Mariposa Honeymoon - Chapters 7 and 8
published October 20, 2018
A hectic night on the town leads Charles and Derek to confusion, awkwardness, arousal, frustration, and tenderness.
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 “GOOOOOOOL!” 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’ 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.
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 complusive 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.