By Tim Mead
At Colby State the first semester ended just before Christmas. Most students liked that plan because it meant they didn't have to worry about final exams while they were at home or wherever they celebrated the holidays. It did, however, make for a frantic prelude to those holidays.
Brody was busy doing last-minute papers and studying for finals just as things were growing more hectic at both the shops. Roger was equally busy with school and job, so the two were able to meet only a couple of times at Gridley's and return to Brody's apartment afterwards. Their association continued to be one of easy companionship with a strong sexual component.
One day Brody saw an ad in the paper asking merchants to volunteer their establishments to be drop-off points for the Marine Reserve's annual Toys for Tots collection. Brody called the number and volunteered the shop in Higgins. The man who took the number thanked him and said that Petal Pushers would be added to the advertised lists of drop-off points. He went on to explain that reservists would collect the toys each Saturday until Christmas.
He got a call a day or two later from a man who identified himself as Richard Bartow. He said he was a real estate agent in Colby but was also Captain Bartow, the commander of the local Marine Corps Reserve unit. He said he was calling just to thank them for participating in the toy drive.
Soon the back room was crowded with toys left by generous Higgins residents.
* * *
As Brody was leaving his last botany class, his professor asked, "Brody, can you spare a moment?"
"Sure, Dr. Schwartz. What's up?"
"Walk with me to my office."
Puzzled, Brody said, "Okay." They passed several people Brody knew and even more who knew the professor, so the two men were kept busy nodding or saying hello until they were inside Schwartz's office.
"Sit down a minute, please."
"Is something wrong, professor? Have I screwed up?"
Schwartz smiled. "No, Brody. I'm sorry if I worried you. I just wanted to tell you what a pleasure it has been to have you in this class. I'd be pleased if you'd sign up for Botany 102. You're a cinch to ace this course unless you really screw up the final. And you're not going to screw it up, are you?"
"No, sir. I don't think so. And I've already signed up for your section of 102 next term."
"Great! Now there was one other thing, and I don't want you to misinterpret what I'm saying. I'm not coming on to you. But I know things can be confusing for a young gay man sometimes. Even though you're more mature than the typical college student, I want you to know if you ever need to talk, I'm available. I don't know whether you have someone older in your life that you can talk to about being gay, but you should feel free to come to me."
"Uh, thanks, professor. That's really nice of you." Brody smiled. "And I just might take you up on your offer sometime."
Schwartz stood up and stuck his hand across the desk. "Okay, I've made the offer, and I hope you know I meant it. I'll see you at the final."
After they shook hands, Brody thanked him again and left to go work.
* * *
One Saturday morning the phone at the shop rang. When Sheila answered it, she listened briefly, said "Just a moment, please," and handed Brody the phone.
"Hello, Brody Cox here."
"Brody, this is Rich Bartow."
"Good morning, sir, what can I do for you?"
Bartow chuckled. "Were you ever in the military, Brody?"
"Yes, sir, I was a Marine for four years."
"I should have guessed. But you're a civilian now, and you can drop the `sir' business."
"Right, sir, uh, Mr. Bartow."
"Call me Rich, please. Now, the reason I'm bothering you this morning is that the vehicle assigned to haul toys to our collection center is being used for another purpose. Is there any way you could get the toys you've collected to us today?"
"No problem. I'll load them into our delivery van and bring them. Let's see, the center's on Bryant Road, isn't it, just south of the railroad tracks?"
"How long will there be someone at the center?"
"Until 5:00 at least."
"Then it'll be no problem."
"Thanks, Brody. I appreciate your willingness to help. And it is a worthy cause."
"Yes, sir, it sure is."
Bartow chuckled. "Once a Marine, always a Marine. Semper Fi, Brody."
"Semper Fi, Captain."
Justin, who was at loose ends because Gary and family were away on a pre-Christmas visit, stopped by that day. He offered to help Brody load the toys in the delivery van – an offer Brody gladly accepted.
"Cool!" Justin exclaimed as they worked, "look at this model train. Some kid's gonna be real lucky!"
Brody chuckled. "Aren't you a little old to be drooling over toy trains?"
"If my dad is typical, you're never too old. He bought me one when I was six or something like that, and every year he puts it around the base of the tree. He didn't let me run it until I was thirteen. Even now he likes it as much as I do. He once said he'd like to have a permanent setup in the basement, but mom nixed that. She pointed out they were going to build a new house and that I'd be leaving home. I don't think she realizes how much he enjoys the train. Or else she just doesn't want it cluttering up the basement, if the new house will even have a basement."
"Haven't you looked at the plans?"
"I'd think you'd be interested in what they're gonna build."
Justin seemed embarrassed.
"Well, I still feel kind of funny about that house. I was just gettin' used to it. We haven't lived there all that long. And now they're gonna be livin' in a different place. I wonder if I'll ever have a home."
`I can relate to that,' Brody thought. But to encourage Justin, he said, "Aww, Jus, home is where the people you love are. And look how excited your folks are about building a house they designed. You should be happy for them. And you can live there instead of in a dorm if you go to Colby."
"I'd rather be in a dorm, I think. I'd like to live with other guys, not with the `rents. And I'm even thinking I'd go somewhere else besides Colby."
They finished putting the toys in the van, shut the door, and jumped into the front seats. As they drove, Brody asked, "Is Gary thinking about going somewhere else to college?"
"And you're thinking you'd like to go where he goes?"
"Depends on where he goes. But yeah, maybe."
* * *
Through the pre-holiday hubbub, Brody's mind was often on Dave Cromer who, he had discovered, was not only sexy, but a decent guy. It was going to be a lonely Christmas for Dave, Brody figured, since he'd not be with his ex-wife. He decided to see whether the hunky landscaper was going to be alone at Christmas or whether he had plans. That evening he called Sam and asked her if she could make room for one more at the table for Christmas dinner. When he explained what he had in mind, Sam readily agreed.
"Sure, Brody, Dave's a great guy, and I know Bob likes him, too. With everything going on it didn't occur to me that without Beth he'll probably be pretty lonely during the holidays. Would you like me to call him?"
"Well, you're the hostess. The invitation would sound more official coming from you."
"I'll call him right now."
"Sam, you're the greatest! Let me know what he says, huh?"
"Brody, you aren't, uh, interested in Dave, are you. You know he's straight."
Brody smiled. "Sure. It's just that Dave's been pretty decent to me, and I don't like thinking of him sitting there in his house all alone on Christmas."
After they'd hung up Brody wondered. `Interested in Dave? I don't think so. He's just a nice guy who happens to be gay. He is a sexy bastard, though.'
When Sam called back to say that Dave and his father were going to Akron to have Christmas dinner with Dave's aunt and uncle, Brody was surprised that he was disappointed. He'd come to recognize in Dave a certain solidity. Dave had said once that he would be happy to be Brody's big brother. And though Brody loved Bob, he realized that he'd be more likely to go to Dave to talk about a problem.
Then he wondered if all of this was only because he now knew Dave was gay. After thinking about it, he decided it wasn't. Dave had made it clear that he had always felt like a big brother, pushing him to do better, to be better. He had warned Brody gently about Adrian Lynch. Brody respected the way that Dave hadn't come out and told him explicitly what Adrian was like. He'd given Brody credit for being smart enough to recognize the dangers of continuing that relationship. And Brody had been.
So he recognized that he'd come to think of Dave as a solid rock in his life, someone to whom he could go when necessary. Someone he cared about. So, yes, he was disappointed when Dave was going to be with relatives rather than coming to Bob and Sam's for Christmas dinner.
Pete, too, wasn't going to be around for Christmas. He emailed Brody that he and Chuck, a new friend at OSU, were going to spend Christmas at Chuck's parents' place on Sanibel. He did say he might be in town over New Year's and if so he'd give Brody a call.
So the holidays came and went. Brody hadn't even gotten to see Pete, who emailed to say that he was having too good a time in Florida to come back to the "frozen wastes" of northwest Ohio. Brody and Roger did the Gridley's, then home, then sex thing again on New Year's Eve.
* * *
Brody worked full time at the Higgins shop the first week in January. The spring term at the university began the week after, at which point he went back to working after his classes three afternoons a week (there was once again a botany lab), and Saturday mornings. He was taking a world history course, Botany 102 with Dr. Schwartz, and, on a whim, Introduction to Landscape Design. As it turned out, he was fascinated by the latter course.
Roger continued to work at Dillard's, so the two got together that week a couple of times at Gridley's after Roger had stopped by home and changed out of his work clothes. Brody chuckled one evening and said, "For most guys, work clothes are jeans and a flannel shirt. For you, it's a suit and tie. Some work."
"It's still just work, Brody, and there are days when I wish I was digging ditches or something rather than having to suck up to the customers."
"Yeah, I can see that."
* * *
It was a Friday evening in early January. Dillard's was open late on Fridays, and Roger's supervisor had told him he'd be working Friday evenings until further notice. So Brody and Roger had tentatively planned to see a movie at the mall on Saturday night and then go to Nelly's afterward, just for a change of scene.
After he washed his dinner dishes and left them to drain in the dish rack, Brody decided to take a shower. He'd worked all morning and then, late in the afternoon, he'd gone for a run. It was cold, but there was no snow on the sidewalks or streets. When he finished showering, he pulled on socks, sweatpants and a tee shirt. It was too dark to see anything outside the window, so instead of sitting in his favorite thinking place, he flopped in the recliner in the living room. He didn't turn on the television, however. He simply sat there, wiggling his toes, relaxing.
Something inside told him he should be doing school work, but an answering voice reminded him it was Friday night and he was entitled to relax. His mind drifted. Much had happened since he'd left Iraq and the Marines and returned to Higgins. It was the town where he'd grown up, but it wasn't the home he'd left. Who was it that had said, "You can't go home again"?
One good thing had happened. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had one of those dreams of the bomb blowing up the lieutenant and two of his buddies. It was like a headache. You were aware of it when you had it, but you couldn't remember exactly when it went away. At any rate, he was grateful not to be waking up in the middle of the night sweating and shaking.
In other ways, though, things weren't as good as he'd thought they'd be. He felt aimless. He still didn't know what he wanted to do with his life. And he felt alone. True, there were Bob and Samantha and those two beautiful kids. Roger was good in bed and a nice guy, but both of them knew what they had was temporary -- convenient, pleasant, but unsubstantial. Justin and Gary were still an item, and though he wished them well, he knew that his role in Justin's life was simply that of an older friend, a surrogate big brother. And Brody was content with that. He loved Justin, but only in a brotherly sort of way.
And then there were his parents. He wondered about the excuses they'd offered for not coming for the holidays. How could they stay away? Wouldn't they be eager to see their two adorable grandkids? Brody felt ashamed when it occurred to him that perhaps they were selfish people who couldn't be bothered to come back to Ohio to see their family.
He didn't feel any better when he thought of Pete, who seemed to be drifting away. Apparently he'd slipped home for a day just before his classes at OSU resumed, but, as he'd explained in an email later, he hadn't had time to see Brody while he was in town. Brody had known that would happen. He was grateful that he'd had Pete around during the summer to help him adjust to civilian life, life in small-town Higgins. He loved Pete. He'd always love Pete. But Pete had his own life in Columbus. Then in a couple of years he'd be a professional with a practice, if that's what vets had, somewhere. And he seemed to have a new partner in this Chuck he'd spent the holidays with.
He hadn't seen nor heard from Adrian since that last phone conversation. Grudgingly he admired Lynch for not canceling the contract he had with Cox Floral after the breakup. Brody had to admit that he'd had a great time with the guy. He was incredible to look at, and he was enthusiastic, witty, even-tempered. And generous. But there was the rub. He never seemed to understand what it was about his generosity that made Brody uncomfortable. He had come to have some sense of self-worth in the Marines, but he couldn't help feeling like a rube when he was with Adrian.
So he didn't miss Lynch himself. Or if he did, he still understood that their separation was for the best. But he missed having an exciting man in his life, someone who really turned him on, who instigated things, suggested activities, made him get out of his drab little apartment and live.
`Well,' he thought, `no point in making myself more depressed.' He reached for the TV remote.
Before he had a chance to flip on the television, however, someone knocked on his door.
When he opened it, there stood Dave Cromer, looking masculine, rugged. He had on faded jeans and work boots. A flannel shirt was hanging below his worn leather bomber jacket. His eyes were red.
"Hey, Dave, good to see you. Come in." Brody stood back to let his friend enter. "I haven't seen you since the holidays and your trip to Florida. Let me take your coat."
"It's okay, Brody. I'll just throw it on this chair."
Catching a whiff of Dave's breath, Brody could tell he'd been drinking. Yet he was brought up to offer guests something to eat or drink, and his training won out. "You wanna beer or something?"
"Yeah, thanks." He looked around. "I'm not interrupting anything? Your friend Norton isn't here?"
"No, I'm alone." Brody got two long-neck bottles of Sam Adams lager from the fridge, took off the caps, and handed one to Dave. Gesturing toward the sofa, he said, "Have a seat."
Dave took a long swig of his beer. Then he set the bottle on the closest table. He took Brody's beer from him and set it down, too.
"I didn't come here to talk."
"What's wrong, Dave?"
"Nothing's wrong. I'm glad Roger boy's not here."
"Yeah, because you're gonna fuck me!"
Dave took a step forward and grabbed the surprised Brody, putting his arms around him and hugging him tightly, grinding his crotch against Brody's.
"Yep, soldier boy. Either you're gonna fuck me, or I sure as shit am gonna fuck you. Where's your bedroom?"
It occurred to Brody that Dave had never been in his apartment before. He couldn't move, so he bent his head in the direction of the bedroom.
"Dave, what's going – "
Brody could no doubt have resisted if he'd really wanted to. Granted Dave was fifteen pounds or so heavier than he was, but Brody was too surprised to respond. His Marine training deserted him. This was his friend.
In the time it took him to have these thoughts, Dave had propelled Brody into the bedroom, where he pushed him down on the bed on his back and fell on top of him.
Brody found himself being hungrily, vigorously kissed. He had occasionally admired the fine body of Dave, who had from time to time appeared in his sexual fantasies, but he'd never really expected to find himself in a situation like this. Something inside told him he should find out what had brought Dave to this state, but instead, surrendering to the moment, he began to participate equally in the kiss.
His cock decided to participate, too. Soon the two were kissing and humping. Not wanting to explode in his jeans, Brody grabbed Cromer, rolled them both over, and pinned his arms to the bed. He studied the face of the hunk lying under him. Dave's green eyes, normally almost hypnotic, were bloodshot.
"Dave, what the fuck's going on? I'm, well, flattered by your attentions, man, but you have to admit this isn't like you."
Dave grinned. "If you didn't want me to be doing this, I'd be dead by now. I know all about your Marine training. Come on, admit it, you want me as much as I want you." So saying, he slipped his knee between Brody's legs and hit him in the balls with his thigh just enough to distract him. He took the opportunity to roll them over again. This time he straddled Brody's hips and lay with his arm across Brody's throat. Not enough to choke him but rather just enough that Brody knew he could if he wanted to.
"Now, what's it gonna be?"
"You honestly want me to fuck you?" Brody croaked.
"I think that's what I said."
"Then you're gonna have to let me up, aren't you? It's hard to do when we're both fully dressed."
"You're not going to pull some sort of fancy trick on me if I let you go, are you?"
"You're the one that wants to get fucked, asshole. You'll just have to trust me."
"Okay, but don't try anything."
Dave rolled over, got out of the bed and stood up, eyeing Brody warily.
Brody stood on the opposite side of the bed. "I never thought I'd get the chance to fuck around with you. For all those years I thought you were straight. And after you told me you were gay, I didn't think you had any interest in me that way."
"Cut the talk. Take off your clothes."
"Hey, Cromer, you're the one who's askin' here. You wanna get something goin' on, you're not in a position to call the shots. So strip."
Cromer slid out of the flannel shirt, which he was wearing unbuttoned over a long-sleeve tee.
Dave gave Brody a tense grin. "You askin' for a striptease?"
"You know, I like that idea! I want to see the great Dave Cromer, the guy that gave me such a hard time back in high school, the guy that never thought I was good enough – I want to see that guy do a strip for me. Now, take it off!"
"You're nasty, boy, you know that?" Dave said. But his grin broadened. He pulled off the tee shirt.
Brody's intake of air was audible as he saw Dave's magnificent shoulders, his hairy chest, his impressive pecs and abs.
"You like, Marine?" Dave asked, raising an eyebrow.
Dave slowly undid the buttons on his 501's. He wasn't wearing any underwear, so when he peeled back the flaps, his dark happy trail and the top of his trimmed pubes appeared.
"Turn around and drop `em."
Dave did as he was told, slowly sliding the jeans down over his muscular glutes. Brody's dick was now fully hard, straining against the denim of his own jeans as Dave's impressive ass came into view..
"Get out of your shoes and jeans."
Dave sat on the edge of the bed as he took off his shoes. Then he stood and stepped out of his jeans.
"Now, come around here and undress me. Slowly"
Cromer walked around the bed, looking Brody steadily in the eye the whole time. When he got there he grabbed the bottom of Brody's tee shirt, pulling it over his head. Then he pushed Brody onto the bed and hurriedly pulled down Brody's sweatpants.
"No underwear, huh? You must have been hoping I'd show up. Or are you expecting your friend?"
"No, Cromer, I wasn't expecting anybody to come and try to rape me. So I didn't need any underpants. Now, I think I said `slowly'," Brody grumbled.
"Tough shit!" Once more he lay on top of Brody, though this time he didn't try to pin his hands or arms. "Now, you gonna fuck me, or do I have to do you?"
"Dave, what's going on here? Talk to me!"
"Are you turning me down, Cox? Your dick doesn't seem to want me to leave." He rolled over so that Brody's hard, leaking member was exposed, lying against his abs and throbbing. "Looks like you aren't exactly unwilling for this to happen."
Brody was surprised to discover that he desperately wanted "it" to happen.
"You realize, Cromer, that I've got a lot of suppressed anger built up about you."
"You're all talk, Cox. I always knew you were a wussy."
Brody grabbed Cromer, rolled him onto his stomach, then straddled him. Putting a hand on each of Cromer's hip bones, he jerked him up so that his ass was in the air. He took one of the pillows and shoved it under Cromer's pelvis.
"Don't fuckin' move!" Brody leaned over to the bedside table to get lube and a condom.
Except for taking deep breaths, Cromer remained motionless. Brody admired the magnificent butt waiting there for him. He took a deep breath of his own and knelt between Cromer's splayed legs.
"Atta boy, you're showing me that hole of yours. Hungry for a real man's dick, are you? Well, you're gonna get it."
With that, he slapped Cromer's right cheek. The surprised Cromer grunted but said nothing. Brody, thinking of all the times he'd been embarrassed or angered by Cromer back in high school, began to alternate hands, slapping each globe in turn. He wasn't gentle, either. As a high school sophomore, he'd dreamed of revenge on David Cromer, but never in his dreams did he imagine he'd ever be where he was just then.
To Cromer's credit, he took the swats without complaining. By the time Brody had finished, Cromer's butt was a fiery red and felt hot as Brody's hands came in contact with it. He quit spanking and began to gently rub the irritated skin. He thought he heard a soft sigh come from Cromer, but he wasn't sure.
Then Brody stretched out between Cromer's legs, grabbed a butt cheek in each hand, and spread them apart. He went straight for the pucker. He gave Dave's portal a couple of tentative licks and then began to probe it with his stiffened tongue. Cromer grunted and his body jerked, but he said nothing. As Brody continued to tongue fuck him, however, Cromer began to moan.
Then after a few minutes he said, "Oh, Christ, man. You don't know how long I've dreamed of you doing that."
"Well, Davey boy, see what you think of this."
Brody tore open the foil packet with his teeth, put some lube on his cock, and then rolled on the condom. He covered his sheathed cock with more lube and then drizzled some onto Dave's brown pucker, working it in with his fingers.
"I'm ready, but go easy. It's been several years."
"You come here threatening to rape me if I don't fuck you, and you've got the nerve to ask me to go easy? Who's the wuss?" Cromer couldn't see Brody grinning.
"Shut up, smartass and fuck me. Whatever you're handing out, I can take it."
Brody was almost trembling with excitement as he prepared to shove his tool into Cromer. Here, at last, was a chance to get back at the man under him for all the grief he'd given him in high school. But he found he wasn't interested in revenge. Dave had explained all that. He'd apologized. He'd become a friend. So what Brody wanted now, was not a grudge fuck, but a meaningful coupling, something good and memorable for both of them.
And that's exactly what he gave David.
When it was over, the two lay there panting for a few minutes. Then Brody got up and, wearing only his white socks, went to the living room. The beers they'd left there were warm, so he dumped them down the sink and got two more. He went back to the bedroom and handed one to the naked hunk in his bed.
"You're welcome. Now, you want to tell me what this was all about?"
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As always, my thanks to Drew and Mickey for their generous help with this story.
So, is this thing with Brody and Dave going to work? Or was it just a one-time roll in the hay? Stay tuned. And if you'd like to email me, please do at firstname.lastname@example.org Be sure to put the title of the story in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam. Thanks.