|Part 1 Jacob receives a strange camera that has an unexpected effect when he takes a picture of his hunky roommate, Keith, with whom he’s become increasingly smitten.||2015-03-06|
|Part 3 Third Keith comes to grips with waking up being held between his infatuated roommate and another him, and his desperate need for them both.||2016-08-19|
|Part 4 The Keith that left the room with Cole runs into trouble when he discovers some of the camera’s additional features.||2018-01-05|
|Part 6 Cole comes to in an island paradise, adapting quickly to being insanely attracted to a make-out partner who looks exactly like him. Meanwhile, Jake and various Keiths and Tommasos try to get to the bottom of just what this camera is capable of.||2019-01-05|
Hey Roomie, you got a package.”
“Nice of you to finally notice.” Jacob said it in his sauciest voice, but it was really mostly habit now. Jacob knew by now that Keith Hood, red-blooded Tennessee farm-bred straight boy that he was, was immune to his charms, and today was no different. Keith was not even doing Jacob the courtesy of getting all riled up and defensive at the implication he’d at long last taken an interest in Jacob’s junk. He just sauntered by where Jacob lay reading in his pajama bottoms on his long, narrow bed, half-propped against the pillows crammed into the corner of the room that Jacob’s bed butted up against. He was heading for the double dresser they shared that stood on the back wall of their narrow dorm room, its beat-up wooden bulk serving to separate their bunks. Jacob hated that old dresser sometimes.
As he passed Keith had tossed a brown-paper-wrapped parcel the size of a Kleenex tissue box onto the bed beside Jacob, but Jacob had barely noticed. Neither his book nor the package held his attention. Keith was fresh from the showers, standing a foot away, with his clean, sexy smell and his long black hair all sexy-damp, and he was wearing nothing but a skimpy, snow-white towel. Keith had grabbed his sleep shorts from a drawer and was moving toward his own bed, and Jacob, enjoying the look of freshly showered Keith, sighed, not caring if Keith heard him.
He didn’t know why Keith took his showers at night before bed, instead of in the morning like he did—maybe to avoid the crowds? maybe he was bashful?—but over the three weeks of their shared habitation Jacob had grown to look forward to the exquisite frustration of seeing his gorgeous hunk of a roommate every night, damp and clean, an undersized towel hanging loosely off of his hips as if to emphasize the lickable beauty of his honey-gold skin as a soft soundtrack of internet radio alternarock drifted quietly from the laptop on his desk.
It the perfect outfit for him, especially from behind, as the white towel set off the warm tan of his luscious, well-muscled torso, spreading up in a delicious V from his narrow waist, while at the same time clinging to his amazing, perfect muscle ass. Below were thick calves and biggish feet, dusted with the same black hair that decorated his forearms and the crevices between his washboard abs and his thick, rounded pecs, and, glimpsed through the slit of his skimpy-towel skirt, generously muscled, mostly hairless swimmer’s thighs that looked as amazing nude as they did packed into soft old jeans or morning-run sweatpants or the shorts he wore to sleep in.
Jacob licked his lips, thinking he shouldn’t be staring at his roommate, but knowing what was coming next—Keith unselfconsciously dropping the towel and pulling the shorts up over his naked ass. He knew it was unfair to objectify Keith, who was actually a bright guy on scholarship as a biochem major, but he couldn’t help it. Unconsciously Jacob cupped his suddenly hard cock through his loose, red-and-blue-striped pajama bottoms. Jacob realized he was having trouble suppressing the urge to remove out his cock from its inadequate screen and just whack off right there in front of him, basking in Keith’s ball-churning hotness. That sounded so much better right now than what Jacob usually did when he got the uncontrollable hots for his roommate, which was wait until he heard Keith’s soft snores in the dark, or, if he was going out, until the second the door closed behind him.
This was getting to be a problem, and how much of one had only started to hit him the last day or two. Jacob had it bad, and it was getting worse. He was hard around Keith all the time now, and he wanted to jack off and cum just from Keith being there. Keith was effortlessly arousing and tirelessly, unconsciously beautiful, like he’d been custom-engineered that way. He’d hoped the couple of beers he’d had from their stash in the minifridge would calm his jitters about what he was feeling, but it only seemed to clear away anything that might have gotten in the way of his being fully and totally aroused, head to toe, by Keith’s warm presence in the small, cool room. His cock was as hard as if it had been made to be fully boned only by Keith.
The truth was that Keith made him even more conscious of his cock than he normally was. Jacob knew he was decent-looking, a trim, even skinny, but tight and well-proportioned and taller-than-average psychology major with dirty blond hair he always wore long and shaggy, round glasses, and a quick smile; but his cock was the only thing about him anyone had ever called beautiful. Like responded to like, Jacob thought wryly, beauty to beauty, and his cock throbbed a constant yearning love for his yummy, seldom-clothed roommate. Was he really clueless? He never shut Jacob down or told him to stop his reflexive, half-hopeful flirting. Did he just not care? Or was Keith actually just a little curious?
Keith had turned around, still in his towel for the moment but holding the sleep shorts in both hands, and had said—something, but the new vistas for ogling Keith’s body that his not-quite-so-tall, dark, and handsome roommate having turned around afforded Jacob distracted him just enough that he didn’t really register what Keith had said. It was three weeks into the semester, and he knew he should have gotten used by now to the slight of Keith’s heavy, hair-dusted pecs, rolling eight-pack, and the bulge under that thin, tiny towel, but familiarity had only bred the accumulation of his lust, acceleration instead of acclimation. “What?” Jacob asked belatedly, tracing Keith’s dark smattering of a pleasure trail with his eyes, because Jacob was pretty sure he wouldn’t let him do it with his tongue.
Keith cocked an eyebrow at him, amused that Jacob was so spacey. “Aren’t you going to open it?” he repeated.
It was on the tip of Jacob’s tongue to shoot back with a response rooted in deepest, honest arousal. Open what? Your towel, which is definitely too small for the use you’ve put it to? The fly on my pajama bottoms, so I can haul out the aching boner you always give me? Your ass? What? But Keith nodded at the already-forgotten parcel he’d dropped on the bed, not far from Jacob’s throbbing crotch.
Eyebrows furrowing slightly, Jacob finally gave the package a once-over. His frown deepened.
“This didn’t come through the mail center,” Jacob murmured. It was unnecessary to say, since it had neither U.S. postage nor the rubber stamp the mail center used on intracampus mail. There was no return address, either—no address at all. In fact, the only thing marked on it was a single name, in unfamiliar square, masculine writing: JAKE PRUETT. No one called him Jake, not even his family. No one had ever called him Jake, and with good reason—people named Jake wore leather jackets and looked good with stubble and commanded the affection of bevies of women and cadres of men. Jake Pruett—the last name was right, but “Jake Pruett” seemed like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. He stared at the inscription doubtfully and asked, “Are you sure this is for me?”
“It was right in front of the door when I came back from the shower,” Keith said. Jacob was surprised by the proximity of his voice and looked up. He was standing near the bed, arms folded across his bare, hair-scuffed chest. His expression was friendly and curious and totally adorable. Jacob thought he could feel his warmth, smell his skin. “Well?” he said genially. “Are you going to keep me waiting?”
Jacob glanced up at the shoulders he wanted to grab and the lips he wanted to kiss and almost answered that he wouldn’t be able to hold back much longer. Instead he sighed and sat up, keeping his hand in place and surreptitiously adjusting his boner as he did so that it lay along his hip. Grabbing the package he set it in his lap, next to his other package, he thought wryly. He though he heard or felt something shift within the box, but he wasn’t sure. It hardly seemed to weigh more than the shallow, corrugated cardboard box he could feel under the paper wrapping.
“Hand me your pocket-knife, would you?” he said, abruptly decisive. Tossing aside the sleep shorts onto his own bed for the moment, Keith turned and picked up the lockblade from atop the dresser where it lay amid their wallets and keys. This allowed Jacob a rare chance to stare at Keith’s hard, ridiculously defined eight-pack abs at close range, but when Keith turned back to him he glanced hurriedly back at the package, accepting the knife into his upraised hand without looking up. The sharp knife made short work of the brown paper and the packing tape across the top of the shipping-weight box within. Closing the knife and handing it back to Keith he lifted the box’s flaps and stared.
“What the—?” he muttered.
“Huh,” he heard Keith say. “I was expecting home-made cookies.” The tone in his voice said he would totally have expected a share of such bounty, and he would have been right, Jacob thought. He’d probably eat ten or twenty cookies and they’d all turn into pec muscle, he mused dolefully to himself.
Inside the box were no cookies, home-made or otherwise, as Jacob had known there wouldn’t be—even if his mom were the type to bake cookies, she wouldn’t have sent them in a hand-delivered suspicious package addressed to some cooler, alter ego of his named “Jake.” Nor was it filled with condoms, which was what he would have expected as a joke gift from his horny kid brother Joe, a year behind him at State and living in the freshman dorms, lately given to needling Jacob about his supposedly cloistered sex life. Joe seemed to think that Jacob was wasting his university years by not getting laid every night, a principle he certainly applied to his own college experience.
The box was in fact completely empty except for a gleaming, brushed chrome compact digital camera, laying pertly and inexplicably in the bottom of the box without any packing material whatever. It looked ten years out of date and yet absolutely brand new, as if someone had reached through a little dinner-plate-sized time portal and snagged it off the shelves of a Circuit City somewhere.
Jacob frowned deeply as took the camera by the edge and lifted it out. It was silver and sleek and totally outdated, with a square, flat design from which only the slightly protruding lens, off-center on the front, offered any relief. On the back was a small rectangular screen, currently dark, and the typical controls—a rocker panel and buttons for “set”, “menu”, and so on.
“Wow,” Keith said. Jacob looked up at him, eyebrows raised slightly. “My dad had a camera like that,” Keith went on. “Who sent it? Does it work?”
He glanced down into the box, but now that he’d pulled the camera out it was empty. No note, no hint of explanation. “I have no idea who could have sent it,” Jacob mused. He went back to examining the controls, holding it up before him. It wasn’t his dad’s, Jacob thought with certainty: he and Joe didn’t have a dad, and their mom hated electronics of all kinds even more than she hated baking. It was just possible that Joe had sent him a naff old camera as a strange, inscrutable prank, but it wasn’t really Joe’s style. Basketballs in the face were more his style. Jacob pressed one of the buttons experimentally and, to his amazement, the camera display jumped to life, startling him with a bright beauty shot of Keith’s abs on its digital display. “Whoa,” he said. “Looks like it works.” His still bone-hard cock throbbed in his lap.
“Yeah?” Keith said. He took a step back and, standing by the foot of Jacob’s bed, struck a pose, fists on his hips and arms akimbo, 1950’s Superman-style. “Quick, do me! Do me!”
Jacob’s cock wanted to jump out his pajama bottoms. “You have got to stop saying things like that,” he said, but Keith just grinned. Jacob lifted up the camera, positioning it vertically to take in most of Keith’s luscious form, head to knees. As his index finger hovered over the shutter he noticed a number was hovering over the image of Keith in the bottom right of the display. It read “3X”. Was that the magnification? He thumbed the “down” rocker to see if it would zoom out. The number decremented to “2X”, “1X”, then “½X”, but nothing happened to the image on screen. The up rocker rolled up by ones to “5X”, then started jump by larger increments—the next two settings going up were “10X” and “20X”. “Must be resolution,” he said to himself, intrigued.
“C’mon,” Keith said. “Take a good one! I could use a pic to send home to the folks.”
“You want a beefcake shot to send to your mom?” Jacob said, raising an eyebrow.
“My dads,” Keith corrected proudly. “They got me into working out and getting strong, like them. I want to prove I haven’t gone to seed up here!”
“Oh,” Jacob said. He realized his eyebrow was still raised and hastily lowered it.
“Yeah, they’re great,” Keith said happily. “But, let’s make it quick, though, dude—I have a test in the morning so I really need to get some shut-eye.”
“Right,” Jacob said, feeling a little thrill at the new, unfamiliar use of the word “dude.” Keith hadn’t used it before on him and it felt weirdly like an endearment. Then Jacob shook himself, knowing he was being insane. “Okay, here we go,” he said aloud. Jacob held the camera up again and looked over the controls on the back, pondering the settings for the ideal snapshot of Keith. He didn’t know how much the camera’s memory card would hold, but that would be easy enough to look up later—if he figured out the make and model, which, he realized belatedly, weren’t marked anywhere on the chassis—but he wanted this to be a good picture. The best picture, one that would make Keith all happy and grinning as he emailed it to his folks. Shrugging mentally to himself he thumbed up the resolution to “5X”, then, reconsidering, thumbed it back down to “3X.” He didn’t have much to go on but he guessed that three times standard resolution would probably make for a great, high-res shot that would still fit on a default-size memory card, even one from a decade or so before.
Framing the smiling Adonis on his screen as he held the camera out in front of him, and feeling a rush of warmth through his body (and his cock) at the sight of Keith framed and posed for appreciation like this, Jacob called out “Say cheese!” and, giving his lips a quick brush with his tongue, pressed the shutter release.
The flash that came with the snick of the picture being taken surprised him—he’d seen the flash on the front of the camera, but hadn’t really expected it to go off on its own, or to be quite that bright—and he had to blink a second before he could focus on the screen again. There, frozen in pixels, was a perfect image of his sweet, gentle, beautiful hunk of a roommate.
“Looks amazing,” Jacob said, impressed. “Want to see?” He turned the camera around to face his subject and looked up, expecting Keith to stoop and admire the shot and maybe smile his big, toothy “friend” grin that lately had been sending shivers up Jacob’s spine. But Keith was still standing there, fists on his towel-clad hips, as unmoving as the image on his camera display.
“Um, hey, what…?” Jacob said uncertainly, rising slowly to his feet. “You want me to take another one?” he asked, but he knew that Keith wasn’t just holding his pose for another shot. Keith wasn’t moving. At all.
Quickly tossing the camera behind him onto the bed, Jacob reached out with both hands, clasping his firm, round delts and feeling muscle as hard as stone. Worry washed through him. Jacob knew Keith really was tight and hard like this, but Keith didn’t respond at all to Jacob’s touch, not even a little bit. He didn’t even seem to be blinking. “Keith?” Jacob said.
His hands couldn’t help but be aware they were touching their holy grail, the body Jacob fought a constant battle to keep himself from touching. His skin was still honey-warm and inviting. Even in the midst of his mounting unease a shudder went through him and he felt his face warm a bit, and, worst of all, his still-hard cock seemed to swell more somehow, pushing out against his pajama bottoms, as he drank in this actual tactile connection with the object of his helpless affection.
Slowly, almost unwillingly, he let his hands slide, millimeter by millimeter, out the smooth, marble-hard but blood-warm muscles of Keith’s bulging upper arms. His cock kicked hard against its soft cotton prison—but suddenly, watching Keith’s unmoving face, a wave of panic rolled through him and he wasn’t caressing Keith, he was shaking him, hard. “Keith!!” he cried out. At first nothing seemed to move, then suddenly something felt like it dislodged, and Keith’s arms and fists released from their pose. Unbalanced, he lurched forward against Jacob, and they both fell backward onto the bed, Keith collapsing heavily onto Jacob.
“Oof!” wheezed Jacob. Instantly Keith, his expression concerned, moved to pull himself off of Jacob. Reflexively Jacob reached up and grabbed onto Keith’s generous lats, and Keith, now propped up on his elbows, let himself be held in place, knees resting on the very edge of the bed on either side of Jacob’s. Their torsos and groins stayed pressed together and it occurred to Jacob that there was no way Keith couldn’t feel Jacob’s big, fat erection through Keith’s thin worn pajama bottoms and Keith’s flimsy excuse for a towel. Oh well, Jacob thought. Guess we’ve crossed that line, willing or no. The room was quiet for a moment except for the low crooning of a sweetly melancholy rock ballad as the internet radio on Jacob’s laptop carried on, oblivious to the shifting of the world; but Jacob thought Keith must be able to hear his heart’s loud pounding too.
“Sorry,” Keith breathed, a little winsomely, searching Jacob’s eyes for his reaction. Keith seemed unsure how to react to being in such close proximity to his gay, horny, lust-consumed roommate, but he wasn’t getting angry and in fact seemed willing, for the moment, to let Jacob enjoy touching him and feeling their bodies pressed together.
“Don’t be,” Jacob said. He wanted to say he’d been dreaming of this, aching for this, but any wrong move could break the spell. And yet his hands seemed to be his own agents of chaos. He couldn’t stop them sliding slowly, cautiously, up off of Keith’s lats and onto his broad, V-shaped back. Jacob kept his gaze fixed on Keith’s bright, hazel eyes, and Keith returned his stare, steady and intense. He could feel the warmth of Keith’s slow, smooth breaths, out the nose, in, out again, and matched them with the small movements of Keith’s chest against his, his bare skin lightly pressing against Jacob’s. Jacob’s hands reached the middle of Keith’s back, his forearms lightly brushing Keith’s lats.
He was scared to speak, but something made him ask softly, “Is—is this okay?” Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Keith nodded. The physical response this induced, the tremor that coursed and twisted through him at that little nod and Keith’s sober, steady expression, almost short-circuited him. His eyes juddered away from Keith’s over Keith’s bare, bulging shoulder—and now he did jump, almost yanking himself out from under Keith as he automatically hauled himself back, letting out an inarticulate yelp of pure shock and dismay.
Keith, alarmed, quickly turned to see what had suddenly terrified his roommate, and himself started so violently that the metal bedframe jumped and inch or two away from the wall.
There, standing in the center of the narrow room between their two beds, exactly where Keith had fallen onto him from, was—Keith, still frozen and motionless.
Jesus—!” Keith blurted, but low and quiet, as if he were afraid of disturbing statue-Keith. “Oh my god. Jesus.”
Jacob shifted his eyes back quickly to study Keith’s face. Keith, the Keith that was still lying half on top of him, had twisted around to stare aghast at the statue version of himself. The standing, still version of Keith had his fists still planted on his hips like the action figure of a superhero who was, for some reason, being depicted half-naked and in the midst of his nightly ablutions.
“Oh my god,” Keith was muttering. “Oh my god oh my god oh my god.”
Jacob found his voice again. “That’s—that’s what you were like before,” he said unsteadily. “After the picture.”
“What?!” Keith rounded on him, staring up at him with a pale face and wide eyes. Jacob met his gaze.
“After the picture, you were like that,” Jacob repeated. “I—I shook you, and at first you just stood there, not moving—”
Keith watched him, and Jacob was suddenly afraid that everything he’d done in the last ten minutes was all terribly wrong. “You weren’t moving,” he repeated, “and I got scared and I shook you, and you snapped out of it and fell—!”
Keith didn’t say anything, but he slowly turned to look at the statue-Keith, seemingly considering what he saw in light of what Jacob had just told him. Then Keith clambered to his feet, so that a moment later he was standing in front of the statue-Keith, looking him over minutely.
Jacob noticed suddenly that somewhere in the fall onto the bed or the climbing out of it Keith had loosened his towel, and now it dropped silently to the floor and he was standing there naked and perfect, every inch of him—including his fat, flaccid cock—on full display, in front of his still-betoweled, arms-akimbo statuary counterpart. Jacob stared at the two muscle Adonises, fascinated and, he realized, deeply aroused. He pushed up his glasses, not wanting to miss anything. If his own tubesteak had softened even slightly in the momentary, stomach-twisting shock of seeing the other Keith still standing there, it was now as hard again as it could possibly be. He was a hundred and twenty percent boned, and the tension from it thrumming through his taut, hormone-drenched body.
“You—this is amazing,” Jacob blurted, his voice quiet and rough. “I want to take a picture, but—” Keith shot him a look that had seemed startled at first, then shifted into a hint of a smile. Jacob smiled back, a little relieved. The tension seemed to dissipate somehow. “Grab his shoulders,” he instructed him. “That’s what I did.” Facing a repeat of what had happened before, it seemed instinctive to follow the same procedure as last time.
Keith had evidently been considering going for the shoulders on his own, because his hands moved immediately up to grasp his statue-double’s delts, exactly where Jacob had. “Fuck, I’m tight,” Keith said, sounding a little awed.
“That’s what I said,” Jacob said, feeling a little happy thrill that Keith agreed with him. Wanting a better view he got out of the bed himself and, trying to ignore the big, obvious boner in his peejays, moved around to stand to one side of the two Keiths. They all stood there a moment, Jacob feeling his heart beating, as strong and strident as his cock. “Fuuuuck,” Jacob breathed at last. He watched as just the fingers of Keith’s hands started moving slowly from side to side, caressing his statue-doubled muscle, and he took a deep shuddering breath.
“I’m pretty hot, huh?” Keith said in a low voice, sounding a little amused and a little turned on as he examined his double’s face and upper body with pride. To build a body this hot, Jacob had often suspected, you had to be a little narcissistic, a little into yourself. He thought of how he’d seen Keith posing in front of mirrors at the gym once or twice, now that they’d worked out together—checking his symmetry and development, Jacob knew, but also admiring, taking stock of his own proximity to the ideal of male beauty. Or maybe it wasn’t quite that simple? It was probably a stereotype, Jacob knew, and Keith was more complicated than that. But something about the moment, Jacob realized with a thrill, was making Keith flushed and, he saw excitedly, in the process of stiffening up. Maybe the extreme horniness he felt around Keith was contagious.
“K-kiss him,” Jacob commanded suddenly, barely aware he’d said it, immersed as he was in lust. He recoiled mentally at having said this out loud, but he let himself off by blaming those two beers. And being drowned in arousal. His whole body was aching as if he were one big impatient erection.
Keith glanced at him, oddly unsurprised. “You want me to?” Keith asked. He seemed—amused? Intrigued? Jacob didn’t care.
“Please,” Jacob whispered, a short, quick plea.
Keith stared at him for a second, one eyebrow arched ever so slightly. Then he tilted his head to one side and back in a sort of “What the hell” gesture. Keeping his hands firmly clasped around the stiff, still doppelganger’s round, straited delts, Keith angled his face slightly and went in for a kiss. Jacob watched, fascinated, as Keith’s warm lips brushed across his double’s, then shuddered as the tip of Keith’s tongue emerged from between his lips and slid along the other’s lips. Keith trailed the tip of his tongue along, first one way, then the other, then moved to deepen the kiss, pulling his partner toward him.
Then Jacob, already panting and exerting a monumental effort of will to keep his hands at his sides and not wrapped around his big twitching cock, realized he was watching the two Keiths kissing each other. The formerly frozen Keith had closed his eyes, leaned into the kiss, and was totally kissing Keith back!
He watched, breaths short and shallow, cock flexing madly against the loose cotton of his pajama bottoms, as the second Keith slowly, reflexively, lifted his hands to grasp the sides of Keith’s lower back. He had a sudden, ridiculous fear that his glasses would steam up at the level of arousal in the room, and this awesome, dick-expanding display would be cruelly hidden from him.
“H-holy shit,” Jacob whispered, mesmerized. But the sound of Jacob’s voice seemed to break the spell, because the second Keith was fluttering his eyes open. It seemed to take him a second to focus, then he registered what he was doing and who he was kissing and jumped back a couple steps, alarmed. His calves hit the steel bedframe of Keith’s bedframe kind of hard as he backed away and he yelped in shock and pain, stumbling back to sit on the bed.
The second Keith was even more shocked when he realized that the broad, honey-colored back he was staring at, barely a foot and a half away from him, was his own—or, rather, Jacob realized with a thrill, a third Keith, still posing with his fists at his hips, towel still tight across his amazing butt, still frozen like his earlier dupes. “Holy shit!” Jacob repeated, louder this time.
“What—wh-what—what—” sputtered the second Keith, sounding disoriented and very confused. “Wh-what’s going on—?” he asked, not seeming to address anyone in particular so much as the universe at large.
Fascinatingly, the first Keith still had his hands grasping the frozen Keith’s bulging delts, as if Number Two had fallen back out of a double exposure, leaving Number Three still in place. His face was still an inch or two from the new Keith-statue’s face, looking straight into his eyes, and, much to Jacob’s delight, he seemed disinclined to move.
Then Jacob glanced down and felt an electric thrill run through him as he saw that first Keith, who’d ended up nude after losing his towel, was completely hard, his fat cock stretching vertically. Unlike Jacob’s own cock, which always pushed back against Jacob’s hip line even when he was standing up and walking around, Keith’s pointed straight up, curving back slightly toward his navel. It was, Jacob thought with potent appreciation, as beautiful as the rest of him. As Jacob watched it flexed, brushing forward against the towel of the frozen Keith, and Jacob felt his heart skip a beat.
“Wow,” first Keith said, both literally and figuratively to himself. “That was some kiss.”
“What happened?” the second Keith demanded again, but calmer now, his voice already returning to its smooth, sweet baritone. He’d turned to look plaintively at Jacob, now asking him directly, but his glance had caught sight of Jacob’s huge, obvious erection and had gotten stuck there for some reason. Which was slightly odd, because Keith had definitely seen him hard before—in fact it was probably easier lately to count the times Keith had seen him soft, Jacob thought dolefully. But it was a strange situation, and the air in the room seemed charged with sex, and more than sex. He realized the radio, still quietly droning in the background, was playing “Counting Blue Cars” by Dishwalla, and it struck him a little funny. He wondered if he could get his songwriter friend Michelle to do one called “Counting Keiths.”
“It was the camera,” Jacob said aloud. This was, of course, the only answer. The strange camera, sent anonymously to “Jake” as if to an alternate-reality version of himself, had had a weirdness to it from the beginning. It had to be the cause of what had happened.
“Jesus,” said the first Keith, still close to his frozen doppelganger, still gripping him, still hard. “How many of me do you think—?” he let the question trail off, apparently thinking of what it was going to be like to have more of him around.
“Three,” Jacob said immediately. He’d already worked this out too. “The display said 3X.”
First Keith frowned at him. “Is that three, what, dupes of me?” he asked, one eyebrow raised. “Or three total?”
Jacob shrugged, surprised that he hadn’t thought that far. “Maybe three total?” he said. “If the ‘3X’ is like multiplication, well, three times one is three.”
“Or it could mean ‘dupe him three times’,” first Keith persisted, but apparently only to keep them aware that both outcomes were possible.
Jacob shrugged again. He glanced at second Keith. He’d gotten his attention off Jacob’s cock and was now staring at the frozen Keith in front of him—or, no, actually, Jacob corrected himself: he was staring past him, at first Keith. To his amazement Jacob realized the bulge in second Keith’s towel was bigger. And twitching. He watched as second Keith rose slowly to his feet and took an unsteady step forward.
“What’s wrong with me,” he asked first Keith, staring at him over the frozen Keith’s shoulder. “I keep thinking about—about you kissing me,” he went on, taking another step, until he was right behind frozen Keith; but he ignored the dupe standing big and strong in his dopey pose between them, and went on staring fixedly over his shoulder at first Keith. “Holding me, and kissing me,” he said.
Jacob gulped. First Keith licked his lips. “That’s how you were woken up,” first Keith said softly. “It must condition you. Because I—” And here he glanced sidelong at Jacob, keeping his face toward second Keith. “I keep thinking about Jacob here wrapping his arms around me. Lying beneath me. Stroking my back. Thrusting his cock against mine.” He leaned on that word cock a little, as if to thrust back at Jacob in kind, with words, for now.
“H-h-h-holy—” Jacob stuttered, abruptly overcome with roiling, tempest-like arousal. As he clamped his lips to keep from babbling incoherently, first Keith turned his head a little more toward Jacob, his eyes smoldering. Jacob’s heart fluttered—and then tried to jump out of his chest when someone suddenly started pounding violently on the door.
“Keifer?” shouted a male voice through the heavy steel of the dorm room’s door, banging on the door a few more times. “You in there, buddy?”
Both the nonfrozen Keiths’ eyes widened in alarm. It was clearly Cole Yung, the jock down the hall who was also in Keith’s biochem program. Thinking fast, Jacob quickly put a finger to his lips and then raised his hand up to tell them to wait. He’d take care of this. He turned and, hitting the light switch, opened the door enough to slip through and eased out into the hallway, closing the door almost all the way behind him. He kept his hand on the knob to make sure it didn’t close, remembering just in time he didn’t have his keys.
He was standing right in front of Cole, close enough that Cole took a step back. Cole was a little taller than Keith (though still not as tall as Jacob) and was almost as good looking, with longish, loose jet-black hair died dark purple at the very tips for some reason. But his muscles, while big—his hairless pecs were actually bigger than Keith’s—and well formed, meticulously well sculpted in fact, still weren’t quite as gorgeously perfect as Keith’s. He was, as usual, barechested and barefoot, wearing only frayed jeans that hugged his thick thighs and (Jacob knew from experience) a very hot ass.
“Oh, hey, Jacob,” Cole said, sounding slightly disappointed to get the roommate instead. “Keifer around? We talked about maybe discussing our physics project together.”
Jacob felt an unexpected wave of annoyance at Cole having a pet name for his biochem buddy. “Sorry, Cole,” he said. “Keith’s asleep.” At Cole’s surprised expression he went on, “He, uh, seemed really wiped.”
“Oh,” Cole said, definitely disappointed now. “Uh, okay. Um, if he wakes up, tell him I’ll text him later, okay? We really need to get—”
Suddenly the doorknob pulled out of Jacob’s grip as the door opened partway and there was a warm body immediately behind him. He turned to see Keith—one of them, anyway. He wasn’t sure which one, but he’d dressed quickly in jeans, untied sneakers without socks, and a dark green tee he was still pulling down toward his waist. “I’m up,” he said to Cole. To Jacob he added, “I kinda want to get some air anyway.”
Jacob nodded. “Sure.” He guessed from his residual disorientation that this was second Keith. He glanced down and to his surprise he saw the head of Keith’s very fat, very boned cock poking up past the waistband just as it was disappearing under the hem of the tee shirt. Keith’s comment “I’m up” replayed in Jacob’s head, and he suppressed a rogue snicker. Jacob wondered if Cole had noticed it too, but when he checked he saw that Cole was staring at Jacob’s huge, unrelenting, and much more obvious boner.
“Geez, Pruett,” Cole laughed. “You better do something about that. You’re going to put someone’s eye out!”
Jacob felt himself flush a little. In three short weeks his ungovernable cock had quickly become the subject of rumor and jest up and down the floor, though he knew he wasn’t supposed to know about it. “Sorry,” he said. He marveled that this was his first moment of real embarrassment tonight, despite the fact that he’d been rock hard the whole time with Keith. “It’s, um, totally getting out of hand.”
Keith snorted. “So to speak,” he said. To Jacob’s surprise he sounded like he meant it kind of fondly, but before he could inspect Keith’s expression more closely his roommate had turned to look at Cole. “C’mon, dude, let’s get a beer while we make plans,” Keith said bracingly. He tossed and arm over Cole’s permanently bare shoulders, and Cole seemed a bit surprised but not displeased.
As they turned to head down the dorm corridor toward the elevators, Keith looked back at him over his shoulder. “I’ll see you later, okay?” The implication was clear: there was a lot for them to talk about and figure out, but—later. Second Keith needed to clear his head and do normal things right now, Jacob figured, as they walked away, Keith’s long, thick, tanned arm still slung around Cole’s shoulder. He watched them go unhappily, uncomfortably aware of his own somewhat unexpected jealousy. He tried diverting his mind to the camera, and he knew he had to get to the bottom of it, but his thoughts were filled with Keith. Not unlike his dorm room, Jacob thought dryly.
Silently he let himself back into the room. The lights were still off, but there was some reflected glow from the stark white glare of the plaza security lights below, and he could see the hard white outlines of the still-frozen third Keith, and first Keith, now sitting, naked and fully aroused, on the edge of Jacob’s bed. He met Jacob’s look with a smile that flashed in the uneven light.
Jacob smiled back, understanding truly for the first time that everything had changed between them. “Get up,” he said, walking toward them. He was calm now. He knew what he wanted to do. “Let’s wake this one up,” he went on, and first Keith smiled—a little wickedly, Jacob saw with amusement. He stood up, preparing to face his statue-double and repeat his previous performance. But Jacob, close to them now, said, “Other side. Pull off his towel.”
Keith’s eyebrows went up, but he moved quickly around statue-Keith and took up a position behind him, yanking down the towel off the statue-Keith and then standing there, arms loose, at the ready for Jacob’s instructions. Jacob found he liked that dynamic a lot, and his steel-hard boner twitched in agreement. “Hold him close,” he ordered. “As close as you can.” He added with a little growl in his voice, “We’re going to condition the hell out of this one.”
“You’re the expert,” first Keith said, barely audibly, and then, with a wink, he added meaningfully, “—Jake.”
Jacob stared at the use of this new name for him, but he was pretty sure it went with the changes that were reshaping his life, and for some reason it made his dick react with a kick of amplified arousal. He watched closely as Keith, his muscle-bulging shape clearly visible despite the gloom, moved closer to the statue-Keith, his arms coming around to wrap tightly around the other’s torso. He imagined Keith’s thick pecs pressing hard against the statue-Keith’s shoulder blades and felt a thrill of pleasure. But Keith was evidently thinking lower thoughts.
“You want my cock between his cheeks, don’t you,” he said in a low, sly voice. “Rubbing along his crack. That’s what you want, right?” His eyes glinted as they met Jacob’s, with amusement and something else, something raw and carnal and sensual as well.
“Fuck yeah,” Jacob breathed. Now it was his turn. Taking off his glasses and, finally, shucking his pajama bottoms, he cast both aside on his bed and, moving forward into position in front of statue-Keith, he pushed his groin against the frozen-Keith’s still unawakened cock and balls. Feeling first Keith’s arms and hand against his torso as he moved the rest of him forward he snaked his own arms behind statue-Keith, into the narrow gap between first Keith’s abs and frozen Keith’s lower back that was a by-product of first Keith’s thick, hard pecs and frozen Keith’s thick, hard ass.
Then he moved in and started kissing frozen Keith. Gently at first, but then frozen Keith, frozen no more, began responding, and Jacob deepened the kiss, putting as much of himself into it as he could. This was Keith, and he’d wanted this for ages, and need it, too, he realized. To his joy Keith responded in kind, and they kissed deeply and hungrily for a while before Keith paused the kiss. Jacob opened his eyes and saw in the darkness that Keith’s eyes were open too, glinting, looking right into his.
First Keith was right there too, kissing and nuzzling Keith’s neck, but he was looking up too through his eyelashes, right at Jacob. First Keith was favoring the new Keith’s torso with minute caresses, his knuckles brushing against Jacob’s bare abdomen, and Jacob returned the favor, his own hands lightly caressing the newcomer’s back even as they slid across the hard ab muscles of the other man embracing him. They shared a look through those lashes, and Jacob smiled. This was Keith, too. Both were Keith—all three of them, Jacob thought, remembering the Keith who would return home before long, yearning for his own kiss.
His eyes returned to those of new Keith, who stared back searchingly into Jacob’s eyes. “What—?” the new Keith whispered after a moment, softly, more fascinated than distressed by this strange but—attentive situation he found himself in. In those newly woken eyes Jacob thought he could see, even in this darkened cinder-block cave made of harshly lit edges and night-deep shadows, not only puzzlement and wonder, but something more beneath: a glint of hunger and desire. Jacob let his big, beautiful cock flex as it lay pressed between their hips, and new Keith drew in a breath, but his eyes did not waver, and the want was clearer in them now.
Jacob placed another gentle kiss on his warm, wet lips and said with a faint quirk of a grin, “Welcome to the party.”
Keith stared deep into his roommate’s need-dark, whiskey-brown eyes, not sure he could look away. He knew those eyes. They were the eyes that followed him, sometimes subtly, sometimes with brazen lust. Eyes that, over a few densely packed weeks of growing acquaintance, had been slowly kindling something new and intriguing that Keith had been sensing somewhere deep inside.
Now, for the first time, those dark eyes were incredibly close, inches away, close enough that they were all Keith could see. And with all his senses overwhelmed with a crushing wave of too many tactile stimulations, too much touch, too much heated response flooding every inch of him—fingers and hands brushing him, lips caressing him, aching hard cocks both his and not his writhing, flexing, stretching, pushing against heated skin with urgent, animal need—with all that sensation overpowering his mind, causing his cognitive capacity to spark and sizzle and shut down all but the most immediate needs, those eyes, Jacob’s eyes, filled his vision, steadying him, grounding him. He huffed in wordless gratitude, and even that slight movement caused his mouth to brush against Jacob’s full, hot, kiss-inflamed lips, so close to his own he could almost taste the kiss it would take the smallest movement forward to claim.
He wanted that kiss. The impulse to move forward, to cover Jacob’s hot, delicious mouth with his own, was so strong, so necessary, that, ironically, the fact of his mounting need sobered him, and he found himself studying it in his still-sparking mind as, in the same slow, half-suspended moment, he became progressively more conscious of his surroundings.
Music curled around them from Jacob’s laptop, guitars riffing, male voices crooning in dark, vibrant, advancing harmony from a song Keith didn’t quite recognize. A link to before, but the music, too, seemed to be driving deeper, pushing harder, and Keith didn’t know what to try to make sense of as his mind pitched and his body cried out with stimulus and desire.
He was naked. Somehow. There had been a towel, he knew, and the feeling of cool air on his still shower-damp body. But there was now no towel, there was no stitch of covering at all, and yet even so there seemed to be almost nowhere up and down his body that was fully exposed to the cool air of the dorm room. Jacob was pressed against him, as naked as Keith was, arms around him, his crazy, enormous near-permanent erection shoving unapologetically against his hip.
There was more going on, more sensation than he’d understood at first. His back was wrapped in flesh, too, and not just from Jacob’s warm, roaming hands. There were firm, thick pecs pressed hard against his shoulder blades. Firm thighs pushed against his own. A hot, slightly open mouth and tongue tasting his clean, dewy neck and traps as if he were something succulent, a taste to be savored over hours and days. And—there was no mistaking it—a hard, fat, damp-tipped cock wedged rudely in the crack of his muscle ass, rocking slowly, confidently, taking possession of him from behind as if it belonged there.
Keith realized with a shudder that it did belong there. That cock at his ass, that mouth on neck, that body against him from behind was as much a part of the new, nearly unbearable need washing through him as Jacob’s cock, Jacob’s hands, Jacob’s mouth against his, Jacob’s whiskey-brown eyes. They belonged with him. He belonged with them. Keith didn’t understand it, but there was no denying the truth of it, the comfort and rightness of it, the thrill of it.
He took in a slow breath. His gaze did not waver from Jacob’s. Jacob, for his part, seemed to be waiting for Keith’s response, but his huge wang flexed restlessly against Keith’s waist as the music surged around them and hands moved and drifted across his heated, tingling skin. He drew another breath, feeling his chest expand against Jacob’s lithe, fit torso and the thick chest pressing close and intimate against his back.
Behind him, the mouth moved to the other side off his neck as the cock kept up its steady, rocking motion. Keith shuddered again.
“What…” Keith began in a whisper. He had been about to simply ask what had happened. But Jacob’s eyes were burning into his, burning with naked delight. Keith knew he was missing a few moments in which the world had reeled, lurching into some new configuration. He knew that Jacob had been on the bed in his pajama bottoms, taking his picture. Now, in this moment on the other side of … something … Jacob was plastered naked against him like a well-remembered lover. He knew that, before, he had been alone with his infatuated roommate, teasing Jacob as usual, and now there was … someone else. Who? Keith tried to imagine who could have appeared in the room during that disconnect, that gap between before and now. Who would be with them, and into Keith enough to ride him with that hard, unfakable, needy erection? Was it … Cole? Maybe. Or—no. That was a different … imagining, latent and wistful, and all on Keith’s end, he was pretty sure. Who, then? Who did his roommate know that would … do something like this with him? Was it Jacob’s supposedly oversexed brother, maybe? Someone.
Someone as hot and needy as Jacob.
Most of all, Keith knew, even without the covetous, passionate flames in Jacob’s bottomless eyes, that this, all this, was something that Jacob wanted.
Something that, somehow, Jacob had made happen.
Keith licked his lips, and Jacob was so close to him that his tongue brushed Jacob’s lips, too. Jacob was breathing from his nose, and his warm breath brushed delicately across the stubble on Keith’s upper lip. The subtle touch of Jacob’s breath was almost as pleasant as all the other stimulations he was experiencing in that moment. His heart pounded violently against his chest.
Keith needed to assert himself, to push back, even if only a little. He needed to find a rock to stand on in this torrential flood and not get pushed off. He was overwhelmed, but he was still himself. He grappled to find his voice, lips working, tongue thick in his mouth.
“What did you do?” Keith asked finally, barely giving any sound to his whisper. This brush of his lips against Jacob’s as he spoke did him in, though, and instead of letting Jacob reply he pushed forward for a hungry kiss against lips that were too close, too necessary, not to taste. When Keith broke free of them he took a deep breath, making both Jacob’s chest and the chest behind him press hard against his heated skin.
Jacob smiled slightly against his lips. “It was the camera,” he said, speaking in a normal voice, and with Jacob being so close the timber of his warm, arousal-roughened baritone seemed to resonate somewhere deep inside Keith. He felt his own cock push up uncontrollably, sliding a line of his seeping cockjuice against Jacob’s already slick abdomen. A tiny grunt escaped him. What had Jacob awoken in him?
Unexpectedly, the crack-rutting, warm-muscled neck-mouther behind him spoke, close to his ear. It was a slightly higher, Tennessee-inflected voice. One that Keith knew, but … wasn’t used to hearing, somehow. “It duplicated us,” the voice—his own voice—said. Keith caught his breath, feeling his eyes widen as he maintained his stare into Jacob’s eyes.
Jacob nodded very slightly. “That’s you back there, humping you,” Jacob told him. His warm brown eyes glittered with a hint of amusement mixed into the intense arousal. Keith bore his gaze deep into Jacob’s, trying to come to grips with what he was telling him.
Jacob was smiling now. “I bet you’ve fantasized about that, haven’t you?” he said. Keith felt his stomach twist, assaulted by conflicting emotions and the soft shock of exposure. “Making love to yourself?” Jacob continued mercilessly. “Worshipping your amazing body the way I’ve always—” As if suddenly unable to hold back any longer, or to listen to any more, Jacob dove in for a new and ravenous kiss even as he held and groped Keith harder than ever, thrusting his huge, slickened cock against their hips as another cock started to ride harder against his ass-crack. Strong arms shifted to draw him and Jacob tight, embracing them both, and the tsunami of sensations as Keith was loved from both sides felt like it would fry his brain completely.
Keith’s heart was pounding even harder now, battering against his chest. His dick strained and shoved brutally against Jacob, and the dicks pressed against him did the same. He finally wrapped his own arms hard and tight around Jacob, intertwining with the thick, muscular arms of his other lover, and suddenly the kissing and the mouthing and the groping and thrusting all became far, far too much, driving him almost unbearably close to the edge of an endless, infinite fall, and then he took command of the kiss, sliding his tongue deeper into Jacob’s moaning mouth, and then the universe exploded, three huge cocks surging to release heart-pounding geysers of hot, fountaining jizz. Keith slowed his kiss with Jacob even as they came again, erupting so powerfully it was almost painful, and the three of them caressed and groped each other for a long time, less voraciously and more sensuously, the ebb before the next eruption. It was some time before Keith could even open his eyes, as his did so reluctantly breaking their kiss.
He needed to look at something else beyond the eyes he had almost drowned in. His eyes fell on Jacob’s laptop, which had been quietly serenading them this whole time with random alterna-rock. The music was calmer now, too, backing down from the intensity it had reached before. A screen-saver was currently dragging cropped, close-up images of beautiful men’s eyes lazily across the screen in various different directions and configurations. More beautiful eyes. He felt flushed and giddy, glad for the support of two naked men, and he fixed on the drifting images as he steadied himself. He held Jacob close, tight and strong in his arms, as his other lover held them both, listening to each other’s huffs, enjoying the comfort of male flesh against male flesh.
He found himself thinking about the laptop, and the webcam that was built into it, pointed right at them. His conspiracy-loving cousin Jesse, if he were here, would probably be warning him right about now that the NSA was watching them through that webcam, but that unlikely prospect only got Keith thinking about how hot the scene would have been for anyone who had been watching. Or how hot it would be if it was a clip on some porn video site. Three sexy guys getting off just from holding and groping each other, and two of them being … the same guy, fuck. “We should have filmed that,” Keith said softly, still flushed and panting slightly from his orgasm. He met Jacob’s eyes again, and Jacob was smirking, surprised and impressed by the unexpected suggestion. From behind him, he heard his own voice—the voice of the other him—murmur an awed “Damn, bro.”
Keith knew he wanted to see who was behind him. Was it really another him? He knew that it was, he knew that this was, somehow, what had happened. But he still hadn’t seen. Was it truly his own cum that had painted his back? He wanted to turn around, in this hot, slightly sweating and cum-slicked man sandwich, and face the hunk who’d mouthed every inch of his neck and bulging shoulders and ridden his asscrack and jazzed a pint of cum up his spine. But he realized that he was a little, well, unnerved by the idea. Sure, this was a fantasy, a realized fantasy, but it was also a little—well, strange. Strange and unexpected. Fantasies were fantasies because you didn’t expect them to actually happen.
But Jacob’s grin, and his obvious delight at the whole threesome encounter, suggested a new tactic to Keith. Holding Jacob close in his arms, he slowly turned the two of them around a hundred and eighty degrees inside the embrace of the other man… the other Keith, he could now see, unquestionably and indisputably.
His own hazel eyes met his from beyond the left ear of their slightly taller and paler roommate, whose hot gaze Keith was ignoring for the moment. The other Keith’s eyes were shining with both unquenched arousal and an immense interest in these strange proceedings. Keith felt the other Keith’s hands stroking his broad, cum-and-sweat-dampened back. Impulsively, he and the other Keith moved as one to bring their lips together, kissing tenderly against Jacob’s cheek. Jacob moaned and began mouthing the stubble along Keith’s jaw, and Keith felt both his own cock and Jacob’s springing rapidly back from half-hardness into full, unbending erections.
“It’s nice in the middle, isn’t it?” Keith murmured into Jacob’s ear, and Jacob groaned again, deep and guttural. Keith’s eyes met the other Keith’s. He missed having the other Keith behind him. It felt natural and necessary to have his warm body, that particular body, pressed against his back from neck to ankle; that eager mouth against his neck; that straining hard dick plunging up and down between his cheeks. He missed that a lot. But there was plenty of time for that. Keith knew somehow, instinctively, that it wasn’t just that Jacob wanted them both—he knew that it was also true that they both wanted Jacob, well beyond the quickening interest he’d been becoming increasingly aware of as they’d teased and flirted with each other these past few weeks. Something about what the camera had done hadn’t just duplicated the hard, muscular body that Jacob pined for. Some moment in that process of duplication, or in the transition of surfacing from the moment between the before and the after, had made Keith—both Keiths—shamelessly and passionately want Jacob. Before it had only been simmering, hidden and toyed with. It had been a desire that had been slumbering and latent, a soft glow tinting the edges of his consciousness. Now it burned like a blazing sun, in his other self as fiercely as it did in himself.
The other Keith smiled and locked his gaze on Keith’s own. Keith met his gaze curiously. The other Keith’s eyes seemed somehow more knowledgeable, and for the first time it occurred to him that the other Keith might be—how would you put it? older? earlier?—than himself. The other Keith was already thinking ahead, trying to sort out their shared situation.
“I think we should take a closer look at that camera,” the other Keith suggested.
Keith nodded. “See what Jacob here has gotten us into,” he agreed.
“Jake, you mean,” the other Keith said significantly, eyes glinting, and Keith felt his lips curl.
“Oh yeah,” he said, lips curving as he remembered how the strange package he—they?—had found had been addressed.
Jacob interrupted his slow ministration of Keith’s throat long enough to mutter huskily, “It’s on the bed.”
The other Keith looked past him, grinning, as he sought out the trouble-making device. But his grin faded. Quickly he looked in the other direction, brows knitting, toward Keith’s bed, and his expression became more confused. “It’s not there,” the other Keith said.
Jacob stopped what he was doing abruptly, opening his eyes and looking around with increasing concern. A moment later he sidled out of the Keiths’ embrace and moved toward the beds. He began a search, lifting up blankets and sheets, ducking to look under the beds, tossing up his own discarded pajama bottoms and the three white towels that had lain here and there, in little heaps near their feet or hanging off the end of Jacob’s bed.
Keith drew instinctively toward the other Keith, and they wrapped their arms loosely around each other’s waists as they faced out at the room, watching Jacob tornado efficiently around. Finally, their roommate stopped, spinning once in the middle of the space, and then looked over at them. “It’s gone,” he said, shrugging at the inexplicability of it.
Something was bothering Keith, and he suddenly realized what it was. “Wait a minute,” he said, looking from Jacob to the other Keith, then back out at the room, which was now slightly more disordered after Jacob’s hectic search. His gaze dropped to the towels laying on the floor between the beds where Jacob had tossed them aside. They were definitely his towels—or rather, his towel, the white one he used to set off his honey-gold skin when he really wanted to goad his infatuated roommate. He’d had only one, which meant that all of them were the result of whatever had made him more than one man. Keith frowned and met the other Keith’s gaze. “If those are the towels from our shower,” he said to his doppelganger, “why are there three of them?”
Jacob and the other Keith exchanged a look, and, following the other Keith’s gaze, he watched as a half-relieved, half-exasperated grin bloomed across Jacob’s cute face. “That bastard,” Jacob said, smiling wide.
“You cain’t underestimate a Hood,” the other Keith said, allowing his accent to thicken a little.
Keith looked between them, smiling automatically at the family in-joke, and then the penny dropped. “You mean there’s another one?” he cried. He turned a faux-reproving gaze on Jacob. “Just how horny for me are you?”
Jacob laughed aloud. “I think we’re just starting to find that out,” the other Keith said, and then, unexpectedly, he turned in their loose, side-to-side half-embrace to kiss Keith’s cheek fondly. Keith felt his still mostly hard dick twitch in response.
Jacob sighed happily, his own huge cock fully hard and flexing against his hip, as was, admittedly, pretty normal for him around Keith, though it was now a lot more out in the open and generally acknowledged than before. He looked them both over as if drinking them in. “I could so get used to this,” he said, and moved to draw both Keiths into a tight, three-way hug—one that soon escalated into a sensuous three-way kiss.
Eventually Jacob pulled his face away from those of his replicated roommate, his bright, dancing eyes meeting each of theirs in turn. “So … shower?” he suggested, his eyebrows arched as if to keep them from wiggling.
They all grinned, sharing the same suspicion that getting wet and clean would only spark a new round of mutual exploration and pleasure. It would be quite a while, as it turned out, before any of them spared another thought for the missing Keith, or anything else for that matter.
The young man that Jacob thought of as “second Keith” walked alongside Cole as they headed for the all-night library. One arm was slung casually but intimately around the firm, bare shoulders of his well-muscled, shirtless friend, who, looking ahead to their study session, had fallen into a detailed run-down of what he figured they still needed to look into for their physics project. In his other hand, hidden from view, Keith clutched the camera. It had been just small enough to palm, and smuggling it out past his other self and his roommate had been a piece of cake. The other Keith—the first one to have awoken—had been staring at the still frozen Keith-statue by the bed; and Jacob, as he’d predicted, had been quickly distracted by the flash of Keith’s own cock nosing provocatively out of the low-slung jeans he’d snatched up and pulled himself into.
It was the first of these—Keith staring at statue-Keith—that had really propelled him out of the room, taking the easy out offered by Cole showing up. He had had a powerful impulse to get out of that room, away from the creepy frozen version of himself, away from the other Keith that hauled inexorably at him like an erotic undertow. Now that he was out, in the brisk night air with his friend, he felt he’d made the right decision.
He knew that he had been created, or split, or whatever, making manifest a mix of fantasies within Jacob that also, he was keenly aware, had lain dormant in himself. And right now, in this moment, away from Jacob and away from his deeply attractive other self and his sensual, sweet lips, Keith felt a compulsion to resist the forces that pulled at him, to take charge of events and not let them swirl him into someone else’s whirlpool. Even if that someone else was himself, or the sweetly sexy roommate that he now knew he had been harboring a little more than fondness for.
He slowed to a stop under a streetlamp in the empty West Plaza between the outer dorm complexes, pulling Cole around to face him. Cole paused in his review of their study agenda and looked up at Keith, eyebrows raised. “What’s up?” he asked.
“I just realized,” Keith said, “that I don’t have a good picture of you.” When Cole drew his brows together slightly, as if about to ask why Keith needed a picture of him, Keith hastened to explain. “My dads like to have a face to go with the friends I talk about,” he told him. He smiled apologetically.
“Oh, okay.” Cole shrugged his muscular shoulders. He didn’t really mind having his picture taken, or being looked at or admired for his beauty, or his heroic build. Not that he was cocky about it—on the contrary, Cole seemed genetically incapable of any kind of vanity, and Keith kind of admired him for it. His beauty just—was. Keith felt a tingle in his stomach as he let his eyes skitter across Cole’s perfectly crafted musculature, before meeting his friend’s gaze again. He wondered if his unplanned attraction to Cole was anything like the want he saw in Jacob’s eyes. Or the need he felt, right now, for his own soft lips …
Keith shook his head internally as his friend responded. “Sure, man,” Cole said, automatically drawing his long, loose black hair behind his ears. “Got your phone?”
Keith shook his head. “Nope.” He brandished Jacob’s camera. “I’ll just download from this.”
Cole bent forward slightly and scrutinized the old-fashioned-looking camera with interest, head cocked and lower lip thrust out. “Wow where’d you get that? It looks really old.”
“It’s my roommate’s,” Keith said. “But … he’s had enough fun with it for one night.” He bent to study the buttons and controls on the back of the camera for a second, then glanced back up at Cole.
“Now it’s my turn,” he said with a grin.
Keith felt his stomach flutter as he turned his attention to the antiquated, cheap-looking camera, his jock buddy hovering bemused in his peripheral vision. He stared at the device, sudden doubt finally grabbing hold of him after being flushed with the heady impulse that had made him grab the camera up and steal away with it in the first place.
He and Cole stood under a tall lamppost, its faintly jaundiced pool of ambient light seeming to pick them out, isolating them in the midst of the normally busy campus. Before, there’d been a room full of himself, other Keith, statue-Keith, and Jacob, and a whole strip club’s worth of sexual tension and dark, palpable, cock-growing lust. Now, it was just him and Cole.
Was he really going to do this?
Unbidden, a succession of powerful sensations he had experienced only moments before returned to him, washing over the now. He felt the ghost of lips pressed against his, warm and gentle. The subtle sensation of warmth from a face drawn intimately close to his own, a face heated with smoldering arousal. Strong hands clasping his own shoulders. The tip of a tongue, slipping along the crease of his lips, begging for entrance, and his open need to open for it…
Keith shook himself free of the reverie, his raging cock twitching. His lips ached for a kiss—not just any kiss, but that kiss, the kiss from his own cocky, mesmerizing, sensually addicted self. His own playful eyes driving into him, playful but bold, and behind them a fathomless passion he could taste in that toe-curling kiss even if he did not know its perpetual stimulation from the dark, fiery wellspring within himself. It wasn’t only his lips that wanted that kiss—his heart yearned for it, too. That kiss, that touch, and an embrace that could not be broken.
Only… while he had been woken with that need, he saw the slant of his angel’s eyes. Sure, his double’s arousal had been kindled to blazing as Keith’s own had, his fat cock thickening with profound, heart-quickening lust, and his kiss had been as eager as it was sweet and soul-slaking good. But his double’s lust-dark eyes had turned from his, seeking the one other person present. Jacob, their adorable, shaggy-haired, big-dicked roommate, with the round glasses and the raging hormones and that special smile that was just for him. Jacob, who had somehow been making Keith tingle with unnamable temptations for weeks, tempting him to an uncharacteristic tendency to flirtation, long before the world-breaking events of the last hour.
Something had happened in the space of a few moments, as they’d all interacted together, him and Jacob and the other him. As they were talking through what had happened to him and why there was yet a third heroically-posed duplicate standing between himself and the man whose kiss he hungered for, Keith had felt a strange heartbreak in miniature. He had recognized the lines of attraction: himself for Keith, Keith for Jacob, and Jacob for… well, for all of three of him—for any and all Keiths he could have. An overpowering desire had welled up in him to rebel, to take charge of this camera madness, all mixed up with an intense and primitive curiosity about the unprepossessing yard-sale artifact that had split him into three separate, physically identical people. Cole’s arrival was like a flashing exit sign, and he took the out it offered. He also took the camera.
Now that he was standing here, though, with the game-changing camera in his own hands, he wasn’t sure what to do with it. Keith’s brain worked better when there was a lot going on around him—it was one of the reasons he was so good at team sports like football and soccer—but the campus seemed still around them. The only noises were distant and indistinct, and no one was in sight but a lip-quirked Cole, pale and almost aglow in the washed-out lamplight.
“You, uh, gonna take a picture, Keif?” Cole asked. “It really will last longer.” Keith blinked, realizing he’s eyes had drifted back up from the camera to Cole standing a few feet away from him, the light from overhead emphasizing his powerful shoulders and thick pecs, but also his high cheekbones and the curve of his tilted lips. His long, silky black hair seemed to soak in the light, the purple tips almost aglow. Keith realized he’d been staring at him without really realizing it. Attraction was stirring in him, too. His blood felt hot, and his unending hard-on was still implacably turgid. He’d remained unbearably hard through their whole walk, and his physical arousal had re-intensified from the ghost-kiss memories of his other self. Now was raging stiffer than ever, shoving rigid and damp against his treasure trail and the hard, flat muscle of his lower abs behind the dark green tee-shirt he’d hurriedly pulled on.
Was Cole turning him on, or was he just like this now, his constant, simmering randyness now amped up to eleven? Perhaps that was the natural fate of anyone who’d essentially begun his existence in a passionate, erotic embrace.
Cole was hot as fuck. Keith was flattered and turned on by Jacob’s geeky adulation and the enormous dick he kept bone-hard for him. And lately he’d been feeling something more, a ripening affection that could deepen into something real and profound if he let it. Cole, though… Cole was a jock like him, only purer somehow. Keith knew how good he looked, and lately he’d been showing off for Jacob like a preening fitness model, beaming at every appreciative look and every sudden, uncontrolled erection he got out of his blushing, adorkable roommate. But Cole was a physical animal. His grip was strong and his movements graceful. He could even dance, for fuck’s sake—Keith could still picture the scene at the last off-campus party, Cole moving effortlessly to the pounding beat is if the music were inside him, his hands in the air, his dark eyes shining, raw passion for the joy of movement written into his handsome face. Men and women alike crowded around him, drowned in hormones, as they imagined, as Keith had, just how that animal passion, physical power, and primal fluidity would translate into a night of torrid, unforgettable fucking like nothing they’d ever known.
Keith knew it wasn’t all in his head, though, and it wasn’t all him. He’d always been aware of how Cole’s dark brown eyes fixed on him, tracking him. Cole didn’t care about looks; he worked out, turning himself into a sculpted muscle god, because it felt good to him to pump iron and to be strong because of it, not because he needed to look good to impress others. He kept his eyes on Keith, calmly tasting him, feeling him with sight alone, and Keith sensed that the laid-back muscle man do so because Keith felt good to Cole, too, even if it was only to look at.
That unforgettable fucking, Keith realized, was his for the asking. Cole kept hidden and banked within him a fire that burned for Keith. Cole’s narrow waist wanted the touch of Keith’s hands. From there they could slide up, to Cole’s heavy, protruding pecs and the amazingly lovely bulges of his strong, wide shoulders. Or they could slide down and back, taking hold of Cole’s hard, round muscle ass, as their perfect, hard thighs pressed together through their jeans. Or his hands could travel elsewhere from Cole’s tight, narrow waist. Cole’s stomach was so tight that even though his jeans fit snugly over his hips there was usually a little gap between his waistband and the smooth skin of his upper groin. He could see that gap now, and he imagined slipping a hand down in there, finding the potent secrets within…
Cole did have pretty big feet, after all. Maybe, on top of all the other things that drew Keith to Cole, this physical creature was gifted in this respect as well.
Keith felt himself blushing. Now that he’d drawn his own attention to it, Cole’s casual but watchful appreciation, and his own growing reaction to it, made him feel self-conscious and a little overcome with too many layers of hot, intoxicating lust. He huffed an embarrassed laugh. “You wish I was staring, Taylor,” he said, trying to recover his usual level banter with Cole. He’d used the “Taylor” dig ever since the Twilight movies had made a certain lycanthrope famous mainly for his allergy to shirts.
“Whatever, Jethro,” Cole said affectionately.
Lips quirking, Keith ignored the jab at his soft Southern drawl and his own thick, throbbing, ever-present erection, and redirected his gaze firmly onto the camera. He thumbed the “menu” button the camera to wake it up, and as he positioned the device in his hands the screen on the back lit with an impressively share-worthy pic of his handsome friend standing there in the middle of the empty plaza, bare-chested and barefoot, the picture of relaxed patience and as unselfconscious as any guy Keith had ever met.
There was a small legend at the bottom right of the screen, tiny white letters against the black background of the night beyond their little pool of light. Keith stared at it.
It still said “3X”.
Keith’s heart quickened. He shook his head. Already he was backing away from his earlier resolve to take control of… whatever all this was. Or—no. Not backing away. Maybe he was just realizing that taking control didn’t necessarily mean wielding the whip himself, fucking instead of being fucked. Taking control meant making his own choices. He thumbed the rocker down once, meaning to keep going so that there was no “resolution”. The legend changed to read “2X”.
His thumb hovered over the rocker, ready to take it down to one, but then his fevered, lust-spiked imagination seized him by the balls. Two Coles. Standing there, just where Cole was now, but facing each other, casually embracing. One of them had a bare right foot shifted forward, so it was between the other’s equally bare feet. Their jeans-clad hips were pressed together, and their hands were slowly caressing each other’s tapered backs as if it were something muscled, broad-shouldered, bare-chested doppelgangers did naturally, without thought. It was natural for them to be holding each other close. And kissing. The two Coles of his imagination drew their faces together, and Keith’s aching cock jumped and flinched against his tight waistband like a caged animal.
Keith’s thumb spasmed away from the down-rocker, and Keith decided to let it have its moment of mutiny. He’d switch it to “1X” before he took the shot, even if he had to force himself. His thumb had yanked back onto the menu button, and he pressed it almost without meaning to. Another legend appeared above the first on the bottom right of the screen that read “MAG: ON”. Keith frowned. The image on the screen didn’t look magnified. He tried turning it off, but the up/down rocker did nothing. He tried the menu button again.
When he did the display changed unexpectedly. He was still looking at the image of Cole—just the one of him, of course—standing shirtless and seraphic a few feet away, his gaze on Keith intense; but instead of the dark and indistinct campus behind him there was the instantly recognizable shape of the Eiffel Tower, at an angle near one of the vertices so that that three of the tower’s legs were visible, the whole soaring structure silhouetted by a glimmering dawn spreading tentatively behind it. It looked exactly like he and Cole were actually in Paris, pausing at some strategic vantage to take a touristy picture of his hunky buddy in front of the world’s most famous monument to industrial progress.
A new legend at the bottom left now said “SAVED BG1”. “Whoa,” Keith said, impressed.
“What?” Cole asked, and Keith turned the camera around to show him. Cole took a step forward to get a closer look. “Nice,” Cole commented. “What else does it have?”
Keith turned the camera back around and Cole stepped back again, resuming his role as photoshoot model. “Let’s see,” Keith said, thumbing through the available backgrounds. They all looked startlingly real. They were nothing like the chintzy mall photo-booth backdrops he was used to—these were vivid, in-person environments dropped around his subject. The ambient lighting in the scene affected Cole as well, ratcheting up the illusion that Cole was actually where he seemed to be on screen.
The choices, however, were disappointingly unoriginal, as if the backgrounds had been limited to places even the most unworldly, stay-at-home consumer would recognize. “Hmm, looks like the usual suspects,” he said, stepping through the options. “Every place tourists go because it’s where you’re supposed to go. Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, the Coliseum, Times Square… Golden Gate Bridge, Taj Mahal…”
“Let me guess—Great Wall of China? Sydney Opera House?” Cole said, his crooked smile returning.
“Uh… actually, the Great Wall came up just as you said it,” Keith laughed. “Stonehenge… Mount Fuji, Machu Picchu, Great Pyramids… the Forbidden City… Acropolis, Versailles… aha, there you are: fucking Sydney Opera House. Geez, whoever programmed this thing—”
“You’d think there’d be someplace peaceful,” Cole remarked. “They can’t all be tourist traps.”
Keith glanced up at him and arched an eyebrow. “Not one for crowds?”
“Every year my family goes on vacation to places where there’s a million people, all pushing and shouting and complaining,” Cole said, rolling his eyes. “And every year my mom comes home wondering why we’re more stressed than when we left.”
Keith grinned and returned to stepping through the backgrounds silently. “Oh, here you go,” he said suddenly, stopping on an arresting image of a double waterfall cascading down a sheer cliff-face amidst a brilliantly verdant folded landscape. “This is perfect.”
“What is it?” Cole asked.
“Tropical waterfall,” Keith said. He positioned the camera and framed his shot, admiring how the warm sunshine beating down on his subject’s powerful, gym-crafted body and the rich green backdrop made him more attractive than ever. Cole took a step back, smiling easily. It was pure verisimilitude, like Cole was actually there, in that faraway, idyllic spot. “Man, you look a-maz-ing standing in front of it on this. It’s like you should be feeling the spray.”
“Don’t tease me, bro,” Cole snorted.
Kevin was inordinately pleased he’d found an unexpected secret paradise for Cole, and that he looked so perfect in it. A sumptuous, teeming island, ringed with sandy beaches and far from the madding crowd. “Bet there’s waves somewhere nearby,” Kevin drawled. “Get you up on a board in a pair of jams, showing off your six-pack for all the surf bunnies…”
“C’mon, take the picture,” Cole chided, not at all ruffled. “You can mess with my head all you want after we’ve sorted out the physics project.”
“Yeah, okay, surfer boy,” Keith said easily, remembering that they did in fact have imminent deadlines and important stuff that needed their combined attention. Without thinking he lifted up his finger and snapped the shutter. Then—even as it clicked and released, capturing the image of Cole superimposed on the lush background, it flooded back to him with a cold chill what this camera was. And that, despite having told himself he’d go back and change it, only to forget all about it instead, he’d managed to leave the “resolution” setting right where his sudden, unexpected, mind-tricking carnal fantasy had wanted it kept. On “2X”.
He looked up quickly from the display with guts twisting, expecting to see Cole standing there in the dark, deserted plaza with him under the streetlamp, frozen, waiting to be woken up, just as Keith himself had been in another moment stilled by that same camera. His heart stuttered, however, when he saw that Cole wasn’t standing there, frozen or otherwise. He was completely gone.
Keith was alone, as if he’d dreamed Cole’s very existence. As if walking out here with his friend, and stopping to take a picture, had all been a delusion. He looked around, wildly, as if Cole could have darted around behind him as a joke, but the plaza was still empty. There was no one there but him.
Had he imagined it? All of it? Just then darker thoughts assailed him. Maybe he was the delusion, he thought, his stomach writhing. Ice seemed to trickle up his spine. All of this was crazy. Wasn’t it more likely that he’d imagined himself—a duplicate Keith Hood, not even the “original”? How was that even possible? Was everything in his fake, imagined reality going to start falling apart now, like an artificial universe collapsing in on itself?
“Cole?!” he called out, his voice sounding uncertain and scared.
He remembered the camera. No. Cole had been here. He’d just taken a picture of him. He lifted it up—look, there he was. Standing in front of the waterfall, warmed by a tropical sun…
He stared at the still, captured image for a long moment, his heart battering now in his chest. No way, he thought. No… fucking… way.
“Jesus, Cole,” he said to the image on the camera’s display screen. “Fuck, dude where the fuck are you?” The twin waterfall background offered no clue to him—it could be any tropical jungle, from Africa to the Amazon to the wilds of Sumatra. Of course, they’d had to pick the one background locale he didn’t immediately recognize. Sending Cole to Paris, or Sydney, or even Machu Picchu would have freaked him out enough, but he literally had no idea what he’d done with his friend. He could be almost anywhere on Earth with a river and a cliff. Fuck this camera. He should never have touched the stupid thing. He wanted to throw it away, destroy it, to smash it to bits under his heel—and he would have, too, if he weren’t certain somehow that if he did he’d never see Cole again.
He tried to draw a calming breath, but a moment’s stillness of mind only allowed a new and even more disturbing thought to intrude on him. The camera. He knew what it did, because he had been there. He’d been it, then he’d seen it. Cole wasn’t just in some unknown island haven, the location of which Keith couldn’t even begin to fathom. If the camera worked this time the way it had before, he hadn’t simply sent Cole into the midst of that tropical anywhere. He’d stranded him there, not just alone but frozen—immobile, unaware, and completely, utterly helpless.
Even as he watched, the screen went to sleep, blinking over from verdant sunshine into solid, ominous black. Keith jabbed at the menu button to wake it up again, but it now showed only the double-waterfall backdrop, waiting for another picture to be taken. It was as if Cole had been wiped away out of the shot.
“No, no, no, no, no,” he murmured, jamming the buttons until he pulled up the photo archive. There were three pictures on the memory card. The last one was Cole, standing in a tropical utopia. Keith huffed a breath in relief. Seeing the picture there, saved and stored, reassured him. He knew Cole wasn’t actually in the picture, trapped alive in the ones and zeroes of the image file. He was certain Cole was wherever that double waterfall was. But the solidity of the saved image made him feel like he had a chance of finding him.
The image before that on the roll was himself, standing at the end of Jacob’s bed in a ridiculous superhero pose, hands on hips and arms akimbo. Shaking his head at his own antics, he thumbed past it to the first picture. His brows drew together has he frowned at it. It was a close-up image of a face he almost recognized, with the vivid sliver of color of the background behind it out of focus and only just discernable—orange lockers, maybe, he thought. After a second of study he decided that the face smiling into the camera was a younger, cockier version of Jacob, without the glasses and, though just as good-looking, if not more so, in a conventional sense, considerably less appealing, at least to Keith. No, this had to be Jacob’s younger brother. Joseph? Keith thought he remembered his name, though he’d only known Jacob a few weeks and they hadn’t talked about his family much yet.
Keith tilted his head as he examined the photo curiously. Was it a selfie? That would imply that Joseph possibly knew about the camera, or at least that he was the one to send it on so mysteriously to Jacob. Or… had someone else taken the picture, and if so, who? And either way—what, if anything, had the camera done to Joseph?
He shook his head. Jacob could worry about his brother. Keith had to find Cole. And even as he quailed at the impossibility of this in the vastness of the Earth across which he’d carelessly flung his friend, he realized with sudden, heart-stopping clarity that there was a way.
He knew what he had to do. He just needed help doing it.
He patted his empty pockets, but he already knew he had no phone on him. He looked rapidly around the plaza, then, setting his jaw and gripping the camera firmly in hand, he began sprinting for the only place open at this hour—his and Cole’s original destination, the all-night hybrid study annex/cafe behind the library. He covered the ground rapidly, shoes pounding on the plaza’s wide flagstones, and tore into the building like a dervish. By the time he’d crossed the softly lit eating-and-drinking area and pulled up at the bar itself (behind which was the no-food-or-drinks quiet study area), the dude behind the counter was watching him with round eyes.
As it happened, Keith knew him, a little. His name was Tommaso, he remembered. Keith had a class with the sexy, mop-haired Sicilian last semester—and he and Cole had bought coffee and the low-alcohol beer they served here from him on more than a few occasions—a few times on the house, usually when he and Cole were pumped from the gym. The only thing he remembered clearly about the guy was that he was an inveterate gamer, not only playing endless hours of every game under the sun but vlogging about them on his YouTube channel. He even had his own Twitch feed, though the demands of school and work kept him off it most of the time and so unable to accrue the followers and bank of the big stars on the site. He was gaping at Keith now as he rushed up to the bar. “Tommaso, hey,” Keith panted. “I need your help.” He looked swiftly around the seating area, but he didn’t know any of the students huddled together in little clumps over litters of coffee cups, sandwiches, and textbooks. Tommaso would have to do.
“Sure, Keith,” Tommaso said. Though he was lean, tall, and pretty handsome in Keith’s estimation, he hadn’t yet outgrown the clique-training of high school and was used to thinking of himself as apart from the jocks and beautiful people. He sounded surprised to be addressed on friendly, favor-swapping terms by someone like Keith, and eager to be useful to him. That was good. Keith had always known he was popular and good-looking. He knew that as long as he was cheerful, friendly, and genuinely engaging—in other words, not a douchecanoe like half the hot jocks he knew—he easily drew the attention and loyalty of all kinds of guys, not just bashful horndogs like Jacob. He persistently tried to use that power for good, and now… now it meant everything to him.
“What do you need?” Tommaso asked.
Keith fixed his gaze on him, devoting his whole attention to Tommaso. The other man immediately understood the seriousness of Keith’s pose and leaned forward, dark sea-green eyes wide and ready. “I need you to listen to me very carefully,” Keith said, low and urgent. Tommaso nodded once, lips pressed tightly together. Keith brandished the camera he was clutching. “I need you to take a picture of me with this camera,” he said. Tommaso’s eyes flitted briefly to it, and Keith saw the surprise register at how it looked like an outdated piece of junk. “Don’t worry, it works just fine,” he assured him, and Tommaso nodded once again. Keith continued: “Once you’ve taken my picture, I need you to take this camera to my roommate back in the dorms, okay? His name is Jacob Pruett and our room is South Tower 438.” He realized he had more of a message for Jacob and his other selves than just the camera itself. “Tell Jacob to look at the pictures on the camera,” he said. “All of them. Can you do that? It’s very important Jacob get this camera back tonight, and that he look at what’s on it.”
Tommaso was frowning slightly. His eyes flicked to the clock Keith knew hung over the entrance Keith had just crashed through, then back at Keith. “Kelly comes in and relieves me in an hour,” he said, sounding reluctant to disappoint Keith. “Is that soon enough?”
“That’s fine,” Keith said.
“Or I could take it over in the morning,” Tommaso offered, but Keith shook his head.
“No,” he said. “Tonight.”
Tommaso nodded. Then, after a second’s hesitation, he asked, “Why won’t you be taking it back, again?”
Keith grinned wolfishly. “You’ll see,” he said. Keith knew he could be wrong—about what had happened to Cole before, and about what would happen to him, now. But he didn’t believe it. He had everything riding on this working the way he thought it would. It had to. It was his only chance to find Cole.
He handed Tommaso the camera. The other man took it, still a little dubious at this apparent relic from the pre-smartphone era. “Pretty old tech,” Tommaso murmured.
“Press the menu button to wake it up,” Keith instructed, “then hold it up to frame the—”
“Oh, wow,” Tommaso broke in, as the screen came alive for him. In the room’s subdued lighting he could see the barest hint of a glow reflecting on Tommaso’s Mediterranean features. Keith guessed the other man was now seeing Keith himself in the sunlit tropical clime he’d sent Cole to, the double waterfall casting spray and rainbows behind him. He hoped it was as nice as it looked. And that there weren’t a lot of snakes.
“Okay,” he told Tommaso. “Hit the shutter on top.” Awkwardly, Tommaso found the shutter with his index finger, then, closing one eye, he repositioned the camera, trying to frame the photo he was taking just right.
“Just do it! Take the picture!” Keith barked. Worry about Cole had him at the breaking point, he realized. Tommaso looked up, momentarily surprised, and then, dutifully, he pressed down on the shutter. Keith closed his eyes.
His mind swam. Suddenly the silence of the café was obliterated by the loud crashing of water falling on water from a great height. A clean, sultry whipped around him, stirring the surrounding trees and brush. Bird cries and the buzzes and creaks of insects washed over him like the overpowering sound of the waterfall, surrounding him—just as warm, strong arms surrounded him, too, engulfing him in another man’s protective space. Sweet, firm lips joined with his. For the second time that night Keith fell into a kiss before he understood what was happening to him, and pulse quickened again, his cock stirring to a new and delighted hardness as the embrace tightened and the kiss deepened.
It ended sooner than he would have liked. Through a mental haze he heard a male voice he did not recognize say with some astonishment, “You’re awake.” The voice was very close to him—it must be him, Keith thought. The man who’d kissed him, and who was still holding him like he might never be let go.
The voice was rough but soothing, flavored by an accent Keith did not quite recognize. To Keith it felt alluring all by itself without the kiss to go with it, and he let himself drift in it a moment longer, before he surfaced in whatever new reality he had created for Cole—and, now, himself.
Jake was enjoying a long, languid make-out session with his two Keiths when the knocking began, a soft rap at their dormitory door. He was feeling flushed and sated after a fast, frenetic fuck in the showers and another slow, sensual one back in the room, but even now he was still hard and ready. He felt as if he could build up another thousand orgasms as he lay here in the darkened room, lit only by reflected streetlamps from the window. He was trading kisses between his two sweet-lipped, hard-muscled Adonises, their naked bodies grinding casually together, the raging fires of their combined passion moderated only momentarily to a slow, constant burn. Sultry music curled faintly around them, a playlist Jake had previously used to relax and unbend, but which he now found perfectly suited to sharing his body with his two beautiful lovers.
The knocking came again, a little louder. Jake shared a look with the two Keiths sharing his bed. Their hazel eyes stared back at him, both of his men seeming perplexed but not at all nervous, now, at being discovered like this—duplicated and deeply immersed in a mutually covetous threesome. Jake had already lost track of which Keith was which, though if he’d had to pick he’d reckon the third Keith was the one in the middle, his face close to Jake’s as the other Keith bent over them both to mouth and lick at middle Keith’s sensitive neck or tempting Jake with a wink and slide of his tongue to shift his kisses from one pair of delicious lips to another. As they lay beside him he could just detect, in the muzzy light, a dark spot on the nearer Keith near the join of neck and shoulder where Jake had given him an overenthusiastic love bite as the ardor had quickened in the shower. That should have told him which one he was, Jake mused, only he wasn’t quite sure which of them he’d given the hickey to in the first place.
Another knock. Jake kissed them both, sliding his hands through middle Keith’s long dark hair and then down the other’s flaring lats to his trim, tight waist. “I’ll get it,” he said.
“Don’t go,” the middle Keith said. He shifted his hand from where it rested on Jake’s narrow lower back and wrapped it around Jake’s mighty, iron-hard and damp-tipped cock where it lay hard-pressed against his hip.
“We’ll miss you,” the other Keith teased, his eyes glinting in the meager light. He added his own hand to the middle Keith’s slowly stroking distraction.
“Uuuughhh,” Jake moaned, tearing himself out of their hold and struggling to his feet. As he stood over them, he was gratified to see that though they both began their appreciative stares with the fat, oversized cock clinging to his hipline, their eyes still traveled up from there, just as admiring, until their gazes reached his face. They seemed to like what they saw there: their eyes seemed to kindle and their tall, straight cocks jumped against their bellies, as the Keith behind wrapped his bulging arm needily around his other self’s exquisitely muscled torso. The Keith in front lifted his own hand to rest on his duplicate’s, neither of them taking their eyes of Jake for a moment.
Jake pulled his stripey pajamas on from where they’d been cast aside at some earlier point in their lovemaking. It was probably second Keith, who had, after all, rushed out with no keys or wallet, but he figured he should at least try to be presentable—not that his jammies hid his big dick very well, as Cole had reminded him earlier in the night. He then retrieved his glasses, which had falled to the floor and fortunately had not been stepped on, and put them on. He turned his bare back on the Keiths and earned a quick wolf whistle from one and a “Yowza!” from the other. He glanced over his shoulder to see that they were both staring avidly at his small, tight ass, each of them wearing matching, toothy grins that seemed almost incandescent in the dim light.
“Knock it off,” he said, though inwardly he was quite pleased. He could still feel the burn from when middle Keith had fucked him deep and slow only a half hour before, while being fucked at the same time by the original Keith behind him. Developing that rocking rhythm between them had been one of his favorite things from tonight, and his cock gave a twitch against the pajama elastic.
When he got to the door and opened it, blinking a little in the light of the hallway, it turned out not to be the second Keith at all. Instead, a tall, well-proportioned Italian-looking hottie with thick, loose-curling black hair and mesmerizing blue eyes under dark lashes stood there, poised to knock again. Or, rather, two identical-looking tall, well-proportioned Italian hotties, their arms clasped tight around each other’s waists as if they were loath to let each other go, now or ever. “Oh, hey,” the knocking one said, his voice and demeanor tense and apprehensive. “Are you Jacob?”
Jake’s mind was struggling with two conflicting thought. The first one was that these two men were the embodiment of sexual attraction and he needed to touch them, now. His hand were already itching at his sides, wanting to jump up and slide along their defined arms and chests and caress their finely stubbled olive-toned cheeks. They were so attractive they seemed almost to be lit with an inner glow, and Jake’s hormones rushed and multiplied in an almost automatic response. His eyes drifted up the two long-limbed frames, from the two pairs of black boots, up four long, defined legs, the fit thighs and calves just barely discernable in the loose, new dark blue jeans topped out at narrow hips and two subtle but very promising packages, to the two identical blood-red, slightly faded school hoodies and two faces, sweetly gorgeous, with chiseled cheekbones, firm jaws, full, wine-dark lips, thick, coal-black brows, and bright, soulful eyes currently filled with wonder, concern, lust, and so much more.
The other thought that came to Jake now, fighting as it had to against the irrational fast-rising wave of desire within him that was threatening to become a tsunami, was this: a pair of insanely attractive identical twins showing up tonight, at his door, clearly looking for his help, could not possibly be a coincidence. Something had happened—something that was down to him to do something about.
As if in confirmation of this guttering flame of reason in his lust-drowned brain, Jake spotted a glint of fake chrome in the other one’s unoccupied hand. Catching the direction of Jake’s gaze, the second Italian glanced down at it, then lifted up his hand, offering the camera to him. “I think this is yours,” he said. He sounded like he was in awe of the thing, and was quite keen to hand over its potency to its rightful owner so that it was out of his hands at last.
Jake took it mutely, trying to right his capsized brain with great difficulty. It was becoming clear that a strange series of events had taken place since this thing had left his sight, with untold ramifications. And yet all his body and mind wanted to do was touch these men. It was only their own palpable unease that was keeping Jake at all focused on anything above the sensual.
“What is it, babe?” asked one of the Keiths from behind him, as a warm hand came down on his bare shoulder. Jake glanced quickly back at him—it was middle Keith, judging by the hickey—in time for recognition to hit. “Tommaso?” Keith said, surprised. His eyes flitted to the other Italian beauty standing in their doorway. Jake looked back at the two newcomers as Keith continued, “Hey, I didn’t know you had a…” Keith trailed off, reduced to wordless staring, his mouth slightly open.
Both of the Italian hotties were staring back at Keith, too, also recognizing him. They very clearly had not expected to find him here. “Keith!” said the first Tommaso, the one who’d knocked. “I thought I… that you…” But he, too, trailed off, as his eyes seemed to light on the hickey Jake had given him. Meanwhile the other Tommaso (as Jake assumed he must be) was staring past where Keith stood immediately behind Jake. Movement, and an awareness of proximity he seemed to be able to sense in his men, told him that the other Keith had gotten up too, and that there were now five of them gathered at the doorway to his room, stilled in a little tableau: two Keiths, two Tommasos, and Jake between them. They were all drinking in the ramifications of the two sets off duplicates they were seeing, but even as they did so arousal spiraled high and higher between them, cocks stiffening, blood roaring in their ears. Jake clutched the camera in his hand, wondering what it had done.
“H-how many of you are there?” the second Tommaso gasped. They seemed to have almost forgotten Jake and were staring with wide eyes at the two Keiths behind him. Jake felt hot, despite being shirtless in the chilly hallway. This was not like the passion he felt for the Keiths, which was real and personal and intimate and had escalated naturally over the last few weeks, a craving he possessed and controlled and reveled in for all its unfathomed, infinite depths. This was something else. He was wildly aroused in the presence of these fiercely attractive men, but his need was untamed and nearly ungovernable, like standing in a forest fire, and it unnerved him as much as it thrilled him.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” said one of the Keiths softly from behind him. He sounded like he was full of everything Jake was feeling, in spades.
Jake suddenly wanted to cut to the chase. It occurred to him to wonder if something had happened to the other Keith—and to Cole, too, who’d left this doorway a few hours back with Keith’s muscular arm draped around his thick, bulging shoulders. He met the Tommasos’ intoxicating eyes in turn. “There’s three Keiths,” Jake answered, his voice dry and hoarse. “Just three. These two, plus… the one I’m guessing gave you this.” He lifted up the camera. At the visual reminder the Tommasos’ expressions sobered a little. Jake knew his suspicions were right—they did have news about the other Keith, and probably Cole, too. “You guys had better come inside and tell us what’s going on,” he added, almost completing the thought with “before we all lose our minds and jump you both right here in the hallway”.
He pushed backward against the Keiths, and they made way for the two invasively attractive men. They moved into the room as one, never unclasping from each other. Jake shut the door, closing them all into Jake and Keith’s increasingly strange world.
The hike to Akahele Falls, three miles into the interior of the half-untamed Hawaiian island of Kauai, was rugged but invigorating. The narrow trail dove down sharp declines and right up the steep ridge on the other side. On a bright day like today you could bake on those inclines, and with human habitation left behind on the beach where the Reserve met the Pacific coast, whatever water you needed for the trek was what you took with you—even, ironically, if you got to the four-hundred-foot torrents of the falls themselves.
Zane was glad his companions on this shared vacation, two fellow civilian staffers from the Marine Corps base on Oahu, had begged off on the day’s hike, preferring a day lounging together in front of crashing waves and screaming seabirds in the more hospitable beaches up the coast to a grueling tramp in the Kauaian jungle. Ken and Lena inviting him along on this trip when Lena’s brother bailed had seemed like a godsend, a deliverance from the sneers of his father. The Colonel missed no opportunity to remind Zane that teaching kickboxing and other group fitness classes to Marines, instead of actually being a Marine (like himself), was little better than sweeping the streets or swilling lattes for rude tourists. So Zane had made his much-needed escape. But the Colonel’s disapprobation had followed him from Oahu in the form of passive-aggressive texts about the urgency of applying for officer candidate training as soon as possible. His father had somehow determined that Zane’s upcoming twenty-fourth birthday meant time was running out for his son’s reform, and a frontal assault was now required.
It was such a joke, Zane thought, as he paused where the trail crested a dry but verdant hilltop, taking in the wilderness around him. He adjusted the small rucksack on his shoulders as he mulled over his father’s behavior. Sure, he looked like a Marine—he was stocky and powerfully built (though lithe and limber, able to move gracefully but with power in the kickboxing ring), handsome and square-jawed enough for a recruiting poster, and he kept his sandy hair short because it looked damn good on him that way. But come on. He knew plenty of other sons and daughters of Marine officers, Lena included, but only Colonel Kirkland was such a caricature.
He took a swig from his canteen and considered. There had to be a reason for it, he mused. Maybe he should take the fight to him, and dig up exactly what was driving him to convert Zane into an unwilling image of his unhappy father.
Later, Zane thought. Right now, he was glad to be out of his father’s reach for a while. It was gratifying just to be here, to have blood pumping through his veins from a challenging hike under a warm sun and soaring blue skies, and the beauty of creation at his feet unsullied by the creep of concrete and steel that stained even the paradise islands of Hawaii. Someone to share it with would have been even better, of course. Maybe a boyfriend could even help him chart out a plan for fixing his derailed familial relationship and getting his life on track in some kind of positive direction other than Quantico. But Zane had been on his own for a long time, and he didn’t see that changing anytime soon. He didn’t give his heart easily, and he felt inclined to blame the Colonel for that, too.
He was nearly to the falls. He thought he could hear them already, a cascade as unceasing as the waves but hidden away here, a gem reserved for those willing to brave the demanding journey to meet them.
He glanced up the trail ahead and frowned. Through the foliage on the next ridge, the one that should have the best view of the falls themselves, he could just make out two figures, both with long dark hair. One had on a dark green tee, and the other, to Zane’s astonishment, appeared to be shirtless, at least from this distance. He didn’t know a lot of guys who hiked shirtless, as even a cotton tee could mean the difference in a fall between a scrape and a laceration, and tee shirts were genuinely useful for taking up sweat and protecting against the sun. Zane’s brows drew together as he tried to peer harder at the men on the next rise. There was no sign of gear. If those amateurs had hiked out here with no water and no sunscreen, they might be in some serious discomfort.
Zane, torn between irritation and concern, realized the other thing that was weird about the two strangers. They were both standing stock still, as if silently drinking in the splendor of the falls. Except… they had their backs to the falls, and seemed to be staring out at the general wilderness between themselves and the crenelated beach nearly three miles back. Their positions might make sense if they were posing side-by-side for a photograph, the twin torrents of Akahele Falls behind them; but there was no one else there on the rise, just two college kids who had somehow wandered blindly into the back-country of Kauai.
A small orange bird with a curved bill settled onto a nearby branch and stared at him, head tilting this way and that, before flitting noisily away again. “All right, I get it,” Zane said. “Keep moving!” He started moving carefully down the trail leading down from the rise. The foliage was denser here and he soon lost sight of the two men, but once he’d splashed across a lively stream and started making his way up the last incline he caught glimpses of them every few moments through the leaves and scrub. Eerily they seemed not to have moved in the slightest, but remained, statue-still, gazing back west toward nothing at all. As they came clearly into view, skylined on the ridge-top from his point of view against the deep azure sky, Zane was reminded of trail guardian statues some peoples used to ward their secret wilderness refuges; but though they did look muscled enough to be warriors, Zane, looking over the nearer one, didn’t think that many tribal peoples erected statues of men wearing American blue jeans, Vans with untied laces, and thin pocket tee shirts seemingly designed to show off perfectly sculpted pecs.
The tee shirt was slightly strained across the chest but loose around the waist, and it wiffled gently as a light breeze kicked up around them. Both boys’ hair was rippling lightly in the same breeze, the shirtless one’s long black hair and purple tips flitting across his face, but neither made the slightest reaction. The one in the shirt, he now saw, had his eyes closed, long dark lashes splayed on high caramel cheekbones, but the other was apparently staring vacantly into thin air, a small genial curving his lips.
“Hey there,” Zane said, as he stepped up onto the round level area where the two men stood. This was a regular vantage point for taking in the falls and for picture-taking with the falls behind. The impression Zane had that that was what the two were doing was even stronger now, but there was no one around to take the picture—no one but himself. When there was no response to his hail, he went on, “You guys… need any help?”
Nothing. No sale.
Zane looked between them, wondering what to do next. However much they weren’t reacting to his presence, Zane could not deny that he was having a powerful reaction to theirs. Even standing there, still and unmoving, the two handsome, muscular men were turning Zane on as intensely as if they were wrapping their arms around him and sucking on his neck from both sides. The warm, breezy air was saturated with their radiating beauty, as if they had somehow been infected with carnal, masculine attractiveness magnified far beyond what was normally possible for mere mortals. Zane’s thick, responsive cock started swelling to stiffness in his cargo shorts, fighting for Zane’s fragmented attention. Fuck, he thought, if either of these two actually moves a muscle, if they so much as look directly at me, I’m gonna cum in my damn shorts.
Zane moved toward them, almost unwilling. It was important that he touch them. Very important. The farmboy Adonis with the shirt on was a little nearer, and Zane now saw he was standing slightly forward of the other man. Zane guessed the shirtless one might be part East Asian, thickly swole and sculpted but not quite as perfectly defined and cut as his friend. They were both intoxicatingly beautiful, having already pushed Zane’s mighty cock to an aching, desperate erection and his balls roiling with too much hot seed; the farmboy Adonis was the one he moved towards now solely because he was closest.
His hands clasped around the man’s upper arms on either side, seemingly of their own accord, and it was like making electrical contact. Wildfires of unspeakable pleasure roared through him, and his heart started pounding so rapidly he feared he might die of ecstasy, here on this remote hilltop in the verdant Hawaiian wilderness. He gathered his wits and forced his focus onto the gorgeous, gym-perfected man in front of him, training his flailing mind to fix on the concern welling up from his thundering heart. The farmboy Adonis had still not reacted. His eyes were still closed, and a quick glance at the other impossibly beautiful stranger confirmed that he, too, was stiff and unmoving, his stance one of someone posing casually for another’s camera, eyes watchful and amused, but unmoving, as frozen as if he were trapped in Jurassic amber.
He turned his eyes back to the farmboy Adonis, whose arms he was still gripping. He had a mind to shake him, shouting to wake him up, but that seemed violent and possibly counterproductive. Perhaps some trauma had struck them both, some strange past they shared. It was vital for Zane to ease them back into this world.
His eyes fell on his sweet, full lips.
Once the idea of kissing the beautiful man occurred to him there was simply no resisting it. Zane’s body was telling him he must kiss the other man, but Zane knew in his bones that this was because the Adonis wanted it of him, needed it of him. He needed to be kissed, sensuously and possibly forever without surcease, as much as Zane needed to kiss him.
Not that any of those thoughts mattered. Just as his hands had acted on their own volition, wrapping around the man’s powerful, sculpted biceps out of natural instinct, so too his lips fell on the other man’s because they belonged there. He closed his eyes and it was happening, because that was what needed to happen between them, him and this man pumped full of superhuman magnetic allure.
Just the touch of their lips together, the press of Zane’s lips against his, was so pleasurable that he very nearly came just from that. He moved his lips against the warm mouth of his counterpart, eliciting a moan from his own throat.
Then, heart-stoppingly, he felt it.
The other man was kissing back.
Oh, god, he thought. He broke the kiss in sheer surprise. “You’re awake,” he blurted. But their lips found each other again almost instantly. He pressed back eagerly, in a state of utter abandon, pleasure shooting through him as though he were brought into this world merely to be a conduit for it.
Then, the sweet, beautiful farmboy Adonis opened for him.
Before Zane could even think to plunder that mouth with his tongue for the joys to be found there he started cumming, madly, unstoppably, spending jet after jet of seed into his tightly constricted briefs. Embarrassed and exhilarated all at once he tried to step back, but he found the other man was gripping his biceps, too, and they stepped back together, clasping each other tight by the arms, Zane panting heavily right onto the other man’s swollen, kiss-bruised lips.
“Hi,” said the stranger with a hint of amusement. He was pressing their foreheads together, as if urging him not to stick close, to not back away. He could feel the man’s warm, strong hands on his own arms just as he could feel the flexing biceps in his own deliriously happy grip.
Zane huffed a giddy laugh at the banality of the greeting. Fireworks of euphoria were still exploding behind his eyes, and his breath was still rasping heavily. “Hi,” he repeated back. Inside he was vowing to never let go, to never move from this level of intimate, tactile proximity with this man he did not know but felt connected to more than he ever had to anyone.
“What’s your name?” the stranger asked, forehead still pressed to his. Zane was glad that no more complicated questions were being asked. The other man’s accent was a slight, playful, southern drawl—Tennessee or thereabouts, Zane guessed. He loved it instantly, wanted to hear the other man speak sonnets and read from newspapers until the end of days.
“Zane,” he answered, mind reeling but sure of this knowledge if little else at the moment. “Zane Kirkland.”
The other man stooped to share another brief, electric kiss. Zane gasped when he broke it, his cock lurching in the wet mess it had created in his shorts, trying to harden again and mostly succeeding. “Nice to meet you, Zane,” the farmboy Adonis said coyly, clearly aware of the effect he was having on him. “My name’s Keith.”
Keith, Zane thought crazily. Keith. The only name I need to know from now on…
Fuck, what’s happening to me?
“Now, Zane, I have a very important question for you,” Keith said calmly, still without moving from their position, standing close with their faces a mere inch apart, gripping each other’s arms, spiking each other’s arousal higher and higher. “I want you to look over my shoulder and tell me if you see… another Keith.” Despite their proximity Zane tried to meet Keith’s eyes in confusion, but Keith just went on as if he were saying mundane things that weren’t impossible. “Exactly like me,” Zane said, “but still asleep. Is he there?”
Zane blinked. He decided that Keith must mean the other man. They were both muscle hunks with long dark hair, after all, though they were very different in other ways. But when he steeled himself to look, pulling back just enough to gain sight of what was standing where Keith had been earlier before stepping forward with Zane, he gasped. His knees seemed to weaken, but Keith easily held him up.
“He’s there, right? The other me?” Keith asked calmly.
Zane nodded. “Yeah,” he said, shakily. “And the other guy.”
Keith’s eyebrows raised at this. “Big muscles, no shirt, casually amused expression?” he asked. Zane nodded again, dazed. Keith took a deep breath, clearly relieved. “Cole,” he pronounced. “Thank god.”
He slid an arm easily around Zane’s shoulders and turned to face the remarkable sight before them. Zane was a couple inches shorter than Keith, which put his shoulders at a nearly ideal elevation for Keith to sling his arm around them, and Zane was amazed to find himself thinking as much about the toe-curling pleasure of this contact with his neck and shoulders as about the strange things to be seen on this tropical hilltop. Beyond was the unmatched beauty of Akahele Falls, sending up faint rainbows from its spray into the lush wild lands around them, its cascade roaring around them unnoticed this whole time; meanwhile, close at hand, stood the other intoxicating beauty—Cole, his Keith had called the shirtless marvel—and, impossibly, another Keith, still frozen as if Zane had never arrived at this vista to wake his man from frozen slumber. Or like Zane had pulled the top sheet off an ever-replenishing stack of uncanny Tennessee demigods.
“Zane,” Keith said in his ear, his southern lilt coiling around Zane’s still-pounding heart. He waited for whatever Keith would ask. “I want you to wake up the other Keith,” he went on. “Exactly the way you did me. All right?”
“By k-kissing him, you mean?” Zane said. He looked over at Keith. Keith was grinning wide, a delicious, saucy grin, and suddenly… suddenly Zane wasn’t in thrall to him, just bound to him, his partner, his other half. Only—
Fuck, if there were two Keiths… How rich would a man be, how surfeited, to have two other halves? To share his heart with two playful, bright-hearted men so deeply alluring, so mind-meltingly erotic, as devoted to him as he was to them, so desperate for his kiss, his touch, his raging cock, that Zane knew he would never want for pleasure, not ever…
Barely able to keep his breath moving, Zane forced his eyes over to the other man. “What about Cole?”
When Keith didn’t answer immediately, he looked back to see he had a mischievous expression. “I have an idea about that,” Keith said, looking over the other frozen man with glinting eyes. “I want to see if we can find a way… for him to wake himselves up.”
Keith forced himself to look away from the vivid blue eyes that seemed to be reaching into his body and setting his skin aflame from the inside. It wasn’t easy, like powerful magnets were pulling on his attention, drawing him to Tommaso’s heart-thuddingly attractive face and lips that seemed to demand the touch of his own. And when he did free his gaze, it skidded across an identical pair of equally spellbinding vivid blues, as capable of trapping him in hopeless fixation as the first. He twisted his head forcefully past them, looking instead past his own doppelgänger at the island of calm amidst all this upheaval.
As they’d all stared at each other in the doorway, lust seeming to supercharge the hormone-thickened air around them, Jake had taken charge. He’d brought the two Tommasos into the dorm room and, flicking on the desk lamp so they’d have some light in the room without the glaring overhead fluorescent beating down on them, had set them on the side of Jake’s bed to tell their story, Jake pulling up his desk chair in the space between the beds but not sitting in it right away. Instead he headed for the mini-fridge, the camera gripped firmly in his left hand. Keith and middle Keith, as he thought of his hickeyed, man-sandwich-loving other self, had followed the others from the doorway and sat down opposite the two Italian hotties on the side of his (their?) own bed, both of them having to adjust the raging boners sticking straight up past the elastic waistbands of the matching sleep shorts they’d quickly pulled on in order to avoid stabbing themselves in the stomach.
Examining the uncanny, almost ferocious attraction he was suddenly feeling for the Tommasos, Keith thought about how close the newcomers were sitting. Though he and middle Keith had sat down fairly close to each other, enough so that he could feel the heat from his other self’s bare, muscular torso (and smell the sex on him), the Tommasos had sat so close there wasn’t a sliver of space anywhere between them. Their long legs were pressed hard against each other from ankle to hip, and their shoulders were overlapped so that one had his arm clasped tightly around the other’s torso, and the other had his hand on the first one’s leg, gently squeezing his thick thigh muscle through the dark, cobalt-blue jeans. It hit Keith then that the Tommosos weren’t immune to their own raging undertow. They’re as helplessly hot for each other as we are for them, he thought. He couldn’t help but feel like this observation was as much a part of the solution as it was a component of the puzzle.
Keith glanced at middle Keith, who looked over at him, seemingly sharing similar thoughts. It wasn’t the same for them, fortunately. Oh, he was attracted to himself, there was no doubt of that, and the thought of giving himself a quick kiss flitted through Keith’s mind, especially when middle Keith’s warm hazel eyes dropped to Keith’s own slightly curved lips. He knew that if the missing Keith, the one woken up second with a kiss from Keith himself, were here, that one would be even hungrier for some Keith-on-Keith makeout action. But that was nothing on the raw, reckless attraction the Italian twins were putting out, an attraction so intense that mere proximity was trying to make his already hard dick get super-extra-hard even when he wasn’t looking at them. If what the Tommasos were feeling for each other was anything like what they inspired in Keith and (he strongly suspected) Jake, no wonder they weren’t letting each other go.
Jake returned from the minifridge with a six-pack container of green-bottled beers and began silently distributing them starting with the Tommasos, who took one each. The one being held twisted off both their caps, but they held off tasting it, watching Jake.
The Keiths both did the same, watching at Jake as he moved, and Keith was glad to feel a rush of comforting, visceral want at the sight of him. He’d woken up reveling in the press of Jake’s hard body and impressive cock against him and the touch of his hands, tentative only at first, on his broad, welcoming back; and he yearned for that now, just as he knew middle Keith thirsted for Jake’s animal kiss, salacious embrace, and thrusting cock with Keith’s eager body pressed hard against him from behind. The sight of Jake steadied him, and he felt middle Keith take a long, calming breath as he did the same. The Tommasos were like a blazing sun now, or a wild, unchecked forest fire. But Jake was—Jake. The intense passion, the unquenchable desire they felt for him wasn’t insubstantial, like fire you could feel but couldn’t grasp. It was reassuring and more centered deep in his own core, building as it did on feelings that had already been gathering and solidifying in the preceding weeks. It felt like a completion somehow.
Jake had turned to the Keiths, handing them each a cold bottle. Keith twisted the cap off absently and set it aside, still watching Jake. He knew he wouldn’t even be thinking this way if it weren’t for the insistent, uncontrollable pull of the wildly attractive Tommasos. Before he’d been happily wallowing in the fantastic thrill of messing around with Jake and, well, himself. But presented with these embodiments of mindless, mesmeric carnal desire, Keith knew more was going on. He considered his adorable, sexy, smart, kind, playful roommate, his lips red and bruised and his dirty blond hair even more of a mess than usual, and felt his heart swell. A new thought struck him, taking him by surprise. When we were having sex before, he thought, was that… making love?
He grinned unconsciously. Can three people make love? he mused. He wanted to pose the question to Jake just to see his reaction. He might get a little blush out of it, if he was lucky.
Jake, however, was too preoccupied to react to Keith’s smirk. Instead he moved to the wooden desk chair he’d set between the beds. In one quick move he turned the chair around a hundred and eighty degrees, as if he meant to sit with his back to them; then he sat backwards on the chair, making the slats of the chair’s back a protective cage for the big, visible erection twitching against his hip inside his peejays. A literal cockblock, Keith thought, amused.
Jake set the camera between his legs and twisted off his own bottle cap, placing it behind him on the chair, and took a long swig, watching the Tommasos the whole time. The others followed suit. To Keith it felt weirdly like a shared ritual—like the huddle and break before a football play, or the way his high school soccer team had gathered in a ring and slapped their right shoulders with their left hands three times in unison before the start of every game. He smiled wider, picturing the five of them, incredibly randy and boned as fuck, playing soccer against… who? An identical team of Jake and two each of Tommasos and Keiths? A side of all Keiths—or (he drew in a breath)—all shirtless, pajama-bottomed, mussed and bespectacled Jakes?
I want to see Jake kissing himself, Keith thought suddenly, and his dick flexed in enthusiastic agreement. He wondered if there was a way to share this thought silently with his fellow Keith—a little sly plotting, and they could probably make it happen.
Jake was still watching the Tommasos. “Now,” he said firmly, “tell us everything. From the beginning.”
Cole felt himself spinning, light and noise becoming confusing around him. No, not spinning—being spun. He felt the impression of hands first on his shoulders, then lifting his arms, then… His senses came to him as he realized he was falling backwards. He was going to hit the concrete of the plaza walkway. Except everything was different. Blazing bright light, loud crashing noise, verdant smells. Someone in very close in front of him—Keifer? His eyes weren’t working yet—the lighting change was too intense. Feeling himself losing his balance he instinctively grabbed hard at the broad shoulders of the dark figure. But it was already too late, and he brought down the other man with him. His back crashed hard against spongy grass, and Keifer—or whoever it was—landed right on top of him, throwing up his forearms only just in time to prevent crushing Cole under his weight.
Breathing hard, Cole stared up at the face slowly resolving out of shadow as his eyes finally adjusted to extreme brightness after having just been in the dimly lit plaza at night. He realized the shoulders he was still gripping hard were broad bare—round, hard-built delts and thick, sculpted traps. Long, black hair fell down on either side of his face, curtaining them a little from the outside, backlit purple tips seeming to glow almost incandescently in contrast. Warm breath gusted over his lips as the other man blinked, trying to focus. He studied the high cheekbones, the dark eyes with long lashes, the dark red lips, and he swallowed nervously. His pulse was already quickened from the unexpected fall, but now his heart was pounding even faster, and his whole body was reacting with it. His blood seemed to heat in his veins, warming his skin. His heavy balls tingled, and his wide, flat, uncut cock almost instantly slammed to full, complete, and aching hardness in a matter of seconds.
The other man’s crotch was pressed hard against his, and the feel of the other’s raging erection shoving against his hip was only moments behind his own.
Cole met those dark, fathomless eyes with a kind of wonder. He’d gotten a steady flow of compliments on his looks, and not just for his muscles, though his lifelong allergy to shirts since boyhood had made the easy gains he made at the gym obvious and the subject of regular comment. People seemed to like to comment on how good looking he was, especially meeting him for the first time; usually he got “handsome” from older folks and “hot” or “way gorgeous” or some variation from people his own age, but he also got “pretty” from both groups, which was cool and kind of funny. The thing was, he’d never really seen it before now. Sure, he’d look in the mirror and understand what people saw, and he’d make kissy faces at the mirror when he thought it might get a laugh out of Keifer or someone like that. But… now…
He felt the heavy, warm breaths of the guy who looked exactly like him and felt an intense rush of rightness that they were pressed this close to each other: warm, heavy pectorals mashing together… long legs intertwined, bare feet rubbing close of their own accord… groins pushed rudely against each other… rigid, flat dicks grinding in reciprocal motions with each other, their soft, thin jeans feeling like the most tenuous of separations… full, irresistible lips bare inches apart… eyes locked on each other, all emotion and desire late bare and matched need for need. Cole felt like their hot blood was roaring through both their bodies like a single system, like their intense, mighty arousal was a shared and single thing.
Their hearts were beating hard and fast. Their hot breaths were synchronizing too, which was crazy erotic.
The other Cole spoke, and his deep baritone voice seemed to pass into him and curl up in his balls and stiffen his cock even further. “Dude,” the other Cole said seriously, “you are, like, totally cute.”
They grinned in unison. “No, you are,” Cole pretended to protest, in the same solemn voice. “You are way super incredibly yummy-looking.” His hands were still clasping the other Cole’s delts, and he said, “Nice job on these, by the way.”
“Thanks,” the other Cole said with a straight face, though his dark eyes were brimming with amusement and arousal. Cole shifted his hands down and around the other’s arms, until he was sliding along the wide, flaring lats he’d grown almost without meaning to, as they’d mostly developed originally while he was focusing on other muscle groups. “There are pretty cool, too,” he said judiciously.
The other Cole nodded, biting his lower lip slightly, then said after a beat, “Want to make out for a while? Or, forever?”
“Okay,” Cole said, though inside he shivered with desire at the thought. They brought their lips together in one smooth motion. At first it was tentative, as if for all the incredible attraction and arousal they both felt there still needed to be one last test that this new duality was really a thing. The kiss quickly deepened, however, but rather than ferocious and hungry it became powerfully sensual and languid, as though they really did have forever. Cole slid his strong arms more fully around the other’s broad, bare back, and, clasping him tight, let himself melt into the kiss, their mouths and tongues and lips becoming a symphony of warm, measureless pleasure.
After a very long time, they’d broken their kiss and were staring into each other’s eyes again when they heard a familiar voice tease, “You guys need a room?”
“Sure,” Cole said, his gaze still locked on the other’s. His stomach was fluttering with too many feelings to count. Their wide, hard dicks were still rutting subtly, but with a kind of roughness, too, against each other as they moved their groins almost imperceptibly together. Cole never wanted that feeling to stop, or to be more anywhere other than in his other self’s warm embrace.
“Sounds good,” said the other Cole.
The presence of other people nonetheless reminded Cole that he didn’t know where they were or what was going on, and though he was tempted not to care he did want to understand why it was suddenly bright and hot instead of dark and cold. He met his counterpart’s gaze and saw the same conflicted feelings in his deep, hypnotic eyes, and they sighed, Cole again loving the feeling of his warm breath on his bruised and sated lips.
With some reluctance they tore their eyes away from each other. Past his make-out partner’s cascade of silky, purple-tipped hair, Cole could see that they were indeed not where they should have been. Somehow, instead of standing the deserted, gloomy plaza in the middle of the night, he and the guy who looked exactly like him were experiencing diving, soul-merging pleasure in the middle of a lush, tropical paradise, complete with what sounded like the roar of a nearby waterfall somewhere behind him. The sun was bright and the sky a vibrant blue marred only by a few small clouds and a contrail or two, and the air was warm and moist and alive with the strange, strident calls of birds and insects.
In addition to the two of them, this idyllic spot seemed to be occupied by not one but two Keiths, both much, much more attractive than he remembered. They were standing there in matching dark green shirts, jeans, and untied sneakers and aiming identical grins at them, as if they’d just come out of a photocopier. Clearly they thought the two of them grinding and making out in the grass was the most entertaining thing they’d seen in a while. There was also a very hot young Marine type who was clearly in fantastic shape, going by the extremely cut musculature showing through his sweat-dampened tee shirt. Amusingly, he seemed infatuated with both extra-enhanced-attractive Keiths, but was trying to keep a stolid look about him.
Cole considered what he was seeing, and how he’d seemed to suddenly arrive here from a much more normal world. Well… as afterlifes went, he thought, this would do just fine. Though he hoped his parents, and Keith’s dads, weren’t too debilitated by grief at whatever had happened to them in the plaza. A bomb, maybe?
Then he remembered the contrails, and frowned. There probably weren’t contrails in heaven. Cole guessed the Keiths and the Marine were probably there before he was. He remembered the hands he’d felt on his shoulders, twisting him around as he came out of whatever momentary blackout accounted for his transition here. He eyed the Keiths narrowly. “Where are we?” he asked. He aimed the question at the others generally, but he knew two Keiths was twice as much trouble, and almost certainly had something to do with all this.
“And why are there two of you?” the other Cole added, equally dubious.
“Why are there two of you?” one of the Keiths retorted merrily, his playful Southern lilt an interesting contrast to the surroundings.
“And why are you suddenly crazy attractive?” other Cole asked.
“Why are you suddenly crazy attractive?” the Keith shot back, still playfully, but with a glint in his eyes that hinted to Cole that there was at a lot more going on than a really hot make-out session with himself. Both Coles looked at him for a moment, then exchanged glances.
“You first,” Cole said with a sigh. The other Cole smiled and climbed agilely to his bare feet, then reached a hand down to help Cole to his. Cole took a second to admire his other self’s impressive chest, which was even bigger than Keifer’s if not as divinely sculpted, and which looked particularly nice from this angle, lit from above with shadows cast on the upper reaches of the six-pack below. His dick spasmed wantonly, and a tidal wave of near-climactic pleasure crashed through him, but he managed to hold off sudden, violent orgasm for now. He let the other Cole pull him up, both of them panting. wondering how long he could wait before turning back to his other self and falling to his knees, yanking down his jeans as he did so. Fuck, he knew just what that wide, beautiful dick looked like disappearing into another person’s mouth, and the idea of tasting it, of feeling for himself—shit, he was going to blast after all.
No, he had more control than that. His grandmother had raised him better. You don’t let things get to you, his gran had always said, whenever he ran home crying over school bullies or unfair teachers. You keep control of yourself for yourself. Growing up, Cole had grown increasingly astonished at how this simple advice gave him the advantage in almost any twist in his life’s road, while everyone else marveled at his placid, impervious affect no matter what was going on. Cole knew Keifer thought it was just him being constitutionally laid back and incapable of getting riled, but to Cole it was about owning what he was. Which, at the moment, was as one of two incredibly turned-on identically hot Coles standing shirtless and barefoot in a lush, jungle-set Shangri-La.
K’s approach was different. He was always charging ahead full bore on any project and in any situation. His default mode was active engagement with whatever had his attention. Like the way he’d responded to his roommate Jacob’s attraction for him with a campaign of impish goading and tantalizing, just to see what would happen. Given the massive pajama-tenting boner Pruett had been sporting that night, it seemed to be working; though as to what end his buddy had in mind, Cole wasn’t sure Keifer even knew.
Cole faced the others, square-shouldered and with his monumental arousal firmly set aside, and offered them a genial smile, and the other him did the same. He knew his wide boner was very obvious in his jeans, what with it being incredibly obvious in his doppelgänger’s, but he wasn’t very fussed about it. After all, the others were pretty obviously hard too.
Cole first moved over to the Marine. “Since Jethro here won’t introduce us…” he began. Other Cole reached the stranger a half a step ahead of him, though, and he stuck out his hand first. “Cole Yung,” other Cole said. Well, Cole thought, that cinches it. He didn’t just look like him, he was him. Unless this was all some elaborate, paranoid mind screw, and other Cole would turn around at a climactic moment and pull off a mask to reveal a young Martin Landau or something.
“Uh, Zane Kirkland,” the Marine said as they shook. He seemed to be really focusing on the two Coles for the first time, and after a frowning look up and down he zeroed in on other Cole’s bare feet and goggled, snapping his eyes up to other Cole’s and demanding, “You don’t even have boots?!” His incredulity at their unpreparedness seemed to to trump all the other baser things he was feeling, and Cole almost laughed.
Other Cole disengaged from the handshake, looking confused. “‘Boots’?” he said in his dumb jock voice, looking down at his blessedly bare feet, then back up at the Marine with an expression of extreme perplexity. “What are… ‘boots’?”
Cole moved closer and stuck out his hand, trying not to grin. After a second Kirkland shifted his frown to him, taking his hand and shaking. “Cole Yung,” he said. “No boots for me either,” he added.
“Zane Kirkland,” the Marine repeated. He let go of his hand, apparently so he could put his fists on his hips in disapproval, smooth eyebrows drawing down to shade his sharp, green-gold eyes. “We’re nearly three miles inland from the trailhead,” he said. “How did you even get up here?”
Cole almost responded, which would have involve turning to the Keiths since he himself didn’t know. But Kirkland’s statement seemed to snag on something in Cole’s brain like driftwood in a flood, and he felt his brows knit, feeling like he was on the verge of making a connection. Trailhead, he thought. Inland… He turned toward the Keiths, who were both looking at him expectantly—as if they, too, sensed he was about to put it together.
Cole snapped his fingers and pointed at the Keiths—then swiveled to point at the falls he’d heard when he’d first surfaced back into consciousness, before his attention had been swallowed up by the newly awakening other him. His thoughts went back to the saved backgrounds on the camera Keifer had borrowed. He’d seen the first one—the Eiffel Tower. Then there had been a lot of really obvious touristy selections, until finally Keith had found—
“Tropical waterfall,” other Cole said slowly and significantly, repeating the words Keith had used. They turned and looked at each other, instinctively moving closer. They blinked at each other, and then said in unison, “The camera?!”
They turned to look at the Keiths. They nodded. “The camera,” they replied, also in unison.
Fort a second, the Coles and Keiths looked at each other, while the falls crashed behind them and birds screamed their needs somewhere deep in the jungle. Kirkland stood between the two groups, watching. He seemed to be leveraging his training in waiting out a situation until he understood it as well as possible. That might be a while, Cole wanted to tell him ruefully.
Other Cole was a foot or so behind him, but now he moved up beside him and took his hand. Cole appreciated that. The idea that a strange, old-looking borrowed camera had placed a tropical waterfall behind him not in a picture but in actual reality was… disorienting. And the duplication? That must have happened at the same time, right? But Keifer was also here, and also duplicated…
“Wait,” other Cole said. “Let me get this straight. You took my picture—”
“Our picture,” Cole put in.
“—our picture, and it sent us here?” other Cole carried on. “And then you—what, took your own picture? Or had someone else do it?” The Keiths nodded. Cole said, “Why?”
“We came after you,” one of the Keiths said. “We were worried,” the other added, as if it were no big deal. People zap themselves into cameras to save their disappeared friends every day! “Of course,” the first one went on, “we didn’t know there would be a hunky Marine here to save you!”
Kirkland reddened. “I’m not a Marine,” he said—a little defiantly, Cole thought.
“Aw,” one of the Keiths said.
“I… teach kickboxing and mixed martial arts to Marines,” Kirkland went on. It sounded like there was a story there.
“That’s hot,” Cole said. “You’re even fitter than a Marine,” other Cole said. “More badass,” Cole agreed, nodding.
Kirkland ducked his chin slightly and seemed to be trying not to blush at the teasing praise. “Hey, hands off,” chided the Keiths. “He’s ours.”
Kirkland looked up at this and smiled wide. He moved to stand next to the Keiths, and they both slung an arm around him. “It’s true,” he said firmly. “I’m… theirs.” Whatever else was going on, that at least was clear to the kickboxing guru, however obviously weird it was for him to say. The Keiths both smiled at him, gratified at Kirkland confirming something they’d clearly been hoping would be true.
Cole grinned. “Yeah, well, we’re ours!” “Yeah!” seconded other Cole, but he squeezed Cole’s hand at the same time to show he meant it, and Cole squeezed back. He wanted more than anything to turn and face his companion-soulmate, and stare into his eyes and move in for the sweetest of kisses as they wrapped strong arms around each other… but: control. He wanted to take his other self’s Cole-dick into his mouth so bad his heart ached. Feeling its firm velvet steel on his tongue… tasting his own seed as he worked that wide, flat, uncut cock long before the actual hot explosion filled his mouth and scalded his fuck-abused throat…
He drew in a ragged breath and squeezed his other self’s hand again, and got another answering squeeze back. He distracted himself imagining the gibes he’d get from Keifer—like how he’d heard how he’d be the ideal boyfriend from so many girls he’d finally decided to see for himself. That drew a little smile. Keifer wasn’t wrong—he was looking forward to that.
They let the sound of the falls fill the air around them for a beat. “So, Jethro…” other Cole spoke up at length, “is there… any chance we can get back?” “The way we came, I mean,” Cole added.
The Keiths shook their heads. “Tommaso’s got the camera,” one of them said.
“Tommaso? The guy at the café?” Cole said, surprised. “He took your picture,” other Cole deduced.
“And I told him to take the camera to, uh, Jacob,” one of the Keiths said. “He must have seen me—us—disappear like I saw you disappear,” the other said. “Which means,” the first concluded, “that Jacob and Tommaso are both probably a little frantic right now.” He turned to Kirkland. “Do you have a cell on you? How close are we to coverage?”
Kirkland frowned, still getting used to being doubled-teamed by two big take-charge alpha woof-dogs like Keith. “There’s a spot a half-hour down the trail that’s line of sight with one of the cell towers near the shore,” he said after a moment. “That’s our best chance. We can call your friends, and—” Here he cast a doubtful eye at the Coles’ big, bare feet. “—I might be able to rustle up a tour helicopter to come up here and pick these two up, though it won’t be cheap.”
“Naw, we got tough feet,” Cole said. “And I feel like we should all stay together,” other Cole added, a little more seriously. Cole agreed, and the Keiths seemed to think there was some merit in this idea as well. There was stuff going on here they didn’t understand, and if the movies taught you anything, it’s that in supernatural situations you should never split up.
Kirkland gave way unhappily, and with that decided, they took one last look around their tropical idyll before trooping down the trail, the two Coles remaining firmly hand in hand.
I don’t understand,” Jake said. He tried to look at the two godly Italian hunks objectively—after all, this was all his fault, and he had a responsibility to sort this mess out and save anyone who needed saving. But literally all his body wanted to do was leap off this chair, hurl it violently aside, pounce on these identically, unbearably attractive demigods, and drive his raging, oversized dick into one or both of their tight, heavenly asses. Fuck, he’d twin himself just for the chance to fuck both of them…!
He wrenched his eyes away and took a long pull of beer, coloring in shame. Only moments before he had actually been thinking he might have fallen in love with his cocky, tender, guilelessly flirtatious and incredibly beautiful roommate, and now… Fuck, I’m the worst human being imaginable, he thought. He swallowed and tried marshaling his thoughts. He focussed his stare on the lowest drawer of the dresser that separated the two beds, mapping the minutiae of its wood-grain pattern and trying hard to ignore two sets of booted feet to one side and two big, bare, fidgety feet to the other in his peripheral vision. “What I don’t understand,” he tried again, “is, why you didn’t disappear when Kelly took your picture?”
“Oh, yeah,” one of the Tommasos said. “We didn’t tell that part.” “Kelly was confused about why I, or, uh, we—why we?… wanted the picture,” the other said. “Probably because we didn’t explain it well,” the first added—they were adapting rapidly to the dual pronouns, Jake observed. “She thought we wanted a picture of us at work, so when she saw the background…” “She fiddled around with the buttons for a second, and I didn’t realize why at first, but she must have been turning the background off.”
The rest of it they’d already told them. Kelly had freaked out when Tommaso had frozen and had gone up and shaken him violently, trying to get him to regain consciousness, and when he’d fallen forward she’d screamed at something behind him. When he’d whipped around to see what it was, he’d discovered it was himself. Since he’d expected to disappear, and was himself a little disturbed by his own frozen image (especially with Kelly still screaming), Tommaso had grabbed his frozen identical image roughly by the shoulders, needing to know if that was the real him and he’d fallen out of his physical self in some kind of out of body experience. Then the other him had grabbed his shoulders, their eyes had met, and—that was it. At some point Kelly bolted, but the Tommasos admitted sheepishly they’d been too preoccupied to notice. Since their relief had gone, they’d closed up the café and gone in search of Keith’s roommate. Jake noted that it hadn’t even occurred to them to separate, one staying at the café and maybe trying to text Kelly and the other coming here. Being apart wasn’t going to work for them, Jake reckoned—and no wonder, if they both felt for each other what he and the Keiths were feeling for them.
“Here’s what I don’t get,” first Keith—the one without the hickey—said. He was almost glaring at the Tommasos. “See, the last time I saw you, you were—you know, really good-looking.” The Tommasos seemed slightly surprised by this statement. Probably he hadn’t pinged their gaydar—he sure hadn’t for Jake, at first. “But now…”
“Now,” middle Keith stepped in, “we’re both about ready to blow a giant load in our shorts just from looking at you.” Both Keiths then looked abruptly over at Jake. “Sorry, babe,” first Keith said guiltily.
“It’s okay,” Jake said softly, filing away the unexpected endearment to cherish later. “I… it’s not just you.” He looked over at the Tommasos, feeling torn between wanting them to leave and never wanting to let them out of his sight.
The Tommasos seemed helplessly clueless on this point. “We don’t know,” one said, “but…” They turned to each other, downing in each other’s gaze almost instantly. “We feel it too,” the other said distractedly. As if unable to resist they dove into a fierce, insatiable kiss, clearly prelude to falling back into the bed on top of each other and doing right there and then.
“Knock it off,” first Keith growled, before Jake could say anything. The Tommasos pulled apart, panting, and lowered their heads contritely. “Sorry,” one said. “Yeah, sorry,” seconded the other.
Jake looked over at the Keiths. Unexpectedly, they were grinning at him. “You thought we were bad, huh?” middle Keith said.
Jake smiled fondly back at them. “I like your kind of bad,” he said, and was rewarded with a spark of lust in both pairs of gorgeous hazel eyes. Man, his dick really needed out of its cage, and making love to his Keiths for hours and hours and maybe a lifetime or two was so much more appealing than brutally nailing the Tommasos to the floor.
Okay, back on track. He tilted his head toward the fuck twins without looking over at them. “They really are different from before?” he asked. He hadn’t been using the all-night café to study, preferring to get all his reading and writing done during the day in the big study hall in the main library building.
The Keiths nodded, then seemed to consider. “They look the same,” first Keith said, “but, like, more.” “Like… you look at them now, and it yanks at your dick,” middle Keith elaborated.
Jake nodded thoughtfully. He dropped his gaze to the camera he’d set in the narrow space between his hot, needy groin and the back of the wooden chair. Setting down his beer, he lifted it up with both hands and considered it carefully.
“Gonna take a selfie?” first Keith asked with studied innocence.
The effect was kind of spoiled by the wolfish grin middle Keith cast at his other self, but Jake already had his number anyway. He gave both of them a shrewd look. “No,” he said firmly, and both Keiths made adorable pouty faces at him. Let’s see what they come up with now to get me to do it, he thought, hiding a smile.
He turned the camera over so that the display was facing him and nudged the menu button to wake up the screen. The thing felt a little less frivolous in his hands than it had mere hours ago. Some years back he’d been doing a high school paper that mentioned chimeras and had come across passing reference to ‘camera’ having the same root, so he’d looked it up and found out whoever said it was dead wrong. It was ‘camera’ and ‘chamber’ had the same root (camera obscura, the original name, meaning ‘dark (or hidden) chamber’); but it still carried the sense of things happening that were hidden and secret, out of sight, no less so now that cameras were digital conversions of light and atmosphere to ones and zeroes. And for all that they were still fallaciously cross-referenced in his head with the chimera’s inexplicable and impossible nature.
He needed to find out what had happened to second Keith and to Cole. And that was only half of it. He needed to find out exactly what this thing was… and why it had come into his life.
The camera’s display was currently showing him a blurry, jostling image of the dresser as he held it before him. He wondered what would happen if he took a picture of the dresser. Would he get two of them? Could he send it to wherever second Keith and Cole had gone? He was so tempted to turn the camera toward the Keiths, just to see their reaction at potentially being duped again, but it was fun enough just to imagine it. He checked the text at the bottom of the screen, hoping for some clues as to what had happened after second Keith had left the dorm room.
There were two indications. In the corner was the familiar numeric value, which he now knew was the duplication factor: 2X. That explained the two Tommasos easily enough, assuming Kelly hadn’t unknowingly changed this value when she’d removed the background. Next to it was another reading, MAG. Jake’s first thought was that this stood for “magnification”, as he’d originally thought the numeric indicator had meant; but this was no ordinary camera, and he’d picked up the camera to try to sort out why Tommaso had not only duplicated but become so much more… more attractive, he thought in a sudden rush of clarity.
“What?” middle Keith said, catching the change in his expression.
Jake looked up at them, eyes wide. “Magnetism,” he said, exhibiting the screen to the other four. “Someone turned on a setting that amplifies your magnetic appeal,” he added to the Tommasos.
Their awed, astonished look was as carnally stimulating as their every other expression so far, making his dick suddenly try to shove right through his pajama bottoms (which were already a little damp near the tip). Jake hastily went back to looking over the phone. “Maybe we should find the off switch for that,” he murmured to the camera. He toggled through the menu and found the saved backgrounds. He flipped through the first few and saw that they were all tourist destinations. If the camera sent people anywhere when they had one of these backgrounds behind them, the simplest thing to assume was that the camera sent them to the place that was being pictured. If the background was the Eiffel Tower, then the person being photographed had to be sent to Paris at the foot of the Tower. It was the only thing that made sense. Jake thought hard, trying to work out any other possible interpretations.
“Keith—the other Keith—he told me you should look at the pictures that have been taken so far,” one of the Tommasos said into the silence. “All of them,” the other emphasized, clearly echoing second Keith’s explicit instructions before he’d gone to never-never.
At this Jake almost looked up at the Tommasos, but he kept his eyes on the camera. Dutifully he pulled up the camera roll and opened the most recent picture. This was a nicely composed shot of Tommaso, the pre-demigod version, in the middle of his empty café; it was spoiled only by the slightly hectic look on the Italian hottie’s face. Jake scrolled back. The pic before it was second Keith, looking sexy and intense in his dark green shirt; behind him was a tropical scene dominated by a fantastic twin waterfall, and the pic looked so real that the lighting on Keith looked like the glowing sunlight of the tropical background instead of the harsh overheads of the café. Before that was shirtless Cole, looking chill and amused, with the same waterfall behind him; he, too, looked bathed in the sun like he was born to it, his impressive pecs casting dark shadows on his upper abs.
“Keith and Cole both went to the same place,” he confirmed, showing the camera around for the others to see before bring it back to examine closely. “The other backgrounds are all real places, and I’m certain this must be too. Keith said ‘tropical paradise’, right? This feels like a Pacific island somewhere.” He bit his lip, pondering everything he knew. “The other backgrounds are all really famous places, like the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. I bet this is too. It won’t be someplace obscure, not if the others are like that.”
“So, like… Guam or something?” middle Keith asked.
“Tahiti? Bora Bora?” first Keith suggested.
“Could even be someplace more obvious, like Hawaii,” Jake mused.
“So—they’re okay?” the Tommasos said together.
Jake offered them a brief smile. “Definitely,” he told them. Their grins were huge and heart-stoppingly beautiful, and it was some relief that they turned them on each other. This had the inevitable result of more kissing, and Jake looked quickly away. He drew in a deep breath, surprised at how relieved he felt. The guys were somewhere real and would probably call once they made their way out of paradise and found a phone, none the worse for wear—though he didn’t hold out much hope for the swift completion of their group physics project.
Remembering that he’d been in the middle of going through the camera roll, he continued on and thumbed to the previous picture. This one he recognized, and seeing it again made him grin broadly: Keith, arms akimbo in a superhero pose, wearing only a towel that deliciously set off his golden skin.
“That’s me, I know it,” first Keith crooned.
“Has to be,” middle Keith agreed smugly. Jake didn’t look up, but he could hear their smirks. He loved it. He wanted to tell them that seeing this pic made his big, heavy cock jump even more than the Tommasos, but then… handing them their victories wasn’t nearly as entertaining.
Jake thumbed to the last pic, and his heart jumped. The picture was very close in, showing only the face and a bit of the orange lockers behind him. It was his jock freshman brother Joe, looking cocky as fuck, and with a lot less reason to be than Jake’s smug but sweet and totally charming roommate. Joe, who he was willing to bet knew more about this camera than Jake had figured out in a single night of misadventures—who might know about features and transformations Jake and the others hadn’t even discovered yet. His asinine kid brother, who might be the key to finding out who made this camera, and why it had come into their lives—because whatever that purpose was, he’d be naïve to assume it was altruistic and benevolent.
He showed the two Keiths, and they nodded in recognition, all three of them studiously ignoring the Tommasos feverishly making out on the other bed. “Guys,” Jake said, “I think we know where we need to go next to get to the bottom of this camera thing.”
Joe looked around at four identical crooked grins and tossed them all one of his own. This was the most audacious thing ever! They’d be talking about for years—maybe even a decade! “You ready, brahs?”
“You know it,” another Joe said.
“Let’s rock it!” still another said.
“Yeah! Then let’s fuck it!” laughed a fourth.
“You guys want to find a couple guys and get busy after?” Joe asked, knowing the answer.
“Hey, who needs anyone else?”
“Yeah, we can take care of ourselves!”
“Though a hottie or two in between us…”
“Taking on five big Pruett wangs at once!”
“That’s a lot for a hot twink to take,” Joe snickered.
“Yeah, we better get two or three in case we wear ‘em out.”
“Fuck, brahs, don’t get us all boned up!”
“Hey, it’s all right,” Joe said. “A little chub’s part of our intimidation factor. C’mon, brahs, let’s do it!”
They trouped up the ramp in a loose V and stepped into the Vargas Center, the venue for their school’s Division II basketball team, radiating cocky, self-assured arrogance. This… this felt right. This was where he belonged—no where they belonged. Sure, it was a little weird being this tall, and he was still getting used to the feedback loop of five of him all egging each other on—he’d never admit it, but listening to himself he was starting to understand his stick-in-the-mud nerd brother’s disdain at how reckless and impulsive he was. Well, fuck, this was pretty impulsive—and so amazing. And if they’d had to sneak around all afternoon, staying hidden until the moment was right, and if they’d had to swipe these jerseys from the laundry bin when no one was looking… well, who cared? Because this was going to all be worth it.
Coming out onto the court Joe passed a rack of balls and took one. The loud reverberation of his dribbling drew the attention of the team, who were gathered in a group near the paint under the far basket, going over something on a clipboard. Joe didn’t see the coaches, which was all to plan—he’d scheduled this encounter for the players-only midnight practice, a pre-season tradition that went back nearly sixty years. It was just them, and all five of him: tall, strong, and fucking dominant.
They were all looking up at them, staring in visible shock. Joe felt the smirk creep onto his face again. He pounded the ball one more time against the highly polished court surface, loving the sound of sharp, rebounding smack echoing in an otherwise silent arena, then palmed the ball and aimed the full intensity of his crooked grin at the awestruck team.
This was his chance. His stomach fluttered, but knowing there were four more of him standing right behind him—four more improved and augment Joes, stronger and bigger and more awesome like him—gave him a boost of confidence. He’d had the words circling in his head this whole time, and his heart pounded hard as he finally got to say them. “Hey boys,” he said. “What do you say you all step aside… and let us show you how it’s done.”
The guy at the center of the group handed the clipboard off to one of the others and moved forward. Joe recognized him, and his grin faltered just a little, though he propped it up quickly. This was Clyde Cruz, the team captain. He was 6-foot-8 of hard, lithe muscle and serene, unflappable no-shit-from-anyone attitude. Unlike the others, his scruffy-bearded jaw had not dropped open, and his flinty eyes were not filled with stunned wonder. He was walking toward them, staring hard, and only the knowledge of having four Joes literally at his back kept him from giving ground. Well, fuck if he was 6-foot-8—Joe had four inches on him now. All five of him did! He tried to stand as tall and straight as he could, and met Clyde’s stare with every morsel of confidence he had.
Clyde kept coming until he was standing in front of Joe, barely a foot away. Joe was looking down at him now, but it didn’t help as much as he thought it would.
In one swift move Clyde knocked the ball right out of Joe’s hand. It went bouncing away randomly toward the sidelines, each smack sounding even louder than the ones he’d made dribbling his way onto the court. “Hey!” Joe protested, instantly cringing inwardly at how pathetic he sounded. The ball kept making smaller and smaller bounces until it finally rolled against the side of the stands and stopped.
The arena was silent for a moment, then Clyde spoke, and it felt like his voice filled the entire space more effectively than if he’d had a microphone and the use of the stadium speaker system.
“What’d you do to yourself, freshman?” Clyde asked.
This wasn’t quite how he’d expected to be asked—there wasn’t much wonder in that voice, and in fact Joe thought he heard some horror under that steel. Still, he’d prepared an answer, so he said, “I was fruitful… and multiplied.” Then he winced again internally—that didn’t even make sense, and it was obvious as soon as he said it. “Fruitful” didn’t mean the same thing as “made myself seven feet tall and ripped as fuck”. Shit, this was so stupid—!
“How?” Clyde said. One word, and the whole encounter had suddenly slipped completely away from him. Joe just swallowed, staring down at the man dominating him. Clyde’s eyes narrowed. “Just because you somehow managed to do all this to yourself doesn’t mean a damn thing,” he said sternly. “Just because you’re this tall and built doesn’t mean you’ll get to play—it doesn’t even mean you can play worth a damn. I bet you don’t even know how to play now. I bet you suck even worse than you did at tryouts, freshman!”
“Hey—!” Joe protested again weakly. He could feel the other Joes behind him, their quailing palpable at his back. He tried to will them to be strong, but there really wasn’t a psychic connection however much he’d hoped there’d be—and he wasn’t feeling very strong himself.
“Shut it!” Clyde said, and stared down the taller, no-longer-cocky freshman and his clone posse until he’d thoroughly demonstrated who was in control here. Joe realized with dread that the others on the team were filtering up the court to stand behind Clyde, though his eyes stayed riveted on the man who’d undone in a few iron words everything he’d fantasized about forever.
“What did you think would happen, freshman?” Clyde persisted ruthlessly. “Did you think that since there were five of you, you’d just walk in here and take over? And we’d all step back and—wait, you actually said it! You’d ‘show us how it was done’.”
“I—” Joe started to say, though what he would have said he didn’t know.
“And this!” Clyde said, gesturing to the Joe’s crotches. “Guys, check this out. They came up here totally commando, without jocks!” The others started snickering, and he addressed the Joes again. “Like we’d be intimidated by your big impressive dicks, instead of thinking what tools you are for thinking you could actually play basketball with your junk slamming around in your shorts!”
Joe shivered with embarrassment as the others laughed. He couldn’t explain they’d barely been able to get the shorts and jerseys—and he’d only had shoes because he’d been wearing his basketball sneaks with his street clothes when he replicated.
“What dickwads,” sneered Mekhi Salas, one of the forwards.
Clyde fixed his gaze on Joe’s, showing him the same hard, intimidating expression that had made entire opposing teams quiver and fold. “How,” he said again.
Joe shook his head. “Secret,” he said. He felt like he was going to be sick.
Clyde’s eyes bore into him. “A secret that definitely should not be in the hands of—what’d you call them, Khi?”
“Dickwads,” Mekhi repeated, his tone dripping with scorn.
“A secret that definitely should not be in the hands of five moronic dickwads,” Clyde said, as if there could not be a more true statement in the universe. The others murmured agreement.
Joe said nothing. His heart was stuttering and his stomach was full of ice water. He wondered if cutting and running was a good idea at this point, if it wasn’t already too late for that.
“Hey,” Bodie Wall, the other forward, broke in, “wouldn’t the military be really interested in this?”
“Yeah,” said a skinny, pale player whose name Joe didn’t remember. “They’d probably do anything to find out what could make one of their soldiers taller and stronger…”
“And then manufacture ‘em in quantity,” said Bodie, “like—what did they call that army in that Star Wars movie, with all the clones?”
“The clone army?” Mekhi deadpanned.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Bodie grinned. He turned that grin on the Joes, and suddenly it seemed a bit feral. “I bet they’d carve you guys up good to figure that out.”
Joe felt the color drain out of his face. He actually thought he might black out if he didn’t hold it together. Shit, he thought, this is not going like I planned!
“Your choice, freshman,” Clyde said. “Fix the mess you made of yourself… or I’ll make you regret ever picking up a basketball.”
Joe rallied as best he could. “When did you become my dad?” he tried to shoot back.
In a lightning motion, Clyde reached up and snatched the fabric of Joe’s jersey in his fist, yanking him down to eye level. “When you walked onto my court and threatened to fuck up my world!” Clyde ground out. “This team and this game mean everything to me, and I will not let tools like you fuck it up!” He pulled him down closer, so they were almost nose to nose. “Now CHOOSE!” he roared.
“I can’t! I don’t know how!” Joe babbled suddenly, all pride gone. “I don’t even have it any more!”
“Don’t have what?” Clyde demanded, eyes blazing.
“The camera!” Joe said in a rush. “I sent it to my brother because I wanted him to get laid!”
There was a quiet pause in which no one spoke. “Dickwads,” Mekhi said finally, sounding disgusted.
Clyde let go of Joe’s jersey, and Joe slowly straightened to his new height. “Does your brother go here?” Clyde asked, in a too-reasonable voice.
“Yes,” Joe said. “Jacob. He’s in South Tower. Room 438. He’s a sophomore. Psych major, you know,” he added, “total nerd.” He said this last with a nervous laugh, like he might still gain points with his fellow jocks.
Mekhi fixed him with a steely glare. “I’m a psych major,” he said coldly. Joe shut up.
“Then I suggest,” Clyde said, still sounding much too calm, “that you and I go pay your brother a visit, and get this idiocy resolved before my head explodes.” His eyes shifted behind Joe and he added, “Bring one of your posse with you, just so Jacob gets the full picture of just how dumb you are—though I suspect he already knows only too well. The rest can stay here where Khi and the guys can keep an eye on them.” To Mekhi he said, “I’ll be back in half an hour.” When Mekhi nodded, Clyde turned without another word and headed for the ramp. Joe considered balking, but it was way too late for that now. He turned over his shoulder to his whey-faced other selves and said to one of them at random, “Come on.” Then he turned and followed Clyde off the court, his other self close behind, neither of them feeling the seven feet of power and pride they’d been saturated with only moments before.
There was one sliver of possibility. Jacob often rolled his eyes at his brother’s reckless antics, but he always stood up for Joe against any outsider. Maybe, just maybe, Jacob could make this all turn out okay… and if he was really lucky, he might get to keep his height and muscle, and maybe an extra Joe or two just for fun? If he could convince Jacob it would be just for laughs and no one would get hurt, and Clyde’s precious world wouldn’t be threatened, wasn’t there was just the faintest outside possibility this would all work out kind of awesome after all?
He straightened his back, and, his fellow self moving up alongside him, he let himself head for his brother’s dorm with just that narrow ray of hope.
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