by Tim Mead
"You have such a talented ass," Jake said.
The two were lying side by side in Digby's bed.
"Tell me again why you ain't livin' here, sugar."
"Aww, come on, Digs. We tried that and it didn't work."
Digby rolled onto his side and licked Jake's shoulder with his big tongue. "How come we're so good in bed and can't live together?"
Jake turned to face his friend, put his hand behind his head, pulled him closer, and gave him a long, searching kiss. When they separated, he said, "Let me count the ways we are not good together. We get on each other's nerves. I wake up early. You sleep late. I am a neat freak. You're not. I have to do my preparations when I get home. You're ready to party. We gave it a try, stud, in case you don't remember."
"Yeah, I know. But times like this I think maybe we didn't try hard enough."
Jake chuckled and stuck his tongue in Digby's ear. "It's just the post-coital glow, stud. When you come down, you'll realize I'm right. We're best friends and always will be. We're fuck buddies, too. But we were just never meant to be lifetime partners."
The big man rolled Jake over and slapped his rear sharply, once on each cheek.
"Oww! What was that for?"
"For bein' fuckin' right, white boy! Now, I'm huuunngry! How about French toast `n' sausage?"
"You do spoil me, big man! Let's go cook."
Later, over breakfast, Digby asked, "Did you see the picture in the Courier of your poh-lees friend?"
Jake looked up, alert. "No, what picture?"
Digby was all innocence. "Maybe I'm mis-rememberin'. Maybe there wasn't no picture."
"Bastard! What picture?"
"I think you mus' really like this dude. Look at you! You all a-quiver."
Jake picked up his fork and had another bite of sausage. Then he took a sip of coffee. "Professor Gautier, I do believe I'm going to put some serious hurt on you if you don't quit fucking around. What picture?"
Digby chuckled. "As if you could, little man." He stood and took a newspaper from the top of the refrigerator. "Here, see for yourself. Ain' nothin' special."
At six feet even, Jake knew he wasn't a little man. His protest was stifled, however, when he began to scan the article, which was about Jim Grant's having been awarded his captain's bars by the Chief of Police. It showed the two men in an arranged pose. Chief Boros was smiling like a politician at the camera. Grant merely looked uncomfortable.
"He don' look like nothing to get all hot about to me," Digby said. He smirked. "No way is he gonna be as good as me."
"He's a really nice guy, Digs. I like him. And when I'm with him I sort of vibrate. I want to get to know him better."
Digby sighed. "Honey, if that's the way you feel, then you sure as shit better go after him. Didn't you say he invited you to Thanksgivin' dinner?"
"Yeah, he did. But I told him you and I were gonna do something together."
"We don't have to, if you want to be with him."
"That's sweet, but I've already told him I'm gonna spend Thanksgiving with you. I'm not about to leave you alone. And I'd look pretty silly if I called him back and said I was available. Besides, it's my turn to have him for a meal. I'll call after the holiday and try to set something up."
Digby gave Jake the evil eye.
"So you ain' havin' Thanksgivin' with me `cause you love me, or anything like that. You're jus' doin' it to get him all hot and bothered?"
Jake threw a sausage at Digby. "No, idiot. I love you. We agreed to spend Thanksgiving together, and, by god, that's what we're going to do!"
Digby caught the sausage and, holding it by one end, sucked on the other end. Then he chewed on it very slowly. When he had finished, he said "Oh!" and flashed lots of teeth.
Trying to ignore the plumping of his dick, Jake asked, "So, chef, what's on the menu for the big day? Please tell me we aren't having turkey and all that shit."
"Nossir. I thought maybe blackened salmon and risotto."
"Not dirty rice?"
"Not since it's a special occasion."
"How about asparagus?"
"If that's what you want, Jacob. And crème brulee for afters?"
"Wonder what that pair of dykes will serve your frien'."
"I haven't a clue."
A few minutes later, as they were loading the dishwasher, Digby said, "You know, that cop you're hankerin' after is probably a top. Are you sure he's gonna put his legs up for you?"
"I've thought about that. But just because he's a policeman doesn't mean he's a top. Or only a top. Maybe he's flexible."
Digby chuckled. "If he gonna be your lover, he better be flexible!"
"Well, for him maybe I'd be willing to swap around."
"Man, you got it bad!"
* * *
On the Monday after Thanksgiving Jake was in his office. That term he had an "office hour" between his two morning classes. "Morning, Dr. H." He looked up to see his graduate assistant standing in the doorway.
"Hey, Kyle, come in. How was your Thanksgiving break?"
Kyle, a gangly redhead, blushed. "It was pretty wonderful, actually. Nicole and I got engaged."
Jake stood up, walked around his desk, and shook hands with the young man. "That's great! Congratulations! When's the big day?"
"Late June. After Commencement. She's getting her master's too."
Jake knew that Kyle and Nicole were a devoted couple, so the news wasn't a surprise. When he wasn't in his office in the evenings, he knew that Kyle sometimes graded tests there and that Nicole sat with him and studied while he worked. If, as he suspected, they shut the office door and made out a little, well, he didn't mind that.
"I hope you'll invite me."
"Oh, yeah. You'll be on the list for sure."
Then Kyle, apologizing, said it would be another day before he had the most recent batch of papers read.
"Look, I know you have your grad courses to work on in addition to what you're doing for me. And this was not only a holiday weekend, but the one on which you got engaged. I'd be pretty much of a bastard if I couldn't cut you some slack about that, wouldn't I?"
Kyle sighed. "Thanks! I'll get at them, I really will. But this is just so . . . so damn fine! I really couldn't have concentrated on those papers the last few days."
Jake put his arm around Kyle's shoulder and said, "It's okay. I'm happy for both of you. Now, get out of here. Bring me the papers when they're ready. I'll stall the little bastards if I have to." He grinned at the younger man, who smiled, ducked his head, and floated out of the office.
Next he had to deal with a nervous student who had apparently realized the semester would be over soon and had come by to go over her grades with him. She didn't seem happy that she was carrying a B+ average and wanted to know what it would take to get an A in the course. When he told her she'd need an A on the final exam, she stood, a determined look on her face. "I can do that," she said. Then without smiling, she thanked him and left.
`Honey,' he thought, `you need to quit worrying about mama and papa and go get yourself laid.' He chuckled and opened the folder containing the notes for his next class.
Just then the phone rang.
"Hi, Dr. H. This is Toby Taba. How are you?"
Toby had taken an entry level course with Jake his freshman year as a way to satisfy part of the General Studies requirement. He was bright, personable, and very sexy. Now he had his MS and was working in the university's computer services department. And, Jake thought, teaching a section or so of the introductory computer course as well.
"Hi Toby! I'm great, thanks. How about you?"
"Doin' just fine. I'm calling to see if I can come by this afternoon and do the install on Word 2007 you asked for. Do you have your laptop there in the office?"
"Yeah, I do. I'll be back from my class by 3:00."
"I'll be there. And this won't take long."
Sure enough, Toby was leaning against the wall opposite the door of the office when Jake got there at 2:55. Jake couldn't help admiring the way Toby's jeans fit.
Once inside, since Toby had to sit in the desk chair to get at the laptop, Jake sat in one of the chairs facing his desk. Toby reached into his backpack and pulled out a disk.
"What did you and Ben do for Thanksgiving?"
Toby who was in profile to Jake, grinned. "We went to New York."
"Yeah. Ben had a meeting with his publisher, and I went along for the ride."
Toby had told Jake earlier in the fall that he and Ben Moss, who worked as Deputy Public Information Officer for the county, had been living together since the previous spring.
"Yeah. His novel, Picking up the Pace, is being published this spring by G-Mark."
"G-Mark's one of the biggest gay publishers in the country, isn't it?"
"It sure is!"
"Well, I haven't met your Ben, but please give him my congratulations. I'll watch for the book. You must be very proud of him."
Toby turned toward Jake and grinned again. "Man, you know I am! And he says he might never have finished it if it wasn't for me."
"It wasn't going in the right direction, he says, and after he and I got to be, well, close, he saw a better way, and it all fell into place for him."
"So you're his muse?"
Toby chuckled. "Well, he's never said that, exactly, but it's nice he thinks I was some help to him."
"You're really happy, aren't you, Toby?"
"Yes, sir. I sure am!" He returned the disk to his backpack. "Since you've been working with Word 2007 on your desktop here, you know about the docx issue, right?"
"Your email memo about that was very helpful. I'm glad you alerted us all to the problem, especially since I have the new version on my PC at home, too."
"Excellent! If you run across any glitches, let me know."
"I sure will, Toby. Thanks. And thanks for sharing the good news about your partner."
"I hope I'm not out of line in asking this. But are you still living alone?"
"It's just that, well, I've always thought you were such a great guy. I know it's none of my business, but I hope you find somebody special. I just wish everybody could have what Ben and I have."
Jake stood, as did Toby. "Toby, I appreciate your concern. And I think you're right. You guys are lucky. Now, could I have a very unprofessional hug before you go?"
He found himself being squeezed surprisingly tightly by the smaller man.
"Anytime, professor. Hugs are good."
After that Toby grabbed his backpack and left.
Jake sat down again and mused over what had just happened. The hug was perhaps inappropriate. After all, he was a senior faculty member and Toby was a former student and a very junior member of the university staff. But at the moment it had felt right, and Jake had no regrets about the impulse -- or the deed.
Was he really an object of pity for Toby?
Well, so what if he was? It was his life, after all.
But Kyle had been on his own little cloud that morning. And Toby was so happy in his relationship with Moss that he wanted everyone to have what they had.
And why not?
He took out his cell phone. Then he decided he'd better not call Grant at work. He'd wait until after supper.
* * *
"Ah, Professor Gautier, how are you this evening."
"What's with the Professor Gautier shit, Jakey? You must be wantin' something'."
"Busted! Yeah, I want to bring a friend to the Bach Concert next Saturday night."
"The fuzz, I `spose."
"Yeah. Just got off the phone with him. He said he'd love to come with me."
"Sounds like he got the hots for you."
"No, he's a music lover."
"Well, I just happen to have four tickets. In our usual spot."
"A perk of being music faculty."
"Who are the soloists? Same faculty members as usual?"
The University Music Department did the Christmas portions of "Messiah" in alternate years, Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" in those in between.
"Yeah, except the bass this year is going to be Marcus Londeree. Wait till you hear that boy sing."
"But he's a student?"
"Uh huh. He's so good they're gonna let him do it, it being his senior year and all."
"You had a hand in recruiting him, didn't you?"
"Oh, yeah. He wouldn't have come all the way up here from Louisiana if I hadn't."
"And, of course, your interest in him is purely professional."
"Watch your mouth. The boy is strictly straight."
"Okay, okay. So you have four tickets. Who's your `date' for the performance?"
"Tyrese James." James was a lawyer who lived in Colby but practiced in Toledo.
"What happened to Kelly?"
"She up and left fairly suddenly. Ty says she got a job in Pittsburgh."
"And you're consoling him for his loss?"
Digby's deep laugh rumbled over the phone line. "You could say that. You and your detective havin' dinner somewhere first?"
"I'll put your tickets in campus mail, then."
"Thanks, Digs. See you at the concert if not before."
"You owe me, whitemeat."
* * *
The evening of the concert Grant picked Jake up and drove them to Damon's, where they were having dinner.
"Some day soon I want to cook for you," Jake was saying. "I doubt if I can top the `scallops non-alfredo,' but I can come up with something."
Grant grinned. "I'd love to see what you can `come up with'."
"Captain Grant, you dog!"
Grant faked innocence. "What?"
Just then they were interrupted by the server bringing their entrees, and conversation turned to other things.
The other two men were in their seats when Jake and Grant arrived at the concert hall. They stood to greet the later arrivals. It turned out that, though Grant had never met Digby, he'd seen and heard him play on occasion, and he knew Tyrese James. Jake assumed it was through their respective jobs.
Tyrese, around 6'5", wore his hair in corn rows. He had gold loops in both ears. And he was wearing a suit. This was a more conservative look, for Jake had seen him with lots of bling and knew he had several piercings in each ear. Tyrese had told him once that in court he usually avoided all the shiny stuff, but the corn rows were a part of his persona, and he wore them everywhere.
Since both Jake and Grant had on jackets and ties, it was Digby who was making the splash. He had on a black silk sport shirt with black dress slacks. But he sported diamond studs in his ears and was wearing several gold neck chains.
The lights flickered just as the four sat down, and soon the concert was under way.
The women in the orchestra were wearing black dresses, as were those in the chorus. All the men were in white tie and tails. But the female soloists had, by collusion no doubt, chosen to wear what looked like satin gowns in jewel colors. So the event provided a treat for the eyes as well as for the ears.
Jake paid especial attention to young Marcus Londeree, who was not what he'd been expecting. Perhaps the smallest basso Jake had ever seen, he stood no more than 5'9" and was on the thin side. Elegantly thin. He shaved his head, but he had a trim moustache and goatee. The total effect was to make him look a bit older than his 22 years. Jake, along with everyone in the hall who hadn't heard Marcus sing before, was amazed by the power, suppleness, and beauty of his voice.
Young Londeree wasn't enough to make Jake forget his companion, however. Throughout the concert he glanced at the man to his right, who, each time, appeared to be completely engrossed in the performance.
When it was over, the four men shook hands and said goodbye. Digby and Tyrese were going to the green room.
"Congratulate your protégé for me, Digs."
"Me, too," Grant said. "Though he won't know me from Adam."
Digby smiled and said, "I'll surely do that. He'll be impressed when I tell him who you two are."
As they drove back to his place, Jake asked, "Would you like to come up for a drink?" He hoped very much that Grant would say yes, but his new friend could be reticent at times, so he was almost expecting a refusal.
"It's a bit late, Jake. But I don't have any reason to get up early if I walk Archie when I get home."
"That's a yes, then?"
Grant smiled and nodded.
Once they were in Jake's condo, the men removed their jackets.
"What's your poison?" Jake asked.
"Bourbon if you have it?"
"Got some Jack. Will that do?"
Grant smiled. "Sounds perfect."
"How do you like it?"
"Just rocks, please."
When Jake returned from the kitchen with their drinks, Grant had sat on the sofa. Jake handed him a drink and then sat beside him, not too close, but not at the other end of the sofa, either.
They sipped their drinks and talked about the concert. Then Grant said something about young Londeree, his talent, his sexy looks.
"He's a cute kid," Jake answered. "But I like mature men myself, guys like you."
"You mean for companionship, of course. I was talking about the kid being sexy."
"No, I meant I'm into guys our age."
"Oh." Grant seemed flustered.
"Jim, it's not our first date, you know. Would you mind if I kissed you."
"I'd like that."
The kiss, which both men obviously enjoyed, lasted a while. Jake was erect long before it ended, and he could see that Grant had a tent in his slacks as well.
"Wow!" Jake said.
"Fuck!" Grant said.
"What's wrong? I know you liked that."
"Yeah, I did. But I should never have let you do it."
"Man, I really don't understand you. I'm beginning to think you're a cock tease. At dinner you were exchanging sexual innuendoes with me. You were talking just now about how hot the Londeree kid is. Then when I try to come on to you a little, you accept. But now you're playing shy! Can you blame me for being puzzled?"
Grant stared for a while at a watercolor on the opposite wall.
"That's one of Rachel Galperin's watercolors, isn't it?"
"Yes. But don't try to change the subject."
Grant swiveled around to face Jake. "I'm sorry. You're right. I just suddenly recognized the style and said what popped into my mind. I wasn't really trying to change the subject."
More puzzled than angry, Jake said, "But you haven't answered my question."
Making a placating gesture, Grant said, "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be a tease. I like you, Jake. I like you a lot. I've enjoyed every minute we've spent together in this brief friendship."
"I can sense a but coming."
With a wry smile Grant said, "Well, yeah. Here's the problem. I have to be circumspect. You see, I'm out to my neighbors, Ricki and Bobbi, and to you. Well, I suppose after this evening Professor Gautier and Tyrese James will have figured it out, too. But so far as I know, you five are among the very few locals who know I'm gay. My sister and her family in Florida know. And there are a few guys living in other areas who know."
It occurred to Jake that the chef at Adrian's was among the locals who knew since Grant had practically admitted they'd had an affair. Oh well, no doubt he'd have to tell Grant about Digby at some point. "And you want to stay in the closet."
"God, no! I don't want to. But I don't think my working conditions would be tolerable if the guys on the force knew about me."
"Is it really that bad? This is the twenty-first century, and things are pretty liberal here in Colby."
"They are at the university, for sure. But you have to believe I know my colleagues." He bit his lower lip, a gesture Jake found boyish and endearing. "The irony is that I could have taken early retirement after my, uh, accident. Then I could have lived my life any way I wanted to. I chose to give up the buy out they offered me and keep working. If I'd known I was going to meet you . . . ."
"Is it too late to change your mind?"
"Yes, it was an either-or thing, and the generous offer they made isn't on the table any more."
"Wait a minute. What did you mean when you said something about if you'd known you were going to meet me?" Jake studied his friend's face intently.
"Well, I don't want to embarrass you, but I have been drawn to you ever since that day on the plane. I'd love it if we could have a close friendship, maybe something more. Now, here's that word. But I just don't know whether I'm ready to come out."
"The answer seems to be that you're not. You aren't that drawn to me."
Grant opened his arms. "Come here."
Taking that as a hopeful sign, Jake scooted nearer to Grant, who wrapped him in a hug. They sat there for a long time, heads leaning against each other. Jake understood clearly what Grant's concerns were, and they didn't augur well for any sort of relationship. For the moment, however, he was willing to take what he could get. Despite his worries, he felt warm, comfortable, a little drowsy, more than a little aroused.
He jumped when Grant licked his ear, but Grant tightened his hold. He became fully hard when he felt Grant's hot breath as he spoke softly into his ear. "You see, Jake, it's just not fair of me to ask you to have a secret relationship. We could get together at my place fairly often and no one would ever know. Well, except for the women next door. But if we're seen together a lot around town or on campus, people are just going to figure it out. So, much as I don't like to, I think the best thing for both of us is just to be friendly and keep our distance."
Jake didn't move. He wanted to shout at Grant, to accuse him of being a coward. But he remained there with Grant's arms around him until he had himself under control. Only then did he respond.
Pulling away so he could sit up straight and look Grant in the eye, he said, "Your job obviously means a lot to you."
"Yeah. It's all I've ever done since I got out of the Army. And even if I'm a desk jockey now, I'm still a cop."
"I suppose I can understand that. I love what I'm doing. I'd really have to love some guy a lot to give it up."
Grant sighed. "I'm glad you understand."
"I understand. I haven't said I agree."
Grant didn't say anything, but he looked at Jake expectantly.
"First of all, you've got to understand that I am not asking you to give up your career. We like each other. We have an attraction for each other. We both have thought maybe there's some kind of chemistry between us. But it's way too early to make anything as big as a career decision."
"Second, I have to say something, even if you won't like it. Try not to take it the wrong way."
"I think it absolutely sucks that you feel trapped in the closet at work. I just can't imagine being a gay man today and having to hide it. You must feel so repressed all the time. Always walking on eggs. How do you stand it?"
"That's just the way it's always been. Oh, there were quite a few friends at Oberlin who knew or guessed, but I was never as open about it as some of the guys there. But then it was the Army and after that the Force. I've had a couple of brief and very discreet affairs. You know Albert was one of them. But I've learned to walk on eggs, as you put it."
When he thought about Digby he felt a qualm. If he and Grant were to enter into a relationship, he'd have to tell Grant about Digs. And, of course, the occasional sex bouts he and Digs indulged in would have to be discontinued.
"As I said, it just makes me furious that you have to work under those conditions!"
"Thanks. I appreciate your feelings. But you were enumerating. You had gotten to one and two. Is there a third thing you wanted to say to me?"
"Yeah. You said the best thing for us is to be friendly and keep our distance. I think I'm remembering it right. That is what you said, isn't it?"
"Something to that effect, yes."
"Well, I don't like it that you've made the decision, that you haven't given me any options. What if I'm willing to have a relationship with you on your terms? Shouldn't you at least let me decide about that?"
Grant's shoulders drooped.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pre-empt anything. I just didn't imagine you'd be willing to have such a hole-in-the-wall kind of friendship. I apologize."
"Apology accepted." Jake gave Grant a wan smile.
"Jake, I need to know. Are you willing to have a more or less secret relationship with me? Would you really do that?"
"I'm not sure, Jim. I think I need some time to figure that out."
To Be Continued
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