Mike snapped back to the here and now, snatching a glance at each of his three companions. He felt bared, transparent - he felt that maybe they could read his mind and would soon disown the gay sonofabitch. But each was deep in his own contemplation of the flames and Mike's feeling of insecurity passed. He thought back to the other time, not recalling the sex. The sex had been good, but in memory, and in dreams, the holding was enough.
After some time away from the others, Johnny returned from preparations in the sweathouse. 'Okay. Everyone up for it?' Time's now.'
Cody whimped out. No other explanation than he didn't feel like it. Johnny raised an eyebrow and said adios, and Cody took his leave. As Cody's car was heading down the valley, Johnny slipped his shirt off over his head, then unbuckling his belt, he stepped out of his jeans. 'Keep your drawers on if you feel shy,' he said, pulling off his trainers and socks. 'But I'm going for traditional.'
'You what?' said Jay. 'What is this? Some kind of a faggot's convention?'
Johnny gave him a sidelong stare. 'Like I said, you feel shy, keep 'em on.' Then he kicked his own off and turned for the sweathouse. Mike closed his eyes and breathed deep. Then he started to undress. In the end, Jay gave in to peer-pressure and went naked like the other two.
As you would expect, it was as hot as Hell in that little wickiup, a fire crackling away in the center. Johnny lifted the flap and slid in, dropping to the floor two feet below ground level, and took his place by the ceremonial paraphernalia - a small drum, a rattle, a tortoise-shell vessel, a medicine bag and another smaller bag made of goatskin.
'Yeah, Right,' said Jay as he took a place opposite Johnny, eyeing the artifacts with suspicion. Then Mike slipped in feet first, and hunkered down to complete the three-man circle. The fire was hot but small, and it threw a flickering dance of shadows all around the men and up onto the skins that formed the roof. Johnny poured a little water over the rocks about the fire and the small enclosure became hotter still with the steam.
Jay and Mike exchanged glances. Jay shrugged at the question evident in Mike's face. Johnny sat still. Johnny sat quiet. Johnny breathed slowly, leaving the others' expectations unanswered.
At last, Jay broke the silence. 'So, when do we get a chew of the buttons?'
'Not yet,' said Johnny.
'What then? What do we do now?'
'We sit here. And we sweat a lot.'
Jay shook his head and rolled his eyes to the ceiling. He stuck his hands over the fire and made a flying bird shape, so its shadow was thrown up onto the pale skins that formed the roof. He made an eagle noise. Johnny took no notice. Mike felt uncomfortable and wished Jay would quit fooling around. Then Jay did something with his hands and the flying eagle on the roof changed into something obscene.
Johnny let his eyes drift up to take in the show. ' 'course, you prefer, I can drag your sorry ass outside and kick two tones of shit out o' you.'
Jay froze, sucked on a molar, and decided he would play the game.