"O... M... G...! Who's Owen? He's adorbs." Autumn placed her food tray on the table, gave CJ a quick kiss on the cheek, and sat next to him. "You're such a little shit! You post half a dozen pictures on Facebook, one with the blonde god in it to tease us, and that's it. No details. You can't tell me you spent your vacation in Australia and those are the only pictures you took!"
"And a Happy New Year to you too," replied CJ, chuckling. "I took more pics but need to organize them, and delete the bad ones, before I show `em to anyone. It'll get it done sometime this week. Then I'll bring in my tablet with a nice big photo album in it. And what the hell are you doing fangirling over another guy? Don't you have a boyfriend?"
"Good. You better include more of the golden boy. And my boyfriend's in Michigan. A girl needs a little visual stimulation now and then. At least until I graduate and get to be with him all the time." Her attention had been focused on CJ, apparently not noticing anyone else at the table. When she at last looked around, acknowledging the others with a nod, her head snapped back as if surprised when her gaze settled on a guy joining them for lunch for the first time. "Who are you?" she asked in her usual blunt manner. "Are you new to WALLS?"
"My bad," said CJ. "Autumn, this is my buddy, Chipper. Bud, this is Autumn, she's a good friend. Careful with her though, she's co-chair of the Gay-Straight Alliance and will try to recruit you. Otherwise, she's harmless."
"Shut up, you! There's no reason anyone needs to be careful around me. I don't bite." The girl giggled and punched CJ's arm before returning her attention to Chipper. "Welcome to Walls. What school did you transfer from? And CJ's right about the Alliance. He's a member and you have to join."
"Nice to meet you, guys. I went to Trinity School in New York City last semester."
"Ohhh, a New Yorker," Danek reached across the table, offering his hand to the newcomer. "I'm Danek Nowak, the other co-chair of the Alliance. I'm Polish but I've been in the US for a few years now."
"Darn it, CJ. Don't you have any ugly friends?" Autumn rested her hands on her waist and tilted her head inquisitively. "A blond hunk in Australia, and a cute New Yorker now? And I still want to hear about that one. The one in Australia. So how do the two of you know each other?" Her eyes shifted back and forth between them while she waited for an answer.
"I met CJ during his trip to the City last year. My dad was friends with his, but we'd never been around each other before then."
"Did your parents move to Washington because of work?" Danek was almost drooling over Chipper. CJ remembered the guy doing the same with him when they'd met at the beginning of the school year. He thought if anyone needed a boyfriend, it was the Polish boy. "That's what happened with me, when my father was assigned to my country's Embassy here."
"No. Not in my case." Chipper glanced at CJ, as if asking for advice, and received a small smile and a nod in response. "It's kinda complicated. My parents have been divorced for a long time. I was living in New York with my mom and my sister. My dad used to live in Washington, but he's now in Tampa."
"Is that how he knew CJ's dads? From living in Washington?" asked Autumn.
"Yeah. Anyway, mom got transferred to Buenos Aires and she's living there now. I didn't want to move to Argentina. Or to Florida. So Uncle Matt agreed to let me come live with him."
"Uncle Matt?" the girl asked, once again shifting her glance between the two guys. "Your Uncle Matt?" She was now looking at CJ. "The doctor you introduced me to at your birthday party?"
"Yep. One and the same," replied CJ.
"So, are the two of you dating?" Autumn's question came at the moment Harley was taking a big gulp from his Mountain Dew. He half choked on it, spraying the table when he started laughing.
"It's a fair question, Harley," said Autumn indignantly, although there was a note of humor in her voice. "Don't laugh. Just `cause you're in love with a motorcycle, doesn't mean your bestie can't date. CJ needs a boyfriend."
"Excuse me?" asked a surprised CJ. "I need a boyfriend? I don't think so..."
"Of course you do, homey! Can't have a good looking gay guy walking around unattached. Some girl might decide she wants to convert you." Thiago's comment brought laughter to the entire table, and a fist bump from Harley. "We don't need competition."
"Well, that sure as hell ain't going to happen anytime soon," replied CJ, with a smug look on his face. "Girls don't have the correct plumbing. I know what I like."
"O... M... G...!" exclaimed Autumn. "It's Owen, isn't it? Is he the one with the right equipment? You have a boyfriend in Australia!"
Stepping outside the school doors after the final bell of the day rang, CJ felt the sting of the icy wind on his face. His friends said goodbye while scurrying in all directions, searching for the warmth of the bus or their rides. The forecast called for temperatures to remain below the freezing point today, but were expected to rise into the low forties by tomorrow. Still getting used to having to wear long pants and coats for more than a day or two in a row, he stood by the brick wall of the old building, stomping his feet occasionally, until he saw Brett's black and orange Ford pickup turn the corner.
"Sorry I'm late," said Brett. CJ climbed in the cab and buckled his seat belt. "You got my text?"
"Yeah, Papa. It's cool. It was less than ten minutes."
"So, you ready to do this?"
"Hell, yeah. We still going out this weekend?"
"Saturday, if the weather holds. Since your dad has to work this weekend, you and I get to spend the day together and play. But if it's snowing..."
"It better not. I've waited long enough."
"How was your day, anyway?" There was a note of mischief in Brett's voice. "Who's your boyfriend today?"
"Ha, ha, funny. I should have known better than to share those conversations with you guys last night. There were a couple of girls hanging all over Chipper today at lunch. I'm pretty sure the rumors he and I are dating got killed. So they moved in for their own kill."
"Autumn's the last one still harping on Owen. She keeps asking about him. Which doesn't help a lot since he's getting on my nerves. I mean, I like the guy a lot, but daily texts, emails, Facebook posts, and attempts to chat? Fuck! He even sent friend requests to Harley, Chipper, and Thiago."
"What's the big deal? I thought you just said you liked him." Brett glanced at CJ sideways, raising a questioning eyebrow.
"I do, Papa. But he's in Australia and I'm here. I told him no. He keeps this up, I'm gonna get pissed."
"No, you won't. Stop being a jerk and talk to him. Don't ignore him. If you wanna stay in touch, set some limits. And let him know what they are. We enjoyed being around the guy, you know?"
"I did too, Papa. But I'm not going to have a long distance relationship, and that's that. He'll be in Washington soon enough. Then we'll see what happens."
"Okay. You know you can talk to us anytime, so you let us know if you need us." Brett slowed down and stopped opposite a storefront on M Street. "Hey! Here we are, Department of Motor Vehicles. Why don't you get out, I'll go park the truck and meet you inside."
"You know something?" César's question was somewhat muffled by the sweater he was pulling off over his head.
"What's that?" Brett tossed his boot on the floor by the bed, before massaging his sock-clad foot.
"We've been damn lucky in the friends we've surrounded ourselves with."
"I know. What makes you bring it up tonight?"
"Thiago. Our son's slowly but surely gathering himself a pack of quality boys. The way those two interacted at dinner tonight made me hope the kid sticks around CJ for a long time to come."
"Especially if it gets us invites to eat at his parents' place. His mom is a damn good cook."
"You're so predictable. Good food and sex is all you care for."
"Maybe... but the sex's gotta be good too. Otherwise I'm not interested."
"I hope you're not complaining."
"Okay, back to Thiago and his parents. In the back of my mind, I've had this nagging, little concern CJ could become a spoiled rich brat―"
"Are you nuts? That's not likely to happen."
"I know, I know. But still. It's a passing thought now and then. Are we giving him too much? Too soon? We were at one of his best friends' home tonight. The home of a working class family. I'm glad his friends aren't all wealthy or highly connected like Autumn and José-María. But Thiago has a part time job. CJ has a few household chores to do, and he gets whatever he wants."
"Are you suggesting he should get a job to earn spending money? I never had one."
"Case in point, you grew up as a spoiled rich brat."
"Hey! I resemble that remark."
"Yes, you do. But you turned out okay in the end. I think CJ will too, but I want him to have some responsibility."
"Won't the Foundation give him that when he gets involved?"
"Probably. We need to start sharing our plans with him. He should be part of the changes we've been plotting."
"Sounds good to me. But it's late right now and we're not going to make any final decisions. What do you say we sleep on it?"
"Sleep? I had something else in mind..."
"So how was it?" asked Harley, biting into the foot-long in his hands. "Did you enjoy it?"
"Damn, Harley. Is that sub big enough?" replied CJ. "It was okay, but we had to quit once it started snowing. Papa didn't want to take any chances. But Defiance lost its virginity. I was able to get in a little over an hour's worth of practice."
"You have six months. You'll get the required forty hours and more in no time," added José-María. "It's too bad you need to practice with someone who's twenty-one. I'd take you out if I was old enough."
"Thanks, buddy. Papa's going to be the one taking me out most of the time for now. This is my other dad's busy time at work. He's home late most nights, and he goes in the office most Saturdays too."
"Are you going out this weekend again?" Harley stuffed the last bit of the sandwich in his mouth, making CJ shake his head in wonderment at the amount of food his friend could eat, and the speed with which he did so.
"Don't think so. We have out of town visitors staying with us. And my friends, Bradley and Patrick are coming down from Boston."
"Oh, wow! Do we finally get to meet them?" asked Harley. "You and Chipper have talked about them so much, I sometimes feel I know them already."
"Maybe. Their dads are selling their house. They already started packing shit up, and I think the guys may get stuck helping them out."
"Are they selling the PP too?" asked Harley, dismay evident in his voice. "I hope not. I loved going out on the boat, and I was hoping to do it again."
"Nope. As far as I know, they're keeping it. But they want to move to DC, so they won't have a dock behind their house like they do in Virginia. They're going to keep the boat at a marina."
"Are the guys selling the house the same ones you went to Australia with?" asked José-María.
"Yep. Uncle JP's Australian. We spent a lot of time with his family."
"Is the blond guy in the pictures you showed us one of his relatives? He's real sexy. You two make a cute couple."
"Crap, Jose, we're not a couple. He's not my boyfriend. You'll see when he moves to Washington. We got along and he's a nice guy. But he's just my friend. That's it."
"He's moving here?"
"Yeah, he'll be going to law school starting this fall."
"Too bad. I guess I'll be back in Venezuela before he gets here. But maybe I'll meet him when I come back to visit my parents."
"You're moving? I didn't know that!"
"Yeah, it got decided over Christmas. With my dad working for the government, they feel it's a good idea I go to college down there. The Venezuelan political situation makes people look down at the United States."
"I know. It also means I'll stay in the closet."
"In the closet? I thought your parents knew you were gay. Didn't you tell them you went out with me to the HRC dinner last fall?"
"Yes, I did. But they think we're good school friends. I mean, I'm pretty sure they've figured it out by now, but it's not something we talk about. It's common in South American countries for gay men to marry, have kids, and also have sex with men in secret."
"Bro, that sucks," said Harley. "Why can't they just live and let live?" He crumpled the scraps of his meal in the wrapper, and reached for his backpack.
"Tradition? Religion? Who knows? But I know I have a couple of relatives who appear to be happy with their wives in Venezuela, then they come to the US on business and start looking for guys to fuck around with. My cousin's one of them."
"Gotta go, guys, catch you two later." Harley waved at them as he walked away from their little corner table.
"So your cousin's gay?" asked CJ, furtively looking around and lowering his voice, not wanting to be overheard by any of the other students seating nearby.
"Yeah, he's twenty-six and his wife's pregnant right now. He was here over Christmas with her. So one day he told me of this guy he knew, we went over there and the two of us shared his friend. He'll be back in the spring for a function in New York. He also works for the Venezuelan government."
"To hell with that shit. I'm glad my step-father discovered I'm gay and threw me out. Best thing that could have happened to me."
"But you're lucky, CJ. Your dad being gay, and having a partner who likes you, isn't something we can all have. You have no idea what a lucky boy you are."
"I think I do. I wouldn't trade Dad or Papa for anything."
"Anyway, you might get to meet my cousin when he comes back. He's hot. I think you'd like him."
"Yeah well, as long as he doesn't think he gets to fuck me." CJ lowered his voice so the rest of the table couldn't hear his comment. "I'm not going to bend over for some married guy. No matter how hot he may be."
"Yeah? So if the guy was hot and single you might be interested?"
"Maybe..." CJ stood, shouldered his bag, and picked up his trash. "Later, gang. Gotta go. Need to hit the boys' room before next class."
• • •
"Hey, babe, you've looked tired all night." Brett massaged César's neck and shoulders, after helping him pull off his sweatshirt.
"I am tired. It was a rough day." He twisted his head around, enjoying the pressure on his knotted muscles. "I didn't want to say anything in front of CJ until I talked to you, but I had a very interesting phone call today."
"Yeah? Anyone I know?"
"Yep. Olga called this afternoon."
"Aba? CJ's grandmother?"
"The one and only. She wanted to know if we had plans for Presidents' Day Weekend next month."
"Why the hell would she ask? Does she want us to go down to Miami for something?"
"Not exactly. The opposite as a matter of fact."
"She wants to come visit us?"
"Wrong again! But she was wondering if we would be willing to have a visitor that weekend if we were staying in town."
"This is awesome!" said Chipper, handing his ticket to the attendant. He followed CJ into the Verizon Center, grinning from ear to ear. The multi-purpose venue served as the home of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association. "I hope we don't have a rain delay."
"Rain delay? Inside?" Doc's expression broadcasted his confusion. "Have you been smoking some of that wacky stuff? How can a game indoors be delayed by rain?"
"Don't you read the sports' page, Uncle Matt?" asked CJ. "The game on Monday night was delayed around an hour because of a roof leak that started dripping on center court."
"You're kidding me!" exclaimed the now surprised man. "How old is this place? Didn't it open like ten years ago?"
"More like fifteen, I think," replied Brett. "I'm pretty sure it opened in the late nineties."
"Who cares? If it leaks again we'll be part of a trivia question one day." CJ's excitement surpassed Chipper's; the Wizards faced his beloved Miami HEAT this evening. "We'll be mopping the floor with the Harry Potter wannabees anyway."
"Speak for yourself, bubba. Your dad and I are rooting for the Wizards. They're our hometown team." Doc looked at Brett while he spoke. "Ain't I right?"
"Papa?" CJ's question carried a hint of warning in it.
"Sorry, Doc," replied the marine, chuckling. "I'm allowed to root for the Wizards. But not if they're playing the HEAT."
"Allowed? What the fuck?" Doc sounded incredulous.
"Well, I need to keep peace at home. I'm afraid if I root for the Wizards tonight, I may end up getting stabbed in my sleep."
"Oh, I would never stab you, Papa." CJ had an evil looking grin on his face. "But I might tell on you, and then Dad wouldn't put out."
"See what I mean? Living with two guys from Miami tends to affect what teams I'm allowed to cheer for. Let's go find our seats. We can order drinks from the servers."
"Servers? At our seats?" Chipper's look of confusion made CJ snicker.
"Yeah, man. Dad works for EY, the accounting company, and we got their tickets tonight. He reserved them for all the HEAT games. Since Uncle Matt and Papa's foundation are both clients, he had no arguments from his boss."
"You have a charitable foundation, Uncle Brett?"
"It's a family thing, buddy. You'll hear more about it soon. We're working on some things, and I may want to ask you a few questions concerning the organizations you were involved with at your school in New York."
"Sure, anytime," replied Chipper as they climbed down into the bowl. "Hey! Where exactly are these seats?"
"Fourth row behind the scorer's table," said CJ. "They also have a luxury suite but I told Dad I'd rather watch the game close instead of up there."
"Damn! This is incredible. You think your dad could get me seats for a Knicks game? I'll pay for them."
"I'll ask. But forget about paying for these, or the ones in the suite. You'd blow your allowance for a month."
"Meh! Mom and Dad both send me money, and all I spend it on is lunch at school. Uncle Matt doesn't let me pay for anything."
"You know, Chipper?" said Matt, placing his arm around the youngster. "Y'all scared the crap out of me when you asked to come live with me. I mean, I always thought it'd be fun to have a son. And having CJ around since last summer, I realized it wasn't too late for me. César and Brett took to being fathers like ducks to water. So I'd started thinking about adopting―"
"You never said anything, Doc!" exclaimed Brett.
"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, bubba. So when Chipper asked to move in, I had to decide if I was serious about it or not. So far, so good. And as far as I'm concerned, you can put the money your parents send you away in the bank." Matt's affection for the boy was crystal clear to anyone listening. "Until further notice, y'all are like my kid."
Chipper threw his arms around Doc, resting his head on the man's shoulder. "Thanks, Uncle Matt. I'm real glad you said yes. I love you."
"I'll get it!" shouted CJ, jumping up from the couch he'd been sprawled on next to Chipper while watching TV. Doc had gone to New York for the weekend to see Sean, and César and Brett had readily agreed to have the kid stay with them for a few days. The two men put down the documents they'd been passing back and forth while sitting with the boys, hardly paying attention to whatever they were watching.
"Watch it, CJ!" exclaimed Brett reaching for the wine glass sitting on the coffee table in front of him. "If you hit the table any harder you'll spill my drink."
"Sorry, Papa. Randy! Ty!" CJ had pulled the door open, and a fraction of a second later was launching himself at his cousin, wrapping his arms around him. He repeated the move with Tyler, before stepping back from the entrance and allowing them to come inside.
"Give them a chance to walk in, CJ," said César, placing his hands on his son's shoulders. "And shut the fucking door, it's cold out there. Hi, guys. Welcome back to DC."
"Thanks, César," replied Tyler. "Feels like we never left." The short, muscle-bound man slipped his carry-on bag off his shoulder, dropped it on the floor, and wrapped CJ up in a hug. "It's good to see ya, cuz. But you better watch out this weekend. You're on our shit list."
"Unghf," grunted CJ. "Let me go you, ape. You're too damn strong. What the hell did I do?"
"Come in, guys. Come in," called out Brett from the sofa where he had remained sitting next to Chipper. "I want to hear about CJ being on the doo-doo list. Maybe it'll give me ammunition for later if I need it. Can I get you something to drink?"
"Yeah!" exclaimed Randy while ruffling CJ's hair. "Damn airlines keep packing people in like sardines. I'm starting to hate flying. How about a glass of wine since that's what you're drinking. I can definitely use a cocktail."
"I think he's trying to soften us up so we'll spring for first class tickets next time, babe," said César. "Damn architects and designers always try to squeeze every available dollar from their clients."
"I thought that was attorneys, Dad. Hey, are those the plans for our basement?" asked CJ, pointing at the black tube with a shoulder strap Randy was holding. "Can I see?"
"Yes, they are. And yes, you may. But give me a chance to relax for a minute first," replied Randy, stepping around his young cousin. "Hi there. I'm gonna take a wild guess and say you're Chipper, right?"
"That's me. Hi, Randy. CJ's told me a lot about you and Tyler. It's nice to meetcha."
"I hope he's not told you everything he knows about us!"
"Yeah! Don't you forget I know it all!" said CJ, wrestling his cousin onto the couch. "Man, it's good to see you guys. I wish we lived closer. I missed you."
"Not the impression we got based on the pictures we saw from Australia. Who the hell is this tall, blond, and hunky Owen guy? And in case you're wondering, that's why Ty and I think you're a shit. What's this crap of going all the way to the end of the world, and sharing about a dozen pictures on Facebook? Where are the rest of them?"
"No time to spend at the computer. I was too busy having fun. You'll see all the pics this weekend. Wait until I show you the ones of the Opera House, you're going to be sooo jealous."
"We're already jealous because of Owen. What's up with the surfer boy?"
César, Brett and Chipper all chuckled at the same time, making CJ climb off from atop his cousin while straightening out his t-shirt―a bright orange Harley-Davidson one reading WORK SUCKS, LET'S RIDE with a winged HD logo on it.
"What's the chuckling for?" asked Tyler.
"There's this girl at school who keeps drooling over the guy," replied Chipper. "And, after we finally convinced her CJ and I aren't dating, she insists Owen's CJ's boyfriend."
"He would be, if that nice Aussie bloke had his way." Brett put his hands up to defend himself after his comment, when CJ twirled around and gave him a death stare.
"Shut up, Papa. Don't make me hurt you."
"I think you and I need to discuss some things you may not have told me, buddy," said Chipper, staring at CJ.
"And I think this is going to be a very illuminating weekend," said Randy. "Come on, cuz. Let's take a look at these sketches we worked up. You can tell me all about Goldilocks later."
• • •
"What are you reading?" asked Chipper. He had finished showering and was standing at the entrance to the bathroom, toweling his longish hair.
"A Cook's Tale[i]," replied CJ, looking up from his tablet. "It's the second book in a series called Ship Logs of the Santa Claus." He tried to be discreet while looking over his friend, entirely naked for the first time in front of him. "I read the first one, The Luxorian Fugitive, last fall and got hooked." Chipper was a good-looking guy. His body was similar in size to CJ, maybe a tad less bulky, but well defined. "I hope he keeps the series going." The sprinkling of hair on his chest trailed down his torso, around his navel, until it reached a thicket of brown curls at his groin.
"Nah." CJ chuckled at the assumption. He wondered once again whatever had possessed the author to name the ship the Santa Claus. "It's science fiction. Stories about a merchant space ship called Santa Claus. The crew's all gay men."
"Lots of sex?"
"Some. But it's not really a jerk-off story. Classier than that."
"Hey! Do you have a hair dryer? I don't want to get in bed with wet hair. I hate it when the pillow's damp and it gets cold."
"In the cabinet underneath the sink. I never use it but it was there when I took over the room." CJ watched his friend bend over, reach into the backpack he'd brought, and pull out a pair of boxers. The view of Chipper's fuzzy butt gave CJ ideas of what he'd like to do with it—ideas he kept to himself. No need to scare off the straight guy he liked so much.
The sound of the blower, combined with the view of Chipper's body, distracted CJ from his reading. He turned off his tablet and placed it on the charger; his thoughts turned to Owen and how easy it had been to sleep with the blond Aussie. He had enjoyed waking up wrapped around the guy, or feeling the man's arms surrounding him when the position had been reversed.
"Hey!" Chipper's voice pulled CJ out of his reminiscences of the time in Australia. "What's up with all those FLEET boxes in there?"
"Oh, those were also there from before I moved. This was my bedroom whenever I visited Washington, but it was set up for guests most of the time. I guess the dads stocked those things for their gay friends."
"Ummm, don't freak out on me, okay? Those things are so a guy can clean out his insides, before letting someone in there."
"Ohhh... I shoulda figured that one out on my own." Chipper appeared lost in thought as he slipped into the bed on the other side of CJ. "Does it hurt?"
"The enema? Not really. You get a feeling―"
"No. I mean, does it hurt to get fucked? The girls I've done it with never said anything about it, but I guess that's because they're built for it. I was inside their pussy, though. I think butt fucking would hurt."
"I guess it can. But patience and lots of lube can make it easier," replied CJ, chuckling.
"Have you done it?"
"Nah. I've been on top with a couple of guys. But only one did me."
"Cool. I've been with a few girls... Did you like it? I mean, when you were on the bottom?"
"Yeah..." CJ had turned off the light, but if Chipper had been able to see his face, his friend would have noticed a smile. "Owen took his time with me. It hurt at first, but then it got better. And the next time there was almost no pain."
"Owen! So that's why you were smiling so much in those pictures with him."
"Asshole! Shut up and go to sleep. I'm dragging you to the gym early tomorrow. Unless you want to get cleaned out and find out for yourself..."
• • •
"What do you think?" asked César, closing the door to the bedroom.
Brett was walking into the bathroom when he replied with his own question: "What do I think about what?"
"About the amount of sex going on on the second floor right below us."
"Oh... I think the Chicago boys are probably going at it already. Those two appear to be horny twenty-four seven."
"What about CJ and Chipper? They're sleeping in the same bed, you know?"
"I don't think so. But you never know with teenagers. And this wave of pansexuality sweeping the world confuses me. The younger crowd seems to have even less hang-ups than we did. But those two I'm not so sure about. They have in no time become as close as blood brothers."
A Cooks Tale, The Luxorian Fugitive, and The Ship Logs of the Santa Claus are the intellectual property of Mann Ramblings. They are referenced with permission from the author.
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