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The next morning, I was the one who made breakfast and delivered it to Marcus. "Don't get used to this; Hon. It is so not going to be a regular occurrence. And if I'm going to be waking up here very often, we need a new coffee maker. The one you have just isn't going to cut it!"
He laughed. After breakfast, I cleared the tray and cleaned up the kitchen. He was still in bed when I returned. He patted the space next to him, "Babe, let's sit and talk for a few minutes"
"Should I fill my coffee cup?"
"Please. I want to talk about a few things before we start the day."
When I returned to the bedroom, he was sitting up with a big grin on his face. I set the coffee on the night stand and snuggled in next to him.
"First, I want to tell you that you are not the only one who is having a difficult time keeping his hands to himself. I hope you know that I think you are incredibly attractive. I'm sure it's the right thing to do, but it's not any easier for me." He planted an unbelievable kiss on my lips, taking all thoughts completely out of my head.
"So, here's what I'm thinking..." I shook my head trying to get back in the moment.
"We need a new coffee maker...
"I want you to take the key to my place. I hope it will become our place soon. I want you to move in whenever you feel comfortable. That efficiency of yours is too small. I know I said I wanted to go slow, but to me you moving in is a no-brainer. You can use the office to work on your dissertation. We'll put a second desk in. I go into the office most days, so you will have plenty of time to work by yourself. I know it's not as close to campus, but you do most of your research online anyway. Any days you need to go to campus, it's really not that far.
"George will be able to rent out the apartment easily with the new semester only weeks away. I think it's a good time to make the move. What do you think?"
"You really want me to move in? Even when George let me change apartments after the attack, I've never felt comfortable there. I could pack up today if you want," I jumped to my knees while talking to him. "Marcus, I love the idea. Are you sure you're ready?"
"Babe, I know 'us' is only two days old, but we've been friends for three years. I'm sure there will still be surprises, but I really want this. It makes perfect sense."
"I like the way this conversation started," I smirked. "What else were you thinking?"
"Well, I want to have a dinner party. We should invite some of our friends, to share our news. I want to do it Thursday, before we head out to New Hampshire. And I would like, if you thought she would come, for you to invite Jen. I know we've only met a few times, but she's a big part of your life and I want her to be a part of mine too.
"And fuck, I should have done it yesterday; Holy Shit, I need to talk to Scott. He's probably chomping at the bit wondering what happened. I feel horrible I didn't think of that sooner."
"Oh my God, yesterday was crazy. But call him right now and we can finish talking after we shower. "
After both of us showered and dressed, we sat down on the couch. Apparently, Marcus had talked to Scott, and it didn't go very well.
"Well, he is pissed. Boy, did I get an earful. I'm not sure if he's more upset that we didn't call yesterday or that... Anyway he will be here Thursday night. I want you to ask Danni and Jen to be here too. George and his partner, and Steven and Neal, I think that's a good start."
"Marcus, what about Jon. I know it's kinda soon, but I need to talk to him about things anyway. I could feel him out. What about Scott's lieutenant friend? Or is that history?"
"You can talk to Jon, we ended things ok. I mean we never really got started and he saw the feelings I had for you. You know I only started to see him when I thought I lost you for good. But, feel him out to make sure he won't be uncomfortable. And Scott already said he's bringing Justin along. Those two hang on, I don't know how, seeing as Scott has trouble dealing with Justin's son. I don't know how far it's ever going to go. "
"What else is on your mind, hon.?"
"Well, are we springing this on your parents or are you going to call before we go on Friday."
"I think we can tell them when we get there. My parents already love you. I don't think there will be any issues. They will be able to see how happy we are, and things will be good. Besides I'm sure Dad is a nervous wreck this week. I don't want to add fuel to the fire. This is so awesome. I love that we can just talk about stuff. It's amazing."
"Ok, just one more thing... Were you serious about moving in today? I don't think that's how you expected to spend the day, but I could totally be on board with that. Then maybe a nice dinner and a movie tonight, that would work for me."
"Wow, I didn't expect this."
"Babe, if it's too fast, don't worry. I'm not trying to push. We can do it when you are ready."
"No way. I'm totally, completely, and uncategorically on board. Is that clear enough? Marcus, I'm not sure I could pack fast enough. You know most of the stuff in the apartment stays there. I think we could do this just the two of us. Are you sure George will be okay with this?"
"I'm pretty sure. How's this for a plan. You go to the apartment and start to pack. I'll call George and tell him about dinner and the plan for the move. If there is a problem, we will just pay for the empty apartment. That's no big deal. You text me when you are ready for me to come and load up. If you get the chance, call Jen and set up a time to meet with her. We can call Danni at some point tonight. That way we get just about everyone on board before they can talk to each other."
"Marcus, can we make a promise right now. This morning has been unbelievable for me. We just talked everything out. Granted we totally agreed with each other, but this has been perfect! I hope this never changes for us. Promise me you'll always talk to me when things are good or bad."
"That's a promise I'm happy to make, I won't have it any other way. Kiss me, babe."
I drove to my apartment. Marcus was right; this was a no-brainer. But for me the no-brainer was getting out of this fucking building, I wasn't lying to Marcus when I said I never was comfortable after the attack. George had been great about letting me switch apartments, but it never felt safe. The corridors all looked the same, and I couldn't help looking over my shoulder every time I came home and opened my door. Even after two years, I still had anxiety attacks in the hallways. And now moving in with Marcus was just unbelievable. I knew we were going fast. But it was Marcus.
I called Jen while I was packing. "I have news for you, and I don't want to share it on the phone. Could we meet sometime soon?"
"I'm free right now. Do you want to meet someplace, or I could come over to your apartment. I'm just down the street."
"Jen, come on up to the apartment that would be awesome."
I finished packing up my clothes when Jen knocked on the door. I wasn't sure how my news would go over but this was probably the best way to share it with her.
"Come in Jen. Excuse the mess."
Jen looked concerned when she walked into the apartment. "Tony, what's going on? Why are you packing? Is this good news or bad news?"
"Actually, I have lots of good news. First, you remember Marcus. Well as of Saturday night, we are a couple. I'm completely and totally in love. Which leads to the second news, I'm moving into his condo with him. Which leads me to extend an invitation to a dinner party, Marcus wants to throw a party on Thursday night, and we would love for you to come. Finally, the reason the party is Thursday is because we are going to New Hampshire Friday to see my father's show at an art gallery in Hampton Beach. His photos will be exhibited." I took a deep breath and waited for her reaction.
"Oh, Tony, I'm so happy for you. Wow, that was fast. I would love to come to dinner. And I'm thrilled for your father. Did I cover everything?" She burst out laughing. "Seriously, I really am happy for you. Marcus is amazing and you guys have been friends for years. How did this happen?"
So, I gave her the short hand version of the story. Jen smiled when I told her about running into Marcus to get the ball rolling. "Jen, I am over the moon about this. Marcus has always been the most amazing friend, but now things are incredible. He was the one that wanted to be sure you would come. He knows you are important to me and wants you to be in our lives."
"I don't think I've ever seen you glow like this before. Wow, love looks good on you. I would be happy to join you for dinner on Thursday. Now, about your Dad, is there room for me to tag along to New Hampshire. I have a rare weekend off and would love to go home. I will drag my parents to your father's show. Then so long as you guys are returning on Sunday, I could hitch a ride back. What do you think?"
"I know my Dad would be thrilled. I'm sure it will be fine with Marcus, but let me call him. He's waiting for me to let him know I'm packed up anyway."
Marcus answered right away. "What's up, babe? Are you ready so soon?"
"I have a visitor at the apartment, so I'm a little behind. Jen wants to know if she can hitch a ride with us to New Hampshire. She has the weekend off and wants to go home to see her parents. She also wants to support my Dad and go to his show. Is it ok?"
"Of course it is. Look I'm done with everything I need to do. How would you like some help to finish packing up? Tell Jen to give me a few minutes and I'll be there."
"Excellent, see you in a few. Love you."
"Love you, too. Be there soon."
"Marcus says of course you can come with us, and he's on his way so don't hurry off."
The three of us had the apartment packed up in no time. George was cool with the move; he had a waiting list for the apartment. While we were working, Jen and Marcus laughed and talked. I was thrilled they were bonding. The clothes we loaded into the cars. Most of the toiletries were coming with me to the condo, but I had no use for the kitchen stuff, the sheets and towels, or the old desk and chair. The linens were dumpster bound, but the rest stayed in the apartment.
"Jen, I'm really glad you can make it for dinner on Thursday night." Marcus said. "Are you able to hit the road about noon or so on Friday? Or is that too early?"
"I have Friday off as well as the weekend. I start a long stretch when I get back. So I can leave whenever you guys are ready. Thanks for letting me tag along, and thanks for inviting me to dinner. I just want you guys to know; I'm very happy for you. I really mean that. But Marcus, if I ever find out you hurt this friend of mine, I will hunt you down." She burst out laughing. "Seriously, I've never been surer two people belong together than you guys. I need to run, I'll see you Thursday."
She gave us both hugs and kisses, as we took the final load down to our cars.
When we got everything settled in the condo, I collapsed on the bed. Marcus lay down next to me and started rubbing my back.
"Did I push too fast? I want you to know how happy I am. Is everything okay with you, babe?"
I rolled over to face Marcus."I am flipping fantastic. I was just thinking how my life has changed in three years. Hell, look at how it's changed in two days. When we tell our grandkids about the night we met, they are going to think we are crazy. Then when they find out it took me three years to figure this out, they are going to know I am."
"Oh God, Marcus, I'm sorry. I put the cart in front of the horse, I mean we don't even ... we haven't talked... I told you running before walking... I'm so sorry. Don't freak."
"Anthony Michael Wallace, you listen to me. The thought of you and I growing old together and being grandpas is... is..." His eyes teared up, I honestly wasn't sure if this was going to turn out well. "Fucking awesome. You know we are going way too fast here. We need to slow down."
"Why? We've been friends for three years. Is there some unwritten code I don't know about? I want to stop worrying about going too fast. Can't we just be us? In fact I damned sick and tired of waiting for you to let me show you how I feel. I can't wait any more. It will be perfect because it's us. Now please kiss me like you mean it. I really want this so bad. Please Marcus; I want to show you how much I love you."
"God, Babe, I want you so bad too." We started slow, the kisses becoming more and more fevered. Clothes were thrown off and everywhere. I couldn't get enough of his kisses, but I wanted so much more.
My fingertips wanted to be sure they touched every part of his incredible body. I slowly traced the vein running along his right bicep, following it down his forearm. Our fingers interlocked briefly, before I needed to feel his chest and the ridges of his abs with both hands. I remembered that first morning when he walked into his bedroom. In three years, he had gotten more beautiful. Finally, my hand reached the prize it was looking for. He was rock hard and leaking pre-cum. I almost came at that moment. He let out a sigh.
"Tony, it's not going to take much. I'm already right on the edge just being here with you. If you don't stop what you're doing..."
I let go and concentrated on the kisses. He broke the kiss and began to use his tongue; tracing the same path on me, I had taken with my fingertips on him. When he licked my cock, it was all I could do to fight back my orgasm. I put my hand on his cheek and pulled him back up for a kiss. He grabbed our two shafts with his hands, and began stroking them together. I looked into those beautiful blue eyes. That was all it took, we both came together. As I started to recover from that mind-blowing moment, I noticed neither one of us had gone soft.
"Babe, Let's get into the shower" "Are you ready to get cleaned up already?" "Who said anything about getting clean?" He had a sexy smirk.
Marcus started the water to warm it up. He pulled me into the shower and began to soap up my body. I had never felt sensations like that before. He used his strong hands to lather my back, paying special attention to my shoulders. As he kneaded my shoulders, I got lost in the feelings. Next he washed my hair, why had I never tried this before? He moved me so the water was cascading down my body, rinsing shampoo and soap. Every nerve in my body was alive. I held myself with my arms on the wall for support. He slowly moved his hands down my chest, pinching my nipples as he caressed me. He moved closer so his chest was against my back. I leaned into him, barely able to stand upright. More caresses, my nerves were on fire. These were the most intense feelings I had ever experienced. His hands moved lower and his cock found itself in the ridge of my ass. I trusted him completely, so I knew he wouldn't go further than rubbing along the ridge.
He started to slowly slide it along the ridge, while he stroked my cock. Between the water, the skin contact, and his hands, I felt sensory overload and exploded for the second time. His body trembled and jerked as his own orgasm took hold. We were barely able to remain standing.
Finally, he whispered in my ear. "Tony, I love you so much. I can't believe how amazing you are."
"I love you more. Don't let go, if you do I won't be able to stand up on my own. Let's get cleaned up for real."
We cleaned ourselves and got out of the shower. He grabbed a towel and started drying my hair. While drying each other off was nowhere near as erotic as the shower had been, there was a real intimacy just the same. I relished every minute. Finally he put his robe on and found one in the linen closet for me. He took my hand and led me to the bedroom again. We collapsed on the bed, I moved to my favorite position, my head on his chest. I could hear his heartbeat. I reached my hand into the robe and laid it on his chest. He wrapped me in his arms.
I think we both fell asleep. When I awoke, we hadn't moved. I know I was happier than I ever remember being. Then my stomach began to rumble. We both laughed.
"Buttercup, I think we need to eat something. What do you say we get dressed and celebrate with dinner out? I know we talked about a movie, but I just want to come home after dinner and hold you."
"Marcus, let's go to Luigi's. It's Monday night, they will be quiet and intimate."
He chuckled, "You and your Italian restaurants. It sounds perfect."
When I woke the next morning, Marcus was already dressed. He brought me a cup of coffee.
"Babe, I need to go into the office. I know you need to get some work done too. I will give you a call later today. Tonight we can spend the night in. I'll cook up something light for dinner. We can firm up the menu for Thursday and finalize plans for the weekend. Damn, I didn't think it would be this difficult to leave you. I love you, Anthony Wallace, more than words can say. I'll call later."
"You better call me more than once... I love you too. Have a good day." We kissed and he turned and left.
I got up showered and dressed. It was a little weird being in the condo alone. I glanced around and thought back to the night I met Marcus. I felt so at home that night, in a million years I never expected to move in here. I looked at the sculptures on the Stickley table. I remember being so enamored of the entwined figures in the sculpture "The Dancers." Of course, when I needed a gift for Marcus I went to the same artist. The piece I got Marcus for his thirtieth birthday in May sat front and center, "Friends."
Suddenly, it dawned on me what I needed to do today. I searched through my books and papers for the artist's card. When I found it, I called right away. Next I made a list of groceries I would need and headed out.
I hoped Jon would be in his office when I got there. I knew he would be between classes. When I walked to his door, he was talking to an undergrad.
"Doctor Miller, thank you so much for helping me figure out the fix I needed for the paper due next week. I promise you will be pleased with the result. I'll see you in class tomorrow."
Jon gave me a smile and invited me in. "Tony, what a pleasant surprise. Come in and sit. What's going on? Is this visit personal or professional? How is your research coming?"
"Everything is actually a little ahead of schedule for once. You remember the first semester, I was always playing catch-up. I like it better this way. But the reason I am here is to invite you to a dinner party. I wanted to do it in person because of the circumstances and the reason for the party. This is a little difficult.
"Marcus Taylor and I are now a couple; and we are throwing a celebration dinner party. I want you to be there because you are such an important part of my life. I just want to make sure you know that. On the other hand, Marcus was concerned you might feel a little uncomfortable. He thinks highly of you, but he thought you might not come unless I invited you in person. It will be a small party, just ten people or so. Tell me you will come... please."
"Tony, I would love to come, but I have a conference in Atlanta that starts on Friday. I fly out Thursday morning. Please tell Marcus I am very happy for you both. I would be there if I could. Please think of me the next time you throw a party. I am genuinely happy for the both of you. You are both amazing people. I really mean that."
I gave him a hug. "I owe you a lot Jon. I wish you could be there. Trust me there will be lots more invitations in the future. Thanks. Have a good trip to Atlanta. I will talk to you when you get back."
I ran the rest of my errands. I made sure the artist gift wrapped her piece. Finally, I got back to the condo. I started making dinner. Marcus finally called about four o'clock.
"Babe, it's been a crazy day here. I'm sorry I haven't called sooner. How is your day so far?"
"Incredibly productive, I'm very happy with myself today. But I missed you."
"I'm going to be a little late. I have a meeting at five, but it should be a quick one. I just need to get some papers signed. I can pick up something for dinner on the way home."
"Don't worry about dinner, its well on the way to being finished. Just give me a call or shoot me a text when you are on the way."
About 5:30, Marcus sent me a text that he was on his way. I quickly lit all the candles I set up earlier. Dinner was timed perfectly. I was very excited that my plan was coming together.
He walked in the door and came to a dead stop when he reached the end of the hallway. I walked up to him, handed him a glass of his favorite Moscato, and planted a kiss on his lips. The lights were turned down low. Most of the illumination in the room came from the candles. A boxed wrapped in silver foil and bow, sat in the middle of the dining room table. It reflected the candlelight, making it almost seem to glow.
"Babe, what is all this?"
"This is a special night. I want to make sure you know how I feel about you. Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes. I think there may be something for you on the dining room table."
"Babe, I can't believe you did all this. It's beautiful. What did you do here?"
"Open the damn box... I can't wait anymore." I was grinning and about to burst.
"Okay, Mr. Patience... Come here.
"God, it's beautiful. I can't believe..."
He started to tear up and gave me a hug. When he finally composed himself, I was rewarded with a mind blowing kiss. He took the gift and placed it next to his thirtieth birthday present. "The Lovers" now sat next to "Friends" on the table.
Dinner was perfect, my first attempt at chicken cordon bleu a rousing success. Even the rice pilaf came out well. After we cleaned up the kitchen and dining room, we snuggled together on the couch.
"Tony, this was the most amazing surprise. I can't believe you. I love you so much."
"Hon, just kiss me and show me how much."
That evening the living room became the third room in the condo that we made love in.
Thursday morning, I was grocery shopping when Marcus texted me.
"I forgot to write down watermelon. I want to make salsa for the grilled swordfish."
"OK, anything else?"
"Nope, love you.
"Ooops, Scott, coming half hour early to talk, be prepared, lol"
I just got the groceries put away when Marcus arrived. We had the meal prep done in no time. The table was set and things were ready to go. Just as we were about to take a breather, the knock on the door meant Scott had arrived even earlier than expected.
Marcus went to get up and I put my hand on his arm to stop him. "I want to answer the door, It's important to me, hon. Do you understand?"
He smiled and nodded. "Of course, babe, I completely understand. Don't let him get you going tonight, he will try you know."
"Please, he tries with every conversation we have ever had. Plus I have a surprise for him. I think it will take the wind out of his sails later, or knowing him maybe not."
"You sly devil you. Remind me to watch out for my devious boyfriend."
I answered the door, and gave Scott a huge hug. He looked confused and a little off balance.
"Scott, I'm sorry I didn't call you back after our conversation the other night. I owe you a huge thank you. Basically, you helped me figure out my heart and helped me to become the happiest I've ever been. Thank you so much. Please come in. Can I get you a beer or something?"
Scott stood there stunned momentarily. "Yeah, I'll have a beer." He recovered quickly...
"What the fuck is he doing here already? I told you I wanted to talk about the whole thing before the party tonight," Scott yelled.
"Tony lives here now, why wouldn't he be here?" Marcus calmly replied.
"You fucking moved him in here already?" He screamed. "Are you kidding me? What the hell are you thinking? You've been together for five days and you are living together? Jesus, Marcus, I can't believe this shit."
"Scott, you'd better calm down, or I will throw your ass out of here. If you want to talk, I'd love to explain what's going on here. But if you keep this bullshit up, we are done." Scott slumped onto the love seat.
Finally, I spoke up, "Scott, I know this is a lot to take it all at once. Take a couple swigs of your beer. We will try to answer your questions, but before this gets out of control. I have something I want to give you."
I walked into the office and pulled out the plaque I had gotten for him when I got Marcus's sculpture. It was hand painted with the expression " Friends: A Gift to Be Cherished". The artist had used rainbow colors for the letters and they seemed to move like a flag waving in the breeze.
"Scott, I hope you understand just how much I appreciate what you did for us the other night. I have never been happier in my life and I owe you huge for opening up my eyes. I hope you like this small token, we mean it from the heart."
He looked at me like I had two heads. He took another swig of beer and started in again. This round of questions was a little less combative, than the last. But only a little.
"Okay, explain to me how you came to the decision to move in together after five days. Don't you think its stupid fast. Actually explain this whole thing to me. The last I talked to clueless here, he didn't know what the hell to do without his Marcus to help him out."
"Scott, I'm warning you. The attitude..." Marcus was more on edge than I had ever seen him.
I jumped in, "Okay, everything on the table... Scott the first time I met you Marcus told me you had dated and it didn't work out. More than once, you have talked about how you screwed things up. I have no intention of making that mistake. I'm madly and deeply in love with my best friend. I am the luckiest man alive. If you can't be happy for us, I'm sorry. But you are not going to piss on my happiness. I know Marcus values your friendship, and I owe you for opening my eyes. But, you need to let go of those regrets and move on. You have an incredible man who puts up with all your bullshit. After almost three years, Justin still wants to be with you. Think about what you said to me the other night and take your own advice.
"Scott, we want you to be a part of our lives. We wish for you the happiness we have. I hope you can see your way clear to give us your blessing. But rest assured there is nothing you can say or do that will come between us or temper our happiness."
I took a breath and sat down next to my boyfriend. He put his arm around me and smiled. "Wow, babe... Scott, do you think you could be happy for us? Do you think you could move forward and let yourself find this same happiness?"
He sat there for what seemed like forever. Finally, he looked at us. The range of emotions that seemed to travel across his face ran the whole gamut. He looked afraid to speak.
Marcus spoke quietly, "Scott, after we started dating, you choose to sleep with someone else. Against my better judgment, I agreed to remain friends with you. I have never regretted that decision; don't make me regret it now. You have been a great friend, but Tony is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. We need you to be happy for us."
I was stunned. I never knew what had happened between Scott and Marcus. I couldn't believe Marcus had forgiven him enough to be friends. I gave Marcus a kiss. "You amaze me," was all I could say.
"Marcus," Scott started, "I have watched you two for three years. I never thought this day would come. I do want to feel what you seem to feel for each other. How do I know if I can?" He was sobbing when he finished.
"Scott, open your heart. Let go of the regret. Justin is amazing, he obviously loves you. And his son, Tommy, wants you to love him so bad. Scott take a chance. Let yourself be happy." Marcus crossed to him and pulled him into a hug. Finally, when he calmed slightly Scott gave me a look and a nod. I could accept that. We were never going to be great friends, but I could settle for a lack of open hostility.
The rest of our guests started to arrive. Jen was the only person who didn't know everyone, but she was so good at making friends everyone loved her in no time.
Danni started teasing her. "You were engaged to this sissy at one time? Marcus has always had questionable taste, but you seem so much smarter than that." She burst out laughing.
"Apparently, I was swayed by his rugged good looks and big dick." Danni choked on his drink.
"Tony, if I wasn't the biggest queen in the room, I'd marry this girl just for the laughs. Jen, you are fab-u-lous!"
Marcus piped in, "And coming from Danni, that is the highest praise you can receive, Jen."
The whole room burst out laughing.
I noticed Justin and Scott with their heads together on the balcony. I put my hand on Marcus's arm and nodded in their direction. Scott looked like he was crying, but Justin had a hold on him that told me things were going well. Maybe those two would come out of this evening in a better place than they started. I was such a sap for happy endings... or at least the hope of one.
The party wrapped up late that night. We made plans to pick Jen up at noon the next day. After cleaning up, Marcus and I collapsed. I couldn't wait to share our news with my parents, and celebrate Dad's show.
Thanks to the usual suspects:
To my husband Ray, for your love and support
To my editor David, for your mad skills
To my friend and mentor Fitz, for helping me find my voice and making it stronger