The Lights

by Speranza

Author's Note:  This is a Wilby Wonderful story, and it's one of those where—well, to quote Terri, "You are aware, I trust, that your flashbacks have flashbacks? And that you're evil?" (Oh, shut up; it's got SCOPE, we call this SCOPE!) Anyway, thanks to Mia and the longsuffering Terri and Shalott, as well as to Pearl for being the keeper of Wilby Wonderful squee!

The first time Duck MacDonald saw the lights, he thought that they were just weird champagne bubbles dancing in his own ecstatic vision. The man had him up against the cold stone wall on the west side of the lighthouse. He was kissing and biting Duck's face with one hand in his pants and whispering, "Pretty boy. You're such a pretty boy."

Duck gasped for air and turned his head to the side. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to say to that. "You too?" "Thank you?" He was pretty sure the man was a mainlander, and older than him by at least ten years, or maybe more. He had heard that sometimes mainlanders came down to the Watch to score with local boys, but this was only his fourth time down here and his third sexual encounter.

The first time, he'd run away from the only guy to approach him; probably the man had only wanted a light or something anyway. The second time, Duck had dragged his buddy Bill Morris along for moral support, and Billy had ended up blowing him up against a tree on the Watch's south side, which wasn't that different from the screwing around they did parked in Billy's mom's garage—except maybe it was.

The next time Duck again went alone, and that time he'd been picked up by an old guy who was maybe even forty, but the guy had seemed so desperate that Duck hadn't known how to say no. "Grab my cock," the old guy said, and Duck had taken hold of it obediently. "Yeah, that's it. Harder. Please," and then suddenly it had all gone ugly, with the man suddenly grinding out, "You bastard. You faggot. Wanna fuck you, come all over you—" and Duck hadn't known whether to stop or if this was the guy's kink or what. Heart pounding and teeth gritted, Duck kept jerking the old guy until he groaned out, "Oh, you cocksucker…" and closed his eyes, and then Duck had turned and made a run for it.

A few yards away, someone had grabbed his arm. "Hey, that's just Dalton. He's a little crazy, but he won't hurt you."

Duck had been too freaked out even to look at the man's face. "Thanks, mister," he said breathlessly, and kept running.

Right then, he hadn't been so sure he'd come back.

But of course he had come back, and now he was being pressed up against a stone wall by a mainlander; Duck could tell both from his accent and from the self-assured way he put his hands on Duck's body. Duck felt like every part of him was erect: his nipples scraping the inside of his shirt, his cock straining in the man's strong hand. Then the man terrified and thrilled him by carefully curving his free hand around Duck's throat—and suddenly Duck was coming so hard it hurt, the world whiting out around him, champagne bubbles popping and his cock jerking and jerking in the mainlander's hot fist. Christ, had he come too much, or maybe too soon? The mainlander was going to think he was just a kid—but then the mainlander smothered his mouth with a kiss that left Duck dizzy and desperate for breath.

When the man pulled away, the first thing he said didn't make sense. "Go," he said.

"What?" Duck had certainly been expecting some kind of order, because surely it was his turn to get the mainlander off, but "Go," hadn't been it at all. Panting still, Duck tried to get his bearings; he felt like his brain was molasses. "Do you mean—?"

But suddenly everything was different; the mainlander was shoving hard at his shoulder, sending him stumbling and nearly tripping over the uneven ground. "Run! Hurry!" and only then did Duck understand that the lights were real, not bubbles but beams, three or four of them, making their way toward the lighthouse through the trees. Duck became aware that his pants were open and his cock was hanging out and he had globs of come streaking across his belly—and suddenly he understood the need for urgency and took off through the trees.

He ran full out while awkwardly buttoning his pants, and he desperately wanted to look over his shoulder and see if they were still after him, or if the mainlander had escaped, but he was afraid to turn around. Gasping, he hurled himself up the rocky path toward the old Corby house, and then he flung himself over the low brick wall, crashed onto the ground on the other side, and then slid underneath the chassis of Mr. Corby's old truck, a '54 Ford. Only then, lying on his belly in the soft brown dirt, his heart pounding in his chest and his lungs feeling like they were going to seize up, did the full impact of what had happened really hit him, and suddenly his face felt like it was twisting into horrible, contorted knots and he smothered his mouth against his forearm and just sobbed stupidly as he listened for the sounds of policemen and barking dogs.

Duck saw the lights many times after that, and he came to understand how the mainlander—who Duck had never seen again, and he'd been looking—had spotted the white beams from the corner of his eyes. It took practice; you kind of trained yourself to be sensitive to light even when you were down on your knees, sucking the cock in front of you. You let your eyes flutter closed as you slid your mouth down, but you always kept your peripheral vision sharp. Sounds were important, too; you learned to distinguish the footfall of an approaching pick-up from the slow crackling of twigs that signified a stalking policeman. You became attuned to the slam of car doors (no one you knew would take a car here) and you learned to keep an eye on the calendar (policemen tried to boost their stats toward the end of each month, and every June there'd be a raid before school let out for the summer). You learned to wear dark windbreakers, dark shirts and pants, dark socks—and no underwear at all.

Still, it was manageable, if sometimes frustrating. Duck had once caught sight of the lights just as Mike Razor from the liquor store had unzipped Duck's pants.

"Oh, fuck," Duck had breathed, letting his head thunk back against the tree trunk where he'd been braced, and Mike had taken that as a come-on and leaned forward to breathe hot air against his cockhead—and Christ, but Duck almost let him because he needed it so badly, so goddamned badly. But of course he couldn't. "Run," he said instead, shoving hard at Mike's shoulder, but Mike's eyes were closed and he was rubbing his face gently against Duck's leaking cock, and so Duck swallowed hard and broke one of the cardinal rules: he used Mike's name. "Mike," Duck whispered. "Cops," and Mike suddenly stared up at him in blind panic. Duck nodded seriously and zipped up as Mike leapt to his feet and ran off.

Duck went in another direction, taking a backwoods path toward the bridge and then shoving his hands into his pockets and trying to look nonchalant as he walked along the road toward his house (and also to disguise the erection threatening to tent out his loose workman's pants). Police cars sped past him with their lights flashing, which meant they'd caught somebody—and probably Sheriff Payan wanted to make a big fucking deal of it, because it was pretty much the only time he got to use all the fancy cop equipment down at the station.

He had to fight the urge to break into a run, because it was possible that some of his neighbors had been woken up by the commotion and were looking out their windows, and then what would it look like to have Duck MacDonald running up the street? So he kept up an easy, loping pace as he turned into his gate and felt in his pocket for his keys, like he might have been making a late night of it down at Kirby's. He unlocked his door, stepped into the dark hallway, and closed the door behind him—and once inside, he fumbled desperately for his cock and fell back against the door to jerk himself off. He started off thinking about Mike Razor, and the soft, dreamy way Mike had caressed his cock—and so he didn't realize until he was on the verge of coming that somehow Mike had become Buddy French, who had surprised everyone by putting out his final joint and joining the police force two years ago. Groaning softly, Duck closed his eyes and came, and the world behind his eyelids was suffused with blue and white revolving lights.

Another time, Duck was giving a handjob when he heard the unexpected double-slam of car doors and the sharp bark of a dog. Instantly, he pulled away from the guy—an older guy, pale and going to fat—and muttered, "Cops. Get out quick." He was several paces up the path before risking a quick backwards glance—and somehow he'd known it, he'd just known it: the guy was moving too damn slowly. He skidded, nearly falling, torn between going back and going on.

"Hey!" Duck said in the loudest whisper he could manage. "You got—you gotta hurry—" and damn, there were the lights, far off but getting closer fast.

The man nodded and tried to put on some speed, though he seemed to be limping a little. Duck turned and ran another four paces up the path toward the bridge—and then he stopped, cursed softly, and ran back. The man's eyes widened in surprise as Duck grabbed his arm and began to tug him, stumbling, up the path. "C'mon, c'mon!" Duck begged, nervously looking over his shoulders at the lights. Panting raggedly, the man tried to keep up, and together they ran through the woods, Duck guiding them around rocks and trees—until suddenly the man sagged, nearly deadweight in his arms and gasped, "I can't—"

"C'mon, you got to." Duck tried to sling the man's arm around his neck so they could keep going, but the guy pushed him away and sat down on a nearby jut of rock, one hand pressed to his side.

"Can't," the man managed. "Gotta rest. You go—"

Duck looked down the hill toward where the flashlight beams were darting through the trees; he couldn't tell if they'd come up this way or not. "But—"

"I can't. Stitch." The man was heaving for breath, still holding a hand to his rib. "You go—hurry!" and so Duck clenched his jaw and took off, resolutely not looking behind him.

Topside, on the other side of the street fronting the Watch, Duck had just turned toward home when he spotted Jack Callister, also looking suspiciously flushed. Duck stopped, and Callister looked at him steadily and then nodded his head westward. Duck nodded and began to follow him up the road, keeping a safe distance between them.

He knocked gently at the battered door to which Callister had led him; it looked like a flophouse rented just for the purpose. Five minutes later, Duck was face down on the mattress that—along with a small refrigerator—was the room's only furniture. Ten minutes later he was fisting the sheet and gasping as Callister fucked him, and if it wasn't gentle, if it hurt a little, Duck thought that was maybe only right.

Duck wasn't sure when Dan Jarvis moved into the old Collins house, which was along his route to the Watch. He wasn't even sure when he began to notice Dan's pale face at the window. Duck wondered if maybe he should try to find another route, if somehow Jarvis had managed to figure out where he was going in the middle of the night. But that seemed overly paranoid, and besides, Jarvis hadn't called the police or anything.

He just stood at his sitting room window, watching the street.

One moonlit night, Duck stopped by the Jarvis's mailbox and stared back at him; he wanted Jarvis to know that he saw him, too. But this seemed to unnerve the man, and he just disappeared in a flutter of curtains.

Frowning, Duck slowly continued his walk home.

It was another cardinal rule that you never spoke about things that happened at night to people during the day, but Dan Jarvis maybe didn't know that rule. One day Duck was at the market and putting things from his red plastic basket onto the counter, and suddenly Dan was behind him, carrying a head of iceberg lettuce, two tomatoes and a pint of chocolate ice cream. Dan didn't look at him, but to Duck's surprise he suddenly began talking, not only like they knew each other but like they were already in the middle of a conversation.

"My wife?" Dan said, shooting a quick, nervous glance at Duck, who tried to nod reassuringly. "She's sick," Dan said, and he had a really soft voice. A nice voice, Duck thought. "Again," Dan said, after a moment, and then he added, all in a rush: "Sometimes she don't sleep so good, and I wake up to make sure she's okay, and then I…" Dan stared down at the lettuce he was holding. "Some nights I can't fall asleep myself."

"Oh," Duck said, not knowing what else to say. Island gossip had it that Dan's wife was a pretty heavy drinker, and Duck knew all about that: his mom had killed a few bottles herself, back in the day. He'd told people she was sick, too. "I'm sorry to hear it."

Dan lifted the hand holding the lettuce and smiled shyly. "She likes salad."

"Salad's good," Duck agreed, and then Karen was asking him for twelve dollars, and giving him change for his twenty. " Have a good one," he told Dan, and pushed through the market door to the tinkle of bells.

Duck hadn't been surprised to see Dan Jarvis down at the Watch, though he had been surprised that the man was stupid enough to wear a pale blue button-down shirt which reflected every single bit of moonlight. At the time, though, he'd been in no position to give fashion advice; he'd been making out with a guy he'd never seen before. He was almost certainly a mainlander, based on his expensive haircut and manicured nails, so different from Duck's own rough, work-scarred hands. The guy had an amazing body, and Duck found himself throwing a lot of his customary caution to the wind, hooking an arm around the guy's neck and pushing his tongue into his mouth. The guy more than met him halfway, shoving a hand up under Duck's shirt and twisting his nipple, and it wasn't until Duck groaned and broke away from the deep messy kisses that he realized he'd been starring in an impromptu sex show.

There were a number of men standing in the shadows, invisible except for the gleam of their eyes—except for Dan, of course: practically glowing in the moonlight. Duck had only a momentary glimpse of Dan's open-mouthed expression when the guy suddenly yanked Duck's shirt up to his armpits and shoved his pants down his thighs and twisted him around so that one arm was braced across Duck's chest, the other roughly grabbing his cock and balls. Duck groaned and closed his eyes, his essentially shy nature finding it terrifying—exhilarating!—mortifying!—to be put on display like this. The guy was jerking him off furiously, muttering, "Oh yeah, that's it," in a low, soft growl that probably carried for miles, and Duck felt weak in the knees and barely able to breathe. Dimly, he realized he could hear not only the pounding of his own heart and the wet slap of the guy's hand on his dick, but other low moans and wet-sounding slaps—and God oh God, this had only happened twice before that Duck knew about.

Once, it had been wonderful: the two men fucking had been so beautiful that Duck had felt practically compelled to turn and kiss the man beside him, and things had just spiraled onward from there: a mouth on his cock, a cock in his hand, till he was surrounded by warm limbs and wet mouths. But the second time had been almost a nightmare version of the first; the kid at the center of it all had been stunning but somehow frail-looking, and someone had gotten rough with him. Duck remembered him moaning, "stop… please," and being one of a couple of guys who'd tried to break it up, to stop what was verging on—and may have been—rape. Duck had thrown more than a few punches and gotten socked in the eye in return, and it had all gotten so ugly that Duck was actually grateful to hear the distant sound of a siren. Men had scattered along the watch—like animals, Duck had thought savagely; we're all animals!—but Duck and Mitchell Purdy and a couple of other guys had stayed behind to check on the kid. Duck remembered roughly searching the kid's body for any sign of bleeding as Mitchell whispered, "You all right? Hey! You all right?" and they had all been so relieved when the kid had nodded; thank God, he'd been fine.

Duck quickly helped him pull his clothes on, and said, urgently, "You were mugged, all right? Tell them you were mugged." Someone said: "I'm getting out of here," and "Someone's got to stay with him," and "Jesus, what are we gonna do?" and Duck had heard himself say, "All of you, get out of here; I'll stay," and they had all obeyed him and disappeared. So he'd walked with the kid toward the lights, and had stood there as the kid explained to a skeptical-looking Buddy that he'd been mugged but hadn't seen who'd done it. Buddy listened carefully while he smoked his cigarette and shot the occasional sharp glance at Duck. Duck kept his face carefully neutral—but he noticed they'd only sent one police car out to help them.

Vice raids came at least four cars strong.

So now that he himself was at the center of attention, Duck had to pray that nothing went wrong, because he was goddamn sure the police wouldn't help. Duck knew it could go either way—guys as sexually wound-up as Wilby's Watchmen could end up having an orgy or forming a mob. Duck could hear his own ragged sex noises escaping his throat, because Jesus, the guy stroking him kept bringing him close and then backing off, till he was panting and ready to beg for it. "Please," he choked finally, "christ, please—" and he heard the soft groan of somebody coming and the muttered "fuck!" of somebody else.

The hand on his cock tightened almost painfully, and Duck felt a warm, wet mouth around him. His eyes flew open and he saw that the man was guiding his cock into the mouth of another man, kneeling in front of them—and Christ, that was so hot that Duck helplessly shoved his cock forward. The man stared up at him mutely and took it, sucking eagerly—and at the swirling touch of the man's tongue, Duck cried out and came, aware that his own orgasm was triggering several others around him from the men watching and masturbating furiously.

Duck was still struggling for breath, heart fluttering wildly in its post-orgasmic beat, when someone whispered, "Hurry up—fuck him!" and he felt two fingers push inside him. It felt amazing, and Duck shoved himself backward to get the fingers in deeper, conscious of the reaction this could provoke in the crowd but unable to resist the urges of his body. Christ, he wanted it, he really wanted it—and, gasping, he rocked himself back against the fingers until the man pulled him down to the ground and began to fuck him. Mostly the other men watched at a distance as they jerked off or cupped their balls, but a couple of brave souls crept forward to join in, to touch Duck's face or kiss his mouth, or stroke his back as he gasped wordlessly, and loved all of them equally, even the assholes.

After that, Duck did change his route so he wouldn't have to go past Dan Jarvis's house. He was pretty sure Dan had been there the whole time that night, and while he wasn't embarrassed—well, not exactly—he somehow couldn't bear to see Dan's shocked face staring out at him through the sitting room window.

Word had gotten out that something unusual had gone down on the Watch; Duck knew this because Buddy French had stopped by to ask him some casual-sounding questions, like he was The Mayor Of The Gay People or something. Duck had given him some casual-sounding answers, then asked about his wife (fine) and his mother (not well; sorry to hear it). It didn't take Buddy long to figure out that he wasn't going to get anything out of Duck, and so he waved goodbye and got back into his police cruiser.

Duck just stood there in the street and stared after him until he drove away.

That night, as he sat at his kitchen table and stared down at his bowl of soup and his sandwich, he debated maybe just staying home. If he knew Wilby—and God, but he did know Wilby—there would be a raid tonight. The lights would sweep down the Watch and somebody would get arrested, because that was the price they'd have to pay for all the shocked-sounding whispers about an orgy—an orgy at Wilby Watch! Then the law-and-order people could be all smug with themselves, and the gossips could murmur about So-And-So's poor mother and what a disappointment that boy's always been.

Duck stared down into his tomato soup; his mother was dead now, so she was well past being disappointed. Maybe that was what made him Mayor of the Gay People.

Duck cracked a smile and reached for his spoon.

Still, smart money was on giving the Watch a miss tonight, because Buddy's visit meant that people were talking, and Sheriff Payan wasn't known for his patience. Duck had had a hard day, anyway—he'd spent most of it on the Turner's roof, fixing loose shingles with an air nailer and trying not to fall to his fucking death. A relaxing night at home would be just the ticket.

Except maybe he was the only one expecting the raid; hell, he was probably the only one who knew the police were asking questions. Duck bit his lip and thought it over. He could maybe just take a walk tonight— enjoy the scenery, keep an eye out, see what was up.

There weren't really too many of these good summer nights left.

So he washed his dishes, changed into a dark t-shirt and jeans, pulled his door shut behind him, and began to lope down Primrose Road toward the Watch. He took the long way again—the route that took him way around the back of the Jarvis house—and then drifted down the rocky slope toward the lighthouse. He carefully picked his way to the shoreline, and stood there for a moment looking over the lapping water, which was nearly black in the moonlight. Then he turned and began to climb uphill toward the trees.

Duck stuck to his usual paths, but just smiled and shook his head when anyone approached him; he wasn't up for anything tonight, thanks for asking. Mostly the men moved on, except for one guy (a mainlander) who murmured, "Aw, c'mon, use that sweet ass for something," and Mike Razor, who offered Duck a cigarette as he passed and said: "Christ, I'm sick of fucking."

Duck lit the cigarette, tilted his head back to inhale deeply, and then grinned. "Naw, you don't mean that."

"I do, I swear I do," Mike replied solemnly. "I'm going to join the foreign legion."

"Right, yeah. No sex there." Duck did a slow one-eighty, his eyes narrowed and sharp. Blowjob at twelve o'clock, a handjob at four-thirty, and hell, there was Dalton Fucking Rivers still terrorizing the newbies with his nutty muttering of "Cocksucker. Faggot. Wanna come all over you..." Crazy old bastard, Duck thought with some affection; nearly sixty, and still coming out to the Watch whenever his joints didn't ache.

It took him a moment to realize that the guy jerking Dalton off was Dan Jarvis, who at least had been smart enough to wear a dark shirt tonight.

"Seriously," Mike said, and Duck looked back at him, "you want to get out of here, maybe go get a burger?"

"Nah," Duck said, and took another long drag of his cigarette. "I'm gonna hang out for a while," he said, and then added quietly: "I think there's gonna be a raid."

They stood there for a long moment, quietly smoking. Finally, Mike repeated, "You think there's going to be a raid?"


"So you want to stick around."

Duck nodded grimly. "Yeah."

Mike looked at him for a long moment, then shook his head. "You're crazier than any of us. I don't understand how you—" but Duck's attention had been drawn somewhere else, to the low, dim slam of a car door. He quickly dropped his cigarette and ground it out.

"It's starting," he said. "Move," and Mike didn't need to be told twice.

Duck ran through the woods whispering, "Run! Move! Cops!" and suddenly the Watch was alive with life as everyone scattered in different directions. But there were a lot of lights tonight, and coming from multiple directions—from the lighthouse, from the northern path leading from Fisherman's Road, up from the shoreline—hell, Payan must have called the whole force out, because there seemed to be tens of bright white spotlights. Hundreds.

Duck wasn't worried for himself; like most islanders, he knew the Watch a helluva lot better than any of the cops, except maybe Buddy. But there were the mainlanders to consider, and then of course the newbies—and then there was Dan, who was both. He seemed to be frozen in fear at the rapidly approaching doom of the flashlights.

"Hey," Duck called to him in a stage whisper. "Get a move on!" but when Dan turned, Duck instantly saw paralysis on his face. "Shit," Duck breathed, but his decision was instantaneous: "All right, come on, come with me," and Dan nodded with pathetic gratitude and followed the path Duck charted through the trees, up around Sampson's rock, under the broken bit of fencing fronting the Wilby Social Club, and to freedom.

They took the back roads to the Jarvis house, because Fisherman's Road was clogged with police cars with their spinning blue and white lights. Still, the rest of the island was quiet, and Duck stopped in front of the Jarvis house when Dan did.

"So listen," Duck said awkwardly, not sure where the words were coming from, "that guy you were with, that was Dalton. He's a little crazy, but he won't hurt you."

"Okay," Dan Jarvis said, and he was blushing furiously. "I—. Thank you," he said.

"It's...okay," Duck replied, and suddenly, he really, really wanted to lean forward and kiss Dan Jarvis, which was weird but also true. But Dan must have felt it, too, because he took a nervous, lurching step backwards and then stuck out his hand. He had very long fingers.

Duck shook Dan Jarvis's hand firmly, then watched as he fled up the path to his house.

The last time Duck MacDonald saw the lights, it wasn't any big deal: just a regular night. He'd wandered out and picked up some guy he'd never seen before—good muscles, hard body, looked like he worked with his hands—and knelt in the dirt to suck him off, loving the way the guy's hands knotted in his hair. If Duck's peripheral vision was still active, that was mainly out of habit and maybe just a tiny, tiny bit looking for Dan Jarvis, because in his fantasies, sometimes, Duck wrapped an arm around Dan's neck and kissed him and fumbled into his pants to stroke him off. He didn't see Dan, though, and the insistent hands gripping his hair urged him to focus himself on the task at hand. So he flattened his tongue and inhaled sharply through his nose and bore down on the cock, taking more of it in, fitting his mouth and throat around it and—

In the very edges of his peripheral vision, Duck saw the lights, and so he wrapped his fist around the base of the guy's dick and began sucking and jerking simultaneously, quickly bringing him off.  Fingers tightened almost unbearably in Duck's hair, and Duck quickly swallowed as much as he could, trying not to choke, not worrying about whatever was trickling out of his mouth—and god damn, it had been twenty years of this already, twenty years of hasty blowjobs and running through the woods like some goddamned kid.

Duck pulled back, swiped a hand across his come-slick mouth, and said, "You might want to get out of here.  Cops coming."

The guy, still gasping from his orgasm, nodded quickly, zipped up, and took off, but Duck suddenly felt too tired for this shit. He felt in his pockets, found a pack of cigarettes, and lit up. This, he knew, was breaking a cardinal rule, because the glowing red end of a cigarette was just about as trackable as a bright white shirt, but god, the smoke felt good going down, and what was he running from anyway?

Around him, the Watch was alive with running shadows, and Duck just stood there, smoking, feeling eerily calm. Suddenly a figure burst out of the woods toward him, full-tilt running, and for a moment it was like he was seeing himself before he realized it was Mitch Purdy.

"Duck, Jesus!" Mitch gasped, grabbing the arm holding the cigarette and making Duck drop it. "What're you doing? I could see that from halfway to the old Corby place—"

"I'm done," Duck said, and right then he knew it was true. He yanked his arm back from Mitch, pulled out his smokes, and shook one out from the pack back into his mouth. "I'm done with this," Duck repeated, and lit it.

Mitch was staring at him, nearly agape—and then suddenly Mitch was looking over his shoulder, to where the lights were getting larger, coming closer, working their way down the hill. "Duck," Mitch said, in a half-laughing, let's-be-reasonable-about-this, you've-had-your-joke-now-let's-get-on-with-it tone of voice, "come on—"

"What the fuck is this, a tea party?" This was Mike Razor, who'd come barreling toward them from the shore, some guy that Duck had never seen before at his heels. "Get moving—"

Duck shrugged and took a drag of his cigarette. "Nah, it's a tea party."

"He won't go," Mitch said, sounding desperate and terrified.

Suddenly Duck was really pissed, and he turned and shoved Mitch's shoulder, sending him reeling. "You want to go? Go already!" because it wasn't like they were friends or anything; he'd never had so much as a burger with any of them. "I'm not stopping you," Duck pointed out. "So go on. All of you," he added, turning to look at them, and now in addition to Mitch and Mike and Mike's pickup, he saw Paul McKenzie and Dalton River and the younger Sutton boy, Bill, and a couple more guys whose names he didn't know. The shadows in the woods seemed to have stopped running, or maybe those were just the tree trunks themselves. "I mean it," Duck said. "Take off!"

Nobody moved; the clearing was silent except for the sounds of rapid breathing—not sex noises, but terror.

"There's gonna be arrests," Duck said quietly. "This isn't a game," and suddenly Mitch moaned and whispered, "I'm sorry, Duck," before turning and running off through the trees.

"S'okay," Duck murmured, almost to himself. "It's good," and at those words, a few more guys took off running. Duck wished them good luck getting out in time; people had wives and families and sensitive jobs, and he understood that. He took a deep drag of his cigarette, held the smoke, blew it out, and by the time the white cloud had dissipated, there were just a few of them standing there, and the lights were very, very close.

Mike Razor was still there, smiling sadly, and then he surprised Duck by reaching out, cupping his jaw, and kissing him—a real kiss in front of everyone, deep, with tongue. Duck knotted his hand in Mike's jacket as they kissed, and the world around them seemed to be bathed in white light. They were both breathless when they pulled away.

"I hope you know what you're doing," Mike whispered.

Duck didn't: not at all.  "But I won't live like this," he thought stubbornly, and so he turned into the lights, nearly blinded by them, and raised his hands.

The End

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