by Tim Mead
On Monday morning Jeff had a dilemma. He still hadn't heard anything from Sam. Okay, so maybe Paul hadn't seen Sam yet and there was still hope on that front. But Jeff felt he really had to answer Gordon Beck's invitation to bring the Auburn to the Charlotte Island Concours.
But what to say? He was distracted at work because his mind kept going back to that question. He thought it would be great fun to attend a famous car show like that even as a spectator. He'd heard Phil and Buddy talk about the great car shows, like the one on Charlotte Island and the most famous one in the country at Pebble Beach. But to enter Agatha again at Charlotte Island, as Phil had done in the past, that would be a real high point. Besides, he'd be carrying on just as Phil had expected him to.
Without Sam, though? He just couldn't see himself doing it alone. It would only be fun if he could share the experience with Sam.
He was on pins and needles all that day. But then he didn't really expect Sam would call him at work.
When he got home, however, and Sam hadn't left a message on his voice mail, he began to give up hope that Paul had done what he'd promised.
Reluctantly, after supper he composed a letter to Gordon Beck, apologizing for the delay in responding and informing him of Phil's passing. He thanked Beck for the invitation and said that perhaps next year if the invitation still held he could bring the Auburn to the Charlotte Island show.
He printed the letter on good stationery with a matching envelope. He folded and inserted the letter, stamped the envelope, and put it in his bag. He'd see that it went out with the mail at the office the next day.
The rest of the evening passed at glacial speed. He couldn't get interested in anything on television. None of his uncle's DVDs interested him, either. He didn't know what to do about Sam, though he was determined to do something.
Not sleepy, for lack of anything better he watched television until Craig Ferguson's show went off at 1:30 AM Tuesday.
The next day at the office dragged by.
At lunch a relentless Macey hounded him until he explained to her what the problem was. Mercifully, she didn't give him a hard time over having had sex with Paul. Well, not much, anyway.
"He is a sexy bastard, Jeffie, but you should have sensed he was trouble."
"Well, at least now I know just how much trouble. And since I didn't hear from Sam yesterday, I have to wonder if Paul even talked to him."
"Well, Paul has a job. Sam has a job. Maybe they just couldn't make a connection yesterday."
More miserable by the moment, Jeff was beginning to realize just how much Sam had come to mean to him.
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"Give Sam another couple of days. And then if you haven't heard, go find him and have a heart-to-heart!"
His cell phone rang that evening just as he pulled the Subaru into the garage. It was Ian.
"Hey, dude, meet me at Beef's for a burger?"
"I'm fine, thanks, Ian. How are you?"
"Oh, sorry! I'm good. I have great news. So, if you don't have any other plans, you wanna meet up?"
"Sure. Let me change clothes first. About a half an hour okay?"
"Yeah, great! See you there."
Jeff grabbed his suit coat from the backseat of the car and went inside, where he gave the mail a cursory look and then climbed the stairs to his bedroom. He changed into jeans, a casual button-up shirt, and sneakers and then chose a pullover to take along in case it was chilly when they came out of Beef O'Brady's.
Ian was in the parking lot, leaning against the rear of his car, when Jeff got there. He looked excited. Jeff's instinct was to hug him, but he thought better of it. Not in front of a bar, even a family-oriented one.
As usual, the dozen or so televisions suspended from the ceiling were showing sports events, including basketball, hockey, and, back in a corner, a soccer match.
They found a table and soon a young woman appeared. Her eyes lit up when she saw Ian.
"Hey, Ian, what's up?"
"Hi, Kristi. I'm good. How about you?"
He smiled at her, but obviously she was happier to see him than he was to see her.
She asked for their drink orders. Ian ordered sweet tea, Jeff Sam Adams. She pointed out that the menus were already on the table and left.
"If she's your age, she's too young to be working in a bar, isn't she?"
"She's a couple of years older than me. But I used to date her sister, so that's how I know her."
"You dated girls?"
"Yeah. Back when I was still telling myself I wasn't really gay and that these urges would pass."
"How'd that work out?"
"Oh, Allison, that's her sister, and I parted on friendly terms. She found a guy she liked better and moved on. But Kristi and I always got along good. Uh, well."
"Okay, enough small talk. You said you had great news?"
He's cute, Jeff thought. Kind of like a puppy, but sexy.
"Well, you're the one that was asking all the questions."
Kristi came back with their drinks and asked if they were ready to order.
"Nope, sorry, girl, we've been too busy talking."
"Not a problem. I'll check back with you later."
She absolutely sashayed away.
"That girl really likes you. And calling her `girl' practically announced that you're gay."
"You're wrong on both counts, old man. Kristi and I're just old friends. And I'd only sound gay if I called another guy `girl'."
"Thanks for making me feel old and out of it. So what's this great news?"
"That's what I've been trying to tell you. But we'd better take a look at these menus so we'll get Kris out of our hair."
Jeff grinned. "Oh, I know what I want."
"So do I." He turned to look for Kristi, caught her eye, and she came back to their table.
Ian ordered a double cheeseburger and large fries. Jeff ordered fish and chips.
"You want coleslaw with that?"
"Yes, please." He thought somehow the slaw compensated for the grease in the fish and fries. Or at least that's what he told himself.
After Kristi left, Ian took a swallow of his tea, set it down, and then grinned.
"Doc Frye talked with my Mom."
"About you going to Gainesville?"
"Yep! He called and offered to meet her in her classroom after school so she wouldn't have to drive to the Cypress Haven campus."
"That's pretty decent of him. Most of the profs I knew would have just asked her to come to his office. Though, come to think of it, profs never talked to parents. They just summoned us to their offices when they wanted to see us."
"Well, Frye's really cool. He talked her into letting me go to Gainesville. I don't know what he said, but he convinced her it was a good thing. And then he told her he'd write to people he knows on the linguistics faculty about me. He's pretty sure he can get me admitted to start there this summer. With maybe even a scholarship, since I've got a four point at State and because of Dad. You know."
The boy's enthusiasm was contagious. And once more Jeff wished he could hug Ian. Instead he put his hand across the table.
"Congratulations, kiddo! That's great news."
"Thanks." Ian's eyes flashed as they shook hands. "And there's more!"
"Tonight he took her out to dinner someplace. I mean, that's got to be a date, right? She hasn't been out with another man since, well, I suppose before she met Dad. Like, it's nothing romantic. At least I don't think so. That would be rushing things. But still, it's good for her to have adult male company that's not from the high school."
"A very mature thought."
"No offense, Jeff, but I am an adult, you know."
"Sorry, dude. Of course you are. And a pretty damn smart one, too."
Kristi came with their food, and there was silence for a few minutes while they dug in.
"You've got ketchup on your lip." Jeff pointed to the spot.
"Oh, sorry. What a slob, huh?" He licked where Jeff had indicated. "There, did that get it?"
"So how's Sam?"
"He's okay, as far as I know."
"What does that mean?"
"Oh, we've just been busy lately, what with our jobs and all."
Ian squinted, looking Jeff directly in the eye. "You two have a fight?"
"A little one. It'll blow over when we've had a chance to talk. We just haven't been able to get together."
"I hope you get things straightened out. Sam's cool. You're cool. You make a good couple."
"Thanks, Ian. I think so, too. Now, I've got a suggestion."
"You need to learn to drive a stick shift. Everybody should be able to. And if you're ever gonna drive Agatha, it's a must. As you saw, I brought the Subaru this evening. Wanna give it a try?"
"Cool! What'll we do with my car?"
"Let's go to my house. You can leave it in the drive and we'll just cruise around my neighborhood. It's a quiet residential area with stop signs at nearly every corner. So you'll have to shift through the gears every block."
It was about 8:00 and fully dark when they got to Jeff's house where, as planned, they left Ian's old Civic.
Once Ian was in the driver's seat of the Subaru, Jeff told him to depress the clutch and then showed him how to move the knob through the various gears.
"You know this in theory, right?"
Ian nodded. "Yeah. Learned about it in driver's ed. Push down on the clutch, put the car in the right gear, gradually release the clutch and slowly push down the accelerator."
"Okay. Start it up and give it a try."
After several jerky starts, Ian got the hang of it. They drove for about twenty minutes around the residential neighborhood on the south side of the lake. But just when Jeff thought his young friend had mastered the clutch, they stopped at a stop sign and, forgetting his newly-acquired technique, Ian let the clutch out too quickly. As a result,
the car lurched and then died in the middle of the intersection. Fortunately no one was coming.
Ian restarted the car and they proceeded more smoothly through the intersection and down the street. But then there were flashing blue lights behind them.
"Oh, fuck!" Ian pulled to the curb, remembering to depress the clutch, and switched off the motor. He put down his window.
And there stood a tall policeman.
"Good evening gentlemen." He looked at Ian. "Driver's license and registration, please."
Ian reached for his wallet.
"The registration's in the glove compartment," Jeff said. "I'll get it."
The cop looked over both documents carefully.
"Out for a driving lesson, are we?"
"Um, yes, sir. I've never had much experience with a stick shift and Jeff, um, Mr. Elder, was letting me get some practice."
"I see." He looked at Jeff. "You must be related to Phil Elder. The address is the same."
"He was my uncle. I live in his house now."
"So I've heard." He handed the license and registration form through the window to Ian.
"Thank you gentlemen. Carry on. And be careful, please."
He went back to his car and got into it.
"Jeff, will you drive back to your place, please?"
"No way! You were doing fine. He just happened to be there when you regressed a little. So we continue. Show him you can do this!"
Ian started the car and shifted through the gears perfectly as they moved down the street.
When they got back to his house, Jeff said, "A few more practices like this, and you'll be ready to move up to Agatha."
"I want a lot more practices before I do that. But that'd be way cool."
The week passed agonizingly slowly. Jeff really threw himself intently into the projects he was working on. He checked with his subordinates to make sure things were going well with them . . . to the point where some of them gave him funny looks, obviously wondering what was going on with him.
In his quieter moments, however, and evenings at home, he stewed over whether Paul had actually talked with Sam and Sam had remained angry, or whether Paul simply hadn't done what he promised, hadn't talked with Sam at all.
The upcoming weekend was Super Bowl weekend.
On Saturday morning, Jeff steeled himself. He decided to go into the hardware store and insist that Sam talk with him.
Since he hadn't run that morning, he made the fifteen-minute walk to Dudeks'. Sam's parents were both there, but no Sam. His mother explained that Sam was at home.
"He's leaving in a little while for St. Petersburg. His college friend, Brock, invited him over. They're going clubbing tonight and tomorrow they're going to watch the Super Bowl with some friends."
"Oh!" Brock, yet. Probably a big, muscular daddy type. Clubbing in St. Pete? Where? Are there gay clubs in Retirement Central? I can see them all sitting around yelling at the TV screen, chugging beer, Eating Slim Jims and popcorn. That doesn't sound like Sam's scene. He must be really pissed with me to want to drown himself in all that straight macho shit. And who is this Brock?
"Do you want me to tell him you stopped in, Jeff?" Karen asked. She looked sad, as if she knew exactly how Jeff felt. She was a sweet woman. Sam was lucky to have such a caring mother.
"Uh, yes, thanks, Mrs. D. I'll call him next week, but there's no harm in telling him I hoped to see him."
"Take care, Jeff," she said as he left the store.
When he got home the question was what he was going to do with himself for the rest of the weekend.
He got an idea. He called Ian's cell.
"Hey, Jeff. What's up?"
Jeff hadn't gotten a mobile phone until he was in college. But he'd been brought up to go through the formula of asking how the other person was at the beginning of a phone conversation between friends, family, acquaintances. Suddenly the eight or so years between the two of them seemed a vast amount of time.
"Hi, Ian. I wondered if you wanted to get in some driving practice this afternoon. We might even go someplace for a steak afterward."
"That sounds awesome, man. But I have other plans."
"No need to apologize. It's just that I promised a couple of my girlfriends that I'd watch chick flicks with them this afternoon and then we'd order in pizza."
Despite his disappointment, Jeff chuckled.
"Oh, nothing, kiddo. Absolutely nothing. Have fun. Let me know when you have some time and want to practice your gear-shifting technique."
"Dude! Did I do something to piss you off? You sound funny."
"No, no, Ian. I'm sorry. You and your friends have fun. Call me whenever, okay?"
"Yeah. Oh. You still haven't heard from Sam? Is that it?"
"Look, I'll cancel with Amber and come over."
Embarrassed, Jeff said, "Of course you won't do that. I don't want you to change your plans. Whatever's going on with Sam, we'll get it straightened out." He wished he could believe that. "So, like I said, you have a good time with the girls, and we'll talk later about more shifting practice. Okay?"
"If you're sure, okay."
They said goodbye.
Jeff washed the Subaru and the BMW that afternoon. Later he watched a basketball game on TV.
Except for church he was alone all day Sunday. He watched the Super Bowl game, but he wasn't able to muster up much enthusiasm for either team or even the commercials.
His phone rang as Jeff was driving home from work Monday evening. He pulled into the right lane and then into the parking lot of a strip shop. Grabbing the phone, he saw it was Sam.
"Hi, Jeff. You pissed with me?"
"I think you're the one pissed with me. All I want to do is talk." Well, more than that, but we'll need to start by talking.
"Where are you?"
"Across from Denny's."
"What are you doing there?"
"Duh! I pulled off of 27 to talk on my cell phone."
"Oh, yeah. Sorry!"
"So. Do you want to get together?"
"If that's okay."
"Of course it's okay! Getting whatever this is straightened out is very important to me."
He could hear Sam sigh.
"Good. I was afraid I'd been such a jerk you wouldn't want to even talk about it."
"Didn't your folks tell you I'd stopped by the store this weekend?"
"Oh, yeah. That's right. Just shows how fucked up my head's been."
"You want to come over?"
"Yeah. Don't want to talk in a restaurant. If pizza's okay I'll have one delivered to your place in half an hour."
Jeff wasn't interested in food. "Okay. Sounds good."
"I'll walk over to your place. You'll probably be there by the time I get there."
"Ten minutes, tops."
"Good. See you soon, Jeff."
Jeff was impatient with the southbound traffic on highway 27. Driving aggressively for the short distance through downtown Lake Polk and his house didn't help, either.
He saw Sam walking about a half a block from home, so he pulled over.
"That's good timing," Sam said as he got into the car. For no particular reason Jeff had driven the BMW that day. "Nice wheels."
Jeff was so happy to see his friend that he mumbled something meaningless. He pulled into the drive, hit the remote, and pulled the car into the garage between Agatha and the Subaru.
"You and Jay Leno," Sam said, grinning. It was a good sign that he was grinning, Jeff thought.
"Leno wouldn't have anything here in his collection except maybe for the Auburn."
"Okay, okay," Sam said. "But you're the Jay Leno of Lake Polk."
"I don't know about that. I don't have a gorgeous 442 in my collection."
So far, things were going well. Both of them were pretending nothing was wrong. Later, after drinks and food, they could get down to the issues.
In the kitchen Jeff took two longnecks from the fridge, opened them, and handed one to Sam.
"Let's go into the living room. The pizza guy will probably come to the front door."
When they were sitting, they each took a pull from their bottles.
They spoke simultaneously. Jeff gestured to Sam to go ahead.
Sam scratched at the Corona label with his thumbnail. "Look, I still have issues about you and Paul, but it's not fair to shut you out without discussing it."
"Has Paul talked to you?"
"Son of a bitch!"
"I'll explain later. But for now, let me say something, okay?"
"That's why I'm here."
Jeff cleared his throat. "You and I have never specifically talked about being exclusive, right?"
"Right. But at some point last fall, by Thanksgiving, certainly, I began to assume we were. And I figured, if it was obvious, why talk about it? Why mess with a good thing?" He looked almost pleadingly at Jeff.
"I agree with that."
Sam set his bottle on a coaster and leaned forward, staring intently into Jeff's eyes. "Then how could you have sex with Paul? With my ex, of all people!"
Jeff put his hands out, palms down, fingers spread, in a calming gesture.
"First of all, let's talk about the timing. That happened – only once – before you and I began dating. As I recall, it wasn't long after you and I had supper at the first car show I came to."
Jeff could practically see the wheels turning inside Sam's head, but he continued.
"Second, I didn't know he was your ex. You remember we agreed early on not to talk about our exes. And we never did."
Sam thought about that for a minute, absent-mindedly taking a swallow of beer.
Before he could speak, the doorbell rang. Jeff went to the door and took the pizza. Sam was right behind him, insisting on paying. He must have given the guy a big tip judging from his effusive thank-yous.
"This smells awesome. What kind of toppings?"
"Your favorites, Italian sausage, green bell peppers, mushrooms, and extra cheese."
Jeff was touched that Sam had remembered and encouraged that Sam had made a point of getting the pizza made `his" way.
Their discussion was desultory as they sat in the kitchen eating pizza and drinking beer. Jeff found the normalcy comforting, not really wanting to get to the touchy issue they had to deal with soon.
When they'd finished, Jeff asked, "Would you like some cookies? That's about all I have for dessert."
"No, thanks. Don't need cookies after the pizza."
"How about an apple? Coffee?"
"Yes to the coffee. Please."
They put the bottles in the recycling bin, the plates in the dishwasher, and their napkins in the trash while the coffee maker did its job.
Back in the big room with mugs of coffee, Sam asked, "Why did you think I'd talked with Paul recently?"
"Because he promised he would get in touch with you. He stopped by here one night last week. He apologized, in a half-assed sort of way, for causing trouble between us. When I pointed out that our . . . hookup . . .happened before you and I were together, he asked why I hadn't told you. I explained that you were so hurt you didn't want to listen to me."
"I'm really sorry about that, Jeff."
Jeff nodded, and continued. "That's when Paul said he'd come see you and explain."
"But, typical Paul, he didn't."
"To give him the benefit of the doubt, he might have tried while you were out of town this weekend. He has a way of just dropping by."
"I know." Sam paused, took a sip of coffee, set the mug down. "Does he stop by here often?"
"Since that afternoon he's dropped by a couple or three times."
"May I ask what he wanted?"
"Like I said, last week it was to apologize. That's when he told me you guys used to be . . . whatever you were."
Sam humphed. "I can imagine what he said about that."
"He didn't say anything negative about you. He just said you two wanted different things out of the relationship."
"True that!" He paused and then seemed to pick up a dropped thread. "Dare I ask what he was after the other times he was here?"
"Sex. But I told him to get the hell out each time. Told him you were all the man I want. I think he's finally gotten the message."
Sam took a deep breath. "So if I apologize all over the place for being a jealous jerk, you'll take me back?"
"Apology accepted. I'd never knowingly do anything to hurt you, Sam."
"And I don't have anything to worry about so far as the devil from Sebring's concerned?"
"Not a thing. It's funny. Macey says he's diabolical, and I admit I thought so, too. But when he was here the other night, he said he just enjoys messing with people's minds. Sort of a prankster."
"You're not seriously comparing Paul Moretti to Til Eulenspiegel, are you?"
Sam grinned. ""I guess not. But he is a good fuck."
"Don't even go there!" It was Jeff's turn to grin. "But speaking of a good fuck . . . ."
Sam's gray eyes flashed. He stood up. "No foreplay, lover?"
Jeff stood, too. "All the foreplay you want, partner, but let's do it upstairs. We have some serious catching up to do."
As it turned out, there wasn't much foreplay the first time around. Neither man had had sex for the weeks they'd been apart.
They managed to get out of their clothes and fall onto Jeff's king-size bed. They began kissing, rolling around so that first one was on top, then the other, their hard cocks leaking onto their abs. Jeff managed to suck up a bruise on Sam's neck and was then rolled over. With Sam on top, Jeff took a buttock in each hand and began squeezing was Sam did his best to stick his tongue all the way down Jeff's throat. Meanwhile, further south, pelvises were grinding, cocks thrusting. And then, much too soon, the inevitable happened, and their dicks were slipping, sliding in a sea of spunk.
Finally their heart rates subsided, their breathing slowed, and they lay there, exchanging gentle kisses now, smiling, murmuring endearments.
Then: "You'd better get off me. I can't breathe."
"Yeah, but what a way to go."
"Le petit mort."
"The little death. That's what the French call it."
"That's morbid. Leave it to the frogs."
"Jeff! Shame on you. The French have a rich and ancient culture."
"They sneer at foreigners and their women don't shave their legs."
Sam chuckled. "I didn't realize my lover was so prejudiced. Have you ever been to France?"
"Yeah, Buddy and Phil took me there one summer when I was in high school. They loved it."
"But you didn't?"
Perhaps wisely, Sam got up and went to the bathroom. Jeff heard water running. A minute or so later Sam returned with a warm, moist cloth and cleaned him up. Then he took the damp cloth back.
When he got back into bed, he said, "Well, at least that way we didn't get cum all over the sheets."
"Not yet. Come here."
Jeff began to suck on first one, then the other, of Sam's nipples. Soon both men were hard again. But this time there was no rush, so they enjoyed an extended playtime, rubbing, nibbling, sucking, and squeezing. When Jeff got Sam onto his back and began sucking his balls, Sam relaxed, letting Jeff have his way.
"His way" consisted of lapping slowly down Sam's perineum, then to his crack. And then the final destination. Sam was highly vocal. Jeff loved hearing his lover moan and occasionally squeak as he was rimmed. But the expressions of pleasure eventually changed to those of need. Sam began to plead with Jeff to fuck him. He'd been enjoying listening to Sam's pleasure sounds, but as they became more urgent, he knew what he needed to do. Grabbing the lube and a condom from their usual place, he suited and slicked up.
"Oh, yeah. That! God, I've needed that. Fuck me, Jeffrey!"
And thus Sam got fucked, managing to come along with Jeff.
"Wow! Simultaneous orgasms! Wow!"
"Stick with me, Sam,"
"Nobody else, babe."
Once again they cleaned up and went back to bed, this time falling asleep in each other's arms.
Jeff woke up in one of the most pleasant ways possible. He was on his stomach. He was being rimmed.
"Oh, good morning! What a way to wake up. Don't stop!"
He heard and felt a rumbling at what was for the moment the center of his being, but it was nothing intelligible. Intelligibility has its limitations, however, so he gave himself up to the moment.
Out of one eye he could see the clock on the bedside table. It was 4:42.
What an absurd hour to be awake. I'm not gonna make my run. Ian will worry. I'll have to text him later and let him know I'm okay. Wouldn't he love to know why? But that would be cruel, given the poor kid's lack of some guy to do what Sammy's doing. Oh. Sammy. Probably better give him some more encouragement.
Pause. Sound of condom packet ripping. Squishy sounds. Then pressure from Sam's dick. Tight. Pressure. But good. Maybe as sensation not quite as good as being tongue fucked, but better anyway. Because of the connection. Bonded with my lover, united in a way like nothing else.
"Oh, yeah, baby. Come on in. Uh huh. Just like that!"
Later that morning, both men were more or less hung over. Not from the modest amount of beer they'd consumed the previous evening, but from lots of sex and little sleep. Jeff's nuts felt shriveled.
He thought he should fix his lover a big breakfast, with eggs, bacon, and pancakes, but Sam declined, saying he hadn't time. They settled for orange juice, boxed cereal, and coffee. Sam wanted to leave so he could go home, get fresh clothing, and open the store.
They embraced at the back door, and the embrace was followed by a kiss.
"Better stop now," Sam said. "Or there'll be some pissed-off handymen out front of Dudeks'. But there's one thing I need you to tell me."
"Anything!" Jeff was still flustered from the kiss.
"Is it absolutely clear that we, uh, we belong to each other?"
Epilogue to Follow
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