The usual disclaimers apply. If for some legal reason you shouldn't read this...don't.
A special acknowledgement to Drew for encouraging me to tell a better story through his edits and suggestions. And a big thanks to Brad for his patient proofreading and editing. Finally, a shout-out to Trab for the final tweaks to get the story 'just right' and to Zeta reader, Rock.
I love to receive feedback at email@example.com. My other stories are listed in Nifty's Prolific Authors section, and on www.gayauthors.org.
Chapter 12, ORGANIZED UNIONS
Reluctance and apprehension gave way to budding confidence after Jeremy performed his first weekend with the limited exposure of one solo number in the first act. His 'tip dance' down the runway yielded $93.00, lots of winks and a few good-natured pats on the butt - and elsewhere. He felt that it wasn't bad for his first stroll in front of a frenetic female audience. Charlie thought Jeremy did very well as a newbie and said the second half of a show usually brought out a looser tipping attitude - especially if they liked the guy.
Garin was very pleased at Jeremy's energy and professionalism his first time out on the stage. Except for one lighting miss-cue and a few slight stumbles on some of the dance moves, the performance was judged a success. Especially when the audience "went gaga" - Garin's descriptive - with applause and cheering. The final phase-in plan was followed the next weekend; Jeremy performing the second act dance and being part of the opening and closing chorus numbers.
The Thursday afternoon before his first full show schedule as Joe College, Jeremy sat by himself in the school library to sort out thoughts that had been building in his head over the last month. Leading off the list of recent events in his life was being accepted as a freshman at De Paul University. At 18, he figuratively had the world by the balls - although this past weekend a tenderly tucked twenty-dollar bill had almost reversed that order; a lady suddenly became quite possessive of his family jewels for a brief moment. A reflex action twisted him loose and he nervously grinned while he playfully wagged his finger at the lusting, middle-aged woman and he danced away to the next fan. A fading fingernail scratch on his inner-thigh was a reminder of his encounter.
Jeremy felt a vague and undefined emptiness gnawing at him. A loving mother, a supportive sister, an honorary brother, a best friend, several close school chums and a work buddy were more than most could claim...but something was missing. Added into this was possession of his full college scholarship and a job with earnings potential to take care of his financial needs. But something felt wrong; a major piece of the puzzle in his life seemed to be absent. It was a stirring that had not been present until recently. He reviewed all of the changes that had occurred - backward and forward - and decided it had started when he joined the Studz Barecats.
'That's it,' he decided, sudden clarity erupting in his head. 'I've got Charlie as a buddy and I want more. Much more.' Jeremy thought back to their first meeting. From the beginning, there was an immediate bonding and trustful intimacy between the two men that went well beyond an older guy helping out a younger friend. But it was different from the mentoring relationship he had with Zach. His friendship with Charlie was more of two peers helping out each other while one learned the intricacies of his new job. Grooming issues aside, Jeremy felt comfortable in Charlie's presence. He relied on his buddy for advice when facing a challenge with which he wasn't familiar. He relished the comradeship. He reveled in the attention lavished. In fact, Jeremy realized he missed Charlie on the days they were away from each other. This was not just a crush on another guy; it was the start a special relationship that had only one word to describe it. However, Jeremy was almost afraid to utter the "L" word.
'Shit, he probably thinks of me as a kid...a teenager...who just needs protecting. I mean, here is this hot, bright guy in his second year of college who can have anyone he wants. Why would Charlie think of me as somebody special?' he wondered. Jeremy absentmindedly drew circles, squares and the initials "CB" on the legal pad in front of him as he considered that night's meeting and shave session. 'And Charlie used to date my sister, for Christ's sake,' he thought as he sub-consciously reached under the library table and rubbed his aroused crotch area and the erection that snaked down his thigh.
It had been a demanding Human Relationships psych class. At the conclusion of the lecture, the professor gave each student a case study and asked that they thoroughly analyze the contents and prepare a thousand word evaluation to hand in the following week. Most of the students, including Charlie, were business school majors and they suffered through this class because it was a required part of the curriculum on their journey to a BA and, later, an MBA.
Charlie, later in the day, spent time at the fraternity house and had dinner with some of his brothers before returning to his apartment. He decided to get in a couple of quality hours of study before Jeremy arrived for their weekly session. After changing into sweats, Charlie eased into his favorite chair, notepad in hand and attempted to read the chapters pertaining to the case studies. Each student was to analyze and interpret the random drawings created by the assigned subject. The doodles, in addition to assisting dream interpretation and psychological assessment, would allow insight and reveal something of the person's mental state.
Charlie shifted around as he attempted to focus on the material written by Helen Smith*:
The Circle: The circle appears in every culture as an archetypal form representative of the eternal whole. With no ending or beginning, it revolves in an eternal cycle and is linked to the sun disk and the attendant concepts of the yearly cycle, the moon, and the wheel. In some symbol systems it also represents the universe.
The Square: The square represents the formal, mathematical, scientific order of the universe. The square represents earthbound matter, and correspondingly, with its two sides delineating a two-dimensional surface, may symbolize the earth or ground, or a field, especially in eastern pictograms. In Buddhist symbolism the relationship of the square within the circle represents the relationship of the human and the divine.
His mind and concentration kept drifting after the first couple of paragraphs. Every attempt to focus was interrupted by a vision or image of his buddy, Jeremy - now professionally re-christened, Jer. For the past month this had become a distraction that he kept barely under control and the last couple of shaving meetings had been quite difficult to get through. Jeremy had picked up on the uneasiness but seemed to have accepted Charlie's explanation about difficulties with studies. He closed the book and looked down at his notepad; over and over there was a series of circles and squares around the margin of the otherwise blank page...except for the initials, JS, almost embossed through several layers of paper due to the pressure that had been applied.
He thought about the reasons for his discomfort in Jeremy's presence. It certainly wasn't about modesty. The first time Charlie helped Jeremy with shaving dispelled any notion of being ill at ease when either of them was without clothing. Further, the act of stroking Jeremy's massive missile seemed almost as natural as dealing with himself. It had been a week later that he woke up and remembered a dream that included Jeremy's excited physical state in his hand...and more. The dream had repeated itself in variations over the past month. Only three days earlier a new dimension had been added to these nocturnal images. Charlie had abruptly woken up in the middle of the night - sheets and blanket pushed to the floor - as a series of orgasmic, hot, sticky discharges of semen randomly fired from his turgid cock onto his face, chest and stomach.
It would be too easy and convenient to dismiss these dreams as just lustful thoughts about a gorgeous young man - Charlie had several choices of U.S. Prime male companionship. He worked around the hottest mix of sexy, liberal guys in Chicago every weekend and some of his Phi Delt fraternity brothers were pretty cool about being adventuresome in private. Plus, if he wanted someone to take a few fast laps around his pole, there were several studs at the Lakeshore Athletic Club where he worked out who would accommodate him at the drop of a 20-pound weight. 'No. This is definitely more than just being obsessed with a physically appealing guy,' he thought. 'Jer is a beautiful person in every sense...and a smart fucker, too.'
He reviewed the givens - as he would in any study - and concluded there was much more to his attraction. Charlie analyzed what he had experienced since first meeting Jeremy two months earlier. He mentally listed his friend's attributes. 'Being a hunk is a given. But the real cream is his combination of high intelligence, wicked sense of humor, honor and trustworthiness. Crap, I might as well throw in the Boy Scout Ten Commandments,' he thought with a laugh.
The slight difference in age - two years - did not pose a problem. 'Thank God that Jer is now 18,' Charlie considered. Originally, he had thought there was something almost lecherous if a seasoned, collegiate 20-year-old mooned over someone just 17. 'Well, maybe seasoned is pushing it...I just left my teen years a few months ago. And he certainly is more mature than many of my fraternity brothers.' He slumped further down in the chair, stared at the ceiling and considered his analysis. After several minutes, a smile spread over his face as he concluded, 'Okay, here's the deal, Barnett. You've solidly fallen in love with your buddy - clear and simple - period. No infatuation. No curious exploration. No first stab at puppy love. Now what are you going to do about it? More important, what will Jer's reaction be if I say anything about my feelings? Maybe he's got the hots for someone else. Man, that would be a bummer,' he thought.
While considering his options and possible game plan, Charlie slipped his hand under the waistband of his sweats and found his dependable solo companion at full alert. It was moments like this that the security of having his hand wrapped around his responsive, hard cock was reassuring. 'I've got to be clear-headed and definitely not horny tonight,' he decided while initiating the first of his well-practiced stroke techniques. After a few moments of priming the pump, Charlie raised his butt slightly off the chair to lower his sweat pants and free his throbbing penis. Without hesitation, he brought his hand to his mouth and spit out as much saliva as he could muster while his mind buzzed around the definitions of Dopamine and Oxytocin - the natural hormonal love cocktail that he experienced when around this wonderful man. But, did Jer feel the same way?
Jeremy was satisfied that he had got Charlie back into peak condition as he put away the razor and turned on the shower. Part of the weekly ritual was for both to take a shower together and check for any missed areas.
"You got time for a beer or something before you go? There are a few things I want to discuss and ask your advice about." Charlie waited for Jeremy to finish the splash down so he could stand under the showerhead.
"Maybe a Coke. I gotta be up early tomorrow. Plus, this is my big first weekend doing the whole show," Jeremy replied. He playfully swatted Charlie's butt cheek and got out of the tub to dry himself.
"Cool. Go ahead, get dressed and grab a can from the fridge. Crack me a beer and I'll meet ya in just a few minutes."
Jeremy hung the damp towel on a hook behind the door and went into the bedroom to put on his street clothes. He wondered what Charlie wanted to talk about as he tied his shoestrings. His buddy had finished the shower and was humming some unidentifiable, upbeat song when Jeremy passed by the bathroom on the way back to the living room. 'That's a good sign,' he decided. 'Charlie seems to be in a good mood...a little nervous, though.'
The big question on Jeremy's mind was how to broach the subject of their relationship and where he saw it going. He placed the opened bottle of Heineken on the coffee table and decided that he would try to open some discussion after Charlie was finished with whatever was on his mind. He sat down and popped open the Coke can's tab.
"Hey, bud. I feel great - as usual, you came through," Charlie said as he walked into the living room, redressed in his casual sweats, and sat down on the couch next to Jeremy. He grabbed the cold, green bottle and took a long swig. "Um, you want anything to eat?"
"The Coke's fine and I need to get home by eleven." Jeremy noticed that it was just before 10:00. He also felt Charlie's eyes drilling into him.
"Okay...here goes. I've got a few questions that have been going through my mind and I want to pass them by you. Well, some important things and you're a big part of this."
"This sounds serious." Jeremy frowned and wondered where this conversation was going.
"Serious? Yeah...very. Jer, I want to talk about us: two, single, gay guys and all the baggage that goes with it - good and bad. I know we've only known each other a couple of months...but...I have...special feelings...for you." Charlie let out a big sigh and took another sip of beer.
"Special feelings? Like great friends?" Jeremy thought he knew where this was going. 'Charlie probably wants to define our friendship so that there's no misunderstanding that it was anything else,' he decided.
"Being great friends is just on the surface." Charlie moved closer to Jeremy and put his hand on Jeremy's thigh. "Babe, I'm going for the whole enchilada. I adore you, respect you and admire you. Most of all...I...love you. There, I said it." He looked at his young friend with an expression that was a combination of fear, anxiety and pleading. "Tell me to back off and I'll change subjects. It's just that I had to tell you how I feel."
"I...I'm speechless." Jeremy put his hand over Charlie's resting hand and squeezed it. He felt his eyes starting to tear as he moved closer to his friend. "Don't you dare stop saying those things, babe. It's exactly what I want to hear cuz they echo my feelings." He leaned over and gently kissed Charlie's cheek...a cheek that was also moist with a few tears. 'We both called each other babe. That must count for something,' Jeremy thought as he moved a little more and rested his head on Charlie's shoulder. "I...love you, too. Very much."
"You're serious? If I blink, you'll still be here nuzzled up to me? Aw, this is fucking fantastic." Charlie moved around, put his hand around Jeremy and went for a serious kiss. He slipped his tongue in between Jeremy's parted lips and aggressively explored.
"Hmmm," was all Jeremy could get out as Charlie suffocated him with kisses and thoroughly swabbed the inside of his mouth with a very determined tongue. He felt hot and warm flashes pulsing through his body and breathed in the musky aroma of his mate...although they had just showered. When Charlie paused, Jeremy reversed the attack and reciprocated by plunging his tongue into a willing mouth. Within moments, he had maneuvered their bodies on the couch so Charlie was lying on his back and Jeremy was on top. He pulled back and said, "Is this serious enough for you?"
"Jer, I'd love to fuck our brains out...right now. But I think we've got more important things to talk about. This isn't something that's a one-time deal."
"When we do that first part, it's got to be done in the spirit of love - not just getting off. I can wait. Well, not too long," Jeremy replied with a low chuckle. He could feel Charlie's hard cock pressing against his erection. Only the barrier of cloth and a disciplined will separated them from a very hot, messy experience. He shifted around and resumed a sitting position. "Babe...I love that expression...let's talk about this. I really didn't realize that you were thinking the same way. Until a few minutes ago, it was wishful thinking on my part."
"And wishful thinking with me. I couldn't imagine that you'd feel the same way. We're two young guys that have a long life ahead of us. And while I have a little more life experience then you...it's not that much more. I just know that when I'm with you...I'm floating. And when we're apart, I can't wait to see you. This is just so cool..."
"I feel the same way, too. But I'm still in high school - don't you kinda feel like you're robbing the cradle?" Jeremy raised his eyebrows and shrugged for emphasis.
"We're two years apart. That's hardly robbing the cradle. Plus, I've never seen anything like you romping in a cradle. Especially with that weapon." Charlie brought his hand over to Jeremy's formidable erection and patted it. "Seriously, we've got some adjustments to make in our lives. First, I don't consider you some kind of kid. You're mature beyond your years and - if no one has mentioned it recently - very smart. But you're almost outta high school and we're going to be working together. I also understand your family obligations. We can work around this. I've got school that'll be pretty demanding this spring and in May I also have signed on for several private parties during the mid-week. When you've got more experience, maybe we could team up on the private gigs...probably after you're out of school and feel more confident about the new job. By the time you start college this fall, all the pieces should fall together."
"And to think that I was wondering if you would accept me falling for you," Jeremy said. "I want to take this slow. Well, maybe not everything." Jeremy grinned and rolled his eyes. "I want to know more about your family...and you about mine. Um, you already know Naomi...but that's another story. I want to learn your likes and dislikes, your dreams and goals, your moods and emotions."
"You're a friggin' mind reader. I want to know everything about you, too. It'll just take time to sort things out. I can't believe this whole thing has happened and really wasn't absolutely sure about my feelings for you until earlier tonight. I knew that something had been happening for a while but couldn't figure it out."
"This is unreal. I came to the same conclusions only this afternoon." Jeremy decided that actions spoke many words so he grabbed Charlie's hand and held on tightly. "So, does this make us...lovers?"
"At the very least." Charlie leaned over and kissed Jeremy lightly before adding, "I figure we've got the rest of the winter and spring to figure things out."
"Let's make a pact, then. By the time that I'm out of school, let's decide where we're going with this. My uncle - well, my two uncles - had an amazing partnership. That's what I want: someone with whom I can comfortably be a life partner...warts and all...for a long time. By the way, if we're lovers and boyfriends, I don't believe in sharing." Jeremy decided to put this out on the table as an irrevocable condition about which he felt very strong.
"I agree. No sharing...with anyone. We'll always have some separate friends but no sex stuff. I concur about monogamy and certainly learned my lesson with the Gio incident." Charlie shrugged and nodded his head.
"So I don't have to go shopping with you at Treasure Island?" Jeremy replied with a laugh.
"Treasure Island is for groceries and supplies, only. Plus, it just makes sense. Why would I want to mess around with anyone else when I've got one of the hottest guys in town as my boyfriend?"
"And vice versa." Jeremy scooted around so that he was sitting cross-legged to face Charlie.
"Mom and Dad will meet you, of course. Well, at least my mother. I'm sure she'll want to have us out to their condo in Barrington for dinner. My brother is ten years older and lives in New York. We'll cross that bridge when he and his wife visit this summer. The grandparents can come into the picture later."
"I really haven't come out to my mom or sister. I think my game plan will be a private meeting with Naomi and figure things out. She'll be very supportive and can give me advice about how to tell Ma. My sister, by the way, knows about the new job and you...as a co-worker," Jeremy said with a smirk. "In fact, she'll be at the club soon with a bachelorette party."
"Ha. She'll see more of me in the show then she ever did when we dated. God, four years ago seems like a lifetime."
"Wait until I tell her about us. I think she'll be quite pleased."
"And I got a Sloan in my life again. And no disrespect to Naomi, but the one I want and need." Charlie pulled back his arms and yawned. "Babe, between the excitement of this evening and a long day...I'm beat. Since I can't seduce you tonight, let me drive you home."
"Um, how about us taking care of that seduction thing after the Sunday show? I'd like the first time to be slow and memorable." Jeremy stood up and offered his hands to help Charlie. "Making love is going to be different from what I've usually done and I want to get it right. Not to say I'm a slut, mind you," Jeremy added with a laugh.
"Jer, I don't sleep around that much, either. But we will use condoms while we both are tested. Better safe than...well, you know the drill. Is that okay with you?"
"After what my uncles experienced, it's more than okay. And I have found out that I like it both ways. I guess this is one of those learning curve things. What about you?"
"I've usually been the top. But, I think that we're both going to add a little variety to our lives." Charlie pulled Jeremy close and wrapped his arms around his new lover. "Hon, you've made me a very happy man. And I guess that you feel the same way. Promise me that we'll never keep things from each other. If I bug you, or the other way around, let's talk about it." He tenderly kissed Jeremy and looked into his eyes.
"Agree, completely. Man, Sunday can't come fast enough for a couple of reasons...but you're number one." Jeremy was almost delirious with excitement and satisfaction. He was also nervous - not about their lovemaking, but that weekend's first full performance schedule.
It was the second time in a little more than a month that Jeremy had asked Naomi to meet in the coffee shop near the hospital after her evening shift, Monday, at 11:00 p.m. He had only said there were some important aspects of his life he wanted to share.
'This past weekend has been, all things considered, perfect,' he thought as he sipped a cup of chamomile tea and waited for her arrival. It had been only 24 hours since the two lovers had consummated their feelings for each other. They had arrived at the apartment a little exhausted after performing to a sold out house. Jeremy was touched when Charlie presented him with a single rose before a bottle of French Champagne was opened. It was the first time he had sampled sparkling wine and his nose tickled after the initial sip. Charlie had pre-selected the music that started with John Mayer singing, "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)", and concluded with James Blunt's song, "High." It was playing as they adjourned to the bedroom.
Will you be my shoulder when I'm gray and older?
Promise me tomorrow starts with you,
Getting high; running wild among all the stars above.
Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me.
On the nightstand were a stash of Lifestyles XL and a bottle of Astroglide. They deliberately undressed each other, one piece of clothing at a time, until each lover was standing in front of each other in their naked, aroused glory. First Jeremy, then Charlie: they shared the most intimate parts of their bodies...twice. He smiled when he remembered the blaze of candles in the bedroom and was concerned that the smoke detector would be set off - from the candles and the physical activity. They both had tenderly approached the lovemaking without rushing. However, Jeremy felt himself walking a little carefully this morning and wondered if Charlie was having the same problem. He could hardly wait until their next shaving session.
Except for not properly pacing himself to get through the first show on Saturday to reserve energy for the second show, Jeremy's four performances were executed without any problems. Garin and the entire cast were very pleased at the audience's reception of the new Joe College. And he was very pleased at the tips - almost $800 - that he had received...on top of the salary. 'At this rate,' he decided, 'I can contribute a little more to the house expenses than I originally planned.'
"Hey, Bro. Sorry I'm running a little late. My relief arrived just before eleven." Naomi leaned over and kissed Jeremy on the forehead before sitting down. "And I am really tired so please dispense with the formalities and let me know what's on your mind. Sorry if I sound so gruff...it's just been one of those days."
"Okay, here goes. I...I'm wired like Uncle Win and wanted to tell you that...I'm gay...without any doubt," Jeremy replied in a low tone. "I just hope that you support me in this and realize I fully understand all the ramifications of accepting my sexual orientation."
Just then the waitress appeared and Naomi also ordered tea. When they were alone, she said, "Ah, I guess that this does take me aback, somewhat. Not shocked...just a little surprised."
"You're not pissed?" Jeremy looked into his sister's eyes and didn't feel any anger.
"No...absolutely not. It's just something like this, coming from left field, wasn't what I suspected. First, I must apologize for being so abrupt when I arrived. Here is a very big deal in your life and I kind of jumped all over you. Second, I will always support you. And, third...even though you are a complete stud and I've heard about your successes with the girls at school...I'm not really in the dark about this. With Uncle Win's homosexuality, heredity opens a lot of doors in this area. My classes in nursing confirmed what I already knew. "
"Whew, I'm relieved...although I thought you'd accept this situation. And I hope you know that I gave this much thought. Big question: how will Mom take this? I really need to be up front, unless you think that her health might be a factor."
"Actually, I don't think Mom would be all that surprised. I remember overhearing a conversation between Uncle Win and her shortly before he died. She was curious about the odds of your being gay."
"Wow - I didn't know that. What did Uncle Win say?"
"Just that he didn't think so but he didn't come out until he was in his late teens. As I recall, they just moved on to other subjects and the matter was dropped. But, Jeremy, don't be concerned about her health. She has a respiratory problem but she'll be very supportive."
"Maybe we could all have a quiet dinner sometime in the next week? I'm not working on Wednesday or Thursday nights anymore."
"Let me check my schedule at the hospital and do it on one of the two nights."
"Great. Um, I should tell you that I have a boyfriend... who you know." Jeremy poured a little more tea into his cup and took a sip.
"Don't tell me that you and Bobby Stein are an item. My goodness, that's really carrying the torch a long time," Naomi said with a chuckle.
"No...Bobby and I are just best friends. It's..."
"You said I know...Wait...you're dating Chuck, aren't you? Ah, Charlie Barnett. Oh, my God, that's it." Naomi just smiled and shook her head as the waitress brought her tea. She took the pot and filled the cup in front of her. "Jeremy, you amaze me...but we've had that conversation recently. Talk about keeping it in the family. I will say that you have excellent taste in men."
"Yeah, I do, don't I." Jeremy turned on a grin that would light the entire North Side. "This has just happened and we're taking this new relationship very slowly. I think, however, there's no doubt in either of our minds that this is really it. I love him very much." Like he had done for most of his life, he reached across the table and took his sister's hand to ratify their mutual support.
"Then let's get Mom on board and have Chu...Charlie over for a family dinner real soon."
"I'd like that, Sis. And so would Charlie."
TO BE CONTINUED
*Helen South is an Australian artist and printmaker working in graphite, charcoal, watercolor and mixed media. Her work centers on text, map grids, symbol and calligraphy.