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
Ben and Toby's life settled into a comfortable routine. Toby spent Tuesday nights and the weekends with Ben. They usually did something with Bruce on Friday evenings. Sometimes they teased Bruce about having no social life. He said that PhD candidates weren't supposed to have a life outside their classes, research, and writing. There'd be plenty of time, he added, to find female companionship after he had his degree and found a job.
"Evans," Toby said, "you'll die of blue balls long before then."
Bruce grinned. "I've got a cool way to exercise my right hand so I don't get writer's cramp. It staves off the blue balls, too."
"Man," Ben laughed, "you are hard up."
"Yep." Bruce agreed. "That's about it."
Ben reflected on the irony of the situation. The previous fall it had been Bruce and Toby who were urging him to get a life. Now his life was full, mostly because he and Toby had become lovers. He was comforted, however, by believing that Bruce's situation was only temporary, brought on by the pressure to keep plugging at his dissertation.
* * *
One evening just after 10:00 Ben was about to shut down his computer. He'd been working on the next romance, the one set in Hawaii. Although he had the characters and story line pretty well in mind, he didn't feel he had enough knowledge of Hawaii to make the setting come to life.
He heard the front door open. Mr. Tibbs, who'd been lying at Ben's feet, stood, stretched, and walked majestically out of the room.
"Yeah, you wouldn't want to look like you were hurrying, would you?" Ben asked, grinning at the departing cat.
Moments later Toby came into the room carrying Mr. Tibbs feet up, scratching him under the chin.
"That cat's a total slut!" Ben said.
"Well, he's my slut, anyway," Toby said, grinning.
"I thought I was your slut," Ben said.
"No, babe, you're my lover," Toby said as he set Mr. Tibbs down. Then he sat on Ben's lap, wrapping his arms around Ben's head, the top of which he kissed.
Soon the two were in the bedroom taking off clothing, trying to kiss each other as they did.
"Mmmmm! I've missed you!" Toby said.
They kissed some more.
"Tobe, before we get too involved here, I have a question."
"What's that, big guy?"
"Do you have relatives in Hawaii?"
"Not really. Neither of my parents have sibs, so I don't have any aunts or uncles or cousins. I think there are some distant relatives, but we don't keep in touch. Why?"
"Have you ever been to Hawaii?"
"Nope. I've always wanted to go there, see where my family came from and all that, but I've never had the chance. Why?"
"Oh, just wonderin'," Ben said innocently as he began to suck on the closest available nipple.
* * *
Relations between Ben and Kris continued to be friendly but professional. Though they still had their twice-weekly working lunches in Anders' office, Ben now found he wasn't getting erections while they worked.
One day as they were finishing up, he asked, "Kris, how's your social life?
Anders smiled ruefully. "Depends on what you mean. I've made some friends here, but I haven't had any luck finding a cute gay guy."
"I take it you're not into one night stands."
Anders laughed. "No, nor one afternoon stands either. I hope you've forgiven me for that stunt I pulled on you."
"Nothing to forgive. I was quite willing. Besides, it worked. I really enjoyed our Sunday afternoon romp, but I confessed it to Toby, and though he was unhappy at first, he's forgiven me. Since that day, I've no longer had this uncontrollable urge to bend you over your desk and fuck you."
"But you did like it, right?"
"He's my, uh, I guess he's my boyfriend."
"Damn, Ben. If I'd known you had a boyfriend, I wouldn't have tried to seduce you."
"Don't beat yourself up over it. I think you and I needed to do what we did. And it made me realize how important Toby is to me. So all's well."
"Tell me about Toby."
"He's 24, a grad student at the university. About 5'9" tall. His parents are both of Hawaiian descent, and he has the typical coloring. Straight black hair and dark eyes. And he used to be a diver, so you can picture the build."
"Sounds hot. You must share my taste for smaller guys."
Ben began to gather up the papers spread out in front of him. "I hadn't thought much about it, but both Toby and my ex are about the same size, and they're both hot little fuckers, so maybe you're right. And you like `em smaller, too, you say?"
"Yeah. As you could plainly tell, I found you mucho caliente, but there's something special about little guys, unless of course they're swish or something."
"Well, I'd better get back to my desk. Don't want the boss on my case about taking too much lunch hour."
Kris chuckled. "Right! I hear your boss is a real bastard."
The next evening, Ben and Toby had just gotten back from an evening at the movies with Bruce. After getting out of their coats and gloves, they sat on the sofa, cuddled together.
"Tobe, I'd like to have a small dinner party."
"And who, pray tell, would cook?"
"Oh, come on, I'm not that bad!"
"Maybe we'd better get Trent to come and fix it. You said he was a good cook."
"Interesting you should say that."
"Because I want Trent to be one of the guests."
"Now that's really interesting. `One of the guests,' you said. Who else would you invite?"
"Just one other. Kris."
Toby cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. "Benjamin, are you planning to do some matchmaking?"
"Well, uh, yes, I guess you could say so."
"Trent's lonely. He says the only thing between him and Breck is the sex. Breck's going to grad school out of state next year. And Kris confessed to me yesterday that he has a special thing for guys about your size. Trent and you are about the same height, though you've got a much nicer build. And I thought . . . ."
"You thought there's no harm in introducing them. Trent's about your age, and so's Anders, right?"
"Well, what would be the harm? Nothing may come of it, but why not? Besides, I'd like to meet your boss, and it will be fun to see Trent again. I need to thank him."
Ben was puzzled for a moment. Then he said, "Oh, yeah, for calling you that time."
"Yup. I'd have forgiven you anyway, but his verbal kick in the ass speeded up the process."
"Then we'll both have to thank him."
Toby grinned and grabbed Ben's crotch. There was a session of kissing and groping before any more words were exchanged.
As they were turning down the thermostat and seeing that the doors were locked, Toby said, "But you know, we really should take them to a restaurant. I doubt that our combined cooking skills are good enough for those two."
"Maybe you're right."
At breakfast the next morning Ben said he'd try to set it up for them to meet at Adrian's.
"Babe, I can't afford to pay for half of that evening if it's going to be at Adrian's."
"I don't expect you to, tiger. I'll take care of this."
"But how can you . . . ? Wait a minute, I just realized something. How could I have been so dense?"
"Those books of yours. They must be making money for you."
"Yeah, a little."
"More than a little, I'd think. But then why do you . . .?" He made a circular gesture with his right hand.
"Why do I live like this?"
Ben took Toby's hand and led him into the bedroom.
"I can live comfortably on what I make from my job. I've been socking the rest of it away. But once in a while, I think Witherspoon is entitled to enjoy the fruits of his labors. So just think of this dinner party, if we can set it up, as being D. K.'s treat."
"You're strange, Moss. Most guys would be living high on the hog."
"Maybe someday I'll be able to retire early and do just that – if those books don't go out of fashion. So, let's check our calendars. Trent's going to be the hard one to schedule, but I'll take care of getting it all set up."
Scheduling was easier than he'd expected, and the event was planned for the Saturday two weeks distant.
* * *
One day in late April Ben received a memo via inter-office email announcing that the county had a vacancy for the second position in the computer services section. The qualifications looked like something Toby could manage, though he was admittedly lacking in experience. But he would have his MS in computer science at the end of the semester, and that should give him a leg up over most of the other applicants, or so it seemed to Ben. He printed out the memo and took it home, where he showed it to Toby.
"Looks interesting, babe. And it would be cool to work at the same place you do."
"I'm not so sure about that, but it's at least something to consider. You haven't talked about a job search. What are you doing?"
Toby grinned and said, "Oh, I may have something lined up already."
"Hey, that's good news."
Ben wasn't sure whether it was good news or not. From his point of view the appeal of Toby's working for Colby County was that he wouldn't be leaving town.
"Well, it's too early to even talk about it yet, but I'll let you know if anything comes of it."
Feeling a little hypocritical Ben said, "Well, if it's something you really want, I hope it comes through for you." He dreaded the thought of what life would be like if Toby moved away.
* * *
"How do you think it went?"
The two lovers were lying in bed, Toby's head resting on Ben's chest.
Ben giggled. "That tickles!"
"That, when your breath hits my tit."
"Oh, you mean like this?" Toby pursed his lips and blew on Ben's nipple as if he were trying to extinguish a fire.
"Oh, God, stop! I can't talk if you're going to do that. I don't think I realized they were so much more sensitive after I've come."
By this time they'd disengaged and were lying side by side on their backs.
"So how do you think it went?"
"Before I answer that, tell me how it was for you to be around Trent and Kris."
"I admit I was worried. And when I saw them I was jealous. Trent's definitely cute, but Kris is more my type. More like you in general size and coloring. I couldn't help trying to picture you in bed with both of them."
Ben grinned. "Together or separately?"
Toby gave him a sharp nudge in the ribs with his elbow.
"Ow, what was that for?"
"For being such a smartass." He rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow. "So they have good taste. And what went on with you and them is in the past. You came home with me. Just don't let me catch you fucking around with either of them again. Or I"ll . . . I'll . . ."
Ben chuckled. "I don't even want to know what you might do. But you don't really have to worry, you know. Besides, the point of the evening was to introduce those two."
"Well, I think they hit it off pretty well, but I suppose only time will tell."
"To coin a phrase."
"Sheesh, it's tough living with an English major. Or an English teacher. I've got Bruce across the street to correct my English and you over here."
"I'd say that makes you pretty lucky."
"You know, I think you're right. Now," he said as he lowered his face toward Ben's, "let's do some serious osculation."
* * *
A week or so later as they were having breakfast, Ben said, "Tobe, I don't want to nag, babe, but if you're going to apply for the county job, you'd better get your ass in gear. The deadline's the end of next week."
"Oh, okay. Thanks for the reminder."
The next day the phone on Ben's desk at the office rang.
"Ben, I just wanted to let you know that I won't be applying for the county job. I've been offered something I think I'll like better."
"That's great, Toby! What is the job?"
"I'll tell you about it tonight. Gotta run."
Tense the rest of the day because he feared Toby's job would take him away from Colby, Ben had trouble concentrating on his work.
Toby was sitting in the family room with Mr. Tibbs in his lap when Ben got home. Ben leaned down and kissed his lover.
"So, tell me your big news."
"I'm gonna be working at the university. They've offered me a job in the Computer Services department. But I'll not just be a techie, `cause they want me to teach a section of Computer Science 101 each semester, too."
Ben grabbed Toby's hands and pulled him up. Mr. Tibbs uttered an angry comment as he was more or less dumped from Toby's lap. Ignoring the cat, Ben put his arms around Toby and hugged him tightly.
"That's great, babe!" I've been so afraid you'd get a job somewhere else and leave me behind. That's the reason I was pushing for the county job."
"I would've gone after the county job if I didn't already have an idea they were gonna offer me this one at CSU." A mischievous look crossed Toby's face. "You didn't want me to move away, huh?"
They spent a few minutes doing some deep and thorough kissing. Finally, when they were catching their breath, Ben said, "Now, think we could shanghai Bruce long enough for a celebratory dinner?"
Toby grinned. "Sure. He'll love `celebratory.' That's his kind of word. I'll go tell him the news. I just wanted to tell you first."
The three men celebrated Toby's new job with excellent steaks and lots of adequate merlot at the local Outback Steakhouse.
* * *
And suddenly the semester was over. Toby moved his things into Ben's house the day before commencement. Bruce had already lined up a new housemate, a guy working on his dissertation on the Mayan civilization. He wouldn't be there until Labor Day, however, because he was spending his summer in Mexico.
Toby's parents, handsome people like their son, came to meet Ben and see Toby receive his diploma and master's hood. Bruce and Ben were there, too, so Toby had his own cheering section.
* * *
"Man, I could get used to this," Toby said, raising his shades to look over at his partner.
They were on the private lanai outside their suite at the Four Seasons Resort at Wailea on Maui.
"Sorry, love," Ben said, "it's back to the grind for me on Monday."
"Yeah, and I start at the university the first of July."
When Ben had told Toby he wanted to take him to Hawaii for two weeks as a graduation present, Toby had objected.
"Ben, I love you, sweetheart, for wanting to do that, but it's way too expensive."
Ben hugged him. "You're worth it, you know." Ben chuckled. "Besides, I'm going to use this trip to soak up Hawaii vibes for the book I'm working on. So, you might say D. K.'s paying for this. And I may be able to deduct part of the cost from my taxes as a business expense. I'll have to talk to my tax lady about that."
"Tax lady, huh? I keep forgetting my lover's got big bucks stashed away."
"Well, not all that much. But enough to cover the cost of a visit to Hawaii."
"What about Tibbs?"
"Do you think Bruce might look after him?"
"Yeah, probably. I'll ask him. But what about your work? Will taking two weeks off be a problem?"
"Oh, no. I've accumulated so much vacation time that I'm gonna lose some of it if I don't use it. Besides, Kris has been pretty mellow since he and Trent became a couple."
"That happened fast. Trent told me they're really burning up the roads between here and Sylvania."
"You've been staying in touch with Trent?"
"Uh huh. He's really a nice guy. We've been exchanging email. He offered me some recipes if I want to cook for you."
"Let's do our cooking together."
Ben said, "So it looks like our matchmaking may have paid off."
"Yep. Now, Mr. Witherspoon, let's start planning that trip."
* * *
They spent the first week in Honolulu, doing all of the usual tourist things. Both men admitted the hair on the backs of their necks prickled as they stood in awe on the "Arizona" Memorial. They swam at Waikiki, attended a luau put on by their hotel, sampled many kinds of cuisine at the fine restaurants, and took several guided tours of Oahu.
For the second week, they stayed on Maui. They rented a Mustang convertible for the week and used it to visit various tourist sites on the island, often pulling off the road to enjoy the scenery. They especially enjoyed the Lahaina Galleries and the Bailey House Museum. The Tedeschi Vineyards had a winery, where they sampled the local wines, including a pineapple wine. Most of all, they liked the Maui Ocean Center, which claimed to be the largest tropical aquarium in North America. (They wondered about claiming that Hawaii was in North America, but the Center was huge and fascinating, despite the hype.)
By late afternoon, if they weren't sunbathing nude on their private lanai, walking the fantastic beaches of Maui, or playing around in the ocean, they were usually to be found by the pool, where the attendants provided ice water and chilled towels upon request. One afternoon when they had the pool pretty much to themselves, Ben asked Toby to dive for him.
"Oh, I dunno, babe. It's been a couple of years since I did any diving. And most of what I did was platform diving. All they've got here is the usual board."
"Come on, Tobe, humor me. Please?" Ben made sad eyes at his lover.
Chuckling, Toby said, "Oh, all right."
He stood, adjusted his speedos, and walked toward the board. Tanned to a beautiful golden brown, he looked, Ben thought, magnificent. Ben watched, mesmerized by the muscles of the compact little ass flexing. When Toby got to the end of the board, he paused, apparently deciding what dives he'd do.
`God,' Ben thought, `he's beautiful. And he's mine. How could I ever want anything else?'
By the time Toby had done half a dozen dives, he'd attracted a small audience, who applauded when he finished and walked back over to Ben.
"Could you arrange to use the diving pool at CSU and give me a real demonstration when we get back?"
"I suppose so, if you really want."
"Baby, I'll probably cream my jeans, but yes, I want. Please. I don't know the intricacies of diving, but I know you're talented and incredibly good to look at!"
"Awww, shucks," Toby said, grinning.
They had sampled a different restaurant every evening since they'd been on Maui, including the Four Seasons' own Pacific Grill and Ferraro's, both open air places with great views of the ocean.
Their last evening, however, Ben insisted that they eat at Spago, Wolfgang Puck's restaurant at the Four Seasons.
When they were seated, he asked for a bottle of champagne immediately.
"Champagne?" Toby raised his eyebrows. "Have I missed something?"
"Well, maybe. Let's wait until our server gets back." Oke, a cute island boy, returned quickly.
After the wine was poured, Oke left the menus and discreetly disappeared.
"Ben, what's up?"
"I want to make it official. I've told you I love you, Toby, but you said months ago you wanted commitment. So, tonight I'm offering you that commitment if you'll have me as your life's partner."
"Oh my God, sweet Ben! Of course I'll have you. I've been hoping to hear you say those words for months. He leaned forward, tears in his eyes. "But I want more than champagne to mark this occasion."
"Do you mean dinner, or do you have something else in mind?"
Toby lowered his eyelids. "What I have in mind can wait until after dinner – but not too long after."
Ben smiled and lifted his glass. "To a lifetime together."
"To a lifetime together."
Since they'd been eating mostly fish and seafood that week, they opted for a change. Ben chose Chinois lamb chops with Hunan eggplant and chili-mint vinaigrette, while Toby selected grilled cote de boeuf with braised celery, Armagnac, peppercorns, and pommes aligot.
The fine food was wasted on them that evening, however, so wrapped up in each other were they.
"Do you remember when I got back from Indianapolis the Monday of spring break?" Toby asked.
"Yeah. That was the day I had to confess to you about Kris."
"Well, I mentioned to you on the phone that I had something I wanted to tell you?"
"Yes. But your escapade with Kris made me decide not to after all."
"What was it you wanted to say to me?"
"I'd done a lot of thinking that weekend. I had decided to tell you as soon as I got back to Colby that I really loved you and wanted us to be monogamous partners – if you were ready."
"Damn! And then I dumped on you all about Kris and me." Ben looked as if he were about to weep.
"That's why I needed a few days to figure out how I felt. It didn't seem like you could be ready to commit. But, as you know, I got over my initial hurt. I realized if you didn't really care, you wouldn't have admitted what you'd done. You could have just kept quiet about it. I finally figured out that you must really love me. Since then, I've just been waiting for the right time to tell you how I feel. I was gonna do it before this trip was over. But you beat me to the punch."
"I'm glad I did. This way you'll know I'm not just responding to something you've said to me."
Toby took a last sip of the cabernet they'd selected to go with their meals. "Let's get Oke over here so we can blow this joint."
Smiling, Ben said, "I'm guessing Oke wouldn't mind if you blew his joint."
"Oh? I agree he's probably gay, but why me in particular?"
"Lover, he's been ogling you all evening."
"Tough shit. I've got something else in mind and somebody much sexier to do it with."
Back in their suite, the two men slowly undressed each other. When they finished, they stood kissing, arms around each other, hard cocks mashed between them.
Eventually, Toby pulled away. He went to the bedside table, opened the drawer, and removed the lube, which he handed to Ben. He lay back on the bed, legs spread.
"We have some unfinished business, lover, and it's time."
"You're sure you're ready, babe?"
"You do know this means I'm making you a lifetime promise, don't you?"
"Ben baby, I'm just a computer geek. I'm not a writer and I don't have your way with words. But I believe you and I trust you with all my heart. Now, please make love to me. I've been waiting a long time for this."
"So have I, sweetheart."
A soft breeze blew in off the lanai, but neither of them noticed.
Ben awoke later, sometime before dawn. They hadn't closed the door to the lanai. He hoped no passers-by had heard the moans of pleasure coming from their suite. He could hear the surf on the nearby beach, and an occasional puff of air blew in.
He was lying on his back. Toby was lying on his side, his head on Ben's chest. Ben had an arm draped over his lover's shoulders. He stuck his nose into the black hair and inhaled. He could get high on the smell, could never get enough of it.
That night had seen the consummation of a relationship begun eight months earlier. Although he had known who Bruce and Toby were for over a year by the time Chris and Hal came for the football game in October, Ben dated his friendship with Toby from the time a few days later when Toby had rescued Mr. Tibbs.
Since then Toby had patiently but persistently tugged Ben from his monastic ways and back into the world, into first friendship and ultimately love.
It was also Toby who was responsible for Ben and Trent being friends again. Ben found he loved Trent -- no longer as a lover, but certainly as a friend. He hoped Trent could find a loving relationship, if not with Kris Anders, then with someone.
`As for you, Moss, you're a lucky bastard, and you better not forget it. Cherish this beautiful man who loves you and makes you happier than you ever thought you'd be.'
The Class Notes section of the Spring 2007 issue of the Colby State Alumni Magazine had a picture of Ben and Toby. Ben, looking embarrassed, was holding a book. The text under the photo said that Benjamin Moss, BA '96, MA '98, had recently published his first novel. The book, Picking up the Pace, was brought out by G-Mark, New York's most prestigious house specializing in works by, for, and about the GLBT community.
"Standing next to Moss," the squib continued, "is his partner, Toby Taba, MS '06. A review of Picking up the Pace appears on p. 43."
The article didn't mention that Romance Ink had published D. K. Witherspoon's newest, Mischief in Maui, in time for the previous holiday season.
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'll know it isn't spam. Thanks.
Again I want to thank Drew Hunt and Mickey S. for all sorts of help, from inspired suggestions to the drudge work of editing. And Ash Bradley has supplied lots of helpful background information about what it's like to work in county government. Thanks, guys. I couldn't have done it without your help. Love ya! --Tim