This multipart story is primarily about romance and relationships between men. Any reference to actual persons, living or dead, is only to enhance the fictional nature of the story and does not suggest a particular sexual orientation. If you are offended by graphic descriptions of homosexual sex, what the hell are you doing here? Bye, bye.
Special acknowledgements to Drew and Brad for providing diligent proofing and editing of the story.
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Chapter 7, SMALL STEPS
The 'June gloom' morning coastal fog had disappeared and Brian and Eric were enjoying the cool, early-afternoon, ocean breeze on the deck while eating the deli sandwiches Brian had brought with him. Both opted for lemonade.
"He actually said that it was okay if I 'zonked out' here?" Brian asked with a snicker.
"Yep. My son, the matchmaker," Eric replied as he nodded. "Actually, I think that he was offering a compromise and a peace pipe. He knew that I knew that he knew how badly I fucked up by not being there...can you follow that?"
"Other than sounding like an Abbott and Costello routine I've seen on 'Nick at Night', yeah, I get the drift. A gold star for Mike," Brian replied.
"He was also aware that his dad had flipped for this amazing man and was in the need of a little nooky. I think he came up with a pretty mature decision." Eric looked at Brian and beamed a huge grin.
I'll 'nooky' you, asshole," Brian replied as he playfully punched Eric in the shoulder. "And my nooky ain't so small." Both guys let out a belly laugh that could have been heard all the way down to the car-clogged, San Diego Freeway at the bottom of the cliff.
"Seriously, Mike is taking a cautious stride, even if they're small steps."
"Small steps?" Brian said hastily. "I think that's a pretty big leap. I'd settle for two small steps and only one step back."
"You're pink in more ways than one, I assume?" Eric smiled and winked in a gottcha manner as Brian looked at him with a puzzled expression. "The two forward steps and one back step is the basic Communist M.O. in takeovers. Sorry, babe, I couldn't resist digging into college political science."
"Got it. You're getting awfully 'egghead' on me today." Brian smiled back and relaxed. "I'm just suggesting that we make sure he really accepts what's happening." Eric felt pangs of happiness at Brian's expression and understanding.
"He understands that you and I have moved beyond being friends. I told him this morning that we intended to work on becoming partners." Eric paused and took a silent, deep breath. "I, um, hope I didn't speak out of turn?" Eric's expression became serious as he looked at the man who was becoming so important to him.
"I guess I need to make it official. I thought a lot about what happened last night...other than a fabulous fuck," Brian offered with a wink. "I do love you and would like to figure out what that means. Boyfriends? Absolutely. Partners...as in life? I'd like to work on that."
"It's a major decision for both of us. Just like Mike, I'm ready to take some small steps," Eric said introspectively. Silently, he screamed, 'Yes'.
Brian stood up from the deck chair and pulled Eric from the other one. "First official small step: let's hug and seal this with a kiss."
"Probably would be a good idea to move away from the door just in case the munchkin comes home." He walked with Brian over to the corner of the deck that was out of visual range from the inside of the house and the neighbors.
"You got me around your little finger. I'd follow you anywhere for a kiss."
"I love you, babe. What are you doing the rest of your life?" Eric placed his hands around Brian's waist and drew the two bodies closer.
"Apparently spending it with you, lover." Each closed their eyes as lips met. This was a tender kiss intended to confirm the agreement: the modern equivalent of drawing and mixing blood. Tongues teased each other before Eric took the initiative and plunged his into Brian's eager mouth. Brian ground his full crotch into Eric's equally tented cargo shorts.
"Mmmm," Eric hummed as he slowly withdrew. "I can definitely get used to this." He looked into the eyes of his partner-to-be and grabbed his hands. "Can we just sit out here and talk? I'd like to figure some things out."
"Sure thing. I guess figuring out Mike's comfort zone, for one?" Still holding hands, they returned to the deck chairs.
"Yeah, Mike's, for sure. Also, our comfort zones. We're two, not so old farts that are pretty settled into our lives. The last thing I want to do is to rush into a relationship without ground rules we're both comfortable with."
"I agree. Okay, first the easy one. This means a monogamous partnership. We can look but don't touch."
"Agreed." Eric hoisted his glass and offered a toast. Brian followed, the two glasses touched, and the guys took a token sip. "And although I don't think we have anything to worry about, we should get tested for HIV and wait six months after the results before we explore without any protection."
"Buddy, that's an easy one. I'll do that..."
"Dad, you here? I brought some friends over," Mike yelled from the kitchen.
"Out on the deck. Come on out and let me meet them. Brian's here," Eric yelled back. "Well, Uncle Brian, parenting calls," he concluded as both men stood.
Walking into the living room towards the deck were two young couples. The girls, blond with halters and jean shorts, followed Mike and another boy. The boy, dressed like Mike in board shorts and slightly shorter than his son's 5'10", was also blond. 'Surf's up, in the dad department,' Eric thought, as the group approached the open sliding glass doors.
"Hey, Mike. Good to see you again," Brian said, offering his hand.
"Hi, Uncle Brian." Mike smiled and jumped at the opportunity to shake hands. "Dad, we decided to come over here for some lunch. That okay?"
"Sure. No problem. But how about some introductions, first," Eric said, smiling at the group. This was the first time that Mike had brought anyone home. 'Good progress,' he considered, 'on all fronts.'
"This is Susan Moreno and Cathy Gross. They attend The Bishop's School in La Jolla, Mike said. "And George Cortwright. Me and him will be in middle school together this fall. That's Dad and my Uncle Brian." Mike's tone was definitely a little conspiratorial as he grinned.
Eric smiled but inwardly grimaced at Mike's improper English. "Welcome to our home. Mike's always free to invite friends here. However, there's one rule that I ask you to follow. Please call your folks so they know where you are. Okay?"
There was a chorus of "Yes, Sirs," and "Yes, Mr. Flynn."
"As I recall we have plenty of lunch meat, cheese and all the fixings. And help yourselves to some lemonade that I made."
"Thanks, Dad. We won't make a mess." Mike took his Dad's hand and gave it a firm squeeze.
"Just so you know for planning purposes, the movie we're going to starts around five." Eric waved at the young group.
"Cool. We're just going to eat, check out a few CD's and go back to the pool. I'll plan on returning around four. That okay with you?" Mike said. Eric was sure he saw his son wink at him.
"Four it is." Eric and Brian returned to the deck chairs as the young tribe made a beeline for the kitchen and nourishment.
"Buddy, I do believe that your son just gave us an open window for a little horizontal time," Brian said. "I picked up on his wink."
"My son is really trying. I appreciate that. After the hate that his mother spewed about me to him and anyone who would listen, it is amazing that Mike can handle everything that's been thrown at him. However, I'm concerned about the permanency of this. We need to take it slow in front of him." Eric was reflective about his thoughts and comments to his new friend and lover. He sensed that Brian understood this verbal explanation and unsaid communication between the two of them.
"I get the picture. Father and friend now, fuck like minks until three, and return to daddy-uncle mode at four," Brian answered with a nod and smile. He reached over and gently patted Eric's thigh.
"Something like that, Uncle Brian." Eric returned the smile and placed his hand over Brian's for a moment before they withdrew. "Until the kids leave, could you help me with moving some furniture? I'm going to remodel the small bedroom across from Mike's room into a den and computer station. I figure it can be a place where he and I can spend some quality time. I'm really adamant about not having a TV or computer in his bedroom...yet. Everything I read recommends that parents monitor what their kids are doing on the Internet. They can innocently fall prey to crazies seeking out vulnerabilities to sexual exploration and God knows what else."
"You've been doing your homework. I approve completely. Why don't we get started and..."
"Dad, telephone for you," Mike hollered from the kitchen entry.
"Bring the phone out here," Eric replied. He turned and saw Mike make double-time through the living room to the deck.
"It's George's dad." Mike handed the portable phone to Eric and turned to return to his friends after Eric gave him a positive nod.
"Bill, this is Eric. It's been a while."
~~~ "Yes, too long. Thanks for asking the kids to call that they were over at your place. It's hard to keep tabs on my son these days. I should have contacted you earlier when George and Mike started to become friends. I really didn't know that you had a son."
"No problem. I won't bore you with the details. I've been divorced for eight years and my former wife took Mike out of state. It was really the shits but nothing I could do. She died and I'm suddenly a father again. And loving every frustrating minute of it."
~~~ "Well, you probably don't know it but I became a single father about a month ago. My wife has decided that she wants to make her nest with the family doctor."
"Wow. Dr. Schmidt?" Eric was a little puzzled because Schmidt was in the 'geezer' category. The doctor had been taking care of families in the Solana Beach area for years.
~~~ "Naw, his partner."
"I haven't been to the doctor for a while. I didn't know old man Schmidt had taken in another doctor."
~~~ "Yeah, a couple of years ago. Anyway, my wife and this guy got into each other at a time when the marriage was going south. Let's just say that it's probably for the best. The long and short of it is I have a big favor to ask. I hate to ask since we don't know each other that well."
"What can I do? Unless it's life-threatening I'm pretty flexible today."
~~~ "She needs to meet with me to sign the final divorce papers. From what she's said, everything I want, including the custody of George, is fine with her. I need to see her in La Jolla around five. My dilemma is my son. Is there any possibility that you could watch over him until I return? I probably will be back around seven?"
"I don't think that's a problem. A good friend of mine and I are planning on taking Mike to a movie around five and dinner at El Rancho afterwards. George could join us. Why don't you plan on meeting us for dinner? We should be at my restaurant around seven." Eric thought that besides being neighborly, he and Bill Cortwright might become better friends.
~~~ "That sounds like a plan. I know our sons are getting along great."
"Hold on for a sec. Let me make sure Mike's okay with the idea."
"Sounds like our evening is getting complicated?" Brian asked.
"Naw, just extra people. You okay if Mike's friend joins us for the movie?"
"And dinner with the dad, later?" Brian had heard only one side of the telephone conversation.
"Yep. My treat at El Rancho."
"That could be fun. And you're buying. Such a deal," Brian said with a smile.
Eric walked out to the kitchen and waved Mike over to the side.
"What's up, Dad?"
"George's father has something important that has come up. Is it okay to invite George to the movie and dinner? Afterwards, Mr. Cortwright will join us at the restaurant."
"Hey, super. I'll let George know. Maybe I should let he and his dad talk."
"Good idea." Mike walked over to his friend and started talking to him. George's face lit up as he nodded.
"Bill, everything's fine. Your son is coming over to the phone to talk with you. Why don't we plan on seeing each other at El Rancho?"
~~~ "I'll see ya there. You're a lifesaver, Eric. You'll all have to come over to my place for a cookout real soon."
"I'll hold you to that. Here's your son." Eric handed the phone to George and returned to the deck.
The kids had lunch, listened to some music, cleaned up the kitchen and returned to the pool. Brian was impressed at the politeness of the younger set and Mike's natural leadership.
As they stood in the kitchen he turned and Eric kissed him, long and lovingly. They locked in an embrace and tongues worked frantically against each other. Without a word, the recently anointed lovers headed for the bedroom.
Eric closed the door and locked it. "The last thing we need is for a surprise visit," he said with a wink.
"TMI for the little un'," Brian remarked.
"From what I see in the morning packed underneath his briefs, Mike's hardly little." Eric laughed and gave Brian a thumbs up.
"Hmm, like father like son?" Brian asked with a lecherous tone in his voice.
"Yeah, the apple dropped off really close to the tree. Worse things could happen to him," Eric said, with an exaggerated wink.
"Mike's going to have a lot of girls' fathers nervous real soon."
"Bridges to cross. In the meantime, how about crossing my bridge?"
"There's no toll, babe." Brian felt a warmness wash across his body as Eric walked closer. "Ah, is Mike going to be okay with us in here, um, you know...and maybe all night, at some point?"
"I'll have a talk with Mike. I think that he'll be okay with you sleeping over very soon. He's aware that you and I are serious about being together...in many ways." Eric gave Brian a light peck on the lips.
Silently, Brian returned the kiss and understood what Eric meant. They undressed each other, slowly, sensuously. Clothes were strewn throughout the room. Brian and Eric held each other, raging cocks rubbing, and kissed again, more urgently.
On the bed, after moving into a comfortable '69' position, Brian reached for Eric's cock and put it into his mouth. Eric groaned and moved closer to take Brian's. It was slow and gentle. Like two friends revisiting favorite memories.
Everyone enjoyed the latest Harry Potter film. Aside from the movie's cross-generational appeal, George and Mike seemed to appreciate that the lead actors were just slightly older than they were.
"Good evening, Eric," said the hostess as the party entered El Rancho.
"Hi, Cynthia. Do you have a table or should we have a drink by the fire pit?" Eric was pleased to see the dining room very active. 'Good old Sunday family night repeat business', Eric thought.
"If you don't mind. We're kinda stacked up. Give me about 15 minutes," said the hostess.
"No problem. We'll go outside and relax. Another man, Bill Cortwright, will be joining us. Just send him out." Eric led the boys and Brian out to the fire pit on the patio. The evening was just cool enough to need propane heat pods running.
"Wow, Mr. Flynn, it's been a long time since I've been here. Thanks for the invite," George said as he and Mike walked slightly ahead of the adults.
"Take a table over by the fire and we'll have a drink while we wait for your dad." The boys walked briskly ahead and found an ideal table with five chairs.
"Well, two bosses for the price of one," said a female voice from behind. Turning, Eric and Brian smiled when they saw Lisa coming towards them, cocktail tray in hand. Both men shook Lisa's hand before sitting down.
"Guys, this is Lisa. She works at The Cheesecake Joynt during the day and here at night." Eric introduced the boys and Lisa took drink orders: red wine for the adults and virgin piņa coladas for the younger two.
"Dad, this is really super. This is only my second time here." Mike was very enthusiastic and proud to be at his dad's place.
"Next time, we'll have to check out my restaurant. You guys would like The Joynt," Brian said. Maybe in a couple of..." Brian stopped cold when he saw a man approach the table.
Eric noticed that Brian had a puzzled expression on his face, only for a moment, before Brian turned his back on the man. Eric immediately recognized Bill Cortwright. 'I wonder what caused that reaction?' he thought.
"Eric, long time. Hi, boys," Bill said as he approached the table.
"Hi, Dad." George got up and pointed to a vacant chair. Everyone else rose.
"Bill, good to see you. What are you drinking?" Eric asked.
"I'll have..." Bill paused for a moment and did a subtle double take when he looked at Brian. "Err, a glass of the red."
"Bill Cortwright, this is Brian McGruder. Do you guys know each other?" Eric felt that there was much not being said.
"Umm, no. I don't think so," Bill said. He offered his hand to Brian and continued, "Nice meeting you." Eric picked up an expression of 'let's not spoil the moment' in Bill's eyes.
"Yeah, same here." Brian took Bill's hand and politely shook it. Eric noticed that Brian nodded, subtly, at Bill's unsaid communication.
The boys were oblivious to the initial tension between the three adults as everyone sucked down their drinks. Bill and Brian almost chugged the merlot. 'Christ', Eric thought, 'what a waste ordering a premium Clos du Val for the guys'.
Bill was an insurance agent and that background really didn't help as an icebreaker for conversation. Brian and Eric tried to top each other with stories about funny mishaps in their restaurants. Gradually the atmosphere relaxed and Bill and Brian stopped trading curious looks.
During dinner the dads talked about the new school both boys would be attending in the fall. Mike and George would be enrolling in the same middle school seventh grade. From Mike's comments to George, Eric learned that his son really enjoyed math and history. That was encouraging, because his transcripts from Richmond only indicated a generic B-minus average.
'Funny,' Eric considered, 'sometimes it takes a third party to draw out your son's thoughts. There is definitely going to be a continuing learning curve in parenting'.
Occasionally, a regular customer would come over to the table to say hello to Eric. He could feel pride swelling inside when he introduced Mike. He wished that he could announce to his friends and the world that the hot, sexy man beside him was the love of his life.
"Boys, why don't you take your chocolate sundaes out to the patio. I need to talk some business with Mr. Cortwright," Eric suggested. He knew that the boys would love to return to the fire pit and the open-air space. Everyone enjoyed the strip sirloin steaks and the baked potatoes on steroids. Coffee and Grand Marnier had just been served to the adults.
"That's cool. Come on," Mike said to George. They grabbed their desserts and headed outside. The three adults watched as two bundles of youthful energy departed.
"I think that we need to clear the air or something." Eric looked first at Brian, then Bill and finally at his coffee cup. He slowly sipped the decaf and waited for a reply.
"Um, I guess you should start...Bill. When I knew you it was Robert," Brian said as he shot Bill a raised-eyebrow look.
TO BE CONTINUED