Copyright © 2004 by Jerry Leckie — You may download my writing for your own reading pleasure; however, you may not place my writing on a website or reproduce stories for distribution without my permission.

WARNING: My short story fiction deals with very mature subjects and with explicit language, some of which is of a sexual nature. If viewing such material is illegal where you live or if viewing such material would be offensive to you, please click on the “BACK” button of your browser NOW to return to other sections of the web.

Gay love story. Adult. Explicit sex.
A young gay man goes to sea on a quest for his sense of self worth and finds it with the help of a young man who saves his life.


This is wisdom: One who seeks love must first look within and love self, then others will bring their love to him.”  Ancient Proverb

Russ leaned heavily on the rail, straining to see into the blackness that surrounded the ship. He zipped the top of his rain slicker all the way up in a futile attempt to keep the gale from chilling his bones. Loud curses rang out forward; the bow crew must have gotten drenched again from the swells. With the weather turning foul, Russ was glad that he drew duty amidships tonight.

Normally, he enjoyed the midnight watch. With the ship under sail, there was only the sound of the wind and the slap of the waves to disturb his thoughts. At night the deck of the San Juan was a world apart. He liked to stand in the bow and watch the panoramic expanse of the star field rise and fall as the ship cut her way through the swells. The sight of the sails fat with wind and the sound of the masts groaning filled him with awe. The ship captured the most powerful force on Earth and harnessed it to do man's bidding.

Actually, there wasn't much to do on the watch but think, because a computer navigated the ship and it set the sails automatically. Electric winches controlled the lines that set the huge pieces of canvas and kept them in place. All Russ had to do was monitor each winch when the computer reset the sails to make sure the lines didn't foul. These nights gave the young man plenty of time to think, to get to know himself. And that's why he signed onto the San Juan in the first place.

But tonight was different. The ship was heading into a squall and the wind was already approaching gale force. They had shortened the ship's six big sails only an hour ago and it looked like they were going to have to do it again. The San Juan was a two hundred-foot, three-masted schooner with three head sails. She carried a lot of canvas and she would heel over enough in a blow to make the passengers mighty uncomfortable. And the cruise company couldn't tolerate that.

The walkie-talkie on Russ' belt crackled with the skipper's voice; he was going to try heading further upwind instead of shortening sail again, and he intended to change course immediately. Russ heaved his tall frame off the rail and quickly worked his way aft toward the mizzen mast; that would be the first sail the computer adjusted. As he passed the door to the wheel house, it started to rain heavily, the wetness plastering his dark hair to his forehead.

The masts groaned in unison as wind spilled from the sails; the ship was changing course. He looked up at a sound; something was wrong; the mizzen sail was beginning to luff. The computer should have reset it already. He climbed up to the winch and bleated in disgust; the line was fouled. There was slack in the mizzen sheet and the sail was flapping like a curtain in a hurricane. If he didn't fix it quickly the sheet could snap, then the sail would go wild and break the mast. Russ tugged at the fouled line with all of his might. Suddenly the mizzen filled with wind, yanking the boom violently to starboard. Tension returned to the line, and it smacked the side of his head sharp as the crack of a whip. Russ felt a searing pain behind his left eye, then an odd sense of floating in air.

The fog seemed to clear and condense into drops of moisture, blurring his vision. He could only focus on a pair of blue eyes floating slowly above him. They were filled with concern, concentrating on a spot above his left ear. They retreated and long delicate fingers appeared. The blue gaze shifted to Russ' face, and the fingers carefully wiped drops of water from his eyes.

“Am I crying,” he asked, finally finding his voice. He blinked and tried hard to focus. The blur above him formed into a familiar face that smiled.

“No, it's raining on you. Try to get up now and I'll take you to your bunk.”

He allowed the young man to help him to his feet. But as he stood, he fell toward the blue eyes and the face grew fuzzy, and blurred out completely.

Russ woke in his bunk, beneath the covers. He felt warm and dry and relatively comfortable, except for a headache. The blue eyes were there, embodied in the form of one of the passengers. Brad Holman was stripped to the waist, his wet blond hair plastered to his skull. He was seated next to the bunk, preoccupied with removing his wet shoes and socks. As Russ stirred, he looked up and smiled. “Hi. It's about time you woke up. You were out long enough to scare me,” he said stuffing his soggy socks into his shoes.

“What happened ... Brad, isn’t it?”

“Right. You took a nasty zap to the head from the mizzen sheet.”

Russ blinked, trying hard to get his bearings. “Did you find me?”

“I’ll say! I came up on deck just in time to see you go down from the blow. You fell across the rail.”

“I almost went overboard?” Russ asked, feeling a chill wash over him.

“Yeah. I hauled you back just as you were about to take a header into the drink.”


“I laid you out on the deck and ran to the wheel house to tell the captain about the loose sail.”

“The sail!” Russ stammered in a panic and started to get up.

“Whoa, Russ,” Brad said soothingly, gently pushing him back down. “They’ve taken care of the sail.”

“Thank heaven! Do they know where I am?”

“Yes, the skipper knows what happened. And the mate came by to dress your wound. He said he would check in later after he takes care of the passengers; they’re throwing up all over the place.” Brad tucked the covers under Russ’ chin again. “We’re still in the thick of the storm and the ship is bouncing around like crazy. All of the crew is on deck trying to keep us in one piece, so I volunteered to stay with you.”

Russ didn’t know what to say, so he just mumbled, “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. I couldn’t sleep anyway. And if you had regained consciousness here alone and tried to get out of bed, you could have hurt yourself again.”

The combination of his head wound and the rolling of the ship suddenly manifest itself. Russ had been on board the San Juan for four months and hadn’t been seasick once. But suddenly, he felt his stomach knot and his throat constrict. He took a deep breath and stared hard at the ceiling.

Brad looked at him critically and asked, “Are you seasick?”

All Russ could do was nod once. Brad quickly moved to the edge of the bunk and flipped the covers back to Russ’ waist. He placed the palm of his hand on Russ’ stomach and leaned forward. “Russ, stare hard at the tip of my nose and concentrate on the heat from my hand.” Russ did as he was told. “Now, take a deep breath and let it out slowly.”

Again, Russ did as he was told. Remarkably, the nausea began to subside. He took another deep breath and it passed completely. “Thanks again,” he smiled sheepishly. “That’s all I seem to be able to say.”

Brad flashed him a dazzling smile, “That’s okay. I’m glad I was here.”

“Where did you learn that trick?” Russ asked as Brad tucked the covers back under his chin.

“In the Navy. I was a corpsman.”

Brad busied himself hanging Russ’ wet clothes in various places about the cabin. Russ felt his body; of course he was naked. “Did you undress me?”

“Yeah. Even though you were knocked out, your teeth were chattering. There’s often a drop in blood pressure with head wounds. So I wanted to get you warm and dry as soon as possible.” Brad gave Russ a mocking grin. “You know, you’re a pretty hunky guy. It wasn’t easy getting you out of wet clothes when you couldn’t cooperate.”

Russ blushed. Yes, he was getting “hunky.” While working on the ship he had lost twenty pounds off his six-foot frame and had taken inches off his waist. But this was the first time in his young life that he or anyone else had thought of him as “hunky,” so he was embarrassed. Brad was slight, but well built, about five feet eight inches tall and perhaps one hundred forty pounds. He moved about the cabin with grace and confidence, lightly defined muscles rippling under his tanned skin. Russ blushed again at the thought of this handsome young man undressing him. But he only said, “Thanks for saving my life.” And with a wry smile he added, “Nearly being killed is a new experience for me.”

Brad’s laugh was genuine. “It was a new experience for me too. In four years with the Navy, the most violent thing I ever saw was a cut finger.” Then, more seriously, “I just reacted tonight, that’s all. But I’m glad I was there at the right time.” He stood up. “Well, now that all the excitement’s over, I realize I’m cold. You’re going to be all right now, so I’m going to my bunk, get dry, and get some shut-eye. And I suggest you do the same if you want to get up at all tomorrow.” He picked up his shirt and shoes. “Goodnight. I’ll bring you some breakfast after sunup.”

A thousand questions rose in Russ’ throat, but he closed his eyes and was asleep before Brad turned off the light.

As sunlight was beginning to creep through the portholes, Brad came breezing through the door, bearing a large tray, looking fresh as a daisy. “I hope you’re hungry. Cookie gave me four breakfasts.” He placed the tray on the only table in the cabin. “Apparently, the passengers aren’t eating much after spilling their guts all night.”

“I’m starved,” Russ said with conviction, “but I have to pee first, and I can’t stand up by myself.”

Brad laughed easily. “Well, at least your body functions are still intact.” He threw the covers back and pulled Russ into a sitting position. “How does that feel?”

“Okay I guess,” Russ said, mentally testing the various parts of his body, while trying to keep the room from spinning.

“All right then, stand up. I manhandled you down the companionway last night, so I guess I can get you into the head.” With that Brad draped Russ’ arm around his shoulders, heaved him up and walked him into the tiny bathroom.

Russ balanced himself in front of the toilet with a palm against the mirror. Catching sight of himself, he bleated, “Holy Cow! Look at me!” There was a sizable knot on the side of his head and his left eye was almost swelled shut.

“It looks worse than it really is,” Brad said. “Here, I’ll prove it.” With that, he yanked the bandage away, making Russ yelp with pain. “Oh, come off it, you big baby. You just lost some hair with the tape. See, the skin is barely broken.”

Russ looked closely in the mirror. Sure enough, there was a lot of swelling, but there was only one small cut. Brad sponged away the dried blood with a wet cloth. “See, plastic surgery will not be necessary. Let’s leave the bandage off. It’ll heal quicker.”

“It’s not as bad looking as it feels from inside here,” Russ said, tapping the side of his head that didn’t hurt. “But why do I have trouble standing up?”

With a little dismissive shrug, “You probably have a small concussion. But a day’s rest ought to take care of that. Come on and eat something, then I’ll take you up on deck. After all the trouble last night, God has provided us with a beautiful morning to make up for it.”

Russ laughed in spite of his headache. He relieved himself and Brad helped him back to the bunk. He sat on the edge and let Brad serve up the food. Both were ravenously hungry and greedily devoured the four breakfasts, chatting happily with their mouths full.

After their feeding frenzy, Brad got Russ into a shirt and pair of shorts and guided him to a lounge chair on deck. He uncoiled his lanky frame with relish as the sun hit his tanned skin. He dozed lightly until the sun was high. Gradually, the passengers began to recover from the night’s bouncing and appeared on deck. Word spread quickly about Russ’ accident, and he had to repeat the story many times, to the delight of the tourists. For many, this would be the highlight of their trip. As the morning wore on, most of the crew also made their way by and joked good-naturedly about malingering.

Russ had never sailed before four months ago. But, he had proved to be an apt student of the sailing art, including navigation. The officers and crewmen had grown to respect him for his quickness and dedication. After the first few weeks on board, Russ’ natural shyness wore off and he and the rest of the crew grew to genuinely like each other.

Andrews, the Second Mate, who doubled as the ship’s medic, dropped by before lunch. He ordered Russ to stay in sickbay for another twenty-four hours, noting that the skipper had juggled the watches with no problem.

The San Juan carried a crew of ten, which was not many to handle the ship and twenty passengers too. The roster consisted of a permanent crew of six plus four college-age men signed for each voyage.

The ship worked out of Tampa, Florida. It began the summer season in late May by taking passengers on a no-frills two-week cruise of the Caribbean. The first two-week leg of the voyage extended from Tampa, to Cancun, to Grand Cayman, and ended in Kingston, Jamaica. There, they exchanged passengers and continued for another two weeks, and so on, down the chain of the Windward Islands. At Trinidad, they turned north again and made their way up the Atlantic side of the Windwards and Leewards, exchanging passengers every two weeks. The last leg began at St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands.

Russ remembered that’s where Brad boarded. And it was luck for him, or he would be playing a harp for the fish right now. He didn’t know how to react to someone who saves your life, but he was planning to get to know Brad better. He mentally mapped out the rest of the cruise. They had been four hours out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, last night when the storm hit. So, by now they should be near their first port of call in the Bahamas. They would work their way through the Bahamian chain, then go to Key West, their last port before the cruise ended in Tampa. Russ was scheduled to work day watch for the rest of the trip, so he would have plenty of time to spend with his savior.

Just before noon, Brad brought a lunch tray on deck and spread a feast for the two of them to enjoy while the other passengers went to the salon to eat. “My, but you have been Mr. Popularity this morning,” Brad teased. “I guess there’s nothing like a black eye to make you the center of attention.”

“And I plan to make the most of it,” Russ smiled, rising to the tease. “Seriously though, thank you for bringing lunch and eating with me.”

“Oh sure,” Brad said quickly, and busily attacked his food.

Oh well, Russ thought wryly, maybe he isn’t dying for my company. He estimated that Brad was about his own age, twenty-two, much younger than any of the other passengers. Perhaps that was why he was willing to forgo luncheon in the salon. As they ate and talked, he examined his companion. He wondered why such a good looking man who appeared self-assured and walked with cat-like grace would participate in a boring cruise designed for older people.

The skipper appeared before he could ponder the thought further. Captain McAllen was a grizzled, lifelong seaman. His appearance reminded one of the buccaneer days of seamanship and his clipped burr placed him from one of the Scottish seaports. He was a powerfully built man, with a great mop of red hair-faded-to-white and skin the texture of a weathered barn door. He seemed to tower over everything and everyone on the ship. He knew the business of running a ship from bow to stern, and he knew how to mold the crew into a smooth-working team. In looks, temperament and action, he was the perfect skipper for the San Juan.

Captain McAllen leaned close with a stern eye to examine Russ’ head, “Well Laddie, Mr. Andrews tells me that you’re going to mend well.” He paused to shake Russ’ hand. “I’m glad to have you still aboard.” He turned to Brad and smiled, sending the wrinkles of his face into magnificent disarray. He extended his hand and said, “And we have you to thank for that Laddie. A fair hero you are. I’m in your debt. This man is a good hand and would make poor food for fish.”

Brad jumped to his feet and blushed to the roots of his hair. He shook McAllen’s hand and stammered, “Thank you sir. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

The wrinkles of McAllen’s face composed themselves into a stern expression. “By the grace of God you were, but you were brave enough to act. I thank you again.” With that, he turned and left them.

Brad sank back in the chair and smiled weakly at Russ, who beamed smugly. “See Brad, I said you were a hero, and that,” he pointed in the direction of the retreating skipper, “proves it. What he says on this ship goes.”

By mid-afternoon, Russ felt well enough to try walking on his own. While Brad hovered at his elbow, he navigated to the head without help. And by sunset, he could walk with a high degree of confidence. Brad stayed close to him for the rest of the day, and Russ was grateful for both the company and the attention. To Russ’ delight, they took dinner in his cabin and celebrated his full recovery with brandies on the stern at midnight.

Russ resumed his duties with the noon watch the next day. He was glad to become active again. And his watch involved a lot of activity, for he had to double as a steward, fetching and carrying for the passengers. Most of them wanted their pictures taken with him as evidence to back up the stories they would tell their friends about their “Night of Terror” on the high seas. Russ submitted to this with grace and good humor, because he genuinely liked the passengers and wanted to please them.

During the next few days, he and Brad managed to gravitate to each other during Russ’ off periods. They took all further meals in the salon, but it became their custom to take after dinner brandy alone, usually at the stern rail, talking softly. This was an enjoyable time of discovery for both men, because each had developed a lifelong habit of keeping to himself, shunning close friendships.

They went ashore together at each port of call in the Bahamas, frolicking on the beaches and shopping at the bazaars.

Brad discovered that Russ was from Alabama, and should have been a senior in college. But, after fifteen years of sitting in classrooms, he was anxious to see what the rest of the world looked like. He used a terrible row with his parents as an excuse to leave home. When he was clearing the paperwork for his exit from college at the end of the school year, he noticed an advertisement on the bulletin board from CaribWindCruise for summer deck hands. He called them and they hired him sight-unseen because of his major in computer science. So he packed a bag, withdrew his money from the bank, and hopped a bus for Tampa.

He spent the first week after his arrival training in the operation of the ship, and the second week studying the computer navigation and control programs that ran the ship. The cruise company was glad to have Russ aboard, because the First Mate was the only company employee who really understood how to operate the system.

This was Russ’ first trip away from home, and he admitted to Brad that he was scared shitless at first. But then he found that he could learn and adapt in a practical way, and that every day he gained self-confidence. The permanent crew liked him and soon they became an extended family. And much to his surprise, he also came to look forward to meeting twenty new people every two weeks.

Through their hours of conversation, Russ learned that Brad came from a Navy family and had lived all over the world. Until his junior year in high school, he was a science nerd, complete with horn-rimmed glasses. Suddenly, his father decided to make a man of him. His dad had him fitted with contact lenses and decreed that he would participate in school sports. Having a methodical turn of mind, Brad accepted this and joined the school’s gymnastics team. He applied himself so well that he could have been an Olympic contender, but his father wanted him to apply to Annapolis and become a career Naval officer. Brad balked at this and they compromised: Brad would enlist in the Navy for one term while he considered the Navy for a career. He enjoyed the work as a corpsman, but he simply endured military life otherwise. He was discharged and made his way to Miami and took a job with a sailboat charter company on St. Thomas. Two weeks ago the charter company filed bankruptcy and he booked passage on the San Juan with his final paycheck. He had no idea what he was going to do when the cruise ended in Tampa, but he had learned to love the sea, and he thought he would always want to live near it.

Russ had learned to love the sea too, and they spent many hours talking about it and swapping sea tales that they had heard.

Russ was scheduled to work the morning watch on the day the San Juan arrived at Key West and to work the noon watch the following day, giving him twenty-four hours to explore the city of the American tropics. He suggested to Brad that they partake of a final fling ashore before the cruise ended and Brad enthusiastically agreed.

The ship docked while Russ was on watch. At noon, he rushed to his cabin, changed into civilian clothes and met Brad at the gangway. They bought a tourist map of the town and poked around some of the historical sights. The history of Key West, as well as the remote tropical setting caught them up in the spirit of the place. They moved in an unhurried fashion from street to street, scene to scene, enjoying the other’s company. They shopped in the boutiques and grazed in various food and drink emporiums. Ultimately, they rounded a corner and the beach appeared. They simply stripped off their shoes and shirts and settled on to the sand.

When the shadows were long, their stomachs began to rumble with hunger. They stepped off the beach and stopped immediately in front of a rustic building covered in ancient wood shingles, bougainvillea and honeysuckle. The mouth-watering aroma of food drew them inside to a cozy atmosphere of old wood, linen tablecloths and genteel service. They feasted at a window table facing the ocean while God provided them with a blood-red sunset of biblical proportions. After dark, the glow of the candle on their table enveloped them in a mellow mood that neither wanted to break. They decided to have a nightcap to end the evening, and their waiter gave them directions to a watering hole on an obscure side street nearby.

This had been a fun day for both men, and as they strolled slowly down the main avenue, they savored their good feelings. Russ said, “Thanks for coming with me today. I had a great time.”
“Me too. I enjoy being with you.”

“Brad, I’m going to miss you when the cruise is over.”

“Please Russ, let’s not talk about that right now. I’m enjoying myself too much.”

“Okay,” Russ replied softly as they turned down a side street.

Suddenly, a voice bellowed, “Well, if it isn’t Holman! How ya doin’, fagot?”

Russ and Brad turned, stunned by the sudden intrusion into their conversation. Two American sailors were walking in the opposite direction, and had stopped in front of them.

“You know these guys Brad?”

“Yes. This is Mr. Turner and Mr. Wade from the Hector Martin, my former ship. It must be in port.”

“That’s right, fagot,” said Turner. “Looks like you wound up in the right town, cocksucker. I hear Key West is full of queers.”

“Leave me alone, Turner. I’m not in the Navy any more,” Brad said tightly.

“Nothing doing, fagot. You were confined to ship when the word got out about you, but you ain’t on no ship now. Is he Wade?”

“No he ain’t,” agreed Wade with an evil grin. Suddenly, he spun Brad around by the shoulder and drove a fist into the pit of his stomach, doubling Brad over. Turner delivered another punch to his kidney, knocking him to the ground. Wade poised to drive the toe of his shoe into Brad’s ribs when Russ dropped into a stance. With lightening speed he sent the heel of his left shoe crashing into Wade’s Adam’s apple, knocking him into a lamppost. Just as quickly, his right hand flew out, delivering a devastating blow to Turner’s neck. Without waiting to observe its effect, he swung back to Wade and brought his left knee into the man’s groin. As his foot came to the ground, he shifted his weight and sent his right foot smashing into Turner’s chin.

It was over in ten seconds. Wade and Turner were out cold and Russ was crouched astride Brad’s body, breathing very hard. Brad moaned beneath him. Russ dropped to one knee and rolled Brad on to his back.

“Oh God, are you all right Brad?”

“Yeah, I’m okay. I just had the wind knocked out of me,” he said, gasping.

Russ helped him to a sitting position and Brad winced, grabbing the small of his back.

“Those god damned bastards! They hurt you!” Russ said through his teeth.

As he sat up, Brad finally took in the scene. “What the hell happened?”

“Oh, don’t worry about them. They won’t bother you any more.” Russ helped Brad to his feet. “Can you walk okay Brad? Then, let’s get out of here. I would enjoy having that drink we came after to calm down.” Brad nodded and they headed down the side street.

“Are you sure you want to have a drink with me,” Brad asked uncertainly, staring straight ahead.

“Yes,” Russ said evenly.

“You heard what they called me back there.”

“Well, isn’t it Navy custom to poke fun at corpsmen?”

Brad seemed to quake inwardly, trying to make a decision. “Yes, but in this case, it’s true.” He looked up, pleading, “I didn’t lie to you Russ; I just didn’t tell you why I left the Navy.” Brad paused for a heartbeat and continued, “I’m gay, and the Navy found out about it.”

Russ breathed a sigh of relief. “I didn’t lie to you either; I didn’t tell you why I left home at the end of the college term. You see, my dad found out that I was gay.”

They stopped walking in mid-stride. “Oh my God, I can’t believe it! That’s wonderful!” Brad let out a whoop of joy and threw his arms around Russ. Russ returned the hug, then they pulled apart and stared at each other in wonderment.

“Let’s go have that drink. I really need it now,” Russ laughed.

They found the bar easily enough and slid into a circular booth near the door. For the first few minutes after ordering, they just sat and grinned stupidly at each other.
“Well, Russ, this sort of changes things, doesn’t it?”

“Only for the better. Now we don’t have to hide any feelings from each other.”

The waiter brought the drinks and they sat back and noticed the bar for the first time. All of the patrons were male. There was a couple standing at the bar with their arms around each other; there was a couple at a corner table sitting cheek-to-cheek; and the couple at the next table were holding hands. Both Russ and Brad began to giggle uncontrollably.

“Well Brad, I guess your former shipmates were right about Key West.”

“Yeah, and the waiter who recommended this place knew us better than we knew each other.”

Russ scooted around beside Brad so he could easily see the bar patrons. The other men were chatting easily, enjoying themselves. Russ and Brad watched, fascinated. Neither of them was very experienced in the gay lifestyle and had not frequented many gay bars.

“I don’t know how to act in a place like this,” Russ said.

“I don’t either, but it would be safe to recommend that we just be ourselves.”

“You’re right, but what does that mean? I’ve suppressed my feelings for so long, I wonder if I know who I really am,” Russ said matter-of-factly.

“I know what you mean. I guess we’ll just have to un-suppress our feelings, one at a time until we get used to it. Right now I’m busy dealing with the fact that you’re gay.”

“Likewise,” Russ said with a wry lift of his eyebrows. “It never occurred to me that you might be gay. Now, all of a sudden, if I feel like touching you, I can.” Then, with a pleading look, “Can’t I?”

Brad smiled and nodded. Russ reached over and tentatively laid his hand on Brad’s. After the pause of a heartbeat, he turned the slender hand over and took it in both of his larger ones. It felt so warm and so soft; he marveled at it. Tenderly, he lowered his head and kissed the palm. Brad moaned softly. He closed his eyes and laid the palm against his cheek, drinking in its warmth. Brad’s fingers came to life and began to slowly stroke Russ’ skin. Russ opened his eyes and smiled.

“I’ve wanted to do this so often,” Brad said softly as he continued to move his fingertips on Russ’ cheek.

Russ put his arm around Brad’s shoulders and drew him close, looking into his eyes, assessing the feelings there. Russ’ green eyes sparkled with as much affection as Brad’s blue ones. Their lips moved closer until they touched--just the brush of a feather--then they kissed. Finally, they pulled apart.

“I’m not very experienced in these things, but I would say that that was wonderful,” Russ breathed.

“It was, and I want more,” Brad whispered. “Let’s not go back to the ship tonight.”

A slow smile spread over Russ’ face. “Okay, let’s get a hotel room.”

They paid for their drinks and walked slowly back up the side street, holding hands. When they got back to the corner, the sailors were gone.

“What did you do to those guys to take them out so fast Russ?”

“Some Bruce Lee moves, Dude,” Russ teased, dropping into a martial arts stance. Then seriously, “All the way through grade school and high school, I was the class sissy, and I took the flack for it because I didn’t know any better. When I got to college, I decided I wasn’t going to stand for it any more, so I took martial arts classes for my physical education requirement.”

“Did you suddenly become king of the mountain?”

“Fact is, after I started taking martial arts, no one bothered me. I guess my attitude changed and everyone could tell the difference. Tonight was the first time I’ve had to use it.”

“Well, I’m glad it all stayed with you, or I would be a goner right now.”

Russ laughed. “Turn about is fair play. You saved my life once.” Then, seriously, “It’s a sure bet though that you’ll never be anyone’s victim as long as I’m around.” He pulled Brad to him and kissed him on the forehead. Brad smiled, hugged Russ, and kissed him. Then, they walked on.
In a few blocks, they stood in front of a small hotel that appeared to be in time warp from the 1920s. They registered at the desk and ascended to the second floor.

They stood facing each other, tentatively, just inside the door of the room.
“It’s not midnight yet, and I don’t go on duty until noon tomorrow,” murmured Russ, as he stroked Brad's tanned cheek.

“We’ll need the time. I don’t exactly have a road map for what we’re supposed to do.” Brad captured Russ' hand with his and kissed it.

Russ grinned, “Why don’t you take your own advice and just be yourself?”

Visibly relaxing, Brad stepped forward and began unbuttoning Russ’ shirt. He kissed the boy's throat and made his way to his lips. Russ shucked the garment and returned the kiss, while unbuttoning Brad’s shirt. Thus, one kiss after another, both were soon naked. They paused, staring with open mouths, taking in the sight of their bodies. Then, their eyes locked and their faces morphed from looks of wonder to knowing smiles.

Russ tilted Brad’s face to his and left a trail of kisses along his cheek down to the delicate softness of his throat. He continued, leaving a path of wetness to the center of the man's chest. Passion welled within him as he tasted the salt on Brad’s skin and smelled his musk.

Abruptly, he swept Brad into his arms and placed him on the bed. There, he knelt between his legs and bowed his head, as in worship. Again, he had to pause and collect himself at the sight of this comely lad. The boy was offering himself up to Russ, not out of lust, but out of affection.

This, he thought, was the first time that he was really making love to someone. And, he didn’t need a road map after all; he knew what to do. All of the love that he had within him boiled over into his tender ministrations to Brad’s body. And Brad responded with alternate whispers and cries, urging him on. His journey ended as it had started, between Brad's legs. He stared at the perfectly formed genitals and began to worship, spreading the boy's legs wide and enveloping the hard shaft and testicles in both his hands. They were so warm and soft, and gave his lover so much pleasure; they were truly a gift from God.

Now, he would generate that pleasure for Brad. He kissed the soft skin of the shaft, smooth velvet over steel, smelling of passion. Taking it into his mouth, he nursed it while his fingers stroked the source of the boy's sperm. Leaving the penis, he bathed the testicles with his tongue, watching them draw tight. He kissed the inside of Brad's powerful thighs from his knees to the base of his cock. He licked the throbbing member from base to tip. Brad tensed and raised his hips. Russ immediately took his shapely buttocks into his hands and guided the boy's dick into his mouth. He made a vacuum and sucked rapidly, bringing Brad to the brink. Stopping, he savored the sweet taste of Brad's natural lubricant, then resumed, licking and nibbling and sucking until he brought his lover past the point of no return. Brad bellowed and thrashed about, feeding his seed to Russ until his orgasm was spent.

For a time, no words sufficed. Russ gathered Brad's temporarily exhausted form into his arms and crooned to him until his breathing returned to normal.

Then, it was Brad’s turn to worship at the altar of Russ’ body. He discovered also, to his delight, that he needed no map to share his loving feelings in a physical way. He marveled at the softness of Russ’ skin, the hardness of the muscles underneath and the patterns of hair. He explored to his heart’s content with his lips, tongue and fingers, mentally recording the particular places that gave Russ the most pleasure.

At length, he found himself kneeling between his lover's legs. He paused for a moment to assess his feelings. Unable to verbalize them, he simply said, "Russ, you are so beautiful. I want to give you as much pleasure as you gave me." He bent his head and studied Russ' penis throbbing with anticipation, then lowered his head and took the powerful member into his mouth. But he had done his work too well. Russ cried out with the orgasm that overwhelmed him and poured forth his seed, which Brad drank greedily.

Russ lay still for a moment, arms crossed over his eyes, unsuccessfully trying to regain his breath as Brad kissed his way up his body, twitching with each touch of Brad's lips. He stilled Brad by placing his hards on either side of the boy's face and drawing him into a soft, gentle kiss.

"Oh, my God in heaven! You were wonderful," Russ breathed into Brad's ear.

Laying full length on the larger man, Brad propped himself on his elbows, eyes sparkling. "Now I know what they mean when they talk about making love.  I've had sex before, but tonight I made love."

"And you didn't need a road map," Russ said with a wink. They both giggled.

"And I want to do it again," Brad said coyly. He rolled them onto their sides. Turning, he positioned his hard shaft in front of Russ' lips. Taking the hint, Russ opened his mouth and began to nurse.

For his part, Brad was thrilled at seeing Russ' dick standing at attention so quickly. Taking it between his lips, he let his hands roam freely, stroking and touching the places of pleasure in Russ' nether region. Presently, his fingertips found the boy's anus. He stroked it, transmitting electric thrills through his lover. Inserting a finger, he found Russ' prostate and massaged it slowly. Russ moaned with each stroke and his dick became harder and harder.

Abruptly, Brad pulled off the cock and studied it, an idea forming in his mind. He turned in bed and took Russ' head between his hands. "I want you in me Russ. Now!" He raced to the bathroom and returned with a bottle of lotion. His breath came in short bursts as he massaged the lotion into his anus and onto Russ' cock. "I've never tried this before, but I want to be one with you Russ. So I'm going to try it now."

Russ could only nod. Brad straddled his lover's hips, facing him. He leaned down and kissed the boy, then slowly moved back, pressing his anal opening against the tip of Russ' steel-hard dick. With a sigh, he relaxed and sank down on it.

The boys' nerves crackled with every millimeter of the movement: Brad's sphincter accepting the hard spike, and Russ' cock sliding against the walls of Brad's rectum. They took it slow and wisely savored this new experience to its fullest. When Brad was firmly seated on Russ' pubic bone they paused.

"Oh God Russ. You're in me," Brad whispered, eyes closed.

"Oh man, I can feel you all around my cock. You feel so warm and so good. This is wonderful," Russ murmured. His dick had never felt so big. He flexed it and Brad shivered.

Brad smiled down at his lover. His eyes roved over Russ' muscular chest and he succumbed to the desire to feel it. A similar desire licked at the edge of Russ' consciousness and he yielded. Their hands began to roam, stroking lips, ears, eyes, nipples, every erogenous zone they could find. Their eyes glazed over with lust; blood pounded in their ears.

Brad's breath hissed through his teeth when Russ raked his testicles with his fingernails. He clenched his sphincter and raised up, drawing the blood in Russ' engorged dick up tight.

"Ahhhhhhhh," Russ cried. "I can't last much longer!"

"Me either," Brad panted, and began to move. Eyes closed in intense concentration, he began to pump Russ' cock slowly. He clenched his sphincter with each rise of his hips and relaxed as he fell back, each movement carefully controlled. Russ held his breath, relishing each sensation. He was intensely aware of Brad's rectum sliding against his super sensitive dick, the heat of his lover's insides, the skin of the boy's buttocks coming to rest against him.

Without altering his rhythm, Brad leaned back and grasped Russ' legs just above the knees. In this position, every stroke pressed the head of Russ' dick against his prostate.

"Eeeeeeeeee, Ahhhhhhhhh," Brad moaned and increased the speed of his strokes, faster and faster. Russ' hands clamped down on Brad's thighs.

In mid-stroke they froze, muscles taught, and held their breaths until their lungs threatened to burst. Then, they bellowed their pleasure as simultaneous orgasms overtook them. Russ filled Brad's rectum as his lover's penis spewed ropes of semen across their bodies.

They had discovered the unspeakable joy of joining as one. Words were unnecessary. At length, they curled together and slept.

In the morning, they bathed and explored, in daylight, the same ground they had covered the night before. Later, they lounged on the bed and Russ checked his watch, frowning. They had been touching, in body and soul, for almost twelve hours and he was reluctant to break the spell. But he had to report for duty. At length, they rose and slowly dressed, watching each other with shining eyes, each openly admiring the object of his affection.

They slowly walked back to the ship, basking in the glow of the marvelous things that they had discovered during the last twelve hours.

Russ returned to his watch and Brad mingled with the passengers as the ship left port and headed west. To their delight, they found that the afterglow of love did not dim; it grew brighter. And, in violation of ship rules, Brad spent each night thereafter in Russ’ cabin.

On the last night before they docked in Tampa, they stood in the bow watching the lights of Florida repeatedly rise and fall as the ship rode the swells.

“We’ll be docked by sunrise,” Russ said, staring at the distance.

Brad took his hand, “Thanks for sharing this week with me. It’s been the best week of my life.”

“It has been for me too.” Russ took a deep breath and went on. “For the moment, I’ve got the guts to say this, so I’m going to tell you something. I found what I was looking for on this cruise--me. And I found out that I’m not such a bad guy. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty damned lovable. And I found you, and I discovered that I enjoy sharing myself with you.” He squeezed Brad’s hand, hard. “And I don’t want to stop sharing myself with you.”

Their eyes locked on each other in the inky darkness, Brad breathed, “Thanks, I was trying to round up enough courage to say the same thing to you.” Then he took Russ into a tight embrace and kiss. And the contract between them was sealed.

Later, in the cabin, Brad verbalized the subject that had been on both their minds, “What do we do when we get to Tampa?”

“First of all, I like the sound of that we,” Russ laughed. “It goes without saying that I don’t want to go back to Alabama.” Brad nodded. “We both like the sea. Let’s stay near it.”

“Agreed. Besides, I’ve got no place to go. Everything I own is on this ship.” He snuggled closer to Russ, “And the one I want to share it with is here too. Lucky me,” he said, giving Russ a peck on the lips.

“Then, until we decide definitely what we want to do, let’s stay on board.” He sat up, excited with the idea. “I told the Skipper that I was thinking about staying on for the winter cruise season. The college kids will go back to school and the company’ll need to replace them. Why not with you?” He stared expectantly at Brad.

“Okay. It sounds great. Let’s talk to the Skipper in the morning.” Russ let out a whoop of joy and hugged Brad to him.

After the last of the passengers departed the following morning, Russ was kept busy tending to the dozens of details that brought the cruise to an official close. Meanwhile, Brad laid low in their cabin. When all of the crew had gone ashore except the Skipper, Russ and Brad went to see him.

McAllen sat at the chart table in the wheel house looking out of place in the same room with banks of modern navigation and control equipment. The sight had a jarring effect on all who saw it, and it served to sap some of the confidence from Russ as they were bid to enter.

The Skipper greeted both men warmly, thanking Russ for a job well done, and thanking Brad for minimizing the effects of a potentially disastrous situation during the storm. Without further amenities, he sat back and waited for them to speak. Russ told him of their desire to stay on the ship for the next season. Captain McAllen responded with gently probing questions designed to reveal their true feelings for the sea. When he was satisfied on that point he turned his attention to their educational backgrounds. He already knew something of Russ’ education in computer science. Then, he probed deeper to ferret out their true interests in life.
Russ was astonished at the turn of the interview, when all they were asking was to be signed on as deck hands for another cruise. His courage was about to fail him completely, when Captain McAllen smiled, leaned back in his chair, and began to comment on the things he had found out about them. He was pleased with their educational background. Both men had a scientific turn of mind. He was particularly pleased with Russ’ performance on the cruise; he was an apt pupil. And he was glad that Brand had served his hitch in the Navy, especially as a corpsman. He was satisfied that both men had a love for the sea; and, most of all, he was satisfied that they genuinely liked people. When he was finished speaking, he served tea and gave them a look that said that he was ready to make a point.

“Lads, you’ve turned a black morning into a bonnie day. You’ve come to me offering your services and, as it turns out, I’ve a need. Indeed, maybe we can strike a bargain.”

“Then you’ll take us on,” Brad piped.

McAllen gave him a shrewd look. “I can’t say lad, until I’ve made an offer and you’ve accepted the conditions.” Russ and Brad swallowed as McAllen went on. “John and Andrew told me this day they cannot stay on for the winter cruise. They each have personal business that prevents them.”

John Beck and Andrew Dowd were the First and Second Mates, respectively. John was second in command of the ship and navigator. Andrew was in charge of the business end of the ship and doubled as a medic. With only a permanent crew of six, however, duty lines blurred and the crew operated mainly as a family, with McAllen as the patriarch.

“Be that as it is,” he continued, “I’ve a need for a First and Second Mate.” He looked at Russ and said, “It would please me to offer the First Mate’s post to you lad, if you can finish learning navigation quickly. We’ve got three months before the winter season begins; two months in port for repairs and then a month’s shakedown cruise. John can stay with you until repairs are completed. But, you’ll have to prove yourself by charting the shakedown cruise.

Russ nodded, “I can do it sir.”

“Good lad.” Then he turned his attention to Brad. “And you, lad. You’ve got the Second Mate’s job if you can obtain a paramedic’s license and learn how to manage the ship’s entire inventory before the cruise.”

Brad could already function as a paramedic; all he would have to do is obtain a certificate from the civil authorities in Tampa. As to the other, he knew he had a methodical turn of mind, but he had never thought about turning it to business sense. He liked the idea of the challenge, however.

“I can do the job sir.”

“Good for you, lad. Let’s have something stronger than tea to seal the bargain, then we’ll work out the details.” He brought out an ancient bottle of Scotch whiskey and reverently poured three shots. They solemnly raised their glasses in a toast and drank.

Captain McAllen was true to his word. He abruptly turned to the details of their apprenticeship, and the conditions upon which they would become permanent members of the crew.

The fiery liquid in Russ’ stomach gave him the courage to broach the subject that had been on his mind throughout the interview. “Uh, Skipper,” he began, hoping his voice wouldn’t fail him, “Brad and I would like to share a cabin.”

A smile slowly filled McAllen’s face, “Aye, of course you can have your cabin lads. I suppose I should make it official, since you’ve been sharing a cabin for the last few days anyway.”

Both boys blushed furiously, but they managed to break into hearty laughter with the Skipper.

All matters settled, Russ and Brad took their leave of McAllen and walked across the deck to the rail. Russ placed his arm snugly around Brad’s waist. “Happy, Baby?” he asked, using the term of endearment for the first time.

“I’m very happy Russ. Life is good, isn’t it?”

“For the first time in my life, I really believe it is. And it’s going to get better, sharing it with you.” With that, he took Brad into his arms and kissed him, passionately and proudly, for the entire world to witness.

The End.

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