It was time for the annual major gaming convention, which meant that John would be out of town for a long weekend, put up in a hotel by his boss.
Since he hadn’t yet finished the black box review, it was the first time in years that he didn’t have a specific assignment at the convention.
He found himself feeling more eager and playful than ever as he walked the convention halls, trying out this game and that one, finding some that he liked and some that he didn’t.
He missed Arya in a surprisingly non-sexual way, but he also knew she’d want him to have fun, so he focused on the convention.
The first night, John masturbated in his hotel room, in part to assure himself that he still could without Arya.
And wow, he could indeed. It was a better solo session than he’d ever had before Arya. Teasing himself and building in waves had become habit. That, and he had so many new memories to pull from. He realized after he finished that he hadn’t even thought to pull up porn.
In his afterglow, he thought about what he’d say to Arya. ‘I touched myself at the thought of you.’ She’d like that. He’d never realized before that masturbation could be so… cooperative.
But his mind was getting more playful, and he thought of something else he could say. ‘I waited for you. God, I’m so full, I’m going to burst!’
His skin prickled with heat, his just-spent balls twitched, and John knew he’d come upon a good idea.
Now that he’d proved that he could masturbate without Arya there, he was eager to prove whether he could not.
The next day, he stayed out on the exhibit floor longer than he would have otherwise, intent on maximizing his experience with the convention and minimizing the amount of time he would spend in his room before he fell asleep.
It worked, and he passed out as soon as his head hit the pillow. Though, the next morning he awoke with a throbbing erection, not a small amount of pre-cum on his tip and the sheets, and a dream of Arya fading out of memory like sand through his fingers.
With a groan and a deep, cleansing breath, John stood and got dressed and returned to the convention.
As he browsed, he considered the rules of his game. He had resolved not to orgasm again until be returned home, but he was allowed to touch himself, he decided. It might make averting orgasm more difficult, but as Arya had taught him, that was half the fun. It wasn’t denial if you didn’t want it. Really badly.
He stole a few moments of indulgence on his next bathroom break, and the next one, and then even in a changing room as he tried on a branded shirt for one of his favorite games from the prior year.
As he climbed a quiet stairwell at the back of the convention center, he thought about touching himself there. But, he considered what Arya had been teaching him. He wasn’t ashamed at the idea of being caught — it was thrilling, actually! But, he couldn’t guarantee that whoever caught him would consent to seeing him touch himself, and so it would be unkind to do so.
John had never before been able to articulate why some kinds of public sex seemed hot, and others gross, and he realized then that consent made a big difference.
He found a balcony that looked out over the city, sidled up to it and leaned over, hips against the railing, and let himself think of Arya.
At this angle, his jeans would appropriately disguise his erection, which grew and throbbed and ached. He looked out over the city and daydreamed without restraint, gripping the railing to steel his willpower, and savoring the delicious torture of his trapped dick.
To anyone walking by, he was perhaps just introspecting and maybe a bit afraid of heights. Public erection, more so than public masturbation, afforded him thrill without violating anyone else’s consent.
The hard part, of course (other than his dick) was diminishing that erection before he had to go anywhere else. John took deep breaths and thought of the games he wanted to try next, ones he might request to review on pre-release, now that he was building the confidence to tell his boss that he was a good writer and he wanted to review good games, not shitty ones.
Once his erection had abated, John returned to the exhibition hall. It was so large that he hadn’t made it through the whole place even with his long day, and as he came around a corner, he saw a tiny stall squeezed into a far corner that made his heart jump.
It had a matte black sign with abstract smoke and the table was covered in black velvet that hung down to the floor. On the table were hundreds of tiny black boxes with little tags that said in gold leaf, ‘open me!’
There was a man sitting behind the table, slender with a clean-shaven face, wearing a black crop top and jeans. He made intense, beckoning, wordless eye-contact with passers by. Most seemed drawn in and silently grabbed one of the boxes or murmured ‘are these free?’ before scurrying off again.
John approached and picked up one of the boxes, which looked like it could fit a hotel shampoo bottle. The thick paper was familiar in his fingers. He resumed eye contact with the other man.
“Do you work for the studio?” John asked.
“The studio?” The other man’s voice had a warm energy.
“Or the publishers, for the black box?” John hoped his tone sounded more conversational than intense.
“Oh, no. Well, kinda. They hired me for the weekend to run this table.”
“Oh. Huh.” Usually, indie game developers loved the face time. Meet the fans, all that. But, this sort of mysterious and sensual experience was right on brand. Anticipation, not answers. Curiosity, not certainty. John brushed his fingertips on the velvet. It was real, not that polyester stuff.
“Do you?” asked the other man.
“What?” John said.
“Do you work for the studio?”
“Oh, no. I’m reviewing an advance copy of the game.”
“So it IS a game!”
“Wait, I thought they hired you?”
“They did, they just didn’t tell me a damn thing other than to make sure there were enough of these on the table.” He gestured to the small black boxes. “It’s a sex game, isn’t it?”
John hesitated, realizing now how reductive his own initial assessment of ‘porn game’ now seemed, but he nodded. “How’d you figure?”
The man held up one of the little black boxes and shook it. “These have teeny bottles of lube inside. Nice stuff, too.”
John marveled, for a moment, at the bizarre yet probably effective marketing strategy. It certainty stood out, even in this hall full of flashing screens and flashy branding.
“You gotta tell me about the game,” the man said.
“I’m… not sure how much I can say.”
“Awww, how come? Isn’t it good hype marketing anyway?”
John was actually pretty sure he hadn’t signed any non-disclosure agreements or anything, come to think of it. He’d been talking to Ayra so much, he found himself giving the honest answer before he realized it might sound inappropriate. “Well, mostly because I’m not trying to show the whole convention hall my erection.”
“Oh!” the man said, nonplussed. “I can help with that. Here.”
He cleared a couple of boxes off of the folding chair that was next to him, and patted it. John squeezed between tables and took a seat, and the man handed him one of the boxes. The top was already cut, and it was full of more of the tiny black boxes.
“So now you can tell me?” he said.
“I’m impressed by how nonchalant you are about this,” John said.
“Oh, well. I’m a sex worker, so. All in a day’s work.”
A few months ago, John would have reacted pretty strongly to that revelation, all sorts of stereotypes coming to mind, but he was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t. He still wasn’t quite sure how to react, but he figured he’d treat it as he’d treat any other person’s job. “I’ll be especially curious how you feel about a game like this, then.”
The other man’s eager attention put John at ease. Though John hadn’t quite figured out what he was going to put in his review, he was able to ramble through and not lose the other man’s attention. Sure enough, as soon as he started thinking of Arya and remember their time together, his body was flushed with warm arousal and his erection fought with the inside of his jeans.
Passers by still came for their free samples, and occasionally they caught the other man’s attention. He gave mysterious answers from a script that he had taped to the back side of the table. When folks asked about the game, they were told that it was in the box, and they’d have to take it home to find out. He then restocked the table from the box on John’s lap.
In rambling stops and starts, John finished telling the other man his story, up to and including his current game.
“Ooooh, that’s hot,” the other man said. “No wonder you… needed a box.”
John laughed wryly. “I did indeed. So… what do you think?”
“I think it sounds more like sex therapy than porn.”
“That’s actually… yeah, really accurate. I hadn’t thought to say it that way — I’m going to have to use that in the review.” John fished out his notebook from his pocket. “I wouldn’t want to pretend I came up with that, though. Any interest in being featured? I can also quote you anonymously, and either way if you give me your name and email I can send you an advance draft.”
The other man grinned. “That’s a pretty slick way to ask for someone’s number.”
“Oh!” John said. He was blushing. He wouldn’t have considered himself anything but heterosexual, before. Maybe the lingering arousal from telling his story was making him feel more receptive than usual. “I… want to be straightforward that I was just thinking about the article but… um, I wouldn’t be opposed to…” John’s brain stalled out. He blinked.
“Name’s Felix.” He rattled off the rest of his contact information, and John jotted it down. “I for sure want to see an advance draft. That’s gonna be an… interesting review. Like, if you wrote down what you just told me… haha, that’s smut, that’s not a review.”
“I know!” John said. “I’m not sure how to be specific without…”
“Without writing porn.”
“That is quite the predicament,” Felix said. “Just like how…” He reached into the box on John’s lap, which was now nearly empty. He drummed his fingers on the cardboard that was right above John’s crotch, sending sparks up John’s painfully restrained erection.
Felix continued, “The last few are always so hard to get out of the box…”