By Tim Mead
When Bailey and Justin arrived at Brody and Dave's house, Dave wrapped his arm around Justin's head and knuckled his scalp vigorously.
"Owww!" Justin exclaimed. "What's that for?"
"For calling me `Old Dave.' Brody's right, you are an uppity little twerp."
Brody chuckled. "He's not as little as he used to be. You've grown, Jus."
Running a hand over his scalp, Justin drew himself up to his full height and said, "Yeah, I have. And I'm nineteen now, so don't treat me like a kid any more."
"What happened to the buzz cut? Your hair's longer now. You aren't gonna have another pony tail, are you?"
"I hope you won't."
Bailey said, "Yeah, Quinn, you don't really want to do that, do ya?
At that point Dave was shaking hands with Bailey, so the subject of hair was dropped.
"Welcome, Bailey. We're glad you and Justin decided to come. Let's go into the family room. Some of the others are already here."
As Dave led Bailey away, Brody gestured for Justin to remain in the entryway. He looked into the younger man's eyes. "Jus, how are you doing, really?"
Justin stuck his chin out a little. "It's all cool, thanks. I've got everything under control. I'm sorry I worried you, Brode."
"Yep! Let's go see who's here."
"So, Bailey," Justin asked at breakfast the next morning, "was it awkward for you to be there last night with all the gay guys?"
Moira and Mary had gone to early church, but Justin and Bailey had fixed themselves scrambled eggs and sausage, which they had along with sweet rolls, oj, and coffee.
"Not at all. Since I'd met Brody and Dave, I didn't go there expecting to find a bunch of campy, swishy types. I enjoyed getting to know everyone I talked with."
Justin chuckled. "Well, I think you must have talked to everybody. You really worked the room. Ever thought of going into politics?"
"Hey, I wasn't working the room. I just wanted to get to know those dudes. If your friends like them, I figured they must be worth knowing."
Justin took another forkful of eggs and then got up to bring the coffee carafe to the table. He topped up both their mugs.
"Well, it was good to meet your English prof, Bruce Evans."
"Yeah, especially since he was the only other straight guy there."
"Well, yeah, but he's a great guy. And he introduced me to his former roommate, Toby, and Toby's partner Ben."
"Yeah, both of those guys are hunks. And, you know what? Toby teaches a section of Computer Science 101, and I'm gonna try to get into it next semester."
Justin laughed. "We're probably not doing it for the same reasons."
"Oh? I'm hoping to take his class because he's a really nice guy and obviously really smart. Why are you taking it?"
"For the same reasons, I suppose. And, of course, he's majorly cute."
"But, Quinn, he's taken."
"Yeah, yeah, I know, but he's good eye candy. And that partner of his, Ben Moss, is gorgeous!"
"What's really weird is that Moss and Anders, his boss, look so much alike."
"God! If I worked in that office, I'd have a hardon all the time."
Bailey leaned across the table and grinned. "You do have a hardon all the time."
"Oh? You been pervin' on me, Stone?"
"Nope. But in a small dorm room it's hard to miss. Though I'll have to say, recently I haven't noticed it."
Justin's face fell momentarily. "Yeah, my, uh, sex drive's been zilch lately."
"No improvement there?"
"Not really. I mean I can appreciate a good looking guy. And last night was practically sensory overload with all the hunks there. But though I can admire, I just don't have much of an urge to perform." He shivered. "Don't want people touching me."
"Have you talked about that with Doc Gaskins?"
"No, we haven't gotten into that yet."
"Don't you think you should?"
"Yes, mother! I'll bring it up. Now," he said, grabbing another cinnamon roll, "let's get back to the hunks at Brody's last night."
"Well, that's your field of expertise. Why don't you elucidate, professor?"
"Well, there was Roger Norton. He's seriously cute. When I asked him why he looked familiar, he said we'd met at Dave and Brody's open house last spring, that he goes to State so I might have seen him on campus, and that I might have seen him in the men's department at Dillard's. And I have, come to think of it. Though Brody hasn't said anything about it, I hear he and Roger were dating a little last spring before he and Dave suddenly got together."
"Yeah. I didn't even think they liked each other. And then there they were, living together. I'd love to know what happened."
"Have you thought of just asking them?"
"I don't want to piss them off or anything. And, to be honest, Dave's a great guy, but he scares me a little. For one thing, he knows how I've always felt about Brody. I don't think he seriously sees me as competition, but I wanna watch my step around him."
"Okay, I get the picture. Let's get back to the guys at the party last night. I was surprised to find a couple of older faculty members there. I talked with a guy named Schwartz. He said he was a botany prof and that his partner was out of town."
"Yeah, and there was the econ prof, Darren somebody or other. His partner is the cute interior decorator, James Agnello."
"Yeah, Darren Horne. Word around campus is that he's a really good prof."
"I'm not taking a freakin' econ course to find out, even if the prof is gay. And he's not particularly good looking."
Bailey sighed, rolled his eyes, and said, obviously trying not to smile, "You gays are so superficial, always judging other guys by their looks. At least when chicks hit on me I'm pretty sure it's because they like me."
"Come on! You don't think you're good looking?"
"I have a mirror, Justin."
"Don't take this wrong, or anything, roomie, but you're a serious hunk, a real stud."
Bailey looked desperately embarrassed. "Uh, you're being kind, but that's just not true. Let's get back to the party. Did you have a chance to talk with Trent Williams?"
"Yeah. That's an interesting story. Seems he was the Moss guy's partner until a couple of years ago. Now he's with Anders."
"I didn't know that. I did find out that he's a surgical nurse at a hospital in the suburbs of
"Agreed. But he's also a pretty nice guy, I think. He seemed a little sad, but he's also sweet and sincere. I'd like to know what the story is there."
Bailey chuckled. "Look at us. Sitting here gossiping like a couple of women."
"Yeah," Justin replied, "or a couple of queers. Sometimes I wonder about you, Stone."
Bailey crumpled up his napkin and threw it, hitting Justin in the face. He got up and took his table setting to the dishwasher. Then he came back to the table and sat.
"Hey, I just remembered something."
"Yeah?" Justin mumbled as he finished a cinnamon bun.
"Yeah. You told Brody last night you'd turned nineteen recently. How come you never told me you'd had a birthday?"
"Oh, it's no big deal. It happened while I was really stressed out about Blake's party, and the last thing I wanted was a celebration."
"Jus, I'm sorry. I would have at least like to have given you a present. Or a birthday hug." He looked into Justin's eyes with a gaze that made Justin squirm. "What about your mother?"
"She called me, but my phone was turned off. She left a message and then she mailed me a card."
"Go on. There was something in the card."
"Jesus, Quinn, you can be the most exasperating guy I've ever met sometimes. So what was in the card?"
Justin gave a resigned sigh and said, "A certificate for a dinner at
"You don't sound pleased with that."
Justin realized he couldn't honestly explain why he wasn't happy with his mother's gift without explaining about the night at Todd's uncle's when the dvd was made.
"Oh, I'm not too fond of the guy who runs the place, Adrian Lynch, Jr. He and Brody were an item for a while, and then they broke up. Brody hasn't said much, but I know Lynch didn't treat him very well. And the guy gives me the creeps."
"Well, I've heard he's gay, out, proud, and very hot."
"Oh you have, Mr. Straight? And who've you been talking to that would know that?"
"Somebody at the dinner last night. Can't remember who."
"Can't remember or don't want to say?"
"Okay, so it was the Norton guy. He told me Lynch is a great looking guy, but that he and Brody broke up not long before Brody and Dave got together."
"Yeah, well, that's all true."
"Lynch still runs the best restaurant in town, or so I've been told. You need to get yourself a date and go use your mom's gift certificate. Food's food. And what are the chances that you'll even see Lynch?"
"Pretty good, actually. He's there most evenings except weekends, Brody says. And he likes to go from table to table schmoozing the guests."
"Even so, like I said, food's food. And he's supposed to provide the best around. You'd impress a date if you took him there."
"Okay, okay." Justin cleared his throat and looked Bailey in the eye. "So, Mr. Stone, would you do me the honor of being my guest at a dinner, time to be determined, at
"Me? Why me? This is a real date occasion."
"You know very well that I'm not dating anybody. Don't want to date anybody. So why can't I take my best friend?"
Bailey flushed. "Best friend? Me? Really?"
"No shit. I've had fuck buddies before, Stone, but I've never had a friend like you. No sex involved. Just best buds. So, you wanna come with? Get all duded up and have dinner with Colby's elite?"
Putting on his best southern drawl, a beaming Bailey batted his eyelashes and said, "Why suh, I'd be most honored."
* * *
The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was a busy one for Justin and Bailey as they struggled to write and submit term papers and study for final exams. They were glad that
During this period --
Bailey persuaded Justin to work out with him. Although Bailey went to the gym every weekday, Justin agreed to go twice or occasionally three times a week.
"After all," he'd said, grinning at his roomie, "I don't want to be a muscle-bound gym rat like you. I just want to stay in shape."
At which Bailey grabbed Justin and did something to his neck that had him on his knees, begging for mercy.
But Justin admitted that he felt better, and Bailey claimed Justin was beginning to look better as a result of the time he spent at the gym.
Justin continued to see Dr. Gaskins, though at one point there was almost a mutiny. The doctor had helped Justin feel better about himself, pointing out that if it was rape, he was a victim and that there was nothing about that for which to blame himself. He then suggested that enjoying being a bottom wasn't in itself a bad thing either. But he also suggested very gently that perhaps Justin might try to think about sex as an expression of care, concern, even love, and not just as a way to achieve sexual satisfaction.
When Justin told Bailey that he thought he'd spent enough time going to see Dr. Levi, Bailey had to use all of his persuasive skills to convince Justin to continue seeing the doctor. Those skills included threatening to beat Justin's scrawny little ass if he persisted in his ill advised notion to discontinue his sessions.
Early in December Justin and Bailey got into their suits and went to dinner at
Justin, recognizing the voice, grew tense. They looked up to see Adrian Lynch, Jr. smiling down at them.
"Hello, Mr. Quinn," Lynch said. "It's nice to see you again."
"Yeah, thanks. Uh, nice to see you, too." Then he introduced Bailey and Adrian. After a few pleasantries were passed, Lynch moved on.
Bailey took a bite of asparagus and then put down his fork. "Did you tell me that that guy and Brody were together for a while?"
"Well, I suppose he's good looking."
Justin grinned. "Gotta give him that."
"But I can't understand what Brody saw in him."
Justin couldn't either, except that Lynch was super sexy, so he was interested to see what Bailey would say. "Wanna explain?"
"Oh, he wasn't here at the table for five minutes, but I thought he was patronizing, like he called us gentlemen and Mr. Quinn and Mr. Stone, but he really thought we were boys."
"So you'll refuse if he tries to get you to his apartment?" Justin asked, grinning. "Or explore what's in your pants?"
Bailey scowled. "You damn well better believe it!" He leaned back from the table and reached for his water glass, from which he took a swallow. "Now, Jus, let me say that you look great in your suit. But when are you gonna get a haircut?"
"Fuck! I gotta take this shit from you and the Sarge both? I don't see why I have to go around looking like an ex Marine or a jock just because my friends say so. I used to have a pony tail, and I thought it expressed the real me. I'm gonna do it again. And maybe grow a `stache and goatee, too!"
"God, Jus! You'll look like David Spade!"
"Ewww!" He'd said it loud enough that people at nearby tables were looking at them. "Sorry. But do you really think I look like Spade?"
Bailey grinned. "Gotcha! Of course you don't. But I really don't think you'll look good with all that hair."
"Why? Do you think it looks too gay?"
Bailey snorted. "No way! You know me better than that. I don't care if you develop limp wrists and a flounce. Well, I take that back. I'd be embarrassed for you if you did that. But you know what I mean. I've got no hangups about gay guys, as you should know by now."
"So this is really just a matter of how you think I'd look best?"
Bailey thought about that for a moment.
"Yeah, I guess it is."
"And why should you care?"
Bailey coughed, cleared his throat, and finally said, "I dunno, Jus. I guess because you're my friend I want you to look and be your best."
"Watch it, Stone. I'm gonna think you've got the hots for me."
"Think what you like, fucktard."
Just then the waiter came to clear their plates. He told them he'd be right back. When he returned, there were two large pieces of German chocolate cake with ice cream.
"Mr. Lynch remembers that it was about a year ago when you were here celebrating a birthday, Mr. Quinn. So he assumes this is a birthday celebration as well. The cake is with his compliments and best wishes. Would you gentlemen like coffee or milk with your cake?"
The waiter grinned when both ordered milk.
A few days after the birthday outing, Bailey said to Justin, "I've asked a guy to meet us at the Commons for supper. I want to introduce you."
"Who is he?"
"His name is Cale Coutrere. I met him at the gym. He's there sometimes on the days when you aren't."
"And why do you want me to meet him?"
"Well, dumbass, because I like him. He could become a friend. And I want you to like him, too."
"Oh, okay. Is he cute?"
"Jus! You're asking me? You'll have to judge for yourself."
Cale turned out to be stunning. About 6'2" with what is often called a swimmer's build, he had black hair and eyes that were nearly black. From
Besides that, Cale was smart, clever, and generally fun to be around. Apart from the three of them having dinner at the Commons regularly, however, Justin didn't see Cale much, as they were all immersed in the end-of-term frenzy.
When, a day or two before finals, Justin asked Bailey about their getting together during the holiday break, he was surprised to learn that his friend was going to
* * *
It was, as Justin said to himself, `the holiday from hell.' He was lonely and bored most of the time.
Oh, it was good to have finals over. He felt he'd acquitted himself well enough on his exams, and he'd gotten A-`s on his term papers in the art history and architecture courses. He'd maintained a B+/A- average in Bruce Evans' freshman comp section as well. But the Christmas break itself was bad.
The worst part for him and for his mother was this was their first Christmas without Larry, Justin's dad. Moira hardly took any time off. She was at the office weekdays except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year's Day. She claimed that it was because she was busy working on a big project, a bid for a major job she wanted to submit.
Justin, unable to see why she had to work constantly during the holidays, couldn't help feeling that he was being neglected. Christmas time was a family time, and he missed the presence of both his parents.
Justin bought a Christmas tree, and Moira took time off from her work to help him decorate it, but that was a particularly sad evening, since both of them were remembering past Christmases when Larry had been there. They agreed not to put up all the extra Christmas things around the house since no one would be there except Grand Mary. And taking down the decorations before Justin went back to campus was even sadder.
Grand Mary came for Christmas, and she insisted that Moira and Justin come to her house for dinner on New Year's Day. But they were both occasions of false cheer, as Larry's absence was strongly felt by them all.
One day Gary Keller called him and suggested they get together. Eager to see his friend, Justin agreed. In fact, he invited
After Moira had greeted
When he dropped Justin off at home later,
"I'm okay, Gare. Like I told you, Bailey's great. It's just kind of hard getting into the right mood for Christmas without Dad, you know?"
"Oh, yeah. I'm a jerk for forgetting that. It must be tough. Well, man, I hope the rest of your year at Colby is great." He leaned over and gave Justin a one-armed hug. "And keep in touch. You haven't been very good with the email this fall."
"Yeah, Gare, I will. I promise."
One day he was so much at loose ends that he went to Petal Pushers, the florist shop where he used to work, where he'd met Brody, and spent the morning helping Sheila, who was there alone. Sheila, a high school classmate of Brody's, was married now and had a little girl. Justin enjoyed catching up with what was going on with Sheila's family and on gossip about what was happening in Higgins.
"So, Justin," Sheila had asked, "got a hot boyfriend.?"
"Nope. I had one, but we broke up."
"Oh, that's too bad, baby. What happened?"
Justin shrugged. "I did something he didn't approve of, and he wouldn't let me explain. He just dumped me."
Sheila smiled. "I don't imagine whatever it was was so terrible. Sounds to me like you're better off without him."
"You're right. I'm not pining around about him, for sure."
"So, any other prospects?"
Was Bailey a "prospect"? Justin wasn't sure. But he'd always been able to talk to Sheila and he hadn't even told Dr. Levi how he felt about Bailey.
"Not really, but there is this guy . . . ."
She put down the inventory sheet she'd been checking and looked straight at him. "Tell me about him."
"His name's Bailey, and he's my room mate."
"Okay, let's get to the good stuff. What's he look like?"
"Six feet, brown and brown, muscles that won't quit. An ass to die for."
She shook her hand as if she'd burned it. "Sounds hot."
"Oh, he is."
"And you get to look at that every day."
"It's more like I have to look at him every day."
"What do you mean?"
"He's straight. He's so great looking, and he's such a cool guy, and he's my best friend. But he's friggin straight!"
She put her hand on his face. "And you've got a crush on him, don't you, Jus?"
"I've never admitted it to anyone, even myself, but I guess I do. It's not just that he's such a stud. I just feel good when I'm with him. We work out together, we eat supper together most days, we study together. But even if we're just hanging out, shooting the shi—uh, breeze, I'm happy. He seems to accept me the way I am. He doesn't care that I'm gay. We're just best buds. It's like I feel safe around him."
"Jus, I know that feeling."
"Uh huh. That's the way I feel about Jeremy." Jeremy was Sheila's husband. "It sounds to me like you're in luuhhv. Does he have any idea how you feel?"
"I hope not! But except for Brody, he's the best friend I've ever had. And I'll take that if it's all I can have. I don't want to do anything to screw up our friendship."
"I can understand that. It was sort of like that when Brody and I were dating."
"You know we dated, don't you?"
"Well, I was pretty sure he was gay at the time. But I had a crush on him anyway. And I never said anything `cause I didn't want him to dump me. I was willing to take what I could get. But it was a good thing for me when he went to the Marines and I could move on."
"I can understand that. Besides, you found your guy."
"Uh huh. It all worked out for the best. And it will for you, too. Hang on to Bailey. As a friend. I know all about your gaydar. If you're right about him being straight, then you may as well start looking around for a boyfriend. But -- and I know you don't want to hear this -- you're still pretty young to be looking for a life's companion."
"My mind tells me you're right, Sheil, but something in my gut still hurts when I think of Bailey."
"Poor kid. You've really got it bad!"
Grandma Mary insisted that Justin come to
He found that he enjoyed the day with Mary, and he was impressed with the
One evening as he sat watching nothing special on television with his mother, Justin wondered about Cale Coutrere. Why had he come all the way to northern
Justin knew that Brody and Dave had gone to
He had to make evasive answers when Brody and Dave asked why he seemed down. He continued to feel guilty about mentioning the absence of his father. When they asked whether Bailey was home with his folks for the holidays, he almost lost it, but he managed to look nonchalant as he explained that his roommate had gone to
"What kind of friend?" Brody asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Come on, Jus! You and Bailey are pretty good pals. I'm surprised he'd go off with somebody else. What's this kid from
"I don't think so. I've met them, and they seem pretty cool. I don't mean cool in the good sense. They're distant. They wouldn't even buy him a car because he isn't majoring in pre-law like his dad wants. When I was there they were polite but not friendly, you know? I get the impression they don't give a shit what he does -- as long as he doesn't embarrass them. He's got this older brother in med school at Case Western. I think he must be the fair haired boy. And Bailey has to live with that."
Dave looked at Justin, concern showing on his face. "So that's why you're down. You're missing your buddy."
"You really like him, don't you, Jus?" Brody asked.
Justin forced a smile. "Sure I like him. He's my roomie, and he's a great dude. But everything's cool. Why should I be upset because he spends the break with a buddy? Don't worry about me. I'm good." He changed the subject by asking them questions about what they had done in
Before he returned to campus Justin went to the barbershop and got himself a crew cut.
To Be Continued
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