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Unexpected Reunion

Twenty years had passed, a life time of accomplishments behind me, and I was still nervous as I drove up to valet parking of the Park Hyatt Washington. Twenty-year Class Reunion; I had avoided the tenth, but I had found myself wondering about my friends and classmates as the twentieth had approached. Why I wanted to see anyone again I wasn't sure. I hadn't been the class reject, and I wasn't returning as the conquering underdog who'd done good. I hadn't been the head of the class, and I wasn't returning to prove I still had it all. No, I was just one of the forgotten middle-grounders. I'd been no one special, or memorable, or accomplished in school. I'd just been another guy, struggling with his identity and trying to figure out what he wanted out of life.

Ok, so I had also been a closet case; nothing new there either. I'd lived in denial 'til after college and a failed marriage. Julie had been a good wife, and we'd had two beautiful children together, but we just weren't meant to be a couple. Even after the divorce we remained friends. At least neither of us had cheated on the other. We'd simply known that it wasn't working. She'd always noticed my attraction to men, even though I'd tried to ignore it, and when we finally ended it, she'd pointed me in that direction. No judgments, no screaming, and no fears of what I would do to the kids; honestly, Julie was still my best friend. We'd both cried when we ended it, but we were miserable and it turned out for the best. I started and new life, and Julie remarried a few years later, but I still shared custody of the kids. Hell, I even liked Jim; he was a great guy with a "starter marriage" behind him as well.

Julie pushed me to come to the reunion. She thought it would be good for me to have some closure. She and Jim worried about me a lot, far more than I deserved. They wanted me to be happy and show the kids that "being gay" did not equate to being lonely and miserable. Hah, what a joke. I'd tried a few times; I'd only bottomed, but I'd even had a boyfriend for almost a year. Gay bars were too much of a fucking meat market; online hook-ups were scary. Were all gay men looking for hung, built, sex-crazed guys in their early to mid-twenties? That wasn't me. Not that I didn't like to look at and fantasize about the hot images on the internet, but that's all I ever did.

I pulled out my suitcase and hanging bag, gave my keys to the attendant, and checked in. The woman at reservations was kind enough to tell me where the sign-in for the Madison High School reunion was. I had a porter deliver my things to the room, tipping him in advance, while I wandered down to the meeting room area. A frustrated blond "soccer mom" was directing the final touches and looked like she really needed to be anywhere but here. I was early.

She saw me as I watched. "Hello, you here for the reunion?" She smoothed down the front her slacks and extended her hand. "I'm Meredith Bartoni, but I was Meredith Coleman back in school."

I smiled. Meredith had been the head of student council, a cheerleader, and though she was the target of every guy in the senior class she never seemed to be a bitch. In fact, she'd been nice to everyone. Extending my hand, I accepted the greeting. "Zack Johnson."

Her brows furrowed, and I could tell she was trying to place me. I hadn't been on any of the school teams. The only thing I'd done was martial arts club; it was the only sport I'd kept up with. "Why does your name ring a bell? I get the idea you were in one of the odd clubs?"

I was impressed. "Head of the Martial Arts club, senior year."

She smiled. "Thanks. I've tried to memorize the names of anyone who did anything at the school, but with a seven-hundred person graduating class it is just impossible."

I looked around. "Looks like you have your hands full."

She rolled her eyes and groaned. "Just like high school, actually. I get on a committee and by the time something has to be finished, most of the girls have 'conflicts' and I'm left holding the bag."

Grinning, I laughed. "Well, once I get out of my office clothes, could I help?"

The relief on her face was palpable. "Oh, would you?"

"I'd be happy to; I'll be back down in fifteen."

She gave me a quick hug, and I could feel the tension in her back. She was really stressed. "Thank you so much."

"See you in a few."

I got up to my room and changed. My bags had been delivered and I changed quickly. I stopped and looked in the mirror before I went back down. My hair had thinned and my waistline was about six inches larger than it had been at eighteen. Not that I was a porker; I was still under two hundred and I honestly had great legs and ass. I still did martial arts, kung fu and tai chi specifically. Our particular school was known for having men in the upper levels that were "beer kegs" or barrels. Something about the core body work developed bodies into a solid, columnar build. I didn't jiggle much, though I did have a soft cushion I could lose. I'd never get below a 34 or 35-inch waist again; I had just too much solid muscle in the middle to do get smaller than that. At five-foot-eleven, I wasn't bad, but no one would be asking me to model. My face was, for better or for worse, "sweet". I'd always had a kind of cherubim face; Julie called it adorable. I called it "no man's land" because I never seemed to be able to "land a man" with it.

I appeased my ego by reminding myself I had most of my hair, I had no health problems, I had two great kids and some really world-class friends; knowing that I could probably break most of my class mates in two if they pissed me off was also a great equalizer. I wasn't the prettiest, I wasn't the best built, and I certainly wasn't the most successful, but I could stand up with any of them and honestly say I had done pretty well. I wondered if I could honestly stand up and tell them I was gay.

Meredith smiled as I came back into the reception area. She had been talking with a taller man, maybe six-two, with graying blond hair and a lean, almost overly drawn physique. His face looked as if he'd had a lot of hard years, but his eyes were laughing. I think it was his eyes that caused me to pause. They were an odd sort of blue-green that almost leapt out at you like when people with blue eyes wear green tinted contacts. Meredith snapped me back to reality was she said my name. "Zack, do you remember Joshua Winters?"

I was stunned into speechlessness. Josh had been 'the jock' of school. He lettered in track, was tall, blond, built like a Greek god, and had everyone falling over him. I think what I remembered most about him was the distant, almost distracted look he always seemed to have. It was as if he wasn't quite paying attention to what was going on around him. He certainly didn't have that look now; his eyes seemed to capture everything. He also wasn't a Greek god; he must have lost thirty or forty pounds since school. He didn't look bad; he looked very fit and vibrant if a bit worn. It was just such a dramatic change.

He extended his hand. "Hey, Zack. I don't think we knew each other in school."

"No, we didn't have the same circle of friends." I wanted to say no, I wasn't a cool jock like you, but I thought that'd be rude.

"Yeah, clicks suck, but when you're in your teens you don't know any better." Ok, that was a good comeback.

Meredith smiled. "Josh is my closest and oldest friend, Zack, so don't give him a lot of grief." There was the sound of something being knocked over and she shuddered. "Could you two handle the name tags while I find out what the hell just happened?"

Josh nodded. "You go, Mere, we'll take care of it."

I rolled my eyes as she dashed off to take care of another emergency. "Didn't anyone come to help?"

Josh grunted. "Damn Prima Dona bitches who started this whole thing are too busy trying to look seventeen again to get their manicures dirty." He walked to the reception table and slid around to the chairs. "Might as well grab a seat, Zack. If I know Mere, she'll have us slaving for her for the whole weekend."

I grinned. "The 'Demon Soccer Mom' strikes again?"

Chuckling, Josh found his name badge and struck his name off the list. "Something like that."

Josh and I spent the evening handing out nametags, checking off name lists, and talking to dozens of people we didn't know and had no real interest in getting to know. Fortunately, we found common interests to talk about together and we caught each other up on life after High School. I told him about marriage, martial arts, kids and divorce. He told me about sports, surviving cancer and making life changes. I had to admit, Josh was not only cool but someone to be admired. He had his shit together in spades.

Mere plopped down in the other chair behind the reception table and let out a sigh of relief. It was after midnight and we'd finally shut off the straggling flow of arriving former classmates by closing the doors to the meeting hall. "Thank God."

I chuckled. "You handled it like a pro. I can't believe they had so many issues you had to clean up behind."

Mere groaned. "Oh, you don't know the half of it. Why the hell weren't you on the committee?"

I smirked. "Because I was a nobody in school, and didn't attend the 10th anniversary, so the recreation crew didn't think to see if I'd help."

Mere snorted; it was a sound that seemed to come naturally, but was totally out of place with the nearly perfect if frazzled woman sitting near us. "You weren't an available piece of meat is more likely."

Josh chuckled. "I'm glad I just moved back. No one knew I was here but you."

"And I plan to keep it that way, Mr. Winters; all those grabby bitches will do is make your life miserable. Hell, a few of them may even try to 'make you straight'." She chuckled but Josh looked a bit uncomfortable. It took her a moment to realize I wasn't 'in the know' and she blushed. "Oh, shit. I'm sorry Josh."

He shrugged. "Not like I wasn't planning on coming out anyway."

I was clueless for a few moments, and then I blinked. "You're gay?"

"Yeah, 'Mr. Top Jock' is a fag." He sounded bitter. I knew how he felt.

I shrugged. "Cool."

That had both of them nonplussed. "Cool?" Mere was shocked. "I out my best friend like an idiot, and all you can say is cool?"

"What do you want me to say, Meredith? That's great Josh; let's hit some bars together?" I grinned. "Not exactly my style."

Mere grinned. "So, what is 'your style'?"

Ok, that had me sweating. This conversation was going places I really didn't want to go. "It's the: you can live your life any way you want as long as you don't drag me along, style." Ok, that was safe; I thought.

Josh held up his hand. "Ok kids, time out." He looked at Mere and pointed to the far side of the table. "You, over there. No more pressing for personal matters." Then he looked at me and pointed in the opposite direction. "You, take a break 'til you can play nice with the other kids."

I laughed. "Actually, unless Mere needs some help with the final clean up, I'm heading to bed."

Mere smiled. "Thanks for your help, Zack. I'm sorry I got bitchy; it's been a long night."

"Need me in the morning?"

She shook her head. "No, those lazy bitches can take their shifts, or I'll take one of my son's cleats and kick them so hard they'll think it's implanted."

We all laughed and I put out my hand to Josh. "It was a pleasure to meet you again."

He took my hand and smiled. "Like-wise."

Meredith hugged me before I left. "Don't forget to give me your contact info, Zack. After all this, maybe we can get together."

I really liked Mere. "I'd like that." I left feeling like I probably had a couple new friends in the making.

I really didn't get much time with Josh or Meredith again during the reunion. We smiled at one another when we could; knowing smiles that no one else understood. People remarking on how they'd changed, how they looked, or another of a million insincere compliments had waylaid them both. Everyone reacted to Josh's change as I had; he really was a different person from the boy in school. I caught up with a few of my high school friends; we had nothing in common, but I was glad to see them again.

I got to see just how bitter and spiteful old classmates could be at the banquet dinner. They did the whole "tell us about yourself" speech thing between each serving. Meredith was nearly a lead speaker, but being in the early middle of the alphabet, I'd had to give my introduction half way between her and Zack. I chickened out and didn't "come out" to my classmates. Why bother, there were only a few I really decided I wanted to get to know again and I could tell them in private. That was 'til Josh had his turn.

He stood up, smiling at the hellos and nods that people gave him, and just let it out. "Hi everyone, I'm Josh Winters. I've lived in about three states since high school, working as Business Analyst, and I've just returned to DC. I haven't been married and I don't have anyone in my life at present. I do a lot of racing, both cycling and triathlons, and I'm gay."

That last statement went over like a lead balloon. The ripple effect was horrifying. Between the gasps, the disbelief and the disgust, he might as well have said he was an ax-murderer. Then I heard a few people mumble he probably had AIDS. I'd learned from Josh that he'd had leukemia in his mid-20s, but had fought it and it was in remission. The assumption that a gay man automatically was an AIDS victim set my teeth on edge. I watched the spark in his eyes vanish as he sat back down and the people next to him seemed to shy away.

I got mad; no, I got furious. I'd been scared of the exact same reaction. Josh had had the guts to be honest and open and he'd been rewarded with bigoted, paranoia. I stood up, balling my fists. "I'd like to add," everyone looked stunned as I practically yelled it out, "that I'm Gay too and you idiots who are mumbling that Josh is an AIDS victim are mindless bigots. I think you people should shut up and take care of your own issues before demeaning someone else."

I was still standing when another of our classmates, Cynthia Stroud, stood up and echoed my words. Two others also stood, all stating clearly that they were gay and everyone else would just have to deal with it. I'm sure there were others, but that had been enough. I saw Josh looking at me across the room and I swear I could feel his eyes. The gratitude there almost made my knees weak. I think it was the end of my adrenaline rush that caused it actually, because I nearly collapsed into my seat, shaking a little, after we got a fairly large round of applause from the majority of the people in the room.

Meredith caught up with me at the end of the dinner. She had a large, Italian man with her who looked like the stereotype for an Italian cook. He was barrel-chested with a big gut, and was all smiles. She gave me an enthusiastic hug. "Thank you so much."

I was stunned. "For what?"

"For standing up for Josh. He'd been agonizing over his decision for weeks. You made him realize he wasn't alone." She stepped back and put her hand on the man's chest. "This is my husband, Frank."

He put out a beefy hand. "Any guy who can stand up for what he believes like that is someone I can respect, poof or not." His accent was definitely something from the New York area. Somehow, being called a poof by the guy wasn't insulting at all.

I shook his hand. "Thanks, that's one of the best compliments I've ever had."

"You have to come over for dinner, Zack. Of all the people here, you're definitely one I want to keep up with." Meredith was a doll, and I agreed completely.

I'd made it out the door, deciding to avoid the whole "social dance" thing, and went for the elevators. I think I was still feeling a little sick from my outburst at dinner. Josh caught me before the doors opened. "Hey, Zack."

Why was I sweating? I turned around. "Yeah?"

He put out his hand. "Thanks. No one has ever done something like that for me before."

I took it; worried my palms were sweating, and smiled. "I'd say my pleasure, but it wasn't any fun. I just couldn't let anyone be treated like that."

He didn't let go, and I felt odd warmth running down my arm. It was unnerving. "Can we get together some time? I really don't know anyone around here other than Mere."

I smiled. "Sure, Mere's got my address and phone number."

He returned the smile, and I could see the handsome jock still there behind the leaner, older man. He had a great smile. "I'll call you then."

"Great. I'll look forward to it." Thinking for a moment, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a card. "Here, that's got my work number and email."

He took it and stepped back. "Thanks again, Zack."

I smirked and joked to try to relieve the tension I was feeling. "If you really feel obligated, you can buy me dinner."

His grin suddenly made me wonder if he'd taken it the wrong way. "You can count on it."

The doors opened and I left him there, grinning. The thought of having dinner with Josh Winters was suddenly a very frightening prospect.

Meredith called me about two weeks later and, as promised, invited me to dinner. She and Frank lived in Georgetown, in an older section on P Street. Nice houses, quiet neighborhood, and classic. Frank greeted me at the door. "Hey, Zack, glad you could make it."

I grinned. "Someone mentioned beef on the grill; I couldn't pass it up."

He laughed and thumbed inside. "Just head straight back and keep to the left; through the kitchen and out to the patio. Mere's already out there."

I looked about as I walked back. "Where are the kids?"

"Pool party and sleepovers. We have an evening free." He smiled happily at the thought.

I chuckled. "Then I won't stay late," I teased as I wiggled my eyebrows.

"Get into the back yard you perv." He was laughing as he pushed me out the door. "Beer or soda?"


"Yeah, got it. Be out in a minute." The door closed and I followed the sound of laughter to the back yard.

Mere was laughing and shaking her head as I came onto the patio. With her were a woman I didn't know, who looked very satisfied about something, and Josh, who looked embarrassed. Mere saw me and came over to give me a hug. "Zack, I'm so glad you could come."

I smiled and kissed her on the cheek. "You know us gay men; offer hot beef and we come running from miles around." That started Mere's giggles again and the other woman began to laugh. Josh got even redder.

"Thanks, Zack." The sarcasm in his tone made me grin.

"What'd I do?" I tried to look innocent but I think it came off as clueless.

Mere smirked. "Oh, nothing Josh won't recover from. Becka was just commenting on how most gay men are just about sex and the lesbians have it right."

I raised an eyebrow. "Oh? All emotional drama and no nookie? No thanks."

That sent Mere into a complete spasm of giggles as she sat down. Becka did not look amused but Josh grinned. "Damn, wish I'd thought of that."

"You never were good on the uptake, Josh." Meredith couldn't stop smiling.

I grinned. Josh was wearing a pair of comfortable jeans and a T-back. He looked great. Closing on forty and having struggled through cancer did not make him a candidate for being on the cover of GQ, but to any normal human he was as fit as any athlete. He was so much more cut that I was. Though I was shorter, I had a lot more muscle and probably out weighed him. The fact I had a touch more body fat than I'd liked contributed to that too. Still, he didn't seem to mind the fact that I was shorter, had thinning hair and didn't have a gym honed body. If I hadn't known any better, I'd have thought he was checking me out.

Dinner was delicious, filled with laughter and good spirits. I even grudgingly admitted that I liked Becka by the end of the evening. By nine, I knew it was time to head out; Frank was looking like he wanted some time to take advantage of a house devoid of kids. I had to admit: I didn't blame him. Josh said his goodbyes as well and left right behind me. I wasn't sure, but I think he'd been flirting with me most of the evening.

"Zack, what are you up to next weekend?"

I had to think about it. "I have the kids next weekend."

"Oh." Josh sounded disappointed.

"Why?" Now I was curious.

He shrugged. "I was going to see if you wanted to bike part of the canal next Saturday."

At thirteen and eleven, my kids were old enough to bike. "If we're only talking ten miles or so, I bet I could convince the kids." I grinned. "If you think you can stand going slow."

Josh laughed. "Actually, that'd be cool." We made plans to iron out the details during the week in email, and I headed home.

I checked with Julie about taking the kids on a day ride, and she thought it was a great idea. They had Tommy and Heather's bikes ready for the road when I arrived to pick them up Friday night. Julie smiled at me as we loaded the bikes. "So, what inspired this?"

I shrugged. "I met a classmate at the reunion a few weeks back. He invited me to take a canal ride, and I thought the kids might like that for a change from video brain-freeze." Julie raised her eyebrows and I frowned. "Friend, Julie. You know I'd tell you if I'd met someone."

"It sounds like a good activity for the kids, Zack. I like the idea of keeping them from the couch whenever possible." She smiled and kissed me on the cheek. "I wish this guy was something other than a friend."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "Why? I think the fact I'm not involved simplifies things with the kids. Not to mention, it means there's no chance of embarrassing situations."

Julie frowned. "True, but it also leads the kids to believe that being gay means being alone. I don't want them thinking that, especially Tommy."

That raised my antenna. "Why?"

She shrugged. "I want him to feel comfortable with whatever he grows up to be, Zack. His father is gay; we've made no secret of it, and we've tried to teach him that there is nothing wrong with it. That still doesn't change the fact that his primary male figure has no relationship, and hasn't for nearly his whole life. I'm worried he'll try to 'not be gay' because he won't want to grow up to be alone."

I wanted to argue her logic, but Tommy was a very sensitive boy. I could see what she was seeing and the thought worried me. I hoped she was wrong; I didn't want my son to grow up denying himself like I had. "I hope you're just being an over protective mother."

She sighed, but put on a smile as the kids came down the front steps. "I know, Zack; so do I."

We rolled out of bed bright and early Saturday morning and met Josh at the canal. He was waiting for us as we pulled up. Heather grinned. "That guy Josh?"

I nodded. "Yep." We got out and Heather's eyes never left Josh as he approached

"He looks kind of buff for an old man. Not muscle buff, but that skinny, racer look." I couldn't believe my daughter was checking out my friend. I admit that his biker's shorts hugged him in ways that only really fit athletes could manage, but he was old enough to have been her father. It was creepy.

"Stop that, Heather, it's rude." She frowned at me, and diverted her attention to her daypack. I smiled at Josh as he got to us.

"Want a hand?"

"Sure." I got a grip on my two hellions and smiled. "Josh, this is Heather and Tommy. Guys, this is Josh."

"Hi, Josh." Heather smiled. Josh extended his hand and she accepted it.

"Hello, Heather."

"Hi." Tommy seemed a little more shy than usual.

"Hey, Tommy." Josh extended his hand but Tommy didn't take it. Josh looked at me, and I shrugged.

I roughed up Tommy's hair. "Come on sport; let's get these bikes out."

Tommy helped me unload the bikes while Heather and Josh walked them over to where Josh's bike was. After establishing a few rules we got on our way. It was a fun day. We rode 'til about two in the afternoon, and we were ravenous by the time the cars were loaded.

Heather looked perplexed after Josh said goodbye and headed for his car. "Dad, why aren't we having dinner with Josh?

I didn't have an answer. "You guys want to?" This was supposed to be our father-kids weekend, I'd already done something because "I" wanted to, and I didn't want to push it.

Tommy nodded and Heather piped up for them both. "Yeah."

"Ok." I jogged after Josh and caught him before he got to his car. "Hey, Josh; want to grab a burger?"

He looked surprised as I came up beside him, and then grinned. "I didn't want to intrude, but sure, I'd love to."

We agreed on a place, and Josh met us at Fuddruckers. The kids had the best time. Once they'd warmed up to Josh there was no holding them back. Josh entertained them with tales of cancer recovery by mixing his stories with the right combination of humorous and disgusting details to keep them morbidly curious. We finished up just as the evening crowd began to come in.

Tommy was totally infatuated with Josh. Once his initial shyness had been overcome he was insatiable. I was just getting back from dumping the trays when the vigorous curiosity of youth came through. "Josh, are you Dad's boyfriend?"

I completely missed my seat and hit the floor in shock. If anyone could cause me to make a fool of myself, it was my kids. Heather was giggling uncontrollably as I scrambled back up into my seat. Tommy looked confused and Josh appeared to be trying to figure out what had hit him from left field.

I'll give it to Josh: he could keep his cool in the face of adversity. "No, Tommy, we're just friends."

Heather frowned. "You don't have to make nice because we're kids. Mom and Dad explained it a while back."

I was speechless. All I could do was make false starts and stutter as my kids grilled him. Josh grinned. "Well, to be honest, Heather, he's never asked me out. You can't be a boyfriend if you aren't dating, can you?"

I just dropped my face into my hands and prayed that God would strike me down on the spot. My children: the matchmakers. I couldn't remember a time I'd been more embarrassed.

She actually thought about that for a moment before asking, "Ok, so would you want to be?"

Before he could answer her, I sat back up and announced it was time to go. "Come on kids; leave Josh alone." Heather gave me the look of death, but I was immune. "Yes, Ms. Busy-Body, that means we're going home." The complaints were strong and varied as we left. I mouthed, "I'm sorry," over the kids' heads at Josh, and ushered the objecting demons from the restaurant. "Yes, I know. Life isn't fair and not all questions can be answered; tell it to your shrink because you've used up your money's worth with me."

Tommy sat petulantly in the back seat and Heather looked disgusted. "Come on Dad; the guy digs you."

My patience was all but gone. "That, young lady, is none of your business."

Tommy mumbled stubbornly from the back seat. "You never like anyone we like."

I frowned into the rear view mirror. "I've never introduced you to anyone to like or dislike."

Crossing his arms, Tommy looked out the window. "So?"

The logic of an eleven-year-old was impossible to fathom. It was only slightly less annoying than the determination of a thirteen-year-old. "Dad, you know you like him."

God this was getting circular. "Again, whether I like him or not is none of your business."

"You are so unfair." Like her brother, she crossed her arms and looked out the window.

Great, now I had two irritable, stubborn kids on my hands. It had started out as such a good day. We got home, and Tommy went straight to his room and shut the door. That wasn't a good sign. Heather went to hers, but left the door open. I stopped by the rooms on my way to mine. "Get your showers." Heather grunted, and I got no response from Tommy's room. I'd check on them later; I had my own shower to get.

I was lying on the couch, flipping through channels absently when Heather came into the living room and plopped down on the arm of the couch. "You know we only want you happy, right Dad?"

For anyone who hasn't had a thirteen-year-old daughter, be warned, they alternate between nine and thirty-nine at the most unusual moments. I smiled at her. "I know sweetie."

She sat down on the couch and after a moment she leaned in and snuggled. "Tommy thinks you don't date because of us."

That was news. It was hard to believe that my lack of a relationship would have that effect on my children. I kissed Heather on the head and hugged her. "I tried the dating thing sweetie; when you're older I'll tell you about it..." She tried to object, but I cut her off. "There are some things I'd rather not explain at the moment, Heather; it isn't that I think you aren't mature enough to understand. Ok?"

She shrugged, but snuggled in a bit more. "Ok." We lay there for a little while I flipped channels. There was absolutely nothing on. How the hell can you have over one hundred channels of programming and find nothing on to watch on a Saturday night? We settled on a rerun, and I held her while she watched her favorite witches freeze, levitate, explode and teleport their way through another demon filled episode. As the show ended, Heather stretched. "I like Josh, Dad."

I sighed. "Yeah, so do I."

She grinned as she sat up. "So why don't you ask him out?"

I grinned back. "You know how you complain that you know when a boy is interested but he never asks you out?" Can you believe girls were dating at eleven and twelve these days? Sheesh.


"Well, honey, most of us never get any better about it as we get older."


"You remember the eggs I made you this morning?" I grinned fiendishly.


"I laid them." Chuckling, I sat up. "Get to bed and leave my love life alone. You're as bad as your mother."

She frowned. "Fine. Cluck all you want, but I still think you should ask him out." I walked her back to her room, and she gave me a peck on the cheek before turning in. "Night Dad."

"Sleep well, honey." I waited 'til she closed her door, and then I knocked on Tommy's door. "May I come in?"

I got a soft "ok" from behind the door and I stepped into the room. Tommy was in his PJs and was already in bed. He looked like he'd been crying. "Hey, sport, what's wrong?"

"Nothing." He wiped his eyes with his sleeve.

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, I lifted his chin. "Hey, bud, this is your dad, remember?"

"Why don't you have a boyfriend?"

I shrugged. "Haven't met a guy I wanted to be with, Tommy. When I meet a guy who is as good for me as Jim is for your mom, I'll be sure to keep him. Ok?"

He gave me a sniffle filled nod. "Ok."

"You kids aren't stopping me from having relationships. You know that, right?" I tried to be as sincere as I could. I know a part of me was lying. My kids were the most important people in my life and I wasn't going to have a relationship that would take me away from them.

"You sure?"

"Yeah, sport, I'm sure."

He hugged me, and then I tucked him in. I wanted so badly for my kids to grow up happy that it was painful to think my life style hurt them. It wasn't my being gay as much as I didn't have anyone in my life. If I could have, I'd have run out and rented a husband just to make them content.

I emailed Josh before I went to bed; I apologized for my kids' behavior and wanted to make it up to him. I got an email from him in the morning; which made it clear he'd had a good time and loved the kids. I emailed back and told him I would be taking them back to their mother's at three pm and wanted to know if I could make up for yesterday with dinner. I got an email from him after noon stating that he would love to and provided me with his cell in case I'd misplaced the number. Yeah, right, like I'd lose his number.

I called him after I dropped off the kids, and we met for a drink and dinner at Outback. I don't know whether it was the fact that I'd seen him in skin tight biker's clothes the previous day, or the effect of Heather's recriminations, but when I saw him waiting in a loose button down and comfortable jeans, I couldn't help but imagine what was under them. That wasn't good. Still, he did seem genuinely pleased to see me when I walked up.

"How'd the rest of the evening go?"

I chuckled nervously; I was still embarrassed by what had happened. "They have us married and moved in together at this point."

He smiled. "Premature I think; we should at least get to kiss and such before tying the knot." I blinked at him and he laughed. "I was kidding Zack."

There was some small part of me that was disappointed, but for the most part I was relieved. "Don't panic me like that; I'm already feeling behind the eight-ball here."

The table call thing, what ever it's called, went off and he grinned. "Time to eat."

"After you, Mr. Winters." He laughed and I followed him in. Dinner was excellent. We sat afterwards just sipping our coffees and discussing nothing of any importance. I really enjoyed Josh and was amazed how much we had in common.

Grinning devilishly as I took a sip of my coffee, he asked, "So, want to go out some time?"

He knew what my reaction would be. I spit. God damn it; he was as bad as my kids. "What?" I was trying to wrap my brain around his question as the check arrived.

Josh grabbed the check, paid, and we got outside before he answered me. "I was asking if you'd like to go out on a date."

"Yeah, I figured that part out." Why the hell was this so difficult? "Sure, though technically I asked you out tonight anyway."

Josh grinned again. "You're right." We'd gotten to his car, he was parked closer, and I got the next shock of the weekend. He bent down and kissed me. Oh fuck; he really kissed me. I was hard in moments.

I pulled back; stunned. "Wow." It was all I could think of.

"I'll call you."

I watched like an idiot as he got in his car and drove off. I went home and jacked off to thoughts of Josh before I fell asleep and dreamed of him too. I was completely useless at work on Monday; all I could think about was the kiss. I kept comparing it to the other times I'd kissed guys; those times had always been precursors to sex or during sex. Josh's kiss had just been like a promise; it was the not knowing what was being promised that was driving me nuts. Was he promising me a hot time in the sack, or was it something else? I was able to push it aside and teach martial arts that evening, but it started up again the next morning and I was a wreck by the time he called me Tuesday at lunch.

"Hey Zack; it's Josh."

"Hey." God, I sounded like a nervous fifteen-year-old. I'd probably have sounded exactly the same if he'd been calling me when we were in high school twenty years before.

"You want to get together tonight? Rent a movie or something?"

It was all the possible "or somethings" that made my cock twitch and my heart tighten. "Uh, sure." I couldn't believe what I asked next, "You're place or mine?"

Josh paused for what seemed like an eternity before he asked, "Who has the better entertainment setup? I'm in an apartment with a pretty good sound system but my TV is only a 32 inch."

I, admittedly, had a better setup. "Mine's better; with kids you have to have the latest and greatest or they drive you nuts."

He laughed. "Ok, you provide the popcorn and I'll bring a pizza and DVDs?"

"Sure. Seven?"

"Great; I can shower and change before coming over." He confirmed my address and left me with butterflies for the afternoon. I had no idea what I was scared of; I was stronger than he was, probably a better combatant, and I outweighed him by at least twenty pounds. I had nothing to be scared of. Yeah, right. Physically I was as safe as a bank vault but emotionally I felt as vulnerable as a puppy. I couldn't decide what was scarier: the thought that it wouldn't work out, or the thought that it would.

Josh arrived about five 'til seven; no, I hadn't been looking at the clock, or at least I hadn't checked it more than a few times. I hoped I didn't smell like a cologne bottle when I opened the door. I realized, much to my dismay, I was acting like a teen aged boy on his first date; God help me I was such a loser.

Josh, on the other hand, was cool, calm and collected. He handed me the pizza box and followed me in. "Where's the system that made me trek all the way out to the suburbs?"

Laughing, I walked through the living room to the dividing counter between kitchen and living room that functioned as a serving space when necessary. "Right in here. Behold, and have techno-envy."

Josh chuckled, and then actually looked at the system. He whistled. "Damn, you weren't kidding. I'm jealous of your kids!"

I smirked as I got down the plates and pulled open the pizza box. "Yeah, I only get the best for my family." When I looked down I froze; there was a single yellow rose sitting at the edge of the box. Obviously it'd been placed there right before he came to the door. I don't think anyone, even Julie, had ever given me flowers. When I looked back up, he was grinning at me. What was I getting myself into? I felt a wave of panic wash over me.

Josh must have seen it on my face because he came close but didn't invade my space. "That wasn't pushing, was it?"

"No..." I picked up the rose and hunted down a vase. I didn't have any. Why the hell would I have one? Guys don't get flowers. I found a tall glass, filled it, and set the rose in the water. I looked back at his worried face and mustered a smile. "Thanks." Was I supposed to kiss him? What was gay romance etiquette? Ms. Manners didn't put out a drag queen version.

He grinned sheepishly. "I guess that flopped."

God I felt bad. "Just not something I'm used to." I shrugged. "I've never really dated a guy before. I've just been with a few guys and those relationships, if you could call them that, started the usual way: meet at the club, fuck, and try to figure out of your compatible later."

"Did they work?"

Shrugging, I came back over to the pizza. "Obviously not." I looked up into those blue-green eyes and realized he'd been through the same thing. Hell, he'd probably been trying to find the right guy for twice as long as I had. I'd had Julie for years before facing the truth and having to start all over again. "Thanks." Reaching up, I pulled him down into a 'thank you' kiss.

Several clingy, firmly gripped, open mouthed moments later I pulled back and gasped. It was all going too fast. My head was spinning; it probably had something to do with the fact that all the blood in my body had descended to flood my dick. I was so fucking desperate. Shakily, I held onto the counter.

Josh looked flushed, and was breathing hard. "Sorry, got carried away."

I grinned. "You're not the only one." I mustered my courage and stood back up straight. "I really want to make this work, Josh, but I'm not ready to hit the sack yet... no matter what my dick says otherwise."

His eyes darted down to my pants before he grinned as well. "So, want to set some ground rules?"

I nodded. "I want us to take our time. When we're ready for sex, I want it to be for real, not because I'm desperate for it out of loneliness." I think my eyes must have been pleading because I felt like a beggar. "Does that make any sense?"

"Yeah; that makes perfect sense to me." He grabbed a couple slices of pizza, tossed them on his plate and walked back to the living room. "Ok, maestro, how the hell do you activate this thing?" He eyed the entertainment system dubiously.

We watched X-Men. Yeah, I know that sounds stupid but I grew up on the comic and the actors they had for Wolverine and Cyclops were hot. I'd ended up lying with Josh on the couch, watching with my head back against his chest. He chuckled as the credits rolled past. "I'd love to see Logan plow Scott's ass."

I grinned. "Yeah, so would half the gay men on the planet. Personally, I'd like to see the role reversal and see Scott top Logan." I clicked off the DVD player and checked my watch. It was heading for ten pm. "You've got a drive to get back into town; I suppose I need to let you up."

"Yeah, work tomorrow." He didn't sound any more thrilled at the prospect of leaving as I was to have him go. We just lay there for a while, neither one of us making a move to get up. His arms just held me and I felt so content. Finally, he tapped my chest. "I've really got to take a piss."

I sighed and let him up. "I'll turn on the porch light."

When he came back to the door, I smiled. "Thanks, Josh."

He smiled. "Hope that means we can do this again."

"Yeah, I'd like that."

He slid his hand around behind my back and pulled me into him. I was amazed how naturally I lifted my hands to grip behind his neck as he kissed me. This one was slow, wet and nearly melted me. He pulled back and smiled. "For such a buff, muscular guy, you're a soft-touch Zack."

I blushed. I never fucking blush. "Yeah, well, for a corporate shark you're a romantic; I think we're even." He left and I watched his car pull out of the drive and disappear around the corner. I grinned to myself as an idea formed in my brain; I was practically laughing to myself as I turned on the computer.

My cell rang at a little after ten am. I picked it up to hear a very low, hushed voice on the other end. "You have gotten me in so much trouble." Josh sounded anything but upset.

I felt like a kid trying to talk secretly into the phone. I glanced at my office door for a moment to be sure it was closed, and then grinned to myself. "It got there, huh?"

"Yeah, it did, with a note saying: thanks for last night. Have you any idea what one white rose with a cryptic message does to the office grape vine?"

I laughed quietly; he so deserved the pain after surprising me with the yellow rose the other night. "Yeah, I do. How'd you cover?"

He almost snarled into the phone. "I couldn't; I was caught completely off guard. My secretary is probably looking over my phone logs trying to figure out who could it have been."

"Then I guess you'll just have to come up with something. Please be kind to my ego and give me great tits."

I could almost feel his frown over the phone. "I'm not going to tell them it's from a woman, Zack. I've got a boyfriend, not a bitch."

That hit me like a splash of cold water. My amusement deflated like a dead balloon. "Sorry..."

Josh took a breath on the other end and sighed. "No, I'm sorry. The thought of lying about you really hit me wrong. I wouldn't do that Zack." When I didn't say anything, he added. "Thanks for the rose."

The apologetic tone in his voice soothed over the irritation I'd felt and I smiled again. "You're welcome."

We got together about twice a week for about a month before things had progressed to the point that we were both horny as hell. Ok, so we'd been horny the entire time, but it was getting ridiculous. My briefs would be soaked with precum just from having spent an evening cuddling. Hell, any time we went for a bike ride I'd have to adjust myself because his ass looked so incredible in those damn shorts.

It was my weekend for the kids. Josh and I had decided to take them out to dinner and the movies on Friday night. Julie gave me a questioning look as I tossed the kid's bags into the back of the car. "So, when am I going to hear about -the hot guy Dad isn't dating-?"

"Not much to tell, other than we're dating now."

"You are not getting out of this that easy, Zack. You've never dated anyone more than a month. How long have you two been together?"

I frowned. "About a month; thanks for the reminder of my prior attempts there Jules."

She dismissed my tone with a snuffing noise. "Oh please. Don't give me that Zack; spill it."

I set my jaw. "No." I think that actually surprised her. "I'm not going to go over something this new, Julie. If it works out, I'll share. If not, then there is no point in going over it." She just held me with her eyes and part of my resistance crumbled. "Ok, I like him Julie; a lot. I just don't want to fuck this up."

She smiled and kissed me on the cheek. "I think someone is trying to deny the fact he's in love."

I wanted to say she was wrong, but I knew she wasn't. "Yeah, I guess someone is." She was my best friend, bar none; I pulled her into a hug. "I'm scared Jules. I'm really fucking scared."

She held me as I tried to get a grip on myself before the kids came out. She was right, I was in love and it terrified me. She had tears in her eyes when I let her go. She held my face and smiled. "You warn him for me that he better not hurt you, or I'll hunt him down and cut off his balls."

I laughed. "You would not."

She smiled and let go of my face as the kids came out. "Watch me."

Josh met us at the house and the kids were ecstatic. "Hey guys." He smiled as the kids waved at him. "Anyone up for pizza and a movie?"

Heather gave me a spiteful look as we piled into Josh's SUV, but said nothing. She hated being kept out of the loop. She didn't let it spoil her evening though. We saw the latest teen flick and Josh dropped us off at the house. I was aching a little as he drove off; we didn't even kiss. I don't think either of us was ready for that in front of the kids.

Tommy seemed confused. "Dad, why didn't Josh come in?"

"He has his own apartment, sport." I had my hand behind his neck as I steered the kids back up the steps and into the house.

Tommy didn't seem content with that answer. "Why isn't he living here?"

I shrugged. "Not to that point yet, sport. It's always best not to rush into things; remember that when it's your turn."

Heather cornered me later, after Tommy was in bed. "Dad?"

"Hey, sweetie, why are you still up?" I sat up and she sat down beside me.

"Brain's busy." Heather was one to think constantly; she was one sharp kid.

I nodded. "Want some warm milk?"

She grinned. "I'm too old for that."

Laughing I stood up and shuffled into the kitchen. "You're never too old for warm milk. I'm a little brain-buzzed too; I'll make us both some."

She sat at the serving counter as I heated the milk on the stove. Yeah, you could use a microwave, but scalded milk was best from the pan with a touch of sugar and vanilla. It's also best out of whole milk of which I had none so I used skim and added some half-and-half. "Is Josh not here because we are?"

That one again; I knew the world revolved around my kids but it was becoming like a broken record. "No sweetie; Josh doesn't spend the night."

"Oh." I poured out the steaming milk and handed her a mug. She held it for a while, letting the milk cool. "Are you guys dating now?"

I grinned. "Yes, nosey, we're dating now. I listened to a smart but annoying thirteen-year-old who called me chicken and told me to ask him out."

She smiled and sipped her milk. "That's cool."

I kissed her on the forehead and smirked. "Off to bed." She left with her mug, and I sat back down and sipped my own milk.

I wondered if it was it was time to ask Josh to spend the night. God knows I wanted to ask him. I suppose the idea of becoming intimate was a little daunting. I'd had more than my share of rejection there. I'm one of those men who is shorter than average, only five, but really quite thick. The reactions I've always gotten were either they wanted "huge", or my thickness was intimidating. I'd been a bottom by default. Not that I minded bottoming, but it was like a constant diet of one food. I didn't know how to broach the subject with Josh. Hell, we hadn't even seen each other naked yet.

There really wasn't any point in avoiding it. The longer I postponed, the worse it would be if we didn't click well in bed. I went to bed after finishing my milk. I dreamed of Josh, which wasn't anything new, and woke up really wishing he was there. I wasn't desperate any more; I was just tired of the erotic dreams without the real thing.

"Dad, who's coming over today?" Heather seemed unimpressed that I'd invited Meredith, Frank and their kids over for a barbecue and afternoon at the pool. Their house on P Street was classic, but the lots were small and didn't allow for pools.

"My friends Meredith, Frank, and their kids John, Tony and Gloria. John is fourteen; Tony is twelve; Gloria is ten." I pulled out the burger patties and put them in the sink to thaw.

"Is Josh coming?" Tommy sounded hopeful.

"Yeah, Sport, Josh will be here too. Meredith is his best friend." I grinned at Tommy.

"Dad, you always say Mom is your best friend. Why aren't she and Jim going to be here?" Heather had a point. I hadn't really thought about asking.

"You know, that's a good idea." I picked up the phone and gave Julie a call. Jim answered and I smiled. "Hey Jim, what do you two have planned today?"

He rattled off some chores and errands. I nodded, though he couldn't see it, and smiled. "I've got friends and their kids coming over for a barbecue and fun in the pool. Josh is also coming, and I knew Julie wanted to meet him." I waited as Jim called out to Julie and gave her a summary. After a few moments of discussion, Julie got on and asked what time they should arrive. I grinned as I hung up the phone. "Well, Miss Heather, your idea was met with resounding approval. They will be here about one." Both the kids were grins with legs.

Josh arrived a little before eleven and was greeted by an enthusiastic duo with a million questions. He fielded most of them without blinking, but Tommy managed another zinger as I was about to hand Josh a cup of coffee. "Don't you guys ever kiss?"

It was a good thing I'd had the cup because Josh's hands quaked. "What?" He looked at me as I set down the mug and leaned on the counter.

"You're on your own, bud. He asked you, not me."

Tommy frowned. "You didn't kiss good night and you didn't kiss good morning. I thought gay couples kissed like straight ones did."

Josh was looking like a man lost at sea. I laughed. "They aren't going to be satisfied 'til they've seen it. Trust me, it will be hell." I leaned around him and gave him a lingering but chaste kiss. I looked at Tommy. "Satisfied, Mr. Curious?"

"That's weird." He made a doubtful face.

I laughed. "You asked."

Josh smirked at me after Tommy headed off to get his trunks on. "That's the only demo they're going to get. I am not proving we sleep together."

I rolled my eyes. "Nothing to prove there, we don't."

Josh looked hurt and I realized that had come out totally wrong. The kids weren't in the room so I hooked my hand behind his head and pulled him down into a real kiss. It took him a moment to catch up, but he got back to speed quickly and had my knees going weak in no time. He moaned softly as we separated. "Now I'm going to have to stand here and wait. There are some things I have no intention of putting on display."

I chuckled. "Same boat, why do you think I'm about to work on the fixings?" The counter was the perfect protection from curious eyes. "Oh, I should warn you: Julie and Jim will be over around one to be social."

Josh looked nervous. "Oh."

I smiled and punched him lightly on the arm. "Julie's great, Josh. She's my best friend. You know you'll have to meet her eventually. At least this way Meredith is here and the kids are a great distraction."

"Yeah, you're right. I guess I'm just nervous about meeting 'the ex'." Josh helped me with the preparations 'til Meredith and crew arrived. From that point on it was pool, sun and fun.

Meredith, of course, knew that Josh and I were seeing each other. Naturally, she took full credit and had remarked numerous times that she knew we were a perfect match. I also knew she wanted her kids to see two responsible gay men together so that they wouldn't only have media hype as a guide. Joy, we were the living examples of gaydom. Why did that worry me?

Josh came out onto the patio wearing Speedos. I'd forgotten that he didn't just bike, but was a tri-athlete. I almost dropped my drink. He was long, lean, and sinewy and had eraser size nipples that rose from his pecs in the most inviting ways. I distracted myself by starting the grill, and hoped I wouldn't plump up in front of the kids.

Not that they'd have noticed. Heather had met John and it was an immediate attraction. You'd have thought a light bulb had been turned on for them. Meredith and I looked at each other after the first half hour and rolled our eyes. We'd be seeing a lot more of each other if our kids had any say in it. Tommy had fun with Tony and Gloria in the pool.

I was glad to have Frank there. Maybe it was silly on my part, but compared to Josh I was a fat slob. Sure, I had a lot more muscle but I was still soft and my suit cut into my waist in that way that said "extra winter storage". Frank, being a robust and pasta loving Italian, was bigger than both of us combined. It was comforting to have someone there who was so full of life and wasn't at all concerned with vanity. Of course, Frank had someone who loved every pound of him, so he didn't have to worry about it as much.

Josh horsed around with the kids in the pool while I started the grill and cooked up the first batch of burgers and hot dogs. We had just finished chomping down on the first round when Julie and Jim arrived. Heather and Tommy hugged their mom and looked elated. Jim didn't help my self-consciousness. One of the reasons I liked Jim was because he was never aware of how attractive he was both physically and emotionally. I'd never had a "thing" for him, but Julie couldn't have done much better.

I brushed off my hands on my "I cook better naked" apron and made the introductions. "Meredith, Frank, this is Julie, the mother of my children and my best friend. The 'too good looking for his clothes' man with her is Jim Forman, her husband. Julie, Jim, this is Meredith and Frank Bartoni. If you aren't sure who is who, the one with the mustache is Frank." My greetings got evil looks from everyone; I was quite please with myself.

They greeted one another and Julie raised an eyebrow at Heather and John. The two teens were at the far end of the patio, finishing their burgers and chatting as if the rest of us didn't exist. Meredith grinned. "I think we may get to know one another a lot better, Julie, if I'm reading the signs right."

Julie grinned. "Non-stop, nonsensical jabbering or stumbling, tongue tied hellos?"

Meredith laughed. "Tongue tied and tripping to start; they've been talking on and off for a couple hours now."

Shaking her head, Julie rolled her eyes. "Leave it to my daughter to pick a boy who doesn't go to her school." She paused and eyed me. "Which reminds me, someone has a new boy in his life too."

Josh was coming over as she said it, and I swear he blushed. I was about to introduce him when Mere stepped up and took over. "I've known him longer, Zack." Winking at Julie she laughed. "Women, rule!" Josh looked totally befuddled as Mere pulled him up for inspection. "Julie, may I introduce Josh Winters. Josh, this is your primary competition, Zack's ex, Julie Forman."

Josh gave Mere a frown before smiling at Julie and extending his hand. "I certainly hope I'm not competition. From what Josh has told me, you'd probably kick my ass."

She laughed. "Only if you hurt my best friend." She looked him over, and then smiled around him at me. "Good taste, Zack. You can keep him."

I pulled Josh away from the two nosy broads and headed for the house. "What would you guys want to drink?"

"Beer?" Jim looked hopeful, even though Julie gave him a slitty-eyed-look.

"Water." Julie answered, shaking her head at her husband before turning her attention back to Mere.

When we got into the kitchen, I smiled at Josh. "Sorry about that."

He chuckled and looked out the window at the women. "I think we're going to have our hands full with them."

I groaned. "Tell me about it. It seemed like a good idea at the time." I shrugged and pulled down some glasses. I got out a beer for Jim and poured the water for Julie. I was about to take the drinks back out when I felt a warm, well-packaged body press up against me.

Josh leaned in, slowly pressing me against the counter as he brought his lips to my ear. "Do you have any idea how you're diving me nuts in that apron?" I shivered. The feel of his chest pressed against my bare back and his obviously growing bulge causing my suit to ride up into my crack had me breathing heavy. His voice was so low. "Your chest his so hot, Zack." I had to grip onto the counter as his hands slid up the sides of my body and moved around to grip my pecs.

"Josh..." All I really wanted to do was drag him into the bedroom and fuck like bunnies, but that wasn't going to happen. "We've got to get back outside..." I lost the ability to think when he rocked his hips and his bulge nestled completely between my cheeks as his teeth pulled on my earlobe. "Please..."

He slowly pulled back, releasing me from the counter. His entire body was flush. "I know... I just wanted to let you know how I felt."

Taking a deep breath, I turned around. His Speedo did very little to hide his interest. "Yeah, you felt pretty good." Ok, that wasn't the right thing to say. Before I knew it, we were sucking face with abandon. It was so obvious that he was as ready to move forward as I was. I felt like an idiot for being scared.

I realized we weren't alone when I heard a giggle from the other side of the kitchen. I pulled out of our lip-lock to see Heather and John standing on the other side of the counter. Heather looked bemused; John looked stunned. "Hey Dad, you going to make some more burgers or are you going to hide in here and suck face?"

"The slave cook is on his way, mistress!" My voice imitated Igor's and she laughed. "How are we doing on buns?"

Heather looked at Josh's ass and smiled. "Look good from here, Dad."


She giggled and pulled a now blushing John along with her. "I think there's still a pack out there."

"Ok," I was blushing too, "Get out of here your brats!"

Josh looked mortified. "Can you die of embarrassment?"

Shaking my head, I turned around and grabbed the drinks. "No, you can only wish you could."

The rest of the afternoon was a lot of fun. It was also sexual torture. Josh had set my motor running with the grope and kiss session, and the warm sun, booze and the fact he was nearly naked all added to my growing desire to send everyone home. Julie and Meredith took to each other like fish to water. Josh was right; we were doomed.

Frank came up to me after I'd returned from putting away the food, and smiled. "Jim says you're a martial arts master?"

I laughed. "Just an enthusiast."

"Where do you teach?"

"Pai Lum, it's over in Falls Church."

He nodded toward Tony. "You guys teach guys his age?"

"Yeah, but there are a lot closer schools to you. That'd be a horrible drive up from P Street to Falls Church."

"I like dealing with people we know." He grinned. "I bet you could impress the shit out of the kids."

Laughing I set down my glass. "What do you want me to do, Frank; break a lawn chair in two?"

He chuckled. "Nah, just show the kids that us old folks aren't wusses."

I shrugged and grabbed Tommy. "Hey, Sport. Demo time."

"Dad!" Tommy hated to be on display. Regardless of that, he'd been in class since he was eight.

We did some mirrored forms on the grass, and then some combat forms. I always enjoyed working out with my son; I think he enjoyed it too, but just found it embarrassing to do it in public. When we finished, we got a round of applause, which embarrassed Tommy further.

John smirked. "That's cool, but it wouldn't stop a guy who's bigger and stronger."

I raised an eyebrow. "The whole point of martial arts is that size and strength doesn't matter."

Frank grinned. "Well, I sure not going to challenge you."

John wasn't convinced. " Dad, that's obvious. Zack's built." That caught me off guard. I certainly wouldn't have called myself built. "I mean, no offense, but Tommy is just a kid. I could pound him into the dirt."

Tommy was looking really uncomfortable, but my ire was up. Heather spoke up first. "My brother could kick your ass, John."

This was not going in a good direction. "Heather, if John wants to believe that he can beat up Tommy, that's his choice. If he were to try, he'd be in for a rude awakening, but I don't think we need to prove him wrong." I ruffed up Tommy's hair. "Come on, Sport; we've earned a couple drinks."

Heather, it appeared, was a lot less impressed with John after that. Tony, on the other hand, was a lot more impressed with Tommy and I saw them out on the lawn later. Tommy was showing him some basic moves. I grinned at them 'til I felt a pair of arms wrap around me. "You two were great."

God it felt so good to have him do that. Josh just had a romantic sense about him that made his timing perfect. I leaned into the embrace and smiled. "Thanks. He's a great kid."

"Takes after his dad."

Did I mention that he always seemed know what to do to melt me? I wanted him so bad I was aching with it. Julie came up to us, smiling. "You two are so cute." She kissed me on the cheek and inclined her head to Jim. "I'm taking him home. You'll have the kids back for lunch?"

"Yeah; tomorrow about one."

They said their goodbyes and hugged the kids before leaving. Meredith and her crew left about an hour later. We hung around the living room and Josh tried to play the kids on the Xbox, but he didn't stand a chance. After watching The Matrix for the hundredth time, I sent the kids off to bed and turned the system to a soft-rock channel. Josh and I just lay on the couch and listened 'til we were nodding off.

"I'd better get going." Josh yawned and looked at the VCR clock. It was after eleven.

Reaching up, I pulled his sleepy face to mine and kissed him. "You could stay."

He looked at me for a moment and then smiled. "You sure?"

"Yeah, though I don't think I could do more than cuddle tonight. I don't want to treat the kids to anything new." Josh got up and I stood. He followed me to the room and I looked at him nervously as I turned on the bedside light. "How do you sleep?"


I was relieved. I didn't know if I'd be able to sleep with him and not end up having sex if we were naked. "Yeah, I sleep in my briefs.

We stripped down and climbed in. It took a while to figure out who would be where. I think Josh was as nervous about it as I was. I ended up drifting off lying on my back with Josh's arm across my chest and his head on my shoulder.

I woke to find Josh cuddled completely around me. His head had meandered to my chest and he and an arm and leg draped across me. I just lay there, enjoying the feel of having someone hold me like that, and wished that I could wake up every day that way. I'd forgotten how it felt to have someone to wake up to. I stroked Josh's back 'til he woke up.

"Morning," he mumbled as he stretched up from my chest. He looked at me for a moment then snuggled back down. "I could get used to this."

I realized right then that I wanted him to get used to it. I wanted him there, in the bed, every morning. Julie was right; I had it bad. "You can you know."

Propping himself back up on his elbow and looked at me. "You sure? I mean, we haven't even been naked together yet."

I nodded. "I know. I'm worried about that, but at the same time I know that the first time is never the way gay erotic writers portray it. Sex gets better over time; it isn't perfect from the start."

He leaned in and kissed me while his hand began to rub my chest. I think I've mentioned that Josh was an incredible kisser. This time was no exception. By the time his hand had made it down my body to rub over my overstrained, damp briefs, I was melting. I moaned into him as he squeezed me.

He pulled back and looked down as he slid my briefs below my balls. He wrapped his fingers around me and moaned. "Damn, Zack, you're fucking thick." I would have been self-conscious about it, but just having him rub my foreskin back and forth was sending shocks through me. "Uncut too."

I was trembling as he began to stroke me. Honestly, he didn't have to move his hand much. He had big hands and my dick, though thick, was not all that long. I was about to protest when he silenced me with another kiss. "Don't stop me, Zack. I've wanted to do this for so long."

How could I say no? I was moaning, trying to keep quiet as he stroked and pulled on my cock. He started in with a corkscrew motion that had me arching off the bed. His lips latched onto mine as I came, muffling my cries as I blasted a month's worth of dreams all over my belly. He kept rubbing my pulsing shaft, causing me to quake from the sensation, as he pulled back from my lips. "That's the good morning I really wanted to give you."

"Fuck..." I think my eyes had rolled back into my head. "I'm going to have to get a shower. The kids will be up soon."

His lips curled into a truly wicked grin. "I think you're going to need some help."

I'm not quite sure how we maneuvered from the bed to the shower. It was a blur of hands, lips and discarded undergarments. I found myself under the spray, lathered up, my lips still exploring Josh's, when I realized there was about six inches of him I'd yet to get a good look at. I looked down and saw his dick pulsing back up at me. He was slim, cut and beautiful.

I kissed my way down his neck and across his flat chest to those nipples that had been calling to me since yesterday. I licked, bit and twisted them 'til he was begging me to stop. I hadn't realized I'd get into nipples like that, but I did. I grinned at him as he looked at me through glazed eyes. "How'd you know?" He gasped a little, trying to get control of his breathing.

"Know what?"

He moaned. "That my nipples are one of my hot spots."

I chuckled. "I didn't, but they were just crying out for attention." Sliding my hand down to wrap my fingers around his shaft, I smiled. "Something else is calling out for attention." I squeezed, causing him to moan, and I brought my lips to his neck. "Think you can keep quiet enough for me to give you the attention you need?"

Josh bit his lower lip and nodded. He closed his eyes and let his weight press back against the shower wall as I dropped to my knees and brought his quivering cock to my lips. I loved sucking cock. There is something about having a man in my mouth and running my tongue around him that made me happy. Josh was the perfect size to give a blow to. He was only about six inches, and narrow with a flared head. I could take him completely to the root and only have him brush just a comfortable way down the back of my throat. He didn't last long; I hadn't really expected him to. He gripped onto my head a moaned through clenched teeth as he treated me to my first taste of him. I think it had addictive qualities because I found myself pushing him back against the tiles and trying to pull another load from him.

Josh pulled me up and kissed me 'til my urge for more cock had melted away. We just held onto each other under the hot spray of the water. I knew it was corny, but I couldn't stop myself when I tilted my head up to nuzzle his neck. "I love you."

His arms tightened around me and my stomach clenched. Could I plead cock-induced insanity? He tilted my head up further and kissed me lightly while looking in my eyes. "I can't believe you said it first."

I grinned. "No guts, no glory."

Josh kissed my forehead, my nose, my cheeks and my lips. The kisses were feather light and I'd have thought them silly had I been watching. Being the recipient, they were wonderful. "I've been in love with you since the moment I kissed you in the parking lot."

Honestly, that was probably when I'd fallen also, but it took me a hell of a lot longer to catch a clue. I smiled and pulled out of his arms. "We'd better get rinsed off and out there before they come hunting for us."

Both Heather and Tommy seemed genuinely pleased that Josh had spent the night. We went out for breakfast and a walk downtown before we delivered the demons to their mother. Julie saw Josh in the car, waved and then gave me a knowing smile. "I hope you two weren't too loud."

I frowned. "We only slept, Jules."

She grinned. "Then I guess you'd better get out of here."

"You're mind is a sewer system, you know that?"

She laughed and lifted her chin to challenge me. "Tell me I'm wrong."

I tried, but I couldn't hold her gaze and I looked away. "Bitch."

Julie hugged me briefly and pushed me back toward the car. "Get out of here, Zack."

I got back into the car and smiled at Josh. "I've just been told to go home and fuck 'til dawn."

He blinked. "Really?"

Laughing, I put the car into gear. "Well, not in so many words."

As we started out of the development, Josh looked over at me. "Were you serious this morning?"

My stomach clenched. "About what?"

"About our waking up every morning together?" He sounded nervous. I glanced over at him and I could see myself reflected there. He was scared.

"Yeah, if you want that too." I didn't look over at him, but I was praying he wanted to.

"I guess we'll need to make a detour before we get to the house." I looked at him inquisitively and he smirked. "I'll need clothes for tomorrow."

We got him some clothes, his toiletries and such, and were back at the house by four. I looked at Josh as he hung his suit on the back of the bathroom door and set his overnight bag on the bed. A part of me wanted to push him down on the sheets and fuck all night. The other, stronger part, wanted to take the time to build up to it.

He smiled at me. "I guess were to that awkward, clumsy moment."

I laughed. "Yeah, do we strip down and fuck, or do we take our time and get something to eat?"

Grinning, he patted his stomach. "Eat. We only had brunch today."

I realized he was right and I smiled. "Chinese? We have one just a couple miles down the road. They deliver."

"Sounds good." He thought for a moment. "How about picking it up?"

I frowned. "Why drive when they deliver?"

He reached into his bag and pulled out some running shoes. "Who said anything about driving?"

I laughed. "I see you're nefarious plan. You intend to wear me out and fill me with Chinese food so I can't escape when you have your way with me."

Josh chuckled. "Good plan; I think I'll use it."

I went to the closet. "I'll get my shoes and get changed."

The run had the desired effect on me. I'd gotten to see Josh's legs and ass while we jogged down to Fong's and back. It also had the effect of nearly giving me shin splints and cramping my hamstrings. I don't run. I don't run because I always get shin splints or cramps. I was a small price to pay to see Josh's legs and ass in motion for an hour. When we got back, I went through to the patio and started doing stretches to save my legs. I loved stretching; my students dreaded when I got into a stretching mood. I had lost myself in my cool down when I felt Josh's eyes on me. I looked over my shoulder to see him leaning against the wall, eyeing my ass. Had I mentioned that martial arts provided me with great legs and ass? Yeah, I probably had.


He grinned. "I'm having some really improper thoughts about that position."

That had my dick lengthening. Damn he had a sexy voice. I knew he could see up my shorts and could probably see the bulge. Well, what the hell; he was my boyfriend; if anyone could enjoy the view it was him. I purposefully went into full straddle, which left my legs extended out to the side and my body low to the ground. I'm fairly flexible for the amount of mass I have; I was able to get down comfortable within six inches of the patio blocks.

Josh groaned. "You're teasing me now."

I looked back over my shoulder and smirked. "It's only teasing if I don't put out. Who said you weren't getting any?"

That was all it took to have him kneeling down behind me and running his hands over my ass and legs. His nipples may have been his hot spot, but having hands on my ass was one of mine. I moaned.

He spread his knees so he could press himself against me. "How low can you go?"

I sighed as his hands came around my legs and he lightly caressed the inside of my thighs. "Let's find out." I closed my eyes and let myself melt under his touch. It wasn't long before my cock was pressing firmly against the concrete and Josh was over me, his cock grinding against my ass.

"God, Zack. I didn't know you could do that." He was panting a little. "That's so fucking hot." His hands had traveled up my body and had slid my shirt to my shoulders. He was feeling me from shoulders to hips. "What else can you do?"

I grinned, pressed up and rolled while I hooked my legs around him. He yelped as I had him rolled onto his back with my legs locked around his hips. This was my element; I'd fantasized numerous times about using my martial arts knowledge for erotic situations. I ground myself against him as he groaned. "Lot's of things. If you're lucky, I'll do them to you." Man I was getting feisty; actually, I was just horny and feeling safe. I'd never had that combination before; it was liberating.

Josh pressed back up against me and our straining shorts ground together. "We aren't going to get to eat if you keep this up."

I got an evil idea. "Stay there." I got up and jogged into the house. My back yard was almost totally private. Where we were, someone would have to be at the fence looking over to see us. I came back out with the bags of food and straddled him again. He looked amused and horny at the same time. I bent down, kissed him hard, and then pulled at his shirt. "Off."

Josh lifted his shoulders and I yanked off his shirt, and then mine. He watched me in silence as I picked a nice, saucy dish, opened it, and dribbled some of the hot food onto his chest. The sauce ran across his nipples and down his sternum to his flat stomach. He squirmed a little and moaned as the heat hit his nipples. "Oh, shit..."

I smirked. "You'll need to stay still or we'll waste it." I pulled out the chopsticks and proceeded to alternately serve myself and Josh nibbles from his chest and belly. When we had finished the container, Josh's chest and belly were a sticky mess. I leaned down and began licking my way up from his belly, cleaning him as I went. Josh wasn't able to hold still when I finally got to his nipples. He moaned and sighed as I licked and nibbled at them, pausing long enough to take long tastes of the sauce on his chest.

When I finished, I sat back and smiled. "That was delicious."

His dick was straining under my ass. "You're evil; you know that?"

"Ready for course two?"

"Oh Jesus, I'm not sure I can stand another course."

I slid back and pulled off his shorts, leaving him in that silly looking, classic porn situation of naked, raging and wearing shoes. I yanked off mine and straddled him again. I had to stop for a moment as I felt his shaft between my balls. It felt so good.

We were rubbing together, kissing slowly, when he pulled back from the kiss and looked me in the eye. "I don't want to eat. Let's get to the bed; I want you to fuck me, Zack."

I was shocked. Most guys didn't want anything to do with my dick. I was hard to give a blowjob to because you had to open really wide. I stared at him. "You sure?"

"If I don't get fucked by that thick muscle of yours soon, I'm going to get desperate." He was totally serious. I certainly didn't have to be told twice. We got off the cement, left the food where it was and got into the bedroom in record time. We did stop for a clumsy moment of pulling off shoes and trying to get in the bed at the same time. My advice: stop, take off shoes, and then head for bed.

Josh was on his back as I pressed down against him. The idea of looking into his eyes while I slid into him had me twitching. I wanted it so bad. I'd never fucked a man before. We kissed again, long and slow and wet. I then reached for the nightstand and pulled out a condom and lube.

Josh looked at me before I got the package open. "I'm clean." I knew I was. I had always used protection before and I'd been tested several times. "I want to feel your flood when you cum, Zack."

I was torn. "I've never fucked a guy, Josh, and I've never had sex with one without protection."

He nodded. "I've always used them too. I don't want to keep searching, Zack. I want to stay."

I bent down and kissed him again. I knew I couldn't deny him anything he asked for. He could have had me the first night in the hotel, raw and unprotected, if he'd tried. I grabbed the lube. "Ok."

He sighed as I pressed my first finger in. It was easy, as was the second. The third took a little while, and I worked in a lot of lube before striving for the fourth. At that point he was sweating and begging me to fuck him. I don't think there is anything more erotic than watching a hot, cut, fit man get off on what you're doing to him and begging for more. Lifting his legs, I positioned myself at his ring and pressed in. That was easier said than done. I wasn't larger than four fingers but the head was.

His eyes went wide and he gasped as my head popped past his ring and his ass clamped down on me. His voice was a shallow sigh. "Oh, fuck... you're huge." His eyes looked a little glazed.

"You ok?"

He nodded. "Yeah... give me a moment."

I did, but it didn't feel like he was giving way. He needed to be distracted from the log that was stretching his ass. I bent down and bit one of his nipples. That did the trick; he cried out and arched up. My cock slid all the way in, in one slow slide. I held there for a minute as he adjusted around me. As I pulled back, it was as if my cock was linked to his diaphragm. I'd pulled back, he'd inhale; I'd push in, he'd exhale with a moan or sigh. I could tell he was really enjoying it because his body was trembling every time I slid back in.

"Oh, fuck... you're so thick..." He was moaning as I kept slowly sliding in and out. Then I found the right angle and rhythm and his eyes opened in amazement as I stroked past his prostate in ever increasing frequency. "Oh, oh God... fuuuuuck." His body convulsed and he shot all over himself without even handling his dick. I'd never managed a hands free orgasm. I was amazed. I was also only a few strokes away from the abyss myself.

I flooded him with my seed and collapsed against him. Neither of us were spring chickens, but we definitely had a lot more left in us before we'd give in to sleep. He held me, stroking my back as we came down from our highs. "That was, without a doubt, the best fuck I've ever had."

I grinned. "Hopefully, it will only get better from here."

Groaning, he kissed me. "I think you just addicted me to your cock, Zack. I hope you plan to give me a lot more of it."

I chewed on his ear and sighed. "You can have as much of it as we can manage. I meant it, Josh. I want you to stay."

He kissed me again, with conviction. "I'm staying."

We made love a couple more times that night. He rode me to orgasm; I didn't have a hands free one, but it was close. I fucked him one last time before we collapsed from exhaustion. Josh fell asleep almost immediately after I'd ridden him to his third hot release. Though I was exhausted, my brain was too busy to sleep. I hopped online and emailed Julie to let her know Josh was moving in. I was about to shut down the laptop when I had another evil idea. I was quite satisfied with myself when I finally got to sleep.

My cell rang about eleven in the morning on Monday. I looked at the ID and saw it was Josh. I tried to contain my grin as I answered. "Hey, stud, how are you feeling today?"

He snarled at me. "Sore, achy and caught between a rock and a hard place."

"Oh?" I tried my best to sound ignorant.

"Don't give me 'oh'; they just delivered twelve fucking red roses with a card saying 'thanks for the weekend' on it." He didn't sound at all upset, but he was trying.

"I thought it was customary to send flowers to someone who makes you the happiest man alive." I was trying not to let my amused tone come through, but I was failing miserably.

"You have every woman in the place trying to figure out what's going on." His fake anger just wasn't cutting it.

I started to laugh. "And what am I supposed to do about it?"

I could feel his grin through the receiver. "Pick me up for lunch."

I swallowed. "The office ready for that?"

"They better be. If I'm changing my contact information, I'm damn well going to show off the reason why."

I really didn't think I was worth of being "shown off", but the fact that he wanted to just melted my heart. "I'll get out of here in a half hour. I should get there by twelve."

"See you then." He hung up and I found myself sweating as I buzzed my secretary and told her I'd be leaving for an early lunch.

I got to Josh's office a few minutes before twelve, gave my name at the front desk and was directed to his office. I think the eye of every woman I passed on the way there was on me. I had no idea what he told them, but when I got to his secretary, she looked up at me but seemed a little distracted. "May I help you?"

"I'm Zachary Johnson; I'm here to pick up Josh for lunch?"

I almost laughed at her reaction. The startled expression on her face said everything. Obviously, Josh had told them something like "the reason for the flowers will be picking me up for lunch".

She fumbled with the phone and buzzed in. "Mr. Winters, your date is here?" I could hear him chuckling on the other end. "He'll be right out."

I waited, and Josh came out a few moments later with his coat over his arm. As usual, he was cool as a cucumber while I was sweating like a pig. He leaned over and gave me a quick peck on the lips. "Hey babe."

I think his secretary was about to pass out. Josh noticed. "Breathe Jesse." He smiled at her and she just shook her head.

"That wasn't a nice thing to do, Mr. Winters." She didn't sound hurt so much as embarrassed. "You could have at least told me the gender of your date."

He chuckled. "Well, now you know. You'll be seeing a lot more of him, so ask the front desk to just let him through in the future."

Jesse did get to see a lot more of me. Josh and I made it a habit of having lunch at least twice a week. Half the time he came to my office and the other half I came to his. We caused quite a stir, but we worked for progressive companies so there wasn't any backlash.

It was five years later, at the twenty-fifth reunion, when we shocked our classmates with another unexpected surprise by being there as a couple. Most of our classmates either approved or didn't care; the others could just go screw themselves. We had our family, our friends, and each other. In the end, that was all that really mattered.