Life again returned to a rhythm, like the ticking of Dan’s watch that made me sleep or the turning of the pages of the books he read as he sat in that old La-Z-Boy next to my drafting table. Knowing he was there drove me harder than I have ever pushed myself in my life. Hundreds of times I would be stuck on an idea, process or decision and I would look at him to ask his opinion. The sight of him engrossed in a book would cause me to pause long enough that I would answer my own question and turn back to work instead of disturbing him. And when I did ask him he always listened patiently and gave the best answer he could, even if I posed some esoteric gobbledy-gook question. Then I would get one of his classic facial expressions that most times told me as much as the words that soon poured from his mouth.
I spent more and more time at school as the weeks passed. Dan did too, besides picking up all the slack on our standard chores. He always made sure the laundry was done and the refrigerator was full. We got to the point where we spent only half of Saturday doing whatever we wanted together and never had time to go make groceries with each other on Sunday. All I knew was that these things got done, how and when, I never understood because he spent so much time with me.
Jason made trips down less frequently during that time. He understood that he needed to concentrate on his studies too. He was extremely intelligent but had the worst study habits. Dan would have long conversations with him on the phone either tutoring him or encouraging him on how to get something done. Jason also knew that by summer’s end we would be leaving for New York and he would still be down south. He knew that he would have to pull away or be left devastated at our separation. Dan and I worried about it too.
When I wasn’t at school or sleeping, Dan and I would be together and I would concentrate all of my efforts to take care of him and his needs. He never asked for anything so I tried to give of myself to him. Most of the time we spent talking about the future, the here and now, our feelings, our beliefs or even a beautiful orange hibiscus flower as we walked to the streetcar stop. There were also times when we sat in silence, content with hearing the breath or feeling the heartbeat of the other. We also enjoyed sitting in the Garden talking as I nurtured the plants. These were the times of ultimate fulfillment of our souls.
One Saturday morning as we lay in bed, my head in the cusp between his arm and shoulder and my hand caressing his nearly hairless chest, he said as he stared at the ceiling, “I am the happiest soul in this world at this moment. I never thought that I would ever be happy when I figured out I was gay. I thought that it would all be just clandestine sex, broken promises and lies. How wrong I was. I never thought that I would ever be so happy to find out I was so wrong. The best thing I ever did in my life was to agree with Bill that what I needed was to run away from Texas for a few days to clear my head. I had no expectations when I came here, except of a few beers and laughs. Then he brought me into this house, no knocking, just walked right in. I peered into this room and got this… comforting warm feeling, it was weird. I didn’t understand it at all. Out the back door we went, Bill raised his arm to wave as you looked up from tending an Elephant Ear that had gotten its stem broken. I got that same warm feeling again when my eyes met yours. I guess I felt at that moment that maybe you might turn into a one night stand or something, so I was attentive at first, but the more I saw you, heard you, felt your emotions and passions the more I began to fall for you. I was truly in love with you before I had any idea if you were gay! Then when you got uptight over the party and hadn’t let go so you would have fun, I knew I had to act. So I threw you and me into the pool. When you wrapped your arms around me under the water, squeezed me and then came to the surface laughing I knew I had to kiss you before the night was over. Bill said he wanted to leave a couple of times. I told him ‘No, come on, stay a little while longer,’ and he agreed. The third time he said, ‘Let’s go,’ I said, ‘No, ‘cause I got to kiss Pete first.’ He looked at me and laughed because he thought I was drunk. Yeah, I was drunk with love more than beer at that point…and I was pretty plastered too! Then you saved me by saying no one else could leave ‘cause we were all too drunk. I almost…almost kissed you then. Then when you were in that La-Z-Boy and I came back from takin’ a piss and you slapped the seat to come sit with you I thought I was going to cream in my pants right then and there! So I slid down and put my arm around you! Oh man, it was so fuckin’ tough to sit there for ten minutes and not molest you. I think Bill figured I was serious about kissing you when he noticed that I had a hard on. Then you said you loved VW Beetles and loved anyone who loved them too as you were lookin’ directly at me. Bingo! I kissed you. Then that chill came back and terror struck me. I thought I was going to die! Then you kissed me back. ‘HE KISSED ME BACK!’ I screamed in my mind. Then Bill saved us all from embarrassment when he said, ‘I think we should all hit the sack so we can let these love birds go to bed.’ And the whole thing about all of this, Pete, is that it has only gotten better. Coming out to everyone and our parents. Tellin’ the whole world. No hiding! It’s been great and it’s only gotten better…and I’ve become the happiest soul on this earth because I met you!” He rolled over and we kissed passionately.
“I love you. Thanks for telling me that. You made me so happy to hear why you kissed me…and…a…I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this, but…well maybe it was the shock of being kissed by the most handsome man I’ve ever met or….being drunk,… but I never could remember what I said right before you kissed me. Now I’ll always remember….and another thing, it has only gotten better and I don’t know really what I do to make you the happiest soul on this earth but I pray that I have the wherewithal to keep it up.”
“Darlin’ you have no problem keepin’ it up,” he said with the slyest of grins.
“Bastard,” I blurted out with laughter. The seriousness dissolved into a giggling, tickling, wrestling, tangle of arms and legs.
“See, you have no problem keepin’ it up,” Dan screamed through the laughter. Then the silliness faded into passion that lasted for hours till I was late for my appointed time to go to school. I didn’t care if I had to repeat Thesis; we were the happiest souls on the planet.
At my desk later that afternoon, while thunderstorms rumbled and flashed, I sat back on my legs on my stool. Dan thought it was so funny the way I kneeled on my stool as I hung over my desk to draw. I turned to look at him. He was reading Confederacy of Dunces for the second time.
He cocked his eyebrow and said, “Yes, may I help you?”
“I know this is an awkward time to ask this, and I know you know what you are doing, and I love you sitting next to me when I work…It’s the greatest, but…I don’t know why this has come to me right now but…”
“Get on with it man, you can’t ask me a dumb question…OK?”
“Have you thought about what you want to do when you get to New York? You already know that I have my career selling popcorn at that movie house on 2nd Ave. where they show Rocky Horror. Just kidding… but really have you thought about it?”
“Pete, my dear Peter, you’re nervous again. Do you need to be tossed out into the storm or your butt slapped again? Huh?” He paused for a moment, and then continued, “Actually, I’ve been a little weirded out by it lately too. Whenever I get a moment at work I think about it. And I haven’t talked to you about it because of how fogged my thoughts are on it…I guess I’m a bit ashamed for not knowing by now.”
“I can understand that, but you don’t have to be afraid of me that’s for sure. It’s that it is so different for you, to not know what you are going to do next. I guess that’s what’s makin’ me nervous.”
“And I guess, too, that I’m a bit jealous of you for knowing exactly what you want to do and you’re good at it too!”
“Oh flattery will get you everywhere, handsome,” I said with a wicked grin.
“Not that I wouldn’t let you go anywhere you wanted with me anyway,” I continued.
“Pete, the only thing that comes to my mind is to write. I love to read and to write, but I don’t have this huge urge at the moment to write a novel or anything…I mean I do, but…I don’t have this huge passion at the moment.”
“Maybe you just don’t have anything to say yet…don’t take that the wrong way; maybe you’re still too young.”
“No I don’t, and good point, Pete.”
“Look, you can always edit other people’s work too. I always see you making notes in the books that you read… Maybe you’re making your grocery list, I don’t know,” I said with a smirk.
“Good point number two.”
“Heh, no matter what, I think that I’ll be able to make enough to support the two of us till you decide. So no pressure, OK, but please talk to me about it so I don’t get nervous…. Or I really know who’s the one who needs his butt slapped!” I smiled at him. He laid Confederacy open onto his chest and pushed back in the chair. He put his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling, lost in his thoughts and dreams. I went back to drawing mine out.
The pay phone outside the design lab rung and as was our class rule whoever was closest had to get it.
“Pete or Dan,” Monica called out. The two of us looked at one another with surprise.
“It’s Bill,” she said, as she walked toward us. Dan was out of the chair in a flash and sliding to a stop across the linoleum in his stocking feet as he reached the door.
“Bill, what’s up? Everything OK?…What?…Great!” I stared at Dan and could at least tell that the conversation was upbeat from Dan’s expressions, but I had no idea what it was about from the half I could sort of hear. I turned back to drawing, although I wanted to go talk to Bill. I missed him as a friend since school had ended for him. I still worried about him too. I will never forget looking up at the party to see him on my back steps waving at me with this tall handsome man at his side. Our being friends changed both of our lives immeasurably.
Dan sauntered back from the telephone. “What’s up?” I was confused.
“Mr. Bill is on cloud nine! Because of us and a heavy dose from Dad!”
“Come on, give it up.”
“Well, you said we needed to support him anyway we could, which got me on the phone to some of our friends who got on the phone to others. They all in fact came through better than I expected. A network appeared that got him a better apartment than the hellhole he got kicked out of, a new engineering job, which he didn’t ask for, but hey, and people who rallied around him to lift his spirits. Even his girlfriend, still confused by it all, told him that whatever he decided was right for him was OK by her. She would still be his friend and his girlfriend too, if that is what he truly wanted. Then Dad got Bill’s dad alone one day and, well, all anyone knows is that Bill’s dad came back with a torn shirt and black eye and Dad came back with grass stained pants and they were both rip roaring drunk and laughing.”
“I know, I can’t believe it either! Then Mom called Bill’s mom and I guess… they figured it out somehow. Now, Bill’s dad is still not too cool with the whole thing. Come on, even Dad, I think, is a little disappointed in me, but hey, he loves us. His dad told Bill that he was sorry. And it would take a while for him to accept it and maybe, but maybe ‘in some century’ he might even understand it.”
“Wow! It worked out better than I thought it would.”
“Me too. I still think he’s a crazy dumbass for doin’ this the way he did, but… Oh, he wants to come this weekend to take us to dinner for everything we’ve done for him. Those are his words. And I wanted to ask your permission, since you’re the one on the schedule, if it was OK.”
“Yes, it’s fine. I need to see Bill too and then slap his ass…Hard! I’ll just have to put in an extra six to twelve hours over the next two weeks.”
“Man, you drive yourself too hard. I love you anyway. He told me to call him back, collect. Got a dime?”
Friday night Dan and I sat on the front steps enjoying the cool breeze and the full moon. Bill was going to arrive about midnight. We had been out there only fifteen minutes when Bill drove up. He leapt out of his car, tore around the hood and jumped into our arms. It was amazing that we all didn’t end up in a pile on the ground.
“Oh, man, I love you guys! I got so much to tell you!”
Bill didn’t shut up for two hours. For all the agony and turmoil that he had gone through since Christmas he now was on a high. Things weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they were more than tolerable. His dad was still pretty cold to him but every now and again they would talk like before. He now has a boyfriend, and a girlfriend, both of whom he sees regularly. Girl and boyfriend know about each other. He and his girlfriend have quit having sex for the time being, at Bill’s request, but they still go out on dates to dinner and cuddle while watching TV. Bill’s boyfriend, Bill, doesn’t quite get it but is tolerant and patient with him too.
To say the least, he was still confused, but it became apparent that this whole deal had been bothering him for most of his life. Bill had stuffed his emotions, feelings and thoughts about his affection for guys since he was around ten. He wouldn’t let himself be honest with himself, so he wouldn’t have to be honest to anyone else either. Every now and then he was presented with a situation that brought it to his attention, where he couldn’t deny it, but he just stuffed it harder down his own throat, normally with a half a bottle of scotch by the time he was fourteen. So when his best friend in the entire world, whom he had longed to tell about these feelings, came out right in front of his eyes, his resolve to continue to stuff those feelings was shattered. His only hope was that we would come under such pressure to conform to the straight world that we would have to go back in the closet. Yet he was only encouraged by what he saw happen to us. The desire to scream to the world that he had feelings for men exploded out of him, no rhyme or reason, only release.
“I know now that I could have done this whole thing with a bit more tact,” Bill understated.
“Duh,” said Dan, also understated.
“But I saw you guys fall in love right before my eyes and you boldly told everyone that this was going to be it, a ‘take us or leave us’ attitude that everyone accepted. I guess I just got carried away.”
“Bill, I don’t mean to be harsh, but the difference was the fact that we proclaimed our love for one another and you proclaimed your love of sucking cock,” I said matter-of-factly, “and there is a huge difference between the two…although they both entail the same thing.”
“I realize that now, but at the time all I thought about was sucking dick.”
“I still do,” Dan said.
Bill let out a laugh, thought for a second and then continued, “I guess I was stupid. Plain and simple stupid. I don’t fault my dad either…Shit, I guess stupid runs in the family when it comes to emotions and how we express them. Ya know it wasn’t until your dad slugged mine…but good, that he got it in his head that it was alright to say ‘I love you’ to your son.”
“Bill, you are not stupid, not by a long shot, emotionally retarded, hmmm, that might be closer to the truth, but still that’s something that can be corrected. Be open and honest to yourself first and then open and honest to others about how you feel. In other words be you…OK?”
“Thanks, Dan.” Bill thought for a few moments, “Dan?”
“Remember the first time you slept over at my house and you wanted to sleep in the bed with me, and I refused, and made fun of you till you started to cry?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“I’m sorry. I wanted you to sleep next to me more than anything in the world. I wanted to get naked and snuggle up with each other. So I ended up screwing myself out of what I wanted. Then I felt like such a shit when you still wanted to be my friend. I really don’t deserve your friendship for all of these years but I thank God you are still my friend.”
“Bill, we were eleven. I knew you didn’t mean it when you said those things. I was too sensitive to my emotions at the time. I wanted to be your friend then. I still do. So don’t sweat what happened over a decade ago, OK? Besides from what you’ve told me already you’ve more than made up for a couple of snuggles from me.” Bill got red in his cheeks and on the tips of his ears.
“Bill, before I embarrass you anymore and you start to cry, I think it’s time to hit the sack. It’s past three.”
“Yeah, good idea. Where are some sheets I can put on the couch?” Dan got up and was walking down the hall to get some when I heard him stop walking. I knew he had yet to reach the linen closet. I turned to look at him. He had this broad smile and winked. I nodded my head, OK. Dan walked back up the hall.
“Come sleep with us. OK? Promise, I won’t make fun of you.” Bill’s mouth dropped open.
“Hey, don’t stay like that too long, something might get shoved into it,” I said. That brought Bill’s attention back.
“You mean it?”
“What, about sleepin’ in the bed or getting’ something shoved in your mouth?” Dan replied.
“Sleepin’ in the bed.”
“Yes, very much so,” Dan said calmly.
Bill followed me into the bedroom as Dan turned out the rest of the lights and locked the front door. I got undressed and went to the bathroom. Dan followed me in a minute later. Bill waited, still dressed, until we returned and then went across the hall.
“Are you sure about this, Pete?”
“Yep, I’ve always been curious about seein’ him naked since we first met, although I never had the urge to have sex with him.”
“My God, I’ve felt the same way all the time I’ve known him too!” We both laughed. Bill came back in wearing only his boxer shorts. Dan got out of bed and said, “You’re in the middle.” Bill grinned. “Oh, and lose the shorts, no clothes allowed in bed,” Dan said with false sternness. Bill dutifully removed the boxers and climbed in. We all made ourselves comfortable and within fifteen minutes I was fast asleep.
In the morning, late morning, I awoke feeling great. I had slept soundly. I went to roll out of bed to take a piss and rolled right into Dan. I turned back the other way and there was Bill.
“How the hell did I get in the middle,” I mumbled to myself. I faced Dan and kissed him on the nose to see if I could rouse him instead of having me crawl over him, not that he would mind, but in these kinds of maneuvers I sometimes lacked a natural grace.
An eye cracked open, “Huh,” the tiniest of smiles creased his lips, then he puckered his lips. I kissed them.
“Morning,” I whispered. Both of his eyes opened and he puckered his lips again. I kissed them again.
“I need to piss.”
Dan opened his mouth into an oval and winked. I snorted trying not to laugh. He nuzzled up to me and began to stroke my piss boner. It was such a feeling of pleasure and pain that drove me wild and he knew it. He guided me as I rolled over him to get to the side of the bed. I quietly walked to the door, opened it, and took two of the four steps to get to the bathroom when I noticed Fitz looking at me from the kitchen table, her eyes above the Saturday paper. I covered my hard-on as politely as I could with my hand and arm and continued into the bath smiling. I had forgotten the two of them had come home last night about an hour before Bill arrived.
After flushing, I stuck my head out the bathroom door and looked around. Fitz smiled and pulled the paper up to cover her eyes. I got two steps across the hall when I heard the paper crinkle. I knew she was checking out my butt. I certainly didn’t mind. I went to get back into bed, forcing Dan to the middle, but he grabbed me by the waist and hoisted me back in the canyon between them. I turned back to him and gave him my “I’m confused” tilted head look. He put his finger to his lips so that I wouldn’t ask it for real and then kissed me. I nuzzled him this time and he pulled me close and caressed my earlobe with his teeth. We both got hard. I looked him in the eyes and nodded my head, meaning
“What about Bill?” Dan kissed me and then pushed me back so that my butt was hard up against Bill’s. Bill began to awaken. I mouthed, “What’s up?” to Dan.
Bill rolled onto his back and said, “Hey, you guys awake?”
“Yeah, just gettin’ there,” I said. Bill rolled to the side of the bed and headed for the door. He too had a piss hard-on.
“Katie’s in the kitchen; take my robe on the back of the door.”
“Thanks, Pete.” I finally got to see it in its glory, something I had wondered about for four years. Bill went out the door and it shut.
“Nice dick,” I whispered to Dan.
He put his hand over my mouth and quickly and quietly said, “Yes, it is… but the reason I’m on this side this morning is that last night Bill tried to make up for what he wanted to do twelve years ago. At first I just took it lightly and told him, ‘No,’ and let it go at that, but he was persistent. I can’t believe you slept through all this! Anyway, when he tried to suck my dick, that was it. I got up and in my own sign language by the light of the moon he definitely understood in no uncertain terms that I meant no. That’s when I came around and got on your side of the bed. And then! You mumble, ‘Hi Danny.’ Danny! When the fuck have you ever even thought about calling me that! ‘Oh brother,’ I said as I rolled my eyes back and caught the full moon in the window and started chuckling…. So don’t say anything that will embarrass Bill, OK? He knows I will tell you, but…you know.”
“Yes, I understand…wow, I can’t believe I slept through that either. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have him sleep with us?”
“Well, I thought it was, but….I don’t know…maybe he’s…” We could hear the bath door creak.
“Hey, Katie…hey, Steve.” Bill walked back into the room. Bill sat on the bed and then he turned towards us.
“I’m really sorry about last night Dan. I tried to tell you I was stupid when it came to these things. Actually, I just got confused. I did last night what I should have done twelve years ago and vice versa.”
Dan started to laugh and then said, “Well, I think you got that right, but I wouldn’t have wanted for you to make me cry last night.” Dan sat up, reached across me and he and Bill hugged. I lay there and got a perfect view of two beautiful cocks. I smiled.
Dan and I got up and went to the shower a few minutes later. At one point we stood hugging each other and staring into the mirrored wall of the shower and letting the water run down between us. I loved that he was more than four inches taller than I. Being a tad shy of six feet tall I’m taller than most people, but having Dan made me feel comfortable about it. I also loved the way my head would fit in the crook of his neck. We fit together in every way and we both loved it.
Bill traded positions with us. We got dressed as he showered. I was having a bowl of cereal when Bill came in and sat down on Jason’s chair, a short stool. Our kitchen furniture consisted of a classic late fifties set of a red patterned plastic laminate top table with polished ribbed stainless steel edging that came with four bent metal chairs that had red plastic wrapped cushions with white piping on the edges. When Jason began to spend a lot of time here it became obvious that we needed a fifth chair. I came across a small stainless steel-legged stool with a red plastic cushion that matched our chairs in a junk shop on Magazine Street. I snatched it up, gave it the once over and took it to the counter and asked, “How much?”
“Twenty bucks,” the old lady replied.
“Ten,” she countered.
“OK! Five! ya cheap bastad.”
I gave her a ten and said, “Keep the change!”
“OK! Ya not a bastad.”
I walked out, turned and said, “I ain’t cheap neither!” and slapped my ass.
She laughed a laugh of too many cigarettes and too much whiskey.
Now we had room for our family of five for breakfast. The table was full again and so was the room with chatter and clanging bowls and slurps from coffee cups. I saw Janet through the kitchen window in her back room. She waved. I made the sign of my hands in prayer position and my elbows pushing out like I’m diving. She waved us to come over for a swim. The air had finally gotten warm enough to swim again but I forgot the water was still cold.
I said, “Come on, let’s go swimmin’.”
The table was quickly deserted as everyone went for their swim shorts, except for Fitz; she always wore a proper bathing suit. I tossed Bill one of my extra cut offs and soon it was a scene from the Keystone Kops as we all tried to pile through that narrow gate to next door. Dan and I grabbed each other and flung ourselves in. We came gasping to the surface trying to catch the breath that the cold water had sapped from us.
Janet stared and said with a laugh, “Y’all wanted to come swimmin’ did ya?”
Dan and I quickly swam to the side of the pool. I began to lift myself out as Dan pulled my shorts off. Five sets of eyes all stared at my shriveled up cock and balls. I slid back down into the pool and swam after him yelling,
“Daniel Boone Elliot! I’ll get you for this!”
He turned at me wide-eyed, realizing that I had used his full name in public for the first time. He burst out laughing and surrendered to me. I pulled off his shorts and then we dunked ourselves under the water. We swam naked for the next half-hour. Only Steve who sat on the steps got wet past his ankles. Bill handed us our towels when we got out. We dried ourselves in our backyard and then set up the two chaise lounges and sunned our butts until we noticed Mrs. Robinson peering through the knothole in the fence. I winked at Dan. We stood up and gave her more than an eyeful and walked into the house.
“Hey, guys, it’s time for Bill to treat us all to lunch. Come on, I’m starved. Let’s get ready,” Dan called to Steve and Katie from the back door. Bill’s head cranked around and he was about to protest, but stopped himself. He knew Dan was right, and he remembered that his father had given him a new credit card and had told him not to worry about the bill.
“OK, Bill, where are we going,” I asked.
“Hmmm, let’s see, could it be….no…what about…nah….how ’bout….mmmmmaybe…”
“What the fuck, Bill! Come on, simple question,” I was a bit perturbed by the fact that he was being so coy.
Actually, he hadn’t thought about it enough to decide. He had been so intent on just seeing us and spending time with us that the lunch idea was something he had offered as a side bar. So he was just not prepared for the reality. Dan could read the procrastination in Bill’s face. He had seen it before.
“We’re goin’ to ‘The Shack,’” Dan declared.
“Katie can we go in your car? Steve, will you drive? You know the way.”
“Sure,” said Katie, “but I’ll drive because I get paranoid unless I drive over that bridge.”
“Nope, don’t want Fitz freakin’ out. That would make me paranoid,” I added.
“Let’s go,” Bill said.
“We could take the ferry, Katie, if you’d like,” Dan offered knowing of her fears about the Mississippi River Bridge and bridges in general.
“No, I’m OK with the fairies I already have,” she said with a cheeky grin as she put her arms around Dan’s and my waists and marched us out the door.
“The Shack” as Dan called it, was a restaurant on the levee, right at Algiers’s Point, directly across the river from the French Quarter. It was a new structure built of old wood siding and rusted corrugated tin roofing to make it look like it had been there forever. The way it hung out over the water and its huge windows allowed for some of the best views of New Orleans and the river. The trip over to the West Bank was quick. Saturday afternoons could be one of the few times when the bridge was empty of traffic. Katie rode on the lane closest to the middle and stared straight ahead as the rest of us all craned our heads looking at the view of the big brown snake of a river and the flat terrain that spread out all around us.
“Hey, Fitz, Did you know they’re going to build a second one of these? A twin right next to this one.”
“Piss off, Pete.”
Obviously, she was having a hard time keeping her phobia in check. Everyone burst out laughing but quickly stifled themselves as she glared into the rear view mirror.
Lunch was a blast. The place was half deserted so we acted up and ran the waiters ragged with all of our wants and needs. We entertained them and our neighboring diners with our antics and animated conversations. The two hours we spent there epitomized for me what friendship and family are all about. Bill admitted as we sat waiting for the check that this lunch with us was worth the whole drive over and back from Houston. When Bill got the credit card receipt to sign and add tip, Dan looked over his shoulder to see how much he was giving. Dan’s eyes widened and he got a worried look in his brow. Bill signed the receipt and pushed it toward the side of the table.
“Bill, look at that freighter!” Bill looked out the window and Dan grabbed the pen and marked an extra fifteen bucks on the tip and changed the total. He quickly handed it to the waiter. The waiter looked on the tray and winked at Dan. Dan raised his eyebrows and smiled.
“What about the damn freighter, Dan.”
“The flag, what flag is it flying?”
“How the fuck would I know? You know I hate geography!” Dan just started to laugh and kissed him on the cheek.
“It’s Liberian,” Dan told him.
“What! If you already…Dan Elliot you… pain in the ass!” With that we adjourned from lunch and headed for the door. Dan and I were last out the door. Dan turned to our waiter and said, “Sorry we were such pains.” “Actually, you guys were a lot of fun…and thanks for the tip.” “Us waiters, we gots to stick together,” Dan replied with a wink.
It was easy to convince Fitz to take the ferry back. We all enjoyed the cool breeze off the water as the boat churned through the ripping currents of the river. I think she was still frazzled by the experience of driving over the bridge. Steve wrapped both of his arms around her from behind and put his chin on her shoulder. She held onto his arms and they rocked with the boat. Fitz was one of the strongest characters I had ever met. Yet she still had her vulnerabilities and Steve had the magic to support her without being patronizing. It was one of the keys to their relationship. Dan did the same with me.
When we got back to the house Bill abruptly said, “I’m headin’ back to Houston.”
“What, why,” I asked, confused.
“My work is done here and I really need to see my boyfriend.”
“OK,” said Dan, also confused.
“As I stood at the rail of the ferry I did a lot of thinking about the last three months and about our talk last night. Again, you guys have saved my ass by straightening out my crazy mind. And then lunch today showed me how important having friends is. I know I’m in good hands here, but I’ve decided to make my life in Houston and I’ve a lot of work to do there to build what you guys give me here. So I need to start with my boyfriend and really become friends with him and to work with my parents too. I really need them…want them in my life. I know my girlfriend and I are friends already, but I’m still so confused about my feelings toward her. I can’t hurt her. So I really need to get back and start…somewhere. Look, I love you guys, and I’ll probably be callin’ you every day to figure where I’ve screwed up or what I need to do next, but I need to be home and y’all need to not have to babysit me and get on with your own lives. Pete, I know you have more pressing things to do than worry about me. I can’t believe that you haven’t been freakin’ out about school in the last 24 hours; I’m really shocked about that, ‘cause I also realized that next week makes a year for you guys and I know that y’all must have plans, so ya need to get on with the other stuff so that you have time for you.”
Steve and Katie looked at one another. They hadn’t realized next week was our anniversary. We had not brought it up to anyone but each other. Bill caught his breath and finished by saying,
“So, kiss the fool…me…and I’ll pack my bag and get on out of here. I want to be home before midnight, lest I turn into a frog.”
He went down the line of all four of us, kissing us on the lips with the exception of Steve who got a hug. Fifteen minutes later we waved good-bye as he headed for I-10.
“So what are you all doing for your first anniversary?” Fitz asked in earnest.
“We hadn’t made any definite plans,” Dan said simply.
“The whole first year has been the celebration,” I added, “So we haven’t figure out how we could top that.”
Dan smiled at me agreeing with the assessment. Our last conversation on the subject had ended with wanting to spend some quiet time together. We hadn’t a clue on how better to celebrate what we had than by doing what we normally do some more. We didn’t know how to share that with the rest of the world.
“I guess we’ll just spend the day together doing whatever comes to mind,” Dan said.
“Well if you ever come out of the bedroom that day, I’d like to congratulate y’all on being a wonderful couple who deserve to spend the rest of your lives together,” Steve said with a smile.
“That sounds good to me,” I said returning his smile, then winking at Dan. The ring of the telephone erased my blissful thoughts.
Dan picked it up. “Hello, Steve’s Stud Service. How may I help you?”
“Bastard, what if that’s my mother,” Steve grumbled…then cracked a smile. Fitz softly shook her head and then grabbed Steve’s hand.
“Hey, Jason! How are ya?” Steve and Fitz wandered back to their room.
“Hey, Strawberry,” I yelled, “Luv ya.”
“No, Bill’s gone, he decided to leave early.”
“Not next weekend, no, that’s our anniversary. How ‘bout the week after?”
“Oh, well…Tiger, chill, OK, hold on.” Dan looked at me and said, “Jason’s having withdrawals and doesn’t want to wait three weeks, so he wants to come tonight.”
“Fine with me, how about you?”
“Cool.” Dan hadn’t bothered to put his hand over the receiver. We didn’t hide anything from him, ever.
“OK, so…OK, see you in two hours. Bye.” Dan hung up the phone and said, “He was already tying his shoes and grabbing his keys when I was about to tell him it was OK. I love him.” Dan paused for a moment. “While we’re waiting we need to talk long term about Jason, don’t ya think?” I nodded my head, reached out, and took his hand in mine. We walked into the bedroom, undressed and sat in bed up against the headboard.
We stared at each other for a few minutes before I began, “When we fooled around in that gas station it was fun, another one of our adventures. It was all very innocent. Now we have Straw’s emotions and feelings all wrapped up around us and we’re goin’ to cut him loose. I feel guilty that we have used him like a little play toy and now we’ve outgrown it so we toss it aside.”
“I see your point, but you know that’s not true. He even told us on New Year’s Eve that he wanted to ride this wave as long as it would last and if he got caught in the boil it would be OK, because he knew it would be one of the best rides he’d ever have. I really think that he has the right attitude, but we all have to come to grips with the reality of the situation over the theory.”
“Thank you, Professor,” I said softly. We lay quietly in each other’s arms for a while.
Then I lifted my head, stared into Dan’s eyes and said softly, “Despite what we just said about how we feel, I don’t think any of us really wants to let this situation go.” Dan gently nodded his head. I smiled with tight lips and put my head back down on his chest. He stroked my hair. We were soon asleep.
“Hey, hey, the Kid’s here,” Jason proclaimed, as he stood in the doorway. It took me a second before I realized I wasn’t dreaming. He shut the door, was naked and bouncing on top of us in less than ten seconds.
“Hey, Tiger,” Dan said, wrapping his long arms around him and me and squeezing us tight. He gave Jason a passionate kiss. I finally was awake enough to concentrate. I grabbed him by his dick and kissed him on the lips.
I was so glad to see him again. I reached around him, caressed his butt, and continued my hand up his back. He had soft skin that covered his lithe body. His beautiful red hair had gotten longer and begun to flow over his ears. I ran my fingers through it. Dan was doing the same. Jason was laid out on top of the two of us, his head on Dan’s chest. I noticed our breathing was in sync, perfectly comfortable and content with each other at this moment.
Jason lifted his head and looked at both of us. He sighed heavily.
“I love you both more than I can even imagine. I couldn’t stand it anymore this morning when I woke up. I actually called a half a dozen times today but got no answer. And now being here with you I realize how important you are to me.” He sighed again. “We were on a roll for two months and then it slowed and now it has become a reality that it all will end at some point; we all knew that. I guess I’m not really ready for that yet and just want to hang on as long as I can.”
Dan and I looked at one another, looked back at Jason, and then hugged him tightly. Dan had tears running down his face. Jason smiled and wiped them away.
“You guys feel the same, don’t you?”
“Yes, we do,” I said, “This got a lot deeper than any of us could have imagined when I wrote our number in your palm in Gadsden. It’s not going to be easy on any of us, but we all know that the Three Musketeers might not last forever. Help us figure this out too. OK?”
“Crap, growin’ up ain’t easy sometimes,” Jason said.
Dan smiled, “Come here, Tiger.” Dan helped Jason slide up and he kissed him on the lips. Dan then kissed me too.
“We got a lot of time in the next six months to work all of the kinks out about…man, it’s even hard to say… about breaking away…I don’t know how else to put it. So, we all know, maybe not understand, but we’ll figure it out in time. Now, let’s just continue the ride, OK.”
Jason hugged us as hard as he could and then pushed back to say, “I need to shower. Join me?”
“Yep, count me in,” I said.
“Me too,” Dan said as he picked Jason up and threw him over his shoulder. I checked the hall if the coast was clear and we were the Three Musketeers again.
The next morning the family slowly filled the four chairs and the stool to drink coffee and pass around the Sunday Times-Picayune. The banter was routine until Fitz arrived and saw Jason sitting on his stool.
“Jason, so good to see you,” she exclaimed, running around the table to give him a hug and a sloppy wet kiss on the cheek.
“Wow! Didn’t know I was missed that much!”
“I didn’t think we’d see you till school was done.”
“Well, I called yesterday ‘cause I missed you all so much and I got myself invited down. I’ll be headin’ back after lunch.”
Dan and I looked at each other with a quizzical face. She had piqued our interest by her interest in Jason, and us.
By eleven breakfast had broken up, Steve was off to the library, Fitz had to be at work at noon, Dan had a two o’clock shift, I was itching to get back at my desk and Jason needed to get back to school. After the three of us had gotten out of the shower, we sat on the bed talking, procrastinating from putting on the clothes that signaled the fact that we all needed to go our separate ways.
“Jason,” Dan inquired, “I’m curious about Katie being so glad to see you?”
“Me too,” I added.
“Well…I…I guess that…well you know I see you guys sometimes as my big brothers…well sometimes I need a big sister too.”
“OK,” Dan and I said simultaneously.
“And we talk sometimes…and I guess she really appreciates it. I didn’t know how much till this morning. Look, you don’t have to worry about what we talk about, I mean she knows that we fuck around with each other…and I don’t give details, but she is sort of curious about it, especially cause you two are so tight with one another. I think she cares about me and doesn’t want me to get hurt in this relationship with you guys…not that she thinks y’all are using me, No Way! She just doesn’t want me to hurt myself. And you guys feel the same way too, so I know I’ll be alright ‘cause of the support I get from all of you. You know I think that the four of you are more my family than my real family.” He paused, “And, actually, I think Katie also feels a little like me, she’s dreading the time when we all go our separate ways in the fall.”
That comment hit Dan and me like a ton of bricks.
“Crap, growin’ up ain’t easy sometimes,” I said, repeating Jason’s comment from yesterday.
Dan leaned over and kissed Jason, “Thanks, Tiger, for opening our eyes to what is right in front of us. We need you too.” Dan paused, he winked at me and then continued,” Jase, besides next weekend, ‘cause that’s for us, and probably the last week or two before Pete’s deadline, you are welcome any weekend, actually any time to come and stay with us. Even if you get a wild hair in the middle of the week and drive down just to sleep with us for the night, OK?”
“We mean it,” I said.
“Thanks,” he said quietly, trying not to shed a tear.
I basically lived at school till late Friday night. I was home for about six hours each day to sleep, shower and change clothes. I would eat on the way to the streetcar in the morning. Dan would show up when he could to bring me lunch or dinner. There were places to eat on campus, but he didn’t want me to waste the time and eat crappy food. The pace of my working was beginning to take a toll on him too. On Wednesday night he was fast asleep in the La-Z-Boy and it was after 3am. So, I just climbed in and nested with him, not wanting to wake him up for the trip home. He nudged me in the morning, just past nine. I opened my eyes to see the Dean staring down at us. The whole room was fairly active with people by that time. I don’t think he was upset with us sleeping together. I think he was perturbed by the fact that I had my hand down the front of Dan’s pants as we slept. We roused ourselves then went and washed our faces in the men’s room. We giggled like children over the incident. I went back to my desk. Dan went home to change and get some food for us.
Friday after class I headed home to wait for Dan to get off from work. I waltzed in the front door in a “Life doesn’t get any better than this” mood. I was free, at least for 48 hours, from the weight of the world. All I had to do was be with Dan and that was the best thing in this world. I spied the mail on the coffee table and cruised through it. Hey, a card from Jason! And one from Mom and Dad Elliot, too! A card each from my sisters and my parents were in the stack. “Wow! All coming on the same day,” I said to myself. Then I realized that I hadn’t seen the mail all week and this was just the pile of cards for us. Dan had left them so that we could open them together. There were the bills too in another neat stack on the coffee table. I was stoked about the cards though. I felt legitimized, not that it was necessary, but I do want others to believe in what I already knew.
I wandered back to the kitchen. Steve was drinking a beer and reading Wednesday’s paper.
“Want one?” he asked.
“Sure.” He spun around in his chair and flipped open the fridge and tossed me a Dixie longneck.
“She’ll be here soon. Hey, are you guys actually doing anything for your first…besides the obvious?”
“We just want some quiet time to ourselves and to sit in the La-Z-Boy,” I said with a smile, before continuing; “I guess we’ll go out to dinner, nothing fancy.”
Fitz and Dan came through the door together, joking about something. I got up and ran to him, jumped up and wrapped my legs around him. He staggered a bit adjusting to the load. We kissed as he carried me back down the hall to the kitchen.
“Hey, Love,” I said.
“Hey, Darlin’,” he replied.
“Can you believe it’s been a year?”
“Nope, it’s so strange, ‘cause it feels like it’s been just a week and it feels like it’s been forever. No matter to me though. I’m just glad that it is!” I kissed him again and I hugged him tight as he continued to carry me around. Fitz walked over and hugged the two of us.
“I want to congratulate you two on your year and for being an inspiration to me and Steve.”
“Here, here,” Steve piped in, slapping his hand on the red Formica tabletop.
“Thank you,” we said together. Dan and I kissed again and he slowly slid me back on my feet enjoying every last feeling of us rubbing past one another as he did. He winked at me with all the deviousness he could.
I slapped his ass, “Cold one…beer I mean.”
“Yeppers,” he said laughing.
“I’ll take one too,” Fitz said.
“Cool.” Katie hardly ever drank.
We all sat down at the table and were lost in a relaxed banter of our week’s doings and the weekend ahead. I sighed at one point looking at the empty stool. Fitz caught it and smiled in acknowledgement.
She then asked, “So what are you really going to do this weekend…besides the obvious?”
I burst out laughing and said, “You guys have talked about this between you, huh? Steve asked me the exact same thing not five minutes ago. “Y’all really want to know…about the obvious too?”
Dan started to snicker. Steve’s eyes widened and Fitz brushed back her hair over her forehead and said, “Yeah, tell us all.”
Steve’s jaw dropped. Dan gave me a look out of the corner of his eye meaning he had decided he would answer the question with a bit of tact.
“OK, by me,” I said.
“Well, actually, we thought we would take a walk on the levee, maybe go to the zoo, do what ever comes to mind, and then go out to one of those seafood restaurants in Bucktown or along the lake. Nothin’ fancy at all, just a day for the two of us. Then we’ll come back here and…”
“No, don’t go into it, please,” Steve implored.
“OK…but, Katie, if you really want to know where I like to tickle Peter with my tongue, I’ll tell you later, so Pete doesn’t have to be embarrassed too.”
Steve had his hands over his ears by this point and I said, “I wouldn’t be embarrassed by you tellin’ her these things, I’d just be embarrassed by the hard-on I got from you talkin’ about it.” Steve had put his hands down by now and was slightly red in the face.
“That’s OK, Pete,” Fitz stated, “already seen your hard-on.”
“What!” Steve and Dan said in unison.
I got instantly red and then said, “I was on my way to pee one morning. I didn’t know y’all were here.” Steve and Dan relaxed.
Fitz turned to Steve and said, “He really’s got a nice one!” Steve went completely red and so did I.
“Yeah, he does! I can’t get enough of it,” Dan added. Steve downed the rest of his beer, spun around, got another and guzzled half of that one too, and then said, “Y’all need to cut it out. I’m going to have images in my head now.”
“Good,” Fitz said, “maybe you need to spend a night with these guys and you can learn a few things and loosen you up a bit!” Steve’s jaw was hanging loose as he stared at Katie. The two of us were laid back in our chairs laughing. My sides were beginning to hurt.
“I mean it, Steve, you’re a little repressed sexually. Don’t get me wrong, I like havin’ sex with you, but sometimes I want you to let go! Look at these guys, they have a great sex life on their own, but aren’t hung up about having a third in with them. Now, mind you Jason is a very special third, a real one-in-a-million, but they allow things to happen, naturally.” She took Steve’s hands into hers. Steve looked as if he wanted to spontaneously combust and disappear from embarrassment.
“Steve,” Katie stated, “we are your best friends in the world, don’t worry, it’s OK. It’s not like I’m going to ask you to demonstrate or anything. I just want you to at least not be embarrassed by the conversation; that’s a start. Look, I love you, Steve, and I really want to make this work.”
“Yes, Steve, I do. Very much. I know I haven’t said it before now ‘cause I’ve been hurt before and was just trying to protect myself, but it’s time to get a lot of things out in the open.”
“Maybe we should leave so you two can talk this out,” I offered.
“No, please stay,” Fitz said. Dan reached over and took my hand and squeezed it. He understood that we were needed for support.
“Steve, let me ask you something that I know is awkward but it might help me understand, OK,” Fitz asked quietly.
“OK, shoot,” Steve replied, buoyed by the statement of her love for him and knowing he needed to trust her.
“You told me about Joe and how he hit on you and you said no, but I noticed that when you see him you guys always kiss on the lips very naturally. You don’t do that with Pete or Dan. And whenever any comment is made about gay sex, you get a little uptight. Am I reading something into this or did something more happen with you and Joe and you just haven’t come out with it?”
Steve stared down at the floor for a while, then glanced up at Katie for a second and then looked back down. He sighed and then began to speak, “OK, Joe always said I’d have to do this to understand it, so here goes.” He then sighed heavily, gave a quick smile to Fitz and then began, “Joe, me and a bunch of others from Sharp Hall, all went out drinking at ‘The Boot’ one night. All of us had a great time, beers, pinball, more beers and then we all straggled back to the dorm. I went back with Joe. Joe’s roommate had gone home with some girl to her place and my roommate was asleep. He was a nerd. I wasn’t ready for bed yet and I liked Joe so I thought I’d get to know him better. Well he REALLY wanted to get to know me better but he took his time though. He wasn’t pushy or anything. I knew what he wanted but I resisted and said no. Drunk as we were he respected me. That’s when I knew I wanted to be friends with him. Well, it got me thinking of what he wanted to do, and I had thought about it from time to time, but never knew how or with whom to act on it. For weeks I got all wound up about it and confused myself to the nth degree. So one night, when I had my room to myself, I invited him over. We talked for a long time and I had bought some beers to loosen me up too. It finally got to a point and I said, ‘Let’s knock it out!’ Well, to say the least, Joe was still there the next afternoon when my roommate came home. We were dressed by that time, but before that we did everything imaginable. Yes, I mean everything. Ok…I’ll list ‘em if you want but, Katie, I think you can imagine. We also had a long talk about what happened and that I didn’t want it to happen again. Once was definitely enough to get it out of my system, well mostly…still I have no real desires at all…especially now that I’m with you, Katie…but I have to admit I still to think about it from time to time.”
There was a long silence, two or three minutes. Then Steve sighed and said, “Joe was right, again. I do understand what it all meant and means to me now.” He paused and then said very deliberately, “In a nut shell, I was curious, I did it, I enjoyed it, I appreciate it, I’m not outright attached to it, but I certainly respect it. Now I just have to allow myself to be comfortable with talking about and feeling my own sexuality, which is heterosexual, but definitely some homosexual feelings exist.” He stopped again, and stared at Katie, then Dan and me. He looked back at Katie and said, “Still love me?” She leapt from her chair and kissed him so hard they went bowling over backwards. They kissed a few more times on the floor and then ended up laughing on their backs. Dan and I got up and gave them a hand up onto their feet. Steve put his hands on my cheeks and gave me a great long kiss on the lips. “I’ve wanted to do that for a very long time.” He turned to Dan and kissed him too and said, “For not as long a time, but just as much.”
“Thanks for the anniversary present,” I said.
“What?” Steve said, very confused.
“The kiss and what you just said. I know it was tough to say, to let go of those really deep feelings, to put them on the outside for someone to see…but it feels a lot better, doesn’t it?”
“Joe told me that depression is when your spirit wants to move you but you resist it…or something like that. He was quoting Kierkegaard. That’s why I got so weirded out and down whenever you guys brought up some sexual reference or joke, like the time in the car with the dildo.”
“I know, you sort of scared me the way you turned around with that stare.”
“That’s because…Katie are you listening?” Steve glanced towards her before looking back at me, “that’s because I had dreamed about Katie and me fooling around with one. I was scared shitless because you guys had gotten so close to the truth about the way I really felt, but I couldn’t let go enough to trust my feelings with Katie.”
Katie grabbed Steve by his two front belt loops, pulled him tight to her, and said, “Wow, I didn’t think I’d get you to admit to things this far so soon. This is great.” She turned to Dan. “You want to tell us where you got that thing? I think Steve and I need to see what they offer.”
“Oooh, we could all go ‘make dildos,’” Dan said in a silly voice with a smirk at the end. We erupted in laughter. Fitz was hanging on my shoulder, her knees weak. Steve was against the fridge, doubled over and Dan pulled his keys out of his pocket, jingled them, and said, “They’re open all night. Got anything better to do?”
Off we went to a no-name-pleasure-palace, a hole in the wall video/ bookstore down at the far end of the French Quarter. It wasn’t long before my sides hurt from laughing at the rolling commentary and group shenanigans. I was awestruck at one point because I was standing there with a big piece of molded latex in my hands having a discussion on the finer points of dildos with Steve. It was a whole new reality for me, and I felt so much closer to him than I ever had before. I think he had the same thought too. It revealed a whole new angle on our love of toy shopping. Katie turned out to be an absolute maniac in that place. She had to touch and caress everything in there. It was obvious she had previous knowledge, or had thought about it an awful lot because of the way we she talked about it all. And with the few really exotic items she had no problem in asking explicit questions. In the end, each couple bought a dildo, theirs with one head, ours double ended.
We were walking to the car when Katie stopped, turned around and said, “I can’t stand it we’ve got to have one like yours.” She took off at a good clip back to the store. The three of us turned and walked back slowly.
Steve looked at us, raised his eyebrows and said, “Wow, she’s amazing,” he paused; “I can’t wait either.” A broad smile crossed his face as he glanced down at his own crotch. He had a roaring hard on.
“Cool,” Dan said, “neither can I.” He moved the brown paper bag that held our purchase away from his groin to show the huge bulge in his pants.
“Wow,” Steve exclaimed, “Wow!” He thought for a second and then said, “Can I see the two of you naked sometime…you don’t havta be doin’ anything. Just curious, OK?”
“Sure, want to do it with Jason there too,” I asked,
“So you get the whole picture.”
“No, just you two is cool.”
“You have to be naked too, OK,” Dan stipulated.
“Oh, man, life’s become an open book, huh,” I stated.
Katie came bounding up to us with the hugest grin and jumped to a halt in front of us.
“Let’s get home, NOW, I can’t wait,” she exploded.
“Neither can your boyfriend,” I said as I reached around him and outlined his cock with my hands.
“WOW,” let’s go,” Fitz shouted as she grabbed Steve’s hand and started marching double time down the street. Twenty minutes later we were in the front door. Katie kissed us thanks, patted our butts and then she and Steve disappeared into their bedroom laughing and giggling.
“The way the evening was going I had thoughts that they might ask all four of us to go to bed together…I’m glad that didn’t happen,” I said.
“Same thought, same conclusion here too,” Dan said as he took my hand into his, turned and kissed me. We calmly walked into our room, undressed, brushed our teeth and then began our own dive into mad lovemaking.
Dan and I were up, coffeed, showered, dressed and ready to go have brunch and run some errands when Steve wandered out of the bedroom dressed in his boxer shorts.
“How are you, sleepy-head? I see you have a permanent grin,” Dan said. Steve moved right up to us and grabbed us into a bear hug.
“Thanks,” he whispered, released us, then said, “It was fantastic. It combined all my dreams and fantasies into realities. I’m so happy…sore, mmm, sore…but oh so happy… and so is Katie too. But before you guys go, Katie wanted, and me too, to ask if you wanted to go to dinner tonight, our treat, OK?”
Dan and I looked at one another, shrugged our shoulders and said, “Cool,” simultaneously. We were continuing on our free wheeling way of celebrating our anniversary and things were working out without a hitch so far. We were very happy.
We spent the day walking in the sunshine, having brunch in a brick paved courtyard under a live oak, shopping for a new bedspread and buying underwear and socks. We took a cruise through the bookstore. Dan needed more to read. I absorbed as much from as many architecture books as I could while we were there. We arrived back at five, put the new spread on the bed and gave it a half-hour test nap. After we woke up I reached for the phone and called Jason just to chat and tell him that we loved him. I gave him the low-down on our conversation and adventure with Steve and Fitz, not too much detail though, as I wanted Fitz and Jason to have something to talk about. Dan added a couple of comments here and there, but he was content with one of his new books. Jason asked to come down for next Saturday. We said sure as long as he didn’t mind either hanging with Katie and Steve or coming to school with me for a few hours in the afternoon.
“I can take care of myself,” was his comment to that.
That got me chuckling as I responded, “Don’t we know it.”
We said our good-byes and hung up. I snuggled up with Dan. Steve soon knocked at our door, even though it was open.
Dan and I chuckled at that, then Dan said, “Hey, it’s cool if you do, but you don’t have to knock if you don’t want, it’s all out in the open now.”
“I’ll keep knockin’, OK? Anyway, how about out the door to dinner for seven o’clock reservations.”
“OK…mmm…reservations…don’t get fancy on us now…dress code,” I asked.
“No, no…not to worry.”
“Still sore?” Dan asked looking up from his book.
“Even more so,” he said with a wink as he turned and went down the hall, letting us hang.
“Well, Dr. Frankenstein, what about these monsters we’ve created,” Dan asked me.
“Don’t blame us! They created themselves,” I laughed.
“Come on, we need to get in the shower.”
“Would you like to get a little sore,” he asked as we scooted across the hall.
“Sure, and you?”
It was a long shower.
Dinner was at an Italian restaurant on Napoleon Avenue called Pascale Manale’s. Fitz had made sure that we were seated at a table in the corner for this fun filled feast. Our unit was in high gear; gone was the sexual talk of last night replaced by the banter of great friends having a good time with one another. We were four friends instead of two couples. During dessert, I just had one request, “Next time we do this Jason has to be here.” Everyone agreed that it had crossed their mind that they had missed him. Fitz excused herself to go to the Ladies’ Room while we drank our coffee, when she returned she had a present in her hands. She handed it to the two of us.
“Is it safe to open it here in public?” Dan asked with a sly grin.
“‘G’ rating, not a problem,” answered Steve.
I opened the card. It was a plain white card with an orange border; inside it read: See you at the next 50 of these! Love, Katie and Steve.
Dan opened the wrapping and then the box. He peeled back the tissue paper to reveal a framed photo. It was an enlargement of a picture Steve had taken of us, the first picture of Dan and me together, right before he left for Houston on the weekend we met. We were both leaning up against the front fender of Sammy, our arms around each other’s waist with grins from ear to ear. Steve had the foresight to capture that moment and I will forever be indebted to him for that. Dan pursed his lips, trying not to cry.
I patted him on the stomach and said, “It’s alright.”
He looked at me and then back at the picture.
“I just realized how much I was in love with you that day and how much more I love you now.”
Now Fitz and I started to cry. Steve called for the check.
Back at the house we sat at the kitchen table and knocked back a few beers. Dan hung the picture, after a group discussion, on the little piece of wall between the two windows at the head of the table.
“Thanks, guys, again, for the picture. See, if you just let things happen they are better than planning everything out. This weekend has been perfect for our anniversary and we didn’t plan a damn thing.”
“Now, don’t jinx yourself, but I have to admit, you’re right,” Fitz said.
Fitz excused herself soon after to go to bed, “The wine, food, beer and last night have taken their toll; I need to sleep.”
Steve said he was going to stay up a little while longer and got out another round of beers. She kissed him goodnight and then us.
By the end of that round we were ready for bed too.
As we passed by we kissed Steve goodnight and were heading down the hall when he called out, “Remember what I asked last night?”
Dan and I looked at each other.
“Yeah…well, come on then,” I said nodding my head in the direction of our room.
We turned into our room and began to get ready for bed. I turned around and Steve hadn’t come into the room yet. I finished undressing and went to the door to poke my head down the hall when Steve popped into our room startling me. He had gone to get naked as Dan had asked and then he held up his camera.
Dan let out a laugh and said, “Wait a minute, what’s this all about?”
“Seeing that picture tonight gave me an idea.”
“What? Are we starting a series of framed portraits to hang around the house?” I asked.
“That would be a cool idea,” Steve mused, then continued, “I just think it would be a natural, you two, arms around one another naked.”
Dan finished undressing, looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, “Why not, where do you want us?”
I shrugged my shoulders. Steve got us to stand next to the chair by the window with our arms around each other’s waist, my hand on his stomach and looking into each other’s eyes. He took a few like that and then moved us around a bit and took a dozen more photos and then said, “That’ll do it.”
“I’m scared of this,” I said.
Dan said, “Can we see these as soon as you get them…just in case we want to burn the negatives?”
Dan turned to me and pointed with his eyes at Steve. I looked at him and noticed his hard-on, “Nice one, Steve.”
It was too.
Steve looked down. “Sorry, can’t help it. When you guys got hard in the last couple of pictures, well…”
“Not to worry, remember we had this conversation last night. It’s cool…Pete’s right, it is nice.”
Dan walked up and began to stroke Steve’s cock.
“Oh, God, wow…”
“Do you want me to stop?”
“No, please don’t…Pete?”
“Yeah?” I walked over to Steve.
“Can I stroke?”
He grasped both of us and slowly, gently began a rhythmic stroke. Dan and I looked at each other after a minute; we were a bit bewildered, not knowing where to go with this. Steve broke the silence.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this. I wanted to that’s all, but I have one more request…I want to suck on you both for a little bit…Katie can’t provide for me on that one.” He gave us a stupid, silly grin.
“Go for it, Steve,” I said. He did. Joe must have taught him well. He stopped short of making us climax.
“My turn,” I said. I did bring him off.
“Wow, I’ve been wanting to do that for a very long time,” I said mimicking Steve’s voice.
Steve started to laugh, so did Dan. We all understood that both Steve and I had harbored a long held desire to do what we just did and we finally got that release.
“What is Katie going to think of this,” Dan asked.
“She told me that if I ever had the desire and wanted to act on it, I was to get it out of my system…that is if you guys would be willing.”
“So she told you to go suck our dicks,” I exclaimed, slapping my forehead.
“Katie is a-ma-zing,” Dan said.
“She actually said if I wanted to fuck or be fucked that would be OK too, but that’s OK, what happened is all that’s necessary.”
“Hey what if we wanted to fuck you,” I asked with a grin.
Steve got serious and said, “I thought about that and it would be cool if you guys wanted to.”
I shook my head with a smile, “No need.”
“Hey, speak for yourself,” Dan proclaimed with a wink and grin. Dan then gave Steve a big bear hug and spoke softly in his ear, “Steve, you have got a winner in Katie. I’m so glad that she’s our friend. And she’s madly in love with you. She wants you so bad she told you it was OKto do this. And she’s the sanest person I have ever met. So she’s given you a gift…she is a gift…don’t screw it up. If you need anything, or to talk something out, we’re here, always. So go climb into bed and snuggle up close and tell her you love her.” Dan pulled away to arm’s length, his big hands still on Steve’s shoulders. “OK?”
“I will. Thanks, I love you two…too.” He kissed both of us on the lips. Something he would do from now on.
Steve turned and went out the door. He squinted his eyes as he looked down the hall.
“Hey, it’s quarter after twelve. Happy anniversary.”
“Thanks, sexy,” Dan said.
“Hey, I was just thinking, Dan, Steve, tell me what you think too. The party was on Saturday, but we didn’t actually kiss and go for it until sometime after two on Sunday. Is our anniversary the date of the party or the day after?”
“Well, we’ve been celebrating it Friday and now all of Saturday and we’re going to celebrate it Sunday, at least that’s what we had planned. What’s wrong with adding Monday too? We’ll just have four anniversaries this year. Next year will be our fifth! WooHoo!!!!”
“Dan! silly boy, I’m sort of serious here. Steve, what do you think?”
“I think I’m goin’ ta bed! Y’all can figure this out yourself. Call Strawberry if you need a third to help,” Steve said with a sly grin.
“G’night you two.”
“Good night chickenshit. Kiss that sweetie for us,” I said, then turned back to Dan, “Well, seriously now this affects my planning for fifty years to come.”
“Monday,” he said simply, “Let’s celebrate the day we announced to ourselves that we loved each other…and to the rest of the world…OK!”
“I agree. March 22nd it is.”
“Let’s go to bed. The last two days have been really twisted works of art and now our anniversary is on the roll too. I really thought that we lived a pretty normal life. Guess not.”
We climbed into bed, held each other close and soon disappeared into sleep.
As we all sat around the table the next morning passing the paper in circles and drinking coffee we talked through our decision to change our date. Fitz was about to say something when the phone rang.
“Who calls at 9am on a Sunday,” Katie asked. I got up to answer the phone but long armed Dan stretched from his chair and snapped it off the wall before I could get there.
“Who goes there?” he asked in a deep gruff voice into the phone as he smiled at me. I gave him a wisp of a slap on the cheek.
“Hey, Tiger! Well, Thanks! But it’s tomorrow…” Dan went off explaining why it had moved. Jason’s main comment was to the fact of why it had taken so long for us to catch on to the fact.
“Was Mr. Planner Man asleep at the wheel?” Jason also thought it was great because he needed some tutoring today and wouldn’t feel so bad asking for some time from Dan. Dan said he would love to help, and they set a time for late in the afternoon to call. It was fine by me because I had already talked to Dan about putting in a few hours at school that day, as a trade off with tomorrow night.
We decided to move our Sunday morning chat outside by the pool. Swimming in the cool water and then lying in the hot sun was incredibly relaxing. Once I had the crossword puzzle in my hands it was heaven. By noon Dan and I were off to school.
The afternoon was spent working on the model of my project. In the previous two weeks, I had built the base and some of the framework of the building. There were now thousands of pieces to cut, fit and glue before it would be finished and I could use all the help I could get. Dan was excited to be useful besides being a gofer or an echo to me answering my own questions. Dan was quite adept with his hands, but he had never tried anything like this. I told him what I needed. He asked the best way to go about cutting the basswood into the various sized pieces that would have to be repetitively cut so they could be assembled into the window wall system that was the part of one façade. I showed him how I would do it.
“I can do that,” he said.
“OK, now the rules: One, do not cut yourself. Two, if you violate rule one, do not under any circumstance bleed onto the model. You will heal – the model can’t be cleaned! Three, measure twice, cut once. Four, if you violate all of the above I will still love you.”
I then handed him the X-acto knife. For the next three hours we chattered in short clipped sentences about life, half the time finishing the other’s thoughts.
It was well after four when Dan said, “Tiger…shit, I got to go!” I looked up at him as he stood.
“Thanks, see you in a couple, love you.”
He leaned down and kissed me, “Love you too, I’ll send Jason your love too. Don’t be late, I’m already hungry. Been slave driven all day long,” he said with a smirk.
“See, ya are like your dad.”
“Oh great! What about his humor…Anyway, I won’t, I’m hungry too…for you.”
“Aww, shucks, you make me blush,” he said feigning flattery.
Dinner was simple: a table by the window on Lake Pontchartrain, a plate of various types of seafood cooked in a variety of ways and the two of us together at sunset. We spent the evening in bed and had a good night’s sleep. Monday, even though it was truly our anniversary, was more like any other day. Work and school crept back in, but we spent our time together, as always. We also spent two hours together in the Garden. Dan helped me weed as we quietly enjoyed each other’s company. We both agreed that was what our anniversary should always be.
The pace of life and school became more intense with each passing day. The first half of April was a frenetic blur. The days we saw Jason seemed to flash by and then when he was there again it only seemed like it was just a day or two later, sometimes it actually was but most times it wasn’t. I hardly had a chance to get into the Garden. I think my only quiet time was the five or ten minutes before we fell asleep each night and the 45 minutes that we shared each morning. Dan became an adept model maker. He enjoyed it. He quickly moved from an assistant to partner in the process. Thesis was due on April 25th. I was awake and at my desk for the last 100 hours before I had to turn it all in. Four hours before the noon due time I felt I was done; I called Dan at home and told him he didn’t have to come to school now.
“Everything’s cool, I’m finished.”
“Congratulations. I’ll be there in twenty.”
As in everything that I did he was there to support me, even if he was just standing across the room with a smile. He helped me get it all to the desk for the official check through and notations to what I handed in. By this time I was getting grumpy and irritated by the smallest of things. Sleep deprivation had taken its toll. My Thesis Director, after I handed in my project, offered me a job for the summer. Even this made me irritated and I snapped at him.
Dan cuffed the back of my head with his hand and said to my director, “He’s ecstatic about your offer and accepts. He’ll be there the Monday after graduation. Say ‘Thank you,’ Peter.” I looked at both of them with spite and then remembered that everything was done and this was a good thing, no matter how I felt.
“Thanks, sorry about that. See you at the jury on Thursday, at Graduation and at work…all with smiles.”
“Take him home and put him to bed. Would you please," he said.
“Sure thing, thanks again for the job. He’ll be really excited when he stops being a grumpy jerk,” Dan said as he slapped me on the ass on the word ‘jerk’.
We climbed back up the stairs to the fourth floor, Richardson Memorial did not have an elevator, for me to pick up a couple of things and lock up my desk. My friend Russell, whose desk was next to mine, was asleep with his head on his desk, pen in hand. He had handed his project in about fifteen minutes before me. I went over and gently tried to rouse him. He wrote all over the desk, mumbling about getting it done on time. He came around to reality.
“Hey it’s done, go home and go to bed. Need a ride or something?”
He looked at me, and then the note he was writing and said, “Don’t remember what this was about. I’ll take the ride though.”
He locked his desk and then we stumbled down the stairs and out into the warm humid air of the afternoon.
Dan had to say, “This way,” a few times as we walked to where he parked the Rabbit.
“Worse than drunks,” was his comment when we finally made it to the car.
Russell’s place was on the way to Upperline. Dan made sure he had his keys so he could get in before we drove off. Five minutes later, with Dan’s arm around my waist I made it through the door.
“Come on, let’s put you to bed.”
“I want a beer,” I demanded.
“Pete, come on,” Dan pleaded.
“No, you come on, I really want one. I deserve one too,” I said, gaining a second wind of strength.
“Awright, darlin’.” We sat at the table with our beers. We smiled at one another. Mine felt like a stupid grin.
“I can’t believe I’m done…well, except for the two papers and three exams I have to do by the end of next week…Shit.” I paused and looked into Dan’s eyes.
“Thank you, I don’t have the words to explain how much you helped. How you made this possible. You are amazing. I love you.”
“That’s all you had to say, ‘I love you.’ That’s all the explanation that’s ever necessary.”
I smiled at him again and swigged at the beer.
The next thing I remembered was Dan waking me up in the chair and saying, “Bedtime.” He got me up and down the hall to the bath. He undressed me, and then himself, while the water ran.
“You are entirely too stinky to put in bed. Let’s get you cleaned up, OK?”
It felt so good to have the warm water run over my skin and a detached pair of hands floating across with slippery lather. He dried us off and held my hand as he led me across the hall. I got into bed and never knew if Dan got in too.
It was fourteen hours later at six in the morning when I awoke with a start. I had to think to realize that I was done with my project. Dan was sleeping peacefully. That slow subtle rhythm of air that hummed through his nose made me smile with gratitude. I didn’t want to disturb him. I got up, put on a pair of his boxer shorts, and went in the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. The unit would be up by nine I figured, so I reluctantly walked to my knapsack and found the pad that was half of one of the papers I had to write and sat down at the table, coffee cup in hand. For the first half-hour, I doodled and sketched houses, ideas for houses that Dan and I would live in someday, I figured. Then the thoughts about Mies van der Rohe began to pour from my mind in a coherent manner and I began to write. It only had to be eight to ten pages and annotations were not critical; just a bibliography was called for. So, it was an easy paper to write once I had the thoughts and time. Mies was a favorite architect of mine so it was fun. An hour and a half later, I was done with the first draft. I would just have to do a reasonably quick edit and type it. I wasn’t going to stress about this as I normally would. I knew now that I was going to pass and graduate. All I had to do was deliver the last requirements.
Dan stumbled into the room, still half asleep.
“I couldn’t find you,” he mumbled.
“I’m right here,” I said as I stood, walked over to him and kissed him. We put our arms around each other and he squeezed me tight.
“I got upset when I couldn’t find you. Why didn’t you wake me?”
“Dan, it’s all right. You were sleeping so soundly. I’ve been awake for hours darlin’. Hey, I would never leave you.” I kissed him again.
“I’ve been writing one of my papers. It just needs to be typed now, cool huh.”
Dan was finally coming to earth.
“Sorry, I guess I’ve really missed waking up next to you and it hit me funny when you weren’t there again.”
“I love you,” I said, smiling.
“You got dat right!” Dan said in that silly squeaky voice he sometimes used. Now I knew he was wide awake.
“Yes, please.” I filled up Dan’s and then refilled mine. The door to Steve’s room creaked open and he and Fitz appeared. I reached for two more cups and filled them, then went down the line, each cup getting a splash of milk.
“I don’t do sugar,” I said. Dan gave me the eye of irony.
“Mornin’ all, so nice to see you again, missed ya,” I said with a bright enthusiasm.
“Yeah, we were worried there for a while,” Steve said.
“It was very strange to have Dan here at the table but not you.” Fitz walked around to me and kissed me.
“Congratulations, nice to have you back. I went to see if you were awake at all last night, but all I got was a good view of your butt and some snores…cute butt, Pete!”
“Hey, I don’t snore!”
Dan gave me a contorted face and said, “OK, Neffertittie, Queen of de-Nile!”
“No, really you do, quite loud and obnoxiously sometimes,” Dan said.
“Oh shit…I didn’t know…why didn’t you say something?”
“Hey don’t worry about it. I rub on your chest, or get you to roll over and you stop. If you get all self-conscious about it it will just get worse…I still love you.”
“Geez, left in the dark again,” I said sarcastically.
“Didn’t mean to cause any problems. Eggs, grits and toast, everyone?” With a few yeas and nods she started cooking.
“Oh, and thanks for the cute butt comment.”
“You’re welcome. Everyone here thinks you do.”
Both Steve and Dan nodded their heads in agreement. I promptly got up, turned away from them and dropped my boxers as I bent over.
“Thank you, thank you. From my bottom, I thank you.”
Dan leaned over and kissed my ass.
“Mmmmm,” we both said.
I now was incredibly horny and would have loved to skip breakfast, but I knew Jason was coming within the hour and I’d wait. I pulled up my boxers and turned around to sit when my hard-on popped out of the fly. I quickly sat down. Dan, Steve and I erupted with laughter.
Fitz turned around and said, “What?”
“Nothin’,” I said.
“Boys!” she responded as she turned back to the stove.
The front door banged open, then closed and then we heard a knapsack hit the floor.
“Honeys, I’m home,” Jason called out in a sing song voice.
“We’re back here, I’m fixing you a plate,” Katie called back.
Dan and I got up to give him a hug as he came down the hall.
“Mmmm, nice,” he whispered as I hugged and kissed him. He could feel my hard-on that had returned at the bang of the door.
“Hi, Tiger, love you,” Dan said.
We all sat back down as Katie put breakfast in front of Jason. We had just finished our breakfast when he arrived. To have us all here again with the weight of Thesis removed from my shoulders brought on a feeling of giddy relaxation. That, in combination with being incredibly horny, was a dangerous mix. After fifteen minutes of pinching Steve’s ass, making rude and crude comments, and a few of Fitz’s “Pete, please, no,” over some sexual innuendo, I caught Dan and Jason looking at each other looking at me.
“Excuse us, please,” Dan said to Steve and Katie. He and Jason stood up, took me under the armpits, and said, “Come with us please.” Into the bathroom we went and then for the next hour we were in bed where they took turns fucking me as I fucked the other. Afterwards I was back to normal.
“Swim time,” I suggested.
“Race ya there,” Jason yelled as we scrambled to get our suits on and race down the hall. Dan was still trying to tuck himself in as we blasted through past Steve and Katie, who had gone back to bed, and out the back door. Across the yard we leapt through the gate right into the pool.
Ben, who had been quietly reading by the pool, bolted upright upon being splashed and said under his breath, “Juvenile assholes.”
It was a term of endearment from him.
After swimming and sunning we went back to bed for a second round and a nap. By then it was almost dinnertime. Dan decided he was ready to cook and set about it. Jason became the sous-chef and I sat at the table to work on the second paper. I had written everything but the conclusion by the time they were ready to set the table. Without the burden of Thesis as an overbearing storm on my thoughts and time these other assignments became a breeze. The first halves of these papers had taken me weeks to get this far. Now it had taken me just hours to finish them. Tomorrow while Dan was at work I would be able to type them, and maybe I could convince Jason to stay the afternoon and use his magic fingers to help.
Steve and Katie came back from a trip down to her house to do laundry. Dan had called them to make sure they would be coming for dinner. After dinner, as Steve cleared the table, Katie got up and went to the bedroom. She came back and put a gift in front of me.
“This is from Steve, me and my landlord. It’s actually for the three of you. It’s to remind you of the fun before these last couple of months of hell.”
I gave her a weird look as I pulled the paper off. I noticed the familiar box. I opened the top and peeled back the paper that looked oddly familiar too. Inside was a photo framed similarly to the one they had given us before. The photo was of the Three Musketeers in costume on Mardi Gras Day, posed with our hands on each other’s genitals or butts.
I burst out laughing, “Oh …my…god! We did that in front of your landlady and let her take a picture.”
Dan and Jason gathered around to gawk and laugh too.
“Well what about what we did that afternoon?” Jason blurted out.
Dan and I both gave him the evil eye. We had never talked to anyone about that.
“And what, pray tell, was that?” Katie asked.
“Only when you’re good and drunk sometime we’ll tell you.”
“Where’s a beer,” she joked.
It was a fabulous photo. If you didn’t know it was us, or even if you did, it still was an amazing image of fun, debauchery and energy. In other words, it was Mardi Gras. Dan hung it directly across the room from the one of him, Sammy and me.