Brody Comes Home
by Tim Mead
Brody was nervous that Saturday afternoon. Dave's father was coming for dinner. He had the house ready for an IG inspection and Dave assured him everything in the kitchen was under control. The stew was simmering nicely. He'd pop the bread in the oven after his father arrived. But, never having met the senior Cromer, Brody was worried that his lover's dad would be displeased, unaccepting, even hostile. At least he could make sure there was no reason to criticize the way the house looked. He'd even worried about what to wear. Finally Dave had put out a shirt and jeans and told him to wear those.
"Brody, relax, babe. It will be okay. Dad's no cream puff, but he'll see what a great guy you are. Trust me."
Even though there'd been a Cromer's Landscaping in the area as long as he could remember, Brody was sure he'd never seen Barton Cromer. When the individual himself came to the door, however, Brody would have known him anywhere. He looked exactly as Dave would look in twenty-five years. The same height, though slightly thinner. The same face, though with a few wrinkles around the eyes. The same hair, though worn longer and beginning to show some gray at the temples. He was wearing jeans, white socks, loafers, and a pullover sweater.
`Hmm,' Brody thought. `If my man looks that good in 25 years, I won't have any complaints.'
When the elder Cromer came through the door he handed Dave a 1.5 liter bottle of California merlot.
"Dad," Dave said, "glad you could make it." The two hugged.
"I'm glad to be here, son. It's about time I met the man in your life."
Dave turned. "This is Brody. Brody, my dad."
The two shook hands. It almost became a contest to see who had the strongest grip. When the elder man winced, finally, Brody relaxed his hand.
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Cromer."
"Call me Bart, Brody. I know your folks, and I saw you play ball a couple of times last summer, but I don't think we've met."
"Come on back to the kitchen, dad, and I'll open this wine." Dave didn't mention that he already had a bottle of red open and breathing.
"No, Dave, you go open the wine. I want Brody to show me your new living room, and he and I are going to get to know each other a little while you get dinner ready."
Brody's hands seldom sweated, but they began to at that moment. He rubbed them on the seat of his jeans.
Dave gave his father a puzzled look. "Okay, you two go on in. I'll bring you each a glass of wine in a minute."
Bart looked around the living room, taking in everything. "Between you two and Jimmy, this room looks good. You boys did a great job on the floor. But what do I know? I'm just a glorified gardener. Now, sit down in one of these fancy chairs and let's talk."
Brody took one of the wingbacks and Bart sat in the other one, facing him. Almost immediately Dave showed up with two glasses of wine.
"I've got a hunk of cheddar on the coffee table in the family room in front of the fire. But you're going to have to come in there to get it. Dad, you behave yourself!"
Bart raised an eyebrow and almost smiled. "Relax, David. He's safe enough with me. Now, go rattle pans or something."
Dave frowned and left.
Brody couldn't think of a thing to say, so he waited to see what the other man would come up with.
"Brody, when David told me he and Beth were breaking up, I was shocked. Angry. Heartbroken. I love Beth. I'd always hoped she and David would give me grandchildren. I thought he'd gotten all that gay stuff out of his system with young Lynch."
Brody didn't interrupt.
"I thought being married, especially to a wonderful girl like Beth, would make him happy."
He took a sip of his wine and set the glass on a chairside table.
"Last summer when he explained why they were divorcing, I was really upset. I did a lot of reading so I could learn more about homosexuality. From what I can find out, it's not something he decided to do, not something that came about as a result of being with another man – or men. I learned that in some way it might be considered my fault, since the current thinking is that it's genetic. But I wanted to blame somebody."
Brody waited for the older man to continue.
"I'd about decided that Dave being gay was just one of those quirks of fate, something nobody had any control over and I'd more or less come to terms with it. Apart from that, he was everything a father could want. He was smart, caring, a fine athlete. He really knows what he's doing, and he's made my business – our business – more successful than it ever was before he came in with me. So I not only became resigned to his homosexuality, I was okay with it."
He took another sip of his wine. Brody tasted his for the first time. It wasn't particularly good. He thought for a moment about Adrian.
"Then," Bart continued, "he told me he'd loved you since he was a senior in high school. He said he'd married Beth because he wanted to forget you and lead a normal life. But he hadn't been able to do that. Then he said you were moving in here with him. And I wanted to blame everything on you. You were the cause of my son being gay. You were responsible for the breakup of his marriage. And now everyone in Higgins and half of Colby would know he was gay and living with his lover."
He paused and looked straight into Brody's eyes. Brody looked back, determined not to squirm.
"Can you imagine how I felt about this man who, I thought, had ruined my son's life?"
"Yes, sir, you've made it pretty clear."
"You and David have been sleeping together for some time now, haven't you?"
"Yes, sir, a few weeks."
"Have you wondered why it's taken David so long to introduce us?"
"Yes, sir, I have."
"Well, it's because I refused to meet you. I told him I didn't want anything to do with the fairy who'd ruined him."
Brody bristled. "You said that to Dave?"
"Yes, I did."
Trying to remain polite to his lover's father, Brody asked, "Then, sir, why are you here now?"
"Because I saw my son cry. Because he told me he'd never been anything like as happy as he is with you. Because he told me he'd wanted to be with you since high school and had given up hope of that ever happening. He said that if I wanted to stay in his life, I'd have to accept you. He even threatened to leave the business if I couldn't."
"Wow! He did?"
"Yes, he did. And that's when I realized how much he loves you. Dave has thrown himself into our business from the time he began working for me when he was a teen. He wouldn't think of giving it up without a pretty strong reason. So, obviously I had to rethink what I'd told him. And I realized that Dave was doing what he wanted to do. It wasn't your fault that he loves you. And since I love Dave more than anything or anybody in the world, I want him to be happy. If you can make him happy, then more power to you."
Brody took a deep breath and visibly relaxed. He was about to say something when the older man put up his hand in a gesture Brody had often seen Dave make.
"So, what I'm trying to get across, in my long-winded way, Brody, is that if my son loves you, I'll try to love you, too." Then he looked straight into Brody's eyes, just as Dave often did. "But you'd better love him the way he deserves. If you hurt him, I'll come after you."
"Mr. Cromer, uh, Bart, I realize more and more every day how lucky I am, how much I love him. I won't hurt him. I promise."
Bart stood up, holding out his arms. "I'm not used to hugging other men, but welcome to the family, son."
The two embraced awkwardly.
The hug was interrupted when Dave came into the room, saw what was happening, and said, "Now there's a sight! You two are obviously gonna be okay with each other. As the two greatest guys in the world should be. Come on, now. Let's eat!"
Dinner went better than Brody had expected. Now that Bart had said his piece, he seemed to relax and enjoy being with the younger men. They talked of the Cavaliers and the Pistons, about the coming season's prospects for the Tigers and the Indians, about the business. Bart reiterated Dave's offer to bring Brody into the firm if he'd study landscape design and business at Colby State.
"See," Dave said as he and Brody sat before the dying fire after Bart had gone home. "I told you he was gonna be okay. You should learn to trust me."
"Yeah," Brody said, leaning over to nuzzle Dave's neck just below the ear. "I guess I should."
* * *
The next Saturday morning Brody told Sheila about the plans for the open house.
"I think we're gonna invite just about everybody we know."
"You'll send out written invitations, I suppose?"
"Yeah, I thought we'd just call everyone up, but Dave says we'll buy invitations at the card shop. Filling in the info and addressing them's gonna be a bitch, though."
"I wish you hadn't just used the word `bitch,' Brody." She grinned. "I was about to volunteer to do the invitations for you and Dave. I could work on them during quiet moments here at the shop."
Brody grabbed her and gave her a hug and a quick kiss. "Sheil, you're the best!"
"Woo, hoo! I should have volunteered for something a long time ago."
The rear door opened and Justin came in. "I saw that! I'm gonna tell your spouses! I know you two used to get it on, but I thought you were over it." He grinned.
"Justin! Whatever are you talking about?" Sheila asked, apparently indignant.
"Aw, come off it, Sheil. Everybody knows you and Brody used to be an item. Back when he was hiding being gay."
"Damn!" Brody said, rolling his eyes. "There really aren't any secrets in this town, are there?"
"Nope," Justin said, still grinning. "Now, you wanna tell me what all that hugging and kissing was about?"
"Dave and I are planning a party, and Sheil volunteered to address the invitations. I was just thanking her."
"A par-tay, huh? So if I helped address the invitations, would I get a kiss, too?"
Brody frowned at Justin. "Come here, Quinn!"
Looking puzzled, Justin took a step closer to Brody, who grabbed him, put his arms around him, squeezed him tightly, and planted a wet kiss on his lips.
After Brody had released him, Justin stood there, a dazed expression on his face – and a large bulge in the right leg of his jeans.
"You didn't kiss me like that," Sheila said, giggling.
"Jeremy would have come after me with a shotgun if I had," Brody said, smirking at her. "And as for you, twerp, you've been after that since last June. I hope you enjoyed it, `cause it's never gonna happen again."
A little later, after his heart rate, breathing, and erection had subsided, Justin asked, "How many people are you guys inviting to your party?"
"I dunno, Jus. Dave wants to invite some of his company's regular clients, and we're gonna invite all our friends. You and Gary and your folks will be invited."
"I've heard people talking about you moving in with Dave. And most of them have figured out that both of you are gay. I mean you've never really tried to hide it, so if Dave's asked you to move in with him, they're assuming he's gay, too."
"You can't stop people from gossiping."
Justin's face showed his cocky grin. "Yeah, Sarge, but I don't think you get my point."
"When you and the man you're living with send out invitations to an open house, won't that pretty much be a public announcement that you and Dave are gay?"
Brody thought it over for a moment. "Yeah, now that you mention it, I suppose it will be."
Justin cackled. "So Cromer is gay, and I've won the bet. It's February!"
"Oh, my God! I'd forgotten about that bet. He's right, Brody. If it was known around town that Cromer is gay by February, Justin would win." Sheila took a sip of coffee. "I still can't believe that hunk's gay. What is it about you gorgeous men?" She cocked her head to one side and looked first at Brody and then at Justin. Both blushed.
"So, Brode, when ya gonna pay up?"
"Look, the open house won't be until the early part of March. So technically I don't think you've won."
"But the invitations are going out before the end of the month, aren't they?" Sheila asked.
"Well, sure. In order to give people time to put it on their calendars they'll have to."
"Then news that you two are house mates and presumably lovers will be confirmed before the end of the month."
Brody scratched his chin. "I suppose we could postpone things for a couple of weeks."
"Hey, no fair! That's welshing. The point is, Dave Cromer's gay. You of all people should know. And you guys are not planning on hiding your relationship. And it's February. So I've won, fair and square. You can't weasel out. Didn't you learn anything about honor in the Marines?" He grinned.
"Okay, dude. You were right all along." He smiled broadly. "And I have to say I'm damn glad he is gay. So I guess I gotta pay up."
"Hey, guys," Sheila protested. "I still don't know what Brody's forfeit is!"
"And you won't know, so far as I'm concerned. I'm sure not gonna tell you."
"Justin," Sheila said, batting her eyes at him, "you'll tell me won't you?"
Justin got an evil smile on his face. "Yeah. He's gonna give me a picture of himself."
"There's got to be more to it than that."
"Oh, yeah! He's gonna be wearing his white dress uniform hat, his dog tags, and a stiffie. That's all. Oh, and no pubes."
Sheila fanned her face with her hand. "Oh, wow! Are you gonna show it around?"
"He'd better not if he values his balls," Brody growled. "Jus, you gotta promise me that picture's only between you and me, or you'll never get it."
"Aww, spoilsport! Then I guess I'll just use it for j.o. material."
"Okay, that's more than I want to hear," Sheila said, though she was smiling.
Later, at dinner, Brody cleared his throat.
"There's something I need your help with, and I don't know how to tell you."
"Just say it. You know I'll help any way I can."
"But this is weird."
Dave grinned and raised an eyebrow. "Weird as in kinky, I hope."
"You could say that."
"Well, whatever it is, spill it!"
Brody put down his fork and leaned back in his chair. "Let's get the kitchen cleaned up, and I'll tell you in front of the fire."
"I think you're just putting it off because you don't want to tell me. Must be something pretty far out. But okay, it won't take five minutes to scrape these plates and put them in the dishwasher."
A few minutes later they were in the family room with mugs of coffee.
"Okay, Cox. Enough pussyfooting around. Tell me what the fuck this is all about."
"Well, I, um, kind of lost a bet."
"What do you mean, kind of?"
"Okay, I lost a bet."
"Who did you lose it to?"
"Uh huh. Go on."
"So now I have to give him a picture of me."
"I thought you said he had a picture of you in your dress blues on his dresser."
"Yeah, he did. I assume he's put it away now that he and Gary are boyfriends."
"So what kind of picture is this?"
Brody looked at the fire instead of at Dave as he said, "I have to be naked."
"Whoa! Little Justin's getting a picture of you naked! That was some bet."
"That's not all."
"There's more? Delicious! Tell me!" Dave was obviously enjoying all of this. Brody was practically squirming.
"Well, I have to wear the hat of my dress uniform. And my dog tags. Nothing else. But I have to shave my pubes – oh, yeah, and have a boner."
Dave was laughing so hard he couldn't speak for a few minutes. Every time he started to say something, he looked at Brody and began to laugh again. Finally, he said, "I don't know why you're glaring at me like that. You have to admit it
"I don't think it's so fuckin' funny. And it's all your fault!"
"My fault?" Dave said, obviously surprised. "How did I get involved in all this?"
It was Brody's turn to grin. "I'm so gonna enjoy telling you this. Last August Justin told me you were gay. He said his gaydar pinged every time he was around you, and he's always insisted that his gaydar is never wrong. `Infallible' is his term."
"The little devil. You know, I don't think anybody else ever guessed."
"That's why I couldn't believe him. Anyway, we were in the shop, so all this was in front of Sheila, keep in mind. I told him no way were you gay. He asked if I wanted to bet, and I was so sure you were the straightest guy in town I said okay. So that was our bet. Sheila witnessed that we had a bet, but he didn't tell me in front of her what I'd have to do if I lost. But last Saturday, when he found out about our open house, he told me I'd lost, and told Sheila what I'd agreed to do."
Dave chuckled. "Surprise, surprise! Dave's queer!"
Brody laughed, too. "So, like I said, it is all your fault." He caught Dave's head in the crook of his arm and knuckled the top with his free hand.
"You aren't sorry, are you?"
"God, no! If you weren't gay, we wouldn't be lovers. And I hate to even think about that. So I guess there's a good side to losing my bet to the twerp."
"You said you needed my help with this?"
"Yeah. I think I can manage to shave my own pubes, but will you use your digital camera and take the picture? Oh, and I may need your help getting it up."
"I'd be glad to help with the pubes, babe. By the time I finish I can guarantee you'll have it up. But I may take some extra pix for myself."
"Wait just a minute . . . ."
Brody didn't get to finish because suddenly there was a tongue in his mouth.
Soon the two men were in their bathroom, where Dave not only shaved Brody's pubes, but he touched up the shave job on Brody's balls, perineum, and butt. As he'd promised, all that handling had given Brody an erection.
"There," Dave said, running his hand over the newly-shorn skin of Brody's pubis, "just like a baby's bottom, -- but a lot sexier. Hang on. I'll get the camera."
When he got back from his office, he took pictures of Brody from all sorts of angles. Then he reminded the still somewhat shaken Brody that he was supposed to have his hat and dog tags on. So when Brody was properly accoutered, he took more shots.
"I'm gonna have to carry one of these in my wallet," Dave said as they looked at the results. "That way I'll have something to jack off to at the office."
"You better not be jacking off at the office. Save it for me!"
The shot they eventually chose to send to Justin was one where Dave had been kneeling, looking up at Brody. The camera was about at the level of Brody's crotch, so he appeared taller than his 6'2" and his cock seemed even longer than its normal erect length.
"God, that's hot!" Dave said.
"It's embarrassing. I don't know why I ever agreed to this."
"Aww, it's because you were so sure I was straight."
Brody grinned. "Yeah, you bastard."
"Okay, I've got all these loaded into the `puter. You might as well send Justin his prize."
Resignedly, Brody attached the selected pose to an email in which he said simply,
Twerp, if you ever show this to anybody, you're in deep shit! --Brody
"Now," Dave said, grabbing Brody's still erect cock, "I've got an idea how we can relieve this problem of yours." Brody didn't protest as he was led by his cock to their bedroom where, about thirty minutes later, his "problem" was finally relieved.
Sex between Brody and Dave was always an adventure. Sometimes it was tender and sweet, with lots of gentle foreplay, and both partners tried to keep things cool, low key, until finally they found their release. Other times, like this night, the sex was athletic, with something more like wrestling as a preliminary, two big, strong, sweaty males in full rut. As he lay there panting beside his spent lover, Brody thought `Yesssss! This is the guy I'm supposed to be with.'
* * *
When Bob heard about the open house, he delegated Missy to see that there would be plenty of flowers.
Bart Cromer said his housewarming gift to them would be to pay to have the event catered. After some discussion, Dave and Brody decided to have Adrian's catering service do the job. "After all," Brody commented, "Adrian didn't cancel his contract with us when he and I broke up, and it's an important contract. Besides, his people will do a better job than anybody else around." Dave had agreed.
They invited just about everyone they knew, including some of Cromer Landscaping's regular clients. Brody's parents declined, saying they'd see the place when they came later in the spring, after the weather was nicer. They still weren't interested in returning to Northern Ohio in the winter time.
Men outnumbered women at the event, as might be expected. Justin and Gary were there, as were Roger Norton, Pete Clifford and his new boyfriend Chuck, James and Darren, Adrian Lynch, Jr., and Pinkie Nielsen, and Dr. Schwartz and his partner. A number of the guys who played for the Higgins Hammers brought their wives, however, as did a number of the Cromer Landscaping clients. Of course Bob and Samantha were there, as were Sheila and Jeremy Henderson, Pete's parents, and Justin's parents.
The flowers helped make the place look festive, everyone agreed that the food was exceptional, the house handled the flow of guests adequately, and even the weather cooperated in that, though the high temperature that afternoon was only about 20 degrees, there was at least no snow.
Guests had been invited to drop by any time between 4:00 and 7:00 for drinks and what Adrian called "substantial hors d'oeuvres." The idea was that they could stop in, say hello, chat with the other guests, have something to eat and drink, but still go on to whatever they had planned for later that Saturday evening.
When Justin and Gary were ready to leave, they found Dave first, thanked him, and said goodbye. Then they came to Brody, who was at the door saying goodbye to someone else. After they'd said their farewells, Gary waggled his eyebrows at Brody and said, "Great picture, dude!" Justin grinned, grabbed his friend, and hauled him away before Brody had a chance to say anything.
`So Justin showed Gary the picture,' Brody thought. `I'm so gonna kick his ass.' Then he decided it was cute that Justin and Gary were so close.
It was 8:00 before the last guests left, and nearly 9:00 before Adrian's people were gone.
Finally Brody and Dave kicked off their shoes, collapsed on the sofa, and put their feet on the coffee table.
"How do you think it went?" Dave asked.
"Great, I guess. The caterers left the kitchen in perfect condition. They offered to put the leftover food in the fridge, but I told them to take it away."
"That reminds me, I'd like to get these flowers out of here if you don't mind. It reminds me of a funeral."
"Okay by me."
"I'll call Jessie Snyder tomorrow morning. She's in charge of taking the flowers from church after the service to shut-ins and nursing homes. I'm sure she wouldn't mind getting these and distributing them as well."
"Great idea. Now, how do you think it went?"
"I'm worn out from smiling for so long. It was a strange mix of people, but everyone seemed to be having a good time."
Brody chuckled. "Yeah, imagine scary Dave smiling for four hours. That's amazing."
"Scary Dave? You don't mean that, do you?" He reached over and took Brody's hand.
"You know I don't."
They sat in silence for a few minutes.
"You know I love you, don't you?"
Dave turned his head and looked at Brody. "Yeah."
"I want to be clear. I mean, I don't know when I realized it, but I'm in love with you. I want this to be, well, like permanent, if that's okay with you."
"Fuck, Brody, you know that's what I've wanted all along." He put his arm around Brody and pulled him closer.
Brody rested his head on Dave's chest. "God, Dave! I'm so lucky. Finally, I've got a good idea about what I want to do with my life. Best of all, I have you! It's so great that we can live and maybe work together. For the first time since I left the Corps, I feel like I've really come home."
I want to offer my heartfelt gratitude to Drew Hunt and Mickey S. for editorial assistance, suggestions, and encouragement. Every writer should have friends like those two guys. Thanks to you readers for staying the course and especially to you who have written me about Brody and his friends. My next series, "A Writer's Romance," also set in the fictional Ohio town of Colby, will begin appearing here soon.
As always, I'd love to hear from you 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.
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