Chapter 22

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.


Stuart finally returned one of my calls at noon on Wednesday.  I talked with him on the phone in my office so Jean couldn't overhear.  I told him that I was really sorry I'd hurt him, that I could see we'd not been on the same page in our relationship, and that I wanted to get together with him to talk about it all.  I assured him he was important to me and that I'd worried about him.

He apologized for not getting back to me sooner but said he'd needed time to think, and then when Monday came, he'd been busy with school things.  He mentioned without my asking that Frank Cummings had been at his house the previous evening to put together plans for starting a GSA group at Stafford High.  That explained whose car I'd seen in his driveway, at least.

He asked me if I could come to his house that evening, and I readily agreed.  He didn't invite me to supper, but he said if I'd come about 7:00, he'd have some kind of dessert for us.  If I was reading him properly, my coming to him and my not being invited for supper were both indicators that I was still not out of the doghouse.

On my way home that evening I stopped and picked up a bottle of single malt scotch, which I knew Stuart liked.  I wasn't hungry, so I didn't eat any supper.  I had one glass of wine and a little cheese, deciding not to have more wine.  I didn't want to arrive at his house tipsy.  Then I wished I hadn't had any wine, for I didn't want it on my breath.  I brushed my teeth and rinsed with mouthwash before I left to go to his house.  

I knew I had been inwardly dithering most of the day.  I had never before been in a situation where I was so unsure what I wanted.  Nor had I ever been weighing the respective merits of two, no make that three, men.  What Stuart and I had before the holidays had been very satisfying.  Not electrifying, but then I'd never needed a high-voltage relationship.  Yet here I was, wondering what I was going to say to him when I saw him.  My confusion over the words stemmed from the fact that I still didn't know what or how much I wanted from him – or was prepared to give him.

When he let me in, I handed him the scotch (in a bottle bag).  He peeked in to see what it was and then set it on a nearby table.

"Whitney, you didn't have to do that.  The scotch is way too much of a thank-you for a piece of pie and some coffee."  He gave me a peck on the lips.

"It's more like a peace offering, Stuart."

He took my parka and put it in the coat closet.  Then grabbing my hand, he led me toward the kitchen.  I assumed it was a good sign that he took my hand.

I suppose it's a southern thing.  We had to eat before we could talk.  He flipped the switch on the coffee maker, set a plate of cheddar slices on the breakfast table, and cut two pieces of apple pie.  I knew he hadn't baked it from scratch, so it was probably one he'd pulled from his freezer, a Marie Callendar, if I remembered his preference correctly.

We kept the conversation light as we had our pie and coffee.  The white Vermont cheddar went beautifully with the pie, and I discovered that, suddenly, I was ravenous.  I even let him cut me another small slice of the pie.

When the food was finished and the dishwasher loaded, we went to the living room.  He asked me if I'd like some of the scotch or anything else to drink, and I declined.

"Stuart, I just want to say how sorry I am that I hurt you.  You're a good friend, more than a good friend, and I hope I haven't wrecked that."

I was on the end of the sofa, and he was in a chair at right angles to me.  He swiveled a little toward me and said, "Look, I admit I left your place pretty unhappy last Friday night.  And I apologize for not returning your calls over the weekend.  I behaved like a kid, and I'm sorry."

"No apology necessary.  I'm the one who's apologizing."

"Well, I admit I thought you owed me one until yesterday evening."

"What happened yesterday evening?"

"Frank Cummings was here."

"Yeah, didn't you say the two of you were making plans for the new gay/straight group?"

He ran his fingers through his beautiful curly red hair.  "Yeah, that was why he came over, but we didn't get very far with it."

I didn't say anything, thinking he'd tell me what he wanted me to know.

"I've never really been out at school.  In fact, you're the first person in town I ever came out to.  After all, everyone at Stafford High knows I was married.  But when you and I showed up together at the New Year's Eve thing at Holy Trinity, people began to talk.  At least that's what Frank says.  So I came out to him yesterday."

"I'll bet it felt good to tell someone.  Particularly a solid, decent guy like Frank."

"How do you know Frank?"

"His partner, Jon Baker, is a volunteer at Sunrise and a pretty good friend."

"Oh, of course!  Well, anyway, one thing led to another, and I just spilled to Frank how upset I'd been over you and that lawyer.  And you know what?"

I raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything.

"In the process of telling him how I felt, I realized I'd over-reacted.  You and I never made any promises to each other.  I had no right to assume we had any sort of commitment.  I guess I'd just enjoyed the times when we were together so much I was afraid, really afraid, that something was going to put an end to it all."

"You're a saint, Stu!  But I am guilty.  I think down deep I knew how you felt, and I should have made a point of us talking about it.  It was great for me, too, to have your company.  And the great sex!  I wish now I'd never gone to bed with Chave."

"You could have just not told me about it.  I'll give you that.  At least you were honest with me.  But didn't you tell me you'd enjoyed it?"

I'm sure I blushed -- the curse of being fair-skinned.  "God, I wish I hadn't.  My first reaction to him was negative.  As you know, I disliked him at first sight.  But then he did some things that were very nice.  He can be charming, Stuart."

"Well, I've heard he's a sexy bastard."  

"Both words are appropriate," I said, smiling at him.  As I said that I wondered if I was being fair to Chave.  Had he ever pretended to be anything he wasn't?  I'd have to think about that some more.

Stuart was looking intently at me, and I could feel the flush in my face, neck, and shoulders prompted by his scrutiny.

"So where are we, Whitney?"

"A fair question, but I'm not sure what to say."


I owed him honesty, at least.  "Look, I love you, big guy.  What's not to love?  You're gorgeous, sexy, and very sweet."  As I said it, I realized it was all true.  "But I can't honestly say I'm `in love' with you.  That could happen, but for now, I have to be truthful with you."

"And, dammit," he said with eyes that looked a little watery, "I think you know I'm pretty fuckin' close to being in love with you."

I felt like something you'd scrape off the sole of your shoe.  But I still had a lot of emotional stock-taking to do, and I was not going to lie to this man.  I cared too much for him to do that.  "Yeah, babe.  I know.  And I'm flattered beyond words."

"But . . . ?"

I took a deep breath.  "I suppose it would be asking too much to hope we could go back to where we were before Christmas.  I love being with you.  I love having sex with you.  As I said, I have very strong feelings for you.  I just need a little time."  Even as I said the last sentence, I shuddered at the cliché.

Stuart sat there, obviously thinking about what I'd said.  Motionless, he stared across the room, his eyes not focused on anything in particular so far as I could tell.  He took so long I was beginning to get nervous.  Then he moved over and sat beside me on the sofa.  He put his arm around me and put his mouth close to my ear.

"Here's what we're gonna do, little stud.  We'll go back to the way you thought it was before the holidays.  We'll be fuck buddies, if that's the term.  And it will be an open relationship.  If you want to go fuck your legal friend, do it.  Just so long as I know.  And I'll feel equally free to have sex with other guys, if any should happen to come along.  And I promise I'll tell you when I do.  How does that sound?"

It didn't sound as good as I thought it would.  I wasn't sure I liked the idea of him fucking other guys.  What a hypocrite I was being!  And I really didn't want to have an open relationship for the rest of my life.  I wanted to settle into nice, safe, comfortable domesticity with some sweet, sexy guy.  And Stuart seemed to fit the bill.  So why didn't I tell him that?  

Because I needed to sort out some things first.

I put a hand on each side of his boyish face and kissed him.  Then it was us kissing each other.  Really kissing each other.  He almost sucked my tongue down his throat.  It would have gone willingly if that had been possible.

After a suitable time of catching our breath, I said, "You're too good for me.  But before you change your mind, I accept your conditions."

"Well, babe," (he hadn't called me that since before the holidays) "there's another condition."

I nuzzled his ear and said, "And that would be?"

He jumped and then giggled.  "Damn, Whitney, your breath in my ear makes me shiver."

I pulled back, gave him an evil leer, and said, "You'd be surprised what else I might do to make you shiver.  But what's the other condition?"

"This arrangement can't last indefinitely.  I want somebody permanent in my life.  I want to be free to play the field if you have that freedom, but, frankly, I don't see myself doing that.  So if you aren't ready to commit to me by, say, Easter, then we're going to wish each other well and say "Adios, amigo."

"Did Frank suggest that to you?"

"Yeah, how did you know?"

"Because he and Jonathan had a similar sort of understanding last fall."

He grinned.  "Yeah, he told me about that.  Said it worked for them, and it was worth a try for us."

I took both his hands.  "Stuart, I promise to accept and abide by your conditions.  I will give you sex, love, respect, and total honesty.  And I will promise to shit or get off the pot by Easter."

He laughed.  "You're so eloquent!"

"Now," I said, "wasn't I going to shiver your timbers or something?"

"Let's take this to the bedroom."

We did.

It almost became a comedy of errors.  Perhaps not that exactly, but each of us was so concerned to make the other happy that we couldn't decide what was going to happen.  But I'm jumping ahead.

We slowly undressed each other, with lots of kissing and licking and rubbing going on as we did.  Then we stood there, facing each other, naked.  What next?

I went to his night stand and got out the lube and a condom.  He took the cover off the bed, pulled back the sheet and blanket, and turned to me.  Just as I was about to put some Astroglide on my hole and lie down, he said, "Whitney, do you want to do me tonight?"

"Do?  As in be the top?"

"Uh huh."

"You want me to?"

"Does it matter to you?"

"Not really.  You're such a great top, Stuart, I just thought you'd do that again tonight."

"But I've worried that maybe you weren't happy with me topping so much."

"You're a great top.  Very gentle, but studly at the same time."

"Well, that's a relief.  So what's it gonna be, hot stuff?"

"You really don't care?"

"I just want us to fuck, Dr. Pell.  Could you make up your friggin' mind before I explode here?"

I chuckled.  "Okay, Mr. Blount.  But I want to see your face, so lie on your back, please."

He did.  And we did.  And it was great.  

It wasn't a power trip for me.  I'd topped him before.  But he was so good, I'd been happiest when my legs were over his shoulders and he was slowly, ever so slowly, long-dicking me.  And he had just the long dick to do it.  That night, however, I did a little slow long-dicking of my own, and the sweet, hunky redhead under me seemed to have no complaints.

The next day at Sunrise I alternated between feeling mellow because of the tender reconciliation with Stuart the night before and nervous anticipation of Asa Dean's coming to supper at my house that evening.  

I'd promised lamb chops, which I had in the freezer compartment of my fridge.  I took them out when I got back from Stuart's and put them in the fridge, so they were pretty well thawed when I got home from Sunrise the next evening.  I'd stopped on the way home and gotten some redskin potatoes and some decent looking green beans (God knows where they were grown, since it was January, but, as I said, they looked decent.)  I thought Stuart's pie had been a nice idea the previous evening, so I picked up a fresh cherry pie from the supermarket's bakery department.  Cherry because February and Presidents' Day were coming up soon.  It wasn't a stroke of genius, but it would have to do.  I hadn't had much time to plan or prepare this meal.

It had been mild for January but drizzly all day.  When Asa arrived it was starting to get chilly, and he had on corduroy jeans, a sweater, and a windbreaker.  I was relieved because I hadn't said anything about dress, and I had been worried that he might have felt he had to dress up.  

He handed me an unwrapped bottle of cabernet sauvignon as he came in.  Taking a peek at the label before I set it down to help him with his coat, I knew at once that he was familiar with good wine.  After hanging his coat in the closet, I said, "Asa, I'm glad you were free this evening.  Come on in.  I've got some red already open and breathing.  Would you like to have a glass now?"

"Sure, Whitney, that would be great."

I led him to the kitchen, where I poured each of us a glass of merlot.  I had a bowl of garlic hummus and some pita chips, which he helped me carry back to the great room, where I had a small fire going.  When we were seated, I raised my glass and said, "To new friendships."

"To new friendships," he said, clinking his glass against mine.

After taking a sip, he set down the wine, took off his glasses, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and cleaned the lenses.  

`How many guys carry a pocket handkerchief these days?' I wondered.

His apologetic smile as he wiped his glasses made me want to grab him and hold him.  At the same time I felt guilty, for I knew I was in an increasingly serious relationship with Stuart.  

"Sorry, but these got a little damp on the way from the car to your door."

"No problem."  There was a boyish vulnerability about him that I'd noticed before.  That evening, however, I detected an occasional whiff of a very pleasant cologne or after shave.  I couldn't identify it since I didn't usually wear any scent myself, except for those that came along with soap, deodorant, and shampoo, but it was woodsy, mossy, sexy.  But if he'd been at work all day, that meant he must have showered and probably shaved before he came to my house.  That was promising.  

Promising?  Did that mean I wanted him to be interested in me?  Damn!  I was such a mess.

I changed the subject by telling him once more how much I had admired his article about the gay "threat" in Stafford.  Of course, I was dying to ask him if he was gay, but I wouldn't do that.

"A `tempest in a pot of tea,' in my judgment," he said.  I recognized that line as being from "Oklahoma!" and automatically wondered if his knowing it meant he was gay.

He continued, "That letter from `Revolted' got everybody all stirred up, but I don't think there'll be much fallout from it.  I realize this is the South, and Stafford isn't the Triangle or Charlotte, but I don't think people are really up in arms about having honest-to-God `homa-sexyalls' in town.

"I'm relieved to hear you say it.  I'd hate to be the lightning rod for anti-gay sentiment, not so much for myself, but because of the impact that would have on Sunrise and the Arts Alliance."

"Well, Whitney, it might be smart to watch your back.  After all, what do I know?"

"What do you know?  My take on you is that you're really plugged in to what's going on around town."

His slight smile was endearing.

As we ate dinner, I watched him.  This guy, several years younger than me but not a boy any longer, was fascinating.  He was really intelligent.  He'd obviously been well educated.  He spoke well and wrote even better.  But he looked as if he needed someone to take care of him.  To tell him to comb his hair.  Or to get it cut.  Interesting.  He'd shaved, apparently, and put on a nice aftershave, but he hadn't noticed the little grease spot on his sweater.

And, though he carried his share of the conversation, I noticed once again that he'd occasionally stare off into space.  When he did, his brown eyes looked so very sad.  

After dinner, back in the great room, I finally got up the nerve to ask him about his past.

"Asa, I think you said you came here from Upstate New York?"

"Yeah."  He looked at me for a moment, and I wasn't able to read his expression. "I got out of a bad relationship and decided it was time for a change of scenery."

"Oh?"  Bad relationship?  That didn't tell me what I needed to know.

"Uh huh.  After we finally split up, I had such unpleasant memories of the area that I just wanted to get the hell out.  I thought moving from Syracuse to Stafford would be coming to the asshole of creation, but I didn't care.  I just wanted to get away from there."

He still hadn't told me what I was most curious to find out.

"Well, after a break up, a clean start is probably a good idea.  That's what I did.  I came back to North Carolina after my partner Kyle and I split up."

There!  I thought maybe if I mentioned my experience, it would prompt him to be more forthcoming about his.

"Had you and Kyle been together a while?"


"May I ask what happened?"

"He got transferred to England.  Agreed to go before he even told me about it.  Then the son of a bitch said he figured our relationship had pretty well run its course and we both needed a change of partner, a change of scenery."

"That must have hurt, especially if you didn't see it coming."

Ouch!  Asa's remark made me see how Stuart must have felt.  

"That's the thing, I didn't.  I was contented.  Thought we had a good life together.  I was blindsided by his news that we were through.  And what really sucked was that he seemed happy to be rid of me.  He gave no evidence of understanding how hurt I was."

"Then you're better off without him.  How have you adjusted to being in Stafford?"

"I love my job, Asa. I've made a lot of friends.  And, of course, North Carolina is home for me.  Or as close home as I want to get."

"May I ask what that means?"

"Oh, sure.  I was born and raised over in the Raleigh-Durham area.  So I'm back in my home state, though Stafford is different in some ways from Tidewater country."

It was about then that I realized I was being questioned by a skilled reporter.  And I was no closer to learning what I wanted to know than I had been ten minutes earlier.

"Would you like more coffee?"

"Yeah, that would be nice."

I grinned.  "Another piece of pie?"  I thought he looked as if he needed to put on a few pounds.

"No, thanks.  I've had plenty to eat.  And your dinner was delicious.  How did you learn to cook so well?"

"When I was in grad school, it was either cook or eat out.  I decided I could eat better for less money if I did my own cooking.  And then when Kyle and I were together, we often cooked together."

He had a bemused expression on his face.  "That must have been nice."

"It was.  I enjoyed my life with Kyle.  That's why it was such a shock when he dumped me."

Asa looked at me appraisingly.  "Whitney, can I trust you?"

"Of course, unless you're going to confess to something illegal."

He smiled faintly.  "No, nothing like that.  But I am going to tell you things that I've not told anyone else in town."

"Okay, if you're sure you want to."

"Well, first of all, I'm gay.

Yes!  At least my gaydar was vindicated!

"The relationship I had to get out of was with Robert.  He was a professor at Syracuse."

"You said it was bad.  Would you care to explain?"

"Robert was tall, athletic, handsome.  He had shiny black hair, dazzling blue eyes, a cleft in his chin, and a huge cock.  He was charming.  I could never believe that he was interested in me.  Guys like him don't get involved with ugly little guys like me."

I wanted to protest that he wasn't ugly, but I decided not to interrupt him.

"He was always dominant, and I was okay with that.  I mean, I don't think I'm too much a submissive by nature, but I really loved him, and if he wanted to be the big dog, I was willing to go along."

I nodded to show I was listening.

"I had a good job with the major newspaper there and, frankly, was bringing home more than he was as an assistant professor.  But he criticized the way I dressed, insisted on picking out my clothes.  Although we shared the costs, he chose the furnishings for our apartment.  When we had an occasional party, it was his friends who got invited, and I was the one who got things ready, made the hors d'oeuvres, and cleaned up afterward."

"Sounds like a jerk to me, Asa."

"But I loved him.  I swear to God, Whitney, I thought I was so lucky to have him love me that I was willing to do all that."

Again, I thought it best not to say anything.  But I had some nasty thoughts about Robert.  The bastard probably assumed because he was taller and better looking than Asa that he was somehow superior to him, that he was supposed to be the boss in their relationship.  I knew nothing about Robert's academic credentials, but I knew what a bright and talented guy Asa was.  So I was prepared to hate Robert.

"It was when he began to beat me that I decided I couldn't stick it any longer."

"He beat you!" I said, shocked.  I'd read about such things, but I'd never actually met anyone whose partner had beaten him.

"Yeah.  It started one evening when he found out he'd been passed over for tenure.  He'd asked me to pick up some dry cleaning, and I'd been too busy chasing down a story to do it.  He blew up at me, pushed me down on the bed, tore off my shirt, and used his belt on my back."


He went on as if, once started, he had to pour it all out, and I wasn't about to interrupt him.

"After that, the beatings became more and more frequent.  Whenever I hadn't measured up to his expectations, that is, whenever I hadn't done my job as his personal houseboy and valet because of the demands of my own job, he'd strip me and use his hand or his belt.  One evening, he didn't come home for supper, and he didn't call.  I was worried, of course, but I didn't know what to do.  When he finally got home, he was drunk and furious.  The supervisor of the junior faculty in his department had given him a bad review, so he took it out on me.  He threw me down on the bed and stripped me.  Then he held me with one hand while he hit me repeatedly with a yardstick.  If he'd used the flat of it, he wouldn't have done much damage.  But he used the edge.  It took a while for the scars to go away."

Instincts I didn't even know I had emerged then.  I just wanted to grab Asa and hold him, smooth his hair, reassure him that Robert wasn't there, that everything would be all right.  But of course I couldn't do that.

"My God, Asa.  What did you do?"

"The next morning after Robert went to work, I called my editor and said I was sick.  Then I checked into a downtown hotel.  I got all of the things that were essential to me from our apartment.  I left behind a bunch of books and cd's.  Half of the furniture belonged to me, but I was willing to leave it.  I left Robert a note saying that I didn't ever want to see him again.  I urged him to get therapy for his anger problem and said if he tried to persuade me to come back, I'd press charges against him.  I found a cheap place to live and began looking for another job.  My editor gave me an excellent recommendation, and when the job here in Stafford was advertised, I applied and got it."

"I imagine you were much better than the Sentinel could have hoped for."

He smiled faintly.  "Maybe.  At any rate, I got the hell out of Dodge, and I've never regretted it."

"Asa, have you found anybody here?  After having a partner, it's hard to be on your own."

"You're speaking from personal experience, obviously."

"Yes, but I'm concerned right now about you."

"Well, to answer your question, I've not found anybody.  As I said, you're the first person in Stafford I've even told I'm gay."

"Aren't you terribly lonely?"  Then I grinned.  "And horny?"

He gave me the sweetest, saddest smile I've ever seen.

"Yes to both questions."

He was on the sofa, so I went over and sat beside him.  I yielded to the urge I'd had the first time I saw him.  I took him in my arms.  At first he looked at me, almost panic-stricken.   Then he relaxed, leaning his head against mine.  

I don't know how long we stayed like that.  Ten minutes, maybe.  Not long enough.  Then he sort of twitched.

"God, this is nice, Whitney.  You don't know how good it feels to finally be able to tell someone about all that."

"I'm honored you trust me enough to tell me."

He stood up.  "Look, I have to go.  There's something I've got to write and send in before I go to bed tonight."

"You sure?  I could offer you some brandy.  Or a sympathetic ear.  Or a convenient shoulder."  

He looked almost panicky.  "Whitney, you're great, but I'm afraid I've gone beyond the bounds of hospitality.  I shouldn't have dumped all that stuff on you.  Thanks for dinner."

He gave me a peck on the cheek, went to the closet, and got his coat.

"Asa, I'm sorry you feel you have to run off.  I promise not to tell anyone what you've told me.  But you have nothing to be ashamed of, you know.  And just between you and me, I think Robert was a bastard.  You deserve some great guy, not a sicko like that."

"Thanks.  And thanks for dinner."

I went with him to the door.  "Asa?  I'll call you, okay?"

"Yeah, if you're sure you want to."

He almost ran to his car.

To be continued.