By Tim Mead
The usual disclaimers apply. Don't read this if for some legal reason you shouldn't. Remember the work is under copyright and thus belongs to me. No reposting without permission.
Monday, February 20, was Presidents' Day. County workers got the day off. Ben had called Trent the week before and asked if he'd like to have lunch. Trent had, miraculously, been off that day, too. He'd agreed to come to Colby for lunch, but he asked if he could bring Breck along.
"Oh, you two are still together?"
"Don't go there, please, Ben."
"Breck and I haven't talked about what we'll do with that long weekend. But I'm sure he'll be with me. So if you don't mind, I'll bring him along."
"That's cool. And it gives me an idea. I'll bring someone, too."
"Ooohhh! And who might that be?"
"His name's Toby Taba. He's a grad student who lives in the house across the street."
"And I think I'll bring him to lunch."
"Bastard! You've already said that. I want to know all about him."
"Okay, so he and I are, shall we say, good friends. You can see what you think when you meet him."
"Ben, babe, I can't wait. Now, let's make this event dutch, or two and two. And definitely not at Adrian's."
"Nelly's burgers are as good as any in town. Why don't we meet there?"
"I don't know whether I can stand it. I'll get to look at you and all the other eye candy. I'll bet Toby's not hard on the eyes, either. I'm hyperventilating already."
Ben chuckled. "Such a drama queen. Now, gotta run. See you soon."
"Yeah, Benjy, thanks for thinking of it. Love you. Bye."
The lunch itself had been pleasant enough. Toby and Trent seemed to hit it off well. It was almost as if three old friends had gotten together. The only problem was that Breck seemed quiet, even sullen. Ben wondered if being in the presence of Trent's ex bothered him. He remembered the scene he'd come across when he returned home early that day, with Trent on his back, legs over Breck's shoulders, the boy's muscular white ass clenching and unclenching as he drove in and out. Maybe it was the recollection of being caught that made Breck so quiet. Ben tried to engage the boy in conversation, but he didn't get very far.
As they were all leaving, Toby dropped behind to talk with Breck. Trent took the chance to apologize. "Breck's not always like that. But I think he figured you were gonna lay into him over what happened."
"Are you and he still . . . ?"
"Yeah, but I'm really pushing for a grad school out of state."
"Well, good luck with that. Let him down as easy as you can."
Trent put his arm around Ben's waist and hugged him. "Okay, that's good advice. Now let me give you some."
Ben looked down at the shorter man. "And what would that be?"
"He's a keeper."
With that, Trent turned back, took Breck's hand, and said, "Great to meet you Toby. You guys have fun!"
When they got back to Ben's house, they kicked off their shoes and flopped in the family room. Toby said, "That Trent is one cute guy. I can see why you got serious over him. I think I'm jealous."
He was smiling, but even so Ben thought he should nip any potential jealousy in the bud.
"You're right. Trent is good looking. He's sexy. He's a nice guy. But you, Mr. Taba, are, I think, the nicest person I've ever known. And you are, as they say, hella sexy! Would you like to go to the bedroom and have a little afternoon dalliance?"
Toby stood up, chuckling. "Dalliance in the Afternoon sounds like the title of one of those trashy novels Bruce reads. But I'd like to check on Big Ben and see if the tower is still standing straight and tall."
"Head for the bedroom, young'un, and I'll show you just how big Ben is this afternoon!"
Later, as they lay together naked in the afterglow, Toby said, "You know, Trent's nice. I didn't think I'd like him, but then I figured if you loved him once, he had to be a pretty good guy. At least most of the time. But I have to tell you, Ben, Trent's got a problem."
"You know when we were coming out of the restaurant and you and Trent were talking and he hugged you?"
"Yeah. What happened? Did that make Breck jealous?"
"No. Just the opposite. Breck wants out of the relationship. He says the sex is great, but he's come to realize that he doesn't care as much for Trent as he used to think he did."
"I kid thee not," Toby said.
Ben smiled. "Tobe, I don't think that's going to be much of a problem." Then he explained what Trent had told him.
* * *
Ben took an afternoon off work in early March for Mr. Tibbs' semi-annual checkup. Dr. Ryburn, the vet, had pronounced him in excellent health except that he was beginning to be a little chubby. He'd prescribed a low-calorie, low fat food for Tibbs.
So, with Mr. Tibbs voicing his complaints from his carrier on the floor of the back seat, Ben drove to the pet store. Leaving Tibbs in the car, he went inside and found the prescribed new chow in the food aisle. He got a 25 pound bag of the dried food and a case of the canned food. When he wheeled his cart to the checkout lane, he discovered the same clerk he'd seen when he bought Mr. Tibbs' collar.
"Oh, hello there," the man said, elongating all the vowels. "How's your pussy? Having a bit of a weight problem, is she?"
"It's a he. My cat, that is."
"Oh, my bad! How is he other than his weight, then?" the guy asked, simpering.
"He's fine, thanks."
The clerk rang up the two purchases and told Ben the amount.
"But that's half again as much as his regular food!"
The clerk cocked a hip and put his fist on it. "Doesn't make sense, does it? But any special diet food costs more. Maybe you should just take pussykins for a walk every day."
Ben couldn't envision Mr. Tibbs submitting to being led on a leash around the block.
"Uh, no, I don't think that would work."
"Well, then," the clerk said, smiling, "you'll just have to pay the extra amount, wont you? I assure you, pussy will love this. It's every bit as good as what you've been feeding him."
Wondering how the clerk could possibly know how the diet stuff tasted, he handed him several bills and waited for his change.
As he wheeled his cart out the door, the clerk called after him, "I'd love to be of help to you whenever you need it. I'm Sly. Please call me if I can be of service."
`Sly? Dream on, guy!'
Ben was eager to get home. Toby had said he'd spend the night after he got his studying done and had checked some lab quizzes. That meant Ben had until about 10:00 to get his supper and do some work on the new story. He was still at the stage of making detailed notes. The problem was the Hawaiian setting, about which he knew nothing. Of course he could find all sorts of information on the internet, but he'd really like to go there and soak up the ambiance. He knew Toby had been born in Indianapolis, but perhaps he had relatives in Hawaii. That gave him an idea. But first he'd have to tell Toby all about the Witherspoon books. He knew he could trust Toby to keep his secret.
Mr. Tibbs was indignant over having been subjected to his physical and hauled around in his carrier. When Ben released him in the kitchen, Tibbs drank some water and disappeared. Which probably meant that he was curled up in the middle of the guest bed.
Ben poured himself a glass of chardonnay and then opened one of the cans of diet food, which he spooned into the cat's bowl. It looked and smelled about the same as the regular food. Whether Tibbs would accept it remained to be seen.
Grabbing a plastic container of crackers and a can of Easy-Cheez, he went to the family room where he put a cd of Andre Previn and friends playing jazz on the stereo and relaxed in his recliner, occasionally squirting some of the "cheddar" onto a cracker and eating it, following it with a sip of the wine.
His life had changed significantly for the better since he and Toby had first spent the night together. What a night that had been! Ben closed his eyes, remembering being naked in bed with the beautiful boy. . . .
He looked down to see Mr. Tibbs, who was looking up at him, licking his chops with that coral tongue. A tongue Ben knew was rough as sandpaper, since Tibbs occasionally deigned to lick Ben's hands, arms, or legs. He never licked Ben's face or neck, and, perhaps because he was too proud, his feet.
"What's up, Tibbs? Your food's in your dish."
Curious, Ben put down his wine glass, got up, and went to the kitchen. The bowl was there on the floor, apparently untasted.
"There's your dinner."
Tibbs went to the bowl, sniffed, cast Ben a reproachful look, and stalked from the room, tail erect, tip twitching.
"Don't get all high and mighty with me, Fatso," Ben called after the cat. "The doc says you gotta lose weight, and this is what he said to feed you."
He returned to his recliner and picked up the wine glass. . . . His mind went back once more to that special night.
The sex hadn't been wild and exotic. It hadn't been spectacular. Rather, it was slow, gentle, and, well, loving. Nothing anal had been offered or attempted. But there had been busy tongues, lots of licking and sucking, involving nipples, balls, and cocks. Toby introduced Ben to the pleasures of frottage. They slept spooned together and explored each other all over again when they woke up. Sunday morning they showered together and spent most of the day smiling, hugging, touching, snuggling.
Bruce had called over early that afternoon to tell Toby he could come home, that Rusty and his friend had left.
Since then Ben and Toby had been spending a couple of nights a week together. Sometimes they'd have a session between ten and midnight and then Toby, pleading his early class, would slip back across the street. Other times, he'd stay the night.
Weekend nights they spent together, though they both had too much to do on Saturdays to be with each other. Saturday nights were their time to stay up late having sex or sometimes just holding each other and talking. Sundays they slept late, having oral sex after they'd relieved themselves, making big brunches about 11:00.
Early on, Ben had been told that Toby's ass was off limits. Oh, Toby loved to rim and be rimmed. And, when Ben had pleaded, he'd agreed to be the top to Ben's eager bottom.
The first time they did that, Toby said, "I'd always figured you for a dedicated top. You big guys don't usually seem comfortable being fucked by us smaller guys."
"I'm pretty versatile, Tobe. And I've often fantasized about having you in me."
Toby had looked down at Ben and smiled. "I wish you'd told me that a long time ago!"
But it wasn't a two-way street. Toby had told Ben gently that he was an anal virgin and planned to remain that way.
"Are you afraid, Toby? I'd be very gentle. I'd never want to hurt you."
"No, Ben, it's not that. I know you. I think it would be fantastic having you do me."
"Well, what then?"
"It probably seems silly to you. I've had plenty of chances to have someone stick it up my ass. But I've saved myself for the right guy. And that means a guy I can love, a guy that loves me."
Ben had started to say something, but Toby put his finger on Ben's lips. "Let me finish, please. It also means a guy who is ready to commit to me. I can only lose my cherry once, and I want to give it to my life partner. Or, since nothing's really certain, to the guy I think and hope's going to be my life partner. Can you understand?"
Touched, Ben said that of course he understood.
* * *
Mr. Tibbs didn't eat his food the evening after his visit to the vet's. Before going to work the next morning, Ben threw out the uneaten food, washed the dish, and put the proper amount of dry food in it. He didn't want the expensive canned food to sit there uneaten and perhaps spoil.
When he arrived home that evening the bowl was empty.
"I thought if you got hungry enough you'd eat that stuff," he said to Mr. Tibbs.
He put a can of the new moist food into the dish. Mr. Tibbs sniffed it and left the kitchen disdainfully. When Ben came to the kitchen the next morning, however, the bowl was empty. After that Tibbs accepted his new regimen. A couple of weeks later, Ben noticed that Tibbs was looking a bit sleeker, more like his former trim self.
* * *
Kris Anders had decided that he and Ben should have a working lunch twice a week. They had food brought in as they exchanged information and ideas about how the department was running. Ben was uncomfortable with the arrangement. Anders, thoroughly professional, seemed sincere in asking for Ben's take on things. But it was difficult to concentrate on county business when the two worked in Anders' office with the door closed while half the department was out to lunch. (Anders had continued Sharon's policy of staggered lunch breaks so the office wouldn't be left unstaffed.)
Ben told himself that, though Kris Anders was a genuinely nice man, though he was proving to be a good boss, he didn't have any special feelings for Anders other than lust. They might have become friends if it weren't for the fact that Ben repeatedly had uncontrollable erections when the two were together. In addition to that problem, his hands grew moist and his anti-perspirant seemed to fail as he felt drops trickling down his ribs. Anders undoubtedly noticed these manifestations, particularly the erections, but he never let on that he had. Because they were the only "out" gay men in the county administration, so far as either of them knew, they were circumspect. They never got together socially. Ben heard that his boss was acquiring a circle of friends in Colby, but they never discussed with each other what they did away from the office. Neither had ever explicitly acknowledged the sexual heat that suffused their meetings.
What bothered Ben most was that the arousal he felt around Anders wasn't diminished after he and Toby had become. . . . What had they become? "Boyfriends" seemed a silly term. Ben certainly wasn't a boy, and the term conjured up for him a picture of moon-eyed adolescents. "Fuck buddies?" No. Apart from its essential crudeness, the term suggested two men who had little to hold them together other than the glue of sexual union. Despite the eight-year age difference, Toby had become a good friend, perhaps Ben's best friend. So, were they "lovers"? Regardless of what Bruce had told Ben early on New Year's morning, Toby had never, even as they lay together in the warm afterglow of sex, told Ben that he loved him.
* * *
What Ben called his work room was actually a handsome, comfortable room. His computer work station was on one wall. A window was on another. Much of the rest of the wall space was covered by book cases, mostly full. There was also a large leather wing back chair with a floor lamp on one side of it and a small round table on the other.
"This is a reading man's room," Toby said when he first saw it.
One evening Ben was still at the computer working on notes for the next romance novel when Toby arrived a bit earlier than Ben had expected him. He'd let himself in, taken off his shoes by the front door, and padded silently into the room. He bent to kiss the side of Ben's neck.
Ben quickly minimized the screen before he turned to give Toby a proper kiss and hug.
"I'm nearly through here. Hang a sec while I finish up, okay?"
As Ben continued to type, instead of sitting down Toby browsed the books. He'd been in the room often enough before and, as he'd told Ben, had been impressed by the number of books Ben had collected, but he'd never paid attention to the kind of books. They covered a wide range of subjects. Most were novels of various sorts, but there were also other things as well: drama both classic and modern, history, geography, and travel being the subjects of quite a few.
Then he paused. He was standing before a row of novels by D. K. Witherspoon. Each hardback in its colorful, not to say lurid cover stood next to its smaller but equally colorful paperback version. All of them appeared to be unread.
"When you and Bruce were talking about D. K. Witherspoon, why didn't you tell us you're a fan?"
Ben clicked the Turn Off Computer button on the screen and swiveled his chair to face Toby. "I wouldn't say I was a fan."
"Then what? Are you collecting his or her books as an investment? You think they're gonna be valuable some day?"
Ben smiled. "I really doubt that."
For a moment Toby looked annoyed. Then his face relaxed. "Ben, you're playing with me. I can't bandy words with you. You're the expert. I'm just puzzled that you'd have this particular set of books."
Ben stood up and took Toby's hand. "Let's go to the family room, and I'll tell you all about it."
"Geez, this is beginning to sound heavy."
"You want anything from the kitchen?"
Ben pulled Toby to the sofa where they sat on either end, turned to face each other. Toby pulled his legs up so he was sitting Indian fashion.
"Okay, those books obviously weren't a gift from a maiden aunt. And you're acting very mysterious. What the fuck's going on?"
Ben sighed. "I was going to tell you about this, Toby, believe me."
"Tell me what?" Toby's voice rose on the last word, obviously showing his exasperation.
"I'm D. K. Witherspoon."
Toby laughed. "And I'm Perry Mason. Now, seriously, what's the deal with those books?"
"Seriously, I'm the guy who wrote all those `trashy' novels."
Toby looked silently into Ben's eyes for about thirty seconds, reading him. "You're not shitting me, are you?"
Toby seemed to be thinking for a while. Then he said, "Why didn't you tell Bruce when he was going on about Witherspoon? Why didn't you tell me? I mean, it's a pretty big fucking deal to be sleeping with a best-selling author."
"Tobe, I'm sorry. Does it bother you that I write that crap?"
Toby thought some more. "I'm no literary expert. I don't know whether it's crap or not. And Bruce, who's supposed to know all about literature, reads every Witherspoon he can get his hands on. He calls it `chewing gum for the brain,' but he obviously likes it." He paused. "What bothers me, Ben, is that you didn't tell me something that important about yourself."
Ben moved along the sofa until he was next to Toby. Then he pushed Toby's legs off the sofa and pulled the younger man so that his head was on Ben's chest with Ben's arms wrapped around him.
"Toby, I'm sorry. I've known for a long time that I could trust you, but I was just waiting for what seemed like a good time."
Toby sat up straight, turning his head to look at Ben. "Trust me? What's the big fucking secret, Ben?"
"I'll bet Bruce could explain that to you. The thing is, nobody knows who D. K. Witherspoon is. Honestly, my publisher, my agent, my brother and his family, and Trent are the only people who even know whether Witherspoon is a man or a woman."
"Why all the secrecy?"
"It all began because I didn't want the people at the county office to know, or my university friends. I was embarrassed that I could write straight romances and get them published. I wanted to be a serious writer and get my gay novel published. The chances of that would be zero if I were known to be a writer of that kind of, as you so accurately put it, trash."
Toby twisted around again so he could see Ben's face more easily, but he didn't say anything.
"Then, as the books really caught on, each one selling better than the other, there were demands for interviews and book signings. I couldn't do that and keep my job. And I wasn't about to give up the job. I thought it was a fluke that the first book sold. Basically, I've been surprised when each of the five has sold better than its predecessors. So I've just consistently refused to make any public appearances or let my agent or the publisher tell anyone what Witherspoon's real name is."
"The publisher went along with that?"
"At first they were pissed. But then the mystery over who this author might be sparked the sale of more books, and that of course made Romance Ink, the publisher, very happy. So now they seem content to play along. Although Clark, my agent, says they're beginning to make noises like it's time for D. K. to reveal himself."
Toby shook his head, grinning. "You'd be such a celebrity if anybody knew."
"Can you understand now why I don't tell people?"
"Yeah. But you could have told me."
Ben pulled Toby into another hug. "I had every intention of telling you, babe."
"You never called me `babe' before. Is that guilt talking?"
"No way! That's love talking."
"You never mentioned the L-word either."
Ben chuckled. "So now you know two things about me."
Toby grinned as he rubbed a finger over the cloth covering Ben's nipple. "And tonight I can fuck D. K. Witherspoon?"
Toby sat up. "I can't?"
"Witherspoon doesn't exist. But you can fuck me, if I'll do?"
"Oh, well," Toby said, heaving a theatrical sigh, "I suppose you'll have to."
Later they were having pie and coffee in front of the fire.
"Hey, Ben, I just got an idea."
"Are you gonna tell Bruce?"
"Oh, I think we have to, don't you?"
"Yeah, and I'm glad you agree. But I've got the greatest idea about how to tell him."
"So explain, please."
"Brucey has a birthday on April first, poor guy. What would you think of giving him signed copies of all of the novels? I'd be happy to pay for them. He'd think it was some sort of gag, an April fool joke."
"If you'll agree to making it a gift from both of us, there won't be any cost. I have extra copies of all of them in the workroom closet, and I'd love to write a note in each of them for Bruce."
"I can't wait to see the look on his face when he finds out that D. K. Witherspoon lives across the street and his roomie is sleeping with the great author." Toby was grinning broadly.
"You do understand that you can't tell anybody else, don't you? And we'll have to get Bruce to promise, too."
"Ben, you know Bruce is the best. He won't tell anyone if you ask him not to. And if anyone wants to know how I got those books, I'll just say I bought them on eBay."
Ben picked up the plates and mugs and headed for the kitchen.
"Are you coming back?" Toby asked.
"Yeah, unless you're ready to fuck a celebrity, in which case I'll meet you in the bedroom."
If you'd like to write me about this story, please do c/o firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put the name of the story in the subject line so I'llknow it isn't spam. Thanks. --Tim