by Funtails


Chapter 3

If there's a God or any kind of justice under the sky,
If there's a point, if there's a reason to live or die,
If there's an answer to the questions we feel bound to ask,
Show yourself. Destroy our fears. Release your mask.  




It was well after lunchtime when they finally returned to the grounds of Tudor. Ashton left to work on his March Past costumes and watch cricket in the lounge, while Nevin joined some of the boys in an illicit poker game, sitting on the grass within a knot of trees. They played for candy and cigarettes.

Not long after, he saw Sheehan, the security guard, walk past towards the school. They all shut up, since Sheehan was the type who would report them to the headmaster. Sheehan must have been coming back from the woods that covered the west side of the school grounds.

Barely a minute later, Nevin saw Freddie go by, coming from the same direction. Nevin threw in his cards, collected his winnings and went after Freddie.

"Hello, Freddie," he said from behind.

The other boy looked like he had been caught committing murder.

"Shit!" Freddie breathed. "Where'd you come from?"

"I'm the fucking Batman," said Nevin with a sarcastic wave of his hand. "What were you doing out in the woods with Sheehan?"



"We went for a walk. He was making his rounds and he asked me to come along."

"Oh, so how come you two aren't walking in together?"

"Just being careful."

"Of what?"

"Well, Mister Sheehan... he said people might not understand him going for a walk with a boy; get the wrong idea, you know?"

Nevin had a brief flashback to Duncan telling him something similar.

He raised an eyebrow at Freddie. "Or maybe they might get the right idea?"

"It's not like that. Mister Sheehan, he says that he sees me like a kind of son. He's just trying to help me feel at home here."

"And you believe him? You may be seeing this as something innocent, but I can guarantee you that Sheehan's only looking for a way into your tight little briefs."

"Well, suppose I don't mind that? Suppose I want that?"

"Aren't you a little young for that kind of thing?"

"Ha!" Freddie pointed one scrawny finger at Nevin. "You're a good one to talk like that. You're having sex every night!"


"I'm not stupid, you know. You can't hide everything."

Duncan was going to be very annoyed.

"How long have you known?" asked Nevin.

"A few days, maybe more."

Since the beginning, then. Duncan was going to be most annoyed.

"Doing it with Sheehan is different," said Nevin. "He's a grown man."

"Why's that any different?"


"Well?" asked Freddie.

"Because it just is, alright?"

"Well I don't think that there should be one set of rules for me and Mister Sheehan and one set for you and Ashton."


"Look, stop trying to fool me. I know that Ashton's your boyfriend."

Just then, Nevin caught sight of the new gardener. He was standing over by the tool shed with a rake, watching the two boys.

Freddie turned, then said, "Oh no. He's watching me again. He always looks so creepy."

Nevin did not find him creepy. With his full, dark beard and strong shoulders, the man was indeed imposing, but seemed to have the air of a defeated warrior or an exiled sultan more than anything. Looking at the boys, he seemed like a man admiring lost riches.

"You don't really fancy Sheehan, do you?" asked Nevin.


"But you're going to keep taking walks with him?"


"You're putting me in a tough place then, Freddie."


"One of my guiding principles in life is to let people do whatever they bloody well want to."

"How's that a problem?" asked Freddie.

"Because my other guiding principle is to look out for my friends."



"But that makes no sense!" said Ashton to Mark as they strolled back to the dormitory after their run on Monday morning.

"Maybe not to you..."

"Not to anyone," said Ashton, exasperated.

The conversation was not going at all as he had envisioned. In the past week, Ashton had quickly realized that the other boy knew little about the concept of disbelief. Ashton had assumed that just being exposed to some logical attacks on God would get Mark to reconsider his worldview. After all, Mark seemed pretty smart.

The problem was that logic never seemed to enter Mark's consideration of things.

Ashton had started out with a version of the argument he had read in Shelley's essay on atheism. Being deliberately provocative, he had asked Mark, "So, you believe that all atheists are going to Hell?"

"The Lord's decisions are up to him," Mark replied.

"I know, but according to what you believe, I should be going to Hell, right?"

"Well, yes."

"But how is that fair?"

"You disobeyed. You failed to worship. You did not accept Christ."

"But he never gave me a good reason to obey or believe. In fact, if I don't believe it's His fault," said Ashton, smugly.

"How come?"

"If I can't see proof of His existence in the world around me, then it's because He didn't give me the capability."

"Maybe you're not looking hard enough," Mark said in a calm voice.

"Okay. Let's suppose I did try. That I looked around me and considered everything and, using the brain that God gave me, I honestly conclude that there's no proof for Him. How can He punish me for that? I mean, I'm doing the best I can."

"But how can you not see his work all around you?" asked Mark. "How else are you alive, if not by God's will?"

"I have an answer for that, but you're missing the point."

"No I'm not. My point is that sufficient proof does exist. The world around us is full of God's generosity to mankind."

"Fine, fine. But what if I can't see it no matter how hard I try?"

"Then you didn't try hard enough."

"That's not my argument. Suppose that I did."

"It's not possible to fail then. Once you truly open your heart to God, you will feel Him at work in your life."

"Isn't that reasoning backwards? I mean, before I start obeying something shouldn't I know it exists first?"

Ashton thought that this last thought might be too theoretical for Mark's belief in practical revelation, but the boy seemed to give it real consideration.

"I don't know, Ash," he finally said. "Whatever reasoning you use, it's still going to fall short. I may not be able to tell you why, but the Bible says that when Judgment comes, no man will have an excuse."

That was when Ashton had declared that Mark was not making sense. He had started the conversation with little more than a sense of idle mischief and a half-buried hope for Mark seeing reason. (After all, he was beginning to get a definite feeling that Mark did indeed like him 'that way', in which case religion was the only obstacle to them being happy together.) Now, however, Ashton felt like he could fight for his views all day long. Felt as if he was obligated to.

Ashton said, "You're still not explaining to me why your system of belief wants me to give my trust before they offer me the truth. That doesn't work."

"How do you know?" asked Mark, with that calm smile that was starting to infuriate Ashton. "Have you ever tried it? I mean, really tried it?" That stopped Ashton in his tracks. His parents had never been religious and had accepted his refusal to attend church--at age ten--without a comment.

Can I really say I've tried my best to find God if I never took the spiritual aspect seriously?

"Mister Sinclair!"

It was Pigstick.

"Yes, sir?"

"You were absent at lunch yesterday."

"Busy with the costumes, sir."

"Meals are compulsory, Mister Sinclair. We are responsible for providing appropriate nutrition while you are a resident here."

"It's because of my nutritional concerns that I avoid the food here, sir," said Ashton.

"That is hardly funny," said Pigstick in a strained voice. "You will present yourself for meals at the prescribed time or face consequences."

"Yes, sir," said Ashton, darting up the steps with Mark close behind. He made sure to utter a muted, "Pigstick," before the door shut behind them.



By eight that night the dorm was in chaos. Boys were walking around grinning like fools, talking loudly and being generally exuberant. Nevin had passed two water gun wars and one running pillow fight already as he made his way to Duncan's room. The masters all looked on in kindly indulgence. Even Pigstick seemed willing to let the boys be happy.

"This is a great day for England," Nevin overheard him lecture three impatient looking first formers.

Nevin did manage to notice that Harrick was not part of the festivities. The older boy had been walking around the school like a hole in the air since the trashing. Even now, he sat in a corner watching everyone with a face like a mask. Nevin had almost felt sorry for him a few times in the last five days, but the memory of cleaning piss off his shoes always pulled him back.

As he walked around a corner, Nevin barely avoided being run over by Mark and Ashton, alerted only by their singing. The two of them stopped when they saw Nevin. They had their arms around each other's shoulders and were doing a horrible swaying duet, taking turns with the words:


"We are-"

"the champions-"

"No time-"

"for losers-"

"cos we are-"

"the champions-"

(Then together, with their cheeks pressed close,)

"of the world!"

Nevin rolled his eyes. "Will you lot give it a rest, already?" he asked. "It's been hours."

"Yes," said Ashton, "but the party's only just begun."

Mark could not stop smiling. He said, "Do you realize that this is the first time since before any of us were born that England have won a cricket series against Australia?"

Ashton put on a faux public speaking voice and said with his head raised and a hand outstretched, "Ladies and gentlemen, today, September twelfth, two thousand and five, is the greatest day of my life."

Nevin just shook his head and walked on, while the other boys laughed and then resumed their song.

By the time Duncan let him through his door, however, sex was the only thing on Nevin's mind. Without even a word of greeting he held the older boy's crotch and moaned suggestively.

"Oh yes," Nevin said. "This is what I need."

Duncan stumbled back against his desk and groaned. Nevin took delight in being able to instill such lust in him. He worked the zipper down quickly and released the cock inside. It was leaking a small river already. Nevin ran the tip of his tongue along the bottom of the shaft, collecting the slippery stuff. He made a few more passes to get it all and even more ran down from the tip.


Nevin ignored Duncan and took the knob between his lips, sliding it about. The heated flesh felt so good as he toyed with it.

"Wait!" Duncan held him almost by the ear and prized Nevin off of him. "I said wait, God damn it."

Nevin looked up, bewildered. Then he realized the door was not locked.

"Oh shit!" He ran to the door and flicked the latch. "Sorry about that."

"Actually, it's not that," said Duncan, zipping up. "I think we need to talk."

"Talk is good," said Nevin, sitting on the bedside. "In fact, I was hoping we could spend some more time just being with each other rather than having sex all the time."

Duncan seemed surprised--and oddly pleased. "Really?"

"It's not that the sex is bad mind you," Nevin made sure to add. "It's just that we barely see each other as it is, and that tends to get us all charged up and then we just go at it like animals when we finally do get together and everything else gets lost in between. I don't even know your favourite colour."

"Green," said Duncan. "Emerald green."

"See? We're off to a great start."

"Look, kid..."


"Your floor master's been asking questions."


"Yeah, him. I don't think he's buying this whole tutoring story you've been using to explain you missing bed checks and all that."

"Well, fuck him."

"No. I can't ignore him. Don't you see? He's got a lot of pull around here. He's even on the prefect selection committee. We can't let him get suspicious."

"We can't, or you can't?" asked Nevin. "I'm not trying to be prefect, you know."

"Look, it's not just that. Don't you want to keep seeing me?"


Duncan almost seemed relieved. "Good, then we're going to have to take things light for a while. No more late nights after this."

"So," asked Nevin in what he hoped was a seductive voice, "this is our last night?"

"For a while."

Nevin knelt in the bed and slowly unbuttoned his shirt, looking up at Duncan from under his eyelashes. "So then we should make this a special night."

"They've all been special," said Duncan, sitting next to Nevin and stroking his thighs and bum.

"You got any lube?" asked Nevin.

Duncan froze. Eventually, he said, "I... um, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with having something- I mean your thing- I mean you, you know, up there. That's never really appealed to me. I've heard that some guys think of themselves as 'tops' and others as 'bottoms' and I think-"

Nevin was laughing.

"You see?" said Duncan. "You're laughing at me again."

"Oh, Duncan, I'm not laughing at you. Well, yeah, I am laughing at you, but not in a bad way. I was asking for lube cos I want you to do me."

"But you're so small!" Duncan seemed to jump back.

Nevin reached for him. "I can handle it," he said. "You're not as big as all that, you know."

"You said mine was the biggest you'd ever seen."

"Yeah, but I haven't seen that many."

"This is serious, kid."

"Look," said Nevin, getting serious too. "I've known for a long time that I was goin' to do bum stuff sooner or later. I've been preparing."

"How could-"

"Ah, getting dildos is easy. And my uncle gave me pointers on how to use them. And I have. And right now I know two things for sure."


"I know I can take you and be perfectly fine..."

"What's the other?" Nevin groped Duncan's stiff rod through his pants. "I know the idea turns you on. Admit it; you want to shag me silly."


"You want to bone me till my eyes are jiggling around like marbles."


"You want to bend me like Beckham."


"You want to pierce my pulsing pucker with your steely sword of masterly manhood!"

"How in-"

"You want to give me your-"

"Alright! Alright! I give up. You're right."

Nevin tightened his grip on Duncan's throbbing 'masterly manhood'. "Of course I am. I'm always-"

Duncan reached in and kissed him hard, pushing him down into the bed. The older boy's hands gripped his shoulders and massaged them. Nevin purred, as he let Duncan take over, soaking in the feeling of the boy making love to him, their lips pressed together, their tongues slipping and teasing. Duncan unbuckled Nevin's belt, then unbuttoned and pulled his pants off. Eager hands stroked up Nevin's thighs to his briefs and then tugged them down.

The two of them were breathing hard now, unwilling to break from their fevered kissing to take in air. Duncan's right hand slid under Nevin's buttocks and squeezed. The warmth and pressure made Nevin tremble with need. Duncan seemed to get the message. He pulled back and kneeled between Nevin's splayed legs.

"There's a tube of stuff I use to wank with in that drawer," said Duncan.

Nevin reached over and grabbed the lube as he watched Duncan undress.

"Aren't you goin' to take off my shirt?" asked Nevin.

"Nah. That'd take too much time," said Duncan. He winked at Nevin. "Besides, I think you look really cute in that tie."


"The luckiest pervert on- Oooohhgghhh." He moaned when Nevin reached out and grabbed his bulging rod with his gooey hands. Nevin took his time spreading the slippery stuff about. The cock felt smoother and harder and more potent all slicked up. Nevin put more lube on his hands and went at it again. Duncan reached down and folded his fingers into Nevin's and they worked together to make him ready. It was together that they moved to Nevin's waiting entrance. With his legs held wide, Nevin let Duncan guide his fingers around the opening and then into it.


His own finger and Duncan's, side by side, slipped in and slowly twirled around, relaxing him and keying him up all at the same time. A couple of fingers later, they both knew he was ready. His skin felt like it was on fire.

Duncan kissed him. The other boy's left hand grasped his right one near his ear, pressing it into the mattress. With his other hand, Duncan placed himself at Nevin's opening. He eased forward.

"Mmmmmmnnghh." Nevin felt a short sharp twinge and then a sense of release as the tip penetrated. The two boys took a second to breathe, foreheads together.

"How's that?" asked Duncan.

"Excellent! Keep going."

So Duncan took Nevin's other hand in his and pressed forward. Bit by bit, the rigid pole sank into Nevin, forcing groans of tension and enjoyment from him. By then Duncan had been obliged to stop kissing him because of their height difference, but Nevin was quite happy to kiss and lick (and, on occasion, bite) Duncan's chest and shoulders as the older boy settled on him.

"Wow," said Duncan as they squeezed each other's hands. "You feel so incredible."

"Oh, yeahhhhhhhh," Nevin agreed. He felt so full. The warm human flesh in him was touching him in ways no dildo could ever match. His ass twitched at every little adjustment Duncan made and Nevin's legs felt weak.

They started slowly, not with Duncan moving in and out, but rather with him grinding against Nevin, the sensations from just that enough to make them both 'oooh' and 'ahhh', constantly.

As they picked up pace and Duncan's rocking gradually changed to thrusting, Nevin felt his hands pushed up over his head. Duncan hovered over him, their bodies grazing electrically against each other. The feel of Duncan's stiff member diving into him, parting his passage, was the best part of it all, though. Each retreat and reentry seemed to set his mind floating. He felt like he was out among the stars as he and Duncan moved together, Nevin rising to meet Duncan and Duncan changing his angles and speed subtly, but constantly.

Everything about the sex felt right to Nevin. He was making love. The magnificent, strong boy moved over him with tenderness, their slim bodies giving--and giving in--to each other. Soon, all Nevin was conscious of was his connection to Duncan, the constant sliding in his ass, the reassuring squeezing of his hands and the fleeting rubbing and bumping of their torsos.

Then, just as Duncan seemed on the cusp of orgasm, he withdrew leaving an empty loneliness behind. The older boy quickly dropped down to cover Nevin's lips with his. They kissed to the end, as Duncan rode along Nevin's thigh to his finish, spurting warm wetness like lava against the boy's tingling skin. They remained locked at the lips, tongues entwined as the thrusting died into shaking and shivering. Panting, they eventually broke apart.

"You could've finished in me, you know," said Nevin. "I'm okay with that."

"It's not that," said Duncan, bringing Nevin's hand to his lips and kissing one of the entwined fingers. "I just wanted to be kissing you when I finished. It seemed more... I don't know, fitting?"

"It seemed right?"

"Yeah. That's it. It felt right."

Against his thigh, Nevin could feel Duncan's cock, still larger than usual.

"Well, it's not totally right yet," said Nevin.

"What do you mean?"

Nevin thrust his aching hard cock against Duncan's stomach.

Duncan smiled. He kissed Nevin lightly on the lips and then on his neck and then on his chest. Nevin heard him mumble as he made his way down, "A man's work is never done."



Ashton awoke in his bed with Mark cuddled up against him. It was still dark, since he had gotten into the habit of waking early for their morning runs. He did not need light to be fully aware of Mark in his arms, however.

Why does he always smell so damned good?

They had calmed down from the victory celebrations late the previous night and ended up sitting shoulder to shoulder in Ashton's bed watching a movie on the computer. Before Ashton knew it, Mark had fallen asleep against him and he had let him doze, enjoying the feel of the boy's breath against his face. Ashton had intended to wake him when the movie was over, but he had dropped off early himself, feeling so much at peace with Mark resting against him. During the night they had maneuvered down into the bed, Ashton holding Mark and Mark leaning against Ashton's chest with his hands folded up in front of him like a rabbit.

One other thing was startlingly clear in Ashton's mind: There had been no bad dreams the night before. No homicidal trucks ramming him and no flames licking at him while he was pinned in his seat. Had that been because Mark was with him?

Mark was waking up. He spoke unintelligibly as he rubbed his eyes.

"What?" asked Ashton.

"What's the time?" asked Mark, looking about.

"Almost five-thirty, I reckon."

"Where's Nevin? Didn't he come in last night?"

He's out having sex, the lucky bastard.

"Um, he probably went out early to get a shower and study. You know how he is," Ashton said.

"His bed's not been slept in."

"Oh, he makes it as soon as he gets up," Ashton said, covering his lie with actual truth. "He's pretty weird that way."

Of course, spending the night holding an incredible boy like Mark makes me something of a lucky bastard too.

"How'd the movie end?" asked Mark.

"I don't know."

"Guess we'll have to watch it again tonight then."

It was a prospect Ashton found totally attractive.



Nevin also awoke with a boy in his bed. Well, actually it was in Duncan's bed, but that was not important. What was important was the warmth and smoothness of the boy's naked skin against his back and butt and the steely softness of Duncan's arms around him. Nevin closed his eyes and stretched out against Duncan and the covers, giving himself goose bumps.

By the time he was done squirming around he was flat on his back. A finger traced across his chest. He opened his eyes to see Duncan propped up on his elbow, smiling down at him.

"Morning," Nevin said.

"Good morning."

Duncan's eyes were a dark-soft brown. There was kindness and longing in them; the promise of love hidden inside like a sleeping flower.

The fingertips roved across Nevin's chest again.

"You're amazing, you know," said Duncan.

"Thanks. You weren't so bad yourself."

"I don't mean last night."

They had 'done it' three more times during the night.

"That was great and all," continued Duncan, "but I'm talking about you. Just you, yourself. Here. I'm looking at you and I feel like you're the most beautiful, wonderful being on Earth."

The praise embarrassed Nevin at the same time that it thrilled him. Not sure how to react, he just nuzzled against Duncan's shoulder. He lay there and let Duncan stroke him as the sunlight blossomed in their room.

It was only because Nevin had to leave before the hallways were full of eyes, that they eventually broke apart. As he was about to open the door, his clothes all tidily back on, Nevin turned.

"Look, Duncan..."


"I just want you to know that I'm okay with this being our last night for a while. I know how risky this must make things for you. I mean, Ash was teasing me about how you wouldn't want to take me on a date and at first I felt rotten 'cause that's the kind of thing I would enjoy, to just be with you out in front of everybody and let them know how I feel about you, but I know that the world doesn't work that way. I'm sure things'd be different if people weren't asses about sex and stuff, but that's not your fault."

"A date?"

"You know, a night out. Dinner, movie, a walk. That kind of thing. Most couples would do that all the time, but I realize it's not practical for us. I know that. What we've got now is pretty good as it is in any case."



"I think maybe he has a point," said Ashton. He and Nevin were in their room, relaxing after dinner. Ashton was waiting for Mark to come over. In the meantime, he and Nevin were talking about Freddie and Sheehan.

"It's dangerous!" said Nevin.

"Look, if it's what Freddie wants, then who are we to tell him no? What makes it any different for you and me or you and Duncan?"

"We can't hurt each other the way Sheehan can hurt Freddie."

"Okay, true. But what can we do? We've already warned him that Sheehan is a pig. If he wants to keep seeing the guy, then he's got a mind of his own, hasn't he? He's fourteen years old!"

"I think you should talk to him again," said Nevin.

"I've talked to him a half-a-dozen times already."

"You have?"

"Yeah," said Ashton. "We've been spending a lot of time together in the art room."

"Oh yeah, the eagle. How's that coming?"

"Pretty fuckin' good. Freddie's got some real skill with that paintbrush."

"You and he aren't..." Nevin raised gave Ashton a speculative look.

"Aren't what?"

"Never mind."

Just then, Mark arrived. Ashton declined a game of chess and instead, they started the movie immediately, sitting together on the bed. However, it seemed they were doomed never to see the end. This time a random comment managed to get them tied up in a heated argument about the Book of Job.

"The man lost his kids," Ashton said as they got into it. "All so that God could win a bet!"

"It was a test of faith."

"But faith in what? Forget the camels and wealth he lost. Forget the sores all over his skin. What about Job losing his family? What's so great about a being who commits murder that would make you want to keep faith with him?"

"It was not murder," stated Mark. "God was their creator."

"So because he's the creator, God can be a bully and a killer and that's all okay?"

"God exists on a different level of consciousness from us. How can we judge his motives?"

"Please don't tell me we're going to get to the 'God is a mystery' cop-out already?"

"It's not a cop-out," said Mark. "Us trying to judge God's actions is like an ant trying to comprehend a car."

"God is supposed to be a lot more moral and loving than a Mercedes."

Ashton was all warmed up. Few things got him as ready to get into an argument as the nature of God and belief.

"Look," said Mark, calm as ever. "The point is that God was trying to prove a point to us with what happened to Job."

"So God inflicted suffering on a man to create a story?"

"You make it sound so one sided. He gave back to Job everything he had lost. His suffering was only temporary."

"What about the kids?" asked Ashton. "God bring them back from the dead?"

The frustrating thing about a arguing about Mark was not his lack of logic. As far as Ashton was concerned all believers lacked logic. What really got to Ashton, however, was how hard it was--impossible, in fact--to get a rise out of the boy. Launching argumentative torpedoes was no fun unless they produced an explosion.

"Well, no," Mark continued, with the tentative yet calm air of someone who was in unfamiliar territory, but trusted his compass. "Still, Job knew his children had passed into the care of the Lord and then God granted him more children."

"You really think that you can erase the loss of a child that easily? It's not like losing a dog, you know."

"People who lose children aren't doomed to unhappiness, either. Job got a life of happiness in return for his faith."

"But he's going to be carrying the loss of his kids for all his life."

"That would fade in time."

Ashton felt like he was talking to a different person. This could not be the same Mark who he had considered compassionate and sensitive before.

How can he be so unmoved by human suffering?

"It would fade?!" asked Ashton. "You think any parent can stop hurting over losing a kid? That's an indelible hurt that Job had to bear so that his God could impress his best friend."

"Look," said Mark, "the Bible says that all Job lost was restored to him. That has to mean that his suffering was not permanent. So if-"

"Has to mean? There's nothing in the story that ever made me think that."

"Well, whatever happened, God would not have let his faithful follower suffer."

"Why not? He made his son suffer."

"That's different. That was to save humanity."

For him, God can do no wrong. He's just blind to the injustice of it all.

"You know of any human parent that would sacrifice their son to save the whole world?" asked Ashton. "I know plenty that would sacrifice themselves, but only your God would presume to offer up his offspring."

Mark finally seemed to get ruffled. Just a bit. He clenched his jaw and stared with slitted eyes at Ashton, but then that smile came out again.

"So, what's your point, Ashton? If I accept what you say?"

"Simply this," said Ashton, calming down under the renewed friendliness from Mark. "The God in the Book of Job could not exist. He's too human: he's boastful, he's petty. He's obviously invented from human ideas about power and success. You know why Job can lose all his children and still be completely happy, just as long as they're replaced?"

"Why?" asked Nevin, who had been following the entire argument with an amused silence all the while.

"Because back then children were merely considered wealth. Losing a daughter really was no different from losing a camel. Those people's values are revealed in the God they thought up."

Mark seemed taken back for a long while.

Ha. Lets see how you square that.

"You're contradicting yourself," said Mark, eventually.

"How so?"

"You talk about how much parents nowadays hurt when their kids die and then you expect me to believe that people long ago were so different that the treated their dead kids like camels?"

"But they did! Modern society has changed-"

"Human nature doesn't change."

"No, it doesn't. But circumstances change. Technology has freed us to be more moral. Consider..."

But it was too late in the night and they were both tired. The argument petered out and then ended with promises to continue later.

When Mark had gone, Ashton turned to see Nevin smiling slyly at him.

"What's wrong with you?" Ashton asked.

"You really like him, don't you?"

"Like him? Weren't you listening? The guy's totally refusing to think for himself. He's passing everything off as God's unknowable will." Ashton threw himself on his bed with a groan.

"Frustrating, isn't it?" asked Nevin.

"Hell, yes!"

Nevin laughed.

"What's so funny?"

"You want him so bad."

"Why do you say that?"

"I've seen you worked up before, but always at people's ideas, never at people."

"But I wasn't mad at him," said Ashton.

"You damned well were. You think so highly of him that you get twisted up inside when he doesn't act the way you think he should."

"Wanting people to think the same way you do isn't love."

"I never said you were in love," said Nevin.


But what if I do love him?