The following fictional narrative involves sexually-explicit erotic events between men. If you shouldn't be reading this, please move on.
In the world of this story, the characters don't always use condoms. In the real world, you should care enough about yourself and others to always practice safe sex.
The author retains all rights. No reproductions or links to other sites are allowed without the author's consent.
Thanks and love to Tom for always patiently and carefully doing the editing chores, and to the rest of my Nifty Six colleagues for being the great men they are.
I think I'd start by saying forgiveness is a good thing. So is a little guilt sometimes.
After Philip slept with Hook the second time, I was so hurt I just didn't think I could ever trust him again. I still loved him, but I didn't see how he could love me and have sex with another guy. Twice. So I really thought we were through, and I was more depressed than I'd ever been. Someone said "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I'm not so sure about that. I used to worry if I'd ever be able to have a guy to love who'd also love me. I was so afraid of coming out and so shy, I just didn't think it would ever happen. Then Philip came into my life, and I was on top of the world for a while. But after thinking I'd lost him, that he really couldn't keep from playing around with other guys, I just didn't know what to do with myself.
Finals and then commencement were coming, and I had to concentrate on finishing up. The other guys in the Trio were winding up their degree work, too, and we were hoping we could make a go of it as a group. But there hadn't been any very promising offers.
Then, one day not long before commencement, I got a call from a guy named Earl Boggs who said he was an agent, and could he hear us play. I invited him to come to Nighttown, said I'd pick up his dinner tab. He said that wouldn't be necessary, that scouting new groups was a legitimate business expense for him and he could write it off. The upshot of the whole thing was that he loved us! After the gig, he told us we were hot stuff and asked if we were available for a tour of jazz spots during the coming summer. I didn't even have to look at the guys, for we'd talked about it. When I assured him we were, we all hugged. Roy, our bassist, who's the most businesslike of our group, asked him a lot of questions, but he seemed satisfied with the answers. Then I asked Earl how he had heard about us. He said he'd gotten a call from a good friend of his who'd heard from his nephew, a guy named Philip something or other. He said this Philip raved to him about how good we were and asked if he could do anything for us. So the friend called Earl, and here we all were.
I knew that had to be "my" Philip, or, more accurately, my ex. Who else with that name could it have been? It was too late to call him when I got back to campus from Nighttown, but I sent him an email, thanking him for what he had done and asking if he'd see me. I should mention that my cousin, Paul, had told me what had gone on between him and Hook, and he'd sent me pictures of Hook caught in the act, so to speak. I had to admit, I could see why Philip would have been tempted if that guy threw himself at him. And, according to Philip, Hook had showed up at his place the last time and gotten naked before he rang Philip's doorbell. He may be a slut, but he was totally sexy, so I decided maybe I should have cut Philip some slack.
The next morning the phone rang about 7:30, while I was getting dressed. It was Philip.
"Geoff! You wanted me to call you?"
"Yeah, Philip. How've you been?"
"Geoffie, I've been okay. Well, not really. I miss you. I've been living like a monk, hoping maybe someday you'd take me back."
Knowing him, I understood how difficult apologies were, so I realized what he'd just said. "I've missed you, too. But that's not why I called. Do you know a guy named Earl Boggs?"
"Yeah, that's my Uncle Stu's friend, the agent."
"So you ARE the one who got him to come and hear us?"
"Guilty as charged, babe."
I choked up. "Philip, you dear, sweet man. Why would you do that after I dumped you?"
He chuckled. "First of all, because you guys are good and deserve a break. I had forgotten about Uncle Stu's friend until he mentioned him recently. But that reminded me that Boggs has some clout in jazz circles, so I thought maybe I could do the right thing for once in my life."
"Well, Geoffie, it was also a way of trying to say how sorry I am that I blew it with you. With us."
I was crying. "Maybe you haven't blown it, I mean, are you seeing anybody now?"
"Didn't I mention being a monk?"
"Oh, yeah! I'm sorry. I'm just so emotional right now! Philip, can we get together soon?"
"I could come right over."
"I've got a class in twenty minutes. How about dinner here tonight and then . . . ?"
"I'll be there at six."
He showed up with, believe it or not, red roses. He spent the night, too.
Since then Philip has not only been back in my life, he's become the fourth member of our Trio. He's become our business manager/agent/publicist. He and Earl got us a contract to record a cd, which is to be released in a couple of weeks.
And things between Philip and me are perfect. He's loving, attentive, funny as ever. He doesn't mind telling me when I'm being silly or bitchy. He says he'll allow for artistic temperament only so far. But he always says it with a kiss and a smile.
Now, I've got a rehearsal to get to, and Philip is telling me to get off the computer.
* * *
One evening Tim mentioned that his old Camry was giving him fits. Trey said, "Tim, maybe you should get a new car. I know you'd like to."
Tim said, "Sure, I'd like to. I've never had a new car. But without Ced paying half of the lease on the condo, I've got to watch my money."
"Come on, Tim! I know what these places cost. Yours is just like ours and Max's. I don't imagine Max makes as much as you do, yet he's managing. Are you telling us you couldn't really swing a car payment?"
He thought about that for a while and then smiled. "It would be nice to have a new car."
I stepped into the conversation. "Okay, prof. If you can find some sort of Chevrolet or Saturn that suits you, I can see that you get it at dealer's cost, no shitting around."
"Chaz, I couldn't . . ."
"Shut the fuck up, professor! This Saturday you and I are going to look at cars, and when you find what you want, I'll call my dad and he'll get it for you. No strings."
Tim said he didn't want to impose or couldn't take advantage of our friendship and all that, but Trey winked at me to let me know Tim really would like to take me up on my offer.
The actual shopping was almost comical. We went to the local dealer. First of all Tim looked at Malibus. He said that was a nice car and as big as he needed. I tried to get into the back seat so he could see that a guy my size wouldn't be comfortable riding back there. I told him I thought even Trey would be pretty cramped in the rear seat. Then I got him to look at Tahoes like mine. I explained that they were great cars in the kind of snow we often got so close to Lake Erie. He complained that it was much too big, but I persuaded him to take a test drive. That didn't go well. He said he felt like he was driving a truck.
We looked at the Saturn SUV, and he liked that a little better, but I could tell he wasn't really happy with it, either.
"Okay, professor. Come look at these." We walked over to the Impalas. The salesman who had been shadowing us unlocked one and invited Tim to take a drive. Tim made me sit in the back just to see that I would fit. Then I got in front, the salesman got in back, and off we went. The sales guy and I took turns telling Tim about the car and its options.
"You sound like a Chevrolet salesman," the guy said to me.
"No, I've never actually sold them," I said, "but I do know the product pretty well."
When we got back to the dealership, the guy gave us a brochure that showed the options and colors. We thanked him and went to Fein's for coffee and a bagel. Tim chose the top of the line model with bucket seats, black leather interior, and silver mist metallic on the outside. I teased him about the stodgy colors.
"You want me to get the red?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. Then he grinned.
"Nah, doesn't go with your hair."
He looked some more at the available colors. He pointed to a dark green. "How'd that be with tan leather inside?"
"Much better. It matches those green silk boxers you have umpteen pairs of. Besides, that's almost British Racing Green. It makes a cool-looking car with the tan leather."
He chose that.
I called dad on my cell phone, and he gave me a price on the Impala, a trade-in figure on Tim's Camry, and a monthly payment amount. He said he could have one waiting if we'd come and pick it up the following Saturday. Tim, who seemed to be trying to hide his excitement, said that would be fine. Dad asked me to remind Tim to bring along the title to the Camry.
You have probably figured that Trey and I cooked up all this as a distraction. Don't get me wrong. The old Camry was a mess. But we thought a new car might lift our little buddy's spirits, and our plot seemed to work.
Later that afternoon I called Dad back and asked him if he'd throw in a spoiler. I didn't suppose Tim even knew what a spoiler was, but they do make that model look a lot less like an old fart's car.
The following weekend Tiger was flying to Richmond on family business, so early Saturday morning Tim and I set off for Cincinnati in the Camry.
We pulled into my folks' place at noon. Mom had fixed lunch of fried chicken, biscuits, cole slaw, potato salad made with redskin potatoes, and iced tea. She and dad had heard a lot about Tim, but they'd never met him. They all hit it off to a T, as Mom likes to say. They gabbed and I mostly just listened. By the time lunch was over, I thought they might offer to adopt him. When I remembered what his mother was like, I was glad he and my folks took to each other so well.
After peach cobbler and coffee, Dad had some papers for Tim to sign. Then the doorbell rang. It was Bart, the sales manager of dad's first agency. He'd brought the car. Bart gave Tim the keys and explained that the warranty would allow him to have the car serviced at the Chevy dealership where we'd looked at all the cars, or any Chevy dealer, for that matter. He collected the title and the keys for the Camry and left.
Tim and I sat and visited for a while with the folks. They wanted to know about Mark, of course, but they were especially concerned about Ced. When it was time to leave, we all exchanged hugs, Mom and Dad both said to give their love to Trey, and they invited Tim to come back for a longer visit.
Tim thanked Mom for the lunch and Dad for the car, and we were off.
"Chaz, I hope you realize what great parents you have," he said as he pulled out of the driveway.
"For sure, professor dude!"
* * *
On the way home, Chaz pushed his seat back as if to prove the Impala could accommodate his long legs. He was quiet until we passed King's Island and the traffic thinned out a bit. I was grateful for that because I was still getting the feel of the new car. It was bigger and more powerful than my old Camry, so I was concentrating on driving.
"Yeah?" I glanced at him briefly. That wonderful grin, which, I'd been told, made Trey's cock jump, was absent. My companion for the day looked serious. "What's on your mind, Chaz?"
"Well, I mean it's strange and complicated."
"Oh, that it is. But what, specifically, do you have in mind?"
"Lotsa stuff. I mean, here you and I are, just the two of us. We've never been alone together much, you know."
"True." I wondered where this was going.
"Tim, you know I'm not very good with words."
I grinned. "I know you say that, but I'd have to disagree. So just start talking. You'll find the words."
He sighed. "Man . . . ." His voice caught. I glanced over at him and saw tears in his eyes.
"Chaz, what is it?"
"Well, let's see. Like I said, here we are. Together. All day. And we're good friends, aren't we?"
"You have to ask?"
"I mean, it's not just because I'm with Tiger, is it?"
"If you really don't know the answer to that question, then I'm glad you asked. Don't you know I love you like the brother I never had?"
That produced the smile. "Really?" It was easy to see why his smile got to Trey.
"Yes, really, dolt!"
Though I was looking at the semi ahead of me, I sensed that the smile lingered a moment and then disappeared.
"Timmy, I don't know how you were ever able to forgive me for what I did to you. If the situations were reversed, I'd hate me. That is, if I were you, I'd . . . oh, shit!"
"Look, little brother. I know what you're saying. But we're past all that. I thought you knew it, and I'm sorry you're still worrying about it. As I said, I love you -- and not because of Trey."
"Cool!" He paused. "Ya know, I'm an only kid, just like you. But when I came to the university, I found myself three brothers. Then, despite our stupidity, the guys and I found ourselves another brother. You. And now there's Max. And Steve. And maybe Rick." A longish pause. "Little brother, huh? I kind of like that."
"Me, too, Chaz, me too."
We drove on a while in silence, but I sensed his brain was still busy. "Got something else on your mind?"
"Yup. I was thinking about love. And sex."
"Whoa! Pretty serious stuff."
"Well, Tim, you and Trey and I have something in common. We all turn on to the women, too."
"Uh huh." I wondered where he was headed this time.
"I've had great sex with women, ya know, and I've even liked some of them."
I nodded, still keeping my eyes on the road, trying not to laugh.
"But what I've got with Trey, man, is more than I ever dreamed of. He's all I want. You understand?"
"Believe me, Chaz, I do understand."
He continued, "And I know you and Trey have this special thing. Sometimes I think Trey is closer to you than he is to me."
I started to reply, but he continued. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not jealous. I just understand you and Tiger have a really, well, different kind of a bond."
"It's uncanny, almost scary sometimes, but Trey and I both recognize that it's there. I think to a certain extent Trey is able to understand many people, and surely all of us, with remarkable insight and clarity. I've called him an `empath,' and I truly believe he is. But you must know Trey loves you with all his heart. You do know that, don't you?"
"Yeah, ain't that grand? So, like I said a while ago, life is strange and complicated in a lot of different ways."
I chuckled. "You got that right."
Again, Chaz was quiet for a while. I waited, knowing he wasn't finished.
"Strange and complicated. I love Mark and Ced. I love Max. I love you. But I'm IN love with Trey."
I grinned. "You damn well better be, or you're in serious trouble with me!"
He laughed. Since he was more or less a foot taller than me, his `being in trouble with me' could only matter because he cared for me.
"Never fear, big bro! Being with Trey, loving the sexy bastard, having him love me, that's just what I want out of life."
Ohio requires semis to go no more than 55 on interstates. Cars can go 65. I was in the passing lane behind a semi who wanted to go 56 and was passing one going only 55. I thought our conversation, or that phase of it, was over, so I didn't say anything, trying to be patient behind the slow-moving truck in front of me.
"We were talkin' about love."
"I seem to remember that."
"So how are YOU doing?"
I knew he meant how was I doing with regard to Cedric's amnesia, but I didn't know how to answer him. I must have thought about my response for a long time. I felt his hand on the back of my neck. (Why did that make me instantly hard?)
"Earth to Tim. You there, buddy?"
"Yeah, Chaz. I'm sorry. It's just that you touched on the central problem in my life right now."
"I meant to. I know it's been a fuckin' nightmare, not just for Ced but for you, too. So how are you doing?"
How was I doing? Not well, but not wallowing in self pity as I had been a few weeks ago. "The longer Cedric goes without regaining his memory, the less likely it seems that he'll ever get it back. You and Trey tell me he's going out with other guys."
"Well, Timmy, I only know about this Judd guy, and I don't know how often they've been together. But you wouldn't want Ced to put his life on hold, would you?"
`Yes!' I thought. `He should wait until he remembers what a glorious love we shared.'
"No, Chaz," I said. "Of course not."
"Right." Pause. "So what about you?"
"What about me?" The semi in front of me finally got around the one in the slow lane and pulled over. There was a satisfying surge forward when I accelerated.
"So where were we?"
"We were talking, prof, about Ced getting on with his life."
"Damn, Tim, you've got a short attention span."
I chuckled. "Sorry, but I'm having to pay some attention to this fancy new machine you've bullied me into getting."
"Bullied? I thought I was doing you a fuckin' favor." I could tell by the tone of his voice that he wasn't really offended.
"Okay, little brother. I suppose I can't wait around forever for Cedric to recover from his amnesia. But there ARE problems. What am I going to do? If Ced is no longer in my life, what then? And supposing I found a new someone, what if I became involved with him, and then Ced's memory came back?"
"I notice you said `him.' Does that mean you'd be looking for a guy instead of a woman?"
Anyone who ever thought Charles Greeley was nothing but a dumb jock was seriously wrong. "Yeah, now that you mention it, I suppose I was thinking about another man."
"Okay." I could almost hear the grin as he spoke. "Now, since Ced's seeing other guys, that could complicate things if he gets his memory back, for sure. But does that mean you have to stay home for the rest of your life just waiting and hoping? Come on, Tim! You can't just pine around for Ced forever, ya know."
"Even though it seems an eternity, it's only been a few months."
"Months. That's a long time. Since last May. Face it, Tim, the cops aren't gonna catch the guy who ran Ced down, and it's just about as unlikely that Ced's memory is gonna come back."
"So? What am I supposed to do, Chaz?"
"Well, there IS someone who's been, what? Waiting in the wings?"
"Don't give me that shit. You know who I mean. You've got to know that Max loves you."
"Of course I do. Max is my best friend. I've loved him for years."
"No, Timmy. Are you pretending to be stupid? Max is in love with you."
"Did he tell you that?"
"No, big brother, he didn't tell me that. But any fool could see it. David saw it. That's why he left. He knew he couldn't compete with you."
"So, little dude, unless you want to be in serious trouble with me, there's something you've gotta do."
"You owe it to Max to tell him where he stands. If he doesn't have a chance, you gotta tell him that. On the other hand, much as I love Ced, I think you and Max should be getting it on. After all, you've both waited long enough!"
"You're guessing, right? You think Max is in love with me?"
He sighed. "Timmy, it's plain as day to anybody who cares about you and Max."
"And you think Max and David broke up because of me?"
"I know it."
"He told you?"
"No, he didn't. Besides, you shouldn't worry about who told who what. It's just so obvious. To everybody except you, anyway. If you don't believe me, ask Trey. Or, better still, why don't you just ask Max and get it all straightened out?"
`Could that be true? It would explain why David left. I always thought Max was holding something back about that. But If that's the case, why didn't Max ever say anything when we were at Kenyon? Well, you didn't say anything to him about how you felt, either. If only we'd both been more honest, how different things might have been. And what about Andrew? Max has told me he was deliriously in love with him. Now that I think of it, Max obviously loved David, but I wouldn't describe their love as delirious. So what the fuck do I do now? How can I ask him if he loves me? What if Chaz is wrong? What do I do if he does love me like that? And how DO I feel about him? I would have become his lover, his partner, in a heartbeat back then. But now? I love Cedric. Ever since we've been together I've thought I've wanted nothing more than to be with him the rest of my life. Was that only because Max was not a possibility? Oh, god, what a can of worms my "little" brother had just opened for me!'
* * *
One day in August I got a call from Markie. He was in Lake Polk, Florida, where Stan and Doug, his new lover, were living. I was excited as always to talk with my old roomie, and we chatted on about things in general. He reminded me that he had had a girlfriend named Lori whom I couldn't remember, but that she was back in Germany, and he wasn't sure what was going to happen with that. After a while, he said he'd like to come and see me.
"Man, Mark, I'd love that. You don't know how much I need to see you. I'm in a pretty weird place right now."
"I know you don't mean living with Angel and Jake, brother. It must be tough. And scary."
"You got that right. So, when are you coming? How long can you stay?"
He said he could only stay a couple of nights and then he was flying on to New Haven to get settled in his place there before classes began.
"Well, you will stay here with me, won't you?"
He chuckled. "That was the idea, yes, but I'd like to see Chaz and Trey, too. Ced, I don't know quite how to say this, but I'd really like to see Tim and Max as well. So maybe I should rent a car so I can drive out there, if you don't mind my doing that."
"Mark, I'll pick you up at the airport. There are plenty of cars around here if you want to go to campus. And we'll have a party here for Chaz and Tiger. You won't mind if I don't invite Dr. Mead and his friend the priest, do you? I haven't met Father Hewitt, and I think it might be really awkward."
"No, babe. I don't want to do anything to make things tougher for you. But if I can borrow a car, I'll run out there to see Timmy and Max. Oh, and I want to look up our buddy Steve while I'm there if he's around."
"Steve? You mean there's another one?"
"Yeah. Steve's the only other straight brother besides me. But he may be in Erie with Rebecca."
"Not Rebecca Stein?"
"The very same."
We finished up our conversation. Mark was arriving at Hopkins on Friday afternoon. I'd pick him up at the Continental baggage claim area, and we'd be back here in time for dinner. I knew Dad and Angel would want to see him, so we'd have dinner with them and just kick back and get caught up in my place afterward.
When I told Mom what was happening, she insisted that I should have the entire brotherhood at the house on Saturday night. She said I had to invite Timmy (her word) and Father Max and this Steve guy if he was around. She told me she knew it would be awkward for Tim and me, but that we owed it to Mark to get the whole Brotherhood together, and our house was the obvious place to do it.
I called Trey and told him what was up. I could tell by his voice how excited he was at the thought of seeing Markie again, and he said he knew Chaz would be, too. When I told him Angel wanted to invite the other three as well, he said that Steve would be in Erie, but that he was sure Father Hewitt and Dr. Mead were available.
"Ced, I know this is going to be awkward for you, babe. It will be tough for Tim, too. But it may be the last time the six of us are ever together, and I really think you should bite the bullet. Besides, Max and Tim are going to be in Trey's and my lives, so you have to get used to that. And Max has been so longing to see you. He was at the hospital a lot while you were in your coma, you know. And he loves you as much as the rest of us do. You can't just go on avoiding him."
I laughed. "Okay, okay, Tiger! If you and Mark and Trey love these guys, they must be special. Maybe if I spend an evening with them, I can figure out what it is about them the rest of you dig so much."
So it was set. I had qualms, but what the hell. Gotta move on, right?
Friday afternoon I picked Mark up at the airport. We stopped at a bar on the way home and just sat and caught up over beer.
I'd had a quick version of how Pops met Doug, but I asked Mark for the long version. He spent the better part of half an hour telling me all about how Stan had moved to this little town in central Florida and almost immediately fallen in love with the guy who was serving wine at his church. He told me about the troubles they'd had in the community when they'd been accidentally outed. Then he told me about Doug's problems with his homophobic bishop, and how the whole gang of us from campus had gone down to Waltersburg to hand out flyers in front of the diocesan headquarters.
"Damn, Mark. That's so great! I'm so glad you guys did that!"
"Ced, dude, you were there, too. You were absolutely a part of it."
"With, uh, Tim?"
"Yes, with, uh Tim. Look, man, you've got to get used to calling him Tim. It would really seem cold to him if you call him anything else. Same with Max."
"I understand what you're saying, bro, but I'm going to have to concentrate on doing it."
"Look, you're going to have to get to know these guys all over again, but it will be worth it. They're very special people, guys you are going to want in your life, even if, God forbid, you never get your memory back."
Then I asked him how things were currently with Pops and Doug. He said that the events at the recent GenCon of the Episcopal Church, which we'd all followed closely in late July, had caused things to heat up again in Lake Polk. Even though they were going to Cypress Haven to a big church there, some of their Lake Polk friends, including their friend Hallie, were getting flak from most of the parishioners for their support of Bishop Robinson and the Claiming the Blessing initiative.
"Why don't they just get the hell out of there? It must be like living in Bumfuck."
He looked serious again. "I wish they would. It doesn't matter where they live. They aren't hurting for money, and they're sure in the wrong place for an openly gay couple. I wish they'd move to someplace where they could have more fun and just be who they are."
"Any idea why they don't?"
He grinned. "When I asked them that the other day, they looked at each other and smiled. Dad said right then they thought they were doing some good in the community, and they were enjoying being out, open, and proud."
"That takes a lot of guts, especially after what happened to them last fall."
"Yeah, I admire them both a lot, but I worry, too."
"Pops really loves this Doug, then?"
"Yeah. About as much as you and Tim love, uh loved, each other. It's fun seeing them together. I've never known Pops to be so happy, and I love Doug.
On the drive from the bar to my house, I asked him what had happened to the great classic Mustang his dad had given him. He said it was in storage in Meadville.
"No use taking it to New Haven. I think I'll pick up some kind of wheels when I get there, an SUV, probably. But next summer I'm coming back out here and getting it to use during the nice weather."
When we got home, Angel and Jake fussed over Mark as if he were the long-lost son, which, of course, he was in a way. They hadn't seen him since commencement, and, though they had talked with him on the phone, they were overjoyed to see him. After all, Mark and I had been roommates for three of our four years at the university. He'd been my brother, roommate, confidant. Mom and Dad loved him as much as I did.
We had drinks before dinner. When I asked Mom for chardonnay, Mark grinned.
"What's with the look, Mason?" I asked.
"Sorry, Cedric. But you never drank chardonnay until you and Tim got together."
"Oh, so that's it. I wondered why I was liking the stuff now when I never really did before. It's an acquired taste, and Tim helped me acquire it?"
Dad chuckled. "Son, I pray you get your memory back soon. But if you never do, you'll always be a better man because you had that time with Tim. You learned so much from him, not just a taste for chardonnay. And I've heard you say things since your recovery that I know came from him."
I put some brie on a water cracker and munched on it. I had never thought of that. That I'd still be a different person because of Tim Mead even if I couldn't remember out time together. I had so much to think about.
Angel had made lamb stew and biscuits and a salad for supper, all very casual and homey. After dessert, we chatted a while longer, and then Mark and I went across the parking area to my apartment.
I made him tell me all about Lori, since I couldn't remember her, either. He showed me her picture, and she was obviously a beautiful woman. I could see as he talked that he loved her, but he seemed sad.
"You're afraid it's over, aren't you, bro?"
"Yeah. Her parents don't want her coming back to America. And I don't think they even like the idea of her marrying an American. They were very polite to me, but it was a distant sort of politeness. And I can't think what an American lawyer might do in Germany. Lori and I are hoping to get together at Christmas. I'm planning to fly over there at that time. We'll just have to see how things look to both of us then."
The talk flowed the rest of the evening, as it will when two close friends get together after an absence. We remembered all kinds of things that we had done at the university, especially baseball games we'd played together and things the four of us in the Brotherhood had done.
I told him I still couldn't get over Trey and Chaz being lovers.
"You can't doubt it when you seem them, though, can you?"
"No, especially when they're kissing each other. I nearly shat my pants when I saw them do that right out there when they got out of their car."
"Imagine how I felt, Ced, when I was suddenly the only straight member of the brotherhood. Especially the night you all stuck the lily up my ass."
"Mark, what the fuck you talking about? What happened?"
"It was part of the payback. Surely Trey and Chaz have told you about that."
"About what? Payback?"
"Oh, God, Ced, you don't know, do you? Maybe I've gone and told something I shouldn't have."
"Maybe you have. But you aren't getting out of here alive if you don't tell me right now what the fuck went on. Chaz and Tiger never were very clear about how Tim and I got together. So, let me get us something to drink, and you're going to tell me a story."
I produced some cognac, gave Mark his, and sat facing him. "Now, talk. And don't leave out anything. I'll try not to interrupt."
Mark started with Keesha's accident, which I didn't remember but had been told about. He kept right on going until after the incident with the lily. I had to bite my tongue often to keep from asking questions, but I managed to keep my promise to him.
"After that, we had all had our punishment, which you helped Tim administer. You were really pissed with the three of us, and I thought maybe our friendship was over. But instead, we merely pulled Tim into the Brotherhood, and all of last year we were just one loving group of guys. Plus Lori. And Max."
"Tell me more about Max."
He explained that Max and Tim had been best friends at Kenyon, where they had both run cross country. He said that Max was gay and that Tim knew very well he was bisexual at that time. If either had had the guts to say anything to the other, they probably would have become a couple right then, but neither one said anything. When Max arrived in town, Tim and I were a committed couple, so Max just fit in as a friend. And then he met David.
I asked who David was, and Mark explained all of that to me.
"What happened to David? I haven't heard anyone mention him."
"In the spring, David moved to California. He was transferred in his job. Trey says David asked Max to go with him, but Max refused. There's something there that doesn't add up, but I don't know what it is. Meanwhile, according to Trey and Chaz, they were all very supportive of Max after David left, and then Max was wonderful to Tim after your amnesia broke his heart."
"Broke his heart?"
"Yeah, Ced. There's no other way to put it. I wasn't around, of course, but Tim and I have talked on the phone, and I get regular updates from Tiger and Chaz. Timmy was devastated when you woke up and didn't remember him. The guys say he went to seed, going for days without shaving or even bathing, apparently, getting drunk, when he's always been almost totally in control." He chuckled. "Well, from what you used to tell me, he lost control when you two were having sex. I guess he got pretty wild then."
"God, Mark. I don't think I need to hear that."
He took a sip of his cognac and looked me in the eye. "Yeah, babe, you do. You can't get on with your life if you don't know exactly what went on during that period you can't remember. You and Tim talked about going to Vermont or somewhere and getting married. You've always had the most marvelous disposition. I've always envied you your high spirits and good humor. But I've never seen you like you were with Tim. You were so in love with the little guy you were euphoric. He felt and, I'm told, still feels that way about you. Understand, Ced, I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. But you owe it to Tim to realize just what a magnificent thing you two had, to realize what a blow this has been to him."
In the four years we'd known each other, I'd shown Mark just about everything in Cleveland there was to see. So on Saturday morning I took him to my gym and we worked out together.
That afternoon we played tennis. Neither of us was very good, and we were glad Trey wasn't there to laugh at our ineptitude on the court. But it was warm, we worked up another good sweat, and it was good just to be there with my old buddy, joking, taunting each other and generally just being together. For an hour and a half I was able to forget the rotten summer I'd had and feel as if things were back to normal.
Then we showered again and went into the house to see if we could help Angel get ready for that evening's party.
After everything Mark had told me, I was really ambivalent about seeing Tim. I was ashamed about what Mark, Trey, and Chaz had done to him because of me. And he hadn't even been guilty of what they thought! I was fascinated to think that this guy I still felt I didn't know and I had been as much in love as Mark and the others insisted we were. I felt guilty that I couldn't remember any of that, even though I knew it wasn't really my fault. I wondered how to act around him. Should I hug him? Shaking hands seemed cold, under the circumstances, but would a hug send the wrong message?
And what about this Max? Chaz said I was terribly jealous of Max and behaved badly toward him when he first showed up in town, but they all insisted that Max was one of the Brotherhood, and had been from the get-go. I planned definitely to get him off in a corner and talk with him while he was here. If he was Tim's oldest and best friend, maybe he could suggest how I should act around Tim now.
I am seldom nervous, but my palms were sweating as I thought about that evening's reunion of the Brotherhood. Angel and Jake said they'd be there to greet everyone, and then they were just going to retreat to their suite and leave the downstairs to us guys. Somehow I didn't think it was going to be a raucous evening.
To be continued.