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Series: Six Pack Pleasures

Mariposa honeymoon: A six-pack story

By Cris Kane

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

Updated5 Jan 2019



8 Parts tap bar to showtap bar to hide

Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek smirked. “Oh, si, muy muy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus grinned and said, “Muchas gracias.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m texting Pierce, like you said.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sure he does,” Chuck said dryly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Or making Chris Hemsworth wear a shirt.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 6

Charles had never felt comfortable relaxing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Seize the day.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t have a picture,” Derek said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What the fuck?”

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

“Ohhh-kay?”, Beau said skeptically.

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

Beau nodded. “Sure, the Mariposa bottles?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” The kid grinned. “Thanks.”

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

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

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

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

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

Todd looked at Charlie. “Know what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek looked back blankly. “Charles?”

“Yeah. Your buddy? Charles? Remember?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlie, despite himself, laughed his ass off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You don’t think you’ve had enough?”

“Is enough ever enough?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yo,” Beau said cheerily.

“S’up,” replied Charlie affably.

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

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

Part 8

After a couple of wrong turns in the mirrored hallway, Charlie emerged in the bar and saw Derek waiting at the bar alongside a pair of shotglasses and two bottles of Corona. Charlie walked over toward him, wondering why he wasn’t still on the smoking patio. “What are you doing here?”

Derek turned toward the voice and backed away to take in the enormity of the pumped-up redhead. His semi-familiar features set off a flurry of fireworks in Derek’s synapses. In a flash, he realized he was staring at his husband, modified well beyond this morning’s improvements and registering considerably higher on the hotness meter. “Holy shit! Charles?”, he said.

After being on the receiving end of a blank stare on the smoking patio, Charlie was relieved to be recognized. “I thought I told you to wait for me.”

Derek may have been baked, but he knew that didn’t jibe with his own memories. He had no way of knowing that Charlie wasn’t referencing what had happened between the two of them at the hotel this afternoon, but a more recent conversation with the nearly identical person who was still waiting patiently for him on the patio. “Hang on a second,” Derek shouted back. “You’re the one who left me without telling me where you were going!”

Not wanting to make a scene in the middle of the packed club, Charlie took Derek by the arm and tugged him toward the front door. Derek dragged his heels, not wanting to leave the drinks behind, but Derek’s spindly body had no chance of resisting the strength of strapping young Charlie. Once they stepped outside underneath the street lights, Charlie became aware of Derek’s earrings, not having noticed them on the patio. “When did you get those earrings?”

Derek tried to reconstruct the day, but the best estimate he could offer was “Earlier?”

“Honestly, I like ‘em. They go with your whole… getup.”

Derek leaned forward, his hands irresistibly drawn toward the shelf of Charlie’s enlarged pecs. “I like your whole getup too.” He pushed Charlie against the side of the club and raised himself on tiptoes to kiss him. His teeth gnawed on Charlie’s lower lip, and Charlie responded by clutching Derek’s ass in both hands. Charlie’s temporarily tamed cock regained its stiffness, a development that did not escape Derek’s notice. Derek swooned, taking hold of the neck straps of Charlie’s Iowa tank top for balance. The bright yellow shirt distracted him. “Where’d you find an Iowa shirt in Mexico?”

Charlie hadn’t expected such a left-field question in the middle of a makeout session. “Oh, uh, I ran into your cute little blond admirer from the exercise park. Sweet kid.”

Derek nodded, making the mental link between the smitten kid from the park and the crying kid with whom he had collided at the front door, although that still didn’t explain why Charlie was wearing the shirt. Feeling feisty, Derek was tempted to tear the shirt right off Charlie’s body, but as he yanked on the collar, Charlie pushed his hands away. “Don’t rip it, okay?” Charlie requested, “it’s a loaner.”

“Okay, fine,” Derek said begrudgingly. Still feeling the desperate need to release his excess energy and shred something, he clutched his own tank top in his fists and ripping the cloth straight down the center, exposing his tatted torso.

“Oh, man, you’re so damn hot,” Charlie exclaimed.

“I thought you thought I was a freak.”

Charlie couldn’t exactly remember saying that, but he was definitely turned on by Derek now. “Well, maybe I’m a freak too!” Now it was Charlie’s turn to trap Derek’s lip between his teeth and twist. Derek growled with satisfaction.

As gawking pedestrians walked past, Charles and Derek commenced what was, by a considerable margin, the most public display of affection in their years as a couple. The previous holder of this title was their comparatively chaste kiss two days earlier as they were pronounced husband and husband.

Inside the club, Beau had returned from the bathroom, surprised that he couldn’t spot Derek anywhere. Eventually, he caught a glimpse of purple plumage through the glass door that led to the outdoor smoking area. He cut through the crowd and went outside, asking playfully, “You tryin’ to hide from me?”

As Chico looked across the patio and saw Beau, his bored expression transformed into a beaming smile. He instantly recognized the surfer from the hotel room where he’d scored the Mariposa, and now that very same surfer was inexplicably swaggering his direction. With no apparent effort on his part, Mariposa had transformed Chico into a hot-dude magnet. Life was fucking awesome.

Beau excitedly announced, “Hey, guess what! I just saw Chuck in the bathroom.”


Goddammit, Beau thought, not this again. “Chuck? The guy you’ve been looking for?”

“Fuck Chuck.” Whoever he was. Chico was overwhelmed as Beau, the Mariposa, and the ecstasy joined forces to pin the needle on his libido. “You’re the guy I’ve been looking for!”

Chico gave Beau a playful shove, knocking him backwards into a bench. As his calves made contact with the bench, Beau’s knees bent and he had no choice but to sit down. Chico straddled Beau’s lap and brushed his fingers through Beau’s long golden tresses. He bent forward and surrounded Beau’s lips with his own, sticking his tongue between Beau’s teeth.

Beau offered mild wordless protestations which turned into muffled yelps which quickly devolved into satisfied moans. In his mind, Beau kept repeating that this was terribly wrong and he had to stop it, but he couldn’t deny that he’d been fighting the impulse to make a move on Derek all day. Maybe, he thought, he should just relax and let the little punk indulge his urges for a minute. Maybe that would get the temptation out of both of their systems. This seemed like a reasonable theory to Beau, but then again he was incredibly stoned and just as incredibly horny. One minor question nagged at him, though: where had Derek’s earrings gone?

Outside the front of the club, Charlie had become aware of an audience of passersby and curious clubgoers gathering to watch him and Derek make out. He reluctantly pushed Derek back and said, “I think we better stop before we get arrested for public indecency.”

“Is that even a thing down here?”, Derek asked, unwilling to stop so abruptly.

“Tell you what,” Charlie suggested. “Let’s go back to the hotel and do this in, like, a real bed. Wouldn’t that be a lot more comfortable?”

Although the public setting was a big factor in turning Derek on, he couldn’t argue against Charlie’s idea. “Okay,” Derek conceded, backing away reluctantly. They heard a collective moan from the direction of the sidewalk.

“Sorry, guys. Show’s over,” Charlie announced to the disappointed spectators. “Any of you know how I can get a cab around here?” Three of the watchers raised their hands to indicate that they were cab drivers. Charlie turned to Derek and gestured toward the street. “Take your pick.”

Derek squirmed, unsure when he had last taken a whiz. “Lemme just use the can first.” He picked the remnants of his tank top off the ground and flung them in the trash on his way back into the club. On the way to the men’s room, he spotted the drinks he ordered still sitting on the bar. He decided that it was more urgent to relieve himself before he could even think about taking on any more liquid. He headed down the hall, keeping his hands on the mirrored walls to maintain his bearings. No matter how many times he saw his punked-out reflection, it still caught him by surprise. In a way, he felt sad that his brief time as a rebel would soon be ending, but he was determined to go out with a bang. Maybe a few bangs, if he could hold out that long.

Back on the smoking patio, Beau had surrendered to his lust, sitting motionless as the punk stripped away Beau’s shirt and slurped his tongue through the cleavage of Beau’s pecs. Conflicted, Beau had eventually settled on the rationalization that, as long as he didn’t instigate any touching, then he wasn’t the aggressor in this situation and therefore could not technically be blamed for any possible infidelity in which he may, in fact, currently be a passive, albeit willing, participant. He wasn’t sure if this legal theory would hold up in court, but it was the best his stoned brain could conjure up at the moment. Beau could feel himself edging closer to a climax, so he was surprised when he felt the weight rising off his lap and noticed the cessation of all licking-related activities. He opened his eyes and saw the skinny punk mincing across the patio, holding his knees close together. “Are we done?”, Beau asked.

“Gotta go pipí,” Chico informed him as he scooted back into the club, leaving Beau stranded on the bench with a raging stiffy that would complicate any attempt to stand up. Beau decided he might as well enjoy himself during this unexpected intermission and stuck his hands into his pants pockets in search of relief.

In the men’s room, Derek was having trouble getting his flow going, as a large hairy man in a studded leather jockstrap and harness was sagging against the wall at the next urinal over. “I like your ink,” the big man declared.

As Derek glanced over and nodded awkwardly, he noticed that his admirer’s gaze wasn’t fixed on the plentiful tattoos adorning his arms and body, but was fixated specifically on the barbed-wire design along the length of Derek’s shaft. Derek shifted his body to shield his dick from view, but remained pee-shy, feeling the other man’s hot wheezing breath across his bare back. “And we’re done,” Derek announced, reholstering his cock in his shorts and leaving as fast as possible.

Derek pinballed his way down the mirrored corridor until he slammed head-on into one of the wall panels. At first, he thought it was one of the clear plastic partitions, but as he looked up, he saw himself faithfully reproduced on the other side, staring back with a puzzled grin. It was a peculiar experience to see a smile on his reflection’s face when he was positive that he himself was not smiling. Maybe smoking all of that pot when he was already under the influence of Mariposa had not been the smartest thing he had ever done. He shook his head vigorously, hoping to get the image out of his head and regain his bearings. Convinced that he must have made a wrong turn, he spun around and walked deliberately down the passageway, not noticing that his “reflection” was still standing motionless, staring into space, equally perplexed.

Of all of that he had experienced through the course of this day, Chico decided that seeing his own reflection walk away from him had to be the trippiest, unaware that he had in fact been staring through a plexiglass divider at the person who had consumed the other half of that fateful Mariposa bottle. Chico wrote off this encounter with his doppelgänger as an ecstasy-fueled hallucination and turned in the direction he had come from, winding up in the bar area, disoriented and still carrying around an undrained bladder. Behind the bar, Manolo noticed Chico and waved him over. “Señor, don’t forget your drinks.”

Chico pointed to himself and asked, “For me?” Manolo nodded, making a mental note that the punk had perhaps reached his limit. Not one to pass up free booze, Chico meandered to the bar and slammed down the tequila shot. As he picked up his beer, he sensed the shadow of someone large hovering behind him. He turned and saw the sexy redhead who had dragged him out to the smoking patio. “You’re Charlie, right? Have a drink! They’re gratis!” He gestured to the shot and beer remaining on the bar.

Charlie looked at Manolo, who nodded in confirmation. Charlie picked up the shotglass and thought out loud, “Not sure I need any more alcohol today… but free is free, right?” He choked down the tequila, chased it with the beer, and capped it with a belch. “Okay, vamonos,” he said, taking Chico by the arm, “taxi’s waitin’.”

Chico glanced toward the patio, knowing the surfer was still waiting for him there, then looked back at Charlie. He would never have known that it would be so easy to attract the attention of two major studs, particularly the way he currently looked. He guessed that guys must really be turned on by tattoos. Although he couldn’t believe he was letting a total stranger drag him away like this, he wasn’t about to say no. He did, however, have one request as they reached the front door. “I need to go pipí.”

Charlie looked down at him impatiently. “I thought you just went pee-pee. Screw it. You can hold it ‘til the hotel.” He pulled Chico’s arm like a leash, leading him toward the idling cab.

“We don’t need a taxi,” Chico informed Charlie. “I got a car.”

That stopped Charlie in his tracks. “You rented a car?”

“No, I bought the car,” Chico replied defensively

Charlie knew first hand that one of the effects of Mariposa was compulsive behavior, but this was too much. “Why in the world would you buy a car?”

Chico grew indignant and proud. “I got a job. I can buy what I want.”

Charlie couldn’t believe this wild extravagance, but did not feel like arguing the issue. “I don’t think either of us is any shape to drive. Let’s just take the taxi now and sort it all out in the morning.” He held open the rear door and Chico cautiously slid into the back seat. When Charlie gave the driver the name of the hotel where Chico worked. Chico considered making a last second leap from the car, but the thought of going to bed with Charlie was clouding his judgment. After everything he had already done today, he wanted to see where Mariposa would lead him next.

After the unnerving experience at the “mirror”, Derek was even more confused when he found himself back in the men’s room. The leather man was still draped over the urinal, mumbling something about needing baby powder. Derek slid quietly into one of the toilet stalls, careful not to let his admirer notice that he had returned. Derek pulled out his dick and leaned against the side of the stall, determined to empty his bladder, no matter how long it took. He nearly nodded off while he waited for his system to shift into pissing gear, but after a couple of minutes, things finally started to flow. When he emerged, the man in leather was still propped up and babbling, so Derek cautiously tiptoed out of the room.

This time, he paid precise attention to where he was going as he walked down the mirrored hallway, wishing he had left himself a trail of breadcrumbs or peanut shells or something. This time, he breezed past the clear plastic panel without even noticing it and was back in the bar more quickly than he expected. He felt like he had earned that shot and that beer now, but when he stepped over to the bar, the drinks were gone. He gestured to Manolo. “What happened to my drinks?”

Manolo looked at Derek sideways. “You… drank them?”

“What do you mean?”

Manolo spoke slowly. “You and your friend – the tall one with the long hair – you just drank them. I watched you myself.” Now Manolo was positive it was time to stop serving the punk.

“Any idea where my friend went?”

Manolo shrugged. “I thought he left. With you.”

Derek hadn’t anticipated that this day had the potential to become any stranger, yet here he was. He wandered aimlessly around the club, trying to spot Charles, but didn’t see him anywhere. He headed out the front door, but there was no sign of his husband there either. Now that the gawkers had dispersed, things were pretty dead outside of the club. The only movement he noticed was a single taxi about a block away.

Derek returned inside and leaned his elbows on the bar, trying to focus his thoughts. He hailed Manolo and asked, “Can I get a shot of tequila?” Booze might not help his thought process, but at this point, what could it hurt?

“Sorry, señor,” Manolo informed him with a regretful look, “I gotta cut you off.”

“What the… ?” Derek pounded a fist on the bar indignantly, but his anger dissipated quickly. He wondered if that meant that the Mariposa which had been riling him up all day was finally starting to lose its potency. He could already feel himself feeling more like himself, even if he still looked like he was the bass player in a second-rate Green Day cover band. He apologized to Manolo and walked away meekly to keep searching for Charles.

As Derek passed the door to the smokers’ patio, he noticed Beau sitting blissed-out on a bench, shirtless and manspreading. Derek stepped outside and walked over to him, detecting the telltale scent of ganja. Beau looked up, his eyes barely open. “Oh, there you are. I thought you ditched me.”

“Sorry.” Derek hadn’t intended to leave Beau unaccompanied for so long. He pointed to the marijuana cigarette dangling between Derek’s fingers. “You holdin’ out on me? I thought you said your last joint was your last joint.”

“Turns out I was wrong. Guess I’m too stoned to count. Want some?” Beau held the joint out to Derek, but he waved it away. He was starting to get a different sort of buzz from his slowly encroaching sobriety and didn’t want to start altering his mind again.

Derek sat down dejectedly beside Beau. “I think Charles took off without me. Again.”

“NOW you remember Charles?”, Beau said, throwing up his hands in resignation.

“I feel like calling him and telling him just where he can stick it… but I’ve still got his damn phone!” His mood became more charitable. “I guess I can’t totally blame him. It’s that fuckin’ Mariposa!”

Beau slid his hand along Derek’s bare back, hoping to comfort him. “I’m sorry, man.”

“It’s not your fault,” Derek said. “If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s our friend Pierce. He’s the one who bought the stuff. No wonder the fucker’s been avoiding my messages. Guilt over sabotaging our honeymoon.”

Beau’s hand stopped moving. “I’m sure your friend didn’t mean to sabotage… “

Derek waved his hands in the air to cut off Beau. “Fuck it! I don’t wanna talk about it any more. I don’t wanna talk about anything any more. I’m in Cancun. It’s a gorgeous night. I’m sittin’ with this crazy hot guy. I am gonna enjoy myself, dammit! I am taking a stand! I refuse to let Charles ruin any more of my honeymoon!” He stood up and stretched his arm toward Beau. “Would you like to dance?”

Beau looked up cautiously, not wanting to piss off Derek further. “You sure that’s what you want?”

“That is exactly what I want.”

“Okay, then.” Beau took a final puff, slapped his hands on his thighs, and rose to his feet. He strode to the patio door and held it open for Derek.

A rare ballad was playing as they reached the dance floor. When slow dancing, Derek and Charles always switched off on who would take the lead, but Derek automatically ceded that role to the bigger, stronger Beau, leaning as close to the surfer’s bare chest as his mohawk would allow. Beau wrapped one arm around Derek’s shoulders and placed his other hand in the small of Derek’s back. The two swayed together in silence for a minute or two when Beau spoke softly. “Listen, Derek, I need to tell you… “

Derek lifted a finger to Beau’s lips and went “Shhhhh!”

Beau tried to continue anyway, despite the silencing digit. “But I just want… “

Derek stared up at him, exhausted. “Do you hafta talk? Can’t you just dance and look pretty?”

Beau thought for a moment, then smirked. “Sure, I can do that.” He pulled Derek in tightly and rested his cheek cautiously against the side of Derek’s head.

The taxi ride had drained Charlie and Chico of their energy. After being in near-constant motion for most of the day, they were each hit by a wave of exhaustion as soon as they finally had a moment to sit still. The driver was on the verge of threatening to splash them with water when he finally coaxed them out of his taxi.

They staggered down the hotel hallway, Charlie leaning on Chico like a human crutch to prevent him from collapsing onto the floor. Even accounting for his increased size, Charlie had consumed a debilitating amount of alcohol, likely downing more beer in one day than Charles had imbibed in his previous 31 years. For his part, Chico’s brain felt so fried, he had lost interest in fucking for tonight, although he was definitely still down to cuddle.

Charlie struggled to remember which room was their suite, unsuccessfully trying the room next door first before getting his key to work in the proper door. He and Chico stumbled inside, flipping on the lights.

Chico couldn’t believe what awaited inside. The gaping hole in the bedroom wall. The Mariposa six pack on the bar, with two full bottles remaining. He had somehow landed right back in the room where this all had started. He looked at Charlie and instantly realized that the lumbering redhead might also be a creation of Mariposa. No wonder he seemed too good to be true, Chico thought. Without thinking, Chico let his grip on Charlie loosen, and the big man fell slack, tumbling to the floor like a human-sized sack of potatoes. Charlie looked up, dismayed. “What the fuck, man? Help me get to the bed.”

“Sure, sure, señor,” Chico said, shifting back into helpful bellboy mode. He encircled both arms around Charlie’s waist, dragged him into the bedroom, and dumped him onto the bed face down.

Charlie sank into the mattress as he felt the room start to revolve slowly around him. “Thanks, honey,” he said as his eyes slid shut. Within a minute, Chico could hear him snoring.

Chico sat down on the other side of the bed with the intention of resting five minutes to recharge his batteries before sneaking out. He couldn’t risk being here when the Mariposa wore off. If one of his co-workers spotted him, he’d be in big trouble, and if Charlie woke up and discovered that the tattooed punk he thought he had brought back to his room was actually one of the hotel staff, it would be obvious that Chico had pilfered some of the guest’s very expensive transformation potion. Chico had been severely reprimanded once for sneaking a mini-bottle of vodka from a guest’s minibar, so he assumed that Mariposa theft would be grounds for instant termination. He couldn’t afford to lose his job. All he needed was ten minutes tops to recuperate, and then he would be out of there.

Chico lay back, struggling to find a comfortable position. Eventually, he constructed a pyramid of pillows, wedging his purple spikes strategically between two of them. If he had learned one valuable lesson from today, it was that he would never ask a barber for a mohawk. They were a pain in the ass. There had to be easier ways to look cool. On the other hand, he was already daydreaming about what kind of tattoos he wanted to get on his body once these temporary ones had faded. At least he assumed they would fade. For something he had willingly, even eagerly, ingested, Chico knew almost nothing about what Mariposa actually did or what after effects he could expect.

Once he’d found his ideal resting position, Chico was so comfortable, he didn’t want to move. He decided he would give himself fifteen minutes of rest. Then he would be on his way for sure.

Three minutes later, Chico had fallen into a heavy slumber.

After all of the mind-and-body-altering substances he had consumed over the past ten hours or so, Derek was amazed by the power of a little dancing to spark an endorphin rush and boost his mood. It didn’t hurt to have a partner like Beau, who looked even better in motion than he did standing still.

When the DJ announced that he was looking for karaoke singers, Derek looked at Beau. Typically, Derek was only slightly more adventurous than Charles when it came to being a public spectacle, but today was not about doing the typical thing. “Wanna sing something?” Beau shrugged ambiguously, so Derek probed further. “What’s that mean? You wanna or you don’t?”

Beau spoke cautiously. “You said no talking. Didn’t know if that meant no singing either.”

Derek chuckled. “Well, I wanna sing, which means you gotta do it with me.” He took Derek’s hand and led him through the dancers toward the DJ booth where they studied the list of available songs.

“What are you thinkin’?” Beau asked.

Derek had already flipped to section for artists beginning with “P”. “I”m thinkin’ Prince,” he said, pointing to his purple mohawk. “I’ve even got the right color hair for it.” Pierce’s impact on Derek’s tastes in music and movies over the years was undeniable, but Derek had been into His Royal Badness well before he met Pierce. Derek’s mother had been simultaneously amused and mortified when her precocious eight-year-old son had discovered her vinyl copy of “Purple Rain” and wanted to know what “sex fiend” and “masturbating” meant. It was the first and last time Derek talked sex with his mom.

Beau instantly affirmed Derek’s choice. “The classics, I love it.” He ran his finger down the song titles, finally pointing with certainty to one near the end alphabetically. “This one. It’s already a duet.”

“Perfect,” Derek said. He informed the DJ which song they had chosen and how they wished to be introduced. As Derek and Beau climbed onstage, Derek held his hand parallel to the floor and studied it. “Look at that,” he said to Beau.

“What am I lookin’ for?”

“I’m not shakin’!” Beau gave Derek’s shoulders a quick mini-massage for encouragement as the previous song faded out.

“Okay, amigos,” the DJ announced, “coming to the stage now to entertain you, let’s give a big Cancun welcome to… the Surf Punks!”

The crowd clapped politely as Beau and Derek grabbed their microphones and stared at the lyrics on the monitor. Beau realized they hadn’t yet made a crucial decision. “You wanna be Prince or Sheena?”

“You kiddin’?”, Derek replied. “Prince, of course! It’s like that saying, ‘Always be yourself, unless you can be Prince. Then, always be Prince.’”

“Isn’t that what they say about Batman?”, Beau asked.

“Prince is way cooler than Batman,” Derek said with absolute conviction. Beau could not argue with that sentiment.

The background music began, and Derek dramatically recited the opening lines. “Here we are folks, the dream we all dream of. Boy versus girl… well, boy versus boy… in the World Series of love!” Derek cleared his throat and launched into the song proper. “U walked in. I woke up. I’ve never seen a pretty girl… uh, boy… look so tough. Baby! U got that look.” To his surprise, Derek thought he didn’t sound half bad. Beau gave him a thumbs-up.

Derek stood rigidly in one spot until he completed the first verse, at which point Beau stepped in front of him and began to grind himself provocatively against Derek’s body. Beau belted out the chorus like a diva. “U got the look. U got the hook. Sho’nuff do be cookin’ in my book.” The crowd cheered, which only encouraged Beau to go bigger. He cozied up to Derek’s side and thrust his pelvis into Derek’s hip, not needing to consult the screen for the words. “Your face is jammin’. Your body’s heck-a-slammin’. If love is good, let’s get 2 rammin’. U got the look. U got the look!”

As the dance floor erupted in applause, Beau smiled at Derek, who stared suspiciously at his song partner. “Look at you! You’re a fuckin’ ringer!”, Derek shouted to Beau off-mic, knowing he would have to up his game for the next verse. He pushed Beau aside and strutted to the lip of the stage, singing “U got the look,” as his body swayed with the groove.

Beau poked his head over Derek’s shoulder and repeated, “U got the look.”

Derek sang, “U musta took,” and Beau echoed that line too, this time popping up over Derek’s other shoulder. The two of them figured out some sexy choreography on the fly, Derek eagerly letting Beau take the lead. From the second chorus on, they sang the song in unison, with Beau executing some unexpected high harmonies. By the time the song ended, the dance floor was packed and jumping. “You’re a natural!” Derek yelled to Beau over the applause.

Beau was exhilarated and breathing heavily, his wet skin shining in the spotlights. “I guess I just had a little Prince in me, bursting to get out.”

The crowd began chanting “Surf Punks” over and over, begging for an encore. Derek turned to Beau with a “Why not?” shrug and asked, “What should we do next?”

Beau proposed, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.”

“Sounds good to me. But what song should we do?” Beau studied Derek’s face closely, unsure if that was meant as a joke.

When they finally stepped down from the stage after a third number, Beau’s solo rendition of “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, Derek and Beau found themselves surrounded by people raving about their performances. Beau soaked up the accolades greedily, while Derek hung back, directing the focus to the obvious star of the duo. Countless people offered to buy them drinks, which Beau readily capitalized on, attempting to stump Manolo by ordering the priciest, most outlandish, most exotic concoctions he could think of. Manolo offered to reinstate Derek’s drinking privileges, but Derek decided he’d reached his limit on stimulants and depressants for the day. He hydrated himself with ice water and a slice of lemon.

Derek and Beau kept dancing for what felt like hours, as the rest of the crowd slowly dwindled. Derek couldn’t believe Beau’s stamina, dancing at full throttle while pounding down drink after drink without losing any steam. In contrast, Derek’s energy was petering out. He hated to be the wet blanket, but he did finally ask Beau, “When is closing time here?”

Beau boisterously answered, “Five!”

“Five? Five? A.? M.?” Derek knew he couldn’t last that long, and he had no interest in watching his Mariposa wear off in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by witnesses. He made Beau pledge to leave after one more dance. That got stretched to three, but Beau eventually agreed to leave.

Beau and Derek swung by the bar where Derek asked if Manolo could hail them a cab. “Already taken care of,” Manolo informed them. “It’s waiting for you outside. Hey, you two should come back tomorrow night. You were the life of the party”

“Maybe we will,” Beau declared. Derek was less certain that was possible, but he kept his mouth shut. On the way out, they gave a parting wave to their adoring fans. Beau blew them kisses and shouted “Ta-ta!”

By the time they reached the hotel, Beau’s adrenaline rush had faded, leaving him too drunk to stand. As Derek hauled Beau’s limp body down the corridor, he had the realization that he needed Beau’s key. Derek apologized before sticking his hand into Beau’s pocket. As he fished around, he discovered that Beau’s cock was fully erect, which Derek found impressive after all of the liquor he had consumed. Derek realized that he too was sporting a woody, which he credited to the miraculous powers of Mariposa. He slid the key into Beau’s lock and hauled him inside. Derek was ready to collapse, so he dumped Beau on the sofa rather than trekking the extra twenty feet to the bedroom.

Derek brushed his hand across his forehead to wipe away the sweat. When his fingers collided with his mohawk, he was stunned as the seemingly indestructible spikes gave way and tumbled off his head. He glanced down and saw them dissipate in midair. The Mariposa was finally losing its grip on him.

Derek rushed excitedly to the bathroom. When Derek switched on the light, Beau groaned as the bright fluorescence hit his face. Derek gently closed the door and stared at his reflection to watch the metamorphosis reverse itself. The process was surprisingly quick and painless. His remaining purple spikes toppled away of their own accord, like needles falling from a dry Christmas tree. His gaunt body inflated back to his usual muscle tone, and his chalky skin regained a healthy tan. His tattoos faded away, his thickening flesh seeming to absorb the ink like a sponge, restoring Derek’s smooth unblemished skin. The hollows around his eyes and under his cheekbones filled in, and stubble rose across his scalp and brow as his hair and eyebrows grew back to their original length. It was a relief to see himself looking back from the mirror again.

When the reversion was complete, Derek switched off the light to avoid disturbing Beau, then slowly exited the bathroom. He tiptoed to the front door and let himself out, then walked next door to his own suite. He attempted to unlock the door, but kept getting a red light. Frustrated, he was on the verge of knocking, not caring if he woke Charles, when it occurred to him that he had been using Beau’s key by mistake. He slid that back into his pocket and pulled out another key card. He inserted into the lock, a green light flashed and the door opened. It seemed like he hadn’t been in the suite for days. He was still upset that Charles had abandoned him at the club, but he could wait until the morning to hash that out with him. Right now, Derek wanted nothing more than eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye.

As he entered the bedroom, the moonlight filtering through the patio doors passed through the hole in the bedroom wall. It shone a pale oval of bluish light onto the bed, illuminating a figure sleeping peacefully. Derek was stopped cold when he realized that he wasn’t looking at Charles, but Chico, the cute young bellhop, stretched out in denim shorts and black sneakers. Lying face down beside him was Charles, still in his ginger jock body, his long muscular legs dangling off the edge of the bed.

Derek clutched the bedroom door frame to keep himself from collapsing in shock. If he had still been punked out, he undoubtedly would have walked over and punched Charles, but Derek’s natural instinct was to internalize the devastation and rationally consider the most effective, mature response. That response might still be to pummel the shit out of Charles, but that could wait until daybreak. Right now, he desperately needed to get out of this suite.

His trip back into the hall was such a blur, he hardly remembered how he got there. He leaned his back against the wall between his door and Beau’s, unconsciously still leaving space behind his head to allow room for the mohawk which he no longer possessed. He bent his knees and slid slowly down the wall until he was seated on the floor. He covered his eyes with his forearm. As a rule, he wasn’t prone to crying, but this situation seemed to merit a few tears. Those first few tears gave way to loud, heavy sobs which shook his entire ribcage. This was definitely not how he had expected his honeymoon to go.

Once he felt sufficiently cried out, Derek pulled himself back to his feet. He couldn’t make himself go back into his own room, so he pulled out a key and tried to open Beau’s door. After a few failed tries, he shook his head at his own stupidity and dug out the other key, which worked perfectly the first time. He walked into the darkened bathroom and splashed some cold water on his tear-streaked face. He fumbled around the room, grasping for a towel to wipe his face dry. The first thing he grabbed was far too thin to be a towel, but he decided it would serve his immediate needs. Rubbing the fabric across his face, he detected a strong smell of tobacco. He felt around and realized he was drying his face with a shirt hanging in the bathroom closet, and that a pungent cigar was tucked into the shirt’s pocket.

The realization arrived gradually, then walloped to him in a mad rush that felt practically physical. He leaned against the sink, rubbing his temples as he sorted through with his thoughts. To make sure he wasn’t jumping to conclusions, he stepped back to the closet and felt around some more. His fingers brushed against the knots of a fishnet material. When he found the hemmed collar, it confirmed that he was holding a mesh tank top. Even in the dark, he knew instantly that it was black. He began to laugh, bopping the knuckles of his fist against his forehead.

Chico woke with a start from his intended fifteen-minute nap. The room was still dark, but the glowing numbers on the clock radio read 4:27. In the moonlight falling on the bed, Chico could make out the man beside him. In place of the muscular galoot from the club was someone many inches shorter, slightly chubby and, to Chico’s eyes, old – probably somewhere in his thirties. The only thing that had not changed was his thick head of red hair, although even that looked shorter than it had been the night before. Chico didn’t consider him terrible looking, but he did seem kind of dull.

Chico climbed out of bed, careful not to wake the other guy. He was glad the sun hadn’t risen yet, as he should be able to sneak away from the hotel undetected at this early hour. As he crossed the main room on his way to the sliding glass doors, he noticed the Mariposa pack in his peripheral vision. He stopped and stared at the two unopened bottles. His heart began to flutter. He had just regained his real body, yet he was already craving another transformation. He tried to convince himself that the idea was insane, that he was incredibly lucky to have gotten away with drinking half of an opened bottle. If he stole another bottle from a guest, word would spread and he likely would be unemployable anywhere in Cancun. He shook his head vigorously and resumed walking to the patio, firm in his conviction that he had the will power to pass up another dose of Mariposa.

And yet… he stopped.

Sunlight streamed through the blinds, glaring directly in Pierce’s eyes. He sat up, stretching his arms, alert yet disoriented. He traveled so much that it was common for him to wake up unsure where in the world he was, even on those mornings when he hadn’t gotten shit-faced the night before. He looked around and was relieved that he recognized his surroundings, although he had no memory of how he had gotten there.

He definitely needed to take a leak, but other things took priority. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, which he had kept switched off most of yesterday. He booted it up and, as expected, was greeted with plenty of texts, quite a few voicemails, and a ton of Grindr messages. He vowed that he would get around to responding to Derek and Charles this morning. But first, a nice long piss.

Pierce swung his legs off the edge of the sofa, disappointed that his feet barely reached the floor. He stuck his hand into his shorts and was vigorously scratching at the base of his dick when he heard an unexpected but familiar voice.

“Good morning, Beau.”

Leaping backwards on the couch, Pierce yelped, “Jesus!”

“Yeah, him too.”

Pierce rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked across the room where Derek was sitting calmly in the shadows, holding two empty Mariposa bottles with yellow Post-It notes attached.

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

Updated5 Jan 2019



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