by Tim Mead
The next morning they got up early, as planned. Sam didn't stay for breakfast, saying he needed to get home, shower, shave, and change clothes so he could be at the store by 8:00. Dudeks' didn't officially open until 8:30, but often people in the building trades would stop by early to pick up something they needed for that morning's work.
They kissed and agreed to do something on Saturday, which was the last weekend before Christmas.
Jeff put on shorts but wore a hoodie since it was chilly and damp. It was still dark when he started his run. The amber lights around the lake shone through halos of fog. By the time he was on his second lap, however, the sun was beginning to show in the southeast. He'd passed Ian twice (going the other direction, as always). The boy had smiled and nodded, but neither broke stride, being serious about their running. Jeff wondered how Ian had fared on his paper, but he figured it might be too soon to know. And that Ian would tell him when he had news.
That day at lunch Macey asked him about his weekend. He told her about Sam coming over to help put up the decorations.
"This was your second date, wasn't it?"
"Um, yeah. We had dinner the other night at Arpeggio."
"Oh! Didn't you have dinner together one evening after the car show?"
"Yeah. But that was before we, um, that wasn't really a date. So far as that's concerned, I'm not sure that hanging some wreaths constitutes a date, either."
"What did you do after?"
Jeff could feel himself blushing. "I made dinner. Well, actually, I had spaghetti sauce simmering while we worked outside, and then we came inside and fixed the rest of it together."
"Oh, that's so cute!" She had a wicked look on her face. "And what did you do after that? Did he spend the night?"
"Well, yes, nosy, he did."
"And you two made out like bunnies!"
"You know, you and I have never really talked about our sex lives. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this."
"Okay, okay. Don't get your panties in a twist."
"Mace, I wish you wouldn't talk to me as if I were a girl. I may be gay, but I'm a guy, okay?"
She put her hand on his. "I'm sorry, Jeffie. The only other close gay friend I had was in college, and he was pretty femme. He called me `girl' and I called him `girl.' I didn't mean to upset you."
She grinned. "And don't think I don't get it that you've just managed to change the subject."
Jeff assumed his most innocent look. "What subject?"
"Let's just say I suspect you and the hunk with the wide shoulders and sweet little butt made out."
Twice, if you only knew!
"How about you? Did you spend the weekend with your lieutenant?"
She smiled and half closed her eyes. "Mmm hmm."
She held up her hand. "Don't even think of asking!"
Jeff laughed. "Okay. What's sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose."
"So, do you and Sam have another date coming up?"
"We're gonna do something this weekend, but we haven't talked about it yet. He was in a hurry to get to work this morning. How about you and your aviator? Got any plans?"
"Uh huh. I'm going to Tampa. We're gonna have dinner, take in a movie, and then go clubbing."
Jeff raised a teasing eyebrow, but their conversation was interrupted when their server brought the check.
On the way back to the office, Macey said, "Just so you know. George is not an aviator, he's a JAG lawyer. And it's captain, not lieutenant."
"Sorry." Jeff hoped the guy, impressive credentials aside, deserved Macey.
The next day's mail brought a handful of Christmas cards. One of them was from Moretti & Son's Highlands Customs, signed by both Carl and Paul. Jeff felt a flush of heat, but he told himself it was anger, not arousal.
There were also several bills. One of them was from Hagerty, for insurance on Agatha. He wondered whether he should, out of loyalty, transfer his coverage to UbiCo. He made a mental note to ask Sam.
He called Sam the next evening and after the customary greetings asked about car insurance.
"Who was Phil's carrier?"
"An outfit called Hagerty."
"Figures. Hagerty's pretty popular with classic car collectors."
"But UbiCo sells that kind of policy. I checked."
"Sorry to have to tell you this, bud, but Ubico is known among car guys as the Antichrist."
"No shit? Why?"
"Because while they and the other big companies claim to write collector car insurance, basically they persist in thinking and acting as if our babies were just very old used cars. Dig out your policy and read it. Then talk to one of your colleagues in sales. And the next time we have a cruise-in downtown, ask around."
"You're welcome. Now I'm glad you called. There's a movie showing in Cypress Haven I want to see. Would you like to have dinner somewhere and then take in the flick with me?"
"Sure. What's the film?"
"The King's Speech."
"Haven't heard of that one."
"You could check it out on line."
"Maybe I will, but let's say we're on for Saturday evening, whatever it's about. Would you like me to drive?"
"You could. But if I drive, my car will be at your house when we get back."
"But . . . oh, I see! Yeah. Cool." He felt like a teen.
"Suppose I call or text you later about when to pick you up. Any restaurant preferences?"
Sam chuckled. "And I hope you stay that way! Later, dude."
When Sam picked Jeff up that Saturday evening, he was driving a late-model silver Camaro with black leather inside.
"Nice wheels! New?"
"I've had it just over a year."
"Somehow I pictured you driving the Olds every day, but I suppose that's not practical."
"Yeah. To keep the special classic plates and insurance rate, I have to limit the driving. As you do, too, I suppose."
"Yeah. I suppose. Guess I'd better find out about that."
"If you can't find any paperwork about it, why not call the insurer?"
"I'm sure the policy is in Phil's `Agatha' folder. So where are we eating?''
"Phil would be disappointed that you're more interested in food than in Agatha."
"Not true! Well, not entirely. I love the old gal, but I only had an apple for lunch, and I'm hungry!"
"Twenty minutes to The Outback. Do you and Macey eat there often?"
"I didn't even know they were open for lunch. But Macey isn't a steak gal. So I haven't been there since Phil died."
"You eat with Macey every day?"
"Yeah, unless one of us has a work-related meeting."
"Should I be jealous?"
Jeff wondered when his and Sam's relationship had passed the point of exclusivity, but that was fine with him. "No, man. Macey's a great friend, but she's female. And she has a guy. An Air Force captain, as a matter of fact."
Sam grinned. "Okay. Just checkin'."
The Outback didn't take reservations and they had to wait a few minutes before they were seated. When they were asked for their drink orders, both chose beer. As Sam said, you'd probably pay through the nose for a decent red.
While they waited for their drinks they studied the menu. When the server returned, Sam said, "We're aiming to be at the Cineplex by 7:30, so keep things moving along if you can, okay?"
The guy smiled broadly and said, "Not a problem, mate."
"Kevin," for that's how he'd introduced himself, "your Aussie accent is terrible. Where are you really from?"
The tall, fair-skinned redhead blushed. "Asheville. And I'm new here. So please don't say anything to management."
"Are you required to fake an accent?"
"No. I just thought I'd try it out."
"I'd give that a rest if I were you."
"Thanks for the tip. Or, uh, suggestion."
"Not a problem, mate," Sam said. Kevin and Jeff chuckled.
Sam ordered lamb chops, Jeff beef tenderloins teriyaki. Jeff said he'd really like the garlic mashed potatoes, but he worried about his breath. Sam winked and said, "Let's both have `em. Then there won't be a problem."
Kevin's eyes widened, and then he smiled. But he obviously knew enough not to say anything.
They both ordered sautéed asparagus as their veggie. "That way our pee will smell funny, too," Jeff said.
Sam leaned forward. "I'll know about your breath. But I'm not into golden showers. Or pale green ones, either."
Jeff's burst of laughter caused some patrons nearby to stare. He blushed and ducked his head.
The rest of the meal passed pleasantly. They decided to skip dessert at the restaurant when Jeff announced that he'd baked a mince pie that afternoon in the spirit of the season. After all, it was just a week until Christmas.
They made it to the Cineplex in time to sit through some of the trailers and ads before the movie started. Jeff had done just enough online research to know the film was about the current Queen of England's father, George VI and that he'd had a speech impediment.
Jeff had resigned himself to watching a boring film just because Sam wanted to see it. So he was pleasantly surprised: it turned out to be a much more entertaining movie than he'd expected.
As they were driving home, after a few minutes of silence Jeff chuckled and said, "Fuckity, fuckity fuck!"
Sam glanced at him briefly and then burst into laughter. That was a line the normally staid but occasionally temperamental George VI had said at a point of extreme frustration with his stammer. Or was it stutter? Jeff could never remember the difference.
"I thought for a minute," Sam said, "you were urging me to drive faster."
"Take your time. I'm enjoying the ride. Your car still smells like leather." He didn't mention that it also smelled a little like Sam's body wash or shampoo or something citrusy.
Back at what he still thought of as Phil's house, Jeff served up the pie with whipped cream (from a squirt can) and decaf.
Sex was next on the menu. There wasn't much foreplay, but it was a torrid entrée. And then lots of cuddling before they went to sleep.
The next morning brought a leisurely period of exploration: gentle, sometimes teasing, but with slowly-mounting urgency. They wound up wrapped in each other's arms, neither in any hurry to break the spell.
Jeff was worried that he was going to have to give in to the urgings of his bladder when Sam's stomach rumbled. Both men chuckled.
"You can use this bathroom. I'll use the guest bath. And I'll meet you in the kitchen. Can't have you falling on that sexy face from hunger."
For breakfast Jeff made whole-wheat pancakes, which he served with sausage links and a choice of pure maple syrup or honey. And freshly-squeezed juice from an orange tree in the back yard.
"My oh my!" Sam enthused. "Just like Bob Evans, only better!"
"Dig in, bro! You've earned it."
Sam grinned ever so slightly and said, "We've both expended a few calories in the last twelve hours."
When they were having their second cups of coffee, Sam asked, "What are your plans for Christmas?"
"Don't have any. Macey invited me for Christmas dinner with her family, but her captain is going to be there, and I'd be pretty much in the way. Besides, I don't like the idea of her having to explain me as her loser gay friend."
"Then have Christmas dinner with us."
"Oh, I was there on Thanksgiving. I don't think I should impose again so soon."
"You won't be imposing. My aunt and uncle will be there, along with their grandson, my cousin's kid. The more the merrier."
Jeff made the effort to smile, but he knew it must have looked strained. "And you would explain me to your aunt and uncle . . . how?"
Shrugging, Sam said, "I could just say you're a friend who was going to be alone for Christmas. But what I'd like to say is that you're my boyfriend."
The BF word was a surprise to Jeff. He'd had fuck buddies before, but never anyone he'd have called a boyfriend. But, he realized, he'd been thinking of Sam in those terms for weeks now.
"First, are you sure that's the way you feel?"
"No doubt about it."
"And you don't mind telling your family about us?"
Sam grinned. "I think Mom and Dad have figured it out. They can read me pretty well. And Mom said I was to be sure to ask you for Christmas dinner."
"What about your aunt and uncle?"
"They know I'm gay. So at my age, they're probably wondering when I'm going to find a guy and settle down. I'd say all we have to worry about is Adam, and we're both bigger than he is."
Jeff was puzzled. His face must have shown it, for Sam continued, "Adam's twelve. I haven't seen him for a couple of years, but Mom says he's bright. Does well in school but he also plays baseball and soccer."
"What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing. But Mom says Aunt Meg claims he's got a smart mouth."
"I think I can handle that."
"So you'll come?"
"If you're sure it's okay with your folks. Should I bring gifts?"
"We're having our exchange the night before. That's our family tradition. So, no need to bring anything. But I'll bet Mom would appreciate having a mince pie to set out along with her desserts. I imagine Aunt Meg will bring food, too. Let me talk with Mom and I'll let you know what she says. Did you buy the crust for that pie at Publix?"
"No, my grandmother taught me how to make pie crust when I was a teen."
"She must have known you're gay."
"Hey, lots of straight guys cook! And I'm not a chef. I just know how to make Gran's pie crust."
"Yeah, sure." The twinkle in Sam's eye told Jeff his "boyfriend" was teasing.
There was a lot of kissing at the door when Sam left. Jeff discovered he didn't even have time to make it to the second Eucharist. He regretted that. It was the last Sunday in Advent, and he always enjoyed the service.
St. John's had two Festival Eucharists on Christmas Eve. Jeff opted to go to the later one because families with young children came to the early service. The second was just as crowded, but it was an older, quieter group. It was a beautiful celebration, but it was saddened for Jeff by the absence of Phil and Buddy. He'd spent Christmases in Lake Polk before, and the three of them had always attended the Christmas Eve service together.
When he got home he put a CD of Christmas music on the stereo and sat down with a book. Several years ago a friend had given him an anthology of Christmas-themed detective short stories, which he read until he felt sleepy.
The next morning, even though it was a weekend and Christmas Day, he woke early and decided to go for his usual run. He didn't see Ian or the man with the dog. There was one solitary fisherman on the lake. Jeff felt sorry for the guy and then chuckled, thinking that perhaps the guy was feeling sorry for him. He was passed three times by the woman on the bike. When she said "On your left" the first time, Jeff had answered "Merry Christmas." She didn't say anything in reply, so the second and third times she passed him, he didn't respond to her caution.
He passed the morning by listening to more Christmas music as he baked the pie he'd promised. Busy with his hands, he let his mind go back to past Christmases. He'd been in this house many times before for the holidays. Every year when he was at FSU he came to spend the break with Phil and Buddy. And twice while he was living in Illinois he'd been able to fly down to spend Christmas with them. Now, here he was again. But they were both gone. And the big house contained ghosts. He couldn't help remembering happy times and wondering if there'd ever be such good days again in this house. They were the last of his "family," and he wondered how to go about acquiring another. It was so simple for straight guys. Macey, for example, might find a real connection with her Air Force captain. If not she'd be sure to find a guy somewhere, sometime, who'd be damned glad to have her and would work hard to make her happy.
While the pie was cooling he read several more of the Christmas mysteries. He'd shaved and showered when he got back from his run, but at twelve-thirty he dressed to go to the Dudeks'.
He put the pie into a Tupperware pie taker. Since Sam had told him they traditionally had roast beef on Christmas, he put a couple of bottles of pinot noir from Phil and Buddy's cellar into a cloth wine carrier he'd found near the wine.
The empty boxes from the Christmas decorations were still in front of his Subaru, so he'd been using the BMW lately. And he'd come to enjoy driving the fine Bavarian machine. But since it was a beautiful, coolish day, he decided to walk. It wasn't far, and the pie and wine weren't terribly heavy.
When he arrived he was greeted first by the tantalizing aroma of roasting beef and then by Sam, who gave him a brief hug before introducing him to his uncle, Jack Wenger, and his Aunt Meg, Karen's sister. The women appeared from the kitchen to welcome him. Karen introduced Meg. Then she thanked him for the pie and the wine and the women excused themselves to get back to the food preparation.
Victor and Jack were having beer in the family room. In the background Christmas music was playing. Sam explained that Adam was in his, Sam's, quarters Skypeing with a friend back in Pittsburgh. (The Dudek home, Jeff had learned when he and Jeff first started dating, had a ground-floor granny suite which was where Sam lived. That way he could come and go without disturbing his parents. The agreement was that if either of the parents became unable to use the stairs, he'd relinquish his quarters and either move upstairs or move out.)
The Wengers, as Jeff knew, lived in Sarasota. He was told that Jack was a retired CPA, but that he remained active in the Kiwanis. He and his wife attended many of the theatrical and musical offerings available in that city. Jeff thought Meg must be quite different from Karen, whose life seemed to revolve around her home and the family business.
Unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner at the Dudeks' had no discernible Polish touches. The roast was accompanied by gravy, mashed potatoes, succotash, cooked carrots, a green bean casserole, and yeast rolls. And they served the pinot he'd brought. Jeff thought it could have stood to breathe a while longer, but the second glass was better than the first. It was an excellent wine. But then he knew that if Phil and Buddy chose it, he could rely on its quality.
Adam was summoned at the beginning of the meal. When he was introduced to Jeff, he merely said "Hey." Instead of being seated on the side of the table with his grandparents, he was put between Jeff and Sam.
Once all the food was passed, Jeff, in an effort to make conversation, said, "So, Adam, are you from Sarasota?"
"No. My folks just parked me with Nana and Gramps so they could go on a cruise."
"I'll bet you've enjoyed being with your grandparents." Jeff was remembering all the good times he'd had with Phil and Buddy summers and school holidays when his parents had been only too glad to get rid of him.
"Well, yeah, I suppose. They took me to the Ringling Museum, and that was cool."
Jeff was buttering a roll when Adam continued, "So, Jeff. Are you a fag like Sam? Nana said you were his boyfriend."
"Adam!" Meg said, quietly. "That will be quite enough. You know we don't use that word."
"But, Nana, that's what everybody calls them in my school."
"Well not here." Then she looked across the table at Jeff. "I'm sorry, Jeff. I'm afraid Adam's a Yankee. He hasn't learned to be civil."
Yeah, Jeff thought. We Southerners can inwardly despise you for being a Yankee. Or a Democrat. Or a gay. But we're usually civil.
Adam turned to Jeff and said, "Sorry, dude."
Conversation flowed smoothly after that. Adam concentrated on his food. Jeff was amazed that a kid of twelve could put away as much as he did. Must be going through a growth spurt.
Jeff and Sam helped the women clear the table and bring out the desserts, which were put on a sideboard in the dining room so folks could help themselves. In addition to Jeff's mince pie there were pumpkin pie, chocolate cake, ambrosia, and boiled custard (which Jeff knew some people liked to pour over their cake or into their ambrosia.).
Karen offered coffee or sweet tea with the dessert. Adam opted for a glass of milk. Jeff envied him. He would have liked milk, too, but he would have been embarrassed to ask.
The adults all said they wanted "just a little bit" of each dessert. Adam had a huge piece of chocolate cake smothered with custard. Karen and Meg made a point of telling Jeff how good the mince pie was, and Jack agreed. Victor, unusually taciturn, nodded but said nothing.
When the meal was finished and everyone stood up, the two older men to go to family room to turn off the music and turn on the TV, Sam went to the kitchen with dishes in both hands. Jeff found himself alone in the dining room with Adam.
"Seriously, dude, do you take it up the ass? Or do you fuck Cousin Sam?"
Jeff wondered whether the boy was intentionally abrasive, or whether he really wanted to know. "Sorry, little dude. That's really none of your business, is it?"
Adam grinned. "So you take turns fucking each other? Wait'll I tell the guys back home."
"Careful, Adam. If you talk about your gay cousin, your friends might assume you're gay, too. Some straight people think homosexuality's contagious."
The grin vanished. "Ya think? Guess I'd better not say anything then. Thanks, Jeff."
"Grab your plate and take it to the kitchen."
Adam did as told, Jeff following along with more dishes.
When the dining table was cleared, the young men offered to help wash, but the women shooed them away.
"Okay, then," Sam said. "Come on, Jeff. You've never seen where I live. Let me give you the nickel tour."
The granny suite, which had obviously been added to the house later, was behind the main house and up several steps since the land sloped up from the street. It had a small galley kitchen, a decent-sized bedroom, a bath with a tub/shower combination, and the main room, which had Sam's computer and a flat-screen TV. There was a door that went from the kitchen to the back yard, most of which was a patio. On the other side of the patio from Sam's apartment was a free-standing two-car garage. There were a couple of citrus trees and some bougainvillea at the back of the yard, separating it from the neighbors up the hill.
"If your folks ever had to move in here, how would they manage the steps leading up to the door?"
"It would only take an hour or so to knock together a wooden ramp."
"Oh! I'd forgotten you're handy." Jeff gestured around to indicate Sam's quarters. "This is neat."
"Well," Sam said, "I can come and go as I please without bothering the folks, though I think Mom always knows whether I'm here or not. And I can eat with the family whenever I want to, which is a real bonus, since I'm not much of a cook."
"Sounds like a good deal."
"Yeah. But I'm putting money away for a place of my own. Whenever I think of getting a really nice Hemi `Cuda, I remind myself that a house is more important."
"Sam, a house can be a money pit." Jeff was thinking of all the bills he knew Phil's trust was paying in connection with his house. "Besides, real estate may not be the best investment right now."
"Two schools of thought on that. Some people don't think the market can get any worse. A guy could pick up something pretty decent for a hell of a lot less than it would have cost five years ago. And have a place to fix up the way he wants, even if the market doesn't improve right away."
"I hadn't thought of it that way." Jeff was thinking of how lucky he was. And of how much space there was in Phil's house.
"You know what I've been thinking about?"
Sam cupped Jeff's balls with one hand and put the other behind Jeff's head, drawing their faces close together. "How gorgeous you are. How much I want you."
They kissed. Sam fondled Jeff's balls and then, with the heel of his hand, rubbed Jeff's growing erection.
"Mmmm. That's nice, Sam. But we'd better get back to the others or they'll know what we're doing in here."
Sam sighed. "I suppose you're right." He paused, his hand still rubbing Jeff's cock through his Dockers. "Let's go to your house. We'll tell them we're gonna walk off the big dinner."
"You think they'll buy that?"
After excusing themselves "to go walk around the lake," they went to Jeff's house, where they lost their clothes before they got to the bedroom.
It was nearly an hour later when they got back to the Dudeks'.
"You guys must have walked pretty fast," Adam said with a smirk. "Jeff's face is still kinda red."
Around 6:00 Karen began to put food back on the sideboard, inviting people to help themselves. She put out slices of home made bread, mayonnaise, mustard, catsup, and pickles, inviting them to make sandwiches if they wanted. She had also reheated the gravy, along with the veggies from earlier.
And after that, everyone had to have more dessert. Jeff contented himself with some ambrosia. Adam had the last piece of the mince pie and asked his great aunt Karen if she had any whipped cream. She obliging brought out the familiar red and white can.
The boy made a point of sitting next to Jeff again.
"Man! This pie is great! You'll make Sam a great wife."
"Adam!" Karen, Meg, and Sam said simultaneously.
After the dessert, Jeff thanked his hosts, told Meg and Jack he was happy to have met them, and went home. Disappointed that he couldn't ask Sam to come back with him for the night, he realized that Sam needed to be with family. It was, after all, Christmas night. And he still hadn't had a chance to give Sam his present.
He was sitting with his socked feet on the coffee table, trying without much luck to find something to watch on TV when there was a tap at the side door.
It was Sam, who stood there with a bag from the family store in his hand.
"I thought they'd never leave. But they finally did. Adam told me I should come and `take care' of you. I thought that was a great idea. So here I am. And I told the folks I wouldn't be back until morning. I hope you aren't going to throw me out." He lifted the sack. "I've brought my toothbrush and some clean undies."
Jeff grabbed Sam's shirt and pulled him inside with one hand as he flipped the door shut with the other. Then he put both hands behind Sam's head and untied the leather lace that secured Sam's pony tail.
"Come here, you, and kiss me!" He noticed Sam's bag made a surprising thunk when it hit the floor, but he wasn't concerned about that.
Although they'd made love here that afternoon, he couldn't think of anything more important than doing it again.
They didn't make it to the bedroom. Soon Sam was lolling on the big leather couch as Jeff bounced up and down on his hard cock. Sam was pumping Jeff's cock. Both men were moaning.
"What's so goddamned funny?"
"You'd think we'd never done this before, when actually, it was this afternoon."
"And your point is . . . ?"
"Never get enough, babe."
"Oh, yeah! Good point!"
When they were finished, they snuggled under a throw and watched something unmemorable on TV.
Jeff woke up after midnight. He began to lick Sam's neck, just under the ear.
"Let's go to bed."
"If you say so."
The next morning, they did it all again.
Afterward, Jeff fixed poached eggs, bacon, and toasted English muffins with English marmalade. He thought it ironic that Florida produced the world's best oranges, but it took the Brits to make the best marmalade.
As they were having a second cup of coffee, Sam jumped up and said, "Oops, I forgot something. Be right back."
He returned carrying a nicely-wrapped package.
"I ordered this for you. Thought you might like it."
"Jeez, we forgot all about giving each other our gifts. Hold on just a minute."
Jeff practically trotted into the office to retrieve his package for Sam.
It turned out that both gifts, perhaps not surprisingly, were car-related. Sam had bought Jeff a coffee-table size book about the Auburn/Duesenberg/Cord Company. Jeff had bought Sam a miniature replica of his Olds, down to the correct color.
Both were pleased with their gifts and exchanged thank-you kisses. Thank goodness for the Internet, Jeff thought. I'd never have found anything like that around here.
After more hugs, kisses, and thanks, they agreed that whatever they did for New Year's Eve they'd do together.
After Sam left, Jeff debated whether or not to go to church. It was Sunday, after all. But he decided not to. Instead he brushed his teeth, spent some time in the bathroom, and then climbed back in bed. It still had faint traces of Sam's scent. Nice. He almost purred. He didn't wake up until nearly noon.
It's funny about lying in bed, he thought. When it's night and you're trying to get to sleep and can't, it sucks! But in the morning when you know you don't have to get up and can just lie there, it's great.
Then he thought about Sam and reached for his cock. Happy St. Stephen's Day!
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