Lathan had no idea why he’d agreed to come to this haunted house. He hated being scared, had hated it since he was little when his older brother would hide around corners and jump out at him. Boo! Not just on Halloween either. All the fucking time. Boo!
Lathan would shriek and jump half out of his skin and Dustin would laugh and call him gay and a pussy. As if little kids weren’t supposed to find sudden attacks alarming, whether they were boys or girls or straight or whatever. Later, it would turn out he actually was gay, but his sexuality had nothing to do with how much he hated being scared. That was all thanks to Dustin, which was why Lathan made a point of avoiding both him and all things scary—slasher movies, spiders, howling wolves on nights with full moons. And haunted houses.
But if there was one thing he hated more than being scared, it was being a problem, so when Hillary suggested they all go to the haunted house that’d been erected in an abandoned department store downtown and everyone else enthusiastically agreed, Lathan swallowed his objections. How bad could it be? He was surrounded by friends—by friends who liked him too much to make fun of him for being scared, friends who would never call him gay in a way that meant bad because most of them were gay too. Or bi or pan or asexual or poly or whatever, but not sanctimoniously judgmental, that was for sure.
“Listen to those screams,” Hillary said as they waited in line outside the department store, as if Lathan could hear anything else.
“Fake,” Miko said. “Just a recorded loop. If you listen closely, you can pick up on the repeat.” He made a high-pitched, drawn-out scream that had everyone in line around them staring at him, then followed it with a lower, echoing moan that hovered between tortured and turned-on. Both of which sounded vaguely familiar because he was right. It was the same soundtrack, played over and over. Still.
Lathan huddled into the hood of his parka, shivering lightly. As cold as it was out here, he wasn’t in any hurry to get inside.
“You okay?” The words, accompanied by an unexpected weight on his shoulder, made him jump.
“Yeah, sure.” He forced his expression into a smile as he turned to face Kit, the guy whose hand had just landed on his shoulder.
“You don’t have to do this, you know.”
“No, I’m fine.” He tried harder to smile.
“If you say so.” Kit squeezed his shoulder through the bulk of down covering it, then removed his hand.
Lathan tried to think of something to say next, but he didn’t know Kit very well. Hillary had introduced him as the friend of a friend, new to the area and needing to meet his people, which probably meant he was gay. Or whatever. He was handsome—that much Lathan had already garnered despite them all being bundled up in coats and scarves. He had big eyes and really symmetrical features, which Lathan knew from being a biology major were two things people tended to find attractive even if they weren’t explicitly aware of it. Lathan was explicitly aware of it, but he still found Kit attractive.
The crowd shuffled forward. They were almost at the doors now, close enough that Lathan could see through the glass to the ticket desk on the other side. Beyond the desk, there was a wall—an innocuous, unpainted wall, hastily erected and brightly lit, broken only by a heavily curtained doorway. The wall itself might be brightly lit and innocuous, but on the other side of that curtain, Lathan knew that brightly-lit would turn into pitch black and innocuous would morph into terrifying.
To his embarrassment, he realized he was holding hands with Kit. He had no idea how that’d happened, but he had to assume he’d instigated it.
“Sorry.” He tried to untangle his hand, but Kit kept a firm grasp on it.
“I’m glad to have someone to hold onto.”
Kit was too big to be afraid of the dark, standing a good half a head taller than Lathan and so bulky it couldn’t all be winter clothing.
“I’m a screamer,” Kit said with a wink that suggested a double entendre. “But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? I enjoy a good shot of adrenalin. I just get a little freaked out waiting for it to happen.”
Lathan nodded. The anticipation was the worst part—like in a horror movie when you knew the killer was going to pounce at any moment but not exactly which moment, or if, say, a kid knew his brother was somewhere in the house waiting for him but not exactly where. Every step was a nightmare.
“So we’ll be buddies.” Kit raised their joined hands with a questioning tilt of his head, and Lathan smiled in agreement. Buddies. He was almost looking forward to the haunted house now.
Then they stepped through the glass doors and he remembered he wasn’t looking forward to it at all. He and Kit had to separate so they could fish out their wallets and pay the entrance fee. Spending thirty-five dollars to get scared only added insult to injury, considering Dustin would happily terrorize him for free. But when their group congregated on the other side of the ticket desk—directly in front of that ominous black curtain—Kit came over to him again.
“You really don’t have to do this,” Kit reminded him.
“What’s wrong?” Hillary asked, her mother-hen ears picking up on the disturbance as she mentally counted her chicks to make sure they had everyone.
“I don’t think Lathan wants to do this.”
“Scared?” Miko asked. There was enough of a taunt in his voice to have Lathan vigorously shaking his head. He didn’t know which was worse—being scared or being accused of being scared. The two were tangled in his head because Dustin always mocked him for screaming after making him scream, not letting up until Lathan started crying. Then their mother would tell them to play nice. As if Dustin had been playing.
“This is meant to be fun,” Hillary said, giving Miko a sharp look. “If Lathan’s not going to have fun, he doesn’t have to do it.”
Which was why Lathan loved his life now. Miko had been teasing him a little, but no one would ride him if he backed out. Miko wasn’t Dustin, and Hillary wasn’t his mom.
“It’ll be fun.” This time when he forced a smile, he almost meant it. With Kit to hang onto and his friends around him, maybe he’d finally understand what people liked about getting scared.
Hillary gave him a doubtful look, but he turned up the wattage on his smile until she smiled back. “All right, then. Let’s do this.” She pushed aside the curtain and led the way into the terrifying blackness beyond it.
Lathan was last in line—because pretending to be gung-ho could only carry him so far—but with Kit holding his hand, he found the courage to step through the curtain. The party behind them crowded him in further until he accidentally stepped on Becca’s foot, provoking a sharp squeal of alarm out of her. He mumbled his apologies, relieved he wasn’t the first one to scream.
They were in a narrow corridor, walking slowly up a ramp. The corridor was festooned with niches, each niche featuring a grisly statue lit from below to make it even more ghoulish. Lathan would bet that at least one of those statues wasn’t really a statue. It was Dustin. Or whoever was getting paid to stand in a niche and jump out at them as they went by.
He tried to stay as close to the center of the corridor as possible, which meant he was basically walking on top of Kit. Kit let go of his hand and threw an arm around his shoulders instead, letting him get so close they were basically one unit. As they passed each niche, Lathan evaluated the statue tucked inside it, mentally preparing for something that couldn’t be prepared for. And then it happened. A Frankenstein-like mashup of man and machine, vaguely green in the ghastly light, sprang at him. Lathan screamed and scrabbled backward into Kit.
“Fuck off,” Kit told the monster. The monster gave an echoing groan and stepped back into its niche. Kit tugged Lathan forward until they caught up to their friends.
“All right?” Hillary asked.
“Just startled me,” Lathan said, embarrassed because he’d known one of those statues would turn out to be a person. Why had it freaked him out so much? Why couldn’t he give the pretend monster a calm fuck you like Kit? Or scream but then laugh like Hillary? Why did his heart feel like it was going to explode and his bladder clench like he might lose control of it? He had lost control of it once or twice as a kid, which had added to his humiliation, but he was a grownup now. He ought to be able to do better.
Still, he couldn’t force himself to let go of Kit who was practically dragging him as they exited the corridor into a bigger room decorated to look like a dungeon. Actors were locked into various torture devices, moaning and rattling their chains, which they would no doubt break free of to charge him. He turned his face into Kit’s throat. If he couldn’t see them coming, he wouldn’t be scared by them.
Kit rubbed his soft beard against his temple, and Lathan looked up at him just in time to see that he’d been wrong about where the next threat would come from. Spiders as big as his fist dropped from the ceiling on silken cords. Lathan screamed and ducked, throwing his arms over his head as he crouched on the dungeon floor. The spiders retreated, returning to the dark shadows of the ceiling to wait for the next group, but the damage had been done. Lathan had made a fool of himself again.
“I think that’s enough.” Kit’s arms came under his knees and armpits to lift him off the floor.
“Sorry,” he murmured into Kit’s chest. “It’s just… spiders.” But it wasn’t just spiders. It was all of it. The impenetrable darkness, the spooky soundtrack, the anticipation of worse yet to come.
Kit didn’t even answer him, just carried him over to the wall where a fake prisoner dangled from wrist cuffs. “How do I get out of here?” Kit asked her.
She opened a bloodied eye to assess the situation, then jerked her head toward what looked like an iron maiden. “That’s a door to backstage.”
“Lathan and I are leaving,” Kit called across the floor to Hillary. She waved and began herding the rest of their crew out of the dungeon and on to whatever awaited them in the next room while Kit managed to open the iron maiden while balancing Lathan in his arms.
“I can walk.” He was such a loser. Kit would hate him, having to miss out on the haunted house to babysit him.
“I kind of like having you like this,” Kit said as he maneuvered them through the iron maiden into a space that looked like a construction zone. Exposed two-by-fours propped up undecorated drywall, and rope lights ran along the splotched concrete floor. Lathan could still hear the eerie soundtrack, but with such prosaic visuals, its cheesiness became apparent.
“Really, you can let me down.” He felt ridiculous in Kit’s arms now that there was nothing to be afraid of. Kit put him down, which he instantly regretted because there’d been benefits to being that close to Kit besides security.
“So how do we get out of here?” He wasn’t scared anymore, but he was definitely lost. Every door led to another room in the haunted house. “You’d think they’d at least mark the fire exits.”
Kit pushed open a swinging door to reveal what looked like a lounge. There was an old couch—a faded rose damask—along one wall with a round filigree coffee table missing its glass in front of it. A huge mirror framed in chipped gold occupied the opposing wall, which was covered in textured baroque wallpaper, tattered in places and filthy in others.
“What is this?” Lathan asked. “Miss Havisham’s bedroom?”
“A ladies room, I think. Or at least the lobby to what used to be a ladies room.” Kit stepped across the threshold and Lathan followed him.
“Fancy.” Men got a row of urinals and maybe a condom dispenser. No couches.
He unwound his scarf and laid it over the banquette beneath the mirror along with his coat. The banquette was white marble—real marble too, not tricked-up Formica—veined in gold gilt, as if they’d stumbled into 1930s Hollywood. He checked himself in the mirror, trying to smooth down the staticky mess of his hair until he caught sight of Kit stripping off his own coat. He was as built beneath it as Lathan had imagined him being. In fact, the bulk had been mostly Kit and very little coat.
“It’ll take them at least half an hour to go through the house,” Kit said as he sat down on Miss Havisham’s bridal couch. “No sense waiting out in the cold.”
Lathan lingered by the mirror. “I feel bad about you missing out on the fun.”
What he really felt was a combination of embarrassed, relieved, and horny. Kit had literally rescued him—picked him up and carried him to safely. No one had ever been so commandingly kind to him, and he had an urge to get down on his knees between Kit’s widespread legs and pay homage to his hero.
Kit shrugged. “No worries. You’re more interesting than a haunted house anyway.”
“Really?” Lathan took a quick glance in the mirror just to confirm that, yep, he still had rumpled brown hair and skin so white it looked like he’d seen a ghost except his skin was always that white. He ran a self-conscious hand through his hair, which only served to make it worse. “I mean, you’re just saying that to be nice.”
“Nope. You going to come sit with me or what?”
Lathan practically ran. He plonked himself onto the cushion next to Kit, then slid even closer. “I could definitely do something for you.”
“Do something for me how?”
“Like a blowjob? To say thank you.”
Kit gaped at him.
“Oh my God, you’re not gay, are you? That wasn’t what you meant about me being interesting. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe—”
“Whoa.” Kit grabbed him by the hand when he tried to escape. “I’m gay, and I’m not mad at you. But I was angling for a date, not a sexual favor as some kind of payback.”
“Oh.” Lathan settled back down on the couch, anchored by the fact that Kit hadn’t let go of his hand. “I’d love to go on a date with you. If you still want to.”
“I still want to, and we won’t do anything scary, I promise. No spiders, no screams.”
“Well, maybe some screams.” That made Kit laugh, which meant Lathan hadn’t fucked this up yet. Which was pretty amazing considering how hard he’d been trying.
Still, he really was horny. Now that he was safe, the fear and adrenalin the haunted house had churned up roiled through him with a different kind of energy. He could almost understand why people chased this feeling. Kit was so handsome, and he’d saved him, and he was sitting there looking delectable in a lightweight green sweater and blue jeans. There really ought to blowjobs.
“What if wasn’t payback though? What if I just, you know, wanted to suck your cock?”
Kit let go of his hand. For a moment, Lathan thought he’d taken another step in the direction of fucking-this-up, but Kit had only taken his hand back so he could adjust himself. He cleared his throat and looked around the room as if someone other than Lathan might’ve seen him do that.
“It’s not like I’m opposed to having my cock sucked,” he said, giving himself a firm squeeze. “But you’ve been traumatized. I’d be taking advantage.”
“I wasn’t traumatized,” Lathan said with a roll of his eyes. Traumatized was what his brother had done to him. The haunted house had only scared him a little. “And I’m over it now. Totally. A hundred percent. Promise.”
“You don’t want to save blowjobs for our date?”
“Is it an either/or situation? Couldn’t we have blowjobs now and also blowjobs later?”
“That seems like a really solid option.” Kit slid his hand away from his package, revealing the growing bulge there. “You’re sure you want to—?”
Lathan cut him off by attacking him so that Kit finished his sentence right into Lathan’s mouth. Kit smelled like freshly fallen snow, but his body was warm and solid and he kissed like he could melt the North Pole. Lathan got his hands beneath Kit’s sweater where Kit’s skin was even warmer than the wool and coated in hair that was just as soft.
Lathan edged closer and closer to him as they made out until he was sitting on Kit’s lap. Kit’s erection pressed up under his balls to rub against his own cock, padded by the layers of denim between them, until Lathan slid down to his knees right where he’d imagined being and reached for Kit’s fly. Between the two of them they got Kit’s jeans and shorts pushed down far enough for Lathan to get to work, but before he did, he paused a moment, his hands framing Kit’s cock in all its hard glory.
“The great thing about a haunted house is no one can hear you scream,” Lathan said right before swallowing Kit nearly to the root. Kit didn’t exactly scream, but he let out a groan worthy of a torture chamber. Lathan felt a bit tortured himself, because his own cock was trapped in his pants, begging to be set free. He worked the button on his jeans with one hand while working Kit’s cock with the other, dividing his attention between pleasuring Kit and finding his own pleasure. Both were approaching at rocket speeds.
“Okay to come?” Kit asked, sounding desperate.
Lathan nodded, encouraging him to go for it. Kit let loose with a particularly good moan accompanied by several strong spurts of come which Lathan swallowed before climbing to his feet to point his erection at him. Kit grabbed it, gave it a couple of jerks, and managed to get his mouth close enough to absorb most of his output, which was a good thing since the ancient paper towel dispenser in the corner had been emptied years ago.
Lathan plopped down on the couch with happy exhaustion, and the two of them sat next to each other with their dicks hanging out until Kit gave a low laugh. “Fuck, you’re the scariest thing in this place.”
“Scary like I really shouldn’t be so into someone I just met. Emotional intimacy, the final frontier.” Kit moved his hand in a wide arc like a movie camera panning. “I have a feeling you’re going to be an adventure, Lathan.”
Lathan had a feeling Kit was going to be a security blanket—the most opposite thing from scary he’d ever known.
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