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Box's face was lit up in a wide grin and his orange-gloved hands described quick, excited arcs in the air. He was telling Page about a new strategy guide that had just come out...or rather had been telling him about it, because Page hadn't been listening for the past quarter of an hour, and he might have changed topics by now. Not that that was very likely.

For his part, Page was a little too focused on his own inner monologue to pay attention to what Box was saying: an inner monologue that consisted primarily of "Do it. Do it!" The words crescendoed in his ears, and finally Page took a deep breath and reached out a hand that trembled slightly in spite of himself.

"No!" Box said and smacked his hand away, and it was only the expression on his face--half-apologetic and half-terrified--that kept Page from dying of mortification.

"I-I-I th-th-th-thought..."

Box took a deep breath and reached for Page's hand, the same hand that had so incautiously tried to touch Box's cheek a moment before. He stroked the back of it with his thumb, the knit fabric of his glove rasping softly against Page's skin, and said, "I'm sorry."

"B-b-but wh-wh-wh-why..."

"I just can't." Box pulled away again, this time retreating all the way to the other side of the table. "Shut up about it." He picked up one of his figurines and pretended interest in her windswept skirt and the way her breasts strained at the front of her blouse.

"I-i-i-is it-t b-b-be-c-cause I-I-I..."

Box shook his head impatiently. "It has nothing to do with you, Page. I just...don't want those kinds of things." The embarrassed twist of his mouth made it clear exactly what "kinds of things" Box meant.

Page blushed bright red, but he managed to get out the words, "D-d-d-don't y-you t-t-touch y-y-y--"

"No," Box interrupted quickly, and Page boggled at him. "Or. I mean..."

"Y-y-you d-d-d-do!" Page said.

Box gave an uncomfortable shrug. "Sometimes. In the shower."


"It's dirty," Box said, his voice low. "It's a dirty thing, and I only do it when I have to. You weren't wrong about, you know, you. But even if it's you, Page, I can't..."

He stood silent in the center of the room for a long moment, and Page looked at the expression on his face and shut up as well. Then Box grabbed one of his magazines and climbed into his bunk, yanking the curtain closed behind himself.

"Are you and Box fighting?" Akira asked him two days later.

Page looked at her with a puzzled frown. "N-n-n-no."

"Why is he avoiding you, then?"


Just then Box entered the office and saw the two of them. "Oh, I forgot to go to Ajita's. Either of you need anything? Okay, see you later," he said, all in one breath, and ducked back outside.

Akira raised an eyebrow at Page.

"Oh. M-m-maybe th-there's a n-n-n-new g-g-game i-in th-th-that h-h-he r-r-r-really w-w-wants?" Page suggested weakly.

"Right," Akira said skeptically. When Page didn't say anything further, she heaved a sigh and abandoned him for her punching bag. He could hear her muttering imprecations against uncommunicative, socially-maladjusted, emotionally-retarded boys under her breath with each punch.

Akira was definitely wrong about them fighting, Page thought to himself victoriously, because Box opened the door to him less than half a minute after he rang the doorbell. There was a peephole; he didn't have to answer the door for Page if he didn't want to.

"How did you find my house?" Box asked, blinking at him.


Box nodded in understanding. After a long moment, he let Page in. His apartment was as neat and clean as Page had expected, though he hadn't anticipated the several bottles of disinfectant spray in open sight in the living room and kitchen. Box followed his gaze and said, "My parents don't like it when I wear gloves at dinner."

"I-I-I s-s-s-see," Page said.

"Do you want--" Box began, and then cut himself off and said, "Come on, my room's down the hall."

The scent of disinfectant was even stronger in Box's room, clean and sharp but not entirely unpleasant. Among the expected profusion of figurines Page's eye picked out several artist's armatures, and Box had three different drawing tablets by his computer.

Box waved him towards the computer chair and took the floor for himself.


"So," Box said awkwardly. "What did you want to do?"

There was a definite answer to that question, though Page wasn't sure if he could get the words out. He clenched his hands in his lap and thought, "Battle plan!"

"D-d-do y-y-y-you w-want a sh-sh-sh-shower?" Page asked, face turning bright red.

Box looked at his watch. "I'm okay for another two and a half hours."

"O-k-kay, b-b-but d-do y-y-y-you w-w-w-want o-one?"

Page forced himself to not drop his eyes, and Box tilted his head to look at him cautiously. "Maybe?" he said at last.



Page grinned despite the way the nervous flutter in his stomach suddenly became nauseating. "Y-y-y-yeah."

He followed Box into his bathroom and kept to a safe distance while Box stripped with quick, nervous movements, not looking at Page. Saved from the embarrassment of being observed in turn, Page felt free to stare at Box as much as he liked.

"Page?" Box said. Page jumped a little. "I don't know if I--"

"J-j-just g-g-g-get in th-th-the sh-sh-sh-shower," Page said, a little shocked at his own confidence.

"Okay." Box turned on the water and stepped into the shower. His breathing slowed as he stood underneath the spray, and Page realized guiltily that Box had been on the verge of a panic attack and that he'd been too busy staring at the long lines of his naked back and legs and at the curve of his ass to even notice.

When Box looked relatively calm again, Page stripped off his own clothes, fumbling a little with the buttons. He was hard already, from anticipation and from watching Box, and he wasn't sure if that was embarrassing or not. Box gave him a small smile when Page got into the shower, though, and that went a long way towards making things feel all right.

They stood together like that for two or three minutes. Page was at best only halfway under the spray and the rest of him was uncomfortably cold, but he ignored that in favor of watching the tension slowly ease from Box's face and shoulders. When his tight, pinched expression had almost disappeared, Page reached his right hand towards him.

Box flinched away, a guilty look on his face. He opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, Page said, "I-i-it's o-o-k-k-kay." He grabbed the bottle of shower gel and poured a generous pool of it onto his palm, worked it into a lather, and reached a cautious hand towards Box again. "I-i-is th-th-this b-b-b-be-t-tter?"

Box still looked nervous, but he nodded, and Page wrapped his wet, soapy hand around Box's cock. Bubbles spilled over the edge of his loose fist. Box was only half-hard, but Page could feel his erection firming as he stroked him carefully.

When the bubbles began to dissipate, Page squeezed some more shower gel onto Box's cock, and the contrast between cool liquid and hot skin made him shiver a little. Each stroke produced a new fistful of bubbles. The sight of Box's cock, flushed a deep pink, peeking out from a pillow of white bubbles, was almost painfully arousing.

Box's harsh breaths echoed in the enclosed space. Page could feel him tremble slightly and wished that he could wrap a steadying arm around him. Instead, he pulled at his cock with tight, quick strokes, his soapy palm and fingers moving easily on Box's skin, until Box made a choked sound and came in white ribbons of semen that disappeared into the soap and were washed away in seconds. Page stuck his hand under the spray of water immediately, before Box could catch sight of his come-spattered hand.

Before Page could finish deciding whether it would be all right to jack himself off, as well, or whether he should just leave, Box said, "Don't move, okay?" in a slightly hoarse voice. He slipped the washcloth off its rack and wet it under the spray. Then he turned once again towards Page who watched, incredulous, as Box placed the hand with the washcloth on his achingly hard cock.

The soft, nubbly fabric wrung a moan out of him with the first stroke; Box looked a little surprised, but pleased at his response. After only another minute or two, Page pushed Box away with a reluctant hand and finished himself off with three quick, stripping pulls. The small corner of his mind that was still capable of higher-level thinking made sure that he turned his hips well away from Box when he came.

He felt weak and shaky with orgasm, but he made himself step forward into the spray to rinse off. And then he nearly had a heart attack when Box stepped into the water beside him and wrapped his arms around Page's waist.

"We're both clean, right?" Box said, his voice a little shaky.

"R-r-r-right," Page said quickly. They stood pressed together like that, slick and smooth and warm. After a long minute, Page held his breath and leaned forward carefully until his head rested against Box's shoulder.

"Okay," Box whispered, his hand stroking Page from the small of his back to his shoulderblades and back again.