was brief, and he quickly got into the spirit of things. Carelessly dropping the beer onto the nearest bed he folded Corey up in his powerful arms as he opened for him, deepening the kiss. Passion swamped Corey and he pressed himself hard against Ethan, feeling his thick manhood mashing hungrily against a corresponding hardness in Ethan’s pants as their kissing grew more urgent and feral. He pulled at Ethan’s sweater, trying to get it off him without stopping their demanding make-out, and finally Ethan pushed him back long enough to yank Corey’s henley off him and let Corey do the same with that yummy sweater, revealing a dream body, a shade darker, hairier, and more muscular than Corey’s lither, creamier discus-thrower’s bod. They toed their shoes off, already knowing what was coming, and then they were crashing back together, kissing hard and messily while they pushed their bodies into each other, feeling up each other’s torsos and asses with the fervor of men impossibly turned on by hard, elegantly sculpted masculinity.

Then they were in the bed—at the last minute Corey remembered to steer them toward the one that didn’t have the beer in it—and Corey was on top of Ethan, still kissing him passionately as they struggled to get each other’s pants down. Moments later their hard cocks were jostling together at last as they mouthfucked, hot and thick and aching for release. Deftly kicking off his own pants and Ethan’s with a single move, Corey dropped his crotch right back onto Ethan’s heat, feeling their balls and cocks rubbing together free and uninhibited, like that was how their junk was supposed to be. Corey never wanted to wear clothes again, or be more than an inch away from this smart, kind, and utterly sexy man.

He stared down into those hazel eyes, which were glinting gold in the candlelight. “How do you want it?” he asked, his voice sounding rough in his own ears. “Do you want to fuck me, or me fuck you?” When Ethan smiled, he added slyly, “Because there will be fucking.”

Ethan held his gaze. “I want…” he said, dragging out the moment, “…to be in you, and I want you to be in me. I want to feel you inside me, Corey. I want you to feel my cock deep inside you, all the way, as far as it will go.”

Corey shivered. He realized he was actually close just from hearing those words in Ethan’s low baritone, and from seeing the intent and passion in those mesmerizing green-gold eyes. He forced it down, for now. He tried to think of something clever to say, but a smirky, off-handed “We’ll just have to switch off, then” sounded lame, and “I want that too” seemed… curiously inadequate. Instead he grinned and pounced, renewing the furious kiss, and they kept this up, rutting animalistically as they made out naked and desperate on top of Orem’s favorite green blanket, until they finally started making Ethan’s words come true—every single one.

From that night on they were inseparable, not just through college but afterwards. Corey got a premium job at an engineering firm in Chicago while he worked on his masters, and Ethan, a design major, went with him, finding plenty of lucrative work there as well. They bought an apartment together, and Monkeymonk—still only a sock monkey to Ethan and one his favorite endearing quirks about Corey—was consigned to Corey’s desk in the spare room they’d converted to an office, not much more interested in watching Corey make hot, sweaty love with Ethan than Corey was in have a sock monkey spectator.

They got sweaty in other ways, too, religiously working out together, making a game out of laughingly competing to see who could achieve the most chiseled abs. They talked about everything, more and more in sync mentally and physically. They mixed with each other’s colleagues, went out and stayed in, and looked forward to every minute spent together, whether it was sharing meals, nestling on the couch, or delivering pure, simple ecstasy to each other in bed.

Corey reveled in their mutual devotion, and was as happy as he had ever been. The only thing between them were Corey’s two secrets, the things that made him too strange for anyone to accept; but the more time that passed between them, the more Corey sure he’d never need to tell Ethan anything.

Then Corey’s job shifted. He got a promotion, one that involved travel. At first he went with it, having been well trained by his mother in the practicalities of following a clear and stable career path. But the nights apart ate at him. Being away from each other was prolonged agony for them both, one that didn’t ease at all as the months passed. Video phone sex and endless conversations until his battery died helped, but they weren’t enough.

This last trip was the worst. Ten days in Scotland, put up at a quaint local ten-room hotel with spotty cell reception and wi-fi that was “down for repairs,” if it had ever existed at all. Corey was going mad, Monkeymonk was at wit’s end trying to calm him, and things seemed as dark as the ominously threatening sky outside.

Finally, on the seventh night, amidst the black, raging storm that had finally broken that afternoon, Corey had had enough. It had been a day and a half since he’d even spoken to Ethan, and a stressful day and a bad meal at the half-assed restaurant downstairs made him close to frantic. As Monkeymonk watched he paced the room in increasing agitation, lightning and thunder from the growing storm punctuating his mood. Finally he stopped, swung to face Monkeymonk, and growled, “That’s it. I can’t take it. I have to do it.”

“Do what?” the sock monkey asked warily, his red, woolen lips pursed.

Corey looked him dead in his shoebutton eyes. “I’m going to bring Ethan to me,” he said. “I’m going to fucking wormhole him.”

 

Part 2

Ethan had always thought true love was a Hollywood myth, and the aching that supposedly came not being able to be with your fated mate a joke. Coupling was about pleasure, pure and simple. It was the whole reason he’d resolved to start working out, all the way back when he could still count his public hairs on the fingers of one hand: he wanted to know what it felt like to rub up against other guys, and building sweet aesthetic muscle was the obvious way to up the quality of the dudes interested in letting him. Plus the guys would catch a bonus too, he figured, getting a hotter body to feel up and mash up against. It turned out to be a triple win when he discovered how pumping iron came naturally to him, the rhythm of it anchoring his occasionally turbulent home life and even helping him focus academically enough to get into a good school and aim at a real future for himself.

When he met Corey, he told himself that all he saw was another hot guy to share pleasure with. His first meeting with the man, a chance encounter in Jody’s dorm room, wasn’t his usual hook-up scenario: usually he noticed a fellow lecture-attendee’s hard, round ass as the exited the auditorium together, or the swell of his firm pecs under a sweat tee shirt as he slapped his buddies’ backs after a round of hoops, or the honed curves of his thighs as he cooled down from a run at the water-bottle refill. With Corey, he noticed—him. It wasn’t just the ice-blue eyes that entranced him, or the ridiculously sweet elfin face under the adorable mop of sandy curls. He didn’t even pick up on the decently broad shoulders then, or any of the other signs that he was mouthwateringly fit under that baggy Vikings tee. All that came later. In that first moment, what he registered was Corey’s presence. It was something about him, something Ethan couldn’t name, something that made him want to stroke that peach-cream cheek and slide a finger along that sharp jaw, until his thumb found those plump, slightly parted lips. He realized he was getting turned on just seeing the guy—for once, before he’d even gotten a good look at his ass!

Acting on instinct, he’d tossed Corey some bait and then bolted, shoving the stolen brownie into his mouth to distract himself from his confusing sense of full-body arousal. He was more relieved than he’d have cared to admit when Corey followed up, arranging a supposedly random meeting via Jody that instantly became a date. Ethan found he couldn’t get enough of Corey. Just being with him made his blood head and his heart swell—and his dick, too. Corey did turn out to have a splendid ass and an amazing everything else, and their first fuck was passionate and carnal and utterly epic. Even as he was blasting his load for the second time, Corey’s long, hot dick so deep in him he through he could taste it, all he could think through the shared, sweaty haze of euphoria was more. Not just more fucking—more Corey. More Corey, all the time.

Corey obviously felt the same way. They could not get enough of each other. They were in each other’s pockets day and night, through college and then beyond, neither questioning the need to be together even after the protective bubble of university life was behind them. They kept physically close whenever they could, his hand always on Corey’s waist or his shoulder or his ass, their bodies pressed tight in mutual comfort. Even when they were out in social situations Ethan wanted his face to be constantly near Corey’s, as if his soft, meticulously-kept stubble were a sensor array that could feel the proximity of Corey’s warm, smooth cheek and jaw, flooding his mind with the reassurance that Corey was there, that a kiss could be stolen at any moment. Sometimes just knowing that and being close was enough, but there were plenty of times Ethan just couldn’t resist and would attack Corey’s mouth without warning, winning a surprised, laughing reciprocation from his man while their friends hooted and cheered.

The travel thing, when it came, was the wrench in the works he hadn’t seen coming. Ethan had never done “alone” well. Even before Corey he’d always sought out people and avoided solitude at all costs. Now that he was in love, it was a hundred times worse. Their modestly upscale flat with all the big rooms and wide windows was painfully empty when Corey was away, full of vast expanses of empty he could barely cope with. Going out didn’t help; he still felt alone, even at the movies or their gym on the corner or the local gay-friendly bar they went to sometimes. Texting Jody in San Diego only reinforced how isolated he was. If he tried walking in the park, something they did together whenever they wanted a quiet moment of peace together, his sense of aloneness seemed to expand into the open air, filling the whole fucking planet.

As if that weren’t enough, as the months went by he started having strange moments when he was sure he was being watched. At first the eerie sensation was infrequent, but lately it was happening more and more, until every night Corey was away, as he lay in their too-big bed half-sick from missing him, Ethan was certain there was someone watching him. Craving him. Caressing unseen eyes over his ripped, naked body, seeing into his soul, feeling his aloneness and echoing its own back.

During this most recent trip to Scotland the sensation had become intense. On the third night, as Ethan lay there, his skin prickling, he felt his cock start to fill and his heartbeat quicken, as though his body knew what he couldn’t bring himself to believe. He closed his eyes, letting the feeling of being watched sink into him. “Corey?” he said at last, soft and uncertain, though he knew it couldn’t be anything but his man making him feel all these things.

He regretted having spoken almost instantly—the sensation stopped, leaving him alone again in the cold bedroom. He had felt him, though. The strangeness stopping the moment he said his name was proof—it had to be. Pretending Corey was still with him he jerked off feverishly, for the first time since Corey had left, then, after cleaning himself up, slipped into an uneasy sleep, hoping this spectral version of Corey would return to him.

Ethan must have spooked him, he decided, because the sensation of being watched did not recur the next night, or the night after that. Ethan kept his nerve, stoking his hopes. Then, on the seventh night, it happened. The unseen eyes were back, more potent than ever. Ethan sensed desperation and reckless need in his lover, and just the idea got him instantly hard. He lay exposed in the middle of their bed, sheet cast aside, letting himself be raked with roiling, unfathomable passion built up over too many days apart—the same passion he felt burning through him like liquid fire as he imagined Corey watching him and wanting him. Touch me, he thought. Touch me, you sweet bastard! Do it! I need to feel you! I need—

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

There was a moment of tingling, pervasive cold, like his body was infested with ice-spiders for the barest fraction of a second, and then the room changed completely. The sheets under his naked body had somehow turned cool and cloyingly floral-scented—no, it was a soft, thick duvet, not the chocolate-brown sheets that Corey loved, still holding his lingering scent after a week apart. The bed felt soft and full of springs. Candles flared to either side of him, casting horrific shadows on unfamiliar walls. Thunder crashed, seeming to shake everything. Slumped over him like a rag doll was a half-naked man, his pale skin looking white and exotic in the flickering candlelight.

Ethan gasped. Was this Corey?

He grabbed the figure by the arms and lifted him to see his face. It was Corey. At first Ethan had been scared he was unconscious (or worse), but to his relief he saw his eyes were half-open, though only the whites were showing under his long lashes as they lolled back into his head. Ethan shook him lightly, not wanting to flail his head around too much. “Corey!” he called, worried. “Corey, babe, are you okay?”

They eyes stayed lolled back, but a watery smile tried to take hold of Corey’s lips. He mumbled something in a silly voice that sounded like Ethany-eethie-eeth.

Ethan shifted over on the bed, drawing Corey onto his back and getting him fully onto the bed. He stroked Corey’s cheek, worried and excited all at the same time. He’d been needing to see him and touch him like this, to be this close to him. He just wished Corey didn’t look so… drained.

“Corey, sweetheart,” he cooed, sliding the backs of his fingers along the fine sandpaper of Corey’s jaw. “Talk to me, babe. Tell me you’re okay.”

Corey’s lids fluttered, and Ethan finally saw the delicate blue eyes he loved as Corey met his gaze. “Did I do it?” he slurred. “I did it, right? You’re really here?”

Ethan spared a quick look around him and understood at last where he was. Lightning flickered in a nearby rain-spattered window, and in the beat before the thunder rolled he took in what could only be Corey’s much-hated hotel room in Scotland. It had been described to him at great length in their few sporadic phone conversations over the last seven days, down to the vomitous orange tulip wallpaper and the collection of three (unfueled) hurricane lamps provided as bits of pointless, random decor on the pine shelf over the TV stand. He turned back to Corey with a wonderstruck smile. “I’m really here,” he confirmed.

Then, when Corey said nothing further, he had to ask: “How?”

Corey squeezed his eyes shut, his brow creasing lightly. “Get Monkeymonk to explain,” he directed blearily. “Too tired.”

Ethan, bemused, glanced across the room to where Corey’s beloved sock monkey was perched on the low, old-fashioned bureau, watching them intently with what Ethan fancied was a rather more astonished expression than usual. And well he might, Ethan thought, quirking his lips as he turned his head back to Corey. He resumed stroking his cheek and said soothingly, “You can tell me later.”

“S’your fault,” Corey murmured, clearly starting to drift. “You’re way too heavy in the mind.” Ethan huffed a laugh and kissed him on the forehead, allowing him to fall into the deep, restful sleep he clearly needed, his other half finally, if inexplicably, once more at his side.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

A two-hour nap and a mug of herbal tea from the caddy next to the Mr Coffee in the nook by the door rejuvenated Corey enough to be reasonably human again, and he was able to give a brief account of “this one thing I can do.” Ethan listened, a bit dazed, as they sat together on the side of the springy bed. Corey watched him nervously, finally interrupting himself to ask, “Are you… are you okay with this?”

Ethan felt something warm well up in him as he stared back into those worried ice-blue eyes. “You missed me so much you bent space and time to bring me near to you,” he said, his voice low and rough. He took the mug out of Corey’s hands and set it on the night stand next to the now-guttering candle, then took his shoulders in his hands, locking their gazes. “Corey, love,” he said, “I am very okay with this.”

They made love until the sun came up, first with Ethan on top, then Corey, emboldened and reinvigorated by Ethan’s acceptance of what he could do, gave him the dicking of his life.

After taking turns in the small, anemic shower they came back out and regarded each other wistfully, each taking in the other’s wet, carefully sculpted form. “I have to get to the client site soon,” Corey admitted ruefully.

“Me too, actually,” Ethan said. “I’ve got two long consults this morning back to back.” Of course, with the time difference Ethan was not in such a rush, but there was no point hanging around if Corey was going to be in meetings. He frowned. “Are you sure you can do this? It seemed to take a lot out of you last night.”

Corey nodded, though his expression was more uncertain. “It was weird—it had never felt like that before,” he said. “Usually it’s just flicking something one place to another. Like at school I was always sending my change to the Coffee Castle every week, but—”

“Wait, what?” Ethan broke in. When Corey explained about the regular exercise he’d forced on himself involving transferring his spare change to the coffee shop’s tip jar, Ethan jumped in again. “I saw that!” he said excitedly.

Corey blanched, looking alarmed, and Ethan hastened to reassure him. “I didn’t see it actually happening,” he said. “But I was in there a lot on Friday nights as they closed, and I saw them empty out that mug with the tips a few times. And—remember how I was always doing early morning runs on Saturdays? I’d stop in when they opened as I was finishing, and I kept seeing change in the change jar all over again that I knew shouldn’t have been there…”

Corey was still looking a bit unnerved. “Fuck, and I always worried how I’d get caught,” he babbled, giving Ethan a crooked smile. “It’s like that Charmed episode where Piper uses magic on some asshole and he realizes what happened and it ends up causing these witch hunts that start tearing everything down, and—”

Ethan put a hand on his shoulder, grinning at him. “Dude, dude, you weren’t ‘caught’!” he said quickly, chuckling. “Anyway in retrospect it’s actually hilarious. I just ended up telling myself they were seeding the thing to get more tips, though I didn’t ever quite believe it. The truth is, I kinda liked the spooky strangeness of it all.”

Corey’s smile resurfaced, a little stronger this time. “You liked the… spooky strangeness?”

Ethan stepped closer, catching Corey’s gaze as they felt each other’s body heat against their bare, chilled skin. “I love the spooky strangeness,” he said.

Corey beamed, and Ethan had to kiss him—solemnly, deeply, and at great length, meetings or no meetings.

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“Do you… want me to lie down on the bed?” Ethan asked.

Corey threw up his hands. He was looking a little pale, but now that he wasn’t so overwrought he didn’t seem to be on the brink of collapse like he’d been the night before.

“I don’t get it!” he said, turning away from Ethan and ranting, seemingly to himself. “I got the chill, I felt the weight of him in my mind, I saw our living room—” He shook his head, turning to Monkeymonk. “Do you have any ideas?”

The sock monkey said nothing.

“Okay, look, maybe doing a whole person two days in a row is too much of a strain,” Ethan said. “You said you’ve never done people before, right?”

“No, just Monk.”

Ethan nodded, glancing at the sock monkey again. “R-right. So, let’s do this. What if you… transferred?”

“Wormholed,” Corey corrected, still turned away from Ethan with a scowl contorting his sweet face, one Ethan very much wanted to assuage.

“Wormholed,” Ethan repeated. “What if you ‘wormholed’ me my wallet, keys, and passport—maybe some clothes, if that’s doable—and I can just fly home? Easy answer, no problema.”

Corey turned back to him, shoulders slumping. “That’s ridiculous,” he said. “I can send you back.”

“I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

“I won’t!” Seeing Ethan’s worried look, he said, “Look, let me try it one more time, then we’ll do it your way.”

The second try to reverse Ethan’s little wormhole trip to Scotland was not a success, though Ethan thought just for a moment it might—he was sure he could sense the ice-spiders, only to have the whole feeling snuff out like a doused match. Corey was chalk-white after that final try, and Ethan forbade any further attempts to send him bodily back to the States. Instead, and only after a decent breakfast and two black coffees in the restaurant downstairs, Corey glumly set about wormholing Corey’s wallet, keys, passport, and some comfortable traveling clothes straight out of the clean laundry basket from the two loads Ethan had done the night before to distract himself and hadn’t gotten around to putting away. Smelling the smell of their dryer sheets, something he associated with home, in this dingy countryside hotel halfway around the world triggered his amazement at what Corey could do all over again.

He had to reschedule his consults after all, of course, and getting back home took almost the entire day, but he was riding high on seeing Corey and didn’t care too much. He still had a smile on his face when he got out of the rideshare from the airport, and he was already starting to miss Corey again as he unlocked the door to his apartment, stepped inside… and froze.

The apartment door opened into the living room, and there were three shirtless men standing right there in front of the sofa, less than ten feet away, in a close cluster as if Ethan had interrupted an intimate discussion. Ethan gaped at them, and they stared right back. They were olive-skinned, handsome, exquisitely muscled, hairy-chested, hazel-eyed, stubble-cheeked, and, most shockingly, they were all him. He knew it, instinctively and unquestioningly: All three of these men… were him.

The one on the right turned to the others. “I told you there’d be one more,” he said smugly.

 

Part 3

They were him. They were all him. Forget the face, the eyes, the physique. Forget the tiny white sliver from an old hockey scar he could see replicated across three corded forearms, matching the one on his own right arm hidden under the hem of his pushed-up hoodie sleeve. He knew, somehow, at some base level of human perception below or beyond mundane cognition, that they, the four of them, were all the same man.

Mundane cognition, however, was still stuck on the primate-level shock of unexpected creatures in his lair, it seemed. “Who are you people?” he heard himself murmur in a low, uneven voice, like underinflated tires over rough asphalt.

Their reactions were similar… but not the same, he noted. One narrowed his eyes. Another also squinted at him slightly, but lifted an eyebrow as well. That eyebrow seemed to say, “Really?”

The one nearest him on the couch dropped his head, shaking it slightly. “This again,” he muttered.

All at once Ethan felt extremely self-conscious, like he’d gotten on the wrong bus and all the other passengers knew it. He was still standing by the door, frozen in place in his comfy travel togs and the blue ball cap he’d bought in Inverness Airport for his in-flight ritual of pulling the bill down over his eyes for maximal snoozing facilitation, only to walk in on a kaffeeklatsch of cozy doppelgängers, all looking at him like he was the odd man out. They were him, after all—they were in their own home, comfortable and half-dressed and trading droll looks and reactions in perfect rapport with each other.

He eyed their naked, hairy, hard-sculpted chests uncertainly. Casual shirtlessness was certainly in-character and Ethan-indicative. He’d never been much for shirts around the house, and moving in with a very appreciative and lusty-eyed Corey had cemented the habit. But three of him shirtless suggested… intimacy? It seemed silly, but then, they had been here alone, together, attractively manly and half-clothed, and now he’d walked in on them like a sitcom husband coming home early from the Important Business Trip and finding his wife shamelessly canoodling with the plumber’s apprentice. He almost wished he had a suitcase to drop dramatically onto the carpet, if only for the punctuating thump you usually got in those scenes before all the shouting started. Corey, however, had only wormholed him the clothes he was wearing and his passport, wallet, phone, and keys, so all he could do was pull the ballcap off and let it hang, loosely, from his hand while the four of them all stared at each other.

As the awkwardness intensified a strong urge came over him to just back out of there—to reverse his entry into the apartment and basically rewind and redo the last few minutes, erasing this encounter with these other hims that were more at home in his apartment than he was. At first only the fact that his feet seemed bolted to the ground seemed to stop him. Then came the belated, hectic insistence from some part of his brain that he couldn’t leave, because this was his home. No—their home, his and Corey’s.

Corey. This place was his and Corey’s. It was their true space, the center of his blessed life with the one man who saw him. There was one man that mattered in the world more than Ethan himself, more than a dozen Ethans, and that was the elfin-faced, shy-smiling, ridiculously fit mop-haired doofus who’d skewered his heart in a single ice-blue glance right in the middle of Ethan’s bit of casual brownie-snarfing. There was no backing out for him.

Deliberately, he took a deep breath and made himself take a step forward.

“There it is,” the Ethan who’d predicted his arrival said, with a faint smirk that said “Took you long enough.” He stood and gestured to the spot he’d just vacated on the far end of the green-leather couch. “Have a seat, brother!”

Ethan looked around. He was vaguely reluctant to sit on the couch with the others; maybe it was some residual feeling that he was the interloper here, or it was premonition that joining them would lead to “things” happening he couldn’t quite process yet. Unfortunately there weren’t many options. He and Corey hadn’t ended up getting the matching love seat that went with the couch, not wanting to overwhelm the open feel of the long but slightly narrow living room. The plaid-upholstered armchair Ethan had hauled over from his old place with the rest of his stuff was currently parked in the building’s shared basement, out of commission with a busted leg.

Standing Ethan was waiting patiently next to the sofa, arm extended as though he were an usher patiently waiting to seat the last guest so the show could begin, so Ethan smiled awkwardly and moved to the empty spot.

As he sat, his cap still clutched in his left hand, he felt the warmth of the others, sitting close to him or standing in front of him. Not their physical warmth necessarily, though that was there too, with the faint scent of the cocoa-butter soap from the upstairs shower. The sensation he was feeling seeping into him was more the close, erotic undertow of handsome, well-built, sexually experienced men who all knew they appreciated other men. In spite of his still-rippling unease Ethan felt his cock stir in the tight crotch of his soft, snug travel jeans, and when he looked up into the beautiful hazel eyes of the Ethan sitting next to him—his own beautiful hazel eyes, green flecked intricately with brown and gold and somehow alive with energy and possibilities—he felt a rush of nervous, uncontrollable dick-thickening anticipation tear through him like an avalanche.

For a moment he couldn’t look away, and neither could the Ethan sitting next to him, a half-smile on his steak-red, kissable lips. Surely, if he was feeling this level of heat, his counterpart was, too—right?

What would kissing himself feel like? He could find out, right now. All he had to do was lean forward, and—

What was he doing? This was crazy. Fuck, Narcissus much, Ethan? he thought, swallowing nervously.

The Ethan next to him noticed the movement of his throat, and Ethan watched as the other him pulled those sweet lips in a bit between his teeth. Somehow, just that fractional reaction made his balls sweaty, all by itself. The other Ethan smiled almost tenderly.

“Weird, isn’t it?” the other him said. He spoke softly, as though there were no need to speak up among fellow… whatever-they-weres.

Standing Ethan, for his part, seemed amused by their interaction, though Ethan could sense that low-thrumming id-heat coming from him, too. “Iiiii’m going to DoorDash us some beers,” the standing him said wryly. “Wanna lend me your phone, new guy?” he added, reaching his hand out to him. “I assume it ended up in Scotland with you, since it’s not here.”

Ethan looked up at the hunk standing over him, his eyes catching for a fraction of a second on the hair-dusted, distractingly tight abs and the equally fuzzy gymnast-thick pecs he’d spent so much time and effort building. Fuck, seeing himself in the flesh was nothing like looking in a mirror. With mirrors, however much you admire your form and how successfully you’ve cut and sculpted yourself in the latest round of best-bod competition with your partner, you always know it’s just cold, unfeeling glass you’re looking at. But this guy, this body, these tanned, firm, hairy pecs with the small dark nipples just like his and the sexy outward swell from the collarbone he was so proud of—these pecs were warm and present and inches away and oh, so touchable…

He unstuck his stare with an effort and finally met the man’s bemused hazel eyes—eyes that said he knew exactly what Ethan was thinking. The other man had said something, he realized, and it took a second for Ethan’s libido to unclench its hold on his brain. “Huh?” Ethan said. “Oh, uh, sure.” He extracted his phone from his jeans with only a little difficulty and handed it up. The other him took it with another tiny smirk and wandered away in the direction of the kitchen, thumbing through the app. Ethan watched him go, helplessly admiring the idealized contours of his own back—and, fuck, how hot was that ass? He’d never seen it from this angle, and, damn, it was almost as hot as Corey’s compact, fuckable muscle-butt, packed into Ethan’s second-favorite pair of Levis. They were all wearing jeans, actually. Different ones, not duplicated or anything, but he recognized all of them as “his” jeans.

Lucky I had four pairs, he thought idly. Any more Ethans and we’d be down to gym shorts and underwear

His stomach grumbled, intruding on his ogling, and he remembered he hadn’t eaten beyond the Coronation chicken sandwich and packet of shortbread cookies he’d gotten on the long second leg from Heathrow to O’Hare. “Maybe some food, too?” he called.

“On it,” said the other him without looking up, and Ethan felt a faint existential shiver at the use of his routine go-to office catch-phrase.

He turned back to the two seated Ethans and was momentarily unnerved to see them watching him intently. He was still feeling disoriented by the unexpected self-mayhem, and the efficient graphic designer in him was asserting itself, wanting him to make everything as integrated and modular as possible. He cleared his throat. “So…” he said, “we’re all…” He was about to say “me,” but he backed away from the word at the last minute, sensing it would seem too, well, proprietary of him. Instead he said, “…er, Ethan.”

At this the further him, the one who’d said “this again” before when Ethan had first arrived, leaned toward them, sliding a muscular arm around the middle one’s naked, evocatively bulging shoulders, and smiled rakishly at Ethan. “We sure are,” he said, his eyes glinting like a devil offering every sin on the menu.

Oh, so it’s that kind of party, Ethan thought, his skin tingling in reaction. Was this guy trolling the newbie? Maybe it was working. Ethan’s cock had swollen enough it was getting uncomfortable, having gotten all tangled up as it tried to harden against the confines of his boxer-briefs and jeans. As he looked between them, he noted for the first time that their faces weren’t quite identical—for one thing, the “this again” Ethan had a couple days’ worth of dark, well-trimmed stubble, while the one between them, and (he was pretty sure) the other one, the one ordering food, were more or less freshly shaven. Interesting. Ethan considered the state of his own beard—after a day’s travel from Scotland he must be something like halfway in between. Was it reassuring that they were a shade different, or did that make it even eerier?

It sure didn’t help with their mutual attraction. The air seemed to be getting hotter, and Ethan, more clothed than the others, felt a small bead of sweat form on his temple. The stubbly Ethan’s move on their equally ripped couchmate seemed a challenge and an invitation, he thought—not so much a “Join us” as an “Are you going to join us or what?”

“We haven’t fucked,” the middle, clean-shaven Ethan said abruptly, turning from a quick glance at stubbly Ethan to meet his gaze again.

Ethan’s heart fluttered, struck again by how compelling those eyes were up close. “I didn’t ask.”

“Yeah, you did.” Middle Ethan gave him a sudden, sly smile that really made Ethan want to kiss him, hard.

Middle Ethan’s hazel eyes were full of lust, too, saturated with it even, and he strongly suspected that they were very similar impulses. Stubbly Ethan was throwing off the same vibes, but it seemed maybe for him it was with a bit of a twist, like his perspective on this powerful pull between them all was slightly different from the others’.

This was nuts, Ethan told himself again. He had to pull the brakes on this speeding train, if only because it was impossibly easy to imagine this encounter devolving into a days-long fuckfest that would only grind to a halt the second Corey got home. That, he thought, would be one awkward moment.

That was the key. This Ethan-on-Ethan lust was totally ephemeral, an eerie compounding of confusion and unexpected attraction. Not real, not like the other. He looked between the other two men, holding their gaze in turn. “Corey,” he said, very firmly. “I love Corey. We… love Corey.”

“Yeah,” agreed middle Ethan instantly. There was a little contrition in his expression, but those vibrant, endless hazel eyes still craved something Ethan had to give.

Stubbly Ethan’s sharp expression softened, too, and his tender smile was now a match for the one Ethan felt on his own face. “Yeah.” He kept his arm around he clean-shaven seatmate, though, Ethan noted, and his stare was no less intense.

“Twenty minutes,” the food-ordering Ethan broke in abruptly, returning to the couch and dropping that admiration-inspiring denim-clad butt onto the sturdy Persian-style coffee table before them. He fingered another screen on their phone, setting a jazz playlist going through the Bluetooth speakers flanking the flatscreen across the room, then set the device down next to him. Without asking he pulled Ethan’s blue ballcap out of his unresisting hand and dropped it to one side on the rug, making Ethan feel even more exposed.

“So,” the him perched on the coffee table said, nodding at Ethan, “you’re the one who flew home. I figured that was the likely outcome after I saw the passport and all had suddenly disappeared from on top of the bureau.”

Ethan nodded once. “Right,” he said. “Hell of a flight, too.” He was a little distracted that this fourth Ethan had rejoined them, shifting their configuration from a straight line, the three of them on the couch, to a more dynamic quadrinodal construct. He was now, in other words, surrounded by a posse of identical, intoxicatingly hot guys, close enough around him for Ethan to pick up their shared scent on top of that intense subliminal heat he’d been feeling the whole time. His intense awareness of this erotic proximity threatened to rapidly erode the firmness of purpose he’d just established mere seconds earlier. His blood felt hot, his pulse was pounding, and his fucking dick was crying out to him, three-quarters hard and half bent in his jeans. He didn’t even have a hat to hide it anymore. No way was he going to be the one adjusting his hard-on in front of these guys, though.

He cleared his throat slightly. “I’m guessing this all has something to do with Corey’s wormholing…” He rocked his finger and thumb in the general space between them, indicating the anomaly of four Ethans. “…but I’m not so clear on the details.”

Coffee-table Ethan nodded once, and Ethan remembered they had a jump on him in dealing with all this. Briefly, the feeling of being an intruder come back to him. Maybe he should take his shirt off, too, he thought. Just so they were all on even footing. The pull to be distinct from all these eerily identical men warred with his equally strong desire to not be an anomaly and become one with his fellow selves.

“Right, so… here’s what we figured out,” coffee-table Ethan said briskly. “Last night, our adorable, sexy, and very lonely warlock boyfriend decided he was soooo miserable in Scotland without us he was going to try wormholing us—uh, me—um—”

“Us,” Ethan said decisively, not wanting to get tangled up in pronouns.

“Us,” coffee-table Ethan agreed. “He decided to try wormholing us to Scotland.”

“Only, Corey had never wormholed a whole human body before,” middle Ethan put in.

“And never anything over that great a distance,” coffee-table Ethan added. He looked at Ethan meaningfully.

“But… it worked,” Ethan protested haltingly, after they didn’t continue. The others were all looking at him. He glanced between them. “I went to Scotland.”

Stubbly Ethan finally joined in the conversation. “You did,” he said. “But… you also stayed here.”

 

Part 4

Bringing Ethan to Scotland had not been nearly as soul-slaking as Corey had needed it to be. As it turned out, the anguish of longing for him, of being able to “see” him writhing alone on their bed thousands of miles away, was not nearly as crushing as bending time and space to bring him there, as Ethan had put it, only to send him home again. After that, the chill and dank of his kitschy little room with the hurricane lamps and the flock wallpaper and the broken wifi was almost intolerable. He was done. Done with this trip, done with Scotland, and quite possibly done with this job—at least the travel part of it. It sounded pathetic to his own ears, but he needed his beautiful, smirking, tender-hearted hunk to be physically near him, and he now had no doubts that a life without that was not a life he wanted, not for money, fame, or status.

He knew better than to think this mentality was at all practical, or even reasonable; but his mood after Ethan left, himself drained from trying to send him home and failing to do so twice, grew increasingly grim and truculent. The engineering aspects of the million-dollar contract he was there to iron out with his jolly, ruddy-faced clients were already sewn up apart from a few fine details, so what was he doing here? By the mid-day lunch meeting at a local upscale pub he’d already snapped. As the plates for the first course were being collected he squared his shoulders and, gathering everyone’s attention, politely informed his hosts he needed to return to the States sooner than expected and would be taking his leave immediately. Any remaining details, he said, could be resolved through the scheduled video meetings slated for next week. The response was uniformly cordial, as he’d known it would be. The team was quite happy with the state of the project and its current trajectory, so no one had any reason to object; though it was certainly true that Hamish, the rugby-playing junior exec who hadn’t at all been able to hide his big-eyed, mooning crush on Corey, did seem slightly stricken, and watched Corey forlornly from the far end of the table as he dutifully thanked everyone for their hospitality. After many choruses of appreciation for his work and hopes everything was okay back home (Corey assured them it was), together with smiling invitations to return any time (complete with puppy-dog eyes, in Hamish’s case), Corey stood, waved, and strode out of the door of the restaurant on a mission, almost as though he were intending to stalk his way back to Chicago in one long, unwavering march.

By the time his plane landed in O’Hare, after two long delays in Heathrow and more turbulence over the Atlantic than your average disaster movie, Corey was starting to feel like he had walked home from Beauly Firth. His head swam as he stumbled out of customs, trailing his heavy suitcase listlessly behind him. He felt like his brain was floating loose in a small, murky fishtank. At least he was home, or, well, almost home, and the knowledge of what was waiting for him was the only thing giving him any forward momentum.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he stopped and pulled it out, ignoring the businesswoman immediately behind him who cursed him out like a banshee as she stepped around him and powered off into the crowd. More travelers streamed around him, but he didn’t care about them, either. He lifted at the screen, nudging his brain to focus enough to read what it said.

Ethan: I’m here. Are you ready for me?

Corey literally felt the smile bloom on his face, every muscle sliding into place like they’d had to be reminded what happiness was. His empty tank sloshed with life again as if refilled from some secret, inexhaustible reservoir. He drew in a breath and typed out a fervent, all-caps “FUCK YEAH.” Then he got moving again, making a beeline for the signs that read ground transportation like they were the gateways to Shangri-La.

And then… there he was, standing there by a concrete pillar like a godsend in a new-looking maroon hoodie that hugged every bulge and muscle like it was made to show the world how fucking amazing he was. He smiled, and Corey’s heart exploded. He dropped the handle on his luggage and ran the few steps necessary to crash into his arms. Feeling his strength wrapping around him, their thighs pressing hard together, filled him with so much contentment it was almost painful, and as he gratefully stroked his lover’s broad, hard-muscled back he promised himself there would be no more agonizing trips like this to make either of them go through this.

He pulled back, looking down into those eager hazel eyes he’d missed so much. They were a little bit wiser than they’d been that first time they’d locked eyes back in Jody’s dorm room, but they were still just as mischievous and full of verve and vitality as ever. “Fuck, I missed you,” he said. “I am so tired of not seeing you.”

Ethan’s eyes glinted in amusement. “Hold that thought,” he said. “You got everything? We’re just over here.”

They went back and collected his suitcase, then headed toward Ethan’s white 4Runner, which Corey was surprised to see idling a little ways down the busy arrivals pick-up zone. “They let you leave the truck unattended?” he said, amused. “The traffic cops must be slipping.”

“Oh, it’s not unattended.”

Before Corey could question this—had Ethan brought a friend for some reason?—they were at the back of the Toyota. Corey bent to collapse the handle on his suitcase, but even as he did so Ethan was reaching for it and hefting it to stow in the back, the liftgate to the cargo area already up and waiting. Corey’s backpack was already in there, too, having been slipped off his shoulder without him even noticing. Fuck, he was out of it. He turned, confused, and there was Ethan, smiling at him with love in his eyes… only, something was weird. Ethan was now looking even more scrumptious in snug, bright blue long-sleeved tee—had he whipped off his hoodie for some reason? His stubble was darker here in the sunlight, too, like he’d grown a day’s worth of beard in the time it had taken for Corey to turn around.

“I missed you, baby,” Ethan said softly, folding him into a hug—one that came with a searing kiss.

He was so distracted by this, and the feel of Ethan’s fingers carding through his overgrown curls as they opened for each other, tongues sliding eagerly into their familiar wrestling configuration, that he took a second to register the strong press of Ethan’s body from behind him, sandwiching him between two hard-muscled physiques. “That’s no fair,” Ethan’s voice murmured, close to his ear—but it couldn’t be Ethan, because Ethan was still kissing him hungrily. This is so weird, Corey thought. I’m more out of it than I thought I was…

Then the muscle sandwich was gone, and he was standing, inexplicably, between two nearly identical men. Two men, who looked just like Ethan, who loved him and missed him and felt really, really good against his travel-worm body and brain. He let his jaw drop open a little as he watched one of them, the blue-shirted one, go back around to the driver’s side door, while the one in the maroon hoodie closed the liftgate, then moved around to the rear passenger door on the driver’s side. Neither of them got in; instead, they opened their doors and then turned to him where he’d been standing the whole time by the back of the truck, smiling exactly the same shit-eating smile.

“You coming?” the one in blue asked from where he stood in the driver’s side door.

Corey was still gaping, looking between the two men. “Wh-wh—” he sputtered.

The Ethans exchanged an amused glance, and their conspiratorial cheekiness helped force the words out of him. “What the fuck?” he managed at last.

Blue-shirted, stubbly Ethan smiled wide. “C’mon, baby,” he said, nodding at his clean-shaven, hoodie-wearing doppelgänger, “you remember my twin brother Evan, right?”

Corey narrowed his eyes at blue-shirted Ethan, not moving from where he was standing. “You don’t have a twin brother,” he said.

The one in the hoodie turned and grinned at his blue-shirted double. “See? I told you he wouldn’t buy that one.”

“He’s a smart man,” his double agreed.

“Ethan,” Corey said, his voice rising, “what the actual—!”

“Get in,” hoodie Ethan said, breaking into his expostulating. “We made reservations.”

Corey knew this was shorthand for their now-traditional post-business-trip stop at the Texas Bunkhouse halfway home from O’Hare. Corey was usually hungry and tired after a trip, and the country fried chicken and white gravy was a bit of a guilty pleasure. Were they—were they really going to just proceed with their usual routine like nothing was weird?

He glanced around, looking for any other signs of the universe’s code glitching. He caught the eye of the nearest traffic cop, fifty feet down the bustling pick-up zone. She’d already clocked their 4Runner as being in place longer than it should have been, and Corey guessed she was about fifteen seconds from turning her full attention on them.

Corey looked across the roof of the truck at the two men standing in the open doors on that side, at their smiling, achingly familiar, not quite identical faces, and… He couldn’t think of anything to say. The two Ethans lifted their brows, not quite in sync but with the same expression of mischievous patience, and Corey just shook his head and went over to the front passenger door, opened it, and got in. The others did likewise, the doors slammed, and they pulled into traffic, heading out of the airport.

Corey had half expected the usual jolt of warmth from a parked car, but the air was cool from the climate control, which had been running this whole time; and that, too, was slightly disorienting. He turned to the Ethan next to him, the blue-shirted one with the stubble. He could still feel those bristles against his mouth from that amazing kiss a moment ago, a kiss that to Corey was as perfect an identifier as fingerprints or DNA. He glanced behind him. The Ethan in the back seat, the one in the pec-hugging hoodie, was making a show of nonchalantly watching the scenery out of the window, as though it was perfectly normal for two Ethans to pick him up at the airport, like that was an everyday thing, as routine as junk mail and banana slices in your morning Kix.

Uh huh.

He turned back to the driver. “So,” he asked, “are you going to explain, or…?”

Driver-Ethan shrugged his impressive shoulders. “You’ll figure it out. How was your trip?”

Corey blinked at him. “Shitty, actually,” he said, huffing a laugh. He really was exhausted, and his brain felt like sludge. Maybe if he could think a little more clearly he would understand what was going on, like Ethan had suggested. He wished he could ask Monkeymonk, but the talking sock money was carefully stowed in his backpack, and Ethan didn’t even know about that particular dark secret. He did know about the other one, though. Corey let himself babble about his early departure and subsequent hellish travels, while he forced the grubby gears of his brain to start turning, sorting through what he knew that could possibly account for two Ethans picking him up instead of just one, the one he’d sent home.

“I did send you home,” he said abruptly, interrupting something he’d been saying about one of the passengers on his flight—he didn’t even know, something about how he’d been knitting something and the turbulence had kept making him drop a stitch. “I sent you home,” he said, “and we thought I hadn’t.”

“We thought you hadn’t,” agreed driver-Ethan.

“But you had,” the Ethan in back said.

“And then I had to fly home,” driver-Ethan said, “and it wasn’t much more fun than your flight. Though it ended in a very interesting and unexpected way,” he added with a wink.

“I’ll bet,” Corey said, feeling a little dazed. He nudged his erection with the heel of his hand, hoping neither Ethan noticed.

Then they were at the restaurant, and Corey found that this time he wasn’t at all surprised to find a third Ethan hanging out for them in the waiting area by the hostess stand—after all, as he remembered very clearly, he tried and (supposedly) failed to wormhole Ethan back to Chicago from Scotland not once but twice, and though he didn’t understand exactly how his ability had caused duplication rather than the teleportation he thought he’d been doing this whole time, it was clear that whatever he had done he’d produced an Ethan in Chicago after all, both times.

This one was also clean-shaven and wearing that white, green-sleeved baseball tee that looked fucking amazing on him every time he wore it, and the way his eyes lit up when he saw Corey got his heart beating all over again, effectively scattering everything in his brain. His fingers were pushing into Corey’s untamed curls before he even knew it, and then he was crushed in another cock-tingling embrace, the other two gathering close against him from behind, holding him and stroking him, and Corey was saved from a very embarrassing orgasm only by the hostess telling them their table was waiting for them.

What forced him to stop in his tracks, as the hostess led them to their table, was the fourth Ethan standing to greet them, this one in a snug gray henley, a wide smile splitting his dark two-day beard. “Wait—what?” he stammered, as the three Ethans nudged him toward the table. He took a few more steps on auto-pilot, then stopped again, turning on the three Ethans. “Wait,” he said, looking between them. “Wait. I made two of you when I tried to send you back and thought I had failed. Then you—” He pointed at the stubbly one in the blue shirt. “You’re the one who ended up on a flight home because we thought I couldn’t do it. Right?”

They were smiling at him, their infinite affection somehow compounding as it shone from all those sets of hazel eyes. He blinked, his hardon throbbing. “So—you—” he said, turning to find that the fourth Ethan had approached them and was standing close. He reached up and grasped Corey’s shoulders.

“I’m the one that never even went to Scotland,” he said softly, his bright hazel eyes fixed on Corey’s. Then his lips quirked adorably to one side. “Wild, huh?”

“I formed the image of you,” Corey said wonderingly. “I saw you, I felt you, I made you real in my mind…”

“You did,” one of the Ethans behind him said. “Remember? You told me I was heavy in the mind. You made me real.”

Corey nodded slowly. He’d thought of his ability as simple teleportation, but maybe there was more to it than that. He’d always kind of felt like were two stages—the first was forming the image of whatever he was moving, giving it weight, and placing it at its destination, and the second, pulling the thing out of the origin point, had always seemed to happen with that final shift to where he wanted it to be. He’d assumed at first it was a simple transfer, but the image-forming coming first now seemed to argue against that.

He now understood that that “pull” was what had actually failed when he’d tried to send Ethan home. He’d been able to form the new Ethan, like he’d formed the first quarter in his hand, all those years ago, but he’d been too weak, and Ethan had been too heavy and the distance too great, for the final “pull” to work.

“And I can’t tell you,” two-day-bearded Ethan said with a slight smirk, catching his gaze again, “how jealous I was when I found out they’d gotten to kiss you in Scotland, and I hadn’t.”

“Yeah, yeah,” teased one of the Ethans. “You poor baby.”

“You did miss out, though, brother,” another said.

Left-behind Ethan ignored them and cupped Corey’s face, bringing him in for a very aggressive kiss, and Corey let himself fall into it. “Fuck,” he heard one of the others say. “I guess it has been longer for him.”

“We should let him go first,” another said conversationally, “when we get home.”

“Wait, we’re taking turns?”

Corey felt a surge of near-orgasm and pulled free in a panic. “Okay, stop,” he said, throwing up his hands and trying to force down his raging need to cum. He cheeks felt very hot, and that got worse when he remembered that they were in the middle of busy restaurant and were probably the object of dozens of curious and possibly very pointed stares. “Let’s… just…” He was tempted to herd them all back out of the restaurant and race home together in the 4Runner, but he was hungry as usual after a trip, like an instinctive reaction to being home and ready to start up normality again; and a sneaky thought said he might just need some fuel for the night… and, fuck, nights… ahead.

Now, there was something to imagine. His stoic monkey companion might not be seeing a lot of him for the foreseeable future.

His shoulders twitched, and he cleared his mind with an effort. “Let’s just eat,” he said, turning his back on the others and sliding into the booth.

This was a mistake, because of course the Ethans immediately scootched in after him from both sides, leaving him in the middle of the U-shaped booth, surrounded by muscular, shouldery Ethans. The heat in his face seemed to settle in for the long haul as they picked up the menus the hostess had left for them.

A waitress with a blond pony-tail appeared. She didn’t look much older than 17, and her eyes widened comically as she took in the occupants of her table. “Wow, what a handsome… family?” she said, unsure how to cope with quite so much identical hotness.

“Oh, we’re not family,” blue-shirted Ethan said playfully. “We’re clones.”

“That’s right,” baseball-tee Ethan said, hitching his thumb toward Corey. “We’re his clone harem.”

Corey sent a startled look at the Ethan who’d spoken about harems in such a blithe manner, then looked up the waitress with a manic grin. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, that’s funny…. Evan,” he said, sounding in his own ears like he was in a radio drama, and his character was desperately reading from a script provided by the bad guys while his dog was at gunpoint.

“We’re going to need a minute,” maroon-hoodie Ethan told the poor girl smoothly, smiling sympathetically at her. She nodded gratefully and vanished as instructed, much to Corey’s relief, though as he looked out toward the restaurant, past where she’d been standing a moment before, he noted several tables of people looking their way: some frowning, some ogling, some looking like they wanted to take out their phones and film them. Quickly, Corey opened up his menu and held it in front of him like a fortress.

Affectionate hands slid across his shoulders from the Ethans on either side of him, and his dick strained at the touch, seeming to try to get even harder. “You know,” the Ethan to his right said wickedly, “other me is right. We are your harem.”

“Four Ethans,” taunted the one to his left. “Four of us burning with love for you.”

“Waiting for you. Holding you.”

Corey thought it was very likely he would burst into flame at any moment. “Guuuys,” he growled into the protective wall of his menu, “if you make me cum in my pants in the middle of the fucking Texas Bunkhouse, we are going to talking some serious… retribution.”

He heard a chorus of snickers at that, and he looked up to see four super-hot rakish grins ringed around him in the booth. Then he was grinning, too, giddy with the impossible prospect of Ethan loving him four times over and demonstrating it in every conceivable way. They were skirting the edge of disaster, and he had no idea how this was going work, but now that this was his reality Corey could no longer imagine living any other way.

4 parts 14k words Added Sep 2022 Updated 16 Sep 2023 3,964 views 4.9 stars (14 votes)

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