by Tim Mead
Bart . . ."
"Just go ahead and fuck me. I won't break."
It was a week after their lovemaking at Cedric's place.
Now they were in Bart's bed. They'd heard a matinee concert by the visiting Czech Philharmonic and then gone to dinner at Adrian's Detroit restaurant, Fusion, afterward.
Bart chuckled and slapped Cedric's butt.
"Are you sure, princess?"
"I'm not sure about being called `princess,' but I'm sure I want you to fuck me."
Bart tightened his grip on Cedric's hips and shoved his pelvis forward.
For the next twenty minutes or so there was no conversation: instead the two uttered occasional vocalizations, some intelligible, some not, as Bart varied the angle and speed of his thrusts. He knew what he was doing, all of it seemingly intended to enhance Cedric's pleasure.
Cedric awoke to the sound of a passenger jet screaming overhead, so he knew he wasn't at home. As consciousness returned, he became aware of lying on his side, left arm under his head, right draped over his sleeping lover, morning wood nestled in the warm crevice of a furry ass. He sighed audibly and smiled. Bart. Then he became aware of the lovely ache in his butt.
He would have been content to stay that way for hours, but, obeying an urgent message from his bladder, he disentangled himself carefully and padded to the bathroom.
Having relieved himself and swished his mouth with the Scope conveniently left on the bathroom counter, he crawled back into bed. Though not without waking Bart.
"Mornin', babe," the big man said over his shoulder. "How're you this mornin'?"
"A little sore in the nether regions. And I need a kiss."
"Not until I've taken care of some morning problems." Bart sat up, swinging his legs off the bed.
"Aww." Cedric complained, "I want to take care of your problem."
Bart grinned and said he'd be right back.
When both were in bed again, Bart asked, "You don't have to run off?"
Not eager to leave, he said, "I have to pick up some groceries and do laundry this afternoon, but I've got all morning."
"Good!" Bart growled. "I've got this itch I need you to scratch."
Later, as the two sat gingerly in the kitchen eating scrambled eggs, sausage patties, and toasted bagels, the huge windows of Bart's loft let in brilliant sunlight.
"Damn, I think spring may get here eventually."
Cedric grinned. "Don't count your chickens. I've known it to snow the first week in May. And that's a way off yet. Who was it said `April is the cruelest month'?"
Bart shook his head. "I dunno. Keats?"
Cedric remembered it was Eliot, but he didn't want to show up his lover, so he changed the subject.
"Barton? Why so serious?"
"Sorry. I just need to say something."
Bart put down his fork, leaned forward, and looked Cedric straight in the eye. "So say it."
"Calling you a manipulative bastard."
Bart chuckled. "I thought we were past that."
"I hope we are. But I apologize for being leery about you."
"Uh huh. Part of it was your job. I mean, you being in the Bureau and all. And you are really an impressive physical specimen."
"And? Go on, say it."
"And I was hurt once."
"Yeah. By Timothy Mead. The bastard."
"Tim's not a bastard."
"Seems to me he is."
"Maybe we could talk about that some other time?"
"Okay, baby. Sure."
Cedric pushed the last bite of sausage around on his plate, put down his fork, and looked back at Bart. "I don't think I could take that kind of hurt again."
"You won't be. Not by me, anyway."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Do you want anything else to eat?"
Bart stood and held his hand out to Cedric. "Okay, then, let's go to the easy-riding furniture."
They went to the sofa and sat, side by side. The room was bright, full of morning sunlight.
"How can I be so sure?"
Cedric squeezed his hand but didn't say anything.
"I think I've told you this before, but it obviously needs repeating. That day in the Toledo Museum?"
"I know the idea of love at first sight seems like something out of fairy tales and romances, but when I saw you that day, I could tell you'd been hurt."
When Cedric frowned, Bart put his hand on Cedric's cheek. "No, honest, I did. I saw something in your eyes. And even though I didn't know you, didn't have a clue who you were, I wanted to hug you, to tell you that I wouldn't let anyone ever hurt you again."
"What? I was just standing there looking all pathetic?"
"The first thing I noticed was how sexy you are. But when you smiled, I sensed your pain."
"Amazing! I didn't know I gave off vibes like that. All I can remember was the beginning of a hard-on when I saw you."
"I don't know whether anyone else would have sensed what I did. But I thought of you often after that and wished I had said something to you, anything so I wouldn't have to leave you there in that gallery with all the pretentious Victorian stuff."
"So when I walked into that barn and discovered it was you, well, you wouldn't think a hulk like me would feel faint, but the blood rushed from my head. I'd found you. And I decided right then that I'd take care of you, that I'd protect you and see that no one ever hurt you again."
Overwhelmed, Cedric asked, "You're not shitting me?"
"I've teased you from time to time, baby, but I wouldn't lie to you about something this important."
"So you want us to become . . . something?"
"I love the sound of that . . . of being . . . a couple." He turned, drawing one knee up so he could face Bart. "Having you in my life like this is great. But I'm not just a fragile flower, you know. I played varsity baseball. When my memory came back I went to law school, got my degree, passed the bar exam, and have been practicing law."
Bart put the fingers of his hand behind Cedric's head and rubbed his ear with his thumb. Cedric thought sappy thoughts about Bart's eyes, but he didn't say anything.
"Yeah, but have you ever relaxed? Have you had any fun? Enjoyed life?"
Cedric thought about that for a moment. "Not much." He smiled. "That is, not until recently."
Bart smiled back and tapped him gently on the side of the head. "See! The last thing I want to do is diminish you in any way. But I'm going to do my damndest to make you relax, to make you laugh. Even to make you giggle sometimes. And you'll always know that I've got your back."
Unable to think of anything to say, Cedric threw his arms around Bart and kissed him.
From then on Cedric and Bart began to talk on the phone every evening. Or at least those evenings when Bart wasn't travelling because of his job.
One Wednesday night Cedric said, "You mentioned something not long ago about my letting my hair grow out. I could do that, if you really want me to."
He heard the low rumble of Bart's chuckle.
"No, babe, I was just pulling your leg. I like your hair the way you wear it. Besides, I can always use your ears if I need to."
"But I'm your bossy bastard, right?"
Life settled into a pattern for the two men. Bart had to be at work at 8:00 most weekday mornings. Even when they'd been lovers long enough to consider the matter, moving in together was not discussed. It would have been impractical, especially since they lived in different, albeit nearby, cities.
But except for once when Bart was out of town, they spent their weekends together, alternating domiciles. Cedric looked forward to seeing Bart on Friday evenings, whether at his place or Bart's.
Saturday mornings they worked out, since both their buildings had fitness centers. Then they cleaned up and had breakfast. They spent the rest of the morning running errands. Cedric tagged along in Toledo while Bart did his grocery shopping, dropped off and picked up dry cleaning, once even sitting while he got a haircut. Bart did the same when he spent his weekends in Colby.
One Thursday in late March Micah called and said the furniture was ready. He wanted to know if he could deliver it that Saturday afternoon. Excitedly, Cedric said yes.
"Will Joe be with you?"
"I hope so. Otherwise I'd have to get you to help me."
"That's no problem. In fact, I'll have some extra muscle with me tomorrow. But here's what I was wondering. Why don't you guys stick around for supper?"
"Are you sure? We'll be wearing work clothes."
"That's not a problem either."
"Come to think of it, there's only the one delivery. I don't exactly churn out the work, as you know from waiting so long. Why don't we come around 4:30?"
"Great. I have two bathrooms if you need to clean up. It'll be good to see you and Joe again. And I can't wait to see the shelving and the cabinet."
"Thanks, Cedric. See you tomorrow."
After he and Micah terminated their call, Cedric called Bart.
When he explained what was going to happen, Bart said, "You've already asked them to stay for dinner?"
"Yeah, why? Something wrong with that?"
"No, not really. They won't need to know I'm spending the night, will they?"
"I suppose not. Why?"
"Well, it's none of their business, is it?"
"No. But they're great guys. You'll enjoy getting to know them."
"I'll look forward to it. I'll bring take-out. See you tomorrow night."
Bart stopped at a Thai place in Toledo for takeout on his way to Colby on Friday. After they had eaten they watched TV. After a police procedural show, they argued good-naturedly over what to watch next. Cedric wanted to watch something on Comedy Central and Bart wanted to watch the Red Wings play someone. They settled the quarrel with a kiss that grew into a make-out session.
The next morning they followed their usual Saturday-in-Colby routine. Cedric needed to shop for groceries for that evening as well as for the rest of the week. At Kroger's Bart had questions and suggestions about the evening's menu. Cedric enjoyed the domesticity of doing the Saturday errands with Bart. It reminded him of how much he had enjoyed doing it with Tim. Then he scolded himself for even thinking of Tim, who was happy with Max. Besides, this thing with Bart looked as if it was going somewhere.
They watched college basketball that afternoon, with Cedric going to the kitchen occasionally to check on his boeuf bourguignon.
Micah called when they were five minutes away, so Cedric and Bart took the freight elevator down to the parking basement. Micah had a pickup truck, but the furniture was covered with padding and a tarp and was strapped down. Cedric was glad Micah's truck was small so they could use the parking basement. Furniture vans were too big, so anything delivered via them had to be schlepped in through the lobby.
Micah politely told Cedric and Bart that he and Joe would handle all the pieces, even though it meant several trips.
"No offense, but if you're not used to handling furniture . . . well, I just wouldn't want my babies to be scratched."
Cedric chuckled. "Neither would I!"
It all looked spectacular when it was in place. Actually, the arrangement was identical to what Adam and Blake had done with Micah's cherry pieces. But these were limed oak, a finish that Micah said was very `40's but was making a comeback. The color was light, with a sort of grayish tinge in the grain. Two six by three foot shelving units went on either side of the flat-screen TV. A matching cabinet sat between them under the television. Since it was to house the electronics, it had glass doors, so remotes could be used without opening them.
After everything was in place and had been properly admired, Joe and Micah went off to wash their hands. When they got back, Cedric offered them a glass of cabernet, which he'd chosen because he thought it would go well with the meal.
Joe, who seemed a little embarrassed, asked if he could have beer instead.
"No problem. Micah, what about you?"
"Just water for me, please, Cedric."
The meal went well. Micah didn't seem to mind that there was wine in the beef concoction. With Bart's help Cedric had made a huge bowl of salad, a large kettle of noodles, and a big pot of burgundy beef. He'd bought crusty rolls baked fresh that morning at Kroger's. And all four hungry men tucked in with gusto.
Nothing was said about Bart's being with the FBI when they were all introduced. But as they ate, Micah asked him, "Aren't you one of the guys who rescued Cedric from that barn?"
"I am. But how did you know that? Did you see it in a newspaper and remember my name?"
"Not really. But word gets around fast in Colby. Especially in the gay community."
Joe put down a piece of roll and asked, "So you guys became friends?"
"Yeah," Cedric hastened to put in. "We discovered we enjoyed each other's company. Bart has a law degree, so we have that in common, too."
"Oh!" Joe said. He picked up his roll and took a bite.
Cedric could feel himself blushing, even though he knew no one could see it. He'd unintentionally rubbed Joe's face in the fact that he was a laborer while both Cedric and Bart were educated. He had sensed that Bart didn't want Micah and Joe to know they were lovers – the FBI thing – and in his effort to gloss over that, he'd embarrassed Joe. He thought about apologizing but decided that might simply make the situation worse.
Bart jumped in and asked Micah some questions about the craftsmanship of the furniture he made, speaking with some knowledge of planes and routers and such, about dovetailing and veneers and other things about which Cedric knew next to nothing.
Cedric wondered whether asking Joe about his work would make matters better or worse, but by then the conversation had turned to the Tigers' prospects for the coming season.
The rest of the evening went smoothly and Cedric enjoyed getting to know Micah and Joe better. He learned that both of them were from Northern Ohio and that Joe had grown up not too far away. Cedric knew that Joe worked for Dave Cromer. He had always wanted to get to know Dave and his partner Brody, but he couldn't think of a way to ask. He wouldn't want Joe to think he was prying.
When they were gone, Micah with a fat check in his pocket, Cedric turned to Bart and kissed him.
"I sensed that you wished they weren't going to come while you were here. But you were great with them, helped keep the conversation going, and all that."
"They're both nice guys." He grinned. "And sexy."
"Yeah, that Joe's a real hunk, isn't he? I mean just about the ideal image of a handsome man."
"Should I be jealous?"
"No way!" He kissed Bart again, with a little more ardor.
When they broke for air, Bart said, "As you say, Joe's spectacularly good looking, but I think Micah's the sexy one."
"Really? He's quiet, but maybe he proves the old saying that still waters run deep."
"I'm guessing that's right. But I think he's just plain hot?"
"Short, skinny Micah?"
"Did you see his butt? And his nice package?"
Cedric raised both eyebrows and sniffed. "I don't look at things like that. I have my man."
Bart squeezed him so tight he huffed. "Thanks, baby. But it's okay to look."
"Good. Now, let's get this kitchen straightened up so we can get down to business?"
"Methinks the counselor is a horndog."
"Yeah, yeah. Grab that bottle and put a cork in it."
The weekend Bart was out of town on Bureau business, Cedric did an overnight in Cincinnati to see Mark and Casey. He arrived at their condo mid-afternoon. Mark, Cedric was happy to discover, was getting around well. No longer using a walker, he said most days he still used a cane. And he was nearly finished with his weekly therapy.
"I'll probably always have a slight limp, and I won't be running any marathons, but it doesn't hurt much to walk." He grinned at Cedric. "I can do my job and--" he glanced at Casey "--satisfy my lover. So things could be a lot worse."
Then Casey changed the topic. "Cedric, you've got to tell us all about this guy you've been seeing. Marky says he's a spy or a super-cop or something!"
Cedric chuckled. "He's the Special Agent in Charge of the Toledo office of the FBI. He's one of the guys who found me in that barn."
Casey waved a hand. "Oh, yeah. Mark did tell me that. So he came riding up in his shining armor and rescued you?"
"No armor that day, but he surely looked good. And he left the cops to deal with the crime scene and took me home and got me warmed up and fed me."
"Oooh!" Casey cooed.
Mark grinned. "That's above and beyond the call of duty, I'd think. You must have figured out right away that he was interested in you."
"I was out of it. Relieved . . . cold . . . hungry . . . embarrassed. And still scared that something like that could happen to me there in safe little Colby. But I was very much aware that he was beautiful."
Casey fluttered his eyelids. "He sure looks gorgeous in those pics you sent. Super studly!"
"Does he talk much about his work?" Mark wanted to know.
"Almost never. He came home one day and I could tell he was really pissed about something. When I asked, he told me that ATF had taken over a case he and his colleagues had been working on for weeks. And he mentioned that he'd worked with the ATF when he'd been under cover in the Toledo area a couple of years earlier. I think he felt sort of dissed."
"Well, if the TV cop shows are to be believed, there's a lot of inter-agency rivalry. I understand they get territorial."
"Seems natural. But to get back to your question, Bart just refuses to talk about his work. And I can live with that. It just means there's a part of his life that I am not allowed to know about."
"Oh, honey, I couldn't stand that! I need to know everything Marky's doing."
Mark chuckled. "Well, what I'm doing is pretty dull compared with what Bart does, I imagine."
Cedric retold the story about seeing Bart for the first time in the museum in Toledo.
"I'm glad you're moving on, Ced. You need a good man," Mark said. He turned to Casey. "Shouldn't we get dinner started, babe?"
"If you haven't started anything yet, I'd really like to take you guys out to eat. Someplace nice. On me."
"Not necessary," Mark said.
"How long's it been since you two ate dinner out?"
"A while," Casey replied.
"Good! Then it's settled. Just pick the spot."
Casey said, "Mark, we haven't been to The Precinct in over a year. Do you think Ced would enjoy it?"
"He might, but it's pretty expensive."
"That's not a problem. Tell me about it."
"About 30 years ago they remodeled this old police station into an upscale restaurant. It's so cool," Casey explained. "They have fabulous steaks, but other scrumptious things as well. I've never had a bad meal there."
"Sounds good. Let's check it out."
"I dunno, guys. I hate to saddle Ced with the cost."
"It'll be my pleasure. How many times have I stayed here? Besides, we can celebrate Mark's recovery."
As it turned out, the place had a lengthy choice of steaks, and Mark was right about the prices. But the food was great, and Cedric enjoyed catching up with his old friend and his new friend. Casey was full of stories about the orchestra and some of the guest artists who had performed with them that season. They had also talked on the phone with Chaz's mother and were able to pass on the news that the Greeleys were in good health.
"And Chaz really digs being an uncle," Mark said, smiling.
"So Trey has told me," Cedric replied. "But who'd a thunk the tall one would like little kids."
"Oh, come on! He loved working with kids during the summer when we were all in school together. That's why he chose the parks and recreation field."
"Yeah," Cedric admitted, "I'd forgotten about that. You know, he and Trey would make great parents. I wonder if Virginia allows gay couples to adopt."
"Mark, honey," Casey gushed, "we'll have to ask the next time we talk with them."
"Let's call them when we get home," Mark suggested.
"It's Saturday night. They may be out," Cedric suggested.
"No harm in trying."
Back in the condo, they changed into more comfortable clothing and made a conference call to Richmond. Chaz and Trey were home, so they had a long chat. The subject of adoption came up, and the Virginia partners admitted that they'd been looking into it.
"Gay couples can't adopt in Virginia at the moment, but there are efforts to change that. I know the Human Rights Campaign and others are working on it. But, of course, the religious right are pretty strong here and our governor doesn't want to upset them."
"But," Chaz said, "we're gonna keep an eye on the situation, maybe even get involved with petitions and phone calls and stuff like that."
"Let us know if we can help," Mark said.
"Absolutely," Cedric agreed.
One evening when Cedric was chatting with his mother via Skype, she mentioned that Easter wasn't far off.
"You'll be here, of course."
"Um, sure. Will Keesha and family be there?"
"Yes. I can't wait to see those babies!"
"I suppose they'll have grown since Christmas."
"She says they have. So when will you be here?"
"About that, Angel. Is it okay if I bring someone with me?"
"Of course. Is it that FBI man you've been seeing?"
"Is this getting serious, baby?"
"I think so. But as for Easter . . . . I don't think he has anywhere to go for the holiday. But let's not make a big deal of this, okay? I don't want to scare him off."
Angel chuckled. "I understand. The word is cool."
"You're cool, Mama. No welcoming him to the bosom of the family or anything like that, okay?"
"Not yet, anyway, hmm?"
"I'll talk to Bart and let you know when we'll be there. Love to Dad."
He called Bart. "Are you going to Columbia to see your father for Easter?"
"No. There isn't enough time. I'll take a few days vacation later and spend some time with him."
"How's he doing?"
"For a guy his age, he's amazing. Thanks for asking. Now, can I assume you have something in mind for Easter?"
When Cedric extended Angel's invitation, Bart said he'd be happy to meet Cedric's parents. Nothing was said about the event having special significance.
They both were keeping regular office hours on Good Friday, though Cedric gave Ms. Bott the afternoon off, for which she seemed almost grateful.
Cedric picked Bart up at 9:00 on Saturday morning. Bart admitted that he didn't know Cleveland well.
"We can do anything you want this afternoon. Cleveland has a really cool art museum, and it's been having some very expensive renovation and expansion. Until now they've never really had the space to display all the goodies they have."
"Sounds tempting, Ced, but I have something else in mind. Maybe we can do the Museum another time?"
"Sure. What is it you wanna do?"
"I've always wanted to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
Cedric was a bit surprised, since Bart had never talked much about rock music. "Then that's what we'll do."
They arrived in Shaker Heights in time for lunch with Angel and Jake. They spent a couple of hours at the Rock Hall, as it's called locally. They discovered their tastes were generational, each liking the groups that were big when they were teens or in college. Bart laughed at him when Cedric admitted one of the first CD's he'd bought was "Spice" by the Spice Girls. They agreed, however, that neither was too keen on the currently popular rock stars, especially Lady Gaga.
Next they spent an hour in the Science Museum on the Lakefront next door to the Rock Hall. Cedric suggested it was mostly for kids, but Bart said while they were there he would like to check it out. He seemed delighted with the interactive exhibits, and even Cedric admitted that it had been more fun than he remembered.
That evening they took Angel and Jake to dinner at The Gamekeeper's Taverne, a restaurant in Chagrin Falls the Jones family had always liked. Cedric was happy to see the décor and service hadn't changed a bit. And true to the restaurant's name, the menu offered such items as wild game meatloaf, elk loin medallions, and grilled bison skirt steak. Though Bart insisted on trying the meatloaf, Cedric, Angel, and Jake chose more conventional meats for their main dishes.
Bart was charming with Cedric's parents, and they seemed to like him. It turned out that Jake and Bart had some mutual acquaintances in the criminal justice system, but they didn't let that dominate the conversation
As they were undressing for bed, Bart gestured to his surroundings in Cedric's garage apartment behind the Jones' house.
"This is really nice, babe. Did your mother do the decorating?"
"Nope. She wanted to, but I persuaded her to let me do it. She agreed. It was hard for her to keep her hands off. She did, though."
"It's not much like your place in Colby . . . except for your obvious preference for modern furniture. And by modern I obviously don't mean Ikea."
"Glad you like it, especially since your taste runs to the eclectic."
"But I don't have your eye for color. I'm inclined to say you should have been an interior designer, but I know you're too good a lawyer to be doing anything else."
Cedric, wearing only his white CK briefs, hugged the nearly-naked Bart. "And how do you know I'm a good lawyer?"
Bart ground his hardening cock against Cedric's abs. "Because your boss says so."
"Mmm! And how does he know?"
Bart chuckled. "Probably because Ms. Bott told him so."
"You know, I'm never sure what she's thinking. Haven't figured out whether she approves of me or not."
"Well, you know something? I approve. But if I ever redecorate my loft, I want you to be my consultant."
"Deal. Now, let's get nekkid!"
They had breakfast the next morning in Cedric's apartment, Angel having stocked the kitchen with things she knew her son liked. Then they dressed in blazers and dress slacks and went across to the main house. The four of them got into Jake's Lexus and went to Easter services at the Epworth-Euclid United Methodist Church at University Circle. Cedric explained that it was known locally as the "Holy Oil Can" because of its unique shape. The Jones family had worshipped there as long as they had lived in Shaker Heights.
As the congregation sang the hymns, Cedric was pleased to learn that Bart could use that deep voice of his and was in fact an excellent basso.
When they got back to the Jones' home, they changed out of their church-going garb. Cedric offered to help Angel with the dinner, which was planned for 2:00. Just then Keesha, her husband C. B., and the kids, Little Jakey and Cheyenne, arrived. After greetings and introductions, Angel and Keesha sent the men into the family room to play with the rug rats while mother and daughter worked on the meal.
Cedric and Bart offered to set the table and were allowed to do that chore while the kids' father and grandfather chatted and looked after them.
"You know," Bart said that evening as they drove back to Toledo and Colby, "you're very lucky."
"To have my family?"
"Exactly. No wonder you're so well grounded."
"But you said when you first saw me you thought I needed someone to take care of me."
"Yeah. A lot of what and who you are obviously comes from them. Your values. Your style. But even a great family can't protect you from being hurt. And I wasn't around to protect you . . . when you got your memory back. But last fall I knew you needed some TLC and wished I could be the one to give it. Imagine how happy I was when I found you again, even though you were one miserable puppy the day we got you out of that barn."
"If I weren't driving, I'd hug the breath out of you, McNamee. You've got me now. And I know I'm well cared for."
Cedric felt let down when he dropped Bart off in Toledo. He was always sad when they parted on Sunday evenings. But he knew they'd talk every day and would be together again the next weekend.
Later that week he talked with his mother.
"So what did you think of Bart?"
"Oh, he's very nice. He's a sexy brute, too. I can see where he might be intimidating if he wanted to be. But he's very gentle for such a big man, isn't he?"
"Yes to all that."
"I'm just surprised . . . ."
"What? That he's not like Tim?"
"I'm sorry, baby. I shouldn't have said anything. Of course he's not Tim."
"It wouldn't have been healthy if I'd gone out and found a clone of Tim, would it?"
"No, it wouldn't." She paused briefly. "Cedric, I started to blurt out something without thinking. I loved Tim. But I can learn to love Bart, too, if that's the way it's to be. I don't know how serious you are about this man, but I hope he makes you happy. And if he hurts you he'll have to answer to me."
"Thanks, Angel. I'll tell him you said so."
"Best not do that, boy. Don't want to scare him away."
A few days later Bart asked, "Do you have any plans for the first weekend in May?"
"Nope. Just so long as I can spend it with you."
Bart grinned. "That's the general idea. Have you ever been to Chicago?"
Cedric had mixed feelings about his one trip to the Windy City . . . with Tim. And at a time when he wasn't particularly happy with Tim. "Yeah. Once. Briefly."
"Well, as you know, I spent some time in Evanston, so I know the city pretty well. How'd you like to take off after lunch on that Friday and come home Sunday afternoon? We can pack in a lot of good stuff . . . if that sounds appealing to you."
"Sounds great. Will we fly out of Express or Detroit?"
"Neither. We'll drive. It's an hour's flight. Add in getting to the airport two hours early and the time it takes to get from O'Hare downtown, and we can drive it. Besides, the Audi's seats beat coach seats any day."
"Oh! Okay. Great."
"Do you trust me to make all the arrangements?"
Cedric lowered his eyebrows. "I'll happily put myself in your hands, oh Great One, so long as you let me pay my share of the costs."
As it turned out, Bart had planned a busy weekend.
When they got to Chicago, they checked into the Seneca in downtown, just off Michigan Avenue. Then they used public transportation to get to Wrigley Field. Like many baseball fans, Cedric had always had a soft spot for the perennially-losing Cubs. And Bart had been a Cubs fan since his days at Northwestern.
Because time was short, they dined on ballpark food. As Cedric good-naturedly grumbled, they could have eaten at a fairly decent restaurant for what it cost. But, miracle of miracles, the Cubs managed a win over the Pirates, so they went back to their room – well, a small suite, actually – happy.
They decided to take in some of the Mud Hens' games that season. As Bart explained, their ballpark, Fifth Third Field, was just down the street from his place. Cedric agreed, suggesting that would be much more convenient than going to Detroit to see the Tigers, the Mud Hens' "parent" team. "You know," he said, "I've been thinking of asking if that amateur baseball team in Colby could use another infielder this summer. It'd be fun to play ball again."
"Does that mean I'd be a baseball widow all summer?"
"Well, Friday nights or Saturday afternoons for a couple of hours, yeah. Do you mind?"
Bart grinned. "Not really. I'd come to the games. And then I'd get to take you home when you're all sweaty and help clean you up." He licked his lips.
"I guess this isn't the time to mention that I'd get to know Brody Cox and Dave Cromer better, is it?"
Arching an eyebrow, Bart said, "Depends on what you mean by getting to know, I suppose. Not too well, I hope."
"No worries then."
They spent the next morning at the Contemporary, as Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art is called by the locals. They found much there of interest, much to talk about. Before they realized how much time had passed, it was 1:00 and they were both hungry. They had lunch at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant at the Contemporary, each choosing a different salad from the long and tempting list.
Afterward they hied themselves off to the Art Institute, the only place in Chicago Cedric could remember from his previous visit. But he was happy to spend the rest of the afternoon there. Though neither of them mentioned it, Cedric was sure Bart was remembering that they had met in a museum. Their interest in art was one of the many things the two had in common.
Finally, Bart, who had been somewhat secretive, hustled Cedric out of the museum before he was really ready to leave.
"We have to get back to the hotel and change for dinner."
"Oh, we goin' someplace special?"
"I think you'll like it. And we have theater tickets for afterwards, so we need to hustle."
The restaurant turned out to be Yoshi's, whose menu offered a fusion of French and Asian cuisine. They ordered different things and, as couples will, each sampled from the other's plate. Cedric was sorely tempted by the dessert menu, but Bart reminded him that curtain time wasn't that far off.
The play was Becket's Endgame, which had been held over for an extra week at Steppenwolf, a theater Cedric had heard his friend Rick speak of. The play left him puzzled, but he and Bart talked about its significance back in their room before turning in for a night whose passion was perhaps intensified by being part of what seemed like a quick honeymoon for the two lovers.
The next morning, they had a long shower together followed by breakfast at the Chestnut Street Café, one of the Seneca's three restaurants.
They checked out late morning.
"We're gonna be home well before supper time."
"Great!" Bart said. "Time for a little nooky at your place before we have supper and I go back to my lonely pad."
"Pre-prandial nooky sounds yummy. Will this thing go any faster?"
"This is not a thing," Bart said with mock hauteur. "It's a fine motorcar. And, yes, it will go a lot faster. But I think the Indiana staties might object."
"You mean you couldn't wave your credentials at them if they stopped you?"
"I wouldn't think of doing that!"
Cedric chuckled. "Yeah, right."
"Oh, okay. My upright lover."
"Baby, you don't know how upright."
Cedric moved his hand to Bart's lap.
As they raced east toward home at just a mile or two over the legal speed, Cedric was relaxed, enjoying the comfort of the car, the feel of the fine leather, the nearness of Bart.
Basking in the afterglow of the weekend, he looked over at the big man behind the wheel. It was early afternoon and already he needed a shave. But to Cedric he looked perfect.
"You really wouldn't ever hurt me, would you?"
Cedric rested his hand on Bart's thigh. Bart took one hand off the steering wheel, covered Cedric's hand, and squeezed. Although Bart kept his eyes on the road, Cedric could see he was smiling.
Cedric sighed contentedly. "That's what I thought."
I can't leave this story without thanking Tracy and Jack for special help along the way. And to my stalwart colleagues and friends Drew, Tinn, and Mickey, once again, my heartfelt gratitude.
If you want to email me about this story, please do so at
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. --Tim