By Tim Mead
Ray handed him the tube of sunblock. "Would you put some of this on my back?"
Jesse leered. "Gladly."
It was a hot, sunny mid-July Saturday afternoon. When Jesse had said he'd like to go swimming, Ray had suggested Maumee Bay State Park, where there were two beaches: one on Lake Erie, the other on a smaller lake – a large pond, actually.
They were sitting on an old camp blanket Ray had brought along, watching the waves roll in from Lake Erie. Which, except that the waves were smaller, looked very much like an ocean. Even in July the water was cold, however, and they'd spent more time lying in the sun than swimming.
Out in the lake they could see pleasure craft, mostly sails but including power boats now and then, going into and out of a marina off to their left. Further out, near the horizon, there was the low silhouette of an oreboat.
Running his hands over Ray's broad shoulders, down his lats, around his shoulder blades, and down to his waist was delicious, but it gave him an erection. He was glad he was wearing board shorts rather than a speedo. He'd never been comfortable in speedos. He'd never been able to get his junk arranged right.
"Thanks, babe," Ray said. "Want me to do you?"
"We might get in trouble if you did me right here in public, sergeant."
"I meant your back, dufus."
"Oh, well, in that case, yeah." He handed the lotion back to Ray. "You know, sitting in the sun wrinkles your skin prematurely. And ultimately leads to skin cancer."
"Now there's a downer."
"But it's true!"
"Yeah, I know. Especially when you've got skin like mine." Ray took more sunblock and began smearing it over his legs, working from his groin down his right leg to his foot and then repeating the process on his left leg.
One of the things Jesse found most attractive about his friend was his pale, pale skin. The muscles, yes. The red hair, definitely yes. But when they were in bed together, Ray looked almost like a marble statue. Well, he'd never seen a statue with a hardon, but still. . . .
Ray finished what he was doing and stretched out on his back. Jesse lay down beside him.
"Did you ever do any bathing suit or underwear modeling?"
"Not really. Guys who look great with their shirts off tend to look a little lumpy in suits, even expensive ones. And since I'm skinny enough to look good in a suit, I didn't often get asked to model with my shirt off."
Ray was quiet for a few minutes. Then he said, "I know I don't have the face for it, but what about my body? Would someone with my build be able to model in a bathing suit?"
Ray rolled onto his side and looked at Jesse. "Does that mean I look lumpy in a suit?"
Jesse ran the backs of his fingers over one of Ray's nipples and licked his lips when it hardened. "I've never seen you in a suit, but I'm sure you'd look sexy in one."
"Smooth talker." Still on his side, propped up on one forearm, Ray said, "But you must work out. You've got great definition. How do you keep from bulking up?"
Jesse smiled up at his friend. "It's a matter of genes, diet, and doing more reps with less weight."
"Oh. I suppose you work out at the University?"
"Uh huh. How about you?"
"The County has a gym in the admin building."
"Oh, mostly county office workers and such?"
"Not really. It's mostly cops, firemen, and EMT's. There are a couple of guys, though, that are pretty hot. Kris Anders, the PIO, and Ben Moss, his second in command, are both gay. And they both look terrific. You'll probably meet Ben and his partner, Toby, the next time the CQ's get together. I hear, by the way, that something's in the works for Labor Day weekend."
"I'd love to meet all those guys I've been hearing about."
Ray rubbed his knuckles over one of Jesse's nipples. "I think that can be arranged. Let's say it's a date."
Jesse shivered and put both of his hands on Ray's. "Great. But what if you're on duty?"
"You're forgetting that Jake's partner is the former Chief of Police and that they're both members of the group. I think I can manage to be there, whenever they schedule it."
He lay down on his stomach, his head turned toward Jesse and pillowed on his arm. They didn't talk for a while. There were the sounds of waves hitting the beach, gulls making their customary squawk, and small children squealing.
Then Ray asked, "You ever been to Fire Island?"
"That must be great. Being where almost everyone's gay and you don't have to think twice about it."
Jesse turned on to his stomach, his face toward Ray. "But they do think twice about it. They think a hundred times about it. Everyone there is so . . . so relentlessly gay."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't like to define myself by my sexuality. I'm me, whoever that is. I'd just like to live an ordinary life. And have sex with men without advertising it."
Ray was quiet for a minute or so.
"I hadn't thought of it that way. Guess I'll have to reconsider my vacation dreams, huh?"
"There are other places."
They were quiet again. Jesse shut his eyes, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the awareness of Ray lying beside him, almost touching. He was relaxed to the point of drowsiness until he remembered what had happened that morning.
At about 9:30 there had been a knock on his door, which he opened to find a blond hunk on the other side. The hunk was wearing a royal blue golf shirt with "Petal Pushers" embroidered over the pocket. He was holding a vase full of red roses.
"Um, hi. Are those for me?" It seemed like a stupid question, but he couldn't think of anyone who'd send him flowers.
The hunk smiled. "They are if you're Jesse Crofts. I know I've got the address right."
"Yeah, I'm Jesse. Come on in."
"Normally, I'd just hand you the flowers and leave, but . . ." He paused.
Jesse waited. This guy's gorgeous. A florist? Doesn't look gay. Be nice for someone if he is Oh, he's probably waiting for a tip..
He was snapped out of his fantasy when the hunk said, "I used to live here."
"Um, here, as in this apartment?"
Jesse finally had the presence of mind to reach for the flowers. "Well, come on in. Let me set these down." He led the way to the kitchen and put the vase on the counter. He'd worry later about who'd sent them. And where to put them.
"I'm Brody Cox," the hunk said, holding out his hand.
"You already know I'm Jesse." They shook hands. "And you used to live in this apartment?"
"Yeah. A couple of years ago. Right after I got out of the Marines."
"You must be local."
"Uh huh. My folks own Petal Pushers here in Higgins and Cox Floral in Colby. I'm going to CSU now, but someone at the shop's on vacation, so I'm doing deliveries today. And I gotta run."
"Well, it's been nice to meet you, Brody. Sure I can't offer you a cup of coffee or something?"
"Thanks, but I've got to finish up and get back home. My guy and I have something planned."
Jesse grinned. "I'd say whoever your guy is, he's pretty lucky."
"Nope," Brody said. "I'm the lucky one." Then he seemed to realize the import of what Jesse had just said. "Higgins is a little town, Jesse. I'm sure I'll see you around."
"Thanks, Brody. Good to meet you."
After Brody left, Jesse looked at the card that came with the flowers. It said, "Don't forget me. See you soon? Love, Me." He threw the flowers and the card in the trash emptied the water out of the vase into the sink, and threw the vase into the trash as well.
"Hmm?" He sounded as if he'd dozed off.
"You're gonna get burned. Maybe we'd better get out of the sun."
"Let's take one more dip first, and then we'll go."
As they drove back to Colby, Jesse said, "You've lived around here all your life, right?"
"Do you know a guy named Brody Cox?"
"Oh, yeah. I've known him since we were both teens. Super guy. Why are you asking?"
"He delivered flowers to me this morning. Seemed nice. And what a stud!"
"You're right. Brody looks great. So does his partner, Dave Cromer."
"What does Cromer do?"
""He owns a landscaping company. Brody goes to CSU."
"Yeah, he said as much."
"I think he's studying landscape design or something like that," Ray continued. "He helps out with Dave's business. But you said he delivered flowers to you?"
"Right. Said he was helping because the family business was short handed."
"Well, I'm sure you'll see him again soon. And meet Dave. Whenever the CQ's get together again."
Jesse was relieved that Ray hadn't asked about the flowers. But he knew he'd have to tell him soon.
They showered when they got back to Ray's place in Colby and then put on clean clothes before going to Applebee's for dinner.
They ordered nachos nuevos as an appetizer with beer for Ray and pinot noir for Jesse. After tasting the nachos, Jesse wished he'd ordered beer.
He felt lethargic. The swimming and the sun had done their job. He studied Ray's face carefully, but there was no sign of redness. Apparently the sunblock had done its job.
You're worried that he got a sunburn. You're beginning to care about this guy, Crofts!
They were sitting so that Jesse could see the door but Ray couldn't. Two men came in. The shorter of the two spoke briefly with the college-age guy who was the host. Then they moved to the small waiting area where Jesse couldn't see them.
He helped himself to another nacho, enjoying the crunch and the tang. Then took a swallow of wine. Pinot wasn't meant to be gulped, but he needed it.
Ray seemed content to munch and drink his beer. Their conversation wasn't scintillating, but it was comfortable. Jesse couldn't remember when he'd felt so at ease with anyone.
Watch it, Crofts. It's too soon. You've never let anyone in. Better be cautious.
Looking beyond Ray once again, he saw the two men who'd come in a few minutes ago following the host to a table in the sunken bar area. The shorter one, who'd spoken with the host, was cute but rather ordinary. Had a nice ass, though. But the taller man was strikingly handsome. Tall, with dark hair and a square face. Big shoulders. Narrow waist. Jesse couldn't think why, but he was pretty sure he'd seen the guy before.
Ray grinned. "What are you looking at? It's got to be somebody hot."
"Turn around slowly and look at the two guys at that table over there." He gestured with his head. "The big guy looks familiar."
Ray took a swallow of his beer, set it down, and casually glanced to his left. Then he looked back at Jesse and smiled broadly.
"This morning you met Brody."
"The big guy is Joe Hill. The little one is his lover, Micah Sutton."
"And . . . ?"
"Joe moved into your place after Brody moved out. He was there until recently, when he and Micah got together. They're both living at Micah's place now."
"Yep!" Ray took a nacho, tilted his head back, and dropped it into his mouth, almost as if he were eating an oyster. Except that he had to chew the nacho.
"So when you came out to see about the apartment back in May, how did you know it was available?"
"Brody called me."
"I can't believe how many hot gay men there are in Colby."
"And Higgins. Brody and I are from there. Joe used to live there. And you live there now."
The waitress came for their food order. They both ordered steaks, and Jesse asked for a beer instead of more wine.
Reminding Jesse that he was driving, Ray switched to water.
"Um, that Joe guy?"
"Joe Hill. It's not a hard name to remember."
"It's so anonymous. Like Bill Jones or John Smith. But, like I said, he looks familiar."
Ray chuckled. "A lot of guys say he looks just like Superman. He used to wear glasses, and back then he looked like Clark Kent."
"Damn! You're right! That's exactly who he looks like. Not like some actor playing Superman. Like the comic strip."
"Is he a jerk?"
"Why would you ask that?"
"Sometimes guys that good looking are."
"Oh, come on, man. I'm not in his class."
"I think you're better looking. I doubt you could beat him in the hammer throw, but for just looking at, you'd win any day. In my book."
"What the fuck is the hammer throw?"
"Does it matter?"
"Not really. Where's our food? I'm ready for that steak!" He helped himself to a nacho, scooping some extra topping onto it.
They chatted about this and that as they waited for their food. During a lull in the conversation Jesse remembered the flowers. He wondered whether Junior was actually going to come to Colby. If that happened, he'd have to tell Ray about it.
His mind drifted as there was a lapse in the conversation. Here he was in mid-America. Relaxed. With a sweet, unpretentious guy. A sexy guy. No problems. No pressures except those he put on himself to do well in his courses.
His reverie was interrupted by the arrival of their food. As he picked up his knife and fork, ready to dig into his steak, he noticed that Ray was looking intently at him.
"You were seriously zoned out just then. What were you thinking about?" Ray asked.
"I dunno. I was feeling kind of good, I suppose."
Jesse put down his knife and fork, put his hands in his lap, and looked back at Ray. "Don't go getting a big head or anything, but I was enjoying being here. In Colby, Ohio. With you."
Ray blushed. "Cut the crap."
"I mean it."
Ray picked up his knife and fork, so Jesse retrieved his utensils. Ray began cutting a piece of his steak. "Ever since you and I got to know each other, I've envied you the life you had."
"Of course. Who wouldn't? You lived in the Big Apple. You traveled all over. You knew celebrities. I guess you were a celebrity. Who wouldn't want a life like that?" He put the piece of steak in his mouth and began to chew.
Following suit, Jesse cut a piece of steak and ate it. When he'd swallowed, he said, "It's not all it's cracked up to be. You spend your life in hotel rooms and restaurants. You can't make friends because you're always on the move. And you have to put up with people who think because they've seen your face in a magazine, they know you. Some of them even think you're their friend."
Ray used his fork to spear a French fry, dabbed it in catsup, and bit off part of it. "Well, if you put it like that, it doesn't seem quite as exciting. But I still don't understand why you're here in the boonies. You could have gone to a big school back East, or in California or anyplace, really."
Jesse put down his fork and leaned forward. "You want to know something funny?"
"I've been envying you. You grew up in this area. You went to high school in Higgins, then came back here after college. You have parents who love you. You have friends around you've known since you were kids. You know who and what you are. And you've got a responsible job. Something you can take some pride in."
Ray tilted his head to one side. "I never thought of it like that. I just feel like I've never been anywhere or done anything."
"You're a good guy, Ray. And what you're doing is important."
"Its not exciting, you know. And a lot of the time it's just plain boring."
"Photo shoots can be boring, too. And so can runway work. But you, you've got friends and family."
"You don't? I mean, you've said your mother passed away a while back, but you don't have anybody?"
"Not that I know of. The sperm donor sent checks until I was eighteen, but my mother would never tell me his name. She hated the bastard for deserting us for some bimbo, to use her term."
"I'm sorry, man. So it was just you and your mother."
"And photographers and agents and the competition."
Ray stuck his fork in his salad and poked around but then didn't eat any. "Funny, huh? Somebody else's life always seems better."
Jesse chuckled. "Something to do with the color of the grass, or so I've heard."
It was a quiet Sunday morning at Colby Police Headquarters. Ray, who should have been off, arrived at 9:00. He was subbing for a colleague who'd gone out of town to a wedding. He usually didn't mind weekend duty because he didn't have that much going on in his life. Since he'd moved out, he usually had Sunday dinner with his parents and watched sports on TV afterward with his father. This particular day, however, he didn't want to be there. It was the weekend between the two CSU summer sessions, and Jesse was free. Finals for first term were over, and he started his new classes the next day, Monday. Still, they'd had a good day the day before.
It was a typical Sunday morning at the station. Two men and a woman (separate cells) were sleeping off their Saturday night binges. They'd be processed out when they were sober enough to leave. A third man was facing charges of assault.
A woman at the front desk had been noisily demanding that her husband be released.
"I said I won't press charges. Charlie's just a little rambunctious sometimes, that's all."
"But, ma'am," the desk sergeant said, obviously trying to be patient, "you're the one who called 911 last night. Said you thought he was gonna kill you."
"Well, he was pretty upset about bein' out of work and the unemployment runnin' out. So, like he does, he drank too much. But he didn't mean no harm. So I just wanna take him home."
Ray went to the elevator and ascended to his office. He shook his head. He'd seen it before. Chances were she'd be calling 911 again before long, but it was the desk sergeant's problem, not his.
He poured a mug of coffee and went to work on a report that was due the next day.
A couple of hours later he clicked on "Save" and then "Print." Rolling his chair away from his desk he stretched, got up, and got more coffee. He sipped it and made a face. It tasted terrible. He didn't know why they couldn't make decent coffee at the office. He didn't know who bought the coffee or what kind it was. Probably the supermarket's own brand. Or maybe it was the coffee maker, which looked as if it had been there since those things were invented.
Now that the report was finished, he didn't have anything pressing to do. He just had to be there in case someone from the detective branch was needed. Clasping his hands behind his head, he leaned back in his chair and thought about the previous day, time well spent with Jesse.
After their supper at the restaurant, they'd gone to a movie. It turned out to be what Ray thought of as a chick flick, but Jesse had wanted to see it. Ray was bored, and even Jesse admitted he hadn't enjoyed it much.
After the film they'd gone back to Ray's place where they watched the Yankees playing in Seattle. He knew Jesse was a Yankees fan, but he was surprised at the man's knowledge of the team, even quoting stats at him.
It was after midnight when the game was finished and they went to bed. It had been a full day, and he was tired, but he'd been looking forward to having Jesse in his bed again. Every time they'd had sex, Jesse had more or less presented himself to be taken. Ray was determined to see if Jesse would be willing to switch roles, but he'd worried that perhaps he wouldn't want to.
"You want me to top?"
"Do you mind?"
"No, if that's what you want me to do. I, uh, just sort of assumed . . ."
Ray chuckled. "What, Jesse, just because I'm a cop? Do I really come across as that macho?"
Ray had been embarrassed many times because he blushed so readily. He was secretly pleased to see Jesse blushing.
"No, well, uh." Jesse grinned. "I suppose I just thought that the cop would want to be in the driver's seat. That's stereotyping, isn't it?"
Ray nodded, enjoying looking at his naked friend.
"Shit! I'm sorry. I should have asked what you wanted to do instead of just taking it for granted you were a top."
"I'm gonna say what you said to me the first time we were together."
"Shut up and fuck me!"
Jesse obliged. And with surprising authority. He'd obviously done it before. Which was good. Ray had had mixed experiences as a bottom. Not that he'd been with all that many men. He'd had a fuck buddy in college who tended to be a little rough, and he didn't like that. But he'd also found that when the top was considerate, when the top wanted to give him pleasure, he really loved it. Loved it so much he preferred being on the receiving end.
So, he thought, he and Jesse were both versatile, even though both were probably catchers by nature. That could work. He found himself hoping it would work.
His mind went back to the night before, to how it had felt when Jesse had told him to get on the bed face down, ass up. He'd expected the shock of cold lube, but instead he'd felt Jesse's amazing tongue. He started with long laps, slowly moving toward and then concentrating on the very private spot, Ray groaning encouragement.
But it had been, finally, too much of a tease.
"Jess, I need more."
Ray heard a snap, there was a brief pause, and then Jess was slowly wiggling a lubed finger into his hole.
"Oh, god, yes! Play with my hole! Finger my ass!"
He wasn't accustomed to talking dirty when he and another guy were screwing, but the feeling of Jesse's busy finger drove him crazy with pleasure and need.
"More!" Ray felt a jolt when the exploring digit pressed his prostate. "God!"
Jess chuckled. "You like that, do you?"
"Aww, fuck, yeah! Don't stop."
At some point Jesse must have added more fingers, but Ray didn't remember anything very clearly until all the fingers were withdrawn. He felt deprived. Empty.
It seemed forever, but was actually less than a minute before Jesse had himself suited up and lubed. And then the real fun had begun.
Ray wriggled his ass. He felt well fucked, but also needy. He squeezed his sphincter, wishing there were something in there, Jesse's dick, preferably. But just then he'd have been grateful even for a butt plug. His own cock throbbed. When he went to adjust it he noticed a wet spot the size of a quarter in the front of his khakis.
Jesus! It's a good thing I've got my own cubicle. The uniforms out there would give me a world of grief if they could see how hard I am, especially with that spot there.
He got up, looked around and, seeing no one coming, walked quickly to the restroom, where he directed the hand drier downward toward his pants. He'd feel like a fool if anyone came in, but he risked it. Eventually the spot didn't look wet any longer, but the outlines still showed if anyone looked closely. He decided to untuck his shirt before he went back to his desk.
Seated once more, he thought about how Jesse had acquired his sexual skills. And felt a pang of jealousy.
Oh, come on! You've been with other guys. And you know Jesse has. You need to forget the past and concentrate on what the two of you can create between you. Yeah. He's better in the sack because he's had experience. And he seems to like you. You're comfortable together. Like at the lake. And at supper.
But who would have sent Jesse flowers? Jess hadn't explained that, and Ray hadn't wanted to ask. Still, he couldn't help wondering.
His phone rang. It was the guy on the front desk to say that someone was there to report a missing person.
By Wednesday afternoon Ray had not seen nor heard from Jesse since their night together the previous weekend. Or early Sunday morning, to be precise. Jesse was no doubt caught up in his new classes, and Ray had worked late both Monday and Tuesday nights on what turned out to be not a missing-persons case, but merely an incident where a wife had gotten fed up with her husband and had gone to stay with her sister for a while. She hadn't told the guy where she was going because, as she said, "I figured it wouldn't hurt for the bastard to worry some."
As he was driving through the downtown area of Colby on his way to his apartment, he saw two familiar figures going into Nellie's. One was Jesse. The other was Casey Shaw.
To Be Continued
Emails encouraged at firstname.lastname@example.org Please put the title of the story in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam. Thanks. --Tim