'52 Panhead

Chapter 17

Friday morning after Evan left for work, I whipped through Maggie's little cookbook looking for things I could make for tomorrow, jotted out a grocery list and headed for town. Back home I spent the next several hours channeling Martha Stewart as I put together salads and baked. By late afternoon the counter was covered with cookies, the fridge bulged with four cold salads and a big ham, and I'd had my fill of the kitchen for the day. Chewy and I went out to the edge of the woods where I clipped a bunch of pine boughs, then spent the next hour festooning the front porch rails, and laying them here and there around the house. When Evan pulled in at a little after 6, I was flat out on the couch with my book lying open on my chest.

"The house looks great," he said, glancing around as he shrugged out of his coat. Then he walked through to the kitchen and I heard him mutter, "Jesus." He stepped back into the living room. "You do all that?"

I nodded and sat up. "There's more in the fridge."

He blinked at me. "Holy shit, we'll still be eatin' cookies at Easter. When you said you'd take care of it, I figured you'd buy some potato salad and a pie."

I gave him a scornful look. "No, that's what you'd do. I bet you never made a damn thing outta your mom's book, did you?"

"Yeah, I did. I made stuff all the time."

I walked over and got in his face. "Like what? Name somethin'."

"Beefsteak," he said, and gave my dick a good squeeze. I banded my arms around him, pinning his arms to his sides and wrestled him to the floor.

"Beefsteak, my ass," I said, when I had him on his back under my weight. "Bullshit's more like it."

We wrestled briefly, but Evan was still in his suit, so I let him up after kissing him thoroughly. During supper I almost told him about the little cemetery in the woods, but it was something I didn't want to share just yet, not even with Evan. I wanted to think about it and visit it again, and maybe stack the little stone wall back up properly before anyone else saw it.

Saturday was clear and cold. We got up early, brought in more firewood, blew the leaves off the porch, and trimmed some straggly bushes along the drive. By the time we got showered and dressed, it was early afternoon, and soon we heard cars coming in the drive. Don and Maggie arrived first with a huge poinsettia that we sat at the corner of the front steps. Sharon pulled in a few minutes later with Kenny's van close behind.

I was watching Kenny when he came around the van and spotted the ramp. He zoomed up it and coasted to a stop in front of me, smiling when his eyes met mine.


"You're welcome, but how'd you know it was me?"

"Well, Evan's a lot of things, but he's no carpenter. How'd you know what angle to use?"

I shrugged. "Just sorta remembered the one at your place, I guess."

"Well, it's perfect. I fuckin' hate bein' carried."

"Yeah, I could tell that last Saturday."

Maggie and Raf's mother Elena were still standing out in the drive chatting with Sharon. Finally, everyone came inside after admiring the carving on the front door. We gave them the nickel tour with Sharon answering most of the questions about the furniture.

Maggie and Elena kept Kenny company in the house while the rest of us hiked back to the creek before dinner. The forest was in full winter mode with bare trees, leaves rustling underfoot, and the crisp gurgle of the creek running fast. When we reached the stream, Rafael was quiet, looking around the clearing, watching the water flow past.

"Pretty, huh?" I said to him as we followed Don, Sharon and Evan downstream.

"Beautiful." He sighed. "Take some pictures so Kenny can see it."

By the time we got back to the house, the women had gotten the food out and we loaded our plates. I'd covered the big dining table with a red cloth and put some of the cut greenery down the center with chunky white candles here and there. Since I'd done all the prep work, I was very pleased with Evan's quiet, "Good job, baby," halfway through the afternoon when we crossed paths in the kitchen.

This was new to me, entertaining friends and family in a place of my own, and I found that I loved it. It was satisfying in a way that I'd never experienced and hadn't really expected. The eight of us fit nicely around the big table, and we stayed there for hours eating, talking and laughing. These people were beginning to assume places in my life that had been empty for a long time; Raf, Kenny and Sharon - friends I could talk to, count on; Maggie and Don and maybe Elena - an older generation of friends I could learn from and turn to for advice.

And Evan. He was laughing at something Kenny had said, his head tipped back, the muscles of his throat tense, his eyes crinkled. He glanced my way just then and gave me a wink that warmed me to my toes. I smiled back, so content in the moment that I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Chewy remembered Kenny and kept an eye on him while we ate, waiting for an invitation. When Kenny finally parked himself near the fire with coffee and cookies, and patted his lap, Chew hopped up, slurped a tongue across Kenny's cheek and flopped down with a groan. Everyone stayed into the evening, sitting around the fire talking and we made a pretty good dent in the food, but I still had enough cookies to open a bakery.

Sunday morning we ran up to see Callie. It was odd to see my house again. I'd only been moved out of it for a couple weeks, but it felt so foreign to me that it seemed like a different person had lived there.

She was expecting us and opened the door decked out in a black sweater with a Christmas tree on the front. The tiny lights on the tree blinked on and off, and it was impossible not to grin at her. We visited for a bit and then I handed her the card containing the baking class ticket and a voucher for a night at the hotel where it was being held. The expression on her face was priceless when she realized what it was, and her mouth was a perfect 'O' when she raised her face to me, eyes sparkling.

"On TV? Oh, my Gaaawd! "

After I promised her I'd tape the show, she handed Evan a pot of what looked like plain old dirt with some stubby greens shoots poking through. I could tell he was searching for something polite to say about it when she laughed and handed me a seed catalog. Clipped to it was a gift card to the big nursery on the south side of Patterson. She pointed at the green stubs in the pot.

"Those are iris; they'll bloom in a few weeks. And when it starts to warm up, I'll come down and help you guys plant a big garden. That's what the gift card's for."

We took her to the fanciest place in town for a champagne brunch, lingering for a couple hours as we told her all about the Farm. She made us promise to email her some pictures, and to start thinking about what flowers and vegetables we wanted to plant. She hugged me tightly when we got ready to leave.

"I miss you," she said. "Are you happy?"

"Yeah, I am, and I miss you, too. Come down some weekday we'll do Patterson."

We left her planning what to wear to baking class, and drove home with the late afternoon sun slanting in the car window. Evan was quiet as he drove, and I was content to just hold his hand where it rested on my leg.

Evan and I spent Monday, Christmas Eve, alone at the Farm, doing miscellaneous stuff around the property. In the morning, I pulled the `Brookside Farm' sign out of the barn and cleaned it off, then filled in the carved letters with some dark red paint until they stood out nicely against the faded gray of the board. When it was dry Evan and I walked out to the road and hung it on the gate, admiring the way it looked with the red bow at the corner, a Christmasy touch Evan had thought of.

I had the jitters all day, knowing that soon he'd be opening my package, seeing the ring I'd bought him. About twenty times that afternoon I almost snuck into the living room to unpack it, but Evan was working around the house and I never got a clear shot at it. Plus, I didn't have anything else to give him except the mug. Around seven, we ate leftovers in front of the fire and then sat on the floor by the tree to open our presents. I handed him my package first, wanting to get it over with now that the moment was here. He moved his hand up and down a little as if he was weighing it, smiling at me.

"Open it, already." The suspense was killing me.

He took the bow off and tucked it into the branches of the tree, a little Christmas thing he'd grown up with, tore off the paper and admired the mug, claiming it reminded him of me. When he looked in the mug, he glanced up at me for a moment, and then lifted the box out and hesitated before slowly raising the lid. He stared at the ring as the smile died from his face, and his jaw knotted. All I could think was oh, fuck and I almost grabbed it out of his hands.

He stared at the ring for several endless seconds before closing his eyes and releasing his breath in a long sigh. I swallowed hard, trying to think of something to say to get past this incredibly awkward moment, but I couldn't think straight. Evan looked shell-shocked, and I had the wild thought that I'd have to buy all new furniture when he threw me out cause I'd given mine to the Salvation Army.

After a moment, he closed the lid of the little box, clutched it in his fist, and silently handed me his gift. I tore the paper off, prepared to love whatever he'd gotten me, but my hands were shaking and I had to slow down to dig through wads of tissue paper before coming up with a round ball a little larger than a golf ball. It was a silver sphere that unscrewed into two halves. As I made the final turn, I looked up at Evan. He was staring at me from eyes floating in unshed tears. I stared back for a second before lifting the top off the sphere.

Inside was a ring nestled into the black velvet lining; a ring made of silver, not very wide, but thick enough to hold two small flush-mount diamonds slightly offset from each other. As I looked at it, the skin on the back of my neck crawled with shivers and my stomach tightened. Evan lifted the ring free, took the sphere gently from my fingers and handed me my ring box.

"Take it out," he whispered when I just sat there, too stupefied to understand what he wanted me to do.

I removed it from the box, and then looked at him. His eyes were still shimmering, but he was smiling at me now, and when he spoke his voice was almost steady.

"I love you, Jeff. Merry Christmas."

Then he took my left hand and carefully slid the ring into place. The metal was cold and felt odd on my hand, and the diamonds sparkled in the tree lights as I raised my hand to see it better. I never wear jewelry, but I knew that I would never willingly remove this ring. When I looked back at him, he was watching me, waiting. I took his hand in mine and repeated his words.

"I love you, Evan. Merry Christmas."

Then I pushed the ring firmly onto his finger. He raised his hand, trembling fingers slightly spread, until I laced mine into his, then turned them so that we were looking at the back of each other's hands. The rings gleamed dully in the firelight. Our eyes met across our joined hands, and an understanding passed between us that I won't even attempt to put into words here. We began to smile at the same time, then leaned forward and kissed, our fingers still entwined. When his hand tightened in mine, the edges of the rings pressed into my skin.

We stayed in front of the fire for a long time, enjoying the tree and the quiet and each other. Chewy had gotten a doggy stocking full of various bones, treats and toys, and spent the evening gnawing on a rawhide knot the size of his head.

At midnight we went outside to give Chewy one last chance at a tree before bed, and in the hush of the country night, we could hear the church bells from town tolling out the hour. It was beautiful and kind of other-worldly, and it gave me chills, even with Evan's arm around me. It was a clear night, the sky so full of stars that you couldn't begin to count them. We stayed out there in the cold, dark yard until the last note died away, and then went in to bed.

Christmas morning we slept in, except for when I jumped up and let Chew out real quick, coming back to bed with feet so cold that Evan flinched when I shoved them in between his to warm them up.

"Christ," he grumbled, "did you run around the yard with him?"

I chuckled and rolled onto him, smiling at him from six inches away as he woke up. While he yawned and stretched, I worked my way down his body, stopping at all his favorite spots - his nipples, his belly just above his cock, his ball sack. I got a finger wet and pushed it slowly into his ass as I sucked him, feeling him relax to let me in, then tighten as I began to move. The feel of his insides always distracts me from everything else, and I pulled off his dick to nuzzle into his nuts, licking and nibbling as I fingered him, enjoying the slick heat and the sleepy morning smell of his body.

We made love, watching each other through orgasms that were slow and sweet, and then showered together, which was a bit of a chore because it was still just a regular-sized bathtub. We bumped 'enlarge shower' to the top of our to-do list and headed for the kitchen where breakfast was Evan's stand-by of French toast and sausage. He made Chewy's day by presenting him with his very own plate.

When the three of us were full, we cleaned up the kitchen and took a hike back to the stream. The day was cold and crisp, and we walked briskly, throwing sticks for Chewy to chase. Since he was very prompt about bringing them back, we threw them as far as we could to keep him busy as long as possible. The brook was frigid when I crouched down to wiggle my fingers in the water, and when I stood up, I touched them to the back of Evan's neck as he gazed off into the woods, dripping icy water onto his bare skin.

"Fuck!" he hollered, ducking aside and skittering a few steps away. I lunged after him and he took off running back through the woods with me hot on his heels, and Chewy barking his fool head off and leaping around us, thrilled with this exciting new game. I fended him off and concentrated on catching Evan, almost getting a hand on his jacket at one point, but I was laughing too hard and gave up the chase halfway to the house.

He slowed when he realized I'd quit and waited for me to catch up, grinning at me as he dropped his arms over my shoulders and hooked his hands behind my neck, breathing hard. Pulling our foreheads together, he rubbed noses with me as he spoke. "Ahhh, Jeff... I didn't know it could be like this."

He closed his fingers snugly into my hair and pulled my head back to study my face, his eyes a pale watery gray in the flat midday light. I gazed back at him, sure, in my complete and total happiness, that no two people had ever loved like this.

Foolish, I know, but it was one of those moments.

As we walked I finally worked up the nerve to ask him, "Were you nervous about gettin' me a ring? I mean, what if I'd gotten you a tie or something."

He cut his eyes at me with a snort. "If you'd gotten me a fucking necktie, I would've strangled you with it, or maybe tied you to the tree out front." Then he laughed and hip-bumped me. "Nah, I wasn't worried. I saw it when I was looking at something for my dad, and it was just perfect. You like it, don't you?"

"Like it? They'll have to pry it off my cold, dead finger."

"Jesus, let's hope that's at least fifty years from now, but, yeah, me too."

Christmas Day afternoon was spent visiting. We had a round of calls planned starting with Sharon, then spending a few hours with Don and Maggie, and ending at Rafael and Kenny's for dinner and the evening. Since we still had dozens of cookies, I'd packed up several boxes to pass out along the way.

Sharon lived in an apartment in town, saying, 'I know, I know - it's like the cobbler's kids going barefoot' when I commented that surely, as a realtor, she could find a house she liked. She had moved from the Farm in September when her grandma had gone into the assisted-living home, and said she just wasn't ready yet for the commitment of owning something again. She loved the agate necklace, turning around and lifting up her hair so that I could do the catch for her. It looked pretty against the white of her sweater, and she ran her fingers over the stones, smiling at us.

She handed Evan a large, flat package. "You guys will like this since you love the Farm."

He tore off the red paper to reveal one of those frames that has lots of squares and ovals for photos. Sharon had put together a pictorial history of the Farm for us, most of them black and white. One of the few color pictures, taken in April 1964, showed the back meadow in all its untamed glory, blazing with wildflowers. Another had been taken during one of the few snows we get each year; the bare trees stark black against the pristine white. It was dated January 1955.

My favorite was the grainy black and white photo in the large center oval. In it, Sharon's grandparents stood on the porch of the house, arms around each other's waists. The barn looked brand new and there was a shed and a chicken coop, and several cows in the meadow. There were fewer trees, and the ones that were there were much smaller. They were so young, smiling into the lens with a dog at their feet, the first Buddy probably, his wagging tail a blur.

Sharon pointed to that picture. "That was taken on their first wedding anniversary. They were married April 4, 1952."

It was a great gift, thoughtful and personal, and I hugged her to me, happy that Tom had been out with the flu the day I'd gone into her office. Her sweater was fuzzy, and her body felt foreign under my hands as she hugged me back, softer, so different from Evan's firmer masculine planes and angles.

We walked her out to the parking lot where I forced a box of cookies on her. She said she'd take them to the home where Nana could share them with the residents. We watched as she drove off.

Then Evan turned to me. "I like her. She was a pain in the ass as a kid, but I like her now."

"She said the same thing about you," I told him, laughing at his indignant expression.

Maggie decorated for Christmas like a woman possessed, with a tree in the entryway, one in the family room, and a small one in the center of the dining room table; the entire house smelled like pine. She was wearing an arrest-me-red sweater when she swung the door open for us. "Merry Christmas!"

We replied in kind and I stuck a box of cookies in her hand, which she opened as we walked to the family room. "Oh, more of my mom's pralines! I haven't made these in years... too much trouble." She was right about that, but I was glad I had bothered when she bit into one and chewed slowly with her eyes closed. "Mmm-mm. You did them just right."

I had called her a couple times for recipe clarification, so she knew they were from her book. She handed the box off to Don, who poked through it and pulled out a sugar cookie shaped like a star and iced with yellow butter frosting, sighing with pleasure as it melted in his mouth. We sat around the tree for a while, talking about life on the Farm and all the things we wanted to do with the place.

When Maggie handed Evan and I identical boxes, he looked at me. "You first."

As I was untying the ribbon, the diamonds in my ring sparkled in the tree lights, catching Maggie's eye. She looked quickly to Evan's left hand, then up to his face, but he was watching me and didn't notice. She looked back down at his hand for a second, then met my eyes and we gazed at each other for a moment. I couldn't tell anything from her expression, and before I had a chance to think about it, Evan poked me.

"Sometime before New Year's would be great."

I tore the paper off, folded back the tissue, and pulled out a beautiful sweater in shades of brown, russet and gold, thick and heavy with cables running down the front. Peeling off my flannel shirt, I pulled the sweater on over my t-shirt, letting the soft, warm weight of it settle around me. Maggie walked over and tugged on a shoulder, then lifted my hand to check the sleeve length.

"Well, it fits. Good. I had to guess because I wanted it to be a surprise. As soon as I saw that yarn, I knew it was perfect for you."

"You made this?" I was flabbergasted.

"Well, of course," she said matter-of-factly. "After you were here at Thanksgiving, I went yarn shopping and found this hand-dyed wool, and just loved the color variations in it. I had to knit like the dickens to get it finished in time."

She patted me on the chest and went back to her chair, satisfied with her efforts. I was still standing there running a hand across the stitches when Evan pulled out his sweater and put it on. His was shades of gray from the palest fog to clouds before a thunderstorm, and it was gorgeous on him, catching the gray in his eyes and complementing his black hair. I stopped admiring my own sweater and stared at him as he walked over to hug Maggie, lifting her off her feet for a second. Don was watching them with a warm smile, and I had another of those 'why not me' moments I'd been having since meeting Evan's friends and family.

When Evan let go of Maggie, I took a step toward her. "Maggie, thank you. No one's ever made me something like this. It's just beautiful."

She smiled, pleased that I was happy with it. "It suits you."

Evan studied me. "Makes your eyes look kind of golden."

Well, even at the best of times my eyes are plain old brown, so maybe it was a trick of the light, or maybe it really was the sweater, but I quit wondering about it when Don handed me an envelope which contained a hefty gift certificate to the local building supply place and a certificate for 100 shares of a company I'd never heard of.

He smiled at my quizzical expression. "I got in on the IPO of a friend's new company. It may make you a millionaire and it may not, so don't quit your day job."

Maggie loved her desk organizer, running her fingertips over the satin finish of the wood and making me promise to come over during the week to see how it looked once she got it loaded up with her stuff. Evan had gotten Don a portfolio with his initials pressed into the rich leather.

They were going to a bash at the country club so we left soon thereafter and headed for our last stop of the day - Raf and Kenny's. They'd been home from Rafael's parents for about an hour and were both wearing sweats. The house was warm from the fireplace and smelled delicious. Evan and I kicked off our shoes and got a beer.

The four of us hadn't gotten each other gifts, deciding instead to make a joint contribution to HIV/AIDS research, so we got right down to dinner. We'd brought a cooler with the last of the ham from Saturday. Kenny had made scalloped potatoes, which I love, and homemade bread, and salad. It was all really good and I ate too much, ending up flat on my back on the family room floor with my jeans undone a couple buttons. Rafael came into the room and flicked my partially-open fly with a toe on his way past.

"Advertising?" he inquired with a leer as he flopped onto one of the couches with a handful of my cookies.

"Uh-huh," I grinned, and then rolled to one elbow to look at him. "Why aren't you fat? Every time I see you, you're feedin' your face."

He smirked at me. "Clean living and a fast metabolism."

"Clean living, my ass." I blew a raspberry at him as Kenny and Evan joined us. Evan dropped to all fours above my head and kissed me upside down, which felt kinda weird at first, but turned out to be really nice. The tops of our tongues were flat against each other and the angle let us stick them halfway down each other's throats. We went at it for a few minutes until Kenny cleared his throat.

"So, what did you get each other?"

He knew damn well what I'd gotten Evan, so I sat up and just held up my left hand. Rafael lost his smile and just stared at my ring for a moment, and then said, "No shit?"

Evan gripped my wrist so that his ring was visible also, replied, "No shit," and then pulled me over backward, wrestling me to the floor for another kiss. When we finally got over ourselves, Evan crawled up next to Rafael to steal one of his cookies while I stayed on the floor leaning back against Kenny's chair. He put a hand on the back of my neck and rubbed his thumb firmly into the hollow at the base of my skull. It felt fantastic and I pushed back into him, moaning a little. I thought Rafael might have something more to say about our rings, but the moment had passed and he kept quiet.

It had been a long day, we were full from dinner, the room was toasty warm from the fire, and pretty soon Evan was asleep with his head in Rafael's lap. Rafael was slouched down with his feet on the coffee table, one arm across Evan's chest, yawning every few minutes. Kenny had moved from his chair onto the other couch and was stretched out on his side drowsily watching the fire. I was still on the floor and was tempted to just fall over sideways and call it a night, but Kenny looked so comfortable that I climbed onto the couch behind him.

"Move your ass over," I whispered as I wedged my way between him and the back of the couch, curving my body to fit along his. I pushed his immobile legs forward with my own, but kept an arm around his waist to keep him from falling off. After a little wiggling, we settled down and I was out in two minutes.

An hour later, I woke up when Rafael pushed Evan off his lap and got to his feet. "Pool, anybody?"

Kenny gave my arm a squeeze and sat up, pushed his feet to the floor, and then swung himself into his chair to follow Rafael into the living room. Evan came over and pulled me to my feet with a smile. They refused to let Kenny and I partner up, stopping just short of calling us cheaters, so we played as couples and they beat us when Rafael went on a run like I've seldom seen. You can't beat luck like that with skill, so we went home and burned up the sheets to make ourselves feel better.

So ended the best Christmas of my life.

During the week between Christmas and New Year's, Evan went to the office mornings and we worked around the Farm in the afternoon. After he left Wednesday morning, I took a second cup of coffee out to the field behind the house and wandered around watching Chewy scare up quail, bounding into the air after them, and then disappearing from sight back into the weeds. He never got anywhere near them, but he had a hell of a good time.

I was still blown away by the fact that Evan had gotten me a ring also. We'd simply put them on each other's hands there by the tree with no further discussion of what they meant, but for me at least, it was crystal clear. Our rings were a physical symbol of our relationship; pieces of jewelry that would probably be interpreted by everyone who saw them as a lifetime commitment, which was exactly how we meant them.

I thought about the looks our rings had gotten from Maggie and Rafael. Maggie had been surprised, but Rafael had been shocked, and I wanted to talk to him about it. He was really difficult for me to read, and I didn't want something festering in the background of our budding friendship.

That day when Evan got home, we worked on tearing out the master bathtub. We'd decided to put in the same size shower I'd had in my old house, and make narrow shelves in the extra space to the side. After a few hours, we had the tub out and the wall down to the studs, and we were covered in sweat and drywall dust, so we called it a day. Thank God for the second bathroom, even though it was just a standard tub/shower and we had to take turns getting cleaned up.

Thursday I put in a couple hours on the `puter, and then called Rafael and convinced him to meet me for lunch at a deli in town. I'd never seen him in his work outfit of gray uniform slacks and white shirt with the company logo and his name on it, and he looked good. He had the type of body that wore clothes well, and as he walked through the deli toward me, several pair of eyes followed his progress.

He eyed me as he sat down, but didn't say anything, and we studied the menu in silence. We ordered, waited until our drinks arrived, and then I lay my left hand on the table between us. His gaze dropped to my ring and lingered, then he looked up into my face, and I was surprised by the bleak expression in his eyes.

"What's buggin' you?" I asked him softly.

He shrugged and heaved a sigh. "Kenny."

He didn't elaborate, so I tried to think what he meant. Kenny didn't have a problem with Evan and me getting rings for each other, so it wasn't that. Maybe Kenny was bugging Rafael for a ring, but Rafael didn't want to go there? That seemed unlikely, so I finally asked him.

"What about Kenny?"

"We've been together almost ten years and we've never talked about doing something like that. You fuck Evan in the woods one day and, bam - you're getting a house together, buying each other rings. You're like the perfect queer couple." He sighed again and shook his head in frustration. "I don't know... sometimes I think maybe I want something more... definite between me and Kenny, but he's never said a word about it and... fuck... what if he says, `thanks, but no thanks'?"

By this time my mouth was hanging open. "Are you crazy? Why do you think that?"

"Cause he just seems content to leave things like they are. I don't wanna rock the boat by sticking a ring in his face that he's been quite happy without all this time."

"Jesus Christ." I scrubbed a hand over my face. I don't make a habit of sticking my nose in other people's relationships, but these two needed a hand. "Kenny said practically the same thing to me last week. He's so nuts about you."

"I know he is. I mean, I know our relationship is really good. I just feel weird about buying a ring."

"Well, you shouldn't. You didn't see his face when I bought Evan's." I put my hand on his arm. "Talk to him. Evan and I got ours not knowing how the other felt about it, totally spur of the moment, but it would've been cool to go pick them out together. You guys'll probably be at the jewelry store twenty minutes after you start the conversation."

He smiled. "Yeah, maybe."

Our sandwiches arrived then and we ate for a bit. "When I bought that ring for Evan, I was just thinking that I wanted to give him something that he could wear that was from me, but now, every time I see it on his finger, I get this sort of ownership feeling. Not in a possessive way, but just like, `we belong to each other,' and it feels great."

He nodded slowly, watching my face as I spoke. We went on to talk about our bathroom project at the Farm, and he said he could help Saturday morning if we needed him to, but that Kenny had basketball practice. I promised we'd buy them dinner, and as I walked him to his car, he took my left hand, holding it up so he could get a good look at my ring. Seeing his wistful expression as he examined it, I figured they'd both have one within the week.

Saturday Rafael showed up right after the shower got delivered and we manhandled it in from the yard. I mashed my thumb in a doorway and Rafael took a strip of skin off his shin, but we finally got it in place. The installation went pretty quickly with three of us working, and it looked like we'd be able to shower in it tomorrow morning.

We broke for lunch, eating tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, a perennial favorite, it seemed. Chewy wasn't wild about the soup, but thought the sandwiches - warm and buttery and dripping with cheese - were outstanding. Raf went home to do errands with Kenny and we spent the afternoon getting the shelves built and painted, finishing just in time for dinner. We picked up Rafael and Kenny on our way into town and as we were parking, Sharon came out of the realtor's office a few doors down, struggling with her purse, a briefcase, and a box of brochures. I jogged to her, catching the box just as it tipped out of her grip.

"Shit! Thanks!"

She looked stressed, and on the spur of the moment, I invited her to dinner. She looked at the four of us in jeans and flannels, then at herself in a suit and heels, and made a face. "Thanks anyway, but I've had a shitty day, and I just wanna go home and get out of these damn shoes."

"Yeah, but you gotta eat, so go change and come back. You only live three minutes away - we'll barely be done with our first beer by then." I could tell she really wanted to, so I pushed her to her car, loaded all her crap in after her, and told her we'd be waiting.

We got a big table in the back, ordered a pitcher, and sat down, happy to be done for the day. We'd just finished our first glass apiece when Sharon showed up, looking good in tight jeans and a dark blue sweater, working her way through the tables to get to us. I pulled up a chair for her between Kenny and me, and she plopped down with a sigh, reaching thirstily for the beer I poured her. She gulped down a couple mouthfuls, wiped her hand across her mouth, and clunked her glass down on the table like a seasoned drinker.

"Jesus, that tastes good! What a week."

"What happened?" Rafael asked, leaning back to snag the waitress as she hurried by. We ordered, and then looked back to Sharon.

"Where to start? Jesus, I'm sooo tired of the politics in that place. Tom - the guy who sold you your house," she nodded at Kenny and Rafael, "told Rita, the owner, that he's leaving. Well, that went over like a fart in church, cause he's our top seller. Rita threw a fit, so Tom packed his desk and left on the spot. Just walked out. That was Wednesday." She took another glug of beer. "Thursday a client I'd been working with for weeks - I swear I showed him every goddamn house in the county - came in while I was out with another client, and Rita sold him a house right out from under me. I forget what happened Friday, but today my assistant gave her notice, saying she'd rather work at McDonalds than put up with another minute of Rita."

She sat back and blew out a breath. "So... I don't know what the hell to do. I like selling houses and I'm good at it, but I really can't stay there any longer."

Evan had been watching her. "What's Tom gonna do?"

"I have no idea, I haven't talked to him."

Evan smiled, and then dropped a small bomb. "You guys should open your own office."

As one, all four of us swiveled around to look at him.

"What?" he said. "I think it's a great idea. What's it take? An office, a couple computers, a few phones? You two could whup Rita's ass."

Sharon was staring at him like he had three heads. But just then our ribs arrived, along with another pitcher of beer, so we quit talking to eat. Evan was driving, so he stuck to Dr. Pepper, but the rest of us got pretty lit, and by the time the evening was over, he had his hands full getting us all to the car. He wouldn't let Sharon drive home, so she piled in with us, squeezed between Rafael and me in back. When we got to her place, I made sure she got inside her apartment ok, then fell back into the car, and off we went to Rafael and Kenny's.

They invited us in for the tail end of the cookies, so we ended up sprawled around their family room. I was on the floor again since it didn't spin as badly as the couches, sitting between Evan's knees. After an hour and a couple cups of Kenny's strong coffee, I'd gone from drunk to horny and dragged Evan home. Chewy dashed out the door as we came in, peed in record time, and shot back into the house just as I opened the door to call him.

I'd been thinking if the paint and caulking had set up, we could christen the new shower with its two feather-touch fountain sprays, but the paint was still a little tacky, so I settled for bending him over the end of the bed.

After we got joined up, I slid my hands down deep into the groove where his thighs met his groin, holding him against me as I leaned back. The muscles in his legs flexed and relaxed as he countered my thrusts, and the heat of his body warmed my hands as I gripped him. He began jacking himself with one hand, squashing his nuts into the back of my hands on his down-strokes, and I let go of his leg to gather up his soft sack with my fingers, tugging down until he groaned with pleasure and bent his knees slightly to sink even further onto me.

There in the bedroom of that old farm house, with the wind sighing through the trees, buried in Evan, I experienced a sense of completeness, of contentment, with my life that I'd never felt before. It was like I'd finally found the place and the time that I was meant to be in, where all the pieces of me fit properly. A place where my heart and my mind could live forever.

I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, then slid a hand up Evan's back and around under his chest to stand him up so I could wrap my arms around him. I pressed my face to his skin and breathed him in as I increased the speed of my hips, pumping steadily until I felt him freeze for a second and then clench me tight as he began to cum. Another couple thrusts and I joined him, not even noticing the bruising grip he had on my hip as his hand tightened convulsively.

A few moments later, he dropped his head back onto my shoulder, rolling his face to mine so that we could kiss. His voice was rough as he whispered, "I love you," against my mouth. I slowly pulled out of him, pushed him down on the bed and crawled after him as we buried ourselves beneath the covers.

"I love you, too," I whispered as I drifted into oblivion.


I'm grateful, as always, for David of Hope's suggestions. They make this a better story.

Got a blog now - www.qwb224.wordpress.com . It's young so not too many posts yet, but it's got some good links. Thanks for reading.