Chapter 17

The following fictional narrative involves sexually-explicit erotic events between men.  If you shouldn't be reading this, please move on.

In the world of this story, the characters don't always use condoms.  In the real world, you should care enough about yourself and others to always practice safe sex.

The author retains all rights.  No reproductions or links to other sites are allowed without the author's consent.  

The town of Stafford, the Sunrise Arts Center, and the characters in this story are fictitious.

Special thanks to Mickey and Drew, who have provided inspiration, advice, and encouragement throughout the writing of this series.


"What about Burke?" I asked.

"According to the report I heard, he was found in a room in a downtown hotel and taken to the ER at Stafford General.  That's all the information they gave.  I'm surprised it made the news at all, actually."

"Well, he is a prominent local attorney and a former D.A."

"Yeah, they said that on the news flash."

"And this is still a small town in some ways.  I wonder how I can get more information about him."

"Since you aren't family, hon, I doubt that you can."

"Well, I'll try some phone calls from here.  I'll leave at 5:00 and see you about a half hour after that, okay?"

"I'll have some wine ready."

"Thanks for calling, love."

Whitney had sat there during my conversation with Frank, trying at first not to listen, and then becoming more interested as it progressed.

"Frank was calling to say that an old friend of mine had been taken to the hospital."

"Do you want to leave, Jon?  Nothing's going on here.  I can sit at the desk until closing time."

"If you don't mind, Whitney, I'd like to go to the hospital and see how he's doing.  He was at my place last night and was pretty unhappy.  I confess I'm worried about him."

He waved me away.  "Go on, then.  I hope everything will be okay.  And if you need me for anything, please call."

When I stood, he followed suit.  I hugged him.  

"Thanks, Whitney.  You're a good friend."

I called Frank from my cell to tell him that Whitney had urged me to leave, so I was going to stop by Stafford General and see what I could find out about Burke.

The candy striper behind the desk in the lobby told me only that he'd been admitted and that his condition was listed as serious.  When I asked about visiting him, she told me he was in ICU, so only his wife and children were allowed to see him.  She suggested that I check back the next day.

It was still only 3:00, so I went back to Sunrise. I called Frank again to tell him what I'd learned and where I was going.  Whitney, who was sitting at the reception desk where I'd left him, seemed surprised to see me.  I told him what I had learned and explained that, since there was nothing I could do, I thought I may as well come back and finish the afternoon.  He was grateful, though he said there hadn't been much traffic in the galleries and few phone calls.  Still, my being there enabled him to go back and get some work done in his office.

I had dinner that evening at Frank's.  It was tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, simple fare, but I didn't care so long as I could be with Frank.

Of course we talked about Burke, and I told him what I had learned.

"You could, I suppose, call his wife and see how he's doing."

"I don't think so.  If she really cares about him, she'll be terribly worried, and I wouldn't want to bother her.  But given what he told me last night, I don't think she'd want to hear from me.  I think I'll just check the hospital tomorrow sometime.  Did we have anything planned?"

"Nope.  I'd thought we might do some snuggling in the morning, since there's no rush to get out of bed, and see what, if anything, follows that.  And we really should work out.  All this holiday food and lack of activity is dangerous."

I grinned at him.  "There's been a certain amount of nocturnal activity that may have burned off a few calories."

"Yeah," he said, grinning back, "and it strengthens necessary muscles, too.  But you know we need to hit the gym."

The next morning we did revel in being able to make long, languorous love without Frank's having to dash off to school.  After breakfast we went, as planned, to the gym.  We took both cars, so he could go home and I could stop by the hospital.

I was told by another candy-striper that Burke was scheduled for surgery later that day and wouldn't be able to have visitors.

I thanked her, and just as I was turning away, Marcy came in the main doors, spotted me, and headed directly for me.  She was impeccably dressed and made up, the very picture of a prominent attorney's wife.  Her face, however, was made ugly by the hateful expression it bore.

"You have a lot of nerve coming here!"

I was too shocked to say anything.

"This is all your fault.  If you hadn't come back to Stafford, none of this would have happened.  I want you to stay away from Burke!"

"I'm really sorry about Burke.  Can you at least tell me what happened?"

"He's having a triple bypass this afternoon!  I found out he'd been to see you the night before his heart attack.  It's all your fault.  You stay away from him!  Don't come back here!"

I was still nearly speechless that she could somehow blame me for what had happened.

"I'll pray that the operation goes well.  And would you please give Burke my love?"

Under the circumstances, "love" was the wrong word to use.

She practically sneered at me.  "I'll do nothing of the sort, Dr. Baker.  You, sir, are a disgusting pervert, and I insist that you stay away from my husband."

She wasn't speaking very loudly, but several people heard the word "pervert" and looked at us.  The candy-striper sat there wide-eyed, obviously fascinated by what was going on.  Marcy turned quickly and marched toward the elevators. I felt the eyes of everyone in the waiting area on me as I made the long walk to the door.

Once outside, I used my cell phone to see if Frank was at his place and was relieved that he was.  

"Good, I'll be right there.  I need you."

"Is Burke in that bad shape?"

"I'll tell you about it when I get there."

Just then I really needed my lover.  He was waiting for me with a kiss and a sympathetic ear as I told him what had transpired at the hospital.

I was still concerned about Burke, all the more because the hospital wouldn't give me any real information, and Marcy seemed out as a source.  It was Frank who suggested that the priests at the church might know something.  If a parishioner was seriously ill, he'd be likely to receive a visit from one of them.

I waited until the next morning to call Holy Trinity.  I requested to speak to either Father Glenn or Father Gary.  Gary came on the line.  I asked him what he could tell me about Burke.  He said that Marcy had specifically asked for Glenn to visit, and he'd done so the previous night, after the surgery, which was a success.  Burke hadn't been awake, so Glenn had gone back to the hospital this morning and hadn't returned yet.  Gary promised to call me when he had more news.  

After lunch Frank and I were both reading while a Haydn string quartet played on the stereo.  When the phone rang, Frank, who was closer, answered it.  He spoke briefly with the person on the other end and then handed me the phone.

It was Gary with the news that Burke's operation was successful and that the prognosis was good.  He'd be in the hospital for several more days and could receive visitors starting the next day.  I thanked Gary for the information and, after putting down the phone, explained to Frank what I'd learned.

"Jon," he said, looking concerned, "why do I sense that you feel responsible for what happened to Burke?"

"Do I?  Yeah, I suppose I do in a way.  He sought me out when he'd come to the end of his rope.  I wasn't going to tell you this, but he asked to stay the night.  He wanted to sleep with me.  I wouldn't let him.  So I'm the one who's responsible for his going to the hotel in what was a very agitated state.  I need to see him and apologize."

"You fed the man, listened to him for hours, babe, you were there for him.  And if he needed a triple bypass, he had a condition that would have resulted in his heart attack anyway.  It's nothing you caused."

"Well, I may have been the immediate cause, though it's the way his wife was acting that had him so stressed.  I still need to see him, though.  Can you understand that?  You aren't upset with me, are you?"

He put his arm around me and kissed my cheek.  "Sure, I can understand why you need to see your old friend, Jon, and I'm not upset with you.  But do you think you'll be allowed to see him?"

I hadn't thought of that.  "Eventually, I suppose.  I can't imagine that Marcy will be there all day, every day.  Sooner or later I'd be able to get in to see him.  I just don't know when."

"In the meanwhile, you might send flowers or candy or something."

"That's a good idea.  I don't imagine the doctors would encourage candy, but I could send flowers.  Thanks for the suggestion.  I think I'll do that right now."

After using his phone book to look up the number of Carlton's Florists, I called and placed an order.  A dozen yellow roses.

"Oh, and sign the card, `from Ross,' please."

When I hung up, Frank asked, "Why your middle name?"

"Well, think about it.  That woman won't let me near him.  What do you suppose she'd do if she knew I'd sent flowers?  He'd never see them.  He'll remember my middle name, but she won't recognize it."

"You're so clever.  Come here and give me a kiss."

I was happy to oblige.

Later in the week I was able to be at the hospital when Marcy wasn't the dragon at the gates.  Burke and I had a tearful twenty minutes together.  They'd told me not to stay long, as he was still weak.  He thanked me for the flowers and said I was clever to use my middle name on the card.  I apologized for not keeping him at my house on Sunday night, and he pooh-poohed that, saying the heart attack was inevitable.  

"Besides, Jonny, you made me welcome, gave up an evening with your lover, fixed me drinks and dinner, and gave me a shoulder to cry on.  What more could a friend ask of a friend?"

I took his hand between both of mine.  "You'll always have me, Burke.  You know about Frank and me, that we're in it for the long haul.  But Frank understands about you and me, so don't ever hesitate to come to me or us when you need a friend."

He thanked me for that.  I didn't think it was the time to ask what his plans were about Marcy.  So, after chatting a few minutes longer, I left.  He asked me to come back.  He said he'd make it clear to his wife that I was to be allowed to see him whenever I came.

The next day was New Year's Eve.  Burke called from the hospital.  He was grumbling because he wasn't being discharged until the end of the week, Friday or Saturday.  I promised him that I'd come and see him again, but that I'd call first to make sure it was okay.

"I know what you mean by okay."  He chuckled.  "You just don't want to run into my wife.  I really don't know what's happened to her.  She didn't used to be a bitch.  But the kids are coming in for the holidays.  She'll be home with them some.  On the other hand, they'll be here some, too.  So calling first is a good idea.  And, hey, why don't you bring Frank?  I'd like to see him again."

"You got it, Burke.  Get better, my friend."

"Will do.  Thanks, Jonny."

Frank and I did manage a visit with Burke, who was looking surprisingly better and was, despite the problems at home, eager to get out of the hospital.  I hated to see him going back into that stressful environment, but that was his decision.  I wondered if perhaps he might go stay a while with one of his kids.  I knew he'd enjoy the grandchildren, and some time away from Marcy would probably be healthful.

We two old farts stayed home (my place) on New Year's Eve.  We rented a dvd of a recently-popular movie, and then watched the craziness at Times Square.  After the ball dropped, I excused myself and went into the kitchen.  I came back with two flutes and a bottle of champagne.

"You sentimental devil," Frank said, smiling.  "I didn't see you stick that bottle in the fridge."

"I made a point of doing it when you weren't looking.  But this is our first New Year's Eve together, lover, and I think that calls for a bit of celebration, even if we did stay home like a couple of old farts."

I poured some of the bubbly for each of us.

"To you, Jon.  I love you even if you are an old fart."

"To us, lover."

That Saturday afternoon we watched a very forgettable football game on television.  When it was over, I switched off the TV.

"Frank, we need to talk about something."

We'd been sitting together on the sofa, idly stroking and petting each other.  Now he turned to face me.  "What's that?"

"Now that we're together, I'm wondering how `together' we can actually be."

"I think I know what you mean, but go on."

"Well, there's the matter of living arrangements.  I'm so happy to have you in my life I'll agree to just about anything you want to do.  I'd love for us to live together, but I realize that may not be wise so long as you're teaching.  And I suppose there's the question of how much we should be seen together."

"I've been giving all that some thought, too.  I've been at Stafford High for a longtime, and I've been what you might call `quietly out' the whole time, so no one ever says anything about my being gay.  You and I have been seen together at the soccer matches by quite a few students, and I've no doubt we've also been seen around town at restaurants, the mall, church, and the gym.  Again, no one has said anything.  But if word gets around that we're lovers, I don't know what might happen.  Maybe nothing.  I want to shout to the world that we love each other, but let's be cautious for now, okay?"

"I understand what you're saying, and I agree.  As I said, I don't want to do anything to make matters difficult for you at school."

"You know, I thought I'd considered just about everything last fall when we were going through our `let's think things over' period, but I was so focused on you that I never thought about what might happen at school."  He got up, stuck his hands in his pockets, and went over to the picture window.  He stood, looking out at the snowy front lawn. He was tall and straight, a fine-looking man.  "I could retire anytime.  I've more than got my years in.  I just enjoy teaching so much, I always thought I keep going until they made me quit at 70.  But, hell, Jon, if teaching means we have to hide our relationship, then dammit, I think I'll just retire at the end of this year."

I went over to him, grabbed him, and gave him a searching kiss.  

"It will be wonderful having you around all day, hon.  And I think we can manage to be discreet for the rest of the school year."

"Shit, if I'm retiring at the end of the year, I won't even need to be terribly discreet.  What are they gonna do, fire me?"

"You aren't suggesting that we should be caught fucking in the faculty lounge, are you?"

He chuckled.  "Sounds like great fun, but no, that's not quite what I meant.  I just think we don't need to hide our relationship completely.  And when school's out, what would you think of some sort of commitment ceremony?"

"I love it!  Some nice afternoon in June we could do it at the gazebo on the grounds at Sunrise."

He kissed me until I was breathless and beginning to get back the wood I'd thrown while we were fooling around earlier.  

"Sunrise is perfect.  Shall we ask Whitney to be our best man?"

"Yeah, and maybe Father Gary would conduct the service."

My memory of what happened after that is hazy, but it had something to do with the bedroom and a rather late Saturday supper.


On Tuesday morning I spent a couple of hours with Fran Erskine, who was the chair of our upcoming fund-raising gala, scheduled for Valentine's Day, which was a Saturday that year.  She was willing to spend some time with me during the week between Christmas and New Year's because we wanted to make sure that everything was going smoothly.  This was a black-tie event that had proven to be very popular with Sunrise supporters and very lucrative for the Arts Alliance.  I came out of the meeting reassured that Fran had everything under control.  I didn't want to micro-manage, and I felt I could trust her to do her job.  I did tell her to let me know if I could help in any way, and she said I'd be helping in lots of ways as the time for the gala came closer.

That afternoon the volunteer on the desk transferred a call from Stuart.  He was still in Asheville, but he was leaving for Stafford after breakfast the next morning.  He asked whether I still wanted to do something with him that night, New Year's Eve.
"I've been counting on it.  But if you want to have dinner out, I'm afraid we'll have to stand in line for a long time.  I'm sure it's too late to get reservations at a nice place, and we'd probably have to go to a chain."

"How about if we just eat at home?  I could fix something."

"Stu, you've been out of town for a week, and you won't be back until the middle of the day.  Why don't you trust me to cook tomorrow night?"

"Sounds great!"

"Sure you don't mind not going out on the town?  Could be pretty dull spending an evening with me on the biggest party night of the year."

"Shut up!  I have missed you, Whitney, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you've been up to."

I laughed.  "That will take ten minutes.  But I'll try to think of something to make it worth your while."

It was his turn to chuckle.  "I hope you're thinking of the same thing I am."

"It could very well be.  Come over whenever you want."

"I've got to lay in some groceries tomorrow afternoon.  I'll be over after that, but I'll call when I get back in town, okay?"

"Okay, stud.  See ya."

I'd been doing some work in my studio during the holidays.  I'd finished the large glass piece Chave had asked me to do for him, and I'd worked on something else.

I bought a silver neck chain, to which I attached a small medallion I'd made.  It was as close as I could get to the color of the turquoise in the studs Stu had given me.  In the center was a silver monogram with his initials, SB.  It was devilishly hard to do, but I wasn't unhappy with the results.

On Tuesday evening, Fr. Gary called.  After we had exchanged pleasantries, he asked if I had plans for the next evening, New Year's Eve.  I told him that I had a friend coming over for dinner and that we'd spend the evening together, but that we had no specific plans.  He apologized for the lateness of the call, but he said that there was an annual teen event in the parish hall.  It was a non-alcoholic get together, with lots of food and dancing to a live band.  He said that one of the adults who'd agree to be there had had to back out, and he wondered if I'd be willing to come by for an hour or two.  

"I'll have to check with my friend.  He's a teacher, and he may not want to spend his New Year's Eve with a bunch of high-schoolers.  For that matter, he may not want to be seen there with me."

"Whitney, I hate to press, but would you at least ask him?"

"Sure, I'll ask.  What's the dress?"

"Oh, casual.  Khakis and a sweater would be fine.  That's about as dressed up as some of these kids ever get, and we don't want to make anybody feel excluded because of what they wear."

I promised to check with Stuart and then call him back.  Stuart was, surprisingly, fine with the idea.  So we decided that he'd have dinner at my place, we'd go to the event at the parish hall for a couple of hours, and then come back to my place.  It was understood that he'd be spending the night.  

He showed up around 4:30, smiling broadly when he saw me wearing the studs he'd given me.  "Put `em on just for me, did ya?"

"No, I wear them most of the time.  And that reminds me, I've got something for you."  I gave him the neck chain with the medallion I'd made.

"Whitney, it's gorgeous.  You've got to show me sometime how you did that monogram."  He put it on and then gave me a hug, followed by an enthusiastic kiss.

I'd gotten some nice lamb chops, and we broiled those.  With them we had French bread, saffron rice, broccoli, and a more than adequate cabernet Stuart had brought.  We chatted before, during, and after dinner about this and that, his visit with his in-laws, the courses he would be teaching second semester, the joint show he and I had coming up in the late spring.  He'd also picked up a gateau somewhere for dessert.

When the kitchen was cleaned up, we left for Holy Trinity.

We stayed longer than I had expected.  The band wasn't as loud as I'd feared, and some of what they played sounded more or less like music.

I saw quite a few of the kids who'd been helpers at our Art Camp the previous summer.  Even Louis and Judd were there.  They sat and talked with us for a half hour between visiting with their friends.  They even danced together occasionally!  And they weren't the only same-sex couple.  I estimated there might have been 100 people there, including the kids and the grown-ups, and there were seven same-sex couples, three male and four female.  If anyone was surprised that Stuart and I were there together, no one said anything

Stuart, I discovered, though it didn't surprise me, was a very popular teacher.  Young people seemed to be around us the whole time we were there, eager to chat.

Father Gary was there, along with the rector and his wife.  About eleven Gary came to us and said they had more adults there than expected, so we could leave if we wanted.  I looked at Stuart, who merely shrugged.  We decided to stay and see in the new year with the young crowd.

We got back to my place about 12:45.

"Well," Stuart said as we hung up our coats, "that was more fun than I'd thought."

"Must have been a busman's holiday for you, though."

"Nah, I enjoyed it.  I really love the kids.  That's why I like teaching so much."

"Well, they obviously love you, too."

When we got to the living room, I asked if he wanted a drink.

"Not really.  I'd just like to get your cute little ass into bed."

"I think that can be arranged."  I took his hand and led him to my bedroom.

We'd been apart for a week, and I was as horny as those teens we'd spent the evening with.  Despite that, however, Stuart set a slow pace, stretching out the foreplay.  At first I was almost irritated, but then I realized there was no rush.  He was there for the night, even longer, I hoped.  So I let him lick and nibble and stroke to his heart's content, and I managed to get in a few licks and nibbles of my own.  Even after he'd entered me, he refused to rush, seeming determined to prolong the pleasure as long as possible.

I had never had a lover to whom I was so willing to turn over all the direction of our lovemaking.  Certainly I kept more than a modicum of control with Kyle.  But Stuart was different.  I was able to relax and give myself totally to him, however he wanted that to happen.   All in all, I couldn't think of a nicer way to welcome in the new year.

The next morning we had another round of sex.  It was steamier, more energetic this time.  We were both wide-awake after this bout, so there was no temptation to roll over and go back to sleep.  There was no temptation to be out and about, either, since it had snowed overnight and was still gray and dark.



"You've never said anything, but I'm guessing your and your family don't get along."

"You could say that."

"Do you mind my asking?"

"Stuart, you've just had your dick up my ass for the second time in about eight hours.  I think you're entitled to ask almost anything you want."

Lying there on his back with his hands clasped behind his head, he didn't say anything.  He looked delicious.  I was turned on by the red hair on his chest and in his pits.  I rolled onto my side and began to play with his chest hair.

"Oh, God, if you do that I'm gonna want more!"

"Damn!  You're insatiable!  Goes with being just a boy!"

"Watch that boy stuff, old man!  You're only five years older than me, after all.  But I admit nobody's made me feel this way since I was a boy.  A college boy, anyway."

I knew who he meant and didn't say anything.  I took my hand away from his chest and just lay there looking at him.  

"I don't want to be pushy, but you never answered my question."

"Oh.  It's your own fault.  I look at you and forget everything but how sexy you are."

He rolled onto his side, put a hand behind my head, and kissed me lightly.  "I'd really like to know.  I want to know all about you, and that includes your family."

I sighed.  "Better get comfortable."  I lay back and pulled him so that his head was on my chest.  

"I've got two older brothers.  I'm the runt.  They're both bigger than me.  Not as big as you, but six-footers.  They both played sports in high school and have always been jock types.  I was never good at sports, and they never let me forget it.  Besides that, Fenton and Collier have dark hair like our father.  I have my mother's coloring.  So, I'm the little blond kid who isn't any good at sports in a family of big, dark jocks."

"And you think that really matters to your family?"

"Well, my dad always made it pretty clear that I was a disappointment to him.  Mother always tried hard to love me, but I've always sensed that she had to work at it."

He moved his head from my chest so he could look at me as I talked.

"Then when I told them I wasn't going to law school, as both my brothers had, they were all angry.  I wasn't following the family tradition.  But taking a degree in art?  Unthinkable!  The Pells give money to art museums, but they weren't at all happy about having an artist in the family.  One day Coll taunted me that I couldn't even be a "real" artist and paint with oils.  I had to do something sissy like working with glass.  I think my dad would have refused to pay for my university expenses if the thought of having a son without a degree hadn't been intolerable."

Stuart had an adorably sad expression on his face.  "Damn!  I can see why you wouldn't be eager to spend time with them.  But not even at Christmas?"

"Well, there's also the fact that they're terrible snobs.  You know, paranoid about doing something that might besmirch the family name.  Belonging to the right clubs, being seen with the right people."

"They sound like social climbers."

"That they aren't.  The Pells are pretty much at the top of the ladder in the minds of a lot of people in the Triangle area.  But they seem to want to make sure that only the right people get up on that rung with them.  You know, a few other select families."

"Fuck.  I couldn't take that."

"Neither could I.  You can imagine what happened when, on top of everything else, I told them I was gay."

"I hate to think."

"That's why I got out of there and have no intention of going back."

He pulled me over on top of him and kissed me.  "That sucks.  But I admire you for having the guts to cut the ties.  Now . . . what does a guy have to do to get breakfast around here?"

"You mean you'd rather eat than fuck again?"

"Let's eat, then fuck"


Judd and I were together through most of the holidays, and we had a great time.  I mean, we didn't do much of anything special.  It was just cool being able to hang together.  Well, sometimes we did more than hang, and that was way cooler.

We talked about whether to go to the teen party at Holy Trinity and finally decided we would.  Most of Judd's friends were going places where there'd be drinking and a lot of making out.  We decided we weren't interested in that.

The thing at the church wasn't bad.  I knew a lot of people, and there were some Judd knew, too, even though, like I said, most of his jock friends weren't there.  We talked for a while with Annie Croft, who'd graduated from Stafford High the previous June.  She was home for the holidays and had brought her "friend" from NC State.  They were obviously a couple, and they didn't mind who knew it.  They spent a lot of time on the dance floor, but they'd come back and talk with Judd and me a lot, too.  When Cheryl, Annie's friend, asked us if we were a couple, Judd blushed.  He's so cute when he does that!  But then he was the one who said yeah, we were.

Another fun thing about the New Year's Eve party is that Whitney and Stuart were there.  Together.  How cool was that!  I mean they didn't dance or even hold hands, but they came and left together.  They split up and talked to some of the other grownups and there was always a gang around Stuart, but I was pretty sure those two had something going on.  I got sooo hard when I thought of the two of them together.  I couldn't help wondering if Mr. Blount's cock was as big as his feet.  Well, not as big as his feet, but you know what I mean.  I wondered who was the top, too.  With what I knew about Dr. Pell, I could just see him getting Stuart to spread his legs.  Did they do it doggie style, or in the missionary position?  Then again, I could see big ole Stuart porking Whitney, too.

Either way, it was a hot picture.  At one point Judd leaned across the table and asked, "What the fuck are you thinking about?  You've got a wicked smile on your face."

"Oh, just thinkin' about you, babe."  Damned if he didn't blush again. By then I had a big old boner, so I suggested we should leave.  He was spending the night with me, so we were looking forward to our private celebration of the New Year.

To be continued.